Most Anticipated Films of 2018

Josip Knezevic

2018 is set to be a very impressive year! While I could write a small novel on the potential highlights, here’s just a few of 2018’s most anticipated films.

Avengers: Infinity War

You can’t talk about the year’s most anticipated films without mentioning what will most likely be the most ambitious Marvel film to date. Fans can’t seem to get enough of this stuff, happily rocking up to the cinemas year in and year out. While almost every Marvel film after the first Avengers was one too many for me, I’m secretly hoping Infinity War will bring back that giddy feeling I had while watching the original.

Infinity War faces a big challenge in having to balance a wide range of leads and personalities, with everyone from the Black Panther to Guardian of the Galaxy‘s Rocket Raccoon to be featured. If directors Anthony and Joe Russo get it right, as they did with Captain America: Civil War, then we’re in for a treat. Let’s pray they can pull it off!

The Predator

Before I went digging through the Internet to put together this list, I wasn’t even aware that a Predator (1987) sequel was headed our way. With Shane Black taking on writing and directing duties, I’m pretty excited to see the resurgence of my favourite action film, especially after the woeful 2010 reboot Predators. There isn’t a lot of detail out there on where the film intends to go in terms of narrative, but nevertheless, this is easily the most anticipated action flick of the year. Please be good. Please be good. Please be good.

The Irishman

Featuring the return of Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel and Al Pacino, The Irishman could be the most epic gangster movie of the past decade. Based on the life of mob hitman Frank Sheeran, The Irishman is set to be Netflix’s largest ever investment in a feature film. Considering Netflix recently put $90 million into Will Smith‘s action flop Bright that doesn’t mean much, but it will be interesting to see whether Netflix opts to do a cinematic release, particularly given Scorsese’s reputation. Either way, hopefully The Irishman will be everything we’ve been wanting to see since 2006’s The Departed, even if it doesn’t ended up reaching us until 2019.

The Incredibles 2

February 2018 - Most Anticipated Incredibles 2
With the original released way back in 2004, all of us are wondering why it’s taken this long for the arrival of a sequel. The Incredibles left us hanging in an unresolved battle, making a sequel an obvious move, and yet unnecessary instalments for other films have instead been pushed out in the meantime (e.g. Cars 3). Not much is known about what the second film will entail, but that hasn’t stopped me from setting my expectations incredibly high… here’s hoping it will reach those and then some.

Untitled Deadpool Sequel

Though the first Deadpool was not without it’s flaws, it was a gigantic leap in breaking down Hollywood studio barriers to releasing an R-Rated film. I can’t wait to see our favourite narcissistic anti-hero take to the screen again this year. What made the original so successful was its brand of humour, and its clear Ryan Reynolds knows it and enjoys it just as much as we all do.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Take one look at Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) in character as Freddie Mercury and you’ll be immediately hooked by the prospect of this biopic. Though production has been stalled and in contention for several years, with Sacha Baron Cohen showing interest in the lead role at one point, Bohemian Rhapsody is looking to be the biopic of 2018. Set to take place throughout the years of Queen’s early days up until their triumphant performance at 1985’s Live aid, let’s hope this film does the late front man proud.

 

Solo: A Star Wars Movie

Yes, another Star Wars movie is upon us. Given the polarising reactions of the last film, and the growing saturation of the series, my feelings towards this next one are mixed. On one hand, the character of Han Solo is by far the most enjoyable and fun to watch, plus this latest film features Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian. But when all is said and done, we’ll probably just get yet another Star Wars flick that fails to live up to the original trilogy.

 

Isle of Dogs

February 2018 - Most Anticipated Isle of Dogs

Wes Anderson. Japan. Dogs…

Isle of Dogs has me sold from the get go. I can’t wait for this one to be released – the thumbnail for the trailer alone looks like an art piece with various meticulously dressed dogs. Everything about it signals Anderson’s style, making it the most anticipated independent feature for 2018.

Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures & 20th Century Fox 

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Classic Review – The Seventh Seal (1957)

Sixty years on, The Seventh Seal remains one of Sweden’s proudest treasures and one of cinema’s greatest films.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

The seventh seal refers of course to verses from the Book of Revelation in which God remains silent in heaven before judgement descends upon Jerusalem. And so, The Seventh Seal, one of Ingmar Bergman’s most lasting films, is about a knight who has just returned from the Crusades and grows bitter because God, in all His infinite wisdom, refuses to answer his prayers. It’s an uncompromising film that explores silence, loneliness, crisis of faith and perhaps most importantly, death.

In the film, death takes the form of a cloaked man with a cold white face, played with a cool detachment by Bengt Ekerot. He tells the knight, Antonius Block (Max von Sydow), that he has been at his side “for a long time” and has come to finally claim him. Antonius, stubborn and curious, invites Death to a game of chess, providing one of cinema’s most iconic and enduring images. If the knight prevails, death will pass him by. The game is returned to throughout the movie.

It’s fitting that death should hover over life in the shape of a lanky man during the period in which The Seventh Seal is set. The mood is hopelessly grim. The Crusades in the Holy Land are putting everyone’s faith in doubt, as is the Black Death, which is ravaging most of Europe.

It is a time when no one has the medical expertise to explain the plague, and so the afflicted, along with those who survive in small groups, believe it is the Lord’s reckoning. There is a scene in which Antonius and his squire, Jöns (the well-established Gunnar Björnstrand), attend an outdoor matinee that is interrupted by a procession of flagellants, and the monk who leads it suddenly erupts into a tirade of condemnation. It is a powerful scene that quite clearly depicts a religion on the brink of implosion. In almost every instance, Bergman reminds us that death is inescapable.

The core of The Seventh Seal lies in the fact that Antonius knows what Bergman is trying to teach us. He plays chess with Death not to escape his fate, but to postpone it, so that he can fulfil one good deed before the end and find meaning in his life. This he does, in the form of the actor Jof (Nils Poppe) and his innocent family, whose lives Antonius bargains for. In this way he is very much like Kanji Watanabe, the old man in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952), who learns he has cancer and decides to perform one significant act before he dies.

Bergman, who grew up under the strict fist of his religious father, would continue to deal with faith and God well into the latter half of his career, with films like The Virgin Spring (1960) and Through a Glass Darkly (1961). But The Seventh Seal remains his most immediate confrontation with God. It made stars of Max von Sydow and Bibi Andersson (who plays Jof’s wife and was dating Bergman at the time), and is widely considered one of the finest films ever made despite falling into obscurity in recent years.

Today it lives on in tributes and parodies, like the pictures of Charlie Chaplin and Michael Curtiz. Images of a scythe-wielding, hooded Grim Reaper can be found everywhere, from movies by Woody Allen to Peter Hewitt, the latter of whom quite memorably made Death play Twister. But it’s a little sad that Seventh Seal has been diluted for comedy. Here is a movie made very much in the mind of its director, filled with all his doubts. The magic of The Seventh Seal is that by the end, there is no closure, not for Bergman, not for us, and certainly not for Antonius Block. Such is faith.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment, IMDb & Svensk Filmindustri (SF)

In Perspective: The Notebook

Elle Cahill 

Valentine’s Day is the one time of the year when it’s considered (mildly) acceptable to indulge in romantic films. As one of the most popular romance films, The Notebook starts to make the rounds, appearing in cinemas like Rooftop Movies for Valentine’s Day specials. So, what is it about The Notebook that has made it one of this generation’s most well-known romance films?

It’s an epic love story

The Notebook follows the love story of Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling) who meet as teenagers and embark on a summer fling in the 1930s. Despite their class differences, they fall deeply in love, only to be torn apart by Allie’s wealthy parents. Noah and Allie go their separate ways, with Noah being enlisted for World War II and Allie becoming engaged to another man, but a chance sighting of Noah in the paper sees Allie seek out Noah for closure.

Just like the romance films Gone With the Wind, One Day and Up, the two lead characters spend a large proportion of the film apart, coming together at different parts of their life. It reinforces the “soul mate” idea and infinite love, making for an epic love story that covers the lifespan of these two characters.

The two leads have natural chemistry

Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling have a natural chemistry that makes the entire film that much more believable. McAdams gives Allie a certain feistiness and a headstrong quality that makes her completely irresistible, and more importantly, memorable. Gosling gives Noah a cheekiness that offsets some of Noah’s more serious qualities, and turns him from an obsessive sap into an endearing romantic.

Much like Casablanca and Titanic, the success of The Notebook rests not only on how convincing the two leads are in their role, but also in their more human moments that show relationships aren’t always puppies and rainbows.

The roots of the story are cemented in tragedy

Like all good romance films, a bit of tragedy goes a long way, and The Notebook has plenty of tragedy. The film is interwoven with the story of Duke and Miss Hamilton, two elderly people living in the same retirement home. Miss Hamilton has Alzheimer’s and Duke reads Noah and Allie’s story to her every day. It’s not hard to see that Miss Hamilton was once an intelligent, wealthy woman and the tragedy lies in her fading memory.

Tragedy also exists as Noah devotes his time to building Allie’s dream house, whilst Allie prepares to marry another man. Similar to Romeo and Juliet and Brokeback Mountain, audiences spend the film rooting for the lead couple, hoping that they can overcome many obstacles to find their way back to each other.

