Sunday, 20 December 2009

It Happened One Night (1934)

Home for Christmas and already watching at least a film a day, old favourites of course, it's that time of year! Yesterday we watched possibly the best road-movie ever made. One of my all time favourites, Clark Gable is at his absolute peak of gorgeous, this is Frank Capra at his screwball-best, not a bit of sentimentality (which It's a Wonderful Life reeks of) the script is perfect, the comedy performances are perfect.
I can't decide a favourite scene, "Quit Bawlin'!" is a classic but I like it when Clark threatens Shapely in the woods and then spits on himself. The scene where Clark Gable undresses is historic- apparently vest sales plummetted. "Gable don't wear a vest, then I don't wear a vest!"
The only thing I thought was missing was a reconcilliation scene, but in retrospect I think it works perfectly without it because we've seen Clark and Claudette at each other's throats the whole way through, we saw the pauses and the tension, we saw them both in seperate misery without each other... The finishing gag is perfect because even though we don't see them maybe actually seeing the two happy together would not be as dramatic or swoon-worthy as that bit when he's looking at her in the hay and he stops himself from kissing her- sigh!!

Monday, 14 December 2009

The X-Factor 2009

I'd never watched the X-Factor any other year because I don't like seeing members of the public on my tv, I could see members of the public in my damn living room. TV is for handsomes and talented types. Anyway I moved into a household where people watch reality tv and so I joined in to be sociable! (I also watched the final three episodes of I'm a Celebrity Get Me out of Here which I'd never seen either- I'm glad Gino won.)
Apart from the appalling members of the public (the contestants) and the four horrendous "judges" it turns out the X-Factor is sort of what TV is missing... By which I mean we have no Top of the Pops anymore, we have no variety shows where you can see famous singers promoting their new singles- not on the 5 channels I have access to anyway.
The guest acts were nearly always of an extremely high standard, and like I say I never get to see bands doing numbers because British tv doesn't have music programmes anymore. So I got to see Michael Buble, Take That, Robbie Williams, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Paul McCartney, George Michael, Roger and Brian from Queen, Leona Lewis etc. performing great songs live and the only other time I get to appreciate modern pop music is by listening to the radio- which I don't do because most of it is shite! Rap- that's what's on Radio 1, did we have any rapping on the X-factor? No because it's a singing competition and the big names they managed to get were all brilliant singers.
And even though I didn't really think ANY of the contestants had the X-Factor I'm glad Joe McElderry won because he was clearly the best singer from the very beginning even if he wasn't the best all-round-performer.
-Also Joe obviously comes from a family of drunks so it's good that he can now escape that fate as he is a very talented young man.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

La Cage Aux Folles (London's Playhouse Theatre)

It is what it is, and what it is is a sensation!
(Ugh, I wonder how many shite journalists thought of using that line as a review...)
Last night Laura and I went to see La Cage Aux Folles and it was wonderfully fabulous, up in the Gods we had great views of the choreography and we saw mostly everything apart from when that big-headed boy leant over, damn him... Douglas Hodge and Dennis Lawson return for the final weeks in the roles they created for this production, Lawson was good but Hodge as Albin and Zaza was amazing!
Lately the role has been played by Graham Norton and John Barrowman and I really don't think either of them would have been nearly as good as Douglas Hodge, I can't imagine Barrowman playing the part with such pathos, he can sing the songs but Hodge's Albin broke our hearts!! I'm glad we got to see his Olivier Award Winning performance, he was wonderful and he could really sing too!! So Could Lawson! There's a turn up for the books!
The dance numbers were great, costumes brilliantly gay, the songs were lovely and the comedy excellent, once again thanks to Hodge (and Syrus Lowe as the couple's ott butler/maid). And I liked the theatre, it felt like a sleazy 1970s drag club, it took me and Laura hours to wind our way to the tiny upstairs bar where four gay men sat and discussed other musicals they might see next, I'm told they settled on The Lion King.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Vertigo (1958)

Ah, Jimmy Stewart, well, he was just more convincing as a love interest when he was young and in black and white, wasn't he? But when the film turns sour he is utterly convincing as a creepy, obsessive stalker!
Another gem from Hitchcock. I loved it! You think it's slow and obvious, but it's not!! And you need that slow start for the rest of it to really heat up! After those first 70 minutes when it really starts I was gripped! And after another half hour I was on the edge of my seat! Oh my god! I thought I knew what was going to happen at the end! But I didn't!!
Phew! What a film!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunshine (2007)

Event Horizon crossed with The English Patient.
Except the English patient is played by Mark Strong and, boy, is he miffed about something!

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Thick of It (BBC2 Saturday nights)

I could watch it all day.
All five episodes of the current series are on the BBC iplayer so you can watch it all day- the hour long special I found on there a month ago was inspired.
I want to keep a notebook of all my favourite insults, I want to know these horrible disgusting clever bastards, I want to be them.
In the Loop was like a luke warm episode of the Thick of It, I blame the Americans. But Peter Capaldi on his own in a room screaming until the veins pop out on his eyeballs is television gold. Armando Iannucci you are my kind of genius.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Jon Richardson: This Guy at Night (Soho Theatre)

Jon's routine about Home Alone 2 killed me.
He's tightened the show right up since the preview I saw in July, but I was pleased to hear new rambling ad-libs, I always find those the best bits.
He is a seriously funny and clever young man -and very cute.
Listen to his Sunday morning radio show.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Bedroom Farce (The Rose, Kingston)

So last night I went to Kingston which not including waiting for connections only took an hour and forty mins from Cambridge, not bad for a nice theatre! I have had the pleasure of seeing Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn before, possibly the worst production of anything I've ever seen, but I was not dreading it again because I know that under Peter Hall's instruction, in a nice theatre and with a good cast (almost completely made up of famous actors' children, Judie Dench's daughter, Ron Pickup's daughter and Richard Brier's daughter.) that all would be well.
And all was well!
Bedroom farce is very gentle comedy, it is comfortable comedy- maybe it's seeing all those beds... The stage is split into three bedrooms, a nice design from where I was sitting right in the middle of the front stalls, one bed has Tony Gardner in it throughout the whole play, the middle bed, at the house of Finty Williams (who is too cute for words) is full of everyone and all sorts and the final bed contained the heart and soul of the piece, the older couple played by lovely Jane Asher and lovely Nicholas le Prevost.
To be honest the two of them were in a league of their own, it seemed so much more natural than any of the other couples (or the other actors to tell you the truth) even the writing for their parts seemed tighter. I say it's just their masterful delivery, they were both brilliantly funny. And Jane Asher is just gorgeous. Oh, and of course you know how I feel about Nick.
There was a free Q&A afterwards and I cringed throughout all the questions- Lucy Briers got sort of furious a few times and I don't blame her, Q&As should not be allowed when the audiences are toffee nosed twats... The final question was a complete farce, horribly racist, Nick handled it perfectly. "Sometimes a West End theatre can be full of Spaniards or people who don't speak english and so miss the point, is it more rewarding doing a play somewhere like this where the audiences are-" Nick stood up at this point and looked out at the audience "WHITE?!"
PS Nick says 'The Keria Knightley Play' (as it's officially known) is going well.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Bleak Expectations Series Three Episode Three: A Sort of Fine Life De-niced Completely

I have to say that so far I do not think this series of Bleak Expectations is up to it's former standard. But seeing as it's former standard was brilliant I guess it is hard to continue writing a Dickensian spoof with the same eight or nine major characters throughout eighteen half-hour episodes and keep it fresh!
What made each episode for me was the incarnation of Geoffrey Whitehead that was met each week by our heroes Pip Bin (inventor of the bin) and Harry Biscuit (crap inventor and lovable oaf). Of course Mr Gently Benevolent (ironically the most evil man in Britain) played by Anthony Head is wonderful and show-stealing each week, but I've always liked Geoffrey Whitehead's characters the best. He has such brilliant delivery and a fantastic voice for evil. Out of all the Hardthrashers, Sternbeaters and Wackwallops he has played so far (15 now we're on episode 15) I liked the original Mr Hardthrasher, headmaster of St Bastard's School for Boys... What am I talking about!? I was going to say I liked him the best, but that's such a lie! I liked ALL of them!!
My point for this week's offering is that Mr Wackwallop running Pip's Bin factory was a waste of Whitehead!! That character was not good enough! I liked him as the Police Inspector in the first episode and the psychiatrist (De-mentaliser) in the Scrooge/Harvest Festival episode the week before, but I even felt then that they were not nearly stupid nor Dickensian enough!!
-I've just read that back, probably the words "Scrooge/Harvest Festival" coupled with the opinion "not nearly stupid nor Dickensian enough" is a bit rich and I apologise. The programme is still ridiculously funny. It's my favourite radio show and I have mp3s of all of them which I regularly listen to. I can't wait to add the 6 Wackwallops to my epic drawing of the characters.
Listen on the iplayer here and check out my drawing here!

Madmen Season 3 (only in America!)

I managed to watch a couple of episodes of Madmen while I was in America. I couldn't wait, so I watched ALL of season three online- and can you blame me? When they do show it on BBC2 it'll be on at 11 at night -probably on a sunday!
This season is so good, better than the first two- and they were brilliant.
God, Madmen is THE BEST thing on TV, the writing is superb it looks amazing, it sounds amazing, the casting is perfect, holy cow, it's just PERFECT.
A fantastic ending to this season.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Last night (the day after graduation) we (the original gang) went to see Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox.
Roald Dahl's original story was my favourite book as a child, I had a version illustrated not by Quentin Blake like all the others, but by Tony Ross, my favourite illustrator (see Towser), I expect the coupling of my favourite illustrator with the best children's writer ever made it my favourite.
Wes Anderson's film is really nice. I imagine it would be truly amazing if it wasn't your favourite childhood book! I really liked it and it was exactly as I expected after having seen the mad trailer. All the original story is in there but with more so that the characters sort-of learn morals and grow emotionally (in the book Foxy just stole a load of food and everyone loved him- in the film they were all pretty angry with him at that point!!) Anyway, the script was mad and very Wes Anderson, if you liked the Darjeeling Limited (which I did) you will like this.
It sort of looks like a Cravendale advert. The stop motion animation takes a while to get going- the beginning felt very static- lots of long shots where the only thing moving is the character, not the billions of dollars animation we're now used to. In fact it reminded me of stop motion of my youth, maybe it would look better on the small screen!! It sort of warmed up, I wonder if the animators did each scene in order and so got the hang of it and put in more detail as the film went on.
It's nice, just disconnect the two. It didn't feel like Roald Dahl- even if the plot is sort of similar!

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Grapes of Wrath (ETT- West Yorkshire Playhouse)

John Steinbeck! The Richest Author in the Dust Bowl!
The English Touring Theatre does not disappoint. The Hypochondriac was still a good production just of a slightly embarrassing script- I blame Roger McGough, though really Moliere is to blame, he loved toilet humour. Anyway, I saw the ETT do Uncle Vanya a couple of years ago and that was a wonderful production, it looked beautiful and everyone involved was suibtably beautifully tragic.
Here we have Steinbeck's classic American novel adapted for the stage and played out by a company of English actors... I had American Suzie with me and she loved it- and said everyone did really well with the accent, except some minor characters (Cockney guy in overalls springs to mind) and Pa played by Christopher Timothy. Otherwise Ma (Sorcha Cusack) Tom (Damian O'Hare) and Oliver Cotton were fantastic leads with convincing accents! And as always Oliver Cotton's hair and eyebrows were impressive.
This production was amazingly well done, wonderful set (though extremely minimal a hell of a lot was cleverly done within it!) and staging there was a real sense of the journey in the long first act, and even more sense of the utter hopelessness in the equally long second act! Anyway, it really puts this "depression" into perspective. I mean, we may have just lost our car and mortgage and pensions, but at least we're not all drinking somebody's tit-milk in an old barn.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

John Lithgow: Stories By Heart (National Theatre)

I had a wonderful night at the theatre last night. Alison limped up to me in the National Theatre while I watched the jazz band playing in the foyer, we caught up over chocolate cake and a glass of wine, Charles Dance milled about -much to my delight- then we headed into the Lyttleton to see John Lithgow's one-man show.
He is a wonderful story teller, no doubt about it, I could have sat there all night listening to him! It actually felt strange to me that there was no encore! I've seen one-man plays before, but this didn't feel like a play, the bits when Lithgow was being himself, well, it was an acted memoir- he wrote it all, so I really wanted him to come out again and say "All right, one more, you crazy Limeys."
Lithgow started his show by telling his own stories, stories about his father, his father's youth and life running the Ohio Shakespeare Festival, then his decline. 2002; John Lithgow (a boy of 58 at the time) was nominated by his siblings to live with his parents and look after them for a month while his father recovered from an operation- he was nominated as he was the only one out of work at the time- Lithgow found the book of short stories that had been read to him as a child (the only prop in the play) on his parent's shelves and through telling them a bedtime story each night his father started to recover. He tells us the audience two very different stories from the book- but of course he doesn't use the book, he knows them by heart and he acts out all ten characters of the P.G. Wodehouse yarn and transforms himself into the barber from Ring Lardner's Haircut brilliantly.
So at the beginning when he's telling us about his family there's something schmaltzy about it that I think on a British stage doesn't work as well as it must have done in the Lincoln Centre, but surely he's allowed to be sentimental about his own family! It's only our attitude over here that made it a little close to cringey. Luckily straight after this dose of American schmaltz is a good helping of Uncle Fred and all is forgiven. It's a sign of a good storyteller, I could see every single character- even though obviously they were all John Lithgow- and it wasn't just the art of Wodehouse, Lithgow told it brilliantly. Wodehouse was made to be read aloud, TV and film adaptations lose everything because the funny is in the descriptions and narration not just the dialogue, so to have someone tell it and physically act it out at the same time, well, it was the BEST episode of Jackanory I'd ever seen -and that includes Rik Mayall.
In the second half Lithgow tells a different story, this is just one man talking, a barber giving a haircut. Lardner's story was obviously not as good as Wodehouse (nothing is) but it was personal to Lithgow (it was written with his home town in mind and he read it as a boy) and it was an excellent opportunity for him to showcase another character and a lot of excellent mime! He is a brilliant actor (comic actor of course) It was complete transformation from the character of "John Lithgow" who sang a a peppy ditty about murder and adultery before beginning his next tale, just by taking off his jacket he's suddenly a gossipy old Ohio barber. It was a great performance and very American compared to the Wodehouse, unfortunately the lights went off just at the crux of the story and Lithgow had to try and recreate the tension he'd just told- if I was him I'd friggin' kill the lighting guy, there were only two performances and that happens right before the end of the last one?! Anyway, he recovered it very well and we (the audience) were all gripped anyway, we all knew that wasn't the end, we were silently waiting to hear the rest of it in that second of darkness.
Probably because I'm a storyteller myself, or maybe not, maybe just because he was so good (or because I love P.G. Wodehouse!) I just loved it, I thought it was perfect theatre. First time for ages that I've come out of a theatre and thought 'that was perfect'. But it was.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Caretaker (Liverpool Everyman Theatre)

