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There’s something that’s really been bugging me recently in the movies and that has been a lack of scope in big-budget films.  Surely you would think with the more-than-healthy budgets they have, you’d have thought they could have spent a bit more on establishing a greater versimilitude. Apparently not. Two films that have really stuck out like a sore thumb this year are Dunkirk and Justice League, both for different reasons.

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Although Christopher Nolan is one of my favourite film directors, I didn’t love Dunkirk and a big reason for this was its lack of scope. For a film based on an important World War II historical event, you’d have thought Nolan would have wanted to get everything accurate and really allow the film to connect with viewers. We are only ever told through exposition of the extent of the battle and what is happening in some other place. This is mainly through Kenneth Branagh’s Captain, who I strongly think, is only in the film for expository purposes. Branagh informs other characters what is happening in terms of the battle as opposed to Nolan giving us a visual representation. I really liked the idea of individuals not enlisted in the Navy using their boats to go to Dunkerque to help rescue soldiers and had Nolan capitalised on this idea, Dunkirk would be a substantially more rewarding experience. Instead, Mark Rylance’s character arc in the film is solely for that purpose and we don’t get to see anything else. Even just a few shots of civilian boats would have done the job. Famously, the British effort was collective from not just the Navy and we never get to see this. Nolan can make pretty much what he wants to make and nobody can tell him any different because he repeatedly proves he can make success after success. Surely, if you have the money and passion for this subject, you should try and do this. It’s overall hard to care for a film that looks smaller than it is.

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With Justice League, on top of me finding the film a bit of a frustrating experience anyway, the final set piece really began to nark me off in places. The film’s final set piece should be the crowning jewel of this kind of a film, the moment it has all been building up to, but it is boring and juvenile. Characters make many references to saving the poor citizens who are being terrorised by the villain but we only see this suffering through the eyes of one family, stereotypically Russians. Whenever we see characters making these references, the film neglects to show us anyone and actually the area the villain is causing havoc in looks pretty empty. Even just a few shots of people running around the place and screaming would have helped create a more believable world. But the film doesn’t. Justice League has a huge $300 million budget – surely the filmmakers could have spent a little more in order to invoke that this situation is actually dangerous.

As you can probably tell, this is a frustrating issue and I hope this doesn’t continue to happen in many tentpole films. It is not as if films don’t have the money, as demonstrated by these two examples. We, as audiences, should expect more and let them deliver the goods.

Justice League is out now in UK cinemas. Dunkirk is out now on home release. 


What are your thoughts? Tweet @TheFilmMeister or leave your ideas in the comments

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The Limitations of Rotten Tomatoes

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With Justice League currently playing in cinemas, the controversy of the critical reception to the films in the DCEU canon continues. One important aspect to many people is the Rotten Tomatoes score of the film, which people have been keen to follow. For those unfamiliar, Rotten Tomatoes is a site that measures how many critics gave a favourable review to a film, in the form of a percentage. If 60% of the reviews are deemed positive, the film is rated as ‘fresh’ and anything less, ‘rotten’.

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Of course, there are limitations with this model with the notion that a films can be reduced to scores and also the score doesn’t inform generally how much people liked or disliked a film. Take the recent release of Darren Aronofsky‘s mother! for example, a film that is intentionally designed to be divisive, which attained a 68% (fresh) score from critics. To those unaware, 68% would suggest that the film was pretty good but perhaps flawed in some way. What the score fails to divulge is that mother! is a film which people either loved or loathed or were, like myself, somewhere in between. How are you supposed to gauge from a score the varying attitudes and opinions to these reviews? All 68% tells you is that 68% of the critics featured in this poll would give a positive review to the film.

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When Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) opened towards the beginning of last year, the famous critical backlash to the film lead to fans losing their heads over the damning 27% score (therefore, judged as ‘rotten’). This was furthered by Suicide Squad‘s also less-than-stellar critical reception, also scoring a measly 27%. Petitions were even created to “close the site down”, from dismayed fans who thought these scores had been rigged and  also believed that these scores may damage the legacies of these films.

Although the reception of Wonder Woman served as a U-turn for the critical reception of the DCEU with a 92% ‘fresh’ score, the reception to Justice League was still one of trepidation due to the turbulent production of the film and the fact that it serves as a follow-up to BvS, largely featuring the same cast and crew.

