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FILM:April 2013

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (cert. 12A 1 hr. 54 mins.) in 3D: You can tell from the certificate that this is not a children's film as such. There is quite a lot of violence and the giants are frightening, but it is a family film and can be enjoyed by adults and slightly older kids.

When very young, Jack's mother tells him the tale of King Eric with his magic crown killing giants. This is intercut with Isabelle being told the same story by her father.

The grown up now orphaned Jack (played by Nicholas Hoult), a very ordinary, poor farmhand, living with his stern uncle, is given a handful of beans as barter for his horse. Jack and Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson) meet and form a connection. She is by no means your average princess, but a royal rebel, who is strong-willed and nonconformist. Jack and Isabelle have much in common as he, too, yearns for adventure and if given the opportunity would like to get off the farm and see more of the world. The two adventurous souls on the cusp of adulthood, meet accidentally.

Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Hoult and Eleanor Tomlinson in Jack the Giant Slayer

Escaping the confines of the court on one of her adventures soon after their first meeting, by chance Princess Isabelle reaches Jack's hovel to seek shelter from a storm. Just after she arrives one of Jack's special beans sprouts into an enormous vine with tendrils reaching right up to the sky, taking the princess with it. An expedition to rescue her is led by the king's knight Elmont (Ewan McGregor), who is leader of the Guardians who look after the King (Ian McShane) and Princess Isabelle. Elmont has a hard time keeping track of the princess who is always escaping from the Palace but this time he takes the task particularly seriously as he realises she is in danger.

Up in the sky the long-banished giants who are now unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, move to reclaim the land they once held. The giants are led by Bill Nighy as the ambitious two-headed General Fallon. While we have the noble Elmont, there is also a human villain in the shape of the treacherous Roderick (Stanley Tucci). He has been pretending to support the king and is engaged to be married to Isabelle, but he doesn't really care for her and just wants to win control over the kingdom. He wants to become leader of the giants.

When Jack realises that Isabelle has been taken into the giants' world he knows she is in great danger so he joins the group led by the gallant Elmont to fight for the kingdom, its people and for the love of the princess. In the process Jack becomes a legend.

Most of the characters are played by real live actors. The exception is the group of giants who are depicted by motion-capture. In fact the film is shot entirely in 3D and blends live action, real locations and traditional effects with computer generated characters created by precision motion-and facial-capture performances.

The story, which is loosely based on Jack and the Beanstalk and the older and darker Jack the Giant Killer, is set in England's distant past. There is a great deal of scary stuff. The giants are not good guys and they take pleasure in eating people…head first. The film attempts to cover a number of universal themes such as perseverance and courage, self-sacrifice and what we do for love of others. It is certainly boisterous and at times exciting. The movie is recommended as a good Easter romp for the whole family including grandparents escorting their grandkids to the cinema.

THE CROODS (cert. U 1hr. 48 mins.), a lovely comedy adventure in 3D, is just right for the whole family. While there is a lot for young children it should appeal to adults of all ages including grandparents who can happily take the grandkids!

Like most fathers, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), the strong dad to a family of cavemen, is very protective of his wife and three kids. His hyper-vigilance has kept his cave-bound family safe and secure but unfortunately the teenage daughter is bored with her life. Grug's tough wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener), accepts what her husband says, "fear is good; change is bad" as gospel and so does their somewhat dim son Thunk (Clark Duke), who is content with the static status quo. Feisty mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman) never tires of needling or even at times bashing Grug; and stone-tough toddler Sandy says little so far.

However, Eep (Emma Stone), the rebellious teenager stands up to her father and fights his authority. While Grug's sole focus is survival, Eep actually wants to have adventures and her curiosity about the world outside their cave collides with her dad's primitive rules. She even gets her own ledge to sleep on while the rest of the Croods pile on top of one another when it is time to sleep.

When the cave that has always been their home is destroyed - with the rest of their world being faced with destruction too - The Croods are forced to set off on the first family road trip (obviously they are walking as there are no roads). This horrendous event forces the Croods to make their way into new territory, both literally and also in re-thinking their way of life.

And then when Eep meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and is amazed by his ability to conjure up fire and give members of the Crood family shoes to wear, it really shakes them all up in a number of surprising ways. Grug sees Guy as the biggest threat to his family - a charming teenage boy from which he must protect his vulnerable teenage daughter, who, along with the rest of the family except Dad, is enchanted by Guy's vision of a new place called "tomorrow." Finally even the father, Grug, is forced to face the fact if they don't change the way they have always lived, then they too will be relegated to past history.

The family discovers an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures, and a future beyond any they imagined - all beautifully illustrated in this colourful animated film, and brought to life with an attractive use of 3D with bright colours. Indeed the world of the Croods is one of visual splendour.

The Crood family dynamics, though unfolding a few million years ago, feel like they could come from your own household. As they travel the Croods encounter a number of firsts for them: fire, shoes, the first pet, the first cell phone (actually a shell), the first joke and even the first pair of sunglasses.

Writer-director Chris Sanders aims his film at kids who, watching the film, will surely be intrigued by his themes of a family - so like their own - together and apart, which are dealt with humorously in a good script. There are lessons about learning to help one another and to work together to avert disasters and, if this won't work, to make the most of the result and also to enjoy new discoveries.

     
     
     

 

 


 

THEATRE TIP

Religious Jewish men are not allowed to be touched by women so when elderly Orthodox men in Tel Aviv fall ill a group of Filipino males come to Israel to look after them. On their day off five of them perform in a musical drag show given the title of the play, THE PAPER DOLLS at the Tricycle Theatre (until 13 April).

Director, Indhu Rubasingham presents the play in a concrete multi-purpose set with various levels and playing areas. It begins at the airport, with Hebrew newspaper headlines projected on to the walls and moves to inside and outside the elderly men's houses and into the clubs where the Paper Dolls perform. Unusually in a drag show all the songs are actually sung, adequately rather than expertly, and not mimed.

Ron Domingo as Chiqui, Jon Norman Schneider as Jiorgio, Angelo Paragoso as Zhan

The start of the play sees the performers wearing costumes made out of paper. The men have come from the Philippines to make a living and send money home. The play sensitively explores the themes of isolation (the elderly men and their carers), loneliness, homesickness, different cultures/religions and, of course, sexuality. We see how the Filipinos look after their frail elderly charges with great care and frequently become good friends. The carers are only allowed to work according to their letters of introduction so when an old man dies, the Filipino is without a job and open to deportation. Whether they are dressed as men or women the carers always look feminine and even paint their nails.

The characters have verisimilitude and the acting, particularly of the five stars, is always charming. Make the journey to Kilburn as soon as you can to see this most unusual show.

Box office: 020 7328 1000

TED CRAIG reviews ABOVE ME THE WIDE BLUE SKY in The Maria Studio at the Young Vic (until 28 March). It is devised and directed by David Harradine and Sam Butler and performed by Laura Cubitt.

Laura Cubitt in Above Me the Wide Blue Sky, Young Vic, London

Fevered Sleep and Fuel Theatre have collaborated on many productions together and are associate companies of the Young Vic. This new production is part installation and part performance. You are invited to turn up early and inspect the performance area with seating on four sides and a square in the centre of the space made of small white concrete blocks, amongst these blocks, metal poles with an assortment of lamps on them and some small television screens propped up against them. Above the audience large screens on all four sides with moving clouds projected on them

A woman (Laura Cubitt) enters with a small dog on a lead; they take time looking at the assembled audience before the dog (Leuca the whippet) retires to a blanket and the woman seats herself on a stool.

The clouds keep moving, the lights constantly change and images appear on the small screens.

The woman tells us a collection of stories about our deep-rooted, deeply felt, easily overlooked and profoundly important connection to the land, the sky, the sea, the weather and the other living things that surround us.

When her monologue comes to an end she bows, the dog also bows, and they exit. And we are left to contemplate the setting. We have experienced the new type of performance art - beautifully executed and performed but sleep-inducing.

To book tickets:www.youngvic.org or call 020 7922 2922

TED CRAIG also reviews The Sprint Festival, Camden Peoples Theatre, London (until Sunday 24 March)

The Sprint Festival is a worthy annual event that showcases new and emerging theatre talent. The quality, by the very nature of the event, is very uneven, but never less than fascinating.

On the Press night I saw three 'events': the first of these, 'Exposure'- only eight minutes long, involved going into a dark room and being encouraged to sit at one side of a table. The only light was from an occasionally lit torch. Across from me sat a blonde woman who handed me a pair of earplugs through which she narrated some of her life story. She never spoke and it became like a séance which was very relaxing. The performer was Jo Bannon.

Next up was 'A Faultline' written and performed by Jessica Latowicki who has a charming, infectious personality and she told us that in 35 minutes time she was going to throw herself at a wall fifteen times. She was very entertaining and of course we never believed her about the wall.

Until she did. Fifteen times. Very disturbing.

The third performance was 'The Watery Journey of Nereus Pike' by Laura Mugridge. Laura reported that she had recently stayed at an old lighthouse. During her stay she had come across various objects - books, ornaments and memorabilia that had clearly been left by former inhabitants of the lighthouse and which put in her mind a story centred on Norse Gods. It was this story that occupied the rest of the piece, ably assisted by Tom Adams and his guitar and using a level of non-threatening audience participation. A good way to end the evening.

Box Office 08444 77 1000

www.cptheatre.co.uk

LONGING (Hampstead Theatre, London until 6 April) is a well-written play by William Boyd, based on two short stories by Anton Chekov.

With an extraordinarily sensitive portrait of Varia, an old friend of Tania (Natasha Little), wife of Sergei, by Tamsin Greig, it shows a family coming to terms with the loss of their home. The father of the family, Sergei (Alan Cox) has lost all his money and spent his wife's too so that he is selling her family home and moving his wife and daughter into the summer house which is where the action of the play is set. When Kolia (Iain Glen), comes to visit, Tania's young sister Natasha (a sweet portrayal by Eve Ponsonby), falls for him and hopes for marriage. However, we see Varia is also keen on Kolya and they have a past history.

Iain Glen and Tamsin Greig

Kolya is not interested in Natasha and, although he is drawn to Varia, is unable to commit. Kolya also tries, unsuccessfully to assist his old friend Sergei, who is too pompous to use his friend's advice.

There is a side story of the idealistic son of an architect, Misail (William Postlethwaite) who is working as a painter, becoming engaged to the very ostentatious Kleopatra (Catrin Stewart), the daughter of the rich Dolzikhov (a flamboyant John Sessions) and instantly regretting it.

The set is superb - a small wooden summer house in the middle of forested land. Director Nina Raine mounts an excellent production with humour and sensitive moments of inter-action between the characters. All the parts, down to the smallest, are very well acted. There is one genuinely moving little episode when Varia and Kolya are disturbed as they reach to kiss and the look on Tamsin Greig's face shows all Varia's unfulfilled love for him.

Box Office; 020 7722 9301

There is an unusual play at the Tristan Bates Theatre, London (until 30 March). MAKING DICKIE HAPPY by Jeremy Kingston, It is based on a possible meeting between Agatha Christie, Noel Coward and Lord Louis 'Dickie' Mountabatten.

The action takes place at a hotel on Burgh Island, Devon - a lovely hotel which then, as now, is beautifully placed and has good service and, apparently, very good food!

Phineas Pett as Noel Coward in 'Making Dickie Happy'

The set shows the lounge which is all in white with a baby grand piano that is played on from time to time. Cowrad (Phineas Pett) is at the hotel with his boyfried (David Alderman). Christie (Helen Duff) is there by herself trying - somewhat unsuccessfully - to be anonymous and Dickie (James Phelips), who arrives with a navel friend just before he marries Edwina, gives Agatha advice on her next murder-mystery book.

It is all light entertainment and full of funny Coward-like phrases, with some shrewd comments on the actual people, who all at one time stayed at the hotel, but might not have actually met. The waiter, too, is, naturally, gay! Director, Robert Gillespie, and cast manage to achieve a lot in this small theatrical space.

Box Office: 020 7240 6283

For anyone who is keen on the theatre and particularly on what happens backstage and in rehearsals, A CHORUS LINE (London Palladium until 25 January 2014) is for you.

The 1975 production lives in the memory of those of us who saw it. When one remembers something, it is always of concern whether it will live up to one's memories. Well, this revival most certainly does. The songs seemed to be of prime importance on first viewing, but here the dancing is what strikes one. There are a variety of dance styles and all of them are really well-performed by the cast of singing dancers.

A Chorus Line at London Palladium

The whole point is to show the audition process and all those up for parts in the show being cast are equal. Although all perform excellently, some of the songs are particularly well executed. As the older Cassie, Scarlett Strallen has a lovely voice and it is used effectively here and she can also act the part, while I have always enjoyed 'I can do that' sung mainly by Mike (Adam Salter).

The basic set has a mirror which moves to reflect the changing movements of the actors; simple but effective.

By the time we come to the whole cast singing 'One' in unison, the audience feels as though it has come on a journey with the performers and although some have been chosen to be in the chorus line-up and others not, they sing and dance gloriously together at the end.

Box office: 0844 412 2957

From a novel by Mark Haddon told in the first person to a stage play is a fair leap, but it is successfully managed in THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME (Apollo Theatre until 31 August) by having Christopher's story, which he has written, being read out by his teacher (Niamh Cussack) as the incidents are acted out by the cast most of whom play multiple rolls.

Niamh Cusack with Luke Treadaway

An exceptionally agile Luke Treadaway plays 15 year-old Christopher, who, while suffering from a form of autism, nevertheless is a brilliant mathematician. He is obsessed with facts and organised data and finds it hard to relate to people in a social context and dislikes being touched, even by his parents. When the neighbour's dog is found dead, Christopher undertakes his own forensic enquiry into who killed the dog, which leads him out into the wider world.

Having been told his mother died two years ago, Christopher is amazed to discover a different scenario and wants to discover the truth about that, too.

