JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Robin Wright, Bob Hoskins, Ryan Ochoa

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2009 American motion-capture festive film is written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, is based on the classic story by Charles Dickens and featuring motion-capture and vocal performances by Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn and Cary Elwes.

1843. Christmas Eve. London, England. Ebenezer Scrooge (Carrey), a bitter, miserable and rude moneylender manages to suck the spirit out of everyone he works and meets, including put-down colleague Bob Cratchit (Oldman) and nephew Fred (Firth). Reluctantly shutting his shop for Christmas Day, he returns to his home, alone, to spend another festive season away from others.

But as night draws in, the ghost of former business partner Jacob Marley (Oldman), visits him and warns him that if he doesn’t change his ways he will suffer the same fate as Jacob in the afterlife; heavy chains weighing down his soul forged by his greedy ways. Warning him of 3 spirits that will visit him before the night is out, Jacob vanishes.

As the clock strikes midnight, so begins a night like no other for Scrooge as he is sure enough visited by the spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past (Carrey), the Ghost of Christmas Present (Carrey) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Carrey), all who will show Scrooge the mistakes he has made, the legacy he has lived and the pain he has caused in an attempt to salvage him and become a changed man before it is too late…

One of the greatest Christmas stories ever written, and told in many adaptations over TV, radio and film, always manages to convey the real spirit of what Christmas is all about in a heart-warming and entertaining, simple way. This adaptation, via the imagination of Robert Zemeckis, following his 2009 motion-capture animation The Polar Express, combines that same dizzying 3D spectacle with nightmarish action, well-presented characters and a well-meaning narrative.

Jim Carrey is on fine form in motion-capture and vocal mode as Ebenezer Scrooge; wiry, mean and cantankerous to the best, almost looking like a man corrupted by the bitterness he embodies with claw-like hands, a bent frame and leather face. The animation is superb, with lots of detail to every hair, inch of skin and location we see. Mixed with a great vocal performance, this Scrooge I feel is one of the best and probably one of the closest interpretations to the Dickens original; coming over at times like an old beast rather than an old man.

With good support from a fairly British cast including Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth, the simple story isn’t lost amidst the made-for-3D action that we are treated to; flying through a beautiful wintery Victorian London, or around a snow-capped countryside or even down the dark and dangerous streets at night-time. This manages to capture the time in history perfectly and looks just the part, with the animation helping our characters bend the laws of physics for a fantastical tale that never puts the actors in danger as they fly, fall and fight.

For a story that nearly everybody knows so well, the way it is presented is key to staying fresh and current, and this is clearly the first 3D motion-capture adaptation giving us lots of nice touches that brings the story to life (literally) with great detail to all the settings we see; flickering candle lights, creaky wooden houses, furious snow falls.

While the film may not be generally suitable for younger viewers thanks to, once again, the love of nightmarish visions Zemeckis injects into these tales that seem innocent enough (we have laughing skeletons, terrifying ghosts who scream at the camera, feral children and demonic horses thundering towards the screen), maybe younger viewers should stick with the fluffy fun of The Muppets Christmas Carol.

But, on the whole, this is a nice 90 mins runtime and doesn’t change the foundations of the story at all. With a wonderfully rousing and traditional soundtrack that channels that festive spirit and a beautiful rendition of ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ by Andrea Bocelli, this offers a very authentic adaptation of a classic with fresh fantasy injected to take not just Scrooge on an amusing and dizzying journey, but audiences too.

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REVIEW: Hunter Killer

Year: 2018
Directed by: Donovan Marsh
Starring: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Michael Nyqvist, Toby Stephens

Written by Chris Gelderd

This 2018 American action thriller, based on the 2012 novel ‘Firing Point’ by Don Keith and George Wallace, is directed by Donovan Marsh and stars Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Michael Nyqvist, Common and Toby Stephens.

As friction boils between American and Russian military forces, Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) is captured by his Defence Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy). A military coup is staged.

Learning of the coup, US Admiral Donnegan (Oldman) tasks a team of Navy SEALS led by Lt Bill Beaman (Stephens) to infiltrate Russian soil and rescue the President before they instigate World War III and attack America to show their military might.

Commander Joe Glass (Butler) commands ‘Hunter Killer’ class submarine USS Omaha and is to rendezvous with Beaman and extract the President. But Glass will have far greater dangers to contend with including Russian submarine commander Sergei Andropov (Nyqvist) who claims to be an ally, but can he be trusted…?

Pop quiz. Name five good submarine movies in 10 seconds. Go.

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Time’s up. What have we got? We have the stalwarts ‘The Hunt For Red October’, ‘Das Boot’ and ‘Crimson Tide’, right? Then possibly ‘U-571’ at a pinch, even though I said “good” movies. ‘K-19: The Widowmaker?’ Remember that?

Anything else? ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ or ‘X-Men: First Class’? Now you’re just clutching at straws. ‘Down Periscope’? I’ll accept that even though it’s total nonsense.

In a nutshell, it’s hard to do. The submarine genre is as dead as the western in mainstream cinema as it proves to be one of the most technically challenging and narrative dependant genres out there. You have the confines of a submarine no wider in places than a grown adult, and action based in a hulking great steel and iron vessel under water. It’s dark, it’s claustrophobic, it’s gritty, and to be fair it’s the best place to develop a really immersive, character-driven story. Yet nowadays, military thrillers are set above water for greater allowances for explosions, sweeping geographical action and mostly using stories based on the war on terror or armed force operations

But when we have Gerard Butler heading a new sub movie, you will have flashbacks of the loud, 2-D popcorn fests of ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, ‘300’ and even ‘Geostorm’. But wait, as much as we secretly all love the no-brainer action world of Butler, here he plays a pretty restrained and down to earth part. And he doesn’t even fire a gun. And still, the genre lets him down sadly.

As our captain, Butler has only one job to do – care and see over his submarine and his crew to get in, get the job done, and get out. He’ll do whatever it takes with his decorated military past as experience in navigating minefields, evading enemy subs or facing down those who have no faith in him. While the thought of what Butler could do in a submarine movie with a sub-machine gun, some grenades and outrageous stunts are exciting, director Donovan Marsh reins him in and allows him to do some good acting for a change based on character relations and a few great tense set-pieces.

The frantic calls around the ship as crew battle to prepare for diving out of range of torpedoes, or preparing to be hit, or making no noise at all to avoid sonic mines….it’s simple things, but all very humane things which capture you from the start. You can’t get distracted or bored, because the pressure and risk are so high at all times, your palms may even get a little sweaty and your breath will be baited before the all clear.

This is where the genre shines (it’s just a shame there’s not enough of it).

Cut between the submarine segments, we have top-billed Gary Oldman in about 10 minutes of edited screen time who heads up the political tension between America and Russia, barking orders about what to do and when to do it along with Common and Caroline Goodall as our US President. We also then have the Tom Clancy-esque Navy SEALS out in Russia led by a bearded, rugged Toby Stephens who talk tough, shoot often and deliver the oo-rah! might of America.

While this blend of genres may work on their own, together it proves a sloppy mix of story-telling, jumping from one to another just as you’re getting into something. While the cast is strong around Butler, Oldman, and Stephens in their segments, everything else just comes out a little generic and stitched together. I’d much prefer a stronger focus on Butler and the Hunter Killer itself, especially when the late great Michael Nyqvist arrives on the scene as a Russian sub captain holding a lot of aces up his sleeves in a “is he or isn’t’ he” a good guy. His screen time with Butler and the US crew only helps enhance the action they share.

When the finale arrives after the bullets fly and explosions ring out, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of ‘X-Men: First Class’ for some reason. I’ll leave that to you to discover, but it certainly goes on 20-minutes longer than it needs to, and sadly I was disengaged from the whole thing by then.

Submarine wise, technically, it’s brilliant. Wonderfully shot, edited and choreographed with satisfying SFX. It’s this I wanted to see more of without the need for bullets and bombs – just raw emotion mixed with doing your duty in the hardest environment possible where it feels the walls are closing in but the fate of the world and your colleagues rests on your decision.

Butler and the Hunter Killer didn’t disappoint and earn their star each. The rest of the film, however, sinks.

CHRIS’ VERDICT:

2

Gerard Butler Is Tasked With Rescuing The Russian President In New UK Trailer For ‘Hunter Killer’

“Deep under the Arctic Ocean, American submarine Captain Joe Glass is on the hunt for a U.S. sub in distress when he discovers a secret Russian coup is in the offing, threatening to dismantle the world order. With crew and country on the line, Captain Glass must now assemble an elite group of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian president and sneak through enemy waters to stop WWIII.”

Directed by: Donovan Marsh

Cast: Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens

Release Date: October 19th, 2018

Tau

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Year: 2018
Directed by: Federico D’Alessandro
Starring: Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, Gary Oldman

WRITTEN BY HUNTER WILLIAMS

A familiar A.I. thinkpiece told with optimistic conviction, Federico D’Alessandro’s ‘Tau‘ depicts the complicated relationship between technology and humanity. Julia (Maika Monroe) has just returned to her home, having spent the past few hours stealing in seedy nightclubs; her life is lonely and unpredictable. It’s only fitting, then, that a gritty Sci-Fi film such as this one moves in a grim direction. She is abducted from her home and wakes up restrained and gagged in a dark prison inside of a home with two other people, each with an implant in the back of their necks. The escape plan is urgent and little on details, but it’s not until the confrontation between Julia and her kidnapper, Alex (Ed Skrein), that tension boils on who holds the most power with the home’s dangerous technology.

This isn’t a surprising debut for D’Alessandro, whose animatics for countless blockbusters such as ‘Doctor Strange‘, ‘Ant-Man‘, ‘I Am Legend ‘and others demonstrate his familiarity with technology and its role within the medium. ‘Tau‘ employs the same detail and confidence in the visual effects, disguising what’s presumably a smaller budget film into a Sci-Fi epic akin to ‘Ex Machina’ or ‘Moon‘. The clunky smart computer, Tau (voiced by Gary Oldman), is reminiscent of ‘2001’s HAL 9000, borrowing the hypnotic and evil red dot and pairing it with the threatening robotic voice of control. It works mostly because it contrasts the pre-established world for Julia in which everything is unpredictable, therefore a robot (whose robotic nature is designed for a direct purpose) is the perfect dynamic for a story about how two different kinds of species can coexist.

At the same time, though, D’Alessandro fails to develop the new aspects of the technological debate, instead focusing on an overly familiar tale of threatened survival in the face of A.I.: assured but uninspired. Julia’s traumatic past is only flashed between “extractions,” as the white egomaniac kidnapper Alex, likened to that of Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, puts it. It’s a refreshing link between childhood trauma and the abusive power humans hold over technology. But D’Alessandro ignores its existence in preference of on-the-nose commentary on technological consciousness, as though 2017-18 hasn’t been a year of extensive Sci-Fi exploration in the same realm. It’s an entertaining Sci-Fi blitz that’s just missing one spark of new inspiration.

HUNTER’S RATING:

3

 

Darkest Hour

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

Winston Churchill is as famous a British Prime Minister as you can get. Taking control of the country in a time of grave need and facing imminent destruction, he had the unenviable task of inspiring his country into believing the war was not lost. What followed is a story of bravery and heroism on the part of the entire UK, who rallied behind Churchill and his unrivalled skill with language. As a character, Churchill is as alluring as any other. The task, this time, falls to Gary Oldman. To say Oldman gives a great performance in ‘Darkest Hour’ is the understatement of the century.

After being reluctantly placed in charge of the UK, succeeding the increasingly ineffectual Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill was given a war to win, in as literal a sense as you can get. As a man without the support of his party, he is left with only his desire and his commitment to serving his country at all costs. Spanning Churchill’s tumultuous first 9 days in office (yes, 9 days), ‘Darkest Hour’ shows even a man brimming with confidence can be brought to his knees.

Before addressing the obvious in greater detail, ‘Darkest Hour’ is a great film. I’m surprised I was as invested as I was. To be political for just a minute, I am phenomenally disenfranchised with the idea of Great British Values and how great this country is considering the UK is on the verge of irreversible self-destruction. And yet, ‘Darkest Hour’ is a film built on that; built on rallying the country to believe in itself, and I couldn’t help but be swept up in the commotion.

Joe Wright is a visual director with hits and very big misses (‘Atonement’ and ‘Pan’, respectively). I’m happy to report he has another hit with ‘Darkest Hour’. Using flashy camera movements, whether slow zooms or tracking shots or crane shots around the Houses of Parliament, ‘Darkest Hour’ is very enjoyable to watch. One particular shot made me audibly say ‘wow’ in the cinema, where the camera tracks along a bombing run and the destroyed ground before seamlessly transitioning to a dead soldier’s face covered in dirt. It’s the kind of shot that leaves an impression and won’t leave my mind for a while. There are some more creative shots that feel somewhat unnecessary (more than a few scenes of Churchill alone in a room surrounded by a frame of total darkness to convey his isolation within his party were slightly too blunt), but the effect of the film as a whole isn’t lost. Churchill faced war within his party as much as he did with Adolf Hitler, something Wright managed to very successfully portray.

Now, here comes the point that everyone knows is coming, but it needs to be discussed – Gary Oldman is a complete revelation. Someone could make the wild claim that Joe Wright and company literally reanimated Winston Churchill’s corpse and I’d genuinely think about it for a second. It’s a complete transformation visually, physically, and aurally. Admittedly, Churchill is a meaty character to take on and it demands someone going all-in on the performance to deliver it truthfully, and Oldman does that and then some.

Churchill’s famous speeches are treated like action set-pieces no matter where they’re delivered. Two speeches delivered in the Houses of Parliament, one delivered to a small group of politicians, one delivered to his war cabinet, and one on the radio that is bathed in the red glow of betrayal and fear. Every speech is accompanied by a score that only accentuates every speech’s intentions. Beyond his speeches, Oldman delivers every line with the same energy and vigour as a speech, a personal favourite of which is his cry “you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!”

Gary Oldman’s career is full of tremendous highs, and for my money, his Churchill may be the highest of the lot. It’s the performance of a lifetime from a true great, and he is deserving of every award he has already received and is sure to receive over the coming weeks.

‘Darkest Hour’ is a brilliant piece of rousing British cinema. For best results, watch it as a double bill with 2017’s ‘Dunkirk.’ ‘Darkest Hour’ works on so many levels from cinematography to screenplay to its performances (Kristin Scott Thomas is terrific as Churchill’s wife, Clementine), but a film like this lives and dies by its lead. Gary Oldman carries the film on his shoulders and marches it victoriously to its conclusion.

Rhys’ Rating: 8.5/10

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Churchill Rallies A Nation In New ‘Darkest Hour’ Trailer

“A thrilling and inspiring true story begins at the precipice of World War II as, within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman) must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.”

Direct By: Joe Wright
Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas
Release Date: 12th January 2018

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Year: 2017
Director: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung, Salma Hayek

Written by Tom Sheffield

From the first trailer, I knew ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ had potential to be one of the funniest films to be released this year, and the lack of comedic competition to hit our cinema screens in 2017 has certainly improved its chances. I’m happy to say that I did not leave the cinema disappointed!  

As a once-rated ‘Triple A Rated’ bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is tasked to protect Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a hit-man he shares a long history with, which mostly involves Kincaid trying to kill Bryce on multiple occasions. Bryce has to ensure his nemesis makes it to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands so he can testify against Eastern European dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Dukhovich has no plans to be convicted and sets his best men to hunt down and kill the pair before they reach the court.

Pairing up Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds was a stroke of genius. Reynold’s charm and cockiness pitted against Jackson’s no nonsense, ‘does what he wants’ attitude made for some hilarious exchanges of dialogue and scenes. Its nothing new from the pair of them, but when they’re together they easily bring the laughs. It’s not long into the film before the pair meet, but once they do there are only a few occasions where they aren’t sharing the screen. There’s car chases, rooftop jumps, shoot outs, and a some life lessons learned along the way, which includes one thought-provoking scene about the morality of the pairs jobs and why they both see themselves as the good guy and the other the bad guy.

The supporting cast all bring something a little different to the film. Elodie Yung plays Interpol agent, and Bryce’s ex, Amelia Roussel. Whilst I feel she was criminally underused in this film, she’s a key part of the story and she played it really well. A shout out definitely has to go to Gary Oldman, he played his villainous role superbly and was as scary as he was ruthless. Salma Hayek, again criminally underused, was hilarious in her role as Kincaid’s imprisoned wife, who has even more attitude than he does. The scenes that Hayek and Jackson shared were possibly some of my favourite of the film and I’m definitely all for a spin-off to watch the married couple wreak some havoc together. It would definitely go down in history as the film that uses the word ‘motherfucker’ the most. 

