Looking at: Board to Death (Short)

My first short film review, exciting times. Board to Death is a short film created by the Luton based production company Broken Lens Productions which consists of young and ambitious film makers. The story is a very simple one as a man goes to hunt down those who cheated with his wife where the names are revealed through a board game.

The film excels technically. The story is told through a sin-cityesque style, shot in black & white with an array of shots and a voice over. The performances are very good and the film is really nice to look at. The editing does feel a bit slow sometimes, there is a lot of stuff here that does harm the pacing a bit. Overall, technically, it’s a very well made film, you can tell the team behind it knows what they’re doing. When it comes to the story, it’s a very basic story told many times before only this time there’s the addition of a board game. It’s a nice touch, but nothing really special as such. The script is what I didn’t really like much. I felt in parts it really does drag on, especially with the expository voice over, show not tell as the phrase goes. However with some of the dialogue, it does have a sense of poetry to it, so it has nice segments, just not joined together well. With regards to the pacing again, there are some red herrings which are there for a shock factor but are just not that surprising and again really hurts the pacing of the film, it makes the film seem longer than it is, and that’s a real shame.

Overall, it’s a very well made film and you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the production and it does pay off, just bits of the script was lacking. However, something to check out once it’s released, gives a real insight to the talent there is in Luton.

http://www.boardtodeathofficial.com

Bill’s 2015 BAFTAs

Right with the awards night just a week away, time to pick my winners. This is in order as they appear on the website. Am sticking with the big categories which is the same I’ll do with the Oscars.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl

This was a no brainier in my opinion. Not only did she write the best selling novel it was based on but also created the fantastic screenplay.

Best Leading Actress:

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Great performance, Pike wonderfully captured the calculating nature of Amy.

Best Animated Film:

The Lego Movie

Everything’s awesome, need I say more?

Best Original Music:

Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel

It’s been a pretty dry year in terms of music but I’m gonna give it to Alexandre Desplat as it takes you back to the slapstick comedy days.

Best Original Screenplay:

Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler

This was a tough one, a lot of great screenplays in this category but I have to give it to the very clever and unnerving Nightcrawler.

Best Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman

This was also a no brainier. Creating the illusion that the whole film was done in one take could only be achieved by clever editing and camera work.

Outstanding British Film:

Pride

A very strong category but Pride takes it with it’s warm and triumphant nature.

Best Director:

Richard Linklater

This was the hardest. All great films and wonderful talent at the helm but I have to give it to Richard Linklater for heading up one of the biggest cinematic achievements of recent history.

Best Editing:

Tom Cross – Whiplash

Before I gone on to the winner, why The Imitation Game is in the category is beyond me. The editing was very much average at best, nothing like the intensity of Whiplash.

Best Film:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The big one. Going by enjoyment factor alone…The Grand Budapest Hotel. Very fun and interesting film. It definitely stood out this year.

Best Supporting Actor:

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

No one else comes close to this. Just watch this and you’ll see.

Best Support Actress:

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Her last scene in the film, which completely wraps up the feeling of the whole film, was enough to surpass everyone else in this category.

Best Leading Actor:

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Calling it now, this is Jake’s year. Such a strong performance and captures the very unnerving nature of the character who is hell bent to getting what he wants.

Hope you enjoyed that guys.

Looking at: The Theory of Everything

Finally got around to seeing this. The Theory of Everything tells the personal story of the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wild and the difficulties involved with Stephen’s ever deteriorating health.

First of all, for those of you who think otherwise, there is very little in here about Hawking’s work. There are small scenes where they go over certain theories but nothing too deep. This is all about his relationship with Jane. The film starts with their initial meeting and date and very quickly, after his diagnosis, they are married. This is all within the first twenty minutes (roughly). Then quickly goes to the first child, career milestone, second child, next milestone, introduction of Johnathan (more on him later), third child, loss of voice, Elaine and divorce. The space in between these sections are quickly covered and we are focused on the intimate scenes between Stephen and Jane, how his disease affects the relationship.

The performances are fantastic, especially from Eddie Redmayne, worthy of the oscar nomination. But the story is just…flabby. There’s a lot there that can be removed or sped up. The initial build up of the relationship was so fast that we didn’t have time to get to know the characters and the chemistry is very forced. The chemistry between Jane and Johnathan (who Jane later marries) was much more believable than with Hawking. The film crawls on afterwards, feeling as if it will never end, then we reach the third act, marked with Hawking’s loss of voice and the introduction of Elaine, a carer. This is where the drama intensifies. A well put together final sequence where you really feel for all the characters.

