29th May2014

Summer of Cinema 2014

by timbaros

Video of the films to watch out for in Summer 2014!!!

Thanks to the Film Distributor’s Association for the use of their video.

29th May2014

Summer Movies – Film

by timbaros

images-172Summer is here and with that brings the summer movie season. Blockbusters, special effects, big stars – all of this and more is thrown at us in an attempt to get some of our money spent going to the cinema this summer. By the likes of things, we already have been doing this in the past month.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened in April and has grossed over £19M at the box office. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was also an early release, in late April, and has already earned £23M. X-Men: Days of Future Past earned close to £10M in it’s opening weekend, but topping all three of them is The Lego Movie – which hit £33M last week – that kind of money will buy you lots of Legos! Godzilla 3D came out two weeks ago and made a whopping £9M in it’s first weekend but dropped by 57% in it’s second week, so it looks like this monster doesn’t have legs.
There are lots of others upcoming films to be released later in the summer to try to take your summer movie money. Here is a list of the big ones, all of them likely to gross lots of money:
The first film to be released after the Bank Holiday weekend, which is officially the start of the summer, is Maleficent, which  brings Angelina Jolie in her cartoon-debuting role in a story of the villain from Disney’s classic film Sleeping Beauty, the mistress of all evil. Will it be too dark for young children? Early buzz has been mixed, so it will be interesting to see if Disney can recoup it’s $200M production costs.
Tom Cruise’s annual summer movie hits the big screen on Friday May 30th. It’s called Edge of Tomorrow and is a film set in the near future where an alien race attacks Earth, attacking cities and killing millions of people, almost destroying Earth. Of course Cruise is the hero when he takes on one of the aliens, only to be killed within minutes. What’s different about this plot is that Cruise’s character keeps on coming back to life – and is forced to relive the same battle over and over, and in the meantime becoming smarter and tougher. It’s an interesting premise and in true Tom Cruise style, Edge of Tomorrow should be a box office hit. A Million Ways to Die in the West – Seth MacFarlane’s take on Western movies also opens on the same day. It’s got an all-star cast, including Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris and Liam Neeson.
22 Jump Street hits the theaters the following weekend. This is, of course, a film of the television show which put Johnny Depp on the map, and a sequel to the 21 Jump Street movie. The film stars hot actors-of-the-moment Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Expect lots of laughs and action, and another sequel if this film makes lots of money, which it probably will.
For those of you craving music with your movies, Jersey Boys opens up on June 20th. It’s a musical biopic based on the hit musical charting the lives of the group The Four Seasons. Clint Eastwood was a strange choice to direct the movie (he also produced), but even stranger was to pick a cast of unknowns to star as the leads. Christopher Walken is the one big name actor in the movie, and he plays a member of the mob. The same weekend Kevin Costner’s new film 3 Days to Kill opens up where he plays a dying CIA agent trying to reconnect with his daughter, played by Hailee Steinfeld.
Transformers: Age of Extinction opens on Thursday July 10th and looks to be a teenage boys wet dream. It’s the fourth installment of the live action Transformers film series and this one stars Mark Walhberg. Age of Extinction is a sequel to Transformers: Dark of the Moon and takes place four years after the invasion of Chicago. Michael Bay returns as the director. Expect big box office for this film, and for it to dominate the box office way into July.
On Thursday July 17th (why do films open up on a Thursday? So that their ‘weekend’ gross will appear to be higher) sees Dawn of the Planet of The Apes open – the umpteenth film based on the 1960’s classic Planet of the Apes Films. What’s so special about this one? The apes existence is threatened by human survivors of a devastating virus. Gary Oldman and Keri Russell play human to Andy Serkis’ ape.
If you are getting the picture that there is one huge movie opening up every weekend, this is no coincidence. The studios rake in the bucks on their film’s opening weekends as most of the money goes to them and not to the theatre owners. It’s only when a movie is still bringing in audiences for several weeks which is when the movie theatres start to make money.
So the big movie opening the weekend of July 25th is Hercules, starring The Rock like we’ve never seen him before, long-haired Dwayne Johnson – and directed by Brett Ratner. To be honest, this could either be a big hit or it could be a costly mistake. I predict the later. Opening up the same weekend is a film that should do much better. Channing Tatum is back again and starring in Jupiter Ascending. It’s a strange story about a woman who was born under a night sky, and so was destined for great things. But she ends up being a cleaner. Tatum, as a genetically engineered hunter, is her knight in shining armor who tracks her down and helps her realize her potential. It sounds far-fetched, but it could work as the The Wachowskis have written, produced and directed it. They previously brought us The Matrix and Cloud Atlas. Mila Kunis also stars.
Another Sci-Fi – ish film – Guardians of the Galaxy – opens on Thursday July 31st. It is a live action film from Disney and is about an American pilot who finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by a very nasty villian. Starring an all-star cast including Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, and more.
A movie for the kids this summer will be Planes: Fire and Rescue, opening on August 8th, right in the middle of summer to get their parents box office money. This one is expected to be as much of a hit as the original Planes film. Also the same weekend sees the release of The InBetweeners 2. If this is as good as the first film and the television series, we’re in again for another laugh-a-minute film.
For those of you who like your action stars a bit older, then catch The Expendables 3 the weekend of Thursday August 14th. Just like the first two Expendable films, this one also stars Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham and Nicolage Cage.
The lovely Scarlett Johansson is back on the big screen with Lucy on August 22nd. She plays a woman accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors, and transforms into a warrior stronger than any human. This could be a franchise in the making if this film is successful enough.
Rounding out the summer, and released on Wednesday September 3rd, is Sex Tape. Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal play a couple, who, after ten years and two kids, lose the spark in their marriage. So what do they do? Re-read the title and you’ll know how this movie plays out.
Other major UK releases in September include Sin City 2, Pride, and Monsters: Dark Continent.
Enjoy the Summer of Cinema!
28th May2014

