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FILM:January 2012

I hope that HUGO (cert. PG 2 hrs. 2 mins.) will still be showing during the school holidays. The film is in 3D and directed by Martin Scorcese. This is unusual as he is associated with very adult films. However, from the opening long tracking shot Scorcese shows that he has made a story for children, but also one that will appeal to adults.

The film is based on the book by Brian Selznick and is set in early 1930s Paris. Asa Butterfield stars as Hugo, an orphaned boy who lives within the forgotten walls and passageways of Montparnasse station and spends his days fixing and maintaining the station clocks while avoiding the somewhat nasty Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). He has been left a mechanical automaton which was discovered by his late father (Jude Law), but it is not yet working.

With the help of young Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), Hugo works on the automaton. Instead of a message for him, the machine points at Isabelle's godfather Georges (Ben Kingsley), who turns out to be forgotten pioneering film maker Georges Méliès. The film veers from the story to fill the audience in on old film-making and the real life story of Melies. Well-acted by all, the film uses 3D effects to enhance the view of the film. Try to see this in the 3D version - it will be worth it.

What a surprise! ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (cert. 12A 1hr. 20mins) is a charming little French film that has arrived in London without any fanfare and yet it surpasses many of the much-heralded foreign films that we have seen this year. It has an old-fashioned air about it, but it is fact set in present day France. Isabelle Carre plays Angelique, an emotionally challenged young woman who faints when she is called upon to speak in public. Angelique only manages to talk freely at meetings of Emotives Anonymous, a support group for those with similar afflictions. She is a superb chocolatier and with great difficulty goes for a job at a chocolate company, whose boss, Jean-Rene (Benoit Poelvoorde) who, unbeknown to anyone in his company, is in therapy to conquer his fear of women.

Jean-Rene hires Angelique as a sales person. She is horrified but carries on and discovers that the company is on the verge of bankruptcy as its chocolate is sub-standard. Her fellow group members encourage her to start making chocolate under disguise. At the same time Jean-Rene's therapist sets him tasks to carry-out with a woman and he chooses Angelique. As the couple are too shy to declare their love, the way forward is fraught with difficulties.

This movie is reminiscent of Audrey Tautou in Amelie, in which another naïve girl charmed all around her. There are many amusing moments and the use of song adds pleasure to the story. Angelique sings a little song, which she hopes will give her courage as she goes to her job interview. The look of the film as well as the feel gives an air of a former age. The characters seem to be dressed in clothes from a previous period, too.

There is some good character acting from those playing members of Emotives Anonymous as well as the staff at the chocolate factory. The two main actors are delightful both separately and together. We laugh as we see Jean-Rene rushing to change his shirts frequently because he sweats so much when he is nervous. And Angelique's moments of acute shyness are amusing but also sad as we recognise the restrictions that such tremendous timidity imposes on people. While the film has no great dramatic moments it is made up of tiny little gems of characterisation and incidents and it is most definitely a film to savour - particularly if you are a chocolate lover!

Meryl Streep gives a magnificent portrayal of the middle-aged and elderly Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain's first woman Prime Minister in THE IRON LADY (cert. 12A 1 hr 42 mins.). While Alexandra Roach plays the very young Margaret, meeting and falling in love with Denis Thatcher (the young Denis is played by Harry Lloyd), it is Streep who puts real substance into the character. She looks and sounds so amazingly like the real Margaret that it is quite unnerving at times. Jim Broadbent is also very good in his portrait of Denis. Although most of his time is spent as his wife's imagining of her dead husband, he comes across as a very real person. With flashbacks to Margaret's rise to prominence and then fall from power, the Falklands and the Miners' strike, we, as well as the fictional characters, are reminded of key events. It is quite worrying when one finds oneself almost shedding a tear for "that dreadful woman."

Worth seeing over the seasonal break, too, is SHERLOCK HOLMES (cert. 12A 2 hrs 9 mins.). Very much in the pantomime vein, Guy Richie's version of the Holmes legend is full of plot twists and turns, with tongue in cheek moments and excellent sets. Robert Downey Junior is a lively Holmes and Jude Law is more relaxed in his portrayal of Dr Watson than he was in the first Richie directed film. Look out for the numerous episodes involving old trains - most spectacular!

Another film that is not to be missed is THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (cert. 18 2 hrs. 9 mins.), which is based on the bestselling novel by Stieg Larsson (the first in his Millennium trilogy). Set in Sweden and directed by David Fincher, this adaptation is thrilling as it tells how Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) investigates the disappearance of wealthy Henrik Vanger's (Christopher Plummer), teenage niece who was seemingly abducted more than 40 years before.

Blomkvist is assisted by the angry Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara, pictured here), who has been abused by the authorities and is full of rage. She is, however, a wizard with the computer and assists Blomkvist in his task. The family, who barely speak to each other, lives in the far north of Sweden and Blomkvist and Salander travel there to investigate.

While some of you will be familiar with the story from the Swedish version, and therefore know what happens, you will still be gripped as the action unfolds. Craig and Salander are excellent and there are many good actors, including Christopher Plummer, Joely Richardson and Stellan Skarsgard in the smaller parts.

May I recommend that you don't read too much about the new film, Michel Hazanavicius' THE ARTIST (cert. PG 1 hr 40 mins.), in case the idea of a film in black and white, mainly silent, turns you off. Starting in Hollywood in 1927 we see the gradual decline of the silent movie star, George Valentine (Jean Dujardin) and the rise of his discovery Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) who starts as an extra in George's silent films and rises to stardom with the advent of the talkies. And there is another extremely good actor…George's Jack Russell dog.

Another mainly black and white film is Woody Allen's hilarious fake documentary. ZELIG (cert. PG 1 hr. 16 mins.) starring himself as Leonard Zelig who has a unique condition: the ability to transform his appearance to those around him. Mia Farrow takes on the role of Dr Eudora Fletcher who helps him to become just one man and in the process comes to love him. With Allen's use of comedy and great dialogue this is a witty re-issue of his 1983 film and is to be cherished.

In a very different vein, Luc Besson's THE LADY (cert. 12A 2hrs. 7 mins.), tells the true story of Aung San Suu Kyi and how she became the leader and inspiration of Burma's democracy movement. In the process she has to live apart from her dearly loved husband and sons and give up her freedom. Acted with intensity and verisimilitude by Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis as the couple, the film has passion and commitment to the fight for human rights, which continues to this day.


Just right for the holiday period is this really excellent show for the whole family. It is gruesome and exciting in the right way.

The production of BEASTS AND BEAUTIES (Hampstead Theatre, London until 7 January), has been brought back from last year, mainly in the same form. Covering six traditional folk tales retold by Carol Ann Duffy and dramatised by Tim Supple and Melly Still, who also directs.

Children from eight upwards will get great enjoyment from the stories - some are very gruesome, like The Juniper Tree where the wicked second wife kills her stepson and serves him up as a stew to his father!

Jack Tarlton and Kelly Williams in Beasts and Beauties at Hampstead Theatre

Others, including The Husband Who Was To Mind The House For The Day, are outright farce. The Emperor's New Clothes is pure fantasy combined with much humour as the Emperor covers his private parts with a variety of objects that come to hand!

The set is simple but by re-grouping items of furniture and props it is transformed into a magic wood, a palace, a kitchen or anywhere the designers fancy and the audience is more than happy to follow. The small band of actors move from role to role with ease and the audience sees them transform into different characters. Jack Tarlton's beast in Beauty and the Beast is terrifying but undergoes a simple on-stage transformation into the prince. That it all works comes to fruition at the end when the cast hands around invisible food and drink and some of us try to swop our G &Ts for champagne!

A very different type of show can be seen at the Leicester Square Theatre Lounge. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN POOFS Comes Again! (until 28 January)Snow White and her Seven Poofs are back for another Christmas of very sexual flirty fun and frolics. This pop-powered drag panto is suitable for adults only and stars 2008 Drag Idol winner Tanya Hyde, who is returning to her role of Snow White, the legendary Titti La Camp as the Queen, Simon Gross returning to his role as Horrible Hilda, and introducing the hilarious Mrs. Moore. This bigger, bolder, more in your face fairytale is packed with audience participation and feel good party anthems 'Get The Party Started', 'Bad Romance', 'YMCA', 'It's a Sin', 'Hot Stuff', and Rhianna's 'S&M'. Look at the title and be warned: this is for a very limited audience who appreciate gay humour and double-entendres galore!

For a really hilarious night (or matinee) out, try THE LADYKILLERS (Gielgud Theatre booking until 14 April), written by Graham Lineham, directed by Sean Foley

Peter Capaldi as Prof Marcus with his gang.

Those of you who have enjoyed the 1955 Ealing comedy need not worry as, although this is obviously based on the film, it is a worthy farce in its own right.

The story remains the same: a criminal gang, led by Professor Marcus (Peter Capaldi) use the upstairs room of an old lady, Mrs Louisa Wilberforce (Marcia Warren), to plan their robbery at King's Cross.

While the Professor rents the room from the landlady, the others join him and the group pretend to be a string quartet rehearsing for a concert. There is much hilarity as the criminals can't play a note and the landlady keeps interrupting their "rehearsals."

The set seems to play a part in the story as the superb construction of a wonky house that leans to the side, shakes and moves every time a train passes by, has a life of its own. Later we see a miniature train and can follow the progress of the robbery with toy cars.

The gang are by no means one anonymous group - each one has his own characteristics and all are extremely well portrayed. Clive Rowe is particularly good as the dim-witted "One-round" who takes a shine to the old lady and can't understand why they are only pretending to play instruments. There is much mirth to be got out of Harry (Stephen Wight) who keeps getting hit in the face and James Fleet's Major Courtney brings a little pathos to the play. And Capaldi is excellent as the bogus Professor who devises the scheme.

It is set in 1956 and sometimes seems a little dated but it is directed with such vigour and acted with imaginative invention and the ingenious set all contribute to making it one of the funniest plays on the London stage today.









Carlie Newman

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