Great performances, flabby story but fantastic ending.

Looking at: Ex Machina

Time to kick of the year with a fresh sci-fi thriller. The story of Ex Machina is about a young coder (Caleb) who wins a trip to the residence of Nathan, the CEO of Blue Books, the company that Caleb works for. What he finds there is that Nathan has created an AI (Ava) and Caleb is to be the human component to the turing test. For those of you who don’t know the turing test is a test that involves a human and a machine. The human would ask a series of questions to the machine and will determine whether or not it has consciousness. If it does it passes the test.

Decades ago the idea of a fully function AI was just science fiction, today, it is something that could become a reality tomorrow. Ex Machina explores our fears and desires for this advancement. It is told within the confines of a very stylish set and a very technical yet fluid script. The film is wonderfully performed and proves to be very thought-provoking.

There’s been a number of films in the past that looks at conscious AIs but Ex Machina explores this through sexuality. Through the course of the film, Caleb and Ava starts to develop a connection, a sense of mutual attraction. However whether or not this is genuine isn’t obvious. The three characters all have their own motives, Nathan to have his big discovery, Caleb to play the hero and Ava to seek freedom and to be one with society. In the trailer there is line asking if Ava was programmed to flirt with Caleb which poses the question were Ava’s feelings genuine or a means of escape? Which goes on to ask, does this still pass the turing test. In short, either way does. On one side she has genuine feelings towards someone which is a human response, on the other end it shows creative thinking to seeking ones goal, something a machine wouldn’t be capable of doing. Thus the whole scenario being the turing test, not just Caleb’s questions. I won’t go into spoilers but this is just scratching the surface of how deep this film goes.

It is a very clever and exciting film which starts the year off with a bang.

Looking at: Whiplash

Undeniably the most intense film of the year. Of the decade. I have been looking forward to this film ever since I saw the trailer back in November and it did not disappoint.

Whiplash is about Andrew Neiman, a wannabe-jazz drummer who wants to be the greatest. He gets picked up by Terence Fletcher, the drill sergeant like jazz instructor, to join his band where the best of the best play. However we soon find out it’s not all fun and games at the top. Fletcher’s philosophy on pushing someone beyond what’s expected of them to become the best blurs the lines between pushing and bullying. He frequently humiliates those who fail to meet his standards and go off on a tirade on those who miss out by a hair. Only perfection exists in his band and nothing less and Neiman wants to be that perfect at any cost. The two are the perfect match for each other. They will challenge each other to be the best at any cost.

The story of this is very basic which goes to show you can a great film out of anything. The performance is what really makes this film, especially from JK Simmons, playing the force of nature that is Fletcher. He perfectly encapsulates the tortured nature of a cruel and bullying tutor. Perfection at any cost. At the basis of it, the search for perfection makes both characters quite unlikeable on their own. Neiman have other people in his lives, his father and a girl he dates briefly, but omits them very easily in his pursuit for greatness.

The fast paced nature of the music marriages well with the film’s pace. It hits the ground running from the very beginning and the editing very much so displays this perfectly. With cuts matching the fast drum beats and perfectly framed intense shots of instruments and close ups of the characters.

This is the most intense and well acted films from this year’s awards season. A must watch.

Top Ten Film: 2014

As our year draws to a close, time to see what films stood out this year. For arguments sake, I am going by the UK release schedule, so yes there will be films that technically came out in 2013 and had been featured at the Oscars, but my list my rules.

10. Inside Llewyn Davis

Starting off with a bang and in comes the latest addition to the Coen Brothers filmography. A film about a down-on-his-luck folk musician where we follow his daily trials and tribulations. A rewarding film which fantastic music.

9. Chef

Now here’s a feel good film. Jon Favreau taking the helm again with a stella cast telling the delicious story of a chef who decides to venture into the food business on his own. Very touching and lovely to watch. Just don’t go to it on an empty stomach.

8. Dallas Buyers Club

Created a lot of buzz at the Oscars with winning the Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories, a story about a regular average joe trying to not only beat AIDs, but the world.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

At last a comedy that is funny. Wes Anderson’s masterpiece about a lobby boy in a prestigious hotel and the hilarious adventures that take place.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

Taking the award for comic book film of the year. Funny, adventurous and Groot. The type of sci-fi film we have been waiting a long time for. And the music, man the music.

5. Nightcrawler

The most original film we’ve had in years. Painted as a success story, this film shows the world what happens in the gritty life of a crime news journalist.

4. Begin Again

Aha, the spiritual successor to Once. For those who know me, need I say more? For those who don’t, great performances, great music, and a wonderful story.

3. Boyhood

Probably one of the biggest cinematic achievements in history. Richard Linklater started this project back in 2002 where he would film the story of a boy growing up, year by year. An ambitious project but what a pay off. Something to look out for at the Oscars.

2. Gone Girl

David Fincher can do no wrong. He took an amazing novel and made it into an even better film. Filled with as many twists and turns as a labyrinth, this will keep you guessing until the end. Calling it now, Rosamund Pike, Best Actress award.

1. Her

We all know this was gonna be here. The most innovative story of our time and one of the most relevant films of today’s time, Spike Jonze displays more heartfelt emotion and love in a film where a guy dates his phone than any other romance film ever. Truly a masterpiece and one that will stand the test of time.

Looking at: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And so we come to the end. The end of the thirteen year journey that we all started on with the Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. A wondrous and emotional farewell.

I know the book’s been out for over seventy years but for those who haven’t read it, SPOILER WARNING.

The Battle of the Five Armies is the final installment to The Hobbit trilogy which depicts the final part of the 1937 novel. The mountain is won, with word reaching the four corners of Middle-Earth, armies of Elves, Men, Dwarves, Orcs and (eventually) Eagles set sight upon Erebor to bask in it’s riches. The film is exactly what it says on the tin, one massive battle. This in it’s self is both the film’s strength and weakness. Strength as it’s a grand spectacle of a battle filled with large set pieces and fantastic stand offs, weakness as it’s not much more than that. This goes on to the answer the question on everyone’s lips, should The Hobbit have been split in three parts? I would say no. I liked that it included parts that wasn’t in the book, especially when Gandalf was off doing wizard stuff as it nicely linked into the Lord of the Rings. The bits with Legolas was ok but the romance between Kili and Tauriel was weak at best of times and worse in this film. My main gripe with the trilogy aspect comes from this film. It comes in at 144 minutes, very lean for a Middle-Earth film, with the non-book moments feeling very misplaced. The films feels like it should’ve been at the end of the second film (as much as I do love the perfectly put together final sequence of Desolation of Smaug). The part where Sauron makes an appearance was very disappointing. It was very quickly dismissed and badly put together. I think more with Saruman was needed along with the opening sequence with Smaug. If you’re gonna make the third film, at least fill it up enough. In short, I think it should have been two parts like they originally planned. Make the beginning of An Unexpected Journey shorter so you could have some Gandalf side quest from Desolation. Then with the extra room have more of a conflict with Sauron along with the Battle.

Overall it was a very satisfying film. The highlights were Thorin’s duel with Azog and Bilbo’s farwell. Billy Boyd’s song The Last Goodbye is the perfect farewell featured over the closing credits. A very fitting end to not only The Hobbit trilogy, but to the Middle-Earth saga.

Something a little extra. To save time when people will ask me in the future here are the Middle-Earth films ranked. This was bloody difficult. These are just my opinions and are ranked among themselves. They are all wonderful films and will stand throughout time as one of the greatest achievements in cinema.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Looking at: Interstellar

Gonna say this now, SPOILERS ahead. It’s a good film and you should watch it. Something I would say is that if you didn’t understand Inception, you will have a tough time with this film, but it shouldn’t put you off because it can be easy going if you let it. If you don’t want to know more than that, stop reading now.

Now, Interstellar is the latest film by Christopher Nolan, the mastermind behind the bendy films of Inception and Memento. The story is how a group of astronauts go off to find a new home for the human race. The film is a visual masterpiece and very accurate with regards to it’s science. At just under three hours running time, it’s a very easy moving epic which doesn’t feel long. It’s a roller coaster adventure that takes you from Earth to the far reaches of space.

I personally enjoyed it very much. I’m a big science-geek with regards to space travel and the fact that it was doing wormholes and black holes properly was very exciting. Just the scale of the film was epic, it felt very epic. The amount of stuff they went through in the film was astronomical. However, the film does fall down in some aspects. When it came to the emotional scenes, I felt they weren’t properly dealt with. Now I wasn’t following the development of the film as I wanted to go into it with a fresh mind but I learnt recently that the film was intended for Steven Spielberg to direct, which does show through these emotional scenes. Nolan is known for having very emotionally absent films; the complexity of the story and science behind the film is right up his alley but with the emotions and humanity side of the film is probably better suited for Spielberg. However with the two big tear-jerker moments, they did deliver.

However, what I really want to get down to is the third act. Now there are three big reveals in this film, two of which I saw coming and the third is somewhat predictable once you think about it. In the final act, McConaughey’s character, Cooper, goes into a black hole. Doing so he enters what is called the fifth dimension. I’m not gonna explain what that is as it is a very complex subject so I will leave this link for you to read up on. (Fifth Dimension) But in short I would say that if you take someone’s life, and track their point from birth to death, the fifth dimension is every possibility that could happen and you can interact with it (I think, this is rather deep stuff). So there’s Cooper with his daughter’s life around him. Earlier in the film, these “ghostly” occurrences leads Cooper to NASA where he then goes on to his mission. We find out that these occurrences are Cooper himself in the fifth dimension. Now I was watching this bit thinking “yeah that’s pretty good, pretty sad in parts…but something’s not right”. And they use the “love will conquer all” answer which was hinted earlier in the film. Now this is something that has to be handled very well. It’s very easy to get wrong and I’ve seen it fall in the past. This was the part that Spielberg would’ve excelled at, this had his name all over it. Sadly with Nolan, it wasn’t really executed perfectly. It was ok, but not what I would like.

All in all, I really enjoyed the film, I came out of it mind blown but I did sit there at points thinking “this scene is uncomfortable”, and unfortunately, it is the emotional scene and that third act. People have been asking me is it better than Inception and is it Nolan’s best film. It’s not Nolan’s best film, that title still belongs to Memento. Is it better than Inception? That’s very difficult to say as they are very different films. Inception is more enjoyable, but Interstellar is smarter. What I went in wanting to watch is a very thought-provoking film which is enjoyable, which is what I got. This is the same I got with Inception but the enjoyment outweighs the thought-provoking. If you want to enjoy a film that makes you think a bit, watch Inception. If you want to come out experiencing a very fun and thought-provoking space journey, watch Interstellar.

Enjoy the trailer.

Looking at: The Judge

Going from a bad film to a great one. I’ve been using one word all day to describe this film and that’s “perfect”. And man is it. The film tells the story of Hank Palmer, an arrogant, self-obsessed lawyer, portrayed fantastically by Robert Downey Jr. On the day of a trail, he gets a call saying that his mother had just passed away. Going back to his hometown, he is reunited with his two brothers and cold-hearted father, Judge Joseph Palmer. Later, Judge gets arrested for a hit and run charge. This leads Hank to represent Judge in the case.

The story is very detailed, filled with depth and twists. It left me feeling very moved and glad as I had very high hopes for this film. The performance was off the charts. Downey was on top form as always and Duvail is perfect as Judge. Also had a very nice appearance from the formidable Billy Bob Thornton. At the heart of this film, we have a lovely heart warming tale of a distant child reconnecting with his forgotten family. There’s been a few of these tales lately but this one tells it most honestly and is presented in a very compelling situation, a situation where both parties have to put their differences aside and work together to benefit each other.

As I said before, just perfect. Check it out.

Looking at: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Well that was terrible. The latest adaptation of our favourite four turtles is horrible. Now the script, action sequences and acting are all pretty bad, but the worse thing about this film is the character designs. Man it’s worse that the transformers design. The turtles are all really ugly with Splinter being the worse.

The film fails to capture the essence of the original characters. They’re all stereotypical archetypes of nerd, perv, angst and normal when the characters are suppose to be so much more than that. There is no depths to these characters or the situations they’re in. Shredder is not as he is in the comics and the television shows. He had a much more intimidating and important presence, here he’s basically an attack dog and that’s all his character amounts to. The plot is very thin, the history of the Foot Clan and the turtles is very rushed and delivered poorly.

These characters were treated with the same disrespect and disregard as Transformers was, which is no surprise as this was produced by Michael Bay. It’s a very sad sight to see our favourite childhood heroes be reduced to mindless drivel to feed the masses. Not impressed.

This doesn’t even deserve a trailer link.