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December 4, 2013

UIP SA, Next Year's Movies, And Barry Ronge

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Credit: Facebook\UIPSA
I attended UIP SA's end-of-year function on Monday to hear about how the company fared in the last year and take a peek at some of the expected films for 2014.

But as with any other gathering of people, it was really the dynamics between everyone that was the most entertaining, rather than the actual function itself.

UIP SA is the distributor of Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures films, and as such has had the opportunity in the last year to promote a diverse range of films, such as the likes of 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom', 'R.I.P.D', 'Despicable Me 2', 'Fast and the Furious 6' and 'Les Miserables'.

After a lineup such as this, one can expect great things for 2014.

Ahead of the sneak peek for next year, we were treated to an appetite-inspiring breakfast buffet of cereal and fruit, chocolate, pancakes, omelettes, croissants, muffins, juice, and coffee. The perfect reason to indulge! It was a popular part of the event: one journalist returned to the table at least four times.

The event took place a day before the official launch of Sanral's e-tolling system on Johannesburg's roads, so naturally this reared its ugly head, inspiring the general banter of the morning: a brave soul stood at the front of the viewing cinema, and demanded that anyone who had purchased an e-tag should leave immediately, as they were 'sell-outs'. The guests seemed to agree - not a single person emerged as an e-tag purchaser, and the impression was that most of the people seated enjoying their free breakfast were not interested in supporting the user-pays system. I wonder if the reason for this overarching negative sentiment amongst journalists is because they are the most well-informed about the situation?

I was also interested to see the racial dynamics at the event. Which was, not much. Most of the journalists, bar at least one, were of the caucasian persuasion, bringing me to speculate on whether this was a true reflection of journalism in South Africa.

Meanwhile, everyone patiently awaited the arrival of a most auspicious guest: Barry Ronge. It might have been coincidence that it seemed that nothing would take place unless he were there, but everyone seemed to spring into action upon his arrival. Strangely enough, I planted myself alongside the seat that was being reserved for him and which he has apparently been sitting in for 17 years, if I remember his statement correctly. It was a strange atmosphere as he arrived - everyone seemed hushed in their own state of reverence, despite the fact that many people in the room had already met him. In spite of a seat being saved for him, he seemed very modest about it, audibly wondering why people had saved it for him.

I am allowed to be in awe; I had never met him before, and he made an effort to speak to me as well, swelling my pride just a little. He told me how this time of year was a nightmare for him, as he had to rush around making sure he'd seen all the festive films and written reviews for them before everything closed down for the season.

Looking at the line-up of films for 2014 has me excited for at least seven of them. Those I'm most excited about are below.

Credit: Facebook\Anchorman 2Anchorman 2

Grab your Scotch and prepare for the return of Ron Burgundy! The first film has a cult following, and a sequel has been touted since the release of the 2004 original. Finally it arrives on South African cinemas on January 10. Here's the trailer.
Credit: Facebook\Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

I love horror films and ghost stories, so this one really struck my fancy. It's one of those home movies-type of films that have taken the horror film industry by storm (obviously because one doesn't need a large cast or particularly amazing equipment), but this one looks like it has some great special effects and an interesting story to boot. Here's the trailer.

Credit: Facebook\Noah Movie

Russell Crowe is one of my favourite actors, so to see him in another film of this magnitude is quite exciting. He always brings something tender and introspective to his roles, and I doubt that this will be any different. The special effects look excellent, and it looks as though they've added some exciting events and talents to the traditional Bible story. Here's the trailer.

Credit: Facebook\NeighborsMovie

Starring former Disney boy Zac Efron and that king of comedy Seth Rogen, this film looks like a great rollercoaster of laughs. Seth Rogen plays a family man who would like to impress the fraternity who has moved in next door. But things take a turn for the worse when the frat boys, led by Zac Efron, take their partying a step too far. This is a classic sabotage comedy that had me laughing just during the trailer. I hope they didn't show all of the best parts... Here's the trailer.

Credit: Facebook\47Ronin
47 Ronin

It appears that Keanu Reeves knows how to make a comeback! The last time I saw him was in the film 'Man of Tai Chi', where he was, unusually, a (very good) villain. This is an action-adventure story set in a Japan-like world. A treacherous warlord has killed the leader of the samurai and banished them, and now 47 samurai, bent on vengeance and restoring honour to their kind, approach Reeves' character Kai - a half-breed - for help. But the warlord has some beasts and witchcraft up his sleeve. 47 Ronin looks to make use of the best CGI, and I love martial arts films. Here's the official trailer.

Credit: Facebook\TheBoxtrolls
The Boxtrolls

This one looks very cute. An animation from the people behind 'Coraline' and 'Paranorman', the film is about an orphan who is raised by the Boxtrolls, underground collectors who live in the sewers, and his attempt to save them from an exterminator. Here's the trailer. I just saw the teaser in the preview.

Labour Day

Ugh, a love story, I hear you say. But admit it: sometimes you really just need a good cry, even if it's the dusty cinema to blame. Josh Brolin is an escaped convict and Kate Winslet is a depressed mother who struggled to live a normal life. She and her son give him a lift and are forced to allow him to stay with them over the Labour Day weekend, but as they learn his true story, and the search for the convict intensifies, they start to run out of options. Here is the trailer.

Other films expected in 2014 include Robert Redford's 'All Is Lost', 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit', 'The Best Man Holiday', 'Ride Along', 'Transformers: Age of Extinction', and 'Hercules'. UIP was also to distribute 'Fast & Furious 7', but after the death of its star Paul Walker over the weekend, plans have been thrown into disarray.

To conclude, I will paraphrase the statement of UIP SA's managing director Peter Dignan that there is nothing like sitting in a darkened cinema with your fellow humans, sharing a laugh or a gasp as the film you are watching draws you in and lets you forget your cares and worries, just for a moment.

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