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: Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a top-drawer drama with outstanding performances from its leads. The film is heart-wrenching, observant, and very real. 

Charlie and Nicole’s marriage has come to an end. The couple navigate divorce proceedings and custody of their son at a fraught time…

Writer-director Noah Baumbach has made a career of focusing on the relationships of people, be they romantic, familial or friendship. His latest is truly a magnificent film. Marriage Story focuses on a relationship at its end, with a separated couple coming to terms with the end of their marriage and the co-parenting of their son. 

The opening sequence is an excellent introduction to the protagonists, their past relationship, and indeed how the film will play out. Baumbach indicates how the narrative will pan out, with the couple each extolling the virtues of the other. The film remains even handed in its depiction of the two protagonists throughout. Baumbach does not attempt to paint one as the villain and one as the victim. Instead, the film ebbs and flows with Charlie seeming more sympathetic at times, and Nicole at others. 

The beauty of Marriage Story is that the emotions depicted appear wholly authentic. The film focuses on a painful and stressful time in its protagonists’ lives and these feelings bubble to the surface in a realistic manner. Baumbach runs the gambit of tears to laughter in his exploration of what happens once a couple decides to separate. The filmmaker gives no allusions of a fairytale ending. There is anger, bitterness, and sadness. Yet the love, both past and present, remains. In this way, Baumbach illustrates the very essence of complicated relationships.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson deliver remarkable performances as Charlie and Nicole. They are completely convincing as a fractured couple, and in their portrayal of sadness, anger, and indeed amusement. Casting in the film deserves to be applauded, particularly in the choice of Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, and Alan Alda as divorce lawyers. Dern in particular is typically great as the firebrand lawyer.

With Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach once again proves to be a shrewd observer of the human condition. The film is intense, touching, and very impressive. This is Baumbach’s strongest film to date.

Marriage Story is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

Previews: Rambo: Last Blood Trailer, Ad Astra, More!

An abundance of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the Rambo: Last Blood trailer, Ad Astra, Marriage Story, and more…

Rambo: Last Blood Trailer

Here is the latest Rambo: Last Blood trailer. Sylvester Stallone returns as iconic action hero John Rambo. The film, purportedly the last in the series which began in 1982, sees Rambo confront his past and exact revenge on one final mission. Directed by Adrian Grunberg, Rambo: Last Blood will be released in UK cinemas on 19th September 2019.

Ad Astra Trailer

Above is the new trailer for Ad Astra. Starring Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, and Ruth Negga, the film is about an astronaut who is sent to the outer edges of the solar system. The film’s success may be the bellwether for the direction that Disney takes 20th Century Fox, after some box office failures. Ad Astra will hit UK screens on 18th September 2019.

Marriage Story Poster

The first poster and teaser trailers for Noah Baumbach‘s Marriage Story are here. The film is about the breakup of a marriage and the impact on family. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver lead the cast, which includes Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta. Marriage Story will be released in selected cinemas and on Netflix this Autumn.

Underwater Trailer

Underwater is a new disaster movie about a group of underwater researchers who must scramble to safety after an earthquake hits their subterranean station. The cast is lead by Kristen Stewart, and also includes T.J. Miller and Vincent Cassel. Underwater is scheduled for release in UK cinemas on 10th January 2020.

Stardust First Look

Here is the very first image from the upcoming Stardust. The film is about a young David Bowie, who is about to embark on his first road trip to America. Johnny Flynn stars as Bowie, and is joined by Jena Malone and Marc Maron. Stardust does not yet have a release date.

Film Review: JT LeRoy

Based on a true story, JT LeRoy offers a great hook and solid performances. For a story this interesting however, the film does lack vivacity. 

Laura pens a bestselling novel under the pseudonym JT LeRoy. When she is asked to do publicity for the book, Laura enlists her sister-in-law Savannah to take on the imaginary persona…

Directed by Justin Kelly, based on the screenplay by Kelly and Savannah Knoop herself, JT LeRoy offers quite the premise. It is a real stranger-than-fiction plot; a simple deception of an author’s identity gets out of hand  as her book grows in popularity. Similar themes to Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? are present, although this film lacks the memorability of Heller’s film. 

The theme of identity is obviously key. Nevertheless, the focus on being heard, and reluctance of Savannah, come into play after the first third.  The voiceovers early on give a good feel for the source material. 

The change in the main characters’ demeanours is portrayed well. Pulling the focus from Laura to Savannah functions to give the JT LeRoy a more somber tone. After the deception comes out, Laura is given more attention once more. The difference in the way the two women deal with it again highlight their distinct personalities. 

Savannah’s relationship with Sean is not really developed to begin with. In the context of Savannah’s deception, this relationship functions merely to illustrate her mindset. This is not wholly a bad thing, JT LeRoy gives an insight into why she would take part in such a deception. Nevertheless, the relationship is not fleshed out sufficiently. 

The Paris scenes create tension well. Kelly knows when to use music and when to hold back. The film loses a bit of momentum in the middle third. It loses pep of first third, but is a thoughtful centre. The final third sees the deception unravel. 

Laura Dern is a ball of energy, really driving the film along. An understated Kristen Stewart is a good contrast to her. Diane Krueger is also good in a small role, while Jim Sturgess is not given a lot to do. Costumes and styling are good, as is the editing. 