Fading Gigolo – Film

by timbaros

images-171Fading Gigolo is not, I repeat, not a Woody Allen film. It may have the look and feel of being a Woody Allen film, with similar dialogue and the New York City locations, but it’s not made by the famous writer and director who brought us such classics as Annie Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Hannah and Her Sisters.

Written, directed and co-starring John Turturro, in Fading Gigolo Allen plays a pimp to Turturro’s character Fioravante. It’s a strange role for Allen to play, but it actually works thanks to his characters’ witty dialogue and his upfront and honest and sarcastic personality. It’s a shame that the rest of the film is not on the same level.
Having previously worked together in Allen’s bookshop, Fioravante, now a part-time florist, needs to make some extra cash to pay the bills. He has a nice apartment and nice clothes, so it’s a bit hard to believe Fioravante needs money that bad. But Allen’s character, Murray, has a shrink – Dr. Parker (Sharon Stone) who has mentioned to him that she would like to have extra-marital sex and that if knew anyone who was available for such a task. Turturro, whose real age is 57, is hardly gigolo material. Sure, he’s a bit handsome in a sort of older man past his 40’s and-still -can-barely-pull-off-sexy kind of way, but it’s simply not believable that the hot and stunning Stone would want a guy like him – heck, she can have anyone she wants. Meanwhile, Dr. Parker’s friend Selima (the sexy vivacious Sofia Vergara) also wants a piece of Fioravante. And at one point in the film they want to share him. Throw in quiet, lonely, not very attractive grieving Hasidic widow Avigal (a blank and barely there Vanessa Paradis), who starts to fall in love with Fioravante, and Turturro the writer and director makes it appears that almost every woman in New York wants him.
There are lots of funny scenes in the film, and they all involve Woody Allen. At one point they chat to a very young woman in a restaurant, and it’s Allen’s character who charms the woman, and not Turturro’s – he just sits at the table with his hands crossed. In Fading Gigolo, it appears that Turturro is trying to copy Allen’s directorial and writing style but comes up short. While Turturro’s adept at directing scenes that are not too complicated and writing sharp dialogue for a man who is the king of sharp dialogue, it might’ve been a vain move to cast himself in the lead of a gigolo. He’s no gigolo, and he’s a bit faded.


21st May2014

In the Heights – Theatre

by timbaros
images-170The Heights is the northernmost part of Manhattan, and it’s also the location where the new musical production of In The Heights takes place.
Finding itself not in Manhattan (after winning four Tony’s in 2008 including Best Musical) but at the Southwark Playhouse near Elephant & Castle, In The Heights is a musical about the various cultures living and surviving in the heights, which is full of vibrant, lower middle class, blacks, hispanics, latinos – the kind of cultures that many people say represents the true New York City.
In the show, which has a cast of what appears to be a couple dozen, is about a young woman – Nina (Christine Modestou) – who returns back home to the heights after a stint at Stamford University in California. She lost her scholarship because of bad grades and has to break the news to her hard-working father Kevin (David Bedella) and mother (Josie Benson). Her father owns a cab company and employs a young black employee Benny (Wayne Robinson). Benny and Nina always had a thing for each other, but her father doesn’t want them to date because he feels that Benny is lower class and that Daniela could do better. In the show there’s also a corner bodega, which is run by Usnavi (a brilliant Sam Mackay) and his sidekick Sonny (a very good Damian Buhagiar). Across the ‘road’ there is a beauty salon run by the voluptuous Daniela (Victoria Hamilton-Barritt), who has the best lines in the show, and she delivers them perfectly – Sofia Vergara-style.
Mix these various types of people and what you get is show full of flavor and spice, and what a taste it is! The cast all are so very talented; they can sing, they can dance, they can move, they smile while running all over the small stage and continue to sing their hearts out. Nina’s father Kevin decides to sell his business in order for Nina to be able to go back to school, meanwhile Nina’s abuela Claudia (grandmother, played by Eve Polycarpou) tries to make sure the neighborhood stays safe, clean and peaceful. Claudia is lucky enough to win the lottery ($96,000) and decides to give some of the money to Usnavi, who always had a free cup of coffee for her, and with the money he plans to go back to his home country. But there’s an  intense heatwave, and a blackout (excellently played out), and the theatre gets dark, and everyone’s lives are thrown into chaos for the night. Nina spends the night with Benny, while Claudia unexpectedly passes away. The next morning Nina’s parents have to deal with Claudia’s death, and it’s a very emotional scene on stage when all the characters gather around to pay their respect. Usvani realizes that home is right there, In The Heights, so he no longer wants to leave, and Nina plans to go back to school. All of this in the backdrop of the heights.
The true star of the show is Sam Mackay. He raps, and what a voice he has. He’s also an excellent dancer and a great actor or stage, and he really comes into his own halfway during the show. If anyone breaks out of this show, it will be him. Also excellent is Buhagiar, he’s tiny but boy can he rap dance. Actually, the whole cast is very good and there is not one false note throughout the show. Director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Drew McOnie have successfully put on a show that was a huge Broadway success and turned it into a successful off off West-End show that is full of energy and talent.
Southwark Playhouse is a bit too small for a show with huge ambitions, and a very large cast. A West End Stage would better suit In The Heights, so the cast would have more room to run around the stage and dance. But then again Southwark (and the surrounding area) has a large Latino and Black population, which is who the show represents. Would mainstream West End audiences embrace this show? I’d bet they would, and no doubt they would be infected with the fever that is In The Heights. In The Heights ends its run on June 7th, so catch it now.
21st May2014

The Wolf of Wall Street – DVD

by timbaros

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

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


16th May2014

Two Faces of January – Film

by timbaros

images-164A tour guide in Athens meets and gets caught up in an American couple’s web of deceit and crime in the exquisite new film Two Faces of January.

Oscar Isaac (who is so unrecognizable from his previous film role, as a down and out musician in the critically acclaimed Inside Llewyn Davis) plays Rydal, a Greek American who makes a living as a tour guide in 1960’s Athens, specializing in taking tourists to the Acropolis. He is a charmer, so much so that he charms the pants off some of his female customers, including Lauren (Daisy Bevan), a pretty young American girl that Rydal takes an interest in. One day while showing Lauren and some others the Acropolis, he sees a very pretty blond woman with a well-dressed but a bit older man. Rydal, we can tell, finds her very attractive, and he watches them as they walk around. Later in the day at an outdoor cafe at the bottom of the hill of the Acropolis they happen to be seated near each other, and Rydal can’t stop looking at the beautiful blond woman, and he practically ignores Lauren. The blond woman’s husband notices him noticing them, and he thinks Rydal is looking at him. Rydal gets up to go to the restroom, the blond woman’s interest is peaked, enough so that she follows him. They start chatting in a hallway, and soon enough Rydal (and Lauren) are introduced to Mr. Chester MacFarland (a very dapper and handsome Vitto Mortensen) and his wife Collette (an alluring and grown up Kirsten Dunst, like she’s never appeared before). Rydal offers to show them around the next day, and as he does, he gets to know them better. But Rydal isn’t foolish in making a little extra cash on the side when he skims money off of Mr. MacFarland when he buys things at the markets, which include a beautiful snake bracelet for his wife. Both couples meet for dinner that evening and when the night ends, they says their goodbyes. It isn’t until a little later that Rydal finds Collette’s bracelet in the taxi. Knowing how much the bracelet meant to her, Rydal tells Lauren to go ahead and leave without him and he goes up to the MacFarland’s hotel room to give Collette the bracelet. Rydal stumbles upon Mr. MacFarland dragging a man’s (supposedly intoxicated) body into an adjoining hotel room. And thus for Rydal there is no turning back as he unwittingly gets involved in the MacFarland’s dangerous plot and agendas.
It turns out that Mr. and Mrs. MacFarland are not the lovely, innocent couple from America that they pretend to be. They are on the run, as Chester has swindled loads of money from investors. They’ve got lots of cash, and enjoying every minute of it, but they’re hoping no one is on their trail. Unfortunately the man Mr. MacFarland dragged around in the hotel was a private investigator hired to find them. Knowing they are soon to be caught out, they leave the hotel and hope to find another hiding place, and Rydal offers to help them. But Rydal’s offer to help them in any way he can gets him more and more caught up in Mr. Macfarland’s crime (and once they hear the news that a man has been found dead in an Athens hotel, their desperation escalates.) But Rydal is falling for Collette, and Chester is very aware of this. But there is no turning back for all of them, even as they continue to face bad luck every step of the way, with Chester starting to unravel, with unforeseen tragic circumstances.
Two Faces of January is a taut, stylish and lush film that was shot on location in Athens as well as in Crete and Turkey, beautifully directed and written by Hossein Amini (screenwriter of Ronin and Drive), and based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley). The cast is first rate, and all are perfectly cast and unrecognizable from their previous performances. Davis has dark set looks which easily pass for Greek, and has hound dog eyes glossing over Collette when he’s with her. Mortensen, so unlike I’ve ever seen him before, is all cleaned up and extremely presentable as the conning Mr. MacFarland. His character is extremely charming so it’s easy to see how he conned people out of money. And Dunst very demure and stunning as Mr. MacFarland’s gorgeous wife, with her long willowy colorful dresses that any man can fall in love with. As for the title? I guess it refers to one of the characters being two-faced (not too easy to figure out), and it takes place in January, but that’s just a guess. As Two Faces of January continues to build suspense every step of the way, it’s weighed down by an implausible and unbelievable ending. But enjoy the film for what is it, a beautifully shot and acted film in the style of Alfred Hitchock.