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is definitely worth checking out at the cinema. There’s plenty of action, and the bonus of it is that it’s actually shot really well. You’re guaranteed a laugh from Reynolds and Jackson, that’s just a given, but performances all round are absolutely brilliant. The story is fairly predictable, but then again it didn’t ever really try to keep anything secret. Hughes knows that the majority of the audience is there to see Reynolds and Jackson go at each other, and everything else that happens in the process is just a bonus.

Tom’s rating: 6.5 out of 10

Put On Your Seat Belts Before Watching The First Trailer For The Hitman’s Bodyguard

“The world’s top protection agent (Ryan Reynolds) is called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world’s most notorious hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson). The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their raucous and hilarious adventure from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades and a merciless Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman) who is out for blood. Salma Hayek joins the mayhem as Jackson’s equally notorious wife.”

As first impressions go, this trailer may be one of my favourites this year so far. Putting Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds together in a film is a stroke of genius and the pair seemingly play these characters to their strengths. Jackson angrily yelling “motherfucker” every chance he can, and Reynolds playing the sarcastic asshole just trying to do the right thing.  It may be characteristics we’ve seen them both portray in many films before, but putting them both together in one film looks like a recipe for utter hilarity. 

Joining Reynolds and Jackson are Gary Oldman, who is playing an “Eastern European dictator who is out for blood” and Salma Hayek, who will be Jackson’s wife who is apparently as “equally notorious” as her husband. This all sounds like a side splittingly funny film and I’m very excited to see Oldman’s villain, who I’m expecting to be very outlandish and funny if the protagonists are anything to go by.

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ is hitting UK cinemas 18th August 2017

Written by Tom Sheffield

Watch This Space: April 20 – 26

Welcome to our newest feature – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

The standout release this week in the UK is of course, ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’, the sequel to the hugely successful ‘Avengers Assemble’. Hoards of superhero fans will be flocking to the cinema on Thursday 23rd, so be prepared, maybe wait a couple of days.

From last week, a risky choice but one which may well pay off if it’s your kind of thing, is Russian thriller ‘Child 44’. Starring Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman, the film has received mixed reviews, but this star-studded adaptation of a modern literary classic is surely worth a trip to the cinema.

Finally, released on Friday 24th is ‘The Good Lie’, starring Reese Witherspoon. This looks set to be another emotional, thought-provoking film in the vein of recent dramatic releases. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly an alternative choice to the more action-packed, testosterone-fueled options for the week.

ON TELEVISION

Tuesday 01:15 GMT: If you fancy a late night classic (or early morning depending on how you look at it), head over to Film4 for the showing of ‘No Country For Old Men’ starring Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones. You won’t regret it. 

Wednesday 19:40 GMT: Settle down with the family and stick BBC Three on, for the highly enjoyable, animated flick ‘Chicken Run’. Director Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit) produces another perfect, plasticine adventure to please all.

Thursday 22:30 GMT: Rev up your moped, because ITV4 are delivering a cult classic with the fantastic ‘Quadrophenia’. Starring Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash and Sting, this is an integral part of British cultural and cinematic history that you have to see.

Saturday 00:35 GMT: Remember that catchy ‘Gold Digger’ track from Kanye West? Why not find out where it all started, with the award-winning biopic of Ray Charles. Catch ‘Ray’ on ITV3 in the early hours of Saturday morning. 

Saturday 23:05 GMT: Planning to stay in on Saturday night may not be as bad a decision as you first thought. On Channel 4, watch the hilarious ‘Role Models’, starring Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin to you and me). 

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Shutter Island: With Mark Ruffalo turning angry and green again as The Hulk this week for ‘Age Of Ultron’, why not enjoy him in a slightly more human role alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. ‘Shutter Island’ is creepy, clever and very confusing but perfect because of it.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Last week, JumpCut UK gave you guys the chance to win a copy of ‘Interstellar’, in what was our most successful giveaway to date. Admittedly, this was our first giveaway, but it was a huge success all the same. To celebrate this, we thought you should check out the original space exploration classic.

Blade Runner: The best part of the ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ trailer from last week, was undoubtedly the appearance from Han Solo, AKA Harrison Ford. The legendary actor is also set to reprise his role in the upcoming reboot of ‘Blade Runner’, so make yourself acquainted with the original.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal