Category Archives: Film & TV

Series Review, Pili Pala, S4C by Gareth Williams

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

It is a rare but pleasant site to see North Wales used as the setting for TV drama. The mountains of Snowdonia offered a bleak and stunning backdrop to last year’s hit Hidden. Now, it is Conwy’s green and rugged coast that provides the scenery for Pili Pala. Translated as ‘Butterfly’, this four-part series stars Sian-Reese Williams as Sara Morris, senior consultant in a Fetal Medicine Department. When she agrees to take on her pregnant friend Elin (Fflur Medi Owen) as a patient, it is against the advice of colleagues. Their concern appears to be warranted when it becomes clear that there is a problem with her baby’s growth, resulting in both Sara and Elin facing some difficult decisions that will have significant repercussions.

Sian Reese-Williams (Sara)

Pila Pala may be a slow burner, but it is worth sticking with it. Unlike Keeping Faith, where the drama unfolds out of extraordinary circumstances, here it gradually builds out of the ordinary, the everyday. The first episode may feel slightly pedestrian in pace and tone. However, as the characters make choices in the various moments of their daily lives, it is the consequences that come with them that make this a progressively engaging narrative. In particular, I appreciated the writer Phil Rowlands’ exploration of the personal and professional blurring, on both an ethical and human level, and the interactions, pressures and problems that arise as a result.

It is just a shame that his story was restricted to a mini-series. Its steady build-up of tension and the strains and stresses that are placed on the characters lead to so many different and fascinating strands being produced. Yet they all feel as if they are required to suddenly be tied up in the final episode. Reese-Williams’ performance was beginning to show signs of Eve Myles-like frustration with the situation that her character finds herself in. Instead of being given the space and time to fully explore the ramifications and resultant emotions however, it appeared that (production? budget?) constraints cut short what should have ideally been a 6-8 episode run. It warranted as much. The characters certainly had so much more to give.

Fflur Medi Owen (Elin)

Despite its all-too-brief stint, Pili Pala achieves much. It deals with what might be considered a controversial issue with unashamed ease. It is unafraid to show and explore the impact of high-risk decisions on individuals and their relationships. Sian Reese-Williams is as composed and accomplished as ever. It is refreshing to see Owen Arwyn (Jac) occupy a more sensitive role than the ‘hard man’ we are used to seeing him play. Fflur Medi Owen brings a wealth of nuance and subtlety to Elin. There is certainly nothing wrong with the performances here, only that they haven’t been allowed to flex their acting muscles to their full potential. The momentum that was crafted so brilliantly through the first three episodes seemed to come unstuck in the fourth. Perhaps a second series would solve this. I’m unsure. But S4C must be commended for continuing to invest in original drama. Pili Pala is not a disappointment by any means.

Click here to watch the full series.

gareth

Review And she, Bonnie and The Bonnettes by eva marloes

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

The perfect antidote to autumn blues, And She is a fun and moving exploration of our relationship with our mothers. It is a play, a musical, and comedy gig. Dressed in bright orange costumes, the talented trio Hattie Eason, Rebecca Glendenning and Cameron Sharp, re-enact the conversations they had and have with their mothers. They do so by intersecting dialogues, monologues, and pieces of life.  

The audience eavesdrops on the trio’s conversations with their mothers, their memories, their misunderstandings and excuses, and their drunken singing. And She strikes the right balance of comedy and drama. The mothers have gone through bad marriages, breast cancer, alienation and reconciliation with their child, have given up work to look after their children and care for grandma, and have dared wear sexy lingerie with a curvy body on stage. These mothers are great and ordinary. And She is distilled everyday life.  

The show is sophisticated without pretension; yet it is let down by songs that never really take off. The move from comedy to drama could be helped by a change in colours in terms of costumes and lights. This would help accentuate the more emotional parts. Bonnie and The Bonnettes celebrate their mothers in style and remind us that family relationships cannot and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Off to call mum.

Lenny Henry in Conversation : Preview By Hannah Goslin

One of the many British Kings of Comedy – I will be attending the Autobiography release and talk by the one and only Sir Lenny Henry at The Southbank Centre.

Notable for his Stand Up, Sketches, and his huge influence in Comic Relief, we will be listening to him, interviewed by British Comedian, Romesh Ranganathan talk about his life in his own words.

With Ranganathan also on stage, it looks to be a night of complete hilarity!

Review to follow!

Lenny Henry in Conversation

SouthBank Centre

30th September 2019

Photo Credit – Jack Lawson

Top Tunes with Katherine Chandler

Hi Katherine, great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I’m a writer that works mainly in theatre and I’ve done a bit of film and TV and radio.

