the Long & the Short of It

random reviews, recollections & reminiscings

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

REEL REVIEW: Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (2009) ****

Precious (2009) poster  2

written by: Geoffrey Fletcher
produced by: Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey & Tyler Perry
directed by: Lee Daniels

rated R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language.

109 minutes

She sits silently in the back of her class and dreams.She picture a life with her nice Math teacher, living together in Westchester. After all, he always smiles at her. She would love to have a light-skinned boyfriend with nice hair. Her dreams of Hollywood stardom and the adoration of cute boys take her away from the reality that's hardened her into a prison of numbness. She is Claireece "Precious" Jones (newcomer Gabourey Sidibe) and although she goes by Precious, no one sees her that way. They see an obese, illiterate sixteen year-old who mumbles her words and avoids eye contact. She has been mentally, verbally, physically and sexually abused all her life. She is pregnant with her second child from her father. That's only a glimpse at this girl's harrowing life and the most incredible element that chips away at the despair is that Precious has hope.

By all rights, she should be as down and out as everyone she has encountered. Living at home with her welfare mother in Harlem circa 1987 is hell. Precious is beaten, told she should have been aborted and is treated like a slave. She had her first child on her kitchen floor as her mother kicked her in the head. That child, named Mongol because she was born with Down Syndrome, is under the care of her mother, Mary (an amazing Mo'Nique) but lives with her grandmother which keeps the welfare checks coming in. Despite this horrific environment, Precious manages to have a vivid imagination which helps her escape and a spark of resilience that can be seen every so often.
It is only when a couple unforgettable women come into her life that she is able to see a way toward normalcy. She may not know what normal is but it has to be better than where she's at. Precious is sent to the "Each One, Teach One" GED education center, where she meets sympathetic teacher Ms. Rain (Paula Patton), after being expelled from junior high. In a small class setting of similar girls and a teacher who is actually giving Precious the attention she needs, she tried to break out of her coma and deal with the daily punishments and humiliations. She is on the frustrating path of learning to read and write while trying to deal with issues like starvation. Another source of help is welfare counselor Ms. Weiss ( an effectively unglammed Mariah Carey), who attempts to reaffirm Precious' self-worth. While both these women are empathetic toward Precious' situation, neither of them go easy on her. Both integral characters expect her to push herself and fight the forces in her life that kick her down. And despite how hard it is to watch Precious endure such pain and affliction, it is inspriring to see her take one day at a time.
Lee Daniels knows a few things about strong women and difficult subjects, having produced films like "Monster's Ball" and "The Woodsman." This is a bold and confident sophomore effort as a director (I haven't seen "The Shadowboxer" with Cuba Gooding, Jr. & Helen Mirren) instead of a cautious, safe or stereotypical approach. Daniels knows that he has to take us way down into the lacerating depths before he can bring about any levity, and he does so by providing some lighter moments. In fantasy sequences where we retreat into Precious' day-dreaming imagination and from the antics of her GED classmates, we're able to come up for air before the choke-hold of reality tightens on us once again. Yes, as I anticipated, it is a difficult film to watch but these moments make it possible to go on.
If Daniels makes it easier for us to watch the film by mixing up the tone, it is Sidibe that will mesmerize. Don't get me wrong, without a doubt Mo'Nique deserves all the Oscar buzz she's getting. In fact, her monologue toward the end, seals the deal. She plays one of the most vile characters I've seen in any recent film. The most difficult thing to come to terms with is that her character actually exists. Just as there are kids out there like Precious, who hardly have any hope, there are also parents/guardians out there like Mo'Nique's Mary. Sidibe is the one who has to take all the blows though. She gives life and character to Precious through her expressions (or at times, lack thereof) and in her narrating voice overs we hear her resilient attitude, "The other day, I cried. I felt stupid. But you know what? F*** that day." Regardless of her lack of self-esteem, she carries on and takes you on her journey and you want to fight with her.
Daniels and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher aren't providing any remedy for the devastating lives we see here. While the story strikes several staggering low points, hope is never far from view. Without a doubt, the film is harrowing to process at times but it retains an undeniable emotional grip through unbelievable horror.
Saphirre, the author of the book (hence the lenghty title), has said that the character of Precious is a composite of teens she had come across while working and living in New York City. That's the most sobering reminder to me. These people are real. They're out there. There are viewers who might even see themselves in the roles portrayed here and as hard as that is to see, I'm glad it's out there. You probably know someone like Precious without even knowing it.

Precious (2009) poster  3
Precious (2009) poster 4
The Skinny:
  • The film was originally titled, 'Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire', but the change was announced in February 2009, by Tyler Perry. It was confirmed soon afterwards by the film's distributor Lionsgate. The change was made to avoid confusion with the 2009 action film "Push".
  • Helen Mirren was originally cast as Mrs. Weiss.
  • The film was shot in five weeks.
  • Over 400 girls were interviewed from across the country for the part of Precious. Sidibe was cast a mere six weeks before the start of shooting after being forced to the audition by friends.
  • Sidibe read the novel Push years before when her mother, singer Alice Tan Ridley, was approached to play the role of Mary in an earlier production that never came to fruition.
  • Over the course of the shoot the production lost an editor, a cinematographer, three continuity people, three locations managers, two producers, two assistant directors, two sound people, two video playback people, and two caterers.
  • Mo'Nique played a character by the name of Precious in director Lee Daniels's previous film 2005's "Shadowboxer."
  • The film premiered in January 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival as Push: Based On The Novel By Sapphire, where it won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for best drama, as well as a Special Jury Prize for supporting actress Mo'Nique.
  • musician Lenny Kravitz, in his acting debut, was cast as John McFadden; a nurse who shows kindness to Precious.
  • The theme song for the film, titled "Push," was written and produced by Robin Thicke.

Interview with director Lee Daniels

Precious (2009) poster 1

Friday, November 6, 2009

REEL REVIEW: The Box (2009) **1/2

The Box (2009) poster 2

written by: Richard Kelly (story by: Richard Matheson)
produced by: Richard Kelly, Sean McKittrick & Kelly McKittrick
directed by: Richard Kelly
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some violence and disturbing images.
115 min.
Writer-director Richard Kelly's new film is being described by some as psychological horror while others are seeing it as a science fiction thriller. This shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with his films (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales) since it's so obvious he defies those genres and how we've come to know them while incorporated them into one absurd film. That's not an insult. An original, well-made film that hooks you despite it's absurdity can still be intriguing when it's not boring, maybe even entertaining. It's not hard to get lost in this film's tone and atmosphere but it's also easy to get frustrated at how convaluted and overambicious it gets. That may wind up pushing your buttons which could be exactly what Kelly is aiming for.
The film starts out like an episode of The Twilight Zone and sure enough, it was made into one back in the mid 80's. Kelly adapts the short story "Button, Button" by the great Richard Matheson into the first 15 minutes of the story. But then he jettisons it into an assortment of confounded directions.
First, we read an internal CIA memo typed across the screen. It states that a severe burn victim named Arlington Steward has recovered and is delivering units related to the Mars project.
We are then introduced to Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) Lewis, a loving married couple living in Richmond, Virginia circa 1976. They live in a nice brick home in a the seemingly idyllic suburbs where a school bus picks their son, Walter (Sam Oz Stone) right at their front step. Arthur works at NASA Langley doing research for the Viking mission to Mars and Norma teaches high school literature, specifically Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit. When Arthur doesn't get the job he was hoping for and Norma is told that she will no longer get a discounted on Walter's tuition, they start to realize that they will soon no longer be able to afford the life they wish to maintain.

Enter the mysterious Mr. Steward (Frank Langella), a polite, well-dressed older man with a grotesquely disfigured face offering them a life-changing opportunity. He presents them with a box that has a unit inside containing a button. He gives them an envelope with a key to unlock the bubble dome housing the button. Steward tells them if they press the button two things will happen. First, someone, somewhere in the world whom they do not know, will die. Second, they will receive one million dollars in cash. If they do nothing with it, Steward returns and takes the box back, never to be seen again. The box will then be reset and giving to someone else whom they do not know. However they choose, Steward will return the next day at 5pm.
Kelly presents viewers with the required "what would you do?" as the couple deal with their moral struggle both together and individually. At first, logic is at play as they both wonder how any of it could be real. How can they even know that this button will kill anyone? Is it an impossible choice? Is the decision obvious? Norma and Arthur then must decide if they could handle being responsible for someone's death. Since Kelly doesn't portray this couple as destitute, it's hard to truly feel compassion for two people who already admit they live beyond their means and want to keep it that way. What remains on their mind is that money would help them with the life they desire. Not the life they need, mind you.
That's where Matheson's script ends and we enter The Richard Kelly Zone. It's a dimension with that 70's glow, a sharp HD visual delight and a compelling score by Arcade Fire. Where nose bleeds are at every turn, zombie-like people talk in catatonic mantras, and hotel swimming pools become portals to the afterlife. Admittance into such a world need only require a push of a red button. No, that's not a spoiler since it wouldn't be a feature-length film if the button wasn't pushed. Unfortunately, the film is thrust the into the same sci-fi silliness that director Alex Proyas dropped on us earlier this year with the incomprehensible Knowing.
That's too bad since Kelly opens up with such promise and suspense only to push you through several trippy Kubrickian sequences that distract us with more questions. There could very well be the work of aliens here, or divine intervention, maybe a top-secret government's anyone's guess really and clearly that's the way Kelly wants it.
This is a film where the plot and far-reaching concepts take the spotlight over the acting. That wouldn't be so bad if there was a growing strength in the story or if the acting had felt real. Langella does stand out by bringing some class to his ominous bad guy that could have veered toward camp. It's ironic that the guy who played Skeletor at one time is now playing the bad guy with half his face off. Too often though the emotions of the two leads felt forced and their behavior unrealistic. It was difficult to detect the needed chemistry between Diaz and Marsden which is problemic since it was already hard to feel sorry for these two. Plus, both of their southern accents seemed unnecesary and distracting since they were inconsistent at best. I wound up feeling worse for their son, who always seemed to get brushed off to the wayside. No surprise really, since children are too often treated like a device in these stories.
While Kelly's feverish imagination tends to swallow this movie whole, it really is quite involving while you're watching it. During reflection and post-viewing discussion is where all the plotholes and flaws become clear. But, who knows, this may become one of those midnight favorites at the local art house. Like the titular box, it's hard to take your eyes off the film and decipher what it's all about when you're sitting there staring at it. Only when you spend time away from it do you start to questions its real function. It may be missing the quirk and twisted charm of Donnie Darko but neveretheless fans of that cult classic will still want to check this out.

The Skinny:
  • Veteran character actor, Basil Hoffman, was also in the original version of this story when "Button, Button" aired on "The Twilight Zone: Profile in Silver/Button, Button (#1.20)" (1986).
  • This marks the first feature-length film scored by members of the Canadian band Arcade Fire (Win Butler, R�gine Chassagne and Owen Pallett)
  • It also marks the first PG-13 film to be directed by Richard Kelly.
  • Charlie Clouser's score from 2004's Saw was used for the trailer.
  • On the commentary of Tony Scott's "Domino",Richard Kelly outright dismissed shooting a 1970's period piece with a digital camera. But after seeing David Fincher's
    "Zodiac", Kelly's position quickly changed and he was quoted saying, "It can be done."
  • Production began in November 2007 and concluded in February 2008.
  • Most of the filming took place in the Boston, Massachusetts area, with scenes shot in downtown Boston, South Boston, Waltham, Ipswich, Winthrop, Milton, Medfield, Quincy, Kingston, and North Andover, as well as other localities.
  • Some filming took place on the Milton Academy campus, and a large indoor set was built inside a former Lucent Technologies building in North Andover to recreate a NASA laboratory.
  • The production crew also journeyed to NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., to shoot a number of scenes for the film.
  • Kelly's father had worked at NASA Langley in the 1970s and 80s.
  • Many background extras were reused in different scenes, and people with period correct 60s and 70s cars were encouraged to participate.
  • The film was originally scheduled for release on October 30, 2009, but on July 31, 2009, it was announced the release date was to be delayed to November 6, 2009.

