Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Yesterday, the 29th of April, marked the death of one of the UK's most popular actors. TV, theatre and film star Bob Hoskins, who was nominated for an Oscar for 1986's Mona Lisa, died aged 71 from pneumonia. His movie star status was secured in 1980 British gangster film The Long Good Friday, and he enjoyed acclaim from audiences, critics and awards bodies alike for roles in films such as Brazil, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Nixon and Mrs. Henderson Presents. Married twice and divorced once, he is survived by his widow Linda, and four children Alex, Sarah, Rosa - on whose playtime with imaginary friends and creatures he based his performance in Roger Rabbit - and Jack.


As much as I appreciate some of the Star Wars films, the hype around the franchise and the incessancy with which George Lucas allows it to be milked for financial gain somewhat soils my already-lukewarm reception to them. The recent prequels boasted strong, starry casts, though they're not returning for the JJ Abrams-helmed Episode VII, as yet not subtitled. Instead, as rumoured, the leading cast from the original '70s-'80s films will. So that's Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker. New cast members include Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver, Attack the Block's John Boyega and almost-total newcomer Daisy Ridley. Expect those who aren't already big names to become them pretty swiftly next Christmas.


Michael Glawogger, the celebrated Austrian director of such acclaimed films as Workingman's Death, Slumming and Whores' Glory, died a week ago today (the 23rd of April) at age 53. In planning for his next feature, Glawogger caught malaria in Liberia, and passed away due to the consequences. His globe-spanning films often focused on working people in difficult circumstances; many of his most popular works were documentaries, including his breakthrough 1998 film, Megacities. Never married nor a father, he was actually made godfather to the child of one of the dancers he filmed for Whores' Glory. He will be much missed by cineastes the world over.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Not all female critics were as enamoured, but female cinemagoers definitely were. The Other Woman rallied to almost $20 million from women alone, and a $24.8 million debut in first place. It knocked three-time weekend champ Captain America: The Winter Soldier down to second, though its $16.2 million was down just 36.6% on last weekend. Other new wide releases were not nearly as successful as The Other Woman: Brick Mansions could have done a lot worse (Paul Walker's presence may have bumped its takings up), but it could have done a lot better too - the remake of District B13  opened in fifth place with $9.5 million. And The Quiet Ones was a huge disaster - $3.9 million is both the lowest opening for a film in over 2,000 theatres so far this year, and the lowest ever in as many theatres for a supernatural horror movie. Drops up top were light enough that Disneynature's Bears ascended from tenth to eighth, and Heaven is for Real nor Rio 2 fell below only one of the weekend's new films. But Transcendence was the exception here, as one might expect - $4.2 million for these three days ought to be enough to ensure that Wally Pfister's directorial debut doesn't even recoup a quarter of its budget at the domestic box office. No wonder Warner Bros. spent so little on marketing. Among new releases. In limited release, there was a decent opening for Venice Film Festival hit Locke, with over $20k per-theatre, but softer starts for Cannes screeners from last year: The German Doctor, Blue Ruin and Jeune & Jolie could none of them muster more than $7k per-theatre.

Top 10
  1. The Other Woman ($24,763,752)
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($16,219,025)
  3. Heaven is for Real ($14,351,252)
  4. Rio 2 ($13,881,457)
  5. Brick Mansions ($9,516,855)
  6. Transcendence ($4,226,339)
  7. The Quiet Ones ($3,880,053)
  8. Bears ($3,734,588)
  9. Divergent ($3,658,966)
  10. A Haunted House 2 ($3,202,679)


Matthew Barney's epic River of Fundament must be one of the most intriguing projects of 2014. It stars Ellen Burstyn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elaine Stritch and Paul Giamatti. And Salman Rushdie, Fran Lebowitz, Debbie Harry and James Toback. Natch.


David Gordon Green's Joe is low on suspense, low on atmosphere, low on technical brilliance. It marks the next step up in his ascent to the more independent-minded features of his early career, but a step down in quality from Prince Avalanche. Green directs with a fecklessness that gets in the way of all of the good notions he, his cast and his crew try to develop. His visual storytelling is lame, the images limp and perfunctory, the engendering of texture and tone in any particular instant cut short by Green's hurriedness and his callousness. Joe is a bizarre combination of moods as a film, jostling between all manner of cinematic sub-genres. That makes it rather a mess, and not an endearing or interesting one to much extent either, since this mess feels incidental, a byproduct of Green's whims and the motions of the story. Even as Green eventually amalgamates his plot threads, there's a surreal quality witnessing these characters assembled in the same space, since they have formerly existed mostly in isolation of each other, and frequently in sections of the film of highly different natures. And there's a deflating effect as the conclusion draws closer, and we become ever more aware of the machinations of this plot, and how what appeared to be quaint circumstance and randomness was actually all by design. Green has a great knack for implying a history and a future for his characters in the way he writes and directs actors, and he doesn't need figures as clearly-defined as these to make them vivid and memorable. Powerful in the immediate moment it may be, but with the romantic optimism surrounding Joe's two main roles in juxtaposition with the depravity and despair elsewhere, he winds up sensationalising and over-emphasising, something that undercuts the low-key drama and droll humour he employs. The musical score is the only single element of the film that stands out, and only because of its incessancy and its obviousness.

Monday, 28 April 2014


The Karlovy Vary Film Festival has announced three honorees set for this July's edition of the acclaimed fest. Oscar-winning director William Friedkin, famous for The French Connection and The Exorcist, will receive the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema. His much-maligned cult classic remake of The Wages of Fear, 1977's Sorcerer, will be presented in a restored version. Czech writer-director Zdenek Sverak, winner of the fest's Special Mention for his screenplay for his son's 2007 film Empties, will be given the Festival President's Award. And American production company Anonymous Content, recently behind TV's True Detective series on HBO, will be the subject of a tribute. You'll surely recognise some of the films they've had a hand in: Wild at Heart, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Babel and Winter's Bone. They'll present a selection of their most-loved productions, with Oscar-nominated founder Steve Golin and company manager Michael Sugar in attendance.


With The Avengers, Sinister Six, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Guardians of the Galaxy, it was fucking inevitable that DC were planning this. Not least for the fact that their upcoming tentpole, Batman vs. Superman features three Justice League characters, the third and non-titular one being Wonder Woman. That film's, and Man of Steel's, director Zack Snyder will direct. Expect this to be announced at Comic-Con. It definitely won't arrive until after 2016's Batman vs. Superman, so either 2017 or 2018 seems like a probable release. DC's Green Lantern movie from 2011 was a major disappointment for the studio, so bringing back Ryan Reynolds for the role doesn't look like it's gonna happen. Rumours of a The Flash movie began circulating last year, but have definitely now been put to rest. Other Justice League members include AquaMan and the Martian Manhunter. Do I care? The fuck.


I say 'dominate'. I mean there's not a single person on the official jury who isn't either an actor or a director. Some of them are both! The full list is below. It's a decent reflection of what the main competition at Cannes represents: multi-national and with a pretty even balance between arthouse and commercial.

  • Jane Campion - Palme d'Or-winning writer / director of official Cannes titles Sweetie, The Piano and Bright Star. The first female president of the jury since Isabelle Huppert in 2009. Recipient of the Best Short Film Palme d'Or in 1986 for An Exercise in Discipline - Peel. The only woman to have been bestowed the Palme in festival history.
  • Carole Bouquet - French actor and star of Cannes competition films Day of the Idiots, Too Beautiful for You and Dead Tired. Her debut role was in seven-time Cannes nominee Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire.
  • Sofia Coppola - Recipient of the Cinema Prize of the French National Education system for 2006 competition film Marie Anoinette. Contender for Un Certain Regard award in 2013 for The Bling Ring, which opened the sidebar. One of only two women to have shown in competition whose father also did - Francis Ford Coppola is one of only eight directors to have won the Palme twice.
  • Willem Dafoe - American actor whose debut role was uncredited in Michael Cimino's Palme d'Or nominated Heaven's Gate. Has since starred in Palme winner Wild at Heart and nominees Faraway, So Close! by Wim Wenders, and two of Lars von Trier's most controversial competition titles: Manderlay and Antichrist, for which his co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg won the Best Actress prize.
  • Gael Garcia Bernal - Cannes favourite whose directorial debut, Deficit, was selected for the Critics' Week lineup in 2007. Also appeared in competition award-winners The Motorcycle Diaries and Babel, fellow competition film Blindness and two more Cannes screeners: The Science of Sleep and his debut as an actor, Amores Perros.
  • Leila Hatami - Award-winning Iranian actor whose festival status was cemented upon working with Asghar Farhadi in 2011; Farhadi's The Past won a competition award at Cannes in 2013.
  • Jeon Do Yeon - One of four of this year's jurors to have won an official award. Star of 2010's The Housemaid, one of two of Im Sang Soo's films to have competed for the Palme d'Or, and 2007's Secret Sunshine, for which she won the Best Actress award.
  • Jia Zhang Ke - Favourite of festival director Thierry Fremaux. Has shown in competition at Cannes three times: 2002's Unknown Pleasures and 2008's 24 City, neither of which won an official award, and 2013's A Touch of Sin, which won Jia the Best Screenplay award from Steven Spielberg's jury.
  • Nicolas Winding Refn - Winner of the Best Director award for 2011's Drive, from Robert De Niro's jury. Also showed in 2013 with Only God Forgives.


Sifted through with a curious commercialism that lies at odds with Atom Egoyan's idiosyncratic style of direction, Devil's Knot is the work of a director who's clearly in control, but equally clearly on shaky ground. What's unclear is what he imagined he might achieve in establishing such a pedestrian quality to a most sensational true story, one almost overripe with peerless potential for adaptation into narrative cinema. As written by two horror-movie scribes, Devil's Knot is hard on the ears, and the source of that unsettling sensation that arises from scene to scene? That's Egoyan at work, the stillness of his style, the camera lens peering so slowly across immaculately-constructed tableaux, the sinister glare of Paul Sarossy's cinematography. I hand it to Atom for overseeing a film of such artistry that he's seemingly unconcerned with showing off, but it's not going to win him any fans. And when one considers the monumental mess he very nearly makes with this sensitive subject in other regards, that's definitely not a career-minded decision he made. Middle-class ennui and studies of sexual perversions are his bag, and he's incapable of depicting this rural, working-class Arkansas neighbourhood with any degree of authenticity. And a shiny, starry cast only compounds the lack of verity in Egoyan's presentation, particularly when he succumbs to the hysteria in the script - a hysteria which he is, no doubt, proficient in handling, but which these overpaid 'performers' are by no means proficient in understanding. Mireille Enos is a standout, however, and it's easy to see why she has been cast in Egoyan's next film. As the film becomes a legal thriller, the filmmaking becomes lazy and didactic, and it loses focus - the outcome pretty much predetermined, energy is transferred over to provoking outrage, which might have had a better effect were the screenplay more dedicated to deploying verifiable fact (which is, in reality, in abundance). There remains a great deal of good in Egoyan's take on this well-told tale, but it competes for our attention with an equal deal of sheer dreck.


Mike Myers has been involved in so many awful films in his career, it's surprising to note that other people directed all of them! This documentary biopic, Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, premiered at TIFF last September, but won't get around to screening in public cinemas until the 6th of June in the US.


Theatre director Michael Grandage's Genius has a new lead actor in Jude Law. He replaces Michael Fassbender as literary icon Thomas Wolfe, opposite Colin Firth as Max Perkins, famous book editor. Nicole Kidman also stars in the film, her second recent collaboration with Firth after The Railway Man, which has been adapted for the screen by The Aviator's John Logan.

Saturday, 26 April 2014


Tracks is an expedition into territory far better-traversed than the desert of Western Australia, and possibly not a well-advised one. But what little inspiration its talent behind the camera might muster in you, what's in front of the camera is unfailingly bewitching. Prosaic and unambitious this project may be - thus contrasting sharply with Robyn Davidson's personal project to walk across half a continent unaccompanied - but it's a dependable source of beauty, a postcard from the prettier side of the cinema, with postcard visuals courtesy of the medium's queen of the outback, Mandy Walker. There's no point in pondering, anyway, what might have been achieved had a more esoteric, and no less aesthetically-pleasing, path been taken, one that provided us with more insight into Robyn's psyche, since that's not what we've got. This is likely a film destined to reach an audience quite capable of discerning what has driven Davidson to undertake this most perilous pursuit anyway, and the film is benevolent enough in exploring her motivations. We are afforded glimpses of the modernities she has rejected in search of solitude, countered also with a slight sense of disdain for a soul so self-centered that she seeks to achieve some kind of superiority over her situation, and conquer the tribulations she encounters. It's woman vs. nature in a roundabout way. Marion Nelson's screenplay only indulges in brief suggestions as to Robyn's mentality, sparingly placed through Tracks like the water cans along her desert route. Their infrequency makes them sweeter to savour, that is, until John Curran's film reverts back to more primal concerns. That's probably the wisest route for him, again contrasting with his protagonist, though it's undeniable that it is Robyn's physical, not her emotional, predicament that takes the greatest toll on both her body and her mind, in the end. And in chronicling her journey, Tracks is no contrast at all - it's a filmed version of her written account through and through, NatGeo in narrative form, admirable, respectable, and a sight for sore eyes if ever there was one.

Friday, 25 April 2014


It must feel great for those involved in the lengthy production of this film to finally see it released. Boyhood is the latest excuse for American critics to gush over Richard Linklater and everything he puts to the screen. Whether or not Linklater may make this kind of movie better than anyone else, I can't see any compelling reason to see this other than its uniquely authentic depiction of time, and certainly no reason to enthuse about it as so many critics have done since seeing it. But then, maybe I won't be able to see another reason until I actually see the film. At least my hopes aren't high. Out in both the UK and the US on the 11th of July.


Israeli comedy Zero Motivation has won two major prizes from the Tribeca Film Festival, including the top award for narrative features. The film, which is directed by Talya Lavie and is set in the human resources office on a desert army base, also won the female-centric Nora Ephron Prize. Two-time Oscar nominee Marshall Curry's Libyan revolution documentary Point and Shoot won the fest's highest honour for documentaries. A full list of the awards below:

The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature
Zero Motivation (Talya Lavie)

Special Jury Mention
The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (Guillaume Nicloux)

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film
Paul Schneider (Goodbye to All That)

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film
Valeria Bruni Tedesci (Human Capital)

Best Screenplay
Guillaume Nicloux (The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq)

Best Cinematography
Damian Garcia (Gueros)

Best Narrative Editing
Keith Miller (Five Star)

After the cut, details on the awards in all other categories.


The story that strays only where it's designed to. Nothing happens by circumstance in Hany Abu-Assad's exploitative thriller, which has a plot that circles around itself before completing the loop and securing everything inside. It goes nowhere, and goes there pretty leisurely too; Abu-Assad siphons off scene after scene to develop prosaic relationships, brought to death by insipid acting and a tone-deaf script. Smart little action sequences interject, shot with the same earnestness that spoils the film's drama but is transformed into clarity as soon as people shut their mouths and run off their feet. If his mise-en-scene might be a bit too exact for a film such as this, one that demands more grit, it's at least evidence of artistry and thoughtfulness in a film lacking in both. Abu-Assad looks to our hearts to respond to Omar's repetitive plot, which becomes less successful as those repetitions increase - at first, he evokes the requisite outrage at his protagonist's plight, though with precious little subtlety. He becomes less sympathetic as he makes one questionable decision after another; Omar is by no means alone in this regard, since Abu-Assad seems to have fashioned his plot in such a way that necessitates his characters to display nothing but idiocy from first to last. And he treats his audience in a similar manner, driving home every point, lingering on a moment to ensure that we've missed nothing, lest his actors' wooden performances have omitted anything (not likely, given the simplicity of the setup). Perhaps more offensive is the treatment of the current Palestinian situation, from its fundamental aims (cheapened and betrayed) to the complexities in the nation's struggle with Israel that have developed over the years (ignored). Yet Omar is so reliant on this struggle to propel it forward. Maybe that's why it doesn't go forward at all - it just goes nowhere.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


No wonder online buzz for Godzilla is so strong - all the promotional material for Gareth Edwards' film has been fucking brilliant. This poster continues the trend started by a series of excellent trailers. That online buzz might not translate into equally high grosses, but as long as the film is as good as it looks, expect this to do Rise of the Planet of the Apes numbers, instead of Pacific Rim numbers.


When they decided to split the Hobbit movie into two, it made sense to subtitle the films 'An Unexpected Journey' and 'There and Back Again', since both are derived directly from J.R.R. Tolkein's book. When they decided to split those two into three (a decision which, itself, didn't make much sense to me), it made sense to make up a subtitle for one of those three, though I was never a fan of 'The Desolation of Smaug'. But now, according to Peter Jackson, 'There and Back Again' doesn't make sense any more for the final Hobbit installment, and it has therefore been retitled 'The Battle of the Five Armies'. Jackson claims that 'There and Back Again' didn't fit any longer, since Bilbo has already arrived 'there', being that big mountain where the dragon lives in The Desolation of Smaug. I claim (more accurately, since I'm not a studio-funded sycophant desperate to wring more money out of this franchise than it's worth) that it's because The Battle of the Five Armies sounds like the kind of film dumbass fanboy LOTR obsessives, and their even dumber cousins - the general moviegoing public - want to see, whereas 'There and Back Again' sounds more like the kind of thing that might show at a film festival. Remember when Peter Jackson was the kind of director who could rub shoulders with festival favourites? He was lost along with Jackson's spare tyre...


It takes a good two thirds of A Promise's runtime to actually get to the titular vow. It's a problem with pacing and structure that blights Patrice Leconte's airless film, stolid rather than stately. Leconte has no feel for the passing of time, relying on direction through dialogue to inform us of when we are situated, and often later in proceedings than we may require. It's not enough to allow years to pass and then explain how nothing has changed - you need to show how, and why, M. Leconte. The problem also extends to Leconte and Jerome Tonnerre's treatment of Stefan Zweig's novel. Insistent on detailing every major progression in Zweig's story, they sacrifice emotional depth for breadth, content to languish in the importance of a particular character or subplot one minute, then jettison it the next. They could have jettisoned much of the expository plot, extraneous to the film's core romantic thread, which is miscalculated entirely by Leconte, and feebly acted on the part of Richard Madden, deservedly stalling in his leading debut. One can identify several moments, each further into the film than the last, where this film's story could have begun. But the faithfulness to Zweig's narrative blueprint is unyielding, and also deprives A Promise of much individual character, or sense of style. What stylistic mannerisms Leconte employs thus feel curiously conflicting with the film's classical deportment - a penchant for minute reframing, an inexplicable use of zoom feels like a modern gimmick, and an especially ugly one too. There seems to have been some confusion in the filmmakers' minds regarding where and how to modernise this tale. Yet technical work is grand and graceful - Eduardo Serra lights Ivan Maussion's meticulously-designed sets in gloriously luminescent tones, and Pascaline Chavanne's costumes are pleasingly period-appropriate before attending to contemporary notions of style and sexiness. Gabriel Yared's luscious score, the most successful element of the film in evoking an air of repressed passion, is used as a crutch, though that's not to the film's detriment, even as it flags up the inadequacy of Leconte's staid approach to dated material.


A good story becomes great in the telling. Which is why so few great books make great films. It's not a viable move for a director to let their source do the heavy lifting once it hits the screen, since now one's imagination must be constricted to what these specific sounds and images are expressing, and, worse still, now we can compare back to the book. John Banville nixes the fluidity of his novel's narrative structure for a more stringent sense of linearity, by and large, positioning The Sea strictly as a story of the now, and how the past can haunt it, or devastate it, when mishandled. After all, the past was once the now, and the now will forever more be the past. A shame, since the sequences he styles as flashbacks are more compelling than the contemporary ones - there's meat on their bones, which Banville and director Stephen Brown cannot ignore, whereas portions of the film set more recently must strive for atmosphere that Brown isn't quite competent at composing. They rely on these extended flashbacks, in that sense, but are also necessary themselves in fashioning a purpose for their antecedents. What does work in the otherwise pat modern-set scenes are those driven by Sinead Cusack's tart yet graceful performance as the wife of Ciaran Hinds' art writer, who could have been defined even more sharply as a selfish, embittered soul, were his director not a bit too cautious to court more emotional complexity. In, by nature, having to jettison much of the novel's detail, The Sea falls foul to the same melodramatic simplification that so many adaptations do, and becomes coffee-table cinema, handsomely mounted but hollow, which is a deep disappointment. And that's not compared to the book (I haven't read it, gosh, imagine!): that's compared to itself. The burnished-hued flashbacks are powerful purely for being a good story, with a potent allegory that Brown is thankfully more restrained in hammering home than he is with his other narrative material. Thus, just as a good story becomes great in the telling, so too does this one become mediocre.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


December 2013! Y'all missed it! No, Foxcatcher will finally reach American theatres on the 14th of November, having been postponed from last year's crowded awards season. A Cannes competition boost definitely won't hurt it, as long as Bennett Miller's film is well-received by critics. Expect this release to be limited, with an expansion surely planned by Sony if the film picks up heat. With a cast including Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave, I wouldn't be surprised if it did.


For the third year running, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan are set to return as producers for the Academy Awards. Ratings were high for the risible Seth MacFarlane / Argo show in 2013, and even higher for the comparatively brilliant Ellen DeGeneres / 12 Years a Slave show not even two months ago (was it really that recent?!). They seemed to learn a few lessons in that interim, so hopefully they're learning a few more this time around, like not to let their host ramble on for days on end handing out pizzas.


Remember that glorious extended trailer for The Wind Rises? It rather seems like the Japanese have a taste for those such previews for their animated films, as here's one for Takahata Isao's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. I suppose the previous title The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter wasn't quite as marketable, nor as apt, nor as accurate a translation of the Japanese title. Fair enough. Another lovely, much briefer trailer for the film below, and, after the cut, some stills. I posted the teaser trailer for this last year, and named it my favourite trailer of 2013. This was added to the Cannes lineup earlier this week, to show in the festival's Directors' Fortnight sidebar, but English-speaking regions ought not to expect a theatrical release any day soon.


Acclaim aplenty for Sebasiten Pilote's The Auction (Le Demantelement) since it premiered in the Critics' Week section of Cannes last May. It won the SACD award at Cannes, and lead Gabriel Arcand went on to win a Genie award for his performance in the Quebecois drama. Since I'm eager to see it, I'm sure I'll post info of British and American release dates as soon as I can find them.

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)

Alleluia (Fabrice du Welz)
Catch Me Daddy (Daniel Wolfe)
Cold in July (Jim Mickle)
Eat Your Bones (Jean-Charles Hue)
Fighters (Thomas Cailley)
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 the 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.

Sunday, 20 April 2014


I was rather transfixed by the end of this short look at Mais Darwazah's semi-biographical doc, which showed last year at TIFF. A hybrid of documentary and experimental art piece, it's said to be as much a portrait of Palestine as of the works of artist Hasan Hourani, whose works serve as the inspiration for much of Darwazah's ambitions in this admittedly intriguing film. I look forward to seeing it.


Winner of the Audience Award at Locarno last year, Louise Archambault's drama about the struggles of a woman with Williams syndrome to live an independent life was on of the Quebecois hits of 2013. It has made many festival screenings since Locarno, including AFI Fest, but has only received mainland European theatrical releases to date. Hopefully, with an Australian release on the way, dates will soon be set for the UK and the US, because it looks rather deserving of that Audience Award, among the many others it has won.


The unthinkable (or unknowable?) has happened. Errol Morris has made a boring movie. And it's sort of not his fault. Who would have imagined that a series of interviews, conducted by one of the cinema's most incisive documentarians on one of world politics' most influential - and abhorrent, from certain perspectives - figures would be so unenlightening? The image is one of steely greys, a polished sight not of humble, austere truth and fact, but of the facade of that. It's too preened to be believed, literally, and so too is Donald Rumsfeld. His is a performance for the ages, so meticulously constructed is it, yet its impact is negated by that very thing - it's so meticulously constructed, it's obviously a lie. The Unknown Known is like watching a man on a screen tell you what he wants to tell you for 100 minutes, and believing none of it. In fact, that's entirely what it is. It'd be a fascinating reversal of fortune to see Rumsfeld hoodwink a man so astute and so knowledgeable as Morris, were it not for how little Morris seems to care. He presents Rumsfeld's sycophantic pontifications as reality, since they're largely the version of reality we have been fed over the decades, and treats his self-satisfied droning over history as sensational, groundbreaking testimony, when it's mostly just confirmation of what we already know. The film's most persuasive emotional pangs come as Morris turns to footage of Rumsfeld while in office in the Bush administration, addressing the press with an arsenal of callous hyperbole and terrifying ignorance that many of us had even identified then. Time has verified the truth, but has seemingly forgotten his lies. Rumsfeld sees the failure of Barack Obama to reverse many of Bush's most repulsive legislations as an endorsement of their potency. We see it as an endorsement of the everlasting power of evil. Did Morris not probe further on these matters? Or was Rumsfeld as calculatingly cold on them as he is on the few similarly difficult issues that he is faced with here? When he claims to not know even why he's taking part in this film, he lies again. And all generalisations are false.


It's not really a matter of what has been deprived of us, and what we have been offered as replacement. In every film, there will be elements of constancy, details which make only the most minute changes, if any over its duration. In Locke, it would appear that Steven Knight has reduced his thriller conceit to the plainest, simplest, most minimalist form possible, yet it's not a matter of what he has done to fill in the gaps left by what he has stripped back, since there are no gaps. The physical space remains unaltered, and so too does the one actor whose face we are granted sight of, but the film is by no means spare nor lacking for interest. Knight posits this as the natural setting for his narrative, and so it is; from here, he is able to orchestrate the machinations of his mind as normal. We have evolved into a digital species, as wired to one another as to the wires within these electronic contraptions - the telephone is the secondary character here, or the conduit for a range of other characters. Knight's man-with-a-plan may be conventionally 'flawed', but it's testament to his intelligence as a writer that we do genuinely empathise with these disembodied voices as much as Locke himself. The plot he constructs is dependent on our empathy, since there's little of it actually there; essentially, this is the story of a particularly stressful car journey, since the dramatic banality (relative to one's expectations, or to the atmosphere of tension Knight skillfully mounts) hasn't much of the quality of real, concrete narrative. One might wish, then, that the film had continued past its abrupt conclusion, since too much effort has been invested in becoming acquainted with Locke to just let him drive away, in the end. That natural setting was one of confusion, and in acquiring something approaching clarity, it only leaves you craving more. Instead, we're offered artificial resolution as replacement.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


