Friday, 31 May 2013

KATHERINE WATERSTON CAST IN INHERENT VICE


Who would have thought Sam Waterston could have such a damn sexy daughter? Anyway, he did, and she's been cast in a leading role in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, news which will probably only have the PTA fanboy massiiive creaming themselves even more. The cast of this film boasts four Oscar wins among 15 nominations, too, so she's in goooood company. Waterston is about to make a big splash, then, particularly with upcoming roles in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Hers with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy and Kelly Reichardt's Night Moves. She's also been in Michael Clayton and Taking Woodstock.

CHAPTER TITLES FOR NYMPHOMANIAC - TEASERS TO FOLLOW!


Take note: Lars von Trier isn't talking to you. His lips are sealed, quite literally by duct tape, as you can see. Anything you wanna know about his upcoming sexual epic, Nymphomaniac, you will discover on the film's official website. Just issued is a press release, detailing chapter teasers for the film, and pictures and clips will follow in future, intended to 'playfully unveil the multilayered universe of Nymphomaniac.' Furthermore, we learn that von Trier intends to invent a new cinematic genre with the film, 'digressionism,' implying a digression from the main subject. Don't expect him to stick to it, though, as he usually adopts a new filming style with each feature he makes. The only constants in his films seem to be: chapters (sometimes), Charlotte Gainsbourg (recently) and vaginas (constantly). Get a load of the chapter teasers below:

1 - THE COMPLEAT ANGLER
2 - JEROME
3 - MRS. H
4 - DELIRIUM
5 - THE LITTLE ORGAN SCHOOL
6 - THE EASTERN & WESTERN CHURCH (THE SILENT DUCK)
7 - THE MIRROR
8 - THE GUN

OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR PRISONERS


I have a lot of faith in Denis Villeneuve, but this is yet another case of a respectable international filmmaker going to Hollywood and being lumbered with a hackneyed screenplay like this. There are plenty of kidnappings of young girls all around the world every day - how many of them turn out like this? I get the argument that you might not want to see a movie about a kidnapping which doesn't turn out so dramatic, but isn't such a situation bloody dramatic to begin with? I'm not sure I can stomach the schlock. Also, "I'm gonna find your daughter"... wait what? No detective would ever say that. And Jake Gyllenhaal could never be a detective. I mean, that's just that. Also, ain't it telling how this is from the perspective of the white family rather than the black family? Roger Deakins is the DP, there's your bright spot.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

KON-TIKI DIRECTORS TO HELM THE GOOD SHIP PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 5


After leading an action-adventure period film set on the high seas to a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg have been snapped up to direct the fifth installment in the lucrative Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Rob Marshall did a decent job on the last one, I thought, but critics and US audiences were underwhelmed; still, with the ever-expanding international marketplace, On Stranger Tides wound up earning a shitload of cash. Jeff Nathanson is currently carrying out a thorough rewrite of the script for the next one, which is due to set filming either late this year or early next. But another long wait between sequels, combined with the increasing redundancy of each episode in this series, doesn't have me terribly excited, even is Ronning and Sandberg are perfect fits for the job.

TRAILER PARA MACHETE KILLS!


Is there anyone more pretentious and less artistically credible than Lady Gaga? Oh yeah, James Franco. Anyway, he's not in Machete Kills, but unfortunately she is, and so is just about everybody else! Was I the only one who thought that Machete was a bit disappointing? Meh, not all that bothered, cos look who it is: SOFIA VERGARA! SI, ES VERDAD! Front of the queue, Sofia, front of the queue.

POSTER FOR MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM


If there's one thing I hate more than Oscar-bait, it's half-arsed Oscar-bait. Idris Elba may look fuck all like Nelson Mandela, but he's still Idris Elba, and that's gotta count for something. The cast and crew here is pretty nondescript, and I'm sick of biopics. If this isn't a long walk to the credits I'll eat Werner Herzog's hat.

REVIEW - EPIC


You don't get points for trying. Epic, the latest animated film from Blue Sky Studios, has only modest ambitions. There's action, a little romance, some comedy, big name voice talent and pretty animation. It achieves all of the above smartly and smoothly, and makes no efforts above nor beyond its duty. And yet, what potential lies herein. Glimpses of imagination, seeds of ideas which could have been nurtured and developed into something groundbreaking, something truly amazing. I recall a not-dissimilar film, Princess Mononoke, by Hayao Miyazaki, and it is one of my very favourite films. It too involves a protagonist thrust into a strange world at war, where nature battles itself to stay alive. There's action and romance there too, and an eco-message that's delivered with sense and communicated via stunning imagery. Epic possesses the same message, but abandons it in favour of the familiar beats of child-friendly action and dopey humour. Indeed, the message may be clear to those of us who have heard it a thousand times before, but if the intention was to get the next generation thinking about the importance of preserving our planet, then Epic is a pretty epic fail. The animation is mostly beautiful, with almost photo-real foliage and intricate backgrounds (not unlike Miyazaki, actually), but the character design is unmemorable, as indeed are the characters themselves. The A-list cast is just unnecessary - who cares whether or not that's Beyonce or that's Steven Tyler, it makes no difference, we can't see them! Scoring by Danny Elfman is a dime-a-dozen effort from the famous composer. I'll make one major concession - for some elusive reason, I did find the occasional gag very funny, despite finding most of them quite the opposite.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

