Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life to the full regardless of your age. As a colourful national treasure of an actor (think Richard Burton crossed with Ian McKellan), Cox storms through this film with personality and energy. And in his interaction with his costars, the filmmakers make some important points with offhanded charm.
Cox plays Sir Michael Gifford, a Shakespearean icon forced into retirement by Parkinson's. Living on his isolated country estate, he clashes continually with his daughter Sophia (Emilia Fox) and his assistant Milly (Anna Chancellor) about how he should live, dismissing a series of carers they have hired for him. Then the Hungarian Dorottya (Coco Konig) arrives, cracking through his bluster with her sharp intelligence, blunt compassion and her own experience performing Shakespeare's plays back home. She also conspires with him to attend a critics' ceremony at which he's being given a life achievement award. Sophia thinks he's not up to attending, so Dorottya turns to Milly and Michael's trusty driver Joseph (Karl Johnson) for help.
The simplicity of the plot helps the film avoid the usual pitfalls of these kinds of movies. There aren't any villains here (Sophia is just unusually concerned), and there's no romantic nonsense between Michael and Dorottya. The central message isn't revolutionary (people who are old or infirm shouldn't be hidden from society), and the plot never goes anywhere unexpected. But in the characters, the film finds a powerful resonance. It's funny, smart and utterly charming. And the cast deliver beautifully off-handed performances. Newcomer Konig nicely underplays Dorottya, which makes her strikingly likeable, especially as her own subplot about applying to acting school gurgles quietly in the background. Chancellor and Fox find intriguing textures in their roles, which are more complex than expected.
Continue reading: The Carer Review
Vera Brittain is an extraordinarily talented young woman who battles the odds to land herself a scholarship at Oxford University despite the attitudes of all the people around her frowning upon her desire to enter into a career in literature. Her life becomes even more promising when she falls for her brother's best friend Roland Leighton. However, the war is becoming ever closer and he is forced to abandon his own prestigious studies in favour of the frontline. Filled with grief over Roland's life-threatening circumstances, she decides to make the decision of a lifetime and leave her dreams behind. Instead, she decides to volunteer as a nurse for the sea of wounded troops that are yet to pour back into the country. Even as all that she holds dear are quickly annihilated by the vicious First World War, her determination keeps her focused on making the best of such horrors.
Continue: Testament of Youth Trailer
Remarkably bleak for a teen movie, this drama keeps us gripped as it throws its characters into an odyssey that's seriously harrowing. Gifted filmmaker Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and a fine young cast make sure that we feel every punch of emotion along the way. And the premise itself gets our minds spinning in unusual directions.
Set in the present day, violent uprisings are growing in Europe as 16-year-old Daisy (Ronan) heads from New York to Britain to spend the summer with her Aunt Penn (Chancellor) on a farm in rural Wales. A sullen loner, she tries to avoid her three chirpy cousins: the quiet genius Eddie (MacKay) is her age, while the more adventurous Isaac (Holland) is 14 and the younger Piper (Bird) is clingy and annoying. Then while Penn is away on business, the violence spreads to the UK, which descends into martial law. The cousins are divided and sent into care. But they promise to meet back at the farm, which is going to be an epic journey for Daisy and Piper if they can escape from their new home.
The story is told from Daisy's perspective, complete with glimpses into her troubled thoughts, dreams and nightmares. We're never sure why she is so deeply fearful of everything around her, but Ronan brings out her fragile mental state beautifully, then takes us along as Daisy is pushed to the limits and must find the inner strength to go forward. As a result, the other characters remain less-defined, although MacKay and Holland bring layers of interest to Eddie and Isaac. As Daisy's companion, Bird is much more present on-screen, and we're as irritated by her as Daisy is.
Continue reading: How I Live Now Review
Saoirse Ronan stars in 'How I Live Now', a gripping adaptation of the prize winning novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff. Despite being defined as a children's or young adult's book, the adaptation portrays the horrific and damaging effect war causes on human relationships and the effect it has on an individual, captivating a much wider demographic.
What starts out as a romanticised coming-of-age, feel good film between two lovers takes a dramatic turn when war breaks out in a remote country village in England where lead character Daisy is visiting. Her recently found love with Edmond is unexpectedly tested when they are forced to part. The couple love is put to the test as they are unsure if they will ever be reunited.
The film stars Saoirse (The Lovely Bones, Hanna) as Daisy and George MacKay (Defiance, Peter Pan) as Edmond and is directed by Academy Award winning Director: Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, One Day in September).
