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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.

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Film Review

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

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dvd / blu-ray Review

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.

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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.

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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.