Film Review: The Upside

The Upside, Neil Burger’s remake of 2011’s Les Intouchables, is sentimental yet sufficiently charming.

Recently out of jail, Dell needs to prove he has been looking for work. Wealthy quadriplegic Phillip needs a new carer, and the unlikely Dell just might fit the bill…

A remake of Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano’s Les Intouchables, The Upside moves the action from Paris to New York. Director Neil Burger makes a few changes from the French film, but these work well enough. Some of the updates are enhancements, putting the two characters on a more even keel, in terms of their actions. 

Dell is the fish out of water character in The Upside. He is plunged into a world of opulence – a stark contrast to prison. Dell is given enough backstory to become more than simply a vessel to improve the life of Phillip. The odd couple pairing works well, with each of them experiencing each other’s world. There is plenty of humour to be found, even if the catheter jokes don’t always hit the mark. 

The narrative moves at a good pace, with the burgeoning friendship given sufficient exploration. The Upside is more concerned with an idealised version of the central pairing than a realistic one. The film does not focus on the race or class disparity between the two protagonists in any meaningful way, despite their differences being key to the unusual friendship. Instead, Burger relies on schmaltz to propel on the narrative. The result of this is a sufficiently entertaining film, but not a particularly memorable one.

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart have good chemistry. The pair work well together; it is their combined charm that endears viewers. Nicole Kidman provides good support in a rather thankless role, whilst Tate Donovan is amusing in a small role.

The Upside is a saccharine affair; it will prove just the ticket for those looking for something sentimental but not too deep.

Previews: Creed II Clip, Uglydolls, More!

Lots of film-related goodness in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a new Creed II clip, Uglydolls, Missing Link, and more…

Creed II Clip

Here is a brand new Creed II clip. A sequel to 2016’s Creed, the film sees the return of Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, and Tessa Thompson. They are joined by a face from the original franchise; Dolph Lundgren reprises his role as Ivan Drago. Directed by Steven Caple Jr., Creed II will hit UK screens on 30th November 2018.

Uglydolls Trailer

Here is the first trailer for animated adventure Uglydolls. Based on the toy brand, the film is about the residents of Uglyville, who confront what it means to be different. The film features original songs by Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, and Blake Shelton. Uglydolls is set for release on 16th August 2019.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse Poster

Above is the latest poster for the upcoming Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the film focuses on a different Spider-Man universe. With an all-star voice cast (including Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nicolas Cage), Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is out in UK cinemas on 12th December, with previews on 8th and 9th December 2018.

Missing Link Trailer

Missing Link is the latest film from animation studio Laika. The film is about an explorer who  discovers the world’s most legendary creature. Featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, and Zoe Saldana, Missing Link is set for release on 5th April 2019.

Aquaman Poster

Here is one of the latest posters from the upcoming DC film Aquaman. Nicole Kidman stars as Queen Atlanna in the film. She is joined by Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, and Willem Dafoe. Directed by James Wan, Aquaman will hit UK screens on 14th December 2018.

White Boy Rick Trailer

White Boy Rick is based on the true story. Set in 1980s Detroit, during the height of the war on drugs, the film is about a father and his teenage son, who becomes a police informant. The film stars Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Brian Tyree Henry. White Boy Rick is being released in UK cinemas on 7th December 2018.

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.

Film Review: The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a macabre tale which offers the requisite tension and horror. The film provides a quiet terror and a permanent sense of unease. 

Steven is a successful surgeon who lives a comfortable life with his family. This tranquility is shattered, however, when the behavior of a teenage boy he has taken under his wing turns sinister…

Writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos and collaborator Efthymis Filippou have created a tale of terror that takes a while to unfold. The first third builds the characters and the sense of uneasiness. The reason for what occurs is revealed in such a matter of fact way that it enhances the surprise and the horror. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is reminiscent of an Edgar Allan Poe story, albeit one rendered in a very contemporary fashion. Lanthimos’ skill here is the ramping of the tension, leading to some awful realisations. The director picks apart the perfect family facade with a sense of glee, merrily ripping through the seams. 

Martin is a most interesting antagonist. The way in which the characters react to him, and indeed the situation says something about the spectrum of human emotion. To a certain extent, Lanthimos makes family go through the stages of grief, with different characters exhibiting the different stages. The Killing of a Sacred Deer will not be a surprise to viewers of the director’s previous work, such as The Lobster. There is some dark humour sprinkled throughout, although the tone is deadpan. 

The score is slightly overbearing in the first third. It is clear what the filmmakers are aiming for, but result is that it can detract from the mood early on. The art direction offers a clinical appearance which fits the tone of the film. Colin Farrell is strong in understated role. Nicole Kidman also very good in subtle role. It is Barry Keoghan who stands out though, delivering a memorable performance. The actor has a promising career ahead. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer engages throughout, even if viewers may wish for some relief. A horror story which lingers. 

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017, and will be released in cinemas on 3rd November 2017.

