Tuesday 27 December 2011
I must have lived in Britain for too long because I am now obsessed with lists. And while more lists of best/worst films of 2011 are being published, a debate is raging. Should such lists only include films that were actually released in the country the journalist/blogger is based in, or should it also include films seen at film festivals? I would go for the former to keep a connection with readers who might not have the chance to see so many films at festivals. Yet, frustratingly, my two favourite films seen in 2009 then 2010 were at film festivals and never made it to the UK screen. They were the Japanese Air Doll and then the Estonian The Temptations Of St Tony (think Bela Tarr meets David Lynch meets Aki Kaurismaki). No such dilemna this year, however I still saw a whole bunch of films that are worth mentioning, even though they have yet to be released in here.
Monday 19 December 2011
We are going from the dizzying heights of the best films of 2011 yesterday to the fetid pit of the bad cinema of the year today. But before I unleash my list of worst films of the year, what makes a bad film? Surely there must be some Z list rubbish films that are more deserving of a spot in there than my choices, such as Crocatarus vs Mega Platypus? But that last example would never have any ambitions to be anything that it is not. To me, what makes a bad film above all is dullness. Films are like relationships, I want to love, I want to hate, but I do not want to be bored. Other than that, promising films that do not fulfil their expectations also deserve to be on this list. And finally, "quality" period dramas that hide a complete void of new ideas and originality.
Sunday 18 December 2011
Yes it is that time of the year again! No, not Christmas, 'tis the time where everybody is busy drawing their top 10 list. The best thing about my list is how full of surprises it is, indeed I would have struggled to predict the majority of films that feature in it, and this is what I love about cinema, its endless ability to surprise. This post only actually include number 11 to 6 as the top 5 has been published in Cinemart so I include the link at the end. Feel free to comment if you agree/disagree/are rolling your eyes in disbelief.
Monday 12 December 2011
Plot: A Japanese school girl takes some friends along to spend the summer at her aunt's house. Little do they know that the house is haunted, and its owner has a nefarious plan in mind.
The plot might make it sound like the least original one you can think of for a horror film, yet, despite the simple premise, this has got to be one of the weirdest films I have ever seen, and I have seen my fair share of them. This feels like a tornado of genres, borrowing elements from all sorts of films and stitching them out together without ever repeating itself and with little concern for tonal consistency, with an insane creativity and wonderfully twisted invention.
Tuesday 6 December 2011
The much, much delayed Cabin in the Woods, the horror film with a twist from the writing/directing team of Drew Goddard/Josh Whedon is finally getting a release date, in April next year, and to prove that it is finally happening, a poster and now a trailer have been released. The film was actually shot in 2009, at a time when cast member Chris Hemsworth (Thor) was a virtual unknown for worldwide audiences apart from a Star Trek cameo, long before he took on the part of the iconic Nordic God Thor that brought him worldwide fame. MGM, the studio behind it went bankrupt after spending a further year post-converting it to 3D, and the film was bought by horror specialist Lionsgate. The trailer seems extremely spoilerific and raises an important question about how much or how little a studio should reveal of a film that is supposed to contain so many twists.
Monday 5 December 2011
For fans of 80's horror classics, the idea of a The Thing remake was the final nail in the coffin, in a decade that saw every single major then minor horror classic of this golden era get redone. While not as well known to the mainstream audience as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th, the John Carpenter's film, (itself a loose remake of the 50's sci-fi The Thing From Another World), holds a special place in the heart of many a fan of the genre. I quite simply hold it as the best horror film ever made.
Thursday 1 December 2011
Now this is a what the power of cinema is all about. You walk into to a dark room,take a seat and settle down for a film, and instantly you are transported to world that you can almost smell and taste. This place is Kingston, Jamaica. And not the Jamaica of holiday brochures and reggae music videos – this is raw inner city Kingston – a place divided into 'Garrison' community's and so violent and brutal that army tanks patrol the streets. I love it when a film comes along and has you gripped from start to finish, and I must admit it didn't sound like my cup of tea, so an even better surprise.
Monday 28 November 2011
Plot: This sequel to Cabin Fever sees the flesh eating from the first film unleashed on a high school getting ready for prom night, a night the students will never forget...
