Friday 27 September 2013

Prisoners Review

On paper, the plot of Prisoners is nothing remarkable: two young girls from two good decent families go missing on Thanksgiving Day with an odd ball suspected. With time ticking by, the families become increasingly desperate to find their daughters alive while a young detective, who has never not solved a case, tries to find the little girls. In the case of Prisoners however, Aaron Guzikowski's (Contraband, 2012) script, helped by a truly stellar and Oscar nominated rich cast, is consistently mercurial and arguably has the rare quality of a Hollywood 'whodunnit' that is unpredictable.

Thursday 26 September 2013

London Film Festival 2013 Capsules: Gare Du Nord

The excitement is rising as the London Film Festival is nearly upon us! While I will be doing some proper, daily coverage of my days at the festival once it officially starts on the 10th of October, I shall also write a few capsule reviews of the few films I will be seeing beforehand at press screenings, in case you are still undecided on some titles! As much as I'd love to, I won't have time to write full reviews of all of them, so I am offering you those LFF capsules instead. First stop, Gare Du Nord.

Friday 13 September 2013

Forbidden World: Emmanuelle Meets Alien

When Forbidden World started, I actually thought something was wrong with the dvd. It looked like the editor had pressed on all the buttons in front of him while half-drunk, resulting in some spliced footage of battle in space as well as short clips fast-forwarded from later on in the film, all of it which made no sense whatsoever. A few minutes later, after a space marshall escapes said space battle by going through "hyperspace" (read: the director placed the camera inside a lit Pringles tub while blowing some light air over the actor's hair to simulate the gigaspeed), he arrives on a scientific base in a distant planet, where some scientists have been playing God and splicing up various species's DNA to create new ones. Obviously it all goes wrong. Plus the female crew seems to have a weird allergy to clothing.

Thursday 12 September 2013

The London Film Festival Meldtown

The London Film Festival has grown and grown in popularity and stature over the years. Over a decade ago, it was a more sedate affair, mainly populated with pensioners and students, serving as a catch-up of films shown previously in Cannes, Toronto and Venice. But under the masterful direction of first Sandra Hebron, and since last year Clare Stewart, the festival has seen its attendance and prestige increase dramatically, thanks to a winning and versatile programme which includes red carpet galas for bigger films as well as smaller, undiscovered gems, all of this fuelled with an infectious enthusiasm and a casual yet vibrant atmosphere. Helped by a growing appetite for a wider range of films in the UK, and the chatter and connections of films fans made through social networks and especially Twitter, it has become an essential rendez-vous for film fans in the capital and outside it. But with popularity and an increased attendance comes a flip side, one which, due to an incident today, might threaten to dim the enthusiasm of its supporters.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Harrigan - Policing the Hard Way in the 70's

Sharp and brutal, Harrigan is a crime thriller set in 1974, in Newcastle. Like a strong punch to your gut, this film will hold you captive and take you back on a journey to Thatcher's destitute 70's. Against the bleak working class area of a dark November, we see the return of  detective sergeant Harrigan (Stephen Tompkinson) who has been working in Hong Kong for many years.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Phonegate: Why Turning Off Your Smartphone Benefits Everybody

I love Film4 FrightFest. Horror audiences care about movies a lot. So much so, if anybody dares to use their smartphone during a screening, they’re likely to be shouted at and harangued until said person is shamed into either leaving the auditorium or being a good cinema-goer and switching off the phone. Seriously, the zero tolerance policy is brilliant and Alex Billington would love it.

One year, I heard somebody bellow out across the cavernous Screen 1 of Empire Theatre, “Turn your phone off, you fucking c*&t!” FrightFest run slightly less abrasive (but often gory) adverts before each screening at the festival. The ‘Turn Your Bloody Phones Off’ idents are most amusing. If you haven’t got the message then there’s grouchy Scottish FrightFest co-director, Ian Rattray, to threaten you into compliance. The organisers have cultivated a policy regarding mobile phone use that totally works.

Monday 9 September 2013

FrightFest Day 2: It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times

After the appetiser of day 1 with only two films, came the piece de resistance, a day of 4 films back to back. This is what I love about FrightFest, the way the screenings are concentrated in one place, making it much easier to watch them back to back, as well as enhancing the social factor greatly. There is nothing I enjoy more than coming out after each screening to discuss the film we have just seen with my fellow festival-goers. On this full day, there were no half-measures. Out of the four films I saw, two were brilliant, and two were rubbish.

Sunday 8 September 2013

My Picks For The London Film Festival 2013

Under The Skin

The London Film Festival line-up has been revealed earlier in the week, and it's a cornucopia of riches, a smorgasbord of delights, and one of the strongest, most inventive selection in years. While not up there in the big league alongside Cannes, Venice & Toronto, the LFF has grown in popularity over the last decade, offering a selection that offers a catch-up from the other film festivals in the calendar year, as well as unearthing some true treasures of its own. Indeed my favourite thing every year is to flick through the programme and discover all these new films I knew nothing about yet I am dying to see.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Riddick Review

Plot: Betrayed and left for dead on an inhospitable planet, Riddick has to contend with a hostile and deadly wildlife. Activating a rescue beacon, he attracts the attention of two different groups of mercenaries and bounty hunters, with some very different reasons to go after him. And just as you think it cannot get any worse, an even bigger threat looms at the horizon...

The first film in the Riddick franchise, Pitch Black, is a classic as far as I am concerned, a terrifying and smart sci-fi horror, with some real depth to it, and some unusually fleshed out characters, especially its main protagonist, the anti-hero Riddick, with his ever shifting moral principles. Then came its sequel, Chronicles Of Riddick, a film which can be lauded for at least attempting to go on a completely different direction, and not doing a bigger reboot of the first one, which so many modern sequels do. Sadly there is little else you can praise it for. Larger in scale and budget, it was an attempt to extend and explore the universe of Riddick, but it turned into a dour and rather boring space opera which satisfied nobody.

Monday 2 September 2013

Exclusive Interview With Matila Malliarakis - Beyond The Walls

Most of the British audience will have only recently discovered Matila Malliarakis in the French serie The Returned. But in Beyond The Walls, out in the UK on dvd, he shows a different side of him, and in an exclusive interview with FilmLand Empire, he has come up with some very thoughtful answers about the film making process, LGB cinema and French tv series.

1) Your characters in Beyond The Walls and your relationship in it feel incredibly real. Did you have any input in the script? 

Most of it was already written into the screenplay, but David had a very clear idea of the characters, and is one of those directors who knows how to let the actors invent in the moment. Once we all agreed on the heart of the film, he trusted us enough to let us propose things, even if they didn’t initially correspond to the storyline.

Sunday 1 September 2013

FrightFest 2013: Day 1 - Haunted Houses & Haunted Tapes

Ah, FrightFest! My guilty pleasure among the film festival circuit. More than any other films, horrors demand to be watched in a huge, packed screen, with an audience who laughs and screams at all the right parts. And the audience at FF is probably the best in the world, the most fun, and also the nicest there is, respectful of any cast & crew which comes up on stage, and happy to put it with some truly atrocious films, as long as there is a fun decapitation involved. Last year brought us the unforgettable Tulpa, and the Chinese banquet incident I wrote a poem about. While this year did not have such memorable moments, or any films as exceptional as two I saw in 2011 (The Woman) and 2012 (Berberian Sound Studio), the general quality was higher. It was to be a year to remember for a sad reason, in an end of an era kind of way, but more on that later.