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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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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Goodbye to Language, My Old Lady, Serena

Posted on Tuesday October 14, 2014, 10:06 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Goodbye to Language, My Old Lady, Serena

Goodbye To Language

Trying to describe Jean-Luc Godard's 3D feature Goodbye To Language is a difficult task. As you'd expect of the director, it's not a film that's kind to viewers, presenting a 70 minute-long barrage of confrontational style. In the end, it's difficult to interpret just what kind of narrative, if any, has been witnessed. Still, that’s probably the whole point.

As the title suggests, language becomes almost mocked in a film that strives for incoherence. Stories overlap with conversations that don’t make sense and the audio stuns the viewer with a blast of noise after irregular breaks of silence. The film's content - usually created with some clarity in order to communicate with the audience - becomes ridiculed in a mosaic that includes philosophy, historical reconstruction and low-brow humour. Inconsistent English subtitles for the film also deliberately add to the muddled tone, although those with a decent grasp of French m...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: The Cub

Posted on Tuesday October 14, 2014, 10:03 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: The Cub

As a bit of a horror film fanatic, The Cub (aka Welp) was one of the films I was most looking forward to seeing at LFF. Thankfully, the debut film from Belgian director Jonas Govaerts is everything I wanted it to be – a loving, gruesome homage to the dark heart of cinema.

At the centre of the film is Sam (Maurice Luijten), a temperamental outcast in a group of scouts led by Kris (Titus De Voogdt) and his slightly power-mad right-hand man Peter (Stef Aerts). The vulnerable youngster is terrified by the leaders’ stories of a mysterious boy, named Kai, who stalks the forest at night in werewolf form. Unfortunately for Sam and the rest of the troupe, the boy (Gill Eeckelaert) proves to be more real than anybody expected.

The beauty of Cub is that it is a film made with real reverence and respect for horror cinema. It combines the influence of classic slashers from the '70s and '80s with the timeless creature-feature subgenre. The summer camp setting recalls

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Under The RadarThe Rio Festival: The Prizes

Posted on Monday October 13, 2014, 15:22 by Simon Braund in Under The Radar
The Rio Festival: The Prizes

Festival do Rio 2014, the biggest film festival in South America, came to an official end on October 8 with a gala awards ceremony at the fest’s docklands HQ in downtown Rio. And for once, Empire picked the winner. Director Lirio Ferreira’s film Sangue Azul (Blue Blood) picked up three Redentors (a golden figurine formed from film stock that mirrors the city’s iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer), including the top prize of Best Feature in the Premiere Brazil section, a showcase for new works by homegrown filmmakers. The film, an earthy character-driven meditation on love and art set in the colourful world of a travelling circus, also netted Best Director for Ferreira and Best Supporting Actor for Rômulo Braga.

Announcing the Premiere Brazil awards, Jury president Karim Ainouz commented: “The films awarded were chosen because they all have a strong personality and flirt between strong social commentary and poetic fables about the worl...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Madame Bovary, Dearest, The Keeping Room

Posted on Sunday October 12, 2014, 12:22 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Madame Bovary, Dearest, The Keeping Room

Madame Bovary

Sophia Barthes’ Madame Bovary is a beautiful period adaptation of Gustav Flaubert’s novel that deals with its complicated heroine in a way that is both understanding and honest. The cinematography truly stands out as the star, making this film into a visual delight.

The story follows the new wife of village doctor, Emma Bovary (Mia Wasikowska), who finds herself bored of the limited entertainments of a 19th century French provincial town. Her disappointment in her situation soon drives her to live outside the appropriate rules of society. Wasikowska is allowed in this film to stretch her trademark understated performance, and she embraces both the initial quiet resignation and the later defiant fury that defines the character. Madame Bovary is not an easy character to empathise with, especially in comparison to her caring and well-meaning husband, but Barthes chooses to take away much of the original emphasis on Monsieur Bovary ...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: The Drop, Décor, X+Y

Posted on Sunday October 12, 2014, 11:27 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: The Drop, Décor, X+Y

The Drop

There’s something beautiful about the way that deceased actors can live on in their films. Philip Seymour Hoffman is currently in cinemas with A Most Wanted Man and has two Hunger Games sequels still to come, despite his sudden death this year. In the same vein, James Gandolfini posthumously wowed critics with romance Enough Said and now gives us his swan song with solid noir thriller The Drop.

Gandolfini is Cousin Marv, the owner of a popular Brooklyn drinking hole, staffed by Bob (Tom Hardy) and a regular “drop” for criminal cash handovers. Their business is running swimmingly under the control of some Chechen gangsters, until a suspicious robbery and Bob’s discovery of a stray dog throw several bloodied spanners into the works.

The story comes from a novel by Dennis Lehane, whose work has appeared in cinematic form many times, including Gone Baby Gon...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Men, Women & Children; Mr Turner; The Possibilities Are Endless

Posted on Saturday October 11, 2014, 11:59 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Men, Women & Children; Mr Turner; The Possibilities Are Endless

Jason Reitman brings together an impressive cast in Men, Women & Children, a feature that has ambitious plans to tackle the impact of technology on modern relationships. It's a disappointment then that the film feels muddled in its execution despite the best efforts of the actors.

The film is an ensemble drama, focusing on separate characters' individual plotlines whilst stringing them all together by the association of a single shared town. Bored married couples, tormented teens and worried parents all face the ambiguous qualities of the internet and technology.

The problem first lies with the name of the film, which is itself misleading. The action revolves around a clash of cultures between adults and teenagers, not children, and the younger generation in the film are very much coming to terms with their burgeoning adulthood. Unfortunately, the sheer number of separate stories mean that the most interesting characters get very little screen time. Not only that, ...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: The Goob, Something Must Break

Posted on Friday October 10, 2014, 12:28 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: The Goob, Something Must Break

British social realism comes to a Norfolk field in The Goob, which is the debut feature from Guy Myhill. It’s a film that boasts a lot of atmosphere, but very little in the way of significant plot as it traces a dysfunctional family over one sun-drenched summer.

The presence of Prometheus star Sean Harris looms large over every moment of the film. Harris plays Womack, the aggressive, intolerant boyfriend of Janet (Sienna Guillory). When he isn’t cheating on Janet or masturbating in his truck, Womack can usually be found verbally abusing Goob (Liam Walpole). With one hand permanently resting on his crotch and the other poised for a fistfight, Harris is excellent, helping to imbue the film with the consistently unsettling feeling that we are witnessing the calm before an inevitable, violent storm. Unfortunately, the payoff is little more than a light breeze.

Myhill’s script is like an excitable child. Every time it starts to chisel away t...

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London Film FestivalLondon Film Festival: Timbuktu, White God, Listen Up Philip

Posted on Friday October 10, 2014, 11:53 by Helen O'Hara in London Film Festival
London Film Festival: Timbuktu, White God, Listen Up Philip

Contrary to popular opinion, film festivals are not just an excuse for critics to go out, get merry and make bad decisions. That does happen, of course, and more than we should admit, but the main reason for festivals' existence is to promote new and interesting films from all over the world to eager audiences. So to escape the downpours that are plaguing the big smoke, I hit the cinemas hard.

Timbuktu

First up was Timbuktu, a witty but incredibly brutal film that chronicles a fundamentalist Muslim group that takes over the titular town and the repercussions it has on everyone. With the rise of Isis over the last year, Timbuktu feels like essential viewing. Discussions revolving around interpreting the Qu'ran, Sharia Law and Allah are all punctuated by scenes of both distressing violence or candid normality – football, local gossip and farming practices are all brought to the fore. Fragmented stories become tied together through ingenious camera work and strong imagery....

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