Monday, 31 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 258

Ugh, I feel like I've been having withdrawal symptoms as its been 3 whole days since I've watched a film thanks to the abomination that is the Sex And The City sequel. A truly awful and offensive film that has been massively popular with fans and avoided by everyone else. Hundreds of women dressed up and drinking Cosmopolitans, their idea of heaven, my idea of hell! or
So after a day that featured the busiest 90 minutes in the history of our bar, where a company spent nearly £900 on booze, drinking us dry, I eventually managed to get home to watch some movies.

248 - Pandora's Box - 3 stars
Not a literal telling of the story of Pandora as I had been expecting, but a metaphor for the damage caused to men by the beauty of Lulu, a woman so intoxicating that it drives men to extreme measures including gambling, infidelity and even murder.
Louise Brooks is great as Lulu, with one of the greatest haircuts of all time, and strong support from a guy who seems to be the German equivalent of Orson Welles.
Interestingly the film climaxes in London with an appearance by a famous character by the name of Jack. At one point there is a sign in London warning women of the dangers of walking alone but it is written in German, rather than being translated. Found that a little odd but perhaps that is subtitling double standards!

229 - Festen - 4 stars
Part of the famous Dogme movement of the mid-nineties. The rules on filming on location, handheld cameras, diegetic sound, natural lighting, etc allowed for a more accessible style of filmmaking to low budget directors, and was created by Vinterberg and Lars Von Trier (who interestingly enough does not feature on the list).
This story of the public exposure of private family secrets during a 60th birthday party is shocking, not just for the accusations of sexual abuse and the hands of the father, but also in the blaise way that this news is accepted by the guests at the party. Is it something that all these Bouregois families do?

Days remaining - 107 Films remaining - 132

Thursday, 27 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 254

224 - Distant Voices, Still Lives - 2 stars
Admired enough to make it onto the list, but this film is just not my kind of thing to be honest.
An autobiographical look at a family still haunted by their memories of their domineering and abusive father who has passed away. If it were a book it would end up in the misery memoirs section of Waterstones.
It had the feel of a Mike Leigh meets Coronation Street/Eastenders vibe with people drowning their sorrows with drinks down the local boozer while singing songs.
It did however feature a terrifying performance from Pete Postletwhaite.

Days remaining - 111 Films remaining - 134

(500) Films of Empire - Day 253

331 - The Green Mile - 4 stars
The Frank Darabont/Stephen King prison movie that isn't The Shawshank Redemption.
It seems that this is often thought of as a lesser film to the more popular Shawshank but it is a film populated by a cast that do not put a single foot wrong. From Tom Hanks' lead prison guard to Michael Clarke Duncan's miraculous man-child to a deliciously evil Sam Rockwell, and smaller roles for David Morse and Doug Hutchison.
The story may drag slightly over its three hour run time but it manages to keep the audience gripped wth the central storyline of John Coffey's healing powers and innocence of the crime he is on death row for.
It's three different takes on execution by electric chair make you wish that you never suffer that fate.

Day remaining - 112 Films remaining - 136

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 252

63 - Sunset Boulevard - 5 stars
One of the truly great stories by Hollywood about Hollywood.
A struggling writer falls under the wing of a fading silent movie star desperate to make a return to the big screen.
"Hey, you're Norma Desmond. You used to be big."
"I AM big, its the picture that got small."
A critique on how quickly Hollywood can forget the people that made them money, it is a fate that befalls many leading ladies... with the exception of Meryl Streep who will remain a huge star until the end of time.
William Holden's Joe Gillis is initaly taken in by the glamourous lifestyle and money that working for Desmond offers but soon comes to realise that she wants him as a romantic companion.
His relationship with a fellow studio writer causes Norma's denil and jealousy to spiral out of control, ending in murder and her "close up Mr DeMille".
Might have been the first film to have a dead character narrate the story to the audience. Am I wrong?

357 - The Long Goodbye - 2 stars
For me there was something 'slightly off' about Altman's contemporary (for the seventies) update of Raymond Chandler with Elliot Gould taking over from Humphrey Bogart as private detective Philip Marlowe.
I think the problem for me is the ending. Don't worry I won't spoil it, but I felt that Marlowe's actions here were inconsistent with his rather carefree and lackadaisical attitude during the rest of the film.
It did have two moments worthy of mention, one comic and one horrific.
The security guard's impressions of celebrities are pretty good, especially his Walter Brennan.
In a chilling moment a gangster smashes a coke bottle into his girlfriend's face just to prove a point to Marlowe. "Now that's someone I love. You I don't even like. Find my money"

Days remaining - 113 Films remaining - 137

Monday, 24 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Indiana Jones Day

453 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - 1 star
Time couldn't wait any longer and it was time to revisit a film that made me physically angry upon seeing it and instigated a self-inforced ban on all films by George Lucas that was only lifted in order to complete this challenge.
The annoying thing was that I should have known that it would be a bad film, but I honestly (and naively) thought that with Steven Spielberg directing that it would turn out OK. I was wrong and there was another childhood franchise ruined.
Watching it back now with the benefit of hindsight and a two year break from it I can say something positive about it... it is not as bad as The Phantom Menace!
For my review I could just simply make a long list of all the things I hate about the film; whether it is CGI gophers, 'nuking the fridge', wasting talent like John Hurt and Jim Broadbent, Shia swinging through the trees with monkeys, etc, etc, etc so I thought it might be more interesting to try and find five things I liked about it:

1. I found Cate Blanchett oddly sexy as a Russian
2. Harrison Ford can still sell a punch better than anyone in Hollywood
3. John Williams' score...

