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Cinema reviews

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We take a look at the week’s top cinema releases


3 stars
Adapted from the popular Broadway musical, the 1982 film version of Annie is firmly ingrained in many rose-tinted childhood memories.

The uplifting story of a flame-haired orphan girl who overcomes insurmountable odds to win the heart of a billionaire businessman taps into our deep-rooted sense of belonging.

Infectious music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin have reverberated throughout popular culture from episodes of 30 Rock, Glee and South Park to a sample on rapper Jay-Z’s 1998 single Hard Knock Life.

Will Gluck’s glossy modern remake retains most of the original songbook, with a couple of new soaring ballads.

Some of the updates don’t quite work: changing Annie’s residence from an orphanage to a foster home significantly reduces the number of children in care for one of the big song and dance numbers.

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Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx in Annie

Also, Carol Burnett’s ferocious portrayal of Miss Hannigan has been softened so Cameron Diaz retains a glimmer of likeability, even when she’s drunkenly snarling: “You think the world wants a smart-mouthed little girl?”

On the whole, Gluck’s reworking possesses the same wholesome likeability, including a winning title performance from Quvenzhane Wallis, who was Oscar nominated for Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Annie (Wallis) lives in Harlem in the dubious care of embittered, alcoholic, faded pop star Colleen Hannigan (Diaz) with four other girls: Tessie (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Mia (Nicolette Pierini), Isabella (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Pepper (Amanda Troya).

Eternally cheerful and optimistic, Annie believes her real parents will return for her and, every Friday, she sits outside the Italian restaurant where her folks left her aged four with a note.

During one of her regular jaunts around the city, Annie
is rescued from the path of a truck by billionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who is running for mayor. The footage goes viral and boosts Will’s approval ratings.

Election adviser Guy (Bobby Cannavale), who masterminded campaigns for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kim Jong Il, suggests that Will adopts Annie temporarily.

Will agrees and welcomes Annie into his hi-tech penthouse, where she befriends the mogul’s trusty assistant, Grace (Rose Byrne).

Over time, Annie opens Will’s heart. But just when he is poised to consider adopting her forever, her real parents (Tracie Thoms, Dorian Missick) reappear.

Annie lacks some of the rough charm of the 1982 film, but director Gluck and his team add enough contemporary spit and polish without obscuring the story’s emotional arc.

The cast lip-sync convincingly and the big numbers are choreographed slickly, including a heartfelt rendition of Tomorrow from Wallis on the city streets.

An extended sequence at the premiere of a fantasy film called Moon Quake Lake – featuring wink-wink cameos from Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Rihanna – is rather cute.

“People love musicals, they’re magical,” observes one character.

This version of Annie has an ample sprinkling of that lustre dust.


FILM Film Reviews Dec 15 11595200035
Ben Stiller, right, and Robin Williams in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

3 stars
It’s time to say goodbye.
The third chapter of the blockbusting Night at the Museum franchise has lost two of its greatest special effects – Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams – in the past 12 months. So it’s fitting that Secret of the Tomb should be an action-packed adventure punctuated with dewy-eyed farewells and warmhearted reminiscence.

Shawn Levy’s picture is a fitting swansong, reuniting most of the protagonists from the original for a final transatlantic hurrah.

For the most part, familiarity with the series’ larger-than-life characters breeds contentment.

The third chapter opens in 1938 Egypt, where adventurer Robert Fredericks (Brennan Elliott) and his 12-year-old son, CJ (Percy Hynes-White), stumble upon a burial chamber.

“If anyone disturbs this tomb, the end will come,” proclaims one superstitious local.

Undaunted, Fredericks empties the site of its priceless artefacts, dividing the treasures between New York and London.

Fast-forwarding to the present day, the magical Tablet of Ahkmenrah, which brings to life the exhibits of the American Museum of Natural History, is losing its power.

London looks splendid through Levy’s lens, accompanied by a predictable yet rousing chorus of The Clash. And an extended cameo by a Hollywood superstar during the frenetic denouement is a treat.

Ben Stiller seems to have tears in his eyes for most of the second half, relying predominantly on co-stars to lasso the laughs.

When Williams’s waxwork president acknowledges the end is nigh and remarks softly: “You have to let us go,” it’s hard not to get a lump in your throat.