Jonathan Pryce makes his big return to the Liverpool Everyman, the theatre that made him, the theatre that has a big photo of 'Company of 1975' in the foyer that made me squawk with excited laughter -presumably Jonathan took the photo- at first glance I managed not to see Julie Walters right in the middle or Bill Nighy lurking behind, but only Nick Le Prevost of course and his magnificent hair.
While I was in America Jonathan had a few days off because of illness (I was frantically calling the theatre yesterday to check he'd be in the matinee we'd booked) I'm reckoning a cold because the theatre was so EFFING boiling that it could only be because the actors were cold, the audience was awash with sweat. Anna felt herself drifting away at one point becacuse of the heat but because I had been looking froward to seeing it of course I was wide awake and cramming in fondant fancies for a sugar buzz that would see me through the sleepy-heat of the second half.
Aside from the theatre, the play and the performances were top notch. Well, I'm not a Pinter fan, but this was definitley the performance of his classic to see; all three actors were very very good. Tom Brooke as the nasty brother was excellently scary and vicious, I imagine David Tennant (and even Jonathan himself back in 1980) would have played the role in a very similarly nasty and manic way. Good actor that boy, nice-but-dim in that awful Richard Curtis film and then convincingly terrifying in Pinter, tres impressive. The other brother (Peter MacDonald) was very good too, his monolgue was wonderful and his practically silent performance through the rest of the play was compelling too. And of course Jonathan Pryce does not disappoint, he plays a very real character which I imagine would be very easy to overplay, he's a sad figure but my favourite bits were as usual his physical comedy. I say as usual but lots of the times I've seen Jonathan on stage the bits I like are the horrific breakdowns, there wasn't one in this so I will cling to the tragi-comedy, the wag of a finger or the roll of an eye- the surpressed pleasure and appreciation for a second-hand smoking jacket.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Oleanna (John Golden Theatre)

Kill her Bill!! Kill her!!!
What self restraint, I thought, two minutes before the end of the play, if I was him I would have stabbed her to death by now. But then came the ending, no stabbing, but you know, he sort of lost it...
A confusing play in three acts, three scenes really, yet another one act play I booked (should have seen a musical and got my god damn money's worth!). Both extremely unlikeable characters, both actors I think over acting a bit too much- in fact Julia Stiles- who I'd only heard good things about was dreadful! Really dreadful! And Bill Pullman's ticks and fidgetty acting really annoyed me too!
The best part of the play was the free half hour discussion at the end where the confident American audience expressed their views very coherently- all right for them and their compulsary public speaking classes...grumble... what about my English polite shyness?! Does that mean nothing?! You know, most of the time the confidence comes across as arrogance! So fuck you all!!
Anyway, Oleanna was a really infuriating play, but it was supposed to be. I just can't help thinking it would be much better performed by English actors, say Jonathan Pryce and Ruth Wilson?

A Steady Rain (Schonfield Theatre)

So Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman are doing a play- who cares what it's about I'm there!! Hugh Jackman is ultimate hot and Daniel Craig was in that brill episode of Drop the Dead Donkey (and he's also James Bond).
Well, it turns out that A Steady Rain is ok, it would have been better suited to radio or Afternoon Play slot on TV. It's not brilliant, it has no surprises, in fact it's quite predictable and average, and seeing as neither of the two Adonises do much more on stage than sit in chairs for an hour and a half I'd say it's a waste of such hotties.
But here's news for you; I went to see Jackman and he was corny, over the top and completely miscast in straight theatre, also he seems to have suddenly got kind of weasely and his face is too small for his head... Daniel Craig is a mighty good actor, he played the part really really well, he was quite cute in real life, not too much like Sid James... and I liked him an awful lot more than Showtime Jackman. I should have known really that he was going to be excellent, he was excellent in Our Friends in the North (not to mention that episode of Drop the Dead Donkey where George makes him sing the Birdie Song) And Jackman, well, I should have waited for him to do another musical, he was fab fab fabulous in his Oscars opening ceremony.

Paranormal Activity (2009)

This film would have been perfect if they'd have cut it one second before the ending they chose to use. It was a really really good horror film, but that stupid bit of CGI ruined the two hours of extreme realism that the film makers had done so well.
Cut on Katie smiling.
I expect it was American Hollywood types who said "No! Make it more obvious and therefore ridiculous!"
Both actors were great though, very normal and likable, realistic. Scary!
(Though sometimes very funny with an American audience!)

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Suzie and I had a book club in Chicago, In between sight seeing and meal times we'd retire to the nearest cafe and open our books- her American copy with the Mason's seal on the front and my English copy with the key that appears only on one page of the book and is never used. Anyway, the point is it was much more exciting reading it with someone else, Suzie was always three pages ahead of me so I would hear her gasp and say things under her breath along the lines of "No way!" a minute or two before I did the same.
Yeah, I liked Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code (the first one especially as I read it in Rome) so I was really glad that this one came out just in time for my trip to America- a trip that involved 8 seperate flights (last one tomorrow). It was just as good as the other two- if you like that sort of thing- we especially liked the No-Way!-Chapter three quarters of the way through, and the Phew!-Chapter fifty pages afterwards!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Reviews coming soon!

I am currently in an internet cafe in Manhattan with eight minutes to go, Kim's internet has broken so I can't post any reviews right now but I will be reviewing the following shortly:

Paranormal Activity (2009)
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
A Steady Rain starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig
Oleanna which I am seeing tonight with Kimothy.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Tosca by Puccini (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

Phew, at least in Chicago (where the opera house is an amazing building shaped like a chair with it's back to New York where the owner's girlfriend could not get a job as a singer- though actually, she was shite so she couldn't get a job in Chicago either...) they do opera how it was supposed to be performed.
Suzie and I saw Tosca, my grandmothers favourite opera, on Saturday night. The three sets- one for each act- were tres impressive, the church was my favourite (see photie) and the way they crammed it with people at the end was very cool, it looked like a real cathedral! The last set did look a bit like where you wait in line at Disneyland for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride- though I liked it because of that! And Scarpia's place was pretty creepy.
Yeah! What a character that Scarpia is, I was like; Woah! He's my kind of creepy bastard!!
The opera singers were really good and the translation (the subtitles) wasn't distracting at all, we already knew the story so it was quite easy to ignore the screen and just listen to the music and watch the show. This is traditional opera, it looked and sounded amazing. We wore our legwarmers with our fancy dresses on the train home- Chicago is COLD!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Whip It (2009)

Me and Suzie went to see Whip It yesterday, I haven't been to the cinema in America since I saw Cruel Intentions, I think that must have been ten years ago- I was on a skiing trip. Wow, cinemas in America are AMAZING! It was only six dollars each and we got FREE popcorn!! And the popcorn was buttery and salty not that awful sugary crap we get in the UK.
And the film was good too, though me and Suzie went out of the cinema (movie theatre) talking about Home Alone, "Why the hell are we talking about Home Alone?" "Oh yeah, 'cause Marv was in that film."

Friday, 2 October 2009

After Miss Julie (American Airlines Theatre- New York)

Miss Julie is played by Sienna Miller, an old school actress, she's old school in the way that she sleeps with movie directors and they let her be in their films- or in this case plays.
I wanted to see this play because I love Johnny Lee Miller, it's his Broadway debut, I'm pleased to say he did not disappoint, he does a very good job in this one-act three-hander.
The other girl in the play is Marin Ireland, obviously American, the rest of the audience probably thought she was great but her confused accent was so awful I thought she must be there just to make Sienna seem like a good actress! If you're casting a play set in England with two English actors, why not go the whole hog and get in another, not some Yankee who was either doing a very bad Irish accent or a very bad Yorkshire accent... Miss Ireland did a very good job reacting though, which was her main role anyway.
So, Sienna, well, she was ok as the spoiled sex-mad tart, no acting required. But I really wasn't sure some times if her breakdowns were supposed to be badly acted. The character of Miss Julie seemed to be a chronic liar, so I thought perhaps she was doing it on purpose- I'd say from the ending that those emotional outbursts were supposed to be real and that she is just a bad actress. Her acting reminded me of my friend Alison's acting- Alison is a junior researcher on the Jonathan Ross show, she is not an actress.
There were bits that only I laughed at and bits that all the Americans laughed at, this happened last time I was in New York, I laughed at the tragically cruel jokes, that must be British humour. Johnny was very good, Sienna tried, you could tell she was really trying, but I hope she doesn't get good reviews, she really wouldn't in England. Though like they said in the play, "Americans die for the accent!"So they might be fooled.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Tutti Frutti (1987)

