This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but it creates characters who add a psychological depth that makes the film far more involving than expected. And scarier too. Writer-director Trey Edward Shults is doing a lot more than just frightening the audience with an enigmatic post-apocalyptic story, he's also provoking thought with some seriously intriguing subtext.
It's set in an isolated farmhouse that's been boarded-up to fend off the chaos outside, where a grisly disease has swept across America, killing everyone who contracts it. After his father-in-law (David Pendleton) dies from the illness, Paul (Joel Edgerton) is desperately trying to protect his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and 17-year-old son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). So when a stranger, Will (Christopher Abbott), turns up, he reacts harshly. But Will tells him that he's only looking for supplies to help his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). Hesitantly, Paul and Sarah bring this family into their home. But the layers of mistrust grow between them, always with the added tinge of terror that one of them might be infected with this extremely contagious disease.
The story is told through Travis' eyes, as he watches and listens to the unsettling paranoia creeping up around him. This includes his freaky nightly dreams, followed by roaming alone though the pitch-black house. All of the actors are terrific at capturing the earthier edges of their characters, with moments of humour and compassion contrasting against their darker suspicions. Harrison adeptly provides the audience with an entry point into this situation, while Edgerton anchors the movie as a man so consumed by his fear that he's not quite in control of his actions. Everyone tries to talk some sense, but for him this only makes them less trustworthy. Each of the actors stirs some suggestive ambiguity into his or her performance, making the audience wonder as well.
Continue reading: It Comes At Night Review
The actors needed strong stomachs for these special effects.
Expect some truly appalling scenes in 'Alien: Covenant'. There are many parallels to the original 1979 movie and yet new star Carmen Ejogo was still unprepared for the gruesome nature of her latest movie. Ridley Scott has most certainly not turned down the horror element of his much-loved franchise.
Carmen Ejogo and Benjamin Rigby in the back-burster scene
Just like John Hurt's character Kane was killed in the shocking chest-burster scene in 'Alien' 38 years ago, so Benjamin Rigby's character Ledward also gets to give birth to a Neomorph on board the Covenant - though this time it's more of a back-burster scene and it's just as disgusting. In fact, Carmen Ejogo felt her emotions get the better of her on set.
Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events of 2012's Prometheus. And while this film carries on with the bigger themes about creation and identity, at its heart it actually has much more in common with the film in which he kicked off the franchise, 1979's Alien. Yes, this is a horror movie. It's slickly made and packed with engaging characters, and it gets gruesomely scary too.
The setting is somewhere in space in 2104, as the colonising ship Covenant carries a few thousand sleeping earthlings to a new world, tended to by the android Walter (Michael Fassbender). Then a space flare awakens the 15-person crew, and they hear a rogue radio transmission from a nearby planet that's eerily perfect for colonisation. Captain Oran (Billy Crudup) thinks it's worth checking out, potentially shaving seven years off their journey. First officer Daniels (Katherine Waterston) isn't so sure. But off they go, exploring the spectacular mountainous terrain, where they find a crashed ship and a city populated only by the Prometheus' android David (also Fassbender) and some creepy, acid-salivating creatures that he has something to do with.
The plot plays out like a slasher movie, as the crew members are picked off one by one, starting with the ones we don't know and building up to the starrier cast members. Each main actor gets to invest some back-story into his or her role, establishing relationships and personality quirks that hold the interest. Waterston is clearly the protagonist from the start, grieving over the death of her husband (James Franco in video clips) and showing natural leadership skills. Crudup is the impulsive captain who mellows into someone much more intriguing as the story progresses. And McBride has the other standout role as a tenacious pilot. But of course it's Fassbender who walks off with the film, excelling in scenes in which Walter and David engage in a kind of twisted bromance with nasty sibling-rivalry undertones.
Continue reading: Alien: Covenant Review
Ten years after the disastrous expedition that was Prometheus, another group of space explorers band together on the ship Covenant, hoping to uncover a previously untrodden paradise. Among them are Daniels, an expert in terraforming, and Walter, a synthetic android who looks like a replica of David though much more advanced. Unfortunately, the paradise they hoped for doesn't exist and instead they bump into David himself who is 'living' in a world full of terrifying creatures. The face huggers are back, the xenomorph is definitely back, and there is a sickness that threatens to engulf them all.
Perhaps a dark prophecy of what's to come lies in the 'Last Supper' clip, where one of the crew members, Faris, starts apparently choking on her food as the pilot jokes, 'The food's not that bad'. The scene and the words themselves hearken back to the famous chestburster scene from the original 1979 film, where Kane suffers a grisly alien attack during the final meal before cryostasis. Thankfully, this time was just a minor choking incident, and Walter was on hand to save his team member.
'Alien: Covenant' is the second part in the new prequel series for the franchise, and the sequel to 2012's 'Prometheus'. Directed by the Oscar nominated Ridley Scott ('Blade Runner', 'The Martian') with a screenplay by John Logan ('Penny Dreadful', 'Spectre'), it has already made 7th place in the Most Anticipated Films of 2017 in the Indiewire Critics' Poll. The trailer features a sensationally eerie cover of Nat King Cole's 'Nature Boy' by Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora, and the film is set to be released on May 19th 2017.
It's been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and J.K. Rowling has been busy. Not only has she shepherded her two-part sequel play to the West End, but she has also written the screenplay for this spin-off prequel, which is set some 70 years before Harry was born. The American setting puts a fresh slant on her elaborately imagined wizarding world, and the film has enough lively humour to keep things entertaining, but the movie itself is thin and derivative, never quite engaging the audience with its magic.
In this alternate reality, 1926 America has forbidden all magical creatures out of fear of terrorist attacks taking place around the world. Then an expert in these beasts, the cheeky nerd Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York with a suitcase full of them. He's on some sort of mission, which is immediately interrupted by three escaped critters, drawing in hapless wannabe baker Jacob (Dan Fogler) and witch detective Tina (Katherine Waterston). Joined by Tina's breathy sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), this rag-tag team is trying to recapture Newt's escaped creatures when they run afoul of aggressive wizard enforcer Graves (Colin Farrell), who's working for American's magical President (Carmen Ejogo). But there's something more seriously nefarious going on in the city.
Continue reading: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them Review
Carmen Ejogo attending the World Premiere of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them', held at Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City, United States - Thursday 10th November 2016
Carmen Ejogo attending the World Premiere of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them', held at Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City, United States - Friday 11th November 2016
Newt Scamander is a wizard who's always had an interest in monsters and wild, unworldly creatures. Newt inspects as many different species of Beast that he can and keeps some of the rarest ones in order to preserve them and keep them from harm's way whilst also ensuring they themselves don't cause any of the chaos they could so easily cause.
It's 1926 and the wizarding community is under threat. Whilst most muggles (No Maj's) don't have any idea that wizards and witches actually exist, a small yet powerful few are all too aware of them and their powers.
The New Salem Philanthropic Society is headed by a tough woman named Mary Lou Barebone who wants to make sure that all wizarding kind is exterminated.
Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist Chet Baker, combining the achingly soulful music with an equally resonant performance from Ethan Hawke. Sometimes, the film's artistic flourishes seem to strain to cover up the usual narrative of a musical artist's life. But Baker's story has a striking emotional layer to it that holds the attention. And by focussing on a pivotal period in his life, Budreau draws out some lovely themes.
It opens in 1966 Los Angeles, where Chet is starring in a movie about his life. One actress, Jane (Carmen Ejogo), is playing all of the women he loved, and of course he's now pursuing her as well. There's also the problem that he's not quite sure if he's still a heroin junkie or if he's just playing himself when he was one. Then he gets in a street fight in which thugs knock out his front teeth, and everyone tells him he will never play his trumpet again. But he tenaciously sets out to regain his embouchure, even as his parole officer (Tony Nappo) refuses to give him a break. He decides to take Jane to visit his parents (Stephen McHattie and Janet-Laine Green) back home in Oklahoma, and rebuild his life from there. Then back in California, he approaches his music producer friend Dick (Callum Keith Rennie) to help him make a comeback.
Hawke brings a terrific earthy charm to the role, conveying Baker's effortless musical gifts as well as his inner steeliness in the face of injury and addiction. The darker sides of Baker's personality simmer in the background, increasing his allure. And Ejogo is terrific opposite him. Jane is a woman who sees everything that Baker is, and she knows that she has limits to what she will let him get away with. It's easy for the audience to root for them to succeed as a couple, even though every other musical biopic has told us that a happy ever after probably isn't on the cards.
Continue reading: Born To Be Blue Review
When Chet Baker first made a real name for himself in the music industry he was labelled as 'The James Dean of Jazz', he was cool and everyone wanted a piece of him. The trumpeter from California soon became the next big sensation and played clubs all around the US. Ten years on, Baker had developed a heroin addiction, had been incarcerated for drug possession in Italy and he was far from the high life he was living years earlier.
When Baker was asked to star in a film about himself, it implanted ideas of a comeback, a new shot at glory, that accompanied by a new romance with his co-star spurted Baker into recording a new album. Whilst battling addiction, we see Baker at one of the most crucial times of his life.
Born To Be Blue is an anti-biography, it's based on the life of Baker but whilst the actual film Baker was making in the 1960's (with producer Dino de Laurentiis) didn't come to light, Robert Budreau's version of events sees Baker's film be made, a decision he made to help show the true 'improvisational nature of jazz'.
One of the finest biopics in recent memory, this drama manages to present someone as iconic as Martin Luther King Jr. as a normal man anyone can aspire to emulate. Anchored by an internalised performance from David Oyelowo, the film is skilfully directed by Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere) with a sharp attention to subtle details. And the script by newcomer Paul Webb draws the characters with such complexity that the film has provoked controversy from people who like their heroes untextured.
The film enters Martin's story as he is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside his activist wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) in October 1964, just over a year after his soaring "I have a dream" speech. And a few months later, he's called to Selma, Alabama, to help blacks who are being denied the right to vote by racially motivated voter registration laws. Martin meets with President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson), who has more pressing things on his political agenda, then heads to Selma to lead a march on the state capitol in Montgomery. But the peaceful protest is met with nightmarish violence, ordered by Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth). So as the protesters regroup and plan a second march, Martin heads back to Washington to challenge Johnson to set some new priorities.
Cleverly, the script just covers a few months, punctuated with a series of King's most rousing speeches. Since none of this is presented for its big inspirational value, it has a much stronger kick than we expect. The film's punchiest scenes are almost silent, as King struggles to knot his tie before an appearance or fails to find the words to confess his infidelities to his wife. Oyelowo is so transparent in the role that King emerges as an everyday man with a gift for oratory in the right place at the right time. But it's his steely desire to do the right thing that makes him inspirational. And how he reacts when he discovers the human cost of his actions.
Continue reading: Selma Review
The New York premiere of 'Selma' was held at the Ziegfeld Theatre on 14th December 2014. The red carpet arrivals saw a host of actors and actresses posing for pictures, including English actress/actors spouses Jessica and David Oyelowo. British singer and actress Carmen Ejogo was also in attendance.
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