Oscars (2015) – Top 20 Contenders

To butcher a phrase first said by Keanu: “No one keeps asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer, but yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!” Over the last six months I’ve been writing elsewhere and occasionally turning up to the odd uni lecture, and as a result I’ve barely touched this blog. But with awards season looming, I thought I’d make a return with another year’s worth of baseless and outlandish predictions for next year’s Oscars.

I should mention I actually made these two months ago, and they’re already starting to look a little outdated. Ah well, best to stick to my guns. Can’t be worse than prematurely predicting Unbroken would win Best Picture last year… Can it?


Top Picks – #1-8


1) The Revenant, 20th Century Fox

The Revenant - Title

Director: Alexander González Iñárritu (Birdman)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) | Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy) | A. Screenplay (Alejandro González Iñárritu & Mark L. Smith) | Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezeki)


2) The Danish Girl, Focus Features

The Danish Girl - Title

Director: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Actor (Eddie Redmayne) | Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander)


3) Steve Jobs, Universal

Steve Jobs - Title

Director: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Actor (Michael Fassbender) | Supporting Actress (Kate Winslet) | Supporting Actor (Jeff Daniels) | A. Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) | Cinematography (Alwin H. Küchler)


4) Bridge Of Spies, Walt Disney/DreamWorks

Bridge Of Spies - Title

Director: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Actor (Tom Hanks) | Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance) | O. Screenplay (Matt Charman, Joel & Ethan Coen)


5) Joy, 20th Century Fox/Annapurna

Joy - Title

Director: David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) | Sup. Actor (Robert DeNiro/Bradley Cooper) | O. Screenplay (Annie Mumolo & David O. Russell)


6) Carol, The Weinstein Company

Carol - Title

Director: Todd Haynes (I’m Not Here)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Actress (Cate Blanchett) | Sup. Actress (Rooney Mara) | A. Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy)


7) The Hateful Eight, The Weinstein Company

The Hateful Eight - Title

Director: Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Sup. Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) | Sup. Actor (Samuel L. Jackson/Bruce Dern) | O. Screenplay (Quentin Tarantino) | Cinematography (Robert Richardson)


8) Spotlight, Open Road

Spotlight - Title

Director: Tom McCarthy (Win Win)

Key Categories: Picture | Director | Sup. Actor (Michael Keaton/Mark Ruffalo) | Sup. Actress (Rachel McAdams) | A. Screenplay (Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer)


Strong Contenders – #9-12


9) Brooklyn, Fox Searchlight

Brooklyn - Title

Director: John Crowley (Boy A)

Key Categories: Picture | Actress (Saoirse Ronan) | Sup. Actor (Emory Cohen) | Sup. Actress (Julie Walters) | A. Screenplay (Nick Hornby)


10) Suffragette, Focus Features

Suffragette - Title

Director: Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane)

Key Categories: Picture | Actress (Carey Mulligan) | Sup. Actress (Helena Bonham-Carter/Meryl Streep) | O. Screenplay (Abi Morgan)


11) Inside Out, Walt Disney/Pixar

Inside Out - Title

Director: Pete Docter (Up)

Key Categories: Picture | O. Screenplay (Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley)


12) Room, A24

Room - Title

Director: Lenny Abrahamson (Frank)

Key Categories: Picture | Actress (Brie Larson) | Sup. Actor (Jacob Tremblay) | A. Screenplay (Emma Donoghue)


Dark Horses – #13-16


13) Sicario, Lionsgate

Sicario - Title

Director: Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners)

Key Categories: Picture | Actress (Emily Blunt) | Sup. Actor (Benicio Del Toro) | Cinematography (Roger Deakins)


14) Youth, Fox Searchlight

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Director: Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty)

Key Categories: Actor (Michael Caine) | Sup. Actor (Harvey Keitel) | Sup. Actress (Jane Fonda/Rachel Weisz) | O. Screenplay (Paolo Sorrentino)


15) Beasts Of No Nation, Netflix

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Director: Cary Fukunaga (True Detective)

Key Categories: Director | Sup. Actor (Idris Elba) | A. Screenplay (Cary Fukunaga) | Cinematography (Cary Fukunaga)


16) The Martian, 20th Century Fox

The Martian - Title

Director: Ridley Scott (Gladiator)

Key Categories: Picture | Actor (Matt Damon) | A. Screenplay (Drew Goddard)


Outside Bets – #17-20


17) Macbeth, The Weinstein Company

Macbeth - Title

Director: Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders)

Key Categories: Actor (Michael Fassbender) | Sup. Actress (Marion Cotillard) | Cinematography (Adam Arkapaw)


18) Mad Max: Fury Road, Warner Bros

Mad Max: Fury Road - Title

Director: George Miller (Happy Feet)

Key Categories: Director | Cinematography (John Seale)


19) Black Mass, Warner Bros

Black Mass - Title

Director: Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart)

Key Categories: Actor (Johnny Depp) | Sup. Actor (Joel Edgerton)


20) In The Heart Of  The Sea, Warner Bros

In The Heart Of The Sea - Title

Director: Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind)

Key Categories: N/A


Wild Cards – #21-25


Coming Soon.


Skeptical of my choices? You should be. But in the past I haven’t done too badly. Check out my last two ‘Top 25 Contenders’ lists for 2013 & 2014 below…

2013
2014
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1) The Wolf Of Wall Street
1) Unbroken
2) Gravity 
2) Foxcatcher
3) August: Osage County
3) Birdman 
4) The Monuments Men
4) The Imitation Game
5) American Hustle
5) Gone Girl
6) Rush
6) Into The Woods
7) The Counsellor
7) The Theory Of Everything
8) The Butler
8) Fury
9) 12 Years A Slave  
9) Boyhood 
10) Saving Mr Banks
10) Interstellar
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This is some text
11) Inside Llewyn Davis
11) Big Eyes
12) Foxcatcher
12) Inherent Vice
13) Captain Phillips
13) The Grand Budapest Hotel
14) Blue Jasmine 
14) A Most Violent Year
15) Nebraska
15) The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby
16) Diana
16) Wild
17) The Past
17) Trash
18) Fruitvale Station
18) Mr Turner
19) Labour Day
19) Kill The Messenger
20) Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
20) Whiplash ♣
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This is some text
21) Dallas Buyers Club ♠ ♣
21) Selma
22) Prisoners
22) Nightcrawler
23) Her
23) American Sniper
24) The Way Way Back
24) The Homesman
25) Philomena
25) Still Alice 

This is some text
Key

Bold – Best Picture Nominee
Strikethrough – Delayed
 – Best Picture Winner
 – Best Director Winner
♠ – Best Actor Winner
 – Best Actress Winner
♣ – Best Supporting Actor Winner
 – Best Supporting Actress Winner

I’ll update this list with my last 5 ‘wild-card’ picks next month  (which are basically my way of sneaking in the last minute contenders and pretending I was backing them all along). Til’ then though, let me know which films you think will do well at next year’s Oscars, either in the comments or on Twitter!

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Posted in Features, Oscars | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Room – Review

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, William H. Macy
Release Date: 16th October, 2015 (US) | 15th January, 2016 (UK)
Company: A24/StudioCanal

room_poster

“You’re gonna love it” | “What?”
“The world.”

Room tells the tale of five-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who was born into captivity and raised by his devoted and long-suffering Ma (Brie Larson) in a 10-by-10-foot space. Unaware of the world outside of his cramped prison’s four walls, Jack’s curiosity grows with age. Eventually, Ma hatches a risky plan to escape their captor – bringing them face-to-face with something that neither mother nor son are ever fully prepared for: the real world.

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The Story
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Following in the footsteps of the likes of Stephen Chbosky & Gillian Flynn, author-turned-screenwriter Emma Donoghue teams up with director Lenny Abrahamson to adapt her own best-selling novel of the same name – to great success. It’s an enthralling piece of work (on the page and on screen), and delicately balances its traumatic and devastating central themes with moments of pure joy and inspiration.

Room is a film of two halves – both demonstrate their own brilliance in very different ways. The first act is a dark blend of anticipation and sorrow, but it also helps cement a beautiful bond between a mother and child through a series of heartwarming scenes. The second half is no less distressing, however, it also retains a sense of hope and beauty. The change in pace is a dramatic one, but the dichotomy ultimately helps Donoghue give a much more comprehensive account of a victim of kidnapping’s pain and healing process.

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The Acting
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“Truck… Wiggle out… Jump… Run… Somebody…”

Let’s talk about Brie Larson. In one of the strongest performances of the year so far, this rising star demonstrates her immense talent with a nuanced and mesmerising lead turn that’ll surely win you over in a heartbeat. Able to flit between tender moments of optimism and pure elation to heartbreaking scenes of torment and sorrow, she delivers a phenomenal lead turn that will surely have Academy voters talking come next February.

However, given her recent track record, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at all. Far more shocking is the onscreen presence of nine-year-old Jacob Tremblay. Bold and spirited with untainted innocence, the young boy produces a sublime display worthy of his own awards attention. He shares great chemistry with Larson, and later Joan Allen, who is not to be overshadowed, and gives a very moving performance in her own right.

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Direction & Tone
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Abrahamson is a notably artistic director, and there’s no denying that he and cinematographer Danny Cohen have crafted an beautiful and elegant piece of filmmaking here. Their subtle and measured approach helps bring the world of ‘Room’ to life – adding a touch of magic to some otherwise bleak and depressing imagery. However, his finest achievement is eliciting such an impressive performance from his young star.

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Stray Observations
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  • My flatmate hates Abrahamson’s last film: Frank. She calls it pretentious, boring, artsy fluff. Then again, she loved Pain & Gain so… each to their own?
  • I managed to catch this at the London Film Festival – and somehow didn’t put two and two together that it was the European premiere…
  • Safe to say, I was pretty shocked when  Abrahamson, Donoghue and Larson all walked in for a Q&A. They were all lovely and had some fascinating things to say:
  • Apparently, Donoghue always intended on adapting Room herself. For her, it was just a matter of finding the right director to fit her vision.
  • According to Larson, she and Tremblay bonded over Lego. And Star Wars. And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Is this woman for real?!
  • Before you ask, her favourite Ninja Turtle is ‘Michelangelo’. Yup. She’s the best.

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The Verdict
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Equal parts haunting & inspirational, Room is a poignant, turbulent & intensely emotional tale about the love between a mother and her son.

Result: “Outstanding”

Posted in 2015, LFF, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Macbeth – Review

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, David Thewlis
Release Date: 2nd October, 2015 (UK) | 4th December, 2015 (US)
Company: The Weinstein Company/StudioCanal

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“I am in blood, stepped in so far.”

Macbeth is the latest in a long line of big screen adaptations of William Shakespeare’s celebrated play of the same name. It follows Michael Fassbender‘s eponymous character, who receives a prophecy from  a trio of witches who claim that he will one day be the King of Scotland. Forced into action by his manipulative wife (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth makes a power play for the throne that eventually culminates with his descent into madness.

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The Story
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You’d have to have been living under a rock if you didn’t know the basics of this story by now. 400 years and countless adaptations for the stage and screen later, it’s difficult for any filmmaker to make their mark on such an iconic tale. Yet director Justin Kurzel does just that, weaving themes of war and PTSD into the source material. Screenwriters Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie & Todd Louiso stay true to Shakespeare’s style – it’s remarkable how much old English sounds like a foreign language if you’re not paying attention…

That’s not to say the film isn’t engaging. On the contrary, it’s pretty enthralling at times – particularly from a visual point of view. However the dialogue does require a little more concentration than your average blockbuster affair. It’s a delicately balanced tale of ambition and despair, coupled with a creeping sense of unease that builds like a crescendo towards it’s pulsating, climactic finale – which does not disappoint.

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The Acting
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“O, full of scorpions, is my mind.”

It’s a shame Michael Fassbender already looks like a dead-cert for Best Actor consideration for another role in Steve Jobs – as it means his sterling work in Macbeth will most likely slip under the radar. The phenomenal Irish actor has had quite the year so far, following up his captivating turn in Slow West with another performance to remember here. Primal and deranged, he dominates the screen with a feverish, rage-fueled display of authority.

As a result of Kurzel’s attempts to give us a fresh take on the characters, Marion Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth feels somewhat sidelined. Her performance and intensity are still second to none, but she’s given less opportunity to be the villainous, scheming voice in her husband’s ear – especially as the film goes on. The rest of the cast hold themselves up admirably, but special mention goes to Sean Harris, who’s fierce turn as Macduff must not go unnoticed.

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Direction & Tone
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Despite the quality of the acting on display, this film ought to be praised as a visual experience above all else. Kurzel demonstrates a confidant artistry through his resplendent sets and scenery, teaming up with rising star cinematographer Adam Arkapaw to craft some truly breathtaking shots. The final battle, in particular, is a sight to behold, and, when coupled with Jed Kurzel‘s thunderous score, is the most cinematic Macbeth has ever been.

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Stray Observations
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  • The film also drastically cuts down the play – reducing it to its bare bones. Clocking in at just under two hours long, it never feels a moment too short or too long.
  • After he was announced as the director of Assassin’s Creed, many began to believe Kurzel could be the one to make Hollywood’s first truly great video game movie.
  • Given that it will share Macbeth‘s lead actor, actress, co-writer and cinematographer, I’m now certain he will.

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The Verdict
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Visceral and intense, Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is a memorable new take on a classic tale – as well as an exciting showcase for one of Hollywood’s most promising filmmakers.

Result: “Excellent”

Posted in 2015, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

The Martian – Review

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels
Release Date: 30th September, 2015 (UK) | 2nd October, 2015 (US)
Company: 20th Century Fox

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“Hi, I’m Mark Watney and I’m still alive… obviously.”

The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who is presumed dead during a fierce storm while on a mission to Mars, and marooned there by his crew. Left alone in the face of overwhelming odds with limited supplies, Watney is forced to rely on his intellect, his resourcefulness and (above all else) his wit to survive in this hostile wasteland, while the scientists at NASA desperately try to find a way to contact and rescue him.

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The Story
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Ridley Scott returns to the world of sci-fi, directing a story written by Drew Goddard and adapted from Andy Weir‘s bestselling novel of the same name. And unlike most of Scott’s other recent ventures, on the whole, The Martian‘s plot is excellent. It’s Cast Away meets Apollo 13, but far lighter than either. The tone is more fitting with the first Iron Man movie, and the film hugely benefits from Goddard’s snappy and light-hearted script.

There are some contrivances, but Weir’s original commitment to creating a realistic tale of science and survival is still preserved. Scott & Goddard rarely push themselves to the next level, seeming content to play it safe with a crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster – but it’s tough to complain when their blockbuster so much goddam fun. There are a few pacing issues though, and consequently, the movie’s final act in particular feels a little rushed.

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The Acting
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“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option: I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

The rumors of Matt Damon’s Oscar-worthy lead turn have not been greatly exaggerated at all. He’s a tour de force, demonstrating his incredible ability to bounce between wisecracking genius to despairing soul at the flick of a switch. I only wish I’d got to see more of his witty repartee with the likes of Kate Mara & Michael Peña. They’re both quietly great in minor roles – it’s a shame the members of the Hermes get sidelined in this film.

Naturally, Jessica Chastain still manages to leave a huge mark, despite not being afforded nearly enough screen time. Strong-willed and formidable, she makes for an inspirational leader. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the pick of the bunch of the NASA scientists on Earth, but Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, MacKenzie Davis and Jeff Daniels all do their bit – while Donald Glover is all kinds of hilarious in his brief but memorable bit part.

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Direction & Tone
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I quite liked Prometheus. I enjoyed American Gangster. I didn’t hate Robin Hood. I can still say with 100% conviction that The Martian is Ridley Scott’s best work in the last decade. The man who fumbled his way into the Exodus: Gods & Kings director’s chair is nowhere to be seen here – instead he’s been replaced by a visual maestro. Scott’s greatest achievement is the way he’s realised the red planet on the big screen. The effects are phenomenal, and the artistry involved in designing it’s desolate landscape is second to none.

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Stray Observations
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  • Remarkably, one of the few jokes that didn’t hit with my audience was the “science the shit out of this” line. That’s probably because it’s been plastered all over the marketing though.
  • I’ve studied a lot of geology related crap at uni so far, so I guess this movie appealed to me in a different way than usual.
  • I couldn’t tell you if the science was accurate though. I would’ve actually had to have attended some of my lectures to be able to do that.
  • I don’t want to undersell the amount of tension and despair in this film. When things get bad, they get very bad for Watney. You could say he had a rocky ride*…

*this week’s terrible pun comes courtesy of my buddy Tom. Feel free to direct your abuse to him.

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The Verdict
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Captivating, witty and a whole lot of fun, The Martian isn’t just Ridley Scott’s best film in years, it’s also the most enjoyable blockbuster of 2015 so far.

Result: “Excellent”

Posted in 2015, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Sicario – Review

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya
Release Date: 2nd October, 2015 (US) | 9th October, 2015 (UK)
Company: Lionsgate

Sicario - Review (1)

“Nothing will make sense to your American ears. But in the end… you will understand.”

Sicario is the latest thriller from Denis Villeneuve (the acclaimed French-Canadian filmmaker who helmed both Prisoners and Enemy). The film delves into the dark, immoral and often brutally violent side of the ongoing war against drugs. Emily Blunt stars as Kate Macer, an idealistic FBI agent enlisted to become a part of a shady government task force operating in and around the border area between the US and Mexico.

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The Story
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Sicario is a slow burn thriller. The script, written by Sons Of Anarchy star Taylor Sheridan, is made up of a few pulsating action set pieces, meshed together by a gradual build up of tension and anxiety. It may appear to lose momentum at times, but in reality it’s simply building suspense in the most spine-chilling way possible. The audience is left uncomfortably perched on their edge of their seats – fearful of what lies around the corner.

And yet, despite the underlying sense of dread that accompanies the movie, it’s a profoundly beautiful experience. Above all else, Sicario is an exercise in visual filmmaking – showcasing director of photography Roger Deakins‘ overwhelming creative talent. Each shot is a painting, meticulously crafted and perfectly executed. Naturally, the pace is quite pedestrian, but it’s difficult to notice time fly by when you’re so captivated by it’s artistry.

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The Acting
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Sicario - Review (2)

“You saw things you shouldn’t have seen.”

It probably goes without saying at this point in her career, but Blunt is outstanding as the audience surrogate, Kate – offering an innocent and relatable perspective on the bleak world of  politics and shady agendas. She’s easily one of the top five actresses on the planet right now. Elsewhere, Josh Brolin is quietly brilliant as her onscreen foil, Matt Graver. Devilishly entertaining and playfully sinister, this is some of his best work to date.

Victor Garber and Jon Bernthal make the best of limited supporting roles, while young British talent Daniel Kaluuya demonstrates some excellent chemistry with Blunt. Avengers star Maximiliano Hernández also makes a sterling effort to deliver a sense of relevance to a questionable B-plot. However, this was always going to be Benicio del Toro‘s film. Dark, brooding and ruthlessly unforgiving, he’s simply phenomenal here.

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Direction & Tone
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Weaving underlying themes of betrayal and conspiracy with moments of shocking violence and brutality, Villeneuve demonstrates why he’s easily one of the best directors working today. A master of suspense with an eye for style, he deserves just as many plaudits as Deakins for crafting this thriller with such visual flair. Special mention must go to composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose relentless score will surely send chills down your spine.

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Stray Observations
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  • Between this and Everest, Josh Brolin’s had a pretty fantastic September. I can’t wait to see what he does with Thanos in Infinity War.
  • We recently heard rumblings of a sequel in the works. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say it’s possible… but is it really necessary? Personally, I can’t see Denis Villeneuve returning with Blade Runner 2 on the horizon – i.e. I’m not interested.
  • In the meantime, it remains to be seen what Lionsgate can do come awards season. Deakins’ name on the ballot should be a given, but sadly Blunt, Villeneuve and even del Toro may have a fight on their hands to receive deserved Oscar recognition.
  • Sicario? More like Sickario. Amirite?
  • I’m not even sorry.

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The Verdict
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Sicario seizes the viewer from it’s very first shot and refuses to let go. It’s a tense, murky and hard-hitting crime thriller that also doubles as a magnificent feast for the eyes.

Result: “Outstanding”

Posted in 2015, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Everest – Review

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley
Release Date: 18th September, 2015 (UK) | 25th September, 2015 (US)
Company: Universal

Everest - Review (Minty, 2)

“Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747… Our bodies will be literally dying. “

In an effort to deliver an IMAX experience like no other, Everest unites 2 Guns director Baltasar Kormákur with an all-star cast to tell the tale of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Veteran climbers Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) & Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) are in charge of two expeditions up toward the top of the world’s highest peak when they encounter a devastating blizzard, leaving them trapped and facing an epic struggle for survival.

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The Story
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William Nicholson & Simon Beaufoy handle script duties, cobbling together the story based on first-hand accounts of the events. Together, the pair do a fair job at adapting the tale for the big screen without sensationalising the plot or characters too much – and consequently nothing feels too stretched. On the other hand, their script lacks sufficient depth, forcing the actors themselves to elevate the material they’re given to work with.

It’s tough to categorize Everest into any genre. It’s a disaster flick unlike any other of late. It boasts all the visual spectacle of a summer blockbuster, and yet combines it with the emotional core of an awards-calibre biopic. Audiences can expect to be thrown through a roller-coaster of emotions, and though the final product isn’t quite as great as it could have been, it still undoubtedly makes for a thrilling experience.

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The Acting
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Everest - Review (Minty)

“It hurts, it’s dangerous, it destroys relationships, it’s costing you all small fortune. C’mon, I gotta ask the question… why?”

Kormákur assembles an incredibly well balanced ensemble to populate his movie. Through the process of filming in physically challenging locations, it’s clear they developed a genuine bond, which shows in their chemistry with one another. The only issue is that due to the number of characters, each of them are afforded very little development. Naturally, talents like Gyllenhaal & Clarke still make the most out of what they’re given.

The former is outstanding, shining in a supporting role. Clarke, meanwhile, provides the emotional foundation of the film, proving himself as a great lead presence once again. Josh Brolin brings a brash confidence to his character, which works even better when juxtaposed next to John Hawkes‘s more humble and endearing ‘Doug’. Finally, Keira Knightley makes up for her limited screen time with a memorable supporting turn.

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Direction & Tone
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Baltasar Kormákur has achieved a feat of technical brilliance with this film. Exquisitely shot by DoP Salvatore Totino, with an emphasis on spectacle, it’s simply made for the big screen – go see it in IMAX if you can. Utilising a surprising amount of footage shot on location, Everest retains a raw and authentic feel that makes you feel as if you’re on the mountain yourself. Kormákur throws you headfirst into the relentless turmoil – amplifying your fear.

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Stray Observations
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  • When was the last time Gyllenhaal made a bad film? I can’t remember either…
  • Accidental Love doesn’t count. As far as we’re all concerned, it never happened.
  • Sam Worthington is best suited for supporting roles. No longer the guy Hollywood tried to shove down everyone’s throats, he’s quietly brilliant here.
  • I cannot overstate how outstanding the entire cast was across the boardMichael Kelly, Emily Watson, Elizabeth Debicki… they all did their bit.
  • Two of my buddies are big on climbing. They’ve been asking me to join them for months. After this movie… I think I’ll pass.

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The Verdict
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Turbulent, tense and utterly gripping from start to finish, Everest succeeds thanks to some magnificent visual filmmaking and an incredibly talented ensemble cast.

Result: “Excellent”

Posted in 2015, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Legend – Review

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

Director: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Taron Egerton
Release Date: 11th September, 2015 (UK) | 20th November, 2015 (US)
Company: Universal/StudioCanal

Legend Review

“London in the 1960s, everyone had a story about the Krays. They were twins. Reggie was a gangster prince of East End, Ronnie Kray was a one-man mob.”

Legend tells the tale of two of Britain’s most notorious gangsters – the infamous Kray twins. Tom Hardy takes on a dual role as both ‘Reggie’ & ‘Ron’, in a movie that tracks the rise and dominance of the brothers’ criminal empire in the East End of London End during the 1960’s. L.A. Confidential scribe Brian Helgeland is in the director’s chair, and also writes the script – adapted from John Pearson‘s biography, “The Profession Of Violence”.

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The Story
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While it makes for an entertaining viewing experience, Legend‘s script is found wanting in  certain areas. Specifically the pacing, which gets a tad pedestrian. Clocking in at 131 mins, the film is too long for its own good and noticeably drags. This is in spite of a fantastic first act, which delivers both humour and tension in equal measure. The following acts are much weaker, and, consequently, the movie starts to lose its sense of direction.

It seems ironic that, given the amount of screen time on offer, most of the movie’s side characters feel neglected. Hardy’s Kray twins naturally dominate proceedings whenever onscreen, but there’s very few occasions where they aren’t. This issue predominantly comes about from the burden of having two central protagonists. Sadly, the Kray twins surrounded by so many one-dimensional figures, it undermines the film’s authenticity.

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The Acting
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Legend Review - 2

“A shootout, right, is a fucking shootout! Like a Western.”

Tom Hardy is simply phenomenal in both lead roles. As Ron Kray, he’s fierce, intimidating and incredibly unhinged – delivering a dominant display of scene-stealing moments. However, he saves his best work for Reggie. Equal parts charming and ruthless, he simply oozes dark, Bond-like charisma in one of his strongest performances to date. It becomes all the more impressive as the cracks begin to show from beneath his cool exterior.

However, there’s very little opportunity afforded to anyone else. Emily Browning works hard the movie’s narrator Frances, but her character feels incomplete. Veteran Brits David ThewlisChristopher Eccleston & Paul Bettany are woefully underused, and while Kingsman star Taron Egerton‘s comically hammy turn is funny at first, it quickly grows tiring. It would have also been nice to see Merlin‘s Colin Morgan given a bit more to do.

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Direction & Tone
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As the director, Brian Helgeland captures the communal yet brutal vibe of the East End, and successfully balances Hardy’s multiple roles (despite utilising a rather obvious body double). Legend is also a lot funnier than expected – and possesses a sense of playfulness. However, this kind of light-hearted humour rarely blends well with some of the film’s darker, violent moments, and seems a little out of place in the film’s final act.

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Str Kray Observations
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  • See what I did there, eh? I’m here all week.
  • I love that Ron Kray is so cavalier about his sexuality, but it’s hard to imagine he would have been able to… in the 60’s… Surrounded by ‘ard men..
  • No, not ”ard’ in that way you dirty-minded S.O.B…

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The Verdict
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Legend is an entertaining crime piece that doubles as a surprisingly hilarious black comedy, but the final product is maddeningly inconsistent.

Result: “Decent”

Posted in 2015, Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

The 2015 Oscar Race: Meet The Contenders

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

TIFF ends this Sunday, no doubt prompting a wave of premature, baseless and completely unnecessary features discussing the year’s potential Oscar contenders.

I thought I’d get ahead of the game and post mine first.

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THE HEAVYWEIGHTS
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The best bets on paper from the big name directors.

On paper, the strongest bet is Alejandro Gonzålez Iñárittu’s The Revenant – after he soared to victory with Birdman. However, after the film’s tortuous production, there are a few questions about whether it’ll be ready in time. The Danish Girl and the Oscars look like a match made in heaven. Some may call it bait, but it’s tough to bet against former winners Tom Hooper & Eddie Redmayne.

The big show at Telluride this year was Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs. Reviews singled out Michael Fassbender’s lead turn & Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay in particular. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have had plenty of past experience, and with a script written by the Coen Bros, you’d be a fool to dismiss their cold war thriller Bridge Of Spies – even if Spielberg’s recent run hasn’t been his best work.

David O. Russell’s last two collaborations with Jennifer Lawrence yielded directing and acting nominations on both occasions. Joy looks like his most Oscar-friendly movie so far… perhaps a little too much so? Finally, Quentin Tarantino returns this Christmas with The Hateful Eight following back-to-back Best Picture noms. You can bet there’s at least a Best Original Screenplay nod waiting for him.

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CRITICAL DARLINGS
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The smaller flicks that are currently generating a lot of buzz.

Another strong Best Picture contender that’s already premiered is Todd Haynes’ 50s romantic drama Carol, which drew huge acclaim at Cannes and saw Rooney Mara pick up a Best Actress award. However, it’s her co-star Cate Blanchett who may have her hands on the Academy’s equivalent come next February. Someone who could give them both a run for their money is Saorise Ronan, who was widely praised for her turn in fellow period drama Brooklyn at Sundance.

There’s an increasingly likely looking chance that Tom McCarthy’s critically lauded sex abuse scandal drama Spotlight can sneak into contention. Michael Keaton will beworth watching in the Sup. Actor category after his near miss last year. Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth joined Carol at Cannes this year, and while it doesn’t scream BP winner, there could be some recognition Michael Caine in the Lead Actor category.

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DARK HORSES
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Likely to be great movies in their own right – but may get unfairly overlooked.

Netflix could ruffle a few feathers with the Cary Fukunaga-helmed, Idris Elba-starring child soldier drama, Beasts Of No Nation. The prevailing argument that it’s “too dark” for the Oscars is a load of bullshit. Any movie should have a shot, regardless of subject matter. The same could be said for Denis Villeneuve’s widely praised war on drugs thriller Sicario – beautifully shot by Roger Deakins.

Two of the most exciting prospects at Telluride & TIFF were Scott Cooper’s Black Mass and Lenny Abrahamson’s Room. The former is building all kinds of buzz as a ‘return to form’ for Johnny Depp, but we’ve been told to keep an eye on his co-star Joel Edgerton too. Meanwhile, Brie Larson looks phenomenal in the latter drama. She’s due for some Oscar recognition any time now – this should be it.

Stephen Frears’ Lance Armstrong biopic The Program appears promising, despit a few mixed reviews at TIFF. Ben Foster & Chris O’Dowd are two very underrated actors who have their chance to shine here. Justin Kurzel’s beautifully shot Macbeth has been more favourably received, but has the misfortune of being overshadowed by Fassbender’s other Oscar-worthy performance this year.

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UNKNOWN QUANTITIES
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Oscar Preview - Unknown Quantities

Films that could go down a storm… or just as easily get forgotten.

Ridley Scott’s The Martian has everyone intrigued following its remarkably well-received premiere in Toronto. We’ve got a long way to go until February, but it’d be nice to see veterans like Scott and Ron Howard back on top form. It’s been eight years since the latter filmmaker has competed for Hollywood’s biggest prize, but he could make a big splash with In The Heart Of The Sea.

Robert Zemeckis has had similar struggles lately, but there’s a chance he’s made something special with The Walk. Elsewhere, critics seem polarised by Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette. However, the general consensus is that Carey Mulligan deserves some recognition, while Meryl Streep only has a single scene, which, in hindsight, is almost certainly enough to win the hearts of Academy voters…

We may also see a few late contenders from out of left field. The Julianne Moore-led gay rights drama Freeheld looks great on paper, with a top-notch supporting cast. However it’s generated very little buzz so far, and it may get overshadowed by The Danish Girl. David Gordon Green’s Our Brand Is Crisis could just as easily slip under the radar, but Sandra Bullock might be a dark horse in the Lead Actress race.

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LONG SHOTS
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Oscar Preview - Long Shots

The movies that you loved watching in theatres but break the Academy’s ‘no fun’ rule.

George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, Pete Docter’s Inside Out and F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton are probably the four most universally adored movies of the year so far. Naturally, the Academy will elect to ignore them completely in the most heinous and blatant attempt to troll you. Don’t blame them. It’s in their nature. That’s just what they do.

Posted in Features, Oscars | 1 Comment

5 Of The Most Underrated Breakout Performances Of 2015 So Far

Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.

It’s been a great year for breakout stars in Hollywood. We all saw O’Shea Jackson Jr, Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell tear up the screen in Straight Outta Compton, while Alicia Vikander will most likely have an Oscar nomination by next February – the only question is whether it’ll be for Ex Machina or The Danish Girl. However, this article is meant to put the spotlight on some of the other fantastic performances, which may have slipped under the radar. So, without further ado…

5) Mae Whitman, The DUFF

Mae Whitman - The Duff

It wasn’t quite the ‘spiritual successor to Mean Girls‘ it was hyped up to be, but that didn’t stop The DUFF from being a pretty enjoyable movie. Most of the credit for that should go to star Mae Whitman, whose witty and relatable lead turn as the hapless ‘Bianca’ was easily one of the most likeable performances of the year so far. Demonstrating expert comic timing along with some sharp chemistry with her co-star Robbie Amell, Whitman proved she deserves more time in the spotlight as a lead – rather than being restricted in monotonous supporting roles.

Next-Up: Whitman’s has a voice part in the first cross-cultural Chinese/American animated feature Rock Dog from Toy Story 2 co-director, Ash Brannon.

4) Matthias SchoenaertsFar From The Madding Crowd

Matthias Schoenaerts - Far From The Madding Crowd

Though Matthias Schoenaerts has been around for a little while, he’s only just found more mainstream success this year. After being one of the few redeemable aspects of the much-maligned murder mystery, The Loft, the Belgian actor showcased his dramatic talent opposite Carey Mulligan in Thomas Vinterberg‘s Far From The Madding Crowd. His supporting performance may have been (understandably) overshadowed by his more charismatic co-star, but there was a genuine likability about Schoenaerts’ ‘Gabriel Oak’ – even if he didn’t quite nail that West Country accent.

Next-Up: Schoenaerts will pop-up twice at Venice this year, first alongside Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes in thriller A Bigger Splash – but he’ll gain more attention for his supporting role in Tom Hooper‘s early Oscar contender, The Danish Girl.

3) Lily JamesCinderella

Lily James - Cinderella

Who knew Cinderella would end up as one of the most pleasantly enjoyable flicks of the year? Despite the apparent lack of ambition (storytelling-wise), Kenneth Branagh delivered a fun live-action take on the animated Disney classic, but more importantly unearthed an enchanting new star in Lily James. Sincere and sweet, James made for an endearing protagonist – capable of even holding her own onscreen with the great Cate Blanchett. In a film widely-praised for its lavishly-designed sets and beautiful costumes, ‘Ella’ was the real beating heart at the centre of this tale.

Next-Up: She has a part in the Bradley Cooper-led kitchen drama Burnt later this year, but it won’t be until 2016’s Pride And Prejudice And Zombies that we see her back in a leading role. The jury’s still out on that one, but it’s got one hell of a title…

2) Bobby CannavaleDanny Collins

Bobby Cannavale - Danny Collins

A lot of people already knew how great Bobby Cannavale is, after his Emmy-winning turn on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. He was also wasted in limited supporting roles in both Spy and Ant-Man this summer. His part in Danny Collins was far more meaty, and it was here that he got to demonstrate his incredible talent. Dan Fogelman‘s comedy is a ‘decent’ flick at best, but Cannavale’s work is almost awards-worthy. He delivers a relatable, honest and heartfelt performance as both a father and a son, while his chemistry with Al Pacino is fantastic. Expect big things from this guy.

Next-Up: A lead role in Terence Winter & Martin Scorsese‘s next HBO series, Vinyl, before possibly re-teaming with Pacino for Scorsese’s The Irishman, which has been stuck in development hell for a number of years.

1) Sarah SnookPredestination

Sarah Snook - Predestination

With one of the most touching and emotional performances of the year, talented young Aussie actress Sarah Snook really put herself on the map. Predestination was a mind bender of a movie, and to go into too much detail about it would cross into spoiler territory. However, in amongst all the time-travelling, twists and turns, Snook’s performance was essential in giving this flick some much needed humanity. And she nails it, demonstrating great range between youthful optimism and heartbreaking loneliness. I cannot speak more highly of this woman’s ability.

Next-Up: Having made her breakout in Hollywood in January, Snook’s sticking to her roots with a string of Australian produced indie flicks. However, chances are the next time we’ll see her is in Danny Boyle‘s Oscar hopeful, Steve Jobs.


So there we have it folks, five of my favourite breakout turns that may have slipped under the radar this year. Do you agree with these choices, or do you have someone else more deserving in mind? Feel free to drop a comment below or on Twitter!

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2015 Movies In Review – January

8) Taken 3, 20th Century Fox

Taken 3 - Title

With Taken 3, director Olivier Megaton (Taken 2) continues to demolish a franchise that should only ever have existed as a single (great) movie. Liam Neeson (Non-Stop) is solid in the lead as Bryan Mills, but the story is laughable and the tension is completely non-existent this time around. Forest Whitaker (The Butler) and Maggie Grace (Lost) are given thankless supporting roles, and there’s nothing memorable about any of the film’s villains. Make no mistake, this is nothing more than a shameless cash-grab.

1.5 Stars


7) Blackhat, Universal/Legendary

Blackhat - Title

Michael Mann’s latest directorial effort pales in comparison to his previous work. It’s hard to believe that the same man was the mind behind Collateral or Heat. Overlong and at times incredibly tedious, Blackhat is too slow to work as an action thriller, and too ridiculous to succeed as a tech-based conspiracy drama. It’s full of one-dimensional characters and is undermined by a weak plot. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is solid if unspectacular, while the talented Viola Davis (The Help) is criminally wasted.

2 Stars


6) Wild Card, Lionsgate

Wild Card - Title

Wild Card is disjointed, poorly paced and, on the whole, a bit of a mess, but it does have it’s moments. While Jason Statham‘s role doesn’t require much outside of his usual range, he at least provides some solid chemistry with Michael Angarano (Sky High). On its surface, Simon West‘s (Con Air) film is glossy and appealing, but there’s very little substance to go along with the garbled story. The end product feels like a jumbled mix of brainless action flick meets introspective crime tale – it’s not the best combination.

2 Stars


5) Mortdecai, Lionsgate

Mortdecai - Title

Utterly daft and exceedingly moronic, David Koepp‘s Mortdecai is evidently not for anyone with half-a-brain. But for the rest of us, it still somehow manages to make you chuckle – simply through its sheer idiocy. Critics may have eviscerated it, but Johnny Depp‘s (Transcendence) clueless leading turn has a ‘Johnny English’-like quality to it, while he shares some entertaining chemistry with both Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age Of Ultron) &  Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting). It’s a very guilty pleasure.

2.5 Stars


4) The Loft, Open Road

The Loft - Title

Burdened by a ridiculous plot and populated by sleazy, reprehensible characters, The Loft is never going to be considered a classic. However, Erik Van Looy‘s film still boasts an interesting mystery aspect that keeps you guessing for a while – until things start to spin out of control. The cinematography is slick, while leads James Marsden (X-Men) and Karl Urban (Dredd) try their best to redeem the film’s flaws (of which, there are an unfortunate amount). It doesn’t help that everyone in this movie is a total asshole though.

2.5 Stars


3) The Wedding Ringer, Screen Gems

The Wedding Ringer - Title

Silly, generic and at times unapologetically crude, there’s very little unique about The Wedding Ringer. However, were is fails in originality, it makes up for it in laughter and sentimentality. The chemistry between Josh Gad (Frozen) & Kevin Hart (Ride Along) is excellent, while there are some scene-stealing moments from Aaron Takahashi (Yes Man) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno). Sadly, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (TBBT) phones it in, and the plot is far from exceptional – but there’s still lots to enjoy here.

3 Stars


2) Predestination, Vertical

Predestination - Title

Mind-bendingly thrilling, Predestination is almost certain to leave you baffled by the time the credits roll. The Spierig Brothers‘ paradoxical script works as both a blessing and a curse – as the twists and turns grow very hard to follow. However, the performances are consistently great. Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) shines as the troubled protagonist, while Noah Taylor (Vanilla Sky) is as solid as ever in support – but it’s Sarah Snook (Jessabelle) who steals the show with an emotional turn that tugs at the heartstrings.

4 Stars


1) Ex Machina, Universal/A24

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Alex Garland‘s (28 Days Later) artificial intelligence project is thoughtful, gripping and masterfully intense. Ex Machina has all the correct elements of a Kubrickian sci-fi/ thriller. Deviously clever and visually stunning, this is a movie with both style and substance. It’s buoyed by a trio of fantastic lead performances: from Oscar Isaac‘s (Inside Llewyn Davis) sinister ‘Nathan’, to Domhnall Gleeson‘s (About Time) quietly intuitive ‘Caleb’ – to Alicia Vikander‘s (Seventh Son) bold and beguiling ‘Ava’.

4.5 Stars - Excellent


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