The Box (2009) poster 1

Thursday, October 22, 2009

REEL REVIEW: Motherhood (2009) ***

Motherhood (2009) foreign poster

written by: Katherine Dieckman
produced by: Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler, Jana Edelbaum & Rachel Cohen
directed by: Katherine Dieckman
rated PG-13 for language, sexual references and a brief drug comment.
Being a mother is different for every woman but there are some feelings, situations and experiences that all mothers can relate to. Writer and director Katherine Dieckman knows that and draws from her own life here as she shares her experiences raising children with her husband in New York City. It's a film certain to resonate with urban mothers (especially those in the 35 to 50 age range) trying to hold on to their identity as they face the daily grind of folding laundry, packing lunches and a sink full of dirty dishes.
The daily grind is exactly what Dieckman gives us, as we spend a day with Eliza (Uma Thurman), a married mother of two, who is scrambling to get everything together for her six year-old's birthday party at 5pm. She and her husband, Avery (Anthony Edwards) live in two rent-stabilized apartments in West Village. The bedrooms are in one; the kitchen, office and living room are down the hall in the other. It's tight but they seem to make it work. Once an aspiring fiction writer, Eliza now blogs snippets of her life from home when she's not picking up toys or kids. She comes across an online pop-up ad for a parenting magazine contest, asking mothers to answer in 500 words or less "What does motherhood mean to me?" We then see her compelled to add this task to her already loaded "To Do" list for the day, the only catch's due by midnight!
Eliza encounters many unforseen obstacles that prevent her from crossing everything off her list. There just so happens to be a film shooting below her apartment which results in her car being towed. Her husband won't answer his cell phone (when he finally appears, he sees that it was on vibrate, "Oh, look at that, eight calls."). She has to use her husband's bicycle to get food and decorations for the party. Not an easy task, especially on a flat tire. The cake decorator got her daughter's name wrong and berates Eliza for giving Clara a "trendy" name. Does any of this sound familiar? It should, since this harried mother is not the first woman who wonders how her current life had come to define her.
Like many parents (not just mothers), Eliza has seen her career desires sidelined by familial obligations. We've seen this portrayed in other films before, so right away many people will connect to this material. We know these characters. They're our friends, neighbors and co-workers. They may even be us, which is relieving when we see them make the same mistakes we do. In fact, the night after I saw this film, my three year-old scolded me for not buckling her in her car seat before we drove off, something that Eliza had done with her son. Thurman, a mother of two herself, exudes an honest familiarity here. It doesn't feel like she's acting the part, just like she knows it. While that does sell the viewer, Thurman also comes across a tad overstated and neurotic at times. It's hard to tell if some of her antics are for comedies sake, dramatic effect or that we just don't know enough about her. That may be the case since we're only spending a day with her.
Carol Commissiong, Minnie Driver and Uma Thurman stars in Freestyle Releasing 'Motherhood.'
There are only a few other adults we see Eliza interract which is not uncommon for a stay-at-home-mom. She can talk and hang out with her pregnant best friend, Sheila (Minnie Driver, pregnant in her third trimester in real life!) who is a good listener and shares an interesting bathtub remedy. Eliza also gets noticed by a younger messenger (played by newcomer Arjun Gupta) who strikes some sexual sparks as she lets her guard down. She sees him noticing her for more than just a mother, a feeling she's unaccostumed to. The scene suffers from its length, as the tone goes from nervous awkwardness to silly awkwardness. It's clear that these interactions have their purpose and revelations but they border on trite.
Eliza also meets plenty of other frazzled moms on the playground where one mom goes to spot celebrities (Jodie Foster has a uncredited cameo as herself, being stalked by paparazzi as she plays with her kid). The addition of rude neighbors and parking nightmares send us plunging into Eliza's maddening routines. Dieckmann knows that Eliza can seem a bit self-indulgent in her whining. At the birthday party, an older neighbor (Alice Drummond) comments that women of an earlier generation dealt with the same pressures but never dreamt of complaining. Sure, her remark seems appropriate but I wonder what Dieckman was trying to say since the majority of filmmakers that worked on this project are women.
Many married couples who have children, come to the point where they realize that their lives have been all about providing and prioritizing for their kids. While the film is focusing on Eliza, it's refreshing that the character of her husband is not written off. Too many times, the husband comes across as clueless, abusive or aloof in film. That's not the case here. Edward's Avery is patient and caring with his children and seems to almost be scrambling as much as his wife albeit with less neurosis. As a parent, we often wind up making mistakes that we had sworn we never would as we get caught up in the same day after day duties. It's good to see that Dieckman reminds us that it's possible not to lose who we and be appreciated for what we do.

Motherhood (2009) poster

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Zombieland" Chicago red carpet screening!


For anyone that happens to frequent film screenings throughout the year, you may make at least one undeniable observation....there is an entire subculture in attendance at these events. I often see the same people at each screening that I have come to call "the usual suspects". They clearly know each other and often tip each other off to the next screening in their own clandestine fashion. It's as if they live for these screenings and at times it appears that they live at these theaters. It's clearly fodder for a sitcom pitch. I just watch and smile and wonder how they get their passes. Now, I consider myself a film enthusiast, but these folks seem to be in a class all their own. Well, that class was in for a dramatic change this week.

On Monday, September 28th, I passed up the opportunity to see a screening of "The Invention of Lying" for my love of the undead. That's right. I can't help it. Zombies, I love thee! Already, I bet you know what movie I'm referring to. That's right folks, hundreds of select Chicagoans were treated to a very special red carpet screening of "Zombieland" with stars Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg. That's cool in and of itself, but even better was the chance to become a zombie yourself!



My screening pass had stated that if attendees arrived early enough, there would be an opportunity to be "zombie-fied" and walk the red carpet with the two leads. How could I pass that up? While the screening was at 7pm, I wouldn't be able to make it there until about a quarter to six and I assumed "early" would mean 5ish. I told my buddy Otto to get there as soon as he could and scope out the place to see how the what the crowd was like. Sure enough, he arrived at 4:30 and he let me know how crazy it already was. Yes there was a tent with a red carpet inside parallel with the curb in front of the theater. Yes, there were "Zombieland" posters everywhere. And yes, there were fans (including "the usual suspects") dressed up as zombies everywhere. It was quite a surreal and assuredly geeky experience.





Unfortunately, my name wasn't on some list in order for me to qualify to be transformed into a zombie. Fah! Little did they realize (or care) I would have been a great zombie. I know the swagger, the contortions and appropriate "Gak!" sound effects (thank you, Roger Kirkman!) which I found lacking in many of the zombies that passed us by as we were in line for the screening. Otto and I took turns going in and out of the line to take many pics of the undead both in and outside the theater.



Once seated, the spotlight beamed down to the bottom of the screen where Harrelson and Eisenburg were met with a roaring applause. They didn't really have much to say. The typical "Hello Chicago, good to be here!" and "Thank you, enjoy the film!" that was followed by a quick departure. Fine with us. Myself, Otto, "the usual suspects" and all the other zombies were more than ready to see the undead on the big screen.

All I'll say about the movie is that it is fun, gory and one of the funniest movies I've seen all year. Right away, it knows what it is and who it's for. If you're a fan of the genre, you'll have a blast! Now go check out my friend Otto's blog for his take of the evening with far superior photographs!

some of the zombies working their way to the theater

Saturday, August 22, 2009

REEL REVIEW: Fifty Dead Men Walking (2009) ***


written by:Kari Strogland
produced by: Kari Strogland, Stephen Hegyes, Peter La Terriere, & Shawn Williamson
directed by: Kari Strogland
Rated R for strong brutal violence and torture, language and some sexuality.
117 min.

The first time I came to know anything about the Irish Republican Army (or IRA) was in the early 90's. Of course, my introduction was through film, as is often the case, and it just so happened to be two films that were a year apart. In 1992, a spoiled assassination attempt by an off-shoot IRA group resulted in an obsessive vendetta against a CIA analyst in "Patriot Games". That film had a modern day setting, unlike 1993's "In the Name of the Father" which followed the true story of Gerry Conlon, who back in the mid 70's, was wrongfully convicted of IRA terrorist activity while visiting London. Both films depicted the IRA as a radical group of paramilitary, determined to do anything to liberate Ireland from the UK.

In Canadian screenwriter, producer and director, Kari Skogland's film, we're given more than one perspective of the IRA, revealing the thin line that is blurred between revolutionary and terrorist. The story, loosely based on the autobiography of the same name by Martin McGartland tells of his undercover activity with the IRA. It shows the brutality toward 'touts' (or traitors) to their cause as well as the shameful steps the British police took to get a handle on the IRA's activity. By the late 1980's, the long-standing tension between the British and the Irish had culminated in what would be called "The Troubles", located predominately in Northern Ireland. Which is where we find Martin (Jim Sturgess), a young hustler in Belfast, selling women's lingerie door to door. His apolitical stance has distanced him from the IRA, yet their activity is ever present.

