Michael and Phillip at Midsumma!

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FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

PERFECT PITCH?

I’m a Kendall Richardson and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Pitch Perfect 3

Universal Pictures.

Three years after winning the World Finals championship in Copenhagen, a cappella singing group the Bellas have graduated college and gone their separate ways.

Now in unfulfilling jobs and desperate to see each other again to sing once more, Beca (Anna Kendrick), Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), Chloe (Brittany Snow), Aubrey (Anna Camp), Lilly (Hanna Mae Lee), Cynthia (Ester Dean), Florencia (Chrissie Fit), Jessica (Kelley Jakle), Ashley (Shelley Regner), and Stacie (Alexis Knapp) reunite to compete once more…

It’s the final curtain call for the aca-amazing Bellas! I’m happy to report that Pitch Perfect 3 escapes the pitfalls that can befall any third installment in a franchise: the magic that crafted the success of the first film tends to wane, the jokes made are almost always the same causing the shtick to get old fast, and the storylines can head into shark-jumping territory. This film escapes them by the skin of its teeth, but escapes them nonetheless.

This time around the Bellas reunite to perform at USO shows across Europe, and find themselves competing with the other acts for a chance to open for DJ Khaled. Anna Kendrick is a joy to watch as always as the talented music producer Beca Mitchell, reaffirming effortlessly to her audience why she is the lead of this wonderful ensemble cast. Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy is back and still hilarious! Whilst her comedy isn’t as memorable this time around, she does well with what she’s given, leaving the viewer in stitches. Also enjoyable are Brittany Snow’s Chloe and Anna Camp’s Aubrey; the former getting herself a love interest, and the latter showing us how much she’s grown since the first film as we learn about her military father.

Speaking of fathers, John Lithgow shows up as a different than Daddy’s Home 2 Dad, giving the Aussie accent a half-decent crack as Fat Amy’s criminal and estranged papa. That’s where the shark-jumping pitfall is approached, but thankfully the slightly outlandish storyline works due to Wilson going full Black Widow on her dad’s goons and the Bellas scintillating take on Toxic (It’s Britney, Pitch!). The only disappointing thing for me was the lack of screen time given to the other USO acts. One of the best parts about the previous two movies has been the rivalry between the Bellas and their enemy teams, and unfortunately they only seem to touch on it briefly throughout the film. Although the riff-off scene when they first meet is very entertaining.

Without spoiling too much about the ending, I will say that it is a perfect (pun intended) and emotional conclusion to the trilogy, as it really highlights the bond shared between the Bellas, whilst simultaneously launching Beca into the career she truly deserves. 3½ / 5

 

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Hana Mae Lee, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Alexis Knapp, John Michael Higgins, Elizabeth Banks, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnett, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose, Andy Allo, Venzella Joy Williams, Hannah Fairlight, Whiskey Shivers, Trinidad James, D.J. Looney, Troy Ian Hall, Jessica Chaffin, Moises Arias, Michael Rose.

Director: Trish Sie | Producers: Elizabeth Banks, Paul Brooks, Max Handelman | Writers: Kay Cannon, Mike White (Story by Kay Cannon) | Music: Christopher Lennertz | Cinematographer: Matthew Clark Labiano | Editors: Craig Alpert, Colin Patton

Showing in cinemas nation-wide.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

 

I’ve been a Kendall Richardson and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

Beta Test #2: Status: Insane

Status: Insane

 

December. The consumerist tradition month. The month where everyone in retail is made to work ungodly hours, and get pelted by shoppers who lost all semblance of mental balance long ago. The month of watching the family gossip unfold in a disarray of champagne and beer. The month of getting fat and blaming the weather instead of the gross amount of pudding and turkey you ate on Christmas Eve/Day. It’s enough to make you go insane.

 

Happy New Year, folks! I’m a Bethany Griffiths and this is Beta Test, where I—a self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on. Whether I get better or get wrecked, you’ll get an unbiased review!

 

Now, with the holiday period coming to an end, I probably should have chosen something like Wii Fit Boxing as my game of choice this month. But oh no, I’m not about to give up my sloth lifestyle just yet. Maybe February…

ANYWAY, this month I’m taking you down a dark corridor, through multiple warp pads, and away from any bright lights that harbor gun wielding doctors, as I play Status: Insane—the addictive fast run maze game.

Here, you play as Igor, the mental patient with the demeanor of a chicken, who needs to escape the confines of delusional purgatory to reach happiness, peace, and as many funny hats as possible. That’s not hyperbole either. You reside in your ward room waiting to escape—which you will, through a complex series of puzzles that lead to graveyards, sewers, castle outskirts, experimental facilities, and finally to freedom. You just need to navigate through everything without dying or being pelted with tranquilisers first.

 

Make your way through the delightfully spooky layout, which reminds me of every early 3D animation game I played as a little kid, and you get to interact with characters like Greg – the angry patient, and your imaginary friend who is a floating explosive head, with a brain tongue. He has the best dialogue of the whole game, by the way, with his Russian accent and hipster beanie.

 

This game has modesty. It’s an indie run game that has a small cult following, and the developers are lovely. But beyond that, the puzzles aren’t impossible. I wasn’t pulling my hair out, trying to do a maze runner level for the trillionth time. In fact, I only spent a good three days finishing the main storyline. The only time I found myself frustrated was with my own reaction times, which caused me to get zapped by electrical pods, hit by needles, eaten by rats, blown up by floating heads, and demolished by crashing rockets.

 

So… you know… the usual stuff.

 

There is also a strong set of achievements throughout the game that you get by performing specific interactions, like finding all the hats, patient notes, and posters scattered about the universe. This works really well in the game’s favour because it has such a simple structure. The added elements of play give the gamer something to go back and look forward to, instead of finishing the game and going ‘well, that’s it.’

 

Because of my intense love for easy-to-play, maze games, and the general innovation and motivation shown through the game’s development, I would rate this:

 

2/5 Tranquiliser Darts for style

4/5 Tranquiliser Darts for plotline

5/5 Tranquiliser Darts for easiness

5/5 Tranquiliser Darts for NOSTALGIA

 

This game is one giant cliché. It cringes. It cringes like the Jimmy-Neutron-game-making-Cindy-Vortex-dumb cringes. It cringes like every-chase-level-of-Crash-Bandicoot cringes. It cringes like a-parent-taking-his-ten-year-old-to-a-Disney-film cringes. And it’s SO good. I loved every minute of gameplay that reminded me of the early days of 3D animation, every small jagged detail of the characters, every level that incorporated something new. This game was fantastic on the nostalgia scale, and I loved that little kids as well as adults would be able to enjoy it.

 

I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been a stocking-stuffed Beta Test. A game review platform where I either got better or got wrecked, in the hopes that I can provide you all with a completely unbiased review.

 

Until next time…

FRED Watch Quickie Theatre Review: The Book of Mormon (2017-2018)

I BELIEVE!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s theatrical production is The Book of Mormon

Main image supplied to ABC News has been edited by FRED the ALIEN Productions

Two Mormon missionaries, the ambitious Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) and socially awkward Elder Cunningham (Nyk Bielak), attempt to share their scriptures with the inhabitants of a remote Ugandan village, where their fellow missionaries have failed to baptise anyone.

The young men are challenged by the lack of interest of the locals, who are more concerned with such issues as AIDS, famine, female genital mutilation, and their warlord…

When accepting that a musical about Mormon missionaries comes from the the collective imaginations behind the animated television series South Park and the theatrical Sesame Street parody Avenue Q, you feel as though you know what sort of show you’re about to experience.

And while there are common trademarks of South Park‘s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q‘s Robert Lopez throughout The Book of Mormon, an audience has no right to express offense at the material. Also, those who are familiar with the creative minds behind the show will be pleased to know that this production stands on its own.

Ryan Bondy as Elder Price is the personification of musical theatre perfection. (Image: Joan Marcus)

Parker and Stone frequently poke fun of and critique religious institutions (most notably, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Scientologists), however the easily-targeted Latter Day Saints seems to be their favourite subject matter. (The 1997 sex comedy Orgazmo was an early indication of this trajectory.) That is not to say, however, that The Book of Mormon does not have a lot to say on a broad range of matters; it is an effective critique on fundamentalism and traditional patriarchal customs, among other topics. Additionally, it is a sweet story of friendship and the importance of community.

Like all good musical comedies, the songs are catchy and humorous, with opening number Hello! setting the tone perfectly. The show is ideally paced and maintains a solid momentum throughout, with the cast’s incredibly infectious energy and enthusiasm adding to the atmosphere. The cast is always in fine form, particularly the stunning Zahra Newman as Nabulungi and audience favourite Rowan Witt as closeted queer stereotype Elder McKinley. As our protagonists, Bielak has the ideal geeky adorable qualities the role of Elder Cunningham dictates, but make no mistake about it, The Book of Mormon belongs to Bondy. Oozing more charm and enthusiasm that you would think is humanly possible, it is difficult to take your eyes off him; his portrayal of Elder Price is quite easily the production’s strongest component. In the realm of contemporary musical theatre, Ryan Bondy is perfection personified.

The almost sold-out matinee audience I sat with was hooked from the get-go, buzzing during the interval, and laughing throughout. And this is where The Book of Mormon succeeds. It works on a number of levels, coming together so swimmingly, that it would be difficult for the production not to have broad appeal, particularly in a city such as Melbourne. This is not to say that the show is completely flawless: when the writing is so clever, are gags about feces and blood really necessary? Also, there is so much movement and noise during some songs that not every lyric will be heard clearly by each audience member, particularly those in the nose-bleeds. But with a production that is so engaging and entertaining, these are minor quips.

Do not be mistaken, it is impossible for The Book of Mormon to live up to the hype—it is not the greatest musical of the century, though it may come close! 4½ / 5

Starring: Ryan Bondy, Nyk Bielak, Zahra Newman, Bert LaBonté, Rowan Witt, Andrew Broadbent, Augustin Aziz Tchantcho.

Book, Music, Lyrics: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone | Directors: Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker | Choreographer: Casey Nicholaw | Musical Supervisor, Vocal Arrangements: Stepher Nremus | Music Director: Kellie Dickerson | Associate Producers: Laura Manning, Ben Prudhoe

Limited tickets still available for the Melbourne season at the Princess Theatre, which ends on 4 February 2018.

Let us know what you thought of this production in the comments!

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

Beta Test #1: Cuphead

Cuphead—The Impossible Game

 

G’day folks, I’m a Bethany Griffiths and this is Beta Test, where I—a self confessed noob—choose one game a month to go ham on. Whether I get better or get wrecked, you’ll get an unbiased review!

 

This month we’re going to dive into the satanic depths of Cuphead. It’s a high-powered, action-packed indie game that has become notorious for having some of the hardest game play in a stand-alone franchise this year. The near impossible levels of hardness, and the smug noises of the big bosses (Goopy Le Grande, I’m looking at you, buddy), have made me rage more times than I’d ever care to admit this early on in our relationship.

In the game, you play as a little red teacup with arms and legs (or a blue mug of the same anatomy if you’re player 2) that shoots bullets of energy out of their hands in attempt to kill the endlessly spawning enemies. Starting in Inkwell Isle, you progress through three different worlds to reach the main boss of the game and defeat the evil. Pretty straightforward, right? So, what’s the catch?

The entire game is stacked against you!

Right from the very start, you notice that you are slower and do less damage than your enemies. There are also no checkpoints or saves mid-level, so if you die you HAVE to go back to the start. (You have three lives, straight up, with no extra lives thrown at you at any point in time.) Not only that, but if you play the game in Simple Mode, you can’t progress to the final battle.

Now I’ll be honest, I haven’t played a game that used platforming like this since the Rayman and Spyro franchises back in the early 2000s, as my tolerance for spending hours on a single level only to get to the end and die for the twentieth time is pretty low. I’m one of those people who get so immersed in games that I feel like I’m actually about to die if I lose… which leads to a lot of clocked hours on placid games like The Sims.

But this one, this one game made me re-think my entire stance on all of that. I spent a good hour-and-a-half on the first level, where I tried so hard to  get through the first half, only to die when the acorns started appearing. I was bashed by daisy men and mushrooms alike; little blue blob creatures foiled my every plan to get coins, and parry pink items to get a perfect score. And at the end of it—at the end of all that time dying over and over again—I was absolutely, utterly hooked.

The game play is simple enough. All the boss levels are a mass stream of button mashing until they die. You get various power-ups that you can buy with coins collected from run and gun levels, as well as some well hidden spot around the home screen. There are three basic types of level: run and gun, boss battles, and plane levels where you fly a fighter aircraft that fires bullets and drops bombs. All in all, the basic concept is plain and simple, but very well thought out.

The plot line is pretty fantastic, too. You and your brother are bequeathed the arduous task of collecting the souls of the damned for Satan himself, ensuring your safe return home after gambling away your own soul in a casino that somehow let in minors.

As you race through level after level beating bosses, you have to find ways to cheat the system to make any progress. You can use potions and remedies to poof in and out of focus or special bullets; you can gain features by freeing people from impending doom. This would be frustrating and ‘unfair’ if you weren’t dealing with a game that has the literal devil himself in it. Every detail has been thought out from the devil’s perspective and it all makes sense. Given this, and the sheer amount of time I spent on this game, I would rate it:

5/5 Cupheads for style

4/5 Cupheads for plotline

2/5 Cupheads for easiness

Which all rounds down to a solid 3.6/5 Cupheads.

The game is conceptually brilliant and visually stunning. The late ’50s inkwell style animation and fluid, ever-changing characters create such a beautiful world that it’s hard not to fall in love. The influence of early Disney and Fleischer Brothers studio, are evident, with the game holding true to those sinister undertones of cartoons gone by. Yet, it’s refreshing to see this style of animation in a modern setting. If there’s one thing I can say as a take away from Cupheads, it’s that even if you suck, even if you haven’t picked up a controller in fifty years, you will be entertained. And that is what makes this a fantastic game.

 

I’ve been a Bethany Griffiths, and this has been Beta Test. Until next time…

Interview with Wayne Stellini, writer/director of ‘Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning’


FRED sat down with Wayne Stellini, who wrote and directs Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning for Midsumma 2018!


Tell us about Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning.

Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning is a traditional comedy of misunderstanding and manipulation. I look forward to directing it once again after our well-received Melbourne Fringe run.
As the title suggests, it’s primarily set the day before Michael and Phillip plan on getting married. But as with most weddings, everyone around them makes it about themselves and not the grooms-to-be.

How is this performance different to the Fringe festival?

On paper, the show will be the same; the play is not set at a specific time or against a particular political backdrop that it becomes dated. However, a new venue, new festival, and the introduction of a new lead, Bayne Bradshaw as Michael, all dictate that the energy and vibe of the Midsumma run will be different.

Is it exciting or daunting to put on the same show twice?

Our returning cast and crew, including myself, will want to see how we can challenge ourselves differently to put on an even better show than the Melbourne Fringe run. Personal and team challenges will mean that we won’t be complacent, so that’s exciting. Of course, there are so many new variables to this run, so it’s a little daunting too.


Why should festival-goers come and see it?

Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning was written for a queer audience, and yet has proven to have even broader appeal; that in itself is a remarkable achievement. The normalisation or same sex-attracted relationships has been a major motivator for the the cast and crew, and it’s nice to see our diverse Melbourne Fringe audience react to it.

With a balance of humour and heart, Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning is a topical yet timeless story about two people in love who want to celebrate their relationship. That’s a beautiful thing and something I think many of us can relate to.


FRED Watch Quickie Film Review: Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

ALL ABOARD!

I’m a Wayne Stellini and welcome to FRED Watch, where we review everything from the mainstream to the obscure. Today’s film is Murder on the Orient Express

20th Century Fox

Famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) acquires a spot on the Orient Express, a three-day train ride that is destined for London. On board, he is approached for protection by Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), an unlikeable American businessman who has been receiving threatening messages.

Poirot declines the offer and that evening, hears noises coming from Ratchett’s compartment and sees a woman in a red kimono running down the hallway. Not long later, an avalanche derails the train and Ratchett is found murdered.

With an assortment of suspects, Poirot and Orient Express director Bouc (Tom Bateman) begin to investigate…

Actor/director Kenneth Branagh brings Agatha Christie’s famous detective to an audience, who may not be familiar with the book series or their numerous adaptations, in a polished production that has all the aesthetic charm of Hollywood’s golden era.

Indeed, contemporary cinema’s cream of the crop portray an assortment of suspects whose complexities are perhaps too constrained by the film’s timeframe to be anything more than archetypes; not all are fleshed out and most leave you wanting to know more about them. But that does not seem to matter as Branagh commands such attention with a charismatic and humorous portrayal of Poirot. His interactions with the top-notch ensemble keep this old fashioned mystery running at a steady pace.

Beautifully framed and photographed with a stunning colour pallet, Murder on the Orient Express is a refreshing offering in an era of studio films chasing the dollar with big budget comic book adaptations. 4 / 5

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Tom Bateman, Olivia Colman, Lucy Boynton, Marwan Kenzari, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Sergei Polunin, Miranda Raison.

Director: Kenneth Branagh | Producers: Ridley Scott, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Michael Schaefer | Writer: Michael Green (Based on Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie) | Music: Patrick Doyle | Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos | Editor: Mick Audsley

 

In cinemas now.

Let us know what you thought of this film in the comments!

I’ve been a Wayne Stellini and you’ve just experienced FRED Watch.

UNI-Bums: The Stranger—Out Now!

All good things have a beginning. The Bums discover a stranger in their midst… But who is he?

Here’s the newest UNI-Bums skit from FRED the ALIEN Productions…

Starring: Phillip Hunting, Bethany Griffiths, Michael R. Lister, Ben Campbell.

Director: Phillip Hunting | Producers [not credited]: Bethany Griffiths, Phillip Hunting, Fulya Kantarmaci, Michael R. Lister, Wayne Stellini | Writer: Phillip Hunting | Music: Michael R. Lister | Cinematographer: Fulya Kantarmaci | Editor: Fulya Kantarmaci

 

Keep up to date with the Bums: Like us on Facebook!

FRED @ Fringe Update #17

So much time has gone by since the idea of Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning came to mind—just over a year, in fact. A lot has happened since then and yet the whirlwind of producing dictates that it has all gone too quickly to comprehend.

Phillip (Ryan Stewart) is confronted by the mysterious Bride (Bethany Griffiths).

For the cast, time spent working on Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning was a twenty-week exercise in trust, understanding their respective characters, learning lines, and more. I won’t pretend to understand the mindset of an actor; it is perhaps not too different to a writer, but must be on the opposite side of the spectrum to a producer.

Because of this, I could not help but beam with pride as I saw their hard work materialise on stage. Yes, there are always improvements—the cast are far more critical on themselves than I am of them—but it can be difficult to focus on such things when your audience is embracing the show. And what an incredible and generous audience we had across all four nights, each offering a different vibe than the other to our cast. If our audience knew of the eleventh-hour complications that hit us prior to the show’s opening, they did not seem to notice or care. A roaring applause at each curtain call told the cast that they had done an exceptional job.

But this is something I have known all along. The cast are a wonderful group of talent that it feels fraudulent of me to take any credit for the show’s successes. Our audience was receptive, feedback has been encouraging, and Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning gave FRED the ALIEN Productions its biggest single-sitting audience ever.

The tension between Graeme (Jeffrey Bryant Jones) and Michael (David McNamara) is evident in this scene, where Tally (Anna Reardon) and Simon (Hayden Gridley) look on.

It is perhaps too close since the final curtain call for me to truly take in the experience. As a first time director, mistakes were made—all forgivable ones, hopefully—but FRED the ALIEN’s culture dictates that these are seen as lessons and opportunities. I cannot say how this experience will impact on future projects, but for now, I will take a deep breath before heading into our next project… which will be the basis of tomorrow’s production meeting.

On behalf of the cast and crew of Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning, I would like to thank you for joining us on FRED’s journey to Melbourne Fringe. We hope you have enjoyed the ride.

Best,
Wayne Stellini

Writer/Director/Producer
Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning

Graeme (Jeffrey Bryant Jones) receives some encouraging words from Tally (Anna Reardon) as Simon (Hayden Gridley) process the unfolding drama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blaine (Ben Campbell) encounters a remorseful Bride (Bethany Griffiths).

Michael (David McNamara) discovers that Tally (Anna Reardon) and Simon (Hayden Gridley) have a lot to answer for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tally (Anna Reardon) supports Michael (David McNamara) as his father Graeme (Jeffrey Bryant Jones) reaches out to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally at the altar! As Father Rob (Phillip Hunting) begins the ceremony, Tally (Anna Reardon) clutches on to Michael (David McNamara), and Phillip (Ryan Stewart) and best man Blaine (Ben Campbell) hope for no more interruptions.

 

 

FRED @ Fringe Update #16

From the Director..

“8” is significant in numerology. There is something infinite about it, something about the never-ending karmic cycle that serves as a reminder to do your best for yourself and others.

I think artists tend to have this principle in the back of their minds. I know I have. How can I best serve the story? How can I best engage the audience? When putting on a show like Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning, its relevance, though unintentional, cannot be forgotten.

But in 8 days we will land our feet firmly on the ground and begin a show run that will end, but there is no telling if what may resonate with our audience ever will.

It will not be long until I am looking back on the whole experience, thinking about what contribution (if any) our small show may have made to a discussion filled with such loud and prominent voices.

I will have to get back to you on that one, but what I can tell you now, is that it would not be possible without 8 significant people…

RYAN STEWART, BEN CAMPBELL,

BETHANY GRIFFITHS,

JEFFREY BRYANT JONES,

ANNA REARDON, DAVID McNAMARA,

HAYDEN GRIDLEY,

and, the person who has been there from the very beginning, PHILLIP HUNTING.

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And of course, feel free to explore FREDtheALIENproductions.com for the latest on Michael and Phillip Are Getting Married in the Morning.

Wayne Stellini is an executive member of the FRED the ALIEN Productions team. He has written and directed episodes of UNI-Bums, and produced FRED’s stage debut, The Writer, in 2016.