The Ladykillers at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Original screenplay by William Rose
Adapted by Graham Linehan
Production by Everyman Theatre
Director: Marie-Claire Costly
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels, Third Act Critic
Murder and mayhem are the buzzwords for William Rose’s comedy-thriller The Ladykillers. For those fortunate enough to have caught a screening of the Ealing Studios 1954 motion picture, Everyman Theatre’s production of the adaptation by Grahan Linehan will bring back fond memories. Who could forget the iconic performance by theatrical icon Alec Guinness as the crafty (and dotty) Professor Marcus?
Take an eccentric old lady living on her own with her parrot and add a gang of crooks masquerading as musicians who rent a room in which to plan a robbery and the scene is set for a series of mishaps. When the old girl, Mrs Wilberforce, discovers what they are up to there is only one solution – to bump her off before she turns them in. But that is not as simple a matter as it might seem – and neither, as it transpires, is the elderly widow who despite her old fashioned appearance might be more than a match for the bumbling ineptitude of the amateur criminals.
Characterisation and pace play a major part in putting on a play of this genre, where a great script full of humour should raise delicious giggles among the audience from start to finish. On opening night this sadly was not the case. It was not until a second half with increased momentum that the performance really got going and we were given a heartening glimpse of what the cast are capable of achieving. It is reasonable to expect things to improve later in the run, for Everyman Theatre has a good track record – their Oh What A Lovely War last year was tops.
As the “master criminal” Professor, Paul Fanning is believable although relying overmuch on twiddling his overlong scarf. Not quite dotty enough for this critic, although the Prof’s darker side is well presented in Act II. As for the rest of the gang, Steve Smith’s sharp suited Mafia-type Louis is spot-on and Arnold Phillips suitably military as Major Courtney. As Harry, the youngest of the crooks, Sion Owen settles into the role nicely in the second half.
Now we come to Mrs Wilberforce, played by Ruth Rees who admirably displays both the mobility problems of increasing age, limping around the stage as is suitable for one later described as Mrs Lopsided, and the finickiest of advancing age in another era. Nevertheless, Rees’s portrayal is still a tad too lively for the part – a few more wrinkles added in make-up might help. Loved the costume, though, particularly in the tea party scene and the posse of old ladies is fun – Lynn Hoare gets it just right as the gushing Mrs Tromleyton.
Full credit to the set designers for their clever use of every area of the stage and for props for some wonderful touches – wonky picture, grandfather clock et al, not to mention the interesting musical instruments.
Runs until Saturday May 23rd.
Warning this review contains a shed-load of spoilers for the movie.
As pretty much everyone knows, the movie is set on Skype. We don’t see anything other than the computer screen of the main character, Blaire. Of course, we see all the characters faces through the Skype call, but mostly the audiences sees a computer screen. Very modern. I liked it a lot. I also liked little tit-bits you could see on Blaire’s computer screen. The log in to her Tumblr, the things she kept on her task bar, the music she liked when she looked for music to play, recently talked to friends on her Facebook, etc etc. I, personally, am a huge fan of sounds, especially those featured in this movie. Because this movie takes place more or less on a computer, there’s the clicking of the mouse pad, the ever-present tap-tap-tap of the keys, the notification noises for Skype, Facebook or iMessage, it all feels very real!
Now, I usually don’t do horrors. The last time I looked into something labelled a horror was Five Nights at Freddy’s, and let me tell you, while the first and third game hardly phased me, the second game made me sleep with the bedroom light on for at least a week. I am absolutely the weakest when it comes to horrors, so I don’t really know why I agreed to go and see Unfriended with my friends when I did!
So, the lights dim and the movie starts and everyone begins to get a little excited and already a little scared. It starts out pretty simply, just friends on Skype, and then things get a little weird. And by “a little” I mean “a lot”.
At first, things are just a little creepy, and it seems as if the problem is easily resolved. It does just look like the dead girl, Laura Barns, account has been hacked. It’s something easy to fix, but when it’s tried, that’s where things get weird.
Before anything real happens, me and my friends noticed that there was a lot of foreshadowing in this movie. For one, Blaire tries to get Laura Barns Facebook page memorialized, fills out the form to complete this, and sends it in. After the page loads, all the text boxes are filled with the same three words: I GOT HER. When you’re first watching it’s an odd thing to see, but probably not unusual for a horror. But at this point in the movie, it just doesn’t make sense. Later on, in the last few moments of the film, we see Blaire filming the video of Laura Barns, and we see a cut out scene at the end of it, where Blaire giggles and whispers: “I GOT HER!”
Next thing, another character, Mitch, pretends to be threatening and points a knife at his computer screen while talking to just Blaire. (This is at the very beginning, way before anything gets real.) Towards the end, he is killed with a knife.
Another character, Adam, flamboyantly throws around a gun. Guess what his death involves? That’s right. A gun.
If you’ve seen the trailer, which I assume many have, you see that one character, Ken, gets his hand shoved into a blender. A good while before things start to go sour, he proclaims that he has a drink, and shows his blender on the screen.
One character, Jess, is in the middle of straightening her hair during the Skype call before things get weird. The last we see of her is her sat in the bathroom, screaming over the same pair of straighteners in her mouth.
It’s interesting, that’s for sure. Everyone wants to know who filmed or posted the video, everyone is scared of whose going to die, or what jumpscare is coming next. It draws you in, you want the knowledge, you want to know what happens next, you want to know what the next sentence in the demented game of “Never Have I Ever” is going to be, and what the consequences will be, you want to see if they turn against each other, you want to see how it ends.
The scariest thing in the movie, for me, wasn’t the jumpscares. Sure, they got me. The movie was loud, of course I jumped! But the thing that absolutely wrecked me was at the very, very end of the movie, all of Blaire’s friends are now dead, She’s the only one still alive, maybe, you think, she’ll get out of this alive. But then the lights in her house turn off, and everything is silent. Everything is silent for too long. And you know the suspense feeling, I’m sure. It’s been quiet too long, you assume that it’s safe to stare right at the screen. And then it happens, and it ruined me. Her bedroom door creaks open, and then it’s silent again for far too long. That’s it. It was that creak that ruined me the most. I felt like something was crawling up my back, ready to twist my neck, or worse. Her scream after the silence was nothing compared to the creak, for me. Even though the jumpscare was loud and bright and very, very flashy, it was over in seconds. But that creak could happen any time and remind me of that one moment in the film.
It was very intriguing, very scary, and very, very good. Since I am no connoisseur of horrors, and have not watched a great deal of them, I would have to say this is my favourite one. I would watch it again, mostly because this time around I would be much braver. Myself and my friends had a good time discussing it in the cinema and as we left, picking up on the foreshadowing, taking the movie apart, saying what we thought was good, and also saying what we missed because we were too scared to look at the screen.
The only thing I found unrealistic about the film, and something I’m not surprised that I picked up on, was the fact that on Blaire’s computer, she didn’t have “Press Enter to Send” ticked on her Facebook. I don’t know why that piqued my interest, but I think I just noticed it because, well, who really has that button unticked?
Overall Unfriended was very good and I enjoyed it a lot.
Chapter Arts Centre
The red room of Chapter was a lovely set up to see this indie film. With its small capacity, the sold out show had a feeling of cosiness which would be more expectant and welcomed of an independent film.
My excitement for this film had been brewing for a while, with my admittant admiration and ‘crush’ on Irish actor and son of acclaimed actor Brendan Gleeson, Domhnall Gleeson. After seeing him in films such as Harry Potter, About Time and Anna Karenina, I knew that we would be in for a good performance. The character of Frank played by Michael Fassbender and an appearance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, is also a very welcomed addition.
Frank sees the tale of a average British man (Gleeson) called Jon who lives a normal life in a seaside town, still living with his parents and taking on an office job when really he is wishing for stardom as a musician… however his inspiration and ability to create music is seriously flagging. By chance, he meets this strange and unusual band who take him on as a last minute keyboard player. Jon’s life is soon completely changed, with travels to a remote part of Ireland for over a year to try and create an album of the most strange music you have ever heard. His use of social media transports the band into an online famous identity, bringing the band to Texas where this odd and close band are not accepted in the real world, and who’s relationship is torn apart.
