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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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