Jovan Adepo, Saniyya Sidney, Stephen Henderson and Russell Hornsby at the 89th Annual Academy Awards (Oscars 2017) held at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center - Los Angeles, California, United States - Monday 27th February 2017
After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film version of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. First staged in 1983 (the Washington-Davis revival was in 2010), the story explores the experience of an African-American working class family in the 1950s. And its most powerful kick is in the balance of power between husband and wife, something that easily transcends the racial themes.
In Pittsburgh, trash collector Troy (Washington) is proud to be able to support his wife Rose (Davis) and teen son Cory (Jovan Adepo), who wants to attend university on a football scholarship. But Troy thinks this is unnecessary, forbidding him from playing on the team. Troy and Rose's other son Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) is disabled but living on his own, and Troy has an older son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), who regularly needs cash to top up his income as a musician. As he slowly builds a fence in the back yard, Troy is beginning to resent having to give in to all of these people, blaming his problems on white-majority culture. But Rose has had enough of his complaining.
Wilson's dialogue is heightened and gorgeous, with a poetic ring like modern-day Shakespeare as it explores enormous issues using clever wordplay and epic monologues. While Troy continually rants at how hard life is for a black man, the interaction points out that his main problem is actually his need to be in control of everyone around him. This makes Troy increasingly unlikeable, and Washington goes for broke in the performance. It often feels like he's playing to people sitting in the top of the theatre balcony, but it's impossible not to be moved by his words. By contrast, Davis' much more intimate Rose is the film's heart and soul. As the story progresses, she becomes the lead character, and Davis delivers a series of devastating scenes with raw power.
Continue reading: Fences Review
Stephen Henderson and other members of the Fences cast seen at a screening. Denzel Washington was joined by Jovan Adepo, Myklti Williamson, Stephen Henderson and Constanza Romero, widow of playwright August Wilson. - Curran Theatre, San Francisco, California, United States - Thursday 15th December 2016
Troy Moxson works hard as a garbage collector to support his family. He has two sons, one who lives in his home with his wife and one from a previous marriage who is older but still turns to his father for support. Set in the 1950's, racial discrimination is still rife and Troy and his family are just one of thousands of families who live a life surrounded by enforced limitations.
In his younger years, Troy was scouted to be a baseball player but being a black man once again worked to his disadvantage and his dream was over before it even really began. Despite everything, Troy stands strong in adversity and instils a few words of wisdom in to his son, 'Don't go through life worrying about if someone likes you or not, you best be sure they're doing right by you.'
Troy's wife, Rose is a strong woman who's stuck by her husband's side through many hardships, she's also a constant support for their son Cory who wishes to gain a place on the football team.
Continue: Fences Trailer
Lee Chandler lives a life of self-imposed exile but that's not how he's always been. For many years prior, he lived in the small town of Manchester-By-The-Sea where the rest of his family and his fiancé all live. It's a picturesque fishing town and the pace of life is slower than any city could offer and the Chandler's all live good lives. Now, Lee lives in Boston and works as a janitor and his strict day to day routine has been brought about to limit the amount of people he see and has to deal with.
When Lee's brother, Joe, dies Lee is made the guardian of Patrick, Joe's teenage son. The news comes as a surprise to both men. Patrick is dealing with the loss of his family and now is forced to live with his uncle who's distanced himself from the family years prior.
Patrick doesn't understand his uncle's reluctance to relocate and move back to the small neighbourhood he used to call home. As hard choices are made and old acquaintances become part of the present day picture, Lee must not only do what is best for himself but also consider his nephew and the wishes of his brother.
Continue: Manchester By The Sea Trailer
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
'Lincoln' will show the last four months of President Abraham Lincoln's life as he campaigned for freedom before he was tragically assassinated in 1865. It will reveal in detail the extent of his conflict with various members of the cabinet over his decision to abolish the slave trade towards the end of the American Civil War. His very close success in the House of Representatives over the proposition of the Thirteenth Amendment which outlawed slavery is portrayed as one of the most crucial steps in his work against the trade. The last months of his life also saw him fail to negotiate an end to the War and saw the Union's ultimate victory.
This drama-fuelled biopic is the important story of one of the most influential and inspiring presidents of the United States that have ever been in office. It has been based on some of the biography 'Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln' by Doris Kearns Goodwin with an adapted screenplay by Oscar nominee Tony Kushner ('Munich') and the directing genius of the legendary Steven Spielberg ('Jaws', 'E.T.', 'Jurassic Park', 'Schindler's List', 'War of the Worlds') who wanted to show Lincoln 'at work' and not just 'posing for the history books'. Spielberg has described the former president as 'arguably the greatest working President in American history'. The movie is set for release in the UK on January 25th 2013.
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones , Michael Stuhlbarg, Jackie Earle Haley, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Sally Field, James Spader, Julie White, John Hawkes, David Strathairn, Bruce McGill, Hal Holbrook and Adam Driver.
Based on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, this film holds its heavy emotional weight in check right up to a rather overwrought conclusion. But along the way, its characters worm their way under our skin.
Oskar (Horn) is the son of a jeweller (Hanks) who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. A year later, he's still struggling to make sense of what he calls "the worst day", worrying that his sense of his father is fading away. So when he finds a key in his father's things, Oskar embarks on a quest to find the lock. His mother (Bullock) is lost in her own grief, but Oskar finds companionship in the mute stranger (von Sydow) who rents a room from his granny (Caldwell).
With a dense Alexandre Desplat score, textured Chris Menges cinematography and fluid editing by Claire Simpson, this film feels almost like a wave that engulfs us right from the eerily effective opening shot. Daldry has done this before (see The Hours), although this film also has a more manipulative plot in which each character and situation seem to be packed with deeper meaning.
Fortunately, Oskar's sense of yearning helps undermine the sentiment.
Horn is terrific in every scene, beautifully bringing out Oskar's autistic quirks without letting us feel any pity. The way he so brutally dismisses his mother is heartbreaking because it's so honest, and his growing bond with von Sydow's enigmatic, engagingly cheeky renter is fascinating to watch. Bullock gets her most complex role since Crash, and Davis gives yet another terrific supporting turn as one of the first people Oskar encounters on his journey.
Where the film wobbles is in its over-reverent treatment of 9/11 itself, as if Oskar's grief is any more intense because his father died in such a public way.
It's the quieter, more personal aspects of the story that are far more moving, especially as the plot takes some lovely twists in the final act. But Daldry and screenwriter Roth seem even more obsessed with finding a cathartic resolution than Oskar himself, leading to final scenes that feel tidy and a bit sappy. Even so, the film leaves us emotionally stirred in all the right ways.
Oskar Schell is an eleven year old genius who views the world differently to others. He is also a Francophile, an amateur inventor and a pacifist. He's very close to his father and together they make it their mission to find something from every decade of the twentieth century in what he called a 'reconnaissance mission.'
Josh Kovacs has been a resident in Queens for more than ten years; in that time, he has acquired and lived in one of New York City's most secured and lavish apartments. He works for the Wall Street billionaire Arthur Shaw, who just so happens to live above Josh, in a swanky penthouse flat, making him the wealthiest resident there.
One day, Arthur is convicted of stealing two billion dollars from his investors and he is placed under house arrest. The investors he stole from turn out to be Josh and his crew; Arthur has taken their pensions that they entrusted him to manage. Josh is forced to admit that his retirement fund was taken too.
Josh and his crew form a plan to take back their pension fund, which they think is hidden in Arthur's penthouse. They call upon a petty robber, Slide, to help them, who in turn hires his team of amateur thieves, to scout the penthouse. It turns out that the crooks know the layout of that particular apartment, so taking the two billion back should be a cinch, right?
Starring: Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Tea Leoni, Michael Pena, Gabourey Sidibe, Alan Alda, Nina Arianda, Judd Hirsch and Marcia Jean Kurtz
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