Category Archives: Film & TV

Review Sausage Party by Jonathan Evans

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

So you watched the trailer for Sausage Party and thought that it was anything more that an adult, animated movie telling jokes about the horrors of being the consumed then you would have probably made the safe bet. However you would have lost. Sausage Party actually has quite a bit of with and sophistication. Yes this movie with food products with mouths and large eyes that swear actually has a few things to say about different beings from different walks of life and consumerism.

We open in a supermarket where the food is sentient and awakes every morning to be taken to The Great Beyond. Whenever they’re picked up they rejoice for they will now be in the company of the gods. On one shelf one pack of sausages is next to a pack of buns and one sausage Frank (Seth Rogen) longs to joins his girlfriend bun Brenda (Kristen Wiig). It isn’t until one jar of Honey Mustard (Danny McBride) is returned where it would seem that the Great Beyond might not be so great. While they’re all in a cart on they’re way out Honey Mustard kills himself, which leads to other items falling out. So now begins their quest to get back to their shelf and also discover the true intentions of their gods.

Just like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs this takes its subject of food and consumer products and does just about everything it can with it. To how one type of products interact with others to having some serve and parallels for real world people. One of the reasons this is able to tell so many more jokes is its not bound by the limitations of being a children’s movie, this can address alcohol, drugs and sex and it makes use of all its resources.

It would seem that the products themselves do not require to consume. They just seem to have their existence. Perhaps they will die when they go past their expiration date? Do any of their manufacturers know that they regularly create sentient being and send them off to their deaths? Such questions are honestly superfluous.

This is not a very good looking movie. This was clearly made with a limited budget, Nearly all the food looks shiny and like plastic. Obvious really, because this is a movie with a very limited audience. Few people would want to see a movie about food swearing constantly and animated no less.

As smart as the movie is it is still overt. Really, really overt. What they have the characters talk about and have serve as their parallels are obvious and not very subtle but they are still addressing the cause and effects of their subject matter. If there’s an example to point to it would be the South Park movie (or south park in general)

Though it is by no means subtle and quite crude it is still addressing big problems in society and has fully thought-out the perspective on food products (even just consumable products). The audience for this movie will indeed be a sausage party, mostly males, but if anyone goes to this movie and gets a little more nutrition in their diet than they were expecting it will have been worth it.

https://youtu.be/9VoNgLnjzVg

The BAFTA Cymru Nominations Party

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All photographs Mission Photographic

I’m so grateful I got an invite,
To attend an evening at the BAFTA Cymru party,
The quality of refreshments had a delicious aroma
The drinks, exhaled a cheerful persona
The nominees as well as the attendees
Were great to speak too, and everyone was a stunner
Dressed to kill, formally dressed to fit the bill
High heels, suits, boots and ties.
The sensation of the champagne, got you mesmerised
The room was filtered with amazing lights
Flashing shots, projected from the HD camera
The photographer, was annoyed by my friend’s eager
To look back on every picture
Connections of different energies, filtered the room.
Networking to get correct links, could have been done, all night long.
Anyone not in a group, could Just tag along
The feeling of togetherness, felt strong
Was great to be in a sensational mode
And be part of the 2016 BAFTA awards.

Tanica King

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With this year’s BAFTA Cymru celebration just over a week away, Thursday 22nd September saw BAFTA Cymru gather nominees, press and other industry guests, to celebrate this year’s nominees and announce a couple of special awards.

Guests at this year’s party included; BAFTA Cymru Nominees Party Guests in attendance included Actress nominees Amanda Mealing, Catherine Ayers and Mali Harries; Actor Mark Lewis Jones; Directors Lee Haven Jones (35 Diwrnod) and Molly Anna Woods (Swansea Sparkle, A Transgender Story); Presenter Will Millard; Sherlock designer Arwel Wyn Jones; Just Jim actor/director/writer Craig Roberts.

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Actress Nominees Mali Harries, Amanda Mealing and Catherine Ayers

Hosted by the Sherman Theatre the party was a chance for fellow nominee to mingle informally and catch up on their work (and no doubt a bit of gossip!). The event itself was relaxed and welcoming and felt like a great way to lead up to next week’s more formal event. The Sherman foyer provided a great venue to allow guests to mingle while giving a great backdrop to the formal announcements. Catering by Spiro’s, including some delicious brownie canapes accompanied drinks provided by Tattinger and Beer provided by Tomos a Lilford, meant that guests were treated extremely well. Nominees were also presented with their gift bags after the party which included an array of Welsh-sourced gifts, including Penderyn Whiskey.

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Actor nominee Mark Lewis Jones with his Nominees Bag

The party also provided an opportunity to announce the two special awards for this year’s BAFTA Cymru, the Sian Phillips Award, and the Outstanding Contribution award.

The first of the special award announcements was the Sian Phillips Award, sponsored by Ken Picton Salons. This year’s award goes to makeup artist Sian Grigg. The Oscar nominated Make Up artist, who has worked on films such as Titanic and The Aviator, as well as last year’s Oscar winning The Revenant, will be the first make-up artist to receive this award. Previous winners of the Sian Phillips award include director Euros Lyn, writer Russell T Davies and actors Michael Sheen, Rhys Ifans and Ruth Jones.

This year’s Special award for Outstanding contribution to film and television (Sponsored by Sony) was announced-in a speech featuring some of his best lines- as going to Terry Jones. The writer, actor and director, of course famed for his part in Monty Python. Born in Colwyn Bay, he went on after worldwide success with Python, to write and direct for film and television, including ‘Ripping Yarns’ with fellow Python Michael Palin, and numerous children’s programmes. Later in his career Jones also followed his passion for history, and wrote and directed many documentaries, many focusing on Medieval History, one of his many passions. Affectionately regarded by fans and colleagues alike, it was a bittersweet announcement as on Friday it was also revealed that Jones has been diagnosed with a form of dementia that affects his ability to communicate. However, as a representative for Jones commented; “Terry is proud and honoured to be recognised in this way and is looking forward to the celebrations.”

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To round off the special nominations, John Rhys-Davies, who couldn’t be in attendance due to filming commitments, had a special video message to nominees which elicited applause from the audience. You can listen to it here (via BAFTA Cymru’s twitter)

https://twitter.com/BAFTACymru/status/779345305644965888

The BAFTA Cymru 2016 awards will be the 25th Anniversary of the awards, and speaking to Rebecca Hardy (Awards Manager for BAFTA Cymru) at the party, it’s set to be a spectacular and fun event. Members of the public can also join in the celebration of Welsh Film and Television talent, with tickets available from the St David’s Hall Website (http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/whats-on/british-academy-cymru-awards-2016/). For those who can’t attend, members of the Get the Chance team will be in attendance again, and reporting from the Red Carpet on social media, and here on the website for a full report after the event.

Dr Emily Garside 

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It is a marvellous thing to walk along a red carpet into the Sherman Theatre foyer of an autumn evening.

A darkly turned out group of hopefuls raising glasses of champagne and beer, scoffing canapés and chatting loudly. Little groups buzzing amongst themselves waiting for something to happen. I find the beer stand and learn about the joys of owning a micro brewery with Tomos a Lilford with a half of Gaucho in my hand.

Now, at this point I realise that I do not know anyone here. I am relying on introductions and on commentary from the comperes on the stand.

Terry Jones gets a mention, as does Sian Grigg. Very well-deserved wrth gars. On reflection I would have like to have known more about the other nominees.  I have a lovely time. I meet other critics and share stories. I enjoy delicious snacks professionally served and the beer is very good. I am assured that the Taittinger is good too.

BAFTA Cymru Awards 2nd October, 2016

St. David’s Hall
Cardiff

http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/whats-on/british-academy-cymru-awards-2016/

Helen Joy

Review Kubo and the Two Strings by Jonathan Evans

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5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

 

As our main character tells us at the start of the movie “Blink and you might miss something.” If you do blink you will miss one of the frames that have been conceived, crafted and filmed through intelligence, love and enthusiasm from the people at Laika. Kubo is a film that’s the whole package, it has color, laughs, visuals, tears and action.

