Friday, 29 May 2009

Rachel Getting Married: Movie Review

Rachel Getting Married: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Sebastian Stan, Rosemarie DeWitt
Director: Jonathan Demme
Can there be anything worse than an enforced family gathering?
Well, if it's a wedding then sometimes, although it's supposed to be a happy occasion, there can be one or two problems.
Throw in a dysfunctional family and a girl fresh out of rehab, and it's heading for "memorable" (read: disastrous)
Hathaway is stunning as Kym, the sister of the titular Rachel (DeWitt) who shows up back at home days before the actual ceremony.
Straight out of rehab for drugs, she's the flashpoint for some long buried family tensions to resurface as the happy day grows closer.
This film saw Hathaway nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress - and based on this performance, she was robbed by Kate Winslet's taking of the statue.
Her Kym is everything a screwed up, rehab character should be - her acting in this elevates her beyond the Princess Diaries most will remember her for - it's subtle, nuanced and mesmerizing.
In one particular scene, called to the family table to celebrate her sister's wedding rather than sing her sister's praises, Kym actually seizes the moment to bring out her 12 steps programme.
The direction by Demme (The Silence of The Lambs) isn't intrusive - it's all about observation and that lends itself to a documentary style feel.

Rachel Getting Married shows Hathaway's risen well above the teen fodder - and based on this performance, coupled with the right material, she's got a stellar career ahead of her.

Easy Virtue: Movie Review

Easy Virtue: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Jessica Biel, Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Barnes, Kris Marshall
Director: Stephan Elliott
Ah, Noel Coward - such a witty way with words and so many ideas bursting out of the big screen.
Easy Virtue sees Jessica Biel's glamorous widow Larita impetuously marrying an Englishman John (Ben Barnes) in France.
But the problems begin when she heads to meet the inlaws back in England - to say the atmosphere is frosty from her mother in law (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a major understatement.
However, Jim (Colin Firth) is more accepting of his daughter in law - but slowly the divides and cracks begin to show - and ultimately something has to give.
Easy Virtue is a social comedy - but this version of the film seems, at times, at odds when it comes to deciding which decade it's in.
While Larita and John's mother seem to be firmly from the 1920s, Colin Firth's Jim seems more of a 90s man when it comes to his outfits. Jim's attitude is ahead of his time as well - although Coward's said this play is about comparing the modern women with the stuffy women of the late 1800s.
And it's this kind of mish mash which proves a little distracting in this flighty comedy.
Biel's not too bad as the sassy Larita who struggles to find her place in 1920s English society - essentially she's pitched against icy Kristin Scott Thomas - and Biel's positively charming next to the dour mother.
The main problem with Easy Virtue is at times, it feels like a play which has made it to the big screen - very little's made of the sumptuous countryside and manor around them - although with Noel Coward's words, it's all about what's spoken and said (and occasionally what's not said) rather than what's physically around.

Easy Virtue is pleasant enough and will pass the time on a Sunday winter afternoon - all of the cast turn in solid performances in their respective roles - it's just overall, it does feel somewhat lacking and a little bit out of time.


Bottle Shock: Movie Review

Bottle Shock: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, Freddy Rodriguez, Dennis Farina
Director: Randall Miller
Based on a true story, Bottle Shock (one of the contenders for worst film title of the year) is the account of how, in the 1970s, a British ex-pat Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), living in France, decided to travel to the then unknown Napa Valley to see if there were wines which could compete against the best the French had on offer.
Once he gets to Napa Valley, he has a chance meeting with struggling Chateau Montelena vintner Jim Barrett (the ever wonderful Bill Pullman) and realizes there is plenty to tap into.
However, Barrett and the rest of the would-be vintners scattered around the region are not sure how to take Spurrier and initially begin to fleece him.
Barrett has his own problems - the acres of land he owns are mortgaged upto the hilt and if his latest attempt to crack the industry fails, he'll lose everything.
Throw into that mix Bo Barrett, Jim's son (Chris Pine from Star Trek) a hippy who's still living the Woodstock life, and it's easy to see why everything could come crashing around their ears.
Bottle Shock is beautifully shot (with rolling footage of vines and acres of land - which will see it do well in New Zealand) - and has a wonderful character whimsy about it.
Granted, it's not the most earth shattering of stories - even if it is based on events back in the 1970s which saw the wine world open up to tipples outside of the French Riviera. It could do with a bit of editing as well as it feels a little like it's dragging towards the end.
But Bottle Shock has an easy laid back charm - and is essentially about coming to accept your place in the world - or doing something to ensure that position changes; it's about fathers and sons, ambition and self belief, independents and the big players and competition among friends.

Don't dismiss it because of its title (although it is a term associated with the wine industry) - Bottle Shock deserves to do well in New Zealand - many Kiwis will associate with the have a go mentality on display as well as the roguish element of youth.

State of Play: Movie Review

State of Play: Movie Review

Rating: 9/10
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels, Jason Bateman, Helen Mirren.

Director: Kevin Macdonald

State of Play is based on the critically acclaimed BBC series of the same name.
It's no doubt an intimidating task adapting a much loved British drama into a feature length American film.
What sacrifices should be made reducing a six-episode series into a feature length film? Can blockbuster actors do justice to much loved roles?

It's worth pointing out here that I haven't seen the television series in its entirety; though I was familiar with the conclusion before seeing the film. This hasn't changed my opinion in the slightest: this movie is quite brilliant.

Congressman Stephen Collins (Affleck) is a rising star in his political party. Responsible for chairing a committee exploring US defence spending commitments, Collins' career is derailed when his research assistant - and mistress - is killed.

Journalist Cal McAffrey (Crowe) is sent to investigate the accident, along with the murder of a junkie on Washington's mean streets. McAffrey treads the fine line between maintaining his long-standing friendship with Collins while remaining committed to the demands of his editor Cameron (Mirren).

As McAffrey and hot shot reporter Della Frye (McAdams) discover the connection between the murders, the two uncover a web of corporate deceit so intricate it becomes to differentiate the good from the bad and the trustworthy from the corrupt.

While developing the film, the producers struck a road block. After signing on to play Cal McAffrey, Brad Pitt left the production - a decision director Kevin Macdonald approved wholeheartedly. According to recent interviews Pitt requested that McAffrey's wardrobe include cashmere suits. Mcdonald disagreed and Russell Crowe took the role.

As the fleshy, flawed McAffrey, Crowe manages to avoid the trappings of playing the classic antihero. Crowe's McAffrey is both hack and friend, constantly torn between journalistic integrity and a desire to protect his old mate from the very vultures he works with.

Crowe has managed to transcend the earnest masculinity that has dominated his previous roles. While devouring twinkies and slugging whiskey from cracked mugs - wearing a crumpled old suit - Crowe manages to create a real character who in spite of obvious flaws is still dedicated to justice.

State of Play relies heavily on the interplay between its main players and this isn't Crowe's movie alone. Ben Affleck is particularly good as the guarded Collins, while Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright Penn and Helen Mirren are as consistent as usual. Jason Bateman deserves a mention for his a nicely ironic performance as a hapless PR schmuck.

State of Play's characters are intrinsically conflicted, each determined to protect their own backs and advance their careers while attempting to reveal - or conceal - the truth.

Who has control? Who is manipulating whom? It's a credit to these actors that they manage to make a bunch of scoundrels so likeable.

Political thrillers don't get better than this.

Trouble Is My Business: Movie Review

Trouble Is My Business: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Gary Peach, Various students of Auckland's Aorere College
Director: Juliette Veber
A documentary set in south Auckland, Trouble is my Business is the story of one teacher determined to make a difference in students' lives.
When we first see Assistant Principal Gary Peach, he's got a megaphone and is prowling through the school's play ground rushing kids to class - and making sure they don't bunk off.
The film concentrates on some of his students - who all present him with various problems, heartaches and ultimately happinesses.
Alicia is being bullied and starts wagging school; Mosese is finding himself mixed up with drugs and on the verge of gangs; Jesse has learning difficulties and is struggling and Jade is about to miss the most important exams of her life&
Veber's first time doco is not a new story when it comes to truancy and trouble in South Auckland - sadly, the story is all too common and the issues all too familiar for anyone who sees the news or lives in the area.
But by singling out a teacher, who's not always loved by fellow teachers and whose methods aren't always appreciated by those who he's targeting, she manages to evoke a sense of worth from all those involved.
Trouble is my Business is not an easy watch in places - but because its central participant (Peach) is so engaging and so dogged in pursuing what he feels is right for the kids, you can't help but feel pulled into the story.
Clearly Veber has had unfettered access to the students, their teacher and their families - they're at ease with the cameras around them.
The fact this was filmed back in 2004 simply goes to demonstrate how universal are the problems tackled within.
The kids in this doco aren't facing problems unique to south Auckland - any parent of a kid in a low socio economic background will recognize the various issues raised here.
Some may feel inspired by Peach and his persistent ways; some may feel disappointed to see south Auckland in the spotlight.
However, the portrait which emerges of the south Auckland community is one of the individual making a difference.

Ultimately uplifting and inspiring, Trouble Is My Business is a confident start for a film maker.

The Escapist: Movie Review

The Escapist: Movie Review

The Escapist

Rating
7/10
Cast: Brian Cox, Liam Cunnigham, Dominic Cooper, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes, Steven Macintosh
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Films about prison breaks are always likely to be compared to that TV show with the guy who has the tattoos and tries a prison break (its name escapes me).
The Escapist is one of the latest entrants to the genre - and is one of those films which will have you debating its merits and ending long after the credits have rolled.
Brian Cox is Frank, a lifer, who, on hearing his only daughter is ill after a drugs overdose, decides now is the time to get out.
But he can't do it on his own - so he pulls together a gang of associates (a small trusted group) to help him pull off his own prison break.
And just when it looks like it's about to come together, the plan could unravel any moment thanks to the arrival of Frank's new cellmate (Dominic Cooper) who inadvertently picks up the attention of one of the meanest inmates.
The Escapist is a pretty gripping piece of cinema - Cox is compelling as Frank,a weary man who's determined to serve out his sentence but whose desire to leave is all too real once he realizes the danger his daughter is in.
Scenes involving his character towards the end are just heartbreaking and gut wrenching and Cox conveys more of that because of the lines on his face than any piece of dialogue could ever manage.
There are some great character turns in this film - Damian Lewis is brilliant as Rizza - rumour has it he wore women's underwear to perfect the walk Rizza has; Steven Macintosh is just creepy as Tony who menaces Dominic Cooper's James Lacey.
Wyatt does a sterling job - you see (spoiler) the break out intercut with scenes from the prison and it takes a little time to piece together the chronology of events.
The soundtrack is a little much at times - the music is perfect, but somehow in the final mix, someone cranked it up to 11 and it's a little piercing during certain key scenes - even if it does get the adrenaline pumping.

The Escapist ultimately may be viewed by some as just another prison drama - but it's a slightly superior intelligent drama in which you'll find yourself completely engrossed by the end.

Last Chance Harvey: Movie Review

Last Chance Harvey: Movie Review

Rating 6/10
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Richard Schiff
Director: Joel Hopkins
Stop me if you have heard this one before....
Lonely divorcee has chance meeting with permanent singleton.
Against the odds, the pair form a friendship and it evolves to a relationship - but the pair are from other sides of the world - how can their budding romance survive such insurmountable obstacles?
Granted, it's not the most original idea ever, but Last Chance Harvey just about manages to pull it off - even if it does dip into heavy schmaltz.
Dustin Hoffman is Harvey Shine, a NY based jingle writer, who is on his last chance with his employers.
With a big deal about to break, Shine has to head to England to see his estranged daughter marry.
Emma Thompson is Kate Walker, a customer services rep for an airline.
Forever on blind dates and apparently consigned to spinsterhood, she's beset by a meddling mum whose husband ran off to France with a younger woman.
Shine and Walker meet as he disembarks the plane - and he refuses to answer her questions.
Later, after being leaving his daughter's wedding early (that's how close ole Harvey is to the family), he bumps into Kate again.
And in a moment of self loathing and realizing he's lost everything, he starts to talk to her&.and the two of them realize last chances should be seized - before it's too late.
What is there to say about Last Chance Harvey?
If you're prone to sentimental films and well up with emotion as the human condition is examined, then this flick is for you.
But it's a couple of very good turns by Hoffman and Thompson which raise this out of the mire of treacly schmaltz.
Hoffman's good as the world weary Shine - despondent after being rejected by a personal and professional world, he conveys just the right amount of sass and sadness to make his character likeable.
And Thompson puts in an admirable performance as the spinster who's always on blind dates or being set up by her mother - her breakdown towards the end of the film is deeply plausible as she faces the very real possibility of being alone for the rest of her life.
The only cloying part of this film is a sub plot involving Kate's mother and her new Polish neighbour - which exploits every possible racial stereotype concerning foreigners and has an extremely predictable outcome.

Last Chance Harvey won't win any awards for originality and it won't surprise you for the moves it puts on your heartstrings - but it's a solid story with some solid performances from its leads which will give anyone who's still single and despairing a ray of cinematic hope.

Night At The Museum 2: Movie Review

Night At The Museum 2: Movie Review

Rating 5/10
Cast: Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria. Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan
Director: Shawn Levy
In the sequel to Night At the Museum, Ben Stiller's night guard Larry Daley is now a full time inventor, having left his twilight job at the Museum of Natural History behind him.
But on learning the gang who live at the museum (and come to life at night as you'll remember from the first film) is to be moved into Federal storage at the Smithsonian Museum, Larry sets out to try and rescue his old pals.
However, an evil Egyptian Pharaoh, (played by Hank Azaria in a scene stealing turn) has other plans and using an ancient tablet, he plots to rule the world - both inside the museum - and out.
Night At The Museum 2 is not a bad film - kids under 10 will love the animated antics and tomfoolery of the cast - and the Jonah Hill cameo as a Smithsonian guard is hilarious.
But as a piece of stand alone family entertainment, it fails to cross the spectrum of broad entertainment - and were it not for the stand out performance of Hank Azaria as a lisping megalomaniac with some great lines - and the wonderful Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart Larry's companion and would be romantic interest, this would have simply been another of those blockbuster films with special effects and little else.
There's nothing wrong with Stiller's performance as Larry, a man who's become so bewildered in life after becoming successful - and yes, there's a heavy handed message about doing what you love with people you love (an inspired message in these recessionary times) - as ever, he does that deadpan humour which has become his trademark but after a while it starts to get a bit thin.
However, the effects in the film are pretty impressive - there's been a lot of effort to bring to life various backgrounds throughout the museum and nothing's spared in making it all seem lifelike.

Ultimately though NATM2 just falls short of the mark.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

