Film review: Downton Abbey (2019)

Baron Fellowes of West Stafford stretches not a single muscle in pumping out more of the same in the tiresomely dull Downton Abbey the movie

“I want everything to stop being a struggle”

To crib the tagline of a certain jukebox musical (here we go again…) you already know whether you’re a fan of Downton Abbey the movie. By any stretch of the imagination, it is just an extension of the TV series and so is guaranteed to maintain that same level of comfort that you have always got from the Granthams et al, whether that’s good or bad.

For me, it means a thoroughly unchallenging film and one which proves increasingly dull. (For reference, I’ve only ever seen (some of) the Christmas Day episodes as my parents are fans.) The hook of the film is that it is now 1927 and King George V and Queen Mary are coming to stay for the evening and heavens to Betsy, we’re all of a dither. Continue reading “Film review: Downton Abbey (2019)”

Review: Tartuffe, National Theatre

Denis O’Hare shines as Tartuffe in Blanche McIntyre’s directorial debut at the National Theatre

“We don’t have orgies here, this is Highgate”

The lure of the guru is one which has always been strong for the rich and powerful and from Rasputin to Steve Hilton, there’s always some long-haired, barefoot chancer to ready step in. This partly explains why Molière’s Tartuffe remains so popular today and also why it is so ripe for adaptation, as it done here in this new version by John Donnelly, directed by Blanche McIntyre in her National Theatre debut (and how to marvellous to see her here, I’ve been a fan since her days at the Finborough).

Relocated to a hyper-rich, modern-day Highgate – Robert Jones’ opulent design is full of the type of wonderful pieces of furniture you normally only see in shop windows on the King’s Road – Orgon’s family have become concerned at his increasing devotion to his new guru figure Tartuffe. And in Denis O’Hare’s hand, you can see why – he’s quite the charismatic chancer, he spends the pre-show roaming the auditorium giving out flowers and affirmations even though it may, at first glance, just look like someone has come in off the street. Continue reading “Review: Tartuffe, National Theatre”

Review: Fanny and Alexander, Old Vic

Fancy three and a half hours of Ingmar Bergman? At least the Old Vic’s seats are comfortable for Fanny and Alexander with  a marvellous Penelope Wilton 

“I’d really like to know what anyone else thinks”

I can’t think of Fanny and Alexander without thinking of the phrase sweet Fanny Adams (which, sidebar, has quite the horrific origin). But more to the point, I have to say the idea of another adaptation of an Ingmar Bergman film didn’t quite fill me with enough joy to be rushing to the Old Vic (the extraordinary Scenes From A Marriage aside, I’ve not had the best of times with him).

So with Stephen Beresford (he of The Last of the Haussmans) adapting and Max Webster (he of The Lorax) directing, it was with a little reluctance that I devoted a swathe of my Easter Saturday to this drama. And while I’d love to say that it was totally worth it, as a way to wait for the Resurrection it left me feeling a little like Pontius Pilate must have done way back when. Continue reading “Review: Fanny and Alexander, Old Vic”

23rd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea as Lee Chandler
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge as Desmond T. Doss
Ryan Gosling – La La Land as Sebastian Wilder
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic as Ben Cash
Denzel Washington – Fences as Troy Maxson

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Amy Adams – Arrival as Dr. Louise Banks
Emily Blunt – The Girl on the Train as Rachel Watson
Natalie Portman – Jackie as Jackie Kennedy
Emma Stone – La La Land as Mia Dolan
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins as Florence Foster Jenkins Continue reading “23rd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

TV Review: Happy Valley Series 2

“Yet another everyday story of country folk”

And so Series 2 of Happy Valley winds to a close and you have to hope that the people who acclaim Scandi-noir as the high point of today’s television recognise that this slice of Yorkshire-bleak is just as good, if not better. Sally Wainwright might have thrown some people for a loop by moving (even further) away from straight police procedural to something much more intimate and emotionally complex, placing Sarah Lancashire’s utterly magnificent portrayal of Sgt Catherine Cawood at its very heart. (My thoughts on episode 1 are here.)

“Omnipotent and ubiquitous, God I’m good” she wryly notes as a younger colleague drunkenly praises her at the end of a boozy evening and as the multiple strands of this series slowly began to converge, it was her presence that knitted the whole thing together. Wainwright’s closer hand on the tiller (directing four of the six episodes, all of which she wrote) allowed for some of the bolder moment to really shine, notably the two-handers that opened so many of the shows, a scorching stillness and quietude that underscored much of the horror of policing the Dales. Continue reading “TV Review: Happy Valley Series 2”

TV Review: Happy Valley, Series 2 Episode 1

“This is sheep-rustling, north-Halifax style – just the one sheep and three lads off their heads on acid”

One of the televisual highlights of 2014 was Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley, anchored by an astonishing central performance from Sarah Lancashire as pragmatic Yorkshire sergeant Catherine Cawood. So the return of a second series on BBC One is good news indeed, especially given Wainwright’s decision to also direct considerably more of the episodes this time round.

It’s obvious from the off that she is entirely at the top of her game. Reintroducing the startlingly mordant vein of humour on’t’moor, this opening sequence sees Cawood recounting a day’s work to her sister, namely sheep-rustling gone unfortunately wrong on a housing estate but leading to an even grimmer discovery, one which links directly back to James Norton’s Tommy Lee Royce, the father of her grandson after raping her daughter (who then committed suicide) and Catherine’s nemesis from the first series. Continue reading “TV Review: Happy Valley, Series 2 Episode 1”

22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards winners

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo as Dalton Trumbo
Johnny Depp – Black Mass as James “Whitey” Bulger
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Brie Larson – Room as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Cate Blanchett – Carol as Carol Aird
Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold as Maria Altmann
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn as Eilis Lacey
Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back as Elaine “Laney” Brooks Continue reading “22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards winners”

22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo as Dalton Trumbo
Johnny Depp – Black Mass as James “Whitey” Bulger
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant as Hugh Glass
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe / Einar Wegener

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett – Carol as Carol Aird
Brie Larson – Room as Joy “Ma” Newsome
Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold as Maria Altmann
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn as Eilis Lacey
Sarah Silverman – I Smile Back as Elaine “Laney” Brooks Continue reading “22nd Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

21st Screen Actors Guild Awards winners

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything as Stephen Hawking
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher as John du Pont
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game as Alan Turing
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler as Louis “Lou” Bloom
Michael Keaton – Birdman as Riggan Thomson

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Julianne Moore – Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland
Jennifer Aniston – Cake as Claire Bennett
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything as Jane Hawking
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne
Reese Witherspoon – Wild as Cheryl Strayed Continue reading “21st Screen Actors Guild Awards winners”

21st Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher as John du Pont
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game as Alan Turing
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler as Louis “Lou” Bloom
Michael Keaton – Birdman as Riggan Thomson
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything as Stephen Hawking

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Jennifer Aniston – Cake as Claire Bennett
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything as Jane Hawking
Julianne Moore – Still Alice as Dr. Alice Howland
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl as Amy Elliott-Dunne
Reese Witherspoon – Wild as Cheryl Strayed Continue reading “21st Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”