Natalie Portman Dazzles In Brand New ‘Vox Lux’ Trailer

“VOX LUX begins in 1999 when teenage sisters Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) and Eleanor (Stacy Martin) survive a seismic, violent tragedy. The sisters compose and perform a song about their experience, making something lovely and cathartic out of catastrophe — while also catapulting Celeste to stardom. By 2017, the now 31-year-old Celeste (Natalie Portman) is mother to a teenage daughter of her own and struggling to navigate a career fraught with scandals when another act of terrifying violence demands her attention.”

Directed by: Brady Corbet

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle

Release Date: December 7th, 2018

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Natalie Portman Takes To The Stage In First Teaser For ‘Vox Lux’

“The film follows the rise of Celeste from the ashes of a major national tragedy to pop superstardom. The film spans 18 years and traces important cultural moments through her eyes, starting in 1999 and concluding in 2017.”

Directed by: Brady Corbet

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Jennifer Ehle

Release Date: Premiering at VFF September 4th 

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

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.

Watch This Space: September 4th – 10th

Every Monday we will be recommending films that are on TV that week, films playing at the cinema, and also remind you of those brilliant films hiding on streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and possibly in your own collection.

In Cinemas

IT: The highly anticipated ‘IT’, the second Stephen King adaptation to grace our cinemas this year, is released on Thursday! It’s been 27 years since we last saw Pennywise on screen, but this time he looks like he’ll really be inducing nightmares. We’ll have our review up early next week.

Patti Cake$: Last week we posted up our review of Geremy Jasper’s first feature length directorial effort. Sarah calls it “a delightful, uplifting comedy drama with a killer soundtrack“. Don’t let this one fly under your radar! 

Logan Lucky: Another film we reviewed last week,  Soderbergh’s ‘Logan Lucky’ hit cinemas at the end of last month and you’d be a fool to miss this one. With Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, and Daniel Craig delivering the charm and laughs, we think this is a must-see this month. 

On TV

Monday

Star Trek (1979): This 1979 sci-fi feature film debut for the crew of the USS Enterprise was made out of an un-used TV pilot. So with ready made costumes, sets and props, a film was green lit to rival ‘Star Wars’ and prove that Trekkies weren’t out of the space film race yet! This isn’t the easiest of watches, I warn you. It’s very slow, very of it’s time and very un-eventful. BUT it paved the way for twelve sequels, multiple new TV shows and a fan base to rival that of the Jedi. With the cast of the original 60s show back, you’re in good company, but don’t expect anything to knock your socks off JUST yet in the early voyages of Captain James T Kirk. Beam up on SyFy at 9pm

Unbreakable (2000): Still the best Shyamalan movie (in my humble opinion of course), ‘Unbreakable’ is also one of the most unassuming “superhero” films as well, with fascinating characters and an interesting narrative. With standout performances from Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis, and with the recently announced sequel to ‘Unbreakable’ in the pipeline, what better time to watch it than right now…or this week at least!

 

Tuesday 

Gladiator (2000): The 2000 film that came from nowhere proved to be one of Hollywood’s biggest gambles – a genre that was pretty much dead in the water, leading actor Russell Crowe who was yet to break the big time and a story set in ancient history. ‘Gladiator’ did what it set out to do; redefine the historical epic, shine a light on a forgotten and fascinating culture and showcase top acting and crew talent for a thrilling, rousing and dramatic story of a Roman general who became a slave, who became a gladiator who then defied an Empire. It is quality film-making and it’s all presented in such a bombastic way that it hasn’t been bettered since and given us more swords and sandal epics than we deserve. Be entertained on Film4 at 9pm

Blades of Glory (2007): In 2007, Will Ferrell tried his hand at figure skating. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is. What it also is, though, is a frequently funny romp that gives us some hilarious set-pieces, a brilliantly silly chase scene, and some surprisingly well thought out skating routines. Keep and eye out for the scene-stealing Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as the Van Waldenberg siblings, but the real stars are Will Ferrell (as funny as he’s ever been) and Jon Heder (the straight man to Ferrell’s joker who still has a fair few great lines of his own) as the two polar opposites are forced to work together. Witness the hilarity on Comedy Central at 9pm

Wednesday

Godzilla (1998): Roland Emmerich unleashes the Japanese created sumo-lizard in New York City, carrying the tag line “Size Does Matter” in perfect 90’s fashion. Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno give chase to the monster along with a group of baffled scientists and military personnel with plenty of comic relief. Buildings will shake if you forget the fish at 9pm on Sony Channel.

V for Vendetta (2005):  The year is 2028. The United Kingdom is a fascist police state, with political opponents, Jews, Muslims, atheists, immigrants, homosexuals and other “undesirables” executed. Hugo Weaving is the mysterious V, an anarchist and freedom fighter, wearing the infamous Guy Fawkes mask. Natalie Portman is Evey, a young woman who is recruited into V’s revolution. ‘V for Vendetta’ is THE dystopian political thriller to watch. And has never felt more ‘on the nose’ than in our current political climate. Be sure to join the revolution on SyFy at 9pm

Thursday

Kick-Ass 2 (2013): The follow up to the excellent ‘Kick-Ass’, about a young man called Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who puts on a mask to become Kick-Ass, an adequate crime-fighter. Chloe Grace Moretz reprises her role as the fowl-mouthed ultra-violent Hit Girl, with added Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Throw in a new villain in Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a supporting cast of loveable misfits, and Kick-Ass 2 is a fun grounded comic book movie that subverts expectations. Film4 at 11:25pm is the place to be. 

Friday

Resident Evil (2002): Up for a solid horror movie on a Friday night? Then look no further than Paul W.S. Anderson’s ‘Resident Evil’, the adaptation to the terrifying video-game series that scared millions. Whilst critics mostly panned the movie for its video-game aesthetic, it’s by far the best entry to the 7-film franchise. Catch Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez in the film that kick started the franchise at 10pm on 5*

Trainspotting (1995): Danny Boyle’s magnus opus ‘Trainspotting’, a masterclass of filmmaking that’ll have you immersed for its entirety. Follow Renton and his gang into the Edinburgh drug scene and all the grotesque imagery that comes with it, and with terrific performances from an incredible ensemble cast, this is a must see. You can catch this cult classic on Film4 at 1am.

This is England (2006): One of the best British films of the 21st century, This is England introduced the world to some exemplary world-class actors; Vicky McClure, Joe Gilgun and Stephen Graham among them. It is a hard-hitting and a difficult watch at times, but Midlands-based writer/director Shane Meadows always undercuts the drama with humour as well. This film tracks the ‘rise’ of a gang of skinheads in the 1980s, covering the music and fashion, as well as the much darker neo-Nazi side. Of course, this subject is unfortunately relevant today. If you do tune in to watch this film for the first time, I also highly recommend the TV series that followed. The acting is astonishing and heart-breaking. Catch the film on Film4 at 9pm

Hiding Online / In Our Collection

The Expendables 3 (2014): This is a fair entry into the series, but nowhere near as enjoyable as the second, and a very mediocre offering saved by seeing so many familiar faces clearly having a blast on screen. Ignore the youngsters if you can and just wait for the pay-off. With a cast including the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Terry Crewes and more, you know the bang for your buck you’re gonna get! But it’s a little more…family friendly this time, which is a shame.  If you enjoy this, I urge you to revisit the second film from 2012 which, to me, is the stand-out of this current trilogy.

Men in Black (1997): Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star as the relentless duo assigned to “Protect Earth from the Scum of the Universe.” Slick and comical with timeless entertainment and notorious Sci-Fi creatures, director Barry Sonnenfeld delivers an instant classic with charming wit and suave action built around a plethora of cool-as-they-get gadgets. Head over to Netflix and keep a hold of your memories.

 

A huge thank you to contributors this week: Chris Gelderd, Jo Craig, Corey Hughes, Sarah Buddery, Sasha Hornby, Fiona Underhill, and Rhys Bowen Jones

A Beginners’ Guide To Awards Season

Written by Chris Gelderd

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to write my first ever article for JumpCut UK, and what better place to start, at this time of the year, than with a Beginners’ Guide to Awards Season.

Now, Hollywood runs to a pretty tight calendar. Spring usually offers up plenty of family-friendly films; Summer is all about the big-budget blockbusters; Autumn gives us the horrors and thrillers, whilst winter signals the start of awards season, when studios battle it out with their carefully selected productions, aiming to surprise and move audiences, with one eye firmly placed on adding some gold statues to their trophy cabinets. There are awards-skeptics who now regard all of this as simply over-the-top, politically and racially motived, Hollywood excess, whilst others can’t wait to delve into the treasures that studios have been saving for this time of year. Lastly, there are those who are new to the whole awards season buzz. If you fit into this category, then hopefully you’ll find this simple guide to be a helpful introduction to the glitz and glamour of awards season.

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Watch This Space: June 8 – 14

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – 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 day has finally come. After moths of waiting, and an unrelenting series of trailers/teasers, ‘Jurassic World’ is here. Colin Trevorrow’s relaunch of the iconic series promises terror, action and wonder aplenty. Advanced screening reviews are tending to be almost unanimous in the belief that this is the sequel that the original truly deserves, despite there being a hiatus on reviews containing plot spoilers. Get yourself along to the cinema and experience the wonder of being a child all over again, in what people are tipping to be the hottest blockbuster of the year. 

A slightly unusual film is also released in UK cinemas this week in the form of musical ‘London Road’. The plot follows the struggles of a local community in Ipswich after their quiet community is shattered by a series of murders. A story based on the real events of 2006, this film is an adaptation of the very successful West-End musical, and the original cast star alongside two of Britain’s finest actors in Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman. This film has already gone down well with critics so we’d expect this to definitely be worth a trip to the big screen. 

ON TELEVISION

Tuesday 22:45 GMT: With Colin Trevorrow’s dinosaur-filled blockbuster hitting cinemas this week, seeing another of his feature length films in ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ on Film4 sounds like a good idea. This film is regarded as grossly underrated by the film industry and its fans, and we admit it has passed us by util now. So we’re going to sit down with you and watch this for the first time as well! 

Wednesday 23:10 GMT: Cinema at its dark and sordid best here in ‘Shame’ on Film4 this week. Michael Fassbender is the main man, playing a sex-crazed New York executive and Carey Mulligan stars alongside him as his sister. A particularly sexually graphic film that will have you recoiling in horror at one man’s path towards self-destruction.

Friday 23:10 GMT: The Colin Farrell remake may have been an absolute travesty, but the 1990 version of ‘Total Recall’ with Arnie is the perfect, action packed, sci-fi thriller on ITV.

Sunday 15:40 GMT: George Miller isn’t just into car chases and mad men, he also loves all singing, all dancing penguins. See the proof with ‘Happy Feet’ on ITV2.

Sunday 21:00 GMT: Whilst ‘Age Of Ultron’ may have disappointed upon release earlier this year, you can see how the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off in style with ‘Iron Man’ on Film4. 

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.

Romeo + Juliet: With the epic trailer for ‘Macbeth’ landing last week, we thought it apt to forage into the Shakespearean collection for more. Starring the impeccable Leonardo DiCaprio, and Claire Danes (Homeland), this is a stunning modernisation of the ultimate romantic tale. A reimagining perfectly brought to life by the master of contemporary/classical contrasts – Baz Luhrmann.

The Green Mile: We each had a go at putting together a list of our top 50 films of all time last week. The result of hours of gruelling decision making, was two lists with a diverse range of films on both sides. But one film which stands out as being a must see, is Tom Hanks’ brilliant depiction of a death row officer. If you haven’t seen it already, get ready for a heartbreaking yet magical story. One of the only films which never fails to send me to tears.

Black Swan: What better way to celebrate Natalie Portman’s upcoming birthday this week ,then to relive arguably her best ever performance. ‘Black Swan’ is a truly wonderful cinematic experience, with an utterly mesmerising soundtrack. A film that investigates personal ambition and the lengths that someone will go to to live out their dream. Haunting and disturbing, this psychological thriller is not for the faint-hearted, but it is one of our favourite films so we recommend you get your hands on a copy and get watching! 

Pan’s Labyrinth: Following Barcelona’s victory in the UEFA Champions League at the weekend, we thought it would be appropriate to dig out one of Spain’s more notable cinematic contributions. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is dark and twisted retelling of the Spanish Civil War from the viewpoint of a small girl with a vivid imagination. This film is as violent as it is disturbing and unsettling, but we recommend it all the same. 

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