Film Review: Vice

Writer-director Adam McKay’s mission is clear with Vice. The film works for the most part, thanks in large part to its cast and the filmmaker’s palpable conviction.

Spurred on by his wife Lynne, Dick Cheney rises through the ranks in Washington. From assistant in the Nixon administration to Vice-President under George W. Bush, Cheney changes the US and the world…

Following 2015’s The Big Short, writer and director Adam McKay returns with another target in his sights. Vice is a biopic, but one with a heavy slant. McKay’s message is clear; he is going to lay out exactly why Dick Cheney is responsible for so many of the terrible things in recent US politics. Nevertheless, the film is more nuanced than a hit piece. 

From early on in proceedings, Cheney is depicted as a villain. In some ways, Vice could be seen as a super-villian origins story; the film does show the rise of character who goes on to do substantial damage. Yet the portrayal is more nuanced than this, depicting a family man as well as a political player.

Vice flits between comedy and drama for a good portion of the run time. The tone is sometimes uneven; the abruptness of which the film jumps from the humorous to the deadly serious is striking. However this seems to be McKay’s point, indicating the farcical nature of the various administrations, and the very serious consequences. Pacing in the film can seem languid at times.

Christian Bale delivers a most excellent performance as Cheney, proving once again that he is one of the very best actors in Hollywood today. Amy Adams delivers fantastic support as Lynne, and Sam Rockwell is wonderful as George W. Bush.

Vice is an imperfect picture. Nevertheless, Adam McKay wins viewers over with his clear passion and the great performances from his cast.

Film Review: Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is a sumptuous and tense film. The director keeps viewers captivated throughout.

Gallerist Susan Morrow receives a package from her ex-husband out of the blue. It contains the manuscript to a novel he has written, which has been dedicated to Susan…

Ford’s wonderful directorial debut A Single Man would have many keen to know what he would do next in the cinematic sphere. Despite the recess, this sophomore picture does not disappoint. Nocturnal Animals offers both style and substance. It is pensive and intriguing.

Based on Austin Wright’s novel ‘Tony and Susan’, Nocturnal Animals features a story within a story. Writer-director Tom Ford reels in viewers with both tangents, keeping them guessing as to a number of facets. The exterior narrative of Susan reading the manuscript works well because there are several elements which are left uncovered. Ford deliberately keeps the nature of Susan and Edward’s relationship under wraps until later in the film. This functions to give to offer a sense of mystery. It also is unclear where this narrative will go, and how it will conclude. The final sequence is subtle, but appropriate.

The interior ‘novel’ narrative has more fire to it. There is a tension which becomes unbearable at a point. Once a critical event has occured, there is still a sense of foreboding. This is joined by a bleakness that is contemplative. As the two stories dovetail, some viewers may hope for a deeply satisfying conclusion. Ford draws back from this, instead delivering a subtler ending. In this way, Nocturnal Animals is more realistic. Ford conveys to viewers that they can’t always get what they want. It is a stronger film for not choosing an expected conclusion.

As expected, the visual style of the film is richly indulgent. Ford shoots his characters and locations beautifully. The score is also great. Amy Adams offers a great performance as Susan, whilst Jake Gyllenhaal is powerful in his role. Michael Shannon injects a surprising amount of humour.

Nocturnal Animals is a pleasing second feature from Tom Ford. Viewers tempted in by the visuals will appreciate the engaging narrative.

Nocturnal Animals is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

Film Review: Arrival

ARRIVAL

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival brings the spectacle and wonder. For the most part, the film is an engrossing watch.

When mystery spacecrafts land on Earth, linguist Louise Banks is asked to try and communicate with the vessel in the USA. Teams across the globe face a race against time to find answers…

Based on the short story by Ted Chiang, Arrival combines science fiction with mystery. The film poses big science-fiction questions in an understandable way, not unlike 2014’s Interstellar. Concepts explored in the film are conveyed on a large scale, so the questions become more philosophical than scientific.

