Tuesday, October 23, 2012

209 - High Noon (1952)

Played out in real time, High Noon tells the story of a man unwilling to run from a fight.

Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is the long serving sheriff of Hadleyville. On the day of his wedding to Amy (Grace Kelly), a quaker and a pacifist, he learns of the forthcoming return of Frank Miller (Ian McDonald) on the high noon train - a man whom Kane had sentenced to hanging, but who had escaped on a legal technicality.

The townsfolk encourage Kane to escape with his bride while he still can, but Kane insists on staying. As he tries to recruit deputies for his cause, however, he finds himself increasingly isolated as the clock ticks down to high noon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Painless (2012)

Theatrical Poster
Source: uniFrance films
A group of children who can't feel pain are isolated.

In present times, David (Àlex Brendemühl) is travelling down a mountain road when his car flips, killing his pregnant wife and critically injuring David. David and his 3-month premature child are saved, but the subsequent tests reveal David has little time to live unless he has a bone marrow transplant. When he goes to tell his parents about his situation, they reveal his past is not all it seems.

In the 1930's, a group of children who do not feel pain are discovered and they are taken into an asylum in order for them to be rehabilitated. One such child, Benigno, reveals a strange talent that both helps and hinders him in his time at the asylum over the next 30 years.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

208 - Heat (1995)

Theatrical Poster
Source: IMP Awards
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The schedule is out the window. That's not for want of trying though. I blame other commitments such as trying to renovate a house (I write this while cosying up to a 50-year-old Rayburn surrounded by power tools and a mismash of new house and neglected 1950's house) - all this while running my standard full time job. I know, throw me a pity party.

Having experienced a number of fantastic gangster films on the Empire 5-star list, I was very much looking forward to Heat. Be warned though - anyone expecting a Godfather-esque Pacino/De Niro gangster movie will be vastly disappointed. Heat is a crime film, with De Niro as Neil McCauley, the bad guy with a good life and Pacino as Lt. Vincent Hanna, the good cop with a bad life.

It opens to a wondrously clockwork robbery with Val Kilmer getting in on the gung-ho action. Naturally it doesn't go without a hitch, leaving De Niro forced to outcast a member of his crew. So, while he continues to watch his back in case Pacino shows up to bust him, he now needs to keep a beady eye out for the ostracised member of the gang who is seeking revenge.

The criminal plans are laid out well throughout and this certainly helps to get across the cool persona of McCauley - this is a role which Robert De Niro plays throughout his career and it is interesting to think that both him and Pacino could have played either of the protagonist roles.

Overall though, I was disappointed with Heat. I'd set a high bar for a film containing Empire's two highest rated actors (ranked by number of 5-star films), and perhaps this didn't help. In places it drags on considerably and the nigh on three hour run time could easily have been shortened. Halfway through the film, a scene which feels like the final gunfight is played out and from then on, much of the film just feels like an alternate ending.

It is then, with great regret that I have to rank Heat with disappointment. Michael Mann's films will crop up later on in the 500 with Public Enemies and Last of the Mohicans so maybe he can regain some lost credibility.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BFI Top 100 British Films

84 Remaining
In 1999 the British Film Institute polled 1,000 people from British film in order to compile the 100 greatest films that are seen as culturally British. These needn't be created partly or wholly by British companies, but must be seen as significantly British.

The list is as follows:
  1. The Third Man (1949)
  2. Brief Encounter (1945)
  3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  4. The 39 Steps (1935)
  5. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Great Expectations (1946)
  6. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  7. Kes (1969)
  8. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Don't Look Now (1973)
  9. The Red Shoes (1948)
  10. Trainspotting (1996)
  11. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
  12. If.... (1968)
  13. The Ladykillers (1955)
  14. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
  15. Brighton Rock (1947)
  16. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Get Carter (1971)
  17. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
  18. Henry V (1944)
  19. ✓ see review ★★★★ Chariots Of Fire (1981)
  20. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
  21. The Long Good Friday (1980)
  22. The Servant (1963)
  23. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  24. Whisky Galore! (1949)
  25. The Full Monty (1997)
  26. The Crying Game (1992)
  27. ✓ see review ★★★★ Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  28. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
  29. Withnail and I (1987)
  30. Gregory's Girl (1980)
  31. ✓ see review ★★★★ Zulu (1969)
  32. Room at the Top (1958)
  33. Alfie (1966)
  34. Gandhi (1982)
  35. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  36. The Italian Job (1969)
  37. Local Hero (1983)
  38. The Commitments (1991)
  39. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
  40. Secrets & Lies (1996)
  41. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Dr. No (1962)
  42. The Madness of King George (1994)
  43. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
  44. ✓ see review ★★★★ Black Narcissus (1947)
  45. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  46. Oliver Twist (1948)
  47. I'm All Right Jack (1959)
  48. Performance (1970)
  49. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  50. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
  51. Tom Jones (1963)
  52. This Sporting Life (1963)
  53. My Left Foot (1989)
  54. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Brazil (1985)
  55. The English Patient (1996)
  56. A Taste of Honey (1961)
  57. The Go-Between (1971)
  58. The Man in the White Suit (1951)
  59. The Ipcress File (1965)
  60. ✓ see review ★★★★ Blow-Up (1966)
  61. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
  62. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  63. Passport to Pimlico (1949)
  64. The Remains of the Day (1993)
  65. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
  66. The Railway Children (1970)
  67. Mona Lisa (1986)
  68. The Dam Busters (1955)
  69. Hamlet (1948)
  70. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Goldfinger (1964)
  71. Elizabeth (1998)
  72. ✓ see review ★★★★ Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
  73. A Room with a View (1985)
  74. The Day of the Jackal (1973)
  75. The Cruel Sea (1952)
  76. Billy Liar (1963)
  77. Oliver! (1968)
  78. Peeping Tom (1960)
  79. Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)
  80. The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
  81. ✓ see review ★★★★ A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  82. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)
  83. Darling (1965)
  84. Educating Rita (1983)
  85. Brassed Off (1996)
  86. Genevieve (1953)
  87. Women in Love (1969)
  88. ✓ see review ★★★★★ A Hard Day's Night (1964)
  89. Fires Were Started (1943)
  90. Hope and Glory (1987)
  91. My Name Is Joe (1998)
  92. In Which We Serve (1942)
  93. Caravaggio (1986)
  94. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Belles Of St. Trinians (1954)
  95. Life is Sweet (1990)
  96. The Wicker Man (1973)
  97. Nil by Mouth (1997)
  98. Small Faces (1995)
  99. ✓ see review ★★★★ Carry On... Up The Khyber (1968)
  100. The Killing Fields (1984)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Room 237 (2012)

