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2011 London Film Festival Roundup

Posted by: Matthew Turner 28/10/2011 @ 11:56
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 434
Films seen in the last week: Trishna, Into the Abyss, America America, Beauty, The Monk, Damsels in Distress, A Dangerous Method, W.E., Dream House, Weekend, The Art of Love, Sket, Kill Keith, Hunky Dory, Machine Gun Preacher


2011 London Film Festival Roundup
And so another London Film Festival has come to an end. Artistic director Sandra Hebron's final year (Clare Stewart takes over next
year) proved one hell of a swansong – I saw well over fifty festival films in total and most of them were excellent, with only a small handful of duds (notably Gus Van Sant's Restless). I am still one of the people who wishes the LFF would return to the Odeon West End rather than the Vue Leicester Square (the “red carpet” at the Vue is hilariously inept and involves snaking round a back alley into Chinatown), but let's not dwell on that.

This year had several wonderful highlights, the chief three of which for me were: attending the fabulous Archive Gala for The First Born (see last week's blog), watching the Dreileben Trilogy (all three inter-connected German films back to back), the delight of the Surprise Film and the subsequent hilarity of all the people hating it on Twitter afterwards (playboy operatOR types who don't know their colours, all of them), getting to attend both the opening and closing night parties for the first time in 12 years and meeting tonnes of new people, both directly because of Twitter (the camaraderie of press screenings was definitely heightened this year) and through attending events/queueing and so on.

On the subject of Twitter, I think there's a definite case for printing our Twitter names underneath our real names on our press passes next year and frankly, if the LFF accreditations team don't do it, we should do it ourselves. Anyway, without further ado, here are my top ten films from this year's LFF, with accompanying reviews where possible:

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin
2. The Artist
3. The Kid With The Bike
4. Martha Marcy May Marlene
5. Miss Bala
6. Wild Bill
7. Shame
8. The Descendants
9. Without
10. Damsels in Distress

Special mentions go to the following ten, which could just as easily stand as an alternate top ten, since the films have been of exceptionally high quality this year: Take Shelter, Beauty, Weekend, She Monkeys, Pariah, ALPS, Nobody Else But You, The Dreileben Trilogy, Wreckers and Into the Abyss.

Films I Am Dying To See: Haywire
That Steven Soderbergh, eh? For someone who's supposedly chucking it all in, film-making-wise, he certainly seems to churn them out at a bewildering rate – it's entirely possible, for example, that his current film Contagion will still be playing in second-run cinemas when his new one opens here in January. Anyway, I was aware of the buzz surrounding Haywire after people started talking about it at Empire BigScreen a couple of months ago but I only recently saw the trailer and am now officially on board with the Haywire-based excitement.

It seems like a standard elite assassin gets betrayed and goes after her double-crossers set-up but it has a mouth-watering cast (Fassbender klaxon, etc) and the action scenes look amazing. It also has what looks like a star-making performance from martial artist Gina Carano, who, on the strength of this, could soon be heading up her own action franchise. The dialogue in the trailer is sparse but I like what little there is, particularly Ewan McGregor's “Is the divorce final?” and Gina's exchange with Bill Paxton: “Keep your eyes open” / “I haven't shut my eyes since you were born.”

Aside from Fassbender, Paxton and McGregor, the fabulous cast also includes Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Channing Tatum, although it looks like he gets taken out fairly early on. Can't wait.
Roll on 20th January. Love the poster too.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Four new entries this week with Mexican arthouse thriller Miss Bala, The Killing-esque German thriller The Silence, Spielberg's mo-cap romp The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and Oscar-bait feelgood drama The Help all making it into the top ten. I'll also put in a good word for both The Ides of March (Gosling Factor: high, Gosling fans) and POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which are at 11th and 12th place, respectively.

It's all go interview-wise this week as well: we have an exclusive interview with Stephanie Sigman and Gerardo Naranjo (star and director of the excellent Miss Bala), a press conference interview with George Clooney for The Ides of March and press conference interviews with Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and director Tate Taylor for The Help.

Elsewhere you can still read our exclusive interview with Albatross star Jessica Brown Findlay (aka Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil), an exclusive interview with departing London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron, an exclusive interview with The Greatest Movie Ever Sold director Morgan Spurlock, press conference interviews with Hugh Jackman and director Shawn Levy for Real Steel and our exclusive interview with Tyrannosaur star Olivia Colman (which I did in San Sebastian). That gives me a score of four out of ten in the ongoing “interviews corresponding with the top ten films” game, which is not too shabby. If only I'd secretly recorded my conversation about Midnight in Paris with -shameless name-drop alert- that nice Tom Hiddleston at the LFF Opening Night Party. Ah well.

1. We Need To Talk About Kevin
2. Miss Bala
3. Melancholia
4. Jane Eyre
5. Midnight In Paris
6. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
7. The Help
8. The Silence
9. Tyrannosaur
10. Albatross

DVD of the Week: Bad Teacher (released Monday 31st October, RRP online £9.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz as Elizabeth, a gold-digging slacker who's forced to return to the teaching job she just left after her rich fiancé cottons on to her ulterior motives and dumps her. However, it isn't long before Elizabeth has set her sights on monied new teacher (Justin Timberlake) and she decides she's going to need a boob job if she's going to have a hope of snaring him.

When Elizabeth's sweet-natured colleague (Phyllis Smith) informs her that there's a cash bonus for the highest test scores, she decides it's time to stop showing her class Inspirational Teacher Movies and start actually teaching them ... until she discovers a way to con a gullible test official (Thomas Lennon) into giving her the papers instead. Meanwhile, she has to dodge the advances of dopey gym teacher Russell (Jason Segel), keep the oblivious principal (John Michael Higgins) on her good side and stay out of the way of perky, overachieving fellow teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), who's becoming increasingly obsessed with taking her down.

Though something of a disappointment on its original release, Bad Teacher is one of those films whose flaws will be more readily forgiven on DVD. Diaz is fine and there's decent comic support from its strong ensemble cast, though it's not actually all that funny (despite the amusing trailer) and the plot inconsistencies (i.e. Diaz somehow managing to be both a gold-digger AND a slacker) still niggle. The DVD at least has a decent bonus package.

Extras include: deleted scenes, out-takes and a pair of featurettes, including a Behind the Scenes special with Jason Segel and Justin Timberlake. The DVD also promises “A special edition featuring new rude cut – not seen in cinemas”, though in my experience you have to take such promises with a pinch of salt.


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