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'Mowgli' in the Concrete Jungle


The Jungle Book is Rudyard Kipling's beloved tale of Mowgli, an orphaned boy raised by wolves, who comes to fend for himself in the wild. Disney recently converted aspects from the 1967 animated film into a live-action adventure. Renewing interest in the classic novel, it has since been adapted by Andy Serkis into a film with a greater focus on the man cub. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is a Netflix film, which released exclusively to the streaming service in November this year.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

To launch the film, critics and journalists were invited to get into the spirit of things by attending the Mootee Bar in the trendy suburb of Melville, Johannesburg. Jungle Book-themed cocktails, wooden drink tokens, extra foliage and Indian-infused canapés were the order of the day. Greeted at the entrance by a spider web rope tunnel, the evening was bound to be anything but conventional. Having cocktails named after the main characters proved to be an eye-opening and mouthwatering experience. From variations on a piña colada to drinks served with naked flames, the evening was full of feasting and fun.

Instructed to bring a fully charged smartphone or tablet, attendees were given a set of Bluetooth headphones as well as a three month subscription to Netflix with 15GB data from Telkom Mobile. Poised for a chilled evening of drinks, snacks and Jungle Book culture, the unusual screening format was set to be memorable.

A message to the Johannesburg launch from motion capture superstar and Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle director, Andy Serkis, kicked off the screening event, which was designed according to the Netflix viewing experience. While presented with the opportunity to view Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle at the bar itself, I decided to watch the film in HD on a bigger screen in order to do the Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle review justice. Meeting with one or two familiar folks and connecting with some social media faces, the experience was enjoyable and welcome. The staff at the Mootee bar were charming and observant, making the trendy restaurant the perfect place to meet and explore jungle lore.

 
Act Cape Town Graduation Night 2018


Act Cape Town is a South African film acting academy based in Loop Street, which was founded in 2005. The film school trains and nurtures acting talent, from short courses to training programmes over three years across acting disciplines suited to film, television and theatre. Act Cape Town director, Candice Poole, has built an accredited and reputable educational institution over the years, which culminates in an annual graduation ceremony. Functioning as an awards ceremony and an opportunity to showcase scenes and short films created during the year, it's an important milestone for fellow actors to come together in celebration. Invited among a host of renowned industry professionals and coaches, Spling was able to witness the ceremony first hand.

Act Cape Town prides itself on employing some of South Africa's brightest and most experienced acting talents as teachers. Grant Swanby, Nicola Hanekom, Tamryn Spiers and Matthew Kalil are just a few of the industry coaches developing the next generation of acting talent, taking a multidisciplinary approach in helping them showcase their work. The institution is geared towards a practical outcome for students, giving them the tools to get a foothold in the industry, offering experience in terms of professional know-how (auditioning, accent work, technique and improvisation) and generating great material for their first show reel.

A red carpet, champagne, strawberries and plenty of flash photography, the event drew parents, students, staff and friends to the Labia Theatre. Conducting the ceremony from within the Labia's main cinema, Act Cape Town's presence was felt through banners, screens and a branded lectern light box. While there were one or two technical glitches, the evening wasn't impeded, moving at a clipped pace. Certificates were awarded to students from 1st to 3rd year with great applause for each of the personalities accepting their certificate of completion.

Being screened at Cape Town's most iconic independent cinema, it must have been quite a rush or shock for students, who saw their faces on the big screen. Moving from scenes for the first year students who took screenplay excerpts from films like Get Out, Madea's Family Reunion and Revolutionary Road, it was enjoyable to see young talents being shaped and molded. The second-year students had to produce a short film, which enabled them to have more creative control, writing characters who aligned with some of their acting heroes and experimenting with a longer format. Then, the highlight of the evening was the third year film directed and written by Grant Swanby, which featured all of the third year students in a well-crafted dramatic thriller about a dysfunctional family.

Act Cape Town is a niche acting school that is equipping young actors, many of whom show great promise, and could very well be the faces of the future. With alumni such as Christia Visser, Carishma Basday and Jessica Sutton, it's easy to see how their focused training is paying off. It's wonderful to see blossoming acting talent, especially at a grassroots level and it shouldn't be long before Act Cape Town reaches a whole new wave of promising young actors in pursuit of their dreams.

 
Seven Gambling Movies: To Watch or Not to Watch?


When you really think about it, everything in life is a gamble including liking the movie we’ve picked. This is especially true when it comes to some favorite area of interest of ours, we’d like to see covered so that it suits our fancy. So, if you are a gambling aficionado, you’d like to see a good gambling flick every now and then… right? So, to help you pick out a couple of great ones well-worth your time and your taste we sat down to a gambling movie marathon to select and review a few of them for you.

So here it goes...

Mississippi Grind

The story line is about an average unlucky gambler named Gerry, portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn, who nevertheless feels that his big break is sure to happen sooner rather than later. And his big break does indeed come when he meets Curtis, a young traveling gambler, portrayed by Ryan Reynolds, while playing Texas Hold ‘em. Curtis told him that the reason he was so good at cards was because he never cared about winning. The two of them start betting on races and gambling together and eventually gamble at different towns down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

The movie is a perfect blend of a road movie and a gambling motion picture with great portrayals of gamblers on the part of both Mendelsohn and Reynolds.

The Best of It

This feature length documentary gives us an amazing look at the real life of professional sports bettors in Las Vegas. It follows the woes and joys of somewhat quirky characters by the names of Boston, The Shrink, Dink, and Banker. This is a great movie if you want to learn more about touts and money management and not just getting the best out of your number.

The lighter bits featuring their wives, pets and assistants provide excellent balance to the darker side of the documentary.

Lay the Favorite

Now, this is one movie that you can take a pass on. It is based on the journalist Beth Raymor’s memoir of the same name. She was a Fulbright fellow and studied offshore gambling operations in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. The book is about her experiences in the sex industry, amateur boxing and sports-betting. Lay The Favorite, the movie, focuses on her relocation to Vegas in the 1990s where it turned out she’s got more than just good luck when it comes to gambling. To top it all off, she falls in love with Dink (yes, the sports gambler from The Best of It) and you can imagine how happy that made his wife Tulip.

Nevertheless, it is a shame that a film with such a great array for a cast (Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn) did not do proper justice to the book. The plot was just moving too fast. That said, go and get Raymor’ s book so you can actually enjoy her action- packed life story.

Casino

This is another gambling picture that is based on a true story from the 1970s and it is a true gem. Under the direction of Martin Scorsese in this 1995 classic Robert De Niro stars as Ace Rothstein, an expert gambling handicapper sent by the Chicago mob outfit to oversee the operations at Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas. Ace and his enforcer Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, also had to keep grabbing enough money off the top to pay the mafia while evading the FBI and to deal with the Gaming Commission. Eventually they end up competing over managing the casino and Ginger, Ace’s alcoholic wife.

Casino is a must-see flick as it portrays casinos during the good old days in their prime. You have to agree that now that the corporations have taken over they resemble vacation results and movie studios rather than what your standard casino looked like back in the day.

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas

Gambling doesn’t pop into your mind for sure when you think of the Flintstones. Still, Fred and Barney, portrayed in the movie as young bachelors, do make it to Rock Vegas after all. Chip Rockefeller, who has his heart set on winning Wilma for himself, invites Wilma and her new friends Betty, Fred, and Barney to his Rock Vegas resort. And as always, it is Barney who is keeping Fred in check so this time it is to keep Fred away from playing high-stakes poker.

We also get to see gangsters pay a visit to Chip who owed a lot of money but other than that we don’t recommend you watch the movie if you expect to see a lot of casino-related scenes. If you on the other were missing your two favorite couples from the Stone Age then this is the movie for you.

Harvard Man

Yes, you can even make money and loads of it in fact when losing a game. Alan Jensen, a Harvard student and a point guard on their basketball team, is in need of $100,000 to help out his parents whose house got destroyed in a tornado. His girlfriend Cindy Bandolino, whose father is a mob boss persuades Alan to throw a game against Dartmouth for the money. She tells him that her father is behind this, but she actually she goes to her father's associates, Teddy Carter and Kelly Morgan for funding. And guess what! These two are undercover FBI agents.

The plot where the main character is caught between having a mafia boss and the FBI on his back at the same time would have been very intriguing if it wasn’t for the long flashes of Adrian’s character hallucinations on LSD. It ruined the movie, so this is yet another movie that's not an open recommendation to anyone.

21

The gambling movie is so worth watching! It is based on the true story of a group of MIT students who tried to rob Vegas casinos by playing blackjack and being geniuses at counting cards. The main character Ben Campbell is a mathematical genius who gets accepted into Harvard Medical School after MIT, but can’t afford to pay the $300,000 tuition. However, a professor of his from MIT invites him to join a blackjack team with some of his students and they end up flying back and forth to Las Vegas with Professor Rosa as the greed and money collect but Ben also has to pay the price and forgetting all about an engineering competition is just one of them...

This movie will make you want to learn about how to beat the system but will also teach you all about the much needed caution in gambling. Hope you enjoy the thrilling 2 hours.

There you go - to each his own when it comes to matters of taste, of course, but here is hoping this pick of gambling flicks are of some use to you! Happy watching, rolling, and betting to you all...

 
Popcorn Power: From TCM to TNT...


Turner recently held their Upfront press junket in Johannesburg to unfurl some changes to their channels and programmes ahead of 2019 and announce their Powerpuff Girl Award winners. The press event featured two big display screens for video content, cartoon mascots, a smart rotating stage displaying a different set for each channel with Nicholas Goliath wielding the mic as MC.

Instead of laborious speeches, the format centred on short, sharp bursts of video content with interviews to create a more entertaining and interactive atmosphere for attendees. Extending the group's entertainment goals and aim to host cool, entertaining and relevant content - the junket was served up in style with special celebrity guest, Toya Delazy, announcing the Powerpuff Girl Award winners who hailed from all corners of Africa to receive cash prizes to help activate and sustain their innovative social upliftment projects and products.

The Turner media company controls channel content for Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Warner Bros. TV, CNN and the recently rebranded TCM, now known as TNT. Among various programming changes and new shows, they've introduced a platform called [adult swim], featuring animated series appealing to the elusive millennial target market. According to Head of Channels, Julien Borde, "kids channels are powerful and co-viewing is important" highlighting the drive toward greater co-viewing for families. Turner is striving towards content aimed at all ages with a special focus on their Boomerang channel, which features a host of broad family classics such as Tom & Jerry as well as Mr Bean.

Turner Upfront 2018

Nicholas Goliath introducing the Turner Upfront Media Showcase

A special focus area for their Africa market is the 15-40 age range, adapting the content for a much younger audience. This is part of the reason their Turner Classic Movies channel TCM was rebranded to TNT, opting to forgo the niche older demographic market and traditional black-and-white classic films for more action-orientated blockbusters and cult favourites. VP Head of Sales and Business Development, Guillaume Coffin, says the TCM brand was "good for certain people but that the people it was appealing to was narrow". After making small changes and performing some trials, they amplified the findings, which resulted in the launch of TNT in Africa.

The TCM brand has been exported to different countries such as the UK, Middle East, France, Germany and Spain with content moderated according to the "appetite for each country". A greater move towards action-driven, modern films made the Turner Classic Movies brand outmoded, resulting in a shift to TNT. As with most of Turner's channels, there's a definite coolness factor at play. TNT has credibility thanks to its selection of retro, cult-certified films and this is evident in the programming as well as the award-winning creative around its offering.

Borde says it's a "great brand to work for" and that "brands are useful to customers and creators", which Coffin complemented by emphasising the way a film recommendation will play out differently according to the frame of referral. Turner consider a number of elements when determining TNT film programming with the aim of establishing "a top popcorn entertainment channel with quality films tailor-made for African audiences". A team of experts select films based on ratings, genres and film stars... using data to determine what viewers want and curating quality content to suit the audience.

TNT logo

From TCM to TNT...

Turner have started to move from digital to public spaces through their animated channels with a greater physical presence with mall activations and an impending summer beach tour. Their online presence has been considerable, leveraging YouTubers to create videos for Cartoon Network, ordering localised content for social media to influence parents to drive brands, as well as investing in social responsibility and anti-bullying campaigns. TNT Africa leverages their webpage and has over 26K fans as part of their Facebook community, 70% of which who are South African.

The group are aware of the steady creep of the Netflix model of OTT and on-demand content and have been able to reach more people through Showmax by adding value through DStv's premium package. South Africa's market is slightly different in terms of accommodating a wide range of network speeds, but being a part of Warner Bros and AT&T telecoms, they're aware that operators adjust according to consumer appetites. Having to service the traditional satellite viewers and those who would rather use LTE and their iPad, Turner have had to adjust their offering to serve everyone. As part of their continuous improvements, they will be making HD available on TNT and a number of channels with a steady roll out plan.

According to Coffin they are investigating the idea of producing local content as they've done in Germany and Spain. The strategy is focused more on kids now, but the thinking is around how to use, fund and create universally relevant content for international distribution. Selecting the right partners and creating the right kind of content through idea incubators like Creative Lab, where they field hundreds of animated concept entries across Africa, they have seen scope. Coffin jokingly remarks "we have a picky attitude because we are French" adding that what they've seen is "very promising" and "impressive".

All in all, it seems Turner are making a number of improvements to their offering, tailoring content to meet viewers where they're at and taking a much stronger interest in Africa and by extension South Africa. Being the first media event of its kind for Turner, it seems that the Upfront media showcase is set to become a regular annual feature.

 
3 Gambling Films You've Probably Never Seen


Las Vegas and Hollywood are almost synonymous when it comes to fancy suits, flash, boulevards and big lights - making films about casinos and nightlife a perfect fit with the glitz and glam of Tinseltown. It’s not surprising that almost everyone has heard about films like Casino Royale, Casino, 21, Ocean's Eleven and The Gambler.

When it comes to drama, what better way can you leverage high stakes plots than by putting characters in situations where they can literally change their lives overnight. They’ve got the limelight sure, but what about the gambling films that slip between the cracks? Here are three films you may not have heard of, which are with watching if you enjoy the genre.

Hard Eight

Hard Eight (1996)


This is neo-noir crime thriller is a feature film debut for Paul Thomas Anderson, who is best known for There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, Inherent Vice and Boogie Nights. The film stars some big names in Philip Baker Hall, John C. Riley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L Jackson. The plot centres around a professional gambler named Sydney who finds a lost soul in John, a young man, sitting outside a diner. After making his acquaintance, he soon discovers John has to pay $6,000 for his mother's funeral.

He offers to take John to Las Vegas and teach him how to make money for a living by gambling. The two grow closer as John becomes a protégé but complications arise over several years of friendship as John falls for Clementine. Compelling characters, understated performances and true originality underpin this moody drama. Hard Eight serves as one of the acclaimed director's first films.

Owning Mahowny (2003)


This Canadian drama directed by Richard Kwietniowski stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver and John Hurt, based on a novel and Canada’s largest one-man bank fraud. The gambling drama follows a Toronto bank employee Dan Mahowny, played by Seymour Hoffman, who rises up within the bank getting access to bigger and bigger accounts - soon gaining access to millions of dollars.

Unbeknownst to his colleagues, he makes weekly trips to Atlantic City, where he uses money he’s skimmed to gamble. Treated like royalty by the casino manager, his undercover dealings soon catch up with him. This character study centres around Mahowny, his relationship with Belinda and leans on an incredible turn from Philip Seymour Hoffman whose unkempt and earnest performance as an unhinged bank clerk drives this film set in the 1980s.

Even Money (2006)


Even Money follows the story of three complete strangers: Carolyn - a published author, Walter - a has-been magician and Clyde - a man in deep debt, whose lives intertwine in the world of gambling. The film stars Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta and Kelsey Grammer, rounding off a sharp cast under the direction of Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond, The Long Goodbye).

Tense, tightly scripted, this independent crime drama gives you a strong dose of reality offering an ensemble drama with the same ambitions as Traffic, Syriana and Crash. A modern film noir we flit between each of the character's scenarios as the drama intensifies.


 
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