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.
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.