Saturday, 24 June 2017

Birthday's to share this week : 25th June - 1st July 2017

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Timur Bekmambetov does on 25th June - check out my tribute to this Birthday Boy turning 56, at the end of this feature.

Do you also share your birthday with a well known, highly regarded & famous Actor or Actress; share your special day with a Director, Producer, Writer, Cinematographer, Singer/Songwriter or Composer of repute; or share an interest in whoever might notch up another year in the coming seven days? Then, look no further! Whilst there will be too many to mention in this small but not insignificant and beautifully written and presented Blog, here are the more notable and noteworthy icons of the big screen, and the small screen, that you will recognise, and that you might just share your birthday with in the week ahead. If so, Happy Birthday to you from Odeon Online!

Sunday 25th June
  • Anthony Bourdain - Born 1956, turns 61 - Television Personality | Celebrity Chef | Writer | Producer | Actor
  • Ricky Gervais - Born 1961, turns 56 - Actor | Television Personality | Writer | Producer | Director | Singer | Songwriter  
  • Timur Bekmambetov - Born 1961, turns 56 - Director | Writer | Producer
Monday 26th June
  • Robert Davi - Born 1951, turns 66 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer
  • Paul Thomas Anderson - Born 1970, turns 47 - Director | Writer | Producer
  • Chris O'Donnell - Born 1970, turns 47 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Jason Schwarzman - Born 1980, turns 37 - Actor | Singer | Songwriter | Composer | Writer | Producer
  • Ariana Grande - Born 1993, turns 24 - Singer | Songwriter | Composer | Actress
Tuesday 27th June
  • J.J. Abrams - Born 1966, turns 51 - Producer | Director | Writer | Composer | Songwriter | Actor
  • Tobey Maguire - Born 1975, turns 42 - Actor | Producer
  • Sam Claflin - Born 1986, turns 31 - Actor    
Wednesday 28th June
  • Mel Brooks - Born 1926, turns 91 - Actor | Writer | Producer | Director | Singer | Songwriter
  • Bruce Davison - Born 1946, turns 71 - Actor | Director
  • John Cusack - Born 1966, turns 51 - Actor | Producer | Writer 
  • Kathy Bates - Born 1948, turns 69 - Actress | Director | Singer  
Thursday 29th June
  • Gary Busey - Born 1944, turns 73 - Actor | Singer | Songwriter | Composer  
Friday 30th June
  • Vincent D'Onofrio - Born 1959, turns 58 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer
  • Morton Csokas - Born 1966, turns 51 - Actor 
  • Lizzy Caplan - Born 1982, turns 35 - Actress | Producer  
Saturday 1st July
  • Genevieve Bujold - Born 1942, turns 75 - Actress | 
  • Pamela Anderson - Born 1967, turns 50 - Actress | Producer
  • Liv Tyler - Born 1977, turns 40 - Actress | Producer
  • Lea Seydoux - Born 1985, turns 32 - Actress | 
  • David Prowse - Born 1935, turns 82 - Actor
  • Trevor Eve - Born 1951, turns 66 - Actor | Producer
  • Dan Aykroyd - Born 1952, turns 65 - Actor | Writer | Producer | Singer | Director
  • David Gulpilil - Born 1953, turns 64 - Actor | Writer
Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov was born in Guryev as it was known until 1991 when it was renamed Atyrau - a city in Kazakhstan located at the mouth of the Ural River on the Caspian Sea. His mother Mira Bogoslavskaya was a journalist, and his father Nuruakhit Bekmambetov, a manager at the Guryev Energy Company. In 1978, at the age of seventeen he moved to Moscow, and from then until 1980 he attended the Moscow Energy Institute, but he was more interested in art and movies. Eventually he dropped out of college, and at age nineteen he relocated himself to Tashkent, the largest and capital city of Uzbekistan to study at the Alexander Ostrovsky Theatrical and Artistic Institute from where he graduated in 1987 with a Degree in Theatre and Cinema Set Design. During this time Bekmambetov also served in the Soviet Red Army, stationed at the artillery division near Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan, which ultimately was his inspiration for his Screenwriting and Directorial debut 'Peshawar Waltz' (aka 'Escape from Afghanistan') in 1994. This was a Russian action drama film chronicling the real life events of the war in Afghanistan and the uprising of Soviet held prisoners that took place in Badaber, near Peshawar, Pakistan in April 1985.

Prior to this however, and during the early and mid '90's Bekmambetov was one of a panel of Directors who worked on the award winning 'World History' series of television commercials for the Bank Imperial. In 1994 he formed his own film and advertisement production, distribution and marketing company - Bazelevs Group which now has offices in Moscow and Los Angeles. In 2000 Bekmambetov Produced and Directed an eight part mini series 'Nashi 90-e' ('Our '90's') about the journey through life and death of three random men following the post-Soviet years. 2001 saw him return to Directing feature films with the release of 'The Arena' - a remake of the 1974 gladiator exploitation film of the same name with Pam Grier and Margaret Markov in the lead roles. This updated version Produced by Roger Corman still featured female gladiators with Playboy Playmates Karen Mcdougall and Lisa Dergen in their debut lead roles. 2004 saw Bekmambetov's breakout film 'Night Watch' - a supernatural fantasy horror thriller based on the novel by Russian Science Fiction and fantasy author Sergei Lukyanenko - which he both wrote for the screen and Directed for a cost of US$4.2M. The film was critically acclaimed and at the time of its release quickly became the most financially successful film in Russia ever - taking close to US$17M. The film went on to gross US$34M at the global Box Office in the countries where it was released.

Intended to be a trilogy of films, he followed up with 'Day Watch' in 2006 featuring the same cast and following on a year from the setting of the first film. Also made for US$4.2M the film grossed US$32M in Russia alone. The third film in the franchise was intended to be 'Twilight Watch' however, the Director instead decided to make 'Wanted' rather than getting stuck in an artistic rut. As such, the film never got made, nor are there any plans slated at this time to do so. Allegedly, there are plans for a television series though. He followed this up with the 2007 Written and Directed 'The Irony of Fate 2' which is a Russian RomCom and a direct sequel to the hugely popular (in its own country) 1976 film 'The Irony of Fate'. The film cost US$5M to make and grossed US$55M, with 90% of that take coming from Russian audiences.

'Wanted' followed in 2008 based on the comic book mini-series of the same name by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones. Starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Terence Stamp and Common, this was Bekmambetov's Hollywood debut and a huge success it was too - grossing US$342M at the worldwide Box Office from a US$75M budget and critically praised for its fast paced stylised action sequences, solid performances, and great visuals. A sequel was planned but has languished in development hell, although 'Wanted 2' on which Bekmambetov will Produce, has been recently announced.

In 2010 Bekmambetov Co-Directed 'Yolki' (aka 'Six Degrees of Celebration'), described as an epic comedy showcasing how the world's largest country can come together to celebrate New Years Eve, no matter how far apart we are all. Tapping into hope, optimism and possibility amongst the Russian people, two sequels were released in 2011 with 'Yolki 2', in 2013 with 'Yolki 3' and a prequel in 2014 with 'Yolki 1914'. The initial film in the series became the second highest grossing Russian film in Russian Box Office history. 'Yolki 5' was released in 2016, on which Bekmambetov took a Co-Director and a Producer credit.

His next Directorial outing was in 2012 with the dark fantasy action horror film 'Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter' starring Benjamin Walker in the title role as the 16th President of the USofA by day, and secret vampire slayer by night. The film also starred Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Anthony Mackie and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Tim Burton Co-Produced with the Director. Made for US$100M the film made US$117M and received mixed Reviews.

Next up in the Director's chair was a remake of the epic 'Ben Hur' released in 2016 and starring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Morgan Freeman and Rodrigo Santoro. Tagged as 'a re-adaptation', 'a reimagining' and 'a new interpretation' of the 1880 source novel and the most notable 1959 multi-award wining William Wyler film, Bekmambetov's version cost US$100M to make, plus marketing and promotional costs and took US$94M at the worldwide Box Office making it a Box Office bomb, and to which it was largely negatively Reviewed.

In the meantime, Bekmambetov has Produced numerous films including '9' in 2009, a computer-animated post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure film starring the voice talents of Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover and Martin Landau amongst others. That same year he Produced Russian Superhero film 'Black Lightning' with Grigoriy Dobrigyn; found footage Sci-Fi horror film 'Apollo 18' in 2011; then alien invasion Sci-Fi thriller 'The Darkest Hour' also in 2011 with Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, Olivia Thirlby, Joel Kinnaman and Rachael Taylor.

'Hardcore Henry' followed in 2015 - the first person shoot 'em up actioner, to which Bekmambetov took another Producer credit, and starred Sharlto Copley, Tim Roth and Haley Bennett. The film cost only about US$3M to make and grossed US$17M worldwide and received largely mixed Reviews. The found footage supernatural horror chiller 'Unfriended' came next in 2014 and tells the story almost entirely through a high school student's MacBook screen, as several friends find themselves terrorised online by an anonymous person. The film cost a paltry US$1M to make and grossed US$64M worldwide, making a sequel almost inevitable, which was in fact announced in April 2015, with Production starting anytime now. In between time there have been several other films both Directed and Produced by Bekmambetov for a largely Russian audience.

Also as Producer, and announced recently to go into Production are 'Wanted 2', 'Unfriended 2', comedy 'Liked' currently in Post-Production, and 'The Current War' due for release in December this year and telling the historical story of Thomas Eddison and George Westinghouse who compete to bring a sustainable electricity system to the American public, and starring Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Shannon, Matthew Macfadyen and Katherine Waterston.

This brings us up to date. All told Bekmambetov has 34 Producer credits to his name, fifteen as Director, and seven as Writer. He has won five awards and been nominated another ten times.

Timur Bekmambetov - has established himself as a driving force behind Russian cinema both in front of the camera and behind it; is the founder of an end to end Production company; has stamped his mark on Hollywood with big action fare; is motivated by challenge and curiosity; is excited by young up and coming film makers and in making innovative films, and is not afraid to go out on a limb to get a film made. Sci-Fi, horror, fantasy, comedy and animation - he's at home with small independent fare and big budget epics too. You'll never be pigeon holed Timur - Happy Birthday to you, from Odeon Online. 

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Friday, 23 June 2017

FINAL PORTRAIT : Saturday 17th June 2017.

Alberto Giacometti was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draughtsman and printmaker who lived from 1901 until 1966, when he died in Paris, France from heart disease and chronic bronchitis. This film 'Final Portrait' by Director, Writer and Actor Stanley Tucci (in his fifth Directorial outing) tells the story of Giacometti over a three week or so period in 1964, when the world renowned artist asked his American art critic and biographer friend James Lord to sit for him for what turns out to be his final portrait. I saw this film as part of the Sydney Film Festival last weekend, having had its Australian Premier at the Festival on 10th June. It had its World Premier at the Berlin International Film Festival in February this year, is due for release in the UK in early August, and not until early October for its general release in Australia. The film is based on the biography by James Lord 'A Giacometti Portrait', adapted for the screen by Stanley Tucci.

