Wednesday, 30 September 2015

NEW TRAILER FOR ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU'S THE REVENANT


The year's most hyped-up unseen Oscar contender, The Revenant, is in danger of being another overblown macho fantasy, like its director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's last film, Birdman. With Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead, my hopes aren't exactly high, though the above trailer features promising work from DiCaprio's costar Tom Hardy and from reliable DP Emmanuel Lubezki. Now those are some Oscars I definitely wouldn't mind seeing The Revenant win. Out in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK on the 15th of January. I can wait.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

REVIEW - SOLACE (AFONSO POYART)


This run-of-the-mill cop thriller has all of the whats and the hows, and none of the whys. It tells us that the killer did it, naturally, but it can't tell us why the killer did it, despite numerous scenes of expository pseudo-psychoanalysis from one character about another (or about themselves). It tells us that there's a paranormal angle to this case, but it can't tell us why, nor even what gargantuan suspension of disbelief is required in order to excuse this, at least as long as the film can be bothered acknowledging it. It tells us that it exists, but alas, Solace can't tell us why it exists, nor why we ought to care. Its origins as a sequel to David Fincher's Se7en show through in its basic design, though not in Afonso Poyart's dreadfully simplistic direction. His stylistic affectations come off as accidental lurches, like moments where the executives fell asleep and failed to pick up on the pretensions they had excised everywhere else. It's all fairly beige until the woman in red multiplies and strips naked, or until the pre-teen kid is autopsied and his brain is sliced open. But even that's easier to stomach in this context than the very existence of Solace in the context of the American film industry. More whys: Why does Colin Farrell appear about two thirds of the way through? Why did Abbie Cornish's career have to amount to this? Why did Anthony Hopkins even show up? Hopkins is just about Solace's saving grace, though I'll admit that run-of-the-mill cop thrillers like this are my soft spot, and I'll almost always give them a watch, if not a pass. Solace doesn't earn a pass. It was close enough, until it debased itself with a vile homophobic association that categorically ruled it out of receiving a pass from me. And you? You just ought to pass altogether.

Monday, 28 September 2015

REVIEW - EVERY THING WILL BE FINE (WIM WENDERS)


Everything is not fine - sorry, but it was asking for that - in Wim Wenders' stilted soap opera, which aims for some vague, unformed sense of literariness and little else, apparently failing to grasp that the prestigious written word it attempts to emulate only acquires such prestige through a sharpness and an eloquence, both of which almost wholly evade this dreary drama. Every Thing Will Be Fine is a curio, a film whose achievements are considerable yet inconsequential, and whose failings sit in stark opposition, themselves banal yet of disastrous effect. Technically, there's much to admire in Benoit Debie's luminescent 3D cinematography and Alexandre Desplat's luscious, Grieg-inspired score (the screenplay is by Norwegian Bjorn Olaf Johannessen, and the Canadian setting could have easily replaced his homeland at some point during production); these elements are attractive, though not without fault - objectively, neither contributes anything particularly profound or even relevant to this tale of modern morality in the artistic male. Yes, that's roughly what Every Thing Will Be Fine is actually about, and the level of philosophical inquiry and broader cultural awareness that such a summation may suggest (a decidedly low level) is quite present. It's the sort of film you'd imagine James Franco directing on a whim over a two-week period - fitting, then, that he's this film's lead, as aloof and half-asleep as ever, and neatly matched as such by the film. Alongside Desplat's score, standouts include a chilling moment of tragedy early on and a sensitive performance from Charlotte Gainsbourg (when is she ever not?); on the flipside, there's barely one line of dialogue or plot point that strikes as sincere, and the film concludes in a sequence of thoroughly nauseating shots, whose sheer ugliness must be seen to be understood.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

CATE BLANCHETT IN TRAILER #1 FOR TRUTH


Cate Blanchett sets out to expose the truth and single-handedly change the Oscar game in James Vanderbilt's directorial debut Truth! Acclaim for the film has been slightly muted, though not so for the performances of Blanchett and Robert Redford, whose turns as Mary Mapes and Dan Rather are among the most well-received English-language perfs of the year yet. Out in the US on the 16th of October - no other international release dates have yet been officially confirmed.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

TRAILER: DENIZ GAMZE ERGUVEN'S MUSTANG


Ngl, this was on my watchlist for the London Film Festival, and was one of my biggest disappointments when it failed to turn up there. Deniz Gamze Erguven's debut feature film as director, Mustang, drew raves from critics at Cannes, where it premiered in May to award-winning success. It has since gone on to earn a healthy reputation on the festival circuit: more positive responses at Venice and Toronto festivals surely helped contribute to Mustang securing France's bid for the Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, over titles such as Palme d'Or winner Dheepan from Jacques Audiard, and Cannes Best Actor winner The Measure of a Man from Stephane Brize.

REVIEW - THE VISIT (M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN)


M. Night Shyamalan loves a twist, as well we know. And that's good for me, because I love a twist too, and The Visit contains a cracker of one. It functions as the best twists do, exemplifying this writer-director's skill at orchestrating them (when his skills in many other areas are so woefully wanting): it reconfigures what you've already seen without betraying your trust, painting past occurrences in a new light that contributes narrative and thematic complexity without sacrificing the integrity of what you saw, or what you think you saw. It can't quite stretch to contributing said integrity, though, in those areas where Shyamalan's skills are all but absent, and it's thus that The Visit is a film of lesser quality than its one, crucial, late-game revelation. As per, this American auteur's confidence in those skills shows no signs of diminishing even after a string of mostly-deserved flops - convinced on the legitimacy of his style of scripting, he writes excessively purple dialogue and encourages a detached, vaguely psychotic manner of performing in all his actors. This time, he almost gets away with the dialogue, given the self-assured nature of his teen protagonists, though one wonders why they ever had to be so obnoxious, and so it's Shyamalan who comes off obnoxious. He almost gets away with the wacky acting too, given the film's identity as a (sporadically effective) horror, though one notes a distinctly ageist tone to the conceit that only intensifies following the twist, and so, again, it's Shyamalan who comes off badly. Alongside the twist, The Visit benefits from a canny choice of DP - Maryse Alberti, whose experience in documentary makes her a perfect fit for found-footage filmmaking, and she demonstrates once more that she has a knack for making mundane environments subtly visually interesting.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

REVIEW - THE SECOND MOTHER (ANNA MUYLAERT)


Anna Muylaert's The Second Mother is everything it shouldn't be. It's a funny, uplifting social drama, a cultural examination that draws inferences from its subjects more than their situation, a predictable family melodrama that strips itself bare of all theatricality and thus all predictability too. It's not the film you expect it to be, and confounds those expectations throughout, particularly at the most unexpected moments. Plain, deep focus cinematography gives Muylaert's scenes a visual flatness, the static images only given shape and purpose by the figures therein. Her film is highly economical, these characters making full use of their environment, which is also ours, and serving both as entry point into The Second Mother's story and as education from it - distinct characterisation and empathetic performances endear us to these people, that we might be more susceptible to understand them, to empathise ourselves. The soapy scenario and the simplistic character construction combine to unusually profound effect, as Muylaert infuses them with a sharp verisimilitude in her perceptive dialogue, and a thematic complexity in the societal parallels she draws. It's fluff, but premium grade fluff, and it never feels like fluff because it doesn't operate like fluff. And no matter how obvious the semi-metaphorical stuff about class and generational conflict is, it's persuasive nonetheless, so smartly written is The Second Mother. Regina Case delivers a terrific performance as the titular live-in-maid / nanny, embodying the film's broadness and typifying its deceptive intelligence in the sheer accuracy of her portrayal - she feels like a real person, and the film feels like the real deal.

Monday, 21 September 2015

TIFF AWARDS 2015 AS ROOM WINS PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD


The buzz for Lenny Abrahamson's Room keeps on growing, as it beats supposed Oscar frontrunner Spotlight from Thomas McCarthy to win the coveted audience award from the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. McCarthy's film placed third in the voting, which this year was joined by a juried awards slate for the first time in the history of TIFF, this year in its 40th edition. All of the winners detailed below:

Platform Award
Hurt (Alan Zweig)

Best Canadian Feature
Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn)

Best Canadian First Feature
Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cividino)

NETPAC Award for Best Asian Premiere
The Whispering Star (Sono Sion)

FIPRESCI Prize - Special Presentations
Desierto (Jonas Cuaron)

