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: Widows

Steve McQueen’s Widows is a brilliant thriller, and a testament to the director’s cinematic mastery. The film is a tour de force. 

After a robbery goes wrong, the wives of criminals find themselves in debt to the wrong people. The women decide to take their fate into their own hands with an audacious plan…

There is so much to love about Widows that is pretty much impossible to find fault. With a screenplay by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, based on the Lynda La Plante novel, Widows offers a gripping narrative, multi-dimensional characters, and superlative filmmaking. 

From the startling jump cut opening (brilliantly edited Joe Walker), Widows is a film that grabs viewers and refuses to let go. The plot is fairly straightforward, yet there are so many elements which elevates the film way above a standard thriller. The pacing works well, rather than simply build tension towards a big heist, McQueen creates multiple strands, each with a sufficiently rich narrative. The characters are finely tuned; the protagonists have depth and feel realistic. The film is tense and captivating, and the finale almost breathtaking. Widows is a rare film in that the dialogue heavy and the action packed scenes work equally well. 

On the surface, Widows may be a heist thriller, but in reality it is so much more. The film has multiple layers. It is interested in what happens to women who aren’t the main breadwinner, and how they pick up the pieces in an unexpected circumstance. It considers political climate in the US through the local election battle. Political dynasty, the entitlement of a certain demographic, and the pursuit of power are all touched upon. McQueen also turns his lens to the divide between rich and poor, and the realities for black people in America. None of these elements are overplayed, instead they are enveloped by a well-crafted narrative.

McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt do some really interesting and effective things with the camera. The scene in which Jatemme and his crew confront the two young men is finely executed. The circling camera heightens the tension immensely. Likewise, later shots following the heist and the startling opening sequence show the talent behind the camera. Hans Zimmer’s score is great, and the sound design immensely effective.

The ensemble cast are all on form. Viola Davis is as convincing as ever as Veronica; she perfectly conveys the grief, anger and fear of the character. Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Duvall are also great. Daniel Kaluuya stands out in particular. Kaluuya is incredibly menacing as Jatemme; his believability is testament to the actor’s versatility.

Widows is Steve McQueen’s most accessible film to date. Yet it loses none of the artistry that we have come to expect from the filmmaker. Undoubtedly, Widows is one of the best films of the year.

Widows opens the BFI London Film Festival on 10th 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.

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: 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave is a masterpiece. Steve McQueen’s film is powerful, brutal, and endlessly compelling.

In the 1940s, Solomon Northup is a free black musician from upstate New York. His comfortable lifestyle and loving family are ripped from him when Solomon is abducted and sold into slavery…

12 Years a Slave is a definitive film on the subject of slavery. Based on Solomon Northup’s memoir, McQueen’s film certainly packs a punch. The narrative works to pull viewers in. The use of flashbacks are effective in drawing a strong contrast in Solomon’s life pre and during slavery.

Steve McQueen’s direction is sublime. He does not shy away from presenting the brutality of Solomon’s story. The film is violent, in a realistic and disturbing manner. This is never gratuitous, but simply highlighting realities of the time.

Characters in 12 Years a Slave are depicted in a three-dimensional way. Screenwriter John Ridley carves a solid protagonist in Solomon, one that viewers will fully engage with. It is not difficult to feel immensely involved with the character, such is the injustice suffered. Other characters are equally well drawn; there are shades of grey among the good and bad.

12 Years a Slave is wonderfully shot by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt. The sunsets are key in marking the passing of time. Hans Zimmer’s score is gorgeous. There is a a striking juxtaposition between the beauty of the film and the horrific nature of what is depicted.

Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers a powerhouse performance that is sure to receive numerous accolades. Michael Fassbender is also excellent plantation owner Epps, while Lupita Nyong’o is superb as Patsey. There is a melancholia to her performance which is affecting.

The skill of McQueen, the cast and the crew is that they have taken a true story and made it cinematic without ever losing its potency. 12 Years a Slave is an unmissable film.

12 Years a Slave is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

London Film Festival 2013 – Preview of Coming Attractions

Tickets for the BFI London Film Festival 2013 go on sale today. There is a veritable cinematic feast on offer, with 235 feature films and 134 short films from 57 different countries. Here are the films I am hoping to catch…

Gravity

Gravity looks terrifying. Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film serves up a horrifying but intriguing proposition. Sandra Bullock stars as a medical engineer on her first mission in space.

La Belle et la Bête

Jean Cocteau’s 1946 classic La Belle et la Bête has been digitally restored to 4K to mark the 50th anniversary of the director’s death. It is a rare chance to see Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast on the big screen.

12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave has been getting rave reviews at Venice, so expectations are high. Chiwetel Ejiofor is an accomplished violinist living as a free man in New York who is conned into joining a travelling show then brutally abducted and sold as a slave. With Oscar buzz, this is one to see.

Talking Dog for Sale, 10 Euros

I am sold on the title alone. Talking Dog for Sale, 10 Euros is a short by Louis Martin-Soucy. It is being screened at the London Film Festival 2013 as part of The Best Medicine series of comedic short films. It is only eight minutes long, but I am hoping that is eight minutes of talking dog action.

The BFI London Festival 2013 runs from 9th – 20th October. More information is available here.

Shame Press Conference

There was a palpable sense of anticipation on Friday morning, as Steve McQueen’s Shame was screened for the press. Straight after the screening a press conference was held for the film. Director McQueen was joined by screenwriter Abi Morgan, producer Iain Canning and star Michael Fassbender. The panel discussed the conception of the film, the research they undertook to find out more about sex addiction, and the reason why McQueen and Fassbender chose to collaborate again. Highlights from the conference are below.

Read the I Heart The Talkies review of Shame