05th Apr2014

Floating Skyscrapers – DVD

by timbaros
images-147There have not been too many Gay & Lesbian films from Poland but in the past year there have been two. The first was ‘In The Name Of,’ which dealt with a homosexual priest, and was well-received by the critics. Now comes ‘Floating Skyscrapers’ which is about a young athlete torn between his love for another boy and the love of his girlfriend.
Directed by gay Polish director Tomasz Wasilewski, Floating Skyscrapers is a dramatic filled movie about Kuba (a very good and very sexy Mateusz Banasiuk) who swims on his high school swim team and lives with his young girlfriend and also with his mother. He meets and falls in love with Michal (Bartosz Gelner), but at the same time doesn’t want to ruin his relationship with his girlfriend (an excellent Marta Nieradkiewicz). There are lots of lingering moments of silence in Floating Skyscrapers that increases the dramatic tension in the film, bringing it to a surprising ending. Wasilewski says that when he was 13 he went to New York on vacation and while sightseeing, he was facing the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and he had the words ‘floating skyscrapers’ stuck in his head from then, it was an image that he continued to remember, so much so that he told himself that one day he will write a movie with that title. Then when he was writing the script, he was looking for a metaphor for happiness, for this place where everything will be okay. Wasilewski’s first film was 2012’s In A Bedroom, where a 40 year-old woman prowls the internet posing as a series of different women in search of casual sex. And now with Floating Skyscrapers, Wasilewski is not only a rising talent in his native homeland in Poland but also an out gay director who will definitely go on to make many more excellent movies.


Floating Skyscrapers [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Tomasz Wasilewski
Starring: Mateusz Banasiuk, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Bartosz Gelner
Rating: Suitable for 18 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: Polish ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Polish ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (2.35:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: In his fifteenth year of training, aspiring champion swimmer Kuba lives a normal, uneventful life - at home with his mother and girlfriend. He happily switches back and forth from good sex with Sylwia to the occasional back rub his mother craves. But Kuba has also been growing more curious about some of the boys at the gym. At a gallery opening one night, he is out of place and totally bored until he meets Michal. Sylwia picks up on his fascination, but Kuba has her heart. She keeps her feelings to herself, as from one day to the next Kuba puts Michal in the middle of his life with her. Kuba drops his training program and begins to dream of another life. His mother is incredulous and urges him to stay on track. Meanwhile, Michal takes on the task of convincing his concerned mother and distant father that his lifestyle is not just a passing fancy. Kuba comes to recognize he has never experienced feelings as deep as those he has for Michal. It takes all the courage he can muster to face those who love him and dive in. Then he must deal with the consequences. ...Floating Skyscrapers (2013) ( Plynace wiezowce )
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02nd Apr2014

Powder Room – DVD

by timbaros

images-44Ever wonder what happens in a woman’s powder room? The new film Powder Room will tell you all about it, more than what you want to know!

Starring Sheridan Smith and directed by MJ Delaney, Powder Room is an in your face comedy/drama about Sam’s (Smith) two separate group of friends who happen to be at the same nightclub on the same night. And Smith hopes that they don’t meet each other.
Sam is a late 20-something woman who has planned a night out at Fake Club in an unknown British city with her girlfriend Michelle (Kate Nash), who she hasn’t seen in five years and who now lives in Paris. Michelle brings along the snooty Jess (Oona Chaplin), her friend and business partner in Paris. Both Michelle and Jess are very stylish, very Parisian, in many ways the opposite of the real Sam.

Trouble for Sam starts when she sees in the powder room of the club her best mates Chanel (Jaime Winstone), Saskia (Sarah Hoare) and Page (Riann Steele). Sam doesn’t want both groups to meet because Sam has told Michelle and Jess that she is a lawyer, with a handsome boyfriend and a great life, unfortunately none of which is true. So Powder Room is all about both sets of girls going in and out of the powder room all night, each of them with their own set of problems/issues. Promiscuous Chanel has been following a man around the club, telling everyone that ‘he is the one’. Saskia and Page end up taking the hallucinogenic drug MDMA and spend the evening tripping. And Sam is trying, successfully until the very end, to not let the two groups meet. All of this mayhem is overseen by the powder room toilet attendant (the lovely Johnnie Fiori). Meanwhile, loads of other different characters drift in and out of the powder room; putting makeup on, gossiping, checking their outfits, and, rarely using the toilet for its main purpose! One memorable character is a young woman who is dressed as a baby. She’s dressed this way only because her friends said that it was fancy dress night at the club!
Against the backdrop of all this mess is the music in the nightclub, played to a toe-thumping and memorable tunes by an all girl band, who are, in fact, called The Fake Club. Their music is excellent and is by far the best thing about this movie.
In Powder Room, based on the stage play When Women Wee, we see woman acting in a manner that not too many men can relate to, and don’t want to know. Is it too much? Perhaps. But the cast is very good and very charming, with Smith out in front, with good performances from the supporting characters. And credit also goes to director MJ Delaney, 27 years old, for doing a good job in helming her first feature length film. But keep an eye open for the group Fake Club – they will be very big very soon.
Powder Room is out in DVD now.


Powder Room [DVD] [2013] (DVD)

Director: M.J. Delaney
Starring: Sheridan Smith, Jamie Winstone, Kate Nash
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2.4 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), German ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Hungarian ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Polish ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Turkish ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Arabic ( Subtitles ), Danish ( Subtitles ), Dutch ( Subtitles ), English ( Subtitles ), Finnish ( Subtitles ), French ( Subtitles ), German ( Subtitles ), Hindi ( Subtitles ), Hungarian ( Subtitles ), Norwegian ( Subtitles ), Polish ( Subtitles ), Swedish ( Subtitles ), Turkish ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.85:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Powder Room is a comedy which follows Sam (Sheridan Smith), as her life is turned upside down on a big night out. When reunited with her old college friends, Sam is forced to revaluate her life and constructs an elaborate façade in order to convince herself and her friends that she has it all. But once her dysfunctional yet devoted trio of best mates intervene, her carefully crafted charade begins to crumble amidst the shots, cigarettes, ciders and toilet transgressions. Faced with some very harsh realities, Sam must struggle to remain true to herself and reassess exactly what she wants from life. ...Powder Room (2013)
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02nd Apr2014

How to Survive a Plague – DVD

by timbaros
images-143How 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.


How to Survive a Plague [DVD] (DVD)

Director: David France
Rating: Exempt

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22nd Mar2014

Philomena – DVD

by timbaros

images-138Philomena Lee has spent 50 years looking for the son that was taken away from her, while Steve Coogan plays the ex-government official turned journalist who helps her to find him, in the new film Philomena.

Played by a very good Judi Dench, Philomena Lee, at a very young age, gives birth to a boy out of wedlock, naming him Anthony. The baby was the result of a relationship with a man she met that unfortunately didn’t last, so Philomena ends up in a home for single mothers, Roscrea Convent, in Ireland. There she lives with other single mothers, and they are only given one hour each day to spend with their children, the rest of the hours are spent washing and cleaning and doing other chores. One day an American couple shows up to the home and takes two children with them. One of the children is Philomena’s son Anthony, the other child is Mary, the daughter of her best friend at the institution. 50 years later, and now a mother to an adult daughter, Philomena thinks about Anthony everyday, and has always wondered what happened to him. Her daughter happens to mention her story to Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who was also the co-writer of this film), a disgraced ex-government official who is attempting to kick off a journalist career and is looking for a story to write about. He discusses Philomena’s story with his editor, and she agrees that it would be a good human interest story to write about. So Martin meets with Philomena to get more information from her about her son and to find out if she is fine with him writing an article about it. Philomena, however, doesn’t have much information to give him. So together they go to the creepy Roscrea and attempt to get Philomena’s records. They are told by the very stern headmistress and nuns that all the records had burned in a fire years ago. Drinking at a local pub, they meet a man who tells them that he had heard rumors that years ago the convent sold babies to American couples. So thus begins Philomena’s and Martin’s journey to find out what exactly happened to Anthony.

This journey takes them to America where Martin uses his contacts there to get more information. Very soon enough, he discovers that the couple who adopted Anthony (Doc and Marge Hess) renamed him Michael. He also discovers that Michael Hess was a high-ranking official in the Republican party in the Reagan administration, gay and closeted. Sixsmith also discovers more information about Michael that he reluctantly has to tell Philomena. As disturbing as the news is, they agree to press on and meet the many people who knew Michael. This includes Mary, the girl who was taken by the same family all those years ago, and Michael’s former partner.

Philomena, based on the true story of Philomena Lee, is a touching and well written film of a woman’s quest to find out what happened to the son that was taken away from her many years ago. Dench is perfectly cast as Philomena, a woman so determined and strong willed (and forgiving) that she practically makes the nuns look evil. Dench cast as Philomena is perfect casting. Look for Dench to be nominated for acting awards for this film. Coogan, in a brilliant move, cast himself as the former wonk turned journalist due to a forced career change. But it is the script, by Coogan, that is the best thing about this film. Coogan has some very good lines, lines that are at times sarcastic, and biting, even when he is with Philomena. And Philomena in turn is given very good lines herself, lines that explain her grief but also her determination and relationship with Sixsmith. Their journey brings them close, two very different people from two very different backgrounds. It is a journey and a story that should be seen by everyone.



Philomena [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Simone Lahbib, Charlie Murphy
Rating: Suitable for 12 years and over

Philomena
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22nd Mar2014

Saving Mr. Banks – DVD

by timbaros
images-31Saving Mr. Banks is a Disney film about a Disney film. So in the telling of the story of the behind the scenes of the making of the 1964 film Mary Poppins, both Disney and Walt Disney are of course prominently featured.
In Saving Mr. Banks, Walt Disney tries to persuade the author of the book, P.L. Travers, to let him turn his book into a movie. Separately and in flashbacks,  P.L Travers’ reminisces about her childhood and the relationship she had with her father.
Mr. Walt Disney (a perfectly cast Tom Hanks) flies in P.L. Travers (a very British Emma Thompson) to Los Angeles to, firstly, allow him to make her book Mary Poppins into a film (after begging her for almost 20 years), and secondly, to be there (and possibly help out) in the writing of the film, much to the dismay of the film’s songwriters – Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J Novak). The other part of Saving Mr. Banks is the story of P.L. Travers herself as a little girl (played by the winning Australian Annie Buckley) who, with her family, lives on a farm in Queensland, Australia, with her mom (Ruth Wilson), and father Robert (a surprisingly good Colin Farrell), and his addiction to alcohol.
Mary Poppins, in case you have forgotten, is the story of a man, George Banks, who, with his suffering wife, Mrs. Banks, search for a perfect nanny for their two children, children who have a tendency to misbehave and run off (and no previous nanny could handle them). Mary Poppins blows in (literally) to take care of the children and to set them straight. (Pamela) P.L. Travers’ father was the inspiration for George Banks.
Thompson depicts Travers as a very snooty know-it-all woman. She is insulting (always putting down the Sherman brothers lyrics), rude (barging into Disney’s offices anytime she wants), and at one point goes back to England, leaving the production, and Walt Disney, hanging. It is up to Walt Disney to fly to London to get her formal approval for Disney to finish making Mary Poppins. She finally comes around (lucky for us). The depiction of Travers in Saving Mr. Banks is not a very good one and it really effects the likeability of this movie. In the beginning of the film, as she lands in Los Angeles, the first thing she says is that it smells like chlorine.
On the other hand, there is no better actor in Hollywood to play Walt Disney than Tom Hanks. Hanks has a reputation as being the nicest person in Hollywood, and he plays Disney like he could be your own father who has the keys to the biggest candy store in the world.
The part of Saving Mr. Banks where Travers is a young girl in Australia is the best part of this film. It actually seems like a different movie altogether. Told in flashbacks while Travers is in Los Angeles, we see that her childhood was a good one, but unfortunately the father that she loved so dearly was a gambler and an alcoholic who could not take care of his young family. Buckley as a young Travers is amazing, as is Wilson as Margaret, her mother. Farrell, as her father, gives the best performance in this film as an ill-tempered yet loving man who really wants to take care of his family but cannot do so due to his addictions. The scenes play out like a dream sequence, they are very good. And then there is a woman who comes from the sky (not literally) to help the family.
Saving Mr. Banks depicts Travers weeping with tears of joy at the premier of Mary Poppins. But in reality, she did weep, with tears of horror, stating ‘Oh God, what have they done.’ So while Saving Mr. Banks is a good film, one that may make you weep, don’t let Thompson’s very negative portrayal of Travers and the fact that this film is not entirely the true story of the making of Mary Poppins put you off. It is definitely a film for the entire family.
Saving Mr. Banks is now available on DVD.


Saving Mr Banks [DVD] (DVD)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti
Rating: Suitable for 12 years and over

Saving Mr Banks
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18th Mar2014

Parkland – DVD

by timbaros
images-134November 22nd marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. One film released that week, Parkland, is a dramatic retelling of the events of that day.
Parkland tells a story that perhaps not many people are aware of – that both Kennedy and Oswald were taken to the same hospital, Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, Texas, after they were shot.

Parkland is based on the book ‘Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John K. Kennedy,’ by Vincent Bugliosi, and is a historical drama of the events that happened on that day, November 22, 1963 –  50 years ago. Ir tells, to great dramatic effect, the stories of the key people who were involved on that day, including the hospital staff, Kennedy’s secret service detail, and Abraham Zapruder (played by Paul Giamatti), who shot the famous footage of Kennedy getting shot in the back of his head in the motorcade. Both men went to and died in the same hospital, and director and screenwriter Peter Landesman brilliantly tells this story. He interweaves new footage with footage shot on that day, including Zapruder’s film, making Parkland feel more like a documentary than an actual movie. We see the Parkland hospital staff, headed by Dr. Charles James Carrico (Zac Effron) and Head Nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden). We follow the secret service, headed by Agent Forest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton), as they scramble to find out who shot the President. We are shown, for perhaps the first time on screen, the story of the family of Oswald, his brother Robert (James Badge Dale) and his eccentric mother Marguerite (Jacki Weaver), as they realize their lives will never be the same again. Also told is the story of FBI agent James P. Hosty (Ron Livingstone), who perhaps could’ve prevented Kennedy’s assassination as he had been assigned to investigate Oswald after his return from Russia to the U.S. in 1962. While Effron may not have been the best choice to play the one doctor instrumental in attending to Kennedy, the rest of the cast is stellar, especially Giamatti and Livingstone. Parkland is an excellent retelling of a moment in American history that will never be forgotten.
Parkland is now available to buy on DVD:


Parkland - The JFK Assassination Story [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, James Badge Dale, Jackie Earle Haley, Paul Giamatti
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

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18th Mar2014

The Counsellor – DVD

by timbaros
images-133Michael Fassbender. Penelope Cruz. Cameron Diaz. Javier Bardem. Brad Pitt. These are the stars of the new film The Counsellor, a film that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The Counsellor, I think, was about a man (Fassbender) who happens to be, and known only as Counsellor (lawyer), who gets involved in some sort of drug operation. Cruz plays his wife, Lara, a very beautiful but naive woman. They have just gotten engaged after the Counsellor goes to Amsterdam to buy Lara a very expensive engagement ring. Is this why he gets involved in the drug world? To pay for the ring? It is not clear. Then we have power couple and Nightclub owner Reiner (Bardem) and his girlfriend Malkina (Diaz), who appear to be the ring leaders in the drug operation that the Counsellor gets involved in. This happened when the Counsellor met Reiner at a party and tells him about an investment where he could make a lot of money. It is a few  minutes after that we realize the investment involves a huge shipment of cocaine. The Counsellor is seduced by this proposal and soon enough gets involved. Meanwhile, one his clients, Ruth (a very good Rosie Perez), who is trial for murder, has some sort of connection to the drug underworld, but it is not clear how and to what extent. Ruth has a son, who goes by the name ‘The Green Hornet’, and he is also connected somehow to the shipment of cocaine, but we are not told how he is connected.
Anyway, as the movie confusingly continues, a man with no known name, appears to attempt to steal the cocaine. He stretches a wire across a road to enable him to kill the person who will be driving by on a motorcycle. How he knows that the next vehicle coming down the road is the person he wants to kill is not made clear. The motorcycle rider, who we can assume is ‘The Green Hornet,’ rides right into the wire, which beheads him, and the man removes the helmut from the dismembered head, and takes something from it. What does he take? No idea.
All of a sudden a character by the name of Westray (Pitt) shows up. Him and The Counsellor appear to know each other, but we are not told how they know each other. The scenes between Westray and The Counsellor are tense, but again, it is not very clear how Westray fits into the movie, only perhaps to warn The Counsellor about the deal. There is absolutely no reason why this character is needed in the film, as Pitt has no other scenes in the film.
The Counsellor continues with Reiner advising The Counsellor that there has been a problem with the shipment of cocaine and that he needs to watch his back. The Counsellor, concerned about Lara’s fate, tells her to get out of town. They agree to meet in Boise, Idaho, however, she never makes it. She is kidnapped by a gang, but who does the gang work for? We are not told. The Counsellor waits for her in Boise, she never turns up…he is extremely distraught and anxiously searches for her, until he contacts one of the drug lords who tells him that he has to live with the choices he has made. Huh? Back in Mexico, still searching for Lara, a package is slipped under his door. In it is a DVD with the word ‘Hola’ written on it. What is on the DVD? And why does the Counsellor break down at that point? Don’t know as whatever was on the DVD was not shown.
Am I giving too much away by saying that Reiner is murdered in cold blood, but by whom? and why?
This leaves Malkina as pretty much the last man (or in her case woman) standing. Did she mastermind some kind of drug theft right under the nose of her boyfriend Reiner? Did she have something to do with Lara’s disappearance? What is her connection to Westray? The Counsellor ends with her in a restaurant, speaking to what appears to be her banker, and they discuss what to do with the money. She also tells him that he too is expendable (huh?). End of film.
If the above description of the plot sounds confusing, it’s because The Counsellor is confusing. Ridley Scott directed, and his directing is all over the place. It doesn’t allow the movie to flow. The script was written by Cormac McCarthy (The Road), the first film script that he has written, and it shows. Some of the scenes don’t quite have any connection to other scenes, and the dialogue makes it hard to understand who is working with who and who is doublecrossing who. While some of the imagery is beautiful (two lions coming out of the backseat of Reiner’ car right after he’s been killed, beautiful scenes and imagery of the American southwest), The Counsellor as a movie just doesn’t work, with a star-studded cast but a less than stellar plot. Take my advice and go see Gravity, again.
The Counsellor is now out on DVD, but it’s best to avoid it.

 


09th Mar2014

Drinking Buddies – DVD

by timbaros

images-129Directed and written by independent filmmaker and actor Joe Swanberg, Drinking Buddies revolves around the life of Kate (a charming and beautiful Olivia Wilde). This includes her work life at a Chicago brewery company and the relationships she has with her co-workers, including a very close one with Luke (a very good and very natural Jake Johnson). Kate and Luke have great chemistry between them. It could be sexual chemistry, a will they or won’t they scenario, or it could be that their chemistry makes them as close as brother and sister. They spend lots of time together, lots, at work, more time after work spent drinking (what else) beer, and some weekends as well.

Kate actually does have a boyfriend, Chris (the good looking Ron Livingston), a finance type clean cut kind of guy with a good job and a nice home, who leads a very structured and orderly life, opposite to the free spirited Kate. Luke is also in a relationship, with Jill (Anna Kendrick), a relationship that is heading towards marriage. But it appears that Kate and Luke make the better pair, they have a good time at work together, enjoy each other’s company, and make each other laugh. They are very compatible and very close that they seem perfect for each other. When both couples go away on a weekend trip to a cabin in the mountains, and when Jill and Chris find themselves kissing after taking a hike together, will both couple’s relationships survive the weekend?

Swanberg has directed and written such a simple, believable film about a woman who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is, and who is happy with whatever life has in store for her. Drinking Buddies is a small but very charming film, one that could’ve slipped through at the movie theatres. Wilde (who was last seen on the big screen in Rush and who was in television’s long running series House) makes the movie her own. Her girl next door attitude and warm personality makes for a great lead character. Wilde is such a natural in the role. Jake Johnson as Luke is the male version of Kate. He is also very simple, happy, and loveable, with his unshaven beard and a slightly pouchy stomach. Kendrick and Livingstone are also both very good in their roles as their other halves. Drinking Buddies is an excellent effort from Swanberg, whose previous features have been unrecognized and unnoticed (this includes such under the radar films as 2012’s VHS and over 20 others). Swanberg is also an actor, and he cast himself in Drinking Buddies in a role that has him billed as ‘Angry Car Guy.’ Drinking Buddies will put Swanberg on the map of directors/screenwriters to look out for. His next effort is a film called 24 Exposures, to be released in January 2014, a steamy film about fetish photography. But Drinking Buddies is one of those films that you can watch on DVD with either your other half or a handful of friends, or perhaps both, it is a very enjoyable film. Well done Joe. Out on DVD on March 10, 2014.

 



Drinking Buddies [DVD] [2013] (DVD)

Director: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston, Ti West
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. Luke and Kate are coworkers at a brewery who spend their nights drinking and flirting heavily. One weekend away together with their si...
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06th Mar2014

Gravity – DVD

by timbaros

images-122Gravity, out now on DVD and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, literally kept me holding my breathe for the entire duration of the film. It is that intense, dramatic, and excellent.

Winner of 7 Academy Awards including one for Director Alfonso Cuaron, George Clooney is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski and Sandra Bullock is novice astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone. They are together, along with three others, on a space mission aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer. While attempting to repair an exterior nodule on the Hubble Space Telescope, they are told to abort the repair by Houston Mission control as there is space debris heading their way from a Russian missile strike on a satellite in their area. Stone is the technical analyst attempting the repair (and who chose to be in the job due to a personal tragedy, a job to escape her sadness on Earth). Kowalski, who is on his last mission in space, is smug and comfortable in his role as the veteran astronaut, always with a joke or two up his sleeve. As the debris gets closer, they both scramble to try to get back into their shuttle. Before they are able to do so, they get pummelled by the debris, while their shuttle (and the telescope) break apart. Stone then becomes untethered to what is left of the telescope and is catapulted into the darkness of space, spinning and spinning into the darkness. Still communicating with each other by radio, but losing their connection to Houston, Kowalski successfully attempts to retrieve Stone using his jetpack and together they go back to what is left of their shuttle, only to discover that it is completely damaged, and the three astronauts that were inside are dead. They decide to head towards the International Space Station, which is about 60 miles away. As they get closer to the space station and attempt to grab it, one of Stone’s legs gets hooked to it, and, as Kowalski doesn’t want her to lose the opportunity to get into the Space Station to try to get back to earth, he detaches himself and floats away.
Without giving too much away, Bullock encounters one problem after another, and to top it off she is running out of oxygen. As the film continues, so does the drama and intensity, and you’re still holding your breathe.
In the beginning when Gravity first started I couldn’t stop thinking that it was George Clooney and Sandra Bullock on the big screen (and not their characters). They are huge Hollywood stars whose names precede them. While Clooney’s character is what we would come to expect from him, smug, joking, look at me I am very handsome, Clooney appears to be playing himself. However, Gravity is Bullock’s film. Any actress making us believe that they are an astronaut, all alone in space, in the very dark with just the curve of the earth down below, struggling to survive, overcoming one problem to another, it is Bullock. In Gravity, she proves that she is a true actress, one of the best ones today. Sure, her previous films have not required very much in the way of acting (though she did win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Blind Side), in Gravity Bullock is able to display her acting chops like she has never displayed them before. Bullock spends most of her time in the film in isolation, which makes her performance all the more remarkable. She is excellent in this film.
The technical aspects of Gravity are what make this film stand out from all other. The scenes of being in space is amazing, the darkness with no sound makes it eerily spooky and very realistic. The cinematography is a sight to behold, and Director, Writer, Producer Cuaron has made a film that in 50 years from now people will be calling it our generation’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gravity has to be seen on the big screen. It has to be seen, period.

 

23rd Feb2014

Exposed: Beyond Burlesque – DVD

by timbaros
images-108Exposed: Beyond Burlesque takes us into the wild and wonderful world and lives of several burlesque performers. It’s an in your face, genitals and all movie. Directed by Beth B, we are taken into another world, to an underground scene that seems to exist as a fantasy to most of us but a reality for the performers.

We are introduced (or more fittingly exposed) to 8 female and male burlesque artists. They are not shy about being naked onstage, for them it is a personal freedom, and a job that they all enjoy doing.
We meet, in no particular order:
-Rose Wood, a New York City Transgender performance artist acclaimed for his brutally frank commentary on social mores and hypersexuality, and for his exhibitionistic performance. He’s actually a man, but during the course of the movie, he gets breast implants, and he bravely walks the streets of New York City with his new body. He says “I try to present the audience with another way of seeing the body”. Wood is a featured performer at The Box in NYC, where he sometimes performs as a rabbi. He is far from mainstream.
-World Famous *BOB* (yes, that is her actual stage name), a voluptuous blonde bombshell whose large boobs are the main feature of her performances. She even uses them to mix martinis! She left home at the age of 16 when she realized she was a gay man (!!) in a woman’s body, and was eventually taken in by a group of drag queens, hence her drag queen-like appearance. She is all woman. She categorises herself as a woman who acts like a man who dresses in drag.
– Bunny Love. She uses theatre, dance, music, film, lots and lots of makeup, and southern belle costumes to explore contemporary issues in her shows. She has performed in mostly all of the burlesque venues in NYC, and they keep asking her to come back. She says in the film “My family is a bit in the dark as to what exactly I do.” We see her on stage, totally naked, putting lipstick on her lips and on her vagina, wrapping herself up in black tape.
– Tiger! James Tiger! Ferguson is a Stripperformance artist. He is also an actor and dancer, and most of all a stripper. He won the first King of Boylesque title at the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2006. He is a boy in a man’s body.
– Dirty Martini. Perhaps one of the world’s most well-known burlesque artists, she specializes in performing as a 1940’s and 1950’s legend of burlesque entertainer. She says ” I was struggling a lot with this issues of acceptance so I needed a way to express myself so people could see me as a dancer for the unique properties that my body has.” And her body DOES have unique properties. Martini (not her real name) has appeared on television talk shows all over Europe, including our own Paul O’Grady show.
– Bambi the Mermaid. She is a conceptual visual and performance artist, with a cute smile to match. Her performances involve lots of disturbing images that she hopes will be controversial, as well as dressing up as a lobster. Bambi produces Coney Island’s famed Burlesque at the Beach, New York’s oldest and longest running burlesque show, which is heavily featured in Exposed.
– Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz. Burlesque’s first couple. Mat and Julie actually got married in 2012 and are perhaps considered Burlesque royalty. Fraser is the UK’s best-known disabled performer who participated in the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies. He says in the film that “he’s always been a rebel” and Fraser’s tried to be as normal as possible, despite being bullied in school (for his short arms). He has discovered the joy to make people laugh, and he’s adamament that he’s not a separatist. Muz, who is from Detroit, Michigan is a conceptual performer and choreographer. She is a girlie girl, not shy to shock audiences, either with performances that include lots of blood, being totally naked onstage, or dressed in outlandish costumes. And she says that “being naked for me is a pleasure. It’s like an amor, its the best costume.”
These are the performers who are featured in Exposed. But the film’s best scene are the ones between Fraser and Muz. They appear to be made for each other. They are both in the same kind of work, and they both love what they do, and in Exposed, we see them both on stage together, using various body parts as part of their show, whether it be Mat’s penis or Muz’s vagina, anything seems to go for them. And we see them in bed with each  other, discussing how and when they met ( in 2006), and how they were smitten with each other, and how much they are in love. It’s actually quite touching. It’s a real true romance in an otherwise unreal world.
Director Beth B. (no last name) has expertly captured some of the American and British Burlesque scenes, interspersing footage from burlesque performers of the 1950’s.
Burlesque shows at venues such at New York City’s The Slipper Room, the alternative performance space called Dixon Place, Performance Space 122, and Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, and most memorably the shows that take place in world famous Coney Island are in the film. Also featured are performances at the Fringe Festival in Amsterdam which area quite sexual and raw. These performances are expertly woven into the film in between the performers speaking about their lives and how they got into burlesque.

“It’s an immediate and honest and sometimes brutal art form”, says Mat Fraser. That would sum up Burlesque – and Exposed.

23rd Feb2014

Seduced & Abandoned – DVD

by timbaros

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Seduced & Abandoned is not your typical documentary. It is a documentary about a film that will or will not be made. Ultimately, is this film a real film? Or was it made up just to make this documentary?

Written and Directed by James Toback (whose done very little since his 2008 Mike Tyson documentary), Seduced & Abandoned has him and Alec Baldwin trying to get financing for a movie they are looking to make. They attempt to sell their film, provisionally titled Last Tango in Tikrit (inspired by Last Tango in Paris) as a political-erotic romantic Middle Eastern adventure film, and to star Baldwin, and Neve Campbell. Filmed over 10 days at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, Seduced & Abandoned shows Toback and Baldwin as they pitch the idea of their film, meeting all of the movers and shakers in the film business, the creme de la creme, including actors, producers, directors, agents and most importantly, financiers.
Seduced & Abandoned starts off with a brief history of the festival, along with photos of red carpet events held there over the past 65 years. Then Baldwin and Toback begin their pitch. They seek advice from esteemed and Cannes veteran directors Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, Francis Coppola and Bernardo Bertolucci (coupled with clips of their films montaged with the interviews). Then Toback and Baldwin start their mission of trying to get money from anyone who wants to give it to them. They pitch their idea of their film to very very wealthy people, people who can easily afford to write them a check for $20 million. People such as Denise Rich (who tells them she only invests in things that she believes in), Taki Theodoracopulos (where they are seen lunching on his yatch), Jean Pigozzi (who doesn’t commit to anything), and, among others, Arpad Busson, who doesn’t have a lot to say to both men. Also, none are too keen with the choice of Campbell as a leading lady. They also speak to actresses Jessica Chastain and Diane Kruger, asking them if they would like to be in their film. Neither of them are convinced. Ryan Gosling joins them for an interview – with him musing about how he got his break in Hollywood and what it takes to be an actor in the film business. All of these interviews are split-screened with scenes from each of their films. And Cannes is captured as the madcap film festival where deals are done, stars are made, and the red carpet is the place to be seen.
But is Seduced & Abandoned a joke about the film business? Or is it a joke about the making of a non-realistic film? What it is about is what film critic Pauline Kael once said – ‘true moviemaking fever’. People are seduced by the premise of making a film, the glamour, the profile, the seduction of the film business. Yet most of the time people are left abandoned, the film never gets made. In this case, it is more of a question of what were Baldwin and Toback trying to get out of this? Surely, their film was actually never going to be made. So what we have here is a movie about them making a movie that is in turn about making movies. Yet, whose time has been wasted: The financiers they spoke to, very busy and influential men who can make deals happen with the stroke of a pen? Or our time, watching a documentary about a film that will never be made. You decide. Seduced & Abandoned is now out on DVD.
15th Feb2014

Captain Phillips – DVD

by timbaros
images-100Captain Phillips is the story of man who is responsible not just for his ship but also for the lives of his crew members, it is a story of survival, action, adventure, human emotion and a look at a man who faces uncertainty.
In an Academy Award worthy performance, Hanks plays Richard Phillips, a family man from America’s Northeast who does not have a typical office job, his job is to captain ships to carry cargo through friendly and sometimes not so friendly waters. It is March 2009, and Phillips (this film is based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy Seals, and Dangerous Days at sea, by the real Richard Phillips) is captaining the MV Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship that is travelling to Moombasa, Kenya via the Arabian Sea and past the east coast of the Somali coastline – international waters. Once the Maersk Alabaman reaches these waters, Phillips and his captain Shane Murphy (Michael Chernus), notice two objects quickly approaching their ship. They know right there and then that these two boats are not a welcoming committee. They know, from information provided to them by the U.S. government, that these boats are Somali pirates. To try to thwart them, Phillips makes a false announcement on the radio that they can hear. One of the boats turns around, but one continues speeding straight ahead towards them.  Luckily for Phillips and his crew, this second boat eventually turns around and disappears off their radar. However, later in the day, a single boat is detected on their radar, again heading straight for them. This boat eventually gets to within meters of the Alabama, with four Somali’s on board, who start shooting at the captain and his crew. Trying to stave them off, Phillips orders the water cannons to be turned on as a deterrent from them getting on board. One of the water cannons fails, so Murphy attempts to fix it, but is unable to, and the four Somali pirates use a ladder to get on the boat, rifles in hand, demanding money. Not content with the $30,000 Phillips has onboard to offer them, the situation becomes tense and violent. Phillips tries to outsmart them, and at the same time trying to keep the whereabout of the rest of his crew known to the pirate. The pirates, headed by Bilal (a scary and amazing performance by newcomer Barkhad Abdirahman), are very aggressive and don’t want the hijacking to get out of hand, and they want to find the rest of the crew, who are hiding in the ship’s engine room. The movie gets more dramatic and tense as things go very wrong and Captain Phillips is taken hostage aboard the Somali’s boat. From this point Captain Phillips accelerates its action, intensifies the drama, and shows the pain that Captain Phillips has while he struggles and tries to reason with his captors, all the while being in a very cramped space in the small boat. He senses deep down that this may be the very last time he will be on the water. He is convinced his captors are going to kill him.Greengrass, who directed United 93, Green Zone and The Bourne Ultimatum and Supremacy, sure does know his away around an action film, However, in Captain Phillips, unlike in his other films, he gives his leading man depth, a personality, a real human being (Hanks), who carries the film throughout. Hanks gives the performance of his career, and at the age of 57, having appeared in some of the most successful films of all time, including Oscars for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, his performance here is a revelation. In Captain Phillips, Hanks plays a character almost similar to his character in Philadelphiia; death is imminent – or for Captain Phillips – is it? And in the last 10 minutes of this film, Phillips is very distressed, very emotional, very confused, and in shock, and Hanks’ performance in this scene is the mark of a true action genius. It is this part of the film that seals Hanks as one of the greatest actors of all time. Kudos are also for the actors playing the Somali pirates. They are not just the usual bad guy characters, each of them is completely drawn with their own personality, and not lumped as typical terrorists seen on the big screen nowadays. Actually, the actors who played the pirates auditioned to be in this film in Minneapolis, which has a large Somali community, by responding to a television advert. Abdirahman had been working as a limousine driver, and auditioned and got what is basically the second lead role in the film, behind Hanks. Shockingly, Tom Hanks has not been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar. This is the biggest mistake the Academy has ever done.
To set the record straight, the real crew members of the Alabama have claimed that this film does not tell the true story. The Chief Engineer of the Alabama, according to CNN, said that Phillips’ recklessness put the ship in pirate-controlled waters. Another engineer claimed that Phillips ignored warnings and set a course through dangerous waters to save time and money. Whatever the facts are, Captain Phillips the movie is one exhilarating ride, with a truly stunning performance by Hanks. Captain Phillips is the film event of the year. Go see it.
15th Feb2014

Blue Jasmine – DVD

by timbaros

images-99Jasmine’s life is no longer what it used to be. Once married to a rich businessman in New York City who turns out to be a crook and a cheat, she moves to San Francisco to start a new life. This is the plot of Woody Allen’s charming new film Blue Jasmine.

Jasmine, in an Oscar-worthy performance by Cate Blanchett, lived in a sumptious apartment on Park Avenue, had lots of clothes and jewellery, and seemed to have the perfect life. Her husband, Harold “Hal” Francis (a perfectly cast and suave Alec Baldwin), was a successful businessman. But it was all smoke and mirrors. Not only was her husband having affairs behind her back, but he was also swindling investors (friends and family included – a la Bernie Madoff), including her sister and her husband. When he tells Jasmine that he is leaving her for a much younger woman, she decides to call the FBI to report him. By doing this, she realizes her life will change dramatically, and change it does. Jasmine has a nervous breakdown, everything that she and her husband owned are taken by the U.S. government, and she is left with just the clothes she has. Broke and nowhere to go, she heads to San Francisco to live with her half-sister, Ginger (an adorable and perky Sally Hawkins). Blue Jasmine juxtaposes her San Francisco life with her former New York life, the smallest memory or thought she has in San Francisco takes her mind back to certain New York memories. Yet, still mentally unstable and extremely emotional,  she is at a loss as to what to do with her life.  Thanks to her sister’s fiance Chili (recent Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale), she gets a job as a receptionist in a dentist office while at night she studies computers so that she can become an interior designer. In the meantime, she meets and falls in love with wealthy diplomat Dwight Westlake (Peter Sarsgaard), yet she is not quite ready to tell him about her previous life in New York, including the fact that her husband committed suicide in prison. Jasmine is not having it easy.

Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen, is one of his best films in years. His last two films, the charming To Rome With Love and the beautiful Midnight in Paris, took him to Europe. With Blue Jasmine Allen is back on familiar territory (New York). Allen tends to bring out the best in acting from his actors, and Blue Jasmine is no exception. Blanchett has never been better, in Blue Jasmine she is obviously having a hard time of life, and when it appears she is on the way up, she just gets knocked back down again. Her character is a strong woman, but circumstance beyond her control have changed that. Baldwin, all so suave and slick, is one of those actors where you can always count on giving a great performance, and in Blue Jasmine he does again. Hawkins, always so bubbly in everything she is in, is fantastic as the sister who is happy with her lot in life (working as a clerk in a grocery store) and being attracted to men who are not very ambitious. Max Casalla as Ginger’s ex-husband is very good as he still blames Jasmine for her husband’s swindling of all of his money and the breakdown of his marriage. Blue Jasmine is a very charming movie, with great performances, great location scenery in San Francisco, and a timely story. Let’s hope Woody Allen continues to make movies for the next 50 years.

07th Feb2014

Prisoners – DVD

by timbaros

images-97Two young girls are snatched right outside their homes and their parents, along with the police, frantically try to find them in the very dramatic and highly suspenseful new film Prisoners.

The two girls are the daughters of two couples, one white couple, the Dovers – Keller and Grace (an amazing Hugh Jackman and Mario Bello) and the other a black couple, the Birches, Franklin and Nancy (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis). The girls were last seen playing outside of their homes on Thanksgiving day while a mysterious R.V. van was seen parked in their neighborhood earlier that day. Once both families realize the girls are missing, they notify the police and band together to search the surrounding area, including the woods, for them. The police investigation, headed up by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), is quick to find the van and it’s driver Alex Jones (Paul Dano), but there is no sign of the two girls. After attempting to run away from Loki, and not doing a good job of it as all he does is smash his car into a tree, Jones is quickly arrested and held for 48 hours. Jones has child kidnapper written all over his face: he has long hair, with glasses too large for his face, he is extremely introverted, and just very scary-looking, but he continues to admit that he had nothing to do with the kidnappings. Keller Dover thinks otherwise. He knows in his gut that Jones is quilty, and once Jones is released after not being charged, Keller gets obsessed and follows him everywhere. Then one night after he sees Jones trying to strangle a dog near his home, he kidnaps Jones and takes him to a run-down apartment building that Keller’s father once owned. Keller ties him up and repeatedly beats him, asking for the whereabouts of the two girls. Franklin Birch reluctantly helps Keller and for a few days both of them continue to beat and torture Jones, but Jones continues to not say anything helpful. In the meantime, at a candlelight vigil for the girls, Loki notices a young man acting funny. The man sees that he was noticed, and he drops his candle and runs away. Loki goes after him but loses him. Could this be the guy who kidnapped the girls? Loki gets just enough information about this guy to find out who he is and where he lives. He is finally captured and taken into police custody, but he grabs Loki’s gun in the interrogation room and shoots himself in the mouth. Is this the end of the investigation? Meanwhile, Keller continues to be very angry at Loki for not doing enough in the investigation, and blows up after he catches Loki following him. So who kidnapped the two girls? Are they still alive? Why doesn’t Loki do more to search for Jones? As for Jone’s aunt who he lives with, Holly (Melissa Leo), why doesn’t she seemed too concerned for Alex’s whereabouts? Why did Keller Dover meet detective Loki the day after the girls went missing and not on the night they were searching for them? And the one question I really want to know the answer to: Why were the dirty dishes from Thanksgiving still in the kitchen a few days after the girls went missing? Didn’t they have other family members/friends who could’ve helped with cleanup for the distraught parents?

The problem with Prisoners is that it raises more questions than it answers. There are several plot holes in the film, especially in the last 30 minutes of the film when the resolution of the mystery of the disappearance of the two girls take place. But then more questions come up. Why didn’t Alex Jones speak up? What was the Aunt’s reasoning behind what she did? Why wasn’t Grace Keller upset that her husband went missing? And my question: Why was this film close to two hours and twenty six minutes long? When Prisoners is at its conclusion, it is not really concluded as there is one major character who is missing and had not been found by the end of the film. Will he be found? We will never know.

The performances in Prisoners are what save it from being a really bad film. Hugh Jackman is incredible as the father of one or the missing girls. The horror on his face when he realizes that they are missing is so real, so emotional, so raw. He is the star of this film and it won’t surprise me if he gets nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. His performance overshadows all other performances in this film and is his best performance ever. Paul Dano is also excellent as the creepy Alex Jones who seems to be hiding something but won’t/can’t say what it is. Also his best performance ever. Viola Davis as Nancy Birch is also very good as the mother who is in pain, longing for her daughter to return, as does Maria Bello as Nancy Birch. All other performances in this film are just okay. Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki gives an under the radar performance, not his best role, as does Terence Howard as Franklin Birch and Melissa Leo as Holly Jones. But fault is given to write Aaron Guzikowski for his long winded script and to director Denis Villeneuve for not realizing that the story he is trying to tell falls apart as the film goes on.