Film Highlights of the Decade 2010-2019

As the decade reaches its close, I take a look back at some of my favourite film trends and cinematic highlights from the last ten years…

The New Breed of Unmissable Directors

This decade has seen the emergence of a new breed of directors delivering must-see films. Leading the pack in Hollywood are Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins. Chazelle has delivered one of the decade’s best pictures with Whiplash, and two other fantastic films (La La Land and First Man). Meanwhile Jenkins gifted us two beautiful, nuanced pictures with Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Jennifer Kent has also created two different but powerful movies (The Babadook and The Nightingale), making her mark.

Other impressive directors who have emerged this decade include Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Justin Simien (Dear White People), and Julia Ducournau (Raw) also offered impressive debut features.

Excellent Late Franchise Entries

It really has been a decade of remakes, reboots, and belated sequels. Whilst many of these have been passable or forgettable, a couple of late franchise instalments have really stood out. George Miller bucked the trend to deliver one of the best films of this decade with Mad Max: Fury Road. The exhilarating fourth chapter in the franchise was breathtaking. Director Christopher McQuarrie re-teamed with Tom Cruise for the sixth Mission: Impossible film, and produced the best of the franchise and one of the best action films of the decade with Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Elsewhere director Steven Quale revived the tired Final Destination franchise with the very entertaining final chapter Final Destination 5.

Career Resurgences

This decade has seen a notable uptick in the careers of certain veteran actors. After a fairly quiet previous ten years, Laura Dern’s resurgence has been most rewarding to watch. This decade has seen the actress in an array of film roles including The Master, Certain Women, Marriage Story, and the upcoming Little Women. She has also been memorable on television in Twin Peaks and Big Little Lies. Michael Keaton has also had a belter of a decade, after a fairly unremarkable 2000s. He had major roles in Spotlight, The Founder, and Spider-Man: Homecoming (living long enough to become the villain), and was nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant turn in Birdman. Regina King has always delivered solid performances since her debut in Boyz n the Hood. It is only in the last few years that she has finally received the praise and calibre of roles she deserves, winning an Oscar for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk and playing the lead in the critically acclaimed show Watchmen.

Paddington Bear

In a bleak decade politically, Paddington Bear has been the hero we needed. Paul King’s Paddington and Paddington 2 have been a salve against the cruelties of this decade. A lead who is decent and kind (not to mention incredibly cute) has cut through the cynicism of the current world. The films were very entertaining, and a wonderful escape from current affairs. Paddington 2 in particular was very memorable and enchanting, with Hugh Grant on top form.

Christopher Nolan

If the decade had to belong to a single director, in terms of both critical acclaim and box office receipts, then that filmmaker would be Christopher Nolan. No one has been able to create original tentpole blockbusters in the way he has this decade. Nolan began the decade on top form with the action-thriller Inception, one of the biggest films of the year. He followed this with the final chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. The film is just about the most hopeful blockbuster of the decade, reaching a peak of exhilaration that is difficult to match. Interstellar and the truly superb Dunkirk exhibited Nolan’s comfort in a range of genres. With the upcoming Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s films are always hotly anticipated.

Park Chan-wook and Chung Chung-hoon’s Continuing Collaboration

Director Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon collaboration began in the 2000s, working on three films together (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, and Thirst). The fact that their partnership continued into this decade is a benefit to us all. With Stoker and The Handmaiden, Park and Chung delivered two of the decade’s handsomest pictures. The photography, the mise en scène, and the style are truly beautiful.

Trent Reznor Film Scores

After composing pieces for films earlier in his career (including for David Lynch’s Lost Highway), the 2010s was when Trent Reznor’s career as a composer really took off. His collaborations with Atticus Ross have been a highlight of cinema this decade. Highlights include the partnership with David Fincher (which netted Reznor an Oscar for The Social Network), as well as Mid90s and the recent Waves. Reznor and Ross also created the superlative score for the show Watchmen.

