Month: March 2016

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (BBFC 12A)

If you are planning a trip to Colchester’s Odeon cinema to see Zach Snyder’s much anticipated clash of the superheroes then you’ll want to read Colchester 101’s very own resident reviewer Andy Oliver’s thoughts first.

Batman v Superman

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (hereafter referred to as BvS, for the sake of brevity AND because I really hate that Dawn of Justice coda) is a broken movie. It just doesn’t work. It’s a member of that movie club that makes bazillions of dollars because of their subject matter and not because they’re any good (see Jurassic World, pretty much all of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels and ALL of the Transformers movies).

BvS sits awkwardly as a sequel because it treats Man of Steel as almost a prologue to the main story arc that this is trying to set up (non-comic book fans may not understand that the “Justice” bit of the title refers to a superhero team: Justice League of America*). So, although you don’t necessarily have had to have seen Man of Steel, BvS assumes you did.

BvS kicks off with a flashback to Man of Steel’s climactic battle that all but destroyed the centre of Metropolis, but this time we are watching it from ground level, from the perspective of the citizenry demoted to merely collateral damage. More specifically we follow Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) as he races to evacuate his employees from the Wayne Enterprises Building that stands amidst the super-powered carnage. It is this event that convinces Wayne that Superman (Henry Cavill) is a threat to humanity, not its saviour and that a world without Superman would be a safer place for hard working, ordinary people and so begins to plan (as his alter ego, Batman) to take the last son of Krypton out of the picture.

Batman v Superman

Skip to eighteen months later and whilst Batman is looking for a way to take Superman down, Clark Kent (Superman’s alter ego) in his capacity as a reporter for The Daily Planet is trying to launch a campaign against The Dark Knight whom he sees as an overly violent vigilante with no regard for the law.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is also planning to destroy Superman, first by means of a lump of Kryptonite and then by reincarnating General Zod; there are senate hearings about bringing Superman under Government control that all come to hinge on a wheelchair and a jar or pee (I kid you not); a mysterious woman seems to be keeping tabs on Batman; Lois Lane (Amy Adams) keeps getting herself into situations only Superman can save her from and there’s a whole bunch of dream sequences that may or may not be some sort of reality in about fifteen movies’ time.

This all sets the scene for the showdown that the “Vs.” in the title alludes to, but you’ll have to wait about two gruelling hours of the film’s two and a half hour running time for it all to kick off. The last half hour is almost non-stop fighting as first the two heroes duke it out, then they have to come together to battle the reincarnated Zod (now mutated into an unstoppable killing machine called Doomsday and looking like a cross between a Lord of the Rings Cave-Troll and a Ferraro Rocher chocolate). The mysterious woman from earlier is revealed to be Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who valiantly joins the fracas and – ta-dah – we have the core trinity of the Justice League of America.

Batman v Superman

It’s a pretty flimsy plot and, to be honest, it’s not very well told. There’s a heck of a lot of padding and time wasted on sub-plots that lead absolutely nowhere. The first hour, especially, feels thrown together willy-nilly with no effort made toward giving the film any pacing or narrative coherence, where the plot and dialogue should lead to the next scene the actual next scene is often a complete non-sequitur. Although this is an absolute bonus if you have a weak bladder, story-telling wise it’s a complete mess.

Director Zach Snyder seems more interested in recreating religious iconography and comic book panels than in actually telling a story, he’s a lot like (Transformers director) Michael Bay: he knows how to put an astonishing visual onto the screen, he just doesn’t know how to connect them into anything resembling an interesting and coherent story. He throws a lot of stuff into BvS that comic book geeks will love spotting but will leave a casual viewer scratching their head (yes, that is Robin’s costume, daubed with a taunt from The Joker, hanging in a cabinet in the bat-cave; yes, that’s the bit from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns where the sunlight revives a skeletal Superman; yes, that graffiti did read “Who watches the watchmen?”, etc.). Even the cameos (in the form of short YouTube-like videos) from future JLA members The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg are whiffed, they’re hinted at twice before we finally get to see them and when we finally do the sequence is thrown hap-hazardly into the middle of one of the action sequences, once again destroying the film’s pacing.

Snyder quite obviously either doesn’t understand Superman or actively hates him. Superman’s whole thing is that he wants to be a hero, he wants to help the people of his adopted planet, Snyder’s Superman is a reluctant, brooding and occasionally Quixotic emo whose only touchstones to humanity are Lois Lane and his adoptive mother, Martha Kent. Cavill is given little to do acting-wise and that’s a shame as he seems such a personable guy off-screen.