FIPRESCI Prize - Discovery
Eva Nova (Marko Skop)

People's Choice Award
Room (Lenny Abrahamson)

People's Choice Award - Runners-Up
Angry Indian Goddesses (Pan Nalin) - first runner-up
Spotlight (Thomas McCarthy) - second runner-up

Midnight Madness People's Choice Award
Hardcore (Ilya Naishuller)

TIFF Docs People's Choice Award
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (Evgeny Afineevsky)

Best Canadian Short Film
Maman(s) (Maimouna Doucoure)
Overpass (Patrice Laliberte)

Sunday, 20 September 2015

REVIEW - EVEREST (BALTASAR KORMAKUR)


At some point during the snowstorm that envelops Everest the mountain and Everest the movie, the relentless barrage of blizzard and the equally relentless barrage of pain and suffering it causes begins to imbue upon Baltasar Kormakur's film a curious quality that it has no intention of earning. It defies the mainstream demand for relief, preferring the less palatable method of employing something close to realism, or as close as such a film can get. Judging Everest as such may be unwarranted, though it's no less unflattering to the film - Kormakur's incessant cutting only contributes to the confusion, while a narrower outlook on these horrible events might have provided greater clarity and stronger visceral impact. Judging Everest as the 3D Hollywood disaster thriller - it must surely be an attempt at that, given the star-wattage of its ensemble, many of whom must make do with unforgiving bit parts - it comes off barely any better. In this context, the film is one of rote character development and pat emotional payoffs, the central, extended snowstorm stretch ensuring that the former amounts to little, the latter thus established on thin foundations. The result is a film with innate attributes of genuine value - an Everest-set thriller needs to fall extremely short of target not to thrill in some form or another - and execution that's rarely less than passable, save a few laughably fake-looking set-ups. The cinematography is effective, ditto the score, and while a wide range of nationalities among the ensemble cast produces an even wider range of accents (only Emily Watson, the film's MVP, gets hers right), the performances are convincing. It's nothing like the film it seems to nearly become, and not even particularly like the film it's trying to be, but Everest is a resolutely decent piece of handiwork almost across the board. It's OK, and I'm OK with that.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

REVIEW - PASOLINI (ABEL FERRARA)


Two master provocateurs - one deceased, one proving himself, having been written off as past his prime - converge in an exploration of a condensed space of time. Pier Paolo Pasolini's final day of life is extraordinary only for his death, but it is thus extraordinary. Abel Ferrara's film finds in Pasolini's planned but unproduced last project a prism in which to move forward and yet to look back, perhaps only achieving one through the other. His tone is touching and modest, stressing none of the dramatics that seeped through his subject's cerebral salacity, and Ferrara's surprising sensibility here is all the more profound for the simplicity in which it situates a man whose life and work were distinguished by scandal. Pasolini is at once an inviting film and an impenetrable one, its lack of concern with the theatricality or the depravity or the symbolism that one might expect from it (and it does indeed occur, though only sporadically) as easy to watch as it is impossible to decipher - what is Ferrara's motive? In the inference that his subject is simply impossible to decipher himself - as Pasolini refutes even the concept of analysis of his art - and in compounding this by presenting only his final few hours alive, this film possibly presents the most pointed portrait of an artist that any other artist can achieve. It remains an abstruse film, though, and one whose abstruseness defies even the definition of abstruseness, but Pasolini is remarkably close to a great film in so condensed a space of time itself.

Friday, 18 September 2015

BRIDGE OF SPIES TRAILER AHEAD OF NYFF PREMIERE


This isn't the first look we've gotten at Steven Spielberg's upcoming spy drama Bridge of Spies, co-written by Ethan and Joel Coen. It's not even the second. Nor is it the best! But it may be the last before the film screens to attendees at the New York Film Festival, where it'll receive its world premiere. Spielberg hasn't directed a non-Oscar-nominated film in 11 years and before that, 14 more, so expect this to be a major awards player come December. Out in the US on the 16th of October and in the UK on the 27th of November.

OFFICIAL TRAILER #2 FOR STEVE JOBS


The reviews for Steve Jobs out of the Telluride Film Festival, where it had its world premiere earlier this month, were stellar, setting Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin's film on course for potential Oscar success! With that, it moves onto a New York festival screening and a closing night gala at the London festival, before opening in the US on the 23rd of October and in the UK on the 13th of November. There's the teaser trailer and the first full-length trailer too for your perusal.

NEW TRAILER FOR IN THE HEART OF THE SEA


Having undergone a nine-month delay in release, priming it for awards consideration, Warner Bros.' In the Heart of the Sea makes good on the promise that its teaser trailer showed many months back with a second look at the action drama. Ron Howard's film is due for release around the world through December, with a US opening on the 11th and a UK one on the 25th, perplexingly (wonder how many screens it'll fill then...?). I prefer the teaser - it was more atmospheric, less bombastic - but I'm totally here for Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography (as always) and for a wet Chris Hemsworth.

REVIEW - IRRATIONAL MAN (WOODY ALLEN)


Woody Allen's redundant rumination on reheated Dostoyevsky-esque themes, blatant to the point that he insists on namechecking the novelist for extra emphasis, is not merely underwhelming in its philosophical heft, it's unoriginal within Allen's own canon. Irrational Man is an excuse for a film, passable only to those unfamiliar with either Allen or Dostoyevsky, and unintelligent enough to subscribe to its characters' pseudo-profundity. Knowledge and notoriety are more tags than traits for these people, more of Allen's excuses: he uses them to sound off half-baked theories about morality and ethicality that are surely just soundbites, not the musings of a great artist - his temptation to interject the occasional comic quip serves Allen poorly here. Yet that's how Allen duly earned such a reputation as a great artist, one which he fittingly seems to employ as another excuse in Irrational Man to act as he pleases; no doubt that the artistry he was once able to indulge in with at least a small degree of relative innocence is wholly undermined by his repulsive attitude today toward young female characters. Two consecutive titles now Emma Stone has debased herself by submitting to this man's repellant gaze, his camera ogling her long, slim, college-age legs, realised through the perverted purview of Joaquin Phoenix's waste-of-space philosophy professor as the shot lingers on interminably. A scene set over a romantic dinner appears to frame Stone as classic films did their female leads, but the result is hollow in the icky context of Irrational Man.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

2015 OSCAR PREDICTIONS AT THE 2/3-YEAR POINT


Just under four months before nominations are announced, here's an updated set of possible contenders for Oscar nods in January. Just for fun, like the last set.

Best Picture
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Inside Out
Joy
The Revenant
Spotlight
Steve Jobs
Youth

Best Director
Cary Fukunaga (Beasts of No Nation)
Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Thomas McCarthy (Spotlight)
Paolo Sorrentino (Youth)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Michael Caine (Youth)
Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett (Truth)
Brie Larson (Room)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)
Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Harvey Keitel (Youth)
Robert Redford (Truth)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Best Original Screenplay
The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Joy
Spotlight
Youth

Best Adapted Screenplay
45 Years
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
The Revenant
Steve Jobs

Best Cinematography
Carol
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Sicario

Best Editing
Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
The Revenant
Steve Jobs
Youth

Best Production Design
Bridge of Spies
By the Sea
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl

Best Costume Design
By the Sea
Carol
Cinderella
The Danish Girl
Macbeth

Best Sound Mixing
Bridge of Spies
In the Heart of the Sea
The Revenant
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Sound Editing
The Hateful Eight
In the Heart of the Sea
Inside Out
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Visual Effects
In the Heart of the Sea
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Makeup
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

Best Original Score
Bridge of Spies
By the Sea
The Danish Girl
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out

Best Original Song
Dope
Freeheld
Love & Mercy
Southpaw
Spectre

Best Animated Feature
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
The Little Prince
Phantom Boy

Best Documentary
Cartel Land
The Hunting Ground
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words
Iris
The Look of Silence

Best Foreign Language Film
The Assassin
Rams
The Second Mother
Son of Saul
Theeb

REVIEW - MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS (WES BALL)


A sense of functionality pervades Wes Ball's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, a film so indebted to formula that it even adheres to those that needn't apply to it, right down to the title, which offers virtually no insight into the actual events depicted in its corresponding feature. That feature has the potential to be a historic one - or at least it would were it not so utterly disposable - due to its archetypal nature. The Scorch Trials is the quintessential middle film, one stripped of the freshness of the film that preceded it and devoid of the finality of the film that follows it. It is a procession of plot points, each established with the tantalising hint of style or significance, only for that hint to be discarded as an already-overlong film feels the urge to move ever forward, while evoking a near-constant sensation of standing entirely still. For a film situated on a post-apocalyptic, ravaged earth populated by ragtag renegades and evil corporations, it's remarkably staid. And there's that formula, dictating that nothing too momentous occurs herein, leaving space for us to be impressed only by shallow scenes of blusterous action, and roused only by silly scenes of ham-fisted heroism - the closer's a real gem if you're into that kind of thing. Is it a shame? Is it a waste? Certainly, there's genuine artistry in some of the effects, and there's a relatively thrilling sequence set in a collapsed skyscraper over a ravine, though you can sense that the filmmakers know it's their best moment, and they pretty much let the film go completely slack the rest of the time. Fans of The Maze Runner likely won't mind, since that film was so subpar too, but literally everybody else ought to avoid The Scorch Trials like it's a zombie plague.

Monday, 14 September 2015

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT - TEASER TRAILER


Stealthy production methods kept Michael Moore's new documentary secret from the public until it was announced to screen at New York and Toronto festivals this autumn. It's a smart ploy for the filmmaker, whose previous features have often opened to more buzz than they eventually generated in release. Where to Invade Next has picked up some strong responses from critics at TIFF, and will no doubt play well when it releases to the public, though no release dates have been set as yet.

TRAILER FOR EVAN JOHNSON AND GUY MADDIN'S THE FORBIDDEN ROOM


The reviews that have rung in for Evan Johnson and Guy Maddin's The Forbidden Room since its Sundance premiere in January have been among the finest of Maddin's esteemed career. An extensive festival rollout ensues as the year reaches prime fest season, with screenings at Telluride, New York and London. Out in NYC on the 7th of October.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

SARAH SILVERMAN IN TRAILER FOR I SMILE BACK


Adam Salky's drama I Smile Back premiered in January at Sundance, and drew some positive responses for its lead actor, comic Sarah Silverman. The film has since booked a number of festival appearances, including a TIFF screening prior to its US theatrical bow on the 23rd of October.

TRAILER #2 FOR THE PROGRAM


Ahead of its premiere today (the 13th of September) at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, here's the second trailer for The Program. The film about the process behind unmasking cyclist Lance Armstrong as a doping cheat is directed by Stephen Frears and written by John Hodge. Alongside a TIFF screening, it also has a British premiere at LFF on the slate next month; a UK theatrical release is due on the 16th of October. Here's a link to the first trailer. 

VENICE 2015: FROM AFAR IS FIRST LATIN AMERICAN FILM TO WIN GOLDEN LION


History was made yesterday at the prize-giving gala of Venezia 72, as a Latin American jury president handed the Golden Lion out to the first Latin American film in history to win the prestigious title. Lorenzo Vigas' From Afar beat a competition slate that was packed with heavy-hitters, including fellow Latin American title The Clan by Pablo Trapero, upon whom Alfonso Cuaron's jury bestowed the Silver Lion for Best Director. English language titles were not ignored, however, as there were awards for the new films from Cary Fukunaga and Charlie Kaufman. All the details below:

Venezia 72

Golden Lion
From Afar (Lorenzo Vigas)

Grand Jury Prize
Anomalisa (Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman)

Silver Lion for Best Director
Pablo Trapero (The Clan)

Volpi Cup for Best Actor
Fabrice Luchini (L'Hermine)

Volpi Cup for Best Actress
Valeria Golino (Per Amor Vostro)

Best Screenplay
Christian Vincent (L'Hermine)

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor or Actress
Abraham Attah (Beasts of No Nation)

Special Jury Prize
Frenzy (Emin Alper)

Orizzonti

Best Film
Free in Deed (Jake Mahaffy)

Special Jury Prize
Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro)

Best Director
Brady Corbet (The Childhood of a Leader)

Special Prize for Best Actor or Actress
Dominique Leborne (Tempete)

Luigi de Laurentiis Lion of the Future
The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet)

Best Short Film
Belladonna (Dubravka Turic)

Venice Days

Venice Days Award
Early Winter (Michael Rowe)

Europa Cinemas Label Award
As I Open My Eyes (Leyla Bouzid)

Laguna Sud Prize for Best Film
Lolo (Julie Delpy)

Laguna Sud Prize for Best Italian Discovery
Arianna (Carlo Lavagna)

BNL People's Choice Award
As I Open My Eyes (Leyla Bouzid)

Venice Classics

Best Documentary on Cinema
The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin (Yves Montmayeur)

Best Restoration
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini)

FEDEORA Prizes

Best European Film: Venezia 72
Francofonia (Aleksandr Sokurov)

Best Film: Venice Days
Underground Fragrance (Peng Fei)

Best Young Director: Venice Days
Ruchika Oberoi (Island City)

Best Young Actress: Venice Days
Ondina Quadri (Arianna)

Best Film: Critics' Week
Kalo Pothi (Bahadur Bham Min)

Best Director of Photography: Critics' Week
Benthey Dean (Tanna)

Queer Lion
The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper)

Friday, 11 September 2015

REVIEW - LEGEND (BRIAN HELGELAND)


A film built around a gimmick, a gimmick disguised as innovation. Tom Hardy plays both Kray brothers, the London gangsters from the 1960s whose story is likely no more remarkable than those of any other real-life career criminals adapted for the screen for decades now. This trick, admittedly not particularly well-achieved through dodgy effects work, and the London setting, also questionably recreated with artificial backdrops and cramped, styleless interior design, seems to be all that Brian Helgeland has to distinguish Legend from countless similar films, and his lack of directing expertise shows through in an unimaginatively-helmed attempt at constructing a crime saga that's legendary in its own right. With plodding pace, Legend recounts the Krays' experiences with a disinterest that suggests Helgeland simply expected gravitas to spring from nowhere to redeem his vapid work, and it doesn't. We just progress from one scene to the next, all ambiguity stripped of what was surely a most complex situation, that we might know without doubt where we're being led - Legend slips into a groove early and stays there throughout, and the forced immediacy of a few sizzling sequences can't rescue it from this turgid trough. Yet those sequences are, indeed, sizzling, as much as Tom Hardy's brilliant performances as Reggie and Ronnie. Even as the film offers nothing new, Hardy holds your attention and your admiration alike, and embraces the film's comedic and dramatic elements with glee in his intense portrayals. He's there to facilitate a gimmick, certainly, but he ends up elevating that gimmick. It's not innovative, it's barely even interesting, but it's a long way better than it ought to be, and we've Hardy to thank for that.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

REVIEW - CARTEL LAND (MATTHEW HEINEMAN)


The strictest national border and the slackest moral lines draw up a map defined by confusion and dominated by exploitation. People are stranded within, but Cartel Land is not their story, though it just as easily could be - it's the story of those who devote their lives to changing this map's landscape, all for the better and all for the worse. The heroes are self-serving hypocrites and crooks, the villains are desperate and poverty-stricken. The border distinguishes not between rich and poor but between perceptions on the distribution of wealth, and on the distinction between right and wrong. Those moral lines are drawn differently depending on the person, and influenced by their experiences - so much subjectivity yields a situation in which too few have no stake, and thus the collective stakes are raised too high to handle. Cartel Land pursues only a number of experiences in Mexico and Arizona, exploring the nature of the fight against the illegal drug trade, which itself begets many more fights to be fought, and is begotten from many more also. A fittingly intense film, director Matthew Heineman forgoes the numerous opportunities to encourage judgement, and focuses on the action - quite literally, as the film is liberally dotted with tense, arresting, real-life action sequences, some judiciously edited, all undeniably engaging. Heineman's own moral interpretation of these events hardly needs explicated, as in juxtaposing the authenticity of the situations he documents with the far-flung propagandised hyperbole in America's conservative south, he actually discourages judgement outright, adopting a sober, even sombre tone as the film's moral lines become ever more blurry.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

TRAILER FOR JAMES WHITE BY JOSH MOND


Josh Mond follows in his BorderLine Films partners, the highly-talented Simon Durkin and the questionably-talented Antonio Campos, in bringing out an acclaimed debut feature, James White. The drama has built upon its successful premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year with a slew of festival appearances since then, including a competition slot at Locarno in the summer and with a London screening on the horizon next month. It's due for a release in the US on the 13th of November. Check out the trailer, with Christopher Abbott and Cynthia Nixon, above.

TRAILER #2 FOR ROOM


Early buzz (that is, prior to any official screenings of the film) on Lenny Abrahamson's Room wasn't too hot, but reactions to the drama adaptation after its Telluride premiere a few days ago were considerably warmer. Particular praise, as you'll see in the trailer above, for the film's leads Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, has emerged as Room makes its way around the festivals this season: alongside Telluride, we have Toronto, Aspen, Vancouver, Mill Valley and London fests on the way. Released theatrically in the US on the 16th of October and in the UK on the 29th of January. This is trailer #2 - trailer #1 is here.

TWC RELEASES US TRAILER FOR TODD HAYNES' CAROL


The new, second trailer for Todd Haynes' Carol, from Patricia Highsmith's novel The Price of Salt, puts a lot more plot out for the viewer, and a lot more style, and thankfully so - it's a sumptuous stonker of a teaser for the well-reviewed film. Having won multiple awards at Cannes, including an official jury award for lead Rooney Mara, the film has hit the fall festival circuit in earnest, with bookings at Telluride, New York and London fests. Take a look at StudioCanal's UK trailer too. Out in the US on the 20th of November and in the UK on the 27th.

FIRST TRAILER FOR OUR BRAND IS CRISIS


Sandra Bullock is widely being tipped for her third Oscar nomination for David Gordon Green's Our Brand Is Crisis. The film is written by Peter Straughan, best known for recent titles like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Frank. The comedy drama has a TIFF premiere in mere days, with a US theatrical release slated for the 30th of October. Early word is strong, and Bullock is always a big draw, so expectations are high ahead of the premiere.

NEW TRAILER FOR NETFLIX'S BEASTS OF NO NATION


Anticipation is running higher than ever for Beasts of No Nation, the new film from Cary Fukunaga, the director of Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre and True Detective. The film is a prominent fixture on 2015's fall festival slate, with competition showings at Venice and London fests, and appearances at Telluride and Toronto to boot; the Venice and Telluride screenings have yielded terrific responses from attending critics. You can check out the teaser for Beasts, which is released both in theatres and online in the US on the 16th of October, here.

Monday, 7 September 2015

REVIEW - RICKI AND THE FLASH (JONATHAN DEMME)


A loose little comedy that begs for a little more tightening, Jonathan Demme and Diablo Cody's Ricki and the Flash blurs the distinction between understated and underdeveloped. The premise has promise, but the execution is slack - it's wholly in keeping with the nature of Cody's script, but it gives the film very little to latch onto. Meryl Streep supplies a typically vibrant performance at its centre, though refrains from showboating (as one suspects she may have been intended to) - she, too, is in total co-ordination with the tone of the film, indeed is partly responsible for it, so while this isn't a Streep to savour, there's nothing unsavoury about it. In ways, Ricki and the Flash could have benefitted from a shade more unsavouriness - Demme ably depicts Ricki's fecklessness in his characteristically laidback direction, but leaves her fieriness to emerge only in the occasional barbed line of dialogue, and who knows how much pep could have been provided had he adopted a similarly sharp approach. The film is at its strongest when unleashing Cody's unapologetic bile, if only in manageable doses, onto every stereotype going, even if she can't consistently match the depths of her taste level to the heights of her screenwriting technique. What she can be relied upon to contribute, however, is an amiable attitude toward the squares of society, the freaks and the outcasts whose non-conformity isn't just aesthetic, it's essential. Ricki and the Flash is, in a structural sense as well as a tonal one, vaguely non-conformist; more conviction in one direction or another, and we'd have a film worthy of the talents that worked on it.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

REVIEW - ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (ALFONSO GOMEZ-REJON)


It's disappointing to witness such talent squandered like this. Or maybe the talent only emerges in the process of squandering it - Me and Earl and the Dying Girl makes you feel deeply and profoundly, until you realise in resentment that such apparent profundity was achieved through such calculated means. Whatever deceptive imitation of technique was employed in crafting the painfully-affected mise en scene of this excruciatingly twee indie film pays off in the end, and the extent to which one can digest that may be directly related to how quickly and how completely ones rejects its stylistic and thematic delusions. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a cruel reminder that self-aware, 'meta' hipster culture still holds court over much of the American independent film industry - the screenplay, by Jesse Andrews from his novel, is so eager to inform us that it's ahead of our expectations at every juncture that it conforms to the cliche of equally-expected subversion, only with a smug, superior, self-aggrandising tone that plays into this non-culture like no film before it. It's insufferably sure of itself, and unconscionably wrong to be so. And yet it's so successful on its own terms, or perhaps those details are all related. There's half-decent comedic timing in the direction that clicks at times, though the characterisations are ruefully offensive, from the archetypal Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the film's ugly ignorance about race. What talent there is in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and there is talent there, is squandered on stereotypes - not only in the film's characters, but in the film itself.

Friday, 4 September 2015

TELLURIDE 2015 LINEUP!


The 2015 Telluride Film Festival lineup has been released at last! The fest is notoriously secretive about their slate, preferring to screen its titles without advance hype for the more high-profile films that may diminish attendance for the less high-profile ones. And there's as healthy a balance of the two as ever at the 2015 event, which kicks off today (the 4th of September) and runs for four days total, and which will honour filmmakers Danny Boyle, there with Steve Jobs, and Adam Curtis, there with Bitter Lake, and actor Rooney Mara, starring in Carol. All 27 films below:

  • 45 Years (Andrew Haigh)
  • Amazing Grace (Sydney Pollack)
  • Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman)
  • Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)
  • Bitter Lake (Adam Curtis)
  • Black Mass (Scott Cooper)
  • Carol (Todd Haynes)
  • He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggenheim)
  • Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson)
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones)
  • Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante)
  • Marguerite (Xavier Giannoli)
  • Mom and Me (Ken Wardrop)
  • Only the Dead See the End of War (Bill Guttentag and Michael War)
  • Rams (Grimur Hakonarson)
  • Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • Siti (Eddie Cahyono)
  • Son of Saul (Nemes Laszlo)
  • Spotlight (Thomas McCarthy)
  • Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle)
  • Suffragette (Sarah Gavron)
  • Taj Mahal (Nicolas Saada)
  • Taxi (Jafar Panahi)
  • Tikkun (Avishai Sivan)
  • Time to Choose (Charles Ferguson)
  • Viva (Paddy Breathnach)
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (Evgeny Afineevsky)

BFI ANNOUNCES 2015 LONDON FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP


The British Film Institute brings you the 2015 London Film Festival in partnership with American Express. The festival runs from the 7th of October until the 18th. Along with previously mentioned gala premieres for major awards contenders Suffragette and Carol, major gala screenings will be held for Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender, and Truth, with Carol lead and this year's BFI Fellowship recipient Cate Blanchett and Cannes Best Actress joint winner Rooney Mara. The full and extensive list below:

Galas
  • The Assassin (Hou Hsiao Hsien) - journey gala
  • Beeba Boys (Deepa Mehta) - thrill gala
  • A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino) - love gala
  • Black Mass (Scott Cooper) - Virgin Atlantic gala
  • Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler) - cult gala
  • Brand: A Second Coming (Ondi Timoner) - laugh gala
  • Brooklyn (John Crowley) - May Fair Hotel gala
  • Carol (Todd Haynes) - American Express gala
  • The Forbidden Room (Evan Johnson and Guy Maddin) - experimenta special presentation
  • Goosebumps (Rob Letterman) - family gala
  • He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggenheim) - documentary special presentation
  • High Rise (Ben Wheatley) - festival gala
  • The Idol (Hany Abu-Assad) - sonic gala
  • The Lady in the Van (Nicholas Hytner) - centrepiece gala
  • The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) - dare gala
  • The Program (Stephen Frears) - debate gala
  • Shooting Stars (Anthony Asquith) - archive gala
  • Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle) - closing night gala
  • Suffragette (Sarah Gavron) - opening night gala
  • Trumbo (Jay Roach) - Accenture gala
  • Truth (James Vanderbilt) - fellowship special presentation

Official Competition
  • 11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski)
  • Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga)
  • Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
  • Chevalier (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
  • The Daughter (Simon Stone)
  • Desierto (Jonas Cuaron)
  • Evolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
  • Office (Johnnie To)
  • Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • Son of Saul (Nemes Laszlo)
  • Sunset Song (Terence Davies)
  • Tangerine (Sean Baker)
  • Very Big Shot (Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya)

After the cut, more competitions and all of the festival's many strands: