Stray – LFF Film Review

Stray – London Film Festival 2020 Review

Stray is the debut feature documentary of Hong Kong director Elizabeth Lo, who has featured in the New Directors Showcase at Cannes Lion and was named one of the ’25 New Faces of Independent Film’ by Filmmaker Magazine.

This feature is a beautifully charming, but sombre look at the lives of several stray dogs in Istanbul, along with the various residents they encounter as they wander the streets of the major city. A big part of the intimacy the film captures is down to the non-intrusive, natural and low-angle camera work, which tracks the canine stars through the course of 90 minutes. While the cinematography captures the fly-on-the-wall style, and most importantly, the dog’s perspective, there’s a countless beautifully composed shots of the stars and the city they inhabit.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Zeytin, a young female tanned dog, best described by one set of residents as a ‘fighter’. We follow her chasing cats, playing and fighting with other dogs, waiting to cross busy roads, searching for food and hanging out with several Syrian refugee teenagers, who are introduced while sleeping rough in a construction site. The teens, whose plight of homelessness and searching for food seem to mirror Zeytin and co., are one of many residents we encounter in the backdrop of the dog’s journeys. You get little snippets of dialogue from women complaining about their marriages, to young people discussing Instagram etiquette, and the backdrop of major demonstrations.

The Syrian teens’ story is the main backbone of the narrative in Stray, and sees them trying to find places to sleep, and then taking a young stray puppy, Kartal from his adopted owners, before eventually getting arrested for sleeping on the streets. We also follow Nazar, who is often with Zeytin. Elizabeth Lo and her team deserve a lot of credit for the amount of careful work that has gone into producing such an intimate, endearing and cohesive piece of documentary film-making that really captures a tiny bit of the lives of these transient dogs and the people they encounter along the way. Before the credits roll, the film announces the work is the product of two years of filming, and it was definitely worth it.

Mogul Mowgli LFF Review

Mogul_Mowgli Film Poster

Mogul Mowgli London Film Festival 2020 Review

The second feature and fictional debut from documentary filmmaker Bassam Tariq, which he co-wrote with its star Riz Ahmed, is a chaotic, but incisive release that more than begs repeat viewing. The film follows Z, or Zaheer, a second-generation British-Pakistani rapper on the cusp of success who returns home to his parents and faces not only a clash of culture, heritage and religion, but a debilitating disease which threatens his life and career.

Returning home to the parents is a well-trodden storyline, but this film masterfully manages to combine the obvious cultural differences, with rather disturbing flashbacks to both Z’s youth, as well as the past of his father’s escape to Pakistan during the 1947 Partition with India. This intergenerational trauma echoes through the film, with the juddering train literally shaking several scenes and scattering its dust over Z, and sits alongside the genetic trauma which has caused the disease in both father and son. The disease itself is autoimmune, and sits as a metaphor for Z’s anxiety about himself and his heritage, with the doctor describing it as being down to the fact ‘the body doesn’t recognise itself anymore’. Tariq’s documentary-style cinematography superbly captures some of these tense snippets of the past, and the extreme close-ups on materials, light and characters adds to the realistic style, which itself is balanced by moments leaning into magic realism.

Despite these rather haunting, horror-type moments, the film skips between serious drama and humour, with some of the best lines delivered by Nabhaan Rizwan as RPG, an up-and-coming fellow rapper, who gets to deliver the line “No Nando’s without apartheid”, which in combination with his music video for ‘Pussy Ass Chicken’, definitely had a slight Chris Morris influence, who Ahmed worked with on Four Lions. Ahmed is stellar, spitting out his lines, with several songs taken from Ahmed’s 2020 album The Long Goodbye, most memorably in a fantastic transition shot where he begins rapping backstage before leaping to the front of the house to begin his live show. There’s also a lot of boyish, rebellious charm, as he is thrown back into his parent’s household, channelling his younger self, but combined with some fantastic emotional scenes, particularly with Z’s father, played by Alyy Khan.

Mogul Mowgli is a fantastic piece of documentary-style fictional filmmaking, with the director/writer and actor/writer working together perfectly to produce an intense, but insightful leap into intergenerational relationships, attitudes and trauma.

Siberia LFF Film Review

Siberia is a spiritual journey filled with metaphors and symbolism that even the most observant viewer may have trouble keeping pace with. The sixth collaboration between director Abel Ferrara and a for Willem Defoe, this dive into the abyss of the soul is a cold, harsh and biting ride.

There’s some fantastic landscape cinematography, with Defoe’s Clint sledding through bleak snow filled valleys, lit in a surreal green light that adds to the mystery. This, coupled with a minimal piano based score help craft an atmosphere you’ll not be able to shake.

In terms of narrative, the protagonist is seemingly thrown across several scenes in a non-linear fashion, with both him and the audience attempting to piece together the meaning of the strange, weird and often disturbing things he’s confronted with.

Definitely one for fans of the surreal, this is a journey not for the light hearted.

How to Watch 2020 London Film Festival Movies At Home

As we get into autumn, it’s movie festival time in London! However, things have changed up a bit at the 2020 London Film Festival (LFF) this time around. From October 7 – 18, you can enjoy a selection of the 2020 LFF programme all direct from the comfort of your own home.

How to Watch 2020 London Film Festival Movies Online Via BFI Player

The general public can now buy tickets to stream via BFI Play. Virtual premieres are £12 per movie or £10 for BFI Members. To stream, you must have internet access and a BFI Player compatible device. Remember that BFI Player screenings are available to view in the UK only and the movies are not available with Smart TVs and BFI Player’s Amazon Prime and Apple TV channels and you cannot download films.

Most films will require you to start watching within 30 minutes of the advertised start time. So you will need to hit play within this time frame or miss out on seeing the film – and throwing away your money. Once you click play, you have 3 or 72 hours to watch the movie – all depending on the film, so if you can’t watch immediately, click play and then pause til you’re ready to enjoy.

Given the restrictions, we definitely recommend you to schedule your viewing. You can find a full overview of the movies available here.

Now, that’s all out of the way, here’s the important part – the movies we’re most looking forward to!

The Best Movies to Stream From the London Film Festival

Another Round
Four friends, all high school teachers, test a theory that they will improve their lives by maintaining a constant level of alcohol in their blood.

Sam and Tusker partners of 20 years, who are traveling across England in their old RV visiting friends, family and places from their past. Since Tusker was diagnosed with early-onset dementia two years ago, their time together is the most important thing they have.

The world of Zeytin, a stray dog living life on the streets of Istanbul.

Follows a woman in her sixties who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

Mogul Mowgli
A British Pakistani rapper is on the cusp of his first world tour, but is struck down by an illness that threatens to derail his big break.

N.B. Festival favourites including Mangrove, Nomadland and Ammonite are not available to watch online

Tenet Review

Tenet is the culmination of two decades of the film making behemoth that is Christopher Nolan.

It’s everything you’d expect from him – it’s big-budget, traditionally made, and has a Rubix cube of a plot that perfectly fits together at the end of the two hours and 30 minutes. While Nolan’s films have toyed with various action genres over the years, this has to be his finest try at making a James Bond film (or a Mission Impossible entry) to date.

You’ve got action set pieces that you can easily imagine the suited spy taking part in, but with the added twist of the ‘nonlinearity’ that Tenet brings to the table. Not getting too far into spoilers, Tenet is all about time, and the two directions you can take it in, forward and reverse. This concept works brilliantly in the car chases, fight scenes and grand battles that grace the film, but in fact, is at its best when used to puzzle the audience.

Just like Nolan’s 2006 film, The Prestige was all about misdirecting the audience and characters during grand illusions of magic, Nolan’s charm comes from the various clues he lets the audience glimpse as you’re thrown through the rollercoaster of a plot. Viewers, akin to the amnesiac Guy Pierce in Nolan’s Memento (2000), are kept darting around wondering whether this little nugget they’ve spotted will unlock the meaning of it all, or is it just one more piece of the puzzle? But all that aside, the unravelling of Tenet’s secrets is an enjoyable treat and doesn’t feel rushed in the slightest.

The acting is superb, with Washington doing a great ‘everyman’ role, adding in the wit of a secret agent combined with the dumbfounded confusion at being thrown into various inexplicable situations. Kenneth Branagh ‘s accent is a bit reminiscent of an old Bond film Soviet bad guy, but he has some great angry moments with rather bonkers dialogue. Both Patterson and Debicki have admirable chemistry with Washington, and it’s a shame they don’t get more scenes together.

The cinematography is effective, with lots of close-ups to emphasise the drama, along with some superb fast-moving action scenes which you could easily lose track of without well thought out shots and editing. In this film, Nolan has departed from his usual composer Han Zimmer, but Ludwig Göransson’s score is extremely effective in ramping up the tension and building on the surreal nature of many scenes.

If you love Nolan you’ll love this film, it’s the perfect culmination of his many years of filmmaking, honing all his skills to a massive blockbuster film we rarely see too many of these days. If you don’t, there’s a lot to admire here, and you definitely won’t be wasting any of the two and a half hours in the cinema.

Tips to Prep Your Phone for Your Next Trip

To ensure stress-free travel on the road,  Ting Mobile, shares savvy smartphone tips to take before you hit the road.

  • Secure data and personal info: Enable your phone’s screen lock feature and use a strong password to protect your information on the go.
  • Plan your TV & movie binge: Not everyone wants to watch the same program, so be sure to download all your favorites movies and shows ahead of time. Platforms like Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime let you download movies and shows to your device.
  • Take your maps offline: Sometimes you’ll end up in an area without cell phone reception. Using Google Maps, download your maps in advance over Wi-Fi you don’t need to use your cellular network to navigate.
  • Monitor and limit app usage to avoid huge data charges: Apps like Netflix, Spotify, and Facebook all see upticks through extensive usage. Control your data in the app’s setting. You can set how much data the app can use, and you can prevent photos from loading in your feed until you’re on Wi-Fi.
  • Charge your phone faster on Airplane Mode: Although you’re not going to be on a plane, this hack can come in handy. If you’re low on battery life and in a crunch for time, put your smartphone on Airplane Mode to cut down the time needed to charge your phone.
  • Use your phone as a GPS tracker (for friends or children traveling with you): Google Maps lets you share locations in real-time, so you can see where your travel companions or kids are. This is an awesome safety tip for parents of slightly older kids who might want to do their own exploring.
  • Be more mindful: Put down your phone and unplug every once in a while. Take a mini digital detox during the drive and get some much-needed rest or enjoy the scenery. Your phone will thank you too.

Bill & Ted Face the Music Review

It’s been a long 29 years since the most excellent of dudes graced our screens, but is it the comeback show we all wanted or a soulless cash grab reunion?

While neither of the first two films were anything more than fun buddy comedies with a twist, they had a joyous sincerity that you couldn’t help fall in love with. Whether it was the surfer-style dialogue, their chemistry or the fact that they were essentially the same character all played into a loveable sense of camaraderie and adventure.

And the good news is that the latest in the series, Bill & Ted Face the Music, doesn’t disappoint in this department. Of course, it does rehash the time travel of Excellent Adventure and the doppelgangers, evil robots, hell and Death from Bogus Journey, but it adds a fun twist by having Bill and Ted’s daughters take centre stage on their travels to find history’s greatest musicians.

Of the two daughters, Lundy-Paine does the best take on Reeves’s spaced out Theodore Logan, perfectly capturing his trademark baffled expressions when being faced with even the simplest questions on space and time. Winter and Reeves both slip effortlessly back into their titular characters, and you can feel the fun they’re having especially when getting to play the various versions of themselves we see throughout the film. The returning cameos are great, and the short glimpse of Rufus is a lovely touch.

A rarity in most modern films, Bill & Ted Face the Music comes in at just over 90 minutes, but it doesn’t feel rushed in the slightest. As with its predecessors, you get a simple plot with charmingly dumb jokes and a loving sense of sincerity, and I am happy to report it was well worth returning to the phone booth for one last encounter with the two most excellent dudes of San Dimas.