That's it I'm afraid. I honestly struggled to think of anything else that was appeaing about the film and failed!
The biggest problem with the film for me, besides the aliens plot, was the Vic Armstrong-shaped hole in the stunt department. We were told when they were making the film that like the original trilogy they would be doing as much practical stunt work as possible... but in the finished film we have Ford and LaBouef's faces digitally added onto to the people driving the motorcycle, largely CGI truck chases and of course the monkey incident!
I have no doubt that if Armstrong had worked on this film he would have found a way to get it done without the use of CGI effects. It becomes all the more apparent when watching the originals straight afterwards!
A quick note on the aliens. You hear the rumours but spend the whole movie hoping that there will be a twist and it isn't actually something as ridiculous as aliens, but nope the rumours were true. It's funny to think that I can buy the fact that in Raiders Of The Lost Ark there is a box with the power of God inside, but in this film I'm affronted by the fact that the Macguffin is aliens!

233 - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - 3 stars
For a long time it was seen as the worst Indy film but then the new one came along.
It's not really that bad to be honest. Sure Willie Scott might be the Jar Jar Binks of the franchise but there is still a lot to enjoy.
A great mine cart chase, a man who rips people's hearts out with his bare hands and the opening sequence. There is no real reason for the Anything Goes number except it is probably the only chance to see Spielberg direct a musical.

306 - Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 4 stars
The main reason why this film is the second best Indiana Jones film is down to the greatest father-son double act in the history of cinema; Harrison Ford's "Junior" and Sean Connery's Dr Henry Jones Sr.
The way the two spark off each other is tremendous "I should have mailed it to the Marx brothers", and look at the reaction when they realise they've both slept the same woman. Classic.
Another reason for the failure of Crystal Skull was the subject of the quest in this film, the Holy Grail. It's called Last Crusade for a reason. Once you have found the Holy Grail, there is nothing else really that can top it.

Days remaining - 114 Films remaining - 139

Sunday, 23 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 250

359 - The Lady Eve - 3 stars
A bright and bubbly screwball comedy with Barbara Stanwyck as a con-artist out to swindle Henry Fonda but, surprise surprise, she falls in love for real!
To win him back she pretends to be 'Lady Eve' which involves no physical disguise whatsoever, prompting Fonda to believe that she is a different person because otherwise she would have adopted a disguise. Slightly twisted logic there.
Stanwyck is much more attractive as a brunette than she was as the blonde femme fatale in Double Indemnity. She has a great natural chemistry with Fonda, enjoying being the comedic foil for once, and this is apparent particularly during the scene where she plays with his hair.
The best moment is when Fonda's romantic intentions are interrupted by a not-too-camera-shy horse.
Also a first for the list in that this is the first Preston Sturges film I've really enjoyed.

348 - Au Hasard Balthasar - 2 stars
A young girl and a donkey live parallel lives of neglect and abuse in this bleak tale that has an ending which is the donkey equivalent of Marley & Me.

Days remaining - 115 Films remaining - 142

Friday, 21 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 247

117 - Miller's Crossing - 4 stars

There is more than just a touch of Red Harvest, Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo in this tale of a Gabriel Byrne's Tom Regan caught between two rival mob gangs and playing them off against each other. Despite the familiar storyline, the Coens manage to make it uniquely, umm, Coen.

377 - Mean Streets - 3 stars

Early Scorsese that at times is by the number filmmaking, there is a lot of cutting straight back and forth during two-way conversations, but enough glimpses of the Marty we have come to know and love.

Days remaining - 118 Films remaining - 144

(500) Films of Empire - Day 246

32 - Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid - 4 stars
A lot lighter and fluffier than your usual Western this film is more like True Grin that True Grit, as pretty boys Newman and Redford use their cinematic charisma to give life to two legends of the West and provide reason why they would have become so famous during their time as outlaws. Newman is the mouth while Redford is the muscle, in the form of the sharpest hand with a gun. He is possibly the most accurate shooter in the history of cinema if the final battle is anything to go by.
There seem to be much debate about the use of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head in this film but I think it works. Just like it did in Spider-Man 2.
It also ends with one of the best last lines in move history:
"Wait a minute, is LaFors out there?" "No" "Oh good, for a minute there I thought we were in trouble", cue immortal freeze frame.

Days remaining - 119 Films remaining - 146

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 245

303 - Together - 3 stars
A sweet and quietly amusing Swedish film about a collective of people living in the same house under a set of beliefs, but their routines and ideals are disrupted by the arrival of someone's sister and her kids who are escaping from an abusive relationship. How cliche though that this Swedish film uses ABBA's S.O.S. to bookend the film!

287 - Secrets & Lies - 4 stars
Classic Mike Leigh stuff where the emphasis is on character rather than plot. Having said that, as far as Leigh's films, this actually does have a plot where the action is driven by a young black woman seeking out her biological mother, who turns out to be Brenda Blethyn, and the fallout from that revelation.
Like Another Year, Leigh's current film and Palme D'Or frontrunner, the acting is uniformly excellent and while Blethyn won Best Actress at the Cannes Festival back in 1996 but for me it was Timothy Spall who delivered the best and most heartwrenching performance.
I enjoyed the photography montage sequence because it reinforced this idea of putting on a different image for the outside world when inside was filled with the eponymous "secrets and lies", it was also funny to spot all the people who would become Leigh regulars over the years like Phil Davis and Ruth Sheen.

235 - Battle Royale - 4 stars
One of the first films from the J-Horror staple to overcome the subtitle prejudice and become an international hit.
Of course it's not hard to see why when you have a concept like this:
Japan's youth has gone to the dogs so in order to reintroduce discipline and respect, the government run the Battle Royale program where every year a school class is taken to a remote island and forced to kill each other off until there is only one survivor.
This is explained to them via a comidically over the top instructional video and the intimidating teacher (played by legendary Takeshi Kitano).
With a class of over 40 schoolchildren, it is tough for everyone to get a chance to make a lasting impact, so the film chooses to follow a central couple who are assisted by someone who has survived the game before.
Suitably bloody there are shootings, stabbings, and most famously a head blowing up thanks to a Running Man-style neckbrae detonating.
Makes you wonder if you were placed in that position, what would you do? Unwilling to play so take your own life? Kill only in self defence? Or embrace it in the spirit of the game and do whatever it takes to win?
Thankfully the long-rumoured Hollywood remake never happened, as it would have been a mess and resulted in the casts of Dawson's Creek and The O.C. trying to kill each other (not such a bad thing if it was real life!).
However a British remake done in modern society might be such a bad thing to teach the youth of today a thing or two!

Days remaining - 120 Films remaining - 147

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

There are so many tyred, formulaic films screening at the festival, it was a relief that something like RUBBER rolls in like a breath of fresh air.
Directed by Quentin Dupieux aka Mr Oizo of Flat Eric fame, it begins with a monologue about how various elements of films seem to happen for “no reason”; “In E.T. why is the alien brown? No reason”, “In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre why do you never see anyone go to the bathroom or wash their hands? No reason”, and RUBBER is an homage to the concept of no reason.
The concept is ridiculous. A tyre comes to life, falls for a beautiful girl and goes on a murderous rampage. Why? No f*cking reason, but it works because it knows that it is ridiculous.
Several spectators within the film then watch the action from afar and comment on the story as it unfolds; “her ass isn’t great”, “wouldn’t a tyre float?”, “this scene doesn’t make sense”, etc.
Stephen Spinella is great as the cop who knows that he is in a movie and acts accordingly, the object of the tyre’s affections looks like the French version of Lily Allen and as for Robert the tyre, he delivers the best performance by an inanimate object since Wilson in CASTAWAY.
This film will never see the light of day in a multiplex but is destined to become a cult classic on the arthouse circuit, especially since the tie-in marketing strategy included creating RUBBER branded condoms!
As long as you buy into the concept then there is much to enjoy in this convention defying movie that follows the adventures of a tyre that can blow up people’s heads with the power of its mind which is a gripping, funny slasher film that treads the fine line between the ridiculous and the surreal, constantly drives the action forward and never goes flat.

That's right, check out the number of tyre related puns in that review!

(500) Films of Empire - Day 244

317 - Midnight Run - 3 stars
Who knew that Robert DeNiro could be this funny? I know he's done 'comedy' recently with the likes of Meet The Parents but this is his most genuinely funny performance as Jack Walsh. He cracks wise and has a great rapport with co-star Charles Grodin but I personally loved any moment between DeNiro and Yaphet Kotto's Agent Moseley and the running gag about the sunglasses.
Working with DeNiro whilst in comedy Method mode must have been quite an intimidating experience!
Overall an unexpectedly funny and enjoyable buddy road movie.

168 - Tootsie - 3 stars
Dustin Hoffman stars as an out-of-work actor who is forced to audition as a woman because nobody will hire him as he is so difficult to work with... funny that it should be Hoffman playing this part!
But this is a romantic comedy so obviously complications arise as he becomes a huge star and falls for his female co-star.
The way that he handles his/her reveal on live TV is a work of genius and just fits perfectly within the ridiculousness of US TV Soap plotlines.
However what bothered me though, and this is not particular to Tootsie but more a general rule of thumb for romantic comedies, was the speed and ease in which Jessica Lange seems to forgive Hoffman for deceiving her for so long. I know that producers want a happy ending but i doesn't always ring true.

