Previews: Jurassic World Trailer, Inside Out Clip and more

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the latest Jurassic World trailer, a clip from Inside Out, plus Black Mass, Danny Collins and more…

Jurassic World Trailer

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Steven Spielberg returns to executive produce the next instalment of his dinosaur franchise. This Jurassic World trailer reveals a little more about the plot of the film and its new dinosaurs. Although genetically-modified dinosaurs may raise eyebrows, the casting of Chris Pratt certainly does appeal following his turn in Guardians of the Galaxy. Jurassic World  will hit UK screens on 11th June 2015.

Black Mass

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My, doesn’t Johnny Depp look different? Black Mass focuses on Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and his unlikely alliance with the FBI in the 1970s. The film also stars Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon. Back Mass is set for release on 25th September 2015.

Mad Max: Fury Road Legacy Trailer

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This retro Mad Max: Fury Road trailer is smart marketing. It differentiates the film from other remakes, a key factor in this is the return of director George Miller. Starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road steams into UK cinemas on 14th May 2015.

Inside Out Clip

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The more I see of Inside Out, the more I am looking forward to it. Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Mindy Kaling, the film focuses on Riley and her fluctuating emotions growing up. Inside Out is screening at Cannes Film Festival this May, and will be released in 24th July 2015.

Danny Collins Trailer

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Danny Collins stars Al Pacino as an ageing rock star who goes on a journey to rediscover his family and himself. Based on a true story, the film also stars Annette Bening, Christopher Plummer and Jennifer Garner. Danny Collins will be released on UK screens on 29th May 2015.

Mr Holmes Trailer

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Mr Holmes features an older version of the infamous detective than is usually portrayed on screen. Ian McKellan plays Sherlock Holmes as a returned detective, living in his farmhouse, who turns his attention to an unsolved case. Also starring Laura Linney, Mr Holmes is set for release on 19th June 2015.

Man Up Clip

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Man Up is a new romantic comedy starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell. The film is premised on a case of mistaken identity; Pegg’s Jack thinks Bell’s Nancy is his blind date. Also starring Olivia Williams and Rory Kinear, Man Up reaches UK cinemas on 29th May 2015.

Suffragette Trailer

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This first trailer for Suffragette offers us a peak at Sarah Gavron’s historical drama. Suffragette is the first feature film to tell the story of British women’s fight for the right to vote at the turn of last century. With an enviable cast that includes Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan, Suffragette is set for release on 30th October 2015.

Summer Blockbuster Montage

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Every year, film journalist Amon Warmann creates a montage of the Summer movie blockbusters. This year’s video features Mad Max: Road Fury, Ant-Man, Tomorrowland – A World Beyond and more. Check out his blog here.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Press Conference

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Press Conference

On Tuesday director Joss Whedon assembled with the cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron to discuss the new Marvel movie. On hand to discuss the film were Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Paul Bettany…

On on Avengers: Age of Ultron as a sequel…

Joss Whedon: There are restrictions, but a lot of the questions have already been answered, so you know going in what you have to work with. It’s a bit of a comfort actually.

On what excites them about coming back for the second instalment…

Jeremy Renner: I’m excited about hanging out with these degenerates.

Mark Ruffalo: Coming back to the world and seeing where these crazy people that we’re playing are headed. And knowing that Joss is going to take us there, to his own twisted psyche.

Robert Downey Jr.: Probably my first costume fitting; me surrounded by many full-length mirrors.

Chris Evans: Marvel has a done a great job at bringing a lot of the same people together, not just in front of the cameras, but behind the cameras. Coming back to as a group, it kinda feels like a family of familiar faces. It’s like a high school reunion or something.

Scarlett: Johansson: I would say I get most excited about reading Joss’ script. It’s the big pay-off after a long wait.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: I’m just excited to be a part of it.

Paul Bettany: Box office bonuses!

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Conference

On a possible Black Widow film…

Scarlett Johansson: She’s a very slippery fish for her job, but when you get her, Natasha, she’s in herself, which is kind of cool… A Black Widow movie? That would be cool. I am always happy to put the catsuit back on.

