Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield is a love letter to storytelling. The film is endearing and entertaining. 

David Copperfield tells the story of his life, from his birth to adulthood. Along the way, he meets a cast of interesting characters, as he charts his highs and his lows…

Directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci with Simon Blackwell, The Personal History of David Copperfield is very much an ode to Charles Dickens and his wonderful storytelling. Iannucci’s affection for the author is well publicised. With this film, the director pays homage to Dickens in a way that is sincere and enjoyable. 

Condensing a lengthy tome into just under two hours is quite the undertaking. Yet Iannucci is assured in tackling the adaptation, focusing on the key moments in David’s timeline. The film is bursting with memorable characters, and moves at a good pace. The device of David narrating and sometimes writing the story works well. The film balances brisk storytelling with giving the various characters enough time to shine.

The Personal History of David Copperfield blends humour with adventure in a way that feels completely natural. Iannucci highlights the humour in Dickens’ work; there is plenty to amuse in the film. The film shifts tone with ease, offering heartfelt moments amongst the laughs.

The use of colourblind casting is definitely a plus, allowing the very best actors for the roles regardless of race. Dev Patel makes a great protagonist; he is convincing and sympathetic in his performance. There is a great cast present, with memorable turns from Tilda Swinton, Huh Laurie, and Ben Whishaw.

With The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci does his literary hero justice. A warm, amusing, and enjoyable adaptation. 

The Personal History of David Copperfield is opening the BFI London Film Festival on 2nd October 2019.

BFI London Film Festival 2019 Launch

This morning saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. In its 63rd year, the festival is screening 229 feature films, including 28 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing films for the BFI London Film Festival 2019 had already been announced. The festival opens with the European premiere of Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. An adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, the film stars Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie. Martin Scorsese‘s hotly-anticipated The Irishman closes the festival. There is an embarrassment of riches among the other headline galas, including Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Marielle Heller’s (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, and Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan and Isla Fisher.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year, films screening as part of the Strand Galas include Robert Eggers’ (The Witch) The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The Dare Gala is Mirrah Folks’ debut feature Judy & Punch, a fairy tale starring Mia Wasikowska. Among the Special Presentations are Takashi Miike’s First Love, and Bombay Rose, a hand-drawn animated feature from Gitanjali Rao.

Official Competition

Among the ten features in Official Competition at the London Film Festival 2019 are Haifaa Al-Mansour’s (Wadjda) The Perfect Candidate, about a young doctor who challenges Saudi Arabia’s strict social codes. Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d stars Maxine Peake and Charles Dance, and is about a woman living with her puritanical husband in 17th century Shropshire. The Documentary Competition features Rubika Shah’s White Riot, about the Rock Against Racism movement, and Lauren Greenfield The Kingmaker, which focuses on Imelda Marcos. The First Feature Competition includes Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, a drama starring Eliza Scanlon and Ben Mendelsohn.

Strands

The eleven thematic programme strands are back once more at the London Film Festival 2019. The Love strand includes La Belle Époque, Nicolas Bedos’ drama about an illustrator who uses technology to replay the past, and Ga-young Jeong’s Heart. The Debate strand is particularly strong this year with Citizen K (Alex Gibney‘s documentary on Mikhail Khodorkovsky), Chinonye Chukwu’s Sundance winner Clemency, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, and Scott Z Burns’ The Report, starring Adam Driver. Comedies in the Laugh strand includes Billie Piper’s directorial debut Rare Beasts, whilst Wash Westmoreland’s Earthquake Bird in the Thrill strand stars Alicia Vikander in an 1980s Tokyo-set thriller. Cannes winner The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão is among the films in the Journey category.

The Dare strand features animated coming-of-age tale I Lost My Body and Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird, about a Jewish boy on a journey home during wartime. The Cult strand includes Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge and Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. Also in this category is Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space, a HP Lovecraft adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson. The Experimenta strand includes Brad Butler and Noorafshan Mizra’s Ruptures, whilst Create includes Midge Costin’s documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Two highlights of the Family strand are Edmunds Jansons’ Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs and Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Bears’ Famous Invasion. Finally, classics that are showing as part of the Treasures programme include David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price.

The BFI London Film Festival 2019 runs from 2nd-13th October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Film Review: The Dead Don’t Die

Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die is not quite as satisfying as the package suggests. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to enjoy. 

Cliff is police chief of the small town of Centerville. When strange occurrences take place, Cliff and his officers try to figure out how to protect the town and its residents…

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, The Dead Don’t Die is probably the most star-studded zombie film ever made. From the main roles to minor characters, the film is populated with well-known faces. On the surface, the offering is most enticing. A zombie film with a focus on comedy, combined with the filmmaker’s offbeat appeal. 

The narrative begins well. The film introduces main characters and supporting characters, as well as the locale, in an interesting fashion. The humour is pretty effective as the narrative unfolds. The camaraderie between Cliff and Ronnie in particular a joy to watch. There is some on the nose social commentary, yet this is not unexpected.

The narrative builds towards the inevitable. Yet it also offers potential heroes in the ramshackle group of individuals in the small town. The film actually is less interesting with the increase of undead presence, oddly enough for a zombie film. Jarmusch chooses not to follow an obvious route however. Instead, The Dead Don’t Die offers a few unexpected moments before reaching its conclusion. 

The only issue with The Dead Don’t Die is that the second half feels like it has run out of steam. The jokes do not land as well, with a second fourth wall-breaking joke feeling flat. Whilst more gore was definitely not a requirement, some of the characters are completely underused. 

Several previous Jarmusch collaborators appear. Adam Driver and Bill Murray are as good value as ever, work well with Chlöe Sevigny. Tilda Swinton is great, while Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Glover, and Steve Buscemi are on good form. Production values are good, particularly makeup. 

The Dead Don’t Die is only a little disappointing given how much promise the film had. The film is still an enjoyable watch. 

Previews: The Dead Don’t Die Trailer, MIDSommAR, More!

Plenty of hotly-anticipated movies in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Dead Don’t Die trailer, Midsommar, Rocketman, and more…

The Dead Don’t Die Trailer

Here is the new The Dead Don’t Die trailer. The film, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive), is about a small town that becomes overrun with zombies. The comedy horror stars Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, and Tilda Swinton. The Dead Don’t Die hits UK screens on 12th July 2019.

Rocketman Featurette

Here is a new featurette on the costumes for the upcoming Rocketman. The film, a biopic of the early career of Elton John, stars Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, and Jamie Bell. Directed by Dexter Fletcher, Rocketman is out in UK cinemas on 22nd May 2019.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer

Warning: this trailer contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame. The sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far From Home takes place after the events of Endgame. Tom Holland, Marisa Tomei, and Zendaya return, and they are joined by Jake Gyllenhaal and Samuel L. Jackson. Spider-Man: Far From Home is set for release on 2nd July 2019.

Midsommar Trailer

Filmmaker Ari Aster follows up last year’s critically acclaimed horror Hereditary with Midsommar. The film is about an American couple who join friends at a festival in a remote Swedish village. Midsommar stars Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, and Jack Reynor. The film will be released in UK cinemas on 5th July 2019.

Crawl Trailer

Above is the trailer for Crawl. The horror thriller is about a young woman who goes looking for her missing father during a massive hurricane. Those with a fear of alligators should look away now. Alexandre Aja directs the film, with Sam Raimi producing. Starring Kaya Scodelario, Crawl is set for release this summer.

Film Review: Suspiria

Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria is a sway which builds to a cacophony. It is quite the cinematic experience.

American student Susie Bannion travels to Berlin to audition at a famous dance company. But not everything is quite what it seems, with Susie taking the room of a girl who was seeing a psychotherapist about her delusions…

After the success of Call Me By Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino’s latest project is an interesting one. A remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 Giallo classic Suspiria, it certainly piques the interest. This is heightened by the choice of cast and the addition of music by Thom Yorke.

The film itself projects itself as a fever dream. And in a sense it is. Guadagnino creates a picture with a mesmeric quality. Suspiria feels restrained at times, which makes the more frenzied sequences even more startling. The narrative is divided into six acts, with the descent into delirium increasing as the film progresses. 

The introduction of Patricia talking to the psychiatrist works well. It sets the scene nicely, giving audience an insight into what is going on at the dance school as well as the socio-political climate of the time. A theme running along the duration is the Lufthansa hijacking crisis. It gives a sense of the upheaval at the time. The decision to set the film in 1977 (not just as a homage to the original) is smart. Witchcraft is perhaps an allegory then for liberation in a time of restriction.

