LFF 2016 Previews Part i:

The Obvious Choices.

Best have your BFI membership ready if you want tickets to these...

A United Kingdom (Amma Asante)

Belle director Amma Assante opens the festival this year with what looks to us to be a very crowd pleasing piece. Rosamund Pike's English office worker marries into royalty in the form of David Oyelowo's Botswanan king. Needless to say neither the Empire (boooo) nor the king's people take to well to this very un-1940's union. Sumptuous photography and very upright performances no doubt abound.  

Free Fire (Ben Wheatley)

We made no secret of our enthusiasm for Ben Wheatley's superb adaptation of Highrise at last year's LFF and it was with great joy that we watched the clip for his entry this year. New trailer finally available - an arms deal going wrong in a warehouse and featuring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley, plus a script co-written by regular Amy Jump? We are so there.

Lion (Garth Davis)

Another festival gala pleaser here with Dev Patel further expanding his Slumdog Millionaire reputation. Patel plays Saroo, a boy who is separated from his family by an unfortunate train / sleeping incident and who, having been adopted by an Australian couple, can't leave his past family behind. Garth Davis steps up from TV duties for his feature debut and Rooney Mara co-stars as the adult Saroo's girlfriend faced with potentially losing her love to his past life.

Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)

We love Casey Affleck and we don't care who knows it. Here playing a listless Lee who must return to his hometown when his brother dies. Also starring the excellent Michelle Williams and much under-used (in our humble opionion) Kyle Chandler, hometown returns are rife for deep emotional plunder. Affleck will shine amongst the picturesque Massachusetts background.

La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

A musical you say? Not Singin' in the Rain you say? No chance we say. Oh, wait, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Damien Chazelle.... That changes EVERYTHING. Easily the standout movie of the entire programme, if only because it looks so different from everything else, we cannot wait to see how Chazelle can top the astonishing Whiplash. And early word says he may well have done that.

Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)

We still thing about Ton Ford's achingly stylish and heart-wrenchingly brilliant A Single Man every now and again so to see him back from whatever else he does and behind the camera (and typewriter) is an exciting prospect. Early word of a lot of style but not so much substance won't be putting us off. Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star in this densely plotted neo-noir.

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)

Yup, we still love Jim. Only Lovers Left Alive was one of out films of the year a few years ago and his first movie since looks.... interesting. It's always a gamble with Jarmusch (still struggling with The Limits of Control) but he's one of the few director's we're willing to pin our colours to before we even read the synopsis. Here Adam Driver stars as a bus driver. Who cares about the plot, roll the Jarmusch dice! 

Chi-Raq (Spike Lee)

Speaking of always interesting directors, Spike Lee returns from a run of stuff that we've not seen (our last Lee experience was the astonishing and utterly mortifying When The Levees Broke - if you haven't seen that, get to it) to take on Aristophanes Lysistrata. No, us neither but it appears to revolve around the women in the neighbourhood denying men what they most want until they stop squabbling... 

The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker)

Troubling as all hell, we're not sure about even watching this one but its profile makes it difficult to ignore. Also difficult to ignore is Nate Parker's rape acquittal and his accuser's subsequent suicide. We'll let you decide on this one. 

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