Total films seen so far this year: 397
Films seen in the last two weeks: Skyfall, Hyde Park on Hudson, Wasteland, Lore, West of Memphis, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Compliance, Painless, Eat Sleep Die, Madagascar 3:
Europe's Most Wanted, My German Friend, Le Gran Soir, The Wall, White Elephant, The We and the I, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Punk, Starlet, Seven Psychopaths, Teddy Bear, Crossfire Hurricane, Song for Marion, Dark Tide, Black Rock, The Manxman, Good Vibrations, The Hijacking, Silver Linings Playbook, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Ernest and Celestine (again), Elena, Sister, We Are The Night
FILM OF THE WEEK: SKYFALL
2012 London Film Festival Round-up
And so another London Film Festival has come to an end. Charged with reinvigorating the festival, incoming artistic director Clare Stewart had what must have looked like a daunting task going in, but the overwhelming consensus is that she pulled it off, with the introduction of new themed strands (Love, Debate, Laugh, Journey, Cult, Dare, Thrill and, lest we forget, Sonic) proving a big hit, particularly the introduction of a long-absent space for genre movies.
It was also a treat to be liberated from the shackles of a single West End venue for the galas – the Odeon West End and the Vue shared the majority of the features this year, which gave the entire festival a subconsciously all-inclusive vibe (and also meant shorter queues for afternoon tickets, which is no bad thing).
Including films I caught at non-LFF press screenings and other festivals (San Sebastian), I saw a total of 59 films altogether and most of them were excellent. In fact, whether by virtue of deliberately skipping a few likely-looking duds (looking at you, Midnight's Children) or just sheer luck, I somehow managed to avoid seeing any terrible films this year – someone asked me what the worst film I'd seen all festival was and I genuinely struggled to come up with an answer.
There were several wonderful highlights this year, the chief four of which for me were: attending the Archive Gala for Hitchcock's The Manxman, sitting in the best seat in the house in the Empire Leicester Square and then hoovering up a couple of rows' worth of unclaimed Green & Black's chocolate bars afterwards; doing an insane amount of time-consuming but highly enjoyable junkets and interviews (the best of which were John Hawkes and Ben Lewin for The Sessions, Jason Biggs for Grassroots - we bonded over when we met in Edinburgh in 2005 when he was wearing this jumper, which led to him posing for this picture - Alice Englert for Ginger & Rosa and the Frankenweenie junket); correctly predicting the Surprise Film (Silver Linings Playbook); and attending various swanky parties, most notably the Crossfire Hurricane party where I panicked bouncers by making an unseemly lunge for some delicious canapes, not realising that said canapes were inches away from Ronnie Wood.
It's also not really an LFF unless you have a delightful chat with an actress or two and this year I befriended the lovely Madeline Zima (providing we're defining friendship as 'getting them to follow you on Twitter') and bantered with Jodie Whittaker and Alice Englert. Anyway, enough name-dropping. Without further ado, here are my top ten films from this year's LFF, with accompanying reviews where possible:
3. West of Memphis
5. Teddy Bear
7. The Sessions
8. Ernest and Celestine
9. After Lucia
Special mentions go to the following ten: Rust and Bone, Compliance (the festival's most controversial film, with several walk-outs), Silver Linings Playbook, Starlet, Shell, Lore, Love Marilyn, Good Vibrations, Black Rock and The Sapphires.
Films I Am Dying To See: Iron Man 3
Regular readers of this blog (both of you, etc) will know that I'm something of a Marvel fan (an old-school one, anyway), so I was hugely excited by the release of the Iron Man 3 trailer this week. The main thing to note is that we get our first glimpse of Ben Kingsley playing arch Iron Man supervillain The Mandarin, a character almost as old as Iron Man himself in comics terms, his first appearance being in 1964.
On first viewing of the trailer I didn't spot Rebecca Hall's brief appearance (she's at 0m48s) but now that I know she's in it, I'm even more excited. I have to confess that I'm not familiar with the characters played by Hall and Guy Pearce (Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian, respectively), but the internet informs me that both characters play a key role in Warren Ellis' 2005 Extremis arc, a story that involved the development of nanotechnology that can bond with humans, something that appears to be backed up by the shot of the Iron Man glove zooming onto Stark's hand at 0m23s.
There's lots to pick over in the trailer, but I love the shot of all the Iron Man suits exploding (a result of the nanotech virus from the comics?) and am intrigued by the shot of an Iron Man suit startling Pepper Potts and Stark in bed together – hopefully that won't turn out to be a dream sequence, though Stark talking about nightmares suggests that it could be. I'm not too keen on what appears to be the new armour design, but I guess you can't have everything.
Also, the returning presence of Don Cheadle suggest War Machine will be involved again, but there's no hint of that so far unless the heavily-armoured suit at 0m49s is meant to be War Machine and not Iron Man. The trailer is also worryingly devoid of Stark's trademark wise-cracking, though I guess we'll get some of that in the next one. I'm also keen to see how good a job co-writer/director Shane Black does of replacing Jon Favreau (who's still around in an acting capacity as Happy Hogan, at least according to the imdb).
