Saturday, 10 December 2016

Birthday's to share this week : 11th-17th December 2016.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Theo James does on 16th December - 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 11th December
  • Hailee Steinfeld - Born 1996, turns 20 - Actress
  • Mo'Nique (Monique Imes) - Born 1967, turns 49 - Actress | Producer
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant - Born 1930, turns 86 - Actor | Writer | Director  
Monday 12th December
  • Bill Nighy - Born 1949, turns 67 - Actor | Producer
  • Jennifer Connolly - Born 1970, turns 46 - Actress  
Tuesday 13th December
  • Dick Van Dyke - Born 1925, turns 91 - Actor | Producer | Writer | Singer
  • Christopher Plummer - Born 1929, turns 87 - Actor | Producer
  • Robert Lindsay - Born 1949, turns 67 - Actor | Singer
  • Steve Buscemi - Born 1957, turns 59 - Actor | Director | Producer | Singer | Writer
  • Jamie Foxx - Born 1967, turns 49 - Actor | Producer | Writer | Director | Singer
Wednesday 14th December
  • Rebecca Gibney - Born 1964, turns 52 - Actress | Producer | Writer
  • Sophie Monk - Born 1979, turns 37 - Actress
Thursday 15th December
  • Don Johnson - Born 1949, turns 67 - Actor | Producer 
  • Stuart Townsend - Born 1972, turns 44 - Actor | Director  
Friday 16th December
  • Ben Cross - Born 1947, turns 69 - Actor
  • Shane Black - Born 1961, turns 55 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor
  • Benjamin Bratt - Born 1963, turns 53 - Actor | Producer
  • James Mangold - Born 1963, turns 53 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Theo James - Born 1984, turns 32 - Actor
  • Miranda Otto - Born 1967, turns 49 - Actress 
Saturday 17th December
  • Tommy Steele - Born 1936, turns 80 - Singer | Actor 
  • Bernard Hill - Born 1944, turns 62 - Actor 
  • Eugene Levy - Born 1946, turns 60 - Actor | Writer | Producer | Director | Singer
  • Bill Pullman - Born 1953, turns 63 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Peter Farrelly - Born 1956, turns 60 - Producer | Writer | Director
  • Rian Johnson - Born 1973, turns 43 - Director | Writer
  • Giovanni Ribisi - Born 1974, turns 42 - Actor | Producer
  • Milla Jovovich - Born 1975, turns 41 - Actress | Singer | Songwriter  
Theodore Peter James Kinnaird Taptiklis was born in Oxford, England, to mother Jane Martin who worked for the National Health Service, and father Philip Taptiklis, a business consultant. He is the youngest of five children - having two older brothers and two older sisters. From age eleven he attended Aylesbury Grammar School - a boys school located in the county of Buckinghamshire, and then went on to the University of Nottingham where he earned an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. He learned his acting craft at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, although throughout his school life and at University he appeared in numerous plays and short films.

He gained his first television appearance opposite Billie Piper in the mini-series 'A Passionate Woman' in 2010, followed up that same year in his feature film debut in a small role in Woody Allen's 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' with Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Naomi Watts and Pauline Collins. This then led to an episode on 'Downton Abbey' before possibly his breakout role as Jed Harper on televisions 'Bedlam' in 2011 - about the drama and supernatural forces at work in an apartment building converted from a former insane asylum. The series ran for two seasons, with James appearing in all six of the first season.  

Next up came 'The Inbetweeners Movie' in which he starred as the night club rep., before being cast as David in the fourth film in the successful vampire/werewolf franchise 'Underworld : Awakening' in 2012. He would reprise his role in the recently released 'Underworld : Blood Wars' opposite Kate Beckinsale and Charles Dance once again. Also in 2012, James appeared in two episodes of British crime drama mini-series 'Case Sensitive' for the ITV Network opposite Darren Boyd and Olivia Williams, and then the BBC's two part mini-series of 'Room at the Top'.

2013 followed with James in the lead role of Walter William Clarke Jnr. in the CBS series of 'Golden Boy' about Clarke, an ambitious cop whose meteoric rise through the ranks sees him becoming the youngest Police Commissioner in New York's history. The series aired for thirteen episodes over just one season before being cancelled. This was followed up by the first instalment in the big screen adaptation of the hugely successful Veronica Roth novels 'Divergent' set in a future post-apocalyptic dystopian world where the surviving people are split into distinct factions based on their personality traits and human virtues. The story surrounds Beatrice 'Tris' Prior (Shailene Woodley) who learns that she is a rare 'Divergent' and will therefore never fit into one of the factions, and she quickly learns of a sinister plot afoot in their seemingly perfect world. Along the way she befriends Tobias 'Four' Eaton (James) and the two become close allies as the film series unfolds. This first film released in 2014 collected US$289M at the global Box Office.

A year later came the follow up, and the second in 'The Divergent Series' with 'Insurgent' with Woodley and James reprising their roles together with those of an all star cast including Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Octavia Spencer and Zoe Kravitz. This film returned US$297M. The third film in the franchise 'Allegiant' was released earlier this year, with the two principle characters reposing their roles once more, supported by much the same cast with the addition of Jeff Daniels and Bill Skarsgard, However, this film was less well received critically, and commercially was the least preforming of the three so far, generating a return of US$179M. This has prompted speculation of budget cuts to the fourth and final film in the series 'Ascendant' due supposedly in 2017, and the possibility that it may be released as a television movie instead of a feature film with a theatrical release. As a result both Woodley and James have aired their views on this stance that they will not be involved if this is the case. Watch this space!

