Film, List, News, Opinion

OSCARS 2016

So, the Oscar’s are over for another year. The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, was an eventful night filled with some the usual safe bets and surprises, but the night was owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, who finally brought home an Oscar, simultaneously breaking the hearts of GIF creator’s the world over.  

Rock was a strong host, hitting the ground running with an opening monologue that tackled the #OscarsSoWhite scandal that has dominated awards season head on, introducing the Academy as the “white people’s choice awards.”

Comedy has long been an effective means of exploring serious issues and Rock did so wonderfully. His speech was effective and well needed, addressing the nature of institutionalised racism and also tackling the calls that he himself resign as host, quipping that he didn’t want to “lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

But what about the actual awards? Here is the lowdown of the big wins from the night…

Best Picture:

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source: E Online

Winner: Spotlight

Nominated: The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Picture was a strong category this year and there have been various favourites over the course of the season, but it was Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight that came out on top.

The film is deserving of the top award – a sobering look at the true life child abuse scandal uncovered by the Boston Globe’s spotlight team in 2001. It would have been a shame to see a film that feels so undoubtedly important go home empty handed, and whilst more understated than some of the nominees – The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road being the obvious examples – the film packs an emotional gut punch.

I was holding out on futile hopes for underdog Brooklyn, my personal favourite from the nominees, but I don’t think there can be any real qualms about Spotlight’s deserved victory.

Best Actor:

Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Nominated: Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Could it really be anyone else? The six-time nominated Leonardo DiCaprio has been the hotly tipped favourite to win for months now, and his long-awaited win for his lead role in The Revenant delivered on the promise.

At the end of the day, he deserved it. He should have received one years ago, and The Revenant shows the actor take on yet another challenging role that required him to push himself more than ever before.

His speech was fantastic, a testament to the fact that DiCaprio genuinely seems to be a very humble man. From his shoutout to “my brother in this endeavour” Tom Hardy to the passionate conclusion where he homed in on the climate issues that got him interested in The Revenant, the speech was one of the highlights of the night.

The reception from the crowd spoke volumes – DiCaprio received a standing ovation when he was announced as the winner, and the camera showed the reactions of his comrades as he made his speech. Particularly lovely was the pride on Kate Winslet’s face and the pure unadulterated glee from Hardy.

Had it been another year, I believe Bryan Cranston could have been in with a real chance for his fabulous turn as Dalton Trumbo, but this year was all about DiCaprio, meaning that the strong performances from the other nominees have been somewhat lost in translation.

Best Actress:

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source: E Online

Winner: Brie Larson (Room)

Nominated: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Another fully deserving winner, Brie Larson was incredible in Room. Playing a young woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and has a child (Jacob Tremblay), fathered by her captor, that she attempts to shield from the horrors of their reality, Larson gave without a doubt one of the standout performances of the cinematic year.

Every actress gave a great performance, but it was Larson who stuck out as the most raw and emotional of the lot. Her speech was also hopelessly endearing, as is her cute friendship with young co-star Tremblay.

Best Supporting Actor:

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source: Forbes

Winner: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Nominated: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the night (to me at least) was Mark Rylance scooping the Best Supporting Actor award in an insanely tough category that included Tom Hardy, Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo.

Whilst I haven’t seen Bridge of Spies and am sure that Rylance gave a great performance, I can’t help but feel that the award is out of a sense of obligation that any film by Steven Spielberg should not only receive nominations but must win something.

Every actor in this category gave a performance that stood out in some way – Ruffalo and Hardy in particular really could easily have won – but the nostalgic choice would have been to honour Sylvester Stallone for his turn in Creed, 40 years on from his win for the original Rocky.

Stallone delivered his best performance in years and was genuinely as deserving of the award as any other nominee, and the romantic in me would have loved to see him take it home. Congratulations to Rylance, but I feel this may be a choice that will be looked back upon with befuddlement in the future.

