Category Archives: news/gossip/celeb

Fantastic Beasts: the five crimes of Grindelwald

One of the great mysteries of the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was how a movie that gained rave reviews, an ‘A’ CinemaScore and crossed the $800 million milestone came to be considered ‘lacklustre’.

Still, I doubt the studio are wringing their hands. Twitter and Youtube were buzzing when the teaser trailer for the next movie – The Crimes Of Grindelwald – was released last week.

If he’s going to be sinning against the magical world, what crimes can we expect Gellert Grindelwald to commit?

Escape custody.

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Obviously. We don’t know how much time has passed since Newt managed to outsmart Grindelwald and deliver him to the wands of MACUSA’s Aurors, but judging by his long hair, he’s been captive for a few months at least.

Apparently audiences groaned when Colin Farrell’s disguise vanished to reveal a bloated and bleached Johnny Depp.

Following his rushed reveal, hair and makeup have worked their magic, casting a Revelio charm on Depp’s cheekbones. Grindelwald needs a hell-raising rock star vibe, and Johnny Depp fits the bill perfectly.

End Madam Picquery’s incompetent reign of smugness.

“Do you think you can hold me?” Grindelwald asked MACUSA’s useless, smug and incompetent Madam Picquery, giving her a contemptuous stare down.

She refused to accept her city had an Obscurial problem, and didn’t notice her right-hand man was being impersonated by the world’s most wanted wizard – all while lecturing European officials for letting him slip through their fingers.

Picquery ignored Tina’s pleas when she apprehended Newt on his arrival in New York, yet later claimed outrage that she didn’t tell her straight away. She had them both arrested, before the pair were nearly executed by Graves/Grindelwald.

I’m surprised more fans didn’t pick up on Picquery’s Fudge-like incompetence. She’s definitely arrogant enough to think she could challenge an escaped Grindelwald.

Kick Newt Scamander’s head in. Again.

If I were a bumbling, animal-loving Brit wanting a quiet life – which I am – and I had thwarted the evil plans of a deranged dark wizard, I would stay as far away from that individual as possible.

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We adore him: Magical bigwigs are terrified Dumbledore will make his own power play

Except Dumbledore is clearly a hard man to say ‘no’ to. “I can’t move against Grindelwald,” he tells Scamander in the trailer. “It has to be you.”

Last time Newt encountered an enraged Grindelwald, the wild-eyed dark wizard pinned him to a railway track and tortured him with Sith lightening.

Newt should have been airlifted by Thestral to New York’s version of St Mungo’s. Somehow – and this is a symptom of the badly rushed final showdown – Newt was fine in seconds.

In the cinema you had to strain to hear Grindelwald’s parting words to Newt: “Will we die just a little?” It was probably ad-libbed by Depp when he couldn’t remember his lines. He meant to say “You’re going to die, little British Hufflepuff weedling.” Gulp.

Corrupt Credence Bowlcut some more.

While Newt crashed around looking for his missing critters, the international threat of dark magic bubbled away like a cauldron in the background.

A third plot line saw teenage orphan Credence Barebone wreak havoc as an Obscurius. Cowering in fear of his religious, witch-hating adoptive mother, Credence was groomed and brutally rejected by Grindelwald, before the dark wizard realized the boy’s raw destructive power.

Don’t expect Credence to be transfigured into a sunny character any time soon. It’ll take more than a new life with the circus and the motherly(?) attention of a fellow performer to turn that Obscurial frown upside down.

Grindelwald looks like he has his Bellatrix Lestrange – Vinda Rosier (played by Poppy Corby-Tuech), from one of Britain’s ancient and prestigious magical bloodlines.

Will he will try to recruit young Credence again? What side will Credence choose?

Mass slaughter for the greater good.

niffler

Hands off my Niffler!

‘For the greater good’ is Grindelwald’s philosophy and his justification for his actions in the wizarding war. Yet ‘Crimes’ is only the second movie in a franchise that will span a 19 year timeline, so it’s unlikely we will see Grindelwald do his worst yet.

Potterheads will know most of the main cast are safe. Little is known about Newt’s brother and his enigmatic fiancée, Leta Lestrange, played by Zoë Kravitz, but it seems unlikely that such promising characters will get bumped off too quickly.

Grindelwald will probably target Muggles, but personally, I’d be more worried about the magical creatures.

Newt’s beasts could be in serious peril this time.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out 16 November this year.

Writing a film blog: what to see in 2018

Well, the new blogging year got off to a stellar blogging start for me. As I tried to streamline and organise my content, my site threw a massive toddler tantrum and created a raft of technical problems.

It’s probably the developmental stage the blog is at – the terrible twos and threes. It’s not a baby anymore, and its parent (me) still hasn’t got a clue.

