Categories
cinema film Manchester preview Preview/review The Arts

Film Preview: Military Wives

I will be honest, and I don’t mean this to be offensive to any film that is based on a true story about real people, with real life events and feelings, but I generally, and admittedly cynically, run a mile from anything that has a whiff of ‘feel-good’.

But I’ll happily (yes i can do happy) admit upfront that this film actually made me feel good. Very good.

Credit: Lionsgate UK

Starring the wonderful Sharon Horgan alongside the equally wonderful Kristin Scott Thomas, Military Wives is inspired by the true story of the world’s first military wives choir, and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Peter Cattaneo.

Credit: Lionsgate UK

Read my review of Military Wives on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/02/29/review-military-wives/

Now in cinemas across Greater Manchester, including:

Everyman Manchester

Vue Cinemas

Odeon Manchester

Categories
cinema Culture film Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts

Film Review: Greed

As a child i was terrified of the poem, The Lion and Albert, by Marriott Edgar.

Set at a ‘famous seaside place called Blackpool’, it was all literally a bit close to home for me (growing up in a small village about 3 miles out….)

It still haunts me. Anyway, I’ll just leave that here for now.

Michael Winterbottom’s Greed tells the story of self-made British billionaire, Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan), whose retail empire is in crisis.

Copyright: Sony Pictures

What better way to save his flailing reputation and dwindling finances than the 60th birthday party to end all parties on the island of Mykonos.

Copyright: Sony Pictures

Go big or indeed go home (that lion though…)

Read my review of Greed on my sister blog What the Projectionist Saw – https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2020/02/21/review-greed/

Opening in cinemas across Greater Manchester from 21 February 2020 including:

https://homemcr.org/film/greed/

https://www.myvue.com/film/greed

https://www.everymancinema.com/film-info/greed

Categories
cinema Culture Events film Manchester News Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts

News: HOME brings in 2020 with a retrospective of award-winning Mancunian screenwriter, Robert Bolt

I’m currently trying my hand at screenwriting (under the excellent tutorage of Scriptwriting North), love a regular visit to HOME and dip my toe in the world of film both here and over at What the Projectionist Saw

So battling my way through a frankly annoying barrage of emails in my inbox about Black Friday,  there was only one missive which caught my eye and promised me the ultimate gift (and not a BF reference in sight – a GOOD thing).

HOME are seeing in 2020 with their annual British Screenwriters season, 5-22 January, and there’s a mancunian cherry on the cake.

Manchester-born and educated Robert Bolt will be the subject of a celebrated season of works including the infamous and frankly quite epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr Zhivago (1965).

Happy new year to us!

Curated by Andy Willis, HOME’s Senior Visiting Curator: Film and Professor of Film Studies at the University of Salford, the season will screen three of Bolt’s award-winning collaborations with Lean: Lawrence of Arabia, recipient of seven Oscars in 1963 including Best Film and Best Director, with a Best Screenplay nomination for Bolt; Doctor Zhivago, which won Bolt his first Oscar and Golden Globe; and Ryan’s Daughter (1970), a double Oscar-winning epic romance set against a backdrop of war and political turmoil.

Also screening is the 1966 screen adaptation of Bolt’s internationally successful stage play of the same name, A Man for All Seasons, with Paul Scofield reprising his West End and Broadway role as Sir Thomas More – for which he was awarded an Oscar – alongside a cast including Robert Shaw, Orson Welles, Vanessa Redgrave and John Hurt and directed by Hollywood veteran Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, From Here to Eternity). Rounding off the season is Bolt’s final film, The Mission – the haunting, epic tale of a missionary in 18th-century South America starring Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons and directed by Roland Joffé – winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival as well as a final Golden Globe for Best Screenplay for Bolt.

Curator Andy Willis heads up proceedings with a special One Hour Intro about Bolt and his career, commenting…

Bolt is a true Manchester success story – born in Sale and educated in Manchester, he studied at Manchester University before and after serving in World War II. We’re excited to be celebrating this brilliant writer who enjoyed critical and commercial success across such a vast range of theatre and film writing, and possessed a true knack for making history contemporary and tackling moral issues dramatically.

For more details including the full programme list and to buy tickets, head to the HOME website at https://homemcr.org/event/british-screenwriters-robert-bolt/

Categories
Current affairs film Manchester Popular culture preview The Arts

Pavement – Manchester film about homelessness launches crowdfunder

It’s a topic that is never far from our minds (or sight) in Manchester: homelessness.

Indeed it was only Sunday that I attended the play ‘Frozen Peas in an Old Tin Can’, about three rough sleepers – Review: Frozen Peas in an Old Tin Can (Greater Manchester Fringe) – raising both money and awareness of the issue.

I’m happy to learn and impart that another creative is using their platform to do the same.

Pavement is a modern-day parable about homelessness, from Manchester based writer/director, Jason Wingard, and featuring Steve Evets (Looking for Eric) and Liz White (Life on Mars), with filming taking place on location at the Manchester Metropolitan University Brooks Building.

After a decade of making award-winning short films and, most recently, two fantastic feature films, In Another Life and Eaten by Lions, Jason Wingard has been tempted back to making shorts with the creation of this new film about a homeless man sinking into the pavement.

The use of the word surreal to describe the film suggests this may be literally as well as perhaps metaphorically.

Whilst an initial injection of funding by The Uncertain Kingdom kick started the project, the challenge for Wingard and his crew is to make the film on a shoestring budget of £10,000 (£20,000 having been spent – the aim being to recoup back half), with all extra funds  being donated to two Manchester charities Barakah Food Aid and The Mustard Tree.

Both organisations support local people in poverty and tackle the issues of homelessness.

Writer/Director, Wingard, says

This was an incredibly humbling experience and resorted our collective belief in human kindness. 320,000 people in Britain are now homeless and numbers keep rising. Our film tackles this dreadful statistic in a unique way.

You can help Wingard and Producer, Hannah Stevenson, smash their crowdfunding target and raise as much money as possible for these local charities by visiting the crowdfunding page in this link: www.indiegogo.com/projects/pavement

Further information about the charities below:

http://www.mustardtree.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/BarakahFoodAid/

 

 

Categories
cinema Culture Manchester Popular culture Preview/review The Arts

Review: Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

My mum told me this story of being at the cricket at Old Trafford.

Frank Sidebottom had made a glorious appearance (actual Frank – there were many pretenders to the papier-mâché head aesthetic with ‘hilarious’ consequences…)

In fact in Being Frank… John Thomson tells us of Chris Sievey getting out a scrap book he kept at home, of pictures of fan tribute Franks. Terrible, terrible, brilliant tribute Franks.

Some with square heads.

There was only one Frank and that was Chris Sievey (on this occasion, being ejected from Old Trafford for causing a distraction, prompting the ground to erupt in a chant to get him back).

It’s not even my anecdote.

Another is when a friend of a friend went to see Frank perform in a pub, leaving a bag of CDs out on the table (it was the 90s, we bought bags of CDs), only for Frank to casually swipe them on his way past. Said friend of friend never saw them again (it’s ok, it was a cold day in hell when HMV didn’t have a cheap offer on, on CDs).

Again not my anecdote.

They’re not even salacious, exciting, dramatic anecdotes. Just normal ones. But they’re mine (well, not mine).

If you want some others, look to Director and Producer, Steve Sullivan, and the family, friends and acquaintances of one Chris Sievey – the man beneath (in?) the head.

Chris Sievey passed away in 2010 and left behind not just memories of some brilliant, silly, smart, daft, wonderful performances as Frank, but an attic full of notebooks, records, tapes, art and home movies.

I went to see Being Frank previewed at HOME Mcr a few weeks ago and spent 100 minutes that Thursday morning, catapulted into the world of Frank Sidebottom and, indeed, the somewhat lesser known but equally if not more ludicrously fascinating world of Chris Sievey.

Punctuated by previously unseen footage of home videos, art, music and memorabilia, we hear people speak with love, warmth, raw honesty, sometimes sorrow but mostly with laughter, of the person who was a one-man band of creativity and energy.

I sat there and laughed until I cried. Fancy crying on a Thursday morning in t’pictures. Pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

Frank Sidebottom was and is legendary in these here parts of the North West. And getting to know the brilliant Chris Sievey more only enriches your love for Frank.

Find out:

  • What scuppered Chris getting on TOTP with band, The Freshies,
  • Why his ex-wife ended up having to take the home phone off the hook,
  • What Chris and Bob the Builder have in common; and
  • Just what happened to the head of Little Frank’s girlfriend…it’s dark (it’s not)

By the time, the first time (and only time) we see Chris emerge from within ‘the head’ you won’t be shocked.

Oh hi Chris

(If you know, you know)

You’ll have come to know them as one of the same (although I must be the only person on earth not to have figured out the method behind the voice…)..

With contributions from Jon Ronson, John Cooper Clarke, John Thomson, Johnny Vegas and some other people not actually called John or variations thereof (Mark Radcliffe), it’s a poignant, brilliant, silly, moving, wonderful journey into the head of Frank, the mind of Chris and, well, Timperley.

I do declare it to be the antithesis of bobbins.

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story is out this Friday 29 March, at HOME Mcr and in cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland.

Categories
cinema Culture Events Manchester News Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Head HOME for Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and so on and so forth.

In fact, let us not mess around.

Let’s just go straight to Chris Rea. Ish.

Because this year, Mancs, Honorary Mancs, Visitors to Manc…

I’m going HOME this Christmas…

Why, you ask? Well I can’t wait to see those faces.

Whose, you ask?

Well everyone who frontline works there from Box Office to Bar. But of equal measure, I can’t wait to see some of the films and theatre productions that HOME Mcr are treating us to this yuletide season. Because, frankly readers? We’ve all been very good and have swerved the naughty list.

First up, At Home in the 80s.

I love three things (I mean I love more but for the purposes of the here and now, I love three):

  • Being at HOME
  • Christmas
  • The 80s

And so those clever people combine all three with their season of films inspired by this devastatingly brilliant decade.

Image courtesy of Park Circus/Disney

We all live for nostalgia at Christmas and these films deliver it in spades:

  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?;
  • An American Werewolf in London;
  • This is Spinal Tap (watch out for more on this on sister blog What the Projectionist Saw;
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark;
  • Bill and  Ted’s Excellent  Adventure; and
  • Heathers.

Image courtesy of Park Circus/StudioCanal

We love the 80s and this is the only decade to bring us significant films.

Hey, who said that? HOME and I beg to differ. What about the era of slapstick?

Guess what, reader, HOME are bringing this to us as well with a season of Slapstick featuring the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and The Marx Brothers in:

  • A Night at the Opera;
  • One Week/Sherlock Jr – a Buster  Keaton double bill accompanied by live musicians HarmonieBand; and
  • Modern Times – again, watch out for feature on film blog What the Projectionist Saw, coming to a screen near you…

For full film listings head to www.homemcr.org/cinema

I love slapstick and I love HOME. But is there a second cultural medium bringing the two concepts together? I hear you ask (you’re saying a great deal today, reader).

Why yes! HOME may be inviting you into their intimate grown up cinemas this Christmas, but they haven’t shut up shop at their theatre spaces.

For older children (and adults), the Dutch musical explosion that is Slapstick (anyone know how to do an umlaut on a laptop – anyway there should be two dots of the ‘a’), hits HOME, with an ode to the timeless comedy of Messrs Chaplin, Keaton, Marx, Laurel and Hardy, with five world class performers combining musicianship, mayhem and physical comedy to bring a show that will mesmerise from start to finish. Running from 13-22 Dec.

For the little Mancs, Honorary Mancs, Visitors to Manc, (let’s say between the ages of 2-4)there is the delightful White, a fully immersive show where the little ones sit on bean bags in a magical white tent and hear the story of two friends in a magical white world whose job it is to watch over the birds and their precious eggs. Sarah Jessica Parker described the show as

One of the greatest experiences of a lifetime and the best 40 minutes of my life.

and you can’t argue with SJP. Running from 13-23 Dec.

And so we have it, for all details of dates, tickets and the venue itself, head to www.homemcr.org

For Christmas, there’s no place like HOME (I know it’s twee, but it works so…)

Categories
cinema Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts

‘Mandy’ at HOME Mcr

Earlier in the week I told you about the brilliant FilmFear season at HOME Mcr until 31 October 2018.

Review on Mandy now in on sister blog What the Projectionist Saw and all I will say is two words: Nicolas Cage….

https://whattheprojectionistsaw.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/mandy-how-happy-you-made-me/

Next showing at HOME on Monday 5 November and Friday 9 November.

Categories
Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Madama Butterfly 🦋 Fatal Passions and Attraction

I last wrote about this topic (in more detail)in my dissertation in the year cough cough etc.

You understand my entire dissertation wasn’t based on Michael Douglas but a small portion of it. I don’t have a degree in Michael Douglas.

I focussed on the femme fatale on film and how feminist theory has been applied on celluloid.

Have that, eh?

It was the lovely Glenn Close in the fantastically, ferocious Fatal Attraction who my attention was focussed on in part of my fancy pants essay. And whilst there are both implicit and hugely explicit parallels to be drawn and homages to be noted between Fatal Attraction and Madama Butterfly, I think that a little of the huge sympathy audiences have for our female protagonist in the latter should also be reserved for her or the former.

