Monday, October 31, 2011








LONDON CALLING PART TWO
As promised, here's reviews of the two other films I caught at press screenings at this year's London Film Festival.
First is The Descendants, directed by Alexander (Election, Sideways) Payne and starring George Clooney, Matthew Lillard and Beau Bridges. Clooney plays lawyer Matt King in Hawaii and the film opens to reveal the fact that Matt's wife Elizabeth has just had a terrible boating accident and she is in a coma in a hospital. As well as dealing with her wife's predicament, King is also the head of the family trustees and the entire family has to vote what to do with a large unspoilt piece of land in Hawaii, whether to sell it to developers or leave it unspoilt. It turns out that King and his relatives come from a family whose wealth can be traced back to the fact that their ancestor married a Hawaiian princess in the 19th century. Unfortunately, as King battles with what his and his family's future holds, certain things come out about his wife, causing him to rethink his life with his two daughters. The Descendants shows the same sharp and keen eye for dialogue and getting the best out of actors that Payne displayed with Election and Sideways. Clooney, a little inconsistent in his film choices, made a smart move here as he is very sympathetic and very human as the father and husband whose world has suddenly changed in an instant. The rest of the cast are also very good including a particularly degraded looking Beau Bridges as King's cousin, Shailene Woodley as King's difficult teenage daughter Alexandra and Payne uses the idea of Americans with a foothold into Hawaii very effectively. We see Hawaii as a place with the same problems as the US mainland. Bittersweet and funny at the same time, The Descendants is a well-made and accomplished drama with a very likeable cast and a strong script…
A Dangerous Method is the latest effort from David Cronenberg and looks at the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud and how modern psychoanalysis was created. This is the third collaboration between Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen, who plays Freud. The ubiquitous Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class, Shame) is Jung while Keira Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein, a troubled Jewish Russian girl who comes to Jung for treatment. There are a number of flaws in A Dangerous Method: it feels too much like a play rather than a film with its theatrical setpieces and Knightley just doesn't convince here, pushing her chin out to show the audience that she's not all the ticket. The tone is rather arch, cold and self-important too which is a shame because the story of Jung's friendship with Freud is one that should be intriguing and engaging. Mortensen and Fassbender do have some chemistry as the doomed friends but none of it really gels. Cronenberg is a strange director and while he should be applauded for trying to move outside of his comfort zone, A Dangerous Method really doesn't work although it does look stunning…
Here's a few pics from the press conferences for both film with Cronenberg, Payne and others…

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


GOOD DETECTIVE WORK
This week sees the release in the UK of The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's first adaptation of Herge's comic work. This is a film that has been in the planning stages for a number of years but even Herge, when he was alive, apparently thought Spielberg would be the perfect choice to bring his boy reporter and dog Snowy to the big screen. Tintin was created using motion capture technology, a technique that has led to the films made with it previously populated with characters with dead, creepy eyes. I am glad to say that Weta digital have avoided this pitfall here, creating characters who are warm and alive on screen. The 3D is used intelligently and because it's a light film, it also means that the action is easy to follow unlike many other 3D productions in live action that have been released this year (step forward Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). The Adventures of Tintin manages to distill the fun and the heart of Herge's illustrated work, harking back to the most fun elements of Spielberg's Indiana Jones films and synthesising a genuinely entertaining adventure story. This film takes three of Herge's adventures (Secret of The Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure and The Crab With The Golden Claws) and conflates them into a single story. So Tintin has to find the clues to piece together a mystery that brings together Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), the evil Sakharine (voiced by Bond himself Daniel Craig) and a replica of a galleon, the Unicorn, that holds the key to the whole affair. Bumbling police officers The Thompson Twins are played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost here. Adventures of Tintin is a very enjoyable pulp adventure movie, made by two of the best practitioners in the business and the script, by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish strikes just the right balance to keep kids amused while offering enough for adults to stay interested. Ironically the film feels like a very British affair, perhaps thanks to the actors and the screenwriters. This film deserves to be a huge worldwide hit and hopefully through Spielberg and Jackson having their names on this, this will charm American audiences the way it has done in the UK. Steven Spielberg still has the magic touch…

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Saturday, October 22, 2011


LONDON CALLING 2011 PART ONE
The London Film Festival is in full swing and, as with every year, I have been cherry picking the odd film that appeals to me. The first film I caught was 360, directed by Brazilian Fernando Meireilles (City of God, The Constant Gardener). It's a drama in a similar vein to something like Babel: we see a number of stories and protagonists in cities around the world (Vienna, London, Bratislava, Paris, Rio and Denver) and, as the film progresses, we see the connections made between the seemingly-disconnected cast of characters. Screenwriter Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/ Nixon) has also admitted that it owes something to Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde. 360 does have a lot of central characters (from English businessman played by Jude Law to prostitute Mirkha (Lucia Siposova), Anthony Hopkins as the man searching for his lost daughter and Valentina (Dinara Drukarova), the wife of Russian thug Sergei) but unlike Contagion, this film is finely balanced so Meireilles and the excellent ensemble cast have the opportunity to give 360's creations enough life so that the viewer can get caught up in their world. Even Jude Law isn't half-bad here. Come back for another LFF review, this time of The Descendants directed by Alexander Payne with George Clooney…

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Thursday, October 20, 2011


A DISEASED MIND?
Contagion, the latest film directed by Steven Soderbergh, is a bit of a throwback to the Seventies disaster movie. Possibly Soderbergh's last film, as he has been talking about retiring from movies, Contagion looks at the possibility of a worldwide lethal virus taking hold. With a cast that includes Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne, it does feel like a star vehicle with the audience taking bets on which of the cast will bite the dust in the most painful and unpleasant way imaginable. Soderbergh is an accomplished and talented director but Contagion, while offering some nice on-screen disease porn, is limited by its very genre and so we don't really get much in the way of character development. The closest we get is Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) as a put-upon husband who sees his wife, who kicks off the whole film, die at the 'hands' of the virus and Dr Ellis Cheever (Fishburne) as CDC head, trying to stop the virus from spreading any further. Jude Law as Australian blogger Alan Krumwiede is annoying and lacking credibility on screen as the man who cries 'conspiracy' when the virus is discussed by the US government. The concept of a worldwide 'plague' spread by human contact is a frightening one but films like this always sacrifice character for shock set-pieces. So it's a film that entertains while you're watching it but doesn't stay with you after the final credits roll. Contagion is not a film that will be remembered by posterity, as it's one of Soderbergh's weaker efforts…

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Thursday, October 06, 2011


BRINGING THE HAMMER DOWN
Quatermass and The Pit, also known as Five Million Years To Earth in the US, is the third film featuring Nigel Kneale's scientist creation. The professor gets involved with a case involving paleontologists unearthing mystery skeletons at a fictional Tube station, Hobbs End, in west London. This time, the eponymous scientist is played by Scottish actor Andrew Keir rather than Northern Irish-born American actor Brian Donlevy, who Hammer brought in for the first two. Released on Blu-ray for the first time, Quatermass and The Pit has its share of naive charm with its images of late sixties London and enjoyable support from fellow Scottish actor James Donald as Dr Matthew Roney. Admittedly the Martians look like giant rubber locusts (presumably because they are) but this is the sort of enjoyable nonsense that we used to excel at in this country. Keir is very likeable on screen and Julian Glover as the pompous Colonel Breen is suitably oleaginous. Quatermass and The Pit is a fun ride and it's only right that it's got a Blu-ray release…

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