The Greatest Showman: A Nightmare Of Tent-Sized Proportions

*SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for The Greatest Showman, predominantly that it’s a car crash*

19th Century circus pioneer PT Barnum is credited with coining the phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute”. The latest retelling of his story, The Greatest Showman, seems to have taken such a sentiment to heart. This is a word-of-mouth hit which condescends to its audience every second of its runtime. It’s creators expect the audience to buy into the feel-good tale of a grinning hero who spots a niche in the market for the afflicted and vulnerable and uses them to make himself filthy, stinking rich – whilst selling itself as a celebration of the very thing he exploits.  (more…)

“I’m just the back-up”: Manchester By The Sea Review

Living in the shadow of somebody else is nothing new to Casey Affleck, brother of Ben (of recent Caped Crusader fame). Despite excellent turns in The Assassination Of Jesse James and Out Of The Furnace, Casey has long played second fiddle to his precocious older brother. His character Lee in Manchester By The Sea is no stranger to being on the back foot either, even in himself – but the role finally affords Affleck place to turn out by far the best performance of his career – and finally step into the limelight.  (more…)

“I guess I’ll see you in the movies”: La La Land Review

Unlike other genres of film, pulling off a classic musical means simply abiding by one simple formula:

Great Songs + Great Dance + Dynamic Characters
A Healthy Dose Of Self-Awareness

Pull that off (no easy feat in itself), add some camp and a level of optimism about the world that’s tantamount to denialism and Bob’s Your Uncle: you’ve landed yourself a Singing In The Rain. Despite being touted as revivalism of the MGM classics, and criticised in places for being a rote application of said formula, the stunning La La Land in fact thrives and lives in three key addendums to the blueprint:

a) The Camera Dances Too

The death of musicals has long been greatly exaggerated. TV sitcoms have been keeping the genre alive for decades (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Simpsons both aired one this month alone), (more…)

Our 12 Favourite Documentaries Of 2016

2016 was a year in which reality began to seem rather unreal, where real-world developments beat satirical shows like Veep and Saturday Night Live to the punch with some of the most bizarre turns of events in recent years, with a reality-TV star and general man-child (or as he called himself on Twitter this month, “ratings machine DJT”), now readying himself to become leader of the free world. Like The Donald, documentaries this year have turned their hard gaze to globalisation, with John Pilger, Werner Herzog, Fisher Stevens and Adam Curtis all flitting between dozens of outsider communities whose human stories represent global hope, and tragedy.

Conversely, others have turned to hard introspection: particularly American documentaries who face down their fractured nation by confronting the effects of climate change, foreign affairs and race relations. Meanwhile others pursued an entirely personal philosophy: capturing the people facing huge challenges – be it cult seduction, artistic integrity or personal loss. What follows are a list of the 12 documentaries released in the last 12 months which best represent our planet, the challenges which face it, and the people who live here, as they often instill great faith and optimism when we need it most.

12. Into The Inferno (Netflix)

One of two Netflix documentaries helmed by cinematic pioneer Werner Herzog this year, Into The Inferno takes a deep dive into volcanoes.  It’s this kind of seemingly obtuse subject matter which Herzog utilises to cast a light on the manner in which one breed of natural phenomenon can shape whole histories and cultures; as for certain island tribes and the people of North Korea, who have given them religious status, while their sediment has preserved fossils which could help us solve the key of our species’ evolution. Threaded between a plethora of cultures are extended sequences of footage from the fiery core of three volcanoes, with images of explorers dwarfed by fountains of molten lava providing some of the most striking images of the year.  (more…)

Skin Deep? The Neon Demon Film Review

The Neon Demon is the tenth film directed by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn; the third consecutively to debut at Cannes and the second to be met there with a chorus of boos. The film is a pristine gut-punch. It follows Jessie, played to career-making perfection by Elle Fanning, a sixteen-year-old arriving in LA to try and break into the modelling industry. Perhaps the less traditionally striking of the film’s several beautiful women, the screenplay implies that it is her innocence, and the fact she arrives untouched by plastic surgery, that which makes her the object of envy, and infatuation, for almost every character in the film. Refn says it’s his first horror-film: an odd sentiment given the graphic violence of most of his preceding movies and the initial fairy-tale sheen of this one, but it does indeed contain some of the most horrific acts I’ve seen piled on after another on screen. I saw it twice.

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