Friday, 28 October 2011

REVIEW: Midnight in Paris


At the age of 75, Woody Allen is showing no sign of slowing down.

This month, the veteran writer and director returned with Midnight in Paris. It contains all the staples of a Woody Allen classic – romance, quick wit, lengthy focus on forming and deteriorating relationships – but it also introduces a new twist: fantasy.

The story focuses on would-be novelist Gil (Owen Wilson) who is visiting modern day Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams). Not satisfied with tourist spots or boutique shopping, Gil longs to visit Paris in the 1920s at the height of its Golden Age. Magically, he stumbles upon an antique car at midnight and he is transported back in time to brush shoulders with his literary and artistic heroes.

Allen is clearing having a lot of fun at the helm. The fantastical plot allows him free reign to drop in as many fan-pleasing cameos as he pleases. Therefore, Gil meets the Fitzgeralds, Picasso, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and – in a scene-stealing performance by Adrien Brody – a very bonkers Salvador Dali determined to draw a rhinoceros. Allen’s writing is sharp as ever and he creates a lot of humour playing with our expectations of these characters, Extras-style.

Without revealing too much, the time travel takes on further dimensions as the story progresses and the showcase of great characters never slows down or disappoints. One scene with a very lost private investigator is a particular laugh-and-loud delight.

Determined not to be left behind by Hollywood, Allen has cast rising stars (Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard), established A-list names (Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni) and very recognisable character actors (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy are a joy to watch as Inez' uptight parents).

Meanwhile, Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson revisit their Wedding Crashers chemistry, only this time they are falling apart as opposed to falling in love. Furthermore, Wilson excels as the emotional core of the film. No-one can rival Wilson as the likeable, upbeat, everyman - he practically owns the patent to this role.

It is a shame that Midnight in Paris will be underwatched and unappreciated. It has too much brains, depth and style to please the mainstream rom-com crowd and it will also be overlooked by the Academy. The Academy notoriously dislikes comedy and fantasy, whilst there is no performance as attention-grabbing as Penelope Cruz's Oscar-winning turn in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (although arguably Marion Cottilard's more subtle presence is just as worthy).

Nevertheless, Midnight in Paris deserves to find an audience. It is charming, sweet, whimsical and thought-provoking with no small amount of magic.

In short, it is a Woody Allen film.


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Steve Jobs RIP

Steve Jobs died on October 5th from pancreatic cancer.

The world has truly been moved by this news (check out Twitter for #thankyousteve and #iSad) but few men have left a legacy as impressive as Steve.

Steve was a true visionary. He put a computer in every home, revolutionised how we purchase music, made the touchscreen a mainstream necessity and replaced laptops with tablets. Steven Spielberg summarised the man brilliantly: "Steve Jobs was the greatest inventor since Thomas Edison. He put the world at our fingertips."

Personally, I will always remember Steve for co-founding Pixar: the most consistently successful and innovative animation studio of all time. Without Steve, we wouldn't have Woody, Buzz, Nemo, WALL.E and the rest of the gang.

He may have given the world iMacs and iPods and iPhone and iPads (I have none of the above) but he gave me some of my favourite films of all time.

Thank you Steve.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song


Review in a Tweet: an incredibly busy episode packed with ideas but Moffat pulls it off. Lots of familiar faces, a shotgun wedding & best closing line ever.

Best Line: "I'm... his mother-in-law?" - Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) shortly after the Doctor marries River Song.

Something for the Kids: pterodactyls in the park!

Something for the Fans: we learn that Brigadier Sir Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), founder of UNIT and a reoccurring character from the pre-revival years, has passed away. This is in honour of actor Nicholas Courtney who died in February of this year. Courtney reprised his role as the Brigadier in a two-part episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Unfortunately, he never had a chance to appear alongside the post-revival Doctors.

Blast from the Past: everyone is back for this episode: Churchill, Dickens, Dr Malokeh, Dorium, Kovarian, the Silent and even an old-school Dalek, whilst Rose Tyler & Captain Jack both get a namedrop to keep the Russell T Davis loyalists happy.

Scary Bit: Gantok (Mark Gatiss) getting buried beneath gnawing skulls.

WTF: what is going on with Matt Smith's hair?!

Episode Highlight: the Teselecta twist was great and I totally called it after the Let's Kill Hitler episode. And the Question was another great revelation. "Doctor Who? Doctor Who? Doctor Who?!"

DW Confidential Highlight: a tidy montage of River Song's life from her point-of-view narrated by Alex Kingston. That should wrap it up for any viewers who still can't fathom the wibbley wobbley timey wimey-ness.

Food for Thought 1: the story arc this series, which was focussed on the Doctor's impending death, was a bit of a misfire. It is hard to get emotionally-invested in the drama when we all know that the Doctor isn't going to die because Matt Smith signed on for another frickin' series! Also, not too long ago, we had a whole year of the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) awaiting his impending death so it all felt a bit familiar.

Food for Thought 2: what is going to happen next year? The River Song story is 99% wrapped-up now and Amy & Rory have been left to enjoy married life. So... time for a new companion? I hope not. Amy and Rory are awesome.