At any rate, the film opens here in April 2013 and I can't wait.
Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Six new entries into the top ten this week, partly because there was no blog last week due to general LFF-related madness. The new entries
include: Tim Burton's wonderful Frankenweenie, Sam Mendes' blistering Bond Skyfall, Ursula Meier's Swiss Alps drama Sister (although you can think of it as The Kid With The Skis, as it's so Dardennes-like), sexy German vampire thriller We Are The Night, Kubrick conspiracy theorist doc Room 237 and, though I never thought I'd be saying this, Madagascar 3, which is better than both the previous Madagascar movies and not just because it has Jessica Chastain as a sexy jaguar.
There now follows the traditional plea to See Smaller Films First (#SSFF) – if you are planning on seeing Sister, Room 237 or We Are The Night at any point (particularly the latter as it's already out on DVD and only getting a Halloween-related theatrical release) then please, please, PLEASE see them in the cinema this weekend, as smaller films need visible opening weekend support to survive, whereas the likes of Bond and even Frankenweenie will be around for weeks to come.
Interview-wise this week, we have an exclusive interview with Room 237 director Rodney Ascher as well as a host of new interviews from last week, including: an exclusive interview with Ginger & Rosa star Alice Englert (daughter of Jane Campion); an exclusive interview with Tim Burton for Frankenweenie; an exclusive interview with Martin Landau for Frankenweenie and an exclusive interview with Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara for Frankenweenie.
Elsewhere you can still read our semi-exclusive interview with actor Paul Dano and co-director Jonathan Dayton for Ruby Sparks; a press conference interview with Dano, Dayton, writer-star Zoe Kazan and co-director Valerie Faris; our press conference interview with Emma Watson for The Perks of Being a Wallflower; a semi-exclusive interview with Liam Neeson for Taken 2; our semi-exclusive interview with Dredd star Karl Urban; a semi-exclusive interview with Dredd writer Alex Garland and a press conference interview with Anna Karenina director Joe Wright and stars Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Matthew Macfadyen.
Come back next week for exclusive interviews with Silent Hill star Sean Bean and Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard.
4. Holy Motors
5. We Are The Night
6. Room 237
7. Ruby Sparks
8. Hotel Transylvania
9. Liberal Arts
10. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
DVD of the Week: The Raid (out now, online RRP £10.42)
This week's DVD of the week is The Raid, an Indonesian action thriller written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans. Set in present-day Jakarta, the film stars Iko Uwais as Rama, a rookie cop who wakes up, kisses his pregnant wife goodbye and then heads off to join his colleagues for a raid on a run-down tower block controlled by vicious gangster Tama (Ray Sahetapy). However, Tama offers the residents (most of whom are thugs and killers anyway) free rent for life if they kill the cops and soon the building is a full-on war zone as Iko and his colleagues battle to reach the 15th floor, using fists, guns, knives, machetes and whatever else comes to hand.
Martial artist Iko Uwais is terrific as Rama and it's thrilling to watch him punch, kick, twist, snap and crunch his way through legions of heavily-armed goons – indeed, The Raid will almost certainly do for Uwais and fighting style Silat what Ong-Bak did for Tony Jaa and Muay Thai. The script and dialogue are extremely basic (though there is an allegory for corrupt Indonesian society buried in there if you look hard enough), but Evans makes a virtue of the script's economy, ensuring that the action kicks off just three scenes in.
Evans maintains a blistering sense of pace throughout, so that each action scene crashes headlong into the next one, interspersed only with moments that ratchet up the tension, such as Uwais hiding in a tiny crawl-space with a thug thrusting a sword through the wall to check no-one is there. In addition, the skilful fight choreography (by Uwais and co-star Yayan Ruhian) is heightened by Evans' exceptional editing and some stunning sound design work that will have you wincing at every crunch. Evans and Uwais orchestrate a number of incredible set pieces, the highlight of which involves a hole in the floor between two apartments and the innovative use of a fridge.
In short, this is a superbly shot, thrillingly staged and thoroughly enjoyable action flick that recreates the glorious feeling of watching John Woo's Hard Boiled for the first time and marks both writer-director Evans and ass-kicking star Uwais out as future talents to watch.
Extras include: a director's commentary; a Behind the Music featurette; a short collection of interview questions with the director; trailers; and two lovely animated fan-made films, the highlight of which is Lee Hardcastle's ClayCat (cue plasticine cats whacking plasticine mice with hammers, some very gory plasticine death sequences and a recreation of the brilliant exploding fridge scene).
Frankly, the DVD is worth buying for ClayCat's The Raid alone. Highly recommended. No deleted scenes or bloopers though and surely there were tonnes of bloopers?