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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

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The Star eCentral: Movie Reviews

'Inside Llewyn Davis' is US critics' top choice

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 05:35 PM PST

The movie work is film of the year according to the National Society Of Film Critics in the US.

Inside Llewyn Davis, the Coen brothers' tale of a struggling folk singer in early 1960s Greenwich Village, was named the year's best film by the National Society of Film Critics in the United States last weekend, with star Oscar Isaac winning best actor and the filmmaking brothers sharing the award for best director.

The group, made up of 56 prominent movie critics from newspapers, magazines and other media outlets in the US, chose Cate Blanchett as best actress for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, in which she plays the troubled wife of a financial fraudster. Best supporting actress went to Jennifer Lawrence for the 1970s-set American Hustle, and James Franco won best supporting actor for his portrayal of a gangster drug dealer in the comic drama Spring Breakers.

In choosing Inside Llewyn Davis, the critics broke away from choices by other groups such as the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Circle, which respectively chose the quirky Her and American Hustle as best film. Earlier last week, the Producers Guild left the well-reviewed film off its list of nominees for the year's best film.

In the film, which also won the critics' prize for best cinematography and also stars Carey Mulligan, Isaac plays the title character Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk musician on a week-long odyssey set against a musical score of T-Bone Burnett. The film was chosen as the year's best by the Boston Society of Film Critics and is nominated for several Golden Globe awards, including best musical or comedy.

The critics awards are among the last in the run-up to the Oscar nominations, to be announced on Jan 16 in Los Angeles. The Academy Awards ceremony is slated for March 2. Joel and Ethan Coen are a filmmaking team known for producing, writing and directing movies from their 1984 debut Blood Simple, Fargo and True Grit to their Oscar winning best picture, No Country For Old Men.

In other awards, the critics chose the lesbian-theme drama Blue Is the Warmest Color as best foreign-language film, and declared a tie in the nonfiction, or documentary category. The Act Of Killing, about septuagenarian Indonesian mass murderer Anwar Congo, in which Indonesian gangsters reenact killings they participated in during the mid-1960s anti-Communist purge, shared the prize with At Berkeley, Frederick Wiseman's look at the northern California university.

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke shared the best screenplay prize for Before Midnight, the third film in the romantic series starring Delpy and Hawke. Leviathan took the experimental film prize. Special film heritage honours went to the Museum of Modern Art, the British Film Institute, the DVD American Treasures From The New Zealand Film Archive, and Too Much Johnson, the surviving reels of Orson Welles' debut film which were discovered by Cinemazero (Pordenone) and Cineteca del Friuli, funded by the National Film Preservation Foundation and restored by the George Eastman House. — Reuters

All fired up for 'As The Light Goes Out'

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Director Derek Kwok recalls the danger while shooting his new firefighting film.

Given that a firefighting movie Out Of Inferno came out recently from his compatriots Danny and Oxide Pang, you would think that writer-director Derek Kwok would be feeling the heat since As The Light Goes Out tackles the same topic.

Speaking over the telephone from Hong Kong, he says in Cantonese: "There's always pressure but it doesn't come from others. Rather, it's because you always want to do a movie well.

"Anyway, there is plenty of space for different movies to bloom. Just look at the number of cops-and-robbers flicks out there."

As The Light Goes Out stars Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, Simon Yam and Hu Jun as firefighters while Out Of Inferno featured Louis Koo and Sean Lau Ching Wan.

Kwok, 37, stresses that what is more important is whether the film in question has something new to offer - and he is confident on that score.

He was the one who came up with the idea for the film, after his firefighter friend had told him: "The greatest danger you face is thick smoke, not fire. When you enter a fire scene, all you hear is the sound of your own breathing and it is pitch black before you."

It was a scenario that intrigued Kwok and one that he felt other fire flicks had not explored.

So before filming started, he spent half a year doing research on the different types of smoke and their characteristics.

And then the challenge was to present that on film.

He says: "Normally when you film smoke, you simply add some smoke to the scene. But here, I wanted smoke to be a feeling, an actor almost. It could be a monster, a ghost, be everywhere all at once, be weaselly or be forceful."

It took a mix of real smoke and special effects to achieve that.

In addition, there were also fires and explosions added to the combustible mix.

The actors did most of the scenes themselves despite the challenging conditions.

Notes Kwok: "When you use stand-ins, it looks very fake, so the actors requested to do the dangerous scenes themselves."

Some were hurt in the process. Yam had to run about while carrying an injured character and ended up pulling his pelvic muscle. It took him nine months to recover.

And Yue hurt his right hand carrying almost 36kg of equipment for a rescue effort.

Still, Kwok says: "I think it was all worth it because we all want it to be realistic when it comes out."

Next up for him is an action thriller, Kowloon Walled City, with action star Donnie Yen.

And his goal each time he makes a film is the same.

"If I get $100 from investors, I hope to make a movie which looks like it cost $300. It's a big challenge and makes it tough for me and the crew but it's what we're chasing after. The biggest hope is that audiences will like my works."

Along with directors such as Pang Ho Cheung and Juno Mak, Kwok proves that there is still life in the Hong Kong film industry.

His low-budget action comedy Gallants (2010) was both a commercial and critical hit and it won the Best Movie accolade at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

And the bachelor remains passionate about Hong Kong films even as the lure of the China market has proved irresistible for many.

He says: "Regardless of where the audience is from, they all want to watch Hong Kong films which have a distinct Hong Kong flavour. Just make movies according to one's conscience, works that are interesting and dignified, and they will find an audience." – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

> As The Light Goes Out is showing in cinemas nationwide.

Alexa Vega is married again

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:10 PM PST

The actress tied the knot with actor and singer Carlos Pena Jr of Big Time Rush.

Actors Alexa Vega and Carlos Pena Jr have tied the knot after two months of engagement.

The couple got married on Jan 4 at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. "Wow... I'm getting excited nervous!!!! Ahhhh!!!" Vega, 25, tweeted.

Pena, 24, who is one of the four members of Big Time Rush, a boy band with its own popular TV show on Nickelodeon, also tweeted a handful of pictures of the duo at the resort.

"We are so thrilled and blessed that we were able to have all of our close friends and family join us on our special day," the couple told People magazine.

This is Vega's second marriage. Back in 2010, the Machete Kills actress married Sean Covel, the producer of Spy Kids, the child-friendly film series that made her famous. The actress filed for divorce in 2012. A year later, she and Pena got engaged.

Carlos Pena stars in the show Big Time Rush, which is also the name of his music group. 


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