Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)

Despite a talented cast including Judi Dench and Dan Stevens, this cinematic version of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a big miss

“I’ll have a grilled grapefruit and a strong coffee please”

On the one hand, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s enduring play offering increasingly diminishing returns every time it reappears. On the other, I don’t think anyone would have predicted how misjudged this film version would be, directed by Ed Hall and adapted for the screen by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft.

Coward’s plays do what they do, offering safe options for audiences (and theatre programmers) and usually attracting top actors (Jennifer Saunders and Angela Lansbury are the last two to have starred in the West End in this play). And on the face of it, the same ought to be true of a filmed version, here with Dame Judi Dench stepping into the feathered caftan of Madame Arcati. Continue reading “Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)”

Assorted January news

Photo © Pip

Fionn Whitehead, star of Dunkirk and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, will take on the titular role in an upcoming contemporary digital adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, from the team behind the celebrated digital production of What a Carve Up!, is set to push the theatrical form like its predecessor; utilising elements found in radio plays, films, documentaries as well as traditional theatrical techniques.

Set in a profile pic-obsessed, filter-fixated world where online and reality blur, influencer Dorian Gray makes a deal. For his social star never to fade. For the perfect self he broadcasts to the world to always remain. But as his mental health starts to decline, as corruption and murderous depravity start to creep into his world, the true and horrific cost of his deal will soon need to be met.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, which runs for two weeks from 16-31 March, will reunite Henry Filloux-Bennett, writing the new adaptation, and director Tamara Harvey. Continue reading “Assorted January news”

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

“Tale as old as time”

It’s taken me a little time to get round to writing this review, which is rarely a good sign, as I was struggling for anything entirely constructive to say about this film. The 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast was Disney close to its best but these days, nothing is left alone if it has even the merest hint of cash cow about it. So it has previously hit the stage as a musical and following the success of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, it now has a cinematic live-action remake.

Which is all fine and good but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And at no point does Bill Condon’s film ever convince us that the world needed this version of Beauty and the Beast, there’s rarely any sense of it bringing something new and insightful to the story. Plus the contortions it (and star Emma Watson) has had to make to try and convince of its feminist credentials scarcely seem worth it in the final analysis. Continue reading “Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)”

Album Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

“How could anyone be gloomy and depressed?
We’ll make you shout ‘encore!'”

The live action remake of Beauty and the Beast will be arriving in cinemas on 17th March but should you be so inclined, you can listen to the film’s soundtrack here on YouTube, other digital platforms or buy the album from wherever it is that records are sold near you. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s music and lyrics will be intensely familiar to fans of the original Disney film but after director Bill Condon decided not to include any of the songs that were written for the musical with Tim Rice, Menken composed a number of new songs for this film which ought to pique the interest of any right-thinking musicals fan.

None of the old-school classic feel of the music has been lost in this recording, which was a great relief to me, and its new twists on these old songs are certainly interesting. I really enjoyed Josh Gad and Luke Evans’ freshly comic take on ‘Gaston’ and though Emma Watson is no out-and-out singer, she gives a sweetly decent account of herself. Emma Thompson has perhaps a trickier job in tackling the iconic legacy of Angela Lansbury’s Mrs Potts, her accent choice is somewhat distracting but once you’re accustomed to it, the lushness of the orchestrations make the title track spine-tingling and ‘Be My Guest’ is immense fun as Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Ian McKellen chip in too. Continue reading “Album Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”

DVD Review: Sense and Sensibility (2008)

“I think we all have to find our own ways to be happy”

Who else but Andrew Davies did this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility for the BBC and to be sure, it is another cracker. I vividly remember loving this immensely when it aired and then being ridiculously excited as I was able to tick the actors off one by one as I saw them on the stage. From Hattie Morahan to Charity Wakefield, Dominic Cooper to Dan Stevens, Claire Skinner to the marvellous Linda Bassett, it is a wonderful cast and over the three hours of this version directed by John Alexander, they give great life to the tale of the Dashwood women as they are forced to downsize yet still find themselves suitable husbands.

Led by the widowed Mrs Dashwood (a wounded yet pragmatic Janet McTeer), eldest daughter Elinor (a magnificent performance of beautiful restraint from Hattie Morahan) and impetuous middle child Marianne (a deliciously spunky Charity Wakefield) have to dance their way through the minefield of male attention, conscious of the fact that their reduced situation may have limited them somewhat but hyper-aware of the importance in following their passion. Davies’ writing plays up the real difficulties for women stuck in a world where men make the rules and this more serious vein really works. Continue reading “DVD Review: Sense and Sensibility (2008)”

20th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bruce Dern – Nebraska as Woody Grant
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave as Solomon Northup
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips as Captain Richard Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club as Ron Woodroof
Forest Whitaker – The Butler as Cecil Gaines

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine as Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis
Sandra Bullock – Gravity as Dr. Ryan Stone
Judi Dench – Philomena as Philomena Lee
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County as Violet Weston
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks as P. L. Travers Continue reading “20th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

Review: Marple – Nemesis

“How do you know?”

Working my way through the works of Ruth Wilson, I came across an episode of Marple in which she appeared, but the most striking thing about was the name of the director – Nicolas Winding Refn. Yes, the man better known for films such as Drive, Pusher and Only God Forgives once directed an episode of Marple for ITV back in 2008 when Geraldine McEwan was playing the role of the intrepid sleuth, a choice he now admits was made entirely because he was broke and one which was full of frustrations for him. And as you can see for yourselves on the YouTube clip below, it isn’t really the finest of works.

For those familiar with the novel, this adaptation takes huge liberties with the story as to be almost unrecognisable from the source. And sadly, it never feels like any of the changes were worthwhile, strictly necessary or indeed effective. In this version of Nemesis, Marple is still invited to solve a murder by an old colleague John Rafiel by taking part of a Daffodil Tour Company mystery tour with a carefully selected group of people who, as always, are more connected that first impressions reveal. Continue reading “Review: Marple – Nemesis”