Best Supporting Actress:

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source: Variety

Winner: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Nominated: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

The Danish Girl really wasn’t that good, but without Alicia Vikander I am pretty sure it would be near unwatchable. The drone fest, which does no justice to the interesting characters it is based on, is such because of Tom Hooper’s uninspired direction, but Vikander is extremely strong as Gerda.

I still feel she should have been a contender for Best Actress as she is undoubtedly a main character, but she probably would not have been victorious in that category. Vikander brings nuance and emotion to her performance and the Oscar win is the perfect pay-off to what has been an incredible year for the actress (she also appeared in the critically acclaimed Ex Machina and fun caper The Man From U.N.C.L.E).

I would have liked to see Jennifer Jason Leigh get some love for what was a sensational turn in The Hateful Eight, but it is hard to begrudge Vikander’s thoroughly deserving win (even if the film itself isn’t great).

Best Adapted Screenplay:

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source: NY Times

Winner: The Big Short (Adam McKay and Charles Randolph)

Nominated: Brooklyn (Nick Hornby), Carol (Phyllis Nagy), The Martian (Drew Goddard), Room (Emma Donoghue)

The Big Short has been somewhat divisive, with many of the directorial choices McKay made being what some loved and others reviled about the film, but there aren’t many who can claim that it isn’t well written, condensing immensely complicated financial jargon and presenting it in an interesting way. McKay, who has been known for his comedy work until this point, used his acceptance speech to get political, saying:

“If you don’t want big money to control your government, don’t vote for candidates that take big money from banks, oil or weirdo billionaires.” 

Best Original Screenplay:

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source: CBS Local

Winner: Spotlight (Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy)

Nominated: Ex Machina (Alex Garland), Bridge of Spies (Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen), Inside Out (Josh Cooley, Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve), Straight Outta Compton (Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff)

A well deserved winner, and one of Spotlight’s two wins of six nominations. The strength of the film lay in the writing – the very nature of investigative journalism made it a challenging story to bring to the screen and Singer and McCarthy crafted a script which communicated the story effectively without ever feeling like it was spoon feeding the audience.

The Revenant:

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source: The Verge

Nominations: 12

Wins: 3 – Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography

Leading the pack with 12 nominations, The Revenant seemed like a sure-thing for winning plenty of awards, but the decision to grant Mad Max: Fury Road the majority of the technical categories meant that the film ended up only taking home three Oscars.

The three wins were fully deserving – Emmanuel Lubezki took home his third consecutive cinematography award following his work on Gravity and Birdman – and high profile. The lack of awards could also be down to the fact that the films Oscar campaign has mostly been focused on finally bagging DiCaprio his (fully deserved) award.

Alejandro G Inarritu won Best Director for the second year running, and whilst The Revenant may have failed to take home Best Picture there is no doubt that his dedication and attention to detail made him fully deserving of the statuette.

Mad Max: Fury Road:

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source: Metro

Nominations: 10

Wins: 6 – Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up and Hair Styling, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

In terms of number of awards, Mad Max: Fury Road was the winner of the night after receiving a surprising 10 nominations and scooping up six of them. It is great to see the Academy open its mind to the action genre, and whilst I haven’t seen the film it has been lauded as a genre best, so it is fitting that it did so well.

Some will be disappointed that director George Miller didn’t scoop Best Director for his meticulous work, but the gratitude and respect bestowed upon him in the acceptance speeches for each award made it clear how revered he is amongst those who made the film. With such a strong Best Director batch this year it was always going to be difficult to secure a win, but the nomination should not be taken lightly considering worthy candidates such as Todd Hayes didn’t make the cut.

A particular highlight was Miller’s wife Margaret Sevel receiving the Best Editing award and whilst the film may not have scooped any of the bigger awards, it is a positive step to see that the Academy did not ignore a summer blockbuster in the way it has tended to in the past.

Best Original Song:

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source: The Guardian

Winner: Writing’s On The Wall – Spectre (Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes)

While the latest Bond theme wasn’t welcomed by all fans, it shot to the top of the UK charts – a first for a Bond song – but it is hard not to find Sam Smith’s acceptance, which he dedicated to the LGBT community, endearing.

That said, Writing’s On The Wall is a decidedly weak entry into the Bond repertoire (which was going to be the case for anything that came after Adele and Skyfall), so whilst the win was unsurprising it would be a stretch to say it was deserving.

Empty Handed…

The Martian, Carol, Star Wars: The Force AwakensBrooklyn, SicarioSteve Jobs were just some of the films to go home empty handed in what has been, for better or worse, an extremely strong year in cinema. Until next year!

What did you think of the Oscars 2016? Share your comments below! 

 

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OSCARS 2016: ACTING PREDICTIONS

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The nominations are in! Yesterday saw the 2016 Academy Award nominations finally be announced ahead of the ceremony next month. There were plenty of sure bets, with The Revenant leading the pack at 12 nominations, but also some welcome surprises with Mad Max: Fury Road getting 10 nominations. Now that we can all be done speculating over who would be nominated, we can get onto speculating about who will win – here are my predictions for the acting categories…

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston Trumbo (1st nomination)

Matt DamonThe Martian (3rd acting nomination)

Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant (6th nomination)

Michael FassbenderSteve Jobs (2nd nomination)

Eddie RedmayneThe Danish Girl (2nd nomination)

Who will win? It’s a tough call between DiCaprio and Redmayne. All hilarious jokes aside, DiCaprio probably deserves it more as it looks like his work on The Revenant was another level, but The Danish Girl is as oscar-baiting as they come and that could see DiCaprio losing out for another year.

Best Actress:

Cate BlanchettCarol (7th nomination)

Brie LarsonRoom (1st nomination)

Jennifer LawrenceJoy (4th nomination)

Charlotte Rampling 45 Years (1st nomination)

Saoirse RonanBrooklyn (2nd nomination)

Who will win? I think Blanchett probably has this in the bag, especially given the fact that Carol has been snubbed for Best Picture. That said, it’s an extremely tough category and I could see any of them winning, but my bet is on her.

Best Supporting Actor:

Christian Bale The Big Short (3rd nomination)

Tom Hardy – The Revenant (1st nomination)

Mark RuffaloSpotlight (3rd nomination)

Sylvester StalloneCreed (2nd acting nomination)

Mark RylanceBridge of Spies (1st nomination)

Who will win? I’m pretty firmly in the belief that Hardy will take this one home, as The Revenant is all but guaranteed to sweep up at the awards next month, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who would love to see Stallone come out of nowhere to bag the prize (he did win the Golden Globe after all).

Best Supporting Actress:

Jennifer Jason LeighThe Hateful Eight (1st nomination)

Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl (1st nomination)

Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs (7th nomination)

Rachel McAdams – Spotlight (1st nomination)

Rooney Mara – Carol (2nd nomination)

Who will win? I’m willing to bet Vikander, who frankly should have been up in the Best Actress section for her role in The Danish Girl, which was easily equal to Redmayne’s. Like Best Actress though this is an extremely tough category where they are all deserving, and in with a decent chance, of winning.

Who do you think will take home the Academy Awards next month? Let me know in the comments section!

 

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2015 IN FILM

Looking back on an amazing year in cinema. 

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The end of the year is almost upon us – and what a year it has been for cinema. My Cineworld Unlimited card was put to good use over the past twelve months and I managed to cram in an impressive number of viewings. Whilst there have been a few disappointments along the way, there were also plenty of high points, and even a couple of masterpieces. I have compiled here my top five films of the year – no easy task – with a few honourable mentions for good measure. Let me know what your cinematic highlights were in the comments section!

TOP 5:

BROOKLYN

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domnhall Gleeson

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Chud

It feels like every year cinema is getting bigger and as the MCU and other superhero worlds dominate the box office the human element can be left behind. Richard Linklater reminded us of the extraordinary power of the ordinary with Boyhood last year, and John Crowley has followed suit with Brooklyn – based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toíbín – adding a period setting for good measure. Brooklyn is an understated masterpiece, blending gorgeous visuals with a simple and powerful story, alleviated to near perfect status by the incredibly apt casting  – Ronan has been scooping awards for her central role, and oscar glory is well within reach come February.

On a more personal level, Brooklyn resonated with me much more than I expected it to. The film is about a girl close to my age being torn between her desire to be home with her family and to forge a new life in America, a common struggle that transcends time. Brooklyn is a welcome reminder that a film doesn’t have to have superheroes or CGI to impress.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Director: Alfronso Gomez-Rejon

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman

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Anticool

After the smash hit success of The Fault in our Stars last year, another John Green adaption was a safe bet, and sure enough Paper Towns came along this summer. The film was marketed on Cara Delevingne, who was mostly absent from the largely forgettable flick. However, the genre had some life breathed back into it by Alfronso Gomez-Rejon, who took a script from Jess Andrews (author of the book of the same name) and came up with Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that avoided cliche whilst still packing an emotional punch.

I was not initially hopeful  – the marketing made the film look like a quirky Fault in our Stars rip-off – but it stood out due to its rarely static camera work and the incredibly funny script – it reminded me of 50/50 (2011) in that it manages to be a film about cancer that is funny without being crude. Add this to strong leads, a brilliant supporting turn from Nick Offerman and an incredible soundtrack (which I discussed here), and you have one of the most memorable films of the year.

LEGEND

Director: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston

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Trailer Addict

Based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, Brian Helgeland takes on the Krays in his biopic, which sees Tom Hardy in the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie. The gangster genre is overcrowded, so its hard to nail the genre in a way that stands out, but the Krays are hugely interesting source material and this film is worth seeing, if only for the technical wizardry of seeing Tom Hardy fight himself.

Legend is not without faults – Emily Browning’s character Frances is used as a narrative device to get to the story of the twins and is criminally underwritten as a result – but it still stands out as one of my favourite films of the year. Mixing the funny with the violent, Legend brings a distinct sense of Britishness to the gangster genre, and is all the better for it.

STEVE JOBS

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

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Hollywood Reporter

There is a good chance that audiences – particularly those in the US – are getting Steve Jobs fatigue. Since the Apple founder and CEO passed away in 2011 there has been a slew of material on the man, but it would be foolish to pass on this latest effort from Danny Boyle, with a script by Aaron Sorkin.

With a theatre-like three act structure, Steve Jobs is a far cry from the done -to-death biopic structure, and Sorkin’s razor sharp script blends perfectly with Boyle’s unique eye for visuals, and Fassbender manages to inhibit the character despite not physically resembling him. It’s Fassbender’s film through and through – as the title would suggest, he is the focal point of the entire film – but he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast with Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet all providing fantastic turns in their own right.

Read my review of Steve Jobs here.

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK 

Directed: Brett Morgen

Starring: Kurt Cobain

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Collider 

Since his suicide in 1994 Kurt Cobain has been somewhat of an enigma, the voice of dissatisfied youth, and the wealth of unauthorised material produced on the man did little to dispel any of the myths that arose. However, Brett Morgen’s documentary – the first to be done with the agreement and co-operation of Cobain’s family – cuts through the cultural obsession to look at the man. Morgen stated in an interview that the film aimed to:

“….present an American icon – a revered American icon – in a completely naked and honest manner. Without tearing him down and without building him up, but where we can look him in the eye.”

Blending animated segments with interviews, Montage of Heck is a welcome departure from the typical over reliance on talking heads in documentaries, and is without a doubt the definitive account of who Cobain was. The only thing missing is an interview with Dave Grohl, as a member of Nirvana he seems like a crucial person to talk to about that period in Cobain’s life, and his presence is missed.

Whilst it is at times unsettling to see how deep-set his issues were, and knowing what happened to him makes it all the more upsetting,  Montage of Heck is essential viewing for Nirvana fans, and an enjoyable watch regardless.

