Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Critical Week: Well well well...

UK critics had a chance to catch up with Russell Crowe's directing debut The Water Diviner this past week. It's a moving true story set in the aftermath of World War I, but its earnestness tries the patience. As does a somewhat gratuitous romantic subplot involving Olga Kurylenko as an impossibly gorgeous Turkish hotelier. The biggest film of the week was Insurgent, which held its world premiere in London before the only press screening on Monday. It's an improvement on the original, with stronger characters, terrific acting and even more impressive visuals.

Critics were also treated to a lively morning screening of the hilarious DreamWorks animated romp Home, and an evening screening of Liam Neeson's latest action movie Run All Night, which was better than expected. Stonehearst Asylum is a nutty mental institute thriller by Brad Anderson with an all-star cast that includes Ben Kingsley, Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess. Listen Up Philip is a funny and awkward comedy about writers starring Jason Schwartzman, Jonathan Pryce and the amazing Elizabeth Moss. Still is a low-budget British film that majors in moody set design and intense characters at the expense of personal involvement. And 3 in a Bed is an even smaller-budget British romance that proves that anyone can make a movie, including amateurs.

We also had some press screenings for the British Film Institute's Flare: London LGBT Film Festival, which kicks off on Thursday night at BFI Southbank. The opening film is I Am Michael, a bracingly open-handed drama starring James Franco and Zachary Quinto that's bound to spark a lot of discussion. And we also watched the director's cut of 54, Mark Christopher's 1998 disco-era drama that was eviscerated by the studio at the time and makes a lot more sense with key narrative elements reinstated. Great performances too from Ryan Philippe, Salma Hayek, Breckin Meyer and Mike Myers, plus a glimpse of a young Mark Ruffalo. I've seen a lot more BFI Flare movies already, and will be covering the festival here as usual.

Over the next week, BFI Flare will take up most of my time, but I also have screenings of Will Ferrell's Get Hard, the true thriller Kidnapping Freddy Heineken and a pair of somewhat self-explanatory docs: Altman, about the filmmaker, and I Am Big Bird, about the Sesame Street performer.

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