Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review, London Film Festival 2019

The Lighthouse (2019)

Image is property of A24, Focus Features and Regency Enterprises

The Lighthouse – Film Review

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe

Director: Robert Eggers

Synopsis: Tasked with the maintenance of a lighthouse on a remote island, two lighthouse keepers find themselves in an increasingly desolate existence, desperately striving to maintain their sanity…

Review: How would you cope with the unforgiving isolation of living and working on such a small patch of land? With day after day of heavy, exhausting work in the most brutal, relentless weather conditions? Granted, the wonder of modern technology would make that situation in today’s world much less depressing. However, for the two souls at the heart of this barmy tale from Robert Eggers, with no such technology at their disposal, it will be the ultimate psychological battle to keep their composure, and sanity in one piece.

Set on a remote and desolate New England island in the 1890s, after an introduction that establishes an extremely ominous and tense atmosphere. The two, initially nameless, lighthouse keepers (Pattinson and Dafoe) are tasked with the maintenance and upkeep of the lighthouse. As their assignment begins, the brutality and unforgiving nature of their living conditions begin to take an extremely heavy toll on both men. The longer that they spend on the island with no other company but each other’s, the more the two of them find themselves being driven slowly to the brink of madness.

After unsettling audiences with The Witch, Robert Eggers continues that streak with another deeply unnerving psychological drama. By shooting in a 4:3 ratio, in black and white, he enhances the feeling of dread and suspense that builds from the very first shot that continues to linger, like a pesky seagull that’s got its eyes on your food, and refuses to leave you alone. The extremely ominous score enhances that feeling of everlasting dread, as these two men are put through the most intense psychological test. With Jarin Blaschke’s portentous cinematography, Eggers’s direction is masterful. The way he chooses to position the camera, and with some of his directorial choices, there’s a foreboding, sinister atmosphere that is maintained right throughout the film.

Given their immense talent as actors, it should come as no surprise that Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe give hypnotically magnificent performances. The relationship between them starts off on good terms and there’s a mutual respect. However, this doesn’t last as with each passing day of their solitude, it all begins to unravel. As both of them appear to be hiding something from the other, they both try to maintain their composure and sanity, all the while the distrust threatens to erupt into violence. The film screams volumes about themes of isolationism, and loneliness, and conveys them in an extremely unique manner. The tension builds to such a frightening extent that you could probably cut it with the bluntest of knives. With a script co-written by Eggers and his brother Max, there’s certainly an idiosyncratic factor to the events that unfold. Though while these may provoke emotions ranging from awe to dread, the magnetic performances will keep your attention on the screen.

Some of the actions depicted on screen will likely make you laugh, or wince in horror, or maybe a combination of the two. Furthermore, with undertones of a not very subtle nature, this film is most assuredly not for everyone. While the dialogue can be quite tricky to understand in places, Eggers has crafted a film that’s wholly original and extremely unique in terms of its production.  With only his second feature film, along with the likes of Ari Aster and Jordan Peele, Eggers has firmly stamped his mark on the horror genre, whilst simultaneously ensuring that any job applications for a vacant lighthouse keeper position may potentially diminish as a result.

Brooding and uncompromising, with sublime direction from Eggers, and a pair magnetic performances from the Pattinson and Dafoe, The Lighthouse is a film you definitely won’t forget in a hurry.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Feature

91st Academy Awards Predictions: Lead and Supporting Actor

Hollywood’s biggest night is upon us once again, and I have teamed up with a group of awesome fellow film bloggers as we try and foresee the future by predicting who will be triumphant by the time the 91st Academy Awards have come to a close. I will be discussing the ten gentlemen who are up for both Actor in a Leading Role and Actor in a Supporting Role. As always, there are some magnificent performances, but there can only be one winner in each category. Let’s get started with:

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale – Vice

Last year’s winner of this award Gary Oldman totally transformed himself via a great heap of make-up into Winston Churchill, and it paid dividends. This year we have fellow Brit Christian Bale disappearing under a lot of make up to transform him into the most powerful Vice President the US has ever had. It helps to add authenticity to Bale’s performance, it’s just a pity then that the film around him is very vulgar and put together in a way that will piss people off. The Academy does love a good transformation though, so Bale might yet take home his second Oscar *shudders at thought*.

Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born

This is Bradley Cooper’s fourth acting Oscar nomination (seven if you count the other awards he’s up for), and honestly he is the man who should be winning that statue. For a film in which he does just about every job going (acting, singing, writing and directing) it’s honestly Cooper’s best performance of his career so far. He clearly is a guy who is battling some fierce personal demons, but watching him connect with Lady Gaga’s upcoming musician is just so touching and heart-warming, which all comes to a crescendo when the duo first perform “Shallow” together. It is just beautiful and so deserving of an award.

Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate

Regrettably since this film has not arrived on UK shores, I cannot comment on this performance. While I have no doubt that an actor of Dafoe’s talents gave a great performance, the Academy really should have nominated John David Washington for his performance in BlacKkKlansman.

Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

While my heart wills it to be a triumph for Cooper, it seems almost certain that the next recipient of this award will be Rami Malek for his remarkable performance as the iconic frontman of the legendary Queen, the one and only Freddie Mercury. It is quite the transformative performance as Malek practically becomes Freddie Mercury. His performance is one of the factors that really elevates the movie, given that as far as biopics go, it is pretty by the numbers. What stands out by far, is the final 20 minutes or so which brings to life Queen’s Live Aid show, and though the rest of the film is fine, this is by far and away, the highlight.

Viggo Mortensen – Green Book

A far cry from his work in Lord of the Rings, but it shows the incredible versatility of Viggo Mortensen that he can go from the badass Aragorn, to the brass and vulgar Tony Lip, and do such a sterling job with both of them. He is very much the opposite of Mahershala Ali’s Dr Shirley but through spending a lot of time together, the two men develop a solid friendship that really drives the film forward. Though it was a bit simplistic in how it handled some of the subject matter, it was heart-warming to watch him connect with Mahershala Ali’s Dr Shirley and stick up for him during their travels in the hostile Deep South.

Will win: Rami Malek

Should win: Bradley Cooper

 

Here’s what everyone else had to say:

Maddy: @madelexne:

“The big fight this awards season seems to have been between Rami Malek and Christian Bale, but I would love for it to go to Bradley Cooper. Though I maintain the fact that Malek’s performance was the one good thing in the mess that was Bohemian Rhapsody and wouldn’t feel it was a wrongful win; I just can’t stop thinking back to Cooper’s performance in A Star is Born. There are at least five stand out scenes from the film I can remember from him, and it only gets more impressive with time.”

Nathan: @__Nathan

“When you consider that the best leading actor performance – Ryan Gosling in First Man – was snubbed, it only seeks to emphasise what a lacklustre line-up this really is. Of those nominated, Bradley Cooper should have walked this thing but two *ahem* shallow, vapid and flashy imitations turns are duping it out instead: Rami Malek will take it over Christian Bale, because the Academy can’t resist a transformation – and the man knows how to work a room.”

Plain, Simple Tom: @PlainSimpleTom

“A strong year for the leading men, Rami Malek looks to be the favourite to win this year for his powerful and memorable performance in the otherwise average “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And he deserves it, in spite of the harsh treatment that he seems to be enduring on Twitter. I’d say that Bradley Cooper is the most deserving nominee – for giving us a truly compelling and flawed character as well as singing and playing music like a pro, all the while directing the whole shebang. Christian Bale could also be in with a chance for his transformative turn in “Vice”, Viggo Mortensen sure was entertaining in “Green Book” but he won’t win, and Willem Dafoe is the least likely to win the big prize – I mean, had anyone even heard of “At Eternity’s Gate” before the nominations were announced?”

Ryan @morris_movies:

“In what can only be described as the category’s weakest lineup in years, the Best Actor race has staggered its way to a frustrating, underwhelming finale. Rami Malek looks poised to take the statue home with him for his middling, impressionistic performance in Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody despite Bradley Cooper giving a soulful, career best performance in his own A Star Is Born. It’s an anger-inducing category for a number of reasons this year, but perhaps in no way more so than Ryan Gosling’s lack of inclusion. His performance in First Man is blunt and subdued, sure, but filled with quiet heart and pent up emotion. He should be winning the statue, but instead he isn’t even in contention for it.”

——————————————————————

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Green Book

Having won this award for Moonlight a couple of years ago, Ali is in contention once again and very much the front runner to scoop his second statue in three years. His performance in Green Book was certainly one of the highlights of the film. He plays a very refined gentleman who is accompanied in a journey across the Deep South by Viggo Mortensen’s Tony Lip. Watching these two men, very much polar opposites form a friendship in the very harsh Deep South was heart-warming and Ali showed why he’s likely to become a two time Oscar winner with this emotional performance.

Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman 

My personal choice for the winner of this award. It’s honestly about damn time an actor of Driver’s immense talents was recognised with an Oscar nomination. Aside from crushing it in the new Star Wars franchise, he’s been superb and has worked with such directors as Martin Scorsese and now Spike Lee. His performance as a cop who becomes part of this mission to infiltrate the KKK gave Driver the chance to demonstrate his serious acting chops, whilst also showing off his comedic ones, and he pulls off both aspects of this role brilliantly.

Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born

Much like Driver, this is also Elliott’s first Oscar nomination, which is crazy when you think about how long he has been working in the business, but better late than never I suppose. As the brother to Bradley Cooper’s fading rock star, though he is a tad hard to understand in places at least to my ears, there are one or two moments in particular that just hit you like a ton of bricks (case in point, the driveway scene). You really feel the love he has for his brother and it just makes it all the more tragic given what happens in the end.

Richard E. Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?

If you haven’t fallen in love with this guy’s infectious joy across this Oscar campaign, I must ask you, do you not like joy or something? Another first time nominee, and I think many people would love to see this guy triumph. As Sam Hock, he plays a misfit like Melissa McCarthy’s Lee Israel, and watching these two get up to all sorts of mischief, and have a bundle of fun whilst doing so is just uproariously entertaining. Being a fellow Brit I would love to see him win, but I sadly just don’t see it happening.

Sam Rockwell – Vice

The recipient of this award last year, but Sam Rockwell is unlikely to make it two consecutive wins on the bounce. He’s without question, a good actor as he demonstrated last year, but his inclusion here is just baffling to be honest. He wasn’t in the film all that much from what I can recall (to be honest my brain has pushed out 75% of this film) but there were other performances that were far more worthy of recognition that should have been nominated in Rockwell’s place in all honesty, gentlemen such as Daniel Kaluuya (Widows) or Brian Tyree Henry (Widows/If Beale Street Could Talk) gave, in my opinion, far more award worthy performances.

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Should win: Adam Driver or Richard E Grant

Here’s what everyone else had to say:

Maddy:

“I desperately want Richard E. Grant to win for Can You Ever Forgiver Me? Yes, Mahershala Ali is the coolest person to walk this Earth, we have all established that; but Grant was electric in his role as Jack and poured so much charisma and simultaneous awfulness into the character that I really would punch the air if he won.”

Nathan: 

“Despite some category fraud at hand, Mahershala Ali seems nailed on to take Supporting Actor. It’s no doubt a good performance and arguably the film’s strongest element, yet Richard E. Grant’s extraordinary performance as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an exemplary masterclass on what it takes to give a SUPPORTING performance. He impressively blends humour with pathos with incredible results, enhancing the work of others while standing out in his own right. He deserves every award for his work in this film (and for being the most joyous thing about this tumultuous award season).”

Ryan:

“It’s a stronger lineup than its Leading Role counterpart, but Supporting Actor still comes with its own quibbles and frustrations this year. Mahershala Ali is probably walking home victorious with his second Oscar in a matter of years, and despite his performance being the highlight of Green Book, it’s difficult not to look for a stronger winner elsewhere. Richard E. Grant is probably most deserving, for his funny, moving performance in Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Adam Driver made a big impression in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. Still, at least when Ali wins it’ll be for a genuinely good performance. That’s more than we can say for Lead Actor this year, unfortunately.”

Please find the links below to the other pieces written by these awesome film bloggers:

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Aquaman (2018)

Image is property of Warner Bros and DC

Aquaman – Film Review

Cast:  Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison

Directors: James Wan

Synopsis: When the world of Atlantis seeks to declare war on the surface, the half human/half Atlantean Arthur Curry (Momoa) must confront his half-brother King Orm (Wilson) to save humanity…

Review: It would be far to say that it has not been plain sailing for the DC Extended Universe up until this point. Though it started promisingly, their big budget flagship team-ups ultimately fizzled into mediocrity and disappointment. If a certain Amazonian Warrior hadn’t restored some pride, this fledgling universe might have been perilously close to suffering from an early demise. However, the DCEU is here to stay at least for now, and it is the turn of  Khal Drogo Arthur Curry to get the solo movie treatment.

