YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE
Joaquin Phoenix has had, to put it mildly, a wayward career. The highs of Walk the Line and Her. The lows of The Village and Mary Magdalene. The sheer and utter what-the-hell-was-that of I'm Not Here. It seems Phoenix is back to his best in You Were Never Really Here as a brooding ex-vet tracking down missing girls using whatever means necessary. Be warned: this looks brutal. But it's apparently worth it for Phoenix's performance. "Simply stupendous," wrote Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. "His performance is damn near flammable - dangerous if you get too close."
I still recall the thrill of hearing the pure pop blast of Sunshowers for the first time, and of having my mind blown by the coked-up noise terrorism of Bird Flu. Watching her climb on top of a speaker stack to deliver an unhinged Paper Planes remains one of my favourite Big Day Out memories. But in the age of celebrity saturation, who exactly M.I.A is remains a mystery. This documentary by Steve Loveridge tries to clear that up. "A treasure trove of intimate insights," wrote a Sight & Sound critic. I can't wait.
Is Nicolas Cage still a thing? Apparently, when it comes to this woozy gore-fest, yes. The Cagester has earned plaudits for his role in Mandy, a devilish action-horror shocker that earned rave reviews after its Sundance debut. He plays Red Miller, a blood-splattered lumberjack on a hell-bent mission of revenge after his life was destroyed by drug-addled cultists. "An all-time great Nicolas Cage wig-out," wrote The Telegraph in a five-star review. Come back Cage! Forget about Arsenal, it seems all is forgiven.
McKELLEN: PLAYING THE PART
Okay, look, on the face of it, an entire documentary about Gandalf doesn't sound that thrilling. Veteran character actor Sir Ian McKellen was interviewed for 14 hours for Joe Stephenson's portrait of the wizened wizard, which looks back over his seven decades on film and stage. Yes, that includes his conquering role in Peter Jackson's Rings and Hobbit trilogies. But what I'm really hoping is that this is a movie-length version of McKellen's brilliant piss-take cameo in Ricky Gervais' Extras, where he dumbed down acting to its most basic elements. How basic? "Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Action! Wizard you shall not pass! Cut! Sir Ian, Sir Ian, Sir Ian." More of that, please.
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THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
If you're only seeing one doco this film festival, this is the one I'd recommend. Tim Wardle's twisted tale involves triplets called Bobby, Eddie and David who were separated at birth. Thanks to a series of uncanny coincidences, they spot the resemblances, find each other and become a nationwide sensation. Then things get weird. "It's already extraordinary 20 minutes in, and then it goes to unexpected and yet more amazing places, like a narrative feature by a master storyteller," wrote the San Francisco Chronicle.