Category Archives: Film & TV

Review National Theatre Live: Angels in America by Danielle O’Shea

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

Survival is central to the first part of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”. This can be seen in the consideration of the fight to survive illness and addiction but also by asking how far you would go to make a relationship survive or to survive oppression. As well as survival, themes of morality, religion and politics remain essential to the play and are used as tools for character development.
As mentioned in the pre-show interview with its director, Marianne Elliott, the play moves from domesticity to magical realism due to the hallucinations experienced by several of the characters which become more overwhelming as the play progresses.


Rooted in 1985 New York during the AIDS epidemic, the harsh reality of each character’s situation is evident and is kept in mind through the use of three side-by-side mini sets so even as the play moves from one character to another, their set remains darkened but still visible. The neon lights bordering each set give an almost magical aura but initially act as barriers between characters before falling away and allowing characters to cross them.
The entire cast give incredible performances that portray characters vividly and in a way so that no matter their moral or political stance the audience still builds a connection with them. However two actors in particular captivate the audience, Denise Gough as Harper Pitt, a Valium addicted Mormon housewife, and Andrew Garfield as Prior Walter, a charismatic AIDS sufferer. Both characters act as bridges between fantasy and reality and their one scene together was charming and captured the attention and imagination of the entire audience.
As a whole, Angels in America is a stunning political portrait that remains extremely relevant today due to its discussions of American politics and the changing identity of America. It is an emotional roller-coaster that will keep you on the edge of your seat and I will definitely be seeing the second part.

National Theatre Live: Angels in America
Part 1:Millennium Approaches

20th July 2017
Gwyn Hall, Neath
Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes with two 15-minute intervals
Author: Tony Kushner
Director: Marianne Elliott
Design: Ian MacNeil (Set Designer), Nicky Gillibrand (Costume Designer), Paule Constable(Lighting Designer), Robby Graham (Choreographer and Movement), Adrian Sutton (Music), Ian Dickinson (Sound Designer), Finn Caldwell (Puppetry Director and Movement), Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes (Puppet Designers), Chris Fisher (Illusions), Gwen Hales (Aerial Director), Harry Mackrill (Associate Director), Miranda Cromwell (Staff Director)
Cast: Susan Brown, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Nathan Lane, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Russell Tovey, Stuart Angell, Laura Caldow, Claire Lambert, Becky Namgauds, Stan West, Lewis Wilkins

Series Review, Broken, BBC by Gareth Williams

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Father Michael Kerrigan is the latest name to add to the growing pantheon of priests appearing on our television screens in recent years. Following in the footsteps of Tom Hollander (Rev), James Norton (Grantchester) and Mark Williams (Father Brown) is another acting heavyweight, Sean Bean. Bean takes the lead role in writer Jimmy McGovern’s latest drama, Broken. The six-part BBC series has seen Kerrigan battling his own personal demons whilst acting as counsellor, social worker and friend to his parishioners. The narrative has been suitably gritty, tackling poverty and injustice unashamedly through the lens of social realism. It is, of course, what McGovern does best. It could even be argued that Broken is among his best work.

Sean Bean is a fascinating lead actor. He is utterly mesmerising here. The emotion etched on his face conveys perfectly the inner turmoil and wretched guilt of his character. There is no need for words. He makes Kerrigan so likable, so genuine. It is hard not to fall in love with his character. His flaws and his mistakes and his heartfelt pleas only increase our empathy for the man. Kerrigan is broken. Yet in his brokenness we see something of our humanity – for better and for worse.

The opening credits seem to capture this sense of conflict perfectly. It is so beautifully melancholic: the heart-rending tones of Nina Simone singing “Human kindness is overflowing/ And I think it’s going to rain today”. It is this overwhelmingly positive image streaked with an impending sense of despair that wonderfully encapsulates the stories at the heart of this drama. In particular, the investigation into the death of Vernon Oyenusi (Jerome Holder) places a focus on PC Andrew Powell (Mark Stanley) as he wrestles with the personal and professional consequences of telling the truth. He wants to do the right thing, but there is a cost for doing so.

McGovern finds rich material here. He touches on some of the hypocrisies of the institutional church. He tackles issues of homosexual acceptance and the morality of gambling. There is also the moment when Kerrigan faces up to one of his former teachers who, as we see in flashbacks, abused him. The lack of remorse shown by Father Matthew (Robert Gillespie) is infuriating to say the least. Yet Kerrigan’s response is measured. He doesn’t lash out in justifiable rage yet the emotional anger underneath is evident in this incredible exchange. Again, Bean’s acting is masterful.

The standout episode of this fascinating series has to be the fourth offering. It finds single mother Roz (Paula Malcomson) facing up to the reality of her fraudulent past. She owes over £200,000 to her employer and confesses to Father Michael that her only way out is to take her own life. It is complete dramatic perfection from McGovern: raw, heart-breaking, full of understated emotion and grounded in the ordinary reality of daily life. It is also where Broken becomes an ensemble piece rather than simply a protagonist-led drama.

Jimmy McGovern is a master at creating fully-formed and multi-layered characters. The leading light in this drama is certainly Kerrigan. However, as the series progresses, he becomes like the candle he lights to declare the presence of Christ. This simple yet powerful motif reflects Kerrigan’s role in the community: he is present amongst his parishioners but he is no superman solving all their problems. He is there for them, but he is helpless as much as he is helpful. He is part of their lives, but they have their own stories to tell – he does not define their decisions or determine their choices necessarily.

The place that McGovern gives to Father Michael Kerrigan is far less certain than the clear morality of Sidney Chambers’ crime-solving world in Grantchester. Yet it is somewhat more assured than the struggle for relevance that faces Adam Smallbone in Rev. This is what makes Broken such a fascinating series, particularly in the canon of TV shows with a clerical protagonist. For McGovern, the church remains a place where hope is found. But this hope is expressed through the individual (Kerrigan) rather than the institution (as represented by Adrian Dunbar’s  Father Peter Flaherty). In this way, the final scene makes perfect sense. Being critical, it could be seen as a little too perfect, almost sentimental. Nevertheless, it still elicited a few tears from me in response.

Broken is an excellent and inspiring drama. It continues Jimmy McGovern’s reign as one of Britain’s best and most provocative of writers. The acting talents of Sean Bean, et al. only add to the sheer quality on display here. It is surely one of 2017’s best dramas.

Review Spider-Man: Homecoming by Jonathan Evans

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

For the past decade (roughly) Spider-Man has been the legal property of Sony, within the movies. MARVEL nearly went bankrupt back then so sold the character to make some money. Since then MARVEL movies have become the biggest and consistently high-quality movie series in history. However they’ve had an arm tied behind they’re backs with not having the rights to all their characters. Now an agreement has been reached that Sony will allow Spider-Man to be used in their cinematic universe.

This movie opens after the devastation caused at the end of Avengers and a clean-up crew is clearing debris and packing up alien technology. They are then halted in doing so by higher officials saying that they are taking over. This means that a bunch of them are loosing their jobs. They have already taken some of the technology so instead of turning it over they keep it for themselves for their own ventures.

Cut then to a few years later when Spider-Man first appeared in Civil War, he’s vlogging the whole thing. So now after all the events Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man must now wait until he’s needed for another mission with the Avengers. He waits, stops burglaries and other little crimes and waits for the call.

Tom Holland plays Peter and Spider-Man as someone who is in awe with most of the amazing things he gets to see and experience. When he sees another Superhero he falls to pieces and talks all about them. He’s simply an energetic, well meaning kid.

Being that getting this movie made already came with it’s share of legal baggage, two different companies have to have their say on the character, as well as a total of six people on the screenplay, the odds seemed good that this movie would have been a mess.

Soon we see that the men that took the alien technology has created their own heist operation, where they steal and sell weapons to local thugs. Their leader is a man Adrian Toomes, who is playing The Vulture, even though he is never referred to that by name. Michael Keaton brings him to life with a kind of subtle malice. He’s not a complete, raging psychopath, you can see though and control, but also that there is clearly danger lurking below the surface level. He has equipped himself with robotic wings that come with a few gadgets and blades so he provides more than a threat.

The other supporting cast comes in the form of Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) that proved a fresh no-nonsense support for Peter. Being that he recruited him in Civil War Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) returns for this movie and plays the mentor/father figure, giving pieces of advice and plenty of criticism. His best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) that provides extra elements of comedy and allows Peter to spell things out for him because he knows so little about the Superhero world. Then there’s Michelle (Zendaya) a wonderfully confusing contradiction that says she doesn’t care about any of the social events or trends but is still apart of all of them.

Donald Glover makes an appearance as Aaron Davies, a low level crook that actually cooperates with Spidey. Glover made some political waves when he put himself forward for Spider-Man a few years ago and asked the question why couldnt an African American man play the Wall-Crawler. He did voice the Miles Morales Spider-Man (alternative version) in an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man and here he still gets to be a part of the world he clearly loves.

In 2002 Sam Rami made his version and then 2012 it got rebooted with Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, which ended with it’s sequel in 2014. A criticism for this movie and even putting the character into Civil War was that the public is tired of starting this character over AGAIN. The concern is fair, how many times can we see the same story repeated exactly? Well a lot if human history is anything to go by. But what they do is make the decision to forego the origin and tell Peter’s story after-the-fact.

Spider-Man has always been about all the little things getting in the way. This movies plot is bogged with all kinds of commitments ans scheduling conflicts that wouldn’t be a big deal to Captain America or Thor but Peter is tethered to such menial links in his life. It has always been the most humbling and connectable element to the character.

This movie is refreshing from some of the other MARVEL movies because of it’s lower scale. Like with Ant-Man this follows what came before and acknowledges that this is a world where giant aliens can descend from the sky and cause mass destruction, but tells its story from a lower scale perspective. It’s a good way to refocus these movies and not make every movie about a city or continent being smashed to pieces.

This movie is fun. It has bright, vivid colors, a plot that is simple to understand, characters that poke fun at each-other and some story details and along for the ride are a few energetic, creative action sequences.

 

Review Baby Driver by Jonathan Evans

 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

In a movie there is the image, the score, the sound effects, the performances, the camera movement and, if so chosen, the colour. Usually one element shines or we can say that two were in great harmony, but almost never can they all be brought together, layered and baked to create one infusion of all creating a great experience.

Like what Damien Chazelle did with La La Land, Edgar Wright takes the elements, aesthetics and sensibilities of the old and create something modern with them. With that movie it was the Hollywood musicals, here it’s the pulpy heist movie.

The car pulls up outside a bank three of the people in the car get out, go to the trunk and take out guns then they slip on masks and enter. Another remains in the car, a young man that decides to lip sync along to the tune playing on his iPod. When they come back he drives.  The young man behind the wheel goes by Baby.

Baby is a fresh faced young man that’s constantly plugged into his iPod listening to music with a pair of sunglasses on. He listens to music because he suffered an accident at a young age so he plays music to drown it out. Ansel Elgort plays him with swaying interest. At times wanders through life being much more interested with the music playing in his ears and others completely focused on his situation.

Baby’s employer and the one who setups these heists is Doc (Kevin Spacey) a controlling, nonsense man that goes by the mentality that it’s either his way or the highway. There’s also Buddy (John Hamm) and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) a married couple that are like Bonnie & Clyde, happiest to be in each-others company while pulling these jobs. Then there’s Bats (Jamie Foxx) who seems more than a little unhinged, crime seems to come almost too easy to him. Naturally these are just code-names so none of the members can turn in the other as well as making the characters more easy to remember, like in Reservoir Dogs.

A an extra storytelling layer the ringing in his ear serves as so much more. We as mammals have learned to be fearful of high-frequency sounds because we used that to predict earthquakes. So that noise is cutting to a deep base instinct within us as human beings. We feel that either the situation is untrustworthy or that something bad is coming.

If you decide to make your movie in colour then you must use the colour. Most times filmmakers have a colour movie because that’s what expected of them and put no extra thought into the extra layer of storytelling they have. Not here. The movie has an appealing colour pallet of minty colours with a few deeper ones in harsher scenes. Every character has their colour which they either wear of expresses itself on the setting.

The editing, like all Wright movies, is a sleek, succinct experience with no frames gone to waste. He uses his regular tricks of panning’s combined with wipe cuts to create a seamless momentum that takes from inside, to outside, from one setting to another in within thirty seconds that would take others much longer. Other times he incorporates long shots that play like a skilful ballet between the actor and the camera. Within the moments of snappy cutting it never becomes confusing or disorientating because a) whats in the shot is simple and clear b) the colour helps to further register who it is doing what.

The soundtrack is composed with the greatest care. Edgar Wright is clearly a music enthusiast but it goes beyond that. We’ve had soundtrack’s with plenty of catchy songs in them (example Guardians of the Galaxy) but this goes deeper. This picks a song and completely dissects it in terms of it meaning, the lyrics, the rhythm and tone and infuses it into the scene. Sometimes it obviously fits the context of the scenes it picked for other times it ironically plays over a contrasting one.

One day, while getting coffee at his regular diner he becomes enchanted by the humming of a waitress Debora (Lily James). They both clearly have a love for songs and being on the road.

I have gone this far in the review without talking about what will probably be the main talking point for other critics, the car chases. They are well executed with fluid camera movements and impressive stunt driving as well as setups that are original, so much so that it’s almost like watching a martial arts fight scene with a car.

Baby Driver is a movie made by a man that loves nearly every aspect of cinema and is talented enough to draw as much as he can from every bit of footage he’s able to show you. Nothing goes to waste and is all entertaining. If you want to have fun you will be, if you wish to have an efficient, well crafted piece of cinema, you will also have that. Either way, take the ride.

 

Review My Cousin Rachel by Jonathan Evans


4 out of 5 stars (4 / 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 out of 5 stars (4 / 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 out of 5 stars (4 / 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 out of 5 stars (4 / 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”)