Tag Archives: Review

Review: Burning Lantern Fayre, St Fagan’s – By Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Burning Lantern Fayre was the heritage attraction’s first large scale music event. Over 8,000 people descended on the country fayre styled event set in the picturesque grounds of St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cardiff one of Europe’s leading open air-museum on a sunny albeit chilly evening.

With big names live on the main stage from the moment the gates opened, street food (Cavavan, The Grazing Shed, Taste of Spice and Dusty Knuckle), a crafts and activities tent, storytelling, a children’s entertainer, circus skills, pony rides and a vintage funfair. It is safe to say that no one was bored or hungry at the inaugural Burning Lantern Fayre!

Performances came from headliner Brit and Ivor Novell award winner Tom Odell, who gave an electrifying and charismatic performance, which featured a mesmerising light show. His unique show featured a number of hits but it was the songs ‘Still Getting Used To Being On My Own’, ‘Concrete’, ‘Hold Me’ that captivated the audience and really demonstrated why Odell is being touted as one of the country’s finest singer songwriter.


Whilst the UK first country music act to chart in the Top 10 Album Charts, The Shires, livened up the billing. Their 45-minute stellar set included a string of their biggest hits including: ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Friday Night’, thoroughly entertained the 8,000 strong crowd and signed off their set with a promise to return to Cardiff soon.

Whereas top Motown act, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, despite not being everyone cup tea where given a true warm Welsh welcome. However, it was hot act of the moment Jack Savoretti that brought the biggest cheers of the evening and his set went down a storm. His live set included performances of his many hits including; ‘When We Were Lovers’, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘Tie Me Down’, certainly got the crowd in the festival mood as the sun set on the stunning location.

The first even Burning Lantern Fayre was a huge success with the 8,000 strong-crowd enjoying a variety of music, entertainment and food under the sunset skies. Here hoping that the buzz of Wales’ newest music event hopefully ensures it was the first of many Burning Lantern Fayres to come!

Review: The Adventure Zone by Sian Thomas

The podcast, The Adventure Zone, has just recently finished it’s first ‘season’, so to speak. This is a podcast wherein three brothers, Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy and their father, Clint McElroy, play Dungeons and Dragons (loosely following the rules, as the podcast becomes less about the game and more about the stories entwining the characters they created). It’s a new, innovative, and interesting approach to storytelling which I look forward to seeing progress and become more prominent in the years to come. Although there are other storytelling podcasts (such as Welcome to Nightvale, Alice Isn’t Dead, or other Nightvale Presents podcasts) they don’t include adventure-esque games to propel and support their story. I really liked how the DM, Griffin McElroy, utilised this game and even deviated from it to better support his campaign. A great aspect of using it was a non-imposing introduction to the game. I know that many people don’t have an interest in the game or have a negative perception of it (I did, too), but because the podcast only hinges on it slightly (i.e. for battles or checks in ability, etc) it isn’t distasteful for those of us who didn’t think we’d ever like it. Besides, the elements of the game fall behind eventually, as you’re swept up in the story and with the characters.

The story itself is incredible. It’s something I can’t quite describe without pouring out the whole plot and every little secret and nook and cranny of the intrinsic campaign. But, without a doubt, it is the most enthralling and attention-grabbing story I’ve ever lived through. The end even includes wonderful closure (and a long “where are they now?” segment which soothed me spectacularly. Closure in stories is always wonderful, neat little bows to end a story and give it that perfect finish is something I always have, and always will, appreciate).

I don’t think I could begin to describe the staggering depths of my genuine love for this podcast, story, and characters. I don’t think any words I might have in my mouth could tell anyone about what it means to me. The simple fact that I could listen to this podcast in bed and picture it so vividly and individually unfolding before me was the most wonderful thing, that fit me to a T, and made it that much easier, is the closest I could get, so at least people can know how I came to love it, and so maybe they could, too.

