BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.


The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.

Film Review: Like Crazy

From the trailer, Like Crazy looked to be a definite tearjerker. Unfortunately though, the entire film falls short of provoking a strong emotional response from the viewer.

British student Anna falls in love with American student Jacob while she is studying in California. When her visa is due to expire, Anna cannot stand the thought of being separated from Jacob. Anna overstays her visa, which leads to a ban on US entry. Anna and Jacob embark on a long-distance relationship which has its ups and downs…

Teenagers may find resonance with Like Crazy, but it is unlikely older viewers will feel the same. Unfortunately, Drake Doremus’ film appears contrived from the cloying montage sequences to the narrative and use of music. The warm tones, flashbacks and hand-held camera work combine to produce a film that is a lot more shallow than it thinks it is.

Like Crazy also feels quite long. It is not really the emotional drama it could have been. The film lacks the emotional depth to move audiences; many are likely to find the film tiresome. Moreover, the two central characters are not as likeable as they should be. It is difficult to root for their relationship when they treat others with such a disregard.

Performances from Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin are fine, although both have been more impressive elsewhere. Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead provide good support as Anna’s parents.

Like Crazy had the potential to be an engaging watch, but the film does not provide the audience with enough to connect with it.

Like Crazy is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.

Film Review: Fright Night

This new version of Fright Night does not match the 1985 original. Having said that, it is still tremendous fun, and one of better films in the recent spate of horror remakes.

High school student Charlie Brewster is dating the popular and beautiful Amy. He has left behind his geeky ways, much to the annoyance of former best friend Ed. When a new neighbour moves in next door, Charlie becomes suspicious of the things he hears in the night. He suspects that new neighbour Jerry is a vampire, but no one believes him…

Director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Marti Noxon eschewed the option of producing a faithful update of Tom Holland’s 1985 film. Thankfully they chose to alter the screenplay significantly. The changes made offer a sense of unpredictability to those familiar with the 1985 film. Although the film seems a little preoccupied with the social hierarchy of high school, for the most part these alterations work well.

The characters have also been changed for this remake. Perhaps most interesting of the updates in Peter Vincent. Holland wisely chooses not to emulate the Roddy McDowell character in terms of stature and personality. Instead, the character is much younger and more comparable to Criss Angel than McDowell’s Vincent Price-type legend. This makes the film more distinguishable from its predecessor, which is only a good thing.

Fright Night offers the same blend of comedy and horror as the original. There are some jumpy moments in the film, as well as a healthy dose of gore. The comedy, however, keeps the tone of the film light for the duration. There are also some amusing references to Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and even the original film, as well as a great cameo appearance.

The special effects are sometimes lacking, but even this is in keeping with the overall jovial tone of the movie. The 3D seems to have been employed purely for novelty value. Nonetheless, this doesn’t really matter, as it is fun in a throwback, schlock kind of way.

Colin Farrell is well cast as Jerry. The actor is perfectly suited to the role, bringing the right combination of menace and allure. Anton Yelchin once again offers a solid performance; the actor is quickly becoming one of the brightest young talents in Hollywood. David Tennant is wonderfully outlandish as Peter Vincent; he clearly seems to be having much fun with the role.

Fright Night should satisfy those with a hankering for comedy horror, and shouldn’t offend fans of the original film. An enjoyable watch.

Film Review: The Beaver

Jodie Foster’s paean to togetherness hits and misses in its attempts to elicit emotion. The Beaver may have an amusing premise, but the tone is distinctly serious.

Walter Black suffers with depression, despite efforts to treat his illness. When his wife Meredith throws him out of the house, Walter makes a failed suicide attempt. Waking up, he decides to use a discarded beaver puppet in order to communicate with his family and colleagues…

The narrative of The Beaver can become plodding at times. In its attempts to retain an air of seriousness, the film is rather stodgy. Much of the duration is spent on the initial set up, and the beaver puppet coming into prominence with Walter’s family and his career. Therefore the puppet’s demise feels abrupt in comparison. The Beaver does not flow as smoothly as it should.

The film never really gets to the heart of Walter’s illness, which is of course the raison d’être of the story. Instead, it feels as if the issue is skirted around, giving indications but never overtly dealing with the subject in a suitable degree of detail. It is never made clear why previous attempts to treat his depression were unsuccessful, for example.

In one sense, it is good that the topic of mental illness is dealt with sensitively. Walter is a character to be intrigued by and pitied, not derided. However, Walter’s need to use the puppet is indicative of a failure of the mental health professionals, as well as his wife in not raising the alarm soon enough. There seems to be confusion in the message delivered by The Beaver. It is unclear whether the onus is on the patient to recognise the problem, or on the support network to source appropriate treatment.

More interesting than the main narrative is the plot concerning Walter’s son Porter, and his burgeoning friendship with Norah. This story seems more authentic, and generates more of an emotional investment. Jodie Foster’s directing style is adequate, but the film is stilted in some places. The voiceover works well, and could have been employed to a greater extent. The numerous cross cuts between Walter and the beaver labour the point somewhat.

Mel Gibson is good as Walter, but seems to be trying too hard at times. Perhaps this is understandable though, after the damage done to his reputation by revelations about his personal life. Foster is decent as Meredith, while Anton Yelchin stands out as Porter. Jennifer Lawrence appears authentic as Norah.

Ultimately, The Beaver is not wholly satisfying. There are some great performances, but the film does not engage in the way a good drama should.