Parasite (2019)

Oh dear. I find myself in Amy Winehouse territory again. Just as I can find no pleasure in her music, despite the late singer’s widespread popularity and critical acclaim, so I am struggling to find anything I liked about the Oscar-winning Parasite.

Perhaps it’s the absence of any sympathetic characters? In this movie we follow a family of anti-heroes, and there are plenty of examples where the audience can attach to the ‘bad guys.’ But here I found the hammy acting and unsubtle depiction of their unfortunate circumstances served only to make me recoil, not only from them but from the whole film.

In summary, Parasite is an absurd Upstairs Downstairs farce. It has received plaudits from all quarters, but I just couldn’t wait for it to finish.

Cold War (2018)

Cold War 2018If you see only one film this year, make sure you catch Cold War (original Polish title Zimna wojna). I found it mesmerising, with gorgeous black and white cinematography, haunting musical performances, and a love story which was deeply moving. It’s also a history lesson, taking the viewer on an express journey through the decades in post-war Europe.

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and starring the Monroe-esque Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot.

Close to the Enemy (2016)

I often find myself watching TV dramas in a state of confusion and puzzlement. “Is he the other guy’s brother?” “Who is she supposed to work for?” “Why did they do that?” “So was that a flashback or a dream?” “Is this set in Denmark or Sweden – or both?”

I usually give up trying to follow convoluted plots and end up just taking in the scenery. A bit like going on one of those hop-on hop-off city bus tours Continue reading

The Nice Guys (2016)

One hour and fifty-six minutes – count ’em – of a dog’s dinner served up as an action comedy. Evidently director Shane Black’s policy was that nothing should be left on the cutting room floor.

This film has too many characters, too many bangs and flashes, too much violence, and a far too convoluted plot to make it worthwhile picking out the funny bits. Such comedic moments are almost all carried by Ryan Gosling as the earnest but inept private detective. Russell Crowe is his hard-man buddy, these days channelling more than a little John Goodman.

Watch Bad Boys (1995) to see a much more entertaining example of this genre.

The Dressmaker (2015)

Set in a 1950’s claustrophobic hamlet in the vast Australian outback, this is a tale of a woman returning to her childhood home in order to make sense of her upbringing and to right some wrongs. Judy Davis and Kate Winslett treat us to stellar performances as mother and daughter, although the voluptuous Ms Winslett Continue reading

The Martian (2015)

An agreeable ‘popcorn movie’ which is well-made and perfectly entertaining, but two ingredients were lacking. Ridley Scott has of course directed some classic edge-of-the-seat sci-fi thrillers, but this is not one of them. Instead it has a jaunty, humorous tone and there is never any doubt about the outcome. Continue reading

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen

If you are a vegetarian, most restaurants conveniently narrow your choice to a couple of options at most. No time-consuming enquiries to make about exactly what this or that meal consists of, and no agonizing about getting it right. Just pick the token veggie meal and sit back for ten minutes whilst your dining companions pore over the menu.

However, a visit to Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen in Manchester is a very different experience. By force of habit, a veggie diner might scan the menu for the one or two dishes marked with a ‘V’. However the pleasant surprise at seeing so many options is doubled when you remember that everything is vegetarian, and that the ‘V’ designates vegan meals!

The ambiance clean and bright, the service is deferential. The food is fresh, clever, complex – and delicious! So whether you are vegetarian vegan or someone who just appreciates imaginative Chinese food, treat yourself to a meal or take-away at Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, Wilmslow Road Manchester.

Gone Girl (2014)

Good-looking actors, multi-million dollar houses and sumptuous production values fail to compensate for wafer thin characterisations and a plot which succeeds in being monotone yet meandering at the same time. Of course you do want twists and turns in a psychological thriller. But the audience first needs to be strapped in for the ride, to accept the film-maker’s proposition, otherwise it’s just taking liberties.

I haven’t read the book, but I imagine that the plot reads well. On screen however, it’s a silly superficial flat-pack assembly. And not since Basic Instinct (1992) has there been such a ludicrous scene where a manipulative woman is interviewed by a room full of gullible cops.

Orlando – Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre

Virginia Woolf’s somewhat bizarre 1920’s novel is the basis for this play which runs until 22 March 2014. Adapted by Sarah Ruhl, it tells the story of a man born during Elizabeth I’s reign who lives through the centuries to the present day, transforming into a woman in the process.

Director Max Webster and Designer Ti Green do magical things with the simplest of sets, allowing Suranne Jones to truly excel in the starring role. It’s fun, moving, exhilarating and thought-provoking by turns – what live theatre is all about, really.

If you see only one play this year, make sure you don’t miss this one!