The Week In Screenings Part XXXII

Monday, October 31 2011
The Week In Screenings Part XXXII

Another busy week for our screenings correspondent Alex Kidd, who was pleasantly surprised by Italian satire at the London Film Festival, showed off some obscure horror shorts, saw a brace of the week’s big releases and was blown away  by a Bollywood blockbuster. Here’s his latest missive from the frontline…

In all the years I’ve been going to the London Film Festival, or any film festival come to that, I’ve never seen a director throw his shoe at the host. But that’s exactly how We Have A Pope director Nanni Moretti started his hilarious post-screening Q&A session. This all took place at the BFI, I was there for the Media Programme Gala screening of the new Italian comedy which takes a satirical look at what happens when the new Pope is chosen, but he suddenly decides maybe he’s not the best man for the job.

For some reason I’d got it into my head that this was going to be a farce with slapstick comedy, not sure why I thought that, luckily I turned out to be quite wrong as We Have A Pope is closer in tone, style and comedy to the works of Frank Capra and Preston Sturges, which is a high compliment indeed. You see our new Pope suddenly decides he can’t handle the job and, during a short excursion outside the walls of Vatican City, he gives his security the slip and goes on the lam in Rome. Not being recognised by anyone he then spends a few days reacquainting himself with the things from his past and reassessing what’s important to him and to the people. It’s a delightful comedy, filled with unexpected laughs and some very moving scenes. 

The last Wednesday of every month is pretty much my favourite night each month. Why? Because that’s the night we get to unleash The Duke Mitchell Film Club on unsuspecting audiences. I say unsuspecting as people never really know what they’re going to get when they come along, the theme changes each month and we like to play around with the format as much as possible. This month being October it was our annual Halloween night, quite amazingly we’re up to our fifth time of doing this, and as people always say – time really does fly. On most of our other nights we show a full feature film, but every Halloween night we show short horror films from around the world, both old and new. Now this night always does very well for us in terms of attendance, but we had no idea so many people would turn up this time around, we ran out of seats before the night had even started. So we had a packed house, a really packed house for once – how did the night go? Brilliantly thanks! 

We kicked off with my trailer section; this time around it’s all horror, and specifically vintage 70s and 80s USA horror, the most obscure trailers I could find. Trailers are always a great way to start the night, they’re fast and punchy and can really set the tone for the night. After that is was an evening of horror as Evrim, the brains behind this operation, took over the mic and guided as through of world of shocking shorts from all four corners of the globe, from brand new scares to vintage rediscoveries we travelled the dark highway of terror, with Evrim our only light through a dark night. If you’ve never been along to a Duke night do come along, it’s free to get into and it’s always a fun night.

And just to start plugging it now, I’ll be doing my own one-off solo film night early next year where I’ll be just showing film trailers for an evening, it’s going to be so  good and you’ll see things you’ve never even heard of before. Find out more about Night Of The Trailers here: http://www.facebook.com/nightofthetrailers

The next evening and it’s time for the new Gerard Butler film Machine Gun Preacher, a true story inspired by the life of Sam Childers, a no good American biker who found God and decide his calling was to help the orphans of war torn Sudan. This is director Marc Forster’s first film since 2008’s Quantum Of Solace and he’s well equipped to handle the films Ocean hopping narrative, while Butler is perfectly cast as the very vocal and physical lead role, all blistering speeches and man of action dynamics. Where the film slightly falters though is it’s never sure where’s its going or what it wants to say, Childers is a controversial character and his use of violence to achieve his aims paints him more as a mercenary and the films never seems to decide if it wants to condemn him or turn him into a hero. It’s still a good watch though, driven by a passionate performance from Butler in the lead. 

There’s so much more to In Time than the trailers would have you believe, springing from the mind of Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show), it’s a smart, inventive piece of solid sci-fi that manages to balance thought provoking concepts, a unique world view and numerous action sequences. Set is a futuristic LA, in a world where no one ages past 25 years old, we learn that time is the new currency; if you want to keep living once you get to 25 you have to earn your time. Only it’s getting harder and harder to earn that time, run out and you die right there on the spot. That is unless you’re one of the super rich people who live on the other side of town, who seem to have time to spare. Timberlake plays a poor but happy everyman, who sudden finds himself in possession of more than 100 years of time, a course of action that leads him to attempt to bring down their time-centric way of life. One of the first things to stand out here is the original world that Niccol’s has created, we initially see the poor part of town and it’s a great tribute to LA, all industrial areas, bridges, freeway flyers and those LA storm drains so beloved of films from Repo Man to Drive. Though it’s not a grim society, the colours used here are bright, it’s more of washed out down on your luck work that’s been created, skip the super rich part of town and it’s all austere tower blocks and country mansions. But both worlds are populated by no one who looks over 25, if you have enough time you can effectively live forever, when you meet someone you have no real concept of their age, which throws in all sorts of wonderful concepts about does how you look really reflect who you are and what you know? In Time really is a true hard sci-fi film that really should be supported, Niccol once again has proved that he’s thinking way ahead of what Hollywood normally brings us.

My final film of this week as the incredibly over the top Bollywood mega-blockbuster RA. One, which just has to be seen to be believed. Now a huge part of why I enjoyed this was the fact that I took the time to head over to the O2 Cineworld to see it on the gigantic Sky megascreen they have there, I’ve talked about this incredible secret that they have there but it needs to be said again, this screen is amazing, it’s huge, the seats are great and it has THE loudest sound I’ve experienced in London, the seats literally shake at points during a film. One brilliant side effect of the loud sound is that it always drowns out any audience noise, people would have to be talking on megaphones to make themselves heard over the thunderous sound system they have there.

How’s the film then? Well it’s a huge epic fun adventure that seems to liberally borrow from anything it feels like, all the while delivering an eye-popping world of adventure, action and most importantly songs. Bollywood royalty Shah Rukh Khan starts in the dual roles of a game programmer and the creation that springs forth from his game into the real world. What really comes through while watching RA One is the genuine sense of fun and of wanting to simply entertain an audience, a feeling that the filmmakers wanted to try and create a truly enjoyable spectacle and with this breathtaking superhero action musical I really think that achieved that.

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