Friday, February 21, 2014

Pompeii has thrills, romance

By James Colt Harrison

The story of old Pompeii, Italy has been fascinating audiences for millenniums. The same is true today when we can only imagine the splendor of the city as it was then and the terror experienced by the citizens when their whole world came tumbling down during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. This is like the Titanic story; we all know the ending, but we don’t know how the film will get there.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson trains his excellent 3D cameras on real sets, models, and CGI scenes to elaborate effectiveness. There is one killer scene in which a cliffside villa crumbles into the sea, along with half the mountain. No animals were hurt in the filming of these scenes!

Mr. Anderson must be an avid movie-watcher as he has had his screenwriters Janet Scott & Lee Batchelor and Michael Robert Johnson borrow from every heart-wrenching epic film such as the aforementioned Titanic as well as The Horse Whisperer, The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators, with a little of Spartacus thrown in for good measure. Every “Roman-themed” film of yesteryear serves as a blue print for this “new” look at life in 79 A.D. The filmmakers can’t be faulted too much because how many different ways can the same story be told?

Strapping Kit Harrington of Game of Thrones TV fame, plays grown-up Milo. As a young boy he watched in horror as his parents were slaughtered by the mean and nasty Roman soldier Keifer Sutherland (Corvus) and his top lieutenant Proculus (Sasha Roiz) when they eliminated the Celts. Milo grows up a slave and seeks his revenge 17 years later.

Because Milo is young and strong, he is a natural for the arena where he is obligated to kill for the entertainment of the governing powers. On his way to being shipped to Pompeii he saves the life of Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of high official and town chief Severus (Mad Men’s Jared Harris) and her beautiful mother Aurelia (Carrie-Ann Moss). They immediately do goo-goo eyes at each other, even though they know it is forbidden. But that never stopped determined and hormonally excited youth nor Hollywood. Through circumstances and clever screen-writing, the two are thrust together several times, cementing their attachment. But do we believe their romance? It’s debatable and borders on preposterous. There’s not much chemistry between the two, and the only sparks come from the mountain.

While in prison Milo makes friends with the gigantic Atticus (Adewale Akkinnuoye-Agbaje), a fellow slave flighter. Together they team up and nearly wipe out the entire Roman legion on their own. You can only do that if you are the star of the movie.

All of the fighting, head-lopping and arm severing is simply a lead-up to the huge climax and the reason the film was made in glorious 3D. Using some of the best 3D effects seen on screen, Anderson makes us feel the heat of the lava as the mountain spews rockets of boiling rocks down on the Pompeiians. We must admit we dodged a few of those boulders and covered our eyes with trembling arms! Oh, and we mustn’t forget the sensational tsunami that puts the cap on the town. Terrific!

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

RAW San Diego brings Art, Fashion, Music, Film and more all under one roof


RAW Artists San Diego is hosting a multi-faceted arts event Wednesday, February 19th at the House of Blues, featuring 40+ San Diego artists. The show will consist of multiple runway shows, live music, a pop-up art and jewelry gallery and more. You won't want to miss this fantastic display of artistic talent.

Continue reading below and click on the links to learn more about RAW artists.

About RAW: Artists is an independent arts organization based out of 60+ locations across the globe. Our organization produces bi-monthly events, featuring emerging artists in each community, in the fields of fashion, music, visual art, performing art, hair, makeup, photography, and film.

You can find more event information, and a list of RAW's featured designers and artists at: www.RAWartists.org/SanDiego/Awakening

Check out RAW's Youtube channel to see footage from events thrown all over the world: http://www.youtube.com/RAWartistsTV

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ROBOCOP (2014)

Review by James Colt Harrison                             

Directed by: Jose Padilha
Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Abby Cornish, Jay Baruchel, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Patrick Gallow, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, John Paul Ruttan
                  
Disgusting and creepy were the first two words that came to mind when viewing the half body of injured policeman Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). With lungs shown puffing up and down and his esophagus clearly showing him gulping air, it is a stomach-turning image that does not leave your memory. Blown apart in a car bombing, there is nothing left of him except his head and respiratory system. It’s a bit too graphic for most non-medical people to see. Murphy is the first human being used in an experiment to join robotic parts with a human being, as designed and manipulated by mad scientist Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman) and his assistant Jai Kim (Aimee Garcia).

The evil, but sincere, Michael Keaton, is head of OmniCorp, the outfit that makes the robotic cops. He’s got his marketing team (Jennifer Ehle and the comical Jay Baruchel) working overtime to convince the domestic police departments to add robots to fight crime. Dr. Norton (Oldman) is a serious researcher but is not wholly convinced about adding human beings to the equation of the proposed new-fangled robot-human machine. He reluctantly saves part of Officer Murphy’s body and conjures up a whole new creature. It’s Frankenstein of the future—it’s alive! It’s alive!

There would be no excitement if something didn’t go haywire, so director Padilha has Murphy’s tampered-with brain throw some short circuits and voila! ---he has a mind of his own! Determined to capture and kill the rat gun-runner and crime boss Anton Vallon (Patrick Garrow), the perpetrator of his nearly-fatal car bomb accident. The science lab can’t over-ride his blitzed brain, and there is going to be a bumpy night ahead.

This film is allegedly a remake of the 1987 film which apparently had more irony and a sense of humor. There is no humor here, except in an occasional outburst of young Baruchel, always a pleasant character in films.

The film is neither a disaster nor a masterpiece, but it is well-made. All the computer graphic images and explosions are well managed. However, we must take exception to the thunderous sound track. Raised to ear-splitting decibels, it serves to disintegrate everyone’s cochlea and reduce it to a mass of quivering ash. Samuel Jackson’s superfluous part as a TV anchor demonstrates how a normally mellifluous voice such as his is turned into a rock-concert loud speaker run amok. Supervising Sound Editor Karen Baker Landers and Sound Designers Ann Scibelli and Peter Staubli should have their heads stuck into a ceramic cereal bowl and struck with a Chinese gong to see how they like it.

Joel Kinnaman is a fairly unknown actor in the United States. Audiences may know him from his appearances in the film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) or the Swedish film Easy Money (2010). He was born in 1979 in Sweden and raised in Stockholm. His parents are American and Swedish, so he has dual citizenship. He began making films in 2002 in his native Sweden and became a popular star throughout Europe. He’s ambivalent about stardom and once said, “I absolutely don’t feel that I have to take any role that I can get just because it is in the United States. I’m looking for something interesting. I must dare to do things even when there is a risk for failure.”

We don’t want to give the impression we are judging the film harshly, but when director Padilha was asked about the making of the film he said, it was “the worst experience of my life.” He stuck his foot further into his gaping mouth when he continued with “I have never suffered so much and I do not want to do it again.” I’m just saying.—MGM/ Columbia Pictures.

ArtsNFashion Winter 2013/2014
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Monday, February 10, 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN

Review by James Colt Harrison

Sometimes the most interesting stories are true. History is full of true stories that would warrant a motion picture being made. One of those true stories is the basis of George Clooney’s World War II film The Monuments Men from 20th Century Fox/Columbia Pictures.

Who were The Monuments Men? They were an Allied group of men whose main concern was finding and retrieving precious pieces of art and other culturally historical items before Hitler’s troops destroyed them.

Based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History as written by Robert M. Edsel, the film’s screenplay was fashioned by George Clooney and Grant Heslov to make it more palatable for today’s audiences. Not many people who were born after World War II are even aware of these events, so the film serves as a great reminder of what sacrifices were made to save our cultural heritage.

The platoon chosen to carry out the mission was drawn from men were were artists, architects, museum curators and art historians in real life. They were not strictly military men, but they had to go through basic training anyway. This group of middle-aged men were not cut out for battle, but they had to learn to defend themselves in any eventuality. Clooney and Heslov always inject a little humor into the otherwise serious subject. With such pros as John Goodman as a typical American and the affable and suave French star Jean Dujardin trading quips, the film presents much-needed lighter moments when situations get tough and serious.

