John Battsek

John Battsek

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How I Live Now Review


Excellent

Remarkably bleak for a teen movie, this drama keeps us gripped as it throws its characters into an odyssey that's seriously harrowing. Gifted filmmaker Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and a fine young cast make sure that we feel every punch of emotion along the way. And the premise itself gets our minds spinning in unusual directions.

Set in the present day, violent uprisings are growing in Europe as 16-year-old Daisy (Ronan) heads from New York to Britain to spend the summer with her Aunt Penn (Chancellor) on a farm in rural Wales. A sullen loner, she tries to avoid her three chirpy cousins: the quiet genius Eddie (MacKay) is her age, while the more adventurous Isaac (Holland) is 14 and the younger Piper (Bird) is clingy and annoying. Then while Penn is away on business, the violence spreads to the UK, which descends into martial law. The cousins are divided and sent into care. But they promise to meet back at the farm, which is going to be an epic journey for Daisy and Piper if they can escape from their new home.

The story is told from Daisy's perspective, complete with glimpses into her troubled thoughts, dreams and nightmares. We're never sure why she is so deeply fearful of everything around her, but Ronan brings out her fragile mental state beautifully, then takes us along as Daisy is pushed to the limits and must find the inner strength to go forward. As a result, the other characters remain less-defined, although MacKay and Holland bring layers of interest to Eddie and Isaac. As Daisy's companion, Bird is much more present on-screen, and we're as irritated by her as Daisy is.

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GREAT British Film Reception to honor the British nominees

John Battsek - GREAT British Film Reception to honor the British nominees of the 85th Annual Academy Awards at British Consul GeneralÂ’s Residence - Los Angeles, California, United States - Friday 22nd February 2013

Everything Or Nothing Review


Good

Assembled in the style of a Bond film, this lively doc is an entertaining race through 50 years of the 007 franchise. The fast-paced narrative skips over a few things here and there, but focusses nicely on the relationships that have sustained the films over the decades even when it looked like it was about to fall apart.

James Bond was created as a bit of wish-fulfilment for author Ian Fleming, a reaction to his desk-bound job in intelligence during WWII. After the Cold War sparked interest in the novels, the film rights were sold to producers Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. To make the first movie, 1962's Dr No, they broke every rule in the book, casting an unknown Scottish actor as Bond and redesigning the look and feel of spy movies from the ground up. Of course, it was a sensation, sparking the longest-running movie franchise of all time. Although it certainly hasn't been a smooth ride.

The central focus here is on the bromance between Cubby and Harry, which has lingered into the next generation. Today, Barbara Broccoli and her stepbrother Michael Wilson keep the films current, relevant and faithful to Fleming's original creation, which is a tricky balancing act. In this documentary, we get lucid first-hand accounts of the crises that nearly sank the franchise, including the panic of Connery's decision to leave the role, the legal wranglings around Thunderball (and its unofficial remake Never Say Never Again) and Brosnan's first false start as Bond. And then there were the world-changing events of 9/11, which spurred the producers to completely reinvent Bond as a grittier, more emotionally resonant figure.

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Fire In Babylon Review


OK
This documentary about the 1970s-1980s West Indies cricket team may seem like it would be specific for fans of the sport. But by looking at the bigger picture, the film finds a lot to say about the world beyond the sport.

In the late 1970s, the West Indies team developed an iconic style of playing that would dominate the sport for the next 15 years, the longest winning streak in any sport. And this spark was a massive blow to racial tensions around the world, most notably for their former colonial rulers in Great Britain. The story is told completely from the perspective of the West Indians themselves, with lively anecdotes, pointed observations and, of course, great music.

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Picture - John Battsek New York City, USA, Monday 9th August 2010

John Battsek Monday 9th August 2010 attends the premiere of 'The Tillman Story' presented by The Weinstein Company and A&E IndieFilms at MOMA New York City, USA

Picture - John Battsek London, England, Sunday 15th March 2009

John Battsek Sunday 15th March 2009 'The Age of Stupid' UK film premiere held at Leicester Square gardens in a solar powered tent - Arrivals London, England

John Battsek

My Kid Could Paint That Review


Good
There's little better that a film can have going for it than a cute child, and four-year-old Marla Olmstead -- the putative star of Amir Bar-Lev's studious documentary My Kid Could Paint That -- has cuteness in spades, with a big, toothy grin and a world-embracing attitude. She's a disarming presence, wandering about at the feet of all the film's adults, who stand around jawing about art, the price of art, what constitutes art in general, and Marla's art in specific, while the girl herself seems almost ignored, the goofy smile occasionally cutting through the chatter while the remarks of her and her little brother go mostly unnoticed by anybody but Bar-Lev and his camera.

About the only thing that's better for a film to have than a cute child is a villain, and while the villain here is somewhat amorphous, it's no more hiss-worthy an adversary for Marla and her picture-perfect family. Mom is a dental hygienist, dad works the night-shift at the local Frito-Lay factory, her little brother does what little brothers do, while Marla happens to make big, splashy abstract paintings that have sold in a local gallery to buyers from around the world for thousands of dollars. This should be a dream come true: a child prodigy, innocence and talent rewarded, lots of money for her college fund, everybody's happy. Only the father, Mark, appears to have stars in his eyes. Both he and the gallery owner, friend Anthony Brunelli, are painters themselves, guys with obvious talent (Mark's work, glimpsed briefly, seems colorful and lively, while Brunelli does painstaking, expertly rendered photorealist canvases that can take him up to nine months each), and in Marla they seem to have found their ticket to fame. It's that glare of recognition, the TV shows that keep calling, the constant buzz of fame, and the attendant unavoidable controversy, which serves as the villain here more than any particular person.

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In the Shadow of the Moon Review


OK
David Sington's sincere and elegiac chronology of the Apollo moon missions of 1968 through 1972 is very cool, very white, and very conservative. The film embodies Norman Mailer's description of the NASA space program in his book Of a Fire on the Moon: "The astronauts were the core of some magnetic human force called Americanism, Protestantism, or WASPitude... They were the knights of the Silent Majority, the WASP emerging from human history in order to take us to the stars."

Sington employs previously unseen footage of the Apollo missions (re-mastered from archival 16mm footage and turbo-charged with a surround sound mix), along with television clips from the era and head shot interviews with 10 surviving Apollo astronauts, all larded over with Philip Sheppard's intrusive Copland-inspired score, giving the film the sheen of a very well made industrial flick exhibited at a Republican rotary club event.

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Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos Review


Good
Like most people, I couldn't care less about professional soccer, but the U.S. in the 1970s is a wholly different story. Hell, from the exhorbitant length of the title of Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos alone you can tell that this particular era in soccer history really resonated.

And kudos to Once in a Lifetime for jogging my memory about one of the most peculiar eras in pro sports. For a few short years, pro soccer teams were selling out some of the largest venues in America: 75,000 would turn out to watch the New York Cosmos (with superstar Pelé at the helm) kick a little white ball around on a giant field of grass. By comparison, the most popular team in baseball, the New York Yankees, currently draw about 52,000 people to see each game.

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One Day in September Review


Extraordinary
The current crisis in the Middle East, with its painful controversy regarding the sovereignty over Temple Mount, makes the timing for the documentary One Day in September (Best Documentary Oscar: 1999) perfect. The film presents the historical events of the 1972 Munich Olympics, when Palestinian terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage and interrupted the Games. The filmmakers use actual footage taken at the time, interviews with German officials and children of the victims, clips from television news reports, and interviews with the only surviving terrorist who participated in the attack, Jamal Al Gashey.

The film starts off on a personal note: Ankie Spitzer, a widow of one of the Israeli athletes kept as a hostage, recalls their happy marriage and anticipation of coming to the Olympic games. Giving the tragedy a human face underlines the message of the film: At the core of every political game, human life and death are nothing more than a by-product of political cruelty. Objectively, it gives a succinct summary of why the 1972 Olympics, besides being as political as Olympic Games always are, were so particularly important to both Germans and Israelis. Subjectively, and understandably so, the film is pro-Israeli: If members of Israeli team are presented as exemplary citizens -- young, ambitions, with families and babies -- Palestinians are shown receiving training in violence, hiding as Zionist refugees in Lebanon and Libya, carrying out their terrorist acts with anonymous brutality (as they don't even know the target of their attack until very late). Thus, in addition and perhaps without realizing it, the film exemplifies why cinema is such a powerful and dangerous medium; One Day in September is an adroitly constructed yet highly manipulative film.

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