Set in Paris in 1964 we are told in voiceover by American biographer and art critic James Lord (Armie Hammer) of Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) and his work as a celebrated world renowned sculptor, painter and artist, and that the famed Giacometti has asked him to pose for him, in order that he can paint his portrait. Of course, this is a great honour for Lord, and he can only but oblige his old friend by agreeing, even though he has a flight scheduled back home to the US in 48 hours.

After the first sitting, Giacometti says that his sitting may take a little longer than expected and if he could put his flight back 24 hours. Of course, easily done responds Lord - well, really what else can he say? However, Lord soon comes to realise that the work of a genius cannot be hurried, and it is Giacometti who decides on a whim when it is time for work, drink, food, doubt, destruction, flirtation or laughter in his studio. After the first three days have lapsed, Lord again is asked to delay his flight, but only for a few more days. 

Giacometti is an established artist whose works fetch record prices. When he is paid for his work he hides huge bundles of cash in his studio, fearing the banks as being untrustworthy. He often forgets where he has hidden his wads of cash. He is a man of modest means living in your average Parisian two up two down terrace house with a ramshackle studio. His nonchalant attitude to money is just one of the causes of many an altercation with his wife Annette (Sylvie Testud), another being that his young attractive prostitute mistress and quasi-muse Caroline (Clemence Poesy) receives all his attention. She is his reason for being, his motivation and his incentive to carry on with his life and his work, and she too is mid-way sitting for him for a portrait in progress. His brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub), is also an artist and working in an adjacent studio, is more than familiar with his idiosyncrasies, his mood swings, and his at times unpredictable temperament. 

As another week goes by, Lord is asked to postpone his flight home again due to slow progress with the painting, or it not being upto Giacometti's standard. Often, the artist will start to paint, and then interrupt proceedings with the desire to go for a walk to talk, or to visit the local bistro for something to eat, or drink, or to take rides in the car, or to meet with Caroline. Lord puts on a brave face but becomes increasingly frustrated by the slow progress his artist friend is taking - but what can he do, other than play along, and pacify those in the US who seek his return home. 

Meanwhile Lord has to postpone his flight once more, asking 'how long can this go on for'. By now we are two weeks in, and Diego who overhears Lords rhetorical question says months, years, perhaps for ever, as Alberto seeks perfection in his work, which he knows is in reality unattainable. As three weeks almost clock up and yet more flight postponements, the day comes when Lord has to bite the bullet and leave. Giacometti bids him farewell, Caroline has disappeared off somewhere else with her pimps, leaving the artist and his wife Annette to go about their business, and Giacometti to consider his unfinished portrait.

Here Rush inhibits the character of Giacometti, much as he did with his portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in 1996's 'Shine', and he makes his character study intricate, grounded and nuanced as we laugh at his jokes, relish at his idle gossip, his habits and his foibles, his inconsistent work routine, his preferred watering holes, his insistent chain smoking, his dishevelled appearance, the razor sharp wit of his conversation and his sarcasm and his down beaten studio where everything is presented to us looking in in various shades of black, white and grey. Armie Hammer puts in a subdued but nonetheless commendable performance as the subject of the artist, showing restraint, politeness and conservatism  even as time marches on and repeated postponements to his schedule. As for Stanley Tucci in his fifth turn as Director he here depicts Giacometti as a genius showing us his strengths and weaknesses of his chaotic work life, his self-doubt, and his inner strength to destroy that which he is not completely satisfied with and start over again. A comical, entertaining and engaging study of one of the great artists of the 20th Century, that has been highly praised by Critics.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 22nd June 2017.

The 64th annual Sydney Film Festival came to a close on Sunday night 18th June, with its closing night screening of action adventure 'Okja' by South Korean film-maker Bong Joon-ho and starring Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins, Steven Yuen, Daniel Henshall and child actress Ahn Seo-hyun. Ahead of this screening the Official Competition Winner was announced, which came as a little bit of a surprise given the strength of the other eleven competing films, that included 'The Beguiled', 'Una' (released this week and Previewed below), 'We Don't Need A Map', 'Happy End', and 'I Am Not Your Negro' (the favourite to win).

All that said, Hungarian film, 'On Body and Soul' walked away with the AU$60K prize money and the Award for Best Film, having also won the Golden Bear main competition prize at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in February. Directed and Written by Ildiko Enyedi, the film tells the story of two co-workers in a Budapest abattoir - one the Director of the firm, Endre, and the other Maria, a recently appointed quality controller. By chance, the pair discover that each night they share exactly the same dream - about a pair of deer cavorting in the woods.  As a result of their shared connection, they feel compelled to attempt a romance, but real life proves more challenging than their common beautiful dream. Jury President Margaret Pomeranz​ referred to 'On Body and Soul' as 'graceful, measured and profoundly compassionate'. She went on further to say 'it's a film that shows us that even in this divided world we are capable of sharing the same dreams; that amongst the ugliness of a slaughterhouse, kindness, gentleness can be found'. Congratulations on your win, Ildiko Enyedi.

This week there are six new films coming to your local multiplex or independent theatre. We kick off with the fifth instalment in a blockbusting Sci-Fi action franchise that sees a select band of returning humans buddy up once more with their giant robot friends in understanding the history of the latter on Earth, in order that the future of the former can be protected. We then turn the focus to a drama that sees the sins of the past resurface fifteen years later when the sinner is unwittingly confronted with the sinned against, but what are the motives at play here? Next up is an a road trip to Vegas for this young lad who has hired a career crim to take out his step dad, but has second thoughts en route, followed with an American historical bio-pic telling the slow, meandering story of one of this country's greatest Poets. Attention is then turned to the fourth film in this teen franchise that sees the family on a road trip to celebrate a 90th birthday, but all is not lost for this wimpy kid, yet! We then wrap-up with the third offering in this Pixar CG animation film about a myriad of motor vehicles and a red sports car whose days on the racing circuit may just be behind him . . . or are they?

Whatever your taste in big screen film entertainment is this week - be it any of the six new releases as Previewed below, or those as doing the rounds currently on general release and as Reviewed and Previewed in previous Blog Posts here at Odeon Online, be cordially invited to share your movie going thoughts, opinions and observations by leaving your relevant, succinct and appropriate views in the Comments section below this or any other Post. We'd love to hear from you, and in the meantime, enjoy your cinema experience this week.

'TRANSFORMERS : THE LAST KNIGHT' (Rated M) - Michael Bay here Directs once again this fifth instalment in this hugely successful Sci-Fi action franchise, that launched in 2007 with 'Transformers', then 'Revenge of the Fallen' in 2009, 'Dark of the Moon' in 2011, and 'Age of Extinction' in 2014. Those first four films cost a combined US$755M and have collectively returned at the global Box Office US$3,774B. Not bad for a franchise that began its life as a children's toy line back in 1984 made by American toy manufacturer Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara Tomy. The franchise has gone on to spawn animated television series, comic books, graphic novels, video games, a theme park ride at several Universal Parks & Resorts, and of course a burgeoning film franchise.  Now in 2017 and for a cool US$217M budget, Michael Bay is back allegedly for the last time as Director, with 'The Last Knight' that sees Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci reprising their roles from 'Age of Extinction' as Cade Yeager, and Joshua Joyce respectively. In this instalment Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson, reprise their roles from the first three films also. A 'Bumblebee' spin-off film Directed by Travis Knight in his live action film debut is due for release mid-2018, with 'Transformers 6' due in mid-2019.

And so to this gripping instalment. In the absence of Autobot leader Optimus Prime (but not for long methinks), humankind have gone to war against the Transformers. To save our fragile planet Cade Yaeger forms an unlikely partnership with young Chevrolet Camaro Autobot Bumblebee (voiced by Erik Aadahl); an English Lord, Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) an astronomer and historian who knows a thing or two about the history of the Transformers on Earth; and an Oxford University Professor of English Literature, Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock). Needing to unlock the age old hidden secrets of why the Transformers keep returning to Earth is the key to safeguarding our future. Also starring  the voice talents of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, John Goodman as Hound and Omar Sy as Hot Rod. Expect action set pieces writ large, destruction on a grand scale, the crunching of metal, lots of shouting and history rewritten!

'UNA' (Rated M) - this film screened in Official Competition at the very recent Sydney Film Festival where it had its Australian Premier, although it's World Premier screening was at the Telluride Film Festival in early September last year. Directed by renowned Australian theatre Director Benedict Andrews in his feature film debut, 'Una' is based on the David Harrower stage play 'Blackbird'. Here, Una Spencer (Rooney Mara) tracks down Ray Brooks (Ben Mendelssohn), who, fifteen years previously when Una was a minor, sexually abused her. Having served his time in prison for his crime and carved out a new and happy life for himself subsequently, Ray's peaceful contended existence is threatened with the arrival of Una, but what are her motives. With Ray desperate to preserve his new life and family unit, is Una out for revenge or is she motivated by something else? An intense emotional drama surrounding the sins of the past coming back to haunt the present, with these two fractured personalities who are left in a head to head standoff as secrets and buried memories, unanswered questions and unresolved longings resurface. Also starring Riz Ahmed and Tara Fitzgerald.

'DETOUR' (Rated MA15+) - made by British Screenwriter and Director, Christopher Smith, and shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2016, this film went on general release in the US in late January this year, and only now reaches Australian cinemas, in limited screenings. Here law student Harper (Tye Sheridan) recruits career criminal Johnny Ray (Emory Cohen), whom he encounters in a bar one night, to murder his step-father Vincent (Stephen Moyer) who he blames for the car accident that has hospitalised his mother in a coma. Johnny Ray asks $20K to dispense with the step-father. The next morning Johhny Ray arrives with his stripper girlfriend Cherry (Bel Powley) to collect Harper to travel to Las Vegas together to complete the hit, unaware that Harper has already taken matters into his own hands. The road trip to Vegas is far from a smooth ride, as Johnny Ray has debts to settle en route, and Harper tries to cover up the tracks of his crime, and escape from Johnny Ray in one piece, ideally with Cherry in tow.

'A QUIET PASSION' (Rated PG) - this critically lauded film Written and Directed by English Screenwriter, Director, novelist and Actor Terence Davies tells the biographical story of American Poet Emily Dickinson who lived from 1830 until 1886 and who is now recognised as the most important Poet of 19th Century America. Here, Cynthia Nixon portrays Emily Dickinson charting her life from young schoolgirl growing up in Amherst, Massachusetts, to her later years as a reclusive, unrecognised talent yet still maintaining close links with her family and writing poetry prolifically, which would not go acknowledged until after her death. Thoughtful, emotional, nuanced - a character study that will reward the poetically minded historians amongst us. Also starring Emma Bell as the younger Emily Dickinson; Keith Carradine as Emily's father Edward; Joanna Bacon as Emily's mother Emily, Duncan Duff as Emily's brother Austin; and Jennifer Ehle as Emily's sister Lavina.

