Thursday, 27 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 355: Tue Dec 23

Friendship's Death (Wollen, 1987): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm

This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on 29 December. Details here.

Time Out review:
In September 1970, a British war correspondent (Paterson) is distracted from his coverage of the bloody conflict between Palestinians and Jordanians when he rescues a young lady (Swinton) from a PLO patrol. Simply named Friendship, she claims to be an extraterrestrial robot sent to Earth on a peace mission and accidentally diverted from her original destination, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Is she insane, a spy, or telling the truth? Wollen's film comes across as a two-set Dr Who for adults, complete with political, philosophical and more pettily personal problems; the use of the alien outsider's way of seeing the world is perceptive and provocative, the plentiful ideas counterbalance the lack of extravagant spectacle. Best of all, the film displays a droll wit (Friendship viewing a typewriter as a distant cousin, or concocting a surreal thesis on the big toe's importance in the oppression of women) and a surprising ability to touch the heart. With two impressive central performances, Wollen at last proves himself able to direct actors, and has made by far his most rewarding movie to date.
Geoff Andrew

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 354: Mon Dec 22

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman, 1978):: BFI Southbank, NFT3, 5.40pm

This film, part of the BFI sci-fi season, also screens on December 27. Details here.

Time Out review:
'Though it lacks the awesome allegorical ambiguousness of the 1956 classic of sci-fi/political paranoia (here paid homage in cameo appearances byKevin McCarthy and Don Siegel), Kaufman and screenwriter WD Richter's update and San Francisco transposition of Jack Finney's novel is a far from redundant remake. The extraterrestrial pod people now erupt into a world where seemingly everyone is already 'into' changing their lives or lifestyles, and into a cinematic landscape already criss-crossed by an endless series of conspiracies, while the movie has as much fun toying with modern thought systems (psychology, ecology) as with elaborate variations on its predecessor. Kaufman here turns in his most Movie Brattish film, but soft-pedals on both his special effects and knowing in-jokiness in a way that puts De Palma to shame; even extra bit appearances by Robert Duvall(Kaufman's Jesse James in The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid) and Hollywood archivist Tom Luddyare given a nicely take-it-or-leave-it dimension.'
Paul Taylor

Here is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 353: Sun Dec 21

Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 7.45pm

This film is part of the BFI sci-fi season and also screens on 30 December. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
Although Andrei Tarkovsky regarded this 1972 SF spectacle in 'Scope as the weakest of his films, it holds up remarkably well as a soulful Soviet “response” to 2001: A Space Odyssey, concentrating on the limits of man's imagination in relation to memory and conscience. Sent to a remote space station poised over the mysterious planet Solaris in order to investigate the puzzling data sent back by an earlier mission, a psychologist (Donatas Banionis) discovers that the planet materializes human forms based on the troubled memories of the space explorers—including the psychologist's own wife (Natalya Bondarchuk), who'd killed herself many years before but is repeatedly resurrected before his eyes. More an exploration of inner than of outer space, Tarkovsky's eerie mystic parable is given substance by the filmmaker's boldly original grasp of film language and the remarkable performances by all the principals. In Russian with subtitles. 165 min.

Jonathan Rosenabum

Here (and above) is an extract.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 352: Sat Dec 20

Elf (Favreau, 2003): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.45pm

Time Out review:
'Comedy legend Bob Newhart immediately raises a smile as the elderly elf framing the story of Santa's biggest little helper. Buddy (Will Ferrell) is different because he's a human, brought back to the North Pole as a baby when he strayed into the old boy's sack during the Christmas run. He's been raised in the traditional elfin ways of industrious good humour, but now it's time for him to venture to distant New York and discover his real father is a grumpy publisher (James Caan), who naturally thinks his 'son' is a dangerous loony. Must be the tights and the pointy hat. What follows is a fairly predictable 'fish out of water' romp with seasonal bells on. Nevertheless, Favreau delivers the cornball sentiments with an adept balance of irony and sincerity, sprinkling felicities in the margins - cult crooner Leon Redbone voicing a stop-motion snowman, indie fave Zooey Deschanel as the department store helper giving Ferrell understandable tingles, and a particularly successful running gag enshrining the significance of etch-a-sketch in elf culture. Some humour might sail over the heads of the very young, but there's a higher chuckle rate for the grown-ups than much dread 'family' fare.'
Trevor Johnston

Here is the Santa announcement scene.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 351: Fri Dec 19

Dark Star (Carpenter, 1974): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.30pm

This film is part of the BFI sci-fi season and also screens on 22 & 28 December. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
In John Carpenter's witty and stylish 1974 sci-fi satire, the Dark Star is an intergalactic bomber wandering through the universe on a vaguely Nixonian mission to destroy unpopulated planets that might stand in the way of space travel. The ship's crew is variously bored, blissed out, and restlessly rambunctious. By introducing human eccentricities (mostly southern Californian in nature) into the cold structure of science fiction, Carpenter creates a vision of the technological future that is both disillusioned and oddly affirmative in its insistence on the unscientific survival of emotional frailty. Amazingly, the film (Carpenter's first) was made on a reported budget of $60,000. With Dan O'Bannon (also the coscenarist) and Brian Narelle.
Dave Kehr

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 350: Thu Dec 18

Gremlins (Dante, 1984): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm

Chicago Reader review:
'E.T. with the lid off (1984). At the center of this horror comedy is a tidy family parable of the kind so dear to the heart of producer Steven Spielberg: the cute little whatzits who turn into marauding monsters when they pass through puberty (here gooily envisioned as "the larval stage") are clearly metaphors for children, and the teenager (Zach Galligan) whose lapse of responsibility unleashes the onslaught is a stand-in for the immature parents of the 80s (Poltergeist). But Spielberg's finger wagging is overwhelmed by Joe Dante's roaring, undisciplined direction, which (sometimes through sheer sloppiness) pushes the imagery to unforeseen, untidy, and ultimately disturbing extremes. Dante is perhaps the first filmmaker since Frank Tashlin to base his style on the formal free-for-all of animated cartoons; he is also utterly heartless.'
Dave Kehr

Here and (above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2014 - Day 349: Wed Dec 17

Quatermass and the Pit (Ward Baker, 1967): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm

This film also screens on 8 & 12 December and is part of the BFI sci-fi season. Details here.

Time Out review:
'The third and most interesting of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass parables, scripted without interference by Kneale himself from his original TV series, so that his richly allusive web of occult, anthropological, religious and extraterrestrial speculation emerges intact as excavations at a London underground station turn up what appears to be an unexploded Nazi bomb, but proves to be a mysterious space craft.'
David Pirie

Here is the trailer.