Film Review: Mudbound

Dee Rees’ drama Mudbound has a poetic quality that is immensely appealing. The film is well directed and finely acted.

Two families live in rural Mississippi; one black, one white. Both have young men who are sent to fight in World War II. Although their war experiences are similar, their home life is ever segregated…

Based on the novel by Hillary Jordan’s novel, Dee Rees and Virgil Williams’ screenplay is beautiful. The narrative is told predominantly through monologues. The four main characters have their story to tell, and Mudbound jumps from monologues from these to scenes of dialogue and action. This device works well as it helps viewers to see the events through distinct eyes, but ones that are sympathetic and empathetic.

The monologues in particular have a poetic quality to them. The language is beautiful, and works well to envelop viewers into the period and the location. This beauty is matched by the visual aesthetic. Rees and cinematographer Rachel Morrison capture both the idyllic nature of the setting and the more realistic dirt and grime of such a life.

Characters are well developed, particularly the central female ones. Both Florence and Laura have family at the centre of their worlds, yet their attitudes are distinct and their relationship with wider society is widely divergent. The similarities between Jamie and Ronsel is wonderful to watch; this strand is hopeful even though it feels like it can’t end well. Carey Mulligan, Rob Morgan, and Garrett Hedlund are particularly strong in a good cast.

The themes that occupy Mudbound revolve around race and society in a setting which feels archaic. The film seems very believable in its events, for better and worse. As much as the film is about race in this period, the film also has something to say about friendship and family relationships. Rees handles her subject matter with detail and consideration.

Mudbound is a film with heart. Rees shows her considerable talent; it will be interesting to see what she tackles next

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

Film Review: Pan

PAN

Director Joe Wright’s Pan is an enjoyable fantasy adventure. There are lulls in pace, but overall the film does its job of providing entertainment for a family audience.

Peter Pan is a twelve-year old who lives in an orphanage in London. When he is spirited away to Neverland, he faces marvel and fear on his quest to find his destiny…

Pan functions as a prequel to the Peter Pan story that many know so well. Screenwriter Jason Fuchs takes J.M. Barrie’s famous characters and transplants them to an earlier era of Neverland. The film concentrates on Peter Pan as a boy, meeting and establishing relationships with characters from Barre’s most famous work.

The film starts well, establishing Peter’s circumstances with sufficient humour. Likewise, the introduction to Blackbeard works well to exude a sense of mythos. The choice of chanting in this scene may surprise some viewers. Pan falls into a something of a lull in the middle third. This is chiefly due to the obligatory questioning of self by the protagonist. This section of the film could have been trimmed to improve pacing. Similarly, suggestions of a love story as the film progresses felt like an unnecessary addition.

The conclusion of Pan sees a return of pace with some decent action sequences. Special effects in the film are mostly good; the wood animated sequence is a nice touch. The exception to this is some obvious CGI used for the birds.

Hugh Jackman hams it up in an appealing fashion as Blackbeard. Levi Miller is decent as Peter, whilst Garrett Hedlund does his best Indiana Jones impression. With diversity in the overall cast, it is a shame that Tiger Lily, a female character with a significant role, is played by Rooney Mara. This is particularly the case given the whiteness of the rest of the main cast. Here is a missed opportunity to portray a physically and mentally strong female character as originally intended. It makes the rest of the casting feel tokenistic.

There may be a few scary moments for very young viewers, but older children and adults should find Pan satisfying as an adventure.

Previews: Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer, Jungle Book and more

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Hunger Games: Mockingly Part 2 trailer, the first look at The Jungle Book and more…

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer

Here is the latest Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 trailer. This preview focuses on Prim, and her relationship with older sister Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland et al return for the final instalment of The Hunger Games franchise. Mockingly Part 2 will hit the big screen on 19th November 2015.

Macbeth Poster

Macbeth poster

Here is one of the new posters for the upcoming Macbeth. Starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, the film is the latest adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. The film is directed by Justin Curzel, best known for 2011’s Snowtown. Macbeth is released in UK cinemas on 2nd October 2015.

The Jungle Book Trailer

Well this looks pretty spectacular. Here is the first look at Disney’s live action version of The Jungle Book. The special effects look wonderful, and the film features an enviable voice cast that includes Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Scarlett Johansson as the terrifying Kaa. The Jungle Book will roar on to the big screen in April 2016.

In the Heart of the Sea Trailer

Ron Howard re-teams with Chris Hemsworth for In the Heart of the Sea. Also starring Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker and Ben Whishaw, the film tells the true story of a New England whaling ship in 1820. In the Heart of the Sea is scheduled for release on Boxing Day, 26th December 2015.

Bridge of Spies Poster

Bridge of Spies Poster

Here is the poster for Steven Spielberg’s latest Bridge of Spies. Starring Tom Hanks, the film is about an insurance claims lawyer who is sent on a mission by the CIA to negotiate the release of a captured American pilot during the Cold War. Bridge of Spies will be released in UK cinemas on 27th November 2015.

The Martian Video

The marketing for The Martian is pretty slick, with a series of “training videos” produced, like the one above. With a stellar cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor, it will be interesting to see if the film can replicate the success of recent space-set blockbusters like Interstellar and Gravity. The Martian is out in UK cinemas on 30th September 2015.

Pan Trailer

The latest Peter Pan adaptation, Pan, is about to be released. Starring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund and Rooney Mara, the film is directed by Joe Wright. It will be interesting to see how the film measures up against 1991’s Hook. Pan will hit the big screen on 16th October 2015.

Stuff To Look At

The brand new teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens! Plus Pan, Jurassic World, Cinderella and more this week…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

How exciting! The first proper look at the new Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This teaser does not reveal too much about the film, although it is a mighty relief that there is no sign of Jar Jar Binks. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set for release in cinemas on 18th December 2015.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Oh my, there is a pug in this film! But if you need any more swaying, Kingsman: The Secret Service is an action comedy starring Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Caine. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman: The Secret Service is out in UK cinemas on 29th January 2015.

Jurassic World

Dinosaurs in the sea! Genetically modified dinosaurs! Even after the events of the first three films, they still decided to open Jurassic Park. Steven Spielberg returns as executive producer for Jurassic World, which is due for release on 12th June 2015.

Pan

Fascinating fact: some of Pan was filmed mere meters from where I am sitting right now. A new live-action take on the classic story, Pan stars Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Garrett Hedlund. The film is scheduled for release in July 2015.

Cinderella

Here is the first trailer for Disney’s new live-action fairy tale Cinderella. Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter, it will be interesting to see if the film can replicate the success of this year’s Maleficent. Cinderella hits the big screen on 27th March 2015 in the UK.

Into The Woods

Here is a featurette on upcoming musical Into The Woods. Meryl Streep certainly looks like a force to be reckoned with as the witch. Directed by Robert Marshall, Into The Woods is out in UK cinemas on 9th January 2014.

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Here is a clip from Ridley Scott’s upcoming biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Indira Varma, the film is a retelling of the Moses story. Exodus: Gods and Kings will hit the big screen on Boxing Day, 26th December 2014, in the UK.

Film Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis is a thoroughly enjoyable film. Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest is bursting with dry humour.

Llewyn Davis is a folk singer gigging in New York of the early 1960s. Llewyn is struggling to make a living through music, whilst his living arrangements cause other problems…

Inside Llewyn Davis is an entertaining and engaging film. Focusing on a week in the life of the title character, the films throws up interesting if quirky incidents whilst also illustrating the drawbacks of such a lifestyle.

The Coen brothers’ film works because of its central character. Llewyn is not a bright spark but an almost melancholy figure drifting out of others’ lives. This is nicely juxtaposed with some real personalities among the secondary characters.

The narrative progresses at a steady but laconic pace. The first two thirds of Inside Llewyn Davis are stronger than the third, but even this is very watchable. The dry humour is regular and successful. The comedy acts almost as a guise to obscure what is quite a sad tale.

Inside Llewyn Davis functions almost like a musical, with a number of in-action performances. The folk songs are a beautiful accompaniment to imagery. The film has the look and feel of early 1960s thanks to costumes and styling.

Oscar Isaac is great as Llewyn, but it is the supporting cast who are scene stealers. John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund amuse greatly in their scenes, while Carey Mulligan tackles the perpetually annoyed Jean. Robin Bartlett is also fantastic in her scenes.

Inside Llewyn Davis has the style of the Coen brothers stamped all over it, although it will be enjoyed by a far wider audience than just devotees of the filmmakers.

Inside Llewyn Davis is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: On The Road

Walter Salles’ film is a fittingly wistful adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel. Occasionally feeling its two hour plus duration, On The Road nevertheless works in its ambling style.

Sal Paradise is a struggling young writer. When Dean Moriarty enters his life, Sal is beguiled by his free-spirited way. Embarking in a journey across America with Dean and his girl Marylou, Sal’s life is changed by his friends and others he meets along the way…

The story of On The Road unfolds at its own pace. The film lacks a firm structure, but this is unsurprising given the source material. What makes the film watchable is the great performances and the well executed portrayal of the relationship between the characters. The friendship between Sal and Dean in particular is depicted with a sense of believability. It is easy to see the allure of a character like Dean for Sal, given his rather mundane existence.

Walter Salles does a commendable job in attempting to capture the essence of Kerouac’s work. The  director tries to capture a sense of the Beat Generation; the portrayal of the period at least appears authentic. The problem is that the nature of Kerouac’s novel means that the film meanders. For the most part, the performances are engaging enough to compensate for this. However, on a few occasions the film feels overlong.

There are some beautiful shots in On The Road that capture the variant landscapes. Salles excels in depicting the changing landscapes throughout the journey, giving the audience a really sense of distance covered. The music always seems entirely in keeping with the on screen action.

Garrett Hedlund is fantastic as Dean Moriarity. He really embodies the character, and his performance is often compelling. Sam Riley is also great as Sal. Kristen Stewart is less engaging as Marylou, while Kristen Dunst provides good support as Camille.

On The Road is not flawless, but it does have attributes that make it a worthwhile watch.

Film Review: Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy is all about spectacle. Just like the 1982 original, the narrative is exiguous at times, but the special effects are captivating.

Several years after his father Kevin’s disappearance, Sam Flynn is reluctant to take over the reigns of his father’s company. Investigating a new development in his father’s mystery disappearance, Sam is pulled into a cyber world where programs duel to survive…

Tron is a strange choice for a very delayed sequel. The film did lacklustre business at the box office upon its 1982 release, although it has become something of a cult favourite since then. Tron is best known for its pioneering use of CGI. Tron: Legacy is very much the progeny of Tron; the films share similarities in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

Tron: Legacy‘s story is not the most engrossing. The film uses a similar premise to the original, albeit with the addition of Kevin Flynn already being a part of the cyber world. Sam finds an obligatory love interest in Quorra; an interesting, if fairly predictable, character. The dialogue is sometimes cringe worthy, particularly Sam’s one-liners during the action sequences. As well as harking back to the original film, Tron: Legacy exhibits shades of Gladiator in the games sequence. The film also depicts a poster of Disney’s 1979 film The Black Hole, a remake of which is the next project Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski is due to tackle.

Tron: Legacy‘s strength lies firmly in the visual. The virtual world that Sam is pulled into is nothing short of stunning. A combination of neon and monochrome, Darren Gilford production design is effortlessly futuristic. Kevin’s apartment and the downtown bar are particularly memorable. Coupled with this are the film’s special effects. Special Effects supervisor Eric Barba has done a magnificent job in taking about thirty years off Jeff Bridges.

Daft Punk’s soundtrack is wonderful, and feels entirely in keeping with the tone of the film. Tron: Legacy is very aware of its 1980s ancestry, and appeases it with touches such as the inclusion of a couple of classic tunes from the decade.

Garrett Hedlund is adequate as Sam; the role does not call for too much of a range. Jeff Bridges has enormous presence in Tron: Legacy, aided in part by his multiple roles. Olivia Wilde brings a necessary stiffness to Quorra, while Michael Sheen offers some frivolity to proceedings as Castor.

Go and see Tron: Legacy purely for the spectacle. The story may not be absorbing, but the visuals certainly are.