Roger Michell’s hugely enjoyable and wonderfully warm-hearted film The Duke stars Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren
“Be sure to use the coasters. You’re not in Leeds now”
Few of us get to choose the way we’re remembered but you have to think Roger Michell wouldn’t mind the sentimental warmth of The Duke being his last feature film to grace our screens. Michell sadly died last year, the pandemic having intervened to delay the release of this film which played festivals in 2020 and in some ways, it is a shame distributors didn’t go for a on-demand or hybrid release as its warmth makes you feel it would have been a lockdown hit.
Written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, the film follows the remarkably true story of the theft from the National Gallery of the Goya painting Portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Newcastle OAP Kempton Bunton. Bunton was a restless soul aka a crotchety old man, unable to hold a job for any length of time. But he was a dreamer too, a terminally unpublished writer and social revolutionary, briefly imprisoned for not paying his TV license and campaigning for free ones for all UK OAPs. Continue reading “Film Review: The Duke (2020)”
Sadly falling short of the ‘so bad it is so very good’ mark, this Robert Downey Jr-led Dolittle is just bafflingly, boringly bad
“That dog is licking the queen”
At that point where I couldn’t quite lift my arm to find the remote, I ended up watching Dolittle through apathy more than anything else, ending up rather transfixed by how bad it was and hoping in vain it would tip over into something camply enjoyable. Reader, it won’t surprise you to learn it did not.
The film’s troubled production history is no secret – substantial reshoots and a ballooning budget ensured it was a commercial failure. But what is incredible is how obvious, and obviously bad, all the tinkering is. Having lost faith in original director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan – a left-field choice to begin with – the subsequent attempts to rework it are just the worst kind of butchery. Continue reading “Film Review: Dolittle (2020)”
Ours is not to reason why but Josie Rourke has made a star-studded video, written by herself and James Graham, of Sweet Charity’s ‘The Rhythm of Life’ in order to encourages COVID-19 vaccination take-up ahead of the NHS’s 73rd birthday.
Nicola Roberts and Sandra Marvin do the lion’s share of the singing of Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’ iconic song, with the likes of David Walliams, Asa Butterfield, Derek Jacobi, Don Warrington and Russell Tovey adding in their own tuppence-worth to persuade naysayers to get the jab. Continue reading “Get a vaccine and get the ‘Rhythm of Life’”
A quality cast including Gemma Arterton and Dame Diana Rigg can’t save Black Narcissus for me
“Better honey than vinegar”
A funny one this, particularly for the captive audience of the inbuilt lethargy of the Twixmas period. In the absence of Sarah Phelps’ brilliant reinventions of Agatha Christie, Black Narcissus was the BBC’s big drama punt on the festive schedule but I’m not entirely sure if it was the right choice.
Based on the Rumer Godden novel and famously filmed in 1947 by Powell and Pressburger with Deborah Kerr, the story follows a band of Anglican nuns as they try to establish a new mission in the Himalayan mountains. Their chosen base is a former palace with erotic paintings on the bricks, a troubled history seeping from the mortar and a swarthily handsome agent who keeps popping by – Sister Act this ain’t. Continue reading “TV Review: Black Narcissus”
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”
Despite a mostly good cast, Tulip Fever proves a punishingly dull film – not even self-isolation should drive you to this one
“Amsterdam was captivated by a flower”
The signs weren’t good. Tulip Fever was filmed in 2014 but was pushed and pulled around the schedules before it finally surfaced in 2017, notorious producer Harvey Weinstein clearly hoping that some post-production magic would win over reluctant test audiences. Safe to say though, such an amount of chopping and changing does no-one any favours as Justin Chadwick’s film remains punishingly dull.
Based on Deborah Moggach’s book, with screenplay by Moggach and Tom Stoppard, the story (mainly) centres on Sophia, an orphan whisked out of convent life by a wealthy merchant who wants her essentially as a brood mare, But things ain’t clicking in the bedroom, so Sophia tumbles into an affair with the artist her husband has commissioned to do their portrait. And competing for screentime, tulip mania has hit the Netherlands. Continue reading “Lockdown film review: Tulip Fever (2017)”
The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand
Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.
And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”
I succumb easily to the charms of Paddington 2 and Hugh Grant having the time of his life
“Exit bear, pursued by an actor”
In a year when sequels have outperformed expectations (at least mine anyway), I should have heeded the signs that Paddington 2 heralded back last winter that sequels were ‘in’. Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 warm-hearted original, reintroducing us to our ursine Peruvian hero, occupies a similar space of resolutely British family films that are a cut above.
Written by King and Simon Farnaby, the film is unafraid to take its audience seriously and for every adorably sweet sequence, there’s genuine peril and even darkness in there too. Hugh Grant is the main antagonist, an actor called Phoenix Buchanan who has been reduced to making dog-food adverts and his ne’er-d-well ways see Paddington framed for a crime he did not commit. Continue reading “Review: Paddington 2 (2017)”
A contemporary adaptation of King Lear does little to prove its worth on BBC Two
“Some villain hath done me wrong”
A belated visit to this Bank Holiday TV offering and one I should probably have left alone. I’m not the biggest fan of King Lear, nor of Anthony Hopkins if I’m honest. But the notion of a contemporary adaptation and a deluxe level of supporting casting was enough of a draw for me to give it a try.
A co-production between the BBC and Amazon, this Lear has been adapted and directed by Richard Eyre. Trimmed down to a scant couple of hours and located in a contemporary England, it clearly has its eye on new audiences as much as your Shakespearean buff, and I’d be intrigued to know how the former reacted. Continue reading “TV Review: King Lear, BBC Two”
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name as Elio Perlman
James Franco – The Disaster Artist as Tommy Wiseau
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out as Chris Washington
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour as Winston Churchill
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq. as Roman J. Israel
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Judi Dench – Victoria & Abdul as Queen Victoria
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water as Elisa Esposito
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as Mildred Hayes
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya as Tonya Harding
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson Continue reading “24th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”