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Author: Liselotte Vanophem

Reviews

Review: Stardust

November 7, 2020

10th of January 2016. The day that the music industry stood still as we had to say goodbye to one of the greatest and most influential musicians, David Bowie. Whether you stepped into Bowie’s eclectic world right at the beginning with The Man Who Sold the World or more towards the middle because of Let’s Dance you know that the musical chameleon would have a massive impact on the fans and music industry. Even after his death, Bowie’s influence is still visible and not only in the music industry. During the past few years, we had director Henry Hey bringing Bowie’s iconic characters and songs to life in the theatrical version of Lazarus, and now we have the biopic Stardust by director Gabriel Range. While that first one excels in every way possible, the latter doesn’t.

Johnny Flynn as David Bowie in Stardust
(Source: IMDb)

What’s a musician without music?

When seeing a movie about David Bowie, you would expect songs such as Life on Mars?, Rebel Rebel and Under Pressure. Well, you will get none of that as Bowie’s estate didn’t want his music to be used in this film. However, that didn’t stop Range from creating a wonderful story. Together with co-writer Christopher Bell, he tells the story of the young David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) who’s trying to get his international breakthrough. After being rejected by many radio stations, record labels and concert promoters for being too rebellious and too different, Bowie’s career seems to come to a permanent standstill. However, he gets one more chance as his manager sends him on a solo promo tour in America. Both Bowie and his pregnant wife Angie (Jena Malone) think that this will be the beginning of an internationally successful career.

However, their dream is being shattered when the trip doesn’t turn out exactly how they want. Once arrived in America, Bowie learns that there’s no tour and that he can’t perform any of his songs. No tour, no fans, no songs but there are still the promises of his publicist Ron (Marc Maron). While playing covers from other iconic artists in very unusual venues, Bowie also visits the many radio stations. Sadly, they don’t welcome this remarkable, withdrawn, insecure, sarcastic and peculiar artist with open arms which has a massive impact on Bowie’s mental state.

It becomes even worse when he starts to ease the rejections with booze and drugs. The more he experiments with his genderbending outfits, the substances and his ground-breaking music, the less he’s being accepted by the music industry. Will this tour ends in a glorious musical career or will Bowie’s life spiral completely out of control?

Johnny Flynn as David Bowie in Stardust
(Source: IMDb)

Hitting high notes and low keys

Well, we all know what impact the American trip had on Bowie. It resulted in selling 100 million records worldwide, getting a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and becoming the “Greatest Rock Star Ever” according to Rolling Stone. Sadly, we can’t praise this movie as much as we can praise the iconic artist himself because Stardust has (too) many flaws.

While the writers were able to create a story that doesn’t include any of Bowie songs, the absence of the music is the reason why the movie can’t captivate the audience to the fullest. We see Flynn playing some covers that Bowie performed such as The Yardbirds’ I Wish You Would and My Death from Jacques Brel but you don’t get that big final that could have been reached by including Starman or The Man Who Sold the World.

A very solid cast

If you want to make a biopic about a rock star, then as a director you need to have a lead who can pull it off. Not only musically but also charismatically. In an interview at the Raindance Film Festival, Range mentioned that while Flynn (Beast) might not look as Bowie, he certainly has the right charisma. Well, we agree with that. Flynn isn’t the spitting image of Bowie, but when you put him in the perfect clothes and the right light, then you will get a silhouette that could be the one from the man himself. During many moments, Flynn’s performance feels a little bit too forced, but when Bowie hits the stage, we see Flynn giving a much more open, charismatic and entertaining performance.

Maron (Joker) brings with his genuine and emotional performance much warmth, vividness and personality to this movie. Malone (Nocturnal Animals) is a little bit underused, but she’s still capable of capturing that fierceness and boldness from Angie beautifully.

Johnny Flynn as David Bowie and Marc Maron as Ron in Stardust
(Source: IMDb)

Don’t expect it to be another Rocketman

If you’re going to check out Stardust, don’t expect it to be another Rocketman or Bohemian Rhapsody. No, this movie works much better if you see the story as one about a musician and his publicist trying to get his career off the ground instead of one about the great musician we all know. If you’re a Bowie fan, then you might be disappointed after seeing this movie, but if you want to enjoy an emotional, easygoing and clever film, then Stardust is one you should see.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Stardust (Official Trailer)

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Reviews

Review: Relic

October 26, 2020
Relic

A visit to your grandmother should be fun and heart-warming. Whether it’s just to have a short chat, to enjoy a nice meal or to celebrate Christmas, it always has to be an enjoyable time. That’s what Kay and Sam had in mind when they visited Edna, Kay’s mum and Sam’s grandmother. However, that’s not what they got at all. No, if you watch the stunning Relic from writer/director Natalie Erika James, then you will know that they wished they could have remembered their visit differently.

The curse of growing old

Their trip starts like any other. Ready to cuddle up, share stories and to eat delicious food. However, when Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) learn that Edna (Robyn Nevin) is missing, the family visit takes a darker turn. Kay and Sam try to find their lost family member but what they see is certainly not what they were expecting. Bloody clothes, strange black mould on the walls and strange (human) noises are what they encounter. After having to deal with multiple search parties and many sleepless nights, Kay and Sam are perplexed when Edna turns up on the doorstep (or better said: in the kitchen). You would think that it would be a happy family reunion, but it’s everything but that.

It seems that Edna can’t remember where she had been, and while at first, that could have happened due to the shock, it’s clear that she has dementia. The disease is significantly evolving, and Edna’s mood swings become incredibly dark. She starts to harm herself and her family for no reason, she talks to people who aren’t there, and the dementia seems to be eviler than expected. Will Kay and Sam be able to save Edna from whatever she’s going through or will Edna’s disappearance have a much darker and lasting impact than initially thought?

Emily Mortimer as Kay and Bella Heathcote as Sam in Relic
Emily Mortimer as Kay and Bella Heathcote as Sam in Relic
(Source: IMDb)

A typical horror movie combined with some unique elements.

We can hear you say it. ‘Another horror movie’ and ‘what makes this movie different than any other horror movies before?’. Well, let us tell you. Relic isn’t just an ordinary horror film, and here’s why.

First of all, it’s because of the perplexing fact that Relic is just the debut feature of Erika James. Together with her co-writer Christian White (Creswick), she created a refreshing, unique and suspenseful movie with some very subtle elements to it. At first, the story itself seems straightforward. A missing family member turning back up and not knowing what she has done because of her dementia. The relationship between the three women is being tested. Not only because of the disease but also because of events from the past and plans for the future. However, there’s much more to this story than what meets the eye. We don’t want to say too much, but we dare to say that you probably didn’t see that climax coming.

The ‘dark versus light’ aspect of this movie is beautifully brought to the screen by the usage of mainly lamps, candles and the moonlight. Many of those lights will help you out discovering which darkness is lurking behind those closed doors. Cinematographer Charlie Sarroff (American Bistro) brings the unique story great to live thanks to the stunningly created perfect balance between the darkness and danger and the light and hope. Sarroff’s work is one of the reasons why this movie is a delightful one.

Robyn Nevin as Edna in Relic
Robyn Nevin as Edna in Relic
(Credit: Film Installation)

Three stunning leading ladies

Other reasons why you should watch this movie are outstanding acting performances. The most dazzling one is, without a doubt, the one from Nevin (Gods of Egypt). She rocks in this movie as the sinister grandmother you don’t want to hug. Edna feels like the dark version of the Mona Lisa. Wherever you and the camera go, her ice-cold and creepy look will follow you all around the room. Nevin knows how to make the audience feel very unease. She, and cast, doesn’t have a lot of lines and so the emotions and the story need to come to life with body language, and Nevin certainly succeeds in that.

In Relic, we see Mortimer (Mary) as her on-screen daughter who pleasingly portrays Kay. She brings the feelings of guilt, distress, hate and love emotionally and fabulously.  Thanks to her touching performance, the personal connection between the audience and the leading characters is being established instantly. Heathcote (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women) joins those two terrific women in a beautiful and captivating way. At first, her performance is just a nice one that doesn’t stand out in any way. However, the closer the unexpected climax is coming, the bigger, bolder and more memorable her performance becomes.

An excellent and tense watch

What makes from Relic such a great watch is the fact that it’s not a blood or gore horror story but instead a story that can happen to any of us (well, if you leave the cinematic aspects aside). There’s a chance that we might have to deal with dementia one day, and that’s why the movie is so appealing. If you combine that real-life element with the stunning dark performances, the well-balanced light versus dark relationship and wonderfully made cinematography, you know that this is an excellent debut movie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Relic (Official trailer)

Also Read: Saint Maud (Review)

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Reviews

Review: Mangrove [London Film Festival]

October 21, 2020
Mangrove - Steve McQueen

This year many industries had to make some (drastic) changes, and the film industry (and the whole entertainment industry) was one of them. Releases postponed, filming temporary suspended and film festival needing to adapt. Many film festivals went online, and some were cancelled entirely. The BFI Film Festival took it to another level as they decided to host a hybrid edition with both physical and online screenings. Despite all the changes, there’s still one thing you can count on, and that’s an impressive line-up. The opening night film Mangrove by director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) is the perfect example of that. After his Widows in 2018, McQueen is returning to the festival with an even more impressive and extremely relevant movie.

Taking place in the ’70 but never as relevant as now

Today, on the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, conversations and about injustice and racism are at the forefront of conversation, making Mangrove a very timely film. After having to close his previous bar, Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes) is now opening his Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill. The restaurant isn’t only black-owned, but it’s also the place where the entire black community comes together to have a great time and enjoy Caribbean cuisine. The film does a great job of conveying the intimidation tactics and the Metropolitan Police used against the afro-Caribbean residents in Nottinghill, West London. As part of that, we see Frank’s friends and family are being harassed, and the numerous raids on his restaurant – and the burden that comes with this.

The more the police brutality increases, the more the black community stands up for their rights, and the more Mangrove becomes the place for activist meetings. Amongst the attendees are Darcus Howe (Malachi Kirby), Altheia Jones-Lecointe (Letitia Wright), Barbara Beese (Rochenda Sandall) and Frank himself. After many small riots, the black community organises a protest, on 9 August 1970, during which 150 people march to the local police station. Sadly, that results in a massive clash between the police and the Mangrove Nine, and that was the start of the 11-weeks lasting trial between Pc Frank Pulley (Sam Spruell) and the Metropolitan police and the “Mangrove Nine”. A trial that was a watershed moment in “race relations” within the UK.

Letitia Wright as Altheia Jones-Lecointe in Mangrove.
(Source: BBC)

Oscar-worthy film for many reasons

While Mangrove is being screened at film festivals around the world, it’s actually part of the BBC’s Small Axe series. We hope that the movies in that series will be eligible for the many award ceremonies because if so, Mangrove should be nominated in many Oscar categories.

The main categories would, without a doubt, be the acting ones. Wright (Black Panther) excels as Jones-LaCointe, the headstrong, feisty and supportive representative of the Black Panthers. Wright brings the dialogues with so much power and dignity that they will go straight to your heart. That protest speech is one we will never forget. Another standout in this movie is Parkes (Trick or Treat). Thanks to his performance, we feel the pain, the determination and the courageousness of Frank. The further the story goes, the more impactful the emotions become. His last scene in court will bring tears to your eyes.

