Theatre: Young Frankenstein

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Title: Young Frankenstein
Cast: Hadley Fraser, Corey English, Summer Strallen, Nic Greenshields
Seen on: August 04, 2018

I have to admit I don’t really know much of and about Mel Brooks. I know he is considered a legend in the musical theatre industry and so I was intrigued to see his work. And as always I wanted to see it because my favourite West End performer is in it; Hadley Fraser.

I was not disappointed. I now understand Mel Brooks’ appeal – Young Frankenstein was funny, naughty, smart, sweet, and more than a little camp. Everything musical theatre comedy should be. How many nods to sex and penises can you make? Plenty it seems!

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But it never becomes sloppy or childish; the humour is grown-up, adult – which the parents in the row in front of me who had brought their small children were not prepared for! The writing is fast-paced, witty, quick, sharp, and highly entertaining. Add to that the wonderful songs and a phenomenal cast that really throw themselves into the comedy, and the show never loses pace and entertainment.

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The sets were beautifully done with 3d projections providing more staging than could be achieved on a stage. And even those sets and props are made fun of every now and then by the characters; “every low-cost horror movie has a scene with a village mob with pitch forks coming after the monster”, or “every horribly cheap horror movie has a leaver near the book case to open the creepy hidden room”.

With three levels of on-stage sets and the projections, the stage looks much larger than it is, and full of beautiful designs and props and lighting. The sound effects are cleverly done and add to the slight comic-tone that is set. Igor’s hump is the audience favourite; does he have it on the left or on the right…?

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The show is an ensemble cast with a few outstanding characters; the creature is wonderfully dumb with a much earned and welcomed development at the end. Igor is equal parts funny and weird and while usually the comic relief to the doctor, he also has some very lovely sweet moment that humanise him. Frau Blucher and Inga don’t get much of a character development but they don’t need it; they are wonderful characters as they are and they are wonderfully played by Lesley Joseph and Summer Strallen. My favourite character development is possibly that of Elizabeth, Frankenstein’s fiancee ho goes from ditsy rich girl to ditsy Frankenstein’s Bride, wig included.

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Young Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein’s grandson, is magnificently played by Hadley Fraser. I’m afraid I have to gush about him again, sorry! Apart from his incredible voice, he dances, he has the audience wrapped around his finger, his comedic timing is excellent, and he charms the pants off of everyone in the room.

He never misses a beat, not even when faced with unexpected responses by both his cast mates and the audience, and he looks like he is having the best time of his life. With that role and that musical, I would too!

Rating: 9/10

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The third big move (sorry for missing the second)

Way back when in 2014 I wrote about the first big move of my life: moving from the Netherlands where I grew up to London, in the UK. It was a dream come true and I had a fantastic time.

So. Many. Shows.

And then, mid-2016 I was offered the opportunity to move to Sydney, Australia. I would have a job waiting for me, my visa would be paid for me, and I would continue to work with a friend I had made at the company that was now seconding me to their HQ. I mean, who says no to that?!

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So early January 2017 I boarded a plane to a country and a city I had never been to, and I have been working and living here ever since. Until a week from now, that is; I am moving back to Europe.

I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown the other day and a guest said “some people leave home to find home” and it struck a chord with me. I don’t feel like I should be living in one single place, but rather as a citizen of the world. Well, Europe mostly. As much as I loved my time in Sydney and Australia, this is not my home.

Adventure time

Scrolling through my Instagram feed reminds me of all the incredible adventures I’ve had during my time in Australia. Travel – Indonesia, Fiji, Cambodia, Thailand, New Zealand, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru; theatre – both seeing and making; music – Taxiride, Foo Fighters, Hans Zimmer, Queen & Adam Lambert; and many, many friends.

I’ve loved everything and I will be back to do the things I couldn’t do; Darwin, Tasmania, and the Great Ocean Road to name a few. The last 18 months have been like a very long holiday, sometimes broken up by that pesky thing called work.

 

Pastures greener

Well I don’t know about greener, but definitely warmer. Sydney gets cold in winter! Europe is in the middle of a heat wave right now (though still relatively cool compared to Australian summer temperatures) and I can’t wait to get back to warmer climates.

With a winter coat in my suitcase; European winters are much colder than Australian ones!

I’m not 100% sure yet what I’ll be doing yet. Plan A is an amazing 1-year master’s degree in Galway, Ireland. Plan B is going back to London (my home?). Plan C is another city in Europe; Berlin, Copenhagen, Barcelona, maybe even Amsterdam if the right job comes along.

Whatever happens, I will try to be here more often. I might even write about the shows I am creating!

Film: The Martian

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Title: The Martian
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chewitel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena
Seen on: 27 September 2015

I’m usually a bit skeptic when it comes to books made into films, but The Martian blew every expectation I had of it. I am very comfortable saying Ridley Scott took a great book and made it into an even better film.

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Matt Damon plays Mark Watney; Botanist and NASA astronaut on the Ares 3 mission to Mars. It takes all of 3 minutes for the film to leave him for dead on Mars with the rest of his mission crew fleeing the planet for their lives, convinced he is dead. It’s jarring, to get the main problem of the film presented to you as a viewer so immediate and sudden, but it makes you sit up and pay attention. And while the action from that first scene never quite gbets repeated (and it doesn’t have to!), the film manages to keep you hooked and invested and on the edge of your seat all the way through its long 142 minutes.

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So, Watney’s problem? The nearest rescue mission is 4 years away and he doesn’t have enough water, oxygen, or food to survive that long. His conclusion? “I am going to have to science the shit out of this.” Book-Watney is sarcastic, cynical, and sassy. Matt Damon brings all of that, plus his trademark dry delivery, to film-Watney. His humour and spirit draw you in and make you root for him. Watney’s unique approach to his situation lures you in and turns you into his personal cheerleader. That, and awful 70s music and Happy Days reruns. An hour in, all you want to do is hit Jeff Bridges’ NASA director over the head for even suggesting not going out to save him.

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Watney goes through several successes (“That that, Neil Armstrong!”) and failures (“I blew myself up. Because I’m stupid.”) before settling on the plan to find the last Pathfinder that was sent up and establishing contact with NASA. He succeeds and together with NASA, he hatches the plan to get him to the land site of the next Ares mission so he can regroup with them and come home. The base he works from is accidentally blown up though and Watney and NASA are forced to come up with Plan B. Plan B is still a long wait, until a stereotypical scientist (young genius sleeping in his office, drinking too much coffee, and unable to speak to other humans normally, played by Donald Glover) finds a way to send back the Ares 3 crew – now on their way home aboard their space station – faster. It is more dangerous and the NASA director doesn’t allow it, but the crew override the space station’s controls and do it anyway.

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The plan is dangerous, ludicrous, and just stupid enough to work. In Watney’s words, “are you f–ing kidding me?!” They weren’t. It involves the Chinese, a stripped down space pod (“you’re going to send him into orbit under a tarp?”), a few meters of rope, and a puncture in Watney’s space suit. It sounds too outrageous not to work. Of course they make it and Watney is brought home to thousands of people in the streets.Though I doubt Trafalgar Square and Times Square really would have been filled with people watching the rescue mission live on big screens if this were to actually happen. But hey, sci-fi, right? Some suspense of disbelief is always required and with everything scientific in the film all based on facts it doesn’t actually feel like too much to ask to go with the idea of Mark Watney becoming a worldwide obsession.

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Matt Damon is fantastic as Mark Watney. He digs himself into your heart so bad you want to cheer and gasp out loud when something good or bad happens. The Ares 3 crew, NASA people, and JPL team aren’t used enough as characters despite the length of the film, though each get their little moment right before the credits (space hanky-panky, anyone?!). Kristin Wiig is completely under-used, and the Chinese feel a bit dodgy for some reason. And the aforementioned gathering of thousands in the streets of New York and London (and presumably around the world) seems a bit ambitious, but that can be forgiven. The rescue mission gets a little bit muddled for anyone with less than a master in some scientific field which sometimes makes it difficult to understand exactly why something is so dangerous or stupid, but by then you’re so invested they could be telling you Watney would be saved by aliens from Jupiter and you’d just cheer them on. Ridley Scott did good, really good.

Rating: 9/10

Film: American Ultra

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Title: American Ultra
Cast: Jessie Eisenberg, Kristin Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace
Seen on: 04 September 2015

This film is Scott Pilgrim meets Jason Bourne. Completely left-field entertaining, brutal, and strong. Both Jessie Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart do an amazing job luring everyone into the safety of their stoner couple lifestyle and then BAM, they hit you over the head with stunts and kick-ass fighting.

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There are too many funny parts in the film to mention them all (just watch Jessie Eisenberg’s Mike snap between stone-cold agent to nervous stoner), but one special mention goes to the phone conversation between Mike and Topher Grace’s CIA asshole about surrendering. Absolute gold.

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No matter what you think this film is, it isn’t. No matter what you think of K-Stew, it isn’t. Go see it!

Rating: 8/10

Film: Hitman – Agent 47

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Title: Hitman: Agent 47
Cast: Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware, Thomas Kretschmann, Ciaran Hinds
Seen on: 04 September 2015

Clunky dialogue, clunky character development, and clunky fight scenes; Definitely better than the first try of putting the game on screen, but still not quite what it could be. I was hoping for a John Wick-type film, but instead got a watered down Wanted wannabe. I was expecting for Agent 47 to finally somehow find some emotions, I kept expecting some kind of impact of finding out you’re a genetically engineered fighting machine for Katia, and neither of them happened.

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Baddie John Smith (Zachary Quinto) was one of the only good things about this film. His baddie is dangerously calm and surprisingly resistant; I can’t wait to see him back in the sequel (if they commission one). Thomas Kretchmann’s baddie was understanded and under-used, and Ciaran Hinds’ character was nothing but a storyline that didn’t need to be there.

Rating: 6/10

Film: Mission Impossible 5 – Rogue Nation

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Title: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Seen on: August 02, 2015

Actually good for a 5th installment in a franchise. It’s been a while since I saw any of the other MI films, but I still enjo0yed the story on its own and the performances of the actors. Though Tom Cruise is getting to the point where he needs to have another hit outside of this franchise if he doesn’t want MI to be his only project going forwards.

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Jeremy Renner stands out the most for me in this installment, along with Rebecca Ferguson (she kicks some serious ass!). Simon Pegg is funny as always, Ving Rhames isn’t used enough, and Alec Baldwin is the perfectly obnoxious CIA suit. Sean Harris as Syndicate bad-guy Lane feels not fully fleshed out or well-rounded as a character, but he does the trick. He’s forgettable though, which is a shame, but luckily mI5 doesn’t hinge on its bad guy but the action sequences.

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MI5 could do with a few less car/motor cycle chases and a bit more dialogue, but it was enjoyable and entertaining and the ending is laugh out loud funny. Overall not bad!

Rating: 7/10

Film: Inside Out

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Title: Inside Out
Seen on: July 31, 2015

Definitely Pixar’s best in a long time! I didn’t expect to be this entertained, but I laughed and cried and shuddered and cheered along with the rest of the kids and adults in the theater. Predictable, a little. Heavy on the moral of the story, also a little. Preachy, sometimes. But in a surprisingly touching and compelling package. And what a fantastic film to teach kids about their feelings and that it’s okay to be sad or angry or just happy at all times!

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Rating: 9/10