Month: November 2017

Justice League

(BBFC 12A 2hrs 1min)

 

Some films you want to keep forever, to cherish and pop in the dvd player whenever you need a pick-me-up or guaranteed thrill or even the comfort of something familiar. Other films are your third choice in a three-for-twenty-quid promotion because you’ve found two movies you really want, can’t find that third one and… well, it’ll do to make up the numbers.

Unfortunately, Justice League is that second kind of movie. It’s alright. You might want to watch it on a rainy afternoon or you’re just after something to stick on while you’re doing the ironing. In fact, the less attention you pay it the better it seems: ignore the gaping plot holes, the awful dialogue, the Playstation 2 era special effects, the muddy colour palette and derivative villain and you might just find something to enjoy. Though that’s a big ask, unless you’re an eight-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool DC fanboy.

The plot, such as it is, follows on from the risible Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice: Superman is dead (or is he?), the Earth has no protector (or does it?), those flashbacks and flashforwards start to make sense (or do they?) and everybody bonds over the fact that their moms are all called Martha (not really, but entirely possible). There are a bunch MacGuffins called Mother Boxes (a kind of DC version of Marvel’s Infinity Stones or Harry Potter’s Horcruxes) hidden on the planet and interdimensional baddie Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds) and his horde of parademons are after them. Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) needs to bring together a team of heroes to find the Mother Boxes and save the world, so along with Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) he recruits Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and The Flash (Ezra Miller).


Herein lays part of the problem with the film and, whilst I don’t want to become a part of the Marvel vs. DC angry-fan narrative it is almost impossible to talk about Justice League without comparisons to its closest neighbour across the comic book divide. Whereas Marvel’s Avengers Assemble established its heroes before bringing them together (with the exception of Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye), Justice League opts for a more “wham-bang” introductions on the fly approach. Yes, this approach allows us to get to the pudding a lot quicker, but sometimes you need to deal with the Brussel sprouts before you can get to the bit everybody’s looking forward to. Despite maybe too much exposition, the three new inductees struggle to establish themselves as characters you’d like to see more of. Ezra Miller’s Flash is the quirky likeable one with the one-liners, Jason Momoa is a bit more Aqua-bro than Aquaman and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg is the mysterious, moody one. They’re all good enough, they’re just not interesting enough or fleshed out enough that you really care about them.


Ben Affleck’s Batman is back to being Batman and not the gun-wielding angel of vengeance seen in BvS, but Affleck struggles to bring any conviction to playing him and seems uncomfortable in the part. Thankfully Gal Gadot continues to shine as Wonder Woman and brings some much-needed sanity and humanity to the film. Because his name is right up there in the opening credits I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention that Henry Cavill returns as Superman/Clark Kent (but is this in flashback form or does he really return? Aha!). Cavill finally seems to have gotten a handle on the character despite battling some dreadful dialogue and an obviously CGI-ed out moustache (apparently, he was recalled for reshoots, had grown the upper-lip furniture for another role and was contractually obliged not to shave it off).

When writer/director Zack Snyder left the project due to a particularly tragic family incident, Warner Bros. brought Avengers Assemble director Joss Whedon onto the film to rework much of it, add additional dialogue and complete filming. Whedon is Hollywood’s go-to guy if you are looking for someone who really understands team dynamics (he has, after all, been in charge of two Avengers movies and was show-runner for television’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly) but his lightness of touch is often at odds with Snyder’s more pop-operatic, carefully choreographed, darker action style. I can’t in all certainty say who directed which bit, but I can have a good guess and I’m betting you can too.


Justice League’s main problem is that it feels we got to it too quickly, maybe three films too early: A Flash movie, an Aquabro movie and a proper Affleck Batman movie would have helped tremendously. It doesn’t feel like this universe has paid its dues and it’s all a touch unearned. Also, much like the Marvel films, it lacks a decent villain and maybe should have gone straight in with the real big-bad rather than throw us the morsel of one of his generals (long time comics readers will know who I mean, stick around after the credits if you don’t).

Like I said, it’s not a bad movie, it’s no Suicide Squad but, then again, neither is it a Wonder Woman (which bordered on being great). It’s a bit incoherent, a bit generic and makes you wonder if the superhero genre is wearing a bit thin. Still, if you can’t get enough of CGI characters getting punched maybe you’ll love it. Stranger things have happened.

Andy Oliver

Colchester Remembers

On Sunday 12th November cadets, servicemen and women past and present, and civic dignitaries, paid tribute to our war dead at the remembrance service at Colchester’s War Memorial. They were joined by thousands of Colchester residents who stood side by side with them and lined the High Street.

After the service, at which prayers were said, hymns and the national anthem sung, and a two minute silence observed, soldiers from the 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, 13th Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps and 16 Medical Regiment marched a route along the High Street.

The parade was led by the Band of the Parachute Regiment who were joined by reservists from 36 (Essex Yeomanry) Signal Squadron, 71 Yeomanry Signal Regiment as well as veterans and youth groups.

Colchester has a proud military tradition and this Remembrance Sunday event seems to be attended by more residents every year.

The video below is edited from a Facebook Live broadcast on his mobile phone from the event by Scott Everest.

Then&Now – Tribute to the Fallen

Last Summer Paris born photographer Xav Marseille gained something of a celebrity status in Colchester when his Then&Now images began appearing on social media and in the press. To create the extraordinary images of Colchester, his adopted town, Xav combined old and new photographs to create stunning fusions of the town as it was in years gone by, and as we know it now in the 21st century. All in one image.

With Remembrance Sunday coming up this weekend Xav has put his talents to good use again to create two extraordinary images as a fitting tribute to the fallen.

In Xav’s own words:

“I was keen to create some exclusive Then&Now artwork for Armistice Day to celebrate and remember what others did to allow us to leave in a free world. As a kid, growing up in France, I was often reminded that our country, and Europe, could’ve been ever so different and I think it’s important not to forget the soldiers who survived but also the ones who didn’t.

Although the old photographs weren’t taken on the same location, I’m hoping these two new ‘Colchester Then&Now’ pieces help make Remembrance Day even more relevant and connect us, visually, to our history.”

If you would like to see more of these amazing photographs, along with Xav’s other work, pay a visit to his website www.about.me/xavmars and follow him on Twitter @XavMars.


Xav Marseille

Xav

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for November 2017

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

Classics

This month is crammed full of concerts.  Here are just a few!

CONCERTS IN REMEMBRANCE

This year on Armistice Day, we especially remember the dreadful events of Passchendaele and there will be many commemorative concerts. Many music events will be taking place this weekend to commemorate those who played their part in the two World Wars and more recent conflicts

Lexden Choral Society, accompanied by the Kingfisher Sinfonietta, presents a Remembrance concert including Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man in the first half of the programme followed by more up-beat British orchestral favourites such Walton’s Crown Imperial and Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory in the second half.  Saturday November 11 at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Tickets: £13 (01206 766906) or from Manns Music Shop.

Essex-based Lyston Voices will be performing both Faure’s and Rutter’s Requiems on Sunday November 12 at 6pm in Holy Trinity, Long Melford.

Admission £15, (inclusive of programme & Interval drinks) advance reservations from email:  theoldballroom@gmail.com or at the door from 5.30pm

A Tribute to the Fallen – a Celebration of Freedom is the title of the Suffolk Philharmonic’s concert for Remembrance Sunday including Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man and Elgar’s Cello Concerto.  Sunday November 12 at 4pm in Ipswich Corn Exchange.

Tickets from £15.

Finally at Saffron Walden’s prestigious Saffron Hall,  The Harlow Chorus, Saffron Walden Choral Society and the Choristers of Jesus College will perform Britten’s powerful and moving War Requiem.  This concert takes place at Saffron Hall on Sunday November 11 at 7.30pm.

Tickets from £15 (0845 548 7650)

SUFFOLK VILLAGES FESTIVAL

In addition to these Remembrance concerts, others are available! Now in its thirtieth year, the Suffolk Villages Festival brings high-quality performances of early music to rural East Anglia. This Sunday (12 November) at 6pm there is a concert of sacred music spanning the religious divide from Monteverdi to Handel. St Peter’s Church, Sudbury.

For further details and full concert programme on this fascinating concert – www.suffolkvillagesfestival.com (01206 366603)

TRIO CON BRIO COPENHAGEN

This weekend there are two opportunities to hear the internationally renowned Trio Con Brio CopenhagenSaturday 11 November at 7.30pm for the Ipswich Chamber Music Society, 7.30pm in the Great Hall in Ipswich School www.ipswichchambermusic.org.uk  and also on Sunday 12 November at 4pm in  St Mary’s Church, East Bergholt  as part of the Stour Valley and Arts concert series

www.svam.org.uk (01206 298426)

 LUNCHTIME RECITALS from Bray Harps, Medieval Looped music to Ondes Martenots!

Leah Stuttard (bray harp, voice, bells) will team up with her duo partner Agnethe Christensen (voice, Nordic lyres, bells) to present a concert that will make you look at the humble hymn in a new way!   Leah and Agnethe explore the origins of Luther’s chorale melodies using versions originally printed for amateurs at home in the Middle Ages and Renaissance and also perform Scandinavian folk hymns, based on Luther’s tunes, but enriched with startling unexpected chromatics and embellishments.

Wednesday November 15 at 1pm at Colchester’s Lion Walk United Reformed Church

And in complete contrast with all of the above, this month there are several Early Music concerts taking place in St Andrew’s Church in Marks Tey. One of them, A Multitude of Minstrels, offers a meander through the life and music of a court minstrel in the Middle ages. Equipped with little more than some harps, lutes, citoles, fiddles and various wind instruments, Colchester’s Early Music group aims to offer an insight in the world of a professional medieval musician.

For further information on these concerts email  lizzie@elizabethgutteridge.co.uk or (01206 212466).

Lizzie Gutteridge is actively involved in Colchester’s Early Music Group and amongst other things, also has her own Consort of 1. She will be playing medieval dance tunes on medieval instruments at Colchester’s Lion Walk United Reformed lunchtime concert series on Wednesday November 22 at 1pm.

For further information on the remainder of concerts in the current series please visit  http://www.lionwalkchurch.org/category/lunchtime-concerts/

Here is a chance to see and hear one of the first electronic instruments, the Ondes Martenot, famously heard in Messiaen’s Turangalia Symphony but used more recently by film composer James Horner and Radiohead. Monday November 13 at 1.10pm at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

www.theatreroyal.org  (01284 769505)

ONE- HANDED PIANIST,NICHOLAS McCARTHY

Born without his right hand, piano star Nicholas McCarthy is at the forefront of British music talent, championing accessibility to music for all by using his U.K.

Colchester-based Nicholas is currently touring and promoting his new CD, ‘Echoes’ featuring a cross section from Bach to Rachmaninoff. As a proud Yamaha artist he is delighted to have recorded on the stunning Yamaha flagship Concert Grand CFX.

On Sunday November 19 at 3pm, Nicholas will be performing at Colchester’s St Botolph’s Church.

For full details and to purchase tickets in advance, please click www.nicholasmccarthy.co.uk

SO MANY CONCERTS on 25 and 26 NOVEMBER!

Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Latin for solemn mass) is a rare religious outing for the composer. Written just before his famous Ninth Symphony, it has sadly not enjoyed the same level of popular attention.  Some have suggested that the music is better-suited to a concert hall rather than a church while others have compared it with a short opera.  Here is a chance for you to make up your own mind about this beautiful work with soloists Ellie Laugharne, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, Daniel Joy, Edward Grint, Colchester Choral Society and the Colchester Sinfonia (leader: Jessie Ridley) conducted by Ian Ray.  Saturday November 25 in St Botolph’s Church at 7.30pm

Tickets: £15 from Manns Music or buy on-line www.colchesterchoralsociety.co.uk

On the same evening, music-lovers in Ipswich will be spoilt for choice!

The brilliant young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason will perform the work he won the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year, the inspiring Shostakovich 1st Cello Concerto. He will be accompanied by the Ipswich Symphony Orchestra in this all-Russian programme including Rachmaninov’s thrilling Symphony No.2. At only 18, Sheku is already a powerful role model for young musicians.

Tickets are free for under 18s – further details (01473 256461) and                 www.ipswichsymphonyorchestra.org

Whiel over at St John’s, Cauldwell Hall Road the Ipswich Bach Choir and Chamber Orchestra will perform music by Mozart including the ‘Coronation’ Mass and his delightful D major Flute Concerto with soloist Mary Blanchard. As an added bonus, soprano Gill Wilson will repeat her celebrated performance of the Queen of the Night’s aria from The Magic Flute.

www.ipswichbachchoir.org.uk

Also on the same Saturday evening the Essex Symphony Orchestra will be presenting another tantalising programme featuring Matilda Lloyd who will be playing Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto. Matilda who has played with the BBC Concert Orchestra and has many accolades to her name including that of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 where she was the brass final winner.

www.matildalloyd.com

The orchestra will also be playing Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie’ Overture and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C major ‘Great’. The concert promises to be a fantastic event and we are incredibly lucky to have Matilda as our soloist on the night! Christchurch in New London Road, Chelmsford on Saturday 25 November at 7.30pm.

www.essexsymphony.org.uk

The next day, the Colchester Chamber Choir will be celebrating Thanksgiving with an all-American extravaganza at the Moot Hall, Colchester Town Hall on Sunday November 26 at 6pm. Colchester’s acclaimed Chamber Choir will go Stateside with Simple Gifts in November to celebrate Thanksgiving with an all-American extravaganza guaranteed to get toes tapping.

The town’s Moot Hall will resound to joyful and moving music from the very best of American composers including Aaron Copland’s celebrated Old American Songs in choral arrangement, plus works by Samuel Barber including his famous Sure on this shining night and, from his opera Vanessa, the beautiful Under the willow tree, as well as two unusual settings of Emily Dickinson poems by a young Elliott Carter. Also in the programme are Virgil Thomson’s affecting Four Hymns from the Old South.

The concert is on Sunday 26th November in the Moot Hall, Colchester, starting at 6pm and tickets priced £16 adults, £10 for under-30s and £5 for full time students are on sale online at www.colchesterchamberchoir.org.

And last but by no means least, the Young Musician’s Concert series continues at The Pimlott Foundation with Eleanor Voak (bassoon and contra bassoon) and Katherine Raven (viola) with Dr Ian Ray (piano). The programme will include Vogel: Concerto in C Major for bassoon, Schreck: Sonata Op 9, Schubert: The Bass Nightingale, Rebecca Clarke: Sonata for Viola. Admission free. Donations welcome. Refreshments available.

www.pimlottfoundation.co.uk

Eleanor is 13 years old , and studying for her DipABRSM, and Katherine is a student at the Royal College of Music.

About the Pimlott Foundation’s Education Programme – it provides musical enrichment experiences for both Primary and Secondary School pupils in Essex and also Suffolk.

About the Pimlott Foundation’s Student Sponsorship scheme –  it offers up to £500 each year to sponsor 1 or 2 talented young musicians. We encourage all performing arts, but music should be at the forefront of any application. Sponsorship period to last April 2018-19. Priority will be given to students with East Anglian connections.

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

Paddington 2

(BBFC PG 1hr 43mins)

 

2014’s Paddington was an absolute treat. A genuine slice of unadulterated family fun with a heart big enough to bring joy to multiple generations. With that in mind it was with more than a touch of trepidation that I approached Paddington 2, fearing that “difficult second album”, worried that this sequel would throw too much sugar in the recipe or that lightning couldn’t be bottled twice.

Within minutes of the opening of Paddington 2 I was wrapped in a warm bear-hug of comforting familiarity, a gormless smile plastered itself on my face and for the next hour and three-quarters everything was right with the world. Even the most cynical of viewers, once embraced by its marmalade-sticky paws, would find it difficult to leave the cinema with anything but joy in their hearts and an ache in their chuckle muscles after watching it.

This time out, our ursine hero (beautifully voiced again by Ben Whishaw) finds himself in need of money to buy a present for his aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, having found the perfect gift in Mr. Gruber’s quaint little shop of curiosities: a unique pop-up book of London. Whilst Paddington takes on a bunch of odd-jobs (creating the sort of chaos that only he can), the book is stolen by cravat wearing cad and down on his heels thespian Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) who frames the young bear for the crime. The book supposedly holds clues to a hidden fortune. A fortune which Buchanan hopes to find in order to fund his dreams of staging a one man spectacular in London’s West End. Poor Paddington finds himself thrown in gaol for a crime he didn’t commit but, with the assistance of curmudgeonly prison cook Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), plans an audacious escape (The Pawshank Redemption, anyone? Anyone?). Everything culminates in a thrilling and hilarious dash to the west country as Paddington and his adoptive family, the Browns, chase down Buchanan, the book and, possibly, the treasure.


It’s all very silly, edge-of-the-seat thrilling and tremendously entertaining. It doesn’t take a genius to work out where the movie is heading but it’s so much fun getting there that you really don’t care.

The casting of Ben Whishaw as the voice of the eponymous little hero seems even more inspired in this second outing, constantly curious, occasionally puzzled, always innocent yet possessing a very clear sense of right and wrong, there’s something of Paddington that harks back to Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp (and in the action set-pieces, of Buster Keaton). Meanwhile, when he’s not stealing pop-up books, Hugh Grant nicks virtually every scene he’s in as the narcissistic Phoenix Buchanan, a mediocre, has-been actor reduced to starring in dog food adverts (Buchanan not Grant). Buchanan is a wonderful invention, the kind of moustache twirling villain of the Chaplin era rather than Nicole Kidman’s evil intentioned taxidermist from the first Paddington.


The Browns are happily pootling along despite Mr. Brown’s oncoming mid-life crisis and flirtations with moisturiser and yoga. Hugh Bonneville and the always excellent Sally Hawkins provide plenty of laughs and warmth, while Julie Walters returns as wily housekeeper Mrs. Bird. There’s also excellent support from Jim Broadbent as Mr. Gruber, Brendan Gleeson as Knuckles, Sanjeev Bhaskar as a forgetful neighbour, Richard Ayoade as an eccentric forensics expert, Peter Capaldi as the long-suffering misery-guts neighbour Mr. Curry and a host of well-known faces who do themselves, or their reputations, no harm whatsoever by appearing in this funny and charming movie.

Paul King returns to the director’s chair once more and, along with co-writers Jon Croker and Horrible Histories’ Simon Farnaby, has managed to produce a movie that looks effortlessly original and yet heart-warmingly familiar. The laughs come thick and fast and refreshingly free of snark, the jokes are there for everybody to enjoy and all aimed at the entire audience, young and, ahem, older. Yes, it is all too easy to get sniffy about the idealised London, the spotlessly clean Notting Hill, the steam trains and the fact that people still use red telephone boxes (or, indeed, the fact that they can find any working examples of such) but… Hello!… This is a movie about a talking bear that wears a red hat, a duffle coat and subsists solely on a diet of marmalade sandwiches! Don’t pick holes, okay?

Paddington 2 is a Christmas treat come early. A full-on feast of fun that you’ll want to gorge on until your trousers get uncomfortably tight; a gloriously colourful gift that is powered along by its Grade-A laughs rather than AA batteries; and best of all, when it’s all over there’s no washing up required (though you might be tempted to go back for seconds).

Andy Oliver