SO THIS IS WHAT AN OSCAR NOMINATION GETS YOU


After the abhorrent The Human Centipede (First Sequence), and the sequel, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), so repulsive it was briefly one of only three films banned in the UK at the time (it was eventually cut for release), Tom Six is making a third Human Centipede, The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence). Let's just hope it's the final one. And who has just been cast? Eric Roberts! That name might not mean very much to very many, but he's the star of The Dark Knight and an (undeserved) Oscar nominee for Runaway Train! Not that that gives this film any credibility. Apparently it'll be set in a prison and will feature a 500+ person centipede, joy of joys, and will make Part II look like 'Disney.' Hooray! Also set to join the centipede are fellow one-time Oscar nominees Lauren Bacall, Robert Redford, James Earl Jones, Emmanuelle Riva, Hal Holbrook, Ian Holm, and Harvey Keitel, or not.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR TRASHED BY SOURCE WRITER


After its Palme d'Or win on Sunday and all the rave reviews before that, all the haters have wormed their way out of the soil for Blue Is the Warmest Colour, and among them is Julie Maroh, the writer of the grahic novel on which the film is based. Have a gander at some choice quotes (translated from French):

'Maybe there was someone there to awkwardly imitate the possible positions with their hands, and/or to show them some porn of so-called "lesbians" (unfortunately it's hardly ever actually for a lesbian audience). Because - except for a few passages - this is all that it brings to my mind: a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn, and made me feel very ill at ease.'

'I deeply wish to thank all those who appeared surprised, shocked, disgusted with the fact that Kechiche had no words for me when he received his Palme. No doubt he had good reasons not to do it, just like he certainly had good reasons for not making me more visible on the red carpet in Cannes (even though I crossed the whole country to join them)...'

'He hasn't mentioned it in front of the cameras, but the night of the official screening in Cannes, a few witnesses heard him tell me <<Thanks, you were the starting point>> while he strongly held my hand.'

Yeah, you were the starting point. Not the entire film. Your graphic novel is one thing, and his film is another entirely. #getoverit?

Oh and fucking make yourself more 'visible' on the red carpet. That's not anybody else's responsibility.

For a read of the whole thing, click the pic!

CARTER BURWELL EXITS THOR: THE DARK WORLD


According to Marvel Studios, a 'creative split' has resulted in Carter Burwell exiting upcoming blockbuster Thor: The Dark World, to be released in November. Burwell is best known for his work with the Coen brothers, and also wrote the scores for three of the Twilight films and Where the Wild Things Are, alongside Karen Orzolek. An insider reports that Marvel "liked him but it wasn't the right project," and considering Burwell's distinctive style, this isn't a massive surprise. That said, his name was even printed on the official poster. Patrick Doyle scored the first Thor in 2011.

NEW TRAILER FOR DISNEY'S PLANES


Gosh, I know. Do click the pic for the trailer on YouTube because I couldn't embed it. I don't care. Not even Pixar would put their name on this, although I expect they'll still take a fair share of the profits from the masses of money Disney makes on the toys for this. Almost a little surprised Disney bothered. It's worse than a rip-off, it's a spin-off-rip-off, following a sequel that was the worst thing its studio has put out to date. There's basically no recognisable talent involved in making this - like the biggest name in the cast is Val Kilmer lol, and was it just me or did that trailer go on for hours? Might pass on this one.

MENDES TO RETURN FOR BOND 24?


First, he probably was. Then, he definitely wasn't. In the meantime, directors such as Ang Lee, Nicolas Winding Refn and Christopher Nolan were batted around - wouldn't they all be such great choices for Bond, and wouldn't Bond be such a dreadful choice for their careers? But now it appears that time is being made for Mendes to complete his theatre obligations (stage productions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and King Lear) before he undertakes Bond 24, which is being written by John Logan. I rather enjoyed Skyfall, in fact, I thought it was Mendes' best film, so I'm up for this, and so are fans, who also rather enjoyed Skyfall.

CHASTAIN, JOHANSSON, SEYFRIED, WITHERSPOON IN LINE TO PORTRAY HILLARY CLINTON IN BIOPIC


Are you buying it? Nah. This is all just reported, but rly, aren't they all too... pretty? Soz, Hillz, you know I love you, but you were never a looker. The film is Rodham (stupid title) and it's to be directed by James Ponsoldt, whose film The Spectacular Now drew a lot of attention at Sundance earlier this year. Rodham will focus on Hillary's career as a lawyer in 1974, during Watergate and that.

