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Drone - Preview

Drone

Preview by Jack Foley

DIRECTED by award-winning female director Tonje Hessen Schei, SPECTRUM is pleased to announce the UK release of Drone, available now digitally and on DVD from May 25, 2015. To celebrate its release, we are offering 3 readers the chance to take home a copy of the film on DVD!

A profound and at times terrifying insight in to the world of drone warfare, Drone offers unprecedented access to those with first-hand experience in one of the most controversial practices of modern day conflict.

Drone covers diverse and integral ground: from the recruitment of young pilots at gaming conventions and the re-definition of “going to war”, to the moral stance of engineers behind the technology, the world leaders giving the secret “green light” to engage in the biggest targeted killing program in history, and the people willing to stand up against the violations of civil liberties and fight for transparency, accountability and justice.

This is just the beginning. In the midst of fast advancement of technology and lagging international legislation the film shows how drones change wars and possibly our future.

Tonje Hessen Schei is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films focus on human rights, the environment and social justice. Tonje directed and produced Play Again and Independent Intervention, both of which have won several international awards.

The films have been screened on all continents in over 100 countries, and are used by schools and universities globally.

To be in with a chance of winning, just answer this question…

Q. Which other film did Tonje direct and produce?

A) Apocalypse Hitler
B) I Am Big Bird
C) Play Again

Simply send the answer to Drone competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Drone is available now digitally and on DVD from May 25, 2015.

Greyhawk (Alec Newman) - Preview & trailer

Greyhawk

Preview by Jack Foley

Greyhawk is the powerful debut feature from director Guy Pitt, and writer Matt Pitt, that explores the life of a blind veteran on a tough estate in London. It’s out now on iTunes and will arrive on DVD on May 25, 2015 courtesy of Metrodome Distribution.

Nominated for the Michael Powell Best British Feature Film award at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014, Greyhawk is a gripping story about Mal Walker, played in a standout turn by Scottish actor Alec Newman (A Lonely Place to Die, Bright Young Things), an army veteran, blinded in Afghanistan and living by the Greyhawk Estate until he has the money to escape.

Cocky, caustic and resentful, but not without engaging wit, his only real companion is Quince, his Labrador guide dog.

Mal is a few days away from starting a new life in the country with the money he has been awarded by the military injuries compensation board, but following an argument with a gang on the estate Quince disappears.

Win Greyhawk on DVD

To celebrate the release of Greyhawk on DVD on May 25, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs Greyhawk?

Simply send the answer to Greyhawk competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Watch the trailer

Testament of Youth - DVD Review

Testament of Youth

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IF the suffering of those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefields of World War I has been well documented on film, then the torment of those they left behind has perhaps been a little overlooked. James Kent’s Testament of Youth, based on the real-life memoirs of Vera Brittain, goes some way to redressing that balance.

Picking up on the eve of war, the film follows the irrepressible, intelligent and free-minded Brittain (played superbly by Alicia Vikander) as she overcomes the prejudices of her family and society to win a scholarship to Oxford with her brother and his close friend Roland Leighton (Kit Harington).

But no sooner has she celebrated such a personal achievement, and taken the first tentative steps towards romance with Roland, then she finds the men in her life signing up for king and country to take on Germany in the First World War. Tragedy predictably follows.

Kent’s film may be an increasingly sombre affair but it’s also both haunting and powerful in the way that it puts forward the female experience of war without forgetting the effect it has on the men fighting it – or even those men, such as her father (Dominic West), who had to wave their sons off to such an uncertain future.

Indeed, it’s a highly thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of work that, admittedly, tugs at the heart-strings – but deservedly so. In doing so, it relays the wastefulness of war without spending much time on the battlefield, while also highlighting the bravery of everyone concerned (family members as well as soldiers).

It’s also handsomely shot by Kent, so that scenes of natural beauty and romance are offset by some of the harder hitting elements of life in the Trenches or in the hospitals nearby.

And in terms of performance, there’s so much to admire. Vikander, especially, offers something of a tour-de-force as Brittain, combining an early free-spirit and fiery determination with an increasing sadness born from worry and bitter experience. And yet she remains quietly dignified and utterly empowering as she completes her journey.

Harington, too, is on good form as Leighton, especially as he grapples with the realities of life on the battlefield and its constant proximity to death. While there’s excellent support from West as Brittain’s father (one scene, in particular, stands out as he says a tearful farewell to his son), as well as Emily Watson, as her mother, Colin Morgan and Taron Egerton, as, respectively, another potential suitor and brother, and Hayley Atwell, as a nurse.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon Testament of Youth, however, is that it does justice to the inspirational piece of writing that inspired it (namely Brittain’s actual memoir), while serving as a potent and still highly relevant reminder of the emotional devastation of war for younger and older audiences alike.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 130mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: May 25, 2015

Into The Woods - DVD Review

Into The Woods

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IT BOASTS a star-studded cast, some slick visuals and plenty of dark fairytale subversion but is Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s musical worth making a song and dance about? The answer is yes and no.

The film version of Broadway smash Into The Woods entertains in fits and starts. When it’s good, there’s plenty to admire, including a terrific performance from Golden Globe nominated Emily Blunt. But there are also long moments that feel laboured, especially during the protracted third act. You will also have to really like musicals.

For those that do, however, Marshall’s film certainly has a lot of fun putting its modern twist on several beloved Brothers Grimm fairytales (from Red Riding Hood to Jack & The Beanstalk), while also giving its talented ensemble cast plenty of song and dance routines.

Taking centre-stage are a baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt), who wish to start a family, but who find themselves at the mercy of a witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them, and who sets them a seemingly impossible task to break it.

Nevertheless, this determined couple head into the woods to complete the quest, thereby coming into contact with Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her dashing prince (Chris Pine), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone) and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), all of whom had a role to play in the witch’s grand plan.

Marshall’s film is at its brightest when tinkering with what you already know of these classic fairytale characters, while exploring the consequences of their wishes along the way – most of which have much darker outcomes than you may have been expecting.

But having set up some fun scenarios, the film badly loses momentum as its heads into the final act and interest starts to wane long before the final credits roll, especially given the disposable nature of certain characters (some of whom disappear far too suddenly to leave the impact they deserve). It’s during these times that the film also struggles to find the right tone, with the darker, more tragic elements sometimes being undermined by the glibness of the songs.

The PG certificate also seems a little generous for younger children, so parents are duly advised to take some caution given the violent/disturbing nature of some of the themes.

On the plus side, there’s a joyful performance from Blunt to savour, who seems to have the best measure of the material (her knowing looks and line delivery are often a joy to behold), as well as fun support from the ever-dependable Kendrick, a surprisingly effective and self-deprecating Chris Pine and both Streep (clearly having a blast as the witch) and Johnny Depp (creepy and disturbing as the wolf on Red Riding Hood’s trail).

Hence, for anyone prepared to go Into The Woods with an open mind and a love of all things Grimm and musical, Marshall has delivered a flawed but entertaining adaptation that will doubtless become a big success.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 125mins
UK Release Date: May 18, 2015

Top 10 Gangster Films

A Most Violent Year

Compiled by Jack Foley

GANGSTER movies are one of the most interesting and most widely debated genres of film, and this is for a number of reasons. Ranging from one’s favourite actors, to the types of gangster you prefer, everyone has a good reason for favouring one film more than another.

There have been a number of fantastic gangster movies made in the last century, and to celebrate the release of A Most Violent Year, available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms from May 18, 2015 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, we will take a look at the Top 10 Gangster Films…

10. Casino (1995)

Casino follows the character of Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a gambler the Mafia places in charge of the Tangiers casino in Las Vegas. It is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Nicholas Pileggi, who also co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Scorsese.

The two previously collaborated on the 1990 hit film Goodfellas. The film was a box-office success, making $116 million worldwide on a $40–50 million budget. A fan favourite the world over, Casino earns its place in this top 10.

9. The French Connection (1971)

One of the first real urban crime thrillers to grace the big screen, The French Connection had its viewers immersed in the film for its duration, mainly as a result of the films focus on hyper realism. New York City cops Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) are conducting an undercover stakeout in Brooklyn.

After seeing a drug transaction take place in a bar, Cloudy goes in to make an arrest but the suspect makes a break for it. After catching up with their suspect and severely beating him, the detectives interrogate the man who reveals his drug connection that reaches all the way over to France.

8. Sexy Beast (2000)

Arguably the best Gangster film to come out of the UK in the past 20 years, Sexy Beast made a cult hero out of the main villain, Don Logan (Sir Ben Kingsley). Directed by Jonathan Glazer, the film centres on Gal (Ray Winstone) and the lengths his arch nemesis will go to get him back to London from Spain to carry out one final job.

7. The Untouchables (1987)

Directed by Brian De Palma and written by David Mamet, The Untouchables is based on the autobiographical memoirs of the same name. Starring Kevin Costner as government agent Eliot Ness, it also stars Robert De Niro as gang leader Al Capone and Sean Connery as Irish-American officer Jimmy Malone (who was based on the real life agent and member of the “Untouchables” Irish-American Marty Lahart).

De Palma displays his filmmaking genius in this film, and it deservedly earns its place in this top 10 list.

6. No Country For Old Men (2007)

Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men

Meticulously scripted, excitingly tense, violent beyond measure and yet maturely sorrowful , No Country For Old Men marks the first time the Coen brothers have faithfully adapted somebody else’s work to their own liking and considerable strengths.

Cormac McCarthy’s incredible, best-selling 2005 novel of the same name describes a contemporary American West (the action is set in 1980) where drug trafficking is the new Gold Rush, and Josh Brolin becomes caught up in one of the most dangerous games of cat and mouse ever seen. A true masterpiece.

Read our review l Javier Bardem interview

5. Scarface (1983)

Scarface

One of the most popular films in cult history, Scarface earns its place on this list with ease. After getting a green card in exchange for assassinating a Cuban government official, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) stakes a claim on the drug trade in Miami.

Viciously murdering anyone who stands in his way, Tony eventually becomes the biggest drug lord in the state, controlling nearly all the cocaine that comes through Miami. But increased pressure from the police, wars with Colombian drug cartels and his own drug-fuelled paranoia serve to fuel the flames of his eventual downfall.

Read our review l Read our interview with Steven Bauer

4. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Quentin Tarantino’s trendsetting movie that took us on a ride with five criminals put together for a heist that goes wrong – each character was aptly named after a colour and to top things off the cast were all A-List talent. Tarantino tells the story the way only he can, and even after being released over 20 years ago, the film carries the same knockout punch it did back then.

Read our review

3. Goodfellas (1990)

If a film can go on to inspire arguably the greatest TV show ever made in The Sopranos, then it goes a long way to emphasising the effect this film had on millions of film lovers around the world. Goodfellas is one of the most influential films of the last 25 years, and could well be one of Michael Scorcese’s finest.

Goodfellas tells the story of the true-life descent into big-time crime of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), and the colourful group of friends he fraternised with.

2. The Godfather Part II (1974)

It is often debated whether The Godfather II is better than the first of the Godfather trilogy as it wouldn’t exist without the first, but this author feels that this is the greater of the two films.

The time-hopping structure allows Francis Ford Coppola to flesh out the Michael Corleone’s world in violently fascinating new dimensions, yet somehow, the brutal drama of the original is sustained effortlessly across half a century.

1. A Most Violent Year (2014)

A Most Violent Year

Jessica Chastain alongside Oscar Isaac, demonstrate why they are currently two of the most in-demand actors on the planet with their excellent portrayal of a family involved in business that pushes the boundaries of the law to the limit.

At a time when New York City is experiencing a spike in criminal activity, small businessman Abel Morales (Isaac) fights to make himself a living, support his wife Anna (Chastain) and protect his interests. Always looking for a way to expand his business, Abel nevertheless strives to keep things honest and to do things by the book.

However, when he becomes the target of opportunistic thieves, he takes matters into his own hands to track down those responsible. But, in doing so, he also attracts the attention of the Assistant District Attorney (David Oyelowo) who takes an unwelcome interest in Abel’s business practices…

Read our review

Honourable mentions

Boyz N The Hood, The Departed, The Long Good Friday, The Godfather, Gomorrah, Fargo, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, Once Upon a Time in America, Miller’s Crossing, Leon, King of New York, Bonnie and Clyde, State of Grace, The Killing, Pulp Fiction, The Raid 2, True Romance, Carlito’s Way.

A Most Violent Year - DVD Review

A Most Violent Year

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

SLOW-BURNING crime drama A Most Violent Year is a take notice film for two very big reasons. It marks a tour-de-force acting performance from man-of-the-moment Oscar Isaac and another mightily impressive screenwriting and directing credit from JC Chandor.

The latter has already been responsible for the excellent financial drama Margin Call and survival movie All Is Lost but his latest marks arguably his most ambitious undertaking yet.

A complex, richly layered examination of one man’s attempts to maintain his personal and business integrity amid one of the most violent and corrupt periods in New York’s history, this entertains on an intellectual level that places it on a par with the classic ’70s films of [Francis Ford] Coppola and [Sidney] Lumet as well as on an emotional level.

Isaac, meanwhile, delivers a performance that has already drawn comparisons in the US with Godfather-era Al Pacino and it is worthy of those. How the actor missed out on an Oscar nomination this year is another of this season’s awards mysteries. Coupled with his performance in Ex_Machina and last year’s Inside Llewyn Davis, Isaac now deserves to be recognised among the greatest actors of his generation.

The events of the film unfold in 1981 and focus on immigrant businessman Abel Morales (Isaac) and his wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain) as they try to expand their business with a make or break deal involving oil.

However, no sooner have they placed themselves on a deadline to raise the required funds or lose everything, they find themselves caught up amid the rampant violence, decay and corruption of the day and facing a criminal investigation as well as the sustained threat of violence from the Mobsters surrounding them.

One of the most amazing things about Chandor’s film is the way he makes the complicated seem simple. Some of the machinations surrounding his business deals sound complex, while the deal itself could be described as boring. But Chandor makes them relatable and easy enough to follow for those willing to pay attention.

And such is the emotional grip the film maintains, you genuinely do care for the central character, especially as the odds become increasingly stacked against him.

Morales, for his part, maintains an impressive air of dignity throughout, only rarely becoming flustered enough to explode in the way that a young Pacino once did. But even then, there’s a class and demeanour about him that is resolutely Isaac’s. It is a performance made all the more striking for the way it differs from his turns in the films we earlier mentioned.

Chandor, too, deserves credit for allowing Isaac the time in which to weave such a rich tapestry. But then, as proven with Redford in All Is Lost and his starry ensemble in Margin Call, he’s very much an actor’s director.

There’s striking support, too, from the likes of Chastain, excellent as the Mobster-linked wife, David Oyelowo, as the no-nonsense but kind of sympathetic cop on his trail, Albert Brooks, as his dubious lawyer, and Elyes Gabel, as one of Morales’ less fortunate employees (whose own story carries a tragic undertow).

While certainly slow paced by the standards of some crime dramas, Chandor nevertheless invests proceedings with an underlying tension that means the threat of violence is never far away. For make no mistake, the stakes are high and you can sense the desperation, no matter how calm Morales’ demeanour.

In doing so, Chandor also asks questions of his audience concerning integrity, corruption and whether it is better to fight fire with fire or to hold onto one’s principals when all around are willing to compromise theirs.

A Most Violent Year is therefore something of a masterclass. A film that aspires to the greatness of a bygone era of filmmaking that reaches it with some style.

Read our round-up of the top 10 gangster films

Certificate: 15
Running time: 125mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: May 18, 2015

Foxcatcher - DVD Review

Foxcatcher

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BENNETT Miller tackles another dark chapter in American history with the sombre Foxcatcher, an engrossing but heavy-going experience marked out by a trio of great performances.

The chapter in question concerns Olympic wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with billionaire benefactor and trainer John du Pont (Steve Carell).

The siblings were already winners when taken under the stewardship of du Pont but while David (Ruffalo) was widely celebrated, Mark (Tatum) had reluctantly lived in his brother’s shadow. Hence, when it is Mark who is initially approached by du Pont to be the figurehead of the US challenge at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, he jumps at the chance.

But while du Pont becomes as much a father figure as he is a tutor, it slowly becomes clear there is a darkness to him that puts the previously strong bond between the brothers to the test.

The climax is genuinely shocking and may well leave you cold. But just as he did with the Oscar-winning Capote, Miller has created a fiercely engrossing character study that examines the flip-side of the American Dream.

Carell’s du Pont, in particular, is an eerily compelling presence; a man who sees himself as a fierce patriot but who has been forced to live in the shadow of his own mother for too many years. In Mark, he possibly sees a kindred spirit as well as the child he may never have. But his ruthless manipulation of both Mark and David for his own ends showcases a much more sinister side to his make-up.

Tatum, too, excels in what is arguably his best performance to date. The actor delivers a warts and all performance that places an untapped vulnerability to the fore and he remains a tragic figure throughout – someone desperate as much for recognition as he is for sporting success, who always seems one step away from heartbreak no matter how hard he tries.

Ruffalo, meanwhile, brings an endearing everyman quality to his family man that makes him effortlessly endearing. Yet there’s a naivety too that only allows the central tragedy to take shape.

Bennett’s direction is deliberately slow-burning while the tone he creates is extremely sombre, sometimes stiflingly so. Even in the film’s celebratory moments, there’s a sense of despair or doom; happiness is a fleeting commodity for both characters and viewers.

And yet in spite of this darkness, Foxcatcher remains utterly compelling, buoyed by the quality of that central trio and Miller’s intelligent and thought-provoking dissection of the grim tale at hand. His film is therefore a great companion piece to Capote and a powerful and sobering piece of filmmaking in its own right.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 134mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: May 18, 2015

Falcon Rising - Preview

Falcon Rising

Preview by Jack Foley

JOHN “Falcon” Chapman (Michael Jai White) is an ex-marine anti-hero plagued with a terrible secret consuming him with guilt.

On the self-destructive edge, he learns his sister Cindy (Laila Ali) has been brutally beaten in the slums or “favelas” of Brazil and travels there to hunt down her attackers.

In the process he discovers an underground world of drugs, prostitution, and police corruption ruled be the Japanese mafia and protected by the powerful Hirimoto (Masashi Odate; The Last Samurai).

Can Chapman overcome his personal demons when tracking down his sister’s attacker, or will he become another casualty?

With incredible fight sequences and edge-of-your-seat action, martial arts superstar and holder of eight black belts, Michael Jai White, delivers a thrilling physical performance!

Falcon Rising (cert.15) stars Michael Jai White (The Dark Knight, Tyson, Black Dynamite), Neal McDonough (Minority Report, Desperate Housewives) and Laila Ali (Daughter of Muhammed Ali) and is released on DVD & VOD on Monday, May 18, courtesy of Spirit Entertainment and The Movie Partnership.

Win Falcon Rising on DVD

To celebrate the release of Falcon Rising on DVD on May 18, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. How many black belts does Michael Jai White hold?

Simply send the answer to Falcon Rising competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

The Sleeping Room

The Sleeping Room

Preview by Jack Foley

Following its UK premiere at FrightFest, Second Sight is proud to announce the UK rights acquisition of acclaimed supernatural tale of Victorian revenge, The Sleeping Room.

The directorial debut of John Shackleton (writer/producer Panic Button), the film will make its UK debut On-Demand and Download on April 27, 2015 and DVD on May 11, 2015. Produced by Gareth I Davies, The Sleeping Room marks Movie Mogul’s second feature.

Orphaned 19 year-old Brighton call girl Blue (Leila Mimmack – Becoming Human) is sent by her violent pimp Freddie (David Sibley – Downton Abbey) and his blowsy partner Cynthia (Julie Graham – Tower Block) to meet a new punter in Brighton, unaware of the horrifying impact it will have on her life.

As Blue begins to fall for the quirky charms of her client Bill Hepworth (Joseph Beattie – Hex), she’s even more intrigued by the grand Regency terraced house that he is renovating; a once infamous Victorian brothel.

Together they uncover a secret room that unlocks many dark and terrifying secrets relating to Blue’s murky family past and the death of her mother. A terrible supernatural force is about to be unleashed and nobody will escape its monstrous power unless a score for a heinous felony is settled.

Awakening demons past and present, Blue is forced to confront her own in this psychological gothic nightmare that also stars Christopher Adamson (Pirates of the Caribbean), Chris Waller (Fright Night 2) and horror critic Billy Chainsaw.

Win The Sleeping Room on DVD

To celebrate the release of The Sleeping Room on DVD on May 11, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 of 3 copies. Simply answer the following question…

Q. Who directs The Sleeping Room?

Simply send the answer to The Sleeping Room competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email

Mean Streets - Blu-ray Preview

Mean Streets

Preview by Jack Foley

To celebrate the release of Martin Scorsese’s truly unforgettable knockout classic Mean Streets – on DVD and Blu-ray on May 18, 2015 – we have a copy on Blu-ray to giveaway courtesy of Icon Home Entertainment.

One of the best films of the 1970s, “Mean Streets” is the granddaddy of the modern crime cinema and it heralded the arrival of screen legends Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel.

New special features include audio commentary with Martin Scorsese, actress Amy Robinson and co-writer Mardik Martin, the vintage featurette “Back on the Block” and the original theatrical trailer.

“One of the best American films of the decade” Time Out

“An acclaimed classic for a long time but what doesn’t get said too often is how wonderfully funny it is… The movie’s blazing energy is still astounding” – The Guardian

Synopsis

One of the director’s most personal and powerful films, Mean Streets stars De Niro and Keitel as Johnny Boy and Charlie, Italian-American cousins, small time criminals hustling, fighting and carousing, doing whatever it takes to survive in the rough and ready New York neighbourhoods.

Johnny Boy seems to spend his life getting into trouble, leaving the slightly older, and wiser Charlie to get him out of it. Charlie wants to make enough money to buy a restaurant, and he wants to drum some sense into Johnny Boy. But when Johnny Boy reneges on a debt to a loan shark, things get nasty, and the cousins find themselves having to flee a hired killer.

Order the Blu-ray

Order the DVD

Win Mean Streets on Blu-ray

To celebrate the release of Mean Streets on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, May 18, 2015, IndieLondon is offering readers the chance to win 1 copy on Blu-ray. Simply answer the following question…

Q. What is the name of Robert De Niro’s character in Mean Streets?

Simply send the answer to Mean Streets competition and include your name, address, telephone number and email