This is the stand alone best thriller I’ve seen this year so far. The world of film industry raves about the subtly and skill of French films and this is no exception. It’s the type of slow burning thriller that reminds me of Tell No One (2006), or In the House (2012). The most admirable traits are the character development and of course the dexterity of the reveal, which is left so late in the film you’re left guessing and forming your own conclusions long before the credits roll. It’s a masterful film that I’m happy to compare to the great dizzying heights of a Hitchcock thriller.
Author Laura Shearer
Set in a conflict torn town during the 1993 Serbian divide we meet a group of civilians affected in different ways by the violence and threat that surrounds them daily. Barren golden landscapes give way to grey urban high rise flats and empty streets. An immediate sense of instant change and impending confrontation bodes as we travel alongside soldiers into derelict schools and playgrounds. Civil peace resides in locals playing chess outside a café in a large square while the violent acts of angered soldiers happens just a few steps away.
Dark, visionary, and extrovert, director and writer Ben Wheatley was instantly a hit on the indie film making scene in the UK. The global success of his most memorable films Kill List (2011) and Sightseers (2012) was followed up by the oddity that is A Field in England (2013). His work presents narratives that wind and twist, cinematography that startles, and characters that ultimately keep your attention focused. Wheately is a whirlwind of a creative force that has been taking audiences and critics for a tour de force of the far corners of his mind.
…where vocal training comedy means make or break. One woman must face up to her abilities and tackle an entire industry head on. Director, writer and star Lake Bell is the woman in question. Her comedy feature offering marks her as detrimentally different to her contemporaries. The likes of Lena Dunham and Rashida Jones have given the film industry a run for its money recently with their unrivalled successes. Revolutionaries like Nora Ephron, who took the multitasking variety of the film industry by storm, are the new prototypes for innovative filmmakers making waves. Lake Bell is one of the incredibly few actress/models that divert their careers in the direction they want to take them in. In a World… is entertaining, hilarious, charismatic and one of a kind, more than the trailer lets on.
Tokyo born Hirokazu Koreeda is an award winning director whose work is ultimately distinctive within the Japanese film industry. Originally he set out to be a novelist but after working as an AD his ideals on how to tell stories opened up to a whole new scope of possibilities. Mostly focusing on Japan and staying within his home film industry, the director has received global acclaim and become a bit of a festival favourite in Europe, Asia and Canada.
His narratives are based around the everyday situations his characters find themselves in and always give a wealth of thought towards how people would naturally react to certain circumstances. The undisputable pleasure of his films lies in the way his characters are brought to life. Not so much just the characters on the page of a script, but he seems to have a way of opening up even candid performances. There’s always a lot more to his characters than they initially appear to be set up with.
Now a much loved piece of cult horror cinema, the British tale of folklore gone wrong wasn’t always appreciated for what it’s now seen as. It was originally condemned by censors and saw an incredible amount of editing room cuts to get it as far as the big screen. Cut down from a 99 minutes run time to 87 minutes, the feature served an initial purpose on first theatrical release. When it made it that far it was only awarded projected glory as part of a double bill. The Wicker Man was slotted in alongside Nicolas Roeg’s masterful Don’t Look Now in 1973 as a B-feature. The British Board of Film Classification gave it the highest age rating of the time due to the inclusion of ‘sex, nudity, occult themes and horror’. For these reasons it was denounced as bawdy and dismissed as a hack job of a horror film.
Director Pedro Almodóvar is well known for his fascinating characters and psychologically impacting feature films. His previous film The Skin I Live In is a prime example of the darker explorations of social preconceptions that are manifested in his narratives. He’s a director that’s hugely invested in his work and has become one of the most talked about Spanish filmmakers of the past couple of decades. It’s not unusual that, when he announces he’s working on a comedy set on an airplane, a few eyebrows were raised. Normally he’s quiet and reserved when asked about current projects, never revealing too much because the plot twists and character depth are a key trait. This is one of his best qualities for dealing with press junkets and interviews. He knows just how much information he wants to leak and believes in the power of experiencing a film. Needless to say that for I’m So Excited he wasn’t talking in detail about the content, brief context descriptions were enough to garner responses of interest. The driving point of attraction here is the dark comedy and strong themes of sexual liberation and frantic panic induced thrill.
There’s no justice in a review of Ponyo without a little bit of gushing. I suppose I am biased in my opinions when it comes to Studio Ghibli films, but in equal terms I want to see fit that they get a healthy amount of praise for their uniqueness and universal appeal. I believe that director Hayao Miyazaki is one of the best animation directors out there. What he creates are some of the most beautiful collections of imagery within the anime industry and this makes him ever provocative when it comes to the competitive global animation market. As co-owner of the infamous small Japanese film studio, his creative output is easily recognisable and revered as some of the most original and stylised feature animations. Miyazaki was previously an Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature with Spirited Away (2001) and his follow up film was a similarly appraised fantasy based Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). After these he seemed to take a bit of a career step back and he took a very different turn in narrative set compared to what viewers were perhaps expecting to follow his critically acclaimed successes.
Despicable Me 2 was rumoured as a character focused film on the previous films’ iconic minions. What arrived came out as a sequel with different narrative scope and a keen sense of continuing the hilarity of the original. Inspiring the adventure and creative imaginations in us all, the secret labs and the wonderful weaponry of the first feature are expanded in Despicable Me 2. Everything that was charming and exciting about the strange science and the impossibility of such things as fart guns and robot cookies returns with the same level of wacky inventiveness.
Animation has for me always been the more imaginative and expressive genre of film making so my love affair with the animation industry will last a lifetime. Some directors and animators feel this is their true calling and dedicate their lives to setting free all their ideas in innovative and beautifully skilled forms. When the word animation is mentioned a few studio names are on the tip of everyone’s tongues. Disney and Pixar are the global giants that everyone has grown up knowing and loving. Some of the best fairytales have been re-imagined in the Disney ideal and Pixar are the creators of iconic figures that set the high bar for industry standards, but more recently Dreamworks have become big competition with their unique animated characters.