Category Archives: VODzilla.co

Non-Fiction (Olivier Assayas, 2018)

Arriving just before his new political thriller, Wasp Network, and just after his Kristen Stewart-led horror riff, Personal Shopper, Non-Fiction finds writer-director Olivier Assayas back in the witty ensemble story mode of earlier career highlights Summer Hours (2008) and Late August, Early September (1998), but merged with the industry satire of Irma Vep (1996). There, it was the film industry skewered with affection; here, it’s the world of novels. Non-Fiction’s original French title, Double Vies, translates to ‘double lives’, and the inherent narcissism found in concealing one’s infidelities while also profiting from them is of particular interest to the director…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Kantemir Balagov talks ‘Beanpole’

Beanpole, the extraordinary sophomore feature of writer-director Kantemir Balagov, earned the young filmmaker the Best Director prize in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, where it also won him the FIPRESCI Prize for the section – his second in a row after Closeness in 2017.

Set in Leningrad after the Second World War, it follows a number of injured or, at least, traumatised survivors attempting to restart their lives anew any way they can. Although a number of compelling characters shine in subplots, Beanpole’s central relationship is that between Iya (Viktoria Miroshnichenko), a very tall, pale and softly-spoken woman, and Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina), a smaller brunette with a more outwardly fervent personality…

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Tolkien (Dome Karukoski, 2019)

Having already helmed Tom of Finland in 2017, Finnish director Dome Karukoski continues his penchant for biopics about creative people with Tolkien. With Nicholas Hoult in the title role, the film presents the trials and tribulations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life up to putting his first draft of The Hobbit to paper. These include his orphaning at a young age, a strong bond with a group of classmates at school, a burgeoning romance with his future wife, Edith (Lily Collins), and his experiences in the First World War.

Tolkien is a handsomely mounted production with an endearing pair of performances at its centre, but it never overcomes the problem at the core of David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford’s screenplay: the reductivism concerning the artistic process. Considering that Tolkien himself was a man who resisted allegorical readings of his work, particularly when it came to the influence of war on his output, there’s a degree of irony to this biopic presenting the most literal-minded interpretation of how The Hobbit – and parts of The Lord of the Rings – came to be…

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Modest Heroes (Hiromasa Yonebayashi/Yoshiyuki Momose/Akihiko Yamashita, 2018)

In a short documentary available on Netflix, titled The Modest Heroes of Studio Ponoc, producer Yoshiaki Nishimura says that makers of short animation films are often asked: “Why do you make short films?” But he wonders why they never ask the question, “Why do you make feature films?” He suggests that short films are often viewed as a stepping-stone of sorts for people who can’t yet make feature films, but that this does a disservice to the form. As he says, short animation films have their own form of expression: “If the creator fully understands the idea, they can create great work… we create short films because we believe they have a value in and of themselves”

Nishimura is right to point out this unfair view towards shorts films. And it is admirable that Studio Ponoc’s second release, which clocks in at under an hour, should be an anthology collection of short films, rather than a traditional narrative feature, such as their 2017 debut, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. The good news is that this three-film collection does a strong job at illustrating the range of the studio’s talents, helping them emerge from the shadow of Studio Ghibli, for whom many of their staff used to work…

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Ali Abassi on bringing ‘Border’ to the screen

Winner of the Un Certain Regard award at last year’s Cannes, and an Oscar nominee for Makeup and Hairstyling, Ali Abassi’s Border arrives on MUBI UK as a landmark title. Aside from streaming on the subscription service, Border is MUBI’s first release – in conjunction with distributor Modern Films, who also released it in cinemas – to receive a Blu-ray and DVD release in the UK. High-profile MUBI-distributed titles Suspiria and Under the Silver Lake are due to follow later this year, although without the co-deal with Modern Films.

The Swedish film is based on a short story by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Let the Right One In), who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Abassi and Isabella Eklöf. A curious blend of romance, fantasy, realism and magical realism, Border sees Tina (Eva Melander), a customs officer with the ability to smell fear, develop an attraction to an odd traveller, Vore (Eero Milonoff), while aiding a police investigation. An outsider all her life due to her physical features, Tina learns from Vore that her own animal-like appearance may be because she’s a species that isn’t actually human.

We sit down with the Iranian-Danish director to discuss bringing the unique tale to the screen…

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‘American Gods’ Season 2 (spoilers)

American Gods’ difficult sophomore season concluded better than it began, with its melancholic Mad Sweeney-focused penultimate instalment being the best of the whole eight-episode run. It was also the only episode that was wholly satisfying in terms of atmosphere, direction, story, character development and performance working together towards a coherent vision – or as coherent as American Gods, which now regularly seems to be opaque just for the sake of being opaque, can be…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Joe Penna on ‘Arctic’, Mads Mikkelsen, polar bears and YouTube

Arctic is a survival thriller in which Mads Mikkelsen plays a man stranded in the Arctic Circle waiting for rescue, only for a helicopter that finds him to crash, killing the pilot and forcing Mikkelsen’s character to have to tend to a severely injured passenger while barely keeping himself alive.

It’s visceral, absorbing stuff. What is particularly noteworthy, though, is that director Joe Penna’s background is as a YouTube content producer for over 12 years – his main channel, as MysteryGuitarMan, has nearly 3 million subscribers and has racked up around 400 million video views.

How does someone goes from the culture of YouTube influencer to making their directorial debut (an on-location survival thriller in harsh terrain, shot in Iceland in under a month) with a major international star in a close to wordless performance? And not only that, but managing to get that debut feature to premiere at Cannes last year? We sit down with Penna to talk Mads, polar bears and more…

Full interview for VODzilla.co