RUNNER UPS:

DOPE 

Dope manages to be a crime caper, a comedy, a drama and a coming of age story all rolled into one excellent script. Rick Famuyiwa’s film tells the story of Malcom, Jib and Diggy, three geeks obsessed with 1990s culture who accidentally end up with a rucksack full of MDMA. The lead performances are fantastic and A$AP Rocky even shows up for a supporting role. The film is one that is designed to make you think about the role stereotypes continue to play in society, and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

MISTRESS AMERICA

Director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, who penned the script together, are at their best in Mistress America, a screwball comedy that allows Gerwig to shine. Their collaboration, which worked so well in Frances Ha (2012) has been honed to perfection here, and the film is full to  the brim with laughs, as well as raising some interesting questions about the self obsession in the age of technology.

SUFFRAGETTE 

Undoubtedly one of the most important films of the year, it’s hard to believe UK women’s  fight for the vote had not already been committed to the screen. Starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bohem Carter, with an appearance from the ever-fantastic Meryl Streep, Suffragette is a fantastic period drama made all the more emotive by the fact that it is based on true events.

MOST PROGRESSIVE: 

SPY/MAD MAX:FURY ROAD

It would be madness not to include Mad Max: Fury Road in talks about progressive depictions in cinema, but I have not yet seen it, so alas my comments cannot extend much further than acknowledgement of what is by all accounts an incredible film.

However, I genuinely believe in years to come Paul Feig’s Spy could be looked back upon as a landmark in comedy. Spy is a sign of progress – perhaps the most notable since Bridesmaids (2011) – with women who are capable, independent and not used as the butt of jokes. The film turns everything that is so awful about James Bond on its head – here we have men that are inept, being helped along by badass women (not a damsel in distress in sight) – and it’s about time.

It seems real change is finally on the horizon, and as ridiculous as it is that it is only the case in 2015, that can only be a good thing. Misogynists need not worry too much – Spectre brought the already questionable James Bond back a few steps in the progressive stakes (read more on that here). You win some, you lose some I guess.

BIGGEST LETDOWN:

KILL YOUR FRIENDS 

Based on John Niven’s (who also penned the script) novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends had the potential to be the British American Psycho (2000), but turned out to be a hollow disappointment. Despite the best efforts of the cast, led by an appropriately stoney Nicholas Hoult, the script feels empty and you’ll be hard pressed to remember the film long after viewing.

Read my review of Kill Your Friends here.

BEST ANIMATION:

INSIDE OUT 

A true return to form for Pixar, Inside Out shows the studio do what they do best – blending beautiful animation with innovative storytelling that tackles big themes in a way that is accessible to all ages. The casting is incredibly well sourced – Phyllis Smith was born to voice sadness – and the timeless concept is one that has already solidified Inside Out as a modern animated classic.

WEIRDEST:

THE LOBSTER 

The english language debut of Greek director Yorgos Lanthinmos, The Lobster is without a doubt the most unique film of the year. A hilariously deadpan story about a hotel where single people go and if they fail to find a partner in 45 days, they a turned into an animal. The film satirises social constructs in a hilarious manner, and whilst there is no doubt that it won’t appeal to everyone, I found the film to be one of the funniest I saw all year.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Not forgetting Macbeth, Ant Man, Trainwreck, Ex Machina, The Martian, Man Up, Mr Holmes, Danny Collins, Jurassic World, Irrational Man and so many more…


 

I’ve shared this video before, but it’s so good that I’m going to share it again. Ben Zuk created a 2015 Salute to Cinema on Vimeo, incorporating 164 movies into a wonderful montage that reminds us just how great movies can be. Enjoy!

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147217969″>2015 Salute to Cinema</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/benzuk”>Ben Zuk</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What was your favourite film of 2015? Let me know in the comments section below!