Days remaining - 121 Films remaining - 150

(500) Films of Empire - Day 240

260 - El Gattopardo (The Leopard) - 5 stars (event) - 3 stars (film)
No matter what I thought of the film, this particular viewing experience will definitely go down as one of the most memorable.
I was surprised to find one of the (500) Films of Empire screening at the festival but with a lack of other options that evening I decided to queue up for 90 minutes in the hope of getting access to the screening in the Salle Debussy Theatre on La Croisette, as I had already discovered that people like me during the festival are little more than room meat at these things.
Luckily I managed to get in just before the cut off and was presented with a commerative booklet to mark the occasion, the first hint of something special taking place.
20 minutes after the film had been due to start, a man took to the stage and in French apologised for the delay but the guest speaker was caught in traffic and would be here shortly. Now I hadn't really spoken French since Standard Grade but I did manage to get the jist of what he was saying and I managed to make out one particular word... Scorsese.
A murmur of excitement washed over the poor people like me in the balcony as we peered over to the main floor where we saw the likes of Cannes judges Kate Beckinsale, Benecio Del Toro and Michel Haneke.
A few minutes later, Martin Scorsese took to the stage to introduce the film, explaining that it was one of his favourites and how it constantly inspires him, and then spoke about his work on the restoration of the film and an empassioned speech about how these films should be kept in great condition for future generations.
That was followed by a standing ovation as Scorsese was joined by the film's stars Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale (who has had some minor work done since the films release :) ).
But what about the actual film? That is of course what I'm meant to be reviewing.
I must start off by admitting that I nearly nodded off during the film. It is a very long film (186 minutes) and there are times during the film where not much happens, and I had been up for 20+ hours a day while at the festival so my eyes were starting to close but I managed to wake myself up enough that I didn't miss anything.
The Leopard looks at the changes that are affecting Italy following the unification of the country in the 1869's. These changes are reflectedby focusing on one particular family led by Prince Salina, a Sicilian landowner played by Burt Lancaster. Despite being an American in an Italian film, Lancaster has the screen presence required and by the end of the film you can't imagine anyone else in the role, he just has someone else's voice dubbed over the top!
It is a film that takes it's time. Don't expect much in the way of a fast-moving plot, instead the screen is filled with sumptuous visuals that benefit from the immaculate digital restoration, and rich character development with great performances from Delon and the beautiful Cardinale as the young couple in love.
The film ends with an epic ballroom sequence at a party which my mum would probably love due to the wonderful costumes, but it marks the end of an era, where the youth are due to take over the running of the country and is suitably poignant.
There is much to enjoy about this film as long as you don't go in expecting a thrill-a-minute blockbuster, as instead it is a poem to a certain time and place of Italian history.

Days remaining - 125 Films remaining - 152

Monday, 17 May 2010

Your Man In Cannes - Day 4

Another early start and this time it was the UK's only hope of winning the Palme D'Or (until Ken Loach sneaked in at the last minute).

Now this is more like it, this is what I came to Cannes for, an actual great film that has some award potential.
You never expect to see car chases or gun fights in a Mike Leigh film, because the focus is always on the characters.
By working with a minimal plot and weeks spent on rehearsals to develop them, the result is the actors bring to life fully realised and 3 dimensional characters - the closest Mike Leigh will ever get to making a 3D movie!
Seperated into four chapters or seasons, the film looks at married couple Tom and Gerri, yes it got a big laugh in the auditorium here as well, and their relationships with their son and friends. Like I said the story unfolds from the characters rather than an external plot.
At times this film is as happy as HAPPY-GO-LUCKY and at others, as dour and depressing as VERA DRAKE.
Perhaps a slight critique by Leigh on modern society but the saddest characters are those who are constanly seen consuming alcohol.
Performances are strong throughout but the standout here is Lesley Manville. Her character Mary is outwardly very bright and bubbly but this mask soon gives way to a deep rooted insecurity about herself. She must be an early contender for the Best Actress award at the festival and I would bet good money that you will see her name among the Best Supporting Actress nominations come early 2011.

A solid Korean drama that is unfortunately let down by a frankly ridiculous final 5 minutes.
For the most part the film is a well acted drama about a young girl who goes to work for a rich businessman and his pregnant wife. Things become complicated when she has an affair with her boss and becomes pregnant. Pressured to have an abortion, the film moves into darker territory and settles in FATAL ATTRACTION mode.
Screening wasn't helped by the film's slow pace and my tiredness from lack of sleep causing my eyes to droop every now and again but for me the ending was a huge problem, as it was not in keeping with the rest of the film and the actions of the girl were out of character.
Expect a release over here as it will play to the crowd that liked IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE and probably the J-Horror crowd as well.

Woody, Woody, Woody... please stop making films in London. MATCH POINT, SCOOP, CASSANDRA'S DREAM were all poor. This new one is no exception.
It can't be coincidence that Allen's best films are the ones set in New York and/or star himself rather than having someone else play him (it's Josh Brolin doing it in this film).
It came across as a bad British romantic comedy instead of a Woody Allen film. For a supposed comedy it was so devoid of laughs I'm not sure if it even registered a smile on my face for the entire 98 minute running time.

Your Man In Cannes - Day 3

An early start today, getting up at 6.30am to head into town for an 8.30am screening of WALL STREET 2: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS. We queued up in our smart clothes because we had been told that this was the dress code for the Grand Lumiere Theatre (the main cinema with the red carpet that has all the gala premieres), so imagine our disappointment when we got there and everyone was in jeans and t-shirts!

This was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. Always felt that this was an unnecessary sequel that only got made due to the recent financial crisis, and was proved correct on this viewing.
I had issues with some dodgy camera moves, edits and awful music, but mainly I was annoyed that the central story was just dull.
I was looking for an exciting plot about the financial crash that would be examined in a way like documentaries like ENRON but instead I got a love story between Shia LaBoeuf and Carey Mulligan, with Douglas's Gordon Gekko almost tagged on as an afterthought.
Still given all the best lines, Douglas makes the most of his screen time but the decision to make him a reborn crusader against insider trading kind of muzzles his character.

It was onto the UK Film Pavilion next for some Wi-Fi which is so difficult to find and access in Cannes, possibly due to the absence of Starbucks... not a single shop in the whole of Cannes, bizarre.
The film festival is not all about screenings but also meetings and discussions as well.
There was a great discussion/debate about Market Intelligence: What Really Sells? which included speakers from UK Film Council, Producers, Distributors and Helen from Lovefilm.
It was a chance to see what was working well in the UK just now, how to capitalise and market on that, how it affects future productions, views on theatrical windows and my question on subtitled films. Very worthwhile stuff.

After failing to get into CHATROOM I looked at my screening schedule and headed to the closest theatre to catch something, anything and I got this.
A trip to Cannes isn't complete without seeing some truly awful films, as the Marche De Film is all about producers trying to sell their rubbish films to distributors.
This film falls under this category. A group of friends who suffered a tragedy years ago are brought together to the scene of the crime and forced to relive the nightmare.
Sold as a horror film, it isn't remotely scary (when the scariest thing is a rabbit bag flying through the air you are onto a bad thing) and the use of 3D is almost non-existent. If you can't do 3D well, don't do it at all!

This film is actually on the (500) Films of Empire list so I'll do a full review of this seperately but it was an amazing event with Martin Scorsese personally introducing the film as part of his dedication to the restoration of classic cinema.

After that film it was time to head off and meet the Cannes In A Van folk but tonight we would discover the problems in running a guerilla, independent (and unofficial) festival... lack of parking spaces! The Croisette was completely full and after a few circles of the main area it was decided to call it a night and we headed to Le Petit Majestic bar near Rue D'Antibes which is a haven for the UK contigent while in Cannes. Fortune was smiling on us however and a decent parking space near the bar allowed for an impromptu screening of a filmmaker's short film in front of an audience of friends and media types.

Getting back around 1.00am it was straight to bed cause it will be another early start for an 8.30am screening of the new Mike Leigh film ANOTHER YEAR.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Your Man In Cannes - Day 2

Busy day today in terms of viewings, dashing from cinema to cinema around Cannes in order to make the most of my time here.
After dashing to the Palais to book a ticket for the 8.30am screening of WALL STREET 2 tomorrow morning it was off to the Olympia (the only cinema in Cannes to also be screening mainstream cinema during the festival. Did you know that Freddy (aka Nightmare on Elm Street is a 12A here!).

BIG FAN - A supposed comedy about a NY Giants fan who gets beaten up by his favourite player who has to decide whether to prosecute him or drop the charges so he can play to help the team reach the playoffs.
Not big on laughs, this is on the darker edge of the comedy spectrum but the ending doesn't convince and the lead character doesn't learn from his experience and is also not very likeable.
Unlikely to screen in UK due to the American Football angle, but won't be missed.

TEENAGE PAPARAZZO - Documentary by Adrien Grenier (Vincent Chase from Entourage) about a 13 year old boy working as a papparazi in L.A.
This was a surprise. Interesting story that was well told by Grenier and not just a hate-filled rant about how bad the paps are. It actually took a detailed and balanced look at the relationship between celebrity and the paparrazi. Earned bonus points for correctly identifying LA DOLCE VITA as the starting point of the term paparazzo.

WELCOME TO THE RILEYS - Jake Scott from the directing dynasty of Ridley and Tony has made this film about a couple played by James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo who have struggled to come to terms with the loss of their teenage daughter and try to help Kristen Stewart's lap dancer.
Stewart is trying to hard to escape the enormous shadow of TWILIGHT and should be able to if she continues with the performances she can deliver in this, ADVENTURELAND and INTO THE WILD.
Great performances all round from the central trio in a film that is competently directed and has a realness to it that is admirable.
Expect to see this one on limited release around the arthouse circuit by the end of the year.

Randomly bumped into some of the London Picturehouse crew outside one of the cinemas on the high street, proving that Cannes is a small town after all. Stopped by the Cinema Sur La Plage to catch a bit of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY before swinging by the Cannes In A Van crew.

The van was just setting up about 10.00pm but there was already a curious crowd gathering around to see what was going on and were thoroughly entertained by the first film of the evening which was entitled 'A SHORT FILM ABOUT POO'.
Couldn't stay long as I had to run to the Palais to catch my last film of the day...

ELEKTRA LUXX - Carla Gugino is a porn star! Probably explains why the audience for the film was mostly men.
For a film with production values that make the average episode of Hollyoaks look very expensive, the digital camera used definitely gave off a soap opera vibe, this film had a top notch cast inclduing Joseph Gordon Levitt, Timothy Olyphant and one point Julianne Moore pops up as the Virgin Mary!
Unsure of its tone and direction, it starts with a web blogger looking back on the career of porn star Elektra Luxx and there is great potential for a spoof of the lifestyle, genre, etc but it then becomes a murder mystery before descending into a "what does it all mean?" look at her life. Also there is an unnecessary subplot that has no bearing on Elektra's storyline.
Game performances from everyone involved allow it to rise above its low budget roots but it is difficult to know what the audience would be for this film... other than guys wanting to see Carla Gugino's naked ass.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Your Man In Cannes - Day 1

So yesterday was the official start of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival and yours truly is here to provide you with the hot gossip and reviews from the Palais and Croisette until Sunday when I sadly have to return to the UK and a Con/Dem Nation... I'm gone for 24 hours and looks what happens!

Finally arrived to Cannes on Tuesday evening after a nervous couple of days thanks to the return of thhe Ash Cloud, but thankfully it buggered off in time for me to get my flight.
Was shocked to arrive to some rather disappointing weather, it was nicer in Aberdeen when I left! After heading to the Palais to collect my festival pass, an absolute necessity to do ANYTHING, I met up with Sam and Louise to head out to the caravan site where we are based for the next two weeks,
The first evening was more like T In The Park than Cannes with a compact caravan, communal showers and toilets, poor weather, mud and neighbours who play their music really loud!
Didn't do much after a long day of travel as I was very tired but we watched a bundle of short films to decide what to screen from the van on Thursday evening once it arrives.

