Friday, 26 February 2010

New Flick's Flicks

Check out the new episode of Flick's Flicks, Picturehouses' own review show.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Disney Vs Exhibition: Mad Hatter

Today ODEON gave up on its boycott of ALICE IN WONDERLAND 3D and agreed to play the Tim Burton film, the last of the big chains to relent and agree to Disney's 12 week DVD release date for the film.

VUE and CINEWORLD gave up on the fight earlier on, after the big three had stood shoulder to shoulder against the Disney giant.

What does this mean? Why would cinema chains boycott what is bound to be a huge hit? Their anger stems from Disney's plans to release the DVD sooner than is normal for films, 12, instead of 17 weeks after release date. This, in the exhibitors view, is detrimental to the theatrical 'window' which is their only opportunity to make money.

From the perspective of a small arthouse cinema which won't be playing the film at all, this might seem like much ado about nothing but what it does reflect is the changing nature of the way we consume film. Theatrical releases, DVDs, downloads, cable, all these experiences have become closer to each other in terms of time frame, so if you miss it here you can see it there. With broadband in every home people expect everything all the time. This is big trouble for big cinema chains, who rely on 'product' as they refer to the films, to make their money (and not just popcorn, as observers have commented. In fact only about 25% of multiplexes income comes from concession sales).

For a smaller chain like us or independents, service and experience are as important as what is playing, so that even if you could download the latest Michael Haneke film and watch it at home, you probably wouldn't. Audiences who like to see arthouse product appreciate the social side of a visit to the cinema as much as the cinematic experience itself. So nothing to worry about here.

For multiplexes, who have spent the last year putting all their proverbial eggs into the basket of the teenage audience, this is a nightmare. For it is those very teenagers the ones most likely to stay at home and consume movies in the new ways that so terrify the studio bosses. Until one of these studio honchos figures out a real way to make money from these new channels, their market share will shrink. The euphoria surrounding AVATAR and 3D might muffle this reality in the short term but eventually it will come back to haunt them. And then I will be able to utter the sweetest four words in the English language: I TOLD YOU SO.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

New Podcast - with a new home

Our new podcast is up - where we discuss the Berlin Film Festival, the BAFTAs, and review the week's new films. We also now have a new home at the Picturehouse website...

Splendor Cinema Podcast

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Mark Kermode: It's Only a Movie

Film critic and broadcaster Mark Kermode took some time out from his busy book tour to talk to Splendor Cinema and answer our now standard film questionarre. He will be coming down to the Dukes on the 29th March to talk about his new book, IT'S ONLY A MOVIE.

What’s your favorite cinema in the country?
The Phoenix in East Finchley. I grew up going there, that’s where I saw films like THE EXORCIST for the first time, which would change my life. Back then, it was called the Rex, and they used to do double-bills of movies like Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets. They also did late-night double-bills on Fridays, and that is where I got my film education; directors like Cronenberg, Russell, Jodorowsky with films like THE DEVILS, SHIVERS. I recently did a talk there, and I remember sitting on stage, and seeing where I used to sit…I have been now been asked to be a patron of the Phoenix and it's an honour.

What’s your first memory of cinema going?
My first memory, as opposed to the first time I went, because I know my parents took me to see THE JUNGLE BOOK and things like that, my first memory is KRAKATOA, EAST OF JAVA. I don’t remember any of the volcano stuff, but I do recall this one bizarre sequence where Barbara Werle sings a song about being an ‘old fashioned’ girl. Many years later I went into a shop to get the DVD to find the sequence and it was there, but not exactly as I had imagined it.

So you had constructed the scene in your own mind?
Yes, so part of it was there, but the rest was clearly a product of my imagination.

What’s your scariest/strangest/most bizarre cinema going experience?
Scariest has to be the first time I saw THE EXORCIST – it scared the socks off me. The strangest has to be the first time I saw BLUE VELVET at at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. It hit me totally the wrong way, and I was basically offended by it. At the time I was writing for a publication called City Life and I wrote a very snooty review of it. Some days later I was in the Cornerhouse bar, and someone came up to me and said, ‘Are you the guy who wrote the review of Blue Velvet?’ and I thought ‘ Oh people are recognizing me!’ and said 'yes'. He then proceeded to hit me! I have since revisited BLUE VELVET and all the things about it that I hated, are the things that I now think are brilliant.

I know you’re not a filmmaker, but what film-related project that you’ve been involved with give you the most sense of achievement or pride?

You’re right, I am not a filmmaker, and I have never wanted to be a filmmaker. I think the best critics are not frustrated filmmakers. The best critics are ones who want to watch, not make, films. I have been involved, however, with some excellent documentaries (as a journalist, not a director) about some of my passions like THE EXORCIST. The one project I was most proud of though, was getting THE DEVILS, the Ken Russell film, restored and a whole big scene (now known as the Rape of Christ) restored to the print.
To this day Warner Brothers refuse to put this out on DVD. We presented it at the BFI Southbank in its full restored glory, in a season curated by me and my wife Linda Ruth Williams – the world premiere. It took us about four or five years to find the footage which Ken thought was lost forever.

What does the UK film industry need?
David Puttnam was the one who told me this some years ago, what we need, is an exploitation film factory. Like a Roger Corman-type set-up. Where filmmakers who grew up on Antonioni and Godard, can be given a budget, a brief (helicopter, wrestling, 90 minutes) and sent off to learn their craft, learn how to make money and what audiences want. All the top filmmakers from Coppola onwards in America came from that Corman factory and it helps filmmakers learn their trade.

Tickets for IT'S ONLY A MOVIE are still available and you can book here.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Box Office 19-21 Feb

Another week, another AVATAR number one.

1- AVATAR (£2.4 million)
2- PRINCESS & THE FROG (£1.7 million)
3- LOVELY BONES (£1.6 million)
4- VALENTINE'S DAY (£1.57 million)
6- THE WOLFMAN (£700K)
8- INVICTUS (£567K)
9- ASTROBOY (£521K)
10- SOLOMON KANE (£500K)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Box Office Records

Our biggest box office week in history finished yesterday, with nearly six thousand cinema tickets sold. We passed our previous record by about 10%. A few things happened to make this possible: the perfectly timed release of A SINGLE MAN, its Oscar nomination in the bag a week before opening, Valentine's Day, Half term (with PONYO for the little ones), a LORD OF THE RINGS all-nighter which added revenue to a time slot when we'd otherwise be closed, and a sold out show of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.

I was in Berlin all week, so was spared the really hard work (as someone pointed out on Twitter, maybe I should go away more often), but as always the fantastic staff at the Dukes held it together beautifully.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Rotterdam Roundup

Tim Brown, CINECITY co-director, sent this roundup of his visit to the Rotterdam Film Festival:

A visibly smaller and more focused programme than previous editions, this second festival under the stewardship of director Rutger Wolfson had less of the related installations and exhibitions but was felt by many to be a step up from last year’s programme and highlights a festival in a period of transition. Rotterdam has always been focused on the art rather than the red carpet glitz and glam that dominates other festivals and the fact that many titles from last year’s fest never got picked up for UK distribution says much about the challenging times for arthouse cinema; Rotterdam is always a pleasure and offers a range of delights celebrating cinema at its most innovative that keeps it as an essential visit for organisations such as CINECITY.
We caught around 20 titles with much anticipated THE TEMPTATION OF ST. TONY from Estonian director Veiko Ounpuu living long in the memory. His last feature AUTUMN BALL appeared in CINECITY 2008 as part of our New Europe strand and the rich mix of pitch black humour and visual sophistication was once more present and correct. With many wonderful set pieces and nods to Pasolini and Bunuel - the drumming from Bunuel’s home village of Calanda that appeared in a number of his films provided a suitable climax towards the end of …ST. TONY – the film is a parable about the new compassionless capitalism in Eastern Europe and also features a great turn from Denis Lavant.
The VPRO Tiger Awards were given to AGUA FRIA DE MAR by Paz Fábrega from Costa Rica, MUNDANE HISTORY by Anocha Suwichakornpong from Thailand and ALAMAR by Mexican director Pedro González-Rubio. MUNDANE HISTORY was a particularly effective debut feature from Thai film-maker Anocha Suwichakornpong about a bitter young man who is paralysed from the waist down after an accident and has been appointed a new nurse. The psychological drama explodes in a hallucinogenic ode to the universe and a meditation on our place within it.
US independent film-maker James Benning’s RUHR was a wonderful piece of cinema at its purest, a stunning series of static camera shots of landscapes where apparently little happens. With just 6 shots in all for the 2-hour running time, the little details like a car or plane passing take on a dramatic significance. The final shot of an enormous chimney which belches out smoke is quite stunning.
Other highlights included HIROSHIMA, the first solo feature from Uruguyan Pablo Stoll after the death of his companion Juan Pablo Rebella with whom he made the widely praised 25 WATTS and WHISKY. HIROSHIMA is almost a silent film with the dialogue appearing as inter-titles. The soundtrack is driven by the post-punk and techno that the central character, a slacker, played by Stoll’s brother Juan, listens to on his Discman.

Berlin- Final Day

My last day in Berlin included a visit to the Film Museum, which has extensive exhibits on the restoration of METROPOLIS, Marlene Dietrich and Romy Schneider - it wasn't as serious a film museum as I expected, but interesting nonetheless. Here are my final two reviews:

My first true enjoyable film experience at the Berlinale came via Nicole Holofcener's latest New York upper middle class-set comedy, with a great cast, sharp script and a wonderful heart at its centre. Top marks particulary to Rebecca Hall who looks very unglamoruous and plain despite her obvious great looks. The first half of the film is as good as anything in Woody Allen's classic era, and the second half fails to live up to that promise. Overall really good though. Celeb PS: I spotted PLEASE star Catherine Keener at the Banksy screening.

This portmanteau film was produced to commemorate 100 years of the Mexican revolution and includes contributions from most of Mexico's top filmmakers (excluding the Hollywood exiles). Like all compilation films, this is a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, my favorites being Carlos Reygada's and Diego Luna's contributions. Celeb PS: while trying to get into the first screening, Gael Garcia Bernal walked past us....

Monday, 15 February 2010

Berlin Day 4

With almost no sleep somehow I managed to carry on throughout the day - but indulged this morning in a little bit of extra sleep so my Tuesday might be light on films. Here are some reviews:

This has been getting rave reviews here and I wouldn't be surprised if it won the top prize, but this Romanian film left me cold. A cliched story about a young prisoner who is pushed into desperate measures to save his little brother, I found it beautifully shot and acted but ultimately unsatisfying.
A slick Spanish supernatural medical drama (a new genre?), this was produced by Alejanddro Amenabar (THE OTHERS) and stars his favorite actor Eduardo Noriega as a doctor who discovered he has the power to cure people by touching them. The how and the why is both complicated and irrelevant. Don't watch this if you're a hypochondriac, as almost every scene features a medical procedure. For ER fans.
The amount of buzz this is getting was evident in the screening - huge excitement and clearly lots of laughter and applause for the street artist Banksy's film debut. The very hype that the feature is getting is exactly what Banksy is spoofing in EXIT, and I do understand the point he is trying to make, I just didn't find it very interesting. That said, I do think that audiences will love this, particularly in Brighton.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Berlin Day 2, 3

Again the lack of wi-fi has hobbled my best blogging efforts. The pace has picked up, and I've seen a good amount of films now. The temperature has risen a bit too, so it's less of a struggle to get around.

The first film I saw at the fest was APART TOGETHER (TUAN YUAN), a sweet family drama from China, this small but endearing film opened the Berlinale after its director won the Silver Bear in 2007. A friend who'd seen it before me warned me, "don't watch it if you're hungry" and boy was she right: scene after scene of cooking, eating, and drinking frame each family encounter and fight. A perfectly observed, often funny, and moving little film.

The morning after, once we'd secured our tickets, we popped two stops on the S-Bahn to the Friederichpalast, a huge theatre turned cinema for the Berlinale. There we saw HOWL. Given its pedigree of producer (Gus Van Sant) stars (James Franco, Jeff Daniels, Jon Hamm) cinematography (Ed Lachman) and subject matter (Allen Gingsberg) this had the chance of being special. Instead it's a car crash of a movie, with embarrassing animated interpretations of Gingsberg's poems, clunky courtroom scenes, and the sight of Franco with a false beard and extended ears. Its a testament to the power of Gingsberg's work that even through the silly conceit of this film you are touched by his poetry.

After a cocktail reception with CICAE, the International Federation of arthouse cinemas, where I ran into many of my colleagues from Venice, we popped over to the Urania cinema, which is a little out of the way of the main festival area. To my amazement, there was a woman outside the cinema asking for signatures for a petition to free Polanski. THE GHOST WRITER - it comes front loaded with the Polish director's personal problems, but I won't address any of the off screen controversy, but suffice to say that this film was partially edited from a prison in Zurich last year. You couldn't tell from the slick, efficient thriller Polanski has constructed from Robert Harris' novel. Pierce Brosnan is almost as sleazy as the prime minister this whole film is clearly based on, and Ewan Macgregor turns in a surprisingly decent performance. All Hitchcock twists and turns, this slightly unbelievable but very watchable story could be a hit.

With just twenty minutes between films for a noddle box and a bottle of water, we sat down for MY NAME IS KHAN. Billed as Bollywood's first Hollywood, this is a really hard film to review: its all about context. Without being familiar with India's commercial style of moviemaking, with long running times, outrageous plot developments and sentimental scenes this might seem like a film from another planet. That said, it does skip the song and dance routines and embrace a controversial subject matter, that of racial profiling in America post 9/11. As if that wasn't enough, it also decides to tackle Asperger's syndrome, American presidential politics, race relations, Katrina and Hindu-Muslim tensions. A tough watch.

Lined up for today is Romanian feature IF I WANT TO WHISTLE, I WHISTLE, Spanish thriller EL MAL AJENO, and then Ben Stiller in GREENBERG and Banksy's EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP at the Palast in the evening. Reviews up tomorrow.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Berlin, Day 1

Sorry it's taken me so long to finally post, but finding a Wifi spot in Berlin is like trying to find a sausage in a well.
The truth is I haven't seen any films yet, so it's probably going to be a short one. After collecting my accreditation, my flatmate Esther & I snuck into the European Film Market, the trade show side of the festival, and browsed through the international stands - it was fascinating to see espresso-fulled sales agents and distributors openly negotiate terms of sale.
This being the most highly attended of all major festivals (hundreds of thousands of tickets are sold each year) getting into films without the red (press) pass isn't easy. This morning we queued up at 8:00am, in freezing wind and snow, to get out tickets for tomorrow. It's a strangely inefficient system for a German event, and both cruel and unusual given the weather. Non-badge holders are camping out in the arcades waiting for tickets overnight.
The rest of my time has been divided between the mundane (buying a new blackberry charger) to the interesting (a meeting about cinema networks at the AG KINO, Germany's arthouse network) to the fun (dinner in probably the only ska-pizza restaurant in the world).
So by the end of tomorrow I will have actual reviews of films and more news. Until then, Auf Wiedersen!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

New Podcast

Rob & I sat down in the projection room a couple of days ago and recorded our Oscar special podcast - we talk about what will win, what should win, and the new 10-picture Academy system.

Listen (and subscribe) here

Happy listening!

Monday, 8 February 2010

UK Box Office 5-7 Feb

So, AVATAR has taken the title of highest grossing film of all time in the UK this weekend, loading an extra £4 million to its now £71 million total. That's above MAMMA MIA!, TITANIC and HARRY POTTER. 'Nuff said.

New openers ASTRO BOY, INVICTUS and YOUTH IN REVOLT did OK business, but PRECIOUS continues to demonstrate long-term health, staying in the top 10 with a doubling of sites. Another arthouse success: A PROPHET is a stone's throw away from £1 million takings in the UK, a milestone for foreign language films.

Here's the line-up:

1- AVATAR (£4,323,448)
3- ASTRO BOY (£1,091,274)
4- INVICTUS (£1,067,112)
5- SHERLOCK HOLMES (£783,676)
6- EDGE OF DARKNESS (£767,985)
7- YOUTH IN REVOLT (£749,935)
9- UP IN THE AIR (£479,219)
10- PRECIOUS (£376,391)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Berlin! Berlin!

I am off to Berlin next week to attend the Berlinale, one of the world's biggest festivals and a huge market. The official programme was released yesterday. Some of the highlights include Polanski's THE GHOST WRITER, Noah Baumbach's GREENBERG, Scorsese's SHUTTER ISLAND, Winterbootom's THE KILLER INSIDE ME, Banksy's EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP and Lisa Cholodenko's THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT.

Not to mention a special screening of Lang's METROPOLIS and some networking events I have been invited to by CICAE. I'm quite looking forward to it. I expect to run into plenty of UK exhibitors and distributors too.

I visited Berlin once in 1992 when I was just 16, and it was a very strange place, still a divided city in many respects. I gather it's quite the European capital now. Some of the European exhibitors I met in Venice last summer will be there, and some of us have rented an apartment - so the immersive quality of the experience will be complete, living and breathing cinema. I shall be blogging with reviews of films and events, and pictures. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Oscar Nominations

The Academy announced their nominations this afternoon. This is a comeback year for the Oscars, as the favorite to win is also the world's most popular film, which means more people will be watching. With ten Best Picture nominations, there is also a chance to include films that people have actually seen. There will be a full predictive podcast recorded later this week. See the list (with notes) below.

Best Picture
AVATAR - will probably win
THE BLIND SIDE - everybody likes a sleeper hit
DISTRICT 9 - I thought The Hangover would get in, not this
THE HURT LOCKER - critics' fav
PRECIOUS - The power of Oprah

Best Director
KATHRYN BIGELOW - will probably win
JASON REITMAN - take that, dad

Best Actor

COLIN FIRTH - he was on this blog here.

Best Actress

SANDRA BULLOCK - America's sweetheart will take this

Best Supporting Actor

WOODY HARRELSON - good for him
CHRISTOPH WALTZ - will probably win

Best Supporting Actress

VERA FARMIGA - should win
MO'NIQUE - will probably win

Best Animated Feature

Best Foreign Language Film
A PROPHET - FRANCE - should win

Best Original Screenplay
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS - should and might win

Best Adapted Screenplay
PRECIOUS - will probably win

Monday, 1 February 2010

UK Box Office 29-31 Jan

No change here. AVATAR takes the top spot again, accumulating over £64 million in the UK, and moving up the all-time charts to number four just behind HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE. It's already taken the American domestic title, as well as the worldwide gross. And it doesn't seem to be slowing down. Jesus.

The biggest new entry this weekend is Mel Gibson's return to acting EDGE OF DARKNESS, a pretty standard vehicle which seems a throwback to the 1990s. PRECIOUS debuted within the Top 10 from only 47 cinemas, with a really fantastic £5K average. ICON will be able to play this and expand across the country as the Oscar nominations roll in.

1- AVATAR (£4,835,127)
2- ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS 2 (£1,193,213)
3- EDGE OF DARKNESS (£1,169,767)
4- SHERLOCK HOLMES (£1,143,686)
5- IT'S COMPLICATED (£847,965)
6- UP IN THE AIR (£735,461)
7- TOY STORY 2 3D (£690,291)
8- THE BOOK OF ELI (£484,983)
9- PRECIOUS (£258,819)
10-DAYBREAKERS (£238,840)