On story arcs in Avengers: Age of Ultron…

Robert Downey Jr.: Hawkeye has a heck of an arc this time.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: It was great to dive into Mark Ruffalo’s character, to see such a sensibility in that beast.

Elizabeth Olsen: My favourite moment is the first time we watch Black Widow talk down the Hulk.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron European Press Conference

On the possibility of a Hulk movie…

Mark Ruffalo: [to Joss Whedon] Do you want to tell them?

Joss Whedon: No, you go.

Mark Ruffalo: I can’t.

Joss Whedon: Sorry, it’s too amazing!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is out in cinemas from 23rd April 2015.

Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon’s rambunctious sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron offers action and entertainment in spades. It does not quite reach the giddy heights of its predecessor, yet AvengersAge of Ultron is still a great superhero movie.

When Tony Stark sees an opportunity to enact a peace-keeping programme, the Avengers are faced with a new threat: Ultron. Hellbent on destruction, the team must stop the villain at all costs…

Avengers Assemble established the band of warriors, with several of the characters meeting for the first time. With this necessary initiation taken care of by the first film, Avengers: Age of Ultron can concentrate on action and narrative progression. However, there is still focus on the group dynamic, albeit in a more nuanced framework.

The activities and relationships within the group are central to Avengers: Age of Ultron. On the one hand, this provides much of the films comic relief; familiarity breeds friendly ribbing. On the other hand, there is a frictional aspect, particularly in terms of the protagonists trusting one another. This is a theme continued from the first movie, and relationships are just as important here. Furthermore, there is also a feeling of sowing the seeds for future instalments.

Like most superhero films, the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron ensures that there is plenty at stake for not just for the protagonists, but for the world at large. This instalment handles this on an extravagant scale, with the heroes facing a threat as menacing as the first film, but which operates in an even more malignant way. Ideas of privacy, residual cold war, and the perils of technology are wrapped up neatly in the film’s antagonist.

The introduction of two new characters, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff add an interesting dimension to the film. Avengers: Age of Ultron treads further into the background of some of the main characters, fleshing them out as human as well as heroes. Whilst some character development in the film looks backwards, other aspects indicate what may be to come in future instalments.

The film begins with a high-octane opening sequence. From this point, pacing dips and rises, although not as successfully as in the first film. Avengers: Age of Ultron would have benefitted slightly from tighter editing. Special effects are as superb as ever, and performances are good all round. Robert Downey Jr. slips comfortably back into his Tony Stark persona, whilst Jeremy Renner is given more depth to his character.

It hardly seems feasible that Avengers: Age of Ultron was going match the excitement of the first film. Nevertheless, the film is a worthy successor which should satisfy audiences.

Film Review: The Falling

The Falling

Carol Morley’s The Falling constructs some interesting ideas. Although the path the film takes may not be fully satisfying, the unease generated by The Falling is engaging throughout.

At a girl’s school in the late 1960s, troubled Lydia is best friends with magnetic Abbie. When a tragedy occurs at the school, a mysterious fainting epidemic breaks out amongst the teenage girls…

Written and directed by Carol Morley, The Falling is an atmospheric mystery drama. The mystery that the film is premised on is effective in engaging the viewer’s attention. The idea of contagious fainting is an intriguing one. The film hints at different causes for this phenomena as the story progresses. This aspect of The Falling works well thanks to this theme; it is an area which has not been explored in much detail in cinema.

In the second half of the film, the narrative eschews more mysterious elements of the plot to concentrate on Lydia’s feelings and behaviour. Although The Falling still holds the attention, it is not quite as enthralling as what has appeared before. The finale reveals aspects of the past which have an effect on the present depicted in the film. It provides some sense of closure to the story, whilst keeping the uneasiness of the tone.

The Falling is interspersed with dream or flashback sequences which emphasise the unconscious state. This are in-keeping with the theme of fainting and not being alert. However, these segments also speak about the wider matter of adolescence and being on the cusp on adulthood. Morley’s direction overall produces a stylised picture. Although some aspects of the film verge on the absurd, this seems like a knowing decision rather than an unintentional consequence.

Production design is also good, with the period setting effectively conveyed. Music is utilised in an effective manner, frequently setting the tone of the film. Maisie Williams offers a decent performance as the angsty teenager Lydia. Greta Scacchi and Florence Pugh are well cast.

The Falling is an evocative mystery drama in which Morley plays to her strengths in terms of style, themes, and tone to create an intoxicating air.

Star Wars Celebration – London

Star Wars Celebration London

I was very excited to be invited to the Star Wars celebration in London yesterday evening, an event which featured a live stream to the Anaheim presentation of the brand new trailer for The Force Awakens, plus a q&a session with J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and others. Here is what happened…

R2D2 and C3PO

We were greeted by two ominous-looking Stormtroopers, however Any apprehension was soon eased by the appearance of everyone’s favourite robot duo. C3PO and R2D2 were on hand at the Star Wars Celebration to offer a more friendly welcome. Despite 38 years passing since the release of the first Star Wars film, these two looked sprightly as ever.

Warwick Davis

Before too long, the show began, with Willow Ofgood himself (aka Warwick Davis) presenting the Star Wars Celebration event for the London audience. Davis makes an excellent host; he was highly amusing throughout the evening. After some events for fans, the presentation was about to begin.

Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams

Director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy looked genuinely thrilled to be at the Star Wars Celebration event in Anaheim. The emphasis was definitely on going back to Star Wars’ roots with The Force Awakens. Numerous times, J.J. Abrams, mentioned going back to the original trilogy with both the look and the feel of the new film. It definitely felt as if both Abrams and Kennedy wished to steer away from memories of the less well-received prequel trilogy of the late nineties/early noughties.

Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and J.J. Abrams

After answering some questions, it was time to bring out more guests including the makers of the new R2D2, plus the robot himself and B8, a new robot addition to the Star Wars franchise. Fans at the Star Wars Celebration then got to meet the main stars of The Force Awakens; John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron). All three spoke of their memories of Star Wars growing up, and their excitement of working on the film at being at the Star Wars Celebration.

Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels

Next, it was time for some old faces to appear, in the form of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C3PO) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca). The cast from the original franchise spoke of their affection for the films and their joy at coming back for the new films. The main event arrived at the every end of the presentation, with the first screening of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer.

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Reception to the trailer was extremely positive. Earlier spoken of “retro” aspects are apparent at this new glimpse, with the look of the film a great reflection of the original franchise. There are some wonderful shots, including the desert landscape opening shot, the image of Pol Dameron in the pilot seat (echoing Luke Skywalker) and decaying helmut of Darth Vader. The teaser also posed some interesting questions, particularly in who Luke is speaking to when he talks about family. I would assume it is a child or nephew/niece of his, which posits Rey or Pol Dameron as the likely audience of this speech. Then again, this teaser gives away so little that this may be a red herring. The final shot of Han Solo and Chewbacca, unsurprisingly got the biggest cheer of all; fans were certainly glad to see the return of this duo.

After the excitement of seeing the new teaser on the big screen at Empire Leicester Square, it was time for the Star Wars Celebration to conclude. There was a definite air of excitement about the new footage at the event; the venue was buzzing with discussion of what was screened as I left, goodies in hand.

Star Wars Celebration London memorabilia Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released in cinemas on 18th December 2015.

Film Review: The Last Five Years

THE LAST 5 YEARS

Based on the musical, Richard LaGravense’s The Last Five Years is an experiment that pays off for the most part. The film is well executed.

Cathy, a struggling actress, looks back at her five year relationship with writer Jamie. Meanwhile, Jamie’s perspective sees the relationship from the beginning to the end…

Richard LaGravenese’s cinematic adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years offers something different in its format. LaGravenese employs an undercutting device to tell the story. Rather than a traditional film musical where songs mingle with spoken dialogue, the story of The Last Five Years is told exclusively in song.

As a cinematic experiment, The Last Five Years is broadly successful. Songs in the film are decent for the most part, although they are not particularly memorable. The film mixes upbeat numbers with more reflective ballads. Pacing also works well; the film manages to tell its story in detail without dragging. Performances from the two protagonists are strong. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan exhibit good chemistry as well as decent voices.

LaGravenese’s direction is good throughout the film. The cinematography also works well, although the reliance on movement is dizzying at times. The Last Five Years does however have a fluidity that works to its advantage.

Storytelling in the film is interesting. The narrative jumps from Anna’s to Jamie’s perspective frequently. Whilst Cathy begins her telling of the story from the present working back in time, Jamie commences at the beginning. This provides an interesting frisson. Not only is the story told from both perspective, but the jumping around in the time frame allows viewers to really see the changes in the characters and their relationship.

The depth of feeling between the two protagonists is effectively conveyed in The Last Five Years. Emotion increases as the film continues. Some viewers will find the film identifiable, although it is not quite the tearjerker some audiences would expect. Humour in the film is slight, but effective where it is employed.

With its reliance on singing over dialogue, The Last Five Years is a bit of an acquired taste. Nevertheless, musical fans are likely to be pleased by Richard LaGravense’s offering.

The Last Five Years will be screened at Empire Leicester Square in London from Friday 17th April 2015. It will be released on VOD on 1st May 2015, and on DVD on 4th May 2015.

Film Review: The Salvation

The Salvation

Kristian Levring’s The Salvation is a suitably entertaining Western. For all its style, however, the film fails to imprint its own mark on the genre.

Danish settler Jon has built a life for himself in 1870s America. Tragedy strikes when his family arrive in the country, forcing on to take matters into his own hands…

The Salvation follows that familiar old Western trope of revenge. The film’s premise is simple; this is a story about pay back. Usually with this type of film, the pressure lies on the execution of the action. Although action sequences function well to accelerate the pace in The Salvation, they not not meet the cathartic need. This is in part due to the lack of character development.

The Salvation offers little in the way of three-dimensional characters. The audience is not really given much of an opportunity to get to know the film’s protagonist. The situation presented in the film’s opening is traumatising to Jon. Yet little personality is given to the character. His brother Krestan is given a little more in the way of depth. The choice to have the main female character as mute perhaps represents women’s place in this era and environment.

The subplot of the land grab offers little distraction. Its inclusion offers reasoning behind the rule of fear. However, this strand is not fleshed out sufficiently. It merely seems like a device to provide some contemporary resonance or reasoning. Perhaps if the central character had been given more depth, The Salvation would have successfully functioned solely on its revenge hinge.

The use of colour is striking in the beginning of The Salvation. The film looks every inch the Western, with a level of authenticity to the look of the Wild West outpost. Visual effects are poor, however. Mads Mikkelsen delivers a decent performance as Jon. Eva Green is a striking figure, whilst Jeffrey Dean Morgan chews scenery as the cartoonish villain.

Ultimately, The Salvation lacks the mettle of a classic revenge story. The protagonist is not enough of a victim, or a hero, for viewers to really root for him. The film plays out appropriately, but lacks significance.

Film Review: A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos

Alan Rickman’s romantic period drama A Little Chaos is pure escapism. As such, it ticks the boxes despite some flaws.

Sabine is a talented landscape designer. When she is commissioned to work on one of the gardens at Versailles for King Louis XIV, Sabine is thrown out of her comfort zone with the politics of court, and a burgeoning relationship…

A Little Chaos offers wonderful imagery in its polished vision of a period drama. Visual aesthetics work more successfully than narrative aspects, although viewers should be sufficiently entertained. Director and star Alan Rickman appears to favour gloss over grit in this period piece.

A Little Chaos moves at a suitable pace, with romance occupying the main strand of the film. There is the requisite chemistry between the two main characters, although the script’s attempts to provide friction falls a little flat.

The characterisation of protagonist Sabine is weak. The back story in A Little Chaos suffices only to illustrate why the character would show restraint. Other than this, Sabine is drawn a little too perfect, particularly highlighted by the fact that she is surrounded by imperfect characters.