The stunning cast of Mangrove
(Source: BBC)

They’re surrounded by an immensely strong cast of which every member brings raw emotions to the screen in his or her unique way. Spruell (Outlaw King) his performance as Pully is also on point. We feel the corruptive, violent and mischievousness characteristics of Pully coming through the screen. We also want to applaud the smaller but still memorable performances by from Llewella Gideon (Second Coming) and Jack Lowden (Dunkirk). Gideon’s portrayal as Aunt Betty, the witty, funny and blunt cook from the Mangrove, and Lowden performance as the barrister of the Mangrove Nine, bring a bit light to this extremely rough story.

We wouldn’t be surprised if the movie would also be selected in categories involving costume design, production design and original screenplay. Saying that McQueen and his crew bring such an authentic vibe to this movie would be an understatement. The real and genuine element is represented by the combination of the 35mm film shot by Shabier Kirchner (Only You), the brilliant period costumes designed by Lisa Duncan (Peripheral) and the fantastic production design provided by Helen Scott (Dark River). From the very first scene of the Rio, in which men are enjoying gambling, smoking and drinking, to the very last one, in which black and white people come together in the Mangrove, it all feels exceptionally authentic.

Impactful triumph

While Mangrove will be only available at the small screen for the moment, we hope that it finds its way to the cinemas. Not only because of its extremely relevance but also for the immense authenticity and strong performances.

Mangrove will premiere on BBC One and iPlayer on the 15th of November.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Mangrove (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Review: Kajillionaire [London Film Festival]

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Reviews

Review: Siberia [London Film Festival]

October 13, 2020

You would think that after having to spend too much time in a lighthouse, Willem Dafoe would choose something more uplifting for his next project. Well, think again. This time he went for an even darker role and pretty sure that co-writer/director Abel Ferrara (Tommaso, Pasolini) was thrilled with that. Ferrara and his life-long muse Dafoe work together again, and Siberia is undoubtedly a movie you will remember but sadly not only for the right reasons.

A mind-bending story

Where do we begin? Not quite sure but let’s give it a shot anyway. The movie starts in Siberia (what a surprise, right?) and Clint (Willem Dafoe) is the owner of a decayed and remote bar. Not many people, but at least he gets a few customers. They’re the only people that make sense in this movie cause apart from that, everything seems to be surreal. What follows is a cacophony of events. A pregnant woman making Clint’s life even stranger, men being beaten up and Clint hearing and seeing his dead dad. Do you want to know where this disturbing journey is taking us? Then that’s for you to discover by watching this movie.

Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
(Credit: The Match Factory)

Peculiar to say the least

During an interview with Sundance, ahead of the shooting of Siberia, Ferrara mentioned that he wanted to “see if we can film dreams—our fears, our regrets, our nostalgia.”. Well, we have to applaud the director for achieving that because having to deal with fear, regrets and our dreams is precisely what Siberia is about. We all know that our dreams can be very disorientated especially if you wake up in the middle of one. When it comes to that element, Siberia feels exactly like a dream because of all the different worlds and events and no explanation whatsoever.

If you have a perplexing story like this, you have to make sure that it’s still a captivating one; otherwise, the audience might drop out before the movie even becomes interesting. Luckily for Ferrara, he can count on cinematographer Stefano Falivene, who already brought stunning films to life such as Aspromonte: Land of the Forgotten and All You Ever Wished For. Falivene succeeds in putting every dream on the screen in a beautiful way. Whether it’s the quiet and white Siberia or the heated and sandy desert, it all looks gorgeous, vibrant and intriguing. It’s just a shame that this movie includes too many dreams and because of that, we can’t enjoy every dream and the whole cinematography to the fullest.

Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
Willem Dafoe as Clint in Siberia
(Credit: The Match Factory)

Enormous credit to Dafoe

If you have a twisted story like this, then you know that you need an actor who put on an even crazier performance. It’s understandable why Ferrara went for Dafoe. Not only because both men got together many times but also because, as we all know from The Lighthouse, Dafoe is a master in portraying unusual and broken figures. This time is no different. Whether it’s as the lost man longing to see his deceased father, the lifeless guy who’s looking for his soul, the passionate lover or the very amusing dancer, Dafoe gets the chance again to show his wide range of capabilities.

Why so serious?

Apart from the magnificent cinematography and the excellent performance by Dafoe, there’s one more element that might make you enjoy Siberia a bit more and that’s the seriousness of this movie. We should actually say ‘the lack of seriousness’ as it’s clear the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are many cliches, moments that don’t make sense at all and scenes that are too unoriginal.

Where’s your head at?

We have absolutely no clue in which state of mind Ferrara and co-writer Christ Zois (Jersey Guy) were when they wrote the script of this movie and not sure if we want to go there. It’s certainly not a mindset we’ve experienced. While the cinematography is a breath-taking one and the acting performance from Dafoe is impressive, the storyline is just a bit too much all over the place to make from Siberia a delightful and enjoyable movie.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Siberia (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Lighthouse (Review)

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Reviews

Review: Saint Maud

October 6, 2020
Saint Maud

If you’ve been following writer-director Rose Glass, then you know that she’s not afraid of putting strong emotions out there. A young couple and their obsession (The Silken Strand), two people living in isolation together (Storm House) and two lonely neighbours growing closer (Moths). Yes, all her short films focus on human feelings. She’s doing the same now in Saint Maud, her first full-length film, but she adds a massive horror twist to the story. The result? A unique and tense movie in which Morfydd Clark excels.

Heaven and hell are mixed up

Being a nurse or caretaker is one of the hardest jobs there are so we have the utmost respect for any woman or man out there doing the job. They take care of us but who’s taking care of them? Well, Maud (Morfydd Clark) is being taken care of by her God. According to her, He’s navigating her to her ultimate goal and is with her along the entire (twisted) way. Now He guides her to her next patient called Amanda (Jennifer Ehle). While former dancer Amanda is ill, she still enjoys life by doing what she loves: smoking, drinking and enjoying the company of other people.

Maud and Amanda are the opposite. Light versus darkness. Monotonous life versus vibrancy. Firm believer vs atheist. Despite their different lifestyle, the women grow close to each other. It all seems to go fine. Amanda brings enjoyment into Maud’s life, while Maud teaches Amanda about God. It’s clear that Maud is excessively devoted to God as he takes over her life completely. However, it’s not only figuratively speaking. No, he’s also taking over her own body. Once that happens, the way to the light becomes extremely dark as we’re pretty sure that the Bible doesn’t include self-harm, bloodshed and jealousy.

Morfydd Clark as Maud in Saint Maud
(Source: IMDb)

Slow start but rushed ending

When making a movie, as a director, you always have to make sure that the audience can connect to your film in one way or another. In this film, Glass gives you the time to step into the shoes of Maud (although maybe that’s something you don’t want to do after all), get to know her lifestyle and her dedication to her patient and to God. Therefore Glass opted for a slow start and a low-key middle.

A real connection is established between the audience and Maud during the first hour, but sadly, that’s also the reason why the ending feels rushed. A lot is happening towards the end, and so it feels like as the movie is a bit unbalanced. It maybe would have been better if the start and the middle come to life a bit more or that the ending was stretched out. Nevertheless, the story of Saint Maud is a very unique one. One that’s brought to the screen stunningly by both the cast and crew, led by the magnificent Clark.

Clark leads the way

When watching Saint Maud, it’s clear that this movie must have been a very demanding one, both physically and emotionally for Clark (The Personal History of David Copperfield, Crawl). Whether it was Maud going through different emotional phases or devoting her body to God, we can still feel her pain thanks to Clark’s knockout performance. Clark also guides us to the story via a dark voice-over, and because of that, Maud’s feelings become even bigger.

Ehle (Vox Lux, The Miseducation of Cameron Post) her portrayal of the flamboyant but also the broken Amanda is big in its fragility and emotions. The chemistry between Ehle’s and Clark is the glue that holds the whole movie together. Even the more supporting roles coming from Lily Frazer (The Gentlemen, Tomorrow) as Amanda’s lovers, and Lily Knight (Their Finest, Brand New-U) as Joy, a young woman who knows Maud from the past and thanks to who we get to learn more about Maud’s dark past, are lovely to watch.

Jennifer Ehle as Amanda in Saint Maud
(Source: IMDb)

The crew brings even more darkness to Saint Maud.

Not only the stunning cast make from this movie an entirely captivating one to watch but also the crew certainly adds a lot of darkness to Saint Maud. First of all, there’s the terrifying and terrific score provided by Adam Janota Bzowski that certainly brings that haunting vibe to this movie. There’s also the tremendous cinematography from Ben Fordesman who always finds a way to put a sinister element into the scene. Saint Maud is for both men their full-length feature debut and what a debut it is!

Big and bold

We were lucky enough to have seen Saint Maud on both the small screen during the virtual press screening and in the cinema. Let us tell you: there’s only one way to watch this bold movie in the best way, and that’s by seeing it on the big screen. Not only for the genuinely well-balanced cinematography, the horrifying score but most importantly for the impressive performance by Morfydd Clark.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Saint Maud will be released in U.K. cinemas on the 9th of October.

Also Read: 5 Captivating Performances From Method Actors

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Reviews

Review: Fernando

September 29, 2020
Fernando Alonso

Winning 24 Hours of Le Mans twice. Winning two Championships. Making it 97 times onto the stage while 32 as a winner. Yep, saying that the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso has an impressive palmares would be a massive understatement. While his career has been a tumultuous one with a few comebacks, his influence is felt both on and off the tracks. He already rode for a few of the most significant F1 teams such as Ferrari and McLaren, and earlier this summer, he announced that he would sit behind the wheel for the Alpine F1 Team during the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Amazon decided to release a five-part documentary about both his personal and professional life to honour this well-respected and well-loved driver. If you’re an F1 fan, then this documentary is one you should absolutely see as ‘Fernando’ takes you on a high-speed rollercoaster with lows, highs, and some crashes in between.

Racing to victories

I’m not going to stop, probably the thought that was on Alonso’s mind multiple times, is also the title of the very first episode of Fernando. It deals with his final months at McLaren and shows us his first victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the one that happened in 2018. Later it will turn out that Alonso would also win the 2019 edition of that same race (which you will be able to see in the third episode). While during this episode, we see a lot of highs, such as his first victories (both as a young driver as well as the champion we all know) and how he became a hero in Spain, we see many lows during the second episode, “I don’t know what to say”, such as Alonso having to deal with not passing some pre-qualifications.

As mentioned before, you will see all the action of Le Mans 2019, during which Alonso raced towards his second title, in this third act. “Everything is possible,” doesn’t only show the possibility of winning prestigious races but also the possibility of cracking down almost under the heated pressure. This episode takes you to Dakar where Alonso prepared himself for the Dakar Rally. This series isn’t only about the professional life of Alonso but also the more personal one. Throughout the series, we don’t only meet his inner circle that consists of his manager Luis García Abad, his partner Linda Morelli, his sister Lorena Alonso, and his colleagues Marc Gené and Carlos Sainz, but we also see his off-track appointments.

That fourth episode, “Out of my environment,” heightens those personal gatherings as it focusses on the museum that Fernando Alonso has in Asturias in which his trophies and his cars are on display for everyone to watch. Right at the end of the episode, we see him stepping back into his car to participate in the Rally of Morocco. “Mission Accomplished” concludes this documentary and focuses on the apotheose, the Dakar Rally. You won’t only get breath-taking footage from the race, but you will also see what it’s like for an experienced driver to take part in a race for the very first time.

24 Hours of Le Mans 2019 Full Highlights

Loads of respect from both sides

Ahead of this release, Alonso shared some insight into the making of this documentary. He’s very protective about the people around him when it comes to his and their privacy and having cameras on him for almost 24/7 wasn’t easy for him. There was a lot of negotiation between him and the production team to make sure that everything was filmed in the right and most respectful way. Alonso made the decision about what he wanted to see in the documentary and what not. The respect is clearly visible in Fernando. The team really treated the rider with the utmost respect. We see his personal life brought in an emotional and intimate way, but it never feels like it is being exploited for entertainment.

Unique, thrilling, and exciting portrayal

What will the upcoming months bring for Alonso? Probably rigorous preparations for the upcoming season with a brand new sponsor. It was also announced that the filming of the second season is already underway and that it will be about Alonso’s return to the F1. Fernando is a unique, thrilling, and exciting portrayal of a World Champion that doesn’t only Alonso’s deepest personal feelings but also the biggest victories in F1.

Fernando (Official Trailer)

Fernando is out now on Amazon Prime

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Also Read: The Film Fan’s Guide To Time Travel

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Reviews

Review: Rocks

September 17, 2020
Rocks

That director Sarah Gavron has a love for female voices is proven by her Suffragette and Brick Lane. Now, she’s doing it again as she brings some new voices to our attention. Not only ‘new’ as in ‘voices we’ve never heard before’ but also ‘new’ as in ‘voices from first-time actors. Her Rocks is a beautiful and uplifting but also heartbreaking movie full of raw emotions.

When you have to go through a difficult time all on your own

Shola (Bukky Bakray), nickname Rocks, is a very vivid, creative, and full-of-life young woman who has a great time with her friends. Always cheerful, always getting into minor trouble, and always showing the world her make-up skills. On the outside, seems to be a typical teenager, but underneath her bubbly personality, there’s also sadness and pain. After her mother’s sudden departure, she needs to care for herself and her little brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu). Paying bills and getting food on the table becomes extremely difficult for Rocks, even with the little money her mum left her.

She’s doing her best: attending school, not getting into trouble anymore, and being there for her brother. There’s just one thing. She’s afraid of showing her emotions to her friends, and therefore, she has to face this massive burden alone. When this is starting to pressure her friendships, it’s all becoming too much for Rocks. Right when she thought she had seen the worst, people turn up on her doorstep, and they’re not coming to socialize.

The ensemble of Rocks
(Source: IMDb)

A first-class ensemble brings a lot of authenticity to this movie

During the Dublin International Film Festival, “Rocks” won the Best Ensemble award, and it’s that stunning ensemble that keeps this movie going. The performances of the overall cast are poignant, beautiful, and right from the heart. Because of the acting, you feel that you’re watching a real-life documentary instead of a movie. Every time Bakray appears on the screen, she will either make you laugh or cry.

Her performance is compelling and brings out that fighting spirit of “Rocks”. The on-screen chemistry between her and Kissiedu, who also deserves credit for his adorable and emotional performance, is such a wonderful one to see. The girls are all together in most scenes, but Bakray has the most time together with Kosar Ali, who’s playing the hip-hop loving Sumaya. Ali is such a delight to see, both her performance as the upbeat Sumaya and the more emotional young woman. However, again, congratulations to the entire cast of this movie!

There’s also a very high element of authenticity connected to this movie. The slang that the friends use, the secrets handshakes, and the entertaining classes are beautifully interwoven in the story. It feels like we’re back in school again. When seeing places like Rio Cinema and London’s landscape view, we’re out there on the streets, side-by-side with the girls. Also, the fact that every girl is different in her unique way is so refreshing to watch. No matter what class they’re from or which god they believe in, they’re friends who take each other for who they’re.

The wonderful cast of Rocks
(Source: IMDb)

A must-see gorgeous and moving film

Rocks was already part of film festivals such as the BFI London Film Festival and FilmBath Festival and is now getting a nationwide UK release. Not only because it proves that the film industry is slowly getting back up again but also because it will give you the chance to see this truth-full, emotional, and beautiful movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Rocks is released in the U.K. on the 18th of September

Rocks (Trailer)

Also Read: Underrated Movies: Ma

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Editorials, News

The Rise of Online Film Events: Will They Replace Physical Ones?

September 15, 2020

You have MCM London Comic Con twice a year, New York Comic-Con, and San Diego Comic-Con. Sadly, in 2020 we won’t have any of them due to the current climate. However, that doesn’t mean that Comic fans and international film companies can’t come together to enjoy the likes of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Black Widow. Like any other industry, the entertainment industry had to adapt the last few months and did that with a bang. Let’s discover what new ideas were created to bring fans, movies, and comics closer to each other.

10 Reasons to Look Forward to SDCC

Comic Cons in different online forms

The most significant change was, without a doubt, moving comic cons online. Ok, the usual meet and greets, autograph and photograph sessions weren’t possible, but thanks to Comic-Con@Home and DC FanDome, fans could still enjoy the newest trailers, exclusive footage, and panels. It might be less exclusive because everyone can access it, but that’s also the strength of online comic cons. We all know how expensive entry tickets can be, and so the fact that audiences can now access the content for free makes it so much easier for everyone around to world to see things they might never have seen otherwise. Still, we certainly can’t wait to see all the colourful, stunning, and one-of-a-kind cosplays, be in awe with other comic fans about upcoming releases and just feel that uplifting and exciting vibe.