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The scores came in and Justice League has been deemed as ‘rotten’ and currently sits on a disappointing 41%. But before the scores were revealed in what was in my opinion, a long drawn-out affair with a very late embargo, it became very apparent to me that a lot of people (even a couple of YouTubers that I have respect for) didn’t seem to know what Rotten Tomatoes is. I have heard things such as “Justice League deserves at least a 70%” and “27% is too harsh for BvS“.

I would like to point out that a film cannot deserve a score. In the case of BvS, all 27% means is that just over a quarter of people who watched the film thought it was at the very least, good. Like with my previous example of mother!, 27% doesn’t tell you how skewed the reviews were in either direction.

As flawed a system as Rotten Tomatoes is, I think people need to understand that it is just an indication of the general consensus to a film and not something that dishes out its own score. And please, no more of this shutting down business – it’s petty and childish and the so-called ‘fans’ that petitioned for this need to grow up.

Rotten Tomatoes is definitely useful as a tool, but should in no way affect your opinion of a film. Watch Justice League for yourself to form your own verdict – don’t judge it by a statistic. As film critic Mark Kermode puts it, aggregate scores “aren’t criticism, they’re just number-crunching”.

Justice League is out now in UK cinemas. 

Kevin Spacey Replaced By Christopher Plummer In Ridley Scott’s Upcoming Film

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This piece was further developed and submitted as part of my portfolio for a university project. 

It was recently announced that famed actor, Kevin Spacey, would be replaced by actor, Christopher Plummer, in Ridley Scott’s upcoming biographical crime drama, All The Money In The World. The news came following serious allegations of sexual assault and after Netflix dropped the actor too from hit TV series, House of Cards and a Gore Vidal biopic that the streaming giant had picked up to distribute.

Spacey was set to star in Scott’s film as American industrialist J. Paul Getty, who was named the richest living American in 1957 by Fortune Magazine and who famously negotiated the ransom of his then 16 year old grandson who was kidnapped. In an unprecedented move, director Ridley Scott has managed to hire Christopher Plummer, who reportedly was his initial choice for the role but the studio pressure the director into hiring somebody more famous. The film was supposed to have premiered on the 16th November ahead of its 22nd December release date in America and the 5th January next year for the UK. Although the reshoots with Plummer will reportedly only take 10 days, it’s still a very ambitious thing to do, especially when the film is so close to general release. That said, if it were to happen to anyone’s film, let it be Ridley Scott as he is one of the most economical directors of our time – All The Money In The World will be his seventh film this decade – that’s a film a year and particularly impressive seeing as he is nearing eighty!

Not only is this an gutsy move for the film, but it also serves as an important moment for the film industry as a whole. As well as Hollywood waking up to the realisation that not all of its filmmakers may be saints, it’s a nail in the coffin for those individuals who sexually take advantage of others. It will not be tolerated and although Spacey has not officially been found guilty, clearly both Netflix and Ridley Scott don’t want their products to have any associations (and also inevitably to avoid controversy and protect themselves) with this unacceptable behaviour. In particular with Scott’s film, it seems that he is intent on campaigning for the upcoming Awards season (reviews are yet to be published and probably not for a while with this major hiccup) and if audiences had remembered the film more for the fact Spacey was in it and didn’t pay attention to the actual film Scott had made, it could have severely diminished returns. If anything with Scott’s film, this move may even boost bums on seats with people associating the film with recasting Spacey.

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The other thing that could happen of course, is the film recieves negative reviews if Plummer’s performance is not up to scratch and this then begs the question – should one jeopardise their film for the sake of one individual? On a much larger scale, Harvey Weinstein’s recent ousting from Hollywood has much bigger implications for the film industry. As The Weinstein Company, co-run with his brother, Bob Weinstein, they are the distributors of many film releases and have multiple films that were set for Awards contention. One notable example includes Benedict Cumberbatch-starring Thomas Edison biopic, The Current War. Paddington 2, which is currently doing excellently in the UK is having trouble in the US acquiring a distributor to meet its 12th January release date. Is it fair that every single member of the cast and crew behind these films has to suffer in that their film isn’t even scheduled for release yet due to one individual’s conduct?

It’s certainly a thorny issue and one that raises a lot more questions than it does answers. It would certainly be ironic if Plummer gets nominated or even wins the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, which surely would be a kick in the teeth for Spacey. But for better or worse, All The Money In The World will surely be remembered for this groundbreaking move and shows that Hollywood will not stand anymore for any such despicable behaviour.

All The Money In The World will be released in UK cinemas on 5th January 2018


What are your thoughts? Tweet @TheFilmMeister or leave your ideas in the comments

The Responsibility Of Marketing

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Originally published in Concrete, this piece borrows examples from my ‘Effective Marketing‘ opinion piece but does touch on some new themes with the below films. 

Whilst 2017 continues to churn out endless sequels and big-budget franchise films, there hasn’t been a shortage of smaller, original works. Two particularly prominent films are Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night. Both films were sadly notable for their unfavourable audience ratings, with mother! famously receiving an F on CinemaScore. I believe the marketing campaign played a crucial part in their critical kicking. Both campaigns were highly unconventional, arguably misleading as the trailers marketed the films as horrors, not the thoughtful and atmospheric works they really are. Audiences didn’t get what they expected and they let their opinion known. But why should this be the case?

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Effective marketing is arguably what the film industry lacks nowadays. We’re accustomed to practically seeing the entirety of the film in the trailer: many mainstream film trailers constantly ruin plot points and key sequences. Take Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for example, released in March 2016 but the first teaser trailer was released in July 2014. That’s a year and a half in advance! Of course, this was to establish to audiences that the film was in the pipeline for those that didn’t know. Four subsequent trailers followed and increasingly with each trailer, meaty spoilers were revealed. Whilst I regard the film to be a crazy invention only director Zack Snyder could have created, I did feel the sense of fatigue of having seen the film in the trailer.

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When you go the cinema or watch a film at home for the first time, it should be a new experience. When the lights fade out and the opening titles begin to appear on-screen, audiences should be on edge and experiencing the narrative freshly as it unfolds. You’ve got to respect both mother! and It Comes At Night for attempting to preserve this filmgoing experience. mother!’s campaign was vastly different (a very strong one in my opinion) with Aronofsky trying to withhold as much information as possible and having a late review embargo. Furthermore, one must consider that both films are difficult to digest and require multiple viewings – an initial response to a film is very different from a genuine one. So what can we learn from this? Don’t take trailers for gospel and be open to the thought that a film might try and surprise you. We should be praising originality not condemning it.

mother! is out now in UK cinemas.

Reaction Time

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Darren Aronofsky’s highly anticipated ‘Mother!’ has finally been released into cinemas and it has recieved a very polarising response. Some have loved it, some have hated it: a marmite response if you will. Just before the film opened last Friday, as I regularly do, I watched Mark Kermode’s ‘Kermode Uncut’ blog where he talks about his reaction to the film, or rather how he comes to it. (Watch here) Kermode discusses how an initial response to a film may not be a genuine response and that a film needs time to process. In the case of ‘Mother!’ which he hadn’t reviewed yet when posting this article, Kermode explains how he had seen it a week prior and was still mulling over his reaction before reviewing the film in full last Friday on his regular Kermode and Mayo Film Review slot on 5Live. He also explains how before the film, PR representatives had explained to the critics that there was no embargo for reviews but also they wouldn’t ask for their reactions straight after the film instead allowing the film to settle before deciding on a verdict. This is a very interesting piece of marketing and I certainly have a lot of respect for the film, regardless of its quality (I haven’t seen it yet), for this tactic. We have become accustomed to the culture of quick responses, Rotten Tomatoes scores and whatnot and for a film to be concerned with achieving genuine responses is a good thing. In particular, a film that supposedly demand questions and has multiple interpretations.

Let’s have a look at the notion of a genuine response. In my opinion, a genuine response to a film is one that has been considered and thought about for a couple of days before putting pen to paper. This is partly a reason why my reviews aren’t released instantly on a film’s release. I would much rather post my true response rather than haphazardly come to a verdict just to get a review out on time. I read a comment on Kermode’s blog that belittled him for having to take a week to think about the film. I thought this was rather unfair as if the film really is as labyrinthine as it has made out to be and it challenges genre codes and conventions, it is certainly something that one would need to think about. A week doesn’t sound that unreasonable to me.

This notion of a genuine response doesn’t take into account the factor of rewatching. I’m sure this is true for many but I can think of a number of films where my opinion has changed of a film over time after rewatching it multiple times. You don’t always notice little details and intricacies on first viewing and you can pay attention to different aspects of the film when rewatching. In an ideal world, there are a number of films that I have reviewed here that would have benefitted from me rewatching it again just to solidify my opinion. A couple of examples to prove my point include ‘The Hateful Eight’, ‘Hell Or High Water’ and ‘Dunkirk’. This also begs into question the notion of star rating – if you are a regular reader, you have noticed that I virtually never give a film 5-stars. How is one to judge if a film is perfect on first viewing? With the benefit of hindsight, if I could re-review some of the films that I have watched, 5-stars would be more regular as I know the film better.

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Going back to my examples, I will start with ‘The Hateful Eight‘ first. My initial response and review to the film was extremely positive and I gave it a 4-star rating. I have rewatched the film many times since my first viewing and for me, it is a film that improves on each viewing as I notice a lot more going on in the film, little details and its script. If I could re-review it, I’d give it 5-stars and I would actually rate it above ‘Room‘ which I gave my very rare 5-star rating to on first viewing. Ironically, in my original review of ‘The Hateful Eight’, I thought it wouldn’t hold up as well as some of Quentin Tarantino’s other works and mentioned in my review that it doesn’t seem to “have as much of a rewatchablity factor as perhaps some of his other films”. How wrong was this?!

‘Hell Or High Water’ is another example of a film that has elevated and another film I’d give 5-stars. It took me a couple of watches to really appreciate it and to be honest, if I were to rewrite my favourite films of 2016 list, I’d probably rank it even higher. With ‘Dunkirk‘, my response was very mixed and I found the inital first watch rather empty in emotion. I haven’t had a chance to rewatch the film but this is certainly a film where my opinion could change either way.

Reading these confessions, one might question the credibility of my reviews. I would too, with the notion of the passing of time. But then, surely everyone (not just film critics) is entitled to change their mind over time. Do we have to wait for a year for a reviewer to have watched the film multiple times to come up with their opinion? Certainly not and if that were the case, reviews wouldn’t be credible – how are we able to accurately gauge if someone likes a film without reading their review or their verbal opinion? Perhaps we need to read more reviews of people coming back to films and updating and developing their initial responses?

Looking at another aspect to this difficult question would be the job of a film critic. Quite often, critics need to watch multiple films a day in order to have enough content and to meet the needs of the publisher. How do we know their true response if they’ve immediately finished watching the film and then heading off to watch the next film in their schedule? I have done this too a couple of times and I feel as if my reviews and I’m sure others think this too aren’t quite as strong as you’re trying to juggle your opinions on multiple films on the same day. How can we truly get a genuine opinion?

An example would include ‘It‘, Andres Muschiett’s imagining of Stephen King’s novel which released earlier on this month. I was asked to review it for a newspaper and my deadline was a Sunday when the film only released two days prior. I luckily managed to watch the film on the Friday but I very quickly had to come to a verdict and write something meaningful about it in such a short amount of time.

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More extreme would be just last night when ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ had its premiere and reviews for it which were embargoed until 10pm UK time were almost instantaneous. Robbie Collin, a stand-in Wittertainee and film critic for The Telegraph, tweeted that he was about to watch the premiere and less than 12 hours later, had a full review of the film, admittedly a very coherent one and well-developed. Even though he thoroughly disliked the film, did he really have time to process it between leaving the press screening and publishing his review?

I suppose the conclusion that I’ve come to is the main point of reading a review is to try and gauge more of a general response and if they enjoyed it, rather than looking too deeply into the film. At least the reader knows if the film is likely to be an enjoyable experience based on the star-rating and the main opinion to see if it is worth their time.

I’m not trying to give answers to Kermode’s article or to my own questions. I’m just trying to pose more questions and if you’re reading this article, getting you to consider this fundamental aspect of reviews. This isn’t strictly limited to film, this applies to literature, music and any form of media. But try to bear the notion of initial responses and genuine responses and read between the lines. It can only help to enrich your experience and get you to pose questions and challenge opinions.

‘Mother!’ is out now in UK cinemas. ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ will be released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 20th September. 


Netflix and ‘The Irishman’

 

150375db1abffd280f73465b3e236510_client-logo-netflix-logo-png-netflix-logo-clipart_720-377It was recently announced that Martin Scorsese’s next project following his wonderfully realised passion project ‘Silence‘ that opened up earlier this year to positive reviews, will indeed be ‘The Irishman’, the long-anticipated adaptation of Charles Brandt’s novel ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’. Scorsese will reteam with Robert De Niro, the first time in a feature-length film since ‘Casino’ in 1995. The film will also star Al Pacino and it is looking likely that Scorsese and De Niro will be successful in pulling Joe Pesci out of retirement for a supporting role so this film will contain some great gangster veterans. Scorsese is also planning on using visual effects to use De Niro in early sequences in the film to make him look about 30 years old so the budget of the film is fair in order to accommodate the complexity of these visuals. It looks like a great project that has been gestating for a long time and it’s never been quite clear whether or not this will be made. With all this wonderful news though, there is one caveat. It’s going to be distributed by Netflix.

In case you’ve been living under a rock,  Netflix is an online streaming service that allows users who pay a monthly subscription access to a supposedly ‘wide range’ of films and television serials. They’ve recently been making and distributing ‘Netflix Originals’ which are original films and television shows that are exclusively on Netflix. This is nothing new in the film industry – online streaming through mediums such as Amazon or iTunes have been happening for years and some films are released as straight-to-DVD.

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I will be quite honest in my assessment of this news that first and foremost, I really don’t like Netflix. I don’t want to have to pay for a subscription to allow me to watch these films and I especially don’t like the fact that they will not be released for home viewing on DVD / BluRay and that if I ever want to watch any of their material, I’ll have to stream it. I don’t feel that Netflix have a wide-enough range of films for casual filmgoers and it also really angers me that Netflix tarnishes the name of cinemas. Mark Kermode, a film critic who I am a big devotee of, recently published a video regarding the release of Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary ’13th’ which was released in one cinema in the UK just to qualify for Awards consideration. Many people thought the film was very good and I too quite liked it and many cinemas wanted to distribute it but they weren’t allowed to do so as it ‘wasn’t available for screening.’ Of course, people who weren’t aware of this information and who wanted to watch ’13th’ in a cinema weren’t allowed to do so and could very easily have judged the cinemas’ short-sightedness for appearing to not wanting to screen it. My opinion is if there is a big audience who want to see a film and it will attract box office revenue, why on earth would you only show it one cinema?! This was just Netflix wanting to self-promote themselves by making people stream it online, not for the sake of the film but for the sake of themselves.

I very much fear that this will also happen to ‘The Irishman’. I will be surprised if critical and audience reception for it is nothing but favourable and although ‘Silence’ bewilderingly was snubbed from this years’ Academy Awards, I will be very surprised if ‘The Irishman’ is. This film is an event – the reuniting of great actors and a director essentially going back to their roots and experimenting with some interesting visual effects to add to the equation too. It needs to be screened in a cinema for all to see and it needs to be available subsequently for home viewers to enjoy for years to come for repeat viewings. This will not happen if people can only go and see it in a handful of cinemas, or in the case of ’13th’, just one.

I very much understand why filmmakers are suddenly moving over to Netflix and there has recently been an enormous increase in filmmakers who I really admire that are making their next films over at Netflix. Filmmakers get a lot more creative freedom and do not have to conform to the constraints of a studio and can make the film that they envisage. We hear all too often in film news of comic-book film directors dropping out due to creative differences and quite frankly, who wouldn’t want to make a film without all of this hassle from studios?! Duncan Jones, director of ‘Moon’, ‘Source Code’ and ‘Warcraft‘ is making his spiritual sequel to ‘Moon’, ‘Mute’ through Netflix. Although David Ayer disappointed with ‘Suicide Squad‘, when he is on form, he can be terrific and I very much hope this will be the case with the upcoming ‘Bright’ that he is making through Netflix. Other filmmakers to add to the list are David Michôd, Bong Joon-Ho and Angelina Jolie and I’m sure many more. Whilst creative freedom is almost always a good thing, I am genuinely baffled as to why the major studios haven’t reacted to this model that Netflix use and start to give their filmmakers more leniency. Surely that would be a win-win for all.

Furthermore, although this is subject to change, Netflix don’t really allocate a sufficient budget for these films and I really hope ‘The Irishman’, regardless of its distribution, doesn’t suffer in its visual effects because of this freedom. I recently watched Netflix’s adaptation of ‘Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’ and although I found a lot to like about it, one thing I really didn’t like about it were the sub-par visuals because of the lack of budget.

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As you can probably tell, I feel pretty strongly about this subject and I genuinely feel that if this continues to be the way that more and more films get distributed, the film industry is going to suffer. I’m not trying to convince you to stop using Netflix, that’s not my job, but I do want people to be aware of the implications that they have on the film industry. As for ‘The Irishman’, I’m still very excited for it but I strongly feel that the film will ultimately pay for it in the long run as Scorsese most likely won’t be given the proper budget, the film most likely will never see the light of day in the majority of cinemas and won’t receive a home release on DVD or BluRay. Instead, we’ll all have to sign up to Netflix and stream it.

Come on Marty, for the sake of your film, see some sense!

‘The Irishman’ will be released in 2018. 



What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section or tweet @TheFilmMeister 

 

Ben Affleck Will Not Be Directing ‘The Batman’

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Another comic-book film, another director dropping out. We hear this news all the time but this one is of particular importance as Ben Affleck’s rendition of The Caped Crusader was one of the few things a lot of people have to look forward to in the DC Extended Universe after it’s got off to a very shaky start so far with ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘ and ‘Suicide Squad‘. Luckily, Affleck’s departure as director hasn’t been due to creative differences and he will still stay on as a producer, writer and of course, play Batman. Well, I’d like to hope that!

Affleck’s reasoning behind this move is because he just feels it would be too much for him and he wouldn’t want it to hinder his performance. I’ve read a lot of unfair comments over the past few days with many calling him a ‘wimp’ but I think this is totally unjustified. I actually think it takes a great amount of guts to realise that you’re biting off more than you can chew and as much as I would have loved to see Affleck directing this, the impression that I get is that he’s doing it for the sole reason of protecting the film’s quality, something he wouldn’t be able to ensure if he were to direct it. Also, the guy’s been up to a lot lately. He had to bulk up for Batman last year, then played in ‘The Accountant’ and then directed and starred in ‘Live By Night’. And at the same time begin developments on this! It’s a lot of work and I’m sure the stress has taken its toll.

As for the film itself, I don’t think it’s necessarily in trouble. There are a lot of talented directors out there who could really make their mark on a film like this and Affleck will still have a lot of creative input as it is. As for who could replace him, an early rumour is Matt Reeves who directed ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ and its upcoming sequel but to me, that sounds a little off seeing as he’s friendly with 20th Century Fox and would have to move over to Warner Bros who are heading up this universe. It doesn’t really make sense to me. Although ambitious, I think Gavin O’Connor would do a good job of it – he’s proved he can make good action sequences with ‘The Accountant’ and both him and Affleck seem to be able to work well together. David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky would be another top choice but I think this is quite unrealistic. Say what you will about Zack Snyder, who many people have lambasted for his efforts in this franchise so far but you can’t deny (if you didn’t like the film) that the Batman sequences were well-realised and he clearly has a love for the character. I think he’d do a good job. My final suggestion would be Justin Kurzel who looks unlikely to get much work after ‘Assassin’s Creed‘ which critically has done poorly but I think with his combination of superbly realised action sequences and also a strong script by Affleck, it could be just what he needs. And undoubtedly it would be scored by Jed Kurzel and shot by Adam Arkapaw, two infinitely talented individuals. If Warner Bros decide to go with a lesser director, I’d likely also be all for it depending on who they get but with a property as important as Batman, it’s not something they can just hire any old director to tackle.

I am fully confident that a suitable replacement will be found and with a lot of big names tossed into the pot, it will be interesting to see the direction that this film goes in. But with Affleck’s creative input, I think we’re still in good hands.


What are your thoughts on the matter? Who do you think should replace Ben Affleck as director? Let me know in the comments below or tweet @TheFilmMeister 

R.I.P John Hurt

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News broke late last week of the passing of John Hurt, an actor who I respected very much whose career spanned over six decades. He was 77 years old and had been suffering with pancreatic cancer. In my opinion, I don’t think he ever put a foot wrong and although he sometimes played in some films that weren’t particularly great, his performance was always fully committed in them and was always able to elevate sub-par material.

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Hurt first found mainstream fame with his performances in ‘Midnight Express’ as Max, a heroin addict in 1978 which he won a BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and was Oscar-nominated in the same category but didn’t win. Hurt subsequently followed this marvellous performance up the very next year in 1979 in Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ as Kane who unfortunately hosts the alien which bursts out of his chest, a revolutionary moment in sci-fi cinema. For this role, he was nominated for a BAFTA and then the next year, he received a Best Actor nomination for his performance in David Lynch’s, ‘The Elephant Man’ where he played the severely deformed but kind-hearted man alongside Anthony Hopkins’ doctor. In the space of three years, Hurt had undoubtedly become a household name and crafting his impressive legacy.

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Throughout the rest of the 1980’s and 1990’s, Hurt appeared in many films but for me, I first vividly remember him as a child in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ as Ollivander who prescribes Harry his first wand, a role that he reprised in the last two parts of this lucrative franchise. He appeared in further popular franchises such as Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Hellboy’ and was one of the best parts of ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. One of my favourite performances (although more like a cameo) by Hurt was in John Hillcoat‘s debut feature ‘The Proposition’, a gritty Australian Western film as Jellon Lamb, a bounty hunter who has some of the best scenes in the film.

In the 2010’s, Hurt had many small roles in a number of films and although this would be far from most people’s first choice, he really managed to elevate Brett Ratner’s 2014 film, ‘Hercules’ which I was really pleasantly surprised by as it had looked extremely silly, which it was but it was also extremely entertaining which was no doubt elevated by John Hurt’s villain. He also had small roles in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ and ‘Snowpiercer’, which the latter still has never seen the light of day in the form of a release date in the UK.

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I am yet to review the film (expect it soon) but I recently saw ‘Jackie’, Pablo Larraín’s biopic on Jacqueline Kennedy starring Natalie Portman who has been Oscar-nominated for her performance. Hurt has a small role in the film as a Priest and his final scenes in the film are particularly touching following his death as he talks to Portman’s Jackie about this subject and Hurt manages to bring a lot of emotional heft and really resonated with me in this role. No matter how big or small the role, John Hurt’s presence was always felt in a film.

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Luckily, we’ve got a few posthumous releases to look forward which I would envisage will be some more great performances, the most interesting of which looks to be a film called ‘Darkest Hour’ directed by Joe Wright and he will play Neville Chamberlain opposite Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill and Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI.

It is such a shame that we have lost another one of the greats, particularly after a rough year of celebrity deaths but this one’s really hit hard as he really had a commanding and distinctive screen presence that always managed to elevate the film he was in.

Rest in peace.

Tim Miller Exits ‘Deadpool’ Sequel

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Whilst lately, we have been receiving updates as to the status of the sequel to this year’s ‘Deadpool‘, the film has now taken a step back as it has lost its director, Tim Miller, who has cited creative differences with main star, Ryan Reynolds. Tim Miller directed the first instalment, his first major hit as a director as he had previously worked on visual effects and was responsible for the opening credits of David Fincher’s, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and the opening sequence in ‘Thor: The Dark World’. He was paramount in the making of the film as he most likely was the individual that leaked the infamous test footage that ultimately got him the gig with Fox to direct the film.

Although I had my reservations on ‘Deadpool’, Miller is someone who undoubtedly understands the character and clearly has passion. His direction was pretty sound as well and the first action sequence in ‘Deadpool’ was extremely well choreographed. The rest of the film, for me, descended into conventionality which was a shame.

What’s important to realise is that Miller has not fallen out with Fox, he had differences with Ryan Reynolds. This leads to question whether or not Reynolds is being given too much creative input and if he is getting a bit too big for his boots especially as it was the combination of Miller and Reynolds who managed to get ‘Deadpool’ off the ground and deliver with a film that was generally very well-received.

I don’t think this is necessarily bad news – there are some other great directors out there but what will be important is someone who understands and loves the character and someone who can keep Reynolds in check. I would love to see Matthew Vaughn have a crack at it or perhaps Edgar Wright or Adam McKay but I’d also be happy if they went for an unknown like Miller originally was. Miller has already been moved onto another project with Fox so at least his career isn’t on the line.

Let’s hope this film can sort itself out and be a sequel that can fully explore the characters now that they have been established without the barriers of being an origin story.


What are your thoughts on the matter? Who do you think should replace Tim Miller as director? Let me know in the comments below or tweet @TheFilmMeister 

Why I Have Faith In ‘Annabelle 2’

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I’m a really big fan of director James Wan and his work on ‘The Conjuring’ film series. Although the films don’t particularly add particularly much to the horror genre, Wan understands horror movie tropes and is able to use them to great effect and still make films that although familiar, are fairly scary and entertaining. ‘The Conjuring’ was released in Summer 2013, an unusual release date for a horror film but Warner Brothers were very confident in their product and although the film only had a $20 million budget, it grossed $318 million – an excellent return. As the film had performed so well, a spin-off focusing on the infamous Annabelle doll that had featured in the opening sequence to ‘The Conjuring’ had been commissioned and was directed by frequent Wan cinematographer, John R. Leonetti. As I had suspected due to the poor impression left by the trailers, ‘Annabelle’ was an unoriginal, preposterous cash grab that save for one very well orchestrated scare and beautiful cinematography, was a dud. Critics too didn’t take to ‘Annabelle’ too well as it landed a measly 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes but although lacking in quality, it managed to gross $257 million on a $6.5 million budget which is outstanding. Luckily, James Wan went on to save the day for me quality-wise as he directed a sequel to ‘The Conjuring’ and  ‘The Conjuring 2’ was released in June 2016. Although not as fresh as its predecessor, it was still suitably scary and fairly entertaining despite awkward pacing issues.

I knew that ‘Annabelle 2’ was in the pipeline for a fair while but last night, the first trailer for ‘Annabelle 2’ was released and I have to say I was pretty impressed. Now although one should never judge a film by its trailer as has been demonstrated plenty of times lately (I’m looking at you ‘Suicide Squad’!), it looks like the film is taking itself seriously and once again looks beautifully shot, this time by Belgian cinematographer Maxime Alexandre.

However what really makes me have faith in this product is the choice of director.  John R. Leonetti is gone and this time replaced by director David F. Sandberg. Although I am yet to see it, Sandberg seems to have done a very good job on this Summer’s, ‘Lights Out’ and it was a hit both critically and commercially. He seems to be a much stronger director than Leonetti and a lot of the reasons why ‘Lights Out’ got good reviews was due to being effectively scary and being paced well something which hopefully with a good script should be something he can replicate here.

The casting for this film also looks promising. Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton were the leads of this film’s predecessor and both were awful, in particular Horton who should be very embarrassed with himself. Alfre Woodard rounded out this cast and although normally a great actor, her character was so dreadfully written and the film’s ending makes some rather baffling decisions with her character. Although it is not clear who the leads are yet or what the story is, a film with Miranda Otto and Anthony LaPaglia is normally a pretty safe bet and surely better than the combination of Wallis and Horton. I’m also sure that James Wan doesn’t want another poor quality film and hopefully he will be able to lend assistance in his producing role and ensure that this time we get a much better quality film.

Now I realise that all this is just pure speculation and it’s a very real possibility that we could end up with an equally horrible entry into this spin-off series but I think that the talent involved here are so much better, particularly Sandberg who seems to understand the horror genre with his work on ‘Lights Out’.  This also doesn’t look like a straight-to-DVD project unlike the first film which gave that impression. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get an equally successful spin-off series alongside the main ‘Conjuring’ films? I think this is a step in the right direction.

‘Annabelle 2’ is currently slated for release on Friday 26th May 2017. 



What are your thoughts? Does this look more of the same or do you think this film might actually be able to right the wrongs of the first film? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister