Category Archives: Film & TV

Review The Jungle Book (2016) by Jonathan Evans

the-jungle-book-story_647_021716065319-1

The Jungle Book was always a story structured around set-piece moments. We have a little boy as out fish-out-of-water protagonist that comes across creatures that he doesn’t know about and must overcome. What matters is that the world is defined and that characters that inhabit itare memorable as well as likeable and we must have a few moments of awe within the run-time.

This is still the classic set-up a small child being found in the jungle and, for whatever reason, a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) finds him and instead of eating him, takes him to a pack of wolves, that also decide to not eat him and raise him as one of their own.

Mowgli in terms of his design with his messy black hair and red pants is right out of the original Disney movie. The little boy playing him is Neel Sethi, who unfortunately just isn’t that good. He somehow is able to speak clear English with an American accent but also speaks it with that hammy way that you’d expect from a minor. How bad is it? Possibly in the range of Jake Lloyd from The Phantom Menace, however we should all keep-in-mind that acting requires concentration and intelligence at a level that we wouldn’t expect from youth. But he can traverse the jungle sets well and interact with the C.G.I. character convincingly.

Eventually there comes a very harsh drought, and a truce is declared among the animals and they gather at a watering hole. Both predator and prey drink, knowing that none can hurt the other. But one sits uneasy, the dreaded tiger Shere Kahn. He has his intense distaste for man and cannot abide having a man in the jungle, he abides by the law but vows that when the water returns, he shall take Mowgli’s life.

Shere Kahn as a villain is probably the most effective element of the movie. He is convincingly rendered through the computer technology and is of course a tiger, which are naturally threatening. He actually has to do very little, most of his impact comes from what is implied, he has a few moments to establish he’s a physical threat and the rest is him being close and knowing that he can rip you apart at any second. And it’s all brought to life with Idris Elba’s vocals, both calming and manipulative and then moving to raging wrath.

So with a tiger that will no doubt carry out his threat Mowgli must leave and be taken the mans village. And of course the journey does not go smoothly, there are obstacles and distractions. The most prominent is the big lazy bear Baloo, played rather well by Bill Murray. Murray injects his classic dry sarcastic, layedback wit in this sloth bear and it is a match.

When we get to King Louie the movie honestly just stops. He is played by Christopher Walken who has such a distinguished voice that it is impossible to think of anything or anyone else. He has long fur that drapes down from his body like a fur coat and sits in his crumbled castle in the jungle surrounded by fruit, treasure and dark shadows giving him a feel of Colonel Kurt from Apocalypse Now. You really do stop thinking about this boy and the tiger that after him and ts all about this giant orange ape being voiced by one of the most unique actors ever to grace the screen.

There are moments in the writing where it just seemed weird and unnecessary. Most of it works as an adaptation, or at least to give us the same moments but in different ways. But others where it seeks to flesh-out the backstory of these character and the choices seem so odd. There were moments of exposition where they forgo and it seemed like a good idea, but they explain them later for some reason, as well as plot-hole I noticed immediately regarding how Baloo and Mowgli meet.

This is a much more dark, threatening interpretation of this story than we have seen before (I do also admit to having not read the book). These animals may talk but they most certainly do still have their teeth and claws. There is even a transition scene with the giant snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) which I genuinely think is inspired!

This is not a movie for the younger children that would have enjoyed the original 2D animated movie. This is a much harsher world with more obvious consequences. Is is too tough for any children? I would say that for children twelve or above. The story is still the story but told in a different way and with some very strong elements and others that don’t necessarily let the rest down but do noticeably weaken it. But either way, we still have a movie that has a classic story at it’s center with classic cinematography, good C.G.I. and strong performances from nearly everyone.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Review Yr Ymadawiad/The Passsing by Leslie Herman Jones

coi1cjpwsaapfti-1

Welsh filmmakers have an advantage over others: world-class landscapes on tap.

Shooting in Wales, filmmakers don’t have to go very far or search very hard to find breathtaking locations that will serve them, are deserving of top billing, and require very little in the way of lighting or design or any other customisation for that matter. Wales’ landscapes can be taken ‘off-the-peg’ and are ‘ready to wear’.

Landscapes in Wales speak volumes, with eloquence, intensity, romanticism, or whatever else filmmakers wish them to evoke; they would speak Welsh if they could. And they give Welsh films signature visuals to be proud of and grateful for, but a film cannot succeed by landscape alone.

