Archive for July, 2015

Uber Cool Eighties Mystery

White Bird in a Blizzard

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Director: Gregg Araki

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Shiloh Fernandez, Thomas Jane, Angela Bassett, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe, Dale Dickey

The Descendants star Shailene Woodley gives an impressive performance as a sexually charged teenage girl, Kat Connors who discovers her blossoming confidence just as her gorgeous yet unstable mother, Eve, wonderfully played by French actress Eva Green, (The Dreamers, Casino Royale) mysteriously disappears.

Mysterious Skin director Gregg Araki’s startling yet uber cool Eighties drama White Bird in a Blizzard is a bit like Whatever happened to Baby Jane? with a massive twist at the end. So audiences should expect the unexpected.

Assembling a rock star cast including Christopher Meloni as the clueless father, the sumptuous Shiloh Fernandez (Red Riding Hood) as the sexy boy next door, Phil, Gabourey Sidibe star of Precious as Kat Conner’s best friend Beth along with Angela Bassett and Thomas Jane as the grizzled yet carefree police detective. Watch out for a cameo by Sheryl Lee star of the hit TV series Twin Peaks.

White Bird in a Blizzard as seen at the 36th Durban International Film Festival DIFF subverts everything seemingly domestic about the average American life and turns a seemingly mysterious occurrence in suburban California into something far more sinister and ripe with Freudian references.

On every level, this is a bizarre yet highly amusing film, superbly cast with excellent performances by Woodley and Green as they embark on a tortuous mother-daughter relationship which ignores what is primarily occurring under their noses, undermining their own vanities and exploring hidden agendas from all involved. Eva Green is fabulous as the hip mother who receives little attention from her absent-minded husband while envying the sexual exploits of her beautiful teenage daughter, brilliantly played by Shailene Woodley, who proves she is an actress to watch.

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Woodley’s distinct ability to hold her own throughout such a bizarre film is testament to her ever expanding talent which is sure to flourish in years to come. Araki’s frames each shot in the film with an ironic pathos assisted by a nostalgic and cool Eighties soundtrack which includes Depeche Mode.

Everything about White Bird in a Blizzard is wrong in a seriously dysfunctional way. This is a highly entertaining family drama about one young girls’ slow realization that those people surrounding her are certainly not what they claim to be.

Araki’s film is perverse, fabulous and definitely recommended viewing for those audiences which like their narratives as twisted as the intricacies of the most complex of human relationships.

White Bird in a Blizzard is like a Patricia Highsmith novel on acid with a retro Eighties soundtrack. 

 

Celebrity Style Bromance

Entourage

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Director: Doug Ellin

Cast: Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrera, Adrian Grenier, Mark Wahlberg, Billy Bob Thornton, Debi Mazar, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Armie Hammer, Ronda Rousey, Haley Joel Osment

It’s not always easy to translate a 30 minute HBO series into a full length feature film but the producers of the hit HBO series Entourage do that with a certain degree of success. For those oblivious to the carousing of the gang in the original series, Entourage focused on four friends in Hollywood, Eric, Vince, Johnny Drama and Turtle as they navigate their way through scoring girls, attending wild parties and the intricacies of the entertainment industry. Naturally it’s Hollywood on steroids.

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Produced by Mark Wahlberg and Doug Ellin, the latter of whom directs the film version, Entourage the film is like a watered down version of Robert Altman’s scathing diatribe on Hollywood, The Player and also uses a similar self-reflexive technique of blending actors playing onscreen characters with real film stars which include Liam Neeson, Armie Hammer and Mark Wahlberg.

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Most of the action of this celebrity style Bromance takes place in Los Angeles with a brief opening sequence on a yacht in Ibiza, which looks like an offcut from Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.

