Wednesday, 27 August 2014

BFI London Film Festival to close with Fury

What could be more exciting than The Imitation Game opening the BFI London Film Festival? Well apart from the prospect of most of London coming to a standstill and getting all quivery at the knees over Benedict Cumberbatch, it is the closing night film that has really got my motor running. The European Premiere of Fury from director David Ayer is rolling into Leicester Square on Sunday 19 October and promises to close the LFF with a spectacular bang.

As far as I’m concerned, Ayer hit a pretty major stumbling block with his last film Sabotage but before that he had written and directed one of my top 3 films of 2012, End of Watch. That film had also been screened at the London Film Festival and was an intense ride around the badass streets of LA with two cops in the thick of cartels and drug dealers. Swapping the cop car for a tank, Fury takes us back to World War 2, a subject Ayer hasn’t written about since U-571. 

Starring one of the most exciting casts of the year, Fury sees Brad Pitt, (a post-meltdown) Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman rolling around in a Sherman tank behind enemy lines in 1945 as the war is drawing to a close. I can’t say much for little Logan Lerman yet but the rest of that cast promise big things for this film. If Ayer can capture the horror of fighting in World War 2 as well as he captured the danger of being a cop on the streets of LA, Fury will be a belting way to close this year’s BFI London Film Festival. 

No doubt Pitt, Ayer and hopefully more of the stars of the film will attend the premiere and get their snaps taken on the red carpet while delighting fans with their smiles and regaling journalists with tales of not washing and living like soldiers while working in English fields on the film. If you can’t get to the London premiere, there will be simultaneous screenings in various cinemas across the country. 
Here is a snippet about the film from the BFI LFF website:
‘In Fury, it is April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.’

Festival Director Clare Stewart calls Fury a ‘resounding cinematic achievement. Rarely is a film so successful at balancing the human drama of war with such thrilling action sequences’. David Ayer says ‘It’s a true pleasure to be returning to England, where we shot the film – the fields of Oxfordshire and Bovingdon Airfield in Hertfordshire were our home for 12 weeks last year, so it’s something of a homecoming for us to present the movie at its European premiere’. 

Fury will be released across the UK on 24 October 2014. The 58th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express runs from Wednesday 8 October to Sunday 19 October. The full programme for the Festival will be announced on Wednesday 3 September and tickets for public booking will open on 18 September. 

Here is the trailer:

More on The BFI London Film Festival 2014.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 to open with The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch gets his stiff upper lip right out in the recent trailer for The Imitation Game, the latest film from Morten Tyldum, the director of the bonkers Jo Nesbo adaptation Headhunters. The Imitation Game has been chosen as the film to open the 2014 London Film Festival which, judging by this trailer, is a fairly exciting prospect indeed.

The films is ‘a dramatic portrayal of the life and work of Alan Turing, one of Britain’s most extraordinary unsung heroes, and one of the world’s greatest innovators’. There are a lot of very serious and stern faces in the trailer. Mark Strong warns of the possibility of execution, Matthew Goode looks on a bit baffled, and then Keira Knightley pops up with an accent so posh, it manages to make even Cumberbatch’s own tones sound positively common. Not enough famous faces for you? Well that bastard Tywin Lanister (Charles Dance) has recovered from his crossbow through the gut, enough to scowl his way through the trailer as well.

Here is a snippet from the London Film Festival website about the film:
 ‘The pioneer of modern-day computing, Turing is credited with cracking the German Enigma code and the film is a nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team at Britain’s top-secret code-breaking centre, Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II. Turing, whose contributions and genius significantly shortened the war, saving thousands of lives, was the eventual victim of an unenlightened British establishment, but his work and legacy live on.’

Alan Turing is positioned as an outsider, genius and an enigma and it’s at this point that you have to ask with all this talk of war, breaking codes and Bletchley Park shenanigans, um wait a minute... didn’t Kate Winslet and Dougray Scott cover all this already in Enigma? Hopefully not...

And what’s with the obsession with war at the London Film Festival this year? With Fury closing the Festival, the films announced so far definitely have the scent of death and glory very much in their nostrils. 

The premiere will be at the Odeon Leicester Square on Wednesday 8th October and no doubt there will plenty of stars on the red carpet flashing their gorgeous gnashers, even as the paparazzi flash back at them with their cameras. Cumberbitches/Cumberpeople (whatever they’re called) better get their life size cardboard cut outs/posters/Sherlock dolls at the ready because he’s sure to be smouldering. For the fellas, um Keira Knightley will be pouting her way along the red carpet before somebody hopefully gets her a giant bag of popcorn to enjoy during the movie.

‘We are thrilled to announce one of the most anticipated films of the year – The Imitation Game – as this year’s BFI London Film Festival Opening Night gala. Featuring extraordinary performances from the British talent in front of the camera and vividly directed by Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game does cinematic justice to Alan Turing’s vision, determination and personal story as well as his enduring impact on British history and contemporary life.’

Director Morten Tyldum says:
 ‘I am thrilled to be returning to London to share The Imitation Game with the audience of the BFI London Film Festival. The experience of directing this film has been so tremendously rewarding, and I am humbled to share Alan Turing’s incredible story on Opening Night.’

If you can’t get to the opening night gala, or any of the cinemas around the country that will screen the film simultaneously, then The Imitation Game opens in UK cinemas on 14 November, 2014. The full programme will be announced on Wednesday 3 September and public booking opens on 18 September.

Here is the trailer:

More on the BFI London Film Festival 2014

Monday, 18 August 2014

Starburst Magazine Issue 403: Turtles, Transformers and another short story!

In the latest issue of Starburst Magazine, there are three of my pieces of writing in it.

Firstly, there is the preview of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, then there is my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction (which you can also find on the website here) and finally there is a horrible little short story that I wrote called The Nurse and the Butcher.

I hope you will consider picking up a copy either online or in your local newsagent!

Two Days, One Night Review (Deux Jours, une nuit)

Depression meets determination in this simple story as one woman fights to keep her job over a single weekend.  The Dardennes brothers returned to the Cannes Film Festival directing Marion Cotillard in a heartfelt and political, but ultimately frustrating drama.

Cotillard plays Sandra, an ordinary woman who suffers from debilitating depression and as a result, has taken time out from her job to try and get better. Just as she is expecting to return to employment, she gets a call stating that her co-workers have voted to each receive a bonus if Sandra is made redundant. With accusations that her foreman influenced the ballot, Sandra is given the weekend to try and persuade her friends and fellow employees not to vote to take their promised bonus, and instead vote to let her keep her job and help provide for her family.

Sandra has a supportive husband and two children but each of the people she tries to persuade has their own issues, problems and excuses. Times are clearly tough and Sandra's family are not the only ones with financial problems. As she goes around to speak individually to those who can decide her fate, she pops Xanax pills and must remain optimistic even in the face of rejection and her own uncertainty. Sandra wants nothing more than to give up but with the help of her husband she finds the strength to continue tracking down enough people to help create a majority in the second vote on Monday morning.

The problem with this slightest of stories is that Two Days, One Night quickly falls into a pattern of repetition. Cotillard is rarely off screen and even with her typically impressive performance, the film struggles to remain fully engaging. Her conversations with co-workers cover necessarily similar ground, even if the outcome of these encounters is rarely certain. The people she meets with are unfortunately almost instantly forgettable; realistic and completely convincing, but far from memorable. There are some exceptions with one man's shame filled admission and outburst being notable and another woman's life altering decision being a highlight. Their responses to Sandra’s pleas are varied; from icy cold to warm and refreshing. Sandra has to weather all these contradictory reactions, while ploughing ahead with her mission and trying to keep her emotions in check and head held high; not an easy task for a woman suffering from depression.

The Dardennes have an obvious political point to make and their message is clear from the start and then finally hammered home forcefully by the smart ending. The perverse decision to put Sandra's future in the hands of her hard up friends and fellow employees is unfair and a sinister tactic to ensure that the workforce are divided and conquered. It is symptomatic of the way modern workforces are treated, particularly those with few options for employment and who live in financial hardship. Sandra and her family will be forced back to social housing without her income but everyone else she meets is eager for their own bonus, whether it be to buy a new patio or to simply make ends meet.

Though much of the story takes a predictable course, there is a neat little twist in the tale and a surprisingly optimistic note in what could have been a relentlessly bleak trip. At one point, the film strays into almost laughable cliché, but in many others it is very much like watching a slice of real life. The Dardenne brothers’ typically realist style means handheld camera provides an intimacy to the drama while the complete lack of a soundtrack, except for when Sandra and her husband rock out to the car radio adds to the understated performances.

While Two Days, One Night has an admirable and potent political message to convey, as a narrative it is a bit like a depressing song on repeat, going round and round in circles and losing much of its power along the way. Dardenne fans will appreciate its rawness but even they may expect a little more from the French directors. Like its central character, Two Days, One Night has plenty of potential but doesn’t always fulfill it. 

More reviews from I Love That Film:

The Rover

Mr Turner  

The Captive (Captives)  

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

The Salvation 

Red Army

The Homesman

Life Itself 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Rover Review

The Rover sees a revolutionary performance from Robert Pattinson but as good as the young heart throb is, he still remains in the looming shadow of Guy Pearce in this gripping Australian drama from Animal Kingdom director David Michod.

Set 10 years after what is simply revealed as 'the collapse', The Rover follows drifter Eric (Guy Pearce) who simply wants to get his car back after it is stolen by a gang of desperate criminals. After giving chase, confronting the men and losing them again, Eric comes across Rey (Robert Pattinson), the mentally challenged brother of the leader of the group. With Rey wanting to return to the brother who left him for dead, and Eric still out to retrieve his car, the two men form an unlikely alliance as they take a road trip through the barren landscape.

Along the way, they meet an assortment of freakish characters who Eric either finds a use for, or (if they get in his way) brutally dispatches. Eric is a man on the edge, seemingly cold and psychotic but his dogged determination to get his car back and his evolving relationship with the naive and wounded Rey reveal something more to the man with a simple mission.

Guy Pearce is sensational as the tormented, cold killer in The Rover. Whether being utterly still and just watching his prey or stepping swiftly and assuredly into action, Pearce is magnetic. Grizzled and unafraid of cold brutality or harsh words, you don't need to know his exact motivations (only revealed in the final frames) to find him impossible to take your eyes off. Pattinson impresses as the nice but dim Rey, all innocence before some of Eric's cruelty starts to rub off on him. He is lanky, endearing and with disgusting looking teeth, it is a highly welcome departure from Pattinson's previous roles.

Michod, who dealt with the Melbourne criminal underbelly so memorably in Animal Kingdom creates a sweaty, grim, dusty and bleak world for his characters to travel through. Though 'the collapse' is never explained the world appears fully realised. Australia has attracted others from around the world, though resources are scarce, the land is barren and the locals are a selection of mean oddballs. As Eric questions the folks he meets, there aren't many that don't seem worth one of his bullets.

There are plenty of quick and shocking bursts of violence in The Rover and though the pace slows almost to a halt on occasion, it builds to an unexpectedly emotional resolution. The distorted, dirty score from Anthony Partos perfectly complements the gritty visuals and moral mystery of Pearce's anti-hero. Even with some lulls in the mid-section, The Rover opens and closes so strongly that it is a ride well worth taking.

More reviews from I Love That Film:

Mr Turner  

The Captive (Captives)  

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes)

The Salvation 

Red Army

The Homesman

Life Itself