Gertrude Bell was a formidably intelligent British woman from the late 19th century whose travels through expansive deserts in the Middle East helped establish modern society in countries such as Iraq and Jordan, and importantly cast an enormous amount of respect on women everywhere. She didn't care for behaving like British society expected women to behave, and she proved that she could be just as skilled in the likes of cartography, archeology and politics and refused to be treated any differently than her male peers. Even when she was threatened and accused of being a spy, she never backed down and her resilience and care towards Arabic peoples have left their mark in history.
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Werner Herzog, Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Damien Lewis - Celebrities attends the "Queen of the Desert" premiere at the Berlinale Palast for the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival. - Berlin, Germany - Friday 6th February 2015
Damian Lewis, Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Werner Herzog - 65th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) - 'Queen of the Desert'- Press Conference - Berlin, Germany - Friday 6th February 2015
Fans of film journalism will love this documentary about the noted Chicago critic Roger Ebert, although the movie is just as much about his battle with the cancer that took his life in 2013. It's a lively, fast-paced doc, but even at two hours it feels oddly truncated as the two topics seem to fight for screen time. Fortunately both are potent: the story of Roger's love of cinema and the footage of his astoundingly cheerful refusal to let illness get him down.
Based around Roger's eponymous autobiography, the film quickly traces his background as a film lover who rose through the ranks at the Chicago Sun-Times to become an unusually resonant film reviewer, able to express opinions and even high-minded cinematic observations in ways that were never cynical or snobbish. He found national (and even global) fame through his TV programmes opposite rival Chicago critic Gene Siskel, which began in 1978 and standardised their "thumbs up"/"thumbs down" verdicts. At age 50, Roger met his wife Chaz at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and her children and grandchildren became his. In 2002, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent a series of surgeries that by 2006 made it impossible for him to speak. But he carried on writing reviews and making public appearances (speaking through his computer) until his death.
Filmmaker Steve James had startling access to Roger during the final year of his life, following him to hospitals and rehabilitation centres. Looking at his cancer-ravaged face is difficult at first, but Roger's smiling eyes and constant joking reinforces his optimistic, matter-of-fact approach to life. And he keeps reminding James that this documentary has to show everything, never flinching away from the truth. As a result, the film is a remarkably intimate look at how Roger and Chaz faced the illness and made difficult decisions along the way. This adds an emotional layer to the documentary that's remarkably moving, putting Roger's work into the context of his life and death.
Continue reading: Life Itself Review
For what he has said will be his final film, animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki tackles a controversial biopic that could just as easily have been shot in live action. It's as if he's challenging filmmakers to use their imaginations and make the best movies they can make in whatever way they can. And the result is utterly magical, transcending the touchy subject matter to tell a story about the purity of creativity.
Based on the life of aviation engineer Jiro Horikoshi, this Oscar-nominated film opens in the 1920s when young Jiro (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the English version) decides to study aeronautics because his poor eyesight won't let him become a pilot. So he dreams of designing the perfect plane, and his inventive approach catches the attention of Mitsubishi, which assigns him to a secret military project working with Japan's allies in Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, Jiro meets Nahoko (Emily Blunt) and they fall for each other as she struggles to recover from tuberculosis and he grapples with the moral issues of designing a beautiful plane that will be used to kill people in wartime.
Clearly this isn't the kind of animated movie Hollywood would ever produce: it's packed with complex characters who don't always do the right thing, and it takes a perspective that requires sympathy with someone who could be considered a historical villain. But Miyazaki tells the story exquisitely, animating the scenes with such inventiveness that it's impossible not to get lost in the breathtaking imagery. Scenes are also packed with lively side characters, including Jiro's bulldog-like boss (Martin Short), a more grounded colleague (John Krazinski) and a suspicious foreigner (Werner Herzog) who seems to be following Jiro.
Continue reading: The Wind Rises Review
Jiro Horikoshi is an aeronautical engineer whose childhood was filled with dreams about becoming a pilot. His poor vision meant that he would never realise his ambition, but he is encouraged to keep up his passion by Italian plane designer Caproni. Resolving to design aircrafts instead of fly them, Jiro studies the art at university, during which time he meets an attractive young woman named Naoko. Their relationship was born out of the dangerous circumstances of the Great Kanto Earthquake, throughout which they helped one another off a fast moving train. As their life together progresses, Naoko falls ill and Jiro struggles to bring in a regular income. He must succeed in the challenge of building the most exquisitely beautiful aeroplane in the world in order to get back on his feet, as his career could be the only thing he has left.
'The Wind Rises' is romantic, heart-wrenching animated adventure directed and written by the Oscar winning Hayao Miyazaki ('Spirited Away', 'Princess Mononoke', 'Howl's Moving Castle'). This Japanese drama, loosely based on Tatsuo Hori's 1936 short story 'The Wind Has Risen', features the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci in the English version. It is due for release in the UK on May 9th 2014.
Opening on a terrified-looking man in a hospital bed, we are immediately informed that Jack Reacher is a, "kind of cop", but doesn't care about proof or the law, only what's right. From the word go, we ca see that Reacher is not a man to be trifled with.
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But more generally, he's looking at the use of the death penalty in the United States.
The only developed nation still executing its own citizens, America's history with capital punishment is baffling to Herzog, who looks into one case to try and understand the cultural mindset. After a ghastly 2001 triple murder in Texas, the 18-year-old cohorts were convicted in separate trials: Michael Perry was sentenced to death, while Jason Burkett received 40 years. Both talk extensively on camera to Herzog, who also interviews family members of the victims and locals from the town of Conroe.
Continue reading: Into The Abyss Review
Discovered in 1994, the Chauvet caves in southern France were sealed by a landslide 20,000 years ago and contain the oldest paintings ever seen. More than 30,000 years old, they depict the wildlife of prehistoric Europe - horses, rhinos, lions, bison - with a remarkable sense of movement. And the caves themselves are pristinely beautiful, with stalactites, stalagmites and a remarkable collection of animal bones. But what was the world like back then, when Europe was under ice and our ancestors lived alongside Neanderthals?
Continue reading: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams Review
The Chauvet caves in France were only discovered in 1994 but it's thought that the cathedral like caves hold some of the earliest cave paintings. The site is regarded as one of the most treasured prehistoric art sites in the world, on the walls you can see pictures of many animals including: horses, cattle, lions, panthers, bears and rhinos which were created by man over 32,000 years ago.
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"julien donkey-boy" is fascinating viewing for a movie that has nothing to say and nowhere to go.
Gutsy, artistically engrossing and fearlessly acted, it is the second feature of Harmony Korine, the dysfunctional, wonder-freak youth who wrote "Kids," a controversial and disturbingly honest, cinema verite look at urban teenagers, and then turned to directing his own scripts with the widely-panned "Gummo," also about extremely screwed-up adolescents -- something Korine obviously knows a lot about.
A more mature, but ultimately pointless work, "julien" passes through several episodes of the life of a slow-witted schizophrenic (Ewan Bremner, "Trainspotting") and his abstrusely aberrant family in a fly-on-the-wall style, the results are like an art-film version of "COPS," spontaneous and ultra-realistic.
Continue reading: Julien Donkey-Boy Review
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