Archive for the Review Category

The Cabin in the Woods

Posted in Review on May 8, 2012 by JonH

You’ve probably heard by now that Cabin in the Woods isn’t your typical horror movie. Sure it’s got all the elements of one of horror’s most graphic subgenres (the slasher–teens on a weekend getaway, an isolated location, booze o’plenty and a crazy local), it also throws a heavy dose of what you don’t normally expect to see in a movie of this ilk: a good story.

The movie opens with two middle-aged normal looking fellas working inside some sort of bunker. People are all around going about what appears to be business as usual. Nothing seems out of the ordinary or untoward. The two men are exchanging witty banter with one another and playfully poking fun at a female colleague with quips about how the chemistry department always seems to muck things up. Their nonchalant behaviour and talk piques your curiosity. What are they doing? Where are they? Lurking suspicion that something’s not quite right is confirmed as the title pops onto the screen with a blast of ominous music.

The Cabin in the Woods centres on a group of five college friends heading out of town for the weekend. Although, each member of the group doesn’t start out as such, they soon come to represent an archetype of sorts: the jock, the brain, the slut, the stoner and the virgin. The depiction of how they become like this adds an interesting twist on why people always do the dumbest things in horror movies.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s genre defying, it sure is clever. Humour figures predominantly into the movie, but at no time is it ham handed. It all fits in some weird sort of unconventional way. And most intriguing is the idea at the heart of the movie that all of what’s going on is part of a much larger conspiracy. “I almost found myself rooting for her, ” said one character as another is being bludgeoned to death. The movie depicts callous inhumanity juxtaposed with a greater purpose, but I can’t give that away. Suffice to say, in the age-old tradition of many cultures across this big blue planet, the end justifies the means.

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Flush thine integrity down the toilet all ye that enter politics.

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by JonH

Based on the 2008 play Farragut North by playwright Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is a political thriller that follows the tension developing between an idealistic deputy campaign manager, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), and the equally idealistic candidate for whom he works, Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).

Morris is on the hunt to become the democratic presidential candidate and is leading the polls by a slim margin as he and his opponent Arkansas senator Ted Pullman head into Ohio. While campaigning to win the Buckeye state each man is also trying to enlist the support of North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and the 365 convention delegates that back him. An association with Thompson would all but seal a victory for whomever he sides with. The rub is that Thompson wants a backroom deal that guarantees him a plum seat in the new administration. The notion of Thompson selling his endorsement to the highest bidder rankles Morris, but nevertheless doesn’t dissuade Morris’s campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from encouraging him to strike an accord with Thompson.

As the campaign hits its full stride, Meyers gets a call from Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) to meet. Meyers is well aware of the optics in meeting with the enemy camp, but curiosity (and hubris, Zara would later go on to say) gets the best of him. The meeting is a Machiavellian stroke of genius for Duffy as the meeting goes onto have much deeper implications for a number of people on Morris’s side.

Throw an intern into the political mix as Meyers becomes sexually involved with a young woman named Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and complicate it by making her father the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and things really start to unravel for the “good” guys. Through his relationship with Stearns, Meyers discovers a side of Morris that threatens to jeopardize each of their careers.

As both Meyers and Morris become embroiled in an ever deepening game of cat and mouse, which begins to erode all of the noble ideals that each man stood for at the beginning of the film, each must decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to maintain their tenuous hold on the prospects of power.

The film alludes to the day when Caesar was betrayed by his trusted aide Brutus, and much like that plot the film incorporates multiple characters and many threads of narrative. Unlike the death of Caesar, though, the film does not coalesce into a dramatic conclusion underscoring the death of a political man, but the death of man’s integrity when entering the political ring.

The Ides of March is a great story that provides a decent level of intrigue. The acting is believable and Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Stephen Meyers’ gradual evolution (or de-evolution, as some might say) is remarkably seamless. I do, however, find the movie a bit jaded. I prefer to believe that some politician out there is going to come along and really knock everyone’s socks off with a great mix of ideas and integrity. Someone who is willing to let go power if he or she is unable to execute their mandate. This person just hasn’t made it onto the scene yet.

If you like movies that are story driven, this is worth seeing.

If you like my opinion regarding this movie (aw heck, even if you don’t) why not share it with someone. That sure would be swell.

First Class Prices on a Steerage Budget

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on December 28, 2011 by JonH

I love the idea of exposing people to science, but at $16.95 a pop maybe the Telus World of Science in Edmonton should consider exposing more than just the well to do ones to it. And, deal of deals, for a limited time, smack another seven bucks on top of that and you get to see a woefully sparse exhibit of Titanic artifacts (French or English audio tours are also available for only three bucks). Chuck another ten on top of that $26.95, and TWOS will throw in the Imax film. Despite the price, it sounded fun. We packed up the gang and off we went.

Unfortunately, my wife said we couldn’t afford first class treatment–we needed to feed the baby, so she cheaped out and went steerage. I didn’t want to break a twenty, so we skipped the audio and video components of the tour, packed baby Auggie into his wheels and rolled on in.

The exhibit started off with each person given a “boarding pass,” which outlined information particular to a specific passenger that had sailed aboard the Titanic on its fateful voyage.

At the end of the exhibit, we were told, we could find out “whether we lived or died.” This was followed by having our picture taken in front of a green screen, which would be later turned into a picture of the gang in front of the Titanic’s grand staircase (ours to keep for only ten bucks). The guy snapping our group’s shot was friendly enough, but had no interest in having his picture taken. After shifting us into the proper position he snapped the shot and ushered us into the first room.

This room, much as you’d expect, contained information on the ship itself, where it was built, some schematics, and information on the ship’s Captain Edward Smith. Most peculiar was how the captain was described as “quietly flamboyant” sparking speculation that he had a very keen fashion sense but kept it to himself.

The second room was arguably the most satisfying in that it had the largest collection of recovered pieces, including coins, bills, stamps, stone and glass ware, postcards, and fragments of the ship itself.

There were two halls leading to the final three rooms. The first depicted what the accommodations were like in steerage and the second featured a model of one of the automatic doors that would have been used to isolate that section of the ship should its structure be compromised.

The third room was perhaps the eeriest in appearance and mood. The room was dark and featured a rather large chunk of ice that people could reach out and touch. Against one wall were words emblazoned on a large vertical banner describing how following the post-collision inspection, the Titanic’s designer Thomas Andrews was reported to have said to Captain Smith that damage this extensive meant “sinking was now a mathematical certainty.”

The second last room featured general descriptions of the kind of men that ran the Titanic’s huge engines and displayed a few tools that they would have used. Closer to the exit of that room were a series of dishes and a large ship’s whistle accompanied by photographs of how these items were found. Considering the environment these artifacts were in prior to being recovered, it’s amazing to see their present condition.

The final room had a list of all the passengers that survived and of those who died. This was where you would find out the fate of the person whose name appears on your boarding pass. (Mine corresponded to a Mr. Francis Davis Millet.) In addition to this list, there were stories about some of the passengers who were supposed to be onboard but didn’t make it for one reason or another. This room also contained one of the most interesting artifacts contained in the exhibit: perfume bottles, which were reputed to still contain the scents that they encapsulated from decades before.

Before we knew it, the tour through the exhibit was over and we were shelling out more money for souvenirs (the aforementioned green screen photo not the official chunks of authentic Titanic coal.)

All in all, the Titanic exhibit was a bit disappointing in that it seemed too short, thinly populated in terms of artifacts and rather text heavy. More importantly, however, is the cost of the whole thing. At just under fifty bucks for two people, the Telus World of Science is charging first class prices and making it difficult for those of us on a steerage budget to attend.

The exhibit runs until February 20, 2012.

Don’t let this story sink, share it with your friends and family!

Double Feature Anyone?

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on June 21, 2011 by JonH

I’m on a roll. For past the past three Fridays I’ve hit the theatres with my gang o’ two home units and seen a pretty good flick. Now, I doubt any of these films will garner any attention in the Best Picture category at next year’s Oscars, but each had pretty cool things going for it and was, in the end, a pretty decent bang for the thirteen buck (plus $6.25 for the popcorn and $5.25 for the vitamin water).

First up was Thor. This was my least favourite of the three, but that hardly means it was lacking in terms of what a film based on the God of Thunder should offer: decent story, great action and an armoured Anthony Hopkins wearing an eye patch. I’ve actually already written about Thor, but you knew that. If you didn’t, shame on you. Go here to get yourself caught up.

You back? Good. Grab yourself a slice of watermelon. It’s time for the review double feature:

Set in 1979, Super 8 is a fun, fast-paced adventure film, which could easily have been taken from the same page as films like The Goonies or E.T., but with a bit more of an ominous edge to it.

A group of young friends sneak out late one night to film a scene for a zombie movie one of them is entering into a local film contest. As they’re shooting they witness a train crash, which comes perilously close to ending their film-making careers. The kids escape but accidentally leave behind all of their equipment, including the camera with all of their footage—footage, they later find out that contains some very mysterious images. They all agree to keep quiet and not share anything about what they’ve witnessed with anyone.

The next morning, their town has become the centre of a huge military investigation. Strange things are afoot in fictional Lillian, Ohio. Strange things, indeed: people have begun to go missing; car engines and microwaves are being stolen; dogs are running away. The friends secretly try to solve the strange events as they struggle to finish their film.

To quote the 18-year-old member of the movie watching triumvirate, Super 8 is J.J. Abrams’ unabashed tribute to Steven Spielberg. In fact, when you look up Steven Spielberg on Wikipedia, one of the first things that jumps out at you reads like part of the film itself:

“Throughout his early teens, Spielberg made amateur 8 mm “adventure” films with his friends, the first of which he shot at the Pinnacle Peak Patio restaurant in Scottsdale. He charged admission (25 cents) to his home films (which involved the wrecks he staged with his Lionel train set) while his sister sold popcorn.”

In terms of the themes being explored, Spielberg has his mitts all over this film as well. From the main cast consisting primarily of children imbued with the sense of wonder and fascination adults have fallen out of touch with to the way kids solve seemingly insoluble problems (think of Chunk in The Goonies befriending Sloth by sharing his chocolate bars – adults don’t share. In Super 8, Joe Lamb’s simple comment, “bad things happen” gets him out of a pretty precarious situation.)

Abrams’ stamp is on the centre of the mystery. Without going into detail suffice it to say Cloverfield comes to mind.

The young actors in this movie all pull off their roles with aplomb and do a convincing job as a ragtag group of friends all lending a hand to get their buddy’s film made.

However, there’s more to the film than just the mystery. The protagonist of the story is Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney). Joe’s mother was recently killed in a factory accident, and his dad Jackson (Kyle Chandler), the town deputy, resents the fact that his son is hanging out with a bunch of kids who’re just wasting their time. Jackson and Joe struggle as neither one understands the other. The tension between the two is only exacerbated by the mysterious events. Despite his father’s disapproval, Joe continues to work with his friends Charles (Riley Griffiths), Preston (Zach Mills), Martin (Gabriel Basso), and Cary (Ryan Lee) on Charles’s film.

Things begin to look up when Charles tells Joe that he cast Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning, Dakota’s sister) in the role of the title character’s wife. The parallel themes of father/son redemption and first love run amok with a mind control alien. (Damn, that was an unannounced spoiler.)

With the exception of Joe’s father, most of the adult roles seem two-dimensional and could have been filled by anyone. However, this is minor and doesn’t take away from the film in the least because really it’s all about the kids.

Make sure to stick around after the main feature ends because you get to see the movie within the movie: The Case. This is the final product of the young filmmakers’ efforts. Needless to say, it’s pretty funny.

Super 8 is a very entertaining film, and I’m sure anybody that has a soft spot for those adventure flicks from the ‘80s will enjoy it as much as I did. Being on the early side of forty, I found that the sets, the costumes (err, clothing), and the soundtrack really took me back to a day when adventure was all my friends and I had on our minds.

Speaking of movies set in an earlier time, the opening to Matthew Vaughan’s X-Men: First Class is a juxtaposition of two radically different scenes set in the 1940s. The first is the harsh confines of a concentration camp in occupied Poland. The second is a close up of young boy sleeping in the warmth of his bed in the posh surroundings of his parents’ Victorian era Westchester County, New York home.

The opening scene is, of course, a recreation of the scene that the first X-Men movie opened with, but with an intense elaboration on what happened to Erik Lensherr (played as a young boy by Bill Milner) after he was separated from his parents. Lensherr grows up to become the antihero Magneto. The second scene is unique to First Class and shows a young Charles Xavier (played by Laurence Belcher) discovering that he’s not the only mutant in the world as he finds ten-year-old Raven (Morgan Lily) in his kitchen mimicking his mother’s appearance in order to steal food.

The initial scenes set the tone for the remainder of the film and serve to outline the contrasting viewpoints that compel both Professor X and Magneto throughout the films.

After seeing all of the trailers for this movie I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed. It had a campy look that I found kind of goofy. It really didn’t inspire me at all. However, being a fan of the X-Men, I had to go check it out. Besides, I thought, it’s my mutant ability to be unfazed by crap. I was sure I’d find something good about it.

And I didn’t have to look hard.

Fast forward to the early sixties—both Lensherr and Xavier are men, but as we expect on very different paths. Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) is brooding and single-minded, bent on hunting down the Nazi that killed his mother, Sebastian Shaw (played with creepy effectiveness by Kevin Bacon); While Xavier (James McAvoy, pictured below) is a fun-loving, flirtatious, and idealistic graduate student.

Both actors create round, three-dimensional characters and put in a first-rate performance, but Fassbender is utterly spellbinding as Lensherr/Magneto. Contributing to the dark nature of the role is the music that accompanies him whenever he’s on screen. I would go so far as to say that it’s one of the most effective uses of music that I’ve heard in a movie in a long time. It’s a perfect example of how just the right soundtrack can impel the emotion of the film forward. It’s right up there with the Imperial March from Star Wars. (Gawd, I’m a geek.)

Using the historical events of the Cold War, and more specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis, as backdrop for the conflict in the movie, X-Men: First Class first and foremost depicts the relationship between two men who are very similar and yet ideologically opposed, but who nevertheless develop a friendship and deep respect for one another. These two characters are so rich they form the basis of a dense character study. But this movie is more than that. It also delves into issues of oppression, ignorance, manipulation and willful hatred of the unknown.

Clocking in at just over two hours, the movie throws a lot at you but never seems to drag. There are a few minor points when the film stumbles a bit—this is primarily in some of the action scenes featuring minor characters (Angel and Banshee’s battle scenes come to mind), a very campy moment when Xavier looks into Emma Frost’s mind revealing Shaw’s plan for world domination, and Beast’s ridiculous need for glasses—alright, that’s a bit of a reach. Overall, each of these is a minor distraction that doesn’t really take away from the whole.

In the end, I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I enjoyed X-Men: First Class so much, I went to see it again two days later. Now, I’m stuck waiting for X-Men: Second Class.

You See what a Glass (er . . .Bottle) of Mead gets you?

Posted in Review with tags , , , , on May 18, 2011 by JonH

You don’t need to look further than any of the Transformers’ movies, the Iron Man sequel, or to the third Spiderman to see that when movies based on comic book characters privilege over-the-top action at the expense of plot, storyline, and character development the end result is an incoherent mess.

This, however, is not the case with Thor. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor is loosely based on Nordic mythology, its pantheon of gods, and their all-too human fallibilities. It’s these imperfections which breathe life into the story.

After their security is breached by two frost giants, Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, declares that Asgard should not tolerate such brazen attempts to infiltrate its defenses again, and to ensure that a message should be sent.

Odin, Thor’s father, played by Anthony Hopkins, outright forbids any retaliation in the hopes of salvaging the fragile truce between the two races, and goes onto suggest that the two frost giants may have been acting on their own without guidance from their King Laufey. Besides, he reminds his son, the invasion was dealt with swiftly by the Destroyer, an animated body of armor that stands guard over that which the invaders sought: the casket of ancient winters. Spoiler: the Destroyer figures prominently into Thor’s future bid at redemption.

Thor’s impetuous nature, lust for battle, and backhanded encouragement from his brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, however, gets the better of him. He convinces his friends Sif, Hogun, Volstagg, and Fandrall to follow him to Jotunheim to confront the frost giants and their King. They set off for the Bifrost Bridge – the portal that enables them to travel between the various worlds of Asgard, Jotunheim, and Midgard (Earth), among others – where Heimdall, the bridge’s guardian, agrees to send them to Jontunheim.

After a tense stand-off, where Thor is convinced by Loki that they should leave without incident, Thor is goaded into battle by a comment calling his manhood into question. The impetuous warrior strikes and the frost giants respond. The ensuing battle injures one of Thor’s compatriots and leaves Jotunheim in terrible devastation. Odin arrives on the Bifrost Bridge to carry the Asgardian warriors back home.

After safely arriving back in Asgard, an argument erupts between father and son. Odin accuses Thor of arrogance, strips him of his power, and casts him down to Earth. As he does so, he utters an incantation into Thor’s hammer Mjolnir telling it that only the noble of heart will be able to possess it.

Thor, I guess you should have let sleeping dogs lie. The scene is set for a tale of redemption.

With almost fifty years of comic book lore to choose from it’s not difficult to imagine that coming up with a cohesive and compelling storyline was one of the biggest challenges for the writers and the film’s director. That said they did a wonderful job of distilling such a dense history into a manageable period of time, and rendering the story basically into a tale of relationships between father and sons. Thor and Loki both do what they think they must do to attain their father’s acceptance: Thor as a worthy successor to Odin as king of Asgard, and Loki as a worthy son.

Sandwiched between the back-story describing Thor’s relegation from Asgard to Earth is the unfolding deception of a plan conceived by Loki, and Thor’s redemption as he begins to develop an affinity for Earth and its inhabitants, especially the scientist Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman.

The story develops on various levels, moving with equal ease between serious moments, and times which can only be described as comedic, but it pulls everything off to good effect. The light-hearted moments never seem forced, and the more dramatic moments never seem pretentious.

Hemsworth does a great job portraying Thor, both as a banished, deposed, and emasculated hero and as the arrogant and brash son of Odin. Despite his misgivings, you find yourself liking this guy. Hiddleston keeps you guessing as to what Loki’s motivations are, and Hopkins is what you would expect him to be for such a role: powerful and flawless. The rest of the cast, including Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, weren’t necessarily irreplaceable, although most did a fine job.

Even though the film does a good job exploring the relationships between father and son, as well as between siblings, it struggles when exploring romantic relationships. The development of the relationship between Thor and Foster seems about as deep as two people that meet in a bar. It tries to come across as transcendent, but really it lacks the necessary depth to make it seem believable.

One final note, I can’t say I enjoyed the 3D effect much. Perhaps the projector (do they still use projectors in theatres?) was out of focus, or maybe it was my eyes, but certain images on the periphery of the screen seemed to be less resolved than the central point.

Overall, Thor not only supplies you with eye candy, but a decent story of deceit, entitlement, and redemption.

No Matter Your Reality this is Good Science Fiction

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on April 12, 2011 by JonH

I like science fiction movies that are ambitious; Scifi that explores topics and issues that have been with us for millennia. You know, the big questions: how is man different from animal and what it means to be human (2001); what is subjectivity and identity (The Ninth Configuration); what’s the nature of reality (The Matrix).

These are meaty topics that, to me, deserve introspection. And when a movie throws these things at us, it doesn’t always have to answer the questions it raises. In fact, it’s probably better if it doesn’t. That way it doesn’t have the final word: if the movie is good enough, it will provoke dialogue as well as introspection.

Source Code is one of these movies.

Kind of like Groundhog Day on acid, Source Code is the story of Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), an American helicopter pilot who wakes up on board a train with absolutely no recollection of how he got there.

A woman sitting across from him named Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan) seems to recognize him and calls him by the name Sean Fentress. His reflection is also that of another man. As Colter/Fentress tries to piece together what’s going on the train explodes killing everyone onboard.

Stevens then wakes up seated inside some sort of device. A woman identifying herself as Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Fariga) appears on a computer screen inside the device. Her questions and descriptions only heighten Stevens’s confusion. He’s told he must find the bomb on board the train he was just on before it detonates. Before he can orient himself he wakes up on the train across from the woman again. These events unfold multiple times, with Stevens becoming more aware with each passing time. Sounds sufficiently sci-fi, but it gets better.

As multiple events are experienced, Stevens implores Captain Goodwin to let him speak to her boss, a man named Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). Rutledge reveals that Stevens is part of a program called Source Code, an advanced program based on Quantum Mechanics and parabolic calculus.

This is where the movie could have been guilty of what lesser science fiction stories have been accused of: invoking some magical doodad or theory that somehow “explains” away the fantastic ramifications of the technology being used, but instead this is where it begins to open itself up to interpretation.

As far as my interpretation goes the source code implies what phycists call the Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. This theory posits that for every reality there are alternate realities, which are just as viable as the one we currently inhabit but we’re virtually unaware of. Without giving away too much of the plot, it seems that Captain Stevens is somehow able to leave one reality and continue on in another without transgressing any rules. As a consequence this raises interesting questions as far as the nature of reality goes.

Source Code was directed by Duncan Jones (see Moon review) and written by Ben Ripley.

There are moments of sentimentalism in the film that I thought it could have done without, but in the context of the Many Worlds Interpretation goes, this is virtually unavoidable: if life is messed up in one reality perhaps it’s better in the next. How can it not turn out good? Or does it?

However you slice it though this movie has plenty for diehard fans of scifi to sink their teeth into.

I came across this interview with writer Ben Ripley after I’d finished writing this review, and wanted to post it because it gives some insight into the thinking that went into writing the story.

Hey Dumas, it’s more than just a Chocolate Bar

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2011 by JonH

The Edmonton Citadel’s production of The Three Musketeers

The first scene bursts out of the gates with a young, shirtless D’Artagnan (played by Eric Morin) dueling his father in a frenetic final lesson in swordplay prior to setting off for Paris to join the fabled Musketeers. The action is spirited, and for the duration of the play, it never really lets up.

Rife with political intrigue, sword fights, conspiracy, sword fights, love at first sight, sword fights, and action – plenty of action, The Three Musketeers, like the classic Alexandre Dumas book from which it was adapted, is unrelenting.

The dark side of all of this going on is that the story gets somewhat convoluted. That’s not a problem with a book – you can always go back and clear up any misconceptions you may have, but a play is a different thing. It moves by quickly. My only saving graces were the people that came with me, and thanks to our discussion during the intermission I was quickly brought up to speed. With my new found insight into Cardinal Richelieu’s cunning manipulation of the king, the queen and her relationship with the British nobleman Lord Buckingham the second act came together quite nicely; albeit resolving itself much quicker than the drama took to develop in the first act.

The play’s director Tom Woods in the role of Cardinal Richelieu, and Adrian Proszowski as King Louis were definitely the standouts in terms of acting. Woods portrayal of the cardinal was second to none and commanded your attention whenever he was on scene. Proszowski likewise garnered your attention by supplying most of the comic relief as he played the king very much like a traipsing nincompoop. (Special mention goes to Ashley Wright as Porthos; especially when bookending his portrayal of the ebullient musketeer with his earlier role of the dour, and insecure Charlie Aiken who is involved in an incestuous affair with his sister in the play August: Osage County.)

But not all is high praise and lofty lauding. I struggled with Eric Morin as D’Artagnan, the idealistic upstart. He played the character as too impetuous, and quick to get offended. It seemed like everyone was pissing him off and calling his character into question causing him to overreact and want to duel. After three or four duels this got old quick.

Perhaps what I found most distressing was Morin’s voice. It, like most of the other voices in the play, was conspicuously North American, but his had the added distraction of being somewhat whiny and devoid of subtlety. These factors conspired to pull me out of the scene whenever he spoke. And, more than a few times, I found myself rolling my eyes as a result.

However, what was particularly impressive about the play was the efficient use of a fairly austere set, the large size of the cast, and the well choreographed fight scenes.

The set consisted of the main stage with two flights of stairs, stage left and stage right, leading up to a balcony with a door beneath it that served multiple purposes. The stage, in conjunction with effective lighting, was made to feel, at various times like a market, a room, an inn, and a rain swept straight away for the actors to ride imaginary horses. Incidentally, the riding scenes are very well done, simultaneously evoking humour, as well as an appreciation for how well the actors, in conjunction with stage direction, can pull something off so effectively without props.

Considering the size of the Maclab theatre stage, the choreography of the various battles was fantastic. What makes it even more impressive is that in a year where an actress is applauded for training as a ballerina (Natalie Portman in Black Swan) we get the opportunity to see a number of actors who obviously trained equally as hard to ensure that their handling of swords is as convincing as Portman’s use of the pirouette.

Additionally, at one point there were more than eight combatants simultaneously dueling, but it never really felt too crowded. Each actor occupied the right place at the right time, and no one seemed to step on anyone else’s feet.

Although not my favourite play, The Three Musketeers did entertain. I wasn’t a big fan of the canned music, or some of the acting, but the stage direction, the lighting, the costumes, and the actors’ placement on stage at key times did create a unique spectacle for the audience. Overall worth seeing and an enjoyable night out.