I’ll get to it.

Madama Butterfly is my favourite opera. Hands up I haven’t seen ALL of the operas. I work full time and have two cats to deal with. But it is a story and a score I’ve returned to theatres to see multiple times – once through the medium of ballet (those on stage, I mean, I didn’t go pirouetting off to the Opera House).

Last Tuesday I was invited to the opening night of Madama Butterfly at The Lowry Theatre.

My heart leapt in anticipation of what I knew would be a roller coaster of emotions throughout the performance from drama queen over here.

Opera North did duly take me on that ride and tears did duly flow.

You can read more here but, to summarise, Madama Butterfly 🦋 is a tale of the romance between Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese girl and geisha who falls for the promises made, by visiting American naval officer Pinkerton, and agrees to marry him. This is to the chagrin of her family who are horrified that she is prepared to sacrifice her ancestral religion and embrace Christianity.

Pinkerton is going into the marriage for what he can’t be sure is love or a whim ‘someday I will take a real American wife’, but worries not, given that he is returning to American for an undisclosed period of time.

Three years pass and Butterfly still waits for her husband, and it is revealed that her marriage brought her a son. Together they wait for Pinkerton to return. Return he does, but with the ‘real’ American wife he always intended, here for the child, not Butterfly.

Devastated, Butterfly agrees, with what would be her penultimate sacrifice, the final being her life, using the dagger which took her own father’s life.

With a rousing score by Puccini which devastates me as much as the story playing out, there isn’t a performance goes by of this wonderfully sad story that doesn’t leave me in tears and as said Opera North’s was no exception, with a wonderful orchestra conducted by Martin Pickard.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, the production was set in the home of Cio-Cio San (Ann Sophie Duprels) which was simply designed with what you might describe as typically Japanese minimalism, allowing the eye to focus on the players and drama ensuing within – not that you would need encouragement to do so.

Along with Merunas Vitulskis (Pinkerton) and Ann Taylor (loyal maid Suzuki) and all the players, I was mesmerised by the passion and emotion displayed through the vocals, body language and even periods of abject silence (the devastating scene as Cio-Cio San waits at the harbour with her son, to no avail).

The audience’s heart strings are tugged to breaking point by Cio-Cio-San’s sorrow and so I return to Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest, in Fatal Attraction.

There are immense parallels, as said some obvious (Alex playing Madama Butterfly at her home as she cooks newly acquainted married lover Dan Gallagher (Douglas) dinner, later trying to make nice by buying them two tickets to said opera.

There is even a nod (bow?) to Japanese culture in early scenes where Dan and Alex’s paths first cross at the launch for a Japanese self-help book.

Everything in Alex’s home is white, crisp, clean simple lines. Her father is dead (there is a double bluff where she proclaims him to be dead from a heart attack when Dan feigns collapse, only to then reveal she is joking and he is very much alive – Dan later learns he is in fact dead). She is spurned by her lover who has an American wife and child (to be fair to Dan, Alex knew of this from the off). However it’s the role that Alex doesn’t have, hers being that of the other half of a two night stand whilst Dan’s wife is at her parents.

There is a child (unborn) that Dan rejects upon being given the news that Alex is pregnant (immediately offering her money to abort). The (unsuccessful) suicide attempt as Alex slashes her wrists when realising that Dan is going to immediately return to his family set-up, their ‘love’ affair lasting only a weekend.

Alex is spurned by her lover but he is not her husband. He belongs to another and was never hers to begin with. Cio-Cio-San was lead to believe Pinkerton was hers and whilst both women are spurned, the latter is wholly more naive to reality than the former.

However, who can fail to be moved by the scene in Fatal Attraction where on the night of the opera performance that Alex had tickets to, she sits on the floor at home turning the lamp on and off rhythmically to the desperate strains of Puccini’s score, face frozen in an expression that is both despair and rage.

It’s terrifying and we’re all cheering Alex’s downfall in the end (not in support of Dan, it has to be said, but his ever so lovely wife Beth (Anne Archer). But shouldn’t we reserve a little of our sympathy for Alex?

She may not have had the naivety of Cio-Cio-San and her reaction to rejection may have been somewhat more outwardly facing than self-destructive, but there are definite parallels to be drawn.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Or as originally written…

Heav’n has no Rage, Like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d…

We all focus on the fury but rarely the scorn. In both stories, both women scorned suffered fatal consequences, one more directly, one indirectly, by their one hands as a result of their reactions.

Madama Butterfly, a beautifully sad story that must be seen and also heard, not least by Opera North.

Part of the Fatal Passions season at The Lowry there’s that F word again), you can see further Opera North productions such as Saloma at the theatre through to April.

Categories
Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

All aboard for Brief Encounter – destination West End, first stop Salford…

I’ve been commuting since I was 12 years old, getting the bus to school, 2.9miles away (that 0.1 is very important given that it disqualified me from the free bus pass that the elusive and illustrious 3 mile commute brought you).

Buses gave way to trains once starting uni and then work, and I seriously think after daily commutes including Leeds, Liverpool and Wigan from the Manchester ‘burbs, I should be decorated with some sort of honour – bravery through adversity or something…

These days I’m back working in Manchester city centre, delivered there through the medium of tram.Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love them, they are not without their issues and, as with most commutes, the issues are the other people Recognise the Tram Tribes?

And so, we come to Brief Encounter, one of my favourite stories and films.Noël Coward’s story and 1945 film directed by David Lean, tells the story of two commuters who meet by chance in a station waiting/tea room.

In roles made famous by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, He a doctor, removes something from her eye. She, a housewife, lets him.

And so, a love affair begins, made ever more powerful that…(Spoiler Alert – scroll below the train if you haven’t seen the film)


***…it remains unconsummated before both parties go their separate ways, back to their spouses, children and lives; she in 1930s surburbia, he in a hastily yet convenient decision and opportunity to work out in South Africa.***


Now don’t get me wrong, very happily paired up with my plus 1, I’m not seeking out my own station tea room tryst (aka Starbucks), but there is something romantic about the train station (stop picturing Piccadilly Station, naysayers). People being reunited, saying goodbye…and, in this case, meeting for the first time.

If you haven’t already, go forth and watch the film.

But enough of the original source and basic premise, this week (20-24 February 2018), the North West is being treated to an original take on Brief Encounter as brought to the Lowry Theatre, Salford by company Kneehigh Theatre.

Like nothing I’ve seen before, the award-winning production, is adapted and directed by Emma Rice, and produced by David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers, Jenny and Steve Wiener and The Old Vic.

It brings together a stellar cast who deliver energetic performances non-stop, from their interactive relationship with the audience from before curtain up (keep your ears open and your eyes peeled) to curtain down.

(Jim Sturgeon as Alec and the full cast, credit: Steve Tanner)
(Dean Nolan as Fred and Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)

Between them they bring the music, the singing, the acting, the props, the almost tongue in cheek special effects, and the laughter.

(Jos Slovick as Stanley & Beverly Rudd as Beryl, credit: Steve Tanner)

You may be surprised about the laughs. Admittedly there are more than in the more emotive film version of the story, but it’s important to remember the light relief brought by characters Albert Godby, Myrtle Bagot and Beryl Walters on the big screen.

It is perhaps in all of the supporting characters (but by no means supporting cast) that this production excels – the story of Laura and Alec almost providing the bridges to the next scene involving the other characters. At the very least, the footing feels equal.

(Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit: Steve Tanner)

This is absolutely no slight on the scenes involving the central players, more a compliment to the production that the limelight was shared so well between all characters in a story where this would be thought impossible.

(Isabel Pollen as Laura, Jim Sturgeon as Alec, credit: Steve Tanner)

The final station tea room scene (no spoilers, fear not) is no less powerful and moving than that of the film (anyone seated next to me – I just had some grit in my eye, is all).

Lucy Thackeray as Myrtle, credit Steve Tanner

The original music by Stu Barker, and performance of said music, is jaunty and humorous, moving and sometimes melancholy- all as appropriate.

(Katrina Kleve, Lucy Thackeray & Beverly Rudd, credit: Steve Tanner)

Cue outcry from those, who like me, insist that in Brief Encounter there are three in that affair; Laura, Alec and Rachmaninov.Fear not, the stage production brings those powerful strains to the table as well.

At 90 minutes, without an interval, the audience is kept captivated by constant switches between music and word, live action and projected images, costume changes and the aforementioned ingenious props (look out for the toy train).

(Isabel Pollen as Laura, credit: Steve Tanner)

With three more performances at The Lowry before the show moves to a run in the West End, jump on board and don’t miss your chance to see this original take on a classic story.

Failing that, there’s always the Pendolino, but watch out for those lurking in Starbucks whilst you wait…

All the Deets.

ps thank you for retaining my two favourite lines…Funny

Oh mummmyyyy

And heartbreaking

Thank you for coming back to me