“We have to sell an illusion… Reality is boring.” BAFTA Film Craft Costume Design Talk

I was scrolling through Twitter earlier this week, the prime example of procrastination, and stumbled upon a BAFTA announcement of a costume design talk. Luckily I was in time to grab a pair of tickets so yesterday Hannah and I made our way to BAFTA 195 Piccadilly to hear a conversation between Sammy Sheldon Differ, Jany Temime and Steven Noble.

Sammy Sheldon Differ with one of Keira Knightley’s costumes from ‘The Imitation Game’.

Sheldon DIffer and Noble are both nominated for BAFTAs tonight for The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything respectively. Temime is currently working on Spectre but remained tight-lipped.

Jany Temime.

Jany Temime.

The conversation was intended to be inclusive rather than specific about certain designer’s films but inevitably these conversations came up too. The whole event was fascinating because we were able to see designer’s interact with each other and it is not that common to see this. The Hollywood Reporter hosted a round table with the costume design nominees back in 2012 but there hasn’t been one since.

Steven Noble (this is pretty much how he was dressed yesterday - I love it).

Steven Noble (this is pretty much how he was dressed yesterday – I love it).

The first topic of conversation was about the process of designing costumes for a feature film. Sheldon Differ started by talking about reading the script and then starting the research. She collected research about the period (if its a period piece) and also some more abstract research about the emotion of the story. Then comes the creation of boards (to display and organise this visual research), leading onto sketches and then making; where possible. The job is “personifying through research”. But the process can change from job to job because every film has different needs.

Noble agreed with Sheldon Differ’s process and treats the first read of the script as an audience member – the first perception of the characters and the story. It’s a “very organic process”.

Temime had a slightly different process as she said that after she’s read the script she wants to talk to the director right away to find out what his or her vision is. It isn’t Tempe’s film so she wants to make sure that they’re on the same page.

Noble: “Do you ever go back to those first impressions?”

Temime: “Sometimes.”

Then came the discussion of what the deciding factor for working on a film is. Temime said straight away that for her it is the director. If she loves the director then she’ll do the film regardless of the genre. You want to work with people you love. (And the director is normally the one to choose the costume designer.) Noble agreed but said that for him it was 50:50 between the script and the director. Temime agreed that the story is vitally important but the script itself will evolve throughout the process. She said that the script for Spectre is probably on its 13th draft so if she just went for the script which version would she choose? Noble has just finished working on A Monster Calls (directed by J.A. Bayona) and said that in the end they had no script and no shooting schedule! Never an ideal situation when shooting a film.

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The focus then came to Tempe’s work on Bond – more about Skyfall than Spectre (both directed by Sam Mendes). Temime was definitely aware of the “history behind you” and being “responsible for an image”. She made the analogy that a Bond film is like a Christmas tree. Every year you want the same general idea but something different. She feels the need to give the audience what they expect but also to surprise them.

This then lead to a discussion about the constraints of working with a brand or with product placement. Temime is currently obsessed with the watches in Bond – because she has to be due to their contract. She feels that it is more difficult to work with a brand than not – they have a distinct expectation of you. Noble added that people working in fashion work in a much different time frame than costume and film. The fashion brands want to see the script, see where their product will be worn and tend to veto the use if it will be damaged or is worn in a death scene or something they don’t want associated with the brand. Sheldon Differ interposed that she has had occasions of fashion houses getting back to her once filming has finished. Noble concurred this situation. Temime ended saying that she has found fashion people very difficult to work with (no-one’s forgotten Black Swan yet, right?) because “fashion people are completely different from us”. Costume designers are expressing so much more through clothes.

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The Imitation Game (directed by Morten Tyldum) was the next discussion launched. Sheldon Differ said that the difficulty she had was making the design faithful and interesting. Nothing that takes the audience out of the story. She looked for reference of colour and happily found some so that the film never looked muted. She tried to be as truthful as possible but there is always this contrast for the audience between realism and view of the period. This is why period films designed in different eras tend to be “visible” (the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby versus the 2014 version for example). Sheldon Differ only met Turing’s nephew after he’d seen the film and he said the costumes were very representative of what he knew of Alan – best compliment she could receive.

