Please leave all sanity at the door.

Waiting For Godot Review

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.

Amazing Spiderman Review

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.

Tate Art Gallery Review

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: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool

Held Review

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: http://www.everymanplayhouse.com/

If you want to follow Munrow on twitter, click here: https://twitter.com/joemunrow

Inception review

Warning: Slight spoilers ahead

Last weekend, I watched possibly one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen in my life for the first time. Because of this, I obviously had to write a blog to express my love for this amazing movie that I have heard so much about yet have never witnessed with my own eyes until now.

Inception is a 2010 science fiction action movie written co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan of Memento and the Dark Knight Trilogy fame. Being a fan of his Batman films, I was sure that I would enjoy Inception but I was unaware just how much I would enjoy Inception.

Upon further observation, Inception is basically your average heist movie. Our protagonists are hired to pull off a special job with high stakes. As one might predict, the heist plan that is carefully crafted by the smartest mind in the group doesn’t exactly go according to plan but through the various struggles of the operation, our protagonists ultimately succeed in their job and live happily ever after.

Or at least, so we are meant to believe…

Where Inception truly shines is in the way it completely breaks the mould of what a heist movie and an action movie should be. A brilliant example of this is that the heist plan is in fact not to steal something at all but to break into someone else’s mind and place an idea within their head whilst they are dreaming.

Despite being an action movie, Inception is by no means simple mindless fun. It is sophisticated and treats its audience as intelligent individuals. The ‘dream science’ of the film is presented to both to a member of the main cast and the audience at the same time and we are left, as the film goes on, to piece together. Admittedly, the mechanics of dreams explored in the movie are fairly confusing at times but this only lends credence to the themes of illusion and reality that are brought up during the film. The question of what is a dream and what is reality constantly resurface over the course of the film and in the end, we are given a choice on whether or not the main character has escaped to reality or whether he is trapped eternally inside a dream version of reality. In this way, Inception is a film that pushes the imagination of the viewer and tests their perception of the world. Admittedly, some viewers may not like this but I, for one, enjoyed the complex tone to Inception.

Another unusual thing that I personally enjoyed about Inception is that technically, the main character, Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is his own worst enemy. It is the memory of his wife, the symbol of his main regret in life, which serves as our main antagonist, giving true meaning to the term ‘Inner Conflict’ and allowing us to see the deep connection between Cobb and his late wife. The other characters involved in the movie are all likable, even the mark who was targeted for the job (played by Cillian Murphy), which was a nice change of pace from other action/heist movies where it appears the mark is always irredeemably evil. The action in Inception is entertaining and the visuals are simply astounding.

In conclusion, Inception is a true gem of a movie. I understand that it may not be for everyone, considering its very complex nature but I enjoyed it and it has now become one of my personal favourite movies.

Skyfall review

WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead

Skyfall is the twenty third James Bond film in the spy series directed by Sam Mendes and serves as a marker for the fiftieth anniversary for the franchise.

Honestly, I’ve never the biggest fan of Bond around but I generally enjoy the movies and something about Skyfall’s trailers sucked me in immediately and made me anxious to actually see what was going to happen. So now, for your eyes only dear reader, here is my verdict on the latest Bond film.

 

The plot begins, as one might expect now from a Bond film by now, in the middle of the action, perfectly setting up the tone of this action thriller. James Bond, codename 007, is on the hunt for a data drive containing the identities of British undercover operatives. From the very first scene of the movie, one thing is perfectly clear. The camera work in Skyfall is simply extraordinary. Unlike some mindless action films that employ a violent shake of the camera or rapid uneven cuts during the action, Skyfall’s camera work flows brilliantly from scene to scene, using a type of class that reminds the audience exactly who they are watching.

That is not the only strong factor of Skyfall, however. The plot is also worthy of note. Where as other Bond films have had Bond taking on cataclysmic odds against forces threatening to plunge the world into nuclear war or commit nefarious plans to break into Fort Knox, the plot of Skyfall is a far more personal problem for Bond. Admittedly, whilst Bond does spend a bit of the film travelling to exotic locales, as one might expect, the focus of the movie appears to be kept solely on MI6 and Britain in general. This change of focus, however, is for the better, allowing for a greater amount of suspense and drama through out the movie’s third act.

Daniel Craig is simply magnificent as Bond, perfectly capturing the spirit of the spy on her majesty’s secret service, but also expressing a sense of age behind his character that is integral to the film’s plot. Judi Dench is also impressive reprising her role as M for the movie, remaining extremely intense in the role through out her performance. However, my own personal congratulations are reserved for Javier Bardem’s portrayal of the film’s main antagonist: Raoul Silva (pictured below). In a film series which has hosted a variety of iconic villains, Silva still manages to stand out from the crowd because of the passion and enthusiasm that Bardem brings to his performance. The rest of the acting within the movie was solid as well.

 

Skyfall’s humour, I shall also note, is brilliant, bringing a smile to the face and taking a laugh from your lips without dragging you away from the plot. Not to be outdone by the comedy of the film, Skyfall’s action scenes are a true marvel to be hold as well. It is truly a rare experience for all the parts of one film to fit so beautifully together and work together to make the film itself even more outstanding.

In conclusion, with plenty of continuity nods for the veteran fan and a truly well written and well paced plot for the average movie goer, Skyfall manages to surpass all expectations, becoming a truly amazing film watching experience.

La Heine Review

There are few films in the world that I would say are masterpieces, considering the fact that I am not much of a film expert myself.

However, if I could be permitted to name one film as a masterpiece, a true classic, it would without a doubt be La Haine.

La Haine is a 1995 black and white French film written and directed by Matheiu Kassovitz. The plot of the movie follows a day in the life (technically, nineteen hours in the life) of three second generation French immigrants who live in a ‘Banlieue’ (a type of housing estate found on the outskirts of a city). As we accompany them in a trip through their world, weaving through the brewing riots in the Banlieue, we get an in-depth glance into the world viewed by the impoverished and the underprivileged waging war on a world where all the cards are against them.

The first thing I believe is worthy of note about La Haine are the characters. All of the characters in the film, even the occasional side characters, are well defined and all maintain a sense of individuality. Despite starting off as stereotypical rebellious and uncooperative teenagers, the three main characters, Hubert, Saïd and Vinz all develop beyond their initial roles, each becoming a likable and interesting character as the film progresses. Hubert, for example, is first introduced at his gym (which has recently burnt down) where he is pummelling a punching bag. At first, I suspected that this scene foreshadowed that Hubert was a rather violent and angry character. Surprisingly, this was not the case. Hubert shows the most maturity out of the three main protagonists, wisely picking his battles and aspiring to eventually leave the Banlieue behind and make something of his life. La Haine loves playing with expectations and I found myself enjoying the film because of its unpredictable twists.

(From left to right: Vinz, Saïd and Hubert)

It is through these well crafted characters and their seemingly aimless journey that Kassovitz is able to explore far more controversial social and cultural themes. La Haine, as the title may imply, is a movie about hatred. Unsatisfied at their treatment, the underprivileged riot against the police, which instils hatred on both sides. Interestingly, La Haine is not a film with clear cut heroes and villains. Both the police, rioters and, for that matter, our protagonists stand in a morally grey area. This further reinforces the main theme of the film, which is perfectly described by Hubert as being ‘Hate begets hate’. Kassovitz also draws attention to how ignorant the rest of the world is of hatred by constantly utilising the words ‘So far so good’, implying that as long as everything is going alright for someone; they don’t care about the senseless hatred around them.

La Haine is also a movie in which symbolism is used to great effect, though admittedly, sometimes I felt as if the film was trying too hard to get me to pay attention to the clever uses of its symbolism. Where as, in my opinion, some of the symbolism, such as the posters which read ‘The World is yours’ and the Grunwalski story contributed to the overall themes of the plot, at other times I was left jarred and confused by the bizarre use of the images (Vinz hallucinating about a cow was hilarious but also very distracting from the rest of the movie)

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed La Haine and would willingly watch it again. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, then I strongly recommend giving it a watch.

Reviewing a review: Marcus Sedgwick on Dodger

What makes a review a good review? This was the question that confronted me in my latest class of Reading and the World of Writing and thus, to see if I could identify these traits, I was challenged with actually reviewing a review (despite how confusing that would seem at first glance). Wanting to have at least some connection to the review I had to examine, I decided to look over a review on the Guardian website by Marcus Sedgwick for the latest book of Terry Prachett called ‘Dodger’.

Sedgwick’s review immediately started to hit all the right points for a good review by being fairly balanced. Whilst his review is positive and Sedgwick commends Prachett’s writing style and general wit, he also concedes that there are some minor factors of the book that do not live up to the rest of the book’s standard (‘Though the plot of the novel is relatively simple’). The language and writing style Sedgwick employs in his review is fairly sophisticated as well, matching the expected tone of what a Guardian reader would be looking for in a review, making it appropriate for the readership of the paper.

Admittedly, Sedgwick does spoil some facts about the book, such as the characters that are encountered and one particular twist involving the name of a character’s pet dog which would have been quite enjoyable to find out for myself should I have ever wanted to read the book myself. However, Sedgwick’s spoilers never stray towards the actual plot, showing that Sedgwick indeed does have some consideration for his readers and their possible interest in the book.

In conclusion, whilst Sedgwick’s review is not perfect, it was still a well crafted and fully thought out analysis of Pratchett’s latest work.

Review- The Library

The bleak scene which Chris Woods paints in ‘The Library’ is amazingly well crafted. This is mostly due to the sense of finality and closing which the poem creates through the use of such phrases as ‘shut at seven’ and hard simple adjectives: ‘closed’, ‘simple’ and ‘off’. The ‘lads’ drinking their beer, littering the empty cans on the floor in front of a centre of learning is a truly thought provoking image. The vulgar slur of ‘fuck off’ mentioned in the poem merely adds to the sense of frustration and pessimism Woods creates of a world which has forgotten the importance of knowledge. Woods appears to use this theme of ignorance in his other poems as well, such as ‘Radio Kid’, which he uses in the same vein as other more pessimistic or satire poets, such as Phillip Larkin.

Overall, in Laymen’s terms, I rather enjoyed it.

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