Film Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s landmark science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey returns to cinemas. This re-release offers an opportunity to see the iconic film on the big screen.

Charting the progress of mankind and civilisation, mysterious black monoliths appear to influence prehistoric apes in their development, and later astronauts involved in a secret mission, aided by computer H.A.L. 9000…

2001: A Space Odyssey is a prototype for much science fiction cinema that followed. From Alien to Gravity, the influence of Kubrick’s 1968 film is clear.

The film’s multi-act narrative works well. The most compelling section is the middle, and longest, part. The first and third segments are successful on a sensory level. The power of 2001: A Space Odyssey is that it effectively combines a narrative with less linear sequences.

The themes present in 2001: A Space Odyssey exhibit the best in science fiction in that they illuminate and generate anxiety. The non-linear style of the film gives the audience time to ponder the images and ideas they are presented with. Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke offer a view of civilisation that several other sci-fi films have played with in the intervening years. This view is presented, allowing audiences to come to their own conclusions, rather than being force-fed a particular viewpoint.

2001: A Space Odyssey still holds up well in terms of special effects, despite being almost fifty years old. Unlike so many effects-laden films of previous decades, Kubrick film does not look dated. The cinematography is fantastic, as is the art direction. 2001: A Space Odyssey has a very distinctive look. The sound design is also on point; the use of a classical score is as striking as it is memorable. Performances in the film are good, particularly Keir Dullea and Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL.

Science fiction aficionados and casual viewers alike should take this opportunity to see a true genre classic on the big screen.

2001: A Space Odyssey is released from 28th November 2014 at the BFI and selected locations nationwide. See here for full details.

Film Review: Paddington

Paddington

Paul King’s Paddington is a perfectly pitched comedy adventure that should satisfy all demographics.

Paddington is a young bear in darkest Peru who is brought up b his aunt and uncle. When he travels to London to look for a new home, Paddington is spotted by the Brown family, who offer a temporary home…

Based on Michael Bond’s books which first appeared in the late 1950s, Paddington could have easily misstepped the mark in bringing the character to the big screen for contemporary audiences. Thankfully, the film avoids this, instead offering a lovingly crafted picture that is sure to win over audiences.

Director and screenwriter Paul King has created a film that will appease fans of the original series of books, whilst also attracting a new audience. Paddington works well because it suits different audiences without alienating any demographic.

The film is peppered with humour from the very beginning. Whilst some of this is the more physical kind aimed at young viewers, for the most part the film with have older viewers laughing throughout. The narrative is a simple one, but one that works well thanks to the endearing characters and good pacing.

Themes in the film are conveyed successfully. The main theme of the outsider is effective in this context. It is a theme that feels pertinent in the landscape of contemporary British politics. Paddington does offer emotion as well as laughs. The more dramatic or pensive moments never become too mawkish, thankfully.

Ben Whishaw is well cast as the voice of the title character. Nicole Kidman appears to be having fun in her role, while Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins are believeable are the Brown parents. Special effects in the film are excellent; particularly the rendering of Paddingon’s fur. Music also works well in the film, especially with the appearances of the band.

Paddington is a delightful film, which should prove to be highly entertaining for children and a most pleasant surprise for adults.

Film Review: Horrible Bosses 2

Horrible Bosses 2

With Horrible Bosses 2, director Sean Anders offers more of the same in this crime caper sequel.

Sick of dealing with awful bosses, Nick, Dale and Kurt decide to launch their own business. Things look promising, until an investor pulls out leaving the trio in a desperate situation. With limited options, the group turn to crime…

Horrible Bosses 2 is undoubtedly a silly movie. However, this is not to say that the film is not entertaining. The humour continues in the same vein as Horrible Bosses. Those left unimpressed by the first instalment will find this film equally unappealing.

The comedy in Horrible Bosses 2 often appeals at the basest form. The jokes can be a bit hit and miss, but the spirit of the film is amiable. What makes Horrible Bosses 2 enjoyable is the camaraderie between the main characters. The actors clearly have good chemistry, and this shines through into the film.