Alongside those newfound events, a few platforms gained more fame because of the changing landscape. One of those was Twitch. For those of you who haven’t heard about Twitch, it’s a video live streaming service from Twitch Interactive, part of Amazon. At first, it focussed mostly on the live streaming of video games but also focused on music, film, and entertainment. Because of the cancellation of comic cons, organizers decided to this platform as their Q&A platform. Instead of hosting a panel in a packed room, they’re now just setting up a live-stream via Twitch. They get to interview the cast and crew of a film or television series from a distance, and fans worldwide can watch it wherever they’re from and submit their questions. To get that ‘exclusivity’ vibe, the live-stream isn’t available after the Q&A.

DC FanDome

Meet and greets with a twist

Standing in a long queue, waiting for hours, and then when you can finally meet the stars in person, it was worth it. Getting that euphoric feeling again won’t happen anytime soon (what a shame though), but there’s still a way with which fans and their favourite actors, directors, and producers can have a tête-à-tête. Just as back in the days, fans can buy meet and greet tickets, but instead of seeing the stars in real life, you get a Skype or Zoom invitation.

While the intimacy might get a little bit lost because of the virtual meet up instead of an in-person one, there’s also a positive thing regarding the online meet and greets. If you want to meet film cast during the comic cons, you wouldn’t only have to pay for the tickets, but if you come from outside the country, you also have to pay for the flight, accommodation, etc. Therefore it can become expensive and also not affordable for everyone. The online meet and greets, on the contrary, are much cheaper and can be bought all over the world. Although the intimacy level decreases slightly, there’s definitely still that feeling of excitement, anticipation, and wonder when that Zoom call in loading.

Modern reunions

Because we weren’t able to come together, we reunited via Zoom meetings and Skype calls and so did the cast and crew of films and television series. There’s only one small difference. Their reunions could be attended by all the fans all over the world. One of the most entertaining ones was The Lord of the Rings one in which the likes of Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Andy Serkis, Viggo Mortensen, and Sean Bean participated. The fans didn’t only get insights on what happened when the cameras stopped rolling, but some scenes were acted out again.

One Zoom to Rule Them All (Reunited Apart)

Will online events replace the physical ones?

Right after the FanDome, it was announced that the event got 22 million views across 220 countries and territories. The fans aren’t only standing behind comic cons, but they make sure that the meet and greets sell out and that the online reunions get millions of views. Will online events keep on rising throughout the following years, and will they replace the physical ones or just go side-by-side? To be continued for sure.

Also Read: DC FanDome Recap

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Editorials

DC FanDome Shows Us many Exciting Films We Can Look Forward To!

August 30, 2020
DC FanDome

Sadly, there are no Comic Cons these days but there are still many ways in which comic fans can connect with each other and with directors, actors, and film crews. One of those was DC FanDome, a 24-hour event during we’ve got a glimpse of what the future will bring when it comes to the DC Superheroes. Now that we’ve all woken up from our comic coma, it’s time for us to share some new teasers and exciting releases.

Batman is more alive than ever

Due to the ongoing situation, the filming of The Batman had to come to a halt but that didn’t stop director Matthew Reeves from sharing the first look of his upcoming movie. We didn’t only get to see the first official poster but also a glimpse of Robert Pattinson in the Batsuit. While there was only 25% of the movie filmed before lockdown, the team also already provided us with a trailer. After looking at this action-packed, black-red, and compelling footage, we can hardly wait to see what’s up next! The filming of The Batman is expected to be resumed very soon and the movie itself is set to be released in the UK on the 1st of October 2021.

Ok, yes technically this news was announced right before the start of the online event but hey, it’s Batman news that no one saw coming. After portraying Bruce Wayne in movies such as Justice League and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck is putting on the Batsuit again. No, it’s not about his performance in Justice League: The Snyder Cut. No, we’re talking about Affleck’s appearance in The Flash from director Andy Muschietti. Apart from Affleck, only two other members of the cast are confirmed so far. One of them is Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash and Michael Keaton as… Batman/Bruce Wayne. Yes, both Affleck and Keaton are starring as Batman in one movie. Pretty sure that George Clooney and Christian Bale are eagerly waiting by their phone. There’s no confirmed release date yet, apart from 2022.

Wonder Woman is ready to light up our screens again!

It was in June 2017 that we say Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in Patty Jenkins’ same-named movie and now the wait is (normally) almost over as we can expect the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, on the 2nd of October. We’ve already seen thrilling footage, don’t get us started on that trailer feature the OMD remix, and during the DC FanDome, another trailer was released.

One in which we see Kristen Wiig’s villain Cheetah for the very first time. After starting as Barbara Minerva, Wiggs appears to transform into a human-cheetah hybrid when battling it out against Gadot’s character. Their battle dominates the new trailer which also suggests that the Wonder Woman: Year One graphic novel was the inspiration for this movie. Just as in the previous trailers, we see Steve Trevor having to deal with the ’80s fashion and technology. Check it out for yourself!

Justice League: The Snyder Cut is living up to its expectations

We’ve already mentioned the Justice League: The Snyder Cut and saying that people are expecting a lot of this movie is a massive understatement. Director Zack Snyder confirmed in May that his version of Justice League will see the light of day (Hallelujah!) and later on it was announced that the 4-hour long film will be released on HBO Max next year. Apart from making sure that every character gets more screen time, Snyder will probably also go for a score by Tom Holkenborg, who was replaced by Danny Elfman for the theatrical cut. There will also be some changes in the colours that are used and the aspect ratio as they will use the “1.66:1 aspect ratio”, known as the European Widescreen.

Welcome to the Squad!

We also got a first look of James Gunn his The Suicide Squad and based on the extended behind-the-scenes look that Gunn revealed himself, we’re up for a star-studded superhero movie! Many of the 2016 Suicide Squad film castmembers will return such as Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag), and Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang) but there is also a bunch load of new names added to the impressive bill. Those include the likes of Idris Elba (Bloodsport), Alice Braga (Sul Soria), Nathan Fillion (T.D.K.), John Cena (Peacemaker), and Peter Capaldi (Thinker). Gunn’s brother Sean will also appear as Weasel. If everything goes according to plan, the movie will be released on the 6th of August 2021.