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5 GREAT FILMS THAT WERE BOX OFFICE FLOPS

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When it comes to mainstream cinema it’s all about the numbers, and the box office performance of a film is often what dictates whether it was successful or not. This can lead to sequels of bad films – Terminator Genysis, for example, is pretty sure to have a sequel in spite of appalling reviews and poor box office turnout in the USA due to the fact that it proved itself to be a money making machine in the gargantuan cinema-going demographic that is China. It can also lead to films that are actually pretty excellent only getting recognition years later due to a poor financial performance. Here are five films which performed poorly at the box office in spite of being great films…

Honourable mention…

Steve Jobs (2015)


Director:
Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

maxresdefault (2)An honourable mention due to the fact that it is still out in cinemas, Steve Jobs significantly underperformed upon it’s initial US release earlier this year. The film, structured like a three act play, stars Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs and goes behind the scenes in the time leading up to three significant product launches. Penned by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) the film has garnered $18 million since its release. On a budget of $30 million, the film still has a way to go before even making its money back.

There are a few contributing factors which may explain why the film has been a financial flop in spite of excellent critical praise. Director Danny Boyle blamed the marketing strategy, believing that the film had to wide of an initial release and did not generate enough word of mouth. There is also the issue of Steve Jobs fatigue – the Apple founder has been the subject of dozens on films and documentaries, and the critical and commercial failure of the Ashton Kutcher starring Jobs (2013) is still fresh in the minds of US audiences. The film was released by Universal, who reportedly still have faith that the film can recover if it stays in cinemas until closer to awards season.

Amy Pascal of Sony passed on the film, seeing it as too big of a risk after the likes of Christian Bale did not agree to star, and rumours suggest that Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell actively tried to stop the films warts and all portrayal. Both Sorkin and Boyle have been very vocal about their belief that the film is not a biopic, but Powell’s sway in the tech community may be another factor as to why the film didn’t perform well.

5 – The Iron Giant (1999)

Director: Brad Bird

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal

iron-giant-hogarthBased on the Ted Hughes novel The Iron Man (1968), this Warner Brothers Animation changes Hugh’s English setting for Cold War America. Set in 1950’s Maine, the film charts nine year old Hogarth Hughs (Eli Marienthal), a young boy who discovers a fifty-foot tall metal eating iron giant. The film was the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who is now best known for his work with Pixar, which includes The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007), and incorporated a mixture of traditional animation and elements of CGI.

The film made around $23 million on a $70 million budget, making it a financial failure in spite of critical adoration. The film had a pre Fast and Furious Vin Diesel in the titular role, as well as roles for America’s sweetheart Jennifer Aniston and Fraiser’s John Mahoney, but selling animations on their star power are more difficult than live action films. The film also used a washed out colour palette and held some pretty strong anti-government themes. Take into account that the film is a non Disney animation and that Bird was yet to make his name, as well as the fact that it came out the same year as Toy Story 2 (1999) and that Pixar were making CGI films popular and it becomes clearer why the film made a loss.

The film received a limited rerelease in cinemas this year ahead of the release of the Blu-Ray edition, which contained two minutes of new footage, and the film is considered one of the best non-Disney animations. Bird’s work at Pixar also went on to be some of the most financially successful for the studio, so it’s not all bad.

4 – Heathers (1988)

Director: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty

Heathers2Heathers is an excellent black comedy/satire from Michael Lehmann. The film stars a young Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannon Doherty, and is pretty fearless in its approach to tackling issues such as bullying and teen suicide. The film was made on a very low budget of $2 million but still only managed to make back around half, meaning it was still a financial flop.

The film was very well received by critics, but a couple of noted individuals such as Roger Ebert took issue with the films extremities. The film came out in the late 80’s – making it a great showcase of the fashion of the era – which means it came out in the midst of the John Hughes era. Seeing as the film was a total subversion of everything a Hughes teen film stood for, this is probably a significant reason as to why the film did not fare well commercially.

The films stars Ryder and Slater were also yet to make their names – Ryder was only 16 upon filming and had appeared in Beetlejuice (1988) the same year, but only really became better known in the 1990’s with roles in the likes of Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Mermaids (1990). Similarly, Slater was 19 when the film came out with only a few credits to his name. Notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty also hadn’t had a chance to prove how notoriously difficult she was, with her roles in Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed coming in 1990 and 1998 respectively. This lack of percieved star power is another reason the film failed to gain any financial traction.