This sequel to Eli Roth's minor cult classic Cabin Fever (the story of a flesh eating virus unleashed on a bunch of unsuspecting teens) came much unloved. Released straight to dvd, this was disavowed by its promising young director Ti West (who has made a name for himself with the excellent House of the Devil), who left the film unfinished after some heavy interferences from the studio. So is it such a disaster? Far from it. The film is miles away from cheap straight to dvd horror sequels you might expect and it is all to Ti West's credits that you can still clearly see where he was going, with a strong and unique style, an unusual indie soundtrack (with the added bonus of hints of the Angelo Badalamenti score from the first film) and a gallery of oddball characters.
Sunday 27 November 2011
If you are on Twitter, you cannot fail to have noticed a game that consists of creating puns with film titles following a given theme, that journalists, bloggers and bored office workers (aherm) enthusiastically take part to. For example, #catfilms gave us the lovely Divine Secrets of the Meow Meow Sisterhood, #CheapRemakes The Discount Of Monte Christo and Xmen: Second Class etc... And one theme recently, #FoodieFilms got me really inspired not only to find some new puns but to actually imagine what these foodie films might turn out to be, should they ever be made! So I include a few of my own puns and others I have borrowed, and I have been dreaming up storylines...
Thursday 24 November 2011
We were here is a documentary that charts the devastation of the AIDS epidemic on the gay community in San Francisco, through testimonies from various people who lived through it, and how it found the strength to deal with it.
You might feel that this is a familiar subject and that a documentary on the subject might not cover any new ground. And to put it bluntly, with such a strong subject, any lazy filmmaker would just need to shove their camera in front of witnesses of the time and have some powerful footage. So it is all to the credit of directors David Weissman to have crafted a documentary that feels relevant and balanced, offering enough context to understand what was going on in the background of the epidemic, and giving the crisis a human face by not spreading themselves too thinly with too many witnesses, thanks to some very moving stories of the times.
Sunday 20 November 2011
The naughty but nice Gigola is now out on DVD. I caught it at the LLGFF earlier in the year and wrote a review. I am unashamedly republishing that exact same review. I recently compared watching Gigola to finding a bottle of absinthe and some saphic pictures in your French nan's bedside cabinet. This is what I had to say when I first saw it:
Saturday 19 November 2011
The Human Centipede twitter account was recently asking fans to suggest ideas for a third film in the vomit inducing franchise, and this is worrying. The serie was always conceived as a trilogy, and you have to wonder if Tom Six could possibly ever top the second film, which smashed the boundaries of taste and violence. So has he run out of ideas for the third one? If it is the case then I have a whole lot of ideas for him. Some I have actually lovingly ripped off from some Twitter friends, so thanks to @PPlasticHelmet and @beatricecolbran for their genius ideas. Others are mine.
Thursday 17 November 2011
Plot: There is not much of a plot. If narrative threads were fireworks, then somebody forgot to light them up. Ok so an American journalist accepts a freelance position in a failing paper in San Juan. He gets exposed to colourful local characters and empties his hotel room's minibar.
Review: While coming out 13 years later, The Rum Diary can actually be seen as an indirect prequel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, being an adaptation of an earlier book by Hunter S Thompson. Fear... was a flawed but minor classic, best remembered for the, well, fearless performance of Johnny Depp as well as the usual visual fireworks of Terry Gilliam. It was messy, made little sense and was no patch on the book but at least it was crazy and fun.
Tuesday 15 November 2011
"Plot" (I use the term loosely): A recently divorced American woman travels the world, eats, prays, loves. Audiences shut their eyes, throw up their guts, slash their wrists.
My blog has run the danger lately of only featuring positive reviews. Since I can decide what I write about, it makes sense to only mention the films I feel passionate about. But now and then comes a film whose awfulness is so immense, it has its own gravitational centre. And I feel it is my duty to avoid any more people having their soul sucked into the bottomless pit of this filmic, dimensions bending singularity. I will never be able to unwatch this. But I did it so that you will not have to.
Saturday 12 November 2011
Plot: Thirty-something couple Jason (Hamish Linklater) and Sophie (Miranda July, who also directed and wrote the script) have the feeling that life has passed them by. Having decided to adopt and care for an ailing cat they rescued, they are told they will need to wait for a month for it to be released to them. They soon realise that a new life of responsibilities lied ahead, which forces them to reconsider their goals and future.
It is an understatement to say that I was actually not planning on seeing The Future originally. It did not make it to my line-up at the London Film Festival due to the negative feedback, and over the years, I have become slightly bored with a certain type of quirky independent cinema that can be as formulaic as any blockbuster, with added pretension. Yet, as I was reading more about it, and on the back of a rather positive from trusted British film magazine Sight & Sound, I decided to give it a try. Having polarised opinion so much (some described it as knuckle-gnawingly awful), I figured it would be anything than boring, and I will always prefer to hate a film than be bored by it. Besides, having seen how much negative reaction one of my favourite film this year, Damsels In Distress, had received at the festival, I went in with an open mind.
Tuesday 8 November 2011
Maverick Japanese director Takashi Miike is having the most versatile and prolific career. Having clocked up an average of three films per year since the start of his career in the early 90's, in a variety of genres, he came into prominence in the West with a serie of infamously gruesome films, Ichi The Killer and especially Audition, as well as the impossible to describe, disco zombie/evil dead/sound of music mash-up, The Happiness of the Katakuris. And he continued to surprise everybody with the absolutely brilliant period samurai action film 13 Assassins last year, followed by his less well received, other period samurai drama, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, which was in Cannes this year.
Sunday 6 November 2011
Plot: A family in a small town in Brittany tries to keep the HIV positive status of their older son a secret from his younger brother. When he begins suspecting something, his elder brother takes him on a trip to Paris to help him face the facts and strengthen their ties.
Christophe Honore has quickly risen within the ranks of French cinema in the last decade, thanks to its particular style that sees him quite happily navigate between the unsentimental and the whimsical. The majority of his films are about one thing and one thing only, love, and if you have not seen that absolutely fantastic Les Chansons D'Amour then I'm afraid you have not lived yet.
Wednesday 2 November 2011
Plot: Divorced mum Susan (Teri Polo) moves in a new suburb with her two sons, who quickly realise that in their creepy new basement hides a seemingly bottomless hole, which, once open, unleashes some very dark forces.
Review: American director Joe Dante is best known for his early work, Piranha, The Howling and especially Gremlins. He might have have had not the career some had promised him on the strength of his first films, but has nevertheless always been interesting, making such underrated gems as Matinee and Small Soldiers. One of his most distinctive characteristic is the way he has always managed to put on a very dark spin on seemingly harmless "family" films, never looking down on his audience no matter how young or old.
Sunday 30 October 2011
Survival of the dead is the last chapter in George A Romero's new Dead trilogy. And what a tragedy it is. When the zombie master announced that he was working on a new dead film back in 2004, as the zombie genre was going through a revival, with Shaun of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake (that went to the Cannes Film Festival it has to be noted), fans all around the world where wetting themselves with excitement. And yet what a cruel disappointment it has been, made even more painful when each new film turned out to be even worse than the previous one. Survival of the Dead is , I am sorry to say, the final straw.
Thursday 27 October 2011
So the London Film Festival did not quite turn out the way it was supposed to, as I was struck half-way through by the notorious festival bug that has claimed so many victims this year. (They should really have put Contagion as an ominous opening film) And I only managed 16 films out of the 27 I was supposed to see. Still, I ended on a high note with British supernatural thriller The Awakening. Having read the very negative 2 stars review from Empire on my way there, I feared the worst. But I cannot say no to an even half decent ghost story. And what an unexpected pleasure this turned out to be.
Wednesday 26 October 2011
The hottest ticket in town for the London Film Festival was not the W.E. premiere last night, with the media scrum surrounding Madonna's appearance on the red carpet. (She managed to alienate all her fans by not taking the time to sign a few autographs, nice work). No, those of us in the know had paid to see a film not knowing what it was going to be! Such is the allure of surprise and our playful nature that we were willing to go wherever artistic director Sandra Hebron was going to take us, and indeed the Surprise Screening of the festival is its fastest selling ticket.
Monday 24 October 2011
The highs and lows of film festivals. While deciding which films to see, with sometimes nothing more than a picture and a quick blurb, you just have to take a chance. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it backfires dramatically. So it was a case of reaching dizzying heights yesterday only to fall into a bottomless pit of abjection.
Saturday 22 October 2011
A great deal of variety at the London Film Festival yesterday, with a Norwegian then an Argentinian thrillers as well as an experimental French film. And one of them turned out to be a real gem.
The day started off with Headhunters, which came preceded with some positive buzz. Scandinavian genre films have come out of nowhere to occupy an emerging place in cinema lately, with such recent successes as Let the right one in, Dead snow and Trollhunters. Yet this Norwegian thriller, while technically accomplished and a well oiled machine, left me as cold as a plate of near frozen shrimps I had at a hotel's restaurant on a rainy day in Gothenburg a few years ago.
Thursday 20 October 2011
A very strange feeling at the LFF over the last few days, with me only seeing one film per day, the heresy! I am going back in the full swing of things today however, with 3 films! I still managed to see a couple of great films over the last couple of days.
Monday 17 October 2011
Just one film yesterday but one that I was looking forward to the most at the festival. And as has happened a few times before in the previous years, one of the most anticipated films turned out to be a disappointment.
Shame by Steve McQueen finds the director teams up with the ubiquitous Michael Fassbender yet again, after their award winning first collaboration, Hunger, put them firmly on the map. In here, the Irish/German actor plays Brandon, a man with a succesful career and a beautiful designer flat in New York. Except that he is consumed by an addiction to sex (internet porn, prostitutes, picking up women in bars, in the underground...) while unable to commit to any relationship. And his life's fragile balance is further threatened when his unstable sister comes and live with him.
Sunday 16 October 2011
As per my review, British romantic-comedy First Night, which just came out in the cinema, turned out to be a great surprise, a classy and immensely enjoyable film that is miles away from your average British or American rom-com. So I was keen to find out a bit more about it and below is my exclusive interview with the director Christopher Menaul.
While this is only his second film for the cinema, the British director has some done extensive work for TV, with highlights including The Forsyte Saga (2002), and the BATA winning See No Evil: The Moors Murders (2006). Interestingly, he started work on First Night right after finishing this film about Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, so it must have been one hell of a transition! I was intrigued to see that he has also directed a TV movie about the philosopher Ayn Rand, starring Helen Mirren in the lead, and THAT is something I would love to see! But back to First Night and the interview:
Saturday 15 October 2011
Taking a nice break for the madness of the London Film Festival, I wanted to put the spotlight on a delightful British film that is coming out this week end, First Night by Christopher Menaul. In it, Richard E. Grant plays a wealthy industrialist who decides to stage an opera in his country house, bringing in a cast of youthful and talented singers as well as a female conductor he had his eyes on for quite some time. As the rehearsals take place, dramas unfold and passions sizzle.
You would probably assume by the post title that today was not exactly a laugh a minute, but what a great, if butt-numbing day! It really feels like I have got into the swing of things at the festival now and I am looking forward to ten more days of this! So a busy day today with four films back to back.
Friday 14 October 2011
After yesterday's opening night, the London Film Festival started in earnest today. I decided at the last minute to switch from the afternoon screening of stinker opener 360 (what were they thinking exactly, putting it on the opening night, apart from the star wattage?) to South Korea's Stateless Things. And then this was followed by Chantal Akerman's Almayer's Folly. Both films were very slow paced and clocked out at over 2 hours, perfect to get me in gear after a summer of frenetic blockbusters and horrors.
Thursday 13 October 2011
Getting some tickets for the London Film Festival's most sought after screenings over the last few years has made getting some for the London Olympics look like a walk in the park in comparison. It is all to the credit of the festival to have managed to increase the frequentation so dramatically, and as such, the most popular screenings sell out within minutes of going on sale. Yet, as the festival just opened today, there are still plenty of screenings available.
A final glance through the programme has revealed a few more interesting titles, which still have available seats as I am writing this. And even if I know nothing more about these films I have chosen to put the spotlight on other than their description on the programme, I have learned to trust the impeccable tastes of the festival over the last few years. If anything, those lesser known titles have a better chance of turning out well unlike some of the gala screenings, whose mere presence seems to have been solely justified by big names in the cast and the guarantee of media coverage more than actual quality. And given the terrible reviews of the festival starry opener, 360, I rest my case!
Tuesday 11 October 2011
It is an understatement to say that Paul W.S. Anderson does not have the best reputation among film fans. In fact, for many, he is only second to Uwe Boll in the scale of awfulness. His main crime is to have squandered the Resident Evil adaptation with an anemic film franchise, as well as committing the woeful Mortal Combat to the big screen, yet another misguided videogame adaptation.
Yet he has not always been without his merits. His "Hellraiser in Space", Event Horizon, has earned a cult status of sort, and I might be alone in this but I felt that Resident Evil 4 was a real improvement in the serie. So it was intriguing to see him embark on a new chapter of his career and target a wider audience with a family blockbuster. Was he to surprise us all?
Friday 7 October 2011
2012 will be the year of the Snow Whites. In March, Tarsem Singh's version, called Snow White (or Untitled Snow White as credited in IMDB), will come out first, featuring Lily Collins and Julia Roberts. And then in June of the same year, it will be the turn of Snow White and the Huntsman by Rupert Sanders (who?) with Kirsten Stewart and Charlize Theron. Why would two studios choose to release two similar film so close to each other? Yet again should I add.
Tuesday 4 October 2011
News have emerged of some truly inspired casting today. Maverick German film director Werner Herzog has just been cast as the villain in Tom Cruise's new film, One Shot, to be directed by Christopher McQuarrie (scriptwriter of The Usual Suspects). Anybody who has ever seen the frankly crazy German director of Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre and more recently, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans being interviewed will know full well that he is scary enough in person to make this choice rather logical after all.
Sunday 2 October 2011
Quirky Guys and Gals is a Japanese anthology of four short films with a common theme of, well, quirkiness! In "Cheer Girls", a trio of ex-cheerleaders forms a squad whose sole mission is to cheer anybody in need, with some uplifting songs and dance routines. But do their actions truly have the desired effect? In "Boy? Meets Girl", a shy student, used to fading in the background, shines when he lets himself talk into dressing up as a girl to get close to the object of his affection. In "Claim Night" a Japanese woman's war against a customer care department produces an unexpected result. In "The House Full of Abandoned Businessmen", a Japanese woman's house becomes a haven for unemployed businessmen trying to hide their situation from their families.
Thursday 29 September 2011
Plot: A trio of opportunistic hoodlums plans to rob an isolated house, inhabited by a seemingly frail and old couple. The nights turns into a nightmare when the inhabitants reveal their true, murderous colours and the time shifting powers of their magical clocks are unleashed...
I have to confess, despite being a true horror fan, I had not seen a single film by Italian master Lucio Fulci until now. The man responsible for The Beyond and The City of the Living Dead among other classics, has a reputation for ultra-violence, and a certain blend of surrealism (a few iconic scenes from his films include death by a big wooden splinter shoved in the eye and a zombie punching a real shark). So I decided to fill my cultural gap and tackle his work by the back door (so to speak), by picking probably one of his lesser known film, The House of Clocks. This was initially made for the Italian TV in the late 80's, but deemed too violent and released in cinemas instead.
Tuesday 27 September 2011
One of my favourite colours is pale blue, and nobody does it better than Tunis, a crumbling city of courtyards and alcoves, secrets and mysteries. Tunis in 1942 during the German occupation is the setting for this beautiful film about the friendship of two girls, Nour and Myriam. This is the second film from French writer/director/actress Karin Albou, who also plays the widowed mother of Myriam.
Monday 26 September 2011
Saturday 24 September 2011
A few months ago, a first trailer was released for the Thing's prequel that was not all that promising to say the least. As my favourite horror film of all times, it is a understatement to say that I was not looking forward to this prequel raping the memories of the John Carpenter's version. Yet a new red band trailer has been released and it has increased my interest tenfold!
I really wish I was writing about a trailer for a new film by David Lynch. But at the moment, he seems more interesting in saving the world through yogic flights (I am not making this up) than making films, and cinema is all the poorer for it. So any cinematic nuggets that comes from him are still welcome, and we are being treated to a very short film he has made for the Vienna Film Festival, or Viennale, which is taking place next month. And it ranks among the best thing I have seen in months.
After a puzzling first promotional shot, followed by a puzzling first teaser, comes a puzzling first poster for The Iron Lady. The film, in case you have been hiding under a rock for the last few months, stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, and will attempt to portray her as a fully human being, including her softer side. I now look forward to: "Pol Pot: I Was Misunderstood".
Thursday 22 September 2011
Synopsis: In medieval Europe struck by the war and illness, a young and wandering orphan finds himself led to a strange mill through his dreams. Welcome by the mill master within the rank of his young disciples, he quickly realises that his new companions are dabbling with the dark arts. And what nefarious plans does the mill master have in mind?
It is not often that a German fantasy makes it to our screens. In fact, the last one I remember watching was the classic Neverending Story, and that was back in 1984! It is a shame because the country has got a large cultural heritage of myths and folklore to pick from, coupled with some stunning and fairy tales like landscapes. I have indeed often wondered why nobody has ever used the magnificent Neuschwanstein castle, which inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle, in a live action fantasy film? Its sole presence in films that I know of was in Visconti's period drama Ludwig.
Tuesday 20 September 2011
It is becoming more and more obvious that the Muppets new film is shaping up to be the most important cultural phenomenon of the year. And no matter how the actual film turns out, its marketing will remain like one of the best in the history of cinema.
Thursday 15 September 2011
3D post conversion has become a dirty word in films, conjuring memories of the atrocious and botched post conversion job of Clash of the Titans, which has become a case study on how not to do it. Indeed, this was heralded by some as the beginning of the end for 3D. So when news emerged that Disney was planning to convert one of its most beloved film, The Lion King, you could be forgiven for being a little nervous. We clearly should not have been.
Tuesday 13 September 2011
While the London Film Festival line up was recently announced, we should not forget an equally important date on the film calendar, the Raindance Film Festival, which is taking place from the 28th of September until the 9th of October in London. Raindance started off as a training organisation for filmmakers19 years ago and a mere year into its existence, started off a film festival entirely focused on independent cinema. So do not expect any gala screening of high profile but mediocre films only added to the line-up to add some media exposure, but some truly innovative and little seen gems, showcasing the talents of tomorrow.
Monday 12 September 2011
|Sandra Hebron is teasing us...|
Sunday 11 September 2011
This is a brilliant film, with a simple story, and due to the impressive cast of youngsters the film has a unique raw innocence. Celine Sciamma, whose previous film 'Water Lilies', was well received in 2007, earning a slew of awards, has written and directed this touching film. As only her second feature length film, Sciamma wanted to avoid the path of bigger budget and grander film, that tempts so many successful young directors. She opted instead for a low budget summer shoot, for which she wrote the script in only three weeks. The filming took place over 20 days in the summer of August 2010. Sciamma herself states that at the heart of the film, is a philosophy of energy and spontaneity, that is not possible on films that require longer for financing and producing.
Saturday 10 September 2011
|The Secret Illusion|
Moving on from the previous post, a few more intriguing films I have come across while flicking through the programme. Every single year without fail ever since I started attending in 2008, the festival has brought me a wonderful surprise, a great film I knew little or nothing about, and it is part of the joy of the event to try your luck with as many films as you can, sometimes merely guided by a picture and the blurb next to it.
Thursday 8 September 2011
|Nobody Else But You (2011)|
The London Film festival, which runs for a fortnight every October, has gone from strength to strength under the of artistic direction of Sandra Hebron over the last few years. Her knack for securing high profile screenings, coupled with her infectious enthusiasm, as well as her team's talents for unearthing a varied and satisfying line up, with a good mix up of obscure art-house and more mainstream titles, mean that the attendance has consistently gone up year after year, with a more youthful and eclectic audience.
While not quite in the same league of Cannes, Venise and Toronto, the festival is nevertheless a great way of catching up with films shown at all the festivals mentioned, as well as discovering some new gems. Many ask what is the point of seeing films there that sometimes get a release date a mere few days after their festival's screening, but the atmosphere is so informal yet electric and the buzz so exhilarating that I recommend watching as many films as you can there, especially since, more often than not, the cast and crew follow the screening with a Q&A. I will certainly be speaking a lot about the festival in the few weeks before it is due to start, and obviously during the festivities, with the target of 20 to 25 films to watch (but most certainly more!).