Aside from the main three characters, there were a multitude of NPCs I shamelessly fell absolutely in love with. Even better, as the finale reached its conclusion, the brothers McElroy and their father were sure to include as many as possible, and the thrill of seeing old favourites sparked anew is irreplaceable and always feels amazing. The lengths that these four went to to simply include as many characters as they could to make others happy to see their return was phenomenal. I’ve never seen creators so open to their fanbase, and so willing to listen to them, too. They were considerate at every corner of this story, and that’s something I look up to. Some of my favourites is Angus McDonald (a young boy detective), Lucas Miller (a scientist), and NO-3113 (a robot). I can’t explain them too much without giving things away, which I really want to avoid doing, just in case anyone does decide to start up and listen to this podcast, but these characters, among others, are

The Adventure Zone even incorporates a fully-fledged soundtrack (https://griffinmcelroy.bandcamp.com/ / https://soundcloud.com/griffinmcelroy) which is honestly incredible, and something I love listening to in my day-to-day, or on my commute. I’m listening to it right now, as I write this.

I was waiting for the arc of The Adventure Zone to fully wrap up before reviewing it, and now that this part of it has ended I’m equal parts happy (so happy, it was such a thrill, I’ve never loved a story so much) and sad (I’m going to miss this arc and these characters a tremendous amount), but it is, honest and truly, one of the best podcasts out there, I think.
More technical information can be found at: http://mcelroyshows.com or http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/adventure-zone and this can also provide a place to listen to the podcast. It could also be found on iTunes/the podcast app on Apple phones, or anywhere else podcasts can be housed. I gave it five stars because I can’t recommend this podcast enough, I enjoyed it so thoroughly and so heartily that every day I am immensely grateful that it was brought to my attention. I don’t think I could ever sound objective about this podcast no matter how hard I tried because it just swept its way into my heart so easily and so strongly, and I’d let it every time. It’s good. That’s all there really is to it, for me.

I will say, in case anyone does pick up this podcast, the McElroy’s voices are hard to distinguish as first (or at least, I struggled at first), although it does get easier. However, I didn’t want to waste time listening to a story-based podcast and being confused and missing crucial start-up points, so, I recommend listening to a few episodes of the McElroy brother’s podcast, My Brother, My Brother, And Me first (http://www.maximumfun.org/shows/my-brother-my-brother-and-me) as to avoid this issue.

Review Atomic Blonde by Jonathan Evans

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

There are many movies like Atomic Blonde. A sensitive, political situation where a top agent is called in to handle it and what follows is a chase, gunfights, hand-to-hand combat and some sharply worded moments over a bar. Many movies follow the same form, what matters is the effort and result. This decided new film from director David Leitch decided to use a more vibrant colour pallet and attempts to really make you feel the fights going on.

What is the plot? Who cares. Seriously though the movies premise is as simple as I previously described but in order to be professional I’ll elaborate. In 1989 the Berlin wall came down, the city was complicated in terms of it’s politics (to put it simply), spy’s are everywhere, one spy is taken down who has a list of the names of all the active spy’s, there is another man that wants to defect and has committed all the names to memory. So Lorraine Broughton is called in cause she’s the best at all secret agent skills. Honestly this doesn’t matter, the plot is a thin clothing line to take us from one set-piece and character after another.

Charlize Theron has established herself as one of our greatest living actors. Able to handle intense emotional material and be the grand star of a blockbuster. This is a role where she is the Fe-male equivalent of James Bond, stylish, a drinker and very dangerous. She is beautifully shot however the filmmakers don’t just make her a something beautiful, she is a fighter and they give her bruises and cuts.

In Berlin her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy), a British agent that has allowed the corruption and brutality of Berlin to envelop him. McAvoy can handle this kind of role with ease, he is the kind of actor that believes in giving it all or go home. He gives it all.

During the day Berlin is a city of black and white, but at night it comes alive with dark shadows and turquoises and fuchia. The colors are in-keeping with the time and feel of the movie, disco and dance.

The extra layer of style in the movie is the soundtrack. Banging dance tracks that add a spicy tone to the movie as well as make the feel rather tongue-in-cheek. This works, it allows you to get into the rhythmic nature of the movie and know that it’s about the style and experience.

Not every movie needs to stir your soul. Others don’t even have to be that original in terms of their premise, but they do need to properly convey their goal. Atomic Blonde seeks to entertain you showing a dank, sexy ride. It does this very well, you are seduced by the aesthetic and engaged by the visceral action.

 

Review Dunkirk by Jonathan Evans

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

There is the location, the situation, the characters and the deadline. All are set, wound up and then the ticking begins.

Dunkirk is not so much of a war movie as we traditionally expect one to be. We see soldiers, it is set in World War Two and there are moments of gunfire but its closer to Grave of The Fireflies because of it’s tone and more about the effect of war.

Our backdrop is the beach of Dunkirk where French and British soldiers were pushed back to and the Nazi’s have surrounded them and are going to move in for the kill. Some ships are coming to pick them up but they often get shot down by planes.

We have about three situations going on. One follows a young private named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) who just wants to get on a ship and get out alive. Another follows Mr Dawson a man who owns his own boat and is taking it upon himself to rescue all the soldiers he can. Another is Farrier (Tom Hardy) a British pilot that has to defend what ships he can but a shot has rendered his fuel gauge broken so he has no idea how long he has left.

Seeing the movie is like seeing Hitchcock’s Notorious. Christopher Nolan has reduced this movie to as few spoken lines as he could and focused on sharply telling the story through visuals.

Throughout the movie it is all about choice. The characters are all facing death and how they decide to go about it. The young private doing all he can to stay alive, the pilot that is remaining in the fight to defend the troops as much as he can,  even though his plane could give out any minute, the old man that has a boat so is going to pick up some soldiers even though he will most likely get shot down and die for nothing.

Over the course of watching the movie you will grasp that it is told out of order. Each characters narratives starts and you then learn that they intersect with the others. I tell you this because it isn’t really important, there is no twist involved with it, just a refreshing way to tell a plot with multiple characters from different perspectives. The kind of thing I expect and appreciate from Nolan.

This is Christopher Nolan striping himself back. His movies have become increasingly more dense and complicated, not in a bad way, though he has gotten pretty close to over-packing his movies. This is a simple concept with minimal dialog and more about clearly telling a gripping experience.

 

Review Shin Godzilla by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

Godzilla was first conceived as personification of the destruction caused by the nuclear attack on Japan with an anti war message behind the whole thing. Though through other more child friendly interpretations and marketing gimmicks the king of the monsters has been made into a joke. Though there are limitations on how seriously the image of a man in a rubber suit as well as the concept of a giant lizard destroying a city can be taken there is no doubts that the first movie meant it to tackle serious subject matters.

In 2014 we got the Hollywood version of Godzilla by Gareth Edwards, which is one of the most unhappy times I have ever had in a movie theatre. We hardly ever got to see Godzilla, the human characters were un-engaging and the image was so dark that hardly anything could be seen.

Now for whatever reason Toho has decided to make their own movie. Reintroducing the character for a new audience. It opens on a day like any other, only this day there are movements coming from the sea, first just ripples, then things start poking out, eventually it moves into the city and nothing stops it. So now the people in-charge must make decisions on how to deal with this creature.

Though we still live in a world where the threat of nuclear annihilation is possible, it’s not the prime concern. This movie’s focus is in dealing with a colossal threat that seemingly comes out of nowhere. It layers itself with seeing Godzilla on the move and the devastation he is raining down and the officials running around trying to understand the creature and make decisions.

In the directing chair is Hideaki Anno, legendary anime director who will probably always be closely associated with Neon Genesis Evangelion (which also includes the earth dealing with giant monsters attacking them) one of the most legendary titles in anime. This is his first work in live action and he adapts well. He knows how to visually convey information with a few or even a single image.

This design of Godzilla is probably the most threatening and horrifying version that’s ever been conceived. They stay true to the mentality of a man in a rubber suit, having his movements be slow and limited. His skin looks like glowing, burning scabs, tiny and focused eyes like that of a shark a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth.

Along with the new look is also the classic powers that he’s known for and some new ones that are explained by adding something to the mythology. I wont tell you what it is but its a satisfying one that allows the legend to adapt and grow in this new time.

Though the sharpness of special effects is not everything, not even the most important thing in movies it is still important. This is because if we don’t believe that monster, spacecraft, laser-blasts, castle are really there then we are taken out of the experience. The rendering of Godzilla is shoddy to be frank, especially in the early stages, other things like trains look rather fake too, however such things are forgiven if they are in a story and situation that has grabbed you.

There are many human characters in the movie that all run around the rooms and spout their opinions and facts that are coming in. There are definitely over twenty characters that are introduced through a gauntlet of a passe. They talk very fast and their credentials pop on-screen at the same time, never stopping. There is a part in the movie where they all wake-up from working all night and decide to take a break and eat, then they reflect on how hard everyone has been working. This moment alone lets you connect and feel for these characters more than any complicated speech or feat of heroism. However I’d still be lying if I said you walked away really having gotten to know anyone.

This is not the great reinvention of the character or the monster. But I have seen how bad a movie like this can get. It is not boring and the image is clear and the sense of panic and destruction are effective.

 

Review Valerian by Jonathan Evans

This movie is like having a lot of sugar. It’s stimulating, fun, you enjoy it while it’s happening and by then end you feel tired.

We get two openings. Our first shows us that humans have made it into space and as generations pass more nations of the planet Earth join together above the planet. More and more joint and eventually Extra Terrestrial life. The mass of ships becomes too big and must move off further into space where it has become a manufactured planet. Following that is a scene where we are shown thin, pale aliens on a shining beach planet. They seem to have some kind of ability to transfer energy into pearls. Suddenly a great explosion strikes the planet and most of the species is wiped out. One of them closes their eyes and extends their arms and when they die a blue aura is sent out.

Both these segments are told with absolutely minimal amount of dialog. This is a good thing, it is a sign of talent when you can tell the story without words because it means that there is an understanding of visual language.

 

Said blue aura travels across space and wakes Valerian (Dane DeHaan) relaxing on a tropical beach, he’s joined by his partner Lauraline (Cara Delevingne). What follows is some light flirting and exposition about their relationship. They are partners that are hired to do jobs for the government and have possibly been together before but are not official, Valerian wants to marry her but she doubs his commitment (given his history).

Dane DeHaan, though has proven himself as a talented actor, is either miscast as a swashbuckling space hero that this character is meant to be or Besson didn’t do much to guide his character development. Cara Delavine plays her role better though there is a certain lack of conviction. It feels like she really needs to land a good role in a solid movie, this and Suicide Squad haven’t done her any favors.

 

This movie has so many visuals, it is very rich in ideas of alien designs, colors it wants to incorporate and architecture of ships and buildings. That is in no way a bad thing but sometimes it wants to use all of those elements in the same shot, sometimes while it’s flying through the scenery, which results in a cluttered image where you can barely make anything out.

The movie is certainly not guilty of incorporating many different colors into it’s images. We exists in a time where many movies use black in overabundance or take on a monochrome look, this infuses its characters in blue light with some amber for contrast. It’s fun imagery that often leaves any practicality behind, why are there clouds that are green and also red? It looks cool that’s why.

The movie also comes with a few really neat ideas for situations. There is one where people attend a market that exists in another dimension, one sequence where Valerian has to run through the walls of a city which rapidly changes the color pallet and visuals. These sometimes do feel like a video game that you’re just not allowed to play. Though even with that this movie is still trying to show and impress.

During the rest of the movie and especially at the end it tears apart all the confidence and good work in the opening sequences because there is a big exposition dump on the audience that explains things that only needed a little explanation or none at all. It is easily the worst part of the movie, dragging terribly.

