Competition: Win A UV Digital Code For ‘Lady Bird’

Thanks to Sasha, we have one UV Digital code to give away for Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and it couldn’t be easier to enter!

“The real success here is in the writing – it makes the whole thing feel so real. It is very funny – early scenes of Lady Bird ‘running for office’ in her school and coming into conflict with her teachers are hilarious. The naturalistic performances are also a key part of what makes this film so good.”

You can read our full verdict for Lady Bird, courtesy of Fiona, right here!

In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut, excavating both the humor and pathos in the turbulent bond between a mother and her teenage daughter. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.

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Isle of Dogs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Liev Schreiber, Koyu Rankin.

WRITTEN BY RHYS JONES

Wes Anderson’s 9th directorial venture, and his 2nd stop-motion feature, ticks all the boxes of what you’ve come to expect from the extremely unique Texan. You have your perfectly symmetrical shots, you have your whip pans, you have your lateral tracking shots, you have your borderline pretentious dialogue, and you have a cast to end all casts. The cast list above isn’t even half of the voices you hear in ‘Isle of Dogs’, and every character, in true Anderson style, leaves an impression in one way or another.

‘Isle of Dogs’ is set in a dystopian future Japan in which canine flu has infected every dog in the city and threaten to cross the species barrier and infect humans. As such, the dictatorial Mayor Kobayashi has banished every dog to Trash Island, including his ward Atari’s (Rankin) dog, Spots (Schreiber), and Atari takes it upon himself to fly to Trash Island to find and rescue Spots. On the island, he meets a ragtag group of dogs, lead by Bryan Cranston’s Chief, who offer to help Atari find Spots.

Immediately, the film’s stop-motion animation impresses you. In a superb opening credits sequence to the sound of Taiko drumming, as scored by recent Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, you see 3 drummers and the camera whip panning around them, and you realise that every single drum beat was stop-motion. Every time the drumsticks hit the drum, you know a human placed them there. The film is filled to the brim of astonishing animation that borders on arrogance, but stays just the right side of it to be impressive. There is a 2-minute sequence of sushi being sliced and diced, just because they can. Honestly, Isle of Dogs is an amazing feat of animation.

Adding to the stellar animation, the voice cast doesn’t disappoint. Cranston’s voice is impressive in any environment, but his gravitas adds to Chief’s highly defensive nature and proves to be a brilliant leading dog. In his group, Edward Norton’s Rex is the democratic voice of reason, Bill Murray’s Boss is the childlike, enthusiastic dog who at one point fully breaks the fourth wall in a moment of amazement, Jeff Goldblum’s Duke is the dog who, for the ‘Game of Thrones’ fans, is this film’s version of Varys as no rumour or bit of news escapes him, and finally Bob Balaban’s King follows orders as he is told, and is a fervent supporter of Rex, but sadly Balaban is relegated to a bit-part player as he simply doesn’t stand out against the vocal stylings of Cranston, Norton, Murray, and Goldblum.

This main group is the heart of the film, each of them has honestly tragic backstories of where they came from back in Japan, several of them missing the home comforts of dog soap and eating anything other than leftover trash dumped on the island. Anderson and company do a fantastic job on the island of merely showing you how things work without explicitly telling you what you need to know. There is a hierarchy in place – there are areas of the island dedicated to certain clans of dogs, there are rumours of cannibalism on the island, and so on. ‘Isle of Dogs’ does a brilliant job of fleshing out the canine world having been relegated to living in squalor.

It is a shame, though, that the other parts of the film, following Greta Gerwig’s Tracy Walker, a foreign exchange student fighting to bring the dogs back from Trash Island as she attempts to convince the city of a possible cure, aren’t so endearing or interesting. The impressive animation remains, but there is an over-reliance on narration and telling us exactly what’s happening. At the beginning of the film, we are told that the dogs’ barks have been translated into English and the Japanese characters all speak in their native language, crucially without subtitles, and the only translation into English comes through an in-film translator, voiced by Frances McDormand. I noticed this the most in the first third of the film; there is so much information to be given to us before we can get to the main story that it becomes overwhelming. McDormand delivers her tremendously long monologues reliably brilliantly as she translates speeches, but this becomes tiresome as the film progresses. There are sequences of the film where there isn’t any translation and we have to interpret what’s being said through visuals and body language. These scenes are superb as they manage to convey all the key information we need as an audience without explicitly telling us, and it forces us to engage with the film, it’s just a shame these weren’t more common.

