Fidelio: Alice’s Journey (Lucie Borleteau, 2014)

Undoubtedly the sexiest film set on a freighter since Captain Phillips, Fidelio: Alice’s Journey, the French feature debut of actress-turned-writer-director Lucie Borleteau, is a riveting exploration of sexual relationships, everyday sexism, and seafaring struggles (with a touch of sex)…

Full review for VODzilla.co

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Horse Money (Pedro Costa, 2014)

To offer a reductive description of Pedro Costa’s Horse Money for those unfamiliar with it or him as a filmmaker, imagine the following: Labyrinth, except Jennifer Connelly is now an elderly Cape Verde immigrant named Ventura, the labyrinthine dream world is a succession of purgatorial hospital hallways and broken streets, the Jim Henson puppets are replaced by the sorrowful ghosts of lost Portuguese souls, and the looming presence of David Bowie is instead the spectre of Portugal’s socio-political climate. That old, familiar tale…

Full review for The Skinny

Sleeping with Other People (Leslye Headland, 2015)

Writer-director Leslye Headland’s Sleeping with Other People is, it’s fair to say, a lot less acerbic than her debut feature, Bachelorette, but there’s still a degree of raunchiness and vulgar bite to make this stand out from considerably tamer romantic comedies. Many early festival reviews have been keen to compare it to When Harry Met Sally (or give it the moniker “When Harry F**ked Sally”), and although there’s still a considerable gap in quality between the two, the comparison is not too off-base. It’s a worthy 21st century successor, with a similarly strong pair of leads at its centre, albeit a more disreputable, often mean-spirited duo than Harry and Sally…

Full review for Vague Visages

‘Only Yesterday’ Is Studio Ghibli’s Secret Masterpiece

With Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli’s increasingly prominent seeping into Western culture (e.g. a Ghibli-infused sequence in The Simpsonsa Totoro toy in Toy Story 3), it seems odd to declare any of the studio’s back catalogue as, in any way, ‘hidden’. But then, there does seem to be distinct criteria to those that gain Western pop culture praise…

Full feature for Vague Visages

Rogue Sequel: In Defence of John Woo’s ‘Mission: Impossible II’

In the largely homogeneous world of blockbuster franchise filmmaking (hi, Marvel Studios), the nearly 20-years old Mission: Impossible series is perhaps the only still ongoing one that can, without a doubt, be described as director-driven. Brian De Palma’s first film in the series was loosely based on the popular television series of the same name, but it saw fit to treat fan service as red herrings: all IMF squad bar members except Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt are slaughtered within the first act, while series protagonist Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) is revealed to be a traitor. Of the utmost concern to De Palma are his trademark motifs regarding voyeurism, and his spy film fits better in the company of his films like Blow Out than something like the prior year’s Bond entry, GoldenEye. He takes the basic concept of Mission: Impossible and reboots it to suit his own whims.

And so, it is that a similar approach has been carried over to each installment, where every sequel is like its own reboot in a way. There’s continuity and commonality here and there (hi, Ving Rhames), and more so of that in the most recent three films (hi, Bad Robot Productions), but the big connective tissue is always that of using Cruise as a tool, placing him in oft-incredible, elaborate cinematic spectacles — Ethan Hunt is a device, not a character. Yet, the installment that arguably made the best use of Cruise as an instrument of violence is considered the black sheep of the series. Not to say that John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II is the best of the franchise, but there’s much to appreciate here and its rhythms have only become more interesting with age…

Full feature for Vague Visages

Alexander Skarsgård: “Even in a sex scene, you can’t show a butt or a nipple”

Breaking through into public consciousness with the one-two HBO series punch of Generation Kill and True Blood, Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård’s star has been on the rise ever since. Alternating between independent fare (The East), wannabe blockbusters (Battleship), arthouse darling projects (Lars von Trier’s Melancholia), and, of course, Lady Gaga music videos, the 38-year-old is now very much a cinematic force to be reckoned with, far removed from the shadow of his father, beloved character actor Stellan Skarsgård, or the days of his first English-language role in Ben Stiller’s Zoolander (he played one of male model Derek Zoolander’s idiot friends who dies in “a freak gasoline fight accident”). Next year sees him lead a summer tentpole release with a new live-action Tarzan from director David Yates (director of the last four Harry Potter films), but his most interesting film role to date arrives this year on a much smaller scale…

Full interview for The Skinny

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams