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Archive for the category “Reviews(ish)”

Hamlet, Almeida Theatre, London

As I said before, on Friday I went to see Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre in London, starring Andrew Scott. (Moriarty from the BBC’s Sherlock – which also means that I’ve now seen Hamlet performed by Sherlock, and Moriarty)

Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make of it.  I’m not even 100% sure of whether I liked it or not. I wouldn’t want to go and see it again – which is the usual final verdict one way or t’other – but I’m still glad I did see it.

In some ways, it’s very clever. It’s obviously been updated (or at least the staging has) with events being announced via a large screen, showing the coverage in a BBC News style.  Additionally, rather than being guards on the battlements etc., the the ghost of Hamlet’s father initially appears on CCTV screens in the security office of the castle.

In other ways, it’s rather less clever – or perhaps I’m less clever, and just didn’t get the relevance of things. Ophelia’s madness and grief are just thrown in, with no real explanation or build-up.  It’s handled almost an incidental, which seems odd when one considers how integral and essential it is to the final act.

Indeed, in a lot of ways there seemed to be the assumption that the audience were well versed in the ways of Hamlet – something I’ve found a couple of times over the last year or so, particularly with Shakespearean stuff.

I’m reliably informed that it stuck a lot closer to the original subject matter – I hadn’t appreciated how different some of it was in the Hamlet I saw with Benedict Cumberbatch last year – but that’s fine.  I do feel that I really should probably actually read the bloody play as well, and get it fixed better in my brain.

For me, the final act is a stretch – I’m never overly comfortable with the hysteria and overwrought reactions of grief and betrayal, and find myself left cold by it as a result.  That’s no criticism of the play, or of the actors therein, it’s just it doesn’t sit well with me.

So all told, it was a decent play and well done. I just still can’t quite put my finger on why I’m as ambivalent about it as a whole, though.

Mere, London

Last night, I was lucky enough to get to go to Mere Restaurant, the new restaurant venture from Monica Galetti, with friends.  They opened on Monday, and I’d managed to snag a booking for Tuesday – in honesty, when they’d announced bookings were opening, I’d set an alarm for that time, and got in as quickly as possible for a booking.  So – lucky, but also organised.

As I understand it, Monday’s launch was a “friends and family” thing – unless they sold out in seconds on the day bookings opened. So Tuesday was effectively the first ‘open to the public’ day.

We had the six-course tasting menu (and two of the friends had the accompanying wine flight) and it was all decently priced.  Obviously it hasn’t got Michelin stars (yet) but I’m willing to bet that it will have at least one in the next guide.

It’s hard to describe the exact cuisine type – Mere themselves describe it as “blending classical French with South Pacific influences”, I’d just say “Brilliant”. It’s a great restaurant space, quite designery, but it’s all been done to a theme, and it really works.

It was ace, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience. I’m already looking forward to going back!

Logan

As expected (and hoped-for), Logan turned out to be bloody good – and succeeded in all the aims that the writers and director had gone for.

It’s a superhero/comic-book film that doesn’t work to the normal stereotypes. Most importantly, it’s one where you don’t need to have seen any of the other X-Men or Wolverine films before seeing Logan. It’s more a stand-alone film that just happens to occupy the same space as some of those movies.

In many ways it’s actually more of a Western than a superhero film, and that’s no bad thing in my book.  They make a lot of connections with Shane, but it could just as easily have been Unforgiven. There’s a kind of bitterness to the whole film, both an anger at getting old, and an acknowledgement that it’s happened – and also a huge sadness about it.

In the case of both of the major characters, age is hitting the things they’re most valued by – Charles Xavier, always valued for his intelligence/genius, is suffering from dementia (among other things), and Logan’s regenerative ability is fading, leaving him sore, scarred, and hurting in ways he’s never had to get used to.

The next generation is ably served by Laura (AKA X-23), played by Dafne Keen, who is frankly awesome. She doesn’t speak for the greater part of the film, but the emotion and feeling she conveys in a glare and an eyebrow is nothing short of stunning.

Obviously, if you hate superhero and comic-book films, Logan won’t change your opinion.  If you’re open to them, it’s one that is well worth seeing.

Wicking Away

So yes, last night I went to see John Wick Chapter 2 at the cinema. If nothing else, it amused me that they were putting on the preview release of this on Valentine’s Day, as it’s just about the absolute antithesis of a romantic film.

I really liked the first John Wick film, which was a bit of a sneak hit that people hadn’t really been expecting.  It’s exceptionally violent – as you’d kind of expect from the basic premise of “a retired killer comes back to avenge the death of those important to him” – but also highly stylised and stylish, with stuff shown in ways that hadn’t really been done before.  It was also helped by the fact that the directors ( Chad Stahelski and David Leitch ) are both ex-stuntmen, who know what works and what looks good. They brought that experience and energy to the original, and continue to do so for the second chapter.  It also made a decent amount of money ($86m from a $20m budget) so a sequel was always likely to happen.

Wick 2 is written and directed by the same primary people (although no David Leitch this time) and managed to keep all the same primary cast, while also adding in some pretty high-powered names along the way.

Happily, it is just as insane and violent as its predecessor – if you’re not into that type of film, just don’t even contemplate going. I have no idea how it got away with being a 15 certificate, but it did, so there we go.

Again, it’s also hyper-stylised, with an individual style and look, as well as building up an ample mythology that will (I suspect) take it into a third (and probably fourth) film with ease. It also looks like it’ll do better than the original – at the time of writing it’s already made $44m on a $40m budget, and that’s before the UK release. Indeed, it only came out in the US on 30th January, so it’s had two weeks there, and made its money back already. Not bad going.

So yeah, worth seeing, assuming you like the same sort of ridiculous rubbish as I appear to…

 

Surf vs Turf, Blues Kitchen

Last night, I went with a friend to one of my favourite places, Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch.  I’ve been going there fairly regularly over the last eighteen months or so, but usually on a weekend. This time was different though – they had organised a three day “Surf vs Turf” event, bringing in the chef team from Extra Fancy in the US to ‘do battle’ with the team from Blues Kitchen, with a special menu (including cocktails)  to play with.

And it was epic.

Once it had been announced on Twitter, I had booked in straight away. For me, it was a no-brainer, I wanted to try it. And I am so glad I did.

As well as the food and drinks, it meant we got to spend time with some of the people we’ve been talking to on most of the visits, talked about what was good on the menu, what they should be keeping, and even got introduced to one of the owners of the group that owns Blues Kitchen. For me, that’s what makes Blues Kitchen stand out from every other place in a similar vein – the people make it, even more than the food.

Between the two of us, we had everything on the menu – including the cocktails. Plus a couple of things that were so good we had two…

I’m hard-pressed to even decide what the best things were – it was all good, and most of it was great. Hell, even the cocktails were awesome.

All told, a great night, and a type of event I hope Blues Kitchen repeat – there’s plenty of opportunity, with lots of different kitchens and teams that would be up for it, I’m sure.

Theatrical – Amadeus, National Theatre, London

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to see Amadeus at the National Theatre in London this week.  I didn’t know much about the play beforehand, or what to expect – I’ve still not even seen the film – but I really enjoyed the play.

What’s really interesting in this production is the way that the musicians from Southbank Sinfonia appear on stage alongside the cast, becoming key parts of the entire thing.

It didn’t (in my opinion) start well, with the first scene being quite confusing, and – as it turned out – pretty irrelevant to the rest of the play. But once we’d got past that small hurdle, the rest of it was excellent. A fascinating story of a man (Salieri) who believes he’s done a deal with God to become a musical genius, then is faced with a true child prodigy (Mozart) with a foul mouth and worse attitude, whose works are infinitely better than Salieri’s pedestrian efforts. Exacerbated by Mozart’s middle name being Amadeus (‘loved by God’) and seeing how Mozart’s ‘first draft’ writing of scores is immediately perfect (because he’s composed it all in his head and knows how it’ll look) he decides to resign his deal, and instead to wreck God’s plans by becoming Mozart’s enemy, knocking him down at every turn.

In many ways, it’s a very dark play, focusing on obsessions, revenge, jealousy and the like. It’s also very powerful, and covers a huge scope on the stage – sometimes it’s hard to watch both Salieri talking at the front of the stage, and see what’s happening at the back with the musicians and other cast members. While your attention’s on Salieri, you suddenly realise that all the musicians have moved – and sometimes appeared – without you really noticing, and for the sheer number of people that involves, it’s pretty note-worthy. (In that way it reminded me very strongly of Ariel in the RSC production of the Tempest that I saw before Christmas)

All told, I was really impressed with the entire production (excepting that first scene) and found it a fascinating experience. Definitely one I’d go and see again, if the opportunity arose.

 

Birthday Weekend – Aliens

For the birthday weekend, once I’d done Le Manoir on Saturday, and Dinner for lunch on Sunday, it was time to make my way down to the Royal Albert Hall, which was showing Aliens on a big screen, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing the soundtrack.

Aliens is one of my favourite films, and one I’ve seen far more times than I’d care to admit – both the original release and the Director’s Cut / Special Edition. But I hadn’t seen it on a big screen for a proper cinema-style presentation, and definitely never with a live soundtrack!

And it was great. I’d wondered how they’d do soundtrack/music from the orchestra while keeping the dialogue and other sound-effects, and there’s obviously been a fair amount of work involved in doing this. I assume that the music soundtrack is on a different channel (or whatever) from the other bits of audio, so it’s more a case of ‘not playing’ one track, but I don’t know.

Regardless, hearing the music live enabled me to notice bits I hadn’t appreciated before – subtle in the recorded version, obvious live – such as the drum roll that’s used for all the more militaristic scenes, and other small thematic pieces along the way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing – well, except for the seats, which were some of the most uncomfortable in Christendom – and now really want to see other films show in the same way. It’s bloody brilliant.

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