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.