Maggie Smith couldn't be more perfect for the title role in this film if it were written for her. But the most astounding thing about this story is that it's true, an event from playwright-screenwriter Alan Bennett's own life. The film cleverly plays with the idea of a writer telling his own story. And it also gives Smith an unforgettable role in a movie that's both entertaining and sharply pointed.
It happened in 1970 Camden, as neighbours worried about a homeless woman parking her van in front of their houses. She turns out to be Mary Shepard (Smith), and resident Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) offers to let her park her van in his driveway for a few months. She stayed there for 15 years, during which Alan refuses to pry into Mary's personal life and she turns a blind eye to the steady flow of young gentleman callers at his door. Even so, over the years Alan learns some details about Mary's past as a musician, ambulance driver and nun, and that she became homeless because she was on the run from the police.
Bennett takes a cheeky approach to the script, writing two versions of himself: one who lives his life and one who writes about it. The interaction between the two is cleverly played by Jennings and directed with offhanded hilarity by Hytner, who shot the movie in the actual street and house where the events took place. Jennings also adds some emotional interest in Alan's relationship with his mother (Gwen Taylor), who ironically has to move into a nursing home. Opposite him, Smith is as magnetic as ever, reeling off each pithy one-liner with impeccable timing. The role may not seem like much of a stretch, but she delivers it with a prickly mix of attitude and humour, plus a strong undercurrent of pathos.
Continue reading: The Lady In The Van Review
Alice once again returns to Wonderland and meets a lot of familiar faces. This time her biggest enemy is Time, quite literally. As the Blue Caterpillar reminds her, 'You've been gone too long, Alice there are matters that might benefit from your attention. Friends cannot be neglected.' Instead of falling down a rabbit hole, this time Alice gains entry to wonderland through a large mirror which takes her to a topsy-turvy universe which could only be associated with Wonderland. There appear to be a few differences between the book and the new film; whilst Lewis Carol's original version of the book was based six months after the original tale, the inclusion of Time might mean that Linda Woolverton's version make time travel much quicker in Wonderland. Again, Carol used many chess analogies in the book, at the moment its unknown how much this will play a part in the movie. The majority of the lead cast from Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland including Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen. Alice Through The Looking Glass was directed by James Bobbin who previously worked on the 2011 Muppets film and Muppets Most Wanted.
This may be a drama about breast cancer, but it's astutely written and played with a jagged sense of humour that makes it thoroughly entertaining. Anchored by energetic, emotionally resonant performances from Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, the film is also a sharp depiction of lifelong friends who travel through some enormous events together. And by keeping everything so funny and honest, it's even more moving than expected.
Jess and Milly (Barrymore and Collette) have grown up together in London, outsiders who always had each others' backs. Their respective spouses Jago and Kit (Paddy Considine and Dominic Cooper) have become part of their extended family, as are Milly's two sparky kids (Honor Kneafsey and Ryan Lennon Baker) and Milly's diva mum (Jacqueline Bisset). Jess has never been able to get pregnant, so she and Jago are undergoing fertility treatment. And just as Jess finds out that she's pregnant, Milly is diagnosed with cancer. Both are understandably nervous about sharing their news. Then things get even more strained when Milly's relationship with Kit falters, and she starts flirting shamelessly with a local barman (Tyson Ritter).
Morwenna Banks' screenplay may have a fairly standard structure, but its details are fresh and unusually balanced, cleverly deepening the characters and never letting the movie fall into sentimental sappiness. Indeed, as the emotions get more intense, the interaction gets edgier and the jokes dirtier. Both Barrymore and Collette shine in their roles. With the showier, more wrenching character, Collette brings a raucous feistiness that's utterly infectious, even when Milly does something she knows is wrong. She is certainly not a cancer "victim"! And Barrymore digs much deeper than usual as Jess, deploying her impeccable comic timing to draw out the character's inner yearnings. Opposite them, both Considine and Cooper are excellent in roles that are more textured than the usual long-suffering husbands.
Continue reading: Miss You Already Review
Miss Shepherd is a highly educated elderly woman living off barely anything in a small dilapidated van. She asks for nothing from her community, other than to be allowed her peace and to have a place to park her van. Constantly being moved by authorities, she finds herself taking up residence on Alan Bennett's road, much to the displeasure of his house proud neighbours. Despite her prickly disposition and shameless boldness, Bennett - a man of more timid and awkward nature - takes an immediate shine to Miss Shepherd, offering her his driveway to park her vehicle on a temporary basis. Soon, though, just a few weeks turns into fifteen long years as this impoverished musical scholar and this lowly gentleman of humble background become unlikely yet inseparable friends - a friendship rocked by Miss Shepherd's eventual ill health which soon strikes a sadness in the heart of the whole town.
Continue: Lady In The Van - Alternative Trailer
Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of a mystery may disappoint die-hard fans, but as an astute drama it's more than worth a look because Ian McKellen is simply terrific in the title role. This is a much more complex character than he has been able to play recently either in movies (like the X-men and Lord of the Rings franchises) or television (the nutty sitcom Vicious). The film also reunites him with Bill Condon, who directed him to an Oscar nomination in Gods and Monsters 17 years ago.
It's 1947, and Sherlock is 93 years old when we meet him, living on the Sussex coast where he keeps bees and has befriended Roger (Milo Parker), the curious son of his tough-minded housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney). As Sherlock teaches Roger about both beekeeping and sleuthing, he is also trying to work out his final case some 30 years ago, which his mind simply refuses to recall. As he relives it in his mind, rather than through Watson's embellished account, all he can remember is a worried husband (Patrick Kennedy) asking him to follow his wife (Hattie Morahan). In addition, Sherlock is also still thinking about the things he discovered while recently in post-war Japan at the invitation of a fan (Hiroyuki Sanada).
The main story and the two flashback sequences are intriguingly intertwined in Sherlock's mind, offering parallel discoveries that help him piece together events that unfold in all three. It's a clever approach that allows McKellen to dig deep into the character as a man discovering that his mind is fading, perhaps into senility. His take on Sherlock is simply fascinating, a witty detective who has always resisted the fictional depiction of him in Watson's stories. And he's also an ageing man who hasn't lost his childlike curiosity, which makes his friendship with the young Roger surprisingly tender and engaging.
Continue reading: Mr. Holmes Review
Unusually gritty and grounded, this terrorism thriller avoids the pitfalls of most overwrought action movies by creating characters and action situations that are unusually believable, even if the plot itself feels badly undercooked. The problem is that there isn't a clear sense of what's at stake here, because screenwriter Philip Shelby insists on continually blurring the mystery by withholding key details until he's ready to reveal them. So the cleverly played old-style suspense never quite pays off.
It opens at the US Embassy in London, where new security chief Kate (Milla Jovovich) has been alerted to the fact that terrorists are trying to get visas to enter America. Working with the ambassador (Angela Bassett) her team leaders (Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster), Kate narrows in on a suspicious doctor (Roger Rees) who's an expert in explosive gasses. But a shocking bombing stops her short, framing her as the villain. Now she's being chased not only by the Americans, but also a British inspector (James D'Arcy) and a ruthless assassin known as The Watchmaker (Pierce Brosnan). And Kate knows that she's the only one who can stop the nefarious plot, whatever it might be.
This is one of those films that enjoyably pushes its central character over the brink, so we can't help but root for Kate to get out of this seriously messy situation and save the day. Jovovich plays her in a plausible way as a capable woman who has no choice but to fight back and try to survive, because she's the only one who knows that she's not the real threat here. Everyone else is extremely shadowy, although McDermott gets to show a heroic side, as does the terrific Frances de la Tour as the only embassy staff member who believes that Kate is the good guy. Meanwhile, Brosnan gives a remarkably effective performance as a cold-blooded killer.
