Tag Archives: Foxcatcher

What I won’t be voting for in 2015

As today is the last opportunity for people to submit votes in our Failed Critics Awards 2015, I thought I might share a few of the movies that I won’t be voting for before midnight tonight.

Specifically, rather than just make a list of terrible releases from across the year (such as The Ridiculous 6, Transporter Refueled, Lost River etc), I’m going to pick those films that flattered to deceive. If you’d have asked me in January, I probably would have sworn blind that the following were guaranteed to make my final top 10 list. Unfortunately, as it happens, none of the following will be included because in their own different ways, they were either not actually that good, disappointingly average, or regrettably just plain bad.


Foxcatcher

steve_carell_foxcatcher1Going into Foxcatcher, it was hard not to be caught up in the Oscar-buzz for Steve Carell’s performance. In fact, on last year’s Awards podcast, James asked us all which films we were most looking forward to in 2015 and I actually picked Bennett Miller’s movie based on a true story about wealthy wrestling coach John E. du Pont (Carell) and his Olympic competitor Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Now, I haven’t chosen it for this list because I didn’t enjoy the film. I did! It’s just that the momentum it had built up for the performances was perhaps a little bit unrealistic. If anything, Mark Ruffalo – who I hadn’t heard anything about before going to see Foxcatcher in January – was the standout actor of the three. Mainly because he was so good, as I’ve come to expect from Ruffalo, but the other two just weren’t all they were hyped up to be. Similarly, although I did find the story interesting, it was rather disappointingly told in a somewhat sluggish manner. Lingering on scenes for longer than is necessary far too often slowed the pace down to a crawl and meant that overall, even away from the performances, it just wasn’t quite good enough to break my top 10. Probably not even my top 15 of the year, either.


Legendmaxresdefault-2

Andrew Brooker and I had talked to each other quite extensively about what we were hoping for from the latest glorified re-telling of the lives of notorious London gangsters the Kray twins. Perhaps it’s fair to say that even though I do like Tom Hardy, Brooker is an even bigger fan. Getting to see two Hardy’s for the price of one seemed like reason enough to cross my fingers in hope that this British crime drama would deliver a high quality, gritty, colourful story. Alas, it transpires that no amount of Hardy’s can make a tepid script with woeful narration into a good film.


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age-of-Ultron-0003Such was the disturbingly low amount of hype for Joss Whedon’s follow up to the spectacular Avengers Assemble that we decided to spin some of our own by creating 10 Avengers Minisode podcasts earlier this year, reevaluating all of the MCU movies to date. Despite some nervous anticipation, I still expected big things from Age of Ultron but it failed to deliver on virtually every level. Firstly, it was far too long and bloated. The cast for the previous outing of our Marvel superheroes was already pretty large, but they balanced enough screen time and dialogue for each to have an integral part to play in developing the story. In this follow up, there are far too many characters who do absolutely nothing except bash each other about the head occasionally. Hardly any two characters have a conversation in this movie without eventually a bout of fisticuffs, or reminiscing about that time they had a fight. I hated the Hulk & Black Widow storyline. The apologetic attempt to give Hawkeye more screen time by shoe-horning in a half-arsed story about his secret family-man life was underwhelming and shallow – and to top it all off, the villain was barely used except for a three-hour long explosion and fight sequence in the final act. Maybe I’ll re-watch it in a year or two and find that it’s decent really and I had just been expecting too much? But right now, it comes across as a badly written set up film for the rest of the MCU yet to come and is one of the biggest let downs of the whole year.


Southpaw

SOUTHPAW

I’ve already summed up my opinion back in August on Antoine Fuqua’s drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer who has a spectacular fall from grace. From the trailer alone, I thought Southpaw would be one of the standout films for 2015, with Jake Gyllenhaal still riding high on the crest of his incredible performance in Nightcrawler last year. And just like I mentioned when discussing Foxcatcher further up the page, it was a film that in the end was just “all right”. It was a good performance, it had a good story, it was well directed and well paced, but it lacked a certain element to propel it into greatness. Rather than feeling happy to have seen a good film, instead I left the cinema not ruing the fact I’d spent over two hours watching it, which itself is an indicator that something wasn’t quite right. A big part of the problem is that it doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting. It felt like I’d seen it all done perfectly well before. Gyllenhaal put on a lot of muscle, his character has a fall and then a rise, there’s a strained home life, he’s a father and a champion etc. Regardless of how well structured it is, it’s hardly groundbreaking material. In the end, it was just another mildly entertaining sports drama.


SPECTRE

spectre-daniel-craigThis might be considered something of a spoiler for the results of the Failed Critics Awards that will be announced early this week (or maybe we should think of it as an exclusive instead) but only one person has voted SPECTRE into their top 10 of the year. One person. To you and I, who have seen 007’s latest outing, it probably isn’t a surprise, given how by-the-numbers it was. However, compared to Skyfall (Eon’s 23rd Bond film that celebrated 50 years of Britain’s worst-kept secret spy) which only narrowly missed out on winning top spot in our awards back in 2012, that’s pretty shocking. Admittedly, I’ve never been that big a fan of the Bond movies, as I discussed with Steve Norman, Tony Black and Brian Plank on our podcast back in October, but even I loved Skyfall. Sam Mendes was the perfect director to blend his visual flair with some good old-fashioned and exciting story-telling. It was for that reason alone that I was really looking forward to SPECTRE, despite being put off by the fact that it was to be the longest Bond film ever at 2 hours 28 minutes. “Starring Christoph Waltz” is as good a reason as any to get me interested in any movie. With the Day of the Dead opening scene in Mexico, the film started off already in about third gear and just plateaued from there. I don’t remember it really ramping up tension or suspense, or taking its foot off the peddle at any point. It just drifted along at an even and enjoyable pace, never feeling like it was dragging at all, but without building to something bigger. It tootled along from point A to point B, to point C, to point D and so on until reaching its destination calmly … and then blowing up £20m worth of Aston Martin. A bit like Age of Ultron, it does suffer from the hangover of its predecessor and will no doubt improve on a rewatch, but to be quite honest about it, I just can’t be bothered with it. I can see why for that one person it might have been in their top 10, but it definitely won’t be in mine.

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Failed Critics Podcast: Talkin’ ’bout Picking Our Globes

foxcatcherDISCLAIMER: If you’ve downloaded this podcast in order to torture ears belonging to either you or somebody else with horrendous screeching sounds and unbearably loud-then-quiet distortion, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Steve and Owen somehow managed to keep the podcast from trying to destroy itself and have produced their first actual audible episode of 2015. Quite the achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Not only is the sound quality bearable, but our debutant guest this week, Andrew Brooker, chimes in with some great reviews of Foxcatcher, Into The Woods and The Salvation that are well worth a listen.

The trio also mull over the results of last weekend’s Golden Globes;  review the upcoming Reese Witherspoon movie Wild;  and lay into Olivier Megaton for somehow making Taken 3 worse than it was expected to be. There’s even time for Steve and American sports fan Brooker to discuss Draft Day and for Owen to go on even more about Bruce Lee with Enter The Dragon.

Join us next week for reviews of new releases American Sniper and Whiplash.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Foxcatcher

Career defining performances from its three leads leaves you astounded as this bizarre true story unfolds in front of your eyes.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

foxcatcher 2It’s no secret amongst filmmakers that some of the best ways to get the Oscar committee’s collective genitals tingling is to give them a true story or a good sports film (note: GOOD sports film. Adam Sandler’s crap “The Longest Yard” remake doesn’t count). So every couple of years a great sports film comes along that’s based on a true story and you just know that it’s destined for one of those DVD covers with its nominations and wins proudly displayed all over the front.

Personally, I never quite know how “famous” a story is. I’ve always loved American sports, combat sports especially and I love to know as much as I can about the sports I watch. It’s how I can spew random American Football facts few in the UK will know or even understand. But it’s also how I went into Foxcatcher already knowing the story of the Schultz brothers Dave and Mark and their time spent with John DuPont and team Foxcatcher. As such, I’m not entirely sure how well known the story is in the UK so for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free, I will keep to the basics and not reveal the end to this tragic true story.

Shortly after winning Olympic gold with his brother, wrestler Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) is invited to meet with eccentric multi-millionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell) who proposes Mark’s relocation to Pennsylvania to train for the upcoming wrestling World Championships at the newly formed Team Foxcatcher. Encouraged to bring his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) along with him to the team, Mark jumps at the opportunity. His sibling opts to stay where he is and not move his family, leaving Mark alone with DuPont.

A man used to getting everything he wants, John DuPont’s pursuit of wrestling success from his team is as unrelenting as his pursuit of Dave Shultz. What he can’t win honestly, he’ll buy. And what he can’t get dishonestly, just isn’t worth his time. Seeing success with Foxcatcher in the championships and beyond, DuPont starts to build his own little empire with him, and his ability to talk Mark Shultz into anything, at the centre of it.

It’s a bizarre true story to tell. John DuPont is a petulant child in a grown man’s body. Literally stomping his feet when things don’t go his way. But as an insanely wealthy grown up, he gets to throw money at the problem and get exactly what he wants one way or another. Combine this with him forcing himself into Mark Shultz’s life as a much needed father figure and using it to control him, there isn’t much that the weird philanthropist can’t do or get where his wrestling aspirations are concerned. As the story progresses and we see things come apart at the seams for all involved, it’s DuPont’s instability and it’s affects on all those he surrounds himself with that takes centre stage.

Director Bennett Miller is beginning to make a habit of bringing us outstanding, Oscar worthy pictures. Previously directing the late, great, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Brad Pitt in Moneyball, his latest addition to his filmography easily compares to either of his earlier offerings. I think it’s important to mention 2011’s Moneyball because I believe it holds more significance than being just another great, Oscar nominated sports film. Miller gave the world an opportunity to see Jonah Hill as more than a doofus comedy actor. He worked so hard and left such an impression on the audience that it earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination and I think this may be where Miller’s directorial genius will be recognised in the future.

Steve Carell surprised me with his performance. Besides his strange posture throughout the film that makes it look like he’s scared of his makeup slipping off. He looks like a dog trying to balance an invisible biscuit on his snout and a glass of water on his head. The entire top half of his body barely moves! That said, his portrayal of John DuPont was simply out of this world and he deserves all the fanfare that he’s currently receiving for the role. DuPont is obsessed with his power. The power he buys and the power he forces upon others. His obsession with wrestling and his need to turn himself into Team Foxcatcher’s mentor and an all-American hero consumes him and there is an air about the man that it will eventually be his downfall. Carell is almost unrecognisable as the teams self-made patriarch and if there aren’t awards in his future, I would be very surprised.

Equally deserving of praise are Carell’s co-stars. Of course, we’ve all seen Mark Ruffalo in dramatic roles before and as the older Shultz brother, he’s as impressive here as he has been in any other role. His commitment to the part shows in his build and his demeanour. Telling as much of his story with his body as the rest of the film does with dialogue. The man that’s equally as committed to his family as he is his sport shows a weariness in his movement telling of a man working hard for his team.

Channing Tatum though. I was genuinely in awe of his performance here. His portrayal of Mark Shultz opposite Carell’s DuPont is absolutely outstanding. The mental and physical abuse he allows DuPont to subject him to is played just right by an actor that constantly surprises me. What differentiates him from his Jump Street co-star’s turn in Moneyball is subtle hints of being weak willed and simple minded. Hill went from comedy actor to drama actor with a great turn. Tatum has gone from comedy actor and beefcake to a dramatic actor who stops quite a bit short of his Jump Street “my name is Jeff” performance and shows how easily the world class wrestler is influenced through his body language and his interactions with Steve Carell. We’re not talking Forrest Gump or Rain Man here. But we are talking just enough for the audience to look at Shultz and say “Man, is that dude ok?”, a turn like that from an actor mainly regarded for his abs, is just as worthy of recognition as any other actor in this piece.

Foxcatcher is a consistently brilliant drama. Stunning performances from its stars that deliver every line, every look and every grapple convincingly. All set to a perpetually gloomy atmosphere with an underlying air of menace making for an amazingly directed and brilliantly acted dramatic masterpiece.

US Box Office Report: 28/11/14 – 30/11/14

Mockingjay insults the rest of the chart, Penguins Of Madagascar smile and wave goodbye to a lot of money, nobody particularly like Horrible Bosses now, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This past weekend, Americans were witness to a dystopian future.  One with barely restrained tensions, majorly unfair financial differences, and a complete lack of fairness and generosity.  These disparate groups would congregate under one roof to try and make it through proceedings in a civilised fashion, until one side insulted Peeta at which point all bets were off.  Proceedings were violent, conflicts escalated, both sides exited wondering who had really won that round, filled with feelings of unsatisfaction, like the resolution had been postponed for another year or something.  But enough about Thanksgiving with your family.  At the box office, much like my joke construction, The Hunger Games repeated its Thanksgiving first place status to diminishing returns with Mockingjay, Part 1 taking home $56 million this year.  Expect history to repeat itself next year and for me to basically copy-paste this dreadfully unfunny paragraph again in the hopes that you won’t notice.

It’s not like Mockingjay, Part 1 had much in the way of competition, though.  Continuing an absolutely dismal year for DreamWorks Animation, Penguins Of Madagascar decidedly underwhelmed in its opening weekend.  Even with the 5-Day Thanksgiving bump, it could only manage $36 million.  Without it, that’s $25 million over the weekend which, for a spin-off of one of the few remaining cash-cows that DreamWorks has and as promoted to hell and back as this film has been, is dismal.  The one saving grace for the film is that Annie and Night At The Museum 3 aren’t out for another 3 weeks, so there’s still a chance that it can make up some of that cash before it gets dogpiled.  I’m sorry, you were expecting snark?  Nope, no snark here, this news genuinely bums me out and has me majorly worried considering the position DreamWorks is in right now.

Still, could be worse.  You could be Horrible Bosses 2.  Yes, the widely-trashed comedy sequel that quite literally nobody was ever asking for didn’t do so hot.  Over the five-day weekend, it barely reached $23 million and over three days it could only make $15.7 million for fifth place.  Yeah, safe to say we are all being spared from Horrible Bosses 3: The Final Chapter, Part 1.  What we are unfortunately not being spared from, however, is The Theory Of Everything which went nationwide this past weekend and managed to bank $5 million from 800-odd screens.  If Eddie Redmayne takes the Best Actor Oscar from Dan Stevens in The Guest (or Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler), then tables will be flipped.  Just warning you Academy; you don’t want no part of this shit.

In more limited release news, The Imitation Game finally reached American shores this weekend and the typical Weinstein push ensured a very solid opening.  $482,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $120,500, putting it only behind The Grand Budapest Hotel in Best Limited Release Openings of 2014, is most definitely more than “very solid”.  One can only imagine how the latter film would have done if it had a legion of Benedict Cumberbatch fangirls and fanboys filling the back rows with their…  Yeah, OK, I’m just going to move on.  Foxcatcher added another 48 theatres to its run and broke past $1 million, meaning we should see it in the Top 10 soon enough.  The Babadook, meanwhile, finally got a release in America and it did OK: $27,000 from 3 theatres for a per-screen average of You Do The Math.  In other words, it’s The Guest all over again.  Goddammit.


hunger games

This Full List is gonna take ya riiii-ght in-to the DANGER ZONE!!

Box Office Results: Friday 28th November 2014 – Sunday 30th November 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$56,875,000 / $225,693,000

Have you heard the CHVRCHES track from the Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack, yet?  If not, go do so immediately!  It is SO GOOD!  Like, “this could’ve gone on their debut album” good, and The Bones Of What You Believe is a bloody damn good album!  In fact, from what I’ve experienced of the soundtracks to all three films so far, everybody brings their A-game when they’re called upon for a track.  Nobody coasts.  I love that about them.  Think it’s time I took the plunge and bought the lot.

2] Penguins Of Madagascar

$25,800,000 / $36,000,000 / NEW

Friday.  It’s out here Friday, I am seeing it first thing Friday, I will not go to bed that day until there is a review ready to run on Saturday.  I’m genuinely really excited for this.  In the meanwhile, the DreamWorks! A Retrospective archive is here.  Go amuse yourself and make me feel like I haven’t wasted 5 months of my life.

3] Big Hero 6

$18,770,000 / $167,209,000

Only a 7% drop between weekends, which is pretty darn astou-WHY IS THIS MOVIE NOT IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW?!!  IT’S NOT FAIR!!  (*proceeds to have a mini-breakdown*)

4] Interstellar

$15,800,000 / $147,090,000

I would really like to go and see this again on the big screen for a second try, especially since I’m still not 100% solid on my opinions on it.  However, six films are coming out this week in the UK and I have way too much work to do to find time to see it again.  Plus, I have to give up a good 15 hours of my life to The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit in the next 11 days.  I genuinely don’t have the time.

5] Horrible Bosses 2

$15,700,000 / $23,010,000 / NEW

Saw it on Friday and I’ll see if I can find time to get a review out – I’m currently working on one for Paddington in between essay work, DreamWorks work, other articles, and social commitments so this will more than likely fall by the wayside – but the skinny is this: I laughed a good consistent amount, but it is still an utterly pointless sequel and it drops the ball and crosses the line on the Julia stuff spectacularly.  Think of it as the American equivalent of The Inbetweeners 2 and you’re about there.  If you have nothing better to do or just want to get some easy laughs for 100-odd minutes, this is fine but it’s still ultimately pointless.

6] Dumb And Dumber To

$8,295,000 / $72,205,000

So… Jim Carrey’s not making a full-on box office comeback, is he?  (*dejected sigh*)

7] The Theory Of Everything

$5,082,000 / $9,604,000

Still refuse to believe that this is anything other than dreadfully mediocre slop.  Still can’t be proven right or wrong until New Year’s Day.  Still going to bitch and moan about its existence until then.

8] Gone Girl

$2,470,000 / $160,557,000

I was going to say that we must bid adieu to Gone Girl, but then I looked at the release schedule for next week and saw that nothing at all is coming out.  Wild is only in 5 theatres, and The Pyramid is being sent to die on 550 screens, like Fox have been reading the signs with regards to Horror films at the box office this past year or something.  So, we’ve got one more week before this inexplicably long-lasting flick finally drops out.  Seriously, I love this film to death and I have absolutely no idea how it has managed to make over $330 million worldwide.

9] Birdman

$1,880,000 / $17,237,400

“Dayman, AAAHHHHH!!  Fighter of the Nightman!  AAAHHHH!!  Champion of the sun!  AAAHHHH!!  You’re a master of karate and friendship for everyone, Dayman!”

10] St. Vincent

$1,773,000 / $39,327,000

So maybe it won’t have the courtesy to stick around for its UK release after all.  That sounds very much like Bill Murray.  Always leaving the parties that he crashes before I have the chance to book the plane ticket to take me there!  That prankster!  Of course, this joke only works if I actually went to parties and nobody ever invites me to theirs because I’m… I’m… (*breaks down sobbing*)

Dropped Out: Beyond The Lights, Fury

Callum Petch will hold up to an idea.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 14/11/14 – 16/11/14

Dumb and Dumber audiences turn up in droves for Dumb And Dumber To, Beyond The Lights exists an imaginary pile of cash, Christmas is doomed, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Surprisingly, it turns out that the audience size for a sequel to Dumb & Dumber is about equal to that of the audience for a second week Disney film, which I genuinely did not see coming.  Dumb And Dumber To ended up taking the top spot this weekend with about $38 million in ticket sales, just $2 million more than what Big Hero 6 managed.  For those wondering, my surprise keeps alternating between “that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?” and “only that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?”  I dunno.  I’m in shock, I just don’t know what I’m in shock at.

In any case, unlike next week, there was more than one new release this weekend.  With regards to the wide releases, bottom of the pack was Beyond The Lights – a film whose trailer just caused me to vomit profusely in sickening anger – which could only manage a very mediocre $6.5 million from 1,800 screen for a distant fourth place.  Birdman continued its slow expansion nationwide and managed to crack the Top 10, albeit with about the same haul as last week but in more theatres.  Whiplash, meanwhile, continues to be punished for NOT BEING IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW DAMMIT by struggling to find a non-arthouse audience – its expansion to 441 theatres could only manage $801,000.

In limited release land, we have a pair of successes, an OK performer, and a hilarious failure in more ways than one.  Most successful of the lot was the speculative fiction drama Foxcatcher which rode a near-literal wave of buzz and good press to a weekend total of $288,000 from six theatres – a ridiculous per-screen average of $48,000.  Performing much less great than that – but still great, it must be said – is the Tommy Lee Jones-directed western drama The Homesman which managed a very respectable $48,000 from 4 screens for a $12,000 per-screen average.  Whilst in expanding news, The Theory Of Everything infected another 36 theatres and raked in an average of $18,000 from each of them.  Yes, I do think that film looks insufferable, don’t act surprised.

Elsewhere, John Stewart of The Daily Show (as every mention of his name must be suffixed with by royal decree) released his directorial debut this past weekend and Rosewater did… OK.  It managed $1.2 million from 371 theatres for a per-screen average of $3,325, which is OK.  Not great, not poor, OK.  It’s fine, could’ve been better but still enough to crack the Top 15.  Much less OK, and more closer to straight up “bomb” territory, was Saving Christmas which could only manage $1,012,000 from 410 screens for a dismal $2,468 per-screen average.  This means that either Americans don’t give a sh*t about the threat that faces Christmas, or that stoners who want to laugh at inept entertainment with no redeemable value except MST3K sessions were too busy staying at home watching Adult Swim.  In either case, America is doomed.

Oh, and The Book Of Life collapsed out of the Top 10 because you people hate good movies.


dumb and dumber to

This Full List is Dumberer than the other box office reports you could be reading elsewhere.  Also, it just reminded you that Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd existed and now you hate life.

Box Office Results: Friday 14th November 2014 – Sunday 16th November 2014

1] Dumb And Dumber To

$38,053,000 / NEW

So the film that my Secondary School Physics teacher would throw on almost quite literally whenever he couldn’t be bothered to teach us finally got a sequel, eh?  Well, if it leads to a late-career resurgence for Jim Carrey then I won’t complain.  I still really like Jim Carrey and that streak he had in the mid-to-late 90s still predominately holds up!  I’d like to see him get one last run at the spotlight.

2] Big Hero 6

$36,010,000 / $111,653,000

There are people on this world that do not like The Emperor’s New Groove.  I do not know who these people are or why they are incapable of experiencing joy, but they exist and I want nothing to do with them.  I defy you to watch scenes like this, or this, or this without cracking a smile at least once – I think science has deemed doing so to be physically impossible.

3] Interstellar

$29,190,000 / $97,810,000

Not too bad a drop, quite frankly, especially considering the near-non-stop toxic word-of-mouth on this thing.  Look, folks, I am not Interstellar’s biggest fan either – I barely think it’s good, even if I did enjoy it – but maybe calm the vitriol somewhat, eh?  It’s not the worst film ever, it’s nowhere near the worst film this year!  It’s just a rather disappointing mess that tried to do too much and failed in its lofty ambitions.  Perspective, people!

Now, if you wanna talk Worst Film Of The Year candidates, let me talk to you about Nativity! 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!

4] Beyond The Lights

$6,500,000 / NEW

Will this be the next Ride Along or the next Obsessed?  Well, which do you think it’s going to be?  Come on.

5] Gone Girl

$4,625,000 / $152,699,000

Rosamund Pike is not going to get a Best Actress nomination, is she?  Let’s get real, we all know that the Academy are not going to go for Gone Girl, despite the fact that I still haven’t seen anything that comes even slightly close to its level so far this year.  Since we all know that Scarlett Johannson getting a Best Actress nomination – let alone deservedly running away with the statue before the nominees have even been announced – for Under The Skin isn’t happening, Pike would have been my backup “I approve” choice.  But, again, getting realistic, that probably isn’t going to happen.  Siiiigh…

6] St. Vincent

$4,025,000 / $33,258,000

You should really listen to St. Vincent’s self-titled album if you haven’t already.  It’s one of the best albums of the year.

7] Fury

$3,810,000 / $75,941,000

I… err… don’t really have anything to put here.  What can I say?  Not every film has an endless bountiful stream of material to mine on a week-by-week basis.  And so it goes.

8] Nightcrawler

$3,038,000 / $25,000,000

Going back to the cinema to see this again on Tuesday.  I’ve wanted to go and see it again for a good while now, but I have just been way too busy and way too swamped.  Bright side: cinema screen should basically be empty!  Woo!  In the meanwhile, and on a related note, Matt Lambourne has a short piece on why we are all to blame for his crappy movie choices up on the site if you have a spare five minutes.

9] Ouija

$3,025,000 / $48,105,000

Oh, just fuck off.

10] Birdman

$2,450,000 / $11,575,000

As I mentioned last week, this doesn’t hit the UK until January.  You know what else I found out doesn’t hit the UK until next year?  Chris Rock’s Top Five which looks brilliant and doesn’t get here until MarchMARCH.  I’ll tell you right now, Penguins Of Madagascar better be next-level amazing because it’s the sole thing making up for this incredibly dull-looking Rest Of 2014 Schedule for me.

Dropped Out: John Wick, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Book Of Life

Callum Petch is the only one in the only world.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

London Film Festival 2014 – Westerns, Whiplash, Wrestling, Weird Austrians

A full week in and my London Film Festival starts here.  Huzzah!  Actually it started on Tuesday, when I dragged my very jet-lagged self to the UK premiere of The Salvation.  This film was going to have to be something special to prevent me from dozing off in my seat, and it didn’t disappoint.

salvationMads Mikkelsen plays Jon, a Danish settler in 1870s America.  Tragedy strikes shortly after a long-awaited reunion, and the locals he has surrounded himself with for the past seven years betray him, leaving him to his own devices against a notorious outlaw.  You may not have heard of Danish director Kristian Levring, but you’ll recognise many of the cast – along with Mikkelsen there are fellow Bond alumni Eva Green and Jonathan Pryce, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Douglas Henshall, and a small but striking performance by no less than Eric Cantona.  It’s a lean, tense film with great performances throughout the cast – special mentions to Mikkelsen who is excellent as ever, but also to Green, who handles a difficult role exceptionally well.  The usual Western tropes – revenge, horses, the climatic shootout – are no less effective in a Danish film made in South Africa than they would be in a Hollywood production.  Reviews appear to be mixed with many correspondents bemoaning the films clichés, but surely their existence in a film made by someone outside the inner circle is a promising sign.

Wednesday saw the screening of Wild, which I wasn’t sure about seeing initially, but decided to go for based on Oscar buzz around Reese Witherspoon’s performance.  She plays Cheryl Strayed, a divorced drug addict who decides to hike 1000 miles solo on the Pacific Crest Trail, and we learn about her life so far in flashbacks along the way.  As you’d expect, most of the film is hung on Witherspoon’s performance, and she doesn’t disappoint, channelling the obvious talent which has already seen her win a Best Actress Oscar to produce a portrayal of a woman damaged by circumstance and her own decisions, both in the hiking sequences and in flashbacks which go back many years.  Obviously the film is a little thin on plot but worth seeing for its redemptive nature and for Witherspoon’s excellent performance – I would not be surprised to see her name on many Best Actress shortlists between now and February.

After that uplifting tale came In The Basement, bringing me back down to (below) Earth with a bump.  Simply put, this is a documentary about what Austrian people do in their basements, presumably to convince the world that not all of them are like Josef Fritzl.  The participants range from the fairly normal (model train set, drums, teenage hangout, tiny swimming pool) to the truly odd and disturbing.  There’s the middle-aged woman who has an endless line of unsettling, lifelike dolls of babies, and coos over them as if they were real, in scenes reminiscent of Dawn French’s character in Psychoville.  There’s the couple who are in an S&M relationship for whom, it is ominously explained, the basement is where the really nasty stuff (graphically shown) happens.  And there’s the nice-seeming elderly man who plays in a brass band, but likes to relax in his basement surrounded by his fellow players and his large collection of Nazi memorabilia.  The film is presented without narration, and in some sequences without any interaction at all from the participants, which means you sometimes don’t have enough information about them (one couple stand still surrounded by various scenes, including their bar) while the film lingers too long on others – the aforementioned Nazi and S&M couple being prime examples.  I wanted to hear more from certain people who only got a few minutes of screen time, but what we got instead were gratuitous long takes of people being tortured for their own pleasure, which leads me to wonder whether the point of this documentary was really to give a wide-ranging perspective or just to go for cheap thrills.  It was a noble experiment, but it very much came off as the latter.

Finally on Wednesday I attended the UK première of Whiplash.  I’m happy to admit I knew nothing about this film until I got the programme.  Upon attending the festival preview, where we got a brief clip, I immediately decided I wanted to see this film, and I’m so glad I did as it’s been my highlight so far. It’s the story of a young jazz drumming protégé, Neyman (Miles Teller), his brutal teacher Fletcher (JK Simmons) and the lengths people will go to in order to be, discover and mould truly brilliant artists from raw talent.  The film is structured much like a thriller and is steeped in a clear love of jazz and music – it’s based on director Damien Chazelle’s own experiences – but is never inaccessible, the musical jargon employed is explained and demonstrated perfectly.  We’ve seen Simmons as the tyrannical boss in Spider-Man, but this performance is on another level – blistering and searing, Fletcher looms over the whole film even when he’s not on screen, driving Neyman to practise until his fingers bleed.  Even up against Simmons’ Oscar-worthy performance, Miles Teller more than holds his own as the talented young drummer who is obsessed with perfecting his craft.  It all builds to an exhilarating climax which is filmed so wonderfully that it is more heart-pumping than any film about jazz has the right to be.  No wonder it took the Audience Award at Sundance this year – I would be very surprised if that’s the only accolade it ends up with.

foxcatcherThursday saw just one film – the UK première of Foxcatcher, another true story about brothers and Olympic gold medallist wrestlers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum – yes, that one) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).  Mark is the younger brother and feels overshadowed by Dave, until he is offered a chance by John du Pont (Steve Carrell) to train at the Foxcatcher facility in du Pont’s enormous, inherited estate.  Du Pont is not a self made man, and the shadow of his elderly mother looms large in his life; he desperately wants to impress her by training a wrestling team for the World Championships and Olympics, led by Mark.  He wants Dave on the team as well, but Dave initially resists, puzzling du Pont as he is unable to buy something for once.  I don’t want to give away too much; although this is a true story, try not to read about it before you see this film.  Instead, let’s focus on the three performances from Carrell, Ruffalo and Tatum (Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller make brief appearances, but this is primarily a film about sporting relationships).  Ruffalo is excellent as the warm, steady older brother Dave, but you knew that anyway.  Tatum is a great surprise as the overshadowed younger brother who is in many ways his own worst enemy.  But the real revelation is Carrell, an actor known primarily for his comedy roles.  If you’ve seen The Way, Way Back, you already know he is a convincing jerk.  But this is a performance on another level – barely recognisable under a raft of prosthetics and reptilian false teeth, he excels as the other man who can’t escape the shadow of an older family member.  He’s unpredictable, celebrating a win with his team one moment and them firing a gun in the gym the next.  He’s a truly terrifying creation – a man who has never known what it’s like to not have what he wants, and you wait nervously to find out how he reacts.  Again, all three performances here could be Oscar worthy, even Channing Tatum (yes, that one).

That’s all for today.  Join me in a few days as I conclude this year’s LFF with reviews including Love is Strange, Kill Me Three Times and Fury.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 Preview

It’s that time of year again – the bathroom light has to go on in the morning, loads of good American TV shows start again, and Christmas tat is starting to appear in the shops. Yes, autumn is on the way, and with it comes the 58th London Film Festival.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

lff14My initial reaction to this year’s line-up – once I had grumbled about the member’s launch being a day later than the press launch, rendering it invalid for the most part – was how many big names are missing. No room for The Theory of Everything, St Vincent (the film, not the singer), or The Equalizer; all making their Toronto debuts this week. But scratching beneath the surface yields some treasure.

First up, let’s deal with the obvious contenders. I am looking forward to Foxcatcher very much – directed by Bennett Miller of Capote and Moneyball, the film stars Steve Carrell in a rare serious role alongside Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Loosely based on a true story, the film follows the struggle between two wrestling champion brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) which takes a sinister turn with the arrival of a mysterious benefactor (Carrell). Foxcatcher received stellar notices when it premiered in Cannes earlier this year and has also been prominently mentioned in early Oscar buzz. Other big hitters include The Imitation Game, the long-awaited Alan Turing biopic which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the tortured mathematical genius, and Fury, a World War 2 film from David Ayer (End of Watch) starring Brad Pitt. These open and close the festival respectively, and will be shown at cinemas across the country in tandem with their gala screenings. Mr Turner features an already award-winning performance by Timothy Spall as the titular JMW Turner, and LFF also hosts the directorial debut of Jon Stewart – Rosewater is the story of an Iranian journalist covering the country’s political unrest in 2009 who gets on the wrong side of the establishment.

Gala screenings I am looking forward to include The Salvation, a Danish western (!) starring Mads Mikkelsen and, bizarrely, Eric Cantona; Whiplash, a story about the relationship between a musical prodigy and his virtuoso teacher which is audaciously structured like a thriller; and The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, a wuxia starring Fan Bingbing as a witch fighting to free people from tyranny during the end of the Ming Dynasty.

the immitation game

In the official competition, the film that stands out is Dearest – the story of a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son goes missing. One of the most eagerly anticipated films in the first feature competition is ’71, set in the streets of Belfast during the titular year and starring Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) as a wet behind the ears squaddie dispatched to keep the peace.

The documentary strand has yielded some interesting prospects. There are familiar subjects in Hockey: A Life in Pictures, National Gallery, and The Possibilities Are Endless (the story of Edwyn Collins after his stroke), and a step into the unknown with In The Basement – a film about what Austrians do – yes! – in their basements. The love strand has one particular film of interest to me – Love is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple forced to leave their apartment separately. This film has gathered some notoriety in the States for being rated R for no apparent reason, apart from its central relationship being a homosexual one.night bus

1001 Grams is an intriguing-looking slice of dark humour, and Night Bus explores the sometimes intimate, sometimes scary, but always intriguing world of the London night bus (shout out to route N1). A Hard Day is described as a neo-noir slice of Korean cinema, following a policeman who is having a really bad day. The follow-up to Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent, had more creatures in the trailer than in the whole of the previous film put together, so that bodes well. There are also restored classic films scattered throughout the programme, from Orwell’s Animal Farm to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Guys and Dolls. And of course, the legendary shorts programmes are back, spanning all strands and giving you plenty of bang for your buck.

So although at first glance the line-up looks a bit light, a proper dissection of the schedule reveals that there is something for everyone here. The beauty of LFF has always lain in taking a chance and seeing something you would never normally buy a ticket for. I think this year will see a return to that essence for many people.

We will of course be bringing you reviews and diary entries during the festival itself, so don’t forget to check back between 8-19 October 2014 for more articles! You can find a full line up of what’s showing at the LFF 2014 on the BFI website.