LFF 2018: Lizzie

Year: 2018
Directed by: Craig William Macneill
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chloë Sevigny, Fiona Shaw

Written by Sarah Buddery 

A story that will no doubt be familiar to fans of true crime, the infamous Lizzie Borden who murdered her father and step-mother is now the subject of this film, starring Chloe Sevigny as the titular character, and Kristen Stewart as her maid/lover/accomplice Bridget Sullivan.

Treading precariously between bodice ripper and period horror, the tonal balance of ‘Lizzie’ is one which is not always well executed. What does work is the exceptional sound design. By punctuating the film with violent and jarring outbursts, the sound design and score cut into the stifling silence in a way that is unnerving and builds the slow burn of dread effectively.

A far cry away from her Twilight days, Kristen Stewart continues to astound, and this is another solid performance from her. This film is in fact anchored by its performances, most notably from Stewart and Sevigny. Stewart provides an emotional core to the film, the person that the audience is most easily able to attach itself to, whereas Sevigny plays cold, calculating and callous to absolute perfection.

Where the film works is in their performances, the dynamic between their characters and the ways they interact with each other. Sadly where it doesn’t work is everything else, and the overall result is a bit of a mess.

The overly starched nature of the film is perhaps necessary in conveying Lizzie’s broiling inner anguish towards her father, but it unfortunately results in the film feeling distant and cold, and in a film where you know the outcome, it is hard to stick with it.

Bearing in mind that this film starts with how it ends – that being the bloody murder of Lizzie’s parents – the film somehow feels it is necessary to revisit the same bit over and over again. The multiple viewpoints approach is something that can work, but in the case of ‘Lizzie’, it just tips over to the point where it feels it is gratuitously revelling in the bloodshed; something which feels tonally out of step with the quietly surfacing horror of the rest of the film.

At times, it feels like the film has something to say about both proverbially and literally smashing the patriarchy, but it fails to settle on a message or an angle and instead throws a whole load of ideas into the mix in the hope that something – anything – will stick.

Despite its strong performances, ‘Lizzie’ falls short of the mark, failing to find its feet and settle on a tone and voice which feels consistent. It’s certainly not without merit, but overall, a bit of a disappointment.

SARAH’S RATING:

3

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LFF 2018: The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons From a Mythical Man

Year: 2018
Directed by: Tommy Avallone

Written by Dave Curtis

You’ve heard the stories about Bill Murray, right? The one where he gatecrashes a party or the time he bartended in a random pub. The internet is awash with random Bill Murray moments that are so bizarre that they can’t possibly all be true.  This documentary follows Tommy Avallone in his quest to find out if the stories behind the myths are true and if so, what makes one of the most famous and funniest men alive do them.

I’m sure there isn’t a man, woman or child living today that hasn’t seen at least one Bill Murray film (the younger ones may have seen Garfield!). He has been famous and in the public eye for over 40 years. He has been making us laugh since he hit the big time on ‘Saturday Night Live’, then ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘Groundhog Day’ and on to his more serious side in ‘Lost In Translation‘. Over the years pictures, videos and stories have surfaced on the internet of Bill Murray’s antics. They range from normal everyday stuff (signing autographs, pictures etc) to some out of the ordinary behaviour, then to the downright unbelievable. Tommy Avallone is clearly a massive fan of Murray, he gushes over the man to almost a saint-like level. All his interviews with the witnesses to Murray’s stories talk highly of the actor and it seems being in his company is something truly very special. Each story is fun and entertaining.

Watching this documentary was an easy experience, never does it fail to put a smile on your face, much like the man himself. What really would have been interesting is a look into Murray’s past and what makes him do the things he does. Avallone puts his points across as he delves into Murray’s acting background and his comedy routes, but what about his personal life? Bill Murray is notorious for being a bit difficult and falling out with his co-stars. Murray and Harold Ramis didn’t speak for years. He has had a few wives and has a number of children. Maybe that has some effect on his erratic behaviour. Or maybe he is just a  bit lonely and wants some company. This is all a bit one-sided and doesn’t do enough to paint a complete picture to the reasons why he does what he does.

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man‘ is a film for Bill Murray fans. It is an easy 70-minute watch which is a light-hearted look into a very funny man. If you wanted to really get to know Bill Murray then this isn’t the film for you. On the plus side, it has a very positive message and will leave you asking yourself  – ‘What would Bill Murray do?’

DAVE’S RATING:

3

 

 

LFF 2018: Arctic

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joe Penna
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Screening at LFF: 11th, 12th, & 17th October
General UK Release: TBA

Written by Sarah Buddery

Tucked away towards the back of the LFF programme, you’ll often find some of the best off-the-radar hidden gems, and Arctic is one of those films. The first feature from director Joe Penna would perhaps go entirely unnoticed were it not for the fact that it stars Mads Mikkelsen.

We meet Overgård (Mikkelsen), seemingly the only survivor of a plane crash in the arctic tundra. Unclear how long he has been stranded for, we see him embarking on a strict routine to survive the harsh environment; catching fish and desperately attempting to send out a radio signal. When a helicopter appears, hope of rescue soon turns into an even tougher battle for survival as he attempts to save the critically injured co-pilot (Smáradóttir), similarly the only survivor of her accident.

Arctic is a stripped back survival story, executed to perfection. The arctic backdrop provides the harshest of settings, and the limited cast does a stunning job of demonstrating the very best example of human endurance, facing the insurmountable odds in order to survive. This paired back approach and naturalistic style ensures that film manages to neatly avoid survival movie clichés and contrivances, and this is admirably handled by director Joe Penna.

The dialogue is almost as sparse as the landscape itself, and huge credit goes to the one man show that is Mads Mikkelsen for his deeply resonating performance. His co-star is incapacitated for the entirety of the film, and he carries the weight of the film expertly, saying so much by saying so little and emoting the impossibility of their journey with perfect subtlety and physicality. From the opening frame to the closing moments, we are invested in this character and that is essential in making a film this dialogue-light work. Mikkelsen’s performance is every bit as committed as Leonardo DiCaprio’s in ‘The Revenant’ but sadly, the former is unlikely to get the same awards attention.

At times quiet and meditative, this film explores the very human need for interaction, and the frankly superhuman way a body can endure conditions and situations beyond comprehension. At other times it is thrilling, with some genuine moments of shock and tension that will have you on the edge of your seat. In what will simply be dubbed as the 127 Hours moment (although admittedly nowhere near as graphic), you’ll find yourself wincing and there’s plenty more uncomfortable moments like this scattered throughout.

With breath-taking scenery and a story that will leave you utterly breathless, Arctic may very well be one of the sleeper hits of the festival. With a stunning central performance from Mads Mikkelsen, a captivatingly stripped-back narrative, and accomplished direction, Arctic is a film well worth seeking out.

Sarah’s Rating:

4-5

The Arctic is available in cinemas and on digital HD early 2019

LFF 2018: The Breaker Upperers

Year: 2018
Directed by: Madeleine Sami & Jackie van Beek
Starring: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celina Pacquola 

Screening at LFF: 11th, 12th, & 15th October
General UK Release: TBA

Written by Sarah Buddery 

New Zealand has been providing us with some of the best off-beat comedy for years now. First the comedy-folk stylings of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ (aka Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement), and more recently Taika Waititi; the kiwi director who went from indie to the big-time, recently directing ‘Thor: Ragnarok’.

The Breaker Upperers‘, from dynamic directing, writing, and acting duo Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, is definitely cut from the same cloth, and fans of Waititi’s off-kilter and quirky comedy will find themselves comfortably at home in the company of Mel and Jen, the so-called ‘Breaker Upperers’ of the film’s title. Mel (Sami) and Jen (van Beek) run a business in which they assist people in ending their relationships through scenarios ranging from ‘the other woman’ to ‘missing person’.

With characters that are equal parts abhorrent and charming, and treading the fine-line between witless and witty, ‘The Breaker Upperers‘ is heart-warming, rambunctious, whip-smart and utterly delightful. At a pacey 80-something minutes, it absolutely zips along. Sami and van Beek have believable and endearing chemistry and their genuine friendship is something which provides a constant grounding for the various hijinks along the way.

Perhaps the most “Waititi-esque” thing about this film is the side characters, who manage to almost steal the show. The hapless Jordan (played by James Rolleston, who also featured in Waititi’s ‘Boy‘) delivers one of the funniest lines of any film this year whilst in the car with his mother and Mel, and the feisty Ana Scotney as Sepa absolutely shines in every scene she has. Familiar faces also crop up with Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Rima Te Wiata cutting a caricatural figure as Jen’s coke-sniffing mother, and the aforementioned Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement playing a Tinder date (genuinely he is credited as that).

This is, however, Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek’s show; the powerhouse pairing acting, writing and the directing the hell out of this film. Its commentary on expectations of women, particularly in relationships is wonderfully well observed, and the delivery and execution of the comedy is played to perfection. These are certainly two to watch, and it would be great to see them break out of the indie circuit like Waititi.

‘The Breaker Upperers’ is a little gem of a movie, outrageous yet endearing, hilarious yet heart-warming, and with some star-making performances. As with any comedy, it might not tick all the boxes for everyone, and in fact, the jokes sometimes wear a little on the thin side heading towards the final act, but fans of the ‘Conchords’, and of course Waititi will find much to love here.

SARAH’S RATING:

4

The Headliners & Hidden Gems At The 62nd BFI London Film Festival

Yesterday saw the announcement of the full line-up of films for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (LFF), and boy is there a ton to get your teeth stuck into! But this year we have even more reason to be excited as JUMPCUT will attending and covering the festival for the first time ever!

We’ll be covering a whole range of films screening at the festival, including some of the headliners and hidden gems! JUMPCUT’s LFF Queen Sarah has kindly picked out just some of the films she thinks you are going to want to keep your eye on!

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The Headliners

Widows
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya

Why it is worth a watch: I mean that cast list alone is worth the admission price, but this female-fronted action thriller is also helmed by the man who brought us 12 Years a Slave, a film which previously enjoyed awards success. But the talent doesn’t end there, Widows is penned by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and Hans Zimmer provides the score. This is an action movie of the highest calibre and one that will be well worth your time and money.

Screening at LFF: 10th, 11th, 12th October
UK Wider Release Date: 6th November 2018

Stan & Ollie
Directed by: Jon S Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston

Why it is worth a watch: An ode to cinema, entertainment, and with two leading actors known for their brilliance as physical comedians, Stan & Ollie seems like the perfect film to close out London Film Festival. Coogan and Reilly bring beloved comedians Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy to life on the big screen, focusing on the twilight years of their career. This is set to be a real crowd-pleaser and the most fitting curtain call for the festival.

Screening at LFF: 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 11th January 2019

The Favourite
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz

Why it is worth a watch: A divisive filmmaker, but certainly one that gets people talking, Yorgos Lanthimos brings his third English-language film in four years to the London Film Festival. With stand-out performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, The Favourite promises to be bizarre, bonkers, and brilliant!

Screening at LFF: 18th, 19th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st January 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck

Why it is worth a watch: It’s the Coen Brothers! In all seriousness, the latest from the incomparable Coens promises to be wild (west) entertainment, hilarious, offbeat, and surprisingly melancholic. Dark humour and the trademark Coen brothers flair will be here in abundance

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Screening at LFF: 12th, 13th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Beautiful Boy
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

Why it is worth a watch: Just try and get through the trailer to this one without crying. Sometimes you just need to let it all out, and this will be the film that gets audiences at LFF reaching for the tissues. Starring man-of-the-moment Timothee Chalamet, hot off the heels of last year’s Call Me By Your Name, and Steve Carell in what is set to be another great dramatic role for him, Beautiful Boy will be the one to watch for those early Best Actor hints…

Screening at LFF: 13th, 14th, 16th October
UK Wider Release Date: 18th January 2019

Suspiria
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Chloe Grace Moretz

Why it is worth a watch: Full disclaimer, I am a massive horror wuss and will therefore not be seeing this on the big screen, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention it here. There is no denying the trailer is stunning, and the hype levels amongst the JumpCut team have reached fever-pitch for this one. It won’t be for everyone but it’ll certainly be a talking point. And also it has Tilda Swinton in it; you can’t go wrong!

Screening at LFF: 16th, 17th, 19th October
UK Wider Release Date: 16th November 2019

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The Hidden Gems

Wild Rose
Directed by: Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters

Why it is worth a watch: After impressing in Beast, Jessie Buckley stars in what is set to another impressive film. A Glaswegian single mum dreams of being a country singer, how hard could it be?! This is the sort of film that will make your heart soar, and with Julie Walters also appearing, it is hard not to draw comparisons with the underdog story of Billy Elliot. This film is already set to be one of the truly underrated gems of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 15th, 16th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 8th February 2019

The Hate U Give
Directed by: George Tillman Jr
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common

Why it is worth a watch: Adapted from Angie Thomas’ ‘Black Lives Matter’-inspired Young Adult novel, this film certainly feels like an important one, and one which is sadly still so relevant. Focusing on the young lives affected by the tragic shootings of their peers, the BFI are also offering £5 tickets to see this one for 16 to 25 year olds. Even outside of this age range, this film has a lot to offer, promising to be a powerful and timely watch.

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 26th October 2018

Assassination Nation
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Bella Thorne

Why it is worth a watch: Don’t let the early trigger warnings put you off, this is a film that bears everything upfront and then unleashes all hell. Assassination Nation is the Salem witch trials meets the digital generation in this thoroughly modern cautionary tale, and one which is poised to join other teen cult classics such as Heathers and Spring Breakers. Subversive and utterly unique, this could be one of the surprise hits of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 23rd November 2018

Burning
Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun

Why it is worth a watch: This film wowed audiences at Cannes, which is often the mark of a successful festival film! This lean slow-burning thriller promises to have you gripped right from the start, as well as exploring complex themes such as obsession, class-conflict and suppressed male rage. It will be unlikely to have a wide cinema release, so catch this one at the festival whilst you can!

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st February 2019

Mandy
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

Why it is worth a watch: Yes, Nicolas Cage. Stop reading now! Just kidding, this synopsis alone is enough to make you want to see it so we’re not even going to add to it: “In a mountain-cabin idyll, lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives in perfect harmony with his great love Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). But the couple’s blissful utopia is cruelly shattered when a ragtag band of Satanic cultists invade their humble abode and claim Mandy for their own. Traumatised and distraught, Red is left with no option but to exact a bloody revenge.” (Michael Blyth, BFI)

Screening at LFF: 11, 12, 17th
UK Wider Release Date: 12th October 2018

Blaze
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell

Why it is worth a watch: Ethan Hawke is having quite the year, and fresh from his acclaimed performance in First Reformed, his latest directorial offering his heading to LFF. This biopic about a little known musician is shot with affection and true passion that is hard to replicate, and quite frankly anything Ethan Hawke is passionate about, we love already!

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA