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The Playlist

Venice Review: Errol Morris’ Donald Rumsfeld Documentary ‘The Unknown Known’

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 5, 2013 9:43 AM
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  • 1 Comment
The Unknown Known, Errol Morris
As we inch towards another potential war in the Middle East, the last couple are still being pored over by filmmakers. We’re still likely some time away from the definitive takes on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we have seen a few solid films telling those stories in the last decade or so albeit tending to focus on the men on the ground, rather than the architects of the conflict. The men who planned and executed the wars might have been out of office for some time, but they’re not showing any particular willingness to talk things over. Well, except one. Sort of.

Venice Review: Patrice Leconte’s ‘A Promise’ Starring Rebecca Hall, Richard Madden & Alan Rickman

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 5, 2013 9:23 AM
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  • 0 Comments
He’s fallen out of favor a bit in the last few years, but there was a time when Patrice Leconte was one of the most popular foreign filmmakers in the U.S. While he was never a favorite with the hipper critics, over the 1990s and early 2000s, films like “Ridicule,” “ The Girl On The Bridge,” “The Man On The Train” and “Intimate Strangers” became staples on the festival circuit, won BAFTAs and Cesars, and became sizeable arthouse hits Stateside.

Venice Review: Steven Knight’s ‘Locke’ Starring Tom Hardy

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 3, 2013 6:54 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Locke Tom Hardy
Of all the genres, the single location film is perhaps one of the hardest to get right. For one, you need a hell of an actor (or actors) to hold the attention for even the briefest of running times. You also need a story that coherently keeps the actors in place, with enough of a hook to keep you involved. And you need to keep things visually interesting enough to stop it being too static without being showy. It’s a big ask, Hitchcock was the master of the style, and there are a select few other examples, but most turn out poorly.

Venice Review: Sam Fuller Documentary 'A Fuller Life'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 2, 2013 12:57 PM
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  • 10 Comments
Like most right-minded film fans we're big fans of Sam Fuller (check out our list of essential films from the director). Kicking of his career as a crime reporter and novelist, Fuller soon found his way to Hollywood and after serving in World War Two as an infantryman, became a film director. Generally favoring low-budget and independently-produced pictures, but not averse to working within the studio system (he had a good relationship with Daryl Zanuck), he knocked out a string of genre classics — from "Pickup On South Street" and "Four Guns" to "Shock Corridor" and his epic autobiographical masterpiece "The Big Red One" — that quietly influenced many of your favourite directors.

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.

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