Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Iron Man Three - My Review

I don't rate Robert Downey Junior and I hate Tony Stark.  I've never liked Iron Man and I never understood why everyone likes him.

But it seems that (shock horror) I was wrong.  Iron Man Three is a great film, on a par with the Avengers. Tony Stark has lost a bit, but not all of his annoying pretentiousness. The humanity he shows in this film unbinds Tony Stark from not only his over-inflated ego, but also his suit for most of the film.  This is what makes the film better than the rest. It seems that Tony Stark is indeed a real person, one who can be vulnerable and loving, protective and 'normal'.  The panic attacks he suffers in this film make him endearing and his not being in a suit for most of the film allows RDJ to show off his acting ability.  

And, James Badge Dale as Eric Savin!  Wow, I love him.  I have followed James Badge Dale's career for a while and I think he's a great actor.  His intense stare makes for a great baddie. Guy Pearce is strong as Killian and I think that Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts had her best film yet.

Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin was great, until the twist, then he wasn't.

The suits are cool, the destruction of Stark's home is stunning and I loved how Stark's suit was killing people before he even got into it. Some pretty amazing special effects really set this film up with the better superhero films. Special mention for Paul Bettany as Jarvis. We love Jarvis.

I hope they don't make another one. Time for RDJ to hang up his suits and go out on a high.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Political Drama, What Drama?

Now you’re an expert on Danish coalition politics to add to your knowledge of how a filibuster works in the Senate - how come you don’t know how Stormont works, who works there and why? 

Political drama on these islands has been in short supply. We tend to concentrate on comedy, satire and just plain poking fun at politicians and the political process. Why have our devolved Parliament and Assemblies not inspired writers and producers to tell us about the drama on the Hill, in the Bay and at Holyrood? Is it because we don’t find our own politics interesting enough or are we too cynical even to watch politicians?

Join the discussion with panel members to include Simon Heath, executive producer of the BBC2 series Party Animals (2007) which looked at young, ambitious people close to political power and starred Andrea Riseborough and Matt Smith. He is currently working on Line of Duty 2, soon to start filming in Northern Ireland.

Lesley Riddoch, broadcaster and commentator, thinks Scotland has gone a bit bonkers over Borgen. Having spent her pre-teens in Belfast she is always happy to come back and she has just started a PhD comparing Norway and Scotland.

Matt Qvortrup lectures in Comparative Politics at Cranfield University and is an expert on referendums; beng from Copenhagen he might be able to tell us if the Danes have gone bonkers over Borgen too. Having worked as a journalist at the Danish Parliament and published an official history of Danish Prime Ministers he can offer an insider’s perspective.

Tim Loane is a screenwriter, playwright and director. He has written award-winning political satires for the stage and his screenwriting includes being creator and lead writer of Channel 4’s Teachers, the political thriller Proof for RTE and the Channel 5 re-boot of Minder.

Neil McKay is the writer of numerous dramas including the BAFTA-awarding winning Mo with Julie Walters and Appropriate Adult and See No Evil: The Moors Murders. He also recently adapted Kate Summerscale’s best-selling crime story The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher for ITV.

The discussion will be chaired by Quintin Oliver, Stratagem, Northern Ireland’s first dedicated public affairs company celebrating 15 years in the lobbying business.

This event will take place at the MAC and is part of the Belfast Film Festival.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Our Country's Good at the Lyric Belfast Review

This year is the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Our Country's Good, the contemporary classic by Timberlake Wertenbaker. Adapted from the novel The Playmaker, which is based on historical fact, the drama tells the story of how convicts in the penal colony of Australia were allowed to produce their first play, The Recruiting Officer.

Our Country's Good makes a case for the revolutionary and redemptive power of theatre. The governor suggests that the convicts put on a play which, he believes will be beneficial to both them and their jailers.  The officers keep the convicts in their place with humiliation and punishment and are not convinced that the production will be useful. The prisoners are understandably suspicious. Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark agrees to direct the play and his journey towards opening night is difficult one, with the company losing cast members throughout rehearsals to disagreements, punishments and artistic differences. The reality of penal life, highlighting lashings and hangings creates a harsh canvas for Wertenbaker to build an often witty tale of discovery and understanding.

The Lyric Drama Studio under Philip Crawford's direction have yet again produced another excellent, thought provoking show.  The strength of this production is the raw talent on the stage.  The actors are well cast and their potential is obvious, with Rosie Barry in particular shining in her role as Dabby Bryant.  Carla Bryson portrayed Duckling with great ability and her strength as an actress is highlighted as she despairs over Harry's death.  I particularly enjoyed the convicts' treatment of Ketch Freeman, the hangman, as they spat on him everytime he spoke. Luke Bannon played this role with just the right amount of nervousness, the character's hesitant disposition underlying his determination and humanity.      

If the value of theatre is to confront, teach and captivate, then Our Country's Good succeeds. This is a great production with many stars of the future getting their first credit on stage.

Click here to watch Philip Crawford discuss the play.



The Man Jesus at the Lyric Theatre Review

Wednesday night saw the world premiere of  The Man Jesus at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.  A one man show written by Matthew Hurt and starring Simon Callow, the show tells the story of Jesus, from the point of view of various characters we know from the Bible.

Matthew Hurt's programme note says that the play is 'an attempt to peel away the the layers of assumption and the residue of mythology so that we can look into the face of a man'. Given the religious mythology that has been layered on the historical Jesus over hundreds of years, this is a tall order.

The stage is completely stripped back, the brick walls and fire evacuation sign giving a sense of stark bareness, of barrenness, almost of bleakness.  This allows the audience to focus only on the actor on stage and gives the feeling of the story being told in any space or time.

Each character portrayed is given their name in Aramaic, Jesus as Yeshua, Judas as Yehuda, Mary as Miryam.  While I understand the concept behind this decision was to remove the preconceptions an audience member may have, I found this confusing to follow and spent a lot of time as each character was introduced trying to figure out who the biblical character was.  Every character had their own accent, perhaps to enable the audience to differentiate between each.  I found this very distracting and would have liked to see each character presented with more physicality, removing the strong accents completely, and providing a completely stripped back portrayal.

Simon Callow himself is an amazing actor and handled the show well despite being ill.  His passionate portrayals and understanding of the stage is excellent.

The Man Jesus is a brave play which absolutely does present Jesus as a charismatic man, an important human being and as a radical of his day.  The play does not attempt to dismiss the mythology which has sprung up from his story, but looks at how his charisma, strangeness and different opinions affected those around him and describes how his magnetism encouraged people to follow him.

Of course, it should be noted that while Matthew Hurt attempts to strip the story back and remove the years of legend and layers of mythology, he uses as his source, the Gospels, which cannot be dated accurately and are anonymous.  Other Gospels were not included in the Bible at all. The Gospels are themselves a mythology and thus we can never truly know The Man Jesus.

The Man Jesus is playing at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast until 20th April.
Click here to find out more.