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Noble had a similar issue when designing The Theory of Everything. Director James Marsh told Noble that he didn’t want to create a social realist film and he didn’t want to document each decade. He was much more interested in showing an emotional timeline. Noble had to argue for some kind of guide to ensure that he was working from the same period as the make-up, hair and production designers. That symbiotic relationship is key to creating a seamless film. The design is able to travel through fairly smoothly. Key pieces were placed on background artists and a mixture was created. In the same way that you don’t suddenly have a new wardrobe every year, neither do film characters. The costumes needed to be true to the period but fresh for the audience.

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Gravity posed a particular difficulty for Temime. One directive she was given by Alfonso Cuaron was “do not have two teletubbies”. The costumes for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney needed to be completely different from true astronaut suits but still look realistic. It was a technically boring film for Temime because she needed to research precise reasons for the positioning of parts of the suit so that she’d be able to move them. Then there was the issue of white. She thinks they worked with around 50 different shades to allow for different shooting. Temime agreed to Gravity because she wanted to work with Cuaron again.

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Sheldon DIffer talked about the difficulties of working on Ex Machina to create a very specific costume for Alicia Vikander’s Ava. There were experiments with UV powder to try to get the wire mesh to glow in different light but this never worked as intended. Eventually the fabric was made using a metal powder and they were able to generate this undulation to make it look as close to “skin” as possible. Another constraint was that the director, Alex Garland, didn’t want to see any seams. (He was one of the main reasons Sheldon Differ signed up.) The suit had to be weaved together and Vikander had to squeeze into it. (So much so that she fainted during one of the early fittings.) Sheldon Differ had to work very closely with the visual effects department so that she could give them the best result that they wanted.

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Under the Skin posed different problems for Noble mostly because Scarlett Johansson only wears two costumes throughout the entire film. Jonathan Glazer had been working on the film for about 11 years before Noble came on board and he wanted to protect his “baby”. There were limited special effects in the film so Noble doesn’t class it as a science fiction film in the same vein as Gravity and Ex Machina – he shies away from them and has great regard for Sheldon Differ and Tempe’s work on them. Johnasson’s character in the film was envisioned by Noble as an Eastern European view of the West. The way things are put together in a way that doesn’t look bad but doesn’t have a Western eye. The majority of Johansson’s clothes were from the high street (Next, Forever 21 and River Island) except for a Dolce and Gabbana camisole and Mulberry boots – that had to be heavily adjusted for the scenes in the wood.

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Harry Potter has been mentioned earlier but this was the first time the series was fully examined with Temime. The question was whether she felt pressure entering a series but Temime said that she started working on The Prisoner of Azkaban before The Chamber of Secrets had come out and by that point the films were just successful children’s films. Cuaron wanted to make the film for teenagers so both of them went into the process knowing that they would be changing the aesthetics of Potter dramatically. The films got bigger as she went along and generally the process got easier – Azkaban was the most difficult film. The problems Temime had were making the cast look younger on screen and getting them to separate themselves from their characters. Allusions were made to on-set antics from the cast…Temime clearly has stories to last a lifetime! There was mention of The Goblet of Fire being less easy to work on due to Mike Newell taking a more “Chris Columbus” view of the series but when David Yates came on board with The Order of the Phoenix she was able to continue with her established style and had more and more freedom.

The final point came with requirements of a director. Talent, vision, clarity and an understanding of the process of a costume designer.

Questions were a little monopolised with my most loathed question: what advice would you give? The designers were all helpful and generous with their advice.

Overall, the talk was fascinating and the three designers gave the impression of being long held friends. Temime in particular was full of joy, laughter and you can be sure that with some alcohol in her she’d tell you some wonderful gossip. I wish the best of luck to Sheldon Differ and Noble tonight at the BAFTAs but in my heart of hearts I believe that Milena Canonero has got the award sewn up for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Unfortunately neither are nominated for the Oscars but they are both nominated in the Period Film category at the Costume Designer’s Guild Awards (once again against Canonero).

Hope this was an interesting round-up and sorry if it went on – they were all so fascinating!

S x

(This talk only referenced a few of each designer’s films so don’t forget to check out their other work!)

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Women of the Year 2014

Malala Yousafzai

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It would be impossible to have a list of the Women of The Year without including this phenomenal young lady. As the survivor of an assassination attempt and, at just 17 years old, the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate, Malala continues to inspire women across the world with her campaign for human rights, particularly with regards to access to education for women and children in Pakistan and other countries. This is one woman who could truly change the world.

Sophie Hannah

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Sophie Hannah’s books have been popular with crime and fiction fans for a long time, but it is her 2014 offering that has earned Ms Hannah a place on this year’s Women of The Year list. The Monogram Murders is the newest Hercule Poirot mystery – now, we know that it’s damn near impossible to fill Agatha Christie’s shoes, but we can’t think of anyone better to take a shot at it than Sophie Hannah.

Gillian Anderson

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2014 was truly a great year for Gillian Anderson. Not only did her performance in the second series of The Fall get great reviews, she also had an award-winning run as Blanche DuBois in the National Theatre’s staging of A Streetcar Named Desire. And as if that wasn’t enough for Anderson to be getting on with, in October of this year she published her first novel, A Vision of Fire, which quickly became a New York Times Bestseller.

Jess Glynne

Jess Glynne Performs At Electric Brixton In London

On Clean Bandit’s absolute banger of a tune, ‘Rather Be’, Jesse Glynne’s voice was all over the radio this year. But rather than fade away like so many featured vocalists, Glynne released her own solo material off the back off the success of ‘Rather Be’; with her husky, soulful voice reminiscent of (and dare I say it, much more interesting than) Adele, the 90’s dance vibe of ‘Right Here’ has hopefully set Jess up for a solid music career.

Lupita Nyong’o

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Sure, we included Lupita on last year’s list but that was before she won her Oscar, so she’s earned her place on this year’s list too! Not content to impress us with her powerful performance in 12 Years A Slave, Lupita’s classy and earnest acceptance speech at the Oscars earned her a place in our hearts. We can’t wait to see what’s next for her!

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson

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If you haven’t been watching Broad City, the Comedy Central sitcom about two twenty-something women in New York, you’re missing out. This weird and hilarious show centres around Ilana and Abbi’s fictionalised versions of themselves, struggling to make ends meet and always managing to get into weird situations. It’s bold, cool and most importantly, totally hilarious – I can’t wait for series two!

Jennifer Kent

Jennifer Kent

The Babadook was easily one of the best films of the year – utterly terrifying without relying on grisly shock-gore or worn out cliches, the sense of claustrophobic terror created instead by tricks of the light and clever sound editing. The character from the film, Mister Babadook, was so scary and popular that Kent is publishing the pop-up book from the film in 2015. Just try and stop me from buying it, I dare you, I DARE YOU

Men of the Year 2014

David Oyelowo

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You may or may not recognise the name, but you will sure as hell recognise the man. Mr Oyelowo has been in some of the biggest films of the last five years – The Help, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Lincoln to name just three – and this year was no different. With roles in Interstellar and A Most Violent Year, David’s career seems to be getting bigger and better, culminating in a brilliant performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in the highly recommended Selma. As our very own Sarah put it, he’s come a long way since Spooks.

