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Sundance London Preview

Posted by: Matthew Turner 20/04/2012 @ 14:59
Subject: Film

Total films seen so far this year: 106
Films seen in the last week: Avengers Assemble, Elles, Piggy, Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, Lockout, Daughters of Darkness, Casa De Mi Padre, Monsieur Lazhar


Sundance London Preview
Next week (26th - 29th April), in a bold and interesting experiment, the O2 is hosting the inaugural Sundance London Film and Music festival with a series of films and events programmed by the Sundance Institute, hosts of Utah's annual Sundance Film Festival. If this week's terrible weather continues, Sundance London may prove a welcome distraction indeed, with a mixture of intriguing musical performances (such as ‘Rufus and Martha Wainwright sing Kate McGarrigle’) and multiple screenings of each of the 14 programmed films.

Split more or less evenly into features and documentaries, the line-up looks pretty decent. At any rate, these are the films I'm most looking forward to: For Ellen (starring Paul Dano as a struggling musician who takes an overnight long-distance drive in order to fight his estranged wife for custody of their young daughter); Nobody Walks (co-scripted by Tiny Furniture's Lena Dunham, which may account for the extremely similar plot synopsis, in which a young New York artist comes to live with an L.A. family for a week); Liberal Arts (about a romance between two people – writer-director Josh Radnor and Martha Marcy May Marlene's Elizabeth Olsen - who meet at a university retirement dinner); The Queen of Versailles (a documentary about an American couple building a 90,000 square foot palace who get caught out by the economic crisis); Safety Not Guaranteed (starring one of my favourite unsung actresses, Aubrey Plaza, about a trio of magazine employees investigate a classified ad seeking a partner for time travel); and Under African Skies, a documentary in which Paul Simon recalls the journey of his historic Graceland album, on its 25th anniversary.

Tickets are available now and the full schedule is available here. Bonus points if you spot Robert Redford over the weekend.

Films I Am Dying To See: Looper
The internets went nuts for the Looper teaser when it “dropped” (as I believe the kids like to say) a couple of weeks ago, but for one reason or another I have only just got around to seeing it, despite being a huge fan of both a) writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) and b) time-travel movies in general. Now that I've seen it, the film has rocketed right to the top of my Must-See list and I will be keeping my fingers tightly crossed that the Edinburgh Film Festival manages to get hold of it (unlikely, but I can dream).

The plot set-up is inspired – the film is set in 2042 America, 30 years before the invention of time-travel. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a Looper, an assassin tasked with killing whoever his future-based bosses send back through time to a designated spot. However, when his latest target turns out to be – wait for it – himself (and, brilliantly, played by Bruce Willis, providing an intriguing Twelve Monkeys reference), he hesitates and allows, er, himself to escape, causing (one assumes) all manner of problems.

The teaser trailer doesn't give away much else beyond lots of running, shooting, punching, explosions and the late-arriving fact that Emily Blunt is in it. The cast also includes two of my favourite character actors: Jeff Daniels (“This time-travel crap will fry your brain like an egg ...”) and Garrett Dillahunt (not glimpsed in the trailer, but whose casting also provides a time-travel reference, since he was the Terminator in the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show). Sadly, the film doesn't open here until 28th September, though at least that means it won't be at the LFF and that Edinburgh might have a crack at it after all. Can. Not. WAIT.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Three new entries this week, with Marley (Kevin Macdonald's exhaustive Bob Marley documentary), South African obsession drama Beauty (aka Skoonheid) and Lasse Hallstrom's Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (not a documentary but a light-hearted comedy starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt) all entering the top ten. There are a gob-smacking seventeen new films out this week, so I'll also put in a good word for Lockout and Transit, which are both trashy enjoyable fun. I would also urge you to see Dexter Fletcher's Wild Bill, as it has already entered its second run and is only playing at the Prince Charles cinema in London.

Interview-wise this week, we have an exclusive interview with Marley director Kevin Macdonald, exclusive interviews with Elfie Hopkins stars Jaime Winstone and Aneurin Barnard and a press conference interview with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen stars Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.

Elsewhere you can still read our exclusive interview with Battleship star Taylor Kitsch and our exclusive interview with director Pete Berg; an exclusive interview with Return (and Freaks & Geeks) star Linda Cardellini; a semi-exclusive interview with This Must Be The Place director Paolo Sorrentino; our semi-exclusive interview with director Werner Herzog for Into the Abyss; an exclusive interview with Gideon Defoe, author of The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists; our exclusive interview with actor-turned-writer-director Dexter Fletcher for Wild Bill and an exclusive interview with star Will Poulter; and our semi-exclusive round table interview with John Cusack for The Raven (which has only just opened in the States).

Come back next week for interviews with Damsels in Distress director Whit Stillman, The Monk director Dominik Moll and a press conference interview with most of the cast of Avengers Assemble (which, incidentally, is AWESOME).

1. Titanic (3D)
2. Wild Bill
3. The Kid With A Bike
4. The Hunger Games
5. Beauty (Skoonheid)
6. Marley
7. Blackthorn
8. Headhunter
9. The Cabin in the Woods
10. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

DVD of the Week: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (online RRP £8.49)
This week's DVD/Blu-Rayof the Week is The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (or, to give it its contractual full title, POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold). Directed by Morgan Spurlock, the film explores the insidious nature of advertising and marketing via product placement in movies and TV shows. Intending to harness the force of product placement for good, Spurlock sets out to see if he can get his film made entirely through the willing support of a series of sponsors in return for product placement deals and a lucrative above-the-title promotion.

Spurlock's entertaining, light hearted approach belies his serious message and the film raises some interesting questions, such as whether agreeing to product placement and sponsorship compromises his artistic integrity and if so, how far is too far? The interviews are excellent and it's very funny trying to see Spurlock work in his contractually ordained plugs for his various items (e.g. showing off his new shoes to Ralph Nader or casually ensuring that a bottle of POM Wonderful is in shot each time).

However, the film's best sequence occurs when Spurlock visits Sao Paolo in Brazil, a city that has out-lawed all outdoor advertising and has reaped extraordinary benefits as a result: not only is the city cleaner but crime has actually gone down. The scenes where he drives through the advertising-free city are extraordinary and it makes you wonder if the same jaw-droppingly bold but wildly successful experiment could work in other cities.

In short, this is a hugely entertaining and frequently laugh-out-loud funny documentary that's by turns fascinating and genuinely disturbing and will make you keenly aware of the advertising that surrounds you on a daily basis. Warning: there is no way to watch the film without wanting a bottle of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice afterwards.

Extras include: a very short Behind The Scenes featurette, a whopping 33 minutes of deleted scenes, an extended scene and a short selection of some of the commercials Spurlock shot while making the film. Highly recommended. No commentary, sadly, though you could, of course, read our exclusive interview with Spurlock.


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