These gave way to 'The Benefactor' (aka 'Franny') in 2015 with Richard Gere and Dakota Fanning, and then the also recently released 'War on Everyone' for Writer/Director John Michael McDonagh with Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena with James playing 'Lord' James Mangan who the two bad cops played by Skarsgard and Pena down Albuquerque way run in to with unexpected results. There was also 'The Secret Scripture' for Writer/Director Jim Sheridan with Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, Aidan Turner and Vanessa Redgrave which has not yet been released in Australia. This brings us up to date with current releases.

Next up is the thriller 'London Fields' with Billy Bob Thornton, Jim Sturgess, Jason Isaacs, Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, and Cara Delevingne. The film was due for release a year or so ago but has been delayed due to legal action between the Director and the Producers. Due for release in 2017 is 'Backstabbing for Beginners' with Ben Kingsley and Jacqueline Bisset - with James playing UN Oil-for-Food Programme whistleblower who uncovers a major corruption scandal. And then there is the disputed 'Ascendant' final instalment in 'The Divergent Series' which may or may not get off the ground.

All up James has twenty-one Acting credits to his name so far, and he has garnered three award wins and another seven nominations. In his early acting days he also played in the London based band 'Shere Khan' as guitarist and singer, but in late 2012 the band split.

Theo James - private in his off-screen life, but well known for his role in two major film franchises; clearly in demand and on the rise; auditioned for James Bond but reportedly failed to get the gig; but has the smarts and the looks to go a long way yet. Happy Birthday to you Theo, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 8th December 2016.

With Christmas upon us once more, I got to thinking about festive film fare over the years, and if Box Office receipts are a gauge of a films success, here, according to Box Office Mojo, are the Top Ten major players in Christmas themed films over the years :-
#1 : 'Home Alone' - 1990 - Worldwide Gross of US$477M from a US$18M budget. Starring Macaulay Caulkin, Directed by Chris Columbus.
#2 'Home Alone 2 : Lost in New York' - 1992 - Worldwide Gross of US$359M from a US$20M budget. Starring Macaulay Caulkin, Directed by Chris Columbus.
#3 - 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' - 2000 - Worldwide Gross of US$345M from a US$123M budget. Starring Jim Carrey, Directed by Ron Howard.
#4 : 'A Christmas Carol' - 2009 - Worldwide Gross of US$325M from a US$175M budget. Starring Jim Carrey, Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
#5 : 'The Polar Express' - 2004 - Worldwide Gross of US$308M from a US$165M budget. Starring Tom Hanks, Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
#6 : 'Elf' - 2003 - Worldwide Gross of US$221M from a US$33M budget. Starring Will Ferrell, Directed by Jon Favreau.
#7 : 'The Santa Clause' - 1994 - Worldwide Gross of US190M from a US$22M budget. Starring Tim Allen, Directed by John Pasquin.
#8 : 'The Santa Clause 2' - 2002 - Worldwide Gross of US$173M from a US$65M budget. Starring Tim Allen, Directed by Michael Lembeck.
#9 : 'Four Christmases' - 2008 - Worldwide Gross of US$164M from a US$80M budget. Starring Vince Vaughn, Directed by Seth Gordon.
#10 : 'The Santa Clause 3 - The Escape Clause' - Worldwide Gross of US$111M from a US$12M budget. Starring Tim Allen, Directed by Michael Lembeek.

Sitting on the edge of this list are 'Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas', 'Christmas with the Kranks', 'Fred Clause', 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation', 'Jingle All The Way', 'Scrooged', and 'Bad Santa' and a whole Christmas Socking load of others enough to fill any Santa sack. And let's not forget those others that have the story set around Christmas time, but are not specifically themed around the Yuletide Season, including 'Die Hard', 'Die Hard 2: Die Harder', 'Trading Places', 'Gremlins', 'Love Actually', and 'Lethal Weapon'. Revisit any of these festive films and you won't be disappointed. Compliments of the Season!

This week there are just two films to choose from in the early lead up to the big releases of the Season coming next week and of course the week after. We kick off with another Christmas offering of an office festive party on a scale the like of which few of us are likely to ever see, and that's probably no bad thing as a corporate manager is out to prove himself, rally his Team and win a Client in the process. This is then followed up by a drama of relationships and how the actions of adults can have dramatic consequences on young impressionable teenagers when least expected.

With two films following on from last weeks seven new releases, there is still ample time and opportunity to catch a film as Previewed below, or as Previewed and Reviewed here in previous weeks. When you have done so, remember we welcome all relevant, constructive, thought provoking and insightful feedback from you as to your views, opinions and observations of your filmic experience. Share a Comment below this or any other Post - we'd love to hear from you. Meanwhile, enjoy your movie!

'OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY' (Rated MA15+) - this is the second Christmas themed movie to emerge this festive season so far following 'Bad Santa 2' released and Previewed a couple of weeks ago. Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon this film is released Stateside this week also, and sees the Christmas Party to end all Christmas Parties, or as the tag line goes 'Party like your job depends on it'. With a big name cast getting up to all sorts of big name party antics, festive fun and frivolity is sure to ensue even if the plot is a little thin.

And so we have high flying corporate CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) who heads up Zenotek. When Carol tries to close the branch of Zenotek managed by her party-hard brother Clay Vanstone (T.J.Miller), he enlists the support of his Chief Technical Officer Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) to rally their fellow employees by hosting the mother of all Office Christmas Parties in an attempt to impress a potential Client, to close a deal that will save their branch from closure, to have an over the top good time needless to say, and convince the sister Boss that the business is in safe hands. Also starring Kate McKinnon and Olivia Munn.

