Although this comedy-drama seems to have been written specifically to give Meryl Streep a chance to dress up and put on a silly show, it's actually all true. And it's hugely entertaining, generating gut-wrenching laughter and some sharply resonant emotions too. It's also a subtle exploration of pop culture, most notably privileged artists and the fact that there's more to stardom than just talent.
Streep shines as Florence, a socialite who hosts lavish parties in 1944 New York with her husband St Clair (Hugh Grant). Both of them are frustrated artists: Florence sees herself as an opera diva, while St Clair never quite made it as an actor. So at her parties, Florence puts on performances for her friends, oblivious to the fact that she's riotously off-key, while St Clair plays the doting husband, protecting her from criticism and hiring talented young pianist Cosme McMoon (Simon Helberg) as her accompanist. Florence doesn't really mind that St Clair has a woman (Rebecca Ferguson) on the side. But when she books Carnegie Hall to perform a concert for troops returning from Europe, St Clair realises that he can't protect her from a real audience.
Writer Nicholas Martin and director Stephen Frears construct the story beautifully, building up to reveal Florence's voice in a painfully hilarious sequence that's expertly played by Streep, Grant and Helberg. Streep's enjoyment of the role is infectious, and she makes Florence sympathetic by letting us see her yearning to sing. She imagines she sounds like her operatic idols, so can't hear the strangled notes coming from her mouth. And those who don't applaud are laughing so heartily that surely they're just as entertained. Streep's performance soars through the performance scenes, but is just as powerful in the comedy and at moments when Florence is vulnerable and nervous.
Continue reading: Florence Foster Jenkins Review
After Mary gives birth to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, she and her husband Joseph are immediately met with the threat of their child - the son of God - being murdered on the order of King Herod, who hears about the alleged birth of the King of the Jews. The family flee to Alexandria in Egypt for seven years, before returning to Mary's hometown of Nazareth, Israel upon hearing that Herod is dead. Jesus is still unaware of the special circumstances surrounding his birth, unaware that his true father is the Lord in Heaven, and unaware that he possesses power beyond any other man in history. Sooner or later, Mary and Joseph have to open up about the miracle of Jesus' life, but before long they face yet more danger from Herod's equally tyrannical son who is also determined to have Jesus killed.
Continue: The Young Messiah Trailer
Filmmaker Bernard Rose gives the period biopic a kick in the seat of the pants with this raucously creepy drama about 19th century violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini, who played so innovatively that people thought he had made a pact with the devil. Rose takes this idea and runs with it, stirring in modern-day ideas of fame and celebrity and finding a series of very clever ways to make violin-playing feel fresh and intriguing. So it's a little frustrating that the central figure remains so oddly out of reach.
After struggling to get anyone to pay him any attention in early 1800s Vienna, Nicolo (played by real violin prodigy David Garrett) signs his soul away to Urbani (Jared Harris), a fast-talking promoter who turns him into a celebrity across Europe. In London, musician Watson (Christian McKay) wants Nicolo to play the Royal Opera House and restore the local fortunes, so hawks his home to bring him over. When he finally arrives, the streets are full of screaming fans, clamouring tabloid hacks (including Joely Richardson) and women protesting Nicolo's notorious womanising and devil worship. But Watson, his mistress Elizabeth (Veronica Ferres) and daughter Charlotte (Andrea Deck) try to sooth Nicolo's artistic temperament. Of course, Nicolo is immediately smitten by Charlotte.
The film has a refreshingly free-wheeling tone, with handheld camerawork, whizzy editing and a continual sense of the music, which is played at high-energy in a variety of colourful locations. Every scene is also layered with bawdy intrigue, as characters mistrust and/or lust after each other. The seasoned cast members have a great time with this. Harris is gleefully sinister with his towering hat and sinister accent. McKay is haplessly eager for his ship to come in far against the odds. And Richardson goes enjoyably broad as a journalist willing to do anything for a scoop.
Continue reading: The Devil's Violinist Review
A drama set around a cultural movement in 1970s Britain, this film captures the period beautifully, but its story is so underdeveloped that it leaves the fresh young cast without proper characters or relationships to play. The depiction of teens in need of their own sense of belonging is strong, but without a story to connect with, the film leaves its audience struggling to maintain interest.
It's 1974 in Lancashire, and teenager John (Elliot James Langridge) is an outcast at school in search of some friends. Then the lively Matt (Josh Whitehouse) introduces him to Northern Soul, underground American R&B that's circulated on bootleg records. So he drops out of school, disappointing his favourite teacher (Steve Coogan) and his parents (Christian McKay and Lisa Stansfield). As he digs deeper into the movement, John makes some new friends (including Antonia Thomas and Jack Gordon) and takes on the star DJ Ray (James Lance) by scrounging for never-heard recordings. But along with learning a new way to dance, John is also introduced to the drug scene, which basically scuppers his and Matt's plan to save cash for a trip to America. And it's Ray who understands that John's only hope of success as a DJ is to ditch Matt.
The best part of this film is this friendship between John and Matt, which was sparked by a shared interest in soul music and then was strained by the scene itself. Writer-director Elaine Constantine vividly captures this world, including the teen sense of hopefulness and independence. But she seems far more interested in depicting the period and the music than in keeping a focus on the characters and their friendships. People drift in and out of the story, relationships refuse to develop into anything meaningful, subplots come and go at random, the romance is barely hinted at and the drug-addiction strand starts to get preachy.
Continue reading: Northern Soul Review
John (Elliot James Langridge) doesn't fit in. He is victimised by his teacher (Steve Coogan), his mother (Lisa Stansfield) is ashamed of him, and he is often bullied. He fights back in whatever small way he can, but there is nothing he can fully channel his energy into. That is, until he discovers northern soul. Not only can he express his heart and soul on the dance floor, but he steadily begins to gain more and more confidence from day to day. He and a friend decide to start up their own northern soul dance club in order to raise funds to travel to America. As events steadily escalate out of control, the one thing that remains constant in the boy's lives is the soul music.
Continue: Northern Soul Trailer
Exhilarating racing action punctuates this true story, which sharply traces the rivalry between two Formula One champs. It's superbly well-shot and edited, with engaging performances from the entire cast. And with only one moment of calculated sentimentality, it's director Ron Howard's most honest movie in years.
The story begins in the early 1970s, when two rising-star F1 drivers clash over their very different styles. Britain's James Hunt (Hemsworth) is a swaggering womaniser, revelling in the rock-star lifestyle. By contrast, Austria's Niki Lauda (Bruhl) is a fiercely detailed technician who loves pushing barriers. They clearly see things they like in each other, so their different approaches on the track develop into a competitive relationship that spurs them to the front of the pack. Over the years, both meet their wives (Wilde and Lara, respectively) and move from team to team as they rise to the top of their sport. And their rivalry comes to a head at the 1976 German Grand Prix when world champion Lauda is involved in a horrific, fiery accident.
Morgan's script is essentially two biopics cleverly woven together to let us see the push and pull between these two iconic figures. Unexpectedly, Bruhl's Lauda emerges as the stronger character, with his grounded approach and sardonic wit allowing Bruhl to play effectively with submerged emotions. By contrast, Hemsworth's Hunt is little more than a gifted good-time boy who isn't worried about his lack of substance. It's a likeable, loose performance (we barely notice the wobbly British accent). Opposite them Lara and Wilde provide solid, subtle support, as do the fine actors who fill out the pit crews.
Continue reading: Rush Review
James Hunt is English Formula 1 champion well-known for his hedonistic life of women, alcohol and parties and who makes for a stark contrast to his number one rival, the Austrian Niki Lauda. It's the 70s, the golden age for racing, and the pair are riled up to outrun each other in the upcoming 1976 German Grand Prix. However, no-one could predict the tragedy that would soon ensue when Lauda's car fails and bursts into flames on the track, causing him severe burns to his face and body. Hunt blames himself for the accident, as he helped encourage the race to go ahead without the suggested safety arrangements. In spite of all this, the pair are determined to become champions, against all odds but as the professional lives interrupts their personal lives, becoming a champion becomes much more complicated than just winning a race.
'Rush' is a sports drama based on the shocking true story of these two real F1 drivers when their lives took a dramatic turn at the height of car racing. It has been directed by Ron Howard ('Willow', 'Apollo 13', 'The Da Vinci Code') and written by Peter Morgan ('The Queen', 'The Other Boleyn Girl', 'The Last King of Scotland'), and it is set for release this autumn on September 13th 2013.
Jonathan; Ron; Richard and Tim met at college 25 years ago and have been friends ever since. Jonathan is a doctor; Ron is a banker and Richard is a English teacher at a high school. This year is no different from any other year: the four men leave their families and careers to rent a beach house in California for a week, which is spent partying with college girls and an extortionate amount of booze and drugs.
Continue: I Melt With You Trailer
After years of marriage, Alfie and Helena are getting divorced, this is mainly due to Alfie's midlife crisis and lust for a much younger woman called Charmaine. Whilst Helena seeks guidance from a fortune teller her daughter is also facing troubles of her own. Sally works in an art gallery work whilst her husband stays at home hoping to write a novel that repeats the success of his first.
Richard (Efron) is a 17-year-old wannabe in 1937 New York, determined to get into the groundbreaking Mercury Theatre company run by 22-year-old genius Orson Welles (McKay). When he stumbles into a role in their landmark production of Julius Caesar, Richard can't believe his luck. He's working alongside such ascending stars as George Coulouris (Chaplin), John Houseman (Marsan), Muriel Brassler (Reilly), Jopseph Cotton (Tupper) and Norman Lloyd (Bill). And he feels even more fortunate when Orson's hard-to-get assistant Sonja (Danes) agrees to go out with him.
Continue reading: Me And Orson Welles Review
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.
Although this comedy-drama seems to have been written specifically to give Meryl Streep a chance...
Florence Foster Jenkins was never what you might call a 'naturally' talented opera singer, however...
After Mary gives birth to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, she and her husband Joseph are...
Filmmaker Bernard Rose gives the period biopic a kick in the seat of the pants...
A drama set around a cultural movement in 1970s Britain, this film captures the period...
John (Elliot James Langridge) doesn't fit in. He is victimised by his teacher (Steve Coogan),...
Exhilarating racing action punctuates this true story, which sharply traces the rivalry between two Formula...
James Hunt is English Formula 1 champion well-known for his hedonistic life of women, alcohol...
Jonathan; Ron; Richard and Tim met at college 25 years ago and have been friends...
In the 1970's, former spy George Smiley (who is in forced retirement), is called in...
After years of marriage, Alfie and Helena are getting divorced, this is mainly due to...
The life of notorious drug smuggler Howard Marks hits the big screen in a lively,...