Kubo is a child that lives on a mountains edge with his mother that suffers from a damaged memory. During the day he goes down to the village where he plays his shamisen which manipulates the paper into origami to tell his stories, the main story is about the great warrior Hanzo and his legendary three pieces of armour, however he never finishes his tales. He must return home before night so that his evil aunts and grandfather will never find them.

So naturally that’s exactly what happens. His aunts (Rooney Mara) are the first to arrive and before they can take him, his mother performs a spells that takes him far away. He wakes to find a white, talking baboon sitting by him telling him they have to move. She is simply named Monkey (Charlize Theron), they move across the icy mountain and through non-forced exposition and fun banter now understand that Kubo must retrieve the three pieces of the armour. While traveling Kubo then meets a large creature that looks like a man, but encased in black armour that resembles a beetle so he is named Beetle (Mathew McConaughey). He knows that he was a samurai warrior, but was cursed and is in the form he is in now and only has pieces of who he was. But he still has his skill’s as a warrior and his memory’s have a connection to Kubo’s father so he joins them on their journey.

But beyond the cuteness and likability of its characters is also the talented script-writing. Where everything has a point and comes back in the end. Having funny jokes is good, but its real talent when you can take those jokes and make them seeds for future character reveals and important plot points where you are able to tell that your with the professionals that earn they’re paycheck.

Laika as a studio is both recent and unique. They started in 2009 and have now produced four feature films, all stop motion. They are all family films but not light ones, no there films have had very dark shadows and monsters with claws and teeth. They are more like the movies of Don Bluth, where they understand you need to teach children about the stakes in life and give them entertainment that challenges as well as makes them laugh.

Probably the reason there is so many good things in this movie is because with stop motion literally nothing happens by accident. Everything from an expression, to a piece of hair moving has to be be manipulated by an animator. So everything that is not necessary and would save on hours upon hours of work is worked out and what is left is the spectacular and the necessary.

The way death is handled in this movie is permanent. There are real stakes and it makes everything so much sadder. This may be obvious but in children’s movies death has always been diluted, characters are either not really dead or they’re death is not total, as in they can come back or still be talked to as a ghost. Here there is a clear line of the living and the dead, this movie takes it on itself to tell children about death and not sugar-coat it.

If you know anything about the rigorous effort that goes into animation at all then you will appreciated nearly every second of this movie in some way. If you care for literally well-crafted stories then you’ll be satisfied. If you demand some more heartfelt messages that will nourish as well as entertain our children then this movie shall fill it.

Review Finding Dory by Jonathan Evans

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Finding Nemo is one of the pinnacle of the powerhouse that is Pixar. It is often named as peoples favorite favorite Pixar movie and often on their list of favourite family movies. So now for some reason there is a sequel. There are unanswered question’s leftover from the first movie, I guess, but was this really another trip worth taking.

The movie takes place one year later after the end of the first movie yet it took over ten years for this move to come out. So it begs the question why? Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks as Dory and Marlin slip back into their roles with ease showing no sign of the decade between the time when they first performed these roles. Dory continues to be the optimistic one with short term memory loss so she always looks at things with fresh eyes, Marlin the more cautious and critical one, Hayden Rolence replaces Alexander Gould as Nemo because in ten years he no longer sounds like a little kid, but has the same sound and feel of the original. They are all living out their lives on the reef before it occurs to Dory that she must have a family, and that begins to allow memories to resurface. So she, Marlin and Nemo are now on a journey to track down her family.

The plot is mostly a repeat of the first movie, with an encounter with a scary creature, bizarre comedic relief that ultimately serve a purpose in aiding their search. What matters is that character development is not repeated and is still stands on its own. Many movies have the same structure what matters is the effort and little pieces of originality.

Dory meets the new, iconic supporting character that everyone will remember, Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neil). He is traumatised of the open ocean, rather cynical towards Dory’s optimistic attitude but has to stay with her so he can get her tag which ensures he can stay in captivity. He is also an animation treat with seven (he lost one) legs all moving about without the restrictions of bones and has camouflage abilities which lead to (as you’d expect) many creative visuals and jokes.

It is obvious at this point that Pixar is one of the great animation studios, with heartfelt and brilliantly constructed stories, but also amazing animation capabilities too. This one is no exception, with all kinds of different textures going on at the same time, how under the surface of the water the image is more blurred but the color pallet more vibrant, as they swim it effects every grain of sand and whenever the fish come out of the water they are wet and can see the water trickle down their skin. And it captures that ethereal lighting and atmosphere that you get in an aquarium.

This is an unnecessary sequel, but it is also not the weakest sequel. This isn’t without clever moments and great effort being put into the animation. This takes us deeper into one of the great supporting characters in Pixar’s history, along the way we meet fun, memorable characters, are given moments of emotion that will stay with children until they’re old enough to fully understand them and instantly connect with adults.

Review Star Trek Beyond by Jonathan Evans

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3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

When Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek is was with the concept that mankind had indeed reached a point beyond racism, sexism and it’s petty squabbles. The conflict was about to places and situations that they would meet out there in the big wide galaxy where no man has gone before.

With the new Star Trek continuity that was created with the rebooted movie back in 2011 it is indeed a chance to go where we haven’t before. We have the same characters but now they’ve been altered slightly which allows them to go in whole new different directions and development. So far they’ve been doing a fair job on that front.

We enter our plot about midway through the legendary five-year mission, Kirk (Chris Pine) is starting to become weary of the monotony of everything on The Enterprise and is even considering passing the Captain duties onto Spock (Zachary Quinto). However Spock has received bad news, his future self has passed, clearly referencing the real-world passing of Leonard Nimoy and has separated from Uhura (Zoe Saldana). Things are left unsaid before they meet a giant swarm of little ships that instantly engage in combat with The Enterprise, sending it crashing into the planet below.

With the Enterprise taken down the surviving crew members are now scattered on an alien planet and must survive. This leads to character iterations that are definitely the best parts of the movie. Smaller moments that make us feel for these characters, and show us them in ways that we haven’t seen them in for the fifty years of their existence.

Justin Lin takes over directing duties from J.J. Abrams being that he’s moved on to Star Wars. The major parts of Lin’s filmography are the Fast & Furious movies and it shows, he has a quick, slick passe to the way the scenes unfold which makes him a good choice to replace Abrams. He also clearly likes long twisting camera movements.

The movie is heavy on it’s action. Not to the point where it sacrifices plot or characterization but to be sure there are chunky moments of them. However these come with a little more brain work put in them than you’d normally be used to. The characters use what resources they have and gadgets, with limitations, at their disposal which adds a few unique visual flares to it and shows that the characters and filmmakers are smart.

Our main antagonist is a being named Krall. That at first glance appears to be a simple, blood-thirty alien that wants the federation destroyed. However things are revealed about him that make him something more. However, even though he is played by Idris Elba, a more than capable actor, this character never really works. Sure I understand his backstory and how he works, but you never really feel sympathetic towards him and I certainly didn’t ever understand his plan.

Star Trek is a franchise that comes with a lot to do justice to. It comes with long lasting, defined characters that must be done justice to and a sense of optimism and intelligence that the writers must bring to the table. This is indeed an action science fiction movie, but it has more brains going for it that an ordinary run-of-the-mill movie of that genre. And it has the characters that we all know and love still being pushed to new places and situations.

Review Suicide Squad By Jonathan Evans

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2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Suicide Squad is a movie that takes place after Batman v Superman and focuses it’s attention on the villains of this universe. Further evidence that these creators have abandoned any wholesome or optimistic views of this world and these characters of superheroes.

This is one of those movies that has a team assembled for a job. Always with that comes the fact that you must rapidly introduce a cast of characters, get us invested in them and tell a full story. A difficult task.

For said team, the members consist of: Harley Quinn, a fan favorite that is finally getting her live action debut, in terms of casting Margot Robbie was the right choice with her cute face and ability to blend both bubbly fun, sadistically dangerous and tragically in love. The other is also the fan favourite of Deadshot, played by the always charismatic Will Smith, he is the wisecrack, expert marksman that can make demands and insult whoever he wants because he never misses. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) serves as someone to keep an eye on them for the government, a stern solider with an emotional weakness. Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a crazed Australian that, for some reason, has mastered the boomerang (as the name implies). El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) a former gang-banger with fire powers that is now a pacifist. Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) a deformed man that looks like a crocodile and society has turned into a monster. Enchantress a literal magical being that posses the body of a girl (Cara Delevingne). Katana (Karen Fukuhara), who wields a sword, and wears a mask, she doesn’t really have much else going for her beyond that. Smith and Robbie are definitely the best parts of the movie, they are the ones that have the most grasp on their characters and are given the most screen time and development.

Most of these character are sadistic, morally lacking characters that are also undefined. There is no reason we should like them beyond some of the, sort-of, cool things they do at times and they are our leading characters, whether we like them or not. But maybe we could grow to like them but are simply not even given any time to, what little we do get is a jumbled forced mess of montage edited together segments of exposition.

The other big name in the movie is Jared Leto playing The Joker. This is the next live action Joker since the character defining Heath Ledger performance in The Dark Knight so there’s much to live up to. Though I don’t believe you should compare one performance of these characters to another and simply let them stand on their own, it is difficult because Ledger left such an impact on the character. His performance isn’t “Rock Star” surprisingly, more like a crazed, brain fried gangster. I feel the talent that I know Leto is capable of, but there is an obvious lack of direction and grasp on what this character is. His look has parts good and parts tacky awfulness. White skin, neon green slicked back hair and thin psyche is good, but some of his wardrobe and inclusion of tattoos (literally having “Damaged written across his forehead”) are something that are tasteless and ludicrous with a complete lack of subtlety.

What is the plot that brings this team together? Good question. Well the Enchantress is actually bad and summons her brother, and is opening a gate to…hell? Another dimension? Where they can take over the world I guess, they make an army of other-worlds creatures, so maybe. I honestly cannot fully explain it, it is too complicated and too forced and nobody will care.

The movie unfolds be having forced exposition for its characters and scenarios by merely having their backstory summed-up with a few words from someone. Then forget about that its time to hit something. This is like how Fury Road operated but, where this movie fails where that one succeeded is that there was all the backstory and motivations worked out and they were intricately worked into every aspect of the character, from they’re wardrobe, performances and dialog. This is much less interested in getting us invested and rather saying snarky dialog and doing crazy things.

What really hurts this movie is that we have seen this literal concept, with most of these characters already done before. The directed to DVD animated movie Assault on Arkham. That movie was able to have a cast of characters, get us to know them, have them be villainous, but also likable and tell a whole story. Under an hour and a half.

The visuals of the movie are like something out of an MTV music video from the nineties. Fast editing, neon colors, lack of taste as well as subtlety. However I can say that this movie has a visual style and still knows that there is a thing called color and is a vital tool to use. So it is more vibrant that the murky, primarily gray looking movies that have come before.

For some of it you’ll be entertained, slightly. But for the most part you will be bored. But this is a movie that is seeking to entertain, trying to be energetic and fun. It fails, but at least it has its characters smiling, which is still a step-up from the recent movies. Yes the characters are morally lacking but they are villain, so that makes sense. But these aren’t as likeable and fun as Guardians of The Galaxy, nor is the characterisation as efficient as Assault on Arkham. But it still has energy, colour and smiles instead of still moodiness, so its a step-up from the previous movies.

Diversity in the Media by Amina Elmi

14010047_10209116700507288_1086472829_nWe live in a multi-cultural society with rich cultural heritage that is not being reflected on-screen. This needs to change. There is no excuse good or enough reason to justify the lack of representation in the media in this day and age.

Representation matters to people like me. People who want positive role models that we could relate to. That’s why when I was younger, I was hooked into any show where I saw a black female character. No matter the quality of the show or how it was written. This was because it was such a rarity to see this. Unfortunately for me, writers would try to pander to their audience by feeding them stereotypes of sassy angry black women. The negative stereotypes are not just a problem for black viewers. Minorities are consistently forced into stereotypical roles that society perceives them to be. These characters would be less important, predictable and ultimately unnecessary. One reason for this is the lack of diversity behind the scenes. How can straight white writers relate to the experiences of minorities?

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Even when minorities are cast they are faced with prejudiced voices speaking up to raise their objections. Some may remember when John Boyega was cast as a Stormtrooper in Star Wars. The global outcry of racists exclaimed “White Genocide” and that the film studio was conforming to the “PC Agenda” Boyega was bombarded to with hatred fuelled racist tweets. Does their imagination not stretch enough for other ethnicities or is it limited at intergalactic wars?

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Cast member Kristen Wiig at the LA Premiere of Ghostbusters.

Another example of fury when Diversity is applied was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot. “They’re ruining my childhood” cried familiar prejudiced voices. Their childhood is over and has been for quite a while now. What they are neglecting to notice is that this movie has provided a younger generation with strong female role models. It seems that whenever diversity is enforced there is backlash. How can change be implemented if we are met by defiance at every turn?

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Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange

Ridiculously, ethnic minorities are even unable to get cast in non-white roles. This is called Whitewashing and it occurs when a white actor is cast in the role of a non-white character. It is not uncommon for this to happen. A recent example of this is the upcoming Marvel Movie Doctor Strange. Tilda Swinton plays an Asian character in this film. Essentially the film will be a “white woman teaching a white man Asian culture.” There is no debate on the capabilities of Swinton. She is a talented actress but she is simply unsuitable for this role. If people of colour are losing non-white roles to white actors, then what hope do they really have?

An argument against diversity is that it is too much of risk to cast minorities. Studios fear losing viewers and money. However diverse televisions shows and films are advantageous to studios and have a track record of being successful. Television shows that have a diverse cast have higher ratings. Examples of this include ‘Scandal’, ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ and ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. Films coincide with this. Those with diverse casts make notably more money. For example, the extremely popular ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise. The summer blockbuster ‘Suicide Squad’ saw found that 39% of its ticket buyers were Black and Hispanic. The movie boasted a diverse and multi-cultural cast.

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The cast of Suicide Squad

We know that diversity does work and that it is not a risk. So why does Hollywood remain white?

Review The BFG by Jonathan Evans

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Roahl Dahl was a true writer of children’s fiction. He created stories of the truly fantastical that stirred the imagination of all who read them. Also he shaped simple but deep plots that could be understood but the simple thinking of children but also complex in a way that you will keep coming back to them years later. The BFG is a story about bravery and the importance of dreams.

Put simply we meet Sophie, a little orphan that is more responsible that the head carer in her orphanage. She knows that there is something that moves the London streets at night, one night she sees it for herself. A large, twenty-four-foot figure in a black robe. The figure sees her too and takes her. She is whisked off to another world and learns that she is in Giant Country. The one that has taken her is a giant but has no intention of eating her.

He will not take her back for fear she will tell people. So Sophie is in Giant Country indefinitely. And must do her best to navigate throughout this world of giant oily vegetables and host that is so large his bed is an entire ship.

The best part of the movie is the giant himself. Mark Rylance moves and is able to deliver the giants fragmented form of English with utter conviction and ease. An actor that was uncomfortable with the material would overcompensate by being too hammy, Rylance is able to speak the unique dialog with warmth, humor and even regret at times. His design is also a technical triumph. Like with Tintin the effects team are able to take the original illustrated character design and add all kinds of skin texturing and wrinkles lines to create a balance that forgoes the Uncanny Valley and more of a detailed illustration come to life.

The other best thing is Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. Speilberg has a talent for working with children, somehow he is able to communicate with them and get them to understand that material and get very solid performances out of his young stars. But there does obviously need to be talent there and Barnhill has so much of it. She is able to interact with things that are not really there and able to pull-off scared, witty and awe convincingly.

The C.G.I. is something that’s beautifully realized. There are as much practical effects in the movie as can be, but most of it is C.G.I. and it looks like a lush, vibrant painting. The sunlight shines through the the hair and bounces off skin, dreams are matter that take different shapes depending on their nature.

What else can be said about Steven Spielberg? He is one of the most acclaimed names in all of movie history. He knows the formula of how to compose a satisfying movie. Knowing how to expertly compose and light shots but also also with the story for having moments of levity, but also dark ones to balance everything out. With this new technology he is able to have swooping, intricate shots that would be impossible in live-action. As-well as that show things that would be impossible, Jumping into a reflection, having the camera follow them and then flipping one-hundred-eighty degrees when they come out the other side, for example. Though there are a few moments that seem like he just wanted t make sure the kids would laugh.

As must always come with a Spielberg movie is the music of John Williams. Williams who has so many of the greatest movie scores under his belt doesn’t need another one. But yet he does anyway. His score here heightens the mood and feel of whatever situation it plays for and ranges from scary and intimidating, bouncing and magical, and quiet and lonely.

This movie is something that children should experience. They should know that dreams and courage are important, that there are threats in this world but they can be overcome. And see images that will enrich their imagination for years to come.

Review Chicago, Wales Millennium Centre by James Briggs

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery…all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts “and so Cardiff welcomes the touring production of Chicago. In a first for the Wales Millennium Centre the smash hit musical Chicago has arrived to entertain packed audiences. Chicago is based on the real life events in the roaring 1920s. A nightclub singing sensation Velma murders her husband, and Chicago’s smoothest lawyer, Billy Flynn, sets out to act has her defence. But when Roxie ends up in prison on similar charges, Billy takes on her case too, turning her too into a media sensation. Neither of the two women will be surpassed in their fight against each other for fame and celebrity status.

As the audience sat down before the performance an announcement was made informing us that John Partridge who plays  lawyer Billy Flynn would not be performing due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ and therefore the role would be played instead by his understudy Kerry Spark. Despite the obvious disappointment by some audience members we needn’t have worried as Kerry Spark gave an excellent performance.

This revival tour of Chicago showed a whole different side to the show by stripping the production back to its bare bones, with a full band positioned on a podium on stage, minimal costumes on the performers and some chairs. As an audience member, you seem to have the feeling that the music is the main star of the show and the thing you should be concentrating on most of all.

In the performance, Sophie Carmen-Jones played Velma Kelly, the tough performer awaiting trial for the murder of her husband and sister. Sophie Carmen-Jones delivers a brilliant Velma who is very confident and self-assured but still beneath her many layers is highly vulnerable.

Hayley Tamaddon is utterly sublime as Roxie Hart. Hayley Tamaddon brings out a different version of Roxie with slightly more comedy and shyness in Roxie than audiences will not have seen before. There are many moments during the performance where Roxie really comes into her own and shines like a star.

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In my opinion, the two leading ladies are perfectly matched and when they come together and perform the ‘Hot Honey Rag’ to the end of the show they are wonderfully in synch with each other bringing a smile to every audience member.

The Matron of the Cook County Jail, Mama Morton was played by Gina Murray. The role is usually played by former X Factor winner Sam Bailey however she took a break from the tour. Gina Murray was brilliant as Mama Morton and has a good mix of being stern and kind to the inmates. Her performance in the song ‘When You’re Good To Mama’ was amazing and received a loud applause from the audience.

One of the real stand out characters during the musical was A D Richardson as Mary Sunshine. Each line of the song ‘A little bit of good’ is presented with a strong sense of carefulness and delicacy. It’s an extremely gruelling role that can be extremely difficult to sing night after night, but you get one of the best vocal performances I have seen. Without giving a major plot spoiler away it is unbelievable how good the characters voice is considering the circumstances.

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Roxie’s all loving and walked upon husband Amos Hart is played by Neil Ditt. Extremely well performed, the character is worked, used and mistreated by Roxie and Billy but it is a truly wonderful performance by Neil Ditt and this is especially shown in the song Mr Cellophane which demonstrates to the audience how this extremely bland man is constantly striving to be noticed by others.

‘The 6 marry murderesses of the cook county in jail in their rendition of the cell block tango’ are outstanding with the cast consisting of Sophie Carmen-Jones, Lindsey Tierney, Ellie Mitchell, Nicola Coates, Frances Dee and Chelsea Labadini. This performance is very powerful and each character portrayed is very different with a stand out personality that draws in the audience.

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It would be very wrong to not mention the utterly divine band for the performance led by the fantastic Ben Atkinson. It truly is the icing on the cake for this touring production. All through the show the energy levels of the band were extremely high and the music blasted out around the Wales Millennium Centre. The two real highlight moments of the band was during the Entr’acte and Playout because it was then they came into their own. Ben Atkinson was conducting upside down leaning over a wall and climbing over the staging while leading his band. He finally ended up draped over the piano upside down with his band dancing around the stage. An utterly amazing performance.

You don’t want to be ‘Mister Cellophane’ so make yourself seen and go and watch Chicago: The Musical at the Wales Millennium Centre. The musical is showing between 25th  Jul – 30th  Jul 2016. Tickets are selling fast so please make sure you get them via this link-

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2016-2017/DonaldGordonTheatre/Chicago15/

Last Night of the Welsh Proms 2016, ST DAVIDS HALL BY JAMES BRIGGS

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Following a simply wonderful week packed full with all types of music, the Welsh Proms 2016 drew to a stunning close on Saturday evening. The Last Night of the Welsh Proms, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, is a celebration of what it means to be Welsh and how important music is for Welsh people. The celebrations began before the audience entered the auditorium, with a band playing outside the hall enticing passer-by’s into the concert hall.

As the show began the audience welcomed The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London and the resident Last Night Of The Welsh Proms conductor Owain Arwel Hughes CBE. With a marvellous programme of songs set for the evening the audience knew there would be a great evening in store.

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As well as the upbeat recognisable pieces played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the Last Night is also about some serious music, and this year’ concert featured three world premiere performances of brand new orchestral pieces.

The first of these was ‘Cambrian Serenade’, by Arwel Hughes, the father of our conductor for the evening. The piece featured heavily on Classical FM where they held a competition for the listeners to name the song and the winner would get to see the music performed on The Last Night Of The Welsh Proms. The second of the world premiere pieces was ‘Aberfan’, by Christopher Wood, the emotional piece which was very moving was written to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic landslide of a colliery coal tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, which engulfed a Primary school and killed 116 children and 28 adults.

The third piece making its World Premiere was ‘Mr Dahl’, by Bernard kane Jnr, which was a beautiful piece written to commemorate 100 years from the birth of the great Welsh writer Roald Dahl.

Some of the first half highlights included Coates ‘Dambusters March’, Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ and Mendelssohn’s well known and loved ‘Wedding March’. The real showstopper that ended the first half was the soundtrack to Star Wars which took your breath away. Nothing can really prepare you for when you hear the opening few bars of the theme played by the brass section. It is almost like you are expecting Darth Vader or Yoda to appear on stage and greet the audience.

As with the tradition of the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms, it was really after the interval that the fun really began with an influx of flag and banners being brought into the auditorium in preparation for waving along with the music.

The second half opened with a personal favourite of mine Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No.1 and it wasn’t long until conductor Owain Arwel Hughes soon had everyone on their feet and singing ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ enthusiastically to the music. Strauss Radetsky March proved popular with the prom goers as we all clapped along when told by the conductor.

The final songs of the evening came in the form of ‘Fantasy On Welsh Songs’ arranged by Gareth Wood. This part of the concert involved a great deal of singing with the orchestra as some of Wales’ most famous songs were played. With songs such as Cwm Rhondda, Men Of Harlech, Ar Hyd Y Nos, We’ll Keep A Welcome, Myfanwy, and I Bob Un Sydd Ffyddlon there was plenty of choice. One song played Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn had a great deal of meaning for my Mum who I attended the concert with as it was the song she performed for the Queen when she visited Wales in 1977 for her Silver Jubilee celebrations.

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The national anthem Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau provided a fitting encore to end a wonderful evening of music. Conductor Owain Arwel Hughes promised the proms would return bigger and better next year, which is definitely something to look forward to. I urge everyone if you have the chance to attend the Last Night Of The Welsh Proms be sure to go because you are sure to have a magical evening of music and culture.