2014 saw a massive surge in film production in the UK, generating a total spend of over £1.4 billion over the course of the year – that’s 35% more than 2013 and the highest ever recorded. 36 international feature films and 22 high-end television productions chose to base themselves in the UK, these include titles like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, all three Hobbit films, Paddington, 007: Skyfall and Spectre and many more.
The increased investment into UK production has seen the growth of infrastructure throughout the country, with new facilities opening this year including Cardiff’s Pinewood Studio Wales and Church Fenton’s The Yorkshire Studios. In 2014, the creative industries sector employed 1.8 million people in the UK, meaning that c. 247,000 jobs have been generated by the creative industries since 2011.
Disney has revealed a first look at the cast of Star Wars: Rogue One. The photo features cast members Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen. They also revealed a further cast list, including:
- Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal, Casino Royale)
- Diego Luna (Milk, Killing Them Softly)
- Ben Mendelsohn (Bloodline, Mississippi Grind)
- Donnie Yen (Ip Man, Blade II)
- Jiang Wen (Let the Bullets Fly, Devils on the Doorstep)
- Forest Whitaker (The Butler, The Last King of Scotland)
- Alan Tudyk (Con Man, Firefly)
- Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler, Four Lions).
Marvel Studios presented fans at Saturday’s D23 Expo with an exclusive preview of their first Phase Three movie, Captain America: Civil War. Marvel Studios boss kevin Feige was joined onstage by cast members Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie to promote the superhero epic.
The footage opens with Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon dealing with Crossbones as the villain attempts to blow up a truck. During the fight, Crossbones tosses a magnetic explosive at Cap’s shield, and the hero throws it into the air so that the explosion avoids the crowd.
This weekend fans at San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H were treated to a special behind the scenes look of the creation of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Director J.J. Abrams, Producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan were joined on the stage panel by cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford.
The behind the scenes footage shows just how much effort Abrams and the Lucasfilm team have gone into reviving the magic of the original trilogy and bringing it into the modern age of film. Using practical sets and props, utilising CGI as little as possible. All of which has been done here in the UK.
The masterful ‘Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ is an experience that will profoundly resonate. From its pristine writing, to its carefully constructed direction and cinematography, to its genius casting and performances, ‘Birdman’ is just a dream of a movie.
The film tells the story of Riggan (Michael Keaton), a washed up actor who used to play a superhero icon called Birdman. In a valiant attempt to reclaim his career, he adapts, directs, and stars in a Broadway play. With problems from one of his very method actors (Edward Norton), assistant daughter (Emma Stone), emotional co-star (Naomi Watts), overly sexual girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), flamboyant producer (Zach Galifanakis), and loving ex- wife (Amy Ryan), Riggan prepares for the breaking point of his career. This film eerily serves as a somewhat personal film to Michael Keaton, giving the mere fact that he was known for playing Batman, a comic book hero similar to Birdman. Keaton is an actor that proved time and time again that he can play virtually anything from heavy and hard hitting dramatic roles to silly and funny comedic roles.
Andrew (Miles Teller) is a 19-year old student at a music conservatory in Manhattan. Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons – absolutely brilliant) is a teacher at the conservatory with a ruthlessly brutal teaching style. After picking Andrew to play in the school band, he pushes Andrew to his limits in order to realize his full potential, at the risk of his humanity. Director Damien Chazelle has described the film as an origin story to the jazz musicians of the golden age, and it thrives on the myths of jazz heroes such as Charlie Parker. They’re urgently looking for the next Parker, in search of perfection.
J.K. Simmons nails this part! He’s a force of nature, with a terrifying presence that incites the fear Bryan Cranston achieved with the peak of his Walter White. In fact Chazelle has done a masterful job in casting the two leads in Teller and Simmons. Their respective acts are full of purpose, full of tension and ultimately terrific.
Neill Blomkamp, best known Director for movies District 9 & Elysium revealed that he was working on a secret Alien film project that included a returning Sigourney Weaver – the concept art is gorgeous! Unfortunately the project is dead, or was never going to be made in the first place, yes, feel the disappointment!
