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Dying Laughing – Chris Rock, Stephen K Amos, Billy Connolly, Kevin Hart…

The Definitive In-Depth Look at Stand-Up Comedy by Legends of the Industry

Release Date: 16th June 2017
Running time: 88 mins
Certificate: 15
Directors: Paul Toogood, Lloyd Stanton
Cast: Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard, Amy Schumer, Billy Connolly, Paul Provenza, Sarah Silverman, Rick Overton, Jerry Lewis, Stephen K. Amos, Dave Attell, Sandra Bernhard, Tiffany Haddish, Frankie Boyle, Jo Brand, Neal Brennan, Bobby Lee, Jim Jefferies, Tom Dreesen, Kirk Fox, Cocoa Brown, Keenen Ivory Wayans


Synopsis:
DYING LAUGHING is a candid look inside the agony and ecstasy of making people laugh for a living. A stand-up comedian must be the writer, the director, and the star performer. There is no rehearsal, no practice, and no safety net when you’re in front of a live audience. For most people, baring their soul on stage and having an audience “boo” at you would become a life-long trauma, but for stand-up comedians, it’s a nightly challenge. The funny and heartfelt documentary contains original interviews interlaced with personal footage of life on the road – all from a comedian’s point of view. Once you take this step behind the curtain, you will never look at these funny folks the same way again.”


I seem to remember all of the comedy gigs I’ve been to in the past; where they were, who the funniest comedian was, and that one joke I always managed to carry away that when I think back, makes me chuckle. There is a sometimes a kind of uncomfortableness about some of the jokes, because they are very close to home, or something we shouldn’t be laughing at, but other jokes – the mere observation of our ridiculousness makes us laugh at ourselves. I’m always aware that I’ve gone to see a show, ready to laugh, prepared to be entertained, with no idea how the comedian is planning to entertain and keep me amused.

Dying Laughing sets the record straight. In it, iconic comedians speak to camera about their experience of stand-up comedy, from starting out, through writing, up on to the stage. These are well-known comedians, from the USA and the UK. They speak of laughter, hecklers, touring, loneliness, mental health, and bombing, and they took me on a rollercoaster of emotions.

At the start of the film, when they are speaking about the fun parts of comedy, there was a moment when I wondered if I could do stand-up. When they started to talk about me/you/us the audience, and the hecklers, it reminded me of that infamous Bernie Mac performance, ‘I ain’t scared of you….!’, and as the documentary goes on, I realised that it takes a certain strength to be a comedian. One I don’t have! I think Chris Rock sums it up best in the documentary, when he speaks about comedians being observers, intelligent observers – ignorance is bliss, and so the other side is quite painful, that observations, that knowing, being a viewer.

I left the cinema smiling, and in awe. An absolutely brilliant film, as I said, prepare to go on an emotional rollercoaster.

DYING LAUGHING is in UK cinemas and On Demand 16th June http://www.dyinglaughingfilm.com

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2017 Sundance Film Festival

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival: London starts tomorrow; films are screening at PictureHouse Central.

On from the 1st – 4th June 2017.

Here are two Feature films and two Short film programmes to see:

JUNE 2017

Friday 2 – Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour [18]

Friday 2 | Saturday 3 – The Incredible Jessica James [18]
Director: Jim Strouse.
Starring: Jessica Williams, Chris O’Dowd, Lakeith Stanfield, Noël Wells. USA 2017. 85 mins.

Friday 2 | Saturday 3 – Crown Heights [18]
Director: Matt Ruskin.
Starring: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom. USA 2017. 99 mins.

Sunday 4 – Sundance Film Festival UK Shorts [18]

 

My Life as a Courgette

Running time: 70 mins
Release Date: 2 June 2017
Certificate: PG
Director: Claude Barras
Voices: Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Will Forte and Amy Sedaris


Synopsis:
After his mother’s sudden death, Courgette is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to his new foster home filled with other orphans his age. At first he struggles to find his place in this often strange and hostile
environment. Yet with Raymond’s help and his newfound friends, Courgette eventually learns to trust and love, as he searches for a new family of his own.


My Life as a Courgette is a beautiful animation, looking at young emotions in difficult times. Throughout the film, I thought the children were in a loving and caring children’s home, rather than a foster home. The emotions and issues are portrayed well in children with differing problems. The film is great to see, amusing, sad, and hopeful.

Mindhorn

Running time: 89 mins
Release Date: 5th May 2017
Certificate: 15
Director: Sean Foley
Cast: Julian Barratt, Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough, Essie Davis, Harriet Walter


Synopsis:
Washed-up Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) peaked with hit 1980s detective show Mindhorn, playing the titular Isle of Man sleuth with a robotic eye that allowed him to literally “see the truth”. Decades later, when a deranged Manx criminal demands Mindhorn as his nemesis, Thorncroft returns to the scene of his greatest triumphs for one last chance to reignite his glory days, professional credibility and even romance with former co-star/paramour Patricia Deville (Essie Davis).


What the hell? That was my first thought! But this crime-comedy-whodunit grew and grew on me! Deffo go and see this one, it is so bad, it’s good. Cheese upon cheese, with great performances from all, all set on the Isle of Man.

The Transfiguration

Running time: 97 mins
Release Date: 21st April 2017
Certificate: 15
Director: Michael O’Shea
Cast: Eric Ruffen, Xhloe Levine, Jelly Bean


Synopsis:
An atmospheric, intricate study of a troubled young mind, The Transfiguration follows orphaned teen Milo (Eric Ruffin) as he immerses himself in vampire lore to escape his troubled life. In Queens, New York, 14 year-old Milo is a total outsider. Ignored by his schoolmates and bullied by older children, he takes refuge in the apartment he shares with his older brother. To escape his solitude, he studies vampire mythology, to the point of obsession. Milo hides a terrible secret, but a chance encounter with neighbor Sophie (Chloe Levine) leads him to develop new feelings. But will it be enough to quash his dark urges?


Milo, Milo, Milo, where to begin with Milo? He is at first, a school boy, bullied by his peers, he arrives as the victim – sad, friendless, loner, but soon enough, we learn of another side of Milo, and hope and nerves ride side by side as his friendship with his neighbour, Sophie develops. But Milo’s struggles continue in the colour-leached setting of his estate, as he strives to find a solution to end his troubles.

Their Finest

Running time: 117 mins
Release Date: 21st April 2017
Certificate: 12A
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Sam Claflin, Gemma Arterton, Jack Huston, Bill Nighy


Synopsis:
Based on Lissa Evans’ novel, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’. 1940, London, the Blitz; with the country’s morale at stake, Catrin (Gemma Arterton), an untried screenwriter, and a makeshift cast and crew, work under fire to make a film to lift the nation’s flagging spirits; and inspire America to join the war. Partnered alongside fellow screenwriter, Buckley (Sam Claflin) and eccentric actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), the trio set off to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation and capture the imagination of the American population.


I thoroughly enjoyed this romantic war-time comedy. Just looking at the images from the film brings back the rollercoaster of emotions, from Buckley’s lingering looks, to Catrin’s sadness. I try to avoid films that are based around war, but I am so glad I didn’t miss this one. It’s not so much about the hardship and drudge of war, but more about getting on with life in difficult circumstances. Do not miss this one. Take tissues.

Their Finest

Sense of an Ending

Running time: 108 mins
Release Date: 14th April 2017
Certificate: 15
Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer


Synopsis:
Based on the Man Booker-winning novel by Julian Barnes. Tony Webster (Broadbent) leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love (Rampling) and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago.


I haven’t read the book, but the trailer looked fascinating. Great performances from the cast, but the film was lacking a certain ‘umpf’ – not enough suspense and tension, and the conclusion of the story didn’t feel like the big reveal that the film had tried to build up to. It’s okay, not enough excitement for me.

The Lost City Of Z

Running time: 140 mins
Release Date: 24th March 2017
Certificate: 15
Director: James Gray
Cast: Tom Holland, Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson


Synopsis:
Based on author David Grann’s nonfiction bestseller, THE LOST CITY OF Z tells the incredible true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam), who journeys into the Amazon at the dawn of the 20th century and discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilization that may have once inhabited the region. Despite being ridiculed by the scientific establishment who regard indigenous populations as “savages”, the determined Fawcett – supported by his devoted wife (Sienna Miller), son (Tom Holland) and aide de camp (Robert Pattinson) – returns time and again to his beloved jungle in an attempt to prove his case, culminating in his mysterious disappearance in 1925.


I shall display my ignorance and say that I had never heard of Percy Fawcett, or his expeditions, so it was interesting to learn about these. I really enjoyed the opening of the film, getting his background, and things that led to the first expedition, but once the expeditions started, the film seemed to slow down. I suppose I would have liked more excitement, but the story is based on truth, so if this is an area of interest to you, you may well find it fascinating. It does leave you with a wonder at the fate of Fawcett, and has a lovely and whimsical Magical Realism ending.

Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam)

Another Mother’s Son

Running time: 98 mins
Release Date: 24th March 2017
Certificate: 12A
Director: Christopher Menaul
Cast: Jenny Seagrove, John Hannah, Julian Kostov, Ronan Keating


Synopsis:
Set during World War II, when the island of Jersey was occupied by the Nazis, and based on the true story of Louisa Gould, who took in an escaped Russian POW and hid him over the course of the war. Amid growing tension it became clear that British wartime leader Winston Churchill would not risk an assault to re-capture the occupied island, the community began to fray under the pressures of hunger, occupation and divided loyalty. Against this backdrop, Lou fights to preserve her family’s sense of humanity and to protect
the Russian boy as if he were her own.


A truly interesting WWII story about everyday people putting their life in danger to save a person, ‘Another Mother’s Son’. Jenny Seagrove plays a headstrong and heart happy Gould, who went about it with a breath-taking boldness that defies belief. Seagrove’s accent distracted me on occasion – I don’t know the Jersey accent, so it may be more that it didn’t seem right coming from her? I’m not sure. It was a pleasant surprise seeing Ronan Keating acting, and of course he gets a bot of singing in! John Hannah, in the role of is also excellent. It’s a story of courage, blind trust and touch of naivety with unexpected tragedy.

“Return to D’Ennery; Rain” by Derek Walcott

Last Year's Almanac

Imprisoned in these wires of rain, I watch
This village stricken with a single street,
Each weathered shack leans on a wooden crutch,
Contented as a cripple with defeat.
Five years ago even poverty seemed sweet,
So azure and indifferent was this air,
So murmurous of oblivion the sea,
That any human action seemed a waste,
The place seemed born for being buried there.

The surf explodes

In scissor-birds hunting the usual fish,
The rain is muddying unpaved inland roads,
So personal grief melts the general wish.

The hospital is quiet in the rain.
A naked boy drives pigs into the bush.
The coast shudders with every surge. The beach
Admits a beaten heron. Filth and foam.
There in a belt of emerald light, a sail
Plunges and lifts between the crests of reef,
The hills are smoking in the vaporous light,
The rain seeps slowly to the core of…

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