Tutti Frutti is still good but I don't think it's stood the test of time quite so well as other TV series from the 80s, it's not as good as Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983) but then not a lot is.
My favourite characters were Richard Wilson and Katy Murphy, they were great together, I liked how full of hate and disdain she was, she's always been great.
I found Robbie Coltrane and Emma Thompson's relationship just a bit too weird... I was willing to accept that she was an art school chick and so probably mad and always fancied him 'cause of his talent despite the fact he was a big fat bastard, but I didn't really get how she could fancy him after getting to know him because he was basically insane- Though in episode 5 when her husband who is an actual rapist and wife-beater shows up I suppose I can see how potential-rapist Robbie Coltrane is practically an angel.
The band were good- my favourite was Jakey Pete.
Bit of a downer really though. Not enough comedy to lighten all the horror that seems to happen in Glasgow.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum 1979)

My dad's taste in films is not to be trusted, he seemed to think The Tin Drum was hilarious, I found it deeply disturbing! It was a very creepy very strange film about a boy who decides to stop growing and stay child-like forever. He's obsessed with his tin drum and he has the ability to shatter glass with his scream. I wonder if the book is less disturbing... Probably not. Nobel Prize winner and Academy Award winner, hmm. Well, it was interesting and I did like the subplot with his mother and two fathers, it was only Oskar himself that weirded the fuck out of me.

Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall (Cambridge Arts Theatre)

Gone a bit play-mad lately, and it promises to continue when I go to America on tuesday, I've got tickets for three plays and one opera and no doubt I'll get carried away and review the Empire State Building or something... I didn't go up it last time, went up the Rockefeller and got a nice view of the ESB, Kim's apartment apparently looks out onto the ESB, man, I'm excited.
Anyway, Andy and I went to see this nice adaptation of Spike's book the other night, the theatre was pretty empty (shame, people of Cambirdge suck) so half way through we managed to sneak closer than or ten quid tickets allowed and we got a great view.
It's a variety show under the guise of a WW2 variety show, chapters and stories from Spike's memoir about his time in the army are acted out by the five members of the cast and in between- and sometimes during- there are some brilliant jazz numbers as each of the cast plays numerous instruments and can all sing really REALLY well. (I am so turned on by talent.) Of course Spike Milligan was in a jazz band while he was in the army so I reckon it's pretty much an 100% accurate portrayal of the war in North Africa, right down to Hitler singing in his underpants.
There were lots of jokes about Anton Walbrook and the" bloody Warsaw Concerto!" which I was greatly amused by- I particularly liked when the pianist played the concerto and the Nazis and Tommys argued and pushed the piano away, neither wanting anything to do with the awful rot. The boy playing Spike was appropriately mad, the madness of war and the madness of Spike Milligan seemed to come naturally to him, all the cast was excellent.
It was a great play, funny and really cleverly staged, I still felt sad afterwards though, Spike's mental health issues are played out quite seriously and, you know- it's the war. I then dreamt that I was in a one-man show that I'd written about the Holocaust. It was not funny.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Very Potter Musical

I was tired so I thought, ok I'll watch the first two 8 minute sections on youtube and if it's any good I'll watch a bit more tomorrow. Then I was like, well, I'll watch to the end of the first act... But anyway, I watched it all. All three hours.
Wonderful performances, wonderful script, wonderful special effects, wonderful staging and awesome songs!
The parody condenses all seven Harry Potter books into one jam-packed year at Hogwarts, Harry has miles more charisma as a guitar playing teenager who likes being famous than Dan Rads or book-Potter, I liked this Potter. Ron was good as a constantly eating jack-ass and Hermione and Ginny were good support. But the show belongs to Voldemort and Draco, Voldemort was hot and the girl playing Draco gave an uber-cute performance that made my favourite character even more hilariously weird.
So lets all climb on Rumbleroar's back and don't forget your space suits, we're going to Mars!
Watch on Youtube (You have to watch at least two parts before you really get into it.)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Mother Courage and Her Children (National Theatre)

The acoustics in the Olivier Theatre are amazing, I wish I'd seen Oklahoma. Anna and I didn't know what to expect from Mother Courage, I hadn't read anything (they haven't had their Press Night yet thanks to last minute cast changes) and I think we expected a short political piece. It was three hours and twenty minutes long, and every scene had a huge angry musical number in it.
Mother Courage makes her entrance standing on top of a covered wagon that rises up out of huge pit in the ground to flashing lights, the sounds of war and blaring music. She is wearing an impressive frock and singing aggressively into a microphone. Her children pull the wagon in circles around the stage while she belts out her opinions.
Fiona Shaw is possibly the best performer I have ever seen on stage. The role was hers, the play was hers, the stage was hers. She has the most amazing stage presence. I'd heard she was good, but to know her only as an actor who plays silly bit-parts on screen, well, she blew me away. Now I'm not sexist, BUT I've never seen a woman hold the stage like that, she had the stage presence of a man. A really really REALLY good man.
I saw four shows in the last three days, Mother Courage was the first one, it's the one that sticks with me just because Fiona Shaw was so good. I cried at the end.

A Brief History of Scotland: We Done Loads! (Leicester Square Theatre)

My pals done a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival three years ago, they did it again a year ago (tightened it up made it extra good and spicy) It was so good that they got a chance to take their good selves to London for five days only to star in a WEST END SHOW!
A Brief History of Scotland is an excellent little sketch show that I have had the pleasure of seeing, I don't know, about five times. The sketches cover all the essentials; religion, art, technology, literature, etc. My favourite Sketch is still the Trainspotting parody 'Choose Fife' (Well done Paul, you were brill) but I also love the poetry bit where a flustered rhyming McGonagall (the worst poet in Scotland- and possibly the world) introduces sensitive flower Rabbie Burns who turns out to be a disgusting foul-mouthed drunk.
This show worked really really well in Edinburgh, and most sketches translated well to a London stage, a few fell down -not because of the excellent, talented and beautiful cast but because of an international London audience's ignorance when it comes to Scottish history. You really have to have a basic knowledge of what's being parodied to get the most out of this, which of course visitors to Scotland do, but sadly visitors to Leicester Square did not.

All's Well that Ends Well (National Theatre)

It looked magical. Same Art Director in charge of War Horse methinks- silhouetted trees and torn paper all over the place. It was extremely pretty and the performances were all top-notch. I didn't know this Shakespeare, I knew it was supposed to be a comedy (in other words nobody dies) but by the end of the first act I didn't see how it could possibly End Well!! It did end well, I suppose, if being trapped in a loveless marriage means ending well!
The plot is that an orphan girl is in love with a young boy who is called up by the terminally ill King to join the army (which he is super excited about btw) the girl cures the King (her dad was a wizard or something) so to reward her the King marries her to the boy she loves- turns out though he's SO not interested, so he leaves for war hoping that she'll die! She wanders around for a bit, meets a pretty maid and hatches a scheme so that her husband will sleep with the pretty maid (who he totally fancies) but actually he'll be blindfolded and it will be HER! It ends with the husband coming back home to find that his wife is not dead but pregnant so he admits defeat and says "ok, I suppose I'll be your husband."
HORROR! This is not a happy ending!!
I felt so awful for the heroine! Because he was such a shit!! But I realise that in Shakespeare's day the audience reaction would have been the complete opposite! Because she was a tricky woman with lots of schemes! Scheming to be married to him, scheming to trick him into sleeping with her, scheming to trap him in a marriage!! So she would have been the scheming villain rather than him the shit who liked her but ugh, didn't want to marry her!
I guess I felt extra bad because I'm sort of fond of the old schemes myself. If I ever get me a husband it'll be by a scheme.

The Hypochondriac (ETT at the Cambridge Arts Theatre)

Moliere again, Le Malade Imaginaire was his final play. Liverpool poet Roger McGough has adapted Tartuffe in the past but steered clear of The Hypochondriac because he wasn't too keen on the scatalogical. I have to say I wasn't too keen either. Anyway, McGough wrote this translation that was first performed at the Everyman and the silly sod decided to write it in verse.
Yes verse. Rhyming that sometimes got in the way and not like the amusing half-crap-rhymes that were only there for a laugh. The audience was clearly impressed by the rhyming and at first just laughed at the end of every line because amazingly it rhymed with the last. I found that more irritating than the rhyming itself. Anyway, I got into it more than Anna because I do like silliness and I do like rhyme!
But, perhaps because it was Moliere's last play it seemed very very familiar, same old same old. It was a bit disjointed I thought, there were some excellent characters that were only cameos; at the beginning we were presented with the scheming wife's moustachioed lover- he was excellent but then never seen again. The wife herself, once found out was not seen again. The idiot was underused, he was hilarious, instead there was too much of the young (wet) lovers and the sense-talking brother. But Clive Francis and Leanne Best (as the Hypochondriac and his clever maid) were consistently good and Miss Best especially was very funny though at first her very deliberate delivery of the rhyming verse annoyed me I found that in the end it worked best for what was of course just a silly farce.

Houses of Parliament Tour, Foreign Office Open House Weekend

You can tour the Houses of Parliament in August and September when the Lords and Politicians are on holiday. Anna and I went on thursday, it was most interesting. The only bit we were allowed to take photos of was the entrance hall that has been there since the 1000s, everything else was built in Victorian times and so was all gold and sparkly- though the main bit you see on telly (The Commons Chamber) was designed by the guy who designed the red telephone box. House of Lords was super sparkly though!
Lots of fab rooms, huge ones with paintings of past kings and queens- a nice cute one with the Tudors all around the picture rail, and HUGE murals of the battle of Trafalgar. Also, as you might expect there are statues of past prime ministers everywhere and the most horrific one was of Thatcher, the artist who sculpted it said that he did it so that when the revolution comes there'd be something to pull down. Ho ho ho. Anyway, worth a visit, very interesting.
We also dashed around the Foreign Office, this weekend was Open House Weekend where the public get access to all sorts of interesting buildings that are usually private. Well, The Foreign Office wasn't as exciting as all that. Victorian again, really nice indoor courtyard and lots of Venitian looking rooms, but only one really big impressive bit (The State Stair) -too many plebs wandering around.

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Philipa Pearce Memorial Lecture: 'What is Children's Poetry For?' (speaker Michael Rosen, Homerton College)

The Difference

In Glasgow
The hotel gave us something called
In Edinburgh
The hotel gave us the same stuff
and it was called:
'Skincare Bar'.

Michael Rosen gave an interesting lecture, focusing on the decline of teaching and the hideous rise of children as statistics. And then he signed my book afterwards, I wish I'd had my tape of The Michael Rosen Rap with me for him to sign, I remember all those poems off by heart. I told him that I was going to stand up in the lecture and shout "Get out! Get out! The Skyfoogle has escaped!!" I also told him that the Skyfoogle has haunted Anna her entire life. She never got the joke.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

My Favourite Brunette (1947)

I watched this Bob Hope film while eating my breakfast and then decided to carry on watching because some of the lines cracked me up as well as the visual gags. I especially liked the scene where Peter Lorre kept sneakily placing the jewelry box in Bob's path only to have him miss it every time.
Bob Hope is a baby photographer whose office happens to be next door to the office of a private detective. ho ho ho, classic.
"I woke up with a lump on my head the size of my head."
The one-liners were great but I just loved the way he described everything, those voiceovers can be so blah in old murder movies, but Bob's commentary was top-notch.
"It was one of those real swanky joints where they eat mink for breakfast."

Wide Saragasso Sea (book by Jean Rhys and drama BBC4)

We watched the 2006 drama of the Jane Eyre prequel a couple of nights ago, Anna's been on a Rafe Spall kick since the Desperate Romantics ended (I thought it was quite disappointing when they stopped focusing on Holman Hunt and Millais and turned William Morris into a weirdo). So we watched the drama and I felt it was all over extremely quickly. It began quickly, they were married within the first ten minutes, and then it suddenly ended after only an hour and twenty minutes.
I read the book, to see if it was anything like it. Turns out it's almost exactly the same. The only thing they left our was Antoinette's childhood, which is a shame because you get now why Rochester's such a prink, but not really why she "goes mad"... This isn't something that happened overnight, there was a lot going on there. Well, they talk about it, but not as much as in the novel.
I liked the book better, though I don't usually like to read things that are in first-person I thought it worked well, it felt isolated and weird just reading the two sides of the story. I especially liked how Rochester was never referred to by name, but you knew it was him. I pictured a young Toby Stephens rather than Rafe 'cause he was an excellent (though stunningly handsome) Rochester in 2006's Jane Eyre- sorry Rafe! You were really much better suited to the role. I didn't picture Rebecca Hall, even after watching her do a really good job in the drama, I think I pictured her more obviously mixed-race White Creole, rather than the way Rebecca Hall is, which is shiny white- thought turns out her Mum is opera singer Maria Ewing, who is much more how I imagined Antoinette!!
Anyway, it wasn't really my kind of book, but it had to be read, we can't be Bronte experts and not bother with the most famous and successful fanfic of all time!!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Scoop (1986)

Evelyn Waugh. Mistaken Identity. Eccentric Family. Made-up Country. Tart.
Can you picture it?
Michael Maloney is so sweet.
But sometimes creepy.
According to Amazon.crap people who bought this DVD also bought The Red Shoes, it's true, I bought The Red Shoes a while ago, it's one of my favourite films. Anton Walbrook has great hair.

Footloose (1984)

Alison and I are going to see John Lithgow in October. He's at the National Theatre reading P.G. Wodehouse. I told Nicola this news excitedly last week and went on to list many [possibly bogus] facts about Lithgow that include: "He's retired to Keighley!" I have no idea where I read this rumor, maybe I dreamt it, but I've told enough people now for it to be circulating as an actual rumor. A fact that is definite is that Johnny is most excellent at drawing, also he is pals with Jonathan Pryce- who also dabbles. All the actors I seem to like end up being friends with Jonathan Pryce, who is of course still numero uno with me and has been for coming up 10 years now (horror!)
Anyway, Nicola blocking out all blabbing from Amy made the connection in her chick-flick dominated brain that John Lithgow was mentioned and therefore Footloose was the film we should watch that afternoon when it was too hot to work.
When Andy returned from his week away from the house I said, "Hey Andy, have you seen Footloose? Well I HAVE." I then ranted for a good ten minutes about how I'd cooked my dinner and settled down to watch something while eating, glanced over the DVDs in the living room and realised after scanning them for a good minute or two (dinner is now cold) that there is not a single film there that I would EVER watch! Nicola and Laura's DVD collection is dire!! Dirty Dancting?! Flashdance!? Step Up to the Whatever- basically a million films about dancing...
The girls like 'lite' films, and a couple of days ago it was my choice and so looking at the selection of films I've brought with me to my new home I realised I didn't really have anything that would pass as 'lite' (How would you categorize The Elephant Man? -Romantic comedy?) so I chose Still Crazy (1998) and Nicola said when it ended "There was no romantic resolution!" To which I replied angrily; "It was never going to happen! She was always in love with Brian! And the resolution was that Jimmy Nail got to sing the song he co-wrote and Bill Nighy stopped being such a dick!!"
Anyway, back to Footloose. Kevin Bacon moves to a town where dancing is illegal. John Lithgow plays a preacher who hates dancing so Stan and Froggy and Kevin Bacon take him to see Singing in the Rain and they all dance home together.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare's Globe on tour- Emmanuel College Gardens, Cambridge)

The Globe should stick to Shakespeare. This was the funniest thing I've seen for ages. A talented bunch of actors and musicians doing some really really good comedy with nothing but a couple of silly hats.
A nice first experience of outdoor theatre too; good weather (though thank god not as good as it had been all week or I would have died of sunstroke) and not too many ducks trying to get at the sandwiches.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Helen by Euripides- adapted by Frank McGuinness (Shakespeare's Globe)

It was hot yesterday, really hot. You'd think an evening performance in an open-air theatre like the Globe would be nice. It wasn't, it was stuffy, uncomfortable and head-ache inducing. And that was just the play.
Lauren and I went to see Helen at the Globe for my birthday (day two of a three day birthday weekend; first a Friday night party, then Saturday London to see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, a fab dinner in a posh restaurant and a play with a handsome lead. Finally Sunday a long walk through the countryside and afternoon cream tea!) I'd seen a Greek classic adapted by Frank McGuinness at the National Theatre last year, Oedipus, one of the best one act plays I'd ever seen, horrifically terrifying and well acted by Ralph Fiennes. So I was hopeful, the Guardian only gave Helen two stars but lots of papers gave good reviews, so I wasn't worried.
Frank McGuinness cannot do comedy. It was the script that I think was ultimately awful, not the actors. I saw Pennie Downie in Hamlet last year and she was a great Gertrude, she wasn't irritating beyond belief like she was last night, it was the poorly written character who was irritating. And I know what to expect from the Globe, I saw The Merry Wives of Windsor last summer and it was one of the best Shakespeares I've ever seen, it was brilliantly staged and wonderfully funny- Andrew Havill in particular I still think of and giggle. Anyway, at the Globe you expect singing and dancing- the whole 16th Century experience- but in moderation!!! And when appropriate!
Also there was too much going on visually in Helen (a horrible set and confusing troupe of slaves prancing about at all times), but mainly I had problems with the lack of story and the fact that it didn't seem to know if it was a comedy or not- it switched from bawdy crude jokey shite to serious woe-is-me stuff, make your mind up! Lots of people were laughing, but I wasn't. It wasn't funny. It was really embarrassing.
Here's a quote from Lauren to finish off, who by the way didn't mind that it was awful so much because at least Paul McGann is some sweet eye-candy.
"Poorly written, poorly acted, poorly staged, Pauly McGann."

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Dark City (1998)

It looked and felt like Brazil(1985) except more polished, unfortunately there was not one joke in the whole film. Keifer Sutherland was doing a camp impression of Peter Lorre so that was sort of funny, but not really... I felt as though I'd seen the story a hundred times, though at first it was ridiculously confusing. But I hadn't read a description so I had no idea what it was about- I had no idea what it was about for a whole hour!
I like Rufus Sewell and he was definitely handsome in this film and Jennifer Connelly was gorgeous, remember she used to be so lovely and pale and not-anorexic!
But in the end you can sort of tell the caliber of a film when the bad guys walk in and they're Richard O'Brien and Ian Richardson.
Ho hum.

Bronson (2009)

Tom Hardy is a bloody good actor. I really liked this film but if it had been anyone else it I don't think it would have worked.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The Rivals (Abbey Theatre- Dublin, playing until the end of September)

Ok, so I don't know how useful this review will be to anyone because the only people I know in Ireland were sitting next to me in the audience on Wednesday. Anna and I went to visit Sarah in Dublin, we had a non-stop chock-a-block three days of Irish-fun. Though somehow I managed not to drink any whiskey. On the first day Anna and I were tourists, we did the open top bus, the W.B. Yeats exhibit, Trinity College Library and the Writers Museum.
local boy R.B. Sheridan wrote The Rivals in London. Oscar Wilde wrote in Oxford, Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in Whitby, James Joyce wrote in Dublin and his work is damn confusing!! Anyway, The Rivals is the third Restoration Comedy I have seen, I saw Etherege's Man of Mode at the National Theatre starring Tom Hardy and Rory Kinnear, and that was effing brilliant. Wycherly's The Country Wife with Toby Stephens was less memorable, though the sets were psychedelic. Yes, Man of Mode was extremely good, with lavish revolving sets, modern dress and music, it was inventive and spectacular. The Rivals at the Abbey Theatre (founded by Yeats and Lady Augusta) was done with much less expense, with less set and props! But it was perfect.
The company was so good. These actors were fabulously funny (maybe the clown was a bit grating, but hey ho, the American kids in front of us loved him!) everyone was wonderful. Especially Nick Dunning as the father, he had perfect comic timing and Marion O'Dwyer as Mrs Malaprop, a brilliant character to play. Of course Sheridan is really behind it all, the scenes that worked best were the ones when just two actors were on stage speaking at each other- a different battle of wits every ten minutes. Jesus, it was only a preview but they were bringing the house down. It was by far the best production I've seen for ages. Oh, and the costumes were amazing.

Desperate Romantics (BBC2-Tuesdays 9pm)

Oh, so another thing I'm desperately obsessed with is the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (I'm so cool) though I've never been that fond of Rosetti- who seems to be the leader of the boyband in the new television series. The show is written by Blackpool creator Peter Bowker, who has dropped some clangers in his time so we weren't really sure what might happen- judging from the amazing trailer it was going to be great; Rafe Spall as Holman Hunt, Posner (Sam Barnett) of the History Boys playing Millais and some pretty boy playing Rosetti, David Bowie singing in the background, yeah! But how was it going to be done, surely not with Bowie singing all the time? (this is what Anna hoped for) No, thank god, no modern songs playing over the top, but thank god it is not too serious either! It is very good and very funny.
Rafe is a fantastic actor and does comedy very well (I hope he doesn't turn ham one day, remember when Timothy Spall was so good in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and then he got famous and now he's a total luvvie? sigh, the good old days) Sam Barnett is super-duper cute as Millais and even though it's sort of a Posner-role at least he's finally getting a chance to play someone who's not gay! I can't wait to see him and Effie being all cute together- Tom Hollander is fantastically serious as Ruskin, this is also a great change for him, his memorable roles are always so typecast creepy little slime-buckets, he is the straight man and he does it with surprising depth! It's only episode one so I don't know, maybe Aiden Turner as Rosetti (formerly seen in that BBC3 Vampire/Ghost/Werewolf flat-mate show) will grow on me, but I found him sort of wooden and very over the top- it is possible to play a drunken reprebate without going into caricature you know...
Of course another joy for me watching this show is the feeling I reckon my whole family get when we sit down to watch University Challenge and they get twenty or so and I only get the music and picture rounds... I know what they're painting! I can guess what masterpiece they are suddenly being inspired to paint! I am smug.
Catch up on the iPlayer!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Alberto Zago- The Perfect Shoes

Well, I've been on Italian designer Alberto Zago's website and I have to say I hate ALL the shoes, they are equally as hideous as English shoes. BUT today on the walk from the parked car to the door of the Harrogate Gift Fair I found the most perfect pair of shoes; classic design, black suede, not too high a heel, very soft. They are what I have been searching for my whole life, they are the shoes I draw on ladies' feet- half price from the Harrogate branch of Shubert's, reduced from £99 to, well, you do the maths.
Review OVER.
Perfect shoe is photographed on posh box on hideous mismatched bed sheets.
PS Don't worry, there were two of them.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

We (all six of us) went to see HP6 yesterday afternoon, Anna and I are seeing it again tomorrow morning before the schools break up. The reason we have to see it again is because as well as being quite exhausted from the non-stop entertaining, dinner-making and day-tripping we've been doing this week while we had guests (not to mention me sleeping on "the brown" for four nights), the film was so damn exciting and full of "good bits" that I really don't think I took them all in in one viewing!!
Yes, those who know me (which I assume is all who read this blog) know that Harry Potter is high up on the list of Amy's interests, if she was to go on Mastermind then Harry Potter would probably be at least second choice for specialist subject- if not first. Harry Potter is my life. Harry Potter has been my life for ten years. Sure, I might also say that Drop the Dead Donkey is my life- and I frequently dream entirely new episodes and wake up convinced that they resurrected it, and I watched it. Anyway, every time I go on the internet I check (a)my emails, (b)the Jonathan Pryce Appreciation Society message board and (c)The Leaky Cauldron- ie Harry Potter News. So in short, I've been looking forward to this film for AGES.
And oh my god, everyone, almost EVERYONE has suddenly learned how to act!! Even Alan Rickman has learned how to act!! I was so happy! I say I'm a fan of Harry Potter, that doesn't mean I think the films are great- I do think they're great, but I think there's tons of things wrong with them; I can't stand Emma Watson's eyebrow-acting, I didn't like Daniel Radcliffe, I hate how everyone is cast around the mis-casting of Alan Rickman as the 60-year-old Snape, I don't like how certain characters and certain actors are given less screen time than everyone else, and I obviously hate the appalling CGI. BUT I love changes that have been made for the better plot-wise, I love certain kid-actors in them (Neville, Draco, Luna, etc.) I adore Michael Gambon's Dumbledore, I love most of the casting- the mad British ensemble, and I love the running commentaries that me and Kirandeep or me and Anna have developed over the years. The films are fun, but I don't expect good acting or good adaptations after all these years.
The Half-Blood Prince was obviously as good an adaptation as any other Potter film, nice little changes, and big ones!- burning down a significant building to get out of the fact they omitted certain characters that were extremely important to the final book's opening! No building- no wedding! Changing Ginny's character to adapt to Bonnie Wright's flat and uninspired performance, ho hum, it had to be done. She can't be feisty and passionate when the actress is so blah (This pains me to say btw, I've always liked Bonnie's face and was convinced that she'd be great as soon as they let her have some lines, turns out she's the worst and I desperately missed Neville and Luna who were practically cameos). The only thing I really missed from this one is that Uncy Morphin was omitted, he was comedy gold, surely?!
I'm too excited about seeing it again to even try and review this properly, so I'm concentrating on performances- the film as a story was jam-packed and the kids' romances were most entertaining, hilarious, excellent and heartwarming (Ron's and Hermione's anyway) the only criticism I have of the Half-Blood Prince was that when the HBP's identity was revealed I forgot I was supposed to care, because in the book it's all you want to know! Who is he? What is this mystery?! But in the film because so many other exciting things were happening I forgot I was supposed to be wondering who the Half-Blood Prince was. Could have done with a couple more scenes: one of Harry sprouting theories like "maybe it's my mum!" "maybe it's Voldemort!" "Maybe it's Sirius!" whoever, and later a scene of Hermione saying: "Yeah Snape's mum's maiden name," so that people don't leave the cinema thinking, "Snape is royalty!?"
I don't like Emma Watson in any of the film, over acting eyebrows spring to mind, so I wasn't expecting much, but I adored her!! I couldn't believe it! I had tears in my eyes! I felt so bad for Hermione! She was so cute and funny and not stuck-up or anything that Hermione usually is!! They gave her scenes where she wasn't up-herself and in control, she was normal and vulnerable and sad! I thought she was great! Much more like book-Hermione!
Rupert Grint was as usual great, my favourite line after the first viewing was when Harry asks what Ginny sees in Dean and Ron says as though it's obvious: "He's brilliant!" Not enough Luna, though good that they changed some things so she got more screen-time. Fuck-all Neville! Good comic relief though, they'll make sure he's great in the last film. Jessie Cave's Lav-lav was super cute, I loved her scenes but Cormac McClaggen was the fucking BOMB, that guy was brilliant, never before has quidditch been exciting or funny, but he was genius (so was Ron) on a broom, and genius in all his skin-crawling slimy scenes pursuing Hermione.
Draco, who has been my favourite since it began- best child actor, well, I was disappointed that he didn't get more lines, but at least he was there. At least he was always acting in the background, and when he did get to do some acting it was excellent. I didn't like it when he was crying, it made me sad, some girls in the front row laughed and I wanted to shout "Shut up!" it's a shame they didn't keep in Moaning Myrtle, didn't show enough of Draco's human side that he was always on his own crying. The boys playing young Mr Riddle were fab, both really creepy, the little one was scary and the middle-sized one was terrifying!
Now to Radcliffe. There's no doubt he has improved in every film, and no doubt that off-screen he is a charming (though intense and mad) young man, well, suddenly Harry was a charming young man. In fact, when Radcliffe does comedy he is at his best (which is a shame considering all the bad shit that happens to Harry) lots of scenes with Ron- and the scenes with Slughorn when Harry is "high" were fucking hilarious. He was much more Daniel Radcliffe than Harry Potter and I loved it. Luckily though Radcliffe is also good at "pain" and the action scenes were great.
Slughorn may look the complete opposite of his on-page description but it didn't matter, Jim Broadbent played Jim Broadbent as always and was just fine. Helen McCrory wasn't in it enough for me to care about how awful her hair was, Tonks and Remus were cute but not in it enough. As per usual it is down to Rickers to ruin the film with his dramatic pauses and inappropriate hamming.
Will update tomorrow. It was great, but especially if you know the book (and so understand everything they don't explain)- and if you don't know the book by now, why the hell are you going to see the film?!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Don McCullin: In England (Photography- National Media Museum, Bradford)

Don McCullin is best known as a war photographer, he started in Vietnam and has done every war since, though lately he's taken to photographing lovely landscapes, can you blame him?
This exhibition in Bradford does not focus on his war work or his new landscapes. There's a mixture of photos from the 1960s up to the present with themes of poverty, crime, class -and a fab one of the Beatles.
There are some concieted quotes stuck around the photos of homeless and mad people from McCullin saying that he didn't want to just take pictures of people he wanted to "get to know them and be a part of their world", even though the photos are amazing I still found them basically exploitative.
The reason for the exhibition being in the media museum was that a small collection of the photographs were taken in poverty striken 1970s Bradford. These photos I found the most terrifying, this is the late 70s, the children in those photographs are the same age as my friends and they're living in what looks like post-war squalor!
Anyway, it was a really good exhibition, with some really memorable photos, if you're going to the imax to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince this week, have a look at the exhibition upstairs, it's free.
(In England is in Bradford until the 27th of September)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Prima Donna (Opera- Manchester International Festival)

Anna and I went to see Rufus Wainwright's debut opera Prima Donna on Sunday, it was the second performance, after opening on Friday night with Rufus sitting in the audience dressed like Verdi and his boyfriend dressed like Puccini.
On Sunday Rufus was dressed like some kind of tramp. The top half was a bit like Jonathan Pryce in the film The Doctor and the Devils a mediocre Burke and Hare flick. big hobo beard, top hat with fly-fishing trunklements on the side, tweed jacket over a gross shirt, pale jeans and roman sandals. He was outside the theatre when we arrived signing autographs etc. it was possibly the highlight of the show.
twelve quid seats with restricted legroom, ah, my favourite. Though actually the legroom was a lot better than I remembered- many moons ago we saw Tommy Steele in Scrooge one Christmas, coincidentally he'll be reprising that role this panto season!- no the seats were good seats, nice view, enough legoom that we only got cramp a couple of times, yeah, fine, it was only the audience around us that were intolerable. I had a loud-eater next to me, it sounded like he was eating in my ear- shudder- Anna had three miserable gay lads who looked thouroughly disappointed throughout, and in front of us was the pièce de résistance; OCD man with theatre-shawl.
The opera we felt could do with a bit more work. Anna insists there were a few good "numbers" and I felt sure when we watched the Imagine special on BBC1 last week that there were some lovely melodies, but I only remember really enjoying the music at one point and that was near the end. I know that opera is obvious written to be performed, to be seen live, but I really thought I'd enjoy it a lot more listening to a recording in the dark. Other noises distracted me, the guy on my left for instance, but creaking sets and people coughing are never good while trying to enjoy classical music. I also found the subtitles very intrusive.
We tried to explain to mother that in the last twenty years- since technology was invented- ALL operas are subtitled (in big theatres), so it was to be expected. But really the French they were singing in was very basic so I knew what they were saying (and the story was self-explanitory anway), and with the subtitles there before the words were sung I found myself predicting the next words instead of listening to the music!! So that was very stupid. Apart from that though I didn't like the big stark set, come on think of something more original than that! The costumes were ok, but did it have to be set in the 70s? Why couldn't it be set anytime? Little bits of staging were clever, but it was only when all five characters were on the stage that it didn't look empty!
And now to the story: predictable, it's like Sunset Boulevard excpet she's not as mental, journalist comes in to interview fading opera star, she falls in love with him, the end.
I don't feel I know enough about opera to say whether the actors were good or not, they all did well- though sometimes couldn't be heard over the music (the orchestra was great by the way!)- but after watching Imagine, and being a fan of Rufus Wainwright for a long time, I have a feeling I would have much prefered listening to or watching him sing the complete score.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth (BBC1)

Tonight we watched three of this week's Torchwood episodes in a row. It was much more exciting this way than Monday and Tuesday's lone episodes. I don't usually watch Torchwood but you know, with no Doctor Who on we've all got a bit desperate- and I had faith that as it was a special, five hours in total, they would have to knock the standard up a bit.
These episodes of Torchwood were really good- a good story I mean. The problems only occurred when there were moments of dialogue unrelated to the children-are-alien-crack plot, ie whenever Ianto talks to Jack in a boyfriend-capacity his character seems to get more and more blah, and nobody cares when he dies.
I like Gwen and I like her average bloke husband, I even ended up liking Ianto's comic relief family, but Ianto and Jack together were so boring! How could a relationship ever have happened between them when Ianto had NO personality!?! Jack is also boring and very one-dimensional for a character who has supposedly broken all sci-fi boundaries or whatever...
The supporting cast and characters on the other hand are what made the five-day special very watchable, I loved the girl who was their spy on the inside, she was the best Torchwood team member. Sea-gully (Paul Copley) was great as a convincing looney, Peter Capaldi was fabulously teary as usual and Nick Farrell was, as usual, confusingly gorgeous as the slimy PM.
Anyway, it is a shame that Torchwood is over after these episodes proved that it wasn't all shite. But I think Torchwood fans probably missed the "sexy banter" and all the inbreeding going on in the office, whereas I appreciated it as a good fun piece of science fiction and felt it was at it's worse when Ianto wasn't focused on saving the Earth and instead was sighing; "Jack, will you still remember me in 1000 years? sob, cry, etc."

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Psychoville Episode four (BBC2)

Great episode tonight. Anna came in afterwards having spent the whole half hour on the computer (presumably looking for Snappy the Crocodile on eBay) and said "Well, there's never enough of David and his mum." Poor Anna.
Yes, what a really good bit of editing, only saw two clever cuts, if we ignore these (as dad did) the whole half hour was in one shot, fab camera work. Really really good, nice afternoon-play/horror film feel to it. And great seeing Gatiss in there with them, ah, memories! I loved the League of Gentlemen, too much I think... I'm not sure how many other girls watched it instead of doing GCSE coursework and thought it was genius. I still go around shouting the orange juice line from the first episode. I mean obviously everyone has their favourite lines, but could I have picked a stupider one!? Ha!
btw, Janet McTeer, David Bamber and Nick le Prevost were perfect as a murder mystery group, of let's face it, failed actors. Didn't like Janet McTeer's death last week- thought that was a bit horrific, glad we only had to hear Nick getting hit by a bus (he sort of deserved it after wearing that sweater-vest). Not looking forward to Bamber's death, I've always liked him...

Jon Richardson and Shappi Khorsandi -Hebden Bridge Arts Festival

Last night for Lauren's Best Ever Birthday (only ruined by having her car broken into and her prized possessions being nicked and all her hard work being deemed pointless- Happy Birthday, Lauren!!) we went to see stand-up comics Shappi Khorsandi (Listen to her new Radio4 show Shappi Talk every Thursday) and Jon Richardson (listen to his radio show on 6music every Sunday). Jon was the main draw for Lauren, and for Anna and I really, I knew Shappi from- as she pointed out- being the Iranian comedienne on Radio4. I've seen Jon a few times at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and have never missed a podcast since they began way back when Mr Howard was co-hosting, oh dear oh dear, he should never have left, he is just not funny enough on Mock the Week (Thursdays BBC2). But Jon was always the best one anyway, and Fordie makes up for anything lost when Russ temper-tantrumed out of there, or whatever happened... We'll never know!
I introduced Lauren to Jon's podcasts a couple of months ago when we were on holiday together, they're very good for long car journeys. And I was thrilled a week later to see that the only comedy act coming to this year's Arts Festival was last night's show- on the day after Lauren's birthday!! Yes!! I have never found an easier present- An easier good present, I should say, it is quite easy for Lauren and I to buy shite for each other, though she's the expert there.
And Jon delivered!! His Edinburgh show is going to be fantastic this year, it was good last year, but I think even better, even more bitter this year.
Yes, these were the previews, Shappi was on first and was very cute and nice to the audience- her set needed a little polishing (that's what these pre-Edinburgh shows are for) but she more than made up for pauses with charm and impressions of her little brother and sister. I overheard her say in the bar to Jon afterwards "I can't believe you've got your Edinburgh show sorted already!" But Shappi, Jon lives alone and works (outside of writing and performing his stand-up) three hours a week on a Sunday morning. You have a two year-old boy, a husband you are obliged to acknowledge and loads of token-Iranian appearances to make on BBC Radio4! Don't worry about it! You were great!!
Jon's set was very tight and very funny. I was really glad we'd sat in the front row, all three of us offered a show of hands when asked who was a perfectionist, and then the majority of us were confused by the follow-up question: "Are you in relationships?" Anna instantly answered "No," while me and Lauren exchanged glances and both thought 'With each other?!' Idiots.
The Picture House was full, which made us think that if Hebden Bridge did organize more comedy then it would be completely worth while, but unfortunately the Arts Festival is made up of the usual Cello recitals and poetry evenings. I have been to three writing workshops in the last week, none have been helpful. As you can see.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Just William TV series announced for 2010.

no. No. NO. I know that child-actors have become more likeable lately, well, some of them, some times, I mean Freddie Highmore was perfectly cast in Finding Neverland as the tragic weepy child- but anything he's done where he's played an upbeat boy was horribly unnerving. The religious one in Son of Rambow is only good as an annoying weirdo and I fucking HATE the kid in Outnumbered we're all supposed to love. I tell you, if I saw that kid, I'd punch him right in his annoying fat face... Ahem, my favourite child actor of recent films is Son of Rambow's co-star with the pudding face (Will Poulter). He'd be a good William.
But no. NO! There shouldn't be a Just William TV series!! They've all failed miserably!! Remember the 90s one? *shudder* he was so clean and smug! Ugh, who was that little twat?! I adore Just William!! It should be made officially untouchable, can't Richmal Crompton's estate do something?! Can't Martin Jarvis do something?!
I mean, Tony Ross is one of my favourite illustrators, but I HATE what he's done to William! That shouldn't have been allowed!! Thomas Henry's illustrations are timeless!! and that image of William (see above) should be the only one that's allowed.
Martin Jarvis is apparently acting as consultant, but what power can he possibly have?! Written by fucking Men Behaving Badly and Reggie Perrin writer Simon Nye?! Fuck, if Martin Clunes is playing Mr Brown the BBC is asking for me to take up a shotgun and kill people.
Obviously I'm going to watch it. But Nothing will ever be better than the books- except on car journeys where you can't read and need Martin Jarvis to read it to you.
"General Malt walking, General Malt walking, ladies and gentlemen."