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Christine Langan - A variety of stars were snapped as they arrived at the BBC Films 25th Anniversary Reception which was held at BBC Broadcasting House in London, United Kingdom - Wednesday 25th March 2015
The year is 1947. Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is 93 years old and living in almost total solitude in a farmhouse in Sussex. Here, he tries to keep himself to himself and tend to his bees, but is plagued by the fact that his once great mind has withered away to nothing. He remembers the final case he took, and how he was incapable of solving it. But now, with the help of his housekeeper's son, Sherlock Holmes shall once again solve a mystery.
Continue: Mr Holmes - Teaser Trailer
Time makes a fool of all of us; even the greatest minds will become blunt and lose their power as the years roll on. By the year 1947, Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has reached the age of 93, and lives in solitude in a small Sussex farmhouse, dividing his time between read through his journals and tending to his bees. But when his housekeeper and her son begin to ask questions about his final, unfinished case, Holmes is forced to battle his own deteriorating mind in order to solve a mystery that would once have posed no problem to him.
Continue: Mr Holmes - Clip
Once upon a time, a normal man lived in a normal house on a normal street. Then, something extraordinary happened. An educated woman - a scholar of both music and art - who lives in a van, takes up residence on the road. Miss Shepard (Maggie Smith) is insistent on staying in her van on the street, and the man (Alan Bennett), invites her to park her mobile home in his driveway in order to relieve his neighbours of the site. They agree she will stay for three weeks; she ends up staying for fifteen years.
Continue: Lady In The Van Trailer
When a Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are unable to have children due to a curse, they are advised by a witch (Meryl Streep) to venture into the woods in order to find a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold. Along the way, they become intertwined in the stories of 'Jack and the Beanstalk', 'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Rapunzel', and 'Cinderella', in this original story based upon Grimm's classic fairy tales.
Continue: Into The Woods - Extended Trailer
When a Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are cursed by a witch (Meryl Streep), they discover that they are unable to have children. The couple embark on an adventure into the woods in order to recover the magical objects required to break the spell and allow them to begin a family together. Over the course of their journey, they encounter iconic fairy-tale characters and motifs from stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella. They also steadily learn valuable lessons about responsibility and being careful what they wish for.
Continue: Into The Woods - Alternative Trailer
Take a sneak peak of forthcoming musical fairytale flick 'Into The Woods' in this short featurette, featuring comments from the stellar ensemble cast and crew. Among them are stars Emily Blunt, James Corden, Chris Pine, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, as well as director Rob Marshall ('Chicago'), author of the book James Lapine and composer Stephen Sondheim ('Sweeney Todd').
Continue: Into The Woods - Featurette
When a Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are cursed by a witch (Meryl Streep), they discover that they are unable to have children. The couple embark on an adventure into the woods in order to recover the magical objects required to break the spell and allow them to begin a family together. Over the course of their journey, they encounter iconic fairy-tale characters and motifs from stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella. They also steadily learn valuable lessons about responsibility and being careful what they wish for .
Continue: Into The Woods - Teaser Trailer
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) continues to explore experimental styles of cinema (see Timecode or Hotel) with this playful in-joke about the act of artistic creation. It's an ambitious idea that never quite overcomes the indulgent approach, but the gimmicky touches and mysterious noir vibe hold our interest even if the characters are never very clearly developed.
At the centre is screenwriter Martin (Koch), who lectures at a London film school as his long-awaited new script is finally going into production. His daughter Sarah (Night) has landed a lead role in the film, and Martin celebrates this with her at her 25th birthday. He also becomes fascinated by her friend Angelique (Verbeek), who turns up dead in a canal the next morning, leaving him as the prime suspect. A police inspector (Cranham) is especially suspicious since Martin's wife (Fox in flashback) went missing 15 years ago. Then Angelique's twin Therese (also Verbeek) turns up to twist things further.
Figgis continually throws us out of the story by referring to the film within the film. For example, characters are continually picking up movie scripts that describe them picking up movie scripts. And Figgis further tweaks us with on-screen captions, split-screen angles and movie-set camera gags, plus of course the fact that a central character is an identical twin. But because of all of this self-referential trickery, we can never engage with the story or characters at all.
Continue reading: Suspension Of Disbelief Review