31st Mar2015

BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival wrap up (Film)

by timbaros

The BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival has unfortunately come to a close after a highly successful nine days of films and events. It was perhaps the best festival in a long time. Here are some of the highlights:

– Dior and I: An exquisite (and nail biting) documentary of Raf Simon’s first eight weeks as artistic director of Christian Dior, in which time he has to put together a collection. Director Frederic Tcheng uniquely blends voiceovers of an actor speaking excepts from Dior’s memoir intertwined with the pressure Simons and his staff are under. Dior and I is one of the better fashion documentaries ever made. It is now in wide release.

– Portrait of a Serial Monogamist: Canadian Directors Christina Zeidler and John Mitchell’s tale of 40-something year old Lesbian Elsie (a perfectly cast Diane Flacks) who breaks up with her girlfriend but is not so sure that she’s done the right thing, especially after meeting another woman right away who appears to be ‘the perfect one.’ Portrait is funny and clever and will leave you laughing out loud of it’s portrayal of Lesbian relationships amongst friends.


– Drunktown’s Finest: 34-year old Native American Director Sydney Freeland’s well done portrait of three Navajo Indian characters all coming of age and exploring not only their identities but also their relationships with their families and their culture. An amazing job by Freeland, who also wrote the script.


– 54: The Director’s Cut: A highlight of the festival – this is the film that gay director Mark Christopher shot and intended to release in 1998 but was not able to due to pressure from the studio to ‘degay’ it. Literal cutting room floor and lost footage has been incorporated into the original version of this story of a young man (Ryan Phillippe) being accepted into the historic NYC club’s inner circle, and includes the gay scenes originally taken out. This film still takes us back to a time when it was all about the music and the dancing.


– Tiger Orange: A sweet tale of two gay brothers, one – Chet (Mark Strano) who looks after the family hardware store in a small town in California while younger brother rebel Todd (porn star Johnny Hazard – real name Frank Valenti) comes back home because nothing’s happening for him in Los Angeles. Chet and Todd are opposites in every way – Chet is very subdued and simple and plain looking, while Todd is hot and sexy with a body to die for and a naughty personality to match. Valenti is the true star of this film – not only does he light up the screen when he’s one, but he can act as well.

– Match: Sir Patrick Stewart is an older dance teacher (Toby Powell) whose life is shaken up when a straight couple show up one day on his doorstep to supposedly interview him about his life as a dance teacher. But what they really want from his is to find out if he’s the father of the husband. Stewart has never been better in a film that’s stretched a bit too long and with a cast that can’t quite match Stewart in the acting department.

– The Last One: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt: A film, half about the AIDS quilt and the other half about statistics and other AID’s organizations, it would’ve worked better if it stuck to it’s main subject – the quilt. We’ve seen so many documentaries about AIDS and statistics, as well as the quilt, and this documentary gives us nothing new.

– The Golden Age of the American Male: This film is just a series of images and videos from the archives of the Athletic Model’s Guild, which was created by Bob Mizer. The Golden Age is pretty much 65 minutes of soft porn, if that’s your thing.

– Frangipani: The first LGBT Sri Lankan film, it tells the tale of two men (very good Dasun Pathirana and Jehan Sri Kanth) who fall in love with each other in spite of one of them getting married to a woman. Beautifully shot and easy to identify with – Director, Writer and Producer Visakesa Chandrasekaram) has made a lush film that is highly recommended.

– Everlasting Love: A strange, eerie Spanish film that can be best described as Stranger on a Lake (without the Lake) meets Twilight. Throw in some flesh eating and many boring moments and what you have is a film that should be missed.

– Fulboy: A documentary about the unseen world of football, Director Martin Farina was given full access to a professional Argentinean football team. He speaks to them in their hotel rooms and in their locker room, when, lucky for us, they are not shy about displaying their athletic bodies, from head to toe, for the camera. Not much a narrative on this one, but it’s worth watching as you feel like a fly on the wall in a very straight male environment.

There was an excellent selection of shorts, and a few stand out:
– Hole: Gay disabled actor Ken Harrower plays a man who frequents video booths but gets frustrated when he’s unable to receive sexual pleasure, so he enlists the help of his male carer to get it.
– Limanakia: The strangest yet sexiest short film I have ever seen. Gay men frolic on the rocks of a beach somewhere in Greece, all naked and all having sex, shot in motion-moving imagery with the sun providing a hint of gold on the bodies and on the rocks.
– been too long at the FAIR: Who would’ve guessed that there is a gay cinema in Queen, New York? This short documentary exposes the FAIR Theater in Jackson Heights as one of the oldest continuing running gay establishments in New York City.

All in all, it was a great festival and we’re looking forward to next year. Well done FLARE gang!

29th Mar2015

Dior and I (Film)

by timbaros

Dior_and_I_Dogwoof_Documentary_Still_1_800_450_85In April 2012 Raf Simons was hired as the creative director of Christian Dior. He then had eight weeks to put together the 2012 spring collection. Dior and I captures the ups, and downs, of this very short time period.