Nicholas Sparks’ Midas touch

2002’s A Walk to Remember brought attention to author Nicholas Sparks, but it was The Notebook that put his novels on the map. Since then, several of his novels have been turned into films, with one being released every year since 2010. His films attract big name actors competing in very similar storylines, save for a few key details altered here and there.

Luckily, The Notebook was made early enough to escape becoming part of the overkill that Sparks films now exist within, and was unique enough at the time to garner the right attention. The story has a lot of purity and heart to it that prevents it from becoming overly corny and sappy, but it will always be a divisive romance film that will have some reaching for the Kleenex, and others trying to contain their eye rolls.

Image courtesy of New Line Cinema, IMDb and Roadshow Films 

Top Wildlife Documentaries

Elle Cahill

Wildlife documentaries have come along in leaps and bounds since their entrance into cinema in the mid-1950s. With David Attenborough leading the charge, the genre has developed its own innovative filmmaking techniques. Over time, with the advancement of technology, wildlife documentaries have gained the ability to put us right in the middle of an animal’s natural habitat, allowing us to witness wild behaviour that would otherwise be completely unknown to us.

While wildlife documentaries are regularly produced, those that focus on one species or a lone incident are less commonplace. These are far more intimate documentaries, and the best have the ability to show how animals respond to the presence of humans within their environment.

Here are my top 5 picks for wildlife documentaries with a singular focus.

Virunga (2014)
Director: Orlando von Einsiedel

February 2018 - Top Wildlife Documentaries - Virunga

Virunga is a national park in the Congo that is protected habitat for mountain gorillas. With the encroaching danger of oil companies wanting to drill on the edge of the park, the documentary explains the political history of the area, and puts a microscope on those who are serving to protect the mountain gorillas that rely on this park for survival. While it has more of a focus on its human subjects, Virunga still takes the time to introduce us to the individual gorillas residing in the park and tells us the stories of how they each came under the protection of the rangers. Each gorilla has its own strong personality that shines through interaction with their caretaker André Bauma and one another.

Tyke Elephant Outlaw (2015)
Director: Susan Lambert and Stefan Moore

February 2018 - Top Wildlife Documentaries - Tyke Elephant Outlaw

This is a hard one to watch. Tyke Elephant Outlaw is about a circus elephant that killed her trainer during a circus performance, then broke free into the streets of Honolulu where she was eventually shot dead by police officers.

Directors Susan Lambert and Stefan Moore don’t shy away from showing the live news footage from that day, even down to close-ups of the elephant being shot. The documentary repeats a lot of its vision throughout, but this never makes it any easier to watch.

What lets this documentary down is it’s timing. The incident took place in 1994, so at times it feels like it has been made too late to have any significant impact. Nevertheless, it’s still an interesting, informative and emotionally exhausting documentary.

Kedi (2016)
Director: Ceyda Torun

February 2018 - Top Wildlife Documentaries - Kedi

Kedi is a less serious documentary about the thousands of cats that live on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. Focussing on just seven cats, we follow each one as they perform their daily routines and survive on the streets.

The documentary mainly consists of observational footage intermixed with interviews with the people who regularly interact with each cat. The cats each have a distinct personality that comes to light as we follow them on his or her adventure. This has to be one of the less emotionally charged documentaries on the list, however that in no way detracts from its charming, and at times, comical nature.

Project Nim (2011)
Director: James Marsh

February 2018 - Top Wildlife Documentaries - Project Nim

Project Nim is the follow up to director James Marsh’s previous documentary success Man On a Wire. The documentary follows the life of Nim, a chimpanzee who is taken from his mother as a baby and brought up as a human child. The experiment, originally devised to see if chimpanzees could grasp the human language through the use of sign language in a human child’s environment, ultimately became an experiment on nature vs. nurture.

Given the ethics that are now involved in using animals in science experiments such as these ones, it is both heartbreaking and bizarre to see the life of this particular chimpanzee play out on screen. Intertwined with Nim’s story are the people who were involved intimately in his life at certain points. The film is made up of archival footage and photos of Nim, but it’s the interviews with the people looking back on the experience that are most interesting, especially in some of the regret and guilt that is expressed now that they are able to view the events retrospectively.

Blackfish (2013)
Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

February 2018 - Top Wildlife Documentaries - Blackfish

Blackfish is one of my favourite movies of all time. The documentary discusses killer whales being held in captivity at entertainment parks like Seaworld and the psychological effects it has on them. The focus is on one specific killer whale called Tilikum, and the numerous incidents that have occurred between him and his various trainers.

The documentary is comprised of interviews with past trainers, witnesses and family members of those who have been involved in accidents involving Tilikum, scientists and professors who study killer whales, and even a gentleman who used to work on a boat capturing the whale calves to be sold to the likes of Seaworld.

