This is my last review blog for a couple of weeks. I'm off to Queensland to research a book I will write next year entitled Where We Once Were. I wrote a short story a few years ago about a girl who time travels back to 1898 to research her family history and discovers her ancestor might be involved in an unsolved triple killing. So some of the story is true ... the killings and the time line and I plan to blend fact with fiction. I had never intended to write this book but so many people have written asking for the novel of the short story I couldn't ignore the story. Plus its a pretty interesting concept.
I'm giving away the short story to readers who join the Mayham Club (my newsletter basically). So click here if you would like to receive the story plus two other books for free.
Do you love competitions and prizes?
Well, I'm going to be running regular comps from now on at my beautiful new website.
On offer this month are 3 packs of eBook and Audible of my best seller DEADLY MESSENGERS. So just click through here for a chance to win:
The Magnificent Seven ✪✪✪✪ Opens September 29
Hollywood is hunting through the files to find successful films, which will bring the audience who enjoyed the original to part with their money, and gain new fans who would never watch an old film.
Many of my era if asked for their favorite Western, from the Saturday afternoon film line up, would reply with the 1960 The Magnificent Seven starring all the big names of that era: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Cobert, Eli Wallach and directed by John Sturges a big director of his day (The Great Escape, The Eagle Has Landed, McQ).
So these are big shoes to fill when you approach a beloved film like Mag 7. And who ya gonna call? The Denzel, of course. Helmed by director Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers, Training Day, The Equalizer, Braxton, Shooter, Olympus has Fallen), you are in solid drama/action hands from the get go. Add to the heady mix: Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Peter Saarsgaard and a few other upcoming stars and you have just over two hours of gun-fighting fun that has some simply breathless, tense scenes and an improbably body count.
This film is no masterpiece in plot, derivative heavily from the original source. But don't we want that? The last few weeks of film offerings have been decidedly dullish. So this is a breath of fresh air. There's a new film in town and its The Magnificent Seven and its packing big guns. See it on the big screen with a big tub of popcorn for maximum enjoyment
Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures' and Columbia Pictures' The Magnificent Seven. With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople, led by Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett), employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns - Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money. Stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee and Peter Sarsgaard
Snowden ✪✪✪ Opens September 22
This should have been an intense drama and revelationary in its content. Not to mention there's excellent talent involved on and off screen. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper, The Walk) has an incredible ability to inhabit a character, and I find him an underrated actor. Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Rhys Fans are solid, and there's even a cameo from Nicolas Cage. The weak link is Shailene Woodley of the Divergent series. Director Oliver Stone (JFK, Platoon, Natural Born Killers, Wall Street,) brings a depth of experience in storytelling that means his name is at the top of the poster. Ingredients for a riveting drama, yes. Sadly it is not. This is a not terrible movie but having seen the documentary and the quantity newsprint published on the real life Snowden, we should have been offered more than a lifted version of the headlines.
Sometimes we critics bemoan the Hollywood engine that takes a great story idea and adds bells and whistles where they're not needed. This is what Snowden needed! Give us a few tense moments and show us more than cliche CIA personnel. When everyone in the CIA are power mongers with no conscience and the protagonist is the only good guy, then that is a thin drama.
In saying this, I think most who know little about Snowden and missed the documentary, which I didn't think was so great anyway, will find this reasonably entertaining. We are probably being shown Hollywood's version of what the CIA does. I'm sure they're a lot worse. I'm finding too that Oliver Stone has lost all subtlety and his films are becoming a paint by numbers, which is a shame because he once had a very keen eye for the heart of a story.
Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone, who brought Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, tackles the most important and fascinating true story of the 21st century. Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world. He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year. Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage, Rhys Ifans & Zachary Quinto
Storks ✪✪½ Opens September 22
I couldn't make it to this film. The trailer does look funny and the studio has dropped in a lot of good voice talent so you'd expect it would be good. Ty Burrell of Modern Family seems to be getting a lot of voice gigs.
My friend Reiko took her two boys along, one eleven and the other thirteen, but they weren't too impressed. Here's her brief feedback.
"Storks was ok. The story was quite boring to me. However my boys seemed enjoying it. They rated 3 out of 5 but I rate 2."
In this animated children's fantasy, two storks (voiced by Kelsey Grammer and Andy Samberg) reveal the truth about their job delivering babies to new parents. Stars: Andy Samberg, Jordan Peele, Jennifer Aniston, Kelsey Grammar, Ty Burrell, Steve Glickman
The Beatles: The Touring Years ✪✪✪✪
Opens September 15 for one week only
Due to popular demand and reports of audiences spontaneously applauding the film, the encore screenings will commence Thursday 22 September, with exclusive-to-cinema Shea Stadium concert footage screening after the feature at all cinema locations. The Beatles concert at Shea Stadium on August 15, 1965, was the first rock concert staged in a stadium in front of more than 55,000 people. The event was filmed using fourteen 35mm cameras by Ed Sullivan Productions and Brian Epstein; for the first time the fully restored, remastered, 30-minute performance is available to screen with the film.
You forget how incredibly talented the Beatles were/are, so it's wonderful to be reminded. Fifty years later, their music is just as catchy and toe-tapping as it was when first released. Director Ron Howard, better known for his big budgeted but always entertaining adventures, proves he also has a good feel for documentary story-telling.
From start to finish The Beatles: The Touring Years is fascinating and a joy to watch. Probably no great revelations here because their lives have been documented so much, but that doesn't detract from the entertainment value. It's simply fantastic to sit in a cinema, uninterrupted, and listen to these songs of, well, in my case, our youth.
Be prepared to come straight home and start playing your Beatles collections immediately or, in my case, streaming from Spotify. These guys were and are still the bomb.
An added bonus only for cinema-goers is an extra thirty minutes of their performance at the Shea Stadium, digitally remastered. This bonus will not be on the DVD or streaming when the film is released on those services. Those who attended the original performance couldn't hear for all the screaming fans and neither could the Beatles hear their own playback, but you will be able to hear it perfectly. So do stay after the credits.
We all know the moment. February 9th, 1964, 8:12pm EST - after a brief commercial break, four young men from Liverpool step onto the Ed Sullivan stage, changing culture forever. Seventy-three million people watched The Beatles perform that night, the largest audience in television history. By the time the band quit touring in August of 1966, they had performed 166 concerts in 15 countries and 90 cities around the world. The cultural phenomenon their touring helped create, known as "Beatlemania," was something the world had never seen before and, arguably, hasn't since. It was the first time much of the world felt truly unified - bound by aspiration and attitude, rather than divided by race, class, religion or nationality.
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