Tuesday, 30 September 2014


Alongside a world premiere of his new film As the Gods Will, insanely-prolific (and, frankly, insane) Japanese director Miike Takashi will receive a major honour from the Rome Film Festival. He'll be feted as their 2014 Maverick Director, an honour he undoubtedly deserves. The fest runs from the 16th to the 25th of October.


About to receive a (quiet) world premiere at LFF before an awards a BAFTA-qualifying run, Susanne Bier's much-delayed and reportedly poor period romance Serena has a poster. And there it is.


It all depends on whom you believe. Do you believe the studio? Didn't Paramount discourage you from doing that three months ago? Warner Bros. would have you believe that Jupiter Ascending was postponed mere weeks ahead of its planned July 2014 release to a February 2015 release due to the need to finish some visual effects work. Others believe that the film wasn't good enough to compete in the blockbuster-heavy summer season, and would be less of a disappointment to a struggling WB in the lighter late winter slot. Tentpoles (and aspiring ones) are becoming spread more evenly through the year these days, but it remains obvious whom to believe: not Warner Bros. A poor first trailer led to a decent second one, but this third one reminds me of why this is set to flop.


The best thing about the trailer for Inherent Vice - the first one, that is, after months of anticipation - is that no matter how good or bad the actual movie turns out to be, we'll still have the trailer. It's a whole lot of fun. Paul Thomas Anderson returns to the 1970s with the Thomas Pynchon adaptation, out in North America on the 12th of December and in the UK on the 30th of January. A NYFF centrepiece gala premiere is coming up later this week!

Monday, 29 September 2014


American indie mainstay Hal Hartley returns with Ned Rifle, following on from Henry Fool and Fay Grim. The typically offbeat comedy has an appealing cast, including Liam Aiken and Aubrey Plaza, though no release dates as yet. It premiered at TIFF 2014 to fair responses overall.


Paul Bettany makes his directorial debut with Shelter, a drama about two homeless people played by Anthony Mackie and Bettany's spouse Jennifer Connelly. The film screened at TIFF, but has yet to receive any international release dates. Don't expect it to show up in the 2014 awards race, or even the 2015 one for that matter...

More images after the cut:


The premise for Susanne Bier's A Second Chance certainly sounds good, but the reviews out of TIFF suggest that that might be as far as the goodness goes. Sadly, I'd expect little more from Bier. Funny to see Nikolaj Coster-Waldau suddenly having major lead roles in films like this, leaving his countrymen behind in the supporting roles he once shared with them, if even. This is also one of many films set to screen at LFF.


This is the official US trailer for Xavier Dolan's Mommy. Not only has the critically-acclaimed Cannes award-winner been selected as Canada's official submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film, it's also being rumoured to be making a presence in main categories too, where it ought to stand a decent chance at picking up a few nominations. Roadside Attractions has picked the film up for a reported January 2015 bow, meaning a quick December Oscar-qualifying run is likely. Following a great response at Cannes, the film's festival creds have been terrific through the year, with showings at Telluride, San Sebastian and London.


The Hamptons Film Festival runs between the 9th and the 13th of October. In addition to the previously-announced centrepiece of The Homesman, several new high profile features have been added to the lineup. Details below:

  • The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones) - centrepiece film
  • St. Vincent (Theodore Melfi) - opening film
  • Still Alice (Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland) - closing film

Spotlight Films
  • Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
  • Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)
  • Elephant Song (Charles Biname)
  • The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)
  • Laggies (Lynn Shelton)
  • The Last Five Years (Richard LaGravenese)
  • Learning to Drive (Isabel Coixet)
  • Madame Bovary (Sophie Barthes)
  • Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)
  • Song One (Kate Barker-Froyland)
  • Time Out of Mind (Oren Moverman)
  • Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)


Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children is being hastily released in the US following its underwhelming TIFF bow. Critical responses have ranged from average to awful, so no-one's expecting this to be Reitman's return to form with audiences and awards. The film is also appearing at LFF next month, before a UK release on the 28th of November; it opens Stateside on Wednesday, the 1st of October, before a proposed nationwide expansion later in the month.


