Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"The Girl With All The Gifts" / "Wonderman

It goes without saying that filmmakers’ takes on the "Zombie Apocalypse", vary widely, from the cheap and nasty to the broadly comical, blatantly political and gravely sophisticated. Colm McCarthy’s "The Girl With All The Gifts" (written by Mike Carey, adapting his own novel) falls into the latter category, although many of the familiar tropes are securely in place – head-splattering gunshots, desolated urban landscapes, spurious scientific explanations etc.
The focus, however, is on the eerily centred child, Melanie, wonderfully played by Sennia Nanua, whom we first encounter in a secure research facility, along with dozens of other young virus-carriers; as well as  Glenn Close’s  ruthless scientist, Paddy Considine’s hard-assed guard/soldier and Gemma Arterton as her much-loved teacher, Miss Justineau. Needless to say, they soon find themselves on the road, in search of salvation.
Were it not for the robust language, and the customarily ridiculous level of gruesomeness, this might almost be a children’s film, since Melanie is the primary heroine/villain, and it is the discovery of other children amongst the zombified (or, rather, fungus-infected) hordes which leads the narrative into unexpected territory.  McCarthy makes good use of his transformed locations (including, apparently, my home town of Stoke-On-Trent, which will have needed little work done), and there are even hints of dark humour as Considine’s Sgt Parks gradually rediscovers his humanity.
The heart of the piece, though, is the relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau, which is beautifully handled; and it is this which gives "The Girl With All The Gifts" the edge over most entries in this over-subscribed genre.
"The Girl With All The Gifts"

A more playful eeriness was, of course, the hallmark of the work of Roald Dahl, whose centenary was celebrated in Cardiff, the town of his birth, recently. The highlight was the huge “City Of The Unexpected” extravaganza, which saw dozens of Dahl-themed characters and vignettes taking over the city-centre; although the excellent weather led to vast crowds, which were largely unmarshalled. A more contained and satisfying spectacle was “Wonderman”, a show at the newly-opened Tramshed venue, in which Gagglebabble conflated several of Dahl’s sinister stories for adults, in their unique gig-theatre style. A great success, despite a few sound problems.

A Giant Peach at Cardiff Castle

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

"Café Society"

"Café Society", the latest film from Woody Allen, doesn't break any new ground, although since he's an acknowledged master of his art, this is no criticism.
Set in the 1930s, it stars Jesse Eisenberg stars as Bobby, a Jewish New Yorker who goes to Hollywood, hoping that his uncle, a high-flying agent played by Steve Carell, will give him a job. There, he falls in love with a beautiful woman who is patently out of his league - Kristen Stewart. Soon, however, circumstances send him back to New York, and involvement with his brother's not entirely above-board business activities.

Courtesy of legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storare (“Apocalypse Now”; “The Last Emperor”), the look is warm and lush throughout, complemented by the soundtrack of jazz standards; and Allen’s voice-over, which is not as annoyingly expository as in previous films, gives it the feel of an extended short story. Not quite a comedy - although there are numerous funny lines - it is more a rites-of-passage tale, as Eisenberg’s awkward, idealistic Bobby grows harder and more cynical as life deals its lessons, harsh and otherwise.

As usual, the casting is key: Eisenberg avoids imitating the young Woody, and Carell relishes the role of a powerful but conflicted man (in a role apparently meant for Bruce Willis); it’s good to see Ken Stott as Bobby’s crabby father, and Sari Lennick is also impressive as his supportive sister.

It’s been said before, and one hopes it will be repeated several times in the future: Woody Allen treading water effortlessly outdoes most other filmmakers.

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Thursday, September 01, 2016

"Mandela Trilogy" / "Block"

There has been little theatre-reviewing action in the past few weeks, since everyone in South Wales has been raving it up at the Edinburgh Festival. I was lucky enough, though,  to get to see “Mandela Trilogy” from Cape Town Opera at the Wales Millennium Centre, which was a treat, if (inevitably) stylistically uneven, since it treated the life of the saviour of South Africa in three distinct musical styles, with three different Nelsons.

And on Bank Holiday Monday, outside the same venue, I unexpectedly caught the spectacular open-air performance of “Block” from NoFit State Circus and Motionhouse – a kind of depiction of the complexity of urban life, featuring highly talented dancer/acrobats. Remarkable stuff.

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