Category Archives: Glasgow Film Festival 2014

Frightfest Glasgow 2014: A Review

 

Wolf Creek 2
Wolf Creek 2

By Mike Shawcross (@shawky1969)

Having been a regular visitor to the London Frightfest for the last 8 years I eventually dragged myself up to Scotland to see what the Glasgow event was like. Needless to say I’ll be going back next year, I had a great time. While not as intense as the August event I liked the more intimate feel of this smaller gathering. A fair few familiar faces littered the audience and I also had a chance to meet some social media friends for the first time, just like the Failed Critics’ one and only James Diamond [I didn’t pay him to phrase it like that – James].

Ti West in conversation was an extra event on the Thursday night. With West’s new film The Sacrament playing over the weekend I guess it made good sense to host it something like this. Being a fan of House of the Devil and The Innkeepers I was looking forward to both the event and the new film. Even with his small filmography West delivered a solid 90 minutes of interesting and insightful stories of his short career. The people he worked with, like Larry Fessenden and Eli Roth, and how he secured his cast for his films; mostly through friends and chance meetings. In the Q&A he provided strong positive answers and was very willing to share his experiences. I do hope that this conversation gets aired on the internet if you like West’s work then it was an interesting 90 minutes from a director with a promising future ahead of him.

Killers (Dir:The Mo Brothers) – Day 2 Closing Film.

To know this was a replacement for The Raid 2 is a bitter pill to swallow; however it was described to me as something similar to I saw the Devil, while actually not in the same class as I Saw the Devil, it’s not that far away.

An established serial killer from Japan baits an Indonesian reporter into committing murder, the two men from a strange bond as both their lives start to unravel until they both meet in a gripping climax. This was my favourite film of the 2 days, only just though. The production, the acting, the score are all very good; it builds a steady tension towards the excellent final scenes of the film. As much as I enjoyed it, I suspect I would have enjoyed the Raid 2 more. (4.5/5)

The Sacrament (Dir: Ti West) – Day 1

A mock-documentary heavily influenced by the Jonestown incident in the 70’s. Possibly more disturbing than most films on show over the 2 days, this is a chilling story of what could and obviously has taken place before. A community run by one man, known as Father (played rather brilliantly by Gene Jones) and his hold over his followers.

The cast is excellent and West is clever enough to use actors who have experience with operating camera equipment.  I guess listening to West the evening before had set me up for this film and I really did enjoy it. (4.5/5)

Proxy (Dir: Zack Parker) – Day 1

This was excellent, from the cast, the script and to the constantly changing narrative. Parker kept me on my toes throughout the film. Every time I thought I had a handle on where the film was going it would spin it off in another direction. An uneasy watch at times, but none the less a gripping one; I’m interested in watching the film again, I wonder if Parker has littered the film full of clues as some scenes left me wondering what really was going on. With its Hitchcockian feel this is well worth checking out. (4/5)

The Afflicted (Dir: Derek Lee & Clif Prowse) – Day 1

My surprise film of the 2 days, while the overall concept hadn’t gripped me and the fact it was another found footage film left me quite cold, the style is starting to wear thin for me. Yet Lee and Prowse proved me wrong, they work wonders. A great opening had me hooked, the twist is great and then from there it’s a brilliantly handled horror film. My advice though is don’t watch the trailers, just see it! This is all I’m going to say about it…. (4/5)

Wolf Creek 2 (Dir: Greg Mclean) – Day 1

Mick Taylor (Jarratt) returns to our screens after nearly 10 years, while not a massive fan of the original because it lacks any humour, it’s still a good piece of serial killer horror.

The sequel now with added humour is a much bigger, better film, evident in the opening 10 minutes alone. Jarratt has much more fun with Mick helped by a much better script, though he’s still as brutal, he just seems like he’s really enjoying himself! Mick Taylor might just make it into that honoured group of on-screen killers, if he gets another strong outing like this one. I only hope I don’t have to wait another 10 years to see him again. (4/5)

Video Nasties – Draconian Days (Dir: Jake West) – Day 2

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape from 2010, gets a sequel or rather Jake West continues the history of film censorship in the UK. With an insight into James Ferman; director of the BBFC as the UK became the most censored country in the Western world.  Hungerford and the murder of James Bulger were associated with Rambo and Childs Play. With These accusations only cemented Ferman’s believe that the public needed to be protected from video nasites. A solid and interesting documentary and well worth seeing (4/5)

Mindscape (Dir:Jorge Dorado) – Day 2

A solid mystery thriller but a strange choice for the line up. While not a horror or even a dark thriller, this might have been more at home in the main festival line up. However I did enjoy the film, a very good cast, with a decent script and enough mystery to keep me intrigued till nearly the end, where it does become a little obvious. The score and the production were very good, with some nice cinematography throughout the film. (3.5/5)

The Scribbler (Dir:John Suits) – Day 2

A comic adaptation, from a comic I’d never heard of; penned by Daniel Schaffer who also wrote the screenplay. Really not sure what I thought of this, a film of moments; some missed opportunities and the curse of the origin story. The look of the film and its concept are great, but nothing I can really get into without spoiling it. The cast are all fine, and Dillahunt gives the best performance. Overall they are let down by a screenplay which never really builds any tension and just stumbles into the final act. Should have been better – but worth a look (3/5)

Almost Human (Dir:Joe Begos) – Day 2

Nearly a very good low budget sci-fi horror where the poster actually oversells the film. The cast were ok, generally it had some decent ideas while heavily borrowed from other alien films through the years. Its opening was pretty good it just all fell flat for me due to the very bad script, it really needed some humour. By the time the film found its feet and gave me something to laugh at I had given up. Again there were quite a few people who did enjoy it, just not me. (2/5)

Torment (Dir:Jordan Banks) – Day 2

I really struggled to like this film, a home invasion film where there was nothing new on show or with a decent twist to freshen up this well worn familiar plot line. The cast were underused and to be honest didn’t look that interested anyway, the longer it went on the less interested I became with it. Like found footage this concept is a little over used now and really needs something a bit different to make them stand out.(1.5/5)

Savaged (Dir: Michael S. Ojeda) – Day 1 Opening Film

I guess you could say it was the Crow meets I spit on your grave, which in concept sounds pretty cool; and done well would have been bloody cool. Well it was entertaining, but it entertained for the wrong reasons, the bad script and the poor delivery by the 2nd rate actors had the audience laughing at it rather than with it, was enough to condemn this to the worst film of the 2 days.    (1/5)

Failed Critics Podcast: Glasgow Film Festival 2014 (feat. Pappy’s)

The Lunchbox
The Lunchbox

Och aye the new Failed Critics podcast! We’re back in Scotland for our second annual trip to the Glasgow Film Festival, and once more James is entrusted with somehow patching together a podcast without the erstwhile talents of Steve and Owen.

Luckily he isn’t alone, and for this special podcast is not only joined by our good friends Dave McFarlane of Born Offside and Paul Fisher of The Write Club, but also by our very special guests Pappy’s – the award-winning sketch comedy stars of BBC3’s Badults.

There’s plenty of chat, drinking, and reviews of the latest films from Terry Gilliam, Michel Gondry, and Richard Ayoade. We’ll be back to normal next week with our Oscars Special.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

GFF14 Diary: Wednesday 26th Feb – The Lunchbox, Zero Charisma, and Calvary

CalvaryI spent Tuesday away from the festival, although I did manage a quick visit to the splendid Grosvenor Cinema with my three-year-old daughter for a special toddlers’ screening of some Peppa Pig cartoons. I am unfamiliar with this popular porcine series, but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen in a cinema.

Today was my busiest day at the festival, with three films and a podcast recording session on the agenda. I met up with my good friends Dave Macfarlane (Born Offside) and Paul Fisher (The Write Club) for what has become our annual day of film discussion and moderate alcohol consumption. We arrived at Cineworld early for our first screening, not out of any sense of organisation, but because Dave’s fear of the lift meant a journey up the escalators to the top floor that Edmund Hillary would have balked at.

