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I plagiarised The Verge's Expendables 3 piracy article and I'm still going to read it on their website Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Wednesday, 30 July 2014 06:08

Why theft could be the best thing that ever happened to David Pierce and The Verge.

The Expendables 3 comes out August 15th in thousands of theaters across America. I watched it Friday afternoon on my MacBook Air on a packed train from New York City to middle-of-nowhere Connecticut. I watched it again on the ride back. And I'm already counting down the days until I can see it in IMAX.

Last week, torrent sites lit up with a high-quality Expendables 3 screener, which almost never happens before a big movie's release date. Much hand-wringing ensued: Will the leak kill its chances in the box office? Will everyone who might otherwise pay $17 to watch Sylvester Stallone And His Merry Men blow things up just download the movie instead?

Two hours and six minutes later, I'm pretty sure it's going to be the opposite. Leaking a month before its release might just be the best thing that ever happened to The Expendables 3.


When George Lucas and Steven Spielberg said moviegoing will someday be more like a sporting event, they must have had in mind movies like The Expendables 3. It's worth seeing in theaters because the spectacle trumps the content, not because that's the only way to see it. It's obvious in the way the film is shot (tight, moving, disorienting), the way it's scored (loud, loud, loud) even the way it's cast. This movie is meant not to be watched but to be experienced. As art becomes commoditized experience becomes the only thing worth paying for, and there's evidence everywhere that we'll pay for it when it's worth it. We don't want to pay for access, but we'll gladly pay for experience. Those that won't (and there are certainly some) will be served with easier ways to get and watch movies at home. Those that will, will get something remarkable for their money.

This movies begs for that something remarkable. Enables it. I watched The Expendables 3, but it doesn't feel like I really saw it. I watched a two-hour trailer, really: it showed me just enough to entice me to want to see more. A lot more — and a lot bigger.

Critics are going to hate The Expendables 3. They hated the last two, they'll hate numbers four through forty if they get made. They hate most movies like this one, and with plenty of good reasons. But The Expendables 3 isn't a terrible movie, unlike X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the last high-profile movie to leak well before its release date. (Wolverine was slightly but demonstrably hurt by the leak, if only because it gave downloaders time to say, "Hey guys that movie sucks don't go see it.")

It's not a complex, deep, or particularly thoughtful movie, but it's fun as hell. It's a series of set-piece action scenes, like levels in a video game, that culminate in one of the most sprawling and exciting fight scenes I've seen in a long time. That's good enough for me, and likely for everyone else who's seeding the movie right now on The Pirate Bay.

The people who have downloaded a leaked torrent of the movie are, almost certainly, the series' most fervent fans. They're the ones most likely to go see it in theaters, the ones who turned the two previous films into a $600 million franchise. And sure, maybe some of them won't pay $13 to see it again. But many of them will, because they'll realize how much they missed the first time. Many of them will also spend the next three weeks telling everyone they know how awesome this movie is, how Rotten Tomatoes is full of it and that really The Expendables 3 is two-plus hours of near-flawless action porn. They'll tell their friends to go back and watch the other two movies before this one comes out. They'll get all their best bros together and go to the theater to watch a movie that is basically 300 with way more guns and way fewer visible abs.

Ok, I haven't plagiarised the whole thing. Just a few chunks. Because if I did copy the whole article, that would be theft - and, contrary to this article's headline, many probably wouldn't go to read it again on The Verge's website. Which would mean the site would lose out on traffic and David Pierce wouldn't get any money for his work. Something he probably wouldn't be very happy about.

Funny, that. It's almost like Intellectual Property and copyright has a point.

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Film review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 17 July 2014 22:16




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FIlm review: Transformers 4: Age of Extinction Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 10 July 2014 07:21
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor
Cast: 12A

"A new era has begun. The age of the Transformers is over," declares Kelsey Grammar as Harold Attinger at the start of Transformers: Age of Extinction. He plays a CIA head intent on hunting down all the giant robots and killing them - bad news for Optimus and chums, who have all gone into hiding, until Mark Wahlberg's inventor, Cade Yeager (yes, that's his actual name), uncovers an old truck at an abandoned cinema.

The owner of the theatre cheekily laments to Cade that movies are all just "sequels and remakes" these days - but in a week where Christopher Nolan mourns the turning of "film" into "content", Michael Bay's blockbuster champions the unique value possessed by the big screen. Namely, the value of big robots blowing up big buildings while making big noises. It may seem like a sequel offering more of the same, but for the first time, Transformers 4 serves up something different: actual people.

"You gotta have faith, Prime. Maybe not in who we are, but who we can be," Cade tells Optimus in his garage. As a professional tinkerer, he reminds the Autobot leader of the importance of looking for the "treasure among the junk". It's an approach that suits the overall film.

Amid the carnage, Ehren Kruger's script swaps out Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox's couple for a far different dynamic: Cade and his daughter, Tessa (Peltz). That father-child relationship steers Age of Extinction away from the minefield of problems that has beset the franchise and into some surprisingly effective new territory.

Tessa soon introduces Cade to her boyfriend, Shane (Jack Reynor). "His name is Shane," she explains. "He drives." It's either an admirably economical piece of character exposition or a sign that he has no character at all, but Cade's disapproving dad act is, for once, a recognisable emotion in this sea of metallic mayhem.

After the self-aware opening gag, you get the sense that this is an intentional step forward from the writer and director. Even Peltz's role as token female feels less lecherous with Bay avoiding any slow-motion shots of her leaning over motorbikes, Megan Fox-style - although Kruger's attempt to justify the 17-year-old's relationship with an older boy feels uncomfortably forced. At any rate, Tessa certainly fares better than Sophia Myles' supporting character, who is completely shafted in the favour of macho, mechanical combat.

And what combat it is. Bay continues his quest to go bigger and, well, bigger - and largely succeeds. It's helped by the fact that since his adoption of 3-D and IMAX cameras, he's had to limit his shots to longer, slower takes that show the action clearly. But his childish ambition to smash toys together is still evident: this time, there are Transformers who break down into giant pixels before reassembling mid-flight. It's a stunning feat of CGI - even if these robots still feel the incomprehensible need to disguise themselves as a Camaro, a Bugatti Grand Sport Vitesse and a Lamborghini Aventador.

That continued striving for scale, inevitably, proves to be Transformers' downfall. In the past, this testosterone-led thinking has meant not enough plot to fill the overlong runtime. Now, the problem is that there's too much. In addition to Cade and his daughter helping the Autobots from being hunted down by Attinger, we're soon introduced to his villainous partner, Lockdown - another robot, who carts around a prison ship of arrested junk - and a tech company trying to build their own Transformers using a metal called "Transformium" (a name so dumb that, to its credit, the script jokes about people making it up).

As another evil robot, Galvatron, hijacks that process, though, Age of Extinction suffers from the main symptom of sequelitis: too many bad guys. Showdowns happen halfway through the movie, only for villains to walk away for no reason, before returning again for another final act punch-up. The result is a bloated runtime of 165 minutes.

It's a shame because when the set pieces do occur, humans are woven cleverly into the chaos; final blows are delivered by men (and women) as much as machines. They may be puny but people actually matter. Chief of them all is Stanley Tucci, who is clearly having fun as Steve Jobs-like entrepreneur Joshua Joyce. "I wanted transcendent!" he whines hammily, as his designs topple around him.

The robots, surprisingly, are the dodgy members of the cast, from (toned down) racial stereotypes to John Goodman playing a Transformer effectively disguised as John Goodman. As Prime, Peter Cullen's voice may be as deep as ever, but Optimus' motivations are wobbly to say the least. "I swore I would never harm humans," he booms, "but if I catch the man responsible, I will kill him." Later, his attempt to persuade other robots to let him lead team literally descends into him shouting "Let me lead you!" At least over-bearing male man Cade, despite his unexplained ability to operate alien weaponry, is consistent.

Does that mean Age of Extinction counts as a success? In many ways, yes. Some will, after the last three films, expect rubbish - another sequel or remake to add to the pile. But despite Bay's horrible penchant for blatant product placement, there is something that works here. Like or lump the commercialised music video production, full of Malick-esque magic hour sunsets and soft rock pumped over slow-mo sequences, Transformers 4 has already become the highest-grossing film of all time in China; modern cinema may be dying, but - as Robbie Collin points out in The Telegraph - this juggernaut of sheer spectacle is bringing the crowds in.

Remove the pointless 45-minute Lockdown subplot and those crowds could be seeing a (relatively) tightly-packed summer thriller. In its current, ungainly form, Age of Extinction has many shortcomings, but in their hulking shadow lie glimmers of achievement; bits of treasure beneath the trash. Transformers: Age of Extinction is, whisper it, good. For a Transformers movie.

As Bay paves the way for another two sequels, Attinger's opening speech takes on another meaning: the age of Transformers is far from over, but with identifiable humans on the screen, you wonder whether, in his own, small way, Michael Bay might just have begun a new era after all.

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1 reason why I don't go back to Slashfilm every day Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 07 July 2014 13:38

Last week, Slashfilm published an article called "107 reasons you need to see Richard Linklater's Boyhood". It looked to be an interesting exercise in subverting a Buzzfeed-style article to promote a small, indie film. Until you clicked on the link and saw this message: "Seriously, fuck you."

The article is a middle finger stuck right up at its readers - and that single digit is the one reason why I don't read Slashfilm.

"You really need me to list 107 reasons to see this incredible film?" the post continued. "You went and paid $15 bucks to see Transformers: Age os Extinction in 3D even though you hated the other Transformers films and saw all the bad reviews in your twitter stream… but you can't just take our word on this epic indie film?

"You've already heard us rave about this film many times over the past six months… But you haven't bought ticket yet…"

The article raises all sorts of questions, not least those of grammar and snobbery. (For an excellent takedown of that, see The Shiznit, who continue to write essentially what I think in a more eloquent way than I can manage.)

But it also shows an astonishing lack of self-awareness on the part of a website that has written roughly 8 times as many articles about Michael Bay's blockbuster as it has Boyhood.

Why? The same old reason: traffic. Click bait like "107 reasons you need to see Richard Linklater's Boyhood" is exactly the kind of thing you expect to find cluttering up Slashfilm's endless cycle of blog posts about anything and everything, including - yes - 40 Things I Learned On The Set Of Transformers: Age Of Extinction.

If you're going to run a website and make that decision to become a marketing machine, fair enough. But to shovel adverts for the latest Transformers sequel onto your readers' monitors and then tell them off for not paying attention to a tiny film you've (relatively) barely featured is absurd. Scratch that, it's insulting.

"Fun fact; you can make a healthy living from the ad-fees garnered from running a website solely about films like Boyhood," tweeted Adam Batty, the chap who runs the always-impressive Hope Lies.

It's true - you can. But what helps sites like Hope Lies isn't their coverage of Boyhood, but that (in my opinion) they have the thing Slashfilm does not: integrity. And without self-awareness, it's hard to come by.

Slashfilm could well defend their slew of Transformers content as a response to their readers wanting to read it. It wouldn't be a dissimilar argument to that used by UK site What Culture when they posted a spoiler-filled article about Iron Man 3 before the movie was even released. While both sites arguably show a lack of respect for their readers with such pieces, Slashfilm's post shows a lack of respect for themselves - or, to put it another way, a misunderstanding of what their site is.

Every time an article is published by a website, it sends a message: this is what we are about. Choose to cover something, choose not to cover something; every decision positions you and confirms your identity. Recently, I started a video on-demand magazine called, devoted to all things digital video. Does it cover cinema releases? No, of course not. That wouldn't fit in with the site's remit.

For Slashfilm, before publishing such an article, the question is simple: Is it a website about Boyhood or Transformers? If the answer is Boyhood, why publish the article at all? People reading the site are more likely to see it over Transformers anyway. If the answer is Transformers, why swear at the people they have been promoting Michael Bay's blockbuster to? If the answer is both, and that the website welcomes all kinds of films and film fans, why be hostile at all?

Now stop me if I'm getting carried away here, but that lack of self-awareness and integrity is something that seems to be a problem in media today.

With print publications struggling, media's in a bit of a bewildered state. Sites are desperate to do anything to keep their audiences up: traffic, the assumption goes, is the most important thing.

And so articles spread across multiple webpages to garner more clicks is a common practice, while every little event - be it a tweet or a leaked set photo - is pounced upon by film sites and speedily reported, re-reported and then, hours later, corrected. If it gets changed later, who cares? That just means people will click on it again, right?

That willingness to readily publish rumours, "exclusive" photos, teasers for trailers, etc, seems to be spreading to subject matter too.

Empire Magazine, a film publication, has dedicated lots of coverage to the small screen for some time - something that its editor, Mark Dinning, admitted was controversial in an interview with the Guardian. Nonetheless, despite that awareness, the website's title still promises "Movie News and Interviews" with no mention of TV; their coverage is good, but it's a confused brand statement to say the least. Other movie blogs have followed suit. A number of film sites cover not just TV but plays without question as to whether it fits within their remit - a fact helped, perhaps, by the fact that a film PR company has expanded their very efficient and effective work into the theatre realm.

(Away from film, just look at the Metro, where Buzzfeed-style lists now regularly crop up in an attempt to emulate the popular site. Does it have anything to do with news? Of course not. Or The Daily Mail's side bar of shame and regular publication of 'controversial' columns to drive up rage traffic from angry users.)

It's telling that in the last year, a number of new websites have sprung up to counter the trend; a backlash of principle. Verite Magazine has found success in its monthly digital format, offering coverage of off-beat, independent and foreign language cinema. Film Divider has also launched since then with a similar, equally admirable, intention - although, despite their name, they also cover TV., meanwhile, has gone from strength to strength thanks to its unique scope of coverage.

What they have in common is not just a niche focus, but an awareness of what their sites are about. This is, of course, still possible with bigger, broader websites - and, indeed, is achieved by many, both within film criticism and outside of it. Den of Geek has established itself as not just a hub of all things nerdy, but one with a strong moral (as well as editorial) stance that never ceases to impress. The same is true of, who are not afraid to call a spade a spade. If by spade, you mean something that isn't a spade. As I mentioned earlier, they often seem to write what I think in a more eloquent way than I can manage - and that's important. If I visit there, I know what to expect. Well, that and Photoshopped movie posters. These websites don't just have identities, but integrity.

If you want to run a website that covers Transformers in extensive detail, great. The internet is a wide open place with space for any and all opinions. But if you're going to do that, don't blame your readers for reading your content. Well, don't do it and expect me to have any respect for you.

But hey, what do I know? Look at the comments on Slashfilm's article: "Hahahaha, that's awesome!" said one. "Best post ever, probably it pretty much explains why I keep on coming back to /film every day," said another. Meanwhile, The Daily Mail enjoys nearly 11.8 million visitors a day. And the Metro recently hit 1 million unique daily hits.

Maybe this really is what people want. But if that requires a website to start telling its loyal readers to go fuck themselves, you wonder if something's gone wrong somewhere.

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Competition: Win the soundtrack from Jon Favreau's Chef Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 26 June 2014 16:28

To celebrate the release of Chef in cinemas now, we are giving away 2 copies of the movie's soundtrack, stuffed with Latin and New Orleans jazz rhythms.

Chef features an all-star cast including Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr. and young actor Emjay Anthony. It follows Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau), who suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman). Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son (Emjay Anthony) to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen - and zest for life and love.

To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the soundtrack, either RT this tweet, or answer the question below:

Jon Favreau is the director of which of the following action films?

a) Spider-Man
b) Batman
c) Iron Man

Send your answers to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it along with your UK postal address and - if you're on Twitter - your Twitter username. The deadline for all entries is 23:59 on Monday 30th June.

