Out Now – 14th November 2013

Writer/Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars with Scarlett Johansson  in Relativity Media's "Don Jon".  ©2013 Relativity Media, LLC.  All Rights Reserved.

The Counsellor
Ridley Scott returns from the messy Prometheus to direct Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay with a cast including Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt. What could possibly go wrong? According to the reviews pretty much everything. Oops.

Don Jon
A grown up comedy about love, sex, relationships, porn, and romantic comedies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt performs the classic acting/writing/directing hat trick for the first time and the result is what I have referred to as “a bold and commanding debut with a lot to say”. Go see if you aren’t too easily shocked.

The Butler
Forest Whitaker plays a butler who serves eight US presidents all played by different proper actor types. We see the change of American society over decades both within the White House and in the butler’s own life. It all sounds a little worthy but screenwriter Danny Strong has proved himself as a great political writer with Game Change and Recount and is apparently WRITING THE LAST TWO HUNGER GAMES FILMS!?!? Sorry, got off topic there.

In Fear
“Driving, lost and tormented in the night, primal fears of the dark and the unknown give way to fear that you have let the evil in, or that it is already there.” I hear, probably from King Kermode, that this is a properly scary film and such a thing is rare these days. Shall we go? Ok, cool. You get the tickets, I just need to pop to the loo.

Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-leela
This Bollywood feature is currently listed as being in post-production on the old IMDb so don’t be alarmed if the editor is sitting next to you on his laptop desperately trying to get the thing finished before you reach the final scenes.

Dom Hemingway
Seemingly out of nowhere comes a crime caper starring Jude Law and Richard E. Grant. Somehow this pairing just feel right as if their matching hair lines makes them destined to work together. Reviews are what we like to call “mixed” but who cares what critics think?

Battle of the Year
Despite having a title that suggests at least one explosion what we actually have here is yet another 3D dance film. Bet there isn’t even a tank.

Pandora’s Promise
“A feature-length documentary about the history and future of nuclear power.” No idea what this has to do with Pandora. She’s had nothing but bad press ever since that whole box incident.

Utopia
New documentary from John Pilger focussing on Australia. Confession time folks… I was give a link to watch this but somehow became so busy this past week that I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. Review coming ASAP. Promise!

Don Jon – LFF Film Review

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the perfect example of how well a child star can turn out. Since his childhood spent making us laugh in 3rd Rock from the Sun Gordon-Levitt has steadily been building up an acting CV filled with impressive roles in both indie fare and mainstream blockbusters. Now to impress us further he has written and directed his own feature in which he also stars. Oh Joseph, is there anything you can’t do?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Jon, a man obsessed with his car and his body and who is nicknamed Don Jon by his friends because of his unbroken streak of taking home a different woman every night they go out. Much as Jon loves these illicit encounters there is one thing he loves more than sex; Jon is addicted to porn. While a real woman comes with limitations and complication with porn Jon can find exactly what he wants and lose himself in a way he has never been able to achieve with sex itself. The wide variety of porn available at his fingertips has warped what Jon expects from a real life sexual encounter and his streaming smut is something he refuses to give up.

One night at the club Jon comes across the first woman who doesn’t fall for his charms and somehow manages to NOT go home with him. This woman is Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and she isn’t going to let Jon get her in bed without him first playing along with her idea of what a relationship should be. Barbara does not approve of porn but has a weakness for romantic comedies (cue an amusing parody with Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum) which has warped her own expectations of what men should do for their woman. Jon and Barbara go through the motions of a relationship as they meet one another’s friends and family but Barbara can’t live up to Jon’s pornographic ideals and he isn’t the romantic lead she’s looking for. With the help of a classmate, at the night school he attends to impress Barbara, an older woman called Ester (Julianne Moore) Jon learns that there’s more to life than porn.

Gordon-Levitt directs with a confident and deliberate style with an almost aggressive use of carefully cropped pornographic clips which are frequently utilised throughout the film to show how Jon’s world is warped by the contents of his internet browser history. As a writer he has crafted a film that strays from the usual path and tells a unique story of one man’s personal growth that is as far from cheesy or saccharin as it is possible to be. Gordon-Levitt has a lot he wants to say about the way the media as a whole gives us dangerous levels of expectations from our significant others and at times the message gets a little heavy-handed but when the film is working at its best the lesson is deftly handled.

The highlights of the film for me were Jon’s weekly trips to church during which he would confess the previous seven days worth of sins, his sexual exploits are counted up for the Father’s benifit, followed by a family dinner. It is at these meals that we see what has made Jon into Don Jon with his aggressive vest wearing father (Tony Danza) and fawning mother (Glenne Headly) who are two fantastically realised caricatures. Brie Larson makes a mostly mute, and a slightly too brief, appearance as Jon’s sister who seems mostly disinterested in her family but offers him the best advice of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first foray behind the camera is not perfect but is a bold and commanding debut with a lot to say. Somehow he manages to tackle a tricky subject without making the film seem cheap or smutty. I think his success can be marked by the fact that a sex scene towards the end of the film had the woman sitting next to me in floods of tears after having spent the rest of the film laughing out loud.

Don Jon screens at the festival on the 20th October and is in UK cinemas on 15th November 2013.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

BFI London Film Festival 2013 Line-up

BFI London Film Festival 2013

It’s that time again! Yesterday the line-up for the 57th BFI London Film Festival was announced to a lot of press that didn’t include ourselves. Last year’s festival was a lot of fun and I successfully saw more films than I could handle but there was no one film that got me properly excited like there had been in previous years. 2013 looks to be different.

A quick perusal of the festival brochure reveals a long list of films that I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of from a number of writers, directors, and actors who are at the height of their game or at the beginning of what appear to be very promising careers. The line up for this year’s festival, running from 9th – 20th October, has got me properly excited and it looks like it will be easy for me to find enough films for me to finally break the 30 films in a festival barrier.

Below I have picked out ten films from the extensive list that the BFI are screening. What follows is far from an exhaustive list but rather is made up of films I have been waiting to see for a while or anything that caught my eye as I frantically scrolled through the festival brochure. My advise to you is to download the full brochure and give it a thorough read through so that you are ready when member’s booking opens on 12th September. Tickets go fast and some BFI members (ahem) are very quick with their keyboards.

Philomena

Philomena
Judi Dench stars as a Irish Catholic woman on the hunt for the son she gave up against her will more than fifty years ago. Steve Coogan is the jaded journalist who accompanies her on the journey in this film he co-wrote. Dench and Coogan are a double act I refuse to miss out on.

Gravity

Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón directs George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in a drama about a pair of astronauts whose space shuttle becomes damaged leaving the pair stranded and unable to contact earth. Lots of good buzz surrounding this film and it could well be only the second film after Life of Pi to use 3D properly.

The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman
Ralph Fiennes returns to the London Film Festival with his second feature as director in which he also takes a starring role. The focus of the film is on Charles Dickens and his secret love affair with a young actress played by Felicity Jones as she looks back on the affair later on in life. I think we all know why this film interests me.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue Is the Warmest Colour
This year’s Palme d’Or winner is coming to London. A film about a love shared by two teenage girls that stirred up a lot of controversy in Cannes thanks to extended graphic sex scenes. Those scenes aside this film promises to be a tender look at young love that captures all its messiness and turbulence.

Don Jon

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on the triple role of writer, director, and actor in his first foray behind the camera. He plays the title role of Jon, a porn obsessed young man who falls for a woman equally obsessed with romantic comedies. The woman in question is Scarlett Johansson who seems to be channelling the cast of Jersey Shore. A confident debut from a strong young talent, I’m there.

The Double

The Double

Early this week I was Googling The Double in the hopes that it was coming to UK cinema’s soon. I adored Richard Ayoade’s debut film Submarine and have been eagerly awaiting his follow-up ever since. Now we have it in the form of a film about a man who goes unnoticed at work until his exact double joins the company. Witty and romantic as only Ayoade can be.

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson’s performance as an alien hunting for men in Glasgow has drawn a lot of praise and excitement in the past week. The film is described as “a brilliant amalgam of fantasy and reality” and from the sounds of it not all the men in the film who fall for the alien’s charms were aware they were in a film at the time. I’m baffled enough to be intrigued.

Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings

Daniel Radcliffe has come a long way since Harry Potter and has showcased his ability to act on TV and on stage. Now it’s time for his to prove himself on the big screen. Here he plays Allen Ginsberg in his first year at University as he meets fellow future heavyweights of the Beat Generation and embarks on a tumultuous affair.

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Any film with Juno Temple in is worth a second look which is why this film finds its way into this list. Temple co-stars as a stripper who is taken into the home of a bored housewife played but the too often ignored Kathryn Hahn. Darkly funny and the debut film from a female writer/director this should not be a cheap or sleazy affair.

Short Term 12

Short Term 12

Much like Juno Temple, Felicity Jones, Judi Dench, Richard Ayoade, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt there is another artist whose work I find myself absolutely needing to see and that is Brie Larson. Too often resigned to the role of love interest or comic relief Larson is finally getting a proper meaty role as a supervisor at a foster-care home who finds herself having to deal with her own past as she helps a new resident with theirs.