19th Jul2015

Elephant Song (DVD)

by timbaros

000211 Michael-1At only 26 years old, French Canadian Xavier Dolan already has five films under his directorial belt, all of which have been well received and critically acclaimed. In addition, he’s acted in 12 films, including the just released Elephant Song.

In 2009, Dolan directed, produced, starred and wrote J’ai tué ma mére (I Killed My Mother), a semi-autobiographical story about him as a young gay man at odds with his mother, and wrote the script when he was at 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. In 2012 Dolan continued his string of emotional and heartfelt films by writing and directing Laurence Anyways. At 168 minutes, it was an ambitious project for the young director to do, it was about the struggle 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.

2013 is when Dolan wore multiple hats in a film. In Tom á la Ferme (Tom at the Farm), Dolan, who wrote, produced, directed and starred, plays Tom, a young man who works in an advertising agency and travels to the Canadian countryside for the funeral of his 25 year old boyfriend. The problem is that the grieving mother did not know that her son was gay, so she accepts Tom as his friend in the hopes that he can tell her all about her dead son’s life. Meanwhile, the deceased’s brother, 30 year old Francis (an amazing Pierre-Yves Cardinal), knew that his brother gay but could never really accept it. Conflict, anguish, thought provoking moments, anger, love, and acceptance follow. More acclaim followed Dolan when Mommy was released in 2015. It stars French Canadian actress Anne Dorval who is a widowed mother overwhelmed by her teenage son (Antoine Olivier Pilon – a relevation) and his attention deficit disorder. Dolan wrote, produced and directed Mommy, and it won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and won nine Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Motion Picture.


In the newly released Elephant Song, Dolan, who co-stars along with Bruce Greenwood and Catherine Keneer, plays Michael, a pychologically unwell young man in a mental institution who may or may not have had something to do with the disappearance of his psychiatrist. So it’s up to Greenwood’s Dr. Greene to interview Michael to try to get to the bottom of his colleague’s disappearance. During the interrogation, Michael plays mind games with Dr. Greene, alluding to the fact that he knows where his pyschiatrist is, but is not quite yet ready to tell. Michael is clearly a very disturbed young man, his very famous opera singer mother all but ignored him, and the one time he spent with his father was when he took him elephant hunting, with the boy Michael crying over his father’s killing of an elephant. And Michael alludes to a sexual relationship that he is having with his psychiatrist, so it’s up to Dr. Greene to take what Michael is saying with a grain of salt. Even the head nurse, Susan Peterson (Keneer), warns Dr. Greene to keep his distance from Michael. It’s a film that at it’s centerpiece is Dolan, who is perfect as Michael, very goodlooking yet very mischevious, you don’t know whether you want to hug him or to run away from him. And the film revisits the themes of homosexuality and the lack of acceptance so common in Dolan’s films.

What’s next for Dolan besides conquering the world? He just finished shooting ‘It’s Only the End of the World,’ about a young man who returns home after 12 years to announce his impending death to his family. It stars Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel. Dolan will also be shooting his first film in the United States, to be titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, in 2016. It’s a fictional story about an actor who is famous for playing a Marvel-style superhero whose life and career are turned upside-down when his private correspondence with an 11-year-old fan is exposed and made to look indecent by a villainous gossip columnist. This one stars Hollywood heavyweights Kit Harrington, Jessica Chastain, and Susan Sarandon. If his previous films are anything to go by, these new films (and his future films) will be eagerly anticipated and will be must sees.

ELEPHANT SONG is released in the UK 1st July.
It is available exclusively through Alarm Pictures on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Blinkbox.

19th Jul2015

Mommy (DVD)

by timbaros

ADorval_AOPilon1-1Wonderkind 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.

12th Jul2015

Suite Francaise (DVD)

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.

04th Jul2015

Magic Mike XXL (Film)

by timbaros

images-377The Kings of Tampa are back! These men, the strippers from Magic Mike, return with a sequel – Magic Mike XXL – they are back with a bang!

Magic Mike XXL reunites Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and the rest of the cast from the hit 2012 about male strippers and picks up the story three years later after Mike left the world of stripping. He’s got his own furniture business but it’s not doing too well. So when the former Kings of Tampa look him up on the way to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, California, Mike (Tatum) can’t resist the pull to go back to stripping, and to reunite with his buddies. So what takes place is a male stripper road movie with scenes that allow all of the men to display their physical goods.

And these scenes are hot. In one, reminiscent of Jennifer Beal’s dance scene in flashdance with sparks flying around, Mike does the same in his garage, to prove that he’s still got it, and what a dance it is. Once on the road, we’re treated to their adventures, to be voyeurs in their exhibitionism. First stop, a gay bar where the drag queen emceeing asks any members of the audience if they want to participate in an amateur strip contest. Of course our men enter and wow the crowd. They then find themselves at a beach party, where Mike has an encounter with Zoe (Amber Heard).

Then Big Dick (Manganiello) performs for a shocked but very lucky gas station attendant. You’ll never look at a bag of Cheetos the same way again.

A stop at Domina, Mike’s pre-Tampa stomping ground which is now a private club for women, transforms the movie into a very sexual, breathless sexually arousing film. You see, Domina treats it’s’ female customers to male strip shows, and they are strip shows you’ve never ever seen before on film. It’s here that Mike re-encounters Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) the proprietress and a woman from Mike’s past.

It you’re out of breath at this point (trust me, you will be) there’s lots more. The men wind up at the home of Nancy (Andie MacDowell), a recently divorced woman in her early 50’s, still sexy and flirty, and the rapport between and Nancy’s female friends and the men is very palpable, real, you can cut the sexual tension between them with a knife.

Destination of Myrtle Beach reached, and once at the stripper convention each man gets to perform his own unique dance, for a room full of ladies, and perform they do, and Tatum strips all the way down to a shiny jockstrap, with the other men doing their own special routines choosing various lucky ladies from the audience to perform on them. And Tatum chooses Zoe to perform on her, in every position possible.

While Magic Mike XXL won’t win any awards, the male stars of this film really put themselves out there. And the female actresses who were chosen to be performed on in various stages of their road trip, one can presume they weren’t acting, they were really just enjoying it immensely.

04th Jul2015

Bend it Like Beckham (Theatre)

by timbaros

Atk5oQTJwl8oES88UQibHk6goVimhO_4iMzbr3f_GlsDoes a musical version of the hit film “Bend it Like Beckham” work? You bet it does!

The plot from the film is successfully transformed into a fantastic singing and dancing musical with a clever set, memorable songs, superb costumes and an excellent cast.

Natalie Dew is amazing as Jess, a young woman coming of age in a Sikh household in the Asian community of Southall, London in 2002. She loves the game of football, enough so that she’s got two large posters of David Beckham in her bedroom. One day Jess is spotted playing football by Jules (Lauren Samuels, playing the Keira Knightley role from the film) who plays for the Hounslow Harriers team. Jess goes along to one of the team’s practices where coach Joe (Jamie Campbell Bowen) takes in interest in her playing, as well as in her, and Jess decides to play for the team, without telling her parents. She knows that her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra (Tony Jayawardena and Natasha Jayetileke), will forbid her from playing the game that she absolutely loves. Coach Joe feels that Jess is good enough to make the England team, and along with Jules, they urge her to stay in the game, even after her parents do find out. Meanwhile, Jess’s older sister Pinky (Preeya Kalidas) is about to get married to a man whose family thinks that Pinky is not suitable for their son. But all Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra want is the best for their daughters, they worked hard and have provided a good life for them and they want them to continue to live, and follow, their traditional Sikh life. But Jesse has a dream, and she wants to play for England, but will her parents stop her from fulfilling this dream?


To say the Bend it Like Beckham is a feel good show is an understatement. From start to finish we are treated to a very vibrant and colorful spectacle, the likes which we haven’t seen in the West End in a long time. And the cast is perfect. Drew brings just the right amount of vulnerability and youthness to the role of Jess – it’s like the part was specifically written for her. Kalidas as Pinky brings the show punch, sass, and vavavoom. Jamel Andreas is very good as Jess’s best friend Tony who is perfect for Jess, perhaps too perfect. Other standouts include Sophie-Louise Dann as Jule’s blond mom, she’s sassy, funny and a blond bombshell. And Rekha Sawhney beautifully sings a traditional wedding song called “Sadaa Chardhdi Kalaa” that will mesmerize you. Gurinder Chadha, who wrote and directed the movie, which is set in the pre 9/11 era, also wrote (with Paul Mayeda Berges) and directed this stage version. She’s captured the spirit of Jess and her love of the game that most British people can relate to, and has given us a show that at no point gets boring or drags – it’s dialogue is very witty yet very dramatic. And the whole cast do wonders with it, and with the set that changes from a shopping street, to Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra’s living room, to an actual football field, all cleverly done. And the show wouldn’t have the name ‘Beckham’ in it if he didn’t make an appearance. The actual David Beckham is NOT in the show, but a lookalike is (along with a Victoria Beckham lookalike). Let’s hope the real David Beckham goes to see it, he will absolutely love it.

Bend it Like Beckham is playing at The Phoenix Theatre.