Star Trek in the Park (Aro)

January 17, 2017 at 8:13 am | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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It is the beginning of a new year, so it is time for Summer Star Trek.

This year they put on Journey to Babel – notable for introducing Spock’s father (Sarek)  and mother (Amanda Grayson).

This is the best production yet. The adaptation for the open format was very good, and the acting did not take itself too seriously, so it was fun! Spock and Kirk were borderline  parodies of themselves – just brilliant. The introduction of the actors shaking created a real sensation of movement.

As usual the pre-show was talented and enjoyable. The singing of ‘Star Trekking’ was done particularly well on the night I went.

If you are a Star Trek fan, this it is definitely worth a go.

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Le Ride

January 17, 2017 at 7:48 am | Posted in Film Review, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I went to see this film of  Philip Keoghan‘s documentary of his recreation of the 1928 Tour de France. The film tells two stories: the remarkable Australasian team who rode in 1928; and Keoghan’s ride of the ‘same’ route in 2013.

Keoghan is inspired by the 1928 ride of New Zealander Harry Watson and three Australians (Hubert Opperman, Percy Osborn, and Ernest Bainbridge) who competed in that year’s Tour de France. This was in a time when teams normally numbered 10 riders; the Australasians would have to work three times as hard on comparatively primitive bikes – they weighed twice model road bikes and the derailleur gears were still two years away.

Keoghan was so inspired that he decides to ride on the original route, to the same timetable – that is 28 days. Keoghan and his friend, Ben Cornell, procure original 1928 bicycles via the Internet, recondition them, spend at least a year scouting their eventual route, training, getting sponsorship, assembling a team of friends and family, and then doing the ride.

Keoghan and Cornell faced a number of significant challenges: the pair are significantly older than cycling professionals, they can’t train at the intensity and manner that professionals can, because they have day jobs; their bikes for all intents and purposes do not have gears; and there are only two of them, so they cannot rest at the back of a team.

The duo must cycle an average of 150 miles a day, if they are to complete the ‘course’ in the target time; some days they will cycle 200 miles; some days they will cycle for 23 hours. The 1928 route was a circumnavigation of the France’s borders, but starting and stopping in Paris.This includes a stage through the Pyrenees mountains and another through the French Alps! The duo did not take rest days!! they can’t ride the original route, because much of it has been turned into motorways; and despite scouting, getting lost seemed a constant threat. The duo are able to utilise the original start and finish lines. Along the way, local riders ride occasionally ride with them and guide them.

The 1928 era bikes weighed twice as much as the modern bikes that our dynamic duo are use to. The greatest physical challenge is that while the bikes have gears, to change gear requires the rider to stop, get off, detach and re-attach the chain on a different cog!

It is an amazing feat: two middle aged men of above fitness ride 3,400 miles in 28 days. Over some of the most physically challenging terrain for cycling.

It is a great feel good movie: a lighthearted documentary about the duo’s adventure; and a fitting celebration of the original team of four Australasians.

Swan Lake

January 10, 2017 at 2:52 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I went to see the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s touring production of Swan Lake, at the St James Theatre, in Wellington, last night. I took the opportunity to watch a traditional Russian staging of this iconic ballet.

The performance suffered a little bit from two things: no orchestra; and a small stage. Being a touring company, the St Peterburg Ballet tend to perform to recorded music – as was the case last night. By international standards, the St James has a small stage. While the Company must be very use to adjusting its choreography for a variety of stages, the smaller stage meant that some of the choreography looked a bit cramped; some of the larger swan formations were slightly compromised.

The lack of an orchestra meant that the ballet proceeded at a set rate. The was no conductor to adjust the pace to fit in with the audience’s clapping or the dancers’s energy.

The undoubted star of the show is Irina Kolesnikova; she is lyrical as Odette and fierce as Odile. The ballet comes to life in Act III, when she dances Odile – Rothbart’s daughter – at the ball. Dimitri Akulmin is Siegfried – the feckless prince. Akulmin’ Siefried is an adequate foil for Odile and suitor for Odette. But the duo only connected in the scene when Kolesinkova does her amazing 30+ fouettes.

Generally, the production was tidy, if a little clinical. The swan formations were most impressive: large, precise, and unified (in time and moving as one). The dance of the signets was the most staccato that I have ever seen – somehow each step was separate from the next – yet faster than I have seen before too; of course, the four dancers (Valeriya Andropova, Arisa Hashimoto, Olga Naumova, Anastasia Chaya) were wonderfully synchronised.

Two other dancers stood out: Seiyu Ogasawara and Saadi Imankulov; Ogasawara as the Jester, was an energetic, with all sorts of leaps and bounds; and Imankulov as the male member of the pas de trois in Act I, had height in his jumps, and control in his vertical 720s.

Being the Russian version, not only is there a jester – who replaces the Siegfried’s companion in western versions – but there is a happy ending! How happy? go see the ballet.

 

 

 

 

 

Rogue One

January 2, 2017 at 1:10 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Rogue One, or as I like to think of it: Star Wars III.IX (3.9), the other night.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

The overwhelming question in my mind was: “How many will survive?” Pre-release trailers show a small group of rebels stealing the plans to the Death Star – the plans ‘stolen at great cost’ delivered in Episode IV to the Rebel Alliance. The mission is a suicide mission -a forlorn hope.

Rogue One is a difficult film to make: it must fit within the canon of the existing seven films, and not constrain (nor contradict) the two remaining films. It cannot be a re-boot: so the clothes and technology must be exactly the same as Episode IV, V, and VI. This means that the the storm trooper’s armour is useless as ever: it offers no protection against blaster fire, offers no protection against blunt force, and offers no protection against fragments. Also, the storm trooper’s marksmanship is deplorable as ever.

Since Rogue One leads directly into Episode IV, some characters from IV need to appear in this movie – some of the original cast are still alive, and some are there is spirit through CGI. One day, not too far away, CGI will be so good, that once an actor has created a sufficiently large body of work – provided enough samples for the computer – the actor can appear in films forever.

It is not quite ‘The Seven Samurai’, ‘The Guns of the Magnificent Seven’, nor ‘Ice Pirates’, but it is close. A bunch of misfits lead by Jyn Erso (played ably by Felicity Jones), another misfit, leads a bigger band of misfits against the might of the empire – albeit composed mainly of inept storm troopers. The tie-fighter pilots are pretty good though. Despite loosely following a classic plot line, Rogue One makes a refreshing change from the cyclic repetition of episode III, IV, and V; and I, II and III.

So Rogue One  is the back story of how the plans for the Death Star were stolen; the back story of why Jyn Erso is the best operative to steal the plans is the real story of Rogue One. We see the forces unleashed at the end of Episode III continue to fracture the republic. The Death Star is intended to re-unite the republic and bring peace to the galaxy. The rebels disagree!

We see Jyn rescued from an imperial prison colony; a band forms around her; and then a one-way mission to a library archive! It is an information manager’s heaven – the rebellion can only be saved by ‘getting out the right book out’.

The are the obligatory gun fights and space battles; but there are many of the same elements as Episode IV: a switch, trapped in a passage with no other way out, fighter bomber runs on a heavily defended target, trust in the force, a talkative droid, Darth Vader walking through blaster fire (the Force works for him too). It is a prologue for Episode IV.

Felicity Jones is no longer the ‘chalet girl’, but she still wears a helmet, and she still has that determined look – just before the last run down the hill and about to enter the heart of the imperial archive.

As to how many of the little band make it out the other side: go see the film.

Suicide Squad v Ghostbusters(2016)

August 15, 2016 at 9:32 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I m comparing these two movies – a comic cast made real and a remake of a classic because I realised the only thing I want to talk about is  Dr Harleen Quinzel  and Dr. Erin Gilbert.

Dr Harleen Quinzel is better known as Harley Quinn – the Joker’s crazier girlfriend. Dr Quinzel appears for less than a minute, but she is the Joker’s psychiatrist, who after some serious mis-treatment, casts aside her lab coat, dons skimpy tight bright clothes, develops a fondness for blunt instruments, and joins ‘the darkside’. Margo Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn absolutely steals the film (Suicide Squad); in an ensemble movie that is quite a job. But Harley Quinn is the most interesting character; and Robbie, assisted by a rumoured rigorous pre-filming workout regime, and fishnet tights and skimpy sequin shorts, is a nerd fantasy come to life. Harley Quinn is crazy and zany and sexy and … and … and; the audience is hangs onto her every move and word –  wondering what she will do next. The romance between Harley Quinn and the Joker provides the bedrock of the film – Sid-and-Nancy meet Bonnie-and-Clyde.

There is something deeply disturbing when the glammed up abused white girl with violent tendencies character makes such an impact.

Dr Gilbert is Dr. Raymond Stantz from the original Ghostbusters re-written as a women. Kristen Wiig plays a dedicated women physicist struggling in a man’s world to make tenure. Erin, to her friends, eventually breaks out, when passed over, casting aside her tweeds for overalls, develops a reluctant fondness for proton packs, forms the Ghostbusters with her friend Abby Yates, and wrangles ghosts. Kristen Wiig has to compete for mind-share and screen time with Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth; its tough going. McKinnon’s character – Jillian Holtzmann –  is the more interesting gadget genius on steroids – looking like Scarlett Johansson meets Tank Girl.

Erin is much closer to the reality for many professional women. It is good to see her have some fun, and turn the tables a little on the men. She is much more PC.

Go see both films: if you don’t like chicks with attitude, Suicide Squad, has lots of bullets, violence and a killer sound track; unless you can’t stand the idea that a woman can do as good a job as a man, the Ghostbusters re-make provides a modern perspective on an old story, plus many of the original cast make cameo appearances. [I thought that they overdid this, and it made it hard for the older members of the audience to let go.]

 

Giselle (RNZB 2016)

August 15, 2016 at 8:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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The Royal New Zealand Ballet has re-staged it’s Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel choreographed 2012 production of Giselle.

There have been some tweaks – there is now a clever front projection to create the extensive roots of a tree that appear to move.

Lucy Green dances the part of Giselle. Her solo during the wedding was technically strong – all the pointe work was precise and steady; yet she conveyed the image of a young girl in love. She continued this mix of technique and artistry in the second Act – to save an unworthy Albrecht. 

Qi Huan, as Albrecht, reprising his role from 2012. Once again his leaps and jumps were breath taking high; his turns fast and precise. The struggle to dance all night was well conveyed. He got a well deserved big round of applause after an astonishing number of back to back entrechats.

Clytie Campbell was as Myrtha – the Queen of the Willis.

Ben Chown gave a good characterisation of the gamekeeper; he was the ‘country’ to the Prince’s polished. This was to foreshadow the final outcome when they were caught out in the woods after dark in the second Act.

A must see.

 

Captain America: Civil War

May 23, 2016 at 7:56 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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The third film in the Marvel Film-verse. This film picks up from the second film – The Winter Soldier.

This film is definitely worth seeing: its well put together; it does overdo the action (restraint in an action movie; and it raises a basket-load of ethical and moral questions.

The cast consists of most the those from the second film with some additions: Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), and Marisa Tomei (Aunt May). Of course Chris Evans (in the title role), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) return; as does Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), who’s character Bucky cause the big split-up.

Spider-Man  gets the shortest reboot on record – 10 minutes in his bedroom. Marisa Tomei was a surprise choice for Aunt May. Good luck to her and newcomer Holland in their upcoming Spider-Man movie.

I am not going to talk about the film, because the plot is available on IMDB. For a large ensemble film, it managed to hold it together – staying to a story that threw moral dilemmas everywhere. The film was over two hours long, but things moved quickly.

So the dilemmas:

  • Must one act within a recognised legal framework?
    • After all, such a framework grants a mandate for actions, and a form of oversight.
    • In a self-referential way, a legal Framework grants legitimacy.
    • All actions and collateral damage within the Framework is sanctioned.
  • Can a legal framework ever work against the interests of the wronged? Therefore, staying out of  Frameworks preserves the freedom to act for those wronged (or in peril).
  • Should one stand by one’s friends? in all situations? And by extension, are there times when the unity is preferred over all other considerations?

Steve Rogers (Captain America), Paul Stark (Iron-Man), and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) all fall on different sides of these dilemmas; and so there is tension, and ultimately fisticuffs! Honourable friends become honourable unfriends. How are they going to put things back together?

Worth a go at the cinema for the big screen and surround sound.

Scope – NZSD Choreographic Season 2016

May 22, 2016 at 5:03 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I went to Scope last night at The New Zealand School of Dance to see original works choreographed by the third year contemporary majors.

In a new direction from previous years, all of the works were staged ‘in the round’, and were danced, essentially, in one costume. The traditional presidium arch was cast off and there were 4 banks of seating – one in the corner of a not quite square rectangle. The dancers came and went from the four sides. It felt intimate and yet spacious (when the lights were up).

The first and second works had the dancers wearing a white base layer; then at the beginning of the third piece – Obelus – the whole cast lined up and their clothes were dropped to them from the catwalks amongst the lights. The first thud of a neatly folded package of clothes caught the audience by surprise. Somehow each dancer knew which package – a light grey sleeveless shirt and grey light pantaloons – was theirs and they left the line to retrieve and put on their garments.

So Scope:

  • Tropics – by Tristan Carter
  • []3 – a square to the power of 3 – by Christopher Mills
  • Obelus – by Jag Popham
  • The Private Sphere – by Isaac Di Natale
  • Atlas of Intangible – by Breanna Timms
  • Come Along and Feel the Kairos – by Samuel Hall
  • Blight – by Tiana Lung
  • Shaving a Cactus – by Holly Newsome
  • XXX <cr> XXX – by Jessica Newman
  • Temenos – by Isabel Estrella

Even though there were 10 works, the whole show had a coherence to it. There was also some innovative use of boxes and ribbons. There is also an element of the observer as part of the art work: if you sit in any of the 4 front-rows be prepared to be ‘invited up, to part of the dance !

Worth seeing.

Legally Blonde: the musical

May 15, 2016 at 12:36 am | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Wellington Footlights‘ production of Legally Blonde:the musical last night, at Whitireia Theatre (in Wellington). Footlights put on an entertaining musical version of the Reese Witherspoon movie. Directed by Ben Emerson, apparently, this is the first time this musical has been staged in New Zealand.

This is a morality play about hard work, not judging-a-book-by-its-cover, being true to yourself, etc. In the end the bad people get their come-uppance and true love will out.

Standouts for me:

  • Kirsty Moir is fantastic as Wood COMMA Elle – Elle Wood –a UCLA blonde sorority queen turned Harvard law student.
  • Karen Anslow plays Paulette Buonofuonte, a  hairdresser fated to marry an Irishman, and Elle’s  fairy godmother.
  • Uncredited person playing the UPS “I have a package” Courier, who Paulette ends up marryingHis sense of timing and delivery stole every scene he had a part in.
  • Stacey O’Brien as Brooke Wyndham, charged with the murder of her husband, and Elle’s client. If she really were to putout a workout DVD it would be worth buying!
  • The Greek chorus Brigid Boyle, Ellie Stewart, and Kree MacMillan.

I don’t know how Michael Stebbings found time to be the musical director and perform in Jukebox Heros: The Legends of Rock’N’Roll. Briar Franks has done a good job with the choreography.

A good two hours, plus, of entertainment.

 

 

Promise & Promiscuity

May 9, 2016 at 9:09 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A hilarious one-women play set in the Jane Austen Regency Period. I attended a sold out performance at the Circa Theatre the other night. The amazing Penny Ashton, played a multitude of characters, doing a number of voices and personalities, singing now and then (also as different characters), danced, and played the ukulele!

Ms Ashton has turned her novella (available on Amazon) into a one-women one-act play; or she may have turned her play into a novella.

The plot was very familiar to the audience: a pair of sister; living in reduced circumstances – as a result of their father’s poor decisions; they live in a little cottage; there is a wealthy neighbour; the neighbour has a wealthy stand-offish friend; and of course there is a ball.

Go see it if you can. Oh if you are a male, don’t sit in the front row, unless you can dance – Ms Ashton selects someone to dance at the ball!

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