Much like Wonder Woman before him, Aquaman’s solo film jumps about in time as we watch the meeting of his parents, Queen Atlanna (Kidman) and his lighthouse keeper father Thomas (Morrison), and how two beings of two separate worlds brought Arthur into existence. In the wake of the events of Justice League, a visit from Mera (Heard) a resident of Atlantis informs Arthur of his half brother’s plan to bring a war to those of us who dwell on the surface, and how Arthur must take his place as King in order to prevent this coming conflict. If this sounds kinda familiar, it might be because a little film called Black Panther had a strikingly similar plot, except this time around, the hero and the antagonist have swapped roles.

Brothers (and tridents) in arms…

Carrying on from where he left off in Justice League, Momoa is excellent as Aquaman. His charisma and just sheer badassery just makes watching him so effortlessly enjoyable. Amber Heard as Mera also gets a lot more screen time as both she and Aquaman go on their merry adventure to retrieve something that they believe will be of immense importance for the upcoming conflict. Try as they might, unfortunately their chemistry just doesn’t flow. The screenplay is scattershot and completely all over the place, with some very wishy-washy dialogue. With so many different subplots going on, keeping up with it all can feel a bit exhausting, a little bit of refining would have been most welcome. Furthermore, while certain arcs are interesting enough, they definitely could have been removed from the film.

The film’s strengths really lie in the action scenes. Director James Wan brings a real visual swagger to them, and Rupert Gregson Williams’s score helps keep the film moving briskly along. For all the criticisms that have been hurled at previous DCEU films for being devoid of colour, Wan and his DP Don Burgess don’t hold back, ensuring that each frame is truly awash with colour and vibrancy. As well as being awash with colour, there’s a fair bit of CGI, which considering half the film takes place in a world under the see, isn’t that surprising. But damn, if Atlantis was a real place, you know you would just want to visit it.

The battle scenes feel a bit ridiculous at times, but sometimes you just gotta let it slide and sit back and enjoy the ride. Also, this is the second superhero film this year, featuring an animal performing a drum solo. Not sure when, or if this has become a thing, but if it has, then absolutely no arguments. For all the dour of some of the previous instalments, the fun factor is turned up to the maximum right from the off, and just about manages to keep that going right throughout its somewhat bloated run time. The DCEU hasn’t quite been the tidal wave of success the studio, and the fans would have wanted, but with this solid entry under its trident, the tide could hopefully be turning for DC.

Beset by a messy screenplay that could have sunk the whole project, Wan’s confident direction, a reliable lead performance from Momoa, and some bonkers action keeps it all afloat.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Spider-Man (2002)

 

Image is property of Columbia Pictures and Marvel

Spider-Man Film Review

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Willem Dafoe, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, J.K. Simmons

Director: Sam Raimi

Synopsis: When a high school student called Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider like powers, he becomes a super hero and adopts the identity of Spider-Man and fights crime in New York City.

Review: If you ask someone to name a popular superhero, chances are good that one of the ones they will mention would be that of the wall crawling superhero, otherwise known as Spider-Man. Right from his inception in 1962, to today, he has become a very popular character, and is indeed a fan favourite for many. The late 70s/early 80s saw a number of made-for-TV movies bring him to life, but after a two decade absence, he was finally brought to the big screen in 2002, and he certainly made an almighty impression.

Charting his origin story, we meet Peter Parker, a nerd in every sense of the word who happens to live next door to the girl who he has an immense crush on, Mary Jane Watson (Dunst). Whilst on a school trip Peter gets bitten by a radioactive spider, which coincidentally gives him spider-like powers and enhanced strength and speed. Emboldened by his new abilities, he goes on a quest to win MJ’s heart, but this quest leads to the callous murder of someone very close to him (you know who!) and this prompts him to become the titular hero and protect the Big Apple.

Certainly got a great view from up here!

Whenever you make a superhero film, it’s of paramount importance that you make the hero likeable and someone the audience can root for, and Tobey Maguire as Parker does just that. He’s a bit of a dork, but he’s a lovable dork, and when he becomes the wall-crawling hero, he really bosses it and gives a terrific dual performance. as Peter’s two best friends Kirsten Dunst and James Franco are excellent as Harry Osborn and Mary Jane, even if they were a little old to be playing high school students. On the flip side Willem Dafoe is also tremendous as Harry’s father Norman, and much like Maguire, also gives an excellent dual performance as the villainous Green Goblin, and yes, the great J.K Simmons as J Jonah Jameson, is one of the best casting choices for a comic book movie, ever.

Having been a fan of the comic book,  Sam Raimi was brought on to helm the project and he certainly does a terrific job. With experienced screenwriter David Koepp, the story is told in a very entertaining way. It’s humorous when it wants to be so and when it wants to be dark, it manages to completely flip that humorous tone on its head, and does so very successfully. There are more than a few scenes that really REALLY push the boundaries of its 12 rating. The action is directed masterfully too, when Spidey and the Goblin are throwing punches, or spinning webs, it’s really gripping to watch, and their final battle, is dark, psychological, mesmerising entertainment.

Though there are a few things such Goblin’s suit that can be a little bit irksome (we can see your mouth move mate!) Furthermore, certain sections of dialogue, particularly the scenes with MJ and Peter, are perhaps a little bit too cheesy. Overall, the journey to bring a live action iteration of the character to the big screen paid off enormously, and perhaps it paved the way for the dominance of superhero films that started towards the later half of the 2000s and continued well into the 2010s. With Danny Elfman’s majestic score to boot, the immortal words of Uncle Ben certainly ring true, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and with the power that was placed in Raimi’s hands, he undoubtedly delivered the goods.

Delightful blockbuster entertainment at its best with a likeable protagonist, a menacing and deeply troubled antagonist and brilliantly weaved action sequences.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Finding Nemo (2003)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation studios

Finding Nemo – Film Review

Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Geoffrey Rush

Director: Andrew Stanton

Synopsis: When a young clownfish is abducted by deep sea divers, his timid father must brave the terrifying ocean in order to rescue his son.

Review: The big blue ocean, something that covers around 70 per cent of the surface of this planet. It’s something that is so deep and terrifying, yet there is certainly for some, a deep fascination with the big blue beyond, and the life within it. It would certainly seem that a few folks over at the animation juggernauts of Pixar have this fascination.

Fish are not exactly many people’s first choice to have as pets, and therefore to make a full length feature about them, might have seemed like a mad idea for Pixar. Yet as they often do, they pulled it off in spectacular fashion. Right at the very start, everything appears all happy and joyous, and then instantaneously it changes. Disney movies of the past certainly weren’t afraid to go dark where necessary, and the opening scene here is certainly not on a Bambi level of terrifying, it is rather melancholic. But it sets the tone for the movie and really builds the character of our main protagonist, Marlin and why he’s so overprotective of his son Nemo. As such when Nemo is whisked away by divers, Marlin has little choice to go out of his comfort zone, go after him and brave the terrifying ocean, and the ensuing adventure that Marlin ends up has its mix of delightful humour and some more darkish moments.

finding nemo

Though it’s probable not many of us have been there ourselves, certainly not as deep, director Andrew Stanton does a terrific job of immersing the audience in this ocean world. The other wildlife and the plant life are all beautifully recreated along with the animation being absolutely perfect. In addition to this, we have a very interesting collection of characters. Marlin is a clownfish, but he struggles to tell a good joke. However he doesn’t need to as he’s aided on his quest to rescue his son by the lovable but forgetful Dory, voiced by the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres. There’s a fair bit of dramatic moments mixed in with some truly hilarious ones too, such as the shark equivalent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In Nemo’s unfamiliar surroundings, we have the likes of the serious but friendly Gill (Willem Dafoe) Bloat (Brad Garrett) a porcupine pufferfish of whom does his bit to ensure that the laughs keep on coming. The screenplay is so well written that you care about every one of the characters on screen, particularly Marlin, Nemo and certainly Dory too. The latter of whom proved to be such a popular character, that she is getting her own film, due out this summer. It’s easy to see why as a lot of the comedy comes from her forgetfulness and funny one liners. The characters are extremely well developed and the fact that the voices involved are provided by some top Hollywood talent ensures that the there’s that emotional connection between them and the audience.

There are plenty of humorous moments littered throughout this really entertaining story. Even some of the side characters provide some of the most ridiculously entertaining moments. The sharks, the turtles and in particular the seagulls especially in particular do their best to keep the laughs coming. The latter of whom although they don’t have the largest amount of screen time, they certainly make a significant impression, and you might just find yourself saying “mine” just a little bit. Whoever knew that a story about the life of aquatic based animals could be so entertaining and so heartfelt?

Beautiful animation with some great humour, along with well written, developed and lovable characters, Pixar just kept swimming onto success with this wonderful story. One of their finest without a doubt.

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