Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan’s newest feature shouldn’t be called a film. It should be called an experience. Dunkirk is harrowing, heartbreaking and stunningly shot – and you won’t see a more affecting film this year (or perhaps even in the years to come).

Nolan tells the story of the World War ll Dunkirk evacuation in this, his directorial masterpiece. The director seamlessly weaves together three timelines, bringing together an ensemble cast who’s actions stir more than their words. In a genius creative decision, Nolan follows a set of characters in a week on the beach, an hour as a fighter pilot in the sky and a day on a civilian boat sent to bring home the stranded soldiers. Witnessing events from these three viewpoints allows for a layered look at the complexity of this rescue mission.

Dunkirk is fiercely told through body language, stark and stunning visuals and a pounding, relentless original score by Hans Zimmer. Nolan has united an ensemble cast that sees established talent alongside breakout stars – not one man lets this piece down.

It wouldn’t be enough to say that Dunkirk is a triumph of what cinema can achieve, and it’s unlikely it will be replicated in all of its cinematic genius anytime soon. From the intensity of fighter pilots in the sky to the heart-wrenching depiction of the deaths of young men at war, Nolan grabs his audience from the very first moment and refuses to let go. This is the re-telling of a tragic moment in history and one that is told here with aching intimacy.

Dunkirk is relentlessly paced, never allowing its viewer to take a rest from the stark reality of the situation; much like the men who were trapped there. Claustrophobic spaces are juxtaposed with expansive photography of the beach and the vast sea that separates France and Britain, and when Nolan allows you above water or into an open space you can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. The word immersive is thrown around a lot, but this piece of cinema might just be the new definition for it.

The war epic, a relatively short 106 minutes in length, is free from the bloody spectacle of most war films and features only one swear word, while dialogue itself is generally scarce – there isn’t a sentimental monologue in-sight. Director and Writer Nolan defies genre expectations and showcases the true impact of carefully crafted cinema without the use of gratuitous violence or offensive language.

Part character study, part inimitable war epic, Dunkirk has reinvented the genre thanks to the bold storytelling and auteur eye of its director. Respectful in its portrayal of the unthinkable horrors of war, it deserves to stay in the cinema way beyond its allotted time and – rather simply – should be seen by all.

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Actor Profile: Michael B. Jordan

From cult football drama Friday Night Lights, to political true-story Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan, currently the hottest ticket in the film industry, never does the same thing twice. Diverse, bold, and exceptionally talented, Jordan is on his way to super-stardom (which should arrive some time after Creed does). Don’t wait around to see him first then, have a look-see at his back catalogue, which demonstrates the actors filmic smarts thus far.FRUITVALE

Despite the re-boot of Fantastic 4 not sitting so comfortably with audiences or critics, don’t let that cloud your judgement on Jordan himself, who won five awards for his performance in Ryan Coogler’s Frutivale Station – yes, five for one performance. At only 28 years old, Jordan has starred in ten feature films – eleven when boxing drama Creed makes its debut – and eighteen television series’, with acclaim for his roles as Vince in Peter Berg’s FNL, Oscar in Frutivale‘, and Steve Montgomery in hand-held sci-fi Chronicle.

Not just making waves amongst spectators, Jordan is becoming a firm favourite within the industry itself, teaming up with Ryan Coogler for the second time on Creed – a film which is produced by, and stars, Sylvester Stallone. Despite being in the early stages of his film career (in terms of playing leads), the actor has played roles in an array of acclaimed dramas, including the Idris Elba-led series The Wire.

Having just signed on to join Josh Boone’s Pretenders, expect plenty more in the way of distinct roles from Michael B. Jordan, an actor intent on making a name for himself – and a career – in this coveted industry.

Four reasons Suicide Squad already looks like a winner

DC’s Extended Universe and its Suicide Squad inhabitants won’t see its cinematic debut until August 2016, but audiences are already eagerly awaiting the date. With the Comic Con trailer receiving a wave of applause from both critics and DC fans, and naysayers basically won-over, David Ayer’s foray into super villains and Belle Reve is looking set to be a box-officer breaker and audience favourite. Why are spectators expecting such a good production? Here, I give you four solid reasons as to why Suicide Squad is already channeling a winning confidence.

1) Bad-ass villains as the protagonists

There’s nothing wrong with watching Batman or Spider Man save their respective cities. Superheros are generally loved – Avengers: Age of Ultron‘s whopping $1.398 billion box-office taking exemplifies the pleasure and enjoyment audiences gain from watching their favourite good-guy serving up justice amongst the likes of Electro and Penguin. But, what excites viewers here, is the thought of the tables being turned as they get to delve deep into the makings of, and bat-shit crazy minds of, some of DC’s darkest criminals. In Ayer’s Suicide Squad fans will watch as the likes of Harley Quinn, Slipknot, and Enchantress protect society against rogue villains – they might be being forced to do it by some super seedy government officials, but its all relative. No longer the characters you are meant to loath, you’ll be invited deep into their clique, as their back-stories and criminal enterprising become the centre focus of Ayer’s feature.

2) An ensemble cast to rival the best in old and new talent

the cast of suicide squad

the cast of suicide squad

Not to suggest that Will Smith and Viola Davis are getting old (ahem), but Suicide Squad boasts a stand-out cast of veteran acting talent, as well as a host of fresh new faces who have more then proved their worth on the silver screen. Performances that stuck out in the initial trailer include the apparent acrobat enthusiast Harley Quinn, played here by the compelling actress (and beauty) Margot Robbie – known for her Hollywood breakout in The Wolf of Wall Street – Mr Smith as marksmen Deadshot (get set for family flash-backs and a loveable rogue with this one), and – it likely goes without saying – Jared Leto as The Joker. Portrayed many times on the big screen by actors who were established for their diverse roles, the latter is an iconic character who is already loved amongst DC fans. Featuring for less then a minute at the end of the trailer, and seen in a still from the film, Leto’s Joker is Marylin Manson in look (soz, Marylin) and Heath Ledger-esque in sound. The difference here? It’s likely this clown will be R-rated, oh, and involved in a strange romance with Robbie’s Quinn – that adds a whole other dimension in itself. Jay Hernandez deserves a shout, too. Sporting facial tattoos and a bad temper (and that’s putting it lightly), the actor as El Diablo doesn’t feature too heavily in the initial trailer but the character is looking like one to watch come release.

3) The August 2016 release

It might seem like a bit of a weird reason as to why suicide Squad is promising big things, but simply, David Ayer and Warner Bros. Pictures aren’t rushing this one. It’s common that these big blockbusters get lumped with a huge budget, a short production process, and a quick release. Why? To bring in the dollar. It makes sense in terms of money-making, but it can often lead to a rushed, and lacking, final feature. What fans are seeing here is a good-looking and well-thought out trailer from a film that won’t meet its release for another year. If it’s looking like an epic at this stage, it’ll more than likely genuinely impress upon its debut – and look somewhat better than it already does. Good stuff, huh?

4) David Ayer taking the helm

The director attached as both helmer and writer basically speaks for itself. Known for critically applauded, and intimate explorations of strong character-driven stories, don’t expect an effects-centred feature. While it is likely that Suicide Squad will be effects heavy, fans won’t be left with all style and no substance, not with Ayer on board. Known for his South Central narratives in Training Day and Harsh Times, and last years war epic Fury, the director never does the same thing twice. Adding a new string to his bow with a comic book adaptation here, Ayer brings grit and adult content to the kind of adaptation that usually targets a youth audience.

 

 

 

City of God

Fernando Meirelles’ compelling, uncompromising and, frankly, brutal, drama City of God is now thirteen years old. Age has no relevance in the case of features such as these. As relevant and heady today as it was in 2002, Meirelles’ exploration of Rio De Janeiro’s stoic Favela’s holds as much importance in 2015 as it did in the early 2000’s. Full to the brim with blatant violence and uncomfortable scenes of adolescent malevolence, City of God comes under many a critics ‘One to watch’, and serves as repeat watching despite its ability to stay with its viewer. Less of a review, and more of an appreciation piece, here, I delve into why Meirelles’ film of poverty, love and gang warfare should be watched by everyone who considers themselves to be a film aficionado.

rodrigues as rocket in city of god

rodrigues as rocket in city of god

Cidade de Deus took its inspiration from two sources. One, a kind of semi-autobiographical novel by escapee of the Favela’s Paulo Lins. Two, a documentary released prior to Meirelles film that focused on the ongoing battle between the residents of the Brazilian ghettos, and the city police who came charging into this separate world with a handful of brutality at the end of the 20th century. Merielle’s and co-director Katia Lund took much interest from the latter, and felt they needed to bring this big city, with its dancing, parades – and gun-filled, drug-fulled Favela’s – to the forefront of Western culture. And that, they did.