Chris Pratt

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Whether he’s Fat Pratt or Six Pack Pratt, we’re smitten with the Parks and Recreation star – his turn as Star-Lord in Guardians Of The Galaxy has seen him go from (please excuse this next word) cuddly, cute comedy actor to bonafide box-office banger. And before you say it, no it’s not *just* his looks that have us hooked – Pratt’s hilarious performance as Emmet in The Lego Movie appealed to viewers of all ages and his voice was perfect for the earnest and enthusiastic hero. And good lord was it difficult to make a decision on which picture of him to use for this post. I spent HOURS researching…

John Boyega

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Since the end of November, there’s only one film anyone has been talking about, and it doesn’t even come out for another year – Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. The trailer opens with a young man popping up on screen looking panicked and exhausted – that’s our John Boy(ega)! With a lead role in arguably the most hotly anticipated film of next year, we’re so impressed that the star of Attack The Block and Half of A Yellow Sun has seen so much success so early on in his career – and he’s still only 22 years old!

John Oliver

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When Jon Stewart took a break from hosting The Daily Show this summer to direct his film Rosewater, he could have picked any of the show’s correspondents to stand in for him, and he chose the only British one. John Oliver did a fantastic job of hosting the show; he was already hugely popular with the audience, you could tell this from the rapturous applause he received whenever he hosted a segment. His brand of super-sarcastic, verbose humour was wasted on the absolutely dire Mock The Week, and he’s much better suited and appreciated in his role as a correspondent on a fake news show. Sure, he looks like a Jim Henson muppet come to life, but he actually did such a good job that he was given his own show on HBO, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is similar to The Daily Show but with even more sarcasm and a British accent – what more could you want? And speaking of The Daily Show alumni…

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert

This year, Stephen Colbert was announced as David Letterman’s replacement for when the talk-show king steps down in 2015. While the DTSFT ladies agree that it would be nice to see someone other than a white, middle-aged man hosting a late-night chat show, we’re still pretty pleased with the choice that’s been made. Stephen has come a long way since his days as a correspondent on The Daily Show, landing his own show in 2005, The Colbert Report, which sadly came to an end in December with a final episode packed full of callbacks to earlier episodes and a sing-along with his favourite recurring characters and guests. It’s going to be weird to see him hosting as himself rather than the conservative character (also named Stephen Colbert) that he has played for so long, but we’re definitely excited to see what he has to offer.

 Kailash Satyarthi

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Along with Malala Yousafzai, Kailash was the recipient of the 2014 Nobel Prize for his tireless campaigning for children’s rights. The access to education, which we in the Western world take for granted, has been a focus point for Mr Satyarthi, and his Nobel Prize was well-deserved.

Peter Capaldi

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Here at DTSFT, we were delighted with the casting of Peter Capaldi as The Twelfth Doctor, as he made a nice change from the potato-faced Matt Smith. His turn as Mr Curry in Paddington also brought him to the attention of a new and younger audience, who will hopefully be tuning in to be utterly terrified by Doctor Who.  Mwuhahahaha!

Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie

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Yeah I’m lumping them all in together because otherwise this post will go on forever – it’s the Captain America: The Winter Soldier gang! With Hannah’s insatiable lust for Sebastian Stan, there was no way the DTSFT ladies were going to leave this trio off the Men of The Year list. While we’ll have to wait for Captain America: Civil War to see the boys back onscreen together, you could check out ‘Playing It Cool’ for a cheeky helping of Evans and Mackie. We’re especially proud of Evans for his directorial debut, Before We Go, as well as his role in the dark action thriller, Snowpiercer – give it a UK release date, god DAMMIT!

Chadwick Boseman

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Chadwick made waves last year with his role as Jackie Robinson in the magnificent 42, and it looks like the next few years are going to be no different for this versatile actor. After portraying soul legend James Brown in the biopic Get On Up, Boseman is set to star as the Marvel character Black Panther in not one but TWO upcoming Marvel movies – Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther. Chadwick, you complete and utter BANGER.

Jack O’Connell

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Unlike some actors who seem to love the limelight more than the craft, Jack O’Connell is a young actor who has worked hard at his talent and is finally starting to get some recognition. After making his name with a role in Skins and films like Private Peaceful and Harry Brown, this intense young actor’s star has continued to rise and this year saw him in three of the most talked about films – ’71, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken. From interviews I’ve watched, he doesn’t seem all too comfortable on the chat-show circuit, which I think makes for a better actor – the less we know about him, the more believable he’ll be in his roles.

Costume Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’

There be spoilers in costume discussions…

Kurt and Bart had some big shoes to fill when they took over costume design duties from Trish Summerville but Mockingjay is a very different beast from Catching Fire, which was itself noticeably different from The Hunger Games (designed by Judianna Makovsky). Summerville was able to play around with lots of extravagant costumes for scenes in the Capitol and for the victors but Kurt and Bart have certain restrictions working on a film mostly based in District 13.

Katniss

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As with all the inhabitants of District 13, Katniss is provided with a utilitarian costume of grey cargo trousers and a grey shirt. (Oddly this costume is slightly reminiscent of her reaping costume in Catching Fire.) Shown above is her Mockingjay costume designed by Cinna before his death. The costume takes references from real soldier’s armour and is functional as well as interesting. The initial idea behind the Mockingjay costume was as a symbol but it was realised for practical and protective wear. Whenever Katniss has been in the games her “protective wear” was decided by the Capitol and was fairly limited in its effectiveness. This is battle ready. It marks a huge step forward for Katniss and her role in the rebellion.

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Katniss’s key costume piece is returned to her and remains with her when she and Gale go hunting. Her father’s leather jacket became an iconic piece of clothing for her and solidifies who she is.

Peeta

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Peeta spends most of this film in the Capitol and his costumes reflect that but there is so much more to them than just extravagance. His first appearance is in the white suit we see above. The lines are sharp, minimal and reflect Snow’s roses. The high collar of the shirt is noticeable here but is nothing to compare to the constricting collars yet to come. Peeta’s colours darken as his physical and mental state deteriorates. His gaunt appearance is emphasised with the tightening of the collars. His suits become his own personal straight-jacket.

Gale

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Gale’s costumes follow the standard clothing of District 13 and the soldier’s armour. His shining costume moment comes with Gale’s key scene in District 12. This is one of the most vulnerable moments that we’ve witnessed from Gale and the softness of his costume (seen above) reflects this.

Effie

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Effie’s costumes take on a very different role in this film. The first time we see her she purports to be a political refugee and fights against everything in District 13 (in her mind at least). Once Plutarch gives her purpose to help Katniss she begins to regain her identity through her clothing. Yes she is still limited by the same clothes as everyone else in District 13 but she uses these to her advantage. She is a creative person and creates the new Effie. She still has her high heels and accessories from the Capitol and she uses these to help rebuild herself.

Finnick

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Finnick doesn’t have too much screen time in this film and his costumes are generally limited to hospital clothes and the standard District 13 uniform. But, as with Gale, soft knitwear comes out when he is speaking in the propos. Finnick is not talking as a soldier but a victim of the Capitol. He needs to be sympathetic, sincere and approachable. The public need to believe and trust him. And the style of knitwear flashes back to his first appearance in Catching Fire.

President Snow

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Snow is trying to keep control over Panem. District after District are joining the rebellion and his main weapon (Peeta) hasn’t been put into action yet. He remains dressed in the sharp tailored lines that we have come to expect from him. These suits reflect his power and tight control despite troubling circumstances “moves and counter moves”. There are also many more instances of white roses included throughout the film and Finnick’s revelation makes them all the more disturbing.

Haymitch

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Haymitch enters the film just when Katniss needs him to and after he’s sobered up. For the majority of the film he is dressed in the District 13 uniform with the concession of a grey woollen hat and layers of grey cardigans. Could it be that without alcohol these are the only form of protection he has left? He sported similar jumpers in Catching Fire so the idea of safety in soft wool is not completely ridiculous.

