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: Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan once again proves himself the master filmmaker with the astounding Dunkirk. The film is unmissable. 

In 1940, Allied soldiers have been pushed back to Dunkirk by the German army. As British soldiers wait on the beaches to be evacuated, time is running out to get thousands of men to safety…

Christopher Nolan has proved himself adept at working in a number of genres, so there were no major concerns with him tackling the war film. The result of this endeavour is a tense, enthralling movie. It is one that respects the historical reality of its subject, yet does not fail to deliver spectacle. 

Dunkirk does not give the audience even a minute to settle, with tension immediately in the air. This is unrelenting through almost the entire duration of the movie. There is little reprieve, as the film focuses on a number of situations, all entering the thick of the action. The momentum builds in the uneasiest of manners, there is a sense of foreboding that emerges early on.

The film offers a few characters for the audience to get behind; it is clear that survival is the name of the game. There are not the clear heroes and villains we so often see; Nolan is more subtle than this. The film is most nerve wracking, but audiences will not want to miss a second of the film. Dunkirk lays bare the horrors of war, in particular the brutality facing soldiers. Similar to Hacksaw Ridge‘s visceral depiction of the battlefield, Nolan depicts the tension and terror of simply trying to survive. It is a depiction well worthy of acclaim. 

Dunkirk should be seen on IMAX 70mm screens if at all possible, to do the film full justice. Nolan’s direction is masterful; action is portrayed in a highly realistic fashion. He really situates the viewer at the heart of action. The sound design adds immensely to the visual spectacle. Hans Zimmer proves his incredible talent with another powerful score. There is little dialogue in the film. The narrative does not really require much talking when the visuals and sound are so impactful. Performances are good throughout; Fionn Whitehead and Mark Rylance stand out in particular. 

Dunkirk will stay with viewers long after they leave the cinema. It will be fascinating to see what Nolan tackles next. 

Previews: Darkest Hour Trailer, Dunkirk, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Darkest Hour trailer, Dunkirk, American Assassin, and more…

Darkest Hour Trailer

Gary Oldman once again proves his chameleon credentials in this new Darkest Hour trailer. Oldman stars as Winston Churchill as he becomes prime minister days before Britain enters World War II. The film also stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James, and is directed by Joe Wright (Pan, Hanna). Darkest Hour is scheduled for release in UK cinemas on 12th January 2018.

Dunkirk World Premiere Highlights

Here are the highlights from last night’s world premiere of Dunkirk in London’s Leicester Square. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film stars Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and Cillian Murphy. Dunkirk will be released in both 70mm and standard presentation on 21st July 2017.

American Assassin Trailer

Here is the second trailer for American Assassin. The presence of Michael Keaton just makes everything better. The film is about a CIA black ops recruit under the training of a Cold War veteran. Keaton is joined by Dylan O’Brien, Taylor Kitsch, and Sanaa Lathan. American Assassin hits UK screens on 15th September 2017.

Atomic Blonde Featurette

This featurette focuses on Atomic Blonde‘s stunt coordination, and Charlize Theron considerable skill in this department. Theron stars as a lethal assassin sent to deliver a priceless dossier in 1980s Berlin. Also starring James McAvoy and John Goodman, Atomic Blonde is out in UK cinemas on 9th August 2017.

Maudie Poster

Here is the poster for Maudie. Based on a true story, the film is about an unlikely romance between a folk artist and a reclusive fish peddler. The film stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, and is directed by Aisling Walsh. Maudie will be released in UK cinemas on 4th August 2017.

Valerian Trailer

Above is the latest look at Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. If nothing else, the film will be a visual feast. Directed by Luc Besson, the film stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. Valerian will hit UK screens on 2nd August 2017.

Previews: Dunkirk Poster, Baby Driver, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the latest Dunkirk poster, plus Baby Driver, American Made, and more…

Dunkirk Poster

Here is the latest Dunkirk poster. Writer-director Christopher Nolan turns his attention to the war movie, after excelling in a number of other genres. The film stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Kenneth Branagh. Dunkirk hits cinema and IMAX screens on 21st July 2017.

Baby Driver Clip

This clip sheds light on the central character in Edgar Wright’s upcoming Baby Driver. Starring Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, and Lily James, the film is about a getaway driver who wishes to leave his criminal life behind. Baby Driver is out in UK cinemas on 28th June 2017.

American Made Trailer

Tom Cruise reunites with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman for American Made. The film is based on the real-life exploits of pilot Barry Seal, who is recruited by the CIA to run a covert operation. Also starring Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright, and Caleb Landry Jones, American Made is due for release on 25th August 2017.

Goodbye Christopher Robin Poster

Here is the new poster for Goodbye Christopher Robin. The film is based on the family who created one of the world’s most beloved bear, Winnie the Pooh. It revolves around the relationship between writer A.A. Milne and his son Christopher. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, and Kelly Macdonald, Goodbye Christopher Robin will be out in cinemas on 29th September 2017.

Murder on the Orient Express Trailer

This trailer for Murder on the Orient Express looks sumptuous. The film looks to have one of the most star-studded casts of the year, with Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Judi Dench among some of the passengers on the fateful train. Director Kenneth Branagh stars as famous detective Hercule Poirot; comparisons to David Suchet will be inevitable. Based on one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels, Murder on the Orient Express is set for release on 3rd November 2017.

Previews: Blade Runner 2049 trailer, Dunkirk, More!

Previews of upcoming attractions include the new Blade Runner 2049 trailer, John Wick: Chapter Two, The White King, and more…

Blade Runner 2049 Trailer

Here is the first Blade Runner 2049 trailer. The film sees the return of Harrison Ford as Dekard. He is joined by Ryan Gosling, who plays a new blade runner. Set thirty years after the events of the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is set for release on 6th October 2017.

John Wick: Chapter Two Trailer

Following the success of 2014’s John Wick, sequel John Wick: Chapter Two is coming next year. Keanu Reeves returns as the title character, and is joined by Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, and Common. John Wick: Chapter Two will be released in UK cinemas on 17th February 2017.

Personal Shopper Trailer

After screening at a number of film festivals this year, Oliver Assayas’ Personal Shopper gets a UK cinema release next year. The film stars Kirsten Stewart as a personal shopper and a spiritual medium who tries to make contact with a deceased relative. Personal Shopper will be released in cinemas on 17th March 2017.

Jackie Poster

Jackie Poster

Here is the poster for Jackie. The film stars Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, and focuses on the assassination and aftermath as seen through her eyes. With awards buzz around the central performance, Jackie will be released in UK cinemas on 20th January 2017.

The White King Clip

Based on the novel of the same name, The White King is a dystopian drama set during a fictitious dictatorship. The film stars Jonathan Pryce, Agyness Deyn, and Olivia Williams as this creepy robot. The White King will be released in UK cinemas on 27th January 2017, and on DVD on 30th January.

Dunkirk Trailer

Here is the first proper look at Dunkirk. Director Christopher Nolan has fared well with science fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and comic book movies, and now turns his hand to the war film. The film stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Cillian Murphy. Dunkirk will be released 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.

Interstellar Press Conference

Interstellar Press Conference

Last week, the cast and crew gathered in London for the Interstellar press conference. Here is what cast members Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy, plus director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas had to say about the film…

On making Interstellar…

Christopher Nolan: My interest in Interstellar was a couple of key things. First was the relationship between the father and the children. I am a father myself and I related to it quite a lot; I found it very powerful. And I liked the idea of combining that with this story that speculates about a potential moment in human evolution where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe.

Emma Thomas: The thing I love about this film is that it is many things rolled into one. So whilst we were doing the more intimate character stuff, we also had these massive, disparate locations to shoot in. Iceland is an amazing place but a lot of the places that we were in were incredibly remote and incredibly challenging. But I think it really paid off; it’s a lot more fun to watch it than it was to be there in some cases!

On science fiction cinema…

Christopher Nolan: I grew up and what was really a golden age of blockbusters. If you look at Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] and they way it addressed that idea of this inevitable moment where humans would meet aliens, and address it from a family perspective. I really liked the idea of giving today’s audiences some sense of that… One of my earliest movie-going memories is going to Leicester Square to see 2001 [A Space Odyssey] when I was seven years old, and I have never forgotten the scale of that. I saw my first IMAX film when I was fifteen, and immediately I wanted to make features that way at the point. Really for me working on this scale, it’s a long-held dream of mine.

Interstellar QUAD

On working with Christopher Nolan…

Matthew McConaughey: It is a compliment to the process that even though this went on for five months, and there was a much larger scope and scale, when you are acting in a Christopher Nolan film it feels just as intimate and just as raw and natural as most independent films are forced to feel because you don’t have the time. But we had the time and the money on Interstellar, but when you are actually shooting, it is very intimate, and very raw and natural.

Jessica Chastain: I don’t normally do big movies, I’m kind of new to this world. I had always been afraid that jumping on a big budget film, you would lose the relationships in favour of special effects. But the great thing about working with Chris is that it is all practical sets, so you actually have things to react to as an actor, which is awesome. We would do three or four takes, and it’s so incredible because he would let me get it out of my system, try what I wanted to without trying to impose on me something that wasn’t natural. With a very delicate hand, he would come over and just say one sentence… and with that tiny, exquisite note, he would open up my performance in a way I would never have imagined.

Mackenzie Foy: Christopher Nolan is awesome! I want to be a director when I get older, and just to be able to watch him work is amazing and it meant a lot to me.

Michael Caine: You spend your life as an actor making a picture saying “is it going to be going to be a hit? Is it going to be a miss?”. I’ve had six pictures working with Christopher, and every one has been a hit. So whenever he says “do you want to do a movie?”, I say “yes”! He said “do you want to read the script?” and I said “no”! It’s quite extraordinary working with him because he also writes it, and nothing is what it seems. I remember the first time he came to me with a script, he came to my house in the country, he said “I’ve got a movie”. I said; “what is it?” and he said “Batman”, and I thought to myself “well I’m too old to play Batman, what does he want me to play?”. He said; “I want you to play the butler” and I thought about the type of dialogue I would have, what do I say; “dinner is served”? And of course I read the script; it wasn’t the butler, it was the foster father.

On favourite science fiction characters…

Christopher Nolan: It’s got to be Darth Vader…

Emma Thomas: I would have to say Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien.

Mackenzie Foy: Either Darth Vader or Spock.

Matthew McConaughey: Chewbacca and Murph [from Interstellar].

Anne Hathaway: R2D2 and Ripley.

Michael Caine: Sandy Bullock in Gravity.

Jessica Chastain: Mine would be Princess Leia and HAL.

Anne Hathaway: Can I add a science fiction character? Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. But I am speaking specifically of the new version.

On saving the environment…

Jessica Chastain: I’m vegan, and I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but I do believe that something like meatless Mondays. If everyone in the world gave up meat for one day it would make a huge difference in terms of the carbon footprint.

Michael Caine: I was so poor for so long that I didn’t use anything, I didn’t eat very much, I figured the world owed me a debt so… I am eating very well and have had a big car for a long time!

Anne Hathaway: I try to do a lot of little things in the hope that they are going to add up. I time my showers, I try not to overly consume things, or blindly consume things…

Christopher Nolan: Communal resources, like gathering people in one place, like a movie theatre. So if you go and see Interstellar every evening, you’ll save an enormous amount of energy!

Interstellar is released on Friday 7th November 2014.