Talking Movies

May 27, 2019

Any Other Business: Part XXXI

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into a thirty-first portmanteau post on television of course!

When you play the game of thrones, you watch or you win

I gave up on Game of Thrones after suffering thru 3 seasons. I was unwilling to continue torturing myself to ‘keep up to date with pop culture’. So I’m quite amused at everyone now having a LOST-style meltdown that the show wasted their time for 8 years. In retrospect it was probably insane of HBO to greenlight a TV show based on an ongoing book series that the author clearly had no interest in finishing. I’ve long been comparing George RR Martin to a stand-up comic who 10 minutes into a 12 minute shaggy dog story loses interest and wanders off stage, leaving the poor fools in the audience outraged that he just wasted 10 minutes of their time, and even more outraged when Neil Gaiman walks by to chastise them for feeling outraged that his good friend George wasted their time – he doesn’t owe anybody the punchline to a shaggy dog story.

But now I wonder if there was another more conniving strand to his literary inaction. By refusing to finish writing the books Martin has got the poor saps Benioff & Weiss to test an ending for him to gauge reaction to it. So now Martin just has to say his books would have done it all … differently, and continue to never finish them, but do more fun things like attend sports events and fan conventions like a conquering hero, and he’ll go to his grave with that taunt irrefutable. When did he realise that by not finishing he can eternally be better than the TV ending without ever having to actually furnish his ending?

Jazz Trances, real and fictional

Happening across The Mighty Boosh late at night the other week I suddenly remembered Howard Moon’s jazz trance, something which I saw just a few years prior to a 2011 live episode of Later with Jools Holland featuring a bona fide jazz trance. Jools was trying in his inimitably (and endearing) ramshackle way to keep the show on track for time given that Newsnight was prepping to air live too once his show stopped. And standing waiting in the shadows was a 40 piece choir ready to join Elbow in a rendition of a meisterwerk, but unfortunately he’d put on a jazz band led by an aged jazz legend just before, and all four of them had gone into a proper eyes closed working out their melodies by feel jazz trance. The camera captured a nervous looking Jools baffled at how to get them to stop as he couldn’t make eye contact with any of the players: a moment of panic that reduced Dad and I to helpless laughter. At last one musician opened his eyes and Jools was able to flag him down. He stopped. And then another musician opened his eyes wondering why he’d stopped, and saw, and stopped too. Only for our man, the legend, to misinterpret this, in his jazz trance, as his merry men waiting on him to change key, which he duly did, until the third musician stopped, and then he opened his eyes, and lo, the jazz trance was broken. And a mightily relieved Jools rushed across to stop it starting up again and hurried Elbow and their 40 piece choir into action.

September 16, 2018

Notes on The Predator

The Predator was the topic of discussion early this morning on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle.

Shane Black continues his writer/director sequence of one for me, one for them, but nobody’s likely to be happy with this one. The Predator is a bit of mess, but has a number of very good jokes before the vague CGI mayhem and tremendously over-egged pudding of plot take over. Indeed one surprised line on the subject of aardvarks delivered by Thomas Jane has already become part of my mental architecture in the way Ralph Fiennes did with his abandonment of a thought in The Grand Budapest Hotel. But the comedy noticeably oozes away as the film progresses, and boy does Black get sidetracked by a lot in his 100 minute running time. Holbrook, who for some reason made me continually think of the young Mel Gibson, is the gung-ho military man who is this film’s version of Arnie’s Dutch from the classic original. Except that this film suffers from the current Hollywood obsession with saving the world as the third act stakes. Sigh. So instead of suspenseful cat and mouse, the 7 foot man in a suit is dispensed with for a CGI Predator, an alien spaceship flies about the place, and hands, arms, legs, and heads are lopped off with the abandon of Starship Troopers.

February 1, 2018

Wes Anderson @ the Lighthouse

Wes Anderson has a new movie arriving soon, so the Lighthouse will spend the month of March presenting a full retrospective, finishing with a massive Wes Anderson party on opening night of Isle of Dogs on 30th March.

Tickets : https://lighthousecinema.ie/EVENTS/fantastic-mr-anderson

Bottle Rocket

March 5th 3pm & 8.45pm

Based on his short black & white film of the same name, Bottle Rocket was the world’s first introduction to the colourful world of Wes Anderson and his frequent collaborators the Brothers Wilson. Bottle Rocket is a crime caper and a road movie about three friends who embark on a (mis)adventure in the world of crime, with James Caan playing what we would now recognise as the Bill Murray role.

 

Rushmore

March 9th 10.45pm

March 10th 3pm

The film that got Wes Anderson noticed internationally, Rushmore follows Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a student obsessed with his school, Rushmore Academy, but less for its academia than for extracurricular events. Rushmore features the first of many superb supporting performance for Anderson from Bill Murray. Here he is a wealthy industrialist who becomes a friend and love rival to Max for the affections of teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). Anderson’s aesthetic started to develop its mature style in this icon of 90s indie cinema.

 

The Royal Tenenbaums 35mm

March 13th 3pm & 8.30pm

March 16th 10.45pm

March 18th 3pm

Arguably Anderson’s masterpiece, The Royal Tenenbaums is an elegantly told story about a family of child geniuses who grow up to be, in their own ways, disappointing. It earned Anderson the first of his three Oscar nominations for best original screenplay, although more than a few reviewers thought JD Salinger’s stories of the Family Glass were an inspiration. Anderson’s trademark camerawork; all whip-pans and tracking shots; stylised production design, and autumnal colour palette do not swamp the deeply flawed characters brought to life by an ensemble cast led by a combative Gene Hackman.

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The Darjeeling Limited 35mm

March 14th 3pm & 8.30pm

March 17th 3pm

Anderson made a notable comeback after The Life Aquatic‘s treading water with The Darjeeling Limited. The film follows three American brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody) as they try to reconnect with each other on an epic train journey through India. Darjeeling is a gorgeous film, making use of an extensive colour palette based on the Indian setting, and where could Anderson’s propensity for elaborate tracking shots find a better home than the carriages of a train. More impressive was the emotional maturity in tackling weighty themes of grief, abandonment, and romantic and filial resentment.

 

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

March 21st 3pm & 8.30pm

March 23rd 10.45pm

4 films in and Wes Anderson experienced the cinematic equivalent of difficult 2nd album syndrome. Expectations were high for the adventures of a rag-tag bunch of seafarers led by Bill Murray. But, despite a soundtrack that uses Bowie innovatively, and some wonderful comedy from Willem Dafoe, this ramshackle Moby Dick; Zissou aims to track down and exact revenge upon a mythical shark who killed Zissou’s partner; is to Wes Anderson’s oeuvre as Dune is to David Lynch.

 

Moonrise Kingdom

March 24th 3.30pm

March 28th 3pm & 8.45pm

Anderson’s films have all had a certain nostalgia for a past that never actually happened outside the pages of the New Yorker. And Bob Balaban’s fantastical narrator here brings us a tale of young love set to the music of Benjamin Britten on a New England island in 1969 just before a major storm is about to hit, the least of the forces of law and order’s worries as they attempt to apprehend two runaway underage teenagers with amorous intent. Moonrise Kingdom features a wonderful turn by Ed Norton and a devastating existential riddle on the goodness of dogs.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Prosecco and Patisserie

March 24th 12.00pm event, 1pm film

Andrew Marr quoted a joke that if you put a few Viennese people together for long enough they will do two things: found a University, and start a patisserie. The Lighthouse are thus appropriately hosting a very special “prosecco and patisserie” afternoon screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel on Saturday 24th March. Your ticket will include a glass of prosecco or a Grand Budapest-themed cocktail, along with beautiful patisserie treats inspired by the film, and a ticket to a screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel at 1pm.

 

Fantastic Mr Fox

March 25th 3pm

Behold Anderson’s first foray into the world of stop-motion animation. Based on Roald Dahl’s short novel about a fox whose main thrill in life is baiting three farmers who live nearby, Anderson injects more of himself into the story than one would have thought possible. George Clooney voices Mr Fox, who, despite his love for his wife and teenage son, can’t quite bring himself to move on from his glory days of chicken-killing and settle into domestic life. There is a tremendous tracking shot to the strains of the Beach Boys as well as a peerless critique of songwriting by Michael Gambon’s antagonist.

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 29th 3pm & 8.30pm

Anderson’s most recent film The Grand Budapest Hotel is a curio: it tells the story of an old writer remembering when he was a young writer who met an old man who told him a story about when he was a young man and knew the hero of this film, Ralph Fiennes’s M. Gustave. An uneven tale, Anderson showcases an unexpected flair for sinister suspense, but there is a sourness to the comedy that is unexpected, and not really a showcase as promised for the world of Stefan Zweig.

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Wes Anderson Party + Isle of Dogs

29th March Party – 9pm, Isle of Dogs Screening – 00.00am

The Lighthouse will be hosting a Wes Anderson Fancy Dress Party on 29th March. Don’t miss your chance to share a cocktail with fellow fans and walk amongst a plethora of Tenenbaums, Zissous, Lobby Boys (and girls!), and maybe even some fantastic Mr Foxes, topped off at midnight with the first chance to see his new film, Isle of Dogs, Anderson’s second foray into stop-motion animation with an all-star voice cast on hand to bring to life a boy’s quest to find his lost dog on a polluted Japanese island.

 

***Season artwork at the Lighthouse is by Steve McCarthy is a Dublin based designer and illustrator. His style is bold, colourful, and a mix of practical and digital techniques that he describes as feeling most comfortable somewhere between the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and Dumbo’s pink elephants. In 2016 he won best illustration at the Irish design awards, and in 2017 his second children’s book ‘A Sailor went to sea’ won the Bord Gais children’s book of the year. He also worked as a background designer for the Oscar-nominated animated feature Song of the Sea.

March 6, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson’s second period film in a row is a considerable contrast to the charmingly nostalgic Moonrise Kingdom, and that’s not necessarily a good thing…

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To begin at the beginning, a young woman visits the grave of a writer. Wait, no, that writer (Tom Wilkinson) before he died recorded a talk about the background of his most famous novel. Hang on, when he was a young writer (Jude Law), [now we’re getting somewhere] he stayed in the Grand Budapest Hotel. There he met ineffectual concierge M. Jean (Jason Schwartzman). Wait, no, M. Jean didn’t matter, what mattered was that the young writer met Mr Moustafa (F Murray Abraham), who told him about the glory days of the hotel in the 1930s. Back then, [finally, real progress!] Moustafa was known as Zero (Tony Revolori), and he was the lobby-boy to legendary concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Gustave was completely devoted to rich, widowed, amorous guests such as Mademe D (Tilda Swinton, after she wrecked the picture in her attic.) So much so that when she unexpectedly died after leaving the hotel he was summoned by her staff Serge X (Mathieu Amalric) and Clotilde (Lea Seydoux), to hear her lawyer Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum) read the will – which left a priceless painting to Gustave, much to the fury of Mademe D’s son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), and as he had the scary thug Jopling (Willem Dafoe) on retainer that meant Gustave was well-advised to run for his life, despite the protestations of policeman Henckels (Edward Norton); who remembered Gustave’s abundant kindness to him as a boy. And after that, reader, things really got complicated.

Anderson’s film is bursting at the seams from sheer busyness, and the film thus lacks emotional depth even as it boasts under-used actors (Harvey Keitel, Saoirse Ronan), a deliberately unnecessary Chinese box of narratives, and a sequence in which Anderson tests how many times the same gag can be made in succession; even by Bill Murray and Bob Balaban; before an audience grows restive. His regular production designer Adam Stockhausen’s archly mannered sets are the most artificially coloured he has rendered for Anderson to date. Think about that.

Anderson showcases an unexpected flair for blackly comic suspense but there’s an odd and draining mean-spiritedness to this film’s gruesomeness. Fiennes’ dialogue makes no sense for the setting, lurching as it does from a gentlemen quoting poetry to an R-rated Oddball from Kelly’s Heroes, but it does make for some spectacular laughs. Anderson is apparently honouring the terrifyingly obscure author Stefan Zweig, and the worst thing I can say about this film is that after seeing such loving homage I have no desire to read Zweig’s work.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is an impeccably mounted film, but it unavoidably disappoints because it doesn’t come close to The Darjeeling Limited for depth or Moonrise Kingdom for whimsy.

3/5

January 28, 2014

2014: Hopes

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 3:58 pm
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The Monuments Men

George Clooney stars, co-writes with Grant Heslov again, and directs what seems like a promising mash-up of The Train and Ocean’s 11, arriving sometime in February. Somewhat based on fact, a crack team of art experts and soldiers are assembled in the dying months of WWII to try and rescue priceless works of art from wanton destruction at the hands of nihilistic Nazis. The team includes regular Clooney cohort Matt Damon and the great Cate Blanchett, alongside the undoubtedly scene-stealing comedic duo of Bill Murray and John Goodman, and oddly Jean Dujardin. Can Clooney pull off a more serious art heist from Nazis caper? Fingers crossed he can.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson returns in March, apparently in thrall to Lubitsch and Lang. Edward Norton did so well in Moonrise Kingdom that he’s invited back alongside Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Owen Wilson. Newcomers are Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan, Jude Law, Mathieu Amalric, and F Murray Abraham. Fiennes is the legendary concierge of the titular hotel in inter-war Europe, where any gathering storms are ignored in favour of absurd murder plots, art thefts and family squabbles gone mad, as Fiennes gives his lobby-boy protégé an education in dealing with the upper classes which he’ll never forget; if they escape a sticky end long enough to remember.

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Veronica Mars

AW YEAH!! It was cancelled in 2007 but Kristen Bell’s iconic teen detective snoops again as creator Rob Thomas sends NYC legal eagle Veronica back to sunny Neptune to attend her high school reunion. Present and correct are friends Mac (Tina Majorino) and Wallace (Percy Daggs III), nemesis Madison (Amanda Noret), and frenemy Dick (Ryan Hansen). Dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) remains a sage, warning against the obvious peril of insipid boyfriend Piz (Chris Lowell) being replaced in her affections by roguish ex Logan (Jason Dohring), who is once again accused of murder and asking for V’s help. Please let the sparks of ‘epic love’ spanning ‘decades and continents’ rekindle!

Frank

Lenny Abrahamson is the opposite of a Talking Movies favourite, but he’s teamed up with the favourite di tutti favourites Michael Fassbender. Thankfully Abrahamson’s miserabilist tendencies and agonising inertness have been put to one side for this rock-star comedy co-written by journalist Jon Ronson, a man with a verified eye for the absurd having written The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Psychopath Test. The original script loosely based on a cult English comic musician follows wannabe musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins a pop band led by the enigmatic Frank (Fassbender) and his scary girlfriend Maggie Gyllenhaal.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Literally everything I loved most about the original disappeared with the time-jump. So the major attraction of April’s sequel isn’t Robert Redford as a shady new SHIELD director, but Revenge’s icy heroine Emily VanCamp as the mysterious Agent 13. Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow regrettably take the place of Tommy Lee Jones and Hayley Atwell in support, but Anthony Mackie as sidekick Falcon is a major boon. The real worry is that directors Joe and Anthony Russo (You, Me and Dupree, yes, that’s right, that’s their resume) will be intimidated by their budget into endless CGI action and precious little else.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I’m excited and nostalgic, because May 23rd sees the arrival of the X-3 we deserved, but never got. Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he launched for one of Claremont/Byrne’s most famous storylines. In a dystopian future, where mutantkind has been decimated by the Sentinels of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage),Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) Wolverine (Hugh Jackman – this is a movie, not a comic, it’s all got to be about Wolverine!) is sent back into the past by Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) to alter history by rapprochement of their younger selves (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender). Jennifer Lawrence co-stars, with every X-Men actor!

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22 Jump Street
A proper summer blockbuster release date of June 13th for this sequel recognises the hilarious success of the absurd original. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) (or was it the other way round?) go undercover in college to crack another drug ring, and once again their fantastic bromance starts to crack under the strain. The original’s unwieldy team of writers and directors are back, as are Ice Cube, Nick Offerman, Rob Riggle and Dave Franco. Amber Stevens and Wyatt Russell are the college kids, but sadly Brie Larson is absent. Jonah Hill appears in full goth gear, which seems to suggest that the absurdity levels remain healthy.

The Trip to Italy

It’s not clear yet if we’ll get this as an abridged film or just be treated to the full version as 6 episodes on BBC 2. In either case Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reunite to play heightened versions of themselves as they bicker their way around restaurants in Italy for the purposes of writing magazine reviews. 2010’s endearing roving sitcom The Trip, with its competitive Michael Caine impersonations was a joy, and director Michael Winterbottom takes the show on tour here. And no better man for the job, as this originated with their duelling Al Pacinos at the end of his A Cock and Bull Story.

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Magic in the Moonlight
Woody Allen’s latest should hit our screens around September. This time round the cottage industry is giving us a period romantic comedy, set in the south of France, which takes place in the 1920s and 1930s. The cast is as usual intimidating: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, the imperious Eileen Atkins (one of the few actresses capable of domineering over Judi Dench), and Jacki Weaver. Will F Scott and his ilk make an appearance? Who knows! There are no details, just stills of open-top cars, drop waists, and cloche hats so this could be a close cousin of Sweet & Lowdown or Midnight in Paris.

Gone Girl

The start of October sees the great David Fincher return, with his first film in three years, and it’s another adaptation of a wildly successful crime novel. Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) are seemingly the perfect couple, but when she disappears suddenly on their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick becomes the prime suspect as he discovers his wife told friends she was scared of him. Could he have killed her? Or is the truth far more twisted? Gillian Flynn has adapted her own work, and, incredibly, penned an entirely new third act to keep everyone guessing. The unusually colourful supporting cast includes Neil Patrick Harris and Patrick Fugit.

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The Interview
The pitch is that an attractive talk show host and his producer unwittingly get caught up in an international assassination plot. So far so blah, if that was say Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson directed by Shawn Levy, except that the host is actually James Franco, the producer is Seth Rogen, the interview is in North Korea, and the awesome Lizzy Caplan is the rogue femme fatale CIA agent who drags them into all sorts of mischief. And it’s written and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg who distinguished themselves with 2013’s best comedy This is The End. This is very likely to mop up the non-Gone Girl audience.

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan tries to redeem himself after TDKR with a small personal project, taking the same release date as The Prestige did. Well, small, in that the WB needed Paramount to stump up some cash for it, and personal, in that Spielberg spent years developing it; albeit with the assistance of Jonathan Nolan. Scientists attempt to observe a wormhole into another dimension, and that’s about all we know, other than vague speculations about ecological crises. Matthew McConaughey 2.0 stars alongside Anne Hathaway, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, John Lithgow, Jessica Chastain, and, yes, Michael Caine – who is now as essential a part of the signature as Bill Murray for Wes Anderson.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I

Jennifer Lawrence goes for third biggest hit at the North American box office for the third year in a row with her latest turn as rebel heroine Katniss Everdeen on November 21st. Having survived the Quarter Quell and the destruction of her District, she discovers President Snow has Peeta hostage, and that the rebellion has a leader, President Coin (Julianne Moore), ready to embark on a full-scale bloody war of rebellion against the Capitol. Recount writer (and Buffy shmuck) Danny Strong is the new screenwriter, and Elementary star Natalie Dormer joins the cast, but director Francis Lawrence remains in situ, with his considered visual style.

January 20, 2014

JDIFF 2014: 20 Films

Booking opens for the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival at 9am tomorrow, so here are 20 films to keep an eye on at the festival.

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CALVARY (7:30pm Thu 13th Feb, Savoy)

Writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to The Guard laces the trademark McDonagh black comedy with a more philosophical approach akin to Dostoyevsky as Brendan Gleeson’s priest is told in the confessional that he will be murdered in one week. As he tries to identify the murderer from the miscreants (Chris O’Dowd, Dylan Moran, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson) who make up his flock, with little success, he realises that he may have to prepare to meet his maker. Only God Forgives cinematographer Larry Smith imbues the Yeats country of Sligo with an appropriate contemplative grandeur.

BIG SUR (9:00pm Fri 14th Feb, Lighthouse)

Twin Falls Idaho director Michael Polish tackles Jack Kerouc’s 1962 work Big Sur. At a brisk 81 minutes this shares none of the bloat of Walter Salles’ disastrous On the Road, though it shares a liking for direct quotation from Kerouac as voice-over. Jean-Marc Barr is the increasingly alcoholic and depressed Kerouac, who attempts to get sober and productive by gathering old friends Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Anthony Edwards), Michael McClure (Balthazar Getty) and Neal Cassady (Josh Lucas) for a trip to an isolated Big Sur cabin (given extra sheen by cinematographer M David Mullen).

MYSTERY ROAD (9:00pm, Fri 14th Feb, Cineworld)

Red Hill’s set-up is reversed for another modern western set in Australia. Writer/director/editor/cinematographer/composer Ivan Sen creates a brooding mystery as Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returns to his outback hometown, where his white colleagues deride him even as the aboriginal community distrusts him. He’s assigned the case of a young girl found dead in a drainage ditch as a deliberate dead-end, however, as he interrogates persons of interest including Hugo Weaving and Ryan Kwanten he discovers that even this sun-blanched town can harbour dark secrets. Sen’s enigmatic achievement is essentially a Western meets Chinatown.

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ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (11:00am, Sat 15th Feb, Savoy)

Jim Jarmusch’s unsurprisingly meditative vampire film is described as being “a shrewd and sensual subversion on familiar gothic mythology” as Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play Adam & Eve, centuries-old vampires reuniting after a spell apart to live in a grungy house in decaying Detroit, Adam being a reclusive musician. Eve’s feisty sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) appears, however, and disturbs their nocturnal utopia. Jarmusch’s recent films have been becoming an ever more acquired taste, so the joy of seeing John Hurt as Christopher Marlowe may not recompense for the glacial pacing.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2:00pm, Sat 15th Feb, Cineworld)

Wes Anderson. Your reaction to those two words is all you really need to know… Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave H, the legendary concierge of the titular hotel, and newcomer Tony Revolori plays Zero Revolori, his young friend and sidekick. Together they become embroiled in a plot revolving around a priceless Renaissance painting and a family fortune. The cast includes Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, and the inter-war setting gives Anderson’s regular production designer Adam Stockhausen scope to really go wild with the archly mannered sets.

HALF OF A YELLOW SUN (6:30pm, Sat 15th Feb, Cineworld)

A striking adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize-winning novel by Nigerian playwright Biyi Bandele, this film follows two women during the dramas of Nigeria’s independence. Driven by powerful and moving performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls), we follow sisters Olanna (Newton) and Kainene (Rose), daughters of a well-to-do businessman, as their lives take very different paths. Olanna falls in love with a revolutionary, while Kainene enters into a romance with a white British writer. As civil war spreads, the sisters both flee to Biafra.

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STAY (8:00pm, Sat 15th Feb, Cineworld)

Wiebke von Carolsfeld’s Irish-Canadian co-production is based on Aislinn Hunter’s acclaimed novel Stay, set in Galway and Montreal. Archaeologist Aidan Quinn (Elementary) lives on Ireland’s west coast trying to bury his past. His young lover Taylor Schilling (Mercy) leaves when he disavows having children, returning to her native Montreal to reflect on her situation. Meanwhile, the local community trundles its way through death and birth, economic collapse and survival. But just as his professional and human engagement is renewed by a bogland find, her emotional confusion grows as she excavates her own family history.

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (9:00pm, Sat 15th Feb, Lighthouse)

Alain Guiraudie’s film starring Pierre Deladonchamps, Christophe Paou, and Patrick d’Assumçao set Cannes abuzz. We follow Franck, a gay man who frequents the lake, popular with nudists and men cruising for sex in the surrounding forests. He comes to know Michel, to whom he is dangerously and foolishly attracted, and refuses to stay away from – entering a deadly game of cat and mouse. Hailed as a masterpiece of carefully constructed narrative and concentrated visual storytelling, electric with tension, desire and danger and featuring graphic unsimulated gay sex, it’s like explicit Highsmith.

TRACKS (11:00am, Sun 16th Feb, Savoy)

The Painted Veil director John Curran helms a story about one young woman’s nine-month trek across the Australian desert. Mia Wasikowska is mesmerising as a would-be lone explorer who does it because it’s there and she wants to be alone. She does, however, meet people on her trip, including Aboriginal ‘old fella’ Eddy (Rolley Mintuma) who helps see her through sacred desert areas. The stunning scenery is enhanced by judicious use of overhead shots, while cinematographer Mandy Walker does a spectacular job in conveying the stark beauty and inherent danger in the shifting landscape.

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A LONG WAY DOWN (8:00pm, Sun 16th Feb, Cineworld)

French rom-com specialist Pascal Chaumeil tackles Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel. Disgraced chat show host Pierce Brosnan reaches rock bottom on New Year’s Eve, standing on the roof of London’s premier suicide spot. But his suicide is thwarted by the arrival of other jumpers; Aaron Paul, a failed rock star with terminal cancer; Imogen Poots, an MP’s neglected daughter; and single mother Maureen Toni Collette, struggling to care for her severely disabled son. The quartet all pledge to refrain from attempts at suicide until Valentine’s Day – thus forming an unlikely support group.

THE WONDERS (PLAOT) (8:30pm, Sun 16th Feb, Cineworld)

Veteran director Avi Nesher indulges in labyrinthine comic fantasy as Ariel Navon (Ori Hizkiah), an art-school dropout and cartoonist, spots a strange flash of blue light emanating from an apparently vacant building. His investigation yields an encounter with famed modern-day prophet Rabbi Knafo (Yehuda Levi). Is Knafo being held against his will? And who would do such a thing? Cartoons come to life when nobody’s looking, and conspiracies keep being conspired when nobody’s looking, as Woody Allen’s films vie with shades of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union in the influence stakes.

THE LAST DAYS ON MARS (9:00pm, Mon 17th Feb, Cineworld)

Irish director Ruairí Robinson makes his feature bow with this oblique tale of life on Mars. Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai and Olivia Williams are crew-members on the first manned mission to Mars. All goes well, until the final day when an exciting discovery is made a few miles from base. Obviously, unlike Antarctic scientists who begin each whiteout season with a viewing of The Thing, none of these astronauts had seen Alien. After an officer goes missing collecting evidence of Martian life the crew are soon violently fighting for life.

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BEFORE THE WINTER CHILL (AVANT L’HIVER) (6:15pm, Tue 18th Feb, Lighthouse)

Daniel Auteuil is a respected surgeon, Kristin Scott Thomas cooks and gardens exquisitely, together, they bring stability to their extended family and community of friends. But the passion for Paul of Leïla Bekhti brings chaos. Novelist/film-maker Philippe Claudel’s second film opens as a Gallic take on Fatal Attraction, with a nod to the great Claude Chabrol, before morphing into something original and passionate as Claudel extends the strong creative partnership he began with Scott Thomas in I’ve Loved You So Long and extracts a superb, poignant performance from Auteuil.

MOOD INDIGO (L’ECUME DES JOURS) (8:45pm, Tue 18th, Lighthouse)

Director Michel Gondry adapts Boris Vian’s cult novel Froth on the Daydream with Populaire star Romain Duris as a Bertie Wooster type kept out of trouble by his own personal Jeeves, Omar Sy (The Untouchables). Duris decides he needs a girlfriend, and promptly meets Audrey Tatou. But Raymond Queneau described the 1947 novel as ‘the most heartbreakingly poignant modern love story’. Gondry’s lo-tech effects nail the writer’s surreal flights of fancy and wall-to-wall puns, but worsening health and financial crises make this a notably darker and more melancholy rom-com than usual.

CAS & DYLAN (6:30pm, Wed 19th Feb, Cineworld)
Before Jaws Richard Drefyuss starred in classic Canadian film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, now he makes a memorable journey across Canada as dying Winnipeg surgeon Cas in Jason Priestley’s touching road movie. Cas crosses paths with Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany’s Dylan, a free-wheeling chain-smoking kleptomaniac – and finds himself fleeing the scene of a crime with her in a stolen VW Beetle. Jessie Gabe’s wise and funny script gradually reveals the truth about the pair, while Dreyfuss Fassbenders thru his best role in years as the straitlaced doctor belatedly letting rip.

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UNDER THE SKIN (8:45pm, Wed 19th Feb, Cineworld)

Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer returns after a long absence with a sci-fi thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as a classic femme fatale in the film noir tradition, down to the plump red lips and deep fur coat, but with a refrigerated nothingness at her core. Because she is in fact an alien who takes amorous Glaswegian men into her van turns them into Scotch broth. Glazer renders the Scottish landscape as alien: dawn mist rolls across lochs like curls of space dust, while Johansson has won surprised praise for her wordless performance.

THE CONGRESS (8:45pm, Wed 19th Feb, Lighthouse)

Waltz with Bashir director Ari Forman returns with a meta-textual Hollywood satire, inspired by Stanislav Lem’s novel The Futurological Congress, starring Robin Wright as herself, which morphs midway into a full blown sci-fi cartoon, but only to cut even closer to the philosophical bone in its investigation of femininity, fantasy and virtual reality. Actress Robin Wright is washed up, but Miramount executive Danny Huston has a proposition that will guarantee her riches for life. He wants to scan her and take full rights to virtual Robin Wright. But she must never act again…

AFTERNOON DELIGHT (9:00pm, Thu 20th Feb, Cineworld)

Writer-director Jill Soloway (United States of Tara) makes her feature film debut with a raunchy mixture of comedy and drama as thirtysomething mum Kathryn Hahn tries to spice up life with husband Josh Radnor at a Los Angeles strip club, only to develop an unhealthy fixation on young stripper Juno Temple. Desperate to escape the numbingly dull preschool parents in her neighbourhood, she invites her to become live-in nanny. Kathryn Hahn was very good in support in Revolutionary Road, and this seems like a more comedic take on delusions of grandeur and escape.

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THE DOUBLE (6:30pm, Fri 21st Feb, Cineworld)

IT Crowd star Richard Ayoade served notice of his directorial abilities with 2011’s Submarine so this second feature is eagerly awaited, but has already divided opinion at previous festivals. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella is relocated to anonymous office bureaucracy as Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a belittled worker bee who’s shunned by the elfin photocopy girl Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). And then a freight-train of confidence named James, also played by Eisenberg, starts work – instantly winning over the boss and charming Hannah to the horror of Simon who is the only who has noticed his doppelganger.

THE ZERO THEOREM (9:00pm, Fri 21st Feb, Cineworld)

Allegedly the final part of a dystopian trilogy comprising Brazil and 12 Monkeys, in which case God knows how many trilogies Hitchcock inadvertently knocked out… Christoph Waltz is an angst-ridden computer programmer tasked with proving the titular theorem, and thereby revealing the meaning of life. Anybody shouting ‘42’ will be ejected. His quest is supported by Mélanie Thierry and hampered by his supervisor David Thewlis and Matt Damon’s Management. Tilda Swinton scene-steals as an AI psychiatrist, and Gilliam’s inimitable visual style of odd angles, dizzy colours, and surrealism are on full display.

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