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Launch

It’s that time of year again. Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2017. The festival this year sees 242 feature films being screened, which includes 28 world premieres. Here are some picks to look out for at the London Film Festival 2017…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing galas previously announced; closing gala Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in particular looks great. Directed by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), the film stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. Other Headline Gala highlights include Battle of the Sexes (starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell), Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Another highlight is The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). The film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, and is about a doctor who introduces his family to a fatherless young man he has befriended.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year sees the return of the Embankment Garden Cinema and its series of Strand Galas.   There are a number of exciting screenings, including Redoubtable (Le Redoutable). Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) the film is a biopic of Jean-Luc Godard and stars Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, and Bérénice Bejo. Also showing is Wonderstruck, based on the novel of the same name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol), the film stars Julianne Moore. Among the Special Presentations are Sally Potter’s The Party and the first two episodes of David Fincher’s upcoming Netflix series Mindhunter.

Official Competition

Amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2017 are The Breadwinner (an animated film about a young girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul), and Thoroughbred, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy. The First Feature Competition includes Beast, which is about a young woman who falls for a police suspect. Also in this category is I Am Not A Witch, about a young girl in a Zambian village who is accused of being a witch. The Documentary Competition includes Jane, a film about primatologist Jane Goodall.

Strands

A highlight of this year’s Love strand is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on the Neil Gaiman short story. The film stars Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. The Debate strand features The Venerable W., a documentary about a Buddhist monk espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. Laugh includes Brigsby Bear, a comedy about a man who tries to remake a children’s show he was obsessed with. A highlight of the Dare category is 9 Fingers, directed by FJ Ossang. The Thrill section includes the classic noir Mildred Pierce, whilst Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch star in Lucky as part of the Journey strand.

The Cult strand includes Paco Plaza’s horror Veronica, and Create features documentary G Funk, about Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. The Family strand includes fairy tale compendium Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess. Experimenta features documentary Tonsler Park, a timely film about polling stations in Charlottesville during last year’s US election.

The full London Film Festival 2017 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 4th-15th October 2017.

Previews: The Killing of a Sacred Deer Trailer, More!

Plenty to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Killing of a Sacred Deer trailer, Goodbye Christopher Robin, and more…

The Killing of a Sacred Deer Trailer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is the latest film from Yorgos Lanthimos. Director Lanthimos follows The Lobster with this horror-thriller. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, and Barry Keoghan. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is out in UK cinemas on 17th November 2017.

IT VR Experience

Adjust your headsets for this frightening journey into the world of IT. This VR experience gives a flavour of the film, which is based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel. It is pretty scary! Starring Bill Skarsgård, IT floats on to UK screens on 8th September 2017.

Goodbye Christopher Robin Poster

Here is the latest poster for the upcoming Goodbye Christopher Robin. The film is about the real life relationship between author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin, whose toys inspired the world of Winnie the Pooh. The film stars Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, and Kelly Macdonald. Goodbye Christopher Robin is set for release on 29th September 2017.

Call Me By Your Name Trailer

Based on the novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name is a drama from director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash). The film is about an Italian-American teenager whose head is turned when a twenty-four year old intern comes to stay with his family for the summer. Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chamalet, and Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name hits UK screens on 27th October 2017.

The Death of Stalin Trailer

The Death of Stalin is the latest film from writer-director Armando Iannucci. The film is a dark comedy which takes place in the days after the collapse of Soviet leader Stalin. The film features an enviable cast that includes Steve Buscemi, Paddy Considine, and Andrea Riseborough. The Death of Stalin is out in UK cinemas on 20th October 2017.

Previews: The Beguiled Trailer, Baywatch, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the latest The Beguiled trailer, Baywatch, Alien: Covenant, and more…

The Beguiled Trailer

Here is the latest The Beguiled trailer. The film is from writer-director Sofia Coppola, and is based on the novel of the same name. The novel was made into a film starring Clint Eastwood in 1971. Coppola’s version stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. The Beguiled will be released in UK cinemas on 14th July 2017.

Alien: Covenant Crew Message

The marketing team behind Alien: Covenant are being astute at feeding viewers information before the film is released. Like the earlier clip of the crew socialising, this video reveals a bit more about one of the personalities in advance of the film’s release. Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien: Covenant hits UK screens on 12th May 2017.

Baywatch Poster

Here is the latest Baywatch poster. Based on the beloved nineties television series, the action-comedy stars Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Priyanka Chopra, and Alexandra Daddario. If the original theme isn’t featured heavily in the film, the filmmakers are missing a hell of a trick. Baywatch launches onto UK screens on 29th May 2017.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Quick Peek

Here is a super speedy look at Kingsman: The Golden Circle. The film is a sequel to the 2015 hit Kingsman: The Secret Service, and sees the return of Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. They are joined by Julianne Moore, Halle Berry and Channing Tatum. Kingsman: The Golden Circle is scheduled for release in UK cinemas in September 2017.

American Assassin Trailer

Here is the first trailer for American Assassin. The film is based on the best-selling book of the same name, the film is about a CIA Black Ops recruit. It stars Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, and Taylor Kitsch. American Assassin hits UK cinemas on 15th September 2017.

The Red Turtle Trailer

The Red Turtle is the latest Studio Ghibli film. The animated film tells the story of a man shipwrecked on an island inhabited by turtles. The film is the feature debut of director Michael Dudok de WitMichael Dudok de Wit, who is known for his animated shorts. The Red Turtle will be released in cinemas on 26th May 2016.