Month: May 2015

Moomins on the Riviera (2015)

Written for RAF News May 2015

Tove Jansson’s classic comic strip has found its way to the big screen after 60 years, with the Moomins setting sail for the south of France in search of adventure and a taste of the high-life.

MoominsOnTheRiviera

Snorkmaiden, taken by the allure of champagne on the beach, leads Moomin (a cingeworthy Russel Tovey), and his family, as they set out in a humble sail boat across stormy seas to find themselves like fish out of water among the glitz and glamour of the Riviera.

The traditional hand-drawn animation gives the film a beautiful composition that can at times blossom into glorious surrealism – roughly sketched storm clouds shed long streams of raindrops over a golden sea as the well-meaning Moomins find themselves in trouble once again.

Where most films aimed at children these days have an edge to them, layered with jokes for the parents or breaking from the story with a wink-nudge, Moomins on the Riviera carries charm in its sincerity (although there is one brilliantly absurd moment when a character falls in love and has to get his cousin to take his place in the story whilst he gets married.) Where 2D cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants and puppets like the Thunderbirds have been converted into CGI its impressive how Moomins holds onto its very essence in both values and visual style.

Throughout their ordeal of being mistaken for eccentric royalty and running up bills that they can’t pay, the Moomin family maintain their naïve sense of wonder and innocence. Though they can be swallowed by insecurities and anxiety, they are for the most part delightfully free of self-awareness. This works in complete contrast to the snooty jet-sets of the south of France where the sharp faced locals are interested only in status and celebrity. “We simply don’t fit in here” comments MoominMama, noticing the gap between their way of life and that of local star Audrey Glamor.

Moomins on the Riviera meanders for the most part but it is certainly a heart-felt children’s film that, like the family leading the adventure, isn’t trying to be something it isn’t and embraces its character.

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The Second Coming of a Scientific God in Transcendence

Transcendence, the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, was a science-fiction blockbuster released last year that was condemned as a critical failure. Many reviews criticised the film for its inability to contain the expansive concept and the scale of the story. An undiscussed element of the film which may have also impacted its reception is the structure of the narrative and the unusual ideals that it presents when compared to typical Hollywood fare. The following analysis will look at how Transcendence subverts the standard model of story-telling by reversing religious and scientific values – and by making Johnny Depp Jesus.0.

TRANSCENDENCE

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell looked at the archetypal hero that traversed the mythologies of ancient cultures, theorising that there was really only one overarching story structure, which he termed the ‘monomyth’. This universal metanarrative applies not only to theology but contemporary narrative forms such as cinema – Hollywood especially – appearing to reinstate the same values now as they did centuries ago. Reduced to the extreme the monomyth can be seen as the journey of a hero who has his faith tested through trials of doubt before he can achieve success on his quest. Inherent in this story structure is the conflict between faith and doubt, attributes that I would argue (and have argued again and again) are aligned with religion and science respectively: with faith treated as heroic or noble, and doubt a sign of weakness or ill-intention.

The hero is typically the protagonist of the story whom the audience will follow and support. Transcendence is unusual in that it has no clear protagonist; or rather it has one then kills him in the first ten minutes of the film. With no guide through the narrative, the audience are presented two opposing perspectives that represent faith and doubt, and so experience the trials of the hero first hand. Crucially though, the positions of religion and science, essentially good and evil, are reversed so that the audience truly doesn’t know whether they should be believing or not; whether to have faith or doubt. (more…)

For my love

jump for joy

jump for me

(I like to watch people jump

just as much as joy)

jump to hell and back

jump helen of troy

jump helen mirren

beside helena bonham carter

jump queen to jump jack after

jump helen keller

she won’t know

plus no-one could tell her

jump cinderblocks

jump cinderella

jump with one shoe to lost property

jump the queue to the vip

jump jack flash

dance jump style

jump ship

jump around

jump up jump out

and get drowned

I’ll jump out and find somewhere to park

don’t jump the gun or

jump the shark

the waters not cold

just jump in

white men cant jump

black men cant swim

jump out of your chair

jump out of your skin

jumping in at number one

is jump by van halen

Monument

Back to work on a momentumless Monday morning. Fully rested from the weekend but always craving more. Right now I remain resentful of the bus-ride that jostles and jolts and keeps me awake. I could have caught another 10 minutes kip if it weren’t for these fucking roads. Someone should do something about that.

