Wednesday, 18 January 2017

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 19th January 2017.

Last week I reported on the recent Golden Globe Awards that were held on 8th January. Two days before that however, on 6th January at the historic Avalon nightclub in Hollywood, the 6th International AACTA Awards (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) were held. These awards, which follow up Decembers Australian only awards, recognise international film achievement regardless of country or origin, in seven distinct categories. Hosted by Australian Actor Daniel MacPherson, and kicking off 2017's awards season, the star studded event played out with the eventual winners and grinners from those nominated a month earlier, being as follows :-

* Best Film : 'LA LA LAND',
* Best Direction : MEL GIBSON for 'Hacksaw Ridge',
* Best Actor : CASEY AFFLECK for 'Manchester By The Sea' (released in Australia on 2nd February).
* Best Actress : EMMA STONE for 'La La Land',
* Best Supporting Actor : DEV PATEL for 'Lion' (released in Australia today, see below),
* Best Supporting Actress : NICOLE KIDMAN for 'Lion' (released in Australia today, see below),
* Best Screenplay : KENNETH LONERGAN for 'Manchester By The Sea' (released in Australia on 2nd February).

Turning attention to this weeks latest release films, we have just two to tease you out on a hot Summer's day or night with some air conditioned relief in a cinema of your choosing. We launch with the third instalment in this high octane extreme adventure franchise that sees a heavily tattooed thrill seeking rogue athletic dude come back to life and save the planet from a potential weapon of worldwide destruction and a few crooked governments along the way. Hold on tight! Then we slow down the pace somewhat about the true story of one man's journey to trace his real family back in India from the comfort, security and love of his adopted Australian home. Take your Kleenex!

As always, your thoughts, opinions and observations are welcomed by your fellow readers here at Odeon Online so feel free to record a relevant, pertinent and unbiased Comment below this or any other Post when you have sat through your film of choice in the week ahead. We look forward to hearing from you, and in the interim, enjoy your movie going experience.

'xXx : THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE' (Rated M) - the 'xXx' franchise of films is hardly going to go down in history as the most successful, most groundbreaking, most acclaimed series of action movies to grace our screens, having grossed just $349M from the first two instalments off the back of a US$157M combined production budget. The 2002 launch film 'xXx' starred Vin Diesel as our thrill seeking extreme sports stuntman and rebel athlete Xander Cage who becomes a reluctant spy for the National Security Agency tasked with hunting down a bunch of bad-ass Ruskies. That film was Directed by Rob Cohen and grossed US$275M from its US$70M budget and received generally favourable reviews. The 2005 follow up however, was another story completely. Directed by Lee Tamahori for US$87M 'xXx : The State of the Union' starred this time around Ice Cube as XXX Agent Darius Stone, as Diesel had a scheduling conflict with another movie he was committed to at the time. That film grossed just US$71M and was received poorly by critics. Now in 2017 Xander Cage is back even though he was killed off to explain his absence from the second film. Going back as far 2006 Diesel stated that he would return as our titular hero with a look and feel more in keeping with his successful first instalment. It's taken eleven years to bring that dream to our cinemas and here we have it, and there is talk already of Diesel reprising his role for a fourth film which could into production as early as mid-year this year.

This time Directed by D.J.Caruso, Co-Produced by Vin Diesel and seeing a return to form as the risen from the dead Xander Cage, our extreme athlete comes out of self imposed exile recruited by the CIA to track down a weapon which can control all of the worlds military satellites. Known as Pandora's Box, in the hands of one Xiang (Donnie Yen), this weapon could have dire consequences on the world as we know it. And so Xander Cage recruits a crack team of like minded thrill seekers all with a particular set of skills to aid him in his quest to bring down Xiang. Conspiracy and corruption will ensue as Cage and his cohorts get wrapped up in it at the highest levels of world governments, including their own. Seeing Samuel L. Jackson return for the third time to the franchise as NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons, with Toni Collette, Ruby Rose and Tony Jaa amongst others you can be sure of high octane action, mind boggling stunts, explosive set pieces and a thumping sound track, with Cage looking positively 'dope' in the process!

'LION' (Rated PG) - this drama film Directed by first time Garth Davis is based on the autobiographical book 'A Long Way Home' by Saroo Brierley and tell the story of his life as played out by Sunny Pawar as the young Saroo back home in India, and Dev Patel as the older Saroo at home in Australia. Already highly acclaimed by critics the world over, the film was made for just US$12M and has so far grossed US$19M plus twenty award wins and a further 62 nominations including the yet to be announced winners for this years BAFTA's, as well as this years yet to be released Academy Award nominee announcements. The story here centres around five year old Saroo who unwittingly boards a train for Calcutta and gets off 1600 kilometres from home, in a strange land and ends up in an orphanage. Some time later he learns that he had been adopted by Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham respectively) in Tasmania, Australia. Fast track two decades and Saroo moves to Melbourne to study hospitality management, and falls in with a group who persuade him to track down his real family back in India using Google Earth. This is his story. Take a box of tissues for this weepie tale of loss, hope, belonging and identity.

With just two new filmic offerings coming to a big screen near you each giving us something different, together with those still out on general release, you have ample opportunity to catch a movie of choice in the run up to the end of the (Australian) school summer holidays. Then, share your thoughts with us here. In the meantime, I'll see you somewhere, sometime in the week ahead at the Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Birthday's to share this week : 15th - 21st January 2017.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Damien Chazelle does on 19th January - check out my tribute to this Birthday Lad turning 32, 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 15th January
  • Mario Van Peebles - Born 1957, turns 60 - Actor | Director | Producer | Writer | Singer | Songwriter
  • James Nesbitt - Born 1965, turns 52 - Actor
  • Ryan Corr - Born 1989, turns 28 - Actor  
Monday 16th January
  • John Carpenter - Born 1948, turns 69 - Director | Writer | Producer | Actor | Composer | Songwriter | Musician
  • Debbie Allen - Born 1950, turns 67 - Actress | Producer | Director | Choreographer | Singer | Songwriter  
Tuesday 17th January
  • Zooey Deschanel - Born 1980, turns 37 - Actress | Producer | Singer | Songwriter | Composer
  • James Earl Jones - Born 1931, turns 86 - Actor
  • Kevin Reynolds - Born 1952, turns 65 - Director | Writer
  • Brian Helgeland - Born 1961, turns 56 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Jim Carrey - Born 1962, turns 55 - Actor | Writer | Producer | Singer
  • Naveen Andrews - Born 1969, turns 48 - Actor
  • Leigh Whannell - Born 1977, turns 40 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor  
Wednesday 18th January
  • John Boorman - Born 1933, turns 84 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Kevin Costner - Born 1955, turns 62 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Mark Rylance - Born 1960, turns 57 - Actor
  • David Ayer - Born 1968, turns 49 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Dave Bautista - Born 1969, turns 48 - Actor | Producer
  • Jason Segel - Born 1980, turns 37 - Actor | Producer | Writer | Singer | Songwriter  
Thursday 19th January
  • Antoine Fuqua - Born 1966, turns 51 - Director | Producer
  • Nash Edgerton - Born 1973, turns 44 - Stuntman | Actor | Writer | Producer | Director
  • Damien Chazelle - Born 1985, turns 32 - Director | Producer | Writer  
Friday 20th January
  • Tom Baker - Born 1934, turns 83 - Actor
  • David Lynch - Born 1946, turns 71 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor | Editor | Composer | Singer | Songwriter
  • Skeet Ulrich - Born 1970, turns 47 - Actor
  • Omar Sy - Born 1978, turns 39 - Actor | Producer | Writer  
Saturday 21st January
  • Luke Grimes - Born 1984, turns 33 - Actor
  • Geena Davis - Born 1956, turns 61 - Actress | Producer
Damien Sayre Chazelle was born in Providence, Rhode Island to mother Celia Martin, a writer and Professor of History at The College of New Jersey, and father Bernard Chazelle, a Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University. He has a sister Anna, who is an actress and circus performer. He attended the comprehensive public Princeton High School in New Jersey where film making was a keen interest for him, but he got sidetracked by the possibility of a music career as a jazz drummer which was to become the inspiration for his breakout film 'Whiplash' courtesy of an intense music teacher. He knew though that he never had the talent to make it big musically, so instead he reverted back to his first love and studied film making in the Visual and Environmental Studies Department at Harvard University from where he graduated in 2007.

Chazelle's big screen debut came in 2009 with the jazz musical film 'Guy and Medeline on a Park Bench' which he Directed, Co-Produced, Wrote, Co-Edited and acted as Cinematographer on. The film performed very well critically, and was widely shown around the worldwide festival circuit where it picked up a handful of awards and nominations. The film features a cast of non-professional actors, but accomplished musicians nonetheless. Chazelle also provide the lyrics for the films original music score.

In 2013 Chazelle wrote and Directed an eighteen minute short film called 'Whiplash' which was to be the pre-cursor for his highly acclaimed feature film of the same name released in 2014. Telling the story of the relationship between an ambitious jazz student, played by Miles Teller and his abusive domineering music teacher played by J.K.Simmons, the film went on to win three Academy Awards, one Golden Globe, three BAFTA's and a SAG award amongst its haul of 91 wins in total and a further 135 nominations. The film cost just US$3.5M to make and raked in US$49M at the Box Office.

Also in 2013 Chazelle took Writer credits on the supernatural horror drama film 'The Last Exorcism Part II', and 'Grand Piano' an English language Spanish film telling the story of a pianist making a comeback performance under threat from a sniper who has targeted him for death if he dare play one wrong note. The film starred Elijah Wood and John Cusack, and received largely favourable Reviews. In 2016 Chazelle also Co-Wrote the Sci-Fi psychological thriller '10, Cloverfield Lane' which took US$109M at the Box Office from its US$15M production budget and again garnered generally positive Reviews.

This gave way to the recently released 'La La Land' which has received universal critical acclaim. This romantic musical comedy drama film was Written and Directed by Chazelle, made for US$30M and has so far grossed US$91M, and has picked up 112 award wins including a history making seven Golden Globe wins, and 180 nominations including eleven BAFTA nods yet to be announced and excluding the yet be announced Academy Award nominations also. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in the two lead roles, with John Legend, J.K.Simmons and Rosemary DeWitt amongst others supporting. 

Next up for Chazelle is 'First Man' which will be Directed by Chazelle, teaming up with Ryan Gosling again in the lead role as Neil Armstrong in this biopic of the first man on the Moon based on the best selling book by James Hansen. All up Chazelle has seven Writer credits to his name, five as Director, three as Producer and two for Soundtrack lyrics. He has amassed 46 award wins and a further 104 nominations excluding this years Academy Award nominations for 'La La Land' which are still to be announced at the time of writing. Chazelle was married for four years to Writer, Producer and Director Jasmine McGlade from 2010 to 2014.

Damien Chazelle - the current toast of Hollywood and the Darling of Tinsel Town, riding the crest of a wave of success that started in no small way with a debut feature and is still gaining momentum. At just seven years in the movie business you've come a long way in a short period of time - congratulations on your achievements and recent awards success, and Happy Birthday to you Damien from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Friday, 13 January 2017

PASSENGERS : Tuesday 10th January 2017.

'PASSENGERS' which I saw this week is from Norwegian film Director Morten Tyldum who previously brought us 2014's 'The Imitation Game'. Here he Directs this Sci-Fi adventure offering set in deep space. Made for US$110M and released in the US just before Christmas, the film has so far made US$181M and has seemingly fared less well with critics whose general response has been mixed at best, than it has with the movie going public. Having read the negative press, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, and feel it fares better than the critics give it credit for.

The story here takes place during some undisclosed future date aboard the starship 'Avalon', a state of the art vessel transporting 5,000 Earth inhabitants and some 250 crew to colonise a far away planet called Homestead II. That planet is so far away from Earth that the journey takes 120 years, and those 'passengers' and crew are in hibernation pods for the entirety of the journey, with the super advanced spacecraft on autopilot. The intention is that the passengers will awaken four months before arrival at Homestead II, and the crew one month before them, in order for everyone to assimilate to each other, their new surroundings, the prospect of life in a galaxy far far away, to learn new skills and to prepare for a fresh start at life. There is no going back.

Early on we see Avalon pass through a meteor cloud, and using its defensive shield manages to get through largely unscathed until we see a huge chunk of space rock the size of a football stadium come into view and headed on a collision course. It impacts and is deflected, but the jolt to the ships infrastructure causes a malfunction in one hibernation pod - that of mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) who awakens thinking that he has arrived at Homestead II already, and the requisite 120 years has passed. After a day or two however, he comes to realise that nothing could be further from the truth, largely by the absence of anyone else. He searches through the mighty Avalon looking for others, interacting with various holographic beings passing out information, instructions and intelligence and learns too that the ship left earth only thirty years ago, and its destination is still ninety years away. How is this possible?

Resigned to his fate, Preston goes about his daily routines using all the facilities available to the passengers once they have woken up from their hibernation - restaurants, cinema, basketball gym, and the bar where he is able to interact with mechanical robot bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen) for some kind of companionship.

He also investigates the ships every corner to ascertain what he is dealing with, what resources are available and if there is a means of re-hibernation, but there is not. However, some areas are beyond his ability to access given that he is a lowly mechanical engineer who gained free passage to Homestead II on account of his necessary skills. One such area that 'is beyond his pay grade' is the main deck where the ships controls and diagnostic systems are housed, which he tries fruitlessly to access for a prolonged period, but to no avail.

Contemplating suicide after traipsing around the ship all on his lonesome for many months, he happens upon the hibernation pod of Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence). He reads her digital profile and we learn she is a journalist, a writer, her family history, and Preston instantly becomes infatuated by her. After some soul searching and deliberation over many weeks he decides to wake up Aurora, but keep the truth from her about how her pod opened, other than it was another malfunction.

Initially Lane goes through the same emotions that Preston did over a year ago now, seeking ways to re-hibernate, or turn the ship around, but when she can see that everything she suggests has already been attempted by him, she resigns herself to her fate. In time the two fall for each other and become lovers. She starts writing a book, and the pair take full advantage of their seclusion, their surroundings and everything they have available to them.

This carries on for a year, with the two making the most of their lives abroad the Avalon, until Arthur inadvertently lets out that it is the anniversary of Preston waking up Lane. At first Lane cannot believe what she is hearing, and then her anger turns physical and emotional as she deliberately distances herself from Preston, accusing him of what is tantamount to murder.

