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Jeri Jacquin and Jenise Jacquin
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Victoria & Abdul
VICTORIA & ABDUL is Perfection on Stunning Bluray!
Coming to Bluray/DVD and Digital from director Stephen Frears, Focus Features and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the story of an unlikely friendship between VICTORIA & ABDUL.
Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a clerk in a prison in India and his life is about to change. Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is to be given a tribute coin and Abdul is the tall man for the job. Along with a shorter Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), they sale toward England and Abdul is very excited.
There is no time for looking around much as Abdul and Mohammed are given a crash course on how to present to the Queen. Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) lets the two men know that everything is to be precise and quickly.
During the dinner, Abdul and Mohammed make their way toward Queen Victoria and after a quick nap the presentation is made. Walking backwards, Abdul does the unthinkable and makes eye contact and gives a smile to the Queen and what turns into one moment becomes an unlikely friendship.
Much to the horror of Sir Ponsonby and Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) as well as her ladies Lady Churchill (Olivia Williams) and Miss Phipps (Fenella Woolgar), the Queen begins to prefer the company of Abdul. They inform the Queen’s son Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and a plan is formed.
Queen Victoria asks Abdul about his land, language and his story as they share walks and private times. It is clear that Abdul cares very much for the Queen and she for him, especially discovering he is married and demanding he get his family and return. That doesn’t stop the Queen’s staff, along with Dr. Reid (Paul Higgins), from looking into Abdul’s past. Believing they can stop him with what they know, it only manages to infuriate the Queen in Abdul’s favor.
Including a knighthood which sends the entire palace into a tizzy and a decision that will not only put their loyalty in question but show how Queen Victoria wasn’t napping any longer.
This is a friendship that is filled with understanding, forgiveness and even unspoken love.
Dench as Victoria once again proves why she is a queen in her own right. She is smart, strong, delicate, wistful and a woman who sees so little to move forward for. Once the Queen’s inner light is ignited, Dench shines every moment of the film. I quite honestly could not take my eyes off her performance and the ending brought me to tears.
Fazal as Abdul is a man who doesn’t see the world in such an aggressive way as those around him. A simple jail clerk who happens to know how to write is sent across the world to do one simple thing and it turns into a friendship. Fazal delivers his lines with the innocence I see in Abdul in that how one sees the world is clearly different than the Queen. There are moments where he is clearly confused, moments of profound joy and deep sadness and Fazal gets every drop of emotion out of the audience who is just as enraptured as the Queen.
Izzard as Bertie is just the worst that a son could possible be. Instead of being happy for the emotional reviving of his mother, he sees Abdul as an interloper and acts like a spoiled child instead of a future ruler. Izzard just pours it on and gets the reaction he wants!
Akhtar as Mohammed just wants to go home, and when he sees that the Prince and others want to use that against his friend Abdul – his response is epic! Pigott-Smith as Ponsonby is confused by the relationship between the Queen and Abdul but at the same time has a faithfulness to the way things ought to be done. Higgins as Dr. Reid is just another lackey who isn’t happy about Abdul’s presence and finds himself faced with the wrath of the Queen. Gambon as Salisbury wants one thing only – for Abdul to be gone and the crown to go back to normal.
Williams as Lady Churchill isn’t happy to have the Queen’s ear and convinces Miss Phipps to do the extortion deed. Woolgar as Phipps has a moment in front of the Queen that is nerve wracking to watch but awesome to experience.
Other cast include Julian Wadham as Alick Yorke, Robin Soans as Arthur Bigge, Ruth McCabe as Mrs. Tuck, Sukh Ojla as Mrs. Karim, Kemaal Deen-Ellis as Ahmed and Simon Callow as Puccini.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
The Bluray includes the Bonus Features of Judi & Ali and The Look of Victoria & Abdul. Included in the pack, DVD and Digital HD along with theatre quality sound. The Digital means you can enjoy VICTORIA & ABDUL on television, computer, Tablet and Smartphone!
VICTORIA & ABDUL is absolutely Oscar worthy in every sense. There is nothing about this film that goes wrong with me. The story between Queen Victoria and Abdul is delightful, funny, testing, sad, misunderstood and heartbreaking.
Mixed in with that is the ugliness of those around the Queen with their jabbing, back biting, underhanded, and horrible treatment of Abdul and Mohammed. Instead of embracing the cultural differences of these two men, they found ways to cut them to the quick – and right to their face in some cases.
The cinematography is amazing and it is a period piece which is going to grab me from the word go. I absolutely adore the costuming which is always an important part of a period piece because it adds such a richness to the storytelling.
I’m warning anyone who sees this film on Bluray to keep a Kleenex handy because for the ending you are going to need it. The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is everything I wanted for this story to be told – thank you both for making me laugh, smile and shed a tear.
In the end – an extraordinary true story of a queen and her new best friend!
Winter isn't the only thing arriving! GAME OF THRONES The Complete Seventh Season is Coming!
The Best in Twisted can be Found in ALFRED HITCHCOCK: The Ultimate Collection on Bluray!
Coming on Bluray is the most amazing collection of films by one of Hollywood’s iconic storyteller and filmmaker as Universal Pictures Home Entertainment brings ALFRED HITCHCOCK: The Ultimate Collection.
Known as the Master of Suspense, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock has brought suspense and mystery to the big screen. Coming to Hollywood in 1939, he worked the town with a unique style that made him a staple on the big screen and small.
Introducing theatre goers to his work is the 1927 film The Lodger that began the idea of a thriller. In 1939, it would be another Hollywood great David O. Selznick brings Hitchcock into the fold and the two often disagreed on the films being made. The film REBECCA the next year is America’s first glimpse at what he could do.
For several years after Hitchcock mixed genres with such films as MR. & MRS. SMITH and SABOTEUR. One of my favorites is the 1945 film SPELLBOUND and it could be easily because of Gregory Peck but honestly it is also the amazing story.
He would follow it up with NOTORIOUS with another stellar actor in Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman who was also in SPELLBOUND. These films should be a must-see because they are an introduction to this amazing collection of films on Bluray.
PSYCHO was released in 1940 starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh and brought audiences the first fear of showers that continues with me at least! In 1963, Hitchcock brings another side of fear with Rod Taylor and Tippi Hendren being stalked by THE BIRDS. Tippi Hendren returns in 1964 with a psychological thriller in MARNIE.
What makes this collection amazing are the fifteen films including PSYCHO, THE BIRDS, VERTIGO, REAR WINDOW, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE MAN WHO KNEW TO MUCH, MARNIE, SABOTEUR, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, ROPE, THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, TORN CURTAIN, TOPAZ, FRENZY and FAMILY PLOT.
The actors in these films range from Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, Joseph Cotton, Bruce Dern and John Forsythe. Let us not forget the actresses that include Kim Novack, Shirley MacClaine, Tippi Hendren, Ingrid Bergman, Julie Andrews, and Karen Black. That is absolutely a list of stellar talent.
But the Bluray collection doesn’t stop there as ALFRED HITCHCOCK: The Ultimate Collection also includes seven television episodes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents and three television episodes from The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Still not enough? Well then, how about fifteen hours of Bonus Features that include: Documentaries, Expert Commentaries, Interviews, Screen Tests, Storyboards and so much more!
Each disc comes with a look at the original posters and colorful list of each discs bonus feature. Also included is a stunning 58-page booklet that is filled with color information and tucks neatly into the creative box with film photos.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
It doesn’t seem enough to say this is the collection that Hitchcock fans need to have in their home entertainment library. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has truly outdone themselves because ever film in this collection is a masterpiece! Each film brings something unique, thrilling and yes, keeps me still leery of birds and shower curtains!
The holidays are here and Hitchcock wouldn’t mind at all being in a film fans stocking! I am a fan of rainy days and trust me when I say a cup of something warm, a fuzzy blanket and a stretch on the couch will be happening because these films are what these kinds of days are made for.
From Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on stunning Bluray is ALFRED HITCHCOCK: The Ultimate Collection!
In the end – there is no mind like Hitchcock’s!
HISTORY Offers Up the New Intense Drama Series with KNIGHTFALL
Speaking with Tom Cullen
The History Channel has once again brought amazing story telling and on December 6th you will experience a story of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail with KNIGHTFALL.
During the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar were an order of men with one goal – the protection of a prized relic known as the Holy Grail. An order of warrior monks, they will do what ever is required to carry out their duty.
Landry (Tom Cullen) is such a warrior monk along with Godfrey (Sam Hazeldine), Tancrede (Simon Merrells) and Gawain (Padraic Delaney). After an attack on their stronghold, they are all forced to flee and fifteen years later find themselves in Paris.
Now a friend to King Philip IV (Ed Stoppard), Queen Joan (Olivia Ross) and Princess Isabella (Sabrina Bartlett), Landry visits much to the hostility of William De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden). The brothers gather to discuss how to do what is right by the all the people they vow to serve. That brings discourse when Landry wants to know why they have not spoken of returning to the Holy Land.
Godfrey leaves to handle business outside Paris and asks that Landry be in charge which makes him instantly suspicious. Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) witnesses what happens on the open road and is given a mission that will cost him dearly.
When a Jewish businessman kills another man in the square in broad daylight, the King orders that the Jewish people must evacuate. What he doesn’t know is that there are others within the palace walls that have more frightening plans. In the chaos, there is a hint that the Holy Grail might be closer than any of the Knights Templar could have hoped bringing Pope Boniface VIII (Jim Carter) to their door.
With this news brings hope of a return to the Holy Land and the Holy Grail!
I had the opportunity to conference call with Tom Cullen, the actor who marvelously portrays the role of Landry. Having spent my Sundays with Downton Abbey I was drawn to see Cullen’s performance in Knightfall and equally thrilled to talk to him about it.
Jeri Jacquin: Hello Tom, thanks for talking with us today.
Tom Cullen: Thank you too.
JJ: Can you tell us about your experience filming Knightfall?
TC: This is the kind of project I’ve always dreamt of being involved in ever since I was a little boy. I grew up in Wales and I grew up next to a castle. That kind of history is really woven into the fabric of my DNA like I think it is in many European’s DNA. When I was a kid, my dad gave me this wooden sword and shield and I used to go up there with my mate and we just used to run around pretending to be knights and warriors. I think that the older we get the more baggage we carry and I know that I spent a lot of time pining after that kind of innocence. This job really opened up the gateway to accessing the kid again and it felt like every single day I had little Tom next to me swinging a wooden sword around with his mates in a castle in Wales. That was my favorite thing about the job; being able to have as much fun as I had while filming this show and I loved it.
JJ: Besides your informal and very cool childhood training, did you more intensive training?
TC: In drama school in the UK we do a lot of fight training. I’d done a lot of sword training prior and I found that I had the propensity for killing people, ironically. *laughs* I hadn't swung a sword in about eight years, so it was all very new in many respects. The stunt team that we had was led by an amazing Frenchman, Cédric Proust. He is a top stuntman and fight choreographer. He really put us through it and we had a great swordsman named Roman. The entire team wanted us to be at a very, very high level. So every day on set they would drill us and I did about three months of physical training beforehand to get myself and my body ready for the fighting portion of my character and the series.
Working on Knightfall was a full-on experience because the team wanted it to look authentic and real, and when you watch the fights they are absolutely incredible. I'm so proud of all of the actors who've participated in the battles because we've really done a great job and the stunt guys have really trained us well and they're epic battles and muddy and gruesome. And they feel very real, which I think is something I’m very proud of.
There is an incredible battle sequence in the final episode which is the biggest thing I've ever been involved in. We had like 400 guys on a battlefield fighting for about two weeks. It's epic, amazing and the real geeky nerd in me – because I am one – just can't believe that I’m in it. I’m extremely proud of it.
JJ: How did you react to getting the role of Landry?
TC: I genuinely love to do stuff that is different from the last thing that I did, and something that really scares me and something that is new. Knightfall was truly a dream come true for me. It's something that I've always dreamt of doing since I was a kid. I grew up on films like ROBIN HOOD - Prince of Thieves and BRAVEHEART and those films had a huge influence on me as a kid. When I read this script it was like my dreams were coming true. It’s really amazing to be a part of a project like this one.
JJ: The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail are fairly known because of documentaries, film and television. I have to say I’m also drawn to that mysterious period of time. Did you research yourself?
TC: Yes. I wanted to know as much about the crusades and about the politics at the time. Not just the politics in Europe or in the Middle East but also Mongolian politics because they had a huge influence.
You just need to immerse yourself in the world and know everything that these men would have known, understand every single and the political permutation that is affected where they reach –where they are at this point and what drives these men and women to do the things that they do. I think that's something that you have to do.
You take history for granted and history should never be taken for granted because it's essential for us furthering ourselves as a society and as a culture, because the one thing that history teaches us is that it's cyclical. So yes, I read a lot and we had a fantastic historian on set. His name is Dan Jones. He’s just released an amazing book that you must read called The Templars which is on the New York Times Bestseller’s List; it’s brilliant. He was there on hand at all times feeding into us and making sure that what we were portraying was as accurate as possible.
So anything that would come up in the script that we didn't know, we would use him as a source of knowledge and he would say, “Go and read this, go and read that,” or just tell us because he he's a real fountain of knowledge. That wasn't just the access that put me in the world of the Knights Templar.
The costume design, the art direction, the production design, makeup, etc. it was all so dense and real that you're feel like you’re right in it as soon as you turn up on set. It's just all there for you, you know, and you can really immerse yourself into the world.
The days we spent on set were amazing. We filmed on the biggest sets in Europe at Barrandov Studios. They built medieval Paris. I've never seen anything quite like it and in the show I have to do this shot where I'm riding down this nearly 200-meter long street that they built. There're 350 extras and each extra has a job, each extra has a name. It is a real world and you just forget that the cameras are there because it's so extraordinary.
Our costume designer, Diana Cilliers, was amazing. I remember the first time we did our screen test so they can see what it looks like on camera with the makeup and the hair. I remember putting the costume on, the chainmail and everything, and it weighed 50 pounds which was like an insane amount of weight. I struggled to walk down the corridor to get to the studio to do the screen test.
I was like, “Guys, why is the costume so heavy. How are we supposed to move and fight in this?” The answer was that Diana tried out lighter material such as plastics and other materials but they just didn't look authentic. So they put us in the most authentic costume that they could and we just had to deal with it. We got bigger and we got stronger, and so very quickly we were able to run and jump, get on horses in the 50-pound costumes and do everything that we needed to do to play our parts.
You can see the difference in way that the costumes move and the way that your body moves in them. It's just authentic and I think it makes for a very real experience when watching the show.
JJ: The relationship between Landry and Godfrey is such a mystery. Can you tell me more about that?
TC: The relationship that Landry has with Godfrey runs throughout the entire first season. In Episode 1, Godfrey is Landry's surrogate father. Landry was an orphan and Godfrey essentially took him in and saved him from this orphanage. Because of the promise Godfrey saw in him, Landry became a Templar at the age of 11 which is very, very, very rare.
One of the Templar rules is that you must become a Templar of your own volition because it's such a monastic lifestyle where you do things like eat your food out of the same bowl as another man. There's no vanity and no possessions. It's completely monastic so it's very rare for a young boy to join the Templars like Landry did.
In Episode 1 there is a truth revealed to Landry about Godfrey that he didn't know. Landry, like a classic hero that we all know as the protagonist, he hunts and searches for the truth at all costs. He is like a boar who gets physically beaten, emotionally beaten and he just gets back up by himself and charges towards the truth.
Godfrey is pivotal in that circle of truth that Landry is striving towards and it isn't a very easy journey for Landry to go on throughout the first season. It's a very satisfying journey for the viewers. Every time the scripts would come in there would be a new revelation and it would be a new shock, a new turn and it was very cool to read and really fun to play. I hope that the audience enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.
JJ: The Knights Templar have very strict religious views that is talked about in detail in Knightfall, how do you reconcile that with their mysterious history?
TC: The one thing that history will always do is prove itself cyclical and that human beings have very short memories. We forget very quickly what we've already been through and we tend to make the same mistakes. I think it's really important to remind ourselves of those mistakes.
Of course Knightfall is a show that is about the Templars and you'd be remiss to not talk about the holy wars; though the show actually doesn't take place during that period of time, it takes place 15 years after the holy wars. The show is about the Templars being disbanded and rounded up. That's essentially what the show would be over three or four seasons.
The Templars were a very interesting group of men because they were founded to protect pilgrims on the road and that was their purpose. Not to fight wars but to protect people who were going to pray and they were very respectful of all faiths. There is a very famous story of being held captive in the Templar temple. They made space for them so that they could pray with ease and they gave them their space because they respect faith.
I think the show touches on what faith is and how faith can be manipulated to one's own needs and how faith is often used for political games which is something that has nothing to do with religion. The Holy Grail in our show is used as a pivot of power in which people circle around it and use it in order to gain political favor.
That for me is really a very interesting world to live in. It doesn't pit religion against religion but it talks about how religion can be manipulated to man's want and need for power.
JJ: You have touched on just about every theme regarding the Knights Templar. How do you think this will reach the viewers?
TC: I think what I'm very proud of in the show is that you can kind of look at Knightfall objectively from the outside having not seen it and say, “Oh, this is about guys swinging swords and that’s what the show is about,” but the show is so much more than that. The show is about politics. We have a lot of stuff that takes place in the French Court at the time, dissecting, and breaking down the politics and the machinations of political interplay, which I just love that kind of stuff.
It has a fantastic central spine through the show; an amazing love story which I'm surprised at how strong and moving that story was as we were filming it. It kind of grew into this thing that we had no idea it would become. The show talks about revenge and betrayal, brotherhood, loyalty, faith, humanity and mortality.
I truly believe the show has something for everybody. I think that it is by no means a gendered show. I think that women would love it as much as men will love it and that is something I'm really proud of too. It has fantastic strong female characters. They are actually probably stronger than all of the male characters and they're just as complex and rich as the male counterparts, and it's very moving. I've watched the last episode three or four times now and I've shed many tears every single time. It’s a great rollercoaster.
JJ: Is there anything that makes you nervous about your role in Knightfall?
TC: There's so much that scared me about this role. The size of it and the responsibility of playing a lead in a show as big as this, it was terrifying. Also just the physical and emotional commitment that was required to make this show work. If I wasn't committed 100% to the show, it wouldn't work. They really, really put me through it in the best way possible making sure I became the best Landry I could be. That was a terrifying challenge and terrifying to have to pull off.
I was learning new skills like horse riding and fighting. The biggest thing that was terrifying for me was that – and this is something that I've been dealing with my entire life – I was doing something that I love. I read the script and I wanted it so badly because I thought it was so good. That really terrifies me.
I'm much more comfortable in that way. I come from a poor area of Wales where I'm much more comfortable with rejection than not. What terrified me was that I wanted to do it and doing something that you love and that you want is often the scariest thing that you can do because if you fail at it, that’s a big journey to go on.
JJ: Is there something in particular that drew you toward the medieval era?
TC: I’ve always been obsessed with the medieval time period because I think it’s a time that we can look back on and learn from. Actually 800 years isn’t that long ago and that this is the time really when the world that we live in today was created and formulated. We’re still feeling the repercussions of the actions and choices the people made in the medieval period today.
It’s also a period that is grimy and dirty and dangerous. The line between life and death is so thin, it’s really interesting to learn about. I think that’s a fantastic place to make a drama in. It’s a very rich world since life and death was so next to each other and it’s world rich in terms of human wants and needs.
Nowadays our lives are reasonably comfortable for certain people, especially in America. We typically don't have that kind of life and death threat every single day where we are going to drop down with scurvy or have to go into battle.
Our choices aren’t as drastic but if you have a lifespan of 35 years, every choice you make is loaded. I think that the world of the medieval period is one of very high octane and people making life and death choices every single move. That for me is an exhilarating period of time to make a drama in.
JJ: The costume designer Diana Cilliers has done some amazing work. Can you talk about the garments and some of your favorites?
TC: Yes. Unfortunately, I only ever had one costume really which is either with chain mail or without chain mail but most of the time with chain mail. But Diana made it so that it was completely authentic even in terms of the undergarment underneath the chain mail. We had a very, very thick heavy muslin underneath like a linen dresser with leather underneath and the same on our bottom half as well. The chain mail was real metal and so it gave that kind of weight and movement to it.
The tunics were made in the same way that they would have made the fabrics back at the time. Things like the crosses they spent a lot of time discussing what cross to use. Templars used many different crosses depending on where they were based, and later in the series, we meet another group of Templars and they have a different cross than what you see me wearing.
Diana talked about how they would have died, the wreaths, the crosses and how they would have stitched them and sewn them on, and how the draper would have done it. They stitched in the same way that they would have stitched then. They had a huge workshop at our studios, Barrandov Studios in Prague, with the most incredible costume teams who worked tirelessly. I don't think people realized how much work it took because I certainly didn't realize it.
When you have 400 extras on set, the costume team starts work at 2 o'clock in the morning to start dressing all of these men and women so that we're ready to start filming at 7:00 am. Then they wash all the costumes and they go to bed at an insane hour and they do it in shifts. The work that goes into making 400 beautiful costumes is unprecedented. In terms of the court costumes, I was really jealous because their costumes were incredible.
Queen Joan and Princess Isabella played by Olivia Ross and Sabrina Bartlett, their costumes were inspired from real medieval images and fabrics that they had used and they are just unbelievable. Like every time I saw Olivia, she was in this new extraordinary costume that Diana fashioned and created out of seemingly thin air in no time and they're just stunning works of art really.
What is amazing is that the way they were made is the way that they would have made them back then. Diana was really collaborative as well. I think each of us wanted to have our own unique way in which we wore our costume or we wore our belt or the color of our cross and so she allowed me to choose the color of my cross and how I would have dyed it. All of that really detailed history and information about The Templars is fascinating and we loved going there and making it as authentic as possible.
JJ: Landry is such a complex character from childhood to when we are introduced to him. How do you think becoming a Templar at the tender age of 11 shaped him?
TC: I think that when we first meet Landry at the top of Episode 1 he is 20. He is brash and young –he is a maverick, incredibly cocky and is kind of emboldened by the fact that he has God on his side and he thinks that he's invincible, which I think a lot of 20 year olds think, regardless of whether they have God on their side or not. I know I certainly felt like that.
What we see at the top of Episode 1 is his entire life flipped upside down when they lose Acre, the last Templar stronghold in the Holy Land and they lose the Holy Grail. We flash forward 15 years and when you've been brought up as a as a warrior, and that's all you know, everything you know, it’s a tough reality to deal with. He's like a caged animal, unable to fulfill what he thinks is his only purpose and duty which is to fight.
When we meet him, he is this very, very complex, pulled apart guy in Episode 1. He is battling with his humanity and he is secular yet he is also still mentally devout. He is very loyal to his brothers, his family yet he is lying to them. He is having an affair with a woman yet he is a monk. He is the bravest, most fearless warrior yet he's starting to feel a sense of his own mortality.
I think that’s why he kind of falls in love with this woman. It’s not that he's doubting God or that he’s doubting the Templars or religion, but that he's doubting himself. He is in a conflict, in a battle with himself, which are the stories that I love to watch where your hero is so full of contradiction and battle and personal complications. Throughout the first season, we see him work through that and battle through that and try and find out who he really is. It's an awesome journey for me to play and to take viewers on.
JJ: Talking about more seasons, do you know where Landry and the show will go?
TC: We love the show and we really hope that we can continue making it for as long as possible because we're a real family and we're very, very proud of it and we love making it. There’s also still a lot of the Templar history that has yet to be told. We have an idea of where the show will go and where it will take us. What actually happens is that while you're making a show it becomes this dialogue that happens between the writers, the actors, directors, the costume designers, the art director, the production designer, makeup artists, etc. where you're constantly kind of feeding into this pot which is the show.
It evolves and changes and moves in ways that you would never expect it to. It's like a living organism but that surprises you. Though we have an idea of where this is going, actually the truth is that we don't in many respects. We have the structure of history and what actually happened which we have to stay with but in terms of the characters, and their fuels and wants and needs and how they navigate their way through that history is something that we're constantly being surprised by with the characters. That's a really exciting place to work with.
Especially as an actor, I don't want to know where the character is going because in life I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow or how it's going to pan out. And so I can only be in the present and I can only make choices in the present, and so that's what you want your characters to do. The writers actually withheld scripts from us and didn't tell us what was happening later in this first season so that we could be surprised in the moments whilst we were making the episode, which is a really fantastic and authentic way to work.
Once we get the script we kind of talk about them and collaborate on them. Dominic Minghella is an incredible show runner. He is a force of nature and an amazing man and a brilliant writer, and he really values the actors’ input. He is always very good at fielding ideas and whether he takes them or not is up to him but it feels like a very collaborative process where everybody is feeding into it and we all have ownership over the show and that's really exciting.
JJ: I won’t deny that I am and always will be a huge Downton Abbey fan. How was it for you getting together with a few of your DA costars?
TC: I was so happy to work with Jim Carter who plays Mr. Carson on Downton and Julian Ovenden who plays Charles Blake on Downton Abbey, because they are just unbelievable actors. And I think that the caliber that they have only reflects so well on Knightfall, you know. The cast that we've assembled on Knightfall is one of the best that I've ever worked with. They are really amazing actors and amazing sponsors.
To have someone like Jim Carter who is a multiple Emmy nominated actor and the fact that he was so excited and hungry to do our show, I think is really a testament to the scripts of Knightfall. We hope that everyone likes it as much as we do.
I can confidently say that the History Channel’s new series Knightfall will be a series that will have viewers coming back for more. There is a complexity to these characters that challenges their humanity and power against the history of the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and Kings of other country’s involved in it all.
There is intrigue that tests loyalty and a brotherhood that is going through pains of its own from inside their own house. Bringing it all together with fantastic costuming and set design, Knightfall draws the viewer in and takes us on an adventure through the medieval era.
Dan Jones is the New York Times best selling author who is also responsible for Summer of Blood: England’s First Revolution, Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty, The Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses as well as The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors.
There is plenty of time to learn all you can about Knightfall and the History Channel has made it even easier. Go to http://www.history.com/shows/knightfall/pages/dan-jones-knights-templar to see stories and videos including Pilgrims, Warriors, Heretics: Who Were the Knights Templar?, The Templars’ Crusader Origins, From Pilgrim Bodyguards to Master Warriors, How the Templars Made and Lost a Fortune, How Religion and Greed Toppled the Templars, From Medieval Myths to Modern Mystery and Were Crusader Knights Really Protecting the Cup of Christ?
The History Channel brings more stellar successful series to television with The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer, The Curse of Oak Island, The WarFighters as well as the continuing series such as American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Ice Road Truckers. Let us not forget the absolutely stunning series VIKINGS that returns November 29th.
Knightfall premiers Wednesday, December 6 at 10PM ET/PT on History!
ON WINGS OF EAGLES:
The Eric Liddell Story is One of Faith
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has every right to be amazingly proud of their DVD release of ON WINGS OF EAGLES: The Eric Liddell Story directed by Stephen Shin and Michael Parker.
Eric Liddell (Joseph Fiennes) has returned to China after winning a Gold Medal at the 1942 Paris Olympics. Believing he was born to help others through his faith and the missionary teachings of his parents, he returns to the classroom to teach children.
It all becomes dangerous when in 1937 Japan invades China at the beginning of World War II. Finding help in Xu Niu (Shawn Dou), the two continue to find a way to reach the towns and villages. Knowing the danger is increasing, Eric sends his wife Florence (Elizabeth Arends) and their children to Canada.
Florence knows right away that Eric intends to stay to fulfill his duty to help the villagers as much as he can. During a wedding ceremony, the Japanese capture Eric along with the entire church congregation and inter them in camps. Separating families, he takes on the mantle of leader and all that it implies trying to make their lives livable.
When the camp leader discovers who Eric is, he demands that they race. Providing him with nutritious food, Eric finds a way to distribute it to the children and those who are sickly. Xu Niu is outside the camp as well finding ways to bring in necessary food and medicine when he is able and always keeping an eye on his friend.
As the camp runs low on food for both the prisoners and the Japanese soldiers, Eric tries his best to compromise with results that are devastating. It doesn’t stop Eric Liddell from bringing hope to all those who rely on his strength to survive their time as prisoners.
It is hope that makes them stronger together!
Fiennes as Liddell is a quiet man who seems to have the ability to bring people such joy. Believing that helping others is what his duty on earth is, Fiennes brings a gentleness and strength to the role. That is what I enjoy about this actor in that his emotions come through his eyes and expression. Portraying Liddell is a challenge in itself and Fiennes gives it so much soul.
Dou as Xu Niu shares such a beloved friendship with Liddell. Seemingly inseparable throughout the film, it is clear that there is no boundary between these two individuals. Seeing one another as family is exactly what this film is all about. Fiennes and Dou make it feel so believable and lovely.
It also must be said that the music by Scott Greer is just absolutely lovely and powerful. It doesn’t drown out the emotions that we need to be feeling about the story but instead gently reminds us that investing our emotions in the story is a good thing.
The cast is exceptional with the addition of Augusta Xu-Holland as Catherine Standish, Richard Sanderson as Dr. Hubbard, Jesse Kove as Hugh Johnson, Simon Twu as Chen Quan, Shigeo Kobayashi as Yoshinori Yumoto, Zach Ireland as David Marshall and Bruce Locke as the Elder Xu Niu.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings amazing quality motion picture and television productions. Such films as BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, UNDERWORLD BLOOD WARS and PASSENGERS also available for your home entertainment library – there is so much more. To see more of what they have to offer please visit www.sonypictures.com.
I have intentionally left out details in my review because I truly want the viewer to have the chance to feel the film in every scene. ON WINGS OF EAGLES: The Eric Liddell Story is such a heartfelt film of love, family, friendship and loyalty that endures through a struggle that is unfathomable.
The cast draws us into a journey and an era that could sometimes be so unforgiving and incomprehensible yet brings out the best in people. From helping one another to finding friendship and help from the villagers outside the electric fences, it is a reminder that evil may seem so tall but good doesn’t need a yardstick.
In the end – it is the true story of hope!
HOME AGAIN Arrives on Your Doorstep on Bluray for the Holidays:
Talking with Pico Alexander
Coming to Bluray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer is a film that reminds us it’s good to be HOME AGAIN.
Alice (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself back in Los Angeles separating from husband Austen (Michael Sheen) who is in New York. Getting in a routine with daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield), she has a little help from Mom Lillian (Candice Bergen). Trying to start a new business and find her footing isn’t being helped with her 40th birthday arriving.
Out with friends for a night of relaxing and a few drinks, she meets Harry (Pico Alexander) who, after a few flirty moments, ends up at the girls table. He brings brother Teddy (Nat Wolff) and George (Jon Rudnitsky) to join the party. These three are in Los Angeles to pitch their short film into a feature.
Waking up the next morning, Alice is uncomfortable to find everyone passed out in her house. Of course that’s right around the time Mom shows up with the girls yet something calming happens, everyone seems to hit it off nicely. When George realizes who Alice’s father is and meeting Lillian, he is thrilled.
That leads to Lillian and the three guys spending the day chatting while Alice gets on with life. Trying to land her first design job with Zoey (Lake Bell), Alice doesn’t have time to nonsense – or does she?
Lillian talks Alice into letting three young would-be artists stay in her guest house while pitching their film. One person who isn’t happy is Austen who learns from his daughters what is going on. Yet, it all seems to work as even Alice and Harry get closer.
As everyone begins to find their way, Alice must decide how her life plays out without the complications of manipulative husbands, mothers or house guests. It’s time to discover how to be comfortable and home again!
Witherspoon is delightful, as she always is, in the role of Alice caught up in just the jumble of life. Trying to find her place without a husband she can’t count on and girls who really need her, the character of Alice is learning to stop trying to control and let loose now and again. That is the diversity of Witherspoon in that she can play roles such as Alice with her frailties and bit of comedy and at the same time nail characters like Madeline in the series Big Little Lies (of which I’m a huge fan).
Alexander as Harry is as cute as he wants to be and knows it as he two companions know all to well. Yet he is also endearing and protective of Alice and the girls which sort of makes up for it all. He wants to succeed but on his own terms and fragile when it comes to believing that things work out the way they are suppose to. Putting on a good front from time to time keeps him focused.
Wolff as actor and brother Teddy is just wonderful in his protection of his new found family and the scene between he and Sheen is hilarious. Being quiet most of the film, this scene is his moment to express every emotion he’d been holding in. Rudnitsky as George is the writer of the group who brings out the confidence in young Isabel. He also wants to protect Alice from making a mistake while also herding in Harry!
Bergen as Lillian is just too wonderful for words but I will try. She is endearing, lovely, funny and just out there which is how Alice wishes she could be. Lillian has a history and Bergen embraces it with a comedic timing all her own.
I had the opportunity to speak with Pico Alexander who plays Harry to talk about making a movie about making a movie, his friendship with cast mates and what we all can learn about unconventionally conventional families.
Jeri Jacquin: Hi Pico, how are you today?
Pico Alexander: Very well, thanks for asking.
JJ: I saw your film.
PA: Lovely, and what did you think?
JJ: I thought it was funny, endearing, moving and it’s a little bit of everything actually.
PA: Not to much tragedy, we stayed away from it.
JJ: Tell me about how you came to get the role of Harry?
PA: I did a self tape for it. I was in Europe and I did a casual tape with my friend and didn’t think there was really a chance that I would get the role.
JJ: You didn’t think you were going to get the role and I’m taken back hearing that. Why didn’t you think you would get the role of Harry?
PA: I just didn’t think I would be the guy to star opposite of Reese, I didn’t think I would be here love interest. It was just too crazy of an idea for me to wrap my head around. It just seemed like a total unreal concept that I would be a romantic love interest. Then it happened so I guess it wasn’t so surreal although I thought so at the time.
JJ: It wasn’t so crazy after all because I think you and Reese reacted to each other perfectly.
PA: So do I and thought it was such a joy and honor to act with her. It was a gift I was given.
JJ: You are with some pretty heavy hitters in the film with Candice Bergen and Michael Sheen as well.
PA: The cast is unreal! I am so lucky to have gone from acting for three years to have the opportunity to share the screen with the likes of Candice Bergen, Michael Sheen, Reese Witherspoon, Jon Rudnitsky and Nat Wolff. Everybody else as well and everyone who even came in to play for day were so tremendous. I think that Nancy and Hallie did a great job casting the film.
JJ: I was going to say I don’t think there was a hair out of place with this film. It looked effortless.
PA: I can tell you it wasn’t effortless (laughing) and a lot of effort goes into making them look so graceful. There are a lot of takes and there is a vision and it’s our job to fulfill that vision to a tee.
JJ: You did it so well that in watching HOME AGAIN you feel like a fly on the wall watching the lives of everyone unfold. When you can do that you know it’s done by a really good cast.
PA: That is so cool to hear and the credit goes to Hallie, the casting and the editing. The way the film was put together with the material they had putting together our performances is a huge testament to them.
JJ: The relationship between you, Jon and Nat – you meshed so well together. You guys were hilarious in this film.
PA: That’s awesome and luckily it happened on screen and off screen.
JJ: I was wondering if a friendship came about.
PA: We went into best friend mode within like three days. I was to be staying at a hotel during the shoot being from New York and Nat and I started talking. Nat was staying at his parents place and he’s convinced it’s haunted so he asked if I wanted to move in with him. It was crazy but I liked it. We did the whole brother thing and then Jon would be there every night without fail. One of the first times we hung out, you know the scene where we meet with the producer who wants to fiancé our film? Then we are on the beach and Harry jumps in the water followed by Nat’s character Teddy. We had gone to the beach our first weekend off and we literally did the scene without even realizing it. We were trying to convince Jon to jump in the water because he had never been in the Pacific and we all jumped in while John was on the beach. We really leaned into that relationship because we felt it should be strong and a chemistry with a number of inside jokes. Hopefully that reads in the movie and I think that’s why we got along.
JJ: It absolutely does. Your relationship with Lola and Eden, you guys are just so sweet together.
PA: Those were the best days when they were on set. They were so awesome. Lola and Eden are two of the most charming and fantastic girls I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Eden is a genius and probably win a number of Oscars years from now – that is if she keeps on acting. She might decide to go and find a cure for cancer. Eden is so good and a natural talent. We would all joke that Eden was the most talented person on set. Lola is just so awesome and she was listening and learning her place on the set and see her pick up on acting tips and cues on how to function on a set. She is very savvy. They both have secure futures in acting and their parents are great as well. Their parents are so lovely.
JJ: When the three of you are dealing with Austen, Sheen’s character, it is hilarious when the three of you deal with it. It’s almost as if you three are the adults and Austen is the child.
PA: Well, that is an interesting take away (laughing)
JJ: His character gets away with things like a kid and the three of you are guarded and protective.
PA: Yes, we know he is a significant threat to the family we have created. We want to make sure that Alice is in a fragile state. He does act childish but that’s what I appreciate about the film. It explores every characters childishness. Everyone has that little six year old in him or her even if we grow up, there are parts of us that don’t grow up. We have those tricks that the six year old in us has kept to get what we want. It’s important for generations to check you by saying you can’t do this anymore.
JJ: The funny thing is you are young men and you get that!
PA: I feel like Teddy gets it and he’s the baby in the group but the most emotionally mature. I don’t want to vilify Austen’s character because I get where he is coming from and he feels a little neglected. Harry acts a little irresponsible as well and kicks the door in to Alice’s life so there is a bit.
JJ: So would you say that Harry and Austen were probably closer than they even realized?
PA: Yes, Harry could easily grow up and be an Austen if he didn’t meet Austen. It’s a gift to see the result of impulses to always think you can get what you want and not really thinking things through and being self centered. There are long term consequences in that and seeing Austen he realizes he needs to spend more time being in someone else’s shoes. At the end of the day, what ever you take away from it.
JJ: How is it for you making a movie about three guys trying to get a movie made?
PA: It’s great because I didn’t really have to draw on imagination circumstances but instead draw on it from a personal level. I liked that about the movie and I like that these guys travel out from the east coast to get a movie made. I traveled the same way going to LA and they are given a great opportunity like I was given. It’s autobiographical in a weird way. I like movies about making movies.
JJ: Being that you are the younger man and playing opposite the character of Alice, I know its weird because it’s Reese Witherspoon, but the chemistry you two have is so amazing.
PA: That’s awesome, I’m so glad you feel that way. It was very nerve wracking and I haven’t spent too much time around many high profile people. I had a number of expectations wondering what it would be like to work with someone so famous. I was a little intimidated at the time and nervous to be close to someone like that. But ultimately it comes down to trust and a passion for the work. We just needed some time to get to know each other and have conversations talking about it all to make the best movie we could. We wanted to do the characters justice and after a week we were more comfortable around Reese and I can’t be grateful enough for her. I have so much gratitude for Reese’s ability to make me feel at ease, she has more experience than I do when it comes to these kind of things. She did a tremendous job in leading and guiding me without making it obvious that she was doing it. She made me feel like it was my own doing and she is just a tremendous actor and it was really all about the work. It was about this relationship and she thought it was an important story to tell. It was high time we reevaluate the May-December romances and she convinced me that it was important. I could keep raving about her.
JJ: The same with you guys and Candice Bergen on screen.
PA: I have never met anyone from the royal family but I can imagine they don’t come close to carrying themselves with the same grace and dignity at Candice Bergen. She is the classiest person I have ever met and a totally fantastic actress to top it all off.
JJ: Her sense of humor and timing is endearingly graceful.
PA: Graceful, class and doing it with such a straight face. I thought I was intimidated working with Reese? Forget it! The moment I met Candice I hoped she would like me. I think when I introduced myself to her, it was the first day and I was giddy and excited. I went over to her to introduce myself and she just looked at me and then cracked up. I still to this day I don’t know what that meant and that intimidated me.
JJ: I bet she thought it was charming that you came over to say hello.
PA: That’s it, of course, that’s what it was and I’m sticking with that (laughing).
JJ: The film is coming out on Bluray and DVD and I’d like to know what you’d like viewers to take away from the film.
PA: I would hope that when they finish their Bluray that they make a phone call to someone they care about. The movie has a strong sense of family for me and second chances. Relationships are difficult as we get older and I think it’s important to apologize for things and make them right. Take away a gratitude for people that are in their lives as unconventional families are formed every day.
JJ: I understand, this is a family that is unconventional where families are now are unconventional and this is another take on that. It can work if you all put your differences aside.
PA: Put differences aside and realize the love you have for each other is stronger than all the things that have gone wrong in the past. Pick up the phone and make that call to someone telling them how much they mean. It’s a heartwarming film and everyone needs a second chance.
JJ: I thank you so much for talking with me Pico.
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2017
The year is drawing to a quick close and so are the films that are being offered up by studios. Having spent a large amount of time in theatres in 2017 I have seen the good, bad and more ugly offering up my opinion on what is worthy of your hard earned dollars.
It has been another rough movie year to be sure with films that gave us promises and then didn’t quite deliver, quiet films that made their way into theatres and surprised us all and head scratchers that were far more confusing than they needed to be.
My top ten are from all genres with stories that made the biggest impression on me. There will be a few jaw droppers as films you might expect to see won’t be there and films you might not have heard of are worthy of a second chance look.
So here are my Top Ten of 2017!
10. STAR WARS: The Last Jedi – The wait to see where the story of Luke Skywalker is finally here. The rebellion is attempting to escape the First Order while Rey tries to enlist the help of Skywalker. My 1977 self loves the opening music and yellow scroll preparing for another epic adventure. That being said, it will be interesting to see where the story goes and I am looking forward to the Han Solo film. (PG-13 from Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios)
9. THOR: Ragnarok – This was an unexpected pleasure for me this year because the tone changed to make it a really good time filled with action and laughs. Thor and Loki aren’t about to take any cosmic nonsense from Hela and it all works beautifully. (PG-13 from Marvel Entertainment and Walt Disney Pictures)
8. LAST FLAG FLYING – Starring Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and Bryan Cranston, the story is three men who served in Vietnam and coming to terms with where they have been and helping their friend deal with the death of his son. Have tissue for both the laughter and the tears. (Rated R from Amazon Studios)
7. THE POST – It is the story of The Post owner Kay Graham and editor Ben Bradlee when dealing with a war cover-up and the four U.S. Presidents that kept it going. When the White House discovers missing papers, they attempt to do everything to stop the American people from reading about it in the papers. Steven Spielberg brings his spin on history in an epic way. (PG-13 from Twentieth Century Fox)
6. BABY DRIVER – Perhaps it was a frakken fantastic soundtrack that pushed this film to amazing heights and even if so I’m okay with that! This film is fast paced and filled with twists and turns and I’m not just talking about from behind the steering wheel. Ansel Elgort takes the film from beginning to end – well done young man. (Rated R from TriStar Pictures)
5. THE HERO – Dear Sam Elliott, thank you for reminding me why you are such a treasure, not that I really needed reminding. This is the story of a man clearly stuck and when life comes seriously knocking, he must find the joy in life that he has been hiding from. Elliott brings his southern drawl, sparkling eyes and no-apology wit to this role that is absolutely stunning. (Rated R from The Orchard)
4. THE SHAPE OF WATER – Director del Torro has brought a haunting beauty to a story that has moments of brilliant silence and moments of pure love followed by seconds of insanity. All of this wrapped up in the stellar performance of Sally Hawkins and fish man Doug Jones being watched over by Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and the deliciously evil Michael Shannon. (Rated R from Fox Searchlight Pictures)
3. VICTORIA & ABDUL – I am clearly a fan of period pieces but this film is just beyond amazing. Judy Dench once again portrays Queen Victoria who is clearly in her later years and can’t find anything to be excited about. When Abdul comes to court, she begins a friendship that isn’t to the courts liking or her un-princely like son. The onscreen chemistry between Dench and Ali Fazal is every bit worth each frame of film. (PG-13 from Focus Features)
2. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI – Frances McDormand gives the performance that will stay with me playing Mildred, a mother who is coming to terms with her daughters death. When she doesn’t feel local law enforcement are doing enough, Mildred finds a way to motivate them. Also staring Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, this is a film that screams must-see! I am cheering for McDormand come Oscar time! (Rated R from Fox Searchlight Pictures)
This is where you should be hearing a drum roll as my number one for 2017 is:
1. DUNKIRK – Christopher Nolan has brought a film that is not just a story about a moment in history but a film that is an experience. On the beaches of Dunkirk, Allied soldiers are surrounded by the Germans from land, sea and air in 1940. Nolan gives the audience the perspective from all three angles without much useless dialogue. Instead, he invites viewers into this world of war and all of the emotions that brings. There isn’t a character in this film that doesn’t bring every ounce of themselves to the story. (PG-13 from Warner Bros.)
My yearly bonus of number 11 is ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD – Director Ridley Scott takes us to 1973 Rome as J. Paul Getty’s grandson Paul is kidnapped and held for ransom. Mother Gail must go up against kidnappers who don’t believe she isn’t rich and Getty’s refusal to pay anyone any dime of his. Mark Wahlberg is hired to help to find the boy before there is no turning back. Christopher Plummer is eerily creepy and I loved it. (Rated R from TriStar Pictures)
I also had a few guilty pleasure films this year that stand out including JOHN WICK 2 but then again anything with Keanu Reeves busting heads works. There is the very funny TABLE 19 as Anna Kendrick leads a group of wedding attendees who are stuck in the back of the room with a table of issues. KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle is a return of the well dressed agents who know you can fight evil and look good doing it. Every list should have a shark film and 47 METERS DOWN is going to be my pick that has bite, head slaps and yet I still love it. Finally, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD – Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson…need I say more?
Are there disappointments? Absolutely and the list feels endless! KING ARTHUR: Legend of the Sword gives us a Charlie Hunnam and that’s absolutely it. ALIEN: Covenant is the next installment yet feels like bloody confusion, literally. Of course there are the ridiculous that don’t need any explanation with BAYWATCH, TRANSFORMERS: The Last Knight and VALERIAN and the City of a Thousand Planets. Idris Elba has a busy year in 2017 but THE DARK TOWER isn’t high on my list so I’ll just keep happy thoughts on his other works. Finally, JUSTICE LEAGUE – I know I’m going to get grief for it but there wasn’t anything about the film that makes me want more.
There you go, my best and worst of 2017! This has been a year of either hit or miss and not much room for anything else in between. Theatre goers aren’t being fickle in what they are looking for when they spend their hard earn bucks and they shouldn’t be.
In 2018 there are remakes, return of the wizarding world, more frights with what has become our favorite insidiousness, a group of maze runners finish off their adventures, the final chapter of those shades in the fifties, more from the comic book world, family and animated films and finally SOLO, SUPER TROOPERS 2 and DEADPOOL 2 might make it all bearable!
Thanks for being a part of our 2017 at the theatres and we look forward to joining you in the theatre seats with a bucket of popcorn in 2018! Happy holidays to you and yours and a safe Happy New Year from all of us here at Movie Maven.
12 STRONG: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers Brings Two Sides to the Same War
Coming to theatres from director Nicolai Fuglsig and Warner Bros. is the a story of a group of soldiers who are dedicated to doing what is necessary by being 12 STRONG.
Cpt. Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth) is ready to settle into a different military job that would allow him to be home with his wife and daughter. That is until September 11 as he sees on television what almost every American would see as the World Trade Center is under attacked. Knowing that he must return to his Special Forces team, he enlists the help of Chief Warrant Officer Hal Spencer (Michael Shannon) to get him back into the fold.
Quickly a team is sent to Afghanistan as Cpt. Nelson and his team including Sgt. Sam Diller (Michael Pena), Sgt. Ben Milo (Trevante Rhodes), Sgt. Pat Essex (Austin Hebert), Sgt. Bill Bennett (Kenny Sheard) and more arrive with gear in tow.
Now, Cpt. Nelson must convince Col. Mulholland (William Fichtner) that his team is ready to meet with Northern Alliance General Dostum (Navid Negahban) to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda. It becomes quickly clear that this will be a struggle as Cpt. Nelson makes contact with General Dostum and there are immediate trust issues that are understandable on both sides.
Another surprise for the Cpt. and men is that this war is going to be fought in a way they could never imagine - on horseback! To get across the desolate land to meet up with
other fighters, there is another leader bringing his own brand of despicable destruction that affects the General deeply.
What is necessary is that two men who have no reason to trust one another learn that they need each other and by working together it may not solve the war's problems but does bring a surprising understanding of two unlikely leaders.
Hemsworth as Cpt. Nelson is a man dedicated to doing whatever he can, along with his men, to stop those responsible for the terror on American soil. His need to do so means he must say goodbye to his family once again with the belief that he will be returning home. Hemsworth gives a strong performance of a leader who cares about his men but also begins to understand that what he and the crew want are the same thing General Dostum wants. Trusting each other in a short amount of time proves to be frustrating as Cpt. Nelson's goal is to finish the mission and bring the men home.
Negahban as General Dostum is equally as dedicated as his American counterpart. Believing that there is only one way to fight the enemy who is taking over his country, he tries to believe that the American soldiers mean well but trust on both sides is slowing them down. The cultural misunderstandings are swift and bring about quick reactions from these leaders, as Negahban's character begins to share the feelings of the Afghani people, he explains that they want the terrorists just as gone as Cpt. Nelson and his men do.
Shannon as Spencer believes that the mission can only succeed if Nelson is with them. This is a strong character and what I mean by that is the person of Spencer fights through so much to be there for mission success. It is intense when the group realizes that getting help is difficult where they are embedded in the mountains. This role is a departure from the crazy mean character of Strickland in the stunning THE SHAPE OF WATER.
Pena as Sgt. Diller is another character who brings a little bit of laughter with his quick wit and straight delivery. At the same time Pena can put on a game face that is not to be messed with but also this isn't his first go around playing characters close to war with
his role in LIONS FOR LAMBS and WORLD TRADE CENTER. I believe that Pena is such an under utilized actor and with every role he confirms it.
Fichtner as Col. Mulholland has to be convinced to send in Cpt. Nelson and his men in for a mission that could prove to be a disaster. Once he sends them to meet with General Dostum, it is one step at a time filled with intensity that there are so many pieces to the
More of the 12 STRONG include Geoff Stults, Thad Luckinbill, Ben O'Toole, Austin Stowell, Kenneth Miller, Kenny Sheard, and Jack Kesy as well as Elsa Patasky, Max Bowers, Marie Wagenman and Rob Riggle.
12 STRONG is a totally different look at the war in Afghanistan after 9/11 because it gives both sides of the fight through a story that deserves to be told. The American soldiers made their feelings quite clear as to why they wanted to go for a dangerous mission in Afghanistan but we also learn that General Dostum and his men have a view as well.
To me that is a fantastic way to bring this story to the screen and see why each leader and their men mistrust. From the moment the two men arrive at the meeting point, the tension and mistrust is so thick on the screen. That is where the duality of emotion for the viewer kicks in because of course it is understandable that the American soldiers and Afghani soldiers each would be on high alert toward one another.
As the film continues and the Afghans explain what life has been like for them and their people - a change happens, not just between the characters on screen but the audience as well. There are such amazing scenes that either had my jaw dropped or found that I was holding my breath.
That's what 12 STRONG does, takes you inside an unexpected war to learn about people who are trying to survive terror themselves and come together in unexpected ways.
Doug Stanton is the author of the book HORSE SOLDIERS and he says, "I wanted this to be a book that you would read about guys surviving a harrowing situation. They were told very little about their mission except to attack terrorist camps but not told they would have to ride a horse to do it".
Also to celebrate these brave soldiers who fought on horseback, sculptor Douwe
Blumberg created the bronze statue De Oppresso Liber located in Liberty Park in New York guarding the attack site.
In the end - on September 11, 2001 the world watched in terror and on September 12, 2001 they volunteered to fight!
DEN OF THIEVES in Theaters Friday but What Hat Will You Wear?
In theatres this Friday from writer/director Christian Gudegast and STX Entertainment comes a crime and the law with DEN OF THIEVES.
The film stars Gerard Butler as Nick Flanagan, the leader of an elite LA County Sheriff’s unit the Regulators that is looking to stop bank outlaws who are looking to pull off the impossible with one hit in their sites – the Federal Reserve Bank! Pablo Schreiber as Merrimen is on the opposite side of the law with his own elite group the Outlaws.
Also starring Jordan Bridges as Lobbin Bob, Evan Jones as Bosco, Cooper Andrews as Mack, Eric Braeden as Ziggy, Brian Van Holt as Murph, Maurice Compte as Benny Borracho Megalon, O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Donnie and 50 Cent as Levi Enson – they round out the cast of cops vs. robbers.
To keep things interesting, we are giving away hats from DEN OF THIEVES and the great part is you get to decide which gang you want to be part of. Click here -->> hellomoviemaven.aol.com with either REGULATOR or OUTLAW in the subject line with your name and address.