Rather than becoming a manhunt for Tilikum, the documentary offers an intelligent insight into Tilikum’s past, and unpacks reasons for his behaviour, all while educating people on killer whales and the detrimental effect captivity has on them.

Virunga image courtesy of Netflix Inc. & IMDb, Tyke Elephant Outlaw image courtesy of ABC Commercial & Honolulu Star Advertiser, see tykeelephantoutlaw.com, Kedi image courtesy of Hi Gloss Entertainment, Oscilloscope & IMDb, Project Nim image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, Roadhouse Productions & IMDb and Blackfish image courtesy of Madman Entertainment, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Magnolia Pictures & IMDB. 

End of Days For Daniel Day-Lewis?

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Who knows if Daniel Day-Lewis will actually retire? He’s been teasing the idea for years, but he can’t seem to resist a promising screenplay, which is precisely what has drawn him out of a five-year hiatus since playing Abraham Lincoln in 2012. He’s a man infamous for taking substantial breaks between projects – having starred in only three films in the last eleven years – and now that his apparent swan song, Phantom Thread, is playing across the country, it might be a good time to pore over his sparse, but rather fine career.

It’s a career built upon astounding records, many of which may not be broken in our lifetime. He’s won Critic’s Choice awards, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Screen Actor’s Guilds, Satellites, and perhaps his most impressive triumph: three Academy Awards for Best Actor (winning for Christy Brown in My Left Foot [1989], Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood [2007] and the titular president in Lincoln [2012]). He’s also the only actor in history to have won the Big Five twice (Academy Award, SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Critic’s Choice for There Will Be Blood and Lincoln).

But awards are merely the gold stars on top of good grades. To earn the grades in the first place requires a devotion to the craft, and a kind of perfection of skill; qualities Day-Lewis exercises with abandon. He’s what you might call a smart man’s method actor, sinking entirely into roles without the drug addictions or drastic body changes. Instead he absorbs his characters from the inside out, assuming new identities like a master criminal.

His early work in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and the unusual comedy Stars and Bars (1988) is masterful – particularly as the fractured Tomas in the former – but it doesn’t really prepare you for what’s to come. In fact, it’s not till his devilish turn as Bill Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002) that his face, his speech and his very person becomes unrecognisable. This was the first time Daniel Day-Lewis truly got lost inside the body of another.

His greatest performance, and my favourite, is as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview. Hunched, raspy and totally self-serving, Plainview is the kind of ego-centric movie villain that grips you in a way that almost makes you sympathise, even though there’s nothing to sympathise with, like Michael Corleone in The Godfather II (1974). From his ruthless upbringing of his adopted son, to the mental and spiritual abuse dished out to poor Eli Sunday, Plainview is a character of unbelievable evil, and Day-Lewis is particularly good at jutting out his chin, raising a derisive eyebrow and lashing about with his superior accent. It is, rather ironically, a delight to watch him.

And then the real Day-Lewis gets up to speak at the Oscars, with his pristine face, platinum hair and dignified English-ness, and no one anywhere can believe it’s the same man. He has worked with some of the finest directors of our time, delivered some of the most memorable lines and ended it all without so much as a wave to the crowd. For him, the job’s done, like a long day at the office – there’s nothing to talk about.

Apparently, the filming of Phantom Thread left within him a great sense of sadness, which became a compulsion to stop acting. He’s made such decisions before but has always been drawn back out into the light by screenplays that offer him one last hurrah. Maybe it was another chance to work with Paul Thomas Anderson, or that Phantom Thread, in which he plays a fashion designer in 1950s London, finally returns him to his English roots, but he seems assured now that it’s over. The man could do it all – comedy, violence, drama, even musicals. Let’s hope he carries retirement with as much grace.

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

Where No Tarantino Has Gone Before

Zachary Cruz-Tan

As you may already know, Quentin Tarantino is planning to direct a Star Trek movie, which might’ve been Hollywood’s most shocking news of recent times if Harvey Weinstein had kept his pants on.

Let’s face it, Tarantino isn’t the first name you think of when it comes to space exploration and analyses of the human condition. He’s less Kling-on and more fuck off, even if he claims to have been a Trekker since before his filmmaking days.

It’s a match-up so odd that neither fan base sees it working, and yet, he might just pull it off. Remember when he directed two episodes of CSI and everybody thought it was crazy? His episodes turned out to be the best of the entire show. Imagine what he could do with a property he genuinely has an affection for.

