There are more than 50 films on show at this year’s Two Short Nights film fest. How do we know? We used science. We counted all we could and then figured in the 48 hour film comp flicks. Et voila. You’ll be pleased to know you can now take your pick of the massive short offerings, that includes screenings plus industry events. Here’s a run-down of what not to miss.[Read more…] about 50+ films covering all of life (and a little death) What not to miss at Two Short Nights
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The James Bond franchise may be 50 years old but it’s delivered one of its greatest entries in the form of Skyfall.
The Newlyn film fest is calling for films as it sets to weigh anchor for its 2019 three-day festival.[Read more…] about Newlyn film fest calls for films for 3-day festival in 2019
Cornwall Film Festival director Tiffany Holmes is to step down.
Cornwall Film Festival is working with Carn to Cove this year on an exciting new project funded by FEAST and Creative England to bring the cinema experience to rural communities across Cornwall – C-Fylm!
There’s another chance to catch the best of 2005’s CFF in a Cornwall Film Festival free screening at The Melting Pot Cafe, in Redruth’s Old Grammar School, on Saturday.
Here’s some news from Bristol…
Bristol’s new UNESCO City of Film status was officially launched in February at a celebration event at Watershed Media Centre.
Claire Downes’ directorial debut We Can Be Heroes, which filmed at The Bottle Yard Studios and around Bristol last year, will preview at this year’s FilmBath Festival on 4 November, followed by a special Q&A with the director, producer, author and cast.
In honour of its 70th Anniversary year, the world’s longest continually running film festival [says the blurb], Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), has today announced its special anniversary celebrations built around its ed film fest memories project.
Don’t Breathe (Sony) is Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez’s follow-up to the gore-streaked 2013 Evil Dead reboot that divided critics.
The story involves a trio of young thieves – all with entirely different motivations – breaking into the house of a wealthy blind man Stephen Lang (Avatar), thinking that they can get away with the perfect crime. Their ambitious scam proves to be badly misjudged, however, and the homeowner isn’t a vulnerable old man, but a trauma-wracked veteran who was blinded in combat. Getting in was the easy part – getting out proves far harder…
From a deceptively simple premise, Alvarez – and co-writer Rodo Sayagues – have crafted a slick, satisfying picture that skilfully blends visceral thrills with nerve jangling twists. Lang is well cast as the blind man, and would-be robbers Jane Levy (Suburgatory) and Dylan Minnette (Lost) also impress. Alvarez ratchets up the tension nicely, and while a queasy, mid-movie twist is likely to leave a bad taste in the mouth for some viewers, the director doesn’t really put a foot wrong. Nice work!
Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Axiom Films) is the bizarre not-quite-true story of Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (Finnish actor Elmer Bäck), who travels to Mexico in 1931 – at the height of his post-Battleship Potemkin fame – determined to shoot a new (ultimately doomed) film called Que Viva Mexico. Chaperoned by his guide Palomino Cañedo (Luis Alberti), with whom he eventually embarks on a sexual relationship, Eisenstein enjoys a bawdy, chaotic trip. At this stage in his career, Peter Greenaway can get away with indulging his filmic passions to the hilt, and Eisenstein in Guanajuato is his most absurd – and indeed most enjoyable – movie in years. Charming, playful and wilfully uneven, it is strangely compelling concoction.
Adapted from the memoirs of Arielle Holmes – who also takes the lead role – Heaven Knows What (Axiom Films) is a grubby, gritty drama about Harley (Holmes), a young heroin addict living a hand-to-mouth existence on the streets of New York. Drugs aside, Harley’s highly charged relationship with her boyfriend, Ilya (Caleb Landry-Jones, X-Men: First Class) is equally bad for her health, and their toxic chemistry drives the film forwards. Grim and seemingly authentic, Heaven Knows What has earned plaudits for its cinéma vérité values, but I found it to be a gruelling, charmless viewing experience. The film has a potent raw power, but it is devoid of the kind of black humour that generally alleviates the downbeat mood in junkie melodramas. Approach with caution.
Finally, a pair of out-of-print John Carpenter movies are back on the shelves this month, courtesy of new British distributor Indicator. First up, re-released on a limited edition Dual Format (Blu-ray and DVD) basis is Vampires (Indiactor), the moody 1998 thriller that pits Jack Crow (James Woods) and his rag-tag, church-approved team of vampire slayers against Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), who is revealed to be the first and most powerful of all vampires. Starting with the arresting opening scene at a New Mexico ‘goon nest’ where vampires are dragged out into the sunlight to burn, Carpenter presides over a number of memorably bloody sequences, and the film’s central mythology is satisfyingly quirky. It may not be top-drawer Carpenter, but Vampires is definitely worthy of reappraisal.
Altogether less successful is 2001’s Ghosts of Mars (Indicator), the lukewarm sci-fi/horror fusion which prompted Carpenter’s semi-retirement from filmmaking. Natasha Henstridge – six years after her breakthrough role in Species – improbably heads a squad of soldiers who are dispatched to the now-terraformed red planet to escort notorious convict Desolation Williams (Ice Cube) back home. When they arrive they discover that the mining colony is deserted, and only later do they realise that the miners have been possessed by the ghosts of an ancient Martian civilisation, prompting bloody scenes or carnage as they attempt to fight off their ghoulish enemies. The eclectic cast (which includes Jason Statham and Pam Grier) is great – particularly Ice Cube – but the creaky aesthetic, stodgy plotting and weak dialogue means that the whole project falls badly flat.
(Note: both Indicator titles are limited to 5,000 copies apiece. When the initial run is sold out, they will still be available on Blu-ray, just without the DVD or accompanying booklet.)
After the visually impressive – but weirdly half-baked – Only God Forgives back in 2013, Danish auteur Nicolas Winding Refn returns to form with The Neon Demon (Icon).
16-year-old aspiring model Jesse (Elle Fanning, Malificent) moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. Signed by a prestigious agency, Jesse quickly finds herself working with some of the city’s top designers and photographers. Make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone, Sucker Punch) takes Jesse under her wing, but Jesse’s innocence and youth make her a target of her fellow models Gigi (Bella Heathcote, The Man In The High Castle) and Sarah (Abbey Lee, Mad Max: Fury Road), who are willing to go to extreme lengths to possess Jesse’s fresh, young allure – and take revenge on her for stealing their limelight.
The Neon Demon is Winding Refn’s strangest, most provocative picture yet, and also his most stylish. After the underwhelming Only God Forgives, he is surely aware that he is leaving himself open to accusations of style over substance, and he flaunts this with a brilliantly macabre deconstruction of the fashion industry. The movie gets freakier and more transgressive as it unfolds, and the final third is ridiculously depraved!
Drive (2011) and Bronson (2008) are still my personal favourites in his back catalogue, but The Neon Demon is a startling, visually sumptuous treat. For better or for worse, I’m already excited to see how Winding Refn plans to top this.
Known in the US as Shangri-La Suite, Kill The King (Universal) is the story of Karen Bird (Emily Browning, Legend) and Jack Blueblood (Luke Grimes, American Sniper), who meet in the Second Chances mental facility. The two fall madly in love and embark on a mission, to kill a bloated late-period Elvis Presley (Ron Livingston, Swingers) who is in Los Angeles with wife Priscilla Presley (Ashley Greene, The Twilight Saga). After breaking out of what Jack terms ‘the loony bin’, the love-struck pair head across the country to assassinate Elvis, wreaking havoc en route. Kill The King is an arresting calling card from first-time director Eddie O’Keefe, who also co-wrote the script. The fact that the film wears its would-be cult status on its sleeve from the outset is less of a problem than it might be, as the filmmakers’ trashy vision is pretty self-assured. The film may fall well short of the likes of True Romance and Wild at Heart, but if you are a fan of quirky, hyper-stylised indie dramas it definitely warrants further investigation.
Kill The King is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on 14th November, courtesy of UPHE Content Group.
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll also figures in Elvis & Nixon (eOne), a lightweight but enjoyable interpretation of the bizarre turn of events that saw Elvis granted an audience with President Richard Nixon, as part of his bid to be sworn in as an undercover Federal Agent at Large. The film plays fast and loose with the verifiable facts, and its sense of playfulness gives it an affable, freewheeling quality. Kevin Spacey – who has had his feet under the desk in the Oval Office for some time as Frank Underwood in House of Cards – has fun with the role of Nixon, while Michael Shannon offers a striking riff on late-period Elvis. The two men’s improbable bonding session is pretty goofy, but suits the tone of the film well enough not to raise too many eyebrows. Good, quirky fun.
Inspired by the experiences of ex-FBI agent Michael German, Imperium (Signature) follows Nate Foster (Daniel Radcliffe), an idealistic, mild-mannered young FBI agent who is selected to go undercover amongst a group of white supremacists, suspected of initiating a terror plot. Immersed in a hate-filled world, Nate must fight to maintain his principles whilst working to identify the threat and keeping his true identity under wraps. Radcliffe’s willingness to go to such extreme lengths to distance himself from the role of Harry Potter is admirable, but Imperium is an unfortunately sluggish thriller. The neo-Nazi backdrop is appropriately chilling, but the by-numbers narrative lacks surprises. A scene-stealing Toni Collette – playing Nate Foster’s handler – lights up the screen every time she appears, and only serves to highlight how dour the rest of the material is. Solid, but unremarkable.
In Darling (Soda), an unnamed young woman (Lauren Ashley Carter, The Woman) takes a job as the caretaker of a large mansion in New York that has a dark history. Bored, and left to her own devices for extended periods of time, she starts to experience hallucinatory visions and slowly goes insane. Filmed in black and white, Darling is a vivid, distinctive piece of work from director Mickey Keating (Carnage Park, Psychopaths). The debt to Roman Polanski looms large, but Darling impresses nevertheless, and the vibe is hypnotic and unsettling throughout. Intriguing stuff.
Last, but certainly not least: Better Call Saul – Season Two (Sony). As the second series of Vince Gilligan’s award-winning Breaking Bad companion piece/prequel unfolds, it continues to lay the groundwork for Jimmy McGill’s metamorphosis from small-time, hustling attorney into feared criminal lawyer Saul Goodman. Keen to leave behind the unethical ‘Slippin’ Jimmy’ persona for good and consolidate his relationship with Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), Season Two sees the temptation to get involved in nefarious activities prove too much for him…
While Better Call Saul initially lacked the immediacy and bleak energy of Breaking Bad, it has proven itself to be a worthy successor to the saga of Walter White, and the writing and plotting is every bit as smart as it was on the earlier show. Whereas Saul was often used as light relief in Breaking Bad, given centre stage, Bob Odenkirk’s lead character is far more fully rounded, and his hidden depths are enjoyable to discover. Better Call Saul is an excellent show – with a third series on the way, it will be fascinating to see how it plays out.
In the last 24 hours I’ve been staring into the abyss, reflecting on life’s many quandaries but specifically about being single. Sat in my singleton squalor, I carelessly shovel Turkish delight into my mouth-hole while watching Céline Dion music videos from the ‘90s. She warbles on about her achy-breaky heart and her misfortunate nautical adventures. There were tears aplenty.
Post-apocalyptic carnage, indie melodrama and money-grabbing B-movie trash – the week’s DVDs go under the microscope.
Set ten years after a major economic collapse, The Rover (eOne) follows cold-blooded drifter Eric (Guy Pearce, Memento) as he traverses the scorched Australian Outback on a mission to track down the men who stole his car – the last thing that he had left in the world.
Late 2013 finally saw Blockbuster Entertainment shut its doors permanently. There will be no more, ‘Bringing Entertainment Home’, no more late fees or alcohol-fuelled, late-night visits with friends to pick a film.
Sightseers (StudioCanal) tells the story of hot-headed Chris (Steve Oram) who wants to give his girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe) a glimpse into his life by whisking her away from her domineering mother and on a caravan holiday across the North of England. Chris’s hand-picked itinerary includes regional hot-spots such as the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct and the Keswick Pencil Museum, but his grand plans quickly fall apart when an insolent litterbug rubs him up the wrong way.
The master of outrageous genre mayhem is back – Quentin Tarantino shocks, confounds and astounds once more with his new pulp epic, Django Unchained.
Is your Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket? Look no further than these three enjoyable DVD releases!
Ted (Universal) – the movie debut from TV renaissance man Seth MacFarlane – tells the story of John Bennett, a lonely boy from Boston who, back in 1985, wished for his new Christmas teddy bear, to come to life and become his best friend. The wish came true, and although Ted briefly went on to carve out a career as a minor celebrity, his friendship with John endured, and the pair remain firm friends 27 years later.
The subjective message of a given film is the lifeblood of cinema, especially in this age of moodily complex Christopher Nolan blockbusters. Life of Pi however is the real deal.
Tom Leins scrapes the barrel in this week’s straight-to-DVD special!
Critically, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005) was received rather well and despite its slow momentum at the box office, a sequel was soon announced. However, the question hanging over production wasn’t whether Christian Bale would return, or who would be the film’s bad guy – that was obvious – the real question was whether or not Nolan would be back. And return he did.
Presumably, a lot of eyes were rolled when this film was released onto the unsuspecting public. Taking a well-known historical figure and placing him in a film with some kind of contemporary twist has never, ever ended well for anyone (take Churchill, The Hollywood Years).
In Darkness is the Oscar-nominated film based upon the true story of Leopold Socha. Socha, a Polish sewer worker who during WW2, hid a group of Jews for 14 months in the sewers beneath the Nazi-occupied city, Lwow – now known as Lviv – in Ukraine. However, Socha didn’t do this out of the kindness of his heart.
This Must Be The Place is something of an oddity for me, because it’s a Sean Penn film that I actually want to watch. Penn plays the wealthy former rock-star Cheyenne – who looks an awful lot like Robert Smith, of The Cure.
The first blockbuster out of the traps in 2012, John Carter is unfortunately a bit of a damp squib. It’s also a movie which takes more than two hours and a $250 million budget to say nothing new whatsoever. Sympathies towards exemplary Pixar director Andrew Stanton (he of Wall-E and Finding Nemo) are sorely tested during this derivative, dramatically arid sci-fi spectacle.