Posts Tagged Patrick Harrington

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

solo-a-star-wars-story-uk-poster12A | 2h 15min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 24 May 2018 (UK)
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan | 1 more credit »
Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke

I hadn’t realised how hated Disney were by some till I started reading the reviews for Solo! Whilst this movie has its flaws I found it entertaining.

The plot is simple and straighforward. A young Han Solo joins a gang of galactic smugglers and travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal valuable coaxium (used to make fuel). Alden Ehrenreich as the young Solo isn’t as rugged or cynical as Harrison Ford’s version. That’s part of the problem. Many Star Wars fans found they young Solo unconvincing. Could this “pretty boy” really survive amongst the scum of the universe and become the older Solo? A man who seems to owe all the most dangerous people in the Universe money and lives on the edge and on the run. The answer for many was a resounding “No!”. Yet this is a younger Solo, setting out, learning lessons and becoming a man.

The film also has to tick some boxes along the way. He has to get his ship the Millennium Falcon. He must meet a certain Wookie etc. This is all weaved in fairly convincingly though.

Great action scenes and an interesting love interest in the form of eye-candy and great actor Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra. The dynamic of the relationship between Han and Qi’ra is fascinating. As Emillia said: “They grew up as comrades, essentially. They grew up as pals, as partners in crime. There is obviously the romantic side of things. But they grew up together. So they were kids together.”

There are some great supporting actors too, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos, Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett (to name just a few).

Go with an open mind and you may enjoy it!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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Trainspotting

When I told friends I was going to see a theatrical interpretation of Trainspotting they were sceptical. Mainly because they loved the 1996 film and it had such an impact on them. They couldn’t see how the story, centred on heroin addiction in Leith, could be translated to the stage. “How would the play deal with the famous/infamous ‘toilet scene’?” was one question. I didn’t know whether they were right or not. Certainly the film set a high bar of expectation and to meet that in a different medium would be challenging.

There doubts were answered when I saw the production, it is simply one of the best things I have ever seen. The passion and energy of the cast as they rove the audience and stage just communicates to all present. The audience is put on edge by the interaction and that creates a strange tension between the cast and them. They certainly had my attention as I wondered what they would do next and if they would ‘pick on’ me! Gavin Ross as Renton acts as a kind of narrator and he confronts us with a disturbing, yet sometimes bleakly funny, alternative view. One minute the audience were laughing but then the mood changed and we were gripped by the tragedy unfolding.

And, let’s be frank, Trainspotting is a tragedy. How could it be anything else? Happy endings aren’t that common amongst Heroin addicts. The best that can be hoped for is recovery but often the conclusion is a life cut short. Trainspotting is a bleak story of alienated, trapped people who are slowly killing themselves and sacrificing everything for the drug. Erin Marshall hits your emotions when she screams and writhes in tortured agony at the loss of her child. Renton and the others are incapable of holding her or offering comfort. They babble and are concerned more about their next hit.

Trainspotting was accused of ‘glamourising’ drugs by some stupid Tories when the film first came out. I wonder if any of them actually bothered to watch it before condemning and pontificating in their hostile soundbites. The script is based on the 1994 adaptation by Harry Gibson which is bleakly honest.

Like the book and the film this production is informed about the appeal of heroin and the rituals surrounding it. It partly answers the question as to why people take it, what they get out of it. It is educational, in that sense, but never boring.

The cast just carried the audience with them through every change of pace or tone in the narrative. The company are ‘In Your Face Theatre’ and the performance is certainly that but it is also subtle and nuanced. The company have performed Trainspotting in London and I expect they will be offered more venues after this huge hit at the Fringe. They are certainly ones to watch.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

You can catch Trainspotting at Assembly George Square (Underground) until the 31st August, performances at 18:00, 20:30 and 22:45.

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Weill at Heart: Bremner sings the cabaret songs of Kurt Weill

Aug 8-22, 17:30
The Jazz Bar
1a Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Tickets: £8.00, concession £6.00
tickets at www.edfringe.com

bremnerRight from the get go you can tell that Bremner is passionate about the songs of Kurt Weill. The programme I was handed on entry says that Bremner:

“became aware of Kurt Weill’s music around the time I was sticking safety pins in my leather jacket and leaping into the mosh pit to dance to bands like the Dead Kennedys and the Subhumans. I knew nothing about Germany between the wars, or the social turmoil that produced artists like Weill, Brecht, Otto Dix or Max Beckmann. Something in his music resonated with me. Since then, I’ve been entranced by the music of Kurt Weill throughout my adult life. I’ve sung his songs in lovely concert halls and in dark dilapidated saloons. I’ve sung his music with rock bands and with classical string quartets. I’ve never grown tired of these marvellous songs.”

Bremner’s performance encompasses music written by Weill in both Germany and the United States. I was more familar with his German work so it was fascinating to be introduced to songs like Lonely House, Stranger Here Myself and Moon Faced Starry Eyed written in the US. Bremner switched from light to dark in a heartbeat. I loved Stranger Here Myself which Bremner performed walking amidst the audience.

Bremner brought out in his short commentaries between songs how positive Weill was in many of his songs (like One Life to Live) despite having faced dark times. He told us that the music and a quote from Weill had inspired and motivated him in his own adversities.

When he sang Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny the audience lit-up to these old favourites.

David Patrick on Piano and the Sax player were extremely accomplished and worth listening to in their own right.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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Muse

24-29 August 2015
Time: 1715
Duration: 50 mins
Venue: SpaceTriplex

sophiejugeAs we entered the theatre Jazz musicians played Caravan I had come to see Muse a fascinating telling of the story of Jean Ross, the inspiration for the character Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Sophie Juge plays Jean Ross who tells us her story through drama and music. The music is great including such classics as Mad About the Boy, Alabama Song and Love for Sale.

In Cabaret and ‘Goodbye to Berlin’, the book by Isherwood (who lodged in the same house in 30s Berlin) the story of ‘Sally Bowles’ ends abruptly. In real life Ross continued to have a series of lovers. In fact one lover, Eric Maschwitz, wrote These Foolish Things about Ross after the end of their affair. Ross was also a political journalist who reported from the front-lines in the Spanish Civil War and married Claud Cockburn who wrote for the Daily Worker (and also had a column in Private Eye for many years). She was a life-long Communist. Juge Performs the anti-fascist El Quinto Regimento to illustrate this part of the life of Ross.

This is a great story with a passionate, expressive and skilful performance from Juge. I highly recommend it. It is on at the Fringe till the 29th. Try and catch it!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Homeland Season One

Homeland Series 1 Cover Picture

Click on picture to buy DVD

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

From the opening credits Homeland is unsettling. There are flashing images and voice-overs of presidents, including President Obama. The  images and sounds are disturbing in the way they are juxtaposed Jazz and recorded warnings of terrorist attacks. Baby pictures, people fleeing the collapse of the Twin Towers and surreal images of the characters in mazes assault the eyes in quick succession – almost like blipverts.

Homeland is loosely based on the Israeli television series Hatufim (English: Prisoners of War) created by Gideon Raff . The first season follows Carrie Mathison, a CIA operations officer who has come to believe that Nicholas Brody, an U.S. Marine Sergeant, who was held captive by al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war, was turned by the enemy and now poses a significant threat to national security.

Homeland deals with complex psychological, political and moral issues. At the heart of the programme is the question of loyalty and betrayal. What is going on in the mind of Nicholas Brody? Has he turned against his government and people and if so why? Is he a hero, or a traitor?

Homeland doesn’t whitewash the US government. An important part of the story shows a cover-up of the deaths of scores of Arab children as a result of a drone attack gone wrong. The mistaken killing of Muslim worshipers and attempts at an FBI cover-up is also depicted. Homeland forces us to question the motivations behind decisions and the truth of statements issued by the  US government. No one watching Homeland would draw the conclusion that the US government was to be trusted when propagandising about the ‘war on terror’.

It’s not entirely clear who the ‘good guys’ are in Homeland. Both sides use torture and psychological manipulation to advance their aims. In general, however, it is the CIA operatives, Carrie and Saul who we are invited to identify with. Homeland starts from an understanding of issues from a US viewpoint (however critical). It never escapes that mindset by really seeking to understand the conflict from an Arab or Muslim perspective.

Like the plot the characters are subtle and complex. The central characters of Brodiy and Carrie are damaged people. Carrie suffers from bipolar disorder and eats nothing but unflavoured yogurt and Chinese take-out. She engages in high-risk behaviour and seems to have no life outside of her job. Brody behaves erratically and seems unable to relate to his family and friends anymore after years imprisoned in a hole. It seems that they are drawn to one another. Their relationship is unpredictable and it always seems as if at any point they might become allies rather than enemies. This is just one of the many layers of tension that makes Homeland so gripping.

It’s small wonder that this season received almost universal acclaim, scoring a Metacritic rating of 91 out of 100 from 28 critics. The series won both the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama and the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for this season. The finale episode of season one received 1.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched season finale of any first-year Showtime series.The series also performed well in the UK, where it aired on Channel 4, with the pilot episode drawing 3.10 million viewers, and the finale drawing 4.01 million viewers.
Homeland is watched in high circles too. President Obama lists it as one of his favourite shows. He invited British actor Damian Lewis, who plays Brody, to The White House. Lewis was polite to Obama, but in a Rolling Stone interview he said, “And by the way, for all the conventional wisdom that Bush was a warmonger and hawkish and that Obama is not, that he’s more dovish — you know, he has ordered more drone strikes in his first term than Bush did in his two terms. I think by a ratio of something like every one in four days, he orders a drone strike to Bush’s every one in 10 days when he was in office. It’s obviously his preferred method of attack, you know.”

This brings home the necessity of confronting the issues raised in Homeland. If we view Homeland as passive observers deriving only entertainment we miss an opportunity and continue to drift. Only by thinking deeply about the issues raised and using this and other representations in popular culture (for example Argo) as the starting point for discussion and debate can we hope to raise consciousness. If we don’t do this the conflict will become ever more bitter and we will be condemned to generations of fear and insecurity.

Main cast
•    Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison, a CIA operations officer
•    Damian Lewis as Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine platoon sergeant held by al-Qaeda as a prisoner of war for eight years.
•    Morena Baccarin as Jessica Brody, Nicholas Brody’s wife.
•    David Harewood as David Estes, the Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Diego Klattenhoff as Mike Faber, a U.S. Marine Captain.
•    Jackson Pace as Chris Brody, Nicholas Brody’s son.
•    Morgan Saylor as Dana Brody, Nicholas Brody’s daughter.
•    Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, the CIA’s Middle-East Division Chief. Plot

•  Actors: Damian Lewis, Claire Danes, Morena Baccarin, Mandy Patinkin, David Harewood
•  Format: Box set, Full Screen, PAL
•  Language: English
•  Subtitles: English
•  Dubbed: None
•  Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
•  Audio Description: None
•  Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
•  Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
•  Number of discs: 4
•  Classification: 15
•  Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
•  DVD Release Date: 10 Sep 2012
•  Run Time: 651 minutes

Episode List:
•    Pilot
•    Grace
•    Clean Skin
•    Semper I
•    Blind Spot
•    The Good Soldier
•    The Weekend
•    Achilles Heel
•    Crossfire
•    Representative Brody
•    The Vest
•    Marine One

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Lincoln (2012)

Details: 2012, India, Rest of the world, USA, Cert 12A, 150 mins, Drama / Period, Dir: Steven Spielberg

With: Daniel Day-Lewis, David Strathairn, Hal Holbrook, James Spader, John Hawkes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Pace, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones

Lincoln is set in 1865 as lincolnthe American Civil War is drawing to an end. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is working both to end the war and pass the 13th amendment to the US constitution banning slavery. Part of the tension in the film is that the two aims may conflict. Lincoln believes that the amendment must be passed before the war ends. Lincoln must weigh the loss of thousands of lives that might be saved by an early peace with the continuation of a cruel and inhuman slave system.

Although this film is titled “Lincoln”  it is about so much more than one man. Don’t get me wrong, Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding in the title role. He interprets a great script to show the man who was the President. His portrayal conveys  a complex humanity, a man who would conceal the whole truth, offer bribes and creatively interpret the law to meet what he considered moral ends. The film doesn’t shrink from showing how adept Lincoln was at clinching the backroom deals of the 1865 congress. Daniel Day Lewis achieves something remarkable – you almost forget that you are watching an actor as he tells homespun stories and anecdotes which infuriate some and enthrall others.
Yet the real strength of the film is the ensemble cast.  Lincoln is an unusual film in that many characters are given screen time. There are over 120 speaking parts! There are so many excellent performances it is difficult, almost unfair, to single out certain ones for special mention. Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Todd, James Spader as a morally challenged vote procurer,Tommy Lee Jones playing Thaddeus Stevens, the passionate Republican and abolitionist, Sally Field as the president’s devoted wife, Mary Todd, and David Strathairn as William Seward, the secretary of state.

The film shies away from stating clearly that Lincoln was, despite his hatred of slavery, far from a straight-forward abolitionist.

The film mentions the impact of seeing slaves being transported on Lincoln. This echoes what he wrote in a letter to Joshua Speed, a friend and slave owner in Kentucky, in 1855:

“You know I dislike slavery; and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it. … I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations, under the constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip, on a Steam Boat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were, on board, ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continued torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave-border. It is hardly fair for you to assume, that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the Northern people do crucify their feelings, in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union. . . “

Lincoln was, at best, inconsistent and by his own account he put saving the Union above abolishing slavery. He also favoured sending black people to other countries.
Perhaps for this reason some have suggested that the film sanitises Lincoln. That may be too harsh but certainly   the complexity of his political views are not conveyed. Leaving aside the historical arguments, however, this is a fascinating, educational and entertaining film with a great cast. Hopefully it will encourage people to find out more about Lincoln, slavery and the causes and issues of the American Civil War.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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Middle Eastern Film Festival at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh

The Filmhouse are running a Middle Eastern Film Festival between Thursday, 7 February and Thursday, 21 February, 291. This year the Festival looks at Palestine through the lenses of Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers and also celebrates modern Iranian film-making. There are six Iranian films featured.

One of the opening films is A Cube of Sugar an Iranian film which is based around a gathering of an Iranian family for the wedding of their youngest daughter.

There are so many films of interest here that it is difficult to pick-out what you want to see! I  will be making a point of seeing Salma and the Apple and the classic film about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict Wedding in Galille.

From Sunday 3 February to Sunday24 February, 2013 there is also photography exhibition: Building a Legacy of Hope: Children of the Gaza Strip which consists of 17 photographs and accompanying artwork by the children of Gaza. It’s at the Filmhouse cafe (88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh, EH3 9BZ) and admission is free.

From Patrick Harrington

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