The WIZARD OF OZ (cert. PG 1hr.
43 mins.) is a gorgeous film which first came out in 1939 and has
been shown periodically in the cinema and on television since then.
We love the film for its story, the characters, the colour and above
all the acting of the leading parts and the wonderful voice of young
Judy Garland. How then can it be bettered or, indeed, can it be
improved? The answer surprisingly is yes in the new version on 3D
on the Imax screen.
The story remains the same: orphan Dorothy (Judy Garland) who
lives in Texas with her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry along with her dog
Toto has a pleasant life except for a neighbour who objects to her
dog and wants him put down. She is caught up in a tornado and knocked
unconscious. Dorothy awakes to find the house spinning in the tornado
and then she is put down in the Land of Oz.
It's Munchkinland and the film changes from black
and white to technicolour. Glinda (Billie Burke) greets Dorothy
and explains that she is the Good Witch of the North and she and
the Munchkins (little people) are pleased because the house has
landed on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Her sister, the
Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), tries to claim the
magic ruby slippers worn by her dead sister but Glinda gives them
to Dorothy. Dorothy just wants to get back home and Glinda tells
her to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, where the
Wizard of Oz (Frank Morgan) might be able to help her.
On the way Dorothy meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) who wants a
brain, the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who desires a heart and the Cowardly
Lion (Bert Lahr) who needs courage. They join her and thwart the
witch's attempts to stop them getting to the Emerald City. The film
has some exciting moments as well as some comic ones and can be
enjoyed by all - except for the under 5s for whom it might be a
little too scary - as it has been for many years,
Judy Garland has a lovely light voice and puts across the yearning
as well as innocence of the young girl in the song, "Somewhere over
the Rainbow." Her three companions are played beautifully by Bolger,
Lahr and Haley and Hamilton's witch is suitably gruesome. Director
Victor Fleming captures the heart of the story and has made a great
The original colour is still there and it remains a magical moment
when Dorothy finds herself in the Land Of Oz and all is colour.
The colour is now enhanced and the depth of the scenery is brought
out by the use of 3D. The Imax screen gives the whole movie a sense
that one is actually partaking of the magic alongside Dorothy.
Gay activists helping to raise money for the miners during the
strike in 1984 seems an unlikely subject for a hit British film.
But that is what is happening with PRIDE (cert.
15 2 hrs.), a political film which should appeal to a wide public
in the same way that Brassed Off and Billy Elliot did. During a
Gay Pride march in 1984 a group decide to support the striking miners
because they share the same feelings as the miners of being outcast
and want to show solidarity. They pick a small mining village in
Wales and turn up to the amazement of the locals and disgust of
some of the macho men.
Based on a true story we see the very obvious clash of cultures
between the group of London gay activists who call themselves "Lesbians
and Gays Support the Miners" and the traditionally inclined mining
community. The story is built around Joe (George MacKay), from Bromley,
who is so afraid of his family's reaction to his being gay that
he has not told them and, as he becomes more involved with the gay
activists, pretends he is attending a catering course. He is looked
after by the charismatic Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) who is the
leader of this little group.
Accompanied by the theatrical Jonathon (Dominic West)
they get to know the Welsh miners and their wives. While some of
the wives - including the magnificent Imelda Staunton as Hefina
and Jessica Gunning as Sian - welcome them warmly others remain
aloof along with their homophobic menfolk. How they gradually gel
is very moving but there are also comic touches. Bill Nighy shows
that he is a really good actor not just a guffaw and the other parts
are played equally well.
As soon as the film started with We shall overcome my
eyes filled with tears and I remained pretty tearful throughout,
though frequently in a contented way as the miners and gay activists
establish common ground. I believe this film is for all not just
those who remember the strike or want to celebrate equality. If
you enjoyed The Full Monty you will, I hope, like this
film. It's a tremendous movie - go see!
These days one always worries when another Woody Allen film comes
out because we fear that his talent may be ebbing away. But with
his latest MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (cert.12A 1hr.
28 mins.) we can forget our worries. This is a most pleasant film
- no loud bangs or heart-in-the-mouth chases with writer and director
Woody Allen. Instead we have the story, set in the 1920s, of an
arrogant magician, Stanley (Colin Firth) who, dressed as a Chinese
conjuror, performs amazing tricks including making people and things
When his old friend, Howard (Simon McBurney) asks him to expose
a fake medium who, he says, is about to fleece his friends the Catledge
family, Stanley leaves his fiancée in London and hotfoots it to
the Riviera. Here he meets the lovely Sophie (Emma Stone) and sets
about exposing her as a fake psychic medium. He also meets Sophie's
mother (Marcia Gay Harden) and the Catledge family - mother Grace
(Jacki Weaver), son Brice (Hamish Linklater), and daughter Caroline
Emma Stone& Colin Firth in
Magic in the Moonlight
Brice has fallen for Sophie and wants to marry her
and support her work. She is very attracted to the young very rich
son of the house and has Grace, who really believes she is making
contact with her beloved dead husband, eating out of her hand and
prepared to back Sophie's work financially. Stanley tells his aunt
(Eileen Atkins) who lives nearby that it is impossible to find any
flaws in Sophie who knows everything about everyone present. Stanley
even begins to question his own beliefs. He wonders whether Sophie
is indeed genuine and whether there is an actual God.
Woody Allen has the knack of acquiring top actors and in Colin
Firth he has found one of the best exponents of his witty dialogue.
Firth is able portray the egocentric magician and is fine at putting
across his belief in his own superiority and absolute conviction
that he can not only spot a fraud but is always able to expose such
person. He is not so good at eating humble pie or giving a realistic
portrait of this character's romantic side.
Allen continues his habit of putting older male actors with young
beautiful women and while Emma Stone is not the prettiest of Allen's
leading ladies, she is certainly attractive and definitely young
and a good few years Firth's junior (Firth is actually 54 and Stone
26). She is rather cute as the medium and puts across her act with
The rest of the cast are also good and with lovely scenery and
a smart story we can forgive the featherweight production and just
enjoy the amusing romp.
Also recommended: A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
(cert. 15 1 hr. 55 mins.), which stars Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder.
Matt used to be a New York cop but now works as an unlicensed private
detective. He reluctantly agrees to help Kenny (Dan Stevens) track
down the murderers of Kenny's wife. Matt is not keen on the job
as Kenny and his associates are drug dealers. The film is very much
Neeson's show piece and if you like this actor you will enjoy this
movie. I do and I did.
THE RIOT CLUB (cert.15 1 hr. 29 mins.), directed
by Lone Scherfig, is a thinly disguised version of the Bullingdon
Club in Oxford (of which Conservative trio David Cameron, George
Osborne and Boris Johnson were all members). Based on Laura Wades'
hit play POSH, it shows the exclusive Oxford University drinking
club in action. They are basically a group of spoilt brats from
Public Schools who do some awful things to the dining-room of the
pub where they hold their dinner and to the landlord himself. Starring
most competent actors, the 10 members include the actors Freddie
Fox, Max Irons, Sam Reid and Sam Claflin. Holliday Grainger plays
the state school girlfriend of Miles (Max Irons).
Very well acted, although the actors are much older than any real
life group of young undergraduates would be, the story is horrific
in its depiction of upper class louts in action after a heavy drinking
Once again it is time for the BFI London Film Festival. It runs
from 8-19 October 2014 in venues across London and also for audiences
across the UK, who can enjoy the Festival via simultaneous screenings
in their local cinemas.
The 58th BFI London Film Festival opens with the European Premiere
of The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch
and Keira Knightley, about Alan Turing, one of the world's greatest
innovators and pioneer of modern-day computing, who is credited
with cracking the German Enigma code. The European Premiere of Fury
will close the Festival. This Second World War epic stars Brad Pitt
as a battle-hardened army sergeant who commands a Sherman tank and
her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines.
I am looking forward to seeing Bennett Miller's Fox
the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric
multimillionaire and two champion wrestlers, starring Steve Carell,
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo and the European Premiere of biopic-drama
Wild starring Reese Witherspoon, adapted for the
screen by Nick Hornby from Cheryl Strayed's extraordinary account
of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trails.
Other exciting sounding films are the Testament of Youth
based on Vera Brittain's memoir of World War 1 and Mike Leigh's
Mr. Turner starring Timothy Spall as the great
British artist J.M.W Turner. The Archive Gala is the World Premiere
of the BFI National Archive restoration of The Battles of
Coronel and Falkland Islands. Both Opening and Closing
events will have a cinecast from the red carpet and simultaneous
screenings taking place at cinemas across the UK.
The Imperial War Museum has restored and completed German
Concentration Camps Factual Survey (1945/2014), following
the original filmmakers' directions and drawing on seventeen hours
of footage documenting the horrors discovered following the liberation
of the concentration camps in 1944 and '45.
The Best Film Award will again be handed out in Official Competition;
the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition and the Grierson
Award in Documentary Competition. Each section is open to international
and British films.