Tarantino’s known for his reverence for his influences, be them Bruce Lee, low-grade grindhouse pictures, gangster movies or spaghetti westerns. His movies are like a collection of cinematic training videos that somehow morph into entities of their own. The same could happen with Star Trek, provided, of course, he knows all its ins and outs, and understands that most Trek fans will not tolerate a single expletive. Apparently he will be granted an R-rating, despite the Trek tenet that vulgarities, violence and hatred no longer exist in the future.

He’s also, quite notably, not a franchise director, having originated all but one of his screenplays. Yes, some of his characters are supposedly linked to others in different movies, but not once has he created a sequel (no, Kill Bill Vol. 2 doesn’t count). If he makes this movie, it would be the first time he’s entered into an established franchise, and this is a franchise whose fans are fiercely loyal. I’m talking converting-their-garage-into-the-bridge-of-the-Enterprise loyal. You don’t want to get on their bad side.

Alternatively, Star Trek could be the little pet project that shows Tarantino has at least some versatility when it comes to style and genre. He’s never attempted science-fiction, and the closest he’s come to making something tame is Jackie Brown (1997), which was about as tame as a crocodile. He’d be more suited to Star Wars, where frenzied action and dizzying swashbuckling are the name of the game, but he’s admitted a preference for Trek, and at the moment Star Wars is too busy shoving porgs down our throats.

Having said all that, as a Trekker and Tarantino fan myself, I’m looking forward to this unusual marriage. Tarantino has a way with dialogue. He’s able to capture that moment when humans are at their most candid. Star Trek is partially built on its pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo; the phaser emitter arrays and the warp nacelles and re-modulating the tachyon guidance matrix and whatnot. It would seem the ideal environment for Tarantino to exploit the juxtaposition between what’s candid and natural, and what’s robotic (though reports indicate Mark Smith has been hired to write). He might even opt for a little self-awareness – I’d love to see Scotty complaining about how complicated his lines always are.

The project is still a little up in the air. Tarantino is meant to develop it with J.J. Abrams, whose own Trek films, while polarising to diehard fans, have sustained the franchise for a new generation. It will be interesting to see where Tarantino can further take the sci-fi phenomenon, or indeed how much of his fanboy personality he will impart. Time will tell. Right now, he’s focused on his feature about the Manson murders, which certainly seems more up his alley.

Image courtesy of Django Unchained, Sony Pictures and Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment 

Directors in Pursuit of Creative Control

Josip Knezevic 

Most directors want one single thing: total control. That’s what makes them want to direct in the first place. But while there’s infamous control freaks like Stanley Kubrick and Alejandro González Iñárritu, some take this to another level by writing, producing, editing and shooting their own film, all in the name of upholding their vision.

With writer, director and cinematographer Warwick Thornton’s latest film Sweet Country now in cinemas, I thought I’d shine a spotlight on those that have pursued creative control and produced phenomenal work in the process. To these directors, we salute.

Shane Carruth

Shane Carruth produced, wrote, edited, composed and even starred in his directorial debut Primer (2004) – a time travelling masterpiece made on a shoestring budget of $7,000. His next experimental science-fiction effort Upstream Colour (2013) saw him do it again, only this time he added cinematography to his filmmaking duties.

If you haven’t heard of Carruth or his exploits, Primer explores some of the most realistic possibilities of time travel, while Upstream Colour is… a complicated tale that’s difficult to explain.

Carruth is arguably the master of modern experimental film, and has been described by director Steven Soderbergh as the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron. His next film The Modern Ocean is set to add to his impressive filmography, with stars such as Anne Hathaway, Keanu Reeves and Daniel Radcliffe on board, but let’s hope he can get the job done – the project has been in pre-production since 2015.

Matt Johnson

One of my favourite directors in recent years, Matt Johnson is an eccentric, comedic filmmaker whose skills can be meticulous at one moment, then completely improvisational at the next. Like Carruth’s Primer, Johnson’s first film The Dirties was made on a microscopic budget, but instead of scifi, Johnson went into mockumentary territory, with a script that was almost entirely adlibbed (only key plot points were drafted beforehand).

Johnson produced, wrote, edited and acted in the film, with the latter allowing him to steer each interaction to his will. He continued this formula in his next film Operational Avalanche and his recent TV series Nirvanna the Band the Show, which works perfectly as a canvas for him to run riot with his Borat style of humour. I can’t recommend his work enough; he’s made some of the funniest films of the past 5 years.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Time for someone more mainstream. Paul Thomas Anderson, the multitasking master, is a name synonymous with high standards of filmmaking. He has produced, written and directed 6 films in the last 20 years, from stories of the golden age of 70s porn, to the epic heights of the oil rush in colonial America. His hunt for control was nearly extinguished with his debut Hard Eight, as although it was critically successful, it wasn’t faithful to his vision. To release his original cut of the film, he had to rename it and raise additional funding to complete it.  Thankfully, he had A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow and John C. Reilly on his side, and from that point on, a genius was born. His next film Phantom Thread is available in Australian cinemas soon.

