Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places is a satisfying picture. The film is thought provoking, yet with a wonderfully sprightly texture.
Filmmaker Agnès Varda and artist JR decide to collaborate on a project. The unlikely pair embark on a journey through France, visiting small towns and taking pictures of their inhabitants…
Veteran filmmaker Agnès Varda collaborating with photographer and installation artist JR is an unusual proposition. Nevertheless, Faces Places works exceptionally well. The film functions on multiple levels. Firstly, there is the friendship between the pair. Varda and JR are an odd couple in terms of age, but not in terms of imagination or artistic prowess. There are humorous and touching moments here, as their relationship develops. The film is as much as story about them as it is about their project.
Furthermore, Faces Places is portrait of small-town France. A variety of locales is on display in the film. The slice-of-life style works well, depicting the rural and the industrial, the small town and docks. Varda and JR tell a variety of stories, giving a flavour of different lives without dwelling more than they need to. This gives the film a sense of brevity.
Also fascinating is Varda’s reminiscing about past collaborators and earlier memories. There are some great callbacks to this, and it is great to see how the pair collaborate to create the new from the old. There is a more sour note involving another filmmaker, yet this is handled amiably. Faces Places does veer off to consider a number of topics, yet this feels perfectly authentic for the type of film it is.
The documentary gives a great insight into both Varda and JR, in terms of personality and style of working. Their passion for their work comes across distinctly, and their working relationship rewarding. Faces Places offers a window to the affable Varda, and it is most entertaining.
James Marsh’s King of Thieves is a broadly enjoyable crime caper drama. The second half of the film falters, compared to a peppier first half.
An ageing group of crooks contemplate an audacious job. Hatton Garden is the home of jewellery district. The group decide to pull off a heist that could earn them millions…
Telling the story behind the 2015 Hatton Garden robbery, King of Thieves combines a crime caper with a drama. Director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything) gives character to the little-known villains, and tells the story of the heist and the subsequent fallout.
Given that the events took place in very recent history, it is forgivable to question what the the film will offer. Nevertheless, King of Thieves is sufficiently entertaining, even if all the elements are not on point. The film is one of two halves. The first focuses on the build up to the heist and the job itself. The second concentrates on the gang’s behaviour after the robbery, and the police investigation.
The introduction of the main characters is adequate. Later in the film, Marsh’s focuses on the main players in the gang, and this works well. There is humour to be found, especially in the first half. Marsh lulls viewers into a sense of familiarity with the protagonists, before reminding of their menace. The crime caper aspects work well. The film falters as it progresses, however. This is because the dramatic aspects are not that impactful. The police investigation element is depicted in an interesting enough fashion, even if the investigators are nameless. The focus on the in-fighting of the gang does not engage in the same way the lead up to the heist did.
Michael Caine and Ray Winstone are perfectly fine, although they never leave their comfort zone. Jim Broadbent steals the show, portraying a menace that is striking. Charlie Cox also does well as the youngest member of the group. King of Thieves offers a great cast, but not that memorable of a film.
Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…
The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone.
Strand Galas and Special Presentations
There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give.
There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife.
As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy.
Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.
The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War is an engaging and beautifully filmed drama. The protagonists may be flawed, but the presentation certainly is not.
Wiktor and Zulu first meet in 1950s Poland. They are drawn to one another, despite their different temperaments. Their love is tested by politics, personalities, and twists of fate…
Director and co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski sets a fraught love story against the backdrop of political upheaval in post-war Europe. Cold War shows the impact of this political climate on ordinary people. The story is engaging, with a love affair that frustrates and delights.
The two protagonists in the film are flawed, multi-dimensional characters. At times the actions of Zula and Wiktor are frustrating. Yet they elicit sympathy, being regular people having their lives impacted so by the era they inhabit. What is most striking about the pair is that they are mismatched. Rather than playing this in an ‘opposites attract’ fashion, Pawlikowski increasingly makes it apparent that they are not suited in the long term.
Beautifully shot in black and white, Cold War looks every inch its period setting. Despite the city environments, it always feels like the period it is set in – art direction is wonderful here. The scenes in the Parisian club feel like they were filmed in the 1950s. These sequences provide a good contrast with scenes in Poland and Yugoslavia. The vibrancy is juxtaposed with rather drab surroundings. Moreover, these contrasts in locations provide a mirror to the characters themselves as they become less and less of a match.
Joanna Kulig is wonderful as Zula. She offers a fine portrayal of the character as she grows. Tomasz Kot is also great as Wiktor. The pair have good chemistry, and are wholly believable. Music is critical to the film, heightening the era and the locales.
Cold War is melancholy yet beautiful. A visual delight, with great storytelling to match.
Cold War is released in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from 31st August 2018.
Terence Davies’ 1988 award-winning Distant Voices, Still Lives gets a 4K restoration for its 30th anniversary re-release. The film deserves its considerable acclaim.
A family growing up in 1940s and 1950s Liverpool go through the spectrum of human experience. Distant Voices concentrates on the father and his impact on the family, whilst Still Lives focuses on the children…
Terence Davies’ feature debut is just as striking thirty years after its initial release. Written and directed by Davies, Distant Voices, Still Lives is an autobiographical take on the filmmaker’s upbringing in Liverpool. The story is told in a fragmented fashion, with frequent flashbacks to fill in detail and narrative.
As the film progresses, a few themes come to the fore. Firstly, the importance of the matriarch role is emphasised. Despite a difficult relationship, it is the mother who holds the family together. Secondly, the impact of the father’s behaviour casts a long shadow, even when he is no longer present.
Music plays a critical role in the lives of the family, and provides an atmospheric soundtrack to the narrative. Distant Voices, Still Lives could almost be considered a musical, thanks to the frequent singing and presence of song. In addition to this, pop culture is integral to painting the film’s period setting. Davies exhibits great attention to detail in regards to this; the film feels very much of the World War II/post-war era thanks to the sets, costumes and styling.
Distant Voices, Still Lives features great performances from its cast. Pete Postlewaite is most memorable in one of his first major roles. Freda Dowie delivers a strong performance as the family matriarch, whilst Angela Walsh is sympathetic as Eileen.
Davies illustrates the importance of memory, and the impact of early experiences on later life. Distant Voices, Still Lives is a striking and engaging drama, and testament to the filmmaker’s skill.
Distant Voices, Still Lives will be released at the BFI Southbank and at cinemas nationwide from 31st August 2018. For more information see here.
Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a brand new The Happytime Murders clip, Climax, Widows, and more…
The Happytime Murders Clip
The Happytime Murders - Pure Ecstasy - In Cinemas Monday - YouTube
Here is the latest The Happytime Murders clip. Directed by Brian Henson, the film stars Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, and a host of puppets. Set in a world where humans co-exist with puppets, the film is about a private investigator who reunites with his ex-partner to find a serial killer. The Happytime Murders will hit UK screens on 27th August 2018.
CLIMAX - Official UK teaser trailer - YouTube
Above is the trailer for Gaspar Noé’s Climax. The film is about a dance troupe’s party that goes awry. Not has assembled a cast of non-actors and professional dancers for the film. After debuting at Cannes earlier this year, Climax will close FrightFest on 27th August, and will be released in UK cinemas on 21st September 2018.
Here is the new poster for Mike Leigh’s Peterloo. The film is a portrayal of the events surrounding the 1819 Peterloo Massacre. The film’s cast includes Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake. Peterloo will have its premiere at this year’s BFI London Film Festival, taking place in Manchester (the first time a film has debuted outside the capital at the festival). It will be released at cinemas across the UK on 2nd November 2018.
WIDOWS | OFFICIAL HD TRAILER #2 | 2018 - YouTube
Widows is the new film from Steve McQueen. With a screenplay written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, the film is about four women who have a debt left behind from their criminal husbands. Widows offers an enviable cast which includes Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Daniel Kaluuya. Widows will open the BFI London Film Festival on 10th October, and will hit screens across the UK on 6th November 2018.
Crazy Rich Asians Clip
CRAZY RICH ASIANS - Singapore for Spring Break - Warner Bros. UK - YouTube
Here is a clip from the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians. The comedy is directed by John M. Chu, and stars Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, and Ken Jeong. The film is about a New Yorker who travels with her boyfriend to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Although it is already out in America. Crazy Rich Asians does not reach UK screens until 14th September 2018.
John Krasinski’s horror A Quiet Place is a great example of a decent premise that is finely executed. The film is very entertaining.
In a post-apocolayptic world, a family struggles to survive. Monsters with super sensitive hearing have wiped out most of the population, and the family must not make a sound if they want to survive…
With minimal dialogue, A Quiet Place does not necessarily strike viewers as a typical horror. Yet all the hallmarks of the genre are here; the uneasy atmosphere, the affecting use of lighting, and of course the monsters. Most associated with comedy, director, co-writer and star John Krasinski shows he can do horror too.
The narrative is fairly simple. The film follows the fortune of a family trying to survive in a world where they cannot make a sound. Krasinski and co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck reveal little about what the creatures are, or how they came about. The film is better for keeping this mystery about the antagonists.
A Quiet Place develops the protagonists enough that viewers will care about their fates. The film does test this with Evelyn’s condition, which stretches credulity for a family that want to survive. Some of the tactics are heavily signposted, yet the film is very successful in ramping up the tension. There are a number of aspects which increase the sense of apprehensiveness, from Evelyn’s state to the unhappiness of Regan. The film is well paced, building to an expected yet exciting climax.
Emily Blunt delivers a great performance, as ever. Krasinski is also good as the father trying to hold everything together. Wonderstruck‘s Millicent Simmonds shines as Regan. Special effects in the film are decent, but the film is much more effective when it strips back to rely on lighting, editing, and sound design.
In a spate of critically acclaimed horror films, A Quiet Place holds its own. Not perfect, but a lot of fun.
A Quiet Place is out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD from 13th August 2018.
Robert Mullan’s Mad To Be Normal offers good performances from its cast. Whilst the attention to detail is commendable, the film is not captivating.
In the 1960s, psychiatrist R.D. Laing offers a different type of treatment to those afflicted with mental health conditions. His methods, which focus on listening to patients over harsh procedures, are the cause of some controversy…
Mad To Be Normal is a biopic of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing. Rather than a traditional biopic, the film concentrates on shorter, critical period of the subject’s life. The film begins by depicting Laing as a quasi-celebrity; it is a good introduction to an interesting character. Much of the film is viewed through the prism of his relationship with Angie, who he meets early on in the narrative.
There are two main strands in Mad To Be Normal. The first concentrates on Laing’s career and his experimental therapy. The stark contrast between his methods and the generally held beliefs at the time are well presented by director Mullan. A scene in which one of the patients, John, undergoes harsh treatment in hospital provides an excellent contrast to Laing’s freedom, emphasis on talking, and loud shirts. The second strand concentrates on Laing’s personal life, although as necessary, these overlap.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is Laing’s relationship with his patients. He seems to have a genuine bond with them rather than a purely professional relationship. The film hints at a wider connection between Laing and his patients, but this is not explored in any detail. His relationship with Angie is tumultuous, perhaps revealing more about her than about him.
David Tennant offers a strong and commanding performance as Laing, which is the highlight of the film. He is offered good support from Elisabeth Moss, Gabriel Byrne, and Michael Gambon. Mullen shows great attention to detail in his depiction of 1960s London; the sepia tone, the costumes, and the cigarette smoke go a great way in setting the scene. Mad To Be Normal is thought-provoking, even if it does not pack a punch.
Mad To Be Normal will be available on VOD from 13th August 2018.
Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best blockbuster of the year so far. No mean feat for the sixth film in the series.
After a mission goes wrong, Ethan Hunt and the IMF team face a race against time to fix things. Along the way, the team encounter a familiar face, and are joined by members of the CIA…
The second film in the series to be helmed by Christopher McQuarrie (after 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), Mission: Impossible – Fallout is quite possibly the best film in the franchise thus far. Written and directed by McQuarrie, the film gets a lot right. Action sequences are immense, the plot is entertaining, and the momentum is strong.
The film brings back some of the characters from the previous instalment. As well as the team members, a few other characters return. There is more cohesion to the IMF team this time around, and there are even some more affecting moments to be found. The other main addition is CIA agent Walker, who is tasked with joining Hunt and co on their mission. The plot of the film works well; it is reminiscent of the Bond series – in a good way. There is sufficient peril, but really the narrative takes a backseat to the action.
The numerous action sequences are brilliantly executed. Unlike so many recent blockbusters, McQuarrie relies on stunts rather than CGI to bring the thrills. The sequences are highly exciting, whether it is magnificent fight choreography in one room, a pulsating chase sequence, or a large-scale finale. Tom Cruise tenacity pays off in bounds, giving viewers exactly what they want from an action film. Henry Cavill is a good addition, and Vanessa Kirby is lively in a small role.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout will be hard to beat this year in terms of authentic thrills. A must-see for most.
Drew Pearce’s crime thriller Hotel Artemis is an entertaining ride. The film benefits from a good script and a solid cast.
In Los Angeles of the near future, the Nurse runs Hotel Artemis, a member-only emergency treatment centre for criminals. On a night when riots are taking place, she receives several visitors…
The idea behind Hotel Artemis is quite interesting, offering a hospital for criminal members under the guise of a dusty hotel. Immediately parallels will be drawn with John Wick. Pearce’s film distinguishes itself from this by placing emphasis on a number of different narrative strands. Inevitably these come together as the film progresses.
The main strand follows the Nurse, who has been running the hotel for decades. Her story intersects with that of Nice and Waikiki. The Nurse is given sufficient background as the film progresses. Other characters do not receive the same attention. Nevertheless, this is not too much of a hinderance, with the action concentrating on the events of a single evening. Writer-director Pearce offers a good script. Dialogue is often funny, with some zinging lines.
Apart from the opening gambit at the bank, action is restrained until the final third of the film. At this point, Pearce unleashes the violence that has been building throughout. Action here is stylish, with Nice taking centre stage. Performances in the film are good. Jodie Foster is given the most to do, and she handles this typically well. Sofia Boutella is lively, while Sterling K. Brown is decent, when he is given screen time.
There is always the potential that balancing so many characters will be uneven, and Hotel Artemis suffers from this slightly. There are moments of emotion but these remain on the surface, as action quickly moves to the next scene. Notwithstanding, Drew Pearce has created an enjoyable picture with Hotel Artemis.