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Thursday
Mar292018

AUSSIE CINEMAS FATTEN UP ON EASTER MOVIE TREATS

Australian exhibitors could not be more grateful for the annual Easter Holiday box-office surge. With the award season favourites closing out their runs and the American summer blockbusters just around the corner, the March/April window would be bring patchy revenue if not for the Easter break and the accompanying school holidays (the rainier, the better). From virtual realities to gay romances to prehistoric soccer, the Easter 2018 line-up offers an eclectic mix. SCREEN-SPACE reviews eight new bigscreen entries vying for your non-chocolate Easter dollars (with apologies to SHERLOCK GNOMES, but you kinda know what you’re in with the punny sequel)…

BLOCKERS
Director: Kay Cannon
Stars: Kathryn Newton, John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Gideon Adlon, Geraldine Viswanathan (pictured, above).
Plot: Julie, Kayla and Sam are three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter are three overprotective parents who flip out when they find out about their daughters' plans. They soon join forces for a wild and chaotic quest to stop the girls from sealing the deal - no matter what the cost.
Verdict: The ‘capital-C’ comedy moments deliver the pacing and skill that have become de rigeur in this post-Apatow movie world; anything goes, if the timing is right. But the narrative works best when debutant director Kay Cannon applies her understanding of strong independent women; she wrote the Pitch Perfect films and was a key creative on TV series 30 Rock and Girl Boss. Leslie Mann gets an all-too-rare shot at a leading role, and nails it; John Cena and Ike Barinholtz share scene-stealing honours. Admirably, the teen characters are as fully-fleshed out as the protagonists. Middle section sags, but Acts 1 and 3 are hilarious. RATING: 3.5/5

A WRINKLE IN TIME
Director: Ava Duvernay
Stars: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey (pictured, right), Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Levi Miller.
Plot: Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg's classmate Calvin O'Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.
Verdict: The desperation of all involved to make this adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved YA fantasy novel soar infests this monumental dud. From director Ava Duvernay’s heavy-handed direction to the suffocating special effects to the cumbersome, plodding sentimentality and bloated self-importance that imbues the grinding plot, A Wrinkle in Time throws everything at the screen with no idea as to how to make it gel. A lifeless lead performance from Storm Reid and utter lack of humour doesn’t help; garish set/costume/production design proves nauseating. RATING: 1.5/5  

THE DEATH OF STALIN
Director: Armando Iannuci
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Jeffrey Tambor.
Plot: Moscow, 1953; Soviet leader Joseph Stalin collapses unexpectedly of a brain haemorrhage. A frenetic surge of raw panic spreads like a virus amongst the senior members of the Council of Ministers, as they scramble to maintain order, weed out the competition, and, ultimately, take power. In the end, who will prevail after the death of Stalin?
Verdict: There is ‘political farce’ and then there is Armando Iannuci’s The Death of Stalin, a comedy so black as to almost absorb one’s capacity for laughter. Iannuci’s past pointed barbs designed to tear apart the hypocrisy and immorality of our leaders (TV series Veep and The Thick of It; the feature In The Loop) did the job but left us with one finger grasping humanity; not so The Death of Stalin. It’s funny, but in the same way that joke about the uncle who walks into the woods with his nephew at sunset is funny; we laugh, and we get why we laugh, but everything about the humour is painfully uncomfortable. RATING: 3.5/5

   

LOVE, SIMON
Director: Greg Berlanti
Stars: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Tony Hale, Katherine Langford.
Plot: Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it's a little more complicated. He hasn't told his family or friends that he's gay, and he doesn't know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he's fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing.
Verdict: Far too many contemporary teen comedies anoint themselves as ‘Hughes-ian’, desperate to align themselves with the smart, sweet, insightful teen movies of the genre’s golden years, the 80s. Finally, a film earns the accolade; Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon is a deeply moving, genuinely funny, gorgeously cinematic film that recalls the iconic filmmaker’s outsider classics Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful, as well as Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. That Berlanti’s film might also be at the forefront of the next great teen film era – in which teenage protagonists alter how their world understands and accepts who they are on their terms – makes it an extraordinary achievement. RATING: 4.5/5   

