Film Review: Downsizing

Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is a satire on the environmental issues and society at large. It is entertaining and thought-provoking, but not entirely satisfying.

Occupational therapist Paul lives in a world where it is possible to shrink people down to live in tiny communities, in order to address overpopulation concerns. The more Paul finds out about this new society, the more he thinks it could be the life for him…

Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, Downsizing‘s narrative focuses on an everyman protagonist and his interactions with both the full-size and miniature world. The film has a great premise which plays out as both a personal journey for the protagonist and a wider comment on society.

The ideas that Downsizing proposes are interesting ones. The film questions what a new society would be like, the issue of status, and finding one’s place in the world. Some of these are viewed through protagonist Paul, whilst others become clearer through the characters he interacts with.

The main negative of Downsizing is that for all the ideas floating round, the film ruminates too much on less interesting ones. There is a clear message here, and it is delivered with humour as not to be too preachy. The evolution of society that Payne presents feels plausible, if understandably disappointing.

Ngoc Lan Tran could have been a great character. However, it is a shame that making light of her accent is the path chosen instead of the strong interesting character she is first introduced as in a news segment. Her function is to help sharpen Paul’s mind more than anything else. Other supporting characters take the fun roles to allow for a meditative experience for Paul.

Matt Damon plays against type slightly, and does a good job as Paul. Christoph Waltz is always great value. He and Udo Kier inject a lot needed fun into the film. It is a shame that Hong Chau is not given more worthy lines to work with. For all of Alexander Payne’s talents, viewers may wish for a sharper screenplay. Nevertheless, Downsizing is still an entertaining watch.

Downsizing is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

Previews: The Legend of Tarzan trailer, TMNT2 and more!

An abundance of film trailers this week, including The Legend of Tarzan trailer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and more…

The Legend of Tarzan Trailer

The Legend of Tarzan trailer is here. Boasting a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robie, Samuel L. Jackson and Christoph Waltz, the film focuses on Tarzan later in life when he asked to be a trade emissary and travel to the Congo. The Legend of Tarzan bombards its way to cinema screens on 18th July 2016.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Trailer

For where is Krang? That’s what everyone wants to know. The trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is here, and features more of the characters from the much-loved cartoon series of the 1980s-1990s. The follow-up to 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is released on 3rd June 2016.

Jane Got A Gun Trailer

Here is the trailer for Western Jane Got a Gun. The film stars Natalie Portman as a mother living on a ranch in New Mexico when her family is threatened by a gang of outlaws. Also starring Joel Edgerton and Ewan McGregor, Jane Got A Gun is set for release in Spring 2016.

The BFG Trailer

The BFG was never my favourite Roald Dahl book (after all, it didn’t revolve round a chocolate factory), but this new film adaptation looks to be a spectacle. Steven Spielberg directs the live-action film, with a cast that includes Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall and Bill Hader. The BFG stomps its way onto screens on 22nd July 2016.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

The full-length trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reveals quite a bit about the upcoming superhero movie. We get to see Clark Kent meeting Bruce Wayne, even if it may take some time getting used to seeing Ben Affleck in this role. There is also more of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and an appearance from another of the Justice League. Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is released in cinemas in March 2016.

The Nice Guys Trailer

The Nice Guys sees the unlikely pairing of muscle for hire Russell Crowe and private eye Ryan Gosling team up to track down a missing girl. The film’s 1970s setting is instantly recognisable, from the costumes to the soundtrack. Also starring Kim Basinger and Matt Bomer, The Nice Guys will hit the big screen on 3rd June 2016.

Film Review: Spectre

Spectre

Latest James Bond instalment Spectre is a competent and entertaining addition to the series. Perhaps most exciting of all is the possibilities the film affords.

A message from the past sends James Bond on a mission to uncover a sinister organisation. As Bond tries to get to the man at the root of the organisation, M is battling to save MI6 in London…

Sam Mendes’ second Bond film Spectre sees many of the stylistic devices as its predecessor Skyfall. However, there are also marked differences in this latest instalment of the franchise. Known for their spectacular pre-credits sequences, Spectre comes up short in this regard. Whilst the setting is ripe with potential, the sequence itself is rather lacklustre. It is only as the film progresses that the reasoning behind this becomes clear.

Spectre follows the usual Bond pattern of a mission leading the protagonist to exotic locales in dangerous circumstances. All the hallmarks of Bond are present; the gadgets, the stunts, the beautiful women. Yet Spectre feels slightly different from other Bond films in the Daniel Craig oeuvre.

