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FILM:August 2006

The school summer holidays are just about to hit us, and guess what? Yes, we have not one but two blockbusters in town. If you have youngsters, but not under 7, then they will enjoy both PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN:DEAD MAN'S CHEST (cert.12A 2hrs.30mins.) and SUPERMAN RETURNS (cert.12A 2hrs.33mins.).

PIRATES is a jolly romp although over long and somewhat self-indulgent. While the action sequences are lively and well-executed, Johnny Depp - who I usually adore - is well over the top and Orlando Bloom is his usual rather weedy self. I must say that Keira Knightley, who has frequently sounded like Princess Diana, now looks like her as well! Bill Nighy gives a good performance as Davy Jones.

Pirates of the Caribbean

He has a remarkable disguise, achieved with screens and computers, as a kind of barnacled man/sea creature, only recognisable by his snort! You won't have to wait too long for a third PIRATES film.

Superman returns

SUPERMAN RETURNS has Brandon Routh as a look-alike Christopher Reeves playing Superman. Not much to dislike here although the references to the father (voiced by Marlon Brando) and the son impart a distinctive Christian element. Kate Bosworth, who, incidentally, is Orlando Bloom's real-life girlfriend, is fairly feisty as Lois Lane and always looks good. We have to wait awhile before Clark Kent turns into Superman and performs his amazing feats - perhaps a little long for younger folk and the emphasis on the love story might prove a little trying for very young people. The liveliest character is Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, the villain of the piece. Both films provide a good opportunity for you to bond with your youngsters.

About as far away as you could get from these two films is THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (cert.15 2hrs. 33mins.). Although the same length as other films around at the moment, it certainly didn't seem too long and that is taking into account it is Romanian with English sub-titles. Directed by Cristi Puiu, this remarkable story shows how the somewhat alcoholic 63 year old widower, Mr. Lazarescu falls ill and when he is finally collected by ambulance is sent to four different hospitals before we leave him to be treated, and, by implication, to die.

Although set in a foreign country none of it seems strange to those of us who, while not experiencing quite such terrible treatment (or lack of it) in our health service, nevertheless know what it is to be shunted from department to department. The director employs continuous shots and gets wonderfully realistic performances from all. In particular Ion Fiscuteanu as Mr. L. and Luminita Gheorghiu as the nurse who ends up escorting him from one place to the next are outstanding.

Not a Saturday night date movie (if you remember those!) but a real pleasure for those who enjoy serious film-making.

Over the Hedge

OVER THE HEDGE (cert.U 1hr. 20mins.) is a very jolly computer-animated film with amusing dialogue and well-voiced, clearly defined characters. At the press conference which I attended, Bruce Willis (the voice of the roguish racoon RJ) replied to my question about how his teenage children enjoyed the film - as it is aimed at both adults and young children - by saying that they thought it funny and were recommending it to all their friends: so there you are; from the horse's mouth - or, rather, racoon!

A brief recommendation for STORMBREAKER (cert. PG 1hr. 33mins.), which has a 14 year old as a miniature James Bond type spy, including his very own Q (in the shape of Stephen Fry). Many who have seen the film are raving about Alex Pettyfer, who plays the hero Alex. I must say he doesn't appeal to me but then I am not a very young female!

And HEADING SOUTH (cert.15 1hr. 45mins.) shows women of a certain age enjoying sex that they have paid for in Haiti in the late 70s. The (now) older Charlotte Rampling is very watchable in the main part.


June/July 2006

This week long festival is typical in that it is one of a series of regional film festivals that are held throughout Europe and special in that it had four strands: Italian retrospective films, Argentinean new wave films, Filipino films and Independent US documentaries. The publicity for the festival states that the Italian film festivals "pay particular attention to work that is usually not represented by commercial circuits.documentaries, experimental and short films." One of the highlights of this festival is the open air screenings of new films in Pesaro's main square.

