Dunkirk Film Review – NO SPOILERS

From the beaches of Dunkirk to the velvety red carpet of the Dolby Theatre in California.

That’s exactly where Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic is headed to pick up its Oscar.

Dunkirk is the iconic true story of Operation Dynamo and the evacuation of allied forces from northern France, made up predominantly of the British Expeditionary Force, after the failed Battle of France in 1940. Stranded on a beach pinned down by German forces, sitting ducks for the dreaded Luftwaffe and with British destroyers unable to access the shallow waters, the soldiers were only a few miles from home but the White Cliffs may as well have been the moon. Nearly 400,000 allied troops waited on the damp sands of Dunkirk yet they couldn’t have been more alone. In the end, home came for them.

Home came for them

For this self-proclaimed war buff, historian and long time Sir Kenneth Branagh fan, the Australian bow of Dunkirk could not come quick enough. When the day finally arrived it was IMAX or nothing. After being ushered into the theatre by a youngster no older than many boys who went to war in 1940, my friend asked me where I wanted to sit, I had excitedly replied with “right in the cross hairs!” It would not be long before I saw the terrifying irony of my decision. 

From the outset, Chris Nolan’s 70mm behemoth did not disappoint. The scarcely used widescreen format was an exercise in total immersion that left me wiping crusted sea-spray from my eyebrows and shaking sand out of my shoes for the rest of the evening. It also left me wishing I had a sedative handy. Dunkirk is 1 hour 45 minute long anxiety attack. The atmosphere of fear and desperation created by Nolan is as relentless as the Dunkirk tide, which comes in every three hours, or maybe every six hours; fortunately there’s a Navy guy there to clear that one up…

Nolan’s Dunkirk structure can be best described as a triptych. He has cleverly split the evacuation narrative into three threads, threads that are identified by titles at the beginning of the film: The Mole, The Sea and The Air (It also mirrors Churchill’s post-evacuation speech). For those who may not be aware, The Mole is actually a breakwater wall at Dunkirk and the only suitable location for embarking soldiers onto larger vessels such as destroyers. But in typical Nolan style (Memento, Inception), telling you the same story from three different perspectives wasn’t quite enough, each perspective is also told within a different time period. We cover one week on the Dunkirk beach, one day on a civilian boat heading to Dunkirk and one hour in the air with the RAF Spitfire pilots.

When you think about it, the timeframes make sense. The Spitfires carried just enough fuel to spend roughly 40 minutes over Dunkirk, less if they encountered enemy planes in the Channel, this equated to a much shorter involvement in the evacuation of Dunkirk if no less traumatic. The issue of fuel is a subtle but key focus of The Air thread. We spend a day on one of ‘the little ships of Dunkirk’, part of a motley flotilla of around 700 civilian vessels called into service. Depending on the size of the vessel and the route taken the crossing could take a few hours or more so from dock to Dunkirk and back was more or less a day. We know the 338,000 allied soldiers were evacuated between 26 May and 4 June, so you can see where that’s going. Much like the unpredictable Channel it can get a little choppy but for the audience who pay attention it’s extremely rewarding when it all comes together.

The Mole

Another reason the unusual structure works is because it adds an alternative depth to a film that deliberately lacks exposition. There’s no time wasted on character development, no poetic monologues, Nolan is about bang for buck and a visceral rather than intellectual experience. As the saying goes; actions speak louder than words and death in the waves of Dunkirk was often silent. Lack of dialogue also happens to be a major plot line with The Mole taking on a double meaning. I won’t spoil it but after a Harry Styles Lord of the Flies moment we see from the desperate measures of some soldiers, their sheer will to survive. While our characters might not have much to say, Hans Zimmer’s score raises the intensity and keeps the heart pounding. I enjoyed the tick tock that accompanied the score much like a pulse and made my stomach clench in anticipation of a moment of catastrophe and tragedy.

The accuracy of Dunkirk is hard to challenge. Everything you see in this film is true to accounts including gliding Spitfires and suicide in the waves but what impressed me even more was Nolan’s finer touches. References to shell shock which is often only intimated in many movies, the fear rescued soldiers had of going below decks, feelings of shame expressed by the soldiers evacuated because all they saw was failure, and the bitterness towards the RAF for not doing more which, unbeknownst to the soldiers at the time was actually a deliberate decision by the Government. Nolan doesn’t shy away from the initial “only British” on British ships controversy either, it can be easy to forget the French and a number of other smaller contingents of allies were on that beachhead being bombed and strafed as well. In the case of the French First Army, while many were eventually evacuated, 40,000 maintained a rearguard action covering the evacuation and were then forced to surrender to the Germans on 4 June after Operation Dynamo officially ended.

Shock and awe without the gore

I followed the making of the film and it was clear immediately that Nolan wanted realism with just a finishing layer of SFX. The production team shot on location, had real destroyers, flew real Spitfires and had thousands of extras wading waste-deep in the tempestuous Dunkirk waters; they even rebuilt The Mole! According to Marine Coordinator for the production, Neil Andrea (Castaway, Pirates of the Caribbean and Captain Phillips), there were up to 60 ships in the water at various stages of the shoot and the film ”was basically a re-enactment of the real events.” 

Surprisingly for a war film though Nolan didn’t have the standard combat gore, and it worked perfectly well without it. This just wasn’t that type of movie. What worked for last years Hacksaw Ridge or even Saving Private Ryan was not going to value add in Dunkirk. A row of bodies being whipped by wind-blown sand, a single scream from an unseen soldier being crushed by a ship or men quietly pushing away bodies washed in on the rising tide is just as powerful and traumatic as seeing a man trying to put his own intestines back in. Nolan just didn’t need the go-to blood and guts to create what could be easily described as a thriller as much as a war film. The absence of such carnage also meant a PG-13 rating and would extend the audience reach which was something Nolan was very conscious of.

The cinematography, helped by the 70mm format, did everything from demonstrate the expansive and at times desolate Dunkirk shore to putting you in a Spitfire cockpit or the on the deck of Mr Dawson’s 43ft long Moonstone. This is where I have to thank Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema for literally putting me in the cross hairs in the first Stuka dive bomber attack on the beach. Despite my attempt I couldn’t lean any further back in my seat as the bombs came straight at me! I’m confident my impression is still in seat 20, row 18.

Dunkirk’s production used real Spitfires

Now for the ensemble cast. It’s a predominantly young, relatively unknown cast for obvious reasons with a smattering of elder statesman including Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Mr Dawson) and Oscar nominee Sir Kenneth Branagh (Commander Bolton) who bring the gravitas. Tom Hardy (Farrier) is probably the most recognisable of the actors outside of the UK and plays one of two Spitfire pilots in the film. Jack Lowden (Collins) plays the second Spitfire pilot. There is a lead character, despite the constant shifting of perspectives, played by newcomer Fionn Whitehead (Tommy). Tommy represents the collective young British soldier at Dunkirk. Whitehead spends a good portion of the film teamed up with Aneurin Barnard (Gibson). The pair seem to develop a companionable silence from their first awkward meeting which comes under scrutiny later in the film. Both were brilliant. Cillian Murphy is in the line-up, known only as the “shivering soldier” on IMBD but his performance is rock solid. Harry Styles (Alex) made his film debut and I have to say he did a more than respectable job.

It’s difficult to pick a stand-out in an ensemble cast but there’s no denying Tom Hardy’s eye work in a confined space with the rest of his face covered was a masterclass in the less is more theory. Mark Rylance is the stoic civilian boat owner Mr Dawson and definitely the guy you want coming to rescue you. In typically British understated fashion there’s a time and a place for a cup of tea and that’s on your way to Dunkirk under threat of U-boat attack, mines and Luftwaffe! But it’s not all tea and scones onboard the Moonstone and their bid to save lives has its own devastating consequences. As for Sir K, he’s got his own eye work happening. That man can well up on cue and at 70mm the risk of drowning in his tears was very real. On a serious note though Commander Bolton demonstrates the agonising decisions the officers of Dunkirk had to make and the harrowing consequences of those decisions were felt deeply through Sir K’s portrayal.

Dunkirk’s young line-up

This film has heroes but it’s not about heroics. Dunkirk was a disaster but the film isn’t about failure. Soldiers wanted to go home but there’s no sentimentality. Dunkirk is about survival. Base, animalistic, instinctive survival. Dunkirk white-knuckles its way across the Channel and the viewer is as trapped in the experience as the soldiers on the beach. Dunkirk also captures the determined, stiff upper lip mentality of the Brits that would see them turn Dunkirk into the miracle that would unite a nation and see them through another 5 years of war.

I give Dunkirk 5 out of 5 scones with jam and cream. This will be the best picture winner in March 2018 and it’s THE best WWII film ever made.


Fury is without doubt, the most authentic WWII film ever produced and with war films traditionally performing well at the Oscars, Fury could be the biggest threat to 2015 Best Picture frontrunner; Birdman.


“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.

The story follows a five man Sherman Tank crew as they push into Nazi Germany in April 1945. Despite the war coming to an end and having already survived a campaign in Africa the crew, lead by their battle hardened Staff Sergeant, Wardaddy, played by Brad Pitt (Inglorious Basterds, World War Z); rumble forward into the jaws of Nazi resistance. Those jaws could exert serious pressure and they did so in the form of Waffen SS and a Panzer Division Tiger I. The Tiger I was the most formidable tank of the war and of course the Waffen SS were the infamous armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel (SS, “Protective Squadron”). To say our ragged and morally questionable group of allied troops were up against it is an understatement and the casualty rate soars.

Fury Tanks

I knew I was watching something special from the first scene, it was equal to that of Saving Private Ryan for sheer brutality, if not scale. That one scene is the manifestation of mans most primitive survival instinct: Kill or be killed. The tone, the scene, and the standard for authenticity are now set.

Under the watchful eye of Military Advisor David “Sting” Rae, Director David Ayer takes the military genre to a whole new level of authenticity. I can hear every Saving Private Ryan fan scoffing from all the way down here in Australia, but I can assure you it is absolutely the case. With tank movies notoriously difficult to make due to their claustrophobic nature, the problem has always been compounded by inaccuracies in the equipment used, and it has been the downfall of most of Fury’s predecessors. So why is Fury different? Well, because Brad Pitt must have used his abundant and irresistible charm to convince the Bovington Tank Museum to permit them to use the only fully operational Tiger I in existence. Tank #131 in the film. Then there’s the rigorous “boot camp” and tank training the cast was put through, minimal use of computer generated images (CGI) which meant they really were using all the gear, and sound editing that literally blew me away. Now you’ve got an experience that you can see, hear and feel.


”The dying is not done. The killing is not done.”

The one thing that stood out most in this movie for me is the fact that our “heroes” were not portrayed in typical heroic fashion. At the conclusion of one battle there’s a particularly disturbing scene which can’t be dressed up to be anything other than a war crime. But it was almost refreshing to note it wasn’t a German committing it. I felt liberated in its acknowledgment that the allied forces have demons of their own to wrestle with. It brought to mind General Dwight Eisenhower’s comments in Paris in February of 1945: ”Our primary purpose is destruction of as many Germans as possible. I expect to destroy every German west of the Rhine and within that area in which we are attacking.” And so the relevant excuses are made and the war goes on.

The status quo is reinstated in the third act and it’s heroics galore as our crew makes their last stand. It’s powerful and Pitt’s turn is commendable although I think Shia Labeouf had the standout performance. Labeouf is a very real chance for an Oscar nod of his own.

I stayed until the end credits rolled as I usually do and was pleasantly surprised, and gripped, by what I saw. There’s as much effort gone in here as in the opening credits of Seven. For those of you who watch the DVD audio commentaries you’ll often hear Directors talk about their opening credit sequences and how they use them to set the scene or provide background information, it’s all about time efficient in the actual feature. Most do nothing at all with end credits except show out-takes or bow a song from the B-side, but Fury has heavily invested in the last five minutes with a hypnotic blood red WWII media montage. Nice touch!

To date Fury has pocketed a respectable $77 million and is holding down fifth spot at the Box Office Stateside. With Interstellar blowing up the BO and the latest Hunger Games instalment set to break all kinds of records, Fury won’t be memorable in terms of earnings, but it should find its way to Dolby Theatre in February 2015. This is a big screen movie so if you haven’t caught it yet, make the effort, it’s worth the price of admission.

The Fault In Our Stars

With the social media hype surrounding this movie, of which Art In Motion happily perpetuated, there was no way I was going to miss seeing The Fault In Our Stars on the big screen. If I’m going to end up a blubbering mess I may as well do it with some girlfriends, two dozen strangers and a choc-top.

”That’s the thing about pain. it demands to be felt.”

Its been 3 days now since I saw TFIOS and I’m still picking the remnants of tissues from my eyelashes. I have however recovered sufficiently enough to write about a film where heart-wrenching, traumatic, and harrowing; all seem to be fitting descriptions. It was like Sophie’s Choice, Who will love My Children, Schindler’s List and The Notebook all piled on top of one another to make the Everest of sad movies. It’s any wonder I found it hard to breathe but that may have just been my blocked nose and not the oxygen levels in the atmosphere… Elevating this mountain of sorrow, feelings of being uplifted and liberated managed to find their way through the fog of loss to reach the peak of hope and joy, and an understanding that life and love; no matter how short, are things to strive for, cherish and celebrate.


The Fault In Our Stars


Directed by Josh Boone, who has helmed just one other film (Stuck In Love), and based on the John Green novel of the same name; TFIOS is the story of Hazel and Gus, two teenagers who meet at a cancer support group and fall in love. Both are dealing with their conditions in very different ways but have a similar grasp on sarcasm that draws them together. Ansel Elgort who plays Gus, immediately grabs your attention. That first grin lures you in and you know there’s going to be mischief. I fell in love with his character instantly. Shailene Woodley shines as Hazel. Woodley has taken a typically brooding teenage girl role and magnified it by one hundred. Hazel’s matter-of-fact outlook on her doomed life is in complete contrast to Gus’ more carpe diem-YOLO perspective.

Laura Dern and Sam Tremmell play Hazel’s somewhat perfect yet tortured parents, and with their help, Gus eventually melts Hazel’s heart. Their union is the point of no return and an almost Romeo & Juliet-esque tragedy unfolds from there.

TFIOS is not without its humorous moments though. Gus’ friend Isaac is the McLovin of the group and his eye sight, or lack thereof, is a constant source of amusement. A scene involving eggs of all things had me in stitches and probably prevented me from curling up in the foetal position under my seat.

Produced on a modest 20th Century Fox budget of $12 million, and despite a front-loaded weekend, TFIOS has been profitable; grossing $163 million worldwide. It has also thrust Dern and Woodley into Oscar conversation, mine at least, with Elgort a possible dark horse as well. Its success, whilst driven initially by social media saturation, is also based on the universally felt and understood themes. Cancer doesn’t recognise geographical boundaries, political agendas or religious beliefs. Unlike the humans it ravages, it does not discriminate.

This film connects deeply with its audience, some more than others, dependant upon personal experience with this merciless affliction. There are few people in this world who have not suffered or witnessed the devastation of cancer. Family, friends, neighbours; it has become ubiquitous.

”There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you’re sixteen, and that’s having a kid bite it from cancer.”

I walked away from this film appreciative of life and looking forward to the future, albeit puffy eyed and with one of those *feels*, hangover headaches. If you aren’t affected by this film then you should check for scales as there’s a good chance you may in fact be a reptile! TFIOS is a beautifully crafted story that deserves all the critical acclaim that comes its way. And I’ve no doubt it will come.

If you want to relive the *feels* the official soundtrack is available for download from iTunes and contains exclusive tracks from Ed Sheeran and Birdy. The official trailer is below.




Homeland Season 4 News

Homeland season 4 casting proves you can’t keep a good Congressman down. Corey Stoll may have been martyred for Frank Underwood’s cause in House Of Cards but he’s alive and well and back in politics. Corey is set to guest star in season 4 of Homeland as Pakistan CIA Chief, Sandy Bachman.

Laila Robins also joins the Homeland cast as U.S Ambassador to Pakistan, Martha Boyd.


House Of Cards to Homeland: Corey Stoll


Season 4 will focus on Claire Dane’s fractured character Carrie Mathison plying her trade as a field operative abroad. It’s a significant shift from previous seasons and one that will hopefully revive interest in Showtime’s flagship program. It won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama in 2012 but the reception from audiences was mixed for season 3 due to the lack of screen time for Damian Lewis’ character, broken Marine Sgt, Nicholas Brody. The eleventh hour save came in the final episodes with the well crafted, and fittingly subdued demise of Brody.

Homeland fans know that Carrie was pregnant with Brody’s baby at the time he was unceremoniously hung from a crane, so it will be interesting to see how she copes back in the field in a foreign country, with child and without baby-daddy. Will she still be a lip-quivering mess? Or will she pull it together and get back to what she does best?


Rupert Friend (Peter Quinn)

Before you ask, yes Mandy Patinkin will be back as Saul Berenson and Rupert Friend, who plays Peter Quinn, also returns. Apart from providing the eye-candy, I’m looking to Peter to play a more significant role this season including, being a potential love interest for Carrie. I think it’s safe to assume he’ll be saving her from some catastrophe, most likely herself if things don’t improve with her mental state.

There’s no word yet on a release date but with filming still taking place up to November, we could be looking at a September – October drop by Showtime.



Orange Is The New Black Season 2

It’s nearly time to lock it down for season 2 of Orange Is The New Black. This award winning original series from Netflix, will be paroled on June 6, and the wait has felt like a jail sentence for fans. The new season trailer was released back in April but in case you missed it, we’ve posted it here, and it looks like s**t’s gonna get real!


If you’re all caught up with season 1 you’ll know it ended in brutal fashion with Piper Chapman going all American History X on Pennsatucky. Between that and the new trailer we think it’s safe to assume she’s turned over a new leaf, but it’s looking decidedly rotten on the other side “I’m a lone wolf and a vicious one, don’t make me rip your throat out.” Has Piper, ahem, turned? I guess we’re going to find out if prison has changed her.


Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)

It appears most of our favourite inmates are still with us, although the fate of Pennsatucky is unknown. There’s a bit of fresh meat too, someone from Red’s past will challenge her on the inside, while Crazy Eyes has moved on from her Piper obsession and fixated on a new play thing. That should free up stalking space for Alex to win back the love of her life and one-time mule. Officer Bennett is back, but there’s no sign of his sensitive side as he starts rockin’ the asshole guard act. He could be taking up where ‘Pornstache’ left off. Poor Pornstache, we do hope he returns, he just brings so much gutter to the canteen.

The new season is looking mean, but with these nefarious yet charismatic characters, we just know there’s going to be plenty of hilarity too. At least we hope so. The show was placed in the TV comedy category last year where it must now remain. It will have the likes of Veep and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to contend with in the upcoming awards season but we’re confident that with good behaviour, or in this case bad, it will win its appeal.

The count-down is on, we’re ‘short’ now.


VIBE XIX Dance Competition

The VIBE XIX Dance Competition has krumped, popped and locked it’s way into becoming a premiere hip hop showcase extravaganza. Founded in 1994, it is the longest running hip hop dance competition in the world. In partnership with Culture Shock LA, the collaboration also provides support to community youth programs. Held annually in California it continues to grow in popularity and competitor standards. This year was no exception. The 2014 venue, Segerstrom Hall, Costa Mesa, drew a capacity crowd who bore witness to the dance spectacular earlier this year.


VIBE XIX 2014: Segerstrom Hall, California

The fluid, synchronistic movement of the second placed team, The Company, made it difficult to comprehend a better performance on the night. If they were any smoother, they’d have slipped right off the stage and into the laps of the front row. Company can take solace in the fact their YouTube video has clocked up over 1 million hits. That’s more than the winning crew.

It was however a brilliant routine by Academy of Villains’ which would catch the judges eye. In traditional fashion their theme would be slightly morbid and incorporated a variety of performance art techniques. To that end, they would be crowned champions of VIBE XIX 2014. Villains already had pedigree, they were the Hip Hop International Champions of 2012 and America’s Got Talent Semi-finalists the same year. At the time of publishing this article Villains were performing on So You Think You Can Dance.

What these guys and girls do with their collective energy, their range of movement and the frenetic pace at which they write this poetry in motion, is spellbinding. You simply have to see it to believe it.

We’ve included clips of the top two placed teams from this years competition below. Whatever you do, don’t blink, there’s so much happening in these routines there’s a lifetime of dance in a heartbeat. It will blow you away.


Iconaissance: a sweeping saga…

Forget McConaissance, it’s bigger than one man. Think Iconaissance. A growing movement of big screen performing arts master craftsman, sweeping across our small screens, recruiting new generations of fans and breathing life back into fans of performances past. The list of silver screen lions switching to a more domesticated environment is impressive, growing, and making us purr with contentment. Here’s an example of those you’ve probably already had in your lounge room or soon will:

1. Kevin Spacey (House of Cards)

2. Matthew McConaughey/Woody Harrelson (True Detective)

3. Kevin Costner (Hatfields & McCoys)

4. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom)


The Newsroom

5. Kevin Bacon (The Following)

6. James Spader (Blacklist)



7. Martin Freeman/Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)

8. John Malcovich (Crossbones)

9. Paul Giamatti (Downtown Abbey)

10. Claire Danes (Homeland)

11. Kiefer Sutherland (24)

But what’s behind the recent resurgence of some of our acting greats? Is it the ravenous viewer appetite for quality content and the emergence of new platforms? Maybe these ageing greats just need cash injections to supplement their retirement? Have these old dogs learned new tricks by embracing social media for self-promotion? The only thing I haven’t seen Kevin Spacey on is America’s Most Wanted. Spacey’s Oscar selfie alone won him marketing immortality and Matthew McConaughey is out-Starbucking Starbucks! Or could it be they have simply sat dormant in the cool shadows maturing like fine red wine waiting for a connoisseur like HBO or Netflix to throw an original content party and pop their cork? It might be a combination of some or all of the above. Perhaps we need to look to the past to find the answer.

The most prominent examples of this Iconaissance, Spacey and McConaughey, both flourished and thrived in the period known as the decade of drama: the nineties. Along with other seemingly lost stars, or those whose pace seemed to slow to a meander such as Edward Norton or Sean Penn, these gifted actors were all part of another movement; that of the American Indie Film. They rode the wave of the New World Order created by the likes of Soderbergh and Linklater, the Coen Brothers and Tarantino. The reinvigorated Sundance Film Festival provided the spotlight that brought the Indie out of the shadows. Check any “Top Ten”, or twenty five or one hundred film list and you’ll find most of the names I’ve mentioned so far, some are recurring favourites. In fact Spacey features most prominently and was voted actor of the decade by Empire. “And like that, poof. He’s gone.”

With the new millennium these icons of the industry disappeared from our theatres and subsequent collective conscious. The usual reasons for their Casper the Ghost impersonations spring to mind: Oscar curse, burn-out, tall poppy syndrome, fickle fans distracted by something shinier; the old “I             needed to find myself” routine, catastrophic extinction event…

My opinion: technological advances enabling the blockbuster epidemic, pushed drama to the brink of extinction. Big budget movies laden with special effects and lacking in meaningful dialogue flooded the market. In 1993 Jurassic Park pioneered the use of Computer Generated Images (CGI) in film which would lead to the Pixar phenomenon that started in 1995 with Toy Story. In 1998 Saving Private Ryan made all kinds of headlines for its 27 minute, $12 million opening sequence. But these movies still had soul, the audience was invited to have an intensely personal relationship with their characters, there was depth in their narrative.

What was the price of this technological filmmaking revolution? Storytelling in cinema has become the exclusive domain of the indie film maker with the major studios channelling greenbacks into aesthetics. Classically trained actors, artists, writers, professionals and master craftsman met a metaphorical end at the hands of a creativity sapping, cerebral cortex crushing, pulse film apocalypse. Movies are about muscles not monologues, sequels, not substance. The advent of digital imagery, novelty of 3D and the attempt by comic book nerds to take over the world; mean aesthetically appealing “bling” flicks attract the inbetweener demographic. This is the group that’s too old for Disney but too young to understand the nuances of a Quentin Tarantino masterpiece.  Buy-in from the inbetweeners and tapping into the inner Peter Pan of older demographics translated to Box Office (BO) cash and return sales on future instalments, enter the franchise. The addition of the lucrative merchandising revenue stream alone keeps the Benjamins trickling in long after the DVD is released. Hollywood has become a production line, critical acclaim and storytelling mean less to a major studio than its opening weekend projections. Yes franchises have always been around, and yes they have their place in the market, but we’ve reached saturation levels that only an aquatic animal can survive.

Network Television wasn’t fairing much better, chasing the advertising dollar like a tipped-off paparazzi, bombarding primetime with suburban garbage I could get Gladys Kravitz style in my own street. Whilst I can’t prove it I’m convinced reality TV, as it was coined, was responsible for Benjamin Buttoning the IQ of most of the First World Nations populous. The only small screen shining lights for drama of the noughties were the hard hitting The Sopranos and The Wire. The latter setting a Metacritic record in its fourth season with a 98% rating that would not be broken until seven years later by the fifth season of Breaking Bad with a 99% Metacritic rating. It should be noted both hailed from the HBO Original Programming lineup.


The Sopranos

A seed was sewn, and while we didn’t know it then, the Golden Age of Television was dawning. Many of the current crop of original programming hits claim to have looked to these noughties juggernauts as the Godfathers of episodic drama. When The Sopranos and The Wire finished in 2007 and 2008 respectively we were just getting our first taste of Breaking Bad. NCIS was starting to hits its stride and would become the number one scripted drama in America, a title it continues to hold despite being a Dramedy and not a traditional Drama. The downside being it has never really received any critical acclaim much to the chargrin of its regular 15 million plus viewership . DVD Box sets were also now starting to show up on household Christmas wish lists, another sign of things to come.

There are some from the era however who persevered. Tom Hanks is probably the standout, George Clooney and Matt Damon, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman are perennials; many of these though choosing to take up behind-the-camera roles. Others who seemed to simply vanish include Tim Robbins, Kevin Kline, Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes. Even Anthony Hopkins went dark. De Niro went from terrifying character to terrifying character to playing side-kick to up-start comedians. So, like any animal facing the destruction of their natural habitat, they evolve, move on; or die.

Now it appears they have followed the writing and the storytelling. Those who survived the destruction of their habitat are now gorging themselves on the rich, fertile plains, of television. It’s a landscape that has also undergone reformation due to tectonic plate shifting, the birth of the digital distribution, and the decay of appointment viewing. We’re in an era which has spawned a whole new generation of hungry content consumers, and a habit known as binging, taking content consumption and instant gratification to new levels. Spacey had this to say about the attraction of the small screen:  “The people who want to make character-driven dramas are all working in television now.” And there is plenty of great television right now, with and without A-list stars, Mad Men, Game Of Thrones, Dexter; Orange Is The New Black, House of Cards, True Detective; you could go on for hours. The mobility of storytelling on multiple devices, cheaper access (Netflix subscription per month is cheaper than the cinema admission price), the complexity of the arcs and character development that true creatives crave and thirst for, the removal of the pilot model and appointment viewing by digital distributors; has all combined and conspired to lure in our most talented dramatic actors.

Once known as the “Idiot Box” the TV, and every other device that can access data, is now a playground for the industry’s creatives; and a feast for the viewer who has little interest in what a Kardashian is doing at any given moment. Just like in Jurassic Park, “Life found a way. Our greats survived, they evolved, they found a way.

Welcome back everyone, we’ve missed you.

Batman v Superman

Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel has finally been bestowed with a title – Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The logo was also released and has a Dark Noir vibe to it.

The shoot has officially started Stateside in Michigan, with other locations to include Africa and the South Pacific, before a worldwide release date of May 6, 2016.

The film boasts a stellar cast that would not look out of place in the front row of the Oscars. In fact, the credit list can lay claim to a total fifteen Oscar nominations for four wins. Ben Affleck, a.k.a Batfleck, leads the way with two statues under his bat-belt. Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane all reprise their roles from the Man Of Steel.

The fresh faces include Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jeremy Irons as Alfred. Holly Hunter will appear in the film but her character is yet to be revealed. A controversial casting, second to Affleck of course, is that of Jesse Eisenberg; who will step into the role of the villainous Lex Luthor. Much has been made of his selection however, Art In Motion is happy to go on record in support of Eisenberg, we think it’s a bold and inspired choice. He gave a masterful turn in The Social Network and will be the surprise packet of this comic book blockbuster. The critical acclaim is not exclusive to the cast either with the film penned by Chris Terrio who picked up an Oscar for his work on Argo.

Snyder has also signed on to make a Justice League movie which this could be a prelude to even though plot details are yet to be disclosed. It’s expected that most of the cast will be on board for that instalment as well.

So this pulse film could go one of two ways: Godzilla proportions success or The Lone Ranger face plant. We’ll go out on a limb early and back the former. Curiosity alone should ensure a record breaking opening weekend. So if you’re a Superhero fan or just have a morbid fascination with seeing Batfleck in leather then this will be a film not to miss on the big screen.

NOW: In The Wings On A World Stage

NOW: In The Wings On A World Stage


“Now is the winter of our discontent…”

Yes, yes it is. After waiting for what felt like an eternity, my copy of NOW: In The Wings On A World Stage was finally made available for download from kevinspacey.com on 2 May. But selection of the 1080p download version, meant eternity was about to get a little bit longer, the irony of the unexpected cold snap that set in just a few hours earlier was not lost on me either.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been tormented, teased and titillated by my colleagues in the northern hemisphere as, one by one, they attended the various live screenings and Q&A sessions used to launch Kevin Spacey’s (House Of Cards) documentary film about a theatre company’s 10 month world tour. A tour that would span three continents and twelve cities for a grand total of 200 performances of Shakespeare’s Richard III. So what’s it like to be part of such a mammoth production? This film is going to tell me. The social media machine has been churning out promotional material and reviews in equal proportions, and some savvy marketing by Spacey himself has ensured his self distributed venture has received plenty of coverage, and kept his reputation for being “disruptive” in tact. The flagship launch was the Tribeca Film Festival no less, very savvy indeed.

As my download nears completion, I make myself a therapeutic hot drink, don my favourite hoodie, and assume the position in front of my 52” television for full effect. It’s my turn, winter is over, or at least locked outside and I can now see for myself what my friends have been swooning about and I’ve been restlessly waiting for. My expectations are high, a sudden wave of anxiety washes over me, what if it doesn’t live up to the hype? But this is a Kevin Spacey film, he IS performance art and never disappoints, so I remind myself I’m not launching ground-to-air missiles; and press the play button!

“The sense of anticipation, it’s like feeling the heart beat of the world.”

The film opens on a group of limestone steps and slowly pans out to reveal the spectacular Epidaurus Theatre in Greece, the most famous theatre in the world. With a seating capacity of between 13 and 15 thousand and acoustics that scientists have marvelled over for decades, I get a feel for the scale of the play and the ambitiousness of the company’s tour. This isn’t just any play and this isn’t just any company, this is Richard III and this is The Bridge Project Company, led by a man as driven as the protagonist he plays. There’s a stunning time lapse sequence which tracks the setting sun over the amphitheatre and a montage of preparations for the Epidaurus performance with narration by Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall). This is the first time Mendes and Spacey have collaborated since 1999 with Academy Award winning American Beauty, which was Mendes feature film directorial debut, like Spacey; Mendes was a student of theatre before the call of the celluloid. I find myself wondering why they haven’t teamed up more often a la DiCaprio and Scorsese, I hold onto hope that Mendes will bring Spacey in as the penulitimate baddie for Bond 25, but I digress…

The scene is set, you can almost see the energy of the audience cascading down the steps, funnelled to the waiting stage. For the company members who had never left home shores before now, the anticipation must have been palpable. So with the blessing of the Gods, their journey was about to begin and the world really was to be their stage. I exhale, the last of my anxiety subsides. Fade to black.


NOW: Epidaurus Greece

”Doesn’t matter where you’re from, doesn’t matter how you sound, you can make Shakespeare come alive.”

With the prologue out of the way we move into NOW proper. First up we discover the origins of the company, meet the cast, and work our way through 6 weeks of rehearsal at The Old Vic in London. The Bridge Project Company, was a trans-atlantic venture, bringing together British and American actors to perform classical work, in this case; Shakespeare’s Richard III. With the Bards work thought to be the exclusive domain of the British, this was to be an experiment of sorts to see if artistic passion and a modern reinterpretation, could transcend a geographic divide and beguile a global generation of millennial pulse film fiends.

The company’s membership is eclectic, there’s a cacophony of regionalism amongst the 20 strong cast. The ages, experience and backgrounds, are as varied as one of Forrest Gump’s boxes of chocolate. Many, like Andrew Long and Gemma Jones, are performing arts veterans; while for others this will be their first major foray into “blockbuster theatre” as it was coined by Bruce Gutherie, the production’s Associate Director. Some are old Shakespearean hands, while many including Spacey himself, have had limited exposure to bringing the pre-eminent dramatists extant works to life. Over the course of the film, many will recount their personal journey, their connection to theatre; why they do it, their desires and their struggles. For now, they spend 6 weeks getting to know each other, as individuals and as a company, exploring the text and developing their characters, “falling over and getting back up again”.

The rehearsal period is fascinatingly insightful. Mendes reveals an introverted side I wasn’t expecting by disclosing a fear of addressing large groups, while Spacey discusses the psychology of a character with a deformity, what he surmises informs his portrayal of Richard III. The production is physically and mentally challenging long before the first lines are ever uttered to an audience, be it Spacey coming to terms with a deformed gait he will have to carry through 200 performances and then some, or a young actress trying to find the right level of sexual tension and voice pitch to make herself believe in her character so that others will as well. You see, it’s not just about remembering lines, it’s about understanding what the character is saying and the context in which it is being said. Rehearsal allows the actors to build and create, unlike a movie, the actor owns the stage and the character when the curtain raises; nobody gets to call “cut!”. This is theatre, it is immediate, and it is NOW.

“Any theatre company is a form of created society which you hope becomes a single unified organism…”

After six weeks of sell out performances at The Old Vic Theatre in London, it’s time to get the show on the road. The film takes us from the lap of the Gods at Epidaurus, to Istanbul and Naples, San Francisco, Beijing, Sydney and Doha; the curtain finally falls in Brooklyn, New York . Friendships develop, the travel bug bites and the logistics of the production come to light.

As the company makes its way around the world we’re treated to its wonders, the beauty, the mystery; it’s a veritable cultural feast and “spiritual catharsis” for some members. There are a few indulgences but there’s a reason for it, there always is with Spacey. I equate seeing him in anything other than a measured, self aware state, like finding a unicorn in a paddock of four leaf clovers. Jeremy Bobb, one of the American contingent who plays Catesby, manages to put the experience into an every-day-man perspective. At one point I think he even out f*bombs Spacey, which is likely to have been more of a challenge than the doing the play, given Spacey’s penchant for profanity. It’s Bobb’s quips and observations that give the rough edge to this romanticised gem.

But there are glimpses of the not so glamorous for anyone who cares to pay attention. There are cramped dressing rooms where the unappetising aluminium hot-box meal containers can be seen to litter the scant space, frenetic backstage mechanics, the physicality of the play itself; and the mental and physical drain resulting from sleepless nights in a hotel undergoing renovation. When you’re performing for three hours a day, weeks and months at a time; throw in more than just a few long haul flights and the homesickness that almost always sets in regardless of what wonderful place you’re in, this was not a tour to be scoffed at. But it’s all part of the experience that is taking a large scale theatrical production on an international tour.

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NOW: Sets on the move

”I wanted us to share more than just the stage.”

With four sets on the move around the globe at any given time and timeframes tighter than Spacey’s hunch-back bodysuit, the logistics for the production would have been worthy of their own film. The amount of effort in moving, constructing then deconstructing and again moving the world of Richard III, looked exhausting without ever being privy to all the mechanics involved. There’s only so much you can cram into a ninety minute film but the thought of lugging those sets down long, narrow, corridors in Naples was enough for my back to start going out in sympathy. With a new backstage crew in each city to be trained and rehearsed, managing behind-the-scenes must have been as gruelling as everything happening on stage.

It’s not just the crew that changes at every port, we learn that the audiences engage differently as well, whether it’s through intense concentration or animated participation. All however enjoy being co-conspirators through the device of direct address, Spacey’s charisma is intoxicating and he has the ability to develop an immediate rapport with the audience, despite playing a murderous dictator.

I have to make special mention of the musical score here as well because it was perfect. It was a well paced accompaniment to the narrative and matched the tone of each destination so that I felt I was getting the full cultural experience as the company would have been.


”It’s been filled with what a year of life would be filled with.”

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NOW: Doha

There are so many insights, hilarity, “corpsing” and precious little moments in this film that can’t and shouldn’t be revealed here.  The film, like the play, like theatre; needs to be discovered by the individual watching. I personally feel like I’ve just had a deeply religious experience. If I’d seen this sort of film when I was staring down the barrel of my tertiary education and agonising over having a “real job”, or following my creative dreams into perpetual “unemployment”, according to a wise and gainfully employed elder statesman of my family; I’d have chosen the latter without question. The production itself was an amazing achievement for The Bridge Project Company. This film, is a credit to Spacey’s determination to ensure that theatre, not only survives; but thrives. He has provided us with an opportunity to go behind the curtain and understand why theatre means so much to performers known affectionately as “theatre rats”. *Applause*

House of Cards: Chapter 17 Review

“Think of Remy as the guy who shows up with a six pack after the liquor store’s closed”

Time is of the essence as we open chapter 17. There is still much work to be done to push the retirement bill through the house and Frank accepts an olive branch from Tusk with the same reaction a toddler has to their first taste of citrus fruit. Tusk has sent in Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali) to provide incentive for votes and is teamed up with Jackie, who must be sucking on the same lemon as Frank because she has a similar reaction to her new whipping shadow, really Jackie? I mean, I can see how being followed around all day by a cashed up, classy, Adonis could be a problem for most hot blooded women; NOT! There is definitely something wrong with the new Whip #justsayin I am enjoying the competitive undercurrent between Frank and Remy, as we know from the first season Remy was in the employ of Frank but “chose money over power”, a decision Frank has never grasped. But Frank, despite the interference and embuggerances of Remy to his ambitions during the Watershed Bill, has not yet put Remy to the sword. Is it because Frank genuinely needs the leverage Remy provides in the private sector or because he’s hoping his protege will return to the fold? A kind of “the son I never had” thing maybe? After all, eight years is a long time to hold Frank’s attention and live to tell the tale, there’s investment in Remy on Frank’s part but to what end? So while Jackie and Remy are out corralling votes, with Jackie doing so in a manner that demonstrates she’s her own Whip and not a Frank clone, or worse; his puppet, Frank steels himself to take on the now very bitter (the citrus sucking look is a recurring theme in this chapter) Donald Blythe (Reed Birney). If you recall, Donald was our Education Bill martyr and now wears the legacy of the debacle around his neck like the scarlet letter. Meanwhile Claire is at home with Connor preparing for the joint interview that is to take place later that day. As they walk through the line of questioning, which will inevitably include the “why no children or did you eat them?” queries, Claire enters her walk-in Wardrobe to select an outfit. It has the colour palette of and E L James best seller (don’t pretend you don’t know the books I’m referring to…). I’m beginning to think Claire might bleed charcoal. Elsewhere, Lucas is enduring Hackers Boot Camp with Gavin and Cashew.

“I don’t hold grudges Frank, I just don’t negotiate with people who are fundamentally deceptive.”

You know Frank’s in for a tough day at the office when Donald is obstinate from the moment he walks through the door and makes even the attempt to get him a drink difficult. He finally settles on a Seltzer as he has an aversion to caffeine, I wonder how he’s lasted in politics so long, I’m not worth speaking to until I’ve had my first heart-starter for the day. As Frank goes to work on wooing Donald in Jackie’s office, Frank’s old office, a White House Aide is about to open a letter that will set off a chain of events even Frank couldn’t have foreseen. The letter contained white powder, the Aide, looking like she’s had a minor coronary; is covered in the substance. Nancy goes into “like a boss” mode and initiates lock-down procedures. With less than an hour until the vote, Frank and Donald are trapped. Frank makes contact with Claire to provide reassurance that the scare will come to nothing but confides the vote looks shaky “If we’re lucky it’ll be anthrax and I won’t live long enough to see the bill fail”, way to instil confidence Frank. In scenes reminiscent of Outbreak, the HAZMAT crews flood the offices and are working to identify the substance. It’s during their time of confinement that we learn Donald’s wife Marjorie has Alzheimer’s, you can almost hear the weapons system recalibrating as Frank acquires a new target “I should have thought of this before, appeal to the heart, not the brain.” Frank probes Donald about Marjorie’s illness and how awful it must be for Donald, there’s some flattery as well, but it falls on deaf ears. Donald won’t budge. Things go from bad to worse when inconclusive test results mean the quarantine is to continue for another four hours at least, prolonging Frank and Donald’s captivity. The silver lining to this Addams Family cloud? The vote has been delayed.

“Good things happen to good people.”

With all communications in and out of the White House being jammed for security reasons, Frank is able to use his powers, for good instead of evil, to facilitate contact with their respective wives. On Frank’s say so, Claire will go ahead with the interview solo, while Donald is able to speak with Marjorie who slips into non compos mentis mode; the strain on Donald is visible. A supportive hand on the shoulder and a stiff drink breaks the tension between Frank and Donald. Frank discloses that he wouldn’t know what to do without Claire, or if she couldn’t remember him, it’s likely the most sincere thing Frank will say throughout the whole ordeal. The truce is short lived however when Donald reacts to what he perceives is Frank’s attempt to use his wife’s condition as leverage for his vote. That’s the end of that and Frank concedes defeat to the audience. Back at the house, Connor is putting the final polish on Claire’s prefabricated response to the question of children, she’s a veteran, that much is obvious. Across town Lucas prepares to debunk from Hacker Boot Camp to cover the white house lock down but is slapped, literally, into submission by Gavin. Ouch! Gavin doesn’t like the pattern that is forming with Lucas’ movements in and out of his lair and needs to ensure if they get caught Lucas goes down too. Lights, camera, action! Claire Underwood, one on one with Ashley; Frank and Donald in less than companionable silence take up viewing positions in their cage. The interview starts out with some glimpses into Claire’s childhood including a “hearts and minds” story about her Daddy taking her to where Kennedy was shot. I’m not even a citizen and I want to vote for Frank! The questioning moves to Claire’s affluent upbringing and how her family money financed Frank’s ambition. Claire dances with the finesse of a member of the national ballet.

“Some people think that your marriage may be a bit more calculated than you let on?”

Thanks Captain Obvious, Ashley clearly hasn’t watched the last sixteen chapters. But the question of connection beyond political benefit has been posed, Claire launches into a grand jete “our partnership extends far beyond that” and, nails the landing. We cut to Frank looking on with distinct pride and affection at his other half, we can see their relationship extends beyond anything mere mortals could ever understand. Wright is positively luminous in these scenes and absolutely owns this chapter. Frank and Kevin respectively, take a back seat. However, after rolling out the “party line” on the question of children, Claire baulks at a report that she was pregnant during Frank’s second congressional campaign. I heard the collective squeaks, creaks and groans of millions of couches as we all leaned forward in anticipation of the response. What comes next must have put more than a few of us on the floor, all now wondering what this will mean for Frank’s career as we dust ourselves off and climb back into our seats, poor Connor looks like a cod fish. Claire admits to a pregnancy and an abortion, career suicide as I understand it in American politics. Cut to Frank and it’s Donald’s turn to ply him with alcohol. By the look on Frank’s face though, whilst he doesn’t seem to have had any advance warning of this reveal by Claire, he doesn’t look like someone who’s concerned with setting any records for being the shortest serving Vice President either. He’s calm, ponderous, “what’s she up to?”. Connor on the other hand has gone into damage control during the break requested by Claire. To add to the PR nightmare she tells Connor there were actually three abortions, running through the circumstances of each as though she’s ticking off all the places she normally leaves her car keys, in a bid to work out where they are now. Connor calls for a full retreat but Claire disregards his counsel and goes back for more, I’m with Frank; what on earth is she up to? I quickly sort back through my long term memory and locate Claire’s nightmare about “the children”, Frank comforts her at the time as she’s genuinely distraught. One moment Claire is stalked in her dreams by the loss of children then as we’ve already seen previously in season 2, has about as much regard for them as something she’s almost stepped in but narrowly avoided. Claire’s complexity is turning into a Rubik’s Cube torment.

“Francis pinned stars on him.”

In a contrived moment of tactical brilliance, Claire re-rails Frank’s career, de-rails another, redeems herself; and sets up her next cause. Claire fingers General Dalton McGinnis, on national prime time television, as a sexual predator responsible for assaulting her; the unwanted pregnancy being the result. Frank did say that only Claire could “stop the bleeding” when it came to the McGinnis wound, did he know then that she was a combat medic in a previous life? Consider that wound sutured! Queue the end of the lock-down saga and Frank, like a father late to his daughters recital, can’t get out quick enough. There’s an exchange between Frank and Donald as they’re liberated from their confines, Donald tells Frank he has a brave wife, to which Frank replies that he does to; he will get Donald his research funding regardless of how he votes. I want to believe that through a shared love for the women in their lives, who have suffered such grievances, that Frank meant what he said to Donald and he will come up with the funds. The alternative is that Donald is right and Frank really is that fundamentally deceptive. As he barrels his way out, Frank bumps into Jackie and concedes defeat in the battle for Donald’s votes, without a hint of bitterness or implied retribution. Jackie however, isn’t going to let Donald off the hook so easily though; Donald’s big picture stance gets a lot bigger when Jackie confronts him. I bet Donald was wishing he was still in the cage with Frank now. Frank arrives home on the tail end of Claire’s interview, instead of joining her he admires her from the shadows as she basks in the sunshine of her glorious victory over McGinnis. Stick a fork in him, McGinnis is done! We move from the Underwood’s briefly back to Gavin, who in a cliched moment meets his new handler, Stamper’s buddy; on a dark and rainy night in an empty car park. Gavin is a snitch for the FBI, the price of his freedom for past crimes, a price he is starting to think too costly. As far as chapter endings go, this is one of my favourites. We return to the window of casa Underwood for a victory cigarette, the impostor promptly replaced when Claire declares she would prefer the real thing. Frank had at some point secreted one under a lamp, conniving to the last detail “I’m always prepared.” Silhouetted by a moonlit sky, the two share their precious contraband and Claire asks Frank to sing her something. My heart skips a beat, I know that Kevin is an accomplished singer but its been a while since he’s done any crooning. He breaks into a rendition of the Stanley Brothers’ murder ballad “Pretty Polly”, the hair on my neck stands up. Whether it’s because I know that the song is about a man who kills his wife because of her past, or because I’m in swoon mode; I still can’t decide. The southern bayou vibe, moonlight and murder, it’s a poetic end to the chapter and we fade out to the sound of twanging strings entwined with the orchestral standard. Magic!