Simons was known for his menswear collections, and for putting his own personal stamp on fashion label Jil Sander, so it sent shockwaves through the fashion industry when he was appointed as the new creative director of one of the most iconic of French fashion brands – Christian Dior. And Simons had big shoes to follow, not just in name but in scandal and reputation. He was replacing John Galliano, who was fired for making anti-semitic remarks in a Paris bar. Also, Simons didn’t at the time speak fluent French, he is from Belgium, but Dior owner Bernard Arnault and fellow LMVH (Dior’s parent company) executives wanted to move away from the Galliano years and inject new blood into their iconic brand, so they hired Simons. So this 90 minute documentary takes us from Simons’ first days at work, meeting the mostly French staff while having someone translate his speech into French, to working closely with two of the most important women in the company – the ‘premieres’ – Florence Chehet and Monique Bailly – the women who are in charge of the staff, which include the seamstresses, basically the people who make the dresses what they are and what they become. Simons also brings in his assistant of over ten years – Pieter Mulier – who does speak French and gets on better with the staff, and premieres, then Simons does.

Dior and I takes us through the taut and stressful short time period in which Simons has to put together a collection. As anyone in the fashion world knows, 8 weeks is not enough time to get a whole collection ready, from ideas to drawing up designs to getting the dresses actually made to getting them ready for the runway (it usually takes six months). Simons insists that some of the dresses he wants to make be identical to paintings from one of his favorite painters. He also asks the dedicated seamstresses to remove beads from the front of one gown, even when it takes them all night to do so. It’s this drama, of Simons and his team having to produce a haute couture collection, intermingled with 68 years of historic Dior footage, that has earned Dior and I the great reviews that it has received. And at the end, we are treated to footage of the fashion show, which takes place in an old empty house where Simons has the walls covered in flowers in front of a star studded crowd including Donatella Versace, Selma Hayek, Sharon Stone, and more emotionally, his parents. And the dresses, wow, they are simply stunning. Dior and I is also stunning. It will give the viewer an understanding of what it takes to make a collection and how the whole process works, and more importantly, the vision of one man and his large team who made it happen.

28th Mar2015

Home – Film

by timbaros

Home-03-600x380Home is a new animated film from Dreamworks that features Rihanna in the lead role (well actually her voice) as well as singing the songs. Home is a bit of a vanity project for her that doesn’t quite work.

It’s a shame because Rihanna’s voice and her animated appearance seems ideal for this type of film. It’s not her who brings the film down, it’s the script. Home actually has a scary plot that will definitely frighten the young ones.

Tip (Rihanna) lives with her mom in a large city. The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons is Oh, who lives on a spaceship along with the rest of his species (the Boovs). They want to move to planet earth and make it their home. But first they need to get rid of the humans who live there. And this is the scary part. Tubes come down from the skies and suck up the humans (along with anything else the Boov’s don’t need to live on Earth, including bicycles, bin containers, etc). But not every human is sucked up. Tip, who was hiding when the Boov’s invaded, is perhaps the only human left. Hiding in her room, she comes face to face with Oh. At first she is frightened of him, but then eventually they establish trust, and a friendship, and bond with each other. What she finds out about Oh is that he’s on the Boov’s black list for accidentally sending an email to the enemy mentioning the whereabouts of their new home. But all Tip wants is to find her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez), so Oh informs her that all the humans have been transplated to Australia. So Tip and Oh take a journey (in a flying car) across the world so that Tip can be reunited with her mom. Along the journey, they play the radio and Rihanna’s songs come blaring out. They also must continue to hide from the Boov’s as well.

Home’s premise is cute but it’s the way the story is told that doesn’t quite work. It’s a short 94 minutes but at times it feels like the story is stretched out to make it a bit longer. Tip and Oh’s car journey is just them bonding over the experience of taking a metaphoric journey together, while there’s no surprise how the film is going to end. Clever use of Steve Martin’s voice as the leader of the Boov’s works, as does the previously mentioned songs sung by Rihanna (as well as one – Feel the Light, which is sung by Lopez). If anything, the soundtrack is superior to the film, but if you must see the film, you’re in for quite a bit of a ride that’s perhaps not quite what the filmmakers had in mind.

28th Mar2015

Kissing Darkness – DVD

by timbaros

460591650_640New gay film Kissing Darkness can be summed up as summer camp meets the Twilight movies.

Five college boys decide to skip the gay pride festivities in their hometown of Los Angeles to spend the weekend in a cabin in the woods. They are young, cute, sexy and believe it or not one of them is straight Vlad (the very hot Nick Airus). He’s vile, unhappy, homophobic and luckily for us spends more of the film with his shirt off. Why he would want to go on a camping trip with four other gay men is beyond me. Of course, all of other men fancy him, but Vlad’s nipples aren’t the only things lurking around. There’s also Malice Valeria, a local woman (ghost?) who, after catching her boyfriend in bed with another man decides to bite Vlad (and the rest of boys one by one) to turn them into her slaves.

In between all of this we see the men in the house in various states of undress, it’s pleasing to the eye and takes away from a story that’s pretty bad. Unfortunately, it’s all Kissing Darkness has going for it – the eye candy (did I mention how hot Airus is)?

The plot is quite ridiculous, the acting mediocre, and luckily for us it’s only 87 minutes. Gay Director and writer James Townsend, who plays one of the boy’s lover in the film (he shows up near the end), has put together a film that’s so bad that it’s not even good. Hey, but at least there are lots of young male bodies to look at.

The tagline of the film is ‘Love Has Never Been so Cruel’ – that pretty much says it all!

21st Mar2015

Mommy (Film)

by timbaros

ADorval_AOPilon1Wonderkind Director Xavier Dolan’s films all have some sort of a mother theme. His latest film, Mommy, is no exception.

It’s a craft full and clever told story, told in Dolan style (slow motions and all), about a frustrated mother of a son who has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The mother, Diane, is played by French Canadian actress Anne Dorval, in a tour de force performance. The son, Steve, is played by 17-year old French Canadian Antoine Olivier Pilon, who also gives a tour de force performance.

Steve’s father died when he was very young, and he’s been a handul for Diane, so much so that she had put him in a institution for most of his life. But one day he’s tossed out of a state facility for setting a fire, so she has to take him out and to their new home. Steve is young, is playful, looks very innocent, and acts much much younger than the age he actually is. He can be sweet, charming, adorable, with the face of an angel, but then suddenly he can become angry and very volatile, and Diane has no choice but to put up with his behaviour. One day he presents to her a necklace with the word ‘mommy’ on it, she accuses him of stealing it – he turns from a gift-giving young man to a furniture smashing very angry young man, enough so that Diane has to hide in a closet to escape from him. It’s not easy for her, taking care of him while trying to make ends meet on a meager salary.

Eventually Steve and Diane befriend their neighbor Kyla from across the street, (Suzanne Clement – who was superb in Dolan’s 2012 film Lawrence Anyways). Kyla is very shy, even mute at times, due to some vague personal trauma. When she initially meets Steve and Diane she stutters very bad. But over time, all three of them get along very well and grow closer and closer to each other. Diane leaves Steve in the care of Kyla at times and Steve becomes a gentle soul when’s he with Kyla – her reserved quietness in a way calms Steve. Kyla even tutors him. But Steve still has episodes where he erupts and threatens to cause harm not only to Diane but to Kyla as well. And over time Diane simply cannot take care of Steve for the rest of his life so she has to make a decision that will affect all three of them to the very core of their relationship.

Writer and Director Dolan shot this film in a tightened 1:1 aspect ratio (meaning the screen is the size of a large square postage stamp) giving the film a real close, tight and claustrophobic feeling, used very effectively when Steve goes on one of his rants. Dolan delivers yet another very good film that is in French with English subtitles. Dolan, at the tender age of 25, has an impressive list of films under his belt, and Mommy joins the ranks of them, having won the Jury Prize last year in Cannes as well as having won nine Canadian Screen Awards. Dolan has a knack for getting great performances from his actors, and in Dorval he’s given her a role that is her best performance yet. Pilon is a real find, he’s a young boy in a man’s body and he sure can act. And Clement is quiet yet peaceful and demure in her role. Mommy is a triumph not just for Dolan but for entire cast and crew, and for French Canadian filmmaking. Dolan has said that there is just one subject he knows more about than any other, one that unconditionally inspires him, and that he loves above all, that subject would be his mother. Dolan’s next film – called The Death and Life of John F. Donovan -stars Jessica Chastain, Kit Harrington, and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, and is about an American movie star whose correspondence with an 11-year old is exposed and will have repercussions for his career.

Mommy is raw and breathtaking, and a must see.

21st Mar2015

The Gunman (Film)

by timbaros

TA3A3032.CR2Sean Penn is The Gunman, a beefed up operative who kills a high ranking government official in Ghana and then almost pays for it with his life.

Sean Penn is Jim “Twink” Terrier – “Twink” because he is small in stature but makes up for it by being very muscular. Terrier, along with a few other guys, are hired by an unknown company to shoot and kill Ghana’s minister of mining in 2006 during Ghana’s intense mining strike that year. The strike divided the country, and other countries became involved for their own personal interests, causing much strife and unrest. After the killing, Penn must leave the country immediately, and this includes leaving his wife ( Jasmine Trinca). Why he would leave his beautiful wife is a mystery the film doesn’t really answer.

Eight years later and Terrier is a changed man. He is now back in the Congo to help dig wells to help the people there who have very little to no water. But Terrier’s past catches up to him haunts him – someone is trying to kill him. He doesn’t know who or what, but someone wants him dead. Also, he’s being followed by a CIA agent known only as Dupont (Idris Elba). Terrier turns to an operative who was also involved in the 2006 killing – Felix (Javier Bardem) – to help him find out who is after him. Terrier discovers that Felix is married to his wife, the wife he left behind 8 years ago.

What’s Terrier to do? Who’s trying to kill him? How did Penn get so bulked up for this film? There are many scenes of a shirtless Penn – sure he looks good, damn good – he has the body of a ripped 25 year old – and his physique is literally flaunted in our faces for most of the film. But this has nothing to do with the plot. The story continues where Terrier wants nothing to do with his past career as a sniper, and he’s forced to run from the people who are trying to kill him. Not even his old mate and guardian angel Stanley (Ray Winstone) can help him.

The Gunman is prepostourous as anything I’ve watched in the past year. We’ve seen this type of film before, think about the recently released American Sniper where Bradley Cooper effectively plays a sniper in the Army. Penn plans a sniper for hire – not quite the same thing but almost. Secondly, The Gunman has the look, feel, smell, and all of a Taken film No surprise there as the director of The Gunman – Pierre Morel – directed the first Taken film. So The Gunman is effectively Taken 4. Perhaps Neeson was offered this film – took one look at the awful script – and turned it down. There’s lots and lots of shooting – miraculously Terrier’s character survives after being shot at many many many times. And the final scene takes place in a bullring where Penn is being chased by his would be killers – there’s no surprise as to how the film is going to end, you can figure it out 10 minutes before it happens. Sure, The Gunman is shot in various European locations, including in London (University College Hospital and Bank Street station figure prominently), but The Gunman is just not a very believable action thriller. You’re better off going to go see Neeson’s newest film – Run All Night.

18th Mar2015

BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival – Film

by timbaros

I_AM_MICHAEL_still_James_Franco_on_stairs-2The BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival kicks off on Thursday at BFI Southbank and will show 50 features, more than one hundred shorts and a wide range of special events, guest appearances, discussions, workshops, and dance parties. It will be the place where everyone who is anyone wants to be at and wants to be seen there. Here are some of the highlights:

I Am Michael will open the festival on Thursday night. James Franco plays a man who was a gay journalist who then turns into an anti-gay pastor. Zachary Quinto also stars in this film directed by Justin Kelly.

The closing night film is Out To Win, telling the life experiences of LGBT sports men and women who discuss their lives and the sports they compete in. Featuring Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, John Amaechi and Jason Collins.

The festival’s films are grouped into themed sections:
Match – Patrick Stewart plays a dancer turned teacher who discovers a lot about himself when he takes part in an interview about his career.
54: The Directors Cut – This is the gay version of the original 1998 film about the infamous 1970’s New York City club and stars a young Ryan Phillippe.
The Falling – It director Carol Morley’s tale of school girls and their obsessions.
Frangipani – This is the world’s first Sri Lankan LGBT film. It’s about two men who fall in love but have to make a very hard decision about their relationship.
Dressed As A Girl – A film about drag queens in the UK and starring lots of London’s downtown glitteratti: Jonny Woo, Scottee, John Sizzle and more.
Drunktown’s Finest – This is about the lives of three young Native Americans, where coming out of the closet is not the easiest thing in the community.
Something Must Break – A love story between a young straight man and a shy trans teen.
Tab Hunter Confidential – A documentary about the heartthrob movie star who never actually told the world that he is gay. Hunter will be presenting this film in person at the festival.
The Last One: Unfolding the AIDS Memorial Quilt – A documentary about the quilt and it’s last public unveiling.
Dior and I – One of the must see films at the festival, it’s a warts and all documentary about Raf Simons arrival at the house of Dior and him putting together his first collection. Nail biting stuff.

Special Events:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be shown to celebrate it 40th anniversary, with an afterparty.
Another anniversary to be celebrated is Xena Princess Warrior where there will be suitably themed Warrior Women afterparty. Pride, the 2014 hit film that recently won a BAFTA, will be screened at the festival and will be introduced by some of the people on whom the film’s characters were based on.

Buy tickets quick for the festival as they are selling out fast. Go to:

16th Mar2015

The Entertainment Website Readers Choice Best in Film

by timbaros

images-346Voting in The Entertainment Website Readers Choice Best in Film ended last week and the readers have spoken. You’ve chosen American Sniper as the Best Film last year. It easily won this category, taking 33% of the vote. Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game and Whiplash all tied for second.

images-311Eddie Redmayne was the overwhelming choice for Best Actor – taking 50% of the vote in this category – for his performance in The Theory of Everything (which recently won him an Oscar). Ben Affleck for Gone Girl and Jack O’Connell for ’71 (surprisingly) were next.

images-347Rosamund Pike was chosen as your favorite performance by an Actress. The Gone Girl star was the overwhelming favorite in this category. Julianne Moore for Still Alice and Reese Witherspoon for Wild were behind Pike’s win.

JK Simmons took 75% of the best performance by a Supporting Actor vote – the highest percentage of all the winners – for his role in Whiplash. Ethan Hawke was far behind for second place.

There was a three-way tie for Supporting Actress. Recent Oscar winner for Boyhood Patricia Arquette tied with Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game and Emma Stone for Birdman.

Your choice for Best Director was NOT recent Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu for Birdman, nor was it critic’s darling Richard Linklater for Boyhood, it was Clint Eastwood for American Sniper. The 84 year-old Eastwood proves that age doesn’t matter and that he’s still on top of his game.

The Lego Movie was chosen as your favorite Animated film.