'LITTLE MEN' (Rated PG) - this little drama film was made for just US$2M, had its Premier screening at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year and went on release in the US in early August, so it has been doing the rounds before arriving Down Under. So far making back about US$1M of that initial investment, this film is Directed, Co-Produced and co-Written by Ira Sachs and tells the story of how adult conflict can impact young and impressionable lives. When the Grandfather of 13 year old Jake Jardine (Theo Taplitz) dies the family move from their Manhattan home into their inherited Brooklyn home, previously owned and occupied by the Grandfather. There Jake soon becomes good friends with Tony Calvelli (Michael Barber) who lives in the same block, and the two share similar interests and aspirations - the former wanting to become an artist and the latter, an actor, and they both wish to attend the same notable arts high school together. However, Jake's parents Brian (Greg Kinnear) and Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) seek new lease terms from Tony's single mother Leonor (Paulina Garcia) who runs a dress shop within the building. Leonor believes the lease terms and rental hike is untenable, and consequently a heated dispute erupts between the adults. Whilst the boys at first ignore their feuding parents, its not long before they are drawn in putting their own friendship at risk.

Just two films this week to lure you into your local movie theatre. If either of these spark your interest and grab your attention to tease you out to your nearby cinema, remember to share your views afterwards with us here. In the meantime, I'll see you in the week ahead, at the Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Friday, 2 December 2016

Birthday's to share this week : 4th - 10th December 2016.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Nicholas Hoult does on 7th December - check out my tribute to this Birthday Lad turning 27, at the end of this feature, and, deserving of an Honorary Mention is screen legend Kirk Douglas turning 100 years young on 9th December.

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 4th December
  • Marisa Tomei - Born 1964, turns 52 - Actress | Producer
  • Jeff Bridges - Born 1949, turns 67 - Actor | Producer | Singer  
Monday 5th December
  • Nick Stahl - Born 1979, turns 37 - Actor | Producer
  • Frankie Muniz - Born 1985, turns 31 - Actor | Producer  
Tuesday 6th December
  • Tom Hulce - Born 1953, turns 63 - Actor | Producer
  • Nick Park - Born 1958, turns 58 - Writer | Producer | Director | Animator 
  • Judd Apatow - Born 1967, turns 49 - Writer | Producer | Director | Actor
  • JoBeth Williams - Born 1948, turns 68 - Actress | Producer | Director 
Wednesday 7th December
  • Ellen Burstyn - Born 1932, turns 84 - Actress | Producer
  • Emily Browning - Born 1988, turns 26 - Actress | Singer
  • Jeffrey Wright - Born 1965, turns 51 - Actor | Producer | Singer
  • Jeff Nichols - Born 1978, turns 38 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Jack Huston - Born 1982, turns 34 - Actor | Singer
  • Nicholas Hoult - Born 1989, turns 27 - Actor  
Thursday 8th December
  • Rick Baker - Born 1950, turns 66 - Make-Up Artist | SFX Artist | Actor
  • Dominic Monaghan - Born 1976, turns 40 - Actor | Producer | Singer
  • Matthias Schoenaerts - Born 1977, turns 39 - Actor | Producer | Writer | Director
  • Kim Basinger - Born 1953, turns 63 - Actress
  • Teri Hatcher - Born 1964, turns 51 - Actress  
Friday 9th December
  • Kirk Douglas - Born 1916, turns 100 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer | Singer
  • Beau Bridges - Born 1941, turns 75 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • John Malkovich - Born 1953, turns 63 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer
  • Judi Dench - Born 1934, turns 82 - Actress | Singer  
Saturday 10th December
  • Kenneth Branagh - Born 1960, turns 56 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer | Singer
  • Xavier Samuel - Born 1983, turns 33 - Actor  
Nicholas Caradoc Hoult was born in Wokingham, Berkshire, England to mother Glenis Brown, a piano teacher, and father Roger Hoult, a former pilot for British Airways. He is the third of four children - younger to brother James born in 1977 and sister Rosanna born in 1984, but older than Clarista born in 1992. Both James and Rosanna took an active interest in acting and dancing early on, and young Nicholas' interest was sparked by their interest. He also practiced ballet with his two sisters to the point where he was involved with 'Swan Lake' and 'The Nutcracker' productions with The National Ballet. He attended the Combes Nursery School in Arborfield close to the family home and then Arborfield Church of England Junior School. From there, and with a number of acting credits to his name already he went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London - a specialist performing arts school. At fourteen he joined the Ranelagh School in Bracknell, Berkshire to concentrate on his education free of the pressures of film and television and because he wasn't yet ready to make a life out of acting, despite the success he had enjoyed up to that point. He went onto the Sixth Form College, in Farnborough, Hampshire in 2006, and quit in 2008 to pursue a career in acting to which he had now made up his mind.

Hoult's acting life began at age five in the English London drama film set in the 1950's - 'Intimate Relations' in 1996 with Julie Walters and Rupert Graves, and from there he landed roles in television series including 'Casualty', 'Silent Witness', 'The Ruth Rendell Mysteries' and the made for television film 'Mr. White Goes to Westminster'. These appearances saw out the '90's by which time he was still only ten ten years of age. The new decade launched with episodes on 'The Bill', 'Holby City, 'Doctors', 'Waking the Dead' and 'Murder in Mind' before his breakout role at age just eleven in 2002 in 'About A Boy' with Hugh Grant and Toni Collette. The film was a critical and commercial success gaining numerous accolades, and importantly, Hollywood exposure for the young Actor.

His next big screen role came in the Richard E. Grant Written and Directed 'Wah-Wah' with Gabriel Byrne and Emily Watson. This was followed up quickly also in 2005 with the American drama film 'The Weather Man' Directed by Gore Verbinski and starring Nicolas Cage and Michael Caine. 'Kidulthood' came next in 2006, and BBC television film 'Coming Down the Mountain' a year later, before being cast by Tom Ford in his highly acclaimed multi-award winning Directorial debut 'A Single Man' with Colin Firth and Julianne Moore. For his role, Hoult earned a BAFTA Rising Star Award nomination, and Tom Ford made him the face of his eyewear collection in 2010. 

In between time, Hoult scored one of the defining roles of his early career in the much acclaimed 'Skins' television series in the role of Tony Stonem across the first nineteen episodes of the first two seasons. The show ran for seven seasons from 2007 through to 2013. He followed this up with an episode on 'Wallander'.

'Clash of the Titans' opened in 2010 with Hoult playing Eusebios alongside an all star cast as Directed by Louis Leterrier. Although the film was poorly received critically, it performed well at the Box Office picking up close to US$500M. 'X-Men : First Class' as Directed by Matthew Vaughn saw Hoult's first outing in the re-booted 'X-Men' franchise as Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast - a genius scientist with mutant abilities similar to that of the great apes. Hoult reprised his role in 2014's 'X-Men : Days of Future Past' and in this years 'X-Men : Apocalypse'. The three films took a combined worldwide Box Office haul of US$1.65B.

The ZomRomCom 'Warm Bodies' and 'Jack the Giant Slayer' came next in 2013, 'Young Ones' in 2014, 'Dark Places' in 2015 and then the critically lauded George Miller re-boot of his Max Rockatansky creation made famous by Mel Gibson back in the day with 'Mad Max : Fury Road'. 'Kill Your Friends' closed out 2015. This year has seen 'Equals' with Kristen Stewart, and the as yet to be released 'Collide' with Ben Kinglsey, Anthony Hopkins and Felicity Jones.

Next up is Iraq War drama 'Sand Castle' with Henry Cavill currently in post-production; historical biopic 'The Current War' with Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and Tom Holland; and 'Rebel in the Rye' with Kevin Spacey and Hoult playing J.D. Salinger the author of acclaimed 1951 novel 'The Catcher in the Rye' - both are in pre-production for a 2017 release. Currently filming is the animated television mini-series 'Watership Down' for BBC Television and Netflix to which Hoult is lending his voice talents in the voice of 'Fiver' alongside Ben Kingsley, James McAvoy, John Boyega and Gemma Arterton. 

So far Hoult has 43 acting credits to his name, and he has picked up three award wins and another eleven nominations. He has worked with several charities over the years including the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), The Teenage Cancer Trust, The Save the Children Fund, The Small Steps Project and the Jeans for Refugees Project.

Nicholas Hoult - former choirboy, former basketball player, avid motorsports fan particularly the F1, and partakes in go-karting and both on and off track motorcycling. His middle name means 'The Beloved One' in Welsh, and his great aunt was acclaimed English Actress of the '30's, '40's and '50's Dame Anna Neagle. A star very much on the rise and one to watch out for having achieved so much already in his 27 years - Happy Birthday to you Nicholas, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Thursday, 1 December 2016

BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK : Thursday 24th November 2016.

'BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK' which I caught on its opening day in Australia is based on the 2012 book of the same name by Ben Fountain, and Directed and Co-Produced by multi-award wining Ang Lee. This Iraq War drama was made for US$40M, was released in the US in early November and in the UK not until mid-February, and has so far recovered US$24M at the Box Office. For this film Lee used an unprecedented shooting and projection rate of 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K High Definition resolution, which is the first feature film in history to use such a high frame rate (24 fps is most commonly used). Lee stated that he wanted the film to be an 'immersive' and 'realistic' experience for the viewer into the emotion and realities of the soldiers journey.

Starring in his feature film debut, English Actor Joe Alwyn is US Army Specialist Billy Lynn, a 19 year old, who is part of an eight man team known as Bravo Squad under the leadership of Sgt. David Dime (Garrett Hedlund). A few brief moments of an intense firefight known as 'the Battle of Al-Ansakar Canal' are captured by a embedded Fox News crew that sees Lynn go to the rescue of a wounded Sergeant, Shroom (Vin Diesel) who ultimately dies in his arms, but not before Lynn kills three insurgents - two with pistol shots and the other in close quarter hand to hand combat using a knife to dispense with his assailant. This footage is quickly beamed around the world and Lynn and his fellow soldiers are hailed as heroes back home and Lynn is awarded the Silver Star. The Squad are invited back home by President George W. Bush for a two week Victory Tour to rally support for the war effort.

On the Tour, the Squad are accompanied by Albert Ratner (Chris Tucker) a fast talking but relatively low level Hollywood Producer who has designs on having their story made into a big Hollywood movie, with a promise of a pay day for each of the Squad of US$100K. After some back story centering on Lynn's arrival back home in rural Texas and over dinner with his family including older sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart) the crew are collected from their hotel on their final day in a stretched Hummer accompanied by Ratner, and they make there way to the Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Here the tour will culminate at the half-time show of the Dallas Cowboys during the 2004 Thanksgiving Day home game, on stage with 'Destiny's Child' and amidst a fanfare of fireworks, cheerleaders, thumping music, giant screen projection and an audience of millions. At this point the Squad don't know that yet, and we see Lynn recounting memories of his time in Iraq with his fellow buddies, with Sergeants Dime and Shroom, and conversations with sister Kathryn in the last few days about why he should seek medical discharge from the Army to avoid going back to Iraq - a notion that doesn't sit well with Lynn, but he's prepared to consider it to appease his sister.

Upon arrival at the Stadium the Squad are ushered to their seats wearing full dress uniform. They get up, sit down, lark around and occasionally have the cameras trained on them. They go to a Members area for lunch and fill their boots with the lavish spread of foods the like of which they have rarely seen before, whilst strangers sidle up to them wanting to speak with real war heroes, thank them, shake their hands and acknowledge their efforts, although they really have no concept at all of the war zone or the battlefield.

It is here that the Squad are introduced to Norman Oglesby (Steve Martin) the owner of the Dallas Cowboys who can't pour enough respect on the boys and is happy to have them paraded in front of the nation at his Stadium and with his Team. Ratner is also seeking to secure funding for the film from Oglesby as a major investor, and whilst he is interested he reduces Ratner's promised fee of US$100K a head down to a paltry US$5,500 each. Needless to say, both Dime and Lynn tell Oglesby later on exactly where he can stick his US$5,500 despite his best intentions telling him that their story is not for sale at that price.

Before kick-off during a photocall and Q&A session with the gathered press, Lynn spies the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader girls standing along the perimeter of the room, and in particular one pretty young thing named Faison Zorn (Makenzie Leigh), whom he falls instantly for, and she reciprocates. They share an intimate moment or two behind a curtain, before the boys are ushered back to their seats - they exchange phone numbers and keep in contact via text messaging.

Come half-time and the boys are to assemble on the goal line wearing their combat ready gear to be paraded down the length of the field walking behind the Cheerleaders, Destiny's Child and various others. Once at the far end they are to mount a stage and stand on an elevated platform while the all girl band sing their hearts out directly in front of them. Lynn is ordered only to walk down onto the stage and stand dead still directly behind the girls as they belt out 'Soldier'. With a crescendo of fireworks, thumping music, cameras flashing, a live television audience, the heat of the spotlights Lynn zones out and reminisces further about his life so far, conversations about his promising Army future with Dime and Shroom, his Squad colleagues, about friendships, family and decisions made and yet to be made.

Through flashbacks recounting the realities of that intense battle and fierce firefight in which Shroom died we learn that those realities were far different from what the US public were led to believe in the media, and how those perceptions are in stark contrast to the tragic consequences suffered by so many young men in the Iraq War. Those realities are tearing away at Lynn, and whilst over a few hours he has formed an attachment to Faison, and his sister Kathryn pleads with him to stay at home and not return to Iraq, ultimately the US Government has not relieved the Squad from their duties and they are under orders to return to Iraq imminently.

As the Hummer awaits post celebration at the designated collection point within the bowels of the Stadium, both Faison and Kathryn emerge. Both are disappointed when Lynn bids his farewells and returns to his fellow waiting comrades with whom he has more in common and with whom he shares a greater sense of belonging and brotherhood and what it really means to support the war effort on the frontline with bullets flying. This is in stark contrast to the manufactured media circus that they have just been party to. The average Joe Blow in the street back home on safe secure American soil has no idea of what that war effort means to those serving soldiers, the sacrifices made and the lasting impact on their lives. No idea at all! He steps foot inside the waiting Hummer, but for a moment he sees himself in his armoured patrol vehicle with Shroom beside him providing some comforting words of wisdom and encouragement, that just reinforces what he knew already.

I was a little underwhelmed by this film. For all the technological wizardry and cutting edge camera work deployed in making this film, the subject matter labours. This is more a character study of a young nineteen year old lad and the loss of his innocence at war as he grows up very quickly trying to keep the peace in Iraq a long way from his rural Texas home, whilst at the same time killing insurgents and maintaining the comradeship of his Squad. We see very little of Lynn's family other than sister Kathryn, but then I guess his family now is his Bravo Squad, and he feels more of a connection with the heat, dust and emotion of Iraq than he does on his home soil. The scenes that give reason to the Victory Tour are delivered quickly and efficiently and take you to the centre of the action in flashback, but don't expect any extended battle scenes, or slow-mo action, or torn bodies and flailing limbs here. Instead, it's all about the long halftime walk that occurs at the Stadium and the impact this has on the men of Bravo Squad. Lee delivers this with all the pomp & ceremony, sound and light, and overwhelming spectacle that you would expect at such an occasion, and Lee makes it feel as though you are there amongst it. Joe Alwyn as the newcomer to watch, and Garrett Hedlund give the standout performances in this film, whereas Steve Martin as the Team owner is just an OTT archetype, and Vin Diesel channelling his inner wannabe Zen Master fails to convince. The film has garnered mixed Reviews so far, and I can understand why.
-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 1st December 2016.

From Werewolves, to Vampires, to Zombies and from blood suckers to flesh eaters and everything in between, we seem to have an insatiable appetite for the genre as evidenced by the hundreds of films that have been made over the years pitching them pesky critters individually against poor unsuspecting humans, against aliens from some galaxy far far far away and against each other in cross over offerings. With the release of this weeks 'Underworld : Blood Wars' I did some digging around in the archives. The first time a Werewolf appeared at the cinema was back in 1913 in a eighteen minute film called aptly 'The Werewolf'. The next offering came along in 1925 in 'Wolf Blood', with 'Werewolf of London' in 1935 representing the first mainstream Hollywood Werewolf movie, and since then as we know the floodgates opened across all undead blood curdling shapeshifting alternatives over the last one hundred years or so. As for the Vampire genre, many believe that the F.W. Murnau Directed and Max Schrek starring 1922 film 'Nosferatu' was the first cab of that rank, although further research would indicate that in fact there were a number (as many as twenty) films featuring Vampires that were produced before 'Nosferatu' going back a decade or so. The 1932 offering 'White Zombie' is accredited by many to be the first feature length Zombie film with Bela Lugosi in the lead role. For this Blogger, my personal favourites across the three genres remain the 1981 classic 'An American Werewolf in London', 'From Dusk till Dawn' from 1996 and '28 Days Later' from 2002 . . . and lets not forget 'The Walking Dead' either!

This week there are seven new films to kick-off your Summer of Cinema (at least if you live in the Southern Hemisphere) beginning with the fifth instalment in this horror action franchise that sees the eternal battle of werewolves and vampires still raging; then we move to a couple of Aussie offerings the first of which is an office based ZomCom and the second a historical biopic of Australia's Most Wanted of close to two hundred years ago. We then move to another historical biopic but of more recent times set in the African world of a high stakes board game; before moving to a psychic mystery serial killer thriller and a French RomCom of a short and a tall and a little and a large couple getting together and overcoming the difference between them. We then wrap up with an animated feature of cutesy multi-coloured dolls that first appeared over fifty years ago and here get their first big screen treatment trying to save their world.

When you have sat through your film of choice over the coming week, remember that we'd love to hear your views and opinions of the film just seen, so leave us a Comment below this or another Post - whether it be for any film Previewed below, or any of those others still out on general release and as Reviewed and Previewed here previously. Meanwhile, enjoy your movie!

'UNDERWORLD : BLOOD WARS' (Rated MA15+) - I must confess that I have not seen any of the 'Underworld' horror action series of films, and this latest instalment 'Blood Wars' marks the fifth film in the franchise. The first film 'Underworld' was released in 2003 based on characters and the Screenplay co-created and co-written by Len Wiseman and Danny McBride. 'Underworld : Evolution' came next in 2006, 'Underworld : Rise of the Lycans' in 2009, 'Underworld : Awakening' in 2012 and now 'Blood Wars'. Len Wiseman Directed the first two films, and cast his then wife, Kate Beckinsale as the principal character Selene, and he has acted as Co-Producer on all films since. Beckinsale has appeared in all films except 'Rise of the Lycans' which as the third instalment is a prequel to the first film. So far the first four films were made for a combined US$177M and grossed collectively close to US$460M. A sixth film is already in development, and Beckinsale is said to reprise her role once more.

And so to this instalment which is Directed by Anna Foerster and sees Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) continuing in her struggle against the Lycan clan and the Vampires who betrayed her. With both sides vying for her blood and that of her daughter, so that a Lycan/Vampire hybrid can be created, Selene must work with her only allies David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance) as they attempt to bring an end to the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, but at what cost ultimately? Also starring Tobias Menzies and Trent Garrett replacing the Scott Speedman character from previous films. The film is not released in the US until early January.

'THE MENKOFF METHOD' (Rated M) - this situational workplace comedy is Directed by David Parker and is set in a Data Processing Centre of a major Australian banking corporation. David Cork (Lachlan Woods) is a daydreaming processing clerk whose real interest lies in the world of Japanese Manga and he secretly draws away his time at work recreating his favoured character, female superhero Foxy Chaos, and imagined scenes. Things take a turn for the worse when the CEO is suddenly dumped and the replacement enlists the wisdom of an HR 'expert' to help drives some efficiencies in the workplace and change the culture. That 'expert' is Russian Max Menkoff (Noah Taylor) and he comes with a groundbreaking 'method' of increasing productivity among the workforce. But, Menkoff comes with some baggage including a background in the KGB, a couple of henchmen, an assassin after his blood, and a secret formula that turns David's fellow colleagues into a horde of mindless zombies. Only David it seems and Ruby Jackson (Jessica Clarke) from Corporate Head Office stand in the way of Menkoff. Described as 'part spy movie, part anime, part office comedy - and all heart'!

'THE LEGEND OF BEN HALL' (Rated M) - this Australian historical drama film tells the true story of notorious Aussie bushranger Ben Hall who lived from 1837 until 1865 and was shot dead at the age of 27 by Police. He carried out many audacious raids across central New South Wales and his death was mired in controversy at the time, even though he was not directly responsible for any deaths himself, although his associates were. His life is one of folklore legend and the subject of many ballads and films. Produced and Directed by Matthew Holmes, and starring Jack Martin as Ben Hall this film tells the story of Hall being on the run for two years and with the long arm of the law closing in, with the only option seeming to be that of surrender. When he is drawn back into the world he knows best by an old friend John Gilbert (Jamie Coffa) and with new gang recruit John Dunn (William Lee) the there men soon become Australia's most wanted, following a series of robberies resulting in the deaths of two Policemen. With an estranged son, an ex-wife, the passing of new Government laws, and being sold out to the authorities by a seemingly trusted friend - the future doesn't look so promising for Ben Hall!

'THE QUEEN OF KATWE' (Rated PG) - this biographical sports drama is Directed by Mira Nair (who has previously brought us 'Mississippi Masala', 'Monsoon Wedding', 'Amelia' and 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist'), and is based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) who grew up in the slums of Katwe on the outskirts of Kampala in Uganda. Raised by her single mother Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong'o), the young generally happy Phiona one day wanders into a missionary classroom enticed by the promise of free porridge. There she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) who teaches soccer and chess. Out of curiosity Phiona approaches the game and soon becomes intrigued and learns the intricacies of chess over time, becoming a top player and winning several local competitions and tournaments. Her newly learned skills puts her on a trajectory to even greater success at the World Chess Olympiad, and with that success comes life changing events in a way that she never thought possible. The film screened at TIFF this year in September before release Stateside later that month. Made for US$15M, it has so for grossed US$10M.

'SOLACE' (Rated MA15+) - this film has been kicking around for a while having been filmed in 2013. Planned as a sequel to David Fincher's highly acclaimed 1995 film 'Se7en' but along the way that notion was scrapped, the story re-written, and here we have 'Solace'. Directed by Brazilian Afonso Poyart the film first Premiered in Turkey way back in April 2015, then was shown at TIFF in September of that same year and was due for release in September of this year. That got pushed back, and the film finally gets it's US release on 16th December, two weeks after it's Australian limited release. Telling the story of a retired psychic doctor John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins) who teams up with FBI Special Agent Joe Merriweather (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to track down a serial killer Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell). Clancy however, wants nothing to do with the case having isolated himself from the world after the death of his child two years before, and the collapse of his marriage. He changes his mind after having visions of the untimely and violent demise of Merriweather's partner Special Agent Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish). What Clancy doesn't count on though is that Ambrose has more powerful psychic abilities than he does, which gives the killer the upper hand and keeps him well out in front of the doctor. The film has so far taken US$22M.

'UP FOR LOVE' (Rated M) - this French RomCom Is Directed by Laurent Tirard and is a remake of a 2013 Argentinian/Brazilian film titled 'Corazon de Leon'. Here Diane (Virginie Efira) is a successful lawyer who divorced her husband two years before. One day she loses her mobile phone and then receives a call from the guy who found it. That man is Alexandre (Jean Dujardin) - an architect who sounds like the prefect gentleman and a charming witty man. Over the phone the two hit it off and agree to meet up the next day. Diane heads off to her first date with great expectations only to be confronted by a man who is knee high to a grasshopper and whom she towers over. Needless to say love conquers all, and Diana tries to put her prejudices and her pre-conceived notions aside in the name of love, life and finding that perfect partner!

'TROLLS' (Rated G) - this animated feature from Dreamworks is based on the doll with the furry combed up hair originally created in 1959 by Danish fisherman and woodcutter Thomas Dam that became one of the biggest selling toy fads of the '60's, and subsequently went through various reincarnations in the '70's, '80's and '90's. Now in 2016 they have been given the big screen treatment in this CGI comedy musical Directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn for a budget cost of US$125M that has so far raked in US$275M. Featuring a who's who of voice talent 'Trolls' tells the story of the Troll Village being invaded by the Bergens (large unhappy creatures who can only feel happiness by eating a Troll) and the Village being taken captive. Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) is the happiest Troll ever born to Trolldom who joins forces with Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake), an over-cautious grumpy Troll. Between them set off on a journey to rescue their Troll families and friends, but along the way must deal with various adventures, challenges and mishaps whilst putting up with one another just long enough to ensure the success of their mission. Also starring Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, John Cleese, Gwen Stefani, Christoper Mintz-Plasse, James Corden and Jeffery Tambor.

Well in the week ahead there really is something for everyone from cutesy colourful coiffed characters to zombies, werewolves and vampires to biographical drama to French comedy and psychic serial killers on the lose. With such a choice on offer there is every reason to get out to your local cinema to catch any one or more of these films as Previewed here, or as Reviewed and Previewed in previous weeks. When you have done so, share your cinematic opinions with your like minded fellow readers. In the meantime, I'll see you at the Odeon in the coming week.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Birthday's to share this week : 27th November - 3rd December 2016.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Lucy Liu does on 2nd December - check out my tribute to this Birthday Girl turning 48, 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 27th November
  • Kathryn Bigelow - Born 1951, turns 65 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Robin Givens - Born 1964, turns 52 - Actress | Producer
  • William Fichtner - Born 1956, turns 60 - Actor | Producer
  • Sharlto Copley - Born 1973, turns 43 - Actor | Producer  
Monday 28th November
  • Randy Newman - Born 1943, turns 73 - Composer | Singer | Songwriter
  • Joe Dante - Born 1946, turns 70 - Director | Producer | Actor | Editor
  • Ed Harris - Born 1950, turns 66 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer
  • Judd Nelson - Born 1959, turns 57 - Actor  | Producer | Writer
  • Alfonso Cuaron - Born 1961, turns 55 - Director | Producer | Writer | Editor | Cinematographer
  • Ryan Kwanten - Born 1976, turns 40 - Actor
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Born 1984, turns 32 - Actress | Producer
Tuesday 29th November
  • Anna Faris - Born 1976, turns 40 - Actress | Producer | Singer
  • Joel Cohen - Born 1954, turns 62 - Director | Producer | Writer | Editor
  • Tom Sizemore - Born 1961, turns 55 - Actor | Producer | Writer
  • Andrew McCarthy - Born 1962, turns 54 - Actor | Director
  • Don Cheadle - Born 1964, turns 52 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer | Singer
  • Lucas Black - Born 1982, turns 34 - Actor  
Wednesday 30th November
  • Ridley Scott - Born 1937, turns 79 - Director | Producer
  • Terrence Malick - Born 1943, turns 73 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • David Mamet - Born 1947, turns 69 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Mandy Patinkin - Born 1952, turns 64 - Actor | Singer
  • David Yates - Born 1963, turns 53 - Director | Producer
  • Ben Stiller - Born 1965, turns 51 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer | Singer
  • Mark Foster - Born 1969, turns 47 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Gael Garcia Bernal - Born 1978, turns 38 - Actor | Director | Producer | Writer  
Thursday 1st December
  • Woody Allen - Born 1935, turns 81 - Director | Writer | Actor
  • Larry Charles - Born 1956, turns 60 - Director | Producer | Writer
  • Jeremy Northam - Born 1961, turns 54 - Actor | Singer
  • Bette Midler - Born 1945, turns 71 - Actress | Producer | Director | Singer
  • Zoe Kravitz - Born 1988, turns 28 - Actress  
Friday 2nd December
  • Lucy Liu - Born 1968, turns 48 - Actress | Producer | Director  
Saturday 3rd December
  • Julianne Moore - Born 1960, turns 56 - Actress | Singer
  • Daryl Hannah - Born 1960, turns 56 - Actress | Producer
  • Amanda Seyfried - Born 1985, turns 31 - Actress | Singer
  • Jean-Luc Godard - Born 1930, turns 86 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor | Editor | Cinematographer
  • Brendan Fraser - Born 1968, turns 48 - Actor | Producer
Lucy Alexis Liu was born in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City to mother Cecilia who worked as a biochemist and father Tom Liu who was a civil engineer and sold digital clock pens. Her parents came separately from China via time in Taiwan before meeting in New York. She has an older brother Alex and an older sister Jenny. Liu learned Mandarin at home and began learning English from five years of age. She attended the public Joseph Pulitzer Middle School in Jackson Heights and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York in 1986. From there she attended New York University before moving to the University of Michigan from where she graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Asian languages and cultures.

While in her final year at the University of Michigan she scored the lead role in a college production of 'Alice in Wonderland' and her performance was hailed a great success. Spurned on by this, she decided to pursue more acting opportunities. In 1990 she auditioned for 'Miss Saigon' on Broadway. She made her stage debut in 'Fairy Bones' in 1992. Her break into television came in 1991 with an episode on 'Beverly Hills 90210' with a string of television appearances following throughout the '90's including 'L.A. Law', 'Home Improvement', 'Hercules : The Legendary Journeys', 'ER', 'Nash Bridges', 'The X-Files', 'NYPD Blue', on 22 episodes of 'Pearl' and then she scored a role in the main cast of 'Ally McBeal' which for Liu ran for 72 episodes between 1998 and 2002.

Liu's big screen debut came in the Honk Kong production of 'Rhythm of Destiny' in 1992, with a short 25 minute film, 'Protozoa' following for Director Darren Aronofsky. A small part in 'Bang' came before 'Jerry Maguire' with Tom Cruise, 'Gridlock'd' with Tim Roth, 'City of Industry' with Harvey Keitel, 'Flypaper' with Vincent D'Onofrio, 'Payback' with Mel Gibson, 'True Crime' with Clint Eastwood and 'Play It To The Bone' with Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas seeing out the decade.

'Shanghai Noon' opened up the new decade with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, followed by the big screen adaptation of the late '70's television series 'Charlie's Angels' with Liu appearing next to Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz as Alex Munday - one of three Angels of the title. The film made US$264M and spawned a sequel in 2003 - 'Charlie's Angels : Full Throttle' in which Liu reprised her role, with that film bringing in US$259M. 

'Hotel' followed for Director Mike Figgis, and then 'Ballistic : Ecks vs Sever' in 2002 which was critically panned and a commercial disaster, subsequently appearing on many 'most hated films' and 'worst ever movie' lists. That same year year came 'Cypher', and then 'Chicago' with Richard Gere which raked in six Academy Awards plus another 49 award wins and a further 121 nominations together with a Box Office haul of US$307M. 

'Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2' for Director Quentin Tarantino followed in 2003 and 2004 with Liu playing head of the Tokyo Yakuza O-Ren Ishii. '3 Needles', bounty hunter autobiography 'Domino' for Tony Scott, 'Lucky Number Slevin' with Bruce Willis, 'Rise : Blood Hunter', and then the Dreamworks animated smash hit 'Kung Fu Panda' to which Liu would lend her voice talents as Master Viper  - a role she would reprise in 2011 in 'Kung Fu Panda 2', in 2016 in 'Kung Fu Panda 3' and reportedly in the upcoming 'Kung Fu Panda 4' which has been announced. Liu also lent her voice talents to the character of Silvermist in five DisneyToon Studios productions of 'Tinker Bell' in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 - all direct to DVD releases.

During the decade there were also further television show appearances on the likes of 'Futurama', 'King of the Hill', 'Game Over', 'The Simpsons', 'Sex and the City', 'Ugly Betty', 'Cashmere Mafia' and 'Dirty Sexy Money'.

'Nomads', 'Detachment', 'The Trouble With Bliss' and 'The Man with the Iron Fists' bring us up to date in terms of live action films. Since then there has been Liu's recurring role as Joan Watson on televisions 'Elementary' opposite Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes in this modern day retelling of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries set in New York. The series has so far run for 103 episodes over five seasons and has picked up five award wins along the way and another eighteen nominations. There has also been 'Southland' and 45 episodes across three seasons of the television series spin off 'Kung Fu Panda : Legends of Awesomeness' running from 2011 through to 2016 so far. Next up is 'Future World' due in 2017 Directed by and starring James Franco.

All up Liu has 88 Acting credits to her name, three as Director and three as Producer. She has garnered fourteen award wins and another 28 nominations so far in her career.

When she's not working in film and television Liu works as an artist across several media showcasing her skills as a painter, photographer and collage artist. She attended the New York Studio for drawing, painting and sculpture from 2004 to 2006 and through a number of exhibits since has donated the profits to UNICEF. She works across other charitable organisations too including breast cancer research and education, as an ambassador for UNICEF, she supports gay and lesbian marriage equality and the Human Rights Campaign. She speaks Mandarin, Italian, Spanish, some Japanese and English of course. In August 2015 Liu welcomed to the world her first child - a boy Rockwell Lloyd born via a gestational surrogate.

Lucy Liu - busy, busy, busy; TV, Film, live action and animation featuring lots of voice work; keeps fit with rock climbing, skiing and horse riding; is proficient in the martial art of Kali-Eskrina-Silat (knife and stick fighting); is an acclaimed artist; is a spiritualist and is interested in all things metaphysical; and sits on the US Committee of 100 forging stronger links between the US and Greater China. Keep doing what you're doing Lucy and we'll keep watching - Happy Birthday to you, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-