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Star – Helen Mirren
Genre – Action > War
Run Time – 102 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA/UK
Awards – 35Wins & 107 Nominations
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £7.99 Blue Ray
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So the same Tony Blair that fed us a ton of government bullshit and lies to drives us into an insane war with Iraq is this week telling us that we were ‘misinformed’ by the state before the referendum and so the Brexit vote doesn’t count. I wish we could say the Iraq War doesn’t count. What an absolute arrogant conceited dick he is. It was the War in Iraq that eventually displaced millions of Muslims that sort sanctuary in Europe and helped to force Cameron to have the referendum in the first place! Blair’s crazy decision to allow every Eastern Europe into the British job market to drive down working people’s wages that don’t even cover the rent and utilities doesn’t help his argument either. But to this day just two British citizens have been charged over Iraq, the guy who sold the fake bomb detectors the most notable. He got ten years and Blair got 58 million bucks for his services to big oil, the arms industry and his greedy personal talk circuit work. A War Crimes trail seems along way away.
Not only did Bush and Blair unleash the War on Terror on the world but they also set up the deadly Reaper drone program, a toy for rich western militaries to hit targets pretty much anywhere in the world, so far 99% of them brown people and mostly Muslim. But they are not just killing terrorists but people, who might be terrorists, or could be terrorists in the future, or just so happen to be in the same space as the terrorist or half-a-mile away from terrorists. Wikileaks revealed that 90% of the people killed or injured by drones in Afghanistan were ‘not the intended targets’. Because no one is policing these drone operations, innocuously run from places like Las Vegas, it’s pretty much a turkey shoot out there. Its disturbing stuff, the subject of this taut, thrilling and intelligent drama about the line of command for the British to fire one of these things in the theatre. Incredibly we already have 500 of them in various shapes and sizes, including ten Reapers, the badass ones, which have fired 350 missiles and laser guided bombs since Afghanistan all over the Muslim world, all under the name of ‘a surveillance program’.
• Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK military intelligence officer
• Aaron Paul as 2nd Lieutenant Steve Watts, a USAF MQ-9 pilot
• Alan Rickman as Lieutenant General Frank Benson
• Barkhad Abdi as Jama Farah, a Kenyan undercover agent
• Jeremy Northam as Brian Woodale
• Iain Glen as British Foreign Secretary James Willett
• Phoebe Fox as A1C Carrie Gershon, USAF
• Monica Dolan as Angela Northman
• Armaan Haggio as Musa Mo'Allim
• Aisha Takow as Alia
• Richard McCabe as Attorney General George Matherson
• Michael O'Keefe as US Secretary of State Ken Stanitzke
• Carl Beukes as Sergeant Mike Gleeson
• Kim Engelbrecht as Lucy
• Gavin Hood as Lieutenant Colonel Ed Walsh, USAF
• Laila Robins as Jillian Goldman
In Eastleigh, a rundown suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, young girl, Alia Mo'Allim (Aisha Takow), twirls a hula hoop that was just made by her father in their backyard, and not a care in the world. 10,000 meters above her a reaper drone is taking part in an operation to capture or kill a known Islamic extremist in the same neighborhood after a British Kenyan agent is killed for getting too close to the group. British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) is in charge of the operation on the British side in Northwood HQ in Kent as a snatch Kenyan army team fuel up on the ground in Nairobi and the American coordinates to capture the Al-Shabaab terrorist group leaders in a safe house. The British are involved as a British couple; Susan Helen Danford (based on the real Samantha Lewthwaite) and her husband Abdul are the targets.
American drones based in Las Vegas armed with missiles in case it gets out of hand hover high above Kenya ready to engage, 2nd Lt Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) piloting the drone. Undercover Kenyan field agents Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) and Alia (Aisha Takow) are detailed to confirm the terrorists at the compound on the ground. But the cars and trucks are suddenly on the move and racing deeper into a bustling suburb of shacks and shops, images from the drone and on the ground ‘intel’ broadcast to all involved in the operation showing increasing civilian risk every minute.
Kenyan Special Forces are put on hold as the entourage arrives at a house and enters. Finally the military get facial recognition to identify Susan Helen Danford as one of the human targets as Joint Intelligence Center Pacific at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii OK the drone to arm its hellfire to obliterate the building. The mission is supervised in the United Kingdom by a COBRA meeting that includes Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) of the Royal Marines, government ministers and the UK Attorney George Matherson (Richard McCabe).
Kenyan agent Farah discovers that the terrorists have explosives in the house and are preparing two suicide bombers for what is presumed to be an attack on a civilian target. Powell decides the imminent threat changes the mission objective from "capture" to "kill". She informs the drone pilot to ready a Hellfire missile attack on the building and solicits the opinion of her British Army legal counsel (Carl Beukes) about doing so.
It’s finally given the go after some legal pontificating with various phone calls. But at the last minute that young girl with the hula hoop pitches up with some pita bread to sell outside of the house. British army technicians at Northwood calculate the explosion spread from the missile has an 80% chance of killing the girl. Government ministers Brian Woodale (Jeremy Northam) and Angela Northman (Monica Dolan) are not happy and Jeremy refers the decision up the government chain. Tense legal arguments begin as the terrorists strap the suicide belts on and the window agonizingly begins to close. The propaganda argument is simple. If the British military blow up a child trying to kill terrorists, that has afar grater negative effect on the west than the girl walking free and the terrorists blowing up 50 African civilians. Powell (Mirren) is ready to fire whereas the drone pilot is torn by the young girl on his screen. Never has the sale or pita bread been so gripping. Never mind innocent lives being lost, careers and pensions are at stake for making the wrong decision here.
Its pretty good stuff folks and of the recent drone action movies released this is probably the best. Good Kill (2014) was solid and very much an American perspective on the US military drone program through the pilots and the cowards they feel killing the 90% whereas this is more about the moral and legal arguments of the U.K.s involvement. Mirren is believable as the abrupt and confident military rank ready to carry out the operation come what may and all the ministers shown as liberal and lily-livered. It’s a breeze for Alan Rickman in his final film as the prim and proper high ranking British officer and very much an ensemble piece in the end. Aaron ‘Breaking Bad’ Paul is the token American ‘star’ involvement and it’s looking increasingly difficult to cast the short ass in meaningful role without thinking he will suddenly say ‘Yo Mr White!’. He could hardly see over the wheel in Need for Speed.
It’s taut and tense stuff throughout as the target is lit up ready for destruction and the various assets on the ground also risk being blown up or caught by the Islamist’s. As I say, never has the sale of bread been so tense. It’s shot in real time and that adds an extra layer of tension. This stuff is going on for real every week and well paid white people are deciding which poor brown people should die that pose a threat down the line to white wealth and dominance on the planet, ‘British interests abroad’, as Blair calls the oil and gas industry. This is not, and never was, about terrorism. This is the ongoing Great Game, the control of the worlds energy supplies to keep the west empowered. The film never really goes into the politics of why we are there though and plays the terrorism card throughout. A more intelligent film on the subject may have earned a fifth ciao star and maybe big awards.
It’s not an acting movie and more in the drama /thriller genre as the various assets are deployed and the tension rises to the dramatic and harrowing conclusion. In real life it appears they just fire the missiles and sod the legal and the spin doctors and lawyers do the rest as it’s all the innocent kills are buried like the bodies. The Americans actually target weddings and funerals of jihadists simply on the basis that fellow friends and family will be there and so take out the next generation of the anti west crowd, and that produces another target rich funeral, of course. This is western terrorism, end of, and however much moves try to sanitize it we are at war with Islam and just as bad. But for just $13 m it looks good and entertains and did a healthy $34.5m back.
Imdb.com – 7.3/10.0 (52,992votes)
Rottentomatos.com – % critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
A look at the political, legal and military chain of command in firing a hellfire missile abroad.
-Featurette: perspectives –
More of the same. We learn that Alan Rikman remained on set well after his filming was complete, perhaps aware it would be his last film.
-Cast & Crew interviews-
Mirren and co talk about their movie.
South China Morning Post –‘This tale is intriguingly structured and expertly executed, and wholeheartedly embraces the moral complexities of one of the most divisive issues of modern military combat’.
Financial Times –‘Director Gavin Hood works the tension and the moral uncertainty to good effect but at times the film feels schematic and too much like revision’.
The Mail –‘It's a lean, Lumet-like thriller that puts the moral calculus of drone warfare in its crosshairs’.
Little Whit Lies –‘A basic conundrum; yet it's smart, tense, and surprisingly pointed’.
Independent –‘What's refreshing, though, is how nuanced the film's approach remains. There is no simple minded resolution here and it is inevitable that there will be blood on somebody's hands by the final reel’
Metro –‘Hood shows us the war on terror as a literal world war, being strategized everywhere from the dust to the heavens’.
The Sun –‘Taut and chastening, Eye in The Sky leaves you saddened and shaken’.
Star – Julia Louis – Dreyfuss
Genre – TV Series > Comedy
Run Time – 8 x 28 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Awards – 47Wins & 134 Nominations
Golden Globes – 7 Nominations
Amazon – £7.00 DVD £12.25 Blue Ray
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I have been scratching around on Amazon for a while now like looking for American HBO style box sets to get into. I loved Breaking Bad so thought I would try Weeds but that didn’t workout. I was blown away with The West Wing so I was sure Aaron Sorkin’s new series The Newsroom would also be up there, which it almost was. But neither Weeds or The Newsroom are a substitute for the original and the best. So, after enjoying the first two seasons of House of Cards (the third one is boring and unneeded) I thought I would try Veep, a comic send up of American politics, an often earnest TV Drama genre that needed its legs kicked away.
It’s basically an American version of Armando Iannucci’s ‘The Thick of It’ and written by him, starring Julia Louis – Dreyfuss , the pocket comic dynamo daughter of the actor Richard Dreyfuss and the one who made it big in the much admired sitcom Seinfeld as a sassy Jewish singleton. The ongoing joke in VEEP is very much that the position of Vice President is pretty powerless and although only a fag paper away from the top job they never get to make many decisions and so have to find something to do, often sponsoring an important bill through the Senate to get noticed.
The show was big hit on its launch in 2012 and still is and has won a ton of Emmy’s, the sixth season just finished in America. I’m not sure if she is still the number two in the White House in the show now but after six series there can only be two more as Veep for a two term president. To be honest I am surprised it’s lasted that long. This is very much a show made with a female comic vibe for a female audience. Not feminist but just female.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus ... Selina Meyer
Anna Chlumsky ... Amy Brookheimer
Tony Hale ... Gary Walsh
Reid Scott ... Dan Egan
Timothy Simons ... Jonah Ryan
Matt Walsh ... Mike McLintock
Sufe Bradshaw ... Sue Wilson
Sarah Sutherland ... Catherine Meyer
Phil Reeves ... Andrew Doyle
Dan Bakkedahl ... Roger Furlong
Randall Park ... Danny Chung
Peter Grosz ... Sidney Purcell
Nelson Franklin ...Will
Brian Huskey ... Leon West
Craig Cackowski ... Cliff
Vice President Selina Meyer (Dreyfuss) has decided on the implementation of ‘Clean Jobs Commission’ as her legacy, setting her up for a future run for the Presidency. It gets off to a sticky start when one of her staffers upsets the plastics industry, then Meyer makes an offensive joke at a speech and another staffer accidentally signs her own name on a condolence card instead of the Veeps to a recently deceased senator. A Presidential health scare abroad briefly puts Meyer in control of America but 8 minutes later it’s all over. She is also caught short in a yoghurt store.
The Veep learns from the presidential liaison Jonah Ryan (Timothy Simons) that the boss is not happy with one of her appointees to her Clean Jobs Bill. Meanwhile the internet is a wash with cruel nicknames for the Vice President. It doesn’t help when ‘Selena’ is on the official names for the current hurricane season. Another slip at a press conference is perceived as a racist when a microphone was not turned of and so her brash new spin doctor Dan Egan (Reid Scott) decides a visit to local hospital after a factory blast will deflect the criticism, which proves the case. We also discoverer the Veep has a secret hunky well hung boyfriend.
To punish Meyer for her poor handling of her clean jobs bill, now two oil executives on it, the president makes her head an obesity public health campaign, telling fat Americans not to eat too much. With her bill falling apart and pregnancy rumors abound it looks like she is along way of looking presidential.
Just as the position of the US Vice President is inconsequential and mostly ceremonial that is pretty much how I felt about Veep. It feels like women’s sports, a politically correct exercise to give the girls something to get their teeth into because the boys have their HBO show but not giving them their head and because of that it’s just not that funny, in the way that certain sitcoms here are aimed at a certain audience, like Gavin & Stacey. The joke here is very much female orientated and as all men know, women are not that funny. Some are on TV but not many. I’m guessing most of its American audience is female. I don’t think I will be getting season two. All the prominent male characters are arrogant dicks or two dimensional wimps and the females vulnerable and incompetent. This worked for Iannucci in the Thick of It but feels forced here. This just doesn’t have that comic edge I love.
To be fair it has done well in America and so someone finds it funny and there is the odd chuckle to be had but for me I like my humor to be cynical, brutal and cutting around a topic and world that is exactly that. Although the writing is gently caustic at times it backs off just at the wrong time and falls into generic sitcom territory. Dreyfuss is good in the lead but she doesn’t quite get to exploit the comic situation she gets into as the plot races on to the next thing. The beauty of shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm is Larry would get bitten in the ass at the end of the episode from his actions from the start of the episode whereas this leaves lot of lose untidy comic threads.
