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Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

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Action ‘dramedy’ starring Bruce Willis as retired CIA Agent Frank Moses, Mary Louise Parker as his romantic interest, and Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich (who basically steals the entire film) as his former colleagues who team up with him to unearth a conspiracy that goes to the highest echelons of power.

Lots of fun, lots of action and a completely unbelievable storyline make for an entertaining couple of hours. Bruce Willis plays his usual macho hero role, but almost parodying himself. Morgan Freeman – as great as you would expect although possibly underused. Helen Mirren and Mary Louise Parker are both excellent, but the real star of the show is John Malkovich.

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Year of release: 2010

Director: Robert Schwenkte

Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis (graphic novel) Cully Hamner (graphic novel)

Main cast: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman

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This show is based on, and remains faithful to the 2001 film Legally Blonde, which starred Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods. For anyone who is not familiar with the story, sassy Elle Woods is dumped by boyfriend Warner when he goes to study at Harvard, as he feels that Elle is too frivolous for him and he needs a serious girlfriend in order to be taken seriously himself.

Not to be defeated by this setback, Elle decides that she too will enrol at Harvard and win him back. She faces all sorts of challenges when she gets there; classmates consider her to be blonde bimbo and mock her love of fashion (“pink is my signature colour”), and her tutor Professor Callahan doesn’t take her seriously either. She finds a friend in Emmett, an older student who now works for Callahan, and who is the only person who really seems to believe in Elle.

When a murder case comes along and Callahan decides that his best and brightest students will help him defend the accused, Elle must step up to the challenge and prove to those who have misjudged her, just what she is capable of…

I really liked the film and wasn’t sure how it would translate into a musical, but I did expect a lot of fun, and that is exactly what this production was. Lucie Jones was adorable as Elle, and a perfect choice for the part, with a lovely voice. She really had the audience on side from the first scene. I also really liked David Barrett as Emmett. Liam Doyle was very funny as Warner, and I also thought Bill Ward was great as Callahan. For me though, Rita Simons absolutely stole every scene she was in as Elle’s friend and confidante Paulette.

The musical has an original score, so I didn’t know any of the songs, but they were all catchy, and accompanied by some very high energy dancing by the young cast. There was LOTS of pink in this show, with the whole cast wearing pink in the finale. Just like the film, there were some genuinely hilarious moments, beautifully played by the entire cast. For good measure, there were also two dogs in this production – Bruisey the Chihuahua, who is a permanent cast member on this tour, playing Elle’s dog Bruiser. Paulette’s bulldog Rufus is cast from local dogs at every stop on the tour, and in this production, the dog playing the part was simply aDORable!!

Overall, I highly recommend this show – I honestly don’t think anyone could come away from it without a huge smile on their face!

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Nancy (Lake Bell) is 34, single and fed up of trying to find Mr Right. On a train to her parents’ 40 wedding anniversary party she meets with another passenger Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) who leaves the book she is reading – a self-help book called 6 Million People and You – for  Nancy, because she thinks Nancy should read it. However, it turns out that Jessica was going on a blind date, and both she and her date were going to hold a copy of the book so that they could recognise each other. Jessica buys another book but meanwhile her date Jack (Simon Pegg) sees Nancy with the book and assumes that she is the girl he is meant to be meeting.

Rather than put him straight, Nancy goes on the date and the two of them get along brilliantly. But of course, the truth must out and that’s when things take a turn. A run-in with a creepy former schoolfriend of Nancy (Rory Kinnear) and Jack’s ex-wife and new partner (Olivia Williams and Stephen Campbell Moore) complicate matters even further…

I really enjoyed this film. I think it’s fairly obvious from the beginning how it’s going to turn out in the end, and anyone who has seen a rom-com before will know what to expect. But getting there is good fun – and it is great to see a romantic comedy with believable characters and not a couple of 20 somethings that look like they have just sashayed in off the catwalk (not that the two main leads aren’t attractive, because they both definitely are, but they are also relatable).

Lake Bell nails the English accent – if I didn’t know that she was American in real life, I would have thought she actually was English. And Simon Pegg was ideal in the role of a  man who has been through a bitter divorce and is hoping to come out of the other end of a dark tunnel. Sharon Horgan is great as Nancy’s sister, and I really liked Ken Stott and Harriet Walter as her parents.

I did think Olivia Williams was slightly mis-cast as Jack’s ex-wife, although she takes only a small role so it did not detract from my enjoyment. On the flip side, Rory Kinnear was deliciously creepy as the obsessed schoolmate of Nancy, who knows the truth about her identity.

As mentioned before, the ending was always fairy predictable but I liked the way it was done. If you like rom-coms, or British comedy in general, I’d recommend giving this one a go.

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Year of release: 2015

Director: Ben Palmer

Writer: Tess Morris

Main cast: Simon Pegg, Lake Bell, Rory Kinnear, Sharon Horgan, Ken Stott, Harriet Walter

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Full disclosure: I was on a long flight and simply looking for an undemanding film to pass a couple of hours. I stumbled across Table 19, which I had never even heard of before; however, it featured Lisa Kudrow and Stephen Merchant and I thought it might be worth a watch. Also, I like films that play out in real time or at least over the course of one day or night, so I put this on, not sure what to expect.

The story opens with Eloise (Anna Kendrick) who has been ousted from her role as bridesmaid at her friend Francie’s wedding, due to being unceremoniously dumped by the best man Teddy – who is also Francie’s brother. Deliberating whether or not she should still attend the wedding at all, Eloise eventually decides to go and finds herself seated at Table 19. It soon dawns on everyone at the table that they are the people who nobody really wanted there, the people who were invited out of a sense of duty, the people who should have had the common sense to say they couldn’t attend.

As well as Eloise, there are Diner owners Bina and Jerry Kepp (Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), Facebook friends with the groom’s father, who owns a chain of diners; Francie’s childhood nanny Jo (June Squibb), Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori), whose family are distantly acquainted with the wedding party and who has come to the wedding with the hope of finally getting a girlfriend; and Walter Thimble (Stephen Merchant) who is a nephew of the groom and currently on parole.

After an awkward first meeting, the group get to know each other – secrets are revealed, truths come to light – and they start to actually quite like each other. Eloise meets an enigmatic stranger named Huck, but he may not be all he seems…

This film was a very pleasant surprise, and I’m not sure how or why it slipped under the radar and is so little known. Of course I picked it because it was the sort of film I like, but I don’t think I expected to like it quite as much as I did. All of the characters were very well played, and I ended up liking and finding sympathy for each one of this mismatched crew of new friends.

It mixes comedy with poignancy very well and I liked the ending a lot too. Yes, it’s a bit quirky and certainly not the kind of thing everyone likes – if action movies are your thing, then this is probably not the film for you. But if you like a bit of human drama and characters who aren’t afraid to foul up sometimes and laugh at themselves, give it a try!

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Year of release: 2017

Director: Jeffrey Blitz

Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Jeffrey Blitz

Main cast: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Wyatt Russell,

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If you haven’t heard of this musical, then all I can say is, where have you been hiding for the last  few years?! Causing fits of laughter, receiving accolades and plaudits aplenty and managing to offend a few people along the way, The Book of Mormon has carved out a huge name for itself, not least because it was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

I was lucky enough to be able to see this show on Broadway in New York, and wow! What an experience! The story is fairly straightforward – after a brief intro explaining what The Book of Mormon actually is – we are plunged into the narrative of two young Mormon missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are given the task of preaching the Mormon religion in Uganda. However, when they arrive in the remote Ugandan village, they discover the inhabitants are more concerned with their own problems, such as famine, AIDS and trying to escape the tyranny of the local warlord.

As Elder Price becomes increasingly frustrated with his inability to get through to the locals, as well as his annoyance at being teamed with the misfit Elder Cunningham, it is in fact the said Elder Cunningham who gets through to the villagers in a most unconventional manner, leading to chaos – and much hilarity.

It must be said – as if everyone didn’t already know – that this is most definitely not a show for children or for the easily offended. It relentlessly takes the mickey out of organised religion (there is a song in it called F*** You God), there is a hefty dollop of swear words throughout, and references to all kinds of lewd and illegal acts. So there are plenty of reasons to think that this show wouldn’t have been a huge success…and there are plenty of reasons why it is absolutely a success and is now in its sixth year on Broadway.

In the production we saw, Mancunian actor Don Simpson played Elder Price – he was excellent, and had a wonderful singing voice and perfect comic timing. The more eccentric Elder Cunningham was played by Brian Sears, who was hilarious and had the whole audience rooting for him, bringing a sense of vulnerability to the character.

Nabulungi, beautiful daughter of the Ugandan doctor and the villager who is most enthusiastic to learn more about The Book of Mormon is played by Kim Exum. She too had a gorgeous voice and was exactly as sweet yet feisty as the role demands. The aforementioned Doctor Mafala was played by Billy Eugene Jones, and has the honour of getting to sing the last – and possibly the funniest – song lyric in the whole show (I’m not spoiling it for you here). The evil General was played by Derrick Williams, complete with yellow cowboy boots and utter confusion at Elder Price’s attempts to convert him.

There are some excellent songs in the show, and although I didn’t know any of them prior to attending, they were all very catchy – my favourites being the opening number Hello!, as well as You and Me (But Mostly Me), Sal Play Ka Siti, and Spooky Mormon Hell Dream, which accompanied an incredibly funny scene set in hell, as the title would suggest (complete with the characters of Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, Genghis Khan and…Johnny Cochran.)

Overall, I really enjoyed this show, and the rest of the packed auditorium also seemed to love it. I would dearly like to see this show again and am already looking into the possibility of seeing it in London’s West End.

Highly, highly recommended (but not if you are easily offended!!)

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

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Shit-Faced Shakespeare has been running in America and the UK since 2010, and has enjoyed great success. The concept is simple – a small group of actors (six in this case, plus the compere) stage an abridged version of a Shakespeare play, with the twist that one of the cast is drunk. Well…shit-faced actually. Before the show, the compere told the audience that the cast member (in this case the actor playing the part of Claudio, although you are not told beforehand which cast member is going to be drunk, and the cast rotate that particular duty from show to show) had had several beers and half a bottle of Tequila prior to the performance.

What followed on this occasion was a truly hilarious hour – yes the show is just an hour long, and there are LOTS of liberties taken with the Bard’s script! – where Claudio was clearly drunk, fluffing lines, paraphrasing, whipping off his sunglasses at will (don’t ask, it made perfect sense at the time), interrupting other actors and basically causing uproar. The other five cast members were forced to work around his unpredictability and improvise, but it was fairly clear that none of them were taking it very seriously in the first place – and this just made it even funnier.

Needless to say that if you are planning or hoping to see a faithful production of the play, this is NOT the show for you. For one thing, the characters of Dogberry and his cronies are completely shaved from the script, and in this version the bad guy is Don Pedro, not his brother Don John (who also is not in the play). A male audience member is dragged onto stage to play the part of Margaret – and to be fair, he certainly got into the spirit of things! On the other hand, if you are looking for a lot of belly laughs, and you are not easily offended, then I would highly recommend this show. It’s probably worth pointing out that there is a lot of swearing and crude behaviour in this show, but if that doesn’t bother you, then definitely try and catch Shit-Faced Shakespeare if you get chance. I will certainly go again if the opportunity arises!

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For this performance of the much loved Shakespeare play, the action has been moved to Mexico in 1910, shortly after the Mexican revolution. Soldier’s Don Pedro, Benedick and Claudio are returning from the war, with Claudio anxious to see his love Hero, while Benedick and Hero’s cousin Beatrice have a snippy, sarcastic relationship. The audience of course know that they love each other, even if Benedick and Beatrice have yet to realise it themselves. Fortunately, Don Pedro and the rest of their friends scheme to bring the two together, and I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that despite their reluctance, they do of course work things out in the end. Along the way however, Don Pedro’s scheming sister Don Juana (as opposed to Don John) schemes to break up Hero and Claudio which causes their wedding to be wrecked when Claudio falsely believes that Hero has cheated on him. Bumbling and inept detective Dogberry fortunately steps in to save the day, and naturally the situation resolves itself.

I was very intrigued to see how the more modern Mexican setting would change the staging and perhaps alter the focus of the play, as opposed to it’s original setting in Messina. Fortunately although there was a more ‘brutal’ atmosphere to the staging, the comedy and the verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedick remained safely intact, and I thought Beatriz Romilly and Matthew Needham were excellent in their respective roles. I also really liked Steve John Shepherd as Don Pedro. Anya Chalotra brought just the right amount of sympathy and vulnerability to the role of Hero, and Claudio was played well by Marcello Cruz (Claudio is not my favourite character in this play; I always thought he was gullible, and disloyal to the lady he was supposed to love – Cruz managed to straddle the line between displaying that and yet somehow getting the audience onside at the end).

The role of Dogberry was played by Ewan Wardrop – for me, Dogberry is one of the funniest characters, but also one of the easiest to overplay…he could easily tip over into being annoying, but Wardrop was note-perfect in this production.

Plenty of Mexican music added to the atmosphere, with two musicians constantly on stage and shown in silhouette. The props were also clever, with Don Pedro and Claudio strolling around in stilts of a sort, and with wire horses (no, I haven’t described that very well, but trust me, it worked).

All in all, this was a very enjoyable and very imaginatively staged production of the play, which shows how Shakespeare can retain all his original beauty yet still be adapted to different times and settings.

If you are a Shakespeare fan (or even if you’re not) I would recommend you try and catch this production while it’s on.

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