Author: Presh Williams

Big Picture Film Club Co-Founder.

Review: Alita: Battle Angel

February 21, 2019

Written by James Cameron (Avatar) & directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the Sci-Fi adventure film, Altia: Battle Angel.

What’s it about?

Set several centuries in the future, the story picks up when the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard by Dr. Ido, Alita has no memory of who she is, or the world she has found herself in.

Rachael RNR reviews Alita: Battle Angel (YouTube)

Alita: Battle Angel is out in cinemas now.


BAFTA 2019 Highlights & Talking Points

February 10, 2019

The 72nd British Academy Film Awards, more commonly known as the BAFTAs, took place 10 February 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. We break down the biggest talking points from the awards ceremony.

The Favourite wins big

Director, Yargos Lanthimos (centre) & the cast of The Favourite (ekathimerini.com)

Already a favourite among critics, The Favourite scooped up seven awards on the evening, more than any other, including Outstanding British Film, Best Actress (Olivia Colman) & Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz). Will The Favourite win big at The Oscars later this month? We’ll have to wait to find out.

Letitia wins EE Rising Star Award

Letitia Wright in Black Panther (Disney)

The EE Rising Star Award is special as it is the only fan-voted award in the BAFTAs. This year’s winner was Letitia Wright, she had a stellar year in 2018 appearing in Black Panther, Ready Player One & Avengers: Infinity War. Letitia follows 2018 winner Daniel Kaluuya, who also starred in Black Panther

Netflix wins big with Roma

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo in Roma (Netflix)

Roma picked up three awards for Best Film, Best Director (Alfonso Cuarón) & Best Foreign Language Film. Roma has been the first Netflix original film to garner such praise and recognition from the major industry awards – it is also nominated for 10 Oscar Awards. Netflix was infamously banned from The Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

First Man leaves empty handed

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong in First Man (Getty Images

Despite being nominated in seven categories, First Man failed to pick up any awards. First Look tells the story of Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

See the full list of winners below


Review: If Beale Street Could Talk [Spoiler Free]

If Beale Street Could Talk Banner

Written & directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and based on the book by acclaimed civil rights activist and author, James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is a bittersweet tale of fighting for love and overcoming adversity, in the face of racial oppresion.

Set in early 1970’s Harlem, Tish (played by KiKi Layne), a nineteen-year-old girl, is in love with a young sculptor, Fonny (played by Stephan James), the father of her unborn child. When Fonny is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned, Tish and their families race to clear his name before the baby is born.

What is the price of love? And what is the cost of freedom? In what feels like insurmountable odds to overcome, these are questions asked of Tish & Fonny as they navigate through their blossoming relationship. Narrated by Tish, the film is a powerful introspective look at black love flourishing in a hostile environment.

Both Tish & Fonny’s families play a pivotal role as their support systems. And despite hardships faced by both families, at different points in the film, the lengths that they are willing to go to in order to a support Tish & Fonny make for some of the most heart warming moments in the film. Director, Barry Jenkins, does a great job in showcasing the strong familial bonds that exist within their respective families, and also the fraught relationship that Tish & Fonny’s families have for each other.

Facing racism

Whilst racism is an everyday reality faced by Tish & Fonny, director, Barry Jenkins highlights many of the nuanced ways this manifests – not simply through a corrupt legal system. We are given a front seat to see the racial dynamics at play in Tish’s job, through how her customers & colleagues interact with her and even though the couple’s frustration, due to the discrimination they face in finding a home.

However, we are also shown the allies that exist in other parts of their community. Each of these key moments where they are helped by other members of the community plays an important role in shaping how the story unfolds.

Although racism is something they experience, their characters are not simply defined by it. This is a testament to the care in how both lead characters have been crafted. Tish and Fonny have their own clear dreams and aspirations, and director Barry Jenkins has done a fantastic job in showing how their relationship matures over the course of the film.

Love conquers all?

It’s hard not to be emotionally invested in Tish & Fonny by the end of the film, you want them both to succeed – individually and as a couple. With lush cinematography and flawless storytelling If Beale Street Could Talk is incredible from start to finish. Although the ending of the film is bittersweet it is nonetheless a very powerful one. Visually, the film is stunning where it needs to be and yet suitably understated where it serves the interest of the story. Can love truly conquer all? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

Rating: (5 / 5)

If Beale Street Could Talk is an amazing film which will shape African American cinema moving forward, but also serves as a powerful love story for all to enjoy.

If Beale Street Could Talk is out in cinemas now.

If Beale Street Could Talk (Trailer)

Review: Escape Room

February 7, 2019
Rachael RNR - Escape Room Review

YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the survival horror, Escape Room.

What’s the film about?

Six strangers are invited to participate in a mysterious escape room a game, where players solve a series of puzzles to win $10,000. But the game soon turns into a living nightmare, a matter of life or death.

Rachael RNR reviews “Escape Room” (YouTube)

Short Documentary | Why Do British Asians Never Make It Pro?

February 1, 2019

Adam McKola goes on a journey to try and discover why professional football in Britain continues to overlook British Asians. We follow Adam as he discovers the reasons some British Asian footballers and coaches feel they have been held back, reasons for this and what the football governing bodies and the British Asian communities can do to improve the amount of British Asians at football’s highest level.

Watch the full documentary below

Short Documentary “Why Do British Asians Never Make It Pro?”

Review: Green Book

January 30, 2019
Rachael Green Book Review

YouTuber & Presenter, Rachel RNR reviews the critically acclaimed Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen & Mahershala Ali.

What’s the film about?

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Rachael RNR Reviews Green Book

Review: Vice [Spoiler Free]

January 24, 2019

Following 2015’s The Big Short, the trio of writer / director, Adam McKay and actors Christian Bale & Steve Carell join forces for the biographical political drama, Vice. The film details the rise to power of former U.S Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Story

Based on the biography of Dick Cheney, as well as interviews with known associates, Vice tells the life story of Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale). The film documents the period of him being kicked out of Yale University to the end of George W. Bush’s administration, for which he served as Vice President. The viewer is guided through his life story by the narrator, Kurt (Jesse Plemons), we later discover how these two individuals are connected.

The supporting cast includes Amy Adams (Arrival, Justice League) as Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney; Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy, Welcome to Marwen) as Donald Rumsfeld; Tyler Perry (Nobody’s Fool) as Colin Powell; and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) as President George W Bush.

Hitting The Mark

Christian Bale & Amy Adams (Vice)

Over the years, Christian Bale has proven himself to be a master at immersing himself in the characters he plays, fortunately, this remains true with his depiction of Dick Cheney. From the stoic demeanour and gravelly voice, Christian Bale’s performance is on par with previous performances in American Hustle & The Fighter.

Lynne Cheney is very much the backbone of the Cheney family. Her motivations are often a lot clearer than Dick Cheney’s, which allows Amy Adams to play her role with greater depth. Her need for a sense of security in her relationship, based on her parent’s abusive relationship and her wishes to realise her own ambitions, at a time women couldn’t so easily do, gives her character a sense of drive. One that is felt constantly throughout the film.

Sam Rockwell’s depiction of George W Bush largely stays true to the former president and is as equally believable as Christian Bale’s Cheney. One of the stronger points of Vice is exploring the relationship between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. George W. Bush once described his relationship with Dick Cheney as “cordial” and that’s largely how their relationship is shown on screen.

Most of the film revolves around three periods, which has defined modern-day Conservative politics in the U.S: The power-vacuum formed after the resignation of President Nixon because of the Watergate Scandal, the rise of the Bush family in the Republican Party & 9/11.

The film also makes references to how the wider landscape of how Conservative politics developed: from Roger Ailes’ initial wish to form a Conservative Party News Channel, which then became Fox News; to billionaires, the Koch brothers and their influence on the party.

Thought Process

Despite being accurate on key events, a downfall of the film is understanding Dick Cheney’s motivation in the first place. Early on in the film he is described as a “so-so student” and having been expelled from Yale and battling drinking, his decision to study and enter into politics, much less the long ascent to becoming the United States’ most powerful Vice President ever, isn’t given the on-screen time that it should have.

