Edinburgh International Film Festival Announces 2013 Programme 0 25

EIFF 2012 programme lineup
It’s nearly that time of year again, when Scotland’s capital plays host to the longest continually running film festival in the world.
The Edinburgh International Film Festival has just today announced its programme for 2013 and as usual it sports an interesting array of films from all over the world, 146 features from 53 countries to be exact, and ranging from those already established from other festivals to brand new features that those who attend will have the pleasure of being the first ones to discover.
Among the near 150 films showing, a few highlights stick out:
The opening night gala of the festival is Breathe In, Drake Doremus’ follow-up to his great romance story Like Crazy which reunites him with star Felicity Jones. And closing the festival is Not Another Happy Ending, starring former Doctor Who assistant Karren Gillan.
Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) has his celebrated Frances Ha, starring Greta Gerwig; The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s latest film starring Emma Watson as part of a group of fame-obsessed teens who break into the Hollywood homes of celebrities; Sarah Polley follows up her divisive Take This Waltz with documentary Stories We Tell; and James Wan follows his terrific horror Insidious with The Conjuring, starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.
There’s Upstream Color, the second feature from director Shane Carruth (who previously made the mind-bending Primer) which has been receiving rave reviews from pretty much everyone who’s seen it; The East, a film about a radical anarchist group that sports a great cast including Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgard, Brit Marling and Toby Kebbell; and Pixar will be represented again in full-form with Monsters University, its prequel to hit film Monsters, Inc. (they had the likes of Brave, Toy Story 3 and WALL-E in previous years).
As well as bringing in films that have already played elsewhere to give them UK and European premieres, the festival also has lots of World Premieres. Here’s the list of films that are getting their World Premiere at the fest:
  • 10
  • The Battles of the Sexes
  • Blackbird
  • Desert Runners
  • Fire in the Night
  • A Long Way from Home
  • The Making of Us
  • Mister John
  • Not Another Happy Ending
  • Outpost 3: Rise of the Spetsnaz
  • The Sea
  • Svengali
  • We Are the Freaks
As always the Retrospective is a big part of the festival’s schedule and this year there’s two – one has been previously announced, focusing on the feature and short films by French director Jean Grémillon and the second celebrates the work of American director Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green, Tora! Tora! Tora!). There’s also a Focus segment of the festival celebrating Korean and Swedish cinema.
There are certain films not showing that I would have liked to have made an appearance, including Nicholas Winding Refn’s apparently ultra-violent Only God Forgives (which has received some scathing reviews thus far), and Cannes winners Blue is the Warmest Color and Nebraska (directed by Alexander Payne), which won the Palme d’Or and Best Actor awards, respectively. However, with the close proximity of Cannes to EIFF and high profile of the films involved, I think that was wishful thinking on my part! I’m also a tiny bit surprised that Before Midnight, the third part in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset trilogy, hasn’t turned up in the programme but it’s not that big of a deal considering it opens in regular cinemas a couple of days after the start of the festival anyway.
Chris Fujiwara is again Artistic Director after taking up the mantle after the shaky 2011 fest when it didn’t have anyone in such a capacity (although its lacklustre nature was greatly exaggerated). Fujiwara’s astute shaping of the festival into something exciting is extremely evident once more. He said:
“I’m very proud that in my second year at the Festival we’ve again put together a programme that reflects our festival’s commitment to international cinema, while giving our audiences opportunities to discover a broad range of outstanding work from British filmmakers.”
Once again I will be there covering the whole festival for Thoughts on Film and I hope to discover many great films from across the world. Check back here throughout 19-30 June (and beyond) for my review coverage and for even more up-to-date reports follow me on twitter @rosstmiller and the site @TOF_UK.
Tickets for festival screenings will be open to the public from Monday June 3rd. You can read the entire festival brochure, including timetables and ticket prices, here. To whet your appetite even more, here’s the official preview trailer:

[youtube id=”QhmQMP1EjAA” width=”600″ height=”350″]

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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 0 353

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 0 380

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