Film Review: No Time To Die (2021)

Spoiler-free territory as Daniel Craig steps into 007’s shoes for the last time in the lengthy and long-delayed No Time To Die

“You know, history isn’t kind to men who play God”

If anything has characterised Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, then it has been a marked inconsistency in the quality of those films. The heights of Casino Royale were followed by the disappointments of Quantum of Solace, the game-changing Skyfall chased by an underwhelming Spectre. So the hope was certainly that No Time To Die, directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga
would follow the pattern of soaring to a high peak to round off this era.

And whilst it certainly climbs somewhat out of the valley, it is by no means an all-time classic Bond movie, despite the raft of rave reviews. It could safely be an hour shorter, it has one of those villains whose plan you’re never really quite sure about and much as I like Léa Seydoux, her Madeleine Swann being the Bond woman who gets to have a second film is a real heard-scratcher as the chemistry with Craig just isn’t there. Continue reading “Film Review: No Time To Die (2021)”

Film Review: Spectre (2015)

After the emotional triumph of Skyfall, the lethargic pacing of Spectre can’t help but feel a letdown

“Why, given every other possible option, does a man choose the life of a paid assassin?”

After the rip-roaring success of Skyfall, it seems little surprise that director Sam Mendes and lead scribe John Logan would return for the next instalment of the Bond series. But Spectre ends up as part of the yoyo-ing trend of Daniel Craig’s tenure which had previously seen the excellence of Casino Royale followed up by the not-excellence of Quantum of Solace. Delving deep back in Bond folklore, its overlong running time and stultifying pace sadly makes it a bit of a challenge.

This time round, surveillance networks are the villain as Bond investigates global conglomerate Spectre and their nefarious plans under Blofeld, whilst M and co do battle with the enemy within in the form of Andrew Scott’s smarmy C. Despite his class, Ralph Fiennes is a much less impactful M than Dame Judi but Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear are all settling well into their MI6 roles, popping in and out as needed. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld is vividly effective but the problem lies in an ineffectual plot that doesn’t grip anywhere near as much as Skyfall did. Continue reading “Film Review: Spectre (2015)”

Film Review: Skyfall (2012)

As much an M movie as a Bond flick, Skyfall benefits from putting Dame Judi Dench front and centre to make this one of the best Bond films of recent times

“Well, I suppose I see a different world than you do and the truth is that what I see frightens me”

One of the best aspects of Bond in the Daniel Craig era has been the introduction of actual consequences for people. We’re not dealing with total realism to be sure, but rather a thoughtfulness that is too rarely seen in the action genre. Written by John Logan and directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is a masterful entry in the Bond canon, playing out the complex relationship between Bond and Judi Dench’s steely M right through to its devastating end. 

Delving into both of their pasts and hauling them up to account, the notion of personal vengeance as all-encompassing motive is far more effective than the fate of the Bolivian water supply. And Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the most genuinely chilling villains for that very reason, his cyberterrorist truly compelling in his psychopathy – that climactic scene in the chapel is simply stunning on all levels.

It’s not perfect: the queer-baiting, sorely underusing Helen McCrory in just one scene, and all the business on the tube is ridiculous (it’s rush hour in the station but the train that crashes is somehow empty? And you can’t slide down the escalators like they do, there’s things in the way. And yes, I know it is a film, hehe). But I’m picking at small things cos I can – the new Q is introduced perfectly (all credit to Ben Whishaw) and ultimately, it’s just a great film, never mind a great Bond film. Continue reading “Film Review: Skyfall (2012)”

News: Mike Bartlett’s C O C K re-emerges in the West End

Taron Egerton, Jonathan BaileyJade Anouka and Phil Daniels have been announced as the cast of C O C K, the first West End production of Mike Bartlett’s Olivier award winning play about love and identity which opened at the Royal Court upstairs in 2009 with Ben Whishaw and Andrew Scott and has also played Chichester and Washington DC.

Directed by Tony and Olivier award winning Marianne Elliott, it will have a limited run at the intimate-for-the-West-End Ambassadors Theatre. Given the intensity and intimacy of the play itself, it will fascinating to see how it fares in a bigger space. Audiences will be able to find out for themselves from Saturday 5 March 2022 to Saturday 4 June 2022,

Tickets are on sale now here. Continue reading “News: Mike Bartlett’s C O C K re-emerges in the West End”

News: Young Vic and Old Vic announce new programmes

Theatre returns at both end of The Cut – programmes announced for both the Old Vic and the Young

  • Queers Curated by Mark Gatiss, 2 Jun, 30 Jun
  • Home? Curated by Noma Dumezweni, 14-20 Jun
  • The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter, 7-10 Jul
    Directed by Jeremy Herrin and starring Daniel Mays and David Thewlis
  • Bagdad Cafe by Percy and Eleonore Adlon, adapted by Emma Rice, 19 Jul-21 Aug, streamed 25-28 Aug
    Starring Patrycja Kujawska, Le Gateau Chocolat and Sandra Marvin
  • Camp Siegfried by Bess Wohl, 7 Sep-30 Oct
    Directed by Katy Rudd and starring Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Jack Thorne, 13 Nov-8 Jan
    Directed by Matthew Warchus
  • A Number by Caryl Churchill, 24 Jan-19 Mar 
    Directed by Lyndsey Turner  and starring Lennie James and Paapa Essiedu
  • Into the Woods – Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, 16 Apr-9 Jul
    Co-directed Terry Gilliam and Leah Hausman

  • Changing Destiny by Ben Okri, 9 Jul-21 Aug
    Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah
  • Klippies by Jessica Siân, 4–13 Aug
    Directed by Diyan Zora
  • AI developed by Chinonyerem Odimba and Nina Segal, written alongside GPT-3 OpenAI technology, 23–25 Aug
    Created by Jennifer Tang and Company
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare, 25 Sep-13 Nov
    Directed by Greg Hersov and starring Cush Jumbo
  • Best of Enemies by James Graham, 2 Dec-22 Jan
    Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Review: Cock, Studio Theatre online

Streaming allows to me take in a transatlantic version of Mike Bartlett’s Cock, starring Queer as Folk’s Randy Harrison

“You want your boyfriend’s help with the woman you’re sleeping with?”

The subject matter of Mike Bartlett’s Cock is one which has proved satisfyingly timeless, at least over the last decade but in a socially distanced age, it turns out that its form has also future-proofed it. Though it has four characters that interact, its focus on verbal interplay rather than physical shenanigans allies itself with the manipulations needed for COVID-19 protocols much more than other plays.  

And having mounted an award-winning production of the play for Washington DC’s Studio Theatre in 2014, director David Muse has returned to it to launch the theatre’s debut online season. The result is a finely tuned hybrid of film and theatre that slots well into the now-global pandemic programming and as mentioned, Bartlett’s exploration of sexual fluidity remains as pointedly pertinent as ever, particularly in how it refracts through our relationships. Continue reading “Review: Cock, Studio Theatre online”

Some theatre news from the last week

New interview series from the NT, Julius Caesar and Sunset Boulevard reappearing digitally and Hushabye Mountain coming to the Hope Mill

© Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The National Theatre announced a new interview series Life in Stages, profiling some of the biggest names in British theatre. The series, which will be free to watch, will launch on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel on Thursday 22 April at 7pm BST with each new episode added at the same time every Thursday.  

The first episode boasts Olivia Colman and Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre Rufus Norris. The second episode on Thursday 29 April will feature Romeo & Juliet co-stars Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley. On Thursday 6 May the third episode puts Adrian Lester and Meera Syal together. Details of further episodes from this series will be announced later this month.  Continue reading “Some theatre news from the last week”

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the before-they-were-famous edition

One of the joys of seeing so much theatre in London is that sense of seeing any number of actors at the beginning of their careers and Tristram Kenton has been doing that for years now. Here’s just some of those big names as whippersnappers on the British stage:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/11/before-they-were-famous-stars-tristram-kenton-at-the-guardian-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Armando Iannucci’s rollicking adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield is huge amounts of fun to watch

“You can’t complain about a nice bit of kipper”

You might not have picked a Charles Dickens adaptation for an Armando Iannucci big screen feature but evidenced in The Personal History of David Copperfield, it’s a pretty darn fantastic match. It’s a rollicking romp through the story, absolutely refreshed by this treatment as its warm comedy is sprinkled with notes of ruminative reflection on class and identity and just a touch of satirical bite. And by employing a truly diverse and talented ensemble, there’s something special here. 

For all the magnificence of Tilda Swinton’s Betsey Trotwood (truly exceptional), Peter Capaldi’s Mr Micawber and Ben Whishaw’s malevolent Uriah Heep, the real joy in the casting comes from the opportunities now given. Nikki Amuka-Bird is fantastic as the starched Mrs Steerforth, the kind of role she just hasn’t gotten to play before; so too Benedict Wong as Wickfield, it’s great to see such talent stretch their acting muscle this way, and so well too. Continue reading “Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)”