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE
Director: Aki Kaurasmaki
Stars: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Ilkka Koivula.
Plot: When the authorities turn down his application for asylum, Syrian refugee Khaled is forced underground, where travelling-salesman-turned-restauranteur Wikström finds him sleeping in the yard behind his establishment. He offers him a job and a roof over his head and, for a while, they form a Utopian union with the restaurant's waitress, the chef and his dog.
Verdict: The best films from Finnish director Aki Kaurasmaki find the faintest glimmer of hope amongst the darkest deadpan melancholy (Leningrad Cowboys Go to America; The Man Without a Past; Le Havre). The Other Side of Hope may be his most effortlessly constructed yet deeply affecting film to date; it won him the Best Director Silver Bear in Berlin last year. One immigrant’s seemingly insurmountable struggle to deal with his new life in modern Helsinki is real-world funny; there is not a false note in the film’s humanity, despite a reality that at times seems entirely cinematic. RATING: 4/5

EARLY MAN
Director: Nick Park.
Voices: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy Spall, Rob Brydon, Richard Ayoade
Plot: Plucky caveman Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat from Lord Nooth, who plans transform their land into a giant mine. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy - the Bronze Age. The field of battle – the newly-invented realm of the soccer pitch.
Verdict: The Aardman Animation oeuvre aren’t the films you go to for gut-busting laughs. Curse of The Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run and their masterpiece, Shaun the Sheep, were sweet, gentle, character-driven charmers; when Aardman went for broad schtick, with 2012’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits, it produced their least satisfying film. Early Man falls somewhere in between. The high concept comedy seems to circle around inspired moments of mirth; one senses there is a better movie lurking inside director Nick Park’s hit/miss grab at World Cup football fever relevance. The stereotypically ethnic bad guys feel anachronistic in 2018, too. RATING: 2.5/5 

 

PAUL APOSTLE OF CHRIST
Director: Andrew Hyatt
Stars: James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel, Oliver Martinez, John Lynch, Joanne Whalley.
Plot: Risking his life, Luke ventures to Rome to visit Paul -- the apostle who's bound in chains and held captive in Nero's darkest and bleakest prison cell. Haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds, Paul wonders if he's been forgotten as he awaits his grisly execution. Before Paul's death, Luke resolves to write another book that details the birth of what will come to be known as the church.
Verdict: The resurgent faith-based film genre grows sturdier with Andrew Hyatt’s retelling of the story of apostle Paul and his mentoring of friend and follower, Luke. Well-crafted and solidly dramatic, the film rises above recent shoddy, preachier Biblical renderings (notably the God-awful Samson, featuring Billy Zane and Rutger Hauer). Not likely to convert any heathen non-believers; the narrative feels deceptively fictitious, which may not please the devout. It is, however, an immensely watchable story, with solid performances from Jim Caviziel (returning to the flock 14 years after his iconic role in The Passion of The Christ), Oliver Martinez and the terrific James Faulkner. RATING: 3/5

READY PLAYER ONE
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendehlson and Hannah John-Kamen.
Plot: In an overpopulated 2045, people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant if eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg, hidden somewhere in the OASIS. When unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger.
Verdict: Should Steven Spielberg, arguably the most influential pop culture figure of the last 40 years and inspiration for much of what author Ernest Cline celebrated in his bestselling novel Ready Player One, be the filmmaker that oversees the blockbuster adaptation? Of course he should; who better to reflect upon the decades that made Spielberg the most successful filmmaker of all time than Spielberg himself. The result is the most playful, exciting and beautifully envisioned Spielberg-directed movie since 2002’s Catch Me If You Can. The great director has some issues wrapping up all the strands of the story; the last half-hour is a bit clunky and he allows some awkward sentimentality to seep in. The journey, however, is filled with some truly wondrous sequences that confirm the director can still craft thrilling popcorn entertainment better than anyone on the planet. RATING: 4/5 

Thursday
Mar152018

THE ACTRESSES WHO SPUN OSCAR CACHE INTO STUDIO PAYDAYS

Hollywood boardrooms court established brands to soften the ‘no one knows anything’ nature of studio hit-making. And next to money-spinners like Iron Man, Captain America and now, Black Panther, the brand Hollywood loves most is the little golden guy, Oscar. So Oscar Cred-plus-Pop Culture Icon would seem like a sure box office thing, right? With Supporting Actress darling Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, 2015) about to debut as gamer-babe Lara Croft and 2015 Best Actress Brie Larson’s MCU shot Captain Marvel in production, we look at four Academy Award winners, each of them a Hollywood leading lady, who banked blockbuster bucks in the wake of Oscar glory. The question is, “Was it worth it…?

ANJELINA JOLIE
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Supporting Actress, GIRL INTERRUPTED (Dir: James Mangold; 1999)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Lara Croft in Paramount Pictures’ LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER (Dir: Simon West; 2001)
THE VERDICT: When Paramount poured US$115million into a female-led action film in a marketplace with a patchy track record for vidgame adaptations, the studio was banking that the red-hot Oscar winner’s penchant for publicity and four-quadrant appeal would pay dividends. A prime June 15 summer slot opened the door to a US$131million gross (a further US$144million internationally), spinning Jolie’s Supporting Actress cache into box office traction. The hastily cobbled-together 2003 sequel, overseen by Speed director Jan de Bont, killed off Croft’s bigscreen life until 2018’s reboot. (Pictured, right; Anjelina Jolie, with Daniel Craig, in 2001's Lara Croft Tomb Raider)
WORTH IT?: Yes

HALLE BERRY
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Actress, MONSTER’S BALL (Dir: Marc Forster; 2001)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Patience Phillips/Catwoman in CATWOMAN (Dir: Pitof; 2004)
THE VERDICT: Warner Bros had been trying to greenlight a Catwoman feature since Michelle Pfeiffer set screens alight as the feline femme in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, twenty years prior (both Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman came close to donning the leather garb). When Halle Berry lifted the Best Actress trophy for Monster’s Ball, stardom beckoned in the form of DC Comic’s most complex female character; Warners sniffed a Batman-sized smash. Instead, the US$100million pic sulked to a US$60million worldwide gross, sunk by a wave of scathing reviews. In his New York Times review, A.O. Scott summed up the disaster that was Catwoman when he stated, “It made me think back fondly on ‘Garfield’”; the late Roger Ebert calls it one of the movies he hates the most. Berry took the response in her professional stride, even accepting in person the Worst Actress trophy at the infamous Golden Raspberry ceremony.
WORTH IT?: God, no.

CHARLIZE THERON
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Actress, MONSTER (Dir: Patty Jenkins; 2003)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Aeon Flux in Paramount Pictures’ ÆON FLUX (Dir: Karyn Kusama; 2005)
THE VERDICT: Paramount sensed a new female-led action tentpole in Æon Flux, the long-in-development adaptation of MTV’s iconic 90s anime heroine; in Charlize Theron, the South African model-turned-Oscar winner due her studio blockbuster breakthrough, they had their dystopian future action lead. But the arthouse audience and critical community who warmed to her as serial killer Aileen Wournos in Patty Jenkin’s Monster (domestic gross, US$34million) showed little interest in her sci-fi action franchise gamble; nor did mainstream audiences, who largely turned their backs on the US$62million flop. An untested blockbuster director (Girlfight’s Karyn Kusama) and a studio regime change that took creative control of the film and dumped it into the early December multiplexes with little fanfare meant that Theron’s Oscar’s glow had long since faded. (Pictured, above; Theron as Aeon Flux)
WORTH IT?: It’s slowly developing the cult following (that it perhaps unconsciously courted), but ask the Paramount bean counters and…no, not worth it.

ANNE HATHAWAY
HER OSCAR WIN: Best Supporting Actress, LES MISERABLES (Dir: Tom Hooper; 2012)
HER FRANCHISE SHOT: As Selina Kyle/Catwoman in the stalled CATWOMAN reboot.
THE VERDICT: This one’s a mystery for the ages. When her take on Catwoman brightened up Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), the industry buzzed about the potential for a spinoff starring the Les Miserables trophy winner. She took the supporting role of ‘Fantine’ for its prestige value and was weighing up whether Catwoman would be her first post-Oscar leading part (that took another three years, in 2015’s The Intern). In 2012, Nolan stirred the casting pot when asked if Hathaway could carry her own Selina Kyle story. “I certainly think she deserves it,” he told The Gaurdian, “Anne is incredibly precise and articulate about the psychology of the character." As recently as 2016, Hathaway was keeping the dream alive; she told Variety, “I think the Chris Nolan chapter of the Batman story has been wrapped up and I’m part of that, but I love the DC Universe and it would be fun to take a trip back.”
WORTH IT?: We’ll see…

Friday
Feb022018

PROGRESSIVE IFFR FILM ROSTER WELCOMES #FEMALEFILMMAKERFRIDAY

The five randomly selected filmmakers below represent a very small cross section of the women directors with works on show in Rotterdam. On any other day we may have profiled Lisa Bruhlmann (Blue My Mind) or Lucie Plumet (Damien Décembre); Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam (Les deux visages d'une femme Bamiléké) or Veronique Sapin (Secret, Lies and Death); Monira Al Qadari (The Craft) or Noemi Sjoberg (Shadows), themselves only a tiny fraction of those whose works are screening at the IFFR. In honour of #femalefilmmakerfriday, we offer these brief bios of five women directors contributing remarkable works to international cinema…

ANNEMARIE JACIR, Dir: Wajib
Having been recognised by the global film publication Filmmaker Magazine as one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Cinema, Palestinian-born Annemarie Jacir (pictured, above) is at the forefront of film culture, education and activism in her homeland. Her 2003 Oscar-nominated short Like Twenty Impossibles was the first Arabic short film ever granted official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. Her feature Salt of this Sea (2008) became the first film directed by a Palestinian woman and was the Palestinian entry for the Foreign Language Oscar, as was her follow-up, When I Saw You, in 2012. She founded Dreams of a Nation, an initiative to promote Palestinian cinema; was amongst the founders of the Palestinian Filmmakers Collective; and, in 2003, launched the nation’s largest travelling film festival. Her IFFR selection, Wajib (2017) is her third feature film.

DEBORAH HAYWOOD, Dir: Pin Cushion
Citing Jane Campion’s Sweetie as a major influence, Brit filmmaker Haywood announced her own presence when her short film debut, Lady Margaret led to her selection as one of Screen International's 2007 Stars of Tomorrow. She quickly earned acclaim for her films Tender (2009); Sis (2011), which received Best Short at the Soho Rushes Film Festival and Best International Fiction Film at WOW Film Festival; Biatch! (2011); and, Tender Tender (2013). Pin Cushion is her feature film debut, the eccentric mother/daughter story chosen to open Critics Week at the Venice Film Festival, ahead of selection for Glasgow and Rotterdam. (Pictured, above; Haywood on the set of Pin Cushion)

CYNTHIA CHOUCAIR, Dir: Counting Tiles
Born in Lebanon, Cynthia Choucair studied film at the prestigious Institut d'études scéniques audiovisuales et cinématographiques, Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. She broadened her skills as an editor, director and producer on many Lebanese short films and documentaries, most notably Anonymes (1998), Pictures of Life (2000) and Al kursi (2002), her calling-card directorial effort that was selected by festivals worldwide. In 2007, she founded her own production house, Road 2 Films, where she produces documentaries, fiction films and cultural television programs for local Arab and European networks. Her roster of filmmakers includes such young female directors as Sandra Abrass, Lara Zakhour, Farah Kassem, Joelle Abou Chabke, Sabine Choucair and Pascale Abu Jamra. Counting Tiles exhibits all her skills as a documentarian, capturing moments of glee amongst the hardship of refugee life on Lesbos.