The last three Bond films seemed to concentrate on building the character of the protagonist, with Skyfall in particular focussing on the man and not the mission. Spectre continues this trend to a certain extent, with weight on the decisions made by Bond. However, the film is much more about building a suitable adversary for the spy. Harking back to earlier films in the Bond franchise, Spectre delivers an antagonist worthy of Bond.

There seems also to be a conscious homage to the Bond franchise with almost overt references to From Russia With Love, The Living Daylights, For Your Eyes Only and others by way of action sequence. The score and theme of Spectre are a bit disappointing, but there is some nice camera work in the film’s opening.

Daniel Craig reprises his role with the same emphasis on physicality. Ralph Fiennes’ delivery is good, whilst Lea Seydoux preforms well in an interesting role. Monica Bellucci is underused, but Christoph Waltz is as compelling as ever.

Not an outstanding Bond film, Spectre nevertheless is a fitting follow up to Skyfall. Furthermore, it offers two enticing possibilities as to what may come next.

Previews: Spectre Trailer, The Revenant and more

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the final Spectre trailer, The RevenantThe Good Dinosaur and more…

Spectre Trailer

Here is the final Spectre trailer. Daniel Craig returns as James Bond, alongside Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Whishaw. The film, which also stars Christoph Waltz and Monica Belluci, sees Bond on a rogue mission where he finds out the existence of a sinister organisation. Spectre is released in the UK on 26th October 2015.

The Revenant Trailer

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu returns from his Oscar-winning success with Birdman with The Revenant. Starring Leondardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Will Poulter, the film is inspired by true events. The Revenant is set for release on 15th January 2016.

The Good Dinosaur Poster

The Good Dinosaur

Here is the poster for Disney Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur. The film poses the question of what if the dinosaurs never went extinct. Arlo the dinosaur makes an unlikely young human friend in the film. The Good Dinosaur will hit the big screens in the UK on 27th November 2015.

Victor Frankestein Video

In the above video, James McAvoy speaks about tackling the role of Victor Frankenstein, and working with Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Igor). The film is a retelling of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, with a focus on the psyche of the scientist. Victor Frankenstein is put in cinemas on 4th December 2015.

Creed Trailer

Ryan Coogler directs Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky spin-off Creed. Michael B. Jordan plays the son of boxer Apollo Creed, who tracks down Rocky Ballboa in Philadelphia. Creed is set for release in 2016.

Previews: Inside Out TV Spot, Maggie Trailer and More

A cornucopia of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the latest Inside Out TV spot, a Terminator Genisys featurette, Maggie trailer and lots more…

Inside Out TV Spot

Here is the latest Inside Out TV spot. The Disney Pixar film has been doing fantastic business in the US, and looks certain to replicate that in the UK with its summer holiday’s release. With the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling, Inside Out hits UK screens on 24th July 2015.

Terminator Genisys Featurette

The cast and crew of upcoming Terminator Genisys talk about protagonist Sarah Connor in this new featurette. The famous action heroine is played by Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke, who indicates that there will be nods to the original film in this latest instalment of the franchise. Terminator Genisys is released on 2nd July 2015.

Ant-Man TV Spot

Marvel’s latest super hero to receive the big-screen treatment is Ant-Man. From the above TV spots and earlier trailers, the film looks to offer a fair amount of humour. Starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, Ant-Man launches its way onto the big screen on 17th July 2015.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Poster

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation poster

Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt in the five instalment of the Mission: Impossible film franchise. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation sees the IMF disbanded, leaving Ethan and his team trying to combat deadly terror attacks. With Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames also returning, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation bursts into cinemas on 30th July 2015.

Maggie Trailer

Arnold Schwarzenegger must once again play the hero in new thriller Maggie. The film is a teenage girl who is infected during a zombie outbreak, and her father’s efforts to protect her. Also starring Abigail Breslin, Maggie is set for release on 24th July 2015.

Ted 2 Trailer

So teddy bears coming to life is something that I dream about. Ted is a little lewd for my tastes, but the first film was enjoyable enoughTed 2 reunites Mark Wahlberg and Seth McFarlane, and brings on board Amanda Seyfried as Ted’s lawyer. Ted 2 hits the big screen on 8th July 2015 in the UK.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension Trailer

The trailer for the latest instalment of the Paranormal Activity franchise is here. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension sees a family discover some old VHS tapes which hold a nasty surprise. The conclusion of the horror franchise is scheduled for release on 30th October 2015.

Vacation Poster

Vacation poster

Here is the latest poster for upcoming comedy Vacation. The film is the latest in the National Lampoon franchise, and sees a grown-up Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) taking his family on a road-trip vacation. Also starring Christina Applegate, Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth, Vacation is release in UK cinemas on 21st August 2015.

The Secret Life of Pets Trailer

I know what pets to all day; the nap and eat and nap some more. That is to say, they live the life. New animated comedy The Secret Life of Pets takes us behind closed doors. Featuring the voices of Louis C.K., Ellie Kemper and Hannibal Buress, The Secret Life of Pets  is set for release on 24th June 2016.

Fantastic Four Photo Shoot

Here are the stars of the new Fantastic Four film looking dapper. Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell star as the superhero quartet in the reboot of the Marvel franchise. Fantastic Four launches its way onto the big screen on 6th August 2015.

Spectre Vlog

Here is the latest blog from the set of new James Bond move Spectre. Director Sam Mendes discusses filming a scene that takes place amidst the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City. Starring Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz, Spectre will be released on 6th November 2015.

Magic Mike XXL Clip

The marketing for sequel Magic Mike XXL has been wonderful. This latest clip suggests the tongue-in-cheek attitude will continue in the film. Whereas the first film descended into schmaltz, here’s hoping this instalment will keep the tone humorous. The film is, after all, about male entertainers. Magic Mike XXL is released in cinemas on 3rd July 2015.

Film Review: Big Eyes

Big Eyes

Tim Burton’s long-awaited return to form Big Eyes is an engaging story which offers strong performances from its leads.

Margaret is an artist and a single mother in the 1950s. She paints portraits, giving her subjects strikingly large eyes. When a fellow artist enters her life, she finds success at a price…

Tim Burton offers something viewers have not seen from him in the last decade. Big Eyes focuses heavily on character and story, and features a cast that the director has not previously worked with. The result is a film holds the attention, and feels refreshing in the scope of the filmmaker’s recent work.

Big Eyes‘ narrative is constructed effectively; the film never seems overlong. It is a character driven piece, with focus given to the two central characters and the way in which their relationship develops. Both the characters and the changing relationship are believable.

Big Eyes is a drama, but it is not without moments of comedy. Burton does well to maintain a sober air in the moments that matter. Despite some passionate scenes, the Big Eyes never becomes melodramatic, and is a better film for this. The script is well crafted to illustrate the highs and lows of the central relationship, and it does this with drama, humour and sincerity.

Cinematography in Big Eyes makes the most of the film’s locations. Art direction also works well, with the period setting rendered seemingly authentic. Colleen Atwood’s costumes are as delicious as ever. Big Eyes‘ score is also great, exhibiting the range of composer Danny Elfman even when working with his most recognised collaborator. Amy Adams is expressive in a way that mirrors Margaret Keane’s work. Her performance is solid throughout. Christoph Waltz delivers another powerhouse performance, believable in his character’s charm and menace.

Big Eyes tells the story behind the well-known images. Hopefully the director’s next projects will run in a similar vein.

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.

Stuff To Look At

This week, a look at the most eagerly-anticpated movies coming out in the next few months or next year, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Birdman, and Into The Woods

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The week’s most talked about trailer sees a first look at the highly-anticpated Avengers: Age of Ultron. From this initial footage, the film appears less humorous than its wildly successful predecessor Avengers Assemble. We will find out whether this is the case or not when Avengers: Age of Ultron is released in April 2015.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Here is one of the new TV spots for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Things are heating up in the franchise, with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss fights to save a nation and her friends. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will hit the big screen on 20th November 2014.

Birdman

I cannot wait for this one. Black comedy Birdman features a stellar cast, headed by the wonderful Michael Keaton starring as a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played a superhero. Birdman, which is receiving an abundance of praise so far, is released in UK cinemas on 2nd January 2014.

The Drop

The Drop features the final performance from the late James Gandolfini. It also features Tom Hardy and a puppy, as illustrated above. No word on how integral a role the adorable puppy plays in the rest of the film. The Drop will be released in cinemas on 14th November 2014.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit 3 poster

What’s happened to Gandalf?! Here is one of the latest images from the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The final part of The Hobbit series, I am really hoping the film features Gollum. Everything needs more Gollum. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will open on 12th December 2014.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice features an amazing cast and a fantastic trailer. Adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel, the film’s cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Owen Wilson. Inherent Vice is set for release on 30th January 2015.

Interstellar

The more I see of Interstellar, the more interesting it looks. Christopher Nolan directs Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway in his stab at space exploration. Interstellar lands in cinemas on 7th November 2014.

