Stuff To Look At

Plenty of aural-visual delights this week, including The Babadook, Dracula Untold and Serena. And the new trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Here is the official trailer for the first part of the final instalment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. The trailer reveals a little more about the plot, and shows Katniss in full-on action mode. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is released in UK cinemas on 20th November 2014.

The Babadook

The Babadook poster

I saw a trailer for The Babadook recently, and thought that it looked pretty terrifying. The quotes on this poster for the film appear to cement this opinion. Horror The Babadook hits the big screen on 24th October 2014.

Dracula Untold

Here is a clip from the upcoming Dracula Untold. The film is an origins story of the man who became the legenedary vampire. Starring Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper, Dracula Untold hits the big screen on 3rd October 2014.

Serena

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence reunite in Susanne Bier’s Serena. Cooper and Lawrence star as a newly wed couple in the 1920s who build a timber empire. Serena is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival and is released in cinemas on 24th October 2014.

Effie Gray

Here is a trailer for Effie Gray. Starring Dakota Fanning and Emma Thompson. the film tells the story of the marriage between Victorian art critic John Ruskin and his young bride. Effie Gray is out in cinemas on 10th October 2014.

The Judge

Robert Downey Jr. leads an all-star cast in The Judge. The film is about a city lawyer who returns to his hometown where his father, the town judge, is suspected of murder. The Judge is released in UK cinemas on 17th October 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT Nicolas Delort

To celebrate the upcoming release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Paramount commissioned artists across the world to make artworks based on the origins of the turtles called ‘The Legend of the Yokai‘. One of my favourites is the the one by Nicolas Delort. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is released in UK cinemas on 17th October 2014.

Lava

I don’t know exactly what this film is about, where the story will go, or why it has been made, but there is a singing volcano! And that is fine by me. Above is a short clip of Pixar’s Lava, which is scheduled for release in the UK in July 2015.

Draft Day

Draft Day is set on, as the title suggests, the day of the NFL draft. Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, the film is about the manager of an American football team and the decisions he makes on that day. But really, the reason to see this film is that Frank Langella (aka Skeletor) is in it. Draft Day is set for release on 3rd October 2014.

Film Review: Summer in February

Summer in February

Based on true events, Summer in February is a historical drama that lacks passion.

Florence Carter-Wood joins her brother Joey in Lamorna Valley, Cornwall, which is home to a colony of artists. There she meets the talented but incendiary artist A.J. Munnings, who offers to teach her. Florence also catches the eye of soldier and best friend of Munnings, Gilbert Evans…

Summer in February looks the part of a period drama. Christopher Menaul’s film concerns love and relationships against the backdrop of art. The film therefore should imbue some kind of passion. Unfortunately this is absent; Summer in February feels tepid more than anything else.

The narrative unfolds at a suitable pace for the most part, although some aspects do seem elongated. Director Menaul introduces the characters succinctly in the beginning of the film so that dominant personality traits are made apparent.

Initial interest in the characters and plot at the beginning of Summer in February does wane as the film progresses. The narrative becomes less engaging; the incidents that occur should be more absorbing than they actually are. Some of the protagonists’ actions should be more frustrating than they are. This is because it is difficult to care enough about them.

Andrew Dunn’s cinematography effectively captures both the beauty and the coldness of the landscape. Costumes and art direction depict an authentic-looking representation of the Edwardian era. The artwork exhibited in the film effectively conveys the talents of the artists who feature.

Dominic Cooper offers a strong performance as Munnings; he is convincing in all the artist’s guises. Emily Browning is adequate as Florence, although at times her beauty is relied upon instead of offering her character more depth. Dan Stevens looks the part as Gilbert Evans, although the role does not seem a stretch for him.

Summer in February is inoffensive and will just about hold the audience’s attention. Nevertheless, the film is unlikely to generate a strong emotional reaction.

Film Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a passably enjoyable action fantasy romp. Not quite an fun as viewers may hope, the film is entertaining nevertheless.

 As a young boy in the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln watches his mother die. Vowing to avenge her death as an adult, Lincoln is unaware of what he is up against. As Abraham Lincoln rises in the political sphere, by night he hunts vampires…

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter features an enticing premise. Painting one of the most famous American presidents as a Van Helsing-type sounds amusing and an interesting idea for a film. It is a shame that Timur Bekmambetov’s movie does not quite capitalise on the ridiculousness of the premise. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter should have been all out outlandish.

Instead, the film maintains a more serious tone. Abraham Lincoln moonlighting as a vampire hunter is played straight, rather than for laughs. Viewers are required to suspend their disbelief; unsurprising for a film with a strong fantasy vein. Nevertheless, some of the plotting is a bit problematic, including the motivations of some of the characters. The ambiguity over the intentions of one of Lincoln’s sidekicks, however, is a nice touch.

Bekmambetov has given Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter a highly stylised look. This is only partially successful. The CGI-heavy appearance gives the film a synthetic air. The action sequences owe a lot to the films of Zack Snyder, with the speeding up and slowing down of action.

Benjamin Walker is well cast as the young Abraham Lincoln. Anthony Mackie plays Lincoln’s companion Will with well-suited selflessness. Dominic Cooper is good as Henry Sturgess, while Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes a believable Mary Todd.

Although there are some issues around motivations and the action sequences do not quite engross the way they should, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is entertaining throughout. Those seeking something totally outlandish may be better off looking elsewhere.

Trailer Round-Up

I have four trailers from the past week to share. As well as the full Prometheus trailer which debuted last Sunday, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterThe Lucky One and Casa di mi Padre are all due for release in the next few months.

Prometheus

I was lucky enough to see this trailer in 3D this week, and it looks great. Prometheus is a prequel to Alien, directed by Ridley Scott. Scott’s last few films have not been overly memorable, so perhaps returning to one of his most successful films is a good thing. Prometheus stars Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace, and is out on 1st June 2012.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov and produced by Tim Burton, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a rather interesting prospect. Pitting the infamous US president as a Van Helsing-type vampire hunter sounds like a great idea for an action thriller. The film stars Dominic Cooper, Benjamin Walker, and Anthony Mackie, who does not get enough decent roles. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is out 3rd August 2012.

The Lucky One

From the first few moments of the trailer, it becomes immediately apparent that The Lucky One is based on a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. It just has that look. Zac Efron stars as a US marine who tries to track down a woman who’s photograph he credits with keeping him alive. The Lucky One is out on 2nd May 2012.

Casa di mi Padre

Will Ferrell Armando Alvarez in the Spanish-language Casa di mi Padre. According to the trailer, the comedy is from the same team behind Anchorman, which bodes well. The film looks to be a satire of Spanish-language soap operas; the trailer certainly plays on this. Casa di mi Padre is due for release in June 2012.

Film Review: My Week with Marilyn

Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn is an absorbing drama that is finely paced, well acted and stylishly shot.

Colin Clark longs to work in the motion picture industry. After some perseverance, he gets a job working for Sir Laurence Olivier’s production company. Colin becomes third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl, working with Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, who is the biggest star in 1956. Colin sees firsthand the tense relationship between director and star…

Based on Colin Clark’s memoirs, My Week with Marilyn documents the star’s trip to England to work on Laurence Olivier’s The Prince and the Showgirl. Simon Curtis’ film is populated with well-known characters, yet none of these seem to appear simply for novelty value. Owing to the fame of the title character, it is clear how the film will end, even if the details remain ambiguous. Nevertheless, this will not hinder the audience’s overall enjoyment of the film.

Clark’s perspective is an interesting one, as he is a newcomer to the film industry. Sharing his viewpoint offers viewers his fairly naive perspective, a contrast to the film’s more jaded characters. Whilst Colin may view Marilyn as fragile, an opinion the audience is invited to share, the film is all the better for including the differing views of the cast and crew.

Michelle Williams gives a spirited performance. It is clear she has meticulously studied the famous character. However, for all her talent, Williams is never fully convincing as Marilyn Monroe. Part of the problem is that Marilyn is such a famous person, and her performances so ingrained in the imagination. Every nuance of Williams’ will be scrutinised as she is acting out scenes from The Prince and the Showgirl that some of the audience will be familiar with. The other critical aspect is that Williams is rather well known herself. Thus it is inescapable that this is Michelle Williams doing an impression of Marilyn Monroe. Perhaps an unknown actress would have been best cast in the role.

Elsewhere, Kenneth Branagh is excellent as Laurence Olivier. Eddie Redmayne is convincing as Colin Clark, and Dominic Cooper is solid as ever as Milton Greene. Ben Smithard’s cinematography is wonderful; with Williams shot to look as much like Marilyn as possible. Jill Taylor’s costumes are fantastic, with the costume designer likely to receive plenty of nominations for her work on this film.

My Week with Marilyn is a well-produced film that should satisfy audiences. It is a must-see for fans of Monroe, who no doubt will pour over every detail.

The Empire Big Screen Diaries – Day 1

I love the smell of pastries in the morning.

Luckily for me, mini baked goods were bountiful in the press room of Empire Big Screen. The air was thick with the scent of pastries, coffee and journalists. Outside, queues of early-rising movie fans eagerly collected their tickets and discussed plans for the day ahead. The timetable for the day consisted of numerous events taking place at the same time, so choosing wisely was essential.

First up for me was the 20th Century Fox Showcase. I have a great affection for their current blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes, so I was pretty eager to discover what treats lay in store. We were given 3D glasses as we entered the auditorium, an indication of what might be on show. Before any trailers or movie clips were shown, a short piece on directors who have worked with Fox was screened. A brief love letter to the company, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Tim Burton and other prominent directors relayed their experiences directing under Fox. It was a fluff piece, but if I was in charge, I too would boast about being responsible for Alien, Edward Scissorhands, Say Anything and others. I would probably be really obnoxious, and flash up “We were responsible for Star Wars, bitches!”, but Fox have more class than me. Anyway, Fox followed this up with a short featurette on the effects used in Rise, then trailers for In Time, The Darkest Hour and Martha Marcy May Marlene. The first two are glossy thrillers, both with a sci-fi edge. The third was Fox Searchlight’s drama, which was screened at Cannes. The final item was a few short clips from Titanic, remastered in 3D for the April 2012 release. Some of the 3D was incredibly impressive, particularly Kate Winslet’s hat in her first appearance in the 1997 film.

Next up on the agenda was a wander around the exhibitors stalls, which featured all the big film companies, plus other things such as the animal actors stall. I was almost bowled over with excitement to see The Dark Knight Rises stall, until I saw it was just a bench and a television playing the teaser trailer. I don’t know what I was expecting really. Perhaps a Christian Bale meet and greet and the entire film being screened, because that would be plausible.

Our bellies enquired about feeding time, so lunch was the next order of business. We went to Nando’s, which was tasty. We managed to get one of the booths, which is always fun. My creamy mash was on point, and the chicken pitta went down a treat (in case you were interested in a review of the food).

The Universal Pictures Showcase took place in the early afternoon. In attendance were the screenwriter of Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, Peter Straughan, and producer Robyn Slovo. The pair introduced three exclusive clips from the film, explaining the context of each before they were screened. These were certainly successful in building anticipation for the film; it looks great from these small glimpses and I am not even au fait with the novel. Gary Oldman also recorded a message to the audience, which was a nice touch. Following this, a number of other trailers and clips were shown. First up was a video message from Seann William Scott from the set of American Reunion, the fourth American Pie film. Inexplicably no trailer for the film was shown, despite this introduction. The Raven trailer was screened, however, and it looks mighty interesting – a must see for Edgar Allen Poe enthusiasts. Trailers for The Change-Up, The Debt, Johnny English Reborn, Tower Heights, Battleship and The Thing were also shown. We were also lucky enough to get a world exclusive look at the trailer for upcoming thriller Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg. Finally a trailer and some clips of Immortals were screened. The film, which is released in November, looks pretty gory, albeit in a cartoonish way.

After this, we headed upstairs to Cineworld for the Pint of Milk Live with Dominic Cooper. As we made our way up the escalator, we noticed Mr Cooper himself was shortly behind us. He was dressed very sharply, and I fleetingly pondered talking to him. Thankfully for all involved, I quickly decided against this. The only thing I would have come up with would be something akin to the very lame “I thought you were great in The Devil’s Double“, so I’m glad I didn’t embarrass myself. I don’t mix well with well-known folk. In the interview, Dominic was hilarious as he answered questions about the price of a pint of milk and other similarly frivolous topics. It was a very amusing session.

The next event, taking place in the same screen, was Writing The Inbetweeners. Iain Morris and Damon Beesley, writers of the television show and upcoming movie, answered questions. I am not the biggest fan of the show, but the pair made the session entertaining with their anecdotes about working with the cast on set and coming up with ideas. After the Q & A, audience-members were invited to ask questions. Both Iain and Damon were great guests, eager to discuss the film and happy to chat with fans afterwards.

Final event of the day for me was the Secret Screening. Ideas for the film had been floating around before, but nobody could or would confirm or deny. I was in receipt of a big clue shortly before the screening, thanks to some good timing. I overheard someone from the film company going into the screen carrying a Lionsgate bag. By our powers of deduction (that is to say, I checked this site on my phone), the options seem limited to Conan the Barbarian or Warrior. My esteemed fellow film writers and I seemed to veer towards Conan until someone astutely pointed out that we had not been given 3D glasses. After a short delay, we all settled down to watch Warrior. The film was good, and surprisingly powerful (review to follow).

Film Review: The Devil’s Double

Set your expectations to outlandish, and The Devil’s Double is a raucously enjoyable ride. Based on Latif Yahia’s memoirs, the film is outlandish in its depictions, but compelling all the same.

Uday, the oldest son of Saddam Hussein, requires a body double on the cusp of the Gulf War. His henchmen have found Latif Yahia, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Uday. With his family being threatened, Latif is forced to be Uday’s double. Fixated on his new toy, Uday leads Yatif into his glamorous Bagdad world, which is fraught with danger…

Lee Tamahori’s film is driven by the character of Uday Hussein. It is not a biopic in the purest sense; the film concentrates on the relationship between Uday and Latif at a very specific time instead. The film is not too focussed on historical events, choosing instead to focus on the protagonists in a somewhat sheltered existence. Nonetheless, there are a few interludes of actual news footage from the period which reminds viewers of the facts and gives the action some context.

With Uday having died several years ago, the filmmakers have the freedom to depict him as they want without consequence. With the screenplay based on Yahia’s novel and from what is known about Saddam’s son, the film appears rooted in truth. The Devil’s Double goes full throttle with its depiction of Uday. Whilst there is no doubt that he was a larger than life character, the film is no holds barred in its depiction of the less than savoury aspects of his life.

The film portrays Uday as a violent psychopath with dictator tendencies, no doubt inherited from his father. Often events are depcited from Yahia’s point of view; his normality ensures that the audience can relate to him and empathise with the character in the madness that surrounds him.

The Devil’s Double is a visually engorging film. Tamahori does not shy away from depicting the visceral. Elsewhere, acts of violence are alluded to. The film can be gratuitous but is not exploitative. The soundtrack is fantastic; giving the best indication of the period the film is set in.

Dominic Cooper does a great job in the dual role of Uday and Latif. Cooper differentiates the characters by giving two very separate performances. The action change in Latif is a bit odd, but Cooper seems to nail the Uday’s mannerisms.

The film could easily have been trimmed by ten minutes or so. Nevertheless, The Devil’s Double is an entertaining indulgence in garish gratuity.