The Edinburgh International Film Festival officially kicked off last night with the premiere of Sylvia Chomet’s love letter to Edinburgh and 1959, The Illusionist. I watched this period film at the Festival Theatre, an old, warm venue with huge red curtains and wooden seats with antique number fonts. I couldn’t have asked for a more fitting location for this film.
Chomet and the EIFF’s director Hannah McGill introduced the film, with Chomet playing the silly French character, stealing the mic from Hannah and chatting away about people dying on the very stage they stood upon.
I’m having a great time spending most of the day in the dark screening rooms around Edinburgh. If I’m having this much fun covering the festival for free, I can’t imagine the silly-kid grin I’d be wearing all day if I was getting paid. I hope all the employed reviewers have the same sense of joy.
Also, I need to give a shout out to my wife Bethany, who has been like a pit crew to me over the last two days. Unlike sitcom nagging wives out to destroy a man’s dreams, she’s been totally behind me on this project: editing my posts while I’m seeing more films and providing encouraging words when I’m feeling tired of my own writing style. I’m very lucky to have a good partner, especially while covering the fest.
This film, which could have been a thriller action flick akin to No Country for Old Men, instead devolves into an illogical whimper.
Out in the countryside of Australia, Shane Cooper begins his first day with the local police department. The day goes to hell when it turns out former local and now escaped prisoner Jimmy Conway is on his way back to town. With checkpoints erected and a posse gathered, the locals batten down the hatches for the incoming storm.
The film’s worst enemy is a thinking audience, as extraordinary leaps in logic cause the film to stall out. One guy wastes an opportunity shoot the bad guy; another is bleeding so bad he passes out, but can then ride a horse and lithely dismount; and the number of shotguns pumped for dramatic purposes in this film is just waiting for an internet meme to highlight its absurdity. Toss in the apparition abilities of the hero and re-inforcements, and the film’s potential at the beginning compared to the disappointment at the end, and it reflects the brutal realities of childrearing in a way that I’m sure is unintentional.
If you’re concerned that I’m just being nit picky, I assure you, I’m not. The logic issues and the heroic, exposition-heavy conclusion are like sandpaper to your gray matter. Where the film takes off with moments of mystery and fear, they are promptly stamped out by discordant events or words that just don’t belong in this film.
Sure, there are bullets and bloodshed, but the thin drama fails to sustain any propulsion and makes it a joyless thrill you could give a shit about. Tone dictates expectations and the film does not deliver on its promises.
Oh, and did I mention the film has a black panther? I don’t know why, it just does.
Due to your readership, dear Film Fan, I have secured a Press Pass for the festival. This makes almost all of the screenings free. Without your readership, I would be spending over a 100 pounds trying to cover a fraction of the festival’s events. So thank you.
To honor your support, please look through the festival’s brochure and tell me what films you want reviewed – or simply if I’ve overlooked a great film at the fest. I cannot promise I will be able to deliver all reviews given time restraints, but I will do my best.
There are an insane number of films being shown, so the following are the main titles I’m looking forward to seeing.
“Jean Reno gets shot 22 times…and he’s not happy about it.” Produced by Luc Besson (Unleashed, The Fifth Element) and starring our favorite hit man, this is high on my list.
BAFTA Scotland Interview: Sir Patrick Stewart
Who would pass up a chance to see Captain Picard?
A dystopia in which smokers are separated from the rest of the city, it looks like a fun B-movie.
Robert Duvall plays Felix Bush, an old timer who wants to have a funeral party – while he’s still alive. Throw Bill Murray into this 1930’s period piece and I’m there.
H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror
This will be a “audio horror movie,” using the cinema’s sound system to tell Lovecraft’s tale.
Documentary from Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound, Rocket Science) detailing the lives of lottery winners. Given the greatness of Rocket Race and an NPR piece I heard discussing the making of the film, it should deliver the goods.
After contact with alien life has gone awry, the Mexican/U.S. border becomes “infected” territory. Monsters received buzz at SXSW and has been compared to District 9. Probably the film I’m most anticipating at the festival.
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Directed by Werner Herzog and produced by David Lynch, that’s enough to watch. Adding Michael Shannon (a little known actor who was phenomenal in Shotgun Stories), Michael Pena (Crash, The Shield), Chloe Sevigny, and Willem Dafoe is just icing to the cake.
Looking forward to this based solely on the reviews, tagging it as a UK horror that throws out the rules.
Described by the EIFF as a prison story that makes A Prophet “look like porridge.”
“This Western-style outback thriller is action cinema at its very best.”
“The Afghanistan war film that renders all others unnecessary.” After being embedded for 15 months, the film is supposed to be an unflinching analysis of modern warfare, featuring civilian and military casualties.
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride
It’s 1910 and a young woman is hellbent on returning the body of outlaw Ransom Pride to Texas for a proper burial. Described as a “dark, violent western” reminiscent of Tarantino, Pekinpah, and Sergio Leone, with cameos from Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Jason Preistly, and a shotgun wielding Peter Dinklage, it sounds like a good ride.
The People vs. George Lucas
I posted a blog piece about this that you can read here. Super pumped for this one.
Toy Story 3
UK premiere of Pixar’s latest.
World’s Greatest Dad
Starring Robin Williams in a dark comedy/drama directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, it’s sure to be interesting given Williams abilities showcased in One Hour Photo and Death to Smoochy.
Other film of interest include: Act of Dishonour, And Everything is Going Fine, Au Revoir Taipei, Blank City, Boy, Caterpillar, Chase the Slut, Cherry Tree Lane, Crime Fighters, Evil in the Time of Heroes, Fog, Gravity, Henry of Navarre, HIGH School, Hotel Atlantico, Jackboots on Whitehall, Lucky Luke, Ollie Kepler’s Expanding Purple World, Perastroika, Police Adjective, Postales, Privelege, Putty Hill, Skeletons, Snowman’s Land, Son of Babylon, Soul Boy, The Dry Land, The Hunter, The Oath, The Red Machine, The Robber, The Sentimental Engine Slayer, Third Star, Two Eyes Staring, Vacation, and Went the Day Well?
There are still some costs to covering the film festival, so if you like the blog and can afford to support my work, donate below. If you donate $10 or more, I will send you a DVD of my short films. One finds more value in their work when people are willing to pay for it.