Category Archives: Film & TV

Review My Cousin Rachel by Jonathan Evans


4 Stars4 / 5

 

From the opening we have questions, through the watching of the movie we gain context on those questions and will probably form our own opinion, but no answers. Few can have the gut to attempt such a feat let alone tell their story successfully.

My Cousin Rachel is a Gothic mystery, though not like many, due to it’s ambiguity. It is a tale of treachery, love and how there are secrets that people carry and sometimes you will never know them.

The movie opens with voice over from our main character Philip (Sam Claflin) asking the questions that will drive the movie and establishing his backstory. He grew-up being adopted by his cousin Ambrose and living a very happy life. When he grows up he leaves for Italy, leaving Philip alone. He writes to him, telling him that he’s met a woman named Rachel and have gotten married, through time he also writes that he’s getting ill. One letter arrives though, saying that she is the cause of his illness and he needs help. Philip goes to Italy but when he arrives Ambrose is dead and Rachel has left the estate. Philip is certain that Rachel killed him and vows revenge, however it is said and confirmed in the death certificate that he died of a brain tumour which caused delirium. Philip doesn’t accept it and prepares his home to be a trap for Rachel.

However when she does arrive it is followed by Philips plans not quite going as he intended and her melting away of all expectations. She is pretty, charming and humorous. Philip, who has spent such little company with women before, is no match for such charm. Suddenly he is telling his godfather (Ian Glen) and God-sister (Holiday Grainger) of all her fine qualities.

Rachel Weiz as Rachel is able to display this character as so many things. Instantly full of life and likeable, sad and grieving, but also flash hints of possible sinister intentions. It is in these little moments, that amount to a glance here and there and certain notes in her voice that make you guess that there might indeed be something else.

The movie is all about details, the binding of legal contracts, a phrase a character says, a precious possession that is worth so much. The words and phrases crystallize throughout and after the watching, becoming symbols of the story itself.

If you like you movies to be simple and at the end wrapped up in a nice bow then this is not the movie for you. If you like to be challenged, even a little bit then I believe you’ll be intrigued and drawn into this world of doubt and misconception.

 

Review The Red Turtle by Jonathan Evans

Young Critic Jonathan Evans used Spice Time Credits to access this performance at Chapter cinema. He earned the Time Credits reviewing for Get the Chance.

“What is a man? If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

4 Stars4 / 5
The Red Turtle is the kind of movie that doesn’t get made often. A movie that exists, sure of what it is and never attempts to explain itself.

I couldn’t even tell you what the “target demographic” for the movie is. It’s an animated movie, typically for children, but there’s nothing cute or funny happening, nothing scary or brutal either so not specifically for adults. Could this just be a movie for people?

The plot for this movie is so minimal. Man wakes on a shore and finds that he is stranded on an island. What does he do then? Survive and try to get back to civilisation. He tries building a raft but it keeps getting destroyed by a large red turtle (hence the title). This leads to other things and eventually he is joined by a woman and then a son comes along.

This movie exists without any spoken words of dialogue, only movements and images. The lead gives off the occasional huff and puff and a scream here and there, but no full words. This means that the visuals have to ring with absolute clarity, whatever the Man is doing or where he is has to be immediately obvious. Without the dialogue it must fall on the sound and music to keep us engaged on the audio level. Every swish of the waves, footsteps on sand or rock is perfectly clear and adjusted to the right level. Laurent Perez Del Mar delivers an emotional and at other times ethereal score that infuses itself so well with the images onscreen that the two harmonise in the most beautiful way.

The drawing style, particularly with the people, is more European. Like the works of Herge, thick, clear lines with black dots for eyes and vivid colours. The animation is constantly smooth and on-model. It is the backgrounds that have sharpest rendering to them, we are able to see every leaf on the trees and plants that grow on the ground as well as seeing way into the background.

This movie, I admit, a challenge to write for. It is so simple, to experience the product is the most thrilling part but to deeply describe it is indeed the challenge. It simply operates at such a minimal, smooth passe.

Who is this movie for? What was it’s purpose? Well it was beautiful and technically very impressive. But who exactly do I think the marked for it is and how to promote it? But maybe we don’t always need that from this medium that can deliver us so much. Maybe sometimes we are allowed to sit back and see and hear a journey and simply be moved by it.

Review Baywatch by Eloise Stingemore

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Based on the hit TV show of the Nineties, Baywatch became a worldwide phenomenon, serving up sun, semi-naked beauties and very silly storylines. The big screen adaptation starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron is simply two hours of pure entertainment.

Everything about Baywatch the movie is big, brash and bombastic. The action sequences are huge, the soundtrack is awesome, and the people are ludicrously good looking. There is no escaping from the fact that at times the whole move particularly the storyline itself is not only completely ludicrous but also highly unoriginal. Basically Johnson character Mitch find packets of drugs on the beach and throw in a missing city official and unexplained yacht fire, its clear that there’s a larger criminal scheme in play. However, it is the caustic interplay between Mitch and Matt played by Efron who has to earn his place within this beautiful body of red clad lifeguards a much-needed spark of tension.

Praise has to be given to screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift as Baywatch keeps the spirit of the original TV series, which ran from 1989 to 2001, largely intact in it’s porting over many of the original characters. Take the character Mitch being portrayed by Johnson, originated by David Hasselhoff, is the superhero-like, fearless leader of these do-gooder lifeguards. Whereas Kelly Rohrbach character CJ is the classic Baywatch bombshell we would expect, as is Summer played by Alexander Daddario, although the film sells her somewhat as the girl next door. Ilfenesh Hadera character, Stephanie, is simply depicted as being nothing more than Mitch’s right-hand woman. Whereas Zac Efron character Matt Brody with his cocky and brash attitude simply throws the group’s professional camaraderie into the loop, as he needs to learn a thing or two about being a team player.

Baywatch is ridiculously entertaining especially each time Mitch gives calls Matt the name of another boy band, however, it is Johnson delivery that cracks like a whip ensure the joke stays fresh. It may not stand the test of time well, as long as your not expecting to see the next best picture winner it is a perfectly acceptable junk food film. You may feel guilty watching it, let alone never thought that in a million years you say the words “I’m going to see Baywatch the movie”, quite simply it is unfiltered escapism.

 

Review Sister Act – Venue Cymru by Karis Clarke

 

4 Stars4 / 5

Click on the link below to listen to an audio review of this production by Karis Clarke.

 

This was my first outing to Venue Cymru and I wasn’t disappointed. Set on the stunning North Wales coastline the venue was alive with activity.  The atmosphere was light and expectation high as several audience members dashed around in habits!

Sister Act is the musical comedy based on the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, and, unless you were living in a convent yourself back in 1992,  it is highly unlikely you don’t have some knowledge of the film. (It’s popularity has ensured a regular repeats on TV at least once a year since circa 1995).

The stage version, unlike the film is set in the diva disco era of the 70’s and features original music from  ALAN MENKEN,  and the general feel of the show has  Mowtown vibe that is more than fitting to the outstanding vocal talents of  the lead.

Alexandra Burke in a scene from Sister Act

But it’s not all about the star in this show.  Deloris Van Cartier is a fantastic character full of witty one liners, side ways glances and comical physicality that Alexander Burke pulls off admirably. However the ensemble made the show for me. The combined talents of the supporting cast were superior. Acting, singing dancing and playing a variety of musical instruments on set allowed for a fluidity which you can sometimes loose with  larger productions. However this cast owned the stage, literally, they knew every inch.  Their management of the stage movement is a credit to Revel Horwood’s direction.  The scene changes were flawless and were choreographed to perfection.

Credit should also be given to the set design, the main stay an impressive church interior yet with the cleaver use of lighting and props  it easily faded into the background and made the transition between church,  nightclub, street, police station and back to church with very little effort.

The musicality was, as one of the songs repeats, ‘Fab -U- Lous  Baby,’ unfortunately this was also a slight disappointment for me as none of the songs from the movie were featured. So although the end of the play saw the majority of the full house clapping and on their feet I am sure if “I will follow him” had been played the roof would have lifted. However the original score was witty, befitting and more than enjoyable.  It’s easy to see how Alan Menken has Oscars under his belt.

Stand out moments of the show were any time the “gangsters” featured. (They stole the show a little bit from the nuns).  …..Joe Vetch (playing Eddie the sweaty police officer who saves the day) singing “I could be that guy ……Sister Mary Robert played by Alice Stokoe, who had a stunning voice singing a very Disney esq type song called “The Life I Never Had”…….. and the scene when the Sisters stand together for Deloris.

All in all there was nothing not to like, the show delivered everything thing it promised. One particular moment I found touching was on the final bow Alexandra Burke broke the fourth wall and you saw her thank the audience.  She genuinely seemed to appreciate the standing ovation they received and this shone through as she skipped off stage laughing with co cast not as Deloris but as herself and within those few seconds, in my eyes I saw  true star quality.

So unless you have lead in your feet and no soul in your heart I defy you not to enjoy this 4 stars production. Unfortunately for North Wales the runs ends on May 27th but you can still catch performances around the UK up until the 3rd September check www.sisteractuktour.co.uk for more details.

Starring ALEXANDRA BURKE and Directed and choreographed by Strictly CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD, Set and Costume MATTHEW WRIGHT (based on TheTouchtone Motion Picture “Sister Act”)

Review Snatched by Jonathan Evans

 

2 Stars2 / 5

 

Watching a movie like Snatched isn’t the hardest thing in the world. There are groaners to sit through but then there are others where you get to laugh, so in the end you come out of it unscathed. But how to handle that as a reviewer and need to let people know if it’s worth their time?

Emily (Amy Shumer) is bragging to a costumer that her career will lead her places and her successful boyfriend’s in a band and they’ll be going on a vacation. This is of course not very acceptable and is then fired, what does she care with her boyfriend? Unfortunately when she goes to meet him he breaks-up with her, she’s is boyfriend and job less. So her life sucks now, it’s not helped by the fact that the person that takes the greatest interest in her life is her mother Linda (Goldie Hawn) a woman that has no real life so obsesses over her children and snuggles in her home, never leaving. The vacation is non-refundable and being that none of Emily’s friends wanna go with her it’s a mother and daughter trip.

While staying at the hotel there’s plenty of tension between mother and daughter, they just don’t click, but she meets a man at the bar and he genuinely seems interested in her. He takes her out of the hotel area and experience the culture, the next day Emily insists to her mother that she come along on a drive he has planned. During the drive a van slams into them, they then wake up in  a dingy prison with people telling them what do and where to go. Now they have to get out of their situation alive.

The comedy is mainly focused on the incompetence of this duo being placed in an environment completely beyond their control or some cringe moments. They are a mixed bag, some jokes genuinely do land while others are far too forced and fall really hard. Take one moment where Emily is stumbling drunk back to her hotel lobby after a night-out with the guy she met at the bar, the big punchline is pretty-much as low-bar as it can get. There is though another time when they meet someone to help them navigate their situation and what they do with this character is funny. As a whole though it has more hits than misses.

The weakest moments are when Shumer tries to be the high-point of the scene. These aren’t generous moments and she’s trying way too hard to be ridiculous, she’s not afraid to look foolish but in her efforts that all she does, look foolish.

The most consistently funny character is the brother Jeffery (Ike Barinholtz) and his interactions with a middle management Morgan (Bashir Salahuddin). They have a dynamic that is is snappy and instantly satisfying. So much so that a movie based around these two would probably have been better.

What we have is a movie paring two funny women together and at times gives them material which will get a laugh out of you. Other times it goes too far and becomes obvious and you just have to sit there until the scenes over. This wont go down as an endearing comedies, nor the high-point of Jonathan Levine’s career. But it is not dreadful either.

Review Smurfs: The Lost Village by Jonathan Evans

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Smurfs: The Lost Village is an adventure story told so simply and with so much enthusiasm that it will definitely satisfy the younglins and more than likely break down the defences of adults.

The story opens on a recap of what Smurfs village is and the origins of Smurfette (Demi Lovato). Smurf Village is a little village where the houses are Toadstools and little blue creatures live called Smurfs, they are named after their defining characteristic i.e. Grumpy, Nosey, Baker. Smurfs can also be used as a source of raw magic if digested which is why they are hunted by the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson), one day he created Smurfette to bring him the Smurfs, but the goodness of Papa Smurf (Mandy Patinkin) turned her good and now she lives among the others. Only weird thing though, all the other Smurfs are male. For reasons Smurfette isn’t able to find her one characteristic and is always an outsider (not just because she’s the only female). One day her and her friends Hefty (Joe Manganiello), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Brainy (Danny Pudi) are wondering around and then come across another Smurf they don’t know, Gargamel also learns of this other source of Smurfs, so now the race is on for who can get there first.

The animation is loaded with energy, having the characters jump and bounce all around the screen. The character designs are an elegant translation of the old Hannah-Barbera cartoon, with minimal, but bold and expressive lines. All the Smurfs essentially look the same but they use the technique of adding something so that they instantly become recognisable i.e. glasses or a specific expression i.e. sly, grumpy and body language so that you know who’s onscreen and talking at any time.

The colour pallet is also immensely appealing. Using bright, luscious various colours to create a glowing screen. They also use blacks for more threatening moments and add contrast. Usually movies that seek to adapt a kids cartoon for a movie either make it dark in an attempt to make it appealing to older audiences, or over-saturate it with colour. This movie knows that the subject matter is by no means dark but that black, when used wisely can bring out the colour even more.

Along with all of this are some pretty neat, creative visuals. Flowers and insects that are both cute but have the right level of being threatening and the environments are sharply realised with many different textures simultaneous rendered to create a fully realised world.

One of the great strengths of the movie is a simple one to have and yet so many animated movies lack it and that is no modern-day references. Putting in modern references to any kind of social media or slang just dates the movie terribly and is nearly always forced. This movie has none of that and wont be dated because of it.

This is an adventure movie that tells it story well and with more than the necessary effort and skill gone into it. It would be something I would be more than happy to put on for my children and wouldn’t mind sitting with them for the viewing too.

 Doctor Who, Series Ten – Beyond the Arc! by Karis Clarke

Please click on the sound file below to listen to this article or read the text below.

Forget the Series Arc are we being taken around a full-blown circle?

 I am a forty something year old who has a childhood fondest for the Doctor, and as such I like to guess.

Ever since the realisation of Bad Wolf, I have been fascinated by the story arc. Waiting for the episodes written by Russell T – and in later years Stephen Moffat trying to see if a glimpse of the story arc could be fathomed.

Saturday night seemed to be the night for season ten. Written by Moffat and finally laying to rest the mystery of the vault, we had a brief reminder of how wonderful Michelle Gomez is as Missy, and whole universe of possibilities opened.

The plot was complex and played second fiddle, as my mind wondered. It took the blind Doctor, Bill and Nadul (who every week is evolving into a deeper layered character, under played skilfully by Matt Lucas) into what transpired to be a video game for some withered monks who were basically playing a bizarre version of SIMS, except the final end game was how to destroy the earth. Luckily the Dr had managed to send himself a message via his sexy ray bands and by what looks like will be the hand of Missy – the day may be saved in next week’s episode. In the back of my mind I had seen this playout before, and unfortunately ever since Bill has arrived I have had that feeling.

A new writer has emerged and with him cultural diversity is being rammed a little bit down our throats, but despite the colour of her skin and her fondness for the same sex, Bill is Rose, and the episodes we are watching are little more than enjoyable rewrites. Almost a by line, to pan out the season for the main event. ……..

Which is what?

I have no idea, but I have a whim. The trailer has been seen with The Master not Missy Master but John Sim. This could be a flash back or it could suggest degeneration and if the Master can degenerate then so can the Doctor. This had just been a thought until Saturday – On Saturday we saw the Doctor sacrifice something in his future regeneration to gain sight. Then there is Riversong’s  book which was last seen with one of her deaths in the library – David Tennant’s Library.

I don’t know how, I don’t know when or where but I think this story will revisit the tenth Doctor, Rose the library and a story arc which will blow all other story arcs out of the stratosphere. Don’t forget who the new writer is, there is a lot to be said for 60 degrees of separation and a whole wonderful world upon worlds that these writers can play with.

 

 

Review National Theatre Live: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Danielle O’Shea

5 Stars5 / 5

It is difficult to say exactly what “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is about and that was exactly what its writer, Edward Albee, intended. Some may say it is about marriage but it tackles so much more than that including topics like politics, morality and the human condition. However, what is at the heart of the play is truth and illusion.

The play moves from illusion to truth and as the audience progresses deeper and deeper into the stories we begin to realise what is going on behind the idyllic illusion presented by each of the couples. Even today this portrayal resonates with modern audiences due to the importance placed on appearance and what we should and shouldn’t know about one another. Of course, all these boundaries fall away and soon we are left with an overwhelming tension between the characters whether this be due to anger, betrayal or desire. The claustrophobic use of the living room – the sole setting – only emphasises the isolation and confinement of each character.

Although all four cast members gave stunning performances, the audience can’t help but be drawn to Imelda Staunton as Martha, a bullying wife hiding her fragile mental state, and Conleth Hill as George, the bitter husband burdened by his failures. You cannot take your eyes of this pair whether it be during the hide-behind-your-hands low blows of their arguments or the unusual calmer moments that still wreak of hostility.

As a whole, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a classic play which resonates with all audience members because, as said in one of the pre-show interviews, what is special about this play is that it has no strict description but instead is about whatever the audience take from it. An intense performance and beautifully crafted set propels this high tension drama into nerves-inducing brilliance.

National Theatre Live: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Gwyn Hall, Neath

May 19th 2017

Running time: 3 hrs

Author: Edward Albee

Director: James MacDonald

Design: Tom Pye (Designer), Charles Balfour (Lighting), Adam Cork (Sound and Music), Carole Hancock (Hair, Wigs and Make-up), Amy Ball (Casting), John Haidar (Assistant Director), Bret Yount (Fights), Penny Dyer (Dialect/ Voice), Imogen Knight (Choreography).

Cast: Imelda Staunton, Conleth Hill, Imogen Poots, Luke Treadaway