JUMPCUT All The Way: Love Actually (2003)

Directed by: Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth

Written by Cameron Frew

Films are a mixture of wine and perishable meats; some grow better with time, others do not age well at all. Love Actually is one such picture that has somehow fallen into both categories for the public: some praise its knowing cheese and saccharine, uplifting qualities; others (often quite furiously) criticize its mishaps and moral ambiguity, particularly among one or two of the umpteen sub-plots in this festive jamboree of laughs, sadness and joy.

Perhaps the most quintessentially British outing in the Christmas watchlist each year, the first sequence is a capture of reunions, hugs and happiness at London Heathrow airport. Then eases in Hugh Grant’s monologue, rekindling even the slightest ashes of lovesick hopelessness. He speaks, rather gently, of how love is “actually, all around”, the fact that any phone call that came from the Twin Towers on that fateful day wasn’t filled with messages with hate, but with, well, love.

Richard Curtis had long-established himself as a writer of spirited, kind-hearted comedy long before here. Four Weddings & A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’ Diary – he wrote them all. But this was his first foray into directing, and that debutant nature flairs up occasionally with the odd overlong placeholder shot of a decorated cityscape or the River Thames. But this is generally impressive for someone on such hefty screenplay duties as well as captaining the ship.

A brisk run through of the plot then, shall we? It’s essentially similar to Crash, but a romantic comedy. We follow eight couples that are loosely connected in their own ways in the lead up to Christmas Day. New loves are found and old loves are fractured along the way, but the most important thing to remember is that all you need is — okay I’ll stop now.

There’s Bill Nighy, a faded rock star releasing a trashy Christmas single with his manager (Gregor Fisher). The former is amusingly brash and uncouth and wonderfully played by Nighy, who clearly had the time of his life with the role.

Then we have Colin Firth as a man forced out of his relationship by his adulterous girlfriend and brother (try not to cringe when you hear “hurry up big boy”), taking peaceful refuge abroad when he meets the woman who will change everything (Lúcia Moniz). For all the grander tales of affection, Firth’s is much slighter – not as easy to invest in, but by its sweeping zenith, you’ll fall head over heels.

There’s a handful of smaller, fleeting sub-plots which lack depth but pack in some great jollity. Martin Freeman and Joanna Page star as A-list stand-ins for movies; in this case, they’re in a sex scene. But nattering sparks fly and every moment they share has a cheeky, modest glee. Kris Marshall, after failing to woo the female population of the UK, decides to go to America, where he believes he will be a hit with the ladies. This is one particular instance where Curtis really invites you to be in on the joke, allowing the sort of fantasy many would probably dream of to unfold without any boundaries – and it’s hilarious.

Still in cutesy territory, there’s Liam Neeson as a recent widower, left to raise his stepson (Thomas Sangster), who so happens to have fallen for a classmate at school. She’s the cool girl, who “has no idea who he is”. In terms of bravura exuberance, this is the most effective relationship of the movie, again reaching a stunning finale that’ll have you cheering at the screen and wiping away the tears.

If you’re a Love Actually novice, get used to the idea of crying. This is not a saga free from heartbreak. We’ll start with Laura Linney’s story; she’s in love with a colleague, with whom she shares the odd flirty glance but remains to shy to do anything about it. After a push from her boss, Alan Rickman, wheels start turning. But there’s one problem; she has to always be available on the phone for her brother with special needs. Thankfully, this isn’t played for comedy at all; in fact, it’s potently bittersweet, hitting home a really selfless message where others opt for grand, romantic gestures.

The gestures are sometimes pointed in the wrong direction. The queen of queens, Emma Thompson, is Rickman’s wife. While she is self-effacing and affectionate, he is rather distant. Could be because he’s more interested in the office secretary (Heike Makatsch), who flouts decorum with her demands of “something she wants” and spreading of her legs. Rarely does infidelity evoke such rage; when Thompson realizes her husband’s dirty deeds, she shares a poignant moment with herself to the sound of Joni Mitchell (also, beautifully framed by Michael Coulter). As those tears stream, your fists tighten; it’s one of the most beautifully performed bits of acting you’ll see in an otherwise fluffy piece.

Whereas that’s a story of outright immoral actions, Andrew Lincoln’s is a bit more dubious. His best friend, Chiwetel Ejiofor marries Keira Knightley. But Lincoln is repeatedly cold to her, almost aggressively rude, like she sours his taste buds just from the mere soundbite of her voice. But the old maxim is wee boys pull girls’ hair because they like them. When this internal conflict comes to a close in arguably the film’s most iconic scene, your enjoyment is based on how well you can strip away your ethical thoughts on the matter.

But of all the aspirational fairytales, it’s Hugh Grant’s. He stars as the newly instated Prime Minister, who has an immediate fondness for one of Downing Street’s household staff, Martine McCutcheon (who has an expertly exclaimed dose of swearing: “Where the fuck’s my fucking coat?”). There’s a real charm in their growing liaison, with all their interruptions you constantly route for them. This includes the disruptive, devious President of the United States (Billy Bob Thornton), who functions as an overblown but very effective caricature of the sort of smugness in politics that seems to come with birth across the pond.

But the way they all flow together is nothing short of inspired. You can’t argue that it was a phenomenon, and is readily established as a modern classic in the December genre. For what could have been a self-congratulatory exercise in bringing together a who’s who of rising and veteran stars, Love Actually is remarkably uncorrupted (despite the problematic nature of a few plot points). It’s a thoroughly British affair; endearing, involving, witty. But it’s also an ode to outlandish acts and tolerating hardship, to the necessary evil of tough love and the reparatory nature of a softer touch. Let Craig Armstrong’s uplifting, poppy, crescendo-filled score move and enthral you, and accept that no matter how many times you watch Love Actually, your blood will always boil because of Alan Rickman.

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The First ‘Men In Black: International’ Trailer Has Landed!

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Cast: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rafe Spall, Kumail Nanjiani

Release Date: 14th June 2019

LFF 2018: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson,

Written by Dave Curtis

Have you ever wondered how many ideas rattle around the inside of Joel and Ethan Coens head? The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the end product of some of those ideas they could no longer contain. This Netiflx produced film has every thing you love and hate from the brothers, fantastic characters, a host of famous names, snappy smart dialogue, beautiful cinematography and strong bloody violence.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology of short stories set in the old west. It was once destined for the small screen as a TV series but luckily it has been given the big screen treatment, the landscapes alone deserved it. The film starts with a shot of a book, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. A hand appears and turns the front cover to reveal the first chapter which is accompanied by a carefully drawn picture from the upcoming story. With it is a small section of dialogue, teasing what is about to happen. This happens every time a story ends and a new chapter begins.

First up is Buster Scruggs himself, played by Coen Brothers regular Tim Blake Nelson. First seen riding his horse (named Dan) playing a guitar and singing at the top of his voice. He might come across as fun time cowboy but really he is a crack shot, deadly as he is polite. This chapter is classic Coen Bros. Funny and violent. A full film of just Buster Scruggs would have been all we needed. It is a fun and blistering first 30 minutes, if only The Ballad of Buster Scruggs could maintain that level.

James Franco as a bumbling bank robber in the second short story gets the best line and biggest laugh in the whole film. Over the next few short stories there are a collection of more serious and darker tales. Don’t worry the usual humour is sprinkled about. There is Liam Neeson as a travelling entertainer of sorts. Tom Waits searching for gold. Zoe Karzan who joins a wagon train to search for a new life in Oregon. Brendan Gleeson (sorry no beard) and others in stagecoach journey. In all this the movie takes a slight dip. Each story is different in appearance and tone. The transition between story could have been worked out better. Maybe using a reoccurring character or location would have smoothed it out (but what do I know, the Coen Brothers are masters and definitely know better than me). Apparently this is the longest film the two brothers have made and in some places it does feel that way.

