Is Dumbo a flying start for Disney’s 2019 live-action remakes?

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Copyright: Disney
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By Adam Brannon
Film Reviewer from Movie Metropolis for What’s On Hub

If you had told me 15 years ago that Tim Burton would be directing a live-action adaptation of Disney’s classic, Dumbo I would’ve been overwhelmed with excitement. The director, famed for his unique sense of gothic style and visual flair has directed some of the best films ever made.

Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Beetlejuice are just a few classics on a resume populated by cracking movies. However, over the last decade Burton has become a director that has focused on style over substance. Charlie & the Chocolate Factory was a pale imitation of the original and his live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland was successful but hollow.

Therefore, we arrive in 2019 with a slight sense of apprehension. Dumbo is a classic Disney cartoon and there’s a risk of a little too much Burton for the little elephant’s good. But is that fear unfounded?

Copyright: Disney

Struggling circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists a former star (Colin Farrell) and his two children to care for Dumbo, a baby elephant born with oversized ears. When the family discovers that the animal can fly, it soon becomes the main attraction — bringing in huge audiences and revitalizing the run-down circus. The elephant’s magical ability also draws the attention of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), an entrepreneur who wants to showcase Dumbo in his latest, larger-than-life entertainment venture.

Updating Dumbo for the modern age was always going to be a difficult task. At just over an hour long and with some shall we say, less than PC story elements, the original needed some serious padding and editing to turn it into a fully-fledged feature film and while there are moments of brilliance here, Dumbo suffers from a disjointed script, flat characters and you guessed it, too much Burton.

We’ll start with the good. Dumbo is a beautiful film, filled to the brim with striking imagery that harks back to some of Burton’s previous work. The cinematography is absolutely astounding with stunning sunsets and vivid colours populating the screen at all points during the 112-minute running time. The opening in particular, a hark back to the original in which a train crosses a map of the US is inspired and nicely filmed.

For the most part though, Dumbo pushes the limits of visual effects to the point where everything feels far too artificial. The baby elephant himself is on the whole very good, and as adorable as you would expect, but there are moments dotted throughout the film that suffer from the limitations of CGI. A scene in which Dumbo gets a bath is terrifying. In fact, there are multiple sequences towards the finale in which the CGI is so poor that it looks like something out of a second generation video game.

Elsewhere, the cast is by far the film’s weakest element. Colin Farrell is a disappointingly forgettable and miscast lead. Arriving home after losing his arm in the war, Farrell’s Holt is completely flat, not helped by some poor acting from the usually dependable star. Michael Keaton doesn’t get to do much apart from smile menacingly and Danny DeVito hams it up to 11 as struggling circus-owner Max Medici; oh dear.

There are some positives cast-wise however: Nico Parker as Milly Farrier, Holt’s curious science-minded daughter, is very good, even if the script beats you around the head with the fact that she’s an intelligent girl who wants more out of her life, but this is brought right back down to earth by Eva Green’s horrific French accent.

Then there’s Burton himself. While the shots of Dumbo circling the circus tent in the air are breath-taking, and scenes of the pachyderm covered in clown make-up as he’s abused for profit are as heart-breaking as they are in the original, they’re ruined by unusual story-telling choices. As the film steamrolls to its climax set in a theme-park that’s a third Scooby Doo, a third Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a third Jurassic Park, Burton piles on his usual tropes far too thick – it just doesn’t fit with the tale of the magical flying elephant.

Some of the more touching elements are handled well however. Dumbo’s separation from his mother is devastating and he feels like a real personality throughout the entire film, but for a film titled Dumbo, it needs more Dumbo!

Overall, Dumbo is a perfectly enjoyable adventure ride that’s spoilt by Burton’s once trademark filming style and a roster of flat and forgettable characters. With the boundaries of CGI being pushed to the max here, some of the film feels a little unfinished and as such, this live-action adaptation is a touch disappointing. One can only wonder what this film would have been like with a different director at the helm.

Our score: ★★★

Watch if you liked: The Jungle Book, Beauty & The Beast.

Dumbo is showing now at Odeon Luxe Cinema, Hull

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Bonus Arena to Expand Over A63 Creating World’s First Drive-Thru Venue

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Since its conception of Hull Venue, Bonus Arena has undoubtedly been a successful venture for SMG Europe, as well as Hull as a whole. With a reported 100,000 ticket sales over 2018, the arena is attracting names such as Boyzone, George Ezra, Madness and Culture Club. However, they don’t want to stop there.

Bonus Arena have today announced that they are expanding the venue across the A63 to become the leaders in the race of becoming the world’s first drive-thru venue. This is in an attempt to continue attracting big names to both the city and the venue, and ultimately, attract even bigger acts in the future. This will work by implementing variable speed limits across the A63 so that drivers get see a peak inside the arena during their commute meaning that when a live act is performing, they will hear and see the gig whilst they drive through.

Tom is a recent University of Hull graduate from Skipton. He believes that this venture from the arena is ‘great for Hull’, attracting bigger names will help the city ‘go further and offer more variety’. ‘My dream is to one day see my favourite band, Kodaline, from the backseat of my mums car’. Tom believes that this venture opens the door (or should we say car door?) to expose ‘gig culture to a wider audience’ and that this may attract the people who weren’t previously interested in attending gigs and concerts; ‘seeing the live atmosphere is the beautiful thing about attending a gig. The relationship between the artist and the crowd is often an intimate experience that just can’t be replicated through the studio. If people driving through get a glimpse into the venue and get a feel for the atmosphere, they may return as a paying customer’.

Related: See what’s on at Bonus Arena, the worlds first Drive-Thru Venue

Ken and Babs Davis are Hull locals and seem very excited about the development. They believe that it makes ‘total sense given how close the arena is to the A63’. They likened the concept to the Angel of The North and expressed that the venue may become a roadside landmark in the UK that people will ultimately cherish on their commute, and may attract further traffic through Hull. ‘The road isn’t exactly congested everyday anyway, so the variable speed limits and extra tourists shouldn’t affect Hull traffic too much’. Whilst they are satisfied with the amount of fantastic acts that regularly grace the venue, Ken is an avid Justin Bieber fan and hopes this is enough to bring him to Hull on his next tour. Babs also added that she hopes it won’t be too cold in the arena after the development, considering ‘how cold it was last time’ she visited.

Bonus Arena have made it clear that the roadworks across the A63 may perhaps be a little frustrating through the development, but when you see Drake walking through Princes Quay it’ll all be worth it. Whilst no official date has been announced for the development, you can best believe that if you fell for that, you’ll fall for anything.

Happy April Fools from What’s On Hub.

Why You Should See Us Against Whatever

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As I sit down at my computer I am reminded of the date: March 29th, 2019. A date in which we were originally promised our exit from the European Union; a tense time amongst everyone, win or lose. Last night’s performance of Us Against Whatever from Middle Child managed to express how much this skirmish in opinion can both bring us together and pull us apart.

Set in two parts (2008 and 2016), the play focused on the relationship between Steph (Josie Morely) and Anna (Edyta Budnik). Whilst the play was about Brexit, it focused on us rather than them: The people, not the politicians. It asks the questions of how the vote affects us and ultimately provides an answer. In 2008 we see how happy the characters are, with Steph and Anna meeting in a pub and eventually falling in comfort with each other, in a time of such instability. In 2016 we see how the difference in opinion eventually tears them apart; with Anna being a Polish immigrant, and Steph eventually becoming pro-Brexit.

The first act was explosive, grabbing our attention with a frenzy of overlapping voices discussing Brexit; a symbol for the noise that most of us are quite simply sick of. MC, Emma Thornett, eventually silencing them with the snap of the snare. The live instruments on stage completely changed the intimacy of the performance, and I was ultimately impressed with how seamless the cast would transition from acting to performing; often taking up multiple instruments throughout the night. My personal standout performance was from James Frewer, composer and musical director. Whilst Frewer went unnamed throughout the performance, he still managed to steal the show as he so effortlessly, and passionately, controlled the music.

The performance focused on two things: Brexit and music. Whilst Brexit took the foreground of discussion, the music continued to subdue beneath the story; whether it be swelling chords from Frewer’s keyboard or the rumbling march of the acoustic drums. Whilst the characters were slowly ripped apart from each other, the one thing remained was their love of karaoke. As each character was introduced to the audience, they quickly ran to podium to sing their karaoke song of choice. This acted as an initial indicator of their character traits to the audience. Anna for example sang a polish song, expressing her national pride. Eight years later, Post-Brexit vote, we see her continue to sing in Polish, proving to the audience that after her time in the UK, she is still unapologetically Polish. Karaoke was even the star of the interval, with the audience getting up to express their character with their song of choice. Whilst I spend the interval at the bar, I caught the backend of a very talented audience member singing Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive which resulted in massive applause. I was prepared to blast out Toto’s Africa, but maybe next time.

Related: See what’s on at Hull Truck Theatre

The theme of the first act was pride. From Anna’s pride of her nationality to the rest of the characters celebrating Hull City making the premier league in 2008. I was eleven when Dean Windass volleyed the ball that put our football club on the map and the play managed to bring back the same excitement I felt in the stands of Wembley Stadium, eleven years later in the seats of Hull Truck Theatre. With Joshua Meredith’s Neil rehashing lyrics about Windass ‘lifting’ his spirits, making the audience reminisce the excitement that surrounded the city that day.

Us Against Whatever is running at Hull Truck Theatre until Wednesday 3rd April. Whether you’re into politics or not, the play is captivating, emotional, hilarious, and celebrates Hull in no way that any other theatre company could.

Why You Should See House on Cold Hill

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Do you believe in ghosts? I think that was the question asked by a large part of the audience at Hull New Theatre on Monday evening. I was lucky to be invited to the opening night of The House on Cold Hill. Based on the book by Peter James, it tells the story of a family who move into an old house in Cold Hill. The house is around 800 years old (so we are told) and as you would expect a house of that age; it comes with some long standing er….residents.

Joe McFadden (theatre credits longer than my arm, but well known to many from Holby City, Heartbeat, Casualty and recently Strictly Come Dancing) plays the father called Ollie. His wife, Caro is usually played by Rita Simons (Eastenders) however she was indisposed on Monday so her understudy, Hannah Lindsay, stepped into her shoes. Their daughter, Jade was played by Persephone Swales-Dawson (Hollyoaks) and made up our loving family unit.

The play is set wholly in one room of the house and opens to the family settling in. Ollie has sold his business and has started a new web design company; he is later assisted in setting up his wifi (in a house with very thick walls) by a local geek called Chris, portrayed by Charlie Clements who played Bradley in Eastenders.

From the start, the house is a money pit and the family employ another local called Phil to do the building and DIY around the house. It’s good to keep things local.

Individually, the family start to experience strange goings on in the house. There are some fun ‘conversations’ with Alexa, that delightful piece of tech which answers questions and plays music. As expected, Alexa is used by the ghost of the Grey Lady to communicate with the family. I knew there was a reason I didn’t want one in the house.

Related: See what’s on at Hull New Theatre

Chris is very interested in ghost hunting and the paranormal, eventually persuading the family to investigate the ghostly goings on. The cast are then joined by Annie who has become the family cleaner and is also very sensitive to ghosts. Events lead to the discovery of the Grey Lady’s body which has been walled up in a secret room for centuries. A relieved family can now get back to normality, or can they? I am not going to spoil the ending for you by revealing all, but I was left satisfied.

I was not sure how scary this production would be; whilst I did jump once or twice, it was quite predictable as to what would happen. Despite this, it was an entertaining evening. The second act flew by so quickly. Once or twice I had to listen very hard to hear what Caro said, especially when she faced the back corner of the set, also whenever a character went up or down the stairs (they could do with a bit of carpet on the stairs). It did not spoil the evening though.

The play deals with death and haunting, whilst retaining comedic undertones which kept the audience on the edge of their seats. It’s well worth going to see and I think you would enjoy it.

The House on Cold Hill runs at Hull New Theatre all this week until Saturday with tickets starting at £15. Go and see it!

Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly Bring Holographic Rock ‘N’ Roll Dream Tour to Hull

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Roy Orbison is back to amaze British audiences with his unique voice and live performance once again.

After the success of last year’s pioneering holographic In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert tour, Base Hologram the leading developer of concerts, theatricals and spectacles that combine holographic cinema and mixed reality with live entertainment, have now announced Roy Orbison & Buddy Holly: The Rock ’N’ Roll Dream Tour, a ground-breaking new tour featuring the award-winning rock and roll legends.

The show will visit Hull’s Bonus Arena on 14 October as part of a full UK arena tour. Tickets
go on general sale on Friday at 9am.

It is yet another chapter for the revolutionary Hologram movement. The tour will bring Orbison and Holly together for an enthralling event that will tour throughout the UK before further dates worldwide. It is the first time a Buddy Holly hologram has been created.

“Both Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly set the stage for what was to come down the road in the music industry,” said Brian Becker, Chairman and CEO of BASE Hologram.  “These two men were forward-thinkers who understood what new forms of technology could do for their craft. They defined the genre of Rock and Roll from writing to recording to the standard band configuration and they influenced everyone from Elvis to The Beatles. Now to be able to recapture that magic on a grand scale and let their fans see them together will be something truly special.”

Accompanied by a live band and live back-up singers, this cutting edge holographic performance and remastered audio will transport audiences back in time for an evening of Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly’s greatest hits onstage, these are songs that have stood the test of time.

Universally recognised as one of the great music legends and praised by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Morrissey to Bono, Roy Orbison’s catalogue includes such chart-toppers as Oh, Pretty Woman, You Got It, Only The Lonely, Crying, I Drove All Night, It’s Over and In Dreams.

“My father’s music meant the world to not just to us Orbison's but to millions of fans worldwide. Being able to reopen his legendary songbook and again hear his voice bounce off great concert hall walls is both a transcendent and cathartic experience,” said Roy Orbison, Jr., President of Roy Orbison Music. “Dad jammed with Buddy in Lubbock Texas and helped change music history by turning Buddy on to Norman Petty Studios; Buddy later returned the favour by recording two of Dad's songs on his first Cricket's album. How beyond cool and special that these two great friends, now get to tour the world together." A seasoned performer by age 16, Buddy Holly was known not just for his distinguished look, but also for his mastery of several music styles. In addition to hits such as Peggy Sue, Oh Boy!, Not Fade Away and That'll Be the Day, Holly was among the first artists to use techniques such as double-tracking on his albums. Along with his beloved band The Crickets, Holly helped set the standard for the Beatles and others for rock and roll orchestration by setting the two guitar, bass and drum line-up now seen in traditional concerts.

“Buddy and Roy were Texans who shared a mutual respect and admiration for each other’s creative musical genius and brilliant song writing abilities,” said Buddy’s wife Maria Elena
Holly. “Their long-time fans and a new generation of fans will now have the opportunity to see these great legends perform together in a unique setting, showcasing two of the finest, most influential, and beloved artists in music history.”

With nearly 3 million followers on Facebook and almost 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify between them, audiences are still enamoured with the men who brought “geek chic” and horn-rimmed glasses into the mainstream. This tour will allow fans old and new to get the chance to experience these pioneering figures in a spectacular and thrilling new way. Pulling from their combined 16 platinum records, 19 gold records, nearly two dozen Top 40 hits and 10 combined GRAMMY awards, this transcendent musical event will give audiences a once in a lifetime musical experience.

Tickets are priced from £45 each (booking fees apply) and go on general sale at 9am on Friday from www.bonusarenahull.com or call 0844 8440444. Calls cost 7p per minute plus
your phone company’s access charge.

Lord Sugar Announced as Headline Speaker of Business Day at Bridlington Spa

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Lord Sugar, one of the best known British businessman in the world, is announced as the headline speaker of The Business Day 2019; to be held at Bridlington Spa on Friday 7 June, coinciding with the end of Humber Business Week.

Lord Sugar, most famous for his role leading BBC TV’s The Apprentice, founded the hugely successful electronics company, Amstrad, in 1968 and served as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur between 1991 and 2001.

As a child, when his family couldn’t afford to buy him a bicycle, he built one himself from an old bike frame then, by the age of 12, he had started earning his own money working part time for a local greengrocer.

On leaving school he became a statistician for the Ministry of Education but, finding it boring, he unleashed his burgeoning, entrepreneurial skill by selling car aerials from a dilapidated van.

He founded Amstrad (Alan Michael Sugar Trading) when he was just 21 years old, taking it public on the London Stock Exchange in 1980. The company saw significant growth during the 80s, leveraging the surge in demand for personal computers and later, the production of set-top decoder boxes for satellite television provider, Sky.

He made his first appearance on the BBC reality show, The Apprentice in 2005. Appearing as himself, he sets business tasks for participants, or candidates, then acts as overall judge of the results with the least successful hearing his now notorious catchphrase, “You’re fired” and leaving the programme. The winner in more recent seasons receives a cash investment from Lord Sugar for the business idea they pitch during the run of the show.

He was knighted in the 2000 New Year Honours list and was awarded two Doctorates of Science from City University in 1998 and Brunel University in 2005. He became a life peer in 2009 becoming Lord Sugar.

Lord Sugar will host a question and answer session with the audience at The Business Day thus creating a unique and interactive element to the day which honours the event’s promise to provide delegates with a day of discovery and insight.

Gyles Brandreth has already been announced as host and speaker of The Business Day this year and additional speakers will be added to the line-up in due course.

Andrew Aldis, general manager of Bridlington Spa said, “I’m still pinching myself that Lord Sugar is to be the headline speaker of this year’s event. I had to check the confirmation twice to make sure I was reading it correctly.

“Since 2017, in producing and delivering The Business Day, we have strived for quality in our speaker line-up and the delivery of the event. This announcement serves to only reinforce the great reputation we continue to earn and demonstrates to the business community that Bridlington Spa is a force to be reckoned with in the business event arena.”

Stephen Parnaby, deputy chairman of Humber LEP said, “It’s hard to imagine finding a more prestigious and appropriate speaker to headline this high quality event. The name Lord Sugar is synonymous with business and The Business Day is the East Riding of Yorkshire and Hull celebrating business at its best.”

The Business Day is a networking event billed as a tailored day of discovery and insight and is aimed at a business audience. It has established itself as the traditional end to the Humber Business Week. It is produced fully in-house by Bridlington Spa on behalf of Humber LEP.

Previous speakers have been Karren Brady (Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge), John Simpson CBE, Alexander Armstrong, Naga Munchetty, Josh Littlejohn and Sir Bob Geldof.

Tickets to The Business Day are available from thebusinessday.com or by calling Bridlington Spa on (01262) 678258 (option 1) and cost £125 each or ten for £1,000.

Is Captain Marvel the perfect female-led superhero movie?

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Copyright: Marvel
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By Adam Brannon
Film Reviewer from Movie Metropolis for What’s On Hub

With a touching tribute to the amazing Stan Lee, it’s clear from the outset that Captain Marvel isn’t going to be your ordinary MCU instalment, or so Marvel Studios would have us believe. The 21stfilm, yes, I can’t quite believe it either, in the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel is the first superhero film from the studio to focus primarily on a single female lead.

Astounding really that a franchise started by all intents and purposes way back in 2008 with Iron Manand has grossed billion after billion at the box-office hasn’t felt the need to offer a big tentpole movie to a female hero. But history aside, Captain Marvel has finally landed. Are we looking at one of Marvel’s greats?

Copyright: Marvel

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is an extra-terrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls.

Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck in their first big-budget blockbuster, Captain Marvel shows, if you’ll pardon the pun, flecks of brilliance while battling a fairly average origins story for what could be described as Marvel’s most powerful hero.

Where it does shine throughout is in its casting. We’ll get to the titular hero shortly but Samuel L Jackson’s performance across the film is exceptional. Beautifully de-aged and without the off-putting uncanny valley treatment that we occasionally get with these types of visual effects, he’s a highlight of the film and the chemistry he shares with Larson is believable and enjoyable to watch.

Clearly not afraid of being typecast is Ben Mendelsohn who has played some tremendous villains over the course of his career. From Rogue One to Ready Player One, the Australian actor clearly feels right at home as Skrull leader, Talos. Though hidden behind layers of prosthetics for the majority of the movie, he comes across much better than poor Oscar Issac did in X-Men: Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the film does lack a menacing villain throughout however, but this isn’t down to Mendelsohn’s performance which is spot on.

Brie Larson is good, but her story arc is hampered by a bout of amnesia, used to progress the story. It’s a poor scripting decision by the film’s five writers but a necessary one to deal with all the Marvel lore and baggage that comes with creating the 21staddition to a very interlinked series. It’s a shame that this is the case as Larson shares wonderful chemistry with all her co-stars and is let down by her at-times clunky dialogue.

When it comes to the visual effects, we’ve got a story of two halves. This is a $152million movie and with that comes a set of expectations that just aren’t fulfilled consistently enough. Some of the CGI used is incredibly poor and the Kree’s home planet of Hala feels hollow – worlds away from Sakaar and Nova Prime from other Marvel outings. It could almost be compared to that of the Star Wars sequels, though perhaps that’s being a little too harsh.

The cinematography too is bland. Ben Davis is one of the finest cinematographers working in the industry and has put his name to films like Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, Kick-Ass and Avengers: Age of Ultron to name but a few. But here, he seems to lack that flair he’s so often known for and while the action is filmed with aplomb and there are some cracking set pieces, they feel a little ordinary and lacking in originality.

Thankfully Captain Marvel retains that classic Marvel sense of humour that we all know and love and there are some genuinely touching moments as the titular hero begins to remember who she is. It also feels very much of the era it’s set in and that’s great. 90s music and a real 90s feel emanate from the screen and it’s here that the film scores highly.

Overall, Captain Marvel is a competent but not outstanding origins story that lacks consistent visual effects, a truly compelling script and engaging cinematography. While it is difficult to warm to Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers at times, it is testament to her acting ability that she remains likeable throughout – it’s just a shame that Marvel hasn’t quite managed to pull it off completely this time around.

Our score: ★★★

Watch if you liked: Wonder Woman.

Captain Marvel is showing now at Odeon Luxe Cinema, Hull

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