Annihilation (2018)

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Arriving on Netflix, is this bold and engagingly strange science fiction from Alex Garland. It’s arguably one of the finer films of this genre I’ve ever seen, questioning the audience with its intelligent themes of rationality and life.

After a figure from Lena’s (Natalie Portman) life comes back into the fold, she ends up at a government facility close to a glistening barrier known as The Shimmer which is expanding. Dr Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) leads Lena and three others into this weird anomaly to try and stop it reaching civilisation and to hopefully uncover exactly what it is.

Alex Garland has been writing screenplays since 2002 and after his blistering debut directorial work on 2015’s ‘Ex Machina’, this was a movie I was eagerly awaiting. Garland has managed to capture the traumas and oddities of a strange new world from within Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name. As this film goes along, there’s a fantastic sense of slow-burning tension that doesn’t always need to pay off with big action because he directs in such a way that chills to the core and makes this environment feel visceral.

A sci-fi with plenty of intrigue and interesting ideas aren’t always common to come by, so gladly this is an exception, in the same vein as the smartly concocted ‘Arrival’. It’s a film that I think deserves to go down as a classic in its genre, as it grips like a row of razor sharp teeth sinking into you, as you get hooked onto the creepy air of unease and confusion that roams this altering landscape.

The Shimmer itself is a world of melding possibilities leading to some of the most beautiful shots I’ve seen this year, ones that I utterly wished I could have seen on the big screen, but again Paramount offloaded one of theirs to be released by streaming juggernaut Netflix. Rob Hardy’s cinematography is sublime and truly keeps you on the edge of your seat as we trek through somewhere, that is at once stunning and dripping with mystery.

There are some unnerving moments within ‘Annihilation’ which I won’t divulge any further as to avoid spoilers, but I will say, what lurks in The Shimmer certainly builds a scary level to the back and forth narrative with Lena. Also, the final act is absolutely incredible. My mouth was agape for the duration and my skin was layered with goosebumps, in a lighthouse set sequence I can only describe as hauntingly glorious and terrifying in a way that seems to burrow into your very being.

Natalie Portman is a strong presence from start to finish, her character background aptly aids her through this lush yet dangerous world of lost memories and trepidation. Portman easily acts that sense of forceful wanting and knowledgeable progression. She also carries an empathetic sadness and regret throughout, which makes her an interesting character to follow. The entire team are a formidable squad of females with enough drip fed information about their lives, to give us understanding of their choices and motivations. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Gina Rodriguez all neatly display the fraying of their minds as they descend further into The Shimmer. The latter gets a crackling turn to shine in a scene that sees her burst with an intensity, adding to the ferociousness of what happens.

‘Annihilation’ is a masterful movie and one I will definitely be watching again. It carries a quiet menace as the unknown is explored and identity is questioned more and more.

8.5/10

 

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Oscars 2016 Look Back

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So, another Oscars and film awards season is over. I’ve just woke up after watching the 88th Academy Awards live, which was certainly one with lots of expectations, not just because of switching in to see how the diversity racquet would be dealt with but also because of apparent film darling DiCaprio and whether he’d finally scoop an award.

Before the ceremony began, I always flick on for the red carpet, I don’t get fashion or know what works but you know, if someone looks good, guy or gal then it’s still fun to watch. There’s always that pandering talk but straight out of the blocks was a smouldering Saoirse Ronan in an plunging green number, showing more than usual but looking elegant all the same. Alicia Vikander can do no wrong for me even in a very pale yellow dress. Dapper li’l Jacob Tremblay came up the red runway and he is a cool cat and should have been nominated…I think really one of the big snubs this Oscar year.

So it began…everyone in their seats, me included…not in the Dolby Theater of course, I can but dream. Chris Rock was a fantastic host in my opinion, he dealt with the diverse (or lack of) issue head on which was both honestly searing but energetically funny at the same time.

Best Screenplay became an expected win for Spotlight, considering it’s well handled subject matter though the sci-fi intrigue and technological brilliance of Ex Machina was my favourite.