The only thing that spoilt my enjoyment was that many of the films (including all the Italian and Argentinean ones) had no English sub-titles. However the digital films from The Philipines did and provided many interesting examples of the developing work taking place there. There were also some very absorbing American documentary films. I expect to write more fully about individual films when they come to the London Film Festival or other screenings in the UK

A particularly interesting, and relevant, documentary was THE RAGING GRANNIES ANTI-OCCUPATION CLUB, which was directed by Iwajla Klinke. The film follows 76-year old Hava and her friends Jossefa, also late 70s and 82-year old Pnina as they go on protests and demonstrations throughout Israel. The women have been fighting for almost 20 years for the release of all women political prisoners in Israel.

As the "raging grannies" they write revolutionary lyrics and music and visit checkpoints and women in prison. There were interviews with the women and with the eccentric husband of one of them. Most of the film was in English but some interviews were in German or Hebrew with Italian sub-titles!

I had the opportunity to interview the director after the screening and found she was a young woman who had become fascinated by the prolonged political activities of these older people. The women go on demonstrations every Friday and Jossefa has only missed one Friday in 10 years.


They're going full steam ahead at Shakespeare's Globe with ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and the non-Shakespearean UNDER THE BLACK FLAG by Simon Bent.

Antony and Cleopatra

Frances Barber is a delightfully kittenish Cleopatra showing her claws when she upbraids the servant who brings news of Antony's new marriage and cuddling up to him when the occasion demands. Unfortunately the Antony of Nicholas Jones is a somewhat staid person with little sex appeal. As usual at the Globe everything that can be is played for laughs even Antony's attempted suicide. Laughs are to the fore in Bent's play too, although generally more appropriately.

This "true" story of Long John Silver before he lost his leg is a lively show although very blood thirsty in parts and I would have thought it was strictly for adults.

Not many laughs in EVITA (Adelphi Theatre) but this revival has much going for it. Actually it is hard not to be successful with a musical full of lovely, lyrical soaring sounds. It is sometimes a little incongruous to have the cast singing tender music as they tell of the ruthless rise to power of Eva Duarte, who, born in 1919 rose through a number of lovers to become first lady of Argentina after she linked up with Juan Peron in 1944. She became a legend in her own lifetime as Evita and even more so after she died in 1951. The diminutive Argentinean actress, Elena Roger, is mostly very good in the main part, although sometimes difficult to understand. Her dancing is a vast improvement on the past Evitas who have been excellent singers but poor movers, and she can really belt out musical numbers.


Songs, such as "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" have become virtual classics and are all very well sung. There was a particularly beautifully voiced "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" by Lorna Want as the mistress who is supplanted by Eva. Most evocative sets and stunning costumes add to the overall effect.

the boyfriend

There is an absolutely delightful musical at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park: THE BOY FRIEND has good music and the production here, by Ian Talbot, is just great. On the very hot evening that I went there was a real buzz in the air even before the show started. It is the 20s and at the finishing school run by Madame Dubonnet the young ladies are preparing for the carnival ball that evening. Polly Browne is the only one without a partner until the messenger boy Tony turns up. But is he really as poor as he seems and is Polly just the secretary she tells Tony she is? Some years ago the Open Air theatre had the most awful collection of costumes but there have been lovely costumes in the last couple of years, and this year is no exception from the amusing bathing suits worn by men and young women to the unusual carnival costumes in the last scene. The innovative set with blue and green umbrellas helps to create the colourful atmosphere.

The show cried out for tap dancing and there was a great tap dancing sequence towards the end of Act 2. Lively, with tuneful songs, in a summery setting - do go while the weather holds (stand-by tickets for senior citizens available one hour before curtain up).

And, briefly, FOOL FOR LOVE (Apollo Theatre), starring the American actress Juliette Lewis as May and Martin Henderson as Eddie, two people who shouldn't be having a love affair because of their family relationship, but find they can't keep apart. Well set in the steamy, hot Mojave desert in the American West - don't we all know that climate at the moment! AVENUE Q seems to me to be most suitable for boys of about 12. However the audience, predominantly American tourists, really enjoyed it and laughed at all the amusing lines, especially when intimate body parts were mentioned. A combination of giant puppets and actors are cleverly manipulated.


Carlie Newman

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