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C. Dale

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Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour 2012 [Region 2/4/5] [DVD] [2012]
Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour 2012 [Region 2/4/5] [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Tim Minchin
Price: £3.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding - best 'Gethsemene' ever?, 1 May 2013
This version of Jesus Christ Superstar left me moved, thrilled and in a perfect state of awe. It is by far the best rendition I have heard and seen; the vocals are slick, the harmonies impeccable, whilst still retaining the rocky edge intended by Lloyd-Webber. The gifted Ben Forster steps stylishly and convincingly into the role of Jesus, never missing a note and reminding us that reality TV shows *can* be useful sometimes, and Tim Minchin makes an incredible torn and troubled Judas. Add to that Mel C (always the most talented Spice Girl) and a host of other talented performers, and you have something special.

I was disappointed not to see the show live, having watched the TV programme(the tickets were shockingly expensive), and was worried how it would come over on a DVD at home, but the sound and picture are top quality and the power of the performances comes across wonderfully well. It is very easy to forget you are watching a recording of a show.

The highlight is by far `Gethsemene'. Forster puts absolutely everything into this performance and produces the most stunning and emotional vocals. It is utterly breathtaking and heart-rending to watch - a scene you'll want to replay many times. Another highlight is `Jesus Trialled Before Pilate' - Alex Henson is fantastic as Pilate, pitching him perfectly as the high court judge with the heavy task of sentencing Jesus without a crime. But there are many more highlights - `This Jesus Must Die' (brilliant Annas and Ciaphas), `Blood Money', the uproarious `Herod's Song'...

The production lends a knew meaning to Judas's line `we are occupied', setting the drama in today's world of occupation protests and anti-capitalism. When I initially saw the bright pop-up tents and Jesus's followers dressed as modern protesters, with their dreads and tattoos, I felt a bit concerned, but actually it all works pretty well, and there are clearly (loose but certain) parallels to be made between the occupiers and the followers that Jesus grows maddened and frustrated with. The social media used throughout works very well too and is employed with hilarious effect in `Herod's Song'.

I can't praise this show highly enough and am grateful it has been brought out on DVD so it can be watched again and again. This, for me, is the definitive version and will take some beating.

Not Going Out - Series 1-5 [DVD]
Not Going Out - Series 1-5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lee Mack
Offered by That's Entertainment - CDs & DVDs
Price: £21.99

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Pick-Me-Up, 20 July 2012
I have been watching repeats of `Not Going Out' on channel Dave for some time now and have decided it's time to finally get hold of the box set. This programme embraces all the best connotations of `silly' and is just absolutely hilarious. Many of the episodes I will happily watch more than once. It's one of the best pick-me-ups out there.

One of the keys to the success of the programme is that the actors often implicitly acknowledge the silliness of it all, so instead of feeling patronised you just go along with it too. But it's not all daft. The dialogue is sharp and always overflowing with witty gags, and the situations the characters are put in are genius (I'm thinking in particular of the `Drugs' episode).

When series five was shown recently I couldn't wait for Friday night (especially since it was airing after `Would I Lie to You?') and found myself literally creased up with laughter sometimes. The final episode, `Drunk', brought my mother downstairs asking if I was ok. I'm thrilled they've made Daisy a more significant character and given her some of the best lines - she's such a great personality and she definitely `made' the final series.

I am certainly aware that this programme may not be for everyone. It has a similar sense of humour to `Miranda' and that isn't to everyone's taste (well, not my Nan's anyway). If you aren't willing to go along with a bit of silliness you may want to buy the latest series first to test the waters before you embark on the whole box set.

I'm Dougal Trump... and it's not my fault!
I'm Dougal Trump... and it's not my fault!
by D. Trump
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious Holiday Reading for Boys (and Their Parents), 19 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the perfect book to entertain boys during the summer holiday (although I should say plenty of girls might enjoy it too). It contains a troublesome kid, a mysterious monster and heaps of humour - what more could you want?

Jackie Marchant has a wicked sense of humour teamed with a marvellous eye for seeing grown-up issues from a child's perspective. Thus, most adults could pick this book up after their child has finished it and enjoy Dougal's witty bequeathing of goods, as inspired by the will left by his Grandma, and the pains of the parents that lie just on the periphery of the story.

Dougie is a marvellous protagonist - a boy who is very honest to his readers about his cowardice and wonderfully endearing because of it. He is also very `normal' in the sense that he has a typical hate-hate relationship with his sister, thinks his parents' decisions are unfair and keeps bizarre (and often smelly) objects under his bed. I'm sure boys will love this brilliantly drawn anti-hero.

What makes this book even more fantastic are the hand-written notes created by the illustrator that pass between Dougie, his family and his friends. They give the story great verisimilitude and personality. Plus, it's good to see Dougie using good old pen and paper as opposed to texts or instant messages! Hopefully he's too young for that though.

Jackie Marchant was born to be a children's writer. I'm sure we'll be reading a lot more of her work before long.

The Hollow Crown - TV Mini Series [DVD]
The Hollow Crown - TV Mini Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ben Whishaw
Price: £9.99

179 of 191 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime Shakespeare, 11 July 2012
If you buy any DVD of a TV production this year, it has to be 'The Hollow Crown'. I have watched countless film and television versions of Shakespeare's plays in the past and I can honestly say there have been none like these versions. Forget David Tennant's edgy, modern-day 'Hamlet' (hard, I know, as it was pretty unforgettable): these new history plays are simply stunning.

I think what is rarely touched upon in reviews is how accessible these new films make Shakespeare. I watched 'Richard II' with my mum hoping she would not get bored by the long, philosophical speeches, but she thoroughly enjoyed it. Even for a literature student Shakespeare isn't exactly a walk in the park and having not approached 'Richard II' before, I was thinking, as I sat down to watch it, that I should have made an effort to skim-read the play in my Collected Works, just to get a gist of the plot. I'm glad I didn't. Watching the film was like looking into Shakespeare's world through a new pair of Specsaver glasses: everything came startlingly into focus. I promise you, if you are attentive and ready to engage, 'Richard II' is as accessible, exciting and fun to watch as any other epic action film you are likely to see.

I can't praise the settings, cinematography and costume of the first instalment enough. And I would certainly run the risk of sounding gushy ('you already are, dear') if I started on Ben Whishaw's performance as Richard. But this guy is incredibly good. This film is incredibly good. The handing over of the crown scene literally took my breath away. Whishaw excels so much here that it is by far the most sublime part of the film. And Rory Kinnear makes the scene happen too: his Bolingbroke may have nothing much to say, but is appropriately humiliated and wary, setting off Richard's clever and beautiful kaleidoscope of emotions.

With 'Henry IV, part 1', the scale is mostly a lot smaller as Shakespeare deals with the domestics of father and son relationships and the carnal realms of the Boars Head tavern. Inevitably, we are not treated to the gorgeous settings of 'Richard II' and spend much of the time in the confines of the tavern set, which (though necessary) feels like a step down after such a treat. But the production is still impressive, imaginative (the initial interchanges between the court and the Boars Head are bold and new, if a little clunky) and very well cast.

Falstaff is brilliant - every inch the show-stealer the play-write purposed him to be - and Simon Russell Beale puts on the most hilarious performance in the prince/king role-play scene. Tom Hiddleston - who I'm sure will soon be a household name, if not already - has bravely made his Hal a less likeable prince than those of other productions. He is less vivacious, more cruel. As a result, Hiddleston has the tricky task of making us warm to his character; but he succeeds, and in 'Henry IV part 2' he produces some touching scenes as he contemplates the crown.

I'm thrilled we have a version of the less popular 'Henry IV part 2' to enjoy, particularly because the king-Hal scene, when the prince is woefully misunderstood, has some of my favourite lines in the tetralogy. Some scenes with Falstaff's cronies inevitably may not translate well for modern audiences, but there are fun moments.

I have not yet seen the last production, but when I do I will hopefully update this review with the news that it was just as good as its precursors.

**UPDATE**: 'Henry V' was fantastic. There were some bold cuts from the text - notably the traitors scene early on - but they were totally the right cuts. The film should be admired for its very definite vision, its ability to move, and for the fine performance from Hiddleston - his Harry lets you into his insecurities and is perfectly pitched for today's audience.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2012 12:18 PM BST

The Descendants DVD
The Descendants DVD
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £1.88

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The best bits are in the trailer, 10 July 2012
This review is from: The Descendants DVD (DVD)
As I anticipated, the best bits of this film were shown in the trailer. Of course, trailers are meant to showcase a film in its best possible light, but this was a case of the whole film in 45 seconds. All the funniest and most touching scenes are in there and everything else, on full viewing, was mediocre.

I was expecting to be greatly moved, but I need not have bothered with the box of tissues placed on the coffee table in anticipation; the film left me relatively un-moved and feeling distinctly underwhelmed. And I know it's not because I am an unemotional anomaly: I cried at Toy Story 3 and had people tell me to pull myself together.

I gave the film three stars because George Clooney (as you may have heard) puts in a good performance. Also, I found the combination of themes - personal tragedy and land inheritance - interesting and relatively fresh - if at times a little disjointed.

This film has a message to tell you - it makes that clear enough with its lingering shots of ancestor photographs and weighty, moralistic lines - but what its overall meaning is I find strangely hard to ascertain. If the penny drops, I'll alter my review.

Don't avoid watching it, by all means. It's good Sunday afternoon viewing. But, for me, it doesn't quite live up to the hype.

The Prisoner of Heaven
The Prisoner of Heaven
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Edition: Hardcover

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite 'Shadow', but still highly enjoyable, 4 July 2012
This review is from: The Prisoner of Heaven (Hardcover)
I have read all of Zafon's translated works and he is one of my favourite authors. I waited a long time in anticipation for `Prisoner' to be released and managed to bag a copy the day before my holiday. Surrounded by sand, sea, bucket and spade, I was disappointed to discover that, despite a summer publication date, the story was set at Christmas time; however, it didn't take long to overlook the fairy lights and nativity scenes and become gripped by the story. At times, the book was utterly un-put-down-able.

I'm still feeling confused by how absorbing the novel was since the plot lacks the complexity of `Shadow' and `Angel's Game' and feels considerably narrower, largely focusing on Daniel's friend and book shop colleague Fermin. There's less mystery too and the twists and turns aren't nearly as impressive as its predecessors'. And yet, I still found it hard to put the book down. Zafon is a master at pace and cliff-hangers and casts atmospheric webs that keep you trapped inside the novel long after you've finished reading. One senses he could write the story of the three little pigs and still make it gripping.

The characters are Zafon's customary larger-than-life heroes and villains and are beautifully drawn. Valls, the director of the prison where most of the story is set, is a wonderfully wicked, and often a-typical, bad guy. The prison itself is also beautifully drawn and Lucia Graves' translation ensures we are chilled by its brooding presence at the dark deeds that go on within its walls.

For me, the draw of Zafon's cycle of novels is the unashamed indulgence in dusty old books, mysterious messages, creepy buildings and shadowy figures. `Prisoner' is more restrained with these themes, but their presence is still strong enough to prevent disappointment among fans. Moreover, Zafon's sense of adventure and apparent love of books is as palpable as ever.

A note for those new to Zafon: the book is probably best considered a spin-off tale rather than a fully-rounded novel. Unlike the other two parts of the cycle, `Prisoner' doesn't work hard enough at being a stand-alone piece as well. The author suggests in a note on the text that the three books can be read in any order because they all lead back to the same centre; however, I would personally recommend that new readers read at least `The Shadow of the Wind' first.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2012 8:50 AM BST

Avengers Assemble [DVD]
Avengers Assemble [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Price: £5.75

17 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Marvel'-ous, 3 July 2012
This review is from: Avengers Assemble [DVD] (DVD)
I am not a huge fan of comic book movies, but I went to see `Avengers Assemble' at the cinema because I was excited about the concept of bringing characters from different storylines together in one big movie. A mere ten minutes in, after the thrilling entrance (and hasty escape) of the villain Loki, I was convinced I was right to shell out on a £9 ticket and 3D glasses. The film is fast-paced, action-packed, clever, and above all funny.

Few reviewers mention how hilarious the film is. The constant waves of gags, ego-bashing and physical comedy had me in fits of laughter and were the main post-film discussion points among friends. I'm certain even the most morose movie-goers will find something to laugh about in this film.

The ensemble cast is excellent and each actor gets at least one moment in the spotlight. Robert Downey-Junior is almost the show-stealer as the dry-humoured, ego-centric Iron Man, having been given some great lines to deliver, but there are other notable performances too. Tom Hiddleston does an outstanding job of Loki, creating a villain who is callous, witty, chillingly charming - and possibly even cooler than any one of our heroes.

There were times when some of the major action sequences felt a bit too long and I started to itch for more of the clever dialogue and intimate moments between the characters - but it is an action movie first and foremost, and its special effects team does unleash an impressive arsenal of visuals.

The script was a lot sharper and smarter than I was anticipating, turning around some cliches whilst happily embracing others. The story is intelligent enough for those viewers looking for more than stunts and explosions, although, in comparison to other comic-based films, it does not reach the freshness or complexity of Nolan's `Batman' scripts.

A word of warning to the uninitiated: if you are not familiar with the whole Marvel franchise, like myself (having only seen `Thor'), there's a lot of catching up to do in the first half hour. I wish that I had watched at least two of the franchise's other big-screen offerings first, as a couple of the in-jokes made me feel like a hopeless outsider.

The DVD extras look a little bit disappointing and I am a bit miffed after reading that this release (except those at Sainsbury's apparently) won't contain all the special features that are being put on the American release. I would deduct a star, but I don't want to discredit the film.

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