 

CHLOE ZHAO, Dir: The Rider
Of Chinese heritage, Zhao studied political science at Mount Holyoke College in the United States before completing the Graduate Film Program at New York University. Remaining based in the US, she wrote and directed a series of well-received shorts, including Post (2008), The Atlas Mountains (2009) and Daughters (2010). Her first feature film, the Native American family drama Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) had its world premiere at Sundance in the US Official Competition category, ahead of its international premiere at Cannes; the film earned festival kudos at Deauville, Jerusalem and Mumbai, as well as the Audience Award at the American Film Institute Festival. Zhao's second feature The Rider (2017), a feminist western, comes to Rotterdam after its Cannes premiere, where the director won the CICAE Art Cinema Award. 

LUISA SEQUERIA, Dir: Who is Barbara Virginia?
Portugese-born Luísa Sequeria studied journalism before entering the the world of filmmaking via documentary projects. Honing her craft in Mozambique at national broadcaster TVM before returning to her homeland, where she spent a decade at Rádio e Televisão de Portugal. Since 2010 she is the artistic director of Shortcutz Porto, one of the region’s leading short film festivals, as well as overseeing the Super 9 Mobile Film Fest, a festival for films made with the mobile phone. Together with the artist Sama she created the experimental animated series Motel Sama (2014) for Canal Brazil. In her debut documentary feature, Who Is Bárbara Virgínia?, Sequeria examines the all-but-forgotten life and career of the first Portugese woman to direct a feature film.

Wednesday
Jan242018

OSCAR SPLASHES OUT: THE SHAPE OF WATER, DUNKIRK LEAD 2018 NOMINATIONS

Nine films will vie for the Best Picture Oscar at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony, to be held March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Guillermo Del Toro’s love letter to the Hollywood horror films of yore, The Shape of Water firmed as favourite to take home the top honour on the back of its 13 nominations.

Other nominees in the race for Best Picture are Dunkirk (8 nominations), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (7), Darkest Hour (6), Phantom Thread (6), Lady Bird (5), Get Out (4), Call Me By Your Name (4) and The Post (2). Award season contenders that failed to make the Best Picture shortlist include The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist and Mudbound.

A late season surge by Paul Thomas Anderson’s dressmaker drama Phantom Thread (pictured, right), which had trouble finding traction early in the awards race, appears to have scuppered the chances of several films who were once considered ‘sure things’. Both director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks were overlooked for The Post (it’s only other nomination was for perennial Best Actress nominee Meryl Streep, her 21st); actor/director James Franco and his tribute to ‘never-say-die’ filmmaking, The Disaster Artist were shunted, earning just a single nod for Adapted Screenplay.

The Hollywood men’s club that was the Best Cinematography category is no more, with Mudbound DOP Rachel Morrison becoming the first woman to be nominated in the category; it was one of four nominations for director Dee Rees’ slave story and represents the first non-documentary showing for streaming giant Netflix.

Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director for her coming-of-age drama Lady Bird, while first-time nominees in the major categories include Margot Robbie (Best Actress) and Allison Janney (Best Supporting Actress) for I, Tonya; Christopher Nolan for his direction on Dunkirk; Jordan Peele (Best Director) and Daniel Kaluuya (Best Actor) for Get Out; and legendary French New Wave figure Agnes Varda, who earns here first nomination at the age of 89 for her documentary Faces Places (pictured, below; Varda with Faces Places co-director, JR). While nothing came the way of Hugh Jackman for either Logan or The Greatest Showman, Margot Robbie's Best Actress mention and the nomination of director Derin Seale and star and co-writer Josh Lawson for their short The Eleven O'Clock meant Australian talent gets a look-in once again on the world of film's biggest night.   

Spielberg, Hanks and Franco were not the only high-profile talent to go home empty-handed. The blockbuster Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins, failed to earn a single nomination; also on the no-show list, Battle of The Sexes, for which last year's Academy darling Emma Stone seemed destined for re-recognition; despite seven nominations in total, Three Billboards… director Martin McDonagh missed a Best Director slot (though did earn an Original Screenplay nod); Bret Morgan’s Jane, a profile of the great scientist Jane Goodall, seemed a certainty for the Best Documentary category; scene stealers Tiffany Haddisch (Girls Trip) and Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) in the Supporting Actress race; and, Fatih Akin’s In The Fade, which earned a Golden Globe for Foreign Language film and a Cannes trophy for leading lady, Diane Kruger.

