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  • The Yellow Birds

    2017-12-12 00:16:00

    The plight of the psychologically damaged former soldier struggling to shoe-horn himself back into the quotidian of his former life first courted public awareness in 1946 with William Wyler's celebrated The Best Years Of Our Lives. The affliction again gained narrative traction some thirty years later during the Vietnam conflict in big-budget, star-driven films like Who'll Stop The Rain, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home, but it took the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at the beginning of the millenium to finally put the tragedy of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as it came to be known) back on Hollywood's front burner with a steady stream of largely low-budget indie productions. The Yellow Birds is one of the better ones.

    Adapted from Kevin Powers' debut novel by David Lowery and R.F.I. Porto, and directed by Alexandre Moors, the film stars Alden Ehrenreich and Tye Sheridan as Bartle and Murph, two callow young men from small town America who, after enlisting in the Army, soon find themselves  in Iraq, knee-deep in the aleatory chaos of frontline warfare. Following Murph's gruesome death, a profoundly shell-shocked Bartle returns home and promptly retreats into the inner recesses of an almost wordless, shiftless solitude that neither his nor Murph's mother (who painfully begs him for more details about her son's death) are able to penetrate. Juxtaposing close-ups of Ehrenreich's impassive, haunted face, with the rickety, fly-blown screen doors, unkempt store fronts and overgrown byways of an economically impoverished, semi-rural backwater, Moors' measured, minimalist often wordless mise-en-scene evokes a palpable air of melancholy, sadness and regret. Along with Ehrenreich, who will soon be seen as a young Han Solo, both Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston are achingly perfect as the grieving mothers. Well worth a look.      

     

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  • Florence Foster Jenkins

    2016-09-17 02:48:25

    As a child, the heiress Florence Foster Jenkins was a talented piano player who scored herself a gig at the White House. Many years later, however, after recovering from a bout of syphilis (courtesy of a husband she quickly divorced), she opted to reinvent herself as an opera singer. The fact that she had not a skerrick of talent to back up her new musical aspirations was neither here nor there; she wanted to sing arias and she had the wherewithall to make it happen.

    By the mid 1930s, supported by her new (common-law) husband St Clair Bayfield, whose spousal duties were confined to running interference with the nosey press and front-loading her gigs with a sympathetic, generously bribed audience, Jenkins was squawking and screeching her way through dozens of self-funded recitals and concerts so conspicuous in their excrutiating ineptness the aghast New York cognescenti labeled her as the worst singer in the world.

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  • The Mechanic: Resurrection

    2016-08-28 21:40:51

    Beginning in 1960 with his breakout role in The Magnificent Seven through to the late 80s, Charles Bronson managed to carve out a hugely successful career for himself with a slew of modestly budgeted westerns and contemporary action thrillers. Many of them, like Red Sun, Chato's Land, Hard Times and Death Wish, belied their B-picture DNA by exhibiting a level of style and narrative assurance few of today's CGI- bloated genre movies aspire to let alone achieve. The Michael Winner-directed The Mechanic from 1972 was a quintessential Bronson vehicle positing the craggy-faced star as a professional hitman specialising in making his victims' deaths look like accidents. The great Jan-Michael Vincent co-starred as his duplicitous apprentice.

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  • Rio Bravo

    2016-07-22 00:35:01

    Never get sick of watching this scene from Rio Bravo (1959) Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson.

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  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

    2016-04-10 01:25:22

    In his revelatory 1983 best-seller, Adventures in the Screen Trade, screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man) perceptively observed that in Hollywood it would be a fool's errand to task someone with the job of predicting a film's box-office performance because in the final analysis, "nobody knows anything". To appreciate the enduring wisdom and accuracy of that now famous three word quote, one need look no further than this week's box-office where a relatively obscure, third-tier comic superhero called Deadpool continues to bask in the glow of a thousand hosannas while Batman v Superman, featuring comicdom's two most famous superheroes, has been summarily banished to the same critic-sanctioned movie jail wherein the much-reviled Fantastic Four and The Green Lantern currently languish. To be sure, the two aforementioned films are genuine stinkers entirely deserving of their critical mauling, but Zack Snyder's sequel (of sorts) to Man of Steel, its narrative and visual shortcomings notwithstanding, is not quite the unmitigated disaster the baying cabal of reviewers and fan-boys would have you believe.

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  • In The Heart Of The Sea

    2015-12-11 21:21:33

    Once upon a time seafaring yarns, particularly those set in the eighteenth century like Two Years Before The Mast, Mutiny On The Bounty and Captains Courageous, were quite a popular cinema staple and most major stars of the day had at least one on their resume. Nowadays, while many traditional genres continue to thrive, films of swashbuckling derring-do set aboard four masted sailing ships have, along with the Western, quietly gone the way of the dodo. Well, not quite. In their infinite wisdom, the executives at Warner Bros convinced themselves that the genre that gave the world Moby Dick was worth revisiting and they were prepared to spend a lot of money to prove it. 

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  • Adele on Jimmy Fallon

    2015-12-02 23:18:04

    Thought this was pretty neat. 15 million Youtube hits and counting.

     

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  • A Bond for the milliennials; the dumbing down of an icon

    2015-11-18 22:50:38

    In 1963, James Bond assumed screen icon status practically overnight with the modestly budgeted Dr. No. It was an auspicious start for a character that had been, up until that point, confined to the pages of a dozen pulpy spy novels written by a former British intelligence officer. Some five decades and five actors later, the Bond franchise, now suitably reformatted for the ADD generation, is still breaking box-office records. But the years have taken their artistic toll and, despite a well-intentioned reboot, the new films have so effectively homongenised the Bond ethos that they have become practically indistiguishable from countless other generic action pictures.  

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  • Burnt toast

    2015-11-02 03:44:43

    Written by Steven Knight and directed by John Wells, Burnt stars Bradley Cooper as Adam Jones, a once hot-shot chef who travels to London hoping to resuscitate the flourishing career his drinking, drug-taking and general assholery effectively killed back in Paris a few years earlier. 

    Setting himself up as head chef in his friend Tony's (Daniel Bruhl) restaurant, Jones plans to wield his culinary skills to out-dazzle every other chef in the capital and in the process win the much-coveted third Michelin star that has eluded him all these years. Soon, with the pressure on to prove himself, no staff member is spared Jones' boot camp drill sergeant temper tantrums which involve a lot of screaming and the obligatory plate smashing. It's not hard to imagine that this is the sort of behaviour that may well have contributed to his career meltdown earlier and, in the absence of a course correction, it bodes ill for his current ambitious plans.

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  • Wrong Program

    2015-11-02 00:42:26

    The Tour de France is an annual 23 day, 3500km bicycle race held in France each July. Initially established in 1903 as a local french competition, the race is now considered to be the premiere cycling event in the world attracting riders from dozens of countries. In 2005, American Lance Armstrong made it into the history books when he won the Tour for the seventh consecutive time. Though he was always at the centre of a rumour mill that suggested his extraordinary success was fuelled by a covert drug regimen, he never tested positive for any illegal substance.

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  • Crimson but no clover

    2015-10-22 16:06:13

     

    Unlike his fellow countrymen, Alejandro Inarritu and Alfonso Curon, whose films span a broad spectrum of genres, Guillermo del Toro, beginning with his award-winning Cronos in 1994, has confined himself primarily to the realm of the gothic horror fantasy. After edging into comic book territory with the two Hellboy films, he opted to go the sci-fi route with Pacific Rim, a lumbering, CGI-heavy sea monsters versus giant robots extravaganza that gladdened the heart of many a video game nerd.

    Crimson Peak finds the director wearing his Gothic hat but the result is more than a little disappointing. Co-written by Matthew Robbins, the screenplay borrows elements of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and reconfigures them to the contours of a Hammer horror film.

     

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  • Running on Diesel fumes

    2015-10-22 15:04:01

    While a lot of Hollywood stars choose to unwind from the rigors of shooting their latest effects-heavy comic book/action/fantasy by seguing to a small-scale, modestly budgeted independent project, Vin Diesel looks to be in no hurry to step off the CGI treadmill.

     

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