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

6 Great Biopics About Terrible People

Rhys Graeme-Drury

A lot of biopics are about heroic, influential or lauded historical figures who irrevocably changed the course of history; think Gary Oldman’s turn as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie or Daniel Day Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. While these films are all well and good, I often find the most interesting biopics centre around bad people; those who are divisive, despicable and downright nasty. Boy, I can’t wait for the inevitable Donald Trump biopic once he leaves office – you just know it’s gonna be great.

In honour of Margot Robbie’s new film I, Tonya, which follows the life of American figure skater Tonya Harding, I’ve turned my attention to great biopics about terrible people.

The Program (2015)
Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Jesse Plemons

It’s the ultimate Icarus tale; The Program chronicles the rise and fall of competitive cyclist Lance Armstrong, offering us an inevitable biopic that’s as fascinating as it is frustrating. With Ben Foster donning Armstrong’s lycra bike shorts, this is one biopic that was overlooked by audiences when it first opened, but it’s examination of Armstrong’s unrelenting urge to win at all costs is compelling, to say the least. The Program goes behind closed doors to reveal the details of Armstrong’s doping efforts, from bullying and intimidating those around him, to the gradual justification of his own cheating. While it does fall into many of the typical biopic pratfalls, The Program does go to great lengths to unpack the headspace of someone able to deceive as Armstrong did.

Downfall (2004)
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes

The ultimate biopic about a bad person; Downfall follows the final days of Adolf Hitler, a man who needs no introduction. Even though it received acclaim upon its release, and a nomination for Best Foreign Language film, I find this film a little problematic as it establishes a shred of sympathy for its subject. Hitler, played with aplomb by Bruno Ganz, comes across as a frail human figure, rather than a terrifying supervillain, which one could argue diminishes the atrocities he ordered. On the other hand, that he can be portrayed as a human yet still invoke evil in his supporters tells us a lot about the era and the setting of Hitler’s Germany. It’s a chilling and compelling contradiction.

Oh, and the film spawned one of the best classic memes of all time. Enjoy.

Steve Jobs (2015)
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen

02 February - Steve Jobs
How insufferable, self-centred and unlikeable can your lead character be before the audience turns against you? That was the question swirling around my head throughout Danny Boyle’s biopic of Apple cofounder and technological visionary Steve Jobs. Armed with biting repartee penned by Aaron Sorkin, Michael Fassbender’s compelling performance as Jobs pushes audiences to reject him. From his cold dismissal of his own daughter, to squeezing friend Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) out of the business he helped found, it’s a complex portrayal that doesn’t exactly paint Jobs in the best light. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that this film is a riveting watch, and the execution is second-to-none.

The Founder (2016)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, Laura Dern

Here we have another money-grabbing tycoon who goes to extreme lengths to screw over honest people and make a fortune – the real American dream. The Founder sees director John Lee Hancock tackle the life and times of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a travelling salesman who uses every ounce of his business acumen to outsmart the McDonalds brothers (Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch) and steal their billion-dollar idea, taking a wholesome burger joint with a quirky process, and turning it into a multinational corporation. Hancock’s film works as well as it does because of this dark, underlying edge and a magnetic, often overlooked performance from Keaton.

The Social Network (2010)
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer

January 2018 - Great Biopics Terrible People Social Network
A film in the same mould as Steve Jobs, David Fincher’s landmark  biopic of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is as close to perfect as you can get. And yet, at its core is another detestable and single-minded upstart who goes to great lengths to alienate everyone around him, landing himself in legal hot water in the process. Eisenberg’s terrific performance is complemented by another ripping script from Sorkin, which brilliantly illustrates the irony of the founder of a social network acting in such an antisocial manner. Systematic and scathing, The Social Network is a collaboration that illustrated the compelling nature of unlikeable people in a way few other films have before or since.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill

Sex, drugs and stock markets; Martin Scorsese’s depiction of provocative Wall Street power broker Jordan Belfort was so gleefully grotesque and raucous that it split audiences down the middle. There were those that revelled in the overblown indulgence, and there were those that despised its glorification of Belfort’s decadent lifestyle. Of course, Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives possibly his best career performance, insists the film doesn’t glamourise Belfort, but instead critiques the society that allowed a man of his ilk to flourish. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, you have to admit – Scorsese, DiCaprio and Margot Robbie crafted a raucous and insatiably good biopic about a whole bunch of truly terrible people.

