Thursday, 31 May 2012

Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

From first-time director Rupert Sanders comes Snow White and the Huntsman, a dark, CGI-filled fairy-tale update which verges on being an action blockbuster. Starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth (AKA Thor) and the Oscar-winning Charlize Theron, the film is a rip-roaring tale of war and magic – with just a tiny bit of romance thrown in...

For the whole review, head over to Movie Farm...

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Sundance London: Capsule Reviews

I recently attended the first ever Sundance London (you can read my Movie Farm article on the festival here). Out of the fourteen films that were screened, I saw ten - here are my quick capsule reviews of the films I saw, along with some photos I took of the O2 during the festival.

(Lots of women at Sundance this year - I guess that's the answer to the Cannes question; they're not in Competition in France because half of them are in the US making indie flicks - which Cannes doesn't really cater for).

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Terence Nance)

A short film extended into a feature length documentary (with some cool animation) in the form of a deep and meticulous self-examination. Nance explores his own romantic relationships (one in particular) in an experimental, fragmentary, and slightly pretentious way. A bit heavy-going, but quite intriguing - almost stream-of-consciousness cinema.

Finding North (Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush)

Revealing documentary about the issue of hunger/the poverty line in the USA (the world's richest country). Considering the sheer amount of cheap food there is in America, it seems impossible to believe that there are millions of people living there who don't have enough to eat. This documentary examines the problems inherent in the US social system in detail - interesting stuff, and well made.

The Queen of Versailles (Lauren Greenfield)

The was the opener for the Sundance Festival in Utah earlier this year (Greenfield also won the best director award). Gripping doc about billionaire couple Jackie and David Siegel, who attempt to build a 90,000 square foot mansion in the style of the palace of Versailles, only to fall foul of the recession. A lot of the appeal of this film is just the opportunity to gawk at these super-rich weirdos, but beneath that is an undercurrent of doom concerning the current financial crisis.

Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevollow)

This was probably the best dramatic film I saw at the festival (although For Ellen was hard on its heels). Three journalists track down a man who placed a classfied ad for people to go time-travelling with him (based on a real advert, would you believe!). A charming, heartwarming comedy which is also delightfully deadpan, with a perfectly executed denouement. Will leave you grinning for hours, if not days.

Nobody Walks (Ry Russo-Young)

A family takes a young female filmmaker into their home, only for her to inadvertantly become a spanner in the works. Honestly, I was quite bored by this film - it's clearly supposed to be a stark portrait of human interaction, as well the East Coast US lifestyle, but it doesn't have much depth in either characters or plot, nor is it that interesting visually - the use of sound is pretty good (one of the characters is a sound/foley artist), but that's about it.

For Ellen (So Yong Kim)

Paul Dano stars as a struggling musician on a road trip to fight his estranged wife for custody of their daughter (whom he has never met). The film concentrates almost solely on Dano's character, making him the focal point through which the audience experiences the story. He is a truly great actor, with more than enough skill to carry this off. Sparse, subtle, and moving - this one was brilliant.

The House I Live In (Eugene Jarecki)

Jarecki explores the devastating effect that the so-called 'war on drugs' has had on the US in this important and fascinating doc. The startling facts are set out clearly and uncompromisingly, illustrating how the US judicial system has in fact worsened America's drug problems to an insane degree.

Chasing Ice (Jeff Orlowski)

This was the best of the documentaries I saw (and it had some pretty stiff competition). The film follows photographer James Balog and his project Extreme Ice Survey, which has documented the melting of glaciers through time-lapse photography. The images are amazing, and so is the science - anyone who is still sceptical about climate change will have to strongly resist the urge to take themselves out of the gene pool after seeing this film.

LUV (Sheldon Candis)

A simple, emotional film about a young boy's relationship with his criminal uncle. This film promised more than it could deliver - unlike For Ellen, which causes the viewer to connect emotionally through charged and understated scenes, LUV takes your emotional response for granted, and so doesn't bother to truly get you involved. Quite a ripping story, with some good performances, but nothing special.

Filly Brown (Youssef Delara, Michael D. Olmos)

Female LA street poet Majo gets into trouble when she starts making it big in the music world. Some good performances in this one too, especially from Gina Rodriguez (who learned to rap for the film), but again the emotional side of it was out of whack. It was pretty mawkish throughout, and by the end it was a sticky puddle of soppiness on the floor of the Sky Superscreen.

To finish off, here are my own personal KINOLENS Jury Awards:

Best Overall Film: For Ellen, Chasing Ice (Tie)

Best Documentary: Chasing Ice

Best Dramatic film: Safety Not Guaranteed

Best Performance: Paul Dano

Best Director: Eugene Jarecki

Monday, 28 May 2012

Game of Thrones | Season 2, Episode 9: The Battle of the Blackwater


The Battle of the Blackwater - the whole of Season Two has been building up to this one, so you know it's going to be good. Rather than jumping around between different characters, different storylines and different cities, the whole of episode nine is concentrated solely on King's Landing as Stannis rolls up with his fleet. They arrive in the middle of the night, meaning that the battle is deliciously dark and shadowy, and the outcome completely uncertain - the two armies are pretty evenly matched... but, don't forget, the Lannisters are the ones with the Wildfire.