Actually, Jessica Chastain is Jessica Chastain, after all, so I trust she'd be good. Better than the other three, at least.

MAY 24-26 BOX OFFICE REPORT - A FAST & FURIOUS START


Riding hard on the phenomenal success of Fast Five, the sixth entry in the Fast & Furious franchise opened last weekend to a brilliant $97.4 million, the highest opening of the franchise to date - heck, it's over a third higher than The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift's entire gross back in 2006. In so doing, Fast & Furious 6 has produced the biggest non-3D opening of the year so far, and pummelled The Hangover: Part III into second place; it opened with just $41.7 million, which is the lowest of that franchise, and even lower when one considers ticket price inflation. Hangover 3 opened on Thursday, where its takings were less than on any day Friday through Sunday. And, in fouth, animated film Epic took $33.5 million. That's a fair start for the Blue Sky Animation product, which, considering the lack of family-orientated competition in weeks to come, may be enough to raise Epic's domestic gross to its budget of $100 million.

REVIEW - THE DEEP


A common trait of contemporary Scandinavian film and TV, albeit with exceptions notable and numerous, is its bracing directness. There's a lack of vanity in the acting, the cinematography is both beautifully honest and honestly beautiful, the scripting uncomplicated, straightforward. Iceland, for its obvious geographical distinction from mainland Scandinavia, is distinctly Scandinavian in its culture, as is evident in this real-life drama from Baltasar Kormakur. Kormakur has dabbled in Hollywood too, and his 2012 film Contraband was somewhat wanting in the like of rugged naturalism in abundance in The Deep. Here, he continues on a theme that has proved solid in his career to date - peril on the high seas. In this case, the peril is less on the sea than in the sea, as the fishing boat on which Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) works capsizes in the icy North Atlantic Ocean. His fellow crew members die either in the accident that topples their vessel or in the frigid ocean, but Gulli battles on, and leads the film onto rather different shores than one would naturally expect. His personal challenge through the night, his body suffering, his mind perhaps even more, is hardly revolutionary filmmaking, but it's riveting nonetheless, and Olafsson's depiction of a man under intense and unrelenting hardship is likely the main cause. No doubt Kormakur and co-writer Jon Atli Jonasson were attracted to the cinematic potential of not only this part of the story, an opportunity to show off some nuts-and-bolts-type work, that 'bracing directness', but also the subsequent developments, which are certainly fascinating. But Kormakur is in more conventional territory here, and the details of this true story are not sufficient to sustain our interest. Much as it's too good a story not to tell it, the first half (and a bit) of The Deep are simply superior to this second half. Most everything else about this film is unobtrusive, performing its duty with skill and precision, which is fine by me.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

REVIEW - BEHIND THE CANDELABRA


Steven Soderbergh's impassive yet intrusive gaze is perfectly tailored to making a biopic. He is a most non-sensationalistic director, which means he is able to take moments of melodrama and moments of monotony and level them all out. Thus, as figures sit around a table conducting some common conversation, the effect is both gripping and entertaining. And as Liberace exits his chauffeur-driven bejewelled Rolls-Royce on stage, the 15-foot train of his $400,000 fur coat trailing behind him, the effect is unusually intimate. We are inside the heads of these colourful characters, not in the audience, casually observing. Once Matt Damon's Scott Thorson discovers that his fans have no idea that he's gay, we're right there with him, in the peculiar private world of Liberace, and from now on, we will be either on stage or backstage, behind the candelabra. Soderbergh's rejection of hyperbole in his directing is essential to grounding this story, what with its intrinsic flamboyance and eventual turmoil, and his decision to neither flatter nor belittle his subjects is admirable. Scott's naivety, Lee's self-absorption, and everything else about these vibrant characters, rendered so refreshingly humdrum by Soderbergh, is self-evident, and in no need of exaggeration, not least with such a solid ensemble of actors, many of whom have never been better. A final flourish of glitz and glamour jars with the abrupt scenes immediately prior, the likes of which often conclude Soderbergh films, but it's what Liberace would have wanted, I'm sure. Matt Damon's wet white thong won't soon be forgotten, yet every effort is made to obscure these actors' genitals. Gosh, get over it boys! That the outrageous production and costume design still pack quite the punch despite Soderbergh's persistent understatement is noteworthy.


