PASSENGERS

There Is A Reason They Woke Up

Director
Morten Tyldum

Starring
Chris Pratt
Jennifer Lawrence
Michael Sheen
Laurence Fishburne



In the future Earth is overpopulated, over-polluted and overpriced. As such, the Homestead corporation colonises distant worlds and allows people to travel across the universe in vast starships for a new beginning. The Avalon is one such starship holding 5000 passengers and 200+ crew, journeying for 120 years to the planet Homestead II. While the human contingent sleeps, an on-board artificial intelligence is designed to navigate safely through the perils of space. Missing a particularly large asteroid, a small fragment rips through the hull causing several errors. One of which is the early activation of a hibernation pod. Subsequently Jim Preston [Pratt], an engineer, wakes 90 years too early and cannot get back to sleep owing to the way the pods are designed. It slowly dawns on him that he will die on the ship long before they ever reach their destination and runs through a range of emotions, exploring the various entertainment and distractions the ship provides. Eventually, clearly depressed, Jim contemplates suicide but changes his mind when he becomes fixated on a hibernating female passenger. Learning everything about her, he goes back-and-forth but eventually decides to wake her up so that he has company. Going through with his deed, Jim revives Aurora Lane [Lawrence] and shows her around the ship she will now spend the rest of her life aboard.

Passengers feels like the very definition of a studio-driven film made by committee. The brief pitch synopsis reveals so much potential for an engaging and thought-provoking thriller. Instead, every interesting nuance is trumped by genre prioritisation, pushed by executives. If the Sony email hack revealed/confirmed anything, it’s that when big money is involved, every executive level interferes with the creative process, trying to second guess what audiences “really want.” It’s a spectacularly damaging process that cripples films and acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy: say you’re trying to get an animated film made for a mature audience but the studio doesn’t believe anyone will watch it, they might half-heartedly fund it but meddle every step of the way until it’s basically an unwatchable mess and forever say, “See? Doesn’t work.” Genre prioritisation, however, is a fork in the road; it’s where a film can be split in its categorisation but the plot dictates one core element will override another. Passengers is billed as a science fiction romance and every time a key development takes place, romance is given leeway. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing, if the script was decently written.

**The end of this paragraph gets a bit spoilery**
In addition to a weak script, we have a fair amount of lacklustre acting. It’s not that Lawrence and Pratt don’t have chemistry or that what’s being asked of them is out of their range, it’s more that the story doesn’t know what to do with them outside of moving on to the next blunt set piece. The opening forty minutes is pretty strong and could have easily developed into something akin to 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Shining, Cast Away or Room but again, the film always falls back on lazily utilised cliché. I maintain this isn’t a spoiler but it’s definitely a development that was kept out of most of the advertising so feel free to skip ahead if needs be.. but we need to talk about this; besides, I covered this in the plot overview. So Jim is basically irredeemable. This isn’t a case of two perfectly pretty people waking up and surviving together, it’s the story of a man who selfishly and voluntarily spreads his suffering to another human being. Jim purposefully cyber-stalks Aurora, going through her records and (one would assume) confidential interviews about why she wants to emigrate to Homestead II. Once he’s fallen in love with this impossibly perfect perception of a woman he honestly knows nothing about, he makes the decision to revive her, cursing her to share his fate. This action was remarkably bold and waiting to see how the film would deal with this fact was a promise of ingenious writing that never came. What could have easily been an amazingly mature drama about male entitlement, the desperation of isolation and guilt fizzles into little more than a simplistic love tale with no real ramifications. So much so that the moral of the story seems to be kidnap a woman and she’ll fall for you eventually because her only other choice is death. The narrative even goes so far as to wake up a third character (in the form of Laurence Fishburne as one of the ship’s deck chiefs), mostly to further the plot and give a bit of exposition before exiting just as quickly as he entered but also to essentially tell Aurora to get over it. And to make matters so much worse, she bloody does! In space, you will always need a rugged frontiersman to literally fix things with hammers and wrenches and when he makes an effort to sacrifice himself to save you, it’s time to put aside those differences, buckle down and get back to the regular fucking we saw in the first act. Apparently.

I will admit, however, that this film isn’t a complete write-off. The production design is extremely decent, the steel-coated ship is structured somewhere between luxury cruise liner and Spartan military base without ever feeling like we’ve stepped onto an entirely different craft. Furthermore, the CGI and cinematography are pleasantly done, rarely failing to deliver on photo realistic and immersive visuals. I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed with Thomas Newman’s score, nor did I find it jarring, so that’s something.

Passengers is far from terrible, it’s just lazy, obvious and disturbingly stupid. What’s more, it assumes the audience is just as lazy and stupid, spelling out the obvious over-and-over before disregarding every precarious path to present the blandest denouement. Considering everyone involved, not to mention the whopping budget, this was a complete waste of time and talent that will fade into almost immediate obscurity.


Release Date:
23rd December 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilers for this and another film within**
To me, this whole scene is a shining example of the sheer laziness and stupidity on display. The ship’s core is going critical.. or nova.. or whatever.. and the only way to save the ship and all its crew is to vent the fumes. But in order to do so, someone needs to go outside, open it manually and stay there while the molten hot jet erupts past them. Having woken Aurora up, effectively killing her, Jim realises he has to sacrifice himself to keep her alive. Aurora, moved by his devotion and heroism (I guess), decides she can’t live without him and laments his choice. While he is ultimately successful, Jim is shot out into space and with his tether severed starts to drift away and die in the cold recesses of space. Not willing to let him go, Aurora dons a suit and flings herself out of the airlock to catch him. Miraculously and against all scientific logic she brings him back in then gets him and herself out of their space suits and drags his arse all the way the medical pod to try and revive him. The computer, understandably says, “this dude is dead.. like.. there’s no way he’s coming back.” Remembering she has Chief Mancuso’s authorisation band, she orders the machine to do EVERY SINGLE MEDICAL PROCEDURE loosely connected to revivifying a corpse. The computer says this is not only unwise but basically stupid so she screams something and it does it anyway. AND THE FUCKING THING WORKS! Love and all the medicine are the two factors. God, if only doctors these days knew that, so many needless deaths could be avoided. I will admit, this also sort of happens to Chris Pratt in Guardians Of The Galaxy but, in that film’s defence, Quill isn’t entirely human. And it could have been even a little bit redeemable if Pratt had died and after another year or two of isolation, Lawrence does the same unforgivable thing Pratt does. But she doesn’t and they live happily ever after. One wonders if that medipod thing can ascertain psychological disorders too, if only to highlight the extreme case of Stockholm Syndrome. And that’s before we get on to the question of if either of them is infertile, given the sheer wealth of 12a/PG-13 rutting and no babies.

Notable Characters:
Outside of Pratt and Lawrence’s performances, the only other individual who spends a reasonable amount of time on-screen is the animatronic, bartender/sage, Arthur played by Michael Sheen. The necessity for such a character is obvious and the performance is sufficiently amusing, charming and forgivably silly that he borders on endearing. On the other hand, this does not mean he’s such a necessary component that when the ship is tearing itself apart and everything is malfunctioning, Jim and Aurora should take the time to stop their robotic friend from pounding his face on the bar. It’s the equivalent of a car careening out of control because the driver is asleep at the wheel but taking the time to make sure the radio is tuned in to something appropriate – why would you bother?

Highlighted Quote:
“If you live an ordinary life you’ll only have ordinary stories”

In A Few Words:
“An unfortunate, wasted opportunity that doesn’t say or do anything of note, positively or negatively”

Total Score:

2/5

13TH ANNUAL RRH AWARDS (2016)

Best Motion Picture Of The Year
Spotlight
Room
The Jungle Book
The Witch
Arrival
Hell Or High Water
10 Cloverfield Lane
Deadpool
Creed
Green Room

Worst Motion Picture Of The Year
Independence Day: Resurgence
50 Shades Of Black
Zoolander 2
Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice
Suicide Squad

Most Under-rated Motion Picture of 2016
Kubo & The Two Strings

Most Over-rated Motion Picture of 2016
The Hateful Eight

Best Animated Feature
Your Name
Kubo & The Two Strings
Zootropolis
Moana
Finding Dory

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio [The Revenant]
Ryan Reynolds [Deadpool]
Michael B Jordan [Creed]
John Goodman [10 Cloverfield Lane]
Michael Keaton [Spotlight]

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Brie Larson [Room]
Qi Shu [The Assassin]
Amy Adams [Arrival]
Mary Elizabeth Winstead [10 Cloverfield Lane]
Emily Blunt [The Girl On The Train]

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Mark Ruffalo [Spotlight]
Jacob Tremblay [Room]
Dan Fogler [Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them]
Idris Elba [The Jungle Book]
Alan Tudyk [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story]

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Sofia Boutella [Star Trey Beyond]
Kate McKinnon [Ghostbusters]
Tilda Swinton [Doctor Strange]
Rachel McAdams [Spotlight]
Margot Robbie [Suicide Squad]

Best Achievement in Directing
Denis Villeneuve [Arrival]
Robert Eggers [The Witch]
Lenny Abrahamson [Room]
David Mackenzie [Hell Or High Water]
Jeff Nichols [Midnight Special]

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
I, Daniel Blake
Hell Or High Water
Arrival
10 Cloverfield Lane
Green Room

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Spotlight
Room
Creed
Deadpool
Star Trek Beyond

Best Achievement for Original Musical Score
Ryuichi Sakamoto / Carsten Nicolai [The Revenant]
Ennio Morricone [The Hateful Eight]
Howard Shore [Spotlight]
David Wingo [Midnight Special]
Johann Johannsson [Arrival]

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Emmanuel Lubezki [The Revenant]
Jarin Blaschke [The Witch]
Ping Bin lee [The Assassin]
Giles Nuttgens [Hell Or High Water]
Greig Fraser [Rogue One: A Star Wars Story]

Best Achievement in Editing
Creed
Green Room
Deadpool
10 Cloverfield Lane
Doctor Strange

Best Achievement in Production Design
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Tale Of Tales
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
The Witch
Doctor Strange

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Tale Of Tales
The Assassin
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Captain America: Civil War

Best Achievement in Hair & Makeup
Star Trek Beyond
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Tale Of Tales
Doctor Strange

Best Achievement in Sound
The Witch
Arrival
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The Jungle Book
Star Trek Beyond

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
The Jungle Book
Doctor Strange
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Star Trek Beyond
Captain America: Civil War

Cinema City Film Quiz #181

[18 December 2016]


Winning Team:
The Beautiful French Romance
Genre – Romantic niceness

Runners Up:
Brogue One
Genre – A man’s search for comfortable shoes
Derriere Exports: A Christmas Tail
Genre – C’est un histoire des Francais culs
Maintenant J’Avoir Une Pistole Gun Oui-Oui-Oui
Genre – Surreal Belgian comedy


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Polar Express is the name of a train in which film?
THE POLAR EXPRESS
2. The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is an instalment in which franchise?
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA
3. Who played the lead role in It’s A Wonderful Life?
JAMES STEWART
4. Ron Howard directed Jim Carrey in which Christmas film?
THE GRINCH
5. The Mandarin is the villain in which Marvel film?
IRON MAN THREE
6. Reece Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn starred in which Christmas film?
FOUR CHRISTMASES
7. What two colours make up Buddy’s outfit in Elf? (one point per correct answer)
GREEN / YELLOW
8. Who plays Father Christmas in Fred Claus?
PAUL GIAMATTI
9. What is the name of Jack Skellington’s dog, in The Nightmare Before Christmas?
ZERO
10. The Muppet Christmas Carol was released in which year?
1992


ROUND II: Filming [French Films Special]
1. What is Amelie’s surname in the film of the same name? Renoir? Poulain? Lafitte?
POULAIN
2. La Haine was released in which year? 1992? 1995? 1998?
1995
3. Who played the lead role in My Afternoons With Marguerite? Omar Sy? Jean Dujardin? Gerard Depardieu?
GERARD DEPARDIEU
4. Who directed The 400 Blows? Francois Truffaut? Jean-Luc Godard? Bertrand Blier?
FRANCOIS TRUFFAUT
5. Which character has blue hair in Blue Is The Warmest Colour? Emma? Lise? Adele?
EMMA
6. What was the title of the 1993 remake of Nikita starring Bridget Fonda? Deadly Impact? Female Assassin? Point Of No Return?
POINT OF NO RETURN
7. Why do the police refuse to assist the Laurent family with the surveillance tapes that turn up in Cache? There are too many tapes being sent out for them all to be processed? They do not contain a clear threat? Georges Laurent’s wrote an editorial about police corruption?
THEY DO NOT CONTAIN A CLEAR THREAT
8. 1928’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc was radical for its unconventional camera angles, close-ups and lighting. What else did director Carl Theodor Dreyer insist on? The actors were not allowed to wear make-up? The concrete set be built on a wheel to rotate as the sun moved across the sky? The French actors playing the judges were told to speak in English, despite being a silent film?
THE ACTORS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR MAKE-UP
9. La Voyage Dans La Lune was filmed in 1902 but a surviving hand-coloured version of the film wasn’t discovered until which year? 1955? 1993? 2010?
1993
10. For one scene from L’année dernière à Marienbad, shadows were painted on the ground to give a surreal impression of lighting. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which film featured the following quote, “What are you doing creeping around a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning? That doesn’t sound very wise to me”
MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN
2. How many rules are there for caring for Mogwai in Gremlins?
THREE (Never expose it to bright light, never get it wet, never feed it after midnight)
3. Sam Lowry is the lead character in which film?
BRAZIL
4. Which Christmas film featured Viggo Mortenson, Vincent Cassel and Naomi Watts?
EASTERN PROMISES
5. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Five saints, two boys and millions of pounds”?
MILLIONS
6. Home Alone was produced by which studio?
20TH CENTURY FOX
7. How many of In Bruges‘ cast feature in the Harry Potter series?
FIVE
8. Who directed Scrooged?
RICHARD DONNER
9. In Rise Of The Guardians, what is the name of the Father Christmas character?
NORTH
10. In Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, what mystery Christmas gift does Harry receive?
CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The animatronic snowman in Jack Frost was modelled to resemble the lead actor. Due to scheduling conflicts, said actor was replaced by Michael Keaton. Who was the original lead? George Clooney? Robin Williams? Will Smith?
GEORGE CLOONEY
2. The following quote is from which film, “Watch your mouth. It’s Christmastime, so let’s act like it”? Rare Exports? Ghostbusters II? Bad Santa?
RARE EXPORTS
3. How many Lethal Weapon films are set at Christmas? 1? 3? 4?
ONE
4. What was the title of the novel Die Hard was adapted from? The Spectre? Nothing Lasts Forever? The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time?
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
5. Which of the following is not set at Christmas? The Proposition? The Iron Giant? Edward Scissorhands?
THE IRON GIANT
6. The Thin Man was released in which year? 1934? 1958? 1987?
1934
7. Which of the following did not feature in LA Confidential? David Strathairn? James Cromwell? Stanley Tucci?
STANLEY TUCCI
8. What is the name of Turbo Man’s sidekick in Jingle All The Way? Rocketeer? Booster? Jet?
BOOSTER
9. The director of the 1974 horror Black Christmas also directed which other Christmas film? The Santa Clause? A Christmas Story? Sleepless In Seattle?
A CHRISTMAS STORY
10. Despite not being set at Christmas Die Hard: With A Vengeance contains three references to Christmas. True or False?
TRUE (Simon mockingly describes one of his ‘pigeons’ as Santa Claus, kid caught stealing says “It’s Christmas you could steal City Hall” and McClane poses as aqueduct security looking for a guy with eight reindeer)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: A Christmas Carol / Love, Actually / Deck The Halls / Just Friends
Poster: The Holiday
Actor: Chevy Chase


ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

A Rebellion Built On Hope

Director
Gareth Edwards

Starring
Felicity Jones
Diego Luna
Ben Mendelsohn



**Fair warning, this entire review is filled with spoilers. In order to have a proper analytical breakdown we need to discuss various aspects that some would prefer not to know until they’ve seen the film. As such, don’t read this until you’ve watched it. Consider yourself warned**

Rogue One opens with the Galactic Empire tracking down one of their leading scientists, Galen Erso [Mads Mikkelsen], who has gone into hiding to live a simple life. Director Krennic [Mendelsohn] knows how close they are to completing the greatest weapon the universe has ever known but he requires Galen to finish it. Refusing to come willingly, Krennic executes Galen’s wife and would have done the same to his young daughter, Jyn, but his troopers are unable to locate her. Fifteen years later (a mere few days before the events of Star Wars) Jyn Erso [Jones] has grown up and continues to resist the Empire’s control as a petty criminal. Through a network of spies and defectors, word has reached the Rebellion that an Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook [Riz Ahmed], has a message from Galen about a new weapon being developed which would change the course of the war. Rebel intelligence officer, Cassian Andor [Luna], breaks Jyn out of prison and brings her before the Rebel council who contract her to make contact with a previous ally to authenticate the pilot’s claim and retrieve the plans if they exist. This sets in motion a series of events which sees a misfit band of provocateurs risking life and limb infiltrating installations deep in the heart of Imperial territory.

In many ways, Rogue One owes a lot of its success to the prequels and the expanded universe fiction that has grown over the decades. With George Lucas’ attempts to fill in backstory elements over three features, it’s been clearly illustrated how not to do a Star Wars film; or more accurately what the public do and do not approve of. Furthermore it’s hard to think of any franchise other than Star Wars that has been so extensively repurposed, reinterpreted and used as a base of inspiration for so many mediums: video games, board games, artwork, books, TV series, animations, comics, fan fiction, short films, etc. I bring this up as the RPG board game Imperial Assault shares a great many similar qualities, all of which are welcome additions.

A lot of people will immediately say this is very much a war film, more than that, it’s the first Star Wars film to really focus on the ‘war’ part of Star Wars. Admittedly, I wouldn’t go that far but it maturely portrays the unglorified side of war that doesn’t follow the quirky hero who literally dodges bullets, epically wins it for the universe and makes it home in time for tea.. or blue milk. Drawing identifiable parallels with real military conflicts (although one could argue the West is the evil Empire in that example) Rogue One succeeds in illustrating that in war, there are only shades of grey and compromise to protect your interests. The divide between good guy and bad guy is completely blurred, acknowledging that not every villain is a willing participant and not every hero does noble deeds. This is an incredibly strong and welcome move. If there’s one thing Star Wars needs, it’s to be able to say to a whole swathe of the public, “these movies are not just for children.” I always maintain two of the easiest fixes that could be applied to Episode I: The Phantom Menace would be to show Naboo’s occupation and get rid of the robots. Amidst the poop jokes and casual racism, the following line of dialogue is uttered, “the death toll is catastrophic.” Living in a time when the death toll in somewhere like Syria is genuinely catastrophic it’s hard to look back on that palatial world and see any true suffering. Rogue One finally illustrates the pain of this universe, which in turn leads audiences to invest and care about those risking their lives to save it, not whiny children and back flipping idiots. Which leads me to those fucking droids. An army of autonomous robots who can be chopped to pieces means you can get away with murdering scores of beings without moral culpability and removes any genuine weight to the decision to act. Here we don’t have Jedi with force powers and lightsabers to deflect laser blasts, we have conscripted uniformed soldiers shooting at desperate rebels, both sides doing their best to avoid dying and living with the consequences of taking lives. It’s an absolutely necessary humanising element that doesn’t sensationalise war and shows the emotional toll on these people.

Speaking of the people in question, I genuinely loved the cast. Too many trolls will whine about a female-led film or the lack of white males but I didn’t care. Drawing on fantasy archetypes, we have the big-heavy, the mystic, the thief, the rogue, the cavalier leader and the sardonic straight-talking outsider. I also love that the film addresses bureaucracy (without delving into the compelling world of trade disputes), with a bickering Rebel command and cutthroat villainy in the upper echelons of the Empire. We’re all too acquainted with Vader force-choking various Admirals and the Emperor’s scheming but watching the infighting and backstabbing that takes place is enjoyable. The acting was solid and the characters believable and interesting enough to hold my attention – although I will expand on that later – but the real talking point and one that took me by surprise was not in fact about the living cast but the dead. One of the reasonably well kept secrets is the use of CGI facemasks, giving us a young Carrie Fisher and a resurrected Peter Cushing. I have no doubt that many reviewers and audience members will agonise over the moral and ethical question of whether using the representation of a long deceased actor is appropriate. My argument would only really be the quality of the computer generated work on display (to which I would say it’s incredibly impressive and other than a few rubbery moments, is very well handled – except Leia, they didn’t need to hold on that shot for so long). Now, the reason I am completely indifferent to the idea of using Cushing is Audrey Hepburn; specifically Audrey Hepburn selling Galaxy chocolate. For those that don’t know, a few years ago an ad campaign was launched utilising Hepburn’s likeness to sell a brand of chocolate bar. The ad is arguably inoffensive and very much in the vein of Hepburn’s previous works. The second the public was ok with that, everything was fair game and to my mind, I am rather excited by the prospect. I don’t think we need to be chucking Orson Welles into every other film just for the sake of it but where “needed” I view this method as the natural evolution and continuing transition between theatre and cinema. Hiring different actors to play different aged characters is an oddity we accept as necessity. Obviously we can’t show a young Brad Pitt because the actor is pushing towards his fifties, we’ll just hire someone who looks a bit like him. Oh what’s that? Technology says it’s feasible? Cue Benjamin Button. Rogue One proves this technology has a great deal of potential but like all cinematic leaps, it will only thrive in the right hands.

