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FILM:DECEMBER 2006


When we look at HOLLYWOODLAND (cert.15 2hrs.6mins.), we see a very interesting presentation of the story of actor George Reeves' alleged suicide in 1959. Reeves (here excellently played by Ben Affleck) found fame playing Superman on American TV in the 1950s.

His life story is set against that of the opportunist private detective (another well-played character by Adrian Brody) who, as he digs into Reeves past and the corruption that permeated Hollywood at the time finds uncomfortable comparisons with his own life. As we learn about Reeves affair with Toni Monnix (Diane Lane showing a vulnerable, needy side as well as the all-controlling aspect of a rich woman), who is married to the somewhat sinister Eddie (Bob Hoskins) we fear for the detective's life as well as Reeves.

Hollywoodland
The USA vs John Lennon

Those interested in more recent entertainment industry history will enjoy THE US vs JOHN LENNON (cert.12A 1hr. 30mins.). Starting with the difficulty when John announced "the Beatles are bigger than Jesus" and continuing through Lennon's even more provocative statements criticising the USA's campaign in Vietnam it shows how he became a target for the FBI and Nixon's government. His marriage to Yoko Ono, bed-ins and his endorsement of self-proclaimed revolutionaries like Abe Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and Black Panthers leader Bobby Seale made the authorities more determined to have Lennon deported. Lennon is shown to get the support of many Americans and we see his bravery and also his wonderful music and once again feel sad at his awful murder.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (cert. PG 1hr. 40mins.) is a lot of fun and opens on Boxing Day. The story of how Ben Stiller as Larry takes a job as night watchman at the Natural Museum in New York and proves that he is worthy of his son's love and trust by taking him to the museum one night and demonstrating how the exhibits come alive is always interesting and lively and would suit children from about 6 upwards - with their grandparents from London, of course.

Night at the Museum

As the exhibits include the ever twinkly eyed Robin Williams and the villains of the piece are played by Micky Rooney (now well into his eighties), Bill Cobbs and Dick Van Dyke, you can see that there is something for adults as well. At the Press Conference the bubbly director, Shawn Levy explained that Van Dyke had been very happy to play against type and Rooney has also entered into the spirit of the film. Ricky Gervais plays a cameo part, but he is obviously much more at ease interpreting his own material than just acting in someone else's script.

Cameron Diaz in The Holiday

There is another actor in his eighties in THE HOLIDAY (cert. 12A 2hrs. 16mins) which, although rather long is just what you would expect from a rom-com (that's romantic comedy for those new to this genre). Eli Wallach plays a retired screenwriter now living alone in Los Angeles where the English girl, Kate Winslet goes to recuperste when she swops houses with an American, Cameron Diaz, also recovering from run-ins with men.

He is witty and natural in the part and interacts well with Winslet. Cameron Diaz and Jude Law are both lovely to look at while Kate Winslet and Jack Black are charming as the plainer couple. Not very realistic but a very easy film to watch and will certainly make a change from some of the big action or animated children's films around!


THEATRE TIP: DECEMBER 2006

Although a somewhat paler version of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Tennessee Williams' SUMMER AND SMOKE (Apollo, Shaftesbury Ave.) contains much of interest in its own right. When one considers it was written some 60 years ago it is remarkably acceptable today. Set in Misisssippi at the beginning the 20th century it shows Miss Alma (Rosamund Pike) battling with her own nervous sensibilities as well as her very eccentric child-like mother (an amusing, well-timed performance by Angela Down). When the boy next door returns as a sexy man (Chris Carmack), Alma is torn between her physical desire which pushes her to respond to his advances and her well-bred reticence which tell her to retreat. As her former admirer becomes entangled with "looser" women Alma is left to cope with her lonely life. The production, whilst mostly effective, lacks a little passion.

Summer and Smoke

Pike shows the repressed, cold spinster but does not quite convey the hidden inner turmoil. The American actor, Carmack, is a virile hero.

Porgy and Bess

Trevor Nunn has transformed George and Ira gershwin's PORGY AND BESS (Savoy Theatre) from an opera into a most moving musical. Beautiful sung by the leads Clarke Peters as Porgy and Nicola Hughes as Bess they are backed up by an almost entirely black cast who all sing very well. The set is evocative of the hot deep south and the only difficulty is that the small stage does not quite allow the dancing to have full rein. The music is, of course, absolutely lovely and from the lilting quiet lullaby, Summertime, at the beginning through I Got Plenty of Nuttin'to It Ain't Necessarily So, there are plenty of songs to make you go out of the theatre singing and cheering this musical that has a story to tell and which is so lovingly presented.

A new play by Richard Alfieri, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (Theatre Royal, Haymarket) is a somewhat inconsequential confection. Whilst Billy Zane as the dance instructor and Claire Bloom as the widowed Baptist's Minister's wife play nicely together, the hint of something bigger behind their words is never realised. She keeps on about being old - that's at 68 which on our criteria is not terribly ancient! The choreography is only adequate but the costumes are great: they change to illustrate each dance and there is a lovely sunset outside the widow's beach condo at St Petersburg beach, Florida.

I saw the original London production of STONES IN HIS POCKETS (Duchess) in 2002 and at the time was amazed at the dexterity of the two actors who play all of the characters in the play. When I tell you that in addition to the two main ones Jake and Charlie, who are Extras in a film being made in a small village in Co. Kerry, these include various other Irish extras, Aisling, an ambitious young lady assistant, Caroline, the glamorous but somewhat distant star of the film, the film's director, his first assistant director and a dialect coach, you will understand why I was engrossed in the acting and miming abilities of the two leads.

Stones in his Pockets

This time round I was able to appreciate the writing by Marie Jones, which is not only very funny, but actually very perceptive about small village life in Ireland. The title refers to the way that one of the Irish lads' friends drowns himself. The mixture of pathos and comedy is well brought out as are some of the views expressed by the Extras on what they are doing:
"People don't go to the cinema to be depressed. That's what the theatre is for."

Well, I trust we don't agree with that sentiment.and I wish you all much merriment over the holiday season.

     

Carlie Newman

   
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