Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014 Programme Announced 0 37

EIFF 2012 programme lineup

Yesterday festival director Chris Fujiwara announced the much anticipated programme for the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014. As attendees have become accustomed, the line-up is as exciting and diverse as ever, showcasing 156 films from almost 47 different countries with 11 World Premieres, 8 international premieres and much more for film enthusiasts to sink their teeth into come June 18th. Fujiwara said of this year’s festival:

“A film festival must keep trying to remain challenging, provocative and responsive, and I believe the programme we’re unveiling today shows our success at doing that this year. It’s a diverse and artistically strong programme that will delight and surprise our audiences, both old and new, and that will reward those who share our passion for exploring cinema in all its forms.”

As always, Thoughts On Film will be there to try and cover as many films as possible over the festival period. There are far too many exciting films on the line-up to name every single one but here is just some of what we’re looking forward to seeing most:

The festival is bookmarked, as always, by the Opening and Closing Galas. This year the festival opens with Hyena, a crime drama from director Gerard Johnson that has an impressive British cast including Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell and Peter Ferdinando. Closing the festival in polar opposite and much lighter fashion is romantic comedy We’ll Never Have Paris, starring Melanie Lynskey, Simon Helberg (better known as Howard from The Big Bang Theory) and Maggie Grace.

Celebrated South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, The Host) makes the jump to Hollywood with the hugely anticipated Snowpiercer, which is part of the Director’s Showcase that aims to present work from both auteur directors and new talents. Stake Land and We Are What We Are director Jim Mickle returns with already critically acclaimed Cold In July, starring Dexter himself Michael C. Hall; and Anton Corbijn (Control, The American) directs the late-great Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man, one of the actors last ever films before he sadly passed away.

There’s also James Franco and Emma Roberts who star in Palo Alto, from director Gia Coppola; Abel Ferrara’s typically controversial new film Welcome to New York; Aaron Paul and Juliette Lewis star in the anticipated Hellion, which makes it’s International Premiere at the festival; and there’s the World Premiere of Castles in the Sky, starring Eddie Izzard as radar inventor Robert Watson-Watt.

Filling the eccentric quota we have the likes of Life After Beth, a zombie romantic comedy that sports an impressive cast including Aubrey Plaza, John C. Reilly and Dane DeHaan; Noel Clarke presents the World Premiere of his futuristic thriller The Anomaly, featuring a cast that includes Ian Somerhalder, Brian Cox and Luke Hemsworth; and Eli Roth delivers his latest no doubt opinion-dividing effort The Green Inferno.

On top of its usual Strands that include American Dreams, New Perspectives and Black Box, we also have two fresh country focuses for the long-running festival: Germany and Iran. And there’s also a new Strand entitled Teen Spirit, which is part of the fest’s devotion to encouraging and celebrating young talent. Lastly and excitingly, EIFF and has also teamed up with Empire Magazine for a special and rare theatrical screening of the film that was voted by the readers as The Greatest Movie of All Time for their 301st issue: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

Those are just some of the highlights of what this year’s festival has to offer. For the full programme you can view the interactive PDF on the official EIFF website where you can also book tickets. The 68th annual Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from June 18-29.

What are YOU looking forward to at this year’s festival? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, look out for our review coverage right here on the site!

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I’m a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features.

I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 422

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 454

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10