Monday, 27 May 2013

REVIEW - MANIAC


Film may be an art form, but not all films are inherently artistic. Any hack director can pimp up a sleazy piece of shit with gimmicks and artsy-fartsy affectations, but you already know you can't polish a turd so why are you bothering? I suppose some people will inevitably drink it right up, and find all manner of preposterous reasons for why Maniac is provocative and challenging and innovative and all sorts of baloney, but I can smell the pretension from here, and the callous pleasure the tawdry types who made this film derive in wallowing in their own filth. My problem with violence this sadistic is not prudish; I don't like it because it seeks to induce feelings of horror and disgust, which are neither satisfying nor stimulating, and because it relies on the infliction of pain via murder and mutilation to provide it with a purpose. Fear and pain are emotions which, when witnessed, can be stimulating, and can be enlightening, but I don't see what's enlightening about watching a hog-tied woman getting scalped. There's no subtext, no black comedy angle, no apparent need for any of this other than to revile - I like being unsettled by a good film, or provoked by a good film, but I hate being revolted by a bad film. And Maniac's comical pretentiousness, its certainty that its gimmicks and affectations are so creative and so unique only make it harder to endure. The script is like a poor parody of an already poor horror film, and Elijah Wood's delivery is intended as distant but just sounds like some drama student who really, really wants to be an actor but is really, really bad at acting. Most of the film is shot from his visual perspective, which means that the camera is thrust in every available reflective surface so that we can get a good look at the only recognisable face in the cast as much as possible, and the camera placement seldom works in these moments, which doesn't help lure us into his headspace as is the point of this gambit. The producer, Thomas Langmann, is an Oscar-winner, and a recent one at that, and I'm not sure if this looks worse for him now or worse for the Academy.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR WINS THE PALME D'OR AT CANNES





Official Selection



Palme d'Or
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux)
Grand Prix
Inside Llewyn Davis (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
Prix de la Mise-en-Scene (Best Director)
Amat Escalante (Heli)
Prix du Jury
Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Koreeda)
Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay)
Jia Zhang Ke (A Touch of Sin)
Prix d'Interpretation Feminine (Best Actress)
Berenice Bejo (The Past)
Prix d'Interpretation Masculine (Best Actor)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)


TRAILER FOR THE KINGS OF SUMMER


Is it only in America that teenagers act like such doofuses and it's supposed to be funny? I guess being able to own a gun before you're legally allowed to drink alcohol, or being allowed to drive before you're allowed to have sex probably doesn't do much for a person. I'd rather laugh at these people than laugh with them, but that's just me. Decent reviews for this, and it does look quite funny (in parts). P.S. that's actually better than most comedies so I won't hate too hard.

HIDDEN TREASURES - BEAUTY, BUTTERFLY KISS, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH


For Screen on Screen's fourth Hidden Treasures post in the series, I'm looking at three under-appreciated films dealing with LGBT issues in an alternative manner. They may be familiar to some of you, but I think that all are deserved of larger audiences than they have received.

BEAUTY (2011) - OLIVER HERMANUS

This under-seen and underrated South African drama (also known as Skoonheid) is a polished but probing examination of homophobia, with a tense, thriller-like edge that had me riveted, and eventually quite moved. Francois is in his 40s, white, Afrikaans-speaker with a wife and daughter and a small business. His contempt for others is topped only by his contempt for himself, and his narrow-mindedness is so copious that he's oblivious to the monumental contradiction in his prejudice: Francois is gay. South Africa is like any other nation with a troubled past still seeping into its present - it has had other problems to deal with before getting around to homophobia, and so Francois is unable to deal with his sexuality in a reasonable way. His lust (wholly justifiable, btw) for his student nephew, Christian, begins to eat into the comfort and complacency of his day-to-day life, and then... I won't divulge how these immediate matters are resolved, but their implications, suggested at in the enigmatic final few scenes, will be far-reaching, particularly for Francois' acceptance and understanding of his homosexuality. Beauty is a beguiling film, opening in simplicity and gradually amassing complexity as it progresses, the lens so often fixed on Deon Lotz's highly expressive visage. A pivotal scene toward the end will leave you shaken, and it's exceptionally well-handled.

Two more films featured after the cut.

PALME D'OR PREVIEW AND CLIPS


The Cannes film festival concludes tonight with the closing ceremony, followed by the world premiere of Jerome Salle's Zulu. What will the official jury, headed by Steven Spielberg, choose for this year's Palme d'Or? And what about the contenders in the other six categories? I'm going to run through the categories and the contenders, and include clips from the films in competition.

PALME D'OR

It depends on whom you ask, but it would seem, currently, that eight out of the twenty films in competition stand a chance of winning the festival's top award. Above, a clip from Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Abdellatif Kechiche's critically-lauded FIPRESCI prize winner, which has been the festival standout for many. By no means does it have this race down though, as several other films pose strong threats. Currently sitting pretty on a Metascore of 100, the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis was maybe the first film in competition this year to draw raves across the board from critics, although Asghar Farhadi's The Past preceded it with some very positive responses last week. Like Father, Like Son is being touted despite a few tepid reviews, The Great Beauty has proved impressive with many, and The Netherlands' first film in official competition for almost 40 years, Borgman, was a surprise hit. A win for Behind the Candelabra would mark a symmetrical end to Steven Soderbergh's film career, as his debut film Sex, Lies and Videotape won Cannes' top award 24 years ago. A late-game contender is James Gray's The Immigrant, which may not have united audiences but has certainly drawn some strong praise and serious consideration.

 


CANNES' CLOSING FILM ZULU NOT POPULAR WITH CRITICS


Jerome Salle's South Africa-set thriller is tonight's closing night gala film, screening in the Grand Lumiere immediately after the closing ceremony. Not many reviews have surfaced for the film, but those which have are not very kind to it.

Justin Chang in Variety mentions that the 'heavy-handed' Zulu comes 'perilously close to soap opera', and comments on its violent content; his only positive words of note are on the film's technical package, specifically Alexandre Desplat's score. And, in The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young likes Forest Whitaker's performance (and writes that Orlando Bloom's fans may like the 'generous views of his bare-chested muscles, tattoos and six pack abs), but is also turned off by the film's conventionality and brutality.

REVIEW - THE HANGOVER PART III



It runs at only a little over an hour and a half, but The Hangover Part III feels like a much lengthier film, and there is one simple reason for that: it is a film almost perpetually on the edge. It's a purpose-built comedy, one which makes no attempt to achieve anything other than a high rate of successful gags. There are two issues herein. The first is the high rate - whereas The Hangover Part II was overloaded with (bad) comedy, Part III is light on the funny stuff, to the point where one may ask if the writers were even trying, after Part II's poor reception with audiences. The second is the successful gags - they're barely present. In fact, most of the successful ones are the bad ones, the ones which only the bozos at the back find funny. The rest are lazy, semi-warmed-through riffs on and copies of gags from those of the first two Hangover films. And it's not that I just don't get or appreciate this style of humour - I do, which is why I liked the first Hangover film - it's that The Hangover Part III does this style of humour a disservice, and confirms what its critics have always maintained, and its champions have always denied. Crassness and crudeness sit well with me, but not when they're badly done. And thus it perches ever on the edge of reaching its goal: the punchline, lingering in a comic limbo where we know the joke ought to be but somehow hasn't yet turned up, or did we miss it? Stuttering its way over lifeless skits, as if trying out which approach might work before realising that Vegas was all that ever worked for this franchise, The Hangover Part III is mired from the start by lacklustre writing, directing and acting. Indeed, to see capable comedic actors slum it so sleepily through material that was a tad stale even on its first run is actually quite depressing.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

MORE CANNES AWARDS - POOCHES, POOFS AND PAPS


Some more awards have been handed out at Cannes, each one an independent award.

First up is the Queer Palm, the most famous of these awards. Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue Is the Warmest Colour may have proved stiff competition, but Alain Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake adds its second award of the day in winning the Queer Palm.

Another of the day's awards was the Palm Dog, which was awarded to Baby Boy, the partially-sighted poodle from Behind the Candelabra. As much as I'm not a fan of using animals for filming, I haven't yet seen the film, and I hope he gets some nice new toys to play with and a big beef shank bone to chew on.

The final award is a new award, and likely one which will become most prestigious over the coming years: the Pierre Angenieux Excellence in Cinematography Honour. The first recipient is Philippe Rousselot, the Oscar-winning DP whose credits include Diva, Dangerous Liaisons and Sherlock Holmes. He's not the first cinematographer I'd award, but then I wasn't on the jury, was I?

CANNES UN CERTAIN REGARD AWARDS ANNOUNCED


The Un Certain Regard jury has spoken and the big winner is Rithy Panh's Khmer Rouge animation has taken the top prize. Thomas Vinterberg headed the jury. Here are the full results:

Prix Un Certain Regard
The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh)

Jury Prize
Omar (Hany Abu-Assad)

Best Director
Alain Guiraudie (Stranger by the Lake)

Un Certain Talent
Ensemble cast (La Jaula de Ora)

Prize of the Future
Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station)

CANNES FIPRESCI AND ECUMENICAL PRIZES ANNOUNCED


The FIPRESCI prizes and Ecumenical Jury prizes at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival have today been awarded. The FIPRESCI International Federation of Film Critics bestows awards to films at a number of film festivals through the year, including Venice and Toronto. The Ecumenical Jury's award is given to the film which has most 'touched the spiritual dimension of our existence'. Four years ago, they gave their award to Ken Loach's Looking for Eric, and gave an anti-award to Lars von Trier's Antichrist, so if that's any indication of their tastes, you know what you're getting with that lot! Nonetheless, their winners are often among the most popular at Cannes each year.

FIPRESCI award one film from the Official Competition, one from Un Certain Regard and one from either Directors' Fortnight or Critics' Week. This year, they chose:
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) - Official Selection
Manuscripts Don't Burn (Mohammad Rasoulof) - Un Certain Regard
Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier) - Directors' Fortnight

The Ecumenical Jury awards just one film each year. Their 2013 choice:
The Past (Asghar Farhadi)

MUTED PRAISE AT CANNES FOR POLANSKI'S VENUS IN FUR


It's his second consecutive theatrical adaptation, after Carnage (which was shite), and Venus in Fur is drawing better reviews than that film at Cannes. Starring Emmanuelle Seigner (Polanski's wife) and Mathieu Amalric, and no-one else, critics are a little bothered by the film's theatricality, but generally positive otherwise.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian isn't the only one to consider the film's sexual politics dated, but his three star review (out of five) is fairly agreeable towards Polanski and his actors. He also enjoys the finale, something which he shares in common with Fionnuala Halligan on the Screen Daily Blog; she thinks it 'a much finer, deeper work' than Carnage, and has good things to say about Seigner. Seigner is also mentioned in tweets from Guy Lodge and Jordan Hoffman, and Peter Howell joins those two in his sentiment about the film, neither raving nor ranting on it.

3X3D IS WILDLY DIVISIVE AT CANNES


Opinions are divided on 3x3D, the omnibus feature which closed Cannes Critics' Week. It is comprised of three short films from different directors, French legend Jean-Luc Godard, British auteur Peter Greenaway, and relatively unknown Portuguese director Edgar Pera.

The only printed review comes from Peter Debruge at Variety, who isn't very positive about the film, and regards Greenaway's as the strongest short of the three, and Pera's as the weakest. Mostly, though, Godard's 'The Three Disasters' has come in for glowing praise: on Twitter, Neil Young writes that his short is the best thing he's seen at Cannes 'by a country mile' and Adam Cook calls it a 'masterpiece in between two misguided experiments by Greenaway and Pera'. Damon Wise seemed to like none of the three, while Jordan Cronk is among the many to trash Pera's segment, including Keith Uhlich on Letterboxd, whose brief comment may be just about all you need to hear.

CLIPS FROM PALME D'OR-TIPPED THE IMMIGRANT


The Immigrant, which is director James Gray's fourth consecutive film to premiere in competition at Cannes, has brought him perhaps his best reviews in his career to date. It screened yesterday and is one of the favourites for tomorrow's Palme d'Or. The above clip features Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix, both of whom give widely-lauded performances. After the cut, a clip featuring Cotillard and Jeremy Renner.

REVIEW - SNITCH


I didn't expect much of Snitch, which is possibly why I liked it. Had I been expecting a masterpiece, I might not have been so considerate, but no matter how credible Dwayne Johnson becomes as an actor in the eyes of others, I'll likely always struggle to actually want to see one of his films. One of Snitch's greatest strengths is its complexity - here is a film which occasionally teeters on the brink of banality, but is usually able to spy one fortuitous narrative or philosophical route to pursue, holding itself ever above the average mid-level Hollywood thriller. It has the hallmarks of a high-concept action film, but has precious little time for said action; it's like the writers came up with a simple idea for such a film, but realised that the only satisfactory way to film this idea was to embellish it with a credible backstory, and then realised that this backstory was bleeding in to the rest of their film, and that all the little details they had integrated were lending to a more full-bodied, dramatically charged film than they had imagined. A political agenda that is liberally (pun intended) utilised suggests that Justin Haythe and Ric Roman Waugh gave this a little more initial thought than that. They stamp Snitch with a startling statement at the end that drains it of what subtlety it might have had, but the effect is rather stronger than anything else in the whole film. A humanitarian sensibility and a feel for naturalism hew Snitch close to David Simon's The Wire, as does the appearance of the peerless Michael Kenneth Williams, and intense, mellow cinematography gives it a pleasing immediacy and tactility. Cast performances are very good, although Susan Sarandon's hammy portrayal of a conservative DA belongs in another film. Antonio Pinto's score is a highlight. A mistrust in drug abuse and criminality is topped by a mistrust in politicians, both of which are balanced by a fervid trust in The Rock, although his portrayal of a naive but tenacious family man isn't very convincing. A late action sequence isn't badly handled, but it is a let-down after preceding developments.

Friday, 24 May 2013

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE IMPRESSES CANNES CRITICS


A late entry into the Cannes lineup, Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive has attracted the indie filmmaker some of the best reviews he's had in recent years. Critics have been pleasantly surprised by the film's sense of humour and unique take on an oft-told tale of centuries-old vampires, played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton.

In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw affords the film just three stars out of five, but has a lot of good things to say about Only Lovers Left Alive. And The Telegraph's Robbie Collin is entertained by the film and by its 'sexy' leads. On Twitter, Jordan Hoffman and Jonathan Romney are both complimentary of the film, while Mike D'Angelo is somewhat torn by the film. This may be a late-game contender for some awards on Sunday. Details on international distribution shouldn't be too far off.

AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS - TRAILER


Click dat pic for the trailer! It's like a Terrence Malick film, just with more actual stuff, like talking and people doing things. To read that David Lowery is a 'fresh voice' is encouraging, as the Malick comparisons don't look unwarranted. Hey, some people have said it's good, and it looks good, so we'll say for now that it's good.