Thanks to you, the readers, for taking the time to vote. We can’t wait to see your choices next year!

15th Mar2015

Suite Francaise – Film

by timbaros

images-345In the early 1940’s a young woman wrote a novel about the romance between a young French Jewish woman and a German soldier. The writings were found 50 years later and was then published as a very successful book. Now Suite Francaise is a movie.

In the German occupied French town of Bussy during World War II, each house was expected to house a German soldier. Lucille Angellier (played by Michelle Williams) lives in a large house with her mother-in-law Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas) and their housekeeper. Of course the locals aren’t happy about this, they’re downright scared. It gets even more serious when soldier Bruno van Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts) is placed in the Angellier household in their upstairs room. Lucille’s husband is off fighting in the war and it’s been a long time since there has been any news about him. Lucille continues to receive conflicting reports as to whether he is on the battlefield or in a camp. Meanwhile, one of Madame Angelliers tenants is extremely jealous that the German soldier who is staying with them has started making advances on his wife.

Back at the Angellier home, Lucille slowly starts to have feelings for Bruno, especially after she discovers he, like her, loves to play the piano. Slowly they fall in love with each other, it’s of course a forbidden love, but they can’t hold back the feelings they have for each other. Things come to a blow when the tenant kills the German soldier and goes on the run (hiding in Lucille’s home), and the German Commander holds the towns’ Viscount responsible, and if not found in a few days, the Viscount will be killed. It’s up to the brave Lucille to ask for Bruno’s help, and in turn they risk not just their relationship but their lives as well.

What could’ve been a beautifully-told film from an amazing novel is turned, by director Saul Dibb, into a less than believable romance movie that seems to be missing the sum of it’s parts. Lucille and Bruno’s relationship starts all too quick, it feels like some scenes have been edited out for time, leaving gaps in the story. Some of the characters actions are left unexplained, and the ending is not as dramatic and emotional as it should be. American Williams looks every bit like a young French woman falling in love and Schoenaerts looks every bit a German soldier falling in love, and they have great on screen chemistry. Meanwhile Scott Thomas never fails to impress. Costumes, art direction, sound, music, cinematography and all the supporting actors are all top notch. But Suite Francaise is not as good as one would’ve hoped in light of the the fascinating background to the book. In 1942 Irène Némirovsky had finished writing two novels when she was arrested and eventually was murdered at Auschwitz. The notebook containing the two novels was eventually read by her daughters in 1998 and went on to become a best selling book in 2004.

15th Mar2015

The Imitation Game – DVD

by timbaros

THE IMITATION GAMEThe life of famous WWII codebreaker Alan Turing is told in the new film The Imitation Game. The movie flips back and forth between Turing’s life as a young boy in boarding school, to his days as part of the team hired by MI6 to crack the German Enigma Codes, to the time of his arrest for Gross Indecency (basically for being gay). Sliced in between this is footage of WWII; bombings, sea battles, air raid shelters and bombed out London which gives the film a true feeling of being there at that time in those places.

Turing is the man credited with inventing the Enigma machine. It translated German codes into English which helped the Allies defeat the Nazi’s in several crucial battles by finding out the German army’s positions and plans. Turing’s contribution is said to have saved many lives and shaved at least two year off WW2. And Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing is a revelation.

Alan Turing was a prodigy, but according to the movie he was also an outcast. He was taunted and teased while he was in boarding school, including at one point having food thrown all over him. His classmates regularly beat him up, and one time they shoved him under the floor boards in school, trapping him under a piece of furniture. We are also told that Turing had a close friendship with a fellow classmate whose name was Christopher. They were inseparable, and the film leads us to believe that love was blossoming between the two. Whether this is factual or not is the question.

The film begins in 1951 when Turing’s Manchester flat has been burgled, burgled by a friend of a young man who Turing was having a relationship with. During the investigation Turing admits to having a sexual relationship with the young man, and they both are charged with gross indecency.

In his 20’s, Turing is portrayed as a loner. He enjoys running in the countryside, and when he’s hired by MI6 at the age of 27 to work at ‘The Betchley Radio Manufacturing Company,’ it’s a time when he excels and blossoms, but when he’s assigned to work with a group of men, he is uncomfortable and doesn’t quite fit in. These men include ladies man Hugh (Matthew Goode) and Scottish John (Allen Leech). One woman does join their ranks, Joan Clarke (played by Keira Knightley), and we are led to believe that Turing emotionally fell in love with her and even asked her to marry him. At first Turing’s male co-workers don’t like him – they find him different, so Joan suggests Turing to do something nice for them, so he brings them apples, and then they all bond. Was life so simple back then?

Turing creates his machine, at great expense, much to the dismay of his commanding officer Stewart Menzies (Mark Strong). Disarmingly, Turing names his Enigma machine Christopher, in honor of his school boy crush, who Turing is told has simply disappeared from school. So history shows that Turing and his team were instrumental in helping to end WW2. But unfortunately later in Turing’s life it would all come to naught after he was convicted for having committed acts of homosexuality.

The title of The Imitation Game comes from a paper that Turing wrote in 1950 which jump-started the new realm of artificial intelligence (though Turing called it mechanical intelligence). And we are told that this film is based on a true story. But how much of the film is true and how much was made up turns the movie not into a true life account of a genius and a true account of Turing’s life but a film that is entertaining, well made – an excellent achievement, which, however, leaves the viewer to be skeptical of the story.

Cumberbatch is superb. He perfectly plays Turing in all stages of his adult life. We see through him the pain of being an outsider as well as the joy of cracking the code. It’s a performance worthy of an Oscar. Knightley is surprisingly good as Turings ‘love interest.’ Knightley is tasked with bringing emotion and femininity into the film. She succeeds. The standout in Turing’s team is Goode. But is he who he says he is?

Director Morten Tydlum (Headhunters) has beautifully crafted a movie that plays as a history lesson. And all technical aspects of the film are outstanding; from the costumes to the luscious cinematography, to the sets. But it’s the script that most people will have a problem with. Screenwriter Graham Moore, in writing his first film script and who is credited as an Executive Producer, took many liberties in writing this film. Whether this was done to make it more commercial and exciting, it has succeeded. But it’s not a 100% portrayal of the life of Alan Turing, it plays out just like any other film. Perhaps someone in the future will make a definitive documentary on the life of Alan Turing. Two attempts to tell his story – the 1996 television movie ‘Breaking the Code’, and 2011’s ‘Codebreaker’ – were just that, attempts, and it was hoped that The Imitation Game would be the definitive story of Turing’s life, but alas it is not. But Turings life, and legacy, live on.

Turing eventually committed suicide one year after his arrest (1952). In 2013, Queen Elizabeth pardoned him. What took so long.

15th Mar2015

Pride – DVD

by timbaros

PRIDEIn 1984 a group of gay activists decided to raise money for striking mineworkers, and this is the subject of the new film Pride.

The UK miners strike, which lasted for one year from March 1984, took place after Margaret Thatcher’s government announced its intention to close 20 coal mines and more at a later date, severely financially affecting the workers and their families. Pride tells the story of a group of young gay activists – who called themselves ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM)’ – and their enthusiasm and motivation to raise money for the miners and their families in a small community called Onllym in South Wales, which resulted in a strange and unusual relationship between both groups.

The rag tag group of LGSM activists include George MacKay as Joe, not yet out to his parents and barely just out to himself; Ben Schnetzer as Mark, the leader of the group but also the most passionate; Andrew Scott plays Gethin – the owner of Gay’s The Word bookshop who has not set foot in his native Wales or spoken to his mother in 16 years; Dominic West as Jonathan – Gethin’s actor boyfriend; Faye Marsay as Steph – the Lesbian in Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners; and Joe Gilgin who plays Mike Jackson – the co-founder of LGSM. Members of the mining community include Bill Nighy as Cliff – the mining club secretary who also happens to be gay; Imelda Staunton as Hefina – a resident of Onllym and a member of the mining committee who gets on fabulously with the LGSM members; and Paddy Considine as Dai Donnvan – a miner who eventually comes around and accepts LGSM’s support.

Pride begins at the June 1984 gay pride parade, with a relatively small group of people marching through central London, and it’s where Joe, watching the parade from the sidelines, decides that this is the group that he belongs to, so he joins the parade. One of the activists carries a sign which reads ‘Queers, better blatant than latent.’ Anti-gay activists line the street with their own signs – one reading ‘Burn in Hell.’ Such was the sentiment in 1984.

The group of people that Joe attaches himself to has an office at a gay bookstore called ‘Gay’s the Word’ which is an actual gay bookstore in central London. Upstairs is their war room, where they come up with the idea to raise money to support the mineworkers. They call several mineworker unions around the country saying that they want to raise money for the strikers, but once they mention that they are Lesbian and Gay, they get hung up on. But there is one small mining village in Wales that doesn’t hang up on them, they in fact welcome the group, and the money they have raised.

So outside of the bookshop the activists stand, asking for passersby to donate money for the striking mineworkers. Some people put money into their buckets, while others spit on them as they walk by. After having raised a large bit of money, the group head to Onllym and give the mining committee the money they raised. They drive up in a van that has ‘Out Loud Theatre Group’ written on it’s doors. One of the women in the committee hall yells ‘Guys – your gays have arrived.’ They are met with resistance by most of the men, one of them commenting ‘bring gays into a Working Men’s Group, you have problems.’ It’s the women, and especially Hefina, who welcome the group, and it’s up to Mark to, reluctantly, give a speech about who they are and how they plan to help.

So Pride gets itself in gear to bring us the actual true story of how LGSM won over the community of Onllym. It isn’t easy at first – there’s lots of strong opposition, especially by a local woman with two teenage sons who doesn’t want the gays to be anywhere near their village. But there is also one of the LGSM members who has doubts, saying ‘the miners don’t care about us so why should we care about the miners.’ But Pride is an extraordinary tale of friendship and solidarity, between two totally opposite groups, over the course of 12 months during which LGSM become one of the biggest fundraising groups in the UK.

