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FILM:September 2012

The excellent documentary, AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (cert. 15 1hr. 31mins) is well worth catching. First-time director, Alison Klayman, shows the personal and professional sides of this courageous artist who has defied his Government to expose its shortcomings. Klayman started filming Ai in 2008 following completion of the "Bird's Nest" Beijing Olympic Stadium, and Ai's denunciation of the Games as Party propaganda. Weiwei is filmed working in Munich in 2009 and he and volunteer helpers collecting more than 9,000 names of those who died in the earthquake in Sichuan as a result of poor building work. Weiwei made an installation of 9,000 backpacks to memorize them.

He has been brutally assaulted by police and seen the wicked demolition of his Shanghai studio. Ai has still persevered with his artistic creations and his political work. We learn of Ai's family background, the exile of his father, the poet Ai Quing, to a remote part of China because of his alleged political transgression. Ai believes in freedom of expression and is striving to achieve it in China. He is optimistic about the future and at the age of 52 had a son - the result of an extra-marital affair - who he walks through his renowned installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. The film ends with Ai's 81-day detention and subsequent release on strict bail.

I'll begin once again with the words of 11year-old Anna who accompanied me to see DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (cert. U 1 hr. 34 mins.):

One way to describe the events in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is EMBARASSING. Things happen during the film that made you want the floor to open up and eat you whole. One such scene was when Greg decided to dive off a really high diving board to impress a girl he really likes, Holly Hills.
But he slips and falls on his bum and his shorts fall off by getting caught on the end of the diving board, thus leaving him stranded in the pool with no swim shorts.
I really enjoyed this film, since it really shows how people can change and grow on other people over a long summer. There were touching scenes between Greg and his dad, but there are ones where you can't help but laugh out loud. Overall, I think it is a great movie that the whole family will enjoy to watch over the summer. Maybe it is an idea for child not to go with their parents, because they might laugh at inappropriate places.


By Anna

Directed by David Bowers, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days is the third installment of the popular franchise based on the illustrated comic novellas by Jeff Kinney. Zachary Gordon returns as the titular preteen wimpy kid Greg Heffley, who's looking forward to a summer of playing video games until his father (Steve Zahn) says that he must do sports and outdoor stuff that other kids do with their dads.

Greg really doesn't want to go down his father's path and so pretends that he has a job at the local country club, where, accompanying his friend, chubby Rowley (Robert Capron), whose family are members, he finds that Holly (Peyton List) the girl he is very keen on, is a member too. Greg's family also get a dog (although he doesn't add much to the plot, but suits the title literally!). When Greg's older brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick) finds out what Greg is up to he blackmails Greg into sneaking him into the country club.

There are some good performances from cast members, particularly Zahn and Bostick and the two leads - Gordon and Capron get up to some amusing antics. However, having seen the other films in this series, this one doesn't seem so funny - the element of surprise is lacking. I must say, however, that Anna and indeed the other children present, appeared to really enjoy the film.

360 (cert.15 1 hr. 50 mins.)

A well-known and celebrated director, Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardner), a super cast, Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster and a renowned writer, Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) - what could go wrong? Well…Peter Morgan's screenplay arising from Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde is somewhat disjointed so doesn't flow easily.

360 is a collection of interweaving stories, starting with a very attractive Slovakian woman, Mirka (Lucia Siposova), entering a life of prostitution. She is followed and observed by her younger sister, who steers well away from a similar job. Her first client, Michael (Jude Law) is blackmailed by two salesmen looking for a deal and he opts out at the last minute.

At the same time in London, his wife Rose (Rachel Weisz) ends an affair with Brazilian Rui (Juliano Cazarre), but not before his Brazilian girlfriend, Laura (Maria Flor) has discovered Rui's infidelity and fled. On the plane back to Brazil, Laura talks to an older British man, John (Anthony Hopkins), who explains that he is on his way to a mortuary in Phoenix to confirm if a dead body is that of his missing daughter; he has been searching for her for many years. When a blizzard delays them overnight in Denver, Laura, now drunk, meets up with another passenger. He is Tyler (Ben Foster), a nervous convicted sex offender, who is travelling to a Halfway House on bail from the secure prison where he has been held for six years.

We are also introduced to the widower Michael (Jamel Debbouze) a lonely Algerian, who is attracted to his married Russian employee, Valentina (Dinara Drukarova). He is very concerned as his Muslim faith forbids him to follow his desires. Also he does not know that she is about to leave her Russian husband and is actually in love with Michael.

All the characters are connected, but the links often seem to be contrived. However, there are some scenes that work really well as the actors are all fine. Hopkins delivers a restrained true-to-life portrait of a father who refuses to give up hope that his daughter is still alive even if she does not wish to contact him. His scenes with the young Brazilian actress are moving. Jude Law and Rachel Weisz also manage to be non-actorly and they play well both together and separately as do the Algerian and the Russian woman for whom he can't or won't confess his love.

I would have liked to know more about a number of the characters as it is hard to care for or about them in the minimum of time devoted to each one. The real trouble is with the director's decision to try to interweave disparate story lines into one cohesive circle - this just doesn't work. In addition, while there is some great cinematography, the dramatic scenes mainly take place in hotel rooms or airport settings, so that too little is seen of the attractive locations. So acting excellent, direction so-so, story line/screenplay poor!

The above are out now. Coming in September is an unusual film: while its title HYSTERIA (cert. tbc 1hr. 35mins.) does not reveal the unexpected subject matter - the fictionalised history of the vibrator - the story unfolds amusingly, leaving the viewer happy to laugh but also to ponder on the different lives of Victorian women.

We snatch an insight into women with money enough to seek medical help for their bodily and mental 'ailments' and those who are so poor that they are at the mercy solely of charitable acts from the medical profession to cure them. The recognised complaint of female hysteria and the revolutionary way of dealing with it is examined humorously!

The film opens with the young handsome Dr Granville Mortimer (Hugh Dancy) being challenged by his employer as to why he is changing the bandages on the wounds of poor patients. Maintaining the good medical reasoning for doing so, Dr Mortimer loses his employment and is expected to follow a meaningful and brilliant career. However, he is employed by Dr Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce) in his very profitable and successful practice treating ladies suffering from hysteria. There is amusement to be got from the expressions of the women seeking help as it is obvious the doctors' expertise is being executed with artful manipulation. We, and the patient, cannot see the form of manipulation used so successfully by the young doctor that he is such great demand that his wrists and hands are badly strained!

Young doctor Granville has a romantic liaison with Dr Dalrymple's daughter, Emily (Felicity Jones) while her older sister, Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) helps in a poor settlement and involves Granville in her work. His injury leads him to develop a more effective vibrator…and the rest is history (well, sort of!) Acted tongue in cheek, especially by Granville's friend Rupert Everett, this is a light romantic comedy rather than an erotic film!

Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal in Hysteria
     
     

 

 


 

THEATRE TIP

In THE DOCTOR'S DILEMMA (National Theatre until 12 September), George Bernard Shaw is writing about the time when the play was written, 1906, but he touches on a subject very close to our hearts today - the importance of having a National Health Service.

All except one of his cast of doctors works in private practice and, as Shaw puts it, they are treating people for money and cannot judge the actual medical need without the question of money entering into the decision. The dilemma faced by newly knighted Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillett) is whether to treat the husband of a beautiful young woman, Jennifer Dubedat (Genevieve O'Reilly) who pleads for the life of her husband, the artist Louis Dubedat (Tom Burke). Sir Colenso has discovered a TB innoculation, which will cure people of tuberculosis, but he only has sufficient to treat a small number and his quota is full.

Genevieve O"Reilly as Jennifer, Tom Burke as Dubedat, in Doctor's Dilemma at the National Theatre

He discovers that Louis is a scoundrel having cheated on his wife and conned many out of their money. At the same time one of his friends, a hard-up doctor (Derek Hutchinson), who treats people according to need rather than having a private practice, is suffering from TB too. Which of the two should he cure? He is worried that because he is in love with Jennifer he might let Louis die in order to marry the widow. Young director, Nadia Fall has mounted a most attractive production. Although there is much earnest discussion about the merits of various treatments and their advantages, the quality of the acting and the interesting sets, which change seamlessly, ensure that the serious comedy comes across as vibrant and engrossing.

There is also an unusual interpretation of RICHARD III at Shakespeare's Globe (until 13 October, and at the Apollo Theatre from 2 November), with Mark Rylance playing the King as a hesitant, sometimes quietly charming villain who can become a murderer, with excuses, in the flash of an eye, in this all-male version.

Mark Rylance as Richard III

Rylance's approach gives a different slant on the King that we all assume to be fundamentally evil. He stumbles over words and is at first meek when he woos Lady Anne, over the coffin of her father-in-law who he has just murdered. He uses all his charm to turn around her feelings so that she succumbs to him.

In a very charming voice, Richard says: "I do love thee so that I will shortly send your soul to heaven" referring to his brother Clarence. Rylance's slow clear speech will help anyone who comes new to this Shakespearian play. His evil intentions are shown, however, when he gets angry with the young prince who climbs on his shoulder, "So young, so wise will never live long," he comments afterwards. The audience are encouraged to cheer Richard, Duke of Gloucester when he is asked to be King and, as usual, with the lively Globe audience, they do so enthusiastically.

Using original practices works well in Tim Carroll's production and the males taking on female parts perform convincingly. Lady Anne (Johnny Flynn) has a light voice and looks almost female. The very long skirts worn by the women in the play cover their feet and have the effect of making them seem to roll along as though on clockwork wheels. The humour is brought out in the production and the audience are completely silent during the more serious moments such as Richard's mother who states that she hates her adult son and wishes he had never been born. If you have yet to visit the Globe, go this season or - for a more comfortable seat- book for the Apollo in London's West End!

You know that it will end in a blood bath when you watch a Jacobean play and THE REVENGER'S TRAGEDY (The Old Red Lion, Islington until 29 September) delivers this albeit in a rather different manner from the usual well-populated production.

Here a cast of only six perform Thomas Middleton's tragedy with as much humour as the play can possibly carry, and give us the bloody grotesque happenings in close up in this tiny theatre. With men playing women's parts as well as the main characters who are male and at one point the only female in the company, Christine Oram, playing a prison guard, the versatile cast strive hard to put across this somewhat complex play.

The Jacobean drama of affairs, murder and revenge is presented in a 1980s setting. Director Nicholas Thompson has managed to define the characters well so that we always know who is who, even when - as in the case of Mark Field who plays the main character Vindice and also his disguised other self, Piato - the same actor covers two or three parts!

All act convincingly except Christine Oram who seems to be a bit lost in the two main characters she covers - the Duchess and Gratiana (mother of Vindice and Hippolita (Henry Regan) and Castiza). The daughter, Castiza is well portrayed by Nicholas Kline who performs a lovely aerobics scene to a Jane Fonda video. Steve Fortune (seen in the picture above as a guard with Nicholas Kline, here as Spurio, the bastard son of the Duke) is excellent as the Duke.

JULIUS CAESAR (Noel Coward Theatre until 15 September then touring *)

Cyril Nri and Paterson Joseph in Julius Caesar.

This thrilling political conspiracy is convincingly set in modern Africa drawing thoughts of dictatorships and the perils it holds for all.

Overlooking the stage is the back of a huge statue of Caesar with his arm held up. It is reminiscent of Sadaam Hussein and many other dictators.

The audience is quickly transported to Africa by the exciting rhythmic pounding of music and there we remain throughout the journey of the conspirators. The African setting with its all-black cast is perfect for discovering Julius Caesar anew and director, Gregory Doran, should be greatly commended for this.

The magic and fortune-telling of the chilling soothsayer, bearing his warnings of the Ides of March take one swiftly into the danger of the play and continues throughout. The African setting helps to convey the importance of the prophecies of doom. There is a chorus of musicians and singers who supply the crowd scenes, which are a little sparsely populated.

The cast is composed of some of our top classical black actors. Best of all is Cyril Nri's Cassius, who dressed all in white, has a definite "lean and hungry" look and shows that he is the thinker behind the action as he becomes the leader of the conspiracy to assasinate Caesar. Ray Fearon's Mark Anthony is excellent and has a beautifully rounded vocal range. Patterson Joseph gives a stunning performance of Brutus, using expression, body language, voice and accent brilliantly to enthral us with the workings of his mind. He shows us a Brutus who is egotistical and not exactly the noble Brutus who we usually see. In the hands of Jeffery Kissoon Caesar comes across as indecisive but with a certain regal quality. It is good to see women playing the female parts and Adjoa Andoh as Brutus'wife and Ann Ogbomo as the wife of Caesar, bring veracity to their characters.

The music by Akintayo Akinbode is well suited to the action with its mixture of African rhythms and more sombre background sounds.

Caesar's assassination could have been delivered less clumsily and might have affected the reality of it all, had the manipulative and profound funeral speeches not been delivered so well. We were again drawn back into the action. The whole production works very well in its African setting and is indeed a resounding triumph for the RSC. It is good to see it being offered around the country.

*Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 19-22 September, Bradford Alhambra Theatre 25-29 September, The Lowry Salford 2-6 October, Norwich Theatre Royal 16-20 October, New Theatre, Cardiff 23-27 October.

ADVANCE BOOKING INFORMATION for Rodgers & Hammerstein's CAROUSEL:

The show is brought vividly to life in an outstanding new stage production, opening at the Barbican in London following critical praise in Leeds and Manchester. Opera North's vibrant staging of this timeless American classic combines gripping storytelling and powerful musical performances. The production will transfer to Paris in 2013. One of the greatest Broadway musicals of the twentieth century, created by the writer and composer of The Sound of Music, Oklahoma! and The King and I, CAROUSEL features some of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most compelling and emotional music, including 'You'll Never Walk Alone', 'If I Loved You' and the joyful 'June Is Bustin' Out All Over'.

It is set in a small New England seaside community and tells the story of true love and the tragedy of feelings left unspoken, as mill worker Julie Jordan falls in love with troubled fairground worker Billy Bigelow. After Billy commits a desperate act that ends in tragedy, he is granted one last chance. Will he be able to make things right second time around?

This fresh version of Carousel is led by director Jo Davies, with set and costumes by Olivier-award winning designer Anthony Ward, who has designed numerous Broadway and West End shows (The King's Speech, ENRON, Oklahoma!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). Cast members for London include Michael Todd Simpson as Billy Bigelow, Katherine Manley as Julie, Sarah Tynan as Carrie, and Yvonne Howard as Nettie Fowler. The full Broadway score is ravishingly recreated by musical forces led by conductors James Holmes and Jonathan Gill, with a chorus of over 30 singers, 14 dancers and choreography from Kim Brandstrup and Kay Shepherd. Carousel is in London for a strictly limited run of five weeks, from 15 August until 15 September. www.carouseltheshow.com

     
     
     
     

Carlie Newman & Sharon Michaels

 
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