23rd Oct2016

I, Daniel Blake (Film)

by timbaros

i-daniel-blake-3A middle aged man is down on his luck. He can’t work because he’s got a heart condition while at the same time he’s having trouble navigating the UK’s benefits system. He is I, Daniel Blake and it’s a film that opened this weekend.

I, Daniel Blake, which won the Palme d’Or at this years Cannes Film Festival, and directed by Ken Loach, is the story of one man, in Newcastle, and the trials and tribulations, and the humiliation and despair, he goes through in an attempt to receive benefits he thinks he’s entitled to. Stand up comedian Dave Johns eloquently plays Blake, a man with so much heartbreak and despair where nothing goes his way.

We first meet Blake after he’s had a heart attack and can’t work anymore. So he applies for Employment and Support Allowance, but first he must go through a rigorous telephone assessment by a health care professional who asks him some very intrusive questions. He then heads to the Jobcente where me meets single mom Katie (Hayley Squires). She’s got two kids and has just been moved from London to Newcastle by the system because Newcastle is a cheaper place to house people on benefits. She barely has two dimes to rub together, and her and Blake form a special bond. He’s there to help her around her house, he’s their to support her in any way possible, even after she shoplifts. And he’s there at her side when she makes a wrong decision to earn money. But it’s Blake who is spiralling down a hole; he can’t apply for benefits online because he’s never used a computer. Then he’s been judged fit to work, so his benefits stop, however he doesn’t have a C.V. to look for work so he handwrites one. More despair comes his way when he is told that he’s doesn’t qualify for any benefit so he has to wait for a ‘decision maker’ to decide his fate, while Katie has to rely on the local food bank in order to feed her family. It’s one thing after another for both in this very bleak film that shows how life really must be for people on benefits.

Johns, who has very few acting credits, is superb as Blake. He beautifully portrays a man down on luck who keeps losing his optimism and will to live along the way. Squires is just as good trying to survive in a town where she doesn’t know anyone with two kids who need to eat and have new clothes for school. Loach, who is British born, harshly displays the reality of the UK’s benefits system for people who are really in need, people who lose their dignity, navigating a system that works against them and not for them. As Blake says in the film: “When you lost your self respect, you’re done for.” This film is a wake up call with a strong message that this could happen to anyone of us.

23rd Oct2016

Ragtime (Theatre)

by timbaros

unspecified-4The U.S. is in turmoil: racial discrimination is rife while immigrants arrive by the boatload to escape feast and famine in their own countries. This could describe present day U.S. but it’s actually the early 20th century in the new production of “Ragtime” now playing at The Charing Cross Theatre.

Ragtime the novel was originally written in 1975 and had it’s London stage debut in 2003, after it had debuted on Broadway in 1998. The revival of the show was brought back to London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2012. This new version, directed by Thom Southerland, is very ambitious, with a very crowded cast of 24 on a stage barely able to fit in their singing, dancing and acting.

It’s the turn of the 20th century in New York and we are sung the story of three different groups; an upper class family, African Americans, and Eastern European immigrants, and eventually all their lives will cross in a show that packs a lot in it’s over two hour running time in a theatre that was too hot and a bit too uncomfortable.

The upper class family takes from and centre. It’s the wife, who’s called Mother (Anita Louise Combe) with a young son and a husband who leaves the family behind to go on an exhibition to the North Pole. Then there’s the African Americans, fronted by Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Ako Mitchell), a Harlem musician whose girlfriend Sarah (Jennifer Saayeng) leaves her baby on Mother’s doorstep, but eventually moves in with Mother and is found living there by Coalhouse. Then there’s the immigrants – Tateh (Gary Tushaw) and his daughter (Alana Hinge) – who arrive in the big city with nothing to their name. However they don’t find their American dream in New York so Tateh decides they should go to Boston but right before their trip they meet Mother and her son. And trouble is in store for Coalhouse and Sarah who get harassed by unfriendly locals and it’s at this point when the first half ends.

The second fails to match the first half’s intensity and drama. It neatly wraps up the storylines, with themes of reunions and acceptance but it’s all a bit of a letdown after the energetic and frantic first half. The cast are all fine, with the excellent vocal chords of Saayeng and Bernadette Bangura. And Combe and Tushaw provide much dramatic acting in their roles, while Samuel Peterson is adorable and perfect as the son on the night I saw it.

If there ever was a musical that’s full of music, this is the one. It’s a good old classic American story that’s pure red, white and blue – there’s nothing as American as this show. And what a pertinent time to have on display this show of Americana, when the U.S. is going through a most unusual election, and where black men are continuously getting killed, and immigrants from all over the world wanting to live to live there. What took place in the early 20th century is still taking place today.

