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Although the grandkids (American term which I happen to like) are back at school, you might want to take them out to the cinema one weekend when we are suffering from April showers. And there are two very suitable films just out. The first, which is recommended for those over 4, is ROBOTS (cert.U 1hr. 30mins.). An unusual concept of mechanical beings, who lead a fairly normal life, having a baby and bringing him up, only the baby is delivered in parts in a box and the couple have to assemble him!

In this world of robots there is, of course, a villain: the nefarious corporate tyrant Ratchet (voiced by Greg Kinnear) who wants the robots to be new and not to be repaired, a hero: the baby who grows up to be Rodney (Ewan McGregor) who repairs the poor broken robots and returns the master inventor to his position.

Robots : Repair for Adventure
Robots : Repair for Adventure

Bright colours and well-defined pictures ensure the film is accessible to children, although, perhaps, a little long for small ones. The many well-known voices will keep grandparents interested. You will find this on at local cinemas.

Poohs Heffalump Movie
Poohs Heffalump Movie

The second film, which should also still be around locally, is another delightful Winnie the Pooh tale. POOH'S HEFFALUMP MOVIE (cert.U 1hr. 8mins.) is probably OK for ages 3 plus if they are used to watching films. All the usual Hundred Acres Wood crew are here, but now joined by a young heffalump called Lumpy and his mother. I found the background and drawings of the 'animals' somewhat one-dimensional and the songs, by Carly Simon, always sound rather sloppy, but the story and voices are an absolute delight. Newcomer, Kyle Stanger, an 8-year-old English boy voices Lumpy with Brenda Blethyn as Mama Heffalump, and both are heart-warmingly lovable.

We took our 6 year old grandson and 2 1/2 year old granddaughter to this and both sat absolutely still and absorbed! When asked, "Which bit did you like best, Alfie (aged 6) replied, "All of it." So there you are.

DON'T MOVE (Non ti Muovre) (cert. 15 2hs 01mins.), however, is a very adult film, and you might well have to find somewhere showing sub-titled films. Directed by Sergio Castellitto, he also stars as a surgeon coping with the terror of seeing his only child brought to his own hospital in a coma. While he awaits the result of a colleague's efforts to save his daughter he remembers a past love affair which began with the violent rape of a young woman called Italia who befriended him when his car broke down. In spite of having a beautiful home and wife the surgeon is caught up in an all-consuming passion. Castellittto gives a moving performance, but it is Penelope Cruz as Italia who is the revelation here.

Don't Move
Don't Move

Known mainly for her role as the former "squeeze" [girlfriend] of Tom Cruise, she is really excellent as the downtrodden, destitute woman falling for her abuser. Not just vocally, but also physically, in her walk and gestures, Cruz becomes Italia. It's worth making the effort to see this though as the acting is really excellent.

Keanu Reeves as Constantine
Keanu Reeves as Constantine

CONSTANTINE (Cert 15 2hrs 01mins) is also still around. I must start by admitting that Keanu Reeves is far from my favourite movie actor, and this long convoluted film does not enhance his reputation, in my view. Keanu plays Constantine, a man with the gift of seeing the semi-angels and half-devils that haunt earth. Trying to get to heaven, instead of the hell he is destined to go to (don't ask why!), he helps police detective (Rachel Weisz) solve the mysterious death of her twin sister. Although Weisz can conveniently play herself twice, neither part gives her much acting scope. The only good part is the way cancer affects the multi-cigarette smoking hero and he, and we, learn about the perils of smoking.


APRIL 2005

You will have to get a move on to see HECUBA (Albery Theatre), which finishes 7 May, but you will find it well worth the effort. Hecuba, once queen of Troy and now a prisoner of war, is being transported by the victorious Greek coalition back to Athens with other women of Troy as war booty. She is asked to give up her daughter's life to the captors and discovers that her surviving son has been murdered.

Admittedly, Vanessa Redgrave's performance in the name part needs to be understood to be appreciated as it is understated and might appear subdued. The story of the queen so overcome with grief following the deaths of her son and daughter and the terrible revenge she executes, could have been played on a rising note of anguish, but Redgrave controls this sorrow and anger and the result is thus more devastating to behold. She is never afraid to look old and to walk around, as the rest of the women prisoners do, with bare feet.

Vanessa Redgrave in Hecuba

I didn't like much of the new translation by Tony Harrison. Some of the modern colloquialisms jarred a little, for example, "you creeps." The chorus of women prisoners sang their lines and the music sounded appropriate, although some of the stage movements and arrangements of this chorus were reminiscent of the crowds in "Les Miserables." Otherwise Lawrence Boswell's direction was simple and the set - kind of moving concrete walls - serviceable. As usual with the RSC there is good live music.

It's good to see Alan Dobie in strong voice and Malcolm Tierney and Darrell D'Silva are also excellent. In fact the audience sat absolutely silently - no coughing even - as this old play by Euripides was enacted full of modern references about power, coalition forces and prisoners being mistreated.

LOSING LOUIS (Trafalgar Studios) is a very different show. With the death of Louis, Jewish and non-Jewish members of a family are brought together after many years of separation to face incidents from the past as well as the present. In a very well-constructed play by a young author, Simon Mendes da Costa, secrets that have been long buried surface in an unusual mixture of comedy and tragedy as the action moves fron the 1950s to the present. . Directed by Robin Lefevre in a way that seamlessly blends the two elements, there is a troupe of excellent actors. David Horovitch, Lynda Bellingham, Jason Durr star and Alison Steadman works hard not to repeat her famous character portrayal in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party. However, she is not always successful.

Carlie Newman


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