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FrightFest Wrap Up and a Few Words About RocknRolla

Posted by: Matthew Turner 29/08/2008 @ 12:17
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 313
Films seen this week: King of the Hill, Trailer Park of Terror, Mum and Dad, Freakdog, Bad Biology, Dance of the Dead, Manhunt, The Broken, Autopsy, Martyrs, The Disappeared, Mirrors, Death Race, Babylon A.D., Daylight Robbery, Live!, Sakuran, The Warlords

FrightFest 2008: A Post-Mortem
Normally at this time of year I'm at the Edinburgh Film Festival, but its movement to June has had at least one unexpected side-benefit, namely that it meant I could attend my first ever FrightFest. If I'm really honest, I'd have to admit that horror is by no means my favourite genre (I can't stand most J-horrors, for example), but the quality of the FrightFest line-up was exceptional and I saw 12 films in total (see list above) plus the six I'd seen and reviewed beforehand (Eden Lake, Time Crimes, The Strangers, Fear(s) of the Dark, The Chaser and Let the Right One In). The atmosphere was brilliant too – I don't think I've ever seen so many genre fans in one place before. This does have its downside, however, in that there's often what can only be described as inappropriate laughter and/or cheering during some of the nastier moments. They'd also lined up an impressive array of Q&As, plus socialising and meeting the directors and stars in the bar afterwards was warmly encouraged, something that never happens at the LFF. Film-wise, if I had to pick a top five that you should keep an eye out for, I'd go with: Let the Right One In (due for release in a few months), British missing child drama The Disappeared (still awaiting a distributor), Eden Lake (out next week), zombie high school prom horror comedy Dance of the Dead (no distributor) and controversial French revenge / torture flick Martyrs (awaiting a release date), with a special mention to Frank Henenlotter's Bad Biology, which was utterly brilliant and quite the most bonkers film I've seen in a very long time. A glance at the plot synopsis should tell you why it'll almost certainly never get a theatrical release, but it is well worth seeking out on DVD. Anyway, consider me hooked – I'll definitely be there next year.

A Few Words About RocknRolla
By rights, I should have hated RocknRolla. For one thing, I had basically written Guy Ritchie off after the twin disasters of Swept Away and Revolver (a film I really hated). Secondly, it has no less than three of my least favourite actors in it: Gerard Butler (and his seemingly endless array of terrible accents), Thandie Newton (if you'd seen The Truth About Charlie, you'd hate her too) and Tom Hardy (whose constant mumbling has irritated me in almost everything I've ever seen him in). However, against all the odds, RocknRolla is actually pretty good. This is due in no small part to the wonderful Toby Kebbell (he almost stole Control as Rob Gretton), but I have to confess that even the terrible trio mentioned above acquitted themselves nicely this time round. Some critics are saying that RocknRolla is a return to form for Guy Ritchie and I would have to agree, provided we clarify that what we really mean is a return to the form of making cheerful rip-offs of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Anyway, it's a lot of fun and I hope he gets to make his proposed sequel.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Only one new entry this week – The Wackness at number 10. However, I'm delighted to report that both The Visitor and In Search of a Midnight Kiss (both sure-fire locks for my Top Ten of 2008) are currently on the second-run circuit, so please try and catch them if you haven't already.

1. The Dark Knight
2. In Search of a Midnight Kiss
3. The Visitor
4. Man On Wire
5. WALL-E
6. Mamma Mia
7. Somers Town
8. Get Smart
9. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
10. The Wackness

DVD of the Week: Happy-Go-Lucky (out now, RRP £19.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, starring rising star Sally Hawkins as Poppy, a happy-go-lucky young woman with an infectiously bouncy personality and an eternally optimistic view of life. There isn't much of a plot, but the film centres on her encounters with tightly-wound driving instructor Scott, played by the wonderful Eddie Marsan. After the doom and gloom of Vera Drake and All Or Nothing, it's great to see Mike Leigh returning to character comedy and Poppy is a fabulous creation, though, it has to be said, she won't appeal to everyone. Sadly, the extras package on the DVD is a little disappointing, with just two featurettes and a trailer. That said, one of the featurettes is almost 30 minutes long and includes interviews with Leigh and his actors talking about Leigh's collaborative process, but the other is just a five minute short about filming the driving scenes, with soundbites nicked from the first featurette.


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