Batman v Superman

Ben Affleck makes for a much more human Bruce Wayne than any of the character’s previous incarnations, there’s a bit of the James Bond, playboy about him that works really well. As Batman he’s fine, he’s not “punch the air” great, but he’s, y’know, fine. And, at least, they’ve finally got a Bat-suit that seems flexible enough to actually move around in.

We don’t get to see enough of Wonder Woman to make a judgement call, really. What we do see looks pretty good, though, she’s every bit as powerful as Superman and there’s a glint in her eye when she’s fighting or flirting that makes me want to see more of her, she genuinely looks to be having fun when she’s doing either.

By far the worst thing in BvS though is Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. I have no idea what movie Eisenberg thinks he’s in or who he thinks he’s playing, but I could quite happily live the rest of my life in happiness if I never see him again. Tonally, he’s all over the place, if Heath Ledger based the character of the Joker on Tom Waits then Eisenberg is basing his Luthor on Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face. He’s annoying and annoyingly played.

BvS is a frustrating experience, there are no character arcs that make any sense; characters take actions that make no sense; the whole third act hangs on a plot device that makes no sense; Snyder has no sense of pacing, story-telling or tension building; it’s incredibly dour with absolutely no sense of fun (the one joke appeared in the trailer and wasn’t that funny the first time I saw it) and, although it is not terrible it’s also not very good at all.

*The Justice League of America first appeared in 1960, today it sounds like something Donald Trump might rename the Republican party, sadly.

Andy Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Oliver

Colchester: A Vision

Colchester is steeped in a rich history that many towns would be envious of, yet somehow we don’t seem to fulfil our potential and become the tourist destination we could be. Scott Everest takes a look at what could be done to change that and really put this town of ours on the map.

What is wrong with Colchester?

On the face of it nothing, there are only a handful of places in the United Kingdom that can boast the incredible heritage that our fair town has in abundance.

It has been noted that 42 million people visited the county of Essex in 2015.

Colchester Zoo does not subscribe to any of the industry measurements so is hard to understand its performance, however all other attractions in Colchester are down 11% on average (from the Government’s Case Tourism Data) with only Colchester Castle showing an upturn in visitors bucking the trend.
Colchester Castle

It is an assumption, but with Tourism we seem to be in regression.

There is £3 billion on the table from inbound tourism to the UK, but even with one of the most unique heritage portfolios in the region Colchester does not seem to have any advantage.

Meanwhile, in the Cotswolds, 50,000 Japanese Tourists visit each year and spend £1.5 million in the local economy. The stay occasion was just to take pictures of the picturesque local villages. It is estimated that in 5 years’ time Chinese tourism will match that figure, producing a combined Asian input of £5 million into the local economy per annum.

Imagine what could happen if they knew what we have to offer. Just tapping into this tiny part of the market, the local economy would start to thrive.

So how could we enhance our heritage?

The Roman Chariot Track is very unique and its restoration is paramount. This, along with creating a living village experience with Roman Britain and the Iceni Tribe, would make Colchester an educational destination during the off peak seasons.

Chariot Racing

We also need to exploit the Witchfinder General – Mathew Hopkins’ infamy with Colchester Castle. York Dungeons is success with Dick Turpin shows there is potential locally. A purpose built experience could put Colchester on the leaflet with one of the most visited attractions in London, the London Dungeons.

A purpose built visitor centre in the same vein as the Jorvik Centre in York would be able to showcase our heritage from the Parliamentarians vs Roundheads during the English Civil War, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Humpty Dumpty, to the history of the British Army in the Town.

Imagine thinking even bigger, Colchester could be a destination instead of just a day trip with Constable Country on our doorstep.

Willy Lotts Cottage

The current council are starting to do a great job in lighting up our heritage, however that light needs to be shone brightly outwards to attract more visitors to our historic town.

So what must be done?

The job of promoting Colchester is simple and is not the problem. Any experienced Tourism specialist will do a great job with the correct support, providing there is no local political interference.

However, let us not be naïve with our ‘Field of Dreams’ ethos. The infrastructure needs to be in place so all visitors can have a positive experience. This is where Colchester Borough Council should focus.

The Park and Ride is actually perfect for local inbound visitors, however coach parties would need consideration without putting too much stress on local routes. (If only we had the old Bus Station)

So in summary we have something called ‘Potential’ which is nothing if we not do anything with it.

Scott Everest works as Special Projects Manager for a European based Hotel Group. His experience includes working for Pontins Holidays, CentreParcs, Disneyland Paris and Travelodge in various senior management positions across the UK. He has also attended committee meetings and briefings for the 2012 Olympic committee, and Goverment Department for Culture and Sport for hospitality representing the budget hotel chains. He has also consulted for Norfolk County Council and Blackpool Fylde Council in aspects of Leisure and inbound Tourism.

Scott Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Everest

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for March

OUR CLASSICAL MUSIC COLUMNIST LIZ LEATHERDALE, FOUNDER AND OWNER OF COLCHESTER CLASSICS, BRINGS YOU HER PICK OF MARCH’S CLASSICAL MUSIC EVENTS IN, AND AROUND, COLCHESTER.

Classics
Roman River Music Festival 2016

On March 5, one of the UK’s best-loved violinists Tasmin Little and eminent pianist and collaborator Piers Lane launch the Roman River Music Festival 2016 in a programme of Beethoven, Franck and Szymanowski. Young violinist Melinda Blackman, who was last heard in Colchester on 21 November in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester will open the concert.

Tickets: £8 – 24. Saturday 5 March, 7.30pm, Mercury Theatre, Colchester. Box Office (01206 573948).

Sam Moffit accompanied by Colin Baldy

On the same evening there is a chance to hear young trumpeter Sam Moffit accompanied by Colin Baldy at the new Hey Orgelbau organ in St Mary’s, Maldon. Sam was a Brass Finalist in BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist 2010.

Tickets: £10 – £12 (01621 856503)

Kingfisher Ensemble

Last Saturday (27 February) evening oboist Rob Rogers was one of the wind-powered soloists in the Puffin Ensemble accompanied by the Colchester Symphony Orchestra. This Sunday afternoon Rob joins the Kingfisher Ensemble in a concert including music by Gordon Jacob’s and Paul Carr.   Sunday 6 March at 2.45pm in the Lion Walk United Reformed Church, Colchester.

Tickets: £2 – £12 

Red Priest

Stour Valley Arts & Music have a real coup with the red-hot early music quartet Red Priest visiting on Sunday March 13. It is the only early music group in the world to have been compared in the press to the Rolling Stones.  Red Priest is led by Piers Adams, the world’s greatest recorder player and is renowned for being highly imaginative and presenting memorable concerts.   St Mary’s Church, East Bergholt on Sunday 13 March at 4pm.

Tickets: £8 – £16  www.svam.org.uk (01206 298426)

Colchester Choral Society

Requiems, or Masses for the Dead, come in many shapes, sizes and styles including Fauré’s serene setting, Mozart’s most famous  emotional setting  but it is Verdi’s Requiem which is the ‘block buster’  choral masterpiece and is often labelled an opera in all but name.  One of the most memorable, powerful parts of the work is ‘Dies Irae’ (Day of Wrath) and has been used of late to dramatic effect in TV and films.

On Saturday 12 March the Colchester Choral Society, under its conductor Ian Ray, will perform this remarkable work with soloists Sarah Fox, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, Daniel Joy and Simon Wallfisch accompanied by an enlarged Colchester Sinfonia.  The society has raised a substantial amount of money in special donations to help fund the cost of the large orchestra required for this performance on at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Tickets: £12 – £15 from Manns Music, Colchester or www.colchesterchoralsociety.co.uk

A Celebration of Women Composers

In contrast with the Verdi’s Requiem,  Julia Usher and Jenni Pinnock will feature in a concert celebrating women composers, also including pieces by Judith Weir, Charlotte Bray, Cheryl Frances Hoad, Anna Boyd, Amy Beach, Clara Schumann and others. Soprano Corrina Dolso will be performing along with her new Equinox Voices pop-up choir, joined by Guest Soprano Naomi Scott de Moncloa and pianist Thérèse Miller, at Castle Methodist Church, Maidenburgh Street, Colchester CO1 1TT. The concert runs from 3-4pm.

Tickets (£5 or free for students) will be available on the door, or can be reserved by e-mailing equinoxvoices@gmail.com

Choral Society Concerts

Here are just two of the many choral society concerts taking place on 19 March.  Following its exciting and sell-out concert of two Rachamaninov Piano Concertos, St Botolph’s Music continues its fiftieth year celebration with a performance of Haydn’s masterpiece, The Creation. Tickets £12 on the door.Saturday 19 March, St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.  Tiptree Choral Society presents its concert including John Rutter’s Requiem and a selection of Easter . St Luke’s Church, Tiptre.

Tickets £10 (01206 734625)

Bach’s St John Passion

The annual liturgical performance of Bach’s St John Passion in Maldon takes place on Good Friday 25 March at 7.30pm with a homily by the Bishop of Chelmsford. The Choir of St Mary’s Church and the Pegasus Baroque Orchestra with John Grave as the Evangelist and Gabriel Finn as Christus takes place at St Mary’s Church, Hythe Quay, Maldon.

Free entry with a retiring collection

If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at www.colchesterclassics.co.uk and take a minute to watch their company video: 

 

Liz Leatherdale

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz Leatherdale