Alright, that’s enough fawning, time to eviscerate this beast. Rogue One is a great film but it’s far from perfect. Walking out of the opening night screenings there was such an air of positivity with people claiming it was the best Star Wars film. So let’s just pump the breaks a little and axe the hyperbole. The narrative of this film has already been summarised in a single sentence in the opening crawl of the first film, subsequently it lacks an ending because it’s a precursor to the main story. Sure, it fills in a lot of gaps and allows audiences to truly revisit the Star Wars they nostalgically love (rather than a preceding or proceeding time period) but it still builds on an already strong foundation. What’s more it creates tension solely for the purpose and then convolutes itself in the process. On the positive side, this allows writers to officially retcon Lucas’ plot holes but simultaneously creates bigger problems. Galen smuggles out a holographic message telling Jyn about the Death Star’s weakness. I appreciate the schematic plans are needed for precision but couldn’t he have just made a copy and snuck that out too? Secondly, a line of dialogue states that the Death Star drops out of hyperspeed to appear over Scarif. If it can just hyperspeed to places then why did it take so long to align with Yavin IV in A New Hope? I know there will be a pithy retort or explanation eventually but if you’re trying to fix problems, don’t actively create things that will create footnote/caveat issues later. We also have the Easter Eggs and nods to the original series which a lot of people will readily and happily consume but they are no more clever or subtle than the attempts made in the prequels. “Oh look! Look! It’s Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba from the cantina! I remember them? Wow!” Yes, I remember them too and I now have to think about the logistics of them not only bumping into Skywalker on Tattooine a couple of days later, they also have to get out of Jedha in an hour before the thing explodes! I’m sorry, I appreciate the references and name-drops but you can’t tell me they’re any more fulfilling than Jango Fett banging his head on the Slave 1 door or prepubescent Greedo watching podracing. Then we have Darth Vader and everyone will go ape shit for scary Vader cutting through rebels but that’s his second scene. The first is him in a bacta-tank before scolding Director Krennic. This is such a nitpick but I kept looking at his neckline and frowning. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but finally realised it was that they a) made Vader far too bulky and hench and b) his cape covers his neckline which makes the bottom of the mask stand out and the whole effect felt reminiscent of an independent fan film. Bizzare. While we’re on supporting characters and cameos, the secondary leads aren’t developed nearly enough; I don’t think I could tell you much of anything about the other crew member’s backstories or motivations other than “Empire bad.” I will admit that sometimes avoiding all that exposition is decent and frees up time to invest in the ‘how’ of the goal rather than the intricacies of the ‘why’ but it’s frustrating when these individuals are genuinely interesting and warrant more exploration. Finally, we have Michael Giacchino. Mr. Giacchino always felt like the natural successor to the musical mantle but I was left disappointed. Bar Rey’s theme, Williams’ work on Episode VII was a little tame and lacked real presence and originality. Regrettably, Giacchino does the same thing by repeating his Jurassic World homage score that plays it too safe, adding nothing ground-breaking or memorable. Admittedly he was brought on at the last minute and he clearly laid out that the combination of Holst’s planets and the Flash Gordon serials as inspiration, so I can’t fault him too much.

Despite my apparent bashing of this film, it is a really entertaining, decent release but I maintain that every single Disney property release requires excessive scrutiny because they have all the money, access to all the talent and immense platforms for storytelling so there’s really no excuse for subpar achievements. Furthermore, as much as I moaned about the creation of new plot holes, Rogue One (and I’m assuming these other anthology tales) opens up an interesting realm of potential and possibilities, creating new worlds, species and Imperial plans to draw on and reference without always coming back to tiny throw away lines from the same three films from thirty plus years ago. As such, this mirrors the groundwork of Episode VII, growing and expanding the reach of future releases to provide satisfying stories for years to come.


Release Date:
16th December 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
Ask any Star Wars fan what their favourite element of Rogue One was and you’ll probably get a flurry of moments. This isn’t a derogatory point, just a statement that this movie is littered with “it was so cool when..” developments. Personally, I have two and they’re both very simplistic. The first, chronologically, is the rebel bombing run. The Rebel Alliance is branded the supreme good guys, never an ounce of doubt that their cause is just and true. But in reality war is never that clean cut and there will always be orders, skirmishes and encounters that are calamitous. The bombing run on Edu (Edoo? Idu? ..whatever) highlights that mistakes will always be made and hindsight is a wonderful thing. The second this is far more indulgent, devoid of all pretentiousness. I like the bit where Vader’s Star Destroyer turns up as the rebels are trying to accelerate to hyperspeed and they splatter themselves on the bow like bugs on a windscreen. It’s very cool.

Notable Characters:
It should come as no surprise, to anyone who has seen the film, that K-2SO is my highlighted character. Affording a lot of wonderful opportunities to engage in humour, Alan Tudyk does an astounding job. One could say he’s the darker side of C3PO, with his light English accent, stat quipping and self-preservation but we all know that C3PO is the darker side of C3PO and the worst character in the Star Wars universe. In truth, it was a tough pick between the superbly acted Ben Mendelsohn as Krennic or Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as the Chirrut/Baze combo but based on initial impressions alone, K-2SO stands above everyone else.

Highlighted Quote:
“You’re confusing peace with terror”

In A Few Words:
“An extremely sturdy prologue expansion but far from the standalone greatness that it purported itself to be”

Total Score:

4/5

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Going Home Is The Hardest Thing

Director
Kenneth Lonergan

Starring
Casey Affleck
Lucas Hedges
Kyle Chandler
Michelle Williams



The film opens with an introduction to Boston handyman, Lee Chandler [Affleck] who lives an incredibly Spartan existence, servicing the tenants in an apartment building with their menial chores. At the very start of the film we learn that Lee’s brother, Joe [Chandler], has passed away due to an ongoing heart complication. Lee takes it all very calmly and returns to his hometown of Manchester. He also breaks the news of Joe’s passing to his nephew Patrick [Hedges]. From what we’ve seen of Lee, Patrick displays a lot of very similar qualities: hot-headed but a hard worker. As Lee tries to arrange his brother’s funeral and figure out what to do with Patrick, we are offered sporadic glimpses into Lee’s past which shows a very different kind of person, while also fleshing out who Joe was and slowly building to the reason Lee is the way he is.

Manchester By The Sea is one of those independent films that really polarises audiences; not necessarily because of its content but because it isolates audience members who simply do and don’t like independent dramatic pieces. The plot is simplistic, the acting is deeply emotional without veering into hyperbolic exaggeration and the direction is stealthily bold. Starting with that last statement, the cinematography, direction and editing all seem to favour static shots that cut short either mid-flow or a little too soon. As audiences, we expect a certain rhythm but most people aren’t usually aware of this rhythm, it’s only when it’s disrupted that something feels out of place. Things like cutting before the roar of an engine starting reaches its peak or on an intake of breath, these things our brains are programmed to expect an end but without it, we’re left momentarily disorientated. As a parallel to a sudden death in the family, every scene transitions with this same impact; the idea that what was continuing to a logical conclusion either stops, shifts dramatically or simply doesn’t go anywhere – the ultimate example would be the film’s close which no doubt took a lot of audience members by surprise.