If its one thing that the Coen Brothers do well is Westerns and stunning landscapes. Cinematographer Bruno Delhonnel here working with Joel and Ethan for the second time (The first being ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’) captures the mood and feel for each little story perfectly.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs may not be the Coen Brothers best film, but a bad film for them is still better than most films released today. The problem is when it’s good it is really good and that reflects on some on the slower stories. A strong start and beautiful cinematography enriched by a score by Carter Burwell tides this film together. The cast are just the icing that brings it all together. Tim Blake Nelson is the films VIP.

 

Dave’s Verdict:

3-5

Netflix Release First Trailer For Coen Brothers’ ‘The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs’

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a six-part Western anthology film, a series of tales about the American frontier told through the unique and incomparable voice of Joel and Ethan Coen. Each chapter tells a distinct story about the American West.”

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Cast: Tim Blake Nelson , James Franco, Liam Neeson, David Krumholtz, Brendan Gleeson

Release Date: November 16th (Netflix)

The Headliners & Hidden Gems At The 62nd BFI London Film Festival

Yesterday saw the announcement of the full line-up of films for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (LFF), and boy is there a ton to get your teeth stuck into! But this year we have even more reason to be excited as JUMPCUT will attending and covering the festival for the first time ever!

We’ll be covering a whole range of films screening at the festival, including some of the headliners and hidden gems! JUMPCUT’s LFF Queen Sarah has kindly picked out just some of the films she thinks you are going to want to keep your eye on!

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The Headliners

Widows
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya

Why it is worth a watch: I mean that cast list alone is worth the admission price, but this female-fronted action thriller is also helmed by the man who brought us 12 Years a Slave, a film which previously enjoyed awards success. But the talent doesn’t end there, Widows is penned by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and Hans Zimmer provides the score. This is an action movie of the highest calibre and one that will be well worth your time and money.

Screening at LFF: 10th, 11th, 12th October
UK Wider Release Date: 6th November 2018

Stan & Ollie
Directed by: Jon S Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston

Why it is worth a watch: An ode to cinema, entertainment, and with two leading actors known for their brilliance as physical comedians, Stan & Ollie seems like the perfect film to close out London Film Festival. Coogan and Reilly bring beloved comedians Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy to life on the big screen, focusing on the twilight years of their career. This is set to be a real crowd-pleaser and the most fitting curtain call for the festival.

Screening at LFF: 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 11th January 2019

The Favourite
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz

Why it is worth a watch: A divisive filmmaker, but certainly one that gets people talking, Yorgos Lanthimos brings his third English-language film in four years to the London Film Festival. With stand-out performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, The Favourite promises to be bizarre, bonkers, and brilliant!

Screening at LFF: 18th, 19th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st January 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck

Why it is worth a watch: It’s the Coen Brothers! In all seriousness, the latest from the incomparable Coens promises to be wild (west) entertainment, hilarious, offbeat, and surprisingly melancholic. Dark humour and the trademark Coen brothers flair will be here in abundance

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Screening at LFF: 12th, 13th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Beautiful Boy
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

Why it is worth a watch: Just try and get through the trailer to this one without crying. Sometimes you just need to let it all out, and this will be the film that gets audiences at LFF reaching for the tissues. Starring man-of-the-moment Timothee Chalamet, hot off the heels of last year’s Call Me By Your Name, and Steve Carell in what is set to be another great dramatic role for him, Beautiful Boy will be the one to watch for those early Best Actor hints…

Screening at LFF: 13th, 14th, 16th October
UK Wider Release Date: 18th January 2019

Suspiria
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Chloe Grace Moretz

Why it is worth a watch: Full disclaimer, I am a massive horror wuss and will therefore not be seeing this on the big screen, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention it here. There is no denying the trailer is stunning, and the hype levels amongst the JumpCut team have reached fever-pitch for this one. It won’t be for everyone but it’ll certainly be a talking point. And also it has Tilda Swinton in it; you can’t go wrong!

Screening at LFF: 16th, 17th, 19th October
UK Wider Release Date: 16th November 2019

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The Hidden Gems

Wild Rose
Directed by: Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters

Why it is worth a watch: After impressing in Beast, Jessie Buckley stars in what is set to another impressive film. A Glaswegian single mum dreams of being a country singer, how hard could it be?! This is the sort of film that will make your heart soar, and with Julie Walters also appearing, it is hard not to draw comparisons with the underdog story of Billy Elliot. This film is already set to be one of the truly underrated gems of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 15th, 16th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 8th February 2019

The Hate U Give
Directed by: George Tillman Jr
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common

Why it is worth a watch: Adapted from Angie Thomas’ ‘Black Lives Matter’-inspired Young Adult novel, this film certainly feels like an important one, and one which is sadly still so relevant. Focusing on the young lives affected by the tragic shootings of their peers, the BFI are also offering £5 tickets to see this one for 16 to 25 year olds. Even outside of this age range, this film has a lot to offer, promising to be a powerful and timely watch.

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 26th October 2018

Assassination Nation
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Bella Thorne

Why it is worth a watch: Don’t let the early trigger warnings put you off, this is a film that bears everything upfront and then unleashes all hell. Assassination Nation is the Salem witch trials meets the digital generation in this thoroughly modern cautionary tale, and one which is poised to join other teen cult classics such as Heathers and Spring Breakers. Subversive and utterly unique, this could be one of the surprise hits of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 23rd November 2018

Burning
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun

Why it is worth a watch: This film wowed audiences at Cannes, which is often the mark of a successful festival film! This lean slow-burning thriller promises to have you gripped right from the start, as well as exploring complex themes such as obsession, class-conflict and suppressed male rage. It will be unlikely to have a wide cinema release, so catch this one at the festival whilst you can!

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st February 2019

Mandy
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

Why it is worth a watch: Yes, Nicolas Cage. Stop reading now! Just kidding, this synopsis alone is enough to make you want to see it so we’re not even going to add to it: “In a mountain-cabin idyll, lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives in perfect harmony with his great love Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). But the couple’s blissful utopia is cruelly shattered when a ragtag band of Satanic cultists invade their humble abode and claim Mandy for their own. Traumatised and distraught, Red is left with no option but to exact a bloody revenge.” (Michael Blyth, BFI)

Screening at LFF: 11, 12, 17th
UK Wider Release Date: 12th October 2018

Blaze
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell

Why it is worth a watch: Ethan Hawke is having quite the year, and fresh from his acclaimed performance in First Reformed, his latest directorial offering his heading to LFF. This biopic about a little known musician is shot with affection and true passion that is hard to replicate, and quite frankly anything Ethan Hawke is passionate about, we love already!

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Viola Davis Assembles Her Heist Crew In New Trailer For Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’

“From Academy Award®-winning director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and co-writer and bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), comes a blistering, modern-day thriller set against the backdrop of crime, passion and corruption: “Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Oscar® winner Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.”

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Cast: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Garret Dillahunt, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon

Release Date: November 9th,  2018

First Trailer For Steve McQueen’s Star Studded ‘Widows’ Arrives!

“From Academy Award®-winning director Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) and co-writer and bestselling author Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”), comes a blistering, modern-day thriller set against the backdrop of crime, passion and corruption: “Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Oscar® winner Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.”

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Cast: Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Garret Dillahunt, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Michelle Rodriguez, Carrie Coon

Release Date: November 9th,  2018

The Commuter

Year: 2017
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill

Written by Chris Gelderd

From the off, this is better than the 2015 Collet-Serra / Neeson debut ‘Non-Stop’. The whole film is more restrained, as it can be, and suits Neeson much more than recent offerings, taking into account his age and the daft logic of these films. Basically, Liam Neeson does ‘Murder On The Orient Express’. Sound good? Then you’ll enjoy this guff.

