VIKINGS, vampires, gangsters and young lovers were just some of those converging on Inverness last weekend as the city once again hosted its annual Film Festival – and I made my way there to see as many new films as I could.
Taking place in the modern surroundings of Eden Court, where leg room in the cinema is spacious and the chips sold at the bar fried to perfection, the festival kicked-off with a screening of Clive Owen's new Australian-set drama, The Boys Are Back (out 22 January).
Recovering from the death of his wife (Laura Fraser), Joe (Owen) has to learn how to bond with his young son, plus his offspring from a previous marriage, as he juggles his career as a sports journalist. Based on a true story, this is a moving and often very funny film, set against the stunning Australian landscape.
Fans of Sexy Beast should look out for 44 Inch Chest (out 22 January), written by and starring the same team. Ray Winstone stars as Colin Diamond, a London hard man devastated by the news that his wife (Joanne Whalley) is leaving him for a younger man.
Along with Meredith (Ian McShane) and friends, Diamond kidnaps the boyfriend, resulting in a confrontation involving flashbacks, dream sequences and theories on the nature of love. It's a fun, if disturbing, ride and McShane steals the show.
There was also the refreshingly grown-up, if shockingly violent, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (out 12 March) based on the bestselling novel; dull Scottish Viking feature Valhalla Rising; the promising debut from French director Pascal Alex-Vincent, Give Me Your Hand and a stunning presentation of 1922 vampire film Nosferatu, complete with new score from composer David Allison.
One of the most impressive films shown was the ultra-low budget Don't Worry About Me, following David (James Brough) as he leaves London for Liverpool in search of his perfect woman. Meeting Tina (Helen Elizabeth), he invites her to skip work, the pair getting to know each other as they tour the city while falling for each other.
Directed by David Morrissey, it's sweet and uplifting with echoes of indie gem In Search Of A Midnight Kiss, showing what can happen when fate lends love a helping hand.
With a strong line-up, the organisers have given themselves a tough act to follow as the festival looks to its eighth year in 2010.
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