This indie film was everything you wanted from a film with such a strange image in the public – a normal stature of a man with a exaggerated Paper Mache head. It was very comical throughout, with every actor having its moments of this, whether it was from the naivety of Gleeson’s character Jon who was from a suburban ordinary home thrown into this band where each character has its own abnormal past and/or traits to Gyllenhaal’s welcoming face contrasted to her sheer hating and negative personality.
The aesthetics of the film are simple and beautiful. Lovely and tranquil shots of a British seaside suburban town, the lake and rolling hills of the Irish huts they stay in and the vast sun drenched desert of Texas. Not only have the locations been well thought about but the band itself have – 5 Americans who all look pale with dark hair, dark vintage clothes all as if they have all come from a cloning facility. Gleeson’s well acted complete British-ness and bright ginger hair creates this outsider approach for Jon from the band, which highlights the storyline will his lack of acceptance by everyone but Frank.
Fassbender is also incredible. With no way of showing facial expressions, the large head of Frank still somehow manages to convey a range of emotions that the character faces, with Fassbender able to conduct the rest of his visible body in a way that complements this. Even now, this is confusing and admiring as it is uneasy to think how this is at all possible; how can an actor with no facial expressions convey so much and make you laugh, cry and feel for him without this. Eventually we learn of Frank’s unstable mental abilities, and this is transferred in hindsight through the hole film with Gyllenhaal and Gleeson’s character’s torment and fight against one another to look after him in his naive and child like state which at first we misconstrue as a sense of creativity.
Over all, Frank is an amazing film to watch. It is hard to fault as it ticks every box for this such of film – from emotion both positive and negative, beautiful images from the landscape and in the general cinematography, the many many perfect comical moments to the stella performances from each and every actor, Frank is a film to cross off your bucket list.
Review, Iron Man 3 by Gethin Llewellyn
He’s built an empire worth millions but will it fall around him? I’m talking about Iron Man 3 which could be the thrilling finale to the Iron Man series. This could be the end of the Iron Man series as Shane Black is talking about an iron Man 4 and 5 but Downey is not to sure. After the success of The Avengers last year as they made 1.5 billion dollars worldwide at the box office in the US more individual character films are due to be released. The sequels to Captain America and Thor are due to be released in the USA in the next 12 months or so. But first to take the spotlight (as he always does) is Iron Man. When Iron Man first hit cinemas in 2008 it was a complete wildcard nobody knew whether it was going to make hundreds or thousands. But obviously after making almost one billion dollars at the box office in the US along came Iron Man 2 and 3. As the first two films were directed by Jon Favreau it’s Shane Black who takes over for the third instalment of the epic series.
When Tony Stark (Robert Downey jr) threatens a terrorist called The
Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) everything he loves is taken from him including his partner Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).Can he manage to work his way back up to the top. The film is cleverly linked in with The Avengers as Thor and Captain America are brought up in the film on numerous occasions and Tony seems to have an anxiety attack whenever anyone mentions New York. If you have seen any of the other films
(Directed by Jon Favreau) you may think that Shane Black will change the film but trust me this film still shows iron man in all his shining glory.
Some of the plot of the film has been pulled out of the Marvel comic book series and I think that’s what makes it so unique. Also there is a real twist to the film but I will let you see that for yourselves.
The film is really fun to watch if you are into action thrillers and is extremely enjoyable. I highly recommend this film and I give it 4 stars Robert Downey jr is brilliant and the story will have you on the edge of your seat. The film is in cinemas now rated 12a (I highly recommend you go and watch it).
And if you want to see more of Iron Man I recommend for you to see The Avengers (2012).
I’ll admit, before we even begin, I have never seen the musical, or read the book, of Les Miserables. So I’m going to have to judge this with no prior knowledge. But a good film should stand on its own merit. So does it?
Firstly the singing, arguably the most important aspect. On the whole very good, with a few dubious notes from Russell Crowe. From my limited understanding, there is no dialogue in the musical, and the small added parts I felt didn’t flow well, and was unneeded in most instances. Anne Hathaway was heartbreaking as Fantine, and Hugh Jackman was excellent as Valjean. They deserve whatever awards and nominations they get. Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne were also notable as Eponine and Marius.
The plot was easy to follow, despite being almost entirely sung, and all the actors were able to convey the character’s emotions outstandingly through song. My major gripe with the plot (there had to be one) was the Disney-princess-esque romance between Cosette and Marius (they kind of catch each other’s eye in a busy market, and then BAM, ‘You are the very thing that gives my life meaning’ and all that. It took me longer to type this out than that took to happen.) but once again I know they were incredibly pressed for time, and this my also be a fault in the musical, so there isn’t much they could have done.
So on the whole, an enjoyable, if not completely tragic, experience. I would Recommend.
A word of advice, don’t form an attachment to any of the main characters. Probably a goner by the second half.
Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2
Before I say anything about this film, I’ll hold my hands up – I’m biased. I can’t stand the Twilight Saga. I read the books, and saw the previous films, and in my opinion they don’t deserve their wild success. I nevertheless decided, since it was the last one, to try and judge this film on its own merits, despite my low expectations from its predecessors. I’ll let you be the judge of how well that went.
Firstly – the positives. The animation on the werewolves is pretty good, and has been consistently throughout the series. (The CGI baby however, was the most frightening thing in the film). I enjoyed Michael Sheen’s performance, and that of the other Volturi members, as the delightfully creepy members of the vampire ruling class (I for one prefer my vampires bloodthirsty). I thought the battle scene was well choreographed and had just the right amount of senseless violence.
Now the easier part. Instead of listing flaws which countless others have thoroughly explored, I’ll just tell you about the main chip in my own shoulder. I genuinely believe they couldn’t have done better with their source material. Because my main problem is the story.
There are no consequences, or really any threat, to Bella getting everything that she wants; Alice’s battle vision was my favourite part of the film – (And not, as you may cynically suggest, because I wanted the cast to be brutally murdered) -because Bella actually loses something, and would have had to struggle to overcome the aftermath of her decisions, making the audience care about the resolution, and empathise with the character. Despite being portrayed as the “girl next door”, Bella Swan just isn’t convincing as a real person. She mopes, gets stared at for long periods of time, gets bitten and becomes superhuman and immortal. Happily ever after. The end. She even gets a loophole written in to overcome the whole “undead can’t have children” thing – she never works towards anything, so she loses nothing. And if Stephenie Meyer isn’t invested in Bella Swan, why should I be?
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The first film in this three part film adaption of Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ had everything you would want from a fantasy adventure film; suspense, comedy and danger. The film follows the unexpected adventure that the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins undertook earlier in his life. I thoroughly enjoyed the film as the acting from all the cast was brilliant. Also the scenery and costumes were spectacular transporting the audience to the fantasy place of Middle-Earth. I watched the film in 2D but I think certain scenes would have been amazing to watch in 3D, particularly the fight scenes.
However there were parts of the film which seemed to go quite slowly particularly the beginning, which is to be expected as a lot of the backstory was played out. But once the action starts the pace is quicker and although it is a long film it does not feel that long.
I would definitely recommend this film even if you have not seen the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. I myself have not watched them nor read the book. I strongly recommend joining Bilbo on this epic adventure.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
The last ever Twilight film lived up to its high expectations. Bella’s transformation into a vampire was now complete and the audience followed her unusual journey with delight. Any Twilight fan would be thrilled at the happy ending for Bella and Edward. Although perhaps quite flat compared to the cliff-hangers of the other films the ending was a well-deserved one for the couple who had a very turbulent relationship. The acting and special effects were brilliant. For me the best part of the film was the addition of the scene with the Volturi, the atmosphere in the cinema could have been cut with a knife. There were many whispers that this was not in the book and at one point the whole cinema gasped. I like many sat dumbfounded as the film quickly steered away from the book, a very exciting twist to the tale.
The film was an amazing finale to a great series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although I think mainly Twilight fans would enjoy this film.