First up was the Indian romantic comedy/drama The Lunchbox, the debut feature from writer/director Ritesh Batra. The film focuses on a pair of strangers, brought together by an unheard mistake from Mumbai’s dabbawalas, the people responsible for a delivery system that collects hot cooked meals from people’s homes and delivers them to their work for lunch. Ila is an unappreciated wife and mother, and her fantastic food meant for her husband is mistakenly delivered to a curmudgeonly government employee a month away from taking early retirement. soon the two are communicating via handwritten letters packed inside the lunchbox, with both talking about the regrets in their lives, and suddenly finding new dreams and ambitions to live for.

The narrative is a little derivative at times, reminiscent of classics like Brief Encounter and In the Mood for Love, as well as the not quite so classic You’ve Got Mail. What elevates this film however are the excellent central performances which gave me that very rare feeling of physically willing two people on screen to somehow make things work. Plus, it’s always nice to see an Indian film playing on UK screens that isn’t nearly 3 hours long with 15 different dance routines bunged in the middle. This is a lovely film, but make sure you have time to go out for a curry afterwards as I haven’t salivated this much in a cinema since Jadoo.

After a trip to our very generous sponsors Brewdog Bar Glasgow to record a huge chunk of this week’s podcast, we headed back to the GFT for Zero Charisma, a Kickstarter-funded film about role-playing games and the eternal battle between real nerds and those affecting ‘geek chic’. The screening was sold out (meaning Dave had to spend an hour and half in a nearby pub), and there has been a lot of buzz about this film from the SXSW and Tribeca film festivals. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, and the film had the same homemade charm and outsider geek dialogue that made me fall in love with Clerks the first time I saw it. Sure, it goes for some easy laughs at times and the drama wasn’t written anywhere nearly as well as the comedy, but when it treads the difficult line between celebrating and skewering geekdom it is utterly brilliant. Destined to become one of those hidden gems people discover when browsing through Netflix and evangelize to their friends about.

Finally we found out what this year’s Surprise Film was, and although it didn’t end up being the dreamed of (but very unlikely) first UK screening of The Raid 2, it wasn’t a disappointment as it was the new film from John Michael McDonagh, Calvary. It’s a darkly comic tale of a priest (the fabulous Brendan Gleeson) who gets a death threat in confession and is given a week to put his house in order.

The first 90 minutes of the film is a pretty bleak, yet oddly funny look at rural Irish life, and Gleeson is captivating as the world-worn, but ultimately good man of God. Excellent support is provided by Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillen, and Dylan Moran as this ‘who’sgonnadoit’ simmers along to its denouement. Sadly I can’t really judge the last five minutes of the film, and therefore the film as a whole, as I found a brand new way to live up to the ‘failed’ element of our moniker. Due to a combination of early starts, long days, and mistakenly taking the ‘night’ cold and flu tablets rather than the ‘day’ ones I fell asleep for the exact five minute the film climaxed. That’s right, I’m using the Peter Buck excuse, and I’m sticking to it. It opens UK-wide on April 11, and I will be first in the queue to confess my sin, do my penance, and watch the film fully refreshed after a good night’s sleep.

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

GFF14 Diary: Monday 24th Feb – Mood Indigo, 20 Feet from Stardom, and Pappy’s

Mood IndigoToday was my first ‘proper’ day at the festival. Two films, recording for the podcast, and a sense that things had finally kicked off.

Mood Indigo was a film that I was looking forward to in spite of the reviews. Michel Gondry is an incredible visual director, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those films that I think is utterly flawless. Add to the mix a cast containing the bewitching Audrey Tautou (Amelie), and the brilliant Omar Sy (Intouchables) and hopes were high.

Sadly, the film is nowhere near the sum of its parts. It’s based on a Boris Vian novel, and the early scenes cannot help making the audience think of Amelie, Tautou’s breakout film which also featured a romantic and highly stylised Paris as its backdrop. Colin (Romain Duris) is a well-off bachelor who quite literally demands to fall in love, leading his lawyer and mentor (and part-time chef) Chick (Sy) to help him woo Chloe (Tautou). They soon fall in love and marry, but disaster strikes as it’s revealed that Chloe has a flower growing inside her lung that is slowly killing her.

This film’s strength is also its downfall, as the visual trickery and frippery of Gondry soon completely overwhelm the entire film. Early scenes featuring a ‘pianocktail’ (a piano that mixes drinks according to the tune being played upon it) and a man dressed as a mouse soon wear thin as the story starts to take hold. In fact, during some of the most dramatic scenes, instead of empathising with the characters I was just sat waiting for the next Gondry illusion to occur.

It’s difficult to hate the film due to its sheer ambition, but at the same time I can see why Harvey Weinstein cut half an hour from its running time. I’m just not sure he cut enough.

20 Feet from Stardom is showing at the festival hot on the heels from its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, and it’s certainly proving to be a bit of a crowd-pleaser. It’s a frank and at times heart-warming look at the world of the backing singer, featuring the likes of Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer, and Merry Clayton. The fact that you may not have heard of these women is reason enough for making the film.

The film is at its best when exploring the role of the backing singer, and the impact they’ve had on popular music. Mick Jagger and Merry Clayton tell a wonderful story of how Clayton turned up in the middle of the night, in her pyjamas and seven months pregnant, and absolutely nailed the female vocal part of the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter. Fischer is also an engaging and fascinating interviewee as one of the few participants who apparently gave up the chance to become a solo artist, and doesn’t regret a thing.

At times though the film just can’t shake the feeling of being an interesting episode of VH1’s Behind the Music complete with polished looks and interviews from Bruce Springsteen and Sting. It’s an enjoyable look at an area of pop music that doesn’t get a huge amount of attention, but it ultimately feels like it’s barely scratching the surface.

I ended the evening interviewing the brilliant comedy sketch group Pappy’s, and their interview will be featured in full on this week’s podcast. What I can say is that they are both lovely, and have far more interesting and insightful things to say about the film than we’ve ever seen on the podcast. If you haven’t already bought Badults on DVD, what’s stopping you?

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

GFF14 Diary: Sunday 23rd Feb – The Double

TheDoubleStarting the festival a day or two after everyone else (and missing the Opening Gala screening of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel) was always going to leave me feeling like I was playing catch-up, and so the pressure was even higher for my first film in Glasgow to impress me. Last year I started off with a highly anticipated film starring Mia Wasikowska that ultimately left me bored and slightly betrayed. Shame on you Stoker.

So it was that I took my seat in the lecture hall-style GFT1 for The Double, Richard Ayoade’s second feature starring Jessie Eisenberg and the aforementioned Wasikowska, as well as a host of alumni from Ayoade’s debut Submarine (a film that I shamefully still haven’t seen, but that I have bought with me to Glasgow for one of those mythical periods of ‘free time’).

The Double is loosely based on a novella written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but the immediately obvious influences are Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, as well as the dark humour and nightmare future envisioned in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The narrative also feels at times like the work of Czech absurdist playwright and former President Vaclav Havel, yet the film itself feels both personal and original.

Jessie Eisenberg stars initially as Simon James, a middle-ranking bureaucrat at an data entry organisation where despite seven years of hard work he is still not recognised by the security guard on the gate, or even by his boss. He dreams of one day meeting ‘The Colonel’ (James Fox), the company figurehead who claims in an TV commercial that “there are no special people, just people”, and he also has designs, bordering on a Rear Window-style obsession, on his co-worker Hannah (Wasikowska).

One day, Simon’s doppelganger appears at work, by the name of James Simon (obviously, also played by Eisenberg). James Simon is everything that Simon James is not; confident, carefree, and utterly irresistible to women. At first the two bond over a very funny night out drinking, and James Simon even offers advice on how Simon James can win Hannah round, including the excellent advice that when accompanying a date the man should “put your hand just above their ass. It shows that you’re interested, but that you can push them down the stairs at any time”.

Slowly the doppelganger starts to take over Simon’s life though, and paranoia quickly consumes his very existence. Even his work colleagues struggle to understand, with his colleague Harris only finally seeing the similarities after much prodding, commenting on their likeness that “you’re not even Chinese, that’s pretty fucked up”.

The plot very quickly starts spinning out of control, and if you’re not careful you’ll struggle to keep up as it reaches its denouement. That said, the performances and production design are so spot on that you’ll forgive a slightly muddled third act. The sound design is comparable to the excellent Berbarian Sound Studio, and the production design is a brilliant vision of steampunk bureaucracy that belies the director’s love of or obsession with the 1980s.

Ayoade fleshes out the cast with great performances in small roles, including the always brilliant Wallace Shawn as a company middle manager, Paddy Considine as a futuristic space cop in a James’ favourite television show, and the welcome return of Chris Morris to our screens as an unsympathetic personnel officer.

The Double is a film that not only cements its director’s status as a major challenge, but is also a brilliant and individual dystopian thriller in its own right.

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

Glasgow Film Festival 2014 Preview

gfflogo

It’s that time of year once more, and I’ll shortly be on my way to Scotland for the 10th Glasgow Film Festival. The cinematic event that provides a more boisterous, down-to-earth, and accessible counterpoint to the Edinburgh Film and Television festival.

This year the festival is even bigger than ever, and features over 60 UK premieres. The opening gala is the UK Premiere of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, while the closing gala is the Scottish premiere of Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Although both have sold out, there’s still plenty to get excited about.

Richard Ayoade’s second feature The Double (starring Jessie Eisenberg), Terry Gilliam’s latest sci-fi mindfuck The Zero Theorem (starring Christophe Waltz as you’ve never seen him), and the film adaptation of the acclaimed novel The Book Thief all have gala screenings at the festival.

Other films to watch out for include Jason Priestley’s directorial debut Cas and Dylan (a road-trip movie starring Richard Dreyfuss), Philipe Claudel’s psychological thriller Before the Winter Chill, and the Scottish premiere of Oscar-nominated documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, complete with pre-film entertainment from the Glasgow Gospel Choir.

There are a few films that I’m particularly looking forward to, including Michel Gondry’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) latest film Mood Indigo. Starring the delightful Audrey Tautou (Amelie), and featuring Romain Duris (Populaire) and Omar Sy (Intouchables), it is an adaptation of the Boris Vian cult novel set in contemporary Paris with a retro aesthetic. Gondry’s films are always visually stunning, and it appears we’re getting the full cut of the film rather than the Weinstein ‘vision’, which makes it a must-watch for me.

Zero Charisma has the potential to become one of the breakout hits of the festival, and anything that celebrates geek culture without sneering at it is to be applauded. This exploration of the conflict between a weekly ‘Games Master’ and the popular ‘geek chic’ interloper into his social circle has already proven very popular at SXSW, and fits perfectly into the festival’s embrace of gaming culture.

My last ‘one to watch’ from the huge programme is the Guatemala/Mexico joint production The Golden Dream. Directed by a former Ken Loach cameraman, this powerful neo-realist look at three teenagers’ attempts to travel a thousand miles from their homes to the US packs a serious punch, and features outstanding performances from its young leads.

Then there’s the notorious GFF Surprise Film, the lucky dip of the festival and certainly worth a punt even if last year’s screening was the woeful Spring Breakers. Speculation is rife as to what this year’s film could be, and I’m trying desperately to lower my expectations from The Raid 2. Like last year’s film though, both Snowpiercer and Calvary have screened at Berlin to excellent reviews, and either would be a fantastic choice.

Horror fans are also amply accommodated during the last weekend of the festival as Frighfest heads north of the border, with Ti West appearing in conversation and Wolf Creek 2 among the films premiering in that strand.

And it’s not just new films that dominate the programme; the 1939 Hooray for Hollywood strand will see ten classics from that year being screened across the city, including Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Gone with the Wind. There are some great films in unusual locations as well, including Young Frankenstein at the Kelvingrove Museum, and John Carpenter’s The Fog on a boat.

I’m going to be covering as much of the festival as I possibly can with my daily diary, as well as interviews, reviews, and mis-typed tweets. The Failed Critics Podcast is also returning to Glasgow, and this year we’ll have some old friends returning, and hopefully making some new ones as well.

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.