The full list of nominees for the 90th Academy Awards are:

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET,Call Me by Your Name; DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, Phantom Thread; DANIEL KALUUYA, Get Out; GARY OLDMAN, Darkest Hour; DENZEL WASHINGTON, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: WILLEM DAFOE, The Florida Project; WOODY HARRELSON, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri; RICHARD JENKINS, The Shape of Water; CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, All the Money in the World; SAM ROCKWELL, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE: SALLY HAWKINS, The Shape of Water; FRANCES MCDORMAND, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri; MARGOT ROBBIE, I, Tonya; SAOIRSE RONAN, Lady Bird; MERYL STREEP, The Post

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: MARY J. BLIGE, Mudbound; ALLISON JANNEY, I, Tonya; LESLEY MANVILLE, Phantom Thread; LAURIE METCALF, Lady Bird; OCTAVIA SPENCER, The Shape of Water

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: THE BOSS BABY; THE BREADWINNER; COCO; FERDINAND; LOVING VINCENT

CINEMATOGRAPHY: BLADE RUNNER 2049, Roger A. Deakins; DARKEST HOUR,Bruno Delbonnel; DUNKIRK, Hoyte van Hoytema; MUDBOUND, Rachel Morrison; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Dan Laustsen

COSTUME DESIGN: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Jacqueline Durran; DARKEST HOUR, Jacqueline Durran; PHANTOM THREAD, Mark Bridges; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Luis Sequeira; VICTORIA & ABDUL, Consolata Boyle

DIRECTING: DUNKIRK, Christopher Nolan; GET OUT, Jordan Peele; LADY BIRD, Greta Gerwig; PHANTOM THREAD, Paul Thomas Anderson; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Guillermo del Toro

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL; FACES PLACES; ICARUS; LAST MEN IN ALEPPO; STRONG ISLAND

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT): EDITH+EDDIE; HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405; HEROIN(E); KNIFE SKILLS; TRAFFIC STOP

FILM EDITING: BABY DRIVER, Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos; DUNKIRK, Lee Smith; I, TONYA, Tatiana S. Riegel; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Sidney Wolinsky; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Jon Gregory

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A FANTASTIC WOMAN, Chile; THE INSULT, Lebanon; LOVELESS, Russia; ON BODY AND SOUL, Hungary; THE SQUARE, Sweden

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: DARKEST HOUR, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick; VICTORIA & ABDUL, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard; WONDER, Arjen Tuiten

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE): DUNKIRK, Hans Zimmer; PHANTOM THREAD, Jonny Greenwood; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Alexandre Desplat; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, John Williams; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Carter Burwell

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): MIGHTY RIVER from Mudbound;; MYSTERY OF LOVE from Call Me by Your Name; REMEMBER ME from Coco; STAND UP FOR SOMETHING from Marshall; THIS IS ME from The Greatest Showman

BEST PICTURE: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers; DARKEST HOUR, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski, Producers; DUNKIRK, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers; GET OUT, Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers; LADY BIRD, Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O'Neill, Producers; PHANTOM THREAD, JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi, Producers; THE POST, Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers

PRODUCTION DESIGN: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST; BLADE RUNNER 2049; DARKEST HOUR; DUNKIRK; THE SHAPE OF WATER

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED): DEAR BASKETBALL; GARDEN PARTY; LOU; NEGATIVE SPACE; REVOLTING RHYMES

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION): DEKALB ELEMENTARY; THE ELEVEN O'CLOCK; MY NEPHEW EMMETT; THE SILENT CHILD; WATU WOTE/ALL OF US

SOUND EDITING: BABY DRIVER, Julian Slater; BLADE RUNNER 2049, Mark Mangini and Theo Green; DUNKIRK, Richard King and Alex Gibson; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