Shortly after this as Preston is trying to explain himself over the Avalon's PA system, they hear the voice of Chief Deck Officer Gus Mancuso (Laurence Fishburn) who has been woken by another pod malfunction. Mancuso has higher authority and so gains them access to the main deck which earlier Preston had spent tireless hours trying to access. Using the ships diagnostic systems they learn of multiple failures in the ships infrastructure and systems, which if not repaired will have catastrophic effects. They learn that the damage was done two years ago during the meteor storm that initially woke up Preston, and so now it becomes a race against time to locate the damage and effect repairs. Mancuso meanwhile is in ill health and in the ships infirmary in the Autodoc (an automated medical diagnostics and treatment pod) they learn that he has just hours to live thanks to the manner in which his hibernation pod was opened and what he was exposed to in the process. Before he dies, he hands over his ID wrist band giving the pair unrestricted access to all areas.

As the ships systems increasingly fail putting at risk over five thousand souls, so the hunt is on for the damage. They locate several holes in the ships hull that caused damage to the computer that administers the ships reactor. Knowing that there are spare parts on the ship for every conceivable necessity, Preston retrieves a new computer bank to replace the damaged one. In doing so however, it causes further damage to the reactor. Preston realises that the fusion reactor needs to be vented, but this cannot be done from the inside due to damaged systems infrastructure, and so he needs to do so from outside the ship. Lane is reluctant to let him go knowing that she may never see him again, and she couldn't abide that thought despite her previous feelings of being cheated out of her future life.

With Lane inside and Preston outside the ship but in constant communication with each other, the reactor is successfully vented, but in the process he is ejected by the blast with such a force that it snaps his tether causing him to drift helplessly. With his spacesuit also damaged he is loosing oxygen rapidly and the temperature inside his suit begins to plummet. He apologies to Lane and bids his farewell. Not having any of it, Lane dons a spacesuit and ventures out to retrieve her man, eventually doing so. She slams him into the Autodoc where he is pronounced dead on arrival. Using the diagnostics and treatment functions she throws everything at Preston to revive him.

Eighty-eight years later the crew of the Avalon awaken as they approach Homestead II. Upon opening the doors to the main concourse area, Captain Norris (Andy Garcia) is greeted with a landscape of lush green vegetation, tall trees, and a small wooden house that Preston promised he would build Lane if they were together on Homestead II. Lane completed writing her book revealing that she elected to stay with Preston and finish writing her story of adventure and love aboard the Avalon where the two of them lived happily until they died.

There are nods aplenty to other films, including '2001:A Space Odyssey', 'Prometheus', 'The Martian', 'Gravity' and 'Titanic', and like all of these films 'Passengers' does not disappoint on the visuals which are stunning and expertly realised. With a small handful too of individuals battling against the odds; a story that you can relate to; and a chemistry between the two leads that make you believe, this is ultimately a love story wrapped up in a disaster epic where loss and despair give way to love and hope. I found Preston just a little too worldly wise as a lowly mechanical engineer who is able to craft metal trinkets, reprogramme robots, sidestep complex computer systems, design an eco system, and know how reactor fusion works amongst other things to be just a little too convenient and a little to MacGuiver esque. Preston's motives for waking up Lane are at the core of the film, and it is a matter for debate as to what you would do confronted with a lifetime of no other human contact, and ultimately her reaction and reconciliation to this is equally questionable. I enjoyed 'Passengers' much more than I thought I would, and I think you will too. It is worth seeing on the big screen for all the spectacle, complexity and the enormity of a sterile, untarnished brand spanking new floating mega shopping mall and entertainment complex hurtling through space on its 120 year journey to go boldly where no man has gone before!

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 12th January 2017.

And hot of the press and kicking off Awards Season, comes the news of this years Golden Globe winners and grinners. Presented for the 74th year on Sunday evening 8th January at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in Beverly Hills and hosted by Actor and Television Talk Show Host, Jimmy Fallon, the full force of Hollywood's glitterati and glamourati were out parading the red carpet in the lead up to the mind numbing sleep inducing three hour awards ceremony. 'La La Land' made Golden Globe history by winning an unprecedented seven awards - all those it was nominated for.

The winners in the film category are as given below :
* Best film - Drama : 'MOONLIGHT' (released in Australia on 26th January),
* Best film - Musical or Comedy : 'LA LA LAND',
* Best Animated Film : 'ZOOTOPIA',
* Best Foreign Language Film : 'ELLE',
* Best Actor Performance - Drama : CASEY AFFLECK for 'Manchester by the Sea' (released in Australia on 2nd February),
* Best Actress Performance - Drama : ISABELLE HUPERT for 'Elle',
* Best Actor Performance - Musical or Comedy : RYAN GOSLING for 'La La Land',
* Best Actress Performance - Musical or Comedy : EMMA STONE for 'La La Land',
* Best Supporting Actor Performance : AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON for 'Nocturnal Animals',
* Best Supporting Actress Performance : VIOLA DAVIS for 'Fences' (released in Australia on 9th February),
* Best Director : DAMIEN CHAZELLE for 'La La Land',
* Best Screenplay : DAMIEN CHAZELLE for 'La La Land',
* Best Music Score : JUSTIN HERWITZ for 'La La Land',
* Best Original Song : 'CITY OF STARS' for 'La La Land',
* The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award - MERYL STREEP.

And so to this weeks latest release films coming to your neighbourhood cinema. We kick off with a biographical drama of America's First Lady following the traumatic and dramatic events that rocked the world in November 1963. We then lurch into a weepie drama of love, time and death featuring an ensemble gathering brought in to rescue a damaged man from himself, before centering on three kid friendly films for the tail end of the school holidays with a middle school adventure of one lads determination to break every rule in the school book, followed by a senior school lad who builds mega trucks powered by some otherworldly friendly speed freak beings (not the 'Transformers' kind either!), before closing with a delightful animated feature set in 1880's Paris and one girls dream to escape the shackles of an orphanage by dancing her way to fame and fortune.

As always, be reminded to share your movie going thoughts, opinions and observations when you have sat through your film of choice in the week ahead, by leaving a constructive and relevant Comment below this or any other Post. With five films out this week, and a whole raft of other great cinema content still doing the rounds and as Reviewed and Previewed here in previous weeks, you have every reason to get out to your local movie theatre and catch a film of choice. Enjoy your movie. in the meantime.

'JACKIE' (Rated MA15+) - this biographical drama film follows the week or so immediately following the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy in late 1963 through the eyes of his wife Jackie Kennedy as played here to much critical acclaim by Natalie Portman in a career defining role. Directed by Pablo Larrain the film Premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in early September where it was in competition for the Golden Lion, and went on a very limited US release from early December, with a wider release to coincide with its international release. Made for US$9M it has so far recovered that investment, and Natalie Portman was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. So far the film has garnered 29 award wins and a further 98 nominations.

Following her husband's assassination at which she is present in the back of the car beside President John F. Kennedy while driving in the cavalcade in Dallas, Texas on that fateful day in November 1963, wife Jacqueline Kennedy is heavily traumatised and shattered as her world comes crashing in around her in a split second as shots ring out fired by Lee Harvey Oswald. In the days that follow and reeling from grief and the sudden loss she must come to terms with, Jackie must console her two young children, plan her husbands state funeral in a manner befitting the stature of the great man and reconcile herself with vacating the White House that she had so painstakingly and lovingly restored, and which she had expected to inhabit for a few more years yet . . . and happily. All the while, she strives to fully determine how history will define the legacy that JFK left behind, and how she too will be remembered as America's First Lady of a truly beloved assassinated President. Also starring Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy, Greta Gerwig, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt and Billy Crudup.

'COLLATERAL BEAUTY' (Rated M) - Directed by David Frankel whose previous credits include 'The Devil Wears Prada', 'Marley & Me' and 'Hope Springs', made for US$36M and so far making US$60M and starring an ensemble cast, you would be mistaken for thinking this was going to be a sure fire hit - but, this tear jerking drama has been critically panned. Starring Will Smith as Howard - a brilliant, creative charismatic advertising executive who suffers the incomprehensible loss of his young daughter, and so retreats within himself shutting out the world almost to the point of suicide. He believes that humans are motivated by three things - Love, Time and Death (we long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death!). And so in his isolation, and to gain some solace in his now shattered world he begins writing letters to Love, Time and Death. While his friends and concerned work colleagues try to reach out to him, he begins receiving personal responses to his letters, and then Love, Time and Death manifest themselves to him in human form. Little does he know that Love, Time and Death are portrayed by three struggling Actors (Keira Knightley as Love, Jacob Lattimore as Time and Helen Mirren as Death) hired by his concerned work colleagues Michael Pena, Edward Norton, Naomi Harris and Kate Winslet. In time he begins to see that even in the most tragic of circumstances, there can emerge meaning, beauty and redemption.

'MIDDLE SCHOOL : THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE' (Rated PG) - this family comedy offering from Director Steve Carr was released in the US in early October and is already out on DVD and BluRay over there. It was made for US$9M, has so far grossed US$21M and is based on the book of the same name from 2011 by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts. The premise here is that quiet and imaginative teenager Rafe Khatchadorian (Griffin Gluck) is done with his new school's regime of strict rules compliance at the expense of creativity and freedom. Desperate to shake things up and rid the school of the burden of rules, rules and more rules, Rafe and his new friend Leo (Thomas Barbusca) decide to break every rule in the school book by concocting a cunning plan and letting their fellow school kids run riot. In the meantime tyrannical Principal Ken Dwight (Andy Daly) is hot on their heels trying to restore law and order to the school campus and deal with the miscreants, while Rafe is chasing the affections of Jeanne Galletta (Isabelle Moner), and battle a gang of school bullies.

'MONSTER TRUCKS' (Rated PG) - this is a family oriented live action combined with computer generated action comedy that is Directed by Chris Wedge, cost US$125M to bring to the big screen and has so far grossed just US$9M and a whole lot of largely negative reviews. The story here surrounds Tripp Coley (Lucas Till) who is a high school senior student looking at a way of beating his hum drum lifestyle and getting the hell outta Dodge for a life less ordinary. He builds monster trucks using redundant car parts, scrap metal and all manner of automotive bits and pieces he can cobble together. One day however, following an accident at a local oil drilling rig, a strange alien like creature is displaced from underground. It seems that this creature which Coley names Creech, has a penchant for speed and a talent to match, and from here on in the two form an unlikely friendship, that might just be their ticket outta Dodge and their one way ride to fame and fortune. Also starring Rob Lowe, Danny Glover, Barry Pepper, Jane Levy and Amy Ryan.

'BALLERINA' (Rated G) - this French/Canadian Co-Production is a computer animated musical fantasy adventure story Directed by Eric Summer and Eric Warin at a cost of US$30M and so far it has recovered US$19M since its release in France and Canada before Christmas and ahead of its US release on 3rd March under the title of 'Leap'. Telling the story of Felicie (Elle Fanning) who back in 1880's Brittany has dreams of escaping the orphanage where she lives and becoming a Ballerina in Paris. She runs away to Paris with her young friend and budding inventor, Victor (Dane DeHaan) but they become separated. Winding up at the acclaimed school of the Paris Opera Ballet she finds the harsh training regime and fitting in with more gifted young dancers challenging. But not to be out done she finds a gifted mentor willing to give her time and patience, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) a former prima ballerina who takes the young  Felicie under her wing and in to her tutelage. With the courage of her convictions and desperately wanting to turn her dreams into reality, she works hard to be successful in her audition for the forthcoming production of 'The Nutcracker'. The film has garnered solid reviews so far for its engaging story and quality animation.

With five new release films coming to a big screen near you this week ahead, remember to share your views and opinions of your movie going experience with us all here at Odeon Online, or any of those others doing the rounds and still out on general release. In the meantime, I'll see you somewhere, sometime in the week ahead at your local Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Birthday's to share this week : 8th - 14th January 2017.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Fran Walsh does on 10th January - check out my tribute to this Birthday Girl turning 58, 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 8th January
  • John McTiernan - Born 1951, turns 66 - Director | Producer | Writer
Monday 9th January
  • J.K.Simmons - Born 1955, turns 62 - Actor
  • Imelda Staunton - Born 1956, turns 61 - Actress
  • Joely Richardson - Born 1965, turns 52 - Actress  
Tuesday 10th January
  • Fran Walsh - Born 1959, turns 58 - Producer | Writer | Songwriter
  • Walter Hill - Born 1942, turns 75 - Director | Producer | Writer  
Wednesday 11th January
  • Jason Connery - Born 1963, turns 54 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Amanda Peet - Born 1972, turns 45 - Actress  
Thursday 12th January
  • Kirstie Alley - Born 1951, turns 66 - Actress | Producer | Writer
  • Anthony Andrews - Born 1948, turns 69 - Actor | Producer
  • John Lasseter - Born 1957, turns 60 - Producer | Director | Writer | Animator | Voice Actor
  • Oliver Platt - Born 1960, turns 57 - Actor
  • Rob Zombie (aka Robert Bartleh Cummings) - Born 1965, turns 52 - Producer | Director | Writer | Actor | Singer | Songwriter | Composer  
Friday 13th January
  • William B. Davis - Born 1938, turns 79 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer | Editor
  • Bill Bailey - Born 1965, turns 52 - Writer | Actor | Television Personality | Singer | Composer
  • Patrick Dempsey - Born 1966, turns 51 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Michael Pena - Born 1976, turns 41 - Actor | Producer
  • Orlando Bloom - Born 1977, turns 40 - Actor | Producer
  • Liam Hemsworth - Born 1990, turns 27 - Actor
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus - Born 1961, turns 56 - Actress | Producer | Singer  
Saturday 14th January
  • Faye Dunaway - Born 1941, turns 76 - Actress
  • Emily Watson - Born 1967, turns 50 - Actress
  • Carl Weathers - Born 1948, turns 69 - Actor | Director
  • Steven Soderbergh - Born 1963, turns 54 - Producer | Director | Writer | Cinematographer | Editor
  • L.L.Cool J (aka James Todd Smith) - Born 1968, turns 49 - Actor | Producer | Singer | Songwriter
  • Jason Bateman - Born 1969, turns 48 - Actor | Producer | Director
Frances Rosemary Walsh was born in Wellington, on New Zealand's North Island, and she attended Wellington Girl's College where she had intentions on becoming a fashion designer, eventually gaining a more active interest in music. She performed from time to time in a Punk Band, named 'The Wallsockets' and attending the Victoria University of Wellington majoring in English Literature and graduating in 1981. 

She gained her first screen writing debut on the 1983 made for television film 'A Woman of Good Character' which she followed up with scripts for the TV show 'Worzel Gummidge Down Under'. Walsh met up with a young Peter Jackson during the mid-'80's whilst he was putting the final touches to his debut feature - the 1987 splatter Sci-Fi horror comedy film 'Bad Taste'. Jackson's next film was the musical black comedy 'Meet the Feebles' released in 1989 which was the first film for Jackson that Walsh collaborated on taking a Co-Writer credit. In the meantime, Walsh had married Jackson in 1987 and the two have been partners ever since, at home and at work. Following this the two joined forces on the slapstick splatter zombie horror film 'Braindead' (released as 'Dead Alive' in the US) which Walsh also gained a screen writing credit for. Although the film was a critical and commercial dud upon release in 1992, it has since risen to the ranks of cult status.

In 1994 Walsh and Jackson explored new territory with the dramatic true story of the notorious 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case with 'Heavenly Creatures' which Walsh and Jackson Co-Wrote. The film features Kate Winslet's screen debut as Juliet Hulme in which her obsessive relationship with close teenage friend Pauline Parker result in them killing Parker's mother in 1954. The film was critically acclaimed picking up seventeen award wins and a further fourteen nominations including an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay.

Next up was more familiar territory with the horror comedy 'The Frighteners' in 1996 starring Michael J. Fox in his last lead role in a live action feature film after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1991 aged just 29, and going public with it in 1998. Walsh and Jackson again Co-Wrote the Screenplay which Jackson Directed and Co-Produced, and it represented their first film with the backing of a major American studio. With so many ghosts appearing in the film, 'The Frighteners' was one of the most digital effects laden films up until that time, and proved to be a testing ground for Jackson's Weta Digital that had been in business just there years then. Walsh took an Associate Producer credit on the film too.

With Jackson looking at the fantasy genre for his next offering, in 1998 New Line Cinema agreed to back financially a trilogy adapted from Tolkien's classic books - 'The Lord of the Rings'. For the trilogy Walsh took Screenwriting credits, Producer credits and composer credits for certain songs appearing on the soundtrack for each film. The three films  - 'The Fellowship of the Ring', 'The Two Towers' and 'The Return of the King' were made for a combined US$281M and took an overall Box Office haul of US$2.91B. Additionally, the films received a collective 415 award wins and another 362 nominations including seventeen Academy Award wins in total. 

Following their success with 'The Rings Trilogy' Walsh and Jackson turned their attention back to a project they first muted in 1998 with Universal Studios - that of a remake of 'King Kong'. In 2005 Universal greenlit a remake of 'King Kong' with no hesitation, and so Walsh and Jackson took co-Writer and Co-Producer credits while Jackson Directed. The film cost US$207M to make and grossed US$551M at the global Box Office and starred Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow and Andy Serkis as Kong in motion capture. It picked up three Academy Award wins plus 39 other wins and 92 nominations.

'The Lovely Bones' followed in 2009 - a supernatural drama film based on the best selling novel of the same name from 2002 by Alice Sebold. Again Jackson Directed with Walsh and he carrying Co-Producer and Co-Screenwriting credits too. The film received mixed critical reviews but still picked up an Oscar nod, a Golden Globe nod and two BAFTA nods from its haul of ten award wins and forty other nominations, and it made back US$94M from its US$65M budget outlay.

Based on their prior success with 'The Rings Trilogy' it was almost inevitable that eventually Walsh and Jackson would turn attention to Tolkien's other notable works - 'The Hobbit'. Originally slated to be Directed by Guillermo del Toro over two instalments, Jackson stepped up to the Director's chair when del Toro exited stage left due to creative differences, and decided that three films was the go, however, del Toro still received a Screenwriters credit on all there films for his efforts. Once more Walsh and Jackson Co-Produced, Co-Scripted the works on 'The Hobbit' series, with Jackson Directing also. The three films were made for a combined US$690M and collectively took US$2.94B at the global Box Office, together with 31 award wins and  another 202 nominations.

Next up for Fran Walsh is the big screen adaptation of the Philip Reeve Sci-Fi steampunk novel of 2001 'Mortal Engines', the first in a series of four books. Co-Produced and Co-Written once again by Walsh and Jackson, this time Directed by Christian Rivers, the film is slated to hit our screens in December 2018 and is currently in pre-production.

All up Walsh has seventeen Screenwriting credits to her name, twelve as Producer, and seven Soundtrack credits as writer/lyricist on 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' films. She has so far amassed forty-four award wins, including three Academy Awards wins, one Golden Globe win, and two BAFTA wins, plus a further 57 nominations, including four Academy Award nods, and five BAFTA nods. It should be noted too that Walsh and Jackson have collaborated with Philippa Boyens on all their films since the 'The Rings Trilogy' and obviously shared in their collective success as Co-Writers and Co-Producers on all film projects including the upcoming 'Mortal Engines'. With Jackson she has two children, Katie (born in 1996) and Billie (born in 1995).

Fran Walsh - very private outside of the film making public eye, but one half of a truly great film production and scriptwriting family that has a proven track record dating back thirty years backed up by immense critical acclaim and huge commercial success with the accolades between them to prove it, and cement their places in cinema history. For your work behind the scenes that is so important to what we see on screen, Happy Birthday to you Fran, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Friday, 6 January 2017

ALLIED : Tuesday 3rd January 2017.

'ALLIED' which I saw earlier this week is Directed by Robert Zemeckis and Written by Steven Knight based on a story he had been told some thirty years ago during his days travelling around the US, which whilst not confirmed as being true, proved too good to be true not to make a film out of it. And so whilst the notion has been kicking around for thirty years or so, it is only now that his story has been committed to celluloid. Costing US$85M the film opened in the US in late November and has so far made back US$87M, and garnered mixed reviews since, although its two lead performances have been largely praised.

Here Royal Canadian Airforce Intelligence Officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) must travel to Casablanca to assassinate a German Ambassador. The film picks up with him parachuting into the French Morocco desert sometime in 1942, being picked up by a car en route to Casablanca to rendezvous with his 'wife', a new identity for the mission, and a suitcase full of secret agent stuff! He is partnered up with French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) who fled from France after her resistance group was compromised and killed. The couple masquerade as French husband and wife, under the guise that they are being reunited in Casablanca after a long period of absence from each other due to his career in remote phosphate mining. She is trusted by the German's who have a stronghold on the territory.

Their planned assassination is still ten days away, so the couple get acquainted and do the things that couple do - enjoy the streetside cafes, party with acquaintances, be seen together arm in arm, take machine gun shooting practice out in the desert, and make love in the cramped front seat of a car in the middle of a raging sandstorm the day before the assassination attempt (must be a metaphor in there somewhere methinks!), because hey, they both might be dead in 24 hours time if their plan doesn't pull off.

After their mission to kill the German Ambassador at a glitzy gathering goes according to plan, and they are able to escape unhindered, Max asks Marianne to join him back in England. She agrees, they marry, fall pregnant, they set up home in Hampstead and settle down to a life of domesticity with him still working for the British Government and reporting to Frank Heslop as his Commanding Officer (Jared Harris) and friend. In time Marianne gives birth to a baby daughter, Anna, during a bombing raid over London, and the three return to the family home in the suburbs and all is good in the world.

Fast forward a few more months and Max learns from a Special Operations Executive (SOE), that Marianne is in fact suspected of being a German spy, having assumed the identity of the real Marianne, now long since dead. The SOE intend to run a 'blue dye' test whereby at a given time (11:07pm) a phone call will be made to their home and Max is to write down a piece of false intelligence, where Marianne can easily find it. If the information is picked up from intercepted German transmissions within a few days, Max must personally execute her, or be hanged for treason. He is told otherwise to act normally, and not to discuss the matter with anyone. Max is needless to say distraught with this news, and believes it all to be a big mistake - after all Marianne shot and killed the German Ambassador!

Defying orders Max first confides in his sister Bridget (Lizzy Caplan) knowing that she will keep a secret. He then visits a former colleague in hospital who knew Marianne well, but he was blinded in battle and is therefore unable to identify a photograph of her, but points Max in the direction of someone who may be able to help. Ultimately, Max flies to France to meet with someone who knew Marianne and will be able to identify his wife from a photograph. Landing under cover of darkness he learns that his contact is in fact in a local Police cell for drunken and disorderly conduct. Knowing that time is running out and this is his last ditch attempt to clear his wife's name, he and some Resistance Fighters break into the Police Station and confront his contact, who coming out of a drunken stupor recalled that Marianne was an accomplished pianist.

Back in London, Max forcibly takes Marianne to a local pub after hours, but where he knows there is a piano. They break in, and Max orders Marianne to play the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, on the piano because he had been told that she can, and beautifully. Marianne confesses to Max that yes, she is a German spy but her feelings for Max had always been genuine. She advises that her handlers in London had threatened both her and Anna if she did not continue complying with orders. Max refuses to kill his wife as instructed, and instead kills her handlers en route to the local RAF airstrip so that the three of them can effect their escape before the SOE close in with the news that he now knows is inevitable. In the pouring rain at the airstrip their escape plans are foiled by Heslop who intercepts their plans to commandeer a plane. Heslop confirms that their suspicions are confirmed as the Military Police arrive. Marianne gets out of the car, having secured Anna in the back seat, confirms her love for them both, and then promptly shoots herself in the head. She slumps to the ground beside the plane dead. Heslop who witnesses this commands the Military Police that what they saw was Max execute his wife as per his orders, to avoid any repercussions on him.

I enjoyed this romantic war time drama because it is a throw back to the war time melodramas of yesteryear that seldom get made any more these days. Ever since the days of 'Saving Private Ryan' and right up to the recent 'Hacksaw Ridge' war time films have been about the horrors of war writ large in graphic detail of severed limbs, flayed bodies, psychological trauma, physical injury, bloodshed and pain. 'Allied' offers us some welcome respite from this - it is a simple enough story, but well told by Robert Zemeckis who has a track record of delivering great performances from his Actors. And so he does so with Pitt and Cotillard. The pair are well matched and well suited to this period piece both looking very dapper and debonair in their '40's uniforms and fashions, and the era is recreated well enough to make the film complete. Certainly worth the price of entry, and worth looking at in homage to those films this one pays tribute to, albeit with a few random acts of violence, sex and profanity that those films of yesteryear wouldn't have deployed. Nonetheless a good watch.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-