Floating Skyscrapers director Tomasz Wasilewski's brief and esoteric In a Bedroom (2012). Its elusive style and considerable air of detachment mean that it elicits little emotional response from viewers; though this may well belie a deeper significance that is accessible only to some, swathes of the audience will be left feeling as disengaged and cold as its protagonist, the middle-aged Edyta (Katarzyna Herman), seems.
- Read our review of David Fincher's Gone Girl, based on the bestselling thriller by Gillian Flynn
- Take a trip back in time to 60s Poland with our film of the week, Paweł Pawlikowski's exquisite Ida
- David Cronenberg and scabrous scribe David Wagner unite for Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars
- Michael White doc The Last Impresario constantly surprises both by what it is & what it is not
- Notions of childhood innocence and guilt through complicity play against one another in Wakolda
Fading Gigolo (2013) sees John Turturro helming, writing and starring in a pet project with an altogether different story than those of his previous directorial outings, which dealt with music and theatricality. Soliciting the help of established filmmaker Woody Allen - who both offered advice on the screenplay and co-stars - Turturro's latest tells the tale of an apprehensive male gigolo and his financially troubled cohort who's more than willing to don the role of personal pimp. Allen plays aging bookstore owner Murray, who's forced to close when sales begin to wane before convincing the reluctant Fioravante (Turturro) that there's money to be made in the gigolo business.
300: Rise of an Empire (2014), a belated sequel to Zack Snyder's blockbusting swords and sandals breakthrough 300 (2006), you can just envision the simple studio proviso submitted to director Noam Murro this time around ("Do what the last guy did but crank up the slow motion action quota tenfold"). The 'if ain't broke, don't fix it' approach works pretty well where the swordplay and carnage is concerned, and fans of the original will probably enjoy what's on offer here. Unfortunately, the flaws which hobbled the first film are also inherent in this second helping - namely in its inability to offer an engaging yarn of antiquity between the impressively-staged, largely nautical battle scenes.
David Fincher knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he agreed to take on the big-screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn′s bestselling Gone Girl. Like 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (also based on a popular page-turner), Gone Girl (2014) attempts to marry the innately pulpy sensibilities of its source material with its director's calculated, meticulous approach to storytelling. While devoted fans of the book will likely come away pleased with what they see here, there is a sense that Fincher is a filmmaker somewhat in stasis, content with shooting ever-so edgy holiday reads as his passion projects fall by the wayside. Though some artfulness is dredged up amongst the trash, there's plenty to perturb and perplex.
Salvatore Giuliano (1962) by Arrow Films (with a home entertainment release soon to follow packed with extras and huge booklet) will rectify this anomaly. Rosi uses the story-come-myth of Sicilian bandit Giuliano as a pretext for a historical, political and social document of the time and of the insular setting which made it possible. It took a bold diversion from neorealism and fashioned an enigmatically daring structure of flashbacks and non-linearity, which we hardly ever see the anti-hero.
David Cronenberg has had a tough time of late. Though his last two efforts, A Dangerous Method (2011) and Cosmopolis (2012), arguably lacked the shocking cut and thrust of his most visceral outings, they were both far from abject failures. Neither is Maps to the Stars (2014), a celebrity satire from the Canadian body horror maestro which received a largely warm reception at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Written by American novelist Bruce Wagner (Dead Stars), Maps revels in Hollywood's many grotesqueries yet crucially lacks the cool wit and intelligence that comes hand-in-hand with a Cronenberg on his A-game. Overbearingly catty, there's little actual meat underneath all the ghoulish cosmetics.
★★★★☆There's a certain suspicion about hieroglyphic documentary portraits of individuals of a generational span (the enjoyable Supermensch springs to mind), but The Last Impresario (2013) constantly surprises both by what it is and what it's not. Gracie Otto (sister of Miranda) helms this portrait of legendary theatre and film producer Michael White. In spite of herself, she stumbles upon a tale that combines Zelig, a minor character from Proust (Palamède de Guermantes, baron de Charlus perhaps) and either a warning or celebration of a life lived, parties attended and all the while contributing to the cultural well being of England. White is a producer we will not see the like of again; a dying realisation of honour and sensitivity.
(My Summer of Love) has spent his entire career thus far outside, geographically at least, his native Poland. Now, with his fifth feature film, he journeys back to rediscover his homeland along with his two lead characters in the stunningly beautiful Ida (2013). It's a trip back in time to the sixties, shot in exquisite monochrome and telling a fairly intimate tale which can't help but feel incredibly personal to its director, despite its eminently bleak tone. Bolstered by exceptional performances from Agata Kulesza and newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska, Pawlikowski's latest could be a dark horse for next year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, submitted as it is as Poland's entry.
I Origins (2014), American independent director Mike Cahill once again utilises the theoretical landscape of the science fiction genre to analyse the human condition. Similar in style and tone to his high-concept, low-budget debut Another Earth (2011), this science-versus-faith puzzler looks to expand upon the established maxim that "eyes are the window to the soul", eluding that they might in face be the conduit in which our souls traverse the limitlessness of existence. I Origins opens with a startling montage of eyes. As their pupils dilate under the camera's unforgiving flash, we're reminded by Dr. Ian Gray (Boardwalk Empire's Michael Pitt) that each one is as unique as a person's finger print.
Human Capital (2013) takes as its target a nation mired in the greed and feckless hypocrisy of a materialistic culture which is willing to risk everything for wealth and its trappings. The party is both literally and metaphorically over in the very first shot of the film as the confetti is diligently swept up and the champagne glasses are cleared away.
Honeymoon (2014), examines one of the great fears in our monogamous society; namely, what if you found that special someone to share your life with, only to discover that they're not the same person you fell in love with? Janiak's inquisition into post-nuptial angst observes newly-weds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) on their honeymoon at a remote lakeside cabin. Once there, the cabin becomes a hermetically sealed, sweltering hotbed of infatuation.
★★★★★Benedikt Erlingsson's widely acclaimed, award-winning debut feature Of Horses and Men (2013) is as unique and clever as its subject - the Icelandic horse. As well as their distinctive faces, shaggy mane and tails, these small, sturdy beasts have two specific gaits - in between a trot and a gallop. Although pony-sized they are always referred to as a 'horse', so there's much comic potential to be had from pairing a long-legged Icelander with this diminutive equine exhibiting the very fast 'flying pace'. Set in a small rural community various stories overlap, each featuring a specific horse. Kolbeinn (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) proudly rides his new grey mare to have coffee with his neighbour, Solveig (Charlotte Bøving).
Night of the Comet is George A. Romero-style zombie invasion infused with a Valley girl sensibility. While it doesn't quite have the budget or resourcefulness to fully deliver in this kitschy B-movie premise, it remains a fun ride nonetheless. Opening on the eve of a huge comet passing by Earth, global celebrations take a swift dive when mankind is all but wiped out and turned into piles of red dust. Two sisters, Samantha (Kelli Maroney) and the older Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart), avoid obliteration.
In Secret (2013) - which is in turn based upon Émile Zola's 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin - is a tonally perplexing disappointment that fails to truly wrestle with the themes provided. Production designer Uli Hanisch's sets plunge us into a rather dank 19th century France - with an overly robust enthusiasm for greys - and it's in this world that we meet Thérèse (Elizabeth Olsen, also seen in Godzilla this week). Born out of wedlock, Thérèse is shipped off to live with her seemingly kind, but more accurately conniving aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lang).
Goldfinger (1964) remains, for many, the quintessential 007 outing. Bond's tussle with bullion dealer Auric Goldfinger (did he get into the trade due to his surname, or was it a coincidence?) is a handsome affair which oozes class and represents the ultimate in cinematic flight of fancy, due in part to John Barry's opulent and audacious score, plus Sean Connery's incomparable screen magnetism. While the film represented something of a gamble for MGM at the time for a franchise in its early stages (the £2 million budget was equal to those of Dr. No and From Russia With Love combined), it worked.
The Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade and 42nd Bacon Street, Berkeley managed to turn the chorus line into an art form. The sequences were sublime but they also tapped into the social issues of the day, from the men lost to war to the depths of The Great Depression.
A Farewell to Arms was seen again, cut to ribbons and rereleased. Whichever way it appeared, Hemingway didn't like it.
★★★★☆Newly released by the BFI this week ahead of its upcoming sci-fi season, the collection Outer Space - encompassing three classics from the Children's Film Foundation, directed by Harley Cokeliss, Guy Fergusson and Ian Shand - proves why works from this British studio were so popular amongst children and remain nostalgic for today's adults. Whether you watched them in the cinema during the 1950s or later on television in the 1970s and 80s, CFF films were an intrinsic part of growing up for many British kids. Always quick to pick up on trends which would catch the attention of their young audiences, the CFF-produced works covering a wide range of subjects including space travel and alien life, as seen here.
★★★★☆French director Philippe Claudel's noirish new thriller Before the Winter Chill (2013), starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Daniel Auteuil, follows the fortunes of middle-aged couple who find their marriage threatened by a troubled young woman. Paul (Auteuil) is a successful surgeon, popular with the staff at his clinic and his patients. His wife Lucie (Scott Thomas) spends her days tending their impressively large garden, baby-sitting their grand-daughter and visiting her depressed sister who is often sectioned. When red roses start arriving for Paul at the clinic and at home, the cracks in their marriage begin to appear. Lucie is obviously bored and isolated by her husband's career and long hours.
★☆☆☆☆A decade since his directorial debut Garden State (2004) offered him a platform to air his views on the quarter-life crises of a handful of waylaid young adults, ex-sitcom star Zach Braff (Scrubs) returns to the silver screen with Wish I Was Here (2014), a part-Kickstarter funded pet project he co-wrote with his brother Adam J. Braff. Though his previous, extremely divisive first feature went about meeting tooth-grating sincerity and a studied cavalcade of quirk (Natalie Portman played a Shins-loving pathological liar) with genuine visual promise, it's made to look like a masterpiece compared to the excruciating Wish I Was Here, which strikes a curious balance of having too much to say and yet saying nothing at all.
Schindler's List (1993) is now a more bankable hardman than Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and yet little before 2008's Taken suggested such a second career for someone of Neeson's gruff appearance. Perhaps the tragic death of his then-wife Natasha Richardson was the catalyst. There's a gravitas and indeed a tragedy that makes him effortlessly identifiable in these madcap parts. Just look at how many 'former' roles he plays - an ex-CIA man in the Taken films, a reformed convict in The Next Three Days.
An Education (2009) director Lone Scherfig's bright young toffs drama The Riot Club (2014), based on Laura Wade's West End play Posh. Starring a host of upcoming actors, it provides a peek behind the curtain of a fictionalised version of Oxford University's Bullingdon Club of which Prime Minister David Cameron, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Chancellor George Osborne were all members. It makes for entertaining viewing but its power is undermined by a ultimate lack of insight amongst the debauchery.
★★★★☆A conflict rich in inhumane horrors, it was the discovery of Nazi concentration camps by Allied forces as the battle in the European arena drew to its conclusion that remains most potent to this day. In Night Will Fall (2014), directed by The Act of Killing (2012) producer André Singer, we're provided with a harrowing but necessary insight into what the first Allied troops met as they stumbled upon the nightmare of the Holocaust. Though comparisons will be drawn with Joshua Oppenheimer's own exploration of the machinations behind mass genocide, Singer focuses not on the culprits or victims but the photographic units that found themselves charged with documenting one of the darkest moments in human history.
Small Time Crooks (2000) and The Curse of Jade Scorpion (2001), the image of an artist adrift in a new decade was cemented. As he coasted from one uninspired project to another, a great critical fallacy came to pass; Woody had lost it. Over the past fifteen years, Allen has continued to make a film a year. The quality may have veered significantly, but accepted critical wisdom has served to temper any serious discussion of the period. Taken as a whole, his recent work represents a distinct chapter in Allen's canon in which new themes began to emerge; in particular, we see an ageing director at a crossroads between something of a golden and gilded age.
Grand Piano (2013). It's a genre piece packed with the kind of knowing Hitchcockian thrills peddled by Mira's fellow Spanish contemporaries like Guillem Morales (Julia's Eyes) and J. A. Bayona (The Orphanage), but the USP here is the additional Speed-like high concept device, transposed to a more sedate setting while still delivering on the excitement. The eternally pixie-like Elijah Wood takes the lead as Tom Selznick, a young pianist virtuoso preparing for his big return to the limelight and a chance to tackle his demons after developing a disastrous bout of stage fright just five years earlier.
Down by Law (1986), which has been fully re-mastered and is also receiving a limited theatrical run courtesy of the BFI and UK distributor Soda Pictures.
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