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: Paddington 2

Paul King’s Paddington 2 is a brilliant sequel. The film is both thoroughly entertaining and genuinely heartwarming.

Living with the Brown family, Paddington seeks the perfect present for his Aunt Lucy’s birthday. When he finds it, he sets about getting a job to pay for it. Unfortunately it is stolen before he can purchase it…

A sequel to 2014’s Paddington, director and co-writer Paul King’s latest film does its predecessor justice. The film features the same wonderful style as the 2014 film, and packs an emotional punch. The beauty of Paddington 2, and its predecessor, is the projection of a wholesome character in an idealised world. Yet this is never overly schmaltzy or patronising. Instead, the film is joyously positive and provides a charming and kind protagonist. The demographics of the street which the Browns inhabit might be a little less convincing, however this is barely noticeable in an otherwise finely rendered film.

With the origins story established in the first film, Paddington 2 moves the action forward to the title character’s established life. The narrative is predictable, but this does not matter as the script is great, characters are well written, and the set pieces are amusing. The story moves at a good place, allowing space for humour and emotional moments. Wisely, the Brown family take secondary roles in the film. King focuses the action on Paddington, and new characters he interacts with. This works well, allowing for larger-than-life characters to take centre stage.

Phoenix Buchanan is a great antagonist. Hugh Grant steals most of the scenes he is in, with a delightfully self-deprecating and outlandish performance. Ben Whishaw is most fitting as the voice of Paddington, and Brendan Gleeson appears to be having fun in his role. Special effects in the film are seamless; it is easy to forget that Paddington is a CGI character.

Paddington 2 is a welcome dose of happiness in a troubling world. Both children and adults should lap it up.

Previews: Justice League Poster, Paddington 2, More!

Cinematic delights in this week’s preview of coming attractions include the latest Justice League poster, Paddington 2, Newly Single and more…

Justice League Poster

Here is the latest Justice League poster. The film sees Wonder Woman and Batman be joined by three other heroes, as previewed in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, and Ray Fisher. The film sees the team face a newly awakened threat. Justice League hits UK screens on 17th November 2017.

Murder on the Orient Express Featurette

This featurette for Murder on the Orient Express looks behind the scenes at the making of the film. An adaptation on the classic Agatha Christie novel, the film features a star-studded assemble cast. Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, Murder on the Orient Express rolls on to UK screens on 3rd November 2017.

Paddington 2 Poster

Hugh Grant looks wonderfully fun in these new Paddington 2 posters. Grant is the most high profile addition to the case of Paddington 2. The sequel to Paddington sees the return of the lovable bear, and the Brown family, in a new adventure. Paddington 2 is out on UK screens on 10th November 2017.

Newly Single Trailer

Above is the trailer for Newly Single. The comedy is about a film director who finds himself on the Los Angeles dating scene after splitting up with his girlfriend. The film is written and directed by Adam Christian Clark, and stars Jennifer Kim and Molly C. Quinn. Newly Single will debut at the Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia on 27th November 2017; its UK release will follow.

Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas Trailer

Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas just might be the longest film title of the year. The film is an animated comedy about an awkward explorer who must rescue his girlfriend from a millionaire looking for King Midas’ necklace. Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas is set for release in early 2018.

What to Watch on Shudder: Witchfinder General and More

Here’s what to watch on Shudder this weekend, featuring Witchfinder General, The Lair of the White Worm, and short The Puppet Man

What to Watch on Shudder: Witchfinder General

Vincent Price gives a memorable performance in 1968’s Witchfinder General. Directed by Michael Reeves, the British horror is a highly fictionalised account of the exploits of seventeenth-century witch hunter Matthew Hopkins. Played by Price, Hopkins one of the nastiest characters in British horror. At the time of its release, Witchfinder General was criticised for being sadistic. Nevertheless, the film later found admirers, and rightly so. Contemporary viewers will find resonance in the theme of the state as an evil entity. Perhaps the most striking aspect about the film is the journey of the hero (played by Ian Ogilvy). Witchfinder General delivers a horrifying conclusion, and one that justifies the film’s place as a cult classic.

What to Watch on Shudder: The Lair of the White Worm

Ken Russell’s 1988 film The Lair of the White Worm has a wonderfully camp quality to it. A loose adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1911 novel, in reality the film bears little resemblance to Stoker’s story. Russell moves the action to the modern day, and focuses on an archeology student who finds an usual skull at the site of an old convent in Derbyshire. The resulting mystery of this, and indeed the snakes that appear, bring in the current lord of the manor, as well as a mysterious lady who owns a nearby stately home. Featuring early roles for Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant, and Amanda Donohoe, The Lair of the White Worm offers some great camp excess. The dream/hallucination sequences are absurd but immensely watchable trips. Certainly not the finest of horror films, nevertheless Russell’s picture is a lot of fun.

What to Watch on Shudder: The Puppet Man

Jacqueline Castel’s 2016 short The Puppet Man feels like a homage to eighties horror movies. The film is about a group of young adults who visit a deserted bar, but they are not alone. There are several references to classic 1980s horror, and even a cameo from John Carpenter. Castel offers great cinematography, with The Puppet Man looking every inch the retro picture. Moreover, the score is quintessential eighties horror.

To find out more and to sign up to Shudder, visit https://www.shudder.com.

