Review: John Boorman's 'Queen and Country' uses humor to offer a UK view of the Korean war
Credit: Le Pacte

Review: John Boorman's 'Queen and Country' uses humor to offer a UK view of the Korean war

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B+
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This has got to be the year's most unexpected sequel

CANNES -- When John Boorman released "Hope and Glory" in 1987, I was already fascinated by stories of living through WWII, and I thought his film painted a remarkable, unsentimental portrait of what it was like to be a child during the Blitz. It was all about somehow being able to have a childhood while the world was burning down around him, and it had a spectacular sense of time and place.

Walking into "Queen and Country," his latest film, I had no idea it was a sequel. Written and directed by Boorman, this film takes place as Will, the little boy in the first film, is turning 19 and leaving home, conscripted into Army service as England is sending soldiers over to help fight the Korean War. There's actually a very short clip from "Hope And Glory" at the beginning, and then we dissolve to the island in the Thames where Will and his family still live. We see a Nazi in full uniform charge into the water, only to be shot and killed. Someone calls "cut!" and we realize we're watching them shoot a WWII era movie. The island is near Shepperton Studios, and Will watches, fascinated, as they "kill" the Nazi, again and again and again.

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Review: 'Snow In Paradise' demolishes the myth of the glamorous UK gangster lifestyle
Credit: 8 Media Global

Review: 'Snow In Paradise' demolishes the myth of the glamorous UK gangster lifestyle

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B+
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And Frederick Schmidt is a name you should remember

CANNES -- Andrew Hulme is not a name that many film fans know, but you've more than likely seen his work. As an editor, he's worked on "The American," "Red Riding: 1974," 'Control," "Gangster No. 1," and "Lucky Number Slevin," among others, and he's also served as a second unit director on a few films.

His directorial debut, "Snow In Paradise," made its appearance at Cannes today in the same timeslot that Ryan Gosling's "Lost River" played yesterday. It bummed me out to see that there were maybe a third as many people waiting to get into this one, and that was before I saw the movie. Afterwards, I'm doubly sorry, because it's a self-assured and sincere piece of work.

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Salma Hayek premieres the first footage from her ambitious animated film 'The Prophet'
Credit: AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Salma Hayek premieres the first footage from her ambitious animated film 'The Prophet'

It may not be done, but it's already impressive

CANNES -- One of the more unexpected events at this year's Cannes Film Festival for me happened on Saturday night. I went to what I thought was going to be a screening, but which turned out instead to be a presentation hosted by Salma Hayek for the work-in-progress version of an animated anthology film based on "The Prophet," the internationally acclaimed book of poetry by Kahlil Gibran. Ultimately, we ended up seeing less than half of the film, but Hayek's enthusiasm and the finished footage that we did get to see made a strong case for not only how much this film means to her personally, but also what a beautifully crafted experience the end result promises to be.

If you're an animation fan, this is going to be a fascinating collection of voices and techniques from around the world, all in service of this beautiful, profound piece of work that has been punching holes in readers for fifty years now.

After being introduced, Hayek spoke about how she has made many films that have honored her Mexican heritage, but she's spent her entire career looking for the right project to honor her equally-important Lebanese heritage. Finding a film that spoke to her as an Arabic woman was no simple prospect. Consider how hard it is to find a good script for a woman of any background, and then magnify that difficulty exponentially. When she finally made the connection and saw the potential in "The Prophet," she set out to make what she considers a love letter to that side of who she is.

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Review: 'Beautiful Youth' is a lovely exercise in minor-key heartbreak
Credit: Cannes Film Festival

Review: 'Beautiful Youth' is a lovely exercise in minor-key heartbreak

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Sometimes, simple is fine

CANNES -- This is my third year attending Cannes, and I'm starting to get a sense for what kind of films their programmers are drawn to, which is true of every festival. Sundance has a specific character, SXSW has its identity, Toronto feels like nothing else, and Fantastic Fest is the dangerous, drunken, knife-wielding cousin to all of them. Cannes has a soft spot for a certain kind of social drama and a sort of extreme naturalism. "Hermosa Juventud" is exactly the sort of film I expect to see when I attend this festival, and as such, it's a relatively strong example.

Jamie Rosales is the writer/director of the film, and his greatest strength as a filmmaker is how invisible his touch is. The film is fairly delicate. It never goes for the big melodramatic move, even though there's plenty of opportunity. Even the synopsis for the film in the Cannes catalog leans more heavily on a plot hook than the actual film does. Rosales seems far more interested in simply capturing the way life slowly but surely lands on us than in any traditional ideas about story arc.

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Colin Firth kicks actual butt in first trailer for Matthew Vaughn's 'Kingsman: The Secret Service'
Credit: 20th Century Fox/MARV

Colin Firth kicks actual butt in first trailer for Matthew Vaughn's 'Kingsman: The Secret Service'

Vaughn's working with Mark Millar again, and to great effect, it seems

Colin Firth… action hero?

That's been the most intriguing prospect of Matthew Vaughn's 'Kingsman: The Secret Service," based on another Mark Millar series, since Firth was first announced for the cast last year.

Now that we've got an actual trailer for the movie, I'm in. I find that Matthew Vaughn is an enormously divisive filmmaker, and I have peers who routinely lambast me for enjoying his work. I don't care. I like his sensibilities. I think he has a very dry subversive streak, a fondness for the rude, and he loves many of the same things I do about action movies in general. Hooking up with Mark Millar has led him down a very particular path, and I can see a sort of progression from "Kick-Ass," where a kid decides he wants to try to be a real-life superhero with no powers, to this film, where a kid is recruited to go to what looks like a deadly Hogwarts for British spies.

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Review: Ryan Gosling's directorial debut 'Lost River' drowns in all that ruined beauty
Credit: Marc Platt Productions

Review: Ryan Gosling's directorial debut 'Lost River' drowns in all that ruined beauty

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As first films go, it's pretty but familiar fare

CANNES -- Ryan Gosling has made a concentrated effort to escape his origins in show business, and little wonder. His own personal artistic sensibilities seem to be miles away from the kiddie fare that he appeared in, or "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club." Little by little, as he's been able to pick and choose the roles he wants to play, he has pushed towards darker and moodier work, often collaborating with very strong, challenging filmmakers. Commercial appeal seems to be one of the last things on his mind, and even so, he's built up a dedicated fanbase.

His first film as a writer and director, "Lost River," had its premiere this afternoon at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Un Certain Regard section. There are a number of first time directors in the section this year, and in the years that I've been covering this festival, I've come to think of Un Certain Regard as the place where they put the films that are taking chances, that are exercises in voice, that are hard to categorize anywhere else. That would certainly be a fair description of "Lost River," and while I don't believe it works as a whole, it is apparent immediately that Gosling believe wholeheartedly in this world that he's created.

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Review: Swedish film 'Force Majeure' asks hard questions about manhood and family
Credit: Platform Produktion AB

Review: Swedish film 'Force Majeure' asks hard questions about manhood and family

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And answers them with both wisdom and a surprising streak of humor

CANNES -- What if you were to learn that you are not the man you think you are?

And even worse, what if your family learned it at the same time you did?

That is the question that is cannily posed by "Force Majeure," a new film written and directed by Ruben Ostlund, and with one minor quibble, I found myself deeply impressed by how complex and smart the movie is, and how well it sets up that question and then spends time digging deep to try and answer it. Ostlund pulls off a remarkable balancing act of tone throughout the film, and while many movies feel like they work overtime to try and reach some sort of profound statement, "Force Majeure" effortlessly offers up an examination of just how difficult it is to define and live up to modern ideas of masculinity.

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'Godfather" D.P. Gordon Willis, Hollywood's Prince of Darkness, dies at 82
Credit: MGM/UA Home Video

'Godfather" D.P. Gordon Willis, Hollywood's Prince of Darkness, dies at 82

One of our titans has fallen

One of the most joyous sequences in American film is the opening of Woody Allen's "Manhattan." As Allen's character Isaac speaks in voice-over, Gershwin's remarkable "Rhapsody In Blue" plays.

"Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. No, make that… he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Mm. No. Let me start this over."

Don't bother, Woody. You got it right the first time, and to provide that black-and-white counterpoint to the soaring sounds of Gershwin, cinematographer Gordon Willis shot some of the greatest images of New York City ever burned onto celluloid. Black-and-white felt like a perfect form of expression for Willis, who was referred to by many filmmakers as "The Prince Of Darkness," and "Manhattan" is not just Woody Allen's best looking film… it may be one of the best looking films of all time.

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Review: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska struggle to stay afloat in turgid 'Maps To The Stars'
Credit: eOne Films International

Review: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska struggle to stay afloat in turgid 'Maps To The Stars'

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C
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Cronenberg's latest just doesn't ring true

CANNES -- Last time I was here on the Croisette, David Cronenberg was here with "Cosmopolis," and his son Brandon Cronenberg was here with "Antiviral." It was interesting seeing Brandon make a film that felt like it came from the young and squishy heart of his father, while David made a movie that felt like a genuine explosion of anger without a clear target to land on.

It is easy to say that filmmakers lose steam as they work, that age and success mellow even the most genuinely furious artists, but I don't think that's the case with Cronenberg. After all, since the year 2000, he's made three films that I think are all very strong in their own way and very different than anything he'd done before. "Spider" is an upsetting glimpse into a damaged mind, one that traps us inside looking out rather than trying to explain or excuse. "A History Of Violence" did an exceptional job of digging into the secret faces that even the most intimate of married couples can hide from each other. "Eastern Promises" is just a lean, mean, solid crime thriller with a truly sordid side. And while I don't care for "A Dangerous Method" at all, at least I can understand why Cronenberg would want to tackle a story about the birth of the language we use to dissect modern sexual pathology.

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Review: 'It Follows' offers up some fresh horror ideas from a rising indie filmmaking star
Credit: Northern Lights, Two Flints

Review: 'It Follows' offers up some fresh horror ideas from a rising indie filmmaking star

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B
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It may not all work, but it's got some teeth to it

CANNES -- David Robert Mitchell's "The Myth Of The American Sleepover" was a low-key, low-fi charmer that came out of nowhere a few years ago. The title struck me as perhaps a wee bit on the ambitious side, but the film wasn't out to make grand generational statements. It was just a well-observed film about the sort of night that is important to teenagers precisely because of how loose and free and dangerous it feels, and it marked Mitchell as a guy who had something to say, and a very particular way of saying it.

"It Follows" is his second feature, and it feels very much like it is a companion piece to "Myth." It takes place in the same sorts of neighborhoods, on the same sorts of streets, and many of the scenes play out in that same sort of dreamy loose manner, the way many real conversations play out for teenagers. The difference is that Mitchell's got a very different goal in mind this time, as "It Follows" is an unabashed horror film. There's something really compelling about watching what feels like his first film suddenly erupt into a supernatural nightmare, and it feels like Mitchell's just as much of a soft spot for Carpenter's Haddonfield as he does for Linklater's Austin.

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