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: Creed II

Director Steven Caple Jr.’s sequel Creed II hits all the expected notes, but does it well enough to get viewers onside. The film is immensely entertaining.

A few years after his breakout fight, Adonis Creed’s star is on the ascent. As he rises in the boxing world, he receives a new challenge. His intended opponent is Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago…

A sequel to the 2015 hit Creed, this film sees Ryan Coogler pass the directing baton to Steven Caple Jr. (Coogler stays on as executive producer). Creed II picks up a couple of years after its predecessor. Protagonist Adonis Creed’s underdog becomes a champion, only for a new challenger to emerge. Creed II treads a familiar beat; the film will be reminiscent for fans of the Rocky franchise. The protagonist goes on enough of an emotional journey to engage with viewers. Likewise, there is development from Rocky Balboa, fitting nicely into the mentor mode adopted in the previous film. 

With the reappearance of Ivan Drago, the film loops back to Rocky IV. Whilst not a remake of the 1985 film, Creed II follows a very similar narrative path. In a sense, it is both a remake and a sequel. The use of footage from the 1985 film further emphasises this. Although the film concentrates on Adonis’ journey, there is enough about the Drago family to give this opponent motive and backstory. 

Caple Jr. does not shy away from the brutality of the boxing with some gory depictions. There are some nice shots; Adonis’ reflection in the trophy cabinet springs to mind. Music is used well, combining aspects of the Rocky theme with more contemporary tracks. Michael B. Jordan is convincing again as Adonis Creed. He offers both charisma and a heathy degree of authenticity. Tessa Thompson and Sylvester Stallone provide good support. Dolph Lindgren is also a welcome presence. The return of a few characters from the original franchise is a nice touch. 

Creed II is predictable in places, but this hardly matters when it is such an enjoyable watch.

Previews: Creed II Clip, Uglydolls, More!

Lots of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a new Creed II clip, Uglydolls, Missing Link, and more…

Creed II Clip

Here is a brand new Creed II clip. A sequel to 2016’s Creed, the film sees the return of Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Tessa Thompson. They are joined by a face from the original franchise; Dolph Lundgren reprises his role as Ivan Drago. Directed by Steven Caple Jr., Creed II will hit UK screens on 30th November 2018.

Uglydolls Trailer

Here is the first trailer for animated adventure Uglydolls. Based on the toy brand, the film is about the residents of Uglyville, who confront what it means to be different. The film features original songs by Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, and Blake Shelton. Uglydolls is set for release on 16th August 2019.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Poster

Above is the latest poster for the upcoming Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film focuses on a different Spider-Man universe. With an all-star voice cast (including Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nicolas Cage), Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is out in UK cinemas on 12th December, with previews on 8th and 9th December 2018.

Missing Link Trailer

Missing Link is the latest film from animation studio Laika. The film is about an explorer who  discovers the world’s most legendary creature. Featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, and Zoe Saldana, Missing Link is set for release on 5th April 2019.

Aquaman Poster

Here is one of the latest posters from the upcoming DC film Aquaman. Nicole Kidman stars as Queen Atlanna in the film. She is joined by Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe. Directed by James Wan, Aquaman will hit UK screens on 14th December 2018.

White Boy Rick Trailer

White Boy Rick is based on the true story. Set in 1980s Detroit, during the height of the war on drugs, the film is about a father and his teenage son, who becomes a police informant. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Brian Tyree Henry. White Boy Rick is being released in UK cinemas on 7th December 2018.

Previews: Creed II Trailer, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, More!

Some hotly-anticipated films in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the brand new Creed II trailer, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, First Man, and more…

Creed II Trailer

The new Creed II trailer was released today. The sequel to the very successful Creed, the film sees Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Tessa Thompson returning. They are joined by Dolph Lundgren, who reprises his role as the iconic Ivan Drago. Steven Caple Jr. takes over director duties from Ryan Coogler, who stays on as an executive producer. Creed II will hit UK cinemas on 30th November 2018.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Poster

We are finally getting a look at the upcoming X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The film reunites the X-Men: Days of Future Past cast, including Sophie Turner, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence. The cast also includes the new addition of Jessica Chastain. The film is the directorial debut of Simon Kinberg, writer of the previous two X-Men films. X-Men: Dark Phoenix will be be released in cinemas next year.

First Man Featurette

Above is a featurette on Damien Chapelle’s latest, First Man. Chazelle reunites with his La La Land lead actor Ryan Gosling in this story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon. The film also stars Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, and Kyle Chandler. Written by Josh Singer, First Man launches on to UK screens on 12th October 2018.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of the Grindelwald Trailer

Above is the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of the Grindelwald. The film is a sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Johnny Depp, and Ezra Miller return, and are joined by Jude Law. Based on a screenplay by J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of the Grindelwald will be released in UK cinemas on 16th November 2018.

Film Review: Bleed For This

BLEED FOR THIS

Bleed For This is a decently entertaining boxing film. It is perfectly watchable, but by no means a classic of the genre.

World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza is known for never giving up. When an accident threatens not only his career, but his life, it looks as if his boxing days are over. Vinny, however, wishes to prove the naysayers wrong…

Based on the true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza, Bleed For This follows the hallmarks of the boxing film. By the time the montage sequence rolls around in the first third, viewers will recognise the conventions. However, the accident puts a spin on things, and the film becomes more of a triumph over adversary.

Director and co-writer Ben Younger has created the archetypal boxing movie with Bleed For This. It follows a simple narrative to Rocky et al, following an underdog as he hopes to beat the odds. Younger’s film can be distinguished from others in the genre by the fact that it is based on real events. Besides this, however, there is little to make the film stand out.

The film blends drama and comedy, amongst the sports narrative. The film is very Hollywood in its style. Younger adds some nice touches, like the home video-style footage. The fight sequences are well executed; editing in the scenes add to the tension. Bleed For This focuses on Vinny and his relationship with those close to him. It is a male-heavy film; females are strictly supportive or viewed through a voyeuristic gaze. The film feels macho, a throwback to the era it is set in, perhaps. Miles Teller offers a strong performance as Vinny. Ciarán Hinds is decent as his father, whilst Aaron Eckhart is almost recognisable as coach Kevin.

Bleed For This is enjoyable and well executed. Compared to the recent Creed, however, it does not put its head above the parapet.

Bleed For This is being screened at BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

Film Review: Creed

Creed

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a fantastic boxing film which sparks new life into the Rocky franchise.

Adonis Johnson is the son of late boxing champion Apollo Creed. He seeks out his father’s friend and fellow former champion Rocky Balboa to train him. In retirement, Rocky is reluctant to train the young boxer at first, but Adonis perseveres…

A continuation of the Rocky saga, Creed focuses on a new face; the illegitimate son of late boxing legend Apollo Creed. The story concentrates on Don’s rise from self-trained amateur to professional boxer. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler follows on from the success of his debut Fruitvale Station with an uplifting and entertaining boxing movie.

Creed works well as both a continuation of the Rocky story and a film in its own right. The film’s protagonist is a new face, with his own story to tell. Nevertheless, there is sufficient linkage to the Rocky franchise, as well as the significant inclusion of Rocky Balboa. Creed concentrates on the story of a burgeoning fighter, yet his relationship with Balboa and Balboa’s own narrative are crucial factors.

Creed is not so much a rags to riches tale as may be expected. Emphasis, instead, is placed upon acceptance. Adonis must fight in more than one way to have his career and right to box accepted. The relationship between Adonis and Rocky is crucial in building the protagonist’s background. The progressing relationship is depicted in a engaging and believable fashion, much like the other relationships in the film.

Fight sequences in the film are produced with exactly right of tension required. Coogler does a fantastic job of building tension to the fights. These are used sparingly, as are references to the previous Rocky films. This restricted use, of the famous theme for example, has a greater overall effect.

Michael B. Jordan delivers a solid performance as the title character. He is believable in his drive, and in his relationship with Balboa and Tessa Thompson’s Bianca. Sylvester Stallone reprises his most famous role with aplomb; the actor very much deserves the acclaim he is receiving.

Creed is a film that packs a punch. Most will find Coogler’s film very satisfying.

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.