Film Review: Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins

Stephen Frears’ Florence Foster Jenkins offers few surprises for those that have seen the trailer. The film is an entertaining comedy drama with great performances.

Heiress Florence Foster Jenkins is a long-time patron of the arts. She dreams of being an opera singer, not quite realising the limitations of her voice. Her husband St. Clair does his best to keep Florence in the dark, but she yearns to perform…

Based on the New York socialite with an inflated sense of talent, Florence Foster Jenkins could have been a mean or unforgiving portrayal. In director Stephen Frears capable hands, however, the subject is handled amiably. The film focuses on the title character’s later years, leading up to her performance at Carnegie Hall. Frears concentrates on the protagonist and those she was close to, rather than the performance itself.

Stephen Frears needed to tread a narrow line in creating the comedy derived from Florence’s vocal abilities, and not making the character into a clown. The director executes this well; the film is a warm portrait of an interesting and generous person. Similarly, her relationships are portrayed with depth and feeling. The film does not fall back on the trope of the gold-digging younger spouse.

Florence Foster Jenkins reflects the different aspects of its title character. Florence is not a pantomime dame. More serious elements of the protagonist are depicted with the requisite emotion. Frears colours his character with strength and weakness. The lead performance from Meryl Streep is as convincing as ever. Hugh Grant plays the toff as ever, although St Clair is more three dimensional than this. Simon Helberg is wonderfully expressive as Cosme. Costumes in the film are beguiling, and the music is great.

Florence Foster Jenkins is predictable, but good writing, directing and performances mean that this is not a deterrent. Unlike Florence herself, the film hits all the right notes.

Previews: Captain America: Civil War Posters, and more!

Plenty of blockbusters in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including Captain America: Civil War posters, X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence and more…

Captain America: Civil War Posters

Captain America: Civil War poster

Are you #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan? These new Captain America: Civil War posters highlight the division in the Avengers. Captain America: Civil War is as much a follow-up to Avengers: Age of Ultron as it is to 2014’s superlative Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and a host of other Marvel stars, Captain America: Civil War hits UK screens on 29th April 2016.

Captain America: Civil War Iron Man

Welcome To Me Trailer

Welcome To Me is about a lottery winner who decides to spend her winnings on creating her own talkshow. Kristen Wiig stars at the winner inspired by Oprah Winfrey, and the film also stars James Marsden, Wes Bentley and Joan Cusack. Welcome To Me will be released in cinemas and on Sky Store on 25th March 2016.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse Poster

X-Men: Apocalypse Poster

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto leads the four horsemen of the apocalypse in this new poster for X-Men: Apocalypse. The film sees the return of familiar characters from previous instalment as well as new additions played by Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner and others. X-Men: Apocalypse blasts onto UK screens on 18th May 2016.

Florence Foster Jenkins Trailer

Florence Foster Jenkins star Meryl Streep as the New York heiress. She has a desire to sing, but her voice does not live up to her concert-hall aspirations. Also starring Hugh Grant, the film is directed by Stephen Frears. Florence Foster Jenkins is released in cinemas on 6th May 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children First Look

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

Well this looks mildly terrifying. Here is one of the first images released from Tim Burton’s upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Based on the bestselling novel, the film stars Eva Green, Allison Janney, and Samuel L. Jackson. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will be released in UK cinemas in Autumn 2016.

Demolition Trailer

Demolition is about a successful investment banker who struggles to cope after the tragic death of his wife. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper. Directed by Dallas Buyers Club helmer Jean-Marc Valleé, Demolition hits UK cinemas on 29th April 2016.

Independence Day: Resurgence Poster

IDR Poster

Here is a new poster for the delayed sequel Independence Day: Resurgence. The film is set twenty years after the original, and sees the return of director Roland Emmerich and cast members Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Vivica A. Fox. Independence Day: Resurgence launches on UK screens on 23rd June 2016.

Stuff To Look At

New trailers for Iron Man 3 and Playing for Keeps and a live stream from the Royal World Premiere of Skyfall are featured here for your viewing pleasure…

Skyall

Above is a live stream from the Royal World Premiere of Skyfall, which begins at 5pm (GMT). All the stars of the film are expected to attend, along with a host of other celebrities. Skyfall is released on 26th October 2012.

Iron Man 3

After the enormous success of Avengers Assemble, next up on the Marvel roster is Iron Man 3. Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow return for the next instalment of the Iron Man series. The film, directed by Shane Black is due for release on 26th April 2013.

Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps boasts a stellar cast which includes Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  The film looks like a standard romantic comedy, but it may hold some surprises. Playing for Keeps is due for release on 1st January 2013, an ideal release for light, non-committal post-Christmas viewing.

Life of Pi

Ang Lee directs Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s bestselling novel. Above is a short clip from the film. Due to be released in 3D, Life of Pi‘s visuals are immediately attractive. The film will be released on 20th December 2012.

Rust and Bone

I am disappointed to have missed Rust and Bone at the BFI London Film Festival this year. Rust and Bone won the Best Film Award this past weekend, and has been receiving good reviews. Above is a brief clip from the film. Rust and Bone will be released on 2nd November 2012.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is an ensemble piece featuring six different stories. The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. Above is a featurette about the film featuring the cast and crew. Cloud Atlas is due for release on 22nd February 2013.