While the red carpet was unfurled outside the city’s Festival Theatre to host the sold-out opening night screening of Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, we’ve also started casting our collective eyes over a few other upcoming films…
Despite previous reservations about its suitability, Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre proved a more than fitting location for the public premiere of The Illusionist – the burgundy and wood panelled grandeur perfectly matching the faded vaudeville glory of the film itself, despite a slight tilt to the screen.
Director Sylvain Chomet and EIFF artistic director Hannah McGill’s droll double act to announce the feature set the ball rolling nicely for what was to come. If Sylvain Chomet has learned anything from making this, it’s certainly a knack for physical comedy.
The film was a sweetly melancholic, but occasionally languorous, tale of two lost souls meeting in the late 50s. It’s helped along by a beautifully rendered old Edinburgh, which has never looked better on screen “ a fact which did not escape the hometown crowd’s attention as they cooed and murmured at every recognisable site.
Clearly Jacques Tati looms large over the picture, in the name of the lead character (Tati’s own real name) as well as a fleeting appearance of Mon Oncle. The entire vibe captures the spirit of Tati with aplomb and Chomet builds on what he started with Belleville Rendezvous by creating a touching tale told with an absolute minimum of dialogue. If anything the film dips in parts as it doesn’t have the literal freewheeling nature that Belleville did to carry the silences along.
Still, when it can be this touching and this stunning to look at you’ll forgive it a few transgressions such as the occasionally jarring, clunky CGI shots which perforate the otherwise blissful landscapes.
If this is how EIFF 2010 means to go on, it’s set the bar very high. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (RM)
Based on a script by the late Jacques Tati and brought to the screen by Belleville Rendezvous’ Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist is a love letter to Edinburgh in which the city is as much the star as the two central characters.
When French stage magician Tatischeff decides to leave the country for pastures new, he meets and befriends a young girl on a Scottish island before taking her to Edinburgh to forge success for them both. As they both come to terms with their new environment, Tatischeff takes on new employment while his friend begins to grow up.
With hand-drawn animation that is a welcome antidote to recent 3D movies, and an accurate portrayal of 1959 Edinburgh which makes the city look as stunning as it deserves to, this may not be the most dialogue heavy or plot laden film, but as a tribute to Tati and as an example of what skilled animators can achieve, this is hard to beat. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (JM)
Monsters screens 18 June 18.00 and 20 June 15.45
Writer/director/cinematographer/visual effects designer Gareth Edwards may be something of a one man film crew, but luckily he’s accomplished enough at each of those roles to ensure that his latest film is more than just a vanity project.
Monsters is set in the present day, albeit one five minutes into the future where NASA has discovered extraterrestrial life and inadvertently brought it back to Earth. With giant creatures now part of our ecosystem, the US military doing everything they can to cordon off home soil from an infected Mexico, it’s something of a perilous journey for Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) and Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) who must make it back to America in one piece.
Cleverly splicing science-fiction and romantic Indie drama, with the emphasis less on special FX and more on the script, and blessed with believable perfomances from McNairy and Able, Monsters is a road movie with a difference which shouldn’t alienate fans of either genre. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (JM)
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride
Last Rites of Ransom Pride screens 17 June 22.35 and 18 June 22.30
Promising so much – a cool title, an interesting cast and an intriguing story – The Last Rites of Ransom Pride manages to fail on every point, and then some.
Set in the last days of the Old West, news of the death of gunfighter Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman) reaches his preacher father (Dwight Yoakam) and brother, Champ (Jon Foster), setting off a chain of events which will see Ransom’s lover, Juliette Flowers (Lizzy Caplan), seek revenge against his killer.
Director Tiller Russell takes a generally straightforward story and complicates it with overly-stylised sequences that merely distract the viewer from what is going on. Underlit in many scenes, it’s hard to tell what’s happening or why to dull, underwritten characters. When it does look like something interesting might happen, a shot from earlier in the film is inserted into a scene, interrupting the flow and ruining any attempt at tension.
Dull, uninspired, overlong and ill-conceived, this deserves to die a death on a DVD shelf rather than bother cinema audiences. Ransom Pride? Rancid Pride would be more apt. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (JM)
If you expect The Last Rites of Ransom Pride to be fun you will be extremely disappointed. It feels like it wants to be a Robert Rodriguez film without the OTT violence and not a grain of humour. Countless wannabe Danny Trejos pop up and the woman from NCIS feels like a cheap Salma Hayek.
Peter Dinklage appears all too briefly for some minor entertainment, but this a snoozefest. Unless Jon Melville has said this already, the last rites should be read to Rancid Pride immediately. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (RB)
Two Eyes Staring (Zwart Water)
Two Eyes Staring screens 17 June 22.45 and 22 June 22.30
Though it cleverly references 2007′s Spanish horror hit The Orphange both verbally and visually in its opening moments, Elbert van Strien’s latest chiller soon branches off in its own direction as the mystery behind the goings-on at a Dutch mansion deepens.
When a young couple move back to the chidhood home of wife Christine (Hadewych Minis), it’s husband Paul (Barry Atsma) and nine-year-old daughter Lisa (Isabella Stokkel) who must come to terms with life in the country, as well as a new job and school. Christine’s past soon starts to catch up with her, the truth is never quite what it seems to be…
While it’s suitably spooky throughout, there’s a feeling that we’ve seen it all before, or at least elements of the supernatural script. To say too much would be to spoil the film, but quite whether it deserves to sit alongside other recent ghost stories is debatable, perhaps one too many twists diluting the strong start and promising plot strands.
The People vs George Lucas
The People vs George Lucas screens 18 June 19.45 and 19 June 15.30
Who better to critique the creator of Star Wars than the people who love him and loathe him in equal measures? Fans from around the globe offer their insights into the work and methods of George Lucas, the man who brought the much revered Episodes IV, V and VI to cinemas as well as the almost universally-loathed Episodes I, II and III.
Split into chapters covering all aspects of Lucas’ legacy, we’re given a whistle-stop tour of the history of Star Wars and The Creator’s views on cinema heritage – he once lobbied against the recolourisation of Black & White films – before the facts behind his plan to replace the original versions of IV, V and VI with spruced-up Special Editions are exposed.
Told with humour and a dash of venom towards Lucas, this is a fun ride through pop culture which takes a serious turn when discussions of altering film history are raised. Whether or not you’re a fan of C-3PO, Han Solo and the gang, every film fan should probably have a view on the rights and wrongs of reducing the first three films to a footnote on Wikipedia in favour of shinier editions. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (JM)
Skeletons screens 22 June 17.50 and 24 June 20.45
Ed Gaughan and Andrew Buckley star as a pair of exorcists who can literally see the skeletons in their clients cupboards. When they are assigned to their latest job, they find more about themselves than they thought they would.
The two leads are like an odd couple, their distinct physical appearance is alone enough to raise a chuckle, while their constant bickering and conversations about Rasputin among others adds to the black humour laced tone.
With a few minor, yet neat plot twists and a scene stealing performance by Jason Isaacs as the company’s boss, The Colonel, Skeletons is a fresh, original British comedy that manages to pack a tight emotional punch to boot. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (RB)
Pelican Blood screens 17 June 18.30 and 18 June 21.00
Nikko is a former self harmer with suicidal tendencies. His current life appears to be more subdued and peaceful as he partakes in birdwatching with his two best friends. Things take a turn however when he is reintroduced to old flame, Stevie (Emma Booth), and Nikko struggles to keep his life on the straight and narrow.
Harry Treadaway gives a powerful lead performance as the troubled Nikko, but it takes a great amount of time to warm to the characters let alone find a connection with them. The relationship between Nikko and Stevie does break through at points, but at times it leaves you feeling a little cold.
While birdwatching might not be exciting for most, the support from Nikko’s friends, played Scot, Ali Craig and Arthur Darville break it up with some comedic moments. Karl Golden directs well and handles some tough subject matter in a more low key fashion than you would expect, creating a thought provoking, if slightly uneven film. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (RB)
Huge screens 18 June 18.00 and 20 June 15.45
A more traditional buddy film can be found in the form of the feature directorial debut by comedian Ben Miller.
Usually known for their grittier roles in the likes of From London to Brighton and Kidulthood respectively, Johnny Harris and Noel Clarke play against type as pair of stand up comedians aiming to make it big on the circuit.
Strangely, while the film is about stand up comedians and features a host of cameos from those well known in the profession, there is very little in the way of laugh out loud gags here (Thandie Newton as a cocaine snorting manager is one of the highlights). However, the blossoming friendship between Clarke and Harris works well and they do provide some nice, light humour along the way. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (RB)
Red Hill screens on 19 June 20.00 and 23 June 20.25
Westerns seem to be “in” at this year’s EIFF, with Ransom Pride (see above) tainting the genre and now Red Hill muscling in on the act, even if it is set in present day Australia.
As new police constable, Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten), arrives in a small Outback town after moving from the city with his pregnant wife, Alice (Claire van der Boom), all hell breaks loose: a convict has escaped from jail and could be heading back to his home in Red Hill. Cooper and his colleagues, led by Old Bill (Steve Bisley) have six hours to prepare, while at the same time investigating rumours of a strange creature lurking in the woods nearby…
Red Hill may have a solid thriller plot at its centre, but the feeling is that the makers didn’t quite know which way to take it as the drama unfolds. Neither funny enough to be a knowing send up or serious enough to be a tense nail biter, Red Hill falls somewhere between the two.
With a number of lapses in logic that the audience is asked to ignore, and a curious subplot involving the mutilation of a horse which could easily have been excised, the interaction of the actors and a few memorable scenes are what raise this to three stars, but only just. â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜…â˜… (JM)
Jonathan Melville (JM)
Richard Bodsworth (RB)
Ross Maclean (RM)