Paul Review

Directed by: Greg Mottola
Written by: Nick Frost and Simon Pegg
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Jane Lynch, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio and Sigourney Weaver

Paul tells the story of Graeme and Clive, two sci-fi fans who travel to Comic-Con from the UK to begin their US road-trip visiting UFO landing sites. Their first time in the US, they rent a winnebago and begin their journey across country. The trip goes awry one night, after leaving a UFO-themed bar and a spot of bother with the locals, when the car ahead of them crashes and a small, green, cigarette-smoking alien called Paul steps out of the wreckage.

Paul is on the run and convinces the two English dimwits to help him. Chased by Jason Bateman’s stern Agent Zoil and his hapless minions Haggard (Bill Hader) and O’Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio), the threesome begin their unusual get away.

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2011 Oscar Documentary Feature Shortlist Revealed

The shortlist for the Documentary Feature category of the 2011 Academy Awards has been announced and has been met with equal amounts of pleasant surprise and puzzled scratching of heads. The joyous bemusement in reaction to the inclusion of Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, which many of us were convinced would be this year’s Anvil, and the shock that Laura Poitas‘ The Oath was notably absent.

It’s particularly refreshing to see the inclusion of Exit given the general view that the Academy only saw the more “worthy”-subject based documentaries as genuine contenders, and that more populist fare never stood a chance. As documentaries don’t compete within other filmmaking categories such as editing and cinematography (of which Armadillo would certainly deserve to be listed) the Documentary Feature category has always felt that it has to be an award based on overall filmmaking achievement, rather than subject, impact or agenda. With this in mind it is quite shocking to see The Oath missing and, previously mentioned, Armadillo directed by Janus Metz Pedersen. Fred Wiseman’s La Danse, Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home and Yael Hersonski’s A Film Unfinished were also seen as strong contenders but sadly didn’t make the list, and I was rooting for Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s 12th and Delaware to also make an appearance.

Moving on to the list itself, which is very strong, we have previous Academy Award winners Alex Gibney for Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (which is one of four films he has directed or been involved with this year!) and Davis Guggenheim for Waiting for Superman. Of those that I’ve seen, it’s fantastic to see Restrepo by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath’s Enemies of the People, Gasland by Josh Fox and The Tillman Story by Amir Bar-Lev make the list. Now we just have to wait to see which five make the official nominations and ruminate on how, or to who, the Oscar would be presented should Exit Through the Gift Shop take home the statue.

Check out the full shortlist after the jump.

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Freakonomics Trailer

For years, snippets of news about Freakonomics have taunted those of us eager to know when we’ll finally get a chance to see the adaptation of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s international bestseller. Now we have not only a release date but an official trailer.

The film is divided into four main sections with an ensemble of directors tackling a subject each. Were you to create a fantasy league of documentary directors this would pretty close to mine. Seth Gordon (The King of Kong) is in charge of tying all the segments together with interjections by the book’s authors and Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side), Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (Jesus Camp), and Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) take on subjects from cheating in sumo wrestling to financial incentives within high schools.

Freakonomics begins its limited theatrical release on October 1st and is available on iTunes from September 3rd. Check out the trailer and synopsis after the jump.

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Ridley Scott and Kevin McDonald Team Up for Crowdsourcing Documentary Life in a Day

There have been several filmmakers exploring crowdsourcing within documentary; great recent examples are Brett Gaylor’s RIP!: A Remix Manifesto and Jeff Deutchman’s 11/04/08 (review coming soon). To see filmmakers like Ridley Scott and Kevin McDonald explore this idea is really exciting. Teaming up with YouTube, Kevin McDonald will be taking the helm, with Ridley Scott producing, to document one day as seen through the eyes of people around the world.

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Dogtooth Review

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by: Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni and Hristos Passalis

Dogtooth is a film I had read little about; the snippets of description and words I’d heard bandied around included that it was this year’s Antichrist, that it was brutal, extreme, disgusting, involved violence, rape and incest and that it was Greek. Combined with one view of the trailer and the knowledge of a prize at Cannes I had a completely blurred idea of what this viewing experience was going to be. Having fully prepared myself for nastiness in one form or another I just prayed that at the least, I was not about to see a cat being decapitated by a pair of garden shears.

In a secluded house, a mother, her son and two daughters live in complete isolation. Their father leaves for work every day in his car and returns in the evening. The children are in their late teens and twenties and spend their time playing games of endurance and competing for the prize of stickers for their bed with the understanding that in order to leave the property you have to do so via car and that both leaving and being able to drive are only options once their dogteeth fall out. The children, who appear to have no names, are given tapes of their mothers’ voice teaching them words of which the meaning is wrong, limiting their vocabulary and preventing them from understanding the numerous words that could give clues to life on the outside.

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The Killer Inside Me Review

The Killer Inside Me
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Written by: John Curran and Michael Winterbottom (screenplay), Jim Thompson (novel)
Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, Elias Koteas and Bill Pullman

Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me has created a furor in the debate about violence with mixed reactions and claims of immorality in its use — which is a shame as this complex character portrait has a lot more to it than simply depicting graphic on-screen violence. Told from the perspective of its serial killer lead, the story is an exploration of descent into madness.

Set in the late 50’s, Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is deputy sheriff in Central City, a small West Texas town. Ford is the son of the town’s only doctor and lives alone in his father’s house following his death. To everyone who knows him he’s the archetypal country boy who listens to hillbilly music and is quiet, well respected and in love with the town’s sweetheart Amy Stanton (Kate Hudson). At home, Ford completes complex math problems, listens to classical music and spends his evenings studying his father’s medical journals.

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Four Lions Review

Four Lions
Directed by: Chris Morris
Written by: Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Chris Morris, Simon Blackwell
Starring: Kayvan Novak, Nigel Lindsay, Arsher Ali, Adeel Akhtar

Four Lions has been one of the most eagerly anticipated British films of the last few years, largely due to it being the directorial debut of Chris Morris. Morris is seen as the master of British satire having created numerous successful comedies series, two of which I particularly love: The Day Today and Brass Eye (if you haven’t seen the Brass Eye Paedophile special I highly recommend it).

What drew me to this moreso was the writing team joining Morris in the form of Simon Blackwell, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain. The latter two write Peep Show, one of the funniest things on British TV, potentially ever.

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Sundance: The Runaways Review

The Runaways
Written and Directed by: Floria Sigismondi
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon


I feel like I’ve seen an awful lot of Kristen Stewart at this year’s Sundance, and I’ve only seen her on the screen. There are two films at the festival in which she stars, the other being the excellent Welcome to the Rileys. However, The Runaways has had the most hype with Kristen being smuggled around Park City for interviews and a live performance by Joan Jett a few days ago.

The Runaways were a ’70s teenage girl band who rose to fame with heavy marketing on being “real-life” jail bait and an unconventional sound of a girl band playing electric guitars. The film follows their formation, rise to fame and eventual fallout with a real coming-of-age angle of the girls’ experiences.

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Sundance: Blue Valentine Review

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance
Written by: Derek Cianfrance and Joey Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling


I have to put a bit of a disclaimer here as I wont be able to write about this film without being a complete and utter girl about it. There aren’t many films that metaphorically kicked me in the stomach as hard as Blue Valentine. However, don’t be put off by my soppy reaction, Blue Valentine is a relationship drama that will appeal to both sexes.

Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine is the story of a young couple whose marriage is falling apart. The film intercuts their present day and flashbacks to key moments in their relationship. This flitting between time frames works seamlessly and is used to explain the context of why they behave towards each other in present day. It also makes their current situation more moving, and utterly painful, as you see them meet and fall in love.

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Sundance: Howl Review

Written and Directed by: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Starring: James Franco, Jon Hamm and David Strathairn


Howl was the opening night film at this year’s Sundance and so far it’s received incredibly mixed reviews. The mixture of styles, use of animation and narrative strands seem to have a created a love-it or hate-it reaction from audiences. I definitely fall into the first category as I enjoyed every frame and found it to be an incredibly interesting and visually absorbing film to watch.

Using Allen Ginsberg’s most famous poem as the focal point of this story, Howl looks at three different aspects of the legendary poem of the Beat era. The first is the poem itself which is depicted through animation and Ginsberg reading it to an audience for the first time, the second being Ginsberg himself who we see giving an interview with a faceless reporter and lastly the obscenity trial that tried to ban the publication of Howl and prosecute its publisher. All three aspects run the length of the film and are separated stylistically.

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Sundance: Hesher Review

Directed by: Spencer Susser
Written by: Spencer Susser and David Michôd (screenplay), Brian Charles Frank (story)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch, Devin Brochu


Joseph Gordon-Levitt is everywhere at this year’s festival. Not only is he starring in two films in the line-up, but he is hanging out at one of the venues promoting his project HitRECord and talking to anyone who goes in.

Hesher is the first of his films to be shown and sees him playing the title role. The story centers around a young boy, TJ, whose mother was recently killed in a car accident, which has turned his family upside down. His father (played excellently by Rainn Wilson) is heavily medicated, spending the majority of his time asleep on the sofa while they stay with his elderly grandmother.

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Sundance: 7 Days Review

7 Days (Les 7 Jours du talion)
Directed by: Daniel Grou
Written by: Patrick Senécal
Starring: Rémy Girard, Claude Legault


I hadn’t read much about 7 Days before adding it to the list of films I wanted to watch at this year’s Sundance and, to be honest, I had completely forgotten what it was about as I made my way to the theatre to see it. A guy I was talking to earlier in the day had said it was one of the most offensive films he’d ever seen so I had an idea it would be a little controversial at the least.

7 Days follows surgeon Bruno Hamel as the murder of his 8-year old daughter manifests in him kidnapping the prime suspect and then embarking on a week-long period of torture as revenge. The film opens at the crime scene of Jasmine Hamel’s rape and murder and her father arriving to witness the horror of his daughter’s bloody and beaten body. It is probably one of the most graphic scenes of a child victim to hit the screen so far and sets the stage for the extreme levels of discomfort to follow.

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