Oct 312015
 

SET DEL FILM "LA GIOVINEZZA" DI PAOLO SORRENTINO. NELLA FOTO MICHAEL CAINE E HARVEY KEITEL. FOTO DI GIANNI FIORITO

October has been a weird month. Following a much needed break, and a short-lived feeling of refreshment, we have had a lot of social engagements and I have been dealing with some exhausting work-related pressure. I feel like I have had a lot of different projects going on at once, but haven’t achieved very much. I have done very little writing, unfortunately. This is both due to time constraints and being unable to articulate my feelings about some of the films I have seen (see The Lobster and Youth). Thankfully Sam has been picking up my slack. We have visited to cinema a lot – it has been a treat catching up with some of the Palme d’Or contenders at various festivals.

In addition to watching 25 films and juggling an anxiety-inducing amount of TV (five shows going at once, very unlike me), I also polished off Making Movies by Sidney Lumet. This has been described as the most honest account of the filmmaking process ever written. It is terrific, and I urge all film buffs to read it. Eye-opening stuff, and if it wasn’t already obvious that Lumet is one of the most intelligent directors to ever work, it will be clear after this. I also tackled Infinite Jest and saw all hope of my December 3 completion goal drift away as I struggled to page 115. I will persevere, and complete it, but I need a new approach. I am nowhere near Zen enough right now to take it in comprehensively. The NBA season has re-started so I can add that to the numerous distractions.

Coming up in November – we will be watching four films at the British Film Festival, including Sufragette and 45 Years, as well as Knight of Cups and Spectre. I will also dedicate some time to catching up on films missed earlier in the year. Also, expect the ‘Awards Season’ to commence, and we will try and cover this period as comprehensively as we can, similar to previous years.

Check out my thoughts on everything I watched in October after the jump: Continue reading »

May 062015
 

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A very interesting week. Finally. Out in cinemas: Clouds of Sils Maria, Ex Machina, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Pitch Perfect 2 and The Re-write.

Clouds of Sils MariaMy #22 film of 2014. Set in the gorgeous Swiss Alps a veteran stage star Maria (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) hide out as she prepares for her latest play – the same one that made her famous as a young woman, but the opposing ‘older’ role. Unable to identify with this character, due to her own concerns about aging and being unable to adapt this character into a new context, she turns to Valentine for advice on the actress taking on her old role (Chloe Grace Moretz), challenging her to rehearse the role with her at length. Tension mounts when Maria is disagreeable with what Valentine brings to the role. As the material and their relationship begins to merge, this takes a Persona-esque twist that is quite a hook. This is a very pretty and bonkers look at performance as role, textual interpretation influenced by age (and how measures of age in the business have changed) and 21st Century ‘celebrity’, and the opposition of personal privacy vs. public openness. All three women excel, but Stewart’s performance is her best and one of the best I saw in 2014.

Ex Machina – Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes his directorial debut with the stylish and cerebral thriller Ex Machina. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company’s brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test – charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan’s latest experiment in artificial intelligence. That experiment is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a breathtaking A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated–and more deceptive–than the two men could have imagined. I really like Alex Garland’s screenplays, and I am completely on board with this fascinating idea. Reviews have been very positive, plus that excellent cast is in fine form.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – Kurt Cobain, lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of Nirvana, remains an icon 20 years after his death. Here, we take a journey through Cobain’s life and his career with Nirvana through the lens of his home movies, recordings, artwork, photography, and journals. As a muso and a Nirvana fan I definitely want to see this.

Pitch Perfect 2 – The Barden Bellas enter an international a cappella competition which no American team has ever won. The sequel to the surprise hit, which I rather enjoyed. Elizabeth Banks directs, which is interesting, but I just can’t bring myself to sitting through this one. 

The Re-write – Once upon a time, Keith Michaels (Hugh Grant) was an Award-winning Hollywood screenwriter, but divorce and a string of unsuccessful films have left him with nothing but bad debts and blank pages. So when his agent arranges a job as guest screenwriting professor at a remote university in upstate New York, a desperate Keith can’t say no. Initially hoping to give minimal effort to actual teaching so he can focus on his next script, Keith unexpectedly finds himself becoming invested in his students lives, including Holly (Marisa Tomei), a single mom looking to start her own new chapter. The Rewrite also stars J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Chris Elliott and Bella Heathcote.

Weekly Recommendation: There’s too much good stuff out this week. I am thinking a weekend of Ex Machina, Montage of Heck and a second look at Clouds of Sils Maria is on the cards. 

Apr 012015
 
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From Fast & Furious 6, but so cool.

New to cinemas this week: Furious 7, The Book of Life, The Duff, Samba, Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water, Tinkerbell: Legend of the Neverbeast and Humpback Whales 3D. Obviously, school holidays are upon us. Plenty for the kids with nothing better to do.

Furious 7 – Continuing the global exploits in the unstoppable franchise built on speed, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson lead the returning cast of Furious 7. James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) directs this chapter of the hugely successful series that also welcomes back favorites Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky and Lucas Black. Almost certainly a lock for the top 10 highest grossing of the year, but I haven’t seen a film in this franchise since 2 Fast 2 Furious so it is all lost on me. Still, I believe 4-6 are all pretty good.

The Book of Life, a vibrant fantasy-adventure, tells the legend of Manolo, a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village. Produced by Guillermo Deo Toro and featuring a voice cast including Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum, this has been well-received internationally.

Samba – Samba, a migrant from Senegal to France, works as a dish washer in a hotel. Things get worse for him when, because of a bureaucratic slip-up, he lands in a detention and on release he is ordered to leave France. With the help of an immigration officer Alice he fights to stay in France. The all-star French cast (Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim) are the primary draw-cards here and this looks like quite a pleasant drama. From the directors of HUGE hit The Intouchables. 

The Duff – Bianca (Mae Whitman) is a content high school senior whose world is shattered when she learns the student body knows her as ‘The DUFF’ (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her prettier, more popular friends (Skyler Samuels & Bianca Santos). Now, despite the words of caution from her favorite teacher (Ken Jeong), she puts aside the potential distraction of her crush, Toby (Nick Eversman), and enlists Wesley (Robbie Amell), a slick but charming jock, to help reinvent herself. To save her senior year from turning into a total disaster, Bianca must find the confidence to overthrow the school’s ruthless label maker Madison (Bella Thorne) and remind everyone that no matter what people look or act like, we are all someone’s DUFF.

Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge Out of Water – SpongeBob SquarePants, the world’s favourite sea dwelling invertebrate, comes ashore to our world for his most super-heroic adventure yet. Reviews have been positive with Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calling it a “non-stoner stoner film”. Having never experienced the show I can’t do it, but it sounds like fans are going to love it.

Weekly recommendation: A decent teen-centric holiday line-up. I haven’t seen any of these, but I am most interested in The Book of Life. Furious 7 is going to make a lot of money, and I wish I was more caught up with the franchise because it will likely be the perfect long weekend escapism. 

Mar 202015
 

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Jack O’Connell – see his star-making performance in outstanding prison drama Starred Up before headlining Angelina Jolie’s POW-biopic Unbroken – in addition to being one of the most beat-up on-screen actors in the business, is also one of the most promising actors of his generation. He is sensational again in urban war thriller ‘71, the début feature from filmmaker Yann Demange, who won Best Director at the 2014 British Independent Spirit Awards. It is also the first feature screenplay from veteran Scottish playwright Gregory Burke. The civil tension that tore apart 1971 Belfast is brought to life in brutal, authentic, unflinching fashion in this tight, gripping film that balances historical truth with formal audacity.

Continue reading »

Feb 282015
 

Throughout the month of February I watched a total of 25 films. I started out with half a dozen straight at the cinema, but have cooled off since then and been catching up with French Film Festival screeners and DTV stuff since then. It has been a rom-com/Daniel Radcliffe month.

Horns, film still

In my limited spare time I played NBA Live 15, Child of Light, Drive Club and The Last of Us on PS4 and worked through Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’. We have also been busy getting the final preparations for the wedding together, it is a feat I managed to achieve this much.

All of the categories after the jump are ranked in order of preference: Continue reading »