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Picture - Anna Maxwell Martin - Specsavers... London United Kingdom, Friday 24th October 2014

Anna Maxwell Martin - Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2014 at the Grosvenor Hotel London - Arrivals at Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane - London, United Kingdom - Friday 24th October 2014

'King Lear' at the National: Is Simon Russell Beale Britain's Finest Actor?

Tags: Simon Russell Beale - Sam Mendes - Anna Maxwell Martin

Simon Russell Beale turns in an arguably career best performance in Sam Mendes' latest production at the National Theatre, King Lear.

Beale plays Lear as a hunched, thuggish leader - similar to the way in which Kevin Spacey played Richard II - though as his power begins to slip, he becomes frantic and nonsensical. In his review of the show, Henry Hitchens of the Evening Standard writes, "There is perhaps no actor better at conveying the shapes and sounds of grief."

Simon Russell BealeSimon Russell Beale Turns In A Career Best Performance in 'King Lear'

Continue reading: 'King Lear' at the National: Is Simon Russell Beale Britain's Finest Actor?

Philomena Review

Based on a true story, this warm drama uses sharp humour to keep from tipping over into sloppy sentiment. It's still hugely emotional, but in a shamelessly entertaining way. And it gives Judi Dench and Steve Coogan characters they can really sink their teeth into as the twists and turns of the real events unfold.

In 2002, cynical London journalist Martin Sixsmith (Coogan) has just been sacked from his job as a government spin doctor, so his editor suggests he try a human interest story to get back to work. He hates the idea until he meets Philomena (Dench), a retired Irishwoman who was raised by nuns in a workhouse, where she was forced to give her baby son up for adoption some 50 years ago. She'd like to know what happened to him, so Martin accompanies her back to Ireland and then on to America, where the babies were sold. But their search doesn't go as expected, and what they discover is startlingly moving.

As he did with The Queen, director Frears gives the film a gentle, light tone that helps balance the intensely serious subject matter. He also encourages his cast to deliver understated performances, which is especially effective for the usually broad Coogan. And of course Dench is simply wonderful as a feisty straight-talker who isn't thrown by anything she encounters. Gurgling under everything is an astute look at religious heritage: Martin is a lapsed Catholic who can't understand why Philomena still has a devout faith, because of what the church has done to her. And as the story continues, he begins to understand the strength this gives her.

Continue reading: Philomena Review

Philomena - Teaser Trailer

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review

In bringing his iconic 1990s radio and TV character to the big screen, Coogan refreshingly refuses to play to American audiences: this film is purely British in its story, setting and characters. And as it gleefully redefines almost every action movie cliche imaginable, it's also one of the funniest films of the year. This is party due to the hilariously astute script, but also because Alan Partridge is both riotously embarrassing and utterly loveable.

As we meet him this time , Alan (Coogan) is trying to save his job at North Norfolk Digital when the radio station is bought by a corporation and turned in to Shape ("The way you want it to be"). In the process, Alan gets his colleague Pat (Meaney) sacked, and at the Shape launch party Pat goes postal with a shotgun, taking the staff hostage. As the police close in around the station, Alan becomes the chief negotiator, realising that this can only help boost his fame. But as he works on increasing his own publicity, Pat is menacing his on-air sidekick Simon (Key), while his offbeat security guard friend Michael (Greenall) finds a place to hide and his assistant (Montagu) has her own encounter with the media.

After all these years, Coogan is able to completely vanish into Alan's distinctive personality, saying all the wrong things at the wrong times while constantly getting distracted by irrelevant details. He only ever does the right thing by mistake. Yes, Alan is a buffoon, but he isn't stupid. Coogan plays him so perfectly that we can't help but like Alan even with his distinctive flaws. And the film actually generates a real sense of menace in this mini-Die Hard siege scenario, blending real danger with inspired physical comedy. And virtually every line of dialog has a joke in it.

Continue reading: Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - Clips

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