I never set out with a plan of starting a movie review website. I began blogging about whatever took my fancy, and I quickly discovered I was writing mainly about the random films I watched.

Initially I wrote as if I were working for the neglected arts section of a paper. I was almost apologetic about it. Now, I’d say I’m a blogger/nerd/fan. (Of course I can adapt my style for a range of topics and publications, if any paying editors are reading! 2018 would be a great year to hire me!)

About that content streamlining – I’m going to focus on recent(ish) releases on DVD/digital platforms – both film and television – and on loosely movie-related book reviews, plus news and gossip (for example, sometimes I have really deep thoughts about things like casting for Fantastic Beasts), and of course on 2018 cinema releases.

2018 Movies

Annihilation – Top of many a movie fan’s list. Partly because it is out soon, and partly because it starts with an A. And also because it is directed by Ex Machina’s Alex Garland. In the UK this will find its creepy, weird-science way on Netflix. I am grateful for Netflix.

Ophelia – Daisy Ridley movies are a bit rare right now, but that’s changing! Ophelia will have its Sundance premiere and should hit cinemas later this year.

Tomb Raider  – Is it just me, or are people not rooting for Alicia Vikander? 😦 Prepare for an avalanche of articles and comments about her body.

Mary Magdalene – Gamely providing the whitewashing controversy for the year, Rooney Mara is in the title role, with Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. It’s directed by Garth Edwards (Lion), and will definitely be interesting.

Sicario 2: Soldado – The first Sicario took my breath away. Now hardmen Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are back, without Emily Blunt or director Villeneuve.

Solo – You hear that Last Jedi backlash Disney? No, of course you don’t – you’re far too busy scrambling to salvage Solo to hear the din. Oh, and counting the $$$.

Mary Queen of Scots – Saorise Ronan has always reminded me of Cate Blanchett, who famously played Elizabeth I. But Ronan is Mary, and Margot Robbie the Tudor queen. I’m a fan (?) of this period of history, so this release is firmly penciled in.

Robin Hood – A new gritty take. I know nothing else about it, except it’s giving me King Arthur vibes. It does star Rogue One’s Ben Mendelsohn as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and he plays such a great baddie.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web –  David Fincher and former Lisbeth Salander Rooney Mara are both out over at Sony, in favour of Claire Foy and Don’t Breath’s Fede Alvarez. Claire Foy is hot right now, but Lisbeth?

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – After a rushed and disappointing reveal in the first movie, the most recent photos show Johnny Depp is looking better (slimmer, cooler hair) as villain Grindelwald.

On the blogging skills front, I think it’s important to interact more. 

I have personal goals too, but all lifestyle, photography attempts, career failure, fashion and non film-related book reviews I’m going to shove over to my Instagram page, and maybe eventually start another blog. (I give it five minutes; I hate Instagram.) If anyone wants a followback on Twitter or Insta, let me know. 🙂

Most of all, I just want to finish the first draft of my novel.

But one thing 2017 taught me, is that I’m devastating at sticking to resolutions and lists, when I put my mind to it. I’ve never had a motto before, but my motto for the year is: Do. Or do not. There is no try. What is yours?!

Cinema 2018 to stay lively with The Crimes of Grindelwald

When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out last year, it looked like a barrel-scraping side-adventure about the bumbling Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) chasing an escaped zoo around Jazz Age New York.

However, there wasn’t much else on at the cinema, so I mistakenly asked to see Fantastic Creatures, and my review was basically, “Wow how hot is Colin Farrell?!” However, I could see it was the start of a story that promises to tap into the richer HP mythology.

Last month, a cast photo from the sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gave us our first look at Jude Law’s young(er) Dumbledore, alongside Johnny Depp as the dark wizard Grindelwald.

Filmmakers behind the billion dollar franchise were stunned that the online response focused on Depp and allegations of domestic abuse, prompting director David Yates to release a statement via his agents Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.

“Duh, he’s literally playing Wizarding Hitler, like literally,” shrugged Yates. “Let’s hope nobody takes a pop at Eddie Redmayne and accuses him of drop-kicking a Niffler. Now that’d be a real PR nightmare!” he laughed.

Colin Farrell – who played Grindelwald in disguise – was very popular in the role. There are worse things than being magically stuck looking like Colin Farrell, especially as Johnny’s Grindelwald looks like an older version of Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys.

In Deathly Hallows we learned that the teenage Grindelwald’s friendship with Dumbledore ended in tragedy. Only when the books were finished did Rowling reveal that Dumbledore was gay and had terrible taste in wizards.

It might sound like the Grindelwald/Dumbledore relationship will blast poor old Newt off the screen, but the magizoologist will hopefully have an interesting dynamic with his war hero brother, Theseus, who is married to Newt’s former (I’m going with unrequited) love, Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz).

