BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

LFF 2016 Highlights Part 2

The BFI London Film Festival has come to a close after another year of some striking and wonderful films. Some brilliant films have already screened in the first week. Here is part 2 of the LFF 2016 highlights…

LFF 2016 Unmissable

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is a sumptuous and tense film. The director keeps viewers captivated throughout. Ford’s wonderful directorial debut A Single Man would have many keen to know what he would do next in the cinematic sphere. Despite the recess, this sophomore picture does not disappoint. READ MORE

Brimstone

Martin Koolhoven’s film is unrelenting and unforgiving. Brimstone can be difficult to watch, but it enthrals nevertheless. Brutish and bruising, Brimstone is a thriller that does not know when to quit. But make no mistake, this is a good thing. READ MORE

Lion

Lion

Garth Davis’ Lion is a genuinely emotional drama with great performances from its cast. Lion is an affirming story which does not shy away from some harsh realities. A fantastic watch. READ MORE

LFF 2016 Best of the Rest

Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle absorbs, entertains, and intrigues. After a lengthy break, Verhoeven reminds viewers exactly why he is a great filmmaker. Based on the novel by Philippe Dijan, Elle is a curious and rewarding feature. READ MORE

Free Fire

After the disappointing High-Rise, Ben Wheatley impresses with Free Fire. The film is contagiously fun. Writer-director Ben Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump have created a very entertaining film with Free Fire. READ MORE

Prevenge

Prevenge

Alice Lowe’s black comedy Prevenge is a fun watch. A quirky premise is transformed into an entertaining film. Writer, director, and star Alice Lowe has created an off-the-wall dark comedy with Prevenge. The premise is original and amusing, and the film itself follows suit. READ MORE

Lake Bodom (Bodom)

Lake Bodom (Bodom) is a very entertaining horror-thriller. The film defies expectations, in a tantalising way. Director and co-writer Taneli Mustonen has created an interesting horror thriller with Lake Bodom. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival ran from 5th-16th October 2016.

Film Review: Free Fire

Free Fire

After the disappointing High-Rise, Ben Wheatley impresses with Free Fire. The film is contagiously fun.

In Boston in the late 1970s, Justine brokers an arms deal between two gangs. The deal is set to take place in an abandoned warehouse. What should be a simple transaction turns into something else entirely…

Writer-director Ben Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump have created a very entertaining film with Free Fire. The pair keep things simple with the set up. The premise is basic, functioning to get the characters into a controlled environment. Very little of the action takes place outside of this setting.

With a simple premise and an almost one-room setting, the emphasis of the film has to be on the script and the characters. Wheatley riffs off the 1970s gangster films with Free Fire. The film has the style of gangster films of this era, and functions as something of a homage to the genre. Characters are quickly established, and the protagonists are given enough depth to engage viewers. The script, meanwhile, is frequently funny throughout the duration. The humour mixes character-driven jokes and wit with slapstick incidents. As is Wheatley’s way, humour is mixed with goriness for some black comic laughs.

Aerial shots early on in the film work well to establish the setting. At later stages, however, the camera work is sometimes too dizzying to figure out what is going on. One song in particular is used to great effect. Sharlto Copley is wonderfully humorous as Vern. He is the stand out character in the film. Elsewhere, Armie Hammer shows his comedy chops, and Cillian Murphy instils some much needed dryness. Sam Riley and Bree Larson are also decent.

Free Fire is a gangster comedy which does the job of entertaining its audience throughout. A very enjoyable film.

Free Fire is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

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.

Strands

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.