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

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REVIEW: Creed II (2018)

Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu

Written by Cameron Frew

“If he dies, he dies,” said Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) in Rocky IV, arguably the finest entry in the series outside the all-time classic original. It was a film that captured the essence of its time; the ultra-machismo, the air-punching music, a self-aware corniness, post-Cold War observations. But Creed II, the follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed spin-off, is a much different beast from its ancestor.

After Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) becomes world champion, Drago, the man who killed Creed’s father, and his brutish son, Viktor (Florian Munteanu) challenge him to a fight. Against Rocky’s (Sylvester Stallone) better judgement, Creed takes the bout, sparking repercussions that will affect his life at home with Bianca (Tessa Thompson).

Lundgren’s mournful icon opens the picture, from the frosty-blue filtered snowscape of Kiev, awakening his boy for what we can only assume a long, hard day of montage-worthy training. It’s not long before we see the terrifyingly hulkish Viktor, deftly handled by Munteanu, in action in the ring. One thing is established fast; Viktor shares one huge trait with his dad – a lack of compassion.

Director Steven Caple Jr, taking the gloves from Ryan Coogler, plays a tension-raising little game – we’re reacquainted with Creed and co fairly quickly (in a sneakily modest one-take). Rocky says to him: “Are you here to prove something to other people, or prove something to yourself?” The triumphant spirit that helped give the first film a surprising strength is back, but Caple Jr is keen to remind you that there’s definitely a storm coming, and there’s only so far a good man can go against someone “who was raised in hate”.

Stallone earned himself an Oscar-nom for the (formerly) titular role, and here he’s on similarly excellent form. There’s a really interesting narrative in play between him and Drago throughout; the latter broke things in Rocky “that ain’t ever been fixed”, but he also lost everything and was exiled by his wife – and country – following his homeland defeat. Lundgren is fantastic here, bringing a cautious vulnerability and real, hard vindictive streak in a fractured, immensely satisfying performance that makes these two titans meeting again feel more than an exercise in cheap memories.

The moral conflict is meaty; Rocky is against Creed fighting Viktor because of the past, because of how dangerous he knows Drago’s son is and, obviously, because he can’t face watching the son of the man whose life ended at the hands of his Russian foe, also die. But Rocky fought Drago out of guilt, so if Creed wants to fight his son after Drago has the brass neck to challenge him, can he be blamed? It’s a tale as old as time – testosterone firing on all cylinders. Thankfully, writers Sascha Pem, Juel Taylor and also Stallone keep the story rooted in harsh reality; Creed II is more of a story about finding oneself in the shadow of our parents, and the need to let the past go to become who you really want to be. That, and some tellingly obvious comments on toxic masculinity, takes this a little further than more surface-level genre efforts.

Thompson and Jordan are a fabulous duo that endures a heart-wrenching plight – the writing in this regard excels at not romanticizing their lives (aside from the dreamy L.A flat they acquire just like *finger snap*).  With the exception of a small number of truly moving moments, their narrative is filled with foregone conclusions. In fact, the film itself is excessively formulaic, almost going exactly the way any relatively clued-up moviegoer would predict.

But that’s the thing; Creed II only works if you’ve got skin in the game, if you have more than a floating investment. You need to care and believe in the stakes and the people. If you don’t, the clichés will hit harder, but if you do, there’s much to be enjoyed here as both a series veteran and newbie.

The fight scenes are intense and muscular, shot with a firm hand and never, as the trap less adept efforts fall into, disorientating to enjoy. However, the choreography is miles behind decades-earlier movies; not just Rocky, but also Raging Bull, or even Warrior in 2011. There’s a certain lack of distance afforded to the viewer, always cinematically in amongst it instead of taking a step back. In a boxing picture, that would seem like a detrimental flaw – but Caple Jr is slick enough to carry it off.

Returning to compose is Ludwig Göransson, who separates this work even further from its family tree, weaving the soundtrack with a hip, modernized flare that rarely taps into that classic theme (oh boy when it does, though), exhibiting a rare confidence in the culture of sequels. The music makes for a thrilling accompaniment to Kramer Morgenthau’s raw, evocative cinematography; a natural at both establishing the emotional range of an intimate environment and accenting a brilliant montage. A little more recognition of its roots would have carried it that extra stretch (don’t wait on Drago saying that famous line), but this is a cool, unruffled entry in a franchise that would be welcomed back again.

Gripping and poignant, Creed II marks the humble passing of the mantle. Just need Mr. T’s son for next time.

 

Cameron’s Verdict:

4

Brand New ‘Creed II’ Trailer Teases The Creed v Drago Showdown

“Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.”

Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Florian “The Big Nasty” Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren, Russell Hornsby

Release Date: November 30th, 2018

Sorry To Bother You

 

Year: 2018
Directed by: Boots Riley
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermain Fowler, Terry Crews, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwick, Danny Glover

Written by Fiona Underhill

When I heard about the cast of this film towards the end of last year, my excitement levels went through the roof. Lakeith Stanfield was an extremely hot property after ‘Atlanta’ and ‘Get Out’, Tessa Thompson’s star had risen in 2017 with ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (and only increased this year with ‘Annihilation’ and ‘Dirty Computer’) and then there’s Armie Hammer, who was at the height of ‘Call Me By Your Name’ mania when we first heard about ‘Sorry to Bother You’. Debut director and hip-hop star Boots Riley perfectly timed assembling this ultra-cool cast and he came up with an exciting, risk-taking and original idea to complement them. This film has been my most-anticipated of 2018 for six months and it still managed to exceed my expectations. It’s more surprising, crazier, extreme and amazing than you can possibly imagine.

