By on October 17th, 2014

North by Northwest (1959) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock – Strand Arts Centre 19th Oct

Who’s in it? Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason

What’s it about? Intended by screenwriter Ernest Lehman as the ‘Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures’ and arguably succeeding, with one of his most accessible and crowd pleasing works, North by Northwest is the Psycho director at his thrilling and enthralling best. With stand out performances from its two leads, the film is steeped in period sass and old school Hollywood production values, not to mention a delightfully villainous turn from James Mason. In a classic case of mistaken identity, Ad man Roger Thornhill (Grant) is taken for a wanted man, the mysterious George Kaplan, and subsequently framed for the murder of the only person who can clear his name. On the run from the police and from an unknown organisation who believe he’s smuggling a microfilm of government secrets, Thornhill must evade capture for long enough to figure out who to trust. Bookended by graphic designer Saul Bass’ memorable credit sequence and one of cinema’s most iconic finales, this is one Hitch number that is best on the big screen.

Memorbale Moments? From the birds eye view of Thornhill fleeing a murder at the United Nations building, as Bernard Herrmann’s score amps up the suspense; to the scene in which Grant and Saint are virtually scalped by a pursuing by-plane cross-country; and of course the iconic climax atop Mount Rushmore, the film sees Hitch at his most cinematic.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘Gripping, suspenseful, and visually iconic, this late-period Hitchcock classic laid the groundwork for countless action thrillers to follow.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: The 39 Steps (1935) is Hitchcock’s version of the John Buchan spy novel, with Roger Donat as Richard Hannay, and is the Master of suspense honing his technique.

Trvia Pursuit: While filming Grant apparently charged fans 15 cents for an autograph.


By on October 10th, 2014

Ida (2013)

Ida (2013) Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski – QFT Belfast 10th-16th Oct

Who’s in it? Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik

What’s it about? Critically acclaimed Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida is an emotionally complex, visually striking and historically resonant film. Set in 1960s Poland, it reflects upon the significance of a common identity as it attempts to process the painful reality of Poland’s involvement in the Holocaust. The film was apparently intended by the director as a national soul searching exercise, in light of the treatment of Polish Jews by their non-Jewish compatriots in Poland during the Second World War. As doe-eyed novitiate Anna (Trzebuchowska) prepares to become a nun, her superior insists she contact her only living relative, Aunt Wanda (Kulesza) in Warsaw, before taking her vows. With the only common ground a shared ancestry, innocent 18 year old Anna’s worldly wise Aunt drops the bombshell that she is actually a Jew called Ida and that her parents were murdered by the Nazis. As two polar opposites meet on the horizon of a painful past and an indeterminate future, Pawlikowski’s monochromatic cinematography reminds us of the light and shadows of every story, and suggests that things are rarely black and white. Ida acknowledges the living legacy of historical hurts, with an emphasis on healing through forgiving, if not forgetting.

Memorable Moments? The emotional money shot of the piece is undoubtedly the moment 18 year old Catholic trainee Nun Anna finds out the truth about her unexpected origins from her straight talking Jewish/Communist activist Aunt, and must reassess her vocation in light of this surprising revelation.

Look Who’s Talking:‘Empathetically written, splendidly acted, and beautifully photographed, Ida finds director Pawel Pawlikowski revisiting his roots to powerful effect.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: The Decalogue (1988), produced as ten self contained episodes, is iconic Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s contemporary allegory of each of the Ten Commandments.

Trivia Pursuit: First time actress Agata Trzebuchowska was discovered in a cafe.


By on September 29th, 2014

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Toy Story 3 (2010) Dir. Lee Unkrich – Odyssey Cinemas, Sat 4th oct

Who’ in it? Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton (voices)

What’s it about? When Andy’s toys hear he’s leaving home for college, their future is suddenly uncertain and, naturally, it’s a perfect time to panic. Unsure of their fate, the toys are initially content to be of service to a new generation of kids at the Sunnyside Daycare Centre, but all is not as it seems at Sunnyside. Left to the not so tender mercies of sociopathic yet huggable purple bear named Lotso and a group of toddlers with an appetite for anything with moving parts, the toy’s new home becomes a playtime purgatory and they’re left wishing they’d been kept ‘out of reach of children’. It’s left to Woody to round up a new gang (including Michael Keaton’s hilarious and on the nose Ken doll) to launch a great escape from a fate worse than car boot sale. By measures sweet but not sentimental, with the customary moral heft but avoiding, like the first two films, the tendency to patronise, the toys are back in town with their best story yet.

Memorable Moments? After nefarious villain Lotso has Buzz restored to his factory settings as an unwilling henchman to keep his friends in check, in attempting to bring back the real Buzz the other toys unwittingly unleash smooth talking, snake-hipped, Salsa dancing, subtitled, Spanish Buzz.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘Deftly blending comedy, adventure, and honest emotion, Toy Story 3 is a rare second sequel that really works.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: Toy Story (1995), one of only a handful of films to garner the hallowed 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is as fresh and fun today as it was when released, almost twenty years ago now.

Trivia Pursuit: The film was the first sequel to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar without it’s predecessors being nominated first.


By on September 26th, 2014

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

A Most Wanted Man (2014) Dir. Anton Corbijn – QFT Belfast 26th Sep – 9th Oct

Who’s in it? Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Daniel Bruhl

What’s it about?Based on the best selling high brow spy novel by genre master John Le Carre – the mind behind critically acclaimed Oscar contender Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – A Most Wanted Man is a similarly pitched and intensely delivered political thriller about the terror of fear and the fear of terror, as the US and its allies fumble in the dark with lingering extremist threats from within and without. The film plays on the paranoia prevalent in the West post 9/11 and feels uncomfortably current given the growing threat of Islamic extremism. When a Chechen Muslim turns up in Hamburg as an illegal immigrant, brutally tortured yet determined to claim his dubiously acquired inheritance, both the US and German governments are determined to muscle in as they attempt to anticipate the unknown intentions of an uninvited guest caught in the sights of the War on Terror. As the identity of this Muslim on a mission remains frustratingly obscure, the race is on to decide whether he’s a victim of government sanctioned injustice or an extremist.

Memorable Moments? The film features a typically incendiary performance from the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. His gruff, chain smoking secret service agent, in one scene, abducts a Lawyer (McAdams) he feels may be on the side of suspected terrorists, “It takes a minnow to catch a barracuda, a barracuda to catch a shark”.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘Smart, subtle, and steadily absorbing, A Most Wanted Man proves once again that John le Carre books make for sharp, thoughtful thrillers.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

Like that? Try this: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), another intricate Le Carre espionage thriller, if a bit light on thrills, overly dry and occasionally dull, but a masterclass in slow burning suspense.

Trivia Pursuit: This was Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last finished film since his death earlier this year.


By on September 19th, 2014

Stranger than Paradise (1984)

Stranger than Paradise (1984) Dir. Jim Jarmusch – QFT Belfast 20th Sep

Who’s in it? John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson

What’s it about? Evocative lo-fi indy cult drama Stranger than Paradise will be familiar to fans of more recent ponderous ‘awkward years’ flicks Never Let Me Go (2010) and Submarine (2010) which focused on the intense relations between troubled youngsters, the influence for which could arguably be attributed to Jarmusch’s 80s forerunner. Willie (Lurie) is forced out of his self-centric comfort zone when his Eastern European cousin Eva (Balint) shows up and decides she’s staying within him for 10 days. Initially put out, Willie introduces Eva to a sample of Western living in the form of a TV dinner, “You got your meat, you got your potatoes, you got your vegetables, you got your dessert and you don’t have to wash the dishes — this is how we eat in America!”. A perfect example of a plot very much at the service of a free-form directorial philosophy, moody black and white the backdrop for wallpaper dialogue, adapting the intuitive Cinema Veritie style reminiscent of Godard’s New Wave classic Breathless (1960).

Memorable Moments? The three aimless teens wondering around Ohio in winter – staring blankly at the surface of a frozen lake and then heading down to the seedy sidewalks of Miami where the lads doss about and Eva attempts to decide her next move – is the sort of carry on it’s easy to criticise but with which we can all relate.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘Stranger Than Paradise already displays much of Jarmusch’s signature style: a keen sense of place, poker-faced comedy, an empathy with outsiders and, of course, his impeccable choice of music.’ – QFT Belfast

Like that? Try this: Breathless (1960), is the jewel in the crown of the 60s French New Wave revolution, which subbed style for substance and narrative renaissance for plot propulsion.

Trivia Pursuit: Each of the film’s scenes is composed entirely of a single, unedited shot.


By on September 12th, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey (2014)

The Hundred Foot Journey (2014) Dir. Lasse Hallstrom – QFT Belfast 13th Sept

Who’s in it? Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal

What’s it about? The Hundred Foot Journey is another French flavoured foody dram-com from Chocolat director Lasse Hallstrom, in which culinary traditionalist and overbearing matriarch Mme Mallory (Mirren) is eventually melted by the unorthodox charm of her new Indian neighbours, eventually taking budding young chef Hasan (Dayal) under her wing. As the two conflicting cultures clash, and bring out the sugar and spice in each other, both immigrants and locals discover their common interests and end up becoming nicer neighbours as they feed their mutual passion for food. The hundred foot of the title refers to the distance between the two opposing restaurants on a cosy street in the small French village where the new arrivals set up shop, and the efforts they both must make to arrive at a fresh perspective.

Memorable Moments? Given its take on the universality of food as a foolproof recipe for understanding, and a means for living the typically French virtue of fraternity, the cooking scenes are appropriately tasty and colourfully convey the striking personalities of both French and Indian cuisine and the cultures that inspire them.

Look who’s talking ‘If The Hundred-Foot Journey ultimately proves no spicier than chicken tikka masala for the soul, that’s Chef Lasse for you. At his comforting best – and this is close to it – nobody does it milder.’ – Daily Telegraph

Like that? Try this: Chocolat (2000) is a warm, light hearted rom-com contrasting the sensuous with the censorious, new age indulgence with old school restraint, with delicious performances from Juliette Binoche as the free spirited choclatier who ruffles feathers in a rural village, and Johnny Depp as the charming gypsy who tames her, as well as tasty turns from Judy Dench and Alfred Molina.

Trivia Pursuit Juhi Chawla, who plays Mama in the film, was digitally aged in post production.


By on September 5th, 2014

Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

Quatermass and the Pit (1967) Dir. Roy Ward Baker – QFT 6th Sept

Who’s in it? James Donald, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Julian Glover

What’s it about? Released in the U.S as Five Million Years to Earth, Quatermass and the Pit is based on Roger Kneale’s 1958 BBC TV serial Quatermass and follows the potentially cataclysmic repercussions of the discovery of a 5 million year old spaceship during the excavation of a new London Underground line. When the other worldly antique is unearthed and mysteriously begins to trigger ghostly visions of apparently long dead martians in some unsuspecting members of the general public, Professor Bernard Quatermass is called into investigate, uncovering an intergalactic conspiracy which leads to some worrying discoveries about the origin of human life on earth.

Memorable Moments? The terror in the eyes of Keir’s Quatermass and his Cronies following the explosion in the underground is palpable, when the potentially catastrophic answer to the trailer’s questions “Who are they running from?”, “What have they seen?”, “Whom do they fear?”, buried for millenia, issues dramatically in the bowels of London from the deep past.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘One of the high points of Hammer’s film production, and a worthy addition to the cannon of films and TV realisations of the products of Nigel Kneale’s probing, prescient imagination.’ – Film4

Like that? Try this:Quatermass 2: Enemy from Space (1957) was written as a follow up to Hammer Productions 1955 film The Quatermass Experiement which, like the original, is based on wonderfully popular and acclaimed BBC serials The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass II. The plot follows Professor Quatermass’ investigations into a suspected alien conspiracy thought to go right to the top of the British government, as he investigates strange meteorite activity in rural England and attempts to persuade a sceptical public of his findings.

Trivia Pursuit: Apparently director Roy Ward Baker originally wanted Kenneth More (The 39 Steps) for the role of Quatermass but was overruled by Hammer studio bosses.


By on August 29th, 2014

E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982)

E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (1982) Dir. Steven Spielberg – Roe Valley Arts Centre, 29th Aug

Who’s in it? Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore

What’s it about? When troubled loner Elliott (Thomas) finds a wrinkly little alien in his backyard he decides to hide him from the authorities until he can figure out a way to send him home. Reportedly inspired by the imaginary friend a young Spielberg created for himself after his parents divorced in 1960, the film has since become a parable for the dysfunction in the modern American family and subsequently transcends any limited genre comparisons, with moving performances from its young cast. E.T overtook Star Wars to become the highest grossing film of all time until it was surpassed in 1993 by Jurassic Park, another in a long line of artful, entertaining and critically acclaimed Spielberg blockbusters. The film was voted ‘The Greatest Science Fiction Film Ever Made’ by Rotten Tomatoes who call it an ‘exciting sci-fi adventure and a remarkable portrait of childhood’.

Memorable Moments? When Elliott leaves E.T. at home for the day while he’s at school, the alien acquaints himself with popular staples of American culture like vegging out and watching movies, most memorably involving Elliott burping and getting progressively tipsy as E.T drinks beer from the fridge, later acting out a famous scene from The Quiet Man in class while E.T. watches it at home on video.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘On inherent merit, the movie would not warrant such a highly publicized re-release, but this is one of those films that transcends what’s on the screen.’ – Reel Reviews

Like that? Try this: The Goonies (1985) is Superman director Richard Donner’s quintessentially 80s coming of age tale and, like E.T, is funny, heartfelt and heavy on nostalgia for those of a certain age.

Trivia Pursuit: E.T.’s species apparently featured in the background as alien extras in longtime Spielberg collaborator George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace (1999).


By on August 29th, 2014

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Alice in Wonderland (1951) Dir. Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske – Europa Hotel, 30th Aug

Who’s in it? Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn (Voice)

What’s it about? Disney’s heady, avant garde 1951 animated classic is not the only trippy, family oriented adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s timeless 1865 novel – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with a few pinches of its sequel Through the Looking Glass included for good measure – but it’s the only one worth remembering. Tim Burton’s dodgy 2010 Return to Oz style follow up, a typically overblown 3D-happy Burton-esque vision, persistently pervades the recent memory of the classic story but distracts from the artistic purity of the original. Carroll’s story about managing the expectations and challenges of growing up, while cherishing the spirit of childhood at the heart of every well adjusted adult, imaginatively recounts the adventures of a young girl named Alice as she follows a white rabbit down a hollow tree stump and gets more than she bargained for.

Memorable Moments? The film is a dizzying compilation of memorably magical and head-melting sequences and characters, combining for an array of artistry and storytelling seldom seen then. From chasing the white rabbit down that hole, forever falling, then eat me, drink me; the pipe smoking caterpillar; the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party; The Twins; the Cheshire cat and the evil queen of Hearts, to name but a few!

Look Who’s Talking: ‘Fifty years on the movie is clearly due a reappraisal. It’s colourful, fun and as surreal as Disney is ever likely to get, this isn’t as good as the books, but works as a cute introduction to them.’ – Empire

Like that? Try this: Alice’s influence is unavoidably apparent in contemporary film, from the Wachowski Brothers’ 1999 iconic sci-fi The Matrix, to Victor Fleming’s beloved Judy Garland vehicle The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Trivia Pursuit: Kathryn Beaumont, who voices Alice in the film, later voiced the character of Wendy in Disney’s Peter Pan (1953).


By on August 22nd, 2014

Kes (1969)

Kes (1969) Dir. Ken Loach – QFT Belfast 24th August

Who’s in it? David Bradley, Brian Glover, Freddie Fletcher

What’s it about? Ranked seventh in the British Film Institute’s Top Ten British Films, starring an unknown cast of part time actors, Kes is British director Ken Loach’s hallmark film about a troubled boy from a working class Barnsley family, bullied at home and at school and with no clear prospects beyond stealing and unemployment. When Billy (Bradley) finds a young Kestrel on a local farm he adopts and trains him, developing an interest in Falconry and a strong bond with the bird, giving him hope beyond the apparent grim inevitability of working down the coal pits. Based on the 1968 novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barnsley born novelist Barry Hines, Kes is a part auto-biographical account of Hines’ own childhood in Barnsley and how he was encouraged by a disappointed neighbour to quit work at the Coal Board and to further his education at University, training to become a P.E. teacher. Although a commercial and critical hit in Britain, Kes failed to take flight in the U.S, apparently due to American audience’s inability to understand the character’s thick Yorkshire accents.

Memorbale Moments? In one scene Billy’s enthusiastic P.E teacher, who fancies himself as a bit of a Bobby Charlton, plays football with the class, commentating on himself in the process and providing a rare bit of levity in a film pretty low on laughs.

Look Who’s talking: ‘A film that captures Loach’s ability to find the extraordinary drama in ordinary lives.’ – Daily Express

Like that? Try this: Set in the 80s during the coal miner’s strike, Billy Elliott (2000), starring Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, sees a miner’s son swap boxing for ballet. The film won three BAFTAs and spawned a hugely successful stage musical.

Trivia Pursuit: Kes is said to be Three Colours trilogy director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s favourite film.

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