Woke up on Wednesday and after quickly braving the communal shower area, it was on the bus into the centre of Cannes to get the impact of the festival in full swing.
The weather was vastly improved with not a cloud in the sky... it does mean however that I will return home a hideous shade of lobster red!
Although the premiere of Robin Hood is the official 'opening film' of the festival, there were screenings taking place all day in the various screening rooms across town.
We ventured to a screening of TRASH HUMPERS by Harmony Karine, the director of GUMMO.
Two things were blatantly clear by the end of the screening:
1 - That the festival is biased towards celebrities and film buyers.
We arrived for the film in plenty of time but had to wait in case there were any 'buyers' who needed to see the film i.e. people more important than you. Essentially we were just "meat in the room", although I would like to think that I was at the very least a nice piece of tit meat.
2 - They show a hell of a lot of shit in Cannes!
Mini review of TRASH HUMPERS to follow but just by walking around the Marche du Film, there are so many bad looking films seeking a distribution deal that you could fill your entire festival watching straight-to-dvd releases starring Danny Dyer (in a movie called Devil's Playground where he kills zombies by "cutting their face") and Vinnie Jones.
I will endeavour to take photos of the best 'worst' film poster and blog about them at the end of the festival.

Imagine a Jackass or Bo Selecta sketch that was mildly amusing for 5 minutes but then stretched out over 80 minutes and you have the idea.
4 actors dressed up as old people literally hump trash, break stuff, and generally be rude and crude in a 'discovered home video'.
An awful film that might have been trying to spoof Redneck culture, there are other characters in the film who may or may not be real including a bigotted racist, but really doesn't have much to say.
I would have preffered a movie about people who hump trash trying to deal with their condition.
There were several walkouts during the film but apparently this is normal because people nip in and out to go to meetings, etc but I think a lot of them were to do with the quality of the film!

After the screening I headed to UK Film Pavilion to score some free Wi-Fi which turned out to be incredibly slow due to so many people using it. On the plus side I'm sure I saw Kaya Scodelario from Skins and Moon sitting at the next table.
The afternoon was spent wandering around Cannes to soak in the atmosphere before having the biggest pizza in the world.
The actual Cannes In A Van eventually arrived at midnight so finally got to meet Andy and Si who run the van. Quick chat before bed because they had been driving for 24 hours and needed sleep. I'm also up early to try and score a ticket for WALL STREET 2 tomorrow morning.

Au revoir for now.

Monday, 10 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 236

196 - Amelie - 5 stars
Wow, maybe I do have a heart after all. You can screw your Slumdog Millionaire's and your Mamma Mia's, this is what I call a feel good film. I found it impossible not to feel just a little more positive about life at the end of the movie.
Audrey Tautou is simply adorable as the cafe waitress who spends her days doing little things to improve other people's lives... even at the expense of her own love life.
Whilst I am a huge fan of Jeunet's narrative and visual flair, I know a few people who found it too sacchrine and quirky.
Still popular enough to be mentioned in Up In The Air and still the highest grossing foreign language film in the UK, which is actually kind of depressing since it was released in 2001. What is it that the majority of the cinema-going public have against films with subtitles?!

388 - Hidden - 4 stars
Case in point. One of the most critically acclaimed films of the last decade, yet hardly anyone saw it!
Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche are excellent as the couple who become unnerved when they receive videos of their house. Just hours of footage of someone watching them.
Auteil is then forced to revisit a face from his past and a dark secret when clues in the videos lead him to suspect the person behind them.
Beautifully left open with a clue at the end that may allow the audience to decide who is behind the videos... but it does bring into question everything that we are seeing. What is a video and what is real life?
Opinions please. The scene where Juliette Binoche is being comforted by her male friend. Is it a video that is being made or not? It always stood out for me as being an odd scene, yet the son seemed to think there was something going on between them. Had he seen it? Theories welcome.
Oh, and I love the anecdote about the dog. I've actually used that in real life and it works a treat!

Days remaining - 129 Films remaining - 153

(500) Films of Empire - Day 235

152 - Boogie Nights - 4 stars
The film that announced the arrival a huge talent. No, not Mark Wahlberg's penis. Paul Thomas Anderson obviously.
Visually exciting with some terrific camera work including several long tracking shots, an eye for period detail, but Anderson's biggest strength lies in his ability to work with an ensemble cast (a fact confirmed by his next film Magnolia).

There is the usual great work by people like Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly and William H. Macy (this might actually be the first film that I saw all these actors in), but also unexpectedly draws strong performances from Wahlberg (starting out on his Entourage days) and Burt Reynolds.
Also funny to see Thomas Jane is a small role considering he is currently starring in Hung, another show where the main feature is a giant cock.
It is surprisingly non-gratuitous for a movie about the porn industry and in a similar way to Trainspotting, it deglamorises the subject matter. The guys doing the filming are about as interested in the sex as much as they were watching a guy paint a wall.
It brought up interesting parallels with the Hollywood system.
At one point filmmaker Jack Horner refuses to shoot on video, "If it looks like shit and sounds like shit, then it must be shit", saying that film is the only way to shoot movies.
Yet we are seeing a similar scenario today with many filmmakers who were apparently committed to celluloid now shooting on digital cameras and even moving towards 3D filmmaking. Is it only a matter of time till we see a 3D porno movie with the money shot coming out of the screen.
Believe it or not but porn has a huge influence of the technical advances of the industry. Porn adopted video over betamax, Blu Ray over HD-DVD, etc.