He uploaded various concept art images onto his Instagram. The first image was of a pissed off Xenomorph Queen and had this caption: “Was working on this. Don’t think I am anymore. Love it though. #alien #xenomorph.” Then he continued to upload a whole lot of beautiful Alien-inspired work onto his account, commenting, “Woulda rocked. Was a mental stroll into the world Ridley Scott created.”
The art seems more like Blomkamp’s personal pitch for an Alien film, and not something a studio pulled from him. Blomkamp even told one Instagram commenter, “Fox never said no.” What could that mean? Did Blomkamp ever actually pitch this to Fox?
A number of US cinemas have said they will screen Sony film The Interview on Christmas Day. The move comes just a week after the film company cancelled the release of the movie after suffering a devastating cyber attack. Primarily these will be independent cinemas and so far only within the United States.
Furthermore Sony’s new lawyer, David Boies – hired to guide the corporation through the aftermath of the hacks – has threatened legal action against Twitter if the social networking company fails to ban accounts sharing leaks.
In a letter to Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s General Counsel David says:
If stolen information continues to be disseminated by Twitter in any manner, Sony will hold Twitter responsible for any damage or loss arising from such use or dissemination by Twitter.
In the letter Sony asks Twitter to share the legal threat with Val Broeksmit, a musician who has been posting various screenshots of hacked Sony emails on Twitter.
Sony then demanded that Twitter:
comply with all future requests with regard to any other account holder seeking to disseminate the Stolen Information via Twitter. In addition, we ask that you provide the Account Holder with a copy of this letter, and request that the Account Holder cease publication of the Stolen Information on Twitter.
A spokesperson for Twitter confirmed that the letter is authentic but declined to specifically comment about the company’s response. Thus far Val Broeksmit and other Twitter accounts sharing content from the now infamous Sony Hacks are still live.
An extended featurette has been released to celebrate the release of ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ – the final in the Hobbit trilogy.
The featurette specifically points out the defining and interconnecting moments between the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. The most important being the pity of Bilbo.
Frodo: It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.
Gandalf: Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.
You can read my full review of ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ here.
My love for film soundtracks has hit a peak in recent months, and now I find myself sitting up making endless purchases on iTunes of orchestral pieces from the likes of Hans Zimmer and John Williams. Music can serve several purposes in film, primarily it enhances emotion, keeping an audience captivated and in the grip of the scene.
One of the first music scores I ever listened to and loved was John Williams amazing pieces for Jurassic Park. One of the most impressive scenes is the helicopter journey to Jurassic Park on the island of Isla Nubar. The music is spectacular.
Two major melodic ideas can be heard in this score. The first and main one that is head most frequently is known simply as “Theme from Jurassic Park” and is introduced when the visitors first see the Brachiosaurus and features “gentle religioso cantilena lines.” Williams declared its use was to try “to capture the awesome beauty and sublimity of the dinosaurs in nature.”
Williams also created familiarily spectacular score for Star Wars. Strangely enough although the prequels aren’t seen as all that good, the music Williams created for them was something else entirely. I’ve put a few of my favourites below.
Finally I want to pick up on the music from Lord of the Rings trilogy, simply one of the greatest movie scores ever created. Howard Shore somehow manages delve us right into Middle Earth with just his music. Shore created a score into which he put as much thought and detail as any great composer. For instance, he carefully crafted different types of music for each of the different races and develop these as the story does. So as the events of the story develop and events unfold, the themes in Shore’s score interact in the same way. Unfortunately I don’t think Shore was able to replicate this in The hobbit trilogy, apart from a couple of pieces for ‘An Unexpected Journey’ the rest of the music really goes unnoticed. However one of his best pieces is ‘Hope and Memory’ (second video) down – it is just incredible.
Of course we couldn’t finish without a notable mention of Hans Zimmer’s spectacular work on films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator and the Batman Dark Knight trilogy.