10th May2014

The Canyons – Film

by timbaros
images-162Lindsay Lohan is, believe it or not, the one bright spot in the new film The Canyons, a film that is otherwise poorly acted, poorly told, and is just a plan bad film about a bunch of young adults surviving and trying to live the Hollywood dream.
Lohan plays Tara, a young woman who gets by on her good looks and her ability (and luck) to sleep with very good looking guys. She lives with Christian (adult film star James Deen), a sexy but cocky young man who has everything he wants, including a home in the Hollywood Hills, and his own film studio, all thanks to his very rich grandparents. Tara and Christian amuse themselves by inviting young men into their homes and having threesomes, or at other times inviting other couples into their bedroom.
Christian and Tara’s relationship is complicated because Tara’s ex-boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk) still loves her, three years after they broke up. Ryan lives with his current girlfriend Gina (Amanda Brooks), who happens to work at the same film studio that Christian owns. Ryan is a struggling actor, making ends meet by bartending and doing odd jobs, but he is soon cast in a new movie that is being produced by Christian’s studio, but when Christian finds out that Tara and Ryan are sleeping around, he gets revenge.
The plot, and the characters, get sillier as the film goes on, even more so when Christian resorts to murdering an innocent yoga teacher who has ties to both Tara and Ryan.
The Canyons could’ve been a contender. It’s directed by Paul Schrader, who gave us American Gigolo, and it’s written by Bret Easton Ellis, who wrote the book American Psycho. Ellis also wrote the book Less Than Zero, a film about Hollywood kids involved in the drug culture in 1990’s Hollywood. Less Than Zero starred lots of up and coming actors, including Robert Downey Jr. The Canyons cast is less than stellar. While Lohan is the ‘big name’ in the movie, and she does pull off her role, suffering and sexy all at the same time, it’s the rest of the cast that can’t act to save their lives. And as mentioned  before, the plot spirals from worse to worse. Director Gus Van Sant makes an appearance as Christian’s therapist, but not even him can save this film. Schrader should know better than to make a movie this bad, he’s been a Hollywood writer/director for decades, so it’s a wonder what made him do this film. And he’s not directed a good film in decades (well, not since 1980’s American Gigolo). As for The Canyons, the only redeeming features are Lohan’s performance, and seeing James Deen naked.
10th May2014

12 Years a Slave – DVD

by timbaros

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

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


03rd May2014

Bad Neighbours – Film

by timbaros
images-161What would you do if a fraternity house moved in right next door to you?
This is the dilemna faced by Mac and Kelly Radner (played to perfection like a real couple by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne). They live on a quiet, tree-lined street with their absolutely adorable daughter Stella, who is perhaps the cutest baby ever to appear on screen. One day, they look outside the window and see a moving truck at the house next door. They go outside to see who is moving in, in the hopes that it is a couple, with children, hopefully playmates for their baby girl. Instead what they encounter is a bunch of young men moving into the house, not just young men who are sharing the house but an actual college fraternity. The men belong to a fraternity with a reputation for being the rowdiest at the nearby university. They are led by the handsome and hot Teddy Sanders (Zac Effron – playing himself). He’s intent, in his year as Fraternity president, on getting his term as president on fhe fraternity’s  wall of fame. Helping him to break party records is his second in command Pete (Dave Franco – younger brother and lookalike of James Franco).
Mac and Kelly and attempt to make piece with their new next door neighbours by greeting them when they move in. They also casually and cautiously tell them to keep the noise down. The boys agree, on the condition that if they are making too much noise, that Mac and Kelly should call them first instead of calling the police. So for a short time they are very friendly neighbours, where Mac and Kelly go over and hang out and get stoned, reliving their college days, oh not too long ago. Then one night the frat house hosts a massive party, very loud music, lots of lights, fireworks, and with many college kids spilling out of the house. Mac and Kelly call the cops anonymously, but when the cops arrive, they tell the boys that it was their next door neighbours (Mac and Kelly) who called to complain. Caller ID!
This leads to a campaign by the boys to retaliate against the Radners. And retaliate they do. They don’t stop having parties, in fact their parties get wilder, including pool parties in a newly-built pool in their backyard, complete with scantily clad young men and women. Another of their retaliation techniques is to remove the airbags from Kelly’s car into cushions in their house and in chairs at Mac’s place of business. How they got into the car, into the house, and into Mac’s place of business  is not explained. What are the Radner’s going to do? They can’t raise cutey Stella living next door to these crazy bunch of college kids? Should they move or continue to complain to the police? They do neither and decide to play along with them and their game.
Bad neighbours is a comedy, in case you couldn’t figure it out. But the jokes are not really that funny. Sure, there are lots of college jokes about girls, penises, sex, penises, etc…but the jokes get pretty lame quickly. And when you think the film is actually over, another plot point is introduced and you have to endure another 20 minutes for the plot point to play itself out….so Bad Behavior feels longer than it’s 97 minutes. The boys, especially Effron and Franco, don’t have much to do except stand around, most of the time with their shirts off, and tell the other boys what to do. But Rogen and Byrne save the movie. They have great onscreen chemistry, and if there was another movie with just them and their baby it would be much much better….but as it is stands now Bad Neighbors is just another Zac Effron teen comedy. It’s about time he grows up into adult roles.
03rd May2014

A View from the Bridge – Theatre

by timbaros

images-160I had no idea what I was about to see when I went to A View From The Bridge. I had never seen the play before, nor have I seen the 1962 movie, and I’ve never read the book. Little did I know that I was in for a devastating theatre experience.

Red Hook is a section of Brooklyn that is not particularly known as a destination place. It sits on the waterfront right under the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s an area where people pass over going to other and nicer neighborhoods. Today it’s an expensive area due to it’s location, but back in the 1950’s, which is when A View From The Bridge takes place, it was a run-down, smelly, poor, dangerous and derelict part of Brooklyn. As Red Hook is right on the water, it attracted lots of illegal immigrants bound for America and the opportunities the country had to offer them, and the availability to find work, whether you were legal or not. Hence A View From The Bridge take it’s story.
Eddie Carbone (an incredible Mark Strong) is a proud man. He works on the docks, lives in a simple house with his wife Beatrice (an amazing Nicola Walker) and their niece Catherine (a brilliant Phoebe Fox). Eddie and Catherine appear to be a bit too close and affectionate with each other, enough so to ring alarm bells in Beatrice’s head. To make matters more complicated, they agree to house two of Beatrice’s cousins from Italy, Marco (Emun Elloitt) and Rodolpho (a handsome and sexy Luke Norris), illegally, as the men don’t the proper papers to work in the U.S. So the five of them live together in Eddie and Beatrice’s cramped house. Rodolpho and Catherine take an interest in each other. Catherine is already a  young woman at 18, and according to Beatrice, able to make her own decisions about her life and what she wants. Eddie, however, sees it differently. He wants Catherine to stay as his little girl, to stay home and take a secretarial job. And the love that Eddie has for Catherine is not normal. Things come to a head when Catherine tells Eddie that her and Rodolpho plan to get married. As his jealousy overcomes him, Eddie turns the cousins in to the immigration authorities in order to get rid of Rodolpho. and after he does so all their lives will never be the same.
After A View From The Bridge was over, I was simply blown away. Not just by how strong and real the story was, but by the acting on stage at the Young Vic. It is one of the best acted plays I have ever seen. Strong as Eddie is a man’s man, but still with a soft spot for Catherine, and Strong is just mesmerizing. His is an award-winning performance. Fox as Catherine is also a revelation. Playing a young woman about to blossom and at the same time maintaining a daddy’s little girl image is what Fox does, brilliantly, and it looks like she is putting in very little effort to play the role, she’s that good. Walker is perfectly cast as Beatrice, not having been touched by Eddie yet still very much in love with him, considering the circumstances, which she’s all too aware. Elliott and Norris play their roles very well. Elliott doesn’t have much to do but it’s Norris who brings to his a role a bit of innocence and sexiness and makes it very believable how Catherine can fall in love with him and how Eddie can be very jealous of him. Michael Gould plays a narrator who provides clarity on what’s happening and what’s about to happen, creating even more suspense throughout the show.  The set is also part of the cast. It is a very shallow shell of a swimming pool, built this way to capture what’s going to happen at the end.
There’s really not much more to say about A View From The Bridge, except that it will be one of the most amazing theatre pieces you will see in a long time. It’s playing at the Old Vic up until June 7th.
03rd May2014

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – DVD

by timbaros

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

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