Watching this makes me feel like I’m not quite tuned into the comic frequency of it. I don’t think it’s any particular reason, be it dumbed down slightly or not satirical enough, but it just quite have that knowing nod to the viewer humor. It’s a bit ‘improv’ at times and it shows and perhaps too many writers around Iannucci and some jokes pulled. As TV can no longer deliver gags around the taboos that make us most laugh the most, like race, sexuality and religion, the targets are fewer and far between here although fat people still deemed to easy meat. What ever it is something is just not quite right. The best modern satirical American shows have those self aware celebrity cameos in them and that’s what this show rally needed. I’m surprised it didn’t get naughtier as it is a HBO show and Iannucci is the gay who created and wrote Alan Partridge after all. Its very much one of those shows you need to see for yourself to be a judge. I hated Gavin & Stacey but the country loved it. 2.4 Children is right up there with BBC sitcom fans but I detest that to. Veep is in that Parks & Recreation ballpark.
Imdb.com – 8.1/10.0 (20,120votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 60% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
Silly fun on the layered track by cast & crew.
-The Making of VEEP-
Standard behind the scenes stuff with cast and crew bigging up their surprisingly average product, considering.
On too many as the cast is very TV and improve.
Some outtakes from a big from episode 6.
NY Daily News –‘It's too easy, too much like a series of safe sketches that play to all the stereotypes everyone in politics claims describe the other side’.
Newsday –‘Some amusing lines, but otherwise a disappointing misfire’.
The Mail –‘The supporting actors add their own nice touches, making Veep a well-acted comedy that remains in search of a heart, even a tin one’.
Boston Globe -‘Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Vice President Selina Meyer, who is firing on all of her Emmy-winning cylinders’.
The Mirror –‘Spreads the comedic wealth across the entire cast’.
The NY Times –‘The result is overly broad and narrow at the same time/..
Star – Chris Pratt
Genre – Action & Adventure
Run Time – 124 minutes
Certificate – 13A
Country – USA
Awards – 6 Wins & 53 Nominations
Amazon – £4.36 DVD £4.99 Blue Ray
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You can only imagine how writer Michael Crichton’s eyes lit up when he first thought up the concept of reanimating dinosaurs from DNA in Amber. If you have forgotten, there are fossilized mosquitoes preserved in amber stone (rock hard sap) in the ground from millions of years ago and what if they sucked up dinosaur blood and we could some how extract that DNA and make real dinosaurs? He must have trebled that smile of delight when Stephen Spielberg and his Amblin Studios decided to make it into a movie and bought the book rights for one million dollars, the then highest ever deal. It’s probably the smartest idea for a fantasy movie in our lifetimes.
Because of that excellent providence I must admit I did not have high hopes for Jurassic 4. We all loved the original with its brilliant music and special effects on top of that concept and in most peoples top ten action movies of all time. Spielberg is a genius and that film was certainly genius. But after two tame sequels that grossed between them less than the original film the franchise was put to bed for ten years. But kids love dinosaurs and studios love merchandising those toys and so here we all are again for film 4. The good news is it’s not too bad and swashbuckling fun and quite a good plot idea deployed here to reboot the franchise, that of genetically altered new super breeds of dinosaurs to bring the crowds in. That’s the sort of plotline that has kids salivating, a T-Rex with horns, maybe!
Believe it or not but Jurassic World did so well it its now the fourth highest grossing movie of all time at $1.6 billion dollars, behind the only three films to pass the $2 billion mark, that of the extremely overrated Avatar ($2.7b), the enjoyable romcom Titanic ($2.1b) and the cracking retro ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ($2.06b). J4 was the first movie ever to do $500milion dollars on opening weekend world wide. The original and far superior Jurassic Park (1993) is way down the all time list at 21st place at $1.1billion and the somewhat feeble sequels do not feature in the top 50, The Lost World (1997) doing $616m and JP3 (2001) doing a failing $368m.
The star (a part from the dinosaurs who work for nothing) is the surprise choice of TV show Parks and Recreation (2009) star Chris Pratt. He was a big fan of the film as a kid and made a behind the scenes video in the 2009 season of his TV show where he reads a fake text from Steven Spielberg in the extras about being cast in Jurassic Park 4. But his comic hunky lead turn in Guardians of Galaxy caught the eye of Spielberg 4-years later and he got the job. To hit the world wide audience they co-cast Indian superstar Irrfan khan as the new Dickey Attenborough role as park owner. Little Indian kids in the slums are also wide-eyed about dinosaurs. The dino’s don’t get to eat any sacred cows this time.
Chris Pratt ... Owen
Bryce Dallas Howard ... Claire
Irrfan Khan ... Masrani
Vincent D'Onofrio ... Hoskins
Ty Simpkins ... Gray
Nick Robinson ... Zach
Jake Johnson ... Lowery
Omar Sy ... Barry
BD Wong ... Dr. Henry Wu
Judy Greer ... Karen
Lauren Lapkus ... Vivian
Brian Tee ... Hamada
Katie McGrath ... Zara
22-years after Jurassic Park was overrun by dinosaurs the island is once again up and running, Jurassic World packed full of even more dinosaurs and now the theme park ‘Disneyfied’ ten times its previous incarnation. It’s run by Indian billionaire Dr Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and managed by prim and proper blonde Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). People have got used to dinosaurs being alive on Earth and so to get more tourists in they have mixed the DNA up some to create hybrid super dinosaurs as star attractions along side the normal dinosaurs to keep the park fresh.
On the island we also meet handsome ex marine and dinosaur behavior specialist Owen Rich (Chris Pratt), who is working on a project to train Velocoraptors to behave less violently and so entertain the crowds more in the way dolphins do, for example. They are still mean killing machines though and department head keeper Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio) has other ideas for the raptors as the training progresses.
Today Clair’s nephews to her sister Zara (Katie McGrath), 16-year-old Gray (Ty Simpkins) and 10-year-old Zach (Nick Robinson), are coming to stay and enjoy the park. Clair can not show them around as she is too busy and so her number two, Zara (Katie McGrath), has the task to look after them. Little Zach is crazy about dinosaurs but not so much Gray, gauchely eyeing up young girls in the busy park instead. But they soon give Zara the slip and enjoying the riskier rides their mom would never let them go on, including a pod ride that goes into the actual dinosaur enclosures.
Clair is busy because the latest dinosaur, ‘Indominus rex’, created by the theme parks senior gene scientists Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), who works for Ingen, is nearly ready to be rolled out. But when the team goes to check it out it’s not in the pen, or so they think, a smart cookie soon busting out and running amok, a park with over 20,000 people on the island and Clair’s two nephews in a fragile pod in a restricted area out in the middle of the mayhem.
I don’t think anybody thought this movie would do this well. If this had been released in sequence in 2005ish it would not have done so well, that there is no doubt, accusations of flogging the dead Diplodocus sure to have been present. But it wasn’t and that ten year gap created a huge appetite for and the world-wide audience duly embraced it for what it is, two hours of dinosaurs running around chomping park keepers. But, like The Force Awakens, it skillfully evokes memories of older times and the original and adults and young ones lap it up. The scary dinosaurs sell themselves to the new generation no problem. The film did get away with a PG13 and because the dinosaurs are not real it appears to be ok with the censors for little kids to see grown men gobbled up whole. If you have kids under 10 I would not advise them to see it as its nightmare inducing stuff.
There is nothing new here in the action genre as stuffy beautiful important woman lets her hair down and picks up her heels and becomes emancipated when she falls for the hunky hero but its still good fun. But it’s that familiarity that’s the winning DNA formula to draw that huge audience.
Colin Trevverow was the surprise pick as director, previously known only for his rather cool little low budget time travel trip ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, but Spielberg’s reassuring hand on his shoulder as producer throughout, the same way Steven did that with JJ Abrahams on Super 8. Trevverow has been rewarded for his outstanding $1.6 billion gross here and signed up with the new Star Wars movie (2019). Hunky but slightly geeky Chris Pratt appeals on many levels and carries the movie with ease.
Its good fun and although you have been here before with the franchise it just about gets away with it with the harshest of cynics and with refined special effects and a bit more comedy this time it’s an enjoyable family entertainment. The music is as wondrous as ever by Michael Williams and although rather cheesy two dimensional acting at times that gives the popcorn an extra crackle of comfort. We are here for the dinosaurs and lets be having them!
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (43,435votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 71% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 59% critic’s approval
The green-screen stuff is plentiful and so some leftover
Chris Pratt’s video on his plea to be in the movie back in 2009.
London Evening Standard –‘Jurassic World is precisely what every Jurassic Park fan would hope it might be. It delivers fair and square’.
Los Angles Times –‘Pratt proved in "Guardians" that he could handle hunky leading man roles, and his combination of physicality, charisma and attitude prove hard to resist one more time’.
Salon.com –‘I'm not sure what specific qualities "Jurassic World" could be said to possess, beyond a vague sense of its own importance that ... comes across in the finished product as preening self-congratulation.
NY Magazine –‘At its best, it's good enough to take your mind off its worst, which is saying a lot’.
Baltimore News –‘The whole thing is an elaborate fantasy, so it seems a bit churlish to say, "that's not believable!" But even a film like this needs some internal logic’.
The Chicago Reader –‘The characters are all paper-thin, but that doesn't matter because their sole purpose is to get chomped’.
Irish Independent –‘As is the vogue among the current generation of blockbusters, it feels like the entire point here is to evoke memories of older, better movies. By those admittedly narrow standards, Jurassic World constitutes a roaring, stomping triumph’.
Film Ireland –‘Narratively continuous to the original film but slightly disregarding its two sequels, Jurassic World is a spectacular rush of furious energy, spellbinding awe and alarming terror from beginning to end’
New Yorker –‘There is plenty here to divert, but little to leave you enraptored. Such is the fate of the sequel: Bigger. Louder. Fewer teeth’.
Star – Laurence Fishburn
Genre – Sci- Fiction
Run Time – 100 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA
Awards – 1 Wins & 3 Nominations
Amazon – £5.83 DVD £26.67 Blue Ray
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Now here’s an interesting little Sci-Fi that you may have missed. In fact it’s the type of film you will always miss if you are not keeping an eye out for ones like this in top ten lists online. There is no real highstreet point of reference naymore to help you chose your movies from the various budgets and genres now Blockbusters has closed. Well I dug this one up for you and now you will know all about it. Its always fun when you uncover a little treat like this one that equates to the joy of finding a pound coin or two in the back of the sofa.
Its low budget Sci-Fi from director William Eubanks that doesn’t waste a cent on screen and delivers a twist up there with M Knight Shyamalan with the underrated The Village. A great twist can turn an average movie on its head. The imposing Laurence Fishburn is in the lead here and between the two of them in total control of this intriguing and rather ominous Science Fiction sleeper. As I said, no one really knows about it and films like this anymore.
• Brenton Thwaites as Nic Eastman
• Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Wallace Damon
• Olivia Cooke as Haley Peterson
• Beau Knapp as Jonah Breck
• Lin Shaye as Mirabelle
• Robert Longstreet as James
Super smart M.I.T students Jonah (Beau Knapp) and Nic (Brendan Thwaites) are fiddling around online in their digs when a hacker takes down the prestigious East Coast university servers. The boys are intrigued and fascinated by who could pull off such a hit and try to trace them. The hacker calls himself ‘NOMAD’ and nearly gets the boys expelled when they are blamed by email for the hack as NOMAD takes over their computers and laptops. They decide to trace the hacker in revenge and it doesn’t take long to find them, and along with girlfriend Haley (Olivia Cooke,), they are soon on a road trip to Nevada where the hack originates from, planning to go to California anyway so on their route.
The location is a ramshackle wooden house in the dusty desert. The two guys go inside and find nothing but dust and woodworm whilst Haley waits in the car as the night creeps in. Nic and Jonah hear Haley scream and run outside, only to see her pulled into the sky before disappearing into a white light themselves. When they come around they are not in a UFO but some sort of medical hospital, drips in their arms and men walking around in biochemical protective suits. Could they have stumbled into an infected test site or some sort of secret military facility? Who knows.
Nic has the number 188.8.131.52 tattooed on his forearm and soon being questioned by likewise suited and booted Dr. Wallace Damon (Laurence Fishburn), the head of the "transition group" in charge of helping Nic to cope with his strange and unknown situation. Damon informs Nic what they encountered near the house was an EBE: an extra biological entity that may or may not have infected them. He discovers that Haley is in a coma and Jonah is unseen in another room and lost the feeling in his arms. Whatever has happened to them they are clearly being held against their will.
The boys are smart and begin to figure out how to escape the facility, not convinced they are infected with anything but covert military set up and they are not leaving Hayley behind. The Doc tries to convince them they will be released when the tests are completed but events take a sinister twists when something is not right with the boys bodies, startlingly so, as they make a break for it into whatever is out there, Nevada or not.
I really enjoyed this and you should ignore the sniffy and negative critic’s ratings. Director William Eubank has created an intriguing and twisty little Sci-Fi movie and I’m here to spread the word. At no point do you know what’s going on here and when you do, Eubank throws up a spinnaker and the film is off in a completely different direction and genre. It’s all about misdirection as you think you have been here before and then suddenly we are somewhere else.
The Signal is clever in its execution of recycled concepts from previous films. I don’t want to tell you those film as it gives away too much but I guarantee you won’t twig this until the final dramatic reveal in the final minute of the film, a bit like when Bruce Willis when he realizes he is a ghost.
It cost just $4 million to make and looks fabulous on it and every cent well spent. There is no fat left on the bone here. But it did just $2.4m back, which is a shocker for what this is. As I said up top, people simply don’t get to know about these above average low budget films as no one wants to promote them, the studios spending their entire marketing budget on the big CGI films. I really miss Blockbusters as it was a visual high street reference point to what is out for us to enjoy in all genres and budget range.
It’s well acted by a relatively unknown cast orbiting around the imposing presence of Laurence Fishburn and you are drawn in early on to its discombobulating narrative and genre flips. It’s a film you simply don’t want to let go of. Fishburn skillfully carries the movie to all those intriguing places it ends up in. The love interest doesn’t slow anything down and giving the lead actor has a disability (multiple sclerosis) its also refreshing and brave filmmaking, that disease championed brilliantly in Breaking Bad. A creepy soundtrack and pithy writing also add to the mystery.
It reminds me a bit of the first time I saw low budget time travel films like Primer, a film you should also seek out if you are fed up with comic book CGI mayhem bunging up the Sci-Fi genre in the multiplexes. In fact Eubanks also did a previous intriguing Sci-Fi called Love (2011) that you should also checkout, containing one of the greatest scenes of all time from the genre. He also did the cinematography on Nick Cage’s fabulous popcorn supernatural Sci-Fi hokum treat. This is a director that loves to bring intrigue and mind stretching reality to the big screen. The Signal is a film you need to see guys if you are prepared to suspend your disbelief a little now and then. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense from the sum of its parts but isn’t that the point of Science Fiction films?
Imdb.com – 6.1/10.0 (60,328votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 60% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 54% critic’s approval
Not that many
Jolly japes from cast & Crew
-Behind the Scenes-
On of those ones where no one talking to you and you just see people behind the scenes. I hate that. S if anyone cares.
The Guardian –‘Sadly, this flubs the landing with a banal and credulity-stretching finale that feels like a bad Twilight Zone episode, but the first hour or so is terrific’.
Kim Newman –‘William Eubank continues to work his particular mind-stretching mix of acute character interplay and cosmic conceptual breakthrough’.
Sky Movies –‘While following familiar sci-fi codes, what makes The Signal unique is the way it's transmitted. Because just when you think you've found its wavelength, it switches to another’.
The Horror Show –‘Adequately creepy, flashy, and/or exciting when the story calls for it, but considerably more interesting for its quieter, craftier moments’.
The Mail-‘Part horror, part sci-fi but totally engrossing, William Eubank's The Signal is a small scale production that thrives on some very big ideas’.
Daily Telegraph –‘The more original and clever Eubank is aiming to be, with an ambitious conceit folding in biological experimentation, Area 51-style paranoia and X-Men superpowers, the hokier and more derivative he seems’.
The Sun –‘Up-and-coming British actress Olivia Cooke and Aussie heart-throb Brenton Thwaites look more confused than the audience in this sci-fi drama’.
In life, going downhill is an uphill job.
Star – Dame Maggie Smith
Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 104 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA
Awards – 1 Wins & 5 Nominations
Amazon – £5 00 DVD £6.49 Blue Ray
Golden Globe & BAFTA nomination – Maggie Smith
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Watching movies like this reminds you just how good a writer Alan Bennett is. He scribbles exquisitely simple yet loquacious stuff and very much the people’s writer. He is not trying to put you off with long words and pretension waffle but just fires off crisp dry gags and warm inviting paragraphs from his desk so you actually enjoy the word and stage play experience. When you open the books of the likes of WiIl Self and Ian McEwen its almost as if they don’t want you to read them as they feel they are far more superior to you and so pack their books with long words and sprawling metaphors to scare you of that very same book you paid £ 14.99 for. Sadly for them it does scare us off and whilst they shift 10,000 books to massage their go the readers we enjoy shift 10 million copies, the likes of Dan Brown and E.L James.
The film was shot in the actual house on the actual street where the events of this adapted true story took place, Gloucester Crescent in Camden Town. Some of the same people still lived there when the crew arrived, decades later. There was a stage play of the same name from Alan Bennet from 1999, which also starred Dame Maggie Smith. We are all told to revere this old bird like we do for Judy Dench but she is incredible in this and considering she was 82 when she made this one that’s all you need know about her talent and longevity. She won the Oscar back in 1969 for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ and 10-years later she won number two for California Suite, with four other nominations up to 2002, Gosford Park the last. There are 5 Gold Globes and 4 more nominations and the exact same numbers for the Emmys. Just the 20 BAFTA nominations converted to 7 wins over here. Basically she is our Meryl Streep.
Maggie Smith ...Miss Shepherd
Jim Broadbent ... Underwood
Clare Hammond ... Young Margaret Fairchild
Alex Jennings ... Alan Bennett
Jamie Parker ... Estate Agent
Deborah Findlay ... Pauline
Roger Allam ... Rufus
Richard Griffiths ... Sam Perry
Pandora Colin ... Fiona Perry
Nicholas Burns ... Giles Perry
Dominic Cooper ... Actor
Giles Cooper ... Passer by
Klenerman ... Tom Perry
Its 1970s London and a bag lady (Maggie Smith) and her rusting old Bedford van pitch up in Gloucester Avenue, a leafy suburban street in Camden Town. The mostly snobby middle-class residents are not happy with her being there and but tolerant enough and so leave her be to live and sleep in that van. Resident writer Alex Jennings (Alan Bennett's) decides to be mediator to try and get Miss Mary Sheppard (the name she gives) to move on but she is as stubborn as she is eccentric she isn’t going anywhere.
As weeks turn into months a strained friendship of sorts builds and he eventually lets her park her van in his drive. She would stay there for 15 years. In that time Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is not her real name, a woman who had tried to become a nun, loves classical music and had some sort of run in with a mental institution and had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for which she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest ever since and ending up a bag lady. In all that time Jennings tries to get on with his equally frowned upon life as a single gay man and try and work out who this old lady really is and would her owners like her back. The key seems to be the piano, the only thing that seems to emotionally and visually connect her to her past.
I really enjoyed this more than I thought I would and you can’t help but marvel at Bennett’s skillful and funny writing skills and Maggie Smiths performance. OK, they are well versed in the performance as this is version of their well rehearsed stage play but still a smart transference to a screenplay and then movie. Bennett’s words are like a concerto coming off his typewriter and no fat on the bone here, what I like about his writing the most. He just writes what you see and wraps you in it.
Bennet is surprisingly apt in an acting role and funny and engaging on screen. There are two of Bennett’s character on screen, one his imaginary conscious, the other the person in the present. I’m not sure if that’s more about a writing mechanism to distract us from his sexuality but it works on many levels. Smith has no such worries and just eats up the scenery with this complex curmudgeonly character. You all know an eccentric old person like Mary. I go to county cricket a lot and it’s full of them let me tell you. The joy of the film comes in watching Smith work her magic becoming that ubiquitous bag lady.
Apart from the excellent comedic writing and performances it’s a genuinely funny film experience and at its best when poking fun at the British class system. Most of out best comedy involves that sort of thing. The entire principal cast of Bennett's play The History Boys (which was subsequently made into a very good film with the same actors) also appear in this film and cameo one-by-one as some sort of cheeky in-joke by Bennet, accept the now deceased Richard Griffiths, of course.
Miss Smith told The Guardian that, whilst filming in Camden Town, the crew arrived on set one morning 'to find the yellow van had been broken into, and that two people had spent the weekend inside it "having a good time”. This Guardian reports that this ‘necessitated the removal of all the van's contents - which had been dirtied up for artistic reasons - to be "deep-cleaned, and then made filthy again".'
It cost a cheap $5 million to make but did a healthy $41 million back so considered a big hit over here. The new Bridget Jones movie took $45m to put it in context. Its only negative would be its a bit long and not enough characters fleshed out to add extra oomph to the film so mostly an ongoing caustic married couple joke. This is quite a deceptive British film that delivers on many levels and one you could watch over again, like the Remains of the Day, for example. It’s not as good as that but one of the better films of the year from these shores in 2016. Don’t dismiss it the way you did the Best Exotic Marigold hotel as some sort of film for old people. Both are very funny and intelligent films.
Imdb.com – 6.7/10.0 (15,462votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 91% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
Chicago Sun Times –‘It's about the boundless talents of Maggie Smith, sometimes chewing up the screen, sometimes saying volumes simply by sitting very, very still, with a perfectly perfect expression on her face’.
Washington Post –‘There's no use fending off the force of nature that is Smith. Sensitive and formidable, self-deprecating and brave, she elevates every role she's in, as we know by now.’.
NY Post –‘The Lady in the Van might be preaching, one guesses, about behaving kindly and without judgment toward strangers. The highs and lows that shape it, however, feel unearned’.
The Sun –‘The film is funny in a light, wispy sort of way that never cuts as deep as it should’
Arkansas Times –‘It's guided by a masterful performer with the unwavering support of a spot-on cast that, like those in the best of Bennett's plays, are all on the same page’.
The Mail-‘The Lady in the Van follows a fairly typical old-people-are-more-than-they-seem storyline ... The bizarreness of this true story is underplayed’.
Star – Matt Damon
Genre – Action
Run Time – 123 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA
Awards – 10 nominations
Amazon – £10.00 DVD £15.00 Blue Ray
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So, after Pierce Brosan and his naff CGI pretty much wrecked Bond in the new millennium other studios grabbed their chance to fill the spy blockbuster void. Tom Cruise has doing great business on the comedy and big spectacular stunt thing with the Mission Impossible franchise but we still needed a cool spy smart thriller franchise to fill that gap. And so along came kickass Jason Bourne, a cerebral, articulate thrilling killing machine, those wobbly cameras and incredible punch ups and car chases sending the Cubby Broccoli Estate into roar panic. And they reacted, stealing the Bourne look and feel and employing the brilliant Daniel Craig, Matt Damon and some, Bond back on top of the pile by 2014 with Skyfall. Both franchises had a blip, of course, Quantum of Solace a bit too generic and the confusing arrival of Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross in the Bourne franchise confusing. But there can only be one winner. With Bond in rude health and the Bourne people crossing Jeremy Renner off the list they had to decide whether to reactivate their asset after a 9 - year break. Both actor and director had said they would, only if each other would, and after watching shortass Jeremy Renner in the Bourne Legacy they decided they should before there was no way back. And so they did…
===Who did the money===
Jason Bourne (2016) $120m (budget) $415m gross
Bourne Legacy (2014) $127m (budget) $276m gross
Bourne Ultimatum (2007) $110m (budget) $442m gross
Bourne Supremacy (2004) $75m (budget) $285m gross
Bourne Identity (2002) $60m (budget) $214m gross
Matt Damon ... Jason Bourne
Tommy Lee Jones ... CIA Director Robert Dewey
Alicia Vikander ... Heather Lee
Vincent Cassel ... Asset
Julia Stiles ... Nicky Parsons
Riz Ahmed ... Aaron Kalloor
Ato Essandoh ... Craig Jeffers
Scott Shepherd ... Director NI Edwin Russell
Bill Camp ... Malcolm Smith
Vinzenz Kiefer ... Christian Dassault
Stephen Kunken ... Baumen
10-years after ‘Operation Blackbriar’ came crashing down, Bourne (Matt Damon) is still off the grid and currently prize fighting with gypsies in Eastern Europe to pay his way. When he is contacted by fellow runner Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), the ex CIA analyst who helped him 10-years ago, both are drawn back into the crosshairs of the CIA. Within hours they met in Athens as ant capitalism riots rage. Parsons computer hacking exploits connects the two and a CIA black team on the way.
She tells Bourne that a new Treadstone Operation is up and running and she has an encrypted memory stick with damming evidence, and more detail to his backstory that he needs to know.
An ‘Asset’ (Vincent Cassells) is authorized by new CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) to neutralize Bourne in Athens, still seen as a danger to America for some reason. But after the takedown is bungled, ambitious CIA Operations Chief Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) suggests a more subtle approach and believes they should try to bring Bourne in and get him back in the new program and exploit their best asset, proposing the plan to her immediate boss Director NI Edwin Russell (Scott Shepherd), Dewey begrudgingly agreeing in a high level meeting as she plots her plan.
Bourne is now in Berlin, where he locates Christian Dassault (Vinzenz Kiefer), a superhacker who can encrypt the memory stick. If he can download the contents to the web then the world will know all about it. But there is a twist, information on another set of files changing everything. It seems when Jason Bourne was David Webb his family were far more involved in his inception than he ever knew.
The biggest problem Greengrass was always going to have with this was however good this movie was, it would always be unfairly compared to his trilogy. If this one had been released at the time as part of the franchise it would have got higher than the 55% tomato splat it got. It’s a better movie than that. The Imdb rating of 6.7 is more realistic. It’s great to see the pair back and the magic just about there on screen although they missed a trick or two in making this film as if it was still 2008 and not 2016. The world has changed a lot since the trilogy and a missed opportunity. This franchisee power was always its contemporary smartness.
Although the familiar set piece car and motorbike chases and banks evil white CIA people looking into monitors in the dark are comforting and still there it does lacks a certain something and that maybe because screenwriter Tony Gilroy is not on board for the first time, and expert at bringing the true essence of Robert Ludlum’s books to the big screen. There are irritating moments too, like where the actors explain the plot to the audience through their lines just in case you didn’t get it, something that never happened before in the Bourne movies but a sign of the dumbed down times. Grengrass is clearly self conscious when making this film and wants to please his fans with more of the same instead of being fresh and vibrant like he was with Bourne way back in 2002, why we loved it so much. Some would say there is even superfluous stuff in the film at times to draw in a wider audience.
On the whole its good fun but don’t expect things how they were. As we saw with the disastrous David Brent movie it’s very hard to hold on to the magic when the time gap is so big. It’s not to say this film is bad or anything and Damon does the best he can to welcome us back. But it feels forced at times just to reboot the franchise and that weakness shows in the plot. The car chase down the Vegas strip is good fun and something not seen before and so one up on Mission Impossible there bit the Athens chase sequence feels like the Mexico one in Sceptre. All big action movies now seem to have that over-the-top busy road chase sequence. The negative would be that bits of the movie appear pulled from the first three Bourne movies in style and duplication. And how can he walk around in plain sight and not get picked up on CCTV or satellites when they are all looking for him, not even shades and a pulled down baseball cap this time around. To be fair the start of Skyfall is borrowed from the Bourne movies. All action spy thrillers borrow from each other in the end and let’s hope Bourne doesn’t end up a generic mush three more films from now. The Alicia Vikander feline minx character suggests more films to come.
Imdb.com – 6.7/10.0 (135.429votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 56% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 58% critic’s approval
New Yorker –‘Greengrass is as dexterous as ever, yet the result, though abounding in thrills, seems oddly stifled by self-consciousness and, dare one say, superfluous’
Film Ireland –‘Although it's not quite up to the standard of the original trilogy, it's nice to see Damon back on patrol’.
The Mail –‘We hear a CIA agent claiming "We're still trying to put together a narrative to explain what happened." Good luck with that’.
The National –‘Jason Bourne is a superior summer blockbuster -- bursting with brawn and brains’
Chicago Reader –‘Much of Jason Bourne consists of grim action set pieces interspersed with long sequences of people sitting in front of computer screens. Somehow the movie is simultaneously frenetic and static, going nowhere really, really fast.’.
Sunday Times –‘The broken super-assassin returns after nearly a decade -- and he's moodier than ever’.
BBC –‘It's just like old times. Once again, Bourne hurtles from one grey and gritty European metropolis to another at breathtaking speed... And once again, Greengrass stages the action with bone-jarring immediacy’.
Star – Ben Stiller
Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 1 minutes
Certificate – 15
Country – USA
Awards – 1 Win & 2 Nominations
Amazon – £3.6500 DVD £4.95Blue Ray
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So another film from Noah Baumbach, he of grown up comedies Greenberg, Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale and the bonkers ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’. Again the director teams up with Ben Stiller and a tough shoot as he as diagnosed with prostrate cancer around the time of the film. But being a professional he finished the movie and a good one to.
As with all Baumbach movies there are eccentricities, the cast being the quirks here, none other than Peter Yarrow, better-known as the "Peter" in seminal 1960s folk group Peter Paul & Mary, playing a big role here. This is his first acting role in a movie. We also have a Beastie Boy, Adam Horovitz, playing a big role in the film. Noah is a Jewish boy and he casts lots of Jewish Americans to get that Woody Allen vibe in his work.
Naomi Watts ... Cornelia Breitbart
Ben Stiller ... Josh
Adam Driver ... Jamie
Amanda Seyfried ... Darby
Maria Dizzia ... Marina
Charles Grodin … Leslie Breitbart
Adam Horovitz ... Fletcher
Matthew Maher ... Tim
Peter Yarrow ... Ira Mandelstam
Bonnie Kaufman ... Ira's Wife
Hector Otero ... Frank
Dree Hemingway ... Tipper
Matthew Shear ... Benny
Annie Baker ... Elise
Quincy Tyler Bernstine ... Pepper
40 somethings Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia Srebnick (Naomi Watts) live comfortably in Manhattan village, he a documentary filmmaker, she the daughter of even more respected filmmaker Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin). But things are not as rosy as they look for the Srebnicks. On a personal level, their relationships has waned for not having children and keep making excuses to themselves for not having a family, like being able to go to Paris on a whim, even though they haven’t been to Paris for 10-years. There close friends Marina (Maria Dizzia) and Fletcher (Adam Horovitz) have just had a baby and wont let them forget it. Job wise it’s as equally indecisive and things have deteriorated as Josh has lost inspiration and has been tinkering with his movie project about Doctor Ira Mandelstam (Peter Yarrow) for eight years now and 100 hours of film in the can but without being able to complete it
Things pick up when the couple meet twentysomething hipster couple Jamie (Amanda Seyfried) and Darby (Adam Driver), who are so cool they have a retro flat decorated like the Srebnick’s would have had back in the 1980s in Soho. They are impressed with Jamie and Darby’s freedoms and attitude towards life and the four start to hang out. Cornelia goes to Jamie’s ‘hip hop aerobics’ class whilst Josh hangouts at Darby’s vegan BBQ and clothes sale. They also attend a New Age Ayahuasca ceremony with the young couple where hippies dress in white gowns and drink a nauseas fluid that makes them vomit their bad spirits.
Driven by their new lust for life it soon becomes obvious to everyone but Josh that Darby is more interested in Josh’s connections in the film industry than Josh, Josh soon helping Darby on HIS film. Cornelia is tiring of being trendy and not playing happy families as the relationship comes under even more strain. Its time for the Srebnick’s to stop thinking of who they think they are and live who they really are.
Yep, pretty good stuff, an enjoyable first half very funny as the generation clash gets into full flow. Stiller and Baumbach have that Jewish Manhattan stick humor down to tee and a well written observational comic script on getting old here, something we all have to do, or are now doing, and so have to laugh along with. Hipster, of course, should have the pissed ripped out of them at every opportunity. Stiller had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer just before this film and you can only imagine what’s going through his mind on set. But he is always appealing on screen with that vulnerability and comic timing and ever the professional. Aussie Naomi Watts had jut come up the dreadful and silly Diana Princess of Wales movie disaster and so happy to be as far away from London as possible.
For its $10m budget it did a healthy $ 17m back which is not bad for this type of well observed intelligent movie. As I said it’s funny and races along with no meaningless subplots or love interests and knows its message. It’s a comedy about getting old and dumping your dreams and accepting who you are. You were always going to be yourself as everyone else is taken. Stiller remains a master at this type of little guy humor and it really is all in the eyes with this guy. He has moved on from his romcom life with Owen Wilson.
Imdb.com – 6.3/10.0 (97,123votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 84% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 77% critic’s approval
-Working with Noah Baumbach-
More of the above
Chat about the age gap and social media and technology from when we were younger.
-Working with Charles Grodin-
The famous old actor talks about the craft darling
Chicago Sun Times –‘’ For about an hour, "While We're Young" was one of the most exhilarating times I've had at the movies in many a month. It played like razor-sharp Woody Allen in his prime’.
Independent –‘One of the pleasures of an intermittently very funny film is its sly and subtle approach toward the attrition between generations’.
The Times –‘It's a funny thing, the generation gap. Depending where you are standing, it can look like anything from a hairline fracture to an unbridgeable chasm’.
Globe & Mail-‘If you've been wishing you could see a good Woody Allen comedy again, you should check out Noah Baumbach's While We're Young’.
The Mail-‘Some fans might wish Baumbach had made another "Frances Ha," another "Kicking And Screaming." But instead he's made his first "While We're Young." And thank God for that’.
Star – Nicholas Cage
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 117 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Amazon – £5.9900 DVD
Awards – 4 Wins & 9 nominations
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Oscar winner Nicholas Cage gets a roar deal by the critics if you ask me. Since his golden statue for playing a lush in Laving Las Vegas back in 1996 he hasn’t done much of note for two decades. I personally think he should have won for Moonstruck but there you are. His comic book stuff hasn’t been great and the less said about Ghostrider the better and it’s playing that mixed bag of projects that has irked the movie media. He will literally do anything if the money is right. Kids stuff like National Treasure is probably more his thing these days but this low budget piece of Southern Gothic is what he can deliver and well worth a look. Every now and then actors need to remind us, and themselves, they can actually act and not just about their shouldering sexy eyes or living off past glories. To me Cage is an extremely charismatic actor on screen and you end up enjoying his bad movies just because he is in them. But you get to a certain age the way Mathew ‘Mahogany’ McConaughey did and you no longer get the leading man role as your looks go and time to get serious. It’s certainly an uncharacteristically subtle and dialed down Nicholas Cage this time around.
‘Joe’ (2013) is adapted from the 1991 book by Larry Brown of the same name and a film directed by David Gordon Green, who has also done mixed bag of movies with likewise styles, hopping from the melancholic indie All The Real Girls to stoner comedies like The Sitter and Pineapple Express and back to subtle mood comedies like Prince Avalanche. DGG has an interesting why to work and likes to cast unknowns who are the real people living his stories on screen. A homeless man was cast to play a likewise character in this film and a significant role too. But it did not turn Gary Poulter’s life around and two months after filming ended, the actor was found face down in three feet of water after a night of heavy drinking, stone dead.
• Nicolas Cage as Joe Ransom
• Tye Sheridan as Gary
• Heather Kafka as Lacy
• Ronnie Gene Blevins as Willie
• Brian Mays as Junior
• Sue Rock as Merle
• Adriene Mishler as Connie
• Gary Poulter as Wade
• Dana Freitag as Sue
It’s going to be a tough life for 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan), if it hasn’t been already, his abusive hard drinking bum father Wade (Gary Poulter) always ready to dish out a random beating as the family drift around the South looking for work. Then one day Gary happens upon Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage), a foreman who runs a crew of cash in hand casual workers for a small timber crew in backwoods Texas. The mostly black workforce has to pump toxins into the trees to kill them as the wood is too old to be used to make anything. But the woods are often protected and so this is an agreed loophole for landowners to clear scrub land to farm on. Gary may be young but prepared to graft and after a quick trail allowed to start on the following Monday.
Joe is well-liked by the residents of his small town and his crew, but has a criminal history of jail time for his bad temper and disrespect for the law. He lives in self-imposed emotional isolation of always holding back his anger by staying away from people and relationships, the local brothel run by boozy Madame, Merle (Sue Rock) the only place he can find escape, bonking one of the regulars called Connie (Adriene Mishler) who he is sweet on.
Gary starts work on Monday and accepted by the crew and asks Joe if his pop can work to, which Joe is happy with. But pop is a waster and self destructive, getting them both fired, and Joe witnessing Wade getting a beating by his old man when he takes his pay to the kids house. Gary is desperate to work and tracks down Joe to his house in a storm. Joe agrees, and Gary begins working for him regularly, hiding his pay from Wade, who would rather like the money to buy booze.
Joe has a far bigger problem on his plate than an impressionable young lad who needs a father figure when a vendetta with local man called Willie (Ronnie Gene Blevins) rears its ugly head again like an angry rattler in the desert scrub, the local criminal out of jail and back in town, taking a pot shot at Joe with a rifle, hitting his shoulder. Gary is also in a battle as he decides to stand up to his father by fighting back as his job and being around Joe gives him more confidence. Joe sees a lot of himself in Gary and as the two bond he feels obliged to get the kid away from his old man, especially when Wade tries to prostitute his own daughter (Dana Freitag) to some local rednecks.
Just above ‘run-of the-mill would be fiar’ on this one. Although not much story and what there is pretty routine its Cages understated performance that makes this enjoyable. The plot slowly simmers like hot tar waiting to spill over for its telling ending and plenty of good performances, the kid Tye Sheridan very edgy. I think child actors are so good as they are not vain on screen and simply want to do well for the adults around them and so more naturalistic and so have no angle to their performance. They are not acting as such but playing themselves at that age. Gary Poulter’s turn as the bum dad is spot on as that appears to be who he is. Taking a drunk off the street to play a big part in your movie is incredibly brave. Everything Poulter does seems real, especially when he brains a fellow homeless person just to steel his booze. I was not surprised he died in a bum fight two moths after the movie.
The story meanders a bit and it becomes a right-of- passage standard fair as the boy maturity charge offers Cages character redemption of sorts. Cage does pathos rather well and his brow one of the better furrowed ones in the business. He is an awaked physical shape on screen with his gentle hunch and slightly odd he is a leading man but as ever with Italian Americans it’s all in the eyes. His real name is Nicholas Kim Copolla. He is nephew to Francis Copolla and a family of film people and so always going to be a movie star. I like him though and although he gets panned for his film choices he is magnetic on screen and is here. He just comes across more like one of us than a movie star.
Now Blockbusters has closed down on the highstreet no one really knew about this film and so it tanked on pay per view and the flicks. With three brash superhero films, a couple of romcoms and a big name cop caper raging on the other screens in your local multiplex it’s hard to get people through the doors of cinema seven to watch a low budget moody indie. Its $4m budget trickled back $2.36m for what is one of Cages better movies. To me this feels like a prelude to something better for Cage and maybe h quite fancy a second Oscar one day to join the ‘Mcconaughonsance’.
Imdb.com – 6.9/10.0 (37,980votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 87% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
-Behind the Scenes-
The Sun –‘Nicolas Cage, in 2014, gave about 15 horrible performances and one great one’.
Sight & Sound –‘There is a pleasing synchronicity between Joe's attempts to stem his temper and the effort made by Cage to keep his own actorly excesses in check’.
Financial Times –‘The plot griddles its right-on themes. Deforestation; social deprivation; child abuse; alcohol abuse . . . It's a long menu and the food isn't any good’.
The Seattle Tribune –‘The way director David Gordon Green uses Cage, and the way the actor modulates the performance, seems a quiet commentary on who he's become onscreen, and how to draw upon it’.
The Independent –‘Green specialises in a soulful naturalism, and Joe contrasts moments of Malick-style lyricism with scenes of extreme brutality’.
EFilm Critic –‘A real movie, for grown-ups, fighting for table scraps in a marketplace dominated by spider-men and x-persons.
The Guardian –‘Joe is a gripping drama with a powerful moral core, that has sympathy for those trying to make their way alone through the world, but doesn't give them much of a chance’.
.Empire Magazine –‘An understated Nicolas Cage - there's a phrase you don't get to write too often these days - anchors a superbly realised film, which, like its eponymous hero, has a brittle outer shell concealing a surprisingly warm heart’.
Star – Baseball
Genre – Family > Comedy> Biopic> Sports
Run Time – 124 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA/India
Awards – 1 Win & 2 nominations
Amazon – £4.75 DVD £12.49 Blue Ray
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After South East Asia practically bailed out Hollywood just after the ‘Credit Crunch’ (a lot of Indian and Chinese money poured into the studio system) it felt like The Academy returned the favor by awarding the excellent Slumdog Millionaire 8 Oscars, including Best Picture. Subtitled films do not win the main Oscars. It’s unheard of. To be fair Danny Boyle’s movie was well worth the Oscar glory but a certain bias was applied that year for me, Fox Searchlight Studio benefiting the most as it was to be their highest grossing film to date at $337 million dollars and the second highest grossing subtitled film of all time in the West behind the Passion of the Christ ($611 million). Because of that success Disney thought they may as well have a crack at India with ‘The Million Dollar Arm’, based on the true story of an American sports agent who set up a competition in cricket mad India to find a golden arm quick and accurate enough to sign a professional baseball contract in America. It was a success and this is his story.
• Jon Hamm as J. B. Bernstein
• Aasif Mandvi as Ash Vasudevan
• Suraj Sharma as Rinku Singh
• Madhur Mittal as Dinesh Patel
• Bill Paxton as Tom House
• Lake Bell as Brenda Fenwick
• Alan Arkin as Ray Poitevint, a sports scout
• Pitobash Tripathy as Amit Rohan, a baseball fanatic hired by Bernstein
• Allyn Rachel as Theresa, Bernstein's assistant
• Darshan Jariwala as Vivek, a local Indian guide
• Tzi Ma as Will Chang, a sports business investor
• Bar Paly as Lisette
• Rey Maualuga as Popo
J. B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a big time sports agent who, along with his business partner Ash Vasudevan (Aasif Mandvi), decides to go it alone and form their own sports management company. But most of J.B.'s clients have retired or moved on and when he fails to reel in star college football player Popo Vanuatu (Rey Maualuga) after 6 months of wooing, it feels to them that the project has stalled. Popo demands a million pounds cash to sign with JB and so loses his client to another agency.
Desperate to find new clients, J.B. is looking for inspiration. Then one night alone in his big house flicking through cable TV channels he happens upon a cricket match in India on one channel and Britain’s Got Talent on another, a Simon Cowell moment flashing through his mind, the plan to exploit that massive untapped market in India and why not hold a contest to turn some cricket mad Indian bowlers into baseball start pitchers in America? A Chinese basketball player had made it in the NBA and that Chinese market was proving lucrative and India also has a billion people so why not?
JB approaches investor Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma) with his proposal and will call the contest "Million Dollar Arm.". He will tour India to find two players from open auditions. Contestants score points by demonstrating they can pitch a baseball with speed and accuracy, a million dollar contract split between two winners. The two winners will be flown to the U.S. and receive coaching to become legitimate baseball prospects within two years. Chang commits to providing the funding; only if the prospects are ready within 12 months. With no alternative, J.B. reluctantly agrees with Chang the winners will be ready for a major league try-out within one year.
J.B. now needs a team to set up the operation and join his Indian fixer Vivek (Darshan Jariwala) on the ground. He asks maverick veteran baseball pitching Coach Tom House (Bill Paxton) to train his Indian’s in the US to be ready to pitch in the national trails one year from now. House is not convinced the timeline will work as cricket bowling very different to baseball. But he agrees and now JB just needs a scout to come to India, deciding on curmudgeonly and boozy Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin).
India’s bustling chaos, bewildering traffic, insane overcrowding and lax business ideals are discombobulating for the pair and they will need help. A local Indian, and a rather jolly baseball fan, Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy), has heard about the contest and blags his way to be interpreter as the boys hit the road.
After lengthy try-outs in numerous hectic city and town turnouts and local TV coverage - but not much talent - two youngsters emerge as the winners - Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), not hitting the target NBL speed of 90mph but mid 80s and so good enough for the stunt. As it turns out nether play cricket. They are both from poor families and their parents reticent to let them go. The boys are also overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of America and soon booted out of their hotel and living with JB, pretty neighbor Brenda Fenwick (Lake Bell) is the only person who genuinely seems interested in their well-being as the try-outs near.
Although not right up there with other Hollywood sports biopics its good fun. It’s rather light and friendly postcard India and so made not to remotely offends and so draw that likewise South East Asian audience. It’s pretty accurate as far as the real story goes and the likeable Indian leads as humble as the real two Indian guys. Although Dinesh Patel had a good first year in the minor leagues, he struggled in his second and was let go. He is now back in India studying to be a teacher. Singh has had more success. He is still on the Pirates' books, but for the past two years has struggled with injury. It was a gimmick PR stunt to a point but that sort of thing nothing new in modern sports. Manchester United have bought numerous average players over from emerging markets that play for a season or so just to sell United shirts and the team in those emerging markets, Kagawa from Japan and Dong from China to name but two. Teams will even ask to change the Premier League kick offs to later ones so they can play their average players on prime time Asian TV slots.
As with all of these based on a true story biopics if you know of the real story then they can be rather bland. I didn’t know the true story and I lob cricket and so extra interest for me even though there isn’t much cricket in the movie. The two winners were actually college javelin throwers.
It’s a slow boil though and two different movies, one about the contest and then another about the reality check that this may well just be a PR stunt and the boys will look ridiculous when it comes to tryouts. There is also the un-need love interest between bachelor JB and the girl next door that is part of the reason why the film is flabby in places.
As a sports biopic its nothing like the power and passion of Mark Walberg’s ‘Invincible’ (also Disney) or the fun and frolics of Eddie the Eagle but entertaining all the same. There are some funny little bits based on Indian wobbly head stereotypes and innocents abroad but nothing really of substance on the industry in the Jerry Maguire sense. They could have shaved 20 minutes off it as there isn’t anywhere near two hours plus of good stuff here. It does the job though. It’s a well made fun family Disney adventure.
For its $25m budget it did a useful $46 million back so fair play to director Craig Gillespie for making the most of a film that is more Indian than a baseball film Americans would generally approve of and be drawn to. Let’s face it; Million Dollar Arm has a lot of competition, Kevin Costner alone having four baseball belters.
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (36,995votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 63% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com –56 % critic’s approval
We meet the two Indian actors in baseball camp learning to ply the basics. Then we meet the real Rinku and Dinesh. Although Patel had a good first year in the minor leagues, he struggled in his second and was let go. He is now back in India studying to be a teacher. Singh has had more success. He is still on the Pirates' books, but for the past two years has struggled with injury.
Quite a few
Paulo Alto Review –‘The art of the deal gives way to matters of the heart, giving viewers a game changer both charming and uplifting’
Observer –‘Craig Gillespie's by-numbers schmaltzathon never transcends its tourist's-eye views of India or patronisingly cliched views of its people’.
The San Francisco Times –‘...has trouble finding the strike zone, and in the baseball-movie canon, is likely to be relegated to the bullpen.
Movie Talk –‘Jon Hamm turns on the charm and scores a home run’.
Scotsman –‘A cross between Bend It Like Beckham and Cool Runnings, you can see what Disney is pitching from a mile away, but it's polished and pleasant’.
Independent –‘In its own gently comical way, Million Dollar Arm plays up the misunderstandings between Hollywood and India -- as well as the mutual fascination’.
The Mail-‘Though it doesn't offer much by way of freshness, Million Dollar Arm is about as enjoyable as a predictable film gets, thanks to a feel good mix of genuine heart and wit’.
Daily Express –‘It might sound like a superhero movie but Million Dollar Arm is a stirringly human drama based on a true story and a welcome reminder that extraordinary feats can be achieved by mere mortals’.
Guardian –‘A cold, hard business story, reshaped by Disney into a warm, fuzzy hug’.
The List –‘Hamm's charm works well playing a debonair scoundrel on television but in this bland, family friendly offering, it's a resource that's quickly drained’.
Star – Tom Hiddlestone
Genre – Drama/comedy
Run Time – 120 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – UK
Awards – 8 nominations
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £8.99Blue Ray
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I’m a big fan of Ben Wheatley and so when High Rise came out, his latest film, I didn’t hesitate to put it on the must see list. I left it for a bit as the reviews weren’t great but it stars Tom Hiddlestone and my favorite little minx Sienna Miller so it stayed on that loyalty list. Wheatley’s first film was called Down Terrace, a low budget gangster movie from Brighton, distinctive for its everyday villains and paranoid messed up violence. Kill Bill followed in the same crime genre that was even better and then Sightseers, the funniest film of 2014. Surely High Rise would be OK in the end. Isn’t it?
It’s a film based on the JJ Ballard book of the same name and a stalled passion project for producer Jeremy Thomas for over three decades. It was once deemed "unfilmable." by many and so proved the case. It borrows from Clockwork Orange in mindless 70s violence and period look and Wheatleys strong and popular cast seemed to save this from the worse of the critics tongue, man of the moment Tom Hiddlestone the stand out name, and he is totally naked here girls and not just a bare bottom to ogle at.
Tom Hiddleston ... Laing
Jeremy Irons ... Royal
Sienna Miller ... Charlotte
Luke Evans ... Wilder
Elisabeth Moss ... Helen
James Purefoy ... Pangbourne
Keeley Hawes ... Ann
Peter Ferdinando ... Cosgrove
Guillory ... Jane
Reece Shearsmith ...Steele
Enzo Cilenti ... Talbot
Augustus Prew ... Munrow
Dan Renton Skinner ... Simmons
Stacy Martin ... Fay
Tony Way ... Robert the Caretaker
A new forty storey high-rise, built by esteemed architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons), is the chic of modern living in 1970s London and getting its finishing touches as the well-healed residents move in. The higher you live in the tower the more esteemed you are with the richest of all living on the top floors in the penthouse suits. But the high-rise provides its tenants with a communal swimming pool, gym, spa and supermarket and even a primary school for some mixing. The idea is there is little reason to leave the building outside of working hours.
As time goes by there are some technical faults with the new build and the caretaker (Tony Way) getting complaints. But the building is a success and its occupants gradually choose to become isolated from the outside world as they enjoy the intimacy discontent from the grind.
The handsome Dr Laing (Hiddlestone) is moving into an apartment on the 25th floor, after his sister dies. He begins a relationship with sexy single mother Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller) on the floor above and becomes a fatherly figure to her son, Toby (Louis Suc). He also becomes friends of sorts with alpha male Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) and his heavily-pregnant wife Helen (Elisabeth Moss), who live 15 floors below the doc in a much smaller apartment with their screaming kids. The doc is quietly spoken and not much of a mixer and so makes him of interest to some of the other residents.
The next day, Laing is invited to the privileged 40th storey penthouse to meet Royal, where he finds an extravagant rooftop garden and is invited to a swanky decadent party being thrown by Royal's snobby wife, Ann (Keeley Hawes). The do is an 18th-century costume party but Laing quickly thrown out of the party for not being dressed for it with comments hurled at him by the upities.
As the power outages become more common, along with water being shut off and garbage chutes becoming blocked, the lower-floor residents are becoming increasingly annoyed as the top floors are not suffering these problems. Law and order begin to disintegrate in the building due to the failing infrastructure and increasing tensions between floors. Violence becomes commonplace, food from the supermarket becomes scarce and the building devolves into class warfare.
You know the opening scene to The Meaning of Life when the skyscrapers do battle with each other as the bowler-hatted salary men go to war in a bid for freedom? Well that pretty much sums up this Ben Wheately misfire. Even The Pythons would struggle to get this to work on screen. The film opens with Tom Hiddleston killing a white Siberian husky and spit roasting it an its downhill from there, the only highlight being that Tom Hiddlestone moment. It would not surprise me if that wasn’t a late decision by the film company as they knew the film would be a hard sell and so that would sit well in the trailer, which it did. If you didn’t know, Tom is a ‘confirmed bachelor’ in real life and that will either clincher or be the finisher for the big Bond job, when it arises.
The majority of critics gave this the benefit of doubt with 61% on Rottentomatos as they clearly saw something we mere mortals didn’t, the later giving it a resounding tomato splat of 37%. To me it’s all too pretentious and messy and with no real narrative and that Monty Pythonesque look very much misplaced. You can see Wheatley is pulling hard from Clockwork Orange and a film he clearly adores but that movie was also pretentious and muddled and so this could only be that. It’s the type of film that would work better as an episode of Dr Who or something and interesting to know Wheately had directed two episodes of Peter Cappaldi’s Dr Who just before this was made. In fact in the extras he says it was loosely based on an old Dr Who episode called The Tower. There is a low budget film called Tower Block with Jack O’Connell that uses the claustrophobic entrapment of a London skyscraper so much better and I would watch that instead guys.
It bombed, even with enough of the important broadsheet critics behind it, the budget of $6 million scraping back just $3.6 million with the disapproving public, that scraping sound like finger nails on a chalkboard for Wheatley. It’s a set back but he will quickly recover. Hiddlestone doesn’t really fit as the uptight middle-class doctor and the rest of the strong British and American cast somewhat wasted, the hulking Luke Evans the standout for me in that boozy Ollie Read preliterate role. I have a bit of crush on Sienna Miller so she can do no wrong and some steamy naked sex scenes with Hiddlestone to enjoy. She has tremendous tits.
All agree Wheatley is an excellent filmmaker but just go too greedy and overconfident here for this project. It remains an un-makable film. I get the message of the book and I’m sure that was an electric naughty read back in 1970s and 80s like most of his stuff but its 2017 and the world has moved on and the Class War already played out Trumps arrival suggesting the proletariat are now winning. I would avoid this one like Trump.
Imdb.com – 5.7/10.0 (23.538votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 61% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 65% critic’s approval
-Audi Commentary –
Ben Wheatley and Tom Hiddlestone try to convince us they have made a profound clever film.
Cast & Crew chat about this and that
-Bringing Ballard to the Screen-
As people have said, this book should not be a film. It proved the case.
Daily Star –‘Incoherent, pretentious and painfully self-indulgent’.
East Bay –‘High-Rise refuses to let us off with a whiff of revolutionary outrage when a truckload is so easy to dump off’.
The Times –‘It's one of those works of futurism that seems simultaneously very prescient in its time, and slightly dated in ours. It underscores its points with a yellow highlights’.
Variety –‘It could take decades for critics and audiences to appreciate whatever genius lurks behind the chaos, but for the time being, it seems like little more than madness’.
Financial Times –‘ In High-Rise the fitfully brilliant Briton Ben Wheatley, with writing partner Amy Jump, seizes what seems a perfect-fitting text -- JG Ballard's dystopian novel High-Rise -- and makes an omnishambles of it’.
Hollywood Reporter –‘There is a goldmine of rich material here, all beautifully shot, but fatally lacking in focus or momentum.
Chicago Reader –‘Director Ben Wheatley ("Kill List") is masterful with arresting imagery set in a dystopian spin on the '70s; less so with a compelling narrative’.
Chicago Reader –‘No matter how much one shades the characters, though, High-Rise defies adaptation because the most vivid character is the building itself’.
Star – Michael Fassbender
Genre – Western
Run Time – 87 minutes
Certificate – 15
Country – U.K/NZ
Awards – 5 Wins & 18 nominations
Amazon – £4.00 DVD £7.14 Blue Ray
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Every now and then a debut feature film by a British director blows you away, the case with John Maclean and Slow West, a die hard western indeed. I had the same feeling when I saw Ben Wheatley’s domestic gangster movie ‘Down Terrance’ and the same again with Gareth Edwards low budget Sci-Fi cult classic ‘Monsters’. It’s such a buzz when you discover these guys. Edwards made ‘Monsters’ in 2010 with no money and off the shelf special effects on his laptop and two paid actors and six years later entrusted with the billion dollar Star Wars film Rogue Wars. Ben Wheatley fell on his face a bit with the pretentious High Rise but still bought us the hilarious Sightseers and the original and sadistic Kill List soon after. You need to checkout their movies. All the more impressive with Maclean is his first feature is an impressive and sprawling mid budget western. His directing style is impressive, confident and quirky and how many debut directors secure Michael Fassbender for their first movie! It’s also the debut feature of the rather impressive and striking 18-year-old Kodi Smit-Mcphee as the love struck boy teenager. We have some real talent coming through here.
• Michael Fassbender as Silas Selleck
• Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jay Cavendish
• Ben Mendelsohn as Payne
• Caren Pistorius as Rose Ross
• Rory McCann as John Ross
• Edwin Wright as Victor the Hawk
• Michael Whalley as The Kid
• Andrew Robertt as Werner
• Madeleine Sami as Marimacho
• Brian Sergent as Peyote Joe
It’s the 1900s in the Highlands of Scotland and fresh faced and innocent 17-year-old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is besotted with a girl called Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius). They are inseparable but she does not reciprocate his love and sees him as her little brother and told him so. When she hides him under her bed to avoid a confrontation with her family incase they mistrued the situation it mistrudes it further and tension grows between the Ross and Cavendish clan as Jay publicly declares his feelings for Rose and a fight breaks out and a Cavendish is killed. Fearing a long family feud the Rose and her parents flee to the American West to start a new life.
Jay misses Rose and decides to seek passage to find her. But he is a naive and vulnerable kid and soon cornered by some Indian killing mercenaries of the Confederate on the hostile plains. So enter ruthless bounty hunter Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), who shoots the bad guys dead. Selleck decides the kid will need protection and charges him $50 to get him where he needs going. Jay agrees and off they go.
Silas is gruff and moody whilst the kid articulate and open minded and so not that much conversation going on as they cross the rugged West. But they have company, fellow bounty hunters headed by Victor the Hawk (Edwin Wright) on the same journey for some reason. On that track they have a shootout in a convenience store, Jay loses his possessions to a con man when he wanders off and then stumbles on the camp of their trackers and gets extremely drunk. But as they near Rose and her father (Rory McCann) living in a homestead on the other side of Ghost whispering Woods it becomes clear to Jay that Silas has an ulterior motive to just being his paid protection and will Rose want to see him?
For $ 1.3m dollar this looks amazing and a cracking cast to go with. Maclean has pulled off something special here on that money and even though mostly shot in NZ you would never know. You have to have some balls to make your first film a sprawling Western on location in New Zealand.
It’s stylish and funny and yet retains the essential elements of the traditional western of cowboys, Indians, horses, the maiden in distress and fatal gunfights. It’s got a feel of its own and if you remember In Bruges with Colin Farrell it has the comic edge the way that suburban western did
Kodi Smit-McPhee is excellent in the lead and plays it with innocence yet knowing intelligence on screen. The boy has real presence. His debut reminds me a lot of Will Pouter’s arrival on screen, another striking young British actor, Will supporting Leo Dicaprio in the Revenant, of course. Michael Fassbender has good chemistry with the kid and doesn’t try to outdo him on screen by showing off and the two josh nicely throughout. I’m not a big fan of Michael Fassbender as he thinks he is the new Daniel Day-Lewis and I always felt he picked films accordingly but here he is great macho fun and very watchable as mainstream XMEN Fassbender.
I know the Western is an old genre and done to death but this more a refresh than rehash. It’s a rare beast of a film that is genuinely engaging from the opening scene and doesn’t let go, packed full of humor, pleasing panoramas and inventive camera work and a distinctive cinematography. It’s not a gory western like The Proposition or Open Range and lots of holding the hand to hearts when shot and falling off horses and so suitable for older kids who see far worse on YouTube. There is nothing sadistic or gritty about it. It just give off that pleasing warm feeling of the viewer witnessing something on screen that’s new and original and offers us great promise for McLean’s movies to come. I had that same feeling the first time I saw Sci-Fi movie Serenity by Josh Whedon.
Imdb.com – 6.9/10.0 (30,623votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 93% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com –72 % critic’s approval
Not that many a sign of a good director.
Of course the director is going to do a layered track for his first movie.
-The Black Heist-
A short film with Michael Fassbinder
-On Strange Land-
The Making of Slow West. The new superstar director looks like h wrote on the Viz magazine.
Talking heads stuff from the director and cast.
-SW in Super8-
It was going to be shot in 35mm film but ended up a digital shoot. It’s just a faster process and much cheaper. Here is the film trailer in Super8, what Westerns were shot in back then.
Independent –‘As the title suggests, Maclean is in no hurry. Even at the most climactic moments, he always looks for an offbeat perspective.’
Little White Lies –‘That magical combo: a debut feature that knows exactly where it's going and leaves you wanting more’.
The Guardian –‘It's only slow in the way a rattlesnake or a predatory killer is slow. This terrific film is actually tense, twisty and brilliant’
Scene.com –‘The tone of the film, a darkly absurdist frontier odyssey, recalls both the films of the Coen Brother and the novels of Cormac McCarthy’.
The Mail –‘This quirky, confident Western belies the fact it is the director's first feature, and marks him out as one to watch’.
Rollingstone –‘It may skimp on its characters, but with a mostly successful amalgamation of various tones, Slow West is a beautiful and bold shot in the arm for the genre’.
The telegraph –‘Slow West derives its strength not only from its multi-layered story but also from its spectacular visuals of a geography, which simultaneously seems subliminally awe-inspiring and menacing’.
Star – Emmanuelle Seigner
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 1 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – France
Awards – 6 Wins & 18 nominations
Amazon – £5.99.00 DVD £7.99Blue Ray
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As with Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ there was a lot of snobbery from the literal elite around the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon, pretty much every working-class woman between the age of 30 and 60 seemingly buying it and so reason enough for the reading class to pan the book. For me any book that gets people reading has to be a good thing, especially anti establishment ones. Disproving religion and making the conservative middle-class cringe over kicky sex does the trick. Both 50 Shades and the DaVinci Code outsold the bible at one point, deliciously ironic in Dan Brown’s case. For me a book should engage the reader and not try to alienate them with big words and pretentious writing styles to some how prove the writers intellect over his readers, which normally results in lower sales. It’s fair to say neither of these books did that, books written to be films not orange Booker Prize winners.
Those literary types will be the first to tell you that Venus in Furs is a famous erotic fiction piece from the 19th century on the subject of S&M and bondage, written by Austrian Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, centered around his naughty wife Wanda von Dunajew, the word masochism emanating form his last name over the decades. NY playwright David Ives loved the book and turned it into his version of the stage play called Venus in Fur (2010). That was a big success and so equally deviant Roman Polanski turned it into a movie, his first foreign language film for half-a century, a strange statistic because the French-Polish director has been ostracized from the English speaking world for his particular version of forbidden love and sex for 30 of those years.
We all know the working-class have better and more sex but this tantalizing and erotic film on the exploration of bondage and S&M is enlightening. I never really got the attraction of this type of kinky sex other than pain leads to intense orgasms. But the film lays it bare, so to speak, and now I get it. We also know taboo sex is the best by far and the director certainly enjoyed that and so the best man for the job here. If any ciao ladies can enlighten me more then my message box is always open.
Polanski’s twist with the film version is to cast middle aged actors but Emmanuelle Seigner still looking incredibly sexy in her basque at 48. She worked with Polanski in the Johnny Depp movie the 9th Gate and very good in La Vie en Rose. Her potential lover on stage is Mathieu Amalric, the blinking paraplegic from ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ and the Bond villain from
Quantum of Solace. Amalric is a prolific actor and has already done 23 movies since this was released in 2013. He has directed 17 short films and 8 TV documentaries and has 10 writing credits in his 107 acting rolls.
Emmanuelle Seigner ... Vanda Jourdain / Wanda von Dunayev
Mathieu Amalric ... Thomas Novacheck /Leopald
Writer and director Thomas Devour (Mathieu Amalric) is just closing up the theater after a long day of fruitless auditions for his version of the play ‘Venus of Fur’. So in comes Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), a gum chewing middle aged sexy blonde with her clip clopping heels in the echoing around the empty theatre like a racehorse in the parade ring. She is not young but sensually squeezed in her leather outfit like toothpaste in the tube.
Thomas is tired and ready to go home to his wife as Vanda explains that she ‘acts’ in burlesque reviews across Paris but wants to try out for the role. Thomas dismisses her because he thinks she is a common stripper and belongs on that stage, as much training in the craft as class. But there is more to her than meets the eye and when she convinces him she knows the part and has read the book she begins to audition with Thomas reluctantly playing the male lead off Leopold. Not only has she bought her own period dress but set up the lighting desk.
Once on the stage she is a revelation, dropping into the role of the elegant and sexy Wanda von Dunayev like a true pro, convincing, to. Thomas is mesmerized by her as she arranges the stage accordingly for each scene and delivers the lines barely looking at the script, absolutely dripping with erotic sensuality. She even contests some of the playwright’s words as her confidence rises and makes changes accordingly as this unsophisticated stripper slowly takes control of the director, in and out of character. Thomas is in enthrall as midnight ticks up and ready to offer the part. But Vanda has a naughty side and wants to get more from Thomas words and performance and thinks he should play the make lead. The seduction is underway as thye get caught up in their characters as Thomas becomes the submissive and Vanda becomes Wanda.
I really enjoyed this, a beautifully written and intelligent double-header that leaves you enthralled early on as the two protagonists skillfully throw words at each for maximum effect. The role reversal around sexual politics adds a nice twist and the exploration of pain and bondage is intriguing as it’s naughty. Emmanuelle Seigner looks big boned sexy as hell and brings a real eroticism to the film. Now I know why women wear stockings and how sexy they can be. Thye are like the red carpets to her naughty bits. This film reinforces just how sexy words, movement and intelligence can be.
Mathieu Amalric delivers as the meek and easily devoured male meal for out femme fetal and every line, cut from the book or part of the film, having impact. Its one of those subtitled films that won’t let you look away. When you are a young guy there is something very sexy about older women and now I am older I can se what it was. I am surprised this film didn’t win an Oscar for its acting roles. It did get nominated for the Palme de Or at Cannes to tempt Polanski over but not t win and a no show.
It did clean up at the César Awards which is the French version of the BAFTAS.
If don’t like subtitles this is very talky and hardwork but, like I said, you will try to look away but you will soon be reading every word. If you are a bright person but simply don’t have the time this is one of those films you should give it a go. I feel for you on subtitles and I can only do one foreign film a week but Europe and the test of the world simply make better films than Hollywood and so you have to make the effort. I would go for this one just for being so sexy, watching it like looking through a peep hole at your neighbor sunbathing in her bikini.
Imdb.com – 7.2/10.0 (12,345votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 89% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 69% critic’s approval
Wall Street Journal –‘The couple's movie-long pas de deux, during which time a reversal of roles takes place and the inner Thomas is exposed to the world (us), is staged with delicious irony and ingenuity by Mr. Polanski’.
Los Angeles Times –‘"Venus in Fur," a whip-smart dissection of gender politics via some teasing S&M, is arch. So arch in fact that it is surprising it's a Roman Polanski film’.
New Yorker –‘Ever the alchemist, Roman Polanski continues his quest for the process whereby theatre is transmuted and reforged into film’.
Washington Post -‘One thing that makes the dialogue-heavy movie so compelling (and also something that Polanski does so well) is an undercurrent of dread.’
Nashville Scene-‘[Venus in Fur] is the sexiest movie I've seen in a long time’.
New Zealand Herald –‘It's tempting to conclude that the entire thing is a rather distasteful joke at the audience's (and the actors') expense’.
San Francisco Chronicle –‘Pay attention to the camera and you will see that Polanski is a clinician. He is in the thrall of no one’.
If Leicester City could win the Premiership and Mr Khan could get a second series on the BBC then Donald Trump could be president, right? And so it proved an extraordinary year. Here is my A- Z of a packed sporting 2016.
A is for Andy Woodward
Andy Woodward, the ex Crewe and Sheffield Wednesday player, made an accusation that he was sexually abused at Crewe by convicted pedophile and football coach back in the 1980s.This triggered a rush of similar claims from similar players against multiple clubs. At this stage 5 employees at 5 Premier League clubs and three Championship clubs are officially been investigated. It’s statistically rather off that all 5 clubs are the London Premier League clubs. 30 London clubs alone have been accused in the 77 so far across the league and non league ladder. That seems absurd. Over 850 people on the NSPCC lines alone have complained, Aston Villa the latest to be named. The question now is how many are true?
After the council agreed to pay out on the Lambeth kids home scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s, any kid there, whilst a convicted pedophile was there, CAN now apply for compensation, whether abused or not. You can guess just how many people will now bang in a claim. The Shirley Oaks Survivors group of just over 700 people was the ones that have been causing all the problems at the Historic Sexual Abuse Hearings. The proceedings have been hijacked by ambulance chasing lawyers that are allegedly puling groups together to drum up class actions in pursuit of compensation so nothing actually getting done to prevent future abuse, hence the resignations. A lot of people from carehomes lead troubled lives thereafter and in need of cash. Children’s homes across the nation are being accused and the payouts are big for some adults. Woodward’s group has over 2000 ‘abused adults’ in it so far and that would be one huge class action payout against mega rich football, clubs who don’t want the bad publicity. I’m sure a lot of kids were abused back then but the numbers don’t add up. What people generally don’t know is Woodward was sacked after 13 years as a policeman just one week before he went public with his accusations and sacked for an’ inappropriate relationship with a female victim crime’. That will come out in any court case. He will want to be paid off before the court case. There are other lurid and somewhat ironic allegations about him also online. His new girlfriend is organizing the collections for his foundation. It’s just too expensive for organizations and businesses to contest each of these cases in the high court and so have to agree compensation at a lower figure than those lawyers’ fees, whether abuse took place or not. This is why whiplash claims are so high.
B is for Badminton
The Olympic sport produced a surprise Men’s Doubles Olympic bronze for Brit Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge, the world number 22s beating the highly fancied Chinese pair. But 6 months later shock rippled around the sport as the British Olympic Badminton program was effectively shut down when the funding was completely withdrawn by UK Sport. It’s not a safe middle-class sport like rowing and simply dependent on Lottery money and so that could be that. Lottery funding is falling after the bizarre decision to charge £2 a ticket and so cuts being made. Tennis continues to receive big funding from the Lottery, as do many sports that have few people in them that actually play the lottery.
C is for Chicago Cubs
The Cubs finally ended a 108-year run of not winning baseballs biggest prize. The Cleveland Indians won three of the first four games of the best of seven World Series and it looked like the record would remain but the Cubs battled back and the first team in 21-years to win the World Series from losing three of the first four. They were the best team at the turn of the last century and setting records but just after the War they suffered the curse of the goat, a story you don’t need to look up.
D is for Drugs & Doping
Most Russian athletes have been doping since just after the war and it took until 2016 to finally do something about it. The Cold War put in place state doping programs to make one side look stronger than the other on the sports fields and the Americans as guilty. Putin has rebooted the Cold War and so Russia back to its old ways. After Russia were rightfully humiliated over it they hit back and hacked sports bodies computers here, revealing a massive rise in Therapeutic Use Exemptions, the so called TUE’s , loopholes that allow athletes to take banned drugs in sports where they need them to compete because they have are supposed to have a certain medical condition. 70% of the British Olympic swimming team in London 2012 claimed to have asthma so they can take certain banned stimulants. TUEs also allowed obvious cheaters to keep racing and a way out for sports bodies not to ban those star athletes that were guaranteeing their lottery funding, Bradley Wiggins an example of.
Alamaz Ayana of Ethiopia smashed the WR in the Olympic 10,000m final. Her time not only broke the 30 minute mark but loped off 14 seconds off the 23-year-old previous WR, held by a Chinese athlete whose coach was banned for doping soon after. Neither have tested positive yet. She was running faster than Mo Farah! Over to you Russian Bears.
E is for England
The highest pass completion rate in the 2014 World Cup was between Joe Hart and Andy Carroll, a vision the purist don’t need in their heads for an international team. In 2016 along came Marcus Rashford. With his late form and selection for the squad going into the Euros it was shaping up to be another Euro 2004 when Wayne Rooney exploded on to the scene and would have won us that trophy if he had stayed fit. There were similar hopes for Rashsford. He just looked that type, a confident, quick and driving forward player with great touch and can score a neat goal. But, ironically, it would be the jaded and neutralized 20 fags a day Wayne Rooney that would start the match and Rashsford only used late on as an impact substitute by Woy. Rashford immediately turned the group game with Wales for a 2-1 win at the death and the only one not terrified off failing out ther. But Woy left it too late in the disastrous Iceland match for the equalizer and extra time and that was that. Let’s hope Southgate uses him more in 2017-18.
F is for fixing
The BBC published reports that 16 players in the top 50 of men’s tennis have been flagged by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) due to suspicions that the players have thrown matches over the past several years. However, according to the reports, all the players, including Grand Slam Champions, have been allowed to continue competing. Many were players pitching up to play with injuries, just to collect their losers cheques. If you no show you don’t get paid. But some where players that were not injured but not too keen on going deep in a tournament for what ever reason and so lost. Its maybe they don’t like playing on a particular surface but either way it still going on as players tell their friends and family they may not win this match, hence the irregular betting patterns that trigger the investigations.
G is for Golf
Danny Willet from Yorkshire won the coveted Green Jacket at Augusta. It was an unexpected victory in the US Masters. 14 years after Faldo’s last win the Brits had failed to win a Major until Graham McDowell’s surprise win in the 2010 US Open. Northern Ireland would then win six in three years and GB some eight in six years. Justin Rose did win The US Open in 2013 but he is South African born so Danny Willet is the first English born for 20 years. He is only 29 but looks a one hit wonder as far as winning Majors goes though.
H is for Lewis Hamilton
I know a couple of lads who work at Mercedes F1 garage and they say Nico Rosberg was ‘contracted’ a world title. He was been threatening to leave the team for a while if they didn’t deliver that title. Well he is world champion now and there is no doubt in my mind the team ‘hurt’ Hamilton wheels to achieve that. Exactly the same parts are used on both cars and for some reason Hamilton’s were going wrong at the start of the season to allow Rosberg to win so many races. When that stopped in the final third of the season Lewis powered back by winning the final few races to lose the championship by a handful of points. Hamilton would have been world champion under any of the previous points scoring system in F1. What a stitch up! But the Mercedes boys have lost their chief designer and may not be top dogs next year so an interesting season to some with this wider and faster cars. Bernie going will also free up teams to compete.
I is for Iceland
That ludicrous defeat of England in the European Championships was the sporting lowlight of the year. They are a financially broke island of a population of just 330,000 to England’s 52 million. They only have 50,000 men under the age of 30 to pick from and most of them are fisherman. England were terrified of them and there most disastrous exit yet of an international tournament. Fear for an international athlete is when you reach the point of no return find it easier to turn back to the safety of your millions, big houses and white trophy girlfriends as reassurance that all is well.
J is for Jones
Eddie Jones has transformed England’s rugby team almost overnight and 11 unbeaten now going into the Six Nations. Northampton’s volatile Dylan Hartley is now England captain and the team has come alive. The jovial and mischievous coach is great fun with the media and England play some great attacking rugby.
K is for Kathy Grainger
The boyish looking British super female rowing champion decided on a return for the 2016 Rio Olympics and became the most decorated female Olympian. She added silver to her London gold to go her three other silvers in three other Olympics, Sydney (2000), Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). And now Rio 2016.She is a six time World Champion, on impressive lady all around and currently the Chancellor of Oxford Brooks University. If you ant a woman to rule the world then this is the girl as she got here on brains, tenacity, hard work and intelligence, not looks and figure.
L is for the Leicester City
It’s still hard to believe they won the Premiership. They actually won the bloody title! Why they won seemed to be down to the tactic of the old rope-a-dope of leaning on the ropes to soak up the punches to burnout your opponent and then hop the ball over the top to Mahrez, who gave it to Vardy, who smashed it past the keeper. Clearly teams learnt their lesson this season and blocked the Foxes only tactic and Leicester City could be the first champions since Manchester City in 1968 to be relegated the following season. Whether the Foxes doped to win the league is not being discussed but it’s noticeable that when the Blood Passport drug testing system was introduced in the Champions League in 2015 it meant you could not dope in your domestic leagues during the Champions League groups stages or you could be caught. European domestic leagues tend to drug test in - house and so you tend not to hear about the fails, certainly the case in the English Premier League. This meant the big four in England were being tested vicariously in the Premier League with results they couldn’t control. Chelsea were dreadful in that first year of ECL testing and City, Arsenal, Liverpool and United all failed to get over 75 points, the first time that had happened in 20 team Premier League history.
M is for Middlesex CCC
Andrew Strauss, the ECB number two, handed his old team the County Championship by stopping key players taking the field in the Yorkshire team, the only team that could stop them, claiming they needed to be rested for the coming England tour. Middlesex were playing Yorkshire at Lords in the final game. It was blatant stuff and poor old Rashid had to pretend he had an ill relative for his reason not to play and Joe Root remaining silent. Middlesex duly won the match with their skillful declaration and a getable run chase for the northerners and bowled them out with an hour of the day left. A draw would have handed Somerset their first ever title.
N is for Northamptonshire Steelbacks!
Second Friends Life Twenty20 trophy in three years and our third Finals Day in four Years. Our budget is one of the lowest of the 18 Counties and we have only 17 players. The key is that we don’t bother with championship cricket anymore and captain Alex Wakely and Coach David Ripley pretty much lets the players do as they please. Wakes even lets them drink shots in the changing room during a match! Fitness is poor but they can play some cricket and whack the ball and bowl some tight owners and that’s all you need in T20. No one from the ECB bothered to show up at the trophy presentation and clearly desperate to destroy this competition for the more lucrative franchise cricket that may or may not work. But with franchise cricket coming in with a tabled offer from Sky of 500 million over 5 years, if franchise cricket set up, it’s the end for domestic Twenty20 and the smaller counties.
O is for the Olympics
Michael Phelps finally retired with a record 28 medals, claiming 5 more gold’s and one silver in Rio. He is closest you get to a human fish, huge lungs and massive a wingspan unrivalled. For team GB a record medal haul shows that if you throw money at sport you get success. We again dominated the middle- class sports where the thing you are holding on to - or underneath you - does most of the work, the university sports. But it was a good Games in Rio and although the crowds were average, still an excellent TV experience. Sadly the Tories are continuing this paradoxical policy of cutting funding to the sports that don’t win medals and so the sports who most need the funding.
P is for Byrony Page
Byrony Page to me is what the Olympics should be about, a surprise medalist in the amateur of amateurs of events in the women’s trampoline in Rio. There are just two events for trampoline in The Olympics and little TV coverage. Team GB had never even made a final before. But the unknown British champion from Crewe turned up and nearly won gold. She graduated with a First from the University of Sheffield with a dissertation about the study of ‘sounds made by dinosaurs’ and a fun character. Team GB had won the team title in the World Championships in 2015 and so had potential but everyone expected the Chinese to clean sweep. Canadian Rose McLennan won gold.
Q is for Question mark?
I couldn’t squeeze in the brilliant basketball player Stephen Curry so I am putting him here. He won the NBA’s MVP in 2015 and the championship with the Golden Bear Warriors and then went stratospheric in 2016. He made a record 402, 3-pointers in a season and 157 straight games with 3-pointers. He made an incredible 13 x 3-pointers in just one game and 17 points in overtime in another game. The records go on and on and the best shooter the game has ever seen. It was one of those seasons when a sporting genius came to light.
R is for Ronaldo
The world’s best footballer and highest paid athlete won his second Champions League in three years with Real Madrid and then won the European Championships for Portugal, and topped it off with his fourth Balloon d’Or, the last award the most revered by CR7. It was quietly revealed in the tabloids he was probably having a homosexual affair with a Tunisian man but the story died a death as lawyers writs flew and Portugal won the Euros for the first time, Ronaldo breaking national records with his 21st appearance and 9th goal, leveling Platini’s record and the first ever player to play and score in four straight European Championships and so the most capped player in the event.. They were un-fancied to win but had appeared in the quarter-finals in the last four Euros with Ronaldo in the team and converted three to semi finals and one to a final, until finally winning it this year. He scored 55 goals in 57 matches in 2016 to Messi’s 59 in 62 games.
S is for sporting deaths
The great Muhammad Ali passed in a year of big name famous people dyeing. Johan Cryuff, Carlos Alberta and Arnold Palmer are no longer with is either, Palmer the man who created the modern game that may well not have mattered without him. Hanif Mohammed, who scored a then world record 499 runs in one innings also died, as did test cricketer Kiwi Martin Crowe, cousin of Russell. Ireland rugby coach Axel Foley croaking at work was a real shaker.
Ali was huge because the first black sportsmen to put white people in their place and so we bow down to him, the Mandela of sports. Sadly he boxed on too long and pulped his brains and went out a sad and noble vegetable, Ali the biggest advert yet for being and not being a professional boxer. Harry Carpenters shocked cry of ‘all my God he has won the title at 32’ highlighted what was an amazing feat back then but means little today, world champion Bernard Hopkins retiring at 50 last year and George Foreman always ready for another ruck. Ex England manager Graham Taylor also passed away and his beloved non league Lincoln City honored him by powering through to the fifth round of the FA Cup alongside non league Sutton, the first time two non league tams have made the 5th for 90 years!
T if for Tyson Fury
The Irish traveler and world heavyweight champion claimed depression for the reasons he gave up his title and stopped fighting but in reality he had failed two drugs test and erratic to say the least, an old style champion. Some of his extended family are known drug dealers and his trainer uncle Peter Fury is a gang land enforcer from the 1990s. This guy is pretty nasty and glad to see the back of him as classier heavyweights like the likable and articulate Anthony Joshua will claim his belts this year.
U is for Usain BOLT
The great man did the triple double, and then lost it, Olympic gold and silver in the 100m & 200m in Rio so three straight Olympics and added three relay gold’s on top, until Nesta Carter was stripped of his gold on a retrospective doping test for his role in that 100m relay team in 2008, Beijing. It’s an incredible feat and will never be rivaled in sprints for me but all four of that 2008 team have now tested positive, Bolt the last member and only clean athlete of the track four and two subs.
A man who could rival the feat on the track has joined Bolt in Olympic track retirement, Mo Farah, strictly marathon next time around. Where as British people love Bolt and think he isn’t a cheat, they think Mo probably is a cheat and certainly not British, failing to feature heavily in the Sports Personality voting year in, year out. He deserves to win but always fuels the doubt by not wanting to live in England and share the team’s digs at events. He always thanks God and his family first and his fans last. Bolt is the true king and now lives in England with those same drug testers.
V is for Van Gerwen
The Dutch darts player currently holds all seven PDC world ranking events, plus the world title, a feat not even achieved by Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor.
W is for Wimbledon
So Andy won it again and a load of other things to, including the coveted world number one spot. You have to play a hell of a lot of tennis and win those games to stay ahead of Djokovic. But since the Meldonium thing and Sharpova in the spring, Novak’s form collapsed and he won just one event after that French Open that gave him all four slams at once. He looks a prime candidate to be doping. The loophole was conveniently there for the players to take Meldonium, even though they didn’t have the heart condition it’s prescribed for and so it will be exploited by players and tennis will cover up positive results. They are slowly being weened off drugs and the rankings are changing. Over 700 Russian athletes alone were believed to be on meldonium in 2015.
When someone like Sharapova naively comes out publicly to say she has failed a drugs test then tennis has to also own up there has been a positive. They had no chance to cover it up as per normal. But she knows where the bodies are buried and has had her ban slashed because of. If she had kept stum it would have been a silent six month ban, the type Nadal receives, allegedly. The fact 35-year-old Serene Williams beat 36-year-old Venus Williams and 35-year-old Roger Federer beat 31-year-old Nadal in the Australian Open suggest stills lot of bottled energy going around, 5000-1 the odds of those two finals three weeks ago.
X is for the X Games –
One of the biggest, young, geekiest and oddest sports crowd in the world are the X games lot, people that pack huge arenas and pay to watch other people playing videogames. It started off in South East Asia and all the rage around the world now. You can even bet on it and the best players on million dollar contracts. Its one of the very few sports you don’t have to change your clothing to make this kind of money.
Z is for Zika
Every year we are scared rotten by an infection disease and as the final Ebola cases died out it was a mosquito spread one this time around, young mums to be the most fearful. It was believed the bug spread bug, so to speak, has caused the deformed baby syndrome in some cases. Babies are meant to be cute, the main reason to have them. Athletes used the extremely small chance of catching it to dodge the Rio Olympics perhaps fearing a differing kind of blood test. The bulked up Rory Macilroy refused to go, golf a sport where they are rarely tested, Olympic testing very different. Many other athletes also didn’t go, again, in sports that are not used to rigorous testing.
Star – David Tennant and Rosumund Pike.
Genre – Comedy
Run Time – 95 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – U.K
Awards – 1 Wins & 3 nominations
Amazon – £4.00 DVD £7.52Blue Ray
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So the first feature film from Andy Hamilton, that little dwarf fellow from Have I got News for You, working alongside his TV writing partner Guy Jenkins, the pair who bought us stuff like Drop the Dead Donkey and Outnumbered and worked on Smith & Jones and Not the Nine O’clock News. Its pretty amazing career for him as he only has two thumbs and two fingers in total.
What we did on Our Holiday borrows heavily in style and verbosity from Outnumbered and although that meticulous middle-class sitcom is annoying to some that style is toned down here some so no need to worry. This is a surprise little gem. The funny and articulate kids are again present but there are more adults this time around to dilute them some, well known ones to, the beautiful Rosumund Pike, the hammy David Tennant and comics Billy Connelly and Ben Miller (the annoying bloke in the Tesco Christmas adverts). Four of the cast have appeared in David Tennant’s Doctor Who.
• David Tennant as Doug McLeod
• Rosamund Pike as Abi McLeod
• Billy Connolly as Gordie McLeod
• Celia Imrie as Agnes Chisholm
• Ben Miller as Gavin McLeod
• Emilia Jones as Lottie McLeod
• Amelia Bullmore as Margaret McLeod
• Annette Crosbie as Doreen
• Lewis Davie as Kenneth McLeod
• Ralph Riach as Jimmy Cazzarotto
• Ben Presley as PC McLuhan
• Bobby Smalldridge as Mickey McLeod
• Alexia Barlier as Françoise Dupré
• Ryan Hunter as Frazer
• Harriet Turnbull as Jess Mcleod
• Jake D'Arcy as Smokey
Doug McLeod (David Tennant) and his gorgeous wife Abi (Rosamund Pike) put on a brave face following a marriage separation to travel to the Scottish Highlands for Doug's father Gordie's (Billy Connolly) 75th birthday. Gordie has terminal cancer so Doug's brother, millionaire Gavin McLeod (Ben Miller) has put on a lavish party for him at his huge mansion, probably Granddads last party, Gavin inviting all the important people in the neighborhood alongside friends and relatives.
The McLeod’s kids, 10-year old Lottie (Emilia Jones), 6-year-old Mickey (Bobby Smalldridge) and 3-year-old Jess (Harriet Turnbull) are packed into the car and they hit the road for the Highlands. The precocious Lottie is not happy and tells everyone at the party that will listen dad had an affair, which led to Abi moving out and taking legal proceedings against him so the weekend a charade not to upset granddad. But she wants to move south and take the kids with her. There is clearly a tense rivalry between Doug and Gavin too and it has not gone unnoticed.
Gordy McLeod: The truth is, every human being on this planet is ridiculous in their own way. So we shouldn't judge, we shouldn't fight, because in the end... in the end, none of it matters. None of the stuff.
Granddad, despite being extremely ill, is a fun-loving chap to the end and encourages his grandkids, particularly Lottie, to let go of their parent’s squabbles and troubles and enjoy life to the full. While Gavin, Doug, Abi and Gavin's wife Margaret (Amelia Bullmore) fuss around and make the final arrangements for the party, Gordie mischievously takes the three children to the beach in the Land Rover, Lottie driving. Gordie reveals that he is descended from the great Vikings of the north and some were buried on the headland, Mickey particular excited about that fact; granddad revealing his wish to be buried 'the Viking way' by being cremated and sent out to sea in flames. He may yet get that wish of a ceremonial burial when he pops his clogs on the beach, the kids all alone and pondering a raft and some fire. This will not be what mum and dad and Gavin will want to hear when they ask where granddad is.
Funny, poignant and beautifully written is the best way to describe this cultured British comedy. I laughed and chuckled away all through it and the kids are a delight. I tend to switch Outnumbered off
As it is a bit too full on as a sitcom and the whole thing with the kids being more articulate and a aware than their parents got a bit wearing after a couple of episodes. As I said up top, that stuff has been toned down here and fits snuggly into this enjoyable family comedy in the truest British sense, a touch of farce and the off vicar losing his trousers, of course.
Billy Connelly was actually diagnosed with Parkinson’s and his cancer just before filming started and so added extra pathos to his performance, perhaps contemplating his own death through his role. The warm cheeky Scottish accent is always something special in film and on T. He has done a good mix of serious and comic films over the years but even his serious films he brings that comedic wink. But the kids own this and only Billy gets some screen time as the rest of the adults become rather two dimensional. I guess that’s the point. While adults flap and whine about everything to do right by the kids the kids have honesty to them in that bubble we create around them. That also creates space for some funny lines and situations.
For its £2 million budget it did a useful £8 million back. For a British low budget film in an American multiplexed owned industry packed full of American films, that’s good money. It did well because of word of mouth, simple as. I don’t recall seeing a trailer to this film. It’s much better than most and I think you guys would really enjoy this. It’s a comedy aimed at an adult middle-class audience to be fair and full of those smug characters that are probably watching it.
Imdb.com –6.9 /10.0 (13,134votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 71% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 54% critic’s approval
-Behind the Scenes-
Cast and crew josh away about their movie.
Quite a few as a lot of show off in the cast
Boston Globe & Mail –‘Do we want to spend 95 minutes of our summer holiday watching a film about a young, squabbling, dysfunctional British family on a sham trip? Yes, we do’.
Toronto Star –‘There are a few amusing moments and flashes of charm but this Holiday is an uneven trip, with underwritten adult characters and a strange third act involving a poke at misguided social services’.
The Mail –‘What We Did On Our Holiday sets up a sturdy comic scenario and then proceeds to head in another direction altogether-one that's nearly impossible to anticipate, making the film much more of a goofy delight than would have seemed likely at the outset’.
Village Voice –‘Jones and Connolly have terrific chemistry, particularly as Lottie works through the fact that adults encourage dishonesty and lying when it suits their own needs, and that secrets are more pervasive than openness’.
NZ Herald –‘Luckily for us, and unlike their bickering and scripted parents, the kids are largely left to improvise their parts and the result is mostly charming, sometimes hilarious’
The Mirror –‘What We Did on Our Holiday emphasizes the celebration of life through masterful British comedy...’
Star – Guy Pearce
Genre – Thriller
Run Time – 103 minutes
Certificate – 18R
Country – Australia
Awards – 3 Wins & 19 nominations
Amazon – £2.90 DVD £6.09 Blue Ray
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So where has Guy Pearce been of late? Well the Anzac star of Memento and LA Confidential is back in Australia where he grew up (he is actually British born, leaving when he was 3) for his last three movies and maybe a sign his big Hollywood career maybe running down. He is not conventionally handsome and never quite the leading man the way Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson were from Down Under but still a class act and has real presence on screen. Maybe he thinks the Australian filmmaking scene is back on a high and looking for awards and maybe they can afford him now.
The Rover is directed by David Michod who has been around a while but delivered the rather visceral and brutally tense Melbourne gangster flick Animal Kingdom to make his mark. If you haven’t seen that movie you should guys. You always get interesting and quirky films from Australia and I am always on the look out for them. This is certainly that. Its not one I can recommend to all but one for those film fans who like something different and atmospheric.
Guy Pearce ... Eric
Tawanda Manyimo ... Caleb
Scoot McNairy ... Henry
David Field ... Archie
Robert Pattinson ... Rey
Ben Armer ... Benny
Gillian Jones ... Grandma
Jamie Fallon ... Colin
Frank C. Su …Midget
10 years on from a global economic collapse that caused worldwide turmoil, the Australian Outback is once again a lawless wasteland, crime and poverty running amok and barely governed by small army patrols, attempting to maintain what little law and order are left. After an armed robbery goes wrong, criminals Archie (David Field), Caleb (Tawanda Manyimo) and Henry (Scoot McNairy) flee, leaving behind Henry's injured and retarded brother Rey (Robert Pattinson) in the dirt. While driving away, the idiots crash the truck they hotwired. Archie decides to steal a random car outside of a bar belonging to mysterious loner Eric (Guy Pearce). Bad idea. He is not happy, jumping in the crashed truck and closing them down to a slow stop. When Eric confronts them he is sparked out and awakes with his car gone again.
He drives the truck into the nearest town and asks if anyone has seen the men. He buys a gun off a dwarf from a travelling Chinese circus (as you do) and then discovers Rey slumped and bleeding on the truck. Taking sympathy on the kid he takes him to a backstreet doc (Susan Prior) to get him fixed up. The traveling circus members are seeking revenge for not paying for the gun and on their door. After a shootout Eric and Rey hit the road in search of his car as the two begin to bond as opposites attract somehow. A showdown is coming and there is going to be some killing, the army also hot on their heels as both Eric and Rey now have a bounty on their heads as the sun beats down hard. But why is he so keen to find a rusting old Holden?
Eric: ‘You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken. That's the price you pay for taking’.
It’s OK and something different. I got enough out of it. There is no real narrative going on other than watching a lugubrious Guy Pearce wander around the dusty outback with a gun and stubble looking all mysterious but moments to enjoy. Blowing the midgets brains out was one of them. There is no ryhme or reason for the killing and the ending doesn’t seem to provide any obvious answers to why he is angry. The destination doesn't feel worth the journey is the best way to describe this. Would you kill a man over a rusty car? But that’s the premise and off we go. It’s kinda like Mad Max without the souped up cars, chase scenes, stunning Red Center panoramas and Mel Gibson. The Australian countryside is always atmospheric in movies but strangely not here. It could easily have been the rather dull Texas scrub desert if the truth be told. One of the most appealing things about Aussie movies is always that enigmatic countryside and its stunning and dangerous wildlife.
Pearce is good and Robert Pattinson (yes, that Robert Pattinson) unrecognizable doing an admirable retard. Because his character is a little slow it enables the ruthless killing to be more palatable and relevant through that disconnect. Its bleakness also allows the film to wander aimlessly in the way ‘The Road’ did as we wait for the next confrontation and head scratching violence. You hope some story would weave its way in or a twist or two on the long straight sun bleached roads but no such luck as the film concentrates on the relationship between the two men. Clearly something terrible has happened to Eric and his family a decade or so ago and he is a hollow man who care little for anything anymore because of but that vacancy feeds through to the equally opaque film.
It bombed in the Aussie and US cinema for its $8.5million budget pulling just $3.2m back. It’s co-written with Joel Edgerton (Warrior and The Gift) and the director wrote the part especially for Guy Pearce. You get the feeling this film was made by the three of them as a vanity project as clearly strange a film with Twighlight superstar in it should not have lost money and so the film must have been poorly marketed due to budget issues. You can envisage Pearce and Pattinson saying they will do it because of the director and the directors and writer saying we will only do it with we can get Pearce and Pattinson. Trouble is, that is all it is.
Imdb.com – /10.0 (votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 66% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 64% critic’s approval
-Something Elemental: The Making Of.
Behind the scenes look at this rather vacant little movie.
Quite a few
Cast & crew talking heads. It appears they are mostly mates and doing each other a favor.
Entertainment Weekly –‘Bleak, brutal, and ultimately pointless, the film stars Guy Pearce as a man whose car is stolen and who won't rest until he not only gets it back but also punishes, with extreme prejudice, the dirtbags who took it.’
Film4 –‘A cautionary tale with deceptive genre trappings, The Rover is an unconventional, challenging but rewarding watch with riveting performances and assured direction’.
Financial Times –‘Brutal as it is, The Rover evolves into a strange kind of buddy movie. Squint and you might be watching a nihilistic Rain Man’.
Toronto Sun –‘Of Mice and Men at the end of the world -- that's the general turf of The Rover’.
The Film Stage –‘Michôd has created a frighteningly realistic apocalyptic western that's entirely his own’.
Bangkok Post –‘While Michôd may not achieve that transcendental awakening in the vagabonds of this god-forsaken country, they've braved through enough hellfire for us to have mercy, and to care about them.
Filmfire.com –‘A scabrous, tightly drawn chase drama—even if, ultimately, the narrative doesn't lead anywhere particularly new’.