Adapted Screenplay got handed to The Big Short which for me was a Darth Vader scream of ‘Nooooo’ but apparently people lapped it up, my twitter feed had lots of BS fan’s…and that’s exactly what I’m calling…BS.

Next up we had a little video reel of black actors appearing in Oscar nominated films was brilliantly done; Tracy Morgan as a Danish girl or Whoopi Goldberg with a mop calling out the dumbness of Joy was a great tone to this whole #oscarssowhite issue/debarcle.

Supporting Actress came around, my heart beat levels for the Swedish stunner were rising. Luckily Vikander got the win, I was so so happy, I mean yes, Ex Machina was better but then she was the best feature about The Danish Girl even without eating pastries like Tracy Morgan.

Mad Max: Fury Road gained prizes for all the visual ideas, costume/hair/production which made this action movie more than expected. A huge dystopian world of thrills and vision. What a day, what a lovely day they had.

The Revenant won for cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, his third on the trot; fair as it does look grand, sweeping and beautiful but The Hateful Eight was also glorious but better detailed even when not outside in the snowy landscapes.

I very much liked how awards were presented this year, production or costume props rolled out as presenters came onto the stage. The sound and editing nominees were also presented well in the clips with a neat style to it all. Also commenting on the winners ticker tape that went along the bottom – I liked that, a fair chance for the winner to have names listed even if they forget in the heat of the moment or the orchestra plays them off.

Ex Machina got a Best Visual Effects win, yay, well deserved because the sci-fi of the film is stunning. And could we also pretend that Oscar Isaac’s dance number was a sublime visual effect for the movie.

Nice to see Buzz and Woody even if their voices sounded like they had a cold, even better because they almost made me forget that the Minions appeared at the Oscars, oy, what a sentence I never thought I’d write. Boy and the World perhaps should have won Best Animated Feature because it would have opened it up to more views but I can’t deny that Inside Out was excellent and therefore I’m happy it won.

Supporting actor finally came around after many commercials, what a surprise as I thought the nostalgia factor would of been ol’ Sly to get it after so long, that would have been a dream but from what I’ve heard Mark Rylance was a top draw act opposite Hanks.

Lady Gaga may not have deserved a Golden Globe but her performance last night was emotionally powerful, important, moving and a solid moment when stars stood and the world hopefully took notice. Like Legend and Common’s song of 2015, this performance very much leapt out as the big talking point.

Ennio Morricone seems like such a lovely humble man with his speech accepting Best Score, which spoke even louder volumes. A fantastic soundtrack for a fantastic film, which was followed by Sam Smith, yes really. That’s all I shall say otherwise I’ll get mean. Hang on though, his performance was dreary and his song is so meh…especially after that Gaga song how on Earth did he walk away with the Oscar??

Alejandro G. Inarritu won for The Revenant, very expected but I’m disappointed, we get it, it was a tough cold shoot but George Miller presented a fun yet directorial feat of thrills, spills and unique film-making, I mean a sequel of years for lordy sake and it was exhilarating for a 70 year old to direct.

Brie Larson , yay again, expected again but if you saw her in ‘Room’ then you know she was the rightful recipient for Best Actress.

Now the real big one, no black nominees aside, the Best Actor time had come. More memes for Leonardo DiCaprio or finally his turn?? He must know about the internet love for him and now he gets the Oscar looking genuinely in awe at the standing ovation. He did a lot for the trophy but I still feel this wasn’t the film for his prize, he always felt/looked like DiCaprio but with a beard and muddier. I kind of wanted him to lose for more memes to come rolling in.

Spotlight won the heavy metal for Best Picture and though it does follow all the yawn Oscar tropes it’s a seriously important topic and delved into well, the ensemble acting truly makes it too. I realise this will end up being a forgettable BP winner but it’s delicately directed and acted in the Church crime story being uncovered.

All in all, last night’s late watching proved a great choice, Chris Rock leapt at the hosting chance with great zip, the jokes sometimes got edgy but I feel they needed to be. The Oscars also provided some good surprises this year in terms of winners but sadly it may have all been let down by no sign of the one, the only and wickedly talented John Travolta.

 

 

 

 

2015 Top Ten

Well, I’ve left it long enough, either forgetfulness or not knowing where to start has seen it shuttle through eight days of January 2016 so it’s only right that before February hits us I run down my top ten movies of last year. This was hard, because I still haven’t seen some films that may have landed in the list, i.e. ‘Star Wars’ or because I had to drop some films I liked and found interesting, i.e. ‘It Follows’ or ‘Shaun the Sheep: The Movie’! Also please comment on agreements and disagreements you have and what you would put in your 2015 top ten, that would be cool! Enough pre-amble…on to the main event, in at #10…

10) Love and Mercy

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Wonderfully crafted and somewhat magical in the way it constructs the making of music and Brian Wilson. Paul Dano and John Cusack are equally fascinating and bring an engaging damaging sense to the man behind the Beach Boys. Read my Good Vibrations for this film by clicking on Love and Mercy.

9) Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Bundles of fun can be found within this secret service as we see probably the best spy movie of 2015 hit heights of energy, spoofing and class sequences. The mix of action and spy story-telling is sublime and the comic substance really makes for a riveting watch. Manners maketh man over at my full review for Kingsman.

8) The Lady in the Van

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Perhaps I loved this quite a lot because of the whole writing aspect. The Alan Bennett wit is ever present, Maggie Smith is a delight to watch and the mystery of who the lady is becomes a great narrative alongside Bennett’s typical Brit routine of politeness. The Lady in the Van review.

7) The Theory of Everything

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Here mostly for Eddie Redmayne’s brilliant immersion into the part of Hawking but also because Felicity Jones weighs up the other side of the relationship with captivating poise. It’s a well-told story done in a typically awards season way buy wow is it ever emotional. Review here.

6) The Voices

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I’d love this to be higher I truly would, but pretty much all of the following films became hard for me to order. This quirky dark comedy is so masterfully made, the performance by Reynolds is fun and disturbing and you just never know where you are with the film which is just great. See Voices and read my words at my review.

5) Inside Out

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When Pixar releases two films in one year, you know at least one of them will be reaching top ten lists everywhere and without any hesitation it must be this one concerning Riley and her head full of emotions that try to do their best to help her move to a new state. The movie is smart, emotional, fun, colourful and emotional…welp, I know I said that already but it is. I’ll need a minute, check out my review while I mull over sadness.

4) Whiplash 

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At one moment in 2015 this was my favourite film but it sadly drops a few places, that doesn’t make it any less exhilarating though. The music is phenomenal, both Teller and Simmons are incredible acting off each other and for a film about drumming this becomes one of the best edited and tense features I’ve seen for a while. My Whiplash review at my tempo.

3) Ex Machina

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Ugh, I adore this film, the sleek quality, the worrying theme of technology, the beginning of Alicia Vikander’s rise, the Oscar Isaac dance and the fantastic ending. It’s so well shot and written and I may just have to watch it again right now. Ex Machina review.

2) Room

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This has not even hit UK screens yet but I’m writing it up for 2015 because I was lucky enough to be studying in America when it was released there. Hopefully you’ll agree once you see it that the story is beautiful and raw, the performances from the two leads are heart-wrenching and engaging and the whole world and tragic darkness of its past are effortlessly created by Abrahamson and the source material of the novel. Review of Room.

 

1) Mad Max: Fury Road

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What a film, what a lovely film. I’ve seen this race in at a lot of top spots recently and it’s not difficult to see why as we get introduced to a dystopian world full of sandstorms, cars and strong women. The shots are absolutely amazing, the sequences and practical effects make the film stand out as true testament to what can be done and this really needs to be up for Best Picture because it isn’t just entertainment, it’s a greatly crafted feat of film-making too. Hop on down to my Fury Road review by clicking on Mad Max.