Monday, July 29, 2013

Comic Book Villain of the Week

The Mad Poet

A poet who gets, well, rather upset. Egbert Alvin Pfoe comes third in a poetry competition, coming behind his nemesis Marmaduke Spearshake and Mary Batson (aka Mary Marvel), who apparently just turned up for a laugh. Absolutely enraged, Pfoe draws a knife and tries to stab Speareshake in a fit of pique. Mary Batson rapidly transforms into Mary Marvel and shields the winner from the attack.

But The Mad Poet hasn’t done yet. Vowing further revenge, while talking entirely in rhyme, he shows up at Speareshake’s home, this time with a gun. Fortunately, Mary Marvel is there to foil his attack once again. She blocks the bullet and smacks Pfoe in the chops. 

The Mad Poet manages to escape once more, throwing ink into Mary Marvel’s face. Keen to put a stop to his villainy, Mary manages to track him down by going to his… err… house. Mary, not in her Marvel persona, is taken by surprise and captured by the Poet. He forces her to listen to his poetry, but she gets free. She smacks him around and takes him down, claiming: “Roses are red, violets are blue. But your eyes will be black, when I'm through with you!”.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Nice Graffiti

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Theatre Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Musical

With chocolate waterfalls, oompa-loompas, glass elevators, riverboat rides, nut-seeking squirrels and television lasers, the sheer logistics of bringing Roald Dahl’s confectionary-celebration to life could be enough derail any production. Yet it’s the one thing that this new stage musical gets indisputably right.

The huge scale of the sets in this Sam Mendes produced extravaganza are something to behold, and the frequency at which Wonka and his child guests move from edible meadows to chocolate rivers to gum laboratories is quite astonishing. Complete with dancing oompa-loompas – animated by fully-grown dancers – the scale and ingenuity frequently dazzles. The cast move so swiftly from one set-piece to the next, it’s hard enough to keep up while sitting and watching, lord knows what it must be like to be back-stage.
What a shame then that all this excitement is jam-packed into the second half. The whole first half sees proceedings stuck at the Bucket family’s junk yard shack. Excepting interruptions from the TV, which brings the other ticket winners into their home, we remain there exclusively, listening to songs that highlight their pitiable poverty but love for each other.

Yes, the songs are not great. They’re not bad, it’s just that they’re entirely lacking in memorable hooks. The performers are able to bring energy and life to them – especially the ludicrously talented youngsters – yet one can’t help but be reminded of certain songs made famous by another chocolate factory production…

The well-known Gene Wilder vehicle is like an elephant in the room; when Charlie finally gets his ticket, you can’t help but think “I’ve got a golden ticket…" Alas, the writers seem to anticipate this, and bring you right back to that dowdy junkyard house and dishevelled family for a much drippier song. It’s no surprise that the most memorable tune in the whole production is the one that’s in the movie – and they leave it right till the end too (it’s Pure Imagination if you hadn’t guessed). 

Flawed though it is, it is carried with a great deal of enthusiasm, and the kick from first gear to fifth in the second half certainly keeps it lively. There are no big star names (you can easily believe they blew the budget on the sets), though reliable Nigel Planer is there as Grandpa Joe. Douglas Hodge plays a more softly whimsical take on the legendary chocolatier, less hysterical than Wilder, less peculiar than Depp. He has a more gentle demeanour, with elegant gestures, swift lyrical patter and, crucially, just a touch of spite around the edges.

It’s just a shame it doesn’t add up to much. The ending feels rather tacked on after the whirlwind of changing back-drops. Like the disappointing Burton/Depp version, it loses the story in amongst the set-pieces, reducing Charlie and Joe to spectators who win the big prize by staying out of trouble. This, alas, is no West End classic. Dazzling, but falling short of greatness.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

June Film Highlights

I've probably mentioned the blog.

My Neighbour Totoro (1988) Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, Frank Welker. Dir: Hayao Miyazaki.
My Neighbor Totoro 50 Word Film Review


Two girls move to the country to be near their hospitalised mother and discover world of incredible creatures. Big warm hug of a movie; celebreates the pleasures and comforts of childhood imagination. Mostly plotless, it creates a feeling of wonder and enchantment and features some of cinema's most adorable creatures.


Much Ado About Nothing (2012) Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Reed Diamond, Nathan Fillion, Clark Gregg, Fran Kranz, Sean Maher, Jillian Morgese. Dir: Joss Whedon.

Much Ado About Nothing 50 Word Film Review

Beatrice and Benedick are constantly at odds, but can they be made to love each other? Many of Whedon’s favourite performers are given a chance to shine centre-stage in this smart, intimate adaptation that sells both the comedy and the drama, making the story seem remarkably fresh and enduring.


The Great Gatsby (2013) Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki. Dir: Baz Luhrmann.
The Great Gatsby 50 Word Film Review


An eccentric millionaire throws extravagant parties in the hope of ensnaring a lost love. On a basic level, Gatsby isn’t a complicated story, and while Lurhman’s razzle-dazzle bravura maintains a dream-like aura through first half, by the second it’s very much just the sum of its parts, and so long.


Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask (1972) Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, John Carradine, Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, Gene Wilder, Jack Barry, Erin Fleming, Lynn Redgrave, Regis Philbin, Heather MacRae. Dir: Woody Allen.

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex 50 Word Film Review

A series of sketches built around sexual taboos. Amongst the weaker of Allen’s early knock-abouts. Though significantly superior to your average sex comedy, is still very patchy with some very tired material. Certain sequences standout – the Italian segment and Wilder’s Sheep affair – others are less funny than their conception.


The Haunted House of Horror (1969) Frankie Avalon, Jill Haworth, Dennis Price, Mark Wynter, George Sewell. Dir: Michael Armstrong. 

Haunted House of Horror 50 Word Film Review

Bored suspiciously old swinging-London teens visit a haunted house and one of them is murdered. The teenagers are so tediously samey it’s hard to know who’s dead and who isn’t, which is unfortunate because all you want is for irritating bunch to get slaughtered. Alas, hardly anything bloody happens!


The Iceman (2012) Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer. Dir: Ariel Vromen.

The Iceman 50 Word Film Review

The story of John Kuklinski: a family man who was also a prolific mafia hitman. Shannon could pretty much read the phonebook and make it sound frightening. His intensity adds a lot to film that has a nice Scandi-esque cold sheen but is also undeveloped and hard to follow.


Populaire (2012) Romain Duris, Déborah François, Bérénice Bejo, Shaun Benson. Dir: Régis Roinsard.
Populaire 50 Word Film Review


A manager’s secretary is only good at typing, so he enters her in a competition. Easily overlooked as fluff, this is endearingly old-fashioned, not just in look, but in character-focus and uncynical romanticism. Predictable maybe, and faltering when looking deeper, its wit and charm make it worth ten-dozen bland romcoms.