GOOD REVIEWS FOR HANY ABU-ASSAD'S OMAR IN CANNES


The last time Hany Abu-Assad made a Palestinian feature, it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. His first since then, Omar, screened at Cannes earlier this week and was greeted with warm reviews from critics.

The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young praises the filmmakers for rarely needing to 'go overboard to convey a strong emotion'. The plot of Abu-Assad's film is its strongest asset, according to Liam Lacey at The Globe and Mail, Toronto. And Variety's Jay Weissberg calls it a return to form for the director.

CANNES REVIEWS OF MAX ROSE ARE SCATHING


If this is the best the 'great' Jerry Lewis can do, I wonder what the best a female comedian could do is? Lewis has a large fanbase in France, and received a standing ovation after the premiere of his return to the screen, Max Rose, but critics have been less than complimentary.

The story of a man who comes to question the state of his marriage after the death of his wife, the dreadful reviews have come from critics such as David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter, Craig Skinner at Hey U Guys and Rob Nelson at Variety, who brands Lewis' return to film acting 'excruciating.' A fitting tribute, then, wouldn't you say?

NEEDLE TAKES CANNES CINEFONDATION FIRST PRIZE


This year's Cinefondation and Short Films jury at Cannes was headed by former Palme d'Or recipient Jane Campion. 18 short films competed, and the jury was reportedly unanimous in their choices. Here are the results:

First Prize
Needle (Anahita Ghazvinizadeh) - The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA

Second Prize
Waiting for the Thaw (Sarah Hirtt) - INSAS, Belgium

Third Prize
In the Fishbowl (Tudor Cristian Jurgiu) - UNATC, Romania
Pandy (Matus Vizar) - FAMU, Czech Republic

THE SELFISH GIANT WINS BEST EUROPEAN FILM AT CANNES DIRECTORS' FORTNIGHT


Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant, which so impressed the critics when it screened at Cannes last week, has won Best European Film from the Europa Cinemas Label. The Europa Cinemas jury bestows this award to films at Venice, Berlin, Karlovy Vary and, now, Locarno film festivals as well as Cannes. The four jurors voted unanimously for Barnard's sophomore British film.

LAV DIAZ'S NORTE: THE END OF HISTORY IS A BIG HIT AT CANNES


Filipino director Lav Diaz is not known for his marketability, but his four-hour 'mini-epic' Norte: The End of History has been drawing raves from critics at Cannes. Published reviews are scarce atm, but reactions across the internet have been very good.

The only report of any length online thus far comes from Jonathan Romney at Screen Daily, who does note the film's increased salability compared to Diaz's previous works. And check out how well the film has been received by a collection of critics on critic.de - all reviewers rate it 'outstanding.' On Twitter, Kenji Fujishima describes it as 'one of his highlights.'

SALVO WINS CRITICS' WEEK GRAND PRIX AT CANNES


Salvo (Le Demantelement), the debut feature from Canadian director Sebastien Pilote, has won the Grand Prix in the 52nd Critics' Week section of the Cannes Film Festival. The film is a story of family farm life mixed with Mafia drama, and stars Sophie Desmarais, who plays the lead in another film showing at Cannes this year, Sarah Prefers to Run, screening in the Un Certain Regard section.

THE IMMIGRANT'S CANNES RESPONSES ARE STRONG


James Gray has few fans, it seems, beyond Joaquin Phoenix and Thierry Fremaux, but his latest film to show in competition at Cannes, The Immigrant, is winning many critics over.

Todd McCarthy is very complimentary of the film, particularly lead Marion Cotillard, in his The Hollywood Reporter review, and also singles out Joaquin Phoenix. Less impressed by Phoenix, although still largely positive about the film, is Variety's Peter Debruge. Jessica Kiang, though, in her B+ review in The Playlist, notes that Phoenix is the 'ace up the film's sleeve', and also praises Darius Khondji's cinematography. And another B+ review in IndieWire, this one from Eric Kohn, who mentions the film's divisiveness. John Bleasdale, on Twitter, considers Phoenix Oscar-worthy in the film. The Weinstein Company will be handling US distribution, so awards consideration (for the first time in Gray's career) may not be beyond the realm of possibility, nor may Palme consideration on Sunday.

DISAPPOINTING REVIEWS AT CANNES FOR MICHAEL KOHLHAAS


Arnaud des Pallieres' adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist's novella has marked one of the biggest disappointments of the Cannes Official Competition in this year's festival, with poor reviews coming in from all sources.

