29th Aug2014

Million Dollar Arm – Film

by timbaros
MILLION DOLLAR ARMTwo young men are plucked from their small Indian village to become major league baseball players in Disney’s newest feel good film Million Dollar Arm.

Jon Hamm stars as JB Bernstein – a not very successful sports agent who needs to find a way to make money to save his company, and his career. JB and his right hand man Aash (Aasif Mandvi) are not having any luck in signing NFL player Popo Vanauta, so JB, while watching Britain’s Got Talent at home (with Susan Boyle singing for Simon Cowell) has a lightbulb idea – find a young cricketer with a fast arm, via a contest, and turn him into a baseball star. JB and Aash hear about a very rich Asian businessman, Chang (Tzi Ma), who’s looking to invest in Asian-based athletes. So JB pitches their idea to him – a contest to be called Million Dollar Arm. Chang gives them one year, and money, to pull it off. So JB puts his Los Angeles bachelor life on hold – including liaisons with models –  and leaves his house (and washing machine) in the care of Brenda (Lake Bell), a doctor who lives in the bungalow in his backyard.
JB then heads to India where he starts to assemble a team to help him with the contest. He can’t say no to Amit Rohan (a very good Pitobash Tripathy), a baseball fanatic who practically begs JB to help him. Fliers are made announcing the contest, and it becomes very big news in India. Young boys pass fliers from village to village, and young men from different backgrounds show an interest in the contest – the nation is excited about the prospect of one of their own being picked to be a major league baseball player. JB enlists the help of baseball scout Ray (Alan Arkin), one of the best baseball scouts in the business. Two young men in particular take part in the contest – Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) – who wants to stay loyal to his father by taking over the family’s trucking business yet sees the contest as a great opportunity, and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) – who has one of the fastest pitches JB has ever seen. So with contests taking place in various cities in India, it’s both Dinesh and Rinku who wind up being the dual winners, winning cash prizes and a once in a lifetime and life changing opportunity – to go to America to train as would-be baseball players. The young men have never left their rural villages so upon arriving in America, everything is foreign to them, including escalators, modern technology and the food (pizza!). Amit comes along as a sort of chaperone to the men and as an assistant to JB. They live with JB where they set up a praying temple in one of his bedrooms. They also prepare an Indian meal in the backyard for him and Brenda – realizing that there is a spark between the two.
Having never played baseball before, both Dinesh and Rinku initially struggle to play the game. Sure, they can pitch fast, but there’s more to baseball than pitching. They need to pitch straight into the pitchers glove with the goal of striking out the opposite team’s players. It takes several weeks for the young men to learn the game, and once they do, JB trotts them out to the scouts of some of the major league teams (with the press in full attendance as well). But the boys disappoint, their pitching is all over the place, and not as fast as they needed to be. So JB, with the help of Pitobash’s enthusiasm and rousing speech to the two young men, holds another exhibition, and this time Dinesh and Rinku impress all in attendance, and they are signed to a major league baseball team.
Million Dollar Arms works on all levels. It’s a feel good movie where you are routing for the underdogs and the underdogs prevail. Of course this being a Disney film that will happen. But what makes this movie stand out over others is not just the great acting, the warmth of the Indian people, and the inspirational tone of the film, it’s that Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story.
In 2007, entrepreneurial sports agent JB Bernstein staged a reality show in India to find promising baseball talent amongst the cricket-loving population. In a country of 1.3 billion people, the likelihood of him being successful was very high. Ultimately, Berstein found two ball players – Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. They not only became an investment but they all bonded with each other as well – and for JB it was like having a family – just as in the film. Both men were eventually signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jon Hamm is perfect as a sports agent (he would’ve been perfect as Tom Cruise’s role in Jerry Macguire). Hamm even has the look of one – he is easily believable when he drives a sportscar. And with Hamm’s frustration, emotion, comedy and sympathy as JB  – especially as he gets to know the young men he’s taken under his wing – there is a real emotional bond on camera, and we can assume off camera as well. The roles of Rinku and Dinesh were easily cast as well. As Rinku, Sharma brings a sense of vulnerability to the role. Sharma was just incredible in 2012’s Life of Pi, and in Million Dollar Arm he’s just as good. Mittal was brought in to play Dinesh – he’s famous for playing Salim in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Mittal has practically grown up in front of the camera and he’s a natural as Dinesh. Alan Arkin is not perfect as the seasoned scout Ray. It’s not Arkin’s fault but the role is poorly written – his character spends most of his time sleeping at the baseball contests until he ‘hears’ a fastball. Arkin is an Oscar-winning actor who has appeared in many acclaimed films in his career and it’s ridiculous to think that a man as successful as Ray would sleep on the job. The most memorable character of the film is Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy). He steals every scene. At just 5’4″, he’s got lots energy, stamina, drive and confidence. Tripathy’s character brings the film funny and lighthearted moments, especially in his excitedness as JB tells him he’s going back to America with him.
While there are times when the filmmakers take stereotypical shots at the Indians and their culture, what makes the movie is exactly that – the Indian culture – the vibrancy, look, feel, sounds, the organized chaos, the beautiful colors and the beautiful people – it’s all there to see on the big screen. Director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Tom McCarthy bring a true story to vibrant life, and while they take dramatic license to the true events that took place, Million Dollar Arm is the perfect film to end the summer with.
29th Aug2014

The Guvnors – Film

by timbaros

58f5f4e2-ffaa-46bc-a4cc-224803979b42-460x276Do you want to watch a realistic, gritty film about UK gang culture? Then The Guvnors is just the film for you.

