Film

#52FilmsByWomen

52filmsbywomen

I’ve written a post over on the Caledonian Women’s blog about the lack of female directors in Hollywood, which you can check out here. When I was researching it I found out about the #52FilmsByWomen campaign, which invites everyone to watch one film per week that has been directed by a woman. I have signed up, and you should too! You can find out all about it here. I will keep you updated on my progress – the first film I have lined up is Serena (2014), which was directed by Susanne Bier and stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

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Film, List, Opinion

5 REMAKES IN THE WORKS

The lowdown on five Hollywood remakes that could be coming your way…

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Hollywood isn’t really a place for original concepts anymore – pretty much any big moneymaker is a remake, reboot or a re-imagining of some description. This can come across as anything from greedy to pointless, and it can really make us cinema-goers quite cynical, but that’s a whole other can of worms. The fact is, there are so many remakes being talked about all the time that it’s hard to know which ones will even see the light of day (getting a movie onto the big screen is a very long and complicated process), but here are five remakes which are in development that you might not know about…

IT: 

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Is it happening?: Good question – the It remake was announced way back in 2009, and it has been a rocky road ever since. The project began life at Warner Bros before being moved over to subsidiary company New Line. Headway seemed to be being made when Cary Fukunaga, the man behind the critically acclaimed first season of True Detective (2014) signed on to direct and the surprising decision to cast young British actor Will Poulter in the iconic role of Pennywise the clown – made famous by Tim Curry – was made. The film was firmly in pre-production, with Fukunaga working on a script alongside Chase Palmer, but was dropped into development hell again when Fukanaga pulled out last year citing studio tampering. Mama (2013) director Andy Muschietti has since been attached to a project, and a new script is reportedly in the works, but it is unclear if or when the film will see the light of day.

Will it be good?: Stephen King adaptions tend to be a bit of a mixed bag – for every The Shining (1980) you’ve got a Bag of Bones (2011) – so this one could go either way. Such a troubled pre-production could have a knock on impact on the final product, and it is hard to predict how it will turn out until the major players are fully confirmed. That said, Poulter has proven his credibility in a range of genres from comedy in We’re the Millers (2013) to drama in The Revenant (2016), so there is no reason that he can’t pull off Pennywise in spite of the inevitable endless comparisons to Curry’s performance.

THE BIRDS:

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Is it happening?: A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic The Birds has been in talks for years, but developments last year suggest that it might finally be happening. Screencrush reported that Michael Bay is set to produce the film via his production company Platinum Dunes, whilst Dutch director Diederick Van Roojen is currently attached to direct. Platinum Dunes will produce the film with Mandalay and Universal. Whilst this seems like real moves towards the film finally getting made, there is still a long way to go – back in 2007 Naomi Watts was in talks to star with Martin Campbell of Casino Royale (2006) fame in the directors chair, but by 2009 the project had stalled.

Will it be good?: Bay’s production company has been behind numerous horror remakes over the years, from The Amityville Horror to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it would seem that even Hitchcock’s classics aren’t safe. Many horror fans consider The Birds untouchable, and the decision to remake it is one that is unlikely to go down well. Pair this with the fact that it would be being produced by the guy who is responsible for the Transformers franchise and who has a penchant for blowing things up in his movies, and the chances of the remake being any good are decidedly low. On the plus side, Bay isn’t in the directors chair, and Van Roojen may surprise us all by not allowing him to stamp his identity all over the place, but it is probably for the best if this particular remake remains deep in development hell.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS:

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Is it happening?: It certainly looks like it – details are still pretty thin on the ground, but last September The Guardian reported that Elizabeth Banks has signed on to produce and direct a Charlie’s Angels reboot based on the original 1970’s TV series starring Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. Banks is also set to produce the film alongside her husband and production partner Max Handelman, whilst Evan Spiliotopoulos is said to be writing the script, suggesting that the pieces are slowly falling together to make this remake a real possibility.

Will it be good?: There’s every chance it could be. Banks is a hot property in Hollywood right now, making her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2 to Box Office success last summer, as well as acting in The Lego Movie (2014) and The Hunger Games franchise (2012-15). The original series was based on three women who face institutional sexism in the police force and go to work for the titular Charlie where their skills are put to better use, a premise that still (depressingly) holds real credence. The  Charlie’s Angels film in 2000 starring Lucy Lui, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore was successful enough to spawn a sequel in 2003, proving the the concept also has financial potential. Writer Spiliotopoulos is mostly known for penning a vast array of Disney’s DOV sequels, but he also has credits on the upcoming The Huntsman Winter’s War and the live action Beauty and the Beast, so there’s no reason he can’t pull it off.

A STAR IS BORN:

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Is it happening?: It’s still early days, but it looks like it. The idea for a THIRD remake of the original 1937 film of the same name has been in the pipeline since 2011, when it was reported that Clint Eastwood was set to direct with Beyonce Knowles as the female lead previously played by Janet Ganor, Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand. Negotiations with Beyonce fell through in 2012 and it looked like the project was being put on the back-burner by Warner Bros until last year when it was announced that Bradley Cooper is interested in the project as his directorial debut. As it stands, Cooper has quashed any Beyonce related rumours and looks set to direct, star and co-produce the film.

Will it be good?: It has potential. Cooper is one of Hollywood’s most sought after leading men, so whilst it is almost a given that he will be great in front of the camera, it will be interesting to see what he can achieve in the director’s chair. A strong female lead is an absolute must – will he perhaps try to entice his frequent co-star and friend Jennifer Lawrence into the role? Other than that, it’s hard to know at such an early stage with so few details – will the film be a period or contemporary piece? The story – about a woman who becomes famous as her lover’s career flounders – is universal and could be applied to the modern generation in an interesting way given the right script.

