Previews

Trailer comparison: Hidden Figures and Fences.

I saw Hidden Figures back in early January at a preview screening at Odeon. Since then I’ve been bombarded by trailer after trailer for the film.

This wouldn’t be a problem if it were a teaser we were talking about, but no. The final Hidden Figures trailer is the most tragic case of spoiling an entire film since we saw the same thing happen to Room around this time last year. These aren’t isolated cases, either. Trailers for Batman vs Superman and Viggo Mortensen’s Captain Fantastic were the other major culprits from last year, and I could list more if I wanted to spend time thinking about it. The unfortunate mentality of sheer desperation – of studios and editors thinking the only way to get audiences to pay for a film is by showing everything to them beforehand – is currently one of my biggest problems with the film industry.

Honestly, this is a case of a film blowing its entire load prematurely – and yes, the analogy to an overeager, desperate man unable to contain his excitement for the payoff is entirely appropriate. Within the Hidden Figures trailer – having seen the film and liked it very much, I can tell you for certain – we see brief clips from every major scene in the movie, beginning to end; we hear literally every relevant piece of dialogue, swiftly cut together at speed so as to fit it all in; and the overarching theme of the film is thrust upon you with virtually no sense of subtlety.

I’m going to put the trailer below to help illustrate my point. However, I will say this: if you have not yet seen this trailer and plan to see the film anyway (it is actually worth your time, hence my frustration), don’t watch it. Don’t ruin it for yourself. I know if I had seen this trailer beforehand, I likely would not have enjoyed Hidden Figures as much as I did. But then, I like to be surprised when I watch a film; perhaps you see a cinema trip as more of a risk and like to know absolutely every detail you’re going to see, in which case go ahead and watch this trailer. We’ll just continue to not understand each other.

There is a clear stopping point for me in that trailer – or rather, a point at which it becomes obvious they’re giving away too much. It is the line “I don’t know if I can keep up in that room”, as the general tone shifts to not-so-subtly make it clear that ‘hey, this is a film with a serious message you know’. Tonal shifts like this should be the film’s domain, not its trailer. But again, the trailer is too focused on squeezing every possible detail into two minutes, to let you know you might like this movie, if you liked its incredibly condensed version. It’s not too difficult to decipher, as well, that there is likely an agenda at play with the trailer for this film, if not the film itself. However, I’m going to save this part of my analysis for another article on each of the nine Best Picture nominees.

In contrast, the first trailer for Fences, another Best Picture nominee this year, is a much better example of a well executed trailer than the fast, desperate cutting of the Hidden Figures equivalent. If you watched the one above, now check out this trailer, and observe the clear difference between the two. Note there has since been a second trailer, similar to this but with only a few extra details added, though I haven’t seen that version shown in UK cinemas.

We’re left in no doubt from the Fences trailer that it also tackles some interesting themes and social issues; but it communicates this in much less words than the Hidden Figures equivalent, and does it without spoiling many of the film’s major scenes. In fact, this trailer communicates its message through clips from (seemingly) two major scenes, showing only brief glimpses of a few others while leaving the rest to the imagination, in effect building anticipation for the overall film. I think Hidden Figures could have achieved this too, though perhaps not to the same effect (there aren’t many actors with the screen presence of Denzel Washington, after all).

Bear in mind my comments here are not directly related to the quality of each film; rather, I’ve focused entirely on critiquing their trailers, though to do so is important as the quality of a trailer does correlate with how many people are going to see the film in question. I will be giving my thoughts on the films themselves when I give my breakdown on each of the nine contenders for the Best Picture Oscar in a separate post, to come soon.

Previews

Preview: Shin Godzilla.

The original Godzilla, released in Japan in 1954 and rich in thematic influences from the atomic bomb that ended the Second World War, is one of my favourite films; one I can still enjoy today despite its humble special effects. So it should come as no surprise that this is one of my most anticipated movies right now.

Shin Godzilla was released in Japan back in July, and had a limited theatrical run in North America as Godzilla Resurgence. Unfortunately there’s no word on a UK/ European release yet, and as of writing it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any time soon. But I am hopeful we’ll be seeing this film on the big screen over here at some point in 2017. An imported DVD/ Blu-ray copy would be a poor substitute.

In the trailer below you can decipher Godzilla’s iconic roar, almost unchanged from the 1954 original, and a similarly refreshing vintage soundtrack that feels reminiscent of the old monster movies from Godzilla’s peak years. His design, as well, returns somewhat to the roots of the franchise (now 31 films old, including this one), though this is apparently the largest version of the creature yet.

I can’t wait for some kaiju action when Godzilla eventually finds his way to these shores again – hopefully someone at Toho gets the message.

 

Previews

Preview: London East Asia Film Festival.

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The BFI London Film Festival has just finished, and only a few days later, another film festival is set to begin in the capital tomorrow evening. This year marks the inaugural London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF), showcasing the best of new Japanese and Korean cinema specifically, many of which will be getting their UK premieres over the next week and a half.

Now, I’m a big connoisseur of Asian cinema, as some people may know – the height of Japanese horror between 1998-2003 with the likes of Ring, Dark Water and Pulse, which mastered a sense of slow-building atmosphere and psychological torment rather than the over-reliance on jump scares in Western cinema at the time (horror movies on this side of the world have since clearly taken influence from that period), piqued my interest in horror as a superior genre. Obviously Japanese cinema – not to mention that of Korea – goes much deeper, and in the years since I’ve gained an inherent appreciation of Asian culture. So this kind of specialist festival is something I’m highly interested in, though unfortunately I’ll only be able to attend over one weekend.

This inaugural festival is revolving around a retrospective of the career of Park Chan-wook, whose new film The Handmaiden will be getting another screening following its UK premiere at London Film Festival. Also happening – one of the film events I will be fortunate enough to attend – is a screening of the ‘Vengeance trilogy’: Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy, and the world premiere of a brand new 4K edition of Lady Vengeance. Chan-wook is one of the best filmmakers to have emerged from South Korea, and certainly is among the more talented directors in world cinema today. They couldn’t have chosen a better artist around whom to build this festival.

Here’s the trailer. If you live in or around London, or are at all interested in East Asian cinema, you may want to keep an eye out for some of these new movies. Who knows, maybe one or two of them will even end up in my ‘Best of 2016’ list.

 

Previews

Preview: Get Out.

Now, this is a very interesting, potentially awkwardly hilarious and sinister horror movie due to be released in the US next February.

The directorial debut from actor/ writer Jordan Peele, Get Out has been described (in his own words) as “a horror movie, but with a satirical premise”. He’s also talked about the fascination he has with the combination of horror and comedy. This film certainly looks like it combines those genres well.

It’s a movie that clearly winks to the racial tensions prevalent in US society today; rather than tackling the issue with a high-minded serious attitude, it instead embraces the culture in which it resides, with exaggerated white characters whose racism is initially hidden but then emerges in dramatic fashion. Like all good satires, it appears to combine undertones of truth with a veil of comedy.

Daniel Kaluuya plays the central character and is typically, it seems, one of the few black actors in the film – though the fact that he is the central character, as a young black man, is already breaking established conventions of most Hollywood horror movies. Usually, after all, his kind of role is the one inhabited by a young white female who can easily evoke sympathy. Conversely, I look forward to observing the emotions triggered by Kaluuya’s character, and the film overall.

Admittedly the trailer for Get Out isn’t one of my favourites – as it gives away a little more than I’d like it to, but I trust the film will have a few more surprises up its sleeves upon release. Stylistically I like it, and it certainly sets up the premise of this movie in an intriguing way. We could be looking at one of the sleeper hits of next year, if this film lives up to its potential.

Film reviews

Chevalier.

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A group of six men are spending time on a luxury yacht together, on a fishing trip. They like to play games, enjoying the opportunity to display their masculine talents and skills to each other. Each of them likes to think of themselves as the better man.

So when the suggestion comes up for a new game, to determine “who’s the best in general”, they agree to spend the rest of their trip comparing everything, from the way someone sleeps to how they eat, to how they speak or look at each other, and give a rating that, when tallied up, will show which of them is ‘the best’. That’s Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Chevalier.

Tsangari is a Greek filmmaker whose 2010 film Attenberg was nominated as Greece’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards. Chevalier is her third feature, winning Best Film in competition at the BFI London Film Festival last year and also this year’s Greek entry for the 89th Academy Awards.

This being an exclusively male-dominated film, it’s intriguing that it is directed by a woman, though one could argue only a woman is able to handle the issue of observing male bravado without accusation of falling into it herself.

Having Tsangari at the helm is certainly one of this film’s greatest strengths. A deadpan sense of humour accompanies what could otherwise have been an aggravating experience watching a group of men being, well… men. The film isn’t afraid either of exploring the crude conversations and language that men use in the absence of women – this is a director who knows men perhaps even better than they do, including those moments in private when they feel no one is looking. Chevalier willingly and freely throws political correctness out the window to make its point.

The result is a film that is equally hilarious and insightful in its portrayal of modern day masculinity. Some may even feel embarrassment at its unnerving accuracy.

A strong cast helps of course, and each of them brings unique qualities to the film. This includes Sakis Rouvas, perhaps the best known of everyone involved, who represented Greece at the 2009 Eurovision song contest and is considered one of Greece’s top stars. There’s also an unforgettable rendition of Minnie Riperton’s Loving You – though not from Rouvas – in what may be the film’s best scene, and the high point of its lean soundtrack.

Chevalier is one of the standout hits of the year; not only that, but its international trailer is also one of my favourites this year, and I’m going to put it below. If I haven’t sold you on this film yet, I think that will.

9 / 10

Belfast Film Festival 2016

Evolution.

I’ve seen Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution twice now, first at a preview screening in London last October and then at this festival. My conclusion on both occasions was simple: this is definitely one of the most eerily atmospheric movie experiences you’ll have this year. Of course, that I was so eager to forego a slot for another film and watch it again here should speak for itself.

There isn’t much of a plot synopsis needed. Basically a group of boys live on an island with their mothers, seemingly far away from civilisation. They’re fed on a diet of disgusting looking black worms and are injected with purple liquid every day to treat a mysterious illness. The boys are occasionally allowed to play together and swim in the sea. The mothers gather on the beach at night. The only footage of men is from a grainy video in a dark room at the hospital, showing childbirth.

One of the boys, Nicolas, likes to draw, but frequently hides his drawings from ‘Mother’ because she apparently disapproves of such creativity. Yet his inquisitive, curious mind leads him to want to know more about what’s going on with the mothers after he sees a dead boy in the sea one day.

No further details should be given. Go into this movie fresh. Some films are best described as an experience; others are given the label undeservedly. Evolution is the most dream-like cinematic ‘experience’ of the past year bar none. You won’t see anything else quite like it.

The film doesn’t rely on a lot of dialogue; extended periods go by without talking, particularly in its second half, where the haunting environment and sounds carry you through. It’s been described separately as a drama and a horror movie; it certainly has subtle elements of the latter, but in truth Evolution deserves a genre all of its own.

8 / 10

Previews

Our Little Sister (preview).

Anyone who knows me well will know I have a thing for Japan, not least Japanese movies. When a movie is released over here from that part of the world, especially if it’s a piece of work from an established director, I do my best to check it out. Here’s a fine example of something that suitably fits the criteria.

Our Little Sister was selected to compete for last year’s Palme d’Or; the second consecutive film from Hirokazu Koreeda to do so after 2013’s Like Father, Like Son. As his movie titles suggest, he tends to specialise in domestic or family dramas. 2011 film I Wish was a story about two young brothers, while 2008’s Still Walking followed a family commemorating the death of their eldest son over a 24 hour period. Without doubt he’s one of Japan’s top directors of this era; Roger Ebert compared him to Tokyo Story director Yasujiro Ozu.

So if the Japanese domestic environment/ family unit is something you’re interested in, I’d go so far as to say this film might be unmissable. Right now you may be able to find preview screenings in London; there’s also one in Belfast on the 14th April, before the film is more widely released the following day. Beyond that I can’t say yet how widely available it will be. This is one definitely worth looking out for though.