31 March 2014

Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, 2013 - ★★★★

As somebody interested in film I always find it fascinating to hear film makers talk about their work. I was unfamiliar with Benning but I've always liked Linklater's film and especially the diversity in the types of film he makes. A lot of this film feels like you're eavesdropping on a conversation between two friends and this laid back approach allows lots of interesting points to come up. Perhaps most importantly I came away wanting to track down more of Benning's film and revisit Linklater's.

March 31, 2014 at 07:20PM

Films featured in A Story Of Children And Film

All* of the films featured in Mark Cousin's essay film "A Story Of Children And Film"


*The list is missing the following

Finlandia, Erkki Karu, 1922

The Newest City in the World, Xhanfize Keko, 1974

Tomka and his Friends, Xhanfise Keko, 1977

...plus 40 more. View the full list on Letterboxd.

March 31, 2014 at 11:20AM

30 March 2014

Modern Times, 1936 - ★★★★

Still great but after recently seeing The Gold Rush this was a bit of a disappointment. Modern Times feels more like a collection of sketches with a common theme than a narrative whole like The Gold Rush was.

March 30, 2014 at 11:49AM

29 March 2014

Escape from Tomorrow, 2013 - ★★½


Such a great idea squandered by having no real plot resulting in a collection of increasingly bizarre unconnected ideas. The B-movie badness actually makes it enjoyable and fun to watch but there was so much potential here to make a really great film.

March 29, 2014 at 11:14AM

American Promise, 2013 - ★★★½


If the point of a film is to make you think and ask lots of questions then American Promise can be called a huge success. Following two Brooklyn boys from the age of five, when they are both accepted into a prestigious private school, through to 18 and looking for college places. The fact that the film even exists is a remarkable achievement and sense of commitment from everybody involved. Throughout the 12 years all kinds of interesting issues are raised: race, parenting, education, growing up, discrimination, diversity, disability, psychology, love, ambition, achievement and life in general.

As a film, American Promise is far from perfect. Cutting down 12 years of filming to two and a bit hours must be incredibly difficult but the end film still feels too long. Early on the film jumps around far too much and lacks focus, which considering ADD is brought up in the film you think would have been resolved in the edit. Perhaps the material would have been better suited to a TV series and given time to breathe.

Personally I think the film would have been better if it had just focussed on Seun. The obvious contrast between the two boys is never really explored and perhaps doesn't need to be. Another reviewer has questioned the authenticity of the film because it doesn't make it clear it's directed by Idris' parents (something I did already know). I think it does make a difference but there's also a brutal honesty to how they are portrayed which raises questions about documentarians and their subjects. I felt slightly uncomfortable knowing the directors (and parents) were at the screening and disagreeing with lots of their actions but that's a whole other debate.

I'm still thinking about all of the issues raised and that's why American Promise is an important but flawed film which I urge people to see,

March 29, 2014 at 10:59AM

27 March 2014

Muscle Shoals, 2013 - ★★★

Another solid documentary telling some fascinating stories behind the creation of some great music.

March 27, 2014 at 08:47PM

25 March 2014

The Kings of Summer, 2013 - ★★★★

A wonderful mixture of all kinds of things which really shouldn't work but does so in spades.

March 25, 2014 at 08:07AM

24 March 2014

Gravity, 2013 - ★★★★

It's quite rare for me to watch a new film more than once (Nolan appears to be the exception to the rule) but there were two reasons I wanted to see Gravity again. Firstly when I saw the film in the cinema I said it would be a great test for any any AV equipment and I hadn't really tried out my home cinema. Secondly I was curious how different the film would be in 2D. Without the distraction/spectacle/spectacles of 3D I noticed how much beauty there was in the film which I didn't remember so much from the cinema screen. I also noticed how much more accomplished all of the special effects were and not just things floating towards the viewer. The best special effects are the ones you don't notice and there are no joins here, probably because apart from the actors so little of it is real to start with.