THE CRAFT: 

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Is it happening?: It certainly is. Sony announced plans last year to remake 1996 cult classic The Craft with Leigh Janiak writing and directing. Doug Wick, one of the producers of the original, is on board to co-produce alongside Lucy Fisher, and whilst a cast has yet to be announced the ball seems to be well and truly rolling on the project.

Will it be good?: Again, information is still hard to come by at this stage, but all the indicators point towards the film being in safe hands with Janiak, who is a rising star in the horror genre after her directorial debut Honeymoon in 2014. The female centric original was a supernatural teen film with endless cult appeal, and it seems only right that a rising female director take the helm on the remake. On the downside, it is only ten years since the original came out, and there are a lot of questions about the need for a remake so quickly, if at all.

What remakes are you worried or excited about? Let me know in the comments section:

 

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Film, Reviews

FILM REVIEW: JOY

Featuring a Golden Globe winning performance by Jennifer Lawrence, Joy is another strong turn from director David O Russell.

David O Russell’s latest tale began life as a straight out biopic of Joy Mangano, self-made millionaire and inventor of the Miracle Mop, but soon evolved into a film “inspired by the true stories of daring women.” A jealous half sister (Elisabeth Rohm) was added in and Mangano’s mother (Virginia Madsen) was reworked to be a bit of a kook, all to allow the director to do what he does best – explore dysfunction. The film is at its best as it builds up to show us the circumstances of Joy’s life with two kids, an ex-husband in the basement and divorced parents both living under her roof. The madness builds up from the films opening in some hilarious scenes, with Robert DeNiro delivering some particularly funny exchanges amidst it all.

In what is now a Golden Globe winning performance, Lawrence is once again at the top of her game as the titular Joy. Despite reports of O Russell being difficult to work with, there is no doubt that he and Lawrence have a perfect partnership. She is frequently the best part of his films, and it could be argued that her relegation to a supporting role had a lot to do with American Hustle’s (2014) lackluster impact. Here she manages to make Joy relatable in a way that goes far beyond her age – at 25 it should be laughable that she is playing a matriarch of sorts, but she carries it well and her youthful appearance is ultimately only a minor quibble.

Bradley Cooper pops up as a QVC executive, and he delivers a solid performance in spite of being consistently outshone by Lawrence, who is the undisputed star of the show. Isabella Rossellini comes closest to toppling her, with her fantastic supporting role as Trudy, girlfriend to Joy’s father and the one who finances her invention – one scene that particularly stands out sees Trudy question Joy on her business acumen.

Thematically, the film is a pretty solid take on the American Dream. It feels like O Russell is playing with satire without ever fully committing to it, and the the narrative would have benefited from less dilly-dallying, but the message is strong and it is great so see films being made about strong women (though this does beg the question of why are they not being made by strong women?).

O Russell also plays with some surrealist elements throughout which aren’t as bad as you might think – they are at least an attempt to deviate from the tired biopic format, and I’ll take a sometimes questionable attempt at something new over the done to death narrative we are so used to seeing any day.

Ultimately Joy is more Silver Linings Playbook (2012) than it is American Hustle, but its still missing that magic quality that makes a film truly memorable, and this is something that Jennifer Lawrence alone can’t fix.

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JANUARY 2016 IN FILM 

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Happy new year! 2016 is finally upon us, and it promises to be one of the biggest years in cinema yet. January is an exciting month, with the UK finally getting to see some of the major oscar contenders that have been out in the US for months. Here is the lowdown of what will be coming to screens this month…

The Danish Girl:

the-danish-girl-posterOut: January 1st 2016

Directed: Tom Hooper

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Wishaw

What’s it about?: Tells the story of the marriage of Gerda and Einar Wegener, the latter of who became one of the first gender reassignment patients in 1920’s Copenhagen. The film is based on the book by David Ebershoff, a fictionalised account of the real life couple.

Will it be good?: In an oscar-baiting way, undoubtedly. Whilst The Danish Girl is a film that has been trying to get made for over a decade, it has been released in the midst of the biggest ever dialogue about trans issues, and is sure to make good of its two leads.

Vikander is an up and coming star who well and truly broke out into mainstream consciousness last year with Ex-Machina and The Man from U.N.C.L.E, whilst Redmayne scooped an oscar for his transformative performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything – a film which also, incidentaly, portrays a marriage in unusual circumstances.

British director Hooper won the Best Director oscar back in 2010 for The King’s Speech, and his latest film is sure to tick a lot of the boxes that the Academy look for, so The Danish Girl is not to be missed if you want to know what everyone’s talking about come February.

Joy:

Joy-PosterOut: January 1st 2016

Directed: David O Russell

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper

What’s it about?: Loosly based on the true story of Joy Mangano, the inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film tells the story of her rise to prominence and as a matriarch of her family.

Will it be good?: Russell must know that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, because he has reunited his triangle of talent for the third time with Joy, and there is no denying that its a talented trio. Lawrence is arguably one of the biggest names in Hollywood at the moment, and she is riding high on the conclusion of the much loved Hunger Games series at the end of last year, whilst DeNiro is a living legend, and no amount of questionable roles (more on that later) will change that. Cooper has also proved his worth in recent years, moving further away from romcoms and comedies to take on some really interesting roles – whatever your view is on American Sniper (2014), you can’t deny his ability.

Russell has also proved himself a skilled filmaker, particularly with a string of generally well recieved releases since 2010’s The Fighter, but there is still the feeling that his work has a hollow quality that is difficult to put into words. American Hustle (2014) for example, was a great and enjoyable film on first viewing, but it feels empty upon repeated watches, holding it back from gaining any lasting status. That said, Joy will be hard to ignore this month, and is sure to be worth seeing based on Lawrence alone.

The Hateful Eight:

the-hateful-eightOut: January 8th 2016

Directed: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh

What’s it about?: A snowstorm in the heart of a Wyoming Winter leaves eight individuals taking refuge at Minnie’s haberdashy in post-civil war USA.

Will it be good?: Almost certainly. Tarantino fans will be falling over themselves to see the latest from the director, which is set in the same universe as 2012’s Django Unchained. It looked like the film may never see the light of day when the director shelved it following a script leak in early 2014, but its finally here and it is sure to be glorious.

Tarantino has cited The Thing (1982) and Resevoir Dogs (1992) as the two main influences on the film, and this fact alone is enough to send excitement levels into overdrive. The idea of eight shady people being cooped up together in a tavern is an interesting premise that could go in any direction, and The Hateful Eight should be one everyone’s must-see list this month.

Creed:

creedpostersmallOut: January 15th 2016

Directed: Ryan Coogler

Starring: Michael B Jordan, Sylvester Stallone

What’s it about?: AKA Rocky VII – Former heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa becomes mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his former rival and late friend, Apollo Creed.

Will it be good?: When Creed was first announced there was a collective sigh from anyone who had ever seen a Rocky movie – what were they thinking? Stallone had managed to bring the series back and end it on a high in 2006 with Rocky Balboa, but in the process he had provided an appropriate end for the chracter, why ruin that? But against the odds the film has actually been very well recievec in the states, moving the story along by introducing Creed and placing Stallone in the mentor role.

It is the first Rocky film not to be written by Stallone, and also the first where Rocky doesn’t fight. This allows Rocky Balboa to maintain its definitive end of an era vibe whilst also allowing the series to continue in a way that doesn’t feel increasingly ridiculous. The up and coming Jordan also seems like the perfect candidate to play Creed, and the film is a must-see out of curiousity if nothing else.

The Revenant: 

revenant-leoOut: January 15th 2016

Directed: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson

What’s it about?: Set in the 1820s. the film tells the story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) – a frontierman who survives being mauled by a bear and sets out on a quest for revenge against his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy).

Will it be good?: It is set to be a technical marvel above all else, and it is looking like it will cement Gonzalez Inarritu as one of the most inventive filmakers working today. The follow up to Birdman, which won big at the 2014 oscars, the film had a well-documented troubled production, largely due to the fact that it was filmed on location and using only natural light, meaning that only a few hours could be filmed per day.

The film will live or die by DiCaprio, who gave everything to the role and said it was one of the toughest of his career. Sure, this opens him up to a lot of jokes about how far he is willing to go to try and finally bag an oscar (he ate a raw bison’s liver, in spite of being vegetarian), but it also proves why he is one of the best in the business. He turned down Steve Jobs (2015) for this, and it looks like it has paid off. The film has already been recieving rave reviews and is another strong oscar contender, as well as the type of film that was painstakingly designed to be appreciated on the big screen, so make sure you don’t miss it in cinemas.

Room:

Room_PosterOut: January 15th 2016

Directed: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

What’s it about?: A mother and her five year old son live out their lives in a 10 by 10 feet room, where the mother works hard to keep her sons imagination alive before they decide to try and break out into the real world.

Will it be good?: It has been getting excellent write-ups, with Larson’s central performance gaining the majority of the praise. It is an interesting concept, based on Emma Donoghue’s novel, which she wrote after hearing about the5 year old Felix in the Fritzl case. A film of this sort can only work if the performances are good, and all the indacators are pointing towards this being the case, with an oscar nomination even being mentioned for Larson. Anyone interested in the awards race will have to add this to the already crowded must-watch list.

The Big Short:

tbs_1-sht_teaserOut: January 22nd 2016

Directed: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

What’s it about?: Tells three seperate tales about the mid 2000s mortgage housing crisis in the USA.

Will it be good?: Bar seeing the trailer, I haven’t heard a lot about this film, but I am banking on it being good based on the stellar cast. McKay is much better known for his comedy work, and this is the first film of his not to feature Will Ferrell, but the trailer looked like the film had a comedy-drama vibe that should suit the director well.

Carrell proved he can do dramatic well with Foxcatcher (2015), and his comedy talent is untouchable, so he seems like a perfect fit for the film, whilst it is great to see Gosling back on screen following his break from acting since 2013. Bale and Pitt are also industry stalwarts, and bringing the four talents together has the potential for brilliant storytelling – it all hangs on McKay’s ability to maintain the more dramatic elements.

Our Brand is in Crisis:

Our-Brand-Is-Crisis-posterOut: January 22nd 2016

Directed: David Gordon Green

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie

What’s it about?: Based on the documentary of the same name (available on Netflix), the film depicts a Bolivian politician who hires an American political analyst in a bid to win the 2002 election.

Will it be good?: The film, produced by Bullock and George Clooney, has every chance of being good, yet for some reason I’m not sold. It might be the poster, which makes it look like a generic thriller starring Liam Neeson. It might also be the fact that it is basically just remaking a documentary that I could easily watch on Netflix from the comfort of my own bed.

That said, Bullock, Thornton and recent Avengers addition Mackie are all strong performers, and it isn’t fair to write a film off totally because of poor marketing, so Our Brand is in Crisis could turn out to be that excellent film that I didn’t bother to see.

Ride Along 2:

file_612412_ride-along-2-poster-640x1013Out: January 22nd 2016

Directed: Tim Story

Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Olivia Munn

What’s it about?: Ben’s (Kevin Hart) wedding is looming, and he accompanies his soon to be brother in law James (Ice Cube) to Miami to bring down a drug dealer.

Will it be good?: Granted I have never seen the first Ride Along (2014), but hopes aren’t particularly high for this one. With Straight Outta Compton (2015) coming out last year, it has reminded anyone who may have forgotten of the greatness of N.W.A, which just makes it seem even stranger that Ice Cube – the man responsible for Fuck Tha Police – is playing a police officer. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, it’s just weird. Hart on the other hand is funny, but he has also appeared in a fair few lacklustre comedies, and I’m willing to bet that is the category Ride Along 2 will fall into.

The 33:

the33_1sht_main_dom_2764x4096Out: January 29th 2016

Directed: Patricia Riggan

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro

What’s it about?: Based on the 2010 incident which saw 33 Chilean miners being trapped underground for 69 days. The film is based on the official account of events as depicted in the book Deep Down Dark.

Will it be good?: If handled right, yes. Films of this sort can be extremely effective, but the impact is based on the director’s ability to make the audience experience the trapped feeling of the characters. Mexican director Riggan doesn’t have a gigantic backlog to go from, and other work includes TV Movie Lemonade Mouth (2012) which was shown on the Disney Channel, so she clearly doesn’t have experience in this genre. That doesn’t mean it should be written off – it is an intriguing incident and if handled well it will be an affecting watch. So far it has recieved mixed reviews from critics, some of whom have noted that it relies too heavily on formula. It is hard to gage, but the film probably won’t take precedence in my choices for the month.

Dirty Grandpa: 

dirty-grandpa-posterOut: January 29th 2016

Directed: Dan Mazer

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Zac Efron, Audrey Plaza

What’s it about?: A young, engaged lawyer is tricked into attending Spring Break with his Grandfather.

Will it be good?: Remember earlier when I said nothing could tarnish DeNiro’s legacy? This is what I was talking about. Over the last decade or so, it seems a bit like he has thrown caution to the wind and decided to have some fun (or the more cynical and probably more realistic view is that he has decided to make some real money), and that has led to some…questionable choices. Dirty Grandpa, like a lot of the comedies DeNiro has put his name on in recent years, is the sort of film that looks like it would have been a lot of fun to make, and it is sure to be enjoyed by any number of teenage boys, but that’s about it really. See it at the weekend if you’re looking for some gross out, easy viewing.

Spotlight:

2B89064B00000578-0-image-a-25_1440115471750Out: January 29th 2016

Directed: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams

What’s it about?: The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered child molestation allegations within the Catholic Church.

Will it be good?: Without a shadow of a doubt. The filmm has already recieved critical acclaim in the states, and it looks set to repeat the feat over here. Made with co-operation from the Boston Globe and looking like it is going to have a very All The President’s Men (1976) feel to it, this is one of the films I have been willing to appear in UK cinemas ever since I first heard about it months ago. As a journalism student myself, it is a subject that I find fascinating, as will many others.

My own personal excitment aside, there is a lot to look forward to here, most notably an excellent cast. Keaton, Ruffalo and McAdams are all excellent in their own right, and the ensemble is sure to be something special. Spotlight looks set for awards glory and is THE must-see film of the month.

Youth: 

youth-posterOut: January 29th 2016

Directed: Paolo Sorrentino

Starring: Michael Caine, Henry Keitel, Jane Fonda

What’s it about?: Fred (Michael Caine) is a retired composer and Mick (Harvey Keitel) a film director are old friends staying at a hotel in the Alps when Fred gets a request to compose for Prince Phillip.

Will it be good?: In a word, yes. Caine is another living legend, and Sorrentino wrote the film with him in mind as a main character, so it is sure to be a treat. Going by the trailer it looks like an understated, visually striking film which could be some of Caine and Keitel’s best work in years, whilst it will be great to see Fonda back onscreen. That said, with such a jam-packed month it might be hard to fit it in!

As you can see, it’s a jam packed month of awards contenders, and it could prove difficult to fit them all in, but the five films I will be making sure to see are:

  • Spotlight
  • The Hateful Eight
  • The Revenant
  • Creed
  • The Danish Girl

(I will probably be checking out Joy, Youth and The Big Short for good measure)

Which films are you looking forward to seeing this month? Let me know in the comments section!

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Film, List, Opinion

THE MISLEADING MARKETING OF MOVIES

Movie-Marketing

Since the dawn of the internet we have been living in a world where information is more widely and easily available than ever before. This has made pretty much everything more competitive, especially in the entertainment industry. It is harder than ever before to get a film made, and even if a great film is backed by a studio it will still bomb if it isn’t marketed in a way that gets people interested.

Advertising is in itself a huge business, and there are people out there who have dedicated their entire lives to working out what it is that sells things to people. It turns out that we as the human race are not an overly imaginative bunch, and mainstream cinema audiences are more likely to react to marketing that they recognise – be that a notable actor/actress or a typical narrative, marketing experts will generally gear advertising material about a film to fit certain quotas.

PicMonkey CollageThis can often lead to misleading marketing material that more often than not doesn’t actually represent the product that is being sold to us. This can work both ways, either selling an indie film as more mainstream fare (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl earlier this year was very much marketed as a YA adaption in the vein of The Fault in Our Stars in spite of being a vastly different film, for example) or tricking audiences into seeing a generic flick.

The ways in which marketing material can be misleading varies in a number of ways, but most tactics generally centralise around the ‘bait and switch’ idea where material will lure audiences in before turning out to be something totally different – this is done with actor/actresses, notable directors and trailers, as well as posters and even titles of films.

The thing is, advertising works. As much as many of us would like to believe that we are not susceptible, but with advertising being a multi-billion dollar industry the odds are stacked against us, and a lot of what makes marketing material work is the fact that it can sometimes operate on a subconscious level.

This post will look at these tactics in more detail using various examples of real life marketing material that was essentially misleading in the representation it provided of the film in question.

POSTERS:

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Posters are one of the main forms of marketing when it comes to movies – they generally set the tone and establish the stars of the film, as well as generally alluding to what the film is about. However, there are plenty of examples of times where distributors have provided movie posters which quite drastically misrepresent the film in some way.

A notable example from earlier this year was Legend, which made the headlines when it was revealed that it had strategically placed a two star review from The Guardian to look like it was a five star review. The review, from critic Benjamin Lee, was decidedly less than complementary about the Tom Hardy starring gangster biopic, yet the way the stars had been placed in the poster made it look like it was yet another excellent review of the film, leading to Lee himself writing an article about the dangers of misleading advertising. He pointed out that this was far from a one off, and the practice of taking critics quotes or ratings out of context and placing them in marketing material is a surprisingly common.

Other examples of posters which were essentially misleading include one of the US posters for The Aviator (2004) which tries to entice fans of Saving Private Ryan type films by taking an action still completely out of context, or the Spanish poster for The Godfather (1972), which was based on an early draft of the script which involved a spaghetti restaurant and just ends up coming across as promoting stereotypes.

Here are some of more examples of misleading movie posters…

  • PicMonkey CollageKramer . Vs. Kramer (1979) – shows a happy family even though the film is the depiction of the breaking up of said family
  • Drugstore Cowboy (1989) – selling a movie about drug addicts is always going to be hard, but the main characters on the poster are much chirpier than they appear in the film.
  • My Sister’s Keeper (2009) – Much like Drugstore Cowboy, marketing a movie about cancer is difficult, but this poster contains a lot more smiling than we ever see in this tearjerker

TITLES:

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It goes without saying that a movie title is one of the most important elements, as it tends to be a consumers first point of contact with the product. A poor or bland title is unlikely to entice audiences, and sometimes quirky or unusual trailers can be used for generic films, or vice versa. Titles differ from other marketing materials in that they are often taken from other mediums – for example, if a film is based on a book the title will often be retained.

However, there are examples of films based on books where the title was changed, presumably as part of the marketing strategy. This would include the likes of Slumdog Millionaire (2009), which was based on Q&A by Vikas Swarup. From a marketing perspective the name change is quite obvious – the idea of a slumgod millionaire is much more evocative than a Q&A session, and it immediately gives the consumer a bigger insight into what the film is about.

Love, Rosie (2014) is based on Irish author Cecilia Aherne’s second novel, entitled Where Rainbows End (2004) and is another example of a title change, with the movie title nodding more towards rom-com material.

trainspottingFilms such as Trainspotting (1994) retained their book titles, but no longer make sense in the context of the film. The book contains a line which alludes to the act of trainspotting and also acts as character development for the pyschotic Begbie, who was immortalised on screen by Robert Carlyle. However slight this alluding to the title was, it was still present, and no such instance occurs in the film, essentially making the title obsolete. This did nothing to impact the overall quality of the movie however, and it was going to be a hard task for the marketing strategists to come up with a title for a film about Edinburgh based heroin addicts and sociopaths.

Film titles can also change from country to country, the most famous recent example being the Avengers/Avengers Assemble instance in 2012. The culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was markered in the US as The Avengers, whilst in the UK it was distributed as The Avengers Assemble. This was done due to the existence of a TV show titled in The Avengers in the UK, making it crystal clear to audiences that they were not the same thing.

Other examples of differences between the US/UK movie titles include…

  • Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_postersHarold and Kumar go to White Castle (US) became Harold and Kumar get the Munchies (UK) due to the lack of White Castle fast food chain in the UK.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK) became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (US) – there is much debate as to why this was the case, but it is generally deemed to be because the idea of a sorcerer was one that implied ‘magical’ more than philosophers in to the US market.
  • Dracula 2000 (US) was changed to Dracula 2001 internationally due to the fact that it was released the year after. Apparently audiences wouldn’t buy that a film about Dracula was set a year in the past.

Whilst these title changes are not misleading in themselves, it shows how important titles are as part of the overall marketing strategy, with distributors being willing to actually change a title if they feel it will sell a movie better.

More examples of titles that are misleading…

  • The Squid and the Whale (2005) – It’s not about a squid, or a whale, though dioramas of both are seen in the film at the American Museum of Natural History. Does this count?
  • Antichrist (2009) – Whilst it may sound like your run of the mill horror/possession/exorcism movie, its actually part of Lars Von Trier’s overly depressing depression trilogy.
  • 12 Monkeys (1995) – It’s not about 12 monkeys, ok?

STARS:

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The old bait and switch is one of the oldest tricks in the book – marketing a film with a well known star at the forefront of all the material, only for them to hardly appear in the film itself, which people will only find out once they have already paid to see it. It’s a concept thats still around because it works, and despite social media making it easier and easier for audiences to deduce what is going on before a film comes out, we are still being collectively duped more than you would think.

Just this year the marketing material for Suffragette (2015) had us all thinking that Meryl Streep was in the main cast as the notable real life campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst. She featured heavily in all the material including trailers and posters, but turned out to only be in the film for a grand total of about five minutes. There was no reason to believe that Streep had anything less than a leading role, but it turned out that Cary Mulligan was the lead, with Helena Bohem Carter appearing in a supporting capacity. Streep was really no more than a cameo, making her appearance in the marketing material extremely misleading. It’s clear why this was the strategy however – Streep is one of the most famous and successful actresses of all time, and whilst Bohem Carter and Mulligan are both respected they in no way carry the level of traction that Streep does. Featuring her heavily in the marketing was also a clever move in enaging with US audiences, who will recognise her much more than the British Mulligan and Bohem Carter.

One of the first notable uses of the bait and switch of a star was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho (1960), which was marketed with Janet Leigh as the lead. She is then killed off in the first half an hour of the film, a feat that was famously repeated by Wes Craven with Drew Barrymore in Scream (1996). Both films were hugely successful – arguably partly due to the marketing of famous actresses Leigh and Barrymore as respective leads.

Other examples of this in practice include…

  • 273894_oriLeprechaun (1993) – The DVD release of this horror film capitalised on the fact that Jennifer Aniston, who has a relatively minor role in the movie, had struck gold as Rachel Green on Friends (1994-2004), and she is featured on the cover design.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – Sean Penn is implied as the lead but it actually just part of a larger ensemble cast.
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002) – Marketed almost wholly on the grand return of Jamie Lee Curtis, who is then killed off in the first half.
  • The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) – Marketed on Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper’s names, completely leaving out the other half which focuses on their sons, played by the then lesser known Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen respectively.

DIRECTORS:

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This is a trend that is slightly less obvious, but is still prevalent across Hollywood marketing material. Once a director has made a name for themselves, sticking their name on a poster or in a trailer is a surefire way of convincing people that a movie is worth seeing. The thing is, advertising will tend to stick a directors name on it even if their involvement with the film was not in a very large capacity, as it is easier to sell a picture on their name than that of a newbie or a less established film-maker.

Guillermo del Toro is a director that has had his name attached to several films, to the point that he actually spoke about it in an interview, saying:

“I only do it when – (a) I am introducing a filmmaker to the world, but (b) I endorse and say I believe in this movie very, very strongly. For whatever reason, it’s a more risky proposition in one way, but it’s one that I believe needs to continue to support first-time filmmakers. . . . I only do it when I fully believe I was involved in the product in a way that is meaningful.” 

del Toro was attached to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2013), which was directed by Troy Nixey and The Orphanage (2007), directed by J . A Bayona. Regardless of the reasons why a director may choose to allow their name to be attached to a film, there is no doubt that it is both an effective and misleading marketing tactic. Audiences are going to see something based on the fact that they know and like the work of the director appearing on the poster, which can sometimes lead to them seeing a rubbish movie bolstered by the name, or give an up and coming film-maker a chance by viewing it, albeit under false pretences.

Other examples include…

  • The_nightmare_before_christmas_posterNightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Generally marketed as Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Whilst the king of kook is responsible for the concept and is credited as a producer, the film was actually directed by Henry Selik.
  • Hostel (2005) – Splat pack director Eli Roth’s super violent torture horror film had Quentin Tarantino serve as an executive producer, and it was his name that the film was marketed on in spite of the fact Roth both wrote and directed the film.
  • Sanctum (2011) – Advertised as coming from executive producer James Cameron ‘the creator of Avatar and Titanic’, the way it is written on the poster makes the words James Cameron, Titanic and Avatar the ones that stand out. Considering they are two of the most financially successful films of all time, it is little wonder that is the slant the marketing took, in spite of the film being directed by Alister Grierson, who has no such accolades on his CV.

TRAILERS:

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Trailers are increasingly becoming the most important part of the marketing of a movie, providing without a doubt the biggest insight into what the film is going to be about. However, like everything else that has been explored in this post, they can be edited in a way that totally misrepresents the narrative and overall tone of a film.

The films of Nicolas Winding Refn are notable for being marketed in ways that do not fully represent the final product. Three examples are Valhalla Rising (2009), Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013). Valhalla Rising’s entire marketing campaign piggy-backed on the success of Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006), right down to the DVD cover and posters. However, the film is actually a deep study of a norse warrior. Drive is a neo-noir crime thriller that was marketed as a Fast and Furious style caper, whereas the final product is something much darker and broodier. Only God Forgives was advertised as a marital arts flick, but again was a thriller where marital arts was only a component factor. The marketing of these films, along with the fact that the very bankable Ryan Gosling (who is also featured heavily in the advertising) starred in the latter two allows them to be accessible to mainstream audiences in a way that they may not have without these elements.

Some other examples of misleading trailers include…

  • 126166377_iron-man_406735cIron Man 3 (2013) – the one that left comic book villains the world over bitter, the trailer advertised famous Iron Man foe The Mandarin as the big bad, only to pull a bait and switch and reveal Ben Kingsley’s character to be an drunken actor.
  • Magic Mike (2012) – Steven Soderbergh’s film was a deep character study marketed as a flashy chick-flick based around male strippers.
  • The Grey (2011) – capitalised on the Liam Neeson as an action lead phenomenon that began with 2009’s Taken, but The Grey was actually a study of the human relationship with death that is surprisingly light on the action.
  • Cabin in the Woods (2011) – marketed as a run of the mill teen slasher flick, but Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods takes the idea of meta-horror to a level that makes Scream (1996) look as though it lacks self-awareness.

Which films do you think had misleading marketing campaigns? Let me know in the comments section!

 

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Film, Lists, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: ACTING NOMINEE PREDICTIONS:

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The Oscar race is well and truly underway, and movie fans are now being treated to some of the best that cinema has to offer between now and February 28th next year. The acting nominations are among the big hitters in terms of Academy Awards, and the Academy are going to have some extremely tough decisions on their hands next year in that area. Bearing in mind that the I have not seen a great deal of these films, I have compiled my current predictions for who will be nominated in the four big acting categories – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

BEST ACTOR:

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THE FIVE:

  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

WILDCARDS:

  • Tom Hardy, Legend
  • Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes

This is an extremely strong category this year, and certainly the category that everyone will be talking about. The Academy are a big fan of a truse story, and this is very much looking like its going to be the main trend in the Best Actor nominations this year. Johnny Depp is already making waves for his performance of real-life gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, which is out on Friday here in the UK. Depp has been accused with going for quirk over content in the past few years, and this has been lauded as a real return to form. Even just looking at the trailer, it is clearly a totally transformative role, and whilst the gangster genre is a hard one to nail I don’t think there are going to be many criticisms of Depp’s performance, making him a real contender for Best Actor.

Eddie Redmayne won in this category last year for his excellent turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, which was above all a real feat in physical acting. It could be two in a row for the British actor with Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl seeing him take on the role of Lile Elbe, the first ever person to undertake gender reassignment surgery. This film has the Academy written all over it, and Redmayne stands a real chance at becoming only the third actor (after Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks) to bring home the statue two years in a row.

Leonardo-DiCaprio-Oscar-2014Leonardo DiCaprio is being heavily tipped to finally get his Oscar with The Revenant. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the man behind last year’s Acadamy success story Birdman, the film tells the story of Hugh Glass, a man who survived being mauled by a bear in 1820’s Dakota Territory. The film is already expected to be a technical masterpiece, but will it also bring DiCaprio his fifth nomination? You have to root for him really, if they don’t give him an award soon they are going to end up giving him one for a mediocre film in years to come when they finally realise he was overlooked (a la Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman). The downside of a DiCaprio win? There won’t be anymore of those hilarious GIFs spreading across the internet (sorry Leo).

Steve Jobs wasn’t as much of a commercial success in the US as expected, but this shouldn’t affect Michael Fassbender’s chances of nabbing a nomination as the Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s film of the same name. What he lacked in physical resemblance he more than made up for in nailing the complexity of Jobs’ character in a real warts-and-all fashion. He probably won’t win, but a nomination is surely on the horizon.

I am yet to see Bridge of Spies, but there is pretty much no doubt in anyone’s mind that: a) it will be great; b) it will be nominated for a lot of awards. It has some of the best talent in Hollywood behind it after all, with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, the Cohen Brothers with writing credits, and Tom Hanks in the lead role.  If that’s not a recipe for awards gold I don’t know what is, and I think Hanks is all but guaranteed a nomination. He has been nominated five times before, winning twice in the early 90’s for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, and Bridge of Spies ticks a lot of Academy friendly boxes, but with such a strong Best Actor category this year anything could happen.

PicMonkey CollageDue to such a strong category, there are a few performances that have an outside chance of getting a nomination. I haven’t totally ruled out Matt Damon in The Martian – a great performance from a very popular actor. The Academy does appear to take commercial success into account in some cases – could we see Damon toppling Fassbender if they base it on the Box Office?  Tom Hardy in Legend could be in with an outside chance, though it would seem the odds may be stacked against his heavyweight performance. Hardy took on the double role of the Kray twins, but I think if it came to an Academy nomination his more restrained turn as Reggie could be in with a chance. Legend is another example of the busy and difficult gangster genre, and its very distinct sense of Britishness could see it remain on the outskirts come the Oscars. Sir Ian McKellan also delivered an excellent performance as an ageing Sherlock Holmes in Mr.Holmes, though the films early release date and understated nature could see it getting overlooked in a very flashy category.

BEST ACTRESS:

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THE FIVE:

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
  • Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

WILDCARDS:

  • Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash
  • Melissa McCarthy, Spy

Best Actress is a great category this year, with a range of excellent performances to choose from. Jennifer Lawrence has just become the highest paid actress in the world, and she has also been nominated two years in a row, winning in 2014 for Silver Lining’s Playbook, and her hot streak looks set to continue with her latest Oscar effort, Joy. Joy sees her reunite for a third time with director David O Russell to chart the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film isn’t out yet but Lawrence is almost guaranteed to make it a hat trick with a third nomination.

Brooklyn has been receiving excellent reviews, with the majority of the praise being aimed at the performance of Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead role of an Irish girl who emigrates to America. The film is an understated masterpiece, and Ronan deserves all the praise she can get for her work, making this nomination another pretty safe bet. The Irish actress was nominated in the supporting actress back in 2007 for Atonement, aged just 13 at the time, and her transition into adult roles is awards-worthy indeed.

Cate Blanchett is one of those actresses that is so consistently good that it is almost taken for granted. She is being heavily tipped for a nomination for her role as the titular Carol, in the film based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel. She is already a six time nominee and two time winner – winning in the Supporting Actress category for The Aviator in 2004, and bagging Best Actress for her sensational turn in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in 2013. Carol is out in the UK on Friday, but Blanchett’s impressive CV already suggest that she will be a main contender come February.

Suffragette is the kind of film I’m surprised hasn’t been made before now – a look at the struggle in the UK as women fought for the vote. It featured an excellent cast, including Helena Bohem Carter and Meryl Streep (in hardly more than a cameo, granted), but at the heart of it all was Carey Mulligan, who plays a young working class wife and mother that gets swept up by the cause.  It’s going to be a tough category this year, but I think Mulligan has a real chance at being nominated in this undeniably important film.

The Academy, or perhaps Hollywood as a whole, can be a real ageist old bunch, but I still think that Dame Maggie Smith is a real contender this year for her fantastic turn in The Lady in the Van. It’s like Suffragette in that it’s all very British, but it has a charm that will still be felt across the pond. This isn’t as strong a contender as the others, but that is not down to the acting in any way. Smith is tremendous, bringing her huge talent and underrated comic timing to the fore.

PicMonkey Collage5This is another extremely strong category, but it has been an big year for strong female performances and there are a few excellent ones that might nab an unexpected nomination. Ricki and the Flash was a really bad movie, but the Academy (along with the world) love its star, Meryl Streep (NINETEEN nominations, more than anyone else ever), and she has been nominated for less than stellar films before with August: Osage County, so don’t count her out of the running just yet. The Academy has never been particularly rewarding of comedy, so it would be a surprise to see the nonetheless deserving Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer bag nominations for Spy and Trainwreck respectively. Never say never though – McCarthy in particular is becoming a real Hollywood success story, and Spy was a fantastic revamp of both the dated spy format and spoof genre, so a surprise nomination is not totally out of the question. She was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her equally hilarious turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids, showing that even the Academy can’t turn its nose up at truly excellent comedy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

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THE FIVE:

  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Alicia Vinakaner, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
  • Jane Fonda, Youth

WILDCARDS:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Julie Walter, Brooklyn

PicMonkey Collage6Rooney Mara is making real waves for her performance in Carol alongside Cate Blanchett. With Blanchett being the stalwart that she is, it is no small praise that Mara apparently matches the leads talent in the film about a love between two women. She was nominated in the Best Actress category in 2011 for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but lost out to Natalie Portman in Black Swan. This could be Mara’s year, with Carol receiving critical adoration that looks set to carry the film through to a successful awards season.

This post has already detailed the fact that The Danish Girl is serious awards bait, and Alicia Vinakaner looks set to be a real contender in the Supporting Actress category. She plays the wife of Eddie Redmayne’s character and it is sure to be a very engaging and complex role. It’s the type of thing that the Academy eats up and a non-nomination for Vinakaner would be a shocking game changer.

Kate Winslet looks like the only other chance Steve Jobs’ has in terms of acting nominations. Whilst the film boasts excellent performances from the likes of Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, they are arguably not prominent enough to be real contenders in the Supporting Actor category. Winslet is on excellent form as Jobs’ assistant and confidant Joanna Hoffman, providing a voice of reason to the visionaries tunnel vision. No stranger to the Academy – in 2008 she won Best Actress for The Reader, and in the process became the youngest actress to receive six nominations (aged 33), and it is looking relatively likely that she will bring it up to seven next year.

Macbeth was a stunning film. The refusal to deviate from the original Shakespearian script did of course make it quite hard to follow, but it still received significant attention from critics, and rightly so. French actress Marion Cotillard was an excellent Lady Macbeth, matching Michael Fassbender’s performance as the murderous king to a tee. Fassbender was excellent as Macbeth but his nomination for Steve Jobs is a much surer bet, and it is difficult to decide if Cotillard would fall into lead or supporting role. I think it is more likely that, if nominated, it will be in Supporting Actress. This one is 50/50 however, as there is a good chance that her excellent performance may go overlooked.

I haven’t seen Youth, the drama starring British acting legend Michael Caine, but I have heard nothing but good things. One of the main points of praise has been Jane Fonda’s supporting role, and I think there is a fair chance that she, an American legend herself, could be appearing on the list of nominees. She has been nominated seven times before, winning twice in the 1970’s, and it would be great to see her make a return to the Academy with her first nomination since 1986.

Supporting roles are a harder category to define in general, and it is therefore harder to pinpoint who might be heading for nomination – a role too big and it might not make the supporting category but also be too small for the main award, too small and it can’t justify a nomination. I believe (and hope) that Julie Walters may still be in with a chance for her small role in Brooklyn, where she provided the film with a whole lot of heart and some sweet comic relief. However, it does run the significant risk of being too small of a role, so I won’t be holding my breath over this one too much. Jennifer Jason Leigh could make a surprise nomination for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming western, The Hateful Eight. She is the only woman amidst the titular eight, and with a crowded primary cast it is still yet to be seen how prominent of a role she will really play, so this one is still very much up in the air. It’s also worth noting that the Academy have been proven to be uncomfortable with Tarantino’s particular brand of gloriously violent film-making, with his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction failing to win Best Picture, which doesn’t bode well for Jason Leigh bagging a nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

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THE FIVE:

  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Robert DeNiro, Joy
  • Bradley Cooper, Joy
  • Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

WILDCARDS:

  • Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Tom Hardy is in with much more of a chance at a supporting nomination for his role in The Revenant. Hardy is known for his massive commitment to his roles, and it is sure to payoff in a film of such intense nature.

David O Russell really loves the Jennifer Lawrence/Robert DeNiro/Bradley Cooper trio, and the Academy seems to also. Both DeNiro and Cooper are set to appear in Joy, and if the past is anything to go by they are probably both in with a pretty decent chance of nomination. DeNiro is a Hollywood heavyweight, having appeared in some of the best films ever made, and now has the sort of untouchable appeal that is also held by the likes of Meryl Streep, whilst Cooper has been nominated the past three years in a row and, like Lawrence, is on a hot streak that is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

Benicio Del Toro has received high praise for his role in the tense cartel thriller Sicario, and it looks like he may bag himself a nomination. He won an Oscar back in 2000 for his role in Traffic, which was also a crime thriller, and the genre seems to be the actors forte.

Spotlight recieved a limited release in the US earlier this month and has already been met with critical acclaim. It has an ensemble cast with no clear lead, but Mark Ruffalo has been singled out by several critics as one of the films many highlights. Ruffalo has been nominated twice before, and also just seems like such a nice guy that I think he has pretty strong chances.

PicMonkey Collage7It’s a hard one to call, but Joel Edgerton may be in with a chance for his role in Black Mass. The actor has made an impression this year with his directorial debut in The Gift, where he also showcased his impressive acting prowess. Whether he will manage a nomination from what the trailers are making to look like very much Depp’s film is yet to be seen. Spotlight is also getting a great deal of attention, and Michael Keaton may get a nomination in his role after missing out on Best Actor to Eddie Redmayne last year. He was nominated for his spectacular lead in Birdman, so could he get a consolation supporting nomination this year? The Rocky franchise, which was put to bed in 2006 with Rocky Balboa, is being passed over to Michael Jordan with Creed, which will see Sylvester Stallone once again return to his iconic role as the now ageing boxer. It’s yet to be released in the UK, and seems unlikely to be awards bait, but the trailers are suggesting a potentially upsetting ‘Rocky’s sick’ storyline which may bring Stallone into unexpectedly the running with an outside chance.

So there you have it, my predictions for the 2016 acting nominees! Here is a playlist with all of the trailers that have been mentioned in the prediction lists, check them out and let me know what you think in the comments section!:

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