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Archive for May, 2015

Tim Roth is at the heart of this quirky film, as Ted the Bellboy, working his first night at Hotel Mon Signor, on New Years Eve. However, the guests in four different rooms mean that his first night is eventful, exciting, scary and sexy.

The film is cut into four separate tales, a couple of which do interlock slightly – each segment has a different director and a different cast.

In the first tale, ‘The Missing Ingredient’, a coven of witches meet in the honeymoon suite, to resurrect their dead leader Diana. Ted is called upon to make a most unexpected contribution to the ceremony.

The second tale, ‘The Wrong Man’ Ted arrives at a hotel room having received a request for some ice. When he gets there, he finds a woman tied up and gagged, and her furious husband apparently convinced that she has had an affair with Ted. And that’s before things get even stranger.

The third segment, ‘The Misbehavers’ – and for me, the funniest – features a couple who go out for the evening and leave their children in their room, with instructions to Ted to keep an eye on them and make sure that they don’t misbehave. Predictably things go awry, to disturbing and hilarious effect.

Finally, there is ‘The Man from Hollywood’, where Ted is called to the Presidential Suite and meets a Hollywood producer named Chester Rush, and various members of his entourage. Rush and one of his friends, named Norman, have made a bet – if Norman wins, Rush will give him his car. If Norman loses the bet, he will also lose part of his anatomy (no, it’s not what you’re thinking).

This film was widely panned by both critics and audiences, and I do feel that it is a bit of a shame, because it actually has a lot to offer. It’s unfortunate that the first story is easily the weakest of the four. Featuring Madonna, Alicia Witt, Ione Skye and Sammi Davis, it perhaps asks the audience to suspend their disbelief a little too early into the movie – nonetheless, there were still moments which made me laugh out loud.

The second segment had a couple of genuinely hilarious moments, as the arguing couple, played by Jennifer Beals (who would later feature as the ex-wife of Roth’s character Cal Lightman, in tv show Lie To Me) and David Proval draw Ted into their own drama.

The Misbehavers was worth the proverbial ticket price alone. Banderas hams it up as the strict father, but the real kudos in this scene must go to Roth, as well as Lana McKissack and Danny Verduzco as the two children. There is one really surprising moment, and Ted’s reaction to it is so funny that when I think about it now, I still get the giggles.

Finally, The Man from Hollywood features Quentin Tarantino as the titular character, along with an uncredited Bruce Willis as one of his entourage. There is an homage to an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode (The Man from the South, although Chester Rush wrongly mentions a different episode) which in turn was based on a Roald Dahl short story. The ending of this managed to mix predictability and surprise to such a degree that it was disturbingly funny.

Roth shines throughout – but then again Tim Roth makes literally anything worth watching – and I adored his quirky mannerisms as Ted’s patience and credulity is stretched further and further. The supporting cast vary widely in terms of acting – neither Madonna nor Tarantino will ever be brilliant actors, but they work well enough here; Banderas by contrast is terrific.

Overall, I would say that this is a thoroughly enjoyable film – the disjointedness may put some people off, and certainly the various quirks will not be to everyone’s taste. It’s an interesting attempt at something a bit different, and for me anyway, it largely worked.

I think I’d be careful about who I recommended this too, but it’s a film that I personally will watch again.

Year of release: 1995

Directors: Allison Anders (The Missing Ingredient), Alexandre Rockwell (The Wrong Man), Robert Rodriguez (The Misbehavers), Quentin Tarantino (The Man from Hollywood)

Producers: Lawrence Bender, Quentin Tarantino, Alexandre Rockwell, Paul Hellerman, Scott Lambert, Heidi Vogel

Writers: Allison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Main cast: Tim Roth, Madonna, Ione Skye, Valeria Golino, Lili Taylor, Alicia Witt, Jennifer Beals, David Proval, Antonio Banderas, Lana McKissack, Danny Verduzco, Paul Calderon, Quentin Tarantino, Bruce Willis,

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I first saw this show last year at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, and as soon as I came out of the theatre, I knew I wanted to see it again.

The story probably doesn’t need any recapping, especially for women of my generation, but in essence, it is set in 1963 and revolves around Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman, who goes on holiday with her parents and sister, to Kellermans Holiday Resort. Baby is the apple of her father’s eye, and at the tender age of sixteen, has her sights set on changing the world, one good cause at a time.

When she meets dance instructor Johnny Castle however, her eyes are opened to a world completely new to her, and much to the disapproval of her father, who instantly dislikes Johnny and blames him for getting dance partner Penny ‘in trouble’, Baby falls in love.

The show is packed with amazing dancing and terrific songs, and is colourful and fun from start to finish. Lewis Kirk and Jessie Hart played Johnny and Baby, and both were great. Unfortunately, I was completely mesmerised by Gareth Bailey in the role of Johnny Castle last year, and I doubt that anybody could have matched up to him. Bailey was also taller and more muscular than Kirk, and physically probably fitted the part a little better. However, that is not to take anything away from Lewis Kirk, who was certainly appreciated by the mainly female audience.

Fans of the film need not worry – all the classic scenes and lines are there, and most of them got cheers of recognition from the audience.

I definitely recommend this show – this is the second time I have seen it, and if I get the chance, I will be going to see it again.

(Click here for more information about this production.)

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Click here for my review of this production from October 2014.

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In October 2013, I saw this play at Birmingham Rep, with Martin Shaw heading up the cast. After transferring to the West End, the show is now touring with Tom Conti in the lead role, although for a four week run, tv star Jason Merrells takes over from Conti, and it was Jason Merrells who I saw as Juror number 8, at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

For anyone who doesn’t know, this play was written by Reginald Rose, and adapted into a superb and much-loved 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda. The whole play takes place in one setting and in real time – twelve jury members have to decide whether a young man is guilty of murdering his father. The case seems cut and dried, and eleven of the jurors initially have no doubt whatsoever that the defendant is indeed guilty. But juror number 8 – we never learn the actual names of any of the jurors – is not so sure. With the death penalty an absolute certainty in the event that the man is found guilty, he wants to make sure that they take time to make sure they are sending the best verdict they can.

The jurors, to me anyway, represent the best and worst in all of us – there are those who want to be reasonable, and firmly believe that there is valid evidence to suggest the defendant is guilty.  There is juror number 7, the baseball fan who only really cares about getting out of court in time to go to the game that evening, and of course, there is the angry juror number 3, whose anger at his failed relationship with his own son taints his view of the young man sitting in the dock.

The atmosphere is suitably claustrophobic – twelve relative strangers are stuck together in one room, on a hot day, with no working fan. Tempers flare, prejudices are revealed, and each character reveals more about himself than perhaps he would like.

I loved Jason Merrells as juror number 8 – he gave a commanding yet understated performance. Although the character is something of a hero, the beauty of the role is that in fact he is just a normal man who wants to do the right thing. Andrew Lancel was excellent as juror number 3 – angry, hurt and feeling like a failure, he resents his fellow juror who as far as he is concerned, is trying to put a murderer back on the streets.

However, it’s hard to just pick out particular members of the cast, because in truth, there was not a weak link to be seen. The dialogue was believable, and the tension seemed all too real. With all of the cast members being on stage throughout the whole show, and with just one setting, I really felt as though I was right there with them, and the revolving table around which the cast sat (which revolved so slowly that you simply could not see the movement, but which ensured that every cast member was clearly visible to the audience no matter where they were) was a brilliant idea. The audience at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre looked mesmerised and at times, you could have heard a pin drop.

Simply wonderful – if you get a chance, you should definitely see this wonderful production.

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Click here for my review of this production (2013)

Click here for my review of the 1957 film adaptation

Click here for my review of the 1997 film adaptation

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The Bodyguard – the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner – has been adapted into a stage musical and is currently touring the UK, with Alexandra Burke playing the central role of Rachel Marron, and Stuart Reid as Frank Farmer, the titular character.  Zoe Birkett plays Rachel in the matinee performances, and it was Zoe (shown above with Reid) who I saw in the production at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

The story – trimmed somewhat from the film version – centres on world famous singer Marron, who is being stalked by a crazed fan.  She is reluctantly hires a bodyguard, and Farmer reluctantly takes the job.  Initially they don’t like each other – neither of them wants him there – but as they get to know each other, they start to fall in love.  However, the stalker is an ever present threat, and Frank finds his feelings getting in the way of his job.

The show is packed with musical numbers, most of which are from Whitney Houston’s catalogue of hits, and all of which went down a treat with the audience.  After the initial brief opening scene where a gunshot rings out in the theatre and the stage reveals a man holding a gun while another man is lies injured on the floor, the show really gets going with Rachel Marron performing an energetic, exciting and adrenaline pumping Queen of the Night.  Also wonderful were Melissa James, as Rachel’s sister Nicki, Mike Denman as the stalker, and of course, Stuart Reid as Frank Farmer.

Birkett is adorable as Marron, and wow! what an incredible voice.  She sang all the songs beautifully, ballads and pop numbers alike.  The song for which the show is most known – I will Always Love You – was an absolute triumph, and the actual finale – spoiler alert! – an energetic and truly uplifting version of I Wanna Dance With Somebody – had the whole audience on their feet, clapping along – rarely have I seen an audience enjoy something so completely.  The standing ovation was absolutely deserved and everyone left with a huge smile on their face .

Tickets for this amazing show are understandably going like the proverbial hot cakes, but if you get chance to see it, then go go go – you will be in for a truly wonderful time.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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