I love words and people and questioning things so I think being a writer is probably where I always would have ended up. I’m not from a theatre/arts background at all, I left school  before A levels like all my friends. I was more or less always working from leaving school. Me and my friend worked for her Dad on the markets and street trading for a while and I was a waitress for different places. I did a stint on the breakfast shift in the Angel Hotel, Cardiff and also a few years in the Masonic hall for the Masons. When I didn’t have work I signed on and I was put on a YTS scheme that was for kids that had left school like me without qualifications. I happened to be sent to the Sherman Theatre , Cardiff and it changed everything for me.

The exterior of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff in the 1980’s

I was in the finance and admin dept but loved being around the shows. Phil Clark who was Artistic Director at that time (Phil is the Director of a play I wrote ‘Peggy’s Song’ by National Theatre Wales which is about to go on tour) encouraged us all to go and see whatever was on. It was the late eighties, the time of Willy Russell and John Godber, perfect plays for someone like me who never went to theatre. I just loved it!

I worked at the Sherman for six years, I was always hanging around the production office and started volunteering to do stuff on the shows. So I chaperoned a bit and shadowed stage management and helped out on the Sherman Youth Theatre that sort of thing. When I was twenty-four I applied to Welsh College to do the Stage Management course, I didn’t have any qualifications so I really was surprised when I got on. I stage managed for a bit and then when I had kids I started writing. I had a very tough few years personally in my twenties and early thirties and it really changed the way I looked at life. I decided not to waste any more time, I wanted to be a writer and so that’s what I did.

I’ve never done any kind of writing course but I think just being around performance for all of those years gave me a sense of how to write for theatre. I believe that anyone can write a play, that’s what I love about script writing, I wish more people from backgrounds like mine would give it a go, it’s been a real joy for me to be able to do something that I love.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

At the moment I’m listening to James Brown and Aretha Franklin. I have to choose some songs for Peggy’s Song All the music used in Peggy’s Song is by artists who have died. Ghosts that stay with us.

When I write I more often than not have music attached to the play, which the director may or may not choose to use. Before it Rains was The Super Furry Animals, Bird was Curtis Mayfield, Thick as Thieves was Nina Simone and Lose Yourself was The Commodores. Sometimes when the show has finished it takes a while before you can go back to those songs because you are transported back to the play.

Before It Rains, Bird, Thick as Thieves, Lose Yourself.

Peggy’s Song has lots of music in it because the main character Danny played by Christian Patterson is a hospital DJ.

Christian Patterson in the role of Danny, Peggy’s Song by National Theatre Wales

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 

Five is so difficult but I think it’s going to come down to memories for me.

  1. Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder

It’s a masterpiece. Everything about it, the production, the lyrics, the groove, the voice.

I could have chosen a few of his albums because his work from the early seventies is genius, he’s up there with the Beatles for me but this is the album.

I don’t talk a lot about losing my sons but an interesting thing happened and this album leads me to that. In the period around and a few years after they died I really wasn’t able to listen to a lot of music. I think probably because you’re too raw and music gets into you. You put a hard shell around you, I think so you’re able to function and music was too manipulating. This was one of the only albums I listened to during that time. I remember playing it in the car a lot when my daughter was little, driving her around to different clubs and singing ‘Knocks Me off my Feet’ to her. It always makes me think of the kids being little and precious times with them and Guy. It’s a sunny day, windows open, album. Love and happiness.

2. Saturday Night Fever – The Motion Picture Soundtrack

Just because it takes me back to my childhood. Family parties, Christmases’, Discos, A Benidorm holiday in 1979, my Dad, my Uncle, my sister, my cousins. We’re a family that likes to have a good time. You could rent us for a disco or a wedding to fill your dance floor to this album.

I love Disco. Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic, Chaka Khan, Odyssey. I have most of our disco albums from the seventies that I still play. I also love the Bee Gees but ‘If I Can’t Have You’, Yvonne Elliman is the song for me from this album, her voice is so full of full of heartbreak and drama.

3. Setting Sons – The Jam

The Jam and Paul Weller could have taken three of the five albums for me. I love Dig the New Breed, Sound Effects and Wild Wood but I keep coming back to Setting Sons.

I used ‘Thick as Thieves’ as a title for a play; it’s one of my favourite songs. Paul Weller is a master lyricist. We really felt he was speaking for us as teenagers. I think there’s a wave of working class kids who are now in their forties and fifties that hold Paul Weller in the highest regard, it’s like a club we all belong to. This album takes me back to my early teens, there was a mini mod revival. All the boys were wearing stay press trousers and Harringtons and Fred Perrys and Y cardies. Our youth club did a Thursday night disco and it was all The Jam or The Specials, The Selector or The Beat. Me and my friends Cath, Sheenagh and Lisa would go to the Northern Soul disco in the Transport Club in Grangetown on a Saturday. My love for Motown and Soul comes from that time and it’s the music I still listen to the most.

4. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin

I mean. If I wanted to lose myself this is where I’d go. Perfection. ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’ is the song for me from this one. Such a sassy song. She’s not asking him to do right by her, she’s telling him. I love it.

5. An Eighties Hits Compilation

I can’t decide the final one so I’m going for an eighties compilation record that has New Order, Depeche Mode, Human League, Yazoo, The Police, Wham, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, The Style Council, George Michael, Paul Young, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Madonna, Bananarama, Scritti Polliti, The Cure, Aztec Camera, Tears for Fears, Spandau Ballet, REM, Luther Vandross, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Cyndi Lauper, Crowded House, Talking Heads, Tracey Chapman, Anita Baker and many, many more.

I wanted an eighties album. It was going to be Prince, Purple Rain or George Michael, Faith but then there’s Human League Dare and and and – so I’ve gone for a compilation. A big one with loads of songs on. Full of memories.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

It has to be ‘Knocks Me Off My Feet’ Stevie Wonder. My kids and Guy are Love and happiness for me and that’s also what this song is.

Many thanks for your time 

Tickets for the tour of Peggy’s Song produced by National Theatre Wales are available to book below.

Riverfront Newport – 25 September, 7.45pm BOOK NOW

Pontardawe Arts Centre – 26 September, 7.30pm & 27 September, 1pm & 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon – 1 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl – 2 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Hafren, Newtown – 3 October, 7.45pm BOOK NOW

Taliesin Arts Centre,  Swansea – 4 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Theatr Richard Burton, Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff – 5 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Borough Theatre, Abergavenny – 7 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Blackwood Miners Institute – 8 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Torch Theatre, Milford Haven – 9 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Ffwrnes, Llanelli – 10 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Lyric, Carmarthen – 11 October, 7.30pm BOOK NOW

Review midsomar by Jonathan Evans

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

One of the worst movies last years was Hereditary, though it generated a lot of buzz and gathered quite a bit of critical acclaim it fell flat with this critic. To me, it was indulgence in the frankly unpleasant and awkward, not the scary, and meandered around until it gave up on the plot and simply ended, leaving nothing but ash in my mouth. But it was a success so writer-director Ari Aster is back and with probably even more creative freedom and budget.

When the movie opens, it is, actually, pretty good! We see a young woman named Dani, who is nervously scouring her e-mails, she’s conversing with someone who doesn’t sound right. She phones her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) that talking with his other friends about how he doesn’t want to deal with her anymore, but he still takes her calls and essentially gives support through autopilot. We learn that Dani is conversing with her sister who has been suffering from mental health issues and these specific words she’s been using make her nervous, she’s stopped e-mailing back. Dani calls the police and the go and investigate but its too late, her sister has killed her and their parents. This scene is unnerving, atmospheric, efficiently establishes much about the characters and their relationships and is genuinely scary. Then the rest of the movie happens.

We cut to six months later and Dani and Christian are still together, really because now would be a terrible time to break up with Dani being very fragile. It’s learned that Christian is planning on going abroad to Switzerland to visit their friend Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home village and also write their thesis on the place and their culture. The other friends are Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark (Will Poulter). Out of comfort Christian invites Dani along but assures the boy’s shes not really coming, she comes!

But as soon as they arrive in the town the movie nosedives and it never stops, it just keeps going and when it hits rock bottom it just keeps going.

Florence Pugh made a name for herself with the Park Chan Wook mini-series Little Drummer Girl, then went on to impress further in the Wrestling movie Fighting with my Family. Here is a project where she really gets to demonstrate what a talent she is, she has to convey complete polar opposites of emotions to the extreme and a whole bunch of other shades in between.

I’ll give credit where credit is due this one starts on solid ground and that is used to push the characters and the narrative further going into the movie, but once we get to the place it all starts to unravel. You don’t know where the plot is going and you really start to not care as it goes on and on because it has all just become a series of weirdness and unpleasantness and indulgence. When the movie finally ended I was exhausted and one of the last images they present us with is something I suspect that the filmmakers believed was scary but was frankly hilarious, I would have been laughing except I was just too damn tired of being here.

One of the great crimes of the movie is its cinematography and the unique accomplishment of the color correction. These are meticulously composed shots, with imagery that sticks in your mind, this will probably go on to be a very iconic movie. Color grading is a process where they take the raw footage and it is processed so that it either looks more saturated, less saturated, deeper blacks, etc. What they’ve done here is make the image look like an old pastel painting. It has this grainy, flat, but also vivid look to it that I haven’t seen in a movie ever. Such effort and panache, wasted on this dismal project.

I have never hated the experience but been so in awe over the craftmanship in a movie. The sounds, the images, the performances, but it all goes to waste on an experience that I think means something but looses its meaning in its own indulgence and style. I guess this is better than Hereditary but also weaker. Just another journey of draining and unpleasantness.

Review Brightburn by Jonathan Evans

1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

A while after seeing Man of Steel and making very clear my dislike for it one of my friends posed this question for me “Is it that this is a bad movie or just that this is a bad Superman movie?” Interesting question, could it be that I’d be easier on the movie if it wasn’t meant to represent my favorite character? Well it does have Supermans name in it and the filmmakers knew that, so either way no point dwelling too much on that. But now here is Brightburn which is clearly taking the concept of the Superman origin story but pushing it through a horror filter.

Taking the concept but not having it directly be the exact thing gives the creatives the freedom to twist, reinvent and add any kind of layer over it they wish. Creatively I’m sure that’s a great luxury and could absolutely lend itself to some good stuff. But lets stay focused, we see a kindly young couple of the Breyer’s, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), they have a farm and are very much in love and want to start a family, it just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for them, until one night they hear a loud crash outside and go to investigate, it leads them to the smoking crater, then cuts to years later and they are now parents of a young boy (any of this sounding familiar?).

The boy’s name is Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), he’s a shy kid, that likes to draw and gets bullied at school. He’s not what you would call the most sociable, but seems gentle and nice, except for one night when he seems compelled to go into the barn and something underneath is calling him. He also realizes that he has super strength, invulnerability, can fly and laser eyes (know of anyone else with those powers?). Underneath the barn is the pod that he arrived in years ago and it seems to send a message into his head. From here on he knits himself a red mask that resembles a gas-mask, dawns a red cape embraces the use of his super abilities.

From here on it is a series of him talking down each person that annoys him in extremely brutal and quite frankly fetishized ways. Not just due to the fact that the murderer has superpowers but that they dwell on all the gory elements we are just left to watch a series of brutal murders with the aid of superpowers

Everyone here is a very good actor, they sell the moments of leisurely downtime and humor and excel when they need to be scared. When Brandon toys with them like a cat with a mouse they are so worried about their lives and it shows. I’ve said it before but in an action movie you can have someone face down an insane threat and look cool as a cucumber doing it, but in a horror movie we need to feel the fear and one way you do that is to cleary show that the characters themselves are afraid.

There is the old saying “All power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” but I prefer how Robert Caro put it “What I believe is always true about power is that it always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, then you see what the guy always wanted to do.” But maybe this is adding too much, the point is that this movie doesn’t really have any of this in mind, is it that Brandon was always a psychopath? Did the message from his ship rewire his brain to make him perform these horrendous acts? I’m not sure and I’m also sure neither are the filmmakers. I just feel like they wanted to take the concept of a character that embodies optimism and hope and put their own, mean spirited bleak icing over it.

Ultimately this is a movie without a soul and means nothing. Is about a kid who just seems to be a bad seed and because he is of a species that has superpowers can inflict his sadistic tendencies upon helpless humans, or a case of a bad seed, or the corrupting ability of power? It says nothing about why someone would be like this, about the corrupting element of power or the redemptive or limits of parental love. It wants to take a concept about pure goodness and put it own, cynical, malicious spin on it and I have, frankly, no patience or appetite for it.

Brush up your Shakespeare by Ann Davies

Forget revision, intense study (I remember those days well) Forget the “clipped” British film version or the American theme portrayed on Venice Beach – (seemed strange with those costumes and a “Californian Dreaming” background, unless of course, you are an ardent fan of Leonardo DiCaprio). This was a thoughtful retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic play “Romeo and Juliet” directed by Matthew J. Bool and skilfully performed by Avant Cymru.

Matthew J. Bool, Director

The Amphitheatre at Penrhys – built over 20 years ago as a Project by world wide students – became the 21st Century Globe Theatre as the area sparkled like a magnificent gem linking an intricate necklace from its vantage point on high above the two Rhondda Valleys

There was a murmur of anticipation hanging in the air; we were all seated on the amphitheatre stone steps, almost like elephants sitting on top of lollipop sticks. Sunhats, sun cream, drinks and cushions were necessities. Bird song and traffic could be heard in the far distance, then silence as we were all transported to our very own Verona high in the mountains of the county of Glamorganshire. Guitar music and song emanated from a trio of cast members as the Chorus/Nurse introduced us to the famous story.