Alongside Newt, also back from the first movie are Ezra Miller as the Smoke Monster, Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston as the charming Goldstein sisters, and comedian Dan Fogler as No-Maj Jacob. I do hope his bakery is doing well.

I watch things like this to see what talented actors do with their characters, and I love the cast for this movie (even without Farrell), so I’m sure I’ll be catching Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald when it’s released on 16 November 2018.

Teen Wolf leads me to Ian Bohen to Wind River and Soldado

teenwolf

Teen Wolf – pretty entertaining

I only got my free Netflix trial last year to watch the phenomenon that is Stranger Things. Soon, I was back to my old ways, guiltily exploring ‘TV Sci-Fi’ and even ‘Teen TV’.

I tried to reconnect with The Vampire Diaries, but it should have bit the dust when Nina Dobrev left. I also tried its humourless spin-off The Originals, before binge-watching Tatiana Maslany in the cyberpunk series Orphan Black.

To my surprise, Teen Wolf – the MTV show based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox hit of the same name – has been pretty entertaining, in a Buffy kind of way.

The breakout of the show, Dylan O’Brien, plays the comedy sidekick, and there’s an actor called Ian Bohen, who plays the mysterious Big Bad Wolf in Season One, before returning in a neutered capacity as a snarky mentor figure later on.

I don’t know much about him, but I was keeping tabs on Sundance and he showed up at the Wind River premiere.

Apparently he has a small role in the movie – a thriller written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, which just got four Oscar nominations.

Wind River had a positive response at Sundance, especially for the final ‘kinetic’ gun battle. (It’s not Sheridan’s first time directing, although it’s being called his directorial debut.)

Bohen is now filming Soldado, Sheridan’s follow-up to Sicario. It’s directed by Stefano Sollima, and we know it’s not a sequel, but a standalone story with some of Sicario’s characters. Emily Blunt is out, and apparently we’ll see what happens when Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are off the leash. Yikes.

2017 movies

The Year Ahead

It’s my first post of 2017, and I thought I better get it published before this month is over, the Oscars have been handed out, and we’re moving into summer blockbuster territory.

This is about movies slated for release this year that I just might casually wind up seeing, like, um, Episode VIII. If I can find the time, of course. Ahem.

Honestly, I’ll probably be at home watching movies (*cough Star Wars I – VII cough*) on DVD and catching the latest digital releases on streaming platforms far more than I will be seeing the newest flicks at the local multiplex.

But these are the films calling me, blinking, out into 2017…

Remember last year when everyone was going on about Brie Larson in Room and Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl (when they weren’t going on about it being Leo’s turn)? They were the It Girls and went on to win Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Well this year, it’s all about Natalie Portman vs Emma Stone for Best Actress.

I will certainly see Stone in La La Land, and I’ll also try to see Jackie, although Portman’s voice in the trailers makes me want to stuff my ears with one of the late First Lady’s headscarves. Yes, it really looks like Portman will be a two-time Oscar winner come February.

Last year’s winner, Larson, is back with Kong: Skull Island, which I’m actually excited for as I loved the 2005 Peter Jackson King Kong. (The new movie is an original take on the tale, and not connected to the earlier movie, BTW.)

Vikander’s 2017 bow, meanwhile, will be in the long-delayed historical drama Tulip Fever. It’ll also feature Cara Delevingne, although the interesting wannabe actress will have a bigger part in Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Will it be up there with the best of Besson?

Sticking to the sci-fi theme, nothing is keeping me away from Alien: Covenant (oh my beloved Prometheus) and Ghost in the Shell. Nothing!

I want to see Victoria and Abdul, which filmed over at Osborne house on the Isle of Wight. Judi Dench will play Queen Victoria in the drama about the monarch’s friendship with a young Indian servant. Based on the book by Shrabani Basu (which I haven’t read) it sounds similar to the award-winning Mrs Brown, which also saw Dench reign as Queen Victoria.

Another adaptation I’m looking out for is Mudbound, starring Jason Clarke and Carey Mulligan. Based on the novel by Hillary Jordan, it premieres at Sundance later this month.

What else? Sofia Coppola is back, and she brings with her Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Elle Fanning for The Beguiled, a remake of Clint Eastwood’s 1971 movie of the same name. Seriously, that cast is amazing.

I want to see Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper. Long before Twilight, Stewart’s brand of twitchy lip-biting was considered profound by critics. And so it is once more.

Really, there’s a lot of stuff that seems promising right now – films like Hidden Figures, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Ex Machina director Alex Garland’s Annihilation (starring Portman), Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, Terence Davies’ Emily Dickinson biopic A Quiet Passion, and the comedy Logan Lucky from Steven Soderbergh, starring Adam Driver.

And OK, I admit it: if I were only allowed one cinema trip this year, I’d forgo everything else to see Star Wars: Episode VIII when it arrives in December.

What movies are you most looking forward to in 2017? 

About that Han Solo casting: who will Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke play?

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Emilia Clarke/Instagram

Call it a “tremor in the force.” Ever since Disney announced plans to go ahead with a solo Han Solo project, reaction has been mixed. Harrison Ford’s advice for any would-be smugglers was simple: “Don’t do it.”

Yet every every young actor in Hollywood wanted the role that eventually went to Alden Ehrenreich. OK, Princess Leia would say he’s a bit short for a stormtrooper nerf herder, but here he is in Hail, Caesar! Impressive, most impressive…

After directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller landed the popular choice of Donald Glover for Lando, they added none other than Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke to the cast.

There is another…British brunette 

If you’ve never seen Emilia Clarke without her platinum wig, you might not have realized she’s actually a totally adorable brunette.  In fact, there’s been a crazy backlash over another dark-haired British actress following Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones into the franchise.

Unsurprisingly we know little about her role yet, with the press release stating only that she will “round out a dynamic cast of characters Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.”

According to Variety she’s the female lead, meaning we can rule out pre-Original Trilogy Leia, who we know meets Han for the first time in A New Hope. Some say it could be Sana Starros from the Marvel comics, but if you check the character’s Wookieepedia page, it’s unlikely that’s the route they’d take with Clarke.

Lord and Miller apparently passed over Jessica Henwick (the tall, beautiful Sand Snake on GoT), Adria Arjona, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, Naomi Scott and Tessa Thompson.

I wonder what made Clarke attractive for the studio, other than the fact she has a starring role in arguably the most popular TV show around. I’ve been following the careers of the GoT crowd and there’s been a real push to make Clarke HAPPEN.

Her Broadway attempt (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) was roundly panned. Meanwhile, the Mother Of Dragons is a very tricky role that Clarke has never quite nailed, tending to fall back on blank stoicism and creepy smirks. Or in the case of the romantic weepie Me Before You, super super-expressiveness.

Perhaps it was her work in Terminator Genisys that dazzled the studio. I wouldn’t be surprised if her Solo character is some sort of cutesy bounty hunter/all-round bad ass with cool one-liners who shows the boys how it’s done.

Lord and Miller said Ehrenreich underwent an “audition pentathlon” to secure the role as Chewie’s best pal, and after the disastrous prequel-era casting, Star Wars execs are probably being very cautious.

Surely they couldn’t make a misstep with characters and hiring at this point?!

Let me know what you think of the way the Han Solo movie is shaping up. Are you a fan of Emilia’s acting? Which GoT star do you think will have the biggest career?

Dakota Fanning talks American Pastoral, The Bell Jar and sibling rivalry with The Edit

Dakota Fanning perhaps isn’t as mega-famous as contemporaries like Jennifer Lawrence, but for years I’ve seen people rave about her talents as a child and teen actress.

Dakota’s got a new movie out, American Pastoral, which is directed by Ewan McGregor and adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Philip Roth novel. I was planning to read the book, although I’m not sure whether to see the film first.

Anyway, Dakota really manages to carry off a stunning gothic look for Net-a-Porter’s online magazine The Edit:

In her interview, Dakota mentions her American Pastoral character Merry, who becomes radicalized during the turmoil surrounding the Vietnam War. Dakota’s taken on darker roles and more adult roles before, but could this be the breakthrough role that showcases her as a major “grown-up” star?

One thing that Dakota’s phenomenal career has done was pave the way for her younger sister Elle to launch a Hollywood career. Although there isn’t any evidence of a rift, people automatically suspect that there is rivalry between the two. In her interview she says:

“People unfortunately love to see conflict. And if it’s between family? Between sisters? Even better. The assumption that we’re really competitive, that people even ask that, is horrible. It’s implied our family [is] torn apart by jealousy.”

Dakota goes on to say that they don’t really look similar, which is true – Dakota’s look is much more mutable, and she’s the more ‘relatable’ of the two. (I would have thought Dakota’s closest competition would be Saorise Ronan?)

She also reminds me of another, slightly older former child actress – Kirsten Dunst. Dakota mentions Kirsten and the project they are working on together – an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Apparently, Dakota hired Kirsten (“We vibe so much”) to direct the new adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s only published novel, which Dakota herself is co-producing and starring in.

It’s a confident shoot and interview, and she certainly sounds a lot more together (or better advised) than Kirsten did at that age.

Apparently Dakota gets asked a lot in interviews why she never went off the rails like so many child stars before her. (Perhaps she was fortunate to have never had the negative experiences that some vulnerable showbiz kids suffer? Better support networks? A personality that responds better to the pressures of fame? Who knows.)