This sure has been a long time coming. I'm wondering how much faith Warner Bros. has in Clint's latest - it's a departure for him, moving into the musical genre, but an even bigger departure for the musical genre, one with a very spotty track record at the box office in recent years. This first trailer yet hits just over two months prior to release, for an R-rated musical, no less. Add in Tom Stern's gloomy cinematography, the lack of big names in the cast and the absence of detail regarding upcoming international releases (both British and American screens will receive the film on the 20th of June), and this is a tough one to call. Still, I'm glad Warner have allowed their stalwart Clint to make this movie his way. John Logan worked on the screenplay alongside former Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice, who adapted their musical book.


This looks like a rather more mature nature documentary than any of that Disneynature shite. Case in point: for such a niche product, it boasts exceptional sound design talents such as Erik Aadahl and Ethan van der Ryn. A modest hit at TIFF last year, it has yet to secure distribution.


Justin Kurzel's Snowtown caught the attention of critics and cinephiles the world over a few years back, even if the response was closer to that of a cult film than an instant classic. His film of Shakespeare's Macbeth is on its way next year, and it stars the promising pairing of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard (has anyone ever been so perfectly cast as Marion as Lady Macbeth?!). I doubt I'm the only one looking forward to this.


You can't keep Marion Cotillard away from Cannes, it seems: as it stands, this will be her fifth film to screen at the festival in four years. The same could be said for the Dardennes, with Two Days, One Night being their sixth film in competition there. They've never come home empty-handed either, with a record-equalling two Palme d'Ors, a Grand Prix, a Best Screenplay award and an Ecumenical Jury Special Mention. Could they set the record outright with this, the story of a woman who is forced to convince her colleagues to refuse their bonuses if she is to save herself from redundancy. A British and Irish release will follow its Cannes competition screening on the 22nd of August; no US release has been determined at present.


According to IMDb, the only release date set for Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher atm is on the 19th of February 2015 in the Netherlands. That close enough for y'all? Even closer, though, is Cannes next month, where this will be Miller's first film in competition at the festival. It's only Miller's fourth film, and only his third narrative film, with the other two both having been nominated for Best Picture Oscars: Capote and Moneyball. SPC are being ballsy with this, then, with Cannes competition and awards season both on the cards, and for a film they postponed from last year! They were being ballsy then too, though, or so it seemed, having planned to largely bypass the festival circuit, a vital part of any Best Picture winners trajectory for the last nine years. This trailer gives off almost a horror vibe, which I love. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller and, most promisingly, Vanessa fucking Redgrave star.


Amid the months-long confusion regarding what Steven Spielberg's post-Lincoln project will be, he's added another film to his upcoming schedule. His Lincoln and Munich scribe, Tony Kushner, is writing the screenplay for The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, from a non-fiction book by David Kertzer, about a jewish boy kidnapped by the Vatican and raised as a catholic in the mid-1800s. Most likely, this won't be filmed until after his most probable next film, the much-delayed Robopocalypse, which sounds like it could hardly be any different. Also on Spielberg's radar is a film from writer Steven Zaillian, who penned Spielberg's Schindler's List - Montezuma, another historical drama.


Always interested in a new film from Atom Egoyan, but after the terrible response to last year's Devil's Knot, I'm not so sure about Captives. It definitely looks like recent-era Egoyan, rather than a return to his '90s esotericism, which would likely have satisfied more cinephiles. Something akin to Where the Truth Lies wouldn't go unappreciated by me, though. One bright spot: it's among the Cannes competition selections next month.


Since David Michod's The Rover was officially announced as among the 2014 Cannes selections, A24 has been making a pretty big noise about the fact. It won't be in competition, though. This is the second trailer for the dystopian thriller (the first is here) and I posted character posters for the film earlier today.