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London Film Festival Review: Matthew Warchus’ Opening-Night Movie ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical’

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There are stories so good they can withstand any amount of retelling. Matilda began life as Roald Dahl’s rollicking tale of an outrageously spirited, clever little girl who defeats the bullying headmistress whose vocation is to make children miserable. The Royal Shakespeare Company turned it into a Christmas musical that burst the banks of the festive season, running for years and winning seven Olivier Awards in 2012 in London, then five Tonys the following year in New York. Now, director Matthew Warchus, along with writer Dennis Kelly and songwriter Tim Minchin, has directed the London Film Festival opener Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical for the screen. And once again, it is an absolute blast.

From the moment it begins, with a series of glowingly lit babies in cribs “singing” about how their besotted parents think they’re all geniuses, it is clear that Warchus and the team have not merely adapted the theater musical but rethought it, top to bottom. Clever staging gives way to visual extravagance. The maternity wing where the story starts is several servings brighter; Matilda’s home a couple of extra scoops more oppressively vulgar; and the school’s very own combat training course muddier and studded with more sharp, scary obstacles than anything you could imagine on your own. Just as a series of spectacles, it is hugely entertaining.

Without exception, the actors leap across the same bar. Everyone is turned up to a glorious eleven. Emma Thompson’s Miss Trunchbull, the former hammer-throwing champion whose old skills come in handy when she picks up a girl by her braids and throws her over the fence, has more than a whiff of the Nazi camp commandant about her; even when she is screeching that she has a newt down her knickers, she is terrifying enough to send a satisfying shiver down the spine of the most ghoulish child in the audience. 

Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough play Matilda’s parents, people who never wanted a baby, and despise the incisively intelligent girl that baby has become. Forever the stupidest, loudest kids in whatever class they failed, they romp around in terrible wigs, tearing up their daughter’s books and screaming with laughter at the television from their matching vinyl recliners, working their grotesque characters like a couple of music-hall comedians working to fill a stage. 

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There is plenty of this old-school showmanship in Matilda. Matilda herself makes up a story about an escapologist married to an acrobat that she tells in installments to the librarian Mrs Phelps, played with charming warmth by Sindhu Vee. The circus scenes are, of course, dazzling: production designers David Hindle and Christian Huband have seized every opportunity to run riot.

Mrs. Phelps and the class teacher Miss Honey, played by Lashana Lynch, are the twin saving graces of the adult world: kind, empathetic, imaginative and immediately aware that Matilda is no ordinary girl. True to the spirit of Dahl, however, being kind doesn’t mean being sweeter than the cheap chocolate Dahl himself loved so much. Miss Honey is a damaged, frightened woman whose love of teaching is a refuge from a hellish life in the outside world, much as books are for Matilda. 

Matilda herself is not sweet at all. Clearly, if she were the sort of meek heroine who gets to marry a prince at the end of fairy tales, she would have crumbled in the face of parental neglect long ago. As it is, her rebel intelligence is kept sharp devising booby traps her parents are too dim-witted to shore home to her. Remarkably, they have found the perfect minx in Aisha Weir, whose gimlet gaze and composed resistance to Trunchbull’s bluster makes you believe that this girl really does have, as her classmates say, so many brains they are bursting out of her eyes. She is, as the kids sing of themselves in the closing song, a miracle. 

Ah, the closing song, all about the value of rebellion and how small people, when they pull together, can be powerful: Trunchbull even gets de-statued, just to bring that theme right up to date. But all the songs!

Not to detract from anyone else’s good work, but Minchin’s spiky, precise numbers, their lyrics clear and lacerating even in the mass choruses, are key to Matilda’s enduring magic. As a scripted adaptation of Dahl’s story, Matilda in both its stage and screen versions would be poignant, pointed and fun. But with Minchin’s lyric lines as arabesques around the scenes, the constant surprises in his rhyming and the explosions of orchestration that give the big numbers such impact, it is something else. Does Tim Minchin have so many brains they’re coming out of the ends of his fingers? Anything seems possible.

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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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