Noah (2014)

April 26, 2014 at 7:18 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to this film was because it was by Darren Aronofsky – I liked Black Swan. What was he going to do with this biblical story?

There is a definite ‘green’ message: man is polluting the land and generally ruining through mining and industrialisation. God – the Creator – is going to cleanse the earth with a flood; and Noah must build an ark to save the innocent creatures.

There is the moral dilemma: if man cannot live in harmony with the planet, should the crew of the Ark be allowed to repopulate the planet with more men? Who is innocent? To what lengths should Noah go?

The film wrestles with the concept of free will. Is man inherently bad? or do men do bad things to protect those that they care for and love – like their family or their nation? Ray Winstone does a good job portraying Tubal-cain – the king of an industrialised and war-like people. Both Noah and Tubal-cain want to protect the ones they care for, but they end up at very different places – or do they? since they end up killing others. Tubal-cain is different: his approach is to take what he wants; Noah’s is to take just what he needs. Tubal-cain says: “to decide to kill someone and do it is to be a man”; Noah says: “to do what needs to be done is the mark of a man”.

Noah is played by Russell Crowe, and Naameh (his wife) is played by Jennifer Connelly. Connelly, gives a strong performance of a women torn between her love and loyalty to her husband, and her love and loyalty to her children (and their children). Coincidentally, Naameh has touches of Helen Benson, whom she played in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”; which also featured arks.

The film is often of epic proportions. The amazing flood scenes are possible only in an era of CGI – and very convincing. There is one scene reminiscent of Francis Danby’s ‘The Deluge’.

Coppelia (RNZB:2014)

April 25, 2014 at 2:20 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I saw the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2014 production of Coppelia the other night and really enjoyed it.

Martin Vedel has done a fantastic job; the story has been tweaked a little bit here and there, but it is still Coppelia – with the third Act retained. It is very much a ballet in three parts: down to the lighting, music and costumes. The general choreography is more to the Danish style – which given Vedel’s time with the Royal Danish Ballet School and Royal Danish Ballet, and the Company’s origins is perfect.

The first Act is lots of fast precise footwork. The lighting and costumes succeeds in creating a festival atmosphere in a peasant village. It is all fun and frivolity – just what you might expect at a harvest festival in Hungary. Mayu Tanigaito brings a bright mischevious perky touch to the role of Swanhilda. Alayna Ng playing the role of Swanhilda’ mother brings a number of (probably) unintended visual elements – she does look like she could be Ms Mayu’s mother and she looks like she might have stepped out of a Gauguin painting :-)!

Mayu’s dancing and acting are great; she is technically very proficient, and injects personality and character into her role. She is a perfect choice for the role.

The czardas – danced by Madison Geoghegan, Lori Gilchrist, Laura Jones and Kirby Selchow – are bright and a little saucy. Their red costumes, with match red-and-gold head bands, and red boots, looked like of what you might get if you dressed the Veela (from Harry Potter) in Wonder Woman outfits.

The friends – danced by Clytie Campbell, Abigail Boyle, Bronte Kelly, and Maree White – are by turns lead, cajoled, and flattered into all sort of mischief by Swanhilda. The dancing and acting of this group in interacting with Swanhilda sets the tone for the ballet. Act I ends with Swanhilda and her friends sneaking into the house of Dr Coppelia – to introduce themselves to the ‘new girl in town’; and her on-again-off-again fiance Franz (Alexander Idazak), using a ladder to climb up to the Dr Coppelia’s balcony – to checkout the ‘new girl in town’.

The second Act is darker and takes place entirely in Dr Coppelia’s workshop. Swanhilda and her friends discover that the ‘new girl’, who is always reading studiously in the window, is in fact a giant doll. In fact the whole workshop is full of dolls. Dr Coppelia comes in and ejects the friends; Swanhilda for some reason hides and stays behind. So she is on hand to save Franz from having his life-force drained from him and placed in a doll. Swanhilda manages to drag a semi-concious Franz out of the workshop, in the process she breaks the doll.

The beginning of the second Act contained one of the best use of contemporary dance I have seen. Maclean Hooper dances as a undressed androgynous doll – named aptly “Limbless”. It is both comic and slightly sinister.

The third Act picks up where the first Act left off: the festival draws to a close with various couples getting married. Swanhilda and her friends all get married. It is an opportunity to dress in white, for pas de deux‘s, for set pieces, and for solo’s. Ima and Zoltan (Clytie Campbell and Joseph Skelton) get solos – Skelton gets some amazing elevation. Some of Petipa’s characteristic choreography peaks through. There is a sequence where Swanhild and Franz, to show their joy and love for each other, do a series of pirouettes and jump turns. Vedel has a playful sequence which has Swanhida literal jumping into Franz’s arms – she lands in his arms in a horizontal position, chest out towards the audience.

Skelton and Idazack have excellent elevation in their jumps and great control in their turns.

Mayu is light and precise: her fouettes and arabesques are rock solid, and her sissonnes seem effortless.

Go if you can get tickets.

PS: The doll’s balcony is ‘stage left’.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

April 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I saw this the other day and was quite surprised by its depth and political commentary.

Warning: Plot details discussed.

Steve Rogers, Captain America (Chris Evans), is back; and he is having second thoughts. SHIELD is about to deploy a surveillance and anti-terrorist system with global reach – any terrorist can be located (by their DNA!) and killed (with a precise collateral free hyper round). Steve has the old “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” question running through is head, and he isn’t comfortable.

Of course Steve’s concerns are borne out and he has to save the world – again! An old enemy re-emerges for a second attempt at world domination. Natasha Romanoff, The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), is there to co-save – not even Captain America can be in two places at once.

Robert Redford makes a surprise appearance; and Samuel L. Jackson provides some continuity from the first film.

The action sequences are really good, the graphics great, the plot is rich and the deeper questions are there if you want. What do you do if the ‘wrong’ people take control of your overwatch system? Not very much! Better not to set up one in the first place. Transparency, not secrecy, is the watchword.

Evans and Johansson do a really good job of being action heros (true to their characters’ comic book origins), yet portraying lots of inner personal and moral dilemmas. Johansson gets to show off her physical and acting versatility. She really owns the Black Widow role – Finn/Hiller/John were spot on when they cast her for the role.

Worth ago.

Playshop Live

April 19, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to this regular Friday night live comedy show at the Paramount Theatre – well last Friday night.

It is an improvisation style of thing and its funny, live, unrehearsed, and has audience participation. It even has live music –  Amand Gerbault-Gaylor  on an electric keyboard. There is an MC – Samuel Phillips – to warm-up the audience (simon-says) and provide a bit of continuity between the various improvisations.

Each of the players took it in turn to do a short humourous monologue on a topic from the audience, then the four of them – Freya Daly Sadgy, ‘Lorry’  LeighOliver Devlin and  Jed Davies – and Sam pitch-in with some improvisations – all accompanied by Amand on his keyboard.

Laugh out load funny, at time riotous; worth a go.

 

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