Friday, 22 August 2014


Although I don't feel the spark of excitement I might expect to feel from the trailer for Ira Sachs' follow-up to Keep the Lights OnI admit that I'm nevertheless eager to see Love Is Strange. Reviews, btw, have been the best of Sachs' career to date. After multiple successful festival appearances this year, this is headed for San Sebastian and opens in the US today, the 22nd of August.


The L.A. setting and '80s aesthetic in the modern day may skew a little too reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive for my liking, but this second trailer for Nightcrawler is certainly better than the first. It gives a better idea of what the film might actually be like, and how it might actually be good. Expect this at TIFF in September, in the US on the 17th of October and in the UK on the 14th of November.


Funny how these trailers for Fury barely even mention that Shia LaBoeuf's in it. I mean, sure, his name's second in the credits, but that's probably contractual. This second trailer, more than the first, makes it look as if Sony's not angling for awards consideration with Fury, and nor does the new release date. I probably wouldn't vote for it anyway.


Although I've never outright disliked a Jason Reitman film, not even Labour Dayhis canon to date is quite easy to dislike. The biggest bright spot is that Men, Women & Children is co-written by Secretary and Fur's Erin Cressida Wilson. Prior to a US release on the 3rd of October (limited, with a wide expansion on the 17th), this is appearing at TIFF.


Deliver Us from Evil is billed as being 'inspired by the actual accounts of an NYPD sergeant'. Actual in the sense that the accounts actually exist, not that what is described therein is actually true. That's what makes Scott Derrickson's film so peculiarly sad, despite its many efforts to be dynamic - it's a film about several deeply disturbed individuals, either deluded or delusional (or both), and its dramatic sincerity is thus revealed to be a crass and elaborate advertisement for catholicism. That echoes what another film writer, one far more accomplished than me, had to say about another, classic exorcism film, one far more accomplished than this. It does strike me that contemporary filmmakers largely lack the desire to craft classic horror films, though that appears to be what Derrickson's doing here, with the sporadic stylistic experimentation, the ambitious genre shifts, the pompous moralising etc. Deliver Us from Evil even opens with a desert-set sequence that hints toward the origin of the terrors that are about to be inflicted on some poor white Americans. Derrickson clumsily attempts to combine a number of arguments behind the nature of whatever horror or pain is suffered, including offering an insight into Eric Bana's cop's unstable mind. Alongside establishing him as our guide through this mess, thus basically exalting all of his nonsense theories, this idea isn't even handled well, as it's dropped as soon as Derrickson can be allowed to let loose on his arsenal of scare tactics. His techniques are growing a bit stale, but only a bit - by and large they're still very effective, and Deliver Us from Evil is a genuinely frightening film as a result. He's aided by some very creepy makeup effects, and a characteristically intense and unsettling performance from Sean Harris. The pairing of Bana and Edgar Ramirez is unremarkable, and Olivia Munn's there too. I suspect Sergeant Sarchie's accounts didn't mention his wife much. Yeh, that'll be it.

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Some actors probably don't need lifetime achievement awards from SAG. Others might just. Debbie Reynolds hasn't been very active in film since SAG started giving out competitive awards, but she has been one of the film industry's most popular and revered figures since the early 1950s. She'll receive their 51st Lifetime Achievement award at their televised ceremony on the 25th of January. Not only has Reynolds never won a SAG award, she's also never won an Oscar, nor a Golden Globe, nor an Emmy, nor a Tony, despite having been nominated for all three.


In what has, so far, been a very lucrative August for major American studios, this most recent weekend saw one major new release tank, and two others perform only modestly. Nevertheless, reports put the frame up 6% over its equivalent last year. Major questions must now be asked, though, regarding the nature of franchise expansion in Hollywood, and the viability of the YA genre.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($28,523,147)
Whoever would have guessed not only that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would top the US box office but that it would do so for two weekends running? Its 56.5% decline on its opening is steep, no doubt, but not as steep as might have been expected, given the content of the film and its reception with audiences. That recently-confirmed sequel looks to be a very smart choice for Paramount.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy ($25,115,564)

3. Let's Be Cops ($17,813,722)
Not a bad weekend gross for Fox's relatively low-budget comedy, which would have been bigger had the film not opened last Wednesday. Major August comedies can normally expect larger grosses upon opening than this, but not all of them succeed, and this isn't a major release anyway. One must despair, though, that the weekend's brightest spot among new releases is the one championing the police force, given recent developments in Ferguson, Missouri.

4. The Expendables 3 ($15,879,645)
The first two Expendables movies were rated R. Both opened over $28 million. The drop on The Expendables 2, which itself marked a drop on its immediate predecessor, is well over 40% - just about unheard-of for a major summer sequel. The PG-13 rating likely turned off some of the series' hardcore fans, while the online leak a few weeks back likely sapped away considerable demand too. But no matter how this is spun, this ranks as one of the biggest flops in recent summer seasons at the movies.

5. The Giver ($12,305,016)
The Weinstein Company never looked to be on strong footing with this YA adaptation, given the failures of films like Beautiful Creatures, The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones last year. Actually, this isn't a horrible start for the film, but TWC's stab at cracking the teenage female audience hadn't caught on, it's quite clear.

6. Into the Storm ($7,892,293)
7. The Hundred-Foot Journey (7,176,092)
8. Lucy ($5,493,685)
9. Step Up All In ($2,659,026)
10. Hercules ($2,127,894)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Peace and contentedness achieved through understanding in Hong Khaou's Lilting, a delicate chamber piece whose fundamental elements are so few that Hong risks exposing those which falter as prominently as those which succeed. It's a risk he seems unaware of, admirably sticking to his guns whether they're all shooting straight or not. He'd be better off selecting better weaponry to begin with. Lilting suffers from a tendency to skew twee and affected, as confirmed in a credits sequence that already starts layering on the whimsy, and that's a tendency it never even attempts to shake off. In intermittent stylistic flourishes, Hong succumbs wholly to it, and the effect is enervating at worst, unremarkable at best. In fact, just about all of his scenario's central tenets - its verbosity, its flashbacks, its wistfulness, its narrative contrivances - come across poorly. Better, though, is Hong's innate sense of dramatic development, and the breadth of knowledge he possesses on human emotion. In over-scripting it, he crystallises notions that were better left untouched, not hemmed in by the specific destinations he sends them toward. But that breadth exists nonetheless in Lilting's occasional moments of quietude, and in the eyes of its leads, Cheng Pei Pei and Ben Whishaw, both supremely touching as the respective mother and boyfriend of a late young man. To him, they represented separate lives he led, and his difficulty in combining them is a task wrought upon them now that he has died. Their differences are mined for quaint comedy (more so Cheng's relationship with a fellow retirement home inhabitant, an increasingly tiresome strand) and fraught drama, though Hong eventually allows their discussions to settle, and concludes with an excellent encounter, in which both we and they come to realise that it's not in forcing another to understand that we find peace, but in allowing ourselves to understand.


Never mind not knowing what you've got until you've lost it, The Rover is about what you're left with. David Michod is less cryptic than he intends to be about the genesis of his desolated Australia, a barren landscape scattered with the ravaged remnants of a society that has eaten itself and intends to continue on that violent path. He's wise to leave as much of The Rover as possible to the audience's discretion - the bursts of dialogue that Michod sandwiches between picturesque sequences of savage beauty and even more savage bloodshed are didactic, the tales he tells too florid and, frankly, boring. There it is: this film deserved more of my attention than it received at those points, but it didn't exactly earn it. Those points which did receive that attention were, conversely, those of stillness and silence. Michod's imagery may, ostensibly, be mere stylistic posturing, but it at least serves some slight atmospheric or narrative purpose, and he lends his aesthetic a palpable gravity. It's a forced gravity, certainly, but no less visceral for that. And The Rover is a surprisingly strong example of the strength of apparent contradiction in that sense - its most powerful sequences involve Michod's most daring, glaring gambits, its least powerful his most trustworthy. Aside from his use of violence as a storytelling tool - a serious step up from his contemporaries' approach, by and large - his lofty philosophising is less thought-provoking than snigger-provoking, his abstract concepts actually far more immediately potent, such as the most curiously poignant usage of a Keri Hilson song you'll surely ever hear. It's when Michod gains control of his grand cinematic concepts that his point becomes clear: The Rover is a film about care - how we come to care for things or for people, the lengths we go to in preserving that which we care for. Its setting may be fantastical, but its message is easily relatable. It's this that makes The Rover such a rewarding watch, despite its flaws.

Monday, 18 August 2014


Does this look awful or what? Current release dates for David Koepp's Mortdecai have it coming out in the UK on the 30th of January and in the US on the 6th of February. Preferably, it might come out never?