Saturday, 16 March 2019

Hats Off to Laurel and Hardy Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Philip Hutchinson

Starring
Tony Carpenter as Stan Laurel
Philip Hutchinson as Oliver Hardy
Kelsey Williams as Introduction Voice / Nanny
Andy Fairweather as Hold-Up Guy / Postman / 'Way Out West' Voice
Jon Cotterill as 'Lonesome Pine' Cowboy / 'A Chump at Oxford' Hand
Brian Matthews as 'Lonesome Pine' Barman
Ian Creese as Jack Mangan
Paul Weems as Ralph Edwards / End Voiceover
Kate Fairweather as Ida's Voice

Genre
Stage Show, Life Story, Comedy

Synopsis

It's been half a century since Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy died.  There is good reason why they are the best-loved comedy duo of all time.  They were the pioneers of modern comedy and their movies have delighted generation after generation for almost 100 years.  

'Hats Off To Laurel And Hardy' is a brand new show about the lives of Arthur Stanley Jefferson (Stan) and Norvell Hardy (Ollie).  It will guide you through their early lives, their steady rise to international stardom, the decline of their movie careers and their phoenix-like revival on the stages of Europe.  It details their commitment to their work, the appreciation of their fans, the love of their wives and - most enduringly - their unerring devotion to each other.  

Expect recreated highlights from their huge canon of work, accompanied by a little singing and some questionable dancing.  Lucky Dog's continuing national tour plays to packed houses and standing ovations.  Prepare to laugh your socks off before finally having your heart broken.

Review

As a huge Laurel and Hardy fan, I've seen a huge amount of shows, documentaries and more about the wonderful comedic duo so I was very eager to see this show at a local venue called The Guildhall in Leicester.

What I came to see ended up seeing was, by far, my favourite of all the things I have seen about my two favourite comedians.

When Carpenter and Hutchinson came on to stage, one thing struck me. Their mannerisms were absolutely spot on to such a degree that it felt like watching the actual Laurel and Hardy themselves and within moments, they had the audience in absolute hysterics.

Going in to loads of different parts of their lives, the audience were riveted to the performances on the stage. Equal parts funny, equal parts heart breaking, Hutchinson and Carpenter had the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. The interplay between them was absolutely crisp and wouldn't have felt out of place in one of the Laurel and Hardy classics.

Another thing that struck me was their sheer attention to detail, not only in their performances, but also in their recreated video parts too. The passion and knowledge of their subject positively shines through in each movement and piece of dialogue too.

All in all, if you are a fan of Laurel and Hardy, or even just have a passing interest, then I honestly can't recommend this show high enough. As an audience member, I couldn't take my eyes from them the entire time and their mannerisms, like I said earlier, are so spot on on that you  really believe that you're watching the real deal.

A must see.

Visit their website at Lucky Dog Theatre Productions

Friday, 15 February 2019

Slasher: Season 1 Review


AKA: Slasher: The Executioner

Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Created By
Aaron Martin

Genre
Horror

Cast
Katie McGrath as Sarah Bennett
Brandon Jay McLaren as Dylan Bennett
Christopher Jacot as Robin
Steve Byers as Sgt. Cam Henry
Dean McDermott as Chief Iain Vaughn

Synopsis

Slasher was the first own-produced series by the now defunct U.S. TV channel Chiller and centers around a young woman, Sarah, who is confronted with a series of horrifying copycat murders, that are based on the widely-known killings of her parents years ago.

Review

I'm a huge fan of old school style slasher movies from the 70's and 80's and really feel that when they're done well then they can range from being really good up to classic movies.  Even when not done well, they can be a good slice of cheesy fun as well.  Obviously there are some downright awful ones out there but that can be said about any other movie genres too.

I was aware of the Scream television series, although I've not watched that one yet, and saw a lot of horror fans recommending this Canadian series so I figured I would give it a go.

One of the things that struck me the most was the beautiful cinematography by the team here. Even if they don't have the biggest of budget for this series, which can sometimes show in this season, it still looked absolutely stunning in places.

Story wise, it's not going to win any awards for originality as the whole idea of someone being haunted by copycat killings that mirror the killings of someone close to the main character has been done in many movies before.  Some really well and others really badly. Here, the eight episode run does a good job of building up the foreboding and suspence through the eight episodes.  That said,  there were quite a few moments that bogged the episodes down and even repeated parts over and over.

I think the story struggled a lot to find enough material to warrant eight episodes. If it had have been kept to maybe six episodes and had some of the scenes trimmed or removed, I feel it would have flowed at a much better pace.  To have the main character chased by the killer in nearly every single episode felt massively like overkill to such a point where after the first two times, when it happened again it made me groan in a "oh here we go again" type feeling instead of creating a feeling of dread or fear.  

Another thing that annoyed me was the way they'd have the characters say a line of dialogue only to do a complete 360 seconds later.  That was especially true in the final episode where the main character had a near complete personality change.  I feel that the route they were going was to make  the character have suffered so much that they then bring themselves down to the killers level in an effort to get revenge but it just felt so out of place, especially when they were shown a couple of days later in a "driving in to the sunset" type finale with next to no repercussions and all the mistrust between the two characters suddenly forgotten as it didn't serve a purpose for the story.  Also, the reveal of the killer seemed to fall a little flat.  Not  only did they give a bit of a half arsed back story for the reasons for the murders but to also give so many "oh no it's definitely not that person" moments of dialogue made it very, very obvious who it was from the second episode onwards.

With all that said, it's not a bad or awful series at all.  The acting was rather hit and miss, especially with the two main characters, ranging from being very good to being very wooden and almost bored while saying their dialogue.  I wasn't expecting Oscar winning acting of course but there were some moments where I wanted to scream at the screen to tell the character to show some emotion.

The characters themselves are rather unlikeable but I believe that's the point from a story point of view because the murders were based around the sins that the characters have committed that make them unlikeable.  My favourite character however was very likeable and sympathetic called Robin, the actor strangely turns back up in season two but as a completely different character.

Deaths wise, and let's be honest that's why we watch slasher movies and television shows, are quite inventive and in places, rather gory so that should satisfy even the most ardent of gore hounds amongst us.

All in all, the show was a little disappointing in places but still worth taking a look at if you like old school style slasher movies. If you can ignore some of the characters really stupid decisions, which I won't mention as they're spoilers, that might make you want to shout at the screen and are able to ignore some pretty big plot holes then it's worth checking out.

Show 6/10

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Dumplin' Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
Kristin Hahn

Based on the Book By
Julie Murphy

Directed By
Anne Fletcher

Genre
Comedy, Drama, Musical

Cast
Danielle Macdonald as Willowdean
Jennifer Aniston as Rosie
Odeya Rush as Ellen
Maddie Baillio as Millie
Bex Taylor-Klaus as Hannah
Luke Benward as Bo
Dove Cameron as Bekah
Harold Perrineau as Lee
Kathy Najimy as Millie's Mom
Joshua Allan Eads as Candee Disch (Credited as Ginger Minj)

Year Released
2018

Certificate
12

Synopis

Willowdean ('Dumplin'), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom's Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. 

Review

I am a huge fan of the singer Dolly Parton. I'm a huge fan of cheesy movies where someone doubts themselves and then realises they can actually do what ever it is that they need to do. When I found out there was going to be a Netflix movie that combined the two, well I was excited.

I went in to the movie fully expecting an out and out cheese fest that would be largely forgettable once the end credits rolled. What I didn't expect was a heartfelt movie that would be so touching and fun that I would want to watch it again as soon as it had finished.

A lot of the reviews have said that the movie is massively changed from the book that it is based on but, as I haven't read the book then I can't really comment on that. However, that said, if the book is as enjoyable as the movie despite being different then I'll be picking myself up a copy of that rather soon.

One of the things that I liked about the movie was that while it wasn't the most original movie I've ever seen, the performances are so superb and memorable across the board that it raises the quality of the whole movie a lot higher than it could have been. In particular, the performance of  Danielle Macdonald as Willowdean is an absolute delight. She manages to be hilarious funny, bringing you to tears of laughter but then in the very next scene shows the character as so fragile that she has you in tears of sadness too.  It's because of her performance that you can't help but will her on during her journey. It's the same with her friends too. They may not take as much of the spotlight of the movie as she does but each character is so different and have such varying personalities that each and every one of them is as memorable as each other.

One of the things that impressed me was the simple fact that the growing romance between Willowdean and Bo was so simply written that it was brilliantly effective and heart warming, even bringing more than a tear to my eyes.

The soundtrack to the movie, full of songs both old and new by the legendary Dolly Parton, is almost a character all by itself.  The songs puncuate the story perfectly and really ramp up the emotion in the scenes too.

One downside to the movie that I found was that they left a couple of character moments a little short changed but the rest of the movie is utterly brilliant. In fact, I'd say it's the best feel good movie that I've seen in a long time.

Movie 8/10


Monday, 11 February 2019

The Revenant Express Review


Review By
Patrick Scattergood

Written By
George Mann

Published By
Titan Books

Genre
Crime, Thriller, Steampunk

Synopsis

Following their bloody encounter with the Executioner, Sir Maurice Newbury's assistant Veronica Hobbes is close to death. Desperate to save her life, Newbury and Veronica's sister Amelia board a sleeper train bound for St. Petersburg, in the hope that Gustav Faberge might have the answer. But there are enemies on board, and Newbury and Amelia will need all their strength and cunning to survive the Revenant Express.

Review

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of the Newbury and Hobbes series of books as well as of the author George Mann as well. I've always loved the level of mystery and surprise in the novels and with such a shocking ending at the end of The Executioners Heart, I had very high hopes the follow up novel.

Most of the novels in the series have the mystery set in London, which almost acts like a character itself during the stories thanks to Mann's amazingly descriptive writing. Here, Mann has made the brave move of not only changing the setting for the story but there is also a change in character too. Newbury is known as energetic and excitable during an investigation but here he is morose, distracted and struggling with his emotions. It was nice to see him showing a softer and more fragile side during the story and showing that he's not perfect. I felt that touch really added to the already multilayered character. It was also nice to see him working alongside Veronica's sister Amelia as well as the interplay felt familar to his relationship with Veronica but was also different too as Amelia has a different personality.

Another part of the change in character wise was seeing Hobbes working alongside Bainbridge in their own case in London. It was great to see the character striking out on her own and seeing how she doesn't have to be tied to Newbury in order to be a strong character.

Story wise, I loved the mix of the adventure that Newbury was on as well as seeing the case that Hobbes and Bainbridge were working on. In the hands of a lesser writer it might have felt disjointed but with Mann's almost lyrical style of writing, both tales move along at a brilliant pace and have some fantastic surprises in store for the reader.

Another thing I liked about the slight change in style was the simple fact that this one was less of a 'who dunnit' and more of an 'against time' action story. I was a bit worried that it would lose some of it's charm and personality going down that route but it actually didn't and suited the story brilliantly. Reading through the novel, I was absolutely gripped through the entire tale and didn't want to put it down at all.

Change in a well loved series can be a very risky thing and Mann took a lot of risks with this book and I applaud him for that. I'll be honest and say that there were a couple of moments where the twists were a little too obvious but the risks he took style and story wise worked incredibly well. Moving the action from London to various places really gave the story a strong shot in the arm so to speak and really gave it room to breath organically without feeling rushed.

All in all, this is a fantastic novel and one that fans of the series will absolutely love. If you've not read one of the Newbury and Hobbes novels before, then I would suggest reading The Executioners Heart before tackling this one otherwise you might be a little lost but this one is well worth picking up.

Story 8/10
Characters 8/10
Cover 8/10
Recommended 8/10
Overall 32/40