Lion (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 8/10

Synopsis

Five-year-old Saroo gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of Kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty-five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.

The Review

Based on an incredible true story, Six-time Oscar nominated film “Lion” is a story of two-halves: one half providing the audience the anguish, distress, and loss of losing your loved ones as a child, and the other providing the journey of vanquishing those emotions as an adult to find the ones you’ve lost through the powers of modern technology. At times incredible…harrowing…heartbreaking, but let down by a slow second hour after a masterful first.

Shot beautifully by cinematographer (and now Oscar-nominated) Greig Fraser, the film begins with the five-year old Saroo (played by newcomer Sunny Pawar) and his big brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) climbing onto a coal-bearing train and stealing the coal so they can sell it at the local market to buy food. They are very poor, living in a mud-hut with their little sister and their mother (Priyanka Bose), who goes to work all day to break rocks at a construction site. One evening, Guddu tells Saroo that he’s been given some work to do and will be out of the home all night. Saroo wants to help so tags along with his brother. They reach the nearby train station, where Saroo becomes too tired to go on with his brother. Guddu tells Saroo to stay put on the station bench whilst he heads off to work. Its the middle of the night now and with Saroo becoming a bit anxious, he sees a dormant train nearby to search for his brother. He can’t find him but seeing that the train is not moving, he stays put in the train and falls asleep whilst waiting for Guddu’s return. And so begins a heart-breaking turn of events: the train rushing thousands of kilometres away from his village to a city where the spoken language is not Hindu, surviving alone in a city where everything around him towers above his size, and avoiding dangers that so many lost children face in India every year. With a fortunate turn of events he gets adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman & David Wenham) and the film switches to a 26-year old Saroo (played by Dev Patel) who during one friend’s house party starts having flashes of his past, and with the suggestion of his friends, uses Google Earth to retrace his steps from the flashes he is getting to find his way back home, in turn isolating everyone who cares about him (including his girlfriend Lucy, played by Rooney Mara).

It’s extraordinary to think that this is a true story and the things that real life Saroo had to face to find his Indian family. At times, “Lion” is a tear-jerker with the standard “pulling the heart strings when it needs to” moments that you would expect from a story like this. But my main issue with the film is the way each half of the film (Saroo’s younger self and his older self) is played out which imbalances the film as whole. When you are following the tale of Saroo as a five-year old (which is half of the film’s running time), it is one of the most harrowing, terrifying, and heartbreaking hour of film I have watched in the last year. This little boy all alone in a city where everything is alien to him, and where dangers lie everywhere whilst somehow trying to find his way back home is pulse racing stuff. It was like watching a Dickensian tale play out. That whole hour is anchored by THE MOST incredible child actor in the form of Sunny Pawar. It’s insane to think that this is his first film and I don’t understand how he has not been nominated for his performance at the Oscars. The film belongs to him.

The second half with the older Saroo in the shape of Dev Patel, who puts in a career-best Oscar-nominated performance, becomes so much more slower it became distracting to me. Not to say that it’s a bad half as it is interesting to see his dynamic with his adopted parents (most notably with an in-form Nicole Kidman), how he uses Google Earth to find his way back home, and the troubles his character is feeling when wondering what his Indian family must’ve been feeling when they lost him. But there is so much of looking on the internet and the clicking of the mouse that the film can drag out and the viewer can take. There are moments in this half which the older Saroo does that just annoyed me, particularly his relationship with his girlfriend (the talented Rooney Mara wasted here). Because of this, the crescendo ending didn’t have a tearful impact for me as I hoped it would.

Final Word

 An incredible true story told in two halves: A masterful and harrowing first half anchored by a powerful performance by 7-year old newcomer Sunny Pawar, let down by a slower second half, even if we get a career-best performance by Dev Patel. If you’re going to watch it with your children, you’ll end up never letting them go after watching this.

“La La Land” receives 14 Oscar Nominations & #OscarsSoWhite is NO MORE!

News

Modern musical “La La Land” landed 14 Oscar Nominations today, tying with “Titanic” in 1997 and “All About Eve” in 1950, with the most Oscar nominations received by any film in the history of the competition.

It’s director Damien Chazelle received two nominations (one for Best Director and one Original Screenplay), with the stars of the film Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling receiving a nod in the Best Actress and Best Actor categories, respectively. It was also nominated twice in the Best Original Song category (“Audition” and “City of Stars”), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing.

“Arrival” and “Moonlight” each received eight nominations, both included in the Best Picture category, with “Fences”, “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Hell or High Water”, “Hidden Figures”, “Manchester by the Sea”, and “Lion” making up that list.

In the acting categories, Casey Affleck, Andrew Garfield, Viggo Mortensen, and Denzal Washington were nominated with Gosling in the Best Actor category, and joining Stone is Isabelle Huppert, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep (a record 20 nominations now), and surprise nomination Ruth Negga make up the Best Actress category.

Mel Gibson is nominated again 20 years after Braveheart for Best Director, with Barry Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan, and Denis Villeneue making up the category with Chazelle.

With the big news for the past two years being the no-show of non-white presence in the Oscars Acting categories (and others), #OscarsSoWhite is no more with seven non-white actors and actresses being nominated over the four main acting categories. Good to see the shakeup that was promised last year by the Oscars president really working!

The nominations were announced early this afternoon in a completely unconventional way from what we are used to, with a pre-recorded video of past winners and nominees telling their stories what it felt like learning that they had been nominated. A bit weird and very infomercial like…let’s see if it carries over the coming years.

For the full list of nominees click on the link here. I will be writing many more articles following the run up to the big event which will be on February 26th so look out for those!

A Monster Calls (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 9/10

Synopsis

12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall), dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness, a less-than-sympathetic grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), and bullying classmates, finds a most unlikely ally when a Monster appears at his bedroom window. Ancient, wild, and relentless, the Monster guides Conor on a journey of courage, faith, and truth. Toby Kebbell plays Conor’s father, and Liam Neeson stars in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting Monster of the title.

The Review

For a 12-year-old child, the world should be a vast open space to explore, make new bonds, make mistakes but learn from those experiences, and above all else, be fun. But what do you do when the world around you needs you to be more than a 12 year old. The cards that you have been dealt with makes the world need you to deal with issues and situations that even an adult finds difficult to contemplate and resolve. “A Monster Calls” is a visually heart-breaking coming-of-age story about a boy whose life is crumbling before his eyes only to find solace in the form of a Monster.

It is tough being 12-year-old Conor O’Malley. His single mother has terminal cancer and he needs to make sure he can take care of her as much as possible. He goes to school like all other children but has no friends, and gets beaten and bullied every day by a few of his classmates. His father lives in the US with his new family but visits whenever he can. He doesn’t get along with his cold and strict grandmother and does not want to live with her when the inevitable happens. To top it off, he has the same nightmare every night, vivid and terrifying. He is alone. He is isolated. There is no one who can help him to take the pain away. Until one night, at 12:07am, the big yew tree that he watches in the distance outside of his window suddenly starts cracking apart to reveal a gigantic tree man who comes to his house, grabs him out of his bedroom, and tells him that he will be coming every day to tell Conor three true stories. After the stories are told, Conor will need to tell the Monster his own story: the truth behind the nightmares he has been having.

Spanish film director J.A.Bayona brings his visual flair and storytelling to this film like he did in “The Orphanage” and “The Impossible”. It’s extremely dark and gothic, echoing Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” and of course the works of Tim Burton. But like the films of those two directors, we’re watching a fairy tale play out right in front of our eyes. The three stories that the Monster tells to Conor are told in gorgeous water colour animation; visual paintings that you see in your favourite children’s books come to life. I’m glad Bayona went that route as the stories are key to help drive the underlying metaphor that helps Conor accept his ultimate fate, and ensure we remember that this is still a film aimed for everyone, even if it is tackling very adult themes.

A Monster Calls has a great cast: Felicity Jones has knocked another performance out of the park here (after Rogue One just under a month ago) playing the terminally ill mother trying to stay strong in front of Conor, even if she is withering away slowly in front of his eyes. Toby Kebbell does great as the absent father who’s struggling himself trying to take care of his new family over the pond. As much as Sigourney Weaver is a great actress, she was the main flaw in this movie. Not because she acted terribly here (she does great as the strict grandmother) but she turns in a very weird English accent which I found difficult to adjust to throughout the movie, distracting the flow of the story. Ultimately the film belongs to the shoulders of the two main characters, Conor and the Monster, and they are both incredible.

The visuals of the Monster are stunning: terrifying to look at with red-hot burning eyes and a force to be reckoned with, but deep down is gentle and caring. I hope the visuals department gets the recognition it deserves come Oscars nominations. The Monster is the courage and bravery that Conor so desperately is missing in his life. The one to give him the nudge to take the next step. Kudos for casting the best voice in Hollywood and ultimate bad-ass Liam Neeson to do the voice work. Lewis MacDougall is the heart of the film and a future star in the making. The journey we take with Conor is every bit as harsh and heart-breaking for us as it is for him. MacDougall can switch from being strong when required, to being fragile and isolated by the click of a finger. He has to tackle the themes of losing a mother, the separation of his parents, bullying, having no friends, and also question his sanity when seeing the Monster. Not many adult actors can say they’ve tackled all these topics at once in a single film.

Final Word

I can’t say I’ve seen many coming-of-age films in recent times as beautiful as A Monster Calls. A heart-breaking, tear jerker of a film that uses fantastical visuals to tell a fairy tale about a little boy (with a star-turning performance by Lewis MacDougall) struggling to find his inner courage, and accepting the fate he has been dealt. Go watch it on the big screen before it goes.

Silence (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 6/10

Synopsis

Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” tells the story of two Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face the ultimate test of faith when they travel to Japan in search of their missing mentor (Liam Neeson) – at a time when Christianity was outlawed and their presence forbidden.

The Review

For the past 26 years, Martin Scorsese has been trying to develop this passion project and bring it to the screens. Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo, “Silence” is about the test of faith and religion, questioning what lengths you would go to maintain your spiritual relationship with a higher power, but Scorsese’s film is 30 minutes too long and over-indulgent.

The film opens in 17th century Japan, in the time of Kakure Kirishtian, where Christianity has been outlawed, Christians can only practice their beliefs in hiding, and Buddhism is the one true religion.  We see Jesuit priest Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), captured by the Japanese army, watching in horror Japanese Christian believers being tortured for following the “wrong” faith. Cut to a few years later in Macau, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) have been informed that a letter has been discovered where it states that their mentor Ferreira has committed apostasy; he has renounced Christianity and all its beliefs. Both not believing this and worried about the state of the religion in Japan, travel to the country in secrecy with the help of a drunken Japanese, Kichijiro (Yosuke Kobuzuka), only to find it is much worse than they first imagined.

Scorsese asks his viewers a lot of questions through the trials and tribulations the two Jesuit priests endure, most notably Garfield’s Rodrigues. How far will you go for your religion? Is martyrdom the true way to paradise? Will you let others suffer for your beliefs? Why isn’t God interfering and stopping this suffering? Just because you are men of God, does that mean you have the power of God within you? These questions are visually analysed through brutal, uncomfortable sequences of torture. Christians are burned alive. They are tied to crosses and placed in oceans to be killed by the waves. They are hanged upside down to bleed out slowly. It’s relentless and Scorsese wants to make sure you understand this troubled time of the religion, which is admirable and you can clearly see why he calls this his passion project.

The film however is way overindulgent and too long for its own good. The punishments are a bit too much and by the third scene of torture (and there is a lot), you just go “I get it. They are suffering. You don’t have to keep on showing this again and again”. Not because I as a viewer had reached my limits of seeing people suffer like Rodrigues did from watching this happen in front of his eyes, and I get it’s a trial of how faithful he can still be. But at some point before the 120 minute out of 160 minute mark of the film, I was ready to just switch off. It becomes too preachy, and in one particular scene, Rodrigues looks at a reflection of himself in water and sees not himself, but of Jesus. Really? After seeing all these poor Christians die in front of you and let themselves die in the name of Jesus?

The film is beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto, making Japan look so harrowing at this awful time in their history. The acting is great from all involved, especially Garfield, but his Portuguese accent is very much a hit-and-miss in my book. But it’s Kichijiro, played by Kobuzuko, whose character stood out for me. A drunk Japanese with a terrible past who repeatedly comes to Garfield’s character for redemption.

Final Word

If you’re going in expecting something like “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “Goodfellas”, this is not. This is a tale about the tests of faith and morality. A slow burner of a film which Scorsese has tried to make for so many decades, which at times is riveting. It asks you many ethical questions, but these questions get drowned in its very long running time and one too many torture sequences.

Manchester by the Sea (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 10/10

Synopsis

After the death of his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler), Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 16-year-old, and is forced to deal with a past that separated him from his wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and the community where he was born and raised. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to a world without him.

The Review

We deal with personal tragedy differently. We can be expressive and show to the world how hurt we are, hold it all in and let it kill us slowly inside, or just brush it aside and carry on with our lives. What it does is break off a piece of our heart. Something we can never mend again. “Manchester by the Sea” is a heart-breaking portrayal of the love and loss of people that have built you into who you are, driven by a central performance for the ages.

Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a secluded janitor living in Quincy, Massachusetts. He quietly goes through his days fixing peoples apartments and not getting the gratitude he deserves. He shovels the snow off his front porch every day for a tiny basement apartment he lives in, and gets into bar fights at nights if anyone looks at him differently. One day while shovelling the snow away off his porch once again, he gets a phone call from a friend of past times saying that his brother Joe has had a heart attack. He rushes to his aid but is too late, as he finds that he has passed away. The family lawyer informs Lee that his brother has left him as sole guardian of his son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) making Lee reluctantly leave his job and come back to the town of Manchester-by-the-Sea to take care of him; a town he’s a legend to the people who reside in (for all the wrong reasons)…a town he once thought he has truly escaped from.

Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, the playwright has written a tragedy littered with black comedy that makes the mundane things in life riveting. Like life, we don’t have perfect conversations with people. It’s never a simple back and forth but rather a conversation full of hesitations, awkward silences, or those one or two “umms” in between. Lonergan has written characters that are like people in real life, and that’s what makes Manchester so special. It captures those tragic moments where it’s heart-breaking and soul destroying, but at the same time it’s never played out the way you would think it would play out like all things in real life. For example, funerals aren’t always a sombre affair. There will always be that one person who makes that one inappropriate joke. Or if someone close to you has been diagnosed with a life-changing disease, it will always bring out the dysfunctionality of any family during that tough time. These moments captured on screen, all beautifully shot, make this a rather special film because there are moments in this film that make it relatable, and credit has to be given to him for writing such a human script.

None of this can be played out without his actors and there are three particular performances that need to be called out here. Michelle Williams plays the estranged divorced-wife to Lee. We see her mostly through Lee’s flashbacks; unravelling more about why he’s become the man he is. She’s her own woman and won’t take shit from anyone, but at the same time can shatter like glass with an instant tap. It’s another wonderful addition to a plethora of past performances from Williams. Lucas Hedges, who plays Lee’s nephew Patrick, is a future star in the making. Patrick has brushed off the death of his father like it was yesterday’s news and wants to carry on life like usual. He’s got other teenage problems to worry about, like girls and his band. He doesn’t want his uncle there to take care of him. He can take care of himself but doesn’t realise how much his uncle needs him to keep sane, and without Hedges, Affleck couldn’t give half of the performance that he gives in this film.

And what a performance. Back in October in 2016, when I first saw this with my brother at a gala screening in the BFI London Film Festival, we agreed that Casey Affleck should be rewarded with every acting accolade there possibly was for his performance as Lee Chandler (a role which Matt Damon was originally cast for). This is a masterclass in acting. He portrays a man who’s been in so much pain for such a long time, it’s become the armour of his life. He’s become someone who knows nothing else but sadness, so much so that his reaction to those moments are…well there is no reaction. He walks hunched like all the troubles in the world are on his shoulders. When people compliment him for doing something, he brushes it aside. Affleck and Lonergan unravel Lee through flashbacks, letting us understand more about the man who used to be the once heart of the town. When that big reveal happens of why Lee is like the man he is now, it’s a silent gut-wrenching and harrowing moment. And one scene that will surely be used in acting classes in years to come, the long overdue conversation between himself and his ex-wife is a tear-jerker, showcasing two actors at the top of their game.

Final Word

A film that portrays life and tragedy at its most genuine, and it’s most raw. Like life, it shows you can always find the funny side of things in those moments of sadness and heartbreak. Lonergan has created a film that will be studied for its purest portrayal of everyday life, with a flawless performance by Casey Affleck. It will make you cry (well it made two grown men cry).

La La Land (Spoiler-Free Review)

Movie Review

Verdict: 10/10

Synopsis

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle, La La Land tells the story of Mia, an aspiring actress, and Sebastian, a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

The Review

2016 was to many people a terrible year. The political landscape changed (we don’t know if it was for better or worse just yet). Many of our role models that we grew up watching or listening to had passed away. For me it was 50/50: alright first half, amazing second half. Within that amazing second half, in the evening of Friday October 7th at the Odeon Leicester Square, I was lucky enough to grab a ticket to the headline gala screening of “La La Land” at the BFI London Film Festival. The seat was terrible (on the side and way up high) but I didn’t care. That was just a tiny footnote of the 130 minutes of what I had watched. Because what I watched wasn’t just a film, it was something special. And after 3 months since that evening, it has finally been released this week here in the UK, and what a way to kick off 2017. La La Land is a musical masterpiece. A joyous, modern classic. Be prepared to read a lot of gushing below.

Mia (Emma Stone) has moved to LA to become an aspiring actress. Her only form of income is working as a barista in a café located at a studio lot. She goes to audition after audition trying to get that big break. But she gets rejected…a lot. And it isn’t just a simple rejection. At times they are brutal. Can she carry on taking this rejection any longer and become the actress she dreams to be? Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a talented but struggling jazz pianist. A man who feels that the art of jazz is dying and it’s his mission to save it. But his only source of income is playing Christmas tunes at restaurants or being hired by cover bands to play at costume parties. Can he achieve his dream of being the manager of his own jazz club one day?

It’s a pretty simple romantic story of two struggling performers who end up having a chance meeting one evening, and together aspire each other to follow their dreams and never give up. What’s so special about that? You and I have seen that a million times on screen. But if it’s written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the man who wrote and directed the sublime “Whiplash” (a film which is in the complete opposite spectrum to La La Land), and something he has been trying to get made for 6 years, you know there’s going to be a twist. From the moment the film opens to the moment it ends, it’s like watching a beautiful painting. The screen is full of gorgeous colours, the set designs are eye-popping, and Los Angeles has never looked so sun-soaked stunning on film. It’s a modern film but Chazelle pays so much homage to the golden era of Hollywood in the 30s’, 40s’ and 50s’ it feels nostalgic. The time when Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers were dancing and singing their way into the hearts of viewers with films like “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Top Hat”. But its most notable influence is “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” by Jacques Demy, given the fusion of realism and dream like sequences in both.

Now in their third film together, Stone and Gosling are definitely this generation’s classic film couple. I couldn’t think of anyone else more suitable to play the role of Mia and Sebastian. It’s their career-defining performances, especially from Emma Stone. Gosling is funny and charming throughout the film, but Stone gives us the rainbow of acting as her character goes through everything a person does to try to make their dreams come true. Of course we see them singing and dancing throughout the film but they’re not the best singers and dancers in the world. And they’re not supposed to be. These characters are people who are trying to achieve their dreams, their falling in love, and going through heart break like all of us are every day in our lives. Chazelle makes sure he wants the viewers to feel that this is realistic and something that they could see themselves being in and not be unfathomable, but also at the same time concoct up something so extravagant to express how they feel in particular moments. For example, the moment you fall in love feels like you’re literally dancing in the stars, or when you feel lost, the world around you literally feels like it’s stopped. It’s breath-taking to watch (credit needs to also be given to cinematographer Linus Sandgren and editor Tom Cross) but at only 31, Chazelle has stamped his mark on Hollywood as one of the best visionary directors out there.

I can’t finish this review without mentioning the key component of the film, the music. Justin Hurwitz has written and composed a beautiful soundtrack with some of the catchiest songs you could find in a musical. From elaborate orchestrations to just a simple piano solo, it weaves its way through your ears, winning your heart instantly. It’s got big production numbers and ballads that any classic musical would have but enough that wouldn’t put you off. It’s perfect for the (at times insane) choreographed dance numbers this film has (bravo Mandy Moore!), and has two sequences both at the start and the end of the films that should be preserved in the historical vaults of the best moments from film that has ever graced our screens. They pay for the ticket price alone as it’s unlike anything you have ever seen.

Final Word

It will make you smile. It will make you cry. It will make you believe in Hollywood making great musicals again. It will make people who hate musicals start loving them. But above all else, it will make you a believer. Make you believe that you can achieve your dreams. This is for the hopeful. This is for the imaginers. This is a love letter for the era gone by. La La Land is a masterpiece that everyone should watch…again…and again…and again.

Golden Globes 2017 – Predictions

Opinion Piece

Tonight, Hollywood will be hosting it’s first major awards show of 2017 with the Golden Globes. One of the few major award events that has both film and TV categories placed together, and the most unpredictable given the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) being notorious for being different and, at times, stupid with their choices . Usually for the TV side of things, it doesn’t really give any indication of what to expect in terms of major players as the Emmys will happen all the way down in September. And the HFPA usually like to give away awards to the new shows that have just come out, with history usually showing they have not gone onto doing well come Emmy time. But for the films side of things, this is a major indicator of who could go on to win the coveted prizes at the Oscars at the end of February so all eyes will be on those categories. So far, its been either “La La Land”(who leads with seven nominations) or “Moonlight” who have had the momentum of winning all awards given by the US critics (and I won’t expect that momentum to falter this evening). But here are my predictions of who I want to win AND will go on to winning tonight! Let me know your predictions in the comments section below:

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Best Motion Picture — Drama

Manchester by the Sea – Want to Win

Moonlight – Will Win

As I said earlier, I don’t see Moonlight losing its momentum here and going on to win the final prize of the night, but Manchester by the Sea is equally amazing (and one of my favourite films of last year) so it could sneak in for the win.

Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy

La La Land – Want to Win & Will Win

I’ve been an advocate of this film since last year and its a given for winning the prize on the night. A true shock if it doesn’t.

Best Director — Motion Picture

Damien Chazelle (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

What Chazelle has done to revitalise the modern Hollywood musical is truly visionary so I’m expecting him to be rewarded his dues.

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama

Amy Adams (Arrival) – Want to Win

Natalie Portman (Jackie) – Will Win

I love everything that Amy Adams does, and her work on “Arrival” just portrays an Actress at the top of her game. She could end up winning on the night given the HPFA’s past love for her. But the buzz and awards that Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie Kennedy has been getting won’t surprise me one bit if she wins the award on the night.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) – Want to Win & Will Win

The best performance of last year by a mile. Casey Affleck will go on to win on the night and then at the Oscars.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical

Ryan Gosling (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

La La Land will win nearly all of its categories and I won’t expect it to falter here. Gosling’s charming performance is an important cog that makes the film work so well.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical

Emma Stone (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

Gosling’s great in the film, but the stand out and what makes the film truly special is Emma Stone. She’s the heart of the film and she will be reading her acceptance speech tonight.

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Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) – Want to Win & Will Win

Another lock in tonight’s Golden Globes. Ali has been winning all the major awards for his performance in Moonlight and I’m expecting him to go on to winning.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) – Want to Win

Viola Davis (Fences) – Will win

This is a really tough category to predict. Michelle Williams was outstanding in Manchester, opposite Affleck. And the buzz that Naomie Harris has been receiving for her performance has a drug-addicted mother in Moonlight has been strong. But the odds on favourite is Viola Davis’ towering performance in Fences, a character she has played in Broadway before.

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Best Motion Picture — Animated

Kubo and the Two Strings – Want to Win

Zootopia – Will Win

I loved Kubo and placed it in my top ten films of 2016, but I could see Zootopia taking this, given the messages on inclusivity it preached throughout the whole film.

Best Screenplay — Motion Picture

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea) – Want to Win & Will Win

The only award which La La Land will not win. Kenny Lonergan’s screenplay is perfect and he should be rewarded for it.

Best Original Score — Motion Picture

Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) – Want to Win & Will Win

Another deadlock. An original musical where all the songs are great!

Best Original Song

“City of Stars” – La La Land – Want to Win & Will Win

You can’t stop whistling this song once you hear it for the first time.

Best Foreign Language Film

Toni Erdmann (Germany) – Want to Win & Will Win

Another one that’s hard for me to predict, given they haven’t been released yet here in the UK. But I’ve already added Elle and Toni Erdmann as films I need to watch this year, and predict Toni Erdmann to take it given the universal acclaim it has received.

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Best Television Series — Drama

Game of Thrones – Want to Win

Stranger Things – Will Win

No begins the unpredictable categories. In an ideal world, Game of Thrones would win everything. But HFPA always give awards to new dramas and I don’t expect that trend to differ this year. So my prediction is the awesome Stranger Things winning on the night.

Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Atlanta – Want to Win & Will Win

Donald Glover’s Atlanta was the best new comedy I saw last year. Original and bold, I’m expecting it to win big tonight.

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Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama

Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) – Will Win

Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) – Want to Win

An incredibly strong year for female performances. I fell in love with Evan Rachel Wood last year with her performance as android Dolores, but if Stranger Things wins best drama on the night, the return of Winona Ryder on our screens will be given the reward.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Drama

Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) – Want to Win & Will Win

Malek’s incredible performance in Mr Robot will again get the award tonight. He is the best thing on the show and the only reason why I kept on watching it last year given it wasn’t as great as the first season.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Donald Glover (Atlanta) – Want to Win & Will Win

Glover should be rewarded for his talent and he will tonight if Atlanta wins best comedy. Childish Gambino FTW!

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy

Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) – Want to Win & Will Win

She’s the queen of comedy and no other comic actress is out there like her. She didn’t win it last year but I see that changing tonight.

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Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story – Want to Win & Will Win

It won all the awards in last year’s Emmys and it will go on to dominate in the Golden Globes tonight, and so it should. The trial of OJ Simpson was simply thrilling to watch.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television

Courtney B. Vance (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) – Want to Win & Will Win

Amazing performances nominated in this category, but Vance as the late Johnnie Cochran was as bold and sleazy like the man himself. He won the Emmy for it last year and will win again tonight.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Sarah Paulson (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) – Want to Win & Will Win

Marcia Marcia Marcia. Paulson is the tour-de-force in the show and she will win again tonight.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television

Sterling K. Brown (The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) – Want to Win & Will Win

Paulson and Vance wouldn’t have given those amazing performances without Sterling K.Brown’s Chris Darden opposite them. A sweep for “The People Vs.”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) – Want to Win

Thandie Newton (Westworld) – Will Win

The only category where I won’t have regret if either Headey or Newton went on to win. Both were phenomenal in Game of Thrones and Westworld (respectively) so credit is due to either of them.

 

Sing Street

Netflix Flim of the Week

“Mabs Does Movies” wants to bring you a recommendation from the two most popular streaming platforms every week (Netflix and Amazon Video) to indulge your binge watching ways. Here’s this week’s “Netflix Flim of the Week”.

Its the year 1985 in Dublin. 14 year old Connor Lawlor has just transferred to a free-state Catholic school because his parents need to cut back costs and can’t afford his current, more expensive education. His parents are fighting all the time and can’t stand the sight of each other. His older stoner brother is living at home after dropping out of college and his sister doesn’t really care about anything. His new school is terrible and he’s already been targeted by the school bully. After another terrible day at school, he sees over the road opposite the school gates a beautiful girl just standing on the steps of her house. Curious at the sight of this angel,  he goes up to her and asks her her name. She’s Raphina (17 years old) and she’s an aspiring model dreaming of moving to London to make it big. He wants to impress her so he asks her if she can star in his music video that he’s doing with his band. Only problem is that means creating an actual band and finding band members, naming the band, writing songs, and of course adding music to those lyrics…

And so begins the story of future indie classic “Sing Street”. Director John Carney is a master of portraying how music affects us. He showed it in his masterpiece “Once” (and still his best work), and did it again in “Begin Again”, and with his third musical act he hasn’t lost his touch. Carney has written and directed another  gorgeous film that echoes the great John Hughes coming-of-age movies from the 80s, with moments in this film that are pure magic. But it’s more than just a standard romantic movie between two teenagers (performed with perfection by our leads Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton). It’s a celebration of songwriting and how lyrics can emotionally affect us; motivate us in making life changing decisions. The soundtrack is perfection, with a mixture of original songs (written by Carney) and 80s classics from Duran Duran to The Cure. This great cast will make you laugh, cry, smile, and reflect. Watch it while its on Netflix.

 

 

Films of 2017: My Top 12 Picks

Opinion Piece

Happy New Year Ladies and Gentlemen! Yes we are all now suffering the post-holiday blues,  and to make up for it we’re already showing off on our countless social media accounts how we’re in the gym sweating off that built up holiday fat, or even torturing ourselves with a “dry” January  (even though the UK isn’t going through a water shortage). Without dawdling on unrealistic expectations, what we can expect and rely on is another brilliant year of releases in UK cinemas. Here are my twelve picks (one for every month) of my most anticipated movies of 2017. Let me know in the comments section below what film(s) you are most excited to see in the next twelve months!

January

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Top Pick: La La Land (12th January)

With awards season in full swing, the UK will be provided an abundance of movies hotly tipped to be nominated for the upcoming Oscars at the end of February. BUT none of these were close to the film that I chose as my top film of 2016. Be ready to watch a musical masterpiece as “La La Land” is finally released here in the UK. A film that is pure joy from the beginning to the end. If you need a date movie, this is THE ONE to watch with that special someone! (Watch the trailer here)

Runner Up: Manchester by the Sea, A Monster Calls, Silence, Jackie, Lion, Split, Christine, Hacksaw Ridge, T2 Trainspotting

February

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Top Pick: Moonlight (17th February)

My top pick and one which is La La Land’s real competition in winning Best Picture in this year’s Oscars is Barry Jenkins’ critically acclaimed “Moonlight”. A story that follows the life of an African American over three stages of his life, whos trying to come to terms with his sexuality is vital and relevant viewing, given the awful acts that have happened in the US in the last year towards the Black and LGBT community. (Watch the trailer here)

Runner Up: Toni Erdmann, Loving, Fences, The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick: Chapter 2

March

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Top Pick: Logan (3rd March)

It’s the last ever outing from Hugh Jackman as Wolverine that is my top pick of March. After 17 years spread over 8 films, Jackman will finally hang his claws playing the character that has made him a household name in the movie industry. We will see a very old Logan who’s healing abilities are now failing, trying to protect a teenage girl with the same mutant abilities as him, whilst taking care of a dementia stricken Professor Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart). Am I finally gonna get the Wolverine from the comics? Gotta have to wait and see. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Free Fire, Ghost in the Shell

April

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Top Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (28th April)

April sees the release of “The Handmaiden”, the next film from master South Korean director Park Chan-Wook (if you don’t know who he is, go and check out the incredible “Vengeance” trilogy by him). Yet it is overshadowed by the first of three releases (my most anticipated of the lot) from Marvel Studios, and the sequel to the most successful gamble Marvel Studios have ever made with superheroes no one has heard of. The loveable misfits that are Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and BABY GROOT are back on the big screen for Volume 2 of their adventures (most likely backed by an incredible 80s soundtrack). The first film I expect to reach a billion dollars in cinema ticket sales this year. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The Handmaiden, City of Tiny Lights

May

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Top Pick: Alien Covenant (19th May)

The “Alien” series for me has always been hit-and-miss. The first two in the series are movie masterpieces, but all the sequels that have come out after “Aliens” have either been mediocre or utter sh*te. Given the release of the trailer to “Covenant” at the end of 2016, Ridley Scott’s sequel to “Prometheus”, and second prequel to the original Alien series, the footage echoes the original horror and tension that the first film had so masterfully portrayed. Expect gore, screaming, and another gruesome chest bursting scene. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: My Life as a Courgette

June

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Top Pick: Wonder Woman (2nd June)

One of the few great things from last year’s disappointment that was “Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice”, Gal Gadot dons the infamous superhero outfit to play the Amazonian Princess (first appearing in comics in 1941) who goes to help the fight in World War I. Given the trailers that have been released, the visual direction looks stunning and certainly looks like the female superhero movie that the world needs,  given the already extremely male dominated genre. Warner Bros. needs this to be a success to justify their future DC comics superhero movie releases. No pressure then. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The House

July

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Top Pick: Dunkirk (21st July)

So this was a tough month to choose my top pick as all the films that I have placed as runner ups are worthy for the top position of July for a number of reasons. But any month that has a release from Christopher Nolan will always edge out everything else. Ever since I saw “Memento” nearly 12 years ago, he has gone onto direct some of my favourite movies of all time, so I’m always on high alert for anything Nolan related. Based on the incredible true events of the evacuation of allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France in World War II, expect this to be classic Nolan: epic and needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: The Dark Tower, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

August

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Top Pick: Baby Driver (11th August)

Oh Edgar Wright. Ever since you created one of the greatest television comedies in the last twenty years in the form of “Spaced”, you have gone on to make classic film after classic film. From zombie masterpiece “Shaun of the Dead” to cult comic book classic “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”, Wright always makes movies that are unique and have his signature eccentric flair. Not much is known about the film other than it being about a young getaway driver trying to leave the life of crime, but Wright has recently revealed that music is the biggest influence of this action thriller, with 35 songs to be played throughout the whole film. God I can’t wait for this. (No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, The Coldest City

September

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Top Pick: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (29th September)

The first Kingsman movie came out of nowhere,  turning out to be a great and funny spy movie with some inspired action sequences (the insane church fight is one of the best choreographed action sequences in recent memory), so I’m excited to see what direction Matthew Vaughan takes this. With Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry joining the great cast from the first film (Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong), Vaughan is definitely expanding the universe as the Kingsman Secret Service go to America to work with their US counterpart, Statesman, after their fellow neighbours-in-arms are attacked by a criminal mastermind. (No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Flatliners, It

October

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Top Pick: Blade Runner 2049 (6th October)

Its insane to think that after 35 years (and several hundred versions of Blade Runner) we are finally getting a sequel to one of the greatest science fiction movies ever created. Do I feel a bit worried it might suck? Not.One.Bit. Why? Because Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard, with an amazing cast led by Ryan Gosling, with a screenplay written by one half of the original writing team of the first film, and it’s being directed by Denis Villeneuve who showed with “Arrival” he can do intelligent science fiction. The trailer alone shows they’ve perfectly captured the distinct unique feel that the first film was renowned for. I just hope the score is as mesmerising as Vangelis’. (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Thor: Ragnarok

November

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Top Pick: Justice League (17th November)

Its the biggie of 2017 for superhero movies. Warner Bros are hoping to mirror the success of The Avengers movies with their take on the epic superhero mashup. We will see Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Superman (Henry Cavill) team up to take on Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of Parademons. Its a massive gamble given the critical slating that BvS took in 2016. Its a film that will set up future individual superhero movies. Its a film I am praying turns out to be great. Zach Snyder…please make this as good as Watchmen! (See the trailer here)

Runner Up: Red Sparrow, Paddington 2

December

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Top Pick: Star Wars: Episode VIII (14th December)

I mean…its the sequel to the third-highest grossing movie OF ALL TIME and the next chapter to one of the most successful sagas in movie history. With how The Force Awakens had ended, Rey is now on her journey of learning the teachings of the force and becoming the Jedi she was destined to be. Plus, we will finally get to see Luke Skywalker being a frickin’ Jedi Master!  Its my most anticipated movie of this year, not only because of it being a Star Wars movie, but it will be the final time we will see Princess Leia, a.k.a the legendary Carrie Fisher, to ever grace our screens after her untimely death on Christmas Eve. May the force be with you always…(No trailer released yet)

Runner Up: Coco