Tuesday, 30 September 2014
A little further afield, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are terrific as a long-time couple whose life takes a turn in the New York drama Love Is Strange; New Zealand comics Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi are hilarious in the reality-TV style vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows; and the American indie comedy-drama Believe Me takes a knowing jab at organised religion.
I also had several screenings as part of the run-up to the London Film Festival (which begins on 8th October): The Keeping Room is an American Civil War horror drama starring Brit Marling and Hailee Stainfeld; Queen & Country is John Boorman's post-war comedy-drama; The Duke of Burgundy is Peter Strickland's astounding exploration of a relationship; the drug-running thriller El Nino is Luis Tosar and Daniel Monzon's followup to Cell 211; A Girl at My Door is a cleverly unnerving Korean drama; and Bjork: Biophilia Live (codirected by Strickland) is a film of the last night in the Icelandic musician's concert tour.
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
As for regular screenings, we were shown two big films just days before they opened in Britain: Magic in the Moonlight is a warm and funny rom-com from Woody Allen with Colin Firth and Emma Stone, while The Giver is yet another teen dystopia thriller with a potent cast including Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep and Brenton Thwaites. Kevin Costner is terrific in Draft Day, an NFL variation on Moneyball that's likely to struggle to find an audience outside America. The Babadook is a fiercely clever horror film from Australia, layering the terror with deeper meaning. Not Cool is a silly comedy that has a bit of unexpected substance. And there were two dreamy and ultimately rather cold freak-outs: The Scribbler dips into mental illness, while You and the Night touches on sex-obsession.
Press screenings are also underway for the 58th BFI London Film Festival (which runs 8-19 October). I've caught up with a few, including Jason Reitman's Men, Women and Children, Christophe Honore's Metamorphoses, the period Maori action movie The Dead Lands and a new documentary about Hockney. Comments will come during the festival.
Saturday, 20 September 2014
There's a new cast member this year, offering some new performances, although Second Coming is still less jaw-dropping than Briefs' first show in 2012, which focussed much more on circus-style physicality than music and comedy. With sassy vaudeville linking performances from fabulously snappy host Fez Faanana, the show kicks off with a stunning aerial routine by the surreally bendy Tom Flanagan and never lets up. Each routine merges into the next, with each guy showing off his own talents while stripping down to a g-string. Or a jaunty themed sock.
Along with the more athletic performances, the androgynous Dallas Dellaforce offers a series of performance pieces that challenge ideas of gender, while the team's 20-year-old youngster does some impressive hat-juggling, yoyo-twirling and Rubik's Cube-solving. Other highlights include the evil monkey-boy's staggering on-point ballet mayhem. And the headliner Mark Winmill offers the two most unforgettable routines: as a trashy, bikini-clad dog owner (brace yourself for the punchline) and then delivering an outrageous climactic trapeze routine, which involves a gigantic martini glass (sit in the front row at your peril).
The pacing of Second Coming isn't quite as full-on as the first show, with perhaps a few too many comedy/dance routines string together between the bigger show-stoppers. As a result, a couple of the bits feel like filler. But the sheer physical skill, flashy invention and anarchic refusal to take anything seriously make it utterly unmissable. I know I'll be back next year for whatever they come up with.
Briefs: The Second Coming runs 28 August - 28 September 2014 at London Wonderground on the Southbank.
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
It was a busy week, as I got back up to speed after five days off. Big movies included Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua's slick but formulaic The Equalizer, loosely based on the 1980s TV series; the rather off-putting British posh-university drama The Riot Club, which has a terrific rising-star cast including Sam Claflin, Max Irons and Douglas Booth; and Claflin in rom-com mode opposite Lily Collins in Love, Rosie.
There were also two foreign films: the Brazilian drama The Way He Looks, which won the Teddy at Berlin, is an utterly charming coming-of-age movie expanded from the award-winning short I Don't Want to Go Back Alone; and Human Capital is a strikingly bold Italian film that kind of bungles its central theme but thrills with its twisty plot. And there were four docs: Filmed in Supermarionation is the lively and witty story of Gerry Anderson (best known for Thunderbirds); Born to Fly features the goosebump-inducing work of Elizabeth Streb's acrobatic dance/circus group; I'm a Porn Star gets up close and very personal in the gay adult-movie business; and Dick: The Documentary is pretty much what it says on the tin: a group of men photographed from the neck down as they talk about their, ahem, masculinity.
Tuesday, 9 September 2014
London critics were also treated to screenings of the energetic and rather wonderful animated adventure The Boxtrolls; the well-acted and involving American ensemble drama About Alex, which is clearly channelling The Big Chill; Agyness Deyn in the artful and somewhat indulgent British drama Electricity; and the strikingly moving Venezuelan drama My Straight Son, which tackles almost too many huge issues but remains personal and resonant.
In the coming week, we'll be watching Denzel Washington in the Equalizer remake, Julianne Moore in David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars, Sam Claflin in Love Rosie, the award-winning Brazilian drama The Way He Looks, Eric Cantona's erotic romp You and the Night, the Italian drama Human Capital, the Gerry Anderson documentary Filmed in Supermarionation, and the acrobatic doc Born to Fly.
Saturday, 6 September 2014
Anyway, the big film the week before I left was If I Stay, screened very late to UK critics in the week of release. It's had fairly lacklustre reviews, but I thought it was a lot more realistic and involving than the summer's other teenage tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. It's also just as manipulative emotionally and aimed almost exclusively at prepubescent girls. Leads Chloe Grace Moretz (above) and Jamie Blackley are both terrific.
Also before escaping from Britain, I caught up with Grand Piano, an intriguing, nicely shot and edited mystery-thriller with Elijah Wood; Jackhammer, a relentlessly idiotic male-stripper comedy featuring "where is he now" actor Jamie Kennedy; Luna, Dave McKean's mesmerisingly beautiful and utterly impenetrable British exploration of relationships and emotions; the meandering ensemble drama Turtle Hill, Brooklyn, which feels a bit stagey but has some strong characters; the four-part anthology Eroddity(s), which borders on soft porn but also touches on resonant themes and is actually rather sexy; and the essential documentary Two: The Story of Roman & Nyro, about an utterly normal loving family that breaks all the rules of what we call "normal".
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
The biggest film we saw this week was Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, screened to the press just a couple of days before it opened. It's evoking the same polarised responses as the first film. After nine years the technology might not seem as fresh, but the addition of 3D and a more darkly emotion-based story help. The best film of the week, easily, was the Dardenne brothers' Two Days One Night, starring Marion Cotillard as a woman put into a seriously difficult position. There was also the British mock-doc United We Fall, about a fictional Manchester United squad, although without real players or football footage it's tricky to imagine who the audience will be.
Finally, I caught up with two more FrightFest films, both British horror movies. The Mirror is a lively found-footage thriller about a haunted mirror, while Xmoor is a grisly freakout set over one fateful night on Exmoor. Full reviews of these and a few other FrightFest films can be found HERE.