Tuesday, 9 September 2014

International Fury Trailer Unleashes War as Hell

It's so long and tanks for all the action in the breathtaking latest international trailer for David Ayer's World War 2 film Fury. Closing the 2014 BFI London Film Festival and starring one of the most exciting casts of the year with Brad Pitt, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal all crammed in a tank together, Fury is definitely going to be a must see movie, even for those who can't stand Shia LaBeouf.

The official synopsis says it's '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, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.'


Director David Ayer may have slipped into silliness with his previous film Sabotage, but his best work includes End of Watch and the casting here suggests something very special. The new trailer is more focussed than any previous ones with showing the relationship between Pitt's team leader and new boy Logan Lerman as he struggles to fit into a close-knit group of surviving soldiers as they roll into Germany nearing the end of the war.

For me, Lerman is the unproven one out of this cast but I hope that this is the moment where he is going to shine, even with the impressive cast that surround him. Pitt is usually good, Pena is frequently excellent and I think we have still yet to see LaBoeuf's best. While Bernthal depends on a few too many recognisable mannerisms, he was also the best actor for a long time in The Walking Dead. Ayer did a fantastic job with End of Watch and from this trailer, Fury has all the hallmarks of being a great war movie. It certainly looks like an explosive way to close the BFI London Film Festival.

Watch the trailer:



What do you think?

More on the BFI London Film Festival 2014

Thursday, 4 September 2014

5 MUST SEE films at the BFI London Film Festival 2014

Noooooo I haven't been given a massive sneak peek at all 248 films showing at the BFI London Film Festival 2014. However, I was lucky enough to cover the Cannes Film Festival this year for Tastic Film and that means that I have seen 8 of those 248 already before the LFF even kicks off on October 8th.

While I'm sure there will be many more must see films at the festival this year, I wanted to highlight my top 5 of those that I have already had the pleasure of seeing. In my opinion, these films are all pretty exceptional (especially the top 3), and are bound to get people talking.



5. The Salvation (Click here for my full review)

 Mads Mikkelsen leads an unapologetically violent western that tells a straightforward revenge story elevated by a mesmerising central performance.

In America, 1871, brothers and former Danish soldiers Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) and Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) await the arrival of a train carrying Jon’s wife and son from Denmark. The family have been separated for seven years while Jon and Peter have settled in the wild and lawless lands of late 19th century America. However, no sooner than his wife Marie and child arrive does Jon find trouble at the hands of a pair of men who take a fancy to Marie. Getting in the wrong coach leads to a tense and suddenly violent encounter that leaves Maria and the boy dead and Jon wanted by notorious gang leader Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Jon and his brother Peter must act alone if they are to survive and exact their revenge.

Mikkelsen delivers a typically excellent performance in the lead with some fine support from Mikael Persbrandt, Eva Green, Jonathan Pryce and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. While there are some attempts to make this slightly more arty than many genre outings, The Salvation is essentially just another chance to see one man bring some well-deserved justice to the old West.


4. Timbuktu (Click here for my full review)

Timbuktu is one of those films that sounds gruelling; hailing as it does from Africa and dealing with Islamic repression that is rife in Mali. However, in writer/director Abderrahmane Sissako’s hands, Timbuktu is much more than simply a painstaking portrait of tyranny and misery.

Religious fundamentalists now control the streets of Timbuktu, enforcing strict bans on football, music, women not wearing socks and gloves and dishing out severe punishments to those who dare defy them. Out in the nearby desert, Kidane lives quietly in the dunes with his beloved wife Satima and daughter Toya. While Kidane and his family live a peaceful and happy existence, the people in town are ruled over with an iron fist, stoned to death or flogged for defying the rule of the Islamic police and their improvised courts. Unfortunately, Kidane comes into conflict with another man which leads to him having to face the men who rule Timbuktu with no room for mercy.

Timbuktu is challenging and depressing but also surprisingly warm and even funny in places. Abderrahmane Sissako has created a thought provoking piece of cinema that may not make audiences into emotional wrecks but will certainly remain in the memory for some time.

  3. Foxcatcher (Click here for my full review)

It’s true what they say: money can’t buy you happiness or love, and it certainly cannot buy anyone talent. It is, as has so often been noted, the root of all evil and Steve Carrell’s miserable but wickedly wealthy wacko in Foxcatcher proves it perfectly.



Foxcatcher is the story of Olympic champion wrestlers, brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schulz (Mark Ruffalo). Mark is the younger brother who won a gold medal at the ‘84 Olympics while Dave is the smarter of the pair, a loving family man who coaches his brother with care and passion. The blue-collar brothers are an inseparable  team until the magnificently wealthy John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) sends an envoy out to collect Mark and fly him first class out to Du Pont’s beautiful Pennsylvania country house. Foxcatcher Farm is a mansion that would dazzle most but is particularly impressive to working class Mark, and a tour reveals the place is filled with race horses, trophies and Du Pont’s snooty mother (Vanessa Redgrave).

Carrell steals the film as a sad, pathetic, insecure little man who believes money can stop anyone saying no to him. For those who do not know the real story behind the film, try to avoid spoilers as the ending will likely be a huge shock. For everyone else, the real surprise here is Carrell whose performance as a man a million miles from normal will likely be a strong contender come award season. Catch it. 

  2. White God (Click here for my full review)

 It's the dawn of the planet of the dogs in this exceptional Hungarian film from director Kornel Mundruzco. Featuring a cast of hundreds of dogs and some striking imagery of them unleashed and taking to the city streets, it is a powerful, emotional and ultimately hilarious dog apocalypse.


When 13 year old Lili is forced by her father to get rid of her best friend and beloved mutt Hagen, it begins a story of horror and heartbreak for both the girl and her dog. Intercutting between the increasingly brutal treatment that Hagen finds himself at the hands of, and Lili's descent into teen rebellion as a response to the loss of her dog, White God is a harsh Homeward Bound where the doggy star will never be the same again by the end of the story. 

While Lili searches the streets for Hagen, the poor dog finds himself at the mercy of some savage characters and both Lili and Hagen find themselves exploited and desperate to escape their circumstances. White God then swerves violently into a wildly anarchic final act that is brutal, satisfying and absolutely hysterical in its level of horror.

Furiously entertaining with a perfect ending, White God is like 280 Dogs Later; an underdog story with some serious bite.

1. Wild Tales (Click here for my full review)

There is unlikely to be a funnier film at the BFI London Film Festival this year than the brilliantly bonkers and hysterically over the top anthology of short episodes that comprise director Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales. Never has watching a collection of diverse characters being pushed to their limits and spectacularly losing control been as much fun as it is in this violent but hilarious film from Argentina.

Choosing not to simply tell one story, writer/director Szifrón instead forces together disparate stories all linked by characters that are pushed to their limits and end up exploding, most often in magnificently brutal ways. First up in the pre-credits sequence, a model catches a flight only to realise that many of the passengers have something in common and they may not want to be on this plane after all. Then comes the tale of a waitress who is faced with a moral dilemma when a gangster who she has a score to settle with comes into her restaurant. The best of the short stories is next with the wonderfully violent encounter between a wealthy driver who overtakes and abuses a ‘redneck’ only to find himself stuck with a flat tyre further along the deserted road. Next up, a building demolition expert has a run in with the authorities over a parking ticket, a rich kid commits a hit and run to the horror of his family and finally a bride on her wedding day finds out that her new husband has been hiding a very big secret from her.

Szifrón has made an absolutely wild film from start to finish. The performances, the wildly varying music and score and the cinematography are all perfect and even the couple of stories that work less well, still have moments of genius. If there were awards for Best Fight or for Best Wedding, then this film would cream the competition. Wild Tales is one hell of a ride and a hilarious must-see.


Any of these take your fancy?

More on the BFI London Film Festival 2014

More on the Cannes Film Festival 2014

Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Langage) Review



Perhaps Jean Luc Godard's latest experiment in cinema, image, ideas and technology is impossible to critique. It is a piece of art after all; open to wildly differing interpretations and not designed in any way to be an easy or identifiable experience for the audience. Bursting with ideas but difficult to enjoy, I found it insufferable even at 70 minutes.

There is no real narrative to speak of; a dog wanders and a man and woman meet and spout frequently nonsensical philosophical mumblings. Divided into two sections (that seem to constantly overlap), Goodbye to Language explores nature, the image as metaphor, and it’s all in some of the most headache inducing 3D you will ever see.

Narrative and character are not important however and though the dog, a mostly naked woman and a mostly shitting man recur throughout the film, we learn little of them. The man talks to the woman while on the toilet with the sound of him shitting being about as inviting as the nonsense he spouts from his mouth. The woman is naked which we are helpfully reminded is not an issue in nature as to dogs there is no such thing as the concept of nakedness. Similarly when the dog decides to roll around in what is possibly more shit, you can't help but feel that by watching the film, the audience is doing the same.


Godard experiments wildly with discontinuous editing, abrupt sounds and changes in volume which should be in some way exciting but here comes across as simply annoying. While I'm certain Godard isn't after approval, especially from those who like their cinema with a good story and interesting characters, it is still difficult to see the artistic merit in much of the film.

However, there are some moments that are briefly interesting. The 3D in particular is used in new and at times bravura ways. Godard would make James Cameron squirm in his seat with ugly compositions with objects placed frustratingly in the foreground and assaulting the eyes. Even more daring is the placing of two separate images placed over one another so that each image can only seen by closing one eye behind the 3D glasses.


No matter how odd this all seems, there is occasionally a point emerging. One shot has the subject caged by the image and there is a reference to kamera meaning prison in Russian. The voices in the story hold a disdain for the image and while it flits between philosophical essay, the world's worst home video and incomprehensible poem, Goodbye to Language warns that people will soon need an interpreter to understand what is coming out of their own mouths. Warning: if this film is anything to go by, then I already need an interpreter.

As the film loops, repeats and uses some of the same techniques over and over, many will likely be desperate to say Goodbye to Language, to Godard, to cinema and even to life itself. Its musings on God, animals, sex, death and ... um... whatever are rarely mind blowing and the technical experimentation on display is more ugly than exciting.

Call me a heathen, a philistine, or anything you like but as one 'character' declares near the end: 'I hate characters'. I could not agree less. Goodbye to Language is so frustrating, so difficult to just enjoy or engage with, that it very nearly makes me want to say goodbye to art, hello Michael Bay... almost.

Goodbye to Language is screening at the BFI London Film Festival 2014 on Oct 13th at 6.30pm at the BFI IMAX. Tickets on sale from 18th September. 


More on the BFI London Film Festival 2014

More on the Cannes Film Festival 2014

Reviews of other films being screened at the festival:

White God

Timbuktu 

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) 

The Blue Room (La Chambre Bleue) 

The Salvation 

Foxcatcher

Mr Turner

Foxcatcher Review



It’s true what they say: money can’t buy you happiness or love, and it certainly cannot buy anyone talent. It is, as has so often been noted, the root of all evil and Steve Carrell’s miserable but wickedly wealthy wacko in Foxcatcher proves it perfectly.

Foxcatcher is the story of Olympic champion wrestlers, brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schulz (Mark Ruffalo). Mark is the younger brother who won a gold medal at the ‘84 Olympics while Dave is the smarter of the pair, a loving family man who coaches his brother with care and passion. The blue-collar brothers are an inseparable  team until the magnificently wealthy John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) sends an envoy out to collect Mark and fly him first class out to Du Pont’s beautiful Pennsylvania country house. Foxcatcher Farm is a mansion that would dazzle most but is particularly impressive to working class Mark, and a tour reveals the place is filled with race horses, trophies and Du Pont’s snooty mother (Vanessa Redgrave).


Du Pont is a sickeningly rich, sad little spoiled man-child. Patriotic, lonely and demanding, he manages to charm Mark (mostly with offers of money) and lures him out to live and train in a beautiful training facility on the grounds. Du Pont’s mother does not approve of wrestling and though her son is desperate for her to acknowledge his passion, commitment and talent, it is clear Du Pont is simply throwing money around in order to fuel his own ego and pride. He funds the American national wrestling team in the run up to the ‘88 Seoul Olympics in the hope of some of that gold rubbing off on him in the eyes of his unimpressed mother, but also out of a strangely philanthropic sense of national pride.

Mark moves to Foxcatcher but his brother Dave resists because he is hesitant to shift his happy family around the country. While Mark is the gold medal winner, Dave is smarter, more capable and an essential part of Mark’s success. With Mark keen to step out from the shadow of his brother, and DuPont realising the importance of luring Dave, the three men are about to come into a tragic conflict.


Foxcatcher is a true life tragedy that gifts its central performers with real characters that are an actor’s dream. The central trio of Tatum, Ruffalo and Carrell are superb with the former funny man on particularly fine form and almost completely resisting the urge to turn Du Pont into a caricature. Carrell dials down anything that could make Du Pont too amusing, though there are a couple of awkward moments that raise a laugh (check out his brilliant nickname he asks to be called by Mark) and instead becomes a highly unsympathetic but sadly understandable monster that is the dark heart of the story. Carrell will get all the plaudits due to his impressive physical transformation that is completely lacking in vanity but Tatum and Ruffalo also deserve their fair share of praise. Ruffalo is typically good as the loving family man but both him and Tatum have an incredible physical presence in the film also. Their body language and movement is instantly distinctive but seems to come from a place of years of practice wrestling in the gym.

Director Bennett Miller follows Moneyball and Capote with another fascinating true story filled with attention grabbing performances. Like Moneyball, the idea of money not being necessary for great sporting achievement is revisited but instead of the charismatic Brad Pitt figure, Carrell steals the film as a sad, pathetic, insecure little man who believes money can stop anyone saying no to him.
For those who do not know the real story behind the film, try to avoid spoilers as the ending will likely be a huge shock. For everyone else, the real surprise here is Carrell whose performance as a man a million miles from normal will likely be a strong contender come award season. Catch it.

Foxcatcher is playing at the BFI London Film Festival at the following times:

Oct 16th 7.15pm Odeon Leicester Square
Oct 17th 12.00pm Odeon West End Screen 2

Tickets on sale from 18th September.

More on the BFI London Film Festival 2014

More on the Cannes Film Festival 2014

Reviews of other films being screened at the festival:

White God

Timbuktu 

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) 

The Blue Room (La Chambre Bleue) 

The Salvation 

Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Langage)

Mr Turner

 

White God (Feher Isten) Review


It's the dawn of the planet of the dogs in this exceptional Hungarian film from director Kornel Mundruzco. Featuring a cast of hundreds of dogs and some striking imagery of them unleashed and taking to the city streets, it is a powerful, emotional and ultimately hilarious dog apocalypse.

When 13 year old Lili is forced by her father to get rid of her best friend and beloved mutt Hagen, it begins a story of horror and heartbreak for both the girl and her dog. Intercutting between the increasingly brutal treatment that Hagen finds himself at the hands of, and Lili's descent into teen rebellion as a response to the loss of her dog, White God is a harsh Homeward Bound where the doggy star will never be the same again by the end of the story. 

While Lili searches the streets for Hagen, the poor dog finds himself at the mercy of some savage characters and both Lili and Hagen find themselves exploited and desperate to escape their circumstances. White God then swerves violently into a wildly anarchic final act that is brutal, satisfying and absolutely hysterical in its level of horror.

The real star of White Dog is of course Hagen, who turns from gorgeous innocent pet into a transformed monster by the end. It is heart breaking and terrifying to witness the level of cruelty some men are capable of and Hagen goes through hell in the film. The animal performance is astounding from the desperation in his eyes to the wild fury and savagery he demonstrates in later scenes. Through all the chasing, taunting, fights and beatings that Hagen endures, it is clear that the dog actor was never really in harmed in any way. Though that could have made the film unrealistic, it is welcome to see that the filmmakers were clearly behaving responsibly when filming with this incredible canine actor. Even if it might be obvious in the dog fighting scenes that no harm is being done, that never distracts from the horror of events as they take place. Rest assured dog lovers, you will be cringing and sobbing at the plight Hagen finds himself in.


The human drama is less involving but Zsofia Psotta is excellent as Lili, a reasonable girl caught between her civilised desire to play trumpet in the school band and the cruelty of the ways adults around her treat animals. Also solid is her father played by Sandor Zsoter, a man who has his daughter's best interests at heart but a lack of respect for her canine best friend.

As involving as events in the majority of White God are though, it is the final act that is the stand out sequence and the reason this film is elevated into something truly special. Hinted at in the flash forward opening scene, a slow motion sequence of hundreds of dogs chasing Lili through the city, it flips the film on its head and is at once horrifying, deeply satisfying and laugh out loud funny. Man's best friend becomes man's worst nightmare in this brilliant but barking mad set piece. The conventions of the zombie movie and the serial killer slasher get a thorough mocking, and dog lovers will be howling in their seats at the catharsis provided by the final scenes.

Furiously entertaining with a perfect ending, White God is like 280 Dogs Later; an underdog story with some serious bite.

White God was the winner of the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes 2014 and is playing at the BFI London Film Festival 2014 at the following times:

Oct 10th 12.45 pm Vue West End Screen 7
Oct 12th 8.30pm Odeon Covent Garden Screen 1
Oct 13th 6.30pm Curzon Mayfair Cinema Screen 1 

Buy tickets from 18th September.

More on the BFI London Film Festival 2014

More on the Cannes Film Festival 2014

Goodbye to Language (Adieu au Langage)