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FILM: AUGUST 2005

Two unusual films well worth a visit if you can find them showing are 3-IRON (cert.15 1hr.28mins.) which tells the strange story of a man who breaks into houses, makes himself at home, causes no damage and doesn't steal anything; he even does the laundry! One day he meets an abused wife and they fall in love, but remain silent until the end of the film. The title refers to the golf club with which the hero beats the abusive husband.

The film develops into a mesmerising ghost story which is always fascinating and extremely well-filmed by the Korean, Kim Ki-duk.

THE LAST MITTERAND (cert. PG 1hr.56mins.), directed by Robert Guediguian, is very different. With a true to life portrayal of the late President of France, Michel Bouquel gives a wonderful performance. A 30-year old journalist (Jalil Lespert) conducts a series of interviews with the socialist President of the Republic in the last weeks of his term as he fights prostate cancer and prepares for death.

The film tells of the growth of the unions and socialism in France and reflects on Mitterand's controversial role during the Occupation of France. We are shown glimpses of his somewhat scandalous private life, too.

Although not very tasteful, WEDDING CRASHERS (cert. 15 1hr.59mins.) is well acted by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn and, if it had been shorter would have seemed more amusing! This is on at many cinemas.

Have you got children to entertain? Whilst not as funny as some of the more recent offerings, the computer animated MADAGASCAR (cert.U 1hr.26mins.) is entertaining enough for you to venture to your local cinema to see it.

Fairly exciting, no sex, no violence FANTASTIC FOUR (cert. PG 1hr. 46mins.) is a great summer movie for almost all ages. Some bits, including The Thing, until you get to know him, might seem a little frightening for small children. Far from dark -unlike Batman Begins and Sin City, this comic based film is full of colour and easy on the eye, and ear, characters.

When a dreadful accident results in 4 members of a rocket mission into space becoming changed with each one having a special power, they have to live and work together to try and deal with what is happening to them and also to try and find a way to escape from their new powers.

Actually, 3 of them appear to have rather useful powers - Sue Storm (the attractive Jessica Alba) can become invisible, Johnny Storm (lively Chris Evans) is able to convert himself to a flying ball of fire and the scientist, Dr. Reed Richards' (the British Ioan Gruffud) superpower enables him to make any limb stretch as far as he needs. However, the fourth member of this band of colleagues, Ben Grimm (big, loyal Michel Chiklis) is turned into a grotesque monster whose girlfriend immediately returns her engagement ring.

The way they set about returning to their former bodies and the sub-stories about each character make an interesting if somewhat simplistic story. Worth catching - I found it always watchable and interesting.


THEATRE: AUGUST 2005

If you hear foot tapping when passing the Cambridge Theatre, it's the audience doing what I term the "theatre twitch" as they join in the merriment producd by the musical DANCING IN THE STREETS. This is really a tribute show to the music and stars of the immensely successful Motown label that was based in Detroit. There's no pretence of a story; just a compere (Ray Shiel) who sweeps the floor at the beginning and end and joins in with a song or two. He gives introductions and the background to some of the artists and songs, although I could have done with more of this, as I suspect could some of the rest of the audience, as when we were exhorted to clap our hands and join in, the singing petered out quite soon as people obviously didn't know the words.

Alan Strachan's direction of the all black company produces some extremely competent look-alike artists. I particularly liked Diana Ross and The Temptations and a superbly gyrating Stevie Wonder. After the interval the heat and the lively music increased and almost everyone was on their feet doing the "theatre twitch!"

As I am not knowledgeable on Gilbert and Sullivan and have only seen HMS PINAFORE once or twice before, I am not able to judge the new version of this musical at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park with the expertise of a true G&S aficionado, however I was accompanied by a friend who seemed to enjoy the very different libretto written by Herbert Appleman. I found the comments on the similarity to Italian operetta and pointing out the lack of difference between the ages of the heroine's father and her beloved a little irritating.

The story which is really somewhat convoluted is made easier to follow by Ian Talbot's original and very lively production. Josephine, betrothed to Sir Joshua Porter, the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Queen's navy, is in love with a lowly seaman, Ralph Rackstraw. Commentaris provided by the dastardly Dick Deadeye - who comes across as fairly pleasant in Gary Wilmot's performance. Little Buttercup (Lesly Nicol) provides the humorous denouement. Scarlett Strallen sings sweetly as Josephine, although it is difficult to hear her when she sings from the top deck. Desmond Barrit as the pompous Sir Joseph and Hal Fowler as the ship's captain provide good caricatures of the class-conscious upper class and put across the many funny lines with gusto.

The music is lively and well arranged and delivered by the musical director Catherine Jayes and her musicians. On a day when Londoners were reeling from the latest activities of terrorists, it was pleasant to be able to enjoy a good show in the park.

Carlie Newman

   
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