See this review on The Fan Carpet.
In cinemas February 13th in the USA and April 17th in the UK!
Based on the musical by Jason Robert Brown, The Last Five Years is the story of Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan), an up and coming novelist, and Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick), a struggling actress. They meet, they fall hopelessly in love, they marry, but as life and work begin to take its toll their relationship falls apart. Told almost entirely through song, this is a musical with a twist. We join Cathy at the moment the relationship has ended and Jamie at the moment it begins. As Cathy moves backwards through the story and Jamie forwards towards the end, we discover what made them great, and what ended it all.
This is most definitely a musical for the modern age. Shunning the cheesiness that sometimes overwhelms the tone of many classic musicals, it adopts a style that pokes fun at both the situations of modern life and its own genre. (Hint: Russell Crowe may not be a fan of this movie!)
Anna Kendrick is just perfect in her role as a woman struggling with the unfairness of her own flailing career as her partner appears to walk seamlessly and effortlessly into the height of his. Despite beginning her career in theatre, to me, Anna is made for the screen. She has that special skill that many of my favourite screen actors possess of being able to portray a million different emotions with only the smallest raise of her eyebrow. She is also a wonderful everywoman. You can see yourself in her, and even when she makes mistakes and does the wrong thing, you are always on her side. When she falls, you want to pick her up and hug her.
Jeremy Jordan as Jamie Wellerstein is frequently not the most likeable of characters. However, he is charming enough that you understand exactly why Cathy fell in love with him in the first place. The final scene is absolutely devastating with the juxtaposition of Jamie leaving their apartment and their relationship forever and Cathy, full of hope after their first date.
All in all, The Last Five Years is a fabulous film. Running the perfect line between both funny and tragic and with a musical score that will stick in your head for weeks to come, I defy you not to race straight home and order the soundtrack.
Review by Melanie Crossey.
See this review on The Fan Carpet.
Jennifer Haley’s newest play is now at the Duke of York having transferred from the Royal Court. The Nether takes a step into the not so distant future and the idea of people being hooked into a nether realm (an alternate reality) for most of their lives. Something we are seeing become more and more apparent as we move towards virtual reality. In this world Haley discusses what happens to those of us with a slightly darker sexual appetite.
The couple sitting next to me were clearly on a romantic evening out and after the first sign of con-sensual sex between a fully grown man and a young girl being hinted at.. I got the feeling this wasn’t going to be the romantic night out they had planned! The play surrounds child abuse and argues that as it’s in a computer generated world, is paedophilia legal? The arguments raised by Haley are legitimate and in the current climate of scandal after scandal being discovered it’s an extremely relevant piece.
The subject matter is inspired and shown to us in a creative way, however, a show like this does have it’s problems. One of the problems I had is with the script, in particular the overly descriptive way of getting across the history of how the Nether Realm came to be. The characters know full well how things had transpired but of course the audience does not, this is always going to be problematic and I felt Haley's writing didn’t approach this in a satisfying way which left the scenes lacking in realism. In one of the earlier scenes, Detective Morris (Amanda Hale) talks to the creator of this particularly dark realm, Simms (Stanley Townsend) about the Nether Worlds beginnings but he knows exactly what she is talking about, the scene becomes drawn out as they focus on this back and forth discussing that would be the every day to them.
Stanley Townsend should get mentioned here for a superb performance that takes a lot of guts. This character, who should be loathed, has moments where the audience could feel sorry for him. This would, as it did the night I saw the production, make an audience uncomfortable in a wonderfully terrible way. You could see people shifting in their seats as the young Iris (portrayed courageously by Zoe Brough) was groomed in this fetishist playground and when she herself acts in sexual ways towards nervous client (Ivanno Jeremiah).
The scenes inside the Nether World are done unapologetically which is perfect, the show needs to be gutsy to really hit home with it’s message and Jeremy Herrin's direction here must be praised for taking a strong standpoint and helping these actors travel through a very dark narrative that must have been difficult to rehearse. These scenes show a Victorian paradise where Simms created world is brought to life on stage, the set design for this is quite beautiful in harsh contrast with the tone of the piece.
Eventually, without giving too much away, we see that anyone can be anyone in this world including the young girls. To add another layer to this Haley suggests that there is a further step that those in this world will take, after taking advantage of the girls she comments that the natural progression is to kill, and as this is a virtual world this can be done again and again. The idea of giving into primal urges reaches absolutely everyone, the darker side to human beings is shown in vivid reality on stage.
The piece has it’s areas for improvement, it does feel very sluggish at times and there are moments of contradiction within itself. Also with the plot actually becoming a sweet love story (seems implausible I know but you will have to see it to understand) it removes the power of where it begins. The set too, beautiful as it was, lacked somewhat in it’s execution and was a little rough around the edges.
This is a great show if you’re up for something to really make you think, but if you’re expecting light hearted entertainment (like the couple next to me who I had noticed were sitting in stunned silence leaning away from each other by the end) you may want to take a walk up the road and see something else. This one is for the hardcore, theatre drama nuts, having said that however, if you are a fan of Charlie Brooker's ‘Black Mirror’ series of stories then this could be for you.
Review by Shane Goodsir.
Once the Musical has been delighting audiences at the Phoenix Theatre on Charing Cross road for the past two years, but sadly the time has come to say goodbye to this beautiful musical. Winner of 8 Tony’s, 2 Olivier's and a Grammy, Once became a hit in quick time. For it’s UK run Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill wowed audiences with his portrayal of the moody Irish musician known only as ‘Guy’ and he has been widely considered as the best in the role, making more women swoon than when Zayn hits the high notes with One Direc… Sorry, too soon? But speaking of pop stars, Once finished it’s run with ex Boyzoner Ronan Keating performing to sell out audiences.
The show takes place in Dublin, Ireland and follows the story of a thirty something busker and his unrequited romance with a young Czech woman. The fact that this is not an out and out love story is quite refreshing, they both have respective partners that we never see and find each other quite by chance forming a firm friendship.
With a superb selection of characters played by incredibly talented performers who also play the music for the entire show, I’m more than a little jealous! Every character is portrayed with fines and keeps you grounded in a very real world, with wonderful moments of comedy that warms the heart at every turn.
I had seen the same cast before with ITV’s Superstar semi-finalist David Hunter in the lead role and was impressed with how well he coped with taking on the role after Darvill’s enigmatic performance, bringing something of his own to the part. His leading lady, Jill Winternitz as ‘the Girl’, also took up the mantle extremely well and her performance was simply stunning. Funny and heartfelt, Winternitz takes you on a roller coaster throughout the show with nuances that deserve a lot more acclaim than she has received, as she is an accomplished performer.
To finish up the run of this stunning musical was Ronan Keating, he certainly looks the part and you would think a moody Irishman character with a smooth singing voice would be perfect… Wouldn't you? Unfortunately Keating is not an actor, now before I get lynched by many screaming fans I will say this was his first time out. Fair enough, I wasn’t expecting his acting to be top notch as it’s a difficult thing to get up on a West End stage first time out of the gate.
His awkward performance actually gave the character something quite fresh which I enjoyed in places, but for a singer I did expect a little more. I thought his particular song styling would stand him in good stead for this show but it was a little lacking, with other members of cast clearing holding back to help him out. There were points in some of the hit songs such as ‘Gold’, Falling Slowly’ and ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’ where we completely lost him altogether.
Once is a warm and uplifting show, a perfect evenings entertainment and bound to make you feel good about life. It was a shame however to finish without the big and surprising performance that Arthur Darvill gave us. My star rating is based on the show itself and not that final performance as I feel it deserves better,, Had I not seen previous casts this would have been a lot lower!
Hopefully this will be heading out on tour soon with another stellar cast. I am excited to see who follows in it’s footsteps with this kind of wonderful, heartfelt and personal show; who knows maybe shows like this do come around more than ’Once’…
Review by Shane Goodsir.
In cinemas March 19th in the UK and March 20th in the USA!
After the events of the first installment of the popular young adult franchise, Divergent, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is still reeling from the loss of family and friends and blaming herself. In hiding along with her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), the mysterious Four (Theo James) and Peter (Miles Teller), the rebel group are biding their time and trying to develop a new plan to overthrow the suffocating, murderous regime run by the tyrannical Jeanine (Kate Winslet).
Following the success of the first film, this should be a sequel that hits the ground running. Unfortunately, it appears to have already lost its energy and has descended into a lacklustre exercise in moving the story forward.
Insurgent boasts an impressive cast but they struggle to breathe life and passion into a rather clunky and clichéd script. A prime example of this occurs near the beginning of the film when a troubled Tris manifests her pain by hacking all of her hair off with a pair of kitchen scissors. This is a plot device that has grated on me for a long time for a couple of reasons. Not only is it completely overused, apparently every teenage girl with long hair always cuts it all off when she’s having a bad day (don’t you remember doing that?), but it also seems to be based on a slightly antiquated idea of women. If a woman wants to shed her pain and emotion (inherently girly things) and find strength to carry on, she must remove her feminine tendencies and make herself more like a man. Have we not moved past this by now? Of course, when this device is used, it is made even more grating by the frankly magical hairdressing skills of the girl in question who, despite cutting her own hair using a tiny mirror and a pair of blunt, rusty scissors, still manages to end up with the world’s most beautiful, stylish pixie cut.
This is my major gripe with this film. There appears to be a prevalent fear of moving too far from the status quo. They don’t want to push the ideas too far or unleash the actors’ full potential and as a result, it falls short of really pulling the audience into this dystopian world.
There are a few saving graces. Miles Teller as the snarky, morally wavering Peter, is brilliant. He seems to be the only character who actually addresses the sometimes absurd situations they are put in and brings a grounded, relatable quality that is much needed in this film. Despite not always agreeing with his choices, you can see why he makes them, something that is severely lacking in some of the rest of the characters. Unfortunately, he just does not appear enough and you find yourself waiting for the moment that he walks back on screen. Many of the action sequences are strong and filled with just the right amount of tension to draw you in and hold your breath. Again, there are just not enough to keep you watching.
Ultimately, I wonder how this franchise has managed to draw in such great acting talent. Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer, to name a few, have all signed up, only to be left playing undeveloped characters who, again, do not reach their full potential. I can only assume that the next installment is a masterpiece with this film being simply a stop-gap to move the story through onto its true climax.
Review by Melanie Crossey.
In cinemas February 27th!
When Donato (Wagner Moura), a lifeguard at the beautiful but treacherous Futuro Beach, dives into the sea to save two German vacationing bikers, his life is changed dramatically. While he manages to rescue Konrad (Clemens Schick), Konrad’s partner is lost to the darkness. A bond quickly grows between the two surviving men and as they cling to each other for support, they develop a relationship which prompts Donato to leave everything behind and follow Konrad to Berlin.
The beginning of the film sucked me in immediately. From the opening shot of two bikers riding freely through a landscape peppered only by wind turbines, we are cut suddenly into the full blown panic of drowning as the men thrash around and fight for breath. This scene is spectacularly made. With the camera seemingly in the sea with the men, you are filled with anxiety as if you, the audience, are also being immersed in the water, struggling to the surface only to be dragged under again. It’s confusing. You’re never really sure who is where or what is happening. I found myself holding my breath, willing the camera to rise above the water so that I may grasp a respite from the fear. When the camera finally focuses on Donato, the relief is quickly dashed as you realise that one of them has been lost.
With such a strong opening I had high hopes for the film. The two leading actors are fantastic. I also have to give a special mention to Jesuita Barbosa who appears as the 18 year old version of Donato’s younger brother, Ayrton. He gives a wonderfully nuanced performance of a young boy, abandoned by his brother and left to care for his mother, ill equipped and alone. Angry and violent in his outward reactions there is always a sense of pain, fear and helplessness behind his eyes. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for him in the future.
Unfortunately, for me, the film did not live up to its potential. The themes were excellent, love, family, need, courage and fear. Realistic characters that love unconditionally and make mistakes. Men who are both brave and cowardly at the same time. But ultimately it feels more like an idea of a great film than an actual finished product. Many scenes seemed to me to be reminiscent of the sort of explorative improvisation exercises you do when rehearsing a new play. Although a great tool for getting actors into their role, it does not add to the audiences understanding of the characters or move the story forward.
When studying creative writing, you are taught that every good story has a strong arc. There is a rise and fall, perhaps multiple times, ending with some level of conclusion. Whether that be a conclusion that leaves you open and gagging to find out what happens after the words have dried up and the screen has gone black, or one that wraps all the ends up with a neat little bow, is completely up to the creative in question. Sadly, this film falls short of these devices. Every time the story begins to ascend it feels as though it is pulled back to a sort of mundane level that keeps the film at a plateau. The final scenes are open ended but fill you with no great hunger for more.
Having said all this, I would be tempted to watch more from director Karim Aïnouz as I genuinely feel he has potential. It just needs to be siphoned into a focused entity.
Review by Melanie Crossey.
See this review on The Fan Carpet.
In cinemas March 13th!
This wonderful film follows teenage maths prodigy Nathan (Asa Butterfield) as he develops his talents, winning himself a place on the UK National team at the International Mathematics Olympiad. Nathan, who is autistic, struggles to connect with other people, especially his mother Juile (Sally Hawkings), and instead seeks comfort in numbers. Taken under the wing of unconventional and self destructive teacher Mr. Humphreys (Rafe Spall), the two of them form a bond that has a positive impact on both their lives. Together they secure him a place on the IMO team and Nathan travels with the them to a training camp in Taiwan, under the supervision of squad leader Richard (Eddie Marsan).
The busy and chaotic atmosphere of the city is beautifully translated onto film with Nathan at first struggling to adjust to the unfamiliar challenges and surroundings, but eventually finding order and serenity from the rhythms of a changing traffic light in a sequence of cinematic brilliance. It is an in depth look at things through the eyes of someone who is autistic, and the way in which they see the world. Finding beauty in places where others would never think to look. When Nathan begins to experience feelings for his Chinese counterpart Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), who relates to him through the mathematics, his world is thrown into inner turmoil which leads the film towards a very touching and heartfelt conclusion. Can there be an equation for love?
Asa Butterfield delivers an utterly stunning performance as Nathan and manages to connect you to him through very minimal dialogue, he makes you understand him. Director Morgan Matthews has succeeded in getting you to see the world through Nathan’s eyes and to make perfect sense of the way in which he views it. It is really a film about connection between people and the intricate difficulties that this can include.
Rafe Spall is just sensational as Mr. Humphreys and watching his private battle with illness would be heart wrenching if it weren’t for the purpose that teaching Nathan gives his life. He and Sally Hawkings are very well paired in their scenes and they are both emotive and well performed. Hawkings is perfect as the loving mother, desperate to have a relationship with her child but unable to reach him in an intellectual capacity and so feeling redundant. Her conversation in the cafe with Nathan at the end is one of the best moments of the whole film as the pair of them deliver what can only be described as a masterpiece of a scene.
The film is inspired by the true story of Daniel, who is the subject of Matthews’s earlier documentary ‘Beautiful Young Minds’ which was critically acclaimed and then went on to be nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Single Documentary.
Review by Lydia Kay.
You can also watch our interview with actor Asa Butterfiled and director Morgan Matthew's here.
In cinemas February 20th in the USA and April 6th in the UK!
Based on the book by Kody Keplinger, when Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman) discovers she is her high school friends DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she decides to re invent herself with the help of her next door neighbour, the popular jock Wesley Rush (Robbie Amell). The two embark on a mission to change Bianca’s appearance and step out of the shadow of her label. So, it’s the same kind of high school teen comedy that has always had a bit of a hit and miss reputation depending on how well it connects with its audience.
The film really feels like two separate halves, the first feeling very awkward as you see the lead actors struggle to work out whether what they are doing is meant to be funny or serious. What comedy there is tends to fall on its arse harder than Madonna in a cape. The second half of the film becomes more of a romantic comedy with Disney-esque moral messages that feel like the writer was creating this on the spot and started apologising for what they had done earlier on in the film. By this time most of the characters have soliloquised about having not meant to call Bianca a DUFF in the first place.
Mae Whitman (who is neither Ugly nor Fat) looks more than uncomfortable attempting to inject comedy into an issue that has been the cause of cyber bullying and teen suicide, I certainly felt uncomfortable for her. However, she is a very natural performer who gave quite a heartfelt performance, especially in the latter part of the movie. Also in some of the lighter moments with co star Robbie Amell in particular she really shines. These points feel like they stand on their own and were the only times I had a smile on my face, the on screen chemistry between the two was quite heartwarming to watch.
Wesley Rush was, for a change, a three dimensional jock. Gone is the stereotypical air head who likes drinking till he’s sick and having sex with as many girls as possible. Robbie has excellent comic timing and was able to pull a snigger or two out of me during the film but it’s his more tender moments that really sell this character.
Apart from the uncomfortable way of approaching the issues of the film I felt the writing was, well, peculiar. This didn’t feel like it could connect to the age range it’s aimed for, a lot of references are outdated and the sloppy attempts to mention as many social networks as possible are quite cringe worthy! It felt as though a man in his mid thirties who dreamt of being back in high school had found Kody’s book and attempted to turn it into a screenplay.
If I were to put this into comparison with anything else I would say the film is trying to be a lot like the MTV series “Awkward” by Lauren Iungerich. Apart from Mae and Robbie’s performances, the film has very little in the way of presence and can drag at times. I doubt this particular teen flick will be up there with the greats that have reached cult status like ‘Heathers’, ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, ‘Bring It On’ and ‘Mean Girls’.
Review by Shane Goodsir.
See this review on The Fan Carpet.
A full list of all reviewed feature films.
Independent films are marked with a *. Documentaries are marked with a ~.
Animations are marked with a +. Musicals are marked with a #.
Click on a title to be taken to the review.
Want us to review your work? Get in touch on the Contact page!
© ActingHour™ 2017.
All Rights Reserved.