D4D

Like handing a monkey a sledgehammer and letting it loose in a bomb factory

Archive for the category “Reviews(ish)”

King Arthur, Legend of the Sword

Last night, I went to see the new Guy Ritchie film, “King Arthur – Legend of the Sword“. It is, to be charitable, a bit of a mess.

I wasn’t expecting high-art, or a high-brow version of the Arthurian Legends – it’s a Guy Ritchie film, so anyone expecting that would be sorely disappointed anyway.  But I was expecting a Guy Ritchie film – a significant portion of silliness, snappy and smart dialogue, and some impressive visuals/shots.  This is the man who brought us “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch”, “Sherlock Holmes” (and its sequel) and “The Man From Uncle” – all of which qualify on all those things, and all of which I like.

But this one…  well.

It’s got silliness – but in this case it veers more towards the ridiculous. Yes, ridiculous even within the pantheon of Arthurian stuff.  The mage-driven war-elephants larger than mountains were a particular “high” point in this. But at least they were visually impressive. Which leads me to…

Visuals – it’s got some gloriously shot scenes and set-pieces. But the rest is a mess. Even some of those setpieces, there’s just too much going on for it to make sense.  It needs to convey the speed and fury and chaos of battle – and in some ways I guess it does that, as no-one has any fucking clue what’s going on. But it’s also a film, and you should be able to at least see what’s happening.   There are bits that are visually brilliant, but then the rest just detracts from those pieces.

Dialogue – it’s got it.  But again, like the silliness, it feels forced, and it doesn’t fit with the characters, or the time. There are a couple of larger pieces that are definitely meant to be “Lock, Stock and Broadsword”, but they simply don’t work, even with snappy camerawork to accompany them.

Some of it may also be down to the cast – I like Charlie Hunnam in most things, but he does come across as being more of a supporter than a star. So having him as the main character doesn’t necessarily help things – but it does seem far more like the script is a complete dog-egg, and they’ve all just done what they can with it.  And if that’s the case, then it’s really Guy Ritchie who’s primarily responsible, as he’s the writer of the original screenplay too.

All told, the nicest I can say is that it’s a mess. Not one I’d go and see again, it’s fair to say.

Drinking and Don Juan

On Saturday, I went into London for the day. The primary objective was seeing David Tennant in Patrick Marber’s “Don Juan in Soho” at Wyndham’s Theatre. However, that wasn’t til the evening, so I had time to walk and be bad in the meantime…

So, having driven down to North London, I took the tube down to Old Street (which is the laziest I’ve been in a long time, as I usually only get to Euston then walk) and visited Blues Kitchen to try their new special.

Then a walk back towards Soho, and the newly-discovered joys of Chick’n’Sours, where I had their special of Bang-Bang Chicken strips, which is all kinds of awesome. And alongside that, a couple of cocktails – with hindsight, a bit of a bad move, but well, it was par for the course.

After that, it was time to meet the people I was going to the play with – first of all, M, and then (later) two of her friends. In between, we had another drink, and then when the other friends arrived, they decided they wanted cocktails.   I know just the place, said I, and lo, back to Chick’n’Sours, where a significant number of cocktails were consumed…

Before the play, we’d got reservations at Marcus Wareing’s new place, Tredwell’s, and so that was where we ended up next, and more drinks were had as well as decent food.  The final bill was higher than I’d expected, but I’m assuming that’s down to a) drinks, and b) possibly not taking advantage of the Prix Fixe menu.  (I’d need to go back in order to figure things out – I failed to keep the receipt, so can’t check , and honestly don’t really care all that much)  It was good though, and all four of us enjoyed it.

By the end, I was… somewhat the worse for wear, although not ridiculously or dangerously so. Besides, by the time we got to the theatre I was already sobering up.

The play itself was thoroughly enjoyable – as always, I didn’t really know what to expect, and some of it was a bit odd (small dance scenes and the like) but all told, I really liked it.  Tennant himself is obviously having a great time playing the vile and reprehensible Don Juan, and the supporting cast were all pretty damn good as well.  It’s on ’til June 10th, and I’d recommend it if possible.

However, the seats at Wyndham’s are some of the most uncomfortable known to man.  A two-and-a-bit-hour performance was more than enough time to spend with my knees wedged into the back of the seat in front of me.

And then, once everyone else was on trains back to respective stations and homes, I took some time to return to the station where I’d parked the car.  I was completely sober by the time we’d got out of the play, and the extra time/walking boosted that even further.  If I’d been in any doubt, I’d have waited at the car, or found somewhere to get some food.

Then a quick drive home, and all good.  All told, a decent way to spend a Saturday…

 

Less Massive

Well, that concert. It was good – it just wasn’t what was advertised.

As I said on Friday, it had been promoted as playing the whole of “No Protection”, with live dubbing. Which would’ve been fine, and was entirely what was expected.

Instead, while a fair amount of the album was played, there was also a lot of other new stuff, and really it was more of a normal/standard gig, rather than the presentation of a particular piece of work.

In fairness, if it had been promoted as “just” a Mad Professor gig, I’d have still got the ticket, and still gone to the gig.  It’s just that it was promoted as one thing, and turned out to be something else.

I’ve got in touch with Archspace about it, and it’ll be interesting to see what their response is to the entire thing.

All told, I’m still glad I went. I just wish it had been what they’d said it would be.

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…

 

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