Think ‘Speed’, blended with ‘MOTOE’, with a hint of ‘Strangers On A Train’ and you’ll have the dumbest Agatha Christie / Alfred Hitchcock modern-based thriller ever. First Collet-Serra had Neeson save a passenger airline, now we are on the ground on a passenger train across New York. It’s 100mins of everything you’ve come to expect from our Irish pensioner.

The fact the whole film is much more…grounded, I think is the word… makes it more enjoyable. It’s marketed as a thriller and actually plays out like one for a good hour or so before it rewards us with that over-the-top, laws-of-physics defying action finale and cliché plot twist. Yeah it’s been done before, we probably know who the villains are, but we didn’t expect a masterpiece. If you did, then you’ve come to watch the wrong Liam Neeson film.

He’s got the Academy Award nominations. He’s got the critical and fan acclaim for his entertaining and equally powerful movies. He’s been a Jedi Master, trained Batman and been a talking tree monster. Now he’s having fun in his prime by taking down bad-guys as the “ordinary man” who happens to always have a particular set of skills in a variety of “ordinary situations”. Today he sells life insurance, is a former cop, and can’t leave a train without his family being killed if he fails his task. But he’s not going to let that happen – cue the chaos.

Well, no, first, put the chaos on hold and actually let the thriller unfold. It’s a well paced and interesting set-up that takes it’s time to introduce us to the key players in a clever opening credits sequence and then doesn’t rush getting us into the main story. When it arrives, then it’s time to focus and watch it unfurl. But, yes, it does get a little slow during the mid-section because it literally just is Neeson stalking the aisle looking for his target, throwing as many curve balls and clues and twists as possible to keep us and him guessing. It hits a point where nothing seems to really happen for a long time and we are stuck padding out the plot until we can move on to the next.

Set in, on and around a packed commuter train for the rest of the movie, it’s simple to follow and Neeson does what he does best – he stalks back and forward, talks angrily on mobile phones, finds suspicious packages and weapons and packs one hell of a punch before disarming people with a charming smile. He’s got so much respect that it’s hard to not enjoy him now in whatever he does, because he puts his all into it and doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel. He knows what you expect and he’ll give it to you.

The action and slow burning “who-dunnit” style tension suits him much more than the god-awful OTT ‘Taken 2’ and ‘Unknown’. He actually doesn’t do too much in the first half that he couldn’t do in real life, and there is a certain hand-to-hand/guitar/axe fist fight that looks pretty damn impressive and Neeson never looks out of his depth doing this.

With support from Patrick Wilson, Vera Famiga and Sam Neill, you know one,none or all of them must be shady, and you’ll probably guess straight away, but maybe you won’t. They are as invested as Neeson in driving the story and taking things seriously, which is good. Apart from that, the time is spent with actors you won’t recognise, which works in the plot’s favour as its these “nobodys” who may hold the key to the puzzle, so we have no idea who it could be, and you’ll be guessing all the way through.

So, yeah. It’s not a game changer at all but it’s one of those decent 100min popcorn action thrillers that will satisfy all those who to watch something of the “best film with Liam Neeson set on a train” genre. Turn your brain off and just have some forgetful fun!

Chris’ Rating: 6.0 out of 10

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Liam Neeson Done With Action Roles

Since the huge success of the first ‘Taken’ film, Liam Neeson has put his “special set of skills” to good use many, many, many times. Too many times, it has to be said. But Neeson has now declared that he will quit the action genre in two years time. As much as I love the first ‘Taken’ film, everything since then has unfortunately been pretty much awful and monotonous. Let’s hope the man doesn’t leave the acting game altogether, and does something fresh and different.

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes