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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

Autumn Around Castle Park

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to to take some autumnal photographs in and around castle park. Until the sky did that weird red/beige thing.







Simon Crow

Blade Runner 2049

 

 

(BBFC 15 2hrs 43mins)


I’ve already booked a ticket to see Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 again.

Not because I loved it, at least not yet. I want to see it again to cement in my mind whether it’s a truly great movie or merely a mediocre picture draped in a hallucinatory coat of many colours; whether, or not, there is actually anything resembling life in its sterility or just an affectation of life; whether there is substance in its style or whether it’s an empty, albeit beautifully crafted, vessel. Or, maybe, the truth lies in all these things.

Set thirty years after the events of Ridley Scott’s original, Blade Runner 2049’s central character is K (Ryan Gosling), a limited-life replicant working as a detective (or Blade Runner) for the LAPD, tracking down the first-generation models who can live as long as, and live as, humans. During a routine mission to apprehend/eliminate one of those rogue replicants K stumbles upon a secret that, if given the oxygen of publicity, could destroy the delicate sense of order that exists between humans and the now million strong sub-caste of androids. Ordered by his police chief Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) to forget what he has learned, K disobeys and begins an investigation that takes him to the ruins of Las Vegas and directly to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who is hiding therein. Meanwhile creepy oligarch Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who now owns the replicant manufacturing corporation, Tyrell, has his own bizarre and ruthless interest in K.


Gosling is back in zero-emotion, Drive/Only God Forgives mode, doing a fine job of channelling Le Samourai era Alain Delon, both enigmatic and unreadable. Harrison Ford is great as the haggard misanthrope Deckard (not really a stretch, I guess, but still…). I’m still not convinced by Jared Leto, he will forever be the poor man’s Daniel Day-Lewis to me, he’s not terrible but he does seem to suck the oxygen out of his every scene. A terrific, and overwhelmingly female, supporting cast is led by Robin Wright as the stern and severe Lt. Joshi, but there’s more than a few performances that one would struggle to describe as other than breakthrough: Sylvia Hoeks as the ruthless Luv, Ana de Armas as K’s designed for pleasure hologram Joi and watch out for an all too brief, but impactful, appearance by In Syria’s Hiam Abbas.

If you’ve seen this year’s earlier entrants in the unofficial competition to melt the audience’s eyeballs, Ghost in the Shell and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets you’ll have some idea of the colourful visual flair on display, but Blade Runner 2049 possesses some things neither of those earlier two seemed to understand: Composition. Through the eye of cinematographer Roger Deakins’ camera lens (director of photography on such classics as Fargo, The Assassination of Jesse James, The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall amongst many, many others) the images have depth, context, a sense of the surreal, a sense of the monolithic and, above all, an understanding of stillness and beauty. Seriously, virtually every frame is breath-taking, see it on a big screen and take in every inch of neon-lit artistry as you would the work of a great master in a gallery.


Director Denis Villeneuve returns to two of his favourite themes, two recurrent ideas that power all his films: How does man fight monsters without becoming a monster and the inherent hopefulness of female nature. He’s a director whose opus tends toward the exhaustingly tense (Incendies, Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival), so why, many might ask, is Blade Runner 2049 so slow and (I hesitate to say it, but) boring? I think it’s an interesting choice to slow everything down to a crawl, to allow time for the audience to really think about the film as it unfolds, in many ways it’s an imitation of the work of Andrei Tarkovsky (Solaris, Stalker, Andrei Rublev). It’s deliberate, thoughtful and packed but it’s very, very long. People with short attention spans or who hate having to put any thought into a movie might want to avoid and sit at home with their Explody-Robots IV dvd. If you enjoy sci-fi as allegory, fill your boots, there’s plenty to tuck into here.


Despite its undisputed influence on not only movies but upon design and culture, I’ve never really been much of a fan of the original Blade Runner. It’s just too full of holes, lacks a believable through-line, it’s an exercise in design over content and chucks in things because they look or sound cool rather than having any importance. There are multiple versions out there and it took Scott five attempts at recutting it before he actually understood what he was trying to say. Blade Runner 2049 builds upon the aesthetics of Scott’s original, cherry picking the best ideas and expanding upon them to reach a natural conclusion. It’s much closer to Phillip K. Dick’s dystopian vision, in its existential ponderings if nothing else. In fact, the less familiar you are with the original the better, I think it works best if you are not wedded to the mythology of Blade Runner and everything that has been written about it.

Like I say, I’m genuinely torn by Blade Runner 2049 and maybe I should have written this after that second viewing. I think it might be one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made, but I’m not sure.

Andy Oliver

 

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for October 2017

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

Classics

Christina Johnson – Blessing

Although this is all about concerts taking place in October, I would like to kick-off this column with information on a young Suffolk Soprano soloist Christina Johnson who will be singing in Colchester’s St Botolph’s Church on Saturday 30 September at 7pm. Christina is mid-way through her tour promoting her debut CD, Blessing and here is a sneak peek for you to hear and see Christina before her concert on Saturday.

https://youtu.be/8B0hSeeDPDw

Christina Johnston (originally from Framlingham, Suffolk) is said by many to be one of a kind in the vocal world. Despite her young age she is already making a name for herself in the classical world with her vocal range that most could only dream of.

On Saturday, she will be accompanied by the Russian coach, Inga Goldsmith who works with the likes of, Valeri Gergiev at the Marinski Theatre in St Petersburg.

Tickets are available to buy at:

www.ticketline.co.uk/christina-johnston or on the door.

Colchester’s Roman River Music Autumn Festival

Over the last few weeks, the Roman River Music Autumn Festival has brought a wealth of music to the heart of Colchester, such as outstanding international classical musicians, pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, Natalie Clein, The King’s Singers making its festival debut and much, much more.

Not only does it attract outstanding international musicians to our area but the festival continues to form relationships and assist in the development of our aspiring local musicians. The festival ends on Sunday 1 October at 6pm showcasing work with young players from the Colne Valley Youth Orchestra plus contributions from local singers and other musicians joining the Festival Orchestra for its finale.

On Thursday 28 September, The King’s Singer’s made its debut at the festival with music ranging from William Byrd to Bob Chilcott.  This concert kick-started the festival’s residency at St Mary the Virgin in Stoke by Nayland, one of the largest churches in Suffolk, with a history stretching back to the 10th century.  On Friday 29 September at 8pm there is a re-orchestration of another of Mahler’s symphonies and tomorrow evening there is a performance of Bach’s Mass in B minor.

Visit www.romanrivermusic.org.uk

Lunchtime recitals

Early next month, Charles Hine will be performing Clarinet music accompanied by pianist Ian Ray at the launch of the Lion Walk Lunchtime Autumn concert series. Wednesday, October 4, 1pm, Lion Walk United Reformed Church, Colchester. Free concert with retiring collection.

For information on all of the weekly concerts, please visit  www.lionwalkchurch.org/lunchtime-concerts

Ian Ray is also involved in the Moot Hall organ and he will be busy the day before at the launch of the Autumn 2017 lunchtime recitals on the magnificent Edwardian Organ in Colchester’s elegant Town Hall . On  Tuesday at 1pm Daniel Gárdonyi  will be performing music by Kodály and Mendelssohn.

Click here to find out more about the series  www.moothallorgan.co.uk

Music for Children

It seems that every month a new study is published confirming the benefits music can bring. A recent survey carried out by YouGov stated that 47% of people said more children should be inspired to learn an instrument and have the experience of playing and hearing music. Here are a couple of ways to hear Classical Music this October.

Over the October school holidays, the City of London Sinfonia presents its Lullaby Concert series in both Essex and Suffolk. The idea is to present orchestral music in a friendly way to youngsters aged 2 –  7. The first concert is at the Tendring Education Centre on Saturday 21 October.

Further information available from the Clacton Tourist Information Centre (01255 6866633).

The family concert, Around the World in 60 Minutes, presents a musical world tour inspired by each continent. James Mayhew will be providing live illustrations on the stage capturing the spirit of each land to be visited musically. This concert takes place in the award-winning Saffron Hall in Saffron Walden at 3pm on Sunday 1 October.

Tickets: £12 (0845 548 7650)

String Quartets and more

If you enjoy Chamber music, there are plenty of concerts to enjoy in and around Colchester. Here are just a few for you!

Now in its 92nd season, the Ipswich Chamber Music Society continues to hold concerts in the Great Hall in Ipswich School. The Nash Ensemble, a most distinguished group, constantly appearing at London’s Wigmore Hall, are coming to Ipswich to perform Beethoven’s Septet and Schubert’s Octet, opus 166. The venue is intimate with excellent acoustics and fine views of the performers. Tickets are £15. For all details see www.ipswichchambermusic.org.uk

The Castalian String Quartet will be performing at Stour Valley Arts & Music on Sunday 22 October at 4pm. For more information and tickets please visit www.svam.org.uk or telephone 01206 298426

And just like buses ….. there are two concerts on 29 October! First up, The Kingfisher Ensemble will be performing at the Lion Walk United Reformed Church in Colchester at 2.45pm on Sunday 29 October.  Please visit here for www.kingfishersinfonietta.co.uk

And last but by no means least, over in the beautiful church in Wrabness, The Solem String Quartet will be performing String Quartets by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven also on Sunday 29 October at 4pm.

Tickets £12 from Liz Connah  01255 886163

For full information please visit www.romanrivermusic.org.uk

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

 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

 

 

(BBFC 15 2hrs 21mins)


Oh dear.

There’s no easy way to say this but Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the follow up to director Matthew Vaughan and writer Jane Goldman’s fun, breezy, occasionally off-colour, occasionally shockingly violent but always exciting spy-spoof Kingsman: The Secret Service, is a bit of a slog. It’s a “Tough Mudder” of a movie, an exhausting trial of endurance, and the only prize waiting for those crawling across its finish line is to sniff a bucket of poop. It’s not without a few fun moments but unfortunately, as a whole, it’s a disappointment.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton), the council estate raised hero of the first movie, returns as a now fully-fledged member of ultra-dapper secret service organisation The Kingsmen, to face an all-new super-villain and an all-new threat to World peace. Poppy (Julianne Moore), the Martha Stewart/Kirstie Allsop-ish head of a major drugs cartel has been lacing her product with a lethal virus thereby infecting her entire userbase, an antidote to which will only be forthcoming if the US President (Bruce Greenwood) ends the war on drugs. The problem here being that POTUS sees Poppy’s plan as the way to solve the drugs problem once and for all.

Tired of the Kingsmen’s meddling Poppy destroys the organisation leaving only Eggsy and Kingsman Quartermaster Merlin (Mark Strong) as the surviving members. The pair then bounce around the world, team up with their US counterparts The Statesmen and discover that veteran Kingsman Harry Hart (Colin Firth) is still alive (despite being shot in the head at point-blank range in the first film), albeit suffering amnesia.

If you’ve seen the first movie or, indeed, any James Bond movie ever you’ll know where this is all heading: set-piece upon set-piece leading to an all-out, mega-action finale.

The problem is that it takes so long to get there and those set-pieces become increasingly tiresome, one extended sequence in which Eggsy has to… ahem, how should I describe this?… deposit a fingertip mounted tracker inside the genitals of a bad guy’s girlfriend (Poppy Delevingne) at Glastonbury becomes a particularly wearing test of endurance. So much time and effort is put into that sequence and none of it is really worth the pay-off, which, in many ways, sums up the whole movie.

The introduction of The Statesmen is a pleasant enough diversion but they are so poorly served that they feel like a wasted opportunity. Stars like Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry are painfully under-used and only Pablo Pascal gets a decent amount of screen time. Bizarrely Elton John (yes, Elton John) gets more to do in The Golden Circle than many of the other extended cameos, that’s how weird this movie is. The wonky use of The Statesmen is sort of resolved in the final third of the film but by then patience and suspension of belief has already been stretched to their limits.

Much of the criticism of The Secret Service was aimed at a particularly jarring and ill-advised gag at that movies end and chances were that The Golden Circle was always going to respond to those complaints by gleefully asking, “You think that was bad? Here, hold my pint…” And it certainly doesn’t hold back in its attempts to shock, in fact it tries way too hard (as evidenced by that Glastonbury sequence) and as a result sinks to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Brothers Grimsby levels of lad-mag humour. Great if you like that sort of thing, alienating if you find it don’t and, whatever you feel about it, it adds very little except bum-numbing minutes to an already too long movie.

It’s understandable that they’d want to bring back the always likeable Colin Firth as Eggsy’s mentor Harry but the way it’s done is a cheap cop-out (apparently the application of some super-Savlon can repair the damage of being shot in the face), a cheat which removes any life or death tension. Harry believes he’s a lepidopterist (butterfly collector) because of his amnesia and is perfectly happy and content until Eggsy forces him to relive a past trauma to snap him out of it. It’s a stretch to believe that the Eggsy of The Secret Service would be the callous Eggsy of The Golden Circle to take that away from him. It’s all too contrived and jarring and sells out the characters for a plot that doesn’t deserve them.

For all its fun moments, of which there are too few, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is too dogged by forced motivations, forced situations, increasingly weightless action sequences (all of which try to be as iconic as the church massacre of The Secret Service, none of which are successful), flaky CGI and wasted opportunities to hang together as an enjoyable whole. It’s a shame and I hope that it’s not a franchise killer, I’d love to see more of The Kingsmen, The Statesmen, Eggsy, Merlin, et al. Vaughan and Goldman just need to understand that more is not always necessarily more, sometimes you need to touch the brakes to get around the corner with speed.

Andy Oliver

American Assassin

 

 

(BBFC18 1Hr 51Mins)


Unlike Mother! the last movie I reviewed, if you want to celebrate toxic masculinity then American Assassin is the movie for you, my friend. A film so rampantly stupid that it doesn’t have the intelligence to recognise just how rampantly stupid it is. If movies wore hats, American Assassin would proudly be donning a red #MAGA baseball cap.

Mitch Rapp (The Maze Runner’s Dylan O’Brien) is on holiday in Europe with his girlfriend when a Tunisia style beach attack by Islamic terrorists leaves her and many other sun worshippers horribly murdered. Rapp then goes rogue in an attempt to track down the killers. His minor league successes eventually bring him to the attention of CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) who quickly recruits him for some kind of black ops unit or other under the auspices and training of Gulf War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). Cue training montages and a plethora of blink-and-you-miss-them glamorous locations which are basically pretty backdrops for a lot of punching and shooting and murdering (mostly of young and attractive women). The second half of the movie seems completely at odds with the first half as Rapp is put on the trail of arch-villain “Ghost” (Taylor Kitsch), a former pupil of Hurley’s (a point, at which, I placed my head in my hands and felt like weeping). It’s all very “Seen it all before”, ho-hum, Jack Ryan/Jason Bourne/Jack Reacher-lite (if any of those movies were rooted in Alt-Right sensibilities, which thankfully they weren’t).

I watched American Assassin with a mixture of dismay, anger, disappointment, confusion, embarrassment and more than once had to bite my tongue to stop myself from shouting at the screen. Did the film-makers have no idea about the irony of America recruiting disenfranchised young men to go kill their enemies? It’s a movie that disgustingly bends over backwards to either humiliate or murder its female characters. It doesn’t have the backbone to stand by its own convictions, heinous as they are, its “White Saviour” storyline morphing into the worst kind of Star Wars Obi-Wan/Darth Vader/Luke rip-off. Even the action sequences can’t save it from ignominy, poorly choreographed, limp and lifeless.

It is an awful, awful movie. Casually racist and misogynistic, it definitely has an audience in mind, probably the kind that carries Tiki torches to rallies, hide behind anime avatars on social media and I think we all know which way they vote in US Presidential elections. Please avoid this movie or they’ll make more.

Andy Oliver

Mother!

Anywhere between

 

and

 

(BBFC 18 2Hrs 1Min)


If you were anticipating my review of Mother! I’m afraid I have to disappoint: Although I tried many times to write a spoiler-free review, I have failed miserably. All I offer here is a kind of steer, a warning to the unwary, a softly whispered piece of advice in the ear of the hopelessly intrigued. In fact, I’m not sure this movie is even reviewable, it is possible to read it on so many levels, all of them right, most of them wrong, very few of them unworthy of friendship destroying argument.

Nominally, Mother! concerns a couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) renovating the man’s childhood home (none of the characters have names, by the way, so this might get confusing), when a stranger (Ed Harris) appears on their doorstep, closely followed by his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). Bardem’s character invites the strangers in and Lawrence’s character begins to doubt her sanity (and their relationship) as more and more people come to the house and Bardem welcomes them all in and offers them free lodging. Where it goes from here is all spoiler territory into which I shall not tread, suffice it to say that the plot spirals into ever more horrific psychological and, eventually, physically violent acts which are not sexual but definitely gender-specific.

Be aware that if you’re handing over your hard-earned money for a ticket it may well be for something you will absolutely hate, I suspect more people will loathe Mother! than love it. It is one of the most divisive movies I’ve ever seen. I’m talking Anti-Christ/Eternal Sunshine/Only God Forgives/Spring Breakers/ Neon Demon level divisiveness. If you think you’re going to see a horror movie, you’re wrong. If you think you’re going to see a marital drama, you’re wrong. If you think everything will be wrapped up with a neat bow or Shyamalan-esque twist, guess what? You’re wrong.

Is it a thesis on toxic masculinity and misogyny? A religious parable? A satire in the mould of Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel (albeit one with a 180⁰ shift)? A damning critique of celebrity relationships? An environmental warning? A puzzle akin to Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad? An anthropological study of solitude versus tribal responsibilities? It’s all these things and more… or some of these things and less… or all of these things and none of them. Listen, how you respond to Mother! will depend exclusively upon you and what you take from it and how much you’re willing to put into it.

Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, Noah, Black Swan), everything about Mother! is next level: beautifully shot, designed and lit; incredible performances from everyone in the cast, Lawrence remarkably manages to up her already “A” game and Bardem, Harris and Pfeiffer are nothing if not magnetic, to mention but four of this astonishing ensemble.

I’ve tried to help here but, honestly, nothing can prepare you for Mother! You will love it or you will hate it with venom. Caveat Emptor, my friends, Caveat Emptor. Maybe ask yourself would you watch this if it wasn’t a Jennifer Lawrence movie?

Me? Predictably, I loved it.

Andy Oliver

It

 

IT (BBFC 15, 2hrs 15mins)


It may not be the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel to make it to the screen but it is certainly the most Stephen King adaptation to make it to the screen. It really feels like a Stephen King novel, it understands what it is that makes his novels so readable and, whilst it is not a direct lift of page to screen, it manages to deliver everything that any fan could want (unless you actually want a direct lift of page to screen, that is). King knows that time spent with characters is as important (if not more) as the moments of horror they have to endure or succumb to, we have to know them and empathise with them for the scares to hit home, and It understands this as well: there are as many scenes that will have you laughing and/or crying as there are sequences that will have watching between your fingers. It’s proper scary as well as being lump-in-your-throat inducingly moving.

Something evil stalks the streets of Derry, Maine. Something that eats children and bathes in their fear. Something that haunts the town every twenty-seven years. When little Georgie Denbrough (Jackson Robert Scott) seemingly vanishes into thin air, his brother Bill (Jaeden Liebeher) and six pals (collectively known as The Losers Club) decide that only they can solve the mystery of a town with a disturbingly high rate of child disappearances. What begins as a Hardy Boys Mystery adventure for the kids soon becomes a battle for their very lives as they uncover the terrifying truth: Derry is the home of an ancient evil, an evil that can shapeshift and become the manifestation of a child’s deepest fear, but most often it appears as uber-creepy clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård).


Director Andy Muschietti plays the horror of Derry on two fronts, there’s Pennywise, of course, but there’s also something about the town that breeds bullying, abuse racism and violence, there’s not only supernatural horror but everyday horror that dwells here. The first half of King’s novel placed The Losers Club’s investigation in the late 1950’s, here Muschietti (along with screenwriters Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman and Cary Fukunaga) has transposed the action to the late 1980’s and replaced the kids’ fears of The Wolfman and The Mummy with things drawn directly from their psyche to give the film a more contemporary, not to mention relatable, feel. How these fears manifest themselves via Pennywise and his shape changing ability are at once strange and horrifying and pant-wettingly scary, one example *SPOILER*: the sole female member of the gang, Beverly (Sophia Lillis), has a fear of puberty and menstruation, there will be blood. And lots of it.


The young cast are very good indeed, along with the afore mentioned Scott, Liebeher and Lillis there are some great performances from Jeremy Ray Taylor as the chubby nerd Ben, Chosen Jacobs as Mike, Jack Dylan Fraser as germ phobic Eddie, Wyatt Olef as Stanley and, best of all Finn Wolfhard as bespectacled smart aleck Richie. But it’s Pennywise you’ve really come to see and Bill Skarsgård and the make-up and effects department don’t let you down. Although his appearances are kept to a minimum he’s the movie monster that will have grown men sleeping with the lights on. He’s all weird angles, distressing stillness and a fast-forward effect so chilling it gives you goose-bumps in even your warmest of places. Even if you’ve never suffered Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) there is a distinct possibility you’ll have it in spades after watching It.


However, there are a few structural problems with the film, for example each of the kids’ encounters with their fears/Pennywise feel somewhat disjointed and episodic (an effect that is heightened by the interstices between each that tonally and dramatically give this portion of the film a kind of stop/start momentum). The dialogue tends to get rather heavy-handed and clunky whenever there’s a whiff of exposition and it tends to lean into its 1980’s references a little too heavily. There’s also a lot of connective tissue between It and the Netflix serial Stranger Things, not least being the appearance of Finn Wolfhard in both, and it’s a shame because this might be detrimental to some viewers, but if you can put these qualms to one side you’re in for a fun and scary ride (if a film about child murdering can be fun).

Now, people who’ve read the novel or seen the 1990 mini-series adaptation (you know, the one with John Boy Walton and Tim Curry) might wonder why I haven’t mentioned the second half of the story, the half where The Losers Club come together again as adults to continue the fight. Well, there’s a good reason for that, you see this is only Chapter One, the second (and final) chapter hasn’t even started filming yet so don’t expect it for at least another 18-24 months. Having said that, It stands alone pretty well and there’s a satisfying conclusion to this part that is definitely no lead balloon. So, until Chapter Two comes out you’ll just have to float along on the waves of expectation and anticipation… We all float down here.

Andy Oliver

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for September 2017

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

Classics

It’s all happening in Colchester this month!

If, like me, you thoroughly enjoyed the Film Music of John Williams at the BBC Proms on July 20, here is your chance to hear some of these iconic film scores again. On September 9 our excellent Colchester Symphony Orchestra under its strong and stable conductor Chris Phelps, kickstarts its 2017/2018 season with some well-known movie music such as Star Wars and Schindler’s List by John Williams, Walton’s Spitfire Prelude & Fugue, Shostakovich’s The Gadfly and much other popular movie music.

This concert is on Saturday September 9 at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester and tickets are already available (01206 271128)

Colchester Classics is delighted to be hosting a CD stand crammed full of Film Music and some bargains too! Freephone 0800 999 6994 to find out the type of CDs we will have on offer.

In the early nineteenth century, the guitar enjoyed remarkable popularity among upper and middle-class society throughout Europe. British award-winning mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley with guitarist Jens Franks will be performing many works written in this era by Schubert for voice and guitar in the intimate setting of Colchester’s Headgate Theatre.

Anna has been described as a rising star and presents recitals in the UK and internationally and has recently appeared  in a variety of roles for  English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and English Touring Opera. Her recent CD with Jens, Schubert: Songs for Voice and Guitar has received much praise from music magazines and broadsheet newspapers.

Saturday 9 September at 7.30pm Headgate Theatre. Tickets: £14 (01206 366000). This concert forms part of the Virtuoso Guitar Series at the Headgate.

The next concert in this series is on Friday 17 November at 7.30pm with Tim Pells.

Many Colchester musicians play in  Essex Chamber Orchestra (ECHO) will be meeting for  intensive rehearsals leading to a concert on Sunday evening taking place in Felsted School. It will include Kodaly’s Peacock Variations and Elgar’s Symphony No.1. Sunday 3 September,  Grignon Hall, Felsted School at 7.30pm.

Tickets £10 on the door.

Following last month’s exhilarating concert of Music for Brass and Organ, this month there is a chance for you to pull-out all the stops in a Meet (and Play) the Organ which is housed in Colchester’s beautiful Moot Hall.

The event takes place during this year’s Heritage Open Day from 12 – 2pm on Sunday 10 September in Colchester’s Town Hall in the High Street. Further details (01206 272908).

Colchester’s Roman River Music Autumn Festival brings music to the heart of our town. Outstanding international classical musicians returning to the Festival include pianist Benjamin Grosvenor who will play at All Saints’ Church in Fordham on Saturday 23 September and Natalie Clein will give a cello recital including compositions by women composers in the Colchester Arts Centre on September 17.

Another Festival highlight for me is The King’s Singers making their festival debut on 28 September in Stoke by Nayland Church. For full information please visit www.romanrivermusic.org.uk  Colchester Classics is delighted to be hosting a CD signing with The King’s Singers after its concert on 28 September.

If you subscribe to our e-database we will keep you up-to-date this concert and signing. (Simply email liz@colchesterclassics.co.uk to join our exclusive service.)

The Kingfisher Ensemble launches its Sunday afternoon 2017/2018 concert series on 24 September in the Lion Walk United Reformed Church in Colchester with a performance of a Piano Quintet by the 19th century Hungarian composer, Dohnanyi.

Further details from www.kingfishersinfonietta.co.uk

If singing is your thing – why not join a choir and find out for yourself the benefits of singing? The great Ella Fitzgerald once said “The only thing better than singing is more singing.” Only recently a broadsheet newspaper said that choir practice is healthier than yoga so here are a couple of ideas to get you singing.

First up, Clacton Choral Society is offering an informal ‘Sing-In’ introducing music for its Autumn concert such as Puccini’s sparkling Messa di Gloria. This choir is most welcoming and friendly, with singers being particularly attentive throughout to Gilli Dulieu’s rehearsal requests.

The ‘Sing-In’ takes place on Saturday 2 September and more details are available (01255 427691).

Handel’s Zadok the Priest is the most famous and popular of Handel’s Coronation Anthems. It was composed for King George II in 1727 and has been performed at every Coronation since then and is heard regularly on radio and TV. Next month there is a chance to rehearse this all-time choral favourite and other music at a ‘Come & Sing’ event on Sunday 10 September in the Old House Barn in Great Horkesley.  The choir members on this day will perform in the Roman River Festival’s finale concert on Sunday 1 October.

Further information email info@romanrivermusic.org.uk

Handel’s most famous oratorio, Messiah, tells the story of Jesus’ life from birth to resurrection.  It includes many rousing choruses including the most famous Baroque chorus – Hallelujah! Over in Ipswich its Choral Society will present a ‘Come and Sing Handel’s Messiah’.  The day includes a rehearsal and an evening performance of this great oratorio with young soloists from the Royal Academy of Music, accompanied by the professional period instrument ensemble, Vivace!

Further details on the choral workshop on Sunday September 17 (01473 738324).

There are many other opportunities to sing with local choirs and a good source of information is www.makingmusic.org.uk and www.MusicInEssex.info

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