Directorial Debuts By Actors

This decade has seen some brilliant directorial debuts from well-known actors. These actors have proven their talents extend to behind the camera Highlights from this trend include Greta Gerwig’s wonderful Ladybird (Gerwig co-directed Nights and Weekends, but Ladybird was her first solo effort), and Jordan Peele’s fantastic Get Out. Other notable debuts include Chris Morris’ Four Lions, Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, Joel Edgerton’s The Gift, Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born, and Brie Larson’s Unicorn Store.

Film Review: The Glass Castle

Director and co-writer Destiny Daniel Cretton’s The Glass Castle is an engaging watch, thanks to its good performances and good storytelling.

Jeanette has an unconventional childhood. As an adult about to introduce her partner to her parents, Jeanette reflects on her upbringing with her eccentric artist mother and her alcoholic father…

Based on Writer Jeanette Walls’s memoirs, The Glass Castle focuses on the unusual childhood of the author, and in particular the relationship she has with her father. The film shows both the positive and negative of Jeanette’s upbringing, and the impact this has on her adult life.

The film commences with Jeanette as an adult in the late 1980s. It then diverges into two main strands; the story of the protagonist’s upbringing, and her current relationship with her family. Her childhood is explored through a series of lengthy flashbacks, at the same time as her present-day story progresses. This style of storytelling works well. Aspects of Jeanette’s childhood are revealed gradually. Some of these are genuinely horrendous, whilst others provide humour or simply a very human experience.

A prevailing theme of the film is the many shades of the characters. The film does not offer easy protagonists and antagonists, instead offering characters that are nuanced and difficult to categorise. A prominent message is that the vast majority of people are neither holy good or bad but sit on a spectrum. Whilst Jeanette’s parents are undoubtedly neglectful, they are not portrayed as villains, but complex characters with their own issues.

Brie Larson delvers a solid performance as the adult Jeanette. Ella Anderson is great as the young version of the character. Woody Harrleson is strong and lively as Rex. He is ably supported by Naomi Watts.

The final third of the film misses the pep of earlier sequences. Nevertheless, The Glass Castle is successful in its depiction of characters who are both frustrating and empathetic.

Previews: The Commuter Trailer, Tomb Raider, More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the brand new The Commuter trailer, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Tomb Raider, and more…

The Commuter Trailer

Here is the brand new The Commuter trailer. The action thriller is about a regular commuter who is forced to find a hidden passenger on his train. The film sees director Jaume Collet-Serra reunite with Liam Neeson following Non-Stop and Unknown. Also starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Sam Neill, The Commuter launches onto UK screens on 19th January 2018.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Trailer

Here is the new Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle trailer. The film is a new adventure based in the world of Jumanji. The film is about four teenagers who are sucked into the jungle world, and stars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, and Jack Black. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is set for release on 20th December 2017.

Tomb Raider Trailer

This is the trailer for the new Tomb Raider film, a reboot of the game-set series which starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Alicia Vikander plays Lara Croft, and the film focuses on the character at the beginning of her career. Also starring Dominic West and Walton Goggins, Tomb Raider is scheduled for release in March 2018.

The Glass Castle Clip

Above is a clip from The Glass Castle. The film is based on the memoirs of Jeannette Walls, focussing on her relationship with her unconventional father. Starring Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, The Glass Castle is out in cinemas on 6th October 2017.

Better Watch Out Trailer

This looks like a lot of fun. Better Watch Out is a Christmas time-set horror comedy about a babysitter who must defend her tween charges from an intruder. The film looks like it has all the ingredients of an entertaining movie, from the trailer above at least. Starring Levi Miller and Olivia DeJonge, Better Watch Out hits UK screens on 8th December 2017.

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Poster

I was non-plussed about The LEGO NINJAGO Movie but this cat is making it much more appealing. The third LEGO movie, this film is about a group of secret ninja warriors. Featuring the voices of Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, and Justin Theroux, The LEGO NINJAGO Movie is out in UK cinemas on 13th October 2017.

Previews: The House Trailer, Get Out, More!

Plenty to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The House trailer, Get Out, Aftermath, and more…

The House Trailer

This new The House trailer depicts an unusual way for parents to pay for their child’s tuition fees. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler are the parents who decide to operate an underground casino to ensure their daughter can go to university. The comedy is the directorial debut of screenwriter Andrew Jay Cohen (responsible for the scripts of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and others). The House is set for release in UK cinemas on 30th June 2017.

Kong: Skull Island Image

Here is anew image for the upcoming Kong: Skull Island. The film features a stellar cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, and John C. Reilly. The film reimagines the origins of the mythic Kong. Kong: Skull Island launches on to UK screens on 9th March 2017.

Aftermath Trailer

Here is the trailer for thriller Aftermath. Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a husband and father who hunts down the air traffic controller who he holds responsible for the crash that killed his family. The film also stars Scoot McNairy and Maggie Grace, and is produced by Darren Aronofsky. Aftermath will hit UK cinemas on 7th April 2017.

Catfight Trailer

Catfight is a comedy about two old college friends who meet again years later. When wealthy housewife Veronica and struggling artist Ashley clash, their rivalry lasts years. The film stars Anne Heche, Sandra Oh, and Alicia Silverstone. Catfight is out in cinemas and on VOD in 10th March 2017.

Get Out Poster

Get Out is a thriller about a black man who visits his white girlfriend’s family estate. Worried that her family don’t realise he is black, the reality is about to get much worse. The trailer can be viewed here. The film is written and directed by Jordan Peele, and stars Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. Get Out hits UK screens on 17th March 2017.

Logan Clip

Above is footage of Laura, a new character from the upcoming Logan. It reveals a little more about the young character who seems to have the same condition as the title character. Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen. Logan is out in UK cinemas on 1st March 2017.

Life Poster

Life is a new sci-fi thriller about a group of scientists who discover a new life form is space. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, Life will be released in UK cinemas on 24th March 2017.

Everything Everything Trailer

This is the new trailer for Everything Everything, based on the best-selling novel of the same name. The film is about Maddy, a teenage girl with a condition that means she can’t leave her house, and her neighbour Olly who wants to be with her. Starring Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson, Everything Everything is coming to cinemas soon.

Gleason Trailer

Here is the trailer for documentary Gleason. The film is about Steve Gleason, an American football star who is diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) at the age of 34. The documentary is directed by Clay Tweel. Gleason is out in UK cinemas from 17th march 2017.

Film Review: Free Fire

Free Fire

After the disappointing High-Rise, Ben Wheatley impresses with Free Fire. The film is contagiously fun.

In Boston in the late 1970s, Justine brokers an arms deal between two gangs. The deal is set to take place in an abandoned warehouse. What should be a simple transaction turns into something else entirely…

Writer-director Ben Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump have created a very entertaining film with Free Fire. The pair keep things simple with the set up. The premise is basic, functioning to get the characters into a controlled environment. Very little of the action takes place outside of this setting.

With a simple premise and an almost one-room setting, the emphasis of the film has to be on the script and the characters. Wheatley riffs off the 1970s gangster films with Free Fire. The film has the style of gangster films of this era, and functions as something of a homage to the genre. Characters are quickly established, and the protagonists are given enough depth to engage viewers. The script, meanwhile, is frequently funny throughout the duration. The humour mixes character-driven jokes and wit with slapstick incidents. As is Wheatley’s way, humour is mixed with goriness for some black comic laughs.

Aerial shots early on in the film work well to establish the setting. At later stages, however, the camera work is sometimes too dizzying to figure out what is going on. One song in particular is used to great effect. Sharlto Copley is wonderfully humorous as Vern. He is the stand out character in the film. Elsewhere, Armie Hammer shows his comedy chops, and Cillian Murphy instils some much needed dryness. Sam Riley and Bree Larson are also decent.

Free Fire is a gangster comedy which does the job of entertaining its audience throughout. A very enjoyable film.

Free Fire is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Accountant and More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, The Accountant, Wonder Woman and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a live-action remake of the animated classic. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Wes Bentley are joined by Oakes Fegley as the title character. Pete’s Dragon will be released in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Accountant Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for The Accountant. The film stars Ben Affleck as a maths savant who works on the books for criminal organisations. Also starring Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is out in the UK on 4th November 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Featurette

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson and others discuss the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Directed by Tim Burton, Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.

Office Christmas Party Trailer

Office Christmas Party is a new comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the directors of The Switch and Blades of Glory. The film is about staff who host an epic Christmas party to impress a potential client. With an ensemble cast that includes  Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Courtney B. Vance, Office Christmas Party makes its way onto UK screens on 9th December 2016.

Ben-Hur Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of the 1880 Christian novel, like the three film versions that have come before. This version stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, and Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur hits UK screens on 7th September 2016.

T2 Teaser Trailer

This feels like it has come from nowhere. A belated sequel to Trainspotting, T2 reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast, including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller. T2 is set for release on 27th January 2016.

Blair Witch Trailer

Another unexpected sequel to a 1990s film. Horror movie The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch is directed by Adam Winged, who has had recent successes with You’re Next and The Guest. Blair Witch hits UK screens on 16th September 2016.

Nerve Clip

Nerve seems to the correct name for this film, is the above clip is anything to go by. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who rose to fame through their film Catfish. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Nerve is out in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the cinema stalwart King Kong. The film has a more contemporary setting than the last version of the monster movie. Kong: Skull Island stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman. The film is set for release in 2017.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The film many comic book fans have been waiting decades for is almost here. After her appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gets her own film. Gal Gadot is joined by Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman will hit cinemas 2nd June 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

After the character was such a big hit in The LEGO Movie, it is no surprise that Batman gets his own film. The LEGO Batman Movie looks like it will be as amusing as its predecessor, if the trailer is anything to go by. With the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson, The LEGO Batman Movie launches on to UK screens in February 2017.

Suicide Squad Video

This Suicide Squad video concentrates on Harley Quinn from the upcoming movie. The film features a roster of villains who are tasked with completing a mission for a US agent. Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, Suicide Squad hits UK cinemas on 5th August 2016.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of cinematic delights this week, including the latest trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into The Woods, Paddington and more…

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Here is the latest trailer for the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s second Tolkien franchise, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Sadly Gollum is nowhere to be seen, but there is plenty of hobbits, eleves, wizards and the like. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will hit UK screens on  12th December 2014.

Into The Woods

Carrying on with the fantasy theme, a full trailer for Into The Woods dropped this week. It seems to have all the winning ingredients; fairy tales, musical numbers, and a great cast. Meryl Streep in particular looks wonderfully hammy as the witch. Into The Woods will be released in UK cinemas on 9th January 2015.

Horrible Bosses 2

Above is a clip from the forthcoming sequel Horrible Bosses 2. The film unites the main cast from the first film with newcomers Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. It was refreshing to see Jennifer Aniston in a different kind of role in the first film, and it looks like this is no different. Horrible Bosses 2 is out on 28th November 2014.

Paddington

Paddington One Sheet

Oh my! Paddington in the snow. I recently bought a red duffle coat, and was told that I looked like a cross between Paddington Bear and Red Riding Hood. It was the greatest compliment ever. Anyway, Paddington, featuring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Julie Walters, will reach UK screens on 28th November 2014.

The Gambler

What is interesting about this trailer for The Gambler is that it uses The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’, a song that many film fans will associate with The Departed, which also memorably starred Marky Mark. The Gambler, which also stars John Goodman and Brie Larson, is set for release in UK cinemas on 19th December 2014.

The Pyramid

Above is a featurette on upcoming horror The Pyramid. What I want to know is what exactly is in these pyramids. Is it mummies come to life? Or is it a more Indiana Jones-style bent? The Pyramid is out in UK cinemas on 5th December 2014.

Annie

Contemporary remake of the classic musical Annie is out just in time for Christmas. It is unclear how much singing will be involved from the above trailer, and how much Cameron Diaz’s Miss Hannigan will replicate the original. But here’s hoping. Annie hits UK screens on 20th December 2014.

Film Review: 21 Jump Street

With its self-flagellation and wry nods, 21 Jump Street is surprisingly enjoyable. Viewers looking for a decent action comedy won’t go far wrong with Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s film.

Schmidt and Jenko become best friends while training to be police officers, despite their differences at high school. After a rough start to their careers, the pair are sent undercover to pose as students at a high school. They must try to infiltrate a drugs ring whilst blending in with fellow students…

A film remake of a 1980s television series shouldn’t be good. However, it is the fact that the screenwriters know this and have carved their script accordingly, that makes 21 Jump Street so great. The plot of the film is similar to one featured in the television show. What the film version does is provide amusement and references in spades. The level of self-awareness is definitely a positive, as it provides several laughs.

21 Jump Street flips high school conventions to modernise depictions. This is a wise move, offering a more realistic portrayal of high school hierarchy. It is also integral to the narrative, and aids in character development. Many viewers in their 20s and over will be able to identify with the protagonists’ confusion over what is now cool.

Nods to the 1980s work well throughout the film. The use of N.W.A’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is a nice touch, with former group member Ice Cube starring in the film. The connection with the eighties is also apparent with the type of antagonists that appear; they seem very much a throwback to this decade.

Casting and performances in 21 Jump Street are great. Jonah Hill, who co-wrote the story, is well suited to the role of Schmidt, while Channing Tatum is surprisingly adept in his comedic role. Solid support is provided by Ice Cube, Brie Larson and Caroline Aaron. The film also boasts good production values and a decent soundtrack.

21 Jump Street is the type of film that the majority of viewers will find hugely entertaining. The film offers a gregarious tone and plenty of laughs.

Film Review: Rampart

A crime drama/character study, Rampart begins well but loses its way unfortunately. The film is flawed but still manages to absorb viewers.

In the Los Angeles of 1999, Dave Brown is a veteran cop in the LAPD. The division is embroiled in a scandal which sees their every move scrutinised. Not knowing for playing by the rules, when Dave is caught out he struggles to keep hold of his job and his family…

Rampart is a character-driven film. It focuses heavily on the protagonist; the plot is secondary to this. Although the film retains the attention, it is a shame more emphasis is not given to the narrative. The film takes place at such an interesting time in terms of LAPD history, that it deserved more time allocated to it. Rampart is set in 1999; the beginnings of the well-known scandal. The film would have been more satisfying overall if more of a link between this and the character of Dave Brown had been established.

As a protagonist, Brown appears three-dimensional. James Ellroy and Oren Moverman’s screenplay is successful in its creation of a realistic character. While Dave Brown is not a hero, he is not completely irredeemable either. It is this ambiguity that hooks the audience.

Rampart‘s cinematography is really interesting. There is a great use of colour and lighting, juxtaposing the brightness and beauty of California with the seediness of crime. The constant pans in one scene are less effective, however. Similarly, editing and cinematography in the club scene creates an unusual, but not persuasive, result. Sound works well, but the jarring noises in this scene seem unnecessary, with this short segment letting the rest of the film down.

Woody Harrelson delivers a dominating performance as Dave Brown. He brings both charm and a tension to the role. Sigourney Weaver is well cast in a supporting role. Brie Larson stands out as Brown’s teenage daughter Helen, as does Robin Wright as Linda.

Rampart is a well-executed movie. It is only disappointing because it should be more than it offers.