The location in Yr Ymadawiad (The Passing, Welsh language with English subtitles, Severn Screen production in association with Boom Pictures) a huge old farmhouse on an expansive plot of remote woodlands in late Autumn/early Winter, is awesome and is captured magnificently (Director, Gareth Bryn; DOP, Richard Stockland; Production Designers, Tim Dickel/Siani Palfrey). With exteriors on tap (apart from the well, perhaps?) the designers were able to focus all their attention on the interiors, which I’m sure required a fair bit of research and deft prop acquisition to make it look and feel like it, too, was found as is. (Unless it was?)

The man we watch with great interest at work in the landscape, his intensity and brutish physique quite profound, adds further grim authenticity. Mark Lewis Jones’s performance as Stanley is consistently strong throughout. The attention to detail in vision and in sound (Composer, Jeremy Holland-Smith credits/Cranc, Post-production sound) are apparent in a way the genre permits; the sound scape works like a treasure map – dropping clues like mad — and the audience excitedly keeps track as they stack up. The amount of time spent on these establishing shots, our prolonged watching of Stanley work and live in exquisite silence, is characteristic of Welsh filmmaking, and the opening scenes are captivating. The absence of the spoken word serves his character well: a simple, lonely and emotionally oppressed man, a man with a secret.

I don’t think the minimalist dialogue serves the other actors or the story in the same way. Use of the fewest possible spoken words seems an intentional stylistic decision (Story, Ed Talfan and Peter Watkins-Hughes), but the combination of this, and other style points — the production’s reliance on landscape; and perhaps, a foreknowledge of Welsh history, and an understanding of its allegorical cultural references to tell the story, hinder the success of the film. Even those in the know want more from a film: they want to hear more, be told more, have to assume less.

Until the other characters, Sara and Dyfan, appear, the film works. Their appearance raises questions. Some are the suspense of the story, others are due to the flaws that impede its flow. Their performances (Annes Elwy as Sara; Dyfan Dwyfor as Iwan) are admirable, but the script does not enable them to fully exhibit their relationship or tell the story. Though beautiful to the eye, as the camera follows with languorous shots, Sara’s passive gazing or her curious meandering though the bare, thick-walled exquisitely-lit rooms, the premise remains unclear for too long, mere snippets of dialogue creating a tension that was less edge of the seat and more an urge for a gear shift. Equally, Iwan’s erratic behaviour raises questions, but the script’s reduced dialogue offers no opportunity for answers, increasingly reducing the impact of the action, and ultimately the pay off.

I was ready to make a lot of space and time for the film as it began to unfold, but I gradually began to feel as though I didn’t want to keep investing in this story because it wasn’t giving. It took too long to get to the point. In all its glory, it languished. The Passing could have been a short.

The Passing is not entirely dissimilar to the collective pool of Welsh films that also treat landscapes, pace, dialogue and storylines this way. Huge credit to film industry professionals whose networks have grown and grown up, taking the Welsh product to a substantially broader marketplace and to the savvy of the producers (Ed Talfan/Kate Crowther) who will have ensured The Passing will be seen on multiple international platforms. I am confident that new audiences will devour it and praise it for the same reasons indigenous audiences are calling for more from Wales’ filmmakers.

Review Zootropolis by Jonathan Evans

6609_4903

A movie needs many things to work. Mainly it needs story, characters and theme, it then needs to take the said elements and put them in an environment so they can cook together. Zootropolis is a movie that has all of these elements and may have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but they all need to be there because they add to one element or another.

The world our story plays out in is one where animals existed as we know them but simply evolved to become sophisticated. There just simply didn’t seem to be any humans. They can now speak, wear clothes and have all the technology we have now. We are simultaneously introduced to Judy Hopes (Ginnifer Goodwin) a rabbit whose a bouncy fluff-ball of enthusiasm and smarts that grew-up on a farm but has big dreams of moving to the big city of Zootropolis where she will be a cop, make the world better etc. She enrolls in the academy where it seems like the cop life is not suited for a small rabbit, but she is indentured and does graduate. Now the big city awaits her.

The city of Zootropoilis is an architectural marvel. It is one of those locations that allows for many possibilities , serves as a great back drop for the characters and will inhabit your memories for years to come. It is on league with cities from Rintaro’s Metropolis, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil or Gotham City in Batman. We see all of the city, from the highs to the slums. Another neat part is that some of the skyscrapers are shaped like horns. Usually movies with anthropomorphic animals are all the same size, giving a little to let other animals be appropriately bigger or smaller. But here they remain the same size and it is the city that has adapted to accommodate all the different shapes and sizes. Pools for the hippos as well as dryers for them, little suction tubes to speedily transport the hamsters, different neighbourhoods with different weather simulators to create to right climate for the inhabitants natural environment.

And within the city area all the huge beasts and little critters that inhabit it. Every different species is given its own walk and body pose because naturally they have their own proportions. The wide range of furs, lighting, textures, clothing, environments that area all within this one film is so impressive. This is something that has ideas, skill and effort to bring it to life.

Along with it being great to look at there are even undertones. In this society that has descendants from a more beastly past (pun intended) there are remnants of that, some species typically don’t get along together because of their nature and others come with expectations based on their, literal, race. Yes, in this children’s Disney animated movie with anthropomorphic animals.

When Judy arrives there is a case of multiple predators going missing, her superior Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) assigns everyone a lead while she gets parking duty. While working she notices a fox in an elephant Ice-Cream store trying to buy a large lollipop for his son, the clerk refuses service but after some smart intervention from Judy he gets his pop. But it turns out this fox is a hustler named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) that uses the really big pop to turn into smaller ones and sell off to make a profit. Eventually events unfold and him and Judy are forced together as an unlikely partnership.

Any movie partnership needs them to be opposites. If they were the same then there would be no dynamic rendering it pointless. But also this brings out great character moments, Judy’s smarts but also naive optimism contrasts brilliantly with Nicks cynicism and dry wit. But none of them is ever truly the fool and they each bring something special to the situation that makes the whole greater than the sum of it’s parts.

There are constant jokes, as you’d expect from an animated children’s movie from Disney, but there is a much more heavy adult edge to their approach here. Nothing that is too edgy or inappropriate for children but will have the adults in the audience laughing just as hard as the children. One scene in particular that takes place at the DMV had the cinema I was in laughing very hard.

This movie is at the standard of The LEGO Movie. Because it being good would probably be no surprise. But it being this well thought-out with jokes that only make you laugh, but laugh hard and a deftly crafted script that throws in funny but seemingly pointless jokes that come back and play a part in the greater work.

Zootropolis works. It is many things and they all work together. It is a comedy with cute animals in it, you will be laughing throughout the movie. It’s also a social commentary, you’ll be moved by it’s poignancy. There’s also a mystery to solve, all the moments serve and lead and interweave together to a conclusion that is the right level of smart as well as clear enough to understand. The movie is simply a wonderful creation of feelings, smarts told with great characters within one of the great movie locations.

(4 / 5)

Review The Huntsman: Winter’s War by Jonathan Evans

huntsman-600x383

If you know the previous movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a little of a prequel and a sequel to a movie that was also retelling a classic Grimm’s Fairy Tale. But when you simply look at it with non-subjective eyes it’s just another fantasy movie with all that entails.

We are told the story by an unnamed narrator (Liam Neeson) he tells of how there were two sisters. One was the evil queen we know (Charlize Theron) that would manipulate her way to power and the other her younger sister (Emily Blunt) that falls in love with one of the Kings and has a child with him. But when tragedy strikes the child her heart grows cold both figuratively and literally. This gives her the power of ice (because this is a magical world!), she then creates a kingdom up in frozen mountains where children are taken from their families and groomed to become her huntsmen. Of these children two of the best are Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), over the years they fall in love and get married, but love is not tolerated in this Ice queens heart and she separates them.

Time passes and we now move forwards to the events after Snow White and the Huntsman. Eric is recruited by the king (Sam Claflin) to find and destroy the magic mirror that has slowly been driving Snow White mad. On his quest he eventually gains traveling companions, as one must when on any kind of quest! They exist to for exposition and have some witty repartee. There are four dwarfs. There is Nion (Nick Frost) returning from the last movie, Gryff (Rob Brydon) who’s really more interested in profit, Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) a Fe-male rough and tumble kind of dwarf and Doreena (Alexandra Roach) a well meaning although also air-headed individual that serves to balance out the groups personalities and dynamic.

Chris Hemsworth returns to play the role of Eric the Huntsman. He is a devil-may-care, swashbuckling hero, with a Scottish accent that should probably think-out his plans more but has a smile you just can’t resist. For a variety of reasons, Snow White is physically absent from the movie. She is mentioned at numerous times and seen briefly from the back in one scene. But the character and Kristen Stewart is absent from the film.

Though this film serves as a prequel/sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman it is still its own movie. We can gather from the storytelling exposition earlier on what the characters situations are and the kind of world this is.

While on their quest there is banter and conversations among the members, ranging from fun and sharply tongued to rather stupid. A shame because its a case of the weaker moments of poor writing letting the other moments down when we know there could be better material. But the actors are able to remain dynamic throughout and are clearly having fun with it.

Although greatly decreased from the last movie Winters War still comes with it’s own share of unique visuals to the fantasy genre. There are a few moments of unique visuals in the movie (you’ve never seen Goblins like these) and also a few clever moments. But to compare it with the original, it is much less bountiful to the eye.

This is director Cedric Nicolas- Troyan’s first film but he served on the second unit on the first Snow White movie and Maleficent so he knows how to make this movie feel like the others. It’s fine as a first full-length feature goes. Plenty of knowledgeable camerawork, able to get the hammy but controlled performances from his actors.

Parts of it are refined from the last movie, like the performances while other moments are lacking like the visuals. But this really is another fantasy movie with a few neat ideas and at times clever visuals and characterization along with a few performances that are at least memorable. It’s a good-looking movie that has fun with what it is.

Review Richard Herring St David’s Hall, Cardiff

Happy_Now_1

I must admit I knew very little about Richard Herring so didn’t know what to expect when attending his stand up show at St David’s Hall in Cardiff. Richard Herring is a 48 year old father and husband.

Herring begins his routine talking of the night his daughter was born and the hours afterwards seeing his wife in pain and giving birth. Herring does say that he doesn’t want to be one of the comedians that has just become a father and solely talks about that topic, however, this does form much of the material for the first half of the show. He does briefly talk about life pre marriage and the birth of his daughter which was funny and which was more relevant to my age group but on times was a little too explicit. However, the older members of the audience found it very funny especially on the topic of a possible affair with a life-like robot similar to that of Gemma Chan from ‘Humans’ at some point in the distant future.

In the second half of his show Herring moves away from family stories as he begins to think about the grammatical correctness of his mother in law’s door mat which welcomes people to their house with ‘Grand Children Spoilt Here’. His deconstructing of the lyrics of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed was very well received with the audience. One feeling you really get from the show is that Richard Herring is extremely proud of his family and this is very much part of his act.

He confesses multiple times that his life has been totally focused on his career and since having a wife and child his priorities have changed and questions how we as adults can reach pure happiness like that felt by a child and whether it is even achievable at all. He also talks about how at the time of the moment of pure happiness we are too busy thinking about what could go wrong rather than really thinking about how important this moment is. Herring tells a story of how a three year old child walking on a beach in a hot country eating a Cornetto is as good as it can get for them at that moment and yet within a matter of hours they will forget the experience and may never feel that happiness again. All very philosophical!

When considering Herring’s performance and routine one can easily describe him as delivering comedy that makes his audience laugh out loud as well as ponder life’s big questions. Herring also talks about how he may not be as famous such as his friend Steve Coogan but seems very happy with his lot. It does encourage you to reflect no matter who we are or how successful we become there is always going to be someone doing that bit better than you and it is also important to remember that there may well be others looking up at you.

This show is not going to leave you with an aching stomach from laughing but will leave you with a smile on your face and a greater sense of appreciation for the smaller things in life that you may well have taken for granted before.

Review Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice by Jonathan Evans

batmanvsupermanheader

Could this movie ever live up to its hype? Did it ever stand a chance against all the expectation that the fanboys have built up in their own minds and have fantasized about for years? No it did not. But it did stand a chance of still being good. Any movie has that chance.

At numerous times during this movie you will either be confused or have to hold yourself back from laughing at the imagery that I can only attest to Zack Snyder believing he has artistic ability (which he does not).

The big deal that everyone has been talking about in anticipation, and will no doubt be thinking about while watching and shall discuss after viewing is that this is the first live action, cinematic depiction of a movie with both Superman and Batman on-screen at the same time. Most of the movie is build up to this and when they do interact (if you can call it that) they are just seeing who can be more macho, so we have two immature insecure males placed together. Ben Affleck was a unique choice to say the least, he does bring a dark stoic nature and presence to the character. You see how the years of brutal crime fight have worn away sympathy and the raw anger that bubbles under the surface. This is also the first time we are shown the grey and black Batman suit. Something we’ve seen plenty of times in the comics and animated universe but a first for live action so it helps to distinguish itself.

It is a staple for superheroes not to kill. It’s expected because they are made for children. I expect optimism while watching or reading anything superhero related. They can still be mature and deal with tougher subject matter, but they should always maintain their wholesomeness. At least with the established, long lasting ones. In Man of Steel Superman broke his most sacred of vows and killed his enemy. Now in this movie Batman is directly responsible for killing many of his enemies. Flat-out murder, without any regret or having to deal with any conflict that makes him a mass murderer. Those wholesome, optimistic days really seem to be long gone.

All the characterization has faults; some are more competent than others. But the greatest failure goes to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. Luthor is one of the most brilliant, controlling as well as enduring villains from superhero comics a character with a dark warped but also brilliant mind. This is a weirdo that only has people around him because he pays them and/or is important.

Ever since the MARVEL have been gaining all kinds of success with their line of movies DC has been trying desperately to replicate it. They want to have a series of movies that build-up to Avengers (i.e. Justice League). But they lack the patience and careful planning that made that work. MARVEL gave each member of the team their own movie to establish themselves and built to the story that would call for them to be united. This is a forced hodgepodge of references, characters and story elements that shouldn’t be in the same movie resulting in a deformed cluttered mess.

Included in the cast is the first big screen, live action representation of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). She has things to prove but I believe her as a competent warrior that knows how to navigate her way around a dance floor and a conversation with anyone. There is groundwork set-up and room for further development (within her own film)

phhutommmy2ili_1_l

The action scenes lack all forms of investment, we haven’t grown to care about the characters that are bashing together like plastic toys so no outcome matters. There were clearly to moments Zack Snyder cared the most about, he obviously didn’t care about making them sympathetic or even believable. What we have is a juvenile boy that has been given hundreds of millions of dollars to enact his overblown playtime sessions that he would come up with while playing with his action figure on the carpet. With all the depth and nuance that comes with this i.e. none. They are loud, flashy and with no care for anything grounded or with emotion behind them. Just noise.

When the climactic scene comes and the two icons engage in battle you will have already abandoned any sense of caring. It isn’t even the last battle in the movie, when that finally rears its ugly head you might as well order take-out or message your friends. Hell, read what the person next or behind you is ordering for take-out, it will be more interesting than the barrage of lights and loud noises abusing your senses from the screen.

The hype was impossible to live up to. But there was always a chance for this movie to be competent and be well executed. The acting is fine, from some, the scale is grand. And from there on I fail to think of anything else redeeming about the movie. It is simply a juvenile, waste of time and resources. These characters are capable and should be used for much better entertainment.

Rating: 1/2 star out of 4

Review Film and Comic Con, Cardiff by James Briggs

Header

Every year the Cardiff International Arena changes from a concert venue to a top convention hall crammed with swarms of TV and Film fans attending the Film and Comic Con, Cardiff. Converging on the centre of Cardiff is an assorted crew of Sherlock’s with Deerstalkers, Marvel and DC superheroes, Disney princesses, Imperial Storm troopers following Darth Vader and assorted geeks decked out in shirts of their favourite shows. There was even an appearance from the Mystery Incorporated gang and their Mystery Machine featuring Scooby Doo.

Cc3S4fcWAAIsPL1.jpg-largeWhen visiting Comic Con you come to realise that Cosplaying has become a central part in the overall experience. The near-compulsory cosplay code can mostly mean that if you choose not to dress up you can stand out more than someone wearing the costumes. Many celebrities often use this to their advantage by dressing up in a costume of their choice and walking the floors of the Comic Con without being noticed.

murder-she-wrote
Angela Landsbury portrays Jessica Fletcher in MURDER SHE WROTE: SOUTH BY SOUTWEST.

From panels on Doctor Who and Cosplay showcases, to Thunderbird action figures, the comic con welcomes with open arms that which the rest of the world might think a little bizarre. The hall is crammed packed with stall after stall of different shops selling all sorts of collectables. A personal favourite of mine was the autograph section that sold the autographs of every actor or actress you could think of. Everywhere you looked on the autograph stalls there were famous names with Daniel Craig, Ian Mckellen and Benedict Cumberbatch to name but a few. I decided to opt for Angela Lansbury and Jim Dale. Two very big idols of mine.

IMG_0320It never ceases to amaze me with the lengths some people go to create amazingly accurate costumes from famous films, games and television shows. I knew that it was important to participate in this also so my brother and I decided to go as different incarnations of Doctor Who from the hit BBC series. I was dressed as Peter Capaldi with the striking red lined coat and done up shirt button and my brother dressed as his favourite Doctor David Tennant with a Fez added for good measure. One of the star guests at the Comic Con was Jemma Redgrave or as Doctor Who fans may know her Kate Lethbridge Stewart. As her fans gathered to have their photo taken there was an obvious sense of community about the event with many people talking to each other and having photos of their own taken. I even met a fellow incarnation dressed as Matt Smith’s Doctor.

James and Jemma Redgrave

With something for every fan of Film, TV, Gaming and Comic’s there is no reason why you would not want to go and in the words of Shrek “Let your freak flag fly” with pride! Although a word of warning you will most definitely be left with a feeling of wanting to have more money to buy all of the things you see.

The next Comic Con Cardiff will be held on the 29th – 30th of October 2016. Get your tickets now to avoid disappointment. They are available at: http://filmandcomicconcardiff.com/

Review The Husbands of River Song, Dr Who by James Briggs

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 01/12/2015 - Programme Name: Doctor Who - TX: 25/12/2015 - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: ***EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01hrs 1st DEC 2015*** Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI), River Song (ALEX KINGSTON), Hydroflax - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgeway
Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI), River Song (ALEX KINGSTON)  Photographer: Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgeway

The much-anticipated Christmas special of Series nine Doctor Who has finally arrived! And so has the much-loved companion Professor River Song. It was brilliant to once again see Alex Kingston’s name included in the titles once again projecting her name as a leading lady.  When we first found out that Alex Kingston would be returning as River Song the reaction of the fans was split. Many fans believed that Rivers character was not able to return any longer and her ‘song’ had ended. Even the Doctors themselves were split in the decision for her to return. “I’m really possessive over Alex [Kingston],” said former Doctor Matt Smith. “Anyone else, but don’t give [Capaldi] River… I am really proud of the fact that Alex was part of number Eleven’s life. My wife!” David Tennant was also a supporter of this view.

Her return however was a wonderful Christmas present from Moffat to see the old River return.  One plot downside in the episode however was the whole character of the Doctor. At the end of series nine we saw Capaldi’s Doctor was a lost man who was besotted with the idea of a character called “Clara” and he was on a mission to find her. It was after this story that we found it hard to believe that the Doctor was a dancing between comedy and romancing with River Song. Given that she is far closer in age to Capaldi than she ever was to Matt Smith, this pairing of River and the Doctor is the most realistic relationship age that we’ve seen. Meanwhile with her memory loss in the episode it’s great fun to see the Doctor turn her catchphrases back at her.

Another character that has to be noted is that of King Hydroflax who I think has one of the best alien names in a long while. King Hydroflax is played Greg Davies (of Inbetweener’s fame) who spent the episode playing a disembodied head on a robotic body. Even so he probably contributed to one of the funniest scenes in the episode when his head was inside the hold-all bag.

Another of the funniest scenes in the episode was when the Doctor finally got to play the companion therefore getting his Tardis ‘it’s bigger-on-the-inside moment’  this was surely a moment where the audience thought who was having the more fun: Moffat in writing it or Capaldi in playing it!

Doctor at Christmas

Photographer: Ray Burmiston/Simon Ridgeway

The ending of the episode did however leave the Tardis doors open for a possible return of River as one night last much longer than on earth. With the series due to start filming shortly in Cardiff we will wait with anticipation on whether River will continue to fly with the Doctor through all of time and space. Doctor Who will return in the summer next year with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and his latest sidekick with him.

 

2015 Personal highlights from the Young Critics & 3rd Act Critics

 

2015 New Year celebration with the date outlined by colourful fiery sparklers on a dark New Year's Eve night

 

Members of the Young Critics and 3rd Act Critics have selected their own personal highlights of 2015. Their first choice is that a cultural event they have reviewed or attended. Their second is something they have personally experienced which has resonance for them as an individual.

 Young Critic Lois Arcari

2015 is, like all other years, impossible to forget for many reasons. One such reason was an amazing blur, both individually and for the Young Critics as a whole – the celebration of Welsh talent and its abilities at the annual BAFTA Cymru awards. For a review and as a day, what was daunting turned easily to something wonderful, truly hopeful and encouraging for a defiantly blossoming industry in the face of cuts to the arts and critics of its worth. An event that continues developing to give Wales international renown. This day was both an honour, and a joy to be part of.

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/bafta-cymru-awards-2015-by-lois-arcari/

My personal pick of this year is something as much as a cultural event, platform for debate, national icon and builder of careers and friendships alike as it is a show – the incomparable Doctor Who. In light of criticisms thrown at showrunner Steven Moffat for a number of years now, this season has episodes widely regarded as some of the most experimental, diverse and emotional at least post revival. Whilst I was worried at the apparent superficiality of this choice – Doctor Who is iconic for a reason. Not least this past season because of the sensational acting masterclass in acting from Peter Capaldi, and Jeanna Coleman. Coleman has laid claim to being a divisive character, but personally I think her performance is one of the most raw, layered and deftly handled in the show’s history, especially when coupled with Moffat’s no holds barred approach. Though missteps were made, they were made in interesting ways. The Doctor, expertly handled, has always been a personal character – an icon of unflinching hope and possibility that even helped through uncertainty and anxieties through eager viewing last year following a serious car accident. Seeing the characters, writing and ambition grow in tandem has been moving and joyous, and the many layers encouraging fans to analyse, speculate, and always, always hope. As the show-runners (as a brilliant personal meeting at the aforementioned BAFTA Cymru awards with Russel T Davies showed) did with the same love.

 

3rd Act Critic Barbara Michaels

My first choice would have to be Mack and Mabel at WMC. The production was brilliant on all fronts, Barbara reviewed this production for The Reviews Hub

Mack and Mabel – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Secondly my personal choice is Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake with male dancers as the swans.  A new take in one of the most popular classical ballets and spine tingling.

 

Young Critic James Briggs

For my choice of 2015 I would like to say Jersey Boys at the Wales Millennium Centre because this was the first production that I reviewed for Young Critics and so if I had not chosen to attend that show I would not have been so involved with Young Critics this year.

Review Jersey Boys, WMC by James Briggs

For my second choice of 2015 I would like to say the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular that was at Cardiff Motorpoint Arena back in May this year.

This is a review by Wales Online about the show

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/doctor-who-symphonic-spectacular-shows-9328752.

 

Young Critic Kiera Sikora

I would definitely say my favourite production which I reviewed in 2015 was Alix in Wundergarten- Difficult Stage/Other Room

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/review-alix-in-wundergarten-the-other-room-by-kiera-sikora/

My second choice would be A Doll’s House- Sherman Cymru a relevant retelling of a theatrical classic!

 

Young Critic Amina Ali

My first choice would be the TV series Agent Carter

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/?s=Agent+Carter+&submit=Search

My second choice would be the Black Lives matter movement. I feel it’s important because as a black person the miscarriages of justice are almost personal. It is important to know that there are people standing up for people like me.

http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/

Young Critic Sian Thomas

My first choice would be the book Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton, I feel I wrote my review well and there was to my surprise online interaction with the author and her publisher on Twitter. I know someone also bought it as a consequence of my review which I thought was amazing!

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/review-unspeakable-abbie-rushton-by-sian-thomas/

 

My second would be the release of the World of Professor Layton which is a big art book about my favourite ever game that came out around November 5th and I really enjoyed and felt the closure of the series ending personally.

 

Young Critic Bethan Hooton

My number one event of the year would have to be the One Direction concert – seeing your favourite band live is something you will never forget!

https://theyoungcritics.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/review-one-direction-cardiff-millennium-stadium-by-bethan-hooton/

My second choice would be getting my GCSE results – 2 Cs, 7Bs, A, A* . I was so proud of myself for these grades, and I got into college with them to study subjects that I now really enjoy and love.

 

We are all looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review Dr Who ‘Hell Bent’ by James Briggs

doctorwho_logo_series9

So the time has finally arrived and another series of Doctor Who has come to a dramatic end. Please be aware that this review does contain spoilers of the final episode of Series 9. Before the airing I think we were all expecting explosions and mass panic on Gallifrey but we had quite the contrary. We had the Doctor walk into a Nevada dinner and is served by someone who seems to look a lot like his companion Clara.

The previous events of Face the Raven were highly nodded to in episode 12, with many of the loose ends being tied up. The episode opens up an enormous blue box of sorrows and often leaving the audience with a tear in their eye; the most emotional time being when the Doctor first strums “a sad song” on his electric guitar, or as it is more commonly known Clara’s theme. The use of the Doctor calling the song “Clara” really tugged at viewer’s heartstrings.

Doctor-WhoHell-Bent-21-2

Steven Moffat very cleverly gave us the idea all through the episode that the Doctor was visiting Clara and filling in her memory because he had wiped it. However, Moffat being the showrunner he is decided things would not be that easy. Clara had not had her memory wiped instead it was the Doctor and he was only reciting what he could remember about his lost companion Clara. Clara knew all along who the Doctor was and could not say anything about Clara to the Doctor as he does not know who this mystery Clara could be. This was a very clever trick as the dinner meeting was their real parting. Clara is and always has been in charge of the circumstances. She has set the scene for the Doctor, reunited him with his trusty Tardis and says goodbye the only way she can: “Memories become stories when we forget them. Maybe some of them become songs.”

The one central story that gripped many Whovians was the return of Gallifrey and the Timelords. Among Whovians this is an extremely big deal. Following the great Time War the Doctors home planet has been lost or as said in episode 12 “at the extreme end of the time continuum”. It has become far too much of a muchness that all the Galiffrey citizens are decrepit and old. The episode smashed this away to the other side of the universe, it really was out with the old and in with the new. As the Doctor self-proclaimed he was Lord Chancellor of Gallifrey it was time to send of the old one into deep space. Even when the Doctor shot the Chancellor’s guard he too regenerated into a much younger female version of himself. This male to female regeneration does leave one wondering however is could this be the closest we will get to seeing a female Doctor, Moffat promised us there could be one in the future but could this be his way of saying anything is possible?

Doctor_Who_Hell_Bent

One of the best moments of this finale was the re-creation of the original Tardis control room from the 1963 series. The glorious set was resplendent once again with the bright white walls and panels and the iconic circles, does anyone know what they actually do? This may not have been the 20th Doctor’s personal version of the Tardis but still Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, Clara and Ashildr looked seamlessly at home when speeding through the universe. The end scene where the Tardis is made to look like a 1950’s dinner worked so well and had a nod back to when Doctor Who first started.

images

 

 

 

 

 

doctor-who-hell-bent-tardis

The director of the episode Rachel Talalay finds lots of fresh new angles to make the vast interior of the Tardis look so different and interesting. No words need to be spoken in this scene and with the backdrop of Murray Gold’s magical theme we can feel the power of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor build. In a channel of blinding backlight and smoke, the Doctor enters his trusty old Tardis. Slowly powering up in his presence we get a feeling of the link between the Doctor and his Tardis. The chalk message on the blackboard by Clara “Run you clever boy and be a Doctor.” Is a wonderful link back to when she first joined as companion with the then Doctor Matt Smith. A new velvet jacket is waiting for the Doctor next to the board and just like magic a brand new sonic screwdriver shoots out of the console and lands into the Doctors hand. The doors close as he clicks his fingers and as he moves the controls and goes off to new adventures; but no longer with Clara this time his Christmas assistant the fabulous River Song. For me this is an absolutely fantastic closing sequence for the end of a series of Doctor Who. This could almost be seen as the first time that the Doctor has lost and won so much in the same episode. The Doctor has earned the power over life and death which is something he has aimed for since the start of his series. The Doctor has his favourite companion stuck between one heartbeat and the next and the medieval woman that he has spared from death after causing death to his friend. Clara and Ashildr are united in a dynamic time traveling duo who have their own Tardis in the form of an American diner and heading off together to have adventures of their own. Could there possibly be a spin of show from this?

Overall an utterly fantastic end to the series and it has left many fans of the show with lots of unanswered questions like who was that person that was talking to the Doctor in the shed on Gallifrey? Could it be his mother? We shall have to find out in the future. Doctor Who will return on Christmas Day with the special episode and the companion will be River Song. While you wait until Christmas Day I will be traveling in my Tardis to watch the episode. I promise not to give too much away beforehand.

DSCN0786

Young Critic James Briggs on the set of the Tardis