Learning To Drive: Review

Learning To Drive a delightful film, about self and overcoming.  It’s a story about finding the courage to take a leap of faith, and tackling one’s problems head-on, even if they scare you.

A writer, Wendy (Patrician Clarkson), from Manhattan takes on the challenge of Learning To Drive as her marriage is in the process of crumbling around her. Braving this life event, at a late stage in her life. Her instructor, Darwan (Ben Kingsly), is a Sikh with his own marriage troubles, brought on by an arranged marriage.

The two begin to develop a bond, and an unspoken need, for each other, as they drive about the city, and share their problems. Darwan has a very calm outlook on life, while Wendy is quickly and easily flustered by the troubles of daily life.

We are witness to this pairs journey of self-discovery and becoming. Each realising what they need to focus on, and overcome. The story is a sweet tale, and one that is testament to what we all endure in our own lives.

The story is well paced, following the emotional up’s and down’s of the characters, on their journey (and car drive). One almost gets the feeling that we’re peaking into their secrets. Secrets that should remain in the car, once the days lesson has ended.

Masterfully acted, and shot. Learn To Drive is sure to be enjoyed by all. Don’t let the art-house feel put you off, as you’d miss out on this uplifting tale.

Learning To Drive opens 20 November 2015, in South African cinemas.

No Escape: Review

They Dwyer family, Jack (Owen Wilson), Lucy (Sterling Jerins), Annie (Lake Bell) and Beeze (Claire Geare) have just arrived in a new country. Jack has a new job and they’ve uprooted their lives to start this new journey. No sooner have their arrived though, and they’ve made a new friend, Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). Soon after however,  a coup strikes, and people are being attacked and killed all over the city. So begins a harrowing attempt to escape a violent death, at the hands of those who will show no mercy.

No Escape puts the viewer right into the action. It’s tense, and will leave you feeling the urgency of avoiding the attackers, and checking every corner, waiting for the next rebel to take a shot at the family. The action and pacing stay close to the reality of the situation, choosing to avoid great shows of destruction, and over the top action.

This isn’t a film filled with plot twists, and an intellectual plot. It’s a fun escape, placing the viewer into the midst of a situation that we have all likely thought about, given current world events. The Hammond character is a sort of wizard, appearing just as he is needed, and anyone paying attention to the geography of the location, would be left wandering how he found the family. He’s a convenient way to get the family out of a tough situation. You’re also not sure if you’re meant to like him, or not. Although, he’d likely not care, and go on as he sees fit.

As for the Dwyer’s, they manage to overcome their own issues, fears, and relationship problems, and band together to survive. A journey of self. Viewers are likely to relate to at least a few of the issues they overcome.

A competent cast, and a tense ride, No Escape is one for action fans, and those looking for a less cerebral viewing experience. The film opens 20 November 2015 in South African cinemas.

The Guest (DVD): Review

The Film

A film with a bit of mystery, a bit of thriller and some action. The Guest is about a soldier, back from deployment overseas. He pays a visit to the family of a fallen army buddy, the Petersons. The family urges him to stay a few days, but soon a series of sudden deaths start pointing to something in his past, a secret mission, an experiment, something not being as it seems.

David (Dan Stevens) is a cool character. You like him from the start, but is he just too nice? With the straight forward story, one would think The Guest would be easy to predict. And that is probably what they want you to think. They mess with your mind, much like it seems someone has messed with David’s mind.

With a story shifting so often, it keeps the entire viewing experience fresh. David is immediately likeable, however this is bound to change back and forth throughout the story as appearances seem to change, and one is not quite sure what his motives are. Worse still, is he is always polite, quiet and calm.

When we eventually reach the action sequences, they are well presented, not over the top, choosing rather to keep things within the realm of realistic, and maintaining this right up until the climactic showdown.

The Guest is an enjoyable film, one that will keep you trying to outguess the main character, but not one that will require too much concentration to follow. A fun, action thriller, to keep anyone entertained for an evening. The feeling of a horror, with the pace of a thriller.

Disc And Bonus Features

The disc is encoded at a high bitrate, with no visible artefacts on screen. The image is clear, and stable. For thsoe with the correct hardware or software, the video can be scaled up to a larger screen.

Sound is presented in a 5.1 mix, with ample use of the surrounds to enhance the on-screen action, and further draw the viewer into the story.

Menus, while very plain and basic, are easy to use and functional.

There are no bonus features on the disc, other than a few trailers at the beginning.

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

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse: Review

The Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (#ScoutsVsZombies). The title gives a clue as to what to expect. There’s the obvious: there are scouts, there are zombies, there might be an apocalypse. But, read the title again, and you might not take the film too seriously, and that’s exactly what the film does. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. So go in expecting that, and you’ll have a fun time, with a quirky film.

Three scouts head out for a night of camping in the woods (well, two of them have other plans). And as the title tells us, somewhere along the way, something happens and there’s an impending zombie apocalypse.

Guess who are the only ones equipped to save the day? The three friends set out to rescue friends, family and the town. Zombies aren’t the only obstacles to be overcome in this story though. The friends have to take a good long look at themselves, and their friendship. They learn a few things along the way, and these don’t just include things a scout should know, but things any growing guy should – yes, they encounter girls.

The innuendoes, jokes and puns are thick and fast, catering for a wide audience, from genre in-jokes to the silly slapstick that will cater to the more immature sense of humour.

The Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse is a fun film, with a simple plot and a humorous way of presenting it. A great way to spend an evening with a group of friends, having a good laugh. It opens 6 November 2015 in South African cinemas.

Design A Costume For Luc Besson’s Epic Science Fiction Film – Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

Do not miss this great opportunity to design a costume for Luc Besson’s movie VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS due for release in South Africa in July 2017. Submitted costume designs will be considered for the actual wardrobe selection for one scene in the film.

Entrants are asked to create a piece that could be worn by a human, alien, humanoid or any other intergalactic creature you can think of. The scene for which you are designing will take place at a political cocktail party inside a space station called Alpha and the year is 2580. Entrants are encouraged to get inspired by reading more about the costume specifications and film below.

https://www.talenthouse.com/i/design-for-valerian

Up to 20 costume designers will be selected by Filmmaker Luc Besson, Editor in Chief of Yahoo Style Joe Zee and Valerian Costume Designer Olivier Bériot to receive $1,000 each and potentially have their work created and worn by actors in the film. Submissions are due November 27, 2015.

Snoopy And Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie In Cinemas December 2015

TIMES MEDIA FILMS and TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX are excited to bring you some nostalgic characters in a brand new SNOOPY & CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE which releases in South African cinemas, 4 December 2015. Explore the world of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the rest of the beloved “Peanuts” gang as they make their big-screen debut, like they’ve never been seen before, in the state of the art 3D animation. Charlie Brown, the world’s most beloved underdog, embarks upon an epic and heroic quest, while his best pal, the lovable beagle Snoopy, takes to the skies to pursue his arch-nemesis, the Red Baron. From the imagination of Charles M. Schulz and the creators of the ICE AGE films, SNOOPY & CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE will prove that every underdog has his day.

After the recent announcement by Epic Records and 20th Century Fox, Grammy Award-nominated multi-platinum singer Meghan Trainor was named one of the artist featured on the OST and who wrote Better When I’m Dancin’ as the new original song on the film and ‘Good To Be Alive’. Meghan Trainor was spotted at the New York premiere of SNOOPY & CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE that took place at the Los Angeles at Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, 1 November 2015. In attendance from the film was director Steve Martino, the cast of English language voice talent, as well as producers Paul Feig and the Schulz family.

Michelle Steytler, 20th Century Fox South Africa representative promises a Snoopy-fied summer film release saying “We are excited to have Snoopy and Charlie Brown: The Peanuts Movie in cinemas this December. The characters will definitely capture the hearts of children across South Africa, not to mention the older generation who love the Schulz comics. As part of our movie campaign we have teamed up with Bokomo Otees and McDonald’s which will bring fun, laughter and Snoopy-ing for kids in the month of December”.

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Dream Big this 4th of December 2015

Don’t forget to use our Peanutize Me app to create your own Peanuts character!

 

Realness – An African Screenwriters Residency

Urucu Media, under the mentorship of Berlinale Talents, in partnership with Nirox, Durban Filmmart, Restless Talent Management, The French Institute in South Africa and Institute Français’s Cinémas du Monde proudly presents REALNESS, a screenwriters residency for a new generation of African cinema.

From June to August 2016, 5 screenwriters will be invited to attend a seven-week residency to develop a new draft of their original feature screenplays. The aim of REALNESS is to provide the necessary time, space and support to help the continent’s best emerging writing talents hone their unique cinematic vision.

Week 1 The residency will kick off on 16 June 2016 with an introductory week at Durban Filmmart, Africa’s top co-production market. Residents will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in films, attend seminars and present their projects to industry professionals for feedback. Each resident will prepare a public presentation of their project at the end of the week.

Week 2-6 Residents will be transported to the Nirox artists residency in the Cradle of Humankind, where they will spend six weeks working in a tranquil and nurturing living environment. During the first week, top international script consultants will conduct workshops and one-on-one sessions with the residents. Thereafter, residents will work at their own pace, with ongoing support in the form of workgroups with fellow writers, curated film screenings, producer-led case studies and discussions with visiting industry speakers.

Week 7 In the final week, residents will have a debriefing and follow up Skype- sessions with their consultants. After leaving the residency, writers will be invited to submit a new draft of their screenplay by 30 September 2016. The most promising project to emerge from REALNESS will be invited and funded to participate in the prestigious La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde in Cannes, 2017.

REALNESS recognizes the real-life demands of most writers and that taking time to develop a screenplay is not always economically viable. To this end, residents will receive a stipend of R15 000 and all food and accommodation expenses will be covered for the duration of their stay. Please note that residents will be responsible for their own travel costs to and from the residency. We will assist in efforts to obtain sponsorship from country culture desks, embassies & other interested institutions.

While the residency will be conducted in English, REALNESS aims to accommodate non-English speaking participants by providing consultation in French and/or Portuguese where necessary.

Applications for National Arts Festival Fringe 2016 Are Open

Are you a frustrated thespian with a play burning a hole in your pocket? Perhaps a seasoned professional drowning in corporate gigs and yearning for the magic of the stage? A wannabe, gottabe music sensation in the making… a community group looking to take the world by storm? Then the National Arts Festival Fringe is where you could find fame and glory in 2016. Registration is now open for Africa’s largest open-access Festival, which will take place in Grahamstown from 30 June until 10 July.

“We’re looking for actors, singers, comedians, poets, and anyone who wants to show off their talent to an appreciative and knowledgeable audience,” Fringe Manager Zikhona Monaheng said.

The Festival’s website at www.nationalartsfestival.co.za contains all the necessary info guides and application forms, and registration is open until 15 January 2016. For the first time this year, the Festival is offering those who apply before 15 December this year an early bird discount.

“The Fringe is South Africa’s only truly open platform for artists – there is no selection process and everyone who believes in their work is welcome to take part,” Monaheng said. “It attracts artists from all over South Africa and from across our borders. International representation at the Fringe has grown steadily since the inception of the World Fringe Alliance – of which the National Arts Festival is a founding member. The Alliance is responsible for bringing in producers from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Prague, Brighton, Perth, Adelaide and New York looking for work to showcase at their festivals, creating scope for productions to extend their footprint beyond 11 days in Grahamstown to countrywide tours and international seasons.
It’s not easy, though, notes Festival Artistic Director Ismail Mahomed. “With over 400 production companies vying for the spotlight it can be a tough couple of weeks. But with careful marketing, a good concept, and, above all else, a fabulous production to set tongues wagging, productions can increase their chances of success.”

Another part of the charm of Grahamstown is the opportunities it offers artists – both those new to the game and old hands. “The Fringe offers artists the unique opportunity to rub shoulders with fellow artists, directors, producers – and many a partnership has been formed over a beer at the Long Table. With everyone on an equal footing on the Fringe, artists can learn from each other, swap stories, offer advice, and make connections that can sometimes have a lasting effect on their professional careers,” Monaheng said.

The National Lotteries Commission has supported the Fringe for a number of years, and their contribution helps keep access to the Fringe open and lowers the economic barrier to entry, says Mahomed.
“Festivals in general are a great showcase opportunity for our artists, and the Grahamstown Fringe in particular plays such an important role in the careers of so many artists,” he said. “The Lottery’s support of it is predicated on widening access and allowing as many artists as possible to take the stage.”

So – make 2016 the year. Head off to the website, read the info guides, and take a leap of faith. We’ll see you from the bleachers in Grahamstown next year – 30 June to 10 July 2016.

Fringe Info guides and application forms are now available from www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/artist-zone for visual art, theatre, film and contemporary music. Chat to the Fringe Team on 046 603 1103/ 1177 or email them – fringe@nationalartsfestival.co.za

Special Dog Kennels Donation To The SPCA In Celebration Of Third Season Of Disney Junior’s Doc McStuffins

Every dog has his day…and every dog should have a kennel too, which is why – in the spirit of the brand new third season of Doc McStuffins, Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309) is donating 25 dog kennels to the SPCA, all specially decorated by top South African celebs and media teams.

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One of South Africa’s favourite Disney Junior shows, Doc McStuffins tells the story of a young girl who cares for toys in her playhouse clinic. When she puts on her stethoscope, something magical happens – toys, dolls and stuffed animals come to life and she can communicate with them.

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In the all-new third season, Doc adds another string to her bow…she can help pets! In the new programming event, Doc McStuffins: Pet Vet, which began on Monday 19 October at 07:20AM on Disney Junior (DStv, Channel 309), Doc opens a new veterinary practice in her backyard clinic where she treats ill and injured toy animals.

In celebrating the media launch of the new pet-theme in the series, selected celebrities and members of the media were given dog kennels and pet-friendly materials to decorate with friends and family. Once completed, these kennels were donated to the SPCA to use for abandoned dogs who are waiting to find their homes.

Mandy Cattanah, Senior Inspector and Manager of the SPCA: “On behalf of the Roodepoort SPCA, a very big thank you to the Walt Disney Company Africa for the donation of 25 kennels for our animals.  Mahatma Ghandi said that ‘the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’  With the assistance of Disney Junior Programmes like Doc McStuffins, we are more able to educate our children on the importance of pet care, which will go a long way to reducing the number of animals in distress.”

“Not only does the new Doc McStuffins series emphasise the need to help animals, but also the responsibility on families to care for their pets,” says Deirdre King, Head of Marketing for The Walt Disney Company Africa. “We are especially thankful to all the celebrities and media houses for giving of their time and helping to make this initiative a truly memorable one, impacting the lives of a number of animals.”

To further extend Doc McStuffins’ exciting new venture into helping animals, we asked Johannesburg vet, Dr Colin van Rensburg of the Radiokop Animal Clinic, for his top tips for children in caring for their pets. Dr Colin’s helpful hints for kids include what kids should give their pets to drink – especially on hot summer days; watching for ticks and fleas; correct coat care; the importance of exercise, playtime and giving lots of love; the right diet (and what not to feed pets); dental hygiene; travelling with pets for the holidays; and keeping pets safe from loud noises like thunder and firecrackers over the summer holidays. Watch Dr Colin share his top tips for kids in caring for their pets on Disney Junior Africa Facebook Page.

Parents and care-givers can also log on to the brand new Disney Junior Africa Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DisneyJuniorAfrica) to keep up to date on the very latest from Doc McStuffins and Disney Junior.

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From dogs to goats, Doc McStuffins can fix them all! Catch the third season on Disney Junior, every day at 07:20.

Award-winning Play Grounded Flies Into The Baxter This November

groundedThe Mechanicals present George Brant’s award-winning one-hander Grounded, directed by Christopher Weare and starring Mikkie-dene le Roux, at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from 4 to 28 November at 8.15pm nightly and matinees on Saturdays at 5.30pm.

This topical and exceptional play has amassed several accolades, which includes a Fringe First award at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival and the National New Play Network’s 2012 Smith Prize, and is currently running on numerous world stages.

The media have raved about the work. A Younger Theatre described it as “Theatre at its most powerful and relevant” and FringeReview said, “Must be seen … a play with a political point, but told with such depth and feeling that it becomes a thing of beauty.”

Grounded seamlessly blends the personal and the political by telling the story of a hot-rod F16 fighter pilot whose unexpected pregnancy ends her career in the sky. Repurposed to flying remote-controlled drones in Afghanistan from an air-conditioned trailer (known as the chair force) in the Nevada Deserts in Las Vegas, the pilot struggles through surreal 12-hour shifts far from the battlefield, hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night.

Widely regarded as a tour-de-force play Grounded flies from the heights of lyricism to the shallows of workaday existence, targeting our assumptions about war, family, as well as challenging our ideas about how private we can all be in a public world of hidden CCTV cameras. As the pressure to track a high-profile target mounts, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert in which she lives and the one she patrols half a world away. This powerful story engages on many levels – a woman in a supposed man’s world is just one such example. The climax is arresting and the experience challenges our daily perception of our world today.

Earlier this year Mikkie-dene le Roux was nominated for a Fleur Du Cap Best Actress award for her performance. After graduating from UCT’s Drama Department in 2010 she joined The Mechanicals Collective, appearing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mephisto, The Real Inspector Hound, A Lie of the Mind, House of Usher and Lovborg’s Women. In Lovborg’s Women she received rave press reviews.

Director Christopher Weare, Distinguished Teacher recipient and Emeritus Professor (UCT), is a founder member on The Mechanicals’ Collective. For the collective he has directed The Bear, The Proposal, Decadence, Lovborg’s Women, The Zoo Story, Cowboy Mouth, House of Usher, Frank ‘N Stein, Mephisto, The Birthday Party, Buried Child and Murderer.

In 2012 he received the Fleur Du Cap Life Time Achievement Award, is also well-known as the founder of The Intimate Theatre from 2002 till it closed down in 2014. Weare’s 14-year collaboration with Alan Committie has produced one of the most successful brands of comedy on the South African stage. Amongst his celebrated productions for independent managements are Vigil, Same Time Next Year, An Audience with Emily Hobhouse and Elizabeth, Almost by Chance a Woman.

For the Baxter Theatre he directed the award-winning East (1990), Robin Levetan hit-production Skyf (1984/5) and People Are Living There (1995). He won a Fleur Du Cap Best Supporting Actor Award for his role as Hal in the Baxter production of Kvetch (1988).

Brant’s work has been produced internationally by some famous theatres such as the Gate Theatre of London and the Traverse Theatre of Edinburgh. His plays have been developed by diverse enterprises including the Kennedy Center and the Contemporary Drama Festival of Hungary. The play is currently running in various venues in the USA as well as in Dusseldorf, Munster, Tel Aviv and in London and now it comes to Cape Town at the Baxter. It is presented by arrangement with DALRO (Pty) Limited.

Grounded previews on 4 and 5 November, opens on 6 and runs until 28 November at 8.15pm nightly with matinees on Saturdays 7, 14, 21 and 28 November at 5.30pm.

Tickets cost R80 (Mondays and Tuesdays) and R120 (Wednesdays to Saturdays) and booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet.

grounded1For discounted corporate or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or email sharon.ward@uct.ac.za or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email her at carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za during office hours.