Archive for the ‘ FILMS 2013 ’ Category



From its slow panning opening shot closing in on a group of Nasa specialists carrying out routine maintenance on their space shuttle Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity never lets up from being a visual cornucopia of impressive treats. It is without doubt one of the most stunning visually enhanced films of recent times and one totally worthy of its 3D release. Without this added quality it would be relegated to your bog-standard sci-fi movie. In this case however the 3D enhancement is essential, as opposed to merely a gimmick, raising the whole film to an unprecedented level.
The only thing that occasionally drags it down is the overly chummy buddy-buddy routine between its two main stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney who we are reminded that even though they spend most of their time in unflattering and non revealing space suits are exceptionally good looking.
The plot –which is secondary to the atmosphere and visuals-, revolves around the traditional outer space as inner space theme, along the way harnessing the feeling of emptiness alongside the freedom of floating but always returning to the primal instinct of being grounded.
After being hit by fall out debris of a Russian satellite the two survivors find themselves drifting with two options: one is to retrieve their shuttle and attempt to make their way home whilst the other is to float into the abyss. The feeling always is that only one, if any, is going to survive and unfortunately Clooney’s moment of heroic self sacrifice is delivered as a jokey metaphorical high five which comes across as empty as the void he is about to drift off into.
From this point Bullock becomes a Sigouney Weaver as Ripley/ Linda Hamilton in Terminator type figure in skimpy vest with stamina driven determination and, similar to those other two screen heroines, thoughts of her child –in her case already dead- steering her to her destiny and home.
The outcome when it comes is predictable but with it having been such a heady rush of a movie throughout-several times I felt myself instinctively ducking as debris narrowly ‘missed’ my head- this was not a disappointment. At times I also felt dizzy, nauseous and disorientated with the darkness of the cinema itself taking on the role of outer space and this is solely due to the expertise of the effects which make the viewer feel as if they are actually part of the action. Predictable conclusion aside this is a film well worth seeing not only for the effects but for the feeling of being integrated with them.



Mister John


Featuring a flawlessly understated performance by Aidan Gillen Mister John adopts its own languid pace and despite threatening to erupt into something more dramatic and thrilling on several occasions it somehow manages to reinforce restraint and draw itself back in thus achieving individuality as opposed to generic type. This does not mean it is without its shortcomings however, it is just that often these shortcomings work in its favour.

 Travelling to Singapore after his brother John’s death-the Mister John who lends the film its title- Gerry(Gillen) attempts to sort out the estate of his more financially successful brother. After his luggage goes missing he borrows some of his brother’s clothes and in the process slips into imagining the alternative lifestyle of his more flamboyant sibling. For someone seemingly so withdrawn and wearing a cloak of sadness this new role is an extremely attractive proposition.

 It would seem sex is seemingly permanently on offer to Gerry as he assumes this new role but he has trouble connecting emotionally as he is still haunted by his wife’s infidelity back in London. Stranger still he becomes emotionally drawn to his late brother’s beautiful widow Kim(Zoe Tay) and the tension of their encounters teeters on the precipice of an affair but his emotional withdrawal prevents him from embracing this complicated entanglement.

 More of a character study than anything else Mister John relies heavily on the plausibility of Gillen’s performance and he manages to capture the pathos of his character in sublime fashion. His awkwardness is cringeworthy and this is what gives the character credibility and emotional depth.

 The screen writing and director team of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler made a brave and admirable decision in not allowing their vision to be tampered with merely to fill a specific genre or type as this emerges as the film’s main strength.



We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks


Surrounded in hype, recriminations , accusations and clouded truths, when the scandal surrounding Wikileaks- a website intent on revealing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of the twenty first century- and its founder, Julian Asssange, broke it was hard to decipher any semblance of the truth. With one faction claiming the documents which were leaked were in the interest of the public, the other denied this and counteracted the very same information placed the public, and whole countries, in severe danger.

The truth is hardly any clearer after watching this documentary by Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney, which admittedly falls on the side of Assange and his organisation, but what is clear that accusations of a smear campaign against Wikileaks and its founder are lent a considerable amount of gravitas whilst those who went out their way to destabilise their credibility-including some of the most powerful people in the world- are left looking rather suspect.

 The leading cast in this tale include the formerly named Assange- a blonde haired Australian hell bent on discovering the truth about the war in Iraq- a teenage hacker and Bradley Manning, a gender confused American soldier serving in Iraq with access to highly sensitive documents and footage. Without thinking of the consequences Manning shared this classified information with Wikileaks and to this day still languishes as a detainee in jail even though he has never actually had a trial convicting him of any specific crime.

 Assange on the other hand was briefly awarded rock star status when he leaked the contents of the documents on his site but this small victory was soon snatched from him when two accusations of rape in Sweden arose. These is where things get rather cloudy and off balance as the accusations of rape seem to come from two women who had consensual sex with Assange but one freaked out when the condom broke during the act whilst the other claimed he never used one. This led to claims he may have impregnated them or shared a S.T.D. and  a warrant was issued for his arrest. When he refused to take an HIV test the charges were immediately changed to rape and thus the conspiracy theories about a smear campaign began.

 At this juncture a media campaign to discredit Assange and Wikileaks-interestingly the Guardian and New York Times who shared the information he provided were absolved of any blame- began and in one of the films many incidences of black humour the phrase ‘he has blood on his hands ‘is trotted out ad infinitum via various major news stories around the globe as if to detract from the real issue at hand; war crimes being committed in Iraq.

These war crimes provide some of the most shocking images in the film and early on we are shown a helicopter attack on innocent civilians and Reuter journalists after one carrying a camera with a long lens is mistaken for a Militia with an Ak47. What is almost as shocking as the horror of this footage is the clearly audible laughter, sheer flippancy and derogatory remarks emanating from the attackers about the dead bodies they have left on the ground. Further footage showing innocent families and children being slaughtered-either through carelessness or incorrect intelligence- is equally unsettling and Assange’s claims that this is what the public need to know about the realities of war start to make a lot more sense than the counter argument that knowing and seeing such things places us all in greater danger.

 A fascinating and revealing insight into a recent scandal- Assange is still under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy-this documentary provides very few answers but it does raise a hell of a lot of questions.



The Berlin File


Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan this contemporary Asain thriller starts off at full throttle and rarely loses its pace or momentum throughout. It is far from a simply followed plot though and admittedly I found it required a lot of attention and still came across as quite convoluted, although this may have been intentional to keep the audience on their toes. However as there is so much perfectly choreographed action and so little dialogue it is difficult to keep track of who is who never mind what is actually going on so by the end of the film I was exhausted in trying to keep up and meanwhile the characters had managed to elicit little sympathy so it was hard to care what became of them.

 Opening with an illegal international arms deal which goes wrong the central protagonist a North Korean spy, Pyo Jong-seong (Ha Jung-woo), then finds himself in a world of double agents and red herrings where even his wife is suspected of betraying him. What follows is an intricate web of deceitful lies and mistrust involving the Middle East, Russia and most significantly South Korea whilst the drama unfolds in Berlin thus giving the whole thing a totally international feel with everyone pursuing a different agenda. The relationship between Pyo and his wife although a loveless affair is complicated further by the fact she informs him she is pregnant and despite her disloyalty in other matters he is definitely the father. They then embark on their escape only to encounter a series of different factions who want to bring them down.

  As stated before this is essentially an action movie so the plot and character depth always come second to this but unfortunately this is the films main drawback. Whilst there is no more action than your typical James Bond movie-or even a Die Hard- but whilst the Bond franchise has at least twenty films behind it where some character traits have been established this films characters all left me totally unmoved. By the end of the film it was still unclear exactly what was going on and I was paying particularly close attention.

 Despite this the action sequences were expertly choreographed and brilliantly executed therefore anyone who loves an action movie will not be disappointed. I however wish there had been more of a structured and clear story to hang these amazing sequences onto.



Oh Boy


Basically a tumultuous twenty four hours in the life of Niko Fischer(Tom Schilling) who after living the heavily parental funded lifestyle of a student finds his world collapsing  in a series of mishaps and disasters which befall him. More importantly he is constantly thwarted in his quest in trying to obtain an elusive cup of coffee.

 Waking up on what he assumes will be just another day Niko first of all finds himself dumped by his girlfriend. His day does not proceed to get any better as he fails to have his driving license re-issued after a blood test reveals he has been over the alcohol limit on several occasions. Adding insult to injury his counsellor proceeds to berate him in every way imaginable.

Later after having his bank card retrieved by an ATM machine he discovers that his father has discovered he dropped out of university two years previously and had been paying money into his account believing he was pursuing his studies but now after discovering the truth decides to withdraw his financial support. Matters don’t improve when he encounters a beautiful young girl who it turns out he used to taunt relentlessly when she was an overweight teenager.

 Things keep going from bad to worse and through it all Niko seems totally bewildered and unaffected by what is happening to his life but realises that things have to change but he is simply unaware, or perhaps unwilling, to make the necessary changes.

 A first time effort by director Jan Ole Gerster this black comedy is thoroughly charming and Schilling turns in a sterling, photogenic and likeable performance as the hapless Niko allowing us to share in his frustrations and setbacks whilst able to laugh and sympathise at the same time. Shot in black and white this somehow gives the film a classic feel and affords it more gravitas. Does Niko ever get his cup of coffee which he so desperately desires though? That is something you will have to wait until the end of this delightful comedy to find out.

Oh Boy is showing at the the Fimhouse on Sunday 23 June at 8.45pm and at Cineworld  on Saturday 29th at 7.25pm


The Bling Ring


Based on true events The Bling Ring tells the tale of a group of  Los Angeles based teenage high school kids who faced with the onslaught of media coverage about celebrities living the high life, decide that the best way in which to attain such a lifestyle is to simply steal it ,quite literally, from their heroes themselves. Directed by Sofia Coppola –possibly the biggest name director showing at this years EIFF- it is an interesting study on how the internet, social media and constant access and availability to the stars and their lives make it easy to track their movements and thus able to work out when their properties are empty and thus more vulnerable.

 Arriving at a new school and desperate to make friends Marc (Israel Broussard) falls in with Katie (Rebecca Chang) who is obsessed with stars such as Paris Hilton, Megan Fox and Lindsay Lohan. Initially just breaking into an empty house of one of Marc’s rich friends they realise how easy it is to obtain entry to a vacant property.

 Deciding that their next target should be someone more famous they one night, after determining the whereabouts of their victim online, decide to break into Paris Hilton’s house and find-after ridiculously discovering her key under the doormat- it is just as simple to break into and what is more they can pilfer designer clothes, jewellery and cash. What is more is that in the beginning they were able to go unnoticed as the stars they selected had so much stuff they simply did not notice they had even been burgled.

 At this point unable to keep it to themselves they draw other celebrity obsessed types into their circle and become bolder in their objectives, holding impromptu parties in the empty properties and actually planning what they are going to steal before they get there. Thus, alongside the three already mentioned, next to fall prey to their scavenging are Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson and Audrina Partridge. Eventually they are caught on camera footage and at this point the game is almost up but it is Marc who breaks down under questioning and turns the others in.

An interesting commentary on the celebrity sated society we-  and probably more so in America-  live in today it shows how such a proliferation of wealth inspires not only envy but motivational greed. Coppola does an admirable job with this film and her young cast (including a clearly in her element Emma Watson) manage to elicit little sympathy but still manage to help us understand why they did what they did. Coming across as shallow and self serving it is an observation on society in general and the belief that the lifestyles we are fed in gossip magazines and online make it all seem so easy and within reach that it is little wonder that people will believe that all they have to do is reach out and take it. Inevitably the group became celebrities in their own right and this shows just how easy it all really is.

The Bling Ring is showing at the Filmhouse on Saturday 22nd June and at Cineworld on Sunday 23rd June at 6.40pm


Before You Know It


This touching and heartfelt documentary about the ageing process and the effects it has had on three different gay men all now over sixty- the oldest is a sprightly seventy six- looks at an awkward subject in a non-judgmental way offering a new perspective on a process which affects everyone. Directed by P.J. Raval who affords his three ‘stars’- Dennis, Ty and Robert- equal billing and screen time allows each to explain what made them the people they are today and how happy/unhappy they are at the way their lives have panned out.

 Of the three Dennis is the one which probably elicits the most sympathy. Unable, or unwilling, to come out until late in his life- he waited until after his wife’s death before admitting his true orientation- his story is the most touching and also the most tragic. Despite this he also shows the most bravery by relocating to another state and living his life exactly as he chooses, even going as far as travelling solo on a gay cruise and dressing in drag to fulfil his true desires. Ignored by his family he has no network of support around him and his loneliness is palpable. He and the audience are aware that this would probably not be the case if he had been open about his sexuality from a younger age.

 Such accusations cannot be levelled at the other two subjects of this film. Robert in particular flaunts his sexuality and revels in the younger company or waifs and strays which make up his surrogate family. Such measures were necessary after his natural kin disowned him when he came out and despite a making up at some later point, the feeling persists that his friends now fulfil the role of family for him in a way the traditional unit just could not.

 The third character Ty is also confident in his sexuality and of the three the only one in a committed relationship. So committed is he to his partner that talks of marriage perpetuates and permeates most of his discussions on film. The contrast between the latter two and Dennis could not be more pronounced as both have a network of support around them that only makes Dennis’s solitude even more apparent and sad.

 Paval does a great job in drawing out the vastly different life stories of these three men and how they have approached old age. It is a worthwhile subject which is usually ignored but certainly not one that should be. If I have one criticism it is that it could have done with a little more editing as at the end it feels a little drawn out and just when you think you have reached the concluding speeches of the three subjects they each reappear to deliver their closing segment proper. It is a small criticism however as all three-in particular Dennis- have probably spent a large part of their lives not being listened to so making the most of the time allotted to them is perhaps understandable.




Svengali is that rare thing, a film at a film festival that is actually enjoyable and a pleasure to sit through. Directed by John Hardwick and starring Jonny Owen- also responsible for the screenplay- who is ably supported by the always reliable Vicky McClure, the film is a charming insight into the rock and roll dream as seen through the hopes and eyes of an eternal optimist. Although nothing in this film withstands too much scrutiny this is irrelevant as the characters and acting performances carry it-and the audience- along with its insouciance and humour.

 Dixie (Owen) is a Billy Liar-esque character who dreams of discovering a band,moulding them and taking them on the route to stardom in the style of a latter day Brian Epstein or more correctly-considering the film’s title and subsequent accusations levelled at him by the Sex Pistols- Malcolm McLaren. After hearing a band called the Premature Congratulations-later shortened to The Prems- he believes he has found his musical gold and so with his trusty girlfriend Shell (Mc Clure) in tow he departs his native Wales and heads to the bright lights of London to follow his dreams of creating the next big musical thing.

 What follows next is a catalogue of disasters which rather than hurrying along his failure somehow conversely conspire to take him to a position where he can pursue his ambitions and prove to the world that his intuitions in such matters are beyond doubt. Along the way he suffers rejection from those he hopes to rely upon but somehow manages to find support from the unlikeliest of corners-Alan Mc Gee makes a cameo appearance and spots that Dixie may actually be a true rock and roll believer in a world where such traits no longer count and have been replaced by suits and ‘the industry’- all the while charming everyone he encounters.

 Whilst the characterisations of the industry people Dixie encounters are heavily shaded with caricature and cliché they are also poignant and playing them for laughs is perhaps the best way Hardwick could have directed his cast. Particularly notable are Martin Freeman and Maxine Peake as a couple who own a record shop and who employ Dixie –for a solitary day as it transpires- and Morwenna Banks as a particularly feisty record company executive.

 The film really belongs to Owen though and his portrayal of Dixie as a likeable and credible character is what keeps you rooting for him throughout. At the films denouement when it feels as if all his dreams have been shattered  he still manages to evince such a sense of positivity and invincibility so you know that whatever happens he will never be thwarted in living his life exactly as he wants to, no matter how much anyone else lets him down or stands in his way.

 Svengali is definitely one of my highlights of this year’s film festival so far- already I am eight films in- and it provided more than a little light relief. Great script, great characterisation and outstanding performances all held together with a well thought out sound track-any film which deploys Mott The Hoople’s ‘Sea Diver’ is more than okay in my book- make Svengali a film worth catching. As I have said before it perhaps does not withstand too much scrutiny; but really who cares? I loved it!

 Svengali is showing at Cineworld on Fri 21st June  at 8.40pm and Sat 22nd June at2.40pm


A Long Way  FromHome


This charming film starts much as it continues with its own leisurely, almost strolling, pace. Basically a study of how long term relationships evolve into a form of silent domesticity-his and her versions of the same Times newspaper in this case- and how passion is replaced with a sense of resignation and understanding whilst more recent attachments bear some of the same hallmarks with the main difference being that neither partner is yet aware of it. Set in Nimes against a series of beiges and neutral tones-indicating the blandness of the relationships at the films core- it is almost an exercise in mild mannered politeness and restraint. The quartet playing the films two couples – James Fox and Brenda Fricker represent the older generation whilst Paul Nicholls and Natalie Dormer are the younger generation’s representatives- are all extremely capable in their roles and Virginia Gilbert’s screenplay and direction manage to draw out the necessary ambience required.

 Joseph and Brenda- Fox and Fricker- have retired to Nimes obviously to spend their latter years in a different environment but far from embracing the great adventure they had probably planned it becomes apparent that life has merely substituted one set of mundane routines for another. The same restaurant for dinner every night –in Brenda’s case exactly the same meal and verbal exchange with the waiter on each occasion- so, desperate for something to break the monotony, Joseph one night strikes up a conversation with a young couple Suzanne and Mark- Dormer and Nicholls- and a friendship of sorts is initiated.