397 - Night Of The Living Dead - 3 stars
The original, but not the best, movie that throws a group of different people into a isolated location under attack from an outside threat.
Incredibly tame gore wise by today's standards but still powerful in exposing the lengths that people would go to in order to survive and that fellows humans are sometimes even more dangerous than the zombie threat.
Nice to see a black guy surviving until the end of a horror film for a change... oh wait, scrap that!
And before you ask, my top 3 films of this type are Dawn Of The Dead, Shaun Of The Dead and The Thing.

Days remaining - 130 Films remaining - 155

Sunday, 9 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 234

146 - Shampoo - 3 stars
Who else but Warren Beatty could have played a hairdresser who shags his way through half the woman in L.A. during the run up to Nixon's election?
He doesn't discriminate as he sleeps with aspiring actresses, politician's wives, from Goldie Hawn to Julie Christie to a young pre-Star Wars Carrie Fisher, and gets away with it all because he is oh so charming and the husbands all think that he is gay because he is a hairdresser.
However one particular night it all begins to unravel for him as Joey from Friends said "You've got to think about the trail!".
The film is a comment on the time period as well, as Beatty's character is initially unrepentent over his actions and the pain he causes his girlfriend, arguing that it is just who he is... a shagger. Only when he loses everything does he finally see the error of his ways.

Days remaining - 131 Films remaining - 157

Saturday, 8 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 233

264 - American Graffiti - 2 stars
Before George Lucas went to a galaxy far, far away, he gave us a look at four friends at a crossroads following graduation in 1962.
Being the quiet, geeky kid at school it is easier for me to identify with the characters in this film, particularly Richard Dreyfuss (I loved his story about seeing a girl in a car and spending the night trying to find her. Reminds me of the 'girl in the red coat'), but still for me the ultimate end of term celebratory movie is still Dazed & Confused.

Days remaining - 132 Films remaining - 158

Friday, 7 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 232

80 - The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp - 3 stars
A bright and breezy look at the life and... oh you get the idea.
Difficult to gauge its true intentions. Made in 1943 during the conflict, it looks at the beginning of the second world war by examining the life of one man who was involved in the first war and befriended a German soldier. Is it unpatriotic? Anti-war? I'm not sure.
That takes nothing away from a terrific central performance by Jeremy Davies as Colonel Wynne-Candy, so good in fact that I initially didn't realise he was playing both the young and old versions of him.

Days remaining - 133 Films remaining - 159

(500) Films of Empire - Day 231

66 - Edward Scissorhands - 4 stars
The epitome of everything that is Tim Burton about Tim Burton. The only time he has bettered this is when he abandoned the fairy tale world and told the true life story of Ed Wood (albbeit with a hint of artistic licence).
It is all here; the fairy tale story, the Gothic creative pallete, the Danny Elfman score and of course the beginning of one of the most enduring cinematic partnerships... Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
Depp was looking to make the leap from teen pin-up in 21 Jump Street and until Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward was arguably his signature role. The quiet, unique social outcast played by the ultimate Hollywood outsider, Edward is mainly a physical performance and Depp draws on his knowledge of silent cinema to make sure that his actions and emotions come across without the reliance on dialogue.
An enchanting tale that also satires the whole Americana housewife lifestyle but with a touch of darkness that pervades much of Burton's work. Also a fitting swansong for Vincent Price in his final role as The Inventor.

Days remaining - 134 Films remaining - 160

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 230 - May The Fourth Be With You

It's Star Wars day in the (500) Films of Empire challenge. All the films on the list bar Empire Strikes Back will be watched today... and yes that means Phantom Menace!

449 - Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - 1 star
Surely it couldn't be as bad as I remembered could it? The film that, as Simon Pegg so eloquently put it, "raped my childhood".

No it wasn't. If anything it was worse!

I admit I got that goosebump tingle when the title card of 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away' but it soon faded when the prologue started harping on about trade federations and taxation routes.

It brought back the angry memories of queuing for hours to secure my ticket for the midnight screening, then the crushing disappointment at what followed.

George Lucas said that he didn't make this for the fans who grew up with the original trilogy but for a new generation of fans but were children really all that entertained with this? It moves at a very slow pace, has poor dialogue and bad acting due to people having to act against CGI. Not to mention that one of the all time great screen villains is introduced as a whiny little brat who is constantly called Annie and yells "Yippee" a lot.

Lucas was so concerned with advancing special effects and merchandising opportunities that he sacrificed character and storyline.

It is no coincidence that the best film in the saga The Empire Strikes Back was directed and written by someone other than Lucas.

At only one point did it really feel like a Star Wars film and that was during the 3-way lightsaber fight between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul with John Williams' best musical cue of the prequels Duel Of The Fates (and even then it kept cutting between two other battles). The final showdown where Ewan McGregor and Ray Park go at it with such speed and venom is the lightsaber at its peak. It makes you wonder what the original trilogy's fights could have been if they hadn't featured a 70 year old man and a guy in a clunky suit!

Having said that, the lightsaber fight is the only highlight in a film that having to sit through is like having a dog swallow your wedding ring and spending two hours sifting through a pile of shit to find it.

330 - Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith - 3 stars

A vast, vast improvement on Episode 1 but still missing the magic of the original trilogy.

Christopher Lee generates more genuine menace in a brief appearance than in the whole Phantom Menace; Ewan McGregor finally looked like he had accepted the way the films were being made and started to have fun again; the final fight has a fair amount of emotion to it, but the Frankenstein's monster-esque "NOOOOOO!" ruins it.

"You are so beautiful", "It's only because I'm so in love", "No, its because I'm so in love with you" *sticks fingers down throat as he is so sick* "I Know" this is not!
What elevates this film above the other prequels is the performance of Ian McDiarmid. Check out the scene where he tells the story of Darth Plageius. He plays Palpatine as if he is performing Shakespeare... but let me make it perfectly clear, Revenge Of The Sith is definitely not Shakespeare as this particular exchange between Anakin and Padme illustrates:

"You are so beautiful", "It's just because I'm so in love", "No, its because I'm so in love with you". *puts fingers down throat as he feels so nauseous* "I know" it isn't.

91 - Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi - 3 stars

This is more like it. Actual sets that were built, proper alien costumes, some shots that contain zero CGI. This is how Star Wars was supposed to be!

However watching it just after the prequels illustrates just how badly Lucas managed to screw up the continuity between trilogies, like when Leia apparently remembers her mother being "kind but sad" when she only saw her briefly when she was born, and Obi-Wan's terrible explanation to Luke over the fate of his father for example.

It moves from one big action sequence to another before ending with a giant fight between some guys in white uniforms and cuddly bears.

Aah the bloody Ewoks. They really annoyed me, particularly the moment when one dies and its little buddy sobs at being unable to move him. And people get upset by this... did nobody care about the thousands of stormtroopers that died over the course of the trilogy?

22 - Star Wars: A New Hope - 5 stars
If there was an award for the film that I seen the most in my lifetime then this would be it. I've seen it over 100 times. So much so that I had a video of the film taped off ITV and knew exactly when the adverts break would come. I once recited the whole movie (including many sound effects) during a double period of chemistry while at school.
One of my most memorable experiences at a cinema was when my friends and I went to the old Odeon on Justice Mill Lane in Aberdeen to see the 1997 release of the special edition version.
We queued up outside the cinema while dozens of people had lightsaber fights and cars drove up and down the street with the music playing on the stereos. An unforgettable experience.
I actually watched the original '77 version as I didn't want to see Greedo shoot first, and it remains perfect the way it is with its blend of action, western, sci-fi and mysticism.
Its influence over Hollywood and pop culture in general is unsurmountable.
It created the lightsaber which had kids on every playground doing the action and noise (whum, whum) and also spawned the career of Harrison Ford whose cynicism towards the material helped Han Solo become the coolest character and the one that all the kids really wanted to be.
I had nearly all the toys. I still only need around a dozen to complete my set of all the original action figures.
Sure the prequels have slightly tarnished my memories of the saga and George Lucas but seeing it again it still holds an amazing power over me.

Days remaining - 135 Films remaining - 161

Monday, 3 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 229

283 - Ran - 2 stars
It was a shock to see a Kurosawa film in colour, as every other film I've seen was filmed in black and white. And Kurosawa makes full use of it, filling every inch of the screen with bursting colour, whether it is the lush green landscapes or the beautiful costumes.
Kurosawa takes on The Bard in his own story based on King Lear, as an ageing tyrant instigates war, betrayal and heartache by choosing one of his three sons to succeed him.
Perhaps it was the theatrical style of the production (in particular the acting) but I couldn't really connect to the film as deeply as I had with other Kurosawa films (High And Low for example).

Days remaining - 136 Films remaining - 165

Sunday, 2 May 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 228

133 - Double Indemnity - 5 stars
The pinnacle of the film noir genre in my humble opinion.
Lauren Bacall might smoulder more but no one can beat Barbara Stanwyck to the title of Queen Femme Fatale. She is flirtatious, manipulative and bad to the bone.
She wraps insurance salesman Fred MacMurray around her little finger in a plot to knock off her husband and collect on his life insurance. Their scheme starts to unravel due to MacMurray's boss, a scene-stealing Edward G. Robinson.
Powered by some razor-sharp dialogue, it is a testament to the script by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, told through a flashback confession, that even right at the end I wasn't exactly sure how it would all turn out.
A must see when we screen it at The Belmont this June.

Days remaining - 137 Films remaining - 166

(500) Films of Empire - Day 227

62 - The Graduate - 4 stars
"Mrs Robinson, you are trying to seduce me. Aren't you?"
Ah, Mrs Robinson, the original MILF!
Benjamin Braddock goes from young, fumbling virgin in the initial seduction (laughed so much at the impromptu breast grabbing) to cocksure loverboy over the course of a fantastic montage.
The fantasy scenario of bedding mother and daughter soon turns into a nightmare for Benjamin when the truth is outed. Although nice to see Murray Hamilton aka Mr Robinson get his commupence for keeping the beach open in Jaws!
Then there is the ambigious final shot of Benjamin and Elaine on the bus after they have run away from the wedding. Their initial joy and exuberance gives way to doubt and insecurity about what they have done and what the future holds, all in one single shot. But am I only noticing this due to its importance in the film (500) Days of Summer?
I also had the strangest urge to watch Wayne's World 2 after viewing this film.
Trivia: I'd never noticed before that Hoffman's dad is played by the voice of KITT in Knight Rider.

Days remaining - 138 Fims remaining - 167