A star studied line-up of directors, cast and crew will take part
in career interviews, master classes, Q&As and other special events.
There are many famous film folk attending the Festival's gala screenings
including: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode,
Allen Leech, Alex Lawther, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong,
Matthew Beard, David Ayer, Brad Pitt, Bennett Miller, Steve Carrel,
Sienna Miller, Damien Chazelle, J.K Simmons, Jason Reitman, Ansel
Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed,
James Kent, Kit Harrington, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan,
Mike Leigh, Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari, Alan Rickman, Damian Szifron,
Kristian Levring, Jacob Cheung, Nick Fenton, Peter Strickland, Björk,
Tomm Moore, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan and David Rawle.
Details and booking from bfi.org.uk/lff. 020 7928 3232
I was surprised to find myself at a play about miners
on the very day that I saw Pride (see above). However, LAND
OF OUR FATHERS (Trafalgar Studios, London booking until
12 October Box office 0844 871 7632) is very different. It's a serious
play about six miners trapped by an explosion in a mine in South
Wales. The characters are well differentiated with the young Mostyn
(Joshua Price) passing his early days working in a mine and now
finding himself in the midst of a disaster. He chats to Bomber (Clive
Merrison) a real old-timer who has seen and done it all before,
but is now suffering from ill health which is made worse because
he hasn't got enough pills with him. The other miners gradually
join these two - there's the leader Chopper (Patrick Brennan) who
hides a secret concerning Mostyn, Hovis, a Polish war veteran (Robert
East), Curly (Lyle Rees) who is worried about his younger brother
Chewy (Taylor Jay-Davis) who intends to leave Wales and go to art
school in London. Mostyn is given the nickname Julie after Julie
Andrews and his expressed love of musicals.
They talk about sex and the outside world - it is 1979 and Margaret
Thatcher is about to become Prime Minister. Mainly they talk about
food and their lack of it as the days stretch out and they are desperately
worried about being rescued. At one point they sing together. But
there are also disputes about the best way to go about saving themselves
and, inevitably, whether Chopper is the right person to lead them.
The play, written by Chris Urch and ably directed by Paul Robinson,
is set in a black underground hole - the small Trafalgar Studio
2 is aptly suited to this - with a black coal floor and black walls.
The story does not always ring true in the second act but it is
so powerfully written, acted and directed that the audience remains
completely spellbound right until the end.
Taylor Jay-Davies and Patrick
Brennan in Land of Our Fathers
In Philip Breen's well-staged revival of the very
well written 1980 play TRUE WEST (Tricycle Theatre,
London booking until 4 October Box office 020-7328 1000) by Sam
Shepherd, we observe the inter-play between two brothers and the
devastating consequences of their reunion.
Screenwriter Austin (Eugene O'Hare) is looking after his mother's
home in California while she is on holiday in Alaska. He is busy
putting the finishing touches to an outline of a story for a movie
when he is disturbed by the arrival of his brother Lee (Alex Ferns),
who he has not seen for five years. The dishevelled Lee, who is
a petty thief, has been living out in the Mojave desert and seems
determined to interrupt his brother's work. Finally Austin lends
him his car to get him away from the house. But Lee doesn't stay
out long enough and interrupts Austin's meeting with the wealthy
producer, Saul (Steven Elliot) of his new film. Lee manages to sell
the Hollywood producer his 'true' story about the west only with
the proviso that it is instead of Austin's story and that Austin
The result is some pretty violent brotherly confrontation and the
acquisition of many toasters which are then scattered around the
floor and over every surface. In a drunken wild scene the brothers
commence trashing their mother's home.
The two actors portray the rival brothers to perfection. Fearns
is particularly good at inhabiting the wild outlaw while O'Hare
shows us how close the civilised soul is to changing quickly to
almost animal-like behaviour. The actors work really well together
and the play is enhanced by the sound effects - particularly the
coyotes howling just outside. This is a real black comedy which
deals with more than just sibling rivalry: we observe the American
dream being destroyed and can ponder on the true interpretation
There is a very different theatrical experience to be had at Michael
Flatley's new show LORD OF THE DANCE: DANGEROUS GAMES
(London Palladium until 26 October then touring. Box Office 0844
412 4655). Said to be Flatley's last stage appearance, he only comes
on at the end of the show. When he does we see that his magnetic
stage presence remains even though his legs don't go quite as high
as they once did.
There is a story in the dance show - it's about good versus evil
with various dancers depicting characters belonging to one or other
group. But one doesn't go for the story or even the singing - although
Nadine Coyle, from Girls Aloud, has a good strong voice and puts
across the songs dramatically. They are however rather dull songs
and don't add much to the show.
The dancing, however, is just wonderful. There are
three leading men who attempt to make up for the absence of Flatley
himself and they are, indeed, of a very high standard and look good
too! James Keegan, Matt Smith and Morgan Comer excel as the new
Lords of the Dance. The dancers are able to mix traditional Irish
dancing with a more show business version along with tap dancing
and even some ballet.
Helped by great costumes, impressive back projections and a holograph
of Flatley dancing, the performance is a true West End experience
and even for those not over keen on dancing, there is always excitement
and just rip-roaring movement making for a most enjoyable night
The Park Theatre continues to put on innovative plays. The latest
is the World premierof Anna Jordan's CHICKEN SHOP
(Park 90, London until 28 September Box Office 020 7870 6876),
The play centres around Hendrix (Jesse Rutherford), who is 16 and
living in Hounslow. He is worried about his sexuality after he is
bullied when the children at his school discover that his mother
is a lesbian. Hendrix lives with his mother Hilary (Angela Bull)
and the younger Katie (Millie Reeves), her partner. Hendrix dislikes
Katie and still feels close to his mother's former girlfriend, Meg.
Trying to assert his hetrosexuality by losing his virginity Hendrix
visits a brothel above a fried chicken shop.
Working at the brothel is a young woman, Luminita (Lucy Roslyn),
who has been brought to London from Moldova and made to work as
a prostitute by her Hungarian boss Leko (John Last) who gives her
drugs. But Hendrix is too nervous to actually have sex. Instead
he chats to Luminita and lets her use his mobile phone to call home
and speak to her younger sister to stop her from following her path..
Luminita has been virtually made a prisoner in her room above the
chicken shop. She passes her days working as a prostitute, cleaning
and sleeping. When Hendrix opens the window to get some air she
welcomes the sunshine.
Angela Bull & Jesse Rutherford
Hendreix continues to visit the brotherl and becomes
very friendly with Luminita. He wants to help her escape. Luminita
is however fearful as Leko threatens to find her younger sister
if Luminita leaves.
There is an effective single set, divided into three parts: Hendrix's
living room and his bedroom and Luminita's room at the brothel.
Deftly directd by Jemma Gross who does her best to combine the scenes
in the lesbian household with the more obvious coming of age story
of the young boy at the brothel, and also with showing us the plight
of modern day slaves working in the sex trade. The play does, perhaps,
try to cover too many issues and the scenes in the brothel work
best. Jesse Rutherford is a young actor to watch out for in the
It's good to see Tamzin Outwaite shedding her New Tricks persona
to star as a very different character in the lovely new comedy by
Ben Ockrent, BREEDERS (St James Theatre, London
until 4 October Box Office: 0844 264 2140). Here she plays
Andrea who lives with her partner Caroline (Angela Griffin) and
the two want a child.
The young women have an unusual suggestion to make to Andrea's
brother Jimmy (Nicholas Burns): Andrea asks him to donate his sperm
to Caroline. Furhermore Andrea wants Jimmy and his girlfriend Sharon
(Jemima Roper) to move in with them and become their helpers in
return for free accomodation.
Tamzin Outhwaite & Angela
Griffin in Breeders.
Director Tamara Harvey gets all the laughs she can with her enegetic
production. The four actors give good physical performances in a
play, which, while it is insular in so far as it concentrates on
the interaction between the two couples and seems to forget about
the outside world, nevertheless it has some good points to make
about parenthood and raising a child in the modern world and what
makes a satisfactory relationship between a couple.
It is all fine with the actors giving realistic portrayals
of their characters and having some fun with the comedy including
using a bag of flour as the baby when they are practising looking
after their infant. The only jarring point is the weird device of
having popular songs such as 'Do they know it's Christmas' sung
in Swedish between scenes.
With this Shakesperarean comedy you get double for your money:
two pairs of twins are sepatated soon after birth, the two brothers
both called Antipholus and their servants, also twin boys and both
called Dromio. In THE COMEDY OF ERRORS (Shakespeare's
Globe Theatre, London until 12 October Box Office: 020-7401
9919) director Blanche McIntyre provides the audience with
an hilarious version as the confused twins run around the stage
in a series of misunderstandings and there is much comedic business.
At one point the characters hurl props around the stage including
almost destroying the construction of the set itself.