Humour in the film is entirely welcome. Rickman knows exactly what he is doing with the comedic elements; revelling in the absurdity of it all. As such, A Little Chaos has a strange tone; the deep sighs and corsetry meshing oddly with the pseudo-parody of the period drama. The film touches on the issues of high society of the day, even if some attitudes feel too evolved for the era. Social dynamics are discussed, but not over indulged.

A Little Chaos‘s costumes, sets and styling are marvellous. Cinematography is strong for the most part, although a few shots break with the overall style of the film. Kate Winslet is good as ever in the strong female role she often occupies. Rickman and Stanley Tucci appear to enjoy hamming up their parts.

Entertaining but not wholly satisfying, A Little Chaos is amiable enough viewing. Rickman attempts to reach beyond a straightforward period drama, although it is not clear exactly what he is aiming for.

Film Review: John Wick

John Wick

Director Chad Stahelski’s John Wick is a stylish action thriller with neo noir overtones. The film is entertaining throughout.

Recovering from the death of his wife, former hit man John Wick is slowly starting to recover when his new hope is taken from him. With nothing to lose, John is on a revenge mission…

John Wick is a successful directorial debut from stunt co-ordinator Chad Stahelski. The film works well thanks to its pacing and strong action sequences. John Wick barely offers a respite from the action, and is a better film for it. Stahelski clearly knows the film’s strengths.

The premise of the film is simple, but not much more is required to set up the sequence of action. John Wick is a straightforward revenge tale, but one that engages with a brisk pace and a lack of unnecessary derailments. The humour present in the film is a good tool to acknowledge the absurdity of some of the situations. And yet John Wick endears with its refreshing lack of pretension.

The protagonist’s story is told mostly in flashbacks. The beginning of the film is effective in informing the audience of the present situation without spending too much time on the past. More of an idea of the character of John Wick is given through others rather than the character himself. The protagonist functions as something of a blank slate, allowing supporting characters to build up an impression of him. The antagonist in John Wick is rather caricature, however there is slightly more to him, which is revealed later in the film.

John Wick‘s soundtrack is good, and the art direction gives the film a neo noir feel with its use of colour and artificial lighting. Never known for superb acting, Keanu Reeves is well cast as the the detached hit man.

With its finely executed fight sequences, John Wick is a most enjoyable action movie. Fans of the genre should lap up this offering.

Film Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2

Steve Pink’s sequel Hot Tub Time Machine 2 lacks the waggish charm of its predecessor. Those looking for belly laughs will be sorely disappointed.

As a successful tech billionaire and rock star, Lou’s attitude in 2015 gets him into trouble. In order to save him, Nick and Jacob realise they must take another trip in the hot tub time machine…

Director Steve Pink and writer Josh Heald return with most of the cast (barring star John Cusack) for Hot Tub Time Machine 2. Unfortunately, the team cannot replicate the humour of the first film, bawdy as it may have been, for this follow-up. The crude humour is even more present, yet it fails raise laughs.

The film’s narrative fails to capture the imagination. As with the first film, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 borrows from other time travel movies, particularly Back to the Future 2. With the majority of the film set in the future,  this sequel loses the nostalgia factor that Hot Tub Time Machine offered. Time travel pop cultural references are back, but feel tired and overused in this instalment. The costumes, music, and references are no longer a source of amusement.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2‘s main failing is its script. Other elements in the film cannot compensate for this defect. What is left is for the main characters to carry the film. Unfortunately, they are not strong enough to do this. Lou’s schtick gets annoying fast, and Nick is not given enough decent lines. The missing Adam is not felt as such; with the calibre of the script, his inclusion would not make much difference.

Performances in the film suffice. Craig Robinson’s comic talent is underused. Adam Scott does a suitable job, but is not helped by the script. The soundtrack is not as effective as in the original film.

Ultimately, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 fails to make viewers laugh. Without the comedy, the murder mystery plot does not engage, and attempts at drama fall flat. Give this one a wide berth.