Tuesday, 30 June 2015


This is far from the finest trailer of the year - it's a bit sentimental, and extremely formulaic. But Malala Yousafzai is one of the most important and inspirational international figures of our time, and any documentary about her will be a worthwhile watch, I'm certain. David Guggenheim's film is released in the US on the 2nd of October, and I already hope it'll be a big hit.


Twice the Hardy for your money in Brian Helgeland's Legend! The film about famed London gangsters the Kray twins is out in the UK on the 11th of September and in the US on the 2nd of October, and this is the second trailer. Showing off a more comedic side, this suggests that the film may not be the awards baiter that some had expected, though keep an eye out for Tom Hardy - in the prime of his career right now, and impressing on the basis of what little we've seen so far.

Monday, 29 June 2015


There's mileage in them minions yet! Few places within the film industry are as keen and as capable at expressing cinema's remit to entertain as the family movie sector. Minions may not push the needle much, but it's a blithely spirited piece of tremendous entertainment. It's also an exceptionally simple proposal - whether narratively or tonally, but even in its structure: this chaotic cacophony of silliness is designed to appeal to all ages in one marvellously madcap swoop, the same material for adults and children alike. This is an animated film bereft of intelligence or cultural relevance - it brings to mind the willful stupidity of Aardman's style of slapdash, though without that studio's more layered comic construction. Minions is just one daft gag after another, and how delicious to witness such shameless debasement on screen, and to participate in it with the kind of senseless abandon that only a gratuitous snort and a rousing belly laugh can express! Perhaps due to its immaturity, Minions is hardly a triumph of the screen - yes, it's a knowingly, and rather winningly, daft kids' film, but it's also a film like any other, and even judged against many similar titles (like the aforementioned Aardman Animation's), the prosaic animation style and the spotty hit rate of the jokes don't rule in this film's favour. Better, then, not to compare, and simply to bask in what favours we're offered herein. A particular pleasure comes in identifying the voice talent, and Minions benefits from excellent vocal work from Jennifer Saunders, co-director Pierre Coffin (as the minions themselves), and sublimely juvenile narration from Geoffrey Rush.

Friday, 26 June 2015


Every bit the film it intends to be, yet nothing like the film it could be, Michael Winterbottom's The Face of an Angel once again brings this talented filmmaker's taste in scripts, and his commitment to those talents that he possesses in earnest, into unfortunate doubt. An inquiry into the subjective quality of 'truth' from different perspectives, this fictionalisation of the Amanda Knox / Raffaele Sollecito trial has far more promise than purpose, eventually, as it surrenders to trite narrative devices that diminish its potential intelligence. For a film that exalts, quite pompously in fact, the merits of unconventional storytelling methods, The Face of an Angel is lax in its application of them itself, largely preferring to put its philosophical inquisitiveness out to pasture as writer Paul Viragh realises not the inconsequentiality of such a process (since that is entirely the point) but his inability to resolve it in any satisfactory manner. All that remains is a cliched, underdeveloped midlife crisis / artistic ennui picture, in which yet another hopelessly noble, brilliantly gifted (semi-)young, white, male genius is thwarted by a woefully unforgiving world, populated by brutish alpha males and cold women. Boo hoo, but what do I care? They don't pursue the film's dangling existential plot thread much, since I don't expect Winterbottom encouraged them to, but a miscast ensemble rather gives the film some undeserved zip. Cara Delevingne transcends the stereotype she's lumbered with - indeed, it was only after the film had ended that I realised how much of a cliche her role represented, such was Delevingne's easygoing appeal.


Acclaimed American actor, writer and director Edward Norton will receive the Excellence Award Moet & Chandon from the Locarno International Film Festival in August. The 68th edition of the Swiss fest, which announces its official competition lineup on the 15th of July, has announced Norton as the recipient of this prestigious award due to his 'immense talent in giving shape to characters as fascinating and complex as the times in which we live'. Norton was nominated for an Oscar and won an award from the National Board of Review for his performance in this year's Oscar Best Picture winner Birdman. Locarno will host a screening of a number of the star's films as part of a tribute to Norton, which will also include a conversation between himself and festival attendees Locarno 2015 runs from the 5th to the 15th of August.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


An intelligent filmmaker with the right intentions, with genuine human affinity that searches far further than the same old character tropes that define so many romance movies - such a figure is oft to be found in France, and such a filmmaker is oft to be trusted to make a movie much better than so many romance movies. If you'd trust Thomas Cailley, who is such a filmmaker indeed, to do just that, you'd be wise, though Les Combattants somewhat tests the notion that the right combination of intelligence, good intentions and genuine human affinity will suffice to elevate an otherwise conventional romance. Not that Les Combattants is even particularly a romance - its young love is more a byproduct of the gentle, authentic-feeling character development that Cailley makes his concern - it's a largely unclassifiable movie, situated somewhere between genres, serving a variety of purposes. Yet its tone is consistent, the only outlier being an intrusive electronic score that seems only to provide a jolt of contemporary energy that ironically deprives the film of its unique spirit. It's symptomatic of an artistic ambition that Cailley doesn't display elsewhere in such blatant terms, and while one may be grateful of this detail, the laidback plainness of Les Combattants rather years for a few more jolts of stylistic verve, albeit some that coexist with the film's other elements more comfortably. While Cailley is none too eager to pass judgement on his characters, he and his co-writer Claude le Pape, and his unpretentious cast, develop their roles with sensitivity and a fulfilling commitment to gentle idiosyncrasy and subtle complexity, even contradiction. It's here that Cailley's intelligence shows through, in that genuine human affinity. Find an affinity with ambition, and he might make a movie much better than even this one.


After its premiere at TIFF last September, Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind has been on a long and exhaustive festival tour, particularly through Moverman's native North America. The film finally arrives in US theatres over a year after its initial TIFF play, one which reaped critical praise and even official FIPRESCI commendation, on the 11th of September. Richard Gere plays a homeless man in New York who makes an attempt to re-establish a connection with his estranged bartender daughter, played by Jena Malone.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler is an ideal example of where basic filmmaking skills can lead you if you're burdened with bad intentions. One suspects that this is a movie made for the wrong reasons, yet whatever those reasons may be - maybe financial greed, maybe creative stagnation, maybe sheer cheek - they cannot and do not excuse the atrocity of what is so insidiously wreaked upon us in this film. For his part, McCarthy is too solid a 'basic filmmaker' to produce an inadequate film, technically speaking. The Cobbler is unremarkable, stylistically, and entirely generic, but there are greater crimes against cinematic technique than not particularly trying... aren't there? Are there? There are greater crimes within The Cobbler's screenplay, whose audacious stupidity seems to know no bounds. And indeed it should not, as cliche turns into coincidence, as coincidence turns into nonsense, and as the only thing preventing the film from turning entirely predictable is the voice of trust and optimism in one's head, arguing that the man who wrote The Visitor could surely never, no rly, surely not do anything so idiotic as thaaa.... Most horrible of all is that none of this is most horrible at all - that would be the film's blatant straight white male privilege argument, hidden behind the notion that the film's racial stereotypes can be forgiven if the privilege is bestowed upon the Jewish straight white male at the centre. Bitches, mothers and objects of lust mingle with black men, Asian men and other minority men, as McCarthy and co-writer Paul Sado expose their unwitting racism and their free, frank homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, in a film that barely goes five minutes without shitting out some slur or another. Bad intentions, basic bitches.


Tragic news for movie and music fans alike, as Oscar-winning composer James Horner has died. His personal assistant, Sylvia Patrycja, confirmed the sad news yesterday (Monday the 22nd of June) on Facebook. He died as the result of a plane crash in Santa Barbara County, and it is known that the 61-year-old was piloting the small private plane. Horner was one of few composers who could have claimed to be a household name - having started his career with high-profile titles such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Krull in the early 1980s, he continued to write the music for some of the most well-known films in the world over the following few decades. His most popular scores include Aliens, Glory, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, Apollo 13, Jumanji, The Mask of Zorro, A Beautiful Mind and The Amazing Spider-Man, and the two highest-grossing films of all time, Titanic and Avatar, for which he had been rumoured to return to write the scores for the upcoming sequels. A personal favourite James Horner score for me is his work on Terrence Malick's The New World. Audiences can look forward to hearing his music for other yet-to-be-released films Wolf Totem, Southpaw and The 33. Alongside winning two Oscars for Titanic, the acclaimed composer also won two Golden Globes, five Grammys, an International Film Music Critics award and a Los Angeles Film Critics Association award. His loss will be felt around the world, from those who made his score for Titanic the best-selling orchestral soundtrack of all time, to those who appreciated his work on any of the 100+ films he contributed to. Thoughts go out from Screen On Screen to James' family and friends.


Nadav Lapid's drama The Kindergarten Teacher is sure taking its time making its international rollout: over a year on from its Cannes debut, it has almost exclusively confined its screenings to festivals. That's nothing compared to the immensely slow worldwide berth for Lapid's last film, 2011's Policeman, which is still making its way around the world's arthouses. Here's the trailer for The Kindergarten Teacher, the well-reviewed drama from last year. No official UK or US release dates are currently available, but the trailer is, so you can just be happy with that, k?


Since I'm a human being, I live for Lily Tomlin. Thus, I'm excited to see Grandma, the indie comedy with Tomlin and promising young actor Julia Garner. It's the new film from writer-director Paul Weitz, who's redeeming himself after a string of underwhelming titles. Grandma, which has received good reviews from critics on the festival scene since its Sundance premiere in January, is released in the US on the 21st of August.

Saturday, 20 June 2015


A tense, stylish trailer for a film described by critics as just that, this is the first official look at Denis Villeneuve's Sicario. Having crossed over from Canadian, French-language titles with 2013 films Prisoners and Enemy, and having established partnerships with Oscar-friendly names like cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Johann Johannsson, Villeneuve produced a taut, effective cartel thriller that impressed Thierry Fremaux so much that he gave the film a competition berth at Cannes last month. Editing is by Steve McQueen collaborator Joe Walker. Out in the US on the 18th of September, while they've chosen to delay the UK release until the 25th as a little birthday present for me, but frankly it's not even half what I deserve lbr.


Bill Condon's Mr. Holmes is built around a character, with a lead performance built around it too. Ian McKellen's incarnation of Sherlock Holmes at once anchors and assists its film, and also transcends it. Here is a performer so attuned to his role, its purpose and its peculiarities, and it's a terrific satisfaction to watch McKellen embody this classic character, in a revised form that offers the actor an opportunity to embellish and enrich. He reflects his ageing, forgetful Holmes' necessary introspection in work that searches deep within a mind to be expressed through a body. If what Ian McKellen accomplishes in Mr. Holmes is wholly traditional, it's also wholly appropriate, and never less than wholly convincing - the same is true for the film, which deals in narrative conventions and platitudes that are made new again by the earnestness with which Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation approaches them. A mystery plot needs little artistic assistance to succeed, let alone several at once, but much as Mr. Holmes' story alone is of sufficient strength to carry it, the principal pleasure in Condon's film is derived from the old-fashioned verisimilitude that the director unpretentiously applies to it. Its modest rural English settings in fact encourage the film's casual self-reflexion, succinctly summing its characters up in an opening credits sequence of the kind of mildly pretty scenery that doesn't accent and inform its characters' individual psyches, so much as suggests their uniquely British sense of self-sustenance and solemnity, traits which make their actions, no matter how extreme, entirely explicable in their context. That modesty never overcomes the film, but it never quite allows anything about the film to overcome the viewer - it's solid but stilted, even if it never intended to be anything greater than it is. Yet Ian McKellen gives a masterclass in producing masterful acting, without the need to overcome the project.

Friday, 19 June 2015


The audacious singularity of Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence is sufficient to declare both as indubitable classics for all time. This is a rare moment where a filmmaker has uncovered a story so powerful, a technique of telling it so bold, he needn't strive for artistic greatness - these are vital humanistic documents in themselves. Oppenheimer is, though, an artist, and The Look of Silence is full of observations about humanity's relationship with nature, artfully crafted as to compliment and contextualise the narrative of non-natural deaths. The victims of Indonesia's communist cull are literally connected to the ground, and the garish splendour of their murderer's homes are as plainly wrong to our objective eyes as their abhorrent actions. Oppenheimer is objective too, which is to remark that he is sympathetic to the victims and their relatives, themselves victims of a crime that lives on in their, and thus the country's, collective memory. As the aged muddle those memories, those not present in 1965, as 1 million 'communists' were killed by internationally-armed militias, must now bear this tragedy - there can be no justice, but nor can there be any forgetting, and The Look of Silence is an appropriately horrible reminder to those who may be inclined to forget. Oppenheimer may not be able to bring his evidence to Indonesia, as its culture has been indoctrinated with perversions of the truth, but he is able to bring it to the West. But as a nation allows its natural resources to be branded ever more, its understanding of natural fact muddled not by time but by ignorance and power, it's clear whom he blames. It was the West that stood back in the '60s, the West who intervened only to enforce that branded, globalised culture, the West that infiltrates the language and the politics of Indonesia now. The Act of Killing was a surreal, excoriating attack on Indonesia's monsters; The Look of Silence exposes the monsters among us.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Irreconcilable dichotomy is the intentional focus of Magical Girl, and its unintentional downfall. An affected, carefully-constructed film, it explicitly, and ponderously, dwells upon Carlos Vermut's duelling impulses as storyteller and as philosopher; you can't fault his enthusiasm to demonstrate his skills with either, though you could fault the skills themselves. At many junctures, Magical Girl threatens to become the film its constituent parts demand of it, whether those parts lean toward brilliant or banal - the film entire is neither of those, consistently compelling (past an early stretch defined by the woodenness of Vermut's technique and the woodenness that inspires in his actors) but only inconsistently satisfying. The point seems to be to juxtapose rigorous intellect with sentiment, rationality with irrationality. Pithy nods toward mathematics and literature don't illuminate this conflict, though the innate interest in Vermut's ever-shifting scenario does. Its soap opera pleasures are more appealing than the higher intellectual purpose Vermut has for them, alas, but at least they serve some purpose. It's in his efforts toward contemporary relevance that this emerging filmmaker looks backward, evoking the erotic dramas that were prevalent in Europe in the '70s. This update proposes a dichotomy in itself, and not a flattering one - a concern with sexual fantasy is belittled by a willful, though unwittingly prudish, concern with reality. Magical Girl's sex is a pointless poison, and Vermut only wishes he had anything to say in sensationalising and antagonising his characters' desires. It's indicative of the pretension that resides behind many of his narrative choices, one that he hopes to disguise by reframing them as his characters' choices, spontaneous rather than considered. Wisely, this leads Magical Girl down blackly comic paths as it reaches its end, indulging in a silliness that is successful enough to be excused.

Monday, 15 June 2015


The Stanford Prison Experiment, alas destined to become a better-known film than Oliver Hirschbiegel's Das Experiment because duh foreign, was a hit at Sundance earlier this year, where it premiered. Perhaps in the understanding that the buzz didn't indicate that Kyle Patrick Alvarez's film was also destined to become an awards contender later in the year, IFC Films aren't giving it an awards season release, choosing to open the drama on the 17th of July in the US. There you have it.


Don't hate, appreciate. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. looks so much better than it ought to, right? On the one hand, that's partly because it actually doesn't, but on the other hand, it's because you know you want to see this for all the right reasons as for all the wrong ones. Are there any wrong ones though? Not in this trailer! Guy Ritchie's new film is released in the UK and the US on the 14th of August.


After recent titles Grace of Monaco and Before I Go to Sleep bowled the critics over, Nicole Kidman returns to the screen for another iconic performance. And critics at Berlin were equally enthusiastic about Queen of the Desert, from notoriously consistent director Werner Herzog. The role was so sought-after that Nicole replaced bestie Naomi Watts, and the film is so good that they're withholding the current US release date, just to stoke up anticipation EVEN FURTHER!


Lance Armstrong is literally the most frightening person alive today, and it's in this spirit that director Stephen Frears seems to be approaching the story of Armstrong's dramatic post-cancer rise and fall. So like Mary Reilly, then, only no more dour-faced Julia Roberts and much more happy-faced Ben Foster. He's killing it in this trailer alone, and one must always expect the very best from Frears, after all. Written by Trainspotting's John Hodge. Out later this year, and certain to be in contention for awards if it's as good as it looks.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Some might consider the hiring of rookie indie filmmaker Colin Trevorrow to helm the latest Jurassic Park film a contradiction. Indeed, gone is the grandeur of Spielberg's vision, if not the perplexing process of insisting on awe through awesomeness. Trevorrow brings a new, engaging dynamic to the film, and his tone is solid - the contradictions in Jurassic World's screenplay derail this film. It's schizo in the most manipulative manner - they don't want you to spot the seams, and most will be too enamoured with the CGI to notice. At Jurassic World's thematic heart is a cautionary notion about outsmarting nature, which writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver bring from their experience in another franchise: the recent Planet of the Apes films. Yet it goes without saying that their key concern is its human characters, and their makeshift attempts at outsmarting nature naturally prove successful enough to keep the ensemble body count at a low. The military comes in for the fiercest attacks, until the writers realise the entertainment value they can derive from military tropes, and abandon this thread. That's indicative of the whole film - it briefly fosters interesting ideas  before succumbing to the fact that most moviegoers don't understand sentences with more than three words and resorting to visually bankrupt bluster. The hypocrisy is what I understood: warnings against corporate culture juxtaposed with product placement and an infatuation with the vulgarities of human expansionism; gender stereotypes, including one particularly offensive point (among many) that women are effectively worthless if not taking care of a family, juxtaposed with futile efforts to prove that worth, in the understanding that Bryce Dallas Howard's character actually needs to because she's a woman. Howard doesn't need to prove a thing. She's magnetic, and easily the most attractive element of Jurassic World, human or otherwise.

Thursday, 11 June 2015


A legend of the screen in a great many guises, a genuine cultural icon has passed. British actor Christopher Lee died on the 7th of June, though his death was only made public today, the 11th; announcement was delayed to keep the matter private between family members. Few have failed to see a film starring the late actor, whose vast variety of memorable roles ranged from Fu Manchu and Count Dracula in the infamous Hammer Horror films, and parts in more recent franchises The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Lee's status on the screen was acknowledged by several prominent bodies, including the British Film Institute, the London Critics' Circle, the Karlovy Vary and Locarno Film Festivals respectively, and BAFTA, who awarded him a Fellowship in 2011. Furthermore, he was an acclaimed musician, with operatic training as a bass singer, and with a number of heavy metal records to his name in recent years. He died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, having earlier been admitted for respiratory and heart problems. Many will miss this inimitable talent, whose contribution to cinema can hardly be quantified in any article, no matter how lengthy, no matter how reverent. The greatest tribute? Just watch any one of his 280-odd screen performances, and witness this screen legend at his finest.


Beware this man! The reality you think you know is under scrutiny, and Rodney Ascher is chairing the inquiry. In his boundless curiosity and imagination, the questions he poses bring up only further questions in response, and that uncertainty would be the scariest feature of almost any other film. The Nightmare, however, is brutally scary in so many other ways, though this nightmare is designed so as not to finish when the film does - you remain in its dreamworld, brilliantly realised in recreation sequences, fearing your possible paralysed immersion into it some night soon, and all the time continuing to question the nature of what you perceive as reality. Ascher's documentary is crafted not to inform our intellect but our emotions, and, in engendering fear, it does so with horrible efficiency - from there, an unrelenting strain of visual and audio elements, wide-ranging in their content but of a singular purpose between them, assault our captive minds, as though ourselves in a terrifying dream of Ascher's own. Yet this is no dream - most frighteningly of all, and what will linger longer than even the cruellest of terrors inflicted on us here, is that this is a regular reality for a great many people, and their documentary recollections provide the fertile foundations for what these filmmakers' imaginations can concoct. Ascher's proclivity to probe serves him well until the film demands an even more pressing approach, and his non-judgemental attitude is too forgiving toward the end, as The Nightmare begins to offer analytical 'solutions' whose transparency betrays the lack of analysis that lies behind them. It's not even the perfect film that it could have been, never mind a perfect film period, but it is outstandingly effective as a horror film, and illuminating as a documentary. A unique, unforgettable experience. Sweet dreams...


A great idiosyncratic talent, proving their worth as a figure of genuine artistic significance in the American cultural landscape by demonstrating their versatility. Andrew Bujalski's Results is his most informal, unstructured piece yet, and a departure from the rigour of his former works - the ease with which he makes this stylistic transition, from formalistic drama to knockabout rom-com, is remarkable, though the change itself is so abrupt and so severe as to represent as pure and as strategic an artistic choice as anything Bujalski has devised before. Results may have the looseness of form and the casual character of an improvised ramble, the kind of film that only gets by on the accidental charm of its comedy, but the precision of the execution of its central concern - human interaction - betrays the detail that went into its construction. Between Bujalski's writing and the performances of the cast, right down to the smallest ensemble player, Results carries a gentle yet profound air of verisimilitude about it, one released in the most minute aspects of the mise-en-scene and in the slightest of gestures by the actors, even as Bujalski's narrative machinations let him down. What's most admirable about the film is its comedic achievement, as little authenticity is sacrificed in the pursuit of a good gag; as a rom-com, it's wholly uncommon in ways that will surprise you, which may be what makes its deference to romantic convention a tad deflating toward the end. Guy Pearce is strong, if somewhat schematic in his appreciation of his role, while Cobie Smulders and Kevin Corrigan - underused in later scenes - deliver committed, vibrant performances, worthy of the film, and indeed informing its quality.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015


If you care, you're already there. And if you don't care... tough. Out somewhere, sometime. Like I said, if you care, you're already there.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


In a typically speedy turnaround, Ridley Scott brings to cinemas another film likely to be forgotten about a few months after release. Sorry 'bout it. The Martian is being spoken about as a potential return to form for Mr. Scott, though whatever form that is eludes me (are they referring to the good form he's demonstrated in maybe fewer than half the films he's directed over his career?). You might recall people referring to any one of his recent titles in a similar manner. Never mind all the speculation though, we'll see how this sci-fi, written by The Cabin in the Woods' Drew Goddard and starring Matt Damon, fares when released theatrically on the 25th of November in the US and on the 27th in the UK.


A horror film for an arthouse crowd - not that there aren't already plenty of these, but Alleluia so typifies this style of film that it could be taught as such in seminars. What this means is that the film thrives on its bloodlust, but director Fabrice du Welz can't bring himself to admit it, and so fills the film with teasing, ominous build-ups to his rabid, cathartic conclusions. An episodic film, separated into distinct but similar chapters, Alleluia's segments are linked by a study into escalating insanity, a surface-level investigation into what happens when two meek though unstable souls connect, the apparent banality of their individual characters only intensifying the shock of the crimes they come to commit. du Welz is not the sort of filmmaker to probe terribly deeply - indeed, he doesn't even trust in the validity of this (very real) scenario, and muddies it with sporadic suggestions of supernatural influence, in a typical attempt to pulp it up. This set-up is used as a springboard into intentionally upsetting scenes of emotional and physical cruelty, and the inevitability of the brutality at each chapter's end is engendered only by du Welz and co-writers Romain Protat and Vincent Tavier's design. There's no care toward complication, lest it disturb the purity of that design, and Alleluia is a simplistic, predictable, somewhat exploitative piece of work as a result. One must commend Lola Duenas for her performance, and she overcomes the difficulties in du Welz's creation to deliver a characterisation that's equally authentic and extreme. Technical credits are rote, with cinematography and score alike pursuing standard 'New Wave Extreme' blueprints.

Monday, 8 June 2015


Is it just me or does this trailer for Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies not live up to the expectations? It doesn't live up to mine, because I was quite looking forward to a Cold War spy thriller with a Coen brothers script. With Steven Spielberg at the helm, though, I can reset my expectations to pretty high, I'd say - the film could be close to Spielberg titles like Munich and Lincoln, and that's certainly something to look forward to. Out in the UK on the 9th of October and in the US on the 16th.


Kathryn Bigelow contributed to the financing for this double award-winner at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The gritty, well-reviewed drug cartel documentary is set for a limited release in American theatres on the 3rd of July, and could ride enthusiastic audience reception to awards buzz later in the year.


Commercial concerns hang heavy over Insidious: Chapter 3, or at least over those who watch the film. This is product made with 'what people want' in mind, or rather what people think they want, and by people who are entirely prepared to give it to them. A legitimately scary film for much of its runtime, Insidious: Chapter 3 succumbs to the deficiencies in its filmmakers' talents in the end, allowing its flaws to overwhelm its attributes. Still, franchise rot hasn't quite settled in here - in fact, Chapter 3 is arguably the strongest film in its series, largely due to a keener focus on scares, a leaner one on story. Although its technique is wholly unoriginal, Leigh Whannell's film mines considerable heft out of its hauntings, focusing on a few singularly unsettling details in its design to maximise its scariness. The film is silly and unsubtle, but mostly successful in this regard - it's in other aspects, many of them shamefully basic, that it comes up short. The scripting is predictably trite, and no more forgivable for being so predictable, and strives toward levels of comedic quality that are completely beyond it. That the screenplay offers the cast little assistance is beside the point when considering their collective inadequacy, since they fail to convince even when silent - at one point, Lin Shaye is even outacted by a lantern. All of these flaws, and an additional one in the film's egregious appropriation of textbook psychobabble as genuine emotional profundity, bring down a finale that ought to have been the almighty climactic spook to top all of those that preceded it. None of this lessens the impact of the earlier scares in Insidious: Chapter 3, nor the film's quality as a pure horror film in its first half; simply, I wish the film had continued in such a vein.

Thursday, 4 June 2015


Is this trailer for Macbeth being billed as a 'teaser' because it's the first one? And because there isn't much plot to it? Heavy on atmosphere, this little look at Justin Kurzel's Cannes hit might then be an accurate summary of the film itself, if reviews from the festival are to be trusted. Out in the UK on the 2nd of October; no US release has yet been confirmed, but since The Weinstein Company is distributing the film Stateside, and since they've been generating buzz around the project for well over a year now, one can expect them to debut it in America in perfect time for awards consideration. The beautiful visuals come courtesy of Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran alongside two less well-known names: cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom; Lore) and production designer Fiona Crombie, both of whom have been brought in by Kurzel, who worked with them on Snowtown.


Recently announced as the official opening film of the 2015 BFI London Film Festival, Brick Lane director Sarah Gavron's feminist historical drama will receive its UK premiere at the fest on the 7th of October, before its UK theatrical release on the 30th. Suffragette has already been previewed in a teaser trailer, though this longer look offers a clearer idea of the strength of the performances, particularly from leading ladies Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep. Out in the US on the 23rd of October.


Noah Baumbach just won't quit! Mistress America is being positioned, marketing-wise at least, as the filmmaker's follow-up to Frances Ha, which is easy to understand given that it's his second screenwriting collaboration with star Greta Gerwig. It's actually arriving after While We're Young, though, and that film's strong box office performance this year will only aid awareness for this acclaimed comedy, which impressed critics at Sundance in January. Due for release in the US on the 14th of August.


2015 marks the return of the old Pixar Animation Studio, or so the Disney brand might have you believe. With excellent reviews for Inside Out from Cannes last month, and with two titles on their release schedule this calendar year (the shortest window between releases in the studio's history), one might be tempted to agree with them. We'll find out exactly how good 2015 is for Pixar when The Good Dinosaur opens in the US on the 25th of November and in the UK on the 27th. The above trailer, the first look at the film, is certainly very promising.


The inessentiality of John Boorman's Queen and Country is emphasised by one non-diegetic detail: it's the unplanned sequel to Boorman's own moderately successful Hope and Glory, 27 years later. The years haven't been as kind to Boorman as they might have been, and what magic he may have been capable of conjuring in the 1980s seems to have dissipated - Queen and Country is an awkward, ramshackle sort of film, torn between a number of impulses that ought to fit together far more cohesively than they do here. At another seminal moment in 20th Century history, our protagonist - a newly politicised, and not entirely for the better, Bill Rohan - undergoes education through experience once more, potentially life-changing events related through the analysis of a left-leaning lad. The film's semi-autobiographical nature doesn't excuse its didacticism, alas, and as such Boorman is unable to filter the portentous events he depicts (Queen Elizabeth's coronation, the apparent encroach of nuclear war etc.) through a narrative of any identifiability. The film is that bit too disconnected, its characters too distracted themselves, and their own narratives too distracting. Between each of the subplots that Boorman attempts to uphold, he crafts not one into the kind of solid structure that might uphold any significant interest, and the fragmentation that occurs is only exacerbated by the strange variety in the quality of performances from the cast. Additionally, scripting (or perhaps just the line delivery), staging, cutting and scoring all pull up their own concerns, resulting in a disjointed and, indeed, inessential film, destined to be forgotten perhaps in 27 weeks, never mind 27 years.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


A bubbly, bristling comedy from an assemblage of artists who know precisely what they're doing. This isn't their comfort zone, it's their creative zone, and it's a healthy combination of intelligence and enthusiasm that makes Spy the joyously silly work of art that it is. The key to Paul Feig's films is that it's the women who are most in their element, and he rightfully hands his works over to them, demonstrating equal respect and affection for his ladies by stepping clean out of their way. The smartest and the silliest characters in this film (which is itself both of those qualities) belong to the girls, and they respond with spirited comedic performances. Feig and his actors find ineffable humour at the most mundane, throwaway of opportunities, complimenting the grander set-piece jokes with subtle sight-gags and one-liners that you won't see coming, and you won't forget. The only significant problem in the wake of such comic genius is what happens when those jokes dry up - alas, this isn't Monty Python, so you can be sure that they do, and Feig doesn't seem to know how to stage a moment that isn't punctuated by a punchline of some sort. The more that lead Melissa McCarthy's performance is kept in check, the funnier she is allowed to become, but one suspects either that she's been reined in too much at times here, or perhaps just that Spy is a little unfinished, a tad rough around the edges, if endearingly so. And it's the comedy that makes the film so very endearing, expertly handled by writers and actors alike.