Sunday, 31 August 2014

VENICE REPORT: THE BOXTROLLS


Laika stumbles with The Boxtrolls, according to American critics at Venice. Early reports are that the film isn't up to the standards of the independent animation studio's previous stop-motion offerings, save for one outright rave from Catherine Bray at In Contention. Less positive reviews come from Peter Debruge at Variety, David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter and Alonso Duralde at The Wrap. The film is released in the UK on the 12th of September, and in the US on the 26th.

MIKE EPPS CAST AS RICHARD PRYOR IN LEE DANIELS' BIOPIC


By that, I don't mean that this film's gonna be called 'Lee Daniels' Biopic', though he's bound to get around to using that title at some stage in his career. Here's to hoping that his portrait of Richard Pryor will be better than his one of some fictionalised version of some butler cos it was shit. Funnily, though perhaps putting this casting choice into clear perspective, Mike Epps, who played Pryor in Cynthia Mort's yet-to-be-released Nina Simone biopic Nina, starring Zoe Saldana, will also play Pryor in Lee Daniels' upcoming film about him. I take it he's pretty good in the role then, and reports seem to confirm that.

NEW STILL FROM SELMA


Selma has been pushed into a tricky corner as the filmmakers race to finish the film: it'll be completely absent from the festival season and won't have a months-long campaign to increase awareness. So it's gonna be a late-minute barrage, kinda like what the Weinsteins pulled with The Reader, only even later in the year and more high-profile. It'll be interesting to see if Paramount can pull it off. Here's a new look at the film with a still featuring Carmen Ejogo and David Oyelowo.

TAHAR RAHIM IN TRAILER FOR THE CUT


Reports that Tahar Rahim doesn't say a word in Fatih Akin's definitely-not-at-Cannes historical drama appear to be incorrect - he says plenty of words, and they're all in English! Isn't Akin a director of sufficient stature to not need to cast major actors in his films, thus forcing the dialogue into English? Early word from Venice (more on that later) appears to hint that The Cut was commercialised by this decision, since it hasn't fared well with the critics...

VENICE REPORT: MANGLEHORN


Two Al Pacino dramas showed within 14 hours of one another at Venice this weekend, with both receiving mixed reviews for the filmmaking, but largely positive ones for Pacino. David Gordon Green's Manglehorn has fared better than Barry Levinson's The Humbling, but some critics have expressed frustration and befuddlement at Green's latest oddity in a career already full of them. Reviews are from Robbie Collin at The Telegraph, Tommaso Tocci at The Film Stage, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap, Xan Brooks at The Guardian, Peter Debruge at Variety, Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Catherine Bray at In Contention, John Bleasdale at CineVue and David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter.

THE PRESIDENT - TRAILER FOR MOHSEN MAKHMALBAF'S NEW FILM


You might have heard of The Presidentas it recently opened the Venice Horizons sidebar of Venice 2014. The trailer claims that it was the festival's opening film, which is technically incorrect, as that was BirdmanThis looks interesting, and visually striking, which is the least that one can expect from Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

TRAILER FOR DEAREST


Check out this trailer for Peter Ho Sun Chan's Dearest, which has just received its world premiere at Venice. Early reviews are scarce, and somewhat mixed, but do make note of the one thing that comes across strong in the trailer: the acting is srsly top-notch.

VENICE REPORT: THE HUMBLING


The one key word that seems to keep cropping up in reviews of Barry Levinson's The Humbling from Venice is 'uneven'. It's appropriate, then, that, despite the unanimously middling reception received by the film, reactions differ markedly: some praise Al Pacino's grandstanding performance, others deride its unoriginality; some appreciate the film's comedic jaunts, others resent them; core criticisms are alternately levelled at Philip Roth's source novel, the plot's latent sexism, the treatment of supporting actors and the tonal inconsistency. Read all about it in reviews from Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Catherine Bray at In Contention, Scott Foundas at Variety, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap, Kaleem Aftab at IndieWire, Mark Adams at Screen Daily, Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, John Bleasdale at CineVue and Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter.

LOCARNO FILM FEST WINNERS


This time, just don't forgive me. It's been longer than I'm comfortable admitting since the Locarno Film Fest wrapped, and I'm only now posting the results of the film calendar's best festival's awards. To make matters worse, the film I'm most anticipating out of all films thus far this year, Lav Diaz's From What Is Beforetook the top prize, the Golden Leopard, though for him at least that's far from making anything worse. Diaz was jury president last year at Locarno, when the Leopard went to Albert Serra's Story of My DeathFull, much too belated, details below.

International Competition

Golden Leopard
From What Is Before (Lav Diaz)

Special Jury Prize
Listen Up Philip (Alex Ross Perry)

Best Director
Pedro Costa (Horse Money)

Best Actor
Artem Bystrov (The Fool)

Best Actress
Ariane Labed (Fidelio, l'Odyssee d'Alice)

Special Mention
August Winds (Gabriel Mascaro)

More winners after the jump:

Saturday, 30 August 2014

TELLURIDE REPORT: TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER


It's been quite some time since Nick Broomfield made a movie that rly mattered, particularly given that so many of his documentaries used to matter very much. But Tales of the Grim Sleeper, his doc about L.A. alleged serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr., is drawing some distinctly positive responses from Telluride critics. You can read those from Stephen Dalton at The Hollywood Reporter, Eric Kohn at IndieWire, Steven Zeitchik at Los Angeles Times and Scott Foundas at Variety here.

NEW SEVENTH SON TRAILER


Why does Julianne Moore keep making such terrible career choices? This feels like the kind of spring release that could derail a potential Oscar winner's chances (remember Norbit?). One wonders if all the other filmmakers ever before involved with Legendary refused to allow their film's title to be used in connection to this tripe, which is why they had to use 300: Rise of an EmpireThe fact that they're having to reference the production company speaks volumes, not least because this is the film that Warner Bros. hated so much they actually pushed it back so far that Universal had to take care of it under their new deal with Legendary. Out in the UK and US alike on the 6th of February, which is two days before my dad's birthday, so my present to him will be not taking him to see Seventh Son.

TELLURIDE REPORT: THE IMITATION GAME


What with the period setting, the British pedigree, the real-life subject, the literary source and, most of all, the Weinsteins behind it, most reviewers at Telluride note the Oscar potential of Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game, despite their generally lukewarm reponses to the film. With all this modest praise, it's somewhat unlikely that the film hits as hard as Bob and Harvey would like it to, but don't start doubting their ability just yet! Benedict Cumberbatch receives raves, however, as expected. Here are reviews from Rodrigo Perez at The Playlist, Scott Foundas at Variety, Gregory Ellwood at In Contention, Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter and Michael Nordine at IndieWire.

TRAILER FOR DANCING ARABS


As the trailer informs us, Eran Riklis' Dancing Arabs opened the Jerusalem Film Festival in July; it also screened at Locarno earlier this month. It's due to show at Telluride as well. After the failure of Zaytoun, Riklis is back to basics i.e. films not starring C-list Hollywood stars (soz Stephen Dorff, u know I still love u, k?). There are still legs in the 'Romeo and Juliet' storyline, since it's been done so badly so many times before - let's hope that Dancing Arabs doesn't do it equally badly.

VENICE REPORT: HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT


Films like Heaven Knows What, Ben and Josh Safdie's independent drama about two heroin junkies in New York, don't normally unite critics in admiration, certainly not ones that The Hollywood Reporter boils down to being 'a grunge tone poem'. But that's exactly what said film has achieved. Venice reviews from Eric Kohn at IndieWire, Scott Foundas at Variety and David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter.

NEW TRAILER FOR PALME D'OR WINNER WINTER SLEEP


Hot on the heels of the Leviathan trailer, here comes the trailer for the film that beat that film to the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and the FIPRESCI Prize to boot. So yeh, critics kinda love Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter Sleep  which will also screen at San Sebastian later this year. It gets a limited release Stateside on the 19th of December; with an official submission as Turkey's selection for the Foreign Language Film Oscar, it's one of a number of non-English language features which have a viable shot at awards success later this year.

VENICE REPORT: IN THE BASEMENT


Ulrich Seidl's return to documentary filmmaking, In the Basement, has recently screened at the Venice Film Festival. Seidl's never gonna unite critics in either praise or condemnation, while his films are always likely to attract both in equal measure. Of the few reviews currently published for the disturbing portrait of the basement hobbies of Seidl's native Austrians, both ends of the spectrum are apparent: here's the evidence, in write-ups from Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian and Guy Lodge at Variety.

TRAILER #3 FOR FOXCATCHER


Short new trailer for Foxcatcher just keeps cranking up the creepiness. You know, I'm beginning to think this isn't just good marketing. I'm beginning to think this is accurate marketing. Totally stoked.