After witnessing brutality enacted by the IRA toward one of his friends, Martin reluctantly accepts an offer by the British Special Forces to become an undercover informer. He reports to a man named Fergus (Sir Ben Kingsley), who becomes his handler and in time, father figure. There's no way Martin could have known the type of life-threatening danger he was getting himself into, in fact, it's never quite clear what his motivations are. He soon becomes a rising asset to both the IRA and the British police, despite the risk to his girlfriend (Natalie Press) and their son. Martin continued as an agent, gradually realizing he'd be spending the rest of his life paranoid, on the run and in hiding. It wasn't all for nothing though. The information Martin provides saves the lives of at least fifty men who would have wound up dead if not for his involvement.

Skogland delivers a crisp thriller that will interest anyone craving action and a story without neglecting character. She starts out the film with a thoroughly attention-grabing scene with Martin in the late 90's, leaving you knowing full well that we are about to be his story. Her only weaknesses come when she relies too heavily on similar conventions like montage scenes and adrenalized punk music. It's not awful, it's just that we've seen this approach countless times. Still, she does not romanticize any of the characters and their storyline at any point, thankfully. The best scenes are the ones where she gives us Sir Ben and Sturgess, as we see the reliance each other has on the other over time. It becomes clear that for these two characters, it becomes more of a necessary relationship. Both are estranged from their own father/son relationship and due to where they are in life, are in need of one. She really allows them to take their time and work off each other well. It becomes clear that they need each other since both of their own father/son relationships are either non-existent or estranged.

I can't say I really thought much about the talents of Sturgess before this film. Seeing him in "Across the Universe", he struck me as another up-and-coming pretty boy. I had not seen much of his work since and knew that his performance would really have to sell this small iindependentfilm. Here he shows a strong handle on a wide range of emotion while also giving a very physical performance, running all over town and getting beaten to a pulp. What really interested me about the film was the subject matter, and of course, Kingsley but Sturgess' work is excellent here. Meeting him for a Q&A after the screening, he came across very engaging and involved in his craft. I look forward to going back and seeing his past films as well as his future work. I'm hoping Kingsley's involvement in this film brings more attention to it.

There was an announcement made before screening that the film was only being releases at this time in Chicago, Boston & New York, for whatever reason. Although iindependentcinema has reached a bbroaderaudience over the years, it's still a struggle for filmmakers to keep a movie afloat. Here's one of those films worthy of your time.

The Skinny:

  • Man on the Run was a working title for the film. Casting was completed in November 2007.
  • Filming began on location in the Northern Irish villages of Killough and Ardglass in late October 2007 and went on until December 2007.
  • The film premiered on 4 September 2008 at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada.
  • Since then it has screened at the 2009 Kingston Canadian Film Festival. The UK premiere was held on the 4th of April 2009 in Belfast, where the film was shot. Jim Sturgess was unable to attend, as was Sir Ben Kingsley, who recorded a video message for the audience to thank them for attending.
  • Phoenix23, the Belfast band who recorded three tracks for the soundtrack; "Hit the Ground Running", "Its a Blast" and "Hurricane" were in attendance. The film went on general release in the UK on 10 April 2009.
  • McGartland, an Irish Catholic, was arrested by the Royal Ulster Constabulary police in 1989 at age 16 for petty crime. After that arrest, he agreed to infiltrate the IRA, and pass information on their activities under the codename Agent Carol to the RUC Special Branch which dealt with counter terrorism activities.
  • For his information he was later described as "one of the RUC's most important agents inside the IRA's Belfast Brigade during the early Nineties."
  • In 1991 his cover was blown, and he was kidnapped by the IRA to be interrogated then killed.
  • He escaped by leaping from an upstairs window and fled to England, receiving money to set up a new life in North East England.
  • His autobiography was a best seller, and he released a follow up about his time on the run.
  • In 1997 he came to press attention after Northumbria Police revealed his location when they attempted to prosecute him for holding false identities, which he claimed he required to evade discovery by the IRA, which was upheld in court. Also in 1997 The BBC made a short documentary on him.
  • In 1999, he survived being shot six times in an attack on his home in Whitley Bay.
  • He stated the IRA had been responsible, which they denied. Months after the shooting it emerged that the RUC had linked the gun used to shoot McGartland to the murder of a drugs dealer in Northern Ireland by the IRA.
  • He alleged the British Government was covering up the IRA's involvement to preserve the ceasefire declared by them in 1997. He successfully sued several media outlets for falsely claiming at the time that the attempt on his life had come about due to his links to a North East drugs gang.
  • Kingsley's role is an amalgam of several, very sketchily delineated policemen.
  • McGartland claims the film distorts the facts, and it has teetered on the verge of being pulled from cinemas in the wake of the renewed sectarian violence in Northern Ireland this year.
  • As of the time of the release of the film, he was still in hiding yet Strogland communicated with him via telephone during filming.


