Film Review: The Lighthouse

With his nightmarish thriller The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers proves The Witch was no fluke. 

A new lighthouse keeper and a cantankerous veteran arrive on a small island for a four-week shift. As time goes by, the isolation gets to both of them…

Filmed in black and white in Movietone aspect ratio, it is clear from the beginning that The Lighthouse is no run-of-the-mill film. Director and co-writer Robert Eggers explores isolation and mania in a loose narrative structure. The film has an immediately unnerving atmosphere. 

The first line of dialogue does not occur until several minutes into the film. Instead, Eggers builds a strong picture of the setting and the two figures which the film revolves around. Throughout the film there are long periods of no dialogue, interspersed with lengthy conversation scenes. This works to provide a rhythm of the characters’ existence and heightens the idea that it is just the two of them inhabiting the vast landscape. The dialogue (written by Eggers and co-writer Max Eggers) has an otherworldly feel. At one point, Wake delivers a Shakespearean-style monologue.

The longer the film goes on, the more disorientating things become. Both characters seem to lose any sense of time, and Eggers attempts to replicate this with the viewer’s experience. The Lighthouse is a downward spiral, with a jagged, disorientating descent. Eggers obfuscates several elements, making it so the viewer cannot trust the view of either character, or indeed the authenticity of what we are shown. It is unclear exactly where and when the mania will cease, but from the very beginning viewers will know this will not end well.

Cinematography in The Lighthouse is wonderful. Jarin Blaschke uses light and shadow incredibly effectively. The chiaroscuro of the lighthouse beam inside the building is beautiful. Eggers direction is great. There a some deft movements. Eggers depicts the dominance of each character at different times with his choice of angle. The sound design in the film is absolutely fantastic. From the very beginning, the sound sets the scene, with the unnerving reputation of the horn. Mark Korven’s score is restrained in its use, which makes it all the more effective.

Robert Pattinson offers a sturdy performance in this two-hander. He vey effectively conveys his character’s descent, yet wisely does not attempt to meet Dafoe’s power. The film is better for it. Willem Dafoe is authoritative and encompassing, yet not without humour.

Robert Eggers’ sophomore picture once again illustrates his prowess in creating unworldly and disconcerting atmospherics. The Lighthouse is a heady, unsettling yarn.

The Lighthouse is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in 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.


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.

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.

Film Review: The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a bittersweet drama. Although the finale is signposted fairly early on, the film excels in shining a light on a particular kind of childhood.

Young Moonee spends her summer getting into mischief with her friends, growing up close to Disney World in Florida. Her mother Halley, meanwhile struggles to pay the rent on their room at a motel complex…

Directed and co-written by Sean Baker, The Florida Project revolves around the lives of a young girl and her mother, who live in a motel room in Orlando. The film combines various themes in its telling of their tale. Baker establishes the protagonists early on, with the first sequence giving a great introduction to both mother and daughter.

Set in a motel complex in Florida, the film’s characters are almost universally poor. The Florida Project relays the struggles of living in such an area, yet makes sure to contrast Halley’s lifestyle with that of her neighbours. Like last year’s American Honey, The Florida Project excels at showing the underside to the American Dream. Moonee is very much a victim of circumstance. The film balances this with the examination of an entertaining childhood, despite the numerous detractions. This is most evident through the focus on the freedom of childhood through Moonee and her friends. Although frequently mischievous, the friends have a nice repartee as they go on their adventures.

Halley functions as much as an antagonist as she does a protagonist. Bobby is employed as an overseer, and even a protector to the mother and daughter, despite their attitudes. This character is developed enough to feel realistic. Moonee meanwhile is a character who elicits humour and warmth, as well as frustration. Although the finale of the film feels inevitable, the very ending is a bittersweet touch.

Brooklynn Prince is great as Moonie, whilst Willem Defoe is very natural as Bobby. Bria Vinaite is also convincing as Halley. The cinematography makes the most of the colourful setting, as well as the range of weather.

The Florida Project is a great exploration of childhood in challenging circumstances. The film is frequently humorous, without detracting from the poignancy.

