AT THE CINEMA [Feb 11th]
Never Let Me Go [Main Picture]
Eoin Says: Never Let Me Go, based on the book by acclaimed writer Kazuo Ishiguro, seems to be one of the bigger snubs of the Award season, only managing to make a bigger impact on smaller award shows like the British Independent Film Awards and the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards, ironically winning their ‘Overlooked Film of the Year’ award. To me, this is a huge shame for not just the film itself, but for the people involved. Some career defining performances from both Andrew Garfield and Carey Mulligan really showcase what they can do and even Kiera Knightly impresses showing that her Oscar nod a few years ago wasn’t a fluke.
What really holds the film together is the story which ranges from complex love triangle to underlying tones of science fiction and future scope, despite the fact it follows the main protagonists from their boarding school years in the 70s to their adult selves having the reality of their lives thrust upon them in the 80s. One of my Top 10 films of last year, this is an absolute must see and an impressive directorial return for Mark Romanek, whose last film was One Hour Photo in 2002.
Son Of Babylon
Mike Says: A delicate two-hander from Iraq, Son Of Babylon has been receiving some positive buzz from the Cannes, Berlinale and Edinburgh festivals, but is only just landing in UK cinemas. I know very little of the film except that it’s a road movie, seemingly without a score, that sees a young boy, with his grandmother, searching for his father who never returned from war. It looks quite beautiful, so lets hope it doesn’t slip into preaching or sentiment, which many of these ‘issues’ films do – and with broad strokes.
Sam Says: Okay, so it’s ANOTHER remake, this time of the 1969 film that finally won John Wayne his Best Actor Oscar, but it’s by the Coen Brothers, which immediately gets it a pass, and it stars three of the most reliably interesting actors around; Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. The trailer makes this look like an ideal companion piece to the brothers’ modern western No Country For Old Men; a dark tale of vengeance, sought by a 13 year old girl (Oscar nominated newcomer Hailee Steinfeld). Add in the beautiful images of the Coen’s regular DP Roger Deakins and this seems like a recipe for a great time at the movies.
Two In The Wave
Mike Says: Filmmaker Emmanuel Laurent documents the turbulent relationship between critic-turned-filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut who, along with Louis Malle and Claude Chabrol, redefined cinema in the late 50s/early 60s. The specifics of their friendship and collaborations has long been kept under wraps, but what we do know is that it started with a letter from Truffaut to Godard reading, ‘I think the moment has come to tell you, in detail, how, according to me, you act like shit.” For me its a dream documentary, but even those new to the New Wave should get a kick out of watching the filmmakers at work with some apparently brand new archive material.
ON DVD / BLU RAY [Feb 14th]
Sam Says: I love all of Lucio Fulci’s zombie quartet, but The Beyond may well be his very best film. It has a couple of decent leading performances from Brits Catriona MacColl (in the second of her three films for Fulci) and David Warbeck and a script that at least attempts to make some sense (though there are still deliciously silly lines like “you have carte blanche, but not a blank cheque”). However, the gore is the thing with Fulci, and he lets himself completely off the chain here; eyes are stabbed, faces melt and there’s an especially brutal chain whipping. For all the gore this is a beautiful film, Fulci doesn’t get his due as a visual stylist, and The Beyond contains some memorable and haunting images (especially the final shot).
The DVD from Arrow is typically stacked with extras, happily they’ve kept the charming, relaxed, commentary with MacColl and Warbeck, but they’ve also created a whole host of new features. This is likely to be one of the essential releases of 2011 for horror fans.
Easier With Practice
Eoin Says: Easier with Practice, seeing it during a very crowded festival season, was one of my genuine surprises of 2010. It’s kind of ironic and appropriate at the same time this is even coming out on Valentine’s Day in how that it is both a story of love and not a story of love involving one very timid and quiet writer, played strongly by Brian Geraghty, getting involved in a phone affair becoming his life obsession despite the fact he’s never seen the woman he’s receiving the calls from and never gets the opportunity, until much later, to find out more about her. The way the story turns takes risks that these films wouldn’t go down and really works in making it a realistic showcase of how people with these big personalities deal with the situations they find themselves thrust into.
It all wraps up in an ending you kind of think would happen but never expect to go the way it does, really surprising well in execution. One of my honest big regrets of last year was not giving this film the review it deserves but to put it in simple terms, this is a great independent film from a debuting director, Kyle Patrick Alvarez with literally his first major credit to his name, I want to see more of. With two films coming in the next two years, one a thriller and the other a comedy, that’ll hopefully be sooner rather than later.
Mike Says: Recently profiled in my ‘Top 10 Non-Disney Animations’ feature, this gorgeous UK/France co-production is an homage to the works of Jacques Tati, who wrote the original unfinished screenplay on which this tale is based. Set around the dying art of magic, it sees a young girl named Alice falling under the spell of an aging magician named Tatischeff, who is being undermined and outsold by the rock ‘n’ roll revolution. The images are lovely; poetic and truly magical, and this silent tale is accompanied by a score by Chomet himself. It’s funny and ultimately heartbreaking, the films final images among the most poignant of recent years. No question, it’s a modern masterpiece.
Sam Says: Lawn Dogs has long been out of print on UK DVD, and that’s a terrible shame, hopefully this new issue will allow a lot of new audiences to experience this wonderful film. It’s about an unlikely friendship between 22 year old odd job man Trent and 10 year old Devon (played, early in their respective careers, by Sam Rockwell and Mischa Barton, who are both excellent here) and how their relationship is misinterpreted by Devon’s insular upper middle class family and community. It’s often dark, but director John Duigan mixes the harsher realities in the film with the charming and moving friendship between Devon and Trent to excellent effect. Make sure you look this one out.
The Social Network
Eoin Says: Let me start by saying this: The Social Network would be my film of 2010 if not for Mike Leigh’s Another Year. The reason for this high praise is three fold. One, the incredible and highly praised script written by the excellent and downright witty Aaron Sorkin, the great cast assembled from top to bottom and David Fincher for gathering these elements into the ultimate ‘it-shouldn’t-be-this-good-but-it-is’ movie. It follows the origins of Facebook almost in the same way the rest of the internet did, unsuspecting that this thing 4 guys were maintaining in a Harvard dorm was going to become something worth $500bn and growing 7 years later.
I can’t look at any of the performances and pick out someone who didn’t work, Garfield is great, Timberlake plays the smarmy rebellious internet celebrity almost too well and even people like Brenda Song (London Tipton in The Suite Life, for crying out loud!) plays the role she’s given to a really high convincing standard but really, the film is only about one man and as far as Jesse Eisenberg is concerned, he should be celebrating his award success greatly finally ridding him of that crazy ‘Cheap Michael Cera’ tag people quickly placed on him. He’s the real deal and has a tonne of time to get the glory others before him have had. It’s actually the most exciting prospect of the movie to see where some of them go next after this film so in a way, The Social Network is a triumph in film making and a great showcase to what could be some of the future big players in Hollywood.
Mike Says: Featuring a soundtrack by Pink Floyd, which would later be expanded into their seventh and most underrated studio album Obscured By Clouds, this mature work is finally being remastered and re-released by the BFI. Previously a rarity, the film finds a young woman traveling to the New Guinea bush in search of a secret valley, and along the way being accosted by a tribe and discovering a sexual awakening. Atmospheric and deeply sensual, the film should look and sound perfect in this new release, accompanied by a colour booklet with on-set photos and director interview, as well as three shorts on the disc. Director Barbet Schroeder is a terribly underrated filmmaker. Lets hope this changes that.