2015 preview: Theatre

2015 kicks off with the return of James McAvoy to the London stage.

He opens in The Ruling Class at the Trafalgar Studios on January 16. The play is about a paranoid schizophrenic with a Messiah complex who inherits his father’s Earldom.

So nothing like the Earl of Grantham in Downton then!

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In March, Emma Thompson returns to the London stage for the first time in 25 years as she co-stars with Bryn Terfel in Sweeney Todd at the ENO.

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It’s a really limited run – just 13 performances – and the show went down a storm when it was performed in New York in early 2014. I have tickets and I can not wait!

Another Hollywood star set to tread the London boards in 2015 is Damian Lewis who will lead the cast of a new production of David Mamet’s American Buffalo.

The play will run from April to June and it explores the fickle nature of honour among thieves.

No date yet, but I’m really excited about the return of Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart to London.

They’re teaming up again for a staging of No Man’s Land. I saw it in New York in 2013 and recommend it!

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And finally the biggest thing in theatre in 2015 sold out within minutes of going on sale in 2014.

Benedict Cumberbatch will play the gloomy Dane in Hamlet at the Barbican in the autumn. I suspect it’s going to be huge.

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My top 10 films of 2014

It’s that time of year when everyone starts compiling their best of the year and I’m no exception! This is the list of MY top 10 films of 2014 – so it’s completely subjective and you probably don’t agree with me in any way. What is apparent is that I didn’t see as many films as usual this year (too much ‘proper’ work to do) and so I missed some of the film’s that I suspect are on other critics’ lists. Also, my list is for 2014 so it doesn’t include some of the films I’ve already seen that will be in UK cinemas in early 2015.

10. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

It’s tough for me to only place this at number 10 but I really don’t think it can go any higher. I do believe it’s the weakest of all six Middle-earth films and I was very underwhelmed the first time I saw it. However, on second viewing I enjoyed it much more. And both times I was brought to tears by the final 20 minutes. For that reason it squeaks in.

9. Get On Up

The James Brown biopic was released in the UK the same weekend as the new Hunger Games film and I think it therefore was missed by a lot of film fans. It shouldn’t have been. I hugely enjoyed the film which shows Brown warts and all – it doesn’t shy away from his darker side. Plus I thought Chadwick Boseman in the lead role was absolutely fantastic. It’s a shame he’s not getting more attention during awards season, he deserves it.

8. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Not much happens in the film, it’s busy setting everything up for what I imagine is going to be an all-guns-blazing finale, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Jennifer Lawrence once again carries the whole film, she’s really grown into the role of Katniss. And the scene when she sings ‘The Hanging Tree’ gave me goosebumps.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

I went into Guardians with absolutely no expectations but I came out Hooked On A Feeling (sorry). I knew nothing about the story beforehand but I was completely carried away but the rollicking good story which was jam packed with humour. I’m really looking forward to the sequel. And I want a Baby Groot!

6. Chef

I bet you missed this at the cinema. Well go and find it on DVD! Jon Favreau directs and stars this tale of a man going through a major crisis. It’s a world away from the bombastic Iron Man films and that’s one of the things I loved about it. Plus the fantastic cast (including the cameos). Seriously, if you haven’t seen it please check it out!

5. 12 Years A Slave

It feels a bit strange including the Oscar-winning film but as I said at the start this is a review of films released in 2014. I saw it in October 2013 and it still haunts me now. Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb in the lead role and I thought his was a stronger performance than Best Actor winner Matthew McConaughey, plus Lupita N’yongo was a revelation as Patsy. I’ll be honest, it’s not a film I’ve watched a second time but it’s a film I feel is incredibly important and that’s why I rate it so highly.

4. The Imitation Game

Hands down the best Benedict Cumberbatch performance on film. While we all know the outcome of the main storyline (can they break the Enigma Code?) it’s still a thoroughly compelling story that draws you in. Cumberbatch is supported by an excellent cast, not least Keira Knightley who I think gives one of her best ever performances. It’s a fantastic British film and throughly deserves the recognition it’s been receiving.

3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I really wasn’t sure about this from the trailers. The apes are talking? Hmm. But after attending an early footage screening my interest was peaked. And the final film didn’t let me down. Once you get used to Caesar speaking it becomes quite normal and the relationships between the apes are really touching. Toby Kebbell gives Andy Serkis a run for his money in the mo-cap acting making Koba pretty terrifying in places. Is it better than the first film? I’d say yes. And I’d also say it’s time to five mo-cap actors the credit they’re due!

2. Pride

Oh what a joy of a film. I came to the Pride love-in a little late but now I’m thoroughly on board. It’s sweet, touching and laugh out loud funny. Who knew a story about a group of gay activists and Welsh miners could bring so much joy? The ensemble cast emits such a warmth that you just want to gather them all up in one great big hug. I loved it.

1. Paddington

Yes a film about a marmalade loving bear from Peru has topped my list of the best films of 2014. And I don’t care if you disagree because I told you this is MY choice. Paddington is a film that the whole family can enjoy. There’s plenty of slapstick for the little ones, laughs for the adults and a message for everyone. As Paddington says “I will never be like other people but that’s ok”. Well the 21st century Paddington is just like the bear we all grew up with. And you know what, I can’t wait for the sequel!

Sherlock starts filming soon!

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Mark Gatiss has revealed the Sherlock Christmas special will begin filming on January 6.

He says he doesn’t know when we’ll get to see it though as “that’s up to the BBC”. In an interview with India Today, Gatiss said the special will be a completely new story “it’s almost entirely original – not really based on any of the stories” he said.

Once the special has been filmed the cast and crew will then turn their attention to three more episodes.

In the interview the show’s co-creator was asked if viewers will get to see John and Mary’s baby but, as usual, he wouldn’t answer the question: “We know that Mary is expecting a baby at the end of season three” he said. “We will see the child – maybe at some point in the future, depending on where we pick up from”.

All I can say is the sooner they start filming the sooner we can see it!

New Heart of the Sea trailer

Ron Howard’s delivered an early Christmas present with the release of the new trailer for his sea-faring epic In The Heart of the Sea.

The film stars Chris Hemsworth as the first mate of The Essex, a New England whaling ship that was assaulted by something no-one would believe.

The cast also includes Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw.

It’s released in the UK on March 13.

Here’s the trailer: http://youtu.be/jSGcocTLMlk

How to see the stars of Strictly

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Have you been watching this year’s Strictly Come Dancing?

I have to say I think Caroline was the right winner, she just got better and better.

Well details of the Live Tour have now been confirmed.

Frankie Bridge, Thom Evans, Alison Hammond, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Simon Webbe will join their professional partners on the tour.

Craig Revel Horwood will be joined on the judging panel by 2008 winner Tom Chambers and his Strictly partner Camilla Dallerup.

The tour begins on January 16 in Birmingham and wraps up at the O2 in London on February 8.

You can find out more at www.strictlycomedancinglive.com