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By Joe Alvarez, May 3 2017 12:12PM

James Franco is very funny as a Silicon Valley bro in a meet-the-boyfriend comedy with Bryan Cranston as the fuddy-duddy dad.


By now, James Franco has been cast as more flakes, stoners, and smiley scoundrels than you can count, and there’s a reason: He’s peerless at playing them. In “Why Him?,” a state-of-the-art case of a dumb, obvious concept comedy made in a smart, clever way, Bryan Cranston is the fuddy-duddy dad who learns that his beloved daughter, who is nearing the end of her four years at Stanford, is dating a dude who’s a vintage Franco prankster of outrage. Except that in this case, he’s not just another ne’er-do-well with a blissed-out idiot grin. He’s a Silicon Valley whiz kid — a wealthy and famous video-game inventor. So even though his personality is a goof, the joke carries a satirical kick. Franco gets more than a few chuckles out of playing a narcissist bro of the moment.



When Ned Fleming (Cranston) and his wife, Barb (Megan Mullally), show up at the remote, barricaded wood-and-glass Palo Alto mansion where they’ve been asked to spend Christmas with their daughter, Stephanie (Zoey Deutch), and her new boyfriend, Franco’s Laird Mayhew, they’re met by their worst nightmare: Franco greets them as a shirtless tattooed party boy who can’t stop dropping F-bombs. On top of that, he’s so unctuously friendly that he acts like he’s been part of their family for 10 years. He has tattooed their Christmas-card photo across his back and, in Ned’s honor, has built them a bowling alley; he flirts with Barb so intently (and effectively) that you start to think he means it. He’s a moonstruck manipulator who’s going to swaddle them in good vibes even if it kills them.


Right away, we recognize that we’re in the pest-who-can-do-no-wrong genre, that time-honored situational comedy form in which a flagrantly annoying character seems to have been placed on earth to torment an uptight straight-arrow (in this case, Cranston’s Middle American patriarch geek). The key annoyance, of course, is that everyone else just seems to love the guy. The genre goes back to the ’60s sitcom “Green Acres” (where a whole town of fruitcakes addled poor Mr. Douglas) and to movies like “What About Bob?,” which gave Bill Murray one of his catchiest roles.


The hook of “Why Him?” is that, as Laird himself might put it, he’s not just clownin’. Yes, he’s a doof with no filter, and his mansion is stocked with preposterous works of art, most of which depict animals fornicating (there’s also an aquarium with a dead moose suspended in its own urine). But he’s also a scamp who talks in a hilariously glib brand of corporate hip-hop bro-speak. Franco makes Laird a huggy New Age explorer, a frat-house jester, and a digital-age dick all at the same time. He may be a walking cartoon, but he’s not too ridiculous to possess a major ego. Laird tells Ned that he wants to marry Stephanie, and the joke is that Laird, like Franco’s flipped-out gangsta sociopath in “Spring Breakers,” is a takeoff on the world that’s coming (or is maybe already here).


That’s the reason he drives Cranston’s character nuts. Ned is in the printing business; he’s literally a paper-pusher. He’s a stodgy analog dinosaur whose company is doing a slow-motion crash and burn, a fact that he’s trying to keep hidden from his wife, and the days that he spends at Laird’s house are his introduction to the new world — which Laird, of course, nudges to extremes. It’s a paperless house, which means that Ned must negotiate an electronic Japanese toilet basin with a built-in spritzer: an excruciatingly extended bit of scatological farce that wouldn’t be out of place in an Adam Sandler comedy, except that Cranston acts the holy hell out of it. Some may say that he took a movie like this one for the paycheck, but I prefer to think that he also took it for the acting challenge: Could he humanize a concept-comedy stooge?


That’s the challenge Robert De Niro set for himself, and rose to, in the “Meet the Parents” films (though he, in effect, was playing the pest), and “Why Him?,” directed by the gifted John Hamburg (“I Love You, Man”), is a comedy on about that level of execution. It’s bluntly cheeky, it goes on for too long, but the concept keeps on giving. There are good nasty gags (about bukkake porn and motor-boating), the movie finds a nice place in its pop-nostalgia cosmos for a running homage to Kiss, and it’s hard to resist such gambits as Laird’s Austrian servant/therapist — played by Keegan-Michael Key as a cross between Cato and Dr. Ruth Westheimer — treating him as a borderline mental case, or his celebrity chef serving up nauseating dishes like edible soil and plankton foam, or Cranston’s priceless fumbling of the shorthand for “tattoo.” It’s Franco, though, with his crackpot deviousness, who holds the movie in the palm buzzer of his hand.


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By Joe Alvarez, Feb 24 2017 08:44PM

Schwarzenneger is back in Aftermath. The new feature film by director Elliott Lester is based on the real life story of a man seeking vengeance on the person responsible for an air crash that took the lives of his family. Like with any ‘based on the real story’ film, it is uncertain how much of the plot is drawn from real life and how much was added by the writer. This uncertainty adds suspense to the film filled with twists and turns and the film grips from the start to finish.


Schwarzenegger, who is not playing his usual typecast this time, portrays dramatic character consumed by loss of his wife and pregnant daughter. The story revolves around the events that unfolded when a Russian passenger plane collided with a cargo plane over Germany in 2002, resulting in death of 71 people. Roman Melnyk, played by Arnold Schwarzenneger, struggles to cope with the loss and, understandably, wants someone to apologise for the loss of innocent lives.


The person responsible for the crash, the air traffic controller Jake, also finds his life in pieces. Forced to take on a new identity, his marriage crumbles, he loses his job and moves to different town - Jake becomes the ghost of his former self.The story builds up to its tragic conclusion 478 days later when the two strangers finally meet.



Aftermath (IV) (2017)

Trivia


Budget

$10,500,000 (estimated)


Filming Dates

14 December 2015 - 27 January 2016

The movie was filmed in Columbus, OH where Arnold Schwarzenegger has been hosting one of the biggest sports and bodybuilding events in the world, the Arnold Classic, for over 40 years.


Based on the real-life crash of Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937 and DHL Flight 611. The incident occurred on July 1, 2002, when the two planes crashed into each other in midair over the town of Überlingen, Germany.


Maggie Grace and the film crew took a break from shooting to have lunch one day at a nearby high school cafeteria. The high school they were at happened to be the very high school Grace attended growing up.


Maggie Grace is from Columbus, OH where the movie was filmed.


Filmed in Columbus, OH


The movie is based on the "Überlingen mid-air collision" which happened on July 1st, 2002.


By Joe Alvarez, Jul 30 2016 08:12PM

by Tamara Dumas


Yet another modern take on an old as Earth Faustian 'deal with the devil'. The Exposure Life Through A Lens musical tells the story of a successful young photographer Jimmy Tucker (played by David Albery). His father was a Pulitzer-winning photographer who died in Africa the day he was born. Like him, Tucker aspires to expose the sufferings of most vulnerable tribes of Africa.


After coming back to London and being hired for a shoot by his childhood friend, now a scandalous coke addict and rock star Pandora (played by Niamh Perry), the recognised artistic photographer soon realises that London has its own rules. PR agent and celebrity manager Miles Mason (played by Michael Greco) readily explains the ins and outs of London show business. Jimmy is offered the future of true influencer, a position where from he can really make a difference and speak for most deprived. But - there is always a ‘but’ - for this to happen Jimmy Tucker must make his name snapping celebs first. Truth be told, a lot of careers in media and art are built around celebrities; so the pact with the devil doesn’t seem so sinister at all, rather a reality of life. That’s probably the reason why I found this story so easily relatable.


The musical is 12 years in the making and rightly so. Being so realistic, we see –arguably- the ugly side of journalism, and in particular photojournalism. The characters are drawn from real showbiz scene; their aspirations, issues and thirst for fame – we recognise them all and perhaps even put names to characters so accurately depicted in the musical. We see the fabrication of news stories, idolisation and then obliteration of personages – an everyday occurrence in the media.


Timothy Bird’s arresting set design is something to see and remember, a clever use of background with fast-moving montage of images makes quick change of scenes look nothing but natural. The visuals are truly immersive.


The accomplished performers projected their powerful voices to the audience with aplomb. The song-and-dance chorus, choreographed by Lindon Barris, is near perfect.


What I found perhaps unnecessary was a display of Albury in only his underwear and a ‘pregnant schoolgirl’ showing off her acrobatic skills in the opening scenes.


Andrew Lloyd Webber recently bought the St James Theatre with the intention of turning it into a producing powerhouse for new British musicals. The Exposure is a Broadway quality musical in a very intimate setting.






By Joe Alvarez, Jul 20 2016 11:51AM

by Tamara Dumas


Canadian comedy extravaganza Just For Laughs has opened its temporary-built doors in Russel Square, London. The Comedy festival is competing for attention and love of Londoners along with Ealing and Greenwich Comedy Festival, happening this month.


Piff The Magic Dragon, who debuted on America Got Talent, was one of my personal favourites. His magic show, spiced with tongue-in-cheek, straight faced jokes, was a memorable highlight of the evening; not least thanks to his adorable assistant Chihuahua Mr Piffles. I'm still trying to crack the secret of his card trick – good old trick with Piff's twist when a pre-chosen card ends up in a can of dog food.


Yet another magical trick was performed by Fay Presto, whose stage character has Ab Fab feel about her. Probably because she managed to materialise a bottle of Champagne out of three silk scarfs – I wish I knew how to do that!


Indeed, the show was full of magicians. Mentalist Alex McAleer demonstrated some excellent skills. If you don't quite remember your first kiss, Alex will sure help you to remember. Being a big fan of Derren Brown, I would love to see what else is in Alex's box of tricks.


Young & Strange performed yet another illusion. In comparison to other performances - with champagne and pink feathers - this one was on a budget. As illusionists admitted themselves, they got hooked into illusionism from a young age and - having zero budget - they had to be inventive with their toolkit. With such build up, it came almost as no surprise that chubby Richard Young had to climb into a plain cardboard box, just for it to be repeatedly skewed by Strange. Again, old tricks but the wooden spears were so many and they flung in with such speed that, considering Young's complexity, at one point I got worried. These two are a living proof that practice makes perfect.


Enough said about illusionists, Just For Laughs comedy festival has a few good comedians on the list too. Opened by Keith Farnan, an Irish man cracking jokes on the public, the show continued with good non-PC laugh from Papa CJ. And who else if not him - Indian comedian is about the only one who is allowed to joke about all-prevailing Indian call centres and popadums. I think we can all benefit from good old jokes without the ridiculous fear of being labelled 'racists'.


For their press day show Just For Laughs have picked a great selection of performers. Shame the performance was so short. You can see the show until 24th July 2016 in Russel Square. Don't forget to grab their delish street food from one of the tents!





By Joe Alvarez, Jul 16 2016 03:21PM

by Tamara Dumas and Joe Alvarez


When it comes to entertainment, and circuses in particular, I want a performance to be life-threateningly risky enough to make my blood freeze –at least at times. I expect a circus experience to bring me back to the time when I could forget everything just watching artists performing on stage. Pure unadulterated entertainment. I want to laugh out loud watching elaborately clumsy clowns – and all that without alcohol. I suppose I have very high expectations and Cirque Berserk had a hard task to impress me.

The acts are variations on themes we've seen before –some more often than others- a knife-throwing Czech man called Toni who flings knives and axes at his wife. Ha-ha, who can blame him; but this time she was spinning on a wheel. An extraordinary balancing act where Romona and Matti fold themselves on to and around each other's bodies and balance on each other's limbs. A multi-talented Germanie Delobosq who was a drummer, a foot juggler and a master of argentine bolas, in duet with Gabriel - a very charismatic couple. With acts that require so much precision and training I was amazed to see all of them performed by ordinary looking people and not uber slim acrobats who make you want to get to a more austere diet.

The element of a good laugh was delivered by a clown called Tweedy. He is genuinely funny in his apparent clumsiness. But even through the laugh I couldn’t stop admiring the level of preparation and sheer experience that is required to be landing so effortlessly every time he falls down and the rest.

The pinnacle of performance for me and, I am sure, everybody else was the 'wheel of terror' - a blood-chilling variation of the well known motorcycle stunt in a globe. The metal globe cage is so small that it is bad enough to have two motorcyclists in it. We were all well surprised to see a third bike getting in, spinning with such precision that makes even Swiss watch look like made in China. It is such a dangerous act - they could have stopped there. But, sure enough, we saw a FOURTH bike joining the fray - I just couldn’t believe my eyes. The mesmerising, unimaginably dangerous motorcycle race in a metal globe is a must see!

The Cirque Berserk is what it says - a theatrical madness, brilliantly delivered.

We were joined by some celebs, including Luisa Zissman, Casey Batchelor, Stephanie Pratt, Nicky Grahame. John Bercow also attended, no doubt on expenses care of the British public. Either way, he seemed happy enough and very amiable.

This show is a MUST SEE.


For full coverage of VIP press event go to: http://www.ikonlondonmagazine.com/cirque-berserk-review/


By Joe Alvarez, Jul 4 2016 11:44AM

Well, what can I say... This film is an epic fail even with such stellar cast of titan actors like Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino. I can't believe that I'm about to say this, but I really did not enjoy any part of this film. I did the "watch it three times" mantra, and usually I am such an optimist I can find something good about a film. I really did try this time, but there was nothing there for me.

Written by Simon Boyes and Adam mason, Misconduct is a thriller that is too complicated to be coherent about what was going on. A young ambitious lawyer (Josh Duhamel) handles the case against a big pharmaceutical executive (Anthony Hopkins) while finds himself involved in a lot more. Death, betrayal, who-done-it with more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco.

There was a strong start - intro with stories about a pharmaceuticals company whose drugs are killing people, owned by tycoon Arthur Denning. Then, an argument between him and his very young wife Emily Hynes played by Malin Akerman. The wife then goes missing and is presumed kidnapped after Denning receives a text of her battered face.

Denning responds by calling in a specialist security firm and Jane Clemente played by the lovely Julia Stiles.

Jump back a week and we met the ambitious lawyer, Ben Cahill and see that he had a connection to the missing wife of the executive he is prosecuting - they used to be lovers. He is now married, although there's distance and apparent problems in the marriage. Now this excellent lawyer works for Charles Abrams, played by Al Pacino, who seems reluctant to prosecute Denning. So does she know who he is, or is this genuinely just a coincidence that she contacted him, or something far more sinister?

It is all far too confusing, making this thriller hard to watch. If you blink and miss a bit it can throw you off the whole story and it becomes difficult to follow. With the film being so hard to follow I can't stop wondering if it is a film for the masses.

I persevered as long as I could and found myself losing it about halfway through the film. Can we blame the acting...nope, no way. We are talking the crème de la crème of actors. My biggest disappointment has to be the fact these two heavyweight actors Hopkins and Pacino met in such a disappointing film. That first meeting really should have been a cinema classic, not a blockbuster bust.

I am hoping this is one off for director Shintaro Shimosawa, known more as a co producer on films like The Grudge, Grudge 2, and for writing the screenplay Repentance. Misconduct is his first directing attempt, hopefully things will get a lot better.

I can't in all honesty recommend this film because I was personally unimpressed. If asked to give a rating, I'd go 1.5/5 at a push and that is solely on the actors. Sometimes simple is best.




By Joe Alvarez, Jun 12 2016 06:21PM

by Samantha Young


The Boss is absolutely hilarious, I cannot stress that enough. Written by Ben Falcone, Melissa's husband, and starring the comical genius that is Melissa Mcarthy, this film will have you rolling in the isles.


Melissa plays a titan of her industry, Michelle Darnel, a bossy, sassy, relentless woman who ends up in jail for insider trading and loses everything, including the loyalties of her colleagues, who were happy when the witch was gone.


Coming from a difficult childhood, Michelle trusts no one and has no family to turn to in what is to become one of her biggest challenges in life since her success, starting again.


With no one and nowhere to go she contacts the executer of her estate, her former assistant Claire played by the lovely Kristen Bell, who lives alone with her daughter Rachel played by Ella Anderson.


Realising that Michelle is alone Rachel suggests that she should stay with them and mum, Claire reluctantly agrees knowing how this challenging woman can be.


Without giving too much of the story away, the love of a family is a powerful thing. Turning her life around Michelle completely changes and reinvents herself and in doing so finds true happiness. But will that be with ex love interest Renault, played by Peter Dinklage?


Again I say, this has got to be one of Melissa Mcarthy's funniest films ever and I didn't think that was possible after The Heat and Bridesmaids. This woman, for me, has to be the funniest actress in films that has ever existed.


I know that is a big statement when there has been some very funny women out there, past and present - Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers, Betty White,Tina Fay, Rebel Wilson and even Sarah Silverman just to name a few, but at some stage there comes along someone who steals the title and that is Melissa Mcarthy.


It is so nice to also see Melissa play a glamorous character because she is stunning and is a fantastic role model for larger women, including myself.


This husband and wife team are a formidable duo. Having written and also directed Tammy, Ben clearly knows his stuff and he knows how to write for his gorgeous, funny wife. While Melissa is just a comedic Goddess who turns everything she touches into gold.


I really hope we get to see more of this team writing and acting together. The scenes where they appear together (in every film they do) will have you in stitches. They're charismatic together.


The supporting cast just put the cherry on top of the cake, Kristen and Ella also give hilarious performances.

This film is an absolute comical masterpiece and I definitely give it a big thumbs up 5/5. A must see film. The Boss will be in cinemas as of the 10th June. Whatever you do, don't miss it.




By Joe Alvarez, Jun 11 2016 01:25PM

by Tamara Dumas


On the day that Marilyn Monroe would have celebrated her 90th birthday a new musical show has opened its doors to welcome press and media. Celebrating -in its own way- the life of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, the musical Norma Jeane has set a very challenging task – to offer a new take on life of most famous and probably most talked about star of past century.


The Musical is set 18 months before the star’s death at the time when she was checked into a mental asylum under her baptised name Norma Jeane. The TV icon was locked in the asylum under the pretence that she would be visiting a spa to rest. The musical, featuring songs written by variety of composers, portrays Marilyn battling with the voices in her head. Multiple vivid flashbacks to Norma’s life before it was touched by fame offer audience a glimpse of Marilyn Monroe’s life story - a story full of pain and regrets. As one might have imagined, the show doesn’t offer a new revolutionary take on the events but it definitely offers some good entertainment.


The Strictly Come Dancing star, Joanne Clifton is playing one of Norma’s Atler Egos’ – the glamorous and lively Hollywood star Miss Marilyn Monroe. Changing her glamorous frocks every few minutes Clifton makes sure to expose her toned pins and curves. She is also the one who brings elements of comedy in to the play and does it brilliantly – great timing and her body language make the show amusing and engaging.

The musical runs in Lost Theatre until 19th June.





By Joe Alvarez, Mar 8 2016 03:35PM

by Samantha Young


I had the great pleasure of attending the premiere of Retribution. Written and directed by Danny Albury and David Bispham, and starring the lovely Dan Richardson, this film absolutely blew me away.


Richardson plays Dan, a debt collector for a hardcore gangster Christian (Sean Cronin), who goes on a 24 hour rampage for justice when Christian's son brutally attacks his daughter.


Knowing that neither he nor his son are safe from the punishment Dan has in store, Christian hires a hitman Mr Gallo (Cengiz Dervis) to stop Dan before he can complete his task at hand.


Now I can honestly say that British films haven't always interested me, they either have money and produce some amazing films that we all love, or some really low budget films that I wouldn't waste my time or words on, but at the moment there's another kind.


Right now there are some fantastic British actors, writers and directors that have taken low budget movies and made them truly enjoyable to watch.


Retribution is definitely one of these films - The cinematography on this film was artistically shot giving the film edge and depth, coupled with great direction and some fantastic actors this is a must see film.


Hugh Quarshie (DI Reed) and Amanda Mealing (Captain Whittard) gave fantastic performances, and while Sean Cronin has become one of my favourite British baddie, Dan Richardson is slowly becoming my favourite British actor, one I would love to see more of on my screen.


I can honestly say that we have reach a wonderful era for British film. We have some talented new actors, writers and directors coming through the ranks who have managed to make British cinema and films exciting again. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing what comes next.


So is this a film you want to see? yes, definitely. You would be a fool to miss it.

The writers have worked on some amazing shows and films between them like Clash of the Titans, Wonder Woman, 47 Ronin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Quiet Ones and the experience has really shown through in this film.


Retribution receives a big thumbs up from me, it is definitely a winner in my book.


By Joe Alvarez, Jan 23 2016 01:42PM

by Samantha Young


Inspired by true events The Revenant is definitely an epic tale of survival. Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a legendary American frontiersman takes a hunting expedition into the unchartered treacherous American wilderness where he will face the toughest fight of his life.

After a bear attack Glass is betrayed, bereft and left for dead by his colleague John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). As a result Glass’s extraordinary courage, will and determination sees him battle to find his way back, navigating through a harsh winter terrain, guided only by the love of his family and the desire to get revenge.

Glass experiences unimaginable challenges and shows just how powerful the human spirit can be when faced with the need to survive.


Directed by Alejandro G Iñárritu The Revenant is a beautiful, violent and brutal story told in a fantastically visual experience. With long periods of no dialogue Alejandro has managed to still capture the action and viciousness of Glass’s predicament without the audience being bored.


Like nothing I have ever seen – the cinematography offers a close up to the brutality from the opening scene.


This film is a visual masterpiece – unlike what we are used to. Every scene is so close that you feel like you’re there. Instead of the wider picture of the battle, each shot is an individual, beautifully choreographed, fierce fight for survival.


Shot so close to the action you can see the breath on the lens making it all feel so real that one cannot help but be immersed in the story.


The film has already received a lot of recognition and admiration from the film industry picking up three Golden Globes – Best Dramatic Film, Best Director and Best Actor for DiCaprio.


It has also received a staggering twelve Oscar nominations including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Picture. Hardy has also received a nomination for Best Supporting actor for his role as Fitzgerald but denies that he will be conflicted come award night with Mad Max: Fury Road also being nominated for Best Picture, a film Hardy had a starring role in.


Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy offer electric performances in what can only be described as the performance of their careers in a film that will surely go down cinema history.


Supporting cast co-star Domhnall Gleeson, who plays Captain Andrew Henry, has also had roles in multiple Oscar-nominated films - as well as starring in The Revenant, Gleeson has had key parts in Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Brooklyn.


This film is a definite masterpiece and deserves every award and nomination it receives. It is a gripping drama and terrifying to watch – edge of your seat kind of film. It is genuinely breathtakingly beautiful and well worth watching.


This film is a definite 5/5 a big thumbs up and standing ovation.


The Revenant
The Revenant




©Joe Alvarez

©Joe Alvarez

©Joe Alvarez