SILENT NIGHT has a running time of 92 minutes and is rated 15. It played Toronto 2021 and is on release in the UK.
Sunday, December 26, 2021
C'MON C'MON played Telluride and the BFI London Film Festival 2021. It has a running time of 109 minutes and is rated R.
ENCANTO is rated PG and has a running time of 102 minutes. The movie is on global release.
THE SPARKS BROTHERS*****
Sunday, October 31, 2021
49th PARALLEL***** - Pantheon Film Of The Month
49th PARALLEL aka THE INVADERS is a fascinating piece of British propaganda from 1941, with a deeply nuanced view of World War Two, but ultimately arguing for the US to enter the war. It was created by the iconic pairing of Michael Powell (director) and Emeric Pressburger (writer) who went on to create masterpieces like THE RED SHOES. Behind the lens, we have a young David Lean as editor and DP Freddie Young, both of whom would go on to collaborate on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. And on screen, we have Laurence Olivier with a laughable Quebecois accent, as well as Leslie Howard (GONE WITH THE WIND) and the legendary Anton Walbrook.
The plot is radical insofar as it centres the narrative on a handful of Nazi submariners who come ashore in Canada and have to journey incognito to the US which is still neutral. On the way, they meet Olivier's Quebecois trapper who doesn't even know the war has started, and posits the radical idea that all men must have some goodness inside of them, for he wouldn't shoot Polish women and children. That said, as propaganda, the film is careful to show him as saying his loyalty is to Canada and thus Britain, not to France, as an ally of Germany.
As the film goes on, the Nazis take shelter with a kind of German emigre mormon community, and one of them starts to question what they are doing, which again feels radical for a propaganda film and reflects all the nuance and humanity that Pressburger (an "enemy alien" - ludicrous - in Britain at the time). But as these things go, naturally the Nazis must come to a bad end, and show the valiance of the Canadians along the way. This is most eloquently and powerfully displayed in Anton Walbrook's monologue roughly half-way through the film, where he explains why immigrants left famine and persecution in Europe and came to Canada for peace, security, tolerance and freedom. It remains incredibly stirring stuff.
It's equally impressive to consider how this film was made - partly funded by the UK taxpayer - filmed on location in Canada when travel was both restricted and dangerous - with an international cast of major talent, often working at half scale or donating their fees to charity. Freddy Young's black and white photography is superb and most of all, we have a score by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It is no surprise that this film was a huge commercial success, and apparently remains once of the highest grossing British film in the US of all time.
49th PARALLEL was released in 1941 and won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
FREE GUY is an absolutely hilarious, heartwarming, fast-paced, action-adventure film that perfectly entertains the family. If I've docked it a point, it's only because the plot and concept are highly derivative of films like THE MATRIX and THE TRUMAN SHOW, albeit repackaged in a fun zany mix all of its own.
Ryan Reynolds is typically superb as a guy named Guy who lives a mediocre banal life in Free City. Except what's pretty obvious to us, but not to him, is that he's a Non Playable Character in a computer game, whose only job is to be in the background as real life kids rob banks and smoke strangers in a Grand Theft Auto style shoot-em-up game. The twist is that his AI character comes to consciousness when he meets Jodie Comer's player, because some old code had pre-programmed him to search for love. Somehow, Guy manages to steal a real player's powers and realises that a) he's in a game and b) he has agency! But unlike fucked up real world people, he decides to play as the good guy, rather than as a criminal, levelling up with breakneck speed and attracting a real world following of fans who just can't get enough of "blue shirt guy".
Meanwhile back in the real world, the true baddie turns about to be Taika Waititi's pretentious egotistical video game developer Antwon, who I read as based on the decades old British satirical show NATHAN BARLEY. Turns out Antwon bilked Jodie Comer's character out of some of her original code, as well as her best friend Keys (Joe Keery) and now they have to team up with Guy to stop him.
The resulting film is full of fun and imagination and I loved how it not to subtly criticised the way in which real world people play video games to indulge their worst imagined vices. What does it say about us that the nicest and kindest character in the film is an AI?! I also loved the way the ending respected the bounds of the concept that had been set up and gave all the main characters an ending that actually seemed fulfilling. So kudos to all involved, not least director Shawn Levy (STANGER THINGS) and writers Matt Lieberman (SCOOB!) and Zak Penn (READY PLAYER ONE).
FREE GUY is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 115 minutes. The film played Locarno 2021 and was released on Netflix earlier this year.
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN****
Documentarian Morgan Neville excels at producing well-researched, precisely constructed documentaries about the major pop cultural figures of our times - not least Orson Welles, Mr Rogers and Keith Richards. In his latest film, he focuses his attention on celebrity chef and travel journalist Anthony Bourdain. What emerges is a picture of a deeply troubled man - a junkie who beat the habit but turned that compulsive energy into relentless travel and finally an obsessive love affair. At the end, when he had achieved fame and commercial success and travelled the world many times over, he still seemed deeply lonely and depressed, maybe bipolar, and he chose to commit suicide.
I may be in the unusual position of not having read any of Bourdain's books and not having watched a single episode of his TV shows. I just knew his face as someone on TV and read the stories when he died. This was not a barrier to finding the film fascinating. Because I got to know Anthony threw his friends, fellow recovering addicts, superlative chefs, his ex-wife, his crew. He seemed to be a deeply funny, a wonderful raconteur, and a deeply erudite man who cared deeply about using his platform to show what was happening in the world that usually escapes mainstream attention. What he doesn't appear to be is a particularly amazing chef! And I suspect, and the movie suggests, that we should truly see him as is a gonzo journalist.
As a cinephile, I found the final half hour of the movie most interesting, with Bourdain dating Asia Argento in the period where she denounces Harvey Weinstein as a rapist at Cannes, and the industry that sheltered him. Bourdain seems to throw himself into the MeToo movement with a reckless boundary-less energy that suffocates his partner and drives her away.
Overall, I found this an insightful, sensitive and honest portrait of an addict struggling with mental health issues and entirely relatable for any of us dealing with the same. I felt it could've had maybe 20-30 minutes taken out of the running time, but that perhaps reflects that I am not watching this as a pre-made Bourdain fan.
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN is rated R and has a running time of 119 minutes. The film played Tribeca 2021 and was released in the USA earlier this year.
Monday, October 18, 2021
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH***** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Closing Night Gala
THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH is rated R and has a running time of 105 minutes. It opened the New York Film festival and closed the London film festival. It will have a limited cinematic release in the US on 25th December and will be released on the internet on January 14th.
KING RICHARD***** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 10
PARIS 13TH DISTRICT***** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 10
PARIS 13th DISTRICT shows us how to portray relationships that are complicated and honest and evolve. I loved how Audiard - in contrast to Eva Husson in MOTHERING SUNDAY - used nudity and explicit sex scenes to propel character and evolve story. Nothing here is gratuitous. Everything is honest. I felt as though I really knew all three lead characters - their flaws and their charms - and was utterly involved in how their stories would turn out. Meaningful revelations are dropped in with a very light touch - a half-heard phone-call or a camera glancing at pictures on a wall. I also absolutely loved Paul Guilhaume's stunning black and white photography that renders modernist and brutalist architecture as a stunningly vital and beautiful backdrop that made me hanker for city-life again after my Pandemic-driven suburban isolation. And Rone's electronic, award-winning sound-track is spectacular.
Overall, this is a film that pulses with vibrant real life. It makes you hanker for cities and people and serendipitous meetings that can be life changing. This is film-making at its most glorious and vital.
PARIS 13TH DISTRICT aka LES OLYMPIADES has a running time of 105 minutes. It played Cannes where it won Best Soundtrack. It will be released in France on November 3rd but does not yet have a commercial release date for the USA or UK.
Friday, October 15, 2021
THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 8
THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN has a running time of 112 minutes. The film played Telluride and the BFI London Film Festival and does not yet have a commercial release date.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 8
THE LOST DAUGHTER**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 8
MOTHERING SUNDAY* - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 9
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
NITRAM***** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 7
NITRAM played Cannes 2021 where Caleb Landry Jones won Best Actor. It was released earlier this year in Australia. The film has a running time of 112 minutes.
HINTERLAND*** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 7
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
MASS**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 6
MASS has a running time of 111 minutes and is rated PG-13. The film played Sundance and the BFI London Film Festival 2021.
ALL IS VANITY**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 6
ALL IS VANITY has a running time of 72 minutes. It debuted at the BFI London Film Festival and does not yet have a commercial release date.
BOILING POINT* - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 6
BOILING POINT is rated R and has a running time of 92 minutes.
THE POWER OF THE DOG***** - BFI London Film Festival - Day 6
Monday, October 11, 2021
THE FRENCH DISPATCH** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 5
SUNDOWN***** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 5
SUNDOWN has a running time of 83 minutes. It played Venice, Toronto and London 2021.
Sunday, October 10, 2021
REHANA***** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 5
REHANA is, then, a powerful and rightly tough watch. The lead actress, Azeri Haque Badhon is absolutely stunning in her portrait of a good woman driven to extremes by a corrupt system. She makes questionable choices but it's to Badhon's credit that we feel empathy for them. I also absolutely loved the girl playing Rehana's daughter Emu, and the symmetry in their behaviour is chilling, even down to Rehana calling her Mummy and Emu calling Rehana Mamma. In a brutal final scene, Emu is protesting against her mother's actions and we see Rehana become as violent as the protestors who earlier blocked her exit. We see the full emotional price of Rehana's earnest ideals.
REHANA has a running time of 107 minutes. The film is the first from Bangladesh to be selected for the official competition at Cannes 2021 and it also played Busan and the BFI London Film Festival.
Saturday, October 09, 2021
THE HAND OF GOD**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 4
Paolo Sorrentino’s THE HAND OF GOD begins as a kind of group portrait of working class Neapolitans in the 1980s. It has the feel of a menagerie of grotesques, and Sorrentino feels no politically correct restriction on mocking the fat, the disabled, the absurdly made-up or the mentally ill. This might sound distasteful and yet, and yet, over that hour we come to feel a kind of familial familiarity with these everyday oddballs, delighting in their joy when Maradona signs for Napoli and enjoying their practical jokes. We even come to admire and love the genuinely loving mother and father of the family, delighting in the depiction of an ordinary happy marriage.
Observing all of this loveable craziness is the younger son of the family, Fabie, whose quiet gaze is pre-directorial. For this is the third film in two days that I've watched where a director tells a fictionalised version of their childhood. And to be sure, Sorrentino is not going to spend the second hour of this film in rather trivial but engrossing depictions of life in 1980s Napoli. Instead, major life events occur that force Fabie into being the protagonist rather than voyeur of his own life, and of this film.
I absolutely adored this movie. It is by turns hilarious and tragic and strange and whimsical. I merely dock it a star for having had an obvious ending point (for me) in a cathartic playground scene, but lingers for thirty minutes longer.
THE HAND OF GOD has a running time of 130 minutes and played Venice 2021. It wil be released on Netflix on December 15th.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO**** - BFI London Film Festival 2021 - Day 4
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO is rated R and has a running time of 114 minutes. The movie played Venice, Toronto and the BFI London Film Festival and will be released in the UK and the USA on October 29th.
SPOILERS BELOW: This film has a REALLY clever marketing and misdirection plan. The trailer and media coverage lead us to believe it's a horror film rather than a murder mystery because Matt Smith's Jack is depicted as the bad guy. We go into the film thinking that the real mystery is whether Eloise will go mad and whether anyone will believe her when she tells them Jack killed Sandie. My first inkling that this was not the game was when Sam Claflin turned up as a vice squad officer. Why hadn't he been in any of the media coverage or on the red carpet. Why hadn't I spotted him in the IMDB credits? Well obviously because we need to believe that Terence Stamp is the older version of Jack for the misdirect to work. And I checked. Even on the film's end credits, Sam is just listed as playing Punter number 5. Random side-note - I've long thought Claflin would make a great Bond and in his suit and slightly sixties fuller hair I was confirmed in this belief.