Pacific Rim: Uprising

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Steven S. DeKnight

Starring: John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Rinko Kikuchi, Cailee Spaeny, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, and Tian Jing

 

In 2013, when the first Pacific Rim was released, the film was a breath of fresh air. Guillermo Del Toro showed the bloated Transformers franchise how giant, fighting robots  should be done. I loved the way the film transported me back to being a kid, playing with action figures, and watching Saturday morning television. The first film wasn’t an out and out hit, but it made enough money, especially in China, for a sequel to be green lit. Del Toro returns with a producers credit, but the man calling the shots this time around is Steven S. DeKnight, fresh off of ushering Daredevil to the small screen. John Boyega is also taking a more active role in production as a producer. I went in hoping I was going to get more of what I loved from the first movie, and I left pretty happy.

Pacififc Rim: Uprising is set 10 years after the events of the first movie. The breach which allowed the Kaiju (giant monsters) to enter our world from a parallel universe has been sealed, and the world is attempting to recover now that the threat has gone. Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost who sacrificed himself at the end of the first movie. Jake is a drop out from Jaeger academy, a self-professed hustler who steals junk parts to sell to those who are building their own Jaegers (giant robots). When he meets Amara Namani, played by Cailee Spaeny, a young girl who has built her own Jaeger, they draw the attention of local law enforcement and are soon arrested. Facing prison, Jake decides to re-enlist in the Jaeger programme, and train a new batch of recruits, which now includes Namani. He tells his sister Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), and old frenemy Nate (Scott Eastwood), that the programme is waste of time, but soon a new threat emerges.

This film is heaps of big, dumb, fun. Of course, it’s all complete nonsense, that’s part of the point. It’s the simplicity of the plot which allows you to just lean back and enjoy yourself. The world building of the first movie was done so well that you enter this movie believing the world you’re in, and buying into the premise. It’s giant robots fighting giant robots, and giant robots fighting giant monsters. It’s essentially Power Rangers on steroids. There’s a human element to the story too, which drives the plot, and gives the spectacle enough personality that you can connect to the humans inside the robots, and therefore connect to the robots. It’s a similar trick to what Jon Favreau pulled off with Iron Man with the inside the helmet shots of Tony Stark. It’s this balance of spectacle and character which really puts the Transformer franchise to shame.

The film looks fantastic too. The CGI has improved, and by giving the robots distinct looks and traits, you actually know which one is which. DeKnight handles all the action incredibly well, and every time a fight broke out I had a huge grin on my face. The returning cast are all brilliant; Rinko Kikuchi returns as Mako Mori, in a brief but effective turn. We also have the return of Burn Gorman and Charlie Day, as Dr. Herman Gottlieb and Dr. Newton Geiszler, respectively.  These two are great fun whenever they’re on the screen, and their chemistry together is a joy to watch. The newcomers do well too. Cailee Spaeny injects an equal amount of bravado and vulnerability into a character which could have easily been too precocious. Scott Eastwood doesn’t stretch himself too far, but is charismatic and likeable. The real star of course is John Boyega. Oozing charm, and natural star power, he easily own the movie.

The main problem with this movie is that it isn’t quite as good as the first one. It gets off to a wobbly start. The first twenty minutes feels too forced, and I worried that I was going to be annoyed by the new characters. The jokes don’t seem to quite land, and the voice over felt too heavy handed. It also lacks the gravitas of the first film. Boyega’s speech isn’t as good as Elba’s cancelling the apocalypse speech, which the film kind of acknowledges. It also lacked the weight of the first film. When the pilots are moving the Jaegers in the first film it felt laborious, as if there was more of a tangible connection between man and machine. The movement in Uprising felt too light and nimble. The biggest thing of all it misses is the Del Toro touch. When I think of the first movie I think of young Mako in a blue coat walking through the wreckage of her city holding one red shoe. It was such a striking image, and sadly Uprising offers nothing as profound as this.

Uprising is an entertainingly stupid watch. A proper popcorn movie which asks you to leave your brain in the foyer, and just enjoy yourself. It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s not going to stay with you for long afterwards, and it’s not going to change your life. It’s not even as good as the first film, but the charming cast, and the briskness in which it has been directed all amounts to an enjoyable experience. Another film is teased at the end, and I, for one, would certainly buy a ticket for that.