The energy of Hole’s ‘Celebrity Skin’ over the end credits is the energy viewers may have hoped director Justin Kelly would bring to film. JT LeRoy is more pensive. This really works at times, although it can leave the film feeling a little flat. 

JT LeRoy is out in cinemas and on Digital HD on 16th August 2019.

Previews: Queen & Slim, The Irishman, more!

Lots of tantalising clips in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Queen & Slim trailer, The Irishman, JT LeRoy, and more…

Queen & Slim Trailer

Here is the brand new Queen & Slim trailer. The trailer gives allusions of Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma & Louise with its couple on the run premise, albeit with a very contemporary edge. The film is written by Lena Waithe, and directed by Melina Matsoukas. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, Queen & Slim is coming soon to cinemas.

The Irishman Trailer

Finally the trailer for one of the year’s most anticipated films is here. The Irishman sees Martin Scorsese re-team with Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Additions to the cast include Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, and Anna Paquin. Written by Steve Zalillian, The Irishman is about a hitman who worked alongside some of the 20th century’s most notorious figures. The Irishman will be released in select UK cinemas and on Netflix this Autumn.

JT LeRoy Trailer

JT LeRoy tells the story of one of the literary world’s most infamous hoaxes. The film stars Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger, and Jim Sturgess. Directed by Justin Kelly, JT LeRoy will be released in cinemas and on Digital HD on 16th August 2019.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood Trailer

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood feels like the kind of film we need about now. The film is about Mister Rogers and his friendship with journalist Tom Junod. Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), the film stars Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is set for release in UK cinemas on 6th December 2019.

Zombieland: Double Tap Trailer

Here is the trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap. A belated sequel to the 2009 hit Zombieland, the film sees director Ruben Fleischer reunite with stars Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin. Zombieland: Double Tap hits UK screens on 18th October 2019.

Film Review: Cold Pursuit

Director Hans Petter Moland’s thriller Cold Pursuit is sufficiently entertaining but ultimately inconsequential. 

A man of few words, Nels Coxman is a snowplow driver in a small ski town. When his son is killed, Nels sets about finding those responsible, and enacting his revenge…

A remake of the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance (also directed by Moland), Cold Pursuit is a revenge thriller with a simple premise. The narrative does offer a little more than this, with action stirred up between rival gangs and a family strand. Other aspects seem at odds however.

Cold Pursuit’s main problem is the thinly written characters. There is no one to sympathise with. Nels is a stoic protagonist, but his lack of personality means that it is difficult to root for him and become fully engaged with his mission. Viking is a caricature villain, an antagonist befitting a pantomime rather than a thriller. Other characters are given little to do. The film seems to spend time on a few supporting characters to no end, such as the multiple scenes with the police officers that never actually go anywhere. It seems as if they were of more consequence, but this has been edited out. The dark humour works well at times, but film is tonally uneven. The shift from dark comedy to bleak violence and slightly back again is jarring. 

Liam Neeson is not stretched in this role. Neeson has carved out a niche in the genre, with Taken on a Plane (Non-Stop) and Taken on a Train (The Commuter). Cold Pursuit could be Taken in the Snow, if it wasn’t for the darker tone and less punchier action. Tom Bateman hams it up as Viking with a less than convincing accent. Laura Dern is wasted in a minor role.

Cold Pursuit has some good sequences, and holds the attention sufficiently well. Yet the film is very forgettable.

Previews: Spark Trailer, Snatched, More!

This week’s preview of coming attractions features the new Spark trailer, plus Snatched, Alien: Covenant, and more…

Spark Trailer

Here is thew new Spark trailer. The film is about a teenage monkey who must journey across the universe in order to save the galaxy. The film features the voices of Susan Sarandon, Patrick Stewart, Jessica Biel, and Hilary Swank. Spark launches on to UK screens on 26th May 2017.

Alien: Covenant Prologue

This Alien: Covenant prologue (The Crossing) bridges the gap between Prometheus and the upcoming Alien: Covenant. The clip explains what happened to the survivors of the previous film, and features Michael Fassbender’s character as narrator. The latest film in the Alien franchise also stars Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny McBride. Alien: Covenant hits UK screens on 12th May 2017.

Snatched Clip

Amy Schumer shows off her comedy prowess in this clip from the upcoming Snatched. The film is about a mis-matched mother and daughter who take an exotic vacation together. Schumer is joined by Goldie Hawn, as well as Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack. Snatched is out in UK cinemas on 19th May 2017.

Wilson Trailer

Here is the trailer for new comedy Wilson. The film is about a middle-aged misanthrope who reunites with his estranged wife. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, and Judy Greer. Wilson receives its debut at Sundance London on 2nd June 2017, and will be released  in selected cinemas on 9th June 2017.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Trailer

Following the teaser last week, here is the full trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. In this sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, the Kingsman headquarters is destroyed, leading Eggsy and co to discover an allied spy organisation. Director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman return, as do Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, and Colin Firth. They are joined by Juliane Moore, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Channing Tatum. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is scheduled for release in September 2017.

Gifted Clip

Director Marc Webb’s latest film is Gifted. The film stars Chris Evans as a man single-handedly raising his niece (played by Mckenna Grace). The film also stars Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer, and a one-eyed cat (according to the above clip). Gifted will be released on UK screens on 16th June 2017.