London Rolls Out The Red Carpet

The calm before …..  Robert Redford goes solo in All Is Lost.

The calm before ….. Robert Redford goes solo in All Is Lost.

Over the past few weeks, the London Film Festival has been drip-feeding news about this year’s line-up – as they do every year.  First we heard about the Tom Hanks Gala Bookends – shorthand for the festival opener, Captain Phillips, and the movie that brings it to a close, Saving Mr Banks.  And then, as a bonus, we were told that Stephen Frears’ Philomena would be the American Express Gala screening.

Now, at last, the full roster is here.  And it’s an impressive schedule.  Over the 12 days of the festival – it runs from 9 – 20 October – they’ve packed in over 230 films.  Which, as last year, will mean more late-night screenings, as well as a new and non-Leicester Square central London venue, Cineworld in Haymarket.

This year’s films are split into eleven thematic strands, including Love, Family, Thrill and Sonic and, to boost these categories, they each have a Gala performance all of their own.  The competitive element of the festival comprises three sections – Official Competition, First Feature and Documentary.  Events such as Screen Talks will be announced closer to the 9th, so we can only hope for an improvement over the past few years, when they’ve looked more than a little neglected.

A closer look at the screening schedule reveals some of what have become festival regulars this season, such as Nebraska, Palme D’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Colour and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.  That’s no criticism – it’s just a fact.  There are also a couple of notable absentees: Dallas Buyers Club, with Matthew McConaughey and Scott Cooper’s Out Of The Furnace, with Christian Bale and Casey Affleck leading an alpha male cast.

So, which films get my cinematic juices flowing this time?  In alphabetical order:

12 Years A Slave  With Steve McQueen in the director’s chair, don’t expect any punches to be pulled on the subject.

All Is Lost  J C Chandor’s second feature is a world away from his first, Margin Call.  This time we have Robert Redford adrift at sea, without much dialogue for company and sailing straight into a storm.  Redford’s performance is already being tipped as an award winner.

Captain Phillips  Another sea-bound drama, but the unfortunate Tom Hanks has too much company in the shape of pirates.  It’s being shown as the gala opener, but will be released nationwide on 18 October if you can’t get a ticket.

Enough Said  James Gandolfini’s last work in front of the camera sees him, unsually, playing the romantic lead in a bittersweet comedy.  Julia Louis Dreyfus co-stars.

Inside Llewyn Davis  The Coen Brothers latest made a star of the hitherto unknown Oscar Isaac at Cannes in the story of a 60s folk singer.

Kill Your Darlings  John Krokidas’ Beat Generation drama is a strong contender in the First Feature competition.  Daniel Radcliffe is due to be in town for the premiere.  After his fans’ shenanigans in Venice, London has been warned.

Nebraska  Bruce Dern is the star turn in Alexander Payne’s latest.

Philomena  Judi Dench and Steve Coogan star in a moving true story of a mother’s hunt for her adopted son.  It’s based on a true story but director Stephen Frears has given it a wide streak of gently wry humour.

The Invisible Woman  Ralph Fiennes’ second movie as director and star sees him playing Charles Dickens and examines his relationship with the young actress Nelly Ternan.  This hasn’t done the festival circuit this year, only popping up at Telluride in the States, so it’s had less of a build-up than some of the other big hitters.

With over 230 films on show, this is very much personal pick and there were more than a few that didn’t quite make my final list.  One of which is Good Ol’ Freda.  No, not my biography – and less of the ol’ please!

For the full line-up, go to www.bfi.org.uk/lff.

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