The bus screeches as it slows and I lift my head to meet one of Marble Arches statues, one of its many monuments. Among historical figures and battle horses stand more artistic endeavours, a little more surreal and expressive. A circus act: a man with a wide stance to accommodate the weight above him, his outstretched arm meeting the equally rigid trunk of an elephant balanced above.

This had stood out initially but you grow indifferent to even the most beautiful sunset should you sleep on the horizon – and the commute is inextricably cuffed to work. With such norms accepted it didn’t surprise me when I lifted my head that morning to see a large black figure standing taller than the double-decker’s top deck from which I viewed it: a winged feline, a deranged beast. A wild eyed, open jawed demonic cat, cutting a hole in the sky with its towering stature and razor tipped wings.

At a glance the beast was nothing more than another battle animal – something like the impressionist feral lions that decorate our most culturally significant grounds – but what caught me after a couple of seconds was it’s crazed expression. It looked as though the flesh had burnt away from its face, left frozen in a black maniacal scream.

I was left staring at this creature until the bus creeped forward once again, revealing the base of the monument – there standing a vicar with a train of suited folk behind him. Just on the outskirts a couple dozen Romanians lay unconscious in the morning sun, fallen at the feet of this behemoth as some kind of sacrifice. I am no longer tired. I am paying full attention to a world I no longer understand.

The bus pulls forward once more and reveals a little more to this already burgeoning picture – a camera crew. Okay. This grounds everything in a reality I can comprehend. Although in the coming days the monument remains and so too do the crowds collapsed below. A shrine for a Satanist religion perhaps. Only fair that all are represented I guess. I wonder how I might apply…

Spooks: The Greater Good (2015)

I hadn’t seen a single episode of popular English spy-drama Spooks before watching the new film – and it looks like it’ll stay that way. It had been described to me as less clean-cut and more toned down than its American counterparts but had started to grow more farfetched over its seven series stretch.

spooks

Spooks: The Greater Good opens to a London skyline behind a curtain of rain and queues of traffic stretching to the horizon – this seems realistic enough – but not the most desirable situation for the MI5 agents at the centre of this hold-up, guarding Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel) a terrorist in transit. Something is wrong. Soon Qasim will make his escape and heads will roll.

Held responsible for this debacle, Spooks stalwart and Head of Counter Terrorism Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) is forced to resign and disappears soon after. With the organisation now under threat – they look to a fresh face to find Harry and the truth behind his disappearance.

Kit Harrington has traded Longclaw sword for government issued pistol as Holloway – the sharp, fast-thinking ex-MI5 agent who believes Harry is still alive. Speaking mostly in a gruff whisper, in need of a Strepsil, he’s most impressive when in action, and luckily for us he rarely stops for breath.

Spooks: The Greater Good certainly has its impressive set-pieces including Qasim’s breakout and a final shootout, both making the most of their locations. But in-between these bookended sequences there is barely anything other than hammy exposition-laden dialogue: suspicions running high, and characters just running. In these instances the locations become a distracting backdrop. When the film isn’t darting to Berlin and Moscow with sweeping aerials, it’s hopping about through postcard London skylines.

Spooks

Amidst all the toing and froing there’s everything you’d expect from a twisting espionage, filled with double crosses and conversations at the barrel of a gun. Surprisingly though, most of the film revolves around paranoia among the bods back home at ‘The Grid’ and as such the action scenes give way to TV melodrama. Qasim seems a more complex and rational villain, but he is talked about more than he is seen.

When the action sequences are in full swing the film is gripping but caught up in whom to trust, the film loses sight of the threat and the tension suffers for it.