Queen of Katwe (2016)- Directed by Mira Nair
Based on a true story, Disney’s Queen of Katwe follows Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl living in Uganda with her mother (Lupita Nyong’0). Her world completely changes when she is introduced to the game of chess by a youth worker (David Oyelowo) the film follows her rags-to-riches esque story as she fights through prejudice, self-doubt, and poverty to strive for her dream of being a chess champion. It’s a feel good film overall but definitely an emotional rollercoaster you can be laughing one minute and on the verge of tears another. I absolutely loved this film, the performances by all the cast are fantastic and it has a brilliant credit sequence at the end. Definitely go and support this film while it is out in cinemas!
Fan (2016)- Directed by Mannish Sharma
I was intrigued to watch this film after watching Mark Kermode’s favourite films of the year so far video on youtube. I was mostly interested because I saw the film starred Shah Rukh Khan who I’d previously seen in the 2001 film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham playing both the older and the younger characters in the film. The CGI alone in this is great, both characters are believably different ages whilst also looking identical, which is impressive to pull off. Shah Rukh Khan is fantastic playing two completely different characters, both the obsessive stalking fan and the idol. The film is a bit silly, traveling all over the world (who knew you could get a train from Kings Cross, London directly to Dubrovnik, Croatia?) and featuring crazy action sequences. It doesn’t really say anything new with its analysis of fan culture but it’s definitely an enjoyable watch.
The Lovers and The Despot (2016)- Directed by Ross Adam and Robert Cannan
I was interested in the idea of this documentary after watching the trailer, it seemed like such an absurd story especially to be one that is based on real events. The basic premise is that using secretly recorded tapes of Kim Jong-il as well as interviews with some of the people involved. The documentary recounts the story of how in 1978, South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her ex-husband, filmmaker Shin Sang-ok were independently kidnapped by film-lover North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and were forced to make films in order to improve the North Korean film industry. The film has you hooked throughout like a real-life thriller, It explains their brainwashing, their lives as prisoners for 7 years and their amazing escape from North Korea. It is terrifying and fascinating to watch.
What have you been watching lately?
Everything Before Us (2016)
Directed by Wesley Chan and Philip Wang, Everything Before Us is a unique analysis of love and relationships. I watched this on Netflix, I believe it was never released in cinemas in the UK which is a shame because this is a beautiful, wistful film. Set in an alternate world/ dystopian society in which The D.E.I. – The Department Of Emotional Integrity judges the public’s romantic lives and assigns each individual a ‘relationship score’. Scores influence everything including finances, relationships, employment, etc Everything Before Us follows 2 couples who navigate this world. One, a new young couple recently registered with the D.E.I beginning a long distance relationship at college. The other, an older ex-couple. The film is incredibly well written, bittersweet and realistic. Although the story line relatively predictable I found myself tearing up at certain moments because the character development makes you care so much about the protagonists through their moments of joy and pain. Pretty much the entire cast is Asian-American which was a refreshing difference to the american romance genre. Overall, I really enjoyed this film and if you have a Netflix account I highly recommend you give it a watch.
Catch Me Daddy (2015)
Directed by Daniel Wolfe in his first feature, this British thriller follows Laila, (portrayed by Sameena Jabeen Ahmed in her first role) who is hiding out from her family after running away with her boyfriend. Set amongst the backdrop of the Yorkshire moors Laila must go on the run when she learns that her brother a long with a group of men is on the hunt for her in her town. This film is an absolutely terrifying portrayal of a modern day honour killing in Britain although the phrase is never mentioned. Warning, There are gruesome upsetting scenes that stay long with you after watching. Sameena’s performance as Laila is brilliant supported by Conor McCarron who had great chemistry together. The cinematography is stunning and adds an artistic and unreal element to this otherwise social realist film. Overall, this is a difficult watch and powerful film.
I wanted to see this at Berlinale in 2015 so when I saw it available on Amazon Video I snapped up the chance to watch it. Directed by Anton Corbijn it tells the story of the relationship between LIFE photographer Dennis Stock wonderfully played by Robert Pattinson (Maps to the Stars, Twilight Saga) and the actor James Dean played by Dane Dehaan (Kill Your Darlings, Chronicle). Historically, Stock took some of the most iconic images of James Dean during his rise to stardom and the film lovingly re-creates and imagines these moments throughout the film. The production overall was beautiful including the costumes and sets looking exactly like the photographs which they show before the credits at the end of the film. Unfortunately the film itself is relatively dull, it takes a long time before anything happens and there is little character development nor any resemblance of a realistic relationship dynamic between Stock and James Dean. However, the people who made this film clearly loved the subject and it comes through with every scene so I would recommend simply for that if you are a fan of old hollywood and James Dean.
This is my new mini- film review series, I haven’t had much time lately to update this blog so I thought I’d just share my thoughts on some films I’ve seen recently.
I tried to get tickets for this film when I was at Berlinale earlier this year but unfortunately was unsuccessful so, when I saw this was being screened in Manchester I was excited to finally go see it. As you can see on the poster, Victoria directed by Sebastian Schipper is a feature length film shot entirely in one take. I didn’t actually know this going into the film which I’m actually glad about because it meant that I was completely engrossed and unsuspecting of all the twists and turns this film takes; and believe me there are a lot of them, the events in this film escalate very quickly.
As someone who has produced several short films, I am astounded at the amount of planning and preparation this must have taken given that the characters in this film are constantly changing location by foot, by bike and by car. The film itself is surprising, dark and thrilling to watch as the events play out. The one-shot technique chosen for this film really brings you into the action and makes the events feel far more up close and personal.
I saw Miss Hokusai directed by Keiichi Hara as part of The Japan Foundation- Touring Film Programme 2016. Based on the manga Sarusuberi by Hinako Sugiura, Miss Hokusai is inspired by the real life daughter of the artist Katsushika Hokusai, famously known for painting The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (1830). The film explores her role both publicly as his daughter and privately as an artist in her own right. The film is non-linear allowing a more anecdotal structure and moves away from a traditional biopic approach but never comes to any climax or conclusion. However it does have an emotional family focussed story with a spiritual and supernatural undertone that was engaging and heartfelt.
If you know me, you know I love animation and have a particular soft spot for stop-motion ever since watching The Nightmare Before Christmas when I was younger. I find the craft of stop- motion incredible and in this department Anomalisa directed by Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, Adaptation) and Duke Johnson (Marrying God) was stunning. The stop motion, (while purposefully not seamless) was used as a device to explore the protagonists inner turmoil and depression in a really visual, and interesting way. However, I think it was the sound design that was the most innovative aspect of this film. The way they played with voice and sound to give a sense of monotony and then colour to the protagonist’s landscape whilst keeping the overall visual style relatively mundane was really surreal and different.