Film Review: Belfast (2021)

Kenneth Branagh’s memoir-of-sorts Belfast ends up an insufferably twee film despite the talent involved

“They just kick with the left foot”

There’s a line in the cracking TV show Community that often comes to mind, “just because something is in black and white doesn’t mean it’s good”. There’s no doubting that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, based in part at least on his own childhood, is entirely heartfelt but the filming style feels entirely like an affectation, bringing nothing to the storytelling itself.

This air of nostalgic indulgence is something that characterises the film as a whole. As it uses a child’s perspective to depict a slice of wholesome working-class family life, the backdrop to which just happens to be the start of the Troubles, there’s a weird sense of aimlessness here, a refusal to be drawn into any kind of meaningful comment on a conflict that must have loomed so large . Continue reading “Film Review: Belfast (2021)”

28th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem – Being the Ricardos as Desi Arnaz
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog as Phil Burbank
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM! as Jonathan Larson
Will Smith – King Richard as Richard Williams
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth as Lord Macbeth

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye as Tammy Faye Bakker
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter as Leda Caruso
Lady Gaga – House of Gucci as Patrizia Reggiani
Jennifer Hudson – Respect as Aretha Franklin
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos as Lucille Ball Continue reading “28th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”

27th Critics’ Choice Awards – nominations

Best Picture
Belfast
CODA
Don’t Look Up
Dune
King Richard
Licorice Pizza
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
tick, tick… BOOM!
West Side Story

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Guillermo del Toro – Nightmare Alley
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve – Dune Continue reading “27th Critics’ Choice Awards – nominations”

News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added

Ahead of National Theatre at Home’s one year anniversary on 1 December, the National Theatre has today announced the next filmed productions to be added to the streaming service, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Joining the platform today is Simon Godwin’s critically acclaimed 2018 production of Antony & Cleopatra in the Olivier theatre, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo playing Shakespeare’s famous fated couple. Then the iconic and multi-award-winning production of War Horsebased on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, will be available from 1 December until 31 January 2022 on demand internationally for the first time since its premiere 14 years ago. It will be available with British Sign Language, audio description and captions. Continue reading “News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added”

2021 British Independent Film Awards nominations

Best British Independent Film
After Love – Aleem Khan, Matthieu de Braconier
Ali & Ava – Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
Boiling Point – Philip Barantini, James Cummings, Bart Ruspoli, Hester Ruoff
The Nest – Sean Durkin, Ed Guiney, Derrin Schlesinger, Rose Garnett, Amy Jackson, Christina Piovesan
The Souvenir Part II – Joanna Hogg, Ed Guiney, Emma Norton, Andrew Lowe, Luke Schiller

Best Director
After Love – Aleem Khan
Ali & Ava – Clio Barnard
Boiling Point – Philip Barantini
The Nest – Sean Durkin
The Souvenir Part II – Joanna Hogg Continue reading “2021 British Independent Film Awards nominations”

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)”