NOTE: During the Q&A, I asked Sturgess if Ben Whishaw was ever involved in the movie. He uncomfortably said that before he came on, there was "a Ben" that had spent time in Belfast researching the role. Interesting.


Video Interview with Sturgess

Interview with Sturgess

Stogland talks "Fifty Dead Men Walking"



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

REEL REVIEW: A Perfect Getaway (2009) **


written by: David Twohy
produced by: Robbie Brenner, Mark Canton, Ryan Kavanaugh & Tucker Tooley
directed by: David Twohy

rated R (for graphic violence, language including sexual references and some drug use)

97 min.
Unfortunately, this movie does not live up to its title. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why director David Twohy ("Pitch Black") considers his audience chumps enough to swallow such an inane "twist". Yes, everyone is talking about "the revealing twist" in this film. A twist that once revealed, is just flat insulting. A well executed twist should make a viewer backtrack in their mind (possibly more than once), taking in all that has previously occurred which would in turn lead to several little "ah ha" moments. Anyone attempting such with this film will picture the entire previous hour and a half fall apart reel after reel.
What a shame since everything leading up to the big twist delivers a satisfying summer thriller. The setting is a Hawaiian island, the build-up is intriguing with a capable cast. Screenwriter Cliff (Steve Zahn) and baby-hungry Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are on their honeymoon, seeking out a special hiking trail that leads to a secret beach. Just as they begin their trek, they overhear a group of frightened hikers discuss a double murder in Honolulu of another newlywed couple on the island. They start to discuss whether or not they should turn back when they come across another couple, former special-ops stud Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and his girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez) and we see the four of them strike up a tentative friendship. Nick is undeniably charismatic, as he tells his tales of near-death experiences and military history, while Gina displays her disemboweling animal skills. She used to be a butcher. This behavior and the recent news of murder, triggers Cliff into paranoia, leading him to believe this couple could be the killers. Add to the mix another couple they encounter, strung-out Cleo (Marley Shelton) and hot-tempered Kale (Chris Hemsworth), that act even more suspicious. Actually, too suspicious.
It's obvious Twohy tries to throw us and his ambition is admirable but the end result falls flat. It seems like his script was a nice studio pitch that was rapidly greenlit before any semblance of payoff could be found. That's unfortunate since enough time and care is spent on structure, characterization and (as mentioned) a capable cast. As a director, Twohy comes across a little too self-aware, constantly pausing on certain clues and plot devices in an effort to tell instead of show. He's always thinking but rarely considering the intelligence of the viewer which is a epic failure.
The slow builds to the B-movie plot twist provides a fairly entertaining story with actors that draw your attention. Zahn has proven he is much more than comic relief with his work in "Rescue Dawn" and here he plays the nice guy who could easily be dismissed. As his wife, Jovovich hides her accent well and for most gives a softer side from her typical action heroine. After playing Nikki on "Lost", it's great to see Sanchez getting more work, she really dives into her role with much exuberance. She certainly deserves to have more work lined up for her. The standout would have to be Olyphant, who delivers a confident swagger in a role that could have been all machismo. It's also nice to see that Hemsworth's role as George Kirk from this summer's "Star Trek" wasn't a fluke. He really does quite a bit with what little he is given here. It's a shame these actors are thrust into the last half hour of blue-tinted flashback exposition and laughable action.
By the time August hits, I look forward to a movie that's gonna give me something other than the typical summer #1 box office hits. Give me something character-driven and unique, humorous or thrilling...even throw in a tropical location. I'm open! Just don't insult me with a preposterous set-up to a predictable twist that takes too long and by that time, not only is it too much to swallow but it's too hard to care.
The Skinny:
  • In addition to working together on this film, Jovovich ("Resident Evil") and Olyphant ("Hitman") have both worked on films that were adaptations of video games.
  • The film was shot in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

Interview with Milla Jovovich

Interview with Timothy Olyphant

Interview with Sanchez & Olyphant

Interview witth Zahn & Jovovich


Moving Pictures


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