Film: Home

Home Movie

Title: Home
Cast: Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Jennifer Lopez
Seen on: March 22, 2015

Boov (alien) O screws up-again-and gets his entire race fleeing to earth. The Boov relocate everyone to Australia and settle in. And then O screws up-again-and accidentally tells the other alien race they are running from where they are. Almost anyway, apparently even alien email goes slow.

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Cue O on the run, meeting up with last remaining human in the city, Tip, and her cat Pig. Still following? O = alien, Tip = human, Pig = cat. Anyway, Trip has lost her mother (unbeknownst to her, she is in Australia) and O needs to stop this email from reaching the Boov’s enemy. They both need to go to the Boov HQ in Paris to find what they are looking for. It’s a fun ride too, with enough jokes and references for adults to have a laugh.

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The characters are all relatable, though very much aimed at kids about a third my age 😉 The Boov are funny creatures and O is childlike curious and ignorant. He just means well. Tip helps him overcome his Boov ways of running as soon as things become a bit scary and by doing so she finds her mother and O resolves the issue with their enemy. Who is actually a starfish in a massive Borg-looking suit. Yeah.

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Home is a lovely story about unlikely friends, overcoming your fears and courage. It will certainly appeal to kids and even I had to swallow past a few lumps near the end.

Rating: 7/10

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Film: Chappie

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Title: Chappie
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel, Die Antwoord, Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver
Seen on: March 22, 2015

This film isn’t so much about the performances of the actors as it is about the director who made it. Neill Blomkamp wowed the world with District 9 and disappointed with Elysium, so the pressure was on to prove he is a genius filmmaker and not a one-hit-wonder. I’m not sure he succeeded. Chappie falls somewhere between District 9 and Elysium.

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But if you ignore the comparisons for a moment and just look at this film as it is, it’s not actually a bad film. In fact, it is actually entertaining and even a little moving. This is mostly due to Chappie himself and, surprisingly enough, Yolandi of South African music duo Die Antwoord. She’s not an actress and it shows, but her scenes with Chappie-still in a childlike state of mind-bring the connection to the robot you need to really get into this film. And Chappie really is the best thing in it (aside from Hugh Jackman’s mullet, but more on that later).

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Chappie is a robot, discarded from the robot police force of Johannesburg, South Africa, after being damaged too much. The robots are the brain child of Deon, a genius scientist who is trying to create a self-thinking AI. His robots are not that, they are simply programmed to follow orders rather than think and-more importantly-feel for themselves, but when he finally has his break through and finishes his AI program he steals the discarded robot’s body and installs his AI on it. Or he wants to, because the robots gets stolen before he can start the install.

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The thieves are Yolandi and Ninja, or Die Antwoord fame. I won’t go into too much detail about who they are and what their story is, because it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The acting is awkward and the plot holes so large you could fit Europe in it, so instead I’ll focus on their influence on the robot. After stealing the robot, they soon realize it can’t help them in their criminal ways since it doesn’t, you know, do anything. Until they get Deon in and bargain with him to install the AI program. Once in a lifetime opportunity for Deon, but definitely not his smartest move. Yolandi and Ninja quickly get-temporarily-rid of Deon and “raise” Chappie as their own. That includes big chains, graffiti tattoos and gang language.

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What we then get is a touching story about human behaviour; What is born and what is taught? How does environment influence a child’s development? Chappie essentially grows up in an abusive home (Ninja leaves him to find his own way home across the violent city when he is at a toddler’s age), but he has a few influential people around him that try and counter that; Yolandi, in her own way finds motherly feelings, Deon strikes a deal with Ninja and gets visitation rights which he uses to teach Chappie ‘normal’ behaviour, even Ninja’s friend Amerika teaches Chappie about loyalty and friendship. Chappie’s development into a teenager and his relationships with his father and mother is a wonderfully tender thing and even at times pulls on your heart strings.

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Until it absolutely and resolutely smashes that moment with another round of mindless violence that doesn’t serve the story in any way. It’s a whisplash of a film that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Luckily it also has Hugh Jackman’s mullet for some against-type casting that the actor seems to relish in. His Vincent is a dick; a military man with a grudge and a massive robot. All he needs is support from Tetravaal’s CEO Michelle (Sigourney Weaver) to get it into the streets, but she won’t give him the budget to install the police program and release it. Cue the bigger grudge.