Caesar Flickerman

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We always expect Caesar to be a bright and colourful influence on the film and this time he doesn’t have Effie to compete with. His suits are all fully patterned but there general tone is deeper and richer. There is much less extravagance shown here. This is no time for frivolity and Caesar’s costumes reflect this, even though this may not be instantly visible.

Overall, I was very impressed with the costume design in Mockingjay. The film has a more solemn tone and the costumes needed to reflect that. I’m very interested to see what Kurt and Bart have waiting for Mockingjay, Part 2. The world has entered a much grittier political ground and the historical references in the costumes are great for echoing that.

S x

Film review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 promises a spectacular Part 2

(Picture: Lionsgate)

(Picture: Lionsgate)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 feels very much like the first half of something bigger, but if this is the set up then the pay off is going to be stunning.

Part 1 sees a haunted Katniss Everdeen come to terms with being the face of a revolution, and what that role costs. Meanwhile President Snow tries to crush the movement at every turn as Peeta languishes in the Capitol. Things are getting dark and I don’t just mean the grey jumpsuits everyone is stuck in.

Mockingjay Part 1 swaps the grandeur of the Games for a more intimate, character-driven story arc. We see the Games’ mentally tortuous affect on Katniss, who until this point has been relatively icy about witnessing children killing and being killed by other children. Finnick Odair (a nuanced Sam Claflin) is a broken man worlds away from the preening, sea-shell wearing champion we met in Catching Fire. A franchise this huge needs to take time to remind us of the human story at its core to avoid everything being at surface-level, and thankfully it succeeds.

The upside to scaling back on blockbuster set-pieces is that action sequences, when they happen, have maximum effect. An aerial attack on District 13 is played out entirely through the panicked expressions of those hunkered down underground; a violent, shocking twist at the end hits harder. Yes, it means less bang for your buck and at times I did miss the spectacle of Catching Fire. Part 1 is muted and unrelentingly grim. Even the humour, whether it’s a witty shoot for an advert or a throwaway line to the family cat, is gloomy; jaded.

(Picture: Lionsgate)

(Picture: Lionsgate)

The introduction to District 13 moves the story along nicely, but nearly all of the film takes place there so you never quite get out of the starting block. It doesn’t seem to get going at all until the rescue mission in the final third. However I reckon this is necessary to properly introduce us to President Coin and her world, who I get the impression will be playing a big part in the next chapter. It also gives Gale a chance to be more than the brooding, jilted man in pain, pining over Katniss from a distance. I feel Gale would have been involved in the Panem uprising whether Katniss had volunteered in place of Prim or not.

Speaking of Gale, we’re still no closer to finding out who Katniss wants to be with. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it should be Gale all day, and that’s down to Liam Hemsworth and his brilliantly understated performance. I’d say he was on a level with Jennifer Lawrence for the first time. J-Law, as ever, is utterly watchable and charming – no matter what she does in future Katniss will probably remain one of her greatest ever roles.

I hear that among fans of Suzanne Collins’ books Mockingjay is considered the weakest (I haven’t read them so do let me know if that’s not true), but by no means is Part 1 the weakest film, even if it was created just to get more of our money. As far as I’m concerned Lionsgate can take it.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE

Side note: I ship Haymitch/Effie now.

Guardians of the Galaxy review: Marvel’s latest chapter is not quite out of this world

Guardians of the Galaxy sees pilot/dudebro Peter Quill become the object of a manhunt when he steals an orb belonging to the feared Ronan the Accuser. When he finds out the orb has the potential to destroy millions of innocent lives, he teams up with a gang of outcasts to bring Ronan down.

After the deserved success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I was expecting big things from this, and it delivered on some fronts but not on others.

Quill and the gang are not well known, so there’s a strong sense of freedom to Gunn’s directing. He has been allowed to tell the kind of story he wants to tell without having to worry too much about pandying to the stalwart fans of the comics. He gets rid of the angst that we’ve come to expect from superhero movies lately, and the result is a fun and frothy space opera packed with wit (a throwaway semen joke is especially lol-worthy), but unfortunately that means moments we’re supposed to take seriously, like Drax’s pretty heartbreaking back story, tend to lose their edge.

Visually, it’s a treat.  Director James Gunn immerses you in his incredibly beautiful, bright and bonkers universe which you sort of wish actually existed. Like all good sci-fi movies, this has a water-tight, well established world with it’s own rules, peoples…and alcohol, realised in great detail. Plus, the CGI is seamless and it’s never not cool to see hundreds of one-person spaceships get fried.

Quill’s a player, but Chris Pratt is loveable enough to stop him from being a complete douchecanoe. Gamora is a brilliant female character, which we know Zoe Saldana excels at; but Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively) steal the show as the trigger-happy, oddball double act. Most-surprising performance goes to former wrestler Dave Batista. WWE stars can be cringe on the big screen, but if The Animal is serious about a film career, it could take off.

Marvel need to put in work on their villains, though.  WHERE IS THE THREAT? Lee Pace and Karen Gillan are solid actors who were wasted in this movie. Nebula is badass, but only briefly; and while Pace gets a delightfully grim murder scene early on, his potentially defining moment gets invalidated in seconds, albeit in a funny way.

Guardians of the Galaxy is n bombastic popcorn movie with an 80s vibe that people old enough to remember Spaceballs first coming out will appreciate. Those who don’t might feel like they’ve missed something – and I include myself in that. I grew up with Discmans and The Backstreet Boys. Maybe it’s a generational thing? Or maybe my post-Cap 2 expectations were too high…

THREE OUT OF FIVE*

*Yeah, that score is kinda subject to change. At the screening we were denied the after-credits sequence, so I’m planning on watching GotG again so I can see it.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Andy Serkis + sweet CGI – James Franco = very, very good

 

Years have passed after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and an outbreak of simian flu has smoked a large percentage of the human race. The apes exist in peace in their own realm, but trouble starts when a group of human survivors venture into their territory in search of electricity.

DOTPOTA runs a lot deeper than just a simple humans vs apes story. Apes are not the enemy, but neither are humans. Gary Oldman’s character is hell bent on wiping the animals out, while on the apes’ side Caesar (an astonishing performance from Andy Serkis yet again) has to contend with the hateful and violent Koba (Toby Kebbell, also astonishing). It’s these nuances that keep the story grounded among the monkeys-on-horseback setpieces.

Much like he did with Cloverfield, director Matt Reeves succeeds at creating a decaying, imposing and desolate world that is also plausible. He’s also great with large-scale destruction of civilisations without overdoing the explosions, which makes the chaos in the third act much more effective.

The clip that aired during the World Cup semi final, of Koba shooting a man in the face, drew complaints from parents for a reason. The tone veers sharply and seamlessly from sci-fi/action to chilling horror. That is in no way a criticism.

There has been talk of how hardly any female characters feature in the film (some interesting points are made in both of these articles – thanks, Sophia!) and to be honest, while watching I got swept away by the brilliance of the film and I didn’t notice. Looking back on it however, it should have been glaringly obvious. In terms of women we have Keri Russell’s Ellie, and Caesar’s other half Cornelia who, as Vulture rightfully points out, you don’t even know is called Cornelia unless you IMDB that shizz later.

The most disheartening thing about it is that the lack of female characters was not intentional – it just sorta happened. Reeves himself has admitted he doesn’t know why DOTPOTA contains hardly any women and that’s sad. Female characters wasn’t even something that came up in discussion, and that’s a problem most films still have. Dudes are the default. This isn’t to take anything away from this movie – I loved it – but there’s room for improvement should a sequel go into production (which it hopefully will).

I’ll finish on a positive note. This is going to sound flowery, but there’s a great message here about judging people on their good and bad qualities as individuals instead of lumping everyone together with sweeping generalisations. Also there’s a baby ape in it and it’s soooooooooooo cute.

FIVE OUT OF FIVE