Got to admit, Dakota’s pretty impressive, and I’m looking forward to seeing American Pastoral. It’s getting some really bad reviews from the critics, although I’ve heard audiences find it a slightly more worthwhile experience.

Check out Dakota’s interview over at Net-a-Porter!

Jackie Portman

Jackie: Natalie Portman lines up another Oscar?

I thought, after Black Swan, that now Natalie Portman had her Academy Award, she’d switch to the business side of movies. Maybe she’d semi-retire and concentrate on her family.

In the six years since her Oscar triumph, Portman became a mother to a baby son; gave a lacklustre turn as Thor‘s love interest; moved to Paris with her French husband; had a go at producing, writing and directing.

When photos of her as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy were released, I rolled my eyes, expecting her only to live down to Katie Holmes’ panned portrayal in the eight-part miniseries The Kennedys.

However, at its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Jackie really got the critics buzzing. Chilean director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim are being praised for their bold approach, but it is Portman who really wowed the festival crowds.

So how come a clip on Youtube has got some people puzzled…This performance?

This is the performance that The Hollywood Reporter called a “tour-de-force”? That led Variety to proclaim “you can’t take your eyes off of her”?

It’s not fair to judge on one short scene, but this sounds like a painful turn from Portman, like she is working so hard to imitate Kennedy’s docile speaking voice it dominates her performance.

Critics (who have seen the whole thing) are enamoured with the movie and with Portman, but they also seem desperate to defend her mannered performance style.

“When Portman speaks in that demure New England dialect, she tends to come off too mannered. With every dropped “R,” it becomes obvious Portman is trying very, very hard to be someone she’s not,” said US Weekly, while praising her screen presence and ability to carry the movie.

“At first, Portman seems distracting in the role, the accent catching in her throat, her every line and mannerism coming across as studied. But that affected quality is all part of the strategy of Jackie,” wrote A.A Down at The AV Club.

“Portman’s highly affected performance is deliberately off-putting at first…Portman’s never been one to disappear into her roles, but here that’s a strength. The fact that she always feels like she’s acting lends the character a tragic dimension,” said a BBC Culture review out of TIFF.

Which reads as: “So although she is mannered and it’s obvious this is Portman ACTING, it works in the context of the film because….because we’re all so in love with her OK?…..My lord THAT FACE!”

Portman is probably tied at the moment with La La Land‘s Emma Stone as early front-runner for Best Actress, in what is shaping up to be a really competitive year.

I don’t have a particular dislike for Portman, but while the public worship her as a Harvard-educated Serious Actress, she has a career strewn with dodgy accents and critical ambivalence. It’s Leon – Closer – Black Swan – basically the only times she’s ever been good, and that’s to the credit of her directors.

This is the woman Time magazine said can “look utterly stranded on screen — bereft of an actor’s most rudimentary tools…”

Jackie has a December release lined up in the USA. No word on a UK release yet, but I’ll be sure to give the movie a fair go.

Miss Peregrine’s Eva Green talks social media, roles for women with The Edit

As soon as I started writing about Eva Green, my font immediately switched itself to ‘Century Gothic’. It would have been ‘Baroque’, but I just don’t have that option on my laptop, sadly.

The otherworldly Miss Eva covers the latest issue of The Edit, Net-A-Porter’s online magazine. She is promoting her new movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, directed by Tim Burton.

The movie is based on Ransom Riggs’ New York Times best seller about a boy who discovers an abandoned orphanage and becomes absorbed in the world of headmistress Miss Peregrine and her young charges.

Eva told The Edit how much she loved playing a character defined by her devotion to her students. “It was nice not to be a love interest,” she said. “To play the guardian of those children, who would risk her life to protect them – I loved the idea that her children are her life.”

In The Edit interview Eva also shared that she hates social media and selfies. The cynic in me thinks this is a popular statement for celebrities who wish to appeal to middlebrow gossip fans and cultivate a certain image.

But for what it’s worth, Burton has described his new star as “private” and “mysterious”.

The director is famed for working with his now ex-partner Helena Bonham Carter and with one Mr. Johnny Depp. Back in 2012, Eva made her Burton debut alongside both stars in Dark Shadows.

Eva certainly fits Burton’s strong, beautiful imagery and the cool/creepy vibe of his movies. But this time there is no HBC and no Johnny. Instead, it will be Eva leading a strong cast including Samuel L. Jackson and Judi Dench.

Although Dark Shadows paled in comparison to Burton’s earlier classics like Beetlejuice, I’m looking forward to Miss Peregrine. I haven’t read the book, but it sounds similar to the Lemony Snicket novels, which led to an underrated movie starring Jim Carrey. (A Netflix series is now in production with Neil Patrick Harris.)

