The Archive gala screening at the 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express®, on Friday 16th October 2015 at the Odeon Leicester Square, will be the world premiere of a new restoration of Anthony Asquith’s Shooting Stars (1928). Asquith’s first film as co-director and scriptwriter, Shooting Stars is a fascinating drama set behind the scenes at a contemporary film studio. Newly restored by the BFI National Archive, Shooting Stars will be presented with a new live score by John Altman, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning composer whose work includes Titanic and Goldeneye .
Shooting Stars is a dazzling debut which boasts a boldly expressionist shooting style, dramatic lighting and great performances from its leads. Annette Benson (Mae Feather) and Brian Aherne (Julian Gordon) play two mis-matched, married stars and Donald Calthrop (Andy Wilkes) a Chaplin-esque star at the same studio, with whom Mae becomes romantically involved. Chili Bouchier, Britain’s first sex symbol of the silent era, plays a key role as an actress/bathing beauty, an attractive foil to the comic antics of the comedian. The film manages to operate as a sophisticated, modern morality tale, while it’s also both an affectionate critique of the film industry and a celebration of its possibilities. It teases the audience with its revelations of how the illusions of the world of film-making conceal ironic and hidden truths.
Asquith (son of the former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith) had privileged access to see Chaplin making The Circus on a trip to Hollywood and he had also been behind the scenes at German film studios. Both influences are clearly seen in the film. Asquith went on to have a hugely successful international career in the sound era with films such asPygmalion, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Browning Version and The VIPs.
The film has been meticulously restored by a team of BFI experts from materials held in the BFI National Archive, making this the definitive restoration to stand alongside those of previous BFI restorations of Asquith’s Underground (1928) and A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929).
Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said, “We are delighted to be showcasing this remarkable film in a brilliant new restoration achieved after months of work from our dedicated teams at the BFI. Shooting Stars is a fascinating debut from one of Britain’s greatest film-makers and to see it with a newly commissioned score performed live in the Art Deco splendour of the Odeon Leicester Square promises to be a very special experience.”
The new score by composer, John Altman, has been written for a twelve piece ensemble playing multiple instruments. It is full of a lively jazz influence, inspired by some of the sheet music for the popular song “Ain’t She Sweet” which is seen on screen in the film. Altman is both an authentic and accomplished jazz musician as well as a BAFTA and Emmy award-winning composer of music for the big screen. He has composed, orchestrated and conducted for many films including the period music for James Cameron’sTitanic, and he composed the tank chase sequence in the James Bond film GoldenEye and won the Anthony Asquith Award for Achievement in Film Music for Hear My Song.
John Altman said,
“For the new score I have been inspired by dance band sounds and Duke Ellington in 1927. It’s not a slavish period recreation but I have tried to find an appropriate way of reflecting some of the plot twists and ironic deceptions through a series of interlinked musical themes. The score will be played by a very versatile group of musicians and we will end up using almost as many instruments as a complete orchestra through the whole film. I hope that the music will carry audiences effortlessly through the emotional highs and lows of this brilliant film.”
There were famously two opposing reviews published in Variety, one British, one American, with the British review disparaging the film and the American giving it a strong thumbs-up. The film is now however fully appreciated as one of the few undisputed masterpieces of British silent cinema. Only Alfred Hitchcock has a higher critical reputation than Asquith in this period of late silent British cinema.
A teenage boy on the cusp of finishing high school reconnects with the beautiful and mysterious girl next door for once crazy night. When she suddenly vanishes he and his friends embark on a strange and life changing journey to find her.
John Green reduced global audiences to tears with the painfully bittersweet The Fault In Our Stars, thankfully Paper Towns has a more whimsical and less tragic approach to teen romance. Green’s books translate well to screen and his knack for creating sincere emotions and drama remains firmly intact.
Delevigne is cleverly cast as Margo , the films missing girl and mysterious holy grail. Her real life fame and notoriety lends her character an instant aura of intrigue and allure. It would have been far more challenging for an average unknown actress to achieve this in really just a handful of scenes.
Nat Wolff gave a scene stealing turn in The Fault In Our Stars and this time he carries Paper Towns capably as everyman adolescent hero Quentin. His average boy next door appearance and deliberately awkward demeanour ensures he brings a credible reality to an increasingly elaborate adventure.
In truth it’s actually the film’s supporting cast that prove its most effective surprise. Austin Abrams and Justice Smith play Quentins’s best friends. The convincing chemistry between this trio of likeable social underachievers is actually the real heart of the story.
It’s refreshing and endearing to see a portrayal of teenage friendship that doesn’t resort to a lazy form of self-aware irony and witty cynicism. This isn’t just another batch of absurdly wise beyond their year’s high schoolers clearly written by adults. There’s actually something innately authentic and heartfelt about their good natured an unashamedly awkward co-dependence.
The affectionate bond and playful banter between the film’s unlikely heroes adds both humour and heart to an already intriguing mystery. It makes it so much more enjoyable to join the characters on their literal and metaphorical ride. The combination of suspense and sentiment holds audience’s attention firmly.
Though she serves as an effective catalysts for the films story, in truth Delevigne has surprisingly little screen time for a film largely being marketed on the back of her ‘it girl’ supermodel status. Likewise, her character Margo will be a convincingly alluring dream girl for some people, for others she will merely be infuriatingly selfish and irritating. The virtues of Delevigne’s on screen presence, much like her real life persona, will divide opinions dramatically. In truth there’s still not much evidence available yet to truly judge her acting prowess or potential.
Nat Wolff is likewise promoted from scene stealing sidekick duties to leading man status. While his awkwardness is clearly an intentional character trait it does mean that at times he lacks a little charisma and personality.
It’s unfair but inevitable to compare the romantic leads in Paper Towns with those of Green’s recent global box office phenomenon The Fault in Our Stars. Sadly the mostly missing Delevigne and the deliberately average Wolff can’t match that iconic level of heart-breaking romantic chemistry.
Though the film does well to create a real sense of mystery and purpose, it builds to a conclusion that without being too specific won’t be universally satisfying. The film is exactly what it intends to be, but that won’t be to everyone’s tastes.
The Ugly Truth
Paper Towns is a sincerely sweet and pleasantly amusing romantic comedy, thanks in the most part to its enjoyable supporting cast. Delevigne’s mostly absent leading lady and the film’s conclusion will likely divide audience’s opinions, but aren’t enough to make them ignore the film’s other obvious charms.]]>
The 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express has announced Carol, Todd Haynes’ beautiful 1950s set drama, as the Festival’s American Express Gala. The film will receive its UK premiere on Wednesday 14 October at the Odeon Leicester Square, attended by the director and luminous stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Based on Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel, adapted by screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, Carol follows Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young clerk in her 20s working in a Manhattan department store, who dreams of a more fulfilling life. When Therese meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage, an immediate connection sparks between them. As the innocence of their first encounter dims, their connection deepens and they embark on a journey of self discovery.
BFI London Film Festival Director Clare Stewart says:
“We are delighted to announce that Todd Haynes’ Carol will be this year’s American Express Gala. Carol is a deeply romantic, emotionally honest love story and is also cinema at its most intoxicating and immaculate.”
Orlando Bloom will once again play Will Turner in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean sequel Dead Men Tell No Tales. Bloom was last seen sailing off on the high seas at the end of the original trilogy, but didn’t feature in the forth film On Stranger Tides.
The news of Bloom’s unexpected return was confirmed officially at the Disney D23 Expo over the weekend. The studio also released an official synopsis for the new film, which also stars Javier Bardem as new villain Captain Salazar.
“Thrust into an all-new adventure, a down-on-his-luck Captain Jack Sparrow finds the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost pirates led by his old nemesis, the terrifying Captain Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle, determined to kill every pirate at sea…including him. Captain Jack’s only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that bestows upon its possessor total control over the seas.”
The most notable feature is the fact that John Boyega’s character Finn is shown for the first time actually wielding a lightsaber. The poster also showcases masked villain Kylo Ren with his controversially hilted lightsaber. Fans of the original trilogy will no doubt welcome the inclusion of plenty of X-Wings, Tie Fighters and Han Solo himself.
After decades of reluctance to return to the franchise for Dan Aykroyd’s long delayed Ghostbusters 3 sequel Bill Murray is surprisingly apparently set to appear for at least a cameo in Paul Feig’s female lead reboot of the classic comedy franchise.
Murray takes his place alongside the cast which already includes Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. It’s not yet clear if Murray will be playing the iconic Dr Peter Venkman or merely making an appearance in another capacity.
Having premiered at the Edinburgh film festival, sci-fi horror INFINI has a new official UK trailer out. Set in a dystopian future, the film follows an elite Search and Rescue team on a mission to an off-world mining-facility to rescue the lone survivor of a biological outbreak. Directed and co-written by Shane Abbess the film stars Daniel MacPherson, Luke Hemsworth, Grace Huang and Luke Ford. If the trailer below is anything to go by, it make not be one for the faint hearted…]]>
The new Nordic Noir sensation, Eyewitness (Oyevitne), is a sleek gripping crime drama from Norway seen through the eyes of two 15 year old boys. This dark, complex thriller now lands on British soil, making is UK debut on DVD courtesy of Simply media.
Following a wave of riveting dramas from Northern Europe comes this compelling series, which finds two school friends caught up in a terrifying scenario after witnessing a shocking crime. Produced by NRK drama, he makers of the financial thriller Mammon, this fantastic fast paced six-part series is written and directed by Jarl Emsell Larsen (Dirty Money, White Lies) and comes t DVD as a two disc set on 14th September 2015.
Philip (Axel Bøyum) and Henning (Odin Waage), school friends and neighbours, hang out together ina workers’ cabin at a remote quarry, where they tentatively explore their mutual attraction. One night their illicit encounter is dramatically interrupted by the arrival of a car containing four men, and son a gun battle is playing out before their eyes. Following the deadly attack, the boys are spotted but mange to escape, making off with the murder weapon, which they discard in a nearby rock pool.
Fearing for their lives and the consequences of someone finding out about their relationship they vow never to reveal what they have seen, but with Philip’s foster mum Helen as the local sheriff investigating the murders, it won’t be easy to stay quiet and very quickly their secret unravels into a nightmare of corruption and gang warfare.
This video explaining the true impact of CGI and visual effect on modern film making is essential viewing for anyone who has ever complained that an overuse of bad CGI instead of old fashioned practical effects is ruining movies. This well put together video analysis from the RocketJump Film School may just surprise you by illustrating the invisible magic of good CGI you never noticed in some of your favourite films…]]>
When a group of young scientists teleport to an alternate universe, they each return with fantastic powers. Struggling to come to terms with their dramatic transformations, they need to learn to harness their newfound abilities to save our world.
The previous Fantastic Four films delivered fans unashamedly colourful and camp comic book adaptations, met with mixed reactions by fans and critics alike. This new reboot of Marvel’s first family perhaps predictably opts to go down a darker route, both visually and in tone. It’s an interesting move that at least initially works to add a slight edge to the Fantastic Four.
At the same time the film introduces a new generation of noticeably younger heroes with the combined talents of Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell. Likewise Toby Kebbel (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) takes on the role of Marvel’s most ominously named villain Victor Von Doom. It’s a promising crop of fresh faced stars that have each already proved themselves more than capable.
Cynics feared that this hastily announced reboot was merely a rushed effort to ensure that Fox didn’t lose the valuable creative rights for the characters back to Marvel studios. Choosing an impressive cast and promising Chronicle director Josh Trank reassured fans that the studio did actually have serious plans. Unfortunately those best laid plans sadly failed to deliver entertaining results.
For the supposedly ambitious opening of a rebooted franchise, Fantastic Four is incredibly simplistic. It adds surprisingly little to a well know origin story and delivers CGI effects which are more drab but oddly often no more convincing than those of the often mocked 2005 film and its sequel.
Toby Kebbel is given no time at all to create a memorable nemesis. The film squanders one of the most iconic comic book villains, by offering mere hints at an intriguing but unexplored back story and vague explanations in place of real motivations. Likewise after slowly introducing our heroes and their fantastic gifts, the film gives them little chance to interact before a frantic final act that conveniently throws them instantly together as an oddly unconvincing team.
Ironically the one thing the previous Fantastic Four films arguably got right was the amusingly dysfunctional chemistry amongst the super powered family. The lack of humour, tension and heart in this new version becomes increasingly obvious as the film progresses and starts to sadly make many of the same mistakes as its much criticized predecessor.
After an overly long time spent barely developing the characters, setting up a sullen tone and introducing the main villain, the final act feels awkwardly rushed and unoriginal. The threat barely feels threatening to the main characters let alone the rest of the planet, while what little plot there is feels far too neatly tied up. Leaving any hopes of an improved sequel even less likely.
The Ugly Truth
Fantastic Four tries to offer a darker take on the familiar franchise but proves thoroughly disappointing despite combining an undeniably talented cast with a promising director. The only positive thing to be said is that at least there’s little danger of the promising stars being tied down by unnecessary sequels.
Review by Johnny Ellis]]>