TIFF in Review Part One: Fall Movies

Attending any film festival, a common dilemma is whether to go for the upcoming fall movies a few months, or weeks, ahead of release, or whether to pick the more obscure indie/foreign films still awaiting distribution. The advantages of  the former are that there’s nothing quite like seeing a world premiere with a rapt audience and the filmmakers in attendance, while also having the space to formulate one’s own opinion before a consensus is formed (or too many spoilers revealed). The advantage of picking the latter, is the chance of finding diamonds in the rough, and championing them—sometimes frustratingly, to a world that may never get the chance to see what you’re on about. My personal way around this dilemma is to mix it up and pick a smattering of both. And since I’ve just seen 12 movies in five days, I’ve decided to split my reviews accordingly, in two parts.  

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12 Years a Slave

It’s hard to talk about Steve McQueen’s searing, masterful film without reaching deep for every available superlative, and a few more besides. It may not be the first film about slavery, but it feels like the first to treat it with no filter, no safety net, no redemptive catharsis , but as an American holocaust, told entirely from the black perspective. To watch it with an audience is to participate in an act of communal, immersive exorcism, and the element that makes it not just bearable, but transcendent, is the pure, jaw-dropping artistry at every level of its production. The true life tale of Solomon Northup’s Kafkaesque nightmare—kidnapped from his free life and sold into brutal slavery—feels like a major step in healing the wounds of slavery’s past, by allowing us to take collective responsibility as we watch horror turned to exquisite art, without lessening any of its impact.  In a perfect world, it would win every Oscar hands down, but given the Academy’s predilection for unchallenging feel-good entertainment, it doesn’t stand a chance.  Fuck ’em. It’s not just the best film of the year, but one of the best films ever made. And here’s a few of those superlatives to underline my point: Unmissable. Essential. Fearless. Profound. Unforgettable. (Opens in limited release October 18th.)  

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Prisoners

I loved Denis Villeneuve’s last film, Incendies, so I already had high hopes for his first U.S movie, but I was still completely blown away by this epic, harrowing, uncompromisingly dark thriller. Hugh Jackman gives the first performance of his career that I’ve unequivocally loved, full of rage and helplessness as the survivalist father who takes the law into his own hands after his daughter is kidnapped. If that synopsis sounds predictable, rest assured the movie is anything but, following its brilliantly realized characters to a true heart of darkness as it explores big themes (faith, forgiveness, revenge, grief) while twisting the screws of its nail-biting premise to almost unbearable levels of tension and dread. Jake Gyllenhaal is equally revelatory in the role of the jaded but determined cop leading the investigation, as is the entire supporting cast. A brilliant script, brilliantly directed, that joins Seven, Silence of the Lambs and Zodiac in the ranks of the all-time great criminal investigation thrillers that resonate far beyond their storylines. (Opens in wide release Sept. 20th)  

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Labor Day

Jason Reitman’s fifth movie in seven years breaks away from the knowing, arch humor of his previous work (Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult) and embraces the genre of the “woman’s weepie” with unabashed, uncynical enthusiasm that will alienate many but reward those willing to be swept along by its charms. Set in 1987and awash in a golden-hued nostalgic glow that brings to mind a Wonder Years episode by way of Douglas Sirk, the story is told from the point of view of a 13-year-old boy living alone with his fragile, heartbroken mother (Kate Winslet) as an escaped convict enters their lives, and proves to be the perfect father/partner for each of them. Josh Brolin sells a potentially ridiculous role with rugged real-man charisma and soul, and Reitman ratchets up the emotional tension and release with old-fashioned skill—though my main criticism would be an over-reliance on score, especially during a pie-baking scene that provided unintentional laughter in the screening I attended. Nevertheless, it’s a good film to take your mother to, or to watch alone if you fancy a good cathartic cry, though I would warn away anyone who has zero tolerance for melodrama or sentiment. (Opens in limited release Dec. 25th)

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Philomena

Another great pick to take your mom to, Stephen Frears’ latest boasts a smart, witty, emotionally satisfying script by Steve Coogan—who in the role of a cynical journalist helping an elderly woman find her long-lost son, may have found the movie that finally sells him to an American audience. His chemistry with Judi Dench, playing the title character, is wonderful, and the story takes some interesting turns into darker territory while always remaining warm, humane and funny. Frears’ direction is solid if uninspired—I always think his films belong on TV rather than on a big screen—but his old-school professionalism is undeniably effective, always finding the right emotional beat in every scene, as well as the laughs. It won’t blow your mind, but it’s good, solid stuff, and easy to recommend, to just about anyone. (Opens in limited release Dec. 25th)

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Gravity

Wow. Beginning to end, I watched this movie with my jaw hanging on the floor and the back of my brain exploded onto the back of the theatre. It’s so rare to see a big-budget special effects driven movie that is so uniquely an auteur’s vision, and while Alfonso Cuaron’s space epic isn’t the philosophical meditation some hoped it would be, it’s a thrilling, genuinely awe-inducing ride like nothing you’ve ever seen. Evolving his use of long takes—so well-executed in the brilliant, underrated Children of Men—to a mind-boggling extreme (the film’s first take is something like 45 mins long), the astonishing visuals on display are used in the service of a genuinely emotional journey, that sees George Clooney use his charming, comforting presence to ably support Sandra Bullock’s moving, fierce and vulnerable star turn, unlike anything we’ve seen from her to date. Of all the films playing at Toronto, Gravity is most likely the one I will return to most often, just to bask in the wonder of its technical achievements, and surrender to its immersive window into zero-g existence, with our beautiful, distant planet circling below. Wonderful. (Opens in wide release Oct. 4th)  

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August: Osage County

This much-hyped adaptation of Tracy Letts’ excellent play, is a mixed, though mostly successful bag. It’s an actors’ showcase through and through, with a cast to die for, and material that’s hard to screw up—boasting great characters, rich, blackly comic dialogue, and enough dramatic turns to fill an entire season of an American soap opera. Meryl Streep acts with a capital A, and she’s unsurprisingly impressive as the monstrous matriarch of a large extended family, but it’s the quieter turns that really stick in the memory—especially Julianne Nicholson as the quiet middle sister, and Chris Cooper as the benign but strong willed uncle. There are numerous meaty scenes for all the players to chew on (everyone gets their big emotional moment under the sun), and it’s a thrill to see Julia Roberts and Streep go head to head, most effectively in the film’s brilliant center-piece, a post-funeral dinner that spirals way out of control. Unfortunately, the film’s impact is dulled by a pace that lags thereafter, and what seems to have been a deliberate decision to soften the play for a wider audience (namely through the amber cinematography, classic Oscar-movie film-making, and obtrusive, somewhat treacly score), as John Well’s fine but uninspired direction never lets the material soar as high or dark as it wants it to go. Still, a very entertaining, very watchable few hours, that while not as great as it could have been, is most definitely worth your time. (Opens in limited release Dec. 25th)  

And that’s it for the big studio releases. Up next: Iranian immigrants in Paris, scrap-metal hunting kids in Northern England, broke musicians in Manhattan, teenage punk chicks in Stockholm, and foul-mouthed adults entering spelling bee competitions, as we round out the films that came to Toronto seeking distribution, and a place on next year’s movie calendar.

See the First Trailer for Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge Movie ‘Alpha Papa’

Between What Maisie Knew, The Look of Love, and now his new Alan Partridge movie, there’s certainly no shortage of Steve Coogan—and hey, I’m not complaining. The beloved "narcissistic wally" of a talk show host has finally received a full-length feature of his own and after a teaser was released back in March we now have a proper trailer for the Coogan-led  Declan Lowney film. 

Directed by Lowney, the Alan Partridge movie, Alpha Papa has been penned by Coogan, of course, as well as Peter Baynham and the biting comedic genius Armando Iannucci. And from this new trailer we see the film will be focusiing around a hostage crisis brouhgt on by a disgruntled employee. 
 
The feature look at Patridge is slated to be released in the UK this summer, but unfortunately a US release date has not been officially set. Here’s to hoping that changes soon. Check out the trailer below.
 

David Siegel and Scott McGehee On Directing Their New Family Drama ‘What Maisie Knew’

Since its release in 1979, Kramer vs. Kramer has set the bar for family dramas dealing with divorce and the children caught in its wake. But whereas most films follow the struggle both adults face to fight for parental control over their children, or deal with the heartbreaking acceptance of love’s end, there are few portrayals from the point of view of the kid caught in between. There are even fewer films that deal with parents who really have no desire to be so, adults who are more focused on themselves than taking responsibility for the child they’ve brought into the world. But with David Siegel and Scott McGehee’s modern retelling of Henry James’ What Maisie Knew, we see the trials of divorce through the eyes of a precious and wise six-year-old girl. 

Starring bright new talent Onata Aprile in the titular role, alongside Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as her egocentric parents, we follow Maisie as she finds herself shuffled from one parent to another, and eventually onto their respective new spouses. From her perspective we gain a heartbreaking look at abandonment and the adults who are blind to their own wrongdoings. 

No strangers to familial subject matter, Siegel and McGehee have directed Suture, Bee Season, Uncertainty, and The Deep End together, examining their affinity for portraying authentic drama in extreme circumstances. And with What Maisie Knew, they give us a thorough and emotional take on a family split apart, and the young girl who shows more strength than anyone.

Last week, I sat down with the directors and a select few other writers to discuss bringing the script to life, discovering Onata, and showing a different side to their actors.

The film ends on a elliptical note, we’re left wondering what’s going to happen to this girl. Did you want the ending to be ambitious?

Scott McGhee: We talked a lot about that ending, and what we’ve done with that is give you an image go a girl on her way. That was the concept, she’s on her way down the dock, she’s got a destination in mind and that’s where the film leaves you, with a girl in motion. That was very deliberate. 
David Siegel: I liked the metaphor of her being in the process of things, as opposed to drawing any kind of conclusion. But something redemptive might have happened between her and her mother in the previous scene and she’s willing to take a step asserting herself and her mother is willing to take a step in listening to her.

How did you two work as director’s to evolve the script and bring it to life?
SM: As always when you’re making a film, things evolve as we work with the writers and work with the actors on set. And certainly Steve Coogan had some good ideas for lines and those found their way into the finished film. We worked on one of the later scenes with Julianne Moore on how she could work best with Onata in the scene where they’re saying goodbye. And in the editing process, of course it evolves further. But it was a very strong script to begin with.
DS: This movie in particular, especially because it’s told elliptically in these little moments that Maisie actually sees, involved a lot of discerning how much of that actually needed to be included to tell the background story of what’s happening for the adults. That was a big difference.
 
Can you tell me about discovering Onata and how she came to be in the film?
DS: The idea of a six-year-old carrying a movie was that not appealing to us originally—that’s a little bit terrifying. But we knew that was going to be the case no matter what we did with the film—how we shot it, whether it was beautiful or ugly, or how the other actors performances would be—it really came down to whether you would believe the experience of the six-year-old. In retrospect, we always say why would we have never started pre-production before having found that six-year-old, but in fact we did and we didn’t find her until a few weeks before shooting.
SC: We work with a very calming casting director who kept telling us, don’t worry you’re going to find the perfect girl. 
 
Did you know instantly when you met her that she was your Maisie?
SM: It was instant that we knew, but it took a minute before we trusted our instinct. 
DS: What I would add to that, we saw scores and scores of girls and Onata was the first girl who, when we sat down,  we looked at each other and were like, this is a special kid. Not that these other girls weren’t talented, but we really believed we needed a child that could convey that sense that not many actors can: that you’re actually going into their head and watching them think.
SM: We didn’t have something specific she had to be but we all knew it would be a matter of when we me her we would know. It was a learning process for us even, we thought what we needed to find is a slightly older girl who can play younger, because then she’ll be more mature and easier to work with. But we learned that, no, in fact six-year-olds are really special. And there’s something uniquely innocent about them that really reads on camera, and no seven-year-old even is going to give us that. So it was a process for all of us, and Onata was a culmination of that.
DS: What was amazing about Onata is that she really is an amazing child. She was able to live in front of a camera in a way that a lot of actors really work long and hard at getting back to—a very simple being in front of a camera and that’s what she was so good at. So explaining a scenerio for her, she could just imagine it and be in it. When it came to dialogue, her mom would prepared so, to shift up the dialogue, that was a little difficult because it was stuck in her head and she worked hard to learn it. But you could shift up her environment, she would just live.
SM: Sometimes Steve Coogan would go off script and she was always right there with him. Like when he comes out of the elevator and says, "You’re my sixth favorite girl." Every time he came out of the elevator he would say something different and she would just react to what her daddy was telling her—like when she says "Who are your other girls?" that was just her begin in the moment. She was prepared for every scene so she understood what the emotional stakes were for every scene. 
 
There are some very intense moments and arguments in the film—how did you prep Onata before these scenes?
DS: Julianne and Steve were really good with her. Before each uncomfortable scene Julianne would sit her down and say, "Remember I’m pretending—I might yell, I might cry, but it’s all pretend." Sometimes Julie would cry and we would call cut and Onata would start giggling because she found it so amusing that she was pretending that far. 
SM: It’s something we talked about in particular because Julianne has kids and played a lot of moms over the years, so she had a lot of wisdom about how to protect a kid and make an environment hat was comfortable. It turned out that Onata needed less of that special care. She was a pretty equipt, a adaptable child.
 
Julianne and Steve’s characters were both so selfish and at times cruel but they weren’t completely evil. You could still tell that there was a deep love there that they weren’t able to fulfill the responsibility of. What did they each bring to these roles?
DS: Thanks, that was something we did talk to them a lot about, because we felt like if there wasn’t some sort of humanity at the core of their characters they would just seem like bitter people who were ego-obsessed—which they are—but there needed to be something fundamentally there. But Julianne had read the script before we expressed interest, so that was one of the first things that happened: we met with her and tried to see if we could make it and we never thought of anyone else because of that and she was so right for the role. We were really enamored of that idea from the get-go—and this rarely happens, at least in our little career, Steve was our first choice and that’s what happened. It just went very smoothly. We liked that he would also bring a little humor. 
 
Julianne has played a lot of mothers but this was still a very different kind of roles for her. The same goes for Alex as well whose character was more vulnerable than we usually see him. And in terms of his physicality, he was always slouching and seemed very insecure.
SM: Well, Julianne expressed interest before we did—
DS: But I think that was something she wanted to explore something different.
SM: And the singing was something she’d never done before and something she was afraid of, but I think that says a lot about her as an actress—that something that scared her really attracted her and she wanted to give it to go. And with Alex, that was something that interested us. We hadn’t seen him do that much. We’d seen True Blood and we knew from Zoolander that he could be light and funny. But when we met him, he has a real gentleness to him in person and we just thought the idea of this gigantic, gentle giant handsome guy bonding with this really tiny little girl.
DS: And he brought that physicality to it, those were Alexander’s idea. We thought that was pretty terrific, to make his physicality vulnerable like his character might be, and that would tie him to the child a little bit more. From the first time she met him she kind of fell in love with him and the two of them, hey don’t see each other much anymore, but when they do it’s pretty sweet.

Alexander Skarsgård and Onata Aprile Talk Growing Close With Their New Film ‘What Maisie Knew’

Although the world first fell in love with Alexander Skarsgård as the dark lord of the undead, Eric Northman, in True Blood, the Swedish actor has transcended his hulking television status in the last few years to become one of Hollywood’s most sought after and talented actors. In 2011, he played the doting husband to Kirsten Dunst’s Justine in Lars von Trier’s doomsday ballet Melancholia, as well as the violent role of Charlie in Rod Lurie’s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. And in the last few months alone, I’ve watched Skarsgård deliver vastly different and nuanced performances as an emotionally cut-ff veteran in Henry-Alex Rubin’s Disconnect, an impassioned anarchist in Zal Batmanglij’s The East, and most recently the role of Lincoln in David Siegel and Scott McGehee’s family drama What Maisie Knew.

Based on Henry James’ late 19th-century novel, the film adaptation stars Skarsgård as a bartender and musician who marries Susanna (played by Julianne Moore), a singer whom, along with her ex-husband Beale (played by Steve Coogan) neglects to take proper care of their six-year-old daughter Maisie (played by Onata Aprile). In the wake of their selfishness and egotistical concerns, Lincoln assumes the role of father-figure towards the young girl, alongside the help of her nanny Margo. It’s a heartbreaking film that centers on Maisie, a wise and absolutely adorable child caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle. But it’s the chemistry between Skarsgard and Aprile that shines the brightest in the film—their relationship dynamic and heartwarming, an magical touch of wonder between a man in over his head, and a lost child. 

Last week, I sat down with Skarsgård and Aprile at one of the film’s various roundtables to talk about what attracted him to the script, Aprile’s youthful exuberance, and their instant connection.

The characters you often play, are very self-assured and confident figures, but in this we see a more vulnerable side of you. Lincoln slouches and coasts through life in a way that feel like a strong contrast to the roles you usually take on.
Alexander Skarsgård: Well, a character like Derek in Disconnect, he’s broken—there was no swagger there. He was broken because of what he went through, and with Lincoln, it wasn’t about that. It’s not that he was a broken man, he’s just not super confident or very driven and ambitious. I see him as someone who is very genuine and talented and sweet but he doesn’t take care of himself, and he doesn’t really care. But there’s something that happens when he meets Maisie. It’s weird what happens, how he, out of kindness, marries Julianne’s character. They barely know each other and I don’t know a lot of people who would marry someone in a situation like that. But he does and then she’s not there for her kid. For the first time in his life he’s forced to take care of someone. He’s never done that before, even himself. He falls in love with this little kid and he doesn’t get why her parents aren’t there for her and how you can neglect someone so wonderful.
 
Did you compare and contrast between Henry James’ work and the modern script?
AS:
I read the novel many years ago and it felt, even then, very relevant. It’s Victorian England but something a lot of people can relate to and a lot of kids go through that. This is obviously a very different story and I feel like Sir Claude in the novel is a bit different than Lincoln, but the theme and the tone is very similar. It’s, in a way, a battle of two ego—two people so intent on destroying each other that they forget about what’s important. And it’s not that they don’t love their kid, they’re just so busy fighting each other that they neglect their child.
 
How did you go about building Lincoln’s character?
AS:
I wanted someone who definitely couldn’t be bothered. He doesn’t really care about appearance and all that stuff. Susanna is someone who is very successful and I wanted Lincoln to be kind of the polar opposite, someone whose not driven like her but very talented. You don’t see that in the film, but I imagine he’s a great guitarist. I definitely have friends that are very talented like that but just not driven,  and I wanted to capture that.
 
What was it about the film that made you want to be a part of it?
AS:
I thought it was a great, great script. Onata wasn’t attached when I got involved but it was obviously very important to find the right Maisie because it’s all about her in every single scene of the film. So I felt there were great directors and a great script from a great novel; then you’ve got Juilanne Moore, one of the greatest actresses we have, Steve Coogan who—I grew up in Europe and he’s a very famous comedian over there—is just absolutely brilliant. But that said, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have the right Miasie; it’s her journey, we’re all there to just serve that. So we talked a lot about that with the directors and then saw a couple of young actresses, but there was just no doubt once I saw her. If you watch 30 seconds of the film you’ll just get it.
 
Onata, how many times have you seen the film and how do you feel when you watch it?
Onata Aprile:
Well, I saw it three or two times. I think the film is really sad but at the same time, you kind of feel sorry for Maisie. 
 
That’s how I felt too. How was working with Steve Coogan, who is really funny and when we spoke to the directors said he would often changed the dialogue and improvise. When he’d do that, was it difficult to go along with him? 
OA: Sometimes.
AS: I’d say Onata was always very aware of the story and the character and was very open to to change. She’s very much in the moment and present, which made it very organic.
 
What was the most difficult part about playing Maisie?
OA:
I don’t know.
AS: Long days were hard. It’s tough when you get tired and stuff have to act, right? But you did a really good job with that.
 
What was the most fun about it?
OA:
Everything.
 
Do you want to be in another movie?
OA:
Yes I do.
 
This movie tackles a larger social issue of kids that are left without the care of a main guardian. What do you think about that effect on these children?
It’s easy for them to get lost; we’re so egocentric and so focused on ourselves. I’ve seen this with friends, where it’s an ugly divorce and they’re so focused on that custody battle, it becomes so personal and so ugly. And it can go on for years and you can forget that there are children there and they become almost like pawns in it. But that’s what I think is beautiful about the film: it’s not that they don’t love their children, it’s not lack of love, it’s just that the focus is on themselves. It’s about two egos, and I see a lot of that today, where for very selfish reasons people do that.
 
In a short period of time you have Disconnect, Maisie, and The East all being released. The characters you’re playing are all extremely different, so is that something you look for when you’re reading scripts? Is the script the most important thing for you at first or is it the director and their vision of what it could be that reels you in?
It’s a combination. It’s about getting excited. But to get to that place, you need a lot of ingredients: a great script, a director you’re excited to work with, and the character. You need a a character you feel challenged by and you need to feel that there’s a potential to grow or learn something. I need to feel like it’s going to be an interesting creative process—sitting down for the first time with the script and saying, okay who is Lincoln or Derek or Benji. If I sit down and have all the answers or feel like I’ve played this character ten times before, where I know exactly how to play it, I’m not going to have fun. If I have all the answers, why spend four months on it? So that’s always what I’m looking for; there’s got to be that mystery there or I won’t have fun and I don’t think the audience will have fun either.
 
What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming season of True Blood?
Eric is very busy this season. For the first time the humans can actually fight back; they find a way to be a real threat. So Eric’s very busy.
 
Like the character of Maisie, you grew up with a father who was a successful performer and always working. How was being a child in that sort of environment?
When I was a kid, my dad was a stage actor in Sweden, so he wasn’t traveling the world working on big international films. But he did repertoire theater which meant he rehearsed one play during the day and then performed at night. So it was a busy schedule and he was basically at the theater for sixteen hours a day. I grew up hanging out backstage a lot, if I wanted to be with my dad I had to be backstage because he was always there. It’s tough, but at the same time, what greater place to run around as a kid than at a theater with fake noses and wigs and a lot of very interesting creative people? And being back there when he was working with Bergman—not that I knew who Bergman was at the time—but it’s pretty cool looking back.
 
The most wonderful part of the film was definitely the connection between you and Onata. Did you spend time together before shooting or was it something that happened immediately on set?
It happened naturally. But you’re right, it’s so important; without that there’s no film. So I was nervous about it. I was in LA and Onata was in New York and I was like, I really hope the chemistry’s there because she was six then and with someone that age it has to be real, you can’t fake it. But then we got together at David’s house and it was pretty instant. I felt it after three seconds. I was like, we’re fine.

Check Out the First Trailer for Steve Coogan’s Alan Patridge Movie

Between What Maisie Knew, The Look of Love, and now his new Alan Partridge movie, there’s certainly no shortage of Steve Coogan—and I couldn’t be happier. The beloved "narcissistic wally" of a talk show host is finally getting a feature film of his own and to everyone’s delight, a first trailer has arrived.

Directed by Declan Lowney, the Alan Partridge movie—Alpha Papa? Alan Partridge in Alpha Papa? Colossal Velocity? Chap of Steel?—has been penned by Coogan, of course, as well as Peter Baynham and the biting comedic genius Armando Iannucci. And from this first trailer we basically just get a meta look at Partidge and his cohorts thinking up a proper title for the film. The Playlist tells us that last summer, Iannucci teased that, " "Alan is in Norwich. It’s not ‘Alan goes to Hollywood’; it’s not ‘Alan invaded by aliens’ or anything like that. He’s on North Norfolk Digital, which is taken over by a bigger media conglomerate and has its name changed to Shape. And that kicks everything off."

The feature-length look at Patridge is slated to be released in the UK this summer, but unfortunately a US release date is not on the immediate horizon. Here’s to hoping that changes soon. Check out the trailer below.

Watch the First Trailer for Michael Winterbottom’s ‘The Look of Love’

Personally, I have always found director Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan to be a perfect pairing. After their successful collaboration with 24 Hour Party People, the two made the tragically hilarious The Trip, and now soon see the theatrical release of their latest, The Look of Love. After opening at Sundance to mild reviews, the film will open next month in the U.K. but we’re still waiting on a U.S. date. Starring Coogan at the iconic Paul Raymond, the film follows the life of the British nightclub owner/adult magazine publisher  who was nicknamed the “King of Soho” back in the 1950s and ’60s. He stars alongside Anna Friel, Imogen Poots, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, and David Willams in the film that finally has been given a proper trailer thanks to the Guardian

The official synopsis for the film reads:

After starting his show business career as a mind-reader in a cabaret act, Paul Raymond went on to become Britain’s richest man and a modern King Midas. With an entrepreneurial eye and a realisation that sex sells, he began building his empire of gentleman’s clubs, porn magazines and nude theatre – provoking outrage and titillation in equal measure.
Raymond’s personal life was as colourful as his revue shows. His marriage to Jean, a nude dancer and choreographer, ended in a difficult divorce when he met Fiona – a glamour model who became the famous pin-up star of his magazines and shows. His daughter Debbie was the true love of his life, his business partner and heir to his empire – until her tragic and untimely death aged 36. Three weeks later Raymond was named Britain’s richest man and his fortune put at 1.5 billion

Check out the trailer below.


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Ricky Gervais Resurrects David Brent

Obnoxious as Ricky Gervais is about hammering his opinions/worldview and acting like his giant ego is not such a problem just because he’s winkingly aware of it, it’s hard to deny the flat-out awesomeness of the best episodes of Extras, Life’s Too Short, andThe Office. Plus, we owe the man a huge debt for dragging Karl Pilkington into the limelight. So I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt right here.

Gervais is bringing back David Brent, the grotesque manager of The Office later given a too-sympathetic American spin by Steve Carell in the reboot, as a sort of ten-year anniversary treat. According to EW, Brent will feature “in a ‘mini episode’ called The Office Revisited.” You can watch a teaser below, which redirects you to a longer trailer. (You may also skip right to the longer trailer.)

The focus looks to be on Brent’s music “career,” which bodes well—and as a guy who would delude himself about a comeback, he’s the perfect parallel for Ricky himself, trying to recapture some of his old magic. But Steve Coogan may have covered some of this ground already with Alan Partridge.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

Michael Winterbottom Redeemed At Sundance

Two years ago, English auteur Michael Winterbottom debuted The Killer Inside Me, a nihilist noir adaptation of Jim Thompson’s hard-boiled crime classic, to great outcry at Sundance Film Festival. It was deemed too hyperbolically violent, too in enthralled by its own sadistic lead (played by a dead-eyed Casey Affleck) for any refined moviegoer to tolerate. Well guess what, everyone who thought that: Winterbottom just sold a new film about pornography.

The Look of Love, which stars continued Winterbottom muse Steve Coogan, who also co-anchored the director’s The Trip andTristram Shandy, screened on Saturday evening and became the first drama acquired at the festival this year. IFC is the lucky studio that snapped up the surely entertaining flick, which itself concerns the rise and fall (and rise?) of smut impresario Paul Raymond.

But we should expect anything apart from the paint-by-numbers biopic. The last time Coogan starred in a Winterbottom film about a legendary pop culture icon (Factory Records founder Tony Wilson), he broke the life examined into a colorful postmodern shrapnel that kept the viewer ever off-balance and dreading the final credits. If ordinary critics are already panning itThe Look of Love is bound to be just as delightfully twisted.

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London Opening: Roganic

With his Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume having scored significant screen time in the new Steve Coogan flick The Trip (during which visit the comedian does a positively brilliant Ray Winstone impersonation), Simon Rogan arrives now in fashionable Marylebone with the wind decisively at his back. But his latest foodie mecca Roganic (get it?) actually has an pre-ordained expiration date: he plans to close it up in just two years time.

As you might have guessed, the menu worships at the altar of ingredient purity, with Rogan’s rustic, organic British menu going as far as to even feature seemingly unpronounceable edible plants (chenopodiums, anyone?). Five course and ten course menus resound with glorious Englishness, the verbal poetry of such items as Cumbrian Herdwick Hogget or Seawater Cured Kentish Mackerel veritably rising to the delectability of the dishes themselves. The Warm Spiced Bread comes, naturally, with buckthorn curd and smoked clotted cream. Jolly good!

Interiors are stylishly but quite understatedly modern, so as not to distract from the culinary ecstasy. And indeed, you are rather assured a dining experience that is positively … Rogasmic.