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Review Ant-Man and the Wasp by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

Another season another MARVEL movie. I remember a time when we might only get one Superhero movie a year (if that), or at least one MARVEL movie a year, now we are at the rate of two or three a year. What the studio has done which allows itself to be maintained is stuck to style and principles but allow the correct amount of diversity and identity among its many ongoing characters. This is a genre movie like any other, we already understand the basic flow of the narrative, we need just enough surprise, variation and high level of competence to execute the project so it is enjoyable and not stagnant.

The plot of this movie is based on events that are carried over from the previous as well as a little bit of the events of Captain America: Civil War. The original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope Pym (Evangeline Lilly) are seeking to rescue Janet Pym (Michelle Pfeiffer) who’s been trapped in the Quantum Realm for years. However, there is a gear in the works because Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the new Ant-Man is under house arrest.

The humor is the element that is most on-point in this movie. Not since the first Guardians of The Galaxy have I laughed so hard and consistently during a MARVEL movie. Yes, the movies have all had a generous serving of humor and none of them have been unfunny but this one especially tickled me. One particular joke about truth serum stands out.

As the title would imply in this movie is the inclusion of the character The Wasp. She is Hope Pym, she has the same shrinking powers as Ant-Man but comes with wings that greatly help in maneuvering and stingers, gauntlets that shoot paralyzing blasts and are able to expand and shrink objects they hit. She is pretty much superior to Ant-Man, but a job is always easier accomplished with more than one person so he’s along for the ride too.

Causing other problems for the heroes this time is a mysterious specter that is named Ghost. They are named so because they have the mysterious ability to phase through solid matter i.e. walls, cars etc. They wear a white costume with small red, glowing eyes, so they are mysterious and threatening and once we learn they’re the motivation they also become sympathetic. Ghost isn’t as deliciously overpowered as Hella from Thor Ragnorok, or tragic and threatening as Killmonger in Black Panther, but they are a solid character and obstacle for our heroes.

A few ties these movies have taken older actors and for the purposes of flashbacks reverse aged them. They have been working on this technique within a few movies and here we get to see it reach the pinnacle of perfection. We see Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburn look how they did twenty years ago with almost no sign of artificial tampering. Along with that are seeing fully grown adults be shrunk to three feet tall, a regular sized human next to a colossal sized human and even when they are shrunk down huge fat dust particles float around them. There’s also the right mixture of practical-camera effects and giant props.

With the introduction of the growing, it adds another element to the action sequences. The shrinking was also a rich element, two cars can be racing and when you shrink you can go underneath the other vehicle, now mundane objects and be thrown which become obstacles for others to traverse or even straight up block them. Also when the heroes grow the seemingly large threat is now an annoyance. Along with this Scott’s new suit was a rush job so it doesn’t work perfectly. All this abides with the “But and Therefore” mentality towards narrative and action mentality.

One of the key distinguishing elements about this movie is what I liked so much about the first Ant-Man, the smaller scale. Infinity War was such a massive project, with some genuinely dire tones that have a movie that takes place within one city, that is not at risk of being blown up and some funny humor comes as a nice change of passe.

Payton Reed has stepped into this world and characters and made it his. This is the playful, toy mentality chunk of the MARVEL cinematic universe. It is slick, inventive, colorful and fun!

Jonathan Evans

Review: Ravensong by TJ Klune by Sian Thomas

I don’t know where to begin with this book. I didn’t know where to begin after I read the first in the series, Wolfsong, so here I am all over again, hoping that I’ll be able to think of something that works and say anything that shows a fraction of what I felt while I was reading Ravensong.
I was so excited for it. This was not a secret (I don’t think it could have been, really, even if I tried with all my might)

This book had a stark difference in the way it utilised its point of view. A different story needing a different outlook is much more than understandable, and though I was excited to see how the change would play out ultimately I would realise: I love Ox and I love Wolfsong and though it would be easy for me to pick a favourite, that would never mean that Ravensong was bad – because it wasn’t. I loved it anyway, and I loved it in a different way. The thing about reading Wolfsong was that I also came to realise that I adored all the characters that were there for me to enjoy – so the book being told by a new voice was welcome, and fun, at its core.

The writing style before I remember as crisp and sharp and full of emotion, and it still was, now. It had a way of making me reflect on my own writing style; how mine is elongated and often runs in triplets and have a very obvious tendency to be verbose. It was refreshing to relive, I didn’t notice how much I had missed the style in the two years that had elapsed between books. It’s great too because, amidst the ache and the burn and the awe, there is always jokes; fun comedy in light of whatever serious situation is happening. I latched on to that, it was something I both really appreciated and could never wait to see when or where it would next pop up. TJ Klune has a talent for knowing the time and the place, and he also has a skill for creating a time and a place if he wants to, anyway.

The story was damning; I cried at least four times? At Wolfsong I’m sure it was at least six (the first time I read it, that is). The touch of tragedy but still triumphing it is always wonderful to see. That and, I don’t know, it’s a huge story and one of the biggest things about it is a loss none of the characters can control. I like a book that makes me feel a lot, so I’m not at all surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. There’s something about being able to cry at a story that’s inherently good; it talks a lot of the skill of the author and the openness of the reader. And I liked it – it makes me feel like even more of a part of the story. It was leagues more than the word intriguing can convey; I’m excited for whatever’s going to come next
adored it

I did a review of Wolfsong when I read it, about two years ago (give or take a little). I remembered feeling like I had to be the luckiest person alive when TJ Klune himself said he enjoyed it. That alone meant a lot to me. What also meant a lot to me was seeing the opening lines of it printed out in front of Ravensong.

It felt nice, first of all, to be remembered and also it felt wonderful to be included and I liked that this little Welsh group got to be seen the way it has. It felt important, and I felt very lucky all over again. It definitely made my day much more enjoyable when I saw it; the hours were a breeze and a constant grin was on my face.

In my last review, I talked about LGBT representation. I still think it’s important and I always will; Ox being openly bi was one of the many reasons I adored him. So, in the blog posts leading up to Ravensong, when I saw “unless I am explicit about a character’s heterosexuality, readers of Ravensong (or any book of mine) should assume said character is queer. Easy, right? Unless you see a dude like balls deep inside a vagina , or a woman talking about how she wants to get all up in some dude and ride him like a wooden rollercoaster, they gay. (Or, even better, they could still be doing BOTH those things because bisexuality is a thing that exists.)”, I was blown away. I was so happy. It was also great to watch this unfold as the truth, with characters embracing who they are and ones being mentioned to be aromantic – it’s refreshing to see. I hope it never, ever stops, and I hope that if I get as far into writing as TJ Klune has, I can do something even a fraction as meaningful and important with my words and my characters.

I hope the book does well, because honestly, it deserves to.

Sian Thomas

Review of “In the Fade” watched at Chapter by Roger Barrington

 

(4 / 5)

Fatih Akin, is a writer/director with a social conscience, and “In the Fade” is another example that explore this theme. Born in Germany to Turkish immigrant parents, his ethnicity isn’t ever too far from his much acclaimed work.

I first came to notice Akin, in his brilliant 2004 film, “Head on” which told the story of two Turkish immigrants who bond together after ending up in the same Hamburg psychiatric hospital. Compared to the acclaimed 1995 Mathieu Kassovitz film, “La Haine” it provides a ferocious mix of rage and humour, which is typical of many of Akin’s films..

Although, there isn’t much humour in “In the Fade”, which examines the impact of the violent Neo-Nazi campaign of murder and terrorism against the Turkish community in Germany, that was at its height around 15 years ago.

After a tragic act of terrorism, Katja Sekerci, (Diane Kruger) tries to comes to terms with the aftermath of losing her husband and only child. She turns to drugs to try and alleviate her immediate sense of loss, and these are discovered when police arrive to interview her as a witness. The amount is negligible, (only a misdemeanour), but this comes back to haunt her later at the trial she has to endure.

Katja noticed a likely perpetrator who had parked her bicycle outside where he husband, (who was minding their young son), worked. Being able to provide an excellent description, the suspect and her husband are arrested and detained.

At the subsequent trial, Katja’s usage of drugs is used to discredit her reliability as a witness, and her victim husband, who had earlier spent four years incarceration for dug-dealing, also has his character besmirched, although he had qualified himself up whilst in prison, and had successfully set up his own business.

It was a scandal that “investigators assumed that the victims and their families had skeletons in their closets simply because of where they came from,” Akin told the German news agency dpa. “Having a Turkish, foreign background myself, I felt that this was a personal issue. This could have happened to me.”

The film is separated into three sections. The interaction between Katja and her husband and young boy – a happy relationship. Akin skillfully contrasts a relaxed and happy Katja in a Turkish Bath, at the same time that the act of terrorism that shatters her existence is taking place.

The second section deals with the resultant trial of the two suspects and the ordeal that Katja has to endure in the courtroom, not only with having to face the man and wife Neo-Nazis alleged to have carried out the atrocity, but having to listen to a harrowing account of her little boy’s devastating injuries. She wasn’t even able to see her family’s remains – the sympathetic investigating police officer says, that they are only body parts now – no longer human.

The final part, set in Greece, because there appears to have been collusion between a Greek far right sympathiser and the two Neo-Nazis, is about Katja’s revenge. The powerful and emotional final scene will haunt you long after the conclusion of the film.

German actress Diane Kruger, rarely performs in her native language, having starred on Hollywood  blockbusters such as “Inglorious Basterds” and “National Treasure” . Ms Kruger is exceptional in this performance, exemplifying a woman dealing with grief and anger to perfection. She dominates this film, and appears in nearly every scene. It is no wonder that she won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival 2017 for this role.

“In the Fade” has won a host of awards including Best Motion Picture in a Foreign Language at the 2018 Golden Globes. Fatih Akin was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Fesitval for this film.

“In the Fade” is a compelling crime drama/thriller elevated with an exceptional performance from the central character.

It might be well to reflect in these uncertain times with Brexit, that for many who voted to leave the EU based on the idea of the UK being overrun with migrant workers, that, this ideology, in fact is largely racist , and the bottom rung of a latter that reaches to acts of hatred from members of the Far-Right depicted in this film. We should learn to accept people for what they are, rather than how they live their lives, how they dress themselves and what they believe in.

Country: Germany, France

Language: German with English Subtitles

Time: 106 minutes

Cert: 18

The film was watched at Chapter, but has now completed its short run.

END

Roger Barrington

Review Living with a Dark Lord, Mighty Pen Theatre, Drayton Arms Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

Who thought that this play would be about Harry Potter?

Hands up!

Well … yes, I did. However, when I discovered it was not, I was not disappointed but in fact, probably enjoyed it A LOT more than I would a Harry Potter play (no, I haven’t seen The Cursed Child yet).

While lacking in Wizards and Dragons, Living with a Dark Lord is full of comedy, heartfelt essence and a true family connection.

The play sees the story of 3 sisters celebrating their brother’s birthday – Sean has autism, and this leads him to not enjoy birthday parties as the loud lights and noises unnerve him. But this loving family still celebrate without him because, that’s true family love.

The three sisters are… real sisters. Sean is a real person. This is a theatrical story of their lives. And it is truly engaging, hilarious and the actresses are fully talented – how come the O’Sullivan’s got all the genes in their family huh!

Retelling the stories of their brother is heartwarming, it is at times sad, at times difficult yet full of fondness, love and oodles of comedy. The 3 bounce off each other, which, as sisters, you would expect. And this makes for a fantastic performance from all – I doubt that three strangers or ones not blood related could ping such comedy from one another and manage to show the true, yet theatrical essence of not only their family, but of themselves as individuals.

They looked at home – the props and staging felt necessary and they maneuvered around with ease and naturally. It helped give us a insight into their communication, but relate to us in our own families and how we react to the homes we own.

If this wasn’t enough, at the end of their first night, when the curtain (metaphorically) comes down from their performance, the three are rightfully very emotional leaving the stage, and somehow, this tops this performance as we know how real and meaningful it is to all of them.

Living with a Dark Lord is full of real family, real life, real love, and real comedy.  If you aren’t into that then… well… you better get into it or you are missing out!

 

 

Review Carmen La Cubana, Sadlers Wells by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

If you do not already know the story of Carmen, you will at least recognise the music.

Usually performed as an Opera, Carmen has been taken through lots of different twists and turns, in dance, in performance and the tale is retold in different places, in different ways. It is a versatile and, at times, relatable story.

For those who are unaware, Carmen tells the tale of the meeting of an elusive woman, and an (at the time) attached man. They fall in love but in the end, their love is too detrimental and Carmen grows bored, leaving Jose. With rage and jealousy, Jose returns, finding Carmen with another man and he decides that if he cannot have her, no one can.

The original Opera was set in Seville, Spain. This time around, at Sadler’s wells, we are transported to Cuba; rife with latin music, dance and attitude. It is fierce, sexy and full of drama and life – almost like a soap opera. We laugh, we cry, and we notice how ridiculous some of the dramatic storyline is.

Seeing Carmen at Sadler’s wells a few years ago, the premise was very different – set in a garage – a literal ‘Car-man’. It was full of dance, full of what we would expect from contemporary – showing all these fighting emotions through movement.

Whether I was assuming something similar, while set in a different part of the World, this time, Carmen La Cubana was in a way very traditional; there was plenty of singing, an almost Opera meets Musical theatre production with the same hammed up characters, fighting and ensemble dance.

While it was perfection in all emphasis of musical theatre, and could not be faulted in its execution, I think part of me wanted more dance – latin dance is so energetic and beautiful, it felt as if there was little room for this and it was just an after thought. When it did happen, it was beautiful and vibrant, it flowed well and left us in awe of their abilities, but there was a lot more emphasis on speech and the singing.

I did enjoy this, but maybe the fault is in me thinking more with a dance head, when attending a dance venue such as Sadler’s wells.

I was also undecided whether the narration should have had translation or not – on screens to the side and above, we had translation, which, with the speed of Spanish, was unable to keep up and I felt my eyes being drawn more to this than the stage. I felt perhaps if I did not have to read as well as watch, I would have been more invested in the on stage action. This is not to say it should be in English – far from it. While my Spanish ability has little to be admired, knowing the story, I would have liked the performance to tell me it; much like Carmen a few years ago, in only dance, did.

Overall, Carmen La Cubana is brilliant, beautiful and to all intent and purpose, perfection. But I felt a little disappointed with the lack of dance in the production, when Cuban dance is so energetic, beautiful and fantastic to watch.

 

 

Review, DOTS by Annie Cheung, Camden Fringe, The Lion and Unicorn by Hannah Goslin

 

(3 / 5)

 

In the simplistic black box at the top of The Lion and Unicorn, we are confronted by a minimalist set featuring upturned chairs and small balls.

Annie Cheung is a performing artist from Hong Kong, with her work dipping into a combination of therapy and theatre.

With DOTS, the main intriguing aspect of this production is the narrative. We see Cheung go through a series of emotions, stories, and feelings ; there’s a sense that this may be biographical but if not, and changed for dramatic effect, she still manages to pull at our heart strings, make our sides split and relate wholeheartedly.

Some of the narrative relates more to theatre and her struggle as an actress – asking whether The Stage and its uncertainties are worth it over the sturdiness of The Law Firm. A clever viewpoint of this is that she makes these as character’s themselves – she interacts and refers to them as if they were human, adding her husband’s business, or his ‘Mistress’, to the mix. It gives these more of a face, and the conversation is comedic and relatable.

And while her production is very much about the narrative, combating her mental health and the ups and downs in her life and industry, she manages to throw in physicality, using a chair as former partners when referring to her sex life, and moving around the small stage at great speed.

I would have liked to see more- while I love minimalist sets, and for a show to be all about the writing and the physicality, I do feel that DOTS could go even further, and maybe could develop into something even bigger.

DOTS really combats the mental health in the arts, but also manages to connect with anyone who has ever felt lost or struggling with where they are, at any time in their life.

 

 

Review Pity, The Royal Court by Hannah Goslin

 

 

(5 / 5)

 

One thing I did not feel for or during this show was, Pity.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am really into ‘theatrical experiences’ or ‘immersive theatre’. Something that I studied in my MSc and eventually would like to continue into a PhD, is the concept of creating an experience in Theatre, so that the audience feels included and forgets the outside world. But, just like with The Royal Court, architecture of standard theatre’s sometimes stops this from happening.

Beginning with starting from entering the back of the building, we encounter a temporary bar, an ice cream stand, and a brass band which we are encouraged to walk through. The neon green ground creates a hypnotic and almost another-world essence of a market square, and while we feel at home, we also feel as if we are in a different world.

Pity  written by Rory Mullarkey and Directed by Sam Pritchard is a crazy and mad, roller-coaster of a ride – it encounters the most ridiculous but yet still questions important social and political aspects. Politicians are made satire, war is a satire – this little town encounters everything ridiculous and bad that could ever happen, and will never happen all at once in 24hours.

The characters begin one dimensional – they are comedic, and unlike anyone we know. But as life deteriorates, they become more relatable.

Without giving away too much, there are so many surprises, so many hilarious moments, that it’s really hard to contain any of your emotions. Yet through the chaos, it is so well constructed, so perfect and seamless, that you can’t help but have a smile and laugh constantly throughout.

It’s really hard to review this show for the pure fact it is unlike anything I have ever seen – the creation of the narrative is beyond anyone’s brain, and yet someone has created such perfection in such disaster.

Pity is, probably one of the best shows I have ever seen. It ticks every box for me, although I can fully admit, it is probably not for everyone – the way the story line and the creation, with it being so far out, may not appeal to the traditional. But, by gosh, is it bloody good!

 

 

Review The Secret of Marrowbone by Jonathan Evans

Horror works best when the frightening moments are left in the blank spaces. We can have scream’s and see horrific sights but the elements that truly grip us are what we do not see or the things that go by unexplained and we are left to conjure the terrifying within our own minds. The Secret of Marrowbone uses this as the launching point to hook us as audience members and keep us watching through the experience.

A family enters a run-down old mansion way out in the middle of the countryside. The mother marks a line in the dust and says once they cross it all things before will be forgotten and this is their new start, especially Father. The family is Jack (George MacKay) the eldest at twenty years old, Billy (Charlie Heaton) the angsty younger brother, Jane (Mia Goth) the peacemaker and little Sam (Mathew Stagg). They live in the house under the name Marrowbone, fix up the house and have a fun time, one day out all of the children meet Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy). Meanwhile, the mother is getting sicker and sicker and eventually passes. If her death is known before Jack turns twenty-one the children will be put into care so it has to remain a secret. One peaceful day a shot comes through the window, Jane looks through and there is a man standing across the house, she yells, Jack runs and then it cuts to months later. This is where the movie truly begins.

Now it is months later and all the mirrors have either been removed or covered in sheets, there is a large red stain on the ceiling and they all speak of a ghost in the loft. Only Jack is allowed to venture into town for the essentials.

While in town one day he meets up with Allie and they clearly want to be together, however also on the scene is Tom (Kyle Soller) a lawyer that is also interested in Allie and is seeing to the Marrowbonbe’s affairs.

The cast is one of the most solid elements of the movie. Everyone fills a certain role but they are able to reach different emotional levels, from being passive aggressive to full rage. The standout is Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings such realized, caring nature to the performance.

Some of the most effective moments of the movie are the sequences of fright. We all know them, dark room, something’s in there, and somethings gonna go boo! But this movie times its shots very well and there is an appropriate amount of buildup to them. The most effective element is that there are moments when something can happen and all the air gets sucked out of the room for a few moments. Sometimes something does go boo, others nothing happens so we are always left guessing.

Within these moments are tender ones though, moments of the family having fun, joking. An entirely doom and gloom movie would ultimately become a purely depressing experience, contrast needs to happen.

By the end of the movie, all is revealed. Perhaps if all wasn’t it would be a better movie, but I digress. It took me a bit to go over some of the details that didn’t sit right with me immediately when everything was revealed but after going over it it does all hold up well.

The Secret of Marrowbone cuts deep by leaving you not knowing when it will cut or even what by. When it does it is sharp and efficient. It has a heart, which many horror movies lack, comes with a talented and invested cast and understands the mechanics of the genre very well.

Rating: 4 stars

Review of Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru at the WMC by Roger Barrington

(4.5 / 5)

 

It may seem a little incongruous to have a review about the Welsh National Eisteddfod  in English, but, I’m afraid that my best endeavours, (strike that – my lack of endeavour) fifty years ago, meant that I just managed to avoid being unclassified for my O’Level Welsh language examination.

In fact, I think the last time that I attended an Eisteddfod, I was actually taking part in it! I came third, (out of three) in the piano competition. I recall the adjudicator, a Mrs Ogwen Thomas  if my nightmarish memory serves me correctly,, summed up my playing by saying that it took her a while to recognise the piece I was playing.  So, there ended my budding concert recital career!

Being Welsh, you are always aware, when being out of your native country, of being The Other. Having lived two-thirds of my life to date outside of Wales, I have exploited that, both to my advantage and disadvantage.  So, I looked forward to attending the Welsh National Eisteddfod, which, this year is being held at and around the WMC in Cardiff, with great anticipation.

I was also a little apprehensive due to my concern about missing out on most of the activities, due to my lack of understanding Welsh.

My fears were allayed due to the presence of a desk in the foyer, that has free instant translators into English. However, this only works in The Pavilion, (Donald Gordon Theatre), but as all the major action occurs here, this is not a huge problem. And the instant translation works well.

In the three hours I sat here, I watched a huge diversity of competitions – vocal, recitation, instrument duo, instrument solo and dance. Of course, music transcends the difficulties of language, so I found this to be the most enjoyable events.

The talent on display was, at times, breathtaking. In the instrumental duo, I watched two cute little ten year old girl harpists in competition against two Royal College of Music student duos – twice their age! Naturally, they came third, but to be pitted against two highly accomplished duos from the RCM, and not be embarrassed, is an outstanding achievement – especially as one of the girls lives in Lampeter and the other in Cardiff, making practicing together a little awkward.

In the Blue Ribband event for under 16’s events, I saw four wonderful young musicians. Naturally I was drawn to the pianist, a twelve year old girl from Pontyclun, who played Scarlatti and then Bartok. Two vastly different pieces, and her maturity not only in technique, but also expression was awe-inspiring. A brilliant alto saxophonist, and a cellist who again played contrasting pieces, together with a talented trombonist completed the finalists. At the time of writing, I do not know who won this competition, but it was certainly going to be a tough decision by the team of adjudicators.

Monologues are translated into Welsh as well, so you can understand fully what is being said.

Added to all this, there are a number of other venues to visit, both inside and outside the venue.

There are a vast number of stalls present again, providing a real festive environment.

I took a look at the Welsh Books Council stall, and despite my intention not to add to my already burgeoning book collection, I came away with “The Hill of Dreams” by Welsh author Arthur Machen. The opening line goes, “There was a glow in the sky as if great furnace doors were opened”. Well, I can equate the glow to the Eisteddfod and the doors blown wide open, are those to my Welsh soul.

I invite you to rekindle your sense of Welsh identity, because, one thing that is clearly apparent is that the future of our culture is in assured hands.

Tickets, (remarkably good value for money), can be obtained at

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2018-2019/DonaldGordonTheatre/TocynDydddayticket/?view=Standard

NB. There is an abundance of events you can attend free.