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Much Ado About Nothing | SXSW 2013

Is it already time for yet another rendition of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing I hear you ask?  Well, when that version is a slick and stylish black and white contemporary one directed by Joss Whedon (yes, the same JW who just directed last year’s blockbuster The Avengers), one should take note and take note we did on day 2 of SXSW 2013. The lines were long for this one and despite the fact that there was a torrential downpour in Austin; we waited patiently in a line that wrapped multiple times outside the building and around a long corner.

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I wasn’t disappointed by this exquisitely directed light and frothy, bubbly and joyful movie, which at its core remains a romantic comedy that explores barriers that stand in the way of love.  Shot in 12 days at Whedon’s own house that was designed by his architect wife and co producer Kai Cole, (whilst he should have been on vacation with his family following the wrap of Avengers), I was drawn into the modern day world where Beatrice and Benedick hate, question and then fall in love with each other.

William Shakespeare’s words from yonder year come alive quickly and although I think one could be easily distracted by Ye Olde English and some may even find the juxtaposition between non-relevant language (anachronisms to the hilt) a little jarring and non believable, once you allow yourself to be immersed into the story and the great acting by a terrific cast, you will quickly see that this latest edition of Much Ado is a testament to the fact that the human condition stays the same even though time and technology move on.

My only criticism of the movie (and I had to dig deep for this mind you) is that at times, some scenes (especially those at the “Police station”) came across a little too much like an SNL skit and at times the movie felt a little precious and over stylized.

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Much ado About Nothing Panel at SXSW2013

Following the movie, we were treated to a Q and A with a panel of 13 of the cast members and Mr. Whedon himself.  As you can imagine, most of the audience were die hard Whedonites who asked questions about how the movie was cast and shot and how much they love his work and so on, but it was most touching when a young lady stood up and nervously stated that she had promised herself that if she ever got to talk to the man himself, she would tell him how thankful she was for all his work through the years and how much watching his movies through some hard times had helped and inspired her personally.  She really tried to hold it together but was extremely emotional and remarkably, even though I rolled my eyes to start with, I along with most of the room felt a little lump in my throat as she sat down having shared a very heartfelt and very personal outpouring; aahh, the power of film.  Yes, Joss Whedon, I too am thankful that a new generation of moviegoers will get to experience Shakespeare albeit in a non-conventional way and even if one of them is inspired to pick up an original version of this wonderful play, that would be an achievement.  PS I loved the women’s wardrobe so if you are reading this Joss, please let me know where it came from.

Much Ado About Nothing stars the talented Amy Acker and the very charming Alex Denisof in the lead roles with a superb supporting cast.  Release is planned for June 2013

Visit the official movie site  to watch the trailer

 

Greedy Lying Bastards | Review

I am sure that there is nothing more frightening than looking outside your car window and watching a fire coming towards you.  When that fire is engulfing yours and your neighbor’s homes as it does so is a nightmare that I cannot even begin to fathom.

The movie Greedy Lying Bastards sets out to inform us that climate change is no longer a prediction for the future, but a startling reality of today by citing examples such as wildfires in the west, Hurricane Sandy, “Brown-Outs” in the east and farmers losing crops to the worst drought since the Dust Bowl.  By effectively showing us a very human face of such tragedies and the incredible loss that these families have had to face, the movie challenges us to no longer ignore what is happening to our environment.

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We are told that even the U.S. Pentagon believes it to be a matter of national and international security. Yet, as the evidence of our changing climate mounts and the scientific consensus proves a human causation, there continues to be no political action to thwart the warming of our planet.

“Greedy Lying Bastards” investigates the reason behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change despite consensus in the scientific community that it is not only a reality but also a growing problem that is placing us on the brink of disaster. The film details the people and organizations casting doubt on climate science. Filmmaker and political activist Craig Rosebraugh, in association with Executive Producer Daryl Hannah, documents the impact of an industry that has continually put profits before people, waged a campaign of lies designed to thwart measures to combat climate change, used its clout to minimize infringing regulations and undermined the political process in the U.S. and abroad.

Some of the arguments made in the movie are effective and compelling; indeed, when we are presented with graphics and archival footage that show the millions that are spent each year by oil and related interests to fund the think tanks, groups, scientists and politicians waging what the film deems a campaign of deceit regarding the science of climate change and its dire impact on the planet, it will make you question how these conglomerates get away with it all and may even make you feel like you may want to do something about it; I certainly felt emotion and a call to action by the filmmakers.

In my opinion however, the movie fell short of great for the following reasons: firstly it was a little one sided apportioning most of the blame at one or two doorsteps i.e. not ours.  The movie seemed a little blinkered when it came to how obsessed the man on the street has become with consumerism and how much our desire to accumulate as much as we can materially may be contributing to the overall problem and hence the need for fossil fuels in the first place.  Secondly, although it legitimately draws parallels between the tobacco and energy industries in their denials of issues squarely aimed at them, it felt like it meandered off at times making the movie feel a little unfocused.  Lastly, it felt a tad dull overall.

In summary, this is an admirable endeavor with an important message which we need to take note of.  Unfortunately the fact that the movie proposed no solutions (other than for us to wage war on Corporations especially those in the energy sector) left me feeling a little unsatiated.  Better pacing and attention to some potential solutions may have made this a little more entertaining and less like a public service message

GREEDY LYING BASTARDS opens nationwide on March 8th.  Check local listings for show times

Starlet | Review

What would you do if you found a stash of cash and you thought you knew who it belonged to?  This is the moral question that is explored in Sean Baker’s Starlet (follow-up to the acclaimed Prince of Broadway),

In this movie we meet 21-year-old Jane (Dree Hemingway) who strikes up an unusual friendship with an 85-year-old Sadie (Besedka Johnson).   The two women’s worlds collide in California’s San Fernando Valley when Jane buys a thermos from Sadie’s yard sale.  When Jane gets the thermos home, she uncovers a significant hidden stash of money inside this relic from Sadie’s past. Jane attempts to befriend the caustic older woman in an effort to solve her predicament about whether she should return the money or not and as their relationship grows, secrets emerge.

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This movie does a reasonable job of exploring the moral question at the core of the movie and begs the viewer at times to pass judgment and even question our own morals.  However when it comes to the exploration of the cross-generational friendship between these two unlikely women, the relationship simmers a little too slowly for the first two thirds of the movie and never really comes to a boil.  There is little payoff at the end and not much to hold on to along the way with respect to the friendship which seems at times a little contrived and even marginally overacted

As the movie progresses, we get to see how Jane really earns her money and meet her dysfunctional roommates, Melissa (Stella Maeve) and Mikey (James Ransone) along with other salacious characters along the way.  I give props to Baker for attempting to explore the underbelly of the sex industry, however this seems in complete dichotomy to the core theme of the movie and hence makes for a movie which seems all too choppy and uncohesive.   Overall the viewer is left not knowing what the goal of the movie is or how we should be feeling about what is going on at any given time.

Hemingway (daughter of Mariel and great-granddaughter of Ernest) gives a satisfactory performance but clearly is still green.  The tenderest moments of the movie come from the adorable relationship between Jane and her delightful Chihuahua Starlet who is clearly the star of this movie and worth watching for.

Starlet is Directed by Sean Baker and written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
 and Stars Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Stella Maeve and James Ransone

Starlet opens in theatres on November 9th 2012 at the Sundance Cinema Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, Laemmle’s Town Center 5 in Encino, and the Regal University Town Center in Irvine.  Check local listings for availability and showtimes

Words of Witness | Review

How many of you exercise your right to vote?  How would you feel if this right were taken away; perhaps you would be relieved because you always thought that there weren’t really any great candidates anyway? You may be devastated that you now no longer have a choice to make even though you didn’t necessarily choose to do anything about it? You may even possibly think that a single voice, your voice doesn’t make a difference?  One thing is for sure however, in the free world, we DO have a right to vote for those who we wish to be governed by and watching Mai Iskander’s latest and first-rate documentary “Words of Witness” will certainly make you feel this way.

Not so long ago, people in Egypt had no choice except to vote for one candidate and for all intents and purposes they were ruled by a dictator.  For decades, people neither had the right to free elections nor were allowed to vote for any other candidates other than Hosni Mubarak.  Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia in the spring of 2011, protests in Egypt began on 25 January and ran for 18 days.  Despite the government’s best efforts to curtail these protests, the people prevailed and finally on 10 February, Mubarak ceded all presidential power to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Overthrowing a dictator took Egyptians from all walks of life—many of them in their twenties and thirties to come together and social media such as Facebook and Twitter were powerful tools in allowing them to gather to call for universal human rights such as dignity and freedom.  “Words of Witness” tells the powerful and touching story of 22 year old Heba Afify, a newly minted passionate and driven journalist at the English edition of Almasry Alyoum, Egypt’s leading independent newspaper.

Iskander manages to expertly merge Heba negotiating the boundaries of her life with her sympathetic – yet overprotective – mother whilst all around her the boundaries of her country are shifting both societally and politically.  “I know you are a journalist, but you’re still a girl!” Heba’s mother reminds her every time she leaves the house.  We watch Heba take to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil, using tweets, texts and Facebook posts. “During the Revolution, all the rules were broken,” Heba exclaims.  “My mother needs to understand that the rules that were broken during the Revolution will remain broken”.

This is an effective documentary that takes us right into the heart of the action where change is occurring and shows us the heart of this amazing young and inspiring journalist who wants to make a change not only for her country but more importantly to the life that is expected of her by her family.  In speaking with the director, it is also clear that this story is not a million miles from her own, I think this is why the viewer is left with such a powerful and inspiring message of being the change you want to be

“Words of Witness” is currently playing in Los Angeles Laemmle Noho 7 week of 27 August 2012 but check local listings for other screenings.

Words of Witness Trailer

Patang (The Kite) – A Film by Prashant Bhargarva | Review

Prashant Bhargava is clearly a talented director and writer to be able to bring together both actors and non-actors in this mockumentary style movie which very cleverly blends old Indian outlooks with a fresh non Bollywood storyline

Like its namesake, the movie is light at heart and mostly about the thrill and joy of flying kites during India’s largest kite festival where every year a million kites fill the skies above Ahmedabad-dueling, soaring, tumbling and flying high.  Look a little further however and it makes you realize that this is not only a brilliant narrative about general attitudes in India but also about families, relationships and what we hold important in our lives.  My heart soared during the highs and beat with anxiety during the lows when much tension is created through great direction, good storytelling and a moving and powerful score

PATANG weaves together the stories of six people transformed by the energy of the festival but centers mainly around a successful Delhi businessman (Jayesh) who takes his daughter (Priya) on a surprise trip back to his childhood home for the festival.  Despite the fact that he is an expert kite flyer, he does not count on his visit causing the entire family to confront its own fractured past and fragile dreams.  Jayesh and Priya are definitely “city mice” who discover the pleasures and difficulties faced by their “country mice” family.  Indeed Priya quickly learns that a mild flirtation can quickly lead to something undesirable when she spots an expert kite flyer in a young local hero called Bobby

Clearly one of the stars of this film is the amazing child star who is as adorable and captivating to watch as the children in “Slumdog Millionaire”.  It is hard to believe then that this and the other children in the film are untrained actors who are improvising.  It is very easy to watch the beautiful relationship between a young boy Hamid and his older man- friend Chakku a loser who seems to be unable to relate to anyone else especially his adorable and god fearing mother Sudha who only sees the good in every situation

It is difficult to think that a film about kites can really be this exciting and enthralling to watch.  Stick with the sometimes difficult to watch patchwork quilt of the storyline and I promise you will not be disappointed.

PATANG (THE KITE) will open Los Angeles exclusively at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills on July 20, 2012

In New York, PATANG THE KITE garnered a NY Times Critic Pick and is still playing in New York and Chicago – held over for another week.

The film will continue opening in approximately 18 cities across the US and Canada this summer.

Watch Natalie Portman’s ballet training in BLACK SWAN

Who hasn’t managed to catch “Black Swan” yet (or the moviewallas review of it)?  No judgments I promise, but, if you have been sitting on the fence about watching this film, maybe the attached video will convince you to either go watch it or preload it into your Netflix queue.

Even though this film didn’t make my 2010 Top Ten list (note it did make both fellow wallas lists),  I did really enjoy this movie. Much of the enjoyment becuase Natalie Portman was mesmerizing to watch as Nina Sayars – the swan herself. The attached video from Fox Searchlight Pictures shows the young ballerina in training and believe me, Portman is totally deserved of that title.

With Aronofsky’s brilliant direction and a great supporting cast and of course the incredible dancing by  both Portman and Mila Kunis, watching this film won’t be a waste of time.  That and i think Portman may be one of the strongest contenders (along with Annette Benning) for the “Best Actress” Oscar next week.

Fancy One of These Wagers for the Academy Awards?

Not to be outdone by the categories of awards themselves, a betting company in the UK is creating their own inventive assembliges to incentivize anyone who wishes to gamble this year.  At Bodog.com (supposedly the world’s largest betting brand) instead of voting for the usual “Best Film”, “Best Director”, “Actor” or “Actress”, one can place a wager on the following:

  • How many of the big 3 award winners (Director, Actor, Actress) will visibly cry when receiving their award?
    • None: 4/7
    • 1: 3/2
    • 2: 5/1
    • All 3: 20/1
  • Oscars Specials – How many times will the word Thanks or Thank You be used in the acceptance speech of the Big 3 Awards (Director, Actor, Actress)?
    • Over/Under 20: 10/11
  • What will be the Predominant Color of Natalie Portman’s Dress at the Awards Ceremony?
    • Black 3/1
    • White 3/1
    • Blue 4/1
    • Cream/Beige 9/2
    • Pink 9/2
    • Red 5/1
  • Will Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds attend the Oscars together? Yes 6/1
  • Will any Oscar recipients fall on their way to the stage? Yes 15/1
  • Will Geoffrey Rush be wearing a hat? Yes 6/4

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Now you may be asking yourself “why”? Well, apparently there is a feeling that the Oscars look even more predictable than normal this year (Colin Firth is 1/50 to win Best Actor!) so the categories were put togteher to help the long evening be a little more entertaining.  Perhaps our own moviewalla listeners could come up with a few inventive categories of our own???

Envious About the King’s Speech? – Julia Roberts is Crowned Queen

The ultimate “Pretty woman” now has a new title; “Wicked step mother” or “Queen” even.  Relativity Media has closed a deal with Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts to play the Queen in its upcoming untitled Snow White feature, based on the Brothers Grimm story which will be directed by Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell).  The studio stated Pre-production has begun and principal photography will start in April. The theatrical release date is set for June 2012.

Julia Roberts

Relativity’s Snow White a retelling of one of the most beloved fables of all-time, will eschew the traditional story in favor of a more modern tale full of comedy and adventure. After her evil stepmother kills her father and destroys the kingdom, Snow White bands together with a gang of seven quarrelsome dwarfs to reclaim what is rightly hers. The script was written by Melissa Wallack (Meet Bill) and Jason Keller (Machine Gun Preacher).

The film’s producers are Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter), Bernie Goldmann (300) and Brett Ratner (Rush Hour franchise). The executive producers are Tucker Tooley (The Fighter), Jeff Waxman (Immortals), Tommy Turtle (Immortals), Jamie Marshall (Immortals), Josh Pate (Friday Night Lights) and John Cheng (Horrible Bosses).

Relativity’s CEO Ryan Kavanaugh commented, “Julia was our first and only choice to play the Queen. She is an icon, and we know that she will make this role her own in a way that no one else could.”

I don’t know about you, but I love me a good fairy tale and can’t wait to see who will be Prince Charming

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What do Lego and the Oscars Have in Common?

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The Oscars and Lego have Artist Alex Eylar in common.  Once again, Eylar posted images on his Flickr site of the 83rd Academy Awards Best Picture nominees constructed of Lego bricks and miniature figurines. This unique tribute combines his passion for both Lego and Film

Each of the ten nominated films: “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “Black Swan,” “Toy Story 3,” “127 Hours,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Winter’s Bone,” “The Social Network,” “The King’s Speech,” and “True Grit” have been given the Eylar treatment with a memorable scene recreated in loveable lego pieces

Eylar last made news for his minimalist interpretation of 10 iconic movie posters, such as “Clockwork Orange” “Back to the Future,” and “Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.” Image Kind reported, “His personal renditions of popular and iconic movie posters cut through the noise of over-hyped Hollywood production and tell a story through simplicity.”

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Looks like this may be a growing trend given that Eylar isn’t the first person to combine Lego building with a love for film. Eric C. Harshbarger has made a career out of building mosaics and sculptures out of Lego bricks, and many of his projects have a cinematic theme. Lego itself often comes out with movie-themed sets as well.

To see a full set of the ten nominations in lego go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/hoyvinmayvin/

 

 

 

 

 

Which Dictator’s book inspires Sacha Baron Cohen’s Next Comedy?

Anyone missing Borat yet?  What about Bruno or even Ali G? Well Good news for all you Sacha Baron Cohen fans out there because Paramount Pictures announced today that his new comedy “THE DICTATOR” will be released worldwide on May 11,2012 with Larry Charles director of both “Borat” and “Bruno” directing again

The film tells the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed. It is inspired by the best selling novel “Zabibah and The King” by Saddam Hussein.

Sacha Baron Cohen

Baron Cohen is in impressive company with the production of this film with Scott Rudin, Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, and David Mandel joining the project which marks the first collaboration for Rudin (“The Social Network,” “True Grit”) and Baron Cohen, while Berg, Schaffer and Mandel(Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm) join him as screenwriters on the movie.

Under Baron Cohen’s Four By Two  Films, the movie marks the third time that Baron Cohen and Charles, who previously worked together on “Borat” as well as “Bruno”. Dan Mazer (“Borat” “Bruno”), Ant Hines (“Borat” “Bruno”) and Peter Baynham (“Borat”) will serve Together as executive producers, reuniting this Academy Award®-nominated and Golden Globe winning “Borat” team. Todd Schulman (“Borat” “Bruno”) is co-producing.