Tuesday, 22 April 2014


The official competition and Un Certain Regard selections confirmed Cannes screenings of several of the films that had been widely-tipped to show at the festival, alongside some special screenings. A few more have popped up in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar, including films from past winners of competition awards: Queen and Country, John Boorman's sequel to his 27-year-old Oscar-nominated Hope and Glory, will show as one of the fortnight's featured titles, while Bruno Dumont's Li'l Quinquin will receive a special screening alongside a restored cut of Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Other esteemed directors like Takahata Isao, Frederick Wiseman and theatre's Matthew Warchus also feature. There are three debuts in the slate as well, which will compete for the Camera d'Or - the award for the best first film, chosen from the Official Selection, Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week sections, with a jury to be presided over by Nicole Garcia. Here's the full lineup:

Opening Film
Girlhood (Celine Sciamma)

Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe)
Cold in July (Jim Mickle)
Eat Your Bones (Jean-Charles Hue)
Fighters (Thomas Cailley)
Halleluiah (Fabrice du Welz)
A Hard Day (Kim Seong Hun)
National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman)
Next to Her (Asaf Korman)
Queen and Country (John Boorman)
Refugiado (Diego Lerman)
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Takahata Isao)
These Final Hours (Zach Hilditch)
The Trial (Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz)
Tu Dors (Nicole Stephane Lafleur)
Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

Closing Film
Pride (Matthew Warchus)

Special Screenings
Li'l Quinquin (Bruno Dumont)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper)


This short clip featured in a five-minute montage of early scenes in How to Train Your Dragon 2 that I caught in the cinema before Transcendence a couple of days ago. It looks rather the same as the first one, which probably won't hurt box office. This is premiering at Cannes, of all places (it's not the first DreamWorks animation to show there, though), before opening through most of the international marketplace in the second and third weekend of June and the first weekend of July.


Did you see the American remake of We Are What We Are? I did, without having even seen the Mexican original, and it was quite good. This film received good reviews out of Sundance, and lead Michael C. Hall great reviews. Am I the only one who thinks Vinessa Shaw's the standout in the trailer though? It will screen in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes, and I'll have more details on that shortly. Out in the US on the 23rd of May, and the UK on the 27th of June. Not sure how official the poster below is, but I like it so I'm posting it.


Johnny Depp's latest $100 million-vehicle was his latest major flop at the US box office at the weekend, while Heaven is for Real became the latest Christian hit to break out. After making over $7 million on Wednesday and Thursday, Heaven rallied to an incredible $22.5 million, enough for second place over a close third, Rio 2 with $22.2 million. The animated sequel doesn't face any similar competition until How to Train Your Dragon 2 in two months, but not even that could convince families to turn out for the film, which dropped 44% on last weekend's takings, compared to the first Rio's 33% second weekend decline. But even that was over twice as much as Transcendence, sure to become known as one of the year's biggest bombs - it took in a measly $10.9 million. Critical and public reactions have been pretty toxic for the sci-fi film, which ought to mean that it won't pass $30 million domestic, on a $100 million budget no less. All of this means that Captain America: The Winter Soldier did what few expected it to do, and what even fewer might have expected had they seen its figures - it held the box office top spot for its first three weekends. $25.6 million for the superhero sequel was off just 38% on last weekend, and the film will easily surpass Thor: The Dark World's final tally in the next few days. Spoof sequel A Haunted House 2 made a small fraction in its opening of what its surprise hit predecessor pulled in: $8.8 million compared to $18.1. That film didn't hold well, though, and neither should this. Disneynature's Bears had the lowest opening yet for the studio, with just $4.8 million (after having taken a year off). It was one of six films within $1.1 million of each other, fighting it out for fifth place, with Draft Day winning out, and God's Not Dead bringing up the rear. Fading Gigolo pulled in an impressive $36,160 per-theatre - the highest of the weekend - for a strong 27th place start. Overall, declines for holdovers were pretty low over the Easter weekend.

Top 10

  1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($25,587,056)
  2. Heaven is for Real ($22,522,221)
  3. Rio 2 ($22,159,742)
  4. Transcendence ($10,886,386)
  5. A Haunted House 2 ($8,843,875)
  6. Draft Day ($5,713,076)
  7. Divergent ($5,611,624)
  8. Oculus ($5,156,880)
  9. Noah ($5,003,303)
  10. Bears ($4,776,267)


No, not that The Notebook. This The Notebook won the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival last July and was Hungary's official submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film last year. I'm a fan of Hungarian cinema, and Janos Szasz is one of the country's most respected directors. This has neither UK nor US release dates yet, but it has been seen and rated by the MPAA, so a Stateside opening shouldn't be too far off.


For me, the footage in these videos confirms the worthiness of Diao Yi Nan's Black Coal, Thin Ice as this year's Golden Bear winner at Berlin. The two clips are in Chinese with English subtitles, while the two trailers (after the cut) have no subtitles. The neon cinematography is particularly alluring. This screened at Tribeca on Saturday; not sure about US or UK releases just yet.


If I lived in India, I would get so fat. So fat! I actually did get fat... living in Northern Ireland, but that's another story for another time. There are parts of The Lunchbox that could easily be from the best (imaginary) film ever made, and this is why television cookery shows are so popular. The Lunchbox mainlines its appeal, since the best way to a person's heart is through their stomach, and if ever there were a case for smelly-vision, this would be it. You can understand how a relationship might blossom over a paneer kofta as scrumptious-looking as this. It's enough indeed to lull a lonely government accountant back into life, and it'd be enough to redeem a rote relationship drama such as this were director Ritesh Batra not so much more interested in his timeworn (in a bad way) storyline than these timeworn (in a good way) dishes. If his film is, at is appears to be, about adaptation and escape, about learning ways to change and to cope, well what better escape than food? Let these characters get as fat as I would, I say. For Batra, curry becomes a conduit, spiriting his story along to places new to him but so old to us, a method of providing insight into the heads of people we care about only as far as we care about what they put in their mouths. You know a film is a dud when I start to pick apart the plot and critique it on its predictability and other deficiencies, if not at least for the fact that this means there's little else in the film to critique in the first place. But oh, those curries. That's how to fall in love. That's how to get over grief. That's how to adapt and escape and change and cope with anything! That's how to get fat. That's how to make a film!

Monday, 21 April 2014


Nothing much but raves for Danis Tanovic's An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker since it first screened at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival. A documentary-style drama about an iron picker in modern-day Bosnia and his ill wife, the film won the Grand Jury Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Berlin, alongside the Best Actor Silver Bear for lead Nazif Mujic. The principal cast is entirely non-professional. It opens here in the UK this coming Friday, the 25th of April.


A minor festival hit last year from under-appreciated filmmaker Fernando Eimbcke. That's often what happens when you're an auteur making comedies not in English. This looks to remain a festival film for some time, despite the popularity Eimbcke has in some public circles, as no theatrical releases have yet been confirmed.


I think I can divorce my expectations from my experience. I thought I might need to with this film, and it's usually a smart thing to do, but it turns out that I had no such need. Transcendence is a dreary and disappointing film in comparison to director Wally Pfister's past work, but it's piss-poor sci-fi even in isolation from them. Chief among my disappointments is the film's visual language, which is seemingly non-existent. Pfister is not a director by trade, but a cinematographer, and one with a knack for complex, detailed compositions unlike those found in most other blockbusters for their symbolic and narrative significance. Transcendence is all design without purpose, soulless, expensive digital imagery shot on film, presumably to capture an aesthetic depth that just isn't here. There's no sense of wonder to Pfister's filmmaking, no awe when events on screen ought to be awe-inspiring, so they end up coming off as silly. A serious strain of nonsense quickly infects Transcendence soon after it has taken its first futuristic leap, and writer Jack Paglen has no intention of following through what might have been an interesting debate on pertinent scientific ethics. The grandeur of his conceit is in globalising the issues he establishes, something which neither he nor Pfister has an appreciation of how to capture, and in attempting to rival other big-budget sci-fi products with a swift slide into action movie theatrics. You see, even at this film's core it seeks to abandon its own uniqueness, and prey on your expectations, and to humiliating effect. And Rebecca Hall and Johnny Depp, normally so full of vitality as performers, amble through this dirge in apparent acceptance of its mediocrity. It's never offensively bad - and my expectations were beginning to veer toward that, having read reports to that extent - but Transcendence is a major letdown on all levels, be they based on expectation or not.