ParaNorman

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ParaNorman, the brainchild of Chris Butler, who has previously worked as a Storyboard Supervisor on Coraline and The Corpse Bride, is a 2012 stop-motion animation about Norman Babcock, an unassuming boy from Massachusetts, who can speak with the dead. ParaNorman breaks ground all over the place, not least because it is the first ever stop-motion animation to utilize full-colour 3-D printers, but because it successfully blends horror, comedy and a fun, family adventure all into one masterfully-crafted end product.

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The 3-D Printers in action

As is the key with most lasting animations, the title character often determines how successful or resonating the movie will ultimately be with its audience. Here Norman is the perfect hero- he is an ideal blend of the relatable, with an element of the extraordinary, making him likeable and sweet, which cements our desire for him to succeed. Arguably, Norman is the life force of the film, however, the supporting characters are equally as tangible and rounded. Neil, Norman’s best friend, is the perfect antidote to Norman’s understandably pessimistic view of the world, and Casey Affleck, as Neil’s brother Mitch, and Anna Kendrick, as Norman’s vapid sister Courtney, both bounce charismatically off each other brilliantly. Together they bring a lot of the film’s lighter moments, of which there many, within the knife sharp script, with its cutting and insightful wit and gleefully dark undercurrent.

Written with a clear love of animation and a respect for the audience, ParaNorman plays on the edge of ‘child appropriate’ with some genuinely scary and ominous moments. Mortality, persecution, acceptance and forgiveness are all major themes here, which Butler navigates with the expertise and quality of a seasoned story teller. The message never feels forced or trite and even the end showed a pathos and maturity that is often missing from films for adults.  This maturity is built in, none more so than in the aesthetics themselves.

Visually this film is popping candy for the eyes. The stop-motion is incredible, echoes of The Corpse Bride and Coraline are clear to see, however this film is anything but lazy or unoriginal. Direction from Butler and Sam Fell means the animation is woven in with the CGI gracefully and intelligently,and the attention to detail is stunning. They have created a world we recognise that is admirably void of the, sometimes distancing, gloss of most animations. This world is real, dirty, dark and scary and is the perfect back-drop to a wonderful story.

ParaNorman is a breath of fresh air within an orgy of superheroes sequels and a deluge of rehashed ideas. It’s funny, well made, heartfelt and bloody fantastic. If you like film, you’ll love this.

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10 films we can’t wait to see in 2013….

Ain’t them Bodies Saints

Exciting cast, interesting narrative and some positive rumblings from its Sundance Première.

Cast: Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck

Director/Writer: David Lowery

IMDB Synopsis: The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

Est. Release: Aug.2013

Trailer: N/A

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Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in Ain’t them Bodies Saints

Runner, Runner

Ooo I do have a soft spot for the Afflecks. Ben Affleck can do no wrong for me at the moment.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Gemma Arterton.

Director:  Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer)

IMDB Synopsis: A businessman who owns an offshore gambling operation finds his relationship with his protégé reaching a boiling point.

Est Release: Sept. 2013

Trailer: N/A

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The only proof this film is happening. No stills from the films or a trailer have been released yet

Anchorman: The Legend Continues

Please don’t be shit, please don’t be shit, please don’t be shit…

Confirmed Cast: Will Farrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden

Rumoured Cast: Luke Wilson, John C. Reilly

Director: Adam Mckay (Anchorman)

IMDB Synopsis: The continuing on-set adventures of San Diego’s top-rated newsman

Est Release: Dec. 2013

Trailer: 

Elysium

Loved District 9, love Matt Damon and, if done well, this could be amazing.

Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster

Director: Neill Blomkamp (District 9)

IMDB Synopsis: Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy live on a man-made space station. The rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth, and a man embarks on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

Est Release: Sept. 2013

Trailer: N/A

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Matt Damon in Elysium

Kick Ass 2

If the writing and the story is as good as the first then I’ll be happy. Sequels are tricky beasts so I hope this retains the simplicity and class from the original. 

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz Plasse, Donald Faison

Director: Jeff Wadlow (Matthew Vaughn directed Kick Ass)

IMDB Synopsis:  The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins forces with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.

