When two different climbing parties set out on the expedition of their lives, they knew there would be dangers; however, no-one could prepare them for the tragedy that was in store. Reaching the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal is every passionate climbers dream, but this isn't a trip to take lightly. Such altitudes and temperatures are not meant to be experienced by human beings as frostbite and altitude sickness are almost inevitable perils, not to mention falling, strong winds and, of course, avalanches. As fate would have it, these climbers are about to run into one of the worst snowstorms ever documented as an earthquake hits the nation and mother nature has no mercy. Victory turns to catastrophe in an event that will change the lives of the survivors.
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Some people get a once in a lifetime chance to make history. Some people, unfortunately end fining themselves part of events that live in infamy. Such is the story of the people who attempted to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, in 1996. Their story would later be referred to as the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, as two competing expeditions were caught on the mountain by a horrific storm, leading to the most terrifying events on the mountain until that point. This is the story of those climbers.
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Although the plot itself is nothing special, this kidnapping comedy keeps the audience entertained by filling every scene with outrageous characters and twisty interaction. Based on an Elmore Leonard book, this free-wheeling movie is such a tangle of colourful people and riotous 1980s hairstyles that it can't help but be enjoyable. Especially once we realise that the story isn't the most important thing.
It's set in 1984 Detroit, where trophy wife Mickey (Jennifer Aniston) has finally had it with her chilly husband Frank (Tim Robbins). As she's thinking about taking their son (Charlie Tahan) and leaving, he's holed up in the Bahamas with his mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher) while preparing to serve Mickey with divorce papers. Just then, low-life criminals Louis and Ordell (John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def), kidnap Mickey and demand a $1 million ransom. Of course, Frank thinks his problem is solved until he realises that they also know about his dodgy business dealings. And things are further complicated by Louis and Ordell's Nazi-loving sidekick (Mark Boone Junior) and an amorous dork (Will Forte) who's in love with Mickey.
As the chaos escalates, writer-director Daniel Schechter keeps the focus tightly on the offbeat characters rather than the gyrations of the narrative. This makes it easy to identify with everyone on-screen, particularly Aniston and Hawkes, who have the most complex roles. They're the only people who have either emotional shadings or a story arc to travel, so watching them become increasingly aware of the opportunities around them is a lot of fun. Everyone else is here to get laughs, and it's amusing to see each of them reveal things about themselves that add to the mayhem, from Fisher's surprisingly savvy bombshell to Bey's womanising prowess. And of course each character approaches the various moral dilemmas from a distinct angle.
Continue reading: Life of Crime Review
Frank Dawson is a filthy rich, arrogant real estate developer who regularly takes 'business trips' in order to continue an affair with his young lover Melanie Ralston. During one of his trips away, his wife Mickey is held for ransom in her own home by a gang of masked men who call Frank to demand he deposit $1 million into an offshore bank account if he ever wants to see his wife again. But there's just one tiny problem: he doesn't want to see her again. He's been racking his brains to find a way he might possibly be able to leave her without the costly disadvantages of alimony, divorce costs and child support and now it seems the solution has finally dropped into his lap. Mickey doesn't believe Frank would pay that much to save her but now it's down to his own morals.
'Life Of Crime' is a crime comedy full of unexpected twists and turns. Based on the novel 'The Switch' by Elmore Leonard, the movie adaptation has been directed and written by Daniel Schechter ('Supporting Characters', 'Goodbye Baby', 'The Big Bad Swim') and it is due to be released in UK theatres on September 5th 2014.
The film festival will also feature 12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County and more!
The Fifth Estate, the Benedict Cumberbatch-starring biopic of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, will be the opening film at at this years annual Toronto International Film Festival. The film festival will also feature advanced screenings of fellow Oscar teasers 12 Years A Slave and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, with Daniel Schecter's Life of Crime - which stars John Hawkes, Mos Def and Jennifer Aniston - closing the first night. The festival starts on September 5.
The Fifth Estate follows the end of the turbulent relationship between Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg at the height of WikiLeaks' infamy and mass exposure. Based on the books Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World's Most Dangerous Website by Domscheit-Berg himself and WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy by Luke Harding and David Leigh, the movie adaptation has been without Assange's consent. The film was directed by the Oscar winning Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Dreamgirls) and adapted for the screen by Josh Singer (The West Wing, Fringe). The film is due to arrive in time for Oscar season in January 2014.
We won't know who'll walk away with the top prizes on offer at this year's Screen Actors Guild until Sunday (Jan 27), but there are a few people who might know already as the deadline for the final ballots for this years awards ceremony is today.
At noon (PT) the members of SAG will have their final say in who wins what at the 19th annual awards show at the weekend and it really is anyone's race to take home the top prizes (except for Best Actor, because Daniel Day-Lewis does not lose these awards).
Feel-good Brit-hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the surprise entrant to the Best Picture Category, facing stiff competition from Lincoln, Argo, Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook. Meanwhile, Day-Lewis is against Denzel Washington (Flight), Hugh Jackman (Les Mis), Bradley Cooper (SLP) and Oscar-snub John Hawkes (The Sessions), whilst the Actress section looks a little more familiar, with Jessica Chastin (Zero Dark Thirty), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Jennifer Lawrence (SLP), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) and Naomi Watts (The Impossible) are battling it out for the top acting prize.
Continue reading: Final Ballots For Screen Actors Guild Awards In Today
A historic epic from Steven Spielberg carries a lot of baggage, but he surprises us with a remarkably contained approach to an iconic figure. What's most unexpected is that this is a political drama, not a biopic. It's a long, talky movie about back-room deal-making on a very big issue: ending slavery in America. It also has one of the most intelligent, artful scripts of the past year, plus a remarkably wry central performance.
Daniel Day-Lewis constantly grounds Abraham Lincoln in his earthy humanity, good humour and tenacious desire to do the right thing, no matter what it takes. The film essentially covers just one month in which Lincoln works to outlaw slavery before ending four years of civil war. Secretary of State Seward (Strathairn) reluctantly supports this plan, enlisting three shady negotiators (Spader, Nelson and Hawkes) to convince wavering members of Congress to vote in favour of a constitutional amendment. Meanwhile at home, Lincoln is under pressure from his wife Mary (Field) to keep their oldest son Robert (Gordon-Levitt) off the battlefield.
All of this political wrangling makes the film feel like a 19th century version of The West Wing, and Kushner's script crackles with wit, nuance and passion, clearly echoing today's political debates about issues like gun control and human rights. We find ourselves wishing that our own politicians were this creative about getting the votes they need on important issues. This meaty approach gives the cast terrific dialog to bite into, although Spielberg never lets anyone run riot with scenery-chomping antics. The closest is probably Jones, as the fiery anti-slavery supporter Thaddeus Stevens. He's terrific in this role. And Field shines too in as the spiky Mary. Even if she's about a decade too old for the character, she brings intelligence and emotion to every scene.
Continue reading: Lincoln Review
Helen Hunt and John Hawkes star in this delicately-handled story of Mark O’Brien (Hawkes) in an iron lung, who – at the age of 38 - decides that he wishes to lose his virginity. Help comes in the form of a sex surrogate (played by Hunt), who starts a series of eight sessions, designed to lead to sex and to Mark losing his virginity. The Sessions is based on a true story and as such, the narrative takes turns that you would not necessarily expect from a scripted drama. The movie is all the richer for it and is all the richer for the stellar performances put in by Hunt, Hawkes and co-star William H Macy.
Many have wondered why The Sessions didn’t feature more in this year’s Oscars list. As it is, Helen Hunt has been nominated for the Actress in a Supporting Role award – a testament to the quality of the acting, for a movie with such unusual subject matter. Our reviewer was impressed by the handling of The Sessions, by breakthrough director Ben Lewin: “Lewin refuses to shy away from any aspect of this story, confronting everything in honest, sometimes uncomfortable ways that are never remotely sentimentalized. It would be easy to drift into syrupy schmaltz with this kind of material, but the script maintains a bracingly sharp wit, and the actors cleverly underplay every scene.” The remarkable thing it seems, is that viewers can identify with all of the characters onscreen, despite the unusual situation in which they are found.
The Sessions is released in UK cinemas today (January 18, 2012).
Based on the autobiographical writings of journalist and poet Mark O'Brien, The Sessions - starring Helen Hunt and John Hawkes - hits cinemas in the UK today (January 18, 2013) - on the back of universal acclaim from critics. Boasting a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, Ben Lewin's drama is ahead of Django Unchained, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miserables and pretty much every other Oscar contender bar Argo (96%) - so why didn't it feature prominently when the nominations were announced this month?
Its lead star Helen Hunt is up for Best Supporting Actress, though there was nothing for the movie itself, or for Hawkes. It was a frontrunner for Best Picture following the film festivals in 2012, though appeared to fall off the radar. Perhaps it's the subject matter that had the Academy looking elsewhere? The Sessions - originally titled The Surrogate - tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung who is determined to lose his virginity, despite being 38 years-old. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality. Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert said, "This film rebukes and corrects countless brainless and cheap sex scenes in other movies. It's a reminder that we must be kind to one another." Alex Zane of The Sun said, "It's a brave performance from Hunt, who spends much of the film entirely naked. Both her and Hawkes are brilliant in a movie that is a massively uplifting experience," while CNN.com said, "A very different kind of love story, breaking taboos lightly, with sensitivity and humor." Our very own Rich Cline gave the movie 4 stars, writing, "The most remarkable thing about the film is that we can identify with everyone on screen."
The lack of Oscar recognition will be a bitter blow to Ben Lewin and his team, made no less palatable by the fact Helen Hunt has almost no chance of winning Best Supporting Actress. Anne Hathaway - at odds of 1/25 - will turn up and take the gong come February 26, 2013.
By taking a sensitive, honest approach to this true story, breakthrough filmmaker Lewin both avoids sentimentality and keeps the focus on the inner lives of the central characters. He also somehow manages to make a movie about a sexual surrogate strongly involving: we are never even remotely tempted to giggle.
This is the story of Mark O'Brien (Hawkes), a journalist from Berkeley, California, who lives in an iron lung that he can only leave for a few hours a week. Paralysed from the neck down by polio as a young boy, Mark decides at age 38 that he wants to lose his virginity. Consumed by Catholic guilt about this desire, he consults his local priest (Macy), who says he deserves a pass on this one. So his no-nonsense assistant Vera (Bloodgood) finds him a surrogate in Cheryl (Hunt), who starts eight sessions that are designed to lead to sex. And as she gets to know Mark, Cheryl begins to let her guard down.
Lewin refuses to shy away from any aspect of this story, confronting everything in honest, sometimes uncomfortable ways that are never remotely sentimentalised. It would be easy to drift into syruppy schmaltz with this kind of material, but the script maintains a bracingly sharp wit, and the actors cleverly underplay every scene. This adds to the realism and helps us understand all of the people on-screen. Hawkes and Hunt are both transparent and revelatory, each in a difficult role that could have been much showier, but is stronger due to their restraint. Macy and Bloodgood are terrific as the sardonic supporting characters. And Marks (as another assistant) and Arkin (as Cheryl's understanding husband) add terrific layers to their much smaller roles.
Continue reading: The Sessions Review