September 27, 2013

NYFF 13'- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: "Alan Partridge! Who the f- Alan Partridge!"

While I was spending my summer in the UK, I took it upon myself to see some movies. During the trailers, I noticed that this character “Alan Patridge” would pop up and  give some goofy pre-movie psa about turning off your cell phones. Didn’t really think much of it, until a co-worker informed me that Alan Patridge was the creation of Steve Coogan, and was very popular in Britain.

Alan Partridge, a bumbling, clock radio DJ, soon finds himself in a bit of a predicament when his career is on the line. After throwing his friend under the bus, he is soon swept up in a hostage situation, which gains media attention (much to Alan's delight.) Partidge becomes the head negotiator and must try to calm the situation before it turns violent.

I'm always fascinated about the subject of comedy between Brits and Americans. I wrote a paper on the matter while I was studying in London, and started to notice a lot of the classic characteristics in this film. This is an extremely British film.  Plain and simple. Queen and country. It was intended to cater to a British audience. I saw this movie twice (press and general audience) and there were way more laughs in the general screening, funny enough. There were many fans of Steve Coogan in the audience as well, so that was probably part of the reason. During the Q & A Steve Coogan admitted that he was surprised that the film was making its US debut at NYFF, because it didn’t seem like the type of film that would fit. Steve then started talking about the difference between American humor and British humor and how it's evolved over the years. Coogan also brought up the fact that American love when their protagonists are confident and cool while the English enjoy when their characters are kind of losers and average Joe's. This holds true to the character Alan Patridge, who prides himself on being suave and above it all, but is really kind of a schmuck.

If you appreciate British humor and the nuances that come with it, this film is right for you. It's nothing groundbreaking, and I wasn't on the floor in stiches, but I did find myself giggling and smiling through most of the film. I, also, feel that if you're trying to get a grasp on basic British humor (besides Monty Python) then definitetly check it out.

NYFF 13'- Captain Phillips Review : "I'm the Captain Now"

My NYFF 2013 kicked off with a press screening of Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks. Captain Phillips, based on the actual events of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somalian Pirates back in 2009, has to be one of the most intense films I have seen in a very long time. There isn’t a second that goes by where you’re not completely on edge. I squirmed in my seat as I watched Phllips go through hell and back, knowing that he could be killed at any moment.

Hanks’s portrayal of  Captain Phillips is nothing short of excellent. There is a sincerity to his performance, which makes you worry about his safety throughout the entire movie. His performance elevates until it hits a boiling point in the last 10 minutes of the movie (a scene which alone should get him a nomination.)

One actor who is getting major buzz is newcomer is Barkhad Abdi who plays Bilal. Once a limo driver, he is now in talks for a nomination! Amazing, since this is his very first acting role. From the way he presents himself, to his interactions with Hanks, you are always on your toes. The movie gives no room to breathe, and that's what I loved so much about it. Not sure how much creative license the film took from the real situation, but it did keep me focused for the 2 hours and 14 minutes.
The problem I had with the film, however, is that I feel that everything starts off strong in the first half, flatlines a bit in the middle, and doesn’t pick back up until the very end.  Despite the massive amount of tension involving Hanks’ life or death situation, I couldn’t help but check the time several times throughout the screening. It did start to get a bit repetitive at points, which made the time feel a bit longer as well.

As you would expect, Tom Hanks was an actual treasure. He answered, press questions with charm and humor (and made a dig about how much he hated stupid interview questions. Don't we all, Tom.) He discussed his experince filming on water and how he prepared to play the role of Phillips.

I, honestly, don't expect this film to sweet the awards season, but at the very least they will get nominations for acting, directing, and maybe camera work as well. Captain Phillips was definitely an excellent way to start NYFF 13.

September 22, 2013

Broadway's "Romeo and Juliet" Trades Red Hot For Soft And Sweet

Love. Revenge. Death. Fire. And apparently motorcycles. This is what you get when you take Shakespeare's most famous love story and shake it up with a modern twist. I will be the first to say that in high school, Romeo and Juliet was never my favorite story. Growing up in a modern world where the idea of love and courtship has been reduced to texting, winky face emoji cons, and other technological advancements, it's so easy to write off the star crossed lovers as stupid, immature and selfish. However, David Leveaux has brought a light sweetness to the Broadway stage, which made me see the play differently for the first time.

The show starts off with a bang (no, seriously there's fire and everything) and the distinguished Friar Lawrence (played by Brent Carver) introduces the show. The moment, the show started I fell head over heels in love with the set. The use of muted colors, the mixture of afro-fusion and rustic Italian, made the shows overall feel modern, but not so much that it dilutes the original language of the Bard. I personally thought the set design and lighting were very clever and appealing.

Now, I must agree with the majority of people that say that the chemistry between Rashad and Bloom was lacking the hot passion that most were expecting. I would say that it's not so much fiery, but rather a slight simmer. The passion is dully brewing but never reaches a complete boil. However, there is a sweetness and playfulness between the two lovers which I found endearing and whimsical. It was like watching a dream, and I honestly didn't mind it. Condola Rashad (who I unfortunately, missed in Stick Fly and The Trip to Bountiful) cranks Juliet's innocence to 11 as her doe eyed gazes of wonderment makes her rash displays of love believable. She is docile, soft, and absolutely gorgeous. Did she knock it out of the park? Not exactly, but there is a charm to

Rashad's performance, which touched me. This is the same for Bloom whom I admit I have a soft spot for. After a few clunkers at the box office, he has been in dire need of a career boost. Despite what others may say, I think Orlando is a good actor (and lets be honest there are MUCH worse still working today.) When it was announced that he was playing the role of a young Romeo at the age of 36, there was an outcry coming from all over saying that he was way too old (completely ignoring the fact that older men have played the part before him.) The age is not a factor. Honestly, unless it really bothers you that he's in his mid-thirties, there is no way it can make a real difference. Bloom is still very youthful in his features, and he plays Romeo's naivety so well that you believe it. For his Broadway debut, I feel that he did a great job, and I would love to see him do more stage work.

However, these performances could not have stood alone. It is indeed the immense talent of the supporting cast which gives the show its sturdy backbone. The stand outs including Christian Camargo (Mercutio), Jane Houdyshell (Nurse), Chuck Cooper (Lord Capulet), Roslyn Ruff (Lady Capulet), and Justin Guarini (Paris). Seriously, if you see the show for anything, see it for this fantastic group of actors and actresses.

This show is Shakespeare lite. It's not going to blow the roof off the theatre. There are very few moments that are truly powerful (though the ones that are, are really fantastic.) The show is going to divide people, and I can see why anyone would say this show is empty. However, at the end I found myself welling up. For the first time, I finally saw the beauty within the tragedy and it really made me realize why this play is so loved. I truly did enjoy this show. If you're looking for a deep, dark story about two lovers with a fiery passion that would rival the sun then, sorry you're not going to get it. However, if you want to see a mild show full of sweetness, innocence, and an excellent cast then definitely check it out. B+ 

Purchase Your Tickets HERE

September 16, 2013

Naomie Harris Talks 'Mandela' In This Month's Moves Magazine

Predicted to be one of the this year's brightest stars, Naomie Harris covers this month's Moves magazine. The article starts with a statement that I feel perfectly describes Ms. Harris:

These days, we prefer our stars complicated and multi-faceted.  We want accomplishment and poise. We want grace and wit. We want intelligence and motivation and depth, and we want it wrapped in a package of style and sex appeal and stunning good looks.
You will be hard pressed to find a young actress that fits that bill as perfectly as Naomie Harris. Aside from her multiple film roles she has a level of class and sophistication which, just puts others to shame. Read what she had to say about her new film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and her character Winnie Mandela (x)

Fresh Out Of The Kitchen: Grace of Monaco - Trailer

Bask in the elegant decadence of the new trailer for Nicole Kidman's Grace of Monaco and tell me what you think.

September 15, 2013

TIFF2013 Review Round Up: Hits, Misses, And What To Look Forward Too ( August: Osage County, The Fifth Estate, and Kill Your Darlings)

With the announcement of the winners for the 2013 Toronto Film Festival awards, we can now officially close what I feel has been a great 10 days of cinema.  Many films have risen (and fallen) with their critical reception. And with the New York Film Festival starting in a couple of weeks (more on that later) we can now start whispering about award season (notice I say whispering for the people who say it's too early for that kind of talk.) If you were on Twitter living vicariously through your Twitter followers who were lucky enough to see these films and/or hobnob with all your favorite peeps at parties and such, then you probably missed out on a few reviews. In case you're not sure how a film was received at the festival, here are a few reviews I've compiled to give you a tiny sense of what you might want to know. Also to find out what audience members had to say, just search the film's title followed by "TIFF" on Twitter....

August: Osage County

“The dialogue-heavy dramedy ... unfolds largely like a filmed play.  What are we supposed to come away from this experience thinking and feeling? I’m sure not sure that’s going to prove enough for most awards voters, particularly  in such a competitive year.”- Scott Feinberg from THR

“I don’t think I’d call ‘August: Osage County’ a bad film, but I’m damn sure I wouldn’t call it a great one,”- Drew McWeeny from Hitflix

"The film’s not a disaster, or a total dullard, in the way of too many recent filmed plays.... But 'August: Osage County' comes to life, to cinematic and dramatic life, only in fits and starts. And some of the questionable casting choices extend straight to the choice of director."- Michael Phillips from Chicago Tribune

“Letts is one of the most formidable talents around today, but in handling his screenplay with such kid gloves, Wells puts a passenger in the driver’s seat. The results are far from a car crash, but they do smack of the rubberneck, in which grande dames get down and dirty and we gawp politely from the stalls.”- Catherine Shoard from The Guardian

“The pinnacle of family dramas. So take that, ‘Ordinary People." - Kate Eberland from Film School Rejects

“Though the film doesn’t shed its inherent theatricality.... But it’s nonetheless an entertaining adaptation, delivering flavorful rewards in some sharp supporting turns that flank the central mother-daughter adversaries.”- David Rooney from THR

“With the unstoppable Streep in charge, it’s difficult for a viewer not to go along for the ride even if they’re a little uneasy [as I was] about the fact that the broad comedy sometimes swamps everything in its wake.”- Steve Pond from The Wrap 

The Fifth Estate

"... though it traffics in life and death and threats to the world's great institutions, [it] isn't always as gripping as a film whose main drama was who would get rich over letting "friends" share party pictures. Though it will attract attention at the box office, it is unlikely to appeal broadly to moviegoers who, one suspects, have never been as worked up about WikiLeaks as journalists and governments are."-John DeFore from THR

"... in adapting both a book on the affair by Guardian journalists David Leigh and Luke Harding, as well as tech activist Daniel Domscheit-Berg's account of working for Assange, 'The Fifth Estate' is a project in whose sources one can place considerable faith. Certainly, Condon does. At times it can feel he's risked coherence for chronology, giving us his own surfeit of data without offering sufficient kit with which we can sift it."- Catherine Shoard from The Guardian 
"Aiming to provide the kind of speculative personality portrait behind another sweeping digital-age change in communication that touches nearly everyone, a la 'The Social Network,' helmer Bill Condon and scenarist Josh Singer’s film must also stuff in a heavy load of global events, all in a hyperkinetic style aping today’s speed of information dispersal. Results can’t help but stimulate, but they’re also cluttered and overly frenetic, resulting in a narrative less informative, cogent and even emotionally engaging than Alex Gibney’s recent docu 'We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.'"- Dennis Harvey from Variety
"... the movie’s style feels second-hand: an overeager, slightly shop-worn bombardment of finger-on-the-pulse pop-out graphics, representing the giddy proliferation of voices in the misinformation age by simply filling the screen with text."- Tom Robey from The Telegraph 
"With so many factors in play and Assange's fate still developing, the idea of an Assange biopic might seem premature. But that's the least problematic issue plaguing Bill Condon's 'The Fifth Estate,' an uneven, intermittently thoughtful but largely preachy overview of WikiLeaks' rising influence that has less of an issue determining Assange's character than it does with telling a compelling story."- Eric Kohn from IndieWire

Kill Your Darlings
"Krokidas has made a feature writing and directing debut that is certainly noteworthy, not least for attracting such an impressive cast. Radcliffe and DeHaan deserve special mention for clearly investing a great deal of heart in their performances, which really shows. My hunch, though, is that the film will meet a critical, commercial and awards fate similar to that of On the Road, a film that premiered at TIFF last year and deals with some of the same characters and subject matter: nice enough reviews, relatively little box office and no Oscar nominations. It's just not the Academy's cup of tea."- Scott Feinberg from THR
"Still, even if it doesn’t fully connect the dramatic dots, the film is impressively realized on a scene-by-scene basis. Scholarly inclined viewers may well quibble with the authenticity of the central performances, but there isn’t a single one that feels less than fully engaged. British thesp Radcliffe is every inch the bespectacled American nebbish one associates with Ginsberg, and DeHaan, so frighteningly charismatic in last year’s “Chronicle,” makes Lucien a simultaneously alluring and troubling figure."-Justin Chang from Variety 
"Kill Your Darlings is the first cinematic telling of the Lucien Carr story, already told in an early novel by Burroughs and Kerouac, suppressed by Carr during his lifetime. Just as central is Ginsberg’s coming of age. In a setting where youthful silliness meets ambition, Radcliffe gets the accent down, but he’s fine-featured compared to the fleshier Ginsberg, never reaching the point where it’s Ginsberg rather than Radcliffe that the audience is watching.  Radcliffe does persuade you that it was Carr’s courage, or his sheer abandon, plus his beauty, that helped transform the younger student from a shy New Jersey kid into a writer who shocked readers."- David D'Arcy from Screen Daily 

September 3, 2013

A Time to Kill: Courtroom Drama Comes to Broadway *Ticket Giveaway*

As much as I love musicals, there is nothing better than a thrilling stage drama. Here is your chance to win tickets to one of the most anticipated shows out right now:

A Time to Kill, the popular courtroom drama, tells the emotionally charged, now-iconic story of a young, idealistic lawyer, Jake Brigance, defending a black man, Carl Lee Hailey, for taking the law into his own hands following an unspeakable crime committed against his young daughter. Their small Mississippi town is thrown into upheaval, and Jake finds himself arguing against the formidable district attorney, Rufus Buckley, and under attack from both sides of a racially divided city. This drama is a thrilling courtroom battle where the true nature of what is right and what is moral are called into question.

This stellar cast includes Sebastian Arcelus, Chike Johnson, Patrick Page, Tony Award® winner Tonya Pinkins, Emmy Award® winner Tom Skerritt, Fred Dalton Thompson, John Douglas Thompson, and Ashley Williams plus Dashiell Eaves, J.R. Horne, John Procaccino, Tijuana Ricks, and Lee Sellars.

Contest Ended