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The big show-down and ultimate climax of the film has to do with Hugh Jackman’s huge robot, Chappie’s humanity and Deon ending up in one of his own creations. It’s not important, really. It’s too far-fetched, too riddled with impossibilities and again doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It’s an ending, is what it is, which is enough.

This film has one massive saving grace though: the absolutely breathtaking, seemless incorporation of Chappie into the rest of the environment. Completely motion-captured by Sharlto Copely, you’d think it was an actual robot and not something CGI-ed in. That alone is worth seeing this on a big screen. We’ve come a long way from the first Terminator film.

Rating: 5/10

Theater: Stevie

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Title: Stevie
Cast: Lynda Baron, Chris Larkin, Zoë Wanamaker
Seen on: March 09, 2015

Stevie is the story of poet Stevie Smith; an eccentric, asexual woman who works as a secretary at a publisher and writes poetry in her spare time. Stevie the woman lives in Palmers Green with her Auntie, Stevie the poet-on-the-rise is a social eccentric butterflying through Central London. The play tells her story from childhood to death, with her own poets interspersing the storytelling.

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I went to see Stevie during the first few days of previews and while I understand it will go through several stages of changes and amends until opening night – and sometimes even after that – I do have to admit I wasn’t really gripped by the play. The first half was, dare I say it, actually quite boring. ZoĂ« Wanamaker doesn’t feel right for the woman we are supposed to believe she is; her Stevie seems too old for the part of her life she is talking about. If this is on purpose and the audience is meant to just sit and listen to an older Stevie regale about her younger years, it is not clear from the dialogue and monologue, and the whole things feel disjointed and it drags.

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The second half is much better. ZoĂ« Wanamaker’s Stevie feels appropriate, fitting. There is true wit and humour in the narrative and dramaturgy. Chris Larkin plays several roles, but his part as Stevie’s exasperated gay friend from the social circles of London lifts the play to a new, though still not too impressive, height. Not even Lynda Baron’s Auntie’s demise and ultimate death brings any kind of emotion to the play; it feels flat and forced, as if it’s a bit that we all have to suffer through to get to the final scene, which is incidentally the best scene of the whole play.

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Stevie’s recount of her day at Buckingham Palace with the Queen is funny, heartwarming and moving, all at the same time. ZoĂ« Wanamaker’s Stevie is perfect here, during Stevie’s final years; old, exhausted, sarcastic and worn, and it finally clicks into place. Too bad it is only for that one final scene, after two hours of suppressed yawns.

Rating: 3/10

RIP Leonard Nimoy

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The world has lost a legend. Leonard Nimoy was the embodiment of sci-fi as the great mister Spock on Star Trek. Trekkie or not, you know who mister Spock is, you know of Star Trek, and you will have been in contact with its impact. Star Trek paved the way for modern day sci-fi, with Leonard Nimoy as one of its front-runners. His mister Spock was strange, weird, logical, but above all recognizable; we all have a bit of mister Spock in us. But for the kids like me – the weird ones that never really fit in anywhere – he was an example. An example that showed us it was okay to be weird, you could still achieve so much, and you would find a place to fit in one day. He made me feel better about myself.

But we need to look beyond the Spock ears and eyebrows to find the man behind the actor. The photographer who fought for equal representation for all sizes of models; the man who recorded The Bilbo Baggins Song; the man who refused to come to work unless Nichelle Nicols would get equal pay to the men in the Star Trek cast.

Leonard Nimoy made history in many ways and I for one hope we will never forget what he gave us. He will be greatly missed.

Theater: The Ruling Class

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Title: The Ruling Class
Cast: James McAvoy, Kathryn Drysdale, Anthony O’Donnell, Serena Evans
Seen on: February 10, 2015

James McAvoy opened the first season of Jamie Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed back in 2013 with a stunning performance of McBeth, and he is back in the second season in a revival of Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class. I actually didn’t know the play going in, so I had no idea what to expect, but it certainly wasn’t what I got.

Holy bonkers, Batman!

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James McAvoy plays Jack, the 14th earl of Gurney. His father accidentally killed himself while erotically strangling himself in a tutu, and if that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the play, then what does? The family is worried Jack might not be an appropriate heir to his father’s estate, but most importantly his good name and reputation, and we soon find out why.

Jack thinks he is Jesus Christ incarnated.

He calls himself the God of love, goes around prancing and dancing and singing ludicrous songs, thinks he is married to a fictional woman, crucifies himself and sleeps on the cross, hallucinates making tables fly, and fights an imaginative man with a dinosaur head.

Like I said, holy bonkers, Batman!

Jack’s family and doctor do everything to make him normal. Or, their normal. They’re a family of power, reputation, stature, and Jack needs to fit into that as the next earl of Gurney. The plot and plan and scheme, slowly but surely changing Jack from the carefree God of love to the powerful, edgy Earl of Gurney. The transformation is terrifyingly subtle; a man pushed to breaking point, and that breaking point being supposed normalcy. But where the doctor deemed Jack not dangerous in the first half of the play, Jack becomes a homicidal maniac in the second half. But the family is satisfied, because now Jack is “normal”.

While first written and performed in the 80s, the play is still a poignant, on-topic statement on the state of society; class, power-mad leaders, aristocracy, government, money, and how forcing your own “normal” on others can actually turn out very dangerous.

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The audience is represented by Tucker, the family’s loyal servant. He is the common man, the outsider, the mostly reasonable thread through the insanity that is this play. Tucker is the relief between the manic happenings, the one thing you recognise and relate to, and it makes the play a little bit easier to handle. This is not a play for the light-hearted or easily offended. And please do not go see this if you are of a strong religious persuasion, unless you are open to parody and ridicule. If you are not, this is not for you. At all.

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Now for the actors. James McAvoy is absolutely magnetic. Despite a completely bonkers story, with more insanity than you can safely shake a stick at, McAvoy keeps it all together like a messiah. Which, incidentally, his character thinks he is. The first half of the show, McAvoy prances around the stage like a man possessed, driven by love and conviction. His family all have one goal: cure him of his insanity and make him normal. Like them. Naturally, it all goes tits up after the interval, when McAvoy transforms his character from a foaming-at-the-mouth mental patient to an aristocrat with poise and stature. And a penchant for killing. The transformation is stunning.

One thing I have always been very impressed by, is McAvoy’s physicality. He gives his characters little things; a nose twitch, a finger movement, a speech pattern. But then he is amazing at the big stuff too; his stage presence, his energy, his charm. It is truly a fantastic thing to watch. For Jack, he gave him a speech pattern, a stammer, an involuntary noise, a nose twitch, where appropriate. That is one of the things I love about McAvoy as an actor and I cannot stop being amazed by it every single time. His Jack is no exception.

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I didn’t care much for Kathryn Drysdale’s Grace – Jack’s wife. I only know her from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, where she plays an airhead, and her Grace isn’t much different. Maybe Grace was written that way, maybe it’s the way she plays it, but I felt like she could have given Grace a bit more layers.

Anthony O’Donnell as Tucker is lovely; he brings the levity, the jokes, and his sacrifice at the end is just tragic. It makes you hate McAvoy’s Jack a little more and feel for O’Donnell’s Tucker even more. And he does a very convincing drunken man 😉

The rest of the cast was alright, but didn’t blow my mind particularly. It is really McAvoy’s show, but he rules them all spectacularly.

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Throw in a few silly songs, McAvoy riding around on a unicycle in his pants, a rather explicit sex scene followed by a murder, and a suicide by erotic strangulation, and you are close to at least understanding what takes place in The Ruling Class. That doesn’t mean you understand what to expect though; whatever you think The Ruling Class is, it isn’t. It’s crazier, better, and will leave you with one question: What?!

Rating: 7/10

Film: Into The Woods

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Title: Into The Woods
Cast: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford
Seen on: February 08, 2015

Yes, it’s a musical. And yes, there are a bit too many songs to be really fun. And yes, it’s Disney. But it’s also gruesome. There is death, abuse, murder, spells and curses, and eaten little girls. Into The Woods is a wild ride of all your favourite fairytales with an absurdly camp rendition of “Agony” by Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine’s princes. Including dramatic shirt rip. Even the biggest anti-musical person could get a kick out of this film. And it’s got Meryl Streep, what’s not to love?

Rating: 8/10