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Cannes 2014 Schedule Announcement

Cannes2014The worlds most prestigious film festival announced its programme this morning so I thought it would be prudent to throw a few thoughts together. Before we get into that you might be wondering why the Menagerie hasn’t dipped his toes – or rather made an offer to dip his toes - in the Côte d’Azur (I have been approached to do so) and the simple answer is what makes the world go round – money. I have reviewed possibilities in the past and as you’d expect it is catastrophically expensive, I’d be more than happy to spring for the airfare but vomiting 300 Euros and upward a night for a hotel is simply impossible, not to mention the lost earnings I suffer as a self-employed dude. I’ve also heard tales of a simply hellish schedule, arising at 5am and queuing for six or seven hours for a slim chance of getting into even a mildly anticipated movie, although there would be a sense of continental sophistication and, well, superbadass coolness to be among the first 200 people to see the next Malick film or whatever I’m not sure it’s really worth the effort. That said I can’t help think it must be experienced at least once, if only for the personal pride in being awarded accreditation (the assessment process is notoriously rigorous, with specific attention directed to the quality not quantity of applicants previous work), as in the field of film criticism it really doesn’t come much higher does it? The chance to bathe in film history such as this titanic trio on stage together from 1983? I dunno, we’ll see how it goes assignment wise this year and what rainy day coffers we can accrue, until then here’s my initial pick of the bunch for this years programme;

Not the most surprising choice for opening night as this project oozes Cannes credibility – sophistication, class, a few frames of prestigious cinema history, a character study rather than North American pyrotechnics. I’m a little lukewarm on the project as Grace Kelly isn’t really featuring in my favourite actresses pantheon, but for a sense of cinema history and I assume some Hitchcock references – I assume the fireworks at 1:05 is a sly nod to this – so this will be hunted down, eventually….

A film about oblique power in Russia? How timely. Andrei Zvyangintsev is something of a Cannes veteran with both his earlier works Banishment and Elena previewing to solid acclaim, it sounds as if his new feature Leviathan could garner a hat-trick of praise. Can’t say I’ve seen either of his movies but I hope to rectify this shortly, the short of his I’ve posted above certainly

This was announced as well, both projects presumably being in production for a couple of years at a minimum, then they get released against a political back-drop that is growing more and more worrying in Eastern Europe – you’ve gotta love those coincidental intersections of life and art….

From Russia to America, I can’t say I particularly gravitate to wrestling movies, and I’m not sure I can take Steve Carrell’s ‘take me seriously as an actor’ looking appearance here, but with Annapurna as the production company behind this I’m quietly confident that this will hold its own in the ring – they have quite the robust production pedigree.

At the spritely age of 83 Godard continues to prove that the old masters are still in operation, and with the latest film his first foray into 3D it should be fascinating to see what inevitable meta-commentary he will make of the format, and the current state of the art form – I doubt he’ll be entirely salubrious….

Showing out of competition is Zhang Yimou’s latest collaboration with his muse Gong Li, not much to glean from that short trailer but I thought I’d throw it into the mix to demonstrate the global reach of the schedule.

A new Argento, but not the one you’re thinking off. I’m very pleased to see Asia back behind the camera, her previous film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things was a sleeper which I rented and was quietly blown away by, can’t believe it’s already a decade old. No trailer yet so above is a quick look at her previous effort, there are fifteen female directors featured at this years festival (out of 49 official entries) with a total representation of both genders across 28 countries. Sounds a little more equitable than most festivals….

I’d be doing this post a Gallic injustice if I didn’t mention some of the French material on offer, with new films from Oliver Assayas (Sils Maria), Michel Hazanavicus follows up the Oscar triumphs of The Artist with a distinct shift in subject matter with the severe sounding Serbian war picture The Search, and current new artesian hope Xavier Dolan has his fifth feature Mommy in competition. He is 25 and has already made, distributed and exhibited five pictures. Le Bastard….

How have I not heard about this until now? Jesus, I think I’m slipping in my advancing years. David Michod’s follow-up to his ferocious Animal Kingdom is already being compared to another famous Australian exploitation classic which I won’t insult you by naming, this looks pretty intense, no?

I should also mention Deux Jours, Une Nuit by Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne featuring Marion Cotillard, from the UK both cinematic institutions Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) and Ken Loach are in attendance (the latter with I think his last film Jimmy’s Hall before his recently announced retirement), Ryan Goslings directorial debut Lost River, the aforementioned Cronenberg Maps To The Stars and plenty more besides which I don’t have the time to reference here – Bradshaw’s crafted a more comprehensive round-up here. Now we’ve got some web-spinning, by which I mean writing, to weave after this afternoon’s cinema visit…..

Maps To The Stars (2014) Trailer

Forgive my unholy cursing but fuck this schedule, there has been little to nothing to post over the last few days film-wise other than a few vaguely interesting trailers, I promise that more substantial material is on the forward agenda - hell, Spider Man 2.2 opens tomorrow – isn’t that great? Well, isn’t IT? OK, whatever, here’s some new Cronenberg which seems a little…restrained;

From a cinephile perspective it’s always fun when the ‘dreammakers’ turn their lens on the industry which supports and  simultaneously disgusts them – tasty. That preview is quite different in tone and concept from the other marketing media that was plunged into the North American market yesterday, which from a cursory glance has already been extinguished from most websites – interesting. Moving on, and in anticipation of next weeks Sundance London extravaganza which kicks off on Tuesday press-wise (although already some potential day job interviews could be interfering with my carefully orchestrated schedule) I’m also happy to have been nudged into this, which will finally enable a viewing of this 2013 cinephile champion which I criminally missed from both Toronto and L0ndon;

A little more seriously I’m genuinely excited about this festival, it’s generally out of sync of my usual purview which equals a more challenging charging of the political and critical neurons – excellent. Here’s the trailer for the opening film which is intriguing;

Then again, as I write this let me share my viewing vernacular – tonight I’m resurrecting my cult move cache by devouring the director’s commentary of the original (and superior, discuss?) US cut of Dawn Of The Dead, we’re only a few munches in and already its apparent that this is one of the all time classic horror pictures and crucial Armageddon reconnaissance – yummy;

Let’s be serious, the main reason that this film works and has endured is because its so scrappy, it is so uncertain, unsure and unprofessional. That bleeds on-screen and makes it so scary…..

Gone Girl (2014) Trailer

New Fincher, nuff said;

A Most Wanted Man (2014) Trailer

I do love a cerebral spy thriller, but I suspect this will be a difficult watch for obvious reasons;

The Future Of Movies?

We haven’t checked in with the RLM gang for a while, I thought I’d post this less for the review’s which are of the usual solid character, more for their predictions of the future of movies which begins at about 20:11;

That seriously made my day, alongside a positive outcome from our Sundance accreditation application. I’ve identified 13 movies to see on a fairly ambitious schedule, it’s a good job as its deathly quiet this weekend – I can’t find one single film worth seeing – so this may be the calm before the storm….

Eldorado (2012) Trailer

Bad movie fans rejoice! A new entry to the pantheon of awfulness has arrived to join the likes of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Sharknado, The Room, Troll 2, Birdemic, Manos  - full story here.

I love bad movies but I have to say, that looks particularly catastrophic. This reminds me, I’ve never actually watched The Room. I must correct this forthwith….

The Raid 2 (2014) & Hackney Picturehouse Gareth Evans Q&A

riad2You remember The Raid, right? That was 2012′s blistering action genre smash which seemingly came from nowhere to (cliché alert) stick a shot of adrenaline into the flat-lining combat movie paradigm? Well, inevitably the enormous commercial and critical success of the film made a sequel inevitable, and London was blessed with a number of preview screenings last week to get tongues wagging and the blood pumping before the official release this weekend. I dodged a bullet by missing the numerous Cineworld screenings last Monday which were infamously plagued with a host of technical fuck-ups, opting to take a nice leisurely stroll over to the fantastic Hackney Picturehouse instead to catch the film later in the week alongside a subsequent Q&A with director Gareth Evans.  It was quite a screening as the fans were out in force,  previews for genre films are usually good fun from an atmosphere perspective, enticing the gorehounds out for an early peek at the latest incendiary instalment of an instantly enshrined franchise. I’ve already published my film review here but I figured I wouldn’t be doing the evening justice if I didn’t mention some other dimensions of the event, just to get you in the mood here is a deleted scene which was judged as to sedate and pedestrian to be included in the final massacre;

So yes this was one of those screenings where painfully sympathetic groans and frantic applause echoed around the auditorium at the movies crucial bone-crushing moments, the film is far from perfect and utterly bloated but when those action sequences blast across the screen all is forgiven. Mr. Evans was a fairly affable and friendly chap, interviewed by Empire’s  Chris Hewitt he had a amusing story that as a kid he and his brother would love watching potentially violent movies on VHS with their Dad who would rent the films with them, and then sit and watch the movies to ensure he wasn’t warping his young progeny’s minds. The problem was that his approach to this was to pause the film and usher them into the hallway when a potentially violent moment was incoming, so the impressionable young kids would be standing there hearing the chainsaw sequence in Scarface say where the sounds alone conjured far more gruesome imagery than De Palma would be permitted to soak up on screen. In terms of production it wasn’t surprising to hear that every set-piece in The Raid movies are storyboarded to death, then a couple of run-through are shot with a camcorder with the actors just to be sure that the angles work and the blow / block rhythm will work in the edit, with any adjustments or further inspiration introduced from this process into the final shooting script. With a STRONG spoiler warning, here is some background material which you can bookmark for later;

I do like the Hackney Picturehouse, it’s got a huge Screen 1 where this was projected and as I said it draws an expectant crowd who were wincing, groaning and clapping in unison at key moments which is all part of the sick celluloid fun, and as I alluded to in my review there are a couple of great new action movie characters in this picture which are always welcome to join the, erm pantheon of pain? OK, that’s a bit silly isn’t it? I’ll shut up now. Here’s the trailer again;

Noah (2014)

Noah-2014The last time we saw Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly in a successful movie together* she was the distressed love interest to a fragile man plagued by piques of insanity, hearing voices and hallucinating inspirational yet terrifying visions, slowly and incrementally losing his tenuous grasp of reality. It was a paranoid formula which led to Oscars galore, winning Best Picture, Supporting Actress, Script and Director back in 2001, with nominations in many of the other major categories as well. Many among the critical fraternity, myself included, found that film mawkish, absurd and overbearing in its strutted seriousness, with the odd attractive montage sequence which soured the saccharine texture of Ron Howard’s lacklustre and staid direction. You can probably divine where I’m going with this but this time the barking megalomaniac is Darren Aronofsky, finally wielding some financial clout after the Oscar-winning Black Swan  it seems he still has this gnawing urge to tell the story he had grazed in The Fountain out of his system, an epic fantastical tale of faith and creation, the splitting and sundering of worlds both physical and emotional. First of all an ominous burning bush warning – there is a specific element of this film which nervous Paramount Executives successfully expunged from all the marketing material, an affectation which is essential to discuss in order to  fully explore the film. Technically I guess this is a ‘spoiler’ in that sense but given that this element is revealed in the first ten minutes of the film it’s not anything as revealing as a plot twist, but I’ll be referencing this from the synopsis onward so consider yourself ‘warned’ if you’re really that concerned about such trivialities. So from a box-office perspective Noah is not the waterlogged failure that early industry shamans predicted, and initial reports that disgruntled North American Christian literalists fled preview screenings wailing at the liberties taken with the source material made me think of the geek squad similarly screeching away at message boards bemoaning the latest Superman Versus Batman casting rumour. Truly this is an age of terrible wonders as I mostly find myself agreeing with Christian fundamentalists – this film is a deeply frustrating, cosmological mess…..

noah3

Extrapolated from a slim four pages of Old Testament text it feels almost ridiculous to attempt a plot synopsis of one of Western civilisations most enduring myths, but as Aronofsky has repeatedly pointed out whilst sailing the current marketing tsunami the water cataclysm is an enduring parable that has soaked into many cultures and religions – fair point. Grizzled Noah (Russell Crowe), resplendent with his dutiful wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) has been suffering strange visions and apparitions as he and his family scourge a pitiful existence among the creators fallen Eden. Man has been tempted by the serpent and fallen from grace, paradise now a barren and inhospitable realm where bandits and marauders steal and murder with impunity. Noah translates the visions as an instruction to visit his father  Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and obtain further insight, thus it was so that an epic quest is undertaken, traversing the barren lands and meeting the fallen angels entombed as rock heavy golems (voiced by Frank Langella and Nick Nolte in the first slice of divergent madness), and rescuing the young waif Ila from murderous thugs. She soon grows up to be Emma Watson and falls for the blue-eyed charms of Noah’s first son Japeth (Leo McHugh Carroll), leaving second son Ham (Logan Lerman) somewhat frustrated when he learns of the fate of the earth and the severely dwindling possibility of finding a mate of his own. For lo it has been intoned from on high that Noah the faithful should construct a fuck-off ark with his stone-skinned servants assistance, a holy crusade to preserve the creators bounty from the imminent water fuelled Armageddon, but local warlord Tubal-cain,  (Ray Winstone) descendant of the original murderous father of sin has a different vision for the future of the planet and its exploitable species…..

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After a collegial preview screening one can imagine Terry Gilliam getting onto the directors hot-line and demanding to be patched through to Aronofsky, and respectfully warning him to reign it in - this film is absolutely nuts, crazy, bonkers, berserk and any other adjective you care to throw at it, but unfortunately not in an altogether righteous way. My antipathy sprinted from an promisingly insane opening half-hour which swiftly degenerated into the pits of incoherence, overacting with a repellent moral universe, a slow and dreary ark bound act which is so sodden and lifeless I was praying for a righteous thunderbolt. It also doesn’t help that for many lurking aeons I have harboured and cultivated an animosity to both Winstone and Hopkins telegraphed by rote villains and mystical elder stereotypes, although the latter is actually a 16th level priest in this film (who casts sleep at one point, restoration the next) through the powers of some unexplained magical mumbo-jumbo which Aronofsky gleefully pours into each increasingly inconsistent and head-slapping induced scene. I don’t enjoy opting for Dungeons & Dragons metaphors but that is exactly where this film descends, complete with 18HD stone golems fighting with the evil men under Tubal-cain’s thrall, a mid-point Lord Of The Rings affectation which utterly damns any notion of this film chiefly concerned with deeper ideological psalms, the biblical baby thrown out with the metaphysical bath water. Most amusingly for infidels such as I – and when you’re laughing at overtly serious scenes your picture is in serious trouble – there are visions of wanton abandon, of evil, wicked and unrighteous humankind selling their children and kin for wine and gold with satanic glee, complete with heretics sporting industrial acetylene torch faceguards, building muskets and other tampering with blemished technology which make the cottage genre industry of Fundamentalist Christian films seem like models of subtly and religious harmony.  It’s insane, but with a weeping sense of incoherence and juvenile moralism.

noah2Aronofsky moulds his meiter from his furiously driven protagonists – wrestlers, ballerinas, scientists, mathematicians – masters of their profession, utterly obsessed with their individual quests at the risk of their body and sanity (imagine what Herzog could have done with this subject and six figure budget?), and there are a couple of superb montages charting the evolution of existence from the amoeba to the Miley Cyrus which remind one of the stuttering stop motion intensity of his debut feature π. In that sense this long mooted passion project of the director gives the film a circular rhythm from his own low-budget genesis, but alas it is the only filmmaking concession of interest which is soon overwhelmed by the facile metaphysics and medieval musings. Like his previous ambitious failure – and I suspect this is where some of you will check out as I know that film firmly divides the faithful from the agnostic when it comes to Aronofsky – like The Fountain this film is a steaming unresolved flotsam of character, theme and form which doesn’t find any emotional or visual alignment beyond the strictly superficial. One prays that the film’s environmental message will be the films saving grace, although the boat may have sailed on that front, but then again what do we critics really know?;

* Emphasis on the word successful here, this simply does not count….

Godzilla (2014) Trailer #2

Having seen the original trailer playing in heavy rotation in front of just about every movie I’ve seen over the past two months, I think the fact that anticipation is rising rather than diminishing for this is a very positive sign. Then this dropped this morning;

After this and Noah is this the year that Hollywood goes all overtly environmental? – Oh well, too late. At least they didn’t kill the dog by the look of things, the first rule of Tinseltown screenwriting. OK, enough with the procrastination with these trailers, it’s time to get cracking on those outstanding reviews I guess….

The Double (2014) Trailer

Just a paranoid reminder, this opens today and very good fun it is too, if fun is the right word;

Given that I’m now two reviews behind after todays waterlogged activities I could do with a double….

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