Outcast: 'A Darkness Surrounds Him' Review

Robert Kirkman's latest show gets off to a flawed start.

Confirmed: John Boyega to Star in 'Pacific Rim 2'

Boyega joins the sequel hot off the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Box Office: Ninja Turtles 2 Suffers in Anti-Sequel Summer

TMNT 2 is the latest sequel to bring in some disappointing numbers.

Review: Eye in the Sky

Gavin Hood's military drama is an impressive achievement.

Monday, 28 March 2016

TEN Film and Television Awards 2016: The Nominations

Admittedly this year's TEN awards show has arrived a little late; in an attempt to compile the strongest list of nominees possible, I decided to wait for some of the films I missed upon initial release to come out on DVD and streaming services. While arguably these awards are perhaps a little less relevant coming four months after 2016 drew to a close, I thought this would be a fun thing to do nonetheless.

A quick note before we continue; certain films that have been awards contenders at the major American shows such as The RevenantRoomCreed, and The Hateful Eight are not nominated here due to the fact that they were released in the UK in 2016 -- this awards show is strictly for films and TV shows released in 2015.
Without further ado, here's the nominations for this year's awards; we hope you'll return to see the winners later this month.

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Harrison Ford (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Jason Statham (Spy)
Michael Pena (Ant-Man)
Michael Shannon (99 Homes)
Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)
Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak)
Rachel Weisz (The Lobster)
Rebecca Hall (The Gift)
Rose Byrne (Spy)
Scarlett Johannson (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture

Andrew Garfield (99 Homes)
Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina)
Jason Bateman (The Gift)
John Boyega (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service)

Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
Emily Blunt (Sicario)
Maika Monroe (It Follows)
Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
Mia Wasikowska (Crimson Peak)

Best Director

Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Guillermo Del Toro (Crimson Peak)
Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)

Best Picture

99 Homes
Ex Machina
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Martian


Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series

Aaron Paul (Bojack Horseman)
Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo)
Carlos Valdes (The Flash)
David Tennant (Jessica Jones)
Tituss Burgess (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Vincent D'Onofrio (Daredevil)

Best Supporting Actress in a Television Series

Carol Kane (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Jean Smart (Fargo)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Rosario Dawson (Daredevil)
Yael Grobglas (Jane the Virgin)

Best Lead Actor in a Television Series

Aziz Ansari (Master of None)
Charlie Cox (Daredevil)
Jesse Plemons (Fargo)
Patrick Wilson (Fargo)
Terrence Howard (Empire)
Will Arnett (Bojack Horseman)

Best Lead Actress in a Television Series

Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin)
Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
Kirsten Dunst (Fargo)
Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones)
Taraji P. Henson (Empire)

Best Television Series

Bojack Horseman
Jane the Virgin
Jessica Jones
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Winners to be announced early April!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Is It Really That Bad? [Review]

[This review contains spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.]
Zack Snyder's DC Comics sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has finally seen release this weekend after many years in production, only to find itself on the receiving end of some truly scathing reviews. This wasn't something I found particularly surprising; having suspected that the film would suffer similar flaws to its predecessor Man of Steel, I released a public service announcement over a month ago warning people not to raise their expectations too high. Needless to say that video was just a drop in the ocean of Batman v Superman coverage and so did little to prevent the heartbreak many DC fans felt this weekend. Many, but not all.
Indeed, some fans have left screenings of Dawn of Justice singing the film's praises which ended up leading me to purchase tickets for opening night, as I look for a place to stand on one of the most divisive blockbuster films since... well, Man of Steel I suppose. So the question is, is Batman v Superman really that bad? I would say no. While undoubtedly deeply flawed, Zack Snyder's two and a half hour epic isn't unwatchable -- whether or not that's a compliment is debatable, but frankly it's more than I expected.
The biggest problem with this movie is the same one present in every Zack Snyder production, and that's a bad case of style over substance. Snyder can undoubtedly create some visually arresting action sequences, but he struggles to understand the humanity in these conflicts. Something I couldn't help but notice was that many of the scenes in this movie failed to make me feel something -- anything in fact.
Whether I was watching Amy Adams'  Lois Lane be held at gunpoint, seeing a young Bruce Wayne struggle to come to terms with his parents death, or even witnessing the brutal "death" of Superman (one of the world's most beloved super-heroes, need I remind you), my general feeling throughout this film's runtime was one of indifference. I didn't care when I saw Superman impaled on a spike and that puzzles me.
I feel that perhaps the root cause of this problem is that the characters in these movies are lacking in something. I hate to compare the DC films to those produced by Marvel Studios, as that would suggest I'm implying all super-hero films should follow the same formula. I don't believe that for a second. However, it's hard to argue against the fact that the Marvel movies have well defined characters, each with a unique personality and it's because of this that they play off each other so well in the Avengers team movies.
The DC characters at present are severely lacking strong personalities. Henry Cavill's Superman comes across in this film as little more than a grumpy guy with super powers. Ben Affleck's Batman makes a similar first impression, as a grumpy guy without super powers. I think perhaps this is why I appreciated the presence of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman quite so much: she was the only character in this film who genuinely seemed like she was having fun.
A smile during the overwhelming final battle. A fun remark about how Bruce Wayne has never met a woman quite like Diana Prince. These are miniscule things that go a long way in a film otherwise devoid of any comic relief whatsoever, and carrying an overall tone that is depressing enough to prevent all but the most dedicated DC fans from coming back for repeat viewings.
Wonder Woman isn't the only thing this film has going for it; given that her screen-time isn't huge, that would be rather dire indeed. But she is quite possibly the stand-out, which makes me optimistic that perhaps Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman solo movie coming next year could fare better than this film has with critics. Jeremy Irons and Holly Hunter are also worthy of praise, crafting characters with more personality in their relatively minor roles than arguably either of the two lead actors do in this film's entire run-time.
A figure of much disagreement has been Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, who is indeed a drastically different take on Superman's arch-nemesis than we've seen before. I fall somewhere between the groups that love and hate this interpretation of the character, believing that while the performance was by no means disastrous it wasn't compelling enough to justify changing a character who was fine to begin with. Indeed, one can't help but wonder how different this film would be had the fan-casting of Bryan Cranston come to fruition.

Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor was an interesting but unnecessary experiment.
The plot of this movie also isn't entirely without merit. It's true that the premise of the film i.e. watching two characters who have no reason to fight each other doing just that, does feel forced and indeed I feel this film could have been stronger had it been focused on a team-up rather than a showdown between these two iconic characters. Additionally, this film does fall into the trap that many comic-book movies have found themselves in recently (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 perhaps the worst offender), of being more concerned with building a 'cinematic universe' than they are with telling a coherent story.

Cameo appearances from other DC super-heroes while fun for fans to see, do feel somewhat shoe-horned in to a story which really doesn't involve them in any way. Although that being said a certain Flash cameo has the potential to be very exciting if future films can successfully tie into it: that's a big 'if'.

However, credit should be given to screenwriters Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer for juggling all these balls and not ending up with an utter disaster on their hands. Dawn of Justice's plot may be messy but it isn't totally incoherent, and with the exception of a few moments here and there held my attention for the duration.

Batman v Superman perhaps isn't as bad as its harshest critics are claiming, but unfortunately it's too flawed to be called a success. Performances from Gal Gadot, Holly Hunter and Jeremy Irons combined with Snyder's dazzling action sequences provide this film's glimmers of brilliance, but ultimately aren't enough to save it from mediocrity. Having two lead characters with little in the way of personality certainly doesn't help matters, while the scattered story pales in comparison to some of the much more sophisticated work found in the comic-books from which this movie takes inspiration. As I stated earlier in this review, Batman v Superman is watchable but by no means is it the masterpiece many fans were no doubt hoping for.


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane made headlines when its first trailer debuted in front of screenings for Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, not only for being connected in some way to the 2007 cult hit Cloverfield but also for how much of its production was done in secrecy; that's no mean feat in the era of information leaks. Fans hoped that the film would live up to their great expectations (let us not forget that a Cloverfield sequel has been wished for by many for some time now), and I'm pleased to say that 10 Cloverfield Lane truly is a fantastic film although perhaps not the one fans of the original were hoping for.
Indeed, if you were optimistic this film would shed light on the nature of the so-called Cloverfield Monster then you will be left disappointed, as producer J.J. Abrams insists that this film does not even take place in the same continuity as the found-footage sci-fi flick released nine years prior. But while you won't find answers in a screening of 10 Cloverfield Lane, what you will find is a well-written atmospheric thriller which deserves to be recognised as far more than just "Cloverfield's sort-of sequel," but as an impressive drama feature in its own right.

The film follows the story of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Michelle who upon waking up in a doomsday bunker is left to wonder whether the world above her is quite as uninhabitable as her captor Howard (John Goodman) claims: and she's not the only person struggling to make her mind up. Throughout this movie I found myself trying and failing to unpick the true nature of this situation as we the audience are constantly being thrown to different conclusions for the duration of this rollercoaster story. This makes for a thrilling viewing experience, one that quite literally had me on the edge of my seat for almost the entirety of the climactic second half.

One must praise all three of the lead performances for being truly stellar; Winstead is compelling as the main protagonist, while Goodman consistently manages to expertly walk the line between caring and creepy creating one of the more complex characters of mainstream cinema so far this year. 10 Cloverfield Lane's unsung hero may well be John Gallagher Jr., who lacks both Winstead's screen-time and the mystery of Goodman's Howard but nonetheless plays a pivotal role here as Michelle's fellow captor Emmett.

Where 10 Cloverfield Lane has proven divisive is in its final act where a drastic shift in tone has left some scratching their heads. Personally, I enjoyed even this part of the film as I was so invested in Winstead's character by this point that little could have taken me out of this immersive story, however I can understand why some would see these final scenes as an odd change of pace.

In spite of this contentious finale 10 Cloverfield Lane remains a remarkably strong film, one that is without a doubt worth your time and money. Familiarity with the first Cloverfield entry is entirely optional as those with no knowledge of that experimental sci-fi feature will still find themselves wrapped up in the intense human drama this movie provides.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

PaleyFest: Scream Queens Season 2 Cast, Plot Revealed

Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens was something of a surprise renewal earlier this year, but even after getting the greenlight for a second season the future direction of the show was still uncertain. Would Murphy enlist an entirely new cast in the style of FX's anthology series Fargo, or would the stars of the first season return for another round of tongue-in-cheek scares?

(from left) Billie Lourd, Emma Roberts and Abigail Breslin in Scream Queens
Yesterday, the latter was revealed to be true as at the PaleyFest Scream Queens panel, co-creator Brad Fulchuk announced many of the shows cast members would be returning for the show's sophomore season. In fact, the only people absent from the panel were Oliver Hudson and Skyler Samuels who played the father-daughter duo Grace and Wes during the show's first year; given that neither names appear in a promotional video released by FOX yesterday (see below), we can probably assume that the pair will only appear in the second season in small roles if at all.
Plot details were also announced as it was revealed the show's second season will take place in a hospital owned and run by Jamie Lee Curtis' Dean Munsch, who decides to move into the world of healthcare after being inspired by a trip around the world. Keke Palmer's Zayday Williams will have graduated to the position of trainee doctor under Munsch's watchful eye, but as things start going horribly awry once again Niecy Nash's Denise Hemfield (now an FBI agent) will be dragged in to get to the bottom of a new mystery.
Lea Michele's unhinged killer Hester and the now institutionalised Chanels (Emma Roberts, Abigail Breslin and Billie Lourd) will also play a role in this new story as will Glen Powell's Chad Radwell.

Season 1 of Scream Queens in retrospect

The first season of Scream Queens had the misfortune of a weak pilot which overplayed the spoilt nature of Emma Roberts' Chanel Oberlin, while underplaying the show's tongue-in-cheek horror aspects and the unique personalities of the show's other main characters. I truly believe this pilot was at least partly to blame for the show's subsequent ratings struggle as many viewers were turned off by such a bad first impression.
This is a great shame as for those who stuck with the show, Scream Queens became something of an obsession. The show provided some very memorable personalities, shocking plot twists with every episode, often hilarious satire and enough gore to please fans of the horror genre.
While the season finale perhaps wasn't as fulfilling as fans hoped it would have been, it was an adequate end to a memorable run and has left this fan looking to season two with optimism. Expect Scream Queens to have a prominent presence at this year's TEN Film and Television Awards, the nominees of which are to be announced sometime in the next week.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Arrow, Flash, and Legends Included in The CW's Renewal Spree

In a similar style to last year, the CW has chosen to renew every scripted television series currently airing on their network. In some cases this isn't surprising; their DC Comics shows Arrow, The Flash and newcomer Legends of Tomorrow have been strong performers, while Supernatural has also held onto its remarkable popularity despite its age.
However, up until now some of the CW's shows were far from a sure bet for renewal. Indeed, despite critical acclaim shows like Jane the Virgin and particularly Rachel Bloom's new addition to the slate musical-comedy Crazy Ex-Girlfriend have struggled to find an audience. The renewal of both shows can be put down in large part to their awards nominations, with Jane the Virgin's Gina Rodriguez winning Best Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy at the 2015 Golden Globes (the first win the CW has ever received at that ceremony), while Rachel Bloom walked home with the same award at this year's show for her work on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
The full list of renewed CW shows can be found below:
The 100 renewed for season four
Arrow renewed for season five
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend renewed for season two
The Flash renewed for season three
iZombie renewed for season three
Jane the Virgin renewed for season three
Legends of Tomorrow renewed for season two
The Originals renewed for season four
Reign renewed for season four
Supernatural renewed for season twelve
The Vampire Diaries renewed for season eight
The CW has one new series yet to air, titled Containment. Only time will tell if that show will be fortunate enough to gain a renewal as well.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Finest Hours: A $75 Million Flop For Disney

In a month where Gods of Egypt has hogged all headlines relating to box office flops, Disney CEO Bob Iger announces the studio is to lose $75 million on The Finest Hours, the ocean-rescue film starring Chris Pine which was released in the last week of January 2016. The film's budget has not been officially released, but is expected to be at around the $80 million mark not including advertising costs; at the worldwide box office the film was able to bring in only $44 million.
While by no means reviled the film certainly wasn't a hit with many film critics and this combined with the lack of interest in the true story The Finest Hours was retelling, likely contributed to the film's failure to find an audience. However, much of the blame will undoubtedly be placed at the feet of star Chris Pine who time and time again has proven himself to be box office poison.
The film joins Horrible Bosses 2Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and People Like Us on the list of box office disappointments Pine has starred in, while even the actor's safety net Star Trek franchise has fallen on hard times with 2013's sequel Into Darkness predicted to have made a measly profit of just $29 million once all the film's expenses were accounted for.
Coming up in 2016 Pine has the third instalment in the Star Trek franchise hitting theatres in July, and a heist crime film by the name of Comancheria based on a script from Hollywood's 2012 Black List with no release date at the time of writing. Additionally, the actor was recently added to the cast of 2017's Wonder Woman solo movie in the role of Steve Trevor.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Sandman Loses Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gains Eric Heisserer

It's been a rollercoaster week for Warner Brother's film adaptation of the cult classic Neil Gaiman comic-book, Sandman. On Friday 4th March, it was announced that screenwriter Eric Heisserer (best known for his work on the remakes of Nightmare on Elm Street and The Thing) had come on board with the project, and was rewriting a script originally penned by Jack Thorne.
Whether or not this is good news for the project is tough to say, although it is hard to ignore that neither of the remakes Heisserer is associated with were critical success stories. What came next however, was definitely a blow for Sandman as just twenty-four hours later Joseph Gordon-Levitt abandoned the production that he'd been attached to for many years.

Gordon-Levitt was initially expected to both direct and star in the film, but in a post on his Facebook page the actor explained that since the project had been passed down to WB subsidiary New Line, he no longer felt comfortable fulfilling those duties.
...a few months ago, I came to realise that the folks at New Line and I just don't see eye to eye on what makes Sandman special, and what a film adaptation could/should be. So unfortunately, I decided to remove myself from the project. I wish nothing but the best for the team moving forward.
Gordon-Levitt, who made his directorial debut with 2013's Don Jon, went on to thank the people he worked with on Sandman including David S. Goyer, Niija Kuykendall, Greg Silverman and the aforementioned Jack Thorne.
The adaptation is still moving forward, however the loss of perhaps its strongest advocate is undoubtedly going to be a set-back for this already long in-development production.