 

Luc Besson definitely wanted to impress with this movie. He wanted to construct a movie using all the colors he could and craft an epic science fiction tale with dense politics with a love story at the center of it all. Nothing in the movie is bad and there are a few moments that are more than memorable and genuinely well crafted. Though there’s not much else for repeated viewings. Go once and don’t expect to be moved, but see an extravagant science fiction that doesn’t look like any other.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Review Celebration, Emergency Chorus, Theatr Clwyd by Bethany Maculay

L-R Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet in Celebration, performed at NSDF 2017 by Emergency Chorus

4 Stars4 / 5

 

The initial moments of ‘Celebration’ are an obscure, wild, and dramatically unique combination of movement, dance and silly string. Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet exhibit both an outstanding mutual dynamic as well as a consistent youthful vivacity that was carried expertly throughout the (unfortunately brief) fifty-five-minute performance. I was so immensely impressed by their talents (varying from acting to accordion playing), that being reminded that they were merely students made me feel, in comparison, unaccomplished. I left the theatre feeling rather smug that I had witnessed an early performance of some potentially very successful future performers.

The production’s mixture of live music, electrifying dance and movement, as well as the profoundly effective drama, produced a poignant and evocative piece, that was nonetheless fun, vibrant, and an absolute pleasure to spectate. There was little pretence – most costume changes occurred on stage, and there was not a typically theatrical plot (really, it was rather Brechtian), but I felt consistently immersed in the poetic flow of each monologue and song, just as I would have done if this were a traditional piece. In fact, I am thoroughly relieved that these two young students so bravely dared to defy conventional theatre, and succeeded in delivering such an individual and positively eccentric performance. If this is where theatre is going, I’ll certainly continue to attend.

https://www.facebook.com/emergencychorus/

Celebration

 

Review The Tempest, Taking Flight Theatre Company by the young people of Up and Coming Project, Merthyr Tydfil.

Shakespeare Made Fun!
I will admit that in 2016 I had the privilege of watching The Tempest at the Southbank Globe Theatre. One may argue that this would be the best way to experience Shakespeare and up until a viewing of Taking Flights production, I too was under this impression. However following this production my opinion has somewhat changed.


The production broke many of the rules of theatre. Instead of sitting in a darkened theatre, we the audience watched the play outside, toe to toe with the performers. It was also not stationary as we moved around the park to a different setting between each scene. The performers frequently broke the fourth wall and interacted with the audience, giving one the impression that they are intimately involved in the story: you may find yourself getting quite friendly with the characters. This is also aided by the smaller audiences, giving the play an exclusive “Just for You” feel.


However, having the play performed in this way did cause some minor inconveniences. Having to bring your own chair and then to move it around between each scene may feel a little tedious. Fumbling with an umbrella (for it was raining) was also not brilliant. The quality of the acting along with the quality of the play is enough to distract from these little hiccups, though. And really, isn’t that what we came out to see?


The production has a distinctly surreal 1920s vibe about it, keeping the atmosphere true to the original play. It’s cleverly integrated audio descriptions and sign language allow the world of Shakespeare to be open to the blind and deaf among us, something that is not necessarily offered in conventional performances. Younger audiences, as well as those who are not well acquainted with Shakespeare’s language will also find themselves at an advantage for the more difficult elements of speech are edited just enough to be understood, but carefully enough to retain their beautiful Shakespearian quality.


It’s not just the story that’s worth seeing: the musical performances demonstrate the performers’ vocal and instrumental skills with flawless performances in several genres from traditional Baroque to modern Rockabilly.


In conclusion this production is an engaging and delightful little show, accessible to all and a lot of fun. It is a perfect blend of traditional Shakespearian humour and modern quirkiness: there is definitely a whiff of ‘Carry On’ in there. Speaking for myself, I found myself smiling and engaged all the way through, as I’m sure did many others.

Ryan Crowley

Naturally I did know what to expect but I was very confused by the way the scenes transitioned from normal then into Shakespearean language. The weather was bad and there were midges too!

The sign language was integrated into the production naturally as was the audio description,

I wouldn’t personally recommend this show .

Jennifer Owen

 

Review War for The Planet of The Apes by Jonathan Evans

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

Back in 2011, if you would have told me, or anyone that a prequel series to The Planet of the Apes would be one of most consistent movie trilogies with one of the most engaging movie characters in a while, hardly anyone would have believed you.

Yet here we are, the third movie where we see how we get the to the status of Apes being the rulers of the planet. Along the way we’ve had the development of of very engaging character, seen the mastery of a special effects art-form and been dealt engaging scenarios. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed this.

Our status is that Caesar and his group of apes are on the move and looking for a new place to call home. They need to move because of the war which was ignited in the last movie. They seem to have found an ideal place but the night before they move-out a human platoon invades and kills Caesars wife and eldest son. The one who killed them and the leader of the humans is a man simply referred to as The Colonel (Woody Harelson). Now Caesar sends his apes off to their home but he cannot go with them, he must have his revenge.

The digital effects in producing these apes continues to impress beyond measure. We are able to see (roughly a hundred) apes onscreen at the same time, of all different species (gorilla, orangutan, chimp etc.) and each of them has something distinctive about them (a scar, different colour eyes etc.) so we can recognise them. As well as that they take the texturing of the fur and present all kinds of different variables. Dry and windy, raining and damp and others with flakes of snow resting on them. All of these are rendered in razor sharp detail that pushes the line of what we can distinguish between an effect and live action.

But beyond the surface level of these apes it’s the motion-capture technology and the actors within it that are truly bringing these characters to life. The most notable is of course Andy Serkis as Caesar who has mastered the art of motion capture, he is able to figure out the mentality of a character, even a species and match them with their walk and movement. But he goes a step deeper than that, he gets deep into the characters mentality and allows it to shine through little moments of shrugs or facial movements.

Even though this movie is about conflict and has “War” in the title there are many scenes that are quiet and some even that go by without any spoken words of dialog. This movie understands that in order for the action to matter you must first have moments of calm and build a connection with the characters that doesn’t come through them screaming and shooting a gun constantly.

Throughout the story there’s quite a few heavy servings of Christ symbolism. Not something I’m a fan of. The symbolism can work, however only sparingly and with a light touch. This doesn’t and because of that it comes off heavy handed. We see it, know exactly what they are doing and are taken out of the moment.

All three of these movies have never forgotten one thing, that there is good an evil on both sides.  There are the greedy, the righteous and the hateful and they all populate either side. These movies understand humanity better than most movies that have come out to portray any conflict.

These movies have shown the birth and establishment of a new species that have had to struggle to survive and other moments where peace might have been a possibility but others couldn’t let it happen and how that war comes with server cost to all. These movie are surprisingly some of the most engaging cinema to come out in the last decade.

 

Review: Grease, WMC By Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

The T-Birds and the Pink Ladies are in the building; Grease has arrived at the Millennium Centre! Featuring everyone’s favourite characters – Sandy, Danny, the sassy Pink Ladies and the groovy T-Birds, the whole gang is back together at Rydell High along with all the unforgettable songs of 1978 hit movie. The original high school musical is back and better than ever!

A talented cast comprising of Tom Parker, from the UK’s top boy band The Wanted as tough boy Danny Zuko, Over The Rainbow winner Danielle Hope as Sandy, Strictly Come Dancing’s Louisa Lytton as Rizzo and Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel. Gave it their all as they transported us back to 1950s high-school America for a tale of true love going off the rails before finally getting back on track.

Director David Gilmore production of this well loved film is truly electrifying; neon signs, fireworks, numerous costume changes, and the car that magically transforms into a glittermobile kept the narrative flowing at a good pace. Whereas from the opening overture, the band that were clearly visible up and behind the stage were on fire, encouraging audience participation as it played through some of the shows big hits. While former Strictly Come Dancing judge, Arlene Philips, toe-tapping choreographer made you want to get out off your seat and hand jive the night away whilst shouting, ‘A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, a-wop-bam-boom’!

Tom Parker impresses as he makes his musical theatre debut playing Danny and Danielle Hope plays Sandy beautifully. Louisa Lytton made a suitably fierce Rizzo, whereas the arrival of charismatic Jimmy Osmond as Teen Angel in the second half took the show into another stratosphere as it neared its Grease mega mix finale.

Gilmore production of this well loved classic leaves your face aching from smiling and your hands from clapping. Grease is still very much the word!

You have until Saturday 29 July to see the show. Tickets are available online and over the phone by calling 029 2063 6464.