93rd Oscar Awards

93rd Academy Awards took place on Sunday 25th April 2021 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, the Union Station in Los Angeles, California and at The British Film Institute in London, United Kingdom

Best Picture: Nomadland

Best Director: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Best Actress: Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung YounMinari

Best Original Screenplay: Emerald Fennell –Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay: Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton – The Father

Best Cinematography: Erik Messerschmidt Mank

Best Costume Design: Ann RothMa Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Make up & Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Best Film Editing: Mikkel E. G. NielsenSound of Metal

Best Sound: Sound of Metal

Best Production Design: Mank

Best Documentary Feature:  My Octopus Teacher (South Africa)

Best Documentary Short Subject: Colette

Best Live Action Short Film: Two Distant Strangers directed by Trevon Free and Martin Desmond Roe

Best Original Score: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon BastisteSoul  

Best Original Song: Fight for YouJudas and the Black Messiah

Best Animated Feature Film: Soul

Best Animated Short Film: If Anything Happens I Love You

Best Foreign Language Film: Another Rounddirected by Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)

The Vanishing Frontier

Nomadland

Director: Chloe Zhao

Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn

Beijing born and London and Los Angeles educated Chinese American director Chloe Zhao has made an extraordinary film Nomadland about the vanishing frontier, about the concept of homelessness and leading a nomadic existence, shot in some extraordinary locations in America including Arizona and South Dakota.

Backed up by an extraordinary performance by two time Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as the widowed Fern, who repels from any form of human commitment and prompted by the sudden death of her husband and the economic collapse of their hometown, Empire, Nevada after a major factory shutdown in 2011 as a result of the aftereffects of the 2008 financial crisis, Fern bravely embraces all the hardship and wonder of the nomadic lifestyle in the vast outback of America.

Frances McDormand is in every scene of Nomadland under the expert direction of a genius director Chloe Zhao who has made a beautiful picaresque tale about loss, hardship and the human desire to explore. Fern is completely against settling down in a property but prefers her nomadic lifestyle driving around America in an old van kitted for human habitation, picking up odd jobs at various locations including ironically the pantheon of American capitalism, the giant online shopping and delivery company Amazon.

Fern’s journey is peppered with intimate encounters with real nomad travellers, as they briefly discuss their life and their journey whether it’s towards love or death.

The most extraordinary encounter is the scene with herself and a young guy from Wisconsin who is trying to write to his love in another state and Fern suggests a Shakespearean sonnet, number 18 – Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s Day? Fern recites the entire sonnet as Zhao expertly edits a beautiful montage of gorgeous scenes, bringing an elevated harmony to a life which is essentially that of a pioneer.

Nomadland is beautifully shot, brilliantly edited and superbly acted by both Frances McDormand and her male counterpart Dave played by Oscar nominee David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) a fellow nomad who ultimately decides to settle down with his son and grandson in a beautiful home in South Dakota, a betrayal to Fern who sees giving into a static life as relinquishing her nomadic life and more significantly her freedom, her ability to travel wherever and not be tied down to a fixed abode.

In Nomadland, director Chloe Zhao chooses to focus not on Millennials or 40 somethings but on the elderly, on the sixty somethings that are grappling with the death of a spouse or a child, to that age group which has suffered loss and have been turfed out of the capitalist cycle, that have been disposed of and are ultimately dispossessed.

Nomadland is a gorgeous, fascinating film, complex, intimate and ravishing, held together by a superb performance by Frances McDormand who makes Fern the embodiment of all that bitterness of a ruined town like Empire, Nevada which becomes symbolic of a vanishing frontier.

Nomadland gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is highly recommended.

THE 74th BAFTA AWARDS / THE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 11th April 2021 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England

Best Film: Nomadland

Best Director: Chloe Zhao

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Best Actress: Frances McDorman – Nomadland

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn – Minari

Best British Film: Promising Young Woman

Best Original Screenplay: Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman

Best Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller – The Father

Best Costume Design: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Visual Effects: Tenet

Best Foreign Language Film: Another Round directed by Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)

Scorpion’s Revenge

Mortal Kombat

Director: Simon McQuoid

Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Chin Han, Max Haung, Tadanobu Asano, Laura Brent, Mehcad Brooks

The original Mortal Kombat video game was released on the 8th October 1992 with subsequent versions being released in 1993, 1995 and then culminating in Mortal Kombat Trilogy in 1996, much to the delight of every video game playing teenager growing up in the 1990’s.

The first film version of Mortal Kombat was released in 1995, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Pompeii) and starred French film hunk Christopher Lambert who become famous when he starred in the 1984 classic Greystoke: Lord of the Apes.

So the 2021 film version of Mortal Kombat has arrived in cinemas and is directed by first time director Simon McQuoid and stars an array of fresh young stars including Lewis Tan as Cole Young, Australian actors Jessica McNamee (Battle of the Sexes) as Sonja Blade and the hilarious Josh Lawson who played James Murdoch in the Oscar nominated film Bombshell as the loud mouth and macho Kano.

Well known Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada (Mr Holmes, The Railway Man, The Wolverine) stars as Hanzo Hassahi aka Scorpion who at the beginning of the film set in 17th century Japan, has his wife and young son killed by the vicious Bi-Han played by Joe Taslim (Fast and Furious 6).

Cole Young, the MMA fighter teams up with Sonja Blade and Jax played by Mehcad Brooks along with Kung Lao played by Max Huang to fight the Outworld villains lead by Bi-Han.

The action in Mortal Kombat is mainly mixed martial arts trimmed with lots of blood and gore especially a couple of head bashing. There are even a fair share of ninja’s and other ghastly beasts which attack the good guys.

To viewers not familiar with the Mortal Kombat game and the universe it inhabits, the plot could be slightly confusing, but just ask any thirty-something and they will tell you exactly what is going on, with them having grown up in the 1990’s when the popularity of the games were at their peak.

The visual effects and the production design of Mortal Kombat is eye-catching and the action, bloodshed and raucous banter is relentless, sufficient to keep any ardent fan satisfied.

Mortal Kombat is a fun filled martial arts sci-fi action film and is worth seeing especially if you enjoyed playing the video game. In this 21st century attempt of transferring a successful video game to the Big Screen, Mortal Kombat as a an entertaining action film stands its own ground and there is bound to be a slew of sequels to follow.

Catch Mortal Kombat in cinemas now and the film gets a rating of 7 out of 10.

The cinematic release of Mortal Kombat should hopefully draw a crowd of people back to the theatres to watch this action-packed bloodthirsty reinvention, depicting Scorpion’s revenge.

Leaves Falling off a Branch

The Father

Director: Florian Zeller

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Olivia Colman, Rufus Sewell, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss

French playwright Florian Zeller, deftly converts his play about a father suffering from dementia into a beautifully wrought and touching film called The Father featuring two absolutely brilliant performances by Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) as Anthony, a retired engineer living in a plush London apartment and his daughter Anne played in a heart wrenching performance by Oscar winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite).

Sir Anthony Hopkins at the age of 83 inhabits every frame of this beautiful film, as the ageing Anthony, deceptively clinging onto an imagined reality which is forever shifting, an emotional minefield made treacherous and poignant by the enduring love of his daughter Anne, who has to not only take care of her father but make the extraordinarily difficult decision to place her father in a care facility so that she can continue with her life.

Hopkins deserves the Oscar for this film. His performance is incredible, utterly nuanced and touching, at once witty and incorrigible but endearing and extremely moving.

Olivia Colman is also extraordinary, conveying all the emotional difficulty of a middle aged daughter who is desperate to move on with her life, especially at the urgent request of her charming but ruthless husband Paul played by Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, A Knight’s Tale, Judy).

What makes The Father such an impressive film is the complex script co-written by Oscar winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) along with Florian Zeller and the ever-shifting non-linear narrative is expertly edited by Yorgos Lamprinos, deceptively drawing the audience into a world which is both imaginary and instantly recognizable. The last battle ground in a family is always the home.

Significantly, The Father is a sharp and relevant film commenting on how the elderly are treated and how they can suffer emotionally, psychologically and mentally, without fully grasping what is happening to them. How this old age deterioration of dementia can have a devastating effect on their children.

Intelligently acted and elegantly crafted, The Father is a stunning work of dramatic art expertly transferred to the cinema.

Based on the play by Florian Zeller, The Father is a masterclass of screen acting and gets a film rating of 9 out of 10. Highly recommended viewing.

The Apex Solution

Godzilla vs Kong

Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Rebecca Hall, Millie Bobby Brown, Brian Tyree Henry, Lance Reddick, Shun Oguri, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Kaylee Hottle

There is something magical about watching a film on the big screen. It’s the brief, tense moment, when a deaf little girl manages to communicate in sign language to the biggest gorilla on the planet: King Kong. It’s that moment when a passive bay adjacent to a coastal city like Pensacola or Hong Kong is disrupted by the appearance of Godzilla’s menacing lizard like body, foreshadowing the impending destruction which will occur.

Director Adam Wingard’s Godzilla vs Kong is the reason that cinemas should not be closed down in favour of fashionable streaming services. It’s that amazing cinematic film which has to be seen on the Big Screen.

Wrapping up the Godzilla trilogy and tying in as the sequel to Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla vs Kong has a fantastic cast include Golden Globe winner Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies) as Nathan Lind, Rebecca Hall (Frost/Nixon) as Dr Irene Andrews and British star Millie Bobby Brown who reprises her role as Madison Russell along with Kyle Chandler who plays her father Mark Russell. Also in the cast are Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk, Widows, Hotel Artemis) as conspiracy theorist podcaster Bernie Hayes and Oscar nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life) as the evil corporate villain and head of Apex industries Walter Simmons who develops a mechanical Godzilla to take out the real Godzilla.

The star of Godzilla vs Kong is the deaf actress Kaylee Hottle who plays the little girl Jia who manages to communicate with Kong much to the surprise of Dr Andrews.

In monster films, the script and characterisation takes a back seat to the action sequences and Godzilla vs Kong is no exception. The story is action packed ably assisted with dazzling special effects leading up to a spectacular fight sequence in between the neon lit skyscrapers of Hong Kong, in which much of these mega-skyscrapers topple like a house of cards as Kong and Godzilla battle it out, two primordially massive beasts tearing the planet apart only to be confronted by an even greater mechanical monster.

If audiences enjoyed 2017’s Kong: Skull Island and 2019’s Godzilla, King of Monsters, then they will love 2021’s Godzilla vs Kong which is a fitting finale for a monster film trilogy. With excellent special effects and monsters that create empathy for the audiences, viewers will either be on team Kong or team Godzilla.

Godzilla vs Kong is big budget action film best to be seen in a cinema and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a kick-ass Monster film. This action packed film gets a rating of 7 out of 10 and is highly recommended for escapist fantasy and is suitable for the whole family.

Support your local cinema and buy a ticket to watch Godzilla vs Kong.

Surrounded by Wolves

The Mauritanian

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Cast: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Denis Menochet, Benedict Cumberbatch, Clayton Boyd, Langley Kirkwood

The Last King of Scotland director Kevin Macdonald tackles a divisive subject in his latest film, The Mauritanian, which focuses on the mistreatment of inmates at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba run by the Americans post 9/11 for the rendition, capture and torture of suspected terrorists linked to the Twin Towers attack in New York in September 2001. 

The Mauritanian was shot in the Western Cape, South Africa in 2019 and features an international cast including French actor Tahar Rahim as the unfortunate prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Rahim’s performance is superb, displaying a levity which conceals the horrific torture that Slahi endured included waterboarding and psychological torture.

To add some significance to the cast, is another brilliant performance by two time Oscar winner Jodie Foster (The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs) as the hard-edged defence attorney Nancy Hollander who is joined by her young assistant Teri Duncan played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants, The Fault in my Stars) to build a case for Slahi’s release.

Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) plays American military prosecutor Stuart Couch who is meant to convict Mohemedou Ould Slahi of colluding with the 9/11 terrorists in Germany back when he was living there. Couch’s prosecution rests on the assumption that Slahi is definitely guilty until all the redacted files on his capture and initial confession are released as privileged information for both sides of the law.

Told in a series of flashbacks to Slahi’s childhood in Mauritania which is a North West African country located at the edge of the Sahara Desert, The Mauritanian is a fascinating true story of one man’s wrongful detention and the years it took through justifiable legal processes to release him from Guantanamo Bay.

As a film based on a real life event, director Kevin Macdonald tends to over-emphasize the torture scenes, which are numerous and disturbing and under-emphasizes the American political climate in which the legal case was being conducted in.

Audiences must remember that The Mauritanian is a British film, which justifies the inexplicable casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as a quintessential American complete with a Southern accent. What holds this film together are the two diametrically opposed performances of Jodie Foster as defence lawyer Nancy Hollander and the outstanding Tahar Rahim as the client, Mohemedou Ould Slahi, a foreigner trapped in a strange prison which is above the law, basically a victim surrounded by wolves.

The script for The Mauritanian was not brilliant and the film could have been edited extensively, which explains the reason this BBC film missed the cut at the 2021 Oscar nominations.

The Mauritanian gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is worth watching but comes with a warning of some disturbing torture scenes.

The Prince of Queens

Coming 2 America

Director: Craig Brewster

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Wesley Snipes, Shari Headley, Jermaine Fowler, Leslie Jones, Kiki Layne, Tracy Morgan, James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman

Paramount Studios had plans to release this sequel theatrically but they sold the rights to Amazon Studios due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Fortunately, Coming 2 America had a theatrical release in South Africa on Friday 5th March 2021.

Firstly, a big thank you to Ster Kinekor for sponsoring a ticket for the highly anticipated sequel to the 1988 John Landis directed film Coming to America, simply titled Coming 2 America reuniting the original cast Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy (Dream Girls) and Arsenio Hall as Prince Akeem and his faithful advisor Semmi.

Over 30 years later and Prince Akeem is married to the gorgeous Lisa played by Shari Headley and they have three lovely daughters as they preside over the mythical African kingdom of Zamunda. Akeem’s father, King Jaffe Joffer is dying and Akeem’s daughters cannot inherit the throne due to the law of patriarchal descent that only allows a male heir to inherit a royal throne. Legendary Hollywood star James Earl Jones (The Lion King, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Hunt for Red October) reprises his role as King Jaffe Joffer.

Akeem learns that he actually conceived a son while on his trip to America in the original film, thirty years earlier. Akeem’s son, now 30 Lavelle Junson played by Jermaine Fowler is living in Queens with his outrageous mother Mary played by Leslie Jones.

In the neighbouring African militarized kingdom controlled by General Izzi wonderfully played by Wesley Snipes (New Jack City, Expendables 3, One Night Stand), Izzi is threatening war against Akeem if his new found son does not marry Izzi’s daughter.

Akeem and Semmi fly to New York and arrive at the borough of Queens where they go in search of Lavelle and naturally have to bring the young prince and his crazy mother back with them to Africa.

The comic trick about the original Coming to America was that Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall played multiple characters and their comedic talents are used again quite successfully as they both take on multiple roles including two characters in a New York barber shop and a crazy priest.

Audiences should look out for rising star Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk) as the beautiful Meeka and cameo appearances by Morgan Freeman and Trevor Noah.

While Coming 2 America is funny, vibrant and colourful, Hustle & Flow director Craig Brewster does rely on too many flashbacks from the original John Landis film to keep this sequel grounded although there are some funny scenes especially Lavelle’s attempt to capture a lion’s whisker.

Unfortunately, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall’s comic moments in Coming 2 America are limited in this version unlike in the original which was absolutely hilarious and back in the late 1980’s, they were not afraid to push the envelope. Thankfully Wesley Snipes performance as the flamboyant General Izzi is next level and really eye catching. It’s really great to see Wesley Snipes back on the big screen.

Ultimately, Coming 2 America is a very light and vibrant family comedy which luckily does not take itself too seriously and is perfect entertainment for the whole family.

Coming 2 America is recommended viewing at all cinemas in South Africa including Ster Kinekor and is also available on Amazon Prime for overseas territories. This much needed sequel to the original film gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is worth seeing for a good laugh.

78th Golden Globe Awards

Took Place on Sunday the 28th February 2021 in Los Angeles and New York and hosted virtually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – Here are the 2021 Golden Globe Winners in the Film Categories:

Best Film Drama: Nomadland

Best Film, M/C: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Director: Chloe Zhao – Nomadland

Best Actor Drama: Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Actress Drama: Andra Day – The United States vs Billie Holiday

Best Actor, M/C: Sasha Baron Cohen – Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Best Actress, M/C: Rosamund Pike – I Care a Lot

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya – Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actress: Jodie Foster – The Mauritanian

Best Foreign Language Film: Minari – Korea

Best Original Screenplay – Aaron Sorkin – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best Animated Feature: Soul

The Kings of Miami

Critical Thinking

Director: John Leguizamo

Cast: John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Corwin C. Tuggles, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Angel Bismark Curiel, Jeffry Batista, Will Hochman

Colombian born actor John Leguizamo has made a name for himself as a character actor in many American films including Regarding Henry and playing Toulouse Lautrec in Baz Luhrmann’s fantastic Moulin Rouge in 2001. American bred, Leguizamo has followed many of his fellow actors into the director’s chair.

In his second directorial attempt, Leguizamo acts and directs in the true story Critical Thinking about a group of impoverished Miami high school boys who manage to win the American National Chess Championships.

Critical Thinking had a positive debut at the following international film festivals in 2020: South by SouthWest, Deauville and Taormina before being released in cinemas.

Critical Thinking’s cinematic release is well timed in the wake of the hugely successful Golden Globe winning Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and while the film is nowhere near as glamourous it is worth watching. Both this film and The Queen’s Gambit has placed chess back into the cinematic spotlight.

Set mainly in Miami, Gainesville and Fort Myers, Critical Thinking focuses on a group of high school boys: Sedrick Roundtree played by Corwin C. Tuggles; Oelemy Paniagua played by Jorge Lenderberg Jr (Spiderman: Homecoming); Rodelay Medina played by Angel Bismarck Curiel; Marcel Martinez played by Jeffry Batista and Gil Luna played by Will Hochman (Let Him Go) who encouraged by their passionate chess coach Mr Martinez played by John Leguizamo become committed to the game of chess, a game of strategy and manoeuvre with the aim of outwitting your opponent.

In this case all the opponents in these boy’s cases are drugs, violence and poverty. Mr Martinez is keen for these boys to rise above becoming a statistic on the streets of Miami and turns them into becoming chess championships and proving that high school kids from impoverished backgrounds can also achieve distinctions and become the figurative Kings of Miami.

With a screenplay by Dito Montiel (Man Down, The Son of No One), Critical Thinking is an independent film about social development and encouragement focusing on a group of high school boys who could have slipped effortlessly into a life of crime, but overcame that temptation and become chess championships through the encouragement of a mentor and teacher who was passionate about teaching the youngsters some critical and strategic thinking.

Critical Thinking is an enjoyable film about chess, social improvement and taking responsibility, but unfortunately the sound editing is not very good.

As director John Leguizamo’s second attempt at directing it is not bad and there are some expansive exterior shots of Miami, a gritty and humid city in Florida, a far cry from the flashy Miami of the Bad Boys films.

If viewers enjoy low budget independent cinema, then Critical Thinking is worth seeing and gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10. Critical Thinking is showing in cinemas.

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