The film relies on an understated fear rather than going for the jugular. The macabre is uneasy rather than horrifying here. There is gore to be had; Suspiria dishes this out in spades, but restricts it to a handful of sequences. Guadagnino’s film has the hallmarks of body horror. It differs in a number of ways from the original; these changes are welcome in distinguishing the film. The different kind of agency given to Susie, for example, is a nice touch.

Dakota Johnson delivers a good performance as Susie. Tilda Swinton is as bewitching as ever, and Mia Goth provides solid support. Art direction, special effects, and choreography are all superb. Yorke’s score works well overall. The addition of song in the climactic scene seems a bit jarring, but this is presumably what Guadagnino was aiming for.

Suspiria distinguishes itself enough from the original, whilst retaining the essence of the story. It is hard not to get caught up in the film’s turbulent rhythm.

Suspiria is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2018.

Previews: Annihilation Trailer, Darkest Hour, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the Annihilation trailer, Darkest Hour, Isle of Dogs and more…

Annihilation Trailer

Above is the new Annihilation trailer. The film is based on the best-selling Southern Reach trilogy, and is directed by Alex Garland. The film features an all-star cast, including Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tessa Thompson. Annihilation is set for release on 23rd February 2018.

Darkest Hour Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for Churchill biopic Darkest Hour. The film focuses on the period just after Winston Churchill becomes prime minister, as Britain is on the cusp of entering World War II. Starring Gary Oldman and directed by Joe Wright (Anna Karenina), Darkest Hour is out in UK cinemas on 12th January 2018.

Father Figures Trailer

Father Figures is a new comedy about two adult brothers who only find out their father is still alive many years after they thought he had died. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, and J.K. Simmons. Father Figures is scheduled for release on 16th February 2018.

Happy Death Day Poster

Happy Death Day is a new thriller about a college student who relives the day of her murder until she finds out the identity of her killer. The film stars Jessica Rothe, and is produced by Blumhouse, the company responsible for Whiplash and Get Out. Happy Death Day will hit UK screens on 20th October 2017.

Isle of Dogs Trailer

Isle of Dogs looks joyful. Wes Anderson’s new film is about a young boy who goes to rescue his dog after all dogs are exiled to a rubbish dump island. The film features a stellar voice cast, including Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, and Tilda Swinton. Isle of Dogs is set for release on 30th March 2018.

Previews: Okja Trailer, The Mummy, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the Okja trailer, The Mummy, War for the Planet of the Apes, and more…

Okja Trailer

Here is the latest Okja trailer. Bong Joon Ho’s film is having its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Okja is about a girl who must stop a corporation from capturing her gentle friend. The film stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano. Okja launches globally on Netflix on 28th June 2017.

The Mummy Featurette

This featurette on The Mummy reveals a bit more about the characters and the world of the film. The film is intended to be the first in a series of a franchise rebooting the Universal Monsters. Russell Crowe plays Dr Jekyll (the Robert Louis Stevenson creation), with Sofia Boutella starring as the title character. With a cast headed by Tom Cruise, The Mummy hits UK screens on 9th June 2017.

War for the Planet of the Apes Trailer

Here is the latest trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes. The film completes a trilogy that began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The series acts as a prequel to the 1968 classic Planet of the Apes. Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, and Steve Zahn, War for the Planet of the Apes is out in UK cinemas on 14th July 2017.

Baby Driver Poster

This poster for Baby Driver gives an idea for the tone of the film. Directed by Edgar Wright, the film is about a young getaway driver who hopes to ditch his criminal life. The cast includes Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, and Lily James. Baby Driver is released in UK cinemas on 28th June 2017.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Trailer

Here’s hoping the film is as hilarious as the premise. Ryan Reynolds stars as the bodyguard attempting to protect Samuel L. Jackson’s hitman in action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard. With two likeable leads in an odd couple pairing, the film could be a winner. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is out in UK cinemas on 18th August 2017.

Wonder Woman TV Spot

Here is one of the new TV spots for the upcoming Wonder Woman. The first live-action film based on one of the most famous comic book characters, the film has been a long time coming. Directed by Patty Jenkins, and starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Robin Wright, Wonder Woman launches onto UK screens on 1st June 2017.

IT Clip

Hopefully this adaptation of Stephen King’s IT lives up to the novel’s reputation. A group of kids (the ‘Losers Club’) must face their biggest fears when children start going missing in the town of Derry. Starring Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, IT is set for release on 8th September 2017.