Into The WoodsINTO THE WOODS image

Disney and fairy tales are like… two things that go very well together. Leading on from a new look at Into The Woods earlier this week, here is an image from the film. Starring Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt, musical Into The Woods is set for release on 9th January 2015.

Big Eyes

Tim Burton’s latest effort appears to mark a departure from his more recent films. For one, Johnny Depp is nowhere to be seen. Big Eyes seems more reminiscent of Big Fish than more recent films, and that is definitely a good thing. Starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes is set for release in the UK on 26th December 2014.

The Theory of Everything

Here is a clip from upcoming Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. Starring Eddie Redmayne as the young physicist and Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde, the arts student he feel in love with at Cambridge, The Theory of Everything is released in UK cinemas on 1st January 2014.

Film Review: The Zero Theorem

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam’s latest effort offers an existential crisis in a dystopian wonderland. The Zero Theorem is intriguing but imperfect.

Qohen Leth is continually searching for the reason for human existence. His desire to answer this question is interrupted by his increasing workload, including a new projected handed to him by Management…

Terry Gilliam’s films often inhabit fantasy and dystopian worlds, and The Zero Theorem adheres to this. The film focuses on real concerns through the guise of a futuristic environment.

The Zero Theorem is highly reminiscent of Brazil, both thematically and in some ways stylistically. The film almost functions as an update of the 1985 film to include contemporary technophobic and authoritarian concerns.

The Zero Theorem‘s narrative offers the audience enough to get their teeth into. With a core of existentialism, it is fascinating to see how Gilliam and screenwriter Pat Rushin will handle the big questions. There are some interesting ideas in The Zero Theorem, although any reveals are inevitably insubstantial given the subject at hand.

There is a slight lull in momentum before the climax. It is unclear where exactly the film is heading for large periods, but this adds to the intrigue.

Production design in The Zero Theorem is great. The world featured in the film futuristic and heavily reliant on technology. Qohen’s home acts as a nice antithesis to the outside world. The use of soundtrack is highly effective at the very end of the film. Christoph Waltz offers a competent performance as Qohen. He is ably supported by Mélanie Thierry and Tilda Swinton.

The Zero Theorem does not provide a substantial response to existential concerns, but the film is interesting and entrancing science fiction.

The Zero Theorem is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Stuff To Look At

The post in which I wax lyrical about new movie trailers. And inform you of the films set for release this summer. And get annoyed when I find out film characters share my name. The audacity…

Summer of Cinema 2013

Two weeks ago I went to the launch of ‘Summer of Cinema 2013’ to hear about upcoming releases and enjoy a mini burger (I love miniature food). There is lots to see this summer, from the big blockbusters (Man of Steel, Star Trek Into Darkness) to films by Robert Redford and Sofia Coppola. Check out the compilation above.

Epic

Epic has a rather impressive cast voicing its characters. Among others, Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried and Christoph Waltz lend their voices. Beyonce voices a character called ‘Princess Tara’. Contrary to popular belief, this is not actually by nickname. Although I am not happy about the use of my name, I will reserve judgement until I see how this character plays out. Epic is released is UK cinemas on 22nd May 2013.

Much Ado About Nothing

A departure from vampires and superheroes, Joss Whedon directs a contemporary update of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in twelve days and starring some of Whedon’s previous collaborators, the film is a far cry from the filmmaker’s recent output. I am looking forward to this foray into Shakespeare; it will be interesting to see if Whedon can handle it as well as he does big-budget comic book fare. Much Ado About Nothing is released on 14th June 2013.

The Seasoning House

Well, The Seasoning House is certainly not about the abode of spices. This revenge thriller looks pretty brutal. The Seasoning House is the directorial debut of special effects designer Paul Hyett. The film is out in cinemas on 21st June 2013.

In Fear

This trailer is almost haunting. It’s definitely the music. In Fear is a British horror film starring Alice Englert. It looks like a warning never ever to go on a car journey, and not just because they make you feel a bit queasy. Perhaps this is just me. In Fear is due for release in Autumn 2013.

Byzantium

Neil Jordan knows vampires. That’s why I am looking forward to Byzantium, unlike some other recent vampire flicks *cough Twilight cough*. Starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan, Byzantium is released in UK cinemas on 31st May 2013.

Thor: The Dark World

For the first minute-plus of this trailer I must have been in the majority of people thinking ‘yeah, but where the hell is Loki? I know Tom Hiddleston is in this film’. Looking rather bedraggled, Avenger Assemble‘s fantastic antagonist finally makes an appearance. Thor: The Dark World hits the big screen in the UK on 30th October 2013.