Tuesday 20 December 2016

Movie watching with dinosaurs, the ART of comedy, a festive film classic and a Hollywood star...

11th December 2016 - 17th December 2016

Activities :

A quite film theme week last week, but also a fantastic night at the theatre full of laughs, so without further ado...

Jurassic Park (Rooftop Film Club Screening)

Monday night combined some film with a bit of museum going, which is never a bad thing, (although when a past excursion to the British Museum to watch 'The Princess Bride' coincided with torrential rain it all became a little more problematic, still enjoyed the film though).

The suitably Christmassy lights at the Natural History Museum...

It was for a screening of 'Jurassic Park' by the pop-up film screening outfit The Rooftop Film Club, and located aptly in the main hall of the Natural History Museum with the audience encompassing soon to be on tour national treasure Dippy the Diplodocus!

We remember visits here from school days and Dippy's always been a lasting memory of those trips, however he's due to be replaced shortly by the museum's real Blue Whale skeleton, (Dippy's actually just a plaster cast of the skeleton, however it is the a cast of the most complete skeleton ever found so he's still very special), so this was a nice setting and the ideal film to enjoy here.

There were two screenings that night, one at 7PM and one at 10PM, both fully sold out, we opted for the latter showing as work and eating meant the earlier start would be a rush, however attending later also meant that we got to enjoy the museum a bit as would could enter from 8PM and explore the Dinosaur and Mammal exhibits with very sparse crowds which was a treat in itself.

A nice touch of classic cinema signage...

After Hours access to the exhibits...

Strangely happy expressions on most of the staffed mammals...

The animated T Rex is a definite highlight...

The Statler and Waldorf of the Natural History Museum...

The exhibits are still impressive, despite being quite familiar from visits over the years and it's well worth a visit as watching footage online or on TV still doesn't allow you to fully appreciate the aesthetic qualities, although the taxidermy aspect can be a little disconcerting given it's no longer a common sight.

So after the usual schoolchild-like ooohhhing, aaahhhing and fiddling with moving parts of exhibits it was finally time to settle down to a modern classic!

A large screen was installed half way up the large staircase behind Dippy and chairs were arranged around him so we really were literally watching 'Jurassic Park' with a dinosaur basically, which is about as fitting a setting as you can get I guess!

The film itself surely needs no introduction, Spielberg's modern classic hits all the right notes, jumps and laughs expertly handled but one of cinema's masters. The CGI and animatronic effects still hold up today, in fact they're still better than most recent efforts, and along with the performances music and narrative it all adds up to an intelligent, summer blockbuster.

Our view from our seats back to the entrance and Dippy's head...

The silver screen...

A fond farewell at the end of the evening...

Although it was pretty late by the time the film started and ended it still managed to entertain us and there was free popcorn which is always a winner! http://rooftopfilmclub.com/london and http://www.nhm.ac.uk/

Now we had a couple of nights off before some theatre on Thursday...


So on Thursday we headed over to the Southbank for the latest play to open at the Old Vic, a revival of Art by Tasmina Reza.

Translated from it's original French language, this had quite a run in the West End during the late nineties/early noughties, with many different ensemble casts, boasting quite a few impressive names such as Albert Finner, Tom Courtenay, Jack Dee, George Wendt and Frank Skinner.

This time around we have the accomplished line up of Rufus Sewell, (recently seen in 'Closer' at the Donmar Warehouse and 'Victoria' on TV), Tim Key, (Alan Partridge's hapless co-presenter and stand-up), and Paul Ritter, (the dad in 'Friday Night Dinner' and also to be seen in the latest Dan Brown film adaptation 'Inferno'), all three from different backgrounds within the industry but here they gelled fantastically and made for a truly entertaining night at the theatre.

We'd taken advantage of the Old Vic PWC preview ticket scheme for this one, which basically amounts to £10 tickets available for about half of the total seats, at all levels for the first five preview performances, some might be put off by the fact it's one of the initial performances and would prefer to see the play after it's fully hit it's stride, however we've done the £10 ticket deal for a few shows now and highly recommend it! It's live theatre after all, and sometimes the little ad-libs fumbling of words can actually add an air of reality to the show, however most times as on this occasion the cast were on top form.

That'll never wash out...

We'd managed to score third row stalls tickets, so the view was great and there were no problems with hearing anyone, we also had a clear view of the actors faces which is always a bonus as you get to feel the full performance.

It's basically a play about the idiosyncrasies of male friendships and attitudes concerning contemporary art, and revolves around one of the friends, Serge, (Sewell), having purchased an expensive basically blank white painting which his friend Marc, (Ritter), hates and their friend Yvan, (Key), who's caught in the middle trying to always please everybody, (usually at the cost of his own happiness).

The play is performed as a series of scenes which utilise the same main set, slightly enhanced to portray each of the character's own homes, and combines ensemble scenes with fourth wall breaking monologues addressed directly to the audience which verbalise the character's internal thoughts and feelings, a neat way to highlight commonly held view that men are reluctant to share such things in such relationships, (maybe a little bit of an old fashioned stereotype since the rise of the 'millennial male', but it's a play which although of it's time doesn't feel redundant in it's themes).

It deftly steps between witty 'banter', almost bordering on farcical situations and a bit of genuine drama, and was reminiscent of the tone of another French play, staged in the West End earlier this year at the Wyndhams Theatre, 'The Truth' , (which was another truly outstanding comedic drama examining themes of relationships and betrayal with razor sharp dialogue and pitch perfect performances from the ensemble cast).

Overall it's well worth catching, and at an economical 90 minutes with no interval it zips by and doesn't feel too heavy of an evening, superb!

It's A Wonderful Life

Currently on re-release for the festive season at the BFI Southbank, what more could you ask for in these cynical times than a welcome viewing of Frank Capra's relentlessly optimistic classic 'It's A Wonderful Life'.

So Saturday afternoon saw us settle into our favourite seats in screen NFT1 for our first viewing on the big screen. This was a pristine digital presentation, as I suspect any film prints are starting to really show their age, however it wasn't digitally toyed with so wasn't thankfully wasn't artificially polished.

For those that haven't seen it, (if not, why not!!), the plot simply put revolves around James Stewart's character George Bailey, operator of his late father's buildings and loan company in a small town Bedford Falls who despite lofty ambitions to travel the world and be someone who makes a difference in the world is forever held back by circumstances in life. Eventually when a dramatic misfortune befalls him and pushes him to the brink of suicide he makes a wish that he'd never been born, at which point a guardian angel named Clarence is dispatched to show him that despite feeling that he's a failure because his big dreams were unfulfilled, his very existence and actions within his small community in actual fact fulfil his hopes in greater way than he could ever imagine.

The candle adds a bit of a festive vibe...

The movie was actually a bit of a flop on it's initial release, maybe audiences found the even the merest suggestion of suicide a turn off, or maybe it was just a little ahead of it's time, the scenes of Clarence conversing with the chief angels, represented by sets of flashing stars seems quite a modern concept, however it' has subsequently found it's place as a mainstay during the Christmas season. 

Lets make no bones about it, the film is constructed explicitly to elicit the maximum amount of sentimentality from it's audience, both in it's storytelling and most notably through the performance of Stewart, always dependable to play the all-American everyman to a T, but you never feel manipulated, in fact it provides a comforting atmosphere, and had us both booing by the end.

If you get a chance to catch this classic on the silver screen do it, you won't be disappointed!

Danny Glover in Conversation

After a spot of dinner, it was straight back into the screen for one of many events programmed as part of the BFI's 'Black Star' season of films celebrating the range and versatility of black actors, an in conversation event with Danny Glover.

Being big fans of the 'Lethal Weapon' franchise and his performance in 'The Color Purple' in particular meant we were looking forward to seeing the man in person and hearing his reminiscences on his career.

Obviously not yet too old for this s*#!...

Arriving on stage to rapturous applause Glover came across as someone clearly and rightly proud of his varied output over a long successful career and also immensely proud of the opportunities it's afforded him in forming his own production company to produce projects which satisfy his humanitarian pursuits and bring other more personal projects to fruition.

He also touched on his belief in the power of people to be better citizens and therefore better people, Glover for President!

The audience Q & A touched on the status of a couple of other projects he's been linked with as producer, including an intriguing little known story about Albert Einstein and his involvement in some Civil Rights activities in America, and of course he was quizzed on the possibility of a Lethal Weapon 5, to which he replied it looks unlikely but if the right script did come along, then he would be on board.

Glover deep in conversation...

Glover proved to be a very eloquent and passionate character, certainly very appreciative of the opportunities afforded to him and his continued popularity.

That's it for this week, we'll be back soon!

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