What’s next for DC FanDome?

When announcing the DC FanDome, it was nail-biting time for everyone involved because it was and is still a one-of-a-kind event. It seems that the gamble paid off for Warnes Bros. According to Variety, the DC FanDome event generated 22 million views across 220 countries, and because of that organisers are thinking about creating similar online events, alongside physical ones of course. It seems that filmmakers, comic books, and movie lovers will be united in more ways than before!

Also Read: Marvel VS DC: The Bitter Divide

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Editorials

What Does The Termination of Paramount Consent Decrees Mean For The Film Industry?

August 22, 2020
Cineworld

Two weeks ago, the film industry was shaken up again. The Paramount Consent Decrees were lifted by a U.S federal judge and this was a slap in the face of the film exhibitors. 2020 hasn’t been the best year for cinemas, to say the least. They needed to close for a long time because of COVID-19 and the (indefinite) postponement of the newest releases. Thanks to the Paramount Consent Decrees, there was still some hope. The decrees were put into place to stop film studios from block-booking and getting full ownership of theatre chains. It also prevented big distribution companies from turning the film industry into monopolistic trade practices. Now that those decrees are coming to an end, there might be much more intervention from major film companies. The question is: Will this be the beginning of the end for the film industry as we know it?

What are the Paramount Consent Decrees?

Before finding out which impact the halt of these decrees has, let’s go back in time and get to know more about it. The Paramount Consent Decrees saw the light of day in 1948 and cut off big production companies from only showing their films in the cinemas that they purchased. They focussed particularly on the Big Five Studio, such as Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and RKO Pictures. While there was still some space for block-booking, it was very restricted as the block size was limited to only five films. The blind buying, buying films before seeing the movies beforehand, wasn’t allowed anymore and an administration board was founded to make sure that these requirements were enforced.

While the Paramount Consent Decrees was institutionalized in 1948, a lot of discussions happened before that. Right after the first draft was drawn up in 1942, the studios disagreed with it and didn’t fully comply with the decree. Therefore they proposed another plan called the “Unity Plan” with which companies could buy theatres and cinemas could still reject the films. This was obviously to the dislike of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers and they came up with a lawsuit. Eventually, the United States Supreme Court chose in favour of the theatres in 1948.

After more than 72 years, this hard-won case is now coming to an end. It’s no surprise that when this news was announced the market value of major American players in the movie industry rose. AMC went up by 14.7%, Cinemark with +5.3%, Marcus with +6.57%, Imax by +3.3% and National CineMedia by +2.4%.

The Paramount Case

What does the termination of Paramount Consent Decrees mean for the film industry?

Lately, we’ve seen that delaying one movie has a massive impact on many different parties. The toppling of the Paramount Consent Decrees is no different. The biggest impact is without a doubt the one felt by the film exhibitors. While at first, they were still, to some degree, able to choose what they wanted to screen and on how many screens but now those terms can be fully dictated by the big production companies. This also impacts the kind of movies that will be shown in cinemas. The blockbusters will gain even more attention, theatre slots, and ‘screen time’ while independent films or films with a lower budget aren’t getting the possibilities they deserve.

It probably will also affect the diversity we see on screen. It might not be the biggest impact because we already see the A-list actors in most of the films but that percentage of big stars will rise even more. This will give upcoming talent almost no chance due to which the diversity of nominees for award ceremonies will decrease.

Other players in the film industry that feel the aftermath of this decision are the production and distribution companies. They now have the chance to buy cinema chains that will only screen their own produced movie. This results in companies trying to monopolize the movie landscape. One of the biggest examples is without a doubt that Amazon could be the possible buyer AMC Theatres, which also includes the Odeon chain in the UK. It’s just the question of whether or not they will go for it.

They probably won’t take that chance and we’ve seen the reason for that during the last few months without even noticing it. It’s because of the rise of streaming services such their Amazon Prime but also Diney+ and Netflix. Those services, which also are production and distribution companies at the same time, saw that people wanted to see their content on their platforms so why should they invest in theatres when they can use the money to improve their platforms and content.

What will the future hold for the cinema and theatre chains?

The future of cinema and theatre chains is so unpredictable. We’re just going to have to wait what impact COVID-19, the upcoming of new streaming services and the ending of the Paramount Decree have. To be continued that’s for sure.

Also Read: BAFTA: Steering Towards Greater Inclusion

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Editorials

Film Studios Weigh Up Their Options On VOD and Theatrical Releases

August 6, 2020
Disney's Mulan

Saying that the last few months have changed our lives completely would be a massive understatement. Not only when it comes to work and family life but also the way we watch movies. The subscriptions of Netflix, Amazon, and Disney+ rose immensely due to the Coronavirus. Not only because we were still stuck at home more than usual but also because we weren’t able to go to the cinema. Now that the theatres are slowly opening again, we dare to set a foot inside the cinema. Even though new releases such as Make Up, Saint Frances, and Unhinged are really worth the watch, we’re not flocking to the cinemas as much as we should due to the lack of blockbusters. However, because people don’t go to the movies, major studios are delaying their releases. This is really the ‘chicken or the egg?’ dilemma.

Every Delayed Movie So Far

When will we see new releases?

If 2020 was like any other year, we would have been able to watch A Quiet Place Part II, Black Widow, and Wonder Woman 1984 already. However, sadly those releases (and many more) have been delayed. Covid-19 has an impact around the world and for major film companies, it’s difficult to pinpoint when they will be able to release their newest movies. They can’t keep on postponing releases but they also have to adapt to the current environment.

