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MM’s Favourite Films Of 2017 (Darryl Griffiths)

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2017. Timothee Chalamet and Tiffany Haddish helped to boost the sales of peaches and grapefruits, as Barry Keoghan staked his claim to be the new face of Heinz Spaghetti.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone immersed themselves in a City Of Stars, with Zac Efron and Zendaya looking to Rewrite The Stars.

In Ansel Elgort we found a Baby Driver. For Jennifer Lawrence however, she was merely driven up the wall by Javier Bardem.

All jokes aside, Annette Bening also uttered these words of wisdom.

‘Having your heart broken is a tremendous way to learn about the world’.

For me. Cinema has been as much about being entertained and escaping from reality, as it has been a form of catharsis. A wonderful art form that has continued to broaden my horizons. In an exceptionally difficult year, my selections have helped me laugh. To smile. To feel. Most importantly. To heal.

To all the terrific talents who were involved in these films. Thank you. X

Here are my Favourite Films Of 2017:

*IN ACCORDANCE TO 2017 UK RELEASE DATES*

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi)

Beach Rats (Eliza Hittman)

Their Finest (Lone Scherfig)

Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool (Paul McGuigan)

Girls Trip (Malcolm D. Lee)

The Levelling (Hope Dickson Leach)

IT (Andres Muschetti)

20 – THE BIG SICK (Michael Showalter)

Inspired by his own real-life romance with screenwriter Emily V. Gordon. Kumail Nanjiani anchored a whip smart culture-clash rom-com, fighting for his big break in stand-up, whilst staving off staunch Muslim traditions through his romance with Zoe Kazan. In a year light on quality offerings within this well-worn genre. A big tick for The Big Sick.

19 – THE LOST CITY OF Z (James Gray)

Assured direction from James Gray coupled with gorgeous cinematography by Darius Khondji. ‘Z was an exquisite exploration of 1920’s Bolivia, as Charlie Hunnam’s renowned British explorer looked to uncover an ancient Amazonian city. A vigorous and absorbing throwback to the adventures we rarely see now in the modern era.

18 – MOTHER! (Darren Aronofsky)

Easily one of the most controversial and divisive offerings of the year. Yet you simply couldn’t take Darren Aronofsky’s latest at face value. The obsessive god-like figure of Javier Bardem’s writer clashing with Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘Mother Nature’, building to an audacious third act that is tough to shake. A compelling journey.

17 – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (Matt Reeves)

A mere reminder of the majestic motion-capture work of Mr Andy Serkis. This threequel was a soul-stirring conclusion to one of the great franchise revivals of recent years, instilling a desperation often associated with historical war dramas, underpinned by a stunning Michael Giacchino score.

16 – GET OUT (Jordan Peele)

Full of satirical bite about white privilege and the racial tensions that shamefully remains ingrained in the American landscape. Jordan Peele’s hypnotic (quite literally!) directorial debut exposes the horrors of such prejudice, whilst embracing the genre tropes to create an unnerving cinematic experience.

15 – THE FLORIDA PROJECT (Sean Baker)

Upgrading from his trustee I Phone (Tangerine) to a sumptuous 35MM aesthetic. Sean Baker provided us with an achingly authentic deconstruction of the childhood fairytale outlook, grounded in the harsh realities of a primary coloured hotel run by a brilliant Willem Dafoe. Sublime.

14 – 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (Mike Mills)

A luscious labour of love of the 1970’s and his own mother, littered with fiercely intelligent performances from Annette Bening, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig. Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women was a tender and thoughtful tale of finding common ground within the generational gaps, that evoked vivid nostalgia without constantly pushing the button for cheap thrills.

13 – BABY DRIVER (Edgar Wright)

Inevitably tainted by the scandal of Spacey. But it can’t take away from the crisp choreography and craftsmanship on display by Edgar Wright here, as he navigates us through this exhilarating homage, set to a toe-tapping soundtrack. All the Cornettos to Ansel Elgort please!

12 – LOGAN (James Mangold)

Seventeen years as the adamantium-clawed mutant. Back in March, it was finally time for Hugh Jackman to say goodbye to the character Wolverine and what a blistering finale we were provided. Intertwining western motifs with the R-rated blood-soaked thrills fans had been craving. Good luck replacing him Marvel with that new Fox deal…

11 – STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Rian Johnson)

Recently given the keys to a new trilogy. The pressure was certainly on Rian Johnson to build on the well-received efforts of J.J Abrams (The Force Awakens). Graceful in its tributes (Carrie Fisher’s General Leia). Compelling in its escalating conflict (Daisy Ridley’s Rey/Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren). ‘The Last Jedi was a scintillating and stacked instalment, that refused to play by the rules.

10 – LADY MACBETH (William Oldroyd)

Boasting a formidable performance by leading lady Florence Pugh, who clearly relished toying with the audience’s emotions as the titular character. William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth was an immense period drama, that was truly chilling in its calculation and subversion.

9 – GOOD TIME (Benny and Josh Safdie)

If ever there was a film that deserved a wider release in 2017. It was this pulsating offering from the Safdie Brothers, which unearthed an urgent and career-best performance from Robert Pattinson. An intoxicating neon-lit crime thriller, that thrives on chaos.

8 – BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)

From the outset. I suspected the clinical approach of Denis Villeneuve would be a seamless fit for this world, initially built by Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford. So it proved. Serving us an astonishing continuation to its much-loved original from 1982, predominantly through a game Ryan Gosling, without dialling down its mesmerising dystopia and rich themes.

7 – MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins)

With an impeccable three-act structure, chronicling the stunning coming-of-age story of Chiron, taking a considered approach to coming out which was raw and resonant. Moonlight was a vital work from director Barry Jenkins and a shining example that less can often be so much more..

6 – DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan)

Through Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan stripped away the narrative excess of his previous work, to create a lean and immersive ‘race-against-time’ war machine. Filled with nail-biting tension that is accentuated by an unrelenting Hans Zimmer score. Superior in the subtlety of its performances, with Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance worthy mentions. Magnificent.

5 – CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (Luca Guadagnino)

From the sun-kissed beauty of its gorgeous setting to the sizzling chemistry between Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. All the way to a sublime double musical offering from Sufjan Stevens. Call Me By Your Name was a film that simply overflowed with beauty. If the central romance didn’t break your heart, Michael Stuhlbarg’s beautiful father to son speech likely did.

4 – THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Yorgos Lanthimos)

A frightening depiction of familial dysfunction, fused with the peculiar humour we’ve come to expect from its Greek director. Who knew a version of Ellie Goulding’s Burn could be so creepy!? ‘Sacred Deer was sensational, giving us an unforgettable softly-spoken menace in Barry Keoghan, as Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell wrestled with their consciences in riveting fashion.

3 – LA LA LAND (Damien Chazelle)

A feverish debut with ‘Whiplash’. It was a case of the ‘difficult second album’ for Damien Chazelle with La La Land. How he exceeded expectations. An irresistible tribute to the glittering Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, with a golden couple at its core in Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. I could happily watch those ‘A Lovely Night/Planetarium’ dance sequences on repeat. Simply dazzling.

2 – A MONSTER CALLS (J.A Bayona)

An adaptation of the Patrick Ness novel, which i will now forever have a deep personal connection to and draw strength from. A Monster Calls may be a fantastical feast at first glance with its fondness for mythical watercolour tales. But it’s the skilful handling of a boy’s (Lewis MacDougall on outstanding form) struggle to grasp the extent of his mom’s (Felicity Jones) illness, that truly stays with you. Incredible.

1 – GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (Francis Lee)

The 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, it’s been fitting that there has been many superb LGBTQ cinematic offerings this year.

Yet Francis Lee’s rapturous romance, starring a stellar pairing in Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu stood tall above all. Lazily tagged as a ‘British Brokeback’, God’s Own Country was a bracing piece of cinema filled with an unwavering sense of hope and optimism, often found lacking in the queer cinema canon. It may begin in isolation, but how it takes your breath away in its open picturesque spaces. A fitting message for a society that suddenly seems obsessed with building fences and walls. My film of 2017.

Features

How Casinos Can Improve a Movie

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When it comes to movie themes, you got them all. From war movies to romance films, there is something for everybody. However, the gamble theme is not often present but some casino scenes really mattered. For example, the roulette ball in Casablanca that landed on 22 two times, all this was possible thanks to the rigged roulette. 

Another example is found in the movie 21. This movie is mainly made after a book called Bringing Down the House and just like the movie, it’s about a group of students “robbing” a casino playing Blackjack. Actually, the robbing process consists in one person taking a seat at a Blackjack table and that person just counts the cards. After a while, their friend joins knowing which cards were already played. As expected, they get caught and the action begins.  

Daniel Craig and Casino Royale 

If it’s not already obvious, these examples cannot go further without mentioning Daniel Craig starring as a MI6 agent in the movie Casino Royale. This movie was not like any other James Bond films. Firstly, the new actor had blond hair and blue eyes. This new look was not welcome at all especially for die hard 007 fans. Daniel Craig had nothing in common with the previous agents such as Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan. Moreover, back in 2005, right before the Casino Royale release, many fans were sure that Daniel will ruin the series. In fact, Casino Royale ended up being one of the best James Bond movies ever.  

After all, some changes were needed so the movie can have a fresh feeling. If we got used to every James Bond movie starting with the same scene, Casino Royale made it different. Until then, every single film started with a gun barrel sequence in which James walks in a white room, he turns, then fires and the blood drips down the screen. In the new 007 film, the movie starts with a black and white scene and at the end of this sequence, when we think that its first victim is dead, Daniel turns around then fires and we have the first gun barrel scene.  

As an illustration on the movie name, there are three poker scenes that make this film better. The first one has a well made old-fashion feel that is mainly made through the dissolve process. This technique was usually seen in the 80s and is a post-process film editing that makes the transition from one image to another.  

The second poker game is when Le Chiffre destroys James. Right after this game, there is a sequence that lets the agent sit alone on the table with nothing left, making the MI6 agent more natural. This is a high contrast with all the old cliché movies where James Bond was invincible. Further, Daniel gets poisoned by Le Chiffre but the secret agent survives by using the defibrillator from his car. Then he comes back and says ”I’m sorry, that last hand, killed me”.   

Like I said, casinos can be a good way to improve a movie. Also, land-based casinos suffered many changes over the years. Like most casinos that are now using online and mobile platforms. For about 400 years, casinos were just ”gamble houses”, but now they adopted new technologies. The most important change was of course, the online platforms which made it possible to enjoy casino games from the comfort of our house.  

For few years know, these virtual gamble houses started to show up everywhere. Moreover, there is a new online British casino called Admiral Casino and has a wide variety of fruit machines. In addition, their app is present on the App Store and you can now play slots like Sizzling Hot and Golden Sevens. Both games have 5 reels and are made by Novomatic. As has been noted, casinos made their contributions in many areas and now, thanks to the mobile technology they can be taken in your pocket. 

 

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Sequels Deliver at the Box Office

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Jurassic World was a gigantic hit in 2015, in fact, at a worldwide gross of $1,671,713,208 it remains the 5th highest grossing film of all time just behind Infinity War and The Force Awakens. That’s impressive for any franchise, let alone one long considered extinct. 

With its sequel, Fallen Kingdom, currently dominating the box office, it is worth looking at just how well sequels tend to do, the mixed fortunes they find themselves in, the biggest success stories and some considerably embarrassing failures. 

Fallen Kingdom hasn’t been a big hit with the critics (51% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 71% for the first film) but this evolution of the series has still resonated with audiences, currently sitting at $932,387,335 and very likely to pass the hallowed billion dollar mark in the next week or so. A billion dollars is nothing to be sniffed at but there is still every chance the studio will consider it something of a failure that it was unable to eclipse its predecessor. 

A few other franchises worth examining; 

Fast and Furious 

A franchise that rose from the ashes of almost going straight to DVD, with the 7th installment staking its claim in the big leagues, ironically 7th highest of all time, but when Fate of the Furious came just two years later, it made close to $300 million less. Is that audiences simply getting sick of cars doing ridiculous things, or something else? Fast 7 was unfortunately bolstered by the death of star Paul Walker, giving it increased media attention. 

Star Wars 

As previously mentioned, The Force Awakens is one of the biggest box office hits of all time, and whether or not it will be unseated in third place by Infinity War is almost too close to call but it will be incredibly close. 

But it terms of diminishing returns, The Last Jedi made over $700 million less than The Force Awakens. Why is that? The answer for this one is pretty simple, The Force Awakens was such a huge, once in a generation event, that it wasn’t going to happen a second time. Not that The Last Jedi’s box office is low, it sits at 11th of all time. 

But Star Wars has a different problem, it is now a series that digresses from the main saga and moved into spin off territory. Rogue One was a big hit, being a member of the billion dollar club, but Solo, a film plagued with production troubles, has really struggled, pulling in a fairly weak $368,879,115. The blame for this lies in the release window, with Infinity War still making good change, and Deadpool the week before, Solo hit in the middle of one of the most crowded summers in recent memory, with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom snapping quickly at its heels. 

What is considered a success or a failure in these terms anyway? It’s hard to know for sure. Sony’s second attempt at the Spider-Man franchise (Amazing Spider-Man if you find all these Spider-People confusing) was a decent hit, and the sequel only made $50 million less but was considered such a failure by Sony that they ended up handing the character back to Marvel. Which we can all agree was the right thing to do. But just $50 million was enough to make them wonder, not the other $650 million it made. Sequels are expected to make more money. 

Now, one last point. The highest grossing film of all time?  

Avatar. $2,787,965,087.  

That will probably never be beaten. Avatar 2 has a release date of December 18th 2020. Will it come anywhere close to the first film? This seems unlikely. Or maybe not, James Cameron should never be counted out, he might very well end up with the top 3 highest grossing films of all time. Or will Star Wars Episode 9, which goes into production this week, come back with a bang and topple Cameron’s big blue cat people? 

Only time, and a lot of money, will tell. 

 

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Cinema FOMO

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FOMO; the fear of missing out. Defined in 2015 by the Oxford English Dictionary as, ‘anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media’.

It’s true that in our online, digitally driven world, FOMO is thriving on a global scale, however that doesn’t mean it’s a new phenomenon. Throughout cinematic history, audiences have craved a shared experience, using quotes and characters as shorthand in their own conversations. No-one wants to be left out of the discussion.

Even in this technological age, the world’s leading film magazine Empire, remains an important and relevant source in the world of film journalism and with its much-loved features and interviews with Hollywood’s A-List, you can avoid serious FOMO by joining their subscription service today, meaning you’ll never miss a review or important update from the world of film.

When the teaser trailer for Black Panther landed, it was viewed 89 million times in just 24 hours. It was the most tweeted about movie in 2017 (before it was even released) and has gone on to become the most tweeted about film ever made. People wanted to be a part of the #BlackPanther and #Wakanda phenomenon and Twitter gave them the community they desired, adding in Q&A specials and a Black Panther custom emoji.

But what about before the dawn of Twitter? Back in the dark depths of 1999, a little film called The Blair Witch Project dropped. Using the internet, online forums went mad with leaked rumours about a film created from the found footage of three missing filmmakers. The accompanying website presented credible back stories and realistic style news interviews. Missing person leaflets were also distributed to enhance the story. (Spoiler alert; if you don’t already know, it was all entirely fictional). At the time however, this clever and original marketing fed directly in to our FOMO receptors.

But what if we take social media and the internet out of the equation. Do we travel back to a pre FOMO time? The truth? Absolutely not, so you can put the DeLorean away.

Back in 1961, Alfred Hitchcock released Psycho. Whilst his reputation was already established, this was a self financed film, so a lot was riding on its success. He made the decision not to screen for critics first, meaning audiences got to see the film at the same time, with no preconceptions. He refused cast interviews and to pump curiosity, issued an edict that nobody would be allowed in to cinemas after the picture began. Would you want to be the only one not to know what was happening inside the Bates Motel? Absolutely not. People flocked, queues stretching around the block to ensure they experienced this new cinematic milestone. Quite simply, FOMO struck again.

In truth, it’s an innate human desire to want to belong and regardless of marketing, it doesn’t get much better than sharing the joy of a cinematic experience with friends.

 

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