FRIDAY, 23 MAY 2014

Hollywood sticks to the script of ancient Rome

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Take one brooding hunk, enslaved as a gladiator after the brutal slaughter of his family, who seeks revenge against the evil Roman empire. Lay on plenty of set-piece spectacular arena battles through which your hero, and his African rival-turned-comrade, can win fame and the love of the people. Throw in a crazed Roman emperor-figure, with more than a touch of camp, some spectacular sets and costumes, a chariot race or two, a love interest, and ramp up the tension before an explosive finale.

These are the cinematic ingredients that Hollywood throws together, time and again, when it turns to ancient Rome. The recent Pompeii film follows a very similar recipe to Gladiator (2000) – albeit less skilfully executed – while also drawing heavily on more recent films like Centurion (2010) and The Eagle (2011) in its depiction of the northern frontiers of the… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

THURSDAY, 22 MAY 2014

Cinema Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Directed by Robert Mulligan 

Who’s in it? Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford

What’s it about? The archetypal courtroom drama, To Kill a Mocking Bird immortalised the character of Atticus Finch (embodied superbly by Gregory Peck) as a bastion of moral integrity, putting his reputation on the line to defend an innocent black man from prejudice in rural, depression-era America. Based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the film faithfully recreates the subtle nuances and small town details of the book but it is Peck’s Oscar winning performance which makes this adaptation extraordinary, making the character of Atticus (voted by the American Film Institute the greatest movie hero of the 20th century) warm and relatable, giving the sense that, as Harper Lee herself said of the actor, “Atticus Finch gave him an opportunity to play himself."

Memorable moments? The courtroom drama genre is synonymous with the figure of Peck as Finch… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 12 MAY 2014

Cinema classics: Life is Beautiful

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Life is Beautiful (La Vita E Bella, 1997)

Directed by Roberto Benigni

Who's in it? Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi

What's it about? Winner of three Oscars including Best Actor for director Benigni (who also stars) and Best Foreign Language Film, as well as the Grand Prix at Cannes, Life is Beautiful is a charming, funny and moving account of one man's optimistic attitude to life and his courage in passing his joie de vivre to his son, even in the face of unspeakable evil. The film follows the story of happy-go-lucky book shop owner Guido as he and his son find themselves in a concentration camp together and must use their imagination to survive. A powerful and life affirming tale of perseverance, even joy, in adversity, the film is at times sorrowful and sobering but never depressing, fizzing with the irrepressible spirit of its larger than life message of hope… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 30 APRIL 2014

Holy birthday, Batman! Sizing up the Caped Crusader at 75

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Let’s pause to consider the rich mythology of this 75-year-old icon. JamesCC BY-SA

This year the world’s most popular superhero, Batman, celebrates his 75th birthday. From inauspicious beginnings in a six-page comic to the transmedia anchor of one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, Time Warner, the hero has cast his shadow across many forms and entertainments. Such as …

When Superman lifted a carload of criminals above his head on the cover of Action Comics #1 in 1938, the nascent American comic book industry found its defining genre. Young artist Bob Kane hoped to create the next soaring star – with the red unitard and domino mask-wearing Bird-Man.

Fortunately Kane collaborated with writer Bill Finger. The character’s colour scheme shifted to black and his domino mask morphed into a cowl with pointed ears. “Bat-Man”… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 14 APRIL 2014

Noah: provocative but thoughtful

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Noah      
Directed by Darren Aronofsky      
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Anthony Hopkins      
138 minutes
     

After Adam and Eve were banished from Paradise, Cain committed the first murder and killed his own brother. His descendants have built cities and exhausted creation’s resources, wounding the earth and risking the survival of all animal species. Only a few descendants of Seth, Noah and his family, continue to live according to the Creator’s laws.

One day Noah has a vision of the punishment the Creator plans to unleash upon men: the flood. His task is build an ark to save the innocent animals. So he sets to work with the help of the Guardians (angels who have fallen to earth because of their love for mankind). But Tubal-Cain, a violent descendant of Cain, stands in his way and even… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

FRIDAY, 11 APRIL 2014

Divergent: another teen trilogy about growing pains

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Divergent     
Directed by Neil Hamburger        
Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jay Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q      
140 minutes      

A dystopian Chicago of the future. The few survivors of a terrible war a hundred years before have created a new society divided into five factions based on their virtues (Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, Erudite). Each faction has its own role. Every year, all 16-year-olds take an aptitude test that will tell them to which faction they belong.

Beatrice Prior comes from an Abnegant family. Her test, however, reveals that she belongs to a rare and dangerous category called Divergent: people who have not one virtue, but several, making them uncontrollable. She has to choose one faction and she chooses Dauntless. It is the beginning of a dangerous path that will lead her to… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 8 APRIL 2014

Cinema classics: Dial M for Murder

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Dial M For Murder (1954)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Who’s in it? Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cumming

What’s it about? Pioneering at the time, Hitchcock’s colourful adaptation of Frederick Knott’s play was one of the first films shot in first generation 3D. When a rich tennis pro (Milland) suspects his high society wife (Kelly) of having an affair, he blackmails a retired soldier to kill her and make it look like a bungled burglary. He is convinced he’s arranged the perfect murder – but things don’t go according to plan. His wife fights back and kills her assailant. Using only two sets to recreate the stage play’s proximity to the audience, the Vertigo director wrings every ounce of suspense and drama out of the source material. Hitchcock famously quipped concerning the nascent technology that 3D was a “nine-day wonder and I came in on the ninth day”. The film’s… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 31 MARCH 2014

Cinema classics: Goodbye, Mr Chips

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Goodbye Mr Chips (1939)

Directed by Sam Wood 

Who’s in it? Robert Donat, Greer Garson

What’s it about? Adapted from James Hilton’s 1934 novel, Goodbye Mr Chips is a poignant depiction of the innocence of childhood and the childhood of innocence. A beloved public schoolteacher (an Oscar-winning Donat) moulds the young minds in his care into promising young men, only to see his former pupils conscripted into the army at the outbreak of World War I. This thematically ambitious biopic follows the key stages in the life of our eponymous hero, spanning two centuries from 1870 to 1933, as he meets his wife (Garson), falls in love, learns to live and lives to teach.

Memorable Moments? The sequence in which Donat’s socially awkward and sincere schoolteacher sees the love of his life off on the train as she says “Goodbye Mr. Chips”, is a neat metaphor for the film’s accessible nostalgia and hopeful… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 25 MARCH 2014

Quirky story with quirkier characters

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The Grand Budapest Hotel     
Directed by Wes Anderson    
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson  
99 minutes    

I came to appreciate Wes Anderson‘s films through his third feature film The Royal Tennenbaum a few years after its release in 2001. I enjoyed it but I didn’t immediately become a fan right away, his movies are definitely an acquired taste. Since then I have only seen three more from his work, The Darjeeling Limited, The Fantastic Mr Fox and Moonrise Kingdom.

This film centers on the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 24 MARCH 2014

Bringing Laos to Hollywood: The Rocket

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The Rocket (2013)

Directed by Kim Mourdant 

Who’s in it? Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam, Suthep Po-Ngam

What’s it about? Australian produced independent drama The Rocket, set and shot on location in an impoverished but vibrant post-war Laos, tells the incredible story of a young boy forced to emigrate with his family when their village is displaced by the construction of an enormous government funded Dam. In a dramatic and life-changing journey in search of a new home, Ahlo must come to terms with the prospect of starting from scratch in the face of indiscriminate misfortune and personal tragedy, which somehow manage to co-exist with the hope and happiness he finds in an unexpected friendship. A culturally intriguing and discomforting watch, The Rocket is a unique look at the ups and downs of life and the choices we make in response.

Memorable Moments? Ahlo scrounging in a cave (once the site of a wartime… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

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Popcorn is MercatorNet's funky blog about what's hot and what's not in the world of cinema. Feel like contributing? Contact us at popcorn@MercatorNet.com. Feel like commenting? Sound off beneath the posts. 


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