Tag Archives: Glasgow Film Festival

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.

Failed Critics Podcast: 100 Episodes in and EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

HerAfter a disastrous attempt at recording our 100th episode last week, we’re back after our brief hiatus with our ‘official’ centenary podcast. And it’s more packed than ever, with no less than six new (or nearly new) release reviews. We argue over whether or not The Lego is awesome or simply just very good; we look at two very different explorations of humans/machine relationships with Her and Robocop, and we still find time to talk about Dallas Buyers Club, The Monuments Men, and Cuban Fury.

We also discuss the Bafta results, make our Oscars predictions, and you finally get the Cutthroat Island review you’ve all been waiting for.

Next week we’ll be ‘live’ from Glasgow Film Festival, with reviews of 20 Feet From Stardom, Mood Indigo, and The Zero Theorem plus loads more.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Failed Critics Podcast: Oscars, the McConaisance, and the Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf of Wall StreetThis week’s podcast is less than half the length and features hundreds fewer F-bombs than our main review this week, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Don’t worry though, we were all massively doped up on ludes.

We also look at the Oscar nominations, discuss the incredible rebirth of Matthew McConaughey, and look ahead to the Glasgow Film Festival. Owen reviews The Last Temptation of Christ, Steve finally watches The Impossible, and James’ journey around the world in 80 films sees him in Denmark, with Lars Von Trier’s The Boss of it All.

Join us next week for reviews of Inside Llewyn Davis, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (if we can be bothered).

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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Failed Critics Podcast: Glasgow Film Festival Special

The ThievesHello Scotland! This week’s Failed Critics podcast sees James head north of the border to report back from Glasgow Film Festival. With the reluctant blessing of the rest of the critics, he is joined this week by two special guests; Dave McFarlane from our ‘sister podcast’ Born Offside, and Paul Fisher from our new upstart rivals on the Write Club podcast. They review South Korean heist movie The Thieves, as well as documentary Men at Lunch and the microbudget feature Breakfast with Curtis.

James is also joined by the excellent film writers Steven Neish and Amy Taylor at the first UK showing of Stoker, and they discuss that as well as their thoughts on Cloud Atlas, Citadel  and Songs for Amy, the new film starring Sean Maguire (ask your parents, or the weird old guy you make podcasts with).

Finally we have a Scottish-themed Triple Bill where James does his best not to upset his guests.

The pod is back to normal next week (thank God!), where the usual lot will be back with the films they’ve seen that week and their favourite movie car chases in Triple Bill.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

The 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.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 22/02/13

gfflogoIt’s been a long, but brilliant week at the Glasgow Film Festival, and it was with great sadness that I embarked on my last day here. It started with the world première  of Staande! Debout!, a Belgian/Finish film about the after-effects of an autoworkers strike that paralysed Belgium in 1997. It’s a fictional account (but based on the very real experiences of the striking workers) of Felix, an old man who never got over the closure of the car plant where he worked. When his best friend dies, Felix decides to gather his surviving comrades to honour him. It’s an emotionally stark and desolate film, complimented by shots of a decaying industrial town in provincial Belgium. But also a powerful exploration of the human cost of capitalism, and a reminder that figures on a balance sheet are individual people, with their own hopes, fears, and varying levels of resilience.

The afternoon presented me with A Late Quartet, the fictional feature debut of Yaron Zilberman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener, it tells the story of a string quartet’s struggles to stay together in the face of Parkinson’s disease, infidelity, and competitiveness. Sadly, it’s a rather boring and navel-gazing glimpse into the world of ‘rich white people’s problems’. Eastenders for the upper-middle-classes. Imogen Poots impresses as the daughter of Robert and Julliet Gelbart (Hoffman and Keener), and Christopher Walken is surprisingly not playing Christopher Walken for once. Overall though, the pace is flat, the characters are self-obsessed and uninteresting, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Before I head home to work on a film of my own (and who knows, maybe I’ll be back here next year in a slightly different capacity), I’m going to sign off with a few awards. I’m thinking of calling them the Glasgees…

Best Performance

There have been a number of great performances this week; Imogen Poots in The Look of Love; Ann Dowd in the otherwise pretty nasty Compliance, Soren Malling in A Hijacking; and Jack Black’s career-best turn in Bernie. A special mention should go to the cast of Cloud Atlas, who do an incredible job charging through multiple eras, races, and even genders. For me though, I have to give the award to Theo Green in Breakfast with Curtis. A non-professional actor, who puts in the kind of performance you might see in a Ken Loach film, but a happy one.

Best Documentary

Although Indie Game: The Movie and The Day that Lasted 21 Years were both excellent films, The Final Member is the one documentary that really caught my imagination. A incredibly story, told by fantastic characters, with a wonderful soundtrack. This will be a firm festival favourite in the coming months.

Best Foreign-Language Film

The Thieves came mighty close to winning this, but it just felt a little too Hollywood. A Highjacking however, is the type of film Hollywood would never make, and that’s a real shame. It’s an incredibly tense film about the hijacking of a Danish freighter by Somali pirates, and the increasingly fraught negotiations between Peter (CEO of the shipping company) and the hijacker’s translater and negotiator. A battle of wills and wits commences, and caught in the middle is the ship’s cook Mikkel. Brilliant.

Best Film

It has to be Cloud Atlas, with its bold, brave, and breathtaking take on David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel. You have to admire the film’s incredible ambition, and if you’re in the mood to forgive its sense of self-importance, and some ridiculous make-up jobs, you will be knocked over by a juggernaut of a movie. An absolute must-see.

And that’s it. I would like to thank everyone at Glasgow Film Festival (particularly Kirstin Innes, Laura Doherty, and Hannah Cosgrove), and of course our coverage sponsors Brewdog Glasgow. See you back here in 2014!

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The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival was sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars. Cheers for all the beer & burgers.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 21/02/13

Can you guess what it is yet?
Can you guess what it is yet?

Once again, I spent the first part of my day hurriedly writing my up diary from the day before in a desperate attempt to get it on-line before it became irrelevant. Well, the first part of my day was spent sculpting a Pixar character from a cardboard box, pipe cleaners, and duct  tape. It entertained my two-year-old daughter for approximately 30 seconds, which is pretty good going at the moment.

After that I spent some time getting through my festival screeners. The first was The Day that Lasted 21 Years, a documentary charting the US-funded Brazilian military coup that ousted the popular (and most importantly, democratically elected) socialist President Joao Goulart and led to a military dictatorship that lasted over two decades. This film is clearly the result of hundreds of hours of painstaking research into the subject by director Camilo Tavares, and it’s a very enlightening expose of an often-ignored period in American imperialism. It benefits from interviews with major players at the heart of the scandal, and at times made me hugely angry. My only criticism would be that after spending nearly an hour building up to the events of the coup, the end of the dictatorship is glossed over in a matter of minutes.

Reported Missing is a creepy German psychological thriller, but without the thrills. Lothar has been separated from his wife and daughter for years, but when he receives a call telling him that his daughter has disappeared he is drawn into a strange underworld where hundreds have children have gone missing and no one seems to care. Early scenes are genuinely unsettling, and the music and direction made me think of Hitchcock’s The Birds, but with the disaffected youth instead of psychotic pigeons. Sadly, the film unravels quite quickly, and the hint of a good idea ends up going nowhere. A very frustrating film.

Finally I got out to a cinema, and I am so glad I did. A Hijacking is a Danish film about the hijacking of a Danish freighter by Somalian pirates, and the film charts the increasingly fraught negotiations between the Danish shipping CEO Peter, and Omar, the negotiator and translator for the pirates. Caught in the middle is Mikkel, the ship’s cook who ends up as the pawn between the pirates and the company when the Captain is taken ill, and who acts as the proxy for the audience on the ship as the weeks and months pass. Omar in particular is a fascinating character, constantly reminding both Mikkel and Peter that he isn’t a pirate, and that he wants to get this sorted out as soon as they do. He’s clearly a professional though, he always seems to be one-step ahead in the negotiations. I was really impressed by this film, from the performances to the direction which cranked up the tension to Argo-esque levels.

Pick of the Day for Friday 22nd February – Indie Game: The Movie

This brilliant documentary charts the progress of a pair of independent game companies and their efforts to create a hit in a crowded marketplace full of huge multimillion dollar industrial behemoths. You can draw parallels between the games industry and the hegemony of modern Hollywood, or just sit back and watch geeks gon’ geek. Lovely stuff.

Indie Game: The Movie is showing at the CCA Cinema at 7pm.

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The 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.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 20/02/13

The American Psycow at Brewdog Glasgow
The American Psycow at Brewdog Glasgow. I believe the youth vernacular is nom nom.

I seem to be following a pattern here. The more things I have to write about for this diary, the less time I have to get things down on paper, or whatever we call the electronic version of paper. Yesterday was a another great day in Glasgow, and the most fun I’ve had all week at the festival.

It started with a screening of The Thieves, one of the highest-grossing South Korean movies of all time, and my favourite film so far this week. It’s a very polished heist movie in the style of Ocean’s Eleven. Maybe even Pacific Ocean’s Eleven? Hello, is this thing on?

The film focuses on a Korean gang of thieves  led by a guy called Popeye, and including characters who go by the name of Chewing Gum and Peppsee. Nice. After a close call with the police following their latest crime (which cold-opens the film in the style of Mission Impossible, with just the right blend of humour and action), they decamp to China to steal a $30 million diamond from a casino. To complicate matters, the job is being put together by Macao Park, a notorious thief who double-crossed Popeye during a job five years earlier.

The film manages to keep momentum all the way through its 135 minute runtime, largely helped by a complex plot of twists and double/triple-crossings, and some of the finest action and stunt-work since John Woo’s early Hong Kong work. It also boasts brilliantly written female characters, the kind you almost never see in a Hollywood action movie. This is one of the few films that will be tempting me to break my new DVD embargo when I can finally get my hands on it.

I was joined at that screening by Dave McFarlane from Born Offside and Paul Fisher from The Write Club, and afterwards we retired to Brewdog Glasgow to record the bulk of our GFF Special Failed Critics Podcast. I’ve already raved enough about the beer and food at Brewdog, so today I’ve gone for the ‘picture says a thousand words’ approach with a photo of my beautiful burger.

The meeting was great fun, and my first experience of recording Failed Critics in the same room as the contributors. I just wish we could do it like this every week! We reviewed The Thieves (which we all loved), as well as Breakfast with Curtis, and the new documentary Men at Lunch. Our Triple Bill of favourite films set in Scotland contained some real surprises, and not a single soul picked Braveheart! You’ll be able to hear the fruits of our labour next week.

Finally, Dave and I made our way to the GFT for the festival’s Surprise Film. Weeks of rumour and speculation were over, and Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers was announced to volleys of beach balls filling the auditorium. I think GFF really deserve some credit for securing this hotly anticipated film, I just wish I had enjoyed it more. Or even a little.

Spring Breakers is about four college girls who dream of going to Spring Break, and end up robbing a diner to pay for their dream holiday. While there, they get into more trouble with the police and are bailed out by a drug deal slash rapper played by an unrecognisable James Franco (literally unrecognisable – I didn’t know it was him until I checked IMDB a few minutes ago). Things inevitably get worse, the film climaxes in dream-like chaos. It’s certainly a brave film, especially in the casting of teen stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. I just didn’t get it. The loud music, the nudity, and the violence all felt like a film made by and for teenagers. While not as loathsome as Project X, its constant bombardment of the audience with shocking images and crazed party goers still felt more aspirational than foreboding.

It didn’t help that at points the audience were laughing at the film, rather than with it, especially during a surreal section where Franco’s drug dealer starts playing Britney Spear’s ‘Everytime’ at his piano by the pool. A scene with him showing the girls around his apartment would have been a lot funnier if I hadn’t already seen it done better by Krazee-Eyez Killa in Curb Your Enthusiasm. Despite all this, it’s certainly a unique film, and unlike anything else I’ve seen this week.

Pick of the Day for Thursday 21st February – Whisky Galore!

One of the finest Ealing comedies, and a contender for my Scotland Triple Bill in yesterday’s podcast recording, Whisky Galore!’s tale of shipwrecks and treasure troves of whiskey would be a great pick in any circumstances, but the opportunity to see it on Glasgow’s The Tall Ship is surely too good an opportunity to turn down (especially as today’s screening of The Thieves is already sold out!).

Whiskey Galore! is showing at The Tall Ship at 8.20pm. Tickets HERE

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The 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.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 19/02/13

Mark Millar discussing Kick-Ass 2 as much as he is allowed to
Mark Millar discussing Kick-Ass 2 as much as he is allowed to

I started this diary with a combination of high hopes and great ideals. The trouble is, I’m having so much fun at Glasgow Film Festival I’m struggling to find time to do the boring work of actually writing things down. Today was one of those rare days of relative rest; no screenings planned and just the one event to attend. Still, I somehow ended up watching a couple of films and writing up my diary at nearly midnight yet again.