‘Ragtime’ is now playing at the Charing Cross Theatre until Dec. 10th. To purchase tickets, please go to:


22nd Oct2016

Photos from the London Film Festival – Film

by timbaros

The stars came out for the BFI London Film Festival, and The Entertainment Website was at almost every single gala! Here’s a selection of photos:
img_1147 img_0975 img_0996 img_1054 img_1180 img_1144-1 img_1127From top left: Clare Stewart, LFF Director with Fisher Stevens and Leonardo DiCaprio presenting their documentary ‘Before the Flood;’ Steward with David Oyelowo and Lupita N’yongo at the gala for ‘Queen of Katwe;’ Stewart, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner at the gala for ‘Arrival;’ Stewart with the producers and Nicole Kidman and Dev Patel at the gala for ‘Lion;’ Stewart with Director Ben Wheatley and star Armie Hammer, among others, at the closing night gala for ‘Free Fire;’ Director Oliver Stone, Rhys Ifans and Joely Richardson at the gala for ‘Snowden;’ and Michael Fassbender along with the writer and director at the screening of ‘Trespass Against Us.’

06th Oct2016

BFI London Film Festival has started (Film)

by timbaros

bfi-london-film-festival-2016This year’s BFI London Film Festival looks to be one of the best in recent memory. The schedule is loaded with lots of must-see films by A-list filmmakers and A-list stars.

Here’s just a small selection of what’s on offer:

20151102-_auk0605_h_color-1mgThe Opening Night Gala on Wednesday October 5th is ‘A United Kingdom.’ David Oyelowo plays Sir Seretse Kharma, an African president who marries a white English woman – it’s a postwar relationship that shocked two continents. Rosamund Pike plays the English woman; the film is directed by Amma Asante (‘Belle’).

‘King Cobra’ is definitely one of the most scandalous films shown at the festival. A young man travels to Los Angeles at the urging of a sleazy gay porn producer (Christian Slater) to be his next star. A parallel story has James Franco as another gay porn producer who is in a relationship with his young male star. There’s lots of skin in this film which is based on the real life story of former gay porn star Brent Corrigan.

A film getting lots of excellent buzz is ‘Moonlight.’ It takes place in Miami in the 1980’s and focuses on one man’s journey through three stages of his life. He’s black and gay, and we witness key moments that made him the man he is. Compelling, with excellent performances all around. Naomie Harris plays his crack-addicted mother.

‘The 13th’ is a documentary that uses archival footage and contemporary interviews to discuss what the American constitution’s 13th amendment means to people of color in this day and age of Black Lives Matter.

la_la_land_dancingExpect ‘La La Land’ to garner lots of acclaim during next year’s awards season. It’s Director Damien Chazelle’s (‘Whiplash’) bitter-sweet love letter to Los Angeles and the golden era of Hollywood musicals, bringing together an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling musician (Ryan Gosling).

‘Manchester by the Sea’ has Casey Affleck giving an indelible performance as Lee, a man whose sparse existence is suddenly ruptured when the death of his brother Joe forces him to return to the hometown he abandoned years ago. Also stars Michelle Williams.

Lupita Nyong'o and Madina Nalwanga star in the triumphant true story QUEEN OF KATWE, directed by Mira Nair.

Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga star in the triumphant true story QUEEN OF KATWE, directed by Mira Nair.

‘The Queen of Katwe’ is based on the true story of young Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi. Despite being unable to read or write, she has a natural aptitude for strategic thinking. Starring Lupita Nyong’o and introducing Madina Nalwanga as Mutesi.

Science fiction film ‘Arrival’ has Amy Adams, alongside scientist Jeremy Renner, as a linguistics professor who is brought into the government to decipher the language when a group of extra-terrestrials make contact. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario).

‘London Town’ is set in 1979 when a bright-eyed teenager attempts to juggle too many responsibilities and falls for a confident punk and together they experience the music scene that’s a whole new world to them.

Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) plays a man who was orphaned in India and brought up by adoptive parents in Australia in ‘Lion.’ He soon discovers the truth about his origins. It’s a real-life story on the life of Saroo Brierly; Nicole Kidman plays his adoptive mother and Rooney Mara plays his girlfriend.

What would happen if a famous and well-known footballer was gay? Well, in ‘The Pass,’ two aspiring Premier League footballers (Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene) share a passionate night while sharing a hotel room right before a big game, a night which profoundly impacts Tovey’s characters life. Hard-hitting stuff with great performances.

Wonderkind director Xavier Dolan (Lawrence Anyways) presents his latest film ‘It’s Only the End of the World.’ A terminally ill writer returns home to break the news of his debilitating condition to his estranged family. It’s lots of sadness and sorrow – typical of a Dolan movie. With Marion Cottilard.

50805_AA_4609_v2F Academy Award nominee Amy Adams stars as Susan Morrow in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Universal Pictures International release. Credit: Merrick Morton/Universal Pictures International

Tom Ford presents his second film (the first was the well-received ‘A Single Man’) with ‘Nocturnal Animals.’ One of the festivals must-see films, the film focuses on Susan (Amy Adams), a glamorous and accomplished Los Angeles gallery director whose current marriage appears to be unravelling, and who fuels her insomnia by reading the manuscript of a disturbing novel – written and sent to her by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). Expect lots of lush scenery and fabulous costumes. With Aaron Taylor-Johnson.



Oliver Stone directs and Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in ‘Snowden,’ a supercharged political thriller about Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked classified information from the United States National Security Agency in 2013. This film is a dramatic recreation of ‘Citizen Four’ – the documentary about reporter Laura Poitras (played by Melissa Leo) and journalist Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Pinto) and their many meetings with Snowden.

The Closing Night gala, on Sunday October 16th, is Ben Wheatley’s ‘Free Fire’ (he directed last year’s poorly received ‘High Rise’). It’s the tale of gangsters and guns set in Boston in the 1970’s. A top level cast includes Cillian Murphy and recent Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson.

The 60th BFI London Film Festival will screen a total of 193 fiction and 52 documentary features, including 18 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, and 39 European Premieres. There will also be screenings of 144 short films, including documentary, live action and animated works.

Taking place over 12 days, the Festival’s screenings are at venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas – Vue West End and the iconic Odeon Leicester Square; central London venues – BFI Southbank, BFI IMAX, Picturehouse Central, the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Haymarket, Prince Charles Cinema and Ciné Lumière; and local cinemas – the Ritzy in Brixton, Hackney Picturehouse and Curzon Chelsea. Festival visitors will be able to enjoy a brand new cinema experience with Competition and Strand Galas presented at the new Embankment Garden Cinema, in the beautiful Victoria Embankment Gardens.
Stars so far confirmed to walk on the red carpet include: Oyelowo, Pike, Sigourney Weaver and Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls), Casey Affleck, Adams, Tovey, Nyong’o, Renner, Kidman, Patel, Ford and Taylor-Johnson, and Cotillard.
Festival Information & Ticket Booking:

Telephone Bookings: 020 7928 3232 between 10:00 – 20:30
Online: www.bfi.org.uk/lff

In person: BFI Southbank Office: 11:00 – 20:30


02nd Oct2016

Deepwater Horizon (Film)

by timbaros
  • dwh_d42_12682_r_crop-credit-david-leeIn what is the best action dramatic thriller you’ll see so far this year, ‘Deepwater Horizon’ delivers on all levels. It’s also very inspirational and heartbreaking as we all know it’s a true story.

On April 20th, 2010, eleven men were killed when their drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana exploded, creating the worst oil spill in history. ‘Deepwater Horizon’ tells the events leading up to the disaster, then the actual explosion, and it’s aftermath and impact on the lives of the people who survived, and is also a tribute to the men who lost their lives.

Directed with much intensity by Peter Berg, a former actor turned director (2013’s Lone Survivor), and starring Mark Wahlberg as the real life Mike Williams – the Transocean chief electronics technician who worked for the company that owned the rig. Williams was the man who was overseeing the rig’s computers and electrical systems at the time of the explosion. ‘Deepwater Horizon’ shows, in detail, how family man Miller was in a race to save as many of the crew as possible, while putting his own life in danger. He also has a wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) and daughter back home he desperately wants to get back to.

On that fateful day, the Deepwater Horizon, an ultra-deep-water, advanced oil rig owned by the Swiss company Transocean and leased by British Petroleum, was drilling deep in a well named Macondo. What’s ironic is that when the explosion occurred executives from British Petroleum (who chartered the rig) were present because the drilling for oil was 43 days and $50 million behind schedule. John Malkovich plays Donald Vidrine, a BP executive who was there to push the men to complete drilling the well as soon as possible. Against the wishes of Deepwater Horizon’s installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell, very effective and in one of his best performances ever), Vidrine orders the crew to perform negative pressure tests (an attempt to lower the pressure inside the well to ensure that the well can withstand that pressure without any leaks). These tests were the catalyst to what happens next; mud, oil and water starts seeping out of the drills, intensifying and then stabilising, but then tragedy strikes. And when it does, everyone is caught off guard, including Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), the 23-year old woman who helped operate the rig’s navigation machinery. The BP executives are shell-shocked, and them and the crew scramble for lifeboats that would lead them to safety, while some men were caught up in the deadly flames. There are harrowing scenes of explosions, fire, and survival that will take your breathe away, and very emotional scenes at the end that will have you reaching for a tissue.

‘Deepwater Horizon’ excels in the way the story is told and shown; we are witness to the emotional and physical impact of the explosion, and we get to experience it with the flames and the crackling of the metal as it comes crashing down. This is thanks to special effects (and the pulsating soundtrack which adds to the intensity) that don’t even look like special effects – the explosion and flames are that intense, so intense that you can practically feel the heat come off the screen. And while some may blame the film for being about one man’s heroic efforts to save everyone (with Wahlberg in action star mode, perhaps maybe a bit too much), Mike Williams did save lots of lives and this is indeed his story, and this film is the chance to tell that story, and it does so extremely well. Berg’s human centred approach to the story brings us closer to the lives of the people who were caught up in the disaster – it’s the human element to the story that is the takeaway – the survivors as well as the dead.