Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance in its true story about an outcast who takes on the system in a leafy corner of London. While the script is too thin to make much of the premise, the film at least benefits from the likeable presence of Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson in the lead roles, plus a lively supporting cast.
Keaton plays Emily, an American widow living in the posh village on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Her late husband left her with a lot of debt, which her grown son Philip (James Norton) is helping her sort through. And her neighbour Fiona (Lesley Manville) is trying to set her up with an accountant (Jason Watkins) who has romantic inclinations. But Emily is much more intrigued by the homeless Irishman Donald (Gleeson) living in the lushly overgrown grounds of an abandoned hospital. And when she realises that developers want to build a glassy block of expensive flats there, she kicks into action with the help of a quirky young friend (Hugh Skinner).
Director Joel Hopkins keeps everything picturesque and twinkly as the story gently tips into a courtroom drama with an accompanying romance. Despite its basis in fact, there's little about this film that's remotely believable, not that it will matter to the core audience in search of some warm escapism. They'll enjoy the squeaky clean story and the stylised version of an England furnished with impeccably matching antiques and huge bouquets of flowers. And the cast makes it watchable. Keaton does her usual kooky thing, smart but clumsy, with perfect timing in her interaction with everyone around her. There may not be much chemistry with Gleeson, but he gives the tetchy Donald plenty of scruffy charm.
Continue reading: Hampstead Review
It's been one year since Emily's husband Charles passed away, but she has very mixed feelings towards his memory. There are good things in her life too; a loving grown-up son named Philip and a lovely home in Hampstead Heath, but her life is far more complicated than that. After one date with a fiddle-player named James Smythe, she struggles to shake him off. She'd love to find love again but she's desperate not to settle for anyone. One day though, she espies a bearded old man washing in the ponds across from her house. Curiosity gets the better of her and she follows him home to a quaint but run-down old shack in the middle of the woods. Charmed by his wit and his amusingly grumpy temperament, she decides to help him save his home when he is given an eviction notice by land owners who wish to build on his property. His unshakeable pride works against his cause, but Emily refuses to give up saving the man she's falling deeply in love with.
Continue: Hampstead Trailer
Expectations are a problem with this year's Secret Cinema event. After the jaw-dropping, goosebump-inducing surprises of both 2014's Back to the Future and 2015's Star Wars, this immersive take on Danny Boyle's classic zombie movie feels rather undercooked. But there's a lot of fun to be had (if not many scares) spending several hours trying to survive in a world overrun by the undead.
The set-up is very clever: you are given an appointment at an NSH hospital in a secret London location, and told to wear scrubs or protective clothing. On arrival you're handed a surgical mask and ordered here and there for interviews, physical examinations and eventually an oral vaccination that seems to make everything go blurry and then pitch black. When you "wake up" all hell has broken loose, and you are sent running through a series of blood-drenched corridors and stairwells, encountering characters and settings from the film as zombies lunge from every corner. In the safe zone, food and drink is for sale, and you get a chance to relax a bit, play a game, have a dance. Finally, you're led into an inventively themed cinema to watch the 2002 film as on-screen elements are performed around you.
Through all of this, medical and military officials harshly shout instructions at you, while TV screens show news reports of chaos on the streets. Combined with the dimly lit post-apocalyptic setting, the atmosphere is enjoyably claustrophobic, only broken by the nagging sense that money is draining out of your wallet at an alarming rate. Not only is the ticket £67 (or £134 for a "premium experience"), but there are things to buy at every point, from the scrubs or coveralls to pricey cocktails served in small bottles or coffee mugs and a relatively slim selection of restaurant-priced food options.
Continue reading: Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later Review
In The Heart Of The Sea is the true seaman's tale based on the last outing of the Whaling Ship Essex. After setting sale from the port on Nantuckett the 20 man crew expect their journey to be much like the others they've been on, very long and tough but on an old but very trusty ship.
After leaving the port, almost immediately the men are hit by a powerful storm which damages the boat. knowing they must make money and make the trip profitable before returning home, the men continue with their mission. After months of good fishing, the men doc at various ports for supplies. Almost a year into their trip and the Essex is struck by a gigantic whale which causes irreparable damage to the ship's hull.
Stuck with no other choice the surviving men must board one of the incredibly small whaling boats that they have on board. The remaining crew members find themselves stuck in a life-threatening situation, 1000 miles from land, incredibly tight rations and stuck at sea for an unknown amount of time, the crew must find a way to endure - both mentally and physically.
Continue: In The Heart Of The Sea Trailer
Based on real events a century ago that still resonate loudly today, this movie takes a cleverly fictionalised angle to explore the suffrage movement, a story that astonishingly has never been put on film before. Screenwriter Abi Morgan's script brings intelligence and honesty to the characters, avoiding cliches to make the political statements as fresh and important today as they were back then. And it's anchored by another solid performance from Carey Mulligan.
She plays Maud, a young woman in 1912 London who has grown up working in a grim laundry, which is where she met her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw). Then her best friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) introduces her to the women's voting rights movement led by Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). And Maud is intrigued, joining with her local chemist's wife Edith (Helena Bonham Carter) for protests and getting involved in civil disobedience. This puts her on the list of offenders followed by a tenacious policeman (Brendan Gleeson), and Sonny finds it very difficult to cope with the embarrassment. So Maud has to make a very tough decision about whether to carry on the fight.
Making the film's main characters working-class heroines was a clever way to draw in modern-day audiences. In real life, the suffragettes were middle-class women who didn't particularly want any of the working class (men or women) to have the vote. But of course, once the movement started, it didn't end there, ultimately extending right through society. And the film cleverly mixes these fictional characters alongside real historical figures to bring the events vividly to life. Mulligan provides the emotional gut punch as an intelligent but uneducated woman who has been abused all her life and is finally standing up for herself. Her scenes with each of the supporting cast have real power, including less sympathetic characters like Whishaw's loving but fearful husband.
Continue reading: Suffragette Review
Ben finds being a big brother to his mute little sister Saoirse rather a pain, especially when she doesn't do as she's told. They live with just their father, their mother having left several years ago, and their dog Cu in a lighthouse on an Irish island. When their grandmother comes to take the children to the city, Ben is less than happy and wishes to return home without his sister. Saoirse is a mysterious child who has become rather attached to a seashell from their mother and still proves to be a liability. She also happens to be a Selkie; gifted with the magical ability to transform into a seal underwater. When she is abducted by a flock of night owls, Ben sets out on a desperate mission to find her and rescue her, meeting a wise old Faerie along the way who helps unveil some mystical secrets about his past.
Continue: Song Of The Sea Trailer
An arch approach makes this bonkers thriller rather enjoyable, even if it never quite cracks the surface. The story comes from the Edgar Allan Poe story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether, written in 1845, so director Brad Anderson (The Call) has fashioned the movie as bit of riotous Victorian mental institution nuttiness. Cue the mad-eyed acting, gothic production design and ludicrously batty plot. But if you take it for what it is, it's pretty entertaining.
It takes place in December 1999, as the new century is about to dawn and young doctor Edward (Jim Sturgess) arrives at Stonehearst Lunatic Asylum in a freakishly isolated corner of England. Instantly smitten with the inmate Eliza (Kate Beckinsale), Edward struggles to concentrate on the tasks given to him by his sinister boss Silas (Ben Kingsley), while being constantly watched over by the glowering groundsman Mickey Finn (David Thewlis). Silas' revolutionary system of treatment involves indulging the patients in their specific delusions, which has created a deranged sense of community in the sprawling hospital. Then one night stumbling around in the darkness, Edward discovers a group of people locked in prison cells in the basement, and their leader Benjamin (Michael Caine) claims to be the true head doctor. Yes, the inmates have taken over the asylum!
This premise allows the cast to indulge in a variety of hilariously shifty performances, hamming up every scene with constant innuendo. There isn't anyone in this place who looks remotely sane. Sturgess is fine as the dull Edward, while Beckinsale keeps her character's madness just out of sight, so both of them pale in this colourful company. Kingsley and Caine camp it up marvellously, while Thewlis adds a strong sense of menace and Sophie Kennedy Clark almost steals the film as an amusingly sex-mad virginal nurse. It's also worth watching the background players, as each has a ball his or her brand of craziness.
Continue reading: Stonehearst Asylum Review
Throughout the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, a secret war took place on the streets of England. For years, women of all ages and classes had fought for their right to vote, although they used politics and reason as their biggest weapon. When no clear results were seen, a specialist group formed a more radical idea - to take the political campaign out of the shadows and into the streets, with protests and fighting to gain what was theirs by right. But as the government fights back even harder, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Continue: Suffragette - Teaser Trailer
Brian Gleeson, Leona Allen, Domhnall Gleeson and Brendan Gleeson - Brendan Gleeson & sons Brian Gleeson and Domhnall Gleeson with Leona Allen at a photocall for their play The Walworth Farce (opens 14th January) in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, Ireland - 09.01.15. - Dublin, Ireland - Friday 9th January 2015
In August of 1819, The Essex set sail from New England. The whaling ship set out beyond the edges of the map to hunt in unknown waters. What the 21-man crew discovered, was far from what they could ever have imagined. A sperm whale - absolutely gigantic and hell-bent on destroying their comparatively tiny ship. While battling the demon of a sea beast, the ship was destroyed, and many of the crew were killed. As the few survivors struggled to find land and make their way back to South America, they faced a harrowing adventure, and fought insanity, storms, starvation and despair. All with the great whale fresh in their minds. The crew referred to it as Moby Dick.
Continue: In The Heart of The Sea - Teaser Trailer
Stonehearst Asylum follows the plot of Edgar Allen Poe's short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether. It is a story about Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess) - a medical school graduate in the 19th Century who travels to the titular Asylum to gain 'clinical experience'. It is here that Newgate meets Silas Lamb (Ben Kingsley) and Eliza Graves (Kate Beckinsale), the latter of which he becomes instantly infatuated with. Almost at once, things start to creepy as Edward encounters some of the inmates and realises that perhaps his new colleges are not entirely concerned with following regulations. As the plot thickens and Edward finds himself spiralling further down the rabbit hole, the questions seem pile up. Why does one of the inmates claim to be the asylum's superintendent? Why are the doctors so gleeful when using such barbaric 'treatments'? And why does the man in charge seem so adamant that 'we're all mad'?
Continue: Stonehearst Asylum Trailer
Date of birth
29th March, 1955
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