Images courtesy of Roadshow Films/Roadshow Entertainment (The Wolf of Wall Street), Universal Pictures/Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Australia  (Steve Jobs), Sony Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (The Social Network) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Star Wars Should F*****g Die

Corey Hogan

Not so long ago, there existed only six Star Wars films. Of these six, only three really mattered, but these few hours of entertainment changed the face of cinema in a way that nobody could have seen coming. Love it or hate it, Star Wars is perhaps the single biggest and most influential pop culture entity of our times. Its inescapable legacy continues to this day, and it’s a legacy that needs to end.

Let’s get something clear; I, like millions of others, grew up with Star Wars. I adored the films as a child and felt its impact on my life, so I understand the love it’s earned. I still appreciate the original trilogy and all it has done for cinema, and I enjoy the prequels for their unintentional comedy value, but I’ve become deeply cynical of Disney’s rebranding. My pessimism has grown with the release of each new film, and we’ve only just left our third year of unending Jedi domination. Now I’m convinced –Star Wars needs to fucking die. Here’s why.

Di$ney’$ $tar War$ exi$t$ for a $ingular rea$on.

The truly staggering amount of merchandise advertised before the cinema screening of the latest film put one longstanding fact into perspective; Star Wars is, and always has been, a gargantuan money-spinner. The Walt Disney Company knew this, and in their ongoing quest to capitalise on everything on the planet, they no doubt had dollar signs in their eyes when they dropped $4.06 billion on Lucasfilm back in 2012 and immediately greenlit a new trilogy.

There’s no doubt it’s been a worthwhile investment for them; the three films they’ve released since have made them back more than the sum of their expense, and that’s without the squillions in merchandise and tie-ins that come with the name brand. But that’s all the new films will ever be – artless products genetically engineered by rich studio executives to appeal to as large an audience as possible.

Let’s get real, Star Wars apologists – The Last Jedi sucked.

The highly anticipated eighth instalment in the main series – The Last Jedi – hit cinemas roughly a month ago, and its initial reaction and overall reception has been… divisive, to say the least. Despite earning itself plenty of admirers among moviegoers, a large chunk of its audience and devoted fans found it an enormously frustrating disappointment, and rightfully so. You don’t have to look far to find discussions on its many fatal flaws – its abundance of unnecessary subplots and useless characters, its poor handling of returning favourites and its failure to answer many lingering questions left by The Force Awakens.

Ironically, its problem is the opposite of The Force Awakens; while that became a nostalgia-driven clone of A New Hope in its determination to keep fans happy, The Last Jedi tries way too hard to become its own thing – a move that could have worked were Disney willing to take some risks with the material. The biggest revelation to take away is that Disney really has no grand scheme for these films and is essentially making it up as they go along; a ploy that will only have audiences emptying their wallets for so long before they catch on.

Critics are selling out

Speaking of catching on, it seems audiences and critics aren’t seeing eye-to-eye as they once were. It seems like a ludicrous notion, but one shady suggestion creeps back into the conversation – does Disney pay off critics to praise their films? – and after TLJ’s polarising reception that doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Gone are the days of nuanced reviews. We now live in a world where audiences really could be considered smarter than critics. Journalists were quick to publish articles about studies that claim Rotten Tomatoes scores have no effect on box office numbers, but given that they are defending their own medium, how much of this can be believed? Ironically, how much of what I’m telling you are you taking to heart?

And that’s not to mention the fact that politics are what earn attention now. Critics will applaud anything that could be called “politically correct”. Unfortunately this means the most sensationalist stories are the most talked about, so we get articles like Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be too inclusive for some people. Good. (published by Wired on December 15), and “Let’s Face It, You Hate The Last Jedi Because You Hate Women” (published by disinfo.com on January 11). What an interplanetary western set in a galaxy far, far away has to do with our own contemporary politics is anyone’s guess, but one thing’s for certain; you can already guess the Vice headline when Solo: A Star Wars Story inevitably disappoints – “Nobody Wants White Male-Led Blockbusters Anymore.” On that note…

Solo: A Star Wars Story is doomed to fail.

Rogue One – the first of Disney’s Star Wars Story spin-offs that take place outside the oeuvre of the main “Episodes” – was surprisingly well received by fans as well as predictable critics. Personally, I found it to be a watchable-enough, but monotonous footnote in the saga, complete with flat, disposable characters and a dreadfully misguided attempt to recreate original trilogy characters with CGI. But if that wasn’t enough to set in SW fatigue for everyone like it did for me, the upcoming solo Han Solo prequel, unimaginatively titled Solo: A Star Wars Story, already looks to be testing the patience of even those who gave The Last Jedi a pass.