Chef is out in UK cinemas now. Follow the foodie fun on Facebook at and Twitter at with the hashtag #ChefMovie.

Terms and Conditions

• The winner will be drawn at random from all the correct entries, and only they will be contacted personally. Prize must be taken as stated and cannot be deferred. There will be no cash alternatives.

• The competition is only open to people in the UK.

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Film review: Oculus Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 14 June 2014 18:14
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane
Certificate: 15

Oculus is a film about an evil mirror. No, wait. Don't go away. It's better than it sounds.

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Film review: NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 09 June 2014 11:50

"I'll have her, but I will not keep her long."

What a strange film NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage is. First, we have cinemas broadcasting live theatrical plays. Then, we have cinemas broadcasting recorded theatrical plays. Now, we have cinemas showing a behind-the-scenes documentary about a play: Sam Mendes' Richard III. If you're already switching off, this isn't for you. If you saw the play, on the other hand, this is an interesting accompaniment.

The movie follows Kevin Spacey et al. as they perform the final part of the Bridge Project, a scheme that formed a company of British and American actors and then toured 12 countries, from Doha to Beijing and Istanbul. If you're going to film the making of a play, this is the one to choose.

Director Jeremy Whelehan hangs out on the dozen different sets and records the preparations, performances and post-show celebrations, attempting to convey the camaraderie of the group, as well as offer insight into the production. He certainly succeeds at the first half.

Front and centre is, of course, our Kev. "The audience give you a feeling back - it's like a game of tennis," he says in one of many asides to the camera. (After Richard III and House of Cards, you can imagine Spacey delivering asides constantly in real life, offering wry comments on his breakfast cereal to the cat.) The rest of the actors echo his sentiment; it's surprising just how much the show seems to evolve as it moves location. It might be the same cast and director, but every few weeks, a new host of stagehands has to learn the ins and outs of the text, geared specifically towards each venue. More importantly, the people in the stalls change too.

One production in Epidaurus, Greece, sees the show previously designed for London's Old Vic stripped down for an ancient amphitheatre. The cast talk about the stunning candlelit stage in hushed reverence, frequently crossing the border into gushing thesp territory. "The gods came to us," smiles Kevin. If you can stomach a strong dose of luvvy with your loquaciousness, there is still something here to enjoy.

Gemma Jones, who plays Richard's mum, Queen Margaret, reveals herself as the joker of the pack, flashing everyone and hitting on the young men in the room. Chuk Iwuji as Richard's right hand man, meanwhile, explains that his habit of holding his hand up to his mouth is to hide the amount of corpsing he does - something Kevin takes advantage of every night.

For all the apparent team spirit, though, there's a hint of Ocean's 12 about the proceedings. Who wants to sit and watch other people have fun, especially when it involves them sailing down the Amalfi coast in Kevin's private boat? "You just get on and smile," confesses one bewildered co-star to the camera, but it's hard to shake that feeling of an exclusive clique.

Later, though, as they drive through the Qatari desert and Kevin throws himself head-first down a sand dune, you glimpse the trust that exists between the group; a side of Spacey we've never seen.

Mendes offers an interesting take on directing the A-lister, comparing Richard III to their first collaboration on American Beauty in 1999. Sam points out that Kevin is very aware of himself and always performing. "My job is to remove that awareness, to make him vulnerable."

Spacey certainly seems to be open. "I don't go into a corner and become a character," he tells us candidly. "I'm a firm believer that I bring what I feel that day to the role, if I'm angry or feeling lonely or blue… I get all that stuff fucking out there."

Whelehan lurks in the wings during the production itself, capturing the cast running between curtains and doors. NOW is at its best in these moments of chaos and craft. We see Spacey dance and limber up before limping out onto the stage. Is he doing that for Jeremy's camera, or is this him at his most vulnerable?

The play itself culminated with a bravura moment that sees Kevin hoisted upside down on a chain, swinging back and forth like a meaty pendulum. For those in the theatre, it was a breath-taking stunt. Disappointingly, though, NOW doesn't go into detail on how this was set up - although it does document the moment on camera for those who weren't there.

That's the biggest triumph and downfall of the whole thing. For audiences familiar with the production, NOW is a curious access-all-areas extra. For audiences who didn't get a ticket, the lack of a sister recording of the show leaves this feeling incomplete and self-congratulatory – the idea of marketing this to those who have never witnessed Spacey on stage, then, is a baffling decision. Aye, there’s the rub. That's the nature of theatre, one that the documentary constantly returns to: it's a game of tennis and needs the right audience to make it work. As the people on the other side of the net change, so does the show. “It can only exist then,” laments Spacey, with a hint of The Usual Suspects, “and then it's gone.”

In a world where cinemas now regularly broadcast plays, though, NOW In the Wings on a World Stage is a unique oddity. At its worst, it's a smug travelogue. At its best, it's a flawed attempt to capture the transient nature of the stage on screen; a fascinating special feature for a DVD that will never exist.

NOW In the Wings on a World Stage is showing tonight at Picturehouse cinemas around the UK with a satellite Q&A from Kevin Spacey. For more information, click here.

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Film review: Benny & Jolene Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 06 June 2014 12:24
Director: Jamie Adams Cast: Craig Roberts, Charlotte Ritchie, Rosamund Hanson, Dolly Wells Certificate: 15

"I know he wants me. But I'm too hot. He's floppy."

Those are the lyrics to Hard/Soft, an attempt by Jolene (Ritchie) to write a racy pop song. She's in a folk band with Benny (Roberts). He doesn't want to sing racy pop songs. But as the duo arrive at the cusp of fame, a team of people try to push them towards mainstream success. Needless to say, none of them work together very well.

Films about musicians are having something of a moment right now, from the sincere (Inside Llewyn Davis) to the sweet (We Are the Best!) and the silly (Frank). But where all of these musician films worked, Benny & Jolene doesn't quite click: they simply don't convince as, well, musicians.

Writer/director Jamie Adams' comedy is largely based on improvisation, which gives his lead couple ample screen time to spar. Charlotte Ritchie is great as the earnest, confused singer, while Craig Roberts is suitably gloomy as the intense, artistic one, who does everything else. But do you believe they're a band? Not really.

An early sequence on a TV breakfast show is a laugh-out-loud introduction to the pair, as they stumble over such simple questions such as what instruments they play - and then mime badly to a recording. Unfortunately, that note of insincerity accompanies the whole piece.

"He's like a hot brother," Jolene says of Benny, and that uncomfortable chemistry is partly the problem. The two performers lack a romantic spark, more believable as siblings than will-they-won't-they lovers.

Adams fills his 90 minutes with a host of equally bumbling people, from the mildly amusing - a PR person played cluelessly by Rosamund Hanson - to the annoyingly unfunny - Dolly Wells as Jolene's overbearing mum. As the ensemble go on tour, the claustrophobic tension of the cramped caravan is captured very well, but not always intentionally; whether it is a weakness of the editing or the script, the band's loosely filmed journey becomes repetitive and stretched out, like a chord held on for too long.

The band members are talented, but they don't quite gel. There are times when everyone falls into beautiful comedic harmony - a rivalry between simultaenous sex scenes is finely tuned - but more often than not, the laughter track seems to be missing. And without a central relationship to keep you fully engaged, those silent bars gradually become more noticeable. Benny & Jolene are great on their own. As a band, they miss a beat.

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Film review: Grace of Monaco Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 05 June 2014 11:53
Director: Olivier Dahan
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella
Certificate: 12A

Grace of Monaco follows Grace Kelly as she moves from her glittering Hollywood fairytale life to another, equally glittering, fairytale: the life of Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco. It's a story that's ripe with potential - but places most of the emphasis on ripe.

"You're a long way from Hollywood now, Grace," explains her priest (Frank Langella). "You're in Monaco." "Yes," she sighs, then frowns and gazes into the distance. "I know I'm in... Monaco."

Director Olivier Dahan shoots the film with hands heavier than a pregnant rhinoceros, delivering every story beat as a clunking boom. And so we are treated to endless close-ups of Grace, pretty shots of Monaco and close-ups of Grace again, just in case the title didn't make it clear who or where she is. All the while, Nicole Kidman sighs, frowns and gazes into the distance.

You might think, then, that her husband's struggle against France to retain Monaco's independence would provide a relief to all that sighing, frowning and gazing. But Prince Rainier III's political battle is presented with an equally weighty tone, despite it bearing hardly any resemblance to historical fact. "You can see the whole of Monaco from here," Tim Roth's husband tells Langella's man of the cloth as they drive through the hills out of town. "Yes, I know," comes the bored reply. Then they sigh, frown and gaze into the distance.

It's a shame to see such talent drowned in so much cheese. The twitchy Tim Roth flits between smiling confidently for the cameras and looking concerned, while Nicole Kidman swiftly perfects the pristine image and walk of a monarch. Both are presented with the most pristine of costume designs. But the director's unsubtle approach turns the cast into human-shaped Dairylea Dunkers, repeatedly dipped into a tub of pungent fromage.

"Everything I do or say is wrong," says Grace, before fulfilling her royal duties of frowning, sighing and gazing into the distance. It's a turn that at worst recalls Naomi Watts in Diana and at best brings to mind Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn - particularly when Grace sneaks off for 15 minutes to have elocution lessons with a flamboyant Count Fernando D'Aillieres. He is played, inevitably, by Sir Derek Jacobi, who minces on every possible level, like a camp lasagne.

In the movie's most laughable sequence, the Count holds up cue cards (presumably stored on the premises for just such occasions) listing emotions for Grace to project. Fear! Anger! Serenity! Then he proceeds to recite history like a text book, while Grace sighs, frowns and gazes into the distance. A card with "Boring" is strangely missing from his collection.

While everyone spells out exactly what is on their mind, the only member of the ensemble who offers any hint of fun is Parker Posey, whose assistant Madge is caught up in an international conspiracy. A late night rendezvous, played with an excited touch of humour, gives us a glimpse of what Grace in Monaco could have been. But rather than go down the path of a political thriller or straight biopic, Arash Amel's melodramatic (yet mostly made-up) script stumbles, ungracefully, under its unsubtle load. A cameo from Alfred Hitchcock (impersonated by Roger Ashton-Griffiths even less convincingly than Anthony Hopkins in Hitchock) only makes things worse.

"You came here to play the greatest role of your life," Langella tells the screen icon halfway through, ending any pretence of subtext. It's a neat parallel the first time someone draws it but after the 50th time, it all becomes rather tired. And, like Kidman and Grace, you soon find yourself sighing, frowning and gazing into the distance. Oof.

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Happy Birthday, Dracula: Listen to Chrisopher Lee's new heavy metal album Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Tuesday, 27 May 2014 16:46

What do you do when you're a 92 year old actor who's had roles in The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, defined a generation of horror movies, won a BAFTA Academy Fellowship award and been knighted by Prince Charles?

Release another heavy metal album, including a cover of the most famous Frank Sinatra song of all. Obvs.

"I DID IT MYYYYYYY WAY," booms Dracula with all the oratory authority of Saruman shouting at the Misty Mountains.

You bet he flipping did. Listen to Metal Knight here.

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Film review: Beyond the Edge Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Sunday, 25 May 2014 07:24
Directed by Leanne Pooley
Cast: Chad Moffitt, Sonam Sherpa, John Wraight, Joshua Rutter
Certificate: PG

An inspiring achievement. An awesome spectacle. There's no denying that the climbing of Everest in 1953 was an impressive feat. The same could be said of Leanne Pooley's documentary, which meticulously recreates the mountain ascent to stunning effect.

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