Wednesday Roundup: Boston Strangler, now streaming, and more (22 March 2023)

Apple TV remote control

Welcome to the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. In this edition, there is a new section entitled “Now streaming”. In the section, there is a summary of new and classic films that have recently been made available on streaming services. Aside from that, there is a review of the crime drama Boston Strangler, as well as the usual box office update and new release preview.

Box office update

At the British and Irish box office, the number one film this weekend was Shazam! Fury of the Gods. In its opening weekend, the superhero sequel grossed £2.3 million. While enough to top the box office, it is lower than the opening weekend total for the previous film, released in April 2019.

Creed III remained at number two with a weekend total of £1.2 million. In only its third week of release, it has already become the highest grossing film in the Rocky franchise domestically and internationally. In its second week of release, Scream VI dropped to number three. A positive critical response helped the film gross £987,000 over the weekend.

Debuting in fourth place at the box office is the British drama Allelujah. Starring Jennifer Saunders and Bally Gill, the film grossed £715,000. Completing the top five is science fiction thriller 65. Romantic comedy Rye Lane is at number six. The Sundance hit grossed £258,000 in its opening weekend.

Ti West’s slasher prequel Pearl earned £192,000 in its first weekend of release. The weekend total places it eleventh at the British and Irish box office. Below it at number twelve is Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once. Forty-five weeks after its original release, the film has re-entered the box office top fifteen on the back of its Oscars success.

Now streaming

Streaming services have become a key part of how films are released across the world. The aim of this section is to cover recent additions to the major streaming services. In addition to new releases, it will include older films that have recently joined the streaming platforms.

Boston Strangler is an original release now available on Disney+. Kiera Knightley stars in the film as a journalist in 1960s Boston. Carrie Coon, Alessandro Nivola and Chris Cooper are among the supporting cast. Later in this week’s roundup, there is a full review of the film.

Caught Out: Crime. Corruption. Cricket. tells the story of the largest match-fixing scandal in Indian history and the journalists who uncovered it. The sports documentary is available to stream on Netflix now. Animated adventure film The Magician’s Elephant is also available on Netflix. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name, it features the voices of Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin and Natasia Demetriou among others.

For those celebrating Brendan Fraser after his Best Actor win at the Oscars, Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) is streaming on Netflix. Fraser stars in this adaption of the Jules Verne’s 1864 adventure novel. Josh Hutcherson, Anita Briem and Seth Meyers are among the supporting cast.

Alongside Boston Strangler, Misbehaviour (2020) is another film starring Keira Knightley that is now available on Disney+. The film centres on a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty pageant in London. Misbehaviour’s ensemble cast includes Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley and Keeley Hawes.

Review: Boston Strangler

Boston Strangler was released through Disney+ on 17 March. Written and directed by Matt Ruskin, the film is based on the real events surrounding the Boston Strangler murders. Between 1962 and 1964, thirteen women were murdered in the Boston area in similar circumstances. Kiera Knightley stars as Loretta McLaughlin, a journalist at the Boston Record American. McLaughlin was influential in connecting the murders and pressuring the Boston police to find the killer. Carrie Coon co-stars in the film as fellow journalist Jean Cole.

Despite the name of the film, McLaughlin is at the centre of the narrative. From the beginning, it is clear that she struggles to be taken seriously in the patriarchal workplace culture of the Record American newsroom. Throughout the film, it becomes evident that her commitment to her career is creating problems in her marriage too. Unfortunately the film never truly develops this aspect of the story.

McLaughlin’s demands for justice for the thirteen murdered women animates Boston Strangler. As it becomes clear that the Boston police are failing in their attempts to solve the crime, McLaughlin becomes alternately furious and despondent. The frustration is not only with an incompetent police department but colleagues and employers who would prefer not to challenge them.

Boston Strangler does not sensationalise the crimes at its centre. Rather than exploit the murders for entertainment value, it focuses on how they reflect the failures of the city. McLaughlin and Cole have to deal with misogyny from all angles. On top of that, they face intimidation and harassment for having their names and faces attached to stories reporting on the crimes of the Strangler.

True crime media has exploded in popularity over the last decade. Films and television series recounting the true stories of serial killers have become commonplace. Frequently they are insensitive and exploitative. Boston Strangler mostly avoids these pitfalls and highlights aspects of these stories that are often missed. Ruskin does not expand the boundaries of the genre but this is a respectable film nonetheless.

Coming this weekend

John Wick: Chapter 4 is the widest release arriving in British and Irish cinemas this weekend. Keanu Reeves reprises his role as the title character in the fourth film in the series. Chad Stahelski also returns to direct the latest instalment. The supporting cast includes Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård and Laurence Fishburne.

Brandon Cronenberg’s third film Infinity Pool is released this weekend. Like the director’s two previous films, it is a science fiction horror film. Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth star as a couple who become entangled in the horror hiding beneath the holiday resort where they are staying. Since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Infinity Pool has been well received by critics.

80 for Brady is a sports comedy starring Hollywood legends Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field. Produced by former American football player Tom Brady, the film centres on four friends who travel to watch him play in the 2017 Super Bowl. Brady stars as himself in the film.

The Five Devils is a French fantasy drama that premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Léa Mysius, it is about a young girl who is able to recreate any scent that she encounters. The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2022. An international co-production, it centres on a woman who emerges from a river having been presumed dead for several years.

Final comments

Thank you for reading the latest Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. Let me know what you thought about the “Now streaming” section of this week’s edition, or if you have any other thoughts on the films discussed this week.



Wednesday Roundup: Everything Everywhere All the Oscars, the key takeaways, and more (15 March 2023)

Swiss Army Man interview with Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan

Welcome back to the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema! In the wake of the 95th Academy Awards last weekend, this edition focuses on the key takeaways from this year’s ceremony. At the end, we have the usual box office update and preview of upcoming releases.

2023 Oscars: key takeaways

In comparison to last year’s chaotic affair, the 95th Academy Awards proceeded without major controversy on Sunday evening. From the beginning, the producers made it clear they wanted the focus to be the awards and their winners. Part of this was the decision to broadcast the presentation of all twenty-three awards. Last year, the Academy made the contentious decision to omit the presentation of eight awards from the ceremony.

Everything Everywhere All at Once was the big winner on the night. It won seven awards including Best Picture. With wins for Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, it became only the third film ever to win three acting awards at the Oscars. Only A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Network (1976) had achieved this feat before.

Winning for seven of its eleven nominations, Everything Everywhere All at Once dominated this ceremony in a manner that no film has since Slumdog Millionaire (2008). As a result of its success throughout the season, many people predicted this outcome. The remarkable nature of the achievement should not be dismissed though.

No science fiction film had won Best Picture before last weekend’s ceremony. Yeoh and Quan became the first Asian actors to win Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor respectively. Diversity remains a problem for the Academy but it is important to recognise the scale of these achievement as they happen.

