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: Arrival

ARRIVAL

Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival brings the spectacle and wonder. For the most part, the film is an engrossing watch.

When mystery spacecrafts land on Earth, linguist Louise Banks is asked to try and communicate with the vessel in the USA. Teams across the globe face a race against time to find answers…

Based on the short story by Ted Chiang, Arrival combines science fiction with mystery. The film poses big science-fiction questions in an understandable way, not unlike 2014’s Interstellar. Concepts explored in the film are conveyed on a large scale, so the questions become more philosophical than scientific.

The first half of Arrival is gripping. There is a real tension to the first trip to the site; director Denis Villeneuve conveys this in a very effective manner. The close up shots of Louise contrasted with the wide shots of the spacecraft really hone in on the scale of events. It also positions the audience right with the protagonist in seeing inside for the first time.

The second half of the film misses some of the element of spectacle from the first. It is still entertaining, but weaving in the two narratives is not quite as enthralling as the opening gambit. It is a problem that the science fiction genre has; asking the big, exciting questions, and being able to answer them in an satisfying manner. Hints at the outcome of Arrival are dropped throughout the film. Some viewers may predict what will happen, and some may be disappointed by the climax. Taken not as a gigantic twist but as an explanation, it is a perfectly acceptable way to end the film.

Villeneuve’s direction is strong throughout. There are some beautifully composed shots, such as journey up to the spacecraft. The relaying of exposition through news reports is a succinct tactic. Amy Adams can be relied upon for a robust performance, and she doesn’t disappoint here.

Arrival is a very enjoyable science-fiction mystery. The film poses the big questions in an engaging and easily comprehendible way.

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.

Interstellar Press Conference

Interstellar Press Conference

Last week, the cast and crew gathered in London for the Interstellar press conference. Here is what cast members Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy, plus director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas had to say about the film…

On making Interstellar…

Christopher Nolan: My interest in Interstellar was a couple of key things. First was the relationship between the father and the children. I am a father myself and I related to it quite a lot; I found it very powerful. And I liked the idea of combining that with this story that speculates about a potential moment in human evolution where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe.

Emma Thomas: The thing I love about this film is that it is many things rolled into one. So whilst we were doing the more intimate character stuff, we also had these massive, disparate locations to shoot in. Iceland is an amazing place but a lot of the places that we were in were incredibly remote and incredibly challenging. But I think it really paid off; it’s a lot more fun to watch it than it was to be there in some cases!

On science fiction cinema…

Christopher Nolan: I grew up and what was really a golden age of blockbusters. If you look at Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] and they way it addressed that idea of this inevitable moment where humans would meet aliens, and address it from a family perspective. I really liked the idea of giving today’s audiences some sense of that… One of my earliest movie-going memories is going to Leicester Square to see 2001 [A Space Odyssey] when I was seven years old, and I have never forgotten the scale of that. I saw my first IMAX film when I was fifteen, and immediately I wanted to make features that way at the point. Really for me working on this scale, it’s a long-held dream of mine.

Interstellar QUAD

On working with Christopher Nolan…

Matthew McConaughey: It is a compliment to the process that even though this went on for five months, and there was a much larger scope and scale, when you are acting in a Christopher Nolan film it feels just as intimate and just as raw and natural as most independent films are forced to feel because you don’t have the time. But we had the time and the money on Interstellar, but when you are actually shooting, it is very intimate, and very raw and natural.

Jessica Chastain: I don’t normally do big movies, I’m kind of new to this world. I had always been afraid that jumping on a big budget film, you would lose the relationships in favour of special effects. But the great thing about working with Chris is that it is all practical sets, so you actually have things to react to as an actor, which is awesome. We would do three or four takes, and it’s so incredible because he would let me get it out of my system, try what I wanted to without trying to impose on me something that wasn’t natural. With a very delicate hand, he would come over and just say one sentence… and with that tiny, exquisite note, he would open up my performance in a way I would never have imagined.

Mackenzie Foy: Christopher Nolan is awesome! I want to be a director when I get older, and just to be able to watch him work is amazing and it meant a lot to me.

Michael Caine: You spend your life as an actor making a picture saying “is it going to be going to be a hit? Is it going to be a miss?”. I’ve had six pictures working with Christopher, and every one has been a hit. So whenever he says “do you want to do a movie?”, I say “yes”! He said “do you want to read the script?” and I said “no”! It’s quite extraordinary working with him because he also writes it, and nothing is what it seems. I remember the first time he came to me with a script, he came to my house in the country, he said “I’ve got a movie”. I said; “what is it?” and he said “Batman”, and I thought to myself “well I’m too old to play Batman, what does he want me to play?”. He said; “I want you to play the butler” and I thought about the type of dialogue I would have, what do I say; “dinner is served”? And of course I read the script; it wasn’t the butler, it was the foster father.

On favourite science fiction characters…

Christopher Nolan: It’s got to be Darth Vader…

Emma Thomas: I would have to say Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien.

Mackenzie Foy: Either Darth Vader or Spock.

Matthew McConaughey: Chewbacca and Murph [from Interstellar].

Anne Hathaway: R2D2 and Ripley.

Michael Caine: Sandy Bullock in Gravity.

Jessica Chastain: Mine would be Princess Leia and HAL.

Anne Hathaway: Can I add a science fiction character? Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. But I am speaking specifically of the new version.

On saving the environment…

Jessica Chastain: I’m vegan, and I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but I do believe that something like meatless Mondays. If everyone in the world gave up meat for one day it would make a huge difference in terms of the carbon footprint.

Michael Caine: I was so poor for so long that I didn’t use anything, I didn’t eat very much, I figured the world owed me a debt so… I am eating very well and have had a big car for a long time!

Anne Hathaway: I try to do a lot of little things in the hope that they are going to add up. I time my showers, I try not to overly consume things, or blindly consume things…

Christopher Nolan: Communal resources, like gathering people in one place, like a movie theatre. So if you go and see Interstellar every evening, you’ll save an enormous amount of energy!

Interstellar is released on Friday 7th November 2014.

Film Review: Interstellar

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s science fiction epic is spectacular and engaging. Interstellar is a visual feast that demands to be viewed in IMAX.

Cooper is a pilot turned farmer who lives with his young family. With human kind under threat from climate change, an exploration mission to space could be the key to saving the species…

Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan harks back to classic science fiction with Interstellar. The film explores notions of sci-fi on a large scale, combining drama, action adventure and spectacle. Nolan’s direction is strong. He carefully builds tension for some gripping moments. There are definite shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the progression of the film.

Interstellar‘s narrative is carefully crafted. The slow burn first quarter of the film pays dividends later on. Science in Interstellar is never overly complicated, yet is a meaty enough hook. The film explores ideas that will capture the imagination of most viewers.

The worlds that Interstellar explores are great, What is interesting about the first quarter of the film is that it gently reveals the world, giving the audience time to absorb it. What is presented is familiar, yet different. The film does not require a specific environment or time to be explicitly stated; the measured reveal is a more effective tool.

The main characters in Interstellar are well developed, with their individual motivations depicted clearly. As the protagonist, Cooper has a simple motivation, but this is rendered authentic during the course of the film. Performances are strong from the whole cast. Matthew McConaughey is well cast as Cooper, whilst Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy are equally convincing.

Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography in Interstellar is sublime. Nathan Crowley’s production design is also spectacular. Interstellar really is a film that needs to be seen in Imax, thanks to some amazing IMAX camera scenes. Hans Zimmer’s score is as good as ever, although the sound mixing in some scenes is not great.

Interstellar is an enriching addition to the science fiction cannon, and proof that large-scale genre efforts can be appealing to a wide audience.

Interstellar European Premiere

The Interstellar European premiere takes place in London this evening (Wednesday 29th October 2014). You can watch the red carpet footage here, in 360 degrees, from 6pm GMT this evening. Those expected to attend include cast members Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas.

Update: see below for the highlight’s from last night’s Interstellar European premiere.

Interstellar will be released in cinemas everywhere on 7th November 2014.

Stuff To Look At

This week, a look at the most eagerly-anticpated movies coming out in the next few months or next year, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Birdman, and Into The Woods

Avengers: Age of Ultron

The week’s most talked about trailer sees a first look at the highly-anticpated Avengers: Age of Ultron. From this initial footage, the film appears less humorous than its wildly successful predecessor Avengers Assemble. We will find out whether this is the case or not when Avengers: Age of Ultron is released in April 2015.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Here is one of the new TV spots for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. Things are heating up in the franchise, with Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss fights to save a nation and her friends. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 will hit the big screen on 20th November 2014.

Birdman

I cannot wait for this one. Black comedy Birdman features a stellar cast, headed by the wonderful Michael Keaton starring as a washed-up Hollywood actor who once played a superhero. Birdman, which is receiving an abundance of praise so far, is released in UK cinemas on 2nd January 2014.

The Drop

The Drop features the final performance from the late James Gandolfini. It also features Tom Hardy and a puppy, as illustrated above. No word on how integral a role the adorable puppy plays in the rest of the film. The Drop will be released in cinemas on 14th November 2014.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit 3 poster

What’s happened to Gandalf?! Here is one of the latest images from the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The final part of The Hobbit series, I am really hoping the film features Gollum. Everything needs more Gollum. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will open on 12th December 2014.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice features an amazing cast and a fantastic trailer. Adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel, the film’s cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin and Owen Wilson. Inherent Vice is set for release on 30th January 2015.

Interstellar

The more I see of Interstellar, the more interesting it looks. Christopher Nolan directs Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway in his stab at space exploration. Interstellar lands in cinemas on 7th November 2014.

Into The WoodsINTO THE WOODS image

Disney and fairy tales are like… two things that go very well together. Leading on from a new look at Into The Woods earlier this week, here is an image from the film. Starring Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt, musical Into The Woods is set for release on 9th January 2015.

Big Eyes

Tim Burton’s latest effort appears to mark a departure from his more recent films. For one, Johnny Depp is nowhere to be seen. Big Eyes seems more reminiscent of Big Fish than more recent films, and that is definitely a good thing. Starring Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes is set for release in the UK on 26th December 2014.

The Theory of Everything

Here is a clip from upcoming Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. Starring Eddie Redmayne as the young physicist and Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde, the arts student he feel in love with at Cambridge, The Theory of Everything is released in UK cinemas on 1st January 2014.