film news

REVIEW: Kajaki. The True Story (2014)

MV5BMTQ5MjYxMDM4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDU2NzA0MzE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_At Kajaki Dam in 2006, a company of young British soldiers on a routine patrol stumble into an unmarked minefield. Every step could lead to injuries or death for many of the soldiers as they all work together to try and rescue their injured comrades.

Kajaki does a good job of lulling the audience into a false sense of security. All the soldiers are normal guys and they have banter and laugh and joke with each other and the day seems so normal before a routine patrol turns into a nightmare. The first explosion really is a surprise and then the tension never lets up.

The performances from the entire cast is phenomenal. The film is full of young and relatively unknown British talent which works well as you’re more focused on the characters than the peple playing them.

Kajaki is the true story of soldier’s bravery and courage under immense odds. The fact that it’s a true story could make it become overly sentimental or political but Kajaki manages to avoid that. Its very matter of fact about the situation and it leaves the audience to decide if there is any political angle or if anything could be done to prevent the incident or if it was all an unfortunate tragedy.

Kajaki is such a powerful film, it’s well-directed, well-acted and overall a great film. It’s tough to watch but it’s definitely something everyone should see. 5/5.

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Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange? Not for me thanks

I shall start this by saying I’m a Marvel fan. From the animated X-Men cartoon in the 1990‘s to the films and the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’m now branching out into the comic books. Also my two dissertations have been on comic book movies and one was specifically all about Marvel and how it became an independent film studio to a subsidiary of Disney. So besides from being a fan, I also have at least a vague knowledge of how Hollywood studios work and how Marvel has worked for the past decade.

So now onto why I’m writing this post – Doctor Strange and why I’m not particularly happy.

Yesterday it was reported that Benedict Cumberbatch was in talks to play Doctor Stephen Strange. His was a name rumoured for the role for weeks and other names floating around were Joaquin Phoenix, Ethan Hawke, Tom Hardy and Jared Leto – though to be honest, just about every white, middle-aged actor in Hollywood has been rumoured to be up for the role at some point or another.

Now talks of a Doctor Strange movie has been going around for a while but it especially kicked off when the name was dropped during Captain America: The Winter Solider. Fans were choosing who’d be their pick and mine was (and is) Oded Fehr from The Mummy. Fehr along with Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) turned out to be a popular choice among fans. A popular post on Tumblr of Doctor Strange fancasts include Fehr, Pascal, Alexander Siddig, Naveen Andrews and Godfrey Gao. One thing all these actors have in common is that they are not white.

Doctor Strange vs Oded Fehr - the similarities are astounding. Courtesy of @BlackGirlNerds

Doctor Strange & Oded Fehr – the similarities are astounding. Courtesy of @BlackGirlNerds

One problem that the MCU (and Hollywood blockbusters in general) has is that all its leads in its franchises are white men. Yes, The Avengers was an ensemble cast but of the six major leads, only Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow was the only female character and she has yet to get her own movie. The lack of a female led film in the MCU is a discussion for another time.

Doctor Strange (like the Guardians of the Galaxy before the film came out) is more of an unknown character, this would then allow the filmmakers to do something different with it. So why not cast a person of colour as the lead? Also, why does the actor have to be someone who is so well known – both in the world of fandom and in the industry? Benedict Cumberbatch is part of some major franchises with Sherlock, The Hobbit and Star Trek under his belt, if Thor taught us anything, casting two relatively unknown actors as the leads can work out really well. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston have both gone on to be well loved by fans and critics alike. Casting unknowns can be a cheaper way to make a movie and not detract from the character with their “star power”.

In short my dislike of Benedict Cumberbatch being Doctor Strange (a character I know pretty much nothing about bar the animated movie) comes down to two things. Over exposure to him as an actor and him being white. There are too many white male leads in the MCU and I’d love to see more diversity in the superhero comic book movie genre.

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw also wrote a great piece about why there’s such a backlash towards Benedict Cumberbatch’s casting.

As I was finishing writing this, Marvel has announced that there will be a Captain Marvel film in 2018 and a Black Panther film in 2017 and I’m excited about both (Black Panther especially) but I’m still a bit upset that there’s no Black Widow movie though there’s still no definite announcement about Doctor Strange. Who knows, maybe Benedict Cumberbatch won’t sign on to it and there will be fresh hope for a person of colour to play Doctor Strange once again?

My thoughts on the Oscars 2014 nominations

oscar-statueThe nominations for the 86th Academy Awards were announced yesterday. After looking through them all I have to say generally I’m quite happy with who and what was nominated – though I am a bit gutted by a few omissions.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to watch all the films nominated for Oscars this year – or at least all those in the four acting categories, and best director and best film. By the looks of things I should be able to tick off that resolution by the time the Oscar winners are announced on March 2nd.

Let’s start with Best Film. I have seen six of the nine films nominated, the three I haven’t seen being Her, Dallas Buyers Club and The Wolf of Wall Street. Those three films have yet to be released in the UK (or in the case of The Wolf of Wall Street it’s released today). Out of what I’ve seen so far (and if I’m honest seeing the other three films won’t change this) 12 Years A Slave should most definitely win.

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My BAFTA Thoughts

Bafta TrophyThe BAFTA nominations have been announced and everything seems to be going according to plan – except the fact that Inside Llewyn Davies only got three nominations and none were for acting or directing. The top films are Gravity with 11 nominations, followed by 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle with 10 each, and Captain Phillips with nine.

I’ll readily admit that I haven’t seen all the films or performances nominated – mostly because some of the big hitters have yet to be released here in the UK. That being said I’m going to see both American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave in the next week, and The Wolf of Wall Street the week after so I’ll be able to have my personal opinion for them soon. (more…)

Zorro Reborn – a more original reboot/remake?

I’m not a huge fan of reboots and remakes – although saying that I will probably end up seeing half the films that are remakes/reboots in the cinema. I think it does depend on how much I loved the original material.

The thing I don’t like about remakes is when it has exactly the same story, setting and characters as the original and doesn’t add anything new or different. When this happens I wonder what the point is – one might as well watch the original if the only difference is not so great picture quality and special effects.

But then there comes along a remake of Zorro. Obviously there have been many different incarnations of the masked hero but the one that I always think of (and love) is 1998’s The Mask of Zorro staring Antonia Banderas and Anthony Hopkins as the title character and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the love interest. I have seen the film many times since I was a child and will near enough always watch it whenever it’s on TV. The 2005 sequel is enjoyable enough but I haven’t watched it as much.

When I first heard that there was going to be a remake of Zorro I was a little put out as, like I’ve said, I enjoy the 1995 film so much. However! Looking at the test footage trailer of Zorro Reborn, it looks as if this reboot/remake is going to be different. It appears as if it has the same essence of Zorro – protecting the oppressed people and fighting against corruption but it is put in a very different setting.

It’s set in the future with a descendent of Don Diego de la Vega becoming Zorro – so there’s no need to worry about comparing the new actor with Anthony Hopkins. It is a new environment, there’s new bad guys and new characters.

Everything appears to be new and different but the essense of Zorro  – the Robin Hood type character – is still the same. I think that’s all that really matters in a film about Zorro, if you get the costume and his actions right then really the setting can be as different as you like. Get the character right and you really don’t have to worry about the rest.

This is a reboot/remake that I am looking forward to if Fox green lights the film.

YouTube Link

The premise has a meteorite crashing into Earth in the future that destroys much of California and Mexico leaving it as a desert. After the dust settles, that same meteorite is discovered to be a supreme source of energy, which a new hostile corporation assumes. People begin flocking to New San Diego for work only to find out they’re now being oppressed. It is then that Alejandro Fox, a descendant of Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro, emerges as the hero that will answer the people’s cry for justice. – Source.

Artemis Fowl Movie – Finally?

I’m simultaneously super excited and a bit scared about the news that Artemis Fowl is finally going to have his own movie.

The books by Eoin Colfer were a huge part of my childhood – I picked up the first book in my school’s library when I was ten. I then went on to read (almost) the entire series over the years. While I haven’t finished the series and am honestly not sure if I ever will, I did grow up with Artemis, Captain Holly Short and Mulch the dwarf. I got really upset at Commander Julius Root’s murder in the second book – I think that was probably the first time I read a book where a character was killed in front of the reader – and I still remember where I was when I read that part (The Red Lion Pub in Ashington if you were interested.)

While I’m now a few months shy of turning twenty-two, if or when the movie is released I will be in that cinema audience. When I was younger I had no real idea how books are turned into movies so frequently or what they had to have to be turned into a movie, I just read the books and enjoyed them. Nowadays there seems to be always talk of which books should have film adaptations and who should play which character. To have one of my childhood series maybe finally having a movie is something I never really imagined. Although I remember a friend from college saying that a young Tom Felton would have been the perfect casting choice for Artemis and I’d have to agree.

Now Harvey Weinstein is planning to work with Disney to get Artemis Fowl onto the big screen – that’s an interesting partnership considering their history but I’m sure it’s all water under the bridge. It’ll be interesting to see how closely Disney keeps to the book. I’m mainly thinking about the characters of Butler and Mulch, Butler is quite violent while Mulch is often rude and I’m not sure how that will translate into a “Disney family movie.”

I guess we shall have to wait and see but no matter what, I will be seeing the Artemis Fowl movie in the cinema.

Film info from Variety.