Friday, 27 February 2009

Margaret (Thursday BBC2)

My favourite tv series is 90s newsroom sitcom Drop the Dead Donkey written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin (now responsible for Outnumbered- which I also quite like, especially the sweet little girl). I want to say 'at last some faces to go along with the names!' but of course they are different (more handsome- in most cases) faces of actors rather than the actual Tory tosspots in Thatcher's 1990 cabinet. I begin to remember politics I'd say from 1994, and I know this because that's when I begin to get the current affairs jokes in DtDD (lucky too because the 1994 series of DtDD is by far the best series).
Margaret was over two hours of scheming Tory scum portrayed by some of my most favourite and most liberal theatre actors. Most perfectly cast I have to say, Oliver Cotton- who I have seen on stage before and who has walked past me in the National Theatre swishing his mane was quite obviously cast as Michael Heseltine purely on the basis of his amazing hair and eyebrows. Michael Maloney was extremely sinister as John Major though I was disappointed there was not a pair of Y-fronts in sight *nods to Steve Bell*. Was I really raving about how sweet and cute he was in Ken Bran's Hamlet? That guy is a seriously good actor, he was creepy as hell last night! One of the very best performances. 
There were times when I allowed myself to believe Lindsay Duncan was the harsh and ugly Iron Lady, mostly when the deep voice and mad steely gazes kicked in but most of the time I was thinking how cute and lovely she is and how she reminds me of my friend Alison (not when dressed as Thatcher I might add) I insisted a gross false nose would have done it but my sister informed me Linds "did not want to play a caricature". I think she did very well, she was cold and creepy- but she was still beautiful.
I'm hoping the BBC showed this to stop people voting Conservative in these desperate times. Come on Britain, surely we're not that desperate!! 

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Dark Crystal (1982)

Apparently if you grow up watching films like The Never Ending Story or The Goonies you have fond memories and you still enjoy them now. Well, I saw The Never Ending Story as a child and I thought it was shit then.
This I missed as a child and I'm glad. I think it would have given me terrible nightmares and more to the point it was shit. No story to speak of, slow, tedious, terrible script, etc.
You can't group a film like The Dark Crystal with The Princess Bride or Labyrinth, two 80s films I also missed as a child but saw as an adult and actually enjoyed. The latter two films are clever, well-written and funny. The Dark Crystal lacked everything. It was like a big advert for what was probably a very boring board game.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Wicked (West End)

I've seen Wicked five times. I've seen three seperate Elphabas and two of everyone else. I was expecting Kerry Ellis tonight- who I've seen twice already and is apparently just back from Broadway, but that was not Kerry, and neither was it Scottish stand-in Ashleigh Gray, I think it was Sabrina Carter... But I can't be sure, because I never checked.
Five times, you might think that's a bit excessive. I did too, but the last time I saw it was April with former and future flatmates Penny and Shona. Tonight I saw it with fellow illustrators Linn and Sarah. Each time I've seen Wicked I've seen it with people who have never seen it before, I really enjoy other people enjoying it for the first time! Linn cried and Sarah was beaming! They loved it! I was so happy! Whoever our Elphaba was she was fabulous, had a little bit of a Northern accent but not Scottish! More like Yorkshire... Who was she, this mystery green girl? I must know! She was so sweet and she had an amazing set of pipes. I was glad to see someone new rather than Kerry again (much as I love her, she is an amazing Elphie and I have seen her three times as Ellen in Miss Saigon as well), Mystery-Elphie did a wonderful No Good Deed and a fantastic Defying Gravity, better than the two times I saw Idina- sorry you creepy purists, maybe us British girls were born to be green...
Last time I reviewed this (on my livejournal) I was wowed by Dianne Pilkington, well she was even more amazing this time. She owns that character! Owns Galinda way more than Helen Dallimore did. She's added and improvised and tweaked to make Glindy uber-cute and annoying, just wonderful, and she sang even better than I remembered! My first time seeing a new Nessa and Boq, gah, so cute. I still welled up at Wicked Witch of the East, she was as good as Katie Rowley-Jones, maybe even a little cuter! I identify with the creepy obsessives, Nessarose is my favourite character. Oliver Thompsett is still gorgeous but looked a bit tall and awkward next to tiny tiny Mystery-Elphie. All in all a fantastic show which was a surprise to be seeing when we had planned on seeing The Lion King! (sold out, half term!) Much better than Avenue Q which I finally saw last night, shite.
PS The costumes, dancing, story, references and jokes are all perfect. I wouldn't have seen it this many times just to review different actors. You will never be able to see The Wizard of Oz the same way.... Guy's a prick!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Billy Elliot (West End)

So Billy Elliot opened on Broadway recently, Haydn Gwynne being I think the only actual Brit in the cast over there (I'm guessing Greg Jbarra is probably not great at the ol' Geordie accent, he was no good at French in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels!) Well, tonight I went to see the West End show- for the second time.
I loved the film, but I never wanted to see the musical, perhaps it had something to do with that episode of Will and Grace where they travel to London specifically to see it "Elton John and dancing boys! We have to go!" Repeat Will's sentence but insert the word NEVER in between 'to' and 'go'... That's how I felt, I thought they'll have ruined a perfect British film about 80s politics by turning it into a big campy gay-fest. I don't know why I still don't trust Elton John, I mean, the Lion King is perfection and The Road to El Dorado is my favourite animated film! So why did I shudder at the thought of this? I blame my hatered of Will and Grace.
I saw Billy on stage last summer at the same time as seeing The Revenger's Tragedy at the National and The Merry Wives of Windsor at The Globe. Man, was that the best three days of theatre EVER!! I couldn't decide which was best! All totally different! But I settled on Billy I'm afraid because it has EVERYTHING.
Every number is wonderfully well written and choreographed, this show makes you laugh, cry and remember what a third-letter-of-the-alphabet-word Thatcher was. I cannot get over how good those kids are at dancing, obviously the kids playing Billy are effing amazing, but all the kids are great! All of them! Jesus though, it's what you go for, you can't wait to see Billy dance, and every time he starts you're on the edge of your seat watching every stunning movement. Just brilliant.
I try to pick out a favourite but I have at least three that I think are perfect and supporting numbers like Grandma's Song are genius as well (read the title you think this musical will suck- it doesn't). Solidartiy is the number I remembered loving the first time I saw the show, it's the one that shows the transition of Billy learning to dance so by the end of the song he's perfect, but throughout the girls' dance lessons are the picket-line coppers and striking miners ballet-dancing with the girls and singing agressive abuse at each other. It's wonderful to watch and has some of the best lines. But tonight I remembered how stunning the dance with Billy's older-self is. God, you sit in absolute silence watching this child prodigy and this grown ballet dancer mimic each other perfectly. It's beautiful. Billy's Angry Dance is the perfect way to end the first half, you get so emotional, you feel the hate! The anger! Great loud music and great screaming and kicking! Aside from the brilliant dancing there are of course brilliant songs- I can't even listen to The Letter without crying!
This is showstopping dance numbers all the way through. A lot of new musicals I've seen I've thought; mum and dad wouldn't like this. As soon as Billy Elliot started I thought; mum and dad would LOVE this. No green witches, no effing Andrew Loyd Webber, just a fantastic script and amazing dancing.
There is a great cast at the moment, better than the summer, Kate Graham is a wonderful Mrs Wilkinson with a great voice and the bloke playing the dad can really sing, the Billy we got was Tom Holland, he was so cute and so good- I'm sure they all are, but the fact that he had the cutest photo tips the scales for me without having to see any American Billys, etc. Of course some kids can't quite do the Geordie, and the Weegie ballet dancer struggled with his accent, but it doesn't matter, ye kna whit tha mean, like.
The cheapest tickets are by far the best tickets. £20 in the top back row, you see all the dance numbers how they should be seen- filling the stage.

HR, Episode 1: An Apraisal (Friday Radio4)

So we knew I'd adore it. I'm the target audience, forget other frustrated office workers, the target audience is Amy, the girl who has for the last seven years listed Jonathan Pryce and Nicholas Le Prevost as her favourite actors and top two men of all time.
The first episode of Nigel Williams' HR was adapted from the original half hour TV script that the two boys performed a couple of years ago, it was almost word for word- except with that word being bleeped out many many times (It's 11.40 in the morning- as Sam says accurately). But there were some nice additions, tweaks, etc. I think it was even funnier on the radio, I was cracking up even though I knew the script already! The best tweak was that in the TV play we saw Peter fiddle with the recording while Sam was out of the office, on the radio you heard Sam ineptly attempting innocuous small-talk with his secretay/assistant/whatever... Then the punchline was a fab surprise for us (and a horrible surprise for poor old Sam) Also a nice bit of character development for Sam, as it's a series we need to see how incompetent and addled he is, I loved it.
It's so simple but so funny.
Please listen again folks, I promise you will like it.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Mad Men, Series 2 Episode 1

