Out Now – 25th May 2012

Men in Black III
You can get bogged down in the fact that this is a threequel to a film released way back in 1997, that the first sequel was pretty terrible, and that it is in the scourge of the decade – 3D. I’d much rather focus on the fact that the film features both Emma Thompson and Jemaine Clement and get a little bit excited.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Five couples having babies experience comedy drama through interconnecting plot stories. It’s the comedy for people at the stage in their life when everyone around them seems to be pregnant. With a cast of thousands (almost) this feels like a pregnant version of He’s Just Not That Into You and that was an awful film.

Moonrise Kingdom
Wes Anderson is back! A bit of a Marmite director, Anderson is either the king of film or an idiot hipster making dull, smug films. I think he is wonderful and can’t wait to see this latest release in which a young boy and girl run away together with a search party in their wake. Guaranteed to be visually pleasing, tightly written, and to have Bill Murray in funky trousers.

Tales Of The Night (limited release)
Six short stories told in a beautiful silhouette animation style. Why not read Kat’s review where she gushes about the visuals, rants about the 3D, and gets annoyed by the “wet” female characters.

Free Men (limited release)
During World War II an Algerian in Paris makes friends with a Jewish man and joins the resistance against the Nazis. Imagine ‘Allo ‘Allo! with some moderate violence.

Barbaric Genius (limited release)
“The remarkable story of John Healy’s rise from wino and street thief to chess master and award-winning author.” Turns out his book was about his time as a wino: the Russell Brand of 1988.

Personal Best (limited release)
Filmed over four years this documentary follows British sprinters as they train and compete with the aim to join the team for the 2012 Olympics. Coming out just before the Olympics this documentary is in danger of lacking an ending.

Mild Concern BFI London Film Festival Awards 2011

Hello and welcome to the second annual Mild Concern BFI London Film Festival awards to celebrate and berate various films screened at the 55th BFI London Film Festival. Today I will be sitting in my tuxedo handing out the feted awards, the Raised EyebrowsTM, to any film which grabbed our attention in a positive or, equally likely, negative way.

Best Use of SymbolismWe Need to Talk About Kevin
A favourite to win a few bigger awards this year, even Best of the FestTM, but ultimately a few surprises took the crown. Instead Kevin is recognised for the amount of time poor Tilda Swinton is cleaning red off of her hands, her house and her car. Red is everywhere in Kevin. It’s not subtle but it’s certainly effective.

Best Use of Jon SnowCoriolanus
Jon Snow’s cinematic appearances are few and far between, it has been too long since Zombie Farm, but they are always a treat. Here he plays a newsreader with some classic Shakespearean dialogue. Best bit of the film.

Best Use of Felicity JonesLike Crazy
As the official Mild Concern crush we had to give Felicity Jones a mention. She is at the top of her game in Like Crazy and the film gives her a chance to show her acting chops, and captures her in a gorgeous light throughout. The more I think about the film, the better it seems.

Totally a Play AwardCarnage
Carnage was a hell of a lot of fun but, with four speaking parts and a set consisting of two rooms, hasn’t gained much in transitioning from stage play to motion picture. You’d struggle to find a theatre gathering this stellar cast though so all is forgiven.

Most Improved Performer – George Clooney for The Descendants
At last year’s festival The American was a major low point in my week, it was a dull and pointless film. Thankfully George Clooney took my criticism and returned this year with two films getting rave reviews. The Descendants takes the award for one good reason: it’s the one I saw.

Most Prolific Performer – John C. Reilly for Carnage, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Terri
John C. Reilly has the unique distinction of having a major role in three quality films at this year’s festival. In every film he is a less than perfect father figure to a troubled young boy. Don’t be fooled into thinking he is just playing the same role again and again, each time he plays a distinct character proving that Reilly is not a one trick pony.

Struggling to Stay Awake Award (Documentary)Crazy Horse
Visually beautiful and with a few nice insights into a famous Parisian club, Crazy Horse is a documentary with nothing to say but plenty of time to spend not saying it. I checked the time three times during the screening, willing the film to end and trying to keep my eyes open.

Struggling to Stay Awake Award (Feature)Last Screening
With Last Screening my battle to keep my eyes open was lost and became a battle to maintain consciousness. A film about a serial killer shouldn’t be boring, this is completely unacceptable.

Biggest Affront to Germaine GreerTales of the Night
In a series of fairy tales women fail to be anything more than pathetic damsels in distress. With the actors within the film amending some of the stories they fail to acknowledge women as competent human beings and give the female characters any initiative. It’s as if Buffy never happened.

Best Mix of Tears and Titters/Best Comedy50/50
I laughed, I cried (almost) and I found Seth Rogan funny throughout a film for the first time. 50/50 manages to fill a film about cancer with humour without ever belittling the disease. Good work people.

Scared to Walk Home Award/Best DramaMartha Marcy May Marlene
Stealing Kevin‘s award is a harrowing tale of a young girl who has escaped from a modern-day cult. A brilliant debut feature for director Sean Durkin and a stellar introduction to Elizabeth Olsen. You won’t ever want to be left alone again.

Best DocumentaryInto the Abyss
Werner Herzog certainly knows how to put together a documentary. Here he presents the story of a triple homicide without comment, simply allowing the people involved to tell the story from their point of view. Includes a moving scene where a man starts to cry as he tells a story about a squirrel.

Best AnimationAlois Nebel
So far from cartoon animation this gorgeous Czech film is a truly adult feature. The rotoscoped performances and mixture of CGI effects with hand drawn images make for a real work of art. Still not sure what was going on though.

Best Short FilmThe Monster of Nix
In a similar vein the best short film mixes live-action, computer animation and hand-painted background to make a gorgeous short film which could easily be extended to a full feature. If you’re listening Rosto, we want an extra hour please.

Best of the FestThe Artist
With so many heavy films the best thing we saw all festival was a French silent film set in Hollywood as the talkies began. Invigorating my love for cinema and hopes for its future The Artist is so much fun you can’t help but fall in love with it. It also has a release date now, get ready to smile on 30th December 2011.

A Note For Film-makers:
To collect your award simply send us an email with the address you’d like it sending to and we’ll post it on as soon as we cobble something together. And in case you’re wondering how to incorporate the award into your marketing campaign, here’s an example using Coriolanus:

If you missed any of our reviews, all films covered can be found by clicking on the appropriate thumbnail below:

Tales of the Night (Les Contes de La Nuit) – LFF Review

Tales of the Night - Les Contes de la Nuit

Setting aside two specific issues, Tales of the Night, or as the film is in French – Les Contes de La Nuit – is really rather pretty and charming. Animator Michael Ocelot’s structure comprises of two young actors and a middle-aged writer who get together in a cinema and, with a little magic, make their own films of classic (and not so classic) world fairy tales.

There are a total of six stories, compiled from episodes of the television series Dragons et Princesses, and are all centred around traditional themes of princes and princesses. Each is told through beautifully animated silhouettes on brightly coloured backgrounds and with a gentle, dry wit. Linking the tales are scenes of the trio researching the background information and images of the time and place in which the story is set. They span medieval Europe, Tibet, the Caribbean, an Aztec City of Gold and a rather vague “Africa”. Although it’s unlikely that a non-French-speaking child would be able to keep up with the subtitles needed for the dialogue-heavy script, it is aimed at a young audience.

We have reiterated how much we dislike 3D time and again on this blog but if the technology worked as intended, then this is one of the few films that justifies its use. Building up the layers of silhouettes enhanced the feeling of a shadow play theatre and served to give more depth to the flat shadows.

However, now I’m going to have to return to those issues I set to one side because 3D doesn’t work as intended. It’s hard to become immersed in the enchantment when you’re constantly being jolted out of the flow by technical problems. It takes a long time, approximately two stories-worth, to get used to shifting your gaze between the floating subtitles and on-screen action and whenever the characters run or dance, your eyes are unable to process the images fast enough, resulting in blurs. It’s also difficult to keep two pairs of specs on a much too small nose – and yes, you might think that’s a bit specific to people with snub noses who wear glasses but I think it’s valid.

The much bigger issue for me though (which is saying something when compared to our loathing for 3D cinematography) was that the girl never gets to be the hero. In every story the princess needs rescuing (apart from arguably the first, where the younger sister’s one act of derring-do is reported in a sentence). This is obviously a feature of traditional fairy tales in general but it’s a lot harder to stomach when back in the present day, the actors say they are going to write their own tales or amend existing ones. In the case of the Tibetan myth, my hopes were raised as the young actress refused to take the female part because she disliked the character so much. To appease her concerns, they promise to rewrite her ending to make her more palatable but instead succeeded in making her wet and desperate to be saved from her own evil actions. While earlier, the male actor insisted he play a werewolf, at this point the female had apparently demanded to be “worthless”.

Dubbing Les Contes de la Nuit for an international audience would not be a difficult matter and would effectively dispense with one of the main problems, although it would be a shame to lose the talented voice cast. Less easily overcome is the pathetic string of mostly unnamed girls, waiting around for a shining knight to save them. So while the visuals are sumptuous and the execution charming, I was left somewhat underwhelmed.

Tales of the Night has a UK release date of 12th November.

55th BFI London Film Festival

For the next week or so this post will be our hub for coverage of the 55th BFI London Film Festival. Any films we’ve seen have a thumbnail below linking to their review and the video player below will update itself to show the latest video from the BFI about the festival.

We’re trying to break the 20 film barrier this year, though it may well kill us.

Films reviewed:

Latest video coverage:

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