Werner Herzog, Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Damien Lewis - Celebrities attends the "Queen of the Desert" premiere at the Berlinale Palast for the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival. - Berlin, Germany - Friday 6th February 2015
Damian Lewis, Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Werner Herzog - 65th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) - 'Queen of the Desert'- Press Conference - Berlin, Germany - Friday 6th February 2015
Fans of film journalism will love this documentary about the noted Chicago critic Roger Ebert, although the movie is just as much about his battle with the cancer that took his life in 2013. It's a lively, fast-paced doc, but even at two hours it feels oddly truncated as the two topics seem to fight for screen time. Fortunately both are potent: the story of Roger's love of cinema and the footage of his astoundingly cheerful refusal to let illness get him down.
Based around Roger's eponymous autobiography, the film quickly traces his background as a film lover who rose through the ranks at the Chicago Sun-Times to become an unusually resonant film reviewer, able to express opinions and even high-minded cinematic observations in ways that were never cynical or snobbish. He found national (and even global) fame through his TV programmes opposite rival Chicago critic Gene Siskel, which began in 1978 and standardised their "thumbs up"/"thumbs down" verdicts. At age 50, Roger met his wife Chaz at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and her children and grandchildren became his. In 2002, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent a series of surgeries that by 2006 made it impossible for him to speak. But he carried on writing reviews and making public appearances (speaking through his computer) until his death.
Filmmaker Steve James had startling access to Roger during the final year of his life, following him to hospitals and rehabilitation centres. Looking at his cancer-ravaged face is difficult at first, but Roger's smiling eyes and constant joking reinforces his optimistic, matter-of-fact approach to life. And he keeps reminding James that this documentary has to show everything, never flinching away from the truth. As a result, the film is a remarkably intimate look at how Roger and Chaz faced the illness and made difficult decisions along the way. This adds an emotional layer to the documentary that's remarkably moving, putting Roger's work into the context of his life and death.
Continue reading: Life Itself Review
For what he has said will be his final film, animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki tackles a controversial biopic that could just as easily have been shot in live action. It's as if he's challenging filmmakers to use their imaginations and make the best movies they can make in whatever way they can. And the result is utterly magical, transcending the touchy subject matter to tell a story about the purity of creativity.
Based on the life of aviation engineer Jiro Horikoshi, this Oscar-nominated film opens in the 1920s when young Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English version) decides to study aeronautics because his poor eyesight won't let him become a pilot. So he dreams of designing the perfect plane, and his inventive approach catches the attention of Mitsubishi, which assigns him to a secret military project working with Japan's allies in Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, Jiro meets Nahoko (Emily Blunt) and they fall for each other as she struggles to recover from tuberculosis and he grapples with the moral issues of designing a beautiful plane that will be used to kill people in wartime.
Clearly this isn't the kind of animated movie Hollywood would ever produce: it's packed with complex characters who don't always do the right thing, and it takes a perspective that requires sympathy with someone who could be considered a historical villain. But Miyazaki tells the story exquisitely, animating the scenes with such inventiveness that it's impossible not to get lost in the breathtaking imagery. Scenes are also packed with lively side characters, including Jiro's bulldog-like boss (Martin Short), a more grounded colleague (John Krazinski) and a suspicious foreigner (Werner Herzog) who seems to be following Jiro.
Continue reading: The Wind Rises Review
Jiro Horikoshi is an aeronautical engineer whose childhood was filled with dreams about becoming a pilot. His poor vision meant that he would never realise his ambition, but he is encouraged to keep up his passion by Italian plane designer Caproni. Resolving to design aircrafts instead of fly them, Jiro studies the art at university, during which time he meets an attractive young woman named Naoko. Their relationship was born out of the dangerous circumstances of the Great Kanto Earthquake, throughout which they helped one another off a fast moving train. As their life together progresses, Naoko falls ill and Jiro struggles to bring in a regular income. He must succeed in the challenge of building the most exquisitely beautiful aeroplane in the world in order to get back on his feet, as his career could be the only thing he has left.
'The Wind Rises' is romantic, heart-wrenching animated adventure directed and written by the Oscar winning Hayao Miyazaki ('Spirited Away', 'Princess Mononoke', 'Howl's Moving Castle'). This Japanese drama, loosely based on Tatsuo Hori's 1936 short story 'The Wind Has Risen', features the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci in the English version. It is due for release in the UK on May 9th 2014.
When Jiro Horikoshi was a young boy, all he ever dreamed about was flying planes - at least he did until one night he came across Italian plane designer Caproni in one of his dreams, who subsequently told him that his poor vision means he'll never be a pilot. Jiro instead resolves to take up aeronautical engineering and design aircrafts himself . While at university, he meets a young woman named Naoko who he helps off a train during the Great Kanto Earthquake and the pair become close. His life begins to spiral, however, with his work projects becoming few and far between and Naoko's health deteriorating. But will Jiro finally realise his dream and build an aircraft of pure beauty? Or will his dream come crashing to the ground?
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The master of alternative cinema returns with the genocide-based documentary
In typical Werner Herzog fashion, the trailer for his new film, The Act of Killing - a joint effort between Herzog and Errol Morris with director Joshua Oppenheimer - is a strange, surreal cinematic portrayal of the side of human nature we barely get to see.
This time round, the filmakers main concentration is on Indonesian genocide of 1965, in particular the Anwar, who oversaw and handled many of the killings. Not exactly your standard Sunday afternoon viewing, but then again no Herzog film ever is. Oppenheimer's documentary has already caught critics attention and has left many applauding the effort, regardless of the gruesome subject matter and the gory detail the film goes into to portray the violence and horror of this relatively unknown piece of world history. The film challenges the former warlords, who are now seen as heroes by many in Indonesia, to recreate the heinous acts in any cinematic style they wish, including classic Hollywood film noir scenes and lavish musical numbers.
Continue reading: Trailer For Werner Herzog's 'The Act Of Killing' Hits The Web
Les Blank made some wonderfully weird documentaries
Harrod Blank, the son of the acclaimed documentary filmmaker Les Blank, has confirmed the death of his father, aged 77. Blank died at his home in Berkeley, California nearly a year after being diagnosed with bladder cancer.
Blank became renown for his inquisitive eye and large range of subject matter. There was nothing he wouldn’t investigate and make an engaging documentary on. His early work focussed on music, with 1965's "Dizzy Gillespie" and "The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins." His attention then turned to food, but not your average food docs, oh no. "Garlic is as Good as 10 Mothers," and 2007's "All in This Tea" were his attempts at gastronomically documentaries. "I think he's a national treasure," filmmaker Taylor Hackford, president of the Directors Guild of America, told the New York Times. "Although his films are not well known at the moment, they'll take their place". His 1987 film "Gap-Toothed Women" was a series of interviews on the subject spurred by an old high school crush. "If he was interested in gap-toothed women, he's going to make a film about it. If he wants to make a film about garlic because he loves to eat garlic, he's going to do it," said his son who is also a filmmaker.
Perhaps his best-known work involved following the acclaimed director, Werner Herzog in 1979's Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. "If I abandon this project, I would be a man without dreams," Blank films Herzog saying in another collaboration between the two, ‘Burden of Dreams’. "I don't want to live like that."
Continue reading: Documentary Film-Maker Les Blank Dies Aged 77, Son Confirms
The daughter of Klaus Kinski - the late German actor known for Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo - has accused her father of raping her repeatedly as a child. The worrying accusations were made this week by Pola Kinski, his now 60-year-old daughter from his first marriage.
Speaking in Germany's weekly magazine Stern, Pola said, "He ignored everything, including the fact that I often tried to resist and told him 'I don't want to'. He simply didn't care. He just took what he wanted." Kinski - known for his short temper - died in California in 1991 and was regarded as one of Germany's most exuberant performers. He appeared alongside Clint Eastwood in the western For A Few Dollars More, though was known for his work with Herzog, which often resulted in violent clashes with the director. Kinski had a history of mental health problems and attempted suicide. His vitriolic outbursts meant he was feared by interviewers. His daughter claims that the actor began summoning her to hotel rooms and apartments in Berlin, Rome and Madrid, throwing her against walls and subjecting her to violent rape before showering her with lavish gifts afterwards. "He treated himself to a little sex object, placed on silk cushions," she said.
Klaus Kinski had two other children with his second and third wives. His daughter - the film star Natasha Kinski and son Nikolai - are yet to comment on Pola's revelations.
Jack Reacher is a former military police officer who with the ability to make himself untraceable; i.e. it's only possible to find him when he chooses to be found. However, he shows himself readily when he is recruited to investigate a quadruple murder when the suspect they rope in specifically requests him to be involved. The suspect is James Barr, a former sniper who once got away with shooting four people in a similar crime; a man who Reacher insisted he would kill should an incident like this ever occur again. Initially, he is determined to prove this guy's guilt, however as he delves deeper into the investigation he starts to believe the evidence shown to him by defense lawyer Helen Rodin points to his innocence and finally starts to see that there is a different perpetrator who deliberately set Barr up. Reacher is determined to find out the truth no matter how many laws he breaks on the way; though when Rodin is kidnapped by a cohort of the real killer after they get too close to the truth, the stakes are increased no matter how much Reacher tries to insist he has nothing to lose.
This gritty crime thriller is based on the 2005 novel 'One Shot' by Lee Child and has been entirely filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With a first class director and writer, Christopher McQuarrie ('The Usual Suspects', 'Valkyrie', 'The Tourist'), Jack Reacher looks definitely set to become a huge hit when it hits movie theaters on December 26th 2012.
Continue: Jack Reacher Trailer
Opening on a terrified-looking man in a hospital bed, we are immediately informed that Jack Reacher is a, "kind of cop", but doesn't care about proof or the law, only what's right. From the word go, we ca see that Reacher is not a man to be trifled with.
Continue: Jack Reacher Trailer
But more generally, he's looking at the use of the death penalty in the United States.
The only developed nation still executing its own citizens, America's history with capital punishment is baffling to Herzog, who looks into one case to try and understand the cultural mindset. After a ghastly 2001 triple murder in Texas, the 18-year-old cohorts were convicted in separate trials: Michael Perry was sentenced to death, while Jason Burkett received 40 years. Both talk extensively on camera to Herzog, who also interviews family members of the victims and locals from the town of Conroe.
Continue reading: Into the Abyss Review