Casting a host of never-heard-of actors (as well as one or two familiar Latin faces) the pair brought the terrifyingly real narrative of one Favela in Rio to the screens of millions. No longer a secret, these urban living spaces gripped a nation – and this fascination with the civilians who happily (and some, not so happily) call this place home, has continued on. Just two years ago City of God – 10 Years Later was released, charting the lives of several of Meirelle’s actors. Three years ago saw a three part documentary, aired on the BBC, which followed an array of families living in contemporary Brazil. Together, Lund, Lins and Meirelles successfully made the Favela’s a talking point, opening Westerners eyes to the tough and troubled world of Rio’s hilltop housing estate.

douglas silva as li'l dice

douglas silva as li’l dice

Despite the level of neo-realism that accompanies the film – including a visceral and intense colour palette of burnt oranges and yellows, and an in-your-face ability to reiterate this idea that nothing, and no one, is safe –  City of God manages to juxtapose a level of cinematic glory with documentary fervor that keeps events seemingly real, and the viewer constantly unsure of what might happen next. The unexpected nature of a number of incidents, including that hand or foot scene, and a heartbreaking goodbye to Bene (Phellipe Haagensen) lend to the consistent realism in which Lund and Meirelle’s managed to create with this triumphant foreign feature.

Braulio Mantovani writes with an effective simplicity; the lives of five or six separate characters – all equally important in their own right – come together, not one underdeveloped and not one underwritten. From the rise and fall of psychopath and drug lord Li’l Ze, to the heartbreak and woes of good guy turned vigilante (of sorts) Knockout Ned, Mantovani gives each resident of Rio’s Favela, each character within Lund and Meirrelle’s film, their chance to dictate to the audience how their environment has shaped them – for better, or more frequently, for worse.

Images of children carrying and shooting guns, a symbolic chicken running for its life and a tale of triumph for protagonist Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) are just minor details in a 130 minute film that, some thirteen years later, add up to firmly settle Cidade de Deus into the realms of culturally important, and critically applauded cinema.

Southpaw – the trailer

This week on Filmfookingcrazy is all about trailers. I love a good trailer – who doesn’t? I’ve come across a lot of articles in the past about great trailers, and films don’t quite live up to them. While I could sit and rant for ages about teasers that I loved, and features that didn’t deliver, today’s short ramble is going to be about the up-and-coming boxing drama Southpaw. Anton Fuqua’s film looks promising, and the trailer is looking even better – lets talk through why.

While the initial trailer gives away what most seem to think is the whole film – for Rachel McAdams’s part in the feature is obviously short – Fuqua’s drama appears to encompass a lot more then meets the eye. Themes of grief, family and respect (to name but a few) seem to dominate the trailer, and Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy “The Great” Hope looks on form as a disheveled champion fighting to re-gain his title – and his life. Known for bringing a level of sentiment often missing in many male actors, Gyllenhaal looks as though he channels the rough edges and emotion he is so applauded for in his role here.

Soundtracks are always key, too. Not just in the finished product, but in the teasers and trailers leading up to it. Southpaw doesn’t let us down and boasts its own single. Sung by Eminem and named Phenomenal, can we expect the same come the end of viewing Fuqua’s film? Gritty urban backdrops serve their purpose as a reminder of the underbelly of boxing and Southpaw looks set to be a stand-out in an array of sport dramas that have weaved in and out of cinemas over the past decade.

 

 

 

 

Point Break – the trailer

When I initially heard that Point Break was being remade I did have a kind of glimmer of hope that it would be half-decent. By half-decent I mean, close enough to its original to stay quirky, but adapted successfully for a contemporary age – keeping in tact the messages and themes of community – and consumerism – that Katheryn Bigelow’s triumphant feature encompassed.

Now, I have only seen trailer number one, but it isn’t looking too promising from where I stand. Boasting a pompous budget and startling effects, the concept seems to of changed from small town surfing and local bank robbing to the likes of Interpol, globe-trotting and unrealistic stunts.

Development is obviously integral when it comes to adaptations, but the trailer suggests Warner Bros haven’t just caught on to the success of the original and tried to re-create that, but quite simply taken an already acceptable narrative and run away with it losing, in the process, the essence of the original.

It’s 100 percent too early to judge the entire feature – and trust me, I want to like it- but for now, I approach with a little caution. The mass market will love it. Fans of the original? Perhaps not so much.

Zombie cinema; top picks

Everyone loves a flesh-eating zombie, don’t they? The gnarling sounds of their groaning. Their drunk walk. Their lack of brain cells, the list goes on and on of all the fascinating attributes the living dead host that keep zombie television, cinema and video-games a’coming. As a lover of the zombie genre (about the only partner of horror I can enjoyably watch), I have compiled a short list of the best films about, or involving these creatures that people just love to go crazy about. From Paul W.S. Anderson’s conventional take on Resident Evil to Danny Boyle’s off-the-scale originality of 28 Days Later, this is the ultimate collection of zombie cinema you just have to get your teeth stuck in to (see what I did there?).

Many believe that Romero was the first to introduce the zombie genre to us, however it was 1932 when the first glimmer of this now oh-so-popular sub-genre of cinema was first presented to audiences with Victor Halperin’s White Zombie. Having said that, zombie horror wouldn’t be anything without George A. Romero, and his first offering of zombies in the traditional sense we all now know them. Romero created the mannerisms, the sounds and the aesthetic of the contemporary zombie (they really haven’t differed in look much at all), and we, as an audience, have been spoiled for choice since the 60’s with zombie offerings.

Fun fact: Night of the Living Dead, now a classic to critics and audiences’ alike, was originally panned by viewers for being intensely violent. Romero also used the zombies as a social commentary for a 1960’s consumerist America, and this didn’t go down too well either.

Night of the Living Dead is of course a must-watch. Originally released in 1968, Romero’s fresh take on the living dead set the mark for the rest to come. Everything about the production screamed rebellion, from its filming outside of the studio system, Romero’s deliberate choice to film in black and white (despite color being available at this time), and his abundance for gross-out violence. Night of the Living Dead inspired a generation of film-makers to pick up their cameras and have a go at producing their own versions of a film that would forever be a classic amongst cinema-goers and critics. Heralded in the list of Movies that Matter, if you watch any film mentioned in this article, it should probably be this one. Dawn of the Dead came a decade later, and is the production that is most often mentioned for the formula in which it set; the locale of the mall, the importance of the survival horror element and the wonderful 70’s look and feel the film encompasses. Both helped cement Romero as the Godfather of classic zombie horror.

Staying on the same track with an adaptation, another must-see is Zak Snyder’s ironical take on Romero’s masterpiece; his 2004 Dawn of the Dead. What’s interesting about Snyder’s look at a zombie-filled America is the way he so cleverly manages to make a comment on all of the political, and societal issues he believes to be of importance in the US, in this funny, scary and intelligent horror. Immigration, race, gun-crime, consumerism and much more are all on display, and in quite a refreshing and often humorous way. For me, Michael Kelly is the shining star as C.J., a mall guard with a chip on his shoulder (he’s scared, right? But just doesn’t want to admit it). Its fun to watch characters like C.J., Kenneth (the loveable, and total hard-ass that is Ving Rhames), Ana (Sarah Polley) and Andre (Mekhi Phifer) as they get to know one another (these are people that would of been unlikely to jell before this mess); Phifer a criminal, Rhames a cop and Polley a middle-class nurse. Watching this group survive in the safe vicinity of the mall, and then fight in the horror that lay outside makes for an interesting ride, one which progresses at a swift pace with a stellar soundtrack and witty script. Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead is an exemplary production of classic meets contemporary, and in the best way.

Fun fact: Although he wasn’t expecting it, Romero was pleasantly surprised with Snyder’s take on the directors classic, and really rather enjoyed it. Kudos Zak.

cillian murphy as jim in 28 days later

cillian murphy as jim in 28 days later

A change in direction was needed in the zombie film realm, with too much of the same old hat, and not nearly hardly enough production values to make it worth your while. Danny Boyle was at hand in late 2002 to bring us that change, in the form of a  dilapidated London, full of enraged humans (important to note) who are out for blood, and destruction. 28 Days Later is the film at hand, a film that challenges the genre in a way no zombie film had before and a film that focuses on character development and human relationships, not just the grotesque nature of the violence this genre has become so known for. Cillian Murphy is at the center of this unique pick as Jim, a bicycle courier who wakes up from a coma to discover what first seems a deserted London. As night falls the truth becomes apparently, and unnervingly clear; there is no desertion, just blood-thirsty ‘rage’ victims. Murphy shines as a terrified man still hopeful that the world can be salvaged, its this hope that gives the film its realism, who would want to believe this could be it? No one, and Jim is 28 Days Later‘s everyman, struggling to come to terms with the devastation that took place whilst he was asleep. With support from Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston and Naomie Harris and a fascinating aesthetic used to distinguish Britain as an unrecognizable landscape, Boyle gives us an outstanding zombie film which refuses to follow the formulaic rules of its predecessors. Brilliantly British, and startlingly real. Oh, and if John Murphy’s ‘In the House, in a Heartbeat‘ doesn’t give you chills, nothing will.

Fun fact: To capture famous London landmarks in a state of desertion Boyle closed sections of road off for minutes at a time in the early hours of the morning as to not cause disruption, using a DV camera to create the stark effect he wanted.

the cast of zombieland

the cast of zombieland

Now for something a little more upbeat, and just damn fun; Zombieland. This is a film that everyone can enjoy because of its laugh-out-loud humor and its ability to not take itself seriously, Zombieland is a zombie movie that appeals to the masses (even my mum likes it, and she hates violence and horror films, must be good right?). Comedy and the living dead wouldn’t be something that sounds like it would go together, and before Zombieland Shaun of the Dead was the go-to film for most who wanted a bit of both. However, Ruben Fleischer, the films director, made sure that this became a piece of zombie cinema no-one could resist seeing, or loving. Set after the zombies have already taken over, Zombieland follows Columbus (the fantastically awkward Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (acting legend Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) as they find their feet in an over-run America. Its hard for a zombie film to stand out as something completely original, but with the help of the cast, Fleischer manages it. What makes it so enjoyable? Scenes of the protagonists tearing up deserted stores just for fun, playing Monopoly in Bill Murray’s house, the finale at California’s Pacific Playland and of course the zombie kill of the week are just some examples of what makes this film so special.

Fun fact: After Bill Murray was finally picked for the films famous cameo actors such as Dwayne Johnson, Joe Pesci and Kevin Bacon were all considered. Wouldn’t of been the same without a bit of Ghostbusters though.

When first reading you may of thought to yourself, “What, Resident Evil?!”, but yes, you read it correctly! Although to many Anderson’s first attempt at giving us a filmic version of one of the most beloved video games of all time is just a lump of generic cheese, to me its an important zombie film that should most definitely be seen. The reason its so important, is the idea that it seems to cherish the zombie film. How, you may ask? Anderson stays true to the conventions of the genre the whole way; the zombies slowly walk, but are still a threat, they can only be killed by damaging the brain, the characters are quintessential zombie film stereotypes (SWAT agents, police, sexy-bad-ass protagonists) and its easy, simple watching. Its uncomplicated, and that’s okay. The original game is something I remember watching my brothers play when I was young, and something that when i got a little older (with the release of the film) wished I could watch, because it has that classic title. While Milla Jovovich may not be the most talented actress, she certainly puts her all into playing Alice, and while the film may not be a work of art, its still a thrill-ride. So, while Resident Evil might not of been on your list of zombie films to watch, it should be, because its unashamed to be what it is: a staple example of what this genre was originally and should still be about – the living dead getting their ass kicked by gun-wielding people.

Fun fact: The zombie dogs were covered in prosthetic makeup and fake blood, which they apparently found so tasty that they continuously licked it off. Diva dogs, ey?

I would love to hear what you would class as the most important, and enjoyable zombie films so please feel free to drop a comment!