film

  1. Posters: Interstellar: There’s still seven weeks to go until Christopher Nolan’s latest hits cinemas, but these superb posters aren’t helping with that relatively short wait. Fingers crossed this won’t be another Prometheus, and 2014: A Space McConaughey (as everyone should be calling it) will solidify Nolan as one of the greatest directors around.

    Interstellar is set for release on November 7th and stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Topher Grace, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Bill Irwin, Mackenzie Foy and Michael Caine.

  2. Trailer: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One: It’s hard to get too exctied over THG:M-P1 knowing it’s going to suffer from Deathly Hallows syndrome, being cleaved in half to maximise profits and hype, with little narrative satisfaction ‘til 2015’s Part Two. Still, this looks like a pretty solid blockbusting entry to the franchise, especially with the introduction of Julianne Moore’s President Coin, a return for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, a reunion for Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Gale (Liam Hemsworth), and a rather big heel turn from Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

    The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One flies into cinemas on November 21st

  3. Fruitvale Station - the biographical drama covering the last 24 hours of the life of Oscar Grant, an unarmed African-American man who was shot dead by police on New Years Eve at the eponymous station- is hard to discuss without drawing parallels with the recent events in Ferguson. The film was released in UK cinemas this June, and by August of the same year, the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by policeman Darren Wilson had not just become national news highlighting the racism within America’s police force, but global news. What particularly links Oscar Grant’s story with Micheal Brown’s is the response of the public who would not let the truth lie- to date protests in Ferguson against the police and National Guard still continue. Similarly, the film opens with real footage taken of the shooting by members of the public with camera phones, which was then posted on the internet and viewed millions of times, with protests and riots of outraged residents of the Bay area ensuing. This footage is raw and a punch in the gut; out of the poor quality images of suspects sat on the floor with police stood up in front of them the shot fired rings through. It gives blatant truth to the phrase ‘based on a true story’ that filmmakers often play fast and loose with. Director Ryan Coogler said that he eventually chose to include this footage as “Being from the Bay Area, I knew that footage like the back of my hand, but more people from around the world had no idea about this story. It made sense for them to see that footage and see what happened to Oscar, and I think it was a responsibility that we had to put that out there”

    It also clearly juxtaposes the rest of the film; here you have been told that Oscar Grant will be shot, it’s inevitable, it’s even true and it’s already happened. Yet, the middle of the film fills you with a cruel hope that it won’t end that way. As we follow Oscar on December 31st, we see him working towards what supposedly are his new year’s resolutions: to be a better partner, father and son. In the early hours of December 31st, Oscar promises to be a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina and their young daughter Tatiana joins them in bed. He goes to the supermarket where he used to buy food for his Mother’s birthday party that night and pleads with his manager to get his job back. He also meets a customer Kate, and goes out of the way to call his grandma and advise her what fish to buy. He chucks away his stash of weed to turn over a new leaf. He sees a dog get hit by a car and cradles it until it dies, a fantastic foreshadowing of Oscar’s own death. The atmosphere and sense of change in the air is heavily present throughout these scenes as he plans his New Year’s Evening with his family and friends, before the fateful dispute on the train platform.    

    The film does not portray Oscar as a saint, however. There are hints from his girlfriend Sophina that he has cheated on her in the past, which he is trying to make up for. He has also hidden the fact that he has lost his job from his friends and his family. There is a particularly compelling flashback to Oscar’s time in prison with a visit from his Mother, which shows his quick temper. But like all good protagonists, this just gives him a more balanced and realistic character that is expertly played by Michael B. Jordan. The stand-out performance, in my opinion, is that of Octavia Spencer of The Help fame who plays Oscar’s mother Wanda. As the first feature length film from Ryan Coogler, it is deeply moving and well thought out in terms of plot progression and letting the speak for itself.

    Fruitvale Station is deeply empathetic, and I sobbed for the final half hour or so, and many responses on Twitter concerning the film are of a similar nature. I know, the tears of a white girl for a racism and injustice that she doesn’t really understand and will never experience. And this review has been entirely written from a white perspective, which I acknowledge makes me the wrong candidate as a reviewer. Although it is hard to extract this film from recent events in Ferguson, I am aware that it is not my place to give any interpretation of this. But I am a film reviewer and I have to review films, and I can’t shy away from this. This film is blatantly and unapologetically about race and racism, and therefore it is the kind of film that we see made every blue moon. You can call it a ‘human story’ and try and eliminate the issue of race, and say that the way the audience responds to it is based on human empathy, but that is a massive injustice and quite offensive. Outside of the zeitgeist of this film or Ferguson, the fact remains that in the US between 2005 and 2012 a white officer used deadly force against a black person almost two times a week. And much like those facts and Ferguson, a white audience can only ever empathise with this film, whereas a black, specifically an African American, audience can sympathise. But if Fruitvale Station shows anything, it’s the power that film still has to raise issues and awareness, whether that be through telling someone’s story or on the mobile phone video camera of a member of the public.

  4. thefilmstage:

    The first Inherent Vice footage, now in 1080p.

  5. A Most Wanted Man serves as both the third adaptation of a John Le Carre novel in the last decade - after 2005’s The Constant Gardner and 2008’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - and the last completed film of Philip Seymour Hoffman before his death earlier this year, the swan song of probably the greatest actor of his generation. Because of that latter point, one might be tempted to canonise the film as an important work or an instant classic. Unfortunately, the film as a whole doesn’t quite reach the heights of the previous works of its major players, but it is a worthy full stop on the sentence of Hoffman’s career.

    Directed by famed rock band photographer Anton Corbijn  (everyone is familiar with his images of U2 in the Californian desert or Ian Curtis in the Mancunian snow), A Most Wanted Man is a grim, bleak critique on the war on terror, which finds a Muslim immigrant from Chechnya by the name Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) arriving in in Hamburg by less-than-formal means, soon becoming a pawn in a power struggle between intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism units from both sides of the Atlantic. Hoffman plays Gunter Bachmann, an embittered, hardened, untucked-shirt of a man, all greasy hair, stubble and eyes like pissholes in the snow, a spy with past failures hanging around his neck like so many albatrosses. Bachmann and his team (featuring the excellent Nina Hoss and a criminally underused Daniel Bruhl) are on the hunt for Karpov, believing him to be a jihadist and the start of a trail to capturing bigger fish, namely local Muslim philanthropist Dr. Faisal Abdullah who is believed to be funnelling funds to terrorist activities. Sniffing around both these cases are the suspicious German government official Mohr, who wants Issa in custody as soon as possible, and trigger-happy CIA agent Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright), whilst Issa’s lawyer Annabel is pulled between serving her client and obeying the government, and the ever reptilian Willem Dafoe holds the key to Bachmann’s success as a slithery banker.

    The most striking thing about A Most Wanted Man - other than Hoffman’s excellent and restrained performance - is just how beautifully composed its visuals are throughout. Although Corbijn’s insistence on handheld cameras leaves the frame irritatingly shaky, his photographer’s eye is working overtime, capturing the architectural beauty of Hamburg’s high-rises and the noirish shadows of German urban nighttime. Whilst this is clearly Hoffman’s film, and he anchors it much in the way Gary Oldman did in Tinker Tailor, the supporting cast are all rather strong (apart from Wright who seems to just be rehashing her House Of Cards character), although not quite at the astonishing level of those surrounding Oldman, and almost all of zem seem to have zer beste fake German accent at hand. It’s just unfortunate that, despite being in an adaptation of the work of a masterful writer, the cast aren’t afforded a tight script. In fact, the film barely qualifies as a thriller, moving at a pace much more befitting the drama genre, and taking its time even then. Whilst absorbing and gripping, it feels almost as if there’s an ingredient missing; quite what it might be escapes me.

    The equivalent of an eleventh album from a band two decades into their career (basically, the Manics’ Futurology from earlier this year); A Most Wanted Man doesn’t really bring anything really new to the spy game, but it’s an enjoyable, solid offering and a must-see for anyone remotely fond of the work of Hoffman.

  6. Director Adam Wingard has made a name for himself in the world of indie horror over the past number of years with his flicks A Horrible Way to Die, segments in V/H/S and V/H/S 2 and probably his most fully realized work of the lot, last year’s meta slasher You’re Next. The Guest veers away from these more traditional horror genres and tackles the psychological thriller genre. Or at least, that’s if you simply have to put a tag on it; what The Guest actually is, is a bit of everything. Thriller, action, drama, horror, comedy; you name it. The film doesn’t adhere to any particular set of genre rules. Instead Wingard creates his own and the cast and crew happily obey, and the resulting film is something roaringly entertaining.

    The Peterson family are getting over the loss of their son Caleb in Afghanistan and when they get a surprise visit in the form of Caleb’s old army buddy David, the family begins to feel a bit more whole again. The Petersons really know little-to-nothing about this chap, but to them, he’s almost like a replacement son, someone to fill the gap missing in their lives, and so it’s understandable why they are more than happy to have him stay with them. David is eager to help out with the various problems in each of the Petersons’ lives, from doing chores with the mother, Laura (Sheila Kelly), to drinking beer with father Spencer (Leland Orser). He wins over the family’s teenage son Luke (Brendan Meyer) almost too easily by beating up some bullies for him, and from then on, the two are besties. Twenty year old Anna (Maika Monroe) is the hardest family member to impress, but David’s dark and mysterious charm (think Ryan Gosling in Drive) eventually proves too much for her to deny.

    Things seem to be going well for the Petersons having David around, until they aren’t. A series of events provokes Anna to question David’s identity and from here on out, the film takes a deliciously nasty and unexpected turn. None of it would have really worked if it wasn’t for the wickedly charming performance from Dan Stevens, a familiar face only if you’ve watched Downton Abbey. His “I don’t need to try to be charming” attitude works unbelievably well, making him a great choice to lead the film. In the first act or so, there is a real sense of something building. Even in the most seemingly normal of scenes, Wingard’s editing, both sound and video hints at something bigger and badder lurking around the corner. Having these almost Evil Dead-esque angles and jolting score numbers lets us know that Wingard hasn’t left his forte for horror completely out of this flick. And the horror elements become more and more prominent as the film begins to unravel into absolute madness. As you think it’s going right, the film takes a sharp left, and there are a heap of these quick change of directions as things heat up. 

    The Guest feels so old school on the one hand, with the incredibly genius selection of synthy tunes for the soundtrack (mostly stuff you probably wouldn’t heard of unless you’re really know your stuff), knowingly cheesy lines and often trippy use of lights (think Suspiria). But on the other hand, it feels really new school. Not many filmmakers are making these genre-defying indie flicks. It’s not the kind of film that should do particularly great in the box office, but those are generally the films that cult cinema fans end up loving, and maybe it’s too premature to say, but it could well end up being a film that holds up well with movie collectors 20 or 30 years from now.

  7. Trailer: Serena: They seem like lovely, decent people, but Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper must surely be getting sick of the sight of each other by now. Although filmed back in 2012, Serena will be the third film in the space of two years in which the pair have starred together as the leads - American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook being the others - and like those films, this also seems to have both eyes on next year’s award season. The poster is below. Based on Ron Rash’s 2008 novel, Serena seems like the kind of film which could’ve been made at any point in the last sixty years, all rustic depression-era Americana, grand passionate romances and bubbling just-under-the-surface emotions. The synopsis states: 

    The film follows newlyweds George (Cooper) and Serena Pemberton (Lawrence) who travel from Boston to the mountains of North Carolina where they begin to build a timber empire in 1929. Serena soon shows herself to be the equal of any man: overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving a man’s life in the wilderness. Together, this king and queen rule their dominion, killing or vanquishing all who stand in the way of their ambitions. But when Serena learns that she can never bear a child, she sets out to murder the woman who bore George a son before his marriage. And when she starts to suspect that George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage begins to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.

    Yep, puuuure Oscar bait. But the overwrought, all-caps ACTING kind of Oscar bait which can often be hilariously bad. The film’s production company Magnolia hasn’t set a release date, which isn’t a great omen. Serena was initially set to be directed by Darren Aronofsky, who dropped out and was replaced by Susanne Bier, an award-winning Danish director mostly famous for being burned by Lars Von Trier during his infamous Cannes Hitler rant, saying “I don’t have anything against Jews, except Susanne Bier.” 

    Let’s be honest though, after a certain film this summer, Cooper really needs to be louder, angrier, shorter, furrier and have access to a machine gun and spaceship.

  8. Poster: Annie: In what will be the sixth incarnation of the story of little orphan (beginning as a comic strip in 1924, the musical coming in 1977, a children’s musical that same year, the 1982 film, and a 1999 made-for-TV movie), Annie - directed by Easy A's Will Gluck and produced by Jay Z and Will Smith (Willow Smith was originally set to star) - sees probably the biggest change to the classic image of the redheaded young girl with freckles, with the title role going to Oscar-nominated Beasts Of The Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis, and the Daddy Warbucks character becoming Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx. No doubt the casting of black actors in the two central roles has already caused a storm of outrage with some less-than-narrow-minded folks; just wait ‘til they find out the original songs of the musical have been updated by pop star Sia (of “Chandelier” and “Titanium” fame) and superproducer Greg Kurstin, with the pair adding new songs to the soundtrack and Kurstin composing the film’s score.

    It’s almost as if it’ll be a whole new film for a new generation with no effect on the status or quality of any of the previous versions, and by using actors of a different race from those earlier versions it will be representing a different part of society. Horrific, isn’t it?

  9. Poster: Dear White People: Go look at the comments below nearly any article online about Dear White People - the trailer on Youtube in particular -  and you’ll see some shit going down about how apparently racist the film is towards white people. This is swiftly followed by mentions of affirmative action, race-baiting, the race card, political correctness gone mad, etc. It’s kinda sad really that these (almost always white) people complaining about the movie likely won’t watch it and thus won’t really have their eyes opened by what the film has to say about “being a black face in a white place”. The discussion around racial politics and institutionalised racism is more prescient than ever recently, due to the murder of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, MI, and the ensuing unrest and protests in the town; you imagine this might translate to a bigger spotlight being shined on Dear White People. This new official poster can’t hurt that chance. Vulture debuted the one-sheet exclusively and has the story behind it.

    The one-sheet was designed by Nikkolas Smith, a 29-year-old architect with a day job working on theme parks and roller-coasters for Disney Imagineering. By night, though, Smith works on his own art for fun, and after he saw Dear White People earlier this summer at the Los Angeles Film Fest, he felt inspired. “As a young black male who grew up in suburban Houston,” Smith told Vulture, “Dear White People is the movie I wish I had with me at all times to show to every person that threw stereotypes my way.”

    Smith mocked up a poster centered on one of the movie’s four leads, gay nerd Lionel, who has to endure having his hair poked and prodded by curious white people on the daily. “Been there, felt that!” said Smith. “I knew if I could capture that ‘gravitational pull’ moment in one shot, it could be equally hilarious.” Encouraged by his friends, Smith then sent his poster to Dear White People writer-director Justin Simien, who loved it; distributor Roadside Attractions agreed, and the image eventually became the film’s official one-sheet.

    "It’s literally a dream come true," said Smith. "I remember being criticized by judges in architecture school because my entries ‘looked too much like a Disney movie poster.’ Fast-forward five years, and I find myself working as a Disneyland architectural designer and having the opportunity to meet one of my heroes, [movie-poster visionary] Drew Struzan, at work. And a few months later, I created this Dear White People one-sheet! I’m still a bit in shock.”