Katniss Everdeen, fiery heroine of Suzanne Collins’ teenage literary phenomenon The Hunger Games, has little time for the mopey antics seen in the Twilight movies. In the new film adaptation of the first novel in the series, Katniss is played by the terrific Jennifer Lawrence, and the last thing on her mind is namby pamby attention from a pasty-faced suitor. Instead, her concerns veer towards self-preservation, and at the outset of The Hunger Games, we find out why.
We Bought a Zoo is so sickeningly wholesome that one’s teeth threaten to fall out when watching it. Bouncing back from his 2005 flop Elizabethtown, director Cameron Crowe drenches proceedings in syrup but, without a sharp, zesty script to back up the honey inflected visuals, the film comes across as too soft for its own good.
One of the struggles of being a film reviewer is staying true to your own opinions. It’s a thrilling and enervating thing to look back on all the films you’ve watched over the course of a year -some will have been great, some will have been average, some will have been utterly putrid -but there will always be one film that rankles at you. One film which causes you to question yourself.
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.
Production on John Tomkins’ paranoid thriller They’re Coming is well underway in Torbay. Torquay-based filmmaker John has assembled a plethora of local talent from around Devon to work on his latest project-the story of an ordinary man who finds himself caught in extraordinary circumstances. I recently attended fight rehearsals for the film at the Riviera Centre Lifestyle Gym in Torquay, and caught up with both John and leading man Tom Menary (of Plymouth-based Wingless Films).
Simon and Garfunkel waxed lyrical about the sound of silence and the same principle applied to the 2011 BAFTA ceremony. In what was a largely predictable but heartening show, silent movie pastiche The Artist swept the board -winning seven awards, including Best Film, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin).
The new adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story The Woman in Black is significant for three reasons. It’s the first time Hill’s tale has been adapted for the silver screen; it marks Daniel Radcliffe’s first major project after the end of Harry Potter; and it’s the first Hammer movie made in England since their demise in 1979 (The Lady Vanishes). The book spawned a radio series and a creepy, TV adaptation in 1989, but more significantly, the long running West End stage play (a truly petrifying experience).
Right from the off, Martha Marcy May Marlene builds a sense of minimalist menace, and this air of doom never relents for the remainder of the film’s running time. Sean Durkin’s supremely accomplished Sundance favourite draws comparison with 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin in that it’s a scary film, but not in the sense of monsters, ghosts and ghoulies. Rather, it’s a human horror story, one which plumbs the terrifying recesses of psychology and indoctrination with enormous skill. This is a movie which generates a sense of terror from its sense of tranquility and ostensible normality.
Steve McQueen’s Shame opens with a remarkable sequence that is a masterclass in non-verbal communication. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, a man who appears trapped in an empty cycle of casual sex. The film swiftly establishes an air of dispassionate routine, as we see Fassbender walk stark naked around his sparse apartment post coitus on two separate occasions. The atmosphere feels conspicuously cold and detached; one senses Brandon is taking no pleasure from his conquests.
War Horse (2011)
If the ending of War Horse proved one thing absolute, it’s that Steven Spielberg is a master of the widescreen image. The film’s extraordinary climactic homage to the fiery colour scheme of Gone With the Wind got me thinking: what other images in Spielberg films effortlessly capture the narrative and themes of their respective movies?
A black and white silent film about silent films that manages not be a dry academic exercise but a terrific, heartwarming crowdpleaser, The Artist is some kind of a miracle. In an age when so much product is forced on the masses, noisy, garish, empty-headed product, The Artist revels in the sound of silence and the warm glow of nostalgia. Thanks to the sheer tenacity of director Michel Hazanvicius, we the audience are transported back in time to bask in the feel of a film that is in love with films itself.
If Steven Spielberg’s Tintin was an enjoyable, if hollow, experience, then War Horse is the full thoroughbred: proudly old-fashioned, defiantly sentimental and intoxicating in its sense of scope. It also shows off the county of Devon to glorious effect, right from the opening frames when the lilting flute solo on John Williams’ soundtrack ushers in the breathtaking aerial shots of Dartmoor.
Devon’s never had it so good. Midway through 2010, rumours began to arise. Had the world’s most famous film director, Steven Spielberg, been spotted on Dartmoor filming his adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse? The answer was yes, but we had a while to wait. Fast forward 18 months and we finally got to see the results, the majesty of the moors plain to see from the opening frames of Spielberg’s sweeping film.
1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2008)
A merciless depiction of life under the Romanian Ceausescu regime, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is horribly compelling viewing.
Nothing is certain but death and taxes as the saying goes But we’re always guaranteed an eclectic year at the cinema, full of highs and lows. And 2011 was no exception. As we were whisked around the world from Hollywood to Japan and beyond, many of the year’s blockbusters fell below the mark (Cowboys and Aliens was a notable flop) and mainstream American comedies sank further into reliance on lazy archetypes. In fact, when compiling my Worst List, I was shocked to discover how many so-called ‘comedies’ made the grade.
1. Senna (Asif Kapadia)
Like all great documentaries, Senna transcends its nominal subject matter, in the process becoming less of a factual document and more a haunting elegy.
1. The Greatest Miracle (Mark McKenzie)
No other film score in 2011 resounded with such a sense of spiritual beauty as Mark McKenzie’s The Greatest Miracle. A magnificent work frequently verging on the rhapsodic, McKenzie’s score for the Mexican animated feature calls to mind Ennio Morricone’s masterpieces The Mission and Padre Pio, blending a lush orchestra with a moving choir to create a masterpiece.
1. Zookeeper (Frank Coraci)
Aka Pookeeper. There’s nothing worse than watching a film made with complete contempt for the viewing audience, and Zookeeper is just that. It’s not that the film doesn’t understand its target audience; it doesn’t seem to care what its target audience is.
1. Ni No Kuni (Joe Hisaishi, 2010)
Ni No Kuni is a 2010 Nintendo DS game and so to describe the accompanying music as a film score may be pushing things a bit.
Directed by Amanda Bluglass, Ray: A Life Underwater has been named the winner of the Shoot Short Film Festival 2011.
As the festive season draws in, here’s a reminder of a film (my second favourite of all-time, after The Shawshank Redemption) that redefined the way we look at Christmas.
I recently had the good fortune to attend the 8th edition of the annual Dubai International Film Festival (or DIFF as it’s referred to in the trade) -in fact, the first film festival I’ve attended as a cinema journalist.
Prior to the commencement of principal photography on his latest film, The Underwater Realm, director of Realm Pictures, David Reynolds, was interviewed by filmmaker John Tomkins.
D&CFilm reviewer Sean Wilson caught up with filmmaker Ashley Wing to discuss his new sci-fi short, Fracture.
Postponed from September, the Shoot Short Film Festival returns to the Dartington Barn Cinema on Thursday, November 24. Showcasing the finest short filmmaking in Devon and Cornwall, it’s a bracing change from big-budget mainstream fare, and once again demonstrates The Barn’s committment to exciting, alternative cinema.