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FILM:March 2007

Some films that you will find still around are: FREEDOM WRITERS (cert.12A 2hrs.), is based on the true story of 23 year-old teacher, who tackles a diverse class of underprivileged teenagers and transforms them into motivated chroniclers of their own lives. Good performances by Hilary Swank as Erin and the group of ordinary kids just fail to make this any different from other 'inspired teacher' films.

Freedom Writers

And for a good laugh, try HOT FUZZ (cert. 15 2hrs), starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (of SHAUN OF THE DEAD fame).

Hot Fuzz
Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz

Filmed mainly in Wells, Somerset, the film tells the tale of a talented cop (Pegg) who is sent from London to a small village by jealous colleagues and there pairs up with a dim witted local police officer (Frost) with no experience. After the bodies begin to pile up, the duo discovers that the small, sleepy England town may not be as innocent as it seems. A host of well-known faces in tiny parts, including Jim Broadbent, Billie Whitelaw, Timothy Dalton and Bill Nighy, help to keep the comedy flowing.

A witty script and very well-staged funny incidents ensure that the film is amusing. Go and enjoy!

Very different but really worth making the effort to see is LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (cert.15 2 hrs. 25 mins.), the second of Clint Eastwood's films about the battle that went on between Japanese and US armies. Like FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS the film is set on the volcanic island but this one is concerned with the fate of Japanese soldiers who are sent to Iwo Jima knowing that they probably will die there.

Letters from Iwo Jima

The film focuses on a number of them, a baker who wants to return to his wife and infant daughter, an Olympic equestrian champion who arrives with his horse, a young former military policeman whose idealism has not yet been tested by war and a strict military man who would prefer suicide to surrender.

Letters from Iwo Jima

They are led by Lt. Gen Kuribayashi (the excellent Ken Watanabe) who has lived in America for a time and works out the strategy of the US army and how his men can fight until the end. With his leadership the expected short battle takes 40 days with the loss of 20,000 Japanese troops and around 7,000 American soldiers. Eastwood's film shows the waste of war and the needless loss of lives.

There are some terrific images such as the general walking on the ridge overlooking the beach as he plans his strategy. The film has garnered many well-deserved awards including Best Cinematography for Tom Stern. The film is mainly in Japanese with subtitles, but one quickly forgets that it is not in English. This is a terrific film.


THEATRE TIP: March 2007

JUMP (Peacock Theatre) is an exuberant mixture of gymnastics, acrobatics, tae kwon-do and other martial arts!

The Chinese troop portrays - in a very flimsy story-line - a family with father, mother daughter, son-in-law, grand-father and uncle, who interact and then re-act when two incompetent burglars enter their home. The first half brings in members of the audience, but mostly it is a display of the cast's extraordinary talents. The burglars introduce slapstick into the proceedings and the audience reveled in the hilarity of the action. Good use was made of the grandfather and an aged man who acted as a kind of chorus, linking the show together.

Jump

Not my cup of tea but young and old present found the experience hugely amusing and entertaining.

Underneath the Lintel

A new play by the American, Glen Berger, comes to the Duchess Theatre. UNDER THE LINTEL is a most unusual monologue by a small town librarian who receives an overdue book and, finding that, in fact, it is 113 ears overdue, sets out to trace the borrower. Richard Schiff as the Dutch librarian manages to bring out all the humour there is and delivers his story to us as though the audience was in a lecture theatre. He brings forward evidence including bus tickets and scraps of recordings from all over the world as he pursues his quest. The play brings in the existence of God and has much in common with the Da Vinci Code. You might remember what I thought of that as a philosophy to be taken seriously (not much)! An interesting concept, valiantly performed, this might well appeal to some of you.

Most people will go to the GLASS MENAGERIE (ApolloTheatre) to see Jessica Lange as Amanda, the genteel Southerner who is mother to very shy Laura who plays with her tiny animals made of glass and son Tom who only desires to get away from his family.

But, in fact, Amanda Hale brings a sad poignancy and vulnerability to the role of the crippled daughter that is truly moving. Ed Stoppard as Tom who is a writer - based on the writer of this play, Tennessee Williams - and has only remained with his mother and sister because he really cares for Laura, gives a competent performance. However Mark Umbers in the small part of the Gentleman Caller manages to infuse it with real emotion and a generous spirit of understanding of Laura's position as he explains that he already has a fiancée. I found Lange a stronger Amanda than we have seen in previous productions of the play. She brought out the toughness of an abandoned wife who has managed to bring up two children alone in St Louis in the 1930s. The Director, Rupert Goold has set the play behind a second proscenium arch, presumably to illustrate the picture that Tom, as narrator, is giving, but I found it distanced the audience too much.

Glass Menagerie

HARRY POTTER SWEARS! Now that is truly more shocking than the fact that Daniel Radcliffe, as 17 year-old Alan Strang in Peter Schaffer's drama EQUUS (Gielgud Theatre) plays a section of the play without clothes.

Equus

It is surprising how relevant the play is today and Radcliffe, who is actually 17, manages to very quickly cast off his boy wizard image (along with his clothes) to present a powerful, well-projected character who has blinded six horses that he loved, out of sexual repression manifested in a kind of religious fervour. It is actually the psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, the person who uncovers and is well on the way to 'curing' Alan, who is the main character in the play, and Richard Griffiths not only brings his weighty gravitas to the part, he is also sympathetic to young Alan and makes his eventual envy of the lad's passion for horses believable. It was terrific to see John Napier, who designed the original production in 1973, re-designing it here. I remembered the horses portrayed by actors in the original and in this production dancers bring even more movement to their rendition. Good, too, to see them in the same platform hooves and metal horse heads.

The nudity, when it finally comes, is done in an under-lit, under-enhanced manner and both Joanna Christie - excellent as Alan's stable-girl companion - manage their scene well, and they both look attractive as well!


WHIPPING IT UP (New Ambassadors Theatre) is an amusing, somewhat slight play by Steve Thompson about the Chief Whip's (Richard Wilson) attempts to quell a backbench rebellion in his Cameron-led Conservative government with a majority of three. Wilson, the pensioners' friend (he supports our activities), gives a great performance as the conniving Chief and is well supported by his Deputy, Robert Bathurst, Junior Whip, Lee Ross and Helen Schlesinger as the Deputy Chief Whip of the Opposition Party - now Labour! The direction by Tamara Harvey ensures a fast pace and there is a realistically detailed set design by Tim Shortall. It gives a good version of life in a parliamentary whips' office, but is not sufficiently satirical or funny enough to make it anything more than a light enjoyable evening.

Shakespeare's GLOBE held a press conference to announce this year's programme. Apart from the three Shakespeare productions, the new plays about democratic revolutions look particularly interesting. Holding Fire! By Jack Shepherd, is set in England in 1837 and brings the sordid, violent times of early Victorian England and the Chartist Revolution to the Globe stage and We The People by Eric Schlosser recreates an extraordinary moment in American history, the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, which resulted in the American Constitution. The cost is still only £5 to be a groundling (standing)!

     
     

Carlie Newman

   
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