Archived entries for Film Reviews

Woody Allen: A Documentary

Robert B. Weide’s documentary on Woody Allen, originally made for US Television and edited down by the Director himself for cinematic release from three-and-a-half hours to 113 minutes that flew by, has finally reached the UK. In a full-house at the BFI’s Number 1 Screen for a Preview of the film last Thursday there was naturally a lot of love for the subject in the large darkened room, with the joy of every frame even sometimes spilling out into a few laughs in the wrong places.

With the opening titles and score in the style of an Allen film, the tone is set immediately, in a documentary that is a pleasure to watch throughout, as it chronologically tells the story of a prolific independent filmmaker, who has a habit of achieving everything he wants to in life. Intercut with scenes from Allen’s own films that perfectly illuminate elements of the story as well as at times causing prolonged bouts of laughter in the audience, it also includes golden archive footage that ranges from an appearance on a chat show hosted by Derek Nimmo to Allen trading punches with a Kangaroo in a boxing ring on an American variety show. Continue reading…

Marley

Ahead of the general cinema release this Friday of Kevin MacDonald’s documentary of Bob Marley, James Dickens reviews it for The Substantive.

I think it’s fair to say Bob Marley’s life was almost tailor-made for movie adaptation. The tough upbringing, rise to superstardom, political influence, religious excesses, womanising and eventual untimely and very public death was made for the big screen. Therefore I was very surprised at the lack of any cinematic depictions of the Reggae icon thus far.

However given the recent trend for musical biopics (Walk the line, Nowhere Boy, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll to name but three) the timing now seems right, and a biopic based on Bob’s wife, Rita’s, Autobiography is currently in production. Marley though is entrenched firmly in the documentary camp, more along the lines of Julian Temple’s Joe Strummer feature ‘The Future is Unwritten’.

This film has taken a while to get off the ground. It was initially supposed to be directed by Martin Scorsese but due to scheduling conflicts, it was passed onto famous music film maker Jonathan Demme. He then also dropped out, citing ‘creative differences’ with producer Steve Bing. So it was left to director of Touching the Void and Last King of Scotland, Kevin MacDonald, to finally finish the film for its 2012 release.

So the question really is, was it worth the wait? Continue reading…

Faro Documents

What makes us go and see the films we see?

For me, the answer to this deceptively simple question is we choose the films we see via the film culture of our times and location. I get a thrill when I think of what a film culture is and the potential it has to help passionate moviegoers on their journey of cinematic discovery.  What is a film culture? In a sense, it’s the circus surrounding the freak-show that is cinema, it’s the dust in the beam of light from the projector – not as essential as the movies themselves but a conduit for a richer movie-going experience. It’s the magazines we read, the blogs we skim over, the stars tweets we reply to in the hope they might recognise us mere mortals. It’s also film clubs and societies, pop-ups or otherwise, cinemas, television and now, whether we like it or not, streaming.

I went to a screening of two rare Ingmar Bergman documentaries at the Lexi Cinema on Sunday night in Kensal Rise, a beautiful boutique one-screener which looks like a converted village hall. The night was hosted by the new collective A Nos Amours. And although I could be wrong, I don’t think the two film-makers behind the new collective, Joanna Hogg (Unrelated, Archipelago) and Adam Roberts, like to stream movies much. Continue reading…

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Daniel Craig’s Mikael is our friend in the North of Europe, a journalist headhunted to investigate a disappearance of a girl nearly 40 years ago. Running parallel to Mikael finding his feet in the case we learn about Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth, a girl with a dragon tattoo who did the background checks on Mikael and is an expert research; early impressions are she appears to have the social skills of a member of a Brit-pop band while living on a horrible diet of sugary drinks, fast food and nicotine, all of which are provided by brands whose product placement no doubt helped to fund this lavish production. Continue reading…

Tyrannosaur

Peter Mullen’s Joseph is an angry old man. He spends daytimes sitting at the bar of one of those pubs that as soon as you walk in, you walk straight back out; he goads, antagonises and terrorises local shopkeepers; and, with a can of Red Stripe in his hand, his screams and swears violently in the street outside a bookies. And that’s all just in the first few minutes. Continue reading…

Dreams of a Life

Back in the early nineties, when the radio show 6-0-6 was about comedy and stories rather than manufactured debate, co-host Danny Baker quoted something the great footballer, Chris Waddle, once told him: Waddle said he had no friends, only acquaintances. An unexpected sentiment from a popular talent, and one that came to mind when watching the new British film, ‘Dreams of a Life’.

When the skeleton of a woman, thought to be in her thirties, was found in her flat in London three years after she in died, it was headline news. The description of the television blaring out while a body gradually decomposed in front of it, while Christmas presents gathered dust, was powerful imagery. Coupled with the nagging thought that someone’s disappearance could go unnoticed for three years means it is a tale people still recall now when prompted in conversation.

Continue reading…

Snowtown

Moments after the closing titles of ‘Snowtown’ finish, the lead actor Daniel Henshall walks to the front of the stage and knowingly turns back to an audience who are sitting back in their seats, having watched him play a terrorising serial killer for the best part of two-hours; he is at the Curzon Soho for a Q&A, the day ‘Snowtown’ open across the UK. He grins, and in his Australian accent, asks everyone if they are alright.

Not everyone who was at the screening that evening will have seen the dark humour in that smile. One member of the audience had already left, walking out after the most brutal scene in the film, when the nature of Henshall’s sadistic character, John Bunting, truly comes to the fore, torturing a character who the audience has no regard for, clearly for his own pleasure.

Continue reading…

Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s prolific approach to filmmaking continues, with his second British cinema release of the year; ‘You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger’ came out in the spring covered in Allen’s standard movie DNA:  the dark secret and guilt of a lead character, the romantic shot in the rain, and the complicated lives of people of a certain age with artistic ambitions – lives which inevitably get messier during the course of the film.

While it was a pleasant enough viewing, as even the most ordinary of Woody Allen films are, it was, in truth, an average film; and while an ordinary Woody Allen film is still more enjoyable to watch than most other fare, much the same can be said of ‘Midnight in Paris’.

Continue reading…



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