Continue: How I Live Now Trailer
The late playwright Noël Coward's play, Private Lives, has made the jump to the prestigious London West End.
Described as a 'comedy of manners' - a play that satirises different echelons of the social ladder - Noël Coward's 1930 three-act play centres on Elyot (Toby Stephens) and Amanda (Anna Chancellor) who have been divorced for five years when they run into each other again whilst on honeymoon with their new spouses. The coincidental encounter reignites the divorcee's former passion irrespective of the marital issues they previously had, or the feelings of their current partners.
Director Jonathon Kent Likens Private Lives To An Exquisite Fabergé Egg.
The play had a successful run at Chichester's Festival theatre, lampooning the glamorous and reckless lives of the rich and will now, according to the theatre's website, "blaze across the West End stage this summer in an explosive production that proves Noël Coward still has the power to thrill, provoke and delight." Accomplished British lead actors Anna Chancellor (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) are praised by The Telegraph for the "sense of unbuttoned intimacy and desire" between them in a "superb production [that] feels forever young, fresh and delightful."
Continue reading: Noël Coward's 'Private Lives' Hits The West End
There's probably a fascinating, complex story behind the invention of the vibrator in 19th century London, but this silly farce isn't it. Instead, this is a comical romp that just happens to be set against the birth of the most popular sex toy in history. It's nicely assembled, with a strong cast, but the tone is so goofy that it never breaks the surface.
It's the late 1880s when young doctor Mortimer (Dancy) takes a job in London with Dalrymple (Pryce), who specialises in treating hysteria, considered a serious medical condition at the time, even though it seems to only afflict women whose husbands are neglecting them socially and sexually. As Mortimer courts Dalrymple's placid younger daughter (Jones), lining himself to take over the practice one day, it's the feisty older daughter (Gyllenhaal) who continually challenges his worldview. And as he treats his patients, Mortimer works with his friend Edmund (Everett) to create a mechanical vibrating device that has an immediate effect on his patients.
Everything in this story is played broadly, as if it's frightfully hilarious to talk about sex in such a straightforward way. But this prudish approach only trivialises everything about the story, from the premise to the characters themselves. And it doesn't help that the script never gives any of these people more than one or two key personality traits. The actors do what they can with them, adding moments of effective drama and comedy while hinting at the serious themes underneath the story. But it's so silly that we never really care about anything that happens.
Continue reading: Hysteria Review
Decades in the making, Guide has been embroiled in controversy since the very beginning. The most recent round of complaints have covered pretty much the entire film, from casting (Mos Def taking a role commonly envisioned as a sort of British dandy) to directing (Garth Jennings is a music video veteran), to choice of writer Karey Kirkpatrick (a kiddie flick screenwriter best known for Chicken Run but also the writer of disastrous flicks The Little Vampire and Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves). Out of this, we've all been promised, genius would spring.
Continue reading: The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Review
What ensues is a standard fairy tale: Daphne quickly finds her father, Henry (Colin Firth), but is hindered in her attempt to forge a meaningful relationship thanks to an evil stepmother and debutante stepsister who are only interested in Henry's status and wealth. Fortunately, Daphne's got her American charm on her side and, with the help of her wise grandmother and cute new boyfriend, she's able to win Henry's heart and even manages to get him back together with mom. They all live happily ever after, as we are told at the end.
Continue reading: What A Girl Wants Review
Brit John McKay's debut feature, based on his play, is a real girl's club, U.K. style. MacDowell plays Kate, an American living in an idyllic British country home, working as headmistress at a stuffy-looking school. Molly (Rachel Ward look-alike Anna Chancellor, from TV's Longitude) is a tough, sexy doctor, and Janine (Imelda Staunton of Rat and Chicken Run) is a sympathetic divorced Mom and a top police inspector. The three women, all single and in their early forties, stick together like bonding glue.
Continue reading: Crush Review
Last year's kiddie secret-agent comedy "Agent Cody Banks" was a stupid movie that got by on clever charm. It starred Frankie Muniz (from "Malcolm in the Middle") as a junior-high James Bond who had to get over his fear of talking to girls in order to complete his mission and save the world from some contrived evil.
The picture got a enough mileage out of Muniz's amusing believability as a secret agent on training wheels and out of its tongue-in-cheek twists (to keep his parents in the dark, the CIA did his homework and housework while he was on assignment) to balance out a lot of slapdash screenwriting -- so all in all, it squeaked by as good family fun.
But the rushed-into-production sequel "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" is twice as stupid and without even an infinitesimal hint of the cleverness that kept the original afloat.
Continue reading: Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London Review
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