I Love You, Man: Movie Review

I Love You, Man: Movie Review

Rating: 7/10
Cast: Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, Jaime Pressly, The Guy who was the Hulk!
Director: John Hamburg
Ah, the bromance.
Bret and Jemaine have it, Laurel and Hardy had it - and now to the list of dynamic duos, you can add Paul Rudd and Jason Segel.
Rudd stars as Peter Klaven, a real estate agent, who having proposed to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) suddenly realizes one day that he may have a gaping hole for who to select for best man.
For Klaven is a man who has no best buddies - so in a moment of inspired insanity, he sets out to be set up on a series of man-dates - to fill the emptiness in his heart (and at the altar).
Cue plenty of awkward (and downright amusing) moments as he tries to find Mr Right.
Until one day he meets Sydney Fife (Segel) at an open home - and the pair strike up a friendship - could Fife (deep breath) be the one?
And if he is, what does it mean for Peter's marriage to Zooey&.?
I Love You, Man is a riot - and it's down to Paul Rudd and Jason Segel's easy on-screen chemistry - the pair are perfect and the whole story subverts the usual "Do I call her", "What if she doesn't want to hang out" dynamic of romance flicks.
There are some real laugh out loud moments - mainly due to Rudd's increasing awkwardness (think David Brent from The Office on a larger scale) and attempts to try and be cool around his new BFF.
From a male point of view, it perfectly channels the feelings guys sometimes have as their circle of friends dwindle - and c'mon, how many of you have tried to go for after work drinks/ after gym drinks with people who wouldn't normally be more than casual acquaintances?
It's quite a sweet film - there's the romance of Peter and Zooey and also Sydney and Peter as they negotiate their own hang ups and become good friends.
There's also some great moments from Jon Favreau as one of Zooey's best friend's husband who's compelled to welcome Peter into his circle of man-friends.
In just a few scenes, Favreau manages to channel the childishness of someone forced to hang out with someone they don't know - and is quite brutally funny in his apathy.
But it's Paul Rudd's film again - after Role Models, Rudd's continuing to carve this niche as an actor who plays it so straight and so realistic, that every time he does something out of character (or tries to fit in) on screen, he sticks out like a sore thumb.
He's damn near perfected the art of cringeworthy comedy - where just as you think he can't humiliate himself any more, he manages to plumb new depths - albeit it in a very realistic way.
Kudos also need to be given to Jason Segel - whereas his character Syd could have gone too far into parody, by playing it 100% straight and realistic (with just a hint of crazy) he's the perfect foil to Rudd.

Sure, I Love You, Man won't change the world too much - but I bet any man who says he doesn't associate with Peter Klaven on some level is secretly lying and plotting how to meet more friends and bring back the bromance.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Toby Hadoke: Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf: Comedy Festival Review

Toby Hadoke: Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf: Comedy Festival Review

Okay, okay I know what you're thinking.
A show with the words "Dr" and "Who" in the title is only going to be for the ggeky among you.
Well, I'm here to tell you you're wrong - and it's safe to head out from behind the sofa and down to Auckland's Herald Theatre.
Toby Hadoke's one man show - or as he calls it a "hymn of praise of Doctor Who" - can be enjoyed on two levels.
Firstly, as a stand alone, self mocking autobiographical show - and secondly, if you are a fan of the series which began on November 23, 1963, you'll understand some of the character references thrown in.
But Toby's fully aware that his passion for this show may not be all encompassing - so when quoting titles of episodes as part of his stories, he leans to the uninitiated part of the audience and includes them by semi-sarcastically explaining the thrust of the episode - eg when talking about the 60s epic, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Toby reveals to those who've never heard of it, that in this serial of the show, erm, Daleks invade Earth.
And it's this kind of welcoming, mocking attitude which leaves you with such a huge grin on your face.
Moths is heavily autobiographical, detailing Toby's teenage years and how his obsession and love of this show, helped him cope with family issues and feeling left out of some social circles.
However, Toby also has an excellent way of straddling the fanboy fervour which is prevalent in so many genres and turning it into something sarcastic, as well as something poignant.
He's quoted in our questionnaires as saying the show is "about growing up, being lost and finding yourself again" - and you can throw into that extrenmely funny.
Toby has an excellent take in acerbic and, at times, slightly self mockingly bitter one liners ("Life sucked all the tears from me") and you guess he was never the kid who fitted in at school - thanks mainly to parental- and sartorial - choices.
But where Toby does fit in in these days is by sharing the love he had for a show during his formative years - c'mon, admit it; we all had something when we were young which we couldn't bear to hear bad things about.
Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf is part memoir (Toby takes us back in time to quote parts of his diary - and those key interactions in his life co-incide with moments from the TV show), part stand up and downright hilarious.
Maybe there's just a little bit too much of myself which I recognised on stage during an hour of his company - but I guarantee the last two minutes when he talks about his son and how they bonded over the show which saw him socially outlawed will leave you with a tear in your eye.
For any parent, Moths is a reminder that your passions can be passed on (no matter how uncool they may have been) and for any fan of anything, it's an ode to holding a torch for something through thick and thin.

Oh, and there's also an appearance from a certain Time Lord which shows just how highly this stage show is appreciated.....make sure you see it before it disappears into the vortex.

