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: A Vigilante

Writer-director Sarah Daggar-Nickson’s feature debut A Vigilante is tonally abrupt, yet an engaging and thought-provoking watch.

Sadie helps domestic abuse victims escape their tormentors. Her unorthodox methods sees abusers face retribution. Sadie, however, is plagued by trauma herself…

Sarah Daggar-Nickson’s A Vigilante is a drama crossed with a revenge thriller. The film is thought provoking insofar as it meditates on the nature of revenge, and the impact of this on distressed individuals. Viewers can see that the protagonist is traumatised, but are not shown her background until about half way through the film. A Vigilante does a good job of showing diverse range of domestic abuse victims. Exhibited through group therapy sessions, the film really emphasises that anyone can be a victim. 

The atmosphere in the film is not always gripping. Dagger-Nickson juxtaposes near silent scenes with loud ones; this has some level of shock value. Nevertheless, the are a number of scenes which fail to leave an impression.

A Vigilante’s three acts are quite distinctive. Sadie’s strength and actions shown in first third, with middle third focusing on her background and motivation. The final act pushes film into thriller territory. The three acts are mirrored by the three dispositions of the protagonist. She is methodical and calculated in the first, distressed and attempting to heal in the second, and fuelled by rage in the third. 

The third act is certainly more atmospheric than what precedes it. There is a good use of close ups and over the shoulder shots in the climactic scenes. Light and shadow are utilised well here. A Vigilante boasts a strong central performance from Olivia Wilde. She is well supported by Morgan Spector in a secondary role.  The final conversion is most apt in conveying the perpetrator’s mindset. 

The main drawback of the film is its disjointed acts. The acceleration to revenge thriller feels like a departure that is not really earned by what precedes it. However finale is suitably gripping and well executed. Yet the disjointedness is seemingly deliberate. Dagger-Nickson offers what many revenge thrillers lack; a exploration of the trauma which leads to vengeance, and the fallout from this.

A Vigilante is released at cinemas and on Digital HD on Friday 31st May 2019, and on DVD 3rd June 2019.

Previews: The Addams Family Trailer, Booksmart, More!

The Addams Family Trailer

A plethora of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Addams Family trailer, Booksmart, My Spy and more…

The Addams Family trailer is here. This first look at the new animated film gives a taste of the humour we can expect. The voice cast for this latest iteration includes Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, and Chloë Grace Moretz. The Addams Family is set for release on 25th October 2019.

Booksmart Trailer

Booksmart is the directorial debut from Olivia Wilde. The film received critical acclaim on its premiere at SXSW in March. The comedy focuses on two high school friends, played by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever. The cast also includes Jason Sudeikis and Lisa Kudrow. Booksmart is due to hit UK screens on 27th May 2019.

My Spy Trailer

Dave Bautista’s latest film is action comedy My Spy. The film is about a hardened CIA operative who is at the mercy of a young girl when sent undercover to surveil her family. The film also stars Ken Jeong and Chloe Coleman. My Spy is coming soon to UK cinemas.

The Corrupted Trailer

Here is the trailer for crime thriller The Corrupted. The film is set in East London, and is about a land grab that occurred following the Olympic Games. The Corrupted stars Sam Claflin, Timothy Spall, and Noel Clarke. The film is set for release on 3rd May 2019.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Trailer

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile tells the story of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. The film focuses on Bundy and his relationship with single mother Liz. The film’s cast features Zac Efron and Lily Collins. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile will be released in UK cinemas and on Sky Cinema on 3rd May 2019.

Film Review: Third Person

Third Person

Paul Haggis’ ensemble drama Third Person displays shades of 2004’s Crash. The film is mostly engaging viewers, if not wholly satisfying.

Michael is holed up in a Paris hotel trying to finish his latest book when his lover comes to visit. American businessman Scott wanders into a bar in Italy where he meets a beautiful but stressed young woman. Meanwhile in New York, a former soap actress hopes to win back custody of her young child…

Third Person follows the blueprint of Crash with its seemingly separate narrative strands. Writer-director Paul Haggis’ latest film shows more poetic licence with entwining them, however. Initially, there is enough in these individual strands to capture the viewer’s attention. Little is revealed about the main characters to begin with, allowing their stories to gently unfold.

Some of what occurs in Third Person is predictable. However, this is not the film’s main problem. Third Person seems to play with themes, but does not have a lot of coherency in terms of narrative. Whilst there is a particular theme that connects the stories, this is rather loose. What is presented is shells of narrative strands, without a satisfying group of stories. The later connection of these strands appears ill-thought out. If Haggis wish to play with elements in a less rigid context, these themes or husks of story needed to be captivating. As it stands, they hold some merit, although not enough to justify the run time.

Some of the cinematography in Third Person is beautiful in a polished way. The score is a good accompaniment. Performances from the ensemble cast are good overall. Olivia Wilde stands out in particular, whilst Mila Kunis, Liam Neeson, and Kim Basinger in a small role, are decent.

Despite a stellar cast, Third Person ultimately disappoints due to a lack of strong direction in narrative terms.

Film Review: Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies

Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies is a well-constructed indie comedy drama.

Kate works at a Chicago brewery alongside Luke. The pair get on great together, joking and flirting throughout the day. The problem is that they are both in relationships…

Writer and director Joe Swanberg has fashioned a believable comedy drama with Drinking Buddies. The great thing about the story is that it is not too obvious. The film does not take the turns that the audience may think it will.

Characters in the film are well developed. The two protagonists appear authentic in their behaviours and actions. The supporting characters are also convincing.

The friendship between Kate and Luke is intricate and believable. Swanberg has not created a glossy romantic comedy. Instead, there is an authenticity to the friendships and scenarios in Drinking Buddies. The characters live down-to-earth lives, and the mundanity of their routines is a refreshing change.

Drinking Buddies is peppered with amusing lines and incidents. The dialogue feels natural rather than forced; perhaps due to the fact it was improvised rather than scripted. More serious scenes also sit well in the overall tone of Drinking Buddies. The pace that the narrative progresses allows for character development. For some viewers, this may feel a tad slow.

Olivia Wilde offers a decent performance as Kate. Jake Johnson steals the show however as the charismatic Luke. Anna Kendrick is well cast as Jill, whist Jason Sudeikis amuses in a small role.

Drinking Buddies is the kind of relationship-focussed film viewers will want to see more of.

Drinking Buddies is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: Rush

RushPerfectly balancing drama with action, Rush is compelling viewing for  both Formula 1 fans and those with little interest in the sport.

In the 1970s, British playboy driver James Hunt is looking to break into Formula 1 racing. His rival, the methodical Austrian driver Niki Lauda has the same aspiration. The pair’s rivalry only increases as they chase their dream…

Ron Howard’s film is so well executed that it will enthrall viewers with no interest in Formula 1. It might actually work better for those who are not too aware of the rivalry between the two drivers; in this way it retains the sense of mystery and tension. Even for those who know the outcome, Rush is a most engaging film.

The story itself is not a complex one. The film pits one strong character type against an opposing one. It is the development of these protagonists and the depth of their relationship which pulls viewers in.

Rush boasts a brilliant screenplay from Peter Morgan. He really draws the two protagonists well and makes the audience care about the rivalry. The narrative is very well crafted. The emphasis (and the viewer’s allegiances) shift throughout the film.

Ron Howard directs the racing scenes with aplomb. The scenes in between help to build to the tension of the races. The driving sequences are high-energy pieces, with bombastic sound, a quick cutting rate and a combination of shots and angles. These combine to produce highly exciting sequences that situate the audience at the heart of the action.

Chris Hemsworth is most charismatic as James Hunt. He successfully portrays the playboy with a burning ambition. Daniel Brühl is well cast as Niki Lauda. His countenance is effectively jarring to Hemsworth’s charm. Olivia Wilde is decent in a supporting role.

Rush‘s premise may not appeal to all, but the end result is most satisfying. A fantastic sports drama.

In Time Trailer

Here is the trailer for new sci-fi thriller In Time. The film stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy and Olivia Wilde. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol, the film offers a rather interesting premise: a world where time is the ultimate commodity. For very busy people (like myself, when not enjoying copious naptime) it feels as if we may already be heading that way… Anyhow, the film is out on 1st November 2011.