The story is as of old, boy meets girl, they fall instantly in love but they are from opposite sides in an age old vendetta between the two families. They find themselves as star crossed lovers, marry secretly, Juliet discovers that her parents have arranged a marriage. There are fights and Romeo’s friend Mercutio is killed by Tybalt (who through the couple’s marriage is now a kinsman of Romeo). Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished from Verona.

A desperate plan is needed; Friar Laurence provides Juliet with an herbal draught which will induce a “deathly” sleep. He has promised to notify Romeo of this scheme. Juliet will awake and be reunited with Romeo and all will be well. Alas the message goes undelivered. Romeo, fearing the worst buys a phial of poison which he imbibes on finding Juliet in the Capulet Family Vault. Juliet wakes to find her beloved dead, a last kiss and using Romeo’s dagger she kills herself. The families are reunited in their sorrow.

Freyja Duggan as Benvolio was like a happy sprite, full of mischief and mayhem. Matthew J. Bool as Mercutio was like a supercharged Jack in the box, in turn volatile, serious and sensitive to the varying moods Romeo was in. As friends of Romeo, they try to lift his spirits believing that he is not in love with his present amour, Rosaline, just besotted. On a whim Romeo decides to gate-crash the Capulet Family Masked Ball thus lighting the touch paper in this conflict. Douglas Guy plays the romantic Romeo who, on meeting Juliet, played by Gabrielle Williams, believing her to be pure, dreamlike with her beautiful hair flowing like a waterfall, he loses all senses; their combined emotions wobble like a blancmange in an earthquake. There is no denying the ignition of passion, they do not realise how the situation will implode – they only see each other.

Jamie Berry, who plays Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, is steadfast and strong in his role pursuing the family feud. Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt, as a result of which Tybalt mortally wounds Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. Romeo ends up killing Tybalt for which he is sentenced to banishment from Verona. Romeo seeks the counsel of his mentor, Friar Lawrence played by Eleri Bowden who is busy as a bee reporting everything via an IPad. A secret marriage ceremony is performed little realising that an arranged marriage has been organised by Juliet’s parents to Paris, a cousin of the Prince of Verona. Juliet is in worse despair as Friar Laurence comes up with the desperate plan to fake her death.

Juliet’s Nurse, played by Menna Sian Rogers is a delight; a Valleys Mam/a “Bopa” (neighbour, not related but still an Aunt that would look out or after the children) a knot of gossip, almost supplying a comedic wordplay to the tragedy as it unfolds.

The act is set, Juliet is found presumed dead the following morning; taken to the Capulet Vault to lie in state. The uncompromising Lord Capulet, played by Shane Anderson and the fair Lady Capulet played by Rachel Pedley crumble in their anguish. Romeo, learning of Juliet’s “demise” buys himself a phial of poison for his life is nothing without her, he comes to the Vault closely followed by Paris, played by Jack Wyn White, they cannot console each other, the stakes are too high, there is a fight and Romeo kills Paris. In his grief, Romeo imbibes the poison and lies down beside Juliet.  Juliet awakes to find her beloved dead; her final act is to kiss Romeo and uses his dagger to kill herself.

It was a wordy and worthy adaption of the play. We have all grown up in the time of HRH Elizabeth II with social media fuelling the age of selfies and such emoji’s making their impact on lives.

This was what it would have been like in the reign of Elizabeth I, a play performed in the round, people eating conversing as the story enfolds. To think of it as a blank page, like a story book awaiting a tale to tell. It brought Shakespeare to life and we were all part of it. The staged fights were expertly choreographed by Jamie Berry – and when he was mortally wounded we wondered what happened to him as he disappeared into the “other valley”. We were concerned about the actors playing the main roles as they expired hoping that the sun wouldn’t cause more harm to their fatality!

We were part of it all, as a scene that has been repeated over the years with barriers such as the Berlin Wall separating East from West, the Gaza Strip. Love stories amidst the differences of creed, colour and religion.

Small sadnesses, great tragedies link us all in love. Never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo

“No legacy is as rich as honesty” – Shakespeare.

Critic Ann Davies with Director Matthew J. Bool.

A family trip to see Annie at the WMC with Tempo Time Credits by Rhian Gregory

On my Facebook newsfeed , a post from Tempo Time Credits page caught my eye. It was offering tickets to see Annie, in exchange for Time Credits.

When musical theatre offers come up with Time Credits they usually sell out super fast.

We were in the car on our way to Bristol Zoo to celebrate my partner and our son’s birthday. I thought let’s try see if I can get any! It took about 40 minutes to get through on the phone, my hopes were slowly fading. They offered 3 different days, I could only do the Bank Holiday Monday evening as my partner was working the other days. I got 3 tickets including a wheelchair space, carer ticket through the HYNT scheme and another seat. This cost me 4 time credits. (2 Time Credits per ticket, but with the HYNT scheme the carer is free).

I wasn’t sure at first who would go, myself my mum and dad (it was my dad’s birthday that day too), or myself and oldest two children. I firstly offered them to my parents. I felt they deserved a treat, and that it was my dads birthday. Cody had been to see Madagascar the musical earlier in the month, and Cerys went to see The Little Mermaid with her nan and cousin. They kindly declined and wanted Cody and Cerys to have them to enjoy.

Sunny warm Bank Holiday Monday came. May I emphasise sunny and warm, as most bank holidays are cold, windy and wet in Wales.

It was a super busy day for us all. Cerys attended her extra gymnastics session in the morning. They were celebrating their one year anniversary being open.

Chris’ sister managed to get us tickets for the Chepstow Racecourse Family Fun Day, so we went along and met up together.

From here we called in to see my dad and sang happy birthday. I would have liked longer there, was a very short visit.

Then off we went to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. My partner Chris dropped us off and looked after our youngest, while Cody, Cerys and I went to watch Annie.

If you are visiting the Wales Millennium Centre, or Cardiff Bay in general, there are a few places you can park. A blue badge holder can pay to park backstage, on site at the Millennium Centre. Or anyone can pay to park at the Red Dragon Centre close by. If you spend money (over £5 I believe) in any of the places at the red dragon centre, parking is free.

There is a multi storey car park close by too. I’m unsure of the prices I’ve never used it. Very slightly further away, a lovely little walk taking in some of the sites, is the Mermaid Quay 2 floor car park, and a pay and display car park near the St David’s Hotel and Spa.

My son likes to use the toilets and go straight up to our seats, even if the doors haven’t been opened to go in yet. We were outside the theatre doors an hour early, first in line! Then he asks every 2 minutes what the time is and how long is it until the open the doors and how many minutes for the show to start. I believe this is part of him, his additional needs. Still no diagnoses for him. (I know a lot of children do ask what time is it and how long etc many times, but this for Cody is different. He appears to get overly anxious, and become more unsettled if the time isn’t told and seen. I was probably asked over 20 times at least.) Cody decided he wanted to wear ear protection headphones out this evening, for the journey here and for the performance. He doesn’t always use them, only occasionally when he feels he needs to. I noticed he was tapping on the wooden side of the balcony and rubbing his hands against it to make a squeaky sound.

I felt like including this in my blog post today, because my eldest does have additional needs and requires that extra support. I’ve mentioned it a little before in my blog, in the post called ‘is it the A word?’ These behaviours stood out to me during our evening. and I mindfully notice this more and more.

We hadn’t had tea, so we were snacking on buffet style foods while waiting, mini sausages, savoury eggs and strawberry lace. What a selection!

A little bell sounded, half an hour before the start time of 7.30. Cody jumped up and down, shouting mum it’s time, get your tickets out. He ran after the usher going to open the doors. I haven’t really mentioned Cerys in this. But she was with me too. She’s quieter and more mellow. Cerys was taking it in, asking about Annie, saying she had seen the modern film version and clips of the older Annie musical film. Standing by my side, walking nicely as we go in.

A bit of background about the Broadway Annie the Musical. It was put together by a player writer named Thomas Meehan who wrote the book, music Charles Strouse and lyrics Martin Charnin. It was originally based on a comic strip called Little Orphan Annie created by Harold Gray.

Annie the musical is about a little orphan girl called Annie, who lives in Miss Hannigan children’s home. A billionaire (Mr Warbucks) invites an orphan (Annie) to come stay with him for Christmas, his love grows for Annie as a daughter and he wants to adopt her. Annie clings on to hope of finding her real parents and Mr Warbucks tries to help her. Miss Hannigan makes a plan with her brother and his girlfriend, to pretend to be her parents in order to get the money reward. They are caught out and arrested. Annie finds out her real parents are no longer alive, and Mr Warbucks adopts her.

I’m always quite contented and happy with the wheelchair space at the WMC (Wales Millennium Centre). We have always had seats in the front on the middle stalls. It gives a good view and plenty of leg space, apart from when the ice cream and merchandise cart comes around, which is very close, and lots of people nearly pile on top of you, but I can put up with that for a few minutes. I’m usually in a good mood at this stage, with being blown away with how good the first half of the show has been.

That certainly was the case with Annie. The start of the musical began in the dorm of the children’s home, the orphaned girls in their bed waking up to Molly having a bad dream and singing the first song “Maybe” followed by Miss Hannigan first entrance and then the song “It’s the Hard Knock Life”.

I was impressed by the talent of the children straight away. I wasn’t sure what to make of Miss Hannigan at this point but in a later scene with her brother and his girlfriend, their trio performance was fantastic. How they interacted on stage with their superb singing and choreographed dancing in the song “Easy Street” and “Easy Street reprise”, absolutely brilliant! They seemed to just click perfectly!

Another of my favourite moments of the musical was “I Think I’m Going to Like it Here” and “N.Y.C”. It reminded me of that ‘classic’ musical feel I get from the older musicals with the likes of Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. The variety of different types of dance including tap was wonderful to see.

My little girl said to me, before the end of the first act, can we come back and see it again mum, I really like it.

Annie, is a vibrant family musical with catchy tunes and a talented mixed cast of children and adults.

The Time Credit opportunity to pay for tickets, gave us this chance to experience and thoroughly enjoy it.

When we came out of the main auditorium, and back down into the main foyer, the Luke Jerram artwork called Gaia, planet Earth looked spectacular. It’s there from July 30th – September 1st.

When we previously saw it during another visit in day time, my children laid down underneath mesmerised by it.

Annie plays at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 31st of August.

Review Booksmart by Jonathan Evans

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

From its setup and concept, Booksmart could easily be just another teen movie where shenanigans ensue and jokes are sprinkled throughout and it’s either pretty funny or a dud. But through a tightly written script, actors that have great timing and nuance and a director that knows what they’re doing and brings a few bold choices to the table it is not only very funny but one of the best movies of this year!

Opening the movie is a girl sitting in her room, in a meditating pose and listening to a motivating track, the voice tells her to believe in herself, tackle all problems in the way of her goals and to all the people that look down on her “Fuck those fucking fuckers!” we also see that her room is decorated with an assortment of ribbons, medals, and inspirational women, this is Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and this tells us almost everything we need to know about her character. Pulling up outside her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), the two greet and break into dance over a track on the radio and they tell each other that they’ve missed one another even though they saw each other yesterday. This tells us everything we need to know about their friendship.

When they get to school it is established that it’s the last day of the school year, they are about to graduate to college, and both girls are very invested in extra curricular activities. The other students are more interested in the big party that will be happening tonight as they have for most of the year. during an encounter in the bathroom where Molly flaunts her getting into Yale to the popular girl (Molly Gordon) where she learns that she will also be going to Yale and the other students that she’s looked down on are all going on to good schools.

So it is the night before graduation, Molly is shook with the realization that they didn’t have to make a choice between school and having a social life that she dedicates herself to the idea that her and Amy will be attending the big party and have fun, experience and memories before entering college.

So this is a pretty standard setup for a teen comedy. We have youths, we have a party that lends itself to the very likely possibility of something crazy happening as well as characters that want something crazy to happen. Indeed crazy things do happen and their journey to the big party is anything but smooth, but it is the fact that all the jokes themselves are funny and not predictable that make this familure road seem refreshing.

When it comes to crime movies, or mysteries, or action movies it’s a simpler thing to make the story tight. Every character and element must serve a function, like the old phrase “Never introduce a gun in Act 1 if you’re not going to fire it by Act 3.” However comedy is actually a completely different beast, it is allowed to throw in all kinds of meaningless bells and whistles for the sake of it, there can be a moment or a character that comes in briefly and never makes a return and as long as we laugh I doubt anyone would really cry fowl about it. This, however, is both tightly woven and very funny, the characters hobbies, their wild actions, things that are said in passing come back and pay-off later down the road and they are all funny. This has set a dangerously high bar for comedy with not excess fat.

Filling the directing chair is Olivia Wilde. An accomplished actor in her own right now she helms her own project. Usually, when actors take up duties on the other side of the camera their focus goes to the actors and their performances. She definitely spends time with her actors, honing their performances but she has brought a keen visual flair to this project. She has experience shooting music videoes which was most likely the biggest help. Many of the jokes play out for their visuals, there are strong, bold lighting choices and there are a few times when she lets the story play out in a purely visual way. It also comes with one of the most unique and memorable drug trip-out scene you’ll see in a movie for a while.

There’s a great use of music in the movie. Much of the songs are “Gangsta Rap” which is about seeming bigtime and bragging about all your accomplishments and worldly possetions. Whenver the girls are in their true element it kick in but they are not doping the actthat would most likely be associated with the music e.g. going into a library to study. It is the knowing disconnect but filmming it like its legitimate that makes it funny. The score adds the the over-the-top overblown ego of these characters and situations. Later on in the movie there is a more tender score to even out the bombosity.

All these laughs and shock and colors are fun and everything but unless it all means something then the movie would just be like sugar, enoyable while your having it but the sensation quickly fades away. Underneath all the swearing, crazy acts and punchlines is a story about two best friends whos lives are about to change forever and just because your outside of the normal in your school life that doesnt make you better. There’s a tender, vry honest heart beating at the center of this movie and that’s what will stick with you after you see it and keep you coming back.

From it’s vivid characters that represent some form of insecurity/stereotype, to it’s basic setup that becomes on epic quest, to generous visual flourishes and a rock solid script for all this to be built upon, Booksmart is one of this years and a few other years best comedies.

Review Godzilla: king of monsters by Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Well, this is an interesting franchise that’s been started. Godzilla from 2014 was a very bad movie, however Kong: Skull Island was a cinematic highlight for me, so now we have the sequel to Godzilla that will lead to the two iconic monsters clashing. It does away with Gareth Edwards and brings in Michael Dougherty, how does all this fair?

Our entrance into this movie is a young girl named Maddison (Millie Bobby Brown), whose mother Emma (Vera Farmiga) is a scientist that is studying an enormous larva, suddenly renegade soldiers burst into their facility to awaken or steal the larva, it hatches and Maddison and Emma are taken. Cutting then to Maddison’s father Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) who’s also a scientist (that’s convenient!) is brought in by Monarch, the high-tech organization that specializes in dealing with these giant monsters or kaiju.

Of course, it isn’t long before the main player shows up, Godzilla himself. When you are dealing with one of the most iconic pop culture figures, a cultural landmark and who is essentially a force of nature within your movie you’d better do them justice. He isn’t redesigned from the 2014 version though he has apparently grown a few extra feet making him a nice even four hundred feet high. He has a simple silhouette that makes him instantly distinguishable and when we get close we can see loads of little details that I’m sure the C.G.I. team worked very hard on. He is mostly filmed from low angles and moves very slow adding gravity to him. This is an honorable and appropriate presentation of him.

Along with Godzilla, we are also treated with a few other classic monsters from the lore. We have Mothra who is (as the name would imply) a large moth-like creature who’s always been humanity’s defender, Rodan a giant pterodactyl essentially, and finally, there is Ghidorah Godzillas most popular and staple arch-nemesis, a dragon with three heads and able to breathe lightning.

The focus of this movie is in the right place. We are here for the monsters, they are what are on the poster and who the movie is named after. Really we need the humans to inject some, well humanity and to string along the fights and their actions, maybe even give the good ones a helping hand or a point in the right direction. focus on the monsters, with humans along for the ride.

There are some choices that are made, which I always fail to understand that for you to take a movies subject matter seriously, you need to have predominantly dark colors with a bleaker image throughout. I do understand that an element of Kaiju movies are about dealing with a natural disaster but even then you have a giant lizard that shoots out fire, it is only so serious you can take that before the filmmakers look like the silly one for trying to convince us this is serious. This movie much more earnestly embraces it’s fantastical and overblown concept and gives us vivid colors for each of the main kaiju, Godzilla is blue, Ghidora is yellow and Rhodan is red. This works to make the image onscreen vibrant but also when the monsters clash so do the colors and so you can much more easily register who is who.

Again in the last movie they adopted a documentary feel to the camera work, this isn’t a found footage movie so why they decided to frame these two giant monsters biting and clawing each other in such a low-grade way still strikes me as a poor choice. This movie goes in the opposite direction again, deciding to be very Hollywood with their depictions, they frame the monsters with epic majesty. Low angles and well-composed.

If you are to see this movie see it on the big screen. Every movie should be seen on the big screen, there isn’t a movie that benefits from a smaller screen less sharp and reduced sound, but this is a special case. This movie is about big images and sounds, in order for you to absorb the scale of these mighty creatures and hear all the music and sound effects the movie theater is the place to see it. I would hope that’s where you are seeing most of your movies but if not then do and if you plan to see this one, make sure it’s on the biggest screen you can find.

Another nice touch is that they use the classic monster theme’s from the original series of movies. Now if you watched the movie and were unfamiliar with the classic series then it wouldn’t mean anything to you,  that’s ok. But fans always like to be rewarded and recognized in some way and this is a way of doing it. Plus they are just good, distinctive tracks so why not utilize them?

This is not a deep movie. I can’t really tell you what this is about below its surface. Plus there are plot elements that either don’t make any sense or are just left dangling in the wind by the time the movies over. But it is entertaining and it took every bad creative decision from the previous movie, turned left and now we have a much more enjoyable, easier to see movie.

So what we have is a movie that’s the third part of this cinematic franchise and doesn’t require you to see the previous two, these movies are generous with not being heavily continuity focused. It is a great improvement over Godzilla though it lacks the panache and memorabilia of Kong. Though in terms of paying respect and doing justice to these monsters it does indeed do its job. you won’t need to see the previous two movies in this franchise, nor any other Kaiju movie and it could indeed turn you into a fan.