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Editorials

These Ten Movies Ruled The U.K Box Office in 2020

December 23, 2020
UK Box Office 2020 Film Collage

2020 has been an incredibly demanding year for the film industry. From postponing filming to delaying releases and to having to deal with fewer cinemas and more streaming platforms. While we certainly didn’t have many cinematic releases, there were still many movies that hit our big screens. When looking back at the ten most popular films, that were released in the cinema before hitting streaming platforms, it makes 2020 certainly feels much longer than only 366 days.

1917 (Official Trailer)

1. 1917

Yep, that stunning movie by director Sam Mendes was released right at the beginning of this year. It feels ages ago since we saw the one-shot stunning looking cinematography from Roger Deakins, telling the thrilling story of two soldiers having to prevent an extremely deadly attack during World War I. However, nothing could be further from the truth. 1917 hit the UK cinemas on the 10th of January, right before the award season during which it won 111 awards amongst which were three Oscars and seven Baftas. No wonder that this movie generated £43,903,280, especially when you look at the outstanding performances by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay.

2. Sonic The Hedgehog

After being critiqued because of the bad CGI and the need to re-invented Sonic for his latest movie, director Jeff Fowler probably couldn’t have predicted that his film would be number 2 in the top 10 movies of 2020. With Ben Schwartz voicing the hyper-active Sonic and James Marsden and Jim Carrey accompanying him in this adventurous and joyful movie, Sonic The Hedgehog raced towards £19,148,545.

3. Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

Ok, this movie was released in 2019 but due to its 19th of December release date, Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker was part of the 2020 box office. Director J.J. Abrams decided to bring the Skywalker saga to an end with the legendary and thrilling conflict between the Jedi and the Sith. Even after all those years, the likes of  Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Rey are still relatively popular as they helped Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker gaining £18,830,197 at the UK Box Office.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

4. Little Women

Little Women didn’t only mean another collaboration between Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan but also a new revival of the story of the four March sisters. With a cast including Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen and Timothée Chalamet, the beautiful Louisa May Alcott’s story and the lovely cinematography, it’s no surprise that the movie collected £17,705,104.

5. Tenet

If there’s one movie that was talked about the most this year, it’s without a doubt Tenet by director Christopher Nolan. Not only because this was the only movie (apart from the recent Wonder Woman 1984) released mid-pandemic but also because of its mind-blowing storyline, cinematography and cast. The movie ‘only’ generated £17,454,173, but knowing that it was released when not a lot of cinemas were open and that it still made it into the top five, Tenet didn’t do too bad.

6. Bad Boys For Life

It was more than 17 years since we saw the last adventures of the detectives Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) and Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and it was time to bring them together for one more investigation. The audience loved Bad Boys For Life as the movie got £15,969,160 and another sequel.

Bad Boys For Life (Official Trailer)

7. Dolittle

Seeing Robert Downey Jr. talking to adorable animals while stepping into the fantasy world of Hugh Lofting and his creation Dr. John Dolittle? This was something the audience could do from the 7th of February. Some people were hailing Dolittle as a wonderful escape while others were declaring it one of the worst movies of 2020. Despite those mixed reactions, the film still had a box office of £15,938,399.

8. Jumanji: The Next Level

Just like Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker and Little Women, Jumanji: The Next Level was released at the end of last year. Still, it was eligible for this years’ box office, and therefore it made it into this top 10. During this sequel to the 2017 movie Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan came back together, and this latest adventure generated £14,798,295.

9. Parasite

If there’s one movie that described the darkness and strange time we’re going through, it’s Parasite. While the storyline is different, it’s as twisted as 2020, and it seems that both the critics and audiences loved it. The story of one family taking over the lives of another wasn’t only the biggest winner of the Oscars (that photo from director Bong Joon-Ho holding those four awards seems like it was taken so many years ago) but it was also £12,033,376 worth at the box office.

10. The Gentlemen

This latest Guy Ritchie was the very first movie released this year, and despite its £11,555,773, The Gentlemen delivered an entertaining and action-packed movie. Not surprising though, if you know that the stellar cast includes the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding and Hugh Grant.

The Gentlemen (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Top 10 Films at the UK Box Office in 2020 (So Far)

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Editorials

The Film Fan’s Guide To Time Travel

September 27, 2020
Time Travel in Movies

Christoper Nolan’s latest film is the epic Tenet which plays a lot with the idea of time and moving through time. This has long been a feature of Nolan’s films – whether explicitly messing with time like in Interstellar or the non-linear storytelling of Memento. But Nolan is hardly the first filmmaker to explore time travel, with some saying the first time travel movie A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court from 1921. What lessons can a film fan learn should they ever find themselves travelling in time?

Protect The Timeline

Back to the Future 2
Back To The Future Part II (youtube.com) the altered timeline where Biff is rich and powerful

We would all do well to remember Abe Simpson’s advice to his son Homer on his wedding day “If you ever travel back in time, don’t step on anything because even the tiniest change can alter the future in ways you can’t imagine.” A dire warning issued to virtually every time traveller is to protect the timeline – do not do anything that will change the present or future. This is explored wonderfully in Back To The Future Part II, Marty buys a sports almanac in the future with the idea of using it to place winning bets in his present. Unfortunately, the almanac winds up in the hands of villain Biff who gives it to his younger self. When Marty returns to his present he finds a very different Hill Valley, beset with crime and corruption in which multi-millionaire Biff essentially runs the town, his mother is married to Biff and his father is dead – later revealed to have been murdered by Biff. The rest of the film is Marty and Doc trying to restore the original timeline by getting the almanac back.

Beware of Paradoxes

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (cinemablend.com)

There are a number of paradoxes that can beset the unwary time traveller – the most famous being The Grandfather Paradox and the Bootstrap Paradox. The Terminator franchise is a classic example of the Bootstrap Paradox, taking it’s name from the literal impossibility of a person “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps”. Essentially this is when by going back in time you invent or create something that already existed in your time – meaning it’s actual moment of creation is lost in a paradox. In The Terminator franchise a war is raging between humans and machines in the distant future (the year 1997), the computers send a killer robot, a terminator, back in time to kill the mother of the human leader. This terminator is defeated and destroyed…or nearly destroyed, parts of it are salvaged by a company who then go on to create the very computer system fighting humankind. The groundbreaking technology that enabled the creation of artificial intelligence is only possible because that artificial intelligence sent an example of it back in time. Given that there are now six Terminator films as well as a television series the complicated overlapping timelines and paradoxes are essentially nonsensical and any attempt to tell a story has been abandoned.

The setup for The Grandfather Paradox is suitably demonstrated in the Back to the Future trilogy, this time with the first instalment. Marty travels back in time and interrupts the meeting of his parents, thus erasing himself from the timeline. In the film, Marty begins to fade from reality. The paradoxical nature of what he has done is never explored but essentially if Marty erases himself from history then his parents will successfully meet, then he will exist, so he will go back in time, interrupt the meeting and will no longer exist and so on forever. Of course, Back to the Future adds the weird and creepy element of your own mother developing a crush on you, taken to the logical conclusion in Futurama with The Grandmother Paradox – where Fry travels back in time, kills his grandfather and then sleeps with his grandmother, becoming his own grandfather.

The Future Isn’t Necessarily Going To Be Better

The Time Machine
The Time Machine (youtube.com) Behold – the future of the human race

In our modern times looking back at the past it can sometimes seem like we’ve be on an almost inevitably upward trajectory of progress – both scientific and social. This is wrong. There is no reason to suppose the future would be better than the present. Few time travel films portray this better than the 1960 classic The Time Machine, based on H.G. Wells’ novel. Setting off from Victorian England the protagonist travels forward in time and while at first he sees the march of science and progress things turn bad, at some point in the 1960s there is a terrible, world-wide calamity, seemingly brought on by humankind itself in which the world is covered in lava. Finally stopping in the far distant future when the lava is gone he finds the eloi, a group of beautiful people but who seem to understand little of the world and laze around waiting for food to be delivered. The protagonist learns that the eloi are little more than cattle for the subterranean morlocks, ugly monstrous creatures but have vastly more intellect. In fact both the eloi and the morlocks are the descendants of the human race, each taking a diverging path. Our future could contain killer robots, a world-ending plague or maybe nothing at all.

Getting Things Right

Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day (inquirer.com) Phil and Phil on the run

Time travel offers unique opportunities to get things right the second time around. Action sci-fi blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow (also known as Live. Die. Repeat) starred Tom Cruise as a soldier, Cage, infected by alien blood who travels back in time each time he dies, reliving the same day. This is the alien’s ultimate weapon that allows them to avoid defeat by learning and changing their tactics appropriately. Cage is transformed from manipulative PR coward into a battle-hardened hero by repeatedly dying, slowly getting better. Groundhog Day is one of the best films ever made and while it doesn’t even attempt to look at the science or magic or whatever of time travel, it investigates what it might do to a person. Arrogant and selfish weatherman Phil Connors is trapped in a seemingly endless loop, repeating the same day over and over again. Connors goes through a variety of stages from enjoying the absence of consequences, to using his future knowledge to get money and sex, to becoming suicidal from the never-ending sameness of it all to eventually becoming a better man. What both films show, amongst other things, is that an ability to know the future, even just a few hours, can give you immense powers. To others Cage seems damn near indestructible, knowing where wreckage will fall from the sky or where aliens are hiding to Connors performing perfectly timed bank heists where no one even knows a robbery has been committed or simply getting every answer on Jeopardy. In Edge of Tomorrow Cage dies on screen 24 times, but it is suggested the total is a lot higher. Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis has put out that he thinks Connors was stuck in the same day for somewhere between thirty and forty years.

It is perhaps unlikely any of us will be called upon our knowledge of time travel learned from movies but hopefully, if you are, this will have been a helpful guide.

Also Read: Flashpoint: The Defining Film of the DCEU

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Editorials

The Anatomy of a Christopher Nolan Film

December 27, 2019
Christopher Nolan Movie Collage

Christopher Nolan is perhaps the quintessential director of the twenty-first century. Nolan’s first film, Following, came out in 1998 but his name was really made with 2000’s Memento. Since then he has made everything from reality-bending thrillers to intense and epic war films where the enemy aren’t even seen.

Warning – spoilers ahead for Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk

Ambition

Leonardo DiCaprio - Inception
Inception (source: csmonitor.com)

I don’t mean this as a theme in the storytelling or characters, it’s part of Nolan’s work. Few directors have the scope and vision that he has. Even with Memento, one of his earliest films, he was pushing the boundaries of storytelling with a disjointed non-linear masterpiece that demands to be watched more than once. He took the burgeoning superhero blockbuster genre and not only made the films that in my opinion are the high watermark of the genre in terms of action but also storytelling – and breaking open the elusive worlds of the Oscars. When we come to something like Inception it’s hard to even begin describing it and it’s hard to imagine another director who could pull it off. The resources poured into making a film that could accurately portray the landscape of dreams – the whole world exploding or streets bending back on themselves.

Time

Dunkirk (source: youtube.com)

What is the beginning? What is the end? Many of Nolan’s films play with time. The narrative of Memento is confused from the start of the film, in Inception dream time moves so much faster than real life offering the wonderful/terrifying prospect of spending a lifetime in a dream and Interstellar dealt with the mind-blowing ramifications of time with space travel. Dunkirk has a brilliant structure – three stories set around the Dunkirk evacuation. One from the perspective of soldiers on a beach, one from a RAF pilot providing cover and one from someone sailing their little ship to help. The soldiers are on the beach are there for a week yet the pilot’s story is over in one hour and all the stories mix together.

Obsession

The Prestige (cinemablend.com)

Nolan’s first big success came with Memento, a film about a character suffering from anterograde amnesia – a condition that means you can access old memories but you can’t make new ones. Leonard is obsessed with his final memory – the murder of his wife. This obsession leads Leonard to take huge risks with his safety – and that of others – in that he is someone who really needs round the clock care but instead embarks on a mission of revenge. The Dark Knight trilogy has a number of characters driven by obsession, most notably Wayne with the murder of his parents, but often the villains as well – none of whom are driven simply by desire for money or power. The Prestige features two characters obsessed with each other, obsessed with defeating their opponent and quite simply obsessed with being better. Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale’s characters go to extreme – even insane – lengths to simply be the better stage magician.

Lying And The Truth

Memento Film
Memento ( source: theverge.com)

A lot of lying goes on in Christopher Nolan’s films. The plot of Memento hinges on several big lies and how in Leonard’s condition he is very vulnerable to dishonesty. Indeed Leonard lies to himself. At the heart of the Dark Knight trilogy, there are several important lies, the first being the obvious deception that Bruce Wayne is Batman but more importantly the lie told by Batman and Gordon regarding the truth about Harvey Dent, with both believing it was better for society to be lied to. Likewise, The Prestige is a film about magicians who “trick” their audiences but just about every relationship and important event in the film is a lie upon lie upon lie, you are never sure of a person’s loyalty, the accuracy of memory, about exactly who is who and how far do you let a lie dominate your life. The Prestige even lies to the audience. Interstellar shows a society that lies to itself in the hope of moving forward as it is judged necessary to rewrite history so the Apollo moon landings were faked by the American government. Cobb’s life in Inception is destroyed by a lie he tells his wife. You could say that Nolan has been telling us for a long time – don’t trust anyone, not even yourself.

Tenet

John David Washington - Tenet
Tenet (source: scifimoviepage.com)

Christopher Nolan has a new film coming out for 2020 – Tenet. A trailer was just recently released but it’s still hard to say exactly what the film is about; spying and time travel seem to be the big plot points. The film stars John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington and star of BlackKKlansman), Robert Pattinson (of Twilight fame) and Elizabeth Debicki (probably best known for Widows). The trailer is typical for a Nolan film, with it not giving much away, looking very impressive and having tense and booming music. But does the trailer really matter? For me, Nolan is a director who I would see without a trailer or any prior knowledge of a film – not all of his films have been classics but they’re always worth watching.

Director, Christopher Nolan (credit: Warner Bros)

More: The Many Faces of Andy Serkis

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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