Queen of Katwe (2016)
“…in chess, the small one can become the big one…” (from the trailer “Queen of Katwe”).
Story: The movie is the upcoming Disney-produced drama based on the real story of Phiona Mutesi (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga), a 10-year old Ugandan chess prodigy, who, against all odds, becomes a Woman Candidate Master after the World Chess Olympiads. Brought up in the slums of Katwe, an area in the city of Kampala, Uganda, young Phiona endures a daily routine of trying to survive when she discovers a game named “chess”, which turns her life upside down. Encouraged and supported by her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and couch (David Oyelowo), Phiona quickly becomes a young chess sensation in her country, participating in international competitions abroad.
Director: Mira Nair.
Leads: David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga.
Analysis: Disney produced-“Queen of Katwe” is based on a true story, and this is where its greatest merit lies. It is touching to watch a documentary-like portrayal of one young girl in Africa who dreams of becoming a chess Grandmaster. Culturally aware, the movie promises to immerse the viewer in day-to-day problems of people living in Uganda, who, despite their precarious situation, never stop to dream big. The movie will also be full of dramatic points and unexpected turns, for example, there is a trip to wintry Russia, providing an unforgettable contrast to hot Africa, and a pivotal for the heroine accident happening, whose nature is yet undetermined. This all is coupled with the great cast and the experienced director. David Oyelowo, known for “The Help” (2011), “Lincoln” (2012), “The Butler” (2013) and “Selma” (2014), will play the heroine’s chess coach, while the Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave” (2013)) will play the heroine’s mother. The movie is directed by Mira Nair, a fearless director specialising in international films, that knows exactly how to best present a movie shot in a developing country, having previously directed such diverse films as “Vanity Fair” (2004) and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (2013).
Conclusion: A true, inspirational story with a great cast, soundtrack and visuals means that “Queen of Katwe” has all the chances of being an unforgettable movie. If the movie can overcome over-the-top sentimentality, it can even compete in being the movie of the year.
Release date: September 2016.
Predicted score: 10/10.
“…we’re gonna be in the Hudson” (voice of Captain Chesley Sullenberger from the cockpit).
Story: “Sully” is a movie based on the now-famous true story of “the miracle on the Hudson”, an exemplary skill shown by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger when in 2009 he successfully crash-landed his passenger airplane on the river Hudson in New York, saving the lives of all of his 155 passengers on board. The airplane experienced bird airstrike just minutes prior, and had to crash-land as soon as possible. For his cool head and bravery shown, Captain Sully was heralded a true hero. However, the Captain never thought his actions to be “heroic” in any way, and said that his quick and cool-headed actions were simply the direct result of his previous flying experience.
Director: Clint Eastwood.
Leads: Tom Hanks (supported by Anna Gunn, Sam Huntington and Aaron Eckhart, among others).
Analysis: “Sully” promises to be a good picture. It boasts Tom Hanks himself in the lead role and the renowned director Clint Eastwood. As with “Queen of Katwe”, a true nature of the story is a big plus: we would expect jaw-dropping action depicting the successful crash-landing, Hanks’s outstanding acting and the followed drama surrounding the Captain’s actions and their consequences. So far so good; however, the first problem to be flagged could be the director – Clint Eastwood. Without drawing any conclusions, it is just interesting to point out that, although Eastwood has made some very good films in his career, such as “Unforgiven” (1992) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004), he also made some, well, not-so-good ones, such as “Hereafter” (2010) and “J.Edgar” (2011). Although not much imagination is really required in “Sully”, because it is based on a true story, there are plenty of room to make a lot of things up (or twist and turn) after the crash-landing, regardless of the script. So, the hope here is that realism will prevail, but not to the extent of “boring” the picture. It would be nice to see something along the lines of “Flight” (2012), but with a better-quality tale, a more vivid, real-life hero and no additional confusing sub-plots.
Conclusion: Provided the script and director go the right path, “Sully” could be great, shining great performances and appealing to the audience’s imagination through a well-told, fantastic – but, very much real – tale.
Release date: September 2016.
Predicted score: 8/10.
The Light between Oceans (2016)
“…I promised to spend my life with you. I still want to spend my life with you…I’ve learned the hard way that to have any kind of a future you’ve got to give up hope of ever changing your past.” (M.L. Stedman, The Light between Oceans).
Story: An upcoming contender at this year’s Venice International Film Festival, “The Light between Oceans” is a movie based on the novel by M.L. Stedman. This gripping novel written beautifully tales a tale of Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) and his wife Isabel (Alicia Vikander) who live quietly off the coast of Western Australia after the World War I. After futile efforts to have a child, the couple soon discover a baby girl washed up on the coast not far from their home and adopt her as their own daughter. However, every happiness has its price, and when the couple encounter a certain woman (Rachel Weisz) years after, the limits of their emotional endurance are put to the test.
Director: Derek Cianfrance.
Leads: Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander (with the support also from Rachel Weisz).
Analysis: With a grippingly interesting story already beloved by so many people, the movie is awaited by many and much is expected from it. It looks good. Fassbender and Vikander actually became a real-life couple during the shooting of the movie, and this now “workaholic” “powerhouse” couple can do wonders on set. Michael Fassbender, who has previously shined in “Shame” (2011), “Jane Eyre” (2011), “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and in “Steve Jobs” (2015), will provide all his skill and enthusiasm to make this picture work, while an Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander (“A Royal Affair” (2012), “Ex Machina” (2015) and “The Danish Girl” (2015)) will make sure that the dramatic side of the picture is taken care of through her emotional input and skill. Moreover, the duo looks good together, and their off-screen romance will only add the needed touch of passion and commitment to their onscreen characters’ relationship. However, although the director and scriptwriter Derek Cianfrance is very-well known and respected, he may actually be the weakest link here. Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine” (2010) and “The Place Beyond the Pines” (2012) did cover excellently the dramatic nature of the couples’ onscreen relationships, but these movies also had often unclear, sometimes boring narratives. Here, in “The Light between Oceans” novel, we are dealing with a straightforward, typical novel-like story, which must not be converted into any soap-opera. Moreover, “The Light between Oceans” will encounter the common problems of book-to-film adaptations.
Conclusion: The key here is that this film should not be overly stylised or too painful, and provided that the script and director manage to convey the spirit, as well as the letter of the novel to the screen, i.e. make the story “breathe” by itself, “The Light between Oceans” could be a success.
Release date: September 2016.
Predicted score: 7/10.
Incidentally, there are also two upcoming movies coming out “United Kingdom” (2016) and “Loving” (2016) which both deal with the controversy surrounding interracial marriages in the past. “United Kingdom” is about Price Seretse Khama of Botswana and his marriage to a white woman in the late 1940s, while “Loving” deals with an interracial couple who received prison sentences for their marriage in 1958.
What movies are you looking forward to seeing soon?