Annihilation

Year: 2018
Directed by: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

Alex Garland had been floating on the edges of Hollywood fame for years before he made it big. He’s a talented writer who is responsible for genuinely great films like ’28 Days Later’, ‘Never Let Me Go’, and ‘Dredd’, but it was the leap to directing that truly put him on the map. 2014’s ‘Ex Machina’ was a critical smash hit as it earned award nominations in various categories at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and the Oscars. Alex Garland was suddenly a household name and we all waited with bated breath to see what he will do next. Enter ‘Annihilation’.

‘Annihilation’ sees a mysterious governmentally quarantined zone, Area X, being studied to find out what exactly it is. They’ve named it ‘The Shimmer’ after it’s gorgeously shimmery quality when you look at it, but it remains a mystery beyond its name because if you go into The Shimmer, you don’t come back out. Until, that is, Oscar Isaac’s Kane returns from The Shimmer. Cellular biology expert and Kane’s husband, Lena (Portman), is called to help study The Shimmer, and she joins a team of scientists and soldiers to enter The Shimmer on yet another expedition to explore Area X to discover the truths behind it and what exactly happened on Kane’s mission.

Writing that short summary took far too long. ‘Annihilation’ is a film that’s hard to qualify. On the surface, it does seem like a high concept science-fiction, but looking beyond that, it’s a film with tremendous depth and meaning that has spawned hundreds upon hundreds of YouTube videos and articles and film essays studying it. I fear that going into too much detail about the story will ruin the surprise and genuine shocks the film has in store. More than any film I’ve seen recently, ‘Annihilation’ will serve you better if you go in as blind as possible.

What I can talk about, though, is the sheer quality of the film. ‘Annihilation’ is a film that takes a lot of commitment from everyone involved – actors, writers, set designers, special effects artists, editors. It’s a film that has been known to lose a fair few of its viewers because of how complex it becomes as the expedition team head deeper into The Shimmer. It’s a film that plays games with genetic mutations, time and space, using all the elements of the Earth (and elsewhere?) to confound its team and its audience into questioning everything they’re seeing. The end result, however, is a film that truly is firing on all cylinders.

Starting with the actors, the expedition team all leave an impression one way or another. They all have their justifications for going on what’s become a suicide mission, but the film does a masterful job of investigating these characters and letting us understand them as people. Each of the team, from Portman to Thompson to relative newcomer Novotny, gives their character nuances and extra moments where they are just themselves to help them come alive. All of the performances here are terrific; Tessa Thompson’s Josie has a dreamy quality to her as the team’s nature expert, and Dr. Ventress (Jason Leigh) is the most mysterious of the team but Jason Leigh imbues her with a desire for the truth unmatched by anyone else.

Natalie Portman is naturally the stand out given her bigger role in proceedings. She brings all of her talent, her Oscar winning gravitas to a role that requires dedication and commitment to the extremely high concept ideas that are being thrown at her. Lesser actors would have struggled with the workload of the final act, but here is where Portman excels as she gets closer and closer to finding out answers for her burning questions.

‘Annihilation’, all being well, is sure to earn itself accolade after accolade next year, none of which will be more deserving than for special effects. Given all the blockbusters we’ve had this year – ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’, ‘Deadpool 2’ – ‘Annihilation’ stands tall as the best looking film of 2018 so far. The Shimmer itself is a stunning achievement, an idea that seems impossible to convey on screen after having read the book upon which the film is based, is shown beautifully, and every shot of The Shimmer makes you stop and stare in awe at what Garland and co. have achieved. Within The Shimmer, without spoiling too much, the set designers and the special effects team have pulled no punches as they’re allowed to go as batshit crazy as they want given The Shimmer’s mutating quality. Creatures, plants, buildings are all spliced together to create things we haven’t seen on screen before. The characters are amazed by what they’re seeing, and so are we along with them. Whatever you think of ‘Annihilation’, the visuals and the production are universally agreed to be stunners.

‘Annihilation’, tragically, failed to earn the support from distributors around the world. It was shown in cinemas in North America and China, but the rest of the world were given ‘Annihilation’ via Netflix. Netflix are a fantastic company, providing a platform for filmmakers around the world to show their work to as wide an audience as you can imagine, but ‘Annihilation’ is different. ‘Annihilation’ is a film from an Oscar nominated filmmaker, with multiple A-listers attached, and arguably most importantly, it’s different. It’s a book adaptation, sure, but it’s not a sequel, not attached to a franchise, for all intents and purposes, it’s new. Why are studios so scared of new ideas? Why are they so reluctant to take risks. Paramount, the production company who picked up the rights to distribute the film in North America only, aren’t exactly strapped for cash. They have the box-office behemoth that is ‘Transformers’ under their belts, along with franchises like ‘Shrek’, ‘Kung Fu Panda‘, and ‘Mission Impossible’. Take some risks. Let your audience see something different for a change.

‘Annihilation’ is a film that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible. When it was released, I went as far as upgrading my Netflix account to 4K purely to watch a film, and in the week or two before the film’s release I bought a new 4K TV. Did I buy a new, big TV purely to watch ‘Annihilation’ in a medium close to what it deserved? I can neither confirm nor deny that. What I’m saying is – ‘Annihilation’ is worth your time. It is worth sitting down and watching something you almost certainly have never seen before. It’s a miraculous achievement in filmmaking across the board, and it deserves your attention. It’s on Netflix right now. Watch it, experience it, and prepare for it to take over your every thought for some time.

Rhys’ Rating:

5

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Witness The True Story Of ‘White Boy Rick’ In A Brand New Trailer

“Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic and the War on Drugs, WHITE BOY RICK is based on the moving true story of a blue-collar father and his teenage son, Rick Wershe Jr., who became an undercover police informant and later a drug dealer, before he was abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to life in prison.”

Directed by: Yann Demange

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, RJ Cyler, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Release Date: December 7th, 2018

Good Time

Year: 2017
Directed by: Benny & Josh Safdie
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh. 

Written by Hunter Williams

The Safdie brothers promise very little with a modest title of only being a ‘Good Time’, when it is, in fact, the best adrenaline rush of 2017. After their previous success with Heaven Knows What, the Safdie’s received an unexpected email from Robert Pattinson. The Twilight star expressed an interest in collaboration, resulting in the ultimate vehicle for everyone involved. It pushed the Safdie’s into Hollywood and launched Pattinson back to the top again. The only expected thing, however, was to be shown a good time. Spoiler alert: I was.

In the opening shot of Josh and Benny Safdie’s ‘Good Time’, the audience is immediately thrown into the head rush of Williams’ fast-moving camera steadily approaching the building in which the frantic New York night begins. Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) bursts into the room, forcibly removing his developmentally disabled brother Nick from his therapy session. The audience will soon learn that this is one mistake among many in the coming hours once the two brothers huddle together in the elevator in order to discuss their plan of robbing a bank for $65,000. It’s not the first time a story followed the aftermath of a failed bank heist, but it’s never been done with such an electric and powerful momentum.

‘Good Time’ understands not to waste any time before the heist, immediately pushing on the gas pedal without ever looking back. Connie and Nick move with the rapid force of the camera, detailed mostly through close-ups and wide shots in order to capture the anxiety and claustrophobia of doing something completely nuts. As the plan is set in motion, the Saftie’s begin to orchestrate the frantic feeling that’ll be prevalent throughout the story, combining the cheesy electric guitar sounds of the nostalgic 80’s with the buzzing synths that feel more like an intensified version of Blade Runner than something of a modern thriller flick. It’s the textured atmosphere of Josh and Benny Safdie’s ‘Good Time’ that not only separates itself from similar heists films, but also distinguishes itself as a true Safdie film that isn’t afraid to indulge in the pure grunge and grease they’re known for.

After the bank heist goes wrong, the audience is left with a wild goose chase lead mostly by Connie Nikas. It’s in this moment in which the weight of the whole story falls on his shoulders, presumably motivating him to do the very best he can. Robert Pattinson embodies the desperate and sometimes intelligent brother who attempts to share his love with his brother Nick, unfortunately not understanding the difference between good and bad love. This is further emphasized by a particularly heartbreaking final scene that does not include Pattinson at all, but rather the feeling he’s left behind. Josh and Benny Safdie develop an aching pain at the centre of their story by demonstrating the character’s inability to sit down and breath through the film’s determination to run them through until they have to.

‘Good Time’ is a precious and deeply affecting thrill ride that’ll be remembered for a lot more than just being a good time, and surely there’s no more of a reason to see it than that. But if there’s one thing to be learned from the whole endeavour, it’s that taking risks on independent film-makers with potential, even if you’re Robert Pattinson, can mean a whole lot more than just a few dollars. It can mean the difference between changing someone’s view of cinema  (i.e me and maybe even you).

Hunter’s Rating: 9.5/10

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Step Inside The Shimmer In New ‘Annihilation’ Trailer

“A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.”

Direct by: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac

Release Date: 23rd February 2018

The First ‘Annihilation’ Teaser Trailer Leaves Us Guessing

Direct By:  Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac
Release Date: February 23, 2018.

Oscars 2016: The Nominees

The second biggest awards show in the film calendar (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards, of course) is feeling a hell of a lot closer now, after the nominees for the 88th Academy Awards were announced this week. 

Not surprisingly, ‘The Revenant’, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s critically-acclaimed follow-up to his Best Picture win of last year (Birdman), leads the way with 12 nominations. The Academy also pleased film fans everywhere with a surprising 10 nominations for everyone’s favourite action film, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’.

As usual, there’s plenty of controversy and public outcry, with scripts from Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight) and Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs) snubbed, and an apparent lack of diversity still plaguing the awards show. 

Will Leo finally win the Oscar? Can Iñárritu win back-to-back director gongs? Or will George Miller and his brainchild ‘Mad Max’ steal the show? Here’s all the nominees, plus a few predictions as to who might win on the night (although, if my earlier predictions of the Best Picture nominees are anything to go by, I wouldn’t pay much attention to my guesses).


BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant (our winner)
Room
Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (our winner)
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room (our winner)
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (our winner)
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol (our winner)
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

DIRECTING
Adam McKay – The Big Short
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road (our winner)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu – The Revenant
Lenny Abrahamson – Room
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Anomalisa (our winner)
Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

COSTUME DESIGN
Carol (our winner)
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy
Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Body Team
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

MAKEUP AND HAIR STYLING
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared
The Revenant

ORIGINAL SONG
“Earned It” – Fifty Shades of Grey
“Manta Ray” – Racing Extinction
“Simple Song #3” – Youth
“Til It Happens to You” – The Hunting Ground
“Writing’s on the Wall” – Spectre

ANIMATED SHORT
Bear Story
Prologue
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow (our winner)

SOUND EDITING
Mad Max: Fury Road
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)
The Martian
The Revenant

FILM EDITING
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant (our winner)
Spotlight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Embrace of the Serpent
Mustang
Son of Saul (our winner)
Theeb
A War

ORIGINAL SCORE
Bridge of Spies
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Sicario (our winner)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian (our winner)
The Revenant

VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (our winner)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Big Short
Brooklyn
Carol
The Martian (our winner)
Room

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina (our winner)
Inside Out
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario (our winner)

Golden Globes 2016 Nominees Announced

The Oscars may be the biggest awards event of the year (after the JumpCut UK Film Awards of course), but The Golden Globes are pretty big too, and can often be used as an indicator of what films might be successful with The Academy. Earlier this week, the nominations for the 73rd Golden Globe Awards were announced, with Todd Haynes’ ‘Carol’ leading the way. You can see all the nominations here, and my attempts to predict the winners.

Best Motion Picture (drama): Carol, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight
Prediction: Carol

Best Motion Picture (comedy/musical): The Big Short, Joy, The Martian, Spy, Trainwreck
Prediction: The Martian

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (drama): Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Rooney Mara (Carol), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Prediction: Brie Larson

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (drama): Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Will Smith (Concussion)
Prediction: Leonardo DiCapro

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (comedy/musical): Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Melissa McCarthy (Spy), Amy Schumer (Trainwreck), Maggie Smith (Lady In The Van), Lily Tomlin (Grandma)
Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (comedy/musical): Christian Bale (The Big Short), Mark Ruffalo (Infinitely Polar Bear), Steve Carell (The Big Short), Matt Damon (The Martian), Al Pacino (Danny Collins)
Prediction: Matt Damon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Jane Fonda (Youth), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Helen Mirren (Trumbo), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Prediction: Alicia Vikander

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture: Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
Prediction: Michael Shannon

Best Director: Todd Haynes (Carol), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Ridley Scott (The Martian), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Prediction: Todd Haynes

Best Screenplay: Emma Donoghue (Room), Tom McCarthy/Josh Singer (Spotlight), Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs), Charles Randolph/Adam McKay (The Big Short), Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)
Prediction: Aaron Sorkin

Best Animated Feature Film: Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Anomalisa, Shaun The Sheep Movie, The Peanuts Movie
Prediction: Anomalisa

Best Foreign Language Film: The Club, The Fencer, Mustang, The Brand New Testament, Son Of Saul
Prediction: Son Of Saul

Best Original Score: Carol, The Revenant, Steve Jobs, The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight
Prediction: The Revenant

What are your thoughts on the nominations and my predictions? Let us know who you think the big winners will be at The Golden Globes in 2016. You don’t have to wait long to find out where the awards end up, with the ceremony taking place on January 10th 2016.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes