Saturday, 30 November 2013

SIGHT & SOUND'S TOP 10 OF 2013


A rather cracking Top 10 from the prestigious Sight & Sound magazine. Just one of these films I haven't seen (A Touch of Sin, regrettably, cos I'm dying to see it!), and just one more I don't like much (Upstream Colour, though I do respect it and understand its popularity). And hoo-to-the-ray for The Act of Killing and Norte, the End of History! Norte, the End of History! And you all thought I was the only one who even saw that! Yyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.

  1. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  2. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)
  3. Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche)
  4. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino)
  5. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)
  6. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang Ke)
  7. Upstream Colour (Shane Carruth)
  8. The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard)
  9. Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz)
  10. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)

AMERICAN HUSTLE IS A COMEDY, ACCORDING TO THE HFPA


Their awards, their rules. David O. Russell's American Hustle doesn't look like a comedy, but that's not what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thinks. They've seen the whole film, though. But it's official - the film will compete for Golden Globes in the Musical / Comedy category, meaning that it will face far weaker competition and will likely score more nominations and awards as a result, thus strengthening its chances in the Oscar race. Dunno if this is Columbia's doing or the HFPA's. It'll probably work in both groups' favour. Columbia could probably do with having a little extra publicity generated for their big awards contender after spending so much money on so much shit this year.

Friday, 29 November 2013

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY POSTER


Things still aren't looking good for Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, with the poor reviews and all that! But there's still hope, right? Right...?

TRAILER AND POSTER FOR ATOM EGOYAN'S DEVIL'S KNOT


After all those (worthy) documentaries about the West Memphis Three, Atom Egoyan takes a non-documentary approach to telling the story, which has been slowly unravelling over the past twenty years. Reviews weren't terribly nice when the film showed at Toronto, which has been de rigeur for Egoyan of late, as his career has taken some perplexing turns. I wasn't as sold on this before I saw the trailer, despite my love of the Canadian filmmaker, which makes it feel more like an Egoyan film than I had expected it might. I particularly like Paul Sarossy's cinematography. But then, those reviews. Await this next year, probably not around awards season.

FIRST TRAILER FOR CYMBELINE


This trailer looks pretty official, but I haven't heard much about it so I'm not sure if this has been leaked or something? 'Undiscovered'... riiight cos Shakespeare is just so obscure! No info on release dates as yet - next year is expected though.

ANOTHER FRIDAY THE 13TH REMAKE. ANOTHER ONE. ANOTHER.


No, I'm being serious. And I don't think it's because Marcus Nispel's 2009 remake is shit. It was a Warner Bros. film. The new one, due for release on the 13th of March 2015 (obvs that's a Friday fs), is Paramount. It'll be a complete reboot of the franchise, not a sequel to the recent reboot. And it'll be a found footage horror film. Yeh, another one of those. In the name of goodness I wish Jason Voorhees were a real thing and were here right now and he could just lop my head right off because this is one of the worst ideas I've ever heard and now I can say with utter certainty that there is no hope for the human race.

2013'S BIGGEST FLOPS


The year isn't over yet, and films already opened haven't all closed their runs either, not domestically and not internationally. But Forbes has published its list of 2013's biggest flops, and there are no surprises, not least the ranking of Bill Condon's The Fifth Estate at the top of that list!

  1. The Fifth Estate (Budget: $28m, Returns: $6m / 21%)
  2. Bullet to the Head (Budget: $25m, Returns: $9m / 36%)
  3. Paranoia (Budget: $35m, Returns: $13.5m / 39%)
  4. Parker (Budget: $35m, Returns: $17m / 49%)
  5. Broken City (Budget: $35m, Returns: $19m / 54%)
  6. Battle of the Year (Budget: $20m, Returns: $11m / 55%)
  7. Getaway (Budget: $18m, Returns: $10.5m / 58%)
  8. Peeples (Budget: $15m, Returns: $9m / 60%)
  9. R.I.P.D. (Budget: 130m, Returns: $78m / 60%)
  10. The Big Wedding (Budget: $35m, Returns: $22m / 63%)

THREE-HANKY THURSDAY - ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: AI



Shameful. Crying at Artificial Intelligence: AI. Not that I'd ever do that. Never...


But here's the thing. It's just so sad. There's this terribly traumatic abandoning scene part way through the film, followed by some pretty horrific stuff, and then a heartbreaking ending that's an immeasurably long way away from what Stanley Kubrick likely envisaged for the film he was planning prior to his death. But without it, it wouldn't be nearly as sad! So sad! So sad.

PHILOMENA LEE DEFENDS FILM FROM NEW YORK POST'S KYLE SMITH


If you've seen Stephen Frears' Philomena, you'll know that Philomena Lee is a real badass bitch! Not rly, but she is a pretty cool gal, only Kyle Smith from the New York Post thinks that the true story of her life was actually calculated as an attack on the catholicism that raised her and the *SPOILER ALERT* Republican political beliefs held by her beloved son. It's a review that puzzled me since I first noticed it a few weeks back. And it seems to have puzzled Philomena Lee too. So, as there is surely no-one else in a better position to, she has responded to his scathing review (far more hateful than anything in the film that he considers so hateful) with this terrific letter, which you can (and must) read at Deadline.

WHAT'S ON WEDNESDAY - NOV 29 - DEC 1


Don't even tell me it's not Wednesday.

JEUNE ET JOLIE

Francois Ozon's latest film, in an extremely long line in a mere few years, screened in competition this year at Cannes. It already being Friday (don't ask...), it's released today in the UK! I'm looking forward to seeing it within the next few days, not least for the fact that Marine Vacth is fit.

SAVING MR. BANKS

One of this year's Oscar frontrunners opens in the US next week, and in the UK today. I saw it today, and will review it later! You'd do well to see it, since it's likely to remain in the conversation 'round these parts for weeks and months to come, for better or worse! Emma Thompson gives a powerhouse performance as P.L. Travers. More on it soon!

OLDBOY

If you live in the US, and you can find one of the paltry few cinemas into which Spike Lee's Oldboy remake is being released, maybe you could go and see it! Critics have been more divided on it than they were on Park Chan Wook's Cannes prize-winning original ten years ago, and FilmDistrict don't seem to have much faith in it, putting it out into moderate release after a somewhat heftier marketing campaign over the last few months suggested that they had greater intentions once upon a time. So it's shit. Fine. Go see it anyway, America!

REVIEW - THE CRASH REEL


Like the best sports documentaries, and as expected from a filmmaker like Lucy Walker, whose films to date have shown no particular interest in sport, The Crash Reel is not actually a sports documentary at all. Kevin Pearce was, for a time, the world's premier snowboarder. Amid training for the 2010 Winter Olympics, he missed a landing and experienced a fall so severe it almost killed him. This lively, vivid film externalises an internal world, shading every real-life occurrence depicted herein with a multitude of thoughts and emotions, drawn out from the minds of its subjects. It is Pearce's mind, damaged as much by the life he left behind him due to his injury as by the life he must now face, that is most benevolent in supplying Walker with material more intimate and complex than one might imagine, not least from a film that starts out in such spirit that you wouldn't believe it could ever get so deep. Deep, but not sombre. Pearce, his friends and family display such unguarded honesty with their opinions and their feelings before Walker's camera that their discourse has the timbre of the best scripted drama, only in fact intensified by the plain fact that it is neither scripted nor acted. Walker finds a canny style of editing, scoring and subtitling to fit the film, with excellent soundtrack choices and an astute vibrancy of tone, adjusting imperceptibly yet meaningfully to flow with the progression of events. The Crash Reel, in the end, isn't just like the best sports documentaries. It's one of the best.

REVIEW - FOR THOSE IN PERIL


Not assured, but self-assured. Paul Wright makes generous use of derivative methods of filmmaking in crafting something obviously intended to feel fresh, original and critical. Alas, it is the bare bones of the material with which he works that possess the strongest grip on our empathy, in committed performances and a compelling scenario. Fuelling For Those in Peril is its preoccupation with justness, and in its honest depiction of the nature of community, the outrage which can be provoked in the viewer. This is founded in developing a bond between us and Adam, the film's troubled, grieving lead; would that Wright had devoted more attention to seeing such lines through, and engender the biting attack on this fearful, and quickly hateful community, so close a relative to many in real life, that it deserves. Wright internalises the film's narrative perspective instead, suggesting ever more that the paranoia in Adam's head is a long-dormant issue merely teased out by recent, tragic events, which is incisive. Though his strain to permeate every stylistic element of his film with trendy ticks and modernities (only modern in their brazenness and obviousness) makes much of it feel like an art experiment. He's too insistent with his foley design and the overly diverse styles of cinematography that their effect is consciously noticed before it can be subconsciously felt, and you instead feel Wright's hand manipulating your mind. There's a lack of showiness in cast performances, one that implies their awareness of For Those in Peril's limited commercial potential, and each actor brings an integrity to their role that helps make this distinctive environment feel as palpable as possible. Wright comes up with two memorable endings, both of which are equally audacious and ridiculous - each alone would have had immeasurably more impact, but combined they contradict one another psychologically, and only contribute to the feeling that Paul Wright is trying much too hard.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

SCARLETT JOHANSSON INELIGIBLE FOR GOLDEN GLOBES


The jury at the Rome Film Festival may have liked her voice performance in Spike Jonze's Her so much that they saw fit to award her their Best Actress prize, but the HFPA aren't so keen. Since they didn't get the chance to ogle at ScarJo's bits and bobs like they're used to (and remember, this is the group that nominated her four times, even for A Love Song for Bobby Long lol), they're not interested. But she's ScarJo, so she'll probably still get an invite to their ceremony so she can appear on their red carpet. I hope she shits all over it.

TURKEY TUESDAY - A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET


Imagine my horror! I finally discovered the courage to face one of my biggest fears (Freddy Krueger - yeh I know, lol rly) and watch Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street from 1984. And it was a bit shit. There are some good moments, no doubt, but it's still a bit shit. The acting is a bit shit. The effects are a bit shit. The Simpsons did it better.

OSCAR PREDICTIONS 4 - 7 WEEKS TO GO



Things seem to have moved so quickly in the three weeks since I posted my first set of nominations. Next week, they'll start moving quickly through the rest of the weeks up to nominations, and expect more meaningful changes to my predictions through that period. And brace...

Best Picture
·          12 Years a Slave
·          American Hustle
·          Captain Phillips
·          Gravity
·          Lee Daniels’ The Butler
·          Saving Mr. Banks
·          The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director
·          Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)
·          Lee Daniels (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)
·          John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks)
·          Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
·          David O. Russell (American Hustle)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
·          Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
·          Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
·          Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
·          Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
·          Robert Redford (All Is Lost)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
·          Amy Adams (American Hustle)
·          Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
·          Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
·          Judi Dench (Philomena)
·          Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
·          Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
·          Tom Hanks (Saving Mr. Banks)
·          Woody Harrelson (Out of the Furnace)
·          Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
·          Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
·          Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
·          Margo Martindale (August: Osage County)
·          Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
·          June Squibb (Nebraska)
·          Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

Best Original Screenplay
·          American Hustle
·          Blue Jasmine
·          Her
·          Inside Llewyn Davis
·          Saving Mr. Banks

Best Adapted Screenplay
·          12 Years a Slave
·          Before Midnight
·          Blue Is the Warmest Colour
·          Captain Phillips
·          The Wolf of Wall Street

JUDD APATOW TO DIRECT AMY SCHUMER'S TRAIN WRECK


Judd Apatow has made a train wreck before, but now he's signed on to direct an actual Train Wreck. The screenplay is from comedian Amy Schumer, who will star in the lead role. It's the first time Apatow will direct from a script he hasn't written, which is a rly fucking good idea methinks.

MIRROR MONDAY


It's still Monday, I'm sure of it.

CONVERSATIONAL CLIP
Not a lot of conversation in this one, actually.

LUMINOUS LINE
Not because you love me or anything like that? <3 Adrienne

SIZZLING SOUNDTRACK
Stand on a star and blaze a trail of desire!

HUMUNGOUS HOTTIE
She's not humungous. But her hotness is!

LOLLING LINK
ND-er til I die!

NOV 22-24 BOX OFFICE REPORT: CATCHING FIRE CATCHES FIRE


Well, duh. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (1) broke all sorts of records and ended up near the top of all sorts of all-time charts at the US box office last weekend. Its weekend gross of $158.1 million might seem remarkable; considering expectations, it's definitely not. But obviously Catching Fire is another gigantic success for Lionsgate, and it's one of the best blockbusters of the year. Btw, did anyone notice another wide release over the weekend? No? No-one? That's because approximately no-one went to see Delivery Man (4), whose $7.9 million opening is awful, no doubt, but it's just another expected step down in Vince Vaughn's career.

NEW TRAILER FOR THE INVISIBLE WOMAN


Buzz around Ralph Fiennes' sophomore film as director, The Invisible Woman, has been pretty limited since it debuted during festival season a few months back, though reviews from critics have been promising. Oscar nominations for British period films like this are de rigeur one way or another, so expect to hear rather more about the film over the next three and a half months. A Christmas Day release in the US, followed by a UK release on the 7th of February.

REVIEW - SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF'S


There'll be some for whom a documentary about Bergdorf Goodman is as worthy an investment of their time and money as a Nazi propaganda film. Matthew Miele's portrait of Bergdorf's is unwaveringly celebratory of the prestigious Manhattan department store, from its founders and its history to its fashions and its employees, and its position in contemporary society as a bastion of glamour and aspirational culture. We, the audience, must submit to Miele's argument, that Bergdorf's represents the be all and end all of high fashion for the (selected) masses, if we are to take any of this in without a trace of cynicism. Even for a fashion lover as myself, that's no easy task. But as a shining, sparkling, sumptuous exercise in examining this culture of the style elite, it's tonally bang on target, and thorough enough in its limited runtime to sustain interest. Miele doesn't attempt to engage in debate of any manner, instead embracing all aspects of this microcosmic menagerie of elegance and affluence and beauty in their essence; he allows the cynics their chance, throughout, to sneer and snarl away. Bergdorf Goodman exists, and is a success, and is beloved by many, and here we have a documentary about it made with and for those many. Technical elements are as polished and professional as they must be, needless to iterate, and Miele is apparently allowed wide access to the inner workings of the institution, unsurprisingly perhaps, given the jovial tone with which he is greeted by every last one of his interviewees.

REVIEW - SEDUCED AND ABANDONED


Whether or not what James Toback and Alec Baldwin reveal about the movie industry (and what they reveal is, essentially, the movie industry) is news to you, their film Seduced and Abandoned is a brisk, breezy, elucidating film with an engaging subject and even more engaging subjects. They go to Cannes with the intention of pitching 'Last Tango in Tikrit' - not the film's real name, but then it's not a real film either, surely... surely... - to the Cannes film market. The only surprising aspect of the film is how unaware the pair seems of this enormous market, or at least how unaware they are willing to appear. Cos these two slimeballs sure know how to grease up a goose! It'll star Alec and Neve Campbell. They want $50 million. They must be joking. Who cares if they are or not? This project will never make money (heck, it'll never even be made), and investors are damn frank about its prospects. Neve is involved from early on; she doesn't attend Cannes, instead dangling with her dunce hat on back in the US - making this mostly a film about fat old men having conversations. Some fat old men though, huh? Polanski, Bertolucci, Coppola, Scorsese, and the occasional hot young Hollywood star, roped in in good faith and with good humour, as perhaps the notion of being interviewed by a filmmaker while at Cannes trumps yet another interview with the press. Even James Toback. An airy, artless film, it's nevertheless extremely watchable. I won't even begin to wonder why the music of Shostakovich was used as the soundtrack, but if it distracted me from what was being said and shown on screen, what a fine distraction it was!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

