Director: Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogan // Distributor: Sony Pictures // Release Date: June 28th // Starring: Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogan, James Franco, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, and Jonah Hill. // Plot: A group of celebrities and their entourages flock to James Franco’s house for a massive party, only to the face the arrival of the apocalypse.
Review: Let it be known that This Is The End is a great film. Eventually. The messy first half of this Rogan/Goldberg comedy alternates between genuine hilarity and pitiful self-indulgence. But when it finds its feet, there’s a lot to enjoy. Security was tight at the screening I attended, obviously in the aim of preventing the film’s many surprises from hitting the net. And we’re not just talking about celebrity cameos – although there are plenty of those to go around – but nerve-shredding sequences, solid scares and some brilliantly realised monsters.
If there’s one thing I can take from the Film Distributors’ Association showcase I attended this week, it is that I am a man of simple pleasures. Even before the suits from Twentieth Century Fox insisted on confiscating our phones for fear of snatches of coming-of-age comedy The Way, Way Back being plastered across social networking sites (Oh, how I longed to wield an innocent Nokia 3210 in their faces…), I was in my element. There were contracts, free coffee and a lanyard with my name on it. It was about as close to Heaven as I ever plan to get.
Now, perhaps my favourite thing about writing, as opposed to merely ‘talking’, is that you cannot see my face. This isn’t to say I consider myself ugly (after all, some people say I remind them of a young Glenn Close), more to point out that I am a terrible liar. I am also legally obligated to wait until each film’s respective embargo expires before I can publish my thoughts, and if I was to be talking to you in person, my face would simply give everything away. However, I can reveal that the line-up (picture after the jump) certainly gave me a lot to think about, and I must thank IdeasTap profusely for granting me this wonderful opportunity.
Director: Harmony Korine // Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco.
Review: The motive behind one’s participation in a film like Spring Breakers is admirably clear. Those who brave Harmony Korine’s neon-soaked oddity are invited to watch in awe as Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens dismantle their squeaky-clean public personas, a tried-and-tested career move that heralds a rebirth-of-sorts for the Disney starlets, reinforcing their relevancy and signalling a more mature approach to their image and output. It is no coincidence that Hudgens’ raucous new single “$$$ex” dropped in the wake of the film’s US premiere, or that Korine has cited the rise and fall of pop icon Britney Spears as a major influence on the films emotional trajectory in several promotional interviews. It is these assured correlations between the ambitions of both cast and director that elevates Spring Breakers from the depths of depraved exploitation that so many critics have been so eager to bury it in. For better or for worse, this is a film that wears it opportunism on its sleeve.
Director: François Ozon // Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuale Seigner, Denis Ménochet, Bastien Ughetto // Plot: When sixteen-year-old Claude shows promise as a writer, his teacher becomes increasingly involved in creating a story that blurs the line between fact and fiction.
Review: The first half of François Ozon’s latest is an absolute dream, as enigmatic teenager Claude (Umhauer) brings wholesome suburbanites Esther and Rapha Artole (Seigner and Ménochet) to the attention of snarky, childless teacher Germain (Luchini) and his wife Jeanne (Scott Thomas) via his designated writing assignments. The dialogue fizzes and the pace is relentless and confident, while a subplot involving the intricacies of Jeanne’s art gallery works in tandem alongside the teacher’s aggressive critiquing to pose the rather stupefying question of what actually constitutes as credible art, in whatever form. Sadly, such neat self-awareness is simultaneously lost on Ozon, as the celebrated auteur takes his characters into unnecessarily strange territory.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow // Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler // Plot: An exhaustive account of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.
Review: Much has been made of Zero Dark Thirty’s stance on torture as a method of interrogation, with some publications accusing director Kathryn Bigelow of lacing a pro-torture agenda throughout her latest film – a finely sculpted account of the decade-long search for Osama bin Laden. An alarming thought, no doubt – but what is of more concern is the readiness with which some critics are willing to discount the films many achievements almost entirely as a result. Zero Dark Thirty is remarkable for its ability to keep one as enthralled watching a CIA boardroom meeting as they are to witness the true jewel in an already-encrusted crown: a breathless reenactment of bin Laden’s eventual capture in Pakistan that ensures the film’s final stretch is also its most rewarding.
Director: Dustin Hoffman // Starring: Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly, Pauline Collins // Plot: Ageing opera singer Reginald Paget (Courtenay) finds the splendour of Beecham House, a home for retired musicians, to be compromised when his prickly ex-wife Jean (Smith) comes to stay. As the houses financial future becomes unclear, Jean does all she can to avoid reuniting with her former quartet members Sissy (Collins), Wilf (Connelly) and, of course, her ex-husband Reggie.
Review: Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut is a sporadically touching adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s 1998 play of the same name. Despite being very much geared towards to a particular demographic, this viewer can attest that he, at the tender age of 21, found much to enjoy in Quartet, although a frustrating lack of focus makes it hard to recommend to audiences at large.
Director: Juan Antonio Bayora // Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor // Plot: The true story of how one family – mother Maria (Naomi Watts), father Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their sons Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) – survived the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 during their Christmas break to the region.
Review: With the carefully endorsed authenticity of this story still fresh in our minds thanks to an opening placard, a deep, low-end rumbling intensifies to the point of discomfort. It’s an unnerving moment, no doubt, but for this viewer, it made for a very exciting opening. This is a sound synonymous with dread and expectation. As anyone who has sat through a Paranormal Activity film will tell you; this is the sound of something actually happening.
It is also the first of many confrontations with The Impossible’s incredible sound design. Ominous tones are laced throughout, with a clear emphasis on every crunch and shock absorbed by the bodies of our ravaged protagonists. It is at times overwhelming in its desolation, so much so that when the inevitably shimmering piano does make an appearance, it is with heartfelt relief rather than a rolling of the eyes.