As the brat pack make their way to stardom through a series of parties, optimal seductions and behind the scenes Hollywood dealings, Entourage has some extremely funny moments, mostly littered with foul language, less glamour and lots of stuff guys obsess about: sex, money and girls.

entourage_ver7Jeremy Piven as the angry and hilarious film producer Ari Gold, lifts Entourage out of a banal narrative which does not really go anywhere and his brilliant performance is counterpointed by that of Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade) as a Texan film investor, Larsen McCreadle along with his buffoon of a son, Travis wonderfully played by Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osment.

entourage_ver4Entourage is in fact saved by Piven whose unbelievably energetic performance as Gold makes the film worth watching while the rest of the cast drift through the film in a sort of narcissistic American machismo unique to Hollywood, where the only thing that matters besides their egos is their sex lives.

entourage_ver5Audiences should watch out for some fabulous cameo appearances including singer Pharrell Williams, Armie Hammer, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, Piers Morgan and Billionaire Warren Buffett playing themselves. Kevin Dillon, younger brother of Matt Dillon and Jerry Ferrara provide the laughs as Johnny Drama and Turtle while Piven’s character of Ari Gold makes the film thoroughly enjoyable.

entourage_ver6Entourage is a B grade film about Hollywood with appearances by some A grade actors as themselves, with a cast that does not have to do much but just be the annoying yet lovable guys they were in the original series, cruising around Sunset Boulevard living the dream. Recommended for viewers who followed the HBO series and natural fans of the immensely talented Jeremy Piven.

However, this film version of Entourage is a far cry from the more subtle Hollywood parody expertly done by Robert Altman in The Player back in 1992, but worth watch purely for the entertainment value.

 

Catching the Talent

Boychoir

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Director: Francois Girard

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Eddie Izzard, Debra Winger, Kathy Bates, Josh Lucas, Kevin McHale, Garrett Wareing

Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man, Midnight Cowboy) teams up with Oscar winner Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic, Midnight in Paris) along with the rarely seen actress Debra Winger (Shadowlands, The Sheltering Sky) in a heart warming tale of an 11 year old boy Stet, superbly played by Garrett Wareing who after the death of his young mother and abandonment of his cold hearted father Gerard, played by Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, The Lincoln Lawyer) is sent to an exceptionally Boychoir school to study singing, an American version of the Drakensberg Boys Choir set in Connecticut on the East Coast.

Hoffman plays the hard edged choir master Carvelle who recognizes the shimmering talent in Stet and soon after a series of missteps, casts him as the solo lead in a Choir Concert by Handel that the travelling Boychoir is performing in in New York city. French Canadian director Francois Girard’s  (Silk, The Red Violin) nuanced film Boychoir which premiered at the 36th Durban International Film Festival DIFF is an absolute treat of a film and will be highly appreciated by audiences that enjoy beautiful music and singing of an elusive scale.

Boychoir is a scaled down version of Dead Poets Society, a brilliant portrait of one man, Carvelle who is desperate to catch the singing talent that these boys have before they reach puberty and of a boy, Stet, who struggles to survive in a hostile yet ultimately rewarding environment who eventually wins back the affection of his estranged father.

Boychoir also stars Eddie Izzard (Valkyrie, Ocean’s Thirteen) and Kevin McHale from the hit TV series Glee and is a highly recommended film sure to warm any viewer’s perceptions of a child prodigy struggling against endless adversity.

 

Swamp Country Debauchery

Magic Mike XXL

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Director: Gregory Jacobs

Cast: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Amber Heard, Adam Rodriguez, Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith, Donald Glover, Elizabeth Banks

The much anticipated sequel to the sleeper hit Magic Mike about male entertainers in Tampa, Florida does not disappoint.

Magic Mike XXL assembles the same cast as the original minus Matthew McConnaughey and Alex Pettyfer but cleverly casts some new stars including Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sex, Lies and Videotape) as the original Southern Belle, Nancy and more significantly a vibrant Jada Pinkett Smith (Collateral) as Rome, the notorious and zany new MC.

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Audiences should not expect much storyline in XXL but who cares the dancing is phenomenal and Channing Tatum really takes the main role of Magic Mike to extremes with superb dance moves and a wit to match. Tatum has really grown as an actor after being cast opposite Mark Ruffalo in the underrated yet bizarre male wrestling saga Foxcatcher and with the help of director Steven Soderbergh has matured as an onscreen performer after roles in Haywire, Magic Mike and Side Effects.

The crazy male entertainer troupe make their way from Tampa in Southern Florida all the way up through Savannah, Georgia to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in a journey described by one drag performer resembling Divine as Swamp Country Debauchery.

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In Magic Mike, the emphasis was more on the drug lifestyle associated with male stripping, but in Magic Mike XXL, Oceans Twelve and Oceans Thirteen director Gregory Jacobs cleverly lightens the tone and shifts focus to the actual art and performance of Male entertainment as the team including a gorgeous Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart) and Joe Manganiello compete at the illustrious Stripper Convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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The end sequence is brilliant with some superb dance moves along with sufficient eye candy to keep all the females happy, both on and off screen.

Magic Mike XXL is more in the tradition of Step Up, with strippers and should not be viewed to seriously but enjoyed like a fine sojourn below the Mason-Dixon line. Recommended viewing for those that enjoy a brash, sexy and diverse film with lots of magical moments.

Watch out for an unrecognizable Amber Heard (The Rum Diary) as Zoe who befriends Magic Mike at a beach party in Jacksonville, Florida.

 

2015 Cannes Film Festival

2015 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS

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Winners of the five main prizes at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival were as follows: –

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Palme d’Or– Dheepan directed by Jacques Audiard

The Assassin

Best Director – Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin

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Best Actor: Vincent Lindon – The Measure of Man

Best Actress: shared between

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Rooney Mara – Carol

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Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon roi

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Best Screenplay – Michel Franco for Chronic starring Tim Roth and David Dastmalchian

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Queer Palm Award: Carol directed by Todd Haynes starring Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler

Source: 2015 Cannes Film Festival

 

 

Ascending The Food Chain

Jurassic World

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Director: Colin Trevorrow

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, Jake Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio, B. D. Wong, Judy Greer

After the phenomenal success of the Jurassic Park trilogy, Hollywood was bound to make a sequel and Jurassic World lives up to all expectations, smashing all box office records in its opening weekend. Let’s face it, Dinosaurs sell!

Rising star Chris Pratt who was so brilliant as the comic hero in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy plays Raptor Animal trainer Owen while Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator: Salvation) plays Jurassic World’s sophisticated and slick Vice-President Claire who is so into the selling points of the magnificent Jurassic World, a mega-theme park in Costa Rica, that she forgets about the imminent dangers of genetically reproducing more dangerous dinosaurs.

Not to mention that Claire has been given the task of looking after her nephews, Zach and Gray wonderfully played by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins who are eventually caught up in the mayhem of Jurassic World after their gyrosphere ride goes haywire. The brothers, Zach and Gray firmly place Jurassic World’s target audience as males between the ages of 10 and 16, but the film is so visually spectacular that anyone would find Jurassic World irresistible in terms of special effects.

Audiences that enjoyed the original trilogy should definitely make an effort to see Jurassic World as besides the quirky onscreen chemistry between Pratt (who modelled his character on another Steven Spielberg creation, Indiana Jones) and the hapless Bryce Dallas Howard whose efficiency does not prevent an aggressive genetically modified dinosaur to escape captivity and wreak havoc in the theme park.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Irrfan Khan plays the reckless billionaire Masrani, new owner of Jurassic World while Vincent D’Onofrio (The Cell, Thumbsucker) plays a gung-ho military veteran Hoskins who only sees the dinosaurs as potential killing machines for combat warfare.

As the potential threat to Jurassic World, viciously ascends the food chain, the moral of the narrative soon becomes clear: never mess with what you cannot control and in scientific terms an extinction event occurs of mammoth proportions which involves humans and dinosaurs.

Jurassic World has stunning visual effects, a relatable storyline and loads of action. Highly recommended viewing and as blockbusters go, extremely entertaining thanks to a wonderful onscreen chemistry between Pratt and Howard.

 

 

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