Starring an excellent cast, The Guvnors is just that – a film about men in the position of authority in which everyone listens to, and follows. In this film’s case, The Guvnors are the gang leaders, the men who tell other men what to, some of the time to incite violence, other times to commit the occasional murder.
Doug Allen stars as Mitch, now a successful businessman, with a beautiful wife and a young son. When he was younger he was the leader of a violent football gang but has since changed his life around. However, things take a turn to the older days when ex-pro boxer Mickey (David Essex) is killed by a gang of young men at a local pub. You see, Mickey humiliated the group’s leader Adam (the excellent Harley Sylvester of the hip-hop group Rizzle Kicks) after they stormed into a pub and threatened the staff and customers. Mitch gathers up the members of his old gang, some of whom are not too happy to see him after he had abandoned them many years ago. These men include Richard Blackwood, who is now a policeman, Vas Blackwood as Bill – now a very successful architect, Jay Simpson as Neil who runs Mickey’s pub, and a couple other men who are far from their prime. Meanwhile, Adam leads a band of young men who cater to his every whim and bad mood. These men include Charlie Merkell as Trey – a very chilling personality amongst the rest of the young men, who bring fear to their council estate as they dictate and rule the area. This includes Adam slashing people in the face to match the scar he has – a vertical slash on his right cheek – including a young woman who had repeated something she heard that Adam didn’t want repeated. Adam then starts roughing up Mitch’s son which leads to more animosity between the two men and the two gangs. The tension continues to build up with both gangs plotting what their next moves against each other will be, which culminates in an expected ending – a fight to end all fights – and the unexpected death of one of the Guvnors.
The Guvnors is not your typical football hooligan movie. It’s better and more hard-hitting, and realistic, then other films in this genre – including The Hooligan Factory and This is England. What sets The Guvnors apart from these films is the acting and the script. Director Gabe Turner has assembled a first rate cast – there is not one bad performance in the film. Allen is very good as the central character – a man with a past but trying to look ahead to the future. Sylvester will curl your blood – his Adam is pure evil – it shows in his eyes and the way he grits his teeth – with that scar running down the right hand side of his cheek – it’s a scary character and Sylvester owns it. Also matching him is Merkell as Adam’s right hand man. He will do anything for Adam, whose got him under his wing, and under his spell. Sylvester and Merkell’s performances are all too real, and very chilling. At the end of The Guvnors, we are left wondering if Mickey’s young son will follow in his dad’s footsteps – gang culture. The Guvnors is a hard-hitting and realistic look at gang culture.

 

29th Aug2014

Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan) – DVD

by timbaros

images-236At only 24 years old, French Canadian Xavier Dolan already has four films under his belt, all of which have been well received and critically acclaimed. In 2009, Dolan directed, produced, starred and wrote J’ai tué ma mére (I Killed My Mother), a semi-autobiographical story about Dolan as a young gay man at odds with his mother, writing the script when he was the tender age of 17. It won 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival. The next year he wrote, directed, produced and starred (again) in Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats), a story about three close friends who are involved in a love triangle. It was in 2012 that Javier continued his string of emotional and heartfelt films by writing and directing Laurence Anyways. At 168 minutes, it was a bold choice for the young director to make a film as ambitious as this, one about the struggles of a straight man who, over the course of ten years, transitions from male to female and how it affects the relationship with his lover (with amazing performances by Melvil Poupajd and Suzanne Clément). Laurence Anyways won many awards, including two Cannes Film Festival Awards (the Queer Palm Award and Best Actress for Clément). Lawrence Anyways was also nominated for ten Canadian Screen Awards (winning two), and more importantly, at the Toronto International Film Festival it won Best Canadian Feature film. Not bad for a local boy. 

2014 sees Dolan’s most bold work yet. It is a film called Tom á la Ferme (Tom at the Farm), and the Tom in the title of the film is Dolan. For his fourth feature film, Dolan puts himself in the lead in a film that he also wrote, produced and directed. Looking so unlike his usual self, with long blond shaggy hair, Dolan again revisits the themes of homosexuality and the lack of acceptance. Tom, who works in an advertising agency, travels to the Canadian countryside for a funeral. It is not just anybody’s funeral, it is the funeral of his 25 year old boyfriend (Guillaume). The problem is that his grieving mother did not know that he was gay, so she accepts Tom as his friend in the hopes that he can tell her all about his life, as he had not been in contact with her for a long time. This is not the only problem Tom faces. Guillaume’s brother, 30 year old Francis (an amazing Pierre-Yves Cardinal), knew that he was gay and never really could accept it. In fact, nine years prior he had beaten up a man who had been dancing with his brother, and his violent nature and temper has him banned from most places in town. He still lives with their mother, on a farm, that he hopes to one day inherit after his mother passes away (he tells Tom in a highly charged scene that shows them dancing with each other in the barn) as there is no one else left in the family. Francis plays psychological games with Tom, at times beating him up and then at other times charming him. He has some kind of hold on Tom. With mesmerizing good looks and an athletic body, Cardinal commands the screen in every scene he is in. So it’s no surprise that Tom has a crush on him. The mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), is a bit crazy, maternal madness, having lost her husband years ago and now her youngest son that she barely knew. She is introduced to a woman who she is led to believe her dead son was dating, a woman who is a friend of Tom’s where he asks her to visit the grieving mother and pretend that she was his girlfriend. And Francis sets his lecherous ways on her. Dolan has set the soundtrack of Tom at the Farm to Hitchcockian music (by Gabriel Yared), with stunning visual images in the film (as he did in Laurence Anyways) of long shots of a highway, the middle of cornfields, and facial images that will last long after you see the film. 
 
After creating a trilogy of the subject of impossible love (Dolan’s words), he has now changed direction to create a suspenseful film that, while still stays on the subject of homosexuality, is very dramatic and is another amazing creation by a young man who has yet to turn 25. 
 
Dolan got the idea of Tom at The Farm after seeing a play in Montreal with the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard. He had a six month window of time between his next project, and the play and its theme really interested him, so he decided to shoot it as a film. Tom at the Farm screened in the main competition section of the 70th Venice International Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Prize (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique), and was also shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. 
 
What’s next for Dolan, besides conquering the world? He has mentioned that he wants to make a film in the United States, to be titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which will be about an American celebrity who maintained a correspondence before his success with an 11-year old boy in Britain, causing a scandal once it became known. If his previous films are anything to go by, the new film (and his future films) will be eagerly anticipated and will be must sees. 

 



Tom at the Farm [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu, Manuel Tadros
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: French ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (2.35:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: The story of Tom, who is in the grip of grief and depression following the death of his lover. When he meets the family of the deceased, it is revealed the mother was not aware of her son's sexual orientation, or his relationship with Tom either, for that matter. ...Tom at the Farm (2013) ( Tom à la ferme )
New From: £4.33 GBP In Stock
Used from: Out of Stock

23rd Aug2014

Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) – Film

by timbaros

images-234Marion Cotillard plays Sandra in Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit), about a woman who is about to lose her job, and who also suffers from depression.

Sandra has two days and one night (a weekend) to convince her work colleagues to sacrifice their bonuses so that she can keep her job at a solar panel company called Solwal. If this wasn’t enough, Sandra has previously been hospitalized for depression but still suffers from it. She has a hard time coping with life in general, but with the anxiety of losing her job and perhaps losing home and going back into social housing, Sandra’s depression accelerates over the course of the weekend.
Two Days, One Night starts out with Sandra and her co-worker Juliette (Catherine Salée) convincing their manager Mr. Dumont (Baptiste Sornin) to allow a secret ballot of the company’s employees whether they are willing to forego their EUR1000 bonuses to allow Sandra to keep her job as her colleagues had previously voted for a staff reduction and her redundancy in exchange for a bonus. He agrees that on the following Monday morning the workers can vote in a secret ballot for either them to receive their bonuses and have Sandra go or for her to keep her job. There are 16 employees and Sandra needs to convince 9 of them to vote in her favor (and to forego their bonuses). So Sandra, with the help of her dedicated and loving husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), travels around town to her co-workers homes to try to convince them to vote for her. But she faces an uphill battle as co-worker Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet) has been spreading rumours to the rest of the employees saying that if she weren’t the one to go then they would be. So it’s up to Sandra to win them over, however, for some of the employees the bonus is desperately needed for them to pay bills, their rent – some of in dire financial straits.
Sandra has two children, but she has a hard time dealing with the job situation, and life in general. She gets so depressed that at times she just breaks down, and she even feels like going to bed at 7pm. But she’s got a fight on her hands that weekend and she’s got to convince her co-workers to vote in her favor. One co-worker, however, needs the bonus for a new patio, while another won’t vote in her favor because he just doens’t like her, or another who happens to be the only breadwinner in the household. Then there are those co-workers who support her, and it’s them and the scenes between them and Sandra that we hope will encourage her to continue lobbying for her job and to help her in her depressed state.
Cotillard give a spectacular performance. Her acting is emotional and physical – her character is struggling and having a hard time of life and we can see this pain in Cotillard’s facial expression, the sadness in her eyes, and even when she crosses the street – her body language is not that of a confident woman. And when she breaks down, whether in her car or in the company of her husband at home, Cotillard is far from glamorous, and then at the end of the film, she has to make a decision that would affect someone else’s life, we continue cheering for her.
In one scene Cotillard’s character says: “I am nothing”, and we can quite understand where she is coming from, even after Sandra attempts suicide in one scene by trying to overdose on her antidepressant pills. Rongione as her husband Manu is strong as well. Even though him and Sandra haven’t had sex in 4 months, he conveys his love for her and supports her and even strongly encourages her to fight for her job. Written and Directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, they have produced a film where one can feel the urgency of time in which Sandra has to accomplish something so humiliating over the course of a weekend, something she’s never done before. There is no holding back on the main character – Sandra is depressed and the filmmakers do a good job of bringing this to the screen. But the film is Cottilards, expect her name to be coming up in lots of envelopes during awards season. Two Days, One Night is French with English subtitles.

 

20th Aug2014

Killing Season – DVD

by timbaros

images-230DeNiro. Travolta. Both star in Killing Season. Unfortunately, this movie never made it to the cinema. It’s out now on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.

 Both men’s careers have seen better films and Killing Season doesn’t do anything to add to their glittering C.V.’s.
DeNiro plays former U.S. soldier Benjamin Ford who took part in shootings and killings in the Bosnian War, and in particular was instrumental in the attempted killing of former Serbian soldier Emil Kovac (Travolta). Ford is in retirement mode, living in a cabin somewhere in the mountains in America. He lives alone, and prefers it that way. He’s not even willing to travel to his grandson’s baptism. Then in a cafe on the other side of the world in Eastern Europe is Kovac, who is handed a folder with Ford’s picture and address. And we can only assume at this point that Kovac wants to pay Ford a visit.
So Kovac shows up at Ford’s house (Travolta tries desparately to wing a Serbian accent to not much luck, and he’s even given a beard that looks painted on). The men initially bond, as Kovac tells Ford that he’s a traveler hiking in the mountains. But it’s not too long before Kovac shows his true colors and turns against Ford. They play cat and mouse in the woods where before they were shooting elk and then it turned to them trying to shoot each other, with Kovac telling Ford why he was actually there. Ridiculously, Kovac captures Ford and makes him put a rope through his just-cut tendons, and makes him hang upside down this way. This scene is not for the squeamish. Then Ford breaks free, and it’s his turn to capture and torture Kovac, and The Killing Season goes on this way for the rest of it’s 90 minutes. It’s not until the very end that we are told why Kovac went after Ford. It’s a good surprise ending but it’s a bit too late to save this movie.
I don’t understand why Travolta and especially DeNiro agreed to do this movie. While DeNiro has made a few stinkers the past few years, including Last Vegas, Grudge Match and The Family, these movies weren’t as bad as this one, while Travolta still can’t be forgiven for being in 2010’s From Paris With Love. Director Mark Steven Johnson, who also brought us Grudge Match, hasn’t made any memorable films in his career (unless you are a really big fan of Grumpy and Grumpier Old Men). So it’s strange that DeNiro has starred in two of his films (Grudge Match and this one), as the quality of filmmaking is just not there. The best thing about Killing Season? The music. Stay until the very end of the credits and you will be graced with beautiful music by Christopher Young. It’s beautiful music, while the $30,000 U.S. gross of this film is definitely not music to the film’s producers!


Killing Season [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Robert De Niro, John Travolta, Milo Ventimiglia, Elizabeth Olin, Diana Lyubenova
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

Killing Season [DVD]
New From: £0.94 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.01 GBP In Stock

20th Aug2014

My Night With Reg – Theatre

by timbaros

images-228My Night With Reg takes us back to the time in the mid-1980’s when gay men were rapidly getting sick and dying even quicker from AIDS.

Now playing at The Donmar Warehouse Theatre, My Night With Reg’s titular character – Reg – is not played by an actor. He exists only in the background, and he’s the man all of the characters have been with but can’t have, because he’s the boyfriend of campy Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfield). There’s John (a very good Julian Ovenden), whose secretly having an affair with Reg. Then there’s gay couple Benny (Matt Bardock) and Bernie (Richard Cant). They’ve been together for so long they get on each other’s nerves. Benny confesses that he has had sex with Reg a few times because Reg can’t get enough of his cock, and Bernie confesses that he’s slept with Reg once, just once, and that it was very good.
And who do John, Benny and Bernie confess their predilections to? To Guy (Jonathan Broadbent). Guy is plain looking – he looks and acts older than what he actually is, he’s not in good shape, and he’s just not that attractive. Yet, when the three men confess their affairs with Reg to Guy, he says “am I the only man that Reg hasn’t slept with?” Well, the answer is yes because the other character in the play, Eric (Lewis Reeves), a sexy young man from Birmingham who Guy has hired to paint his veranda, confesses to being with a man ‘just the one time’, and even though Eric didn’t know the man’s name, Guy knows that it was Reg.
My Night With Reg covers the span of four years, with all of it taking place in Guy’s flat, decorated in the way one would expect from him: modern with a touch of European style. The veranda is the piece de resistance, and where Eric spends most of his time painting. Three scenes make up My Night With Reg (without an interval). Scene one starts with the song “Every Breathe You Take,” which Eric is listening to on his headphones. Meanwhile, colorful flashing lights pulse on the edges of the stage like a 1980’s disco. John has gone to visit Guy, and Guy reminds him that it’s been nine and one half years since they last saw each other. John is the handsome one. A never ageing gay man, with a sexy body, who has family money yet no real ambition in life. Daniel shows up to see the men, and makes a beeline for John, all so affectionately touching him and kissing him. Eric, meanwhile, is in the background, innocently painting away, yet all so sexy.
It’s scene two where the real emotions (and the confessions) take place. Guy decides to have everyone over, and it’s here that Reg’s getting around becomes apparent. Bernie and Benny bicker as usual, and Eric finally becomes one of the men, joining in on their conversation. Meanwhile John is feeling raw, especially after telling Guy that he’s in love with Reg, so Benny takes him out to the veranda for some unseen escapade, while Bernie is in the kitchen. And Guy is not able to confess to John that he’s been in love with him for years, since they were in college together.
And unfortunately, just like in the 1980’s, gay men die of AIDS, including Reg. Though he’s not seen, his presence is felt throughout the play, and even more so near the end, when the characters mourn his death. Both Daniel and John break down, and John doesn’t have the heart (or the guts) to tell Daniel that he had been sleeping with Reg. So we’re left with innocent Eric and not so innocent John at the end, enjoying each other’s company and then some, with John reminiscing about friends come and gone.
Kevin Elyot, who wrote My Night With Reg, unfortunately passed away in June after a long illness. So it’s a tribute to him that his play still stands up 20 years after it was first produced, at The Royal Court Theatre. Back then, in 1994, gay men were still dying from the AIDS virus, and many lost friends and lovers –  this was right before the introduction of the drug cocktail combination that has saved so many lives. So is a play like My Night With Reg still relevant? We’ve seen these types of characters before, but in the intimate setting that is The Donmar Warehouse, we feel like we’re in the same room with them, listening in on their conversations, and being a part of the gang. And while there’s unnecessary gratuitous nudity near the end (not that I’m complaining), it’s the acting that is what this show is all about. There’s not one false note among the six men. Especially good is Ovenden as John, who’s in Downton Abbey. His character goes through so many emotions, and Ovenden carries his torch for Reg throughout. Broadbent stands out as Guy, unloved but always in love. Director Robert Hastie keeps the play’s pace going throughout, and by the time it’s over, you don’t realize that one hour and fifty minutes have gone by without an interval. Do you want to go see My Night With Reg? Book tickets now before it’s too late.
17th Aug2014

The Rover – Film

by timbaros
images-226The Rover takes place in Australia ten years after a massive economic collapse, while two men travel together on a journey that takes them through dangerous territory, only to meet uncertain fate at the end.
Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star in the new film by director David Michod (Animal Kingdom). Pearce is Eric, a former farmer. He’s murdered his wife and all he’s got to his name is his car. When a gang of thieves steals his car, he does whatever he needs to do to get his car back. In his frantic journey to find his car, he encounters one of the brothers of the thieves – Rey (Pattinson), young and not so bright. Eric is the only person who knows where to find his brother so off the two men go, on a journey where they encounter all types of people who barely survive Australia’s harsh and brutal landscape. This include carnival performers, Asian refugees, aboriginals, cautious shopkeepers, and the military, who try to maintain peace in the region – unsuccessfully.
Their journey to retrieve Eric’s car is a dangerous one – they get into all sorts of shoot outs, and when Eric is captured by the military, Rey comes to his rescue and ambushes the soldiers in their compound. And at the end of their journey, what’s in Eric’s car that he desperately wanted to retrieve will surprise you.
The Rover is similar in story and in plot to the Mad Max films, where bandits roam the countryside and kill anyone and anything for food. The Rover is also very similar to the fantastic The Road, where a father and his son roam around trying to survive after an unknown catastrophe hits the earth. But The Rover is not quite as good as these two films. At 108 minutes, it’s a bit lengthy and gets a bit boring, with characters who come and go. And during intense shootouts, Pearce and Pattinson’s characters somehow survive where they were outnumbered. Director Michod’s Animal Kingdom was an excellent study of a crime family and it’s stone-cold matriarch (which was played by Jacki Weaver), but in The Rover we really don’t know much of Eric and Rey’s characters, and who they are or any of their background. So when the final shootout in the film takes place, we really don’t care who lives or dies, we just want the film to get to some kind of conclusion.

 

17th Aug2014

The Congress – Film

by timbaros
images-225Expecting to see a political film, I was not prepared for what transpired on screen in the new film The Congress. It’s a mishmash of live action and animation that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The Congress is actually supposed to be an attempt to be a take-off on Hollywood (as in Robert Altman’s Shortcuts). Robin Wright plays herself (her character is named Robin Wright); a 43-year old actress whose career is on the wane because she’s getting older and there are not a whole lot of roles for her. She has two children, Sarah (Sami Gayle) who is sassy and a rebel, and her younger son Aaron (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is slowly going blind. They live (strangely) near an airport where her son likes to watch the planes and fly kites.
When Wright’s agent Al (played by Harvey Keitel) tells Wright that she had it all when she was 24, studios came crawling to use her, but now she’s pretty much box office poison and that she should sell the rights to her younger to Miramount Studios (Miramax and Paramount combined – get it?). He tells her that she will become rich if she does so (and so will he) and that this will “make her young forever.” It takes a while to convince her but eventually she comes around. She has her whole body and facial expressions scanned by the studio, with Al helping her to express these.
Twenty years later, Wright is driving in the desert to attend a futuristic conference (as it is named). While’s she driving her character becomes animated and it is at this point that The Congress becomes confusing. From what I can gather, it’s a conference of actors (former actors) who have transformed themselves into all sorts of characters, including Tom Cruise, who has also sold his image to remain young forever on screen. But then all sort of things take place with Wright – she flies into the air, she takes over the mic at the conference and tells them her views on becoming an image (including her regret to go CGI), then a revolt takes place, and at this point it’s not too clear how this part of the movie relates to the beginning. It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Don’t get me wrong. The animation section of The Congress is stunning and could’ve been used as a separate movie, but to tie together and to make sense of the live action and animation in this film is the struggle. It just doesn’t make any sense. Sure, the story of an ageing actress wanting to remain young (on screen) while at the same time selling her image as she wants to be financially secure for her and her family is a great storyline, but what unravels onscreen is not this story. The Congress is too confusing yet visually stunning, so you decide if you want to give it a go. I left the screening scratching my head.
13th Aug2014

Lauren Bacall – screen legend – dies at 89

by timbaros

images-222Lauren Bacall, screen legend, dies in her New York City home on Tuesday. She was 89.

Bacall’s career—anchored in part by her beauty, that husky voice and her signature “look” but given longevity by her sharp wit and charisma—flourished for several decades.

In addition to being a smart, sassy and always sexy film noir heroine, she was known for comedic (yet still whip-smart) roles in How to Marry a Millionaire, opposite Gregory Peck in Designing Women, and with Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda in Sex and the Single Girl.

The list of iconic actors she worked with was long (Bogart, PeckCharles BoyerRock Hudson and John Wayne, to name a few) and Bacall worked with an estimable list of directors, too: Hawks (To Have and Have NotThe Big Sleep), John Huston (Key Largo),Douglas Sirk (Written on the Wind), William Wellman (Blood Alley), Vincente Minnelli(Designing Woman), Sidney Lumet (Murder on the Orient Express) and Rob Reiner(Misery).

She took her talents to Broadway, winning Tony Awards for Applause (based on the Bette Davis classic All About Eve) in 1970; and Woman of the Year (based on the Tracy-and-Hepburn film of the same name) in 1981.

It’s hard to believe she never won an Oscar in competition, or wasn’t even nominated (for Best Supporting Actress) until she played Barbra Streisand’s still-gorgeous and gloriously vain mother in The Mirror Had Two Faces, for which she did win the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe—four years after she got the Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement.

 

The above courtesy of Eonline.com

11th Aug2014

Robin Williams – actor, comedian – dies

by timbaros

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Robins Williams is dead at the age of 63

He committed suicide at his home.

July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014

Shockingly, suddenly, tragically, the actor was found dead at his home in Tiburon, Calif., Monday morning, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division.

“Robin Williams passed away this morning,” his rep confirmed to E! News. “He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

Williams had been extremely candid–and humorously self-deprecating–when it came to his past battles with substance abuse. Earlier this summer he had checked into a preventive treatment facility as part of what his rep called his “continued commitment” to staying sober.

According to the Marin County authorities, a 911 call was received at 11:55 a.m. reporting that a male adult had been found unconscious and was not breathing. The Sheriff’s Office and Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District were dispatched to the scene and arrived at noon.

Williams was pronounced dead at 12:02 p.m. on Monday.

The Coroner Division has confirmed the death was suicide due to asphyxia.

Some of the many hit movies Williams starred in include:
Mrs. Doubtfire

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Good Morning Vietnam

Patch Adams

Good Will Hunting (Best Supporting Actor Oscar)

One Hour Photo

The Fisher King

Dead Poets Society

 

08th Aug2014

Welcome to New York – Film

by timbaros

cca2856d8c5027d8c230987ee0d6ac3e62d29064eaf32614b1d700b66d2e61f1Welcome to New York is the story about a very powerful French businessman who allegedly rapes a maid in a New York City hotel room, is arrested, but is spared jail after his wife pays the maid off.

Yes, this plots sounds just like the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, where the former Director of the International Monetary Fund was arrested and charged with the rape of a maid at New York’s Sofitel Hotel in 2011. But we’re told at the beginning of the film that Welcome To New York was inspired by a court case, however, the public stages of which have been filmed, broadcast, reported and commented on throughout the media worldwide. Nonetheless, we’re told, the characters and all sequences depicting their private lives remain entirely fictional.
Gerard Depardieu, in a role like you’ve never seen him play before, naked and in the throws of constant sex, plays Mr. Devereaux. Old, fat, and ugly, yet he’s able to have more than his fair share of women, some paid for and some not. He’s a powerful executive, and even employs women to satisfy his (and his business associates) every need and whim.
Mr. Devereaux flies to New York to spend some time with his daughter Sophie (Marie Moute) and her new boyfriend. He checks into a mid-town hotel, and being the confident and cocky man that he is, he invites a very attractive hotel employee into his room. She politely declines. Waiting for him in his room are male work colleagues, plus three very beautiful scantily-clad female prostitutes. So what takes place that evening is a night of sexual debauchery, Devereaux and the men having their way with the women. And Depardieu fully commands the role in these scenes, uninhibited, and enjoying what looks like real sexual encounters.
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The next day, alone his his hotel room, Devereaux is in the shower when a maid (played by Pamela Afesi) comes into the room to clean up. He proceeds to force himself on her, while she’s screaming to let her go. She manages to break away from him and run out of the room. And this selfish sexual act sets in motion the downfall of Devereaux. He’s able to get to the airport and board his plane. But what he doesn’t realize is that in seconds he’s going to be taken off the plane and arrested, where he’s humiliated at the police station as he’s asked by two New York City policemen to strip naked and bend over, put in a cell with threatening prisoners, and made to do the ‘perp walk,’ – where the police walk prisoners past the media to their cells.
Meanwhile, Mr. Devereaux’s wife, the rich and beautiful Simone (played by a very good Jacqueline Bissett), is in her Paris flat, entertaining guests at a dinner party, when she gets a phone call that her husband has been arrested in New York. She immediately flies to New York to be with him. In the meanwhile, Mr. Devereaux’s photo and story is splashed across newspapers and television worldwide.
The rest of Welcome to New York takes place in the luxurious Soho rental house that Simone has rented for her and her husband while they endure the aftermath of the alleged rape accusation, and the tension in their marriage. And just like in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, Devereaux’s been granted bail and ordered under house arrest, all costs to be paid by him (or in his case his wife). The scenes between Depardieu and Bisset in the house are electric. She is clearly angry at him for what he’s done. She is fully aware of the reputation he has, she is sure that he tried to rape the maid, but she is even more furious at him in that he’s ruined her reputation, she says that everything she’s worked and struggled for he’s ruined in the blink of an eye. Mr. Devereaux takes his wife’s verbal ranting with puppy dog eyes, like he’s a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He doesn’t feign innocence, only a lackadaisical attitude to what’s he’s done. He thinks he’s not done anything wrong, that his behavior was normal for him. Even his daughter is disgusted by him, visiting him in his home jail, but she still stands by him. Charges against Mr. Devereaux are eventually dropped after Mrs. Devereaux pays off his victim.
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal didn’t end quite this way, the prosecutors dropped all charges against Strauss-Kahn saying that they were not convinced of his culpability beyond a reasonable doubt due to serious issues in the complainant’s credibility and inconclusive physical evidence. However, Strauss-Kahn later reached a financial settlement with the maid for an undisclosed sum over the civil suit that she filed against him.
So Welcome to New York is not supposed to be story of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, but either way it’s an intense and gripping movie with excellent performances. Depardieu has never been better, literally exposing himself, warts and all, and Bisset ups him in the acting department as the spurned angry wife. She is angry, explosive, and a bit hurt – and it shows. It’s a welcome return to the big screen for Bisset. Director Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) writes and directs a film that, while he claims is fiction, is more about the actor (Depardieu) and less about the character. He says that he made this as a movie and not as a documentary on a news story. Welcome to New York has NOT been picked up for theatrical distribution in France, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said that he plans to sue the makers of this film. Nonetheless, try to see it, either in theatres (it opens in the UK on August 8th), or on Video On Demand. It’s a gripping film with excellent performances.
08th Aug2014

Planes 2: Fire and Rescue – Film

by timbaros

images-217Planes 2: Fire and Rescue, is a sequel to 2013’s Planes – an animated Walt Disney movie about a small plane called Dusty Crophopper and his fellow transportation friends.

In the first Planes, Crophopper was a successful racer. But’s now he’s run into trouble in this second film. His gearbox is damaged, and unfortunately for him, it is out of production, so it looks like Dusty’s (voiced again by Dane Cook) career as a racer is over. So he needs to think about a new career. He decides to become a plane firefighter and travels to Piston Peak (a lookalike for California’s Yosemite National Park). It’s there where he meets all sorts of characters, including the manager Cad Spinner (John Michael Higgins). He’s also introduced to the commander of the fire and rescue crew Blade Ranger (Ed Harris). And just like in Planes where one of the characters was a veteran with a past, in Fire and Rescue it’s Blade with a history – he was formerly an actor and played a police helicopter on a TV series called CHoPs!
So Blade assists Dusty in his training, and together they fight fires in the forest, including one that gets out of control leading both of them to get trapped in a mine. They escape, slightly shaken and damaged. But it’s Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen) who takes a liking to Dusty, and supports him in his training, every step of the way. Also supporting Dusty is Fighter Aircraft Skipper Riley (Stacy Keach), forklift Sparky (Danny Mann), fuel truck Chug (Brad Garrett), forklift Dottie (Terry Hatcher, reprising her role from the first movie), and in a great casting coup, real-life married couple Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara play/voice Harvey and Winnie, an RV couple who go to Piston Peak to relive their first kiss, oh so many many years ago.
A massive forest fire breaks out at the same time the lodge is having it’s major opening. But it’s the team of vehicles and planes that save the day to put out the fire, helping out the trapped attendees, and it’s Dusty who saves Harvey and Winnie from a burning bridge that is about to collapse.
Planes 2: Fire and Rescue does not break new ground in the world of animation, and it’s story is simple and predictable. But it’s still a cute film with a cute lead character (Dusty), and while its not in any original, little kids should love it with it’s colorful cast of characters, story and visuals. Adults, however, may struggle to enjoy it……especially if the kid behind you is kicking your chair.
08th Aug2014

God’s Pocket – Film

by timbaros

images-216Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last screen roles, plays a man with lots of problems, one of them includes a dead body, in God’s Pocket.

