Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Taika Waititi, Anthony Hopkins
After nine years, sixteen films, and over US$12.5 billion in box office takings, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is undoubtedly one of the most successful blockbuster franchises in history. However, despite this popular and critical success, the Thor films have remained a clear weak point of the MCU. While Chris Hemsworth is relatively charismatic in the titular role, and the series has produced the MCU’s best villain in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, it is fair to say that neither of the Norse god of thunder’s two solo outings have hit the nail on the head. With Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel Studios have thrown caution to the wind, attempting to remedy this situation with a bold change in direction by handing the reins to celebrated Kiwi director, and 2017 New Zealander of the Year, Taika Waititi. Continue reading
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson, Jake Lacey
The psychological thrillers of American novelist Patricia Highsmith have for a long time proven a rich source for film adaptations (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley’s Game). However her second novel, The Price of Salt, a lesbian love story set in the 1950s which she published under a pseudonym, had not been touched. It is difficult to imagine a filmmaker better suited to tackling this material than Todd Haynes. Over the course of his 25 year career Haynes has a tremendous track record of building films around complex female protagonists and exploring issues of queer identity, while being one of the very few directors to work in the classic melodrama genre. All of which contribute to the faithful adaptation of Highsmith’s work in Carol.
Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a quiet, shy young woman with an interest in photography who works in the toy section of a Manhattan department store. In the days leading up to Christmas, Therese meets an elegant society woman, Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) who is shopping for a Christmas gift for her daughter. A slightly older woman than Therese, Carol is instantly fascinating to her. Continue reading
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville, Dimitri Leonidas
The most significant moments in our history are made up of many, many stories. These stories provide the colour and the detail that give the greater narrative its significance. The story of the Monuments Men, a small group of experts who headed into war torn Europe to preserve a culture, is one of these stories and it has been brought to the screen by actor/director George Clooney.
As the Third Reich marched through Europe in the Second World War they collected important artworks and cultural artefacts from churches, museums and homes with the intention of displaying them in the planned Führer Museum in Hitler’s hometown of Linz. By 1944 the tide had turned in the War, the Nazi’s were retreating and fears started to arise that they would destroy their stockpiles of artworks as they moved out. “You can wipe out an entire generation,” explains Clooney’s Frank Stokes, “You can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed.” Even with the War seemingly all but won, were a history to be lost in its final stages the victory would be an incomplete one. So Roosevelt green-lit the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives program, in which a small team of art historians, architects and curators were sent into the warzone with the job of finding, retrieving and returning the stolen works.
The Monuments Men is George Clooney’s fifth feature film as a director. It has an old-fashioned adventure story feel to it. They are, after all, treasure hunters. But in creating this tone, Clooney seems to have sacrificed his own unique style in favour of something which feels like it is merely trying to imitate an older form. The narrative is episodic in nature. As the Monuments Men split up and head to different points of the European continent on different missions we move between their different stories. Some of these episodes are amusing, some are touching, some are exciting. However, with our attention being split between eight co-protagonists, none of the characters are given enough time or depth to really engage us. There are simply too many of them for a two hour movie. That being said, Clooney has assembled an all-star cast, with the likes of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett and, of course, Mr Clooney himself. While it may not have the wow factor of the Ocean’s 11 cast, it is none the less an impressive collection of talent and it is the charisma of these actors, more so than their characters, which keeps you engaged in the film and represents its greatest strength.
The Monuments Men looks great. It is beautifully shot by Pheldon Papamichael and the production design is top notch. It focuses in on a really fascinating and unique story, but unfortunately it fails to reach the heights that story deserves. It is not quite as funny and irreverent as it could have been – especially considering its cast – but neither is it as serious and gritty as it could have been. Instead we are left with a very earnest and sentimental film which at times is just a bit bland.
Rating: – ★★★
Review by Duncan McLean
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Alden Ehrenreich
There are two types of Woody Allen films: those which are just for the Woody Allen fans and those which are for everyone. I suppose there is also a third group: those which kind of miss the mark and fail to please anyone, but that is forgivable for a filmmaker who has made at least one movie a year for the last four decades. His latest film, Blue Jasmine, is one for everyone due in no small part to a lead performance from Cate Blanchett that is really something quite special.
In a classic tale of riches to rags, we first encounter Jasmine as she arrives in a San Francisco to move in with her working class sister, Ginger. A former New York socialite, Jasmine lost everything – her home, her money, her lifestyle and her mind – when her investment banker husband was jailed for some Bernie Madoff-style dealings. While Jasmine formulates a plan to get her life back on track –she takes a computer course with the ultimate aim of studying interior design online – she causes considerable chaos in Ginger’s life.
Indebted to Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Jasmine, the latest in a long line of brilliant female characters written by Allen, is our Blanche DuBois. She is a delusional woman forced to move into her sister’s working class life, surrounded by brutish men and pining for her lost life of privilege. As with Blanche, we find ourselves simultaneously drawn to and repelled by Jasmine. On one level we sympathise with her. She has had the rug pulled out from underneath her and is clearly damaged. But as much as she is a victim of her husband’s crimes, she is also a victim of her own self-delusions. Whether it is turning a blind eye to her husband’s shonky dealings and infidelities or changing her name from Jeanette to Jasmine and devising a colourful story about how her mother gave it to her, Jasmine seems content both to be deceived and to deceive herself, and as such has no problem with being false in her engagement with other people.
While the supporting cast of Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay is quite excellent, really, this film is all about Cate Blanchett. She is already an Oscar winner and considered among the finest actresses of her generation, but Blue Jasmine may just represent her best work to date. Blanchett’s performance is layered and multifaceted. Jasmine is at once fragile, vulnerable, arrogant and cruel. The film’s narrative structure jumps back and forward in time between Jasmine’s current situation in San Francisco, and her old life in New York, which means that rather than watching the progressive deterioration of a character, we are jumping back and forth to different points in that deterioration. We see in New York Jasmine evidence of the same insecurity and fragility which will overwhelms and then defines her in San Francisco.
Blue Jasmine doesn’t feel like a normal Woody Allen film. The working class setting doesn’t allow for the rapid, pseudo-intellectualism one usually associates with his dialogue, and while there are moments of humour, this is a serious story. But while it isn’t typical, it is none the less Allen – and Blanchett – in top form.
Rating – ★★★☆
Review by Duncan McLean
We have arrived at the most wonderful time of the year to be a movie buff (unless you are a more high falutin cinephile who likes to think of lists and awards as being trivial and beneath them). December brings with it a flurry of top ten lists and the first round of nominations for the award season. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced its nominees for the 2014 Golden Globe awards. As always the Golden Globes only give a slight indication of how things will pan out come Oscar time, particularly as the Globes divide categories between Drama and Musical or Comedy. However, we can none the less start in earnest to speculate as to who will be in the mix when Oscar nominations are announced on 16th January 2014.
Best Motion Picture – Drama
- 12 Years a Slave
- Captain Phillips
If this award were to go to anything other than 12 Years a Slave or Gravity it can be considered quite an upset. It will be interesting to see which way this goes. There was no other film that got quite the overwhelming response that Gravity did, but 12 Years a Slave is also a brilliant and important film which is a much more traditional ‘Best Picture’ type.
My tip: 12 Years a Slave
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
- American Hustle
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- Inside Llewyn Davis
Again, this would appear to be a two horse race between American Hustle and Inside Llewyn Davis, with these two films plus the two favourites from the other best picture category likely to be the four main contenders for the Oscar. The fact that Joel Coen didn’t get a directing nomination might swing things in the favour of David O. Russell’s film.
My tip: American Hustle
- Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
- Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
- David O. Russell (American Hustle)
- Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
- Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Where this category is usually dominated by the directors from the best drama field there is a bit more of a mix this year with David O. Russell and Alexander Payne representing the musical or comedy category. While it is yet to be seen if voters consider Gravity to be Best Picture material, there is no doubt that it is a directorial achievement and it is not without precedent to see directors rewarded for amazing technical achievements (see Ang Lee’s Oscar win last year). In all, this is probably the strongest contested field at this year’s Golden Globes.
My tip: Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Best Actor – Drama
- Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Robert Redford (All is Lost)
- Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)
An interesting field featuring veterans (Hanks and Redford), breakout performances (Ejiofor and Elba) and someone who is slowly but surely becoming quite an impressive actor (McConaughey). For mine, Redford’s work in All is Lost is the most impressive acting I’ve seen this year, but it also feels like the kind of film that will get overlooked. Don’t be surprised if momentum builds behind Tom Hanks and he’s an unbackable favourite by the time the Oscars come around.
My tip: Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
Best Actor – Musical or Comedy
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Joaquin Phoenix (Her)
It’s great to see an old dog in Bruce Dern back in the mix and Christian Bale’s amazing fluctuating weight gets him in the frame again, but Joaquin Phoenix was so impressive in Her, performing the majority of the film only with a disembodied voice to play off, so I’d be inclined to go that way.
My tip: Joaquin Phoenix (Her)
Best Actress – Drama
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Kate Winslet (Labor Day)
There is a bit of a usual suspects feel to this category with every nominee being a previous Golden Globe and Oscar winner. Cate Blanchett would seem hard to beat in this category unless the voters go left field for something out of left field and opt for Dench.
My tip: Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Best Actress – Musical or Comedy
- Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
- Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Enough Said)
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
- Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
- Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha)
The amazing Meryl Streep gets her obligatory nomination here, but this one will likely come down to Amy Adams and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
My tip: Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actor
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
- Daniel Brühl (Rush)
- Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Michael Fassbender has done the best work of his career when under the direction of Steve McQueen and his performance as the violent Epps in 12 Years a Slave will likely see him edge out Brühl and Abdi for the honours.
My tip: Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Best Supporting Actress
- Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Lupita Nyong’o was very impressive in 12 Years a Slave, her first feature film role, and Sally Hawkins earned praise for her work opposite Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but 2013 has been Jennifer Lawrence’s year and her combination with David O. Russell should see her strike gold again.
My tip: Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)
- Bob Nelson (Nebraska)
- Eric Warren and David O. Russell (American Hustle)
- Jeff Pope (Philomena)
- Spike Jonze (Her)
There are five very good screenplays nominated in this category but none is as bold as Spike Jonze’s for Her. His screenplay takes a scenario which could easily have been silly and makes it incredibly sincere and heartfelt and, as such, despite being an outsider I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he won.
My tip: Spike Jonze (Her)
Best Animated Feature
- The Croods
- Dispicable Me 2
This has to be the least inspiring collection of animated films in recent memory. It doesn’t help that there is no contribution from Pixar or Studio Ghibli, the two most consistently excellent producers of animation in recent years. As such, Disney’s Frozen, an old-fashioned feeling Disney movie, is probably favourite be default.
My tip: Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film
- Blue is the Warmest Color
- The Past
- The Hunt
- The Wind Rises
- The Great Beauty
This category lacks the out and out favourite it had last year in Amour, but there are a number of strong contenders. Blue is the Warmest Color, The Hunt and The Great Beauty have all made a bit of noise, winning numerous awards. It could go to any of those three, though Blue is the Warmest Color is probably the favourite at this stage.
My tip: The Hunt
The Golden Globes will be held on 12th January 2014