Thursday, 19 October 2017

Critical Week: Sister act

It's been nice to only see three films in the three days after the film festival ended (rather than three or four a day). The main event was an epic press screening of Thor: Ragnarok, which is surprisingly funny all the way through while also being packed with eye-catching energy (especially the scene-stealing Cate Blanchett, above), even if the whole Marvel thing is feeling oddly stale, perhaps because there is no suspense left in the formula. But it's a lot of fun. I also caught up with The Snowman, Michael Fassbender's serial killer thriller based on the Jo Nesbo novel, which has deservedly had terrible reviews across the board. There is a huge range of talent on both side of the cameras, yet the script is a mess. And on the smaller side, I caught the British thriller B&B, which touches on some big topics (mainly bigotry) with strong characters and a genuinely unsettling plot. I also had some time for the theatre...

Young Frankenstein
at the Garrick Theatre
Mel Brooks adapts his own classic film (one of my all-time favourites) into this rather nutty musical, which opened in the West End last week. It's basically the movie with added songs that stretch out some of the more iconic moments, and the characters are all played by a skilled singing-dancing cast exactly like their big screen counterparts. Perhaps the film is so indelible that there's no other way to play these roles - they wouldn't be as funny it they didn't hark back to the great Gene Wilder, Madeleine Kahn, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Kenneth Mars, Gene Hackman. The material is robust enough to handle this transition - the film's best jokes are still funny on stage. And the emotional kick is here too, even if it's somewhat diluted by the extra razzle dazzle. I'll probably go see it again.

Graeme of Thrones
at the Charing Cross Theatre
The subject up for satire is obvious, but this fringe show takes an amusingly fresh approach that is actually poking fun at fringe shows themselves. The three-person cast is up for quite a lot of riotous silliness, with physical slapstick, wordplay and lots of sight gags. Their rendition of the series' opening titles is impeccably ridiculous. Fans of the TV show will get all of the jokes, which include spoilers right up to the latest season. And there are plenty of gems thrown in all the way through for a wider audience, especially the performance art pieces that come out of nowhere with their delirious absurdity. Some of the humour strains a bit, but most gags hit the target astutely. And by the end, the sloppy "let's put on a show" vibe means that we're rooting for all three of these scruffy actors (plus one game audience member) to claim the Iron Throne.

Coming up this next week, we have Nicolaj Coster-Waldau in Shot Caller, Domhnall Gleeson in Crash Pad, British thriller Palace of Fun and Aussie coming-of-age drama Teenage Kicks.

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