Out Now – 20th January 2012

Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

Underworld: Awakening
I’m being strong and resisting making a cheap and obscure Coronation Street reference, you’re welcome. In the fourth of this series of vampire films I’ve never seen, Kate Beckinsale returns in tight black clothing to lead the battle against humankind.

J. Edgar
J. Edgar Hoover may or may not have been a transvestite but somehow I don’t think this Leonardo DiCaprio starring biopic directed by Clint Eastwood will feature him “wearing a fluffy pink dress with flounces and lace, stockings, high heels and a black curly wig” as Susan Rosenstiel claims he did over on Wikipedia. Beyond this odd bit of trivia this film does not interest me, sorry Clint.

W.E.
Possibly called W./E., this film is not making a name for itself by featuring bizarre levels of punctuation in its title, sadly the focus instead is on just how bad the whole ordeal is. Written and directed by Madonna, W.E. is so bad that BBC 2012‘s Danny Leigh said it made him want to set himself on fire. Grab some matches and get yourself down to your local cinema!

The Sitter (limited release)
Jonah Hill plays a suspended college student persuaded to babysit the kids next door. Madness ensues and Jonah Hill undoes all the good work he’s been doing in Allen Gregory.

L’Atalante (limited release)
This 1930’s French romantic drama has a tantalising write-up over at the BFI as they describe it as “funny, heart-rending, erotic, suspenseful, exhilaratingly inventive… Jean Vigo’s only full-length feature satisfies on so many levels, it’s no surprise it’s widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.” They are the only cinema showing the film though, so can they be trusted? Yes, they’re the BFI.

Coriolanus (limited release)
A bold debut by Ralph Fiennes as a director as he tackles one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays about a soldier turned politician turned soldier. A thoroughly modern setting gels well with the ancient text and the film has an interesting blend of modern warfare and Shakespearian speech. I gave it a relatively positive review and the coveted Mild Concern award for Best Use of Jon Snow. Still yet to see this poster on the underground, how odd.

The Nine Muses (limited release)
“Part documentary, part personal essay, this experimental film combines archive imagery with the striking wintry landscapes of Alaska to tell the story of immigrant experience coming into the UK from 1960 onwards.” I’ll be honest, I get nervous whenever I see the term, “part documentary, part personal essay”.

Red Light Revolution (limited release)
Chinese comedy set in Beijing about a man who starts a sexual revolution after opening a sex shop to make ends meet.

X: Night of Vengeance (limited release)
Sticking with the limited release sex films, we have a “sizzling adults-only thriller” about two prostitutes “racing through Sydney’s criminal underworld in an attempt to stay alive”. Expect lots of violence and lots of sex.

BAFTA Nominations and the Great British Debuts

The BAFTA nominations were announced yesterday and showed plenty of love for The Artist, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and, in a pleasant surprise, Drive. With all nominations limited to the technical categories, Harry Potter best give up its hopes of finally getting any major awards. Less frivolous than the Golden Globes and a major stop on the way to the Oscars, the BAFTA nominations are exciting if pretty unsurprising.

Amongst this huge list what I want to focus on are the nominations for the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. In a time when we are looking towards the future of independent British cinema this is an uplifting category to see, especially after the devastation of Felicity Jones not making the shortlist for the Rising Star Award. I still love you Felicity, don’t worry.

Of the five nominees for Outstanding Debut, Attack the Block, Black Pond, Coriolanus, Submarine and Tyrannosaur, I have seen four and three of those made it into my carefully constructed Top 20 Films of 2011. Having five confident debuts from British talent is proof that the UK film industry has a future and that the various funding schemes are working. Looking back at yesterday’s talk of funding for production it’s interesting to see that Film4 helped fund Attack the Block, Submarine and Tyrannosaur, lottery funds went into both Attack the Block and Tyrannosaur, and Black Pond was made for just £25,000.

In my various reviews I’ve described these first-time features as intense, confident, fun, effortless, powerful, brutal and honest. What am I trying to say? Just that I’m incredibly proud of British cinema and continue to be relieved that yesterday’s report didn’t try to mess with a winning formula.

And now for the full list of nominees without comment: Continue reading

The Best is Yet to Come: 2012

As much as we are obliged to look back over the year just gone, we are obliged to look ahead at the year just beginning. It’s always exciting to look at the next twelve months and all the exciting treats that are coming to our screens. Below are my personal picks of the films worth seeing in 2012, and I’m hoping there will be many more besides, a few gems I haven’t even heard of yet. Continue reading

Mild Concern BFI London Film Festival Awards 2011

Hello and welcome to the second annual Mild Concern BFI London Film Festival awards to celebrate and berate various films screened at the 55th BFI London Film Festival. Today I will be sitting in my tuxedo handing out the feted awards, the Raised EyebrowsTM, to any film which grabbed our attention in a positive or, equally likely, negative way.

Best Use of SymbolismWe Need to Talk About Kevin
A favourite to win a few bigger awards this year, even Best of the FestTM, but ultimately a few surprises took the crown. Instead Kevin is recognised for the amount of time poor Tilda Swinton is cleaning red off of her hands, her house and her car. Red is everywhere in Kevin. It’s not subtle but it’s certainly effective.

Best Use of Jon SnowCoriolanus
Jon Snow’s cinematic appearances are few and far between, it has been too long since Zombie Farm, but they are always a treat. Here he plays a newsreader with some classic Shakespearean dialogue. Best bit of the film.

Best Use of Felicity JonesLike Crazy
As the official Mild Concern crush we had to give Felicity Jones a mention. She is at the top of her game in Like Crazy and the film gives her a chance to show her acting chops, and captures her in a gorgeous light throughout. The more I think about the film, the better it seems.

Totally a Play AwardCarnage
Carnage was a hell of a lot of fun but, with four speaking parts and a set consisting of two rooms, hasn’t gained much in transitioning from stage play to motion picture. You’d struggle to find a theatre gathering this stellar cast though so all is forgiven.

Most Improved Performer – George Clooney for The Descendants
At last year’s festival The American was a major low point in my week, it was a dull and pointless film. Thankfully George Clooney took my criticism and returned this year with two films getting rave reviews. The Descendants takes the award for one good reason: it’s the one I saw.

Most Prolific Performer – John C. Reilly for Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Terri
John C. Reilly has the unique distinction of having a major role in three quality films at this year’s festival. In every film he is a less than perfect father figure to a troubled young boy. Don’t be fooled into thinking he is just playing the same role again and again, each time he plays a distinct character proving that Reilly is not a one trick pony.

Struggling to Stay Awake Award (Documentary)Crazy Horse
Visually beautiful and with a few nice insights into a famous Parisian club, Crazy Horse is a documentary with nothing to say but plenty of time to spend not saying it. I checked the time three times during the screening, willing the film to end and trying to keep my eyes open.

Struggling to Stay Awake Award (Feature)Last Screening
With Last Screening my battle to keep my eyes open was lost and became a battle to maintain consciousness. A film about a serial killer shouldn’t be boring, this is completely unacceptable.

Biggest Affront to Germaine GreerTales of the Night
In a series of fairy tales women fail to be anything more than pathetic damsels in distress. With the actors within the film amending some of the stories they fail to acknowledge women as competent human beings and give the female characters any initiative. It’s as if Buffy never happened.

Best Mix of Tears and Titters/Best Comedy50/50
I laughed, I cried (almost) and I found Seth Rogan funny throughout a film for the first time. 50/50 manages to fill a film about cancer with humour without ever belittling the disease. Good work people.

Scared to Walk Home Award/Best DramaMartha Marcy May Marlene
Stealing Kevin‘s award is a harrowing tale of a young girl who has escaped from a modern-day cult. A brilliant debut feature for director Sean Durkin and a stellar introduction to Elizabeth Olsen. You won’t ever want to be left alone again.

Best DocumentaryInto the Abyss
Werner Herzog certainly knows how to put together a documentary. Here he presents the story of a triple homicide without comment, simply allowing the people involved to tell the story from their point of view. Includes a moving scene where a man starts to cry as he tells a story about a squirrel.

Best AnimationAlois Nebel
So far from cartoon animation this gorgeous Czech film is a truly adult feature. The rotoscoped performances and mixture of CGI effects with hand drawn images make for a real work of art. Still not sure what was going on though.

Best Short FilmThe Monster of Nix
In a similar vein the best short film mixes live-action, computer animation and hand-painted background to make a gorgeous short film which could easily be extended to a full feature. If you’re listening Rosto, we want an extra hour please.

Best of the FestThe Artist
With so many heavy films the best thing we saw all festival was a French silent film set in Hollywood as the talkies began. Invigorating my love for cinema and hopes for its future The Artist is so much fun you can’t help but fall in love with it. It also has a release date now, get ready to smile on 30th December 2011.

A Note For Film-makers:
To collect your award simply send us an email with the address you’d like it sending to and we’ll post it on as soon as we cobble something together. And in case you’re wondering how to incorporate the award into your marketing campaign, here’s an example using Coriolanus:

If you missed any of our reviews, all films covered can be found by clicking on the appropriate thumbnail below:

Coriolanus – LFF Review

I lack any of the skills needed to write a satisfactory synopsis for Coriolanus, one of Shakespeare’s more complex plays so instead I point you towards Wikipedia to set the scene fully. Ralph Fiennes directs himself as Roman general Caius Martius, at first celebrated for fighting off rival forces from the Volscian army but later banished from Rome due to complicated political plotting. To take revenge on the city that betrayed him Martius joins the Volscian army, turning against his family and joining forces with his blood enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Coriolanus being one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, things don’t end well.

Fiennes and writer John Logan have brought Coriolanus into the modern-day, not through the dialogue but certainly in the setting; now a war-torn contemporary city filled with gunfire and explosions. The start of the film is incredibly intense, filled with loud gun fights, Shakespearean shouting and plenty of blood. This is all a bit much before 10am on a Sunday morning and it’s a relief once this all dies down when we can get back to studied dialogue and acting we Brits do so well.

That’s not to say that the Shakespearean shouting is all done. Ralph Fiennes seems unable to rein himself in as he spits his way through every monologue, trying to reach the back row of the upper circle but instead coming on a little strong considering he is in close-up rather than on stage. The rest of the cast, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain, give much more understated and cinema friendly performances. As a director Fiennes is restrained; keeping the camera moving but allows room for the actors to strut their stuff.

The highlight of the film is the appearance of Jon Snow as a newsreader, surprisingly comfortable with Shakespeare’s dialogue and a big help in grounding the film in our reality. Gerard Butler also impressed with his best work to date.

Coriolanus is a fine modern adaptation of nobody’s favourite play, suffering a little from overacting and a slightly saggy plot.

Coriolanus is in UK cinemas on 20th January 2012.