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November 04, 2008

Bond and Berowne

At 2 p.m. on Friday I had my bottom on a seat in the local cinema for the afternoon showing of Quantum of Solace – and I loved it. I know reviews have been mixed, but personally I prefer the new grittier set-up, i.e. no gadgets or gratuitous sex scenes. Yes, the storyline is a bit ropey at times, but I’d be lying if I said that’s what I wanted from a Bond film. Knowing that this was set literally hours after the end of Casino Royale, I was more interested in following Bond’s story – James as a person, as a spy and (to quote from the film) as “damaged goods”. And in that sense, I think both the film and Daniel Craig really deliver. The undercurrent that ran through the film was his struggle to deal with his emotions following his ordeal with Vesper, and yet to continue doing his job. Add in a flashy car, an aeroplane, a couple of pretty but feisty ladies, explosions, fire, some chases, Daniel Craig’s fantastic voice (I love that this Bond has a clean-cut English accent) and a fantastic turn from Judi Dench as M (ooh, feel the crackle between her and Bond!) and you’ve got a great 007 caper. I came out feeling shaken and stirred (apologies for the pun!).


On Friday evening I was back in Stratford at the Courtyard Theatre for the RSC production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s better-known plays, and I recently bought a copy to try and familiarise myself with it beforehand. Now I know why it’s not all that well-known! It’s very hard work to read because it’s linguistically challenging – it’s still quite funny, but the edge is taken off when you have to keep checking the notes to make sense of what you’ve just read. But, as my old English teacher used to tell me, Shakespeare didn’t write his plays to be read, he wrote them to be seen. And for me, Love’s Labour’s is the perfect example of that. With all the complicated language put into context on stage with great direction and sparkling performances, the play became something fantastic. I laughed till it hurt…in fact I think I slightly annoyed the woman who was sitting next to me! Obviously, I thought that David Tennant was fantastic as Berowne, but we know I have no objectivity when it comes to him… DT aside, I loved Edward Bennet’s performance as the King – excellent comic timing and subtle but wonderful expressions; and Mariah Gale and Nina Sosanya were stunning in both looks and performance as the French Princess and Rosaline respectively. It’s on for another couple of weeks so anyone who’s tempted should definitely check the box office for returns!


V xx

August 14, 2008

The Dark Knight: IMAX–style

Last night, I finally saw The Dark Knight at the Birmingham IMAX, and it was completely worth the wait. It was my first IMAX experience, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But from the opening scene I was sold: views from the top of tall buildings made you feel like you were up there, and chase scences practically gave me travel sickness! If anyone hasn’t done the IMAX thing before, I highly recommend it. My friends and I have already decided to see the new Harry Potter at Millennium Point when it comes out.

To the film itself. The hype surrounding the The Dark Knight made me a little worried that I would be disappointed, but my concerns were unfounded. It’s well-scripted, edgy, thrilling and packed with great performances – I went in a group of 14 people and all of us came out impressed. Something thing we all agreed on was Heath Ledger: he was the epitome of a mad comic book hero for all the right reasons. Frightening, compelling, laced with dark humour…it’s such a tragedy that he and his talent have been lost. There were differing opinions on Christian Bale, but I firmly wave the flag in his favour. In my humble opinion, his incarnation as Bruce Wayne/Batman is one of the best castings of recent times, and I think his screen presence is incredible…not to mention a voice and jawline that were made to play the caped crusader! Someone who was a bit of a surprise star for me was Aaron Eckhart. The Joker was an out-and-out insane psychopath, but I was actually more disturbed by the change of Eckhart’s Harvey Dent from hero of the people to a broken and revenge-filled madman. The best line of the film for me was The Joker’s assessment of this transformation:
“Madness is like gravity – all it takes is a little push.”

It’s all been mentioned before but I also liked the poignant messages regarding terrorism, civil liberties, the ‘Big Brother’ concept and the decency of society. And finally, I couldn’t help but smile at the casting of a number of British actors – not just Christian Bale and Gary Oldman, but some of the smaller parts too. All in all, I found The Dark Knight to be a summer superhero blockbuster that truly hits the mark. Bravo Christopher Nolan – bring on the next instalment!

V xx

December 01, 2005

The conspiracy is global

The Constant Gardner
5 out of 5 stars

On recommendation from friends and good reviews in the paper, I went to see The Constant Gardner last night. I can honestly say that I can't remember the last time a film affected me so much. For those of you who don't know anything about the film, take the time to visit the website and get a heads-up. I'm not one to take notice of conspiracy theories and activist scaremongering, but the message The Constant Gardner delivers is not one to be ignored. As far as I know, the book upon which the film is based isn't a true story, but it made me think long and hard about what might actually be going on in the Developing World without anyone realising. I read in the paper today about the astonishing cost of HIV/AIDS medication in Africa, when we enjoy the benefits of a free health service in a country where the GDP is many, many times that of countries like Kenya and Sudan.

I won't stand on a soapbox for too long, but go and watch this amazing film and see if it doesn't make you think about the bigger picture. And if for no other reason, the intensity of Ralph Fiennes screen presence makes The Constant Gardner an incredible piece of cinema.

By the by, it's World AIDS Day today – spare a thought for the lost generation of Africa.

V xx

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