The Florida Project is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

Previews: Baywatch Poster, Logan, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a moving Baywatch poster, The Eyes of My Mother, A Cure for Wellness, and more…

Baywatch Poster

Zac Efron promotes his new film in this moving Baywatch poster. The film, based on the 1990s television show, the film stars Efron, alongside Dwayne Johnson, Priyanka Chopra, and Alexandra Daddario. Baywatch hits the big screen on 31st May 2017.

The Eyes of My Mother

Gothic horror The Eyes of My Mother looks intriguing. The directorial debut of Nicolas Pesce, the film is about a young women whose dark curiosities are triggered following a tragedy in her life. Starring Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, and Clara Wong, The Eyes of My Mother will be released in UK cinemas on 24th march 2017.

A Cure for Wellness Clip

A Cure for Wellness looks rather creepy, if the above clip is anything to go by. The film stars Dane DeHaan as a young executive sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a remote wellness centre. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film also stars Oscar Isaacs and Mia Goth. A Cure for Wellness will hit UK cinemas on 24th February 2017.

Certain Women Poster

Following Meek’s Cutoff and Night Moves, director Kelly Reichardt’s latest film is Certain Women. The film stars Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart as three women trying to forge there own paths in the plains of the American Northwest. Certain Women is out at UK cinemas on 3rd March 2017.

The Great Wall Featurette

Matt Damon describes The Great Wall as a “full-on battle monster movie” in the above featurette. He also speaks about his character, and the plot of the film. The Great Wall also stars Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, and Willem Dafoe. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the film is out at UK cinemas on 17th February 2017.

Logan Trailer

Wolverine has turned babysitter in this latest X-Men movie. The film sees Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart reprise their roles in a dystopian road movie. James Mangold directs, and the film also stars Dafne Keen. Logan launches onto UK screens on 1st March 2017.

Beauty and the Beast Poster

Emma Watson looks very much the part of Belle in this latest Beauty and the Beast poster. From the images and clips revealed so far, this live-action remake is keeping the visual style of the original animated film. Also starring Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, and Ian McKellan, Beauty and the Beast is out on UK screens on 17th March 2017.

City of Tiny Lights Trailer

City of Tiny Lights very much evokes the look and feel of a neo-noir of decades past. Liz Ahmed stars as a deadbeat private eye whose services are engaged by a high-class prostitute. Also starring Billie Piper, City of Tiny Lights will be released in UK cinemas on 7th April 2017.

Film Review: Dog Eat Dog

Dog Eat Dog

All the elements of Dog Eat Dog point to a very entertaining movie. However, the film fails to translate these ingredients into an engaging film.

When Troy is released from a long prison stint, he teams up with old friends and fellow ex-cons Mad Dog and Diesel. The trio are looking for a big pay day to see them with enough capital to go straight. The job they take on, however, proves to be complex…

Based on the novel by Edward Bunker, Matthew Wilder writes the screenplay for the film. Director Paul Schrader has attempted to craft a noirish crime thriller with Dog Eat Dog. The elements are present here; three recently released convicts looking for a pay day. Unfortunately, the plot and pacing do not convert this premise into something more. The introduction to the protagonists works well enough, as does the set up to the job. As the film continues, however, the plot gets left behind slightly to explore other aspects. There are various elements that seem to be given sufficient screen time but aren’t returned to. In this way, it feels as Dog Eat Dog was originally a much longer film that has been heavily edited. The pacing is also off; there never seems to be any real tension building.

The three main characters could have been positioned as anti-heroes of sorts. Ex-cons looking for a big job to go straight. Unfortunately, none of them are sympathetic enough to make viewers root for them. Troy is all insubstantial dialogue, Mad Dog is too volatile to be relatable, and Diesel is not developed fully. The sum of this is a mission where the audience does not care about their fates.

Dialogue in the film is very dated. This does not come across in a nostalgic throwback type of way. The racial slurs feel unnecessary, and the few women who appear are almost all prostitutes or strippers. Dog Eat Dog aims for a machoism that passed decades ago. The conversations in the film lack the naturalness of witty, but disposable dialogue that the film appears to be aiming for.

The visual effects do not add a great deal, but one late in the film is rather impressive. The use of colour is very noticeable, but not particularly effective. Nicolas Cage is hammy, this might have been fine or enjoyable in a better film. Willem Dafoe is good, but is crying out for better material.

Dog Eat Dog looks like it will be a lot of fun on the surface, but the reality is disappointing.

Dog Eat Dog is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

BFI London Film Festival 2016 Launch

Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2016. This year’s programme is bursting with cinematic delights. There are more galas than in previous years, and screen talk participants include Werner Herzog and Paul Verhoeven. Here are some of the films to look out for at London Film Festival 2016.

Headline Galas

The Birth of a Nation

The London Film Festival 2016’s opening gala A United Kingdom had already been announced, the Scorsese-produced, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire looks like a lot of fun. Elsewhere, plenty of hotly anticipated films including La La Land, Arrival and The Birth of a Nation. Writer-director Nate Parker also stars in the story of an enslaved preacher who led a revolt in 1830s Virginia. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is also a headline gala. An adaptation of Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, the film stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon. Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

The Handmaiden

This year sees additional galas, which will take place on a purpose built venue on the Strand. They include The Handmaiden, from director Chan-wook Park. The film looks as sumptuous as Park’s previous film Stoker. Miles Teller stars in Bleed For This, based on the true story of boxer Vinny Paziena. Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq is the Sonic Gala. The hip hop musical features Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey and Ava DuVernay’s The 13th are among the special presentations this year.

Official Competition

My Life As A Courgette

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2016. Staring Isabelle Huppert, the film is an adaptation of a Philippe Dijan novel. Terence Davies’ A Quiet Presentation is a biopic of Emily Dickinson staring Cynthia Nixon. Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, about a young man struggling with his sexuality in 1980s Miami, looks like a great watch. In the First Feature Competition, Porto sees one of Anton Yelchin’s final performances, whilst animation My Life As A Courgette looks like a lot of fun. David Lynch: The Art Life is among the contenders for the Documentary Competition, as well as The Graduation. The latter is a documentary about a prestigious film school in Paris. Chasing Asylum, about the Australian government’s immigration policies, seems very topical.


The Salesman

The Love strand features Lovesong, director So Yong Kim’s film about a lonely young mother. It stars Jena Malone and Riley Keough. Highlights in the Debate category include Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. A Separation‘s Farhadi has already won awards at Cannes. Mindhorn features in the Laugh strand. The film stars Julian Barratt as a washed-up 1980s TV detective. Dare features Christine, starring Rebecca Hall as the notorious television journalist. Paul Schrader’s Dog Eat Dog looks to be a highlight of the Thrill section, with Nicholas Cage starring alongside Willem Dafoe. Another David Lynch connection (Cage and Dafoe starred in Lynch’s Wild at Heart), Blue Velvet Revisited, features in the Cult strand.

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Cult also features I Am Not A Serial Killer, based on the young adult novel. The Innocents looks to be a highlight of the Journey strand. Anne Fontaine’s film is about a young doctor working for the French Red Cross in 1945. London Town, a coming of age film set in 1979 London, features in the Sonic strand. The Family strand includes Rock Dog, an animation featuring the voices of J.K. Simmons and Luke Wilson. Finally, Experimenta includes Have You Seen My Movie?; a must-see for cinema fans.

The full London Film Festival 2016 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th-16th October 2016.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of film-related goodies for your audio-visual pleasure this week, including Inside OutTomorrowland – A World Beyond, and John Wick

Inside Out

This latest trailer for Disney Pixar’s latest animated feature Inside Out reveals a little more about the plot. The film seems to continue Pixar’s brand of humour on different levels and emotion. Inside Out is due for release in the UK on 24th July 2015.

Tomorrowland – A World Beyond

I remember having these wonderful chicken strips at Tomorrowland in Florida’s Disney World many years ago. I don’t think this new film is about them, however. Tomorrowland – A World Beyond seems to be giving meat to the theme park ride as film concept with Brad Bird directing, from a screenplay by Bird and Damon Lindelof. Tomorrowland – A World Beyond hits UK screens on 22nd May 2015.

Paper Towns

Paper Towns

Paper Towns is the latest film adaptation of a John Green novel. The Fault in Our Stars writer Green second film adaptation is a coming of age story starring Cara Delvingne and Nat Wolff. Paper Towns is set for release in cinemas this summer.

John Wick

Not the puppy! Action thriller John Wick looks like it is going to be a lot of fun. The film stars Keanu Reeves as a retired hit man on a revenge mission. Also starring Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, and John Leguizamo, John Wick hits UK cinemas on 10th April 2015.

San Andreas

Disaster movie San Andreas sees the threat in the form of a massive earthquake, and the protagonist in the form of Dwayne Johnson, eager to rescue his daughter in San Francisco amidst the chaos. San Andreas will be released in UK cinemas on 29th May 2015.

The Best Of The Grand Budapest Hotel Characters

The Grand Budapest Hotel Poster

As the handsome poster above illustrates, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an embarrassment of riches in terms of characters and the actors that play them. The poster also reminds me a little of Guess Who? Here are five of the best Grand Budapest Hotel characters…

1. M. Gustave H.

Gustave Grand Budapest Hotel

Unsurprisingly, Gustave is the finest Grand Budapest Hotel character. Played by Ralph Fiennes in his first Wes Anderson movie, M. Gustave H. is endlessly amusing. The revered concierge may exhibit morally questionable tendencies, but his demeanour ensures that he is very likeable.

2. Madame D.

Madame D Grand Budapest Hotel

Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognisable as Madame D. As the ageing wealthy guest, Swinton’s performance is wonderfully theatrical. She seems to have fun as the memorable Grand Budapest Hotel character.

3. Zero Moustafa

Zero Grand Budapest Hotel

Newcomer Tony Revolori is a fantastic straight man to Fiennes’ posturing Gustave. As lobby boy Zero, Revolori’s deliver is bone dry, and his chemistry with Fiennes is a joy to watch. The master and apprentice relationship develops into a friendship which gives the film heart.

4. Jopling

Jopling Grand Budapest Hotel

Being one of strangest of The Grand Budapest Hotel characters is no mean feat. Yet Willem Dafoe’s Jopling is bizarre in both appearance and demeanour. Appearing in some of the film’s most memorable scenes, Jopling is the most menacing antagonist for Gustave and Zero.

5. Serge

Serge grand budapest hotel

With so many brilliant Grand Budapest Hotel characters, Serge had stiff competition. Nonetheless, he elevated himself above the likes of Bill Murray’s M. Ivan and Adrien Brody’s Dmitri. Played by Mathieu Amalric, Serge is a fantastically ambiguous character. His appearance makes adds to the mystery, and his presence is most befitting of the Anderson oeuvre.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is released in cinemas on Friday 7th March 2014.

Film Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s latest is immensely entertaining. With amusing characters and a riveting plot, The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of Anderson’s strongest films to date.

New lobby boy Zero trains under the esteemed M. Gustave H., concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel. Zero learns about the ways of the hotel, including Gustave’s relationships with the wealthiest of guests…

With an off-beat but memorable historical setting, The Grand Budapest Hotel offers an interesting plot unfolding over a well-paced narrative. The film combines adventure, mystery, comedy and a crime thriller all filtered through Wes Anderson’s inimitable gaze.

The chain of events that unfold are unpredictable, which heightens the appeal of the film. It is unclear exactly where the narrative will go for a good portion of the duration. Wes Anderson brings a lightness to proceedings; The Grand Budapest Hotel could have had a completely different tone with another director at the helm. There are some violent depictions in the film, but these are dealt with in a comedic fashion. The dark humour in these scenes is most successful.

The Grand Budapest Hotel features some familiar Anderson thematic and visual traits. The sledging sequence is both rudimentary and wonderful in its quaintness. Costumes and set design is terrific. The film’s protagonists are portrayed in an amusing fashion which does not negate from developing their friendship in a sincere manner.

The film features an enviable cast. Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori have great chemistry and master and apprentice Gustave and Zero. Fiennes in particular displays his adeptness at comedy in this role, and generates many of the laughs. Other cast members are good in smaller roles, including Willem Dafoe and Tilda Swinton.

With The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson fans will be sated. Moreover, those with less of an affiliation with the writer-director should also find the film a most enjoyable tale, told with colour and a sense of buoyancy. The Grand Budapest Hotel is marvellous fun.