‘Focus’ – Anya Taylor Joy

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ANYA TAYLOR-JOY

There’s a new M. Night Shyamalan film coming out this week called ‘Split’ which many are hailing as his comeback film and it has so far recieved favourable reviews. This builds upon the success of 2015’s, ‘The Visit’ which recieved mixed-to-positive reviews and ‘Split’ looks to further capitalise on his improving image after his series of flops. Although James McAvoy is receiving most of the publicity for the film for his electric turn as a Kevin, a man with 23 personalities but for me, equally as important is Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Casey Cook who is kidnapped by McAvoy’s character and following this film, she is an actress who continues to build an impressive career in the film industry on the strengths of this film.

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American born Argentine-British Anya Taylor-Joy’s breakthrough performance was in Robert Eggers’ directorial debut ‘The Witch’ and also was when she first clocked onto my radar . Her performance in it was exemplary and nuanced and one could tell the amount of committment she put into her role. She plays the lead protagonist, Thomasin who is the eldest daughter in a family that are banished from a Puritan plantation who experience supernatural occurrences. It is a fantastic film and one that will certainly feature in my upcoming Best Films of the Year list – stay tuned!

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Since appearing in ‘The Witch’, Anya Taylor-Joy also featured in the titular role in Luke Scott’s directorial debut, ‘Morgan’. I have yet to see the film but although reviews have been mixed for the film, many critics have singled her performance out and although only currently released in the USA and a handful of other countries, she also appeared in ‘Barry’, a biopic about Barack Obama’s years at Colombia University .

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So if you do get a chance to watch ‘Split’ in cinemas, remember that you’re not just watching a film that will undoubtedly have a great performance by James McAvoy, assured direction by M. Night Shyamalan and a twisty plot – take note of the performance by Anya Taylor-Joy who keeps going from strength to strength. I have seen an advanced screening of the film and confirm that she again is one of the highlights of the film and I will have a full review up soon.

‘Split’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 20th January

‘Focus’ – Bradford Young

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BRADFORD YOUNG

There’s a new Denis Villeneuve film coming out this week called ‘Arrival’ which his first foray into sci-fi ahead of next year’s highly anticipated ‘Blade Runner 2049’. Although Villeneuve’s normal cinematographer for his films is the legendary Roger Deakins, ‘Arrival’ is shot by Bradford Young who I’m really impressed by his work so far.

After studying Film at Harvard University, Young first shot ‘White Lies, Black Sheep’ in 2007 which didn’t really make an impact but Young won a Cinematography Award at Sundance in 2011 for his work on ‘Pariah’. Young then continued to rise up the ranks forming bonds with directors Andrew Dosmunu and more importantly, Ava DuVernay with their films and Young’s big hit was DuVernay’s universally acclaimed Martin Luther King biopic ‘Selma’.

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Now although I absolutely hated ‘Selma’ with a passion and cannot understand why this obnoxious film was so well-recieved but before this post turns into a slating of this god-awful film, the two redeeming features of it were David Oyelowo’s mesmerising lead performance and Young’s cinematography.

Young next clocked onto my radar when he shot J.C. Chandor’s brilliant crime thriller, ‘A Most Violent Year’ which was suitably bleak, drained and visually reminiscent of ‘The Godfather’. Young’s cinematography beautifully compliments the suspenseful tone Chandor sets out for in this film and gives the viewer the feeling that New York is a dangerous city to live in during this period with all of the washed-out colours and general dark tone.

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It’s very interesting that Villeneuve selected Young for ‘Arrival’. Villeneuve’s main cinematographer seems to be Roger Deakins who has shot all but two of his English-language films so far –  ‘Prisoners’, ‘Sicario’ and Deakins will also be shooting the upcoming ‘Blade Runner 2049’. Nicolas Bolduc shot 2014’s ‘Enemy’ and now Young has shot ‘Arrival’. From the footage so far, Young’s work looks very impressive and the film looks visually astute.

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So if you do get a chance to watch ‘Arrival’ in cinemas, remember that you’re not just watching a film that will undoubtedly have great performances, assured direction and a memorable score – take note of the cinematography as well because judging from Young’s previous work, it should be inspiring.

‘Arrival’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 11th November 

‘Focus’ – John Michael McDonagh

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JOHN MICHAEL McDONAGH

John Michael McDonagh is a film director / screenwriter that I have a lot of respect for and I am very excited as he has a new film that is being released this week – ‘War on Everyone’ which is being marketed as a black comedy / buddy cop film starring Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña as two corrupt policemen who blackmail and frame every criminal they cross paths with.

McDonagh first started off writing / directing with a short film in 2000 called ‘The Second Death’ before foraying into writing ‘Ned Kelly’. His first feature length film debut came in 2011 when he directed ‘The Guard’ starring Brendan Gleeson as a racist policeman who is forced to buddy up with a FBI agent played by Don Cheadle to investigate a drugs smuggling ring. ‘The Guard’ is excellent – it’s short, sharp and to the point whilst also being very witty and humorous and has stellar performances. This film also helped promote Ireland in terms of film and I love how it offers an insight into what the country is like (although a rather satirical view). The film was a big success and still holds the title as being the highest-grossing independent Irish film in terms of the Irish box office of all time.

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‘Calvary’, McDonagh’s follow-up came in 2014 and once again reunited the director with Brendan Gleeson who’s performance is in my opinion, a career best. On first viewing, the film wasn’t really what I expected – it wasn’t really a comedy and was quite dark in places. However on subsequent rewatches, I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘Calvary’ is nearly a masterpiece. The story is touching and delves deeply into the subject of the Catholic Church and poses some astonishing ideas and a great script to boot. There are some wonderful sequences in the film that are beautifully shot and the characters are extremely well-developed. It’s one of my favourite films of 2014.

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Although 2014 was only 2 years ago, it felt like an age until details of McDonagh’s next project surfaced. At first, he was meant to reunite with Brendan Gleeson on ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ where he would play a paraplegic ex-policeman who gets caught up in a murder investigation. I hope this film still gets made as Gleeson and McDonagh are in my opinion as fitting a match as Leonardo DiCaprio is to Martin Scorsese.

That was until about a year ago when first details of ‘War on Everyone’ were released and then a trailer which looks set to continue McDonagh’s trademark thoughtful, comedic scripts. I am a little disappointed that Brendan Gleeson isn’t here but I think this film is important for McDonagh as this will hopefully project him to American audiences as this is his first feature to stray outside of Ireland.

In many ways, McDonagh has emulated his younger brother, Martin McDonagh who I think is just as good a director if not better than John Michael McDonagh. Martin McDonagh is responsible for the masterpiece which is ‘In Bruges’ and the pretty great ‘Seven Psychopaths’ and will also have another film due out next year – ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ – more on that nearer the time. To me, ‘War On Everyone’ looks like John Michael McDonagh’s response to his brother’s ‘Seven Psychopaths’ – an offbeat comedy that propels them to an American audience. Although I have great respect for ‘Seven Psychopaths’, it didn’t particularly do much to Martin McDonagh’s career so here’s hoping that ‘War on Everyone’ will be a success. Both of these brothers are geniuses so check out their work and go and see ‘War on Everyone’.

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‘War on Everyone’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 7th October 

Introducing ‘Focus’ – John Hillcoat

What is ‘Focus’? 

‘Focus’ is a new feature  primarily designed to raise awareness of talents who are not yet fully recognised. If there is a film that is due to be released and there is a talent there, then they will appear in a ‘Focus’ post. These people can range from actors to directors to cinematographers to composers – anything that deserves a mention! Sometimes higher profile talents may appear but primarily, it is for people who have not yet been recognised.

This Week

This is a little late and I had planned to have finished this last week in time for the film, but I have been catching up with many of the films that have been nominated for Academy Awards. Check out my Reviews for some of the Best Picture nominees and I plan to rank all the Best Picture nominees in a post next week once I watch ‘Brooklyn’.

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JOHN HILLCOAT

John Hillcoat is a film director, responsible for  last week’s crime thriller ‘Triple 9’. Now ‘Triple 9’ has received mixed-to-positive reviews (I am still yet to see it) but regardless of the quality of the film, Hillcoat is an accomplished director.

He heralds from Australia and started out by directing music videos and rose up to make a documentary of the music band, INXS in 1985. He then went on to making low-budget Australian films which included 1988’s ‘Ghosts…of the Civil Dead’ and ‘To Have and To Hold’ in 1996.

His big break came in 2005 with a western, ‘The Proposition’ starring Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone which received very positive reviews and won 4 Australian Film Institute Awards. It’s a really visceral and well-acted film with a great script penned by Nick Cave who also does a great job in composing the film along with regular Warren Ellis. For me, this is Hillcoat’s best film to date.

He then made his first American film, ‘The Road’, a survival film starring Viggo Mortensen and was Kodi Smit-McPhee’s big break and he won a Critic’s Choice Award. Although generally regarded as his best work, I found ‘The Road’ to be very atmospheric in places and it has some beautifully shot sequences but I thought it fell a little flat the more it went on.

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‘Lawless’ was Hillcoat’s next film, released in 2012 and is a drama set in the Prohibition era and has a hell of a cast comprised of Shia LaBoeuf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Hillcoat-regular Guy Pearce. I really liked the film although it received good-not-great reviews and it’s a gritty and dark film and is very black in its sense of humour. Guy Pearce is the standout here as the sadistic villain.

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Now 4 years later, ‘Triple 9’ is Hillcoat’s latest offering and once again, has a tremendous cast. Hollywood actors definitely recognise John Hillcoat as a great director to work with, even if his films don’t always receive the best reviews. Hopefully, this talented director will become a household name in the years to come if he keeps doing what he’s doing.

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‘Triple 9’ is in cinemas now.