The two Antipholus look so alike that it is often difficult for
us to work out which is which. Simon Harrison as Antipholus of Syracuse
and Matthew Needham as Antipholus of Ephesus along with Brodie Ross
as Dromio of Syracuse and Jamie Wilkes as Dromio of Ephesus are
able to give us both the physical comedy demanded by the director
as well as a clear rendition of Shakespeare's verse.
Matthew Needham as Antipholus
of Ephesus & Jamie Wilkes as Dromio of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors
at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
The other characters act suitably confused or annoyed
as the text demands. The audience - predominantly made up of those
new to Shakespeare and taking advantage of the £5 standing tickets
- were obviously able to follow what was happening on stage as they
roared with laughter and even cheered when a joke concerning washing
hanging on a line, which started before the play began, concluded
at the end. There was, too, a quiet moving piece at the end when
the two Dromoios get together recognising each other as their brother.
THE LIBERATION OF COLETTE SIMPLE (Jackson's Lane
Theatre, London until 4 October Box Office: 020 8341 4421) is a
very strange animal. Not a fully fledged musical or indeed a play,
it is extremely short, running for just an hour. I suppose it is
accurartely described as a cabaret in that there are two actors
and a small group of musicians on stage.
Based on an early Tennessee Williams play The Case of the Crushed
Petunias, it has been made into a musical by composer Vincent Guibert
and eight lyricists. The draw here is Amy Rosenthal, who, in fact
has only written one of the songs! The story is about Colette (Nathalie
Carrington) who looks after her petunias outside her shop. She is
at first devastated when she discovers that her flowers have been
destroyed, but she is helped to come to terms with the tragedy with
the help of a mysterios stranger who admits to being the perpetrator.
He teaches Colette to break out of her confined world and be free.
Gary Tushaw plays all the other parts including Colette's canary
-Tushaw puts on a yellow beak - and a female in a dress. To delineate
the characters he puts on wigs, and both change their costumes as
required. Tushaw gets into the characters very well and both he
and Cartrington have pleasant voices. The band is so loud, however,
that at times it is very dificult to make out the words, particularly
those of Colette. This is a nice little show without very much depth.
Even the songs don't grab one emotionally.
Here is another musical where it is difficult to make out all the
words and they are important in this revival of the musical EVITA
by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Dominion Theatre, London
(until 1 November Box Office: 0845 200 7982). This well-sung
Evita is a welcome return to the London stage. The musical stands
up well to the passing of time. There are some great songs of which
'Don't cry for me Argentina' is not necessarily the best.
The show looks good with a basic set with pillars and a movable
balcony which serves well in Eva's tomb scene and also in the cafe
scene where we see the pre-Peron Eva and in the couple's stately
home as well as the famous balcony scene where Eva appeals for support
from the populace.
Marti Pellow gives a good rendition of Che, acting the part of
the narrator effectively and communicationg with Eva from time to
tiome. He is the one to put across the political perspective of
the show with first ordinary people and then the army officers being
taken away with sacks over their heads.
Madalena Alberto as Eva Perón
and Marti Pellow as Che in Evita
But it is Madelena Alberto as Eva who is the most
memorable aspect to the show. She has a lovely voice and is able
to act well. Her dying scene is one of the most realistic of any
that I have seen on the London stage in recent times. She has the
ability to put across the songs well and with feeling as well as
musicality. It is a pity that the show has such a short run, but
it is well worth making the effort to see.
And now for a play that gives its audience exactly what it promises:
THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG (Duchess Theatre, London
booking until 1 February 2015 Box Office: 0844 412 4659)
shows us Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society putting on a play set
in the 1920s. It is a murder mystery called Murder at Haversham
Manor although you wouldn't know that from the way the actors over-act
and the set and props continually malfunctioning. At the entrance
to the theatre there is a notice, 'Tom Cruise will not be appearing
tonight.' Even before the peformance starts various members of the
audience are called upon to hold up the mantelpiece or carry something.
Before they even start their own play the director (in the play
within a play) refers to often being short of cast members and we
assume he is excusing in advance the poor performances.The actors
are superb and the set seems to disintegrate of its own accord,
often looking really dangerous as bits collapse around and on top
of the cast members. The dialogue is well-written, too. "This is
your father in the portrait" one actor says pointing at a picture
- only it happens to be of a dog.
'The Play That Goes Wrong'
at the Duchess Theatre. Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer try to move
I was glad that on this occasion I had a mate with me as there is so much loud laughter around that it is good to share the hilarity. The play provides a night of genuine enjoyment - go see!