Is Dick Cheney motivated by hatred? fear? Or atriotism? Without this explored it can make light of the ruthlessness in which the real Dick Cheney moulded the Republican Party over the past decades. And whilst the director, Adam McKay, does present some facts and figures, it does little to show the motivating factors in pursuing the “War on Terror” as viciously as Dick Cheney did.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of The Big Short, you’ll certainly enjoy this. The supporting cast is great and Christian Bale is believable in his depiction of Dick Cheney. Even though it doesn’t quite reach the captivating heights of a film like Wolf of Wall Street in describing a “rise to power” story, it’s an intriguing look at how the political landscape of Republican politics has changed over the last four decades.

Verdict: (3.5 / 5)


2019 Oscar Nominations

January 22, 2019

Nominations for the 2019 OScars have been released. ROMA and The Favourite lead the way with ten nods each. Here’s the full list of nominees:

Best Motion Picture of the year:

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite

Green Book
A Star Is Born

Best Director:

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, ROMA
Adam McKay, Vice

Performance by an actress in a leading role:

Yalitza Aparicio, ROMA
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Performance by an actor in a leading role:

Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:

Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:

Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, ROMA
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Best foreign language film of the year:

Cold War
Never Look Away

Best original screenplay:

Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Green Book
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice

Best adapted screenplay:

Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters and Eric Roth, A Star Is Born
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott, BlacKkKlansman
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best animated feature film of the year:

Incredibles 2
Isle Of Dogs
Ralph Breaks The Internet
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Best documentary feature:

Free Solo
Pale County This morning, This Evening
Minding The Gap
Of Fathers And Sons

Achievement in film editing:

Barry Alexander Brown, BlacKkKlansman
John Ottman, Bohemian Rhapsody
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite
Patrick J. Don Vito, Green Book
Hank Corwin, Vice

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song):

‘All The Stars’, Black Panther
‘I’ll Fight’, RBG
‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’, Mary Poppins Returns
‘Shallow’, A Star Is Born
‘When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings’, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs

Achievement in cinematography:

Robbie Ryan, The Favourite
Caleb Deschanel, Never Look Away
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Matty Libatique, A Star Is Born
Lukasz Zal, Cold War

Achievement in production design:

Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart, Black Panther
Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton, The Favourite
Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas, First Man
John Myhre and Gordon Sim, Mary Poppins Returns
Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez, ROMA

Achievement in visual effects:

Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score):

Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther
Terence Blanchard, BlacKkKlansman
Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns

Achievement in sound editing:

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place

Achievement in sound mixing:

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
A Star Is Born
First Man

Achievement in costume design:

Mary Zophres, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther
Sandy Powell, The Favourite
Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns
Alexandra Byrne, Mary Queen of Scots

Best live action short film:


Best animated short film:

Animal Behavior
Late Afternoon
One Small Step

Best documentary short subject:

Black Sheep
End Game
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling:

Mary Queen of Scots

The Oscars take place Sunday 24th February

91st Oscar Nominations

Advice For First Time Independent Feature Filmmakers

January 10, 2019

Making your first feature film is a pivotal milestone for a filmmaker. From getting the right cast to working with the right producer, it can be a very daunting task, particularly if you’re working with a limited budget. So, we spoke to filmmakers who have independently completed their debut feature film to get practical advice on what to do when making your debut independent feature film. Here’s what they said…

Dom Lenoir (Director / Producer) – Winter Ridge (2018)

The right mindset & getting into cinemas.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t achieve, set yourself a goal for the film you want to make and something that sets you on fire with passion and then comit to making it. Half the battle is just making a pledge with yourself that whatever happens you will keep going, every time you hit an obstacle you just take it one at a time and eventually you’ll have a film. And build yourself the infrastructure of a film before you even think about asking for money, when its ready to go and all you need is the funds then you are in a good place for investment.

Getting into cinemas isn’t nearly as hard as people think. The attitude is that if you don’t have Tom Cruise in your film it won’t fill seats, but you can target areas you have a base and market single screenings yourself and a lot of cinemas are receptive if you can guarantee some seats filled.

Winter Ridge (Trailer)

Winter Ridge is available to download and stream across all major platforms.

Jamie Noel (Writer / Director) – Lie Low (2019)

Getting the right location & filming with smaller crew.

Once I came to terms with the restrictions of a smaller crew and minimal kit, I was free to focus on the benefits. Sure, I couldn’t afford an Alexa, or an expensive lighting set up but by shooting with available light, a documentary size crew, a Sony A7s and a hand-held gimbal, we suddenly were so much more flexible and agile. We were able to capture more takes and grab coverage and cutaways on the fly, something that would normally add hours on to the schedule. Embrace your limitations, they will end up being the best ally you have.

Working on a micro-budget, very little was certain. It was especially hard to lock down locations. We had to stay malleable and adapt quickly when the ground shifted. Our main location changed weeks before shooting, this not only changed things in regard to the logistics of the production but also in terms of the tone of the film. You just have to run with it, every location will have something to offer if you’re open to it and fortunately, in the end, our final main location turned out to be a real gem.

Lie Low (Teaser)

Lie Low will be screening at film festivals later this year.

Andy Collier (Co-Writer / Co-Director / Producer) – Charismata (2018)

When is a script ready & raising money for your film.

I think you should never stop working on [the script]. Good actors should bring their own takes to a script right up to shooting (which may or may not be improvements but working through them is always valuable). The better question is when is [a script] ready to use as a basis for fundraising? That’s a “piece of string” question but I think you need to be 100% happy that you have a very solid script in terms of all of story arc, structure, characterisation/slick dialogue, themes, motifs. The structure is a huge one… rightly or wrongly, a huge part of the gatekeeping side of the industry (financiers, prestige talent agencies) is focussed on BeatSheet-type analysis so it will help you if the script broadly conforms to that so that reading it satisfies their expectations.

Two methods for UK producers [For raising money]:

  • Package the script with a well-made lookbook (or at the very least one sheet) and a sensible business plan starting from sales projections given your genre and attached cast, and reverse engineer the budget to hopefully ensure break-even… and take that to the main markets (AFM, Cannes, Berlinale) and get meetings at the booths of as many sales agents, distributors, financiers as possible. And expect to get a lot of very encouraging responses in person that will 99.9% of the time fizzle out to nothing.
  • Get the same package and try to get rich individuals to invest, using EIS or SEIS as a sweetener. Finding rich individuals can be difficult if you don’t know any, but angel investors or equity crowdfunding platforms can be found on the internet. Depending on where you shoot, there are often soft money schemes available. In the UK, HMRC will reimburse you 20% of audited UK spend, provided you get all the necessary admin done properly. Soft money can’t be used for production or usually even post-production budget (it takes a long time to arrive)… but it’s valuable for back-end costs etc.

Charismata (Trailer)

Charismata is currently available in the U.S and will be available in the U.K later this year.

Sheila Nortley (Writer / Executive Producer) – The Strangers (2019)

Things to consider in pre-production & post-production.

I’d say one of the key things to consider in pre-production is post-production. You’d think it goes without saying but when filmmakers are first starting out a lot of the focus is on just getting through the shoot and getting the footage. It’s so important to get your post-production team in the loop as early as possible so that they’re not having to fix problems which could have been avoided but rather the shoot has been shot and delivered in a way which is not only the most efficient and convenient for them to be able to crack on but also the best way for the film overall. This also includes budgeting properly for post and not going ridiculously over budget during the production and then trying to cut corners later.

'I'm a writer, a mother, a Muslim'

Sheila Nortley says she's a 'born and bred Londoner' with roots in Ghana. She spoke to us about her latest film, The Strangers.

Gepostet von BBC News Africa am Montag, 13. August 2018
The Strangers (Behind the scenes – BBC)

The Strangers will be screening at festivals later this year.

Mark A.C Brown (Writer / Director) – Guardians (2018)

Choosing the right producer & working on a limited budget.

On Guardians we had no money so my choice of producer was based on getting someone not for raising money but for their ability to use the resources we had at our disposal. So Fred Fournier was the man. We had worked together on many short projects and he had worked in several different capacities on each from sound, script supervisor, continuity, camera and editing. And he did a few of the scores. So his knowledge of and ability to communicate with pretty much every department was invaluable, saving us time, money and a fair amount of embarrassment for me as I knew very little technical stuff at the time of shooting.

Guardians (Trailer)

Guardians will be released on Video on Demand later this year.

That concludes our advice from filmmakers! Look out for updates regarding the films featured. Big Picture Film Club would like to thank all of the filmmakers involved for their contributions.