ELF: Buddy’s Musical Christmas (TV Review)

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The Land Before Time V: The Mysterious Island (DVD Review)

U – 74mins – 1997


 

TURN OF THE TIDE?

A triptych of cute-if-repetitive straight-to-video sequels in as many years was obviously enough for writer Dev Ross and director Roy Allen Smith. Both departed the Great Valley prior to this fifth diddy dino-delight, and most of the voice cast followed suit.

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Moana (Cinema Review)

Trolls (Cinema Review)

Image result for trolls film

U – 93mins – 2016 – 3D


 

HAPPY, HAPPY, TOY JOY

Those beady-eyed, multi-coloured, Mr. Whippy-haired dolls from your youth (provided you were young in the 90s!) sing, dance and scrapbook their way to the big screen in this nauseatingly bright, bubbly and emotive celebration of all things HAPPY from Dreamworks Animation, Shrek Forever After director Mike Mitchell and co-director Walt Dohrn (a fellow Shrek franchise alum).

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Magic Mike (DVD Review)

Image result for magic mike

15 – 110mins – 2012


 

WELCOME TO THE CRAZY CLUB

“You don’t need to talk, just look pretty.”

It has taken four years, but I have finally relented and taken a peek at the Channing Tatum pec show (AKA. Magic Mike). Loosely based on the star’s eyebrow-raising pre-Hollywood experiences, with its flashy, shimmering DVD cover almost blinding me with glittery glamour, I can’t help but feel like director Steven Soderbergh’s often dark and depressing glimpse behind the curtain of Tampa’s male strip scene has been as mis-sold as the bawdy industry it portrays.

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Mad About the Musicals (Live Review)

Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds – Thursday 16th June – 7:30pm

Official Website10th Anniversary Tour Tickets


 

JUKEBOX MUSICAL

Last night I was supposed to be sat in a sea of 80,000 Coldplay fans singing along to “Fix You” at Wembley Stadium, but the fates conspired to alter my plans, so instead I happily accepted an invitation to the oldest Regency Theatre in the county (fact) to watch an M.A. Promotions production called Mad About the Musicals, which is celebrating its 10th Anniversary by bringing former Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates along for a whistle-stop country-wide sing-song.

Fronted by jubilant show creator, producer and director Michael Courtney (who reminded me of Michael Ball, although another member of my group threw Alan Titchmarsh’s name into lookie-likie contention), MAtM’s concept is a simple one: a celebratory selection box of the very best songs from the musicals of stage and screen, intercut with onstage interplay between the five main singers and banter with the audience.

Having not seen any of the previous nine years’ productions, I can only imagine that a need to spruce things up year-on-year has lead to such a broad and diverse set-list this time around. Whilst I have no qualms with being introduced to some of the more obscure gems of the genre, the sheer number of songs – from Funny Girl, Dreamgirls and Jekyll & Hyde to name but three – which I had not encountered before has lead me to re-evaluate what I thought was my rather knowledgeable acquaintance with the genre. As such, I was beholden to Michael Courtney’s introductions when we reached half-time with only numbers from Miss Saigon and a rousing We Will Rock You medley striking a chord with me.

While the second half – opening with an attention-grabbing selection from The Phantom of the Opera and closing with a five song run-through from everyone’s favourite Les Misérables – provided a more comfortably familiar anthology, what stood out most was how underutilised star name Gareth Gates was. He was the first man on stage at curtains up, but after some jovial repartee with compère Michael (including a self-deprecating jibe about Gareth’s strugglesome stutter) he receded backstage and was by far the least seen of the singers through the night.

Front and centre on the posters to get bums on seats, it was also true that new-to-the-company Gareth – whose primary strength is in pop songs, lest we forget – had the softest/weakest voice of the group, with Michael and the terrific trio of leading ladies each astounding with some assured and belting vocal acrobatics, particularly during duets and complex layered harmonies. Any seriousness during some of the more tender ballads (such as Jesus Christ Superstar) did sometimes feel at odds with the over-rehearsed pantomime-esque (mis-)behaviour between songs, but this was a variety show and that they delivered.

Michael made multiple complementary references to the beauty of the diminutive venue, helping to personalise the banter, but despite the Theatre Royal’s revered history, it must be said that size is not its strength. Despite being on row F, I felt close enough to count the hairs in Gareth’s designer stubble! Indeed, when the colourful lighting rig swathed the audience in light during the more upbeat numbers, my heart went out to the live band and singers who were forced to look out at a solid-but-patchy audience, with the front row in particular looking depressingly threadbare. Wembley Stadium, this was not. Nevertheless, the company behind Mad About the Musicals never let their smiles slip and the show went on with theatrically game gusto.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars


Photo and poster courtesy of the official Mad About the Musicals Facebook page – I did not take or design these, nor infer ownership. No copyright infringement intended.

The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists (DVD Review)

U – 71mins – 1996


 

STRONGER TOGETHER

“Everywhere things are changing,” so warns the opening narration as we are re-introduced to our weather-wracked prehistoric planet where profuse precipitation is introducing new amphibious species into the dino-dominated eco-system. The earth now too soggy to be lived on, anxious herds are forced to migrate to the as-yet-untouched paradise of the Great Valley.

Yep, that’s right – with none of the calamitous climate-controlled changes yet to affect Littlefoot (Scott McAfee) and co., it is morally-virtuous business as usual for our reliable band of affectionate amigos in this fourth template-aligning Land Before Time adventure, which once more celebrates growth, embraces change and promotes teamwork through a mixture of colourful characters, fun adventures and sing-a-long songs.

Everyone has a part to play and a time to shine – even a not-so-silent Spike (“You talk-ted, yep, yep yep!”) and a furry micro-scamp christened Tickles – when Grandpa Longneck (Kenneth Mars) falls ill. It is up to our brave band of plucky plant-polishing protagonists to set off into the dangerous unknown to find and bring back the golden petal of the medicinal nightflower to save Littefoot’s beloved guardian.

Stubborn Cera (remaining original voice artist Candace Hutson in her final franchise appearance) is forced to overcome her jealousy when a new longneck playmate, Ali (Juliana Hansen), grabs Littefoot’s attention, while our innocent explorers must escape a bickering pair of dependant-yet-uncooperative famished foes in a treacherous overlong cavern setpiece which expands the backdrop but dissipates the pace from this short-but-sweet adventure where even the carnivorous critters are cute in the sunshine.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars