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Annie: Insipid Update of Stage Classic
With already over a dozen screen and stage adaptations over the years, Annie finds itself on the streets of modern-day New York in Will Gluck's updated 2014 version.
While Gluck has the eponymous character living in foster home – as a pose to an orphanage – the set-up is largely unchanged; Annie (Wallis) longs to be reunited with her parents, before a PR opportunity for business mogul, Will Stacks (Foxx), sees our heroine invited to the billionaire recluse's lavish home for a week.
As the third screen adaptation of the beloved musical – which started life as a comic strip – Annie has little to offer in the way of innovation and even its updated backdrop is used superficially, often feeling cheesy, sentimental and just plain forced.
Following unanimous acclaim and an Oscar nomination for 2012 indie-hit, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Wallis displays the same magnetic energy and charm, while Jamie Foxx does Jamie Foxx in the role of Will Stacks – which is, by no means, a bad thing. It's not often that a performance affects a film so negatively, but serial over-actor, Cameron Diaz, takes her melodramatic antics to a whole new level and is over-the-top in the most grotesque of ways as Annie's negligent and terminally angry foster-mother.
Surprisingly numb and riddled with cutesy clichés, even the musical pieces suffer from some not-so-subtle auto-tune tweaks. Despite the novelty of the updated setting, the whole thing s utterly unsatisfying; this is nothing short of a terribly mishandled disaster of a film that manages to negate everything and anything that made Annie a stage classic.
In the end, the overall aesthetic of the film shows a complete misunderstanding of Annie's theatrical roots and what makes a musical work.
As an exploration of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military, Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a muddled story that’s pretty challenging to sit through. Though on paper there’s plenty of potential depth in this particular effect of war – and a solid cast at its disposable – the film descends into military-movie clichés, while not really keeping up with its complex set-up.
The movie to take place over four separate time periods and opens with U.S Marine Gabriel Drummer (LeBeouf) and his military buddy, Devin Roberts (Courtney), making their way through a vast and seemingly wasted American landscape which appears to have been destroyed by a chemical attack. On the look-out for survivors, the pair is hoping to find Drummer’s son, Jonathan (Shotwell), whom he believes has been kidnapped.
Before the audience gets a chance to find out what is really going in, the story flashes back to another time period where a seemingly distraught Drummer is being interviewed by Counselor Peyton (Oldman) about an ‘incident’ that occurred on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Moving on to yet to another period, we also get to see the story of Drummer and Roberts during their Marine Corps training at Camp Lejeune before, eventually, cutting to the story of Drummer’s life at home with wife, Natalie (Mara) and their son.
Taking on several narrative threads without really knowing where to take them, let alone how to put them back together, is one of Man Down’s major issues. Used to give some kind of visual interpretation of PTSD, the movie’s choppy editing is ineffective and comes across as a messy, superficial tool.
Clocking in at precisely ninety minutes, Man Down is a relatively short film but, thanks to the overworked script and slow pace, it takes forever for any of the stories to build into something bigger.
Working its way through a series of military clichés, the story works best when it is focused on digging into Drummer’s fractured mind, with the conversation between him and his counsellor – played by the seemingly wasted talent of one Gary Oldman – serving to be one of the movie’s best elements. LeBeouf is convincing as a troubled soldier desperately trying not to sink deeper into madness and his commitment to the role is commendable, making it all that more frustrating to see that the script itself is so lacking.
Armed with a zappy attitude, vibrant colours and a heavily-marketed soundtrack, the latest animated effort from DreamWorks Animation attempts to profit from the once popular toy brand in Trolls: a fun and a breezy animated musical which is a little light on story on substance.
Set deep in the heart of a magical land unknown to man, the Trolls are one of the tiniest and happiest creatures in the world who enjoy spending their days singing, dancing and generally spreading joy throughout their tiny little community. Their polar opposites are the Bergens; large, miserable and seemingly nasty monsters incapable of feeling joy on their own, needing to eat Trolls in order to consume their happiness. See, eating Trolls has become a Bergen holiday and on one of those holidays, the Trolls somehow manage to escape and, for twenty years, have been living a blissful and a carefree existence.
Fast-forward to present day, Princess Poppy (Kendrick) is preparing to celebrate the anniversary of that great escape, something which doesn’t sit all too well with the grumpy troll named Branch (Timberlake) who believes that the party will bring them unnecessary attention. His predictions soon come true when a Bergen Chef (Baranski) emerges from the shadows and grabs a couple of trolls and heads to Bergen command centre in order to redeem her bruised reputation, leaving it up to Poppy and Branch to go after her and save their friends.
Much like the Lego Movie before it, Trolls may come across to many as nothing but a calculated brand-driven cash grab which is looking to capitalise its profits from the popularity of a toy line which hasn’t been relevant since mid 90’s. Sure, money is always major motivators in productions like these, but there’s a fair amount of effort that is deserving of recognition.
Visually speaking, Trolls is a stunner. Offering an immersive and an almost psychedelic viewing experience, its visual palette is filled with vibrant colours and shimmering glitters, while the design of the trolls themselves –rainbow-coloured hair that shoots straight up, wrinkly foreheads and googly eyes – are showcased wonderfully. The voiceover work by the A-list cast – including Gwen Stefani, Zoey Deschanel and Russell Brand – is also solid with Timberlake and Kendrick using their easy chemistry and natural charm to bring the story’s main characters to life.
Unfortunately, where things go wrong is the story itself which comes across as uncreative, predictable and most disappointing of all, forgettable. Adults will left out in the cold by its excessively sugary feel, because ultimately, there’s not much here to engage with beyond the catchy pop-tunes, glittery farts and the candy-coloured façade.