UK Cinema Releases: Friday 22nd October 2010


Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount): The sequel to last year’s low budget horror hit begins 3 months before the haunting of Micah and Katie, the married couple in the first film. It focuses on Katie’s sister who lives in the same neighbourhood and starts to experience similar problems in her house.

Paramount screened this one very late for UK critics, often a bad sign, but it is actually a passable sequel that uses the same bag of tricks as the first one: a central conceit that you are watching ‘found footage’; plenty of scary bumps and  a premise which is basically The Blair With Project in a house. Given the low budget, Paramount will be expecting to reap significant profit from this sequel and it may even replace the Saw franchise as a regular fixture around Halloween. [Nationwide / 15]

Legends of The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Bros.): Zack Snyder’s 3D animated debut is about a young barn owl who escapes from an orphanage to the island of Ga’Hoole, where he fights alongside its nobler and wiser elders.

Featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, Emile de Ravin and Jim Sturgess, it will be shown in 3D and is likely to claim the number 1 spot given its appeal to the half-term family audience. [Nationwide / 15]

Easy A (Sony Pictures): A sharp and surprisingly funny high school comedy about a pupil (Emma Stone) who spreads a rumour about losing her virginity and finds her life resembling Hester Prynne’s in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ – a book she is also studying.

Directed by Will Gluck, it plays like a cross between Mean Girls and Superbad (although not quite as good) with sharp one liners and ribald humour. The supporting cast is very good, featuring Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson and Thomas Haden Church. [Nationwide / 15]

Red (Entertainment One UK): An action-comedy loosely based on the DC comic book series about a former black-ops agent (Bruce Willis) who reassembles his old team.

Directed by Robert Schwentke, it features an impressive supporting cast which includes Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. [Nationwide / 15]

Alpha & Omega (Lionsgate UK): A 3D animated comedy about a pair of wolves (voiced by Hayden Panettiere and Justin Long) who are captured by park rangers and taken far away, where they bond despite their differences.

Directed by Anthony Bell, it also features the voices of Christina Ricci, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper and Larry Miller. Another film aimed at the lucrative half-term family market. [Vue West End & Nationwide / U]

Africa United (Warner Bros/Pathe): A drama about three Rwandan kids who walk 3000 miles to the World Cup in South Africa during 2008.

Directed by Debs Gardner-Paterso, it stars Eriya Ndayambaje, Roger Nsengiyumva, Sanyu Joanita Kintu, Yves Dusenge and Sherrie Silver. [Nationwide / 12A]

Ramona And Beezus (20th Century Fox): An adaptation of the books from the Ramona series of children’s novels by Beverly Cleary which follows the misadventures of a young pupil named Ramona Quimby (Selena Gomez). [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / U]


Carlos (Optimum Releasing): An epic project depicting the career of Carlos the Jackal, it brilliantly recreates the life and times of the Venezuelan terrorist (Eduardo Ramierez) to paint a fascinating portrait of a historical figure.

Directed by Olivier Assayas, it charts his early years as a violent revolutionary in Europe with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); his missions for states such as Iraq, Libya and East Germany; an infamous kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in 1975 and his gradual decline as he sought refuge in Eastern Europe, Syria and Sudan, as he struggled to cope with the end of the Cold War before finally being caught by French agents in 1994.

An ambitious French TV project, it is getting two kinds of theatrical release: a three part five and a half hour cut and a shortened 165 minute version. It will then get released on DVD and Blu-ray soon after along with a variety of on demand options in several countries. [Curzon Mayfair, Picturehouse Greenwich & Nationwide / 15]

* Read my full review of Carlos here *

Mary & Max (Soda Pictures): A claymation feature film about a tale of friendship between two pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York. Featuring the voices of Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries. [Odeon Covent Garden & Selected Key Cities]

The Arbor (Verve Pictures): An avant-garde documentary exploring the life and legacy of Rita, Sue And Bob Too! playwright Andrea Dunbar. [Curzon Renoir, Gate, Odeon Panton St., Ritzy & Key Cities / 15]

Chasing Legends (Arts Alliance); A documentary following the 2009 Tour de France largely through the eyes of riders and staff of the HTC-Columbia team. [Nationwide / 15]

The Stoning Of Soraya M (High Fliers): A drama adapted from French-Iranian journalist Freidoune Sahebjam’s 1990 book La Femme Lapidée, based on a true story. Directed by Cyrus Nowrasteh, it stars Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jim Caviezel and Mozhan Marnò. [ICA Cinema & Selected Key Cities]

> UK DVD and Blu-ray picks for this week including Amores Perros
> Get local cinema show times for your area via Google Movies

Cinema Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2010: Carlos

An epic project depicting the career of an international terrorist, Carlos is one of the most riveting films in recent memory.

Director Olivier Assayas has brilliantly recreated the life and times of the Venezualan revolutionary (Eduardo Ramierez), born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez and later nicknamed ‘Carlos the Jackal’, to paint a fascinating portrait of a historical figure.

It charts his early years as a violent revolutionary in Europe as he proves his worth to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); missions for states such as Iraq, Libya and East Germany; an infamous kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in 1975 and his gradual decline as he sought refuge in Eastern Europe, Syria and Sudan as he struggled to cope with the end of the Cold War before finally being caught by French agents in 1994, where he currently resides in jail under a life sentence.

An ambitious French TV project, it is getting two kinds of theatrical release: a three part five and a half hour cut and a shortened 165 minute version.

It will then get released on DVD and Blu-ray soon after along with a variety of on demand options in several countries.

Despite its origins, it was shot on 35 mm film and to all intents and purposely feels like a sprawling historical epic. Assayas doesn’t just recreate the period, he plunges us head first in to the era with an exhaustive attention to detail.

The production design is especially outstanding, with costumes, locations and sets all used to present the period with remarkable authenticity.

At the centre of all this is a captivating central performance from Ramierez, who not only bears an eerie resemblance to Carlos, but anchors the film as it criss-crosses through many years and locations: he captures the vanity, obsession and physique of the man rarely in a portrayal that rarely hits a wrong note.

The supporting performances are also strong with stand out turns from Juana Acosta (as an early lover); Alexander Scheer (playing his longest serving colleague) and Nora von Waldstätten (as his increasingly beleaguered wife).

Discerning viewers should catch the full version as the editing gives sequences a fluid sense of movement and pace which belies its long running time. Although the third part sags a little compared to the first two, it moves with an incredible fluency and pace which makes many 90 minute films seem ponderous by comparison.

Some memorable set pieces include his first mission, a botched airport attack, a betrayal, an extended kidnap sequence and the final entrapment of Carlos as the net gradually closes in.

Based on extensive research, with the filmmakers allowing for an interpretation of some events, the attention to detail reaps rich dividends because it never feels burdened by obvious movie tropes.

Many sequences are intercut with news footage from the time, which provide a counterpoint to the perspective of Carlos and his inner circle, as well as rooting us in the historical record.

The handheld cameras and sound design all helps give the action an added urgency which is tingling throughout, and neatly conveys the anxieties of a life on the run.

Also interesting is the widescreen lensing by Yorick Le Saux and Denis Lenoir: some sequences have an epic feel which is contrasted with others that are more much claustrophobic and intimate. Throughout the visuals are handled with a dynamism and skill rare in modern cinema.

In the last decade the gap between television and cinema has narrowed. Not only have higher end shows become more like films, but cinema has struggled to compete with the range and narrative scope offered by series like The Wire and Mad Men.

Carlos represents an interesting hybrid: it screened at Cannes just before premiering on Canal+ in France but in many countries will be seen as three part film project.

It is very hard to imagine a US or UK broadcaster (even HBO or BBC) making a project as ambitious as this: not only is the protagonist a revolutionary terrorist, but it makes no concessions to being obviously ‘prestigious’ or uplifting, in the conventional sense.

But the lift comes from the audacious way in which Assayas and his creative team have relentlessly focused on a character who in some ways, reflects the creeping ambiguities and dangers of modern terrorism.

Although a period piece, Carlos asks awkward questions about the nature of terrorists and does so by featuring an enigmatic central figure: What made a Venezuelan Marxist so passionate about the Palestinian cause? How much of his motivation was vanity over ideology? Is terrorism at its core, a form of narcissism? In what way do nation states use terrorists for their own ends?

These are never fully answered but teased out for audiences to form their own perspective. A running theme seems to be that Carlos was both a practical tool used by various governments complicit in his activities (such as Iraq, Libya) but also a useful myth whose frequently botched acts were more about perception than reality.

This is contrasted with his own motivations, which often seems to be an egotistical individualism at odds with his professed solidarity to the global Marxist struggle.

As the film draws to a close and Carlos becomes like a faded rock star shunned from countries once sympathetic to him and his mystery actually deepens as the enigma fades.

Had he merely stopped serving a purpose after the Cold War ended? Or was it merely a matter of time running out and his crimes catching up with him? Was Carlos an individual who hijacked causes for his own egotistical ends?

The questions are tantalising and although after five and a half hours the audience might be expecting some answers, the film is satisfying precisely because it avoids lazy conclusions, almost reflecting the mysteries and myths that grew around the man himself.

The use of post-punk and new wave songs (especially Wire’s anthem Dot-Dash) provide bursts of energy throughout, whilst the lack of a conventional score infuses others with a raw sense of immediacy and tension.

A mammoth logistical undertaking compressing over thirty years of history into around 330 minutes, Carlos is also an absorbing portrait of a mythological figure, who seems to embody the unsettling mysteries and reality of terrorism.

More than just an accomplished historical biopic, it is also an essential drama about the times in which we live.

Carlos screened at the LFF on Saturday and Olivier Assayas gives a screen talk on Saturday 24th October

** The extended and abridged versions will both be released at UK cinemas on Friday 22nd October **

> Carlos at the LFF
> Carlos at the IMDb
> Pre-order Carlos on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK