Showing posts with label 8/10 4stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 8/10 4stars. Show all posts

21 August 2011

Conor O'Toole - Manual of Style

Conor O'Toole: Manual of Style - Delightful 8/10 show about fonts, typefaces and things that just shouldn't be funny but are!  It's up on Chortle.

15 August 2011

Armageddapocalypse - The Explosioning

Armageddapocalypse: The Explosioning - James Bond, Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer have two things in common: their initials and the fact their flaws have been combined to create the lead in the ‘Hollywood on a shoestring’ comic play, Armageddapocalyspe.

After a bold video title sequence we open to a scene introducing our ‘hero’ Jack Lang as the most renegade agent in the world, trying to stop the bad guys regardless of the consequences. Despite the smallish stage the cast make excellent use of the space and give us a flavour of what to expect for the next hour: some action sequences, silly jokes and asute parody, all with an overriding sense of fun. Then comes the twist; this is actually the screening of the Special-Edition Extended-DVD Blu-Ray Director's Cut version of the film, with the action switching between the stage and the side-stage director’s coke-fuelled commentary.

The story itself needs minimal explaining, or spoiling – bad guy tries to blow up the world, good guy tries to stop him – all inside an hour of fun, laughter, cheesy lines and subtle references. The humour comes from just about all areas of the production: over-the-top performances, prop choices, plot decisions and subverting audiences expectations. A lot of direct gags are from the absurd nature of action films, although the smart writing has added a realistic element to the silliness that pays off so well. Some lines delivered as throw-away after-thoughts are funny enough by themselves to make the cut in other shows.

James Moran and Lucien Young, as hero Jack Lang and villain Dr. Apocalypse respectively, work very well together, both as the lead roles and creators of a perfectly balanced script. They are well-complemented by Tamara Astor as Jennica Wildfire, Lang's apparent love interest, along with Joe Bannister as Falcon, head of the intelligence agency who tries to get Lang to play by the rules, and Johan Munir as director Zach Jack. There is a reasonably long list of supporting characters played by these three, including my personal favourite Dena, the plain computer technician who Lang always calls when he goes rogue. None of the characters are superfluous and all add at least humour to the already highly enjoyable show.

Not since Dutch Elm Conservatoire graced the Fringe has a comic play managed to capture both smartness and silliness at the same time. The audience were thoroughly entertained and can be heard raving about the show before they'd left the building. Don't wait for the DVD version, see this show for yourself.

8/10 for a great comic play, something I picked out based on a poster in Cappadocia one evening and as it wasn't earmarked for review went to see it for Chortle.  Steve was keen to expand to see things other than well-known names and I bet the team behind it are thrilled with the final copy!

14 August 2011

Tom Bell Begins

Tom Bell Begins - Who says successful gritty reboots can only be applied to comic books, and not to comics? Tom Bell wants to tell us his origins story.

The show begins with video montage and dramatic music as we see the possibilities of Tom Bell as a comic-book hero and slowly journey into his dark world – until Bell suddenly cuts the intro as it was a bit too gritty for him and he's getting a bit scared, so lightens the mood with some audience participation.

Begins is comprised of the classic three acts: the beginning, the struggle and the rising. After sweeping through his childhood and dreams, a main one being that he wanted to grow up in Gotham but instead lived in nearby Kegworth, Leicestershire, Bell builds to his first foray into writing and his first true love. He quickly realises that he must leave Kegworth to fulfil his dreams and maybe find love again. The struggle ensues, wrestling with the dark side of performing ironically misogynistic gags to a crowd taking them seriously and trying to reinvent himself. Ultimately, Bell rises and overcomes these struggles in the most unexpected yet amusing way.

The show maintains an interesting balance, part of it tries to deliver his gritty story reboot, while the rest is self-deprecation through his shambolic nature. Laughs come constantly, and the variety of segments keeps the audience entertaining and engaged without any lulls. Bell successfully pulls off video interaction with Alfred his butler, a multitude of slides, at least three discrete characters, a couple of dances, two songs on his guitar and some impressive montages. Clearly a lot of work has gone into this hour, which is tight, imaginative, well executed and accessible – despite it's geeky premise.

8/10 for an enjoyable hour that I actually saw twice (due to over-running the first time) and was still entertained.

13 August 2011

Phil Nichol - The Simple Hour

Phil Nichol: The Simple Hour - It's a sold out show, yet around a dozen seats are still empty - what do you do? Most comics would kick on and start the show, but Phil Nichol isn't most comics.

After a thoughtful consultation with his audience, it seems the decent thing to do is wait five more minutes for people who have been held up. Yet the audience still want to be entertained. So Nichol proceeds to break at least three golden rules of comedy, by giving over the mike to punter Tarquin Delaney, who had the temerity to request Only Gay Eskimo. Delaney takes the stage, Nichol takes a place in the audience… so when latecomers turn up, they must wonder what madness this is. The answer is it's Phil Nichol's madness.

Is there another comic who would stop a show when heckled about the origin of the Mah Nà Mah Nà song - and get away with it? Having argued with almost every member of the audience, Nichol insisted people get their phones out to find whether it was actually first used on Sesame Street or The Muppets (it was Sesame Street). When Nichol is proved right, he jubilantly straddles chairs in the front row shouting joyous profanities to the audience in celebration.

His Simple Hour is clearly not suitable for his Born Again Christian parents, although that was his aim. Simple it maybe in name, but it is expertly delivered and perfectly timed. True, a small part of his material has been reprised from previous shows but you can't hold Nichol to a higher standard than other performers, and he's already won the highest award Edinburgh can bestow.

We return a couple of times to Nichol's trusty guitar, which is some of the best playing seen at the festival. He finally delivers his oft requested Only Gay Eskimo; while his final song contains so much trademark Nichol intensity that he breaks a string, but still finishes his performance.

The simple truth is that Nichol is at his best when acting, either delivering stunning stories like Nearly Gay or The Naked Racist, or in more pronounced characters such as the dead poet Bobby Spade. But even as himself, he still bests most other comics and gives audiences huge laughter for their money. The Simple Hour is very funny hour of madness, mayhem and magic, as only Nichol has mastered.

8/10 for the unique Phil Nichol, a personal favourite over the years.

10 August 2010

Andrew Lawrence - Too Ugly For TV

Andrew Lawrence is a unique talent and a firm favourite of mine, ever since I first saw his award-nominated Best Newcomer Act and appreciated his abilities but decided that his style wasn't really to my taste.  Erm, hang on?  The following year he was nominated as Best Show which surprised me so for his third year I returned to give me another shot in the venue at the Pleasance Courtyard that needs to be renamed the Oven (actually it's Upstairs, but it is above a kitchen!).  I immediately regretted not seeing him the previous year as I was blown away by the hugely positive enhancements he made to his act (dropped the keyboard, had a hair cut).  Last year he topped that show with a perfect portrayal of "soul-crushing" despair and bitterness to the world which includes some of my favourite bits of all time.   Finally as we reach 2010 Andrew seems a lot more positive and happier which personally pleases me but takes the edge off his superbly dark material.  No doubt this is making him a lot more palatable to TV and mainstream audiences and given his great talent it's a very good thing for him.  I am delighted he is starting to get the true recognition he deserves outside of the core of the industry and I'm certain there are a lot of people seeing him for the first time will be surprised as to how dark he can get, even in this lightened version.  The only thing he lacked was a killer bit that he shone with the last two years, so as it stands 8 out of 10 or 4 stars.  PS:  Please don't forget us when you are huge Andrew, keep coming back to Edinburgh!

Dan Antopolski - Turn of the Century

Last year in his second year back at the Fringe, Dan built a great show that deserved won him 5 stars and was the inaugural winner of the "Best Joke of the Fringe" from that well known sponsor of the Edinburgh Festival, TV channel Dave (?).  The joke is of course the infamous "Hedgehogs.  Why can't they just share the hedge?" and this year Dan provides many more such one liners including a follow-up to that very gag.  Rather than regurgitate my previous praise for this talented comic, I'd suggest reading the reviews of his 2008 and 2009 shows, and then finding out that this year he was a bit more restrained and at a slower pace, much as he was in 2008.  There are some slower bits without as many laughs per minute but the overall gigglequant is still very high.  There are four stunning jokes he lands equally spaced throughout his set that will stay with me for a long long time, much like I hope Dan does in terms of Edinburgh.  8 out of 10, aka 4 stars, although with a really sharp crowd and a bit too much coffee it could feel like 9.

8 August 2010

Richard Herring - Christ On A Bike 2

Richard Herring is a masterful comedian that has reliably performed good sets over the last several years.  This year he returns to a much larger venue, the Ballroom in the Assembly Rooms, to deliver a show revolving around Jesus and whether he believes he was the son of God or not.  Starting from a staunchly atheist viewpoint Richard's skill is apparent as he crafts a delightful show without being preachy and at the same time evolves his own viewpoint without it feeling forced just for comic effect.  His material ranges from intelligently picking apart the inconsistencies in the gospels as well as blending in performance art and story-telling humour.  It's good to know that performers at this level still care about their craft and will work tirelessly to create memorable pieces of work they can be proud of year after year.  8 out of 10 aka 4 stars.

Sarah Millican - Chatterbox

After a mere 18 months Sarah went from Best Newcomer in Edinburgh to winning Chortle's Best Headliner award and what's more, her 2010 Edinburgh show Chatterbox was sold out a couple of weeks before the festival started!  This progression is arguably faster than John Bishop's rise to fame, although he is playing the largest venue in Edinburgh (the re-opened McEwan Hall were I sat many degree exams) and Sarah is filling The Stand.  I guess there are quite a few similarities in their styles, the gentle amiable warmth that makes you feel like you could be their friend.  This year's show doesn't have an over-riding theme but instead is a collection of "I like..." statements leading to brief bits cumulating into a very pleasant hour.  As with last year's show she made me chuckle throughout her show but does lack that killer, whole-belly laugh.  A reliable high end performer that you should be able to bank on.  8 out of 10 or 4 stars.

7 August 2010

Colin Hoult - Enemy Of The World

Colin Hoult earned a few very positive reviews last year for his show Carnival Of Monsters and on the back of that I have a ticket for his new show.  I admit I know very little about him, other than he does "character sketch" shows, which is the more apt description than just sketch.  Colin finally makes his way out on stage after an atmospheric opening my his 'assistants' and we are taken on a dark (well, red) journey through some very interesting characters and bizarre scenes.  The humour comes from the characters rather than any specific jokes and his performances are very accomplished, with an almost Chris Barrie air to his movements (and indeed physical appearance).  Most people compare his work to League of Gentlemen and it's just a shame I'm not a fan of their style.  That said Colin is entertaining, probably more so for fans of this style, but still a well crafted and well performed show.  A very respectable 7 out of 10 or 3 stars.  With more captivating story-lines or a unique hook he seems to have the potential to pull off a great show (and maybe he did last year!).

6 August 2010

Sammy J - Skinny Man, Modern World

Sammy J is one of the leading stars of a new wave of Australia-based Australian comics (as opposed to the likes of Brendon Burns and Tim Minchin who are now based in London) who are getting wide-spread acclaim.  Others include his often partner-in-crime Heath McIvor (a wonderfully thoughtful and generous gentleman!), the previously covered Celia Pacquola, Lawrence Leung.  Could this be the result of many years of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival searching out the best home grown talent and helping foster a great environment over there?  Possibly, but they also grew up with some great talents on their TV including one of my all-time favourites Shaun Micallef.
But this review is just about Sammy J and I have to start it by summarising a conversation I was very lucky enough to have with the show's star the next night.  The whole content of this show is true.  You will find it hard to believe but I have it from the source that everything (well, with one obvious exception) is real.  With this in mind Sammy takes us along on a musical and stand-up journey from his teenage years, to his future death, back to falling in love, being a performer in Adelaide and previous years in Edinburgh.  Breaking out from two years of character driven story telling Sammy performs with a confidence and smoothness that acknowledges his physical limitations ("Sammy ain't a fighter") whilst looking very sharp in his trendy suit.  The hour flies by as Sammy effortlessly delivers his well-paced disparate sets.  Thoroughly enjoyable, light-hearted relief from a real talent doing his third different style of show in as many years.  8 out of 10, aka 4 stars and a certain re-booking for next year (which rumours have it means Ricketts Lane comes to the UK!).

Celia Pacquola - Flying Solos

Last year Celia's debut Edinburgh show went down very well with me and many other reviews / critics / people-with-an-inflated-opinion-of-their-own-importance.  She is a very friendly Ozzie, quite positive and a good communicator.  So in the same outfit as last year she greets her sold-out audience for her new show in the same venue.  This year Celia focuses on doing things on your own, encompassing intentional feats and embarrassing moments.  Her warmth really sets the audience at ease even as she tries to get them to cheer if they've made similar mortifying mistakes.  Normally this type of audience interaction dies quite painfully and you see a drop in the performers tone or effort but not so with Celia.  Her unending positivity rides over the awkwardness and brings the audience with her along a journey of trying to achieve something impossible on her own, namely playing the piano solo from "I'm So Excited".
Along the way we have insights back into Celia's shameful childhood and the relationship she has with her mother.  It's not all personal discover as there are some very good jokes and concepts in there, especially a cleaning joke that seemed to not get the credit or time it deserved (but that might be a cultural thing).  Her merging between video, props and music is very smooth and seamless, just like her lights & clicking trick from last year.  The show builds to a climax for Celia to genuinely stand up on her own two feet, even beyond the scope of the stage, and achieve something that seemed totally impossible at the beginning of the show.  The audience really loved it and left elated and feeling so positive, in fact I defy anyone to leave the show not feeling uplifted (cue inevitable comparisons with Adam Hills and quite rightly so).  A thoroughly enjoyable hour from such a likeable person, 8 out of 10, aka 4 stars and I will be back to see Celia again next year!

10 April 2010

'Shelter' Under Your Coat Or Away From Bad Direction?

At an unusual time of year a supernatural thriller akin to The Ring is released which naturally draws me to it.  Could it work?  First of all, yes, Shelter is like The Ring.  That is it has pointless cut aways and sudden close-ups just to try to build tension or make you jump, so it's quite frustrating.  The underlying story and what they are trying to do will be appreciated by fans of Ringu, the original Japanese masterpiece, despite the occasional ham-fisted way they go about directing it.  A quick overview of the film is Julianne Moore is a doctor of psychology who has disproved a murderer claiming to have genuine multiple Personality Disorder.  Then someone she occasionally works with (who happens to be her father, can't remember his name, so let's use Foxtrot for F, as in father), invites her to review a patient for him.  Foxtrot guy doesn't tell the Doctor all the info about this patient in advance and she discovers seemingly impossible things about him little by little, each time coming up with possible explanations.  There is one really interesting scene where (let's just abbreviate it further) Fox is playing basketball and the red-haired female Doctor storms in and a little exchange takes place where Fox tells her she has to open her mind to the possibilities of the world beyond the limits of her current scientific knowledge.  I think I've seen this somewhere before...  Was this something I made..?  :-)

Going in to see this film prep'ed with this information will probably help you enjoy it more despite some plot holes and questionable decisions by the characters.  The opening half an hour does swerve from place to place and I was unsure where they were trying to go with the film until it finally settled down with the story it wants to tell.  The acting from Jonathan as the patient in question is quite good although I wasn't impressed with the performance Julianne put in.  There are quite a few times where suspension of disbelief just falls apart and the film just feels too much like The Fourth Kind after you find out it's all fiction.  Despite all the criticism above, if you treat it as homage to the great show mentioned above, you can not only get through the film but also leave feeling pleased and mostly positive about the whole experience.  I even laughed with happiness...!

11 February 2010

Why Is Michael McIntyre Starring As The Wolfman?

Just back from watching The Wolfman and there are several things that have surprised me about this film.  I believe it has been delayed by many months which it spent in post-production and I'm pleased that this hasn't made it into a long and drawn out film.  Yes, it is a little bit schizophrenic at times, but the acting, the direction, the sets, the special effects and the make up are all very professional.  In fact on the, I'm stunned how they managed to take 21st Century comedy maestro Michael McIntyre and age him slightly to be the lead actor:

The film is quite enjoyable, doesn't bore you at any point and has a nice sprinkling of loud noises / jump out scenes as well as some hardcore gore (similar to Daybreakers in not pulling any punches).  From the opening titles, you realise that this is a remake of a classic Hammer horror film about "The Wolfman".  It's not a serious thriller about werewolves nor a teen flick about love between monsters.  All it tries to do is tell the story of this one Wolfman and it does that pretty well.  That said, there are times especially in the first half hour were the direction and acting comes across as a serious drama or suspense thriller which at the time does confuse you.  When you leave and you recall the opening titles, the main sequence in the middle and the closing scene, you know that it is very good and modern Hammer horror film which does entertain.