29th Jun2014

Chef – Film

by timbaros

images-194Chef, now playing in cinemas, is a real treat, from start to finish.

Jon Favreau, who also wrote, produced and directed, plays Carl Casper, a chef in a popular Los Angeles restaurant. He’s in control of his kitchen, and proud of the food that he makes for his customers. However, one day a restaurant critic (Oliver Platt – who actually looks like a restaurant critic), eats in the restaurant and then proceeds to give it a bad review, lambasting Casper’s cooking, Not happy with this, Casper, at the urging of his son Percy (Emjay Anthony), opens an account on Twitter and starts tweeting bad things about the critic, picking up hundreds of followers in the meantime. Casper decides to give it another go with the critic, so via Twitter he invites him to the restaurant to eat a new menu he plans to prepare. However, this doesn’t go well with the owner of the restaurant (Dustin Hoffman), who says they will stick to the menu they’ve got and that if Casper doesn’t like it, he can walk away. Casper does walk away, much to the dismay to the rest of the restaurant staff, including Martin (a very well-cast John Leguizamo) and sous chef Tony (Bobby Cannavale). But Casper can’t stay away from the restaurant for two reasons, he’s dating the restaurant’s hostess (an unglamorous Scarlett Johannson) and he feels the needs to get even with the restaurant critic. So Casper decides to go to the restaurant the same night the critic is there, and, in front of all the customers and staff, yell at him and tells him he doesn’t know what good food is. After his rant, he is banned from the restaurant forever.
Deciding what to do next, besides spending lots of time with his son, his ex-wife Inez (an always good Sofia Vergara – who’s becoming quite the screen goddess) urges him to come with her and their son to Miami while she is on a business trip to take some time away and mellow out. She also urges him to have a business meeting with her ex-husband (a perfect Robert Downey Jr.). While there, he comes up with the idea of a new business – a food truck selling Cuban food. He buys a run down and dirty food truck, and with the help of his son, fixes it up and calls it ‘El Jefe.’  Martin flies in and wants to be a part of the new business so together they create delicious Cuban food, especially Cubanos – a Cuban Sandwich of cheese and ham. With his son, they take the food truck on a road trip back to Los Angeles, stopping in various cities along the way. Thanks to Emjay, they have quite a following on Twitter and Instagram and it’s with social media where they pick up loads of customers along with way, with queues stretching down blocks in every city. Arriving back in Los Angeles, they’re a hit and have a new business.
While the story of Chef is very predictable and could’ve been guessed without me writing about the entire plot, it’s, of course the food that plays a starring role in the film. Beginning in the restaurant to Casper making a delicious meals at his home, the food looks vibrant and succulent and delicious. And the Cuban sandwiches want to make you have one after the movie, so if anyone knows where I can get one in London, please write in! The cast is very good, and credit is due to Favreau who wore four hats in the movie (5 if you count his cooking in the film, well I presume it was him cooking) and for creating what is a simple film into such a delight. The rest of the cast is fine, with Leguizamo and Vergara bringing a va va va voom Latin spice to the movie. All in all, Chef is a pretty good movie. Please go see it, and you will definitely want to eat after.


29th Jun2014

Cold in July – Film

by timbaros

images-196Two television stars, one big and one who used to be big, pair up in the new film Cold in July. It’s a film that would actually play better on the small screen then the big screen.