Presenting a story which contains so little in the form of actual events, a lot of the emotional connective weight comes from the acting. The only reason we’re hanging around is to see how these characters deal with these, frankly, tedious tasks. In that regard, Manchester By The Sea is a masterclass. Affleck and Hedges give exceptional performances that are simultaneously gripping, amusing, heart-breaking and all too real. Tied with the flashbacks to when Patrick was a boy, it’s evident that this teenager isn’t the innocent child he once was and that due to circumstances in his life, Lee isn’t even remotely capable of dealing with a teenager, let alone one who has just lost his father. The ensemble of supports feel more like walk-on cameos, either because they exist solely in flashback or because they arguably impact the leads in such minimal ways, serving more as props for Lee or Patrick to interact with. That may sound overly harsh but it genuinely isn’t intended to be. Case in point, Patrick has two girlfriends but neither really furthers the story other than to be used as a talking point as to why he doesn’t want to move to Boston or to illustrate the kind of man Patrick is slowly becoming. This isn’t to say the performances are bad, on the contrary, they are quite brilliant, if only for their simplicity.

In addition to the seminal acting, the nature of the script ensures this film never delves into cliché. The script is retrained in the sense that all of the interactions feel real to the point they could be ad-libbed. There are so many unfinished sentences and multiple individuals talking over one another that trying to picture how that would look on the page is mindboggling. On top of that, while the bulk of the story is pretty emotionally draining, it’s broken up with clever injections of humour and glib honesty; after all this is two emotionally distant men talking about anything but. And that lack of closure, the pathetic chaos of their conversations beautifully reflects life, which is so often void of dramatic encounters. Even the most “for your consideration” moment, wherein Lee bumps into his ex-wife in the street and they try and come to an amicable point over what’s happened in their past, is not an eloquent monologue, there’s so much in the way of uncomfortable foot shuffling, rolling necks, diverted gazes and constant interruptions, anything to not talk about the elephant between them. Coming back to the nature of dramatic independent films, people often tell me they go to the cinema to be entertained, not bored or depressed and studios are well aware of this common opinion, so much so that films generally tend to add an escapist optimism, a feeling that everything will be alright but in real life there are certain developments that are so traumatic that getting over it simply isn’t an option, there’s just stumbling on as best as humanly possible. That’s where Manchester By The Sea exists.

It’s very difficult for me to fault this film because technically, structurally and acting-wise, it’s extremely impressive. One could expand on what I’ve said above by noting that the pacing and tone will displease a lot of people but that doesn’t make it a bad film, it just means large parts of the audience won’t get it. The flashbacks were interspersed at just the right place to not only illustrate the shift in Lee’s character but also to mirror the erratic way our memories recover and present information. Arguably, I knew where a lot of the film was going but that doesn’t make it predictable and the tiny dream element when Lee burns some sauce was a little contrite but outside of that, it’s a bleak, honest, surprisingly funny film that deceptively shifts the focus of grief so much so that you surreptitiously realise that some mourning never stops.


Release Date:
17th January 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
The sound design for this film is absolutely brilliant. I know when award season rolls around we see all these lavish action and science fiction films being praised for their use of sound (and rightly so) but all too often the subtle use of these elements is overlooked. The morning after Lee first arrives in Manchester, he makes a phone call at the kitchen table to arrange collection of his deceased brother from the hospital. The conversation irks him a little as he feels the routes they would take will ratchet up his overall costs. Midway through, Patrick’s girlfriend (one of them) comes down stairs and starts to make and eat some breakfast. A couple of seconds later Patrick appears, pouring cereal into a bowl then eating it. The sound editor’s job is to raise the volume to shift audience focus to where it needs to be at that time. In this case, the audience feels like it should be what Lee is saying but the noise around him is heightened, leading to a degree of irritation, which finally reaches a peak when Silvie says “Mr Chandler, I don’t think Patrick needs to hear this” and Lee storms off out of the room to continue his conversation. It’s brilliantly handled and incredibly subtle but effective.

Notable Characters:
As ridiculous as this will sound, bear with me. My favourite character was Otto the drummer. Patrick plays in a band and being sixteen everything about his band is instantly identifiable with a high school band. The music is pleasant but derivative and the fact they count themselves in by saying the name of the band first dictates everything I need to know about them. In keeping with the earnestness of the feature, Otto feels like the outsider of the group, Patrick is dating the lead singer and clearly best friends with the other two members. The only time we see Otto is during these two rehearsals and both times we stop mid-song just to berate him for either drumming too slow or too fast. And once the song resumes, the camera chooses to stay on Otto as he grumpily pouts at the injustice of it all. I swear you could make an entirely separate spin-off film based on those two looks of frustration.

Highlighted Quote:
“If you’re gonna freak out every time you see a frozen chicken I should take you to the hospital”

In A Few Words:
“An incredibly honest portrayal of grief, loss and the importance of familial solidarity”

Total Score:

5/5

SNOWDEN

They Are Always Watching

Director
Oliver Stone

Starring
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Shailene Woodley



Using a hotel room in Hong Kong, 2013, we cut between the expose documentary/interview that brought Edward Snowden’s [Gordon-Levitt] revelations to light and the events in his life that brought him to do what he did. Before getting to how they plan on releasing the files that prove the NSA were illegally monitoring citizens from all over the globe, we spend a great deal of time humanising Edward himself, starting with his discharge from the army for health reasons. As a patriot, still wanting to serve his country, Snowden puts his extremely formidable programming skills to use for the CIA. From there he bounces around between agencies and private work, all the while learning that the simple surveillance programmes that are being designed are being repurposed to spy on ordinary US citizens.

I feel like an Oliver Stone apologist. My first review for this site was defending the much maligned Alexander and ever since I’ve been finding the silver lining in fairly mediocre releases. In truth, the 1980s and 1990s were a real golden age for Stone, his films were big and ballsy, attracting huge talent and questioning authority with a credible and powerful voice. Which is why it’s all the more disappointing that the highlight of the last 16 years hasn’t been a cinematic release but a televised documentary: Untold History Of The United States. Snowden offers the opportunity for him to return to form with an incredibly important and troubling subject matter but somehow he falls short.

This isn’t conspiracy theory, it’s fact. But admittedly it’s boring fact. Citizenfour, the shooting of which this film uses for its framework, brought into stark reality the horror of what has been going on over the last decade or so; surely a dramatised version could elevate that content and make it more palatable for a wider audience? Afterall, the same scrutiny of the 2008 housing-market crash was done so successfully by Margin Call and The Big Short. In truth, it’s quite difficult to ascertain exactly how and why Snowden fails to really hit all the right notes. The script is well written, explaining things clearly and framing the events in a compelling manner. The pacing is decent despite the padded runtime – but with a Stone release you just have to be thankful it doesn’t cross the three hour mark. The performances are credible and entertaining although there are a few sour elements. This should be enough to make a really solid, challenging release. Instead we have an acceptable feature that lacks the clear suspense and outrage that the real life events inspire.

One could argue that the film’s greatest achievement is propelling a talking point. At the end of the screening I attended, a young lady turned to her partner and asked, “What are you doing?” “Tweeting about the film?” “Chuck your fucking phone away, man!” The UK has just passed the painfully stupid and invasive snooper’s charter, allowing them access to more than any other democratic government on the planet and the general public are docile to it. This is notable as the film closes with part of a Snowden interview that poses one of the worst case scenarios wherein people become apathetic to this type of surveillance and it gets infinitely worse in the wrong hands. To my mind, technology is no different from gun ownership. Connectivity is a powerful but potentially dangerous thing and knowing that governing bodies have the ability (though not the right) to monitor you wherever you are for paper-thin reasons is appalling. So by all means live your life online but don’t be surprised if it goes off in your face because you weren’t using it responsibly.

And yet, the film actually makes a strangely compelling argument for “the other side.” Not in an impartial way, more as an accidental by-product of seeing these people up close. This was one of the biggest issues a lot of people had with Stone’s George Bush biopic W. Rather than militantly going after these people who have completely defiled public privacy and that of their closest allies, the script accidentally makes anti-heroes of them. While reassuring Edward that the ends justify the means, CIA Deputy Director Corbin O’Brian notes that for the last sixty years, we haven’t had an all-out World War 3 and the price we pay for that is perpetual skirmish wars abroad and constant monitoring of potential threats at home. While I don’t condone the ideology presented, it echoes what a lot of Americans already think: “Who cares if the government knows about the porn on my computer? At least we won’t have another 9/11.” And the film’s greatest sin is that it offers no immediate rebuttal.

But I’ve spent the majority of this review talking about the issue, not the film; an effect usually associated with a documentary. Is this enough? Is the fact it’s got me thinking about this key development in our societal evolution a praiseworthy point? In all honest, not exactly. I’m already there, I’ve been thinking about this since it first came to light. It’s the detractors and apathetic that this film needs to pitch to and a two and a half hour, jargon-filled, moderately tense character study isn’t going to cut it; especially not in a post-truth era. I could expand on the direction that feels like a different step for Stone, where the performances excel or fail, that the cinematography is slick and engaging, how the score is average at best or the script’s more nuanced elements but Snowden doesn’t deserve it. In what will no doubt be a regurgitated point in many reviews, this film was handed an extraordinary story and produced something very timid and unassuming. The parts that work do so extremely well but the rest is disappointingly flat, leaving the whole film feeling like a wasted opportunity.


Release Date:
9th December 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
Part of the hindrance of Snowden’s job is his inability to directly talk about his work. Knowing that the NSA is spying on literally anyone and everyone, he starts using plasters to cover the cameras on laptops around his house. Without being to go into exact detail, Snowden explains to his frustrated girlfriend that she should be careful, to which she responds, “Why? I have nothing to hide.” This immediately riles Snowden as he starts to explain that everyone has something to hide or more accurately everyone has something about them that, if made public, could be used against those around them. There are plenty of great standalone scenes but this simple exchange acts as a riposte to the common fall-back of anyone who supports mass surveillance, specifically that they have nothing to hide. What they don’t realise is that if their opinions differ from friends or family in positions of power it can be used against them. Something Snowden highlights by explaining he gleaned information about her socialising online on the very dating site they met on.

Notable Characters:
As one often finds in life, Edward Snowden and his girlfriend Lindsay Mills are a weird mix. Snowden comes from a long line of US-serving conservatives who initially believes that to question the authority in charge is to question the country as a whole, whereas Lindsay is a camera-toting democrat with a flair for creativity and standing up to the system. Except neither is particularly true. Through exposure to the system, Snowden becomes more liberal in his outlook but what of Mills? A character that should represent the outraged liberal voice is reduced down to a nagging workshy stereotype. Whether that’s accurate to the real-life counterpart or not is largely irrelevant because in this narrative she serves a purpose, one which is butchered by a dithering character and Shailene Woodley’s attempt to break away from her young-adult fiction origins.

Highlighted Quote:
“Bombs won’t stop terrorism, brains will. And we don’t have nearly enough of those”

In A Few Words:
“A decent enough experience that should have been so much more”

Total Score:

3/5

A MONSTER CALLS

Stories Are Wild Creatures

Director
J.A. Bayona

Starring
Lewis MacDougall
Liam Neeson

Felicity Jones

Toby Kebbell

Sigourney Weaver



Conor O’Malley [MacDougall] is a young British teenager enduring an exceptional amount of stress. He is unable to sleep properly thanks to a reoccurring nightmare; the nightmare itself stems from the fear of losing his mother, Lizzie [Jones], who is terminally ill with cancer. School life isn’t much better as he finds it difficult to focus and in between lessons is bullied mercilessly. Other than his mother, home life offers little comfort as his father lives in America and his grandmother is incredibly strict and emotionally distant. It’s at this time that a Monster formed from the old yew tree on the hill comes to life, claiming he was summoned by Conor. In order to assist, the Monster offers to tell three stories in exchange for a fourth from the boy himself. As his mother’s condition worsens, Conor becomes more frustrated with the Monster’s rambling anecdotes that seemingly go nowhere.

As A Monster Calls draws to a close the first dawning realisation is how draining an experience it is. So many films pack an emotional punch but this feature refuses to hold back, bluntly and brazenly stating that children have to learn about death some time. As the film progressed I started to feel it was a cross between Pan’s Labyrinth and The Iron Giant but it lacks their optimism and subtle beauty, instead focusing on harsh reality with a glimmer of hope. With so many dire ‘family’ releases relying on fart jokes, bright visuals and really cliché morals, A Monster Calls feels more like an honest conversation with a pre-teen. Rather than shelter them from the truth of the world with positivity and upbeat denial, this story portrays a very frank look at life – something some children unfortunately learn the hard way. It does this with analogous tales which, in Conor’s young, black-and-white mind fail to make conventional sense. Rather than chortling this off with “you’ll understand when you grow up” the Monster character very openly explains that “humans are complicated beasts” and there isn’t always a good guy or a bad guy, most people fall somewhere in between. This type of honesty was also recently on display in Pixar’s Inside Out which really beautifully informed young children that sometimes it’s ok to be sad. A Monster Calls has a similar purpose to it but one much more focused, dealing with a far deeper dilemma: how does one explain to a child that your mother will die and when she does you will carry on?

All of this would have been a moot point if it weren’t for two major factors: the acting and the visual effects. Covering the portrayal side of things first, we need to really invest in Conor and nothing would kill that bond faster than an overly precocious child or a painfully unlikeable individual. Interestingly, MacDougall is a really hard character to get on with as he isn’t an obvious hero. Neither a boy nor a man, Conor goes through waves of selfishness, stubbornness, arrogance, cowardice and immaturity none of which are admirable or enviable qualities but they are all distinctly relatable, especially when trying to deal with something as crushing as a loved one’s terminal illness. Rising above the usual kid-actor deliveries, MacDougall goes through some rather unpleasant events with little reprieve and by enduring so much, you can’t help but feel bad for him. All too often the phrase coming of age is slapped on to a story but here it is truly earned as we witness a boy railing against things he cannot control to a young man ready to accept the world as a hard place to live in, thanks to the dark formula of old, classic folktales. It would have also been very easy to mar the experience with supporting roles that were caricatures but everyone present seems to be presented as if through Conor’s eyes. His mother is largely flawless and says all the right things, dealing with her own situation with extreme grace and acceptance. Sigourney Weaver as Conor’s grandmother is clearly a strict and orderly matriarch but openly admits to Conor that although they are an odd fit, they both have his mother in common, which serves as a classic rehash of that ‘you don’t get to choose your family’ adage. The same could be said for Conor’s father who appears briefly, played by Toby Kebbell, who acts as both a potential lifeboat but ultimately a bit of a disappointment – even though he’s never played with malice or disregard for his own son or his plight. Finally we have Liam Neeson’s voice work, bringing the Monster to life – while also adding to the familial unit for eagle-eyed viewers. It would have been quite easy to cast someone with a gentle elderly voice but there’s so much – for lack of a better phrase – apathetic truth in Neeson’s performance that he appears not to care how Conor feels, confronting him with very painful and cryptic life lessons without sugar-coating any of what’s to come.

Secondly, we have the visual elements. Admittedly, this is a gross simplification of a lot of components. Without a decent visual effects budget the Monster would look ridiculous and anything he said or did would be called into question. Thankfully, the Groot/Ent hybrid feels original and real enough to chime an emotional and credible chord. Then we have the Monster’s three stories (well.. two actually) which are presented in a unique and different art style (similar to the effects used in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Night Watch and Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1), combining marionette-style figures and ink flushed backgrounds, which I believe mirror those used in the source material. By doing this the production saves a lot of money but also manages to create a vibrant and wonderful tonal look for these separate parables. Finally we have the cinematography, which brings England to life in a very real way with constant grey clouds, rain slicked roads and dark-cornered small houses. Something that was achieved thanks to the return of long-time collaborator Oscar Faura, who also worked as director of photography on The Orphanage and The Impossible.

Ultimately this is a really hard film to judge. A lot of releases aimed for adults will have depressing stories that, while they don’t end on a positive note, aren’t completely dower in their outlook. But when marketed and produced for a younger audience, suddenly the question is raised of whether it’s appropriate. I think for an impulse viewing, this would absolutely devastate a lot of people but with an open mind and knowing how grim it might get, I think it would be a very solid release for a lot of families. Furthermore, anyone who says films like this shouldn’t be made (and you’d be surprised how many outraged parents talk like that), how many releases are out there for a younger audience which tackles the harsh realities of death with a combination of honesty and fantasy? Sure, Harry Potter harps on about his dead parents all the time but at no point do we as an audience have to sit through a solid hour and a half of watching them die slowly. As entertainment, this is a difficult film to approach, as a therapeutic exercise in solidarity, it’s delightful.


Release Date:
1st January 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
Highlighting one of the animated segments would be far too easy, as they stand out from Conor’s largely drab existence and serve as a break from the wall-to-wall bullying, misery and sorrow. Instead I liked the brief scene wherein Conor catches his grandmother watching copies of home-movies from several years prior, detailing how Lizzie raised her son with art and the creation of monsters. To me, it felt like a nice bonding moment that is largely absent from the rest of the film, as we only see Lizzie in a perpetually weakened state. Furthermore, it implies that the Monster visiting the young boy in his dreams could be strongly connected to stories stemming from his childhood, meaning one could interpret the film’s denouement as something truly fantastical or simply the power of subconscious suggestion.

Notable Characters:
James Melville has the unenviable task of playing Conor’s bully but does so brilliantly as he’s an utterly loathsome bastard. Like all bullies we know there’s probably something going on in his home life or internally that generates these unpleasant outbursts but they’re written and executed with such callousness that you can’t help but hate the shit. As with the other characters, he is only seen from Conor’s perspective so we never really understand what is going on. One could infer from the way certain encounters are shot and the manner in which lines are delivered that he’s dealing with issues of sexuality but as there’s no clarity, we can’t be certain. But the film once again falls back on honesty and states that even if you have the cathartic lashing out that all victims fantasise about, it rarely ends up the positive experience one would assume or hope for.

Highlighted Quote:
“What is a dream, Conor O’Malley? Who is to say everything else isn’t a dream?”

In A Few Words:
“An incredibly powerful and emotional slog that deals with a delicate subject with maturity and respect for its intended audience”

Total Score:

4/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #180

[04 December 2016]


Winning Team:
Forrest Trump.. With Sexy Results
Genre – An idiot boy with a weird haircut finds himself inexplicably in the White House

Runners Up:
Toy Story 4: Andy’s Mum’s Toys
Genre – This isn’t the Woody and Buzz that you’re familiar with
That Thing You Dune
Genre – Tom Hanks manages an upcoming pop band on a war-torn desert planet
Tom Wanks: Big Splash In Philadelphia
Genre – Obscene mash-up of early Hanks movies
Tom Wanks In The Money Shot
Genre – Woody’s Back


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Retired, Extremely Dangerous starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren was abbreviated to what title?
RED
2. Gandhi was filmed in the United Kingdom and what other country?
INDIA
3. In Disney’s animated Robin Hood, what animal is Little John?
BEAR
4. Which actor has quoted the following lines: “If it bleeds, we can kill it”, “I’m a cybernetic organism, living tissue over a metal endoskeleton” and “I’m not a pervert I was just looking for a turbo man doll”?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENNEGER
5. What colour is Sally, voiced by Bonnie Hunt, in Cars?
BLUE
6. Which film starred Johnny Depp investigating the Jack The Ripper case?
FROM HELL
7. Who directed The Usual Suspects?
BRYAN SINGER
8. Which ballet is the central focus of Black Swan?
SWAN LAKE
9. Who starred in Avatar, Clash Of The Titans, Terminator Salvation and Somersault?
SAM WORTHINGTON
10. Which movie had the following poster tagline: “Axel Foley’s Back.. Where He Doesn’t Belong”?
BEVERLY HILLS COP II


ROUND II: Filming [Tom Hanks Special]
1. Which character does Tom Hanks voice in the Toy Story franchise? Buzz? Woody? Mr Potato Head?
WOODY
2. How many astronauts are stranded on Apollo 13, in the film of the same name? 3? 4? 5?
THREE
3. Tom Hanks appeared in which film with Mary Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas and Bradley Whitford? Philadelphia? Forrest Gump? Got Mail?
PHILADELPHIA
4. Which of the following adaptations of Dan Brown novels has Tom Hanks not featured in? Inferno? Angels & Demons? The Lost Symbol?
THE LOST SYMBOL
5. Big was released in which year? 1985? 1988? 1991?
1988
6. The Polar Express is set in which decade? 1920s? 1950s? 1980s?
1950s
7. The beginning of Saving Private Ryan is set on which codenamed beach? Omaha? Utah? Sword?
OMAHA BEACH
8. What is the name of the Native American prisoner executed at the start of The Green Mile? Brutus Howell? William Wharton? Arlen Bitterbuck?
ARLEN BITTERBUCK
9. In Sleepless In Seattle, Annie Reed is a reporter for which paper? Boston Herald? Barstow Times? Baltimore Sun?
BALTIMORE SUN
10. Hanks’ perfectly timed single droplet of sweat when talking to Jude Law’s character in Road To Perdition cost the production crew $1,000 to rig up a device in his hat to release a plausible amount of liquid. True or False?
FALSE (it’s Tom Hanks’ real sweat)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following quote is from which 1969 film, “I only get carsick on boats”?
MIDNIGHT COWBOY
2. Which department of the LAPD does Jake Hoyt work for in Training Day?
NARCOTICS
3. How old is Jesse in Free Willy?
TWELVE
4. Rocky was released in which year?
1976
5. How many Transporter films have been made to date?
FOUR (Transporter 1-3 and The Transporter Refuelled)
6. Which film starred Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Kate Beckinsale and Leonardo DiCaprio?
THE AVIATOR
7. What vegetable does Mark Watney grow on Mars in The Martian?
POTATOES
8. Bryan Mills is the lead character in which franchise?
TAKEN
9. Who directed Ex Machina?
ALEX GARLAND
10. Who composed the score for Men In Black?
DANNY ELFMAN


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the name of Kurt Russell’s character in Big Trouble In Little China? John Ruth? R.J. Macready? Jack Burton?
JACK BURTON
2. Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray appeared in which 30’s film? Dracula? King Kong? The Bowery?
KING KONG
3. David Lynch’s Dune was released in which year? 1981? 1984? 1989?
1984
4. How many characters feature on the poster for Bad Boys? 2? 3? 4?
THREE (Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Tea Leoni)
5. Which of the following did not feature in Starter For 10? Catherine Tate? Benedict Cumberbatch? Hayley Atwell?
HAYLEY ATWELL
6. At the start of The Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso moves from New Jersey to which state? California? Michigan? Texas?
CALIFORNIA
7. Cloud Atlas is split between how many time periods? 4? 6? 8?
SIX (Pacific Islands, Edinburgh, San Francisco, London, Neo Seoul, Big Isle)
8. Total Recall was nominated for three Oscars. How many did it win? 0? 1? 2?
ONE (Best Visual Effects)
9. The following quote is from which film, “You’ve changed, Bilbo Baggins. You’re not the same Hobbit as the one who left the Shire”? The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug? The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies?
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
10. Co-stars of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Tom Wilkinson and Diana Hardcastle are married in real life. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The World’s End / The Force Awakens / Star Trek Beyond / Chronicle Of Narnia: Voyage Of The Dawn Treader
Poster: Mission Impossible III
Actor: Simon Pegg


MOANA

The Ocean Is Calling

Directors
Ron Clements
John Musker

Starring
Auli’i Cravalho
Dwayne Johnson



Set on an island in the South Pacific, we are introduced to Moana Waialiki [Cravalho], the chieftain’s daughter and future ruler of Motunui. Her eccentric grandmother raises her with stories of gods and legends beyond the reef, while her father insists she focus on preparing to rule over the village. The older Moana grows, the more tenacious she becomes and while she obliges her father’s wishes, she still yearns to explore the sea. Not long into her rule (with her parents acting as advisors), the island is struck by several blights, coconuts turn to ash and the fish no longer return to the reefs. Led by her grandmother’s words, Moana believes this affliction is the result of the demigod Maui [Johnson] who, centuries ago, stole the heart of Te Fiti (the creator) and since then island after island has been consumed by darkness. Thus Moana sets out to find Maui and demand he return the heart of Te Fiti and restore order.

On the surface, Moana is an incredibly straightforward formulaic Disney film that follows the classical hero’s journey. For that, I was relatively underwhelmed with what was achieved. Yet there are so many aspects that, the more I dwell on them, the more I like the direction taken. It’s this combination of eye-rolling Disney tropes and forward thinking that reminded me of releases like Mulan; which I also had difficulty deciding whether it was more wince-inducing appropriation/exploitation or a thoroughly decent and engaging female-led story. The first thing to note is where Disney moves away from its typical fare. There is no specific love story, no romantic interest for Moana, just a sense of devotion to her position as leader. There are also several adversaries but no clear villain, the black-and-white nature of good and evil is put to one side in favour of plentiful shades of grey. And then there’s the journey itself which, as stated, mirrors folk tales, myth and legend in the sense that the hero completes several tasks and trials, growing in the process but eventually returns home stronger for the experience – roles usually reserved for male characters. On the other hand, we still have so many elements that smack of that overbearing Disney tone and a horrendous amount of rewrites: two dimensional supporting characters, anachronistic pop-culture references, endless singing and clunky humour.

Once the film eventually gets going (the establishment of island life and the tribe’s backstory is a bit of an interminable grind) there are two standout characters, Moana and Maui. Everyone outside of that is either two dimensionally drawn, mute or unbearably annoying. Before we get to the leads, let’s discuss the supports. Moana’s parents do little more than support/hinder her advancement as a young woman (as every parent perceivably does in a Disney film – when they’re not dying to drive the story of course) and Tamatoa the giant crab monster is amusingly voiced and written but never menacing enough to instil genuine peril but I’ll expand more on him later. That leaves us with the kooky grandmother, the coconut creatures and the stupid animal sidekicks, all of which I could have done without. Seriously, I cannot convey how much I am done with dumb animals with either human traits or acting like a fucking dog!

But as much as the peripheral players felt bland, the leads excelled wonderfully. Moana is a believably drawn heiress, who doesn’t spend the entire runtime running away from her responsibility, if anything she actively seeks out a resolve and brings her whole village forward, as any good leader should. She is also decently acted by newcomer Cravalho and should resonate with audiences globally. Having said that, naming your daughter Moana (which means ocean in many Polynesian languages) was a stupid move on her parent’s part; if you don’t want to have a daughter fascinated by the sea, maybe don’t name her after it? Then there’s Maui, who should be a cultural minefield with his dancing tattoos, stereotypical rotundness, cowardice and ego but the heart and charm that Johnson exudes is palpable. That’s not to say these issues won’t hit home with many who will feel their culture is being high-jacked, trivialised or commercialised but from a performance point of view, Johnson does an incredible job bringing to life a complex and layered deity.

As with any film with this many animators, the visuals were almost guaranteed to be jaw-dropping. Once you look past the bug-eyed mental disability chicken and the anthropomorphic Abyss-like column of water, the effects are extremely impressive; most notably Moana’s confrontation with Te Kā. The music, on the other hand, I’m unsure about. The songs are pleasing enough and certainly fit the visuals but there’s nothing iconically special about them and likewise, Mark Mancina’s score fits but never reaches the heights of the visuals.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. There was definite room for improvement but as a fantastical journey of self-discovery and overcoming unconquerable odds, it’s engaging and fun.


Release Date:
2nd December 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
For all the talk of Maui’s mischievous ways, his introduction as a vain, egotistical being is amusing. What’s more, the song You’re Welcome is one of the more addictive and subtly serves to cover a wealth of backstory and drive the plot forward with a mix of pleasing visual artwork. But I can’t shake the feeling I had at the end of The Princess And The Frog, which shouldn’t surprise me as it’s the same directors. It’s a pretty decent film but for all the fuss made about cultural sensitivity it makes some really stupid mistakes; as if someone said, you know what I really like? Hercules. Can we do something like that but from a different culture?

Notable Characters:
Tamatoa is easily the funniest thing in this film. A weird hyperactive, narcissistic mythical being with an obsession with the importance of external appearance. But the only reason he works is the hilarious voice work and song performed by Jemaine Clement. Can’t say much more than that without ruining story points but he was amusing. Odd and not necessarily evil but amusing.

Highlighted Quote:
“When you add your own stone, you raise the whole island higher”

In A Few Words:
“At the same time Moana is a shining example of the heights Disney could achieve and a reminder of how little it understands how to progress past its formulaic past”

Total Score:

4/5