3 – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Director: Frank Capra

Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers

tumblr_inline_nmh0a4Ufom1r4j8j1_500Frank Capra’s holiday classic, based on 1939 short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, is one of those rare films that it is very difficult to find anyone who dislikes it. However, whilst it may be hard to believe, the film was a letdown at the Box Office, debuting in 26th place. Made on a $3 million budget, the film only made $3.3 million in its initial run despite starring the hugely popular Jimmy Stewart in the central role of George Bailey, a man who is contemplating suicide and is visited by an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) who shows him what life would have been like had he never been born.

The story doesn’t end there however – it was due to a copyright issue that the film went on to become a festive favourite. The film originally had a 28 year copyright claim, and when it expired the rights were not put up for renewal. This meant that in 1975 the film entered the public domain, leading to it having heavy circulation on television during the holiday season. This led to the film being reevaluated as a classic, and it has since garnered over $60 million in DVD and home video sales. NBC now own the rights and there is a good chance they won’t be giving them up anytime soon.

An interesting side note is that the FBI actually pinpointed the film as communist propaganda. A 1947 memo entitled ‘Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry’ argued it was propaganda due to its populist theme and negative portrayal of rich bankers. The film was not blacklisted in the infamous McCarthy era, but it is interesting to think that the FBI were concerned about the feel-good classic.

2 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Director: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

shawshank-musicThe seven times Oscar nominated film written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is one of the more surprising entries on this list. The film is currently at the top of the IMDb Top 250 Films list. The film was made on a $25 million budget, but debuted in ninth place on its opening weekend with only $2.5 million.

The film is regularly quoted amongst favourite films/top films of all time lists, so why did it fail to gain any traction? Producer Liz Glotzer has argued that the film didn’t achieve any word of mouth promotion due to people being unsure how to pronounce the title. It could also be argued that the title gives too much away, though it’s not as though it gives away the main details of the plot (we are looking at you The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), the winner of the most spoilerific title of all time).

Things become even more confusing when we see what The Shawshank Redemption was up against at the Box Office. Opening on 23rd September 1994, other films that opened that day included It Runs in the Family, Shadows of Desire and Terminal Velocity. Not exactly bonafide classics. However, it is also worth noting that NBC’s beloved sitcom Friends debuted on the same date, drawing in some 22 million viewers for its pilot episode. Did this stop people going out to see the film on its opening night?

The film is similar to It’s A Wonderful Life in that it became more popular after its original cinematic run, and TV circulation and word of mouth in recent years has seen the film become the classic we know it as today, but exactly why The Shawshank Redemption underperformed on its initial run will always be a point of cinematic speculation.

1 – Fight Club (1999)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bohem Carter

the_coolest_inside_facts_about_22David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name, made only $37 million on a $63 million budget. The film came out four years after his critically acclaimed and financially successful Se7en (1994), which also starred Brad Pitt in a main role. However, Fincher followed up the film with The Game (1997) starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, which was again critically successful but saw significantly less box office returns compared to Se7en.

Fight Club has gone on to achieve cult status due to the fact that it was hugely successful when released on DVD, selling over 6 million copies and making its money back in that way. Whilst the film is now regarded as a modern classic, it was extremely divisive amongst critics upon its initial release. The films depiction of violence and counterculture led to criticisms from some critics, including Roger Ebert who said years later that it was “beloved by many, not by me.”

Another issue came in the marketing. Fincher reportedly had very specific ideas about how he wanted to market the film, but executives at 20th Century Fox didn’t like the film when they viewed it. The company were unsure of how to sell a film that is so openly critical of consumerism. The films release was delayed several times, and the film eventually came out after the Columbine High School Massacre, meaning that audiences were arguably much less open to a film with such graphic violence at its core. Brad Pitt was undoubtedly the most bankable star in the film, but Fincher refused to have him as the focus of the marketing campaign for fear of misrepresentation, and the lacklustre campaign is arguably the biggest factor in Fight Club’s poor box office performance.