The first half of Arrival is gripping. There is a real tension to the first trip to the site; director Denis Villeneuve conveys this in a very effective manner. The close up shots of Louise contrasted with the wide shots of the spacecraft really hone in on the scale of events. It also positions the audience right with the protagonist in seeing inside for the first time.

The second half of the film misses some of the element of spectacle from the first. It is still entertaining, but weaving in the two narratives is not quite as enthralling as the opening gambit. It is a problem that the science fiction genre has; asking the big, exciting questions, and being able to answer them in an satisfying manner. Hints at the outcome of Arrival are dropped throughout the film. Some viewers may predict what will happen, and some may be disappointed by the climax. Taken not as a gigantic twist but as an explanation, it is a perfectly acceptable way to end the film.

Villeneuve’s direction is strong throughout. There are some beautifully composed shots, such as journey up to the spacecraft. The relaying of exposition through news reports is a succinct tactic. Amy Adams can be relied upon for a robust performance, and she doesn’t disappoint here.

Arrival is a very enjoyable science-fiction mystery. The film poses the big questions in an engaging and easily comprehendible way.

Previews: Live By Night Trailer, Doctor Strange, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the Live By Night trailer, Doctor Strange poster, and more…

Live By Night Trailer

Here is the new Live By Night trailer. The film is directed and scripted by, and stars Ben Affleck, based on Dennis Lehane’s novel. Set during the 1920s, Live By Night concentrates on gangster Joe Coughlin and the murky world of prohibition Boston. Also starring Elle Fanning, Bendan Gleeson and Zoe Saldana, Live By Night is set for release on 13th January 2016.

Doctor Strange Poster

Doctor Strange Poster

This new poster for Doctor Strange looks wonderful. Benedict Strange stars as the title character in the latest Marvel movie.Cumberbatch plays an injured surgeon who who meets a mentor on his journey to recovery. Also starring Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams, Doctor Strange hits UK screens on 25th October 2016.

Hidden Figures Featurette

Here is a featurette on the upcoming Hidden Figures. Producer Pharrell Williams talks about why he had to get on board with the film, which is about the black female scientists behind NASA’s space race. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. Hidden Figures is scheduled for release in 2017.

Collateral Beauty Trailer

Here is the trailer for Collateral Beauty, an ensemble drama. The film is about an advertising executive who experiences a tragedy, and the colleagues who attempt to help him. With a cast that includes Will Smith, Kate Winslet, and Keira Knightley, Collateral Beauty is out in cinemas on Boxing Day, 26th December 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children Clip

This clip from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children reveals a little more about the film’s antagonist. Director Tim Burton’s latest film is based on the best-selling novel. Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, and Samuel L. Jackson, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.

Nocturnal Animals Poster

Nocturnal Animals Poster

These Nocturnal Animals posters certainly are striking. Tom Ford writes and directs the film, based on Austin Wright’s Tony and Susan. The film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon. After Ford’s magnificent A Single Man,  hopes are high for this feature. Nocturnal Animals will screen at the BFI London Film Festival in October, and will be released in UK cinemas on 4th November 2016.

Amanda Knox Trailer

Here is a trailer for Netflix’s upcoming documentary Amanda Knox. The film focus on the prime suspect in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox has been convicted and acquitted of the crime twice, and this documentary explores events around the case. Amanda Knox will launch globally on Netflix on 30th September 2016.

BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.

Strands

The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.

Previews: Rules Don’t Apply Trailer, Morgan and More!

Lots of trailers, posters and clips this week, including the Rules Don’t Apply trailer, a clip from Morgan, Same Kind of Different trailer and more…

Rules Don’t Apply Trailer

Here is the Rules Don’t Apply Trailer. Warren Beatty writes, directs, and stars in the Golden Era-set film. With Alden Ehrenreich in the cast, the film is instantly reminiscent of this year’s Hail, Cesar!. Ehrenreich stars as the driver to Beatty’s Howard Hughes. The film features a stellar cast, that includes Lily Collins, Alec Baldwin, and Matthew Broderick. Rules Don’t Apply is coming soon to cinemas.

Morgan Clip

This clip from the upcoming Morgan gives a bit of insight into the title character. The film stars Kate Mara as a troubleshooter sent to a remote location to investigate an accident. Also starring Paul Giamatti and Jennifer Jason Leigh, the film is produced by Ridley Scott. Morgan is out in UK cinemas on 2nd September 2016.

Arrival Poster

Arrival PosterThis is one of a series of posters for new ski-fi thriller Arrival. The film is about a mystery spacecraft that arrives on Earth, and the team who are sent to investigate. Denis Villeneuve directs the film, which stars Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner. Arrival lands in UK cinemas on 11th November 2016.

War on Everyone Trailer

The Guard director John Michael McDonagh’s latest film combines dark humour with a buddy cop movie. War on Everyone stars Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña as New Mexican cops who set out to blackmail every criminal that crosses their paths. War on Everyone will hit UK screens on 7th October 2016.

Moana Trailer

Disney latest animation Moana is about a South Pacific teenager who sails on a daring mission to save her people. The film features the voice of Dwayne Johnson, and songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Moana is directed by Disney dream-team Ron Clements and John Musker. UK cinemagoers will have to wait until 2nd December 2016 to see if the pair can recreate their earlier magic.

Hell or High Water Trailer

Hell or High Water is a new crime thriller from the writer of Sicario, Taylor Sheridan.  The film stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as robbers who meet their match in Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges. Hell or High Water hits UK screens on 9th September 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Poster

Miss Peregrine Poster

This poster is a visual feast. Director Tim Burton always delivers on the imagery front. Based on the book by Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children looks like it will be weird and wonderful. Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield and Samuel L. Jackson, the film will be released in UK cinemas on 30th September 2016.

Same Kind of Different as Me Trailer

Uncomfortably reminiscent of The Blind Side, Same Kind of Different as Me is based on the book of the same name. The film stars Renée Zellweger and Greg Kinnear as a couple who befriend a homeless man (played by Djimon Hounsou). Some of what is shown seems risible, but the film will probably appeal to fans of the book. Same Kind of Different as Me is set for release in 2017.

Film Review: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice has the look and feel of an epic blockbuster, even if the reality does not quite match the expectation.

Following the devastation in Metropolis a year and a half ago, Bruce Wayne is angered that Superman’s power is going unchecked. As Clark Kent and Wayne clash, Lex Luthor puts his plans into motion…

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is a film many comic book fans would have been waiting for. And yet it isn’t; Man of Steel will never welcome the adoration of 1978’s Superman and there is yet another Batman following the success of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. With expectations readjusted, then, director Zack Snyder’s film is a different beast than the superhero movie to end all superhero movies.

Snyder builds momentum to big moments in the film at a leisurely pace. There are short sequences in Batman V Superman that could easily have been cut – the training sequence serves little purpose, for example. The building of tension is successful to a certain extent, although the film relies on an invested viewer who will wait for the pay off. At times it feels as if Snyder does not have a tight grip on the narrative. Part of the problem is that this film is not a stand-alone picture; it is used to set up the DC franchise of superhero films. This is evident in sequences throughout the film, as if the picture is laying the groundwork for something more.

When the action does arrive, it is well executed for the most part. The use of CGI, although well executed, is too prominent. Nevertheless, action sequences do generate excitement. With Bruce Wayne overwhelmed with anger and stress and Clark Kent given little to play with, the real highlight of the film is the introduction of Wonder Woman. If her spin-off movie has a decent script, no doubt it will be excellent. Visuals in Batman V Superman are highly stylised, and the score is one of the best elements of the film. The dialogue is not fantastic, and there is a lack of care given to the plotting. For all its bluster, the film suffers because the narrative does not match the production values.

Ben Affleck makes a decent Batman, ably assisted by Jeremy Irons’ Alfred. Amy Adams reprises her role as Lois Lane with gusto, but Henry Cavill is given little meat in the script. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor will not be to everyone’s tastes, but his depiction is more palatable than Kevin Spacey’s in Superman Returns. Gal Gadot is well cast as Wonder Woman.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is not a classic superhero movie, but it does have redeeming qualities. DC fans should enjoy the more serious tone of the film, even if it is not exactly what they were hoping for.