31 October 2013

Behind the Candelabra

Back in June the big production houses passed up on a gem of a film due to it's subject matter. However, HBO got their hands on it and boy did it pay off! With the overall look of a Hollywood production (minus the funding), Behind the Candelabra is a gloriously glitzy narrative through and through. Once again, director Steven Soderbergh who brought us the likes of the iconic Oceans Eleven and the more recently Side Effects, provides us with a fabulously executed film. 

Liberace - a man who was hiding the obvious truth that he was gay; hiding behind the candelabra and certainly his piano. Not to mention the outlandish and eccentric wardrobe the man created for himself. Before I even mention the two leading actors, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick and her team did as much for this film as the director did. Every outfit is fantastically sparkly and true to how the man wanted to be perceived by audiences around the world.  Here we are in Las Vegas, Palm Springs. Lavish mansions, the endless flow of champagne and a man who is extremely unsure of himself. Chasing after younger men seems to be the only way to constantly reassure himself that he is still attractive to those around him (despite the colorful facade!). Scott Thorson, an aspiring veterinarian happens to find himself falling for this outrageous ensemble and ends up becoming Liberace's lover. At first it is all new suits, new cars and swanky restaurants - only later to be more than Scott  bargained for.

This intimate and interesting biopic was the perfect chance for audiences to see two top Hollywood actors really showing us what they're capable of. The talent here is endless. Not for a nano second do we doubt the intensity of their relationship as it translates on screen, both Damon (Thorson) and Douglas (Liberace) giving shockingly superb performances. The journey that Damon's character takes, from being a standard teenage boy to a man pampered and practically a play thing for Liberace to mold, is just extraordinary. Jealously over takes their fairy-tale friendship, until the spark is non existent. Having Scott Thorson himself working with the writers, really shows on screen. You feel the good times and most importantly the pain that both men went through to hide their sexuality. With great music, ideal locations and performances that exceed expectations (including the supporting cast) Behind the Candelabra is a must see. Behind the Candelabra is now available on Blu ray and DVD - grab a copy and enjoy the wonders of Liberace.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
118 mins (2013) 15 

9 October 2013


Gritty, violent, ruthless - Prisoners. Leading man Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Prestige) stars in this crime thriller that will have you biting your nails from the first ten minutes.

When two young girls go missing during Thanksgiving dessert, something that has been hiding in plain sight comes to the surface. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal: Zodiac, Donnie Darko) with his immaculate track record is assigned to the case, fighting day and night to unravel what appears to be much more than just kidnapped children. As the plot thickens, fueling a deeper investigation, Keller Dover (Jackman) shows us exactly how far he would go to save his child. Taking matters into his own hands, much to the disgust of neighbor Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) things get a bit out of hand - so powerful that we start to question our own morality. How far would you go to save someone you loved?

French director Denis Villeneuve brings a fresh and inventive feel to Prisoners. Considering this guy has only done a handful of feature length films, he really illustrates what he can do and I for one, hope to see his name on screen in the future. The direction is simple but beautifully effective. Undoubtedly, credit is due to Jackman and Gyllenhaal, who both bring outstanding depth and personality to their characters. After witnessing Les Miserables earlier this year, audiences around the world were in awe of the action man, Wolverine's performance and yet again, here he brings that same emotive, soul-touching performance. Interestingly, Gyllenhaal was awarded with Best Supporting Actor at the Hollywood Film Festival, but the calibre of this film is sure to sway festivals in the near future. 

After such popular dramas as CSI, Dexter and the latter day The Killing, we have become accustomed to such dark and sinister detective work and Prisoners doesn't hold back. It really hits home. Being a lengthy 2 hrs 33 minutes, it's a tricky task for anyone to keep an audience enthralled throughout but this lives up to expectations. The only problem was that it felt like they were dwelling too much on certain plot-lines and not devoting enough time to aspects that were truly fascinating, leaving you wanting more (perhaps a positive quality?). By the by, writer Aaron Guzikowski (Contraband) doesn't just hash out the standard, cliché revelation, forcing you to think and interpret everything that was left un-answered - but it would have been nice to have been given a bit more of an insight to the deeper story. With that aside, this has to be one of the best films of 2013. The entire cast hold their own with Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, Looper) deserving a mention, playing the corrupted Alex Jones with pure talent. Prisoners will be floating through your thoughts days after you have witnessed it. With intense scenes that are shocking and difficult to watch, dealing with a heavy subject matter we feel a sigh of relief as we are taken to see something as fascinating as this. I look forward to seeing what Villeneuve comes up with in his next feature - Enemy, released early next year, also starring Jake Gyllenhall. One to keep and eye out for - what a gem.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
153mins, 15 (2013)     

3 October 2013


Classic drug heist gone wrong...yeah, I know what your thinking. You have seen and heard it all before - but Savages brings something truly original to our screens. Director Oliver Stone, despite having an amazing track record: Platoon, Any given Sunday, Natural born killers...not to mention a few, bring us Savages. A narrative just as exhilarating as his previous successes. This drug induced trip will shock, surprise and even anger you, but is well worth sticking with. 

We are in the orange county of California and cue the quirky, serine, pot crazy Ophelia, 'O' (Blake Lively: Gossip Girl, The Town) who has not one, but two lovers - Ben, the rational one (Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Kickass, Nowhere Boy) and the complete antitheses, Chon a former Navy Seal (Taylor Kitsch: The Covenant, John Carter). They have a pretty good set up here, in this strange three way relationship - or perhaps the sheer amount of weed the three smoke is clouding their judgement? Anyway, their ideal, spaced out life gets turned upside down when they cut a deal with the wrong guys in town (Mexican drug cartels) resulting in O getting kidnapped. This becomes a brutal fight between the boys trying to get the woman they love back in one piece and a woman who will stop at nothing, Elena. Who better than to play the domineering boss than Salma Hayek (Once upon a time in Mexico, Frida), who gives at utterly convincing performance as the hard bitch who always gets what she wants. 

Mr.Stone, along with the editors and writers all deserve credit for feature. Each and every scene appears to be fantastically shot, with cuts and effects that really compliment the clever script. Having said that, these guys had a little help from Don Winslow who penned the original novel - albeit upon hearing the idea Stone immediately started plans for a feature film adaptation. And boy his choices paid off. With supporting actors such as Jon Travolta, Benicio Del Toro and Emile Hirsch all equally capable of the performances they give, contributing comedic, even slapstick value to this otherwise thick and tense plot. Quite a lengthy one, but one that deserves the time.   

Directed by Oliver Stone
132mins, 18 (2012)