TELLURIDE REPORT: WILD


Fresh from the awards success of last year's overrated Dallas Buyers Club, critics were just waiting to atone for leading that film to three Oscars it didn't deserve, and seem to have taken it out on Jean-Marc Vallee's latest, Wild, which screened at Telluride with the apparent intention of replicating that success. The reviews are damaging enough to derail the film's Best Picture chances, yet good enough nevertheless to ensure that interest remains high in the book adaptation. Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern both attract praise, though. Here's what Justin Chang at Variety, Eric Kohn at IndieWire, Stephen Farber at The Hollywood Reporter and Rodrigo Perez at The Playlist had to say.

LEVIATHAN TRAILER FROM ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV


The trailer for Leviathan is part of a marketing strategy that wants to remind you that the film won the Screenplay Prize at Cannes in May, but that it actually deserved to win the Palme d'Or. Well, tough! With a Telluride and Toronto presence, and a New Year's Eve release date, the film appears to be being primed for Oscar consideration; with strong critical support (which it will surely receive) it could easily enter the race. But pay no attention to those claiming that the film may be selected as Russia's official Foreign Language Film for the Oscars - Zvyagintsev's film is reportedly a scathing critique on contemporary Russian society, and it's unlikely that it's selected as a result. Just sayin.

VENICE REPORT: BLACK SOULS


There's praise aplenty for Francesco Munzi's new drama, Black Souls, at the Venice Film Festival. The first Italian film to screen in competition at this year's fest (last year's Golden Lion winner, Gianfranco Rosi's Sacro GRA, was Italian also), the film relates a story set within the Calabrian Mafia to powerful effect, according to critics, such as Lee Marshall at Screen Daily, Jay Weissberg at Variety, John Bleasdale at CineVue, Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter and Camillo de Marco at Cineuropa.

VENICE REPORT: SHE'S FUNNY THAT WAY


It could come as a surprise to some that Peter Bogdanovich is back with a new film- it did to me when I read the Venice lineup. But it's less of a surprise to read that it's a bit of a turkey, reportedly. Plenty of critics have seen his comeback, his first film in over a decade, but few have actually liked it. Here's the evidence: reviews from Michael Roddy at Reuters, Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian, Jo-Ann Titmarsh at HeyUGuys, Guy Lodge at Variety, Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Catherine Bray at In Contention, David Sexton at Evening Standard, David Rooney at The Hollywood Reporter and Geoffrey MacNab at The Independent.

Friday, 29 August 2014

VENICE REPORT: 99 HOMES


Ramin Bahrani's last attempt at breaking into the American mainstream with a socially-conscious melodrama, At Any Price, deservedly fell flat on his face. Dedicated to the man who effectively made his career, the late Roger Ebert, his latest, 99 Homes, is faring rather better with critics at the Venice Film Festival, where it's his second film to screen in competition, after At Any Price. Read the reviews from Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter, Adam Woodward at Little White Lies, Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap, John Bleasdale at CineVue, Guy Lodge at Variety, David Sexton at Evening Standard and Catherine Bray at In Contention.

JOHN HILLCOAT'S TRIPLE NINE CONFIRMED FOR SEPTEMBER 2015


Heist thriller Triple Nine has been set for a 11/09/15 release date by distributor Open Road Films. Directed by John Hillcoat, the film is about a band of dirty cops blackmailed into performing a heist by the Russian mob, and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson and Anthony Mackie, among plenty more big names.

STEVE CARELL IN NEW FOXCATCHER POSTER


This new character poster (I guess that's what it is) for Foxcatcher falls in line with the similar one featuring Channing Tatum, the film's other lead. Neither are as impressive as the teaser poster, imo, but they're still a satisfactory degree of creepy-as-hell.

LAKE BELL TO DIRECT THE EMPEROR'S CHILDREN


Following the critical and commercial success of actor Lake Bell's In a World...which marked her debut as both writer and director, she has been selected to helm a high-profile adaptation for Imagine Entertainment. She'll direct Noah Baumbach's script of Claire Messud's novel The Emperor's Children, which was longlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize and won the 2007 Massachusetts Book Award for fiction. That's providing that Baumbach's screenplay is still go; he had been tapped to direct the film back in 2011, after Imagine head Brian Grazer's partner Ron Howard had vacated to make The Dilemma.

VENICE REPORT: REALITY


Cult Canadian director Quentin Dupieux's film Reality like won't be winning a lot of awards at Venice, though the reviews aren't bad, on the whole. The film is screening in the Horizons sidebar. The write-ups from Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap and Boyd van Hoeij at The Hollywood Reporter all express some praise for the alternative comedy, while there's an outright pan from Peter Debruge at Variety.

VENICE REPORT: THE PRICE OF FAME


Reviews from Venice are in for Xavier Beauvois' first comedy as director, The Price of Fame. The film, which stars Benoit Poelvoorde and Roschdy Zem as crooks who dig up the corpse of Charlie Chaplin, has been met with mostly positive responses. The one holdout is John Bleasdale at CineVue, who roundly hates it. Otherwise, here are more favourable write-ups from Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Boyd van Hoeij at The Hollywood Reporter and Guy Lodge at Variety.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

VENICE REPORT: TALES


'Eminently watchable... intelligent... illuminating' are a few of the compliments being paid to Rakhshan Bani-Etemad's Venice competition entry, Tales. The compliation feature, comprised of several shorts strung together to form a single narrative, doesn't appear to be a big threat to Birdman for the Golden Lion, frankly - the reviews just aren't good enough overall - but you can bet I'll be right behind Bani-Etemad as one of only two women competing for the prize. Here are reviews from Jo-Ann Titmarsh at HeyUGuys, John Bleasdale at CineVue and Jay Weissberg at Variety.

FIRST TRAILER FOR JON STEWART'S ROSEWATER


Is it ok to say it now? To say that there was rly no good reason for Jon Stewart to make a movie? Cos Rosewater's trailer makes it look self-consciously artsy, irritatingly glossy, insufferably preachy, and... is it racist to cast Dane Kim Bodnia as an Iranian? Well, probably not, but it sure smacks of typical American pigheadedness. A world premiere is on the cards at Telluride over the coming days, with a Canadian premiere at Toronto, so it's blatantly obvious Open Road Films thinks they've got an Oscar contender on their hands. You would, though, wouldn't you, quality be damned. Kk fine, I'll quit the prejudging and admit that I will see Rosewater, if only for Shohreh Aghdashloo.

OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR BIRD PEOPLE


Doesn't Pascale Ferran's Bird People look enchanting? Critics were divided on the quirky film in Cannes, but the response was mostly pretty good. Based on those reviews and this trailer, I'm keen to see it. Those headed to TIFF next month will get a chance, then it's released in the US on the 12th of September.

NEW TEASER FOR INTERSTELLAR


Not technically a teaser, since all of the footage in this trailer has been teased before, but its length kinda qualifies it as such. And anyway, consider me teased. It appears Christopher Nolan's Interstellar has skipped the festival circuit entirely, but its November release will put it in prime contention for Oscar nominations.

OSCARS TO GO TO BELAFONTE, CARRIERE, MIYAZAKI AND O'HARA


After the devastating double-whammy of his retirement and the temporary closure of Studio Ghibli's animation department, it's thrilling news to read that Miyazaki Hayao will be among four richly-deserving recipients of Honorary Academy Awards this November. Many have bemoaned the Academy's decision to move the Governors Awards to a separate ceremony from the main awards show and telecast, but it has become a key event in the Hollywood calendar in its own right since then. This year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award will go to legendary actor and singer Harry Belafonte, while further Oscars will be bestowed upon one of the cinema's greatest living scribes, Jean-Claude Carriere, actor and my countrywoman, Maureen O'Hara, and Miyazaki. Hooray for all four!

41ST TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL LINEUP REVEALED


Well hello there, Telluride lineup! The Colorado-based film fest has just about taken over from its early-autumn fellow festival in Toronto for influence in the American awards season, and has potentially even taken over from TIFF. It never reveals its slate until just before it opens, which it does tomorrow. And so, at last, here is the Telluride 2014 lineup:

Main Programme
  • '71 (Yann Demange)
  • The 50 Year Argument (Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi)
  • 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani)
  • Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
  • Dancing Arabs (Eran Riklis)
  • The Decent One (Vanessa Lapa)
  • Diplomacy (Volker Schlondorff)
  • Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)
  • The Gate (Regis Wargnier)
  • The Homesman (Tommy Lee Jones)
  • The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)
  • Leviathan (Andrei Zvyagintsev)
  • The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  • Madame Bovary (Sophie Barthes)
  • Merchants of Doubt (Robert Kenner)
  • Mommy (Xavier Dolan)
  • Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh)
  • The Price of Fame (Xavier Beauvois)
  • Red Army (Gabe Polsky)
  • Rosewater (Jon Stewart)
  • The Salt of the Earth (Juliano Ribeiro Salgado)
  • Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield)
  • Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)
  • Wild (Jean-Marc Vallee)
  • Wild Tales (Damian Szifron)
More selections after the cut!

VENICE REPORT: THE LOOK OF SILENCE


You would have expected Joshua Oppenheimer's follow-up to The Act of Killing to be damn good, but would you have expected it to be just as good? Because reports from the Venice Film Festival are suggesting that it is. Here's a plethora of positive reactions to the documentary sequels for your perusal: Adam Woodward at Little White Lies, Guy Lodge at Variety, John Bleasdale at CineVue, Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Jessica Kiang at The Playlist, Catherine Bray at In Contention, Joshua Rothkopf at Time Out, Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian and Tommaso Tocci at The Film Stage.

REVIEW - SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (FRANK MILLER AND ROBERT RODRIGUEZ)


If offering one's fans what they want is a legitimate goal to strive for, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's Sin City sequel (and prequel) is a legitimate success. This particular fan yearns for a viable independent entity with each film he watches, and though it's unquestionably possible to accept and assess each of them on exactly those terms, it's clear that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For comes up short when evaluated as such. All in Miller's world is by deliberate design, and for the purpose of existing as just that. Even the thematic substance of these stories, as slight as it may be, the permutations of the genre(s) he exploits, can be categorised alongside all of Sin City's stylistic strokes. Thus, this alternative noir space occupies a unique position, artistically, a position of some purity and credibility, no matter how violently other films and filmmakers have chosen to bastardise it. Would that Miller and Rodriguez resisted the temptation to do exactly that. Adhering to the nonsense notion that the sequel ought to do just what its predecessor did, only even more so, they sap the glorious mystique out of their creation. For every mesmerising frame of stark monochrome in marvellous depth, there are several dozen more that are cluttered, uninspired, prosaic and derivative. They're expanding, which makes sense, certainly given  the first Sin City's three-story structure, but this tactic isn't as foolproof as it might have seemed: that film's stories were largely bleak, narrow-focused, intimate affairs, whereas A Dame to Kill For's attempts at widening the outlook only muddies the water. On the whole, whether concerning cast or crew contributions, this is a very mixed bag of a movie.

OBIT - WILLIAM GREAVES


A seminal figure in African-American film and a pioneer in documentary filmmaking, William Greaves has died, aged 87. He passed on Monday, the 25th of August 2014, at his Manhattan home. A contemporary of actors such as Marlon Brando and Shelley Winters at The Actor's Studio, he first became known publicly for producing the controversial TV show Black Journal in 1969, for which he won an Emmy. His career in cinema included the landmark experimental features Symbiopsychotaxiplasm in 1968, and its long-awaited sequel Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take 2 1/2 in 2005. He is survived by his wife, fellow film director Louise Archambault, and their three children, David, Taiyi and Maiya.

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON CASTS KEITH STANFIELD AS SNOOP DOGG


F. Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton, which chronicles the history of rap group N.W.A., doesn't sound incredibly appealing to me, since I've no particular love for Gray's filmography nor for the group. But my interest peaked when it emerged that a bright young actor has joined the cast. Short Term 12's Keith Stanfield will play Snoop Dogg in the film, and, despite his status as a mostly-unknown star, he's just about the biggest name in the main cast, besides Paul Giamatti. An interesting development for the talented actor, who will also be seen later this year in Ava DuVernay's Selma.

THE HOMESMAN NAMED AS HAMPTONS CENTREPIECE


That Tommy Lee Jones sure has some clout. His second film as director, The Homesmanscreened to mixed reviews in competition at Cannes earlier this year, yet the post-Cannes environment has been nothing but kind to the film. Co-distributors Roadside Attractions will release the film in the US with a major awards campaign, and fellow distributors, upstarts Saban Films, will be pleased with the latest development: a centrepiece gala showing at the Hamptons International Film Festival. With big names in both cast and crew, the reportedly challenging Western may just be able to break into awards season. Lead Hilary Swank will participate in the festival's signature 'Conversation With...' programme. HIFF 2014 runs from the 9th to the 13th of October; The Homesman is released in the US on the 14th of November, and in the UK on the 21st.

REVIEW - TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (JEAN-PIERRE DARDENNE AND LUC DARDENNE)


The good artists produce works of beautiful purity and simplicity of vision. The better ones embellish theirs with additional concepts, each as thought-through as the last. The best ones fully incorporate those concepts into their schemes, producing works of beautiful purity and complexity. The Dardenne brothers are not far off that level - Two Days, One Night has all of the components of a classic, and is thus a tremendously rewarding film, but it falls slightly short of said status due to a sensation that certain elements within it exist in mild conflict with one another. These elements are impeccably constructed, though - the film's curious thriller tone is perfectly judged, and its final note of optimism, though this hypothetical summation jars with the otherwise reflective slant of Two Days, makes for a highly satisfactory resolution for Marion Cotillard's character. She has undergone a lifetime of highs and lows over a mere few days, and walks into the future as we walk out of the screen. The Dardennes' camera rests, finally permitting Sandra to be the master of her own environment; in prior shots, it has framed her as a frail, yet resilient, figure set before a world in flux, seemingly powerless against it. These filmmakers' primal practicality pits a subject already ravaged by her circumstances versus the menial facts of life in capitalist society, and their reluctance to judge opens up every one of Sandra's many encounters to endless application within one's own experiences. Their tactic for evoking empathy is plain but effective, and it greatly enhances their film's tension, gradually, imperceptibly building to a terrific peak; much of what the Dardennes achieve in Two Days, One Night occurs not on the screen but in one's mind. Cotillard's superb acting is equally subtle - she appears to actually do so little, but the effect is quite pronounced.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

VENICE REPORT: THE PRESIDENT


Mohsen Makhmalbaf hasn't made a big splash, even on the festival circuit, for a few years, but The President looks set to correct that. Venice 2014's official Horizons opener, what few reviews there have thus far been for his Georgian satire have been mixed, though commercial prospects have been noted as being strong. Check out what Deborah Young at The Hollywood Reporter, Jay Weissberg at Variety and Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian have been saying.

VENICE REPORT: BIRDMAN


Alberto Barbera was onto something when he selected Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman to open the Venice Film Festival 2014 in competition. The reviews have largely been excellent, with reports that the film has received an exceptionally strong reaction from the film's premiere audience. The only significant holdout on Birdman is Xan Brooks at The Guardian, but even he has plenty of good things to say about Inarritu's latest. The others, including Catherine Bray at In Contention, Alonso Duralde at The Wrap, Peter Debruge at Variety, Tommaso Tocci at The Film Stage, Jessica Kiang at The Playlist and Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter.

BOX OFFICE REPORT: A DEBUT TO KILL FOR


A handful of modest openers, quite in keeping with August standards, ensured that holdovers Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles maintained the two top spots at the box office over last weekend. Their positions were reversed, though, as Guardians held on to an even larger audience than expected yet again. It will close as the highest grossing film from the first two thirds of 2014.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy ($17,202,212)
Guardians becomes the first film to climb back to the No. 1 position since Frozen in January. Its 31.5% decline on last weekend is its smallest yet, and it now looks likely to close over $300 million - way higher than expectations, again rather like Frozen's performance. That's way higher than any other film so far this year.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ($16,725,447)

3. If I Stay ($15,679,190)
Despite claiming first place at the box office on Friday, teen romance If I Stay fell to third for the weekend overall. Hype burned off demand on opening day, meaning that the film suffered a narrow defeat to the two top holdovers. This is a fine start for the Chloe Moretz starrer, though not nearly on par with this summer's similar movie The Fault in Our Stars.

4. Let's Be Cops ($10,810,533)

5. When the Game Stands Tall ($8,381,509)
I don't know a lot about When the Game Stands Tall since, like most Christian movies, it's barely known about in the UK and I couldn't give a shit about looking it up. This opening gross is in line with most expecations for the sports drama.

6. The Expendables 3 ($6,485,385)
7. The Giver ($6,434,240)

8. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For ($6,317,683)
Failing to sell a fifth as many tickets as its nine-year-plus-old predecessor, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's badly-reviewed sequel's opening ranks fourth lowest in Rodriguez's career to date. Only his debut, El Mariachi, and Shorts and Machete Kills opened lower.

9. The Hundred-Foot Journey ($5,339,006)
10. Into the Storm ($3,803,309)

OBIT - RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH


Beloved actor, director and producer Richard 'Dickie' Attenborough has died. He passed away on Sunday the 24th of August 2014 at age 90. The recipient of two Oscars, four Golden Globes and four BAFTAs, he will be remembered as one of British cinema's key figures over seven decades in film. The star of In Which We Serve, Brighton Rock, The Great Escape, 10 Rillington Place, The Chess Players and Jurassic Park, he was also very well regarded as a director, particularly for his 1982 epic Gandhi. Among his many titles were Honorary Life President of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, patron of the United World Colleges, Chancellor of the University of Sussex, director of Chelsea Football, a CBE, a Knight Bachelor, a life peer in the House of Lords as Baron Attenborough and president of both RADA and BAFTA. He is survived by his wife, actor Sheila Sim, and two of their three children, Michael and Charlotte.

REVIEW - LUCY (LUC BESSON)


As outrageous as Luc Besson's Lucy is, it at least knows that it's outrageous. Indeed, it fosters its own madness, making its concept actually easier to invest in as it thunders ever forward. One relents to its internal logic, or lack thereof, and it's thus that Lucy becomes the year's most powerful polemic against nonsensical spiritualism, if not its most persuasive. As garbled as its silly proposition is, Lucy eventually comes to argue it as a representation of the ultimate potential that humanity possesses. Scarlett Johansson's Lucy is a self-made deity - an accidental one, granted - in control of not only herself but others too, of her own environment and of theirs. And its theory regarding the insularity of the human experience, its existential notion that life as we understand it is itself validated by our understanding of it, Lucy seems to recommend that we just make do with what we know, and live that life to the fullest. That, after all, is what our heroine does. Besson's directorial approach mimics that of his lead: to keep hurtling forward with scant concern for good taste or good sense. As an example of stylistic wackiness, it's typically lame - as true as it is that Besson's devotion to his idiosyncrasies is admirable, it's equally true that said idiosyncrasies are generally pretty poorly thought through. His willingness to throw any and all ideas at his film - not quite 'whatever works', since some of it simply doesn't - is frustrating, in retrospect, but not hugely so, and in the instant it seems bizarrely appropriate. Like Lucy's fantastically questionable methods of achieving her aims, Besson's filmmaking choices get him, and us, to exactly where we want to be.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

TWO NEW CLIPS FROM MISS JULIE


Y'all know I'm batting hard for Liv Ullmann's Miss Julienot just because of the Fermanagh setting but because I bloody love just about everyone involved in it. I certainly hope that the film, which will receive its world premiere at TIFF next month (unless it heads to Telluride first), is as good as it looks! No confirmed release dates in either US or UK yet.

NEW TRAILER FOR WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD


Canny of Magnolia to hold off on releasing Gregg Araki's White Bird in a Blizzard until after the whole Shailene Woodley thing happened. The most mainstream prospect in Araki's career so far will aim to be one of 2014's most lucrative VOD releases when it opens on the online platform on the 25th of September. A theatrical bow will come on the 24th of October.

TWO CLIPS FROM LA SAPIENZA


Eugene Green's latest has attracted enough arthouse attention at Locarno 2014 to secure slots at both Toronto and New York fests in the coming weeks. These two similar clips show off the mannered style of La Sapienza, which has divided audiences at the Swiss film festival.

TEASER TRAILER FOR GIRLHOOD


To all those who called for a 'Girlhood' after Richard Linklater's Boyhoodhere's your response. Alas, this won't receive quite the level of international acclaim as Linklater's film, despite its positive reaction at Cannes, because it's a French movie about young black women directed by a female, and you all know that to be true. Celine Sciamma's film will continue to make the festival rounds at Toronto and San Sebastian.

3 HEARTS TRAILER


The trailer for Benoit Jacquot's 3 Hearts contains a spoiler, though it's not one that threatens to ruin the film completely - it still looks like an excellent piece of French romantic melodrama, and you know they do that well. This will be making the festival rounds soon, including screening in competition at Venice, and receiving a special presentation at Toronto. Benoit Poelvoorde, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve head up the starry cast.

TRAILER FOR FAR FROM MEN WITH VIGGO MORTENSEN


I applaud Viggo Mortensen's career choices of late... in fact, I applaud his career choices on the whole, he's starred in some damn good films. Coming up, he's got Lisandro Alonso's Jaujaand this, Far from Men from director David Oelhoffen. It has a TIFF screening in the pipeline, as well as a competition slot at Venice.

Friday, 22 August 2014

LOVE IS STRANGE TRAILER


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