Oscar-nominated Timbuktu: right at the heart of the world

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A tracking shot of a gazelle running across the northern Mali desert. Shattering gunshots. A van of men is chasing the beast, concerned not to kill, but to exhaust and capture it. More gunshots: traditional wooden statues are blown to bits in the sand.

These armed marauders are jihadists arriving from Libya and other countries into Azawad, the region of Mali in which Abderrahmane Sissako’s new film Timbuktu is located. They don’t speak the local languages (particularly Tamasheq, a Tuareg dialect) and so use translators and a mixture of Arabic, Bambara, French and English in order to ensure that women wear gloves and socks, that men roll up their trouser legs, and to ban, inter alia, football, music, smoking, loitering in the streets and sitting on one’s doorstep. Woe betide anyone who breaks these arbitrarily-imposed laws; it’s lashes, stoning or a gunshot for them.

Except that these jihadists are hypocrites. They are… click here to read whole article and make comments



Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Avengers: Age of Ultron***** 

Written and directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johasson

As the avengers battle the last troops still loyal to Hydra, they discover a new artificial intelligence. Out of fear for the destiny of the world, Tony Stark decides to use it as part of his global defense program. But when things do not go as planned, the avengers find themselves face to face with a new terrible threat, which would have never occurred had they not yielded to their own fears. New and unpredictable allies join them, but the real danger comes from within…

While in the first Avengers movie, Nick Fury assembled his team of superheroes due to an alien threat, this time the avengers’ own fears are responsible for their new challenge. The mysterious Wanda Maximoff (a new entry alongside her twin… click here to read whole article and make comments



Penguins of Madagascar

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Penguins of Madagascar
Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith
Written by John Aboud, Michael Colton and Brandon Sawyer

Tired of being part of the circus (see Madagascar 3), the famous penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private decide to break into Fort Knox. Here they will be kidnapped by evil Octavius Brine, a genetically modified octopus whose mind is set in turning every penguin in the world into monsters.

The ever-close team of penguins is looking for new adventures. Initially our four heroes did not want anything more than a rare snake from a vending machine in Fort Knox. Yet if they now want to survive, they have to defeat Dr Octavius Brine, also known as Dave.

He is an octopus that used to live in the New York Zoo, whose feelings got hurt when the Zoo welcomed cute and pretty animals and forgot about him. Since that dramatic incident, Dave… click here to read whole article and make comments




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Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter 

Sweet and kind Ella lives a happy childhood until her mother, the very person who taught her the value of kindness, dies. A little after her death, Ella’s merchant father marries a widow with two daughters, Anastasia and Drisella, who reveal themselves to be the polar opposite of Ella’s good character. When he also passes away, her stepmother and sisters take control of the house and turn Ella into a servant. Her name is cruelly morphed into Cinderella. One day in the woods Ella/Cinderella meets prince Kit, who is being pressured to choose a bride. Thanks to her fairy godmother’s magic, Ella goes to the ball and wins the prince’s heart. Love conquers all.

Kenneth Branagh’s live action remake of one of the most beloved tales is rich in costumes and magnificently directed. Branagh… click here to read whole article and make comments



We’re obsessed with zombies – which says a lot about our fears

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The zombie invasion is here. Our bookshops, cinemas and TVs are dripping with the pustulating debris of their relentless shuffle to cultural domination.

A search for “zombie fiction” on Amazon currently provides you with more than 25,000 options. Barely a week goes by without another onslaught from the living dead on our screens. We’ve just seen the return of one of the most successful of these, The Walking Dead, starring Andrew Lincoln as small-town sheriff, Rick Grimes. The show follows the adventures of Rick and fellow survivors as they kill lots of zombies and increasingly, other survivors, as they desperately seek safety.

Generational monsters    

Since at least the late 19th century each generation has created fictional enemies that reflect a broader unease with cultural or scientific developments. The “Yellow Peril” villains such as Fu Manchu were a response to the massive increase in Chinese migration to… click here to read whole article and make comments



Still Alice

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Still Alice
Directed by Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Starring: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart

Featuring a heart-breaking central performance from Julianne Moore as Alice Howland, a Columbia University Linguistics professor diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s, Still Alice shows us the painful reality of a disease we’d really rather not think about, a disease that frightens us, that we don’t understand and are terrified of experiencing first hand.

Based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name, the film tracks Alice’s diagnosis after the first effects of the disease cause her to forget the words to a speech she gives at her University. The film is an intimate portrayal of the devastating impact the disease has on Alice’s husband (Baldwin) and their children – also at risk due to the hereditary nature of the condition - as they struggle to come to terms with the fact that, in spite… click here to read whole article and make comments



Exodus: Gods and Kings

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Exodus: Gods and Kings **(*)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, John Turturro

Moses is raised in the Egyptian Court where he grows up to become a general. He discovers that he is a Jew who belongs to a people that have been enslaved for 400 years and live awaiting liberation.  He survives his exile in the desert and starts a family of his own. God calls to Moses asking him to liberate the Jewish people, using his skills as a general to fulfill his mission. When faced with Pharaoh Ramses’ stubbornness, God sends the plagues to force the Egyptians to surrender. Yet when the Egyptians decide to follow the Jews to the Red Sea, the most sensational prodigy occurs

It is no surprise that after Noah (Noah, by Darren Aronofsky), the tale of Moses— the heroic biblical protagonist of an action-filled story packed with… click here to read whole article and make comments



American Sniper

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American Sniper
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Chris Kyle is brought up by his father as a good Christian and a good patriot. After seeing the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania, he enlists in the Navy Seals. Thanks to his extraordinary aim, he becomes a sniper, responsible for protecting the ground troops in Iraq. Through various missions, totaling 1,000 days abroad, he becomes the deadliest sniper in the American army— a legend for his people, and a privileged target for his enemies. Such great acts of violence— both performed and suffered— have put Chris' marriage to Taya on the line, forcing him to find an alternative way to serve his country and his fellow soldiers

Chris Kyle's story embodies the contradictions and the greatness of the American nation. Kyle, who has gone down in history as the most lethal sniper of the American… click here to read whole article and make comments



Big Hero 6

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Big Hero 6

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams
Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney

Inspired by the Marvel Comic strip of the same name, Big Hero 6 is the 54th Disney animated film and the first since the success of last year’s double Oscar winning phenomenon Frozen. With Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for best animated feature for 2014, the film is the first Disney movie to feature Marvel characters and sees gifted robotics engineer Hiro create a hi-tech team of superheroes to take on a mysterious masked villain.

Hiro spends his spare time fighting the robots he has built in the back alleys of a futuristic, playfully named Fransansokyo. His elder brother Tadashi, worried that Hiro is wasting his prodigious talent as well as his time, takes him to his university’s robotics lab. Hiro is inspired to apply for a place himself, where… click here to read whole article and make comments



Let’s face it: “The Interview” is a lousy, lousy film

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It’s a pity that North Korea’s cyber attack on Sony in response to its film The Interview made it Sony’s most downloaded movie of all time. Even more regrettable is that it has led some to proclaim the movie as political satire. 

I only watched the film because of the brouhaha that ensued about freedom of speech and how Hollywood had caved to Pyongyang’s cyber vandalism. And I cringed through all of its 112 minutes of crass and puerile testosterone-charged college-jock-humour. The film had no redeeming features. All of the jokes were scatological or sexual. Many were just plain demeaning of women.

The film’s plot follows two mediocre journalists who are approached by the CIA to assassinate the hermit kingdom’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, after scoring a face-to-face interview with him. That’s the closest the film gets to political satire. It does not compare to classics like Charlie Chaplain’s The… 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 Feel like commenting? Sound off beneath the posts. 

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