02nd Apr2016

The Program (DVD)

by timbaros

the_program_132489Director Stephen Frears brings us the rise, and fall, of cycling champion Lance Armstrong in the new film ‘The Program.’

We all know Armstrong’s story: winner of the Tour De France for a record seven times after surviving what was supposed to be a fatal diagnosis of stage 3 testicular cancer; and suspicion and later a confession by him that yes, he did dope on every tour that he had won. Based on the book called ‘Seven Deadly Sins: My pursuit of Lance Armstrong’ by Sunday Times Journalist David Walsh, ‘The Program’ takes us through Lance’s career highs, and eventually, his very low lows. But for being a cycling film about competition, stamina, drugs, celebrity, and money, its not a very exciting film.

Walsh is played by Chris O’Dowd, and ‘The Program’ is his story told through his eyes and how he uncovered what is the biggest doping scandal in sports history. It’s about how he pursued and investigated Armstrong and was persistent in finding evidence that Armstrong was doping.

‘The Program’ begins in France in 1993 where 21-year old Armstrong (played by a determined Ben Foster) is riding his first Tour de France. He’s young, cocky and confident, but two years later he’s diagnosed with cancer. Determined to come back better than ever, Armstrong pushes himself to the limit, and he fully recovers enough to go back to professional cycling. But he starts taking EPO (Erythropoietin), a drug that makes athletes go faster. It’s a drug that he procured from a French pharmacy and later from French doctor Michele Ferrari (Guillaume Canet). But Armstrong makes one mistake while he’s in the hospital for his cancer treatment; he tells the attending doctor about all the drugs he is taking or taken, including the EPO. His friends, fellow rider Frankie Andreu (Edward Hogg) and his wife Betsy (Elaine Cassidy) overhear this and Betsy questions Andreu who has told her that he as well has taken EPO. During this time a team doctor has been caught with performance enhancing drugs, which leads the police to raid the Tour only to discover that drug use is normal.

Armstrong fully recovers and is asked to be part of the U.S. Postal Tour de France Team. Armstrong, and the rest of team, are blatantly doping. In ‘The Program’ we see deliveries to their trailer, needles put into shoes and, after injected, put into soda cans. Meanwhile, Walsh is hot on the tails of Armstrong. He tries to convince his editor that his instincts are correct, and says “Is it real or is it dope?” At the same time, Armstrong creates a cancer charity called Livestrong, where we see, in the film, him giving speeches to raise money for the charity.

Armstong wins not just one, not just two, not just three, but seven Tour de France championships in a row – the most ever wins in a Tour de France. In the meantime, Dr. Ferrari is arrested by the police for his illegal drug dealings. And Walsh finds a link between Ferrari and Armstrong that makes his case, and story, more credible. Fellow teammate Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons), who was part of Armstrong’s team and who doped as well, and who wins the Tour de France in 1995, has his blood tests come back positive for testosterone. He’s stripped of his title, and Armstrong doesn’t accept him into the next year’s team, which becomes the catalyst for Landis to confess about the Armstrong, and the rest of team’s dope usage. Meanwhile, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency starts investigating Armstrong. At press conferences, Armstrong vehemently denies doping. But almost everyone in the rooms knows he’s lying. And Eventually Betsy (former rider Frankie Andreu”s wife), and others seek out Walsh to tell him all they know about Armstrong. Insurer Bob Hamman (Dustin Hoffman) has been hearing rumors about Armstrong, and if the rumors are true, will save his company $5 million in payouts to Armstrong for his win. It’s 2009, and Armstrong wants to make a comeback, and Landis ask to be let back onto the team, but Armstrong says no because he got ‘caught’ which becomes the Lloyd’s catalyst for Landis to confess about the rest of team’s (and Armstrong’s) dope usage. Meanwhile, Armstrong takes third place, very bitter that the new star on his team, Alberto Contador, has beat him. And Finally, we see Armstrong, after all these years, and allegations, on the Oprah Winfrey show, in which he tells her, and us, that yes, he’s been doping on every tour that he’s won. And hence his downfall, not just from racing, but from everything. Sponsors drop him right and left and his career, and perhaps his life, is left in tatters.

‘The Program’ follows the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of one of the biggest celebrities in the world of sport. But somehow director Frears misses his mark. Frears, who brought us the fantastic ‘Philomena’ and ‘The Queen,’ – both movies about two determined, strong and powerful women, doesn’t quite know how to grasp the story of a man who is conflicted by his quest for winning versus his choice to dope. His Armstrong is a bit of a cartoon character, a man who seems more possessed and less determined. And the women in his life are non-existant. There is Armstrong’s 2008 marriage to Anna Hansen in the film, but there’s no introduction to his first wife Kristine (with whom he had three children), nor his 2003 relationship with singer Sheryl Crow, nor his 2007 relationship with designer Tory Burch. Foster is fine as Armstrong, if a bit too passionate and overwhelmed, while O’Dowd is his usual self, dramatic and comedic when needed. But screenwriter John Hodge appears to have taken Walsh’s timeline of what’s in the book line by line without creating any dramatic license to make the film a bit more lively. And while there is exciting footage of bike races (and actual footage from the Tour de France), it’s not enough to make ‘The Program’ worth a view as it does not present us with anything new about Armstrong.



The Program [DVD] [2016] (DVD)

Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd, Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman, Guillaume Canet
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (2.35:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Ben Foster and Chris O'Dowd star in this sports drama about the Lance Armstrong doping scandal which was the subject of David Walsh's book 'Seven Deadly Sins'. Irish sports journalist David Walsh (O'Dowd) grows suspicious of professional cyclist Lance Armstrong (Foster)'s success, certain that he has been taking performance-enhancing drugs. As Walsh investigates, looking for evidence to prove his theory, Armstrong continues to deny his consumption of banned substances. The cast also includes Lee Pace, Dustin Hoffman and Guillaume Canet. ...The Program (2015)
New From: £5.29 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.09 GBP In Stock

Off
19th Oct2015

The Program (Film)

by timbaros

UCP_01023_LARGE_PRESS SITE-2Director Stephen Frears brings us the rise, and fall, of cycling champion Lance Armstrong in the new film ‘The Program.’

We all know Armstrong’s story: winner of the Tour De France for a record seven times after surviving what was supposed to be a fatal diagnosis of stage 3 testicular cancer; and suspicion and later a confession by him that yes, he did dope on every tour that he had won. Based on the book called ‘Seven Deadly Sins: My pursuit of Lance Armstrong’ by Sunday Times Journalist David Walsh, ‘The Program’ takes us through Lance’s career highs, and eventually, his very low lows. But for being a cycling film about competition, stamina, drugs, celebrity, and money, its not a very exciting film.

Walsh is played by Chris O’Dowd, and ‘The Program’ is his story told through his eyes and how he uncovered what is the biggest doping scandal in sports history. It’s about how he pursued and investigated Armstrong and was persistent in finding evidence that Armstrong was doping.

‘The Program’ begins in France in 1993 where 21-year old Armstrong (played by a determined Ben Foster) is riding his first Tour de France. He’s young, cocky and confident, but two years later he’s diagnosed with cancer. Determined to come back better than ever, Armstrong pushes himself to the limit, and he fully recovers enough to go back to professional cycling. But he starts taking EPO (Erythropoietin), a drug that makes athletes go faster. It’s a drug that he procured from a French pharmacy and later from French doctor Michele Ferrari (Guillaume Canet). But Armstrong makes one mistake while he’s in the hospital for his cancer treatment; he tells the attending doctor about all the drugs he is taking or taken, including the EPO. His friends, fellow rider Frankie Andreu (Edward Hogg) and his wife Betsy (Elaine Cassidy) overhear this and Betsy questions Andreu who has told her that he as well has taken EPO. During this time a team doctor has been caught with performance enhancing drugs, which leads the police to raid the Tour only to discover that drug use is normal.

Armstrong fully recovers and is asked to be part of the U.S. Postal Tour de France Team. Armstrong, and the rest of team, are blatantly doping. In ‘The Program’ we see deliveries to their trailer, needles put into shoes and, after injected, put into soda cans. Meanwhile, Walsh is hot on the tails of Armstrong. He tries to convince his editor that his instincts are correct, and says “Is it real or is it dope?” At the same time, Armstrong creates a cancer charity called Livestrong, where we see, in the film, him giving speeches to raise money for the charity.

Armstong wins not just one, not just two, not just three, but seven Tour de France championships in a row – the most ever wins in a Tour de France. In the meantime, Dr. Ferrari is arrested by the police for his illegal drug dealings. And Walsh finds a link between Ferrari and Armstrong that makes his case, and story, more credible. Fellow teammate Floyd Landis (Jesse Plemons), who was part of Armstrong’s team and who doped as well, and who wins the Tour de France in 1995, has his blood tests come back positive for testosterone. He’s stripped of his title, and Armstrong doesn’t accept him into the next year’s team, which becomes the catalyst for Landis to confess about the Armstrong, and the rest of team’s dope usage. Meanwhile, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency starts investigating Armstrong. At press conferences, Armstrong vehemently denies doping. But almost everyone in the rooms knows he’s lying. And Eventually Betsy (former rider Frankie Andreu”s wife), and others seek out Walsh to tell him all they know about Armstrong. Insurer Bob Hamman (Dustin Hoffman) has been hearing rumors about Armstrong, and if the rumors are true, will save his company $5 million in payouts to Armstrong for his win. It’s 2009, and Armstrong wants to make a comeback, and Landis ask to be let back onto the team, but Armstrong says no because he got ‘caught’ which becomes the Lloyd’s catalyst for Landis to confess about the rest of team’s (and Armstrong’s) dope usage. Meanwhile, Armstrong takes third place, very bitter that the new star on his team, Alberto Contador, has beat him. And Finally, we see Armstrong, after all these years, and allegations, on the Oprah Winfrey show, in which he tells her, and us, that yes, he’s been doping on every tour that he’s won. And hence his downfall, not just from racing, but from everything. Sponsors drop him right and left and his career, and perhaps his life, is left in tatters.

‘The Program’ follows the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of one of the biggest celebrities in the world of sport. But somehow director Frears misses his mark. Frears, who brought us the fantastic ‘Philomena’ and ‘The Queen,’ – both movies about two determined, strong and powerful women, doesn’t quite know how to grasp the story of a man who is conflicted by his quest for winning versus his choice to dope. His Armstrong is a bit of a cartoon character, a man who seems more possessed and less determined. And the women in his life are non-existant. There is Armstrong’s 2008 marriage to Anna Hansen in the film, but there’s no introduction to his first wife Kristine (with whom he had three children), nor his 2003 relationship with singer Sheryl Crow, nor his 2007 relationship with designer Tory Burch. Foster is fine as Armstrong, if a bit too passionate and overwhelmed, while O’Dowd is his usual self, dramatic and comedic when needed. But screenwriter John Hodge appears to have taken Walsh’s timeline of what’s in the book line by line without creating any dramatic license to make the film a bit more lively. And while there is exciting footage of bike races (and actual footage from the Tour de France), it’s not enough to make ‘The Program’ worth a view as it does not present us with anything new about Armstrong.

Off
03rd Nov2013

Philomena – Film

by timbaros

Philomena Lee has spent 50 years looking for the son that was taken away from her, while Steve Coogan plays the ex-government official turned journalist who helps her to find him, in the new film Philomena.

Played by a very good Judi Dench, Philomena Lee, at a very young age, gives birth to a boy out of wedlock, naming him Anthony. The baby was the result of a relationship with a man she met that unfortunately didn’t last, so Philomena ends up in a home for single mothers, Roscrea Convent, in Ireland. There she lives with other single mothers, and they are only given one hour each day to spend with their children, the rest of the hours are spent washing and cleaning and doing other chores. One day an American couple shows up to the home and takes two children with them. One of the children is Philomena’s son Anthony, the other child is Mary, the daughter of her best friend at the institution. 50 years later, and now a mother to an adult daughter, Philomena thinks about Anthony everyday, and has always wondered what happened to him. Her daughter happens to mention her story to Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who was also the co-writer of this film), a disgraced ex-government official who is attempting to kick off a journalist career and is looking for a story to write about. He discusses Philomena’s story with his editor, and she agrees that it would be a good human interest story to write about. So Martin meets with Philomena to get more information from her about her son and to find out if she is fine with him writing an article about it. Philomena, however, doesn’t have much information to give him. So together they go to the creepy Roscrea and attempt to get Philomena’s records. They are told by the very stern headmistress and nuns that all the records had burned in a fire years ago. Drinking at a local pub, they meet a man who tells them that he had heard rumors that years ago the convent sold babies to American couples. So thus begins Philomena’s and Martin’s journey to find out what exactly happened to Anthony.

This journey takes them to America where Martin uses his contacts there to get more information. Very soon enough, he discovers that the couple who adopted Anthony (Doc and Marge Hess) renamed him Michael. He also discovers that Michael Hess was a high-ranking official in the Republican party in the Reagan administration, gay and closeted. Sixsmith also discovers more information about Michael that he reluctantly has to tell Philomena. As disturbing as the news is, they agree to press on and meet the many people who knew Michael. This includes Mary, the girl who was taken by the same family all those years ago, and Michael’s former partner.

Philomena, based on the true story of Philomena Lee, is a touching and well written film of a woman’s quest to find out what happened to the son that was taken away from her many years ago. Dench is perfectly cast as Philomena, a woman so determined and strong willed (and forgiving) that she practically makes the nuns look evil. Dench cast as Philomena is perfect casting. Look for Dench to be nominated for acting awards for this film. Coogan, in a brilliant move, cast himself as the former wonk turned journalist due to a forced career change. But it is the script, by Coogan, that is the best thing about this film. Coogan has some very good lines, lines that are at times sarcastic, and biting, even when he is with Philomena. And Philomena in turn is given very good lines herself, lines that explain her grief but also her determination and relationship with Sixsmith. Their journey brings them close, two very different people from two very different backgrounds. It is a journey and a story that should be seen by everyone.