Theatrical Poster
A documentary looking at hidden meanings behind The Shining.

When Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining, he had other things on his mind than just directing a standard horror film.

This documentary suggests that the film had other connotations including many references to American Indians, the faked footage of the lunar landings and continuity errors that may have been intentional.

Friday, October 12, 2012

British Film Institute - London Film Festival

Between October 10th and October 22nd, the British Film Institute are hosting their 56th annual London Film Festival, featuring movies that are shown before their UK release date and films that will probably never get a UK release date or distribution. It was officially opened with the animated film Frankenweenie 3D, and will end with the UK premiere of Great Expectations featuring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.

56th BFI London Film Fesitval logo - Source: BFI

As a film fan, as soon as I heard about this year's festival, I was on the BFI's website and shortlisting films I wanted to see. As a reader of Empire Magazine, I was pleased to see the appearance of Room 237, a documentary on Kubrick's The Shining, which Empire had rated 5-stars. That was the first film added to my shortlist. Having watched the 1946 version, I was also keen to watch Great Expectations, but alas with this being the premiere and all, it was sold out.

Also on my shortlist was the Italian film The Interval, the thriller Blood, and one I thought looked particularly interesting - the South Korean film Helpless. I asked my girlfriend to write her own list of films too, and interestingly both of our lists contained 12 films - although they were varied somewhat. We had both picked out Seven Psychopaths, the follow-up to my favourite black comedy, In Bruges. She was also keen to push Blancanieves, which looked an interesting mix as it was declared to be Tim Burton meets The Artist.

In the end the list had to be shortened down to two or three films that we could see on the same day (living a while away from London causes logistical issues). Tying up which films were being shown sequentially narrowed down the choices, until I finally settled on Room 237 and Painless - a Spanish thriller/drama about children who do not feel pain.

I feel it has a certain air of sophistication to be going to a 'film festival', but I just told my work colleagues that I was effectively going to London to go to the cinema twice. After leaving the screening for Room 237 this is exactly what it felt like. I'd sweated on the London Underground, dodged rain and avoided a school trip on my way to the Leicester Square showing - there was little more to it than that, except for a pleasing lack of adverts before the show.

We'd previously travelled to the second cinema to get an idea of where it was. Ciné Lumière was a single screen literally surrounded by French culture in the Institut français du Royaume-Uni (French Institute in London) and is more renowned for showing French films that the British are largely ignorant of. The building also houses a cafe and a mediatheque - something far more charming and quaint than the big-screen multiplexes common in leisure parks up and down the country.

The cinema didn't have allocated seating, so we were keen to get in quick to get our seats and happily ended up in our favourite place - our view placed firmly in the centre of the screen. We were pleasantly surprised by the announcement before the show that director Juan Carlos Medina would be on stage afterwards for a short question and answer session which provided a unique insight into this film including his experiences of working with the actors and his personal background showing why the film was special to him.

Call me naive, but I knew very little about the Spanish civil war and didn't even realise that Painless touched on this era. The post-film interview with Juan Carlos Medina opened my eyes on a very recent and rarely covered piece of Spanish history. Medina himself said with brutal honesty that "no-one talks about it... because the bad guys won".

The most harrowing part of it all was that it - along with many of this year's festival - will probably never see a UK release or distribution. At this point I realised that it was this reason that make film festivals around the world so special. There isn't a big fanfare before or after the showings and neither should there be. They are films like any other - but often without the budget or studio backing of the blockbusters that dominate the other 90% of cinemas up and down the country.

Big conglomerates should give these smaller films a chance to share their culture - if only for one showing per week. Without smaller, personal cinemas like Ciné Lumière we are forgetting the heritage of films and leaving it to Hollywood to dominate our screens with repetitive tales of comic book heroes.

Thank you, BFI and the London Film Fesitval for opening my eyes and I look forward to next year!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Looper (2012)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
A hitman fails to kill his future self.

In 2044, following the economic collapse of the USA and the rise of the Chinese Yuan, Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works in Kansas City as a Looper, performing hits for the mob on people sent back in time from 2074.

At the end of a looper's contract, their future self is sent back to be killed by their past self, but when Joe's older self (Bruce Willis) escapes, Joe must hunt him down or risk the wrath of the mob.