Hustlers

Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019) 4/5

Yes, this is the film about strippers. But it is so much more than that. Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlersfilm is adapted from a 2015 New York Magazine’s article entitled ‘The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves” by Jessica Pressler. Catchy, no?

For those of you that think this sounds like a soulless, mindlessly provocative title, then you would be right, this film however is anything but. We follow Destiny (Constance Wu), a stripper trying to make ends meet while supporting her grandmother. She is barely getting by from the tips from the drunken businessman. Until, that is she meets fellow stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who takes an instant shine to her. The duo become famous in the club and this is mirrored in the surge of attention and most of all Benjamin’s.

Of course, once the financial crisis of 2007 hits, and the money slowly goes and both women must use their wiles to attract men, and well, drug and steal from them. As we follow both women down this seductive rabbit hole, what is apparent is that both Lopez and Wu are a dream to watch. The chemistry works on the level of a pair of mafia brothers, but also a couple in a relationship. Both actresses commit fully to their roles and Scafaria creates a star power role for Lopez. The reason that she is NOT nominated for an Academy Award this year for Best Supporting Actress is criminal (pun intended).

There are moments of genuine emotion throughout as both women must support families and protect those around them. However, as the tale increases, we become embroiled in their struggle for equality and to stick it to the misogynists. Alas, you cannot con only those that you despise, and this proves to be their downfall.

Hustlers is one of those films that creeps up out of nowhere, and it is one that you could dismiss as fluff. However, the supporting case of Cardi B, Lizzo, Julia Stiles and Keke Palmer make you take notice. Scafaria’s film is one of those rare treats, blending comedy, crime and human drama. Indeed, produced by Adam McKay (The Big Short) along with a cohort of others has ensured that this is a clever tale of sexual politics and economics.

In sum, Hustlers is a triumph and will entertain those that might perform on the pole and those that don’t. It is a underdog story, a story about equality and a story with stunning performances. Go see this, to prove the academy wrong.

Top 12 Films of 2013

When people put together any list, things are always forgotten. Films of a particular year are no different and anyone who’s anyone has an opinion. I rank mine on the watch-againability spectrum and whether they are actually great works of film.

If you think my list is missing anything, please let me know!

 

12) Gravity

Sandra Bullock and the Visual Effects team are the stand out here. She holds the film 247813id1h_Ver1_Gravity_2ndLook_27x40_1Sheet.inddtogether perfectly and is sure to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Actress when the nominations are released in January.

In some instances the film does rely too heavily on spectacle and not on story but in these cases you have to give Cuarón credit, this film is all about the cinematic experience and all of the attractions that comes with it. As such you can overlook the repetitiveness of the narrative and uncover the sheer brilliance of the art work.

 

11) The Way, Way Back

Sometimes you just need a good coming of age story and the ‘The Way, Way Back’ is just kinopoisk.ruthat. With shades of Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, this indie gem released in the first quarter of the year almost got overlooked, just like its protagonist. Following the young Duncan, who discovers his own self-worth during a summer trip with his mother and step Father he soon realises who he wants to be for the rest of his life.

Bittersweet and heart-warming this film has great performances by Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet and AnnaSophia Robb.

 

 

10) The Great Gatsby

Sometimes a little escapism is good and who better to provide that than Baz Luhrmann.the-great-gatsby-article-po Based on the literary classic by F Scott Fitzgerald and updated by a Jay Z produced soundtrack, this box office hit proved that people really did want decadence. The economic recession has hit us all, and as such, we don’t want to mope around in the cinemas watching despair. Yes, the narrative isn’t wholly upbeat but everything else sure is!

 

 

 

9) Philomena

You know, we brits really do make good films and Philomena is proof of that. Tacklingphilomena-poster strong themes of childhood, the crimes of the Catholic Church and injustice, Stephen Frears film isn’t an entirely light film to view, however what makes up for this is a cracking script by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope. Laughter and tears merge together beautifully in a film that should expect big things come BAFTA time.

 

 

 

 

8) Captain Phillips

Has Tom Hanks ever made a bad film? Well, I can’t think of one. In a performance rivalling captain-phillips-posterhis in ‘Philadelphia’ he plays Captain Richard Phillips, a man who commands an unarmed container ship passing through the coast of Somalia. Paul Greengrass’ film equally balances the narratives of Phillips and the main captive Abduwali Muse, excellently portrayed by Barkhad Abdi. Tense, taught and full of action this is a biopic everyone has to see.

 

 

 

 

7) Prisoners

Chock full of great performances this film pushes the boundaries of the procedural drama prisonersand opens itself up to questions of living in a post 9/11 America. Denis Villeneuve’s direction is pitch perfect throughout and really makes the film all the more disturbing and absorbing. Not for the fainthearted, Prisoners will have you on the edge of your seat. Roger Deakins also needs special mention as his cinematography really brings everything together.

 

 

 

6) Saving Mr. Banks

Hollywood loves making films about Hollywood. It was Argo last year and this year’s saving mr brepresentation is Saving Mr. Banks. Following the troubled production of Mary Poppins and having Emma Thompson portray P.L Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney what is there not to like? A much more meaningful film than the marketing suggested, the film is an absolutely fine-tuned biopic that never veers into kitsch.

 

 

 

5) Blackfish

The first documentary in the list plays more like a Hollywood crime thriller than a Blackfishstraightforward Doc. Set in the world of commercial whale baiting for SeaWorld, it chronicles how a trainer was murdered by the killer whale Tilikum.  As the narrative progresses, it becomes clear that these creatures are at their most dangerous when in captivity. Not only have SeaWorld denied the allegations that these whales are capable of murder, they also refuse to set free their most prized possession, Tilikum. A thought provoking watch that will leave you questioning all kinds of animal entertainment.

 

4) Frozen

Disney is back on top form.  In a year where Pixar slightly lost their edge, Disney proved FROZN_014M_G_ENG-GB_70x100.inddthat they have still got it. If anyone is going to do a film that centres on two princesses and do it well it would be them. Adapted from Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Snow Queen’, the film follows two princesses Elsa and Anna who bond through Elsa’s magical powers to turn everything into ice and snow. As years pass, Elsa flees her kingdom after plunging the land into eternal winter. With funny supporting characters and animals in tow and a killer soundtrack, this new fairytale is bound to become a modern classic.

 

3) The Act of Killing

The second documentary on the list is The Act of Killing, a Danish – British-Norwegianthe act of killing co-production which documents the Indonesian of 1965-66 through the memories of those who committed the murders. Borrowing from surrealist cinema, the filmmakers wanted the perpetrators to re-enact their personal killings in any way they wanted, be it through music, dance or filmed theatre. A raw and sometimes gut wrenching watch, this documentary reinforces the power of this genre of filmmaking.

 

 

2) Wadjda

The first feature film to be entirely shot in Saudi Arabia is a tale of a young girl’s Wadjda_(film)transgressive attitude to the society around her. Little Wadjda only wish is to own a bicycle so that she can race her best friend Abdullah, who taunts her. However, it is frowned upon for girls to ride such devices and as such she tried to raise the necessary funds herself by any means necessary. A children’s film at heart, this uplifting tale of overcoming barriers is a must see and hopefully the first in a long line of films from this part of the world.

 

1)12 Years a Slave

Ok, so it may not be technically released until 2014, but it was at the BFI Film Festival in 12yas-poster-artOctober 2013, so it counts! Steve McQueen’s electric and awe inspiring adaptation of the life of Solomon Northup is nothing short of stellar. Bringing together blinding performances with the brutal nature of slavery there is nothing not to like about this film. Yes, at times it might be a bit raw for some, but this really should take home the majority of praise come Awards season as the film of the year.

Breaking Bad – Walt vs Hank

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The most talked about TV show in years is building up nicely to its epic conclusion. US smash hit Breaking Bad is in its fifth and final season with the last episodes currently airing on Sunday evenings in America. Main character Walt (Bryan Cranston) has gone from shy teacher to drug lord but his brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), a DEA detective is hot on his case. This post will examine the two leading characters and their willingness to succeed in their lines of work.

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Walt vs Hank – Personalities

Both characters are extremely headstrong from the off. On numerous occasions in the first two/three seasons Walt argues his way in to trouble when if he kept his mouth shut things would have gone a lot smoother. At one point he gets pepper sprayed by a police officer for losing his rag about being stopped for having a broken windscreen. Despite his stubbornness, Walt also has a calm temperament and when his mind is at rest he has all the qualities of a loving father and dependable family man.