‘Isle of Dogs’, by and large, is very good. It’s constantly impressive with its animation and its impeccable set design, and there are sections of the film that rank up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, mainly when the dogs are on screen. As the film progresses, the film focuses more on Chief and Atari’s building relationship and unfortunately forgets about Rex, King, Duke, and Boss which does remove my favourite part of the film which was the relationship and banter among the dogs.

‘Isle of Dogs’ stumbles occasionally when the dogs aren’t on screen, but this doesn’t
diminish the film as an impressive achievement in animation. Most importantly, ‘Isle of ‘Dogs is better than ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’  in my opinion. Yes, I went there.

RHYS’ RATING: 7.8/10

33rd Independent Spirit Awards Winners Revealed

‘Get Out’ won big at last night’s Spirit Awards, taking home ‘Best Feature’ and ‘Best Director’, with many hoping to the film repeats this success at tonight’s Oscars! Frances McDormand won ‘Best Female Lead’ for her performance in ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, and Sam Rockwell took home the award for ‘Best Supporting Male’.

Timothée Chalamet beat Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Pattinson, James Franco, and Harris Dickinson to take home the award for ‘Best Male Lead’ for his role in ‘Call Me By Your Name’. The film also took home the prize for ‘Best Cinematography’ by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. If there was one, Chalamet would also have won the award for ‘Most Tweeted About’ during the ceremony, in which he FaceTimed a shirtless Armie Hammer, apologised to the wet floor for almost slipping, and dramatically presented Sam Rockwell his award.

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani received a standing ovation from the entire audience as they were announced the winners of ‘Best First Screenplay’ for ‘The Big Sick’ and Greta Gerwig was awarded the ‘Best Screenplay’ award for ‘Lady Bird’ . You can see a full list of the nights winners below!

We have a matter of hours to wait now for the biggest film award show of the year, The Oscars!

BEST FEATURE: Get Out

BEST DIRECTOR: Jordan Peele (Get Out)

BEST FEMALE LEAD: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

BEST MALE LEAD: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

BEST SUPPORTING MALE: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

BEST EDITING: Tatiana S. Riegel (I, Tonya)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Faces/Places

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Call Me by Your Name)

BEST FIRST FEATURE: Ingrid Goes West

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY: Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD: Life and Nothing More

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD: Mudbound

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM: A Fantastic Woman

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD: Summer Shelton

KIEHL’S SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD: Justin Chon

JEEP TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD: Jonathan Olshefski

BONNIE AWARD: Chloé Zhao

SEATTLE STORY AWARD: Matty Brown

‘Gotham Awards 2017’ Winners List

The 2017 Gotham Independent Film Awards took place last night, with ‘Call Me By Your Name’ walking away with the biggest award of the night for ‘Best Feature’ and Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out‘ walked away with 3 awards, including the ‘Audience Award’ and ‘Breakthrough Director’.

Going into the awards, ‘Get Out’ had the highest amount of nominations with a total of 4, followed by 3 nominations for Greta Gerwigs acclaimed directorial debut, ‘Lady Bird‘. ‘I, Tonya’, ‘The Florida Project’, and ‘Good Times’ also had multiple nominations, including ‘Best Feature’ with ‘Get Out’, and the winner, ‘Call Me By Your Name’.

The full list of winners: 

Audience Award: Get Out
Best Actor: James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Best Actress: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Best Documentary: Strong Island
Best Feature: Call Me By Your Name
Best Screenplay: Get Out
Breakthrough Actor: Timothée Chalamet – Call Me By Your Name
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award: Jordan Peele – Get Out
Breakthrough Series – Long Form: Atlanta
Breakthrough Series – Short Form: The Strange Eyes of Dr. Myes

FotoJet (3)

Lady Bird

Year: 2017 (UK: 2018)
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush, Timothée Chalamet, Lucas Hedges

Written by Fiona Underhill

Greta Gerwig is primarily known for her ‘auteur-muse’ relationship with director Noah Baumbach, which has produced such gems as ‘Frances Ha’, ‘Mistress America’ and ‘Greenberg’. I have also enjoyed watching her in the role of Natalie Portman’s best friend in the diverse ‘No Strings Attached’ and ‘Jackie’. Although she has directed before, this is Gerwig’s ‘mainstream’ directorial debut and she has very much stepped out from under Baumbach’s shadow.

There are a few surprising things about ‘Lady Bird’. Firstly, it is not set in New York, as one might expect from Gerwig, but in Sacramento. While it is the state capital of California, Sacramento is nowhere near as well known as Los Angeles or San Francisco and is described as the ‘mid-west of California’ in the film. It definitely has a small-town feel here and one that needs to be escaped, especially as Lady Bird literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks. I was also surprised to discover that it is set in 2002-2003, making the character of Lady Bird five years younger than me. Despite this age gap, many of the music and fashion references did feel painfully real to me and it doused the whole thing in the heavy pall of nostalgia; not all of it positive.

Soairse Ronan plays Christine McPherson, who insists on being called ‘Lady Bird’. She is a Catholic high school senior, dealing with typical problems such as friendships, boyfriends and what she’s going to do with the rest of her life. Her parents are going through financial problems, leading to her mother (in an amazing performance from Laurie Metcalf) working double shifts in a psychiatric hospital. Lady Bird and her best friend Julie (the very appealing Beanie Feldstein) decide to audition for the school musical, where Lady Bird immediately takes a shine to Danny (Lucas Hedges). Further down the line, Lady Bird gets involved with new friend ‘rich bitch’ Jenna and new boy, the rebellious Kyle (Timothee Chalamet) which works out about as well as could be expected.

The real success here is in the writing – it makes the whole thing feel so real. It is very funny – early scenes of Lady Bird ‘running for office’ in her school and coming into conflict with her teachers are hilarious. The naturalistic performances are also a key part of what makes this film so good. The 23 year old Ronan plays a 17/18 year old incredibly convincingly in a vanity-free performance, including showing her ‘adolescent’ skin and I would love to see her get a Best Actress Oscar nomination. I have heard everyone who has seen ‘Call Me By Your Name’ (still not out in the US) going crazy about Timothee Chalamet, but hadn’t really seen the appeal, based on photographs alone. Having now seen ‘Miss Stevens’ (recommended) and ‘Lady Bird’, I am beginning to see it more. He does have a magnetic screen presence and is very charismatic, even when playing an enormous douche, as he is here.

Smaller roles are taken by Lois Smith as one of the nuns at Lady Bird’s school and Stephen Henderson as the priest who runs the musical. Both put in funny and emotional turns. Another highlight is Lady Bird’s brother Miguel (a Berkeley graduate who now has a job bagging groceries) and his girlfriend Shelly who has moved in with the family. Lucas Hedges (both funny and devastating in last year’s ‘Manchester By The Sea’) gives another nuanced performance – demonstrating that he is definitely one to watch.

The other acting highlight is without doubt, Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson. This film is really about the mother-daughter relationship and is painfully real. There are the typical teenage conflicts, exacerbated by financial strains and Marion trying to keep her daughter’s college expectations in the real world. Of course, the real source of the conflict is Lady Bird’s rejection of Sacramento and her family, but this comes full circle into revealing the clear affection she has for both by the end. I almost had to watch the scene of Lady Bird trying on prom dresses through my fingers – its a scene that could have been pulled straight from my life. The audience’s empathy is pulled in both directions, between the two characters. Marion gets understandably frustrated by Lady Bird’s lack of appreciation for everything her family are doing for her. However, her mother’s hypercritical negativity does engender sympathy for Lady Bird, who at times, reaches out to her mother and is rejected. Safe to say, I was an emotional mess by the end, despite having laughed out loud throughout the whole film.

On fairly limited release in the US at the moment and not hitting the UK until February (which will be good timing for Oscar buzz), Lady Bird is definitely worth seeking out. There is something for all ages to identify with and you will find yourself torn between the generations, but ultimately feeling great affection for all of the characters. Lady Bird is a success because of the exceptional writing and directing from Greta Gerwig and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Fiona’s Rating: 9.0 out of 10

First Trailer For Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ Drops!

“‘Isle of Dogs’ tells the story of Atari Konayashi, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.”

Directed By: Wes Anderson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Lieve Schreiber, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Billy Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig
Release Date: 30th March 2018