Est Release: July 2013

Trailer: 

Mud

Trailer looks fantastic. Matthew McConaughey has been reborn as an actor with some real weight. The supporting cast aren’t half bad either.

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson

Director: Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter)

IMDB Synopsis: Two teenage boys encounter a fugitive and form a pact to help him evade the bounty hunters on his trail and to reunite him with his true love

Est Release: May 2013

Trailer:

The Iceman

Michael Shannon (his second feature on this list) stars; he is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. Fantastic cast. Compelling story. What could go wrong?

Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, James Franco, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer

Director: Ariel Vromen

IMDB Synopsis: The true story of Richard Kuklinski, the notorious contract killer and family man. When finally arrested in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters have any clue about his real profession.

Est Release: June 2013

Trailer:

The World’s End

So excited by this!! The cast, writers and director are enough to have me pre ordering my cinema ticket already. If this isn’t funny then I give up.

Cast: Martin Freeman, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine,

Director: Edgar Wright

Writers: Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg

IMDB Synopsis: Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.

Est Release: Aug. 2013

Trailer: N/A

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Freeman, Considine, Pegg, Frost and Marsan in The World’s End

Monsters University

Monsters Inc. was such a delight, I’m excited but scared for this sequel/prequel. Fingers crossed it will retain the magic and wonder from the original.  Trailers looks great though.

Voice Cast: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina,

Director: Dan Scanlon (Cars)

IMDB Synopsis: A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends.

Est Release: July 2013

Trailer:

The Wolf of Wall Street

DiCaprio. Scorsese. Bosh.

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey

Director: Martin Scorsese

IMDB Synopsis: A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, corporate banking world and mob infiltration.

Est Release: Nov. 13

Trailer: N/A

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Leonardo Dicaprio in the, first look still from, The Wolf of Wall Street

Gone Baby Gone

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Gone Baby Gone, the 2007 directorial debut from Ben Affleck, is a masterclass in how to make a crime thriller. Starring his younger brother, Casey, Gone Baby Gone pulls no punches and rightly so. The screenplay, based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, written by Affleck and Aaron Stockard, follows Casey Affleck’s character, Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie, and his wife Angie, played by Michelle Monaghan, as they become deeply embroiled in the hunt for a missing child, Amanda McCready, in the outskirts of Boston.

There are so many things right about this film its difficult not to gush. The narrative is engaging, original and doesn’t patronise the audience by resorting to unnecessary exposition. The dialogue is culturally relevant, poignant and despite the danger of sounding trite or overly sentimental, especially with such a heavy subject matter, it manages to steer clear of being either. The cast more than delivers; Michelle Monaghan brings a softness and femininity, without being clichéd, which emotionally tethers the film; Casey Affleck manages to be credible, understated yet intense, and Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are predictably compelling in their supporting roles. It’s important to note that even with such Hollywood stalwarts as Freeman and Harris, Ben Affleck manages to resist the temptation to unnecessarily beef up their roles, instead utilising them just as much as the narrative requires.

Gone Baby Gone really is a stonking debut. Affleck demonstrates his competency and unnatural maturity as a filmmaker from the get go. The film is heavy on plot, yet doesn’t feel rushed, and heavy on character yet the characters feel sufficiently developed. His relationship with his hometown injects tangible realism; Affleck actually used real life footage, taken whilst filming, for the opening scene. His deep-seeded connection with Boston gives the film an authenticity that many a seasoned director could only hope to achieve. It’s his Boston, his truth as he sees it, but he invites you to decide on your own truth, never preaching or dictating, just guiding the audience through the story and landscape.

This film truly gives us a glimpse at what Affleck will go onto achieve. He has an eye for filmmaking that cannot be forced. Affleck gives his characters room to breathe on screen yet constantly draws the audience in to the drama. His storytelling is void of pretension and he is not afraid to shock, but when he does it never feels gratuitous or out of place. Gone Baby Gone made the world sit up and pay attention to what Affleck can do as a filmmaker and, dare I say it, an auteur. Ben Affleck, you definitely have my attention…