Playing itself as a Comedy/drama – a comedic film infused with bits and pieces of drama – Pride works only when you realize that it is not 100% the actual story. Writer Stephen Beresford admits that some of the screenplay had to be fictionalized in order for the film to work from a viewer’s perspective – that he had to take artistic license. Beresford adds that Pride is more than 80% true. Two of the scenes which take place in the film are memorable but one has to question whether or not they actually happened. In one of them, the Onllym women go to London to visit the LGSM group and to attend a ‘Pits and Perverts’ fundraising concert for them. During their visit they walk straight into a rubber club asking the men, who are in various states of undress, what they do and how they do it. Hmmmm.
The two gay pride parade scenes that bookend the film look a bit too staged, though it is nice to see the town of Onllym arrive in buses at the last minute to take part in the parade to support the gays, which actually did happen. A scene which takes place right after the Onllym woman leave the rubber club is perhaps the most pivotal scene in the film. Russell Tovey makes a too brief cameo appearance as Mark’s ex-boyfriend, and on the way into the club which Mark is just exiting, Tovey’s character tells Mark that that specific night is his last hurrah, the final party, and then he gives Mark a kiss and heads into the club. We know that this being 1984 AIDS is rearing it’s ugly head. It’s a brief haunting moment, and one that will stick with you long after you’ve seen the film. And at the end of the film we learn that in 1986 the miners had enshrined Gay & Lesbian rights into their constitution. Bless them.

Director Stephen Beresford has crafted a film that has feel good factor written all over it. It’s a film that should be successful at the box office, and rightly so, and should be enjoyed at the cinema by everyone – gay and straight. And the acting is top notch. Newcomer American Schnetzer is perfect as Mark, while Mackay brings a sense of innocence and vulnerability (and believability) in his portrayal of Joe. Nighy, Staunton, West and Scott all also shine. It’s a film with a huge cast that works very well together, with an excellent soundtrack (Bronski Beat, Pet Shop Boys, Culture Club, Joy Division, Billy Bragg). Pride is a must-see film even if it is a bit too sugar and spice and everything nice.

Pride recently won the Best British Film at the BAFTA’s, surprisingly winning over The Theory of Everything.

08th Mar2015

Still Alice – Film

by timbaros

Julianne Moore realistically and achingly plays a middle-aged woman who develops Alzheimer’s in the new film Still Alice.

Moore, in the best performance of her career (and having just won the Best Actress Oscar for this film) plays Alice Howland, a highly successful college lecturer with a loving husband John (Alec Baldwin) and three grown children – Lydia (Kirsten Stewart), Anna (Kate Bosworth), and the very handsome Tom (Hunter Parrish). Alice lives a comfortable and happy life in Brooklyn, that is until she starts forgetting things. One day in class, she struggles to find a word that she’s used many times. Then one day on a run at her university campus she gets lost and disoriented. Worried, she visits a neurologist who tests her on her memory, and she’s unable to repeat a name and street he had told her to remember at the beginning of the session. Soon enough, Alice is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s getting worse, and John and the rest of the family realize that it’s going to be hard and tragic to deal with her deteriorating condition. More memory lapses occur; at Christmas she forgets the ingredients to bread pudding, a dish she’s made at least one hundred times. And she reintroduces herself to her son’s girlfriend, minutes after just meeting her. Alice decides to record a video to herself, a video that gives instructions on where to find pills to kill herself if she can’t remember the answer to three personal questions. Meanwhile, she tries to get her daughter Lydia (visiting from Los Angeles where she had moved to pursue an acting career that’s going nowhere) to move back east to go back to school for a real career (and to be close to Alice). Unfortunately, Alice is still getting worse, no longer working, one day at her family’s beach house she can’t find the bathroom, and wets herself. It is up to John to pick her up and change her. Unfortunately, this is the reality of someone living with Alzheimers, and Still Alice perfectly and tragically captures this.

Moore is absolutely amazing. She gives a performance that is so real, so emotional, so tragic, and very raw. Moore spent time with Alzheimer’s patients to capture their every nuance, and she did. She is very deserving of the Oscar she has just won, her first after five nominations. She’s also picked up every Best Actress award given this year. Baldwin as her husband and Parrish as one of her sons are perfectly cast. Stewart, who is always broody and cold in most of her films, really shines through in this movie, being very supporting to her ailing mother. Directed and written by real life couple Richard Glazer and Wash Westmoreland, perhaps in response to Glazer’s battle with ALS, they have done an excellent job in providing a vehicle for Moore – it’s a perfect yet highly emotional film in every sense, and a must to watch just to see Moore’s performance.

08th Mar2015

White Bird in a Blizzard – Film

by timbaros

Shailene Woodley stars as a young girl whose mother suddenly disappears in the new film White Bird in a Blizzard.

Woodley plays Cat Corvis, a 17-year old high school student on the cusp of adulthood and womanhood. It’s 1988, and one day she comes home from school to find her father Brock (Christopher Meloni) sitting on the couch, upset, and he tells Kat that he can’t find her mom Eve (Eva Green). Kat’s quite unemotional about this as her mom had recently been acting very strange, recently barging into her bedroom and asking questions about her sex life. Eve’s had also been acting very cold to Brock. But director Greg Araki doesn’t just tell a straight forward narrative, he bounces forward to 1999 and then back to 1988 throughout the film to advance the story yet not giving anything away.

So what’s happened to Kat’s mother? Detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) is investigating the case, but Kat doesn’t really care about her mother’s disappearance – all she cares about is trying to bed the detective. She’s also sleeping with the boy next door Phil (Shiloh Fernandez), a grungy type who lives with his blind mother.

Jumping back again to 1988 in the days leading up to Eve’s disappearance, we see her become a stranger in her own home, cold and ambivalent to Cat and Brock. So what’s happened to her? Did she runaway? Kat and her mates can only speculate but when other people know more than what they’re saying, Kat’s suspicions point towards someone whom she least expected.

Araki, who also wrote the script, is very good at keeping the suspense up throughout the film until’s it’s final shocking end. And boy is it shocking. This is a real mainstream movie for Araki as he typically directs films that are made for primarily a gay audience (Kaboom, Mysterious Skin). Plus he’s got the right cast for this film. Woodley, of The Fault in our Stars and Divergent films, is a screen natural and is able to carry the film. She’s a natural on screen. Meloni, known for his television work (including the prison drama Oz where he starred with recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons) is very good as the shattered, confused husband. A cameo by Angela Bassett as Kat’s therapist helps us to understand Kat’s feelings and emotions. All in all, this movie is recommended for all the points mentioned above as well as the clever script.

04th Mar2015

Beautiful – Theatre

by timbaros

Will you Still Love me tomorrow. I feel the Earth Move. You’ve got a Friend. These are just a few songs written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin that are included in the new West End Show Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.

While Carole King might not be known to the younger generation, anyone 50 and older know her, and her music, very well. In the 1960’s she, along with her husband Goffin, wrote dozens and dozens of hit songs including The Locomotion, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, and Up on The Roof. Beautiful tells the story of King’s life, how when she was a young girl and sold her first song to music producer Don Kirshner, to meeting her songwriting partner, and partner in life, Gerry Goffin, to being a single mother as well as a very very successful singer and songwriter. In Beautiful, King is played by the energetic Katie Brayben, from the piano playing right down to the curly hair, the resemblance is very good.

Beautiful covers King’s life from age 16 to the age of 29, when she’s at Carnegie Hall performing ‘So Far Away’ – a hit single from her mega-selling and multiple grammy winning album Tapestry. It’s just Brayben and the piano on stage. The show then goes back in time, the time when teenager King (Brayben) is at home in Brooklyn wanting to go into Manhattan to sell songs to Kirshner, but her mom tells her that she’s not going into Manhattan all by herself. When King does get to Kirshner’s (played by Gary Trainor) office, she meets people there who will be the key players in her life. She meets Cynthia Weil (Lorna Want) and Barry Mann (Ian McIntosh), a songwriting couple, but more importantly she meets Goffin (Alan Morrissey). They start a romance, but King gets pregnant so her and Goffin get married. He loves her, and they literally make beautiful must together – they are at their best when writing songs, and they write some of the biggest hits of the 1960’s. But over time Goffin starts to feel like he’s being tied down and wants to take advantage of their new celebrity status, while King wants them to go home at the end of each day and spend time as a family. It’s a stressful situation for King, and it doesn’t help that Goffin is having mental problems to go along with his infidelity. And this is the plot of Beautiful – the relationship between King and Goffin and their very close friendship with Weil and Mann. But in between this storytelling we get great musical performances by the ensemble in the show – the actors who play the musicians that King and Goffin write songs for. And this is when Beautiful comes alive. The ensemble really lets it rip, and brings life and color to the show when they perform songs such as 1650 Broadway Melody, Some Kind of Wonderful and On Broadway, among others.

Beautiful is a female singer, songwriter, mother, daughter, an American, and British-born Brayben does a fine job in portraying King. Recently seen in American Psycho, Brayben can sing and act, and can hit all the notes, and like King, Brayben writes her own music. Her hairstyle changes throughout the course of the show, most of these styles, however, make her look much older than the character she is playing. Morrissey is fine as Goffin, excited about their love yet still not sure that’s he’s happy or not in their relationship. Want and McIntosh are excellent as their best friends, and even more so when they provide emotional support after King’s breakup of her marriage. The staging of the show is fine, moving from living rooms to recording studios to Kirshner’s offices – but it’s Peter Kaczorowski’s lighting that literally and figuratively lights up the stage. If only the book of the show was as good. By Douglas McGrath, the book is very mundane and not very dramatic – sure we care about King’s life but give us more of the music and razzle dazzle and less of their bickering and conversations. It’s a musical that should be a musical, yet Beautiful plays more like a drama show with bits of music thrown in. But the show redeems itself when near the end, Brayben (as King) and the ensemble bring down the house with the song ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” – it’s a moment when you realize that King really is the greatest female songwriter of all time.