Last night on BBC2 the second season of Mad Men started. I missed the first season when it was shown but became addicted and caught up pretty damn fast on dvd last september. I don't usually watch things on my own, I prefer to share with the Suzie, but I watched all of season one in about three days, and last night I started season two despite today (thursday) being the Private View of our London exhibition. Yesterday I met with a publisher and spent a promising hour with them but I was more excited about Mad Men- just as today's Private View was nothing because I am so excited about HR on Radio4 tomorrow...
Enough rambling, the show did not disappoint. It is fabulous. Suzie and I agreed that the best parts of Revolutionary Road were the scenes in the city- the scenes that looked like Mad Men. That film was a waste of time, we could both see how Kate Winslet won that award, but an outstanding piece of acting cannot carry a boring and depressing film that we both felt we'd seen done a million times before. So to be back to the stunning sixties in Mad Men last night was just wonderful. The look of the show is beautiful and perfect, every scene looked like a famous ad, when Betty first appears horseriding she looks iconic! She is not even in my top five characters but she is so well cast, perfect. Joan, Joan, Joan, I love you. And Don Draper himself, hello, winner of this year's Most Handsome Man competition!
Excellent script for an episode which was basically just for putting you in the mood for the next ones. Suzie was disappointed that nothing happened, but I honestly don't care that nothing happened, I think this is perfect television.

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Moon and the Stars (2007)

So this film was never released over here, in fact it hasn't even been released on dvd, so god knows how I finally got to see a copy of it! Well, I know, it's thanks to one of my pals over at the Jonathan Pryce Fanclub. But I've no idea where she got it!! Anyway, here's the point; I didn't actually think it was that bad!
I actually liked it (a bit) I just always feel so pissed off that Jonathan Pryce wasn't offered these film roles earlier in his career. I'm betting that the main reason this film wasn't released was that the industry said "No one's going to go and see a film where 59-year old Jonathan Pryce is your romantic lead- wig or no wig!" Obviously I'd see a film where Jonathan's the romantic lead, it's what I pray for everytime his imdb is updated! Maybe that's the secret reason I was not that into the film- one makeout scene, one!? Then cut to a fantastic looking breakfast. Gah! This isn't what I, the audience of Jonathan Pryce romantic films, paid for!!
Enough about Jonno, for now, let me tell you what I liked about the actual film. The story is it's May 1939, A gay, Jewish film producer is making a film version of Tosca in fascist Italy starring Germany's most beautiful actress and England's recovering alcholoic/heroin addict leading man. It's predictable, the war is going cause trouble for these people and of course the German bird isn't a Nazi she's actually really nice and will learn to love the heroin addict with the wig. Yeah, it wasn't really the story I was into, though I enjoyed the stalker, I'm sure I've seen him in something else... But it was the style in which it was shot I liked. I liked the whole look of it, and when it worked the old-styley shots looked fantastic- lots of mirrors with people's faces in them, and Powell and Pressburger style sound; her scream melding with the train whistle after he left.
The Bogart and Bacall thing they were trying for didn't work, and I'll tell you why, and I really don't think it had anything to do with J.P.- it was her, Sorry Catherine McCormack, I don't know if it was all the plastered on makeup that was off-putting, but I found her quite ugly and harsh, was this supposed to be contrast to soft and smiling Jonathan Pryce? It is possible to be striking and cute you know! (I know)
Oh yeah, and how many times can you say the name of the film in the film without it getting tedious? Just stop saying 'The moon and the stars'!!!! Jeez!
Back to Jonathan, a subject I can talk about but recently have had little to talk about (Cast him! Cast him!) His little rant on set was quite amusing, not really Christian Bale... "Tch! how obnoxious that British chap is, did you hear him? I think he might have actually said 'bugger' gasp!" Lots of overacting of course, but he's an actor playing an actor playing a campy villain- in the 30s! It was great!
Complaints: Not enough dancing- Jonathan is so fluid when he dances it's creepily mesmerizing! They hardly showed any of that at all.
Opposite of Complaints (it's late! I've been up since 6!): Great shots of Jonathan looking tall and handsome- that was one of the better wigs I've seen on him- Nothing like standing next to a short, fat, ugly person to make you look fabulous!!
Puzzles: How did Jonathan Pryce spend one night in prison and come out the next morning with his cream suit completely spotless?

PS You've all voted for the wrong Uptown Boys, you idiots! God, I know I'm going to be worse than Susie and those brown mugs about this but, come on!! Did any of you actually watch that music video?! It's Wilby!!! eff sake!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Uptown Girl video- Comic Relief (2001)

Tonight I stayed up and watched a documentary about Comic Relief, which I might add I never miss, no matter how depressing. It was a good little documentary but when they came to talk about the charity singles I was slightly irritated that McFly could name all the "stars" in their charity video (last year's was it?) except fabulous actor Ben Miles. Yes they remembered Fern Cotton, Graham Norton and Davina McCall, but not him. This of course made me want to watch the Westlife video which I absolutely LOVE depsite Billy Joel's Uptown Girl being one of those songs that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves, etc. type of songs and Westlife's vocals being mediocre. Yes, I remember waiting for that video to come on the tv eight years ago, because even as a fifteen year old I hated Westlife's blob-type boyish looks and was absolutely in love with every one of those Uptown Boys...
And yet still, like McFly, people don't know who the hell those actors are! Do you think Westlife can name any of them?! "uh.. Hornblower was there, I think." Gah! I'm sorry blog readers, I haven't watched anything in a couple of days so I feel guilty that I haven't reviewed anything, and now I'm not reviewing, I'm just ranting.
James Wilby- before he went red, yes, gorgeous.
Rob Bathurst- Christ, he's just perfection.
Tim McInnerny- Yeah, him again, and if you're interested in seeing him and his obscenely long neck in any other music videos see Kate Bush's This Woman's Work. You will cry.
Crispin Bonham-Carter- Helena's cousin, stared in the Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice, anyone?
And Hornblower; Ioan Gruffudd. Ok, so I don't fancy him or Crispin that much, but I'd take them any day over pukey, pre-pubescent, gayers Westlife!
When I watch that video I still have a hard time deciding which one I would choose if I was Claudia Schiffer, I mean, obviously in the video the story is that she's just so overcome by handsome British actors that she has some kind of stroke and goes mental and then leaves with Irish boyband Westlife. I supose it would be James Wilby or Rob, Wilby is very pretty in that video but Rob is very manly with that cigar... Oh God, what's wrong with me!? What's always been wrong with me?! Who am I kidding, they might be more handsome and Ioan and Crispin are very young and cute in their own ways- ways that I'm not really attracted to (Crispin actually reminds me of David Tennant in the video) but it's obvious, I'd go for Tim! When I was fifteen I was watching it for Tim! What is it about sliminess that I like?!
I'm sure I will review something properly (ha ha) tomorrow- even if it is just my haircut, and I have good news for you, fans of Nicholas le Prevost and Jonathan Pryce- me. Well, they have a Radio4 series starting in a week and a bit and I am SO super excited I cannot even express in words, only a high-pitched scream. Watch this space.
Click there for a better quality video than you might find on youtube. Maybe you too will find how difficult it is to choose. Please vote in my poll, this means you, Su(s/z)ies!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Pillow Talk (1959)

I hate Doris Day. I'm sure she is lovely and everything, but something about her is just so ugly that I positively refused to watch Pillow Talk even though I knew it must be good. Again, it was one of those days last week when I was just too tired to argue.
It was great, of course it was, Tony Randall is brilliantly slimy, he should be in every scene! And I thought Rock Hudson was brilliant too- though again, too ugly. Sorry People, I just can't watch films where the leads repulse me, I know how Anna felt when she was forced to watch that film where formerly lovely handsome Clark Gable is old old OLD... I expect this was one of the first formulaic Day/Hudson films and maybe they go down from here, I'll never know (I don't intend to see her withered orange button face ever again) but the jokes are excellent. Hudson accidentally walking into the gynacologist and asking to see the doctor was a particualrly good running gag and finished the film of predictably but nicely. You will probably need someone to explain to you want a 'party line' is, otherwise you will not know what the hell is going on as it's the premiss of the whole film. Apparently people used to share telephone numbers even if they lived nowhere near each other, already it sounds like a rom-com setup.
If you don't think Doris Day and Rock Hudson are ugly as sin you will love this film! If you think they are just grit your teeth and enjoy the fact that there aren't that many close ups.

Hamlet (1996)

I saw Ken Bran's Hamlet the year I started secondary school, so by my amazing maths skills I saw this film the year it came out, and I loved it. My sister and I have a tradition of trying to watch Hamlet every summer all in one go (five+ hours, quite a feat). I bought her the dvd this Christmas and we watched it last week.
Anna and I saw the RSC's production of Hamlet in Stratford this summer- which of course starred David Tennant, who we had seen previously in Edinburgh in Look Back in Anger. I think the reason why this production was so successful (even without Tennant for most of last month) is that all the actors are RSC trained, they all speak the play the same way and so if you can understand one actor you can undesrtand them all, it is made completely accessible. Anna and I only noticed this when watching Kenny's Omelete last week, we drifted off at times and it only happened with certain actors. The cast of the 1996 Hamlet are from everywhere, so classically trained Kenneth Branagh and Nick Farrell are spellbinding yet when Jack Lemmon has a go (God bless him) it's strangely boring and flat and sometimes confusing. Billy Crystal and Charlton Heston play their parts amazingly well -before you accuse me of saying Americans cant do Shakespeare, Crystal I'd say was the most succesful of all the actors at making Shakespeare understandable- Yes it's a comic part but it's still written in the same way as all the others.
When I was younger and enjoyed this film I must have known the story so well and just ignored the parts where I zoned out, and just loved the whole spectacular sight of it. God, it's so well shot, it's beautiful! And the actors are so good, so many long long scenes all in one shot!
The film is famous for using the entire unabridged script but probably more famous for the odd assortment of stars from stage, hollywood and well, Ken Dodd... It was probably this film that sparked my obsession with actors, watching Hamlet is like star spotting, only last week did I notice Rosemary Harris as the Player Queen! Fab!
While I'm drooling over actors I might as well mention how gorgeous EVERYONE is in this film; Kenny B at his best, earned the nickname 'Girdle-legs' from Anna and I because he's just so effing thin! He must have just stopped eating, knowing that he had to look fabulous! Rufus Sewell strutting around as Fortinbras, Jesus, that man is handsome, Michael Maloney even looking passable (That must be a wig!) And my favourite Nicholas Farrell as a jumpy, probably gay Horatio. Obviously Kate Winslet and Julie Christie are lovely too, but they always are...
My friend Penny studies English and Drama and she has told me that all her teachers have told them that Kenneth Branagh is rubbish and he destroys Shakespeare. Kenneth Branagh is a wonderful actor and director who has brought Shakespeare to the masses! Those teachers are out of their minds. Until you've seen Kenny on stage you are not qualified to say anything. I finally saw him live in Ivanov last December. The story was mostly awful (sorry Chekhov, I'm slamming you again) but he was so good. You waited for him to be on stage! His depression, his breakdown, his tears, were so real! So disturbing! And he frequently breaks down in Hamlet! if you watch closely the parts where he goes from quiet, to mad, to agonising breakdown, to normality- he frequently does in one shot!! He is an amazing actor and this film is him at his absolute best.

The Wire,The Number of the Dead (Saturday- Radio3)

Written by Mark Lawson (Britain's brainiest potato) The Number of the Dead was like being stuck inside vetran broadcaster for Globelink News; Henry Davenport's brain for an hour.
This was actually the main reason I listened to the play, the write up reminded me of Henry, it got choice in the Radio Times and it starred Tim McInnerny (again) I would have preferred David Swift from Drop the Dead Donkey as for the first half hour it was pretty much that exact character! Snide little remarks inside his head about the extent of his young female cohost's knowledge of Istanbul being that it's where Turkish Delight comes from... and other Henry-isms made me smile at the memories of my favourite sitcom...
But the play took a turn for the dramatic in the last twenty minutes and wow, was it ever exciting! I'm not usually on the edge of my seat during a radio play- I'm usually playing solitaire- but I was all ears. Tim's on-air breakdown was not at all reminiscent of any of Henry's! Very serious suddenly and as usual I was moved by McInnerny's acting, I've been a fan of his radio work for fifteen years and I have all the scuffed old tapes to prove it!
Very rarely I find do these radio3 plays deliver, I listen to radio4 a lot, I'm not sure what the audience for radio3 is, snobs? Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard on just before Christmas was so bloody boring I nearly passed out- two hours long, stars Nick Le Prevost, what, with about three minutes of air-time?! Anyway, I found this one very entertaining and very well done.
Listen again on the BBC website for the next 6 days: