08th Nov2014

Chef – DVD

by timbaros

851433-chef-movie-posterChef, now playing in cinemas, is a real treat, from start to finish.

Jon Favreau, who also wrote, produced and directed, plays Carl Casper, a chef in a popular Los Angeles restaurant. He’s in control of his kitchen, and proud of the food that he makes for his customers. However, one day a restaurant critic (Oliver Platt – who actually looks like a restaurant critic), eats in the restaurant and then proceeds to give it a bad review, lambasting Casper’s cooking, Not happy with this, Casper, at the urging of his son Percy (Emjay Anthony), opens an account on Twitter and starts tweeting bad things about the critic, picking up hundreds of followers in the meantime. Casper decides to give it another go with the critic, so via Twitter he invites him to the restaurant to eat a new menu he plans to prepare. However, this doesn’t go well with the owner of the restaurant (Dustin Hoffman), who says they will stick to the menu they’ve got and that if Casper doesn’t like it, he can walk away. Casper does walk away, much to the dismay to the rest of the restaurant staff, including Martin (a very well-cast John Leguizamo) and sous chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale). But Casper can’t stay away from the restaurant for two reasons, he’s dating the restaurant’s hostess (an unglamorous Scarlett Johannson) and he feels the needs to get even with the restaurant critic. So Casper decides to go to the restaurant the same night the critic is there, and, in front of all the customers and staff, yell at him and tells him he doesn’t know what good food is. After his rant, he is banned from the restaurant forever.

Deciding what to do next, besides spending lots of time with his son, his ex-wife Inez (an always good Sofia Vergara – who’s becoming quite the screen goddess) urges him to come with her and their son to Miami while she is on a business trip to take some time away and mellow out. While there, he comes up with the idea of a new business – a food truck selling Cuban food. He buys a run down and dirty food truck, and with the help of his son, fixes it up and calls it ‘El Jefe.’ Martin flies in and wants to be a part of the new business so together they create delicious Cuban food, especially Cubanos – a Cuban Sandwich of cheese and ham. With his son, they take the food truck on a road trip back to Los Angeles, stopping in various cities along the way. Thanks to Emjay, they have quite a following on Twitter and Instagram and it’s with social media where they pick up loads of customers along with way, with queues stretching down blocks in every city. Arriving back in Los Angeles, they’re a hit and have a new business.

While the story of Chef is very predictable and could’ve been guessed without me writing about the entire plot, it’s, of course the food that plays a starring role in the film. Beginning in the restaurant to Casper making a delicious meals at his home, the food looks vibrant and succulent and delicious. And the Cuban sandwiches want to make you have one after the movie, so if anyone knows where I can get one in London, please write in! The cast is very good, and credit is due to Favreau who wore four hats in the movie (5 if you count his cooking in the film, well I presume it was him cooking) and for creating what is a simple film into such a delight. The rest of the cast is fine, with Leguizamo and Vergara bringing a va va va voom Latin spice to the movie. All in all, Chef is a pretty good movie. Please go see it, and you will definitely want to eat after.



Chef [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Sofía Vergara, Robert Downey Jr
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

NOTICE: Polish Release, cover may contain Polish text/markings. The disk DOES NOT have English audio and subtitles.
New From: £2.99 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.09 GBP In Stock

20th Oct2014

Road – DVD

by timbaros

JoeyDunlopTT92The lives and careers of two generations of Road Racers is explored in the new documentary Road.

The sport of Road Racing is in effect racing motorcycles on the open roads. And the Dunlop family of Ireland have dominated this sport for over three decades. Road weaves the story of two generations of the Dunlops into a riveting documentary, even for those who know nothing about Road Racing, or even sports in general.

In the 1970’s, Robert and Joey Dunlop started racing motorcycles for fun in their hometown in Northern Ireland. They were young men who spent every minute they could on their motorcycles. They were in their late teens when they started Road Racing – racing on Ireland’s country roads where on any other day there would be traffic. The roads in Ireland are not long stretches of road but they twist and turn, past forests and rock cliffs – this was part of the thrill, and the risk, of Road Racing. So imagine racing these roads on a motorcycle going over 100 miles per hour, and it can be quite dangerous. But this is what Robert and Joey loved. Robert was a few years older than Joey, and they would compete against each other, and against the road itself.

In the late 1970’s, Joey was one of the top road racers in Ireland. But the dangers of the sport came to the forefront when in 1979 three racers died in the North West 200 – an annual race in Northern Ireland made up of public roads and one of the fastest races in the world, with the racers hitting speeds as fast as 200 mph. 100,000 spectators were on hand that year to watch the race.

Still, the Dunlops continued to race, in Ireland as well as on the Isle of Man. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s Joey won or placed in the top 6 in almost all of the races he was in, he was just one of the best, or if not the best road racer of his time.

The second generation to take up road racing is Robert’s two sons Michael and William. The Road intersperses footage of the older Dunlop’s with the younger Dunlop’s, uncanny in their appearances and love of the sport. But Joey and Robert’s journeys in the sport turn tragic, and this is where the documentary picks up speed, in both content and emotion.

Robert was actually the first of the two brothers to be in a bad accident. In May 1994, Robert crashed into a rock wall in a race he was expected to win, and he was told that he would never walk again. Meanwhile, Joey continued to race, even into his 40’s, and winning lots of races, though he was an older man in a young man’s sport. Joey also was less known for his charity work. He would, on his own, pack a van full of food and supplies and drive to the orphanages of Romania in Eastern Europe, however, a few years later it would be in Eastern Europe where Joey would ride his final race.

Robert wanted to return to racing in 1996 but was banned due to his previous injuries, but in 1998 he came back strong and actually won a major race that year. The Dunlop family continued their dominance of the sport. By the late 1990’s when most men who have been racing after 30 years would retire, the Dunlops would not. In 2000, Joey would go on to win the TT race, 23 years after he first had won it. Robert came in third in the same race.

But it was a few years later when Joey was in a minor race in Estonia that he crashed his bike into a tree in a heavy thunderstorm. He died on impact. The outpouring of grief in Northern Ireland was so big that 50,000 people attended his funeral.

In 2004, William and Michael took up road racing, just like their father and uncle over 25 years before. Four years later, Robert Dunlop, at the age of 47, still in competition, was in a practice session for the NW200, a race his two sons were also in. Robert was traveling 150 MPH, and was going perhaps a little too fast for a practice session, when his tire buckled and came loose, throwing his body into the air, which went crashing to the ground, and then got run over by another bike. The unimaginable crash is shown in the documentary, taken from a camera in a helicopter, and we actually see his body fly off the bike and get run over. It’s horrific and shocking, and also extremely gut-wrenching. And the course was just a few miles from his home.

Two days later, with the race still scheduled to go on, and both William and Michael agreed that they would race in it in honor of their father. Race officials ruled that both men were too emotional and distraught and a harm to the other racers and deemed them ineligible. But they both insisted to race, and got on their bikes. At the last minute, they were given the green light to race, but for some strange reason WIlliam’s bike wouldn’t work so it would be up to Michael to race in honor of their father. Miraculously Michael wins the race, and he breaks down, not only on his bike but also on the winner’s podium, winning one of the greatest (and most memorable) road races ever raced. And this gives the documentary it’s ending that no script writer could ever write – Michael winning a race, two days after his father had died on the same course.

Road is a bit slow to build, but it accelerates into an astonishing and extremely emotional documentary. The journey of Robert and Joey and how they lived their lives for the sport they loved, which in the end took their lives, is very powerful and moving. And the score, by Mark Gordon and Richard Hill, is haunting and memorable and emotional, and is perfectly suited for the ups and down you will experience watching this film. It is a superb score. Road is excellently narrated by Liam Neeson, who mentions during the film that ‘for a road racer, success and tragedy are separated by the narrowest of margins. Danger is ever present, death is a split second away’. Joey and Robert are buried next to each other in their hometown of Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, while Robert’s two sons continue to race.

11th Oct2014

Fruitvale Station – DVD

by timbaros

images-272In 2009, 22 year-old Oscar Grant was shot, for no apparent reason, by a transit cop in San Francisco. He would later die of his wounds. Fruitvale Station is the movie that tells this story.

Michael B. Jordan, in a award-winning performance, plays Grant with such warmth, depth, personality and realism that it feels like we are watching Grant’s home videos. Melonie Diaz, who is stunning in her role as Grant’s fiance Sophina, is a Latina girl who is truly in love with him. They have a young daughter, Tatiana, and between them they struggle to make ends meet, especially after Grant loses his job in a supermarket. He had previously served time in prison for a drugs offense and is now trying to do everything right for his family. They still send Tatiana to day care which they can barely afford. Meanwhile, with no job on Oscar’s horizon, he calls a chum who deals in drugs in the hopes that he can some some extra cash, though he realizes this is a road he doesn’t to travel down again.

Grant’s mother Wanda still dots on him, played by Octavia Spencer, she is a very protective mother who still treats him like a young boy even though he has a family of his own. It’s an all-aroud loving family, but things are still tense between Sophina and Oscar over him losing his job. At his mother’s birthday party on New Year’s Eve, they forget their troubles and have a good time being together with all of the family. With plans to go into town later that evening to watch the fireworks, Wanda tells her son to take the BART (Metro) system into town instead of driving as it would be safer and easier for them. However, this proves to be a catastrophic decision as Oscar gets into an argument on the train with a fellow former inmate, causing a scuffle, with the police dragging Oscar and his friends (all black men) off the train and onto the platform. They tell the police that everything is cool, but Oscar, prone to being very volatile, doesn’t sit still when the officers tell him to. They pin him face down, he struggles, until one of the police officer’s guns go off, shooting Oscar in the back. He dies the next day in the hospital.

It’s hard to accept the ending of Fruitvale Station when you know that it is a true story. A young man’s life has been cut short due to one policeman’s overreacting and carelessness of his weapon. And the actors really make this film a personal experience for the viewer. Jordan is perfect as Oscar Grant, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing this role. He’s embodies the spirit, and the struggles, of a young black man with a checkered past trying to raise a family and proving to himself and his family that he can make it. Jordan most recently co-starred with Zac Effron in That Awkward Moment, showing a funny side, in Fruitvale Station, he shows a complete opposite side, and has won several awards for his performance. Diaz is almost as good as his wife. Not too well-known as an actress, this film will raise her profile immensely. Spencer, as Oscar’s mother, is the heart and soul of the film. It’s excrutiating when she is told in the hospital that her son has died. Writer and Director Ryan Coogler has crafted a gripping, dramatic, and one of the most powerful films of the year. This is the 26 year-old Coogler’s first feature film, and what a debut it is.

29th Aug2014

Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan) – DVD

by timbaros

images-236At only 24 years old, French Canadian Xavier Dolan already has four films under his belt, all of which have been well received and critically acclaimed. In 2009, Dolan directed, produced, starred and wrote J’ai tué ma mére (I Killed My Mother), a semi-autobiographical story about Dolan as a young gay man at odds with his mother, writing the script when he was the tender age of 17. It won 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival. The next year he wrote, directed, produced and starred (again) in Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats), a story about three close friends who are involved in a love triangle. It was in 2012 that Javier continued his string of emotional and heartfelt films by writing and directing Laurence Anyways. At 168 minutes, it was a bold choice for the young director to make a film as ambitious as this, one about the struggles of a straight man who, over the course of ten years, transitions from male to female and how it affects the relationship with his lover (with amazing performances by Melvil Poupajd and Suzanne Clément). Laurence Anyways won many awards, including two Cannes Film Festival Awards (the Queer Palm Award and Best Actress for Clément). Lawrence Anyways was also nominated for ten Canadian Screen Awards (winning two), and more importantly, at the Toronto International Film Festival it won Best Canadian Feature film. Not bad for a local boy. 

2014 sees Dolan’s most bold work yet. It is a film called Tom á la Ferme (Tom at the Farm), and the Tom in the title of the film is Dolan. For his fourth feature film, Dolan puts himself in the lead in a film that he also wrote, produced and directed. Looking so unlike his usual self, with long blond shaggy hair, Dolan again revisits the themes of homosexuality and the lack of acceptance. Tom, who works in an advertising agency, travels to the Canadian countryside for a funeral. It is not just anybody’s funeral, it is the funeral of his 25 year old boyfriend (Guillaume). The problem is that his grieving mother did not know that he was gay, so she accepts Tom as his friend in the hopes that he can tell her all about his life, as he had not been in contact with her for a long time. This is not the only problem Tom faces. Guillaume’s brother, 30 year old Francis (an amazing Pierre-Yves Cardinal), knew that he was gay and never really could accept it. In fact, nine years prior he had beaten up a man who had been dancing with his brother, and his violent nature and temper has him banned from most places in town. He still lives with their mother, on a farm, that he hopes to one day inherit after his mother passes away (he tells Tom in a highly charged scene that shows them dancing with each other in the barn) as there is no one else left in the family. Francis plays psychological games with Tom, at times beating him up and then at other times charming him. He has some kind of hold on Tom. With mesmerizing good looks and an athletic body, Cardinal commands the screen in every scene he is in. So it’s no surprise that Tom has a crush on him. The mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), is a bit crazy, maternal madness, having lost her husband years ago and now her youngest son that she barely knew. She is introduced to a woman who she is led to believe her dead son was dating, a woman who is a friend of Tom’s where he asks her to visit the grieving mother and pretend that she was his girlfriend. And Francis sets his lecherous ways on her. Dolan has set the soundtrack of Tom at the Farm to Hitchcockian music (by Gabriel Yared), with stunning visual images in the film (as he did in Laurence Anyways) of long shots of a highway, the middle of cornfields, and facial images that will last long after you see the film. 
 
After creating a trilogy of the subject of impossible love (Dolan’s words), he has now changed direction to create a suspenseful film that, while still stays on the subject of homosexuality, is very dramatic and is another amazing creation by a young man who has yet to turn 25. 
 
Dolan got the idea of Tom at The Farm after seeing a play in Montreal with the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard. He had a six month window of time between his next project, and the play and its theme really interested him, so he decided to shoot it as a film. Tom at the Farm screened in the main competition section of the 70th Venice International Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Prize (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique), and was also shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. 
 
What’s next for Dolan, besides conquering the world? He has mentioned that he wants to make a film in the United States, to be titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which will be about an American celebrity who maintained a correspondence before his success with an 11-year old boy in Britain, causing a scandal once it became known. If his previous films are anything to go by, the new film (and his future films) will be eagerly anticipated and will be must sees. 

 



Tom at the Farm [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu, Manuel Tadros
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: French ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (2.35:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: The story of Tom, who is in the grip of grief and depression following the death of his lover. When he meets the family of the deceased, it is revealed the mother was not aware of her son's sexual orientation, or his relationship with Tom either, for that matter. ...Tom at the Farm (2013) ( Tom à la ferme )
New From: £5.54 GBP In Stock
Used from: £3.48 GBP In Stock

20th Aug2014

Killing Season – DVD

by timbaros

images-230DeNiro. Travolta. Both star in Killing Season. Unfortunately, this movie never made it to the cinema. It’s out now on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.

 Both men’s careers have seen better films and Killing Season doesn’t do anything to add to their glittering C.V.’s.
DeNiro plays former U.S. soldier Benjamin Ford who took part in shootings and killings in the Bosnian War, and in particular was instrumental in the attempted killing of former Serbian soldier Emil Kovac (Travolta). Ford is in retirement mode, living in a cabin somewhere in the mountains in America. He lives alone, and prefers it that way. He’s not even willing to travel to his grandson’s baptism. Then in a cafe on the other side of the world in Eastern Europe is Kovac, who is handed a folder with Ford’s picture and address. And we can only assume at this point that Kovac wants to pay Ford a visit.
So Kovac shows up at Ford’s house (Travolta tries desparately to wing a Serbian accent to not much luck, and he’s even given a beard that looks painted on). The men initially bond, as Kovac tells Ford that he’s a traveler hiking in the mountains. But it’s not too long before Kovac shows his true colors and turns against Ford. They play cat and mouse in the woods where before they were shooting elk and then it turned to them trying to shoot each other, with Kovac telling Ford why he was actually there. Ridiculously, Kovac captures Ford and makes him put a rope through his just-cut tendons, and makes him hang upside down this way. This scene is not for the squeamish. Then Ford breaks free, and it’s his turn to capture and torture Kovac, and The Killing Season goes on this way for the rest of it’s 90 minutes. It’s not until the very end that we are told why Kovac went after Ford. It’s a good surprise ending but it’s a bit too late to save this movie.
I don’t understand why Travolta and especially DeNiro agreed to do this movie. While DeNiro has made a few stinkers the past few years, including Last Vegas, Grudge Match and The Family, these movies weren’t as bad as this one, while Travolta still can’t be forgiven for being in 2010’s From Paris With Love. Director Mark Steven Johnson, who also brought us Grudge Match, hasn’t made any memorable films in his career (unless you are a really big fan of Grumpy and Grumpier Old Men). So it’s strange that DeNiro has starred in two of his films (Grudge Match and this one), as the quality of filmmaking is just not there. The best thing about Killing Season? The music. Stay until the very end of the credits and you will be graced with beautiful music by Christopher Young. It’s beautiful music, while the $30,000 U.S. gross of this film is definitely not music to the film’s producers!


Killing Season [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia, Elizabeth Olin, Diana Lyubenova
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

Killing Season [DVD]
New From: £2.09 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.09 GBP In Stock

05th Jul2014

Delivery Man – DVD

by timbaros
images-201David Wozniak is a meat delivery driver. He also owes money to the mob. He has a girlfriend that can’t trust him. And he’s the father of 533 children. All of this in the new film Delivery Man.

Wozniak, played by Vince Vaughn, works for the family meat business in New York City – Wozniak & Sons. He also happens to owe $80,000 to the mob. His girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant, and she doesn’t even want him to be in their kid’s life. David is also not very good at his job, according to his father Mikolaj (Andrzej Blumenfeld), his meat deliveries are always four hours late.
So when one day David finds a lawyer at his house who announces to him that he has fathered 533, how can his life get any worse?
David realizes that his college days are coming back to haunt him as he was a very frequent donor to the local sperm bank to help him pay his way through college. And unfortunately, according to the lawyer, the sperm bank ended up using all of his sperm (instead of the other donors) to impregnate women, and now 142 of these children have filed a class action lawsuit to find out who their real father is.
David definitely does not want to be known as the father. He also decides that it is time to step up and be a man and to try to prove to Emma that he will be a good father to their child. David enlists his best friend and lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) to represent him in court to make sure his name does not get out, especially as he doesn’t want Emma to find out as well. Brett hands over to David a package which includes all of ‘his children’s’ profiles, so what does David do? He decides to start meeting them, one by one (anonymously of course). The first on the list is a basketball player for the New York Knicks. The second kid he visits happens to work at a barista who is an aspiring actor, so David works one of his shifts so that he can go to an acting audition. The third child he visits, Kristen (Britt Robertson) happens to take a drug overdose while he is visiting, so it is up to David to save her and make sure she goes to work and stays on the right path. Other children he visits include a lifeguard, a drunk, a nail salon worker, a busker, and a severely retarded son, who he visits quite often and who he wants to build a relationship with. He also tells the boy that he is his father.
As he gets to meet more and more of ‘his’ kids (who have formed one large support group and call themselves Starbuck – the alias name David used at the sperm bank), and with his girlfriend about to give birth, David is ready for more responsibility then what he can handle.
Delivery Man is a film that won’t change the world, but it is a cute and funny look at a man who has no cares and responsibilities in life who all of a sudden has more than what he can handle. Vaughn is very good and funny in this role. We are used to seeing him in similar roles but with worse scripts. In Delivery Man, directed by Ken Scott, we have sympathy for him and at the same time want to cheer him on to step up to the plate. It is a film worth checking out.
Delivery Man is a re-telling of the 2011 French-Canadian film Starbuck, also directed by Scott.

Delivery Man is now out on DVD.

05th Jul2014

Last Vegas – DVD

by timbaros
LV_03450aFirst we had The Hangover parts 1, 2 and 3, for the boys. Then we had Bridesmaids, for the girls. Now we have Last Vegas, for the baby boomers (a/k/a Old Age Pensioners).
Last Vegas brings together Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline (all Academy Award Winners), to Las Vegas (58 years after they have all last seen each other). They are there for a Bachelor party to celebrate the upcoming wedding nuptials of Michael Douglas’s character Billy, a very rich Malibu lawyer who never got married, and who is now marrying a woman less than half his age (32). Sam (Kline) is living in Florida with his loving wife, settling too quickly for old age. Archie (Freeman), who’s had a stroke, lives with his overprotective son in New Jersey. Paddy, meanwhile, has recently lost his wife, lives in a Brooklyn apartment and is all alone and very lonely. They were all best friends when they were younger, but their lives have taken them different ways and to different parts of the country. So with his first wedding Billy thinks it would go a good idea to get the gang back together again for a bachelor party to end all bachelor parties, and where else? In Las Vegas! So Billy calls everyone up (this time not to tell them that somebody’s dying, but to tell them that he is finally getting married), and he convinces them to meet in Las Vegas. Archie has to sneak out of the house to avoid his son stopping him, while Sam’s wife gives him permission to fool around while he is in Las Vegas (what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas). Paddy, meanwhile, is just so miserable that he doesn’t want to leave his apartment, but the boys succeed in getting him to go to Vegas.
So the men all arrive, not having seen each other for decades, and any animosities between them, especially between Billy and Paddy (especially after Billy did not attend Paddy’s wife’s funeral), still simmer but take a while to disappear. Of course, the hotel that Billy booked them in is full, so they wander around figuring out what to do. Immediately Archie has a winning streak at blackjack, and with all the money he has won, he feels that him and the boys can get Billy a very good wedding gift as Billy has financially helped each of them in previous years. And as a bonus, the hotel where he won the money gives them one of the hotel’s best suites. It is the Aria Hotel, which really exists, and at times it seems like this movie is one long ad for the hotel as its logo appears in almost every other scene. So at the Aria Hotel the men are set to have a fun and wild weekend. But then they happen to stumble into a cabaret lounge and find a lovely, a bit younger singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen). She takes a shine to Paddy, and spend lots of time with him and the boys during the weekend. This is when the film goes downhill quick.
As their weekend progresses, so does the silliness and embarrassment. The men are asked to judge a bikini contest competition at the hotel pool but the most memorable part of this scene is when a guy in a speedo shakes his package in Robert De Niro’s face. And De Niro get backs at Billy by pushing  him into the pool. Is this good fun or a case of ‘close my eyes two major movie stars are resorting to this’ moment?  The evening culminates in a huge party in their suite, with all the characters they had met during the day attend, including some women they met at the nightclub, another bloke who they beat up the night before but then who answers to their beck and call. Why? It is not fully explained.  And all four men hope to get lucky at the party. And then there are  the ageist jokes – Archie asks the guys “Do you have any drugs?” One of them replies “Does Lipitor count.?” Ba da bing! And then 50 Cent shows up to the party (is he playing the Mike Tyson character from The Hangover film? I would say most likely.)  So in this Bucket List of a movie, I’m not giving too much away by saying that the wedding doesn’t happen, and that all the men have a good time and, when the weekend is over, they can go back to their miserable lives. And luckily for us this movie is over.
Last Vegas is now out on DVD.

 

21st Jun2014

Lone Survivor – DVD

by timbaros
91QfltWjqOL._SL1500_On June 27, 2005, the war in Afghanistan claimed the lives of 20 soldiers, the worst single day loss of life for the Naval Special Warfare personnel since WWII. There was one man who survived – Marcus Luttrell. Lone Survivor tells his story.
Luttrell was part of the Navy Seals Team 10 who were sent into the Afghanistan mountains to capture a Taliban leader in a mission called Operation Red Wings, an operation that was intended to disrupt local anti-Coalition Militia activity and to contribute to regional stability and assisting in the Afghani Parliament elections to be held three months later.
Luttrell was one of four men who were dropped into a remote mountainous area in the Kunar province, near the Pakistan border to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a Taliban leader who was believed to be hiding in those mountains and who the previous week was responsible for the murder of several marines.
Lone Survivor, based on the 2007 book by Luttrell (and Patrick Robinson) called Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, was the lone survivor of the four-man team who were sent into practically unknown territory only to be ambushed in a covert mission that could be described as harrowing and nightmarish. Lone Survivor is not only excellent and one of the best films of the year, but is also one that will make you feel for these soldiers and what they go through, their acts of heroism, courage, with death being an imminent conclusion.
Wahlberg plays Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch is Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch is Danny Dietz, and Ben Foster is Matt “Axe Axelson. Eric Bana plays their commanding officer Erik Kristensen – the officer who is responsible for the mission called Operation Red Wings.
It was on that day on June 27th, 2005 that the four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team boarded a helicopter to be dropped into a remote mountainous area in the Kunar province, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Almost as soon as the four men are dropped into the mountains,  they are discovered by three goatherders (with their goats and a dog). Instead of killing them, the men let them go (Rules of Engagement won’t allow them to kill them), even though they realize that the goatherders will more than likely alert anyone in the village below that they were in the mountains. They attempt to use their radio but it doesn’t work. So immediately they realize that they are compromised and that they need to move position, and fast. They then use their satellite phone to reach Kristensen, but the line is very poor. Back at the base, Kristensen has a gut feeling that his men are in trouble, so he sends two Blackhawks to rescue them. Meanwhile the four men are in a rush to move position, and in their rush Axe hurts himself. Soon, the men are ambushed from all sides. Gunfire falls on them like rain. They are outnumbered, and are driven deeper into unknown and treacherous terrain. What happens in the rest of the film is heartstopping. One by one each man gets more hurt, and terrifyingly one of the Blackhawks that is sent to rescue them gets shot down by the Taliban in the mountains, with 16 men on board, all losing their lives, including Kristensen. It is at this point that you have to remind yourself that this is a true story, all of this happened in real life.
With nowhere to go, the men continue to run, to run away from what must be dozens and dozens of Taliban men looking out to kill them. And each man gets more and more injured, from getting shot at by the Taliban, as well as by falling off cliffs and landing very hard, crushing bones and giving themselves concussions. As they continue to try and use their radio in an attempt to contact anyone anywhere to help them, they start realizing that they are completely outnumbered and face only one prospect, death. The bullets and the blood and the men, who at this point are struggling just to survive, gets even more tense when Murphy, in a situation he knows he won’t come out alive from, runs up a hill to get a connection on his SAT phone which would advise the Operations team back at the base of their position. But of the four men, only Luttrell survives, first by burrowing into a ditch, and then by being picked up by an Afghan who was not loyal to the Taliban. And of course we know that Luttrell survives to write the book on which this movie is based on.
Lone Survivor is a movie so tense, so dramatic, so unreal that it is hard to believe that it is a true story. Thanks to Luttrell and the book he wrote, he was able to tell this story of survival against the face of the enemy. As Luttrell, Wahlberg is a revelation. Having proven himself as an actor in previous films including Boogie Nights and most recently The Fighter, Wahlberg is fantastic as Luttrell, so good that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing him. Kitsch, Foster and Hirsch are all also very excellent as Luttrell’s fellow Navy Seals. The sequences where the men get shot (and eventually killed) are so real, so sad. Director Peter Berg, known for mostly doing television work (Chicago Hope and Prime Suspect) really cuts his teeth here with this very serious subject matter. Berg also wrote the script, after having been given the book by his production partner. Berg has said that the reason he decided to make this was because “Marcus wrote a book that, as much as it’s about 19 people being killed on a tragic day in Afghanistan, is about brotherhood, sacrifice and team commitment.”
Fittingly, Second Class Petty Officer Matthew “Axe” Axelson and Gunner’s Mate Second Class Danny Dietz were awarded the Navy Cross, Lieutenant Michael Murphy was awarded the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, while Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. All men received their awards posthumously. Leading Petty Officer Luttrell would also go on to receive the Navy Cross. All deservedly so.

 



Lone Survivor [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Eric Bana, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

LONE SURVIVOR
New From: £2.99 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.01 GBP In Stock

06th Jun2014

Dallas Buyers Club – DVD

by timbaros

images-184In the 1980’s there was no hope for people infected with the HIV virus. Immediately upon diagnosis, the infected were told that they had a short period of time left, perhaps a few months, or less. Dallas Buyers Club is a new film inspired by true events about the life of a man fighting for survival when given a death sentence upon his AIDS diagnosis.

