Review: The LEGO Movie

An anti-capitalist corporate-sponsored advert? Everything about this really is awesome.

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Well good
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Film review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 17 November 2014 08:01

Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland
Certificate: 12A

"When has Katniss ever genuinely moved you?" asks Haymitch (Harrelson) near the start of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. It's a fair question: the symbol of the rebellion she may be, but she's hardly a people person. After the events of Catching Fire, though, which saw her destroy the Hunger Games arena and unwittingly lead a coup against the oppressive Capitol, she has become the most valuable weapon in the fight for freedom: a face to rally the troops.


"We need a lightning rod," points out former Gamesmaker Plutarch (Hoffman). "People will follow her." It may not sound like scintillating conversation for an action blockbuster, but that is precisely Mockingjay - Part 1's achievement: it turns a political struggle into something grippingly potent - and thrillingly personal.


The Hunger Games has always managed to weave the two closely together, ever since Katniss first pretended to be in love with Peeta (Hutcherson) for TV audiences to protect her off-screen love, Gale (Hemsworth), and family. Here, she is torn once more between the two fellas, but the stakes are higher. Waking up in the underground (and long thought destroyed) District 13 with loyal soldier Gale, she discovers Peeta is held prisoner by President Snow - Donald Sutherland, grinning like an evil Cheshire Cat - who uses him as a puppet in a series of broadcasts that leave her again caught between a screen and a horde of angry disbelievers.


The political themes of Suzanne Collins' trilogy were always destined to erupt in a blazing climax, but the final book struggled with that scale. On the page, Mockingjay was uneven, slow, missing the claustrophobic structure of the titular tournament. Chopping the novel up for the cinema might have seemed like a bad idea, but turns out to be the franchise's saving grace.


Writers Peter Craig (The Town) and Danny Strong (Danny in Mad Men) rework the story with the lightest of touches, ignoring the text's interval to find their own pace. They rely on Jennifer Lawrence to convey her character's emotional conflict while they explore this new, murky world of propaganda. And what a world it is: the new set is massive, but Collins' universe continues to be built with superb realism, from the concrete walls to the shiny attack ships.


Fittingly for a movement that prioritises people over power, every character matters, from Elizabeth Banks as Effie (who, along with Woody's rude Haymitch, lightens the mood with her attempts to sass up District 13's uniform jumpsuits) to Jeffrey Wright's tech wizard, Beetee. Julianne Moore slots right in as President Coin, ruthlessly fair, almost to a fault, her hair as straight as her blunt gaze. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman really stands out just by not standing out at all; as generous as ever, he murmurs political machinations in the background with a calculated grin before letting out a weary sigh. You could watch an hour of him debating how to make a sandwich look good and it would be fascinating.


The team resolve to send her out into the field for real to capture footage of the Mockingjay in action; footage that won't seem awkwardly scripted (what they call "propos"). And so we travel with them - and Natalie Dormer's badass camerawoman, Cressida - as their rounds descend into gun-toting skirmishes. We see planes taken down in real time; then again, edited with music and voiceover for the revolting masses. What was once a short burst of action in an uneasy novel becomes a sharp deconstruction of storytelling that takes the series right back to its reality TV roots. Francis Lawrence shoots everything with that backdrop visible; skulls and skeletons of obliterated civilians creep into the edge of the frame, while a beautiful off-the-cuff rendition of The Hanging Tree (by Katniss, with a hint of Lawrence's Winters Bone) is swiftly packaged up by the propaganda machine and turned into an earworm calling people to action. Set against brutal uprisings and even more brutal takedowns, it amplifies the importance of every single action, be it private or public, romantic or rebellious.


That savvy presentation is evident throughout, but most of all in the central set piece: an assault on the Capitol. In the books, we hear about it after the fact, but the director takes us into the heat of the moment - chopping it up, propo-style with a monologue from Hunger Games veteran Finnick. The excellent Sam Claflin laces his words against President Snow with conflict and anger, but also a knowing element of foreshadowing that ramps up the tension. And, for that moment, the boundary between the filmmakers in front of the camera and behind the camera disappears entirely - and, lit up by the lightning rod that is Jennifer Lawrence, everything feels real. A post-modern, dark, intelligent film that tackles civil unrest and propaganda wrapped up in a romantic blockbuster aimed at young adults? Mockingjay Part 1 is an exciting, emotional spectacle that isn't afraid to treat its audience like grown ups. When has Katniss ever genuinely moved you? Every second she's on screen.


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The Imitation Game - a crossword film review Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 14 November 2014 13:51

The Imitation Game is out in UK cinemas today. To find out what we thought of the film, solve this simple word puzzle... then use the answers to fill in the blanks below.


Or, for a quick verdict, the highlighted letters can be re-arranged to form this one-word verdict:


_ _ _ _ K _ _ _!



Across

2. Nobody
7. Not an insider
8. Intimate
9. Rebels against
11. The ___ - a 1963 horror film
12. Male
13. To do with the government
14. Causing astonishment
17. Hero
19. By-the-numbers
22. Jogging


Down

1. Rhymes with "toasts"
3. Not nothing
4. PowerPoint
5. Emotional
6. Algebra
10. Last
15. A John Lennon song
16. Computer
17. Actors go behind these
18. ___Station - a games console
20. Tale
21. One of a kind



Fill in the gaps:

Aptly 19 ACROSS, the film 9 ACROSS its conventional 4 DOWN to become a rousing 20 DOWN of a 21 DOWN 12 ACROSS who did 3 DOWN 2 ACROSS could 15 DOWN. Keira Knightley is 17 ACROSS. Benedict Cumberbatch is 14 ACROSS. More about the 12 ACROSS than 6 DOWN, the 10 DOWN 17 DOWN neatly weave the 8 ACROSS and the 13 ACROSS, turning The Imitation Game into an exploration of whether a calculating 7 ACROSS can 18 DOWN at being human. There are 1 DOWN in his 16 DOWN - and they are both 5 DOWN and 11 ACROSS. Oh, and there's a lot of 22 ACROSS.

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Film review: Interstellar Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 06 November 2014 18:14

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine
Certificate: 12A

Note: This contains very mild spoilers. For example, two lines of dialogue. And the description of a planet. If you want to go into this film cold, do not read this review. Or any other review, for that matter.


Imagine, if you will, that you're trapped behind a bookcase. Now imagine that you've been there for an infinite amount of time and you're frantically trying to tell the person on the other site that you need to get some air. Then imagine that a tiny crack suddenly appears between the books, just wide enough for a sliver of paper. So you grab the nearest notepad and start writing. Not just one thing, but everything. Life, family, mortality. It all comes pouring out, an endless scribble of ideas, somehow squeezed into a single ambitious, impossible, wildly uneven message.


That's what Interstellar boils down to.


Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, an engineer turned farmer in a future where the dust-stormed Earth needs crops, not clever starship pilots. His kids, Murph (Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Casey Affleck), are taught the moon landing was faked and that harvesting corn is the key to humanity's future. Only when they stumble across a NASA base do they learn from Professor Brand (Michael Caine) that the real answer to mankind's survival is in the stars. The plan? Pop into a worm hole and out the other side to find a hospitable planet.


It's a bold leap, driven by a most desperate human urge - but Interstellar struggles to make that jump between the divine and the domestic.


Christopher Nolan has always been a rational storyteller, who believes in manmade miracles rather than mystical fate. After all, he chose Batman as his superhero: a guy with no powers at all. The Prestige, the closest he has come to a film about magic, is more about the deception and guilt of murder than making tiny birds disappear. His work is at its best when communicating emotion through logic or character through structure; Memento's fragmented struggle to move on from something that cannot be pieced together; the haunting grief of Inception's memory permeating the subsconscious.


Interstellar attempts the same thing, stretching the bond between father and daughter across galaxies - hell, even dimensions. When Cooper and his crew - Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley, whose ongoing cinematic comeback remains a delight) - touch down on one water-logged planet, its heightened gravitational force is nothing compared to the emotional blow of realising that one hour on the surface is worth seven years back home; relativity has never seemed more relative.


If that's the movie's biggest achievement, it's one heck of a feat. But it also means it peaks a third into its runtime - because Interstellar reaches out for such greatness, then keeps on reaching. More worlds, more holes, more theoretical physics. Inception's complex structure had a strictly defined limit that sent the film in on itself. Interstellar does the opposite, expanding to galactic proportions.


"We got this far, further than any human in history," declares Brand. "Not far enough!" retorts Cooper. And so they keep venturing into the darkness for 169 minutes, clutching at distant stars.


"Do not go gentle into that good night," Brand is keen on reciting, over and over, to his team; an unsubtle mission statement that feels more syrupy than scientific. It's no surprise that the project began as a Spielberg project based on Kip Thorne's theories, which Nolan later converted.


That wide-eyed streak, so unlike the director's previous work, easily makes Interstellar his most emotional movie to date. It's no coincidence that it also has, in a way, the first happy(ish) ending he has ever written. And the script, co- created with his brother, Jonah, can't quite reconcile that loved-up tone with the rest of film's approach.


And so we have lofty ideas that soar until they reach critical mass, then implode and suck things down to Earth with a bump. It's a strange sensation, which gives rise to awkward ripples in the movie's continuum of earnestness; blips of exposition where the admirable becomes laughably bad.


"Love is the one thing that transcends time and space," argues Annie during one especially earnest discussion. Anne Hathaway's straight face just makes it sound worse. During another decisive turning point, Caine's equally serious professor (only the robots deliver a welcome vein of humour) addresses our departing hero. "By the time you come back," he intones, "I'll have solved the problem of gravity."


Hans Zimmer's overbearing score, determined to conjure up All The Feels, is low on Inception-style BRRRMMMMS because it doesn't need them: the dialogue honks all on its own.


And yet. And yet. There are undeniable moments of wonder here: singularities painted on screen with a fiery brush and multi-coloured arrays of lights that flash across time-bending tunnels. The visuals are jaw-dropping, the kind of thing that makes you marvel at the potential of the universe. You might even start to consider your own mortality. Then Michael Caine pops up to recite poetry and you consider what you're having for dinner.


It wouldn't work at all, if it weren't for our lead couple: McConaughey is magnificent as the intrepid explorer who just wants to get home to his kids, while Chastain delivers real heart as the loyal Murphy, who can't bear to visit her childhood home, which she was convinced was haunted. Their relationship grounds the whole adventure, mostly thanks to a sterling turn from Mackenzie Foy as the young Murph, who gets almost an hour to shine in the first act before her pa takes off. (It's telling that the final third, on the other hand, leaves you gawping at famous actors rather than engaging with characters.)


Those hints of a spiritual world laid early on are, inevitably, dismissed for a a human tale, focusing instead on our race's drive to exist - the key to mindkind's survival, nay for its brilliance. Forget God or aliens, it seems to hint in its most reverent moments; we make ourselves in our children's image.


Of course, it's absurd to even attempt to present these kind of concepts on camera. Even writers who deal with this stuff day in and day out on Doctor Who invented the get-out-of-jail-free adjective "timey-wimey".


As heads spin round and round in the audience, gravity vaguely emerges as central to Interstellar's space-time paradox - but so does love. That balance works until the two collide, Higgs Boson-style, into one heavy-handed climax that carries more mass than the God particle. And after a journey that has taken us to Kubrick and beyond, Interstellar suddenly finds itself back behind that proverbial bookcase, feverishly trying to communicate too much in a ludicrously rudimentary fashion.


"We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible," says Cooper, early on. "And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements."


It's as much a motto for Nolan's career as humanity - just read the reactions to Interstellar from other directors in this excellent Guardian piece to get a sense of how rare this kind of filmmaking is. It's stunning, ambitious stuff. The result may not go down in history as one of cinema's proudest achivements, but it will be counted as a moment that dared to reach. If Interstellar is ultimately defined by its inability to overcome the impossible, there's no huge shame in that.

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The Beat Beneath My Feet - a toe-tapping BIFA nominee on its way to a cinema near you (maybe) Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 03 November 2014 18:49

Today, the British Independent Film Award nominations were announced and included one indie film in particular that deserves it: The Beat Beneath My Feet.


John Williams' brilliant drama premiered at the Raindance Film Festival in September, where it sold out the final weekend of the festival. With the capital's film world distracted almost immediately by the arrival of Raindance's bigger brother, the London Film Festival, though, I resisted writing about it then, when it would simply get lost in the noise. So listen up.


The Beat Beneath My Feet follows a teenage boy, Tom (Nicholas Galitzine), who discovers that his nightmare new neighbour, Steve (Luke Perry), is actually a former rock star in hiding after faking his death to avoid taxes. Wanting to become a musician himself, Tom begs Steve for secret lessons ahead of his school's battle of the bands.


Will Steve say yes? How will his single mum react when she finds out the man next door she dislikes is bonding with her son? Will Tom enter the battle of the bands? And what about that other musician girl in his school he has a crush on?


The narrative could easily follow the same tired beats, but the movie drums up a rhythm all of its own. And that stems directly from the soudntrack. Directed by a guy who knows his music videos, Tom's songs take over the whole screen with vibrant animation, backed up by Nicholas Galitzine's fantastic voice. When he's not singing, Nicholas is equally charming, his downbeat demeanour and awkward relationship with his mum (an understated Lisa Dillon) both immediately convincing.


Luke Perry will be the big draw for many, following his role as 90s heartthrob Dylan McKay in Beverly Hills 90210, and he doesn't disappoint, enjoying his role as the grouchy mentor while still finding time to show a sympathetic side. More importantly, though, he's a generous performer, bringing out the laughs in Michael Muller's script but still allowing Galitzine to shine in the lead.


The result is a toe-tapping indie that, thanks to its catchy soundtrack and sincere heart, is an infectious number with a tempo that sets it apart from the coming-of-age crowd. It is, quite simply, lovely.


After delighting audiences at Raindance, the movie has now been nominated for the BIFA's Raindance Award - ranking it alongside fellow feel-good flick Pride and the equally ear-worming Frank. But, even more excitingly, The Beat Beneath My Feet has secured a UK theatrical release at the Clapham Picture on the 9th, 16th and 23rd November (BOOK TICKETS NOW).


Want to see the film near you? You can back it on Crowdshed and help it to find wider distribution. Then follow the movie over on Twitter @BeatBeneathFilm and shout about it. This is one of those indie films that not only needs support to be seen, but also deserves it. Hopefully, today's BIFA nomination is just the start.


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Film review: Palo Alto Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 18 October 2014 23:13
Director: Gia Coppola
Cast: James Franco, Emma Roberts
Certificate: 15

Palo Alto is a film based on the novel by James Franco, starring James Franco as a teacher who gets to sleep with one of his students. If it sounds self-indulgent, don't worry: it is, but it's also more than that.


The movie is directed by Gia Coppola, the latest in the Copolla clan to pick up a movie camera. (With her arrival on screen, the family now have enough filmmakers to create their own cinematic version of the Von Trapp singers.) Like Franco, it would be all too easy to dismiss Gia, but Palo Alto cements them as voices worth listening to.


More importantly, though, it shines a spotlight on several other voices: rather than hog than spotlight, Coppola uses Franco's novel as a platform to showcase a young, talented cast. The mult-strand narrative delivers the usual array of coming-of-age cliches: there's April (Emma Roberts), the virgin who fancies her soccer coach; Teddy (Jack Kilmer), the quiet one who fancies April; Emily (Zoe Levin), the one who fancies not being known as the class slut; and Fred (Nat Wolff), the troublemaker who fancies getting off with Emily, not to mention anything else that moves.


The performers, though, infuse each of these stereotypes with an unexpected depth. Levin is tragically needy as Emily, while Kilmer is endearingly insecure, happy to cover for Teddy, even as he knows he's getting dragged down into a world of vandalism and community service. The exuberantly talented Wolff nails himself to the fence between annoying and amusing, hyperactively stealing every scene before chomping on any scenery left behind. But Roberts is the one who really engages; whether she's smooching Franco or looking stroppy at soccer, she embodies the movie's overwhelming sense of ennui even more than the directionless script.


