10th Nov2013

How to Survive a Plague – Film

by timbaros
images-25How to Survive a Plague (Directed by David France), nominated this past year for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, begins in 1987, six years into what activist Larry Kramer called ‘The Plague’ – the AIDS crisis.
It is in Greenwich Village in the 1980’s where HIV activism began, and we meet several very young men who unfortunately have been diagnosed as HIV Positive. They come together as part of the activist group ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to protest against the government’s handling of the AIDS crisis. They perform civil disobedience demonstrations against the drug companies and get into shouting matches with political leaders. Amongst these men is Peter Staley, a former bond trader who was forced into disability at age 26 and was told he had only months to live. Other members of ACT UP that we meet in the documentary are Mark Harrington, who joined ACT Up upon learning that an ex-lover was sick, David Barr, a laywer who was one of the leaders of ACT Up, Bill Bahlman, who was one of the first in the community to invent the idea of  “treatment activism,” and Bob Rafsky, a former PR executive, with a young daughter, who becomes the mouthpiece for ACT Up.
In March 1987, ACT Up stages its first demonstration, on Wall Street, to protest the high cost of AZT, the only drug at that time prescribed to HIV patients. How to Survive a Plaque also shows, using archival and amateur footage throughout, the group staging protests on the Mall in Washington, D.C., at the Federal Drug Administration, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and at the headquarters of AZT manufacturer Burroughs Wellcome. During the time of these protests, several members of ACT Up die of AIDS, and one is marched through the streets in Greenwich village on the eve of Bill Clinton winning the presidency. Another march on the White House is one of the most emotional parts of the film as we see several people throwing ashes of their loved ones over the fence and into the White House lawn. Eventually Act Up breaks into a couple splinter groups with the core of the activists establishing the Treatment Action Group whose sole purpose was to take their battle to the highest levels of AIDS research. There is a lot more to this documentary than what is written here, and if you are old enough to remember what it was like in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when friends were dying right and left, then this documentary will be very emotional to watch. How to Survive a Plague sets the record straight, for the first time, to show these few and young men fighting for their lives when no one else would fight for them. They helped to make survival of being HIV positive possible. And near the end, we see the surviving members what they look like today, with battlescars, both emotional and physical.

 

17th Aug2013

Planes – Film

by timbaros

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Dusty Crophopper has dreams of becoming a race plane; however, being a tiny crop duster does not exactly guarantee speed. Dusty does not let his dreams fade, and he does everything he can to become a racer plane in the new Disney animated film Planes.

Dusty (well voiced by American stand-up comedian, Dane Cook) spends his days at his boring job dusting crops, and envies the bigger and faster planes who compete in races. Dusty is very good at aerobatic manuveurs, but needs to work on his speed. His boss, Leadbottom (Cedric the Entertainer) and forklift mechanic friend Dottie (the adorable voice of Terri Hatcher) try to talk him out of entering the upcoming Wings Across the World race, as they feel he will make a fool of himself and come in dead last. However, his fuel truck friend Chug (Brad Garrett) supports him and tells him to go for it. Dusty asks for advice from old Navy war plane Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach), who refuses to waste his time on what appears to be a lost cause. (Dusty eventually wins over Skipper, who shares with him his tale of flying in the war where he lost all of his flying battalion in a battle.)

In the qualifiers to the race, Dusty shows what he is made of, but is too slow to gain entry. However, he makes it into the race when another plane drops out because of performance enhancing jet fuel, and he begins the trek from the US, through Europe, to Mumbai and across the Far East, and across the finish line in New York.

Dusty does not give up hope that he can fly as fast as the rest of the other planes, including three-time winner Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith). While preparing for the next leg of the race, Dusty meets and falls in love with racer plane Ishani (Priyanka Chopra) who helps Dusty with his fear of heights and guides him while flying through the Himalayas. Unfortunately, Dusty crashes into the ocean, and at this point considers dropping out. But with support from the other planes, including the Mexican race-plane El Chupacabra (Carlos Alazraqui), he makes it to the finish line neck-in-neck with Ripslinger.

Planes, a spin-off from Pixar’s animated film Cars (Disney bought Pixar in 2006), is an enjoyable film with very well-voiced characters, including Cook as Dusty and Hatcher as Dottie. One of the best sequences of Planes is when El Chupacabra tries to woo French-Canadian racer Rochelle (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss), doing whatever he can to win her heart.

Planes will please the little ones in your group, and will also provide a smile or two for the adults.

Review originally appeared on hereisthecity.com – please click this link to view

12th Aug2013

The Lone Ranger – Film

by timbaros

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It is a mystery to me why The Lone Ranger flopped in America. It had everything a summer movie can ask for: drama, comedy, action, adventure, great performances, stunning scenery, and two classic American characters.

It was even produced and directed by the team that brought us the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And it has Johnny Depp!

The Lone Ranger cost Disney $375 million to produce and market. It has so far grossed a paltry $86 million in the U.S. and another $88 million in other countries. It is said that The Lone Ranger would need to gross $800 million worldwide to break even, accounting for revenue splits with theater owners, and it is expected that it will lose $150 million for Disney. The Lone Ranger, no doubt, needs to open big – not just in the U.K., but in other countries – to help Disney recoup the cost of this film.

No matter how much money it is going to lose, The Lone Ranger is a great film and a unique retelling of the fictional story between two great American classic characters, The Lone Ranger and Tonto.

In this film, a boy at a circus show encounters Tonto (Depp as the Native American warrior, and part of an exhibition in the circus) who tells the boy the tale of John Reid (Armie Hammer), who goes from being a man of the law to a crime-fighting hero. He explains to the boy in great detail how he and The Lone Ranger learned to work together to fight the bad guys. What is unique about this version is that it is told from Tonto’s point of view. And this film tells the story of how John Reid becomes the Lone Ranger.

This idea for The Lone Ranger was all Depp’s. He asked a makeup artist and photographer friends of his to create a look for Tonto in the hopes that producer Jerry Bruckheimer (and Disney) would greenlight the film. It worked, and filming began in the American Southwest until the end of September 2012.

No one else could have played Tonto to perfection except for Depp. With his facial expressions, white face, and rigid posture, he is funny when needed but viscious when called for. Depp is also an Executive Producer on this film, showing how much faith he had in this production and getting it made. Hammer, as The Lone Ranger, continues to prove that he can act in any type of film. He played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, J. Edgar Hoover’s companion in J. Edgar, and a Prince in Mirror, Mirror. He is one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood today. Rounding out the cast is Tom Wilkinson as corrupt railroad tycoon Latham Cole; the always reliable Helena Bonham Carter as madam Red Harrington, who has more than one trick up her dress; American television and film actor William Fitchner as The Lone Ranger’s archenemy Butch Cavendish; and English actress Ruth Wilson as John Reid’s sister-in-law and later love interest.

All performances in The Lone Ranger are excellent, the production values second to none, and there is not one boring minute. At a running time of 149 minutes, though not short, the film goes by very fast as each scene holds your attention, from the fight scenes to the desert scenes, and especially the amazing runaway train scene. I cannot recommend this film enough. You will thoroughly enjoy it. It will only cost you £11 or so, while it cost Disney lots and lots of money to make it, so it is a bargain for the filmgoer anyway you look at it.

Review originally appeared on hereisthecity.com – please click this link to view

06th Aug2013

Wag! The Musical! – Theatre

by timbaros

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The website of WAG! The Musical promises “one of the most extraordinary theatrical events of the year”. And sure enough, it is one of the most extraordinary theatricals events of the year – a very bad one at that!

Expecting a story of the Wives and Girlfriends (WAGS) of footballers, with their fake boobs, lavish spending, and bling jewelry, what we get instead is a musical with very bad music, a story with a very bad script, and a show so bad it does not even deserve to be staged.

WAG! The Musical is the story of two girls who work at a cosmetics counter in an unnamed store, and many of their customers happen to be WAGS. Of course, the two girls Jenny (Daisy Wood-Davis) and Sharon (Amy Scott), aspire to be more than just cosmetics girls. One of them (Jenny) wants to run away with a footballer, who unfortunately happens to be married. Sharon finds herself in a volatile relationship with a man whom she thinks she loves, but is told by Jenny to ‘dump him’ because of the way he treats her. She leaves him and finds romance closer to home, with Pete, the store cleaner who also happens to be a musician (a believable Chris Grierson). Olivier Award-winning (1984) American actor Tim Flavin is the store manager (Mr. Frank) in it is a performance that is dreadful. His character is so one-dimensional and predictable, and it is clear that he fancies men, but at the same time, he grovels before his rich, female customers. It is embarrassing.

In WAG! The Musical we are ‘treated’ to a fashion show arranged by Mr. Frank, who has invited all of his WAG customers. They sashay around the stage, with big hair, tight fitting dresses, and pouting lips so large one wonders if they have just eaten lemons.

The selling point of the show (if there is one) is that it casts two real live WAGs: Liz Cundy, ex-wife of former Chelsea defender Jason Cundy, who plays a presenter (and who looks like she has had way too much Botox), and Pippa Fulton, partner of Brentford Striker Clayton Donaldson, who plays a customer spending lots of money, no doubt mirroring her actual life. Both of these woman cannot act, and they definitely cannot sing. They, along with the rest of the cast, don’t have much to work with from a script that is almost invisible, and it is up to comedienne Alyssa Kyria, as a Greek WAG, to sort of save the show. She has the best lines, doing a stand-up routine, but it’s almost as if her act is another show altogether.

It is questionable why the writers (Belvedere Pashum, with music and lyrics by Grant Martin, Thomas Giron-Towers and Tony Bayless) set a show about WAGS at a cosmetics counter in a department store. There are so many different ways they could’ve written a show about WAGS to make it funny and entertaining, but as it is now, it is a laughable production at best. Newspaper critics have declared this the worst show of the year. I would go so far as to say this is the worst show of the decade.

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