Ron Woodruff, a drug-taking macho womanizing Texas cowboy and electrician, (Matthew McConaughey), is at the hospital after an electrical accident at his work. It is there, in March 1985, that he is told that he has the HIV Virus. Even worse, he is so thin and sickly that the doctor (Dennis O’Hare) at the hospital tells him that he has 30 days left and that he should get his affairs in order. Woodruff, a straight man, doesn’t believe it. He is not gay, so he doesn’t understand how he could have gotten the HIV virus. He refuses to accept this diagnosis until he reads more about it at the local library. He discovers that it is not just gay men who are getting the virus, but IV drug users as well. Upon reading this, he now knows that he’s in trouble…that he’s got the virus. He then finds himself shunned and ostracized by his friends and co-workers.
Back at the hospital, he is told by one of the doctors, Dr. Eve Sacks (Jennifer Garner), that the only drug available was a drug called AZT. She also explains to Woodruff that it is only available in a drug trial, and that half of the participants will receive the drug, and the other half will receive a placebo. Woodruff, who continues taking illegal drugs (including lots of cocaine), and who continues to lose more and more weight, does not accept this and finds a way to get the real drug (he eventually gets it, illegally, from a hospital cleaner who steals it from the drug cabinets at the hospital). However, taking AZT doesn’t seem to help him as he is getting sicker and sicker, and one day he collapses and ends up back in the hospital. He gets put in the same room as Rayon (Jared Leto), a mid 20-something drag queen who is in the hospital for the same reason as Woodruff (AIDS). Rayon is an old friend of Dr. Sacks, he even asks her her opinion on his choice of outfits. At first Woodruff wants nothing to do with Rayon; Woodruff is anti-gay and doesn’t want to be put in the same category as ‘people like Rayon’. He slowly warms up to Rayon, who has a very simple and charming disposition, with a warm touch which he uses to help Woodruff with a cramp in his leg. The hospital explains to Woodruff that they can’t give him AZT (or any other drugs), and he soon realizes that AZT is making people sicker, even at its sticker price of $10,000 for a year’s supply, and people were still dying on a daily basis. So Ron decides to take his health into his own hands.
Woodruff turns to the black market and finds out about a clinic just over the border in Mexico where he meets expatriate physician Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne). Vass treats him with drugs that are not approved by America’s FDA (Federal Drug Administration). In the clinic there are very young men, all with AIDS, in bed or who can barely walk, some close to death, all clinging to hope that being at this clinic could save them. It is hard to believe that this was a time when this was reality. Woodruff finds renewed health and hope, and he also sees that he could start a business by smuggling the medications into the U.S. to sell to fellow AIDS patients, so that is what he does. And this operation becomes the Dallas Buyers Club. So Ron enlists Rayon to solicit from her community those gay men who have no hope left, and soon enough, Ron and Rayon have customers lining up at their Dallas business, which they operate out of two motel rooms. In Rayon, Ron finds another person who is sort of an outcast, but they are polar opposites. But it then becomes them against the world – the cowboy and the queen. And Dr. Saks eventually goes against the grain of what she has been taught in school and gets on Ron and Rayon’s side. Unfortunately, Woodruff’s business brings the unwanted attention from the FDA as he is selling drugs that are not permitted to be sold in the U.S., but this does not stop him. He is a walking encyclopedia of anti-viral medications, pharmaceutical trials and patents and appears to know more than the FDA and the doctors treating HIV patients. He would re-stock any supply that was confiscated, he would travel to other countries, including Japan, to get other alternative drugs. Ron was crusader, a man who gave hope to many who didn’t have any. He organised and led an operation whose customer base was 99% homosexuals, and Texas in the 1980’s was undoubtedly one of the worst places to be homosexual or transexual, must less one with AIDS. Woodruff would succumb to complications from AIDS in September 1992, 2557 days after his diagnosis.
It took 20 years for Dallas Buyers Club to make it to the big screen. A month before Woodruff passed away, screenwriter Craig Borten drove from Los Angeles to Dallas, Texas to meet him and to begin work on telling his story. Borten felt that the story of a homophobic cowboy who suddenly found himself on the front lines of the AIDS pendemic was profound and unique. The film went into development in 1997, with producer Robbie Brenner attached to it, but it didn’t get made. In 2000, Borten teamed up with screenwriter Melissa Wallack to rework the script. The movie then went into active development at a studio for nearly a decade. However, in 2009, the rights went back to Borten and Wallack, and Brenner got back on board. And their first choice to play Woodruff was McConaughey. And McConaughey was up to the challenge. “Ron was an American original. He shook the tree. He made noise. I said I want to get this made, get Ron’s story told,” McConaughey has said. Once a director was chosen (Jean-Marc Vallée, the award-winning director of Café de Flor and C.R.A.Z.Y.), it was a go. Production began in mid-2012, with Jared Leto on board as their first choice for Rayon, and Jennifer Garner as Dr. Eve Sacks, after having initially been told about the project by McConaughey. Principal photography began in New Orleans in mid-2012, with a 25-day shooting schedule.
What makes this movie stand out from all other films that have dealt with AIDS is the performance of McConaughey. His performance is better and more realistic than Tom Hanks in the 1993 film Philadelphia. And while Hanks was given lots of makeup to look sick, McConaughey went through an amazing physical transformation to play the frail, emaciated and dying man. It is McConaughey’s best performance in his career, and perhaps the best performance of the year. McConaughey shed nearly 50 pounds to play Ron to drop down to a weight of 140 pounds. However, in one pivotal hospital scene, McConaughey dropped to 135 pounds in order to play the frail, emaciated dying Woodruff, lying on his hospital bed in his underwear, extremely thin. McConaughey also did a lot of research for playing the role, including reading Woodruff’s journals. ““After listening to audiotapes and doing my research, I didn’t feel I needed any more information. Interviews with Ron were so helpful. In listening to Ron talk after seven years with H.I.V., I realised that a man speaks differently about himself and his legacy in retrospect than he does when he’s living it in progress,” McConaughey has said. He eventually went to meet Ron’s family. “But then I did decide to meet with Ron’s family, and that made a difference. It was very informative. They are wonderful people who opened up the library of their house to me, lent me scrapbooks, other tapes, a couple of his diaries, and more.” Viewers of this film will forget they are watching the goodlooking and hunky actor Matthew McConaughey as he amazingly disappears into being Woodruff.
Like McConaughey, Leto also went through a physical transformation to play Rayon. By the time filming began, Leto got down to dangerous 116 pounds. And Leto plays Rayon with charm, emotion, a touch of femininity, honest, vulnerable – he completely nails the character.  “I did get in touch with my feminine side, because it’s a strong attribute of the character. In terms of emotions it was important for me to study as much as I could about what it meant to be a transsexual woman, to get at how you see things and what you want out of life,” Leto has said. “Rayon is a ray of light, no pun intended. She is someone who wants to be loved and wants to love others, someone who wants to take care of people with humour and kindness. She looks to be electrified. I think she’s a spirit of hope, joy and optimism,” Leto continues.
Dallas Buyers Club feels like it is a documentary, with a countdown on the screen showing how many days it has been since Ron’s diagnosis. And we see him surviving much longer than the 30 days his doctor initially gave him.
 
“The way I approached playing him is to never forget that he was a businessman first, a man doing what was necessary to survive. Later on, he became a crusader for the cause, but almost without even knowing it. He helped save so many people, and whether he was doing it for all of us or doing it for selfish reasons, he did it,” McConaughey says. 
 
Dallas Buyer Club is an important movie that excellently captures the era when AIDS was considered a death sentence, the feel, the clothing, the hostility, the fear, the desperation, and the smell of death. It deserves every award it is going to get. 
By the mid-1990s, “the AIDS cocktail” combination therapies became accepted (and FDA approved) treatment protocol for HIV/AIDS patients. In reduced doses, AZT was an early ingredient in these lifesaving treatments. These drug combinations have saved and prolonged millions of lives; in a “cocktail combination,” three drugs each attack different elements of viral replication, thereby greatly reducing the effects of HIV. If it wasn’t for people like Woodruff in those early days, many more people with HIV would’ve succumbed to the virus.
In 1992, screenwriter Craig Borten asked Woodruff how he would feel about his story becoming a movie one day. Borten reports, “Ron said, ‘Man, I’d really like to have a film. I’d like people to have this information and I’d like people to be educated on what I had to learn by the seat of my pants about government, pharmaceutical agencies, AIDS. I’d like to think it all meant something in the end.’” 

21st May2014

The Wolf of Wall Street – DVD

by timbaros

images-77At 180 minutes long, The Wolf of Wall Street is not a short film. It has a fast and furious momentum that keeps it going up until about 120 minutes into the film, and then when you think it’s over, it gains more momentum, but because of this, it loses steam as well.

The Wolf of Wall Street is the true (according to the book and it’s author Jordan Belfort) story of American Belfort’s days as a New York stockbroker who owned the now defunct Stratton Oakmont Trading Company. His was a life of money, greed, sex, drugs, cheating, fraud, corruption, more fraud and more corruption and lots more sex and drugs. Did I mention lots of drugs?
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort as both a young man starting out as a dental school dropout who somehow gets a job on Wall Street at the age of 22 (in 1982) to being sent to prison at the age of 36. In between those 14 years, Belfort lived a life that could be characterized as reality meets fantasy.
As a 22 year old man, we see DiCaprio at his first day at work in a Manhattan brokerage company. He knows this is where he belongs, even more so when his boss Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) tells him how he should lead his life if he is going to stay in this business – with drugs and prostitutes. Unfortunately for Belfort (and Hanna) they both lose their jobs when their firm goes under after the crash of 1987, so Belfort, encouraged by his wife Teresa (Cristin Milioti), applies for a stockbroker job on Long Island. He thinks about it and decides to go for it. He drives up to a strip mall and walks into what is a very low key unassuming office, where the men are dressed very casual and with no buzz in the office like his New York City trading floor. He impresses the manager (in more ways than one) and from this point on for Belfort the only way is up.
He soon earns lots of money but then decides to strike out on his own. He enlists his neighbor (who happened to marry his own cousin) who is a character out of the 1950’s – Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) to work for him. And soon enough, Belfort gets all of his friends together to also work for him at his new firm. And within a year, his firm, Stratton Oakmont, is earning millions and millions of dollars, and with all this money comes all the finer (and funner) things in life. Belfort is able to buy his wife very expensive jewelry and a penthouse in the sky, and at the same time he spends lavishly on his employees. In one crazy scene in the film, Belfort announces that his firm has earned a record amount for one day, so out comes a scantily-dressed marching band (both men and women), and then a chimpanzee which Belfort holds on to, then hookers, hookers, and more hookers (what were the female brokers doing? Were there any? I didn’t see any at this point in the film). Also, midgets were brought in to be tossed. So the debauchery continues and continues, with lots of naked women in the office, and lots of the male brokers taking turns with the women. The Wolf of Wall Street shows that there was sex everywhere in their office. Whilst this may be sort of true, it is really really hard to believe than an American company in the early 1990’s would condone this type of behavior. Even more so when Belfort (and his board of directors – all of them) take drugs all the time, including cocaine and quaaludes, all over the office, and in public places as well. This includes them boarding a plane, all very obviously high. Any airline at that time would’ve called the authorities and kicked them off. At one point, Belfort’s company employed 1000 brokers, so are we supposed to believe that all of them condoned (and participated in) this type of behavior?
Belfort then meets and falls in love with Naomi (a very good and beautiful Margot Robbie – with an excellent Long Island accent). So the wife is out of the picture and him and Naomi get married and start to have children. Naomi gets whatever she wants – diamonds, a house in the Hamptons, Belfort even buys a huge yacht and names it after her. But Belfort knows that what he is doing is wrong, not just the illegal trading (pump and dump – where his brokers and friends and relatives buy shares in a company to inflate the price of a stock, then shares in these same companies would be sold to unsuspecting investors, thereby inflating the price, and then his brokers and friends and relatives would sell the stock – making lots of money and leaving the unsuspecting investors with huge losses) but the drugs and the prostitution as well. Belfort even enlists his wife’s aunt Emma (Joanna Lumley) and several other non-Americans to help him launder money to take cash to Switzerland. But lurking in the background is FBI Agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) – who is perhaps the most believable character in the movie. He investigates Belfort and his company for securities fraud, and it takes two years for Denham to gather all the evidence he needs to arrest Belfort. Needless to say, his life will never be the same again. Belfort has admitted that one of his heroes was Gorden Gekko (Michael Douglas’s character in 1987’s Wall Street) who also went to prison.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a satire, perhaps a way over the top satire at that. Sure, the story is a solid one, with all the right ingredients: sex, drugs, money, great acting and directing, etc. But at the end of the day the characters are just drug fueled men with the mental capacity of ten year olds. . Director Martin Scorsese had a good story here but he mucked it up. He should’ve played this film like a Goodfellas for the Wall Street crowd, a drama instead of a satire, make the characters and their situations more believable and real. And while Leonardo DiCaprio does an excellent job playing Belfort, it boils down to a script that is just too too long and neverending.
At 120 minutes into the film, Belfort, after having taking way too many quaaludes with Azoff, is told my his lawyer to not use the phone in his house as it is bugged. So Belfort goes to a pay phone at a local country club. Then the quaaludes kick in, and in a 5 minute sequence (which is when I started checking my watch), he slowly slowly tries to make it into the car, falls down a flight of steps, uses his legs to get in the car. It is a hilarious moment but by this point the movie should’ve been wrapping up and not starting a new story arc. Yet, there was still an hour to go. Watching The Wolf of Wall Street is like going to dinner in an all you can eat restaurant. You have eaten way too much but more food is put on your plate. So you feel like you just want to get up and walk away.

 

10th May2014

12 Years a Slave – DVD

by timbaros

images-57In 1853, Solomon Northup wrote an autobiography called 12 Years a Slave, 160 years later it has been turned into a film with the same name, and is one of the best films of the year, and is now out on DVD.

Directed by British Director Steve McQueen (Shame), 12 Years a Slave tells Northrup’s true story of his kidnapping in Washington D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery, a time when blacks in the United States were commonly and legally treated as slaves. Chiwitel Ejiofor plays Northrup, a skilled carpenter and a free black family man with two children living in upstate New York. One evening he meets two men, they start drinking, one of them drugs his drink, and then he wakes up and realizes that he is going to be sold into slavery. He protests, telling all around him that he is a free man, unfortunately his papers are at his home, so of course no one believes him. So this begins his time as a slave for 12 years, which would see him being shipped to Louisiana, going from one owner to another, and from one who is kind to one who is brutal. What he has to endure in these 12 years is enough to break any man down, but Northrup doesn’t give up.
Northrup is initially ‘bought’ by William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), a well-meaning but clueless plantation owner. But things get worse for Northrup. He is sold to the brutalistic and cruel Edwin Epps (an excellent Michael Fassbender, who is a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor) and his passive wife (Sarah Paulson). Epps is aggressive with his slaves, literally treats them like dirt, and punishes them when he is in a bad mood. In one brutal scene, Northrup is hung from a tree as punishment for fighting an overseer, with his feet barely touching the ground, enough to allow him not to hang himself, and he hangs there from morning to dusk, while the other slaves around him go about their work, and children play in the background. The look on Ejiofor’s Northrup conveys an image of a man who has given up hope to escape and who is now focused merely on survival. In another brutal scene that is possibly one of the most harrowing film scenes in recent memory (and one that will make you turn away), Epps punishes slave Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o – sure to receive the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance in this movie), who had only briefly disappeared from the plantation to get a bar of soap. Egged on by his wife who knows that Ebbs has been sleeping (raping her) with her, Ebbs orders Northrup to lash Patsey as hard as he can, Northrup can only manage a few strokes when Ebbs takes over and savagely lashes her. It is a scene that was shot in real time, lasts only a few minutes, but feels much longer. Ebbs is in love with her but doesn’t know why he is in love with a slave, so he tries to destroy her.
Brad Pitt shows up near the end of the film (he is also a producer of the film) who has cast himself as a sort of Northrup’s savior, a Canadian labourer who listens to his story and then promises him that he will attempt to help him. It is Brad Pitt, while in a small role, is Brad Pitt – it is a bit distracting when he all of a sudden shows up.
Ejiofor, a British film, television and theatre actor, has either won or is nominated for Best Actor for his work in this film by over 40 critics organizations, including being nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, and winning Best Actor by organizations such as the Boston Society of Film Critics to the Women Film Critics Circle Award. Ejiofor, previously seen in American Gangster, 2012 and Salt, outacts his fellow black actors from this season’s films: Forest Whitaker of The Butler and Idris Elba of Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom. Fassbender, and especially Nyong’o, deserve every award they will receive. 12 Years a Slave has just been nominated for 11 BAFTA’s, including nominations for Ejiofor, Fassbender and Nyong’o.
The stories of these slaves being beaten, raped, and tortured are told by McQueen’s detailed and controlled direction. How did McQueen find this story to tell? His wife is a historian and she recommended that he look into true accounts of slavery, she then found this book, and he said that he had to do it. It is a film where each performance is excellent, every scene has impact, and is emotional from the beginning to the very end.
Ejiofor recently told Vanity Fair Magazine that “I remember it (the book) and and being amazed by the story, and also realizing that it was quite daunting to step into something like that.” Yes, the film is quite daunting, but it is all the more daunting when you remember that this is the true life story of a man who lost 12 years of his life, and being away for 12 years from his family and home.

 

03rd May2014

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – DVD

by timbaros

images-54I really would’ve liked to have said that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the new film based on the book by the late Nelson Mandela, is an excellently filmed tribute to the former South African and African National Congress President who passed away in early December. For what it is, it is a very good film that tries it’s hardest to capture the amazing life of Madiba, but it misses the mark.

Mandela, was was born in 1918 and who died on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at the age of 97, lived a life so unlike any other. The film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, attempts to capture this life, a life that begun as a young boy, running around in the fields of Africa, to becoming a lawyer in his 20’s, to his coming of age and into the world of politics in Johannesburg in 1942, to meeting and divorcing his first wife Evelyn and then meeting a woman who could match his every step – Winnie, to his 27 years in prison, including 18 in Robben Island. And then triumphantly being released from prison in 1991, to being elected President of South Africa in 1994. This is a lot for any movie to cover, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom tries to cover it all, but it is just too much and thereby dilutes the amazing and powerful life of Mandela.
Idris Elba is Mandela, who plays him as a young man in his twenties and then as a man in his 90’s. Elba as the younger Mandela looks a bit too old to be playing someone that young, with so much energy and so much passion. He gets more believable and into character once the story kicks in as Mandela rises to power in the ANC as they attempt to get the South African government to get rid of apartheid. Winnie, played by a spectacular Naomi Harris, stands by his side the whole time, trying to maintain a house while raising two girls, yet the fire for their struggle within them flames. Through the ANC training camps and safehouses, leading the ANC to a path of violence, blowing up buildings and rampaging through the streets, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is powerful when it tells of these early days in Mandela’s life. There is also amazing real footage of some of the uprisings that took place during that time, with many of the protestors getting killed in the process. Compelling stuff.
It was on May 27, 1963 that Mandela first set foot on Robben Island, as prisoner 46664, which would his home for the next 18 years, in a small prison cell. He is imprisoned along with other political prisoners. They talk and debate and try to survive one day at a time. In the film, we see Mandela protesting at having to wear shorts, he demands to have a pair of trousers, and demands the same for the rest of the prisoners, which they all receive, three years later. This just goes to show that he demanded respect, even in jail. In one emotional scene in the film, one of his daughters comes to visit him in jail, after not having seen each other in over ten years.
Mandela was not the only one who was imprisoned. Winnie was also taken away to prison for her political activity, and with very emotional and brutal scenes, we see Harris as Winnie get beaten up and tortured in prison, sprawled naked in a cold prison cell. Brutal stuff, and Harris is phenomenal in these scenes.
On February 11, 1990, Mandela walked out of prison and was now a free man. And then a few years later, he would become the first elected black man as President of South Africa. These moments in Mandela’s life are also two very important moments in history, yet in the film we don’t get swept, caught up, or emotional when it happen. It is all quite glossed over very quickly. A movie this big with an even bigger story to tell forgets to make these two moments emotional and unforgettable. We wait for the next big moment, the next huge emotional scene, but it never comes. So this goes back to the question: How do you tell a story in a movie of one of the greatest men who has ever lived?
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom took 15 years to get to the big screen. The writer, William Nicholson, started writing Mandela’s story in 1997, with 33 drafts, and attempted every single way to tell this story. During this time, he met almost every famous black actor for this film, some got too old to play the part of the younger Mandela, but in the end it was just too hard to nail down a big star, according to Nicholson, so Elba was chosen. Elba, not a very big star when filming commenced but well-known thanks to his television work in The Wire, does an admirable job as the greatest man in the last century. It is not Elba’s fault that the script tries to tell a story which was 630 pages in book form. It was a huge challenge for Elba to take this role. Harris, as Winnie, is undeniably the winner in the acting sweepstakes in this film. Her political speeches, her love for her husband and children, and her imprisonment would make for another movie in itself.
In the beginning of the film, Mandela says “I wanted to make my family proud of me”, well, he has made the whole world proud of him.
Can any film capture the life of Mandela? Perhaps it would’ve been best to focus on just a couple important periods in his life, and to not cover his entire life. At the end of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, we hear the voice of Elba as Mandela say “I have walked a long walk to freedom. It has been a long road but its not over yet.” Indeed, it is not over yet.
24th Apr2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – DVD

by timbaros
images-50It seems like Ben Stiller has been making movies for decades. As a matter of fact, he has. His first acting gig was given to him thanks to his mother (Anne Meara) making a call to a director asking him to hire her son. Luckily for us, he did, and the rest, as they say, is history. Stiller (whose father is the very funny comedienne Jerry Stiller), while not an Academy Award winner, has impressed us with a amazing repertoire of films. And now he impresses us even more with his newest film – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Directed, co-produced and starring Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a remake of the 1947 film which starred Danny Kaye. It is about a daydreaming magazine photo editor on a mission to finally meet his magazine’s top photographer. It is also a story of Mitty having a first go on a dating website and at the same time trying to impress a divorced mom he works with at the magazine.
Stiller is Mitty, a lonely man, while happy at his job in the photo department at Life Magazine, is stuck in a rut. He daydreams as well, in scenarios where he saves a dog from a burning building, where he beats up a member of the magazine’s management team, and he even dreams that he can fly. He has also just joined the dating website eHarmony where he tries to send a wink to Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wigg), the woman he works with at the magazine. He is unable to send the wink so he calls eHarmony customer support and speaks to an eHarmony representative (the voice of The King of Queen’s Patton Oswalt). This voice relationship is carried throughout the film, with the representative doing all he can to spruce up Mitty’s profile so that he can get a few winks from females on the site, which hopefully may lead to some dates. Meanwhile, at the magazine, the new management teams announces that it will no longer be publishing but that an online version will be the way forward (scary to think about), so most of the staff have been told that they will be fired, and this includes Walter and Cheryl. Meanwhile, the magazine’s star photographer Sean O’Connell has sent Walter the photo (still number 25) that is to be used for the cover of the final issue, and Walter can’t find it. It is not in the envelope O’Connell sent with other photos, so Walter feels that it is up to him to track down O’Connell (and the missing photograph). Using the other photos as clues, and determined to get that photo and to finally meet Sean, Walter travels the globe to places he has only seen in photos, going from one beautiful location to another, and he sets off on an adventure of a lifetime. He goes to Greenland, where he jumps from a helicopter into a shark-infested ocean, to Iceland where he escapes from an exploding volcano, and to Afghanistan, where he climbs the snow-capped mountains. And as a added bonus, he can also include these adventures on his eHarmony profile, as he had not done anything exciting in his life prior to this. At the same time, all his sister talks about is her new acting role as Rizzo in a church production of Grease, and their mom (an underused Shirley Maclaine) is in the process of moving to a smaller flat.
Stiller has done an amazing job in not only acting in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but also directing it. It is an excellent effort in that it shows Stiller’s range as a director, taking the movie from scenes in the middle of Manhattan, to foreign countries, to rough oceans and to high mountains. Even the quirky romance between him and Cheryl is charming. This movie is not your typical Ben Stiller film, who for the most part makes fare to middling comedic movies (such as the Night at the Museum film and it’s sequel, and The Fokkers films). Stiller, however, proved back in 2008 with Tropic Thunder that he is a moviemaker to be reckoned with, and with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, he ups his game. The rest of the cast is fine, Wiig doesn’t have much to do, just smile and talk about her son, while Adam Scott is good as the new manager who has to fire the whole staff. But the film is all about Stiller. And while the Production values are very good, and the cinematography is excellent, it is a real feat that Stiller could pull this one off. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is highly recommended.

 

12th Apr2014

Nebraska – DVD

by timbaros
images-149Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) thinks that he was won $1,000,000.00 because of a letter he received from a company in Lincoln, Nebraska, so he tries to get to Lincoln from his home in Billings, Montana to collect the money. This is the plot of the new film Nebraska.
Woody, a grouchy and confused eighty-something former war veteran (and alcoholic) and father of two grown men is certain that he won $1,000,000.00. He is so certain that he starts walking on highway 90 to Lincoln, 898 miles from Billings. His son David (Will Forte) picks him up from the highway and takes him back home, back home to where his nagging wife Kate (June Squibb) keeps on harking on about how absent-minded he is, how silly he is to believe he won the money. She is just about the worst nagging wife any man could have. Will, on the other hand, who works at a shop selling televisions and stereos, has just broken up with his girlfriend, and doesn’t seem to be too jealous about his brother Ross’s (Bob Odenkirk) burgeoning career as a television newscaster. David, tired of hearing from his father how determined he is to travel to Lincoln to get his winnings, offers to drive him, so they embark on a father and son road trip. They drive through Wyoming and South Dakota (with a one-minute stop at Mt. Rushmore), and it is decided, that after speaking to Kate and Ross (and after a short hospital stay), that they should all go to Hawthorne for a family reunion, as this is where Woody is from and where him and Kate met and got married. Once in Hawthorne, they stay at the house of Woody’s brother, who happens to have two fat unemployed sons living with him. Woody opens his big mouth about winning $1,000,000 and soon almost everyone in town is asking for money, including long lost relatives who have come out of nowhere, and Woody’s former business partner Ed (Stacy Keach). While in Hawthorne, the Grant family drives around while Kate has to comment about everything and everybody. And her comments are never nice, they are rude and vile. One comment she makes is about her buried niece, she says that she was a slut.
The two cousins get hold of Woody’s letter, along with Ed, and they realize that the letter is not an announcement to win that money, it is a letter to order magazine subscriptions with the chance of winning $1,000,000.00. Woody is then made the laughing stock of the town. But just to appease his father and to let him have some closure, they drive to Lincoln and go the company’s office to check.
Dern gives a career performance as Woody, with his long grey hair and confused look, he is playing the character of Woody to perfection. Dern is deserving of the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film, and for his long and established career in Hollywood, which includes more than 80 feature films, including Django Unchained, Wild Bill, Black Sunday, and the original The Great Gatsby. Forte, a former performer on America’s Saturday Night Life television comedy program, is a revelation as the understanding son David. It is June Squibb as Kate who steals every scene she is in. She has nothing good to say about anyone, and her constant harking to Woody could be a sign of great affection for him, and also a sign that she knows Woody is on his last legs and that she will miss him dearly when he dies.
The script, by Bob Nelson, is sharp, crisp, funny, and heartwarming. There will probably not be a film this year that will touch you the way this film does. Nebraska is filmed in black and white to give it a raw, dramatic look. Directed with love and care by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways), Nebraska is just one of those films that will make you look at the relationship that you have with your parents. Dern and Forte won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively from the National Board of Review. Nebraska was nominated for six Academy Awards and Dern really deserved to win, but it was tough competition in the Best Actor category. Hopefully Bruce Dern one day will win an Oscar.

 



Nebraska [DVD] [2013] (DVD)

Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

Nebraska
New From: £4.79 GBP In Stock
Used from: £2.49 GBP In Stock