LIFF28 - Catch Me Daddy - Cinema Review

'Nearly every character ends up as someone to strongly dislike, so spending nearly two hours in their company isn't exactly a barrel of fun'.

The version of Catch Me Daddy screened at this year's Leeds International Film Festival contained no subtitles, something which provided a particularly large bone of contention for many in the audience. Was this a cock-up by the festival? Or had director Daniel Wolfe purposefully chosen to make the many Urdu sections of his film indecipherable to anyone who doesn't understand the language?

It turns out that, in fact, neither was exactly true: the festival should have had the subtitled version but was provided with the unsubtitled one. And, whilst this proved an unexpected frustration at the time of watching, it also raises two key points on reflection. Firstly, if it's difficult to know whether or not a director intended for a significant section of his audience to struggle through parts of his film, what does that say about his style of filmmaking overall? And secondly, as several audience members pointed out on Twitter and elsewhere following the screening, adding subtitles to sections of Catch Me Daddy would not transform it from being a film with considerable failings throughout.

One area of strength, however, is in the film's cinematography. Wolfe sets his story in a version of Yorkshire almost post-apocalyptic in its appearance, a relentlessly desolate environment curiously at odds with the way it has been beautifully shot by cinematographer Robbie Ryan. Catch Me Daddy's visual style is regularly reminiscent of Paddy Considine's Tyrannosaur as well as the work of Shane Meadows, blending dark and washed-out shades throughout in a striking and confident manner.

Meadows and Considine prove an apt reference point for Catch Me Daddy's narrative and thematic content as well; but where the work of those two filmmakers offers an emotional payoff to counterbalance the bleakness to which they subject us, Wolfe's film fails to justify its incessantly dismal perspective. The first act offers scenes of the mundane daily lives of teenage couple Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and Aaron (Conor McCarron), living in hiding on a caravan in the Moors, interspersed with repetitive scenes of a gang, including Laila's brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad), questioning locals as to whether they've seen her or Aaron; in short, a tedious and dull opening which fails to ignite much interest. Thankfully the middle section soon ramps up the adrenaline, delivering a tense and well-executed series of thrilling scenes and proving to be Catch Me Daddy's strongest section. The final act, however, manages to undo much of this good work, delivering punishing scene after punishing scene that largely feel empty of meaning and, at times, gratuitously unpleasant.

In terms of characterisation too, Wolfe also largely gets it wrong, essentially giving us nobody to root for during much of the story. There are the obviously detestable characters, such as gang leader Junaid (Anwar Hussain) and racist bouncer Barry (Barry Nunney); but the real problems come from the likes of Aaron, a character we might hope to be able to relate to who is ultimately presented as a work-shy chauvinistic drug user. Nearly every character ends up as someone to strongly dislike, so spending nearly two hours in their company isn't exactly a barrel of fun. Even Laila, for whom you would assume we should feel sympathy throughout, becomes harder and harder to care about, making Catch Me Daddy a film with which it is frustratingly difficult to make any sort of meaningful connection.

There are worthwhile themes and issues to address within Catch Me Daddy, not least the racial and cultural tensions that are still very real in Britain, as well as the ramifications of strict adherence to ideas of tradition and honour. But it's hard to state with any confidence that Wolfe actually says anything of worth about these ideas, his film's treatment of them regularly feeling more like an excuse to put repellent characters and their horrific actions on screen without actually bothering to back them up with much at all of substance.




The 28th Leeds International Film Festival took place from 5th-20th November 2014 at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

The Hayao Miyazaki Collection: Laputa: Castle In The Sky - Blu-ray Review

'the characters appear noticeably different in appearance come the end, as if Miyazaki's ageing pencil could not help but reflect the new experiences of his charges'

Over a frantic two hours, Laputa: Castle In The Sky pulls out the entire toy box of children's film topics and has a good old rummage. Pirates, hidden floating worlds, the army, magic amulets, secret agents, the ability to fly and even an underground hermit all feature in Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 film, a riot of an adventure with two strong protagonists at its centre.

The jumble of influences and content is masterfully orchestrated by the director. This may be fairly predictable of tone (Miyazaki again rails against humanity's ability to destroy beautiful natural things) but it is so successful of content it is difficult to look away. The two orphaned protagonists, Sheeta and Pazu, carry a great deal of charm and genuine warmth as they search for the former's home; a legendary floating world, hidden in cloud.

It is frequently startling just how beautiful Miyazaki's creations still look. Will CGI animation produced today look this good in 20 years time? I somehow doubt it. Laputa is a sterling example of drawn animation, more beautiful than many of Miyazaki's own contemporary efforts actually, the late flight through the dragon's lair, where Miyazaki inverts lights and darks to great effect, being a particularly obvious example.

On a plot basis, the writer/director hits a level of stride here that felt absent from the slow Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind and is suppressed to bare basics in the next film in the set, My Neighbour Totoro. Sheeta and Pazu clearly embark on a journey which not only has a beginning, middle and end, but which also noticeably changes them. Perhaps it was just me, but the characters appeared noticeably different in appearance come the end, as if Miyazaki's ageing pencil could not help but reflect the new experiences of his charges.

There is too, as might be expected, some hidden depth to what could still be a classic fairy tale without it. The piratical troupe who at first kidnap Sheeta and then change their approach verge on a Freudian attachment to her, as they realise she has exactly the same traits as their matriarchal leader, Dola. That Miyazaki plays the connection for laughs, rather than take it any further, is to his great credit. Watch too for the reappearance of Nausicaä's fox-squirrels; a meaningless design connection or a hint at shared worlds? Miyazaki by this point is not just imagining stories, he is creating a surreptitiously linked dynasty.




The Hayao Miyazaki Collection brings together all 11 of the director's feature films, from The Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises, on Blu-ray for the first time. It is released in the UK on Monday 8th December 2014.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

LIFF28 - Love Is Strange - Cinema Review

'The vast majority of Love Is Strange's successes stem directly from the performances of Lithgow and Molina, their relationship feeling entirely and effortlessly authentic'.

Director and co-writer Ira Sachs laid an awful lot of the success of Love Is Strange at the feet of his two leads when making his film. On viewing the finished product, it's a decision which arguably pays off. But it also makes Sachs' film a frustrating watch, ultimately leaving you wondering how much better it could have been had the filmmaker put more effort into the areas where his film feels considerably lacking.

Two people who cannot be faulted here, however, are co-leads John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. A couple of nearly forty years, Ben (Lithgow) and George (Molina) decide to marry, only for George to lose his job teaching music at a Catholic school as a result, forcing the aging newlyweds to live separately and lean heavily on the support of friends and family. The vast majority of Love Is Strange's successes stem directly from the performances of Lithgow and Molina, their relationship feeling entirely and effortlessly authentic.

Ben and George are by definition a gay couple, but theirs may be one of the most subtly genuine presentations of a relationship, homosexual or otherwise, to be found on film. Every moment the two lead actors share on screen together, you believe you are watching two people who have been in love for close to four decades, and you entirely believe in their distress and heartbreak at having to separate so soon after their wedding. Both actors also excel individually, with Lithgow delivering a masterclass in subtle comedy, whilst Molina gives one of the most touchingly understated performances I can remember ever witnessing on screen.

It's all the more frustrating therefore that the rest of Love Is Strange feels arrogantly underdeveloped, as if Sachs believed that his co-leads would be enough to carry his film. Every other character aside from Ben and George feels flat and unfinished, with several of the couple's friends and family who celebrated and toasted their nuptials in the opening act revealed as selfish and insincere by the film's conclusion. Whilst this in itself isn't necessarily an issue, Sachs gives very little reason for this development, ultimately turning pretty much his entire supporting cast into people we either don't like, don't care about, or a combination of the two.

Sachs' narrative follows a similar lackadaisical structure, essentially having very little actually happen for a considerable portion of the story following Ben and George's separation, other than both men getting in the way of the people with whom they are respectively staying. A subplot involving Ben's great nephew Joey (Charlie Tahan) and his friend Vlad (Eric Tabach) stealing books from school feels tedious and adds very little to the film overall, a problem exacerbated by Sachs' decision to leave it without any real conclusion. Even Ben and George's relationship starts to feels lacking in direction during the final third, something which Sachs erroneously believes can be remedied through one sudden and unexpected development at the commencement of the film's coda.

The successes and failures within Love Is Strange end up as so distinct and polarised that, in the end, I had to weigh my enjoyment of the film whilst watching against the frustration I experienced whilst reflecting on it afterwards to arrive at my final judgement. Ultimately, my enjoyment came out on top, but not by a wide margin and pretty much entirely due to either one or both of Lithgow and Molina being on screen for more or less the whole of Sachs' film. Love Is Strange is definitely worth seeing for the brilliant performances from its veteran lead pair, even if it sadly brings disappointingly little to the table whenever you look past them.




The 28th Leeds International Film Festival took place from 5th-20th November 2014 at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.



By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

LIFF28 - Housebound - Cinema Review

'What begins as a relatively tight supernaturally-flavoured mystery is allowed to sprawl somewhat haphazardly into various other areas of the horror genre'.

It seems somewhat unfortunate that Housebound has, from a marketing standpoint at least, been paired with Clement and Waititi's What We Do In The Shadows due to both films coming out of New Zealand and fitting into the horror comedy subgenre. It's unfortunate because such a pairing will always invite comparison, and with the wide critical acclaim ...Shadows has received (including a five-star review from Sam on this very site) it seems almost a foregone conclusion that Housebound will be labelled as "not as good" as its Kiwi bedfellow. Having not yet had the chance to see ...Shadows, it's a comparison I'm in no place to make. Besides, even if I had, Housebound of course deserves first and foremost to be judged on its own merits as much as any other film.

Writer and director Gerard Johnstone offers a great deal to like within his feature directorial debut. Whilst the second half of the film puts the laughs overtly front and centre over the scares, Housebound's opening hour is replete with genuinely well-crafted horror. Johnstone clearly focuses on precisely executing the scarier elements of his film whilst allowing the humour to be generated organically. It's a brave decision that largely succeeds thanks in part to Johnstone's genuinely funny script, but more so due to the strong cast the director assembles. The central pairing of Morgana O'Reilly and Rima Te Wiata as daugher Kylie and her mother Miriam respectively works superbly, the two actresses delivering many of the film's biggest laughs as well as forging an authentically strained relationship for Johnstone to base the narrative around. Johnstone's smart twist on the haunted house set-up - petty criminal Kylie is placed under house-arrest at her mother's supposedly haunted home - feels fresh and provides some new scenarios within a tried and tested formula for the director to explore.

There are problems within Housebound, however, and they lie largely in the film's narrative. As the story progresses, what begins as a relatively tight supernaturally-flavoured mystery is allowed to sprawl somewhat haphazardly into various other areas of the horror genre. Whilst there are good ideas throughout, Johnstone essentially tries to take on too much and ultimately cannot keep things together. The final act frenetically jumps around from one idea to the next, making it difficult to take in exactly how everything Johnstone has thrown at you fits together. There are also a couple of amateurish narrative errors, the most glaring of which involves security technician and amateur paranormal enthusiast Amos (Glen-Paul Waru) suffering a serious and incapacitating injury that is pivotal to one scene, only for it to be completely forgotten in the next.

In the end, however, Housebound is too much fun to spend time picking holes in it. The comedy throughout - from the subtle observational humour of the first half to the more overtly slapstick style of the second - is consistently well-executed by both the writer and director and his strong assembled cast. If Johnstone can learn the lessons from his slip-ups here, his future cinematic work will undoubtedly be well worth looking out for.




The 28th Leeds International Film Festival took place from 5th-20th November 2014 at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

The Hayao Miyazaki Collection: Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind - Blu-ray Review

'Where The Castle Of Cagliostro is a blatantly light-hearted caper set over a few days, this deals with an Earth 1,000 years after the fall of the industrialised human race'

It's difficult to believe the difference in quality between the first and second films chronologically in this set but then, there was a fairly sizeable gap of five years between them for Hayao Miyazaki to work on his craft. Released in Japan in 1984, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind has the epic title to match its attempted epic scope. Where The Castle Of Cagliostro is a blatantly light-hearted caper set over a few days, this deals with an Earth 1,000 years after the fall of the industrialised human race and the attempts of small pockets of survivors to carry on with their existence, both at odds and in harmony with the new natural world order.

Heroine Princess Nausicaä proves to be a typically strong, well-rounded Miyazaki protagonist, taking pro-active choices in order to try to better the situation of her people: peace-loving survivors resisting the toxic air because of their location in the titular coastal wind-swept community. The joyous scenes of her sweeping around on a glider call to mind the joy of flight shown in The Wind Rises, the last film of this set, though the message is very different. Backed by the WWF, this is an eco-fable, clearly preaching a positive message of respect to nature in all its forms.

Whilst many people do love Nausicaä, and though its quality is obvious, I must admit that I did not find it immediate and at times found the pacing rather arduous. Miyazaki draws out the threads and differences between Nausicaä's peace lovers, the war like Tolmekian and the somewhere-in-between people of Pejite with trademark patience that verges on narcolepsy. By the time Nausicaä is explaining to the latter group why they are wrong - well into the third act - you'll be apoplectic that people still aren't listening to her common sense. Perhaps that is indicative of our real world experience of conservation, but it does make for a frustrating watch. Meanwhile, the occasional broad strokes of the characters can jar with the subtleties elsewhere. The Tolmekian's arrive with such ridiculously ill-explained brute force and opposition to the lovely valley dwellers that they may as well be accompanied by pantomime boos.

There is though lots of great work and you suspect that this may be a film that grows on multiple watches (this was my first). The Star Wars-alike opening (a shrouded figure pokes amongst ruins on two Tauntaun-like creatures) is another example of how Miyazaki treats animation with a terrific understanding of and dialogue with live action. The subdued amber palette of the valley-dwellers sees the director suppressing his natural lean towards flamboyance to build up the natural vs un-natural world tropes, emphasised when the cold steel of the Tolmekian's arrive. The glowing, insidious large terror which literally melts down at one point, is nuclear weaponry personified.

There's also more than a nod late on to Shakespearean narratives, as the military leader of the opposing force harbours wishes (relayed to us via soliloquy) for his own advancement and his superiors' fall. It's one of a plethora of touches which show Miyazaki gaining his footing. Though the innocent natural message may be obvious the delivery is not and the craft here can be exemplary.




The Hayao Miyazaki Collection brings together all 11 of the director's feature films, from The Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises, on Blu-ray for the first time. It is released in the UK on Monday 8th December 2014.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

LIFF28 - Stations Of The Cross - Cinema Review

'Brüggemann at times feels as though he is beating us around the head with his own viewpoint - ironically what many of the strict religious characters he criticises do to the children in their care'.

In choosing to structure Stations Of The Cross in unwavering accordance with the religious artwork from which it takes its name, director Dietrich Brüggemann simultaneously creates both the film's strongest features and its major issues. Whether you see Brüggemann's structural decisions as more of a help or a hindrance to his film, if nothing else they make Stations Of The Cross a distinct piece of cinema for which it's hard to find a definite precursor.

Brüggemann tells the story of young teenager Maria (Lea Van Acken), a member of a strict fundamentalist branch of Catholicism along with the rest of her family, through fourteen sequences sharing their titles with the fourteen traditional stations that depict Christ's crucifixion. The director makes the bold decision to capture each of these scenes as a static shot, only allowing himself a simple camera movement on three specifically chosen occasions during the film's 107 minutes. Each sequence - most between five and ten minutes in length - therefore takes on the quality of a moving photograph, with characters and scenery placed precisely by Brüggemann each time.

It's an undoubtedly courageous decision from the director, and one which on balance probably works more often than not. Maria's story is a tragic one, and several of the sequences throughout feel all the more hard-hitting thanks to Brüggemann's simple but powerful shooting style. However, there are also a few scenes which are affected more negatively: they lack dynamism, run too long for the amount they add to the story, and ultimately become somewhat tedious. Had the director allowed himself more freedom, some of the less successful moments might have been presented more effectively, likely making Stations Of The Cross a more consistently complete package overall.

Essentially a condemnation of religious extremism, in particular the dangerous impact it can have on the young, Brüggemann's film is at its very best when at its most subtle. A conversation about sacrifice between Maria and her teacher Father Weber (Florian Stetter) during the opening scene frames much of what happens during the rest of the film, although the ideas raised are only explicitly referred to again once or twice; characters also refer to Maria being "very pale" at several points throughout, a key point which is only clarified during a dramatic revelation during the final sequences of the film.

At other times, however, Brüggemann feels as though he is beating us around the head with his own viewpoint - ironically what many of the strict religious characters he criticises do to the children in their care. There is also one key moment involving Maria's four-year-old brother which Brüggemann presumably wants us to see as coincidence, but ends up feeling too unbelievable to fit with the film's largely realistic tone.

Stations Of The Cross ends up more success than failure for Brüggemann, helped in no small part by a brace of strong turns from the fifteen-year-old Van Acken in her screen debut and Franziska Weisz as her overbearing mother. There are moments of excellence scattered throughout the film's running time, but also a not inconsiderable amount of occasions where you feel the director could have made better choices. Brüggemann's film is ultimately flawed, but also tells a harrowing and poignant story that will undoubtedly stay with you for some time after watching.




Stations Of The Cross is released in UK cinemas on Friday 28th November 2014.

The 28th Leeds International Film Festival took place from 5th-20th November 2014 at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. More information is available via the official LIFF website.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

The Hayao Miyazaki Collection: Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro - Blu-ray Review

'there is plenty of Miyazaki-ness on show for fans of his more established offerings to observe. The shuffling monkey-like, finger-bladed assassins are pure Miyazaki, and offer up the film's most effective villainy.'

The beginning of Hayao Miyazaki's feature directing career could appear an odd inclusion in The Hayao Miyazaki Collection in many ways. This collection, which marks the first time the director's films have been presented together in this way, is resplendent with very interesting films, considering topics as heady as ecological disaster and the re-appropriation of innocent resource for warmongering. Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro, by contrast, is a fairly simple caper. If it does have deeper meaning (and you've got to look very hard for it if so) you could almost argue that it is a defence of established currency markets in the face of a sometime successful usurper. A forward thinking look to the impact of the Euro?! You rather suspect not.

What becomes clear through this collection as a whole though, and arguably never more so than in The Castle Of Cagliostro, is that even when we are not witnessing vintage Miyazaki, we are invited to witness something fun, progressive and occasionally beautiful. Cagliostro may not have the plotting and invention of Spirited Away, nor the looks of The Wind Rises, but it is a joyful diversion; one-hundred minutes of Friday night/Saturday morning entertainment.

The slightly confusing title (Lupin III is the character's name, not an indication that this is the third film in a series but in fact the first feature, based on a TV series) refers to a dashing thief, Lupin, who winds up facing off against Count Cagliostro, a nefarious villain harming Lupin's thievery by flooding the markets with fake bills of various denominations. Once in Cagliostro's faux-European nation state of the same name, Lupin and accomplice Jigen find themselves swept up in Cagliostro's plot to force a marriage with Clarisse and unlock a valuable secret.

Despite this being early days in the animator's fledging directorial career, there is plenty of Miyazaki-ness on show for fans of his more established offerings to observe. The shuffling monkey-like, finger-bladed assassins are pure Miyazaki, and offer up the film's most effective villainy. The Comedy eating scene after Lupin has been injured feels misjudged, but provides the levity so often present when serious things are happening in the director's later works. The treatment of the plot as a whole - if you can ignore the car that drives sideways up a mountain and a handful of other animated liberties - is also pure Miyazaki. There's no hint here that this is 'just' a kids film. It gets the same reverence and devotion to character and establishing a believable fantasy world as any live action film.

With that in mind, there are very few animated films that you can imagine might work in a live action setting. Not only can your readily imagine that here, but it is actually already happening. The Japanese production of Lupin III is due at some point in 2015. This isn't Miyazaki's finest, not by a long way, but the fact that it presents a world believable enough to base a live action narrative around is some sort of endorsement of its quality. Too light, yes, especially for this director's standards, but still a film worth investigating.




The Hayao Miyazaki Collection brings together all 11 of the director's feature films, from The Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises, on Blu-ray for the first time. It is released in the UK on Monday 8th December 2014.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.