Anyone Can Whistle, Union Theatre, 2017

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Anyone Can Whistle at the Union Theatre is an ebullient production of a lesser known Sondheim musical. Originally performed over 50 years ago on Broadway, it is certainly one of his shows that deserves a second hearing.

The storyline is quirky, this production brings out the humour and mayhem very nicely.

It has some great characters; Felicity Duncan is excellent as the power hungry, desperate to be loved politician, Rachel Delooze and Oliver Stanley are both very good as the lovelorn fake investigator and the fake doctor, and their final duet “With so little to be sure of” is a thing of beauty.

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It is packed with fantastic classic Sondheim songs: “Me and my town”, “There won’t be trumpets”, “Parade in town”, “Everyone says don’t”, “Anyone can whistle” and “With so little to be sure of” are all from this show!

The ensemble here are great, the stage can seem a little packed at times, but this works very well for the chase scene and the dance numbers are filled with energy and inventiveness.

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With all the talk of political madness and fake news, the time is right for the revival of this wonderful, undervalued musical and I thoroughly enjoyed this production.

This is a show that is not revived often enough, you should go to see it while you have the opportunity!

Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier) 2015

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Green Room is marketed as a violent thriller, gory horror movie. It is actually a violent thriller, gory horror movie. It delivers.

There is lots of blood, lots of violence, lots of aggression. There are plenty of thrills, many tense moments. It has a good cast, some dark humour and a loud indie/punk soundtrack.

It has Anton Yelchin as Pat, a guitarist in a punk rock band who witnesses a death. It has Imogen Poots as Amber, who turns out to be very handy with a knife and not at all squeamish about using it. It has Patrick Stewart as Darcy, a white supremacist with a small army of thugs and attack dogs at his disposal. He is brilliantly menacing and when he says near the start of the film “Let’s be clear. It won’t end well” you truly believe him.

Slash horror movies are not usually the type of film that I choose to watch, but a good movie is a good movie and this is well written, well directed and well acted.

In short, it is an excellent example of its genre. If you like violent thriller, gory horror movies you will enjoy this.

Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade) 2016

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Toni Erdmann is a serious comedy. It makes you laugh, but it wants you to think.

I believe that there is going to be a Hollywood remake starring Jack Nicholson, in his first role for many years. Had it been any actor, other than Jack Nicholson, I would have thought it doomed to failure, but with him in the title role, it will be interesting to see how it turns out. Who they choose to direct will be important, too.

Maren Ade is a clever director, she throws in many jokes that are not funny, in order to make you laugh out loud at the serious parts, which are absurd and ridiculous.

It’s about a father daughter relationship. They have grown apart and the dad is determined to rectify that, whether or not his daughter has time for it. Sandra Huller as Ines is very good indeed, initially irritated by her father’s attention and his worry about her life/work balance, but gradually coming to see that he might indeed have a point.

Peter Simonischek is also good as Winfried/Toni, who is at his wits end, trying to work out how to win back the lost regard of his only daughter.

This movie is slow to start, but this is purposeful, in order to make you enjoy the gentle build up to the satisfying conclusion.

I have to admit, that I haven’t seen the other films up for the best foreign language Oscar, but I can say, that one of them would need to be exceptional indeed, if it is to beat Toni Erdmann to that Academy Award.

T2: Trainspotting (dir. Danny Boyle) 2016

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Trainspotting was one of the best, if not the best, films of the 1990s. In an era of remakes, follow-ups and spin-offs, waiting 20 years to do the sequel was remarkably restrained. Getting the original leads and director back together led to huge anticipation.

It is great to see the four protagonists again, and all four are on top form here. Danny Boyle’s direction is great, playing homage to the original but making it modern and keeping it relevant to the 2010s. Edinburgh looks great in its extremes; futuristic and rich, old fashioned and poor. If anything might be a bit weak, it could be the story. However although all the individual parts are good, it never reaches the highs of the original.

It is a bit like meeting a wild old friend after many years; you look forward to it, you have a good night out, you have changed a little, they have changed a little, it is nice to see them, but ultimately you don’t have much in common any more.

Fences (dir. Denzel Washington) 2016

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Fences is a moving tale of a flawed character, beautifully told. The language and the acting are wonderful. It is no surprise to read that the play won a Pulitzer prize when it was first performed in 1987.

It is set in a poor part of 1950s Pittsburgh and it captures the generational tension of the time perfectly. The world that Troy Maxson grew up in is not the world his kids see and both sets of characters have difficulty realising this. Rose, his wife, spends her time making sure the two cultures don’t clash too badly; I almost felt that this play was mostly about her.

Denzel Washington both directs and plays the lead. His direction is good, he wrings the meaning and nuance out of every word. His acting is great, although, I think if there had been a different director to lead actor, we would not have liked Troy Maxson quite as much. I’m not sure we saw the nastiness, that the kids in the street ran away from, when he went out his front door.

All the actors in this film are great and really own the characters they play. Viola Davis is amazing as Rose Maxson, I can’t believe that this is not counted as a lead role, but I really hope she wins the best supporting actress Oscar.

George Best: All by Himself (dir. Daniel Gordon) 2016

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If you are enough of a George Best fan to come and see this film, the chances are that it is not going to tell you anything that you didn’t already know about him.

However, it puts all the information into one neat package and it tells his story in a balanced manner.

It relates his biography through interviews with people who were close to him at the significant points in his life.

There is archive footage of his best and his most important goals. There are newspaper headlines and film from the time showing the huge media pressure he was subjected to. There are extracts from many interviews he gave throughout his life.

The narrative is not judgemental and neither does it gloss over the less august moments of his career.

I like the way it just presents the facts and makes no comment either way, so if you want to know about George Best the footballer and George Best the man, this is the film to see.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (dir. Gareth Edwards) 2016

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I quite like the Star Wars franchise. I see all of them, but there are so many now and they are released in such a weird order that I don’t know whether this was a prequel to the first or the sequel to the third. Whatever it is, it is a very enjoyable stand alone movie.

I watched it in 3D in the I-Max in Waterloo. This is the largest screen in the UK, as they kept telling us, and although that may have enhanced the experience, the special effects are excellent.

Disney have taken over the series, so the aliens have become one level cuter, but this is a war film, so expect battle scenes. It’s not quite The Muppets remake Apocalypse Now, but a few more episodes down the line…. who knows.

I loved the strong female lead, Felicity Jones is great as Jyn. The storyline is simple yet strong, and the whole cast are very engaging. There are some funny moments in the film and the battle scenes had an interesting 1980s retro feel.

It has even been nominated for two Academy Awards, I hope it wins the one for best visual effects, they are very well done.

A very good addition to Star Wars canon.