Fast & Furious 7: Review

Fast & Furious 7 brings all new action, all new thrills, and one big adrenalin rush.

Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out for revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), and his team for the death of his brother. Throw in a mission to rescue a computer hacker, find a high-tech device that in the wrong hands could be used to spy on anyone, and their combined desire to take down Shaw, and you have the setting for one explosive story, all playing out with high speed cars, impossible stunts, fast paced fights and enough destruction to satisfy any action fan.

Fast & Furious 7 (or Furious 7 as it’s known in some circles) really steps things up from its predecessor. While 6 went well beyond suspension of disbelieve, 7 brings things back to what can only be described as “extravagant, yet plausible in some way”.

The films visuals are astounding, yet the cinematography, editing and direction often play out like that of a music video, coupled with a heavy base line, rap and of course, scantily clad girls (let’s not forget the car porn, that will excite any and all fans of motor vehicles).

While the plot will likely not flex a viewers intellect much, let’s face it, that’s not the intent of a Fast & Furious film. The intent is to thrill, excite, and get that adrenaline pumping, and Furious 7 does that with aplomb.

Let us not forget, in the midst of all the thrills and spills, to take a moment to remember Paul Walker, who lost his life tragically during the filming of this instalment of the popular series. He died doing what he loved best, driving.

Fast & Furious 7 opens 3 April 2015 in South African cinemas, just in time for the long Easter weekend.

Magic In The Moonlight (DVD): Review

The Film

Magic In The Moonlight, a romantic comedy, set back in the late 1920’s, on the Riviera in the south of France. A story of an Englishman (Stanley, played by Conin Firth) asked to assist in unmasking a fraudster (Sophie, played by Emma Stone). A tale of a magician asked to debunk the claims of a psychic medium. Yet, as the story unfolds, the staid ways of Stanley are challenged by the possibilities presented by the colourful Sophie.

The obnoxious, and brutally honest ways of Stanley make for a great deal of comedy, and Firth brings a sense of sophisticated entitlement to his role. While Stone’s character provides an opposing personality. With all the smiles and slightly wry humour, one suddenly realises that there is a romance taking place between the characters, yet one wonders if they have noticed this fact, or that they are too caught up in their own little worlds and planning their futures.

Magic In The Moonlight is a delightful tale. It is well written, and with Woody Allen at the reigns, it is well directed. The setting is sure to leave many a viewer envious of the opulence on display, yet yearning to visit those locations and experience the serenity for one’s self.

The story is not without its ups and down, with a few twists thrown in to the plot for good measure, leaving the viewer with just enough uncertainty, that one would not easy predict the story too far ahead of where the filmmakers want you to be concentrating.

Magic In The Moonlight is somewhat lighter than Allen’s other directorial endeavours, making it a little less complex, and this would have it appeal to a wider audience.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is presented with a high bitrate, with no visible artefacts on screen. It can be upscaled to an HD screen via hardware or software if desired.

The soundtrack is in 5.1 surround, and while the type of film does not lend itself to any action, this does serve to broaden the experience of the viewer, helping to place the viewer in the environment along with the characters.

There are some trailers as you first play the disc, but other than these, there are unfortunately no bonus features included on the disc.

This film is will entertain and amuse, and those in South Africa can purchase it on disc as of 13 March 2015.

Oculus (DVD): Review

The Film

Oculus looks at two siblings, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim Russel (Brenton Thwaites, and a night they need to survive. As children, they were witness to their parents dark path to madness and eventual murder.

Tim is locked away in a mental institution, while Kaylie has become a successful businesswoman. It is in the course of her work, that Kaylie tracks down the Lasser Glass, an antique mirror present in their childhood, that she believes is infused with evil and ultimately responsible for her parents harrowing descent and untimely demise. Tim, on the other hand, has spent years in therapy being convinced this is all by a myth.

We catch up with Kaylie and Tim, as Tim is released from the institution and Kalyie has set up an experiment to document the mirrors evil nature. Together the siblings will spend a night in their childhood home, documenting events. Yet, this is not all they experience, as they are treated to a slew of flashbacks, and need to fight to hold on to reality as the mirror shows them their past, and the sinister truth.

Oculus plays on the mind of the viewer in a way similar to how the Lasser Glass mirror plays on the minds of the siblings. One is never too sure if what you are seeing is indeed the truth of the film, or another herring and hallucination, put forth by the writers.

the film does not go for the cheap “jump scares” of other horrors, nor does it dwell on the blood and gore. The tension and fear here are generated by pure psychological means, and Oculus will not disappoint on this front.

Gillan and Thwaites deliver good performances as the siblings, coupled with some good story telling. However, in some areas, it feels as if the filmmakers could have pushed things just a little more, perhaps losing out on a bit of the potential of the story. However, with fear being subjective, many viewers are likely to be most pleased at this fact.

A thrilling, chilling ride. Oculus will please a diverse group of horror fans.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, with no visible artefacts on screen. It can also be scaled up to larger or high definition screens, given the right hardware or software. Sound is presented with a 5.1 soundtrack, expanding the on screen environment for the viewer, and adding a little extra to those creepy scenes.

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.

Oculus is available, to purchase, in South Africa, from 13 March 2015

A Most Wanted Man (DVD): Review

The Film

Cold war spy craft is swapped for post-9/11 anti-terror, in this powerful thriller, intellectual thriller.

When a Muslim, half-Chechen, half-Russian (Issa, played by Grigoriy Dobrygin) enters Hamburg illegally, fleeing prison and torture, he lands in the midst of an international terror operation. Persued by Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman), there is a battle of wills between the two men taking place, while in the background the various German and international agencies fight for their own authority, seeking to achieve their own goals.

A Most Wanted Man is a thriller, that is certainly going to exercise your intellect. It’s a thinking person’s spy story, serving up a tour de force of acting, directing and story.

Hoffman totally inhabits his role as Günther, giving a sense that he has become the character, while Grigoriy evokes a sense of sympathy with his tortured ways as Issa. Not forgetting the supporting cast, who bring detailed and colourful characters to the story.

Set in Hamburg, there is a constant feeling that there is certainly more to things than meets the eye. Perfect for the cloak and dagger of the world of espionage.

A Most Wanted Man is sure to satisfy anyone with a penchant for thrillers, spies and the fight on terror. Well acted, and well presented it’s certainly one that will thrill a wide variety of viewers.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, meaning it can be viewed on a larger screen, and upscaled via hardware or software to HD. You have a choice of two sound setups, either a 5.1 track or a downmix of 2.0.

Being that this is not an action film, it will not give your surround setup too much of a workout, however the surround track adds a noticeable detail to the atmosphere of the on-screen images, broadening the stage and drawing the viewer slightly more in to the story.

There are some trailers of upcoming releases as the beginning of the disc, but other than this, there are unfortunately no bonus features included.

A Most Wanted Main is available in South Africa, to buy on disc, from 13 March 2015.

The Write Journey Workshop For Screenwriters

With the explosion of the local film industry and countless foreign films being made in South Africa, It has never been a better time to be a screenwriter.

Following in the tradition of 19-years of workshops throughout South Africa, The Writing Studio’s A Weekend Workshop for Screenwriters takes place in Cape Town at The Writing Studio in Green Point on Saturday, April 11, and Sunday, April 12, from 10am until 6pm.

Graduates of previous workshops include filmmakers John Barker (Spud 3: Learning to Fly, Bunny Chow and How To Steal a Million) and Henk Pretorius (Leading Lady, Bakgat, Fanie Fourie Se Lobola), producer screenwriter and filmmaker Sallas de Jager (Roepman, Verraaiers, Musiek vir die agtergrond and Stuur Groete aan Mannetjies Roux), award-winning playwright Neil Coppen (Abnormal Loads) and Jeremeo Le Cordeur (Tannie Dora Gaan Bos), novelists Lauren Beukes (Zoo City, The Shining Girl) Gary Hirson (The Magic That is Ours and Calm in Storm)and Consuelo Roland (who received acclaim for her Lady Limbo Novel, and was Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Award and received an Honorary mention for the Olive Schreiner Prize for her novel The Good Cemetery Guide).

Within one weekend you will know what it takes to be a screenwriter and how to write your screenplay.

The workshop looks at how to make the most of what you want to write about, how to conceptualise your ideas, and conquer the daunting writing process to take your idea from a blank page to a sellable draft filled with captivating visual narrative that will inspire the imaginations of prospective producers and filmmakers.

The workshop explores the art of plotting your story and understanding the journey of dramatic action, bringing the people who live in your story to life, and turning dull and meaningless story events into memorable actions.

The workshop is ideal for anyone who has a story to tell and want to turn inspiration into big screen action.

Following the workshop writers will receive one-on-one assistance during the process of writing their screenplays, and completed drafts will be promoted through The Write Agency to potential investors.

The trainer is Daniel Dercksen, the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio, who has been a published film and theatre journalist for 30 years and has been teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa the past 19 years.

The Write Journey weekend workshop takes place at The Writing Studio in Green Point, Cape Town, on Saturday, March 28 and 29 from 10am until 6pm.

The Write Journey is also available as a correspondence course for writers who would like to write in their own space and in their own time.

For more information and registration mail The Writing Studio on info@writingstudio.co.za or visit the website www.writingstudio.co.za

Andrew Of SAMDB Attends “The Write Journey Workshop”

The Write Journey workshop is a must for anyone who wishes to seriously consider writing screenplays (and while my intent at the workshop was for films, both feature and short, the principles we were taught certainly translate to stage, television, and even a novel).

The workshop begins with an introduction to what a screenplay is, so that students are familiar with terms and conventions.

From here, the workshop moves to teaching about planning your writing, and how to lay out your story well before you even put pen to paper, covering not only the all too familiar three act structure, but going far deeper, to the many differing plot points, which will translate to not only a better screenplay, but better audience understanding when the final product finally gets to the cinema big screen.

Daniel presents the workshop in a very interactive way, drawing on student participation, so that classes are in part tailored to the various individuals, allowing everyone to also learn from each other.

The workshop consisted of four sessions in a classroom setting, along with a few film screenings, during which various aspects of story, and filmmaking were discussed. Once the classroom sessions are completed, we were invited to attend a one-on-one with Daniel, where we could present story outlines (formulated according to what we’d learnt in class) and engage on any specific points relevant to our stage in writing and learning.

For anyone looking to venture in to the arena of script writing, this workshop is a must. You can learn only so much off the Internet, and while there are great resources available, they are often hard to understand, contain a great deal of reading, and and sometimes not be comprehensive enough.

The Write Journey Workshop (see more information above) is also offered as a correspondence course.

Star Wars: Episode VIII And Stand-alone Film News

SWTFA Logo

Yesterday at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, across the street from Lucasfilm, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger hosted a shareholder meeting where he announced news regarding the first Star Wars stand-alone movie as well as Star Wars: Episode VIII.

Rogue One is the title for the first film in a unique series of big-screen adventures that explores the characters and events beyond the core Star Wars saga. Rogue One will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) and written by Oscar nominee Chris Weitz (Cinderella, About a Boy, Antz). The first actress cast is Felicity Jones who garnered an Academy Award nomination and critical acclaim for her performance in The Theory of Everything. The film is due for release on December 16, 2016.

In addition, Iger confirmed that Rian Johnson will write and direct Star Wars: Episode VIII. The film, which continues the saga after the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (18 December 2015), is set for release on May 26, 2017 — forty years and a day after the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977.

Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron Trailer Breaks Records

Last week saw the release of the third trailer for the hotly anticipated follow-up to the super hero team up of a lifetime, Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron. The trailer set a record with 35 million views in 24 hours, breaking the previous record set by the last teaser trailer which debuted October 22, which got 34.3M global views in 24 hours. Eagerly awaited the world over, South African fans have a special reason to celebrate as the Johannesburg skyline and CBD will feature prominently in key breath-taking sequences, following the production’s filming in the City of Gold early last year. The film releases nationwide on 24 April 2015.

Frozen 2 Announced

Frozen 2 Announced

It’s of-f-f-f-f-icial: Frozen 2 is in development at Walt Disney Animation Studios with directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee and producer Peter Del Vecho, the Oscar®-winning filmmaking team behind Frozen. The news was announced at Disney’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders yesterday by Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company; John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios; and actor Josh Gad, who provides the voice of Olaf from Frozen. A release date and production details are on ice for now.

Fans will soon be able to see the brand new animated short film, Frozen Fever, which hits cinemas in front of Disney’s upcoming Cinderella on Thursday 2 April nationwide. Frozen Fever welcomes back to the big screen the voices that helped bring the Frozen favorites to life, and introduces a new song Making Today a Perfect Day. For a limited time, the track is available exclusively at iTunes (iTunes.com/FrozenFever). In the short film, it’s Anna’s birthday and Elsa and Kristoff are determined to give her the best celebration ever, but when Elsa catches a cold, her powers may put more than just the party at risk.

Nightcrawler: Review

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man driven to make money, yet lacking in ethics, works his way into the world of freelance journalism in L.A. Soon he begins blurring the lines between observer and participant. Aided by TV news veteran Nina (Rene Russo), things soon intensify as he begins to make more money off each piece he submits to the news station.

Gyllenhaal delivers an astounding performance, with an almost palpable psychosis at times, as he becomes the man Bloom, devoid of most morals and ethics. One finds oneself wanting to support him, and cheer him as he tries to survive and make money, yet you soon realise that what he is doing is despicable.

Nightcrawler is a superb film, thoroughly entertaining, with a great story and excellent cast. In the midst of Bloom’s journey, the filmmakers still find time to throw in a few quick twists, keeping audiences on their toes.

Nighcrawler opens 6 March 2015 in South African cinemas.

Blackhat: Review

A convict (Chris Hemsworth), in prison for hacking, is furloughed in order to help American and Chinese law enforcement track down a cyber-crime operation, threatening key infrastructure in the USA.

Blackhat is an intellectual action film. Great pains have been taken to research the hacker culture and to be technically correct. These moments of grand-geekery are interspersed with a few adrenaline pumping action sequences, coupled with a talented cast, good direction and cinematography, Blackhat makes for a very enjoyable techno-thriller.

Those not as clued up on cyber-crime and technology won’t be left behind, as enough detail is explained in the film to keep those audience members engaged, while those looking for the intricate details of system hack will be satisfied.

Blackhat is great escape, an enjoyable film to watch, and is sure to appeal to a broad adience. It opens 6 March 2015 in South African cinemas.