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.