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Two Jacks – Review

In London theatre, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

***
Written and directed by Bernard Rose

Jack Huston
There’s a stylish cast and concept to Two Jacks, out this month from Bernard Rose.
Taking an idea from Tolstoy’s Russian fable The Two Hussars, Rose pitches his tale straight into a genre of updated Hollywood noir. It makes for  neat conceit and in a movie set entirely in and around Tinseltown, the atmosphere Rose that creates of smoke filled poker parlours, bare-fisted brawls and beautiful women casually seduced, could be straight out of Raymond Chandler. 
There is a hint of real life imitating the art on screen, for as the story tells of fictional wild film director Jack Hussar seducing the beautiful Diana (a sizzlingly demure performance from Sienna Miller) and who, years later sees his son Jack Jnr return to become entangled with Diana’s daughter, Rose casts Danny Huston to play the older man, with his nephew Jack playing the younger man. That both men are direct descendants of legendary director John Huston contributes to the story’s grit and that Danny Huston, in both appearance and demeanour bears more than a passing resemblance to Jeremy Clarkson, only adds to the tale.   
Two Jacks’ womanising, gambling, alcohol and thundery rainstorms are timeless nods to Hollywood’s darker side and with Jacqueline Bissett playing the (much older) Diana many years into the plot, the classy credentials of Rose’s cast are only enhanced.
Whilst the movie is mostly chic and the acting a delight, Rose is let down by occasional script naiveties and also a budgetary constraint (I guess ?) that sees him not only write and direct, but also photograph and edit the movie too. That’s unfortunate for there are moments of poor continuity, lighting and focus-pulling, that would never have made it out of a decent film school, let alone form part of a commercial release.
Bringing the picture straight out to the DVD and download markets after playing the festivals a couple of years ago is probably wise, with Two Jacks making for a wonderfully romantic movie, beautifully performed.

Out on DVD and download 29th JuneTrailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4qMZy3wFwg&feature=youtu.be

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The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) – Review

In London theatre, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

ALERT:

THIS REVIEW COMMENTS UPON A VIOLENT HORROR MOVIE
IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED, OR OF A SENSITIVE DISPOSITION, THEN PLEASE DO NOT READ ON

Certificate 18
***

Written and directed by Tom Six

Dieter Laser
The Human Centipede 3 – Final Sequence (HC3) marks the last chapter of Tom Six’s trilogy of everyday folk who find themselves joined, stitched mouth-to-anus, to their fellow citizens. Throughout his series, Six has tended to play fast and loose with the word “centipede”. His first movie’s creature featured only 6 legs (formed of three unfortunates) whilst the beast in Final Sequence, formed of 500 souls, sports 2,000 limbs- but this is Hollywood so what’s a leg-count here or there anyway?
The movies’ notoriety has snowballed with each emerging sequel. HC1 took a “traditionally” horrific take on Six’s vision, with German actor Dieter Laser portraying the deranged Doctor Heiter, who was to hand-craft the first creature, in an unflinchingly dark movie.
HC2’s raison d’etre could not have been more corny, even if its metier was still born of a heart of darkness. Laurence R Harvey played Martin, a ghastly misfit, who is introduced to us watching a DVD of HC1, before going on to replicate Heiter’s experiment himself. 
With the third film, Six adopts an end of term/semester approach to the concept. Where HCs 1 and 2 were dark, Final Sequence lobs in some ironic comedy and in so doing offers us what is possibly (and literally) the most tongue in cheek film ever made. 
Set in a prison in the southern USA, Six indulges himself with an outrageous grindhouse satire. Think of 2011’s Hobo With A Shotgun that starred Rutger Hauer and you start to get an idea of ​​Six’s skewed reality.
As a further nod to the franchise’s heritage, both Laser and Lawrence return. This time the German plays Bill Boss, the stetson toting prison governor (deranged, natch) who also sports a phallus-replacing six-shooter, with Harvey as Dwight, his trusted sidekick accountant. When Dwight suggests that a human centipede would make for an ideal punishment in addition to incarceration, the movie takes off . 
Along the way, Six makes no bones about offending and exploiting everybody. Men and women alike are horrifically violated (there is no one-side sexploitational misogyny here), religion is mocked, with Hollywood B-listers Bree Olson and Eric Roberts adding to the carnage.
A satirical sub-theme hints at the story offering a version of violent and medieval punishment that much of the USA’s right of centre population would happily see meted out to criminals. Six has to tread this particular mockery carefully especially as he is on record (and confirmed in a movie cameo) as saying that the idea of ​​the centipede came to him initially, as an appropriate form of punishment for paedophiles. 
There’s minimal CGI on display here and what you see is the action that Six has photographed. Those with an insatiable appetite for taboo-busting cinema that includes, amongst other moments, scenes of castration, boiling-waterboarding and the eating (literally eating, this ain’t porn) of both genders’ genitalia will be more than entertained by what Six, his designer Rodrigo Cabral and their uber-talented special effects team have come up with. Oh, and just like in real life, the bad guy comes out on top too.
If you like your horror bloody yet still ridiculously overdone, you won’t be disappointed. 

In cinemas from 10th July
Trailer http://youtu.be/xr-31o8xXqY






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MADAM BUTTERFLY & PERPETUUM MOBILE – Northern Ballet

In Dance, London theatre, Regional theatre, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Opening with Perpetuum Mobile, a short work choreographed by Christopher Hampson. Set to Bach’s Violin Concerto in E Major, the performance mirrored the increasingly complex layers of music found within the composition. The dancers’ movements proved continual, fluid and dynamic with Lucia Solari, Ayami Miyata and Javier Torres in particular offering captivating performances. Created over 15 years ago, Hampson says he was “initially inspired by the score.” This was evident and it is the close marriage between movement and music that made Perpetuum Mobile a joyous contemporary piece to watch.






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Eric Yves Garcia – Review

In Cabaret, London theatre, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Crazy Coqs, London

****

Eric Garcia
In recent years New York singer-pianist Eric Yves Garcia has made quite an impact. An award winning cabaret artiste, he is here for a week’s residency at the Crazy Coqs with his show, One Night Standards. 

Relaxed from the outset, it was hard to comprehend that this was Garcia’s UK debut. Beginning with Arlen and Mercer’s Ridin’ On The Moon, it rapidly became clear that Garcia is a performer who can make one believe every note and lyric. Accompanied by Joe Pettit throughout on double bass, his first song declared his arrival and from there it continued with the deliciously naughty One Hour With You. If there is one male singer who can deliver this Whiting and Robin treat with the perfect mix of glint in their eye and silky vocals, it is Garcia. 
The mesmerizingly good-looking Garcia has a self-deprecating patter that forms an impressive part of his gig. With pinpoint timing he talks of performing in Florida (or as he described it, ‘’god’s waiting room’), to an audience response that is testament to his raconteur ability. 
Numbers that were more emotionally exposed such as Hey Look, No Cryin’ proved a powerful highlight of the set, with Garcia’s understated vocals and vulnerability counteracting the wit and charm of his earlier comical pieces. 
Captivating is an oft overused word but it describes Garcia perfectly. From an astounding musicianship and controlled velvet voice, to his well-honed comic presence, the man is a delight. If a performance could transport the audience to another era, one of forgotten romance, that still manages to sound as fresh as it did sixty years ago, then this is it.

Performs until 13th June 2015
Guest reviewer: Francesca Mepham






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TEDDY – Southwark Playhouse

In London theatre, Musicals, Plays, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Teddy is a new piece of theatre from Tristan Bernays and Dougal Irvine that sets out to depict the Teddy Boy era of 1950’s London. It’s all about rock and roll and austerity in post-war Britain, but much like the Teddy Boys it tells of, the play’s slickly packaged, but scratch its surface, and there’s a show unsure of itself and seemingly still seeking its own identity.






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DISCO – Victoria Pub, London

In London theatre, Plays, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

If you like your reviews as short and sour as a tequila slammer, let me say just this: site-specific DISCO, that ran for three days from 2nd June, isn’t going to impress those who thrive off imaginative and original storytelling. And the drawn-out tale of online dating, embarrassingly pushy mates and dance floor awkwardness that sits at the heart of this evening certainly won’t revolutionise your understanding of life, the universe or anything in between.






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DUNCTON WOOD – Union Theatre

In London theatre, Musicals, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Duncton Wood is an ambitious musical from Mark Carroll, adapting the best-selling novel famously set in the meadowed world of Oxfordshire’s moles. In the micro-budget world of the Union Theatre, where the noise of passing trains over the arches above can occasionally be a distraction, here their rumble serves well to suggest the subterranean domain we are pitched into.






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Michael Armstrong – The Album – Review

In London theatre, Reviews by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

****

In a music business that can too often be driven by corporates, manufactured clones or finely choreographed campaigns, it is easy to become disillusioned. But for those living in the hope of finding honest music from real musicians, there is much to be celebrated in Michael Armstrong.
A true music fan, Armstrong devours the work of his idols – Paul McCartney, Steely Dan, Billy Joel and more – living and breathing every note, chord progression and lyric from the greats and it shows. His debut album, two years in the making, has been built upon a gift for storytelling, that works both lyrically and musically.
If nothing else, the names featured on the liner notes speak volumes. Alongside Armstrong, Keith Bessey whose credits include Elton John, 10cc and The Ramones co-produces, whilst guitarist Elliott Randall (Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers) features on three tracks, including the superb The Cola Paranoia. Lead singer of The Hollies, Peter Howarth, lends his vocals to Armstrong’s debut single, The Radio Years – a recording that has deservedly garnered much support from BBC Radio 2 airplay. That the album was recorded in The Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool is a source of much spiritual and artistic pride to Armstrong.
Armstrong is a talented writer and musician, displaying both depth and character. Vocally he offers a passing similarity to Jon Bon Jovi and even when he’s not singing, his arrangements are a delight, notably a gloriously slowed down cover of Billy Joel’s Allentown.
While the whole record has clearly been put together in a considered way – the two year process shows and is appreciated – there are particular highlights including Innocence Of Men and a forthcoming single The Contented Man (These Halcyon Days).
Packed with catchy melodies, harmonies and rousing choruses, the album is but built upon stories of substance. One can empathise with the Armstrong’s characters whilst his lyrics tell of real and relatable issues. Like the musical greats he has learned from, Michael Armstrong has created a truly memorable album. 

For more information visit http://www.michaelarmstrongmusic.co.uk/ The Radio Years is available to download now from iTunes and Amazon. Michael Armstrong The Album is due for release on 29 June
Guest reviewer: Bhakti Gajjar