Thursday 30 June 2011

Bad Teacher: Actually Pretty Good!

It is an understatement to say that I was dragging my feet to see Bad Teacher. The trailer was amusing,  but the reviews were mostly unkind. And yet what a pleasant surprise this turned out to be. I have always been a fan of Cameron Diaz, with her crazy persona transcending her good looks. But she had not found a good part, or even a hit for a good ten years now.

Along came Bad Teacher, a raunchy new comedy that sees her play a gold-digging, awful teacher: she sleeps in class, drinks, smokes pot, swears and her idea of education consists of showing her class Scream. On the slippery slope to becoming slighty past it as years are going by, she seems to have finally hit the jackpot and bagged herself a rich man. But then she gets dumped and has to go back to what she hates the most: teaching. There must be a way out!

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol: First Trailer

I am not entirely sure if the Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol first trailer was supposed to be released so early, but since a French dubbed version was leaked online a few days ago, it was probably deemed less damaging to release the genuine article now, even it we are still a good six months away from its release. The fourth outing of the popular franchise is the first live action film directed by John Bird, who directed such animated masterpieces as The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007) for Pixar, as well as cult classic The Iron Giant (1999). So what is this first trailer telling us?

Tuesday 28 June 2011

A Dangerous Method trailer, or the piftalls of the Europudding

A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg's new film, A Dangerous Method, was rumoured to be screened at Cannes originally, only to be pushed forward for the double whammy of a Toronto/Venice presentation in autumn, which is traditionally seen as a starting point for an Oscar campaign. And a first trailer has now been released. This new film is a period drama, and is described as a look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) gave birth to psychoanalysis. It certainly has the seal of seriousness of an Oscar bait. But since when has David Cronenberg become so serious? And what with the dodgy accents?

Monday 27 June 2011

Heartless: Demons Attack The Block

Before furry aliens unleashed their day-glo fangs in Sarf London in Attack the Block, a film had already tackled the subject of a council estate under attack from unnatural creatures: Heartless (2010) by Philip Ridley, which is out on dvd. Interestingly both films feature actor Luke Treadaway, in very different parts. The film went completely unnoticed last year, due to a marketing campaign and a poster presenting it as a straight foward horror film, which it certainly was not.

Saturday 25 June 2011

New Apollo 18 trailer: Paranormal Blair Witch in Space

The Weinstein studio seems to be tossing around the release date of their Paranormal Blair Witch Activity in Space project around like an aspiring astronaut in suspended gravity. The film was originally supposed to be released in Spring 2011, a rather revealing teaser trailer was even released. And then the release date was shifted to January 2012 with no explanation. It has now been moved again, to early September 2011 for the US, although the UK has kept the January release. And a new trailer has now been released.

Friday 24 June 2011

Green Lantern: In not so brightest day...

I have written about the joys of discovering films at festivals, with an open mind and without having read and seen too much about them, making your own opinion.. There is something to be said however about watching a film some time after its release, especially one that has already been shot down in flames by critics, with some very low expectations, as you might end up enjoying it. This is how I feel about Green Lantern.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Catherine Breillat in Wonderland: Bluebeard

Having managed to miss Bluebeard at the London Film Festival in 2009, then during its UK release in the summer of 2010, I have finally caught up with it, as it has just been released on DVD. The adaptation of a fairy tale seemed like a marked departure for Catherine Breillat at first, a path that the French director has since followed up with yet another, less faithful fairytale adaptation, Sleeping Beauty. This prompted a British journalist to recently ask her if she had turned into the new Walt Disney, causing much hilarity.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

EIFF 2011 The King of Devil's Island

A Norwegian film, Trollhunter, was the talk of the Edinburgh film festival, yet it was unfortunately shown a day after I left, so I will have to wait for its UK September release. I settled for another Norwegian film called The King Of Devil Island, thanks to its intriguing title and its premise, which is based on a true story: on the island of Bastoy, in the early 20th century, a group of young male delinquents were kept under a cruel regime of mental and physical abuse in a correctional facility, and used as cheap labour under the excuse of rehabilitation. The arrival of two new inmates threatens the fragile balance of power between offenders and guards.

Monday 20 June 2011

EIFF 2011 The Turin Horse: The shame, the dirty shame...

I have an embarrassing confession to make... I was very much looking forward to The Turin Horse, Bela Tarr's latest, so much so that it was the first film I bought a ticket for at the Edinburgh Film Festival. And the excitement was reaching its peak when the man himself turned up on stage to introduce his film. I even witnessed an indie fanboy giving him the kind of vocal display of admiration you would more expect to see at Comic Con when Xena appears. Yet, after an hour, and with an other hour and a half of running time left to go, I got up and left. Where did it all go wrong?

Sunday 19 June 2011

EIFF 2011 Perfect Sense: Scottish apocalypse

You wait for ages for an end of the world film and two comes back to back, just like buses in London. After Friday's Argentinian apocalypse, it was Scotland's turn on Saturday at the Edinburgh film festival, with Perfect Sense by David McKenzie. The film had its European premiere at the Edinburgh film festival, at the lovely and old fashioned Festival Theatre, in the presence of the director and lead Ewan McGregor. And this was a much more successful and original attempt that the South American version. In this version, a chef (Ewan McGregor) and a scientist (Eva Green), fall in love while a virus is progressively robbing the world population from its senses.

EIFF 2011: Arrietty, Ghibli studio's small gem

What a pleasant surprise Arrietty turned out to be. I had not been completely won over by the Ghibli studio's previous film, Ponyo. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with it, I just did not engage that much with the story and the characters. This latest, based on the children's book The Borrowers by Mary Norton, tells the story of a family of "borrowers", tiny people who live in little houses under the floorboards of human houses, borrowing what they need at night. Their little girl Arrietty has just turned fourteen and is being taught to borrow and to look after herself. Yet their fragile way of life is threatened when a sick and well meaning young child comes and live in the house and discovers them.

Friday 17 June 2011

EIFF 2011: Phase 7, an Argentinian apocalypse

If there is one genre I love, in a guilty pleasure kind of way, it is the doomsday, end of the world type of film, especially if it keeps a fairly realistic tone. It does not matter what causes the end of civilisation, zombies, virus, killer bees, Big Brother return on Channel 5 this summer, I cannot get enough of it. I think the appeal is that this scenario usually involves ordinary people put in an extraordinary situation, which makes you relate to them and wonder how you would react if put in such a situation yourself.

So the first film I saw at the Edinburgh Film Festival had to be this Argentinian low budget apocalypse by way of a deadly virus, Phase 7. I saw it at a very lovely old arthouse cinema called The Cameo, well worth a visit by the way. The premise is not particularly original (the inhabitants of a appartment block get quarantined as an unknown virus epidemic is spreading around the world, and start turning on each other) but you do not want to tamper with a tried and tested formula too much.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

David Lynch to open Club Silencio in Paris

Le Club Silencio coming to Paris soon

Some news, any news concerning David Lynch are good news in my book. Obviously I would rather be reporting on a new film project. But as long as it has nothing to do with his bizarre obsession with mass yogic flight then it is a step in the right direction. And in some of the most intriguing news I have reported in a long time, it has been announced that David Lynch is opening a Club Silencio in Paris, based on the iconic and dream-like venue of the same name in his film Mulholland Drive, which is the scene of a pivotal point in the story.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Edinburgh Film Festival 2011: Eva, Ewan and the Troll Hunter

Eva Green & Ewan McGregor in Perfect Sense

The Edinburgh Film Festival is nearly upon us, and will open the festivities tomorrow for eleven days. This venerable institution might not be in the same league as Cannes, Venice and Toronto, but still, it is one of the oldest film festivals in the world, and indeed, it will be celebrating its 65th edition this year. It made the welcome move of separating itself from the actual Edinburgh Art Festival a few years ago, where it lived in its shadow. There have been some well documented issues about the politics of the festival, as well as criticism of the quality of the films presented last year. But I am not interested in covering these stories. Rather, I want to keep the passion of cinema at the forefront, hence the following and arbitrary list of a few films not to be missed in this year's line up.

Monday 13 June 2011

Fright Night new trailer: all is forgiven?

As I have been following the Fright Night remake ever since it was announced, I have been reminded how the road from project to screen is a long and arduous one, full of highs and lows. Gone are the days where you could just discover a film as it was about to be released, free from much media interference, bar one or two reviews read in a magazine, and maybe the odd trailer. With IMDB and hundreds of film sites, every single new casting announcement is magnified (see The Hunger Games casting which seems to make out half of all film related tweets), every carefully released still is analysed, every trailer dissected...

Sunday 12 June 2011

Who hijacked the Dinner For Schmucks?

Erm Zach Galifianakis as Zebraman?
Blockbusters sometimes feature a few scenes that jar so much with the rest of the film, it makes you wonder if somebody highjacked the script while nobody noticed. This is how I felt while catching up with Dinner for Schmucks on dvd the other night, a film so bad, even if I had watched it on a plane I would have walked out.

But I carried on watching, as we finally get to the dinner, things take a really bizarre turn indeed, with some of the weirdest scenes I have seen in any Hollywood comedy. I would not call them funny, in the surreal way of Airplane and Naked gun, because they are not. They are just, frankly bizarre! I almost recommend watching the film for this last part alone, just skip  all that comes before.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Stake Land

Yes Stake land, not skate land, not steak land, stake land, as in vampire killed with a stake. Stake Land is a new indie horror directed by Jim Mickle, who did a very low budget film previously called Mulburry St before, about half men/half rats creature under the sewers in New York (presumable after the alligators of the 80's urban myths had vacated the place). It is coming out in the UK today.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo!

Can you think of a better title? There is indeed a film called Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, probably one of the best titles ever. But then unlike what it suggests, it is not a post-Godzilla creature movie about a queen beetle who gets too close and personal with some radioactive slime, grows to the size of a building and marches over the Japanese capital. Nor does it concerns a Harajuku girl icon whose bug inspired dress sense makes her a fashion icon.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Michel Gondry only directed about 5 seconds of The Green Hornet

And as the film is about to be released on dvd, the good news is, I have a clip featuring those five seconds!

There is a very annoying trend among Hollywood studios. While in the past, they would mostly employ competent hacks to direct standard action films and comedies, the rise of independent cinema and the ever increasing blur between arthouse and blockbusters mean that studios have been forced to take more risks. So that means employing less mainstream directors such as Guillermo Del Toro or Jean-Pierre Jeunet on the strength of their previous works , only to then force them to get rid of all the quirks and style that made their first films so original in the first place, leaving them with a bitter after taste and with some end-products that suffers so much studio interference that they end up pleasing no one. While the case of The green hornet was not quite as extreme, it still remains a typical case study.

Monday 6 June 2011

The Human (or Eewman?) Centipede 2: squashed!

There are films that I simply refuse to watch, and The human centipede is one of them. So my first impression when I heard than an even more extreme sequel was in the works, was simply to forget all about it and look away. Yet it looks like the British Board of Film Classification has spared me the trouble with its decision to simply refuse to give it a certificate, meaning no exploitation in theatres and dvd will be possible, effectively banning it, an exceedingly rare occurence these days.

Sunday 5 June 2011

4D, 5D... 7D: Cinema and the superstring theory

While in Singapore I saw a cinema advertising a film in 4D. And I was getting quite excited at the prospect of jumping through time itself (although some films seem to have mastered the fourth dimension already, The horse whisperer made its three hours running time feel like a tetrabillion hours). Further research (on my i-phone) indicated that the fourth dimension was actually the unification of time and space as a fourth dimensional continuum. Which you have to admit, sounds like fun.

Saturday 4 June 2011

Corazon Iluminado: The lost masterpiece of Cannes 1998

The joy of film festivals is discovering films before they have been through the media maelstrom. This is especially true at the Cannes Film Festival where screenings are free (good luck getting an "invitation" as they are called however, the festival being closed to the public). This encourages you to take a chance on just about anything, and let your curiosity guides you. And this is how I discovered a film that has been haunting me ever since, the beautiful and melancholic Corazon iluminado by Hector Babenco.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: from chimpan-A to chimpazee

After the completely misguided Tim Burton's remake from ten years ago, a new visit to the planet of the apes seemed as relevant as a Donkey Kong film adaptation. Yet Fox had other ideas and decided to greenlight a new project, as a true franchise never dies these days. However, having read the synopsis and seen the first two trailers, it looks a lot darker and more exciting than anticipated.

Thursday 2 June 2011

X-Men: First Class review. Best superhero movie ever?

You should never lose faith in films. After X-Men 2 elevated the franchise to new heights, it all crashed down when Bryan Singer left the directing duties to Brett Ratner who ruined everything with a loud and substandard blockbuster that eschewed all the originality of the previous films, and managed to bungle the most interesting storyline of the comic books, the creation then death of Phoenix.

So when I heard than an X-men reboot/prequel was in the works, featuring a younger cast, I feared the worst. It smacked of focus groups and the willingness to milk a moribund franchise. Yet things were looking up when writing/directing duo Jane Goldman/Matthew Vaughan were put at the helms. After the uneven but promising Stardust, and the excellent Kick-ass, this showed the studio was willing to take some risks. And the release of the stylish first stills and trailer amped up the interest.