On the smaller screen (or perhaps just on subsequent viewings) the problems with the dialogue and badly written characters are much more obvious. I wish they'd gone down the All Is Lost route instead of having people talking (badly) to themselves when alone. Without that dialogue I'd probably have given Gravity a 5 start rating because it is such a great experience and unlike anything else.

flawed characters obvious flaws with the script stand out even more. After seeing All Is Lost how I wish the second half of Gravity

March 24, 2014 at 06:57PM

23 March 2014

Predators, 2010 - ★★★½

This would be a much better film if, like the protagonists, you could see it without knowing what it was about. Unfortunately the title and synopsis (not to mention trailers, franchises, the web and modern film marketing) means this is impossible. Even knowing what's going on the film still manages to create a good enough sense of mystery for the first 45 minutes or so. Once the Predators are revealed it becomes a lot less interesting but still manages to be a fun action film. Brody is also surprisingly good as a leading action man.

March 23, 2014 at 05:53PM

19 March 2014

Warm Bodies, 2013 - ★★★½

Even after the fantastic opening scene (which would have made my scenes of the year list) I was still thinking this is a great concept but how can they possibly pull it off. They do but that though never goes away. As each new element of the story is introduced my initial reaction was "well you made that last bit work but you've taken things too far now" but somehow it all worked. It's unfair to be so judgmental when the film constantly proves itself to be incredibly well made, smart, warm, romantic and funny.

It does fall apart a bit towards the end when there's an over reliance on CGI, ill-judged adversaries (why are they taller than everybody else?) and boring action sequences (this is the failing of nearly every mainstream film). It shouldn't work but it does, again and again and deserves to be seen and enjoyed by more people.

March 19, 2014 at 06:45PM

The Broken Circle Breakdown, 2012 - ★★★★

It's hard not to think of Blue Valentine when you start in the middle of a relationship and then jump back and forth through the highs and lows.

The Broken Circle Breakdown stands out by adding in some excellent music which at times verges on cliche but also juxtaposes other scenes and both types of usage are very effective. The performances are all great but the characters feel less like real people than those in Blue Valentine. Perhaps how much you like the film (opinions appear to be very mixed) may depend how much you are drawn in by the soundtrack. I was and found the whole thing to be beautiful and devastating.

March 19, 2014 at 06:34PM

16 March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014 - ★★★

I've always liked Wes Anderson's films and whilst I've never held his work in as high regard as some, Moonrise Kingdom was my favourite film of 2012. Loving the trailer and knowing The Grand Budapest Hotel was being praised by some as Anderson's best film my expectations were perhaps too high. It's hard to imagine anybody else making a film like Anderson (the words "A Film By Wes Anderson" perhaps being the most redundant words to ever appear in a trailer). There's no denying that the entire film looks amazing with an unbelievable attention to detail and a mixture of styles (and aspect ratios). But however hard I tried I just couldn't make a connection, the film lacked any charm and left me cold. The oddly placed moments of violence and bad language were distracting, although I did eventually find Gustave's expletives amusing. I found myself nodding approvingly, admiring the effort but never really enjoying the experience which is a terrible shame.

March 16, 2014 at 09:06PM

Despicable Me 2, 2013 - ★★

I'm not sure if there's anything particularly wrong with this sequel but there's also nothing that really stands out, especially for adults. Once again the minions steal the show (still too reminiscent of the Raving Rabbids, which did this first) but as a series of disconnected sketches, the best part being during the end credits.

March 16, 2014 at 12:02PM

The Bling Ring, 2013 - ★★½

Disappointingly The Bling Ring never manages to escape the shallowness of anybody portrayed in the film. Apart from a few nice visual edits there is little to suggest this is directed by somebody as accomplished as Coppola. Like a video game with good mechanics endlessly repeated level after level, the enjoyment of multiple break-ins quickly gets dull.

March 16, 2014 at 11:53AM

10 March 2014

One Day, 2011 - ★★★★

It's hard to know what to make of One Day, as a standalone films it probably doesn't do much. Only skimming the surface of the source material and therefore never really going into enough depth about the relationships it's easy to see how the film would fail to work. As someone who has read, and loved, the book it's completely different. The film is like watching the book on fast forward, reminding you of everything that made the book so great. Both actors are perfect for the parts, even Hathaways wandering accent(s) don't distract too much (English fine, Yorkshire bad and unnecessary as the film never mentions where Emma is from). My only problem with the film was really how that moment was dealt with, it felt forced and predictable whereas it's handled so shockingly well in the book (but perhaps that's just because I knew it was coming). So is it a great adaptation because I had to stop and check I hadn't seen it before because the scenes on screen perfectly matched how I imagined things when I read it. Or a terrible one because it fails to delve into the depths of the characters to make the relationships believable?

Read the book, then watch the film, that seems like the best way to enjoy both.

March 10, 2014 at 10:58PM

06 March 2014

The Godfather: Part III, 1990 - ★★★★½

I'm just going to come out and say it, this is my favourite Godfather film. It's what I thought when I first saw the trilogy properly on DVD a few years back and I thought my older and wiser self may have come to my senses, but no. I may not be alone in my views, Roger Ebert apparently rated Part III higher than Part II, although later updated his opinion.

Part III builds on everything in the previous films and without them it would be nothing. It's the only film where the women get a significant role which is something that felt severely lacking in the earlier chapters. The plot feels far fetched but is based on true events so it's hard to hold that against the script. Sofia Coppola really isn't that bad, her awkward performance fits the character perfectly. Where the other films were slow this zips along and comes to an end long before any clock watching of the previous films. And the ending is just fantastic, all of the opera sequence is simply amazing and then Michael's final scenes are a perfect conclusion to the story. I wish the film had been released as "The Death Of Michael Corleone", perhaps then it would have been better received by those who hold the previous parts in such high regard.

March 06, 2014 at 11:58AM

The Godfather: Part II, 1974 - ★★★★

If there was a problem with Part I it might be that as a whole the film feels too episodic and this is a much bigger problem here. Now we live in an age when TV is respected it's hard not to think how much better served this story could be told on the "small" screen. It was a relief at the intermission to find the rest of the audience were not enjoying this part as much as the previous film. Like my recent viewing of Lawrence Of Arabia it might be a problem of watching 6 hours in one sitting (with breaks) at the end of a festival.

I think all of DeNiro's parts are better than anything in Part I, the problem is that every time things get interesting we jump in time and Michael's story just isn't as interesting.

March 06, 2014 at 11:46AM

The Godfather, 1972 - ★★★★½

It really is The Godfather of film, so influential of everything that followed and probably complimenting everything that preceded it. It's hard to know what else to say that hasn't already been said.

March 06, 2014 at 11:39AM

Lawrence of Arabia, 1962 - ★★★★

Finally seeing the film as it was meant to be on the cinema screen I understand why I didn't appreciate it as much on television. Even on the large screen so much of what happens is played out as tiny specs in majestic huge landscapes. It's interesting that my earlier review said the first hour was unnecessary, this time around I really enjoyed the first part and thought it was the second part that dragged out. It's hard to know if that hours 3 and 4 are hard work because I was watching it after 10pm on the 5th night of the film festival or because it's just not as good. The first part is beautiful and engaging but most of what happens in part 2 feels familiar, unoriginal and a little bit dull.

March 06, 2014 at 11:24AM

Vertigo, 1958 - ★★★★

The screenings of films from each decade of the Alhambra's centenary continue with the new "Greatest Film Of All Time". I was pleased when it knocked Citizen Kane off the top spot in Sight and Sounds poll. Citizen Kane is a great film but it's one that's easier to admire rather than enjoy, Vertigo on the other hand I thought might be able to do both. The problem is that I don't think Vertigo is Hitchcock's best film, nor do I think it's James Stewart's best work so I have to question it's position at the top of the poll. Of course it is still great but it also feels quite dated, the garish colours of the 50s not helping (this might have been just the version I saw). The story feels like it could easily fall apart without much poking. Knowing the twist and turns doesn't detract anything and it remains an enjoyable and compelling watch.

March 06, 2014 at 11:16AM

05 March 2014

We Are the Best!, 2013 - ★★★★

Just as much fun the second time around and likely to remain a favourite even if the flaws (basically the boy band parts drag out) were more apparent this time.

March 05, 2014 at 06:04PM

The Clay Bird, 2002 - ★★★

Not sure why this is considered great, it's not bad but never seemed that special to me.

March 05, 2014 at 06:00PM

The Rocket, 2013 - ★★★★

Knowing The Rocket had already won many audience awards at festivals and being the contrary type I wasn't really expecting to like it that much. I was wrong and really enjoyed the film, probably one of the highlights of Keswick Film Festival. It may be predictable, although there are a few surprises, but it's all done with so much charm it's hard not to dislike.

March 05, 2014 at 05:58PM

The Raven on the Jetty - ★★

A wonderful sense of mystery is created early in the film which initially makes it easy to overlook the amateur performances (from the adults, the mute child actor is quite good). However nothing is done to resolve this mystery or even explore it, in fact I'm struggling to think if anything really happened in the film at all. To make matters worse every scene is dragged out far too long, beyond the point of tedium and invoking anger and annoyance. It was a relief to find I was not alone in feeling this way. I've just noticed that the running time is only 88 minutes which I cannot believe as it felt much longer.

March 05, 2014 at 05:47PM

Casablanca, 1942 - ★★★★★

It's hard to know exactly what makes Casablanca so great. It could be any number of contributing factors which combine to be a greater whole. The story is so simple but the script is so sharp that there isn't a wasted line. There really is something for everyone and it all comes together so wonderfully.

March 05, 2014 at 05:40PM

03 March 2014

The Crash Reel, 2013 - ★★★★

A moving and thought provoking documentary which successfully manages to be about sport, competition, tragedy, family and passion.

March 03, 2014 at 03:07PM

The Forgotten Kingdom, 2013 - ★★★

Beautiful looking throughout but failed to engage me in any meaningful way.

March 03, 2014 at 02:51PM

Gone with the Wind, 1939 - ★★★★★

I never expected to like Gone With The Wind as someone who generally thinks all films are too long how could a four hour epic ever work. When I finally caught up with the film on DVD a few years ago I was pleasantly surprised, it was even better seeing it on the cinema screen. Part one is just about flawless, wonderful in so many ways and the time just flies by. Thinks slow down a bit in part two but it never fails to completely engaging and builds to a fantastic ending.

March 03, 2014 at 02:48PM

The Golden Cage, 2013 - ★★★★

It's interesting that the title has been changed to The Golden Dream for the international release. For me Dream and Cage suggest different takes on the situation and journey, one of hope the other of despair, both are applicable to the film.

Beautifully shot and wonderfully performed, the film is full of surprises meaning you're never sure of what will happen next.

March 03, 2014 at 02:40PM

Titus, 2013 - ★★★½

There are at least two completely fantastic scenes (the performance and the final scene) which lift the film way above the ordinary. Sadly the rest of the film didn't do as much for me.

March 03, 2014 at 02:24PM

The Gold Rush, 1925 - ★★★★★

Masterfully constructed, choreographed and perhaps most importantly really really funny. For reasons best left unexplained I was watching a completely silent version of the film and the lack of any music was initially off-putting but it didn't take long for the audience's laughter to provide the soundtrack.

March 03, 2014 at 02:21PM

02 March 2014

Third Person Singular Number, 2009 - ★★★

There are lots of great moments but this is a film desperately in need of an harsh edit.

March 02, 2014 at 10:59AM