If you CAN go and see it, then run, don’t walk to your nearest cinema!

Cassius ‘Cash’ Green (Lakeith Stanfield) lives with his artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) in his Uncle Serge’s (Terry Crews) garage. He desperately needs a job, so goes to a telemarketing company to  try and work his way up. There he meets Langston (Danny Glover), who tells him that if he puts on a ‘white voice’, his calls will be more successful and he’ll make more money. He also meets Squeeze (a fantastic Steven Yeun), who along with Cash’s old friend Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) wants to unionize the workers at the company and demand benefits. Cash starts to gain success and begins to make his way towards becoming a coveted ‘Power Caller’; someone who gets to ride the gold elevator with a mysterious unnamed character (Omari Hardwick) to the top floor and make sales calls on a completely different level (selling arms and people – literally). He then finds himself torn between the promise of untold riches (and helping his Uncle save his home) and his friends and girlfriend on the bottom floor, trying to keep things real. This plot summary barely scratches the surface of what actually happens and especially the final third of the film goes in a completely unforseen direction. I urge you to try to remain as spoiler-free as you can, going in, because that will only add to the enjoyment.

The visual inventiveness that Riley has achieved on what was presumably a pretty small budget is insane. There are so many brilliant touches; when Cash is making his calls, you see him actually go into the homes of each of his targets and interact with them. When Cash starts to gain success, his new flashy belongings, like his TV set, grow out of his old worn items. The hair, make-up and costumes (particularly of Detroit) are witty, inventive and clever. The scene where Detroit opens her art show in a gallery, with performance art aspects is amazing. Omari Hardwick’s unnamed character is straight out of a Magritte painting with his bowler hat and apple, this time with the addition of an enormous handle bar moustache/beard. Everything about Armie Hammer’s character Steve Lift is bananas. He wears a kind of kilt/sarong, leather boots, a crop and they’ve even given him the subtle touch of David Bowie’s different coloured eyes, adding to his svengali-like status – you believe he could hypnotise you.

There are multiple themes running through the many layers of ‘Sorry to Bother You’ and a review isn’t really the right place to delve into the depths of them. This film will be analysed and picked apart, as it should be and the best people to do that with this film are people of colour (eg. Angelique Jackson, Soraya McDonald, Robert Daniels). This film has much to say about what black people have to face in white spaces and what they have to do to succeed in white-dominated worlds. The changing of register is just one example of how black people are dehumanised and that theme is taken to the extreme by the end. There is a sub-plot involving white people being used as slave labour which could have whole essays written about it in itself. There are parts of this film that will confront and disrupt the comfort of the viewer and there are parts that are hard to watch and listen to. But maybe that should be the case in a film that is revealing and highlighting what some black people have to live every day.

Yes, this film is hilarious and had the audience in hysterics, but it definitely will leave you with much to think about afterwards.

If there were any justice in the world, Stanfield would be in the running for an Oscar-nomination next February. His lead performance here is astounding and Thompson supports him with her incredible magnetism, commanding the screen whenever she is on it. This is one of the best debut feature films from a first time writer-director I’ve ever seen. Riley has been incredibly bold, inventive and has not compromised his unique voice. It’s an extremely well structured and edited film, with creative visual effects that are clever low-budget solutions, making a more interesting film than higher-budget blockbusters. I cannot recommend ‘Sorry to Bother You’ highly enough and I just hope that the international rights are sorted out, so audiences in the UK and beyond can see this film as soon as possible.

Fiona’s Rating:

5

Michael B. Jordan Steps Back Into The Ring As Adonis Creed In The First Trailer For ‘Creed II’

“Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family’s past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what’s worth fighting for, and discover that nothing’s more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can’t escape your history.”

Directed by: Steven Caple Jr.

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris, Andre Ward, Florian “The Big Nasty” Munteanu, Dolph Lundgren, Russell Hornsby

Release Date: November 30th, 2018

 

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

Watch The Brilliantly Bizarre Trailer For ‘Sorry To Bother You’

“In an alternate present-day version of Oakland, telemarketer Cassius Green discovers a magical key to professional success, propelling him into a macabre universe.”

Directed by: Boots Riley

Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, Patton Oswalt, Steven Yeun, Terry Crews, David Cross, Danny Glover

Release Date: July 6th, 2018

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

Marvel Unleash First ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Trailer

“An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War” brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

Anthony and Joe Russo direct the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.”

It’s finally arrived! After months of fan speculation, numerous fake pictures and screenshots of release dates, Marvel have unleashed the first official trailer for the third ‘Avengers’ film, ‘Infinity War’.

The star studded film brings together every hero we’ve met in the last 10 years, including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Guardians, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Black Panther. They’re all coming together to take on the Mad Titan, Thanos, who we’ve seen very little of and only ever really been teased about the threat he poses to Earth. Last time we saw him he grabbed his currently stone-less Gauntlet and declared “I’ll do it myself”.

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In the first post-credit scene, Thor, Loki, Valkyrie, and the Asgardians come face to face with a humongous ship. Fans speculate that ship belongs to non-other than the Mad Titan himself, and that this will tie in with the beginning of ‘Infinity War’.

The heroes also feature in the latest Vanity Fair issue, which includes photos of how some of the heroes will look in the film, but as many have noticed, some costumes (and weapons) don’t seem to match what we know going into ‘Infinity War’, which could mean that the Russo Brothers have plenty of surprises up their sleeves.

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The Avengers Trilogy Teaser Posters