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Sci-Fi Highlights At The 57th BFI London Film Festival

What genre fans should be hunting down at this year's LFF

Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Steve Coogan, the Coen brothers and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are among the superstar guests coming to town for this year’s BFI London Film Festival – that week and a half in October when the British capital becomes the centre of the cinematic universe. With new movies from Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass (the Hanks-starring Captain Phillips ), the Coens ( Inside Llewyn Davis ) and Stephen Frears ( Philomena ), it’s a typically eclectic trip around styles and genres, taking in lots of the most eagerly anticipated movies on the cinematic horizon. But obviously, we’re most interested in the sci-fi and fantasy movies screening between 9-20 October – here (in no particular order) are six SFX -friendly highlights to look out for.

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam’s first film since 2009’s The Imaginarium Of Dr Parnassus looks like a return to the offbeat, slightly unhinged territory of Brazil – and frankly, that’s where we like him best. The Zero Theorem stars Christoph Waltz (fresh off winning his second Oscar for Django Unchained ) as loner programmer Qohen Leth, a man who’s desperately waiting for a call. Despite a tiny budget, what we’ve seen so far suggests the movie’s going to be one of Gilliam’s trademark feasts for the eyes, and – as long as he reins in his excesses – this could be another treat from one of moviedom’s most idiosyncratic directors.

Only Lovers Left Alive

Tom Hiddleston can do no wrong at the moment, and with Thor: The Dark World due in cinemas in time for Halloween, he’s swapping blockbuster bombast for a bit of indie cool. The latest film from indie darling Jim Jarmusch ( Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai , Dead Man , Broken Flowers ) promises to be a vampire film with a difference, as Hiddleston’s musician Adam rekindles his centuries-old romance with fellow vamp Eve (Tilda Swinton). It’s a rare fantastical outing for Jarmusch, but we’re expecting the director’s quirky, offbeat sensibilities to be rather more prominent than any clichéd vampire mythology – and that sounds way more exciting than Twilight , right?

Gravity

Already the toast of Venice and pretty much anyone who’s seen it ( read SFX ’s five-star review here ), Alfonso Cuarón’s ( Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban ) latest is thriller filmmaking at its finest. Barely giving you time to come up for air over its lean, relentless 91-minute running time, it follows a pair of astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) left trapped in orbit when some floating satellite debris hits their spacecraft. Cuarón makes the most of his state-of-the-art visual effects to make everything feel as real as a high-class documentary – if anyone tries to tell you films loaded with CG can’t have brains, this is proof they’re lying.

Under The Skin

Scarlett Johansson follows in the footsteps of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth , as an alien living incognito among humans. There’s a dark side to this ET, however, as she spends her nights hunting human prey on the backstreets of Glasgow – until one victim conjures up new and unexpected emotions in her. Just as intriguing as the chance to see Johansson in as an alien (a part that should give her the chance to show off ability that has occasionally been masked by some slightly mediocre roles), is the man behind the camera. Ad director Jonathan Glazer is arguably most famous for the legendary Guinness surfer ad, but his filmography boasts the excellent Sexy Beast – expect something visually striking mixed with interesting character beats.

The Congress

Director Ari Folman’s previous movie, animated documentary Waltz With Bashir, was far from your average factual piece, and his follow-up promises to be just as unconventional. A half-animated, half live-action story based on Stanislaw Lem’s The Futurological Congress , it sees actress Robin Wright playing the actress Robin Wright as she contends with what ageing does to a Hollywood career. It’s enough to make her get her image digitised and sign the rights to her identity away to a film studio. What we’ve seen suggests it’ll look fantastic, and because we know that many Hollywood moguls would probably kill to have this much control over a film star, the satire will hopefully be razor sharp.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

David Lynch has the ability to out-weird most filmmakers, but even he might have met his match in Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowksy. History tells us, of course, that it was Lynch who got to take Frank Herbert’s SF classic Dune to the big screen in 1984, but Jodorowsky pushed hard to make an adaptation in the 1970s before his project fell through. This documentary from first-timer Frank Pavich tells the story of a film that never was, speaking to Jodorowsky himself, and creating animated versions of the director’s pre-production art to show what could have been. Dune is still considered unfilmable  by many, but that doesn't mean it can't form the basis of an interesting film.

For more information on the 57th BFI London Film Festival and to book tickets visit bfi.org.uk/lff

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