LFF 2018 Highlights Part 1

It is approximately the half way point of the BFI London Film Festival, and there have been some excellent films screened so far. Here are some LFF 2018 highlights from the first week…

LFF 2018 Highlights – Unmissable

Widows

Director Steve McQueen kicked off the festival with a bang with the gripping Widows. There is so much to love about Widows that is pretty much impossible to find fault. READ MORE

The Old Man and the Gun

David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun is bursting with charm, much like its leading man. In what is rumoured to be Robert Redford’s last film, Lowery has created an ode to the actor. READ MORE

Non-Fiction

Oliver Assayas’ latest is a witty and endearing exploration of life, truth, and publishing. Non-Fiction illustrates Assayas’ versatility as a filmmaker. READ MORE

LFF 2018 Highlights – Best of the Rest

Sorry To Bother You

Boots Riley’s satire Sorry To Bother You is inventive, thought provoking, and tremendous fun. Riley is not afraid to target the system in Sorry To Bother You. READ MORE

Mandy

Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy is quite the trip. At its best moments, the film is dazzling. Despite the simplicity of the plot, Mandy is a striking and memorable film. READ MORE

The Guilty

Gustav Möller’s The Guilty (Den Skyldige) is a very impressive directorial debut. The filmmaker makes the most of the confined setting, creating a taut thriller. READ MORE

Border

Ali Abbasi’s Border (Gräns) is stark, different and engaging. The film is at different times a mystery, a love story, a crime thriller, and a fantasy. What keeps viewers intrigued is this ambiguity. READ MORE

The Front Runner

Jason Reitman’s political drama The Front Runner is an engrossing watch. The film is superbly scripted, and boasts solid performances from its cast. The dialogue is often quick-fire, and there is plenty of humour to be found, amongst the more serious proceedings. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 10th-21st October 2018. See the full programme here.

Film Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Like its leading man, David Lowery’s The Old Man and the Gun is oozing with charm. The film is wonderful. 

An older man walks into a bank and commits a robbery. An unlikely figure, but this isn’t his first crime. As the police, attempt to trace the robber, he stays one step ahead…

From the opening sequence, the tone of Lowery’s film is immediately set. Writer-director Lowery and cinematographer Joe Anderson make The Old Man And The Gun look like a film made in the early 1980s (when the film is set). The grainy quality is immediately reminiscent of this period. Coupled with the titles, the film is very much a throwback to this era. 

The structure of the picture is set up like a game of cat and mouse. And although this loose structure is followed, the film is anything but generic. Lowery develops complex characters, not just with the protagonist and his chaser detective Hunt, but also with Jewel. The relationships that develop during the course of the film are a joy to watch. 

The film does offer tension, but this isn’t the modus operandi of the picture. Instead, the director offers an insight into the lead character, who is based on a real person. Rather than proffering a moral judgement, Lowery is interested in what drives this fascinating character. In doing so, they also explore his counterpart; with Hunt’s conversations with his wife and children elucidating his transitioning feelings towards the object of his prey. 

In what is rumoured to be Robert Redford’s final movie, Lowery has created an ode to the leading man. In using the early picture, and footage, the film feels dedicated to the fine actor. It is also fitting that he plays a character that is incredibly charming. Sissy Spacek is also excellent as Jewel; her expressions convey so much about how the character feels without the need for words. Casey Affleck is as solid as ever, while Danny Glover and Tom Waits provide good support. Daniel Hart’s soundtrack is superb, setting the tone and feeling very much of the relevant era.  

The Old Man And The Gun is one of Lowery’s more accessible films, yet there is no diminishment of beauty. A beguiling picture. 

The Old Man And The Gun is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 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: Pete’s Dragon

Pete's Dragon

Pete’s Dragon takes a departure from its live action-animated musical roots in this new version. Director David Lowery offers a well-rounded and pleasing tale.

When young Pete is orphaned in the forest, he finds an unlikely ally in a dragon. Pete and Elliot are enjoying their adventures when Pete stumbles across ranger, Grace. Pete is intrigued by another human, but wants to protect his dragon friend…

Pete’s Dragon is another in a line of Disney remakes. This version of the film, however, is quite different to its predecessor. There are some aspects of the film which indicate alignment with the studio. The manner in which Pete comes to be isolated in the forest, for example, is more of a Disney trope than the earlier version. Nonetheless, other traditional aspects are missing, such as the songs.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery helms the film. Pete’s Dragon seems quite distinct to his previous film, yet both operate on an emotional level. There is a level of sentimentality perceivable from the outset. The theme of family and belonging is played out in a conventional way. Notwithstanding, the film offers shades of grey in its characterisation. The sharp contrasts often found in children’s films are not present here. Instead, the film promotes an antagonist with redemptive qualities.

Pete’s Dragon has a twee quality, one that matches its period setting. Some may find this old fashioned, yet this is a charming aspect of the film. The themes of friendship and belonging, as well as the environmental concerns, are a good combination. There are moments when the film feels a bit too sentimental, but overall Pete’s Dragon does well to add heart to its narrative.

Special effects in the film are excellent. Elliot feels like a real character, and not just a CGI image. Oakes Fegley does well as Pete, whilst Bryce Dallas Howard is believable as Grace. Robert Redford and Karl Urban are well cast in their respective roles.

Pete’s Dragon is a worthy remake, and one that goes beyond its source material. An enjoyable family film.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Accountant and More!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, The Accountant, Wonder Woman and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a live-action remake of the animated classic. Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Wes Bentley are joined by Oakes Fegley as the title character. Pete’s Dragon will be released in UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Accountant Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for The Accountant. The film stars Ben Affleck as a maths savant who works on the books for criminal organisations. Also starring Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is out in the UK on 4th November 2016.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Featurette

Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson and others discuss the upcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Directed by Tim Burton, Jane Goldman wrote the screenplay, based on the novel by Ransom Riggs. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children hits UK screens on 30th September 2016.

Office Christmas Party Trailer

Office Christmas Party is a new comedy from Josh Gordon and Will Speck, the directors of The Switch and Blades of Glory. The film is about staff who host an epic Christmas party to impress a potential client. With an ensemble cast that includes  Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Courtney B. Vance, Office Christmas Party makes its way onto UK screens on 9th December 2016.

Ben-Hur Trailer

Here is the second trailer for Ben-Hur. The film is an adaptation of the 1880 Christian novel, like the three film versions that have come before. This version stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, and Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur hits UK screens on 7th September 2016.

T2 Teaser Trailer

This feels like it has come from nowhere. A belated sequel to Trainspotting, T2 reunites director Danny Boyle with the original cast, including Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jonny Lee Miller. T2 is set for release on 27th January 2016.

Blair Witch Trailer

Another unexpected sequel to a 1990s film. Horror movie The Woods was revealed to be Blair Witch, a sequel to The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch is directed by Adam Winged, who has had recent successes with You’re Next and The Guest. Blair Witch hits UK screens on 16th September 2016.

Nerve Clip

Nerve seems to the correct name for this film, is the above clip is anything to go by. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who rose to fame through their film Catfish. Starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, Nerve is out in UK cinemas on 11th August 2016.

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island Poster

Kong: Skull Island is a reimagining of the cinema stalwart King Kong. The film has a more contemporary setting than the last version of the monster movie. Kong: Skull Island stars Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson and John Goodman. The film is set for release in 2017.

Wonder Woman Trailer

The film many comic book fans have been waiting decades for is almost here. After her appearance in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman finally gets her own film. Gal Gadot is joined by Chris Pine, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman will hit cinemas 2nd June 2017.

The LEGO Batman Movie Trailer

After the character was such a big hit in The LEGO Movie, it is no surprise that Batman gets his own film. The LEGO Batman Movie looks like it will be as amusing as its predecessor, if the trailer is anything to go by. With the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson, The LEGO Batman Movie launches on to UK screens in February 2017.

Suicide Squad Video

This Suicide Squad video concentrates on Harley Quinn from the upcoming movie. The film features a roster of villains who are tasked with completing a mission for a US agent. Starring Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, and Viola Davis, Suicide Squad hits UK cinemas on 5th August 2016.

Previews: Pete’s Dragon Trailer, The Witch and more!

Lots to see in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Pete’s Dragon trailer, a featurette on The Witch, and more…

Pete’s Dragon Trailer

Here is the new Pete’s Dragon trailer. The film is a remake of the 1977 live action-animation adventure. Starring Robert Redford and Bryce Dallas Howard, the film is an interesting next feature from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints helmer David Lowery. Pete’s Dragon hits UK cinemas on 12th August 2016.

The Witch Featurette

The Witch looks like a genuinely unsettling film. In this featurette, writer-director Robert Eggers speaks about creating a New England horror story. Viewers will be familiar with the setting from films such as The Crucible; it will be interesting to see what Eggers does with this. The Witch is released on UK screens on 11th March 2016.

The Hunstman: Winter’s War Poster

The Huntsman Winter's War Poster

It appears that Snow White and the Huntsman prequel The Hunstman: Winter’s War will have the same visual flair. The film sees the return of Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, who are joined by Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is out in UK cinemas on 4th April 2016.

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

This is the final trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated film sees the return of the Man of Steel cast, plus a host of other DC characters. Ben Affleck is this incarnation’s Batman; it will be interesting to see how he fairs against previous portrayals of the iconic character. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice hits UK screens on 25th March 2016.

Zootropolis Trailer

Well this looks enchanting. Zootropolis is the latest animated feature from Disney. The film is about a police officer bunny who teams up with a scam artist fox to solve a case. If this isn’t enough to convince you (which, frankly, it should be), the film features the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba. Zootropolis releases in UK cinemas on 25th March 2016.

Film Review: Truth

TRUTH

A fascinating media story gets big screen treatment in James Vanderbilt’s Truth. The film itself is a little overblown to be truly great.

In 2004, producer Mary Mapes and her team set about researching George W. Bush’s military service for a 60 Minutes report. The team attempt to verify sources for their story, unaware of the storm of criticism that will follow…

Based on Mary Mapes’ book, Truth tells story of 60 Minute report for CBS that was heavily scrutinised for documents it used. The film focuses on the small team behind the report as the pull the CBS programme together, then the subsequent backlash after it airs. Whilst the events took place in 2004 and the furore may be remembered by some, few viewers will be aware of the full extent of the case.

Truth speaks more broadly on the nature of new media, through the microcosm of one particular story. This wider perspective has not lost its relevance; the film talks as much about contemporary news. Director and writer James Vanderbilt discusses television news and its bias, and highlights the background to the decisions that are made. The subject of the film is undoubtedly thought provoking.

Vanderbilt’s film falters in its over egging of the material. Truth takes a newsroom drama and fabricates a melodrama in the director’s hands. The film’s score is really ill-fitting, coercing audience to feel emotion in situations where it is not present. Likewise, the slow-motion sequences in depicting people viewing original documentary on television and at the end of the film felt unnecessary. Some of Truth‘s dialogue feels hokey, Dan Rather’s soundbites in particular. Furthermore, some of the exposition seems unnecessary and comes across as jarring as a result. Nevertheless, Mike Smith’s speech towards the end identifies the problem with news reporting to an amplified degree.

Performances in Truth are good overall, with Cate Blanchett as convincing as ever as Mary Mapes. Robert Redford is well cast as Dan Rather, whilst Topher Grace is given little to do until his speech.

With such an interesting and impactful story, Truth could have been magnificent. It is still very watchable, although the film is soured by a push towards sentimentality.

Truth is being screened at the London Film Festival in October 2015.