28th Nov2013

The Commitments – Theatre

by timbaros

images-34First it was a book. Then it was a movie. Now The Commitments is a West End show.

At the illustrious and very central Palace Theatre, (former home to Les Miserables and Priscilla Queen of the Desert), the Commitment’s story is similar to the movie, but of course is confined to the stage. It is a very basic story at that: one man attempts to form a band, several characters audition, members are selected, various shows are performed, controversy erupts in the group when one member leaves, they form back together, and give one rousing performance at the end of the show. And that is pretty much it.

Working from a barely there book by Roddy Doyle, whose name is above the title, Jimmy (Denis Grindel, making his West End debut) is the impressario who gets the idea to form an all Irish band in 1980’s Dublin, a band to primarily sing soul music. He is lucky to find Deco (Killian Donnelly, who is an amazing singer), and then the rest of the members fall into place, including motorcycle riding ladies man Joey (a very witty and perfectly cast Ben Fox).

With great sets, including a two-story tenement house, good visuals (supermarket/launderette and Miami Vice Club signs, as well as the requisite strobe lighting effects), a young and energetic cast successfully sings soul music to the audience. Songs such as Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Knock on Wood, and I can’t get no Satisfaction are brought back to life on stage. But it is when Donnelly opens up his mouth and sings, the audience sits up and takes notice – they are mesmerized. He has a voice so unique and soulful that even when he is eating chips on  whilst singing at the same time it still sounds incredible. When Donnelly sings I’m a Midnight Mover, you wish that the show was all about him and him alone. Donnelly, whose previous theatre credits include Billy Elliott, Phantom of the Opera, and playing Combeferre in the Les Miserables film, is the true star of the show. While Grindel does a fine job in his debut, The Commitments belong to Donnelly. While the back up trio of female singers are quite good and pretty and bubbly, no one else, including Donnelly, in the band of 10, we really get to know. The cast is too big. And this is the problem with the Commitments – it has a weak storyline, some jokes that fall flat, and thinly drawn characters. And we have all seen it done before – the cast orders the audience to get on their feet at the end of the show for the last two numbers. A ploy for a sure thing standing ovation? Probably. It’s a gimmick that is all too common in the Jukebox style musicals now playing in the West End (The Bodyguard, Flashdance, even the dreadful Viva Forever). Is the Commitments recommended? Yes, purely to enjoy the soulful voice of Donnelly. His voice is absolutely amazing.

Review originally published by The American and copyright Blue Edge Publishing Ltd.

22nd Nov2013

Parkland – Film

by timbaros
images-29November 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
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.
22nd Nov2013

Killing Oswald – Film

by timbaros

images-28Do we really know who assassinated John F. Kennedy? The new documentary Killing Oswald makes it more clear that perhaps Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t act alone.

 Killing Oswald, directed with an eye for detail by Shane O’Sullivan, explains the whole story of the events in the life of Oswald leading up to the assassination of JFK, events that many people may not be aware of. Oswald, who was assassinated two days after JFK, led a very complex and strange life prior to that fateful day on Nov. 22, 1963, a day that changed the course of history, when JFK was shot in the head in Dealey Plaza by a sniper who was in the Texas School Book Depository.
Killing Oswald uses archival footage, old and new interviews with people associated with Oswald either directly or indirectly, and dramatic reconstructions to tell Oswald’s story.
Lee Harvey Oswald was born in New Orleans on Oct. 18, 1939. His father died of a heart attack two months after he was born, leaving his eccentric mother to raise him. When Oswald was four, his family moved to Dallas, Texas. After a brief stint living in New York City, his family was back living in New Orleans. According to Killing Oswald, as a teenager, Oswald considered himself a Marxist, and at the young age of 17 joined the United States Marine Corps. The Corps eventually sent him to Japan, where he had access to classified matter in his role as a radar operator. He was also trained to be a marksman. In Oct. 1959, Oswald received a hardship discharge claiming his mother needed care. Returning back to New Orleans for two days, Oswald then went to the Soviet Union. This is when, according to Killing Oswald, Oswald’s strange behavoir and communist loyalties started.
The reason Oswald went to the Soviet Union was to defect. In a recreation of the event in the film, Oswald tells officials there that he was a communist and that he could share with them confidential information that he had obtained during his time as a marine. The Russians, skeptical of him, sent him off to Minsk to monitor U2 spy planes over Russia, basically an attempt to sweep him under the rug. Getting married and having a daughter, Oswald got bored of life in Minsk and returned to the United States where his family settled in Dallas. Oswald then became a pro-Castro activist, living in New Orleans while his family lived in Dallas with Ruth Petrie (original footage an a 1973 interview with her is very telling). According to Killing Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald was leading a very secret life, and it was suspected that went to Mexico to try to get to Cuba but was unsuccessful, returning back to New Orleans to found the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-castro organization (with amazing real footage of Oswald passing out literature). The movie raises doubts that perhaps it was not Oswald but someone posing as him who went to Mexico.
The film features many leading historians speaking about the assassination and Oswald’s involvement, including the conclusion that perhaps Oswald didn’t act alone. In April 1963, Oswald was suspected of attempting to kill U.S. Major General Edwin Walker, who was an outspoken anti-communist. It was also around this same time that anti-Castro Cubans lured Oswald into a plot to kill Kennedy that could have triggered a U.S. invasion of Cuba. Original interview footage with David Atlee Phillips, a former CIA officer goes on to state that Oswald had attended meetings of Alpha 66, an organization which at that time was to plot the overthrow of Cuba. Was Oswald there to secretly spy on their activity for another organization?
In the days leading up to Kennedy’s assassination, Oswald’s behavior became even more weird. It was also during this time that FBI agents were attempting to find Oswald to question him about his pro-Castro activities. Then on Nov. 22nd, JFK was shot in the
Original dramatic footage of JFK’s assassination and the aftermath in Dallas, Texas during that time shows that JKF was shot twice, the first bullet entering his upper back, and the second bullet, which entered the rear of JFK’s head. Oswald was arrested later in the day, in a Dallas theatre. It was suspected, but never actually proven, that Oswald shot a police officer who pulled him almost an hour after the shooting as Oswald had matched the description of the person who killed the president. Oswald was seen going into the theatre and arrested minutes later. In a feeling of actually seeing it live, Killing Oswald replays the footage of Jack Ruby firing one shot into Oswald’s stomach, in the police basement, as the shooting was live on television and millions of television viewers witnessed it. Ruby was known to be involved in organized crime.
Killing Oswald goes on to explain that there are so many theories, too many to mention here, as to who was behind the killing of JFK? Did Ruby kill Oswald to stop him from speaking to the police about an organized crime connection to the assassination? Anti-Castro Cubans lure Oswald into a plot to kill JFK? Was there a second shooter? Is there a link to Russia in the assassination due to Oswalds ties with the Soviet Union? While killing Oswald can’t answer all these questions, it is an important documentary about a time in American history when the nation stopped for four days.


15th Nov2013

Don Jon – Film

by timbaros

don-jon-fathers-day-clip-061613Don Juan is the universal term for describing someone who is a womanizer. Don Jon is a new film about a New Jersey man named Jon who is addicted to sex, and who can’t get enough of it, either from various women, or especially from the internet.

Jon is Jon Martello, a modern day Don Juan. He is very goodlooking, with a great body to match, and a smile that melts hearts. He is also addicted to internet porn. Jon (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also wrote and directed) has a very active sex life, always picking up the prettiest and sexiest woman in the clubs (much to the jealousy of his friends, who call him Don Jon because of this). But Jon is not sexually satisfied until he watches internet porn (which he considers as sex). He does this sometimes even after having sex with a woman. One night at a club, he meets Barbara, a drop dead gorgeous hot Catholic girl (Scarlett Johansson, in an especially sexy and almost unrecognizable role), and he instantly, he tells her, falls in love with her. She is very skeptical of him due to what she has heard around town about his reputation. It takes a few dates for her to come around, and soon enough, Jon and Barbara are boyfriend and girlfriend. She urges Jon to better himself and to go to night school. And they meet each others’s family’s, with Jon’s family immediately liking her (especially his father, played by a very good Tony Danza). However, Barbara, no matter how sexy and hot she is, still does not satisfy Jon. He still watches internet porn. He is truly addicted to it. And Barbara catches him watching it, twice.
Meanwhile, at night school, Jon is caught watching porn on his phone by mature student Esther (Julianne Moore). Jon, at first, brushes her off, but he slowly gets to know her, and he discovers that she had lost her husband and son 14 months before. Getting tired of Barbara’s control over him, and his having to hide his internet porn addiction from her, he becomes more and more interested in Esther, as she is able to teach him a lot about sex and the emotions that come with it. Barbara and Jon eventually break up.
Don Jon is Gordon-Levitt’s big screen directing and writing debut, and what a debut it is. Funny, witty, and very sexy, Don Jon reminded me of Boogie Nights, the 1997 film where Mark Wahlberg plays a porn star. And Gordon-Levitt is spectacular, smartly casting himself in the lead role. Gordon-Levitt has displayed his acting chops in previous films such as 500 Days of Summer, and by playing a cancer survivor in 50/50. But in Don Jon, he shows his comedic side (which he probably picked up from his days in television’s Third Rock From the Sun, in the 1990’s). And as a writer and director, he successfully creates a story that is basically a romantic comedy about a relationship between a guy and his computer, and with a girl who watches too many romantic movies. Johansson is wonderful as Barbara, the bombshell who can’t quite satisfy Jon’s needs. She deserves an Oscar nomination for her performance. Don Jon would be a perfect film if it were not for the relationship he has with Esther. It is not quite believable as it happens too quickly, and Barbara, being the 40-something woman with baggage, is not really the usual type Jon goes for. And Moore gives a very subdued and almost unsexy performance. But this is a minor quibble for a film that is very funny, very smart, very sexy and very enjoyable. And watch out for the brief cameo by both Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum – pure genius!
15th Nov2013

The Counsellor – Film

by timbaros
images-23Michael 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 The 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 of the drug operation that the Counsellor gets involved in. This happens when The Counsellor meets Reiner at a party who 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 name suddenly 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 hotel room 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’s 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.
10th Nov2013

Gravity – Film

by timbaros

images-20Gravity, the new film 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.

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 Alfonso 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.


10th Nov2013

How to Survive a Plague – Film

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


10th Nov2013

Seduced & Abandoned – Film

by timbaros

images-24Seduced & 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.
06th Nov2013

Drinking Buddies – Film

by timbaros

images-17Sometimes when you go see a film that you know very little about and don’t know what to expect, it usually lets you down. But in the case of the new film Drinking Buddies, the opposite is true. It is a delightful movie.

Directed and written by American 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 natural Jake Johnson). Kate and Luke have great chemistry between them. It could 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, at work, and more time after work, spent drinking (what else) beer.

Kate 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 more structured 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 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, in this small but very charming film. Wilde (who was last seen on the big screen in Rush and who was on television’s long running show House) makes the movie her own. Her girl next door attitude and warm personality makes for a great lead character. Jake Johnson as Luke is the male version of Kate. He also is simple, happy, very loveable with his unshaven beard and pouchy stomach. Kendrick and Livingstone are also both very good in their roles as the other halves. Drinking Buddies is an excellent effort from Swanberg, whose previous features have been unrecognized and unnoticed. Drinking Buddies will put Swanberg on the map of directors/screenwriters to look out for. Well done Joe.

03rd Nov2013

Philomena – Film

by timbaros

Philomena 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.

03rd Nov2013

Philomena Press Conference – Film

by timbaros

Philomena press conference held at the Mayfair Hotel on October 16th, 2013 with Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Director Stephen Frears and co-writer Jeff Pope:


Steve Coogan: The first six months before we even wrote a word, we went over and and over the story. The comedy, its best when it hangs on reality, a proper story. One interesting thing about the process was being in the room with all the characters. That is one great advantage, in working with director Stephen Frears. At one point I was in the room with a nun, Philomena, Martin, and so that dialogue was brilliant. I saw myself as someone who was holding a big net, catching butterflies, which were lines of wonderful dialogue delivered in the style of the characters.

Frears: That sounds alright to me.

SC: I initially didn’t want to write it. I thought it was an interesting story and I think I want to pursue it. I was told to write it but I told the producers that I am better with comedy and not drama, and they said that I need someone good to write it with, so they introduced me to Jeff Pope. Now we are bestest bestest friends. It was a real revelation. I learned from him and we collaborated in the two cents. We both brought different things to it. Jeff would talk about the structure of the whole thing and the rhythm, and I was more about the myopic detail of character and dialogue. So we both had distinct roles. It was as much fun writing as it was acting.

Dench: The story was read to me, and immediately I wanted to do it, before there was really any tweaking to the script. You have only have to hear the story and hear about Philomena. That is irresistible to play.

Question: Did you have any sense of responsibility to portray these people on the big screen?
JD: That is a very good question. The only thing that concerns me when I’m playing somebody who is alive, I played Iris Murdock who had not long died, responsibility very very heavy on my shoulders, and I feel with this film, as long as you tell Philomena’s story, and it were true to her, which Jeff and Steve had already done by writing the story, we must not sell her short. She is a most remarkable woman, and all my concern was that we must be absolutely true to her story. I know her, I met her before we started filming, I haven’t seen her since she has seen the film. I can’t wait for later today to see how she feels about the film.

SC: I’ve played a handful of real people, I played myself. When I played Martin it was about, there’s a certain amount of artistic license with the film, the way me and Jeff wrote it, but the fundamentals, we were quite ethical where we invented things, what we were quite specific was that the fundamental facts of the story were intact and true, and the way we wrote the characters was ok to take a little license here and there, but in Martin I would say 50% Martin and 30% me, and 20% bits and bobs of somebody else. The point is that we honored the characters the way they were treated, and I spoke to Philomena twice and she has seen it and she is very pleased with it.  She’s seen it twice in fact.

JD: She will see it three times tonight.
SC: The first time there are concerns that anyone would be self conscious of someone watching portray a part of their life on screen, but she is happy. She said the second time she watched it she enjoyed it knowing that she was dignified by the film.

Question: You bring such emotional depth to your character, and I easily got lost in your performance. Being a mother yourself, how did that influence your performance.
JD: Well, um, everything, every part that you approach, has to be somehow rooted in yourself, you have to somehow root everything, so that it is not just words that are coming out of your mouth. Straight in and goes out again. So that every experience, that you experience yourself, you use. Because that is our craft. So having a daughter and a grandson I could certainly relate to the fact that this child who you simple dote on being taken away from you at an early age, and every single kind of emotion has to go through. I once said this to somebody when I was playing Lady McBeth, they said that’s tricky, what do you about murdering your husband’s cousin. How do you approach that? And there are of course things that are not in your personal repertoire that you have to personally understand reading and watching other things and hearing other people talk about them. So that everything is relatable I suppose, but then having sad that, that is not the story, I then have relate it back to Philomena. It is quite a tangled kind of piece of string that touches all sorts of parts, and in the end you can map to something that is as near the truth to the person that you can possibly manage.

Question: What did you learn from each other that surprised you?
JD: I will tell you what I learned about him (Coogan). Now he does stand up and comedy, and I do serious acting, I think he should stick to that, because he seemed to seamlessly pass over into serious acting where I could no more get up and tell a joke to a lot of people in a room then I could actually fly on my own into a room. Some people could do it all.

SC: I told her to say that.
JD: Comedy easily seemed to be passed over me.

SC: Yes, getting to Judi. When we were writing it, Judi was number one on our wish list and our wish came true, um, but when it came time to filming it, we weren’t sure who was going to play Martin but in the end I decided that it would be best that I did. And but of course I was very nervous. One was if I was able to share the screen with this iconic figure sitting next to me (Dench) and uh  that I knew that I would have to um, bring my, um, pull my socks up, pull my finger out, pull lots of things, and um, and, but when I was on set it was great because Judi and I didn’t spend a lot of times anxiously talking about the subtext of the script, most of the time we talked about everything but what we were doing. It is quite a heavy difficult subject matter, it was a relief to talk about anything but the script. There was a lot of laughing, a lot of laughter.

SF: There was a shared love of fast cars, wasn’t it?

SC: But you know it was it was very relaxed, and there was lots of, and in terms of what Judi said about the comedy in actual fact in this film I actually played the straight man. All the funny, um, lines I gave to Judi, because it made me look generous and her look funny.

Question: What made it for you to want to sign on?
SF: Good story. On top of this story is what I would like to call it a romantic comedy. Odd couple sort of, I liked the challenge of doing both things at the same time it seemed very very interesting, very moving and very funny. Good god, what more do people want? Pity about the cast.

Q: Jeff spoke about your passion for the project, I wondered where that passion came from? Your parents acted as foster parents when you were a kid. I wonder if it came from there.
SC:  All those things you mentioned played a part in my being interested, I  think because I am Irish, because I was raised Catholic, I felt that I had some license to talk about it and avoid the cliches because there are a lot of cliches, and um, its true, my family are, still, some of them are still very devout catholics, and not, and in a way I sort of wanted to, from a writing point of view, wanted to address in a grown up way and in a way that was very um about , really , tolerance and understanding, and learning to live and love with people who have different points of view. Part of that is where I am from, in fact, I was raised a Catholic, even though I am not one now, a lot of the values I have are because of my family’s upbringing, things that are very important, which I value very highly. Certainly my personal experience plays a part, formed the dialogue.

Q: Philomena’s faith is rooted in forgiveness. How do you approach something like that?
JD: Well, I would like to think that in those circumstances I would’ve behaved like that., that I know that I wouldn’t have done. That I think , i think, I think that Stephen has touched on, that is what the film is about. The power of forgiveness of some. After all the things that have happened, we know all about those things, we know about the issue of children being sold, and adopted, taken away, but what is extraordinary is how these two people come through something like that. How both of them do. I think that she’s one of the most considerable people I have ever met, Philomena.  That that that all can happen to you. That she does, that they made that journey, the two of them, and exactly she has lost her son in actual fact gains, gains something else. She gains in a way another son. But her faith is strong as it was before. and that is no slouch. I wish I could say that’s how I would’ve behaved, I but I know it isn’t.

Q: How important was it for you to downplay emotions?
Jeff Pope: The theme of forgiveness is very interesting. We started with it, at least, in talking to Philomena and her daughter Jane, we realized that Philomena had arrived to a point where she did truly forgive, and it wasn’t forgiveness on an intellectual level, say, as Lord Lomford famously said practice forgiveness, Philomena’s came from within. She really truly had forgiven those people that had caused so much misery in her life. Jane (the real daughter of Philomena), who a bit like Steve, if I may, next generation Catholic, had a more pragmatic view of the world and she hadn’t, so we we decided that that’s how we would play the end, and that Philomena in a magnificent act of forgiveness. And Jane’s point of view was represented with Martin and that he I think that was also a way of venting the way we feel the audience would feel at that point and they there there was an anger as a viewer in watching it, we feel that  it needed to be aired as a counterpoint

SC: and also that we do not want to be told as a prescriptive this is the correct way you should be behave. We don’t want to wrap everything neatly in a bow at the end of the story. We wanted to show a deep resolution but there is kind of a tolerance equilibrium that could be achieved in the lives of these characters rather than this finality of conclusive closure as the Americans say about the whole thing, so it was important to recognize that the different feelings the audience would have, and you can admire what Philomena does without necessarily thinking its entirely correct even, but its quite new that we didn’t want the ending to be overly simplistic if you like.

JP: If there is a, its not really a polemic, not a polemic against the institution of the catholic church, we’re very careful to if there was any finger pointed, it was not the original events that saw Anthony taken away from Philomena, that you can’t judge then by modern standards. But what we felt was a more legitimate target was the way that it had been covered up for so long, and that they were artificially kept apart. It was great to see her.

SC: We were so of if as you can say the institution of the church the worst its not being critical the facts speak for themselves in fact so that and those kind of practices of tolerance and judgemental of the institution we also wanted to do to separate the institution of the church from the people, dignified people, these diligent honest lives of altruistic philanthropic lives and we wanted people of simple faith, in fact, and it was important that we differentiate between those individuals and the church as an institution. Which is what we wanted to do with Philomena. The prescriptive facts as I saw was drawn from talking to Martin and finding the truth from that. Sometimes you leed the witness but most of the time it sort of steers you to a conclusion. You let it steer it without coming to these preconceptions that you want to enforce on the story.

SF: When we were at the Venice Film Festival we won the prize for the best catholic film. We also won the prize for the best atheist film.

SC: And the best Gay film

SF: Yes, Yes. Best queer, catholic, atheist film. We had a lot of competition.

Q: Judi, did you find this role particularly traumatic as you built up a strong relationship with Philomena.
JD: Well as I said before, It’s a responsibility you feel, to somebody. I felt quite responsible when I played Elizabeth the first, but nobody here remembers her. There was also a responsibility when I played Victoria, many people remember her. It’s a huge responsibility when I played Iris, as lots of people remember her, so now I have Philomena, who was, you know, just here, so, what was quite traumatic for me, you have to get on, it is a job of work, you have to get on, I have met her before we started the filming so I had some kind of essence of what she was like. She made me laugh a lot, she made me laugh a huge amount. She’s very very funny, and then you have to get on with the business of actually, there you have a script, you have a director, and you have actors who all  are together, then you have to get on with just telling the story that is there, with the notion of that person, and telling it as positively and as truthfully, without, what are those things called, coming from the outside, outside influences, yes, just to have to concentrate on that. And probably the most traumatic thing was when we had the wrap party , we were all sitting around, and I was talking to Philomena, and then they suddenly said that here is a bit of the film, and the film was here, and Philomena was there, and if Steve is me, her hand was here, I mean we were watching this thing. I can’t remember anything about that bit of thing, all I remember was when the little boy came on, I heard her say, ‘Ah God love him, look at him,’ she said. I was terribly aware of her hand on my shoulder, and because this is somebody’s personal story, and you don’t want to over dramatize and you don’t want to underplay it. You just want to be true to it. So that’s the responsibility I felt.

Q: You authored the Irish Accent perfectly on the big screen which is normally butchered. What was the secret to your success.
JD: The secret of my success is my mother, who is from Dublin, and all my relations are in Dublin, or in Malanslo in the west, or as I found out, we went to Ross Trevor to film, in Northern Ireland, and we did some shots, and I got out while they just changed the cars around, and this man said to me, you know, you have cousins in this town, he said that they are coming over to see you in any minute. I’m sorry we didn’t go to a lot more places, we could’ve found more cousins. So that was good. It was entirely, entirely, my father who was also brought up in Dublin, his family, in Trinity, and all my cousins sent to Trinity so that’s my, that’s my link, very nice of  you to say so. But that’s my link. And I also have a dresser, who I have had for 40 years, from Ireland, called Annie Hoowie, and she also was a tremendous link for anything. She once said this breathtaking thing to me, she said , I was in, in Nova Scotia, making The Shipping News, and she was minding my house for me, and I rang her, and she said ‘Ah Hello’, and I said ‘Hi Annie, is everything alright there, and she said, ‘ah, it is all grand here. What time is it there.’ What time is it. 20 past 5 in the afternoon. And she said, ‘what time would that make it here?’ and so there is this kind of essence, you know, between my mom who is  also very funny, and Annie.

Question: You spent time with Philomena, what you got with your one on one time with her that is not in the original book?
SC: Well, I just chatted to her a lot.  Jeff and I both spoke to Philomena, and I think her sense of humor has some sort of stoicism is sort of the wrong word as it implies some sort of grand like quality, but I think she wears her experience quite lightly, and, I think her sense of humor is what came across, and her general positivity. We tried to put that into the film. Well sort of her optimism, which is what I think is what’s on screen, of course, Martin is this person who hasn’t had the same kind of traumatic experiences as Philomena, rather, self pity, and which Martin, after we did speak to him, he did say to me at some points, that he felt his life he felt slightly self pity, but not after he spent time with Philomena, sort of after talking to her, but it was sort of glass half full mentality, that we saw to put that in the script.

JD: She had passion for the boy. Everytime I have spoken to her she has spoken about how much she loved Michael.
SC: In fact there is the, the searches were the, there’s ah, ah scene in the film where Philomena, Judi as Philomena, grabs my hand and said ‘I did love him, you know,’ and that weirdly was something that happened to me as I sat with Philomena and we looked at some footage of her son she hadn’t seen before, age three, which she hadn’t seen for 50 years, and, she reached  across to me and said that to me, so I put that into the film, so that it would happen to Martin, but that she still has a connection to this child, after all this time.

SF: Her tragedy is so life-like. You would’ve looked at her and known these events happened. She was so graceful. She’s great, she is terrific.

JP: I love, the love, and again it is in the piece at the end, she saw that when she finally got to Anthony’s grave, you wonder what what kind of emotions go through your mind. I hope audiences think that when they start to watch the film, I know where this is going to go, she is going to find the boy, and be reunited, and then he dies. Ah sorry, she discovers he’s died quite a while before, and It was just that thing she said when, which is a direct quote, when she got to, when got to the….

SF: Spoiler alert.

JP: When gets to the grave when she says um, he knew, again a positive spin, he knew I’d find him here. So that was, it was the way her mind worked. Not Oh God, that’s my child, buried in the ground, but positive side. He knew that I would find him, that’s why he got himself got buried, that he asked to be buried there.

02nd Nov2013

Thor: The Dark World – Press Conference – Film

by timbaros

Disney is going all out to promote it’s new film Thor: The Dark World – a sequel to the highly successful 2011 film Thor, both of which star Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Kat Dennings.In a very unusual and almost unheard of promotion, Disney invited fans and members of the press on Saturday night to attend a screening of the film, as the press release states  “to mark the turning back of the clocks with an exclusive UK fan screening of Thor: The Dark World.” What was unusual about this event was that the film screening started at 1:00 a.m. (the exact moment the clocks go back an hour). The turning back of the clocks, as the press release goes on to say, is to “mark the return to darkness to the UK.” The event took place in Greenwich, which was a key filming location for the film. Disney has also been heavily promoting this film at sci-fi events around the world, including Comic Con. A new Thor attraction has been built at Disneyland to be called Treasures of Asgard (in reference to a fictional realm within the Marvel Comics universe), which is scheduled to open this week.In case you don’t know who or what Thor (Hemsworth) is, he is the Mighty Avenger who battles to save Earth. Evil forces, which include his brother Loki (Hiddleston), attempt to keep him away from his gal Jane Foster (Portman), who is being followed by her gal pal Darcy (Dennings).  In The Dark World, Thor attempts to save the universes from enemies, including monsters and soldiers from other universes.

Here is a snippet of what was said at the Thor press conference held at The Dorchester Hotel on October 20th:

Hiddleston: It has been an amazing adventure. The two characters define each other, need each other.

Hemsworth: We are competitive as siblings are. We are actual brothers, one is adopted.

Portman: Jane is in the middle. It was exciting to come back and work with everyone.

Hemsworth: It was good that Natalie was there to break up the testosterone.

Hiddleston: Why do people love Loki over Thor? It is a mixture of playfulness and charm and mischief. He is a broken character. As an actor, it is an interesting thing to inhabit.

Dennings: There is a little bit of improv in the movie.

Producer Kevin Fiege: Humor is the key.

Hemsworth: I am surprised by the amount of humor in the film. However, our wake up call was at 3:00 a.m., I was not a happy elf.

Hiddleston: What is grounding is the family relationship. Father, two sons, 2 brothers.

Portman mentioned at the press conference that her mom keeps a scrapbook of old photos of her from previous movies.

Chris Eccleston (who plays Malekith): What is the point of my story? Vengeance. He is a maniac for vengeance. Dark elves are seeking to turn light into darkness.

Hemsworth: It is to have Thor someone to fight with. Malekith is the main enemy.

Hiddleston: Is Loki really evil? It is something I asked my self three times. Every hero is a villian. To what extent is he redeemable.

Thor is released in the UK on October 30th.

See This Week’s Film Trailer tab for the Thor film trailer

01st Nov2013

Dallas Buyers Club trailer – Film

by timbaros

images-19Dallas Buyers Club trailer – Film

The story of Texas electrician Ron Woodroof and his battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1986, and his search for alternative treatments that helped established a way in which fellow HIV-positive people could join for access to his supplies. To be released in the UK on February 7, 2014.

With Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner,  Denis O’Hare