The film was without a doubt one of the most talked about the of the year, and the controversy that surrounded its violent nature is arguably what made it successful in DVD sales, meaning it was not a total failure.

Which films do you think are great in spite of a less than stellar box office performance? 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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Film, Reviews

FILM REVIEW: STEVE JOBS

Dir: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet

Cert: 15

“How come ten times in a day I hear Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?”

20-fall-preview-movies-steve-jobs-michael-stuhlbarg-michael-fassbender-kate-winslet.w750.h560.2xSteve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) poses this question to the titular Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in the trailer of Danny Boyle’s latest film, written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), making it immediately clear that this is not going to be anything like the celebratory Apple advertisement it could have been.

What Boyle and Sorkin have done is provide a deep character study of Jobs – who died in 2011 – without mentioning Pixar, cancer,the iPhone or his widow Laurene Powell. Sorkin has stated that the avoidance of the typical ‘greatest hits’ biopic structure was a conscious decision, and a good one it was too. The film instead takes on more of a theatrical structure, essentially consisting of three real-time acts with a few brief deviations, all taking place in the run up to a notable product launch. It is this that makes Steve Jobs stand out from the wealth of other material that has been produced on the Apple co-founder, particularly the 2013 film Jobs, which starred Ashton Kutcher in the central role. The structure also allows you to immediately do away with the notion of the film as a biopic and thus at the same time stepping away from all the normal expectations that would come with watching a biopic, one of which is the ‘facts’. I personally feel this is a film that should be taken very much as artistic interpretation, based of course on fact but not to be taken as concrete fact in itself.

steve_jobsThe film is an intense character study – it’s Fassbender’s film through and through, and whilst he doesn’t look particularly like Jobs, but also isn’t unlike him enough to be distracting – and there is no doubt that Jobs was an interesting character. The film explores many interesting themes through the character, notably ambition. The film is incredibly brave in tackling the mythological status that has descended upon Jobs, especially following his death. Jobs is shown to be stubborn, difficult and at times incredibly harsh. He is also shown to be relentless in his drive and ambition for success, and it is the different aspects of Jobs’ character as presented in the film that makes it so much more interesting than any biopic could ever be.

Whilst Jobs is without a doubt the main character, the supporting cast also do a stellar job. Kate Winslet is strong, in spite of a wobbly European accent, as marketing executive and Jobs’ longtime friend Joanna Hoffman. Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Scully is also worthy of mention – the dynamic between him and Fassbender provides one of the most electric portions of the film. One of the highlights however comes in the form of Rogen’s Wozniak, who acts as the voice of reason or moral compass in a sense, highlighting some of the main themes in his dialogue.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-01-at-11.45.08-AMThere is no doubt that the film is going to draw endless comparisons to The Social Network, but whilst both films are interesting studies of the men behind tech phenomenons, there aren’t many comparisons to be held. Whilst David Fincher’s film is a relatively dark study, Steve Jobs has an abundance of energy. Boyle puts his stamp all over this film, which is visually impressive in a way that has come to be an expectation of the director, who’s unique style has been showcased in every film since his debut Shallow Grave (1994). The grand venues for  each launch provide a perfect setting for these distinct visuals, and they do not disappoint.

Another staple of Boyle’s films has always been music, and this is another strong entry in that area. The pulsing beats are essential in creating and maintaining the mood of the film, and it also effectively communicates the time periods – 1984, 1988 and 1998 without sounding overtly ‘retro’.

Steve Jobs hasn’t performed particularly well in the US Box Office, though this may be because after Jobs (2013) proving relatively disastrous people feel like they have seen it all when it comes to the man. Yet here is a film with a wealth of talent behind it, that offers something entirely new. It’s not a biopic – its much more than that, and its strong critical reception has kept it well and truly in the awards race.

Steve Jobs is out in cinemas across the UK now.

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