Hoffman plays Mickey Scarpato. He’s married to the sexy Jeannie (Christina Hendricks), and they live in a dreary and depressed part of Camden, New Jersey called God’s Pocket – appropriately named because it’s a pocket that God overlooked, inhabited by crooks, drunks and no one special. Jeannie has a grown-up son from a previous marriage who lives with them, Leon (Caleb Landry Jones). He is mysteriously killed at work, but Jeannie doesn’t believe that Caleb’s death was an accident, she think there’s something more to it. She begs Mickey to look into it, while he goes about making the funeral arrangements and paying for the funeral. Unfortunately he’s got no money, so the local mortician, Smilin’ Jack Moran (Eddie Marsan) who never smiles, dumps Caleb’s body outside and it is up to Mickey to deal with the body until he is able to raise money for the funeral. Mickey has to sell the ice truck he’s been given for quick cash, a truck where he’s got Caleb’s body in. Unfortunately, a potential buyer takes it for a test drive, Mickey chases him to try to get him to stop, but it crashes, with Caleb’s body thrown out of the truck and onto the street. Caleb has been killed, twice.
A second story takes place in the movie about a local newspaper columnist Richard Shelburn (Richard Jenkins). He’s getting bored of writing his column and would like to focus more on seducing women, even though he can’t get it up. He takes an interest in the death of Caleb, but he takes an ever bigger interest in Jeannie, taking her out to a picnic and forcing himself on her, two days after the death of her son.
But by the time the film is over, with both Mickey and Richard getting what’s coming to them, it’s confusing to understand what you’ve just seen – a dark comedy or a drama that is a bit silly. All the characters are such losers that it’s hard to care for any one of them, even for the deceased Caleb, who took drugs and was a racist. And most of all, with no offense to the late Seymour Hoffman, it’s hard to believe that such a beautiful and big bossomed Hendricks would fall for him. It is even harder to believe that Hendricks character has an adult son – she looks like she can’t be more than 35. Blame first-time director John Slattery (Mad Men), who also co-wrote and co-produced and perhaps took too much on, with not knowing what to do with such a good cast. John Turturro is wasted as Mickey’s friend Arthur ‘Bird’ Capezio, his character has mafia connections used to rough up the boss at the place where Caleb died. Based on the novel by Pete Dexter (Paperboy), God’s Pocket incorporates some of Dexter’s life experiences into the film. Dexter was a newspaper columnist (just like the Shelburn character), who wrote about local people, including a story about a drug deal murder. Locals didn’t like what Dexter wrote, so they savagely beat him up, causing life changing injuries. Something like that happens in God’s Pocket. Sometimes reality is better than fiction.
08th Aug2014

Wakolda – Film

by timbaros

WakoldaWakolda: Dr. Josef Mengele was nicknamed ‘the Angel of Death’ because the atrocities he carried out as a German officer in WW II: he would select who would live or die in the concentration camps, and he would perform scientific experiments on people, including children, and twins. The new film Wakolda tells the time in his life when he spent time in Paraguay in 1960, continuing to hide to prevent him getting caught and going to trial.

Combining history with fiction, Wakolda tells the story of a family who could have lived with Mengele during his time in Paraguay. Mengele had originally fled to Argentina when WW II ended (with a false name, identity and Italian residency papers), but then went to Patagonia (a region in South America shared by both Argentina and Chile) after living in Buenos Aires, where he was almost discovered. Even way before Mengele moved for a short time to Patagonia, and before the end of WW II, Patagonia had been a settlement community for Germans. But little did people know that Mengele, one of the most infamous men associated with the death camps and the holocaust, was living amongst them.
 
The fictionalized part of Mengele’s life is the story that Wakolda tells. An Argentinean family meets a German physician who follows them a long car journey to a town called Bariloche, where the family – German speaking Eva, her husband Enzo and their three children – are going to open up a lodging house that once belonged to Eva’s family. After the car journey, the family decide to let the doctor (played by Alex Brendemuhl) stay with them as it appears he’s got nowhere else to go. There is a large German community nearby that mixes with the Argentine population, so German is a common language in that area, and they are known as sonnenmenschen (sun people).
Eva and Enzo’s 12-year old daughter – Lilith – is small for her age, and she constantly gets picked on at school. So Eva allows the doctor to give her pills to help her grow. And Eva gets pregnant, so the doctor gives her pills to help her along with her pregnancy, however little do they know about his past – a doctor who experiments on humans. Enzo, meanwhile, wants to start a company producing dolls, so the doctor mysteriously comes up with the money to help Enzo produce these dolls. However, as Lilith starts to become sick from the pills she is taking, and Eva gives birth to twins who may or may not be healthy, questions are raised about the doctor. It is up to local photographer who discovers who the doctor really is and to alert the authorities in time before he flees the area to his next hiding place.
Wakolda, so aptly named after Lilith’s doll (a metaphor for Mengele’s experimentation on children who were like dolls to him) is based on the 2011 book by it’s director – Lucia Puenzo, who also produced and wrote the script. Wakolda has the look and feel of a 1960’s film, with imagery and the soft color focus of the lens to match. But it’s dragged down by the fact that it’s not history we’re watching but a film based on a historical figure that probably didn’t happen. It is known that Mengele did live and worked on a farm in this area, but perhaps he did not continue to carry out his experimentation on people, for if he did he would’ve likely have been caught much sooner. And while the cinematography is stunning (lakes and snow-capped mountains can’t fault any film), and the acting ok if a little melodramatic, it’s the make-believe storyline that makes Wakolda not worthy of a watch. Some scenes jump around (at one point Lilith is very sick in bed, then the next scene she is up and fine, and then she is back in bed again), and Eva gives birth all too quickly to the twins, who don’t actually look new born at all. Puenzo the director is successful in making this a slick film, but I would’ve rather watched a historical take on Mengele and not a fictional one.