Book two movie tickets to see the advanced Ster-Kinekor Movie Buffs screening of survival action-adventure drama ALL IS LOST starring Robert Redford on Thursday, 10 April for 8pm at Ster-Kinekor, Cavendish Square... and you could win 2 gourmet burgers, 2 delectable slices of cake and 2 drinks for you and a movie buddy at Tribakery, Cavendish! Book your tickets here and email your seat numbers to info(at)spling.co.za to enter the draw. Winners will be announced and contacted on Wednesday 9 April, 2014. Terms and conditions apply.
Pollsmoor Prison is overpopulated and way beyond capacity, famous for Nelson Mandela's incarceration and infamous for its prolific gangsterism. A gang war has been raging for almost a hundred years between 'The Numbers', several prison gangs divided by their 26, 27 and 28 affiliations, exercising their rule by means of extreme violence. Their bonds extend beyond the prison walls to the Cape Flats, where it's unsafe to walk the streets, depending on which gang's tattoos you bear.
This is the dangerous gangland world, in which Four Corners takes place. At it's core is the story of 13-year-old Ricardo, a chess prodigy, who finds himself caught at a crossroads in an impoverished neighbourhood overrun by the 26s. Driven by the mantra "Chess is life.", young Ricardo navigates his way through some tricky scenarios as he comes face-to-face with high ranking gangsters, who want to recruit him.
Four Corners echoes Brazil's gangster epic, City of God. The slums, crime, subculture and cycle of gang violence resonates as we encounter characters, whose flags denote their lifelong fraternity. Forgiveness director, Ian Gabriel, has created a gritty local crime drama and thriller that immerses us in this world via authentic language, diverse culture and naturalistic performances. Shooting on-location, he offers a slice-of-thug-life against the beautiful backdrop of Cape Town.
While beautifully shot, it's uncompromisingly violent, making a severe contrast between moments of great beauty and sheer terror. The slick visuals transport us into the lives of four main characters, each with their own "corner". A young teenage chess prodigy is gambling with his future, a doctor returning home from the UK has to settle her father's estate, a high ranking 28 general is trying to reintegrate into society and a detective is hunting down a serial killer.
As each of these personal stories that could have been their own films converge, we find a social message at the core of Four Corners. The crime-ridden community's cyclical system of oppression is set against the resolve that there is still hope in the complex, yet inherently good characters. A reformed prisoner standing up against gangsterism, a doctor finding her true calling, a teenager trying to stay clean and a detective seeking real justice - all of these people are working towards self-empowered community upliftment.
"Boys tonight we live and die as men."
Ian Gabriel spent a long time casting his actors and the finished product reflects his efforts to get the right actor for the role. What's also refreshing is his choice to keep the production local. Brendon Daniels (iNumber Number) delivers a fine and layered performance as Farakhan, showing a man trying to hit the 'refresh' button the only way he knows how. Irshaad Ally makes a strong counterpoint to Farakhan as Gasant, the fearless leader of the 26s, bringing some American bravado to the film.
Lindiwe Matshikiza grapples with Leila Domingo, a role that helps establish the outsider's perspective as she comes to terms with unresolved feelings, a sense of duty and fulfilling her father's wishes. She's supported by the seasoned Jerry Mofokeng as Manzi and while you understand the subplot's importance, it seems to be at odds with the rest of the film.
Jezzriel Skei plays Ricardo in an unassuming and naturalistic performance that helps ground Four Corners. There's a quiet dignity and solemnity in his performance and his distinct facial features make him an interesting coming-of-age subject. Aduragman Adams plays a convincing Tito Hanekom, a concerned and dedicated detective, who wrestles with a difficult case.
The sound department deliver a powerful and hard-hitting soundtrack that propels Four Corners. The music from composer, Markus Wormstorm, is perfectly poised for the genre mix and the sound design team add another layer to reinforce the already strong visuals. Pulsating beats and musical roots give Four Corners a South African flavour and add a thick crust to the slice-of-life drama.
While Four Corners looks and sounds the part, it does tend to get bogged down in trying to support a web of subplots. While each character's story certainly warrants focus, the film gets weighed down in its ambitious attempt to cover all its bases, essentially giving an equal weighting to each of it's four lead characters. The sense of authenticity and humour offer some relief, but the film's heavy subject matter does start to take its toll.
While this does make you feel the 114 minute run time, Ian Gabriel's film is still a cut above. The cinematography and soundtrack are world class, making Four Corners not just "good for a South African film", but solid by international standards. The documentary-worthy subject matter and execution is provocative and unveils a festering gangland of reluctant heroes and inevitable villains that would be worth revisiting.
Wes Anderson is a marvelous film-maker, one whose body of work is simultaneously aloof and delightful. He builds worlds in his films that exist entirely independent of real-life, yet still deeply connected. The Grand Budapest Hotel is one such film, recounting the adventures of a legendary concierge and his trusted lobby boy between the wars at a famous European hotel.
The first thing you'll notice about the film is the star-studded collective of old and new Wes Anderson collaborators. Ralph Fiennes plays the campy lead, Gustave H., with an indomitable panache. He's supported by Tony Revolori, whose sincere and innocent expression is always an amusing default for the young apprentice.
It's great to see F. Murray Abraham again, whose wizened features and mysterious story unfold as the enigmatic Mr. Moustafa. Jason Schwartzman does what Jason Schwartman does best and Jude Law's always a pleasure, playing a curious writer and listener.
Willem Dafoe delivers a memorable performance as a darkly amusing and intimidating right hand man, Jopling. He's a private executive to Adrien Brody's spoiled, lanky, inheritance-seeking brat of a character who wants everything to go according to his plan. Jeff Goldblum is wonderfully restrained as Deputy Kovacs, while Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Harvey Keitel add even more clout to the already stellar cast.
Wes Anderson is known for his chocolate box comedy dramas and this one may be the most definitive yet. Each shot is lovingly composed, each detail beautifully crafted as if he had shrunk his cast and was directing inside a fine doll house. He's an artist, who paints the picture, designs the frame and furnishes the art museum, making time for every minute detail to give the film a layered quality.
"Allow me to introduce myself... I'm innocent."
You could describe The Grand Budapest Hotel as "Christmassy" with lots of fancy decoration, high spirits and cockle-warming. While it certainly sounds and looks appealing, this strength is also a weakness, simultaneously distracting us from the real meaning. We're so enchanted by the bits 'n bobs of the doll house and its characters, that we lose touch with the reality and gravity of the story.
Anderson has turned The Grand Budapest Hotel into a Russian nesting doll, making one story within another, within another. In so doing, he leaves a trail of hollowness in search of the small and solid kernel at the heart of the beautifully-crafted contraption. It's a fascinating and sentimental journey, one that turns a dark period of history into something charming and intricate, however something's lost in the translation.
The detail draws you into the doll house, yet you feel somewhat unfulfilled when the credits roll. The story doesn't manage to find resonance and relevance, making the campy exercise in entertainment fleetingly enjoyable, whimsical yet vapid. The Grand Budapest Hotel is icy like it's environment and doesn't have the same heart as Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox for that matter.
Fans of Wes Anderson will appreciate The Grand Budapest Hotel in all of its amusingly quirky and finely tuned glory, which has even been extended to its screen format. While others will find themselves searching tirelessly for the smallest Russian doll, a quest that may be more trouble than it's worth. You will be entertained in the style and world of Wes Anderson, but the fascination wanes with the story's inability to find true meaning.
Stephen "Spling" Aspeling will be hosting a special screening of ALL IS LOST, written and directed by J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) and starring Robert Redford. The Movie Buffs screening will take place 7:30pm for 8pm on Thursday 10 April, 2014 at Ster-Kinekor, Cavendish Square in Cape Town. Book Tickets | FB Event Page | SPL!NG FB Fan Page | All Is Lost Movie Review
About the film
After Captain Phillips and Gravity, the triumph of the human spirit and man's innate quest for survival seems to be the theme of last year. This trajectory of thought is continued in ALL IS LOST, which tells the story of an unnamed man, whose solo voyage in the Indian Ocean turns into a mission to stay alive after his yacht collides with a shipping container.
About the event
The special ALL IS LOST advance screening will be held at Ster-Kinekor's Cavendish Square cineplex. Expect special guests, related theme displays and much more! As your host, Spling will introduce the preview and draw prizes. ALL IS LOST will then be screened and followed by a post-movie discussion and a complimentary cappuccino, tea or coffee in exchange for your movie ticket at Tribakery, Cavendish. Normal ticket prices and discounts apply.
About the host
Stephen "Spling" Aspeling has been a film fanatic since he first watched the psychedelic elephant dance in Dumbo in the early '80s and a movie critic since 2007. More About Spling