 It soon becomes apparent that Joseph is extremely attracted to Suzanne-on several levels- and loving her vitality and sense of freedom he is desperate that she does not make the same mistakes as he has and fall into similar patterns. They become close during a visit to a vineyard and discuss life and its possibilities whilst Mark discusses the wine business with the vineyard owner. Brenda meanwhile carries on almost regardless but it is interesting to note that although she is the one most trapped within her routines she is also the only one who snaps out of her character when it is required. It is a shocking moment but made all the more poignant and powerful because it is the solitary occasion when she steps out of the role we have assigned to her.

 As said before this is a movie which cruises along at its own pace and considering its subject matter attempting anything else would have been a mistake. It is beautifully shot and the audience is able to engage with each of its main characters but it does not affect any deep emotions on a profound level although I believe this was also the intention of Gilbert and her cast.

A Long Way From Home is showing at Cineworld on Thursday 20th June at 6.15pm and Saturday June 22nd at 4.50pm.


Behind The Candleabra


Fearing the homosexual subject matter may not appeal to a mainstream audience despite being about the world’s highest entertainer in the nineteen fifties, Liberace, Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candleabra was unable to secure a cinema release in the United States and instead aired on the HBO television channel. Fortunately outside the States and with a notable acclaimed showing at Cannes, Europeans are proving themselves to be a more receptive audience and yesterday the film hit British cinemas.

Featuring three amazing performance, each worthy of Oscar nominations at its core, from Michael Douglas as the famous pianist Liberace-christened Wladziu Valentino Liberace and known simply as ‘Lee’- Matt Damon as his lover Scott Thorson and Rob Lowe as the creepy plastic surgeon with the immobile face, Dr. Jack Startz.

 Based on the exposé written after Liberace’s death from complications arising due to the Aids virus in 1987 by his former lover and ‘employee’ Scott Thorson it focuses on the rise and decline of their relationship. Beginning in 1977-the film opens to the strains of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ surely as much a sign of the future as much as Liberace was a remnant of the past- when the couple assumed their relationship. Thorson was 17 at the time Damon playing him, although in rude health, is a less sprightly 42 thus not playing up the forty year age difference quite as obviously as could be expected. Rather than this the film unexpectedly turns out, despite Thorson’s opportunistic nature and Liberace’s controlling, egotistical and manipulative tendencies as a rather tender love story which sours.

 After a couple of years of bliss things start to derail when Lee sees himself on TV and realises the ageing process has left him looking ravaged and seeks the services of top Hollywood surgeon Startz- a suitably and almost unrecognisably creepy Rob Lowe- to give him back his youth. At the same time he decides in an unbelievably conceited move to have Scott remodelled into a younger version of himself and this is when problems set in as part of the process is a Hollywood diet to lose weight fast: cocaine and amphetamines all washed down with a river of alcohol.

 Inevitably addictions follow as Scott’s drug use escalates and Lee’s penchant for younger men- Thorson was barely out of his teens when he was required to have surgery to look more youthful-also apparently an addiction reveals a roving eye and a wish for a new fresher faced model.

 This leads to a break up wherein everything Scott has been promised is removed ungraciously and he finds himself homeless, virtually friendless and, with an escalating drug habit, also in financial straits after a relatively paltry payoff of $75,000.

 Like a true lover scorned Scott them reveals Liberace’s proclivities to the press in an act of revenge and a desire to tarnish the unbelievably still pristine reputation. All is not well in Lee’s world however and a final emotional re-uniting on his death bed- Douglas at this juncture as the ailing star in the final stages of Aids is unrecognisable as himself- and it is an emotionally telling scene with the tenderness which had previously existed flickers into view briefly. Not before one last typical drama though.

  In a last ditch attempt to conceal his sexual nature and cause of death his body has to be hijacked on its way to the morgue as a false autopsy report was delivered and suspicions are aroused. This made global news at the time and in a world still reeling and not fully understanding the nature of the illness it was a sad state of affairs for a man who had done everything to conceal his true self and whose reputation was forever blighted.

 It is hard to imagine in today’s tell all society that such a secret surrounding such a monumental star could remain so for such a long time but, in truth, how much has really changed. There are few Hollywood A-List stars who have come out as gay- at least not while their careers are in the ascendant- neither are their many premiership footballers or other notable sports figures ,so perhaps the stigma attached to homosexuality still persists even in our more understanding society no matter how enlightened it believes itself to be.

 Behind The Candleabra however is an extremely brave piece of filmmaking which chips away at the gaudy and glitzy façade to reveal the vulnerability, insecurity and precariousness of the relationship at its core At times the pace does flag and it is overly long but throughout the performance are outstanding and this is what really carries the film to a higher level and makes it so worthwhile.