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Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is a computer animated adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ comic series by Hergé.

Now keep in mind before you read this review that despite the infamous reputation of the Adventures of Tintin, being one of the most popular comic book series of the twentieth century, I was a complete stranger to the series prior to watching this movie, so this review is more from the perspective of your average film watcher than from the view of a hardcore fan of the series.

Tintin, voiced by Jamie Bell, and Captain Haddock, voiced by Andy Serkis, give us two entertaining performances in their roles.

That said, however, for what my view is worth; I found that The Secret of the Unicorn to be very good.

In a nutshell, the Adventures of Tintin is essentially a children’s version of Indiana Jones with plenty of slapstick and impossible cartoonish antics (though also with guns, chloroform and alcohol, so what I mainly took from this movie is that kids these days are pretty hardcore). The tone of the movie makes sense, however, considering that the original Tintin comics must have been the kind of adventure stories which Indiana Jones paid tribute to, making all the more understandable why Steven Spielberg was put at the helm of this movie. The Secret of the Unicorn proves that even slightly stereotypical ‘search for lost treasure’ plotlines can still be good when combined with well-rounded entertaining characters, outstanding visuals, a compelling script and amazing actors (with Jamie Bell as Tintin, Daniel Craig as our main antagonist, Ivan Ivanovich Sakharine and, of course, the always lovable Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock).

Johnson and Johnson (voiced by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are hilarious in their roles, though they ultimately seem pointless in the overall plot.

My only major complaint about the film would be that the side plot about the pickpocket felt a little inconsequential to the overall plot but even then, it was an amusing side story, giving Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (who played the two Johnsons) some brilliant dialogue.

In conclusion, I found The Secret of the Unicorn to be a great flick and I hope to see another Tintin adventure on the big screen sometime in the future.

Ah, now here is a movie I’ve been waiting for since my childhood!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a fantasy epic directed by Peter Jackson, based upon the book by J.R Tolkien and serves as a prequel to the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, which was also directed by Jackson and adapted from Tolkien’s middle earth best sellers.

As a lover of the original Lord of The Rings films (I was never able to properly get into the books) and having enjoyed reading The Hobbit in Primary School, I was very excited to see The Hobbit movie when it was first announced. Sadly, much like The Amazing Spiderman, the more I heard about the plans for the movie, the more I became fearful of the final product (seriously, do we need another trilogy to tell a story that was told in a single book?). However, all of these doubts vanished for An Unexpected Journey as soon as the film started.

Martin Freeman gives a brilliant performance as Bilbo Baggins.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is by no means a perfect movie. The film does feel slightly bloated, the pace is much slower than one might expect and it seems a little too kid friendly at times (shattering the mood of certain cool scenes). It is also hard to say that it is a better film than any of the films in the original Lord of The Rings film trilogy.

Overall, however, I thoroughly enjoyed an Unexpected Journey. The visuals were, as to be expected from the environments in Lord of The Rings, spectacular. Even the Orcs, which I was slightly disappointed to learn that they were more CGI animated than their Lord of the Rings counterparts, were still very well animated. The fight scenes were incredible, though some of the camera work was slightly clunky at times. The music for this movie was simply beautiful (which is why I’m linking the main theme at the end of this blog so you can marvel at it as well).

The main thing I really wish to comment on in this review, however, are the changes made to the original plot of the Hobbit. As one might expect, the film does contain a little bit of padding to keep the movie from going through the book too fast. However, despite my initial doubts on The Hobbit films becoming a trilogy, I can ultimately say that An Unexpected Journey does something so rare and so wonderful that I feel pressured to forgive it of all its crimes.

It is better than the source material.

Many of the actors from Lord of The Rings reprise their roles, such as Andy Serkis as Gollum, Christopher Lee as Saruman and Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey.

Now, before I get pelted with giant rocks of hatred and slander from huge Tolkien fans, let me first say that this is solely my opinion and people are free to disagree with this statement if they wish. I am also not saying that the Hobbit was a bad book. For me though, An Unexpected Journey, despite adapting only a third (about) of the original Hobbit story, manages to develop the characters and improve the plot of the original story much better than Tolkien. Whereas in the book, Bilbo’s attachment to the adventuring party is less explained and Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, comes off as just angry for the sake of being angry, over the film, Bilbo gradually becomes connected with the dwarves and his motivations are explored more than the book, where as reasons are also provided for Thorin’s hostile persona. Overall, I can stomach a few odd Radagast the Brown scenes, trolls acting like the three stooges and the odd Frodo cameo solely for that beginning section where we actually see Thorin’s ancient kingdom in its prime and Smaug’s breathtaking first assault.

In conclusion, I loved An Unexpected Journey more than I thought I was going to and I am now incredibly enthusiastic for the more news on the next film in the series.

Example of the film’s brilliant soundtrack:

Waiting for Godot is pointless. To say that I hated Waiting for Godot would be a vast understatement. I detested the play.

Waiting for Godot is a two act tragic-comedy by Samuel Becket and is about Vladimir and Estragon, as the title might suggest, waiting for their friend, Godot.

That is the play in its entirety: two men waiting for their other friend at a tree.

Personally, I have always believed that a skilled enough writer can make a good story from anything. Sadly, Samuel Becket is not skilled enough to do this and instead, Waiting for Godot comes off as a tedious blur of pointlessness. The characters are all fairly one note and bland. In fact, Vladimir and Estragon are characterised so similarly to one another that they could very well be the same dull person.

The dialogue within the piece also makes no sense. One moment, our protagonists are talking about religion and the discrepancies in the bible, which I will admit was slightly interesting. The next, they’re randomly discussing hanging themselves and getting erections as a result. No-one speaks like this! Whilst reading, I began to suspect that Vladimir and Estragon had just escaped from a mental asylum.

On top of all of these critiques, however, Waiting for Godot is a terrible play because nothing happens. Critics have discussed this to show the futility of life or even argued that Godot is in fact God (a theory which Becket himself denied). If this is the case, however, I have seen futility of situations portrayed much better in other plays, such as The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams and even in Held by Joe Ward Munrow which I reviewed last month. Why was the message more effective in these plays? Because these plays had plot, they had great characters and, to single out the main reason why I hated Waiting for Godot the most and the main reason why it fails as a play, these other plays were entertaining. At its very core, Theatre is an art form based on entertaining an audience. If a play fails to do this, then it fails on the very basic level, which Waiting for Godot does, at least for me.

In conclusion, Waiting for Godot is quite possibly the worst thing I have ever read and yet it shall colour my taste forever. From now on, I will look back on poorer books or plays I have read more favourably. After all, characters might be poorly developed and plots may have huge inconsistencies but at the very end of the day, at least those horrible stories tried to be entertaining, something which I cannot say for Waiting for Godot.

The Amazing Spiderman, a reboot of the Spiderman movie franchise.

This week, I’ve felt like I’m surrounded by superheroes. In Beyond Books, we’ve been studying comics and I’ve recently watched one of the newest super-hero blockbusters.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

The Amazing Spiderman is directed by Marc Webb (Irony anyone?) and serves as a reboot for the Spiderman movie franchise as a whole, following the mixed success of Spiderman 3, which was directed by Sam Raimi. I admit I was slightly excited to watch the Amazing Spiderman when it was first announced but after watching the trailer and hearing rumours of details to the plot, I slowly began to lose hope in the project.

Sadly, Andrew Garfield fails to come into his own in his role as Peter Parker.

Andrew Garfield  plays Peter Parker and, by extension, Our Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman, who is a fairly nice guy, if a little nerdy at times…

At least, that was how the original Spiderman in the comics and the movies is portrayed. Sadly, the Peter Parker that we see in this film is completely different from any Peter Parker we’ve seen before. Now, I’m all for change if it suits the greater good but sadly, the end result is much like the Amazing Spiderman as a whole, rather disappointing. Instead of being the kind but shy guy, Garfield’s portrayal of Peter comes off as far more artificial, ‘hipster’ (Peter Parker should never skateboard, ever!) and at some points, a mean spirited person. Of course, this is the fault of the script but Garfield’s lack lustre acting hardly helps the character.

Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone, is our web-head’s love interest during the movie.

In an attempt to ‘modernise’ the Spiderman concept and skim through his origins, the film suffers dreadfully. The plot feels far more rushed than the previous films and small strands of narrative barely manage to keep the film moving along coherently at the start. Important plot threads, such as the fate of Peter’s parents, are left hanging in the air, obviously serving as bait for a sequel. Even worse than all of that, however, is the fact that never once does Uncle Ben ever speak the words ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, the very words which define Spiderman himself. For a Spiderman movie, that is criminal.

However, despite all this, the Amazing Spiderman does have some saving graces. Where as there are annoying changes to Peter Parker’s character, Spiderman’s own character is completely preserved, more so even than in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy. Whilst Spiderman’s heroic nature is still retained, he also gains his usual sense of humour and fight banter. The secondary cast are also fairly strong. Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone, is a likeable love interest and Aunt May and Uncle Ben, played by Sally Field and Martin Sheen respectfully, are good in their roles. Rhys Ifan is also enjoyable in his role as Curt Connors/The Lizard, though non-comic book fans might be confused as to his sudden change in motives. The greatest surprise for me, however, was the portrayal of Flash Thompson by Chris Zylka, which I won’t spoil but simply say that it resulted in one of my personal scenes of the movie.

The high point of Amazing Spiderman, however, is the breathtaking action. Whilst the CGI Lizard looks odd at times, his fight scenes with Spiderman are, to put it simply and incorporate another poor pun into this review, amazing. Plus, it features the greatest cameo of Stan Lee, the creator of many of Marvels flagship superheroes, in any movie to date, in extension becoming quite possibly the funniest scene in the whole movie.

On the whole, Amazing Spiderman is not really detestable but it certainly is not all that good. It’s a fairly average and generic mess of a Spiderman film. If you want my advice, I suggest checking out the earlier Sam Raimi movies which, whilst silly, contain a lot more heart and do Spiderman better justice than his latest outing.

Last week’s visit to the Tate Art Gallery in Liverpool taught me a very important lesson about Art. Sadly, what I learned is that I and Modern Art just don’t mix well together. Everywhere I looked, I found myself merely riddled with confusion. I was not inspired so much as shocked that many of the products within the room could be considered art. Maybe it is simply the fact that I did not possess a passion for art before the trip, but personally, I failed to fully enjoy the visit to the Tate Art Gallery. Most of the art seemed far too pretentious to me and whilst I can’t deny the hard-work the artists might have put into their work, I failed to relate to much of the artwork

After some deliberation and consideration, however, I can’t completely write off the Tate as a horrible experience. There were the occasional pieces that I quite enjoyed, such as the artwork of Paul Dbraux’s ‘Leda’ and the photography of Richard Patterson in ‘Painted Minotaur’. I even took a shine to some modern art, such as Tower II by Richard Artschwager, which was a simple but profound symbol of human communication. The variety of types of art was also quite vast, which was at the very least reasonably interesting. For every piece of artwork I loved, however, I found ten more that returned to the usual pretence I had grown to expect during my visit.

Of course, that is not to say that the TateArtGallery might not appeal to some people. If you are curious to examine some of the art mentioned within this review or curious of what other exhibitions and events are going on at the Tate, then follow the link and feel free to investigate:

Held is the first play by Joe Ward Munrow

Held is the first play written by Joe Ward Munrow, a recent graduate of the Everyman and Playhouse Young Writers course. Held follows two brothers, David (played by Ged McKenna) and Simon (played by Alan Stocks) and their struggles in life, portrayed to us through their visits to their mother, Mary (played by Pauline Daniels) who is suffering from some form of dementia and is thus trapped within her own memories. Having rarely been to the theatre before to see anything other than musicals and also due to the fact that this was the writer’s first production, I was slightly worried about what I would encounter when I watched the play but I am proud to say my expectations were completely blown away.

The acting within the piece was incredible, especially when one coupled it with the unique twist on promenade styles of staging which often resulted in the characters sitting on different seats but having to still pretend that they were sitting close to one another. Pauline Daniels, in particular, gives an amazing performance as Mary, rarely having a chance to act alongside McKenna or Stocks due to her characters’ dementia. The glimpses which we do get into her psyche, however, are the most profound and heartbreaking moments of the entire play.

Munrow’s writing is also quite skilled, as he is able to switch tones fluidly from the humorous banter between the brother’s to the mature subjects of the play and the ever lingering problem of their mother’s illness. Simon’s speeches, in particular, were well written, if a little long winded.

In conclusion, Munrow has created a well refined tale of family and love which I would recommend to a heartbeat to anyone who has not yet seen this beautiful play. Whilst the window to see ‘Held’ is closing fast, I must recommend, dear reader, that you keep your eyes out for any new plays coming to the Everyman Play House Theatre and Munrow’s next endeavour.

To book tickets at the Everyman Playhouse theatre, go to:

If you want to follow Munrow on twitter, click here: