Review: The LEGO Movie

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

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Film review: Obvious Child Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Saturday, 30 August 2014 20:15

Director: Gillian Robespierre
Cast: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffmann
Certificate: 15

"You know what makes you special?" best friend Nellie (Hoffmann) asks Donna (Slate). "I'm really good at folding laundry?" comes the sad reply. "No, you're unapologetically yourself on stage."


That's the one thing you can definitely say about the heroine of Obvious Child: Donna Stern, a stand-up comedian, is never sorry for being her. She farts in front of people. She tells strangers about her love life. And when she does find herself on a date with a nice, Christian boy, she encourages him to pee in the street.


Sure enough, one thing leads to another and she and Max (Lacy) end up in bed together. It is only several days later, as Donna hides in a cardboard box in her friend's book shop, that she realises what has happened: she is pregnant. And so she breaks up with Max, debates whether to tell her mum about her opened bun, and goes on stage and blurts out her she feels.


Jenny Slate is astounding as the endearing loser, letting loose with a candid string of one-liners and confessions, which constantly cut into the rest of the action. Jake Lacy is just as fantastic, their romance evolving with an unworkshopped casualness, while Gillian Robespierre stitches it together with the freewheeling, shambolic nature of real life.


The film, based on a short the director made with Karen Maine and Anna Bean, has been praised by many for its stance on the thorny subject of pregnancy - and, specifically, abortion. It's true that, in a country where the idea of aborting an unborn child is greeted by a strong anti-movement, and in a medium where pregnant women tend to make a pro-life choice come the final act, Obvious Child should be heralded for seriously entertaining the possibility of taking the other option: it is a film that treats a rarely discussed topic with honesty, humour and compassion. It is a funny film - but it is also a significant film.


What makes Obvious Child stand out as such a fantastic piece of art, though, is that it treats this rarely discussed topic in the same way it treats everything else. Honesty, humour and compassion are not restricted to the realm of abortion; they define every part of Donna's existence. Pregnancy is another step in her life, not the thing that defines it - she is a fully-formed female, one to whom the title refers as much as it does the foetus in her womb. Obvious Child is adorable, amusing and, crucially, a film in which every joke is character-driven, from angry break-up jabs to a quip about folding laundry. It's unapologetically itself. And that makes it very special indeed. A delight.


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Film review: The Keeper of Lost Causes Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 29 August 2014 07:18

Director: Mikkel Nørgaard
Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Fares Fares, Sonja Richter
Certificate: 15


Department Q. The name suggests all manner of hijinks, a room packed with James Bond gadgets and technological trickery. But as Carl Morck (Lie Kaas) soon finds out, this is the exact opposite: after a case goes wrong, the disgraced detective is banished to a Danish police station's basement to start the division. His mission? To excavate cold cases. The keeper of lost causes.


Yes, this is a textbook piece of Nordic noir, which conforms to all your expectations of the genre - in other words, exactly the kind of thing that helped create the term "Nordic noir" in the first place.


And so Carl finds himself investigating the disappearance of high-flying politican Merete (Richter) five years ago. He probes into the mystery, stirring up old secrets and upsetting all of his superiors. And, of course, reawakening his own ghosts of former (dead) colleagues. He even gets a comedy sidekick: Assad (Fares).


But if The Keeper of The Lost Causes follows a formula, each part of the equation is rounded up carefully. Fares Fares treads the line of annoying and amusing with a likeable charm, while the script - adapted from Jussi Adler-Olsen's novels by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Nikolaj Arcel - ticks the traditional twist boxes with ruthless efficiency. There is no unnecessary flashiness here; Mikkel Norgaard's direction is suitably grim for the nastiness shown on screen, but makes no pretence that the story is anything more than a solid thriller.


What elevates it higher is Nikolaj Lie Kaas. His face is fascinating to watch as Carl, all frowns and dead eyes, while his blunt, grouchy delivery is the perfect match for the movie's sparse, bleak humour. Sonja Richter is equally believable as the frantic damsel in distress, driving the plot's on-rails pace to a pressurised finale that grips, despite the overly familiar grit.


Sure, this is by-the-numbers Scandi crime, but the numbers add up to something enjoyably tense. Norgaard's experience on Klown and Borgen gives The Keeper of Lost Causes a TV-like feel, but also an ear for buddy cop entertainment and an eye for stripped-down simplicity. Department Q is the opposite of the hi-tech wizardry its name implies - it would be as at home on Netflix as on the cinema screen - but for fans of Nordic noir, that is no bad thing. With a sequel already greenlit, The Keeper of Lost Causes functions as something of a TV pilot for a series of Department Q feature films.


A franchise of Scandinavian crime based on impressively economic storytelling? More please.


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Film review: If I Stay Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:24

Director: R.J. Cutler Cast: Chloe Moretz, Jamie Blackley Certificate: 12A

The secret to performing a piece is not to pause - to keep going and ignore any wrong notes. Half the time, an audience won't know what the music says anyway, let alone how it's meant to be played. If you can keep going and be swept up in the music, everyone comes out the other end happy.


If I Stay, the story of a 17 year old girl who fights for her life after a tragic car accident while recalling her romance with a boy, doesn't manage that. What it does manage, though, is something else entirely: to capture the importance and power of music on-screen. Because while it is the soppy tale of a doomed romance, it is also the tale of two musicians.


Chloe Moretz plays Mia, a 17 year old cellist who is applying for a place in Juilliard and is the daughter of two former rockers. She soon meets Adam (Blackley), a guitarist who falls for her after - crucially - watching her play in a rehearsal room.


Moretz and Blackley both do their best with the cliched teen smooching, fighting, making up and making out. Their relationship plays out, unsurprisingly, in flashback, while Mia lies in hospital in a coma, where family and friends visit to deliver sad, inspirational speeches - a parade of sentimental scenes interspersed with a parade of equally sentimental scenes. Plus kissing.


Dial your gag reflex down and the level of schmaltz is so far, so swallowable, mostly thanks to the strength of Moretz's performance - but director R.J. Cutler ladels on even more syrup with an ill-judged out-of-body narrative, which sees Chloe constantly creeping around hospital corridors, bathed in white, looking earnestly at the camera. It's like The Lovely Bones 2: The Even Lovelier Bones.


But away from the stereotypical story lines lies a surprisingly engaging plot: that of a girl and her instrument. It is rare for a movie to treat music with the importance or depth that If I Stay does - especially classical music. The last film to do so was Yaron Zilberman's A Late Quartet, which also explored the bond between notes and the people playing them. Here, though, Beethoven is presented to its young adult audience as if it is as normal as pop, a laudable achievement in itself.


Moretz (and her cello double - her head was superimposed on another player's body with seamless CGI) are fantastic, twiddling, bowing and swaying with believable intimacy - the same intensity that gives Blackley's scenes on stage an earnest sincerity (even if the band's songs are cheesy and repetitive). The relationship between the human couple may not always engage, but their relationship with music does.


The result is a film that moves in spurts, captivates in flurries, but misses beats every time the music stops for another rest in the hospital. For hard-hearted cynics, those wrong notes jar with the sound of manipulation. For teenagers familiar with the book or those willing to get swept up in the melody, the soundtrack's effectiveness is what gives the saccharine material some emotional substance. It makes the piece work - but only just. Despite the structure of the original novel, you get the impression the movie would flow more smoothly if the focus was solely on the music. If I Stay plays the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.

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Film review: Into the Storm Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 22 August 2014 10:21

Director: Steven Quale
Cast: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh
Certificate: 12A

Love storms? Love Richard Armitage? Then you might enjoy INTO THE STORM. The film tells the dramatic, intense, disastrous story of what happens when Richard Armitage goes… INTO THE STORM. And not much else.


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Film review: Lucy Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 22 August 2014 10:20

Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman
Certificate: 15

What is life? How does it evolve? How many bad guys can Scarlett Johansson beat up? Lucy asks all the important questions - and a ton of others to boot.


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Film review: The Expendables 3 Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 15 August 2014 11:37

"Why were you in prison?" asks one of The Expendables after they bust Wesley Snipes' Expendable out of a maximum security fort. "Tax evasion," he quips. This is as edgy as Sly Stallone's sequel gets.


In a normal film, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. In a two-hour, $90 million blockbuster designed to wow with brutal violence, it's something of a surprise.


Surprises aren't something The Expendables do: the word isn't in the team's collective vocabulary of loud grunts, forced bon mots and constant declarations of friendship. When you go to the cinema to watch Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger et al. blow things up, you're meant to know exactly what you're going to get: Carnage. Catchphrases. Cheese. And lots of it.


After two movies, then, you might expect it to get a little stale.


The first film delivered on its promise, drenching the screen in 18-rated blood despite an overly serious tone. The Expendables 2 scaled down the gore for a 15 certificate but ramped up the self-aware humour to introduce a new sense of fun - right down to the fact that its villain was called, erm, Vilain. With Con Air director Simon West out of the cockpit for The Expendables 3, though, that light touch has been replaced once again with clunky gravity. And with the violence also scaled down to a 12A certificate, the result is an action comedy that doesn't have enough of either.


"Get to the choppa!" yells Arnie, looking increasingly like an ageing dog wheeled out to shake paws with people on special occasions. He says the word another couple of times, regardless of context, just to make sure he earns his paycheck. Stallone feels equally tired, barking with such a butch, gravelly voice that you can't understand what he's saying - although he's still a darn sight more agile than the other veterans. And so they all get ditched by the star in favour of younger, newer models. There's the computer hacker one (Victor Ortiz), the female one (Ronda Rousey) and the Hey He's Like A Young Sylvester Stallone one (Kellan Lutz). Unlike their senior counterparts, though, none of them are recognisable from modern action cinema, which makes them as bland as the mature Expendables are two-dimensional. (Where are Channing Tatum and Chris Hemsworth? Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer?)


The newcomers to the fray who do stand out are Harrison Ford, replacing Bruce Willis as a grouchy CIA agent - and proving, once again, that he could be the new Leslie Nielsen - and Mel Gibson, who plays our unhinged bad guy, an ex-Expendable against whom Sly has a grudge.


Teaming up, falling out, teaming up again but with more people; the narrative is as predictable as it gets. But of course, that shouldn't be an issue. This is an Expendables film. You should be having too much fun to think about plot. With the set pieces cut down to their bare, non-bloody minimum, though, the thrill of OTT combat is sorely missing, along with bullets and blood. In the first movie, a man got blown in half by a shotgun. Here, men fall over after other men wave guns in their general direction - presumably because they've fallen asleep from boredom. Even Lutz's impressive motorbike stunts fail to liven up the climactic sequence in an abandoned apartment block, a fantastically-designed set with towering, wasted potential.


Thank goodness, then, for Antonio Banderas. The Spanish star is just as much an OAP as the rest, but he steals the show with his sprightly antics, jumping, climbing and running almost as quickly as speaks - which is very, very fast. He may be playing Puss in Boots minus the hat, but every joke he makes hits hard, a fact that only emphasises the lack of laughs (and hard-hitting) elsewhere.


Banderas proves that what this series needs isn't necessarily a brand new generation of heroes, but a smart script with a sense of humour that doesn't just rely on Arnie saying the word "choppa". The Expendables 3 can't decide what it wants, though: fresh blood or old tricks; new viewers or existing fans. The result is a mediocre, formulaic sequel with too many characters and not enough clout for them to ever make an impact. It appears to offer even more of the same, but serves up far smaller portions. (In the case of Jason Statham, almost no portions at all.)


Gibson gives good evils, but it's telling that even his addition to the ensemble is free of any controversy or interest. Blunted for a younger audience, rebooted without being rebooted, The Expendables 3 is a dull, boring spectacle that's as entertaining as tax evasion - and that is the franchise's first big surprise.

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Film review: God's Pocket Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 08 August 2014 17:47
Director: John Slattery
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins
Certificate: 15

"The only thing people from God's Pocket can't forgive is not being from God's Pocket." That's our introduction to John Slattery's first film as director, a dark drama with even darker bits of comedy. The tone is set from the off with a funeral, which is promptly disrupted by a punch-up. Your reaction to that wallop will likely determine your reaction to the whole film.


Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last performances, stars as Mickey, a loser slob of a husband who steals meat so he can chop it up for sale. It's a textbook reminder of what makes Hoffman such a powerful screen presence; neglectful, self-centred and usually drunk, Mickey is a flawed fuck-up of a person but feels absolutely real, a quality that somehow earns our sympathy.


His step-son, Leon (the ever-pale Caleb Landry Jones), doesn't.


Racially abusing co-workers while threatening people with a flick knife, it's no surprise that someone bumps him off - and even less of a surprise that nobody cares. Nobody, that is, except for his mother, Jeanie (Hendricks). And so she asks Mickey's friend, Arthur (John Turturro), to investigate.


Things, naturally, go from bad to worse. Dead bodies, one-eyed goons and gambling debts all pour out onto the streets of the fictional community from the shadowy cracks in which they were festering; boils on the already ugly plague of humanity.


If it sounds like a confused plot, that's because it is: based on Peter Dexter's novel, Alex Metcalf's screenplay is part silly, part sad, part strange crime thriller, part marital breakdown. The result is a slippery tone that Slattery does not always control: he shoots everything with a grim, grubby deadpan look that treats humour and high drama the same. It's all black and bleak, which leaves you unsure whether to laugh or cry at one man punching another at a funeral - or people moving corpses in the rain or elderly women brandishing firearms.


And yet the uneven nature feels oddly fitting for this fable of family, society and psychotic florists. Like God's Pocket, this is a patchwork of stories knitted by people. Christina Hendricks communicates the weight of her happiness just by looking forlornly out of a window, Eddie Marsan's sympathetic funeral director is delightfully manipulative, while Turturro's natural bond with Hoffman lets the loose narrative slide easily from gear to another. Through it all, one thing remains constant: the voiceover of local reporter Richard Shellburn. Richard Jenkins' journalist completes the accomplished ensemble, carting around a drinking problem to go with his receding hairline, as much a revered veteran as he is a sleazy pervert.


"The only thing people from God's Pocket can't forgive is not being from God's Pocket," he declares with the hackneyed air of yesterday's fish and chip wrappings, at once both romantic and wrecked. Perhaps that's the movie's problem: Slattery's blue-collar neighbourhood is so close-knit that we never quite feel a part of it. We watch this fascinating parade of open wounds go past, held together with the band-aid of humanity, but end up stumbling away down the street, resigned to indifference.

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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

HUMAN AND APE DIFFERENT. HUMAN RIDE HORSE. APE NOT RIDE HORSE. HUMAN USE GUN. APE NOT USE GUN. HUMAN MAKE FILM. APE NOT MAKE FILM.


HUMANS MAKE FILMS ABOUT HUMANS. MATT REEVES HUMAN. MATT KNOW THIS. BUT MATT MAKE FILM ABOUT APES.


DAWN OF PLANET OF APES OPEN WITH APES. 20 MINUTES NO HUMANS. JUST APE.


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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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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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