We begin with Davos Seaworth on the prow of his ship as it sails into Blackwater Bay. Pretty soon, all the bells in King's Landing start ringing to warn the citizens of the coming battle. The knights and soldiers all rush to put on their armour and make for the city walls - this includes Tyrion 'Halfman' Lannister, and King Joffrey himself, who seems to relish the idea of a slaughter, forcing Sansa to kiss his new sword (named Hearteater) before he goes into battle, promising her that when he returns she will kiss it again, and taste the blood of Stannis. Sansa (who is getting pretty clever at the subdued yet cutting remarks) puts him in his place with a few choice words, slyly insinuating that Joffrey won't be anywhere near the real fighting (he's too craven for a start, and too important to the realm).

Sansa and Shae then head to Queen Cersei's hidey-hole, where she has gathered all the important women of the court and their maids. Pycelle has given Cersei a bottle of poison, which she will use to top herself should the city fall. She also keeps the headsman Ser Ilyn Payne close at hand, a swift beheading being better than rape and torture for the noblewomen. Cersei spends most of the night hitting the bottle pretty hard and winding up Sansa (who does a pretty good job of keeping her cool).

Outside, the battle plan is put into action by Tyrion, who has masterminded the whole affair along with Varys. A single ship is sent out to greet Stannis's fleet, causing much confusion. It transpires that the ship is a decoy, empty of soldiers and full of the foul green Wildfire. In what is the most spectacular scene of the episode (and probably the series), Tyrion orders the boat set alight with fire arrows. For those of you who missed the meeting, Wildfire is incredibly flammable - in fact, it's virtually nuclear. The explosion takes out pretty much the whole of the fleet and sets alight to Blackwater Bay, leaving the majority of Stannis's men screaming, writhing and dying.

Things are looking good for the Lannisters, until Stannis orders his land army (which is substantial, by the looks of things) to start attacking the walls. The Hound does his best to drive them off, but being that he's terrified of fire (having had half his face burnt off by his brother Gregor when he was a child) he throws in the towel, tells Joffrey where to stick it, and storms off. The Lannisters start to see that they're losing the battle - Lancel runs to Cersei to let her know, and she promptly orders him to bring her darling Joffrey back inside the Red Keep. Joffrey is only too glad to have an excuse to get away from the battle, leaving Tyrion to take over the defense. Of course, he rises to the occasion, giving a rousing battle speech and riding out behind Stannis's men in order to 'fuck them in the arse', as he puts it.

All seems to be going well, until a helmeted knight (who looks to be a Lannister bannerman) deliberately socks Tyrion round the face with a sword, leaving him alive, but reeling, and with a nasty scar that will ache something awful come Winter (and Winter is coming). It looks as though the Lannisters are about to be overwhelmed by Stannis. Cersei leaves the comfort of her underground chamber and makes for the throne room with her son Tommen. On the advice of Shae, Sansa too flees to her bedroom, only to find the Hound waiting for her. He offers to take her away with him, to escort her home to Winterfell, but she refuses.

In the throne room, Cersei tells Tommen a comforting story while she prepares to poison them both. Unfortunately, before they can drink the Kool-Aid, the doors burst open and a whole heap of soldiers pour in. Luckily for the Lannisters, it's Tywin who is at the head of this force - he has shown up in the nick of time to crush the remnants of Stannis's army. 'We have won!' he says, just in case anyone wasn't sure, and all is right with Westeros - for the Lannisters, anyway. Stannis runs off with his tail between his legs, and Blackwater bay is full of burning carcasses and sinking ships.

Next week's episode (titled 'The Clean-up Operation) will be the last in Season Two - and likely as not, we'll have to wait another year before Season Three comes along. For most television shows, the Third Season is oft-titled 'the difficult' Third Season, and can sometimes make or break a programme. Luckily for HBO, they have a fantastic readymade script in the form of George R. R. Martin's novels - and take it from me, the third book is totally mental, in the best way. Things can only get better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) in Westeros.

Episode 9 Best Moment: The Wildfire.

Episode 9 Best Line: Anything said by the Hound (Tyrion's rousing battle speech is pretty good too).

Game of Thrones | Episode Ten: Valar Morghulis

Dario Argento's Dracula 3D

I'm a bit late with the Game of Thrones update this week as I haven't had a chance to see the episode yet (Episode Nine: The Battle of the Backwater - I'm thinking it'll be epically good). This will be rectified soon - meanwhile, here is an article I wrote for Subtitled Online about Dario Argento's new film, Dracula 3D.

The latest film from Italian horror director Dario Argento has received a largely hostile response following its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It has been reported that numerous audience members walked out of screenings of Dracula 3D, an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel. The film stars Thomas Krettschmann as Dracula, Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing, and the director’s own daughter, Asia Argento

For the rest of the article, head over to Subtitled Online...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Preview: Prometheus

Possibly the most highly anticipated cinematic event of this summer is the release of science fiction horror Prometheus. The film will be the fifth instalment in the Alien series, and Ridley Scott (director of the first film) has returned to take the helm. Set in the late 21st century, Prometheus takes place before all of the other Alien movies and looks to be a terrifying forerunner to the franchise – but whatever you do, don’t call it a prequel…

For the rest of the preview, head over to Movie Farm...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Interview: Howard J Ford

The other week I found myself at a pre-Cannes film social, helping to interview attendees on behalf of Movie Farm - here is my write up of our interview with Howard J Ford, director of unsettling zombie film The Dead. Check it out, he's a cool guy.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Game of Thrones | Season 2, Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell


This week in Game of Thrones, Jaime escapes from Robb, Arya escapes from Tywin, Jon doesn't escape from the Wildlings, and Robb has his own mother put under guard. Meanwhile, Stannis is still on his way to King's Landing to try to lay siege to the place, and Tyrion is getting seriously ticked off with Cersei after she takes certain matters into her own hands...

Beyond the wall, Jon is still in the hands of the Wildlings. He meets a disquieting figure called the Lord of Bones, or Rasttleshirt, who has dressed himself up in armour made from the bones of his dead enemies. Also captured by the Wildlings is another Black Brother from Jon's ranging party, Quorin Halfhand. Over on the Fist, Sam and the rest of the Night's Watch are still hanging out and watching for Wildling activity. While digging latrines, Sam and his mates come across some pieces of dragonglass (obsidian) wrapped up in an old Night's Watch cloak - this will probably turn out to save their lives somehow in the coming battle with the Wildlings/the Others...

Robb and the Lady Talisa are still flirting away, and this week Robb puts his money where his mouth is by admitting that although he is engaged to marry a Frey, he actually wants to marry her instead. Adding to his Kingly frustrations this week is his mother Catelyn, who has taken it upon herself to set free the Kingslayer; Brienne of Tarth is currently shepherding Jaime Lannister south to King's Landing, in the hope that giving back the Kingslayer will induce Cersei to free Arya and Sansa. Robb is furious; he sends eighty men out to try to recapture the Kingslayer, and sets a guard over Catelyn to make sure she doesn't get up to any more treasonous mischief.

Arya, who is not in King's Landing at all but still in Harrenhal with Lord Tywin's force, finally names a third name to Jaqen, who has promised her three free kills. Tywin is taking his men off to fight Robb, leaving Gregor 'The Mountain' Clegane in charge at Harrenhal. Arya decides to get clever with Jaqen, and names his own name to him, meaning that Jaqen will have to kill himself - unless he helps her and her friends escape from Harrenhal. Eager to save his own skin, he does - so Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie are now free of their masters.

In King's Landing, Tyrion, Bronn and Varys are attempting to plan for the coming siege that Stannis is about to bring down on them - they are not doing very well at it. Matters are not helped by the fact that, in revenge for Myrcella being shipped off to Dorne, Cersei reveals to Tyrion that she has captured Shae. Worried for the safety of Joffrey in the coming battle, Cersei threatens Tyrion, saying that every wound Joffrey receives will also be visited upon his favourite prostitute. Just to really hammer it home, Cersei has her guards bring in the unfortunate woman - who turns out not to be Shae at all, but is in fact Roz. So, Tyrion still has some time to figure out how to deal with his crazy sister before she gets any real leverage over him - however, he clearly feels bad for Roz, and will certainly cook something up to get her out of Cersei's clutches.

In Winterfell, Theon's sister Yara arrives, but it's not to help him hold the fort - she's there to slap him on the wrist for being stupid enough to take Winterfell without enough men to hold onto it, and also for murdering Bran and Rickon (who, being Robb's brothers, would have been worth a fortune in ransoms). She tries to convince him to come with her instead of staying at Winterfell to die when Robb's men show up for revenge. What she doesn't know is that, surprise surprise, Theon hasn't murdered Bran and Rickon after all - he couldn't find them to kill them, so instead he killed the sons of a nearby farmer. So, he's still a childkiller, just not of the children we care about. Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and Osha are safe, hiding in the crypt under Winterfell.

Dany isn't up to much in Qarth this week, however she is plotting to head to the House of the Undying to get back her dragons. Finally, we are given a glimpse of Stannis and Davos as they are bringing their fleet to King's Landing - no doubt the grand finale of season two (there are only two episodes left now) will be the battle/siege of the city. However; even though Game of Thrones is full of magic/dragons/bloodshed/battle scenes, the producers have so far managed to avoid giving us too much of a show with some clever storyboarding and editing - giant battles cost a hell of a lot to film, after all. Hopefully this battle (which has been building up for a while now) will be the visually arresting spree of carnage we're all waiting for.

Episode 8 Best Moment: Lady Talisa talking to Rob about her childhood.

Episode 8 Best Line: "Has anyone ever told you you're as boring as you are ugly?" - Jaime to Brienne

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Review: Marvel's Avengers Assemble

The first truly huge blockbuster of spring/summer 2012, Avengers Assemble, has been making dweebs, dorks, techies, poindexters, nerdlingers and Joss Whedonites (and plain old comic book and action movie fans) geekgasm all over themselves. It's big, shiny, makes a lot of noise, cracks a few well-placed jokes and features a gigantic angry green dude with impeccable comic timing - all of which points to a lot of people in Hollywood whose pupils are about to permanently morph into dollar signs. What a shame then that somewhere along the way, Avengers forgot to be a good movie.

Ok, so here is what was apparently happening as far as I can make out: S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) have somehow got hold of a glowing blue cube called the Tesseract, which has the power to open up a gateway to the other end of the universe. When the gateway opens up, an unhinged demi-God named Loki (Tom Hiddleston) pops through and proceeds to smash up the joint. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a guy with a leather jacket and an eyepatch who works for S.H.I.E.L.D., gathers together a team of superheroes/demi-Gods/weapons specialists/spies/big green monsters etc. to try to put an end to the madness before Loki takes over the world with his army of aliens/robots called the Chitauri.

This specialist team includes Loki's adopted brother, fellow demi-God Thor (complete with hammer), the recently unfrozen Steve Rogers (AKA Captain America), Dr Bruce Banner (AKA The Hulk), Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man), Natasha Romanoff (AKA The Black Widow) and Clint Barton (AKA Hawkeye). So, a group of anti-social misfits must learn to work as a team to defeat an evil madman and his invading hordes.

All of which is ripe material for a brilliantly awful cheesy action film full of hilarious superhero banter, believable and moving adversity that needs to be overcome, a bit of heartwarming bonding with those a little different from ourselves, a gigantic laser battle of some description, and then it's everyone back to the clubhouse for lemonade. Not a work of cinematic genius perhaps, but a nice thick entertaining slice of movie-pie that everyone can enjoy. It'd be pretty hard to mess up that winning formula, right?

Well, Avengers managed to find a way. The film's set up takes far too long. The important bits are rushed over so quickly that the viewer barely has time to think 'S.H.I.E.L.D.? Tesseract? Hiddleston?' before the blue cube is gone, and some unexplained diabolical invasion plan is in the works. Meanwhile, the rest of the introductory 'Avenger gathering' scenes are given way more screen time than is necessary, meaning that everyone starts looking at their watches after about 45 minutes because nothing new is happening.

But this is all academic anyway, because once something finally does start happening, we don't really care. We haven't been given a reason to. Loki has the Tesseract, and heads over to Germany to steal something else (I don't know, some sort of thing - looks like a shiny rock) which is apparently also crucial to his world domination plan. Once he steals it, he starts working on a machine of some type which will mean that his army of Chitauri will be able to take a short cut from the other end of the universe and help him out with the subjugation of Earth. The Avengers get involved, and action-packed drama ensues.This is all very exciting - or at least, it would be, if the filmmakers bothered to make us care about it.

Allow me to explain. Who is Loki? Why is he so pissed off? What's his beef with us? What the hell are the Chitauri? Why are they working for Loki? What's their beef with us? We are not given the answers to these questions. There's a bit near the end where Loki rambles on about something (daddy loved him too much, or not enough - I forget) but it's not nearly serious enough to warrant a planet invasion. The viewer is not made to fear Loki or the Chitauri, nor are we made to hate them. We're also not given much of a good reason to support the Avengers in their world saving efforts. It's not enough to say 'Loki bad, Avengers good' and leave it at that. To make a truly brilliant action movie, you have to get your audience to really want to see the bad guys get flattened by the good guys.

I call it the 'Yippy Ki-Yay' factor. In the Die Hard films, there is nothing sweeter than that one perfect moment just before the total annihilation of the enemy (whom we have been made to hate through being witness to the intense build-up of their evil nastiness). In Avengers, that moment never comes, mostly because the filmmakers have not done us the courtesy of assuming that we are clever enough to be able to absorb any true emotional depth or conflict in the characters. If I don't understand or care about the motivations/actions of the bad guys (or, for that matter, the good guys) why should I even be watching the film?

There is a vague attempt to get us to root for the protagonists - this much is true. About two thirds of the way through the film, Loki kills a minor S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Phil Coulson, who has appeared in several other Marvel franchises. Bleeding to death, Phil tells Fury that he dies happy in the knowledge that the Avengers will now have somebody to Avenge. Fury uses Phil's death (and his collection of vintage Captain America cards) to guilt the Avengers into working as a team to defeat Loki.

There's just one problem: who the hell is Phil? Maybe he has more of a central role in other Marvel films, but in this one he just wanders around in a suit occasionally trying to suck up to Captain America. Why should we give a damn if Phil croaks? If they wanted to make us feel something, they could have put a little effort into it - kill Iron Man's girlfriend, Pepper Potts; kill Nick Fury himself, or even kill one of the Avengers - that might have done it. Sorry, Phil - but in the world of high octane action blockbusters, your death really wasn't enough to justify our love.

It's not all bad news for Avengers - some of the superhero banter is genuinely clever and amusing (particularly when it involves Iron Man) and some of the visual gags are also brilliant (a well placed punch from the Hulk kept everyone in the cinema laughing for so long that we missed half of the next scene). There's also a brilliant thirty second cameo from Harry Dean Stanton, and the final battle sequence involving all six Avengers fighting the Chitauri while laying waste to the island of Manhattan is visually wonderful, making use of handheld cameras, cameras placed inside exploding taxi cabs, and a great seemingly uncut shot which criss-crosses the paths of all the Avengers in turn.

But, these are just little pockets of goodness which are occasionally thrown at the viewer out of the beige no-man's-land of the bland blockbuster. Avengers commits what is probably the worst sin any film can: it's boring. So many cliches, so little depth. There is absolutely no reason why a schlocky, cheesy, mawkish, explosion-heavy action film cannot also be dramatic, poignant, exciting and disturbing. I give you Con Air, Broken Arrow, Spider Man, The Dark Knight, Rambo, The Fugitive, Indiana Jones, Die Hard, Speed, The Rock, Lethal Weapon, Predator, Point Break, Top Gun...

I guess Marvel didn't get the memo in time.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Sexism Debate Rages on at Cannes 2012

I wrote a piece for Subtitled Online about the sexism debate that has sprung up around Cannes this year (if sexism and cinema is a subject that interests you, you may also want to check out my pieces on the hunt for the new 'Hunger Games' director and the Bechdel Test).

The 65th Cannes Film Festival, which kicked off on 16th May 2012, has come under heavy fire from critics who have accused the festival of sexism. Of the twenty-two filmmakers whose work has been selected in competition this year, not one is female. This has sparked a very strong reaction, spearheaded by an opinion piece published on 12th May in French magazine Le Monde.

For the rest of the article, head over to Subtitled Online...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

BFI Announces Five Year Plan for UK Film

The British Film Institute has launched a strategy which will see £285 million of National Lottery funds put towards film over the next five years. The plan, which is called ‘New Horizons’, will concentrate on enhancing film production and providing audiences with a wider variety of movie choices, especially outside of central London. The project is also designed to fund more UK films that will have a strong impact abroad.

Head over to Movie Farm for more info...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

UK Release Date for Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse

Hungarian director Béla Tarr’s much anticipated film, The Turin Horse, will be released theatrically in the UK on 1st June 2012. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2011 and has since screened at many festivals the world over, including Moscow and New York. It has also been released theatrically in a dozen European countries, but there has been little opportunity for UK viewers to experience The Turin Horse until now.

For the rest of the article, head over to Subtitled Online...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

5 Disney Films We Want Re-Released

After viewing the 3D re-release of Beauty and the Beast the other day, I was consumed with love for all things Disney - hence, this list of the top five Disney films I'm sure we'd all love to see back in the cinema.

Walt Disney Pictures have gone re-release crazy. First, it was The Lion King, which was re-released last year in 3D for a limited time. After its run at the cinema in North America had finished, it had managed to take in over $94 million dollars – and a further $78 million worldwide. This prompted Disney to announce that it would be re-releasing a further four features in 3D; Beauty and the Beast (which is in cinemas now) Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and The Little Mermaid. This has prompted Movie Farm to think about which of our favourite Disney Classics we would like to see on the big screen again, possibly with an added third dimension. Do our favourites match up with yours?

Head over to Movie Farm for the top five...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Game of Thrones | Season 2, Episode 7: A Man Without Honour


This week in Game of Thrones some people are captured, some people escape and are captured again, some people have their secrets revealed, some people are killed, and some people get in way over their heads. Just your average working day in Westeros, then.

Jon and Ygritte, the Wildling woman, are still lost in the icy wilderness of the Frostfangs. Well, Jon is most certainly lost, but Ygritte seems to know exactly what she's doing. She spends most of her time teasing Jon about his Night's Watch vows, and doing all she can to tempt him into breaking them. Unfortunately, she only succeeds in pissing him off (no surprise, really, considering that she pretty much just points and giggles while chanting 'virgin, virgin,' over and over). Still, she clearly wasn't planning to deliver the goods anyway, because she leads him straight into a Wildling trap, meaning that Jon will soon be in the hands of Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall.

The relationship between Arya and Tywin is getting more and more interesting - this week, they have a prolonged discussion about war and other such important matters, during which Arya gives him a bit of cheek (but he doesn't mind too much). He also reveals he knows she's not a commoner - she can read, she speaks with a posh accent, and is too clever by half. However, he decides to let that go as well. Something tells me he's going a bit soft in his old age - the great and terrible Tywin we've all heard about would surely never let a murderous child in disguise serve him his wine every day.

Another relationship that gets more intriguing this week is that existing between Arya's sister Sansa and Sandor 'The Dog' Clegane. He's a disfigured, bitter servant of Joffrey (although he clearly hates him) who has been driven to the edge of madness by pain and loneliness, and she's a whiny teen who has been forced to come to terms with the fact that she will soon be married to a complete psycho who had her father's head chopped off. She's terrified of the Dog, and the Dog hates her - but in a 'I hate you but I actually really like you and don't know how to deal with it' kind of way.

Over in Qarth, Dany wants her dragons back. Ser Jorah feels guilty for not being there when they were stolen (he was off trying to find a ship) but gets told off when he tries to comfort Dany for being 'too familiar'. Dany goes before the Thirteen of Qarth to try to discover if anybody knows where the Dragons are, only to find that they have actually been stolen by the Warlock Pyat Pree and taken to the House of the Undying. In league with Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who clearly was not to be trusted, the Warlock slits the throats of the Thirteen using his 'I'm everywhere at once' trick, and declares Xaro to be the newly crowned King of Qarth (there's kings popping up everywhere these days). Hopefully next week we'll see Dany venture into this mysterious House of the Undying to get back her fire-breathing children.

In King's Landing, Tyrion and Cersei have a surprisingly open and emotional conversation. As Joffrey gets more and more out of control, Cersei is worried that his growing madness might be her fault, what with the whole 'sleeping with her brother' thing. She breaks down crying in front of Tyrion, which means she must really be starting to lose it; she hates Tyrion and he hates her. They're a weird family, the Lannisters. Tywin idolises Jaime, his firstborn and heir, loves (if he is capable of it) his daughter Cersei, and hates Tyrion for killing his wife in childbirth and for being a dwarf. Cersei loves Jaime (a little bit too much) and hates Tyrion for killing her mother in childbirth and for being a dwarf. Jaime loves Cersei (a little bit too much) and also loves Tyrion (despite playing very nasty tricks on him when they were young). Tyrion hates Cersei, hates his father, and loves Jaime (again, in spite of the pranks). And they are all incredibly powerful, dangerous people, in their different ways - it'll be interesting to see who comes out on top here.

Speaking of the Lannisters, Jaime makes a bid for freedom this week when his distant cousin Alton is shoved into his cell. After a brief but friendly reminisce about the good old days, Jaime beats Alton to death, attracting a guard, then strangles the guard with his chains, then makes a break for it. He doesn't get very far though, and is soon dragged back into camp. Lord Karstark, whose son was on guard duty, wants revenge. Cat tries to take charge of the situation, but it looks as though unless she and Brienne do something soon, the Kingslayer himself will be slayed, and the Starks will lose their only leverage against the Lannisters.

I've saved the worst for last; Winterfell is where it's really kicking off this time round. Theon is making an absolute pig's ear of his conquest of the castle, having let Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor escape in the middle of the night. A prolonged search of the nearby woodland turns up nothing at first, but when some tell-tale clues are found at a nearby farm, Theon returns to Winterfell bearing two charred child corpses to show off as a warning to the people. Whether he has actually killed Bran and Rickon remains to be seen, but as we all know, anything can happen in Game of Thrones. Even Theon now seems to realise that he's gone too far - something tells me his ugly Greyjoy head won't remain on his shoulders for long after the rest of the Starks get wind of this.

Episode 7 Best Moment: The episode contains some great scenes, but I have to go for the entire scene between Arya and Tywin.

Episode 7 Best Line: "Love no-one but your children." - Cersei

Game of Thrones| Episode 8: The Prince of Winterfell

Friday, 11 May 2012

Louise Brooks: An American in Europe

Louise Brooks was one of the most talented and iconic actresses ever to grace the silver screen. Her work in the late 1920s with Austrian director G. W. Pabst was largely ignored at the time, but was rediscovered by French film historians in the 1950s. Her uncompromising flapper style and hypnotic, emotive screen presence have entranced later generations of fans, gradually gaining her the recognition and praise she never knew in her prime. In short, Louise Brooks was the best actress no-one ever heard of...

For the rest of the article, head over to Subtitled Online...

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Review: The Cabin in the Woods


The Cabin in the Woods (produced by Joss 'Buffy' Whedon and written/directed by Drew 'Cloverfield' Goddard) at first looks like your average modern reboot of the old Evil Dead scenario. In fact, it doesn't look like the average reboot at all, but rather a really quite awful cringeworthy rehash. But, as you quickly discover, that's the whole idea.

A sexy girl wearing knickers and a t-shirt prances around in her room in broad daylight near an open window while packing for a weekend away. As you do. Her apparently moronic friends, a freshly-dyed blonde cheerleader type and a well built jock (complete with football) arrive to hurry her along. They are planning to spend the weekend in the jock's cousin's cabin in the woods, along with their amusingly paranoid stoner buddy, and a quiet yet unbelievably good-looking book-worm (complete with glasses), an unlikely friend of the jock. The set up is unbelievably cliched, the dialogue is total pants, and you're already cracking into that peanut butter chunky Kit Kat you were planning to save for the second reel.

Meanwhile, in a top secret underground bunker of some description, a bunch of be-suited, be-spectacled types are watching and controlling the teenagers' every move. Not only that, they are actually taking bets on something (who will die first? Who will be the last to go? We can only conjecture at this point). As the kids arrive at the cabin, it becomes clear that their whole weekend away is part of a massively engineered worldwide operation in which groups of people, each one representing a different facet of humanity (the fool, the whore, the virgin etc) are thrown together in a horror film scenario. This is by way of making a hugely convoluted human sacrifice - but to what? And why? I'll leave that for you to find out.

It turns out that the kids themselves bring about their own doom when they head down into the cellar, which is packed with strange and creepy objects (the classic weird china dolls, old jewellery, strange notebooks and the like). The first one to pick up an object and unwittingly unlock its secret will bring devastation upon themselves and their friends - this time, the knickers and t-shirt girl (wearing some jeans by now) picks up an old diary which appears to have been written by some poor abused girl who is a member of some hillbilly cannibal family reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She finds a few words written in latin. Marty, the stoner (who seems to be the only one who is at all aware of anything weird going on) advises: "I'm drawing a line in the fucking sand. Do not read the Latin!"

But of course, she does, upon which the Buckners - a zombie hillbilly pain-worshipping family with a penchant for rusty saws, old mantraps and general sharp implements - drag themselves out of the ground and start hacking up the joint. In the bunker, the maintenance team (who bet on 'zombie redneck torture family') celebrate their win. As the film goes on, all it does it get smarter and funnier - it helps if you've seen a lot of horror films, but even if you've only seen a few, you will be able to appreciate just how cleverly the filmmakers are taking the piss.

Anything in the film which seems stupid or ridiculous is almost certainly meant to seem that way, in order to mess with your head. The whore is in fact studying to be a doctor, the jock is actually an intelligent and dedicated student, the virgin is in fact not a virgin - the list goes on. An important part of the human sacrifice is that the teens themselves 'choose' their fate by ignoring all of the danger signs - the creepy old man at the gas station, the isolated location, the weird cellar; these are all things that any right thinking human being who has seen a few movies would know to avoid. The film questions the obsession with watching good-looking young people get slaughtered (and essentially, punished) over and over again on the big screen.

There have been plenty of horror spoofs before, of course - the Scream films, the Scary Movie films (which are in fact mostly spoofing the Scream films, and are therefore a spoof of a spoof) - but Cabin in the Woods is less a spoof and more an extremely self-aware attempt to flip genre conventions totally on their head. Plus, there's a surprise cameo from Sigourney Weaver - it's probably worth a look for that alone.

Cabin in the Woods is a KINOLENS Film of the Moment and is on general release now in the UK. Last but not least, check out these taglines:

If you hear a strange noise outside...have sex.

If an old man warns you not to go there...make fun of him.

If something is chasing you...split up.

Quaint abandoned property...sold.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Review: Beauty and the Beast 3D

Yesterday I treated myself to a bit of nostalgic self-indulgence when I went to see Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which has recently been re-released in both 2D and 3D. After the 3D re-release of The Lion King did so well at the box office (it earned almost $30 million on its opening weekend) Disney announced it would be re-releasing a further four features; Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and The Little Mermaid.

Re-releasing the early nineties classics (whether in 3D or not) is a stroke of genius from Disney. Those of us who were gurning toddlers at the time of the original release have now grown up into disillusioned, emotionally unstable young adults who will pay pretty much anything to get back even a semblance of the enchantment and happiness we felt when chowing down on a nutritious slice of Disney in our formative years. Beauty and the Beast was always my personal favourite - the oscar-winning songs, the talking furniture, the library the size of a palace, and not to mention the world's greatest ever double act, Cogsworth and Lumiere - it's got to be in everybody's top five.

It may seem a little pointless, or even sacriligeous to release Disney classics in 3D - but for Beauty and the Beast, it does add a little something. Just seeing it on the big screen (rather than on a grainy VHS which has been watched and rewatched so many times the tape is about to wear through) gives the film a new lease of life. The 3D makes certain scenes really pop. Overall, the colours seem brighter, the settings more impressive, and the scenes containing some early examples of 2D CGI, such as the ballroom scene, look pretty spectacular (eat your heart out, Avatar).

I heartily recommend reclaiming your youth by watching Beauty and the Beast at the cinema this month. And if you know and/or have any small children, force them to accompany you so that they too can worship at the altar of Disney (proper Disney).

But, if they're really young, or of a sensitive disposition, it may not be such a good idea. We also love Beauty and the Beast because of how dark it is - I for one remember being scared witless by the slavering wolves in the deep dark forest, and the growling and yelling of the Beast before he learns to control his temper. Also, I think that Beauty and the Beast may well be the only Disney film in which you can actually see someone get stabbed - blood and all. Gaston really sticks it in and breaks it off during his fight with the Beast, before plunging to his own grisly death.

So, think twice before taking anyone under five along with you - otherwise, jump up to your neck into the warm nostalgic goo that is Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and do the back stroke all the way to a small French provincial town. Beauty and the Beast is a KINOLENS film of the moment, and is on general release now in the UK.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Game of Thrones | Season 2, Episode 6: The Old Gods and the New


It's all go this week in Game of Thrones; that rat-faced turncoat Theon Greyjoy has rocked up to Winterfell (which is currently being stewarded by a crippled ten-year-old boy) and stolen it from under the nose of King Robb. Not only that, he has also lopped off Ser Rodrik's head for having the temerity to fight back. Theon's no Eddard Stark though - no clean icy sweep for him - he takes several tries before finally hacking Rodrik into two pieces. Needless to say, Robb is none too pleased when he hears the news, and plans to have his men take Winterfell back from Theon, capture him, question him, and then probably kill him.

Lord Tywin is still hanging out at Harrenhal, slowly plotting something while Arya serves his wine. This week, Littlefinger shows up to discuss how to deal with the Tyrell situation; turns out that now Renly is dead, the Tyrells have the third largest force in the kingdom (after the Lannisters and the Starks) so there is much speculation about whose side they will join (if any). As we know, Littlefinger is a sharp dude, so it seems likely that he may have recognised Arya - but, if he has, he doesn't give anything away. Arya uses the second of her three free kills from Jaqen to croak Ser Amory, one of Tywin's bannermen, who is about to out her to Tywin after catching her with some stolen battle plans - Jaqen pops him with a poison dart just in the nick of time.

In King's Landing, Myrcella is packed off weeping to Dorne, where she will be fostered and then betrothed to a Dornish nobleman. Cersei is far from pleased, and threatens Tyrion with the murder of his loved ones. On their way back into the castle, a member of the starving peasantry makes the mistake of throwing some dung at Joffrey, who immediately calls for the murder of everyone present (reasonable young fellow that he is). This sparks a riot, in which the royal family only just make it to safety. Tyrion gives Joffrey a slap in the face for acting like a dumbass, and Sansa is dragged off into an alleyway to be raped by three slavering commoners, but is saved just in time by the Hound.

Across the Narrow Sea in Qarth, Dany is making the rounds to all the rich merchants, begging them for ships, but to no avail. To be fair, her threats of 'fire and blood' do seem a little ridiculous, even if she does have three baby dragons. And, horror of horrors, when she arrives back at her quarters with Xaro, she finds her Dothraki murdered and her dragons gone. Robb is still chasing after Lady Talisa, aka the battlefield nurse he met the other week - but his mother reminds him he is engaged to one of Lord Frey's daughters as part of their earlier agreement (Frey has about fifty daughters to choose from, each of them apparently more hideous than the last).

North of the Wall, Jon and his brothers at last come upon the Wildling scouts, but one of them turns out to be a woman called Ygritte. A sucker for a redhead, Jon offers to kill her. His brothers leave him to it, but he messes it up, leading to a chase through the Frostfangs before he finally captures her again. Now he's lost his nerve for killing her, but he has also lost his brothers - meaning that he is stuck in the freezing mountains, alone with a Wildling woman (something tells me his Night's Watch vows aren't going to last long in sub-zero temperatures)

Back at Winterfell, Osha ingratiates herself with Theon, but really this is only a ruse (which Theon is, of course, stupid enough to fall for) so that she, Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Summer and Shaggydog can all sneak out of Winterfell in the dead of night, presumably heading to join up with Robb's army. In other words, it's all going wrong for almost everybody this week. All bets are off on who's going to die next, but I'd quite like to see Robb wipe the grin off Theon's face - and then preferably the head off his shoulders, too.

Episode 6 Best Moment - The beheading of Ser Rodrik - gruesome.

Episode 6 Best Line - 'I'm no ordinary woman. My dreams come true" - Dany

Game of Thrones | Episode 7: A Man Without Honour

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Review: Cafe de Flore

French Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée explores the effect of music on memory and experience in beautiful and complex psychodrama, Café de Flore. Also editor and screenwriter for the film, Vallée has created a fractured and subjective world view which is confusing at times, but which also tells a moving story by letting a combination of images and music prevail over speech.

In present day Montreal, popular DJ Antoine (Kevin Parent) has left his childhood sweetheart and wife of twenty years Carole (Hélène Florent) and their two daughters to form a new relationship with Rose (Evelyn Brochu). Meanwhile, in 1969 Paris, Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) is single-handedly raising her six year-old son Laurent (Martin Gerrier), who has Down Syndrome. Determined not to put him in an institution, she sends him to a non-specialised school; however, trouble starts when he develops a childish crush on a classmate who also suffers from Downs.

Back in the present day, Carole is having trouble dealing with her separation from Antoine; she sleepwalks and has nightmares and hallucinations about a small boy with Down Syndrome. She starts to suspect that some kind of reincarnation has occurred and goes to see a medium in the hope that it will help her understand the true nature of her relationship with Antoine...

Cafe de Flore is released on May 11th. For the rest of the review, head over to Movie Farm... 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Sundance London

Apologies for the lack of KINOLENS posts this week; I kinda burned myself out over the Sundance weekend, plus on Wednesday night I was at a Pre-Cannes event helping out with some interviews, which was great fun but very tiring (articles on that also coming up). Anyway, here is my write up of the first ever Sundance London for Movie Farm: Sundance London 2012.

I am also planning to review the festival/films in a bit more depth here at KINOLENS, hopefully starting later today if I have time, so look out for that.