Hank is also a handful when he thinks he’s right. At the beginning of season three despite being offered a handsomely paid promotion in El Paso, he is so pent up on solving the Heisenberg case that he turns the promotion down to continue his personal quest to find the man behind the name. Like Walt, Hank can have a ticking time bomb of a personality at times. When he knows Jesse is lying to him he turns up at his house and brutally assaults him.

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Walt vs Hank – How Far They are Prepared to Go?

Walt has made huge mistakes throughout the early stages of his crystal meth operation but managed to cover them up through clever schemes and personal resolution. At the current moment in the show he is a multi-millionaire having killed off competitors and other threats to scupper his successful operation. To get to this position he has had to resolve all manner of challenges including keeping his family together and avoiding numerous assassination attempts despite battling cancer for much of the series.

Hank is pretty much the only character in the show who doesn’t have any dirt on him. He is completely driven by the Heisenberg case and he has returned to the matter numerous times when it seemed to be over. This passion to find the answers is as strong as ever in the latest episodes where he has discovered that Walt is his man. He confronted Walt in his garage and hit him in a tense scene reminiscent of a Western gun slinging battle where both waited for the other to make the first move. Hank is not afraid to take the law into his own hands, which he shows by tracking suspects with electronic devices on their cars without any warrants to do so.

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Walt vs Hank – Who Will Come Out on Top?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips. How will this incredible battle conclude between the two heavyweights of the show. Neither are showing any signs of letting up. Hank is determined to bring Walt to justice and Walt is doing everything in his power to ensure a good life for his wife and children. There are many twists and turns still to come and Walt is now trying to keep his head above water with the overwhelming news that his terminal cancer has returned. Who will emerge the victor, it looks anyone’s guess at the moment, but one thing is for sure, Breaking Bad fans are in for a rollercoaster ride over the coming weeks.

Author Bio: Ben Walker is a marketing executive at vouchercloud, specialising in digital content and marketing. He is a big fan of US television shows and has been absolutely hooked on Breaking Bad since it began.

* See Breaking Bad as well as other US Shows in my predictions for this years Primetime Emmy Awards!

Planes

Planes (Klay Hall, 2013) 3/5

It’s no surprise that Disney wanted to extend the life of a franchise that has the potential toplanes1 sell more bedspreads, cuddly toys and no doubt the opening a new theme park ride. Set in the world of ‘Cars’ it needs to be stressed this is not a Pixar movie but a film produced by Disney Toon Studios. Originally scheduled for a direct to video release, the powers that be at Disney decided to give it a chance on the big stage with a wide release domestically and internationally. And why not? With a budget of just $50 million, they stood a much better chance of recouping their losses through this method than through video sales.

As one colourful character states in the movie, ‘this is an inspiring underdog story’ and it is just that.  We follow Dusty Crophopper, a – you’ve guessed it – crop duster who spends his days drenching fields with lovely fertiliser. Along with his friends Skipper, Dottie and Chug he lives a quiet life in his hometown, however his aspirations are far greater as he wishes to fly in the ‘Wings Across the World Race’. As the drama unfolds, romances surface, international locales are sourced and foreigners stereotyped the entire narrative is wrapped up in a nice bow.

Upon hearing of this film, my expectations continually got lowered. It wasn’t going to be Pixar, lowered. It was originally going to be on video, lowered some more. It didn’t have a blockbuster cast, lowered even further. As such, upon viewing, the entire film washed over me in a decidedly forgettable but charming manner. The animation is actually pretty good and all of the cast gel really well together and provide 92 minutes worth of light entertainment for all of the kids as well as the more kindred spirited adults.

One of the important things to consider is that this film was produced to keep the kids entertained during the summer. As such, if you adjust your expectations properly, you might just enjoy it. Indeed, Disney hopes your kids will, if only to buy more merchandise and gear up for the sequel ‘Planes: Fire and Rescue’ due in cinemas next year.

Montreal First Peoples Festival: Scenario for Film Production of Indigenous Peoples

There is a connection between more than 50 productions of the Montreal First Peoplesmontreal Festival that goes beyond the cinematic language: it is the voice of native peoples, whogather every year at a festival that is able to connect the best movies in the world with the first peoples.

Canada, United States, Australia, Polynesia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico and even Spain and Germany have a privileged place in this exhibition which emphasizes the documentary, main identity of the festival,and fiction, a genre that covers almost 50% of productions that are presented.

With the echo from the peaceful protest movement “idle no more” (http://www.idlenomore.ca) that emerged strongly in the month of December, the Festival kicks off its 23th edition with the intention to give visibility to the aboriginal voices, to fight against passivity, to give to participants the opportunity to express their demands and their sovereignty, and, finally, to convey something unique as the culture.

According to the director of the show, André Dudemaine, the emphasis of the festival is a fragile boat, which cultural identity is, that connects us with the ancestral and with the possibility of leaving a legacy for the sake of posterity. This is unique Festival that may be not among the biggest ones, of course, and far from the huge budgets of major international events, but it is a unique combination of experimental cinema productions related to native peoples.

These are the topics of the focus for most of the tapes that are projected during the Festival, an event in which we had the opportunity to attend the world premiere of two films: the U.S. “Winter in the Blood” (http://winterinthebloodfilm.com) and the Canadian production “Les ailes Johny May” (http://vimeo.com/19290999), and also the documentary “L’Esprit rail Mitchif et dumont”.

Precisely, the U.S. production “Winter in the Blood” ((http://winterinthebloodfilm.com) has been awarded with the Grand Prize Teueikan. It is a movie filmed by Alex and Andrew Smith and is based on the first novel of James Welch (a poet, essayist, screenwriter andAmerican native). The movie is starred by Chaske Spencer, David Morse and Julia Jones, and it has the seal of the official selection film Festival from Los Angeles. “Winter in the Blood” has been distinguished by “bringing to the screen, with courage and fidelity, a story that marks the flourishing of contemporary Native American literature. The film shows the emotions and the journey of an anti-hero combining irony and distance, already reflected in the novel. This therapeutic odyssey also gives us clear references to classic American movies and it criticizes a situation that is repeated in many indigenous communities: the lack of adaptation, alcoholism and isolation.

The Second Teueikan Prize of this edition took the German production “Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth” (http://www.heart-of-sky.com/), a creative documentary highlighted by the jury for “its lyrical character, for keeping thing that matters in the center of the scene: real humble men and women who are leading the legacy of ancient, their wisdom and their worldview to their daily lives”. The beauty of the images projected in the film gives the viewer the opportunity to experience the Mayan culture perception about the nature balance. This movie is a review of the Mayan speaking about the change of a cosmic cycle rather than the end of the world. This production involves the public in a spiritual atmosphere that let the movie to be honored with two awards: Best Cinematography prize and the Séquences Documentary Prize (Best Documentary Prize).

Culture and tradition, heritage and future are some of the characteristics remained in the movies that have been part of the Festival. One of the main focuses is also the protest: the language of cinema in service of communication for expressing the difficulties faced by natives communities, like the fight for their territory, the discrimination and the need to report events that stayed unpunished. There is also the factorin the Festival that has been highlighted by the social prize, the Prize Rigoberta Menchú, for the U.S. production “Gold Fever”. (http://www.goldfevermovie.com) This movie shows “how the North American corporation, driven by an unhealthy thirst for fold, closes its eyes to the reprehensible activities of the groups mining for it. For its compelling portrait of brave women who defend the Maya people’s territorial rights”.

The Second Prize handed by Rigoberta Menchú to “Point of Fuite”, by Stephen A. Smith and Julia Szucs, “for succeeding in portraying commensurate with beauty, the strength of the founding tales of the Inuit nation, for giving a voice to Navarana, the direct descendant of the great shaman Qitdlarssuaq, for this appeal to the forces of the earth and the sky That Appear That Can Flashpoints today as light the road to the future.”

Among the highlights of the jury, excels “We Giants” by Victor Navarro, “for an unconventional use of animation which emphasizes the incantory aspect of the stories the Conca’ac tell, inspire Both by Their worldview and recently imported traditional Christianity, for incrusting a graphic depiction of the Stories Told in the Sonora region into its coastal landscapes, for transposing an Amerindian culture’s collective imagination into a purely cinematographic language “.

It is about powerful stories, stories that consolidatethe union between ancient tradition and contemporary reinterpretation, but they are also stories to ensure, through the First Peoples Festival, the continuity of indigenous cultures worldwide. Tales introduce us to a new edition of the Festival, the following yearthat will amuse and make us feel the way native peoples do.

This article has been written by Luis Soldevila from Webmetrics Spain in collaboration with Taylor Film Reviews. For more information on the festival see this website: http://www.presenceautochtone.ca/en/home

A Series of Work by Tim Porter

Ships Pass – Paul Cook & The Chronicles

Shot on the banks of the river Thames, this soulful music video is extremely profound with its use of startling imagery. Throughout the video, sound and image collide to create a thought provoking piece that ensures that the lyrics of the song do not become mere background annoyances. An actual story is taking place here, one that recounts the relationship of an anonymous couple whose relationship continually faces hardship. The location and set design reinforce this as their whole way of life is threatened not only by their own actions, but also by the crashing tide of the water (!).

Tim Porter was the Producer, Director and Editor of this production.

 

Holding Hands With Strangers

In modern society, the chances to really connect with people can seem few and far between. Rahma Marzak’s short film, produced by Porter follows a young woman named Sofia. As she tries to navigate and struggle with her romantic choices, her experience with an American called Erin and the relationship that ensues between them has detrimental consequences on the way she reacts to other first encounters. The film identifies how relationships can blossom, regardless of sexual preference, as such Sofia’s story is rewarding and well worth the effort, as are the great performances.

Tim Porter was the Producer and Editor on this production.

Joshua

The medium of film has always had the predilection for representing the darkness of the society we live in. Joshua is no exception of this as the titular character seemingly normal life takes a dark turn as we uncover his true nature. The central performances here are particularly strong and slowly evolve to reach a dramatic and thought provoking ending. The whole style of the film aids in the sense of impending danger and instability. Jonathan Mugui’s unique camera angles and the distorted colour palette, plunge us into the day to day life of two men who are unable to come to terms with their shocking actions.

Tim Porter was the Director, Executive Producer, Editor and Co-Writer on this production.

If you are interested in learning more about Tim Porters work then visit his companies website: http://pushingbuttonsfilms.tumblr.com/aboutus

Also check out his great performance event ‘Flashframe’: https://www.facebook.com/flashframedalston

Hollywood: History Repeating?

With the recent release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, it’s safe to say Hollywood loves the razzle dazzle. However, what is interesting is that over the last few years there has been an increased awareness to make these types of films. As such this opens up important questions such as: is Hollywood coming full circle? Are the remnants of the old school studio system still alive and kicking?

theggLet’s begin with a little history lesson. Between the years of 1926 to 1963 Hollywood became the epicentre of all things film, producing film after film on an assembly line process. Whereby the ‘Big 5’ studios, Warner Brothers, MGM, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and (the now defunct) RKO controlled the industry with their charming and economically sound products. These studios owned all of the processes to get a film made and distributed to the public, as such, the little guys didn’t stand a chance! What is more important here though, is the particular style of these films. The majority were big, brash and flashy products that placed the experience of the audience before anything else. As such, romances, melodramas and musicals became Hollywood’s fodder for raking in not only the audiences, but extreme amounts of cash. Films that were made during this time include The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain among countless others.

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Part of these films successes, especially in the 1930’s was the economic crisis and considering our current situation, it is interesting that since 2008 the studios are cashing out on larger than life escapist fare. Features including Luhrmann’s own Australia, Spielberg’s War Horse and David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. All of these films are visually spectacular, character driven pieces of filmmaking with a distinct beginning, middle and end narrative structure. Focusing largely on the classical tropes of good vs. evil, the hero’s journey and exciting foreign locations. Yes, the technology has become far more advanced and each director has their own individual style, but there is no denying that there is an affinity between these films and those made in the classical era.

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So, with The Great Gatsby opening up this year’s Cannes Film Festival and raking in over $50 Million on its first weekend in the states, there is no denying that these big, brash films are becoming ever popular. Now, are you going to see these films released every week? No, perhaps not. But considering that later this year Walt Disney is releasing Saving Mr. Banks, a film harking back to the great biopics of the classical era, not to mention the narrative surrounds the making of Mary Poppins. The industry’s fascination with the past has much to do with a tried and tested formula as it has with a younger audience that yearns to escape from everyday troubles and older audiences who want to relive the days of De Mille and old school Hollywood razzle dazzle.