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Razzle Dazzle

The Sanosafe Troupe Spectacular is the biggest underage dance competition in Australia. Following a documentary crew, audiences are taken into two dance studios to witness the cut and thrust of pre-teen dancing. Miss Elizabeth (Jane Hall) is the iron fisted curator of an award winning studio who leaves nothing to chance to better her main rival, Mr Jonathon (Ben Miller). Mr Jonathan uses his young toe tappers as a tool to further his radical agenda becoming famous for insightful works such as ‘The Kyoto Protocol Shuffle’.
Razzle Dazzle’s success lies in its ability to get under the skin of some very unlikeable people. From pushy stage mothers like champagne sipping Justine (Kerry Armstrong) to the dance directors, how the young girls can withstand all that to actually participate in the grand final is amazing. The satire is delivered in cynical brush strokes, painting a bleak picture of people who generally have empty lives. Ben Miller as Mr Jonathon is a revelation, with his idealism effectively squeezing the entertainment factor out of the dance routines - something which reflects the mindset of certain entertainers these days who feel it necessary to ‘deliver a message’.
The ghastliness of the dancers’ mothers is cringe inducing, with one of them - Barbara (Denise Roberts) - only fostering children who show ‘good rhythm and movement’. The selfishness of all involved adds to the horror to the reality that this actually happens. Despite these somewhat disturbing elements, the film is quite funny thankfully not afraid to really go for the jugular in its targets.
The actors seem to have a fine time with their shallow roles. Despite Ben Miller having a major role, this is primarily a female dominated film with the actresses showing off their dance witches with relish. The costuming and dance numbers are well developed as expected, with an appearance by a group of dancers dressed up as members of KISS upping the kitsch factor considerably. The ‘mockumentary style’ used works reasonably well, although at times it becomes ‘a film’ and not an actual documentary as it should have done - leading to the actors delivering a performance rather than being ordinary people in front of a camera.
This is a consistently enjoyable film driving along at a good pace. With the pre-teen dance competitions being big business in America, it can only be hoped that it doesn’t get any worse here as the ones in Razzle Dazzle are bad enough!
Rating out of 10: 7
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Becoming Jane

Jane Austen’s books have beguiled generations of readers for over two centuries.  The sweeping romances featuring her dashing characters have provided perfect fodder for several movie adaptations.  Becoming Jane depicts how she received the inspiration for such works, showing her struggle for romance amidst the strictures of late 18th Century conformity.
Anne Hathaway makes for an appealing Jane, a free spirit who attempts to rebel against the social mores of her era.  When she meets equally spirited Thomas Lefroy, played by the charming James McAvoy, the duo find they compliment each other’s strong personalities.  The romance is played out against the disapproval of her family who want her to marry someone who can provide her with financial security rather than the emotional that she craves.
Supported by a wonderful cast of British thespians, the film certainly has a sumptuous look that befits any Austen influenced story.  The costumes and set design expertly brings out the elegant romance of her world.  With a cast that includes Maggie Smith, James Cromwell and the late Ian Richardson, the cast delivers the Austen-style prose in fine tones, providing a fitting end to Ian Richardson’s career as he died shortly after completion.
Despite a strong story and great acting, the film falters in its pacing.  Certain moments seem to be repeated, with the somewhat heavy handed direction by Julian Jarrold prolonging the story.  Tighter editing would have made this an interesting insight into Austen’s world, but what’s left seems to drag the drama out.  Another question is as to whether events actually happened as portrayed.  Whilst it would be impossible to know the exact gospel truth of Austens’ life, particular moments seem conveniently placed and doesn’t ring as true as it should have.
Whether the facts have been altered or not, what’s on display is a charming tale that doesn’t descend into mawkish sweetness as some British movies tend to do.  The fact that Austen’s tales still live on is a testament to the written word and images of the rolling hills and romance that can be seen here.
Rating out of 10:  7
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