Hot Docs 2015: Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Cinema Axis

Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck tells the story of a musician who, early on in his career, was hailed as the voice of a generation and struggled to cope with such a weighty designation. Utilizing a mixture of homemade movies, animation, archival footage and current day interviews, the film provides a vivid and intimate portrait of Kurt Cobain’s turbulent life.

Director Brett Morgen begins his examination by interviewing Cobain’s parents. They detail how their divorce had a profound impact on Cobain, who was only 9 years old at the time. The first true glimpse into the troubled side of the young artist comes from journal excerpts outlining his first real suicide attempt in high school. Through the use of animation, which the film frequently employs to visualize key events, Morgen is able to recreate a stirring image of Cobain calmly sitting on railway tracks in the dark of night as…

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The Homesman (France-US 2014)

The Case for Global Film

Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank on the trail (the three women are sleeping under the blankets). Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank on the trail (the three women are sleeping under the blankets).

I missed this on release so I was pleased to catch a showing by my local film club in Keighley’s Picture House. I love Westerns and this is a good one. It is another of the current crop of ‘international’ productions and it did seem odd to see ‘Luc Besson’ in the credits as producer for his Europa company. The French connection helped the film to get a place in the Cannes Palme d’Or line-up in 2014 but it doesn’t seem to have gone down too well in the US. This is a surprise since Tommy Lee Jones is a major figure in American cinema and his previous (modern) Western directorial credit for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) was very well received.

The Homesman has a good pedigree, being an adaptation…

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UK film distribution

The Case for Global Film

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A friend has just drawn my attention to a circular from the Sheffield Showroom to its customers. It includes the following:

Force Majeure is a new and award-winning Swedish film being released in the UK this weekend (10th April).  It was our intention to show this film on its release date however we have been recently informed that Curzon Film World, the film’s distributor, will not accept our booking and that from now on Curzon will not allow us to show their films on release date.

Showing the best British, independent, European and foreign language films has been our long-standing programming offer to you and we know from your feedback that you have appreciated our commitment to bring these films to you.

Whilst we recognize that Curzon, as a private company, can operate however it wishes, it receives substantial amounts of public funding to help support the release of its…

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Star Wars: Too excited for words…

Years of anticipation and longing; decades of feeling bereft, of wondering what has happened to our loved ones whilst we’ve been gone. When will we see them again, if ever? Have they aged? Have they been upgraded? Will we recognise them…? Years of no news. And then, from the darkness and silence, at last a sign; a message and hope and light and love are restored to our cracked hearts… WE ARE GOING HOME.

Interstellar and the new Star Wars trailer get the mash-up treatment (but, Matthew, we know how you feel…)

POSTED BY DIXIE TURNER

New Releases: 20th April

THE HOBBIT PT.3:

I mean, look, if you’re still here after two interminable outings of CGI-heavy dwarvish shenanigans, then power to you. The Hobbit trilogy has been this generation’s Star Wars prequels – the childish, over-animated money-grab after a profound and moving series of lovingly made films. Or, alternately, time to pay up the dodgy-looking lady of the night who last night you and your drunk friends thought it’d be a fantastic idea to hire and take back to yours (“You’re getting married, Dave, this is your last chance!”). First off, SPOILERS, the poster is unbelievably misleading, and once you see this film you will know why. It basically represents about the first 10 minutes. I’ll leave it there. After a series of 3-plus-hour movies, it’s amazing just how painfully long and bloated this one feels, despite clocking it as the shortest of all six. But hey, if you’re Peter Jackson (and if you are Peter Jackson, you have some damn explaining to do), then these movies achieved exactly what you wanted…which is totally not money. Nope, no money-grabbing here, folks. Having said all of this, Video City have forked out actual money for this one, so we’d really appreciate if you could all rent it from us again and again in a merry fit of Tolkienian whimsy. Ignore everything I’ve just said (sage advice in general, that). Thank you.

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BIG EYES:

Tim Burton takes a welcome break from being Tim Burton with Big Eyes, one of the more mature films he’s made in recent years. Christoph Waltz continues his streak as everyone’s favourite panto villain, playing the real-life swine who passed off his wife’s paintings as his own and sold them as such for years. Amy Adams can do no wrong in my eyes, and here she is at the top of her game, bringing sincerity and soul to a slightly underwritten part. The film functions as marriage drama, fascinating true story and visual feast of the sort Tim Burton has made it his career to deliver. It’s nice to see him dispense with Johnny Depp and cartoonish subjects and deliver a more adult character study, and for that alone this one is definitely worth a watch.

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INDIAN SUMMERS:

Ah, remember the halcyon days when the good old British owned that lovely little property called India (sea-facing, bit of a fixer-upper, a lot of other tenants, but don’t mind them)? Well, Channel 4 remembers, and from those days of yore comes this story of British socialites in a town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas during the time of the Raj, and the summers (as you might have guessed) that they spend there. Some fine UK acting talent is on show here, both names we already know and love like Julie Walters, and some that no doubt will come to dominate the period fair that is enjoying such a renaissance on British TV at this moment. There’s plenty of solidly-played costume drama on show here and if you’re a Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs type of person then by all means, dive right in.

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MR. SELFRIDGE SEASON 3:

Jeremy Piven does Jeremy Piven once more in the third season of this admittedly pretty popular series. It feels somewhat redundant typing this, because the only people I imagine who will be excited by the prospect of a third outing to the world of Mr. Selfridge will be those of you who have enjoyed the first two such outings. And I shall instead conserve my energy and make myself a sandwich. That’s not really relevant to you, dear reader, is it now? But yet you’ve read this far, and I applaud that. In case you’re wondering, and if you’re still reading I can only assume I have your rapt attention, I’m currently debating between smoked salmon and cream cheese or some nice corned beef and mustard. Please send your letters of advice to my offices at 1 Dunghill Mansions, Putney, SW13 1QP.

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POSTED BY DAVE

What’s Everyone Watching? Our Current 5 Most Popular Rentals (And Their Alternatives)

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INTERSTELLAR

See? This movie is why I never did high school physics. Because there’s nothing books can teach you that movies cannot. Matthew McConaughey saves the world and gives us all good excuses for why we’re late arriving to work (“Um, the gravity on the tube was like, super heavy, and so I was really quick but, like, for me it seemed like 5 minutes but for you it was like 3 hours. Theory of relativity, innit.”)

If you liked this then how about: SUNSHINE (2007)

From Britain’s favourite turner-down-of-knighthoods Danny Boyle, this underrated space adventure features a team of astronauts trying to, you guessed it, save the world. While the second half of this film trails off dramatically, it’s still worth a watch for its intelligent, emotional plot and characters.

Cliff Curtis realises that whoa, that sun is hot bro.

***

2014, THE IMITATION GAMETHE IMITATION GAME

The patrons of Video City have spoken, munching their Chinese take-away with a tear in the eye as Benedict Cumberbatch frowns his way to an Oscar nomination. He still trails co-star Keira Knightley by 2 nominations to 1 though, proving once and for all that the pout is mightier than the frown. Who knew? I for one look forward to him evening things up in the upcoming George Osborne: The Musical.

If you liked this then how about: ENIGMA (2001)

Kate Winslet asks co-star Dougray Scott about her Oscar chances. He says he prefers Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge.

A very different film about the same struggle to crack the German code that eventually just about won the war (don’t mention it), Enigma is part historical drama part noirish romance-thriller. A major flaw is that Turing isn’t even mentioned, but it’s still a solid, slow-burning spy drama worth a watch.

***

leviathan.hero_-960x480LEVIATHAN

It’s very pleasing to me to see this film going out so frequently. As if it weren’t remarkable enough just by virtue of being made in Putin’s Russia with its powerful anti-totalitarian message, it’s actually just remarkably good. Russian-American tensions probably contributed to its loss at the Oscars, but history will remember this as a great work of cinema.

If you liked this then how about: WINTER SLEEP (2014)

‘Did I leave the gas on?’ wonders protagonist Aydin.

These two films dominated the Cannes Film Festival last year, and critics were divided as to which should win the top award. In the end Winter Sleep won out. One of the decade’s great films so far, this 3-hour character study is compelling, tragic and achingly real. Like Leviathan, it is a story about power, people and relationships, set against harsh rural landscapes.

***

THE DROP

I’ll admit that there was a moment watching this one, when Tom Hardy finds the abandoned puppy at the beginning, that I emitted a barely audible “oy vey”. But this is more than just a tough guy with a heart of gold (although,, dammit, Tom Hardy you do have a heart of gold!). This brooding character drama with a compelling layer of New York wiseguy shtick is like its puppy, finding its floppy-eared way into the hard hearts of Video City’s finest.

If you liked this then how about: SLEEPERS (1996)

Brad Pitt and Jason Patric chat about how bizarre it will be to audiences in 2015 that Patric was the more famous of the two at the time.

Based on Lorenzo Carcaterra’s controversial novel, this is a tale of friendship, revenge and a perplexing lack of Oscar nominations. This is, like The Drop, a story about past actions and their consequences. It’s refusal to be a simple revenge tale is what sets it apart; every action has a consequence.

***

PADDINGTON

This delightful blend of cuddly kiddie entertainment and Theresa-May’s-worst-immigration-related-nightmare has definitely bridged the child-parent divide and once again brought peace in the ongoing conflict that is Family Movie Night. That it also makes me wish I had Ben Whishaw on call to tuck me in with his melodious voice every night is neither here nor there.

If you liked this then how about: MOUSEHUNT (1997)

Lee Evans has a philosophical moment. Are we not all as mice in the cheesy mousetrap of cosmic existence?

Nathan Lane’s entire career seems to have been in underrated 90s comedies when you think about it. Here, he and Britain’s sweatiest man, Lee Evans, play two incompetent and clumsy men who inherit an old house from their father. They go to war with the resident rodent who has no intention of leaving. Parents and kids, the war is over. We have settled the dispute. Take this damn movie.

posted by Dave

Poster (and Film) of the Day: WE ARE THE BEST! (2013)

vi_ar_bast_ver3Eye-popping in the punk tradition – Lukas Moodysson’s latest film is a brilliant portrayal – and vindication – of the young outsider: different; outcast; confused, but strong, bold and rockin’ with mates (the best!).

we-are-the-bestHonest, unsentimental and defiant (just like its protagonists), We are the Best is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Coco Moodysson (the director’s wife) and focuses on the friendship of three misfit girls in the early 80s, on the cusp of their teens, as they attempt to form a punk band – and do it, in a good ol’,  banged out way. One of the things that makes this film so refreshing – apart from the protagonists being girls – is the lack of self-doubt, introspection or depression that is generally a prerequisite of outsider-teen flicks (especially when they are female). Instead, it’s pretty much full-steam-ahead confidence and its requisite cohort, the brazen attitude. Go, girls, GO!

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Interview with Coco Moodysson about the adaptation of her graphic novel

Great interview with director Lukas Moodysson on his inner teenager, for Pitchfork

Lukas’s tumblr – he seems quite into cameras and Rhianna.

From Coco Moodyssoon's orginal graphic novel, Never Goodnight (2008)

From Coco Moodyssoon’s orginal graphic novel, Never Goodnight (2008)

Coco in a photobooth in Stockholm, 1982

Coco in a photobooth in Stockholm, 1982

posted by dixie turner

New Releases: 13th April 2015

BLACK SEA:

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Nothing much particularly deep or intellectual happens in this one, that’s for sure, but Kevin Macdonald manages to craft a taut, suspenseful thriller (and probably resurrect his flagging career) thanks to a compelling turn from a grizzled and yet somehow still ruggedly sexy Jude Law. A supporting cast of underrated character actors like Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley and Ben Mendelsohn ratchets up the tension in this tale of submariners chasing Nazi loot in the titular body of water. I was on a submarine once, and I was about as claustrophobic as this film made me feel (and I didn’t even have the gorgeous Jude for company), so I’d certainly recommend it from experience if you’re a scrawny asthmatic who likes to watch big tough guys be big and tough (talkin’ about yours truly, ladies) or, um, if…you know, you like good movies and such.

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WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS:

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Probably my favourite comedy of last year. Do with that what you will. As long as what you do with this wonderful wonderful movie is take it out right now. Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi, New Zealand’s most underrated and versatile filmmaker (Boy, Eagle vs. Shark) team up for this mockumentary about a group of vampires house-sharing in downtown Wellington. They have to deal with the difficulties of adjusting to modern life and the addition of a new vampire to their number, not to mention annoying werewolves (not swearwolves! (you’ll get that when you’ve watched the movie (which will be soon (because you’re going to go get it after you read this (so many brackets!)))). Seriously intelligent and painfully funny, this movie is everything comedy should be. If you like either mockumentaries in general or that brand of very typically dark Kiwi or Aussie comedy then rush to grab this.  Actually, if you like happiness and joy and peace in the Middle East and smiles on the faces of children, you should enjoy this too. Basically, if you breathe air, you should find this hilarious. Thank me later.

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STILL LIFE:

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Since I saw Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky some 6 or 7 years ago, I have an eye on Eddie Marsan and determinedly watched everything he’s in. I happen to absolutely hate Happy-Go-Lucky, but Marsan was absolutely robbed of an Oscar nomination for his unbearably painful turn as a driving instructor turning his rage at himself on the world. He is easily one of Britain’s most versatile working actors (I direct you to his role as monstrous abusive husband in Tyrannosaur and adorably meek and timid man-child in The World’s End) and continues his rich vein of form here. He plays a man whose job it is to seek out the next of kin for people that die alone. He takes his job very seriously and when one of his neighbours goes he searches out a long-lost daughter, with whom he makes a beautiful connection. A patient and poignant British indie that deserves your time.

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NEXT TIME I’LL AIM FOR THE HEART:

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Shades of David Fincher and Denis Villeneuve abound in this French thriller starring French Patrick Dempsey-lookalike and luckiest man in the world Guillaume Canet (his long-term partner is Marion Cotillard). The Fincher comparison is especially apt, and seems to have been what the filmmakers were going for. They mostly succeed, with the one small hiccough that there is only one David Fincher and he is terminally un-French. There are some bravura set-pieces here and Canet is, as we might expect by now, excellent, as a cop that, when not doing his day job as a cop, is a serial killer. The 1970s setting provides a stylish backdrop to a serious-minded (occasionally too serious-minded) thriller. If this film were American, I might call it underrated, but being French it should more than get its due and though it drags a bit in places, is a nice meaty bit of serial fun.

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NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3:

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The Night at the Museum films have never been anyone’s idea of a classic trilogy. But they’re fun, and I imagine that if I were my inquisitive 10-year-old self, there would be plenty in here that would pique my curiosity and get me into books and learning about obscure bits of history, and for that I salute Mr. Stiller and co. If that’s your attitude and if you forget that this is the last time we’ll ever get to see either Robin Williams or Mickey Rooney (to both of whom the film is dedicated) and if you think it’s totally awesome they filmed at our very own British Museum, there should be plenty here for you to enjoy (it’s unlikely you’ve kidded yourself into expecting too much from any film starring Ricky Gervais in any case). Parents, under Section C of the DVD Renters’ Constitution, which I just made up, Video City cannot be held responsible for any injuries suffered due to unholy amount of times you will no doubt be forced to watch this film.

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DUMB AND DUMBER TO:

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Another did-the-world-need-this sequel, let’s just be happy that about one-third of this movie is actually funny, because it could have been worse. I know that one doesn’t necessarily want to say ‘This could have been worse’ as the best thing about a movie but, hey, when it comes to Jim Carrey I take what I can get. It’s great to see Jim Carrey having fun with a role again and, frankly, after The Newsroom, it’s great to see Jeff Daniels having a little less fun with a role. Both get some nice set-pieces and funny jokes are said which are funny and situations are funny and things are funny and funny people do funny things andddddddddd- Oh, I’m sorry, fell asleep at the keyboard again! Look, if you were a fan of the first film, this is worth it for the memories and a few oldies-but-goodies that showcase the fact that these two aging players still have a wonderful bond…James Bond.

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THE SIGNAL:

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In 2011, William Eubank burst onto the indie scene with an underseen science fiction low-budgeter called Love (which we, at Video City, stock because, naturally, we care about you. No, not you Barry, get outta here! Go on, go! I told you never to call this number again, that was one night and I was drunk!). While Love was remarkable for having being made in his front yard for little money and yet somehow being totally convincing as a story of an astronaut in space, The Signal is more about Eubank stretching his talent as a storyteller. We are given little to go on besides three young MIT students who black out and wake up in a secure facility and have to figure out just what it is they’ve uncovered in the desert. To say any more would be to give too much away, sufficed to say that there is enough in here to entertain most SF nuts. Although this isn’t quite Coherence or Another Earth level stuff, there is hope to be had for Eubank as a young American director with a voice of his own.

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THE PYRAMID:

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Idea for a horror movie: An unsuspecting group of kids go to rent a film in their local DVD shop. “Look guys, over here!” calls one as he blows the dust from the cover of an aged DVD box. On it is written The Pyramid. They rent the movie, blithely ignoring the sage advice of the wisened employees of Video City, who turn to one another and cackle, counting their 3 pounds as the kids leave. At home the kids presumably joke about how horror movies are so lame and they just want something really scary…They put the film into the DVD player. It unfolds before their eyes and, shock(!) and horror(!) it’s… a total bloody waste of time. This film tells us how some things are never meant to be uncovered. Listen to that advice. This film is one of those things. Leave it alone or you will suffer (plus-minus 90 minutes of) endless torment!

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KON-TIKI:

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Well I guess one of the good things to say about Kon-Tiki, the true story of Thor Heyerdal’s 1947 raft expedition (the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary in 1952), is that it will make you really sad the directors have been co-opted by Hollywood to make the fifth instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean. You’ll be sad because there is a lot to like about this old-school adventure flick that grips throughout with its true-life drama. The idea behind the famous expedition was to prove that South Americans could have settled the Polynesian island in pre-Columbian times by travelling to them using only the methods that would have been available to those non-European peoples. Quite apart from all that history and such is a fascinating story of personal determination and pride that will keep you entertained throughout.

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SEX AFTER KIDS:

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The title kind of says all you need to know about this sincere attempt at edgy ensemble humour. Sex After Kids is Canada’s answer to a kind of French sex comedy meets Judd Apatow’s This is 40. A bunch of young parents try their best to keep up their sex lives through tiredness, lack of interest and, most of all, chronic having-of-kids. The main issue here is that there are just too many characters. Which attractive young people am I supposed to focus on dammit?! There’s only so much time I can spend away from my mirror (that’s where the most attractive young person is, am I right…Bloody hell, I gotta get out more). Anyway, this is easy-going stuff that should mush up your brain just enough to get you through those weeknights when you’re not having sex because presumably you have kids.

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posted by Dave

 

Poster of the Day: Jour de Fête (1949)

Jacques+Tati+4Jour de Fête (1949) – dir. Jacques Tati.

Originally shot in both black and white and colour, Jour de Fête was only released in its black and white version, with some occasional splashes of colour which were applied by hand directly to the frames. Audience goers at the time had to be satisfied with those few frames until the film’s colour version was restored in 1995 (now both versions are available on DVD/Blu Ray). Eye-popping colour, however, was always present in the film’s posters, as seen here.

BFI article on the Thomsoncolor/black and white versions.

jour-de-fete-1949-013-poster-02Jour de Fête follows Tati’s postman who, upon watching a US newsreel showing the efficient transport methods of the Us postal service, attempts – with hilarious results – to modernise his bicycle delivery service. A somewhat less cynical accompaniment to Chaplin’s Modern Times perhaps, in which the innovations of modernity for increased productivity are thrust upon the worker from without – and certainly with considerably less wine consumed. However, the results – hilarious or otherwise – are not dissimilar and a critique of the mechanisation of industry and its effects on the individual can be seen here also in the ridiculous effects these processes have. As human becomes more like machine, as Tati’s postman attempts to deliver a greater volume in a shorter time, as the wheels of his bicycle spin faster and faster, we are on the road to comedy-gold disaster.

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posted by Dixie

The Art of the Good Superhero Sequel

avengerThe Avengers: Age of Ultron is finally released later this month, 3 years and four superhero movies after the first installment. Of those four movies, three were sequels and I would contend every one was better than that series’s previous entry. And so, I thought I’d celebrate those times that superhero part-twos have actually added to or even improved on the original films and take a look at just how they did so. As someone who was underwhelmed with the first Avengers (the $1.5 billion gross suggests I am in the minority), I nevertheless have high hopes for the next impending chapter.

The Dark Knight:

Batman-the-dark-knight-7358620-1600-1200Where else to start? The superhero sequel par excellence, there aren’t many out there that would disagree with The Dark Knight‘s reputation as the greatest superhero movie of them all. Bigger, longer, darker and more emotional than Batman Begins, this is a film of stunning ambition and genuine weight. I think everyone is familiar with Heath Ledger’s unforgettable work as The Joker (and the consequences on his personal life the role had) but the film is equally remarkable for the incredible stunt work (almost all of which was practical rather than CG) and Aaron Eckhart’s criminally underrated turn as Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent, the emotional core of the film. This was the first time a superhero film truly dared to be more than that label was supposed to allow, and the result is a film that resembles Heat with its cat-and-mouse dynamic more closely than it resembles what we had come to expect of Batman. The gleaming nighttime Chicago cityscape  also provides us with a Gotham City that we had never seen before – and made it feel more real than ever. Complex emotional developments, dark and shocking plot turns, TWO truly terrifying villains, a downbeat ending and jaw-dropping stunt work make this the benchmark for every way in which a superhero sequel might transcend its origins and become great.

Spiderman 2:

spider-man_22It’s funny how, looking back on them, after Spiderman-fatigue at the hands of Marc Webb (heehee) and Andrew Garfield, Sam Raimi’s films, which seemed so new and edgy when they came out, seem so dated. This is not a bad thing. We’re so used to broody superhero darkness these days that these films are so refreshingly fun and innocent. The other great thing about Raimi’s vision of Spidey is that people forget (mostly due to Spiderman’s absence from the Marvel films for rights issues – though that is soon to change), that this is Marvel Comics’ flagship hero! Peter Parker is the Clark Kent of Marvel, the guy that we most relate to as an everyman, that speaks to us about how with great power comes great responsibility. And this film does the most to capture that. We find Pete tired of being Spiderman. He wants to live a normal life and be with Mary Jane, and so he abandons his responsibilities as a hero. The film’s strength is that it offers us so many different strands of conflict that, unlike Spiderman 3 (possibly the worst film in the history of cinema), are blended together seamlessly. Peter must decide between a normal life and being a hero when he cannot have Mary Jane both ways. His friendship with Harry Osborne is threatened as he carries the secret of having killed Harry’s father, The Green Goblin. And Dr. Octopus, the deliciously insane villain, faces his own struggle against the bionic arms taking control of his brain as he comes to terms with his own guilt and role in his wife’s death.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

captain-america-le-soldat-de-l-hiver-captain-america-the-winter-soldier-picture-movie-2014-wallpaper-02Here we have one of those films that just had no right to be as good as it is. Captain America: The First Avenger is the sort of film that, while there’s nothing really wrong with it, just doesn’t do anything for you if you aren’t American, really. It’s a bit too middle-of-the-road to ever really excite and, like most of Marvel’s Phase One films, seems designed to set up sequels more than to actually tell a story. And so in the minds of many (yours truly included), the phrase ‘Let’s go see Captain America 2′ is not one that elicited much excited. But thank the film gods that surprises like this can still jump off a screen at you. This is more 70s political thriller than superhero film. Managing to continue the story of the first film in a way that is emotionally resonant and totally unexpected while still staging breathtaking action scenes (and finding time to give us a very sinister Robert Redford as the film’s main supporting part), Winter Soldier somehow takes a character as unbelievable as Captain America and makes us genuinely care for him. We also feel the difficulty he has in adjusting to a new life in 21st century America, having slept through most of the 20th, a situation that produces equal parts hilarity and pathos. Arguably the best film Marvel has yet released (barring maybe the first Iron Man), this is probably the most essential pre-Avengers: Age of Ultron viewing, as the plot twists here confidently dismantle everything Marvel has built for us and raise the stakes in a completely thrilling and uncontrived way.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

hellboy_2_4 Hellboy-II-hellboy-ii-the-golden-army-3961756-1920-1080It speaks volumes for the genius that is Guillermo del Toro that he followed up his Oscar-winning 2006 masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth with this pulpy sequel. And even greater volumes that it feels every bit as personal and fully realized as his fantasy gem. While the first Hellboy introduced a very unconventional hero (how many Nazi-summoned demon private-eye’s are the on our screens?) and was simple, pulpy fun, this second film is better in every way. Written as an original story rather than adapted from an existing comic, del Toro crafts a visually sumptuous work that is bursting with unforgettable images and ideas – from the subterranean troll market to the sightless Angel of Death to a towering elemental that terrorizes New York in a battle that manages to be exhilarating, funny and heartbreaking at the same time. Del Toro’s strength, apart from his unparalleled ability as a visual storyteller, is his refusal to compromise character development to facilitate action. The villains here are all motivated by real issues, and the audience must sympathize with and understand them, making this more than simple good-versus-evil. Hellboy himself, having chosen to ally himself to humanity in the first film, now realizes that perhaps people really are too narrow-minded to ever accept him and his kind, setting up a complex dilemma which the film negotiates movingly and effortlessly.

The Matrix Reloaded

the-matrix-reloaded-6_177975-1280x800Okay, so it’s not a superhero film. And okay, it’s not better than the first film. But dammit I will never let a chance to talk up The Matrix Reloaded pass me by. The thing that people misunderstand about this film is that it’s not meant to be The Matrix. This is a whole different exercise. And it’s by far the most fun in the franchise. While the third installment is a bloated, overly serious mess, this film is lean, light and full of incredible set pieces, the most notable of which is the 15-minute car chase sequence that surely ranks right up there with the best ever on film. Although the film suffers from setting-up-a-sequel-syndrome, this only really affects the very end. For the most part, seeing Zion and the last remaining humans is a fascinating sequence and it opens up so many questions about the universe which the third film fails to answer, and Neo’s command over the power he discovered in the first film is just plain awesome, dude (as Keanu’s Ted of Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure might have said). We get a great villain in the Merovingian, a progressively more frightening Agent Smith and I’d be lying if I said I’m not still trying to work out what the damn Architect says at the end. The Matrix was all about presenting us with a massive idea and challenging us in a cerebral sense to embrace and come to terms with it. Reloaded accepts all that and instead poses the question ‘What are the possibilities of this world?’ And boy does it answer that in style.

I think the main thing these films have in common is that, without the need to go through the motions of setting up who these people are and how their worlds work, they can delve into more mature avenues of inquiry, things that we could never get to see when we had to grasp at some big concepts. Technically, they all present us with even more ambitious action sequences and set pieces than their first parts, all in very different ways, and thus are not just more impressive on the level of character but also on that of pure escapism. Here’s hoping that Avengers: Age of Ultron can follow the same pattern and, without being hamstrung by exposition, give us a set of characters who are developed enough to be understood as ‘real’ people with complex conflicts…while they level cities and blow up things, because that’s cool too.

posted by Dave.

New Releases: 6th April

ELLE L’ADORE:

“Enjoyably twisty nonsense” is thus far the best description of this one I’ve yet heard (thank you Mark Kermode (please return my calls Mark!)). Muriel is a divorced beautician and single mother who spends her days fantasizing over singer Vincent Lacroix. But one day…he knocks on her door and asks for help (gasp)! So begins a silly thriller that works by virtue of a strong lead turn by Sandrine Kilberlain and a lovely twist on the crazy-fan trope, where its not so much the fan but the object of her fandom who is the crazy one. Being a single parent has never been so whimsically thrilling.

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LOU!:

We continue our theme of Gallic silliness. Ludivine Sagnier does her best here with a sometimes annoying and silly-in-a-very-French-way confection. She is the frustratingly whimsical and immature mother to the titular Lou (exclamation mark optional), Lou spies on her dreamy neighbour, everyone eats croissants (is that racist?). But the arrival of a bohemian interloper who woos Lou’s mother with his singular charm (what the French call a certain…’I don’t know what’) brings about a series of embarrassing incidents for your amusement.

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ELECTRICITY:

Whether or not Electricity succeeds throughout its emotional journey, there can be no denying this is a wonderfully challenging and aesthetically bold second feature from Bryn Higgins. As an epileptic (occasionally hallucinating) girl searching for her long-lost brother, Agyness Deyn is absolutely riveting at the core of every great moment in this film.

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LILYHAMMER SEASON 2:

A couple of weeks later than we initially promised. I’d like to personally apologise to the hordes of slavering Lilyhammer fans out there for the trauma we have caused. May I suggest you let the questionable acting chops and delightfully Jersey accent of a certain Mr. Steven van Zandt soothe the pain?

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10 Actors Who Owe Their Careers to Someone Else’s Misfortune

Deja Reviewer

A lot of movie casting decisions have compelling stories attached to them. Sometimes actors get a job at someone else’s expense. I’ve discovered 10 examples of actors who owe a lot of their professional success to someone else’s misfortune.

Some of these stories are tragic and others are kind of funny. Let’s take a look at who rose as a result of someone else’s (sometimes literal) fall.

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Le silence de la mer (The Silence of the Sea, France 1949)

The Case for Global Film

The German officer (Howard Vernon) and his orderly The German officer (Howard Vernon) and his orderly

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for a long time and now, with the release of Suite Française, it seems appropriate. This is the first film to be directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, one of the major influences on the French New Wave. The ‘silence’ of the title refers to the mute ‘resistance’ of an elderly man (Jean-Marie Robain) and his niece (Nicole Stéphane) in the face of the German Occupation of France in 1940 and specifically the ‘occupation’ of their house when a German officer is billeted there. The film is an adaptation of a major novel of the Resistance published by ‘Vercors’ (Jean Bruller) in 1942 and one of the first post-war films about ‘résistance‘ (which was highly mythologised at the time). Bruller was reluctant to allow an adaptation that might misrepresent…

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