The London Film Festival

Never Let Me Go

The 54th London Film Festival starts today and promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with 197 features, 112 short films and 15 films from the archives. The films - from experimental to animated - represent 66 countries, from Hollywood to Bollywood.

The highlight of the festival will be the premiere of Danny Boyle's newest film, 127 Hours. (Boyle's last film, Slumdog Millionaire, won eight Academy Awards and seven BAFTAS.) 127 Hours tells the true story of American Mountain climber Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) whose arms get lodged in between rocks while climbing alone in Utah's Blue John Canyon. While there for five days he must take drastic measures in order to live, all the while going over his life in flashbacks.

The festival's opening night gala screening is Never Let Me Go, with British Actresses Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley. In flashbacks, they play students at an English boarding school, sheltered from the rest of the world, unaware of what lies beyond the schools gates and the deep, dark secret that hangs over their future. A true British film.

Other films debuting include George Clooney as The American. He plays an assassin and arms expert growing weary of life on the move and always alone. Any film starring Clooney always seem to reap movie awards.

Colin Firth is back on the big screen (after his Oscar-nominated turn in A Single Man) in The King's Speech. Firth plays the second son of King George V, who inherits the crown when his brother, Prince Edward, abdicates when he marries Wallis Simpson, and who works with a speech therapist to overcome his lack of confidence. Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter also star.

Double-Oscar winner Hillary Swank stars in Conviction, which tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters, whose brother is convicted of murder and sent to prison. It is Betty Anne who believes he is innocent, and puts herself through law school an 18-year journey to free her brother. Strong stuff.

The power duo of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore reign supreme in The Kids Are All Right. In this dramedy, they play a lesbian couple whose two teenagers want to find out who their biological father is. He is played by Mark Ruffalo, and this film has created strong buzz.

Spanish Hearthrob Javier Bardem stars in Biutiful. In this Spanish-language movie filmed in Barcelona, Bardem plays a loving husband and father, but outside the home he tries to make ends meet by doing whatever he can, legal or illegal.

In Everything Must Go, Will Ferrell takes a departure from his zany comedic characters to play an alcoholic, middle-aged man whose life is crumbling around him. Can Ferrell pull off a dramatic role?

James Franco (again) stars in Howl, where he plays gay poet Allen Ginsburg. The film focuses on his 1957 obscenity trial where Ginsburg had to defend his right to free expression, and the buzz on this film is Franco's performance.

Route Irish tells the story of an ex-soldier trying to uncover the circumstances of his best friend's death in Iraq. A timely film.

In a first for the festival, Mike Leigh's new movie, Another Year, will be simultaneously broadcasted to cinemas across Britain  on Monday, October 18th. Audiences will be able to watch the red carpet arrivals as well as post-screening Q&A. The film is about a married couple who seem to be content and their single friends, who seem to be miserable being single.

Documentaries to be shown at the Film Festival (and which will surely create talk amongst the glitterati) are The Ballad of Mott the Hoople, Mandelson: The Real PM?, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, Guilty Pleasures (which explores the phenomenon of romance novels and the devotees who are caught up in them), and The Tillman Story (about an American NFL Football player who gave up his successful career to fight - and ultimately die - in Afghanistan).

The London Film Festivals takes place over the next 16 days, from Oct. 13 - Oct. 28, and is open to the public. If you happen to miss some of the movies at the Film Festival, look for them to open up in general release either later this year or sometime next year.

For more information about the festival and to buy tickets, please click here.

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