Dexter’s Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, who works as a farmer to support his pretty wife and young son in a cozy clapboard house somewhere in America. One night while they are asleep, a burglar breaks into their home and Dane, in a moment of panic, shoots and kills him. Both Richard and his wife Anne (Vinessa Shaw) are stunned and frightened by this especially as their young son was sleeping in the next room. Richard is cleared of any murder charges by the local police – they say the killing was justified. But one person in town feels like the killing was unjustified, and that is a man who thinks it was his long lost son who was killed. Enter Ben Russell (Sam Shepard). He’s a town loner living on the outskirts in a run-down shack. He wants to get even with the Dane family, and he starts stalking them, driving by their house, shooting at their house, it appears he wants revenge. But Dane is skeptical about the burglar he killed, he insists it was not Russell’s son, and it turns out that it’s not actually Russell’s son, but unfortunately we never find out who it was that Richard killed as Russell’s son appears later in the film. Another unexplained part of the movie is that the local police try to kill Russell, we don’t know why, but luckily Dane was nearby and was able to save him.
Now enter private detective (and exbig television star) Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson – formerly of Miami Vice). He’s been sent to investigate the murder and shows up in town as you would expect a man with the name of Jim Bob Luke would look like – a true cowboy – hat, boots and a southern accent. Who’s hired him is not explained.
To make a long story (110 minutes), Jim Bob and Richard, who are now best friend’s with Russell, search for more information, not about the man who Dane killed, but about Russell’s son and his whereabouts. How or why the plot takes this turn is not explained. They discover Russell’s son is involved in the making of snuff films (where woman are killed while in the act of a sexual act). This leads, predictably, to showdown between father and son and who’s going to take the first shot to kill each other. This plot device is supposed to be somehow related to Dane and the relationship he has with his son as Dane is front row and center when this showdown takes place. And before this showdown, him and the other two men were able to fight off and shootdown lots of other men. Not believable in the very least!
The acting in Cold in July is fine. Hall neatly steps out of his television persona to be credible in this role. Shepard doesn’t have much to do as his character doesn’t have much of a personality to work with. It’s up to Don Johnson to bring excitement to the movie in an otherwise confusing film. He embraces his role as the detective, providing a spark and more. He’s an actor who plays well on both the big and small screens. For what it’s worth, Cold in July is better viewed on the small screen, where I recommend you should watch it.


21st Jun2014

Lone Survivor – DVD

by timbaros
91QfltWjqOL._SL1500_On June 27, 2005, the war in Afghanistan claimed the lives of 20 soldiers, the worst single day loss of life for the Naval Special Warfare personnel since WWII. There was one man who survived – Marcus Luttrell. Lone Survivor tells his story.
Luttrell was part of the Navy Seals Team 10 who were sent into the Afghanistan mountains to capture a Taliban leader in a mission called Operation Red Wings, an operation that was intended to disrupt local anti-Coalition Militia activity and to contribute to regional stability and assisting in the Afghani Parliament elections to be held three months later.
Luttrell was one of four men who were dropped into a remote mountainous area in the Kunar province, near the Pakistan border to kill or capture Ahmad Shah, a Taliban leader who was believed to be hiding in those mountains and who the previous week was responsible for the murder of several marines.
Lone Survivor, based on the 2007 book by Luttrell (and Patrick Robinson) called Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, was the lone survivor of the four-man team who were sent into practically unknown territory only to be ambushed in a covert mission that could be described as harrowing and nightmarish. Lone Survivor is not only excellent and one of the best films of the year, but is also one that will make you feel for these soldiers and what they go through, their acts of heroism, courage, with death being an imminent conclusion.
Wahlberg plays Luttrell, Taylor Kitsch is Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch is Danny Dietz, and Ben Foster is Matt “Axe Axelson. Eric Bana plays their commanding officer Erik Kristensen – the officer who is responsible for the mission called Operation Red Wings.
It was on that day on June 27th, 2005 that the four-man reconnaissance and surveillance team boarded a helicopter to be dropped into a remote mountainous area in the Kunar province, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Almost as soon as the four men are dropped into the mountains,  they are discovered by three goatherders (with their goats and a dog). Instead of killing them, the men let them go (Rules of Engagement won’t allow them to kill them), even though they realize that the goatherders will more than likely alert anyone in the village below that they were in the mountains. They attempt to use their radio but it doesn’t work. So immediately they realize that they are compromised and that they need to move position, and fast. They then use their satellite phone to reach Kristensen, but the line is very poor. Back at the base, Kristensen has a gut feeling that his men are in trouble, so he sends two Blackhawks to rescue them. Meanwhile the four men are in a rush to move position, and in their rush Axe hurts himself. Soon, the men are ambushed from all sides. Gunfire falls on them like rain. They are outnumbered, and are driven deeper into unknown and treacherous terrain. What happens in the rest of the film is heartstopping. One by one each man gets more hurt, and terrifyingly one of the Blackhawks that is sent to rescue them gets shot down by the Taliban in the mountains, with 16 men on board, all losing their lives, including Kristensen. It is at this point that you have to remind yourself that this is a true story, all of this happened in real life.
With nowhere to go, the men continue to run, to run away from what must be dozens and dozens of Taliban men looking out to kill them. And each man gets more and more injured, from getting shot at by the Taliban, as well as by falling off cliffs and landing very hard, crushing bones and giving themselves concussions. As they continue to try and use their radio in an attempt to contact anyone anywhere to help them, they start realizing that they are completely outnumbered and face only one prospect, death. The bullets and the blood and the men, who at this point are struggling just to survive, gets even more tense when Murphy, in a situation he knows he won’t come out alive from, runs up a hill to get a connection on his SAT phone which would advise the Operations team back at the base of their position. But of the four men, only Luttrell survives, first by burrowing into a ditch, and then by being picked up by an Afghan who was not loyal to the Taliban. And of course we know that Luttrell survives to write the book on which this movie is based on.
Lone Survivor is a movie so tense, so dramatic, so unreal that it is hard to believe that it is a true story. Thanks to Luttrell and the book he wrote, he was able to tell this story of survival against the face of the enemy. As Luttrell, Wahlberg is a revelation. Having proven himself as an actor in previous films including Boogie Nights and most recently The Fighter, Wahlberg is fantastic as Luttrell, so good that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing him. Kitsch, Foster and Hirsch are all also very excellent as Luttrell’s fellow Navy Seals. The sequences where the men get shot (and eventually killed) are so real, so sad. Director Peter Berg, known for mostly doing television work (Chicago Hope and Prime Suspect) really cuts his teeth here with this very serious subject matter. Berg also wrote the script, after having been given the book by his production partner. Berg has said that the reason he decided to make this was because “Marcus wrote a book that, as much as it’s about 19 people being killed on a tragic day in Afghanistan, is about brotherhood, sacrifice and team commitment.”
Fittingly, Second Class Petty Officer Matthew “Axe” Axelson and Gunner’s Mate Second Class Danny Dietz were awarded the Navy Cross, Lieutenant Michael Murphy was awarded the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, while Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. All men received their awards posthumously. Leading Petty Officer Luttrell would also go on to receive the Navy Cross. All deservedly so.


Lone Survivor [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Eric Bana, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

New From: £3.24 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.01 GBP In Stock

15th Jun2014

Battle Company: Korengal & Road (Documentaries) – Film

by timbaros

images-192Battle Company: Korengal

Sebastian Junger is a journalist who has been around and seen it all. Now he’s back with a new documentary called Battle Company: Korengal.

Junger first popped into the national conscious with his book The Perfect Storm, a true story about a group of fishermen who encountered a massive storm in the North Atlantic ocean. It was turned into a hit movie starring George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg. Junger then turned his focus into covering war zones and became more famous for being in the trenches with soldiers in Afghanistan. In 2009, Junger, along with Tim Hetherington, made a documentary called Restrepo. They both spent a year with one platoon in the Korengal Valley and turned their footage into this documentary, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.
Some of the footage, left over from Restrepo, now makes it into the new documentary Battle Company: Korengal. Just like Restrepo, the story is about U.S. Military platoons stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, also known as the valley of death. It’s a valley of mountains, cliffs, trees, hilltops – enough camoflauge to disguise the enemy they were sent there to fight against – the Taliban. The Korengal Valley was a highway for Taliban activity, so thus it was important for the U.S. Military to prevent the Taliban from supplying their networks with weapons and supplies.
In this 90-minute documentary we meet the soldiers. Not one soldier stands out, they are all what you would expect from a military team facing almost certain death at their doorstep, which is a makeshift small military compound with very cramped quarters containing bunk beds, with running water and electricity (important for computer use). They are young, mostly white guys sent their to fulfill a mission. They live in a camp called Restrepo, which was named after a combat medic, Juan Restrepo, after he was killed in action.
The men, belonging both to the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army have been assigned this post for over one year, and they’re there in four seasons. For ten months, both Junger and Hetherington embedded themselves with them at Restrepo to capture their lives and activities. The soldiers have lots of down time, and during this time they are extremely bored. The only highlights for them are when they get to actually shoot against the enemy, as well as their occasional trips into the villages to meet the village elders, who they are skeptical whether they can or cannot trust, meanwhile the Taliban could be hiding anywhere.
One soldier memorably says that in Korengal – “bad guys come to you, you don’t go to them.” Another soldier tells the camera that his mother told him to join the army, yet he still questions why he’s there. Another soldier, one of the few black men, says that being black is still not acceptable in the military, he says that he feels some of the guys still don’t accept him as one of their own because of the color of his skin. but what is said the most throughout the documentary is how they all watch out for each other, they consider each other like brothers. And alas, this is all we get from the documentary. There are no new revelations, nothing that we’ve not seen before, and fortunately none of the soldiers were killed or hurt during the making of Battle Company: Korengal. So what was the point of making this in the first place? Because the filmmakers had leftover footage from Restrepo that they felt could be used to make another documentary, exploring more the soldiers lives at Restrepo and focusing less (if not at all) on the war side of the story. Unfortunately, this makes for not very interesting documentary. Sadly, Hetherington, who shot a lot of this footage, was killed in 2011 while covering the Libyan War. Battle Company: Korengal is a last tribute to the work that he produced in his short life. He died at the age of 40.




images-193The lives and careers of two generations of Road Racers is explored in the new documentary Road.

The sport of Road Racing is in effect racing motorcycles on the open roads. And the Dunlop family of Ireland have dominated this sport for over three decades. Road weaves the story of two generations of the Dunlops into a riveting documentary, even for those who know nothing about Road Racing, or even sports in general.
In the 1970’s, Robert and Joey Dunlop started racing motorcycles for fun in their hometown in Northern Ireland. They were young men who spent every minute they could on their motorcycles. They were in their late teens when they started Road Racing, racing on Ireland’s country roads where on any other day there would be traffic. This was part of the thrill, and the risk, of Road Racing. The roads in Ireland are not long stretches of road but they twist and turn, past forests and rock cliffs. So imagine racing these roads on a motorcycle going over 100 miles per hour, and it can be quite dangerous. But this is what Robert and Joey loved. Robert was a few years older than Joey, and they would compete against each other, and against the road itself.
In the late 1970’s, Joey was one of the top road racers in Ireland. But the dangers of the sport came to the forefront when in 1979 three racers died in the North West 200 – an annual race in Northern Ireland made up of public roads and one of the fastest races in the world, with the racers hitting speeds as fast at 200 mph. 100,000 spectators were on hand that year to watch the race.
Still, the Dunlops continued to race, in Ireland as well as on the Isle of Man. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s Joey won or placed in the top 6 in almost all of the races he was in, he was just one of the best, or if not the best road racer of his time.
The second generation to take up road racing is Robert’s two sons Michael and William. The Road intersperses footage of the older Dunlop’s with the younger Dunlop’s, uncanny in their appearances and love of the sport. But Joey and Robert’s journeys in the sport turn tragic, and this is where the documentary picks up speed, in both content and emotion.
Robert was actually the first of the two brothers to be in a bad accident. In May 1994, Robert crashed into into a rock wall in a race he was expected to win and he was told that he would never walk again. Meanwhile, Joey continued to race, even  into his 40’s, and winning lots of races, even though he was an older man in a young man’s sport. Joey also was less known for his charity work. He would, on his own, pack a van full of food and supplies and drive to the orphanages of Romania in Eastern Europe, however, a few years later it would be in Eastern Europe where Joey would ride his final race.
Robert, in the meanwhile, wanted to return to racing in 1996 but was banned due to his previous injuries, but in 1998 he came back strong and actually won a major race. The Dunlop family continued their dominance of the sport. By the late 1990’s when most men who have been racing after 30 years would retire, the Dunlops would not. In 2000, Joey would go on to win the TT race, 23 years after he first had won it. Robert came in third in the same race.
But it was a few years later when Joey was in a minor race in Estonia that he crashed his bike into a tree in a heavy thunderstorm. He died on impact. The outpouring of grief in Northern Ireland was so big that 50,000 people attended his funeral.
In 2004, William and Michael took up road racing, just like their father and uncle over 25 years before. Four years later, Robert Dunlop, at the age of 47, still in competition, was in a practice session for the NW200, a race his two sons were also in. Joey was traveling 150 MPH, and was going perhaps a little too fast for a practice session, when his tire buckled and came loose, throwing his body into the air, which went crashing to the ground, and then got run over by another bike. The unimaginable crash is shown in the documentary, taken from a camera in a helicopter, and we see his body fly off the bike and get hit by a motorcycle. It’s horrific and shocking, and also extremely gut-wrenching. And the course was just a few miles from his home.
Two days later, with the race was still scheduled to go on, and both William and Michael agreed that they would race in it in honor of their father. Race officials ruled that they both were too emotional and distraught and a harm to the other races and deemed them ineligible. But they both insisted to race, and got on their bikes. At the last minute, they were given the green light to race, but for some strange reason WIlliam’s bike wouldn’t work so it would be up to Michael to race in honor of their father. Miraculously Michael wins the race, and he breaks down, not only on his bike but also on the winner’s podium, winning one of the greatest (and most memorable) road races ever raced. And this gives the documentary it’s ending that no script writer could ever write – Michael winning a race, two days after his father had died on the same course.
Road is a bit slow to build, but it accelerates into an astonishing and extremely emotional documentary, with a story that I would’ve thought would not have interested me, but it did. The journey of Robert and Joey and how they lived their lives for the sport they loved, which in the end took their lives, is very powerful and moving. And the score, by Mark Gordon and Richard Hill, is haunting and memorable and emotional, and is perfectly suited for the ups and down you will experience watching this film. It is a superb score. Road is excellently narrated by Liam Neeson, who mentions during the film that ‘for a road racer, success and tragedy are separated by the narrowest of margins. Danger is ever present, death is a split second away’. Joey and Robert are buried next to each other in their hometown of Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, while Robert’s two sons continue to race.


13th Jun2014

Soho Cigarette – Film

by timbaros

images-191Looking for a stylish, black and white film about Soho and it’s denizens? Look no further than the new film Soho Cigarette.

Showing at the East End Film Festival this Sunday, Soho Cigarette is a parable of a young, good looking, cocky Italian man, D’Angelo, whose job is to take tourists on a rock ‘n’ roll history tour through the streets of Soho. He’s doesn’t have it easy, he’s just been kicked out of the flat that he shared with his girlfriend – she was getting sick and tired of him and his laziness ways.
D’Angelo turns to friend Luc for a place to crash. Luc is a sommelier at a fancy Soho restaurant who reluctantly agrees to let D’Angelo stay with him, though it will cramp both their styles when it comes to their time with the ladies. D’Angelo replaces the love of his girlfriend with a car, a car he takes great care of until he learns that the last owner of the car died in the backseat. D’Angelo’s luck seems to be running out, he needs to sell the car to raise much needed cash, and Luc wants him out of the flat. So what does D’Angelo do? In the tradition of his mischievous and naughty personality, he sells his beloved car, and he continues to give the rock ‘n’ roll tours to tourists, with stories that may or may not be true.
Soho Cigarette is a visual feast for the eyes. Never has Soho looked so good on screen. Shot in monochrome black and white, the look and feel of Soho Cigarette is like the look of a shiny new album, dark yet glistening in the light. First time Director Jonathan Fairbairn also employs other camera tricks in the film, the most memorable being a long tracking shot from the car with the camera facing backwards, driving past the shops and pedestrians of Soho and Chinatown. It’s a long uncut tracking shot that is used to great effect to give the viewer the flavour and soul of the area. And of course Soho regulars will recognize all the locations in the film, from Old Compton Street to Frith Street. And the rest of Soho’s locations are used to great effect in the film.
As D’Angelo, Italian actor David Galea is perfect for the role. With his cheeky smile, glint in his eyes, and very flirty Italian ways, this man can sell anyone anything, even London Bridge. Jean Baptiste Fillon as Luc and Andreea Padurara as D’Angelo’s girlfriend are fine as well. And while the script doesn’t live up to the rest of the film’s production, just sit back and let Soho Cigarette take you through a ride in Soho.
To buy tickets to see Soho Cigarette on Sunday, please click here:
06th Jun2014

Dallas Buyers Club – DVD

by timbaros

images-184In the 1980’s there was no hope for people infected with the HIV virus. Immediately upon diagnosis, the infected were told that they had a short period of time left, perhaps a few months, or less. Dallas Buyers Club is a new film inspired by true events about the life of a man fighting for survival when given a death sentence upon his AIDS diagnosis.

Ron Woodruff, a drug-taking macho womanizing Texas cowboy and electrician, (Matthew McConaughey), is at the hospital after an electrical accident at his work. It is there, in March 1985, that he is told that he has the HIV Virus. Even worse, he is so thin and sickly that the doctor (Dennis O’Hare) at the hospital tells him that he has 30 days left and that he should get his affairs in order. Woodruff, a straight man, doesn’t believe it. He is not gay, so he doesn’t understand how he could have gotten the HIV virus. He refuses to accept this diagnosis until he reads more about it at the local library. He discovers that it is not just gay men who are getting the virus, but IV drug users as well. Upon reading this, he now knows that he’s in trouble…that he’s got the virus. He then finds himself shunned and ostracized by his friends and co-workers.
Back at the hospital, he is told by one of the doctors, Dr. Eve Sacks (Jennifer Garner), that the only drug available was a drug called AZT. She also explains to Woodruff that it is only available in a drug trial, and that half of the participants will receive the drug, and the other half will receive a placebo. Woodruff, who continues taking illegal drugs (including lots of cocaine), and who continues to lose more and more weight, does not accept this and finds a way to get the real drug (he eventually gets it, illegally, from a hospital cleaner who steals it from the drug cabinets at the hospital). However, taking AZT doesn’t seem to help him as he is getting sicker and sicker, and one day he collapses and ends up back in the hospital. He gets put in the same room as Rayon (Jared Leto), a mid 20-something drag queen who is in the hospital for the same reason as Woodruff (AIDS). Rayon is an old friend of Dr. Sacks, he even asks her her opinion on his choice of outfits. At first Woodruff wants nothing to do with Rayon; Woodruff is anti-gay and doesn’t want to be put in the same category as ‘people like Rayon’. He slowly warms up to Rayon, who has a very simple and charming disposition, with a warm touch which he uses to help Woodruff with a cramp in his leg. The hospital explains to Woodruff that they can’t give him AZT (or any other drugs), and he soon realizes that AZT is making people sicker, even at its sticker price of $10,000 for a year’s supply, and people were still dying on a daily basis. So Ron decides to take his health into his own hands.
Woodruff turns to the black market and finds out about a clinic just over the border in Mexico where he meets expatriate physician Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne). Vass treats him with drugs that are not approved by America’s FDA (Federal Drug Administration). In the clinic there are very young men, all with AIDS, in bed or who can barely walk, some close to death, all clinging to hope that being at this clinic could save them. It is hard to believe that this was a time when this was reality. Woodruff finds renewed health and hope, and he also sees that he could start a business by smuggling the medications into the U.S. to sell to fellow AIDS patients, so that is what he does. And this operation becomes the Dallas Buyers Club. So Ron enlists Rayon to solicit from her community those gay men who have no hope left, and soon enough, Ron and Rayon have customers lining up at their Dallas business, which they operate out of two motel rooms. In Rayon, Ron finds another person who is sort of an outcast, but they are polar opposites. But it then becomes them against the world – the cowboy and the queen. And Dr. Saks eventually goes against the grain of what she has been taught in school and gets on Ron and Rayon’s side. Unfortunately, Woodruff’s business brings the unwanted attention from the FDA as he is selling drugs that are not permitted to be sold in the U.S., but this does not stop him. He is a walking encyclopedia of anti-viral medications, pharmaceutical trials and patents and appears to know more than the FDA and the doctors treating HIV patients. He would re-stock any supply that was confiscated, he would travel to other countries, including Japan, to get other alternative drugs. Ron was crusader, a man who gave hope to many who didn’t have any. He organised and led an operation whose customer base was 99% homosexuals, and Texas in the 1980’s was undoubtedly one of the worst places to be homosexual or transexual, must less one with AIDS. Woodruff would succumb to complications from AIDS in September 1992, 2557 days after his diagnosis.
It took 20 years for Dallas Buyers Club to make it to the big screen. A month before Woodruff passed away, screenwriter Craig Borten drove from Los Angeles to Dallas, Texas to meet him and to begin work on telling his story. Borten felt that the story of a homophobic cowboy who suddenly found himself on the front lines of the AIDS pendemic was profound and unique. The film went into development in 1997, with producer Robbie Brenner attached to it, but it didn’t get made. In 2000, Borten teamed up with screenwriter Melissa Wallack to rework the script. The movie then went into active development at a studio for nearly a decade. However, in 2009, the rights went back to Borten and Wallack, and Brenner got back on board. And their first choice to play Woodruff was McConaughey. And McConaughey was up to the challenge. “Ron was an American original. He shook the tree. He made noise. I said I want to get this made, get Ron’s story told,” McConaughey has said. Once a director was chosen (Jean-Marc Vallée, the award-winning director of Café de Flor and C.R.A.Z.Y.), it was a go. Production began in mid-2012, with Jared Leto on board as their first choice for Rayon, and Jennifer Garner as Dr. Eve Sacks, after having initially been told about the project by McConaughey. Principal photography began in New Orleans in mid-2012, with a 25-day shooting schedule.
What makes this movie stand out from all other films that have dealt with AIDS is the performance of McConaughey. His performance is better and more realistic than Tom Hanks in the 1993 film Philadelphia. And while Hanks was given lots of makeup to look sick, McConaughey went through an amazing physical transformation to play the frail, emaciated and dying man. It is McConaughey’s best performance in his career, and perhaps the best performance of the year. McConaughey shed nearly 50 pounds to play Ron to drop down to a weight of 140 pounds. However, in one pivotal hospital scene, McConaughey dropped to 135 pounds in order to play the frail, emaciated dying Woodruff, lying on his hospital bed in his underwear, extremely thin. McConaughey also did a lot of research for playing the role, including reading Woodruff’s journals. ““After listening to audiotapes and doing my research, I didn’t feel I needed any more information. Interviews with Ron were so helpful. In listening to Ron talk after seven years with H.I.V., I realised that a man speaks differently about himself and his legacy in retrospect than he does when he’s living it in progress,” McConaughey has said. He eventually went to meet Ron’s family. “But then I did decide to meet with Ron’s family, and that made a difference. It was very informative. They are wonderful people who opened up the library of their house to me, lent me scrapbooks, other tapes, a couple of his diaries, and more.” Viewers of this film will forget they are watching the goodlooking and hunky actor Matthew McConaughey as he amazingly disappears into being Woodruff.
Like McConaughey, Leto also went through a physical transformation to play Rayon. By the time filming began, Leto got down to dangerous 116 pounds. And Leto plays Rayon with charm, emotion, a touch of femininity, honest, vulnerable – he completely nails the character.  “I did get in touch with my feminine side, because it’s a strong attribute of the character. In terms of emotions it was important for me to study as much as I could about what it meant to be a transsexual woman, to get at how you see things and what you want out of life,” Leto has said. “Rayon is a ray of light, no pun intended. She is someone who wants to be loved and wants to love others, someone who wants to take care of people with humour and kindness. She looks to be electrified. I think she’s a spirit of hope, joy and optimism,” Leto continues.
Dallas Buyers Club feels like it is a documentary, with a countdown on the screen showing how many days it has been since Ron’s diagnosis. And we see him surviving much longer than the 30 days his doctor initially gave him.
“The way I approached playing him is to never forget that he was a businessman first, a man doing what was necessary to survive. Later on, he became a crusader for the cause, but almost without even knowing it. He helped save so many people, and whether he was doing it for all of us or doing it for selfish reasons, he did it,” McConaughey says. 
Dallas Buyer Club is an important movie that excellently captures the era when AIDS was considered a death sentence, the feel, the clothing, the hostility, the fear, the desperation, and the smell of death. It deserves every award it is going to get. 
By the mid-1990s, “the AIDS cocktail” combination therapies became accepted (and FDA approved) treatment protocol for HIV/AIDS patients. In reduced doses, AZT was an early ingredient in these lifesaving treatments. These drug combinations have saved and prolonged millions of lives; in a “cocktail combination,” three drugs each attack different elements of viral replication, thereby greatly reducing the effects of HIV. If it wasn’t for people like Woodruff in those early days, many more people with HIV would’ve succumbed to the virus.
In 1992, screenwriter Craig Borten asked Woodruff how he would feel about his story becoming a movie one day. Borten reports, “Ron said, ‘Man, I’d really like to have a film. I’d like people to have this information and I’d like people to be educated on what I had to learn by the seat of my pants about government, pharmaceutical agencies, AIDS. I’d like to think it all meant something in the end.’” 

Dallas Buyers Club [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

New From: £0.65 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.01 GBP In Stock

06th Jun2014

Fruitvale Station – Film

by timbaros

images-180In 2009, 22 year-old Oscar Grant was shot, for no apparent reason, by a transit cop in San Francisco. He would later die of his wounds. Fruitvale Station is the movie that tells this story.

Michael B. Jordan, in a award-winning performance, plays Grant with such warmth, depth, personality and realism that it feels like we are watching Grant’s home videos. Melonie Diaz, who is stunning in her role as Grant’s fiance Sophina, is a Latina girl who is truly in love with him. They have a young daughter, Tatiana, and between them they struggle to make ends meet, especially after Grant loses his job in a supermarket. He had previously served time in prison for a drugs offense and is now trying to do everything right for his family. They still send Tatiana to day care which they can barely afford. Meanwhile, with no job on Oscar’s horizon, he calls a chum who deals in drugs in the hopes that he can some some extra cash, though he realizes this is a road he doesn’t to travel down again.
Grant’s mother Wanda still dots on him, played by Octavia Spencer, she is a very protective mother who still treats him like a young boy even though he has a family of his own. It’s an all-aroud loving family, but things are still tense between Sophina and Oscar over him losing his job. At his mother’s birthday party on New Year’s Eve, they forget their troubles and have a good time being together with all of the family. With plans to go into town later that evening to watch the fireworks, Wanda tells her son to take the BART (Metro) system into town instead of driving as it would be safer and easier for them. However, this proves to be a catastrophic decision as Oscar gets into an argument on the train with a fellow former inmate, causing a scuffle, with the police dragging Oscar and his friends (all black men) off the train and onto the platform. They tell the police that everything is cool, but Oscar, prone to being very volatile, doesn’t sit still when the officers tell him to. They pin him face down, he struggles, until one of the police officer’s guns go off, shooting Oscar in the back. He dies the next day in the hospital.
It’s hard to accept the ending of Fruitvale Station when you know that it is a true story. A young man’s life has been cut short due to one policeman’s overreacting and carelessness of his weapon. And the actors really make this film a personal experience for the viewer. Jordan is perfect as Oscar Grant, I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing this role. He’s embodies the spirit, and the struggles, of a young black man with a checkered past trying to raise a family and proving to himself and his family that he can make it. Jordan most recently co-starred with Zac Effron in That Awkward Moment, showing a funny side, in Fruitvale Station, he shows a complete opposite side, and has won several awards for his performance. Diaz is almost as good as his wife. Not too well-known as an actress, this film will raise her profile immensely. Spencer, as Oscar’s mother, is the heart and soul of the film. It’s excrutiating when she is told in the hospital that her son has died. Writer and Director Ryan Coogler has crafted a gripping, dramatic, and one of the most powerful films of the year. This is the 26 year-old Coogler’s first feature film, and what a debut it is.