A veteran photojournalist on the arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.

 

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Updated: July 17, 2017

NOTE: The blog now resumes in progress. Apologies for any inconveniences and thank you for your support and return. It is truly appreciated! - JB

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EDITION #143 - WEEK OF JULY 17-23, 2017

Queenly King Lear

King Lear (Canadian Stage)

High Park Amphitheatre, 1873 Bloor Street West

Thursday, July 13; 8:15 p.m.

Theatre Review

Any of Shakespeare’s dramas are ripe examples for examining dysfunctional families and King Lear tops amongst them in Canadian Stage’s mounting for their two-billed seasonal Shakespeare in High Park season with such a flourish in flair and fashion, as done through a female perspective as being their one of their best in the last couple of years.

Aging Queen Lear (Diane D’Aquila) on her final days decides to divvy up the kingdom amongst her three daughters in order to maintain it under the pledge of loyalty to her. Elder daughters Goneril (Naomi Wright) and Regan (Hannah Wayne-Phillips) flowerily submit to their mother’s whims, but the youngest Cordelia (Amelia Sargisson) protests in having to make such a concession under such conditions with love and respect being enough as proof.

With their favoured sister punished by the queen into French exile for her perceived insolence, the duchess sisters’ new inheritances corrupt them into plotting against their mother for more of the empire for themselves. With the help of their husbands the Duke of Albany (Richard Lee) and Cornwall (Kristiaan Hansen) along Goneril’s secret lover the Duke of Burgundy (Peter Fernandes) and Edmund (Brett Dahl), the illegitimate son to the Earl of Gloucester (Jason Cadieux) who himself is looking to usurp his father in framing elder half-brother Edgar (Michael Man) for treachery for the title, Lear finds herself bearing the dire consequences of her hasty actions that may or may not change the course of destiny when dealing with a court full of conspirators.

Director Alistair Newton handles this one with such deftness in the plot and double-crosses of the play placing it through an Elizabethan era-meets-The Handmaiden’s Tale setting as composed by Carolyn Smith’s costuming and the cold, greyish fibreglass “metallic” set design of Claire Hill to bring in the mood, as well as Lyon Smith’s compositions from its opening Beatlesque introductory tune toward the tonal closing outro.

Putting the best of Shakespearean companies to shame with the company newbies and seasoned players, veteran D’Aquila totally reigns supreme as the beleaguered and ailing monarch learning the bitter lesson of what loyalty truly is with emotion and gravitas. Newton – who directed CanStage’s first Shakespeare in High Park production thirty-five years ago – plays the riddling saucy, if darkly wise court jester in place of regular Robert Persichini as her only confidant with aplomb in their dialogues together; supporting members Dahl, Wright, Wayne-Phillips, Sargisson get into their roles and Jenni Burke as Cordelia’s ally Countess of Kent becomes the play’s (near-) comic relief in her performance and interactions that make this King Lear carry a certain regal weight around about power and ambition that totally amazes.

Twelfth Night Fever

Twelfth Night or What You Will (Canadian Stage)

High Park Amphitheatre, 1873 Bloor Street West

Friday, July 14; 8 p.m.

Theatre Review

It’s mirrorballs and mayhem as Canadian Stage goes totally retro with Twelfth Night in their Shakespeare in High Park under the direction of Tanja Jacobs’ 1970s refit of the popular romantic-comedy of the Bard’s usual swipe at the universal social mores of society that entertains well enough to keep its audience sated.

A young noblewoman Viola (Amelia Sargisson) washes ashore on some Mediterranean shoreline after surviving a shipwreck along with its captain (Kristaan Hansen) near the swanky Hotel Illyria. Fearing that her twin brother Sebastian (Brett Dahl) had perished on the seas, she disguises herself as the humbled male bellhop Cesario and comes under the service of Duke Orsino (Richard Lee).

Lovelorn over the Lady Olivia (Naomi Wright) who is deeply aggrieved over the death of her own brother and vows eight years of chastity, Orsino sends Viola to relieve Olivia from her grief to only backfire on him when Olivia falls for “Cesario” instead and Viola finding herself attracted to her employer. To make matters even worse, Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (Jason Cadieux) and his polyester-suited comrade Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Peter Fernandes) engage in a series of trickeries involving Olivia’s personal entourage to setup her stiffly steward Malvolio (Tanja Jacobs) and the chaotic mess also unknowingly drags Sebastian into the mêlée when he finally shows up in search of his sister.

Like its dramatis companion King Lear, the company’s adaptation of Twelfth Night puts on a fun play with all the periodic lingo, behaviour and dance moves of the ‘70s in a more tongue-in-cheeky styling and giving it to the establishment looming large with Jacobs doing double-duty as director and briefly substituting as understudy to Robert Persichini as straight-man Malvolio done up like The Incredibles’ Edna Mole, especially in the timing played in her soliloquy.

Sargisson steps up as the heroine as a sense of innocence and intellect, but really stealing the show here are Cadieux, Fernandes, Diane D’Aquila as Olivia’s chain-smoking beautician and Jenni Burke as a hippie Fool providing the most laughs with their boundless antics at their targets’ expense. Victoria Wallace’s costume work and Rebecca Picherack’s lighting make a dynamic duo in putting in plenty of atmosphere for the 90-minute run. The only downside is that sometimes the said era-tinged soundtrack tends to drown out the actors’ dialogue at times, but it’s a minor inconvenience to an otherwise lively production worth seeing.

***

King Lear/Twelfth Night continues through September 3 on alternative dates (King Lear Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; Twelfth Night on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, weather permitting). Attendance is PWYC ($20 suggested donation). For tickets and information, call 416-368-3110 or canadianstage.com.

EDITION #142 - WEEK OF JULY 10-16, 2017

Despicably good 3-quel

Despicable Me 3 (Universal)

Voice Talents: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove

Directors: Eric Guillon, Kyle Balda and Pierre Coffin

Producers: Christopher Meledandri and Janet Healy

Screenplay: Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio

Film Review

For the fourth instalment in the Despicable Me series, including its 2015 prequel-spinoff Minions; Despicable Me 3 explores a deeper and funnier side of the series than its predecessors have done despite having a faster pace that’s almost hard to keep up with at times, but nonetheless hilarious at best.

Just as he had fully settled into his new life as an Anti-Villain League super-agent along with his partner/wife Lucy (Wiig), Gru (Carell) suddenly is raked over the coals when their new director of operations Valerie Da Vinci (Jenny Slate) after failing to once again capture former 1980s child TV superstar-turn-master thief Balthazar Bratt (Parker) in a recent operation and promptly gives both of them their walking papers.

Worried that they won’t be able to support their adopted daughters tween Margo (Cosgrove), tomboyish Edith (Dana Gaier) and sweetly-innocent Agnes (Nev Scharrel) and the majority of the Minions (Pierre Coffin) walking out on him for refusing to go back to their bad-guy status, he suddenly learns that he has a long-lost twin brother Dru (also Carell), whom both their parents secretly separated them from birth; and is living large on the cheese-loving Mediterranean island of Freedonia as a rich pig breeder.

With a sunnier disposition and more hair than him, Dru also reveals that they both come from a long line of criminal masterminds including their now-deceased father, and now wants to learn the ropes. The reformed supervillian is reluctant to teach him his former ways for the sake of his family at first, until Bratt steals the Dumont Diamond in a nefarious revenge scheme against Hollywood for ditching him when he hit puberty that now becomes a mission to redeem himself with his ex-employers, even at the risk of damaging his newfound relationship with his über-eager and -hapless sibling.

Along with subplots of Lucy uneasily getting the hang of the stepmom role, Agnes engaged in a obsessive hunt for a “unicorn” on the island and the Minions getting involved in a crazy series of misadventures as usual, Despicable Me 3 manages to bring out the main characters’ vulnerabilities not seen in previous films, as it touches on their human sides of being a family unit more concerned with their wellbeing than their own devices and agendas is a sudden mature step to give them more fuller dimensions the screenwriters get more credit for with such a ingenious script.

Carell unexpectedly surprises with expanding the emotional traits in his dual role of two brothers finding themselves and each other as a personal best, including Wiig’s Lucy trying to grasp what her role of being a parent is truly about and Parker is the best supervillian rival in the series since Victor “Vector” Perkins from the first film as a moonwalking, bubblegum-popping spoiled brat with a robot sidekick (Andy Nyman) providing the majority of the laughs.

Despicable Me 3, so far, is the best animated comedy of the summer full of ‘80s-referenced nostalgia, showbiz satire and slapstick humour to keep adults and kids truly entertained and hopes that there’s a lot more for the franchise’s future in store.

Southern Gothic’s genteel gasp

The Beguiled (Focus Features/Universal)

Cast: Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell

Director: Sofia Coppola

Producers: Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola and Youree Henley

Screenplay: Sofia Coppola; based on the Thomas P. Cullinan novel and original screenplay by Albert Maltz and Irene Kamp

Film Review

Earning the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes Festival,The Beguiled offers a quiet if unsettling resolution in writer/director Sofia Coppola’s remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood-Geraldine Page Southern Gothic drama classic, in enhancing a female empowerment theme throughout the period piece showing the true signage of a mature director at hand.

At the close of the American Civil War, a lone schoolgirl named Amy (Oona Laurence) goes mushroom-picking in the woods at a nearby battlefield in West Virginia when she comes across a wounded Union soldier John McBurney (Farrell) and decides to bring him to her all-girl boarding seminary school to recover, run by its prim-and-proper headmistress and proprietor Martha Farnsworth (Kidman).

McBurney’s presence has a profound effect on the school that has fallen on hard times since the war erupted with a only a scant amount of students left, including on her, her remaining teacher Edwina Dabney (Dunst) and bored teenaged student Alicia (Fanning). With the girls left with nowhere to go and the possibility of having him being discovered by passing Confederate units, Farnsworth is given more worries as what to do with the affable young combatant when his stay becomes longer than anticipated and is contributing to the raging hormones and jealousy belying the sexual tension running rampant on her premises that could compromise everything.

Coppola’s steady and tense direction and script and Philippe Le Sourd’s darkened and subdued cinematography and natural lighting adds greatly to the atmosphere, much as its soulful innocence amidst in a time of war as a neat attention detail and so well paced within her seasoned and young cast.

Kidman puts on a strong conviction as the schoolmarm that is way more believable and earthy than her last Civil War role with 2003’s Cold Mountain and Farrell performs brilliantly in his best performance in years by being seductive without trying to be wholly convincing on the surface. While the other younger actors do quite finely throughout, Laurence is a most exceptional case in her weighty role and is a future talent to watch out for.

Expect this film to be a real potential contender come awards season time, as the film makes for a compelling compositional study than in any of the director’s previous works since Lost in Translation made her a cinematic force to be reckoned with (and it still remains so). Coppola’s gives The Beguiled remake a full-bodied treatment in reflecting the last gasp of genteel American Southern hospitality and elegance countered up against the film’s ugly realities of war.