Well, it seems that Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros might have found a way to releases films in cinemas after all. First, they will release Tenet in the countries in which movie theatres are already open and delaying the release in cities that aren’t ready to open the doors of the cinemas yet. If everything goes as planned (which is absolutely no guarantee these days), we will see how this works out at the end of this month. Will this be the start of a new (temporary) film landscape or will major studio keep on delaying?

Release on VOD before the theatrical run?

Because of the closing of cinemas, many movies went to VOD straight away. Greyhound from Aaron Schneider and starring Tom Hanks was one of the major ones that skipped the cinemas entirely. Major companies see the potential of VOD releases but they also realize that the movie lovers are still willing to go to the cinemas once it’s safe. Films will always have a cinematic release but the theatrical window is now becoming shorter and shorter. There probably will be more films like Bill & Ted Face the Music which will be released in the cinema and on VOD on the same day.

This might also be the solution both major studios and film-goers are waiting for. Those who want to go to the cinema can go and those who prefer watching the movie at home can do that as well. At the same time, film companies can show their movie to the biggest audience possible.

Bill & Ted: Face The Music (Official Trailer)

The impact of delayed film productions

Not only the releases have been impacted by the Coronavirus but also the film productions. They had to be put on hold for a few months and while some of them are re-starting again, it will probably also mean that they will be released later than expected. The question remains whether they will be delayed because of the temporary halt or because the cinemas won’t be fully re-opened by then.

How does the future of film look like?

It will take a while before things turn back to ‘normal’. People not going to the movies because of no new films and major companies pushing back the releases because people aren’t going to the cinemas. It feels like we’re going in circles at the moment. Releasing films in certain territories based on the current situation or releasing them on VOD and in cinemas at the same time might be possible (temporary) solutions. There’s also an extra solution for people who are keen on returning to the cinemas but don’t go yet because of the lack of new movies. Support smaller films and independent venues because they need us now more than ever.

Also Read: Breaking The Theatrical Window

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Editorials

BAFTA: Steering Towards Greater Inclusion

July 27, 2020
BAFTA John Boyega

Inclusion, diversity, and equality have never been talk about in the film industry as much as during the last few months. Whether it was the much-needed equality between men and women or more diverse award nominees, many topics like that have been discussed lately. At the end of June, the Academy announced their 819 new members of which 36% were people of colour and 45% women. By doing so, they followed the example of BAFTA (British Academy of Film of Television Arts).

Earlier this year, BAFTA announced that it established a new steering group that will review the lack of diversity in some the categories during this year’s British Academy Film Awards. The group will take a look at the rules, processes, and conditions regarding the nominations and votings. This might be a massive step in the right direction but won’t it be too little too late?

Naomie Harris (credit: CNN)

BAFTA and its role in the film and television industry

BAFTA has been supporting the film and television industry right from the first ceremony in 1948. Throughout the years, they haven’t only supported film (British Academy Film Awards) but also television (British Academy Television Awards) and games (British Academy Games Awards). This makes BAFTA an important player in the entertainment industry. BAFTA praises itself as the world-leading independent arts charity which gives attention and support to the UK and international creative talent. Not only with handing out awards, but also by organising learning events, discussion, workshops, masterclasses, and lectures. This year, BAFTA announced that Krishnendu Majumdar will be as its new Chair. Majumdar is an Emmy-winning and BAFTA-nominated television producer and director and has been closely involved with BAFTA for 14 years.

Chiewtel Ejiofor (Credit: BAFTA Guru)

#BAFTASoWhite

The #BAFTASoWhite has been going on for a few years now. It started in 2017, the year during which La La Land was up for eleven awards. In both leading actors and leading actress categories, all the nominees were white. While the likes of Emily Blunt, Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield, and Ryan Gosling were rightfully nominated because of amazing performances, BAFTA could have included Janelle Monáe and Naomi Harris, both for their stunning achievement in Moonlight, and Mahershala Ali and his wonderful acting in Hidden Figures. Moonlight from Barry Jenkins was nominated for Original Screenplay but Jenkins was left out in the Best Director category. The #BAFTASoWhite rose again this year after the announcement of the nominees for the 2020 ceremony and after Joaquin Phoenix and Prince William calling out the lack of diversity.

Joaquin Phoenix speech (Credit: BAFTA)

More inclusion because of the steering group?

With the new steering group, BAFTA wants to change the entertainment industry even more by reviewing policies and making the necessary changes. The steering group consists of BAFTA board and committee members, BAFTA staff, external industry figures, independent advisors, and leading diversity advocates and academics. They will take a closer look at elements such as the nominations and voting process, the role of distributors, the campaigning process, and the makeup of BAFTA’s membership. Issues such as diversity, under-represented groups, access, fairness, and unconscious bias will be talked about as well. The ultimate goal is to know which possible changes they can do to make from the entertainment industry a more diverse and inclusive one. While BAFTA mentioned that they will take into account the BAFTA Television, Television Craft, and Games Awards, they will mostly focus on the film awards.

The ‘chicken or the egg dilemma’ in film

When it comes to diversity and on-screen representation, there’s always the ‘chicken or the egg dilemma’. Is there simply a lack of black actors/directors getting opportunities or is it because black creatives don’t start a career in film because they think they won’t stand a chance? As mentioned before, BAFTA is always organising scholarships, lectures, and mentoring schemes. While these initiatives should be applauded, it shouldn’t be too hard to include more people of colour, people with disabilities, and women during the award ceremonies and the events especially when you look at international talent.

Andy Peters on Good Morning Britain (credit: ITV)

What could be done next?

While this new steering group is a massive step in the right direction, there’s still much more BAFTA and other organisers can do. Appointing under-represented people an important role within the organisations, and if the new steering group is a success, other big players in the entertainment industry should start similar groups as well.

Also Read: Lenny Henry Leads a Call For Change

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