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8/10
This is the bizarre, complicated and, above all, wonderful world of Liberace
13 June 2013
"I'm surprised that these people like something this gay," says Matt Damon's wide-eyed, country boy Scott Thorson as he watches Liberace for the first time.

We share in his bafflement when he is told that the adoring audience don't have the slightest inkling of his sexuality.

This is the bizarre, complicated and, above all, wonderful world of Liberace.

Behind the Candelabra was released as a television movie through HBO in America but comes to us on the big screen and isn't the biggest possible screen just what Liberace would have wanted? Michael Douglas gives an incredible performance as the flamboyant pianist and revels in the wigs, rings, diamonds and furs that make up his stage show.

Eschewing the standard biopic route, the film tells the story of Liberace's relationship with Thorson who became his chauffeur, lover and even, the film alleges, almost became his adopted son... www.ravechild.co.uk
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9/10
Beware of Mr. Baker is a fascinating, humorous and at times fairly moving piece about one of rock and jazz's greatest drumming ancestors, Ginger Baker.
9 June 2013
Beware of Mr. Baker is a fascinating, humorous and at times fairly moving piece about one of rock and jazz's greatest drumming ancestors, Ginger Baker. From the truly unholy amount of multi-decade long substance abuse, this is a man who should be long dead, and yet here he still is, able to tell his story when he feels like it. Baker goes down as a largely unsympathetic man that no one feels the need to speak politely of, nor does he expect or want them to. Beware of Mr. Baker is a fascinating film mostly because of the sheer amount of people director Jay Bulger manages to track down to speak about Baker...
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7/10
Jumping through a second story window because you think there is a missile trained on your location? Welcome to the life of Matt Pandamiglio
5 May 2013
When does sleep walking stop being funny? Fighting a non-existent jackal in the middle of the night is all good fun.

Jumping through a second story window because you think there is a missile trained on your location? Welcome to the life of Matt Pandamiglio, a fledgling stand-up comedian trying to figure out his career, his relationship and his future.

Perhaps it's little wonder that he's struggling with sleep.

Pandamiglio is a thinly veiled alter ego for writer, director and star Mike Birbiglia who has adapted his real life experience for stage, print and now screen.

Independently financed, the film has been impressing audiences at film festivals the world over and is now available to British audiences as a download or to watch online from the official website.

My interest in Birbiglia stemmed from seeing a spark of Woody Allen in his work, so perhaps it's fitting that Sleepwalk With Me is very much his Annie Hall.

The confessional, autobiographical tale is told in New York conversations from Manhattan sidewalks and brownstones.

This is also a love story turned on its head, full of introspection and truthful portrayals of that very particular anxiety felt by ... www.ravechild.co.uk
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7/10
A significant improvement though still not the great film that we all seem to be waiting for from Cianfrance
22 April 2013
The new Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) flick has been acquiring much buzz and anticipation and it's easy to see why with the Gos at the helm.

Full disclosure, I found Blue Valentine muddled and largely unsympathetic, and I'm still on the fence about whether Ryan Gosling is actually an actor or just a piece of eye-candy.

Anyway, my interest certainly piqued at this new feature, and it was a significant improvement though still not the great film that we all seem to be waiting for from Cianfrance.

Much like Blue Valentine, this focuses on the class system of the state of his native New York, and there are some breathtaking moments and scenery to be had, akin to the master Terence Malick.

Without going into spoilers, this film is at its best in its structure.

This almost becomes its own undoing when it lingers just a little too long in certain scenes (one thing I did like Blue Valentine for) and begins to drag – particularly in the final third act – but it's refreshing to see a young director take a chance within the triptych form... www.ravechild.co.uk
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To the Wonder (2012)
5/10
More of an art installation than a film with some faux-documentary mixed in
4 March 2013
To The Wonder is a visually and aurally stunning experience but this outweighs narrative and emotional engagement, leaving it a bit cold where it tries to be all-encompassing warm.

More of an art installation than a film (if it was cut down to half an hour it would be perfect) with some faux-documentary mixed in.

It's difficult to really say how people are acting in this film, because the lack of action or dialogue delivered in the piece is enough to really judge how it's performers are "acting".

No conversations or shot lasts any longer then they need to, so we pick up just enough to know what's happening, but it's also emotionally alienating because the viewer can never connect to these characters.

Ben Affleck looks barely there; not apparently able to share in Malick's vision of the emotionally sterile lead actor, instead just doing nothing and looking like he's wondered into the wrong film set.

Whereas Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams both return strong performances as alternate choices and women, you can't help but feel frustrated as Affleck, the camera, audience sit and watch them try their best efforts to be human and lovers with hopes and dreams which this film (through Affleck) largely diffuses.

Javier Bardem however is perhaps more interesting, seemingly... www.ravechild.co.uk
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8/10
If Filho and his unique brand of realism is the future of Brazilian cinema, then it's in very capable hands
27 February 2013
When the third wave of Cinema Novo was brought to an abrupt end, the quality of cinematic output coming from Brazil stagnated quite considerably.

It wasn't really until the films Central Station and City of God surfaced (the latter of which gaining significant critical acclaim) that Brazilian cinema was once again seen as a powerhouse in independent and avant film-making.

Much like the aforementioned films, the themes of class and social attitude have pervaded the fabric of the modern Brazilian film, which has become increasingly acute in these perceptions and engaging in the issues of a country which, although rapidly growing and progressing, still faces basic problems of a social landscape that is far from the ideal.

The opening images of the film displays real life footage of slavery in Brazil, of the sugar-mills, where the origins of Brazilian society are thought to have come from.

The images are immediately effecting, and provide an historical and cultural backdrop upon which the film can build over, depicting a new Brazilian society that has not altogether eloped and emancipated itself from the old, allowing there to be a passageway for the viewer to see the intrinsic connection between past and present.

Neighbouring Sounds then drops us into the centre of a middle-class suburban housing residency, it's modern, clean and diverse; a seeming flagship for a prospering Brazil.

Beyond the haven of white walls and swimming pools lies the expansive vista that displays the city of Recife, with its high... www.ravechild.co.uk
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Cloud Atlas (2012)
2/10
It's hard to even begin saying what is wrong with Cloud Atlas because there is so much inherently wrong with it
20 February 2013
So then, where to begin with this? Cloud Atlas, the new Tom Tykwer/Wachowski's film adapted from David Mitchell's massively successful novel of the same name; an ambitious, time-traveling epic narrative on fate and history.

Many suggested on hearing of this film's production that it couldn't be done, and to cut to the chase (something the film could learn from) it turns out it can't.

How a near three-hour film can be so rushed and unfocused that it seems to properly adapt this it would need to be a TV series, except LOST has already been and gone and people had a lot more patience with that.

As much of an open-mind that I tried to keep with Cloud Atlas, I felt my resistance to it being slowly worn down as we switched from one exotic time zone and location to another with no real purpose or abandon, hackneyed meaning forced upon me followed by terribly base humor and unnecessary ultra-violence.

It's hard to even begin saying what is wrong with Cloud Atlas because there is so much inherently wrong with it, it's a fairly overwhelming task; much more consuming then actually attempting to watch the thing.

It would perhaps be best to start with the few positives I can find in it... www.ravechild.co.uk
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6/10
John Dies At The End is a post-modernist, demented devil spawn of a film vomited sporadically upon an unsuspecting screen
18 February 2013
The title tells us that John dies at the end – he does die, at some point I'm quite sure, was it at the start, middle or end, I'm not sure.

I don't even know when the film begins, or if in fact it ever does.

John Dies At The End is a post-modernist, demented devil spawn of a film vomited sporadically upon an unsuspecting screen.

It follows two unlikely drug fuelled "heroes" David Wong and John Cheese as they embark on a time shifting journey to save the destruction of the world, or at least that's what I think I gathered was happening.

The plot (or lack of) is not really what director Coscarelli concentrates his attention on, instead opting to go for shock and style over any actual substance.

The dialogue sometimes meanders into pseudo-intellectual ramblings and post-Matrix consciousness but never really goes deeper than the two slacker protagonists allow it to.

Instead, I was more impressed with the exciting visuals that are thrown in our face.

Demons, shadow monsters, ghost hands and absurd hallucinations are regular guests in the nonsensical world that we are exposed to, so much so that we completely suspend any sort of real expectations and surrender to the lunacy of the film... www.ravechild.co.uk
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7/10
Coogan brings his chameleonship to the role of Paul Raymond
18 February 2013
Michael Winterbottom understands how to get the best from Steve Coogan.

This, his fourth feature film working with Coogan, has him utilising both the well cultured comedic timing of Coogan and his remarkable ability to evoke sympathy from characters that would otherwise be seen as deplorable.

Coogan this time brings his chameleonship to the role of Paul Raymond, a pioneer in the British adult magazine industry.

A hedonist by nature, Raymond seemingly has everything you would expect from leading such a lifestyle; the admiration of young women, expensive cars, an excessive wealth, which has bought him half the properties in Soho and all the drugs that a party hard club owner in the 70s could desire.

Winterbottom seems obsessed with the 70s, having previously made 24 Hour Party People (also starring Coogan) a film set in the tail end of the decade charting the rising profile of the Manchester music scene...
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No (I) (2012)
8/10
NO does a great deal to make the words and discourse behind an election sound very exciting
13 February 2013
NO is the story of the advertising campaign surrounding the 1988 referendum that was supposed to "elect" General Pinochet to another eight years of dictatorship in Chile, win or lose.

Pinochet's government were an arrogant bunch; 15 years of dictatorship will do that to you, to the point that the election was largely seen as a farcical exercise merely to validate his rule.

So, the fact that this election campaign won a seemingly un-winnable election and validate real democracy in that it began the end of Pinochet's rule is still a pretty incredible turn of events.

The film itself tells the story of Rene Saavedra (Gael García Bernal) an in demand advertiser with a troubled home life who spearheads the NO campaign by putting a positive, consumerist spin on it with plenty of humour to be had... www.ravechild.co.uk
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Lincoln (2012)
8/10
what we have here is a caring film, filled with wonderful performances and nuances
5 February 2013
Steven Spielberg is a mixed blessing – over the years he has given us some of the most inspired moments in Cinema history (Jaws), at other times he can be intensely sickly-sweet and overtly sentimental and obvious (The Colour Purple, E.T, The Terminal), either way Hollywood certainly wouldn't be the same without him.

So it was with some caution that I approached Lincoln his new, Oscar nominated, collaboration with Tony Kushner (Munich) starring the enigmatic Daniel Day-Lewis.

DDL is pretty much always a dead cert to be a joy to watch, so there was no fear here, but how else will Spielberg approach the last few months of one of the greatest and most popular American presidents of all time (in a weekend where apparently all I did was watch film about popular American presidents in preparation of the superbowl).

And as the film progressed, to my astonishment, the answer revealed itself much in the way this film does generally; with real class and subtlety.

It would be easy for a lesser-experienced director to just go straight for the jugular in re-telling the story of the man in charge of probably America's most tumultuous period... www.ravechild.co.uk
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5/10
The problem straight away with this is that it's no-where near as interesting or dramatic as the wider monumental political event that is happening at this time.
5 February 2013
Hyde Park on Hudson is a post-King's Speech reaction to nostalgic royalist sentimentalising which though does have a potentially interesting story at its core, this is depicting a pretty important moment in Western Civilisation's recent history after all, decides to go for a light trivial romantic comedy.

The basis of the film is the secret diary of its real-life main character, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney).

The problem straight away with this is that it's no-where near as interesting or dramatic as the wider monumental political event that is happening at this time.

Margaret Suckley's "special relationship" with one of the most popular (but divisive) American presidents of all time, in Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray), certainly sent minor shockwaves in America when revealed after her death in 1991, but given the crucial world context at the time, minor is the key word... www.ravechild.co.uk
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7/10
Occasionally beautifully shot, surprisingly well-paced considering the circumstances surrounding its adaptation, and is led by a star turn from Martin Freeman
2 January 2013
The fairest thing you can say about the first film of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit prequel trilogy is that it compares favourably to The Phantom Menace, its equivalent in the Star Wars franchise.

It has some of the same main problems as Menace: the viewer knows, for instance, that several characters – Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins like Yoda and Obi Wan before them – obviously survive to feature in the very films they're in the prequel to, which removes a certain sense of peril from the action sequences, and lends a redundancy to plot lines that are neatly tied-up by the beginning of the Lord of the Rings... read more at www.ravechild.co.uk
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Sightseers (2012)
8/10
You'll never be able to trust a caravan owner again
7 December 2012
Sightseers is the new film from director Ben Wheatley who last year terrified everyone with the chilling Kill List.

This time around the hard edge of horror remains but it has been softened by writers, and co-stars, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram as an extension of characters they have played onstage for several years.

The brilliant tagline essentially tells you all you need to know about the plot – 'a ginger man and an angry woman embark on an erotic caravan odyssey' – although that leaves out the minor detail that is the spate of murders they commit along the way.

Up until the first gory death, Sightseers is a sweet holiday tale as Tina and Chris set off against the wishes of Tina's suspicious mother.

And it's to the films great credit that it maintains that charm throughout the horrors that follow.

Black humour is notoriously difficult to perfect but the mixture of laugh out loud moments and audible gasps that the film induces is perfectly handled... rest at www.ravechild.co.uk
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The Master (2012)
8/10
This film could be a masterpiece but it is far too early to tell.
5 December 2012
This review may contain spoilers, if it is possible for one to spoil it It's rare for me to want to go and see a film again right away after first seeing it.

In fact, this didn't even do that; after first seeing The Master, the new film by the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson, I was just left feeling very uneasy about what I had just seen.

I had enjoyed it, but I wasn't entirely sure how much or why.

When I thought about it a bit and then saw it for a second time however, it all made sense.

I recently had a discussion with some friends about the role of the film critic and whether one should merely describe a film and reflect opinion without spoilers, or whether they should be adding to the general critical theory of a film.

While I'm not going as far as calling myself a film critic, nor that it's really early enough to properly consider where this film ranks in the critical canon of Paul Thomas Anderson's work, I'm finding it difficult to write about this film without really going in to it, largely because PTA implores us to (hence the warning).

The Master is not a film about Scientology. It's worth making that clear right away.

It takes influence from it, but it is more about family dynamics and psychology (and how these can be manipulated into any valid train of thought).

What we have here is three central characters, all of who are fairly unredeeming and unforgivable, and none of who particularly progress in anyway in the film.

It is a film about frustration of the highest order, and that includes us as viewers at times, one is often left feeling 'why do I care about any of these people? Why do I find them so compelling?' A lot of that is down to PTA's wonderful direction, there are many blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments where a brief movement or piece of dialogue tells so much with so little, and the fact that all three of Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman and Amy Adams are utterly brilliant.

The dynamics between just them is compelling enough (more on that later) let alone for the equally great but occasionally marginalised supporting cast, many of whom are reduced to only a couple lines.

For this is primarily a film about a patriarchal (and from one end, possibly homosexual) relationship between two men who "inspire something in each other".

Seymour-Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, The Master, is infatuated with Freddie Quell (Phoenix), as more of a son than his own, Val (Breaking Bad's Jesse Plemons), or his inherited son-in-law Clark (Rami Malek), as a test subject for him to validate his wild theories upon, and perhaps even as a lover.

Quell however is a stowaway on an alien ship constantly running from his problems (or at least escaping from them with his dangerous cocktails) who perhaps would like to express himself more eloquently, but has some rather disturbing sexual/patriarchal/violence issues, which may outlast his time at war against the "Japs", but certainly don't help.

He is dislocated and lost like the generation before him who survived WWI, and is easily snapped up into the sinister claws of The Cause.

The two see something in each other that they themselves are lacking: intelligence/action, (perceived) stability/freedom, a "conventional" family/vice and desires... read more at www.ravechild.co.uk
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Rust and Bone (2012)
8/10
difficult and charming, brutal and beautiful, melancholic and humorous throughout, exactly when and where it needs to be
4 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Rust and Bone is new film by Jacques Audiard known largely for his breakout success A Prophet and concerns the burgeoning relationship between whale trainer Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) and street fighter Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts). If you can avoid it, it's probably best to avoid much of the plot, but given it's been fairly publicised this is fairly difficult, but this is a film that deals with disability, image and to some extent, class. It's been mentioned a lot, but what's really wonderful about this film is it's complete sidestepping of exaggerated sentimentality it could so easily fall prey to. In the wrong hands, this could be a feel-good, motivational tale of a disabled person overcoming their hardships and finding love and personal confidence with a emotionally crippled partner who learns to overcome his own shortcomings in a fantastical fairy-tale rather like another rather successful French film that was released earlier this year. In all honesty too, what I just described isn't completely far-off the narrative arc in Rust and Bone. The way the film handles its characters' emotionally however is so much more satisfying due, partly to the brilliant performances by both Cotillard and Schoenaert, but also in Audiard's writing and direction. After all, Rust and Bone is a feel-good tale eventually, but it takes a really long time to get there and doesn't revel in it. The two leads do overcome their physical and emotional traumas through their relationship but it is a slow process of recovery, one that is instantly recognisable in every day life. For a film with such a potentially over-the-top synopsis, it does incredibly well to stay focused on this small set of characters it presents us as believable and relate-able figures. It poses some fascinating questions; is street fighting really any more or less cruel than training beautiful orcas to perform tricks for our pleasure? Why do this father and son move in the first place? We only have to assume that whatever was going on before the narrative was worse than what is happening on screen. What was Stephanie like before her accident? And, like in Beasts of the Southern Wild, is being tough with your child sometimes necessary? These questions leave the film open, even though the main narrative is fairly straightforward. All in all, the sheer range of emotions this film produces is testament to it's strength. It is difficult and charming, brutal and beautiful, melancholic and humorous throughout, exactly when and where it needs to be. My only real criticism is that the narrative dips a tiny bit in the third act, once the central relationship is finally consummated (which again, takes along time and initially is very matter-of-fact in a suitably amusing scene), the narrative begins to drag its heels a tiny bit, as the film seems to completely forget about Ali's son (though his character seems to for a bit as well) but the final coda remains to avoid sentimentality in an excellent closing few scenes. The cinematography and soundtrack are pretty beautiful too, completing a fantastic triumph of an understated film.
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Ginger & Rosa (2012)
4/10
Honestly, if the bomb did go off on this cast, I wouldn't be in the least upset
4 December 2012
Despite the similar theme, this is pretty different fare. Oh dear.

Here we have an initially interesting if slightly over-reaching idea of a young girl's personal crisis (Ginger, played by Elle Fanning) reflected in the wider, more terrifying Cuban missile crisis (on the 50's anniversary of the event) but wow, this is badly handled.

For a start, the threat of the end-of-the-world, though it's all Ginger's character says every other line, manages to not really effect the film other than her constant reminding us of it.

In the end, it is only really there as a plot device for Ginger to bottle-up the fairly horrible betrayal that takes place to her, but to the point of slightly ridiculous exaggeration.

Then there's the fairly horrible dialogue, highly stilted as it is, including a particularly infuriating line where Ginger replies to her name with "YES, IT IS I!", as well as irrelevant older characters (including great actors such as Timothy Spall), Christina Hendricks' wobbly cockney-via-Sydney accent, and Ginger's increasingly awful attempts to echo her poet hero, the great T.S Eliot.

Worst of all however is how Ginger's father Roland is more-or-less allowed to be a complete monster throughout without much consequence or retribution, or at least, when it does finally come, it's way too late and still fairly half-hearted.

It's a shame because as a film it opens some initially interesting questions of what it means to be a teenage girl in the early 60s, with regards to changing social expectation and character, but it seems to forget most of this once the central-deceit of the film takes place and from there on plods on as one of the most dull and at times aggravating end of the world films ever.

Honestly, if the bomb did go off on this cast, I wouldn't be in the least upset, but as we know this doesn't take place, all that does make sense is Christina Hendricks' attempted suicide out of it. www.ravechild.co.uk
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9/10
bizarrely simultaneously depressing and uplifting
4 December 2012
From wowing audiences at various film festivals has been hotly tipped and highly hyped, and it doesn't take much to see why.

Here we have a beautiful, glorious, extravagant film, where an incredible amount of authenticity and natural feeling emerges from an utterly unreal situation.

Set on a fictional island in a Bayou filmed in Louisiana, not far from New Orleans, instantly places the film in a post-Katrina/climate change context.

This is a film that harks the potential destruction of the world from our collective lack of environmentalism, through an odd-ball community who live almost entirely naturally, with recycled items and junk-yard homes.

It features incredible performances given the majority of actors in this film are amateurs, in particular the adorable Quvenzhané Wallis, as Hushpuppy, who the film is largely presented by.

It's a simple tale of a father-daughter relationship, but the way the film is put together (at times seen on screen) is simply incomparable.

It is bizarrely simultaneously depressing and uplifting, with an incredible, Godspeed You! Black Emperor-esque soundtrack, which rumbles in and out throughout the film, and perfectly measures the overwhelming moods that crash in as the narrative hurdles towards its touching climax.

Easily one of the best of the year, if not further.
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Room 237 (I) (2012)
8/10
a delightfully mad view into the world of just some obsessive nerds
4 December 2012
There's only so much you can say when talking about a documentary, particularly one that is about film itself, but the sheer range of emotions one experiences while watching Room 237 is as wild as many of the theories being espoused on the screen.

This is a delightfully mad view into the world of just some obsessive nerds (three out of the five who contribute to this have identical voices) who feel they have unlocked an elusive film by an even more elusive filmmaker.

It makes sense given Kubrick's own obsessive level of detail in his films that there can feasibly exist a sub-cult of obsessive pouring over the meaning of these details, and here we really get the full range of interpretation.

Some of the claims (the holocaust or fake moon landings apologies for instance) are downright bizarre and at times infuriating (something about faces in clouds) but never to a point where you stop being interested in what these misfits have to say.

Other theories are actually a lot more self-evident than their orators claim.

Of course the hotel is as just a disorientating maze as the literal hedge one outside, the film is supposed to be disorientating and of course this film is about the past and highlights the white-man's burden, the bloodshed of the native Americans haunts the film, and Colorado, throughout.

But some fascinating results still come from the experiments these interpretations require to give any kind of legitimacy.

The particular highlight is the idea of the film being played forwards and backwards simultaneously, which creates some incredible coincidences.

So in the end, this is a particularly enjoyable exercise in how interpretations can shape-shift, in any great art form, once boiled down to the sum of its parts, something Vladimir Nabokov (whose classic Lolita was directed by Kubrick) takes much pleasure beyond the grave in letting people get lost in the labyrinth references he created within his art.

This film provides the idea that Kubrick is probably up there laughing with him. www.ravechild.co.uk
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