Variety's Jay Weissberg initially doesn't seem too troubled by Michael Kohlhaas, but his list of complaints only expands as his review progresses. Jordan Mintzer writes that des Pallieres seems 'less interested in pulling off a Frecnh-language Game of Thrones than in creating a moody and atmospheric costume drama' in The Hollywood Reporter, and doesn't come across impressed at the results. And Screen Daily's Jonathan Romney is one of many to lament the lack of interest in Mads Mikkelsen's lead performance. CineVue's Twitter account does praise Mikkelsen, though, but not the film, and The Guardian's Xan Brooks' mentions 'so much wasted nobility.'

Thursday, 23 May 2013

MICHAEL KOHLHAAS - CLIP


This clip is from Arnaud des Pallieres' Michael Kohlhaas, which was screened for critics today in Cannes. Its official premiere will take place tomorrow. And if you think the above clip is boring, don't worry, because the critics seem to have found the whole film boring. More on that asap.

NEW STILL FROM DIANA


I probably wouldn't bother with this one new image from a film that's quite possibly not all that good. But it's Naomi. And anyone who's familiar with me around these parts will likely know the following: I #LIVE FOR NAOMI WATTS

CLIP FROM ALL IS LOST


It's not showing in Official Competition at Cannes, but J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost is nevertheless one of the best-reviewed films to have shown there so far this year. They say never to work at sea, but it both looks and sounds like Chandor and Redford have done a darn good job of it. I'm marvelling at the detail of the photography and the sound mix in this clip. And the last two shots are terrific. If nothing else, though, just a hint of that cerulean sea and I'm so there.

NEBRASKA MET WITH SOFT RECEPTION AT CANNES


Nebraska is Alexander Payne's first film to show at Cannes; it's also the first film he's helmed without having (co-)written the screenplay, which is by Bob Nelson. In Cannes, critics have been complimentary, although nothing more.

'A tame but lightly endearing drama', writes Eric Kohn in IndieWire. Also in IndieWire, Jessica Kiang's review in The Playlist strikes a similar tone, which is quite consistent with the critical consensus at the festival. Slightly better reports come from British critics, with Total Film's Jamie Graham and The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw both giving the film good write-ups, but not without some reservations. This opens in the US in November, surely primed for awards consideration.

REVIEW - UPSIDE DOWN


As far as a high-concept and some stylish visual effects can get you, Upside Down almost goes. It doesn't get there (and it isn't even that far) due to just about every other elemental component of filmmaking, which is to say that Upside Down succeeds on an aesthetic level and utterly no further. Indeed, whereas rote writing and mediocre plotting may have held this film back, diabolical writing and tedious plotting drag it back with such ignominious force that this half-baked product of Juan Solanas' imagination induces a sense of embarrassment in the viewer, above and beyond anything else. What he has is the germ of an idea, which requires far more intelligent and coherent development than he has provided it. No amount of nifty effects, and there are certainly many, can erase the irritation caused by all the haphazard science, all the implausibilities, all the loose ends. No amount of charisma from leads Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst can diminish the glaring lack of detail in their roles, which are employed as mere narrative devices, there to facilitate a range of impressive production and post-production design features. Solanas is unswervingly in the service of his imagery, throwing his mundane plot for a loop or two in tone and pace if one location might require an action sequence or, bizarrely, a dance sequence (mercifully brief). When Solanas yields to the temptation of inducing tension through action, it's a sorry moment, although not completely unsuccessful. I would have preferred more attention on the central romance between Sturgess and Dunst, which is the (purported) propulsion behind all the events herein, and which is too thinly drawn to assume the level of significance it ought to. And, for all of the film's subtexts of acceptance and integration, Sturgess makes a damn good case for the segregation of actors based on their nationality in his accent alone. The script may be hideous, but so is his American pronunciation.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

DON JON GETS A TRAILER


Is it just me or did that feel like it went on for days? I think there's a half-decent drama in here, but that's already been done in Shame. Joseph Gordon-Levitt thought he'd cast himself in the role of super-hunky babe-magnet 'Don Jon', a part he wrote for himself and then directed himself in. K fine, we get it, you're hot, now what? He's kindly censored the film for us poor uncultured audiences after personal fears that it mightn't get past the MPAA without an NC-17. If there's one thing I hate more than state censorship, it's self-censorship in the fear of state censorship (it's not exactly state censorship, but you get what I mean). This will be an October release in the US, November in the UK.

MUHAMMAD ALI'S GREATEST FIGHT IS NOT STEPHEN FREARS' GREATEST FILM, SAY CANNES CRITICS


That picture's definitely not cropped. Definitely not. Anyway, Stephen Frears' drama, which is about Muhammad Ali but doesn't actually feature him outside of archive footage (think George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck.), has been met with lukewarm reactions in Cannes. Rich old men sitting in dark rooms doesn't often go down well, I guess.

Xan Brooks at The Guardian laments the fact that Frears didn't make a documentary on the subject, such is the charisma of Ali in the featured footage. 'Dull, dry, flat, predictable, tawdry' are terms used by Leslie Felperin in Variety. And Total Film aren't all that pleased on Twitter, either.