Sunday, August 21, 2011

Directed by Costa Gavras's son Romain Gavras, Our Day Will Come (Notre Jour Viendra in French) is a film about two of society's outcasts, united by their red hair and their mistrust of society. Vincent Cassel plays psychiatrist Patrick and Olivier Barthelemy is teenager Rémy. Their paths cross when Patrick encounters Rémy when the boy is running away after hitting his mother in the family home. Patrick sees in Rémy a figure who he can manipulate for his own entertainment as he is bored of listening to other peoples' problems in his work. So he forces Rémy into increasingly more extreme and violent situations on the way to the ferry to Ireland, where Rémy believes that he will arrive as some sort of redheaded messiah, fitting in better than he did back in France. It's a very strange film and despite its attempts at profundity and Cassel's performance, which is always worth watching, it has little dramatic cohesion and doesn't really feel that credible or consistent as a film. Olivier Barthelemy as Rémy does turn in a pretty intense performance as Patrick's partner in crime though. It is Gavras's longform debut however and so it does show that there may be promise in his future work. The direction is pretty accomplished for a first feature, so he'll definitely be a name to watch in the future. Out on blu-ray now, it is worth watching despite its shortcomings…

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Friday, August 19, 2011

In 2011, Ealing Studios celebrates its 80th birthday and to commemorate this, Optimum have been reissuing some of their best-loved classics on Blu-ray and for a limited cinema run. The latest is Kind Hearts and Coronets, Robert Hamer's brilliant effort from 1949. Based on Roy Horniman's novel, Kind Hearts and Coronets stars Dennis Price in probably his finest role as Louis Mazzini, the distant relative of the Duke D'Ascoyne who plots revenge on the D'Ascoyne family after they snub his mother. Set in Victorian England, we see Mazzini from birth to adulthood, stymied by his social standing and determined to right the wrongs aimed at his mother by becoming the Duke D'Ascoyne himself. Playing the various D'Ascoynes in line to the Dukedom is Alec Guinness, displaying why he was perhaps one of the most versatile and likeable actors of the 20th century. There is a louche arrogance to Price that makes him mesmerising on screen and whether he's wooing the widow of one of his victims or brazenly insulting his childhood sweetheart Sibella (the gorgeous Joan Greenwood), the viewer is always rooting for him to succeed in his plan. There is an argument that Kind Hearts and Coronets is Ealing's best film, because there is a depth and a subtlety here that perhaps is lacking in some of their other work. It is great to see such a masterwork available on Blu-ray and to see for a short period at the cinema. It holds up extremely well and for people who haven't seen it before, they are in the enviable position of enjoying it for the first time. A true cinematic classic with some masterful performances…

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Summer movies can be disappointing and 2011's batch has been a mixed bag. However, Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Iron Man's Jon Favreau, passes a very pleasant couple of hours. Director Favreau is a very steady hand when it comes to big screen spectacle and from the start, when we see amnesiac cowboy Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) end up in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, he commands the viewers' attention. Dispatching a group of mercenaries, the cowboy heads into town where he encounters the antagonistic Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano). So far, it feels like a classic western with Craig on great form as the Man With No Name. Then everything gets turned on its head with the appearance of the aliens of the title. So it then falls to Lonergan with the aid of crusty landowner Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford playing against type as an unpleasant figure), saloon owner Doc (Sam Rockwell) and mysterious woman Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde) with the assistance of a group of Native Americans to fight the aliens, who are intent on plundering the Earth for its gold. Craig makes for a very credible leading man and Ford shows why he has endured for all these decades in Hollywood. It does make you think sometimes whether Favreau would be great helming a traditional Western. As a popcorn movie, Cowboys & Aliens is a very entertaining piece of fluff…

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Summer 2011 has been an odd summer with some of the tentpole movies disappointing. So it's heartening to watch a film like Super 8 from director JJ Abrams. A pastiche of/ tribute to Spielberg and Dante's output from the 1980s, Super 8 is set in small-town Ohio in 1979. It deals with a group of kids, led by Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) determined to make a horror film using their super 8 camera. But the twist is that something strange has happened to the town, with a real monster living there. Abrams has made no secret of his love for 1980s films and this comes out in Super 8, which is shot like a Spielberg film with direction that feels like anathema to 2011 cinema. Spielberg is even producer on Super 8 and it has a very anachronistic feel. And I mean that in a positive way as editing is more measured than you get these days and directing is very deliberate. The kids are all very good actors especially Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning) and Courtney, managing to be sympathetic to the audience and avoiding the sort of maudlin schmaltz that could make Super 8 unwatchable. Abrams shows that he is probably one of the best mainstream Hollywood directors currently working and a spiritual successor to Spielberg. It's not perfect by any means as the last act falls a little bit flat and the monster looks like nearly all of Abrams' on-screen horrors. But its flaws are not enough to prevent me from recommending it as perhaps the most fun you'll have all summer at the cinema. Super 8 is highly recommended…

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