It's half-term so look out for CLOUDY WITH
A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (cert U 1 hr. 30 mins.)
Loud and extremely boisterous, the kids will love this animation
film, especially in its 3D version. I'm just not quite so sure about
their parents. It should be is on at your local cinema now.
The film begins exactly where the first Cloudy with a Chance of
Meatballs finished. What…you don't remember the 2009 film? In that
one, Flint Lockwood, who has wanted to be an inventor from early
childhood, invented a machine that could turn water into food. However,
when it got into the atmosphere it began raining food, so that there
were cheeseburger rain and spaghetti tornadoes. With the knowledge
of the disastrous consequences, Flint was forced to destroy his
We now see Flint (voiced by Bill Hader) being kissed by his girlfriend,
the meteorologist Sam (voiced by Anna Faris) and deciding to work
together. Our hero's main aim is to "make the world a better place"
as he thought he was doing when he destroyed his machine to save
the world from disaster. He is then approached by his idol, Chester
V (Will Forte), an inventor and TV personality and idol of Lockwood's,
who explains that the residents of Swallow Falls must move out so
that Chester's green tech company, Live Corp., can clean up. He
persuades Lockwood to come and work for him in his factory which
is shaped like a light bulb.
The big surprise to Flint, and the main thrust of the story, is
that he finds that his machine is still in existence. Although this
time, instead of producing edible food, it is spewing out food-animals,
or "foodimals." It turns out that Lockwood's machine, which created
the edible madness in the previous instalment, is working again.
Flint learns that the main beast on the island - a giant cheeseburger
with French fry legs - is attempting to swim off the island, which,
if it succeeds, means that it could invade other coastal towns.
Lockwood and his small gang of helpers need to return to Swallow
Falls and destroy the system.
So the inventor is joined by those he wants and those who go along
anyway: girlfriend Sam, his once unemotional father Tim (James Caan),
who now says he loves his son, his not too bright friend Brent (Andy
Samberg), police officer Devereaux (Terry Crews) and weather-girl
Sam's resourceful cameraman Manny (Benjamin Bratt) and, of course,
Steve, the Monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), who doesn't speak much.
They return to the island where they find a variety of living food.
And it is here where the dreadful (or perhaps very funny, if you
are so-minded) puns come in. There are food related jokes galore.
The creatures include Bananostrich (yellow banana with ostrich legs),
Buffaloaf (buffalo meatloaf), Cantaloupe (antelope made out of a
cantloupe) Cheespider (cheeseburger turned into a French fry-legged
spider). Now you have the hang of it, you can work out Jellybee,
Fruit Cockatiel, Meatbalrus, Mosquitoasts and so on and on… There
are jokes along the lines of "we're toast," and "easy as pie."
Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn keep up the frenetic action
and everyone shouts and screams and it is all lit in bright colours.
If you like the visuals in your face and lots of puns then this
is for you and your youngsters. If not then don't come to this sequel.
There are, however many pleasurable moments when the animals or
food-creatures make one laugh and the voices are always well-differentiated
so that one is aware of who is speaking. The under 12s should lap
Tom Hanks, as the eponymous hero of CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
(cert 12A 2hrs, 14 mins.), gives his usual good performance as an
ordinary man facing unusual circumstances. In this case they are
extraordinarily terrifying events. The film had a gala showing at
the London Film Festival and is now out on general release.
We first meet the middle-aged, a little overweight, Captain Richard
Phillips as he leaves his family (wife Catherine Keener in a mere
cameo part here) in Vermont and flies to southern Oman to take command
of an American ship which carries commercial goods and also Humanitarian
aid supplies. It is on its way to Kenya. The Maersk Alabama is a
large multi-storied ship, with a crew of mixed nationalities, all
unarmed. We then meet the Somali fishermen who are to become hijackers.
The men are recruited in Eyl, Somalia and we learn
a little of the poverty and the consequent eagerness of the men
to enlist for piracy missions under the command of a warlord and
his recruiters. Led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi) the men, carrying guns,
set off in two small boats.
The skiffs approach the Alabama but one lot of pirates turns and
leaves when Captain Phillips makes a pretend call on his radio pretending
to be a rescue mission. However, one of the skiffs, containing four
Somalian pirates lead by Muse (Barkhad Abdi), returns and, in spite
of water hoses turned on them, boards the container ship. Richard
Phillips manages to tell his crew to hide but he is captured and
held by the hijackers. His crew are also later discovered and they,
too, fear for their lives.
Phillips' tries to negotiate a deal and offers $30,000 in cash
if the pirates will leave the ship in the lifeboat. But the pirates
renege on the deal taking Phillips with them in the lifeboat and
his life is in real danger. But the US Navy is now in pursuit, which
makes the pirates even more anxious to harm but not kill their hostage.
While the background to Captain Phillips' journey is given, there
is such a brief sketch of the lives of the fishermen back home,
who, it is implied, are driven to piracy by the poverty of their
existence in Somalia, that we don't really get any true idea of
their actual day to day experiences. That the picture was almost
all shot on the open water is obvious from the visual look. Experienced
cinematographer Barry Ackroyd manages to capture the rolling seas
and the very difficult task of the climatic chase in night seas
where, in darkness, the US Navy struggles to reach the Maersk Alabama.
Hanks gives a great performance as Captain Phillips, solid under
attack but showing emotion from time to time as he faces the peril
of his situation. Some of his scenes really do have a strong and
even emotional impact. Newcomer Barkhad Abdi, making his first film,
excels as Muse, the leader of the pack and brings ferocity as well
as a certain humane quality to his performance. Barkhad Abdirahman,
Faysal Ahmed and Mahat M. Ali as the other three pirates manage
to portray their characters with a certain veracity and the four
work well together. The dramatic scenes between Muse and Phillips
make one watch without moving a muscle as they are so exciting.
Director Paul Greengrass has taken the book, based on the real-life
hijacking incident, and turned it into a thrilling and suspenseful
story. Even for those who know what happened in the end, the film
remains constantly engaging and even shocking at times. It is recommended
viewing at your local cinema.
The 17th annual UK Jewish Film Festival launches
on 30 October with an Opening Night Gala at the BFI Southbank of
the UK Premiere of The Jewish Cardinal. This gripping,
star-studded historical drama tells the story of Jean-Marie Lustiger,
the Jewish-born head of the French Church and close confidant of
Pope John-Paul II. With possibly the most mischievous portrayal
of a pontiff in cinematic history, The Jewish Cardinal is a tour
de force about what it means to walk the tightrope of faith and
identity. The festival follows with an exciting array of films and
events which run until the Closing Night Gala on 17 November with
the UK Premiere of Eytan Fox's Cupcakes. This is
a hilarious and heart-warming musical comedy about life, love and
Other festival Galas include In The Shadow, the
impressive debut feature from Czech writer/director David Ondricek
who will give a Q&A after the Gala screening. Set in the dark Stalinist
days of early 1950's Prague it is an award-winning crime thriller
and biting political drama. On 9 November, the UKJF is proud to
present a Gala of Fill The Void followed by a review
discussion with leading UK film critics including The Telegraph's
Robbie Collin. Winner of the Best Actress Award for Hadas Yaron
at the Venice Film Festival, Fill The Void is directed
by Rama Burshtein. This debut film set amongst Tel Aviv's ultra-Orthodox
Hasidic community, won seven Ophir Awards, including Best Film and
Best Director, and was the official Israeli submission for this
year's Academy Awards.
An Exclusive Preview of The Congress takes place
on 10 November as the Imax Gala. Selected as the opening film at
this year's Cannes Directors' Fortnight, Ari Folman's follow-up
to Waltz With Bashir is a searing indictment of the film business
and Hollywood. The cunningly named Miramount Studios is hungry to
scan its stable of high profile actors into computer chips, so that
it can take full control of their careers and have them remain forever
young. With a stellar cast including Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel,
Danny Huston and Paul Giamatti, this dazzling live-action animation
is underlined by a powerful score from Max Richter
and is an unforgettable work from an outstanding and visionary director.
The new VOD Channel, which enables outstanding films to go straight
to your computer, TV, tablet or phone, was also launched at the
official launch of the UK Jewish Film Festival. The 17th UK Jewish
Film Festival will feature screenings of over 70 films and other
special events across five cities - London, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool
and Manchester - over the course of 19 days from 30th October 2013.
Tickets are now on sale, see website http://ukjewishfilm.org/festival/uk-jewish-film-festival-2013
I must express bias towards one of the films in the Festival. THE
LADY IN NUMBER 6
Alice, who will be 110 in November, still plays the
piano daily and has many visitors from around the world. She is
cared for by her two grandsons and friends. She is the most optimistic
person I have met and thinks that the world and people in it are
wonderful - in spite of her time in the concentration camp - and
that all she has, her one room flat and the area, are the best.
I am so proud to have her as my neighbour - yes, I live next door
to the LADY AT NUMBER 6.
Also recommended: THE NUN (La Religieuse), with
subtitles, (cert. 12A 1 hr. 40 mins.). Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
with an eye for the composition of the scenes and an understanding
of the emotions of those involved, this is an absorbing tale. Sharon
Based on the 18th. century novel by Denis Diderot, this film tells
the story of power, imprisonment, and a profound hunger for freedom.
Set in France in 1760s, a young girl, Suzanne Simoni (Pauline Ettienne),
whose misfortune is to be the product of her mother's marital infidelity,
is sent away by her parents to the confines of a convent to become
a nun. Her sisters have been comfortably married off but there is
nothing left for Suzanne and though she has faith, she is given
little alternative but to agree, with reluctance, to follow her
parents wishes. Suzanne just about manages to live in the Convent
with the support and kindness of Mother Superior. However when she
dies, Sister Christine (Louise Bourgoin) is appointed in her place.
Sister Christine inflicts considerable physical and mental cruelty
upon Suzanne, in the name of Jesus, attempting to break Suzanne's
will and her desire to leave the Convent. Being confined to a small
dark freezing room, no clothes and no proper food is the least of
the sadistic treatment and humiliation metered out to her. However
Suzanne's courage and desire to be free is resilient. She is resourceful
and manages to leave the Covent but is transferred to another only
to be faced with yet further trials, literally at the hands of Mother
Saint Eutrope (Isabelle Huppert) who is unable to control her inappropriate
feelings for Suzanne.
Suzanne's story ends abruptly and has been radically altered from
the original book which is a mistake in my view. But do not let
this colour the film as a whole which tells a gripping and intriguing
Sitting close up to the action in the very small
Maria (the studio theatre) at the Young Vic THE EVENTS
(until 2 November) has a huge impact. The play tells the story of
the terrible events which befell Claire, a priest, when a young
boy burst into the music room and slaughtered those who were there.
Claire managed to survive and ever since has been wanting to know
exactly why the events took place She tries to come to grips with
what happened and wants to understand the boy who caused the mayhem.
At the same time she examines her own spiritual and religious life.
We learn a little about Claire and something about the boy - he
lived with his mother who killed herself when he was 15 - although
in response to why he committed the atrocity all he can answer is,
" "I kill to protect my tribe from softness."
Written as a response to the slaughter of 77 people by Anders
Breivik in Norway in 2011, David Greig's play is powerfully acted
by Neve McIntosh as Claire and Rudi Dharmaltingham as the Boy and
other parts. The very unusual thing about this production is the
presence of a choir and pianist, in the middle and very much a part
of the action. There is a different choir at every performance and
on the night I attended, it was the Morris Folk Choir, who sang
beautifully and spoke lines and generally participated in the action
as well as, at times, becoming the audience listening to the story
of Claire and the Boy.
NeveMcIntosh and Rudi Dharmalingam
in 'The Events'
McIntosh is most moving , with tears in her eyes
and Dharmaltingham gives a very physical performance as the Boy
and also manages the other roles such as Claire's female lover,
with panache. Often difficult to follow, the play requires concentration
but the audience is well rewarded.
THE COMMITMENTS (Palace Theatre (booking until
26 January 2012 box office: 0844 482)
Although based on Roddy Doyle's best-selling novel like the film
(which came out in 1991), the show gives out very different vibes.
As it has been adapted from his novel by the author himself, we
must assume that it says what Doyle wants it to say.
As directed by Jamie Lloyd, The Commitments tells the story of
Jimmy Rabbitte (Denis Grindel), a young working class music fan,
who draws together a motley crew of amateur musicians and his personal
friends to form a soul band in Dublin 1986. The musical follows
in particular the lives of two members of this group.
At the beginning of the show - in one of the most
amusing sequences - Jimmy auditions a number of applicants in response
to his advertisement in a music paper. He finally chooses the ones
he wants and decides on the name, The Commitments. With lots of
banter and even more loud music, the band rehearses and the members
and the audience learn what each person is capable of, not just
with their instruments but also their individual personalities.
They are performing well and getting audiences but it then goes
This is a large scale musical with lots of songs, mostly sung and
played very loudly. The story remains the one familiar from the
book and Alan Parker's film version, but because it is hard to make
out the words through the music, much of the author's views on sexuality,
particularly women's, is lost.
Soutra Gilmour has produced a fascinating set; concrete Dublin
circa 1986 surrounds Jimmy's house with different rooms upstairs
and downstairs. The scenes change effortlessly and the musical certainly
There is a fine performance by Killian Donnelly as Deco, who becomes
the lead singer and then antagonises the others in the band. Donnelly
has a great voice The rest of the big cast of actor-musicians give
good performances too with much energy and the music is played really
well - just a bit too much music and too little story for my taste.
I heard complaints about the large amount of swearing , but I am
afraid I must be immune as that aspect didn't trouble me. I must
say however, that the rendition of Try a Little Tenderness was excellently
performed as a soul number.
If you want lots of soul music and some good songs and are not
too concerned about the political and social backgrounds to the
era and the story of the growth of the band, then this is for you.
Another triumph for Hampstead Theatre under its artistic director,
Edward Hall. And with RAVING (until 23 November
Box office 020 7722 9301) he directs the play himself.
This show however differs from many of the others in that it is
a light farce
Basically the story concerns three very assorted couples who
spend a somewhat traumatic weekend in a rented cottage in the Welsh
countryside. A nervous couple, Briony (Tamzin Outhwaite) and Keith
(Barnaby Kay) who have left their young son for the first time,
arrive in a flustered state worrying about their child and are even
more concerned when they can't get a mobile signal to their phone
and check on his well-being and also find their hosts have not yet
Tamzin Outhwaite, Issy Van
Randwick, Sarah Hadland, Robert Webb (L to R)
The next to arrive are Charles (Nicholas Rowe) and
Serena (Issy Van Randwyck) who are very jolly and keen on having
sex with each other, they have five children, and behave in rather
an obnoxious manner.
Finally the host and hostess turn up: Ross (Robert Webb) and Rosy
(Sarah Hadland) pride themselves on their laid back attitude and
want their friends, particularly the new parents, to have an easy
relaxed weekend. But these are not the entire party, for into their
midst comes Serena's niece, the over-sexed teenager, Tabby (Bel
This combination of characters throws up all sorts of humorous
incidents as the middle class characters discuss parenting - Briony
has difficulty with her over active breasts filling with milk; she
refers to this as "liquid love" as her three year old son is not
yet weaned, while her husband likes to drink the breast milk. Ross
and Rosy complain of difficulty with au pairs.
Writer Simon Paisley Day, in a rather sub-Ayckbourn style, gets
as much fun as he can from the individual characters and their inter-action
with each other and he is extremely well served by his cast of actors,
who put high energy into their delivery of the quick-fire dialogue.
The characters are well differentiated as they behave badly physically
as well as verbally.
Edward Hall directs his cast so as to get maximum fun out of the
comic business he sets up and there are many laugh-aloud moments
such as the appearance of a fanatically religious local farmer armed
with a shot gun and enraged because Tabby has been sexually involved
with his disabled son. It's enough to put us all off going away
for the weekend with friends!
Another excellently designed set by Soutra Gilmour's (see The Commitments
above) marks out FROM HERE TO ETERNITY at the Shaftesbury
Theatre (until 31 January 2014 Box office: 020-73795399) as a very
professional show. It is, of course, necessary to put aside all
memories of the 1953 film directed by Fred Zinnemann. Tamara Harvey
directs the new musical based on James Jones' 1951 long novel about
life on an army base in Hawaii and the time of the story leads up
to the attack on Pearl Harbour, December 1941.
The show follows three soldiers at the base: Robert E. Lee Prewitt
(Robert Lonsdale), a Private, who refuses to join the army boxing
team; the very macho Milt Warden (Darius Campbell), the Company
Sergeant who has an affair with the Captain's wife. The last of
this little group is Private Angelo Maggio (Ryan Sampson), the American-Italian
wide boy who is continuously picked on because of his ethnicity.
The musical is mainly serious. Maggio makes his money by gambling
and offering favours to the clients of a gay club.
From Here to Eternity: Darius
Campbell as First Sergeant Milt Warden& Rebecca Thornhill as Karen
At a different club we see the girl that Prewitt
has fallen in love with together with the other girls who work there.
Lorene (Siubhan Harrison), Prewitt's girlfriend, and her friends
presumably offer more than just dancing to the soldiers. Prewitt
is mocked at and suffers physical abuse because he refuses to fight.
To my surprise I found that the show works well as a musical, not
least because of the strong musical content provided by Tim Rice's
lyrics and Stuart Bryson as composer. The score uses a number of
different styles, which fit in with what is happening on stage,
so we find some military music alongside more blues-type sounds
and a strong romantic ballad in Love Me Forever Today.
Obviously everyone waits for the beach scene with memories of Deborah
Kerr and Burt Lancaster rollicking on the beach in the movie. Here
it is a more muted affair, although at the end of the scene Rebecca
Thornhill's Karen Holmes, the Captain's wife, does strip off.
But Brayson's score captures the feel of the 1940s and Tim Rice's
lyrics, though not always easy to hear above the band, display his
familiar rhyming flair: I especially liked a couplet about America's
motley professional soldiery that runs: "If this is all they
can muster/ They can give it back to Custer."
Tamara Harvey's production and design make ingenious use of the
stage space by suggesting that the action unfolds against a series
of receding, dilapidated proscenium arches. Javier de Frutos's inventive
choreography turns military drill into muscular dance routines and
captures the sleazy sensuality of the aptly named New Congress Club.
And I have no fault to find with the performers: Robert Lonsdale
as the doggedly withdrawn Prewitt, Ryan Sampson as the breezily
opportunist Maggio, Darius Campbell as Warden and Rebecca Thornhill
as the captain's wife.
But it is only in the final 10 minutes, with the evocation of the
raid on Pearl Harbour, that the show ascends to another level by
giving us a glimpse of the terrors of aerial bombardment. Until
that point, the overriding sense is of a musical based on skilled
professionalism rather than expressive need.
Tamara Harvey directs with intelligence so that she gets maximum
use of the stage and her soldiers are well drilled in military marching
rather than the usual type of choreography. Robert Lonsdale gives
a convincing performance as Prewitt and I particularly liked the
slight figure of Ryan Sampson as Maggio. There are strong performances,
too, from Darius Campbell as Warden and Rebecca Thornhill as Karen
Holmes. Don't go expecting a reproduction of the film but enjoy
this musical version of a meaty book.
THE NUTCRACKER ON ICE at the London Palladium
(until 3 November, then see below) provides a very pleasant evening
out as performed by the Imperial Ice Stars. The story of Marie who
attends her parents' Christmas Eve party and then goes sleepily
to bed only to be woken up and go downstairs to find her toys have
come alive. Each scene is attractive; some with snow falling and
others brightly lit as the toys dance around and Marie dances with
her favourite Nutcracker soldier doll.
The Palladium stage has been converted into an ice rink. In fact
this is not the first time that there has been an ice rink here.
In the 19th century it became the National Skating Palace - a skating
rink with real ice. However the rink failed and the Palladium was
redesigned by Frank Matcham, the famous theatrical architect. The
ice skating is beautiful and the dancers use the whole area with
those not dancing standing at the sides or back. The lovely dancing,
including the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, is provided with some
light relief from Keith Chegwin and his partner Olga Sharutenko.
You may remember Keith's hilarious performance on Christopher Dean
and Jayne Torvill's TV series Dancing on Ice.
Altogether a most
enjoyable show which is suitable for all the family but it will
only have a short run in London before continuing its tour:
The Nutcracker on Ice 2013
8-17 NOV, WALES MILLENNIUM CENTRE, CARDIFF, UK
19-23 NOV MAYFLOWER THEATRE, SOUTHAMPTON, UK