Marianne Elliott uses choreography and lighting and sound effects to depict the movement and characters of the people and objects Christopher comes across. At one point he climbs the wall; at another there is a tiny train moving across the stage, and later a live dog makes some of us emit an "Ah!" Fluorescent numbers glide across the back of the stage.

The adaptation of Haddon's book by Simon Stephens has been undertaken with extreme sensitivity so that we get a real feeling for the boy's limitations but also an awareness of the special qualities which make him the hero of his own tale.

The actors present not only characters but also the objects encountered by Christopher. Treadaway is remarkable in his depiction of the young boy and his ability to move around the stage in an awkward but at the same time fluent manner is amazing to watch.

Box office: 0844 412 4658 FREE

TRELAWNY OF THE WELLS (Donmar Wharehouse until 13 April) seems rather dated. Not surprising since Arthur Wing Pinero wrote it in 1898 ("with some respectful additions by Patrick Marber"). Director Joe Wright (best known as a film director) tries to make it into a light farce, but, for the most part, this just doesn't work as the dialogue is not funny enough. The actors try very hard, with most doubling up in spectacular style. Ron Cook, playing two parts, nearly ties himself into knots trying to be in two places almost at the same time.

When the star of the Wells theatre, Rose Trelawny (Amy Morgan) decides to give up the stage in order to marry the aristocratic Arthur Gower (Joshua Silver), her theatrical colleagues are unhappy and throw a grand party for her. Arthur's family, particularly Sir William Gower (Ron Cook), is shocked that he is marrying an actress, who they consider not much higher than a common prostitute. While Arthur is welcomed into the life of the Wells, Rose is made to feel very ill at ease amongst the 'posh' people and she is, frankly, quickly bored. She resents the fact that Arthur will not stand up to his relatives and decides to leave him and return to the theatre.

Ron Cook as the crusty old judge, one of his roles in Trelawney of the Wells

Unfortunately, because she is pining for her former fiancé, Rose finds that she can no longer act in the exaggerated manner demanded of her and is on the verge of being dismissed when her friend Tom (Daniel Kaluuya) presents her with a more realistic play that she feels able to perform.

Showing the difference between the classes and the particular joys of the Bohemian theatrical community, Wright gives the scenes involving the actors and the ones set in the theatre a theatricality of their own so that the props are not real and the table is opened up to show the party fare.

The idea of today's actors playing two parts fits in well with the small company that is depicted here. Wright has assembled some fine actors: Daniel Mays blossoms in the part of the very exaggerated theatrical ham and shows he can undertake physical acting, in the part of Ferdinand Gadd and Ron Cook is great as the theatrical landlady Mrs Mossop and also as Arthur's grandfather Sir William Gower. Peter Wight has a deep fruity voice and is altogether over the top in the part of James Telfer, the Wells' leading actor. Maggie Stead as his wife delivers her words with lovely timing and there are some amusing moments when dialogue and acting work together.

Towards the end, the play is more realistically presented and the characters change from being caricatures to real people. I thought this worked better.

Box Office 0844 871 7624

Now, THE WINSLOW BOY (Old Vic Theatre, London until 25 May) was written in 1946 and, apart from some of the early dialogue, contains so much that has relevance today that it doesn't come across as a dated play. Lindsay Posner directs with just the right amount of delicacy to give meaning to the story and not over dramatise the staging of Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy.

Charlie Rowe as Ronnie, Henry Goodman as Arthur in The Winslow Boy at the Old Vic

It is a fascinating tale of the alleged stealing of a five pound postal order by navel cadet, Ronnie Winslow (Charlie Rowe) who is sent home in disgrace. His whole family is distraught but his father, Arthur (Henry Goodman) and suffragette sister, Catherine (Naomi Frederick) are determined to fight against the branding of Ronnie as a thief without a fair trial. To this end Arthur uses all his money to employ a top lawyer to fight the case.

As we see at the beginning of the play the money is supposed to be Catherine's dowry when she marries John, who comes from a well-heeled family. She doesn't mind losing it as she is concerned to see justice done to Ronnie and believes (wrongly, as it turns out) that John will stand by her with or without her money or that of his father.

There is a magnificent scene where Sir Robert Morton (Stephen Joseph), the cold, but sharp barrister, questions Ronnie and just as everyone believes that he has found him guilty, states that he will take the case and explains why he believes Ronnie to be innocent.

The play, based on a real case, is basically a hymn to justice. "Let right be done," is the theme put forward by Rattigan, and that is exactly what happens. Henry Goodman is superb as Ronnie's father, who loses not only his money, but his health as well as he fights the case and we seem to see him physically grow weaker as we watch. In fact, all the parts are well-acted with Frederick as a feisty Catherine and Joseph as a cold Sir Robert who only lets slip his emotions when he thinks he is not being observed.

We still need to fight for human rights and this play will urge people to do just that.

Box office: 0844 871 7628

Carlie Newman

   
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