PGA DOCUMENTARY NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED


Who knows what the Producers Guild of America is thinking? Ever? A mammoth bunch of voters, and all of them producers. And producers, a lot of the time, don't know shit. Their five nominations for Best Documentary of 2013 constitute two films I would not consider among the five best documentaries I've seen this year so far, two I haven't yet seen and one I hadn't even heard of. Who knows, maybe those three are masterpieces!

  • Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story
  • Life According to Sam
  • A Place at the Table
  • We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks
  • Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington

Credits for eligible producers will be announced on the 2nd of January, alongside Best Picture and Best Animated Feature nominations. Just 17 days later, on the 19th, winners will be announced.

CAHIERS DU CINEMA TOP 10 - STRANGER BY THE LAKE ON TOP


Cahiers du Cinema, when compared to what the rest of the awards voting industry comes up with, is one of the smartest and most independently-minded groups out there. Their Top 10 each year is eagerly awaited by toffs and ponces, and me! A poncey toff. Four of these films are very good, two are not, four I have not seen.

  1. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
  2. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)
  3. Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche)
  4. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)
  5. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang Ke)
  6. Lincoln (Steven Spielberg)
  7. Jealousy (Philippe Garrel)
  8. Nobody's Daughter Hae Won (Hong Sang Soo)
  9. You and the Night (Yann Gonzalez)
  10. La Bataille de Solferino (Justine Triet)

FILM INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARD NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED


It's at this time of year, since the Spirit Awards actually do carry with them some esteem, that people get all excited and think that these early nominations are going to have any impact whatsoever. But then the more influential groups will announce, and these ones will be swiftly forgotten about. And then polls will close, and the Spirit Award winners will be announced on Oscar's eve, and there'll be zero impact yet again. Seven nominations for 12 Years a Slave, six for Nebraska, receiving a well-needed boost, and four for All Is Lost, which receives the same. They're joined in Best Picture by Frances Ha, which misses out on any nominations for Greta Gerwig, and Inside Llewyn Davis. Somewhat surprising to note the lack of support for major indie favourites (and hallmarks of American independent cinema) Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station and Short Term 12.

Best Feature
  • 12 Years a Slave (Dede Gardner, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen, Arnon Milchan, Brad Pitt and Bill Pohlad)
  • All Is Lost (Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb)
  • Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, Scott Rudin, Rodrigo Teixeira and Lila Yacoub)
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen and Scott Rudin)
  • Nebraska (Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa)

Best Director
  • Shane Carruth (Upstream Colour)
  • J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost)
  • Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jeff Nichols (Mud)
  • Alexander Payne (Nebraska)

Best Male Lead
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
  • Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Robert Redford (All Is Lost)

Best Female Lead
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Julie Delpy (Before Midnight)
  • Gaby Hoffman (Crystal Fairy)
  • Brie Larson (Short Term 12)
  • Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now)

Best Supporting Male
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Will Forte (Nebraska)
  • James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
  • Keith Stanfield (Short Term 12)

Best Supporting Female
  • Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station)
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
  • Yolonda Ross (Go for Sisters)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

Best Screenplay
  • Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine)
  • Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater (Before Midnight)
  • Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said)
  • Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Spectacular Now)
  • John Ridley (12 Years a Slave)


Monday, 25 November 2013

CLIP FROM AMERICAN HUSTLE


David O. Russell's American Hustle is released in the US on the 18th of December, followed by a UK release on the 3rd of January (with a limited London opening on the 20th of December). This clip features Jennifer Lawrence, widely tipped for an Oscar nomination for her second performance in a Russell film, and Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner.

REVIEW - THE ROCKET


The winter nights may be pretty cold, but my heart's even colder, and Kim Mordaunt's purportedly inspirational family film couldn't warm it up at all. The premise has potential, but Mordaunt takes it down predictable paths, its back almost perpetually to the tougher elements which provide The Rocket's only points of interest. Young Ahlo is born into a tribe in which twins are considered bad luck, as one twin will be blessed but the other cursed, and both are expected to be killed upon birth. But his brother is stillborn, and his mother refuses to do away with her only living offspring. It is as the creation of a new dam that will flood their Laotian village forces them to relocate that tragedy befalls the family of four, and Ahlo's grandmother's belief that he is the cursed twin is strengthened by one dire incident after another. Mordaunt's take on the story from the perspective of his child lead is to doll up difficult thematic issues, skim over them and then smother them with optimism and good humour from other, often tenuous sources. His film is, itself, about a somewhat wandering journey, but he just wanders through the plot with little attention to establishing mood or tone, or even narrative specifics. The impact is that the viewer is encouraged to forget about prior scenes, to not worry about forthcoming ones, and to concentrate on what's currently on screen - an isolating device that's not terribly effective, as it renders us lost and reevaluating the film at each and every change in direction. And this is exhausting, to the extent that this 96-minute feature felt significantly over two hours to me. Quality of acting varies, though Sitthiphon Disamoe does a cracking job as Ahlo. The lovely Laotian scenery is filmed in drab, dirty shades which do it no justice, and which fight against the film's otherwise mostly peppy disposition.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

HIDDEN TREASURES - DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES, THE MAID, TAXIDERMIA


Everybody comes from a family of some kind. A working-class family in 1940-50s Liverpool, a middle-class Chilean family and their eccentric succession of maids, or three generations of, frankly, Hungarian weirdos, all families are different, but none more so than these three!

DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES (1988) - TERENCE DAVIES

Terence Davies is one of the defining British filmmakers in cinema history, and Distant Voices, Still Lives is his defining film. Part two of his autobiographical trilogy, it's an impeccably acted, beautifully written, delicately observed gem of a film. You absolutely must see it. You absolutely must.

THE MAID (2009) - SEBASTIAN SILVA

Sebastian Silva will never let you in on what he's thinking in his films, but his actors definitely will. This consistently surprising, disarming, blackly-comic story of an increasingly unstable maid working for a family in modern-day Chile features excellent performances, particularly from Catalina Saavedra in the lead role of Raquel.

TAXIDERMIA (2006) - PALFI GYORGY

You haven't seen much like Taxidermia, and that's probably a good thing, since it makes Palfi Gyorgy's film such a unique and entertaining experience. Rape over pig carcasses, celebrity overeaters and self-taxidermy, and you haven't even heard the half of it.

REVIEW - THE FAMILY


A film that relies largely on one's memory of these classic actors' (Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones) prestigious and memorable back catalogues to generate interest in itself, and in failing serves as proof that nostalgia is extremely overrated. Luc Besson is one of those consistently underwhelming directors bankrolled by French production companies for the singularity of his vision - many better artists in similar positions have developed themselves an entire style of filmmaking unique to them and influential to others, but Besson remains isolated as an inspiration, due to the incoherent nature of his clumsy style as director. Some scenes into The Family, we glean that said family is connected to the Mob, though exactly where is not initially clear, and that they're in hiding, but how, why and from whom is also not initially clear. Besson identifies the fish-out-of-water American mob family in rural Normandy as an opportunity for comedy, and for violence, which might suggest to you or me a black comedy! Goodness knows he tries, but both comedy and violence are so lazily staged that neither makes any notable impact. Possibly to liven things up, Besson introduces a number of bizarre elements to the film, like the outrageously tenuous means by which the villains discover the whereabouts of their targets, a series of cringeworthy coincidences in the undercooked finale, and, most bafflingly of all, a local film society screening of Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running that goes to the one place you're sure they wouldn't dare go. No, no, surely not, not with Martin Scorsese producing. De Niro, Pfeiffer and Jones collectively lift the material, Pfeiffer relishing her bitchy role early on in a manner that implies she knows Besson only has limited use for her, and Jones' signature deadpan most enjoyable, his chemistry with De Niro making one wish Besson had cut the rest of the film and delivered two hours of those two, having a wee convo. Now that would be genuinely memorable.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

HAM FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER IN AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY


I can't decide what hurts more. Julia Roberts killing it or Meryl Streep getting killed. I suppose it's nice to have my expectations overturned every once in a while. I can't be right all the time, I guess! Actually, yes I can, and I am. Out in the US and the UK at Oscar time.

SONGS ON SATURDAY - SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER


Since Saturday Night Fever is obviously what this feature induces, let's make it about Saturday Night Fever! Karen Lynn Gorney can't convince anybody she can dance, and John Travolta can't convince anybody he's even slightly interested in women, but the Bee Gees convinced me that they're funky as hell!



ALICE IN WONDERLAND SEQUEL FOR MAY 2016


It might seem like a long time to wait, over six years since Alice in Wonderland raked in over $1 billion worldwide for Disney, but with that gross, and with the announcement of the sequel almost four years since that film's release, it looks somewhat more palatable. Linda Woolverton will write the screenplay again, but Tim Burton will not return to direct, so expect a notably different tone from James Bobin, who did a darn good job with his The Muppets two years ago. Also, Disney has revealed that Jon Favreau's live action The Jungle Book will open late 2015.

REVIEW - HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES


Cultures at war in Daniel Patrick Carbone's (three names, never a good sign) debut as director. Manmade culture versus natural culture. Nature is the supple, iridescent sunlight, shimmering through the humid air, streaming through the dense green forest. It is the guileless dog, impetuous, curious, innocent. It is the death that unites us all, despite our differences in life; we will each succumb to it some day, expectedly or not, willingly or not. And it is still there in our youth, in a child's innate compassion and sensitivity, in their curiosity, in their naivety. And it is not age that erodes this natural culture from ourselves, it is that manmade culture which governs, or at least attempts to govern, every detail of the adult human's life, and which said adults use to govern the lives of their children. They bought the gun, built the bridge, made the rules. They call bullshit on the natural truth they don't want to hear. They accept the natural response to tragedy that their culture regards as inappropriate only as exactly that. And the adolescent mind is torn between the two cultures, yielding finally to the pressure of adulthood which they can no longer repress, turning suddenly toxic and cruel in their actions and in their outward character, sacrificing honesty for a dishonest display of strength. Carbone has a canny touch in depicting the lives of young boys in rural America, but he treads no new ground in this feature at all, and, in his self-aware passivity, is too respectful of some of the more discouraging aspects of said lives. He's more concerned with creating a fashionable piece of indie art than expressing anything emotionally or psychologically significant, and so misses opportunities to expand upon his characters. But Hide Your Smiling Faces is a confident and involving film, and the more you think on it, the more rewards you may reap from it.

FABULOUS FRIDAY - THE DAMNED


Luchino Visconti had a knack for making some of the most beautiful films of all time. I'm not sure if that qualifies as a 'knack', but you know what I mean. A do wonder if there's a more gorgeously-shot film than his 1969 The Damned, which was photographed by the formidable duo of Pasqualino de Santis and Armando Nannuzzi. Production design is by Vincenzo del Prato, costumes by the incomparable Piero Tosi. Enjoy!