There are unsubtle moments of superficial effort, from the electronic score to a scene that sees Teddy drive a car into a wall, just for the hell of it. But it's in the quiet exchanges in between that the cast work best, elevating Franco's short stories. In 1983, Francis Ford Coppola made The Outsiders. 16 years later, in 1999, Sofia Coppola made The Virgin Suicides. Released in 2014, Palo Alto may not quite hit the sweet 16, but this collage of Millennial youngsters frequently comes together to form something just as timeless and universal.

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Film review: The Maze Runner Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 10 October 2014 07:16

Director: Wes Ball
Cast: Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Sangster Certficate: 12A

In 1997, Vincenzo Natali's Cube was released. A dumb, trashy sci-fi that was high on concept but low on brains, it was a gloriously gory bit of B-movie fun. Today, in 2014, The Maze Runner is released. A dumb, trashy sci-fi that's high on concept but low on brains, it is also fun - but in a different way.


Based on the young adult novels, of which there are - inevitably - three, it tells the story of a group of kids who wake up to find themselves in a gigantic maze. Why? They don't know. Who are they? They can't remember. How to get out? That's anybody's guess.


But one day, that anybody arrives: Thomas (Dylan O'Brien). That's where our story begins. Thomas immediately starts breaking the rules by which the makeshift society operates. And, shortly afterwards, people start to die. Then, most shocking of all, a girl arrives - Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) - and she knows who Thomas is.


Director Wes Ball sets the fast pace by sending us up a supply elevator with Thomas to enter "The Glade", the green haven at the maze's middle. Unfortunately, the script (by Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers and T.S. Nowlin) also sets the bar low with shonky dialogue and a horde of clichéd characters. There's the stoic leader who knows more than he lets on (Aml Ameen); the quiet but loyal second in command (the always likeable Thomas Sangster); the aggressive rival to the throne who doesn't like our hero (a very physical turn from Will Poulter); and the chubby, kind one who you expect to kick then bucket any minute. He's called Chuck.


Once we get into the maze proper, though, things step up a gear: the stony walls, metallic shafts and changing layout makes for enjoyably tense set pieces, while the grievers (strange, semi-mechanical monsters who patrol the maze) are genuinely creepy. The explanation for it all may lack the substance of great sci-fi, but The Maze Runner isn't about that: it's about putting you in the thick of a labyrinth and making you squirm. For older audiences, those attempts may appear laughable, but for younger adults, it achieves that same sensation Vincenzo Natali managed 17 years ago. A solid gateway to an adult genre, it's nice to see someone making trashy sci-fi B-movies for teens, even if the movie does get a little lost itself. Talk of chaos and disorder within a micro-civilisation doesn't skew as deep as The Maze Runner would like, but when it comes to mazes and running, it knows its stuff. Lord of the Flies? Not quite. Cube for kids? Go on then.

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Film review: Gone Girl Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 02 October 2014 11:16

Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike
Certificate: 18

"All we do is cause each other pain." "That's marriage."


That's Amy Dunne (Pike) to her husband, Nick (Affleck), in Gone Girl. Based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, it's a dark look at marriage, recasting the human relationship as a battle of control, perfection and perception.


Amy starts out as amazing, the ideal girl for the struggling writer, the kind of woman he can kiss in a sugar storm outside the local bakery, the kind of woman who knows his every move before he does, the kind of woman that the country would miss, if she were to go missing. So when she does, after years both for better and for worse, suspicion immediately falls upon Nick - because that's how the story normally goes.


So far, so potboiler. But Flynn is aiming higher than that; hers is a story about telling stories. Add a comment

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Film review: Wish I Was Here Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 20 September 2014 06:52

Director: Zach Braff
Cast: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin
Certificate: 15

It's hard to imagine a more Zach Braff-y film than Garden State. That is, unless you've seen Wish I Was Here.


The film, very much a follow-up to his previous quirky-immature-guy-comes-of-age-and-learns-life-lessons hit, is about a quirky, immature guy coming of age and learning life lessons. At least, that's what it says on the tin.


Braff plays Aidan, an actor who finds himself having to rethink his life when his wealthy dad, Gabe (Patinkin), becomes ill and decides to keep the bank funds to try and cure himself. What will his kids do without being to attend private school? What will his wife, Sarah, do, trying to support the kids while holding down a job? What about his brother, a "genius" child who spends his day making cosplay costumes to impress a girl? And, more importantly, when will Aidan get the lucky break he needs to become a famous actor?


The script, written by Zach and his brother, Adam, provides endless obstacles for Aidan navigate, mixed with typically surreal and offbeat humour - from awkward home-school lessons to a a joy ride in a sports car with Scrubs' Donald Faison. The well-juggled tone is as much expected from a Zach Braff film as the indie soundtrack, which mostly consists of recordings from artists Zach Braff likes. Made with the support of Zach Braff fans through Kickstarter, it's a movie for those people; the ones who like Zach Braff.


The problem is that Zach Braff's film is mostly interested in Zach Braff's character, the one written by and starring Zach Braff. He's earnest, dreams of artistic success and is prone to fantasise about being a spaceman. He's as Zach Braff-y as Zach Braff can get. But while the star's schtick can charm in its own twee way, Aidan's self-centred nature - and the belief that he deserves to have his dreams fulfilled - makes for a surprisingly unlikeable protagonist. The fact that Aidan seems to learn nothing from his hard-done-by rite of passage only exacerbates the issue; Garden State resonated beautifully through its sincere, 20-something appreciation of the wider world, but Wish I Was Here's 30-something limbo struggles to find a note to hold on.


Amid the recitals of Robert Frost and Coldplay, though, are beats that genuinely linger. Mandy Patinkin's gruff father - complete with Homeland beard - spends the runtime in bed dispatching disparaging comments about his sons. Kate Hudson's Sarah, meanwhile, has to deal with sexual harassment at her office. Their story lines in themselves may not ring true, but when Sarah and Gabe meet halfway through at the hospital, they have a conversation that could well bring you to tears; a moving discussion of flaws and feelings that sees Kate Hudson deliver one of the best turns of her career. It's proof that Braff is capable of finding tender, mature moments between his talented ensemble. Wish I Was Here? Wish it was about them instead. That life lesson, perhaps, will come with the director's next movie.

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Film review: Magic in the Moonlight Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 19 September 2014 17:18

Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney
Certificate: 12A

"There's no such thing as magic," declares Colin Firth in Woody Allen's new film. He plays Stanley, a tight-lipped Brit better known to the public as Wei Ling Soo, a Chinese magician whose showstopping trick is transporting himself from a locked sarcophagus into a nearby swivel chair. It's a nice idea for a comedy. The problem is that Stanley repeats his diatribe too many times. By the time he starts lecturing about rational thought for the 51st time, it gets a little old.


One could say the same about Woody Allen. While Magic in the Moonlight revels in its 1920s period detail - from Darius Khondji's sumptuously lit country mansions to the stunning French Riviera coast - it feels old in a different way, one that's composed of several elements of his previous films. That science versus faith debate, so often a prized argument of the director's protagonists, is a prime example, as conversations begin to overlap with ones you've heard before. Another key scene, which sees his lead couple share an intimate moment in an observatory, is borrowed straight from Annie Hall.


But if Allen is following his usual formula, he hits some of the right beats, namely in his casting decisions. Colin Firth is impressively annoying as the blustering skeptic, who makes sarcastic comments at every opportunity, although he may irritate many rather than amuse. It's a pleasure to see fellow Brit Simon McBurney given a prominent role as his sycophantic sidekick too.


The star of the show by eons, though, is Emma Stone. She lights up the place as Sophie, a gifted young clairvoyant whom Stanley is invited to expose. His debunking, though, soon turns to drooling as he's dazzled by her red hair, big eyes and seemingly limitless knowledge of his past. Stone hams it up with a hilariously deadpan performance. "I'm getting a mental impression..." she mutters, waving her hands in front of her and gazing airily at nothing.


Together, the odd pair make a nice contrast - occasionally, too much so, as Emma's young looks and Colin's old face err on the side of awkward rather than entertaining. That old-fashioned juxtaposition, though, is just as much a part of Allen's dated show as everything else, a repertoire that doesn't think twice about uncomfortable romantic pairings, or at least considers it a comic tradition. It's to the cast's credit that, by the time the final scene arrives, you stop noticing the gap; or perhaps it is simply part of this script's odd, retro charm.


Nostalgia is central to Magic in the Moonlight's appeal, itself as hazy as the sun setting in the background of Stanley and Sophie's daytime jaunts in his motor car. If Firth dips into his Mr. Darcy routine a little too much come the second half of the slow 100 minutess, Stone smooths over the cracks with the hypnotic presence of a blooming Keaton. And that, perhaps, is the astonishing part of this whole act: that every time a new Woody appears, even on the back of a great one - which, these days, usually spells disaster - fans still bustle into the theatre, wishing they'll be amazed like it's 30 years ago. The greatest trick Woody Allen ever pulled was convincing the world his bad films didn't exist. And so you'll leave the theatre, blinking in surprise, only to forget the mediocre comedy altogether.


"There's no such thing as magic," declares Stanley over and over. There is such as thing as Woody Allen, though. And even if he debunks his own illusions one too many times, that remains something to celebrate.


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Film review: In Order of Disappearance Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 12 September 2014 12:23

Director: Hans Petter Moland
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen
Certificate: 15

There's something about snow that suits comic violence. The white brings out the red in the blood. It worked a treat for the Coen brothers back in the 1990s. Now, with In Order of Disappearance, Norway is making a killing.


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2014 Raindance Film Festival line-up revealed Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 08 September 2014 12:51

Raindance has revealed its 2014 film festival line-up. The festival, which runs for 12 days, will screen 100 feature films and over 150 shorts.


Raindance 2014 kicks off on Wednesday 24th September with the UK premiere of I, Origins, the latest film from Mike Cahill, whose fantastic Another Earth opened the festival a few years back. The director will be on hand for a Q&A at the Gala - as is usual for the majority of their screenings - and the Opening Gala will be followed by a party Leicester Square's Cafe de Paris with a performance from Fine Young Cannibal's lead Roland Gift.


It closes with a screening of Wolf, with star Marwan Kenzari taking questions from the audience on the night, followed by a do at Leicester Square’s Ruby Blue.


In between, you can expect a typically varied line-up from Europe's largest indie festival. In fact, the emphasis is on diversity more than ever, with the programme now divided up into themes: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The festival's commitment to showcasing talent from around the world, from a mix of genres and from a range of (low) budgets has won it a growing kudos among creatives, which is evident from the increasingly starry guests you can expect to find pimping their passion projects.


Last year, Danny Huston and Toby Stephens were on hand to support Two Jacks and The Machine. This year, Andrew Scott and Alice Lowe will be attending the festival, plus you can find Charlotte Gainsbourg in Asia Argento's Misunderstood, Leighton Meester and Debra Messing in Like Sunday, Like Rain, Wes Bentley in Things People Do and the UK debut of Diego Luna's biopic Cesar Chavez, starring Michael Peña and none other than John Malkovich - who will also reportedly be hanging around the Vue Piccadilly.


The joy, though, is in chancing upon the other artists in between the high profile names - the kind of people who would mortgage their house to fund their flicks.


After 22 years, Raindance continues to be a wonderful chance for the public to discover talent and for filmmakers to showcase their work. Indeed, last year, Raindance followed the fest with the launch of its own VOD site, Raindance Releasing, which gives a digital platform to some of the fest's titles. The thought that some of the brightest entries in this year's line-up will have a chance of UK release even without a theatrical distributor snapping them up makes the festival more exciting than ever.


If you have a film premiering this year at Raindance and will be releasing your film on VOD in the UK, we want to hear from you - our sister site, VODzilla.co, is the UK's only video on-demand magazine with a section dedicated to supporting and covering digital indie releases.


For more information on the Raindance Film Festival, visit www.raindancefestival.org

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