New Avatar Trailer

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Slightly more narrative in this new trailer for the James Cameron sci-fi epic that opens worldwide on December 18th

UK Cinema Releases: Friday 30th October 2009

UK Cinema Releases 30-10-09

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NATIONAL RELEASES

An Education (E1 Entertainment): A coming-of-age story based on Lynn Barber’s memoir about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.

Superbly made and acted it is a likely contender for BAFTAs and Oscars. Read my more considered thoughts on the film here. [Curzon Mayfair, Odeon West End & Nationwide / 12A]

9 (Universal): An animated fantasy about a mechanical humanoid rag doll (9) which explains how humanity, in its blind pursuit of science and technology, went to his doom.

Directed by Shane Acker from his own short film, it features the voices of Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, and John.C Reilly. [Prince Charles Cinema & Nationwide / 12A] (Opened on Weds 28th)

Michael Jackson’s This Is It (Sony Pictures): The film of the 02 concerts that never were from the late popstar, culled from rehearsal footage.

Directed by Kenny Ortega and featuring Michael Jackson. [Nationwide / PG] (Opened Weds 28th)

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IN LIMITED RELEASE

An American Werewolf In London (Universal): A Halloween re-issue for the 1981 horror film directed by John Landis about two American tourists (David Naughton and Griffin Dunne) who get attacked by a werewolf. [Vue West End & Nationwide]

Citizen Kane (bfi Distribution): A re-issue for the 1941 masterpiece about a media mogul (Orson Welles) and the attempts to explain his dying words. [BFI Southbank & Key Cities / U]

Love Exposure (Third Window Films): Running almost four hours, the new film from cult Japanese director Sion Sono is a tour through any number of genres, styles, plot turns, perversions and emotional states. [ICA Cinema]

Philip Pullman’s The Butterfly Tattoo (Philm Company): A project based on Philip Pullman’s novel of the same name (originally published as The White Mercedes) directed by Phil Hawkins. It used a novel method of financing its production, by selling shares to members of the public. [Selected Key Cities / 12A]

Starsuckers (S2S Distribution): A British documentary exposing the “shams and deceit involved in creating a pernicious celebrity culture”. Directed by Chris Atkins, who made Taking Liberties, it shows the production team planting a variety of celebrity-related stories in the UK media, which some papers reprinted without verification. [Curzon Soho & Key Cities / 12A]

Tales From The Golden Age (Trinity Filmed Ent) : A film composed of 5 unconventional short stories, each one dealing with the late communist period in Romania, told through its urban myths from the perspective of ordinary people. The title refers to the alluded “Golden Age” of the last 15 years of Ceauşescu’s regime. [Apollo Picc Circus, Barbican, Curzon Renoir, Rio Dalston & Key Cities / 12A]

Dead Man Running (Revolver): Another crime film with Tamer Hassan and Danny Dyer with a guest appearance from Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson. [Nationwide / 15]

The Horseman (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): A drama about a grieving father and a troubled teenage girl as they drive northbound along the outback roads of Australia. [C’World Shaftesbury Ave., Odeon Panton St., S’Case Newham & Key Cities / 18]

Aladin (Eros): A bollywood version of Aladin, which seems to be spelt differently. [C’Worlds Feltham, Ilford, Shaftesbury Ave., Vue Acton & Key Cities]

> UK cinema releases for October 2009
> DVD & Blu-ray picks for this week including Drag Me to Hell and True Blood Season 1 (W/C Monday 26th October 2009)

LFF 2009: Nowhere Boy

Aaron Johnson in Nowhere Boy

Despite a plethora of potential pitfalls this drama about the early
years of John Lennon is a stylish and engaging biopic.

Nowhere Boy explores the teenage years of Lennon (Aaron Johnson) and the two important women in his youth: his aunt Mimi Smith (Kristin Scott Thomas) who raised him and his mother Julia (Anne Marie Duff). It also charts his early forays into music as he forms The Quarrymen with a younger guitarist named Paul McCartney (Thomas Sangster).

Bringing a cultural icon like John Lennon to the big screen was always going to be a tricky affair but director Sam Taylor Wood (making her feature debut) has wisely focused on the intriguing family dynamics of Lennon’s childhood and how they fed into his career.

But perhaps most importantly there is a craft and intelligence here that pays tribute to Lennon’s art without indulging in histrionics or clichés.

The opening of a film can nearly always reveal something about its quality and the nice use of a famous Beatles chord to kick everything off indicated to me that things were going to be OK.

It is inevitable that most of the attention and focus of the film would fall on Aaron Johnson, as filling the role of Lennon is perhaps one of the more daunting tasks faced by an actor in recent times.

But he does a good job at capturing the youthful intensity of the young songwriter and although it is a little rough around the edges, that feels appropriate given the emotional tumult of his home life.

Part of the strong bedrock of the film is an admirably tight script by Matt Greenhalgh (who wrote the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control) which treats Mimi and Julia as central characters rather than just peripheral support.

Based on the memoir ‘Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon‘ by Lennon’s half sister Julia Baird, it focuses quite tightly on their influence on Lennon’s formative years and his burgeoning friendship with McCartney.

Scott Thomas nicely captures the stern but ultimately loving adoptive parent whilst Duff is excellent as the energetic and erratic soul mate Beatles fans have long read about in various biographies.

Wisely the film – unlike some British efforts – looks properly cinematic by being shot in 2:35 widescreen and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (who has a considerable experience of music vidoes) shoots with taste, tact and intelligence.

The locations have a richness and vibrancy to them that is similar in some ways to Control and the recreation of 1950s Liverpool is entirely convincing. It is also a relief to see parts of the UK (specifically the North West) presented with a touch of class.

Taylor-Wood might have seemed an odd choice to direct a film like this
but if Steve McQueen’s Hunger proved anything last year, it is that artists from different disciplines (she came to prominence in the 1990s as a conceptual artist) can give cinema something of a creative kick up the arse.

Her artistic background doesn’t always leap at you from the screen, apart from one time-lapse sequence of Lennon learning the banjo, and in general this shows admirable restraint as the style rarely overpowers the emotional content.

In any musical biopic, be it The Buddy Holly Story, The Doors or Walk The Line, there is usually that moment where the principal characters play ‘that song you know’.

Here the equivalent moments are when John first meets Paul and when they first play together with The Quarrymen at a local fete (Shea Stadium was still a while off).

Although this could have been cheesy, but it says a lot about the strengths of the film that it feels natural and convincing. My first reaction on seeing Paul was ‘doesn’t he look young?’ but given that he was 15 at this point, he probably did look young.

There is one moment towards the end when a certain character is about to say the phrase ‘The Beatles’ and doesn’t, which was the moment when it occurred to me that it hadn’t been said at all.

It’s a shrewd move and emblematic of the film, which fills in the emotional gaps whilst not retreading the well worn images of the early Fab Four.

The audience I saw it with was an early morning press and industry crowd and it would be fair to say they didn’t applaud or go for it in the way they did for last year’s LFF closing film Slumdog Millionaire.

Whilst there will always be doses of cynicism and schadenfreude amongst these kind of crowds I was surprised they didn’t go for it a bit more. (I overheard one person sitting in front of me profess dislike for Sam Taylor-Wood’s 2008 short film Love You More despite being “very well made”.)

Maybe this is me being optimistic but if this is marketed well then I can see some very healthy box office ahead for Icon (the UK distributors) and The Weinstein Company (who have the US rights).

After all it is a film about the adolescent pain which fuelled some of the most popular songs of the 20th century.

Nowhere Boy closes the London Film Festival tonight and opens in the UK on December 26th

Stanley Kubrick in The New Yorker

Kubrick New Yorker profile

Audio recently surfaced online of Stanley Kubrick being interviewed by Jeremy Bernstein of The New Yorker in 1966 (listen to it here).

Sliated has some interesting PDF files which shed more light on the famous director who was then in the midst of filming 2001: A Space Odyssey.

One of them is a PDF of the final profile which ended up in the November 1966 issue.

But they also have an auction entry which shows the proofs of the profile with descriptions of the edits and annotations Kubrick wanted.

Last, but not least, there is a piece by Bernstein recalling the interview which include the following nuggets of information about the legendary director:

  • Kubrick had taken flying lessons but by the mid sixties never flew again as he considered it “too dangerous”.
  • For his move to England he transported his possessions in 140 Boy Scout foot lockers.
  • He considered leaving the USA during the Cuban missile crisis and booked a boat trip to Australia with his family – but cancelled when he discovered he would have to share a bathroom with a neighbouring cabin.
  • Before moving to St Albans Kubrick lived in a large apartment on Central Park West.
  • 2001 was shot at Elstree and during the filming Kubrick lived in a suite at the Dorchester Hotel.
  • Physics was the only course in high school in which he had gotten a decent grade.
  • Kubrick toyed with the idea of casting Jackie Mason (!) as the voice of HAL, although he may have been joking.
  • During one take of a scene when Keir Dullea (who played astronaut Dave Bowman) was talking to HAL he farted so loudly, it sounded like “a stupendous burst of machine gun fire”.
  • The interview was recorded on one of Kubrick’s tape recorders, upon which he did most of his screen writing.
  • When the film was first shown to the press and invited guests in New York Kubrick ran the projector himself and decided to cut around 17 minutes from this version.