Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Hampstead By Joel Hopkins


                                      Reviewed By Linda Marric

 It's no secret that Londoners have alway met any big Hollywood or British production based on a local landmark with a huge amount of suspicion, and sometimes even derision. Who could forget the locals' reaction to Roger Michell’s Notting Hill in 1999, and how the lack of representation of the area’s rich and diverse community was met with anger and disappointment by many. Granted, Hampstead doesn't exactly present the most subtle or even the most believable narrative, but if you are willing to ignore the blatant “touristic” aesthetics attached to it, you might find yourself rooting for this hugely completing, yet slightly flawed rom-com. Staring Diane Keating and Brendan Gleeson and directed by Joel Hopkins, the film centres around themes of gentrification and triumph over corporate greed in one of the capital’s most affluent areas.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger

                                      Reviewed by Gabriella Apicella

To the devotee and the uninitiated, “The Seasons in Quincy” inspires the urgent passion of the curious.

As art critic, novelist, painter and poet John Berger will be referenced as a great intellect for generations to come. His use of language in such seminal essays as “Ways of Seeing” demonstrates a mind of great compassion and precious insight that can transform perception. So a film that can bring its audience to an intimate sense of knowing the man behind the work requires skill, and a radical style. As epic a task as Todd Haynes’ unravelling of the facets of Bob Dylan with “I’m Not There”, a conventional approach to capturing the man’s essence would be at risk of missing the point. In Berger’s own words: “To separate fact and ­imagination, event and feeling, protagonist and narrator, is to stay on dry land and never put to sea.”

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Mandy by Alexander Mackendrick

                                             Reviewed by Linda Marric

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of the release of Mandy, Studiocanal have brought out a brand new restoration of this well loved Ealing Studios Classic on Blu-Ray and DVD. Considered by many to be one of the best productions to come out of the legendary studios, Mandy gained a huge success and notoriety when it was first released in 1952, and went on to earn a special place in the hearts of all those who've come across it since.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Destination Unknown by Claire Ferguson

Reviewed by Andy Zach

Destination Unknown, directed and edited by Claire Ferguson, navigates the Holocaust through the memories of twelve people who lived through it in different ways. To name a few, there’s Helen Sternlicht who was saved by Oskar Schindler. Stanley Glogover survived Auschwitz. Mietek Pemper was Oskar Schindler’s closest assistant. Frank Blaichman left his family to be a partisan fighter. Eli Zborowski tells the story of how he survived by hiding behind a wall in a cellar. All twelve of the stories told have a specificity to them that widens the scope of the Holocaust to a human level and allows us a gateway into understanding it in in a personal way.

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Mummy by Alex Kurtzman

Reviewed by Linda Marric

Literally nothing about the new The Mummy reboot inspires any kind of excitement or even the slightest bit of interest resembling the one afforded to its late 90s predecessor. With its barely intelligible messy and overly wordy screenplay and a below par performance from its principle star, I think it’s safe to say that this new reincarnation of a well loved classic, will go down as one of the worst blockbuster of the summer, even if it manages to perform well at the box office. Staring Tom Cruise and Directed by Alex Kurtzman, The Mummy pretty much fails on all accounts, but is almost saved by an incredible performance by the brilliant Safia Boutella, who could single-handedly be credited for breaking the curse of this utterly shambolic production.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Wilson by Craig Johnson

Reviewed by Linda Marric 

Adapted from Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel of the same name, Wilson has none of the charm or sleek narrative as Clowes earlier work. Try as you may, you will find it very hard to get excited about this adaptation the same way most of us were when we came across Clowes' other highly popular graphic novel Ghost World, which was adapted to the screen by Terry Zwigoff, Staring Woody Harrelson and directed by Craig Johnson, Wilson is not so much a character study into middle-age, but more of a cautionary tale revolving around an antisocial neurotic curmudgeon who hates everyone and everything.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Dying Laughing by Lloyd Stanton & Paul Toogood

Dying Laughing is documentary that tries to find out just what makes a stand up comedian do what they do. Stand-up comedy, as presented here, is sheer hell. A gut-wrenching, life-ruining experience that chews up the weak and leaves even the strongest broken and alone.

Or maybe it is life-affirming and invigorating? An endorphin and serotonin speedball that gives just as much as it takes from the hapless junkies who crave it so much they will soak up abuse from a crowd of drunks just to get a fix. Dying Laughing remains neutral, allowing its interviewees to tell it their way.

Friday, 2 June 2017

After The Storm by Kore-Eda Hirozaku

Internationally acclaimed Japanese Director Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s gentle depiction of soul-searching Ryota’s (Abe Hiroshi) attempts to connect with his life, whether work, friendship, family, lacks a complexity of character development to lift his protagonist from a maudlin self-pity.

While his mother, sister, ex-wife, son and young colleague manage the challenges of bereavement, low income, divorce and dashed hopes with pragmatism, Ryota merely mopes. Dejected after not fulfilling his ambitions as a novelist (or perhaps because this didn’t bring him the fame and wealth that are apparently his uppermost concerns) he works as a cheap private detective. Swindling and double-crossing his sleazy clients earns passing amusements as the film comments on the falsity of having the “perfect life”. However, they do little to gather momentum or engagement with the Ryota’s half-hearted attempts to reconcile and ameliorate the consequences of his neglectful behaviour. Rather, all of his actions feel that they come rather too late to be meaningful, and even veer into quite soulless manipulations as he begins to employ the strategies of the deceased alcoholic father he hopes to avoid becoming.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Sundance London 2017 - Dina by Dan Sickles & Antonio Santini

It’s a credit to Dogwoof and their impressive output that they have yet to release a single film this year that could be considered below par. The latest offering from this tireless outfit is every bit as exhilarating as the rest of their releases.

Presented as part of Sundance London Film Festival, Dina is a fantastic piece of filmmaking. This fascinating documentary is not only touching, funny and genuinely engaging, but it also deals with themes that not many filmmakers would dare approach.

Sundance London 2017 - A Ghost Story by David Lowery

David Lowery has become a Sundance little darling. His latest feature, A Ghost Story, was a festival sensation last January in Park City. In fact, the queue for the press screening was immense, despite the heavy snow outside the tent. The organisers soon realised they had to open a second room for the screening as they didn’t want to let the critics down. This week, A Ghost Story has its UK premiere and the filmmaker is coming to London for a talk. You can check the festival schedule here. But before you make any plans, let’s investigate this fever. Is A Ghost Story really extraordinary?

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Awards & Comments

The jury has just handed over the awards at the Cannes Film Festivals. This year more than ever, there has been a real split between the French and the international press. The former favoured 120 Battements Par Minute and The Day After, the latter Loveless, The Square and (to a lesser extent), The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and the jury was more in tune with them. The real surprise came not so much from the films that featured in the list of awards, more in the order they were given awards for.

As for last year, I did not predict a single award correctly, although I had one nearly right as I knew Nicole Kidman would not leave empty-handed, she was just rewarded in an unexpected and rather brilliant way. I did have most of the winning films in my list of predictions, but had the actual awards they received the wrong way round.

Cannes 2017 - Awards Predictions

This edition has been a solid year, with few real clunkers (even Le Redoutable did not end up being the disaster we had all somehow predicted), but not quite on par with 2016, which had been exceptional, and it would have been foolish to expect 2017 to match it. Since the awards are decided by a small jury (this year made up of such wildly different artists as Pedro Almodovar, Will Smith, Maren Ade, Paolo Sorrentino etc...), it is fiendishly difficult, and somehow pointless, to try to second guess what their tastes in films might be based on their own work and personality. After all, who expected 2013 President of the Jury Steven Spielberg to fall in love with Blue Is The Warmest Colour? Yet this is precisely what I am going to do, based on the films I saw and the general "vibe", despite my near total failure at predicting any of the awards last year.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts by Mouly Surya

Despite Indonesia being the fourth most populated country in the world, its cinema has rarely made much of an impact outside its borders, and with Marlina The Murderer In Four Acts by Mouly Surya, which just screened at Director's Fortnight, this is only the third time the country has had a film in Cannes in any strand, and the first in twelve years.

Marlina (Marsha Timothy), a recently widowed woman living in a small house in the arid countryside of Sumba Island, is attacked by a group of men, only for her to take matters in her own hands by killing them all in self-defence. She sets on a journey to the police to report the crime while the rest of the gang goes in her pursuit.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Nos Années Folles by André Téchiné

French director André Téchiné was given a tribute at this year's Cannes Film Festival, as part of their 70th birthday celebrations. Most of the legendary actresses he has worked with were present, probably one of the biggest concentration of French acting legends outside the French Film Awards: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Sandrine Kiberlain, Juliette Binoche... and many more (but no Adjani!), all of them sat on the same row, one of those Cannes moments that makes you want to pinch yourself to check you are not dreaming. The festival also presented the director's new film, Nos Années Folles.

Nos Années Folles is based on a true story, one whose premise is so unlikely that it proves yet again that life is stranger than fiction: World War One deserter Paul (Pierre Deladonchamps, seen in Stranger By The Lake (2013)) goes into hiding in the basement of the house occupied by his wife Louise (Céline Sallette) and her mum rather than face the front once more. Seeing her husband grow restless at his lack of freedom, Louise devises an unlikely plan, dressing up Paul as a woman to allow him to leave the house, an arrangement he is reluctant to accept at first, only to fully embrace it for years to come, even when the war is over and the threat of imprisonment is long gone, having become a celebrity in the process.

Cannes 2017: The Villainess by Jung Byung-gil

South Korean films seems to form the staple of the Midnight Screenings at the Cannes Film Festival, and understandably, considering their directors' mastery of genre cinema, coupled with their formal skills. There has been some fodder over the years though, but not The Villainess, presented this year, oh no, not The Villainess!

In The Villainess, Sook-hee (Kim Ok-Bin) was trained to become an assassin since childhood. She is brought to the attention of South Korea's Intelligence Agency after a particularly bold act of vengeance, and recruited among their black ops all female team of assassins, with the promise to be sent back to civilian life after ten years of service, and of a better life for the daughter she is soon to give birth to. A man from her past reemerges however, and her loyalty is put to the test.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - How To Talk To Girls At Parties by John Cameron Mitchell

A sci-fi comedy set in Croydon in the 70's with Nicole Kidman as an ageing punk called Boadicea? When that was announced, I was first in the queue! Then I realised who the director was, and I winced, but kept faith. None of John Cameron Mitchell's films have worked for me, and he often seems to hide his lack of talent between a strong, flashy premise (Hedwig) or graphic scenes (Shortbus).

In How To Talk To Girls At Parties,  adapted from a short story by Neil Gaiman, a trio of young punks led by Enn (Alex Sharp) is invited to an afterparty in a house after a concert, populated by strange dwellers whose unusual antics make the boys think they have come across a cult at first. Little do they realise that they are actually aliens, and one of them, Zan (Elle Fanning), wants to break free from her world of conformity, embracing Earth and falling for Enn.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Loveless by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Andrey Zvyagintsev made an impact in Cannes in 2014 with the bombastic, Kafka-esque nightmare Leviathan, and walked away with the award for best screenplay. He is back this year in competition with Loveless (but then you'd expect his new film to be called Loveless).

In Loveless, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are going through a messy divorce, having both found a new partner already. Their son Alyosha is the last "detail" to be sorted before they can move on with their new lives, but in the midst of a particularly acrimonious fight, he vanishes (not that they even notice at first!).

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Cannes 2017 - Ismael's Ghosts by Arnaud Desplechin

There had been much noise when Cannes regular Arnaud Desplechin was turned down for the official selection in 2015, and ended up at Director's Fortnight, by the same critics who complain that "it's always the same people", proving that Cannes can never do right in the eyes of some. The French director is back in the official selection, but not in competition, his film Ismael's Ghosts opening the festival this year.

Ismael's Ghosts is a tale of two stories, focused on both the artistic and love life of film director Ismael (Matthieu Amalric). His first wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) disappeared twenty years ago and is presumed dead. After years of womanising, he meets then marries Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), only for Carlotta to reappear out of nowhere. We also follow the incredibly erratic shoot of his latest film, an espionage story based on the life of his younger brother, Ivan (Louis Garrel).

Friday, 28 April 2017

Suntan by Argyris Papadimitropoulos

Suntan from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos starts out as a portrait of a lonely local doctor unexpectedly drawn out of his shell by a summer romance and ends, brilliantly, as a psychotic character study in the vein of Pablo Larrain’s Tony Manero (2008).

GP Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) meets hedonistic party girl Anna (Elli Tringou) when she is rushed into his surgery one bright morning after gashing her thigh in a scooter crash. He treats the wound and endures the chaotic joking of her friends good-naturedly. In return, they hail Kostis as “the best doctor in the world” and invite him to join them at the beach. He does and seemingly becomes part of their tribe, going clubbing every night, jeopardising his professional life by staying out late and drinking too much, all the while pining for Anna to the obvious amusement of all.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Song to Song by Terrence Malick - Review

Song to Song is the third film in Terrence Malick's semi-autobiographical trilogy about love. Stylistically they're born from The Tree of Life with each being a slightly different branch. To the Wonder twirled its way through a love triangle but failed to blossom. Knight of Cups (the best of the three) was a Fellini-esque glide through Hollywood by way of tarot cards. Rick's (Christian Bale) interior was reflected out into the film's dreamy visuals and you could at least feel the buds sprouting. I'd hoped Song to Song would be a culmination of this style. The Austin set love triangle between Rooney Mara’s musician (she was born to be a Malick character), Ryan Gosling's singer-songwriter, and Michael Fassbender's power hungry producer, lands somewhere between its two predecessors.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Eyes of My Mother by Nicolas Pesce

Fans of gory, stylish and all together disturbing horror movies rejoice, others please look away now. Written and Directed by Nicholas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother is a directorial debut like no other; this black and white moody auteur piece may not be to everyone's liking, but is nevertheless one of the most original films of the year. Its visceral depiction of a young woman’s descent into a quiet madness is sure to strike a chord with those on the look out for a different kind of horror movie.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Student by Kirill Serebrennikov

Allegory, and religious symbolism take central stage in Kirill Serebrennikov’s The Student. Adapted from German dramatist Marius von Mayenburg’s play Martyr, the film carries a powerful anti-clerical message and deals with themes of disenfranchised youth and the hypocrisy of the an education system ruled by bureaucracy.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Prevenge by Alice Lowe

Directed, written by and starring Alice Lowe, Prevenge is a British comedy horror concerning a serial killer carrying out a string of murders while eight months pregnant. A fascinating exercise in contrasting the ghoulish with the mundane, it's anything but hard labour.

Lowe plays Ruth, a recent widow whose homicidal spree is carried out under orders from the unborn infant nestling in her womb. Contriving encounters with strangers seemingly at random, Ruth picks them off one-by-one with a carving knife, becoming increasingly skilled at her task as the voice emanating from within grows ever-more shrill and demanding. As the body count rises, the connection between Ruth's victims becomes clear and matters come to a grisly head.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

20th Century Women by Mike Mills

The pitfall of coming of age/teen films—and most films, really—is teaching the audience a lesson as though it's a lecture. Rather than ponder about the passage of time or how to navigate finding yourself, they blatantly point it out without exploring the complexities. Writer/Director Mike Mills (Beginners, 2011) doesn't tell you what to think; he tells you what to think about and offers you things to feel. I've found that is what separates good films from great ones, especially in the teen genre.

20th Century Women is a cine-memoir about Mike Mills' own youth and the women who shaped him—namely his mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening in a career best performance), a depression era raised woman who is equal parts kind and kick ass. Set in 1979, her fourteen-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann), skateboards around Santa Barbara's streets in the limbo after Nixon's corruption and on the cusp of the Reagan years. However, the film is really not about him; it's about the 3 influential women and the only man in his life at that time.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Jackie by Pablo Larraín - Review

“There won’t be another Camelot. Not another Camelot.” Jackie Kennedy says to herself — both as a statement about the country passing into darker times and as reassurance about her husband’s legacy. Grief and myth collide in director Pablo Larraín’s intimate study of the person most affected by one of America’s greatest tragedies.

Allow me to be cliché and call Natalie Portman’s performance here a revelation. The control of slipping between reality and artifice is incredible – her wandering around the white house with no direction makes the film feel more like a ghost story than anything resembling a biopic. And not since Tom Hardy’s Bane has a voice been so bizarrely engrossing.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Does the Ending of Split Work? SPOILERS

M Night Shyamalan is still best known for The Sixth Sense (1999) after all these years, and its ending that probably has one of the best known twists in the history of film. His career had never quite matched this success until Split (2017), which came top of the box office last weekend in the USA, largely thanks to the promise of one of his trademark twist endings. But does it work? SPOILERS (well, duh!).

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Final Girls or The Final Girl of Cairo

If, like me, you were an fan of horror films in the 80’s/90’s, you’ll remember the final girls, one of the most regular tropes of slashers. You’ll also remember the actresses who played them, or perhaps not, as none of them ever had much of a career after their brief turn in the limelight, and in those pre-IMDB days, you had no idea what had happened to them. Most probably smaller parts in barely seen films, bit parts on TV and little else.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

FilmLand Empire Top 5 of 2016

I have asked my contributors to list their top 5 films of 2016, without giving them any particular rules. A few years ago I had launched the "bloggies", doing a round up of blogger top film lists but I feel that is far more interesting to publish each writer's own list, as it is a lot more personal that way, so here they are, including mine!