22nd Mar2014

Starred Up – Film

by timbaros

images-139Starred Up is a brutal look into the life of Eric (played by an excellent Jack O’Connell from television’s Skins), a 19 year-old who has been transferred from a juvenile detention centre to prison.

Based on ex-prison therapist Jonathan Asser’s 12-year stint of working in an actual prison (he also wrote the script), Starred Up shows how hard it is for an inmate who is young, to be in an adult prison, even having been in and out of trouble (and in and out of detention centers) for most of his life.
From the initial scene, where Eric is marched into the prison which will become his home, where he is taken to the induction room, strip searched and asked to squat down so that the prison guards can check up his rear end, to him being marched through the prison to his cell, would be quite intimidating for anyone. But not for Eric, he seems to take it all in stride, just another day of being locked up. It does help, a bit that his father is also locked up in the same prison, though they never actually saw eye to eye on the account of his father never being there for him when he was growing up. Even though at 19 years old, Eric has no trouble adapting to his new environment, as any career criminal would. He won’t, and doesn’t, take any shit from no one, and he is the first to resort to violence when threatened by other inmates. Meanwhile, it is suggested by prison officials for Eric to join a support group with fellow inmates. At first he resists, violently, even biting one of the guard’s lower regions. Then over time goes to the therapy sessions on his own, and soon opens up to his fellow prisoners, and to the therapist (played Rupert Friend), who takes an interest in Eric and wants to help rehabilitate him. But the prison Warden has other plans and dismisses the therapist, leaving Eric to miss the meetings he started to look forward to, and which was helping him to open up about his troubled life. Soon enough Eric cascades back into a dark place, which includes violence towards anyone who even gives him a dirty look.
At 105 minutes long, Starred Up is not an easy film to sit through, the stabbings and cuttings that Eric, as well as the other inmates, inflict on each other is extremely realistic and very bloody (the use of razor blades is common). And one attempted hanging in the film is all too real. But it is O’Connell’s performance in this film that will make you sit up and take notice. In a role that required lots of violence (and full frontal nudity), O’Connell uses his youthful looks and muscular physique to portray a young inmate who can intimidate the fellow prisoners. His is a very edgy, emotional and at times an unpredictable performance. Also there are quite a few good scenes in the film between Eric and his father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), and one in particular when Eric realizes that his father is in a homosexual relationship with his cell mate.
Eric is all grown up, now a man, who can take care of himself, he has been Starred Up (a term which means that a juvenile inmate is moved to an adult jail). And O’Connell is one actor to look out for.
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

New From: £2.90 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.01 GBP In Stock

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
New From: £2.99 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.09 GBP In Stock