 

7/10

71st British Academy Film Awards – Breakdown

2018, Uncategorized

Last night saw the Royal Albert Hall play host to the 71st Annual British Academy Film Awards, or as they are most commonly know, the BAFTA’S. Although not as coveted as the OSCAR’s, the BAFTA’s are the biggest night in film this side of the Atlantic. Of course, all awards are rather trivial, a chance for the industry to pat themselves on the back, but they are still incredibly important. It’s a great chance to celebrate the previous year in film, and to bring attention to some amazing work that might otherwise go un-noticed. Your favourite film might not win, or even get nominated, which is always frustrating and you could spend your time moaning about this, but where’s the fun in that. Here we will go through all of last nights big winners.

Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I’ll admit that I’ve only seen three out of these five movies, but out of the films on this list that I had seen, Three Billboards was a well deserved winner. Dunkirk was great, but maybe lacked the emotional resonance to really compete. The Shape Of Water was also fantastic, for me it was a close race between this and Three Billboards.

Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
The Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Paddington 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards won again, which makes complete sense that the best film would also be the best British film. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Paddington 2 pick up the award, but there are some great films on this list. All worth a watch.

Best Animated Film

Coco
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette

I loved Coco. It’s another well deserved win. The other two movies are definitely worth checking out, but Pixar are maintaining their dominance over this category. Hopefully, one day they’ll recognise them as the Best Picture.

Best Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
Icarus
An inconvenient Sequel
Jane

I haven’t seen any of these. I love my documentaries, but I usually wait until after awards season to check out the best the year had to offer.

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape Of Water may have missed out on Best Film, but Guillermo picked up his Best Directors award, in a pattern I think will be repeated at the OSCAR’s. The Shape Of Water is a beautifully directed movie, and Guillermo is one of our most unique directors. Nolan must be thinking that he’s another Scorsese, on of the best directors of his time, but never recognised during awards season.

Best Actor

Daniel Day Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayuula, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Jamie Bell, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

This was the biggest non-surprise of the night. They’re all great performances, but there was only ever one winner here. Gary Oldman continues his winning streak with his portrayal of Winston Churchill. It’s a shame though that these award ceremonies are okay with the make-up used to enhance Oldman’s performance, but are yet to recognise Andy Serkis’ mo-cap assisted performances.

Best Actress

Annette Benning, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I,Tonya
Sally Hawkins, The Shape Of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

When the nominations came out, I thought this might have been the closest run category. The performances here are all fantastic, but McDormand delivers a tour-de-force performance which can’t help but grab all the attention.

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer, All The Money In The World
Hugh Grant, Paddington 2
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Defoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Again, no real surprises here. Some may have been hoping for an upset with Willem Defoe snatching it, but that would have meant some people actually saw The Florida Project. Sam Rockwell has been great for ages, and it’s nice to see him getting recognised.

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Octavia Spencer, The Shape Of Water

Heading into awards season, it seemed that this was a two horse race between Allison Janney, and Laurie Metcalf, but it seems now that Janney is set to sweep the board. Best known for her role in The West Wing, it’s great to see another fabulous character actor get some accolades.

Best Original Screenplay

Get Out
I, Tonya,
Lady Bird
The Shape Of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Whilst we would have all loved to see Get Out win some awards, it’s clear to see that Three Billboards is the most showy screenplay in this category. It’s full of fantastic dialogue, and deals with complex issues. This was the hardest category of the night for me, as they’re all great.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name
The Death Of Stalin
Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Molly’s Game
Paddington 2

I haven’t seen Call Me By Your Name Yet, and I did really enjoy Molly’s Game, but Paddington 2 should have won.

That’s it for the main categories of the night. It was a predictable night, and I’m hoping for a few more upsets at the OSCAR’s. Three Billboards was the big winner, and now seems most likely for Best Picture at the OSCAR’s, although The Shape Of Water might have something to say about that.

Below you can find the list of all the other winners. Special mention to Daniel Kaluuya for his EE Rising Star Award, and Ridley Scott for his Fellowship.

