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: The Happytime Murders Clip, Climax, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a brand new The Happytime Murders clip, Climax, Widows, and more…

The Happytime Murders Clip

Here is the latest The Happytime Murders clip. Directed by Brian Henson, the film stars Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and a host of puppets. Set in a world where humans co-exist with puppets, the film is about a private investigator who reunites with his ex-partner to find a serial killer. The Happytime Murders will hit UK screens on 27th August 2018.

Climax Trailer

Above is the trailer for Gaspar Noé’s Climax. The film is about a dance troupe’s party that goes awry. Not has assembled a cast of non-actors and professional dancers for the film. After debuting at Cannes earlier this year, Climax will close FrightFest on 27th August, and will be released in UK cinemas on 21st September 2018.

Peterloo Poster

Here is the new poster for Mike Leigh’s Peterloo. The film is a portrayal of the events surrounding the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. The film’s cast includes Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake. Peterloo will have its premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, taking place in Manchester (the first time a film has debuted outside the capital at the festival). It will be released at cinemas across the UK on 2nd November 2018.

Widows Trailer

Widows is the new film from Steve McQueen. With a screenplay written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, the film is about four women who have a debt left behind from their criminal husbands. Widows offers an enviable cast which includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Daniel Kaluuya. Widows will open the BFI London Film Festival on 10th October, and will hit screens across the UK on 6th November 2018.

Crazy Rich Asians Clip

Here is a clip from the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians. The comedy is directed by John M. Chu, and stars Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Jeong. The film is about a New Yorker who travels with her boyfriend to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Although it is already out in America. Crazy Rich Asians does not reach UK screens until 14th September 2018.

Film Review: Battle: Los Angeles

As an two-hour long advertisement for the US marines, Battle: Los Angeles is excellent. As a feature film, not so much.

Veteran marine Michael Nantz is ready to retire after a long and distinguished career. The day after he makes his intentions clear, major cities around the world come under attack from an unknown entity. Squad sergeant Nantz and his team must battle against the alien attackers to save Los Angeles…

Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle: Los Angeles features all of the standard conventions of an apocalyptic/alien attack movie. There is little innovation in any aspect of the film. The pacing is uneven; there are several false endings and the film lasts longer than it should. Although the movie centres on an alien attack, little is revealed about the extraterrestrials. Instead, Battle: Los Angeles concentrates on the near relentless action.

Writer Chris Bertolini injects his script with all the usual clichés. At its worse, the film is an embarrassment of cringe-worthy dialogue. Nantz’s speeches to his men are riddled with the overblown sentiment of a Michael Bay film. Likewise, while Bertolini strives for heartfelt with the confabulating of Hector’s father Joe, the result is more nauseating than anything else.

The characters in Battle: Los Angles fulfill the usual archetypes for the style of film. Nantz is at first the reluctant hero, coming into his stride as the film progresses. He is the all-American hero; putting the lives of his team before his own, and saving the civilians at any cost. Within his team, none of the characters particularly stand out. Lockett is the familiar good guy with a chip on his shoulder, while Santos is the token female.

Special effects are pretty decent, although there is minimal detailed footage of the alien invaders. The sound is bombastic; with all the explosions, gunfire and helicopter sounds, there is barely a moment’s peace in Battle: Los Angeles. Camera work combines the rough, hand-held style of Cloverfield with the veneer of a Roland Emmerich movie.

Aaron Eckhart is a talented actor, so it is a mystery as to why he plumped for this script. Elsewhere, performances are fine overall; it is the dialogue rather than the delivery that is the problem. Michelle Rodriguez plays her usual tough girl role, while Ne-Yo’s foray into movies is not much of a test.

The stock heroics, familiar perilous situations, and the little children to rescue are all present in the film. The only thing missing is the dog. Audiences may be better off re-watching Independence Day or any of its ilk as Battle: Los Angeles offers nothing new.

Film Review: Machete

Gloriously violent and at times hilarious, Machete is unabashedly good fun. The only thing that lets the film down is its political angle, which feels out of place in a movie such as this.

Machete, a former Federale agent, is hired to assassinate a US senator. When things don’t go according to plan, Machete embarks on a revenge mission, enlisting the help of a beautiful Mexican activist, and the interference of a beautiful US agent…

As a B movie, Machete works exceptionally well. The film exudes all the elements expected; overblown action sequences, gratuitous violence, trailer-worthy dialogue and beautiful women. Where the film is less successful is in its inclusion of the political narrative. Although mostly set in Texas, Machete is clearly taking to task Arizona’s recent controversial immigration law, which made headlines earlier this year.

While this is an issue evidently close to the heart of co-director and co-writer Robert Rodriguez, it seems at odds with the general tone of Machete. Although there is nothing wrong with B movies or B movie parodies having a comment, satirical or otherwise, on political events, Machete does this in a way that isn’t particularly smart or witty. The film would have functioned better as an all-out, ridiculous B movie homage, like Snakes on a Plane.

The idea of Machete first came to light in a fake trailer featured before Rodriguez’s double feature Grindhouse and Planet Terror. The character of Machete lives up to this early promise; he is tough and forthright, yet unequivocally a good guy. He very much plays the role of a superhero, even down to his Hulk-like assertion, “Machete don’t text”. Elsewhere, the film offers considerable amusement, particularly in Senator John McLaughlin’s ad campaigns.

The violence is Machete is almost relentless, but will most likely leave you crying out for more. This is because it is cartoon-like and superbly over the top; these scenes are enjoyable rather than wince inducing. Particularly imaginative is the hospital sequence, which is one of the highlights of the film.

The soundtrack to the film is bombastic, and perfectly fits the larger-than-life tone of proceedings. Effects are good, and even the title sequence is entertaining, a nod to the overall tongue-in-cheek nature of Machete.

Danny Trejo is perfectly cast as Machete; it is difficult to imagine anyone else in this role. Robert De Niro appears appropriately two-faced as the Senator, while Jeff Fahey brings nastiness as Michael Booth. Steven Seagal is suitably hammy as Mexican drug lord Torrez, and Michelle Rodriguez brings passion as Luz. The only letdown is Lindsay Lohan, who is stiff and unconvincing as April.

Machete is a very enjoyable film, betrayed only by its desire to be something more than this. Sit back, relax, and let the revenge commence.