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 -
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
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
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.