The Death of Stalin ****

The Death of Stalin has bee created by Armando Iannucci and David Schneider.  You can expect the foul language and biting dark humour of Iannucci’s various television projects for which he is MV5BMTcxMDc1NjcyNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDU0NDYxMzI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_famous.

A large cast of recognisable actors inhabit the characters at the top of Russians political and military hierarchy.   These include Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambour, Michael Palin and Paul Whitehouse.

The events before and after the death of Stalin are treated as a pantomime of opposing ambitions, jealousy and incompetence. However, custard pies are replaced by copious numbers of executions. Running in parallel are stories of families torn open by divisions, massacres and exploitation.

On top of this is the paranoid fear of Stalin that is ingrained into the population, from politicians to musicians and housekeepers who looked after him.  This is made believable by not making the actors adopt stereotypical Russian accents.  Their natural voices are used to great effect to portray the mix of regions they came from within Russia.  It also makes the cacophony of arguing voices easier to follow.

In our age of less than conventional politicians, it is only too easy to suspect the events as shown in this film, may be underplaying the reality of what really happened when Stalin died.

This is a well made political satire.  Four out of five stars awarded.

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The Legend of King Arthur ***** Presented by The Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC)

This autumn sees the welcome return of the Spiegeltent, venue for GSC’s new production of The Legend of King Arthur.

This brand new play has been written by Caroline Devlinwho has given us a delightful, action packed, humorous and family friendly tale, just right for this time of year.

More than that, she has produced a script befitting the multitalented company, taking and using recognisably Shakespearean plot devises to great effect.

We have the Fool as narrator, babies separated at birth, family treachery, songs, and so forth.

For children, it is a great introduction to the wider world of live drama.

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The players are very few in number but, by incredible costume and lighting changes, plus our willing suspension logic, the stage is filled with a massive menage of characters.

A young girl changes to aged monk to soldier in moments and we applaud in delight.

The founders of GSC, Sarah Gobran and Matt Pinches, can be very proud of what they have achieved yet again.

I fully recommend this delightful play to anybody who can get to Guildford before it ends on 5th November.

Truly a 5 star production.

 

Blade Runner 2049 ****

You certainly get value for money from Blade Runner 2049, running at 2 hours 44 minutes.

Fortunately the director has filled that time to great advantage.  Weaving a complex and compelling tale, this story is set in same dystopian world of the original Blade Runner.

If you liked the original, this film answers many of the questions raised by the first.

Ryan Goslings performance is very good, encapsulating his character very well. It has to be said that the film only comes to life towards the latter part when Harrison Ford appears.

If you haven’t seen or did not like the original, I fear this would not impress you and probably leave you wondering why you bothered.

I would strongly recommend seeing the original first if you have not already done so or just to refresh your memory.

So this is a good, possibly great and definitely cult movie.

As a fan, it gets 4 stars out of five from me.

Goodbye Christopher Robin *****

This is the dramatized biography of Christopher Robin Milne, son of the author Alan Milne and inspiration for the Winnie The Poo books.

A total of five actors are employed to portray Christopher, from baby to adult. The casting director did a good job in selecting actors with sufficient resemblance to convince the audience of the continuity.

These boys, in turn, produce incredible performances, giving a vivid insight into a dysfunctional family from the child’s viewpoint.

The film also provides a terrifying insight into middle class family life during the inter-war period.

But the heart of the story is how fame and fortune, being forced on a young person, when all they want is the love of their parents, can produce very unhappy adults.

I was struck by the thought as I watched that this film was an allegory for the many young stars of today who ‘go bad’ as adolescents.

This film carries a PG certificate but I would say it is certainly not a film for young children.

It may even leave adults reading Winnie the Poo in a different light.

The full 5 out of five for this emotional rollercoaster.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle *****

This is the second film of the Kingsman franchise, and on this form, not the last.

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Yes it’s time to release our 14-year-old selves and suspend disbelief for 141 minutes in our busy lives.

The writers’, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan, have created another rip-roaring, rooting-tooting extravaganza that keeps the viewer riveted to their seats. The fantastic soundtrack matches the action brilliantly, raising your pulse rate over and over again.

A great cast, obviously enjoying their chance to overact like crazy, do a fine job of representing their comic-book characters perfectly.

I would especially highlight the two animal actors, both puppy dogs, who are used to great emotional effect.

I doubt there will be any major prizes for this film but you will be awarded with a very enjoyable piece of entertainment.

The full 5 out of five stars for this piece of glorious hokum.

The Winterton Arms Pub, Chiddingfold, Surrey

The Winterton Arms is to be found just north of Chiddingfold village, Surrey.  It has plenty of parking and is busy with visitors, locals and ramblers.

UnknownToday, I and five former colleagues and friends, meet for our regular get together and ‘putting the world to rights’ chats.

We have been using this traditional pub for about six months for this purpose.  We have always been pleased with this arrangement for the following reasons.

Even when very busy, service is efficient and accommodation comfortable.

In fair weather they have an large beer garden.

They serve a wide range of local craft beers.

Their prices are very reasonable, with a large lunchtime menu offering a main plus drink for £10.

We normally chose from this menu, enjoying a number of dishes.

Favourites are the Fish & Chips, handmade burgers, chicken Caesar Salad and currently, the Lamb Salad.  Their hand cut chips are also recommended as a side.

The food, although simple, is always prepared beautifully, served in large portions and totally delicious.

Thoroughly recommended for excellent country pub dining.

The Winterton Arms Pub

Victoria and Abdul ****

Judy Dench makes a triumphant return to her portrayal of Queen Victoria (see Mr and Mrs Brown) as she approaches the end of her life. Dressed in perpetual mourning for Prince Albert, and perhaps also the loss of John Brown, her life is less than stimulating. The arrival of an Indian servant, Abdul Karim, at Court, triggers this story.

Victoria and Abdul posterBased on a true story (almost) and the recently discovered journal of Abdul, the Director and Dame Judy give us a delightful and yet sad story of love, intrigue and betrayal. There are several laugh out loud scenes, many based on the Queens sharp tongue.

Filmed with great attention to detail and in beautiful surroundings, this is also a delight for the eye.

A special mention for Eddie Izzard, as Bertie, Prince of Wales. He is totally convincing in this supporting role and I hope he is recognised for it at the BAFTAs.

I did feel that some of the supporting characters were rather cartoonish or stereotypical flunkies.

For that reason, I give 4 out of five stars to Victoria and Abdul.