Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Hugh Jackman: The Man, The Music, The Show - review

Scotland is no stranger when it comes to superheroes. The Avengers have assembled in Edinburgh to deep fry their kebab in Infinity War and turned St. Abbs into New Asgard in Endgame.
The Scots have welcomed the likes of Captain America, Black Widow and Thor with open arms and an Irn Bru and now it does the same to the most famous of X-Men… Wolverine.
For the Tony award-winning, Oscar-nominated Hugh Jackman has chosen Glasgow to play host to the very first performances of The Man, The Music, The Show.

Embarking on a world tour at the age of 50, one might have expected to see Old Man Logan but the audience was treated to The Greatest Showman moving around the stage with the energy of a New Mutant.
This chappie must be drinking from The Fountain of youth because he was tapping those Happy Feet for 2.5 hours.
Opening with The Greatest Show, it is obvious that this Chappie is having the time of his life (not the Dirty Dancing song). His enthusiasm is infectious and it ensured that the capacity crowd at the SSE Hydro was anything but les miserables.

Ably backed up by a band and dancers, plus an rapturous reception for Keala Settle who appeared for This Is Me, Jackman effortlessly moves through his career; from his first job playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Carousel, a performance of You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen featuring a local Glasgow choir before ending act one with a medley from Les Miserables.

The Met Gala took place this week and the theme was camp but I think all the camp was taken by this show as Jackman brought out The Boy from Oz Peter Allen for a spot of audience interaction to kick off the second act, and to his credit, no matter what the Glasgow crowd threw at him, he dealt with it in his stride and in character.

Followed by this, he took a trip down memory lane through some of his favourite movie musicals before launching into a huge dance routine.
And this is a sentence one would never expect to write; there is a moment where Wolverine tap dances to Thunderstruck by AC/DC… and I say that because at the end Jackman is so worked up his facial expression changed to the point I was like “It’s Wolverine” followed by him recreating the famous “Schnick” poses using drumsticks.

The only other actor who I have seen capable of working an entire arena into a frenzy and have them hanging off their every word is The Rock, The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment. Well, Jackman is certainly the Most Electrifying Man in Musical Theatre entertainment.
As he brought it home with From Now On, the capacity crowd was on their feet giving him a well deserved and earned standing ovation, as this really was... *don't say it, don't say it, don't say it* The Greatest Show!

5 stars

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Glasgow Film Festival: Mid90s review

If you are a fan of the TV series Spaced, you will remember a scene where Tim and Daisy bond over watching skate videos. Making increasingly more audible and physical reactions as the falls and hits as people fall off their boards get more and more extreme and intense.
This was the scene in the Glasgow Film Theatre during the Opening Gala UK premiere of Jonah Hill’s Mid90s.
They were one voice reacting with uproarious laughter one minute and shock and horror the next as the lead character Stevie (played by Sunny Suljic and based only slightly autobiographically on Hill), learns to face what life throws at him, whether that be ollies, grinds, girls or punches; pick himself up and get back on the board.
It is a testament to Jonah Hill’s directorial debut that if you didn’t know, you would believe that Mid90s was made in the Mid 90s.
Shot entirely on 16mm, it has the look and feel of the skate videos that the character of Fourth Grade wants to produce.
Soundtracked by some of the period’s greatest hits (who didn’t have a copy of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged gig on at every gathering?), Hill showcases some real talent behind the camera. Particularly during a house party scene that features some Superbad use of editing and camerawork. Now that is superbad meaning good of course, as was the vernacular in the Nineties.
There is a rawness to the film that is reminiscent of Larry Clark’s Kids. Although not as extreme or exploitative, it is honest in its portrayal of what the youth culture was engaging in at the time.
Mid90s is about finding your place in this world and Jonah Hill may have found his place in the industry. Albeit a future where he is behind the camera instead of in front of it.

4 stars

Sunday, 10 February 2019

The LEGO Movie 2 - The Second Part

In The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, there are continual references to the fact that five years have passed since the events of the original movie and it wasn't until about the third or fourth reference that it finally sunk in that it has actually been five years since the world discovered that the jokey idea of a movie based on LEGO proved that everything was indeed awesome!
However can they recapture lightning in a bottle and "build" on the success of the first one?
Well, YES... and no.
Having been banished into the Mad Max: Fury Road-esque Apocalypsberg after the continued attacks from the beings of Duplo Land, the remaining Master Builders are kidnapped by the Queen of the SISTA system and Emmett must learn how to grow into a tough, grizzled hero in order to save the day, ably assisted by Rex Dangervest.
While the Second Part may lack the surprise factor of the first film, similar to the way you cannot recapture that feeling of that first time you complete building your LEGO Dark Knight Tumbler, it does have some magic and meta touches to it. That actually lead to a very touching finale.
The major surprise in the first film was when Emmett transferred from the LEGO world into the real world and it was discovered that everything was being controlled by human beings and the second part cleverly builds on this.
It is not going to be a shock to anyone on how the "SISTA system" and "ArMamageddon" come into play in the third act but it is a rather moving storyline that shows the true power of LEGO, playing and creativity.
One of the creative choices that is inspired and a complete joy, is Chris Pratt's decision to play the character of Rex Dangervest as his dad in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Kurt Russell in his iconic role of Jack Burton.
Just like the new song that repeats ad nauseum, this movie will get inside your head and leave you with a massive smile on your face because the jokes are on point, the vocal performances are infectious and it is just a hell of a lot of fun.
LEGO, essentially a pile of random bricks, is only limited by people's imaginations and while it might not be as imaginative as the original, it is still a lot of fun and proof that everything is still pretty darn great... if not quite awesome.

3 stars

Monday, 28 January 2019

Vice - Review

Adam McKay actually foreshadowed his work on Vice back in 2004 with his breakout comedy classic Anchorman. In the final moments of the film, the narrator informs the audience that Brick Tamland would go on to become one of the top political advisors... to the Bush administration.
Fast forward to 2019 and we have Steve Carell playing Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense for George W. Bush. Now that is one hell of a long game payoff for a gag.
That is just one small way of indicating to the audience that this is not going to be your standard rags-to-riches, rise and fall Oscar bait biopic (albeit one that has been nominated for 8 Oscars).
What McKay attempts instead is to try and give audiences some understanding of who Dick Cheney was as a person and the circumstances that led to him becoming, arguably, the most powerful man in the world and the puppet master behind Dubya.
This is achieved using a similar style to his Oscar-winning The Big Short, which tried to explain how the 2008 financial crisis occurred. There is narration from a third party, cutaways, flashbacks, Shakespearean soliloquies and even a wonderful premature end credit sequence where Cheney lived happily ever after and never entered politics again... before Bush calls him to be VP.
Compared to The Big Short, Vice comes up a little short in terms of the visual impact of its storytelling but what it does have is a true powerhouse of a performance from Christian Bale "channeling Satan" to become Dick Cheney.
Propped up by his devoted wife Lynne (Amy Adams), they are like a real life Frank and Claire Underwood as they plot and scheme their way to absolute power.
Bale is so good in the role that he simply disappears and becomes Cheney, and goes as far to make this reviewer doubt himself and nearly come away thinking, "well at least Cheney did have one redeeming quality, he was a devoted, loyal family man"... but then right at the end he shows his true colours!
Cheney might not have ever had the top job in US politics but there is a very good chance that Bale will take top honours on Oscar night.
Vice, like a drug, shows that power is an addiction but just like narcotics, it lures you in, gets you hooked but ultimately needing and wanting more from it.

3 stars

Friday, 25 January 2019

RSNO Sci-Fi Spectacular - Live Review

Tonight the Filibuster team from The Nerd Party were invited to the Usher Hall for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's Sci-Fi Spectacular show celebrating some of the greatest and most iconic music cues from science fiction cinema.
For the last four years, the RSNO have performed at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, providing live scores to cinematic classics such as Back To The Future, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Jaws.
These events are always hugely popular and the Sci-Fi Spectacular was no different with a packed audience eager to hear the tunes from their favourite films and it always seems like the orchestra are having as much fun playing them as the audience do listening to them.
If you noticed a theme with the film choices for the live score events, it would be no surprise to learn that the first half of the show was dedicated to the music of John Williams and the Star Wars saga (prequels and originals).
From the Opening Titles of A New Hope (including Fox fanfare) through Across The Stars to Princess Leia's theme, Williams's contribution to the success of the saga is undeniable with the images and soundtrack unseparable in the mind.
In fact, based on tonight's concert, you would be forgiven for thinking that Williams soundtracked the entire genre as the second half also included his suites for Close Encounters Of Third Kind and E.T.
Yet other composers did make an appearance, from James Horner's work on Avatar to Michael Giacchino boldly going where one man had gone before with his rousing reinvention of the Star Trek theme to Jerry Goldsmith's work on Alien.
But there was time for the RSNO to take us back to a galaxy far, far away for an encore of the Imperial March.
Now that's value for money. A trip through the galaxy and time and space and you don't even have to leave your theatre seat.

The RSNO presents Sci-Fi Spectacular plays Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 26th January, 3.00pm & 7.30pm. For more details visit

Listeners of The Nerd Party can get a 20% discount on tickets for the show by using the code JEDI20.

Glasgow Film Festival - Top Ten Films To See At #GFF19

This week the Glasgow Film Festival announced the full line up for this year and once again they never fail to deliver the goods.
From 20 February to 3 March, the city's 15th annual celebration of cinema will feature 337 events and screenings including 7 World premieres, 102 UK premieres and 49 Scottish premieres.
The full brochure can be viewed and downloaded here but for now, here are my top ten screenings you should grab a ticket for when they go on sale at 10.00am on Monday 28th January.
Tickets for all performances can be booked here.

Every year, GFF pull out all the stops when it comes to their Special Event screenings and 2019 is no different with 20th anniversary events for The Blair Witch Project and Fight Club but as someone called Dallas, the screening for me had to be a 40th anniversary celebration of Alien that includes a scary, interactive laser tag build up to the main event.

Dragged Across Concrete
Following on from his incredible debut Bone Tomahawk and sophomore effort Brawl On Cell Block 99, can writer-director S. Craig Zahler make it three for three with his latest film?
At the very least, this tale of two police officers' descent into the criminal underworld should continue the welcome career re-Vaughn-aissance of Vince Vaughn following his revelatory turn in Brawl with another film that is as harsh and unforgiving as the concrete surface after which it is named.

Eighth Grade
As one half of The A24 Project, it is no surprise to see this film on the list. Originally released in the US in August 2018 having made its way through the festival circuit (picking up Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominations along the way), UK audiences have to wait until 26th April to see Bo Burnham's stunning coming-of-age film go up against Avengers: Endgame... unless of course you are lucky enough to catch this screening complete with Q&A with Burnham!

Fighting With My Family
When it comes to cinematic tag teams, can you think of an odder but more perfect pairing than The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment and King of the Box Office Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Stephen Merchant? IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!
Produced by (and starring) The Rock, Stephen Merchant directs Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden in this comedy-drama based on the true story of how Norwich-born Saraya-Jade Bevis defied all the odds to make it to the top of the WWE as Paige, becoming a WWE Divas Champion along the way.

This year's Opening Gala is Jonah Hill's directorial debut and another coming-of-age story for A24, this time set in the mid 90s and revolves a 13 year old kid finding a place in the world of skateboarding and the music that defined an era.

The Sisters Brothers
The cast list alone is enough for Jacques Audiard's Western to make the list as it includes Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal.

The Surprise Film
Place your bets now. Possibilities include Serenity, Us, The Kindergarten Teacher, At Eternity's Gate, Hellboy and High Life.

Under The Silver Lake
Completing the hat trick of A24 films screening in Glasgow, David Robert Mitchell's urban noir promises to subvert the genre in the same way as he did with his horror debut It Follows.

The Vanishing
What's this? A Gerard Butler film being a must see at a festival?! No, it's not a sequel to Geostorm. Butler actually has form when it comes to homegrown filmmaking, just check out Dear Frankie. In this film, he costars with Peter Mullan as part of a trio of lighthouse keepers who are assigned to a remote island but a terrifying discovery threatens to pull the trust and friendship between the men apart.

Vox Lux
Now I was lucky enough to catch this film in New York in December but I can heartily recommend this dark cousin to A Star Is Born to anyone attending the festival. My only caveat is, don't read or watch anything about this film before seeing it. It is best experienced, like revenge, cold.
Very surprised that Natalie Portman's performance in this has not made more waves on the Awards race this year and she is fantastic.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Fyre: The Festival That Never Happened - Netflix Originals Review

If one wanted to use a film quote to aptly sum up the failure of #FyreFestival that went from the "hottest party" to an example of the perils of PR, marketing and poor event management that will be taught in schools for years to come, one need look no further than Jerry Maguire:
"I'm finished, I'm fucked. Twenty-four hours ago, man, I was hot! Now... I'm a cautionary tale. You see this jacket I'm wearing, you like it? Because I don't really need it because I'm cloaked in failure!"
In 2017, the world watched on social media as a group of privileged American "influencers" had a meltdown on Twitter and Instagram as they arrived on an island in the Bahamas for an exclusive music festival only for it to go horribly wrong and quickly turn into a "first world problems" version of Lord Of The Flies as panicked Instagrammers ran around trying to find tents to sleep in and wept about the awful state of a cheese sandwich.
This Netflix originals documentary (one of two on the festival out this month) has been developed by one of the teams who were involved in the marketing of #Fyre so they have behind the scenes footage of owners Billy McFarland and Ja Rule as they plan to put on an event to help promote their music booking app #Fyre but just seem more concerned with having a massive piss up with supermodels on a deserted island than actually planning the logistics of successfully delivering a high-end, luxury event for people paying thousands of dollars to attend.
As the film counts down to the day of the festival, the sheer level of ignorance, ineptitude and stupidity on show is staggering as the team, under the leadership of McFarland, lurch from one disaster to another. McFarland, despite being in the face of an insurmountable number of problems, just keeps moving forward. It was as if he was the captain of the Titanic who could see the "Iceberg, right ahead!" and just continued on his current course, thinking everything will be fine, even to the point he goes down with the ship.
He is the physical embodiment of the dog in the house on fire meme "This is fine" and the festival-goers are Donald Glover walking into the room on fire meme!
The film has been described as a Jaws for millennials and the description is apt because the #Fyre team (including the affable, nice Andy King who has the single most shocking anecdote you will hear this year regarding Evian water) come across like the Murray Hamilton's Amity Island beach. He knows there is a shark that could kill everyone but still lets them in the water. The #Fyre team know the festival will fail, that they don't have enough accommodation and food for everyone (not even getting to the fact the accommodation is not what was advertised) and yet they still let them come to the island!

"I'm pleased & happy to repeat the news that in spite of some rumours, we have plenty of tents & cheese sandwiches for everyone attending. It’s a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Fyre Festival as you know, means Friendship!"
There is an old adage in Hollywood that "you couldn't make it up" and that the truth is stranger than fiction and this is one of those stories which is so incredulous and unbelievable in how it all unfolded that you will be sitting slack-jawed and shaking your head in disbelief throughout.
It is a fascinating look at the world that we currently live in and a timely reminder of the power that social media can have over our lives and that sometimes we should take a step back and switch off every now and again to avoid getting burned.

4 stars