'THE DIARY OF A WIMPY KID : THE LONG HAUL' (Rated PG) - this fourth film in the series based on the books by Jeff Kinney, launched in 2010 with the inaugural 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' as Directed by Thor Freudenthal. This was followed up by 'Rodrick Rules' in 2011, 'Dog Days' in 2012 and now 'The Long Haul' in 2017, with the three latter films all Directed by David Bowers. Those first three films in the franchise were made for a combined US$58M, and collected US$225M at the worldwide Box Office, with this latest instalment costing US$22M to bring to the big screen, having grossed since its mid-May release Stateside US$30M. Here, young Greg Heffley's (Jason Drucker) summer holiday plans of idling about are thwarted when his parents announce a road trip for the whole family to help celebrate an elderly relatives 90th birthday. Cue sighs of disbelief at this daunting prospect, but all is not lost when Greg learns that this family outing coincides with a video gaming Expo at which Greg's YouTube hero will be present. Greg therefore hatches a cunning plan to attend the Expo, and secure his fifteen minutes of fame. Also starring Alicia Silverstone as Mum, Susan; Tom Everett Scott as Dad, Frank; and Charlie Wright as brother, Rodrick. The film has received largely negative Reviews.

'CARS 3' (Rated G) - this is the third film in the successful animated 'Cars' franchise that charged full throttle onto our big screens in 2006 with 'Cars', followed up in 2011 with 'Cars 2'. Both of these instalments were Directed by John Lasseter, and both took a combined global Box Office haul of US$1,024B off a budget outlay of US$320M. The Pixar series has also spawned two animated television series, two short films, two spin-off films with 'Planes' in 2013 and 'Planes : Fire and Rescue' in 2014, and several Disneyland theme park rides. Now in 2017, strap yourself in and buckle up for a third offering brought to us by Director Brian Fee (who acted as a storyboard artist on the first two films), with John Lasseter taking an Executive Producer credit this time around. Here outshone, out manoeuvred, and outpaced by up and coming younger talent, Lightning McQueen (voiced again by Owen Wilson) finds himself being pushed out of the sport of motor racing that he has grown up with and which he loves. To help him get back his former glory and secure his place in a big race, he will need to rely on the help of young gun technician Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) and some inspiration from other friends, if he is to stand any chance of winning on Piston Cup Racing's grandest stage. Also starring the voice talents of Armie Hammer as new younger rival Jackson Storm, Bonnie Hunt, Chris Cooper, Larry the Cable Guy and a host of others. Made for US$175M, the film has so far taken US$81M since its release in the US just last week.

Six films this week offering something for almost everyone, once again. Whether family animated features are for you; or effects laden shoot 'em up, blast 'em down, loud & proud action Sci-Fi is your thing; or a teen road movie or indeed an adult drama fuelled road movie; or a historical bio-pic; or an emotional drama does it for you, then this week there is a film out there for you at your local theatre. Share your movie going thoughts with us afterwards, and meanwhile, I'll see you somewhere, sometime in the week ahead at your local Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Monday, 19 June 2017

THE MUMMY : Wednesday 14th June 2017.

'THE MUMMY' which I saw last week is an ancient Egyptian action adventure film and a reboot of the late '90's franchise that saw Brendan Fraser portraying the 1923 American explorer Rick O'Connell as he battles against the revived corpse of an Egyptian Priest, Imhotep, as he rises back into a force to be reckoned with and intent on destroying the world as we know it. That 1999 film Directed and Written by Stephen Sommers went on to spawn two sequels - in 2001, 'The Mummy Returns' and in 2008 'The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor'. The three films were made for a combined budget of US$323M and raked in at the global Box Office a collective US$1.42B. These films also saw a spin-off series kick starting with 'The Scorpion King' in 2002 with Dwayne Johnson in the title role and three direct to video follow-ups in 2008, 2012 and 2015. Of course the Mummy has a long history in film lore, going back most notably to 1932's 'The Mummy' Directed by Karl Freund and starring one Boris Karloff as our bandaged from head to toe ancient antagonist. Now in 2017, 'The Mummy' is once again resurrected, dusted off and brought out to play. This time Directed by Alex Kurtzman and Co-Written by David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie this is the first instalment in 'The Dark Universe' series of films that will subsequently see reboots of 'Bride of Frankenstein' in 2019, 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' also in 2019, 'The Invisible Man' in 2020, 'Van Helsing' and 'Wolf Man' both thereafter. The film Premiered in Sydney on 22nd May, went on general release in the US and Australia in early June, cost US$125M to bring to our screens and has so far grossed US$296M, despite fairly lacklustre Reviews.

In a fairly lengthy introductory prologue we first see a group of Crusader Knights in the early twelfth century entombing one of their dead with a large ancient Egyptian ruby stone. We then fast forward nine hundred years or so to modern day London. As daylight breaks through the deep excavation for a new cross city tunnel, in the process exposing a long deeply buried catacomb housing numerous ancient tombs of those Crusader Knights buried there centuries before. Whilst the construction crew meddle about amongst the ancient ruins scratching their heads, a mysterious figure appears and takes control of the site. He ventures upon a set of hieroglyphics in a circular mural etched onto a wall in the cavernous subterranean burial ground, that indicates the history surrounding Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was stripped of her birthright to succeed her Pharaoh father as the ruler over all of ancient Egypt and its lands. Filled with rage, and an overarching desire to rule, she kills her father, his wife and his new born son, and promptly sells her soul to the Egyptian God, Set. Before she can give Set physical form, she is found out by her fathers priests who capture the would be Queen, and mummify Ahmanet alive in a sarcophagus for all eternity burying it in a far away land deep underground and encased in a bath of mercury so holding her monstrous form captive for ever. But, we are told, nothing lasts forever!

After the history lesson, we are instantly transported to modern day Iraq and here we are introduced to Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) as a marauding soldier of fortune plundering (or liberating as he likes to put it) ancient artefacts for sale to the highest bidder. Caught in a gun battle with local insurgents with his partner and friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), after an air support strike by American troops on the ground in the area, a huge hole in the ground opens up, and the insurgents are sent running. When the dust has settled, and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) has arrived on the scene, the three venture down into the big hole in the ground to explore what lies beneath, under orders from US Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) that they have two hours to do so, otherwise their flight outta there goes without them.

Underground, they are greeted by an ancient burial site with large statues, an intricate pulley system and weights designed to keep something captive, and a river of flowing mercury leading into a central pool. Halsey concludes that this is in fact not a burial site, but a prison, designed to keep something or someone in. In his haste, Morton unleashes the pulley system so setting in place a chain reaction whereby the ancient sarcophagus containing the mummified remains of Princess Ahmanet is raised out of its pool of mercury. It is duly raised to the surface and hurriedly packed onto a transport plane bound for England with Greenway, Morton, Vail and Halsey on board.

By now Ahmanet is already awakened in spiritual form and is doing her level best from beyond her grave to wreak havoc on her flight. The first casualty is Vail, who was bitten by a camel spider when they were first investigating the underground chamber from which the sarcophagus was raised. His body is possessed by Ahmanet and he falls under her spell killing Greenway in the process, before turning on Morton and Halsey with deadly intent. Morton puts three bullets into Vail which stops him in his tracks. The plane is then struck by a huge flock of crows which crash through the cockpit windows and into the engines, sending the transporter into a nosedive from which it cannot recover. All those on board are killed, except for Halsey who is parachuted out at the last minute with Morton's help.

The next day, we are in a morgue somewhere in Oxford, with several bagged and tagged corpses from the downed transporter flight. Morton is one of those bagged and tagged corpses, who wakens wondering WTF is going on. Stumbling around the  dimly lit room he is greeted by the undead body of Vail (channelling Griffin Dunne as the undead rotting corpse of Jack Goodman in 1981's classic 'An American Werewolf in London') who explains that he has been chosen and cursed by Ahmanet as the replacement vessel for the physical manifestation of Set, and hence her reason for bringing him back to life.

Meanwhile Ahmanet's mummy is set free from its sarcophagus in the as yet unclaimed wreckage of the transporter plane that has been spread far and wide over the English countryside. To regenerate its decomposed body, Ahmanet feeds on rescue workers by sucking the life out of them, and turning them in the process into her zombie underlings. With control over Morton's thoughts, Ahmanet lures him and Halsey to a chapel, where she intends to sacrifice Morton's body using the discovered Dagger of Set, with which to manifest Set in a new physical form. Morton and Halsey successfully manage to evade Ahmanet and her zombie minions, for a short while at least, until a group of unknown soldiers arrive and subdue her.

It turns out that said unknown soldiers were working for 'Prodigium' a secret organisation headed up by one Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) whose purpose in life is to track down supernatural threats, evil monsters and deadly creatures, and that their base is located under the Natural History Museum in London. It also turns out that Halsey is in the employ of Prodigium as an Agent. Jekyll reveals that Ahmanet cursed Morton when he unlocked her tomb, and that the only way to prevent Ahmanet from realising her ambition is to let her carry through with her plan for Set to possess Morton, so that Set, and his evil, can be destroyed forever. Needless, to say, this plan doesn't sit so well with Morton, and as a result the pair come to blows within the secure confines of Jekyll's offices.

While this is going on, Ahmanet being held captive and drip fed mercury to keep her subdued, possesses one of the Prodigium technicians, that sets in motion as escape plan that sees Morton and Halsey charge through the Museum and out into the streets of London. Ahmanet, having escaped her chained captivity summons to rise from the dead the army of Crusaders to thwart the Prodigium soldiers, hunt down Morton, and at the same time conjure up a massive sand storm to engulf all of London.

With the Dagger of Set retrieved earlier on, Ahmanet only needs the ancient ruby stone laid to rest with the buried Crusader all those centuries ago to to be able to free Set into physical form. Having been discovered by the Prodigium team during their clearing of the site, it is there for the picking by Ahmanet. Reuniting the Dagger of Set with the ruby into the dagger's pommel, a fight breaks out between Morton and Ahmanet with her strength being too much for his mere fragile human form. Succumbing to her overbearing power, he allows himself to be embraced by her, but as a ruse to steal the dagger, and thrust it into his own heart, so allowing his body to be possessed by Set. Now with greater strength than Ahmanet, but still half Morton, he sucks the life out of her so returning Ahmanet to the shrivelled up ancient mummified body that she was.

This is a fast moving effects laden fantasy adventure film, the like of which we have seen countless times before in Sci-Fi and horror genre movies that really deliver a bigger and better result probably for a whole lot less. Tom Cruise, plays the likable tongue in cheek, wisecracking rogue that we have seem him play with a safe consistency throughout his career, Russell Crowe phones it in as Jekyll and his unhinged alter ego Edward Hyde, Annabelle Wallis as the eye candy love interest and really serves no other purpose, and Sofia Boutella as the heavily made up ancient evil this time female antagonist puts in a good enough turn as our resident (yummy) Mummy! The action set pieces are impressive enough, there are moments of humour, the performances from the principle cast are OK, but, is this enough to carry the film that carries the weight of expectation of bigger and bolder things to come from Universal's newly launched 'The Dark Universe' series, of which this is the first instalment. The film is worth a look, but don't go in expecting too much.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-  

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Birthday's to share this week : 18th - 24th June 2017.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Frances McDormand does on 23rd June - check out my tribute to this Birthday Girl turning 60, at the end of this feature.

Do you also share your birthday with a well known, highly regarded & famous Actor or Actress; share your special day with a Director, Producer, Writer, Cinematographer, Singer/Songwriter or Composer of repute; or share an interest in whoever might notch up another year in the coming seven days? Then, look no further! Whilst there will be too many to mention in this small but not insignificant and beautifully written and presented Blog, here are the more notable and noteworthy icons of the big screen, and the small screen, that you will recognise, and that you might just share your birthday with in the week ahead. If so, Happy Birthday to you from Odeon Online!

Sunday 18th June
  • Paul McCartney - Born 1942, turns 75 - Singer | Songwriter | Composer | Producer | Writer | Actor | Director
  • Isabella Rossellini - Born 1952, turns 65 - Actress | Director | Writer | Producer
  • Barbara Broccoli - Born 1960, turns 57 - Producer   
Monday 19th June
  • Gena Rowlands - Born 1930, turns 87 - Actress 
  • Kathleen Turner - Born 1954, turns 63 - Actress | Producer
  • Zoe Saldana - Born 1978, turns 39 - Actress | Producer | Writer | Director  
  • Paul Dano - Born 1984, turns 33 - Actor | Producer | Writer | Director | Singer
Tuesday 20th June
  • Martin Landau - Born 1928, turns 89 - Actor | Producer
  • Danny Aiello - Born 1933, turns 84 - Actor | Producer
  • Stephen Frears - Born 1941, turns 76 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor
  • John Goodman - Born 1952, turns 65 - Actor | Producer | Singer
  • Robert Rodriguez - Born 1968, turns 49 - Director | Producer | Writer | Editor | Actor | Cinematographer | Composer | Songwriter | VFX Producer | Cameraman
  • Josh Lucas - Born 1971, turns 46 - Actor | Producer  
  • Christoper Mintz-Plasse - Born 1989, turns 28 - Actor 
  • Olympia Dukakis - Born 1931, turns 86 - Actress | Producer
  • Nicole Kidman - Born 1967, turns 50 - Actress | Producer | Singer
Wednesday 21st June
  • Juliette Lewis - Born 1973, turns 44 - Actress | Singer | Songwriter | Producer | Director
  • Lana Wachowski - Born 1965, turns 52 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Chris Pratt - Born 1979, turns 38 - Actor | Singer
  • Benjamin Walker - Born 1982, turns 35 - Actor   
Thursday 22nd June
  • Kris Kristofferson - Born 1936, turns 81 - Singer | Songwriter | Composer | Actor 
  • Bruce Campbell - Born 1958, turns 59 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer 
  • Randy Couture - Born 1963, turns 54 - Actor | UFC Champion
  • Uwe Boll - Born 1965, turns 52 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor
  • Meryl Streep - Born 1949, turns 68 - Actress | Singer  
  • Lindsay Wagner - Born 1949, turns 68 - Actress | Producer
Friday 23rd June
  • Frances McDormand - Born 1957, turns 60 - Actress | Producer
  • Selma Blair - Born 1972, turns 45 - Actress
  • Bryan Brown - Born 1947, turns 70 - Actor | Producer
  • Russell Mulcahy - Born 1953, turns 64 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Joss Whedon - Born 1964, turns 53 - Writer | Producer | Director | Songwriter | Actor
  • Joel Edgerton - Born 1974, turns 43 - Actor | Writer | Producer | Director  
Saturday 24th June
  • Peter Weller - Born 1947, turns 70 - Actor | Director | Producer
  • Dan Gilroy - Born 1959, turns 58 - Writer | Director | Producer
  • Iain Glen - Born 1961, turns 56 - Actor | Producer
  • Nancy Allen - Born 1950, turns 67 - Actress 
Frances Louise McDormand was born in Chicago, Illinois and was adopted by a Canadian couple - mother Noreen Nickleson, a registered nurse and Vernon McDormand, a Disciples of Christ Pastor. She has a sister, Dorothy, who is an ordained Minister and Chaplain for the Disciples of Christ too, and another sibling - all three being adopted by the McDormand's who had no biological children of their own. Her father moved the family around a lot during their children's upbringing as part of his role with the Church, to small centres of population across Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee before eventually settling in Pennsylvania in the small community of Monessen. The young Frances attended Monessen High School from where she graduated in 1975. In 1979 she graduated from Bethany College in West Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in theatre studies. In 1982 she graduated from the Yale School of Drama with a Master of Fine Arts Degree, and where she was a room mate of Holly Hunter for a time.

McDormand scored her film debut in the Coen Brothers first feature film offering in 1984, with 'Blood Simple', and she would go onto star in many of the Coen's films subsequently over the years, right up until the most recent 'Hail, Caesar' in 2016.  From this point on there was really no looking back for the young Actress. In 1985 she scored appearances on a single episode of 'Hunter', on six episodes of 'Hill Street Blues', in television movie 'Scandal Street' and in feature film 'Crimewave' written by the Coen Brothers and Directed by Sam Raimi. 1987 yielded 'Raising Arizona' for Writer/Directors Joel & Ethan Coen and co-starring Nicolas Cage, Holly Hunter and John Goodman. Seven episodes on 'Leg Work' before the highly acclaimed multi-award winning Alan Parker Directed 'Mississippi Burning' with Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe in 1988. 'Chattahoochee' with Gary Oldman and Dennis Hopper saw out the '80's.

Ken Loach's 'Hidden Agenda' with Brian Cox opened the '90's, and then Sam Raimi's 'Darkman' with Liam Neeson, and then an uncredited appearance in the Coen Brother's 'Miller's Crossing' with Albert Finney, followed up closely by an uncredited role in the Coen's Brothers 'Barton Fink' with John Turturro. 'The Butcher's Wife', 'Passed Away' and Robert Altman's 'Shortcuts' with an ensemble cast came along in 1993. John Boorman's 'Beyond Rangoon' and crime drama 'Palookaville' came before perhaps one of McDormand's most noted roles as heavily pregnant police officer in small town mid-western USA 'Fargo' for the Coen Brothers once again, and also starring William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare. For her performance as Marge Gunderson, McDormand won the Best Actress Academy Award, the SAG Award and was nominated for the Golden Globe and the BAFTA.

She followed this up with 'Primal Fear' with Richard Gere in 1996, John Sayle's 'Lone Star', Bruce Beresford's historical WWII POW drama 'Paradise Road' with Glenn Close, 'Johnny Skidmarks' with John Lithgow, 'Madeline' and 'Talk of Angels' seeing out the decade. In the meantime, there were appearances on television series and made for TV movies.

Curtis Hanson's 'Wonder Boys' with Michael Douglas opened up the new decade with a fanfare of award wins and nominations, followed in quick succession by Cameron Crowe's 'Almost Famous' with Billy Crudup which also picked up a swathe of award wins and nominations, including the Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG nods for Best Supporting Actress. These in turn led to another outing for those talented Writer/Directors the Coen Brothers in 2001's 'The Man Who Wasn't There' with Billy Bob Thornton. The next year saw 'Laurel Canyon', then Michael Caton-Jones 'City by the Sea' with Robert De Niro, followed by 'Something's Gotta Give' in 2003 with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.

2005 brought the acclaimed 'North Country' with Charlize Theron, in which again McDormand was nominated for the Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG Awards in her supporting Actress capacity. Sci-Fi actioner 'Aeon Flux' followed immediately afterward that same year with Charlize Theron once again, and then Romantic Dramedy 'Friends with Money' alongside Jennifer Aniston, RomCom 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' with Amy Adams, and another outing for the Writer/Director pairing of the Coen Brothers with 'Burn After Reading' with an all star cast that included George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, J.K.Simmons and Tilda Swinton.

'This Must Be the Place' with Sean Penn opened 2011, and that same year the third instalment in Michael Bay's mega Sci-Fi action franchise 'Transformers : Dark of the Moon', before the little more sedate 'Moonrise Kingdom' for Director and Co-Writer Wes Anderson with Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton again. This was followed up by 'Promised Land' for Gus Van Sant with Matt Damon and then most recently 'Hail, Caesar' for those Coen Brothers again and featuring an ensemble cast that included George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson and Tilda Swinton once more.

In the meantime, there has also been the television mini-series 'Olive Kitteridge' in which McDormand plays the title role of the four episode series alongside screen husband Richard Jenkins. For her role McDormand was nominated for a Golden Globe, won a Primetime Emmy and won a SAG Award amongst a raft of others too. She has also lent her voice talents to an episode of 'The Simpsons', and to animated feature films 'Madagascar 3 : Europe's Most Wanted' and 'The Good Dinosaur'.

Next up for McDormand is 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri' for Writer/Director Martin McDonagh and co-starring Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Abbie Cornish. This film is due for release towards the back end of this year. Currently filming and due in March 2018 is animated action comedy for Writer/Director Wes Anderson with 'Isle of Dogs' featuring McDormand's voice talents together with those of an ensemble cast that takes in Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton once more, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Bryan Cranston, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Liev Schreiber and Greta Gerwig.

All up McDormand has 62 acting credits to her name and two as Producer. She has amassed 55 award wins and a further 51 nominations including the Academy Award win for 'Fargo' and three others Oscar nods for 'Mississippi Burning', 'Almost Famous' and 'North Country', plus five Golden Globe nominations and one win for the ensemble cast in 'Short Cuts', a Primetime Emmy for 'Olive Kitteridge', three BAFTA nominations, and the SAG Award win for 'Fargo' and 'Olive Kitteridge' and three other nods. She also has a distinguished stage acting career too with awards wins and nominations for 'A Streetcar Named Desire' in 1988, 'The Country Girl' in 2008 and 'Good People' in 2011. McDormand is only one of twelve Actresses in history to win the 'Triple Crown of Acting' for her Academy Award win with 'Fargo', 'for her Tony Award win with the Broadway stage play 'Good People' and her Primetime Emmy Award win with 'Olive Kitteridge'.

McDormand has been married to Screenwriter and Director Joel Coen since 1984, which may have helped her secure so many roles in the Coen Brothers filmography over the years, and they have an adopted son from Paraguay - Pedro McDormand Coen.

Frances McDormand - ageing gracefully no doubt; still very much at the top of your game, in demand and sought after; a character Actor of repute and with the accolades to prove it; always watchable and entertaining; grounded and real. Happy 60th Birthday to you Frances, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-