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.

Previews: Wonder Woman Trailer, Baby Driver, More!

A plethora of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including Wonder Woman trailer, Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde and more…

Wonder Woman Trailer

Here is the latest Wonder Woman trailer. The film is something of an origins story for one of the most famous female superheroes. Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Connie Nielsen, the film is directed by Patty Jenkins. Wonder Woman hits the big screen on 2nd June 2017.

Baby Driver Trailer

Here is the trailer for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. The film is about a young getaway driver who wants to ditch his criminal life. The film stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx. Baby Driver arrives in UK cinemas on 16th August 2017.

Transformers: The Last Knight Clip

This new clip does not reveal too much about the plot of the latest Transformers movie. Transformers: The Last Knight sees humans at war with the machines from another planet. Michael Bay’s film stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins. Transformers: The Last Knight is set for release later this year.

Life Poster

The latest poster for Life focuses has a suggestion of Gravity about it. Life is about a group of scientists aboard the International Space Station who discover a new life form. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. Life is out in UK cinemas on 24th March 2017.

Atomic Blonde Trailer

Charlize Theron is deadly in this trailer for Atomic Blonde. She plays an MI6 agent tasked with delivering a priceless dossier. She is joined by James McAvoy and John Goodman. Atomic Blonde will hit UK screens on 11th August 2017.

Lady Macbeth Trailer

Lady Macbeth is the debut feature film from theatre director William Oldroyd. The film is about a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage to a man twice her age. The film stars Florence Pugh and Cosmo Jarvis. Lady Macbeth will be released in UK cinemas on 28th April 2017.

Rough Night Trailer

Rough Night is about a group of former college friends who accidentally kill a male stripper. The film looks like a cross between Very Bad Things and Weekend at Bernie’s. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, and Zoë Kravitz. Rough Night will hit UK screens on 16th June 2017.

Film Review: The Martian

THE MARTIAN

Ridley Scott provides a timely reminder of why he is such a celebrated director with The Martian. The film is a wildly entertaining science-fiction adventure.

Astronaut Mark Watney is part of manned mission to Mars. When a storm hits the planet, the crew decide to leave, with Mark presumed dead. Mark has to use all his skills to stay alive on the barren planet whilst trying to signal to Earth that he is alive…

Adapted from Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian is an engaging and entertaining film. Drew Goddard was a good choice to pen the screenplay. The script is frequently funny, with a wonderful ease when switching tone. Like Gravity, there could be a worry of how the film will remain compelling, given the premise. However, it does this with aplomb. The contrasting tales of survival and rescue work well to keep viewers engaged and introduce the necessary supporting characters.

Ridley Scott directs the film skilfully, ensuring good pacing over the two hours plus running time. Despite the period of time that The Martian covers, the film never feels as if it is dragging. During the film there is tension, action and amusement. The Martian ramps the pressure up for the conclusion, enthralling the audience for its finale.

Cinematography in The Martian is excellent. Dariusz Wolski photographs the landscape in a way that demands to be seen on the big screen. The sound is also great, from design to score to soundtrack. The latter is an unusual accompaniment, but it works exceptionally well.

Matt Damon delivers a decent performance as Watney, being the sole performer in many of his scenes. The supporting cast are also good, Michael Peña provides the laughs, whilst Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels are well cast in their respective roles.

Ridley Scott proved his talent working in the space medium with Alien. The Martian is a different time of science fiction movie, but one that also beguiles its audience.

Previews: Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer, Jungle Book and more

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Hunger Games: Mockingly Part 2 trailer, the first look at The Jungle Book and more…

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer

Here is the latest Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 trailer. This preview focuses on Prim, and her relationship with older sister Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland et al return for the final instalment of The Hunger Games franchise. Mockingly Part 2 will hit the big screen on 19th November 2015.

Macbeth Poster

Macbeth poster

Here is one of the new posters for the upcoming Macbeth. Starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, the film is the latest adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays. The film is directed by Justin Curzel, best known for 2011’s Snowtown. Macbeth is released in UK cinemas on 2nd October 2015.

The Jungle Book Trailer

Well this looks pretty spectacular. Here is the first look at Disney’s live action version of The Jungle Book. The special effects look wonderful, and the film features an enviable voice cast that includes Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Scarlett Johansson as the terrifying Kaa. The Jungle Book will roar on to the big screen in April 2016.

In the Heart of the Sea Trailer

Ron Howard re-teams with Chris Hemsworth for In the Heart of the Sea. Also starring Cillian Murphy, Benjamin Walker and Ben Whishaw, the film tells the true story of a New England whaling ship in 1820. In the Heart of the Sea is scheduled for release on Boxing Day, 26th December 2015.

Bridge of Spies Poster

Bridge of Spies Poster

Here is the poster for Steven Spielberg’s latest Bridge of Spies. Starring Tom Hanks, the film is about an insurance claims lawyer who is sent on a mission by the CIA to negotiate the release of a captured American pilot during the Cold War. Bridge of Spies will be released in UK cinemas on 27th November 2015.

The Martian Video

The marketing for The Martian is pretty slick, with a series of “training videos” produced, like the one above. With a stellar cast that includes Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor, it will be interesting to see if the film can replicate the success of recent space-set blockbusters like Interstellar and Gravity. The Martian is out in UK cinemas on 30th September 2015.

Pan Trailer

The latest Peter Pan adaptation, Pan, is about to be released. Starring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund and Rooney Mara, the film is directed by Joe Wright. It will be interesting to see how the film measures up against 1991’s Hook. Pan will hit the big screen on 16th October 2015.

Film Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s landmark science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey returns to cinemas. This re-release offers an opportunity to see the iconic film on the big screen.

Charting the progress of mankind and civilisation, mysterious black monoliths appear to influence prehistoric apes in their development, and later astronauts involved in a secret mission, aided by computer H.A.L. 9000…

2001: A Space Odyssey is a prototype for much science fiction cinema that followed. From Alien to Gravity, the influence of Kubrick’s 1968 film is clear.

The film’s multi-act narrative works well. The most compelling section is the middle, and longest, part. The first and third segments are successful on a sensory level. The power of 2001: A Space Odyssey is that it effectively combines a narrative with less linear sequences.

The themes present in 2001: A Space Odyssey exhibit the best in science fiction in that they illuminate and generate anxiety. The non-linear style of the film gives the audience time to ponder the images and ideas they are presented with. Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke offer a view of civilisation that several other sci-fi films have played with in the intervening years. This view is presented, allowing audiences to come to their own conclusions, rather than being force-fed a particular viewpoint.

2001: A Space Odyssey still holds up well in terms of special effects, despite being almost fifty years old. Unlike so many effects-laden films of previous decades, Kubrick film does not look dated. The cinematography is fantastic, as is the art direction. 2001: A Space Odyssey has a very distinctive look. The sound design is also on point; the use of a classical score is as striking as it is memorable. Performances in the film are good, particularly Keir Dullea and Douglas Rain as the voice of HAL.

Science fiction aficionados and casual viewers alike should take this opportunity to see a true genre classic on the big screen.

2001: A Space Odyssey is released from 28th November 2014 at the BFI and selected locations nationwide. See here for full details.

Interstellar Press Conference

Interstellar Press Conference

Last week, the cast and crew gathered in London for the Interstellar press conference. Here is what cast members Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and Mackenzie Foy, plus director Christopher Nolan and producer Emma Thomas had to say about the film…

On making Interstellar…

Christopher Nolan: My interest in Interstellar was a couple of key things. First was the relationship between the father and the children. I am a father myself and I related to it quite a lot; I found it very powerful. And I liked the idea of combining that with this story that speculates about a potential moment in human evolution where mankind would have to reckon with its place in the wider universe.

Emma Thomas: The thing I love about this film is that it is many things rolled into one. So whilst we were doing the more intimate character stuff, we also had these massive, disparate locations to shoot in. Iceland is an amazing place but a lot of the places that we were in were incredibly remote and incredibly challenging. But I think it really paid off; it’s a lot more fun to watch it than it was to be there in some cases!

On science fiction cinema…

Christopher Nolan: I grew up and what was really a golden age of blockbusters. If you look at Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] and they way it addressed that idea of this inevitable moment where humans would meet aliens, and address it from a family perspective. I really liked the idea of giving today’s audiences some sense of that… One of my earliest movie-going memories is going to Leicester Square to see 2001 [A Space Odyssey] when I was seven years old, and I have never forgotten the scale of that. I saw my first IMAX film when I was fifteen, and immediately I wanted to make features that way at the point. Really for me working on this scale, it’s a long-held dream of mine.

Interstellar QUAD

On working with Christopher Nolan…

Matthew McConaughey: It is a compliment to the process that even though this went on for five months, and there was a much larger scope and scale, when you are acting in a Christopher Nolan film it feels just as intimate and just as raw and natural as most independent films are forced to feel because you don’t have the time. But we had the time and the money on Interstellar, but when you are actually shooting, it is very intimate, and very raw and natural.

Jessica Chastain: I don’t normally do big movies, I’m kind of new to this world. I had always been afraid that jumping on a big budget film, you would lose the relationships in favour of special effects. But the great thing about working with Chris is that it is all practical sets, so you actually have things to react to as an actor, which is awesome. We would do three or four takes, and it’s so incredible because he would let me get it out of my system, try what I wanted to without trying to impose on me something that wasn’t natural. With a very delicate hand, he would come over and just say one sentence… and with that tiny, exquisite note, he would open up my performance in a way I would never have imagined.

Mackenzie Foy: Christopher Nolan is awesome! I want to be a director when I get older, and just to be able to watch him work is amazing and it meant a lot to me.

Michael Caine: You spend your life as an actor making a picture saying “is it going to be going to be a hit? Is it going to be a miss?”. I’ve had six pictures working with Christopher, and every one has been a hit. So whenever he says “do you want to do a movie?”, I say “yes”! He said “do you want to read the script?” and I said “no”! It’s quite extraordinary working with him because he also writes it, and nothing is what it seems. I remember the first time he came to me with a script, he came to my house in the country, he said “I’ve got a movie”. I said; “what is it?” and he said “Batman”, and I thought to myself “well I’m too old to play Batman, what does he want me to play?”. He said; “I want you to play the butler” and I thought about the type of dialogue I would have, what do I say; “dinner is served”? And of course I read the script; it wasn’t the butler, it was the foster father.

On favourite science fiction characters…

Christopher Nolan: It’s got to be Darth Vader…

Emma Thomas: I would have to say Sigourney Weaver’s character in Alien.

Mackenzie Foy: Either Darth Vader or Spock.

Matthew McConaughey: Chewbacca and Murph [from Interstellar].

Anne Hathaway: R2D2 and Ripley.

Michael Caine: Sandy Bullock in Gravity.

Jessica Chastain: Mine would be Princess Leia and HAL.

Anne Hathaway: Can I add a science fiction character? Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. But I am speaking specifically of the new version.

On saving the environment…

Jessica Chastain: I’m vegan, and I don’t think everyone should be vegan, but I do believe that something like meatless Mondays. If everyone in the world gave up meat for one day it would make a huge difference in terms of the carbon footprint.

Michael Caine: I was so poor for so long that I didn’t use anything, I didn’t eat very much, I figured the world owed me a debt so… I am eating very well and have had a big car for a long time!

Anne Hathaway: I try to do a lot of little things in the hope that they are going to add up. I time my showers, I try not to overly consume things, or blindly consume things…

Christopher Nolan: Communal resources, like gathering people in one place, like a movie theatre. So if you go and see Interstellar every evening, you’ll save an enormous amount of energy!

Interstellar is released on Friday 7th November 2014.

Film Review: Gravity

Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is part awe-inspiring, part terrifying, and wholly absorbing cinema.

Dr Ryan Stone is a medical engineer on her first mission in space. When an accident occurs, Ryan and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski are left adrift in space…

Gravity is completely captivating. The film progresses at a good pace. It has peaks of action as well as periods to absorb the protagonist’s reaction to said events.

To a certain extent, Gravity takes on the mantel of Alien’s ‘In space no one can hear you scream’. Instead of otherworldly activity, the premise is a realistic one. Cuarón proposes a horrifying incident, then explores a personal reaction to such an event.

Gravity works because it is about emotions and response. The vast majority of viewers cannot relate to the actual situation presented, but will fully empathise with the response to being in such a life-threatening incident. Despite the setting, Gravity is about human experience.

Despite the premise of the film and the tension that this creates, Gravity provides wonderment in its setting. There is much to admire visually. It is easy to see the attraction of space exploration. In spite of the danger, the film retains this sense of awe.

The special effects in Gravity are flawless. There is not one shot that dies not look completely authentic. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography  is marvellous. The 3D is one of the best uses of the format in live action film.

Sandra Bullock is believable as Ryan; her sense of apprehension is palpable. George Clooney provides good support as Matt.

Gravity offers spectacle, but also delivers in terms of tension, emotion and entertainment. A must see film.

Gravity is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.