SOUND MIXING: BABY DRIVER, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis; BLADE RUNNER 2049, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth; DUNKIRK, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

VISUAL EFFECTS: BLADE RUNNER 2049; GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2; KONG: SKULL ISLAND; STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI; WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY): CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, Screenplay by James Ivory; THE DISASTER ARTIST, Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber; LOGAN, Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green, Story by James Mangold; MOLLY'S GAME, Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin; MUDBOUND, Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY): THE BIG SICK, Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani; GET OUT, Written by Jordan Peele; LADY BIRD, Written by Greta Gerwig; THE SHAPE OF WATER, Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor, Story by Guillermo del Toro; THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, Written by Martin McDonagh

Saturday
Dec302017

THE CLASS OF 2018: NEXT YEAR AT THE MOVIES

When Hollywood bean counters spin their 2017 analysis, the year will not end with the studio suits rolling on beds of cash. Relatively speaking, of course; as December winds down, US box office takings will be around US$12billion, down a ‘whopping’ 2.5% on the record setting 2016. So the question that the great movie minds of Los Angeles need to address is, “How do we make up the deficit, and then some?”

A glimpse at the 2018 studio slates suggests the answer is superheroes, sequels, remakes and cartoons. Big surprise. There is some visionary stuff in the mix, but the roster largely recalls the year gone by, when franchise entrants like Pirates of The Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales looked tired; star vehicles like The Mummy underperformed and reheated properties like Blade Runner failed to ignite. But let’s see what is on offer and keep our fingers-crossed…: 

8 ‘New’ Marvel Films: There is no escaping the Marvel movie tsunami; with one arriving on average every seven weeks, the comic book adventures of our favourite ageing heroes will be everywhere, all the time. Big Daddy is, of course, AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (pictured, right), welcoming back sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: Civil War, 2016). Also under the Disney/Marvel banner are Ryan Coogler’s BLACK PANTHER and Peyton Reed’s ANT MAN AND THE WASP. The last of the X-Men films produced by a pre-Disney consumed 20th Century Fox will arrive in the form of Josh Boone’s THE NEW MUTANTS and Simon Kinberg’s X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX. The most anticipated will be Fox’s DEADPOOL 2, with Atomic Blonde’s David Leitch at the helm after the unpleasant shunting of #1 director, Tim Miller. Sony Pictures have two left-field unknowns in the Marvel mix – Ruben Fleischer’s R-rated VENOM, starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams and the animated adventure SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, from the filmmaking team of Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, and Rodney Rothman.

The Next ‘A Star Wars Story' Film: Apparently, the set of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY was a little…angsty. The directors hired for the job, Phil Lord and Chris Miller got the boot in mid-June, with only days left of principal photography; enter Hollywood journeyman Ron Howard to see it through (after recasting and four months of reshoots). Miller and Lord played nice in their press statements (“We're really proud of the work we did on the movie and we wish everybody the best,”) but the scoop is that the pair clashed badly with franchise overlord Kathleen Kennedy and veteran series scribe Lawrence Kasdan. Rumblings suggest some extra polish is still needed ahead of its worldwide premiere on May 23/24/25 (check local listings).   

Three Anticipated Animated Follow-ups: After an erratic start in the competitive but lucrative animation arena, Sony Pictures Animation are milking their sole cash-cow franchise again next year, with director Genndy Tartakovsky and star Adam Sandler returning for HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION (pictured, right). Director Rich Moore and writer Phil Johnston, both hot off the Oscar-winning Zootopia, deliver fresh adventures for John C Reilly’s oafish charmer in RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2. Towering above all animated entrants will be Brad Bird’s INCREDIBLES 2, a sequel 14 years in the making that reportedly picks up at the very moment the 2004 blockbuster concluded – the appearance of The Underminer (voiced by Pixar regular, John Ratzenberger).

Horror Lives Again!: After the record-breaking box office delivered by It, the sequel-generating momentum of The Conjuring films and the headline-grabbing breakout of Get Out, the horror genre is hot again. Serious studio dollars are behind such 2018 films as Adam Robitel's INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY; Brian Taylor's MOM AND DAD, with Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair; Julius Onah's GOD PARTICLE, a continuation of the Cloverfield mythology; Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren in WINCHESTER, from Australian brothers Michael and Peter Spierig; and, Steven Soderbergh's iPhone-shot UNSANE, with Claire Foy and Juno Temple. John Krasinski directs himself and wife Emily Blunt in A QUIET PLACE (pictured, right); Sylvain White's explores the new urban myth in his chiller SLENDER MAN; and, Cispian Mill's British horror-comedy SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ, reunites funny guys Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Michael Myers returns in David Gordon Green's reworking of HALLOWEEN, with original leading lady Jamie Lee Curtis. And very high on every horror fans watchlist is Luca Guadagnino's remake of Dario Argento's 1977 classic SUSPIRIA, to star Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth, and Tilda Swinton.

Remakes/Relaunches/Rehashes: Showbusiness 101 teaches that it is easier and cheaper to repackage and relaunch a known brand than to start from scratch. In 2018, new spins on old favourites will come in the form of THE PREDATOR, directed by writer and co-star of John McTiernan’s 1987 original, Shane Black; Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander turning her Oscar cache into paycheque heft with Roar Uthaug’s TOMB RAIDER; Kingsman star Taryn Edgerton stepping into the tights as the star of a ‘gritty new take’ on ROBIN HOOD, from director Otto Bathurst; Lady Gaga filling the shoes worn by Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand before her in director and co-star Bradley Cooper’s A STAR IS BORN (pictured right); the return of Lisbeth Sander, this time in the shape of Claire Foy, for Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez’s franchise relaunch THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB; and, Gary Ross’ all-female heist caper OCEAN'S EIGHT, with Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Rhiannon toplining.

Sequelitis: Despite the underperformance of such ‘sure things’ as Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, XXX The Return of Xander Cage and Trainspotting 2, the studios will still cite 2017 hits like Logan, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Fate of The Furious as reason enough for a slew of new sequels. In 2018, filmic déjà vu comes in the form of Christopher McQuarrie’s M:I 6 - MISSION IMPOSSIBLE; David Yate’s FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD; Wes Ball’s MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE; Steven S. DeKnight’s PACIFIC RIM UPRISING, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega; the conclusion to E.L. James’ saucy trilogy, FIFTY SHADES FREED, from director James Foley; JURASSIC PARK FALLEN KINGDOM (pictured, right), with A Monster Calls’ JA Bayona stepping in for shunned helmer (but credited screenwriter) Colin Trevorrow; showman Rob Marshall’s sequel to the family favourite, MARY POPPINS RETURNS, starring Emily Blunt; and, because the universe was screaming out for another instalment of ‘Karaoke; The Movie’, director Ol Parker’s MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN.

A Breath of Fresh Air: If you are desperate for something that threatens a hint of original thought or freshness of vision, you have these to look forward to. Steven Spielberg's virtual-reality adventure READY PLAYER ONE; Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in James Wan’s AQUAMAN, the only DC Comics property set for a 2018 release; Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey in Ava DuVernay’s YA publishing phenom adaptation, A WRINKLE IN TIME; Jon Turteltaub’s giant shark thriller MEG, with Jason Statham; Jennifer Lawrence reteaming with her Hunger Games’ director Francis Lawrence for RED SPARROW (pictured, right); Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s vidgame-inspired monster movie RAMPAGE, from Brad Peyton; the Robert Rodriguez directed sci-fier ALITA BATTLE ANGEL, from a James Cameron script; Anne Hathaway, replacing an on-the-slide Amy Schumer, in Alethea Jones’ BARBIE; Wes Anderson’s latest stop-motion fable, ISLE OF DOGS; Rachel McAdams and Jason Bateman playing for big, broad laughs in GAME NIGHT; the Neil Armstrong biopic FIRST MAN, reteaming Ryan Gosling with his La La Land director Damian Chazelle; and, MORTAL ENGINES, director Christian Rivers effects extravaganza, based on an adapted screenplay by the Lord of The Rings team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillippa Boyens.