Lesbian Vampire Killers: Movie Review

Lesbian Vampire Killers: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: James Corden, Mathew Horne, Paul McGann, MyAnna Buring, Lesbian Vampires
Director: Phil Claydon
Jimmy (Horne) and Fletch (Corden) are English no hopers; loser lads whose lives aren't going the way they should.
Jimmy's been dumped by his missus (after countless prior dumpings by her) and Fletch has just been given the push from his job as a clown.
Broke and down on their luck, they decide to head off on a hiking holiday (as they can't afford to go abroad) and end up in Cragwich Forest in deepest darkest England.
Things start to look up when they hook up with a quartet of young girls who seem to be up for a bit of partying and hooking up.
However, what they don't know is that the women of that village are cursed, doomed to become lesbian vampires at the age of 18&.and that Jimmy's got a part to play in an ancient curse.
Look, let's face it - if you title a film Lesbian Vampire Killers, it's pretty clear what market you're aiming for (for those of you struggling it's the lads and teen boys market) - and this film unashamedly pitches its camp squarely in those quarters.
Despite that, it's actually pretty funny in parts - and the majority of that is down to James Corden's Fletch.
Given the lion's share of the best comments, Corden is the Eric Morecambe to Mathew Horne's Ernie Wise.
The pair have an easy chemistry - and if you're a fan of them from TV ONE's Gavin and Stacey, you'll probably just see their characters as an extension of those two - Horne's the straight man who stares into the camera a lot with a resigned look on his face and Corden's the goofy mate who's always up for it.
The film itself stylistically looks brilliant - it's slightly drained of colour on screen and has a comic book feel (right down to titles plastered over the screen in parts) which suit it perfectly.
It also doesn't appear to take itself too seriously - Paul McGann as the vicar delivers a great performance, full of pomposity and occasional swearing (much to Fletch's mirth).

LVK won't shake the vampire genre on its head and it plays to pretty much softcore versions of lesbians and vampires (the vampires spend most of their time hissing and waving their hands about or making out), but if you're willing to check your brains at the door and just have 90 minutes of fun, this is a perfect night out.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Defiance: Movie Review

Defiance: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell
Director: Edward Zwick
1941 Belorussia.
As the Nazis round up the Jews, a quartet of brothers seek refuge in a nearby forest, after their father is slaughtered on their farm.
Before they know it, other survivors have found the home the Bielski brothers have set up in the forest - and desperate for an end to their persecution, they join them.
However, numbers begin to swell and a community develops - a community desperate to survive the ongoing attacks and desperate to eat.
But as the Nazis grow ever closer, there's a split in the Bielski brothers' ranks - will they fight against the Nazis or will their fight be one of survival?
Both Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber are all steely determination as brothers Tuvia and Zus - and their fractious relationship and ideals are conveyed well by the pair - and Jamie Bell is passionate as Asael Bielski.
However, Defiance is not an easy watch - and not just because of its subject material, based as it is on a true story
The first hour is slow - and while the brothers' characters develop, it is at the expense of some of the pace of the film overall.
Daniel Craig does that thing he does with his piercing blue eye stare (which he exploited well as Bond)- and Schreiber once again proves why he's much under-rated, turning in a performance that is bravado, bluster as well as fragility and pain.
Defiance explores well the ideas that freedom under persecution brings - the community is forever under threat of attack and that creates simmering tension and resentment within.
Director Zwick, who did Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai, adequately exploits that tension but could have done a little more to hurry along the pace - and maybe been a bit more expeditious in the editing suite.
There are some interesting ideals which come sharply into focus - as Tuvia protects his community, he has to lay down the law more and more which puts him at odds with those around him; Zus refuses to consider any other action but violence - and the pair are changed forever by the course of action they have to take as they personify two different views of how to live under horrific pressures none of us hope ever to see again.
As well as the pace of Defiance, the inevitable downbeat nature of parts of the film begin to take its toll and when the final credits scene rolls and the reality of what the Bielskis achieved is catalogued, it feels oddly lacking in emotion.

Defiance isn't an easy film to spend 2 hours with - but as a portrait of what some were forced to do under conditions we may never see again, it's saved by the performance of its main protagonists.