"Star Wars" / "Peter Pan"
I can’t claim to be especially invested in the “Star Wars” universe over and above being grateful to George Lucas for helping to save the commercial cinema in the mid-70s. I’ve only watched the original trilogy once or twice, and bailed out of the second lot a few minutes into “Attack Of The Clones”. My faith in J.J. Abrams, however – along with the ridiculous amount of media hype which would inevitably have resulted in plot spoilers – prompted me to take a chance on “The Force Awakens”; and I was not disappointed.
The story is something to do with the fate of a map pointing out the whereabouts of one Luke Skywalker, but that’s of little importance. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are impressive as newcomers to the ways of The Force, with Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and Domnhall Gleeson giving fine turns on various sides of the argument. And, of course, it’s good to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher in the thick of the action. I even spotted the Daniel Craig cameo.
The screenplay is surprisingly funny, and the action and visuals are as beautifully orchestrated as one might expect, although if I’d known beforehand that the 3D was an afterthought, I might not have paid the extra. Still, it is well deserving of the fanboy praise, and will doubtless enthuse a new generation of cinema-goers.
No Christmas trip back to Stoke would be complete without a visit to the Regent Theatre to take in the panto. The double-act of Jonathan Wilkes and Christian Patterson (whom I last saw being threatening at The Other Room in Cardiff) this year brought us “Peter Pan”, J.M. Barries’s tale padded out with pop songs, energetic dance routines, vaguely off-colour humour and numerous local references. Wilkes was chummy and charismatic as ever, and Patterson (also responsible for the script) is always a formidable presence (although there were sadly few opportunities for him to cross-dress this time round). Amanda Coutts was also excellent and well-received, as the Essex girl Tinkerbell; and the rest of the cast, mostly drawn from the Wilkes’ performing arts academies, acquitted themselves admirably, despite seemingly having to speed through the plot in order to advance to the comedy business. It was all jolly fun, though.