Monday, October 10, 2011


Last weekend, the 25th annual Leeds International Film Festival launched its programme, ahead of the festival in November. There's heaps and heaps of exciting things to look forward to in what is, surely, one of the UK's premiere film festivals, so I thought I'd do a (very) brief preview here.

The Official Selection is the home of the big names, high-art and gruelling drama but really does host all sorts of things. It's nice to see the festival score the coup of a whole bunch of UK premier showings of European and World cinema as well as a handful of very exciting retrospectives. Psycho on the big screen is surely one not to be missed and, though I've seen them before, Waltz With Bashir and Persepolis are both great and worth a cinema trip. For the more hardy, Bela Tarr's epic Sátántangó - which is seven and a half hours long! - is screening in the Hyde Park Picture House. Thankfully it comes with two interval breaks!

In the gleefully brutal and bloody Fanomenon strand, meanwhile, there are also a few exciting treats to look forward to. Heading up the classic genre film retrospectives are Alien, Aliens and Invasion of the Body Snatchers but even these treats don't seem so tasty when compared to the bounties on offer in the new films selection. Monster Brawl, which pitches all the horror favourites against each other, looks too-good-to-miss whilst Exit Humanity's American Civil War zombie apocalypse would surely be the most gloriously insane zombie adventure imaginable, were it not for it being partnered up with Yoshihiro Nishimura's Hell Driver and Cuba's very first zombie film, Juan of the Dead. Oh my! That's three slices of very different but very exciting ZOMBIE ACTION! Hurrah!

Thirdly, and no less excitingly, comes the fabulous news that all Cherry Kino film screenings are FREE (!) this year! Cherry Kino is the semi-independent experimental film strand of the festival and hosts screenings and workshops of 'wondermental' films all year round. CK has it's own web presence in a blog (HERE!) and should bring some reliably curious, strangely beautiful experimentation to the screen. And it's FREEEEEE!

This is, obviously, a brief and over-excited preview. I didn't even find space to squeeze in a mention of the exquisitely bonkers-looking Japanese sub-section of the Fanomenon strand (hint: it'll be weird!), the Cinema Versa documentary strand or the short films strand. And the Official Selection definitely demands some more attention too. More to come soon!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Watching James Bond films. All of them. In order.

So... this week I've taken on a new and exciting challenge: I'm going to watch all the James Bond films, ever single one, in the order they were made. Now, I'm not a complete masochist so I'm not going to set any kind of time limit on this: I'm not watching all 22 (twenty two!) back-to-back! I'll take it nice and slow; I'll put on the tux, shake my vodka martini and then relax and watch Bond, SPECTRE and all manner of exciting things.

Dr. No (1962 / Terence Young / Sean Connery)

And what better place to start than at the beginning? Dr. No, the film that started it all, is still a decent litle thriller by today's standards. It's packed to the brim with awesome and very memorable moments - Ursula Andress emerging from the sea! - and it cracks along at a decent pace, with attempted spider-aided assassination, fist-fights and car-chases. It doesn't have some of the classic elements we came to associate with later Bond films - gadgetry is decidedly thin here - but it does a lot of what you'd expect from a Bond film and does it well.

Sean Connery lays down a serious argument for his place as Best Bond Ever with his brilliantly suave performance, whether flirting in the casino or punching SPECTRE agents in the head - leaving the bloodied, dead agent in the car for the valet to deal with! There's no evil henchman on show (although sometimes that's a good thing) but Dr. No himself with his EVIL METAL HANDS is charismatically evil, a perfect villain.

The unavoidable criticism of the film, sadly, is that the ending just isn't very good. After such a decent story and some brilliant scenes, Bond and Dr. No's fight in what appears to be a climbing frame over the er... yellow-lit toxic bubbling water of death is really pretty lacklustre. Having built him up as a booming-voiced overseer, a metal-clawed monster, a smooth-talking SPECTRE agent, Dr. No's ignoble exit into the - oh so terrifying! - bubbling water is a complete let down really. Still, at least they make up for it a bit by blowing up the base... We all like a good explosion!

It's a good film, great fun to watch and, in many respects, just what you want from a James Bond film. But it's not perfect. Right, on with the list.... From Russia With Love next.