Independent studio A24 financed and distributed Everything Everywhere All at Once. They also distributed The Whale, whose star Brendan Fraser won Best Actor on Sunday. Fraser’s win meant A24 won Best Picture, Best Director and all four of the acting awards. An independent studio has never achieved this before. The unprecedented success came in the face of competition from trillion-dollar companies and century-old Hollywood studios.

In recent years, it has become clear that the Academy is changing in important ways. Everything Everywhere All at Once feels as though it is the culmination of these changes. Less than a week after its victory, it is far too soon to make definitive predictions about its impact but it is reasonable to suggest that it has cleared the way for different types of films to win big in future.

Box office update

In its first week of release, Scream VI debuted at the top of the British and Irish box office with a weekend total of £3 million. For an opening weekend, that is a higher total than the previous film in the franchise: 2022’s Scream. Creed III performed well in its second week to fall only as far as second place at the box office. It made £2.7 million this weekend.

In third place, 65 is another new release. The science-fiction thriller grossed £1.2 million in its first weekend. Rounding out the top five are Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Both now in their third week of release, Cocaine Bear and What’s Love Got to Do With It? dropped outside of the top five for the first time this weekend.

Two other new releases made the top fifteen this weekend. Sports comedy Champions grossed £370,000 to place eighth in this weekend’s box office rankings. Only a single place below it is the Hindi-language romantic comedy Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar with a weekend total £194,000. In fifteenth place, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical continues to add to its box office total after sixteen weeks of release.

Coming this weekend

The widest release this weekend is Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Produced by DC Studios, it is a sequel to the 2019 film Shazam! and the latest instalment in the DC Extended Universe franchise. Zachary Levi reprises his role as the title character. In the film, Shazam does battle with the daughters of Atlas.

Allelujah is released this weekend. Starring Jennifer Saunders and Bally Gill, it focuses on a geriatric ward in a Yorkshire hospital that is threatened with closure. Based on an Alan Bennett play of the same name, Allelujah is directed by Richard Eyre. The supporting cast features a host of great British actors including David Bradley, Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi.

Over six months after its release in North American, horror film Pearl finally arrives in British and Irish cinemas this weekend. Pearl is a prequel to X, Ti West’s critically-acclaimed slasher from last year. Mia Goth returns to star in this film, which she co-wrote alongside West. David Corenswet and Tandi Wright are among the supporting cast.

Romantic comedy Rye Lane is released this weekend too. Set in South London, it stars David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah. Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year, the film has received a positive critical response. Written and directed by Pravesh Kumar, Little English is another British comedy arriving this weekend. Rameet Rauli and Viraj Juneja star in the film.

Finally there is a 30th anniversary re-release for Martin Scorsese’s romantic period drama The Age of Innocence. An adaption of Edith Wharton’s 1920 novel of the same name, it stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder. The Age of Innocence is often held in lower regard than Scorsese’s other films from this period. Hopefully this latest re-release leads to a re-evaluation of the film, which I would certainly rank among his greatest.

Final comments

Thank you for reading the latest edition of the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. With the Oscars finished, why not let me know what you thought about the films that dominated this awards season, as well as those that you think were harshly treated?


2023 Oscars: Preview and predictions

Katharine Hepburn's four Oscars displayed at the Smithsonian

The awards seasons reaches its big conclusion this evening at the 95th Academy Awards. Jimmy Kimmel will host the ceremony for the third time and presenters will include Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Samuel L. Jackson and Sigourney Weaver. In this post, I am going to preview the ceremony and share my predictions in every category.

With eleven nominations, Everything Everywhere All at Once is the frontrunner for many key awards, including Best Picture. It has won the key prizes at the four major guild awards: the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA), Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Four other films have achieved this feat and they all won Best Picture too.

Despite the apparent predictability of the Best Picture race, there are plenty of categories where the winners are still unclear. Recent years have provided extremely uncompetitive acting races. With a few exceptions, we have usually known the winner of these awards before the ceremony. Even on the day of the ceremony though, there are still close races in three of the four acting categories.

Below-the-line categories

In this section, I present my predictions for the below-the-line categories. I have based most of my predictions on precursor awards. Two categories are particularly interesting to me here: Best Original Score and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Babylon has won various critics’ awards for its score throughout this awards season, as well as the Golden Globe. Given that it is not nominated for Best Picture, I am nervous about predicting that it will win two Oscars on the night. The most likely competition is All Quiet on the Western Front, which won at the BAFTAs, although it is not impossible that Everything Everywhere All at Once could win.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling is interesting because it could provide an early indication of the Best Actor winner. The two frontrunners are the same in both categories (Elvis and The Whale). Both films won awards at the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards. The divisive nature of The Whale and its lack of a nomination for Best Picture lead me to believe Elvis will be the winner though.

As always, it is the short categories that are the most difficult to predict. Since I have been unable to see all the nominees, I have made a best guess based on the few precursor awards and general consensus opinion.

Best Cinematography: James Friend (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Best Costume Design: Catherine Martin (Elvis)
Best Film Editing: Paul Rogers (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Mark Coulier, Jason Baird and Aldo Signoretti (Elvis)
Best Production Design: Florencia Martin and Anthony Carlino (Babylon)
Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz (Babylon)
Best Original Song: “Naatu Naatu” by M. M. Keeravani and Chandrabose (RRR)
Best Sound: Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor (Top Gun: Maverick)
Best Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett (Avatar: The Way of Water)
Best Animated Feature Film: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Best Documentary Feature: Navalny
Best International Feature Film: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Animated Short Film: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Best Documentary Short Subject: The Elephant Whisperers
Best Live Action Short Film: Le pupille

Best Adapted Screenplay

Living and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery are the two films not nominated for Best Picture among these nominees. As a consequence, I would consider them the least likely winners. Top Gun: Maverick was a surprising nomination in this category and it is also unlikely to win.

All Quiet on the Western Front and Women Talking are the two major contenders. A complicating factor in this race is that the films have not competed in any of the key precursors. The BAFTAs, Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes and the WGA Awards all nominated only one of the two films. Women Talking has been the most successful throughout the season though and that is enough for me to think it will win the Oscar too.

Prediction: Sarah Polley (Women Talking)

Best Original Screenplay

Everything Everywhere All at Once is going to win this award. Its position as the presumptive Best Picture winner makes it too difficult to beat. The Banshees of Inisherin is the most plausible spoiler because it won this award at the BAFTAs and the Best Screenplay Golden Globe. Both of these wins strike me as outliers with bodies that did not appreciate Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Among the other nominees, I would rank Tár in third place because it was nominated at all of the major precursor awards. Triangle of Sadness and The Fabelmans are both massive outsiders in my estimation. Either film winning would point to something unexpected happening later in the evening.

Prediction: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Best Supporting Actor

Despite competitive races in the other three acting categories, the winner of Best Supporting Actor is already clear. Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once) has already won the Golden Globe, the Critics’ Choice Award, the SAG Award and a host of other precursor awards. Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) won the BAFTA but that reflects the poor reception for Everything Everywhere All at Once at a ceremony where it won only one award.

If I had to select a different winner, I would actually choose Judd Hirsch (The Fabelmans). Rewarding a widely-respected Hollywood star seems the most plausible way that Quan could lose. Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway) was an unexpected nomination for a talented actor but he is the least likely winner. Brendan Gleeson (The Banshees of Inisherin) would rank just above him.

Prediction: Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Best Supporting Actress

Earlier this year it appeared that Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) was the frontrunner for this award. Failure to win the SAG Award significantly weakened her position though. Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once) won that award and has become the bookies’ favourite in the final few days of the campaign. Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once) and Hong Chau (The Whale) are the two outsiders.

I am going to predict that Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin) will win this award on the back of her BAFTA success. Knowing how much significance to attribute to the BAFTAs is always difficult. I think there is enough evidence to believe that Condon’s win reflects genuine admiration for her performance rather than an anomaly. Nonetheless this strikes me as a dead heat.

Prediction: Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin)

Best Actor

Before the BAFTAs, this category appeared to be a three-way race. Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin) not winning at that ceremony ended his chances of winning the Oscar, in my opinion. Paul Mescal (Aftersun) and Bill Nighy (Living) are both outside hopes here. The two frontrunners are Austin Butler (Elvis) and Brendan Fraser (The Whale).

Fraser has been as the bookies’ favourite for most of the year. With both the Critics’ Choice Award and the SAG Award, he appears to be a reasonable winner. Despite this, a lack of recognition for The Whale will damage his chances. Unlike Elvis, it is not nominated for Best Picture. On top of that, the BAFTAs have a good record at predicting the Best Actor winner in close races, notably foreshadowing a win for Anthony Hopkins in 2021. As a result, I believe that Butler will be the Oscar winner.

Prediction: Austin Butler (Elvis)

Best Actress

Among all twenty-three categories at this year’s ceremony, Best Actress might be the closest race. Cate Blanchett (Tár) and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) have shared every major precursor award. Blanchett won the BAFTA and the Critics’ Choice Award, while Yeoh won the SAG Award. Both women won at the Golden Globes. Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie) and Ana de Armas (Blonde) will have to settle for the honour of being nominated.

With the precursor awards providing no evidence either way, many prognosticators have resorted to considering intangible factors. Yeoh is a first-time nominee and would be the first Asian winner. Blanchett is a two-time Academy Award winner and an eight-time nominee. Yeoh stars in the presumptive Best Picture winner and the most nominated film at the ceremony. Blanchett stars in a film that might not win a single award. What does this all mean for the race? For me, the answer is that we simply do not know. Ultimately, I am predicting Blanchett but I might as well have flipped a coin.

Prediction: Cate Blanchett (Tár)

Best Director

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once) have this award wrapped up. Earlier in the season, Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans) was their main competition but the only precursor he won was the Golden Globes. At the BAFTAs, he was not even included on the longlist. Spielberg’s status as a filmmaker probably ensures he is the second favourite though.

Among the other nominees, Todd Field (Tár) is my best guess for the most likely to orchestrate a spectacular upset. Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness) are both more likely to be recognised for their screenwriting than their direction.

Prediction: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Best Picture

Everything Everywhere All at Once is going to win Best Picture. If it does not win, it would be an upset on a scale not seen in the recent history of the Academy Awards. Nevertheless, it is important to consider the other nominees and identify the films best positioned to pull off an upset if the impossible happens.

Women Talking, Triangle of Sadness and Avatar: The Way of Water are the least likely winners. Only slightly ahead of them I would rank Tár and Elvis. Both of these films have been widely nominated at the major precursor awards without winning any major prizes. If either of these films was going to win Best Picture, they should have won something by this point.

The Fabelmans won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Despite that, I would rank it behind Top Gun: Maverick. Neither film is among the realistic candidates to cause a major upset. The Banshees of Inisherin did beat Everything Everywhere All at Once to win Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. This strikes me as an anomaly rather than an indicator of an unexpected Best Picture win.

The only film remaining is All Quiet on the Western Front. If there is any film that might be able to overcome the weight of history, this is it. At the BAFTAs, it won Best Film and six other awards. If there is an argument that Everything Everywhere All at Once loses, it is that All Quiet on the Western Front did not appear at any of the four major guild awards. As a result, the two films have competed against each other at few major precursor awards. With all that said, I am confident that Everything Everywhere All at Once will be the winner.

Prediction: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Final comments

Thank you for reading my preview and predictions for the 95th Academy Awards. Hopefully I have been able to shed some light on the ceremony. At some point next week, I hope to have a post reflecting on the ceremony. Before then, let me know what you think about my predictions, who should win the key awards and whether you will be watching along!


Wednesday Roundup: Everything Everywhere All at Once, Oscars teaser, and more (8 March 2023)

Michelle Yeoh opening remarks at the World Bank / IMF 2017 Annual Meetings

Welcome to the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema! In this edition, there is the usual box office update and preview of new releases. On top of that, there is a review of the Best Picture frontrunner ahead of the 95th Academy Awards Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Box office update

Creed III debuts at the top of the British and Irish box office. With a weekend total of £5 million, it becomes the highest-grossing opening weekend for any film in the Rocky franchise without adjusting for inflation. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is in second place with £1.4 million, while Puss in Boots: The Last Wish drops to third with £1.1 million.

Cocaine Bear and What’s Love Got to Do with It? complete the top five. Both films are entering their second week of release. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To The Swordsmith Village is in sixth place. In its first week of release, it is a compilation film covering episodes of the Japanese anime series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.

In its twelfth weekend, Avatar: The Way of Water continues to add to its record-breaking box office total. Despite the recent re-release of Titanic, the science fiction epic is currently the third-highest grossing film of all time globally. Below it is the animated adventure comedy Epic Tails with a weekend total of £174,000.

Breaking into the top ten in its opening weekend is the Polish drama Heaven in Hell. Despite limited marketing, it grossed £146,000 across the weekend. The only other new release in the top fifteen this weekend is the Oscar-nominated drama Close. The film will be competing for the Best International Feature prize on Sunday.

Review: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Sunday evening brings the 95th Academy Awards. Throughout this entire season, a single film has dominated almost every major precursor awards ceremony: Everything Everywhere All at Once. Although nothing is certain at the Oscars, it is the overwhelming favourite to win Best Picture at the weekend. In anticipation of the ceremony, here is my review of the film-to-beat.

Everything Everywhere All at Once was originally released in March last year. Michelle Yeoh stars as Evelyn, a Chinese immigrant to the United States caught up in a series of parallel universes. The supporting cast includes Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis. All four of those actors are Oscar-nominated for their performances.

Written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, it is a sprawling film that brings together action, comedy, science fiction, martial arts and family drama. The narrative centres on a conflict in the “Alphaverse” between alternate versions of Evelyn’s family that has spread across other universes.
Kwan and Scheinert’s direction feels sharp and contemporary. In addition to the creative action sequences, the film has a propulsive momentum that reflects its modern sensibility. The costume design and the production design highlight the film’s bold style and, together with the sharp editing, establish the mood of the film perfectly.

For all that there is to enjoy in the technical elements of the film, it is elevated by the emotional drama at its centre. The relationships between Evelyn, her daughter Joy, her husband Waymond, and her father “Gong Gong” (played by James Hong) are beautifully observed. Kwan and Scheinert’s screenplay provides some genuinely moving moments, especially between Evelyn and Waymond as they struggle to keep their marriage together.

Everything Everywhere All at Once is not a perfect film. For those averse to zany modern humour, it might become tiresome at a certain point. Ultimately though, it is an ambitious and unique film that stands apart from the awards nominees of recent years. Whether or not it falls prey to the frontrunners curse, it has opened the door for a new type of film to be rewarded by the Academy.

Coming this weekend

A host of new releases are arriving in cinemas this weekend, with a full range of stories across these films. Scream VI is the first film in the franchise that does not feature original star Neve Campbell. Nonetheless most of the cast from the previous entry in the franchise return, including Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega and Courteney Cox. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett both return too.

For those interested in a lower-budget horror experience, there is the iconoclastic slasher Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey. Conceived in response to the Winnie-the-Pooh books entering the public domain in the United States, the film pitches Pooh and Piglet as violent murderers. Despite its provocative premise, the film was panned following its North American release last month.

65 is a science-fiction thriller debuting this weekend. Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt star in the film. The pair find that they are stranded on Earth sixty-five million years ago, surrounded by prehistoric creatures. 65 is written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, best known for their collaboration on A Quiet Place.

If you would prefer something less intense, there is the sports comedy Champions starring Woody Harrelson. Directed by Bobby Farrelly, it is a remake of the 2018 Spanish film of the same name. Harrelson portrays a basketball coach who must coach a team of players with intellectual disabilities as part of a community service sentence.

Finally there is the Bhutanese drama Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom. First premiering in 2019, it became the first Bhutanese film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award when it was nominated for Best International Feature. Pawo Choyning Dorji is the writer and director. Sherab Dorji stars as a young teacher who seeks to leave Bhutan but is sent to a remote village school.

Final comments

Thank you for reading the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. Ahead of the Academy Awards on Sunday, there will be a final preview and predictions post published later this week. In the meantime, let me know if you have any feedback or thoughts!


Wednesday Roundup: Cocaine Bear, awards recap, and more (1 March 2023)

Cocaine Bear, Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall

Welcome to the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema, the first roundup in March. In this edition, there is a box office update, a preview of this weekend’s release and a review of the viral sensation Cocaine Bear.

Box office update

In the UK and Ireland, the box office top two remained unchanged. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania remained in the top spot with a weekend total of £3 million. A mixed critical response does not appear to have dampened the film’s financial success. Now in its fourth week, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish remained in second place.

Cocaine Bear was the highest-placing new entry at the box office this weekend. With a weekend total of £1.5 million, it entered at number three. If the title catches your attention, there’s a review of the film to follow. One place below is another new release: What’s Love Got to Do with It? The film grossed £1 million in its opening weekend. Starring Lily James and Shazad Latif, it is a romantic comedy centred on arranged marriage.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance remains just inside the top five in its third week with a weekend total of £470,000. Two other new entries made it into the top fifteen this weekend. In the eighth spot is the South Korean film Broker, directed by former Palme d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda. Pakistani drama Joyland is at number fifteen with a weekend total of £61,000. Written and directed by Saim Sadiq, it won the Jury Prize and Queer Palm at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Review: Cocaine Bear

Universal Pictures released the trailer for Cocaine Bear towards the end of last year. Justifiably, it attracted a lot of attention on the internet. As the title suggests, it is about an American black bear that consumes a large quantity of cocaine. Directed by Elizabeth Banks, the film features an ensemble cast led by Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Alden Ehrenreich.

According to Cocaine Bear‘s marketing, it is inspired by true events. In 1985, a real bear did ingest a significant amount of cocaine that smugglers had abandoned in the wilderness. Rather than leading to a violent rampage, the drugs killed the bear within a matter of hours. Once the body was found, it was taxidermied and posthumously nicknamed Pablo Eskobear. Nonetheless, this is hardly the first time that Hollywood has re-written the life story of an infamous cultural figure.

In the film, a host of different characters find themselves in the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia. Among them are Eddie and Daveed, portrayed by Ehrenreich and Jackson. Together they are seeking to retrieve the abandoned cocaine for drug smuggler Syd White, played by the late Ray Liotta. The nominal protagonist of the film is Sari. Portrayed by Keri Russell, she is searching the forest for her missing daughter.

The narrative is functional. Primarily it serves to place a collection of characters in the path of a rampaging, drug-fuelled predator. The overlapping stories that bring the characters together are not wholly convincing. Given the number of characters introduced, there is no real connection to most of the cast. Inevitably their principal role is food for the bear but it works well enough not to distract from the action.

Cocaine Bear shifts between horror and comedy all the way through. At its best, there are truly propulsive action sequences but these are permeated by an absurd sense of humour. Perhaps the most successful part of the film is the gory violence. For those who find it entertaining, there is plenty to enjoy. Although it is no masterpiece, Cocaine Bear delivers on its nonsensical premise.

Coming this weekend

Creed III is the most significant release this weekend. Michael B. Jordan reprises his role as Adonis Creed for the ninth instalment in the Rocky film series. Jordan makes his directorial debut with the film too. Johnathan Majors plays Damian, Creed’s old friend with a point to prove. For the first time in the series, Rocky Balboa is not featured in the film. Sylvester Stallone is still credited as a producer.

Belgian coming-of-age drama Close arrives in British and Irish cinemas this weekend too. Directed by Lukas Dhont, it follows the friendship of two teenage boys. At the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Close won the Grand Prix and it has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

Besides these two wide releases, there are a number of other films opening this weekend. South Korean science fiction thriller Project Wolf Hunting premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. The film centres on a cargo ship carrying several criminals between the Philippines and South Korea. Fashion Reimagined is a documentary film following fashion designer Amy Powney. The film follows her attempt to create an ethical and sustainable collection.

Lastly, the 1972 Western film Buck and the Preacher will be re-released this weekend. Described as a financial failure originally, it has been re-evaluated over the past fifty years. The film broke Hollywood conventions by centring black characters in a Western story. Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee are the stars of the film. Buck and the Preacher was the feature debut for Poitier as a director too.

Final comments

Thanks for reading the Wednesday Roundup. Later in the week, Burning Down the Cinema will have a short post covering the latest developments in the awards races. Over the past two weeks, the DGA Awards, BAFTAs, PGA Awards and SAG Awards have all been held. Only the WGA Awards remain before the main event: the 95th Academy Awards. As always, let me know if you have any feedback about anything mentioned in this post, or related to the website!


Wednesday Roundup: BAFTA takeaways, All Quiet on the Western Front, and more (22 February 2023)

Presentation of the 2016 Grimme-Preis

Welcome to this week’s Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. In the wake of the 2023 BAFTA Film Awards, we have some key takeaways from the ceremony plus a review of the Best Film winner All Quiet on the Western Front. After that, there is a box office update and a look ahead to this weekend’s new releases.

2023 BAFTAs: key takeaways

Sunday evening was the 2023 BAFTAs. The ceremony offered a number of surprising events including shock wins and bizarre performances. Later in the week, I will have a more detailed response to the ceremony and what it means for the future of awards season but it is worth considering some of the key takeaways first.

The biggest winner on the night was undoubtedly the German war film All Quiet on the Western Front. Although the film had the most nominations going into the evening, few people predicted that it would win the evening’s top prize. As well as Best Film, it won six other awards including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. If you’re interested in the film, a review follows in this week’s roundup.

The other major surprises of the night were in the acting categories. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan took home the supporting awards for their performances in The Banshees of Inisherin. Keoghan’s win was especially surprising, with most prognosticators assuming that it would be won by Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Ke Huy Quan.

Everything Everywhere All at Once underperformed significantly across the board. Despite being tipped as a frontrunner for the Best Film award by some, it ended the evening with only a single award: Best Editing. Whether or not this poor performance will translate to next month’s Academy Awards remains to be seen though.

The evening’s musical performances included former BAFTA winner Ariana DeBose rapping the name of several female nominees. The ceremony had a major issue when the wrong winner was announced in the Best Supporting Actress category. Deaf actor Troy Kotsur signed Kerry Condon’s name correctly but the interpreter wrongly read out the name of Carey Mulligan. The blooper was edited out of the television broadcast.

As usual with awards ceremonies of this kind, the evening did not pass without controversy. Numerous craft awards were crammed into a shoddy “awards presented earlier” montage. None of the nominees were listed in these categories and many winners had their speeches edited for brevity. Despite this, BAFTA managed to find several minutes to accommodate chit-chat between host Alison Hammond and Geri Horner.

Every award winner on the evening was white, leading to a renewed focus on the lack of diversity in the film industry. Over three years ago, BAFTA responded to criticism by overhauling their nominations process and expanding the organisation’s membership. Nominations for Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler in the Best Actress category were cited as evidence of change within the body. Both women were snubbed by the Oscars. Change of the scope required at this level does not happen over a short timeframe though.

Review: All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front is based on the Erich Maria Remarque novel of the same name, originally published in German in 1929. The novel’s original German title was Im Westen nichts Neues and this translates more literally to “Nothing New in the West”. After a short theatrical run, the film was released on Netflix on 28th October 2022.

For modern audiences, it is easy to underestimate the significance of the original novel. Remarque was conscripted at eighteen and fought in the trenches on the Western Front. The events described in the novel were based upon his own experience in the First World War. At the time of the book’s release, the story resonated with the feelings of many of the war’s survivors. Only a few years later, the book was banned by the Nazi government and Remarque’s work was declared “unpatriotic”.

All Quiet on the Western Front was previously adapted into a 1930 American film. Directed by Lewis Milestone, the film received widespread acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Even today it continues to be cited as a seminal “anti-war” film. Over ninety years since its original release, the 2022 adaptation directed by Edward Berger is the first time that the novel has been adapted into a German-language film.

Unsurprisingly the film explores the same themes that are central to the novel. All Quiet on the Western Front sets itself apart from other war films through its refusal to emphasise heroism. Paul Bäumer, played by Felix Kammerer, is the central character. As a seventeen-year-old, he enthusiastically enlists in the Imperial German Army against the wishes of his parents. Throughout the course of the film, we witness the way that Paul’s illusions of war are completely obliterated. Kammerer conveys this magnificently through his performance, oftentimes without dialogue.

In a departure from the novel, All Quiet on the Western Front intersperses Paul’s story with scenes from the armistice negotiations. The conversations emphasise the disconnect between the soldiers and their leaders. For the generals and the politicians, the lives of Paul and his comrades are mostly abstractions.

The technical elements of All Quiet on the Western Front are superb throughout. The production design and cinematography combine to create a sense of destruction and despair that covers the landscape of the film. Despite the brief glimpses of camaraderie among the men, it is clear that the trenches are an unimaginably bleak setting. All Quiet on the Western Front is a harrowing experience that will remain with the audience for some time after viewing.

Box office update

The only new release to make the top ten this weekend was Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. With a weekend total of £8.8 million across the UK and Ireland, it debuted at the top. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish held strong despite being displaced at number one. In its third weekend, it posted a total of £3.1 million. If you missed it, I reviewed the film in last week’s Wednesday Roundup.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance dropped down to number three in its second week, while Avatar: The Way of Water held its position in fourth place. No doubt buoyed by half term holidays, animated adventure Epic Tails rose up to number five in its second week of release. The film added around £330,000 over the weekend to brings its overall total to £1.1 million.

Entering a wider release this weekend allowed ensemble drama Women Talking to break into the top ten. With a weekend total of £180,000, it moved up to number eight. Stop-motion animation Marcel the Shell with Shoes On entered at number twelve with a weekend taking around £140,000.

Coming this weekend

A host of new releases will be arriving in British cinemas this weekend. The widest release is the action comedy Cocaine Bear directed by Elizabeth Banks. The film is inspired by the true story of an American black bear who overdosed on cocaine that had been dropped into Tennessee woodland. Cocaine Bear features an ensemble cast that includes Keri Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr. and the late Ray Liotta.

What’s Love Got to Do with It? is the other major release debuting this weekend. Starring Lily James and Shazad Latif, it is a romantic comedy about a woman who decides to document her friends’ arranged marriage. Shabana Azmi and Emma Thompson are among the supporting cast and it is directed by Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur.

Pakistani drama Joyland is released this weekend too. The story centres on Haider. The youngest son in a conservative, middle-class family, he falls in love with a transgender dancer. Written and directed by Saim Sadiq, the film was banned in Pakistan before eventually being released in November last year. Prior to its international release, it won the Jury Prize and the Queer Palm at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

South Korean drama Broker is another film from Cannes released in British cinemas this weekend. Directed by former Palmes d’Or winner Hirokazu Kore-eda, the film focuses on “baby boxes” where parents can anonymously abandon their children. Song Kang-ho won the Cannes Best Actor award for his starring role in the film.

Final comments

Thanks again for reading the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. Let me know if you watched the BAFTAs on Sunday, if you have seen All Quiet on the Western Front, and whether you felt it was a worthy winner.


2023 BAFTAs: Preview and predictions

The Banshees Of Inisherin - BFI LFF Gala - Royal Festival Hall - Thursday 13th October 2022

The 76th British Academy Film Awards will be held this evening. Hosted by Richard E. Grant, the awards celebrate the best films of 2022. As well as shining a light on British film talent, the BAFTAs are a key date in the awards season calendar. In this post I want to preview the ceremony and share my predictions for the key categories.

As a starting point, let me provide some background to this year’s ceremony. Over the past two years, the organisation has made several changes to the nomination process. The current process involves a combination of jury selection and membership voting. The result of these changes is that the four acting categories and the directing category all feature six nominees.

When the nominations were announced last month, there were a number of takeaways for the wider awards season. Several key contenders were largely omitted. The Fabelmans received only a single nomination despite winning Best Motion Picture – Drama at the Golden Globes. In contrast, All Quiet on the Western Front overperformed expectations by receiving fourteen nominations. This is a joint record for a foreign language film (tied with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

In my view, the two films that will be central to the narrative of the ceremony are The Banshees of Inisherin and Everything Everywhere All at Once. In addition to their below-the-line nominations, both of these films will compete in three acting categories, as well as directing and original screenplay. Both films are among the frontrunners to win Best Picture at the Oscars too.

At a first glance, The Banshees of Inisherin appears to have an advantage at the BAFTAs. Even though it is set in Ireland, the film is a British co-production and the BAFTAs have historically demonstrated a pro-British bias. The film’s director Martin McDonagh has a good record too. His previous film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won five awards at the 2018 ceremony. All of this means that if Everything Everywhere All at Once is successful, it might be a significant indicator that it will triumph at the Oscars too.

In the rest of the post, I will share my predictions in every category. When reading my thoughts, it is worth remembering that the BAFTAs always have the potential to deliver a major upset. For evidence of this, take a glance at last year’s Best Actress category and you will notice that none of the nominees were Oscar-nominated for their performances.

Below-the-line categories

In comparison to the other awards bodies, the BAFTAs mostly align with the categories awarded at the Academy Awards. The most significant difference is the existence of four awards specifically for “British films”. Below is a list of my personal predictions in the below-the-line categories.

Best Animated Film: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Best Documentary: Moonage Daydream
Best Film Not in the English Language: All Quiet on the Western Front
Best Casting: Sarah Halley Finn (Everything Everywhere All at Once)
Best Cinematography: James Friend (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Best Costume Design: Catherine Martin (Elvis)
Best Editing: Sven Budelmann (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Best Make Up & Hair: Jason Baird, Mark Coulier, Louise Coulston and Shane Thomas (Elvis)
Best Original Score: Justin Hurwitz (Babylon)
Best Production Design: Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy and Bev Dunn (Elvis)
Best Sound: Lars Ginzsel, Frank Kruse, Viktor Prášil and Markus Stemler (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Best Special Visual Effects: Richard Baneham, Daniel Barrett, Joe Letteri and Eric Saindon (Avatar: The Way of Water)
Best British Short Animation: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
Best British Short Film: An Irish Goodbye
Outstanding British Film: The Banshees of Inisherin
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer: Charlotte Wells (Aftersun)
Rising Star Award: Daryl McCormack

Nothing about these predictions is especially surprising because I have mostly selected the favourites. I think that the major winners will be All Quiet on the Western Front and Elvis. A better-than-expected performance for either The Banshees of Inisherin or Everything Everywhere All at Once in these categories might provide early evidence for their success above-the-line.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Only two of the five nominated films in this category align with the films nominated for the same award at the Oscars (All Quiet on the Western Front and Living). Both of these films will be the frontrunners at the BAFTAs, in my opinion. The other three nominees (She Said, The Quiet Girl and The Whale) rank as clear outsiders and I would be surprised if they won. Kazuo Ishiguro’s status as one of the most accomplished British writers of the past fifty years might turn out to be the determining factor.

Prediction: Kazuo Ishiguro (Living)

Best Original Screenplay

In contrast to the Adapted Screenplay category, the nominees for this award are all Oscar-nominated too. Notably this is the only nomination for The Fabelmans at this year’s BAFTAs. As a result, it is the least likely to win. Ahead of it, I would have Triangle of Sadness and Tár. Like in many of the key categories this year, it appears that the frontrunners are The Banshees of Inisherin and Everything Everywhere All at Once. Martin McDonagh has already won this award twice. In 2009, he won for In Bruges and in 2018, he won for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I find it hard to look past him for this award.

Prediction: Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Among the four acting categories, this is the least likely to produce an upset this year. Eddie Redmayne (The Good Nurse), Albrecht Schuch (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Micheal Ward (Empire of Light) are the outsiders in the race. None of these performances are Oscar-nominated. Redmayne is nominated for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award though. Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once) is the overwhelming favourite to win. If there is any awards body that might look elsewhere, it is BAFTA. The two other nominees are Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan (both The Banshees of Inisherin). Gleeson is more likely to cause an upset. The vote splitting effect of the both actors appearing in the same film makes this more difficult though.

Prediction: Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) has become the clear favourite to win the Oscar in this category over the past few weeks. If she wins this award, I think the race would be finished. Among the other nominees, Hong Chau (The Whale), Dolly de Leon (Triangle of Sadness) and Carey Mulligan (She Said) all appear unlikely winners. Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once) has a better chance at this ceremony because she is not competing against her co-star Stephanie Hsu. Despite this, I think that the main challenger will be Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin). As hard as it feels to bet against Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is not nominated for any other award at this ceremony. For that reason I am going to predict Condon as the winner.

Prediction: Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin)

Best Actor in a Leading Role

For most of this awards season, Best Actor has been a three-horse race between Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Brendan Fraser (The Whale). Each of the three actors has already won a major award this year. Butler and Farrell each won at the Golden Globes and Fraser won the Critics’ Choice. Bill Nighy (Living) strikes me as a genuine contender at the BAFTAs though. For this award, I would rank him above Fraser. I do not think that either Daryl McCormack (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) or Paul Mescal (Aftersun) are going to win although it is great to see two young Irish stars nominated. In the end, I think it will be Farrell.

Prediction: Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (Tár) and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) are the clear favourites in this category at every ceremony this year. Despite controversially missing out at the Oscars, Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till) are both nominated at this year’s BAFTAs. Either of these performances winning would be a pleasant surprise. Ana de Armas (Blonde) is a major outsider given that the film is reviled by many critics. Emma Thompson (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande) winning would not be inconceivable given her status. BAFTA would certainly be happy to reward one of the most talented British actresses of her generation. Blanchett’s performance is too impressive to look past in this category though. Yeoh might have to settle for a close second place.

Prediction: Cate Blanchett (Tár)

Best Director

Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave), Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King) and Edward Berger (All Quiet on the Western Front) are the three nominees in this category who missed out on Oscar nominations. Given the record-matching number of nominations for All Quiet on the Western Front, Berger has a fair chance to win. Park and Prince-Bythewood would be surprising winners though. Given the absence of Steven Spielberg in this category, it appears to be an open race. Todd Field (Tár) is just behind the two favourites, in my estimation. Last night’s win at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) awards confirms Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once) as the frontrunners. Martin McDonagh (The Banshees of Inisherin) might miss out in this category in the same way that he did in 2018.

Prediction: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Everything Everywhere All at Once)

Best Film

Lastly the most prestigious award of the evening. Only five films are nominated in this category: All Quiet on the Western Front, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once and Tár. Given the number of nominations it has received, All Quiet on the Western Front has to be taken as a serious contender in this category. Nonetheless I would still rank it behind The Banshees of Inisherin and Everything Everywhere All at Once. Both of these films have three acting nominations and a directing nomination. As I have commented throughout, I believe that The Banshees of Inisherin will perform better at the BAFTAs than it will at other ceremonies. Respect for Martin McDonagh’s previous work, appreciation for the central cast, and the fact that it is a British co-production all contribute to this. As a consequence, I have it as the narrow favourite for the main prize. Whatever films wins, it will give us a significant clue about what happens this time next month at the 95th Academy Awards.

Prediction: The Banshees of Inisherin

Final comments

Thanks for reading my thoughts on tonight’s BAFTAs. Early next week there will be a short post with some takeaways from the ceremony. In the meantime, who do you think will be the big winners and losers on the night?


Wednesday Roundup: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, BAFTAs teaser, and more (15 February 2023)

Antonio Banderas and his girlfriend Nicole Kempel at the Starlite Gala in 2019

Welcome back for the second edition of the Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. In this week’s edition, there is a lot to cover. As well as the box office update, we have a review of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, previews of a host of new releases, and a teaser for the BAFTA film awards.

Box office update

Dreamwork’s latest film Puss in Boots: The Last Wish retained its position at the top of the UK and Ireland box office. The film posted a total of just over £3 million in its second weekend. Half term breaks are ongoing or looming in most of the country this week, so the film’s strong performance is likely to continue. Later in the roundup, we will have a full review of the film.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance debuted in second place with a weekend total of £1.5 million. As an opening weekend, that figure is lower than the previous entry in the franchise Magic Mike XXL (2015), and significantly lower than the original film Magic Mike (2012). Both of those films opened in July though. Critical response to the newest film has been mostly poor but audience response appears to be better.

The twenty-five year anniversary release of Titanic is at number three. James Cameron’s romantic epic entered cinemas once again shortly before Valentine’s Day. Over the weekend it added £870,000 to its lifetime total. In the course of doing so, it pushed another Cameron release into fourth place. Avatar: The Way of Water took over £831,000 this weekend as it entered its ninth week of release.

Rounding out the top five was M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin. If you have not already read it, check out last week’s Wednesday Roundup for a review of the film. Meanwhile, Hindi-language film Pathaan continued its record-breaking performance in eighth-place. Starring Shah Rukh Khan, the action thriller is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time in the UK and Ireland.

Animated adventure comedy Epic Tails debuted in ninth position. It was the only other new entry in this week’s top ten. Finally, Oscar-nominated drama Women Talking entered at number fourteen. The film enters wider release from 17th February.

Review: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Dreamworks has returned to the Shrek franchise for the first time in twelve years with the release of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Set after the events of Shrek Forever After (2010), Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of Puss in Boots. Salma Hayek Pinault also reprises her role as Kitty Softpaws and the supporting voice cast includes Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman and Ray Winstone.

In the film, Puss in Boots discovers that he has expended eight of his nine lives. As a result, he decides to retire to a cat rescue home. When he learns about the existence of a wishing star, he resolves to find it and regain his nine lives. In the course of doing so, he encounters a number of other fairy-tale characters searching for the same elusive object.

For the film’s visual style, the animation team were inspired by Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018). As a result, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish looks much better than any other film in the Shrek franchise. Evoking hand-drawn illustrations, it marks a positive contrast to the characteristic Dreamworks style. Not only that but it is obvious that there was a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the medium. Especially during the action sequences, it is clear to see the influence of Japanese anime on the animation.

The brilliance of the animation is not matched by the narrative though. The creative team behind the film described it as a “fairy-tale spaghetti Western”. Even though it is easy to understand the comparison, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish does not quite live up to it. At times, the film’s scope seems to be hindering it. For a film that is less than two hours, it perhaps has a few too many peripheral characters.

Aside from anything else, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish suggests that there is reason to be optimistic about the future output of Dreamworks Animation. In addition to a planned fifth Shrek film, production has already begun on Kung Fu Panda 4. Let’s hope that those films have similar levels of artistic ambition.

Coming this weekend

The largest release of the weekend is Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly both reprise their roles from Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018). Early reviews from critics have been mixed despite a positive response to the two previous films. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania marks the beginning of “phase five” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is released this weekend. A stop-motion animated film, it is based on a series of viral shorts about a talking shell named Marcel. Having been released last year in North America, the film arrives in cinemas with critical acclaim. In addition, it has been nominated for Best Animated Film at the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes and the Oscars. The film’s co-writer Jenny Slate provides the voice of the title character, while Isabella Rossellini voices his grandmother.

Florian Zeller’s follow-up to his acclaimed film The Father (2020) is released this weekend too. Like that film, The Son is adapted from a stage play written by Zeller. Hugh Jackman was nominated for a Golden Globe for his leading performance in the new film. The supporting cast includes Laura Dern and Vanessa Kirby. Upon its release in North America, it was poorly received by critics and was a box office failure.

BAFTAs teaser

On Sunday evening, the 76th British Academy Film Awards will be held in London to celebrate the best films of 2022. Among the most-nominated films are All Quiet on the Western Front, The Banshees of Inisherin and Everything Everywhere All at Once. Stars from throughout the world of film will be in attendance and Richard E. Grant will host the ceremony.

The BAFTA Awards are typically among the key precursor awards in the build-up to the Academy Awards. In contrast to recent years, there are many competitive races in key categories. Cate Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh are fiercely contesting the Best Actress category. For the Best Actor award, there appears to be a rare three-horse between Austin Butler, Colin Farrell and Brendan Fraser. Sunday evening will give new evidence about these contests.

Aside from its position in the awards calendar though, the BAFTAs are a chance for British talent to be seen throughout the world. As fewer people visit the cinema each year, awards ceremonies provide an opportunity to shine a light on films that might not have been widely seen. At this year’s ceremony the nominees include Charlotte Wells’ beautiful coming-of-age drama Aftersun, for example.

Later this week, Burning Down the Cinema will have a full preview of Sunday evening’s ceremony, as well as predictions in all of the major awards categories. In the meantime, thank you for reading the Wednesday Roundup. As always, please let me know if you have any feedback.


Wednesday Roundup: Knock at the Cabin, The Whale, and more (8 February 2023)

M. Night Shyamalan speaking at the 2016 WonderCon

Welcome to the first ever Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema! In this first edition we have new release information, a box office update, two film reviews and a look ahead to the coming weekend.

Box office update

After seven weeks in the number one spot, this weekend finally saw Avatar: The Way of Water fall off its perch at the top of the box office in the UK and Ireland. James Cameron’s science fiction epic was pushed into second spot by Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, which grossed £4.9 million in its opening weekend. A sequel to the 2011 film Puss in Boots, it was released at the end of December in North America. Since then, it has received widespread critical praise. Last month is was among the nominees for Best Animated Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards.

Knock at the Cabin is at number three. Directed by mercurial filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan, it is a psychological thriller based on the 2018 novel The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. Fifth at the box office this week is controversial drama The Whale. Brendan Fraser gives an Oscar-nominated central performance as a morbidly obese recluse. The film has attracted criticism for its treatment of his character though. Reviews of both of these films are below.

Completing the top five is the Hindi-language action thriller Pathaan starring Shah Rukh Khan. In its second week, it has become the top-grossing Indian film in British box office history. With a current total gross of £3.3 million, it has overtaken Dhoom 3, which had held the record since 2013. Plane and The Fabelmans both dropped outside the top five in their second week. The only other new release to crack the top ten was the concert film BTS: Yet To Come In Cinemas at number eight.

Review: Knock at the Cabin

M. Night Shyamalan is among the few contemporary filmmakers whose name is widely known among the movie-going public. Since his sensational breakthrough with The Sixth Sense in 1999, Shyamalan has consistently delivered financially successful films. Lady in the Water (2006) is his only real failure in this regard. Critical praise for his films has been far less dependable.

Knock at the Cabin, his latest film, is difficult to categorise. Perhaps the best label might be “psychological drama”. Shyamalan was originally approached to produce the film before agreeing to write and direct. Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge are a couple on holiday in the Pennsylvania forest with their young daughter. The holiday is turned upside down when four mysterious characters appear at the cabin where they are staying.

In many ways, Dave Bautista is the star of the film. As the apparent leader of this disparate group, he delivers the titular knock. Bautista is perfectly cast in this role and it is clear that Shyamalan understands the combination of physicality and depth that he brings to the table. In the past ten years, Bautista has proven he is the most talented actor the WWE has ever produced. Hopefully this performance opens the door to more dramatic roles in the future.

Shyamalan’s directorial voice is obvious throughout the film. Knock at the Cabin takes place mostly within a single setting but he employs it to full effect. Shyamalan and his two cinematographers use the camera deliberately to heighten the constraints of the setting and the tension between the characters. In key moments, audience attention is consciously drawn to the camera’s movements. No doubt this will be off-putting but it is intentional.

For those who are less amenable to Shyamalan’s conventions, there are reasons to be critical. Endings are a recurring subject of debate with his films and Knock at the Cabin is no different. The tone varies dramatically throughout the film. Even though it might be argued that this is deliberate, it does undermine the better aspects of the piece. On the whole, Knock at the Cabin demonstrates that Shyamalan remains a singular filmmaker- for better or worse.

Review: The Whale

In Darren Aronofsky’s film The Whale, Brendan Fraser plays Charlie, a morbidly obese recluse trying to rebuild his relationship with his daughter. Among the supporting cast is Oscar nominee Hong Chau, who plays Charlie’s carer and only real friend. Samuel D. Hunter has written the screenplay based on his own stage play.

When it premiered at the Venice International Film Festival last September, The Whale received a six-minute standing ovation that moved Fraser to tears. In the following months, response to the film has been fraught. At the centre of the controversy is the portrayal of Charlie and his obesity. Detractors have condemned the decision to have Fraser wear a fat suit and the overall treatment of his character. From my own perspective, I did not find the portrayal of Charlie to be pitying or condescending. On the contrary, The Whale is dominated by the ideas of saviour and redemption. Charlie is clear that he does not need saving by somebody else.

Fraser’s performance has been widely praised and correctly so. He is essential to the film. Leaving aside the debate surrounding his physical transformation, he brings immense depth to his character. Without Fraser’s sincerity, the film would not work. The same is true for the supporting cast. Hong Chau’s ability to bring warmth to her role has justifiably earned her an Academy Award nomination. Similar praise should be offered to Sadie Sink in her unenviable role as Charlie’s angry, anxious daughter.

Darren Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique shoot the film in 4:3 aspect ratio. Perhaps reflecting its origin on the stage, The Whale takes place almost entirely in a single setting: Charlie’s apartment. Combined with the film’s gloomy colour palette, this creates a genuine sense of oppression throughout. Aronofsky’s filmmaking at times borders on overindulgent though. The best parts of the film are the moments where he allows his actors to centre the relationships between the principal characters.

Like many of Aronofsky’s previous films, The Whale has proved divisive. Every person will have a different response to how it approaches telling its story, or whether that is a story worth telling at all. From my own point of view, it succeeded primarily as a result of the numerous strong performances.

Coming this weekend

Magic Mike’s Last Dance is the most significant new release this weekend. It is the third and final instalment of the Magic Mike series, centring on male stripper Mike Lane. Steven Soderbergh returns to direct this entry in the series, which sees Mike down on his luck and travelling to London. Channing Tatum reprises his role from the two previous films and Salma Hayek joins the cast.

Sarah Polley’s ensemble drama Women Talking enters preview release this weekend. The film is based upon the novel of the same name by Miriam Toews. Inspired by real events, it centres on a group of women living in an isolated Mennonite colony in rural Bolivia. Women Talking was nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 95th Academy Awards. Notably it was the only film directed by a women nominated for this year’s top prize. Despite critical acclaim, it performed poorly at the North American box office. Assuming it performs similarly on this side of the Atlantic it will not be around for long. If you want to see it, the next couple of weeks might be your only chance.

For younger audiences, there is Epic Tails. Featuring the voices of Rob Beckett, Giovanna Fletcher and Josh Widdicombe, it is an animated family adventure centring on a mouse living in Ancient Greece. Epic Tails is produced by French animation studio TAT Productions, whose previous films include The Jungle Bunch (2017).

Finally, James Cameron’s romance epic Titanic is receiving a twenty-fifth anniversary re-release in time for Valentine’s Day. The film became a popular sensation and the highest-grossing film of all time when it was originally released. As well as financial success, Titanic was nominated for fourteen Oscars and won eleven. Leonardo DiCaprio was infamously snubbed in the Best Actor category though. Like its previous anniversary releases, the film will show in post-converted 3D.

Final comments

Thank you for reading the first ever Wednesday Roundup from Burning Down the Cinema. I hope you found it enjoyable, insightful or useful. If you have any thoughts on the films I have mentioned or on the website as a whole, please do not hesitate to share them with me.


Welcome to Burning Down the Cinema!

Welcome to Burning Down the Cinema. The purpose of this website is to provide a platform to share my thoughts on the latest developments in the film industry. My posts will cover a range of topics including reviews of new releases, awards season prognosticating, and revisiting aspects of film history.

In the coming weeks, I will release a “Wednesday Roundup” post each week. In these posts, I will aim to review selected new releases, summarise the weekend box office changes, preview upcoming releases, and highlight any significant developments in the industry. I hope to have coverage of the major awards ceremonies too.

My first roundup will be posted this afternoon (8th February). It will include short reviews of two major new releases: M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller Knock at the Cabin and Darren Aronofsky’s controversial Oscar-nominated drama The Whale. Please let me know if you have any feedback on the website, the roundup post, or anything else!