I won’t bore you with the details of my non-festival life (I got a haircut, and handed in a lost phone to the police). What I will do is tell you what I’ve learned about Kick-Ass 2, and Mark Millar’s other projects in the pipeline.

I watched Kick-Ass in the afternoon, in preparation for the Mark Millar (creator of Kick-Ass, and comic-book writer extrordinare) event, and it was even better than I remembered. It’s one of the strongest comic-book adaptation storylines in a very long time, and the cast are uniformly excellent. It’s very funny, the action is brilliantly directed, and it has a killer soundtrack. Plus it has Nicolas Cage doing an Adam West impression. In short, it’s pretty perfect. So the news that original director Matthew Vaughn, and screenwriter Jane Goldman were no longer involved in the sequel, and that their roles would instead be carried out by the director of Never Back Down, worried me greatly. I went to listen to Millar talk about the sequel hoping he would allay my fears.

And to an extent, he did. Millar’s openness used to get him into trouble, and he told a few anecdotes that demonstrated his previous lack of media training, and willingness to ‘play the game’. He’s a big Hollywood player now though, and while the talk was very interesting with regards to his work and the film-making process, this wasn’t the place to come for gossip and unguarded comments.

Millar was very open with his thoughts on the adaptations of his work, and admitted that he would “rather kill a project than have it come out crap”. Apparently an American studio was very interested in adapting Millar’s American Jesus series, but he had to turn them down when they wanted to remove the Jesus aspect of the story. He is also sticking to his principles in writing just one more Kick-Ass book (which he all but confirmed would make it onto the big screen) and finishing the story there.

As a Nicolas Cage fan (yes, that is a thing), I was particularly interested to hear about his input on the first Kick-Ass film. Millar was full of praise for Cage, and told the audience how Big Daddy’s Adam West-style staccato delivery was Cage’s idea, as was the stroke of genius for his moustachioed character to disguise himself with a slightly larger moustache. Millar went on to say that Jim Carey is a similar presence in the sequel, and that his character, though not pivotal, ends up stealing every scene he’s in. It sounds like Kick-Ass 2 may be in safe hands after all.

Millar’s next project with Vaughn and Goldman is Secret Service, a story Millar describes as “My Fair Lady meets The Spy Who Loved Me”. Casting is complete, and shooting should start soon, although Millar is now getting too good at playing the game to reveal any more than that to a room full of strangers.

Other little tit-bits we learned yesterday:

  • Plans for a Wanted 2 movie are “at a stage”
  • Millar was four days into filming Miracle Park when he found out about Josh Trank’s Chronicle, and had to kill the project as the two were pretty much identical
  • Although we sadly didn’t get a sneak peek at Kick-Ass 2, there will shortly be 3 “really good” teaser trailers online
  • Most worryingly of all, Millar said that the Dawn of the Dead remake is his favourite of all of the ‘Dead’ series!

I spent the evening relaxing at home with one of my favourite Scottish films in preparation for a big day of screenings and podcast recording tomorrow.

“I trust the sight of the young people refreshes you”.

Pick of the day for Wednesday 20th February – The Thieves

The surprise film has become a staple of the festival circuit in recent years, and Glasgow Film Festival usually delivers in spades. Recent choices for this slot have included David Lynch’s Inland Empire, and last-year’s mumblecore delight Jeff, Who Lives At Home. We’ll be recording our GFF Podcast Special directly after this screening with our instant reactions.

The only disappointment will be from those who miss out on a ticket for a screening that will almost certainly sell out.

The GFF 13 Surprise Film is showing at Glasgow Film Theatre at 8.30pm.

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The 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.

GFF13: Stoker

stokerSo, Stoker. Hmmm. I’m just going to have to start writing this review, and hope I have something to say by the end of it. I know that doesn’t seem very professional, or even sensible, but it’s incredibly difficult to find things to say about a film that has so little to say itself.

Park Chan-wook‘s first foray into English-language film-making was one of my most anticipated films of Glasgow Film Festival, and indeed the whole of 2013. I couldn’t wait to see what the director of a masterpiece like Oldboy could do with what appeared to be a Hitchcockian psychological thriller, with a dash of American Gothic, and possibly even a hint of something more supernatural. The film tells the story of India Stoker (Mia Waskikowska); a girl who loses her father and best-friend (Dermot Mulroney) on her eighteenth birthday. Her father’s brother, Charlie Stoker (Matthew Goode) appears at the funeral, and moves in with India and her increasingly fragile mother (Nicole Kidman). Uncle Charlie clearly has dark secrets and hidden motives, and while India is suspicious of the man she never knew existed, she finds herself increasingly infatuated with him.

I am desperately looking for positives here. The direction is very stylish at times, and the use of sound is brilliant (India has a skill that allows her to hear things other people cannot, and the viewer is drawn into this aural soundscape in a very satisfying fashion). We are also ‘treated’ to some shocking set-piece scenes, with some images as indelibly burned into our retinas as the octopus scene from Oldboy. The problem is that the film amounts to little more than a few excellent scenes and disturbing images.

The story is threadbare, with not much in the way of action to propel the narrative. What little does happen feels forced and convenient, rather than believable. Characters just don’t do what they’re supposed to do. In some films this could be seen as a brave attempt at ‘anti-storytelling’, but in a film which clearly cites Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt as a major influence, this is unforgivable.

The central performances aren’t bad, it’s just that they don’t get the opportunity to show any great development. Matthew Goode does a reasonable ‘creepy uncle’, but the lack of depth to his character means there is no real twist; nothing to really catch us by surprise. The shocks are all telegraphed, and anyone who has seen one of the slew of ‘sensual psychological thrillers’ from the early 1990s (think The Hand the Rocks the Cradle or Malice) will have a pretty good idea how this plays out in the opening few minutes. The way in which the film plays with vampire mythology (from the title, to India’s attack on a student with a sharpened pencil/wooden stake), and then forgets about these set-ups is frustrating, and symptomatic of a script that feels like a first draft.

It’s not a bad film, it just isn’t good. And from a director who has delivered so much in the past, that is hugely disappointing.

Stoker is released in March

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The 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.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 18/02/13

Glasgow Subway System - open at normal times today, not that's you'd know
Glasgow Subway System – open at normal times today, not that’s you’d know

Today was the day I really felt I was covering a film festival. I had tickets for back-to-back showings, in the middle of the afternoon, on a Monday. There’s just something glorious about watching films when you’re ‘supposed’ to be at work.

I tweeted that I was prepared for an uncomfortable afternoon in Cineworld Screen 18, as I’d chosen to watch Compliance and The Paperboy in quick succession. What I wasn’t totally prepared for was how horribly my prediction would come true.

Compliance is inspired by true events [BEWARE – HERE BE SPOILERS], and is a study in authority and, as the title suggests, compliance. It is a technically well put together film, with a few excellent performances (particularly Ann Dowd as the restaurant manager, who essentially allows the events to happen). However, this was not an enjoyable film; watching it felt like a violation of my own body. If it actually had anything new or original to say on the subject of people unquestionably following orders from authority figures, then I might be able to admire the emotions it elicited. Instead, the story feels as if it is told purely to shock us, the cinematic  equivalent of the stand-up comedian who tells a rape joke. Yes, some humans are abominable shits, but all Compliance feels capable of doing is confirming this fact without further understanding of what drives people to such behaviour. As it is, all that’s left for this movie to be is a piece of entertainment and, like The Human Centipede or A Serbian Film, I genuinely worry about the mindset of anyone who enjoys a film like this. Compliance: sometimes the story is better off staying a Wikipedia article.

The Paperboy was a little less shocking, but equally sordid in its tone. Set in 1960s Florida, it tells the story of sibling reporters (Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron) investigating the conviction of a cop-killer played by John Cusack. Luckily this film just about holds it together, largely due to its impressive cast. McConaughey continues his recent career renaissance here, and Zac Efron proves to be more than a pretty face. Most entertaining though are Cusack (in a greasy, malevolent role that is his finest performance in years), and Nicole Kidman, whose turn as an Alamaba sexpot is the dark heart of the film. The film still contrives to be a bit boring at times, but the last 20 minutes are phenomenally tense and well executed.

Pick of the day for Tuesday 19th Feb – Breakfast with Curtis

If you fancy watching a film made by a unique writing/directing talent, filmed in the director’s house over a few weeks and starring their friends, well, you could try and blag a ticket to one of the sold-out screenings of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, or you could watch Laura Colella’s heart-warming Breakfast with Curtis.

Five years after an incident that caused a seemingly irreparable rift with his neighbours, online bookseller and care-free bohemian Syd asks their 14-year-old son Curtis for help recording a video blog. What follows is a beautiful coming-of age film about one of those seminal summers where rifts are healed, old secrets emerge, and boys finally become men.

Breakfast with Curtis is showing at 7pm at the CCA Cinema.

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The 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.