Previews: Ad Astra Poster, The Current War, More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Ad Astra poster, The Current War, Pain And Glory, and more…

Ad Astra Poster

Here is the brand new Ad Astra poster. The film, directed by James Gray, is about an astronaut who travels to the edge of the solar system to find his missing father. Brad Pitt heads the cast, and is joined by Tommy Lee Jones and Ruth Negga. Ad Astra launches onto UK screens on 18th September 2019.

The Current War Trailer

Above is the trailer for the forthcoming The Current War. Set in the late 19th century, the film is about the rivalry between Thomas Edison and entrepreneur George Westinghouse. The enviable cast includes Michael Shannon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Katherine Waterston, Nicholas Hoult, and Tom Holland. Counting Martin Scorsese as an executive producer, The Current War hits UK cinemas on 26th July 2019.

Pain And Glory Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for Pain And Glory. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar (The Skin I Live In, I’m So Excited), the film is about an ageing film director and a series of re-encounters. The film, which stars Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, will be released in UK cinemas on 23rd August 2019.

21 Bridges Poster

21 Bridges is an upcoming thriller with quite a cast. The film stars Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch, Stephan James, and J.K. Simmons. 21 Bridges is a thriller about a New York detective involved in a city-wide manhunt for a pair of cop killers. The film is set for release in UK cinemas on 27th September 2019.

BFI August Season

There is plenty to look forward to at the BFI Southbank this August, leading with a season of Cary Grant films. Classics such as The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, and Notorious will be screened in August. Other highlights include a preview of Pain And Glory and a Q&A with Pedro Almodóvar, and a preview of Netflix’s upcoming The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance television series. More details of the full programme can be found here.

Film Review: A Boy Called SailBoat

Cameron Nugent’s A Boy Called Sailboat is a comedy drama that aims for whimsy. The film charms in places.

Young Sailboat lives with his parents on the outskirts of town. When his sick grandmother asks him to write her a song, Sailboat sets about composing on his little guitar. The impact of his song is quite unexpected…

Written and directed by Cameron Nugent, A Boy Called Sailboat is a curious little tale. The film features a real-world setting, although Nugent makes this as offbeat as can be. There is a reach for the whimsical; this pervades the film through the choice of characters, the dialogue, and the setting. There is a feeling that Nugent is aiming for a similar feel to the films of Wes Anderson or early Tim Burton with this ‘abnormal within the normal’ approach. The filmmaker does not reach these giddy heights, although there enough to admire here.

The narrative unfolds at its own pace, telling viewers as much as they need to know about the characters. A Boy Called Sailboat really kicks off when the protagonist begins to compose. Nugent shows a change in the characters that surround Sailboat through actions rather than words overall. Sometimes this is overt for comedic effect, such as the teacher’s immediate change. The subtler change in Sailboat’s father feels more rewarding. As word spreads about Sailboat’s song, it is not clear how the story will conclude. Ultimately, the ending is in keeping with the film’s style, and is satisfying as a result.

Julian Atocani Sanchez is decent as Sailboat, although some of his delivery is unclear. Perhaps this is to be expected with a protagonist so young. Noel Gugliemi is good as José, while J.K. Simmons is always good value, even in this very minor role. The film features a lot of long shots, which emphasise the small stature of the protagonist. It is an effective technique.

A Boy Called Sailboat is a decent directorial debut from Cameron Nugent. The aspects that work well are very admirable.

A Boy Called Sailboat will be available on Digital Download from Monday 6th May 2019.

Film Review: The Front Runner

Jason Reitman’s political drama The Front Runner is an engrossing watch. The film is superbly scripted, and boasts solid performances from its cast.

In 1986, Gary Hart is the front runner to be the presidential candidate for the Democratic party in the 1988 election. A lot can change in three weeks…

Set over a three week period in 1986, The Front Runner tells the story of democratic candidate Gary Hart’s campaign demise. The film conveys how quickly the front runner’s campaign fell apart after a scandal. Reitman’s film focuses on different sets of characters – the candidate’s team,  the set of reporters who break the scandal, other reporters in the pool, and Hart’s family. The action jumps between various locations on the campaign trail, and from campaign to newspaper office.  

The story is told in a compelling way, with markers showing each of the three weeks. Pacing is good; the freneticism of the campaign is mirrored by the jumping from location to location, from conversation to conversation. Reitman harks back to the period with his shooting style and the titles. It can be a little hokey, but draws viewers into this world. 

The script, written by Reitman, Matt Bai, and Jay Carson, is fantastic. The dialogue gives an easy feel for the large cast of characters, conveying the personalities adroitly. The dialogue is often quick-fire, and there is plenty of humour to be found, amongst the more serious proceedings. The Front Runner has an enviable cast. Hugh Jackman gives a strong performance as Hart. J.K. Simmons, Mamoudou Athie, Jenna Kanell all highlights among a great cast. Music is used well throughout. 

What does The Front Runner say in this political age? The scandal which sunk Hart is far, far more tame than the numerous scandals that did not even dent the current US president. A couple of themes become clear. Reitman returns to the idea of the role of the press, questioning the shift from serious reporting to tabloid splashes. Yet this seems redundant in this new political age, when neither appears to make as much of an impact.

Furthermore, Reitman underlines Hart’s disparaging of the personal line of questioning he receives from the press. At the same time, the film makes it clear that this obtuseness is a hinderance to Hart’s own team, much to their frustration. Reitman sets up the paradox of a man who demands integrity from others, but lacks the very same himself. The Front Runner plays with these ideas – the role of the press, the public versus private persona of politicians, whether a scandal should deter an otherwise meritorious politician – without positing a firm opinion. The film works better for leaving these ideas for viewers to mull over themselves.

The Front Runner is a diverting watch, and one of Reitman’s more accomplished films.

The Front Runner is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Film Review: The Bachelors

Kurt Voelker’s The Bachelors is a drama which feels authentic. Good performances and a well-crafted narrative make for decent viewing.

After the death of his beloved wife, Bill and his teenage son Wes move across the country for a new start. Bill has a new teaching job in a private school, but grapples with his grief as he attempts to start afresh…

Written and directed by Kurt Voelker, The Bachelors is a drama about grief. There are aspects of comedy and romance, yet drama is the dominant force. Despite the subject matter, the film is not maudlin. The portrayal of a grieving father and son feels authentic. The fact that the focus is on male characters makes for a welcome change.

The story follows Bill, a year on the death of his wife of over thirty years. His attempt to deal with his grief has led him to relocate with his son. In Voelker’s film, grief isn’t something that is cured by fresh start or a burgeoning romance. Instead, viewers are given a more realistic portrayal. There are ups and downs for him, as well as difficulty in letting go, despite long-term therapy.

The other strand of the film focuses on Wes as he starts a new school. His main narrative focuses on his romantic interest in Lacy. Whilst Wes is sufficiently developed character, Lacy’s issues feel like shorthand. The most striking scenes with Wes tend to be with his father. The relationship between Bill and Carine fares better, although dialogue is not always  as good as the performances. J.K. Simmons delivers a very convincing and at times moving performance as Bill. Josh Wiggins is good as Wes, even if the chemistry with Odeya Rush’s Lacy does not hit the mark. Julie Delpy is also good, although she is not given a great deal to do.

The Bachelors works well thanks to J.K. Simmons’ strong performance and Voelker’s tempered exploration of the subject.

The Bachelors is available on DVD from Monday 28th May 2018.

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What to Watch on Shudder: Antiviral and More

This week’s guide of what to watch on Shudder features Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral, zombie sequel [Rec] 2, and Dark Skies

What to Watch on Shudder: Antiviral

Brandon Cronenberg carries on his father David’s tradition of science fiction/body horror with Antiviral. At times uncomfortable viewing, the film nevertheless compels. Antiviral is about the employee of a clinic which sells injections of viruses harvested from celebrities to their obsessed fans. The premise of the film is fantastic, and so is some celebrity worship to the extreme with an interesting and unusual tangent. The theme and imagery create a distinctive atmosphere. Clinical and dystopian, there is nothing about the film that feels comfortable. Yet it is a great watch. Read a full review of Antiviral here.

What to Watch on Shudder: [Rec] 2

Sequels can be a mixed bag, but [Rec] 2 is certainly one of the better ones. The film picks up straight after the events of the first film, and focuses on a SWAT team and doctor who are sent in the building to retrieve blood samples. The film gives hints to the cause of the outbreak, and offers tension, gore and some great scares. The film is a must-see for fans of the first film, and indeed the zombie sub-genre generally.

What to Watch on Shudder: Dark Skies

Given the premise and advertising, it would be forgivable to think Dark Skies is a homage or a rip off of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Yet the film takes a different tangent. The film is about a suburban family whose lives are disrupted by a series of strange events. Scott Stewart’s film combines science fiction and horror. The film is a little generic; at times it feels as if it could be an episode from The Twilight Zone. Nevertheless, there are a few good scares, and a decent atmosphere prevails. Dark Skies stars Keri Russell and J.K. Simmons.

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

Previews: Annihilation Trailer, Darkest Hour, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the Annihilation trailer, Darkest Hour, Isle of Dogs and more…

Annihilation Trailer

Above is the new Annihilation trailer. The film is based on the best-selling Southern Reach trilogy, and is directed by Alex Garland. The film features an all-star cast, including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson. Annihilation is set for release on 23rd February 2018.

Darkest Hour Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for Churchill biopic Darkest Hour. The film focuses on the period just after Winston Churchill becomes prime minister, as Britain is on the cusp of entering World War II. Starring Gary Oldman and directed by Joe Wright (Anna Karenina), Darkest Hour is out in UK cinemas on 12th January 2018.

Father Figures Trailer

Father Figures is a new comedy about two adult brothers who only find out their father is still alive many years after they thought he had died. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, and J.K. Simmons. Father Figures is scheduled for release on 16th February 2018.

Happy Death Day Poster

Happy Death Day is a new thriller about a college student who relives the day of her murder until she finds out the identity of her killer. The film stars Jessica Rothe, and is produced by Blumhouse, the company responsible for Whiplash and Get Out. Happy Death Day will hit UK screens on 20th October 2017.

Isle of Dogs Trailer

Isle of Dogs looks joyful. Wes Anderson’s new film is about a young boy who goes to rescue his dog after all dogs are exiled to a rubbish dump island. The film features a stellar voice cast, including Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and Tilda Swinton. Isle of Dogs is set for release on 30th March 2018.

Film Review: Rock Dog

Rock Dog is a sufficiently likeable animated adventure. However, the storytelling becomes generic and the film lacks real originality.

Bodi is meant to be a soldier in his father’s army, aiming to protect his village. When a radio falls from the sky, Bodi falls in love with music and wishes to pursue a career as a musician…

Directed and co-written by Ash Brannon, Rock Dog is a coming of age story. The film follows a familiar tread of an adolescent character deciding who he wants to be. In this film, this story plays out through a dog who is due to follows his father’s footsteps. The story that is told has sufficient heart. The trope of the child disobeying the parent plays out well in that it is slightly subverted. Instead of most of the duration being about a child who wants to choose a different path, Brannon’s film clears this up swiftly. This leaves more time for the more interesting aspect of Bodie trying to join a band and meet his idol. 

The main characters in Rock Dog are amiable, if unoriginal. Bodi’s father is not as stubborn as others who fill this archetype. Bodie is a protagonist that the audience can root for. He is not particularly memorable, but fulfils his function well. Angus is lots of fun as the ageing rocker. 

The animation does not feel lovingly crafted. Compared to other animated features, the computer-generated imagery looks cheap. The soundtrack contains a mix of well-known songs and original music. This will no doubt suit younger viewers, although older ones may wish for more rock to match the film’s title.

The film features a decent voice cast, including Luke Wilson, J.K. Simmons, and Eddie Izzard. Unfortunately, even these talents fail to make the film memorable. Rock Dog is watchable enough, yet leaves those craving originality bereft.