For anyone mourning the end of Penny Dreadful, you can catch Eva in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, out September 30 in the UK and USA. Personally, I think I’m more excited for Eva’s red carpet looks!

Kirsten Dunst to direct The Bell Jar? Bring it on!

Speaking to Nylon mag back in 2004, Kirsten Dunst dared to criticize Gwyneth Paltrow’s portrayal of poet Sylvia Plath – and Goop has done nothing to her for this insolence.

Now Kirsten (above in the sublimely terrifying Melancholia) is going to make her feature film directorial debut with an adaptation of Plath’s only published novel, The Bell Jar. Kirsten has already directed two shorts and will also pick up a co-writer credit for this latest project.

For some, Plath’s book ranks as ‘unfilmable’ and is best left well enough alone. A 1979 version seems largely forgotten, probably for good reason. But Kirsten’s a Hollywood veteran, and one of the most talented and confident stars working today.

She broke out around the same time as Natalie Portman – Kirsten the vengeful bloodsucker trapped in a eternal child’s body in Interview with the Vampire, Natalie a juvenile assassin with a killer bob haircut in Léon.

Because they got their starts playing tough adult roles, they were never really pigeonholed as child stars. While Natalie remained scandal-free, famously attended Harvard and bagged an Oscar, Kirsten’s image got a bit tarnished. The gossip blogger Perez Hilton nicknamed her “Kiki Drunkst” – when actresses, more so than their male counterparts, have to be very protective of their reputations.

Kirsten has made movies even a serious fan wouldn’t touch, things that she has said she’d love to erase, and a truly critically celebrated performance escaped her until Lars von Trier’s Melancholia won her Best Actress at Cannes in 2011.

But now there’s also an Emmy nomination for her performance in the second season of the FX series Fargo, which really played to her strengths with its intelligent, sharp dialogue and black comedy. “It’s nice to promote something and not have to lie about it,” she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

I kind of admire her more for the messiness of her CV as opposed the careful way less-talented actresses build their careers so precisely.

I used to read one super-knowledgeable film buff who argued that the greatest actresses go through ups and downs with the public. The risks they take and their vulnerability mean audiences don’t always understand and appreciate them.

Kirsten has been candid about her struggles with depression, the pressures put on famous actors and about the lack of guidance she had in her career.

Although The Bell Jar seems like a massive challenge, hopefully Kirsten’s talent and experiences – both personal and professional – will translate to success.

Amber Heard, her acting career and Johnny Depp

If you’re interested in the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard divorce saga, you’re probably pro-Johnny. According to predominant public opinion, he’s a Legend and she’s trying to smear his name and squeeze him for cash.

To put it mildly, this so-called ‘gold-digger’ doesn’t seem to have much of a fan base prepared to come to her defence.

So who is Amber Heard? Before she filed for divorce, I’d have thought:

  • she’s a mean Margot Robbie
  • she stars in dodgy Nicolas Cage movies
  • she’s married to an actor that isn’t Nic Cage, but is similarly weird and old enough to be her dad.

At the moment, she has a part to play in the expanding Warner Bros/DC cinematic universe. I say ‘at the moment’, because internet commentators are hoping she’ll lose her role as Mera in Justice League and Aquaman. Something to do with accusing Johnny Depp of domestic violence.

Amber got to know Johnny on the 2009 set of the film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary. She had beaten higher profile starlets like Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley for the very slight and purely decorative role of Depp’s love interest. She turned 23 during filming, Depp was 45.

The Rum Diary ranks as one of the biggest flops of Saint Depp’s career. (Really, for a beloved icon, audiences aren’t interested when he isn’t doing silly walks and gimmicks.) I watched it a few days ago, and it’s actually an OK movie with some funny moments and enjoyable performances, especially from Depp and Richard Jenkins.

People have always questioned Amber’s motives for marrying the multimillionaire superstar, but Rum Diary-era Depp still looked like the handsome Johnny of old. (Officially, they didn’t start dating until 2012.)

Amber is very beautiful like Angelina Jolie or Marilyn Monroe, but cinema-goers haven’t been able to see any vulnerability or softness in her turns as yet another femme fatale, scream queen or hot chick.

She had a supporting role in The Danish Girl as a bohemian ballerina, where it was a genuine surprise to see her in genteel Oscar bait instead of genre fare. Amber seemed so grateful for the gig she got a bit overenthusiastic, but there was heart to the performance at least.

The clip below is of Amber as the young Charlize Theron in an upsetting scene from 2005’s North Country. She’s virtually unrecognizable, more girl-next-door than the sex sirens she portrays now.