Clooney plays Frank Stokes (a fictionalized version of Harvard art conservationist George Stout), the leader of the group. At times he borders on being almost preachy when he reminds us over and over how important these art treasures are and how imperative it is they be saved. He even convinced President Roosevelt to give him the go-ahead to enter Germany to capture the stolen artworks. Once would have been enough to get across the point and the main reason why these men had to put their lives in danger to save works of art.

Stokes took FDR’s ‘yes’ as approval and put together some knowledgeable guys who were too old to serve in the military and got them into shape. They were all eggheads of one sort or another. Sweet-natured Matt Damon played a strait-laced art expert, Bill Murray was recruited because he is an architect, Hugh Bonneville (so good in Downton Abbey) is recruited for his knowledge of British artworks, previously-mentioned Jean Dujardin is a French art dealer, Bob Balaban is an art historian, Goodman is a sculptor, and handsome young Dimitri Leonidas plays a German Jew who translates for them. It’s a marvelous cast and director Clooney tries to give them all some significant screen time.

Out of the blue Cate Blanchett’s character appears wearing a severe hairdo that looks much like Ruth Buzzi’s on TV’s Laugh In. No matter; she plays an important curator who catalogued all the Nazi stolen treasures. Her knowledge Is tremendously helpful to the guys, but she’s a sourpuss most of the time who wears a chip on her shoulder about the Americans being in her country. Damon, in his fractured French, reminds her she would be speaking German were it not for the American invasion. Banchett’s Rose Villand thaws a little and soon collaborates.

Clooney throws in a little action to keep the audience awake. However, this is not a typical Hollywood war picture with zillions of gunfights and planes dropping bombs. The men do engage is some firefighting and some are lost.

The picture serves its purpose in an entertaining way. We learn about how a brave group of men risked their lives—and lost some of them--- to save treasures such as Picassos, Van Goghs and Rodin sculptures from the nasty destructive hands of Hitler’s Nazis.

The picture used actual locations in Germany, such as the little town of Osterweik and the Berlin-Brandenburg region for outdoor shots. Indoor filming took lace at the famous Babelsburg Studios in Potsdam.

ArtsNFashion Winter 2013/2014
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Designer Andre Soriano: A Media Star is Born

Designer Andre Soriano with the
Pussycat Doll's Kaya Jones rocking
his gown for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards
Staple Center, Los Angeles, CA
By Paola Hornbuckle

It is with complete amazement and respect that the San Diego fashion community marvels at the meteoric ascent of designer Andre Soriano. For years he was a familiar face at the local San Diego fashion events and now he has gotten his much deserved break thanks to participation in Styled to Rock, a reality television show based out of Los Angeles which premiered on Bravo in the fall of 2013 and is hosted by Rihanna. Similar to Project Runway, the contestants compete with each other to create the best outfit for a musical performer every week. Andre displayed his cutting edge designs week after week and made it to seventh place. By then the world had seen his work and took notice. Now in high demand, Andre Soriano’s designs seem to be blossoming everywhere. Award Shows, magazine spreads, and red carpet photo shoots are part of his world as celebrities flock to wear the creations of the hot, new designer on the scene. Completely humble, kind and thankful for all of his success, Andre Soriano seems to be having a ball on the new roller coaster ride that is his life. 
L. to R. Oprah Winfrey, Aisha Tyler (host - 19th Critic's Choice Awards)
 in an original Andre Soriano gown, Forrest Whitaker
With his flashy, daring and original outfits he himself seems ready made for branding into the public consciousness.  The greatest achievement of the reality shows dedicated to up and coming artists is to eliminate the red tape and middle men that stand between talent and public awareness of that talent. Someone like Andre Soriano, can be the next fashion designer on the rise thanks to the democratization of artists’ access to exposure thanks to reality shows.  We in San Diego take inspiration from his success and look forward to seeing a talented and very nice person achieve the acclaim that he deserves.

More from ArtsNFashion on Andre Soriano:
ArtsNFashion Winter 2013/2014
FWSD2013
Underground "Gypsy/Fortune Teller Fashion Show" - San Diego 2012


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