Saturday, 30 April 2016

Film review - Emma Watson in Noah

NOAH (2014)  co-written and directed by Darren Aronofsky

It is always interesting to see what child actors do once they reach adulthood. The Addams Family films are a case in point. Christina Ricci has gone on from playing Wednesday to a host of many and varied roles whereas Jimmy Workman, who played Pugsley alongside her, only appeared in two or three more films before retiring from acting and he now earns a living behind the camera doing technical work. But the young actors who appeared in the Harry Potter films have a much larger audience watching their every move, particularly via social media which is something Ricci and actors of her generation didn't have to contend with, at least not in their teenage years and early twenties.

Emma Watson’s first post-Potter role was a small part in My Week With Marilyn but she made a bold statement of intent with her performance in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Gone was the awkwardness of having to kiss Rupert Grint in the final Harry Potter film – in …Wallflower not only was there snogging with co-star Logan Lerman but her character dressed up in full Rocky Horror garb which, one suspects, is a million miles away from anything Hermione would ever have done.

But on to Noah in which she found herself working once more with Lerman but not as his love interest, rather as his step-sister. Seemingly Watson shed tears of joy when she learned that she had won the role of Noah’s step-daughter Ila as she would be working with the likes of Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins. With the other main characters being played by Ray Winstone and Jennifer Connelly this certainly looked like a film worth watching.

When we first see Ila she is running through a forest being pursued by her stepbrother Shem, played by Douglas Booth. He catches up with her and we see that their relationship is rather more passionate than you might usually find with step-siblings but then as their family is living in isolation, being the last descendants of Seth, (third son of Adam and Eve) there is rather a lack of young women around. This is a source of constant frustration for brother Ham who spends much of the film moping around generally feeling sorry for himself.

Ila is infertile due to an injury sustained in childhood but this is magically reversed by Noah’s grandfather, played by Hopkins. Despite his long acting career, I still think of The Silence of the Lambs whenever I see him and there did seem to be something slightly menacing about his portrayal of Methuselah. Ila subsequently becomes pregnant but Noah has decided that it is the will of God that all humans, including his own family, should be punished and if Ila has a girl, Noah announces he will kill the new-born infant.

Watson does a pretty good job of showing how frightened Ila is as her pregnancy come to an end with two baby daughters being born. But they are spared by Noah who finds he only has love in his heart for his granddaughters.

We all know how the story ends with the ark finding land and the final sequence in the film shows the family building a new life, with the exception of Noah who has grown his own vines and is spending his days getting drunk in a cave looking out over the ocean. Ham is still as miserable as ever but decides to give his family a break and wanders off into the wilderness. Seeing as how there are presumably no other people alive, his future looks bleak and one can only surmise that he will end up as food for any hungry bears or wolves he encounters. But all ends well for Ila with her managing to get Noah to see sense and he is re-united with his wife and family.

Since then Emma Watson has appeared in two thrillers, Regression and Colonia, but I see she has also guested in an episode of the UK comedy series The Vicar of Dibley. Hopefully we can look forward to many more varied and enjoyable performances from her in the coming years. Maybe at some point in the future if another Addams Family film is made, we might see her cast as Morticia.

Colin Bertram
30 April 2016

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman gig review

Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman at The Hothouse, 9 April 2016

Kathryn and Sean have been playing music together for many years, going back to when they were in the band Equation with Sean's brothers Seth and Sam along with Kate Rusby who made up the final part of the equation which was based on their initials SL and KR. While the Lakemans are from Devon, Kathryn, being from Barnsley, is a Yorkshire lass so I got the feeling she was quite at home playing to an appreciative Northern crowd at the Hothouse in Morecambe. Sean talked about their home in West Devon and I got the impression people down there feel the same about London and the south-east as folk do up north.

But before we heard from them, we were entertained by Lancaster-based band The Low Countries with songs about Boris Karloff, a Flemish bar and Sun Street which at previous gigs has included a flash mob joining in with the chorus. Sadly there was no flash mob in Morecambe though as their drummer Rob quipped afterwards, maybe they were there, but they just didn't get up to sing.

Next up we had the Lighthouse Keepers which was the end result of a project a local student has been doing which involved taking traditional folk songs and arranging them to feature an interesting line-up which included herself on baritone sax. The rest of her band comprised another two sax players, three fiddlers, a vocalist, guitar, bass and drums the latter two being members of her family including dad on bass guitar. This sort of community-based music project is something they are good at doing at More Music (aka The Hothouse) and it got the approval of Kathryn Roberts who seemed impressed by their two support acts.

The last time I saw Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman in Lancashire was at Glasson Dock village hall the best part of 11 years ago. I did catch them at a festival two or three years back but you really need to see them in a small-ish venue to appreciate their songwriting and musical prowess. As well as playing in Equation, Sean was a part of his brother Seth's band for a number of years and he really is a very fine guitarist. I'm not sure what effects he was using but with one of his guitars he had an impressively full sound with bass notes as well as what he was doing further up the fretboard. This we discovered was an old guitar which had new strings on it which he likened to getting new knickers for your granny. Unlike his more serious brothers, Sean has a great sense of humour which, along with between-song banter with his wife Kathryn, made for a relaxing and good-humoured evening.

On a more serious note Sean told us of the days they spent touring in the USA, especially in the southern states where the flow of migrants from Mexico seems to be never-ending. This was in prelude to a cover of a song Bruce Springsteen wrote about such matters but the majority of the set was their own material. They played several songs from their most recent album “Tomorrow Will Follow Today” including the lovely track '52 Hertz' which tells the sad tale of a whale which scientists have discovered sings at the wrong frequency so never gets any replies from potential mates. Other highlights included 'The Banishing Book' and 'The Red Barn'.

They are now midway through their spring tour and play a sold-out gig in Shrewsbury tonight. On current form I'd say they deserve many more sell out shows so do go see them if you get the chance. Check out their web site for upcoming dates -

Colin Bertram
10 April 2016