As covered extensively in our previous piece Is Star Wars in Trouble?, Solo has faced numerous production issues. Despite this bad press, Disney has yet to budge on its planned May release date for the film. With the release a mere four months away, why has the normally well-prepared House of Mouse not yet released any promotional material? Of course, it’s entirely possible that the reshoots have prevented them from cutting a trailer, or that Disney do not want to distract from The Last Jedi while it is still being buzzed about, but another feasibility lingers – they know their film is a disaster waiting to happen, and they’re eager to sweep it under the rug as quickly and quietly as possible.

The future of Star Wars is lost in space.

So, where is this franchise taking us? With The Last Jedi generating antipathy in many and Solo’s prospects looking grim, how long will it be before audiences everywhere become fatigued by the beloved space opera?

Too much of a good thing is never a good thing, and while Disney may be reaping the profits and continuing their dominance of the world, the empty blockbusters they churn out will eventually become an unmemorable remnant of a beloved juggernaut. Take The Simpsons for example; its first eight or so seasons are still re-watched, quoted and remembered as some of the best television in history, while the remaining twenty-plus seasons are a passionless, lifeless entity. Likewise, while Star Wars gradually becomes a shell of its former self, people will still adore the originals, the joy they brought to the world and the impact they had on cinema. Let’s just pray Disney has the decency to let Star Wars fucking die a dignified, peaceful death.

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures 

#OscarsLessWhite: Top Actresses of 2017

Elle Cahill 

As we enter each New Year, there’s always a reflective period where we look back at the year gone by and consider what was achieved. 2017 was certainly an uncomfortable year for Hollywood, despite the year starting off as if real progress was going to be made within the industry.

Following the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite disaster, 2017 brought a much larger representation of African American nominees at the Academy Awards, with Fences and Hidden Figures up for various awards, and Moonlight taking out Best Picture. Shortly after, the release of Get Out garnered critical acclaim for its look at racism hidden in plain-sight in white suburbia.

Unfortunately, social progress came to a standstill with the Weinstein allegations, which brought to the surface an undercurrent of sexual abuse in Hollywood that has been allowed to run rampant for many years.

There are a number of black women attempting to face adversity and pave a path for not only the future of female actors in general, but also for African American performers. Here’s 4 black actresses that are rising through the ranks of Hollywood, while simultaneously taking a stand against sexism and racism:

Viola Davis

At 52 years old, Davis has been appearing in bit parts since 1996, however, it wasn’t until 2011 that everyone started to take notice of Davies after her performance as fiery, downtrodden Aibileen Clark in The Help. In 2014, she took on the lead role in the television series How to Get Away with Murder, and began to gain recognition for her acting abilities, winning an Emmy in 2015 for Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama. This led to her most recent ventures, including superhero franchise Suicide Squad, appearing as the morally ambiguous, mastermind behind the squad, Amanda Waller, before taking out the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role at the Academy Awards for her outstanding performance in Fences.

January 2018 - Oscars Less White Viola Davis
Taraji P. Henson

 Taraji P. Henson has followed a very similar path to Davis, appearing in bit parts until 2009 when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance as Queenie in 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It wasn’t until 2015, when she was cast as Cookie Lyon in the television series Empire that people really started to pay attention to her. In fact, she was up against Davis’ for the 2015 Best Actress Emmy, and received a second nomination the following year for the same role, which she went on to win. The 2016 film Hidden Figures also won Henson critical acclaim, although she wasn’t nominated for her performance, the film did win the Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

January 2018 - Oscars Less White Taraji P Henson

Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer is one of those actresses that is completely reliable in any role or performance you give her, but can never quite seem to get the lead role she deserves. The calibre of her work suggests she has a good eye for deciding which films to audition for. After rounding off last year with Hidden Figures and an Academy Award nomination for her role in the film, Spencer his set to appear in four films this year alone, including The Shape of Water which is set to due to be released later this month. The Shape of Water has already gained her a Golden Globes nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

January 2018 - The Shape of Water

Zoë Kravitz

At 29 years old, Zoë Kravitz is the youngest actress on this list, and the least decorated, but her performance in the television series Big Little Lies has cemented her as an actress on the rise. She’s been involved in a range of films, from big blockbusters like X-Men: First Class and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and has been nominated for her performance in lesser known gems such as The Road Within and Dope. She’s even lent her voice talent to The LEGO Batman Movie, but it’s only recently that she’s been granted the opportunity to put her acting chops to the test. With four films out last year, with the next instalment of Fantastic Beasts and a second season of Big Little Lies coming up soon, we’re likely to see a lot more of Kravitz. I for one am very excited to see what she does next.

January 2018 - Oscars Less White Zoe Kravitz
Images courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox (Hidden Figures & The Shape of Water), Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (The Help), Roadshow Films/Entertainment (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & Big Little Lies) and HBO (Big Little Lies)