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
When medical student Courtney Homes approaches fellow student Jamie with the an intriguing prospect of 'having fun tonight', Jamie could never have guessed what he was getting himself in for. He accepts the request and Courtney tells him to travel down into the basement facility at midnight.
The time arrives and Jamie is finally made aware of Courtney's plan. She asks Jamie to stop her heart for precisely one minute and then bring her back to the land of the living. Jamie's far from convinced that it's a good idea but hears out her plan anyway. Courtney's obsessed with finding out what happens to humans after we die and she's convinced that she'll be able to track it using some high spec medical equipment able to document brain activity.
Reluctantly Jamie accepts Courtney's proposal and they begin their experiment. She's hooked up to multiple machines and Jamie slows her heart down until it finally makes its last beat. Once Courtney is brought back around she tries to explain what she's experienced and compares it to being in the presence of pure energy. What neither of the students knew was that their little experiment would have a lasting impact of their lives. It appears that Courtney has been given a new gift, she's now able to perfectly play the piano, and the other students involved think that she's been "rewired" and made an even better form of who she previously was.
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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.
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It's no surprise that Mike Leigh would take a distinctly original approach to the celebrity biopic, and this film about 19th century painter J.M.W. Turner is refreshingly unstructured and abrasive. By avoiding the usual formula, Leigh also reinvents the period drama as something almost startlingly realistic, packing the screen with sardonic humour and honest emotions that are extremely complex. And since it's about a painter, the film looks absolutely gorgeous, as Leigh and his ace cinematographer Dick Pope recreate the look of Turner's paintings on-screen.
The film is set in the 1820s, when Turner (Timothy Spall) is a celebrity on the art scene, courting controversy with his visceral landscapes. People either love or hate his work, but his financial success means he can do whatever he wants. Living with his father (Paul Jesson) and loyal housekeeper Hannah (Dorothy Atkinson), Turner openly challenges his critics. But his private life is just as tempestuous. He ignores the two daughters he fathered with Mrs Danby (Ruth Sheen) and has a second incognito life with the widow Sophie Booth (Marion Bailey), calling himself "Mr Mallard". Meanwhile, he continues to push boundaries in his work, challenging the status quo to such an extent that he becomes a joke in social circles.
Spall won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his astonishing performance as the fiercely independent Turner, a man who went to extreme ends to maintain his anarchic lifestyle and produce his distinctive paintings. In one key scene, he straps himself to a ship's mast during a storm so he can better capture the extreme weather in his work. Yes, Turner was a hurricane of a man, brushing off anyone who disparaged his art, including Queen Victoria. And it's no surprise that so few people liked him: Spall plays him believably as monosyllabic grump who growls more than he speaks.
Continue reading: Mr. Turner Review
The plot feels like a Jane Austen novel infused with a hot-potato political issue, but this is actually a true story. It's been somewhat fictionalised, but the central facts are accurate, and while the production is perhaps a bit too polished for its own good, the solid acting and filmmaking make the story involving and provocative. And its themes feel just as relevant today.
In 1769 London, a young half-black girl named Dido Belle is taken by her soldier father (Matthew Goode) to live with his uncle, the Lord Chief Justice Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson). With his wife (Emily Watson) and sister (Penelope Winton), he is already caring for another niece, and the two girls grow up as inseparable friends. Hidden from society, Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) inherits a small fortune from her father. And while Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) is penniless, her white skin makes her a more suitable spouse. Then family friend Lady Ashford (Miranda Richardson) foists her son James (Tom Felten) on Elizabeth. To their horror, his brother Oliver (James Norton) falls for Dido. But she's more interested in an impoverished law student (Sam Reid).
Along with these rather standard period-movie romantic shenanigans, there's a major subplot about Lord Mansfield's imminent ruling in the first court case to take on the slave trade, which could destabilise the entire British Empire. And this is where the film jolts into something significant: the UK's top judge had an adopted mixed-race daughter who probably influenced the first landmark decision against slavery. Meanwhile, director Amma Asante also vividly portrays the gritty realities of this young black woman's precarious position in society.
Continue reading: Belle Review
Director Mike Leigh has made a new biopic about one of Britains finest landscape artists, J.M.W. Turner. 'Mr Turner' will see key events of Turner's life like the death of his father which had a profound effect on him; as well as the relationships he built such as the one with his housekeeper who loves him, but he underappreciates. The film will tell the story of Turner's legacy which saw him help pioneer landscape painting with his works, helping the style rival history painting.
As well as being skilled at landscape painting, Turner was also known for being well versed in watercolour landscape painting. He was considered an anarchistic character in his life, due acts such as strapping himself to a ship, in order to paint a storm.
The film is directed by Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year, Vera Drake), who's expressed that he wanted to make a film that captures Turner's personality, which Leigh describes as complex and compulsive. 'Mr Turner' is set to be released in the UK on the 31st of October 2014.
Asbjorn is the fearless leader of a Viking gang known as the Northmen. Having been exiled from their homeland, Asbjorn leads his men across the sea Britain to raid the town of Lindisfarne for their gold, but along the way lose their boat and much of their resources to a vicious tempest that only by good fortune washes them up on a beach. Alive they may be, but their survival is limited. Far from where they want to be, the Northmen are forced to set out on foot through unknown enemy terrain, hoping to reach a Viking fort called Danelag before the enemy discovers their presence. Unfortunately, it isn't long before the King of Scotland orders his soldiers to go after them and they relentlessly obey. All they can do is kill everyone in their path and fight back with all their force if they want to reach their destination in one piece.
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Dido Elizabeth Belle is the mixed race daughter of Royal Navy officer Captain John Lindsay resulting from his affair with an African woman. Desperate for his only child to receive a comfortable upbringing, he takes her back to England and begs his uncle, Lord Mansfield, to take her in and care for her as their own. As much as she is treated well and enjoys the company of her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray, she finds herself an outcast with no specified social status and disallowed from dining with her family on social occasions all because of her colour. While she is shunned by almost everybody, one man takes an interest in her; John Davinier, the apprentice of Lord Mansfield. However, both her great-uncle and John's parents are averse to the idea of their marriage - though their shocking love story forces Mansfield to re-think his own feelings about race and family.
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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.
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