Director and co-writer Sean Anders keeps the action moving at a good pace. Plotting in the film is not exactly convincing, but this aura of unlikeliness adds to the film’s zany nature. The plot twists are predictable, but there is enough humour to negate this.

There are a few overt reference to a particular point of view that Horrible Bosses 2 takes. The stance is not particularly groundbreaking, but offers more of a message than the first film. Nevertheless, for the most part, Horrible Bosses 2 concentrates on comedic elements. The insinuation at the end of the film harks back to an aspect of the first film that some viewers found questionable.

Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis reprise their roles with the same energy as the first film. Jennifer Aniston pushes further into crudeness with Julia, setting the character as an even starker contrast to the roles she is usually associated with. Chris Pine is a good addition to the cast.

With a good soundtrack and enviable cast, Horrible Bosses 2 is a decent comedy sequel that should satisfy its intended audience.

Film Review: My Old Lady

My Old Lady

Writer-director Israel Horovitz’s My Old Lady is a suitably decent comedy drama that offers strong performances from its three leads.

American Mathius is eager to see the Parisian apartment he has inherited. When he arrives in Paris, however, he learns that his inheritance comes with a complicated extra…

Isreal Horovitz’s feature debut is an entertaining watch. My Old Lady boasts good writing from Horovitz. This is particularly true of the development of Mathius. The character is depicted in a way which renders him believeable. Moreover, the progression of his character during the film’s duration is convincing.

My Old Lady combines comedy and drama in a way that is complementary. The humour does turn to drama, as is necessary for a film of this nature. Some of the scenes are quite dark, but this does not feel out of step with the overall film. My Old Lady moves at a good pace, allowing for both characters and relationships to develop in a natural manner.

A significant driver in My Old Lady is the fallout from an event in the past. The film exhibits the detrimental effects of this, on all the characters involved. The ending of the film is a little predictable, but it plays out well nevertheless.

There are some emotional moments in My Old Lady. Although these are in keeping with the overall mood of the film, viewers may not fully invest in these moments. Despite good writing, sometimes the impetus is not there in Horovitz’s film.

Kevin Kline delivers a strong performance as Mathias. He is solid in both humorous and darker moments. It is also good to see Maggie Smith showing off her talents in a different type of role. Kristin Scott Thomas is also convincing.

My Old Lady will have a definite appeal to those who enjoy mature dramas tinged with comedy. The performances from its leads make the film a worthwhile watch.

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: The Drop

The Drop

Not everything is quite what it seems in The Drop. Nevertheless, the film is an engaging watch.

Bartender Bob Saginowski finds himself at the centre of a robbery of his cousin’s bar. Things get more complicated as the bar is used for a ‘money drop’; a way of funneling money to gangsters…

Based on Dennis Lehane’s short story, director Michaël R. Roskam’s The Drop is an intriguing character study. The sense of ambivalence offered by the film is certainly a selling point. The narrative could head off in a number of directions; the premise of the film is open enough for this to be a possibility.

The story in The Drop unfolds at a good pace. This allows for characters and back stories to evolve in an organic fashion. Protagonist Bob becomes more interesting as the film progresses. The supporting characters are a little more one-dimensional, but this is not a hindrance with the focus on Bob.

The Drop initially appears to be a straightforward gangster film, with its focus on underworld activity in Brooklyn. However, the film develops into something more interesting than this. The character of Bob is well constructed, and as the film focuses more on his personality and motivations, it becomes more engaging. Whilst movement in the plot is vital, it is the development of the central character that really drives this film.

Roskam’s direction is effective but understated. Art direction is good; the film has almost a gauze of dirt; emphasising the seediness of the locale perhaps. Performances in the film are solid. Tom Hardy is aptly quiet but wholly believeable as Bob. James Gandolfini is as reliable as ever in his final role.

The Drop is something of an unassuming picture, but one that most audiences will find satisfying thanks to well-crafted direction and decent performances.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of cinematic delights this week, including the latest trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into The Woods, Paddington and more…

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

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Here is the latest trailer for the final instalment of Peter Jackson’s second Tolkien franchise, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Sadly Gollum is nowhere to be seen, but there is plenty of hobbits, eleves, wizards and the like. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies will hit UK screens on  12th December 2014.

Into The Woods

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Carrying on with the fantasy theme, a full trailer for Into The Woods dropped this week. It seems to have all the winning ingredients; fairy tales, musical numbers, and a great cast. Meryl Streep in particular looks wonderfully hammy as the witch. Into The Woods will be released in UK cinemas on 9th January 2015.

Horrible Bosses 2

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Above is a clip from the forthcoming sequel Horrible Bosses 2. The film unites the main cast from the first film with newcomers Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. It was refreshing to see Jennifer Aniston in a different kind of role in the first film, and it looks like this is no different. Horrible Bosses 2 is out on 28th November 2014.

Paddington

Paddington One Sheet

Oh my! Paddington in the snow. I recently bought a red duffle coat, and was told that I looked like a cross between Paddington Bear and Red Riding Hood. It was the greatest compliment ever. Anyway, Paddington, featuring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins and Julie Walters, will reach UK screens on 28th November 2014.

The Gambler

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What is interesting about this trailer for The Gambler is that it uses The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’, a song that many film fans will associate with The Departed, which also memorably starred Marky Mark. The Gambler, which also stars John Goodman and Brie Larson, is set for release in UK cinemas on 19th December 2014.

The Pyramid

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Above is a featurette on upcoming horror The Pyramid. What I want to know is what exactly is in these pyramids. Is it mummies come to life? Or is it a more Indiana Jones-style bent? The Pyramid is out in UK cinemas on 5th December 2014.

Annie

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Contemporary remake of the classic musical Annie is out just in time for Christmas. It is unclear how much singing will be involved from the above trailer, and how much Cameron Diaz’s Miss Hannigan will replicate the original. But here’s hoping. Annie hits UK screens on 20th December 2014.

Interstellar Press Conference

Interstellar Press Conference

Last week, the cast and crew gathered in London for the Interstellar press conference. Here is what cast members Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy, plus director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas had to say about the film…

On making Interstellar…

Christopher Nolan: My interest in Interstellar was a couple of key things. First was the relationship between the father and the children. I am a father myself and I related to it quite a lot; I found it very powerful. And I liked the idea of combining that with this story that speculates about a potential moment in human evolution where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe.

Emma Thomas: The thing I love about this film is that it is many things rolled into one. So whilst we were doing the more intimate character stuff, we also had these massive, disparate locations to shoot in. Iceland is an amazing place but a lot of the places that we were in were incredibly remote and incredibly challenging. But I think it really paid off; it’s a lot more fun to watch it than it was to be there in some cases!

On science fiction cinema…

Christopher Nolan: I grew up and what was really a golden age of blockbusters. If you look at Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] and they way it addressed that idea of this inevitable moment where humans would meet aliens, and address it from a family perspective. I really liked the idea of giving today’s audiences some sense of that… One of my earliest movie-going memories is going to Leicester Square to see 2001 [A Space Odyssey] when I was seven years old, and I have never forgotten the scale of that. I saw my first IMAX film when I was fifteen, and immediately I wanted to make features that way at the point. Really for me working on this scale, it’s a long-held dream of mine.

Interstellar QUAD

On working with Christopher Nolan…

Matthew McConaughey: It is a compliment to the process that even though this went on for five months, and there was a much larger scope and scale, when you are acting in a Christopher Nolan film it feels just as intimate and just as raw and natural as most independent films are forced to feel because you don’t have the time. But we had the time and the money on Interstellar, but when you are actually shooting, it is very intimate, and very raw and natural.

Jessica Chastain: I don’t normally do big movies, I’m kind of new to this world. I had always been afraid that jumping on a big budget film, you would lose the relationships in favour of special effects. But the great thing about working with Chris is that it is all practical sets, so you actually have things to react to as an actor, which is awesome. We would do three or four takes, and it’s so incredible because he would let me get it out of my system, try what I wanted to without trying to impose on me something that wasn’t natural. With a very delicate hand, he would come over and just say one sentence… and with that tiny, exquisite note, he would open up my performance in a way I would never have imagined.

Mackenzie Foy: Christopher Nolan is awesome! I want to be a director when I get older, and just to be able to watch him work is amazing and it meant a lot to me.

Michael Caine: You spend your life as an actor making a picture saying “is it going to be going to be a hit? Is it going to be a miss?”. I’ve had six pictures working with Christopher, and every one has been a hit. So whenever he says “do you want to do a movie?”, I say “yes”! He said “do you want to read the script?” and I said “no”! It’s quite extraordinary working with him because he also writes it, and nothing is what it seems. I remember the first time he came to me with a script, he came to my house in the country, he said “I’ve got a movie”. I said; “what is it?” and he said “Batman”, and I thought to myself “well I’m too old to play Batman, what does he want me to play?”. He said; “I want you to play the butler” and I thought about the type of dialogue I would have, what do I say; “dinner is served”? And of course I read the script; it wasn’t the butler, it was the foster father.

On favourite science fiction characters…

Christopher Nolan: It’s got to be Darth Vader…

Emma Thomas: I would have to say Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien.

Mackenzie Foy: Either Darth Vader or Spock.

Matthew McConaughey: Chewbacca and Murph [from Interstellar].

Anne Hathaway: R2D2 and Ripley.

Michael Caine: Sandy Bullock in Gravity.

Jessica Chastain: Mine would be Princess Leia and HAL.

Anne Hathaway: Can I add a science fiction character? Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. But I am speaking specifically of the new version.

On saving the environment…

Jessica Chastain: I’m vegan, and I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but I do believe that something like meatless Mondays. If everyone in the world gave up meat for one day it would make a huge difference in terms of the carbon footprint.

Michael Caine: I was so poor for so long that I didn’t use anything, I didn’t eat very much, I figured the world owed me a debt so… I am eating very well and have had a big car for a long time!

Anne Hathaway: I try to do a lot of little things in the hope that they are going to add up. I time my showers, I try not to overly consume things, or blindly consume things…

Christopher Nolan: Communal resources, like gathering people in one place, like a movie theatre. So if you go and see Interstellar every evening, you’ll save an enormous amount of energy!

Interstellar is released on Friday 7th November 2014.

Film Review: Interstellar

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s science fiction epic is spectacular and engaging. Interstellar is a visual feast that demands to be viewed in IMAX.

Cooper is a pilot turned farmer who lives with his young family. With human kind under threat from climate change, an exploration mission to space could be the key to saving the species…

Director and co-writer Christopher Nolan harks back to classic science fiction with Interstellar. The film explores notions of sci-fi on a large scale, combining drama, action adventure and spectacle. Nolan’s direction is strong. He carefully builds tension for some gripping moments. There are definite shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey in the progression of the film.

Interstellar‘s narrative is carefully crafted. The slow burn first quarter of the film pays dividends later on. Science in Interstellar is never overly complicated, yet is a meaty enough hook. The film explores ideas that will capture the imagination of most viewers.

The worlds that Interstellar explores are great, What is interesting about the first quarter of the film is that it gently reveals the world, giving the audience time to absorb it. What is presented is familiar, yet different. The film does not require a specific environment or time to be explicitly stated; the measured reveal is a more effective tool.

The main characters in Interstellar are well developed, with their individual motivations depicted clearly. As the protagonist, Cooper has a simple motivation, but this is rendered authentic during the course of the film. Performances are strong from the whole cast. Matthew McConaughey is well cast as Cooper, whilst Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy are equally convincing.

Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography in Interstellar is sublime. Nathan Crowley’s production design is also spectacular. Interstellar really is a film that needs to be seen in Imax, thanks to some amazing IMAX camera scenes. Hans Zimmer’s score is as good as ever, although the sound mixing in some scenes is not great.

Interstellar is an enriching addition to the science fiction cannon, and proof that large-scale genre efforts can be appealing to a wide audience.

Video

Interstellar European Premiere

The Interstellar European premiere takes place in London this evening (Wednesday 29th October 2014). You can watch the red carpet footage here, in 360 degrees, from 6pm GMT this evening. Those expected to attend include cast members Matthew McConnaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas.

Update: see below for the highlight’s from last night’s Interstellar European premiere.

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Interstellar will be released in cinemas everywhere on 7th November 2014.