Fifty Shades of Grey- 18

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This appears to be a true Han, Solo movie. I had a number of offers to watch it with people. However, having sat uncomfortably through Basic Instinct for my Film Studies degree I knew this wasn’t something I could do.
I wasn’t alone in this thought either. About half the reasonably sized audience where flying solo for the early morning screening. I ashamedly broke the rules and did not sit in my assigned seat. Blushes a plenty when a cute guy rocks up alone claiming it as his own. At least 10 additional individuals crawled in after the lights went out and a handful of under aged girls firmly clutching 3D glasses from the film they were claiming to see arrived during the final trailer: something I addressed firmly with the manager and warned them to expect more. The problem with a sensation that causes a stir- EVERYONE wants to see it.
I don’t really need to tell you about the plot. The entire human race are currently in one of few camps about this movie and my ‘review’ will not sway you:
1. You’ve read the book, you’ve followed the production from its conception and probably saw it before I did.
2. You’re a sheep. You’ve heard the buzz and want to know what the fuss is about. Whether that be that you are curious, skeptical or downright hipster. (Hi, this is me. Ironically, I was seeing it more because I DIDN’T want to see a film about a sheep)
3. You know it has sex in it/ you think you’ll get sex by seeing it
4. No way, no how am I seeing that movie.

Now, what I will say is: four people walked out never to return. I admire these people for holding their hands up and going ‘nope, not for me,’ and I’m still not quite sure why I wasn’t with them.

I stayed until the end, more out of a overwhelming need to pull Ana from the screen and protect her. I feel a little at odds with myself because I don’t want to belittle anything people might like and enjoy, but I just didn’t feel the promotion of the sort of relationship that appears on screen as ‘romance’ is healthy or good. I also accept that both literature and film are open to interpretation and I will gladly agree to disagree.

The scene it was building up to just wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it fell flat and heavy and I’m frustrated that it’s not a self contained film. It is an abrupt end and I heard a number of people around me mumble ‘is that it?’ as there was a large pause between the final scene and the credit scroll. I know it will put the fans at ease that there’s a sequel on its way, but for those of us who are not- it isolates.

I’ll give it something though- it’s a nice antidote for feeling alone on Valentine’s.

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 3
Pace- 3
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 1

Dracula. Mr Swallow: the Musical.

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When waiting for Keiran Hodgson’s French Exchange at the Pleasance, I got talking to the man behind the bar. I already had tickets to Dracula at this point, but I knew nothing about it. I was filled with excitement when this man insisted I was in for a treat when I saw it.

At only an hour long, as the opening number informs, I’ve never laughed so much in my life. It unfolds as a dress rehearsal for a Dracula musical, many of the players breaking character to the utter delight of the audience.

Nick Mohammed plays Mr Swallow, the high maintenance scene stealing Dracula. He engages the audience with a rib tickling energy that just has to be seen to be believed. A totally gem of a scene was the introduction of a ‘much needed’ additional character. Who ever is able to make a Scouse accent funny without having to rely on the cliques is true talent in my eyes. Yes I’m biased, and currently a little homesick, but everyone around me found it equally as funny as I did.

Playing Mr Goldworth and Van Helsing, David Elms adds a reserved calm to the delightful chaos. Early on, his involvement is mainly offstage, but as the dress rehearsal progresses and Van Helsing is introduced to the story he has more time on stage.

The previously mentioned Keiran Hodgson plays Jonathan, the invested and committed actor who wants his moment to shine as Bram Stoker’s solicitor Harker. While Harker/Jonathan never quite gets out of Dracula’s shadow, Hodgson is able to steal a number of scenes, including the one line run-through of his solo song that he vehemently fights for.

Joanna Grace is amazing as the female component of the four-piece. This woman has an amazing voice and a thought struck me when she belted out her solo; she is perfect for Wicked’s Elphaba. Her presence on the stage is commanding and a true joy to watch.

A special mention must go out to the five piece live band; Becca Tudor, Ed Zanders, Jack Cherry and Ben Hartly. Timings of all the players were perfect and it added to the overall feel of the play. There was a moment where I believe Ed Zanders was drawn into a conversation about the tempo of a song- genius.

As the hour draws to a close I had to admit, the barman was right; it was a joy to watch this group of professionals have such fun on stage. I intend to watch it again before it closes (28th Feb) and I would encourage anyone else to do the same.

Dracula Tickets
http://sohotheatre.com/whats-on/dracula

David Elms will be appearing at the Invisible Dot for the Saturday Night Show: 7th March and 18th April
http://www.theinvisibledot.com/search?query=david+elms

Keiran Hodgson will be appearing at the Invisible Dot for the New Wave: 19th March and 16th April
http://www.theinvisibledot.com/events/330-the-new-wave

The Interview- 15

As I didn’t get a wristband for the Baftas, it’s only fitting that I spent the evening watching a film that would never even be considered for a nomination.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film. Sometimes you need a film like this. A stoner movie that offends and entertains in equal measure, but most importantly asks you to shut off your brain for two hours. It won’t hold up to repeated viewings, but it’s certainly worth a watch.
There’s a few blink and you’ll miss them cameos, and Seth Rogan and James Franco are as marmite as always ( I loath Franco and love Rogan). While it plays for laughs, some of the lines miss the mark and are cringe worthy. It’s hard not to see them as both playing themselves and I’m pretty certain Franco was stoned for the entire filming.
It’s so silly and ridiculous that you would be forgive for thinking the ban of the film was some delightful publicity stunt. However, those easily offended need not watch.
It is slow to begin with and it certainly takes forever to get to the main plot of the film. Apparently it was very important to establish Franco’s character and his relationship with Rogan. There are some fun parts in this, but it feels heavy and just a little pointless. Once we’re on the mission, however, the laughs come thick and fast.
Now, for most of you I would recommend waiting for it to find its way to Netflix- it’s already on the U.S. Edition, so I can’t imagine the UK one will be far behind. But if you’re looking for a laugh, and you’ve already seen Kingsman, it’s worth checking it out.

Cast- 6
Cinematography- 8
Pace- 7
Plot-6
Music-6
Enjoy ability-8

Selma- 12a

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It’s hard to criticise a film that is about someone’s life, even harder when that someone is as prestigious as Martin Luther King. While the film is a fair portrayal, it’s not nearly as good as it should have been.

The shame of the whole thing is that every white actor in a main role is a household name. Even the ones you don’t know the name of, you’ll swear you’ve seen in something else before. However, other than the underused Oprah Whinfrey and Cuba Gooding Jnr I could only place one or two others from the black cast. I couldn’t see this film as a storytelling biopic, but more of an illustration of how far Hollywood still has to go.

That said, the cast make a sound effort with the script. Tom Wilkinson is never a chore to have on the screen and David Oyelowo makes a fine transformation as Martin Luther King- seen best when he’s giving a powerful speech. However, a lot of the remaining cast are under used and under developed.

It’s rather interesting that this film chooses to focus not on the iconic bus boycott that led to King’s famous I have a dream speech, but instead on the protest to gain all black people the right to vote. No flashbacks to his early life; it smartly assumes if you’ve put your bum on a seat- you know who this man is. It’s such a shame then, that the film seems heavy with dead weight plot and in a desperate need of a good editing session.

Malcolm X is almost vilified and glosses over the contact he has with King. While I like the connections and the commentary of how polar opposite they were at times, they did not truly reflect Malcolm’s evolution after Hajj. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have seen a truer, deeper look into that relationship.

The film certainly will interest anyone studying the civil rights movement, but there is no feeling of inspiration, motivation or even achievement that you perhaps would get if looking at King’s Pre-dream era.

Cast- 7
Cinematography- 6
Plot- 6
Pace- 5
Music- 3
Enjoy ability- 4

Jupiter Ascending- 12a

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I actually don’t know where to start with this movie. Firstly, I try not to rehash the plot in my reviews. However, it’s hard not to when it’s the films main failing.
Secondly, I hate to trash a movie as I doubt very much that I could do a better job. But trash it I must, because I almost walked out in the last twenty minutes.
The good
Well the cast is good. Leads Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum are beautiful and the chemistry is there. It wins bonus points for assembling some amazing British talent to flesh out the cast. Sean Bean and his northern tones are a nice addition, but is merely an extended cameo.
I must confess, I wanted Eddie Redmaye to be awful. I wanted him to be on the Razzie list this year. Not because I don’t like the man, I just like that balance- ‘Oscar noms aren’t perfect’. I was also curious if he’d handle it with as much grace as Sandra Bullock did for her Blind Side/ All About Steve book-end awards. Redmayne still might to be fair; it’s a far cry from Theory of Everything and he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the role nearly as much as he should. However, I liked the restrained, gravely pitch of his speech.
There are some beautiful set pieces but they are underused, The costumes are stunning but are the biggest indication that the plot has no grounding.

The bad
The editing is shocking. The first conversation between Tatum and Kunis have them sitting in different poses between camera angles. The 3d conversion is poor and may leave viewers with a headache.
I spent the first third of the movie wanting to get into space, and then the rest of it wanting to be in the screen next door watching Shaun the Sheep the Movie with screaming kids.
The action scenes are fast and blury to the point of nausea and there are way too many slow mo’s, even from the creators of the most iconic slow mo going.

The Ugly
The plot. Oh the plot. Reincarnation, family feud and just a sprinkling of incest. There’s too many characters being crammed into the story and no one is really developed.
There feels like there have been key scenes edited out which will make the plot a little smoother, which is a shame because this should have and could have been a smart film.

Oh… And watch out for the moment where you want Mila to belt out ‘yipee kiyay….’ You know the rest.

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 6
Music- 7
Plot- 2
Pace- 3
Enjoyability- 4

Kingsman: Secret Service 15

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There’s something about a well cut suit. There’s definitely something about charming Brits running around having a lot of fun in them.

In an age where our spy movies are gritty and edged with realism, Kingsman rises to be our cure. With the creators from Kick Ass firmly behind the camera, this two hour ‘Jack Bauer goes to Hogwarts’ is able to poke fun at the genre while being fresh and … Ok, so I can’t say it’s the most original story, but you’re too busy laughing at Sam L Jackson to actually care.

Colin Firth and Mark Strong give excellent performances as veteran Kingsmen, providing a nice balance of wit and charm. Michael Cain is a delight as always.

Special mention must be given to the ‘Bond/Bourne/Bower’ of the film; Taron Edgerton as Eggsy. How this man has not made a name for himself before now if beyond me, his timing is perfect and you really find yourself rooting for him.

The budget of the effects have clearly gone on Sofia Boutella’s CGI prosthetics as some of the other set pieces feel a little lacking, but the overt farce of it all makes it permissible.

It follows the conventions of an action movie and never allows the pace to lull. The film isn’t for everyone and the violence does really call for this film being an 18 (seriously, I don’t know what the point of the BBFC is right now), but I am certainly looking forward to seeing it again.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 8
Pace- 7
Music- 9
Enjoyability- 10

Whiplash- 15

whiplash-bloodThere was no doubt that I was seeing this movie. I didn’t want to, but it had an Oscar nomination and I like to have the full set. At the time of writing this, I only have Selma left to see out of the best picture catagory and 12 others (outside of shorts and foreign language. That is not to say I’m avoiding them, it’s just difficult and I have priorities)

I digress. This is a hipster anti Dead Poet’s Society film. It’s cruel, it’s unrelenting. You see the *twist* coming a mile away and wonder why Miles Teller’s Andrew is gutten for more in that final act. That said, It’s hilarious, J. K Simmons is a genius as sadistic Terrence Fletcher, hell bent in the belief that everyone needs to be pushed to breaking point to reach greatness.

The romantic storyline between Teller’s Andrew and Mellisa Benoist’s Nicole is a little underdeveloped to the point of pointlessness (Ok yes, Andrew puts music/drumming first. Sleeping next to his drum kit and playing to the point he’s bleeding do that just fine), but I guess it says it all when the only character name I don’t need to look up is her’s.

I’m happy to see Paul Reiser of ‘My Two Dads’ and ‘Aliens’ play the role of Andrew’s father. While he plays a vital role toward the end of the film, he is still underused. It comes across as two different films. I would have like to have either seen Andrew completely cut off from everyone, or a little bit more of a development of those close characters; after all, I don’t believe a father as caring as Reisser’s Jim would ever let the problems get so far.
The biggest let down for me was that I’d convinced myself from the trailer that Sam Caflin was playing a part in this movie. Alas, no Finnick to cheer me on my way.

The music was good. However, shouldn’t I be saying the music was great, fantasic, superb. I love my jazz, but the story took it away from me. Jazz, to me, is about expression and soul. Neither of which I saw represented in this film.

Now, I did what I NEVER do with this movie. I read a number of reviews first. I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to see this movie. They all raved about it, stellar performances (I’ll give you J.K, but check out 21 and Over for a better performance from Teller.), great story, worthy of repeat viewing. I think I’m missing something (more that Caflin). I did not leave feeling like I’d learnt a lesson (Other than I need to curb my OCD of completing collections. Which reminds me, I need to buy a kinder egg on my way home), I think it’s ruined jazz for me and it certainly didn’t put the arts in a good light.

Cast- 6
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 6
Pace- 7
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 6

Ex Machina 15

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*Insert witty, yet totally cliched, Blade Runner pun here*. Yet I haven’t. To do that will undersell this chilling mind-f of a film.

Part suspense, part out-right horror, Ex Machina is actually a film for everyone. It’s doesn’t have quite the feel or the pace of a mainstream blockbuster, but it certainly has enough elements to keep people entertain. It is quite possibly scarier than some run of the mill, connect the dots, horrors out on the market these days. Mainly because it’s premise is rooted in Science Near Future rather than fiction.

Invited to spend the weekend at Nathan’s retreat, programmer Caleb (Domnhal Gleeson) signs a non-disclosure document before being introduced to beautiful and flirty A.I, Ava. Nothing is what it seems, even until the closing scenes, you do not know who to trust. Caleb and Ava appear to be playing a part in Nathan’s rat maze, but only because no one is ever truly showing a full hand.

Caleb, for the most part, is the protagonist and proxy for viewers. Only on very rare occasions are the audience privy to information he doesn’t know. Domnhall once again, proving that he is a versatile actor, takes center stage. There’s a haunting scene where he has convinced himself that even he is an A.I and it is believable that he has fallen for the breathtaking Ava. He can do comedy, romance and now sci-fi. Here’s to Star Wars giving us the action man I know he’d be perfect as (I’d love to see him play the villain).

Oscar Issac provides a psychopathic charm to his performance; you never fully trust him, but you always think that you’re being conditioned that way and you will look for redeeming features. Alicia Vikander’s Ava is a work of art and her performance is exceptional. Coming to the closing scenes, it is hard to believe she is anything but human.

The set design and visuals are flawless, claustrophobic and downright beautiful. Just like Nathan, they lull you into a false sense of security before sending your heart into overdrive.

Cast- 10
Cinematography- 9
Plot- 8
Pace- 6
Sound/Music- 7
Enjoyability- 7

Wild- 15 (potential spoilers)

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An allegory for the grief process, this film will hit home to anyone who has lost someone close to them.
The narrative is edited like a jigsaw to allow the audience feel as lost as Reese Witherspoon’s Cheryl. What inspired her to go on this crazy journey that so many abandon? Typical biopic feels are here; loss, betrayal and most importantly overcoming challenges on the way.

A movie about walking?! I’ll admit, I wasn’t 100% sold from the trailer and multiple visits to Middle Earth have taught me not to trust a film that has walking central to the narrative. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It had enough humour in the opening scene to throw me off guard.

I found the flashbacks to Laura Dern’s demise a little too close to the knuckle for me. Having lost my own mother almost 9 years ago, I found a little too much of myself in the character. Ok, so I certainly didn’t go down the path of heroin and sex, but we all become a little self destructive and in need of self discovery when you loose a parent so young. Dern was so perfectly flawed that I did want a little more screen time with her. However, isn’t that the point; Don’t we all want a little more time with our mothers?

Witherspoon pulls this character off brilliantly, shaking off all the preppy happy people of the past. She fully deserves the Oscar nomination. However, with such contenders as Julianne Moore and Rosamund Pike at the 2015 proceedings, I simply don’t think it’s her year. If she keeps picking these roles though, one could be in her sights very soon.

The film ends with you feeling satisfied that all wounds are healed. A little too much of a Hollywood ending, but at least it conveys that most important message; there is hope.

Cast- 9
Cinematography- 8
Plot- 8
Pace- 8
Music/Sound- 7
Enjoyability- 8

Camp- Etcetera Theatre, Camden

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“You feel good as you are. Fair enough. I won’t challenge that. A lot of people don’t. They sign in here. We don’t force them. And they feel understood. They feel themselves after years of lying. Why should you take that away?”

Camp is a fictional comedy-drama based on the true account of a gay-to-straight conversion camp. Evangelical Jessye from Springfield, Missouri is in charge of the first British outpost in Caerphilly. Scott is a Welshman struggling to cope with his hidden homosexuality. And Stuart is a Londoner whose cynicism about everything makes you wonder why he came. But all is not as it seems, and no one’s secrets can stay in the closet. Will the camp survive?

               ~ blurb from Etecetera Theatre website

This is the play that finally caused me to get my act together and set up this blog. I don’t think for a second I have a mass of followers, but I still need to get the word out somehow. This play needs to be seen and for that to happen; it needs another run and for like minded people to know about it. A tweet of one line from the play allowed me to convince two people to abandon plans to see James McAvoy in The Ruling Class. Hopefully I can repeat the process with this review.
Focusing on a number of days at a UK conversion camp, the hour long play follows three men down a rabbit hole of discovery, deception and disaster. It’s a three man play with a sparse, well utilised, set.

Tom Scurr plays the reluctant Stuart and he does it with an amazing charm and a beautiful, yet reserved, unravelling when frustration gets the better of him. It is in the final act, however, where he gets to shine by taking the floor to address the issues brought into focus by the proceedings of the play. It hadn’t hit me before, but this man would make a perfect Rimmer if they ever rebooted Red Dwarf.
Jess Jones is Scott, Welshman chatterbox who is nervous about his conversion. Jones is able to bring a perfect balance of innocence, comedy and a hint of desperation in his portrayal. He is a delight to have on the stage, even if he was the man to reduce me to a blubbering mess after stealing everyone’s hearts with his humour.
Finally, Jessye is played by River Hawkins. Jessye is the ideal man to both Scott and Stuart, but for two very different reasons. Hawkins works well with both Scurr and Jones, but it is when he is retelling his ‘outing’ as a teen that he is able to bring a true vulnerability to the part and ensure every eye is on him.

What I love about this play,is that it has something to say and it does it with heart, courage and a good smattering of laughs. I truly left the theatre knowing I was on the right side of progress, even if the final act made me cry. It also contained what was quite possibly the hottest scenes I’ve yet to experience on the stage, reminding me it doesn’t matter what age, gender or sexuality you are; passion is the key.

The final lines must be given to the writer/director Anthony Simpson-Pike who created this work. This play is truly amazing, truthful and hard hitting, it is something that has created a bench mark for all other theatre to meet.

Annie- PG

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Annie in the 21st century actually works. I was expecting to hate it. I was only seeing it to bulk up the numbers of my 100 films a year target and Whiplash was going to be too heavy after two other Oscar nominated pictures under my belt that day.
I didn’t think Cameron Diaz was going to be right- she was too young. I’ve never warmed to Rose Byrne despite her popping up in… everything. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

It does what it needs to. It’s a light bit of fluff that’s aimed at younger viewers, but has enough winks and sly lines to keep the adults amused. The plot moves fairly quickly and there is chemistry between all the actors.
I could have done with fewer songs. Well, if I’m being honest, I could have done without all of the songs. I’m aware it’s a musical, but I just don’t think they added anything to it.

Cast- 8
Cinematography- 7
Plot- 7
Pace- 5
Music- 5
Enjoyability- 8

Big Hero 6

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Marvel have failed to put their name on what is quite possibly ‘their’ best Disney film to date. Having now been to a Q&A with Producer John Lasseter and director Don Hall I have a little more insight into this. It is very much a Disney movie with Marvel DNA.
Big Hero 6 is a typical origin story, but with a big heart and many more laughs. The plot has everything it needs and even the short lived character, Tadashi (explained in the trailer), is well developed. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting him to have as much screen time as he did (due to the reveal in the trailer), but I truly left wanting more of him. He played off so well against his bother.
The big bad is dispatched before the film is out and this can sometimes be a fault of Marvel/hero movies, it can be forgiven as there is currently not plans set in stone for a sequel. This said, it is one of the strongest Marvel villains seen on screen and a sequel would be welcome.
What I do hope is that Disney/Marvel seize this opportunity to create a comic that will engage younger people and inspire the next generation of readers.

Cast/Voice talent- 9
Cinematography- 10
Plot- 8
Music/Sound- 8
Pace- 9
Enjoyability- 9