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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: The Spanish Contingent

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 18:07 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: The Spanish Contingent

Predictably for a Finnish festival there’s a significant Spanish contingent among the films on show (um…). Specifically, that means Pablo Larcuen’s tiny horror Hooked Up, Alfredo Montero’s intense caving nightmare In Darkness we Fall (La Cueva), and Jaume Balaguero’s Rec 4, capping the Catholic zombie rabies quartet that began way back in 2007 with the original Rec.

The hook of Hooked Up is that it’s the first feature film to be entirely shot on an iPhone. That obviously means found footage, so your patience with that conceit depends a lot on your patience with the subgenre as a whole. But for those who don’t mind the shaky camera and the characters shuffling it between them as they continue to film in unlikely circumstances, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Plot-wise we’re slightly in Hostel territory, with two idiot American guy...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: The Documentaries

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 17:57 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: The Documentaries

Given that Night Visions is a genre festival taking place in a particularly dark city at Hallowe’en, you’d expect a predominantly horror-centric programme. Not necessarily so. Sci-fi and action are well represented too, and there’s a great, wide-ranging documentary strand. I sadly couldn’t make it to the Japanese punk movie Get Action!, but I did catch 2000AD celebration Future Shock! (lots of exclamation marks in these titles), Cannon Films autopsy The Go-Go Boys, and Richard Stanley’s fascinating L’Autre Monde (The Otherworld).

Winner of the audience award this year was the brilliant vampire mock-doc What We Do In The Shadows, but in impressive second place was Future Shock!. It really is that good: it makes you want to run out and buy trade paperbacks of classic Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper and whatever else right away. But crucially, while the ...

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Under The RadarNight Visions 2014: The Nordic Genre Invasion

Posted on Tuesday November 4, 2014, 17:37 by Owen Williams in Under The Radar
Night Visions 2014: The Nordic Genre Invasion

This was my third year at Helsinki’s Night Visions festival, but to my shame, I’ve never really written much about Finnish or Nordic cinema before. In my defence, that’s partly a reflection of the festival’s programme, which isn’t heavily local. Perhaps with that in mind, this year the festival organised an entire day devoted to presentations on Nordic cinema: a celebration of a deliberately organised ‘movement’.

The idea behind what’s been self-dubbed the Nordic Genre Invasion is a recognition of how popular the Nordic crime genre became in recent years, thanks to writers like Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo; the movies based on their and others’ work; and the TV series’ like Wallander, The Killing and The Bridge which achieved breakout international success. With a feeling that those things are becoming slightly old hat now, there’s an attempt underway to kick-start something similar for other genres: action, sci-fi, horror. A coalition...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival 2014: Fury And Difret

Posted on Sunday October 19, 2014, 16:42 by Phil de Semlyen in London Film Festival
London Film Festival 2014: Fury And Difret

Fury

David Ayer has carved out a niche as a creator of ultra-realistic thrillers, many tapping into his own experiences in the US Navy. Since the release of his submarine thriller U-571, which distorted history to credit America with cracking the Enigma code, Ayer has devoted himself to fairly meticulous truth. Ayer subsequently made his name as screenwriter of the Oscar-nominated Training Day and writer-director of crunching cop movie End Of Watch.

His latest movie – World War II drama Fury – is the closing film of the London Film Festival. Typically character-driven and potently realistic, it’s a solid piece of work.

In the last months of the war, deep within Nazi Germany, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) finds his tank crew one man short and is assigned the jittery Private Ellison (Logan Lerman) as his new assistant driver. Tasked by Captain Waggoner (Jason Isaacs) with defending a crucial road junction, Wardaddy and his crew must fight off the ...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival 2014: Mommy, Song of the Sea, A Little Chaos

Posted on Friday October 17, 2014, 11:12 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival 2014: Mommy, Song of the Sea, A Little Chaos

Mommy

Leading the ‘Dare’ category in the film festival, Mommy is a brave and powerful film that’s capable of knocking the breath out of your lungs. Tackling the impact of mental illness in a family, it features phenomenal acting, an unusual soundtrack and an inventive use of changing screen dimensions.

The young and prodigiously talented Xavier Dolan has made this the fifth directorial work of his already prolific career. Dolan has proved himself before as unafraid to tackle difficult topics and in Mommy he follows the life of single mother Diane (Anne Dorval), who is suddenly faced with having to home-school her son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon). Steve’s severe ADHD has meant that due to his erratic and dangerous behaviour, he’s just come out of a youth detention centre. The situation threatens to get out of control until the arrival of their neighbour Kyra (Suzanne Clément) offers a new chance for both mother and son to rebuild th...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Whiplash, Son Of A Gun, Foxcatcher

Posted on Friday October 17, 2014, 10:36 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Whiplash, Son Of A Gun, Foxcatcher

Whiplash

Whiplash came rolling into the London Film Festival with real momentum behind it. It has already wowed audiences at several international festivals, and scooped the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance in January. Damien Chazelle’s tale of a wannabe drummer battling his way to the top of a jazz band deserves every accolade it has received thus far, and a load more.

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a talented but nervous youngster at the top music school in America. During a solo practice session, he catches the eye of ferocious instructor Fletcher (JK Simmons), who subjects Andrew to gruelling rehearsals as part of his award-winning jazz band. In order to impress Fletcher, Andrew must put his family, new girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist) and indeed his own body on the line.

Whiplash is a hurricane of movie. As comfortable with zingy dialogue and raw emotion as it is with breath-taking musical cacophonies, director Chazelle has constructed...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival 2014: Testament of Youth, Ping Pong Summer, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

Posted on Thursday October 16, 2014, 13:38 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival 2014: Testament of Youth, Ping Pong Summer, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

Testament Of Youth

Based on famed pacifist Vera Brittain’s earliest memoirs, Testament of Youth has admirable intentions of bringing a renowned story back into the public spotlight. It’s a pity then that the film doesn’t excel itself quite as it could have done.

Directed by TV veteran James Kent, the film explores Vera’s life during the time of World War I. Played by Alicia Vikander, Vera is left at home when her friends, brother and new fiancée Roland Leighton (Kit Harington) leave for the trenches. Not wanting to escape the troubles of war whilst her loved ones fight, she chooses to work as a nurse in France, an experience which inspires the lifelong anti-war views that Vera Brittain was best known for.

The biggest difficulty that the film has is in engaging the audience with Roland and Vera’s romantic relationship, an aspect of the story that is placed in centre stage. Their attraction isn’t given a foundation str...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: The Duke Of Burgundy, Gente De Bien, Love Is Strange

Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014, 09:43 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: The Duke Of Burgundy, Gente De Bien, Love Is Strange

The course of true love never did run smooth. It would appear that BFI London Film Festival decided that I wasn't sufficiently aware of this fact and could use a refresher course in love in its many forms. First up we had The Duke Of Burgundy, a smouldering slice of BDSM relationship drama from British auteur Peter Strickland. After that there was Gente De Bien, the story of a father and son thrown together after years of estrangement and how they learn to get along. To round off the day was Love Is Strange, the very softly spoken tale of two elderly gay men in New York who are thrown into turmoil when redundancy alters their living situation.


The Duke Of Burgundy
Peter Strickland's latest offering concerns the relationship between Cynthia and Evelyn, who are engaged in a dominant/submissive lifestyle. Cynthia plays master in the situation, engineering situations that are deliberately demeaning or awkward for Evel...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Wild, Salvation, Leviathan

Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014, 09:18 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Wild, Salvation, Leviathan

Some days at festivals, you see a couple of films that all have a common theme or genre. Today was not one of those days. You could hardly pick three films more different than Wild, The Salvation and Leviathon. One is Reese Witherspoon's latest about a young woman who decides to walk 1,000 miles across America to escape her life, another is a revenge Western with a Danish cowboy at its heart and the final film is a politically astute and vodka soaked look at modern Russia.


Wild
This adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir has been in production almost since the day the book was released. It was always designed as a vehicle for Reese Witherspoon to flex her acting muscles and the role is certainly different to anything she's played before. The role of Strayed is clearly a complex one with grief, addiction and divorce all working their way into the script and shown as flashbacks during her epic adventure which brings its own series of challenges.

All of whi...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Electricity, The Dinner

Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014, 08:56 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Electricity, The Dinner

Electricity

British dramas have a habit of unfolding in fairly conventional ways. With that in mind, it’s hugely refreshing to come across a film as inventive and interesting as Electricity, which feels gritty and real without resorting to bland kitchen sink tropes.

Lily (Agyness Deyn) works a dead-end job in an amusement arcade, battling with her frequent and violent epileptic fits, which manifest as electrical storms in her mind. When she and her brother Barry (Paul Anderson) are presented with a huge inheritance, Lily sets off down south to find their estranged second sibling Mikey (Christian Cooke) to give him his share. Mikey proves a hard man to find, with Lily enlisting the help of friendly Londoner Mel (Lenora Crichlow) after she suffers from a fit on the Underground.

There’s a tendency in British cinema to simply point a camera at something bleak and watch terrible things happen. Electricity is not interested in doing that, with director ...

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