I was already sold on Interstellar before I saw these posters. Heck, there were enough posters and trailers already to sell the film to the entire fucking universe, but these three have proper done it for me. Not every day that a poster can stoke one's interest in a film, but how about three of them? That'll do the trick. Out on the 7th of November in the US and the UK.


A couple of teaser clips, both in Italian, from Franco Maresco's Belluscone, una Storia Siciliana. The Venice Horizons selection was something of a niche product at the festival, and looks to be an intriguing film indeed.


After a healthy reaction from Toronto critics, Paramount has acquired Chris Rock's Top Five and has set it for a 5th of December limited release, to be followed by a wide release the weekend after. That's a ballsy play from the studio, which has three major awards players coming up, none of which have been seen. Good receipts are evidently expected from arthouse audiences on the first weekend, buoyed by strong reviews, and an equally lucrative performance from general audiences.

Sunday, 28 September 2014


After the disappointment of Why Don't You Play in Hell?I was hoping that Sono Sion might get back on course with something a little, I guess, pared-back? K sure. Never mind, since Tokyo Tribe looks like a lot of fun, and Sono's bedazzling mise-en-scene looks a real treat from the above trailer. The hip-hop opera (and I genuinely mean that, cos that's actually what it is) doesn't yet have a release date anywhere in the world, though it came out at the end of August in its native Japan, and is in the middle of enjoying a lengthy festival run, with high profile stop-offs including Toronto and, coming up next month, London.


I'm intrigued by the synopsis of Gus van Sant's The Sea of Treeswhich features Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe lost in a Japanese forest and searching for a way out. We could be working along Gerry lines here, only with a screenplay from thriller-writer Chris Sparling, who wrote Buried, which doesn't sound like too dissimilar a project, in fact. The very pretty-looking cinematography is from Kasper Tuxen - not a well-known name by any means, but I already know he's a talented DP, having seen Hateship LoveshipPart of the reason this project so intrigues me is the fact that Naomi Watts is in it, alas. With such a polished image available already for a film without a release date, I'm expecting either a Berlin or a Cannes bow for this next year.


Did somebody say Elle Fanning? And Glenn Close? And Peter Dinklage (I saw him again the other day, on my birthday and all, yanno just living the high life up in here)? And - hold on while I adjust myself - Caleb Landry Jones? Fuck the just-ok reviews, Jeff Preiss' Low Down has won awards from Karlovy Vary (for Fanning's acting) and Sundance (for Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography) alike. It receives a limited release in the US on the 24th of October, and you should all go see it.


So Gone Girl's supposed to be rly gd, I hear. But y'all didn't need me to tell you that. Did you even need the critics to? No, y'all knew it, just like I did. Out like rly rly soon like everywhere. A couple of posters before the jump, and a couple after!


Honorees at the 2015 BAFTA L.A. Brittania awards have been announced to the public. The ceremony will take place on the 30th of October and will bestow the following prizes on these esteemed film professionals: the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment will go to Judi Dench, the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year will go to Emma Watson, the Britannia Humanitarian Award will go to Mark Ruffalo, the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for Excellence in Directing will go to Mike Leigh and the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film will go to Robert Downey Jr.


Who knows? Maybe there'll be enough material in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 to justify splitting the final book in the series into two films. Artistically, that is. Financially, there's probably enough material in each chapter for two films. The biggest film of 2014 is released in both North America and the British Isles on the 21st of November.


The Equaliser is a nasty thriller that has no comprehension of how nasty it is. Indeed, Antoine Fuqua works from Richard Wenk's screenplay as though it were a guidebook on how to be a good American - the result is the very definition of brutish jingoism, dollied up in the guise of a righteous morality tale. Audiences will buy anything with Denzel Washington in the lead. The most callous of all of The Equaliser's flaws is its hypocritical insistence on the nature of a good man, supposedly being one who defends the interests of those close to him at all costs. Washington's former Black Ops officer sees wrong and rights it with a great many more wrongs, defending himself and the simpering souls with whom he associates with vengeance so violent and so remorseless it surely cannot be accepted in earnest. The Equaliser is a film that celebrates pointless, gratuitous viciousness. Supporting characters are largely either thugs or imbeciles, and all stereotypes; Wenk's script situates them here to complete the picture - they fit the mould demanded by the genre's regulations - but has no novel, nor intelligent, nor even expected use for them. They're pallid, pathetic decoration, dissolving in the face of the monolithic barbarity being hard-peddled at the movie's rotten core. By and large, it is a catalogue of horrible violence, the whole film composed in crescendo toward the next episode of bloodletting, those episodes relished with an adrenaline-pumping glee. Again, in earnest, this is hard to stomach, a bit like snuff porn only without any nudity. Washington plays off his charisma alone, choosing to take the easy road rather than develop his role any further than the character description states. Marton Csokas' portrayal of his antagonist is such a calamitous misfire that one wonders who's the greater monster: Csokas or his character?

Saturday, 27 September 2014


The young adult mini-genre receives a shot in the arm with an impressive debut for The Maze Runner. It leads three new wide releases opening at the top of the box office, meaning we've just had two consecutive weekends with openers making over $20 million in September. Star power, however, takes a hit, as two actor-driven projects open below $15 million.

1. The Maze Runner ($32,512,804)
Drawing upon an inbuilt fanbase isn't enough for YA adaptations, but The Maze Runner builds further upon that with a marketing campaign that targets male audiences (49% of the crowd was male) and, well, with good reviews. It had no hope of reaching The Hunger Games levels, nor even Divergentbut this is well above many similar films in the genre.

2. A Walk Among the Tombstones ($12,758,780)
A hard-fought second place start for the Liam Neeson crime thriller. One would expect more from Neeson, given his brand, but A Walk is far from the sort of film that will naturally draw in viewers. Scott Frank's film was always going to have a tough time at making much money, but a narrow victory over This Is Where I Leave You in third and tough competition arising in the coming weeks do not bode well for the film's long-term prospects.

3. This Is Where I Leave You ($11,558,149)
A third book adaptation to chalk up a Top 3 slot. A star-studded cast headed by Jason Bateman and Tina Fey wasn't enough to drive grosses for Warner Bros.' festival film high enough to turn around the studio's fortunes for the year so far. Poor reviews were the death knell for Shawn Levy's comedy-drama.

4. No Good Deed ($9,794,188)
5. Dolphin Tale 2 ($8,868,076)
6. Guardians of the Galaxy ($5,242,268)
7. Let's Be Cops ($2,706,037)
8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($2,650,345)
9. The Drop ($2,070,660)
10. If I Stay ($1,842,342)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


The unpredictability of life in the Wild West, reflected in the unpredictability of Tommy Lee Jones' Western, The Homesman. It's a strange and silly (though not to say it's no good) case of art imitating life, rather than representing it. That's all very well when said life is actually lifelike - The Homesman is altogether too bizarre at its core to deal in anything approaching realism, and so we have an alternative vision of life, imitated, then smoothed over with a facade of conventionality. The film is an instant curio - in immediate retrospect, it's easy to recall Jones' daring and his appreciation of beauty and poetry with admiration, and equally easy to recall the twists and turns of the film's plot and its tone alike with befuddlement. There's little discernibly representative of reality in Jones' penchant for slapstick, perhaps more in a few flashes of horror here and there; it's the brutal jolting between these touches that best gives the viewer an impression of the ruthlessness of these characters' existences. If it's possible to respect a filmmaker's lack of care in the comfort of his audience, Jones doesn't exactly foster that respect, neglecting to replace that care with much else. The Homesman's shallow commercial sheen provides sustenance only for as long as the film lasts. One acknowledges Jones' good intentions, including the reverence with which he draws upon genre inspiration, but these alone do not a good movie make. They do make for compelling viewing, however, and have reaped notable rewards: an evocative score from Marco Beltrami, crisp cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto, whose creative restraint is peculiarly welcome, and committed performances from a talented cast enliven the film considerably.


Them hunger games never prepared little Josh Hutcherson and his big square face for this! Peeta finds himself unwittingly associated with none other than Pablo Escobar in actor Andrea di Stefano's '80s-set thriller, Escobar: Paradise Lost, which premiered earlier this month at TIFF. Out in the US on the 26th of November.


This clip from Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent doesn't rly cover any new ground after the trailer. TWC is distributing the comedy, which they wrangled into featuring among the TIFF People's Choice list, one of two films they lobbied into that top three. Out in the US on the 17th of October and in the UK on the 5th of December.


Lo! Behold! Ben Barnes might not be much of an actor, but he might well be much of a singer to compensate! And that'll do me rightly, in country music drama Jackie & Ryan, which also stars Katherine Heigl. After a surprisingly complimentary reaction to Ami Canaan Mann's film at the Venice Film Festival, the film hasn't yet found any international distributors willing to commit it to a release date, but that's hopefully in the pipeline.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Would that the powers that be could realise what a talent Lone Scherfig is. The power and the potency of her direction is detectable only upon closest examination, the layers of gloss she allows to form over her technique just commercial window-dressing. She lends each scene a distinct sense of place and, crucially, of urgency, but refuses to allow her touch to be as keenly tangible. Projects like The Riot Club, Laura Wade's toothless adaptation of her play, are beneath her. Wade's screenplay is pretty basic, establishing its hollow theme of the contemporary class system in simplistic soundbites, and swiftly abandoning it in pursuit of fruitless examinations of its individual characters. What intellectual value and what relevance the film has in its central stretch is largely lost as the film draws to a close, feebly reiterating points made earlier, most unsatisfactorily tying off would-be plot threads. With nowhere left to go, The Riot Club peters out, already seemingly finished with serving as social allegory, and now more occupied with itself than the world beyond its runtime. There are plentiful scenes, however, of quiet inspiration, all of them disguised as standard conventionality by Scherfig, subversively clandestine in her approach. See how she engages you in scenes that may have seemed questionably rote on paper, yet bristle with a tense energy in her hands - how smart to encode subtext as principal text. Note how she draws attention to the significance of the film's thematic content in relation to the history and the future of the culture it references, rather than the immediate present. And wince, squirm or revel in how she indicts us all in the moral toxicity of these characters' behaviour; then try not to feel too deflated as the film offers us straightforward exit strategies, get-out-of-jail-free clauses. Would that she could have been afforded an opportunity to let the sting of this film's strongest stretches linger on.

Monday, 22 September 2014


Marvel is reportedly distancing itself from upcoming animated film Big Hero 6, which will leave Disney to shoulder the burden of marketing it on their name alone. Not that that'll be particularly difficult for them. Though don't expect Frozen-style numbers from this, since it's clearly being aimed toward fans of Disney's recent Wreck-It Ralph. Out on the 7th of November in North America, and then, in a typically long wait for animated films in this corner of the globe, on the 30th of January in the UK.


I know it's good that the industry is gradually learning to make films for demographics outside of the usual, teenagers and young adults, but do they rly have to be as inane as this looks? Is there anything even remotely surprising in the trailer for Michael Radford's Elsa & Fred? Actually, yes, there is: George Segal's still alive. The film is looking at a 6th of November release in the US.


Just a quick look at Tony Ayres' thriller, Cut Snake, which has enjoyed a small festival berth recently. The thriller ought to have decent potential for fair international expansion beyond its native Australia.


The Brits shouldn't rly be in Scotland, and their soldiers shouldn't rly ever have been in Northern Ireland. #justsayin


Woody Allen's latest film opens on stage. Would that that were actually true - his 'style' has 'evolved' into something so absurdly theatrical that it has no place on a screen. The problems with this exaggerated artificiality in Magic in the Moonlight aren't confined to the dialogue, they're in Allen's directing too. He favours long shots of actors all facing the camera, (a number of prominently featured locations are only ever viewed from one position) apparently loathe to resort to a standard shot / reverse-shot format - even these are handled poorly when featured; this is an atrociously edited film. One hopes at least for technical competency from someone with so much filmmaking experience, not least because the action being depicted is frequently questionable in nature and execrable in execution. Allen's scenario obliges a cast of accomplished performers to wither in the background as pathetic comic relief, gifted the occasional line for our amusement and their humiliation. The leads are lavished an unfortunate degree of attention, their nauseating repartee defined by deception and downright offense, and that's more directed toward us than each other. Allen's toying with nostalgia - something he achieves with some success in his period recreation, though one could attribute that to the ease with which this is possible. But is there truly any genuine nostalgia for plots like this any more, where the crusty old fart belittles the unattainable object of his lasciviousness into falling in love with him? It's a rotten set-up, which Allen drags out reprehensibly; the film is stripped of all tension and drama as it unfolds, one wordy, inconsequential scene following another. It's also blighted with continuity mistakes and narrative inconsistencies. Magic is, however, blessed with beautiful visual design (Darius Khondji's cinematography is particularly pleasant), and the irreplaceable Eileen Atkins, who has the distinction, predictably, of being the only cast member to be able to make Allen's laboured dialogue sound as natural as he intends.

Sunday, 21 September 2014


Another multiple festival selection, Daniel Barber's Western The Keeping Room debuts a clip online, with actors Brit Marling, Muna Otaru and Hailee Steinfeld. The film has received acclaim for its depiction of a female perspective on the Western genre, though reviews overall from TIFF have been mixed.


Here's the first trailer for Edenthe TIFF hit that's also got NYFF and LFF on its schedule next month. Mia Hansen-Love's new film is said to be very good, but only has a French release date on its upcoming slate.

Saturday, 20 September 2014


A nice long trailer for Andrei Konchalovsky's The Postman's White Nights, which won an award for Konchalovsky at Venice and looks rly good. If it's just this trailer only extended, I think I'll like it.


Mike Binder's Black and White didn't exactly receive the best reviews following its world premiere at Toronto, and hasn't received any theatrical release dates worldwide so far. The drama stars Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer, and this is its first trailer.


Although the overall critical reception for Abel Ferrara's Pasolini at the festivals so far has been somewhat mixed, the film remains a highly-anticipated product by audiences willing to see Ferrara and star Willem Dafoe's take on Pier Paolo Pasolini's last few days alive. Here's a trailer for the film, which as yet only has an Italian release on the cards, as well as extensive continuing festival coverage: it has San Sebastian, NYFF and LFF on the way.


A first look at Still Alice, which earned rave reviews for Julianne Moore at TIFF in what's shaping up to be a terrific year for the actor. She's being touted as an Oscar contender for her role in Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's film, which has a reported US release coming up later this year.


Nina Hoss and Christian Petzold's latest drama, Phoenix, debuts footage online in this German-language (and non-subtitled, alas) trailer. Ahead of another festival booking at LFF, the film's TIFF premiere generated enormously positive reviews from critics. Oddly, Germany has declined to enter the film as its official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this coming year, despite its eligibility.


Ew ew ew ew ew. There are many reasons why I'll be first in line to see Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz's Goodnight Mommy, which recently screened at both Venice and Toronto festivals. But there's just one reason why I'll be watching it through my fingers. It's alluded to in the above trailer, and in the exclusive clip only to be found at TwitchFilm, it's explicated most effectively. Ew ew ew ew ew.


One of a number of potential big-hitters for the 2014 awards season to be held off by its studio until after the festival season, Tim Burton's Big Eyes is being touted as the popular director's best shot at Oscar glory yet. The true story of artist Margaret Keane and how she was forced to relinquish her claim to her painting to her husband stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, and is being released by The Weinstein Company in the US on Christmas Day.


Nymphomaniac was, in its abridged form, a triumph for Lars von Trier! Part two of his full-length director's cut has screened at Venice, and now a few clips have surfaced online. The second of these may just be a slightly-extended version of a scene from the shorter edit of the film. And the third you won't find on YouTube, but The Playlist has them all right here.


Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain look made for one another in this first look at J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent YearMaybe it's just me, but I think this trailer makes the film look over-designed and melodramatic, but, after Margin Call and All Is LostI wholeheartedly trust Chandor. That recently-revealed release date of the 31st of December you spy at the end of the trailer officially qualifies the film for Oscar consideration, so watch this space.


At long last, a proper look at Serenathe much-anticipated adaptation from Susanne Bier, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Soon, we'll find out if the film is as big a turkey as the lengthy post-production, the months on the shelf, the toxic buzz and the cowardly release pattern suggest it most certainly is. Serena premieres at LFF next month, before a UK and Ireland release on the 24th of October. JLaw's going to need The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 to be pretty damn huge to prevent 2014 from being a bona fide annus horibilis for the actor, though you know it'll be pretty damn huge anyway.


Lest he run the risk of producers typecasting him, Liam Neeson typecast himself in A Walk Among the Tombstones, a film which he personally helped bring into existence. It's an alternately admirable and reprehensible thriller, whose ambitions are as modest as they are dignified. That modesty is pervasive through Scott Frank's treatment of the novel, adhering to its conventions rather than risk rocking the boat. A shame that he wasn't more adventurous - the film is staid and predictable as a result. But there are understated moments of satisfaction to be found, in Frank's decision to reference slow-burning crime thrillers of the 1970s. Mihai Malaimare Jr.'s compositions have a beautifully tangible grit to them, and some exhibit a blissful visual poetry that contrasts very nicely with the film's grim themes. The '70s inspiration proves to be one of A Walk's most rewarding attributes, though it also betrays its principle problem: that off-hand quality to the dialogue, rooted not only in 2014 but in the film's setting of the late '90s, doesn't ever gel with the grander, almost mythical feel that Frank is trying to recreate. He's trying to hearken back whilst maintaining a contemporary credibility that'll prevent A Walk from slipping into genre parody - a respectable approach, but one that hampers the film. Its atmospheric qualities, however, aided greatly by some quietly memorable imagery, are often sustenance enough to hold one's attention. The solemn savagery of Frank's vision is imbued with a caustic beauty, though it perhaps does slide too far down the bad taste scale - it's at once gleefully perverse and also morally corrupt. Once more, Frank adheres to the conventions of the novel, and of the films he's drawn inspiration from - acceptable in the 1970s perhaps, but regressive in 2014.


There's a startling moment in Sylvain Chomet's Attila Marcel where he indulges in a sweet spot of nostalgia. A fight imagined in stop-motion shadow, a fleeting moment that could reasonably be mistaken for live action, but it's the loveliest little quirk in a film full of them if you notice it. Quirk is all very well, and nostalgia serves this particular director decently, but whimsy can too easily turn to fluff. When Chomet allows his fanciful tendencies to get the better of him, Attila Marcel loses its charm - a forced insouciance takes over and the magic is ruined. Mostly, though, he keeps a collected rigour over the film, one that comes delightfully naturally to him. The simple precision of his mise-en-scene combined with the gleeful romanticism of this fictional France is just wondrous. Chomet's design lacks the poetic purity of his illustrations in his animated films, and his actors' human motions can't compare to his hand-drawn creations' stylised demeanours, but Attila Marcel is nevertheless an exquisitely quirky, sugary little chouquette. The musical numbers, forming herbal tea-influenced memories, are rendered as feverish Jacques Demy-esque sequences, gaudily assembled as an aesthetic counterpoint to the pastel prettiness of the film's main body; these flashback scenes are garishly directed, on the whole, and, in fact, often victim to poor creative decisions - bad casting, ugly production design, tacky music - which the rest of Attila Marcel isn't afflicted with. On the contrary, these are elements which shine beautifully through the contemporary portions. It's unbecoming of Chomet to experiment in this uber-whimsical style - his inventiveness is apparent in those flourishes, those quirks, which hearken back to his animations. Looking forward is all very well in principle, but, in practice, it's nostalgia that serves M. Chomet best of all.

Friday, 19 September 2014


Veteran Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi returns with Foreign Body, which was one among many films to screen this year at Toronto. Reviews for the film do not rank it among Zanussi's finest. They come from Ben Nicholson at CineVue, Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter and Dennis Harvey at Variety.


A glut of extra reviews for many more films which showed at TIFF 2014: Anahi Berneri's Aire Libre, reviewed by Jonathan Holland at The Hollywood Reporter, Tony Ayres' Cut Snake, reviewed by Brian Roan at The Film Stage, Morgan Matthews' X+Y, reviewed by Joe Leydon at Variety and Leslie Felperin at The Hollywood Reporter, Jacob Tierney's Preggoland, reviewed by John DeFore at The Hollywood Reporter, Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery, reviewed by Jordan Mintzer at The Hollywood Reporter, Dave McKean's Luna, reviewed by Ben Nicholson at CineVue and Leslie Felperin at The Hollywood ReporterKahlil Gibran's The Prophet, from various directors, reviewed by John DeFore at The Hollywood Reporter, Abd al Malik's May Allah Bless France!, reviewed by John DeFore at The Hollywood Reporter, Julie Lopes-Curval's High Society, reviewed by Robert Bell at IOnCinema and John Fink at The Film Stage, David Thorpe's Do I Sound Gay?, reviewed by Boyd van Hoeij at The Hollywood Reporter, Kriv Stenders' Kill Me Three Times, reviewed by Mark Adams at Screen Daily and David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter, Bent Hamer's 1,001 Grams, reviewed by The Playlist staff at The Playlist and Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's Samba, reviewed by Peter Debruge at Variety and Jordan Mintzer at The Hollywood Reporter, Shonali Bose's Margarita, with a Straw, reviewed by Leslie Felperin at The Hollywood Reporter, Danis Tanovic's Tigers, reviewed by Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Wang Xiao Shuai's Red Amnesia, reviewed by Jay Weissberg at Variety, Isabel Coixet's Learning to Drive, reviewed by Justin Chang at Variety and Sheri Linden at The Hollywood Reporter, Jaume Balaguero's [REC]4: Apocalypse, reviewed by Brad Brevet at Rope of Silicon and Jonathan Holland at The Hollywood Reporter, Ann Hui's The Golden Era, reviewed by Guy Lodge at Variety and Boyd van Hoeij at The Hollywood Reporter, Marjane Satrapi's The Voices, reviewed by Adam Chitwood at Collider and Jason Gorber at TwitchFilm, Chris Evans' Before We Go, reviewed by Scott Foundas at Variety and David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter and Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's What We Do in the Shadows, reviewed by Phil Brown at Collider.


Between the heavenly highs of David Cronenberg's direction and the wretched lows of Bruce Wagner's script lies Earth; this heavenly high may be the fame that is so sought after or so resented, this wretched low the toll it takes on those unlucky enough to navigate it without their feet on the ground. And if that ground is somewhere on Earth, then that Earth is Hollywood in Maps to the Stars. Cronenberg vacates his heaven and ignores Wagner's hell and situates his film in banality, seeping Los Angeles of both its glamour or its tack. His nastily un-aestheticised film - his most unironically ugly to date - situates the characters in soulless close-ups in soulless spaces. And that's not a romanticised soullessness, that's a dispiriting soullessness - you leave Maps to the Stars with the impression that you've just witnessed a bunch of bores merely being boring. It's how Cronenberg has dismissed Wagner's bile, how he has left its fart jokes and period stains to stink out the rest of the film, how he has reduced histrionics to monotony that ought to hurt Hollywood the most. He even seems to have resigned his own, highly distinctive artistry. That indefinable insularity that is his signature has been overridden by his characters' collective narcissism, and he may never have produced a more potent thesis on the effects of individual psyches on family units yet. Wagner's screenplay is so rude it doesn't even know how to lash out well, flailing around trying to locate a cogent target. In only sporadically referencing an identifiable Hollywood, it strengthens the disassociation that is at the heart of what Cronenberg is striving for here. The only celebrity who dares show their face is Carrie Fisher; bloated and Botoxed beyond recognition, it's a viciously funny gag to see Julianne Moore struggle to stay convincing opposite her. One can imagine Cronenberg briefly descending from his high to join in this one select stinger, courtesy of Bruce Wagner's wretched low taste.

Thursday, 18 September 2014


Be careful what you wish for, Disney. Another Nine and it'll flop. But no, it's Stephen Sondheim! Another Sweeney Todd and it won't catch on with the intended audience. But no, it's PG! Another Chicago? That'd be peachy. That PG rating and those rumours, however, will continue to be a concern to many until the film is actually seen; get ready for an awards-season, holiday-season release date, America, on Christmas Day itself! UK, you'll have to wait until the 9th of January. Until then, this, and the trailer, is all you're getting!


Cake is a major part of Jennifer Aniston's current career strategy of not straying too far from her comfort zone whilst making The Good Girl-style attempts at impressing more discerning moviegoers. Though the film wasn't met with tremendous praise at TIFF recently, her performance was noted as being among her very best. No distributors picked the film up there, it seems, so we won't likely be looking at a 2014 release.


Relative newcomer Jean-Baptiste Leonetti directs Michael Douglas and Jeremy Irvine in The Reach, which has screened at TIFF 2014. Its under-the-radar status at the fest has kept the film from reaching a broad audience, which may have been the strategy, as it has premiered to negative responses. Critics include Scott Foundas at Variety, Henry Barnes at The Guardian and Jon Frosch at The Hollywood Reporter.


It's a sign of the (supposed, since I haven't actually seen the film to verify this) uniqueness of Kevin Smith's latest horror film, after the severely underrated Red State, that all I had to do to find the three articles to which I'm linking in this one on my blog was to type the word 'tusk' into the search bar. Because, until this one, there were only three that had any mention of the word 'tusk'. That's a good enough reason for me to see Tusk, which screened recently at TIFF to decent reviews and even an awards mention, and which is being released super soon: tomorrow (the 19th of September) in the US.


Paul Bettany directs his partner Jennifer Connelly in Shelter, which has screened at Toronto. As with many actors-turned-directors, critics are calling him out for a lack of subtlety and for an uneven tone in the film, in reviews such as those from John DeFore at The Hollywood Reporter, Dennis Harvey at Variety and Henry Barnes at The Guardian.


The mid-20th Century setting, the presence of Zhang Ziyi in a leading role and the fact that Chinese megastar director John Woo is at the helm might bring back memories of last year's The Grandmaster for some. But don't be so narrow-minded, The Crossing is a sober, if sumptuous, drama about Chinese citizens who flee to Taiwan during the Chinese Revolution after WWII. It may be a presence at next year's Oscars, with a Chinese release date set for the 2nd of December and some serious international potential, should a faithful distributor get behind it. A few more posters below, including some after the cut.