St. Vincent (DVD): Review

The Film

St. Vincent, a story about a grumpy old man, Vincent (Bill Murry), a Vietnam veteran and his new neighbours, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and Oliver (Jaden Lieberher).

Vincent doesn’t like kids, he doesn’t like people. Most people don’t like him. He spends a lot of his time with “a lady of the night” (Daka, played by Naomi Watts). He smokes, drinks and gambles. Yet, through a series of events, he has young Oliver thrust upon him, and becomes his after-school babysitter.

There is no need for any of the characters to try be funny in St. Vincent. The perils of every day life are humour enough. Watching Vincent’s attempts to get out of his gambling debts, seeing poor Oliver trying to fit in at a new school. There’s plenty of humour (although sometimes a bit dry, and a bit dark). There are also a lot of heartfelt moments, as each comes into their own.

The cast deliver excellent performances. They are well cast, and totally suited to their characters. The story is intelligent, funny, and in many ways, very heart warming. St. Vincent is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Murry brings his usual flair to his role as Vincent, and his mastery of the slightly off-centre humour he does so well. McCarthy can often be over the top with her roles, but is very well suited to the dramatic. And finally, an almost unrecognisable Watts, letting herself go to be come Daka.

This is defiantly a film that will appeal to many, and be enjoyed by all.

Disc And Bonus Features

As with nearly all discs these days, this one is encoded at a high bitrate, meaning there are no visible artefacts on screen. It could be scaled up to a larger screen, or higher resolution via hardware or software if desired.

Sound is provided in a 5.1 surround track, and while its use does add to the ambience of the film, and helps draw the viewer in that little bit more, the subject matter and nature of the story don’t really lend themselves to much use of the surrounds.

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.

St. Vincent is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Poltergeist: Review

Poltergeist is back, telling the story with an updated setting, and technology (both in the film, and that used to create it), and from a slightly different perspective. Not to mention, this time, it’s in 3D.

Most of us know the story already. A family moves into a new suburban home, the youngest daughter, Madison (played by Kennedi Clements),  appears to develop some imaginary friends. Then strange things begin to happen in the house, and then Madison disappears, apparently taken captive by ghosts.

Madison’s parents, Eric Bowen (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) enlist the help of some experts in an attempt to retrieve her, and so the battle begins, with each member of the family needing to overcome their own internal problems, in order to tackle this new threat.

Younger brother Griffin is a very nervous kid, he gets scared easily, some of which comes from being lost in a mall for a time some years prior. He does step up when needed though, and faces his fears head-on.

Older sister Kendra feels alienated from the family, as most teen girls do. Her character however, is also somewhat alienated from the audience, as she feels slightly too stereotypical of a teen, meaning she spends most of her time on the phone, and complains a lot.

The film is not without it’s moments of brevity though, and in some ways doesn’t take itself too seriously, which may be one of its saving graces. A good few laughs sprinkled between the more tense moments.

Poltergeist is a ride. It’s not too scary, and not too tense. There are no very big plot twists, and with this being a retelling of a story so many know, they filmmakers have not strayed too far from the original.

The new effects do leave less to the imagination, and show more on-screen. Watch this in 3D and you’ll feel even close, and more a part of the story. All this bring Poltergeist into the 21st century, and introduces it to a whole new generation of horror movie fans.

All in all, the film is a good bit of scary escape.

Poltergeist opens in South African cinemas on 29 May 2015

Jessabelle (DVD): Review

The Film

Jessabelle is one of those horrors that lulls the viewer in to a false sense of security, letting them believe it’s not a scary movie, and then all of a sudden, one finds one’s self with a tinge of fear, a hint of panic, and then you’re hit with it. Subtle, yet scary.

Following Jessie after a terrible car accident, she finds herself saying with her father whom she hasn’t seen in many years. It’s while staying here that strange, frightening things begin to happen. Not sure if they are real, imagined or just her own nightmares, Jessie finds herself becoming more and more afraid.

Finally she realises that this is a tormented spirit, waiting on her to return, and that has no intent on allowing her to once again escape. Building this revaluation slowly through disturbing messages left to her by her mother before she died, Jessabelle will leave the viewer trying to out-guess the events as they unfold.

Jessabelle is an enjoyable horror, one that provokes some thought, and steers clear of the cheap scares that so many others give in to. A chilling ride as we learn Jessie’s eventual fate, and one to watch on a cold winter’s night.

Disc And Bonus Features

The are no visible artefacts, due to the disc being encoded at a high bitrate. This allows one to scale the image up to a larger or higher resolution screen if desired. Sound is presented in a 5.1 surround track, and makes very good use of the surrounds, placing the viewer in the midst of the on-screen action, expanding the environment, and serving to provide some very chilling moments in the story.

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.

Jessabelle is available now, on disc, to purchase in South Africa.

Pac-Man Turns 35 On Friday 22 May 2015 And Sony Pictures “Pixels” Is There To Celebrate

Pac-Man 35th Anniversary

On Friday May 22, 2015, PAC-MAN™ – one of the most iconic videogame characters in history – will celebrate his 35th birthday.  With the character coming to the big screen this summer in Sony Pictures’ Pixels, the studio is joining in to celebrate with a global birthday party of epic proportions.  In cities around the world and online, film talent will join with moviegoers and special guests to celebrate with birthday cakes, free play of the PAC-MAN arcade game, and special events localized to each city.

Pixels is set for release in theaters nationwide in South Africa and the US on July 24, 2015.  As kids in the 1980s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler), Will Cooper (Kevin James), Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Peter Dinklage) saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades.  Now, they’re going to have to do it for real.  In Pixels, when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults – and now-U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders.  Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the arcaders with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

Moviegoers around the world can join in PAC-MAN’s birthday fun at Facebook.com/PixelsMovie to watch and share the latest Pixels trailer and to receive updates on the launch of the Pixels Defense mobile game from BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America Inc. that will feature PAC-MAN and other video game characters from the movie.

In Tokyo – the city of PAC-MAN’s birth – audiences will join in the fun by attempting to break the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the Largest Human Image of PAC-MAN on May 21, 2015.  At the event at Tokyo Tower, actor Shingo Yanagisawa and popular comedian and social media sensation Naomi Watanabe will join hundreds of moviegoers to create the largest PAC-MAN ever created by human beings.

In Chicago, Professor Toru Iwatani, the creator of PAC-MAN, and BANDAI NAMCO ENTERTAINMENT INC. will be at Level 257™, a brand new dining and entertainment facility created by NAMCO USA INC. inspired by PAC-MAN. A special 1980s-style event on Friday evening from 7pm-midnight will include gaming industry VIPs, free game play including a chance to play the fabled 255th and 256th levels of PAC-MAN, PAC-MAN’s official 35th birthday cake, live performances of the 1982 hit song “PAC-MAN Fever” by the original artist, Jerry Buckner of Buckner & Garcia and a personal appearance by PAC-MAN himself!  The celebration continues the next day with celebrity discussion panels, photo opportunities, prizes and game play contests including opportunities to play against the legendary gamer Billy Mitchell, the first person to ever achieve a “perfect score” on PAC-MAN.  

In partnership with Dave & Buster’s, all 75 locations across North America will celebrate the big man’s birthday by offering a free play on the over-sized, multi-player PAC-MAN BATTLE ROYALE arcade game to all guests with a Power Card. In addition, fans nationwide will have the chance to enter to win thousands of D&B Dollars to celebrate all summer long.

In the UK, PAC-MAN will celebrate his birthday with a special thrill – he’ll be launched into space.  PAC-MAN’s journey will be captured by a special GoPro camera unit and shared on his birthday.

And in Spain, four of that country’s biggest YouTube stars will face off on the game for the ultimate bragging rights.  As they engage their followers to look on, both online and in person, there could be as many as 21 million watching the videogame competition.

South African Pac-Man fans are being challenged to change their social media profile pictures to a Pac-Man picture to show their support (image attached)

Finally, from Paris at the French Open, Serena Williams, who has a cameo role in Pixels, is planning a special greeting for her co-star.

Commenting on the announcement, Josh Greenstein, president, Worldwide Marketing and Distribution for Sony Pictures, said, “PAC-MAN is one of the most recognizable videogame characters in history, so we wanted to be there for him as he bites into the big 35.  Before he makes his big-screen appearance in Pixels, we’re celebrating with birthday parties all around the world.  We’re excited that PAC-MAN is a part of the movie and can’t wait to share his performance with the world this summer.”

Professor Toru Iwatani, the creator of PAC-MAN, added, “It is hard to believe that 35 years has passed since we created PAC-MAN. It has been very exciting to see the world accept him as their own. Like any creator, I wanted to make something lasting, but this has surpassed everything I hoped for. I also feel very proud that PAC-MAN is playing an important role in Pixels – the visual effects of the giant PAC-MAN in New York will be extraordinary, and something that you’ve never seen on film before.  My birthday wish is that PAC-MAN can continue to make people happy.”

 

Pixels is directed by Chris Columbus.  The screenplay is by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling with a screen story by Tim Herlihy, based on the short film by Patrick Jean.  The film is produced by Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, and Allen Covert.

Market Theatre To Host Magical Night For Talent Showcase

Internationally renowned Market Theatre is set to host the 7th annual ACT | DALRO | Nedbank Performing Arts Scholarships awards for the first time this year.

The Newtown-based theatre will play home to the arts tuition competition’s finale for the next three years and promises to deliver a spectacular night when the top six finalists showcase their talents in the John Kani Theatre on 12 October 2015.

“We as the Market Theatre are very delighted to host the Performing Arts Scholarships for the first time this year. This initiative supports youth development ideals that are in line with our vision as an organization – and part of it is to provide the highest level of artistic excellence in all aspects of the performing and visual arts by contributing to the education and development of a new generation of arts talent in South Africa,” says Market Theatre CEO Annabell Lebethe. “We are proud to be part of Magic in the Making and believe that this year’s production will be more than spectacular!”

To make the event an ever bigger success the Arts & Culture Trust urges all performing arts aspirants, who will be put through the paces in the hope of qualifying for the final round, to continue registering for the upcoming auditions which will take place in their respective regions.

The Scholarships Programme is open to 2015 Grade 12 learners and individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 who are not considered professionals and wish to pursue undergraduate studies in the performing arts at any accredited South African tertiary institution.

These individuals will be assessed on their acting, dancing and singing potential with the process culminating in a final showcase before an independent panel of industry judges. For the auditions, participants are required to prepare a prescribed monologue, song and dance which will be made available on the ACT website and in addition to that they will get an opportunity to perform a monologue of their choice.

During the same period, auditions for a dynamic emcee to present the final showcase will also take place.

“This new exciting partnership with the Market Theatre sets to take full advantage of the learning and development opportunities the Scholarships Programme offers. An exciting addition to this already dynamic process is the integration of Market Theatre Laboratory apprentices as Assistant Director and Crew. While the winners will go on to study performing arts, the finalists would have gained valuable experience working with the programme’s creative team. Comprising of professional performing artists, this group of experts also guides a young emcee making their presenting debut during the final round of the programme. As part of the Scholarships’ alumni programme, previous winners will also be given an opportunity to join the creative team as choreographers this year,” says Chief Executive Officer of the Arts & Culture Trust, Pieter Jacobs.

Following the successful audition process last year, the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) in partnership with DALRO and Nedbank Arts Affinity have made the opportunity in 2015 accessible to more participants by holding try-outs in all nine provinces. Auditions will take place in the following regions and venues:

30 June and 1 July: Durban (KwaZulu-Natal)
3 and 4 July: Cape Town (Western Cape)
6, 7 and 8 July: Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape)
15 July: Pretoria (Gauteng)
16 and 17 July: Johannesburg (Gauteng), Market Theatre in Newtown
24 July: Kimberley (Northern Cape)
25 July: Bloemfontein (Free State)
28 July: Potchefstroom (North West)
30 July: Witbank (Mpumalanga)
01 August: Polokwane (Limpopo)

For the final round, the top six candidates must be available for rehearsals and training with industry professionals from 6 to 12 October in Johannesburg. Winners will be announced and awarded the scholarships at the finale.

2014 first-place winner Katlego Nche reflects: “I would like thank ACT, DALRO and Nedbank for the wonderful opportunities that they have put before me. Because of them, a part of my dream is fulfilled and it keeps expanding. Believe me when I say that there’s actually more to it than just the main prize.” “My words of encouragement to those who have applied to be part of this programme is that they should work hard on their craft and they will receive more than they bargained for,” he adds.

Nedbank Arts Affinity and DALRO will provide three more scholarships this year totalling the value of R315 000, adding to the current number of 12 scholarships that have been awarded since the programme’s inception six years ago. To date, the value of scholarships that have been granted stands at R1 260 000.

Registrations for the Scholarships Programme are open until 31 May 2015.

Al Jazeera Pitching Forum Call At The 17th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival

Encounters, in partnership with Al Jazeera, is calling African filmmakers to submit proposals for the Al Jazeera Pitching Forum taking place in Johannesburg during the 17th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival on 10th June 2015.

Encounters is pleased to announce that it will host the 4th Al Jazeera Pitching Session and a maximum of 12 African filmmakers will be selected to pitch to Al Jazeera commissioning editors.

The Call is open to projects at any stage of development or production and Encounters is offering a limited number of travel grants to selected African filmmakers from outside Johannesburg and South Africa.

Each filmmaker selected will have a maximum of seven minutes to pitch their film, with an additional 7 minutes allocated for feedback and questions from the Al Jazeera commissioning editor. Projection equipment will be provided for those that have DVDs or other visual presentations to augment their pitch.

Pitching Workshop

All filmmakers who have been selected to pitch must be available for a one-day pitching workshop that will take place the day before the Pitching Forum.

These filmmakers will have an opportunity to discuss their pitch with an experienced filmmaker who will serve as a Tutor. The Tutor will assist filmmakers to hone their ideas, the structure of their stories in order for them to present a well-constructed pitch to the panel. During the workshop, the tutor will provide inside knowledge on working with Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera Networking Session

Encounters will also host an Al Jazeera information and networking session before the Pitch program begins.

Submission Details:

Interested parties should send not more than:

  • A one-page synopsis of their film
  • A one-page biography of the filmmaker and producer, including complete contact details (telephone number, city of residence, home and work addresses)
  • One page of further background information and/or visual treatment of the subject.
  • A brief motivation for a travel grant to attend the Pitching Forum, if applicable
  • Links to previous works and promo of proposal, if available.

 

To:
festival@encounters.co.za on or before 4pm (South African time), Tuesday 2nd June 2015.

Any questions can be sent to the email address or call 021 4615962

ABOUT AL JAZEERA

Al Jazeera English is an international news channel, with over sixty bureaux spanning six different continents. Established in 2006, it has continued to grow in reach and popularity due to its global coverage, especially from under-reported regions. The channel currently broadcasts to over 250m households across 130 countries. Its in-depth approach to journalism has won it numerous awards and plaudits over the years, including RTS News Channel of the Year 2012, Freesat Best News Channel, the Columbia Journalism Award, a DuPont award, and a George Polk award.

Al Jazeera is one of the world’s leading media corporations, encompassing news, documentary and sport channels. It was the first independent news channel in the Arab world dedicated to covering and uncovering stories in the region. It is now a media network consisting of over 20 channels – Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, Al Jazeera Balkans, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera Mubasher, Al Jazeera Documentary, the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center, and the Al Jazeera Center for Studies.

The 16th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival takes place from 5 -15 June 2014 in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Festival is supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, National Film and Video Foundation South Africa, Bertha Foundation, Al Jazeera, Wesgro, City of Cape Town, The Times and HCI Foundation.

Treehouse (DVD): Review

The Film

A young girl, Elizabeth (Dana Melanie), vanishes after chasing a shadowy figure into the woods near her house. The towns annual celebrations are put on hold following this event, but teens being what they are, a group arranges to meet out in the woods, and have their own celebration.

Heading out to these celebrations, it’s not long before two brothers, Killian (J. Michael Trautmann) and Crawford (Daniel Fredrick), find the young girl in an old Treehouse, and so they are drawn in to a life and death struggle against the evil perpetrators.

Crawford heads back to his motorcycle, parked nearby, in order to fetch help. Younger brother Killian remains behind to look after an injured Elizabeth. It’s not long before some very evil beings show up, and they are in a fight for their lives.

Treehouse starts as any teen horror would start, with teens doing what they do best, and disobeying the rules. Once bad things begin to happen though, it’s clear that these two brothers are capable of thinking for themselves, and as the tension of the films plot rises, so it seems, does their level of intellect, and ingenuity.

While not so much psychologically disturbing to the viewer, one is left fighting a feeling that you want to flee whatever impending danger and violence is coming, willing the characters on screen to do the same, and escape whatever may befall them next.

The plot of Treehouse is not overly complicated, with just enough to keep the viewing guessing. The leads are well cast, and bring their characters to life. Melanie for one is no stranger to the genre, having played in several horror / thrillers.

Treehouse is a film that will have our heart racing, wanting to escape, and it will thrill you to the end.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate. There are no visible artefacts on screen, and video is smooth. It can be scaled up to a higher resolution screen.

The soundtrack is encoded in a 5.1 surround mix, adding to the on-screen action, and ambiance when the characters are out in the expansive woodland.

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.

Treehouse is available now on disc, for purchase, in South Africa.

Exeter (DVD): Review

The Film

From director Marcus Nispel, comes the horror, thriller Exeter. A story of typical teens, out for some debauchery and fun. In their drug fuelled state, they find an old vinyl record, decide to play this backwards to hear the subliminal messages, and in so doing manage to release a malevolent spirit. This evil entity possess each of the group one-by-one. As the fear mounts, and the horror rises, it becomes apparent that the entity is attempting to convey a message to the group.

Exeter starts off as calm as any film following a teen drug party at an abandoned institute can, and we are soon introduced to the group, and their personalities.

It’s not long before things take a turn for the worse, and what looks, and feels, like your typical teen / evil spirit horror, subtly plays on the mind of the viewer. Tension mounts, and the story line sneakily misleads you into thinking that you are in for a bunch of cheap jump-scares. While there are plenty of those, there is an underlying menace to the plot, the feeling that very soon, things are going to move up a notch, and you will be left even more disturbed.

Veteran actor Stephen Lang shows up, as Father Conway. His entrance reminiscent of the priest arriving in The Exorcist. And a very apt comparison, as his is indeed summoned for similar purposes. Yet again though, things are not as they seem.

The teen cast, consisting of Brett Dier (Brad), Brittany Curran (Reign), Gage Golightly (Amber) and Kelly Blatz (Patrick) deliver convincing portrayals of their various personalities, and teens in distress, coupled with the creepy setting of the abandoned institute where they are partying, serve to heighten they feeling that they are in a world of trouble.

Exeter is a scary escape, best watched with the lights off, and a great addition to any horror enthusiasts collection.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, meaning there are no visible artefacts on screen. It can be scaled up to a larger or higher resolution screen.

Sound is encoded in a 5.1 surround track, and makes use of this in some of the more intense scenes to add to the on-screen action, and suspense of the story.

There are unfortunately no bonus features on the disc.

Exeter is available on disc, for purchase, now in South Africa.

Winter Express Courses & Annual LAMDA International Certificate At ACT Cape Town

1 DAY ACCENT TRAINING – STANDARD AMERICAN

Saturday 23 May
10AM – 4PM
Entry Requirements: None.
Cost: R1050.00 (includes all training material and certificate of completion).

Course will cover:

§ The ear and speech skills required to deliver dialogue in an authentic US accent, applied to the following performance scenarios:

– Script Work
– Role Development
– Interview / audition where actor is required to ad libb in the appropriate accent

1 DAY CASTING FOR COMMERCIALS

Saturday 30 May
10AM – 4PM
Entry Requirements: None.
Cost: R1050.00 (includes all training material, DVD of recorded performance and certificate of completion).

This course will provide participants with an in-depth look at the techniques required to prepare and cast successfully for all types of commercials. Course culminates in a mock casting for playback and review.

LONDON ACADEMY OF MUSIC AND DRAMATIC ART (LAMDA)
*International Performer’s Certificate*

01 June – 29 October
MONDAYS
2pm – 4pm
Class Fees: R5500
Exam Fees: Approx. R550-R650per entry

1 June – 22 June (4 x classes)
20 July – 21 September (9 x classes)
10 October – (Rehearsal)
29 October – (1 x Final Class)

Students may apply for the annual LAMDA examination, where they will present work to a LAMDA examiner. Successful students will receive an internationally recognized LAMDA certificate.

LAMDA has provided theatre and the world of film and television with generation upon generation of first-class actors. Examinations have been refined and developed into a comprehensive system of performance evaluation by experts in education, acting and communication.

Places in courses are limited – enroll now to avoid dissapointment!

Left Behind (DVD): Review

The Film

Left Behind, a typical story of a the deteriorating relationship between a father and his daughter takes a sudden turn as millions of people around the world vanish in a single moment, plunging the world into chaos, and leaving destruction in its wake.

Nicolas Cage delivers his usual flair to his role as Rayford Steele, airline pilot and father, while Cassi Thomson brings a calming aspect to the father / daughter relationship, as Irene.

After dealing with the introductions and some aspect of the family life of the Steeles, the film gets down to business, and drags the viewer along for a ride with the main characters. Rayford is dealing with issues on-board his aircraft, with the lives of all those remaining in his hands. Back on the ground, Irene is desperately searching for her younger brother Raymie, who vanished along with all the others.

Left Behind, while not a film with a plot that will by any means tax one’s brain, does leave the viewer with a sense of mystery. It also provides a decent amount of entertainment, so is a great film for a few hours of escape from everyday life. This being said, it’s a great choice for a lazy afternoon of film viewing.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, with clear picture and no visible artefacts on screen. It can be scaled up to a high definition screen via software or hardware if desired. Audio is presented in a 5.1 surround track, and while not constant, it does expand the on-screen action for the viewer in several scenes, adding to the atmospherics of the film.

There are unfortunately no additional features included on the disc.

Left Behind is available now in South Africa, for purchase on disc.