As with his Formula One documentary Senna, filmmaker Asaf Kapadia cleverly uses archival footage to explore the wrenching story of Amy Winehouse. It's a strikingly journalistic approach that refuses to let anyone off the hook even as it draws out their deepest emotions. Lyrically edited by Chris King, the film is both beautiful and achingly sad, especially as it engulfs the audience on a big cinema screen.
A naturally gifted musician, Amy started writing her own songs at age 14 and had a publishing deal by 16, performing in small clubs as well as with the National Youth Jazz orchestra. At 20, her debut 2003 album Frank caused ripples in the industry with its jazz-infused vocals. And three years later, her follow-up Back in Black catapulted her into global stardom, something she never wanted. To escape the clamouring paparazzi and ever-larger audiences, she retreated into her on-off relationship with Blake Fielder, including a two-year marriage. But their key escape was to use large quantities of alcohol and drugs, which began to take a toll on Amy's career, leading to rambling interviews and shambolic stage appearances. In her lucid moments, she still had that raw power, and a series of rehab stints helped her conquer drugs. But in 2011, her alcohol consumption finally stopped her heart, which had been weakened by decades of bulimia.
Kapadia recounts this story using a staggering array of home movies, performance footage and press imagery, letting her prescient song lyrics play out across the screen as she performs them in homes, recording studios, TV shows and a variety of stages. Meanwhile, she tells her story in voiceover taken from interviews, plus new comments from her family, friends and colleagues. All of this is assembled with skill by the filmmakers to recount Amy's story chronologically, never shying away from the hard truths while refusing to let those closest to her adjust the material to revise history. In other words, it's sometimes brutally honest, not in the way it assigns blame but in the way it creates a portrait of a system that feeds off artists without properly looking out for them.
Continue reading: Amy Review
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
Fans of the Oscar-winning 2006 Irish film Once (and its more recent stage-musical adaptation) may find this American drama a little derivative, but it's a strong story in its own right. This time writer-director John Carney has assembled a starry cast to nicely capture the rhythms of New York's streets. And the songs, while not quite as integral to the story, are gorgeous.
The opening sequence sets up the story from two perspectives, as music producer Dan (Mark Ruffalo) hears songwriter Greta (Keira Knightley) reluctantly perform at a bar's open-mic night. Both of these people are at their rope's end: always seeking offbeat talent, Dan is on the outs with his record label partner (Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def), and wants to reconnect with his estranged wife and teen daughter (Catherine Keener and Hailee Steinfeld). Meanwhile, Greta has just been dumped by her rising pop-star boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), who got his big break from a song she wrote. To stop her moping, her pal Steve (James Corden) encourages her to start singing her own songs. In Greta, Dan sees the kind of artist he longs to make records with, so with nothing to lose the two set out to record her songs at locations around the city for a new album.
Like Once, this is a love story that doesn't actually involve romance: these two people need each other to discover their life's passions. So Ruffalo and Knightley get the chance to create some terrific chemistry without much of a threat that they'll fall for each other. Indeed, each has other fish to fry, as they try to sort out their emotional connections elsewhere. Their flirty friendship plays out in a fresh, effortless way that generates some complex emotions and ideas. Ruffalo is always great at creating these kinds of loose, slightly hapless characters, while Knightley delivers an even more earthy performance, letting her own sparky personality emerge on-screen for the first time along with some serious skill as a singer. And the supporting cast add texture in just the right places.
Continue reading: Begin Again Review
Click for the hilarious trailer below
Life of Crime sees Jennifer Aniston put in the awkward position of unwanted hostage; her husband (Tim Robbins) wants rid so won’t put up the ransom, and the kidnappers have a dud payload on their hands.
Jennifer Aniston is faced with a troubling predicement
Robbins’ character is a business trip-taking, lascivious, adulterous pig, who has been indulging in a long-running affair while his wife stays at home. On one of these so-called business trips, a couple of chancer criminals attempt to extort a million dollars from him by kidnapping Aniston, only to find out he values her a big fat $0.
Continue reading: Jennifer Aniston Is The Unwanted Hostage In 'Life of Crime' [Trailer]
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.
Hailee Steinfeld discusses filming in New York and her fellow cast in a red carpet interview during the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of her new movie 'Begin Again', in which she stars alongside Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine and Keira Knightley.
Continue reading: Hailee Steinfeld - Begin Again Red Carpet Interview
Keira Knightley talks about working on her new movie 'Begin Again', in which she stars as a dejected singer-songwriter in New York alongside Hailee Steinfeld, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. Although not a natural singer, Keira had to pull off a few tunes of her own in the movie.
Continue reading: Keira Knightley - Begin Again Red Carpet Interview
Dan Mulligan is a former record executive who has just been spectacularly dismissed by the label he was employed by. Now penniless with nowhere to go and no-one to talk to apart from his hormonal teenage daughter Violet, he is desperate to find some musicians and get his career back on track. Meanwhile, a young singer-songwriter named Gretta has just been dumped by her co-musician boyfriend Dave after he manages to secure a major label deal for himself. Depressed and alone, she finds herself performing solo on a stage at a small bar where Dan happens to be drinking. Captivated, he decides to take her under his wing and help her achieve the success she so craves with his own unusual methods, and both find themselves transforming as people in almost every way.
Formerly entitled 'Can A Song Save Your Life?', 'Begin Again' is a touching comedy drama with a thrilling all star cast. It has been written and directed by John Carney ('Once', 'On the Edge', 'Zonad', 'The Rafters'), and is the story of how music can change many people for the better - and, sometimes, for the worst. The film is due for UK release this summer on July 11th 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.
Hiphop artist Mos Def, AKA Yasiin Bey, has undergone force feeding in order to campaign against the treatment of hunger strikers in USA's Guantánamo Bay detention camp.
Some celebrities lend their name to campaigns and will occasionally 'retweet' a good cause but singer Mos Def, more recently known as Yasiin Bey, has taken political rallying to the extreme by volunteering to undergo the same force feeding procedure that is used in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. In a video released by the human-rights organisation, Reprieve, Bey is shown with his limbs and head tightly restrained in a chair whilst medics force a tube through the rapper's nose and towards his stomach. Directed by the BAFTA-winning Asif Kapadia, the video makes for hardcore viewing and is certainly not for the faint-hearted as Bey is seen writhing and struggling against his restraints and crying out as the uncomfortable process is carried out.
Rapper Mos Def Has Been Force Fed In Solidarity With Hunger-Striking Prisoners.
According to Sky News, when the strategy is used in the military prison it can last up to 30 minutes but Yasiin can be heard pleading with the doctors "stop, please stop" in the four minute video.Speaking after the ordeal, the 39 year-old Gorillaz collaborator and campaigner described his experience: "The first part of it is not that bad, but then you get this burning and it starts to be really unbearable, like something is going into my brain and it reaches the back of my throat. I really couldn't take it."
Continue reading: Mos Def Is Force Fed In Solidarity With Guantánamo Detainees [Video]
The rapper teamed up with British filmmaker Asif Kapadia to demonstrate the appalling conditions detainees fasting during the holy month of Ramadan are forced to endure at Guantanamo Bay
Yasiin Bey, the rapper, actor and activist also known as Mos Def, has appeared in a video that shows him being force fed as part of a protest video aimed at ending the US' policy of force feeding Muslim detainees at the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison. The video has been made to protest the increasingly popular tactic used by US forces during the holy month of Ramadan, when many prisoners go on hunger strike.
The video, which is very graphic and may not be suitable for some viewers - or for work, was filmed last month at an unknown London location and sees Bey in shackles as he is strapped into a dentist chair and forced to endure an invasive procedure that involves a tube being inserted into the nose and down to the stomach, with food pumped through said tube. Prisoners undergo the procedure twice a day and Mos could only manage a minute of the torture before he asks for it to finish, breaking down into tears shortly afterwards.
The actor/rapper goes through the ordeal to raise awareness
In an experiment designed to reveal the true extent of what Guantanamo Bay prisoners are going through, Yasiin Bey – better known by his previous rap pseudonym Mos Def – underwent the mandatory, standard practice of force-feeding.
Bey is a keen political and religious activist
What followed were distressing scenes: Guantanamo doctors inserted a tube up Bey’s nose, feeding him a fluid, presumably with enough nourishment to keep hunger-striking inmates alive. Force feeding aren’t hunger strikes a new thing at Guantanamo, but Islamic tradition of Ramadan has polarized the practice, with Islamic groups lobbying the U.S government to stop doing it during this period. They have responded in kind, only force-feeding inmates at night.
Continue reading: Mos Def's Guantanamo Bay Treatment - Rapper Endures Force Feeding
Hip hop has always been more of a culture than just a genre of music. It represents a huge portion of the marginalised world of America and how they managed to create something from nothing; how their lifestyle and previously buried literary talents created a culture that has inspired millions. The frontman of rap/ metal band Body Count Ice-T takes his audience on the road to visit the founding fathers, the major superstars and the rising stars of the rap genre including Afrika Bambaataa, Eminem, Nas, Mos Def, Kanye West, Chuck D, Krs-One, Snoop Dogg, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube and discover the skill and feeling behind what has made them international music heroes. One of the frequent interviewees is Grandmaster Caz who we are taken to visit on several occasions as he writes a new set of rhymes called 'The Art Of Rap'.
Directed by Ice-T with help from Andy Baybutt, 'Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap' is a feature length music documentary delving into what goes into making the seminal hip hop records that have dominated music since the late '70s. It came about when producer Paul Toogood asked Ice-T the simplest of question which the star had never before been asked: How did he write seminal tracks such as '6 In The Mornin' and 'Colors'?
Date of birth
11th December, 1973