 

I really wanted to get a sense of Amber as an actress, which hasn’t been easy with her body of work. I expect she must be used to losing roles to Jennifer Lawrence, Margot Robbie and Kristen Stewart.

At this point Amber is never going to become one of the biggest names in the industry. If marrying Depp was a planned career move it was a bad one, because having your tabloid persona overshadow your work is perilous for this generation of young actresses.

Perhaps after her divorce she’ll no longer be a big-ticket gossip draw, and will turn her attention to her career. Maybe indie cinema beckons.

I still maintain she’s a little hard on the ears, but it’ll be interesting to see where she goes next.

 

Come on Academy, time to change? Thoughts about this year’s awards

I watched the Oscars feeling very ill. I didn’t really watch through choice, but thanks to a miserable cold, I couldn’t sleep!

The ceremony was a bit of an ordeal, and I think I might have hallucinated that there was a bear in the audience?

DiCaprio winning because it was his turn.

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Leo finally won an Oscar! He deserved it for transforming himself and shivering a lot. (I’m shivering right now! Gimme an award!!) And even more importantly, it was his turn!

People were really rooting for Leo. Maybe in three years (around the time Leo’s yacht party finally ends) his triumph could be viewed as less convincing – a “career Oscar”.

There are a lot of people adamant that he should have really won for Gilbert Grape back in ’93 over veteran character actor Tommy Lee Jones (it was his turn) for The Fugitive. They’re forgetting that people at the time felt it should have gone to Ralph Fiennes for Schindler’s List.

Now 2015 was a weak year for the Best Actor race. Michael Fassbender was an early front runner, but Jobs flopped financially. And Leo’s campaign just gained momentum – he really did the PR and worked the events.

However, don’t forget Creed’s Michael B. Jordan and Beasts of No Nation’s Abraham Attah both being passed over – in the year when anger over all-white slates of nominees came to a head:

The so-called category fraud

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Category fraud is an established campaign tactic.  Alicia Vikander’s leading role got lumped in the supporting category because she didn’t stand a chance in the stacked Best Actress race.

The Academy loves its starring performances big and bold, meaning understated portrayals can be overlooked.

And Vikander’s win wasn’t really just for The Danish Girl. A lot of critics/awards bodies preferred her in Ex Machina and even The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Vikander’s become a critical darling over the last year, and the industry wanted to hand her recognition for her successful breakthrough.

The Oscars have always skewed towards younger actresses and older actors. Maybe they should have age categories, or an Oscar for best breakthrough, or rising star, like the BAFTAs.

The Oscars didn’t get Carol.

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Each year, The Hollywood Reporter speaks to different members from some of the Academy’s disciplines. On the condition of anonymity, they reveal their brutally honest take on the year’s nominees.

This year, one of the acting branch members had something to say about Mara’s role in Carol: “That part needed an Audrey Hepburn, an enchanting, alive, beautiful young woman, instead of this depressed person whom I never believed Cate Blanchett would have fallen in love with.”

It’s not about a couple of hotties getting it on! Therese is meant to be withdrawn and numb, before growing into a poised woman like Carol. Mara nailed it, and she was won best actress at Cannes. (She was in the supporting category at the Oscars.)

Vanity Fair did a great piece on why Carol is not the Academy’s type of film.

The public thinks awards voters are omnipotent

“Well, that actress has been nominated for two Oscars,” they’ll harrumph. “I think the Academy knows more about acting than you!”

Ah yes – the mysterious, all-knowing and infallible Academy. One copy of Oscar Machinations for Dummies coming up. Alternatively, this is a pretty good article about membership in the Academy.

Change has been promised, although how it will play out is uncertain. At the moment, white, male (76 per cent), and old (the average age is 63) seems to be the order of the day. I mean, you’d never have guessed by their voting choices right?

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There were a few best actor/actress picks this year (like most years) that likely only got in because those actors’ names (or their directors) easily become part of the awards conversation.

Matt Damon was merely amicable in The Martian, while The Danish Girl was not Eddie Redmayne’s best work. On this entire planet, with all its great storytellers, the voters couldn’t find some fresh faces to honour? I follow bloggers that have more imagination and passion when it comes to film.

It’s nearly over – Oscars 2016: my random musings ;)

Every actor wants to win an Oscar. And nobody wants to win more than Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio.

Either I missed the campaigns for Fassbender, Cranston and Damon, or they all just accepted that it’s Leo’s year. It’s finally “his turn”; that’s the narrative, and it’s unstoppable.

Best Actor

Leo’s campaign centred on how difficult the shoot for The Revenant was.

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I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Leo doesn’t look like he could survive much adversity. He’s been famous since he was a foetus, and his biggest struggle has probably been which model to pick from the catalogue. But it’s his year, so go Leo!

Perhaps his only rival tonight is Eddie Redmayne for The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper. Redmayne campaigned so stealthily you didn’t even notice, but his portrayal of a transgender woman was divisive. Personally, I’m on the side of those who say the performance was a sub-par one for the actor.

 

Best Actress

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Alicia Vikander carried The Danish Girl, and got better, more consistent reviews than Redmayne. I understand why she landed in supporting, but truthfully, it was lead.

Amazingly, it wasn’t even her best performance this year.

She was the highlight (along with Elizabeth Debicki) of The Man from U.N.CL.E, but I’d agree with the critics who say she should have got a supporting nod for Ex Machina. 

Vikander’s finest performance, though, was in director James Kent’s Testament of Youth, based on Vera Brittain’s memoir. If Tom Hooper had directed Testament, it wouldn’t have been as good, but it would have garnered Vikander a nomination.

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I’d have rounded out Best Actress with a joint nomination for the magnificent Blanchett/Rooney Mara for Carol, Brie Larson for Room, Emily Blunt for Sicarioand Saorise Ronan for Brooklyn.

Larson will win; it’s probably one of the dead certs of the night. She’s new to the awards circuit, but she’s a total pro. I get the feeling some more established actresses may find her unnerving…

…and last but most most importantly, Star Wars! 

Great to see that The Force Awakens got five nominations, although all in the technical categories like editing and visual effects. It deserves the recognition; TFA was well-made and fun. A huge part of that was how invisible the CG was, making it feel like the Star Wars of old.

Top movie performances of 2015!

It was a triumphant year for movies. Specifically, it was a benchmark for female-driven stories. Although I confess I’m still catching up, this is my tribute to the best performance(s) of 2015!

Alicia Vikander

How can you not admire Vikander?

She’s phenomenally talented. She’s acted in English, Danish and her native Swedish and she was in some of the best and most anticipated films of 2015.

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There was creepy sci-fi gem Ex Machina, where she played Oscar Isaac’s android invention Ava, her robotic brain whirring as she plotted her escape from her creator’s clutches.

She was heartbreaking in a moving adaptation of Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s memoir of the war that wasn’t over by Christmas. Vikander is the unashamedly emotional lead in a story about a generation of doomed young men and the impact WWI had on women.

Then there’s Oscar bait The Danish Girl, where she plays the supportive wife of Eddie Redmayne’s Lili, one of the first transgender patients in the early 20th Century. Advance buzz and a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress suggested it was no mere beautiful suffering spouse gig and that she matched Redmayne.

  • It’s a safe bet that her performance will make her an Oscar-nominee, although whether it is for supporting or lead remains uncertain. I don’t mind so-called category fraud. Supporting seems like a wasteland, with unexceptional performances gaining recognition as a courtesy because they’re in an Oscar contender, when they’d get ignored in anything else. If Vikander is at a disadvantage in the super competitive Best Actress race, put her in supporting.

Rooney Mara

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Although Cate Blanchett is great in everything and Carol is no exception, I found Mara’s portrayal of numb young shop assistant Therese resonated with me more.

She falls in love with Blanchett’s assured and wealthy eponymous character and they begin a relationship. Considering this is set in 1950s America, it’s complicated.

Despite a very restrained performance, Mara expertly communicates Therese’s messy raw emotions, her shyness and uncertainty.

“I barely even know what to order for lunch,” she nervously admits on her first date with Carol.

(Spoiler alert) Her love for Carol helps her discover who she is, her place in the world and a more fulfilling life. Mara deserves every award coming her way.

Adam Driver

My first reaction to news of Driver’s casting in Star Wars: The Force Awakens wasn’t negative. I only knew him from the Lena Dunham-helmed Girls, so let’s just say he wasn’t on my radar.

So there’s something I have to thank J.J Abrams for – Driver is my new favourite actor. To stand out in a cast that good is a feat. Hope to see him square off (round off?) with BB8, and see which one of the two new Star Wars divas comes out on top.

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I’m watching everything Driver has done, although I haven’t managed to face Girls yet. (Dunham’s memoir is going cheap on Amazon Kindle though. Might make some good post-holiday reading!)

Daisy Ridley

The new Star Wars heroine was a revelation.

I’m probably not the only one who looked at Ridley’s resume and awaited a Natalie Portman clone who would give a wooden, half-assed performance like the one Portman gave in…Attack of the Clones.

There was no way Abrams was having a repeat of that. Ridley was superb casting and made the most of the opportunity.

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And…

There are so many performances I haven’t been able to see yet! I’m dying to see Emily Blunt in Sicario, Brie Larson in Room and Saorise Ronan and Domnhall Gleeson in Brooklyn.

Who impressed you with their performances in 2015? Do get in touch in the comments below!