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The Playlist

Venice Review: Alexandros Avranas' Extraordinary, Shocking 'Miss Violence'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2013 11:12 AM
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  • 3 Comments
It's always exciting to see a nation not traditionally known for their cinematic output step up with a movement or wave of films and filmmakers that gain attention on the international scene. In recent years, some of the most exciting releases have come from directors based in Chile and South Korea, but just as notable have been the run of excellent cinema coming out of Greece. The wave began at Cannes in 2009 with Yorgos Lanthimos, "Dogtooth," and has continued with his follow-up "Alps" and Athina Rachel Tsangari's "Attenberg," among others. The latest to follow in their footsteps is Alexandros Avranas' "Miss Violence," and if our reaction when the film screened on the Lido yesterday is anything to go by, it's going to he just as acclaimed and successful as those pictures.

Venice Review: Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Zero Theorem’ Starring Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon & Tilda Swinton

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2013 6:45 AM
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  • 11 Comments
It’s been a rough couple of decades to be a Terry Gilliam fan. Not just because he hasn't been as prolific as you’d like him to be, with several false starts or projects that never made it to a greenlight—most famously “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” which actually made it to production before falling apart. Because the films we have seen, at least since the start of the 21st century, have felt compromised (“The Brothers Grimm”), muddled (“The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus”) or borderline-unwatchable (“ Tideland”).

Venice Review: JFK Drama 'Parkland' Starring Zac Efron, Billy Bob Thornton & Jacki Weaver

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 1, 2013 10:14 AM
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  • 15 Comments
Ever since "PT 109," which detailed his WWII war record and was released while he was still in office, President John F. Kennedy has been catnip to Hollywood. After all, he was good looking, charismatic, had a dark secret life of womanising, among other things, and of course, was assassinated three years into his presidency—an event that inspires debate and conspiracy theories to this day. He's been the subject of great films (Oliver Stone's "JFK") and bad ones (recent miniseries "The Kennedys"), and been played by everyone from Cliff Robertson to James Marsden (in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"). This November marks the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Dealey Plaza, and as such, it was inevitable that there'd be some kind of film to mark the occasion. We just wish it wasn't as terrible as "Parkland," which premieres (in competition, inexplicably) at the Venice Film Festival today.

Venice Review: Stephen Frears' 'Philomena' Starring Judi Dench & Steve Coogan

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2013 1:09 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The term "Oscar bait" is one that, unfortunately, gets bandied about a lot this time of year. At worst, it's used to refer to every faintly serious-minded film released between July and December. At best, it describes a very particular kind of middlebrow drama that seems to have been created from the ground up with the sole purpose of appealing to the Academy—think "The Iron Lady" or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," to name two recent examples. Stephen Frears' "Philomena" appears on the surface to fit into the latter category.

Venice Review: James Franco's Cormac McCarthy Adaptation 'Child Of God'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 31, 2013 11:33 AM
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  • 8 Comments
James Franco might not be the first person to debut a film he'd directed at each of the three major European festivals in the same year (Ulrich Seidl recently managed the feat with his 'Paradise' trilogy, albeit not in the same calendar year). But it's an undoubtedly impressive run, especially given that Franco has spent the same period of time starring in two legitimate blockbusters in the shape of "Oz The Great And Powerful" and "This Is The End," as well as working on his umpteen other projects of various shapes and sizes.

Venice Review: Kelly Reichardt's 'Night Moves' With Jesse Eisenberg & Dakota Fanning

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2013 5:00 PM
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  • 12 Comments
Night Moves, Jesse Eisenberg
After the acclaimed trio of “Old Joy,” “Wendy & Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” Kelly Reichardt was already proving hard to pin down. The three films that made her name (plus her lesser-known earlier works “ Ode” and “River Of Grass”) are immediately recognizable as the work of the director, but very different from each other thematically, if perhaps not formally. Whatever her next move was going to be, it was going to be interesting, but few would have predicted that it would be “Night Moves” – a crackling little suspense thriller/morality play indebted to Dostoyevsky and Hitchcock. But while it’s a left turn, it’s at least as good as the films that came before it, and still with the same recognizable DNA intact.

Venice Review: David Gordon Green's 'Joe' Starring Nicolas Cage & Tye Sheridan

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2013 4:39 PM
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  • 9 Comments
“Joe” unites a pair of talents somewhat on the comeback trail. David Gordon Green’s once-lofty critical reputation—the filmmaker was once lauded as a successor to Terrence Malick—took something of a hit after a left-turn into poorly-received studio comedies like “Your Highness” and "The Sitter," but this year’s “Prince Avalanche” seemed to mark a return to the lo-fi indies he made his name with. Meanwhile, Nicolas Cage’s status as a major star and as one of his generation’s most acclaimed actors has been threatened in recent years by a series of low-rent pictures, seemingly taken for the paycheck alone, which have seen the actor increasingly descend into either self-parody, or deep boredom.

Venice Review: Philip Gröning’s Three-Hour Domestic Violence Drama ‘The Police Officer’s Wife’

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2013 1:01 PM
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  • 0 Comments
To a certain audience, the return of Philip Gröning is big news. The German director has been working for twenty years or so, but his last film, 2005’s “Into Great Silence,” a documentary about the Carthesian monks of the French Alps, really saw him win recognition, becoming a favorite on the festival circuit and winning the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. It’s taken eight years, but Gröning has returned, and not just with a new film, but with his first fiction feature in thirteen years in the shape of “The Police Officer’s Wife,” which screened in competition at the Venice Film Festival today.

Venice Review: Sono Sion's Bonkers Midnight Movie 'Why Don't You Play In Hell?'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 30, 2013 10:01 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"Crowd-pleasing" is not an adjective typically associated with Japanese director Sono Sion. For a decade or so, he's been celebrated among cinephiles for his abrasive, challenging films like the four-hour long "Love Exposure" and the post-2011-tsunami "Himizu," which was something of a favourite here in Venice two years ago. But his latest, " Why Don't You Play In Hell?," is something of a departure — an ambivalently loving tribute to both the action movie and filmmaking in general, not so much blood-splattered as blood-drenched. It seems destined to be a midnight movie cult hit, but still feels very much a Sono film.

Venice Review: John Curran's 'Tracks' Starring Mia Wasikowska & Adam Driver

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 29, 2013 7:16 AM
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  • 0 Comments
'Tracks' Starring Mia Wasikowska & Adam Driver
“Tracks” has been a long time coming. Ever since Robyn Davidson wrote her 1979 memoir of her 1700-mile, eight-month trek across the Australian outback from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, and the book became an award-winning best-seller around the world, Hollywood has been sniffing around it. Multiple attempts to mount an adaptation have been made—Julia Roberts was attached to a version for much of the 1990s—but it finally took the producers of “The King’s Speech” and the oft-undervalued New York-born, Australian-based director John Curran (“We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “The Painted Veil”) to get it made, with the film finally premiering at the Venice Film Festival today. And for many, it’ll have been worth the wait: it’s a very handsome film with a terrific central performance, even if it’s not quite an unqualified triumph.

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