EE Rising Star: Daniel Kaluuya
Best Original Music: The Shape Of Water
Best Make Up And Hair: Darkest Hour
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Editing: Baby Driver
Outstanding British Contribution To Film: National Film and Television School
Best British Short Animation: Poles Apart
Best British Short Film: Cowboy Dave
Best Film Not In The English Language: The Handmaiden
Best Production Design: The Shape Of Water
Best Special Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer: I Am Not A Witch
Best Sound: Dunkirk
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
BAFTA Fellowship: Ridley Scott

 

The Shape Of Water

2017, Uncategorized

Dir. Guillermo Del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg.

Guillermo Del Toro is one of the greatest directors working today. His Spanish language movies being some of the best made in the 21st century. His English language output has, so far, been mainly studio blockbuster fare, with films such as Blade 2, Hellboy 1 and 2, and Pacific Rim. These were all great, and had plenty of heart, but felt like Del Toro paying his studio dues. His last film Crimson Peak felt like a return, and now with The Shape Of Water, Del Toro is finally starting to challenge his Spanish language output. A film truly worthy of the man behind Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Shape Of Water follows Sally Hawkins’ Eliza. A mute cleaner at a government facility in the 60’s. Her usual daily routine is interrupted with the arrival of the facilities latest asset. A creature of the black lagoon style amphibian man. Brought in by head of security Richard Strickland (played menacingly by Michael Shannon). What follows is a love story as Eliza learns more about the amphibian, and they start to connect. When Eliza discovers that the creature is to be killed, and dissected, she hatches a plan to break the creature out, enlisting the help of neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), work colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and Russian spy Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Del Toro’s film is one of the most gorgeously shot movies of the year. It’s a true love letter to cinema. Every frame stunningly lit, inviting the audience in until it becomes all absorbing. This is a heightened version of the 60’s, creating the feel of a fairytale for adults. It’s a film about fantasy, it’s characters are outsiders who find comfort in each other, and their escapism. You have to question wether or not the film isn’t happening in Eliza’s head. The dream like quality of the movie, and Richard Jenkins’ narration adding to the bedtime story nature of the film. Eliza and Giles’ obsession with old movies, and how these influence their lives. Eliza starts by mimicking a dance routine, until she’s the star of her own fully blown Hollywood production. It’s not hard to imagine Del Toro as a boy, an outsider finding solace in films, dreaming up this story whilst watching Creature From The Black Lagoon. It’s in the rare moments that the real world starts to break in, that we can really question this reality. TV news broadcasts showing police brutality quickly shut off, racist and homophobic characters, the threat of the Cold War, it’s the real world which makes the outsiders retreat further into their fantasies.

Del Toro populates his film with so many interesting characters, making you want to know more about them. Take the man at bus stop holding a cake with one slice missing. It’s the only time you see him, but you know there’s a story behind him. The actors who portray these characters are equally as impressive. Sally Hawkins finally getting the roles and recognition she deserves, and she is breathtakingly good, filling her Eliza with a naive innocence, and a raw sexuality. Octavia Spencer makes good work with the screen time she’s given. Doug Jone turns a scary looking creature into something you care for, which is no mean feat. Richard Jenkins is fantastic, and Michael Shannon is Michael Shannon. His villain a man who has bought into the fantasy of what a man should be in the 60’s, representing all the toxic masculinity that comes with it.

Music, and how music is used in film is also incredibly important to The Shape Of Water, and Alexandre Desplat’s score is beautiful, haunting, and mesmerising. Eliza lives above a theatre called the Orpheum. This means house of Orpheus. Orpheus being a character of Greek myth who uses music to charm. Eliza and the creature first connect over their shared love of music. Orpheus was eventually killed by those who couldn’t hear his music. Which is incredibly apt for a film about the people who live on the margins and feel like they are invisible.

There’s no shortage of things I loved about this film. It’s funny, moving, tense, and heart breaking. It’s a love letter to the power that cinema has. It shares a lot in common with Pan’s Labyrinth, in particular a main character who is referred to as a princess, and then descends into a fantasy world. It’s Guillermo Del Toro’s best English language film, and in his filmography only comes second to Pan’s Labyrinth, which really is saying something.

10/10