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.

Previews: Dark River Poster, Oceans 8, More!

Plenty in this pre-Christmas preview of coming events, including the new Dark River poster, Gringo, Oceans 8, and more…

Dark River Poster

Here is the new Dark River poster. The drama is about fraught relationship between a brother and a sister. Directed by Clio Bernard, the film stars Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley, and Sean Bean. Dark River will be released in UK cinemas on 23rd February 2018.

Gringo Trailer

Gringo is a dark comedy about a businessman who finds himself at the mercy of colleagues and local drug lords in Mexico. The film features an all-star cast that includes David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, and Amanda Seyfried. Gringo is directed by Nash Edgerton (brother of Joel), and is set for release on UK screens on 9th March 2018.

Oceans 8 Trailer

Here is the first trailer for Oceans 8. The film features the same big heist set-up as its predecessors, albeit with a brand new cast. Sandra Bullock leads the star-studded cast, and is joined by Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling, and Anne Hathaway. Oceans 8 is scheduled for release in June 2018.

Isle of Dogs Poster

Here is the newest poster for Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. The stop-motion animated film is about a boy who travels to an island of dogs to find his dog, Spots. The enviable voice cast includes Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Ken Watanabe, and Greta Gerwig. Isle of Dogs will be released in UK cinemas on 30th March 2017.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Trailer

The sequel to the hit 2008 film Mamma Mia! gets a belated sequel. The film is part sequel and part prequel as it focuses on current activity and well as telling the story of Donna when she was younger. Lily James plays the young Donna, and the cast of the original reprise their roles, including Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again will be released on 20th July 2018.

Previews: Rules Don’t Apply Trailer, Doctor Strange, More!

Lots of film-related goodness this week, including the new Rules Don’t Apply trailer, Hacksaw Ridge, Doctor Strange and more…

Rules Don’t Apply Trailer

Here is the latest Rules Don’t Apply trailer. The film is directed by Warren Beatty, who stars as Howard Hughes. The film is about a relationship between Hughes’ driver (played by Alden Ehrenreich) and an aspiring young actress (played by Lily Collins). Rules Don’t Apply is one of a number of recent films set in Hollywood’s Golden Age, following Café Society and  Hail, Caesar!. Beatty’s film is scheduled for release soon.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back Trailer

Here is the new trailer for action-thriller Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. The film is a follow up to 2012’s Jack Reacher. This instalment sees To Cruise return as the title character. I am hoping that filmmakers keep the same tone as the original film, even if there is no Werner Herzog. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back hits cinema and IMAX screens on 20th October 2016.

Doctor Strange Poster

Doctor Strange Poster

Here is one of the Doctor Strange character posters. Tilda Swinton joins a stellar cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Womg, and Mads Mikkelsen) in Marvel’s latest film. Cumberbatch stars as Dr Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who sets out to repair himself following an accident. Doctor Strange is out in UK cinemas on 25th October 2016.

Moana Featurette

Here is Moana star Dwayne Johnson and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda talk about mutual love and respect in this new featurette. The film is about a teenager who sets out on a mission to complete her ancestors’ unfulfilled quest. Moana will be released in UK cinemas on 2nd December 2016.

Fences Trailer

Denzel Washington directs Fences, based on August Wilson’s award-winning play. Wilson also writes the screenplay for the film, which is about a man struggling to raise his family in the 1950s. Also starring the brilliant Viola Davis, Fences is set for release soon.

20th Century Women Trailer

Writer-director Mike Mills follows 2011’s Beginners with 20th Century Women. The film is about three women at different eras of the 20th century. Starring Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning, 20th Century Women will be released in 2017.

Hacksaw Ridge Trailer

Mel Gibson directs war drama Hacksaw Ridge. The film is about the true story of Desmond Doss, a soldier during World War II who saved many of his compatriots without firing a weapon. Starring Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, and Teresa Palmer, Hacksaw Ridge will be released in cinemas soon.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Trailer

Here is the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The film is based on the magical world created by J.K. Rowling. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out in 3D on 18th November 2016.

Film Review: Weiner-Dog

Weiner-Dog

Todd Solondz Wiener-Dog is an immensely entertaining black comedy. Some segments of the film charm more than others, but overall the film is very enjoyable viewing.

A dachshund passes from various owners, each with their own idiosyncrasies. The little dog impacts their lives, as he is passed from a family to a veterinary nurse, from an odd couple to a screenwriter…

Writer-director Todd Solondz delivers another black comedy which swiftly veers from humour to tragedy. Weiner-Dog works so well because Solondz captures his characters succinctly and successful. Each of the vignettes is distinctive, yet features the same brand of black comedy.

Weiner-Dog is divided into a series of short stories, each featuring the same cute dog. Some of these vignettes are more memorable than others. The film starts strong with a young boy getting his dog, despite the reluctance of his mother. This sequence sets up the tone of the film effectively. Solondz paints his film with some bleak ideas. It is the humour surrounding the darkness which makes the film enjoyable. There are some serious themes throughout the film, yet the light touch approach makes these palatable.

The veterinary nurse sequence is as sweet as it is odd. The vignette with the script writer at film school will prove most amusing for those who have experienced similar situations to those portrayed. The penultimate scene will satisfy only those with the darkest of humour. The prolonged duration will feel unnecessary for other viewers. There are some glorious shots in Weiner-Dog, not least the slow-motion interlude in the first segment. The intermission is charming in its silliness.

The ensemble cast of the film do a good job of inhabiting their characters. Kieran Culkin and Greta Gerwig work well together in their story. Julie Delpy is suitably priggish in the opening segment, a good contrast to joy of Keaton Nigel Cooke. Danny DeVito’s weariness perfectly suits his character.

The humour of Weiner-Dog will not thrill everyone, but it is wonderful fun for those who like their comedy black.

Film Review: Maggie’s Plan

Maggie's Plan

Rebecca Miller’s Maggie’s Plan owes a debt to the New York romantic comedy. The twee infusions may be off-putting to some, but those who get onboard will find the film entertaining.

Maggie has a plan. She has worked out all the details of her plan to have a baby solo. A chance meeting with a colleague disrupts her careful planning. Whilst John is entrancing to Maggie, he is also married…

Writer-director Rebecca Miller delivers a brand of escapist cinema which has allusions of Woody Allen. Maggie’s Plan is heavy on the dialogue, some of which exudes the level of self-involvement of the characters. The film is removed in a sense. The world of academia that is comfortable to the point of affluent will be alien to many. Yet Maggie’s Plan offers characters which are interesting. Their dilemmas may be inconsequential, but the film is divertingly entertaining.

Miller’s film launches straight into the motivation of protagonist Maggie. Viewers are at once advised on the motivation of the title character and the minutiae of her plan. The character is well written; she knows what she wants and her flaws are convincing. The world inhabited by the characters is one of middle-class comfort. The academic angle is interesting; references to this, and to cultural anthropology are ripe for laughs. The lifestyles of the characters are enviable and New York is depicted in a romantic fashion.

Greta Gerwig delivers a convincing performance as Maggie. She is ably helped by Ethan Hawke, who also gives a believable performance. Julianne Moore has fun with her delivery, whilst Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader are relegated to supporting roles.

The coy twist at the end of the film can be spotted a mile away. Nevertheless, Maggie’s Plan works in a modern screwball fashion. Rebecca Miller creates enjoyment from what could have been a grating set up.

Film Review: Frances Ha

Mickey Sumner and Greta Gerwig in Franes Ha

Frances Ha is an excellent character study. It exhibits director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig’s talent for writing.

Frances lives in New York and apprentices at a dance company. As her relationship with best friend Sophie changes and work is unsteady, Frances decides to follow her dreams, despite her unnaccountable nature, and uncertain living arrangements…

Baumbach’s Frances Ha is a memorable comedy drama. The humour is slight, but frequent. The more emotional moments are restrained and occasional, but do well to induce sympathy or empathy in viewers.

The title character is brilliantly written. Frances is a protagonist that is endearing as well as frustrating. These different layers make her more human. Nevertheless, not all viewers will buy into the character. For those that do not, Frances Ha will be a bit of a chore.

The film is very much about friendship and maturing. It is likely that Frances Ha will appeal to viewers who have more experience of this. There is a level of freedom that the character has which may put her beyond the point of identification for some. However, the core themes are more universal than this.

Baumbach’s direction offers a genuine sense of intimacy. This is particularly acute in some of the more cringe-inducing moments. Viewers are not given a reprieve from the situation.

Shot in black and white, there are visual references to the Nouvelle Vague films that seem to have inspired Frances Ha. Eagle-eyed viewers may spot the cues. The style and setting also add to the appearance of Baumbach’s film as somewhat of a homage to the French New Wave.

Great Gerwig offers a wonderful performance as Frances. The actress knows when to push with her character’s vexatious habits, and when to hold back. The result is a character that seems wholly authentic.

Frances Ha is likely to divide viewers. For those that get on board, it is an entertaining experience.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of stuff on upcoming movies this week, including the brand new Anchorman: The Legend Continues trailer, Disney’s Frozen, and more…

Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Here is the latest Anchorman: The Legend Continues trailer. Almost ten years later, one of the funniest comedies of the 2000s gets a sequel. The original cast are joined by a host of other stars, including Harrison Ford, Tina Fey and Sacha Baron Cohen. Anchorman: The Legend Continues hits the big screen on 20th December 2013.

Frozen

Here is the first trailer for Frozen, the latest animated comedy from Walt Disney Animation Studios. The trailer reveals little about the plot, which revolves around a girl trying to find her sister in a kingdom besieged by an eternal winter. Frozen is due for release on 6th December 2013.

The LEGO Movie

The first trailer for The LEGO Movie was released today. Featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson and Elizabeth Banks, The LEGO Movie will be released in UK cinemas on 14th February 2014.

The Wolf of Wall Street

There was a palpable excitement (at least virtually) when this trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street was released on Monday. There is little not to like in this trailer of Martin Scorsese’s latest film. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill (and a monkey!), The Wolf of Wall Street is out 17th January 2014. I can’t wait.

The Wolverine

Here is the latest trailer for The Wolverine. I wonder if one day Hugh Jackman will become too old to play Wolverine. But for this upcoming film he still looks the part. The Wolverine will be released in 3D on 25th July 2013.

300: Rise of an Empire

300: Rise of an Empire is a prequel to the 2006 hit 300. The film has the same look as its predecessor, even though Zack Snyder is not at the helm for this adventure. 300: Rise of an Empire is due for release in March 2014.

Frances Ha

Here is the trailer for Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, co-written and starring Greta Gerwig. Worthy of the praise it has hitherto received, the film explores the friendships of a dance company apprentice in New York. Frances Ha is released in UK cinemas on 26th July 2013.

Despicable Me 2

Above is a short featurette with Steve Carell exploring the upcoming animated sequel Despicable Me 2. I am kind of relieved that there is a unicorn in this film as well. Despicable Me 2 hits UK screens on 28th June 2013.