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
Eilis Lacey's life in Ireland has drawn to a standstill, there's no work and her life is quickly stagnating. It's the 1950's and the lure of the US is too strong to ignore. Landing in an entirely different country, New York is a vast site to behold but her future looks brighter now she's stateside. One of Eilis' biggest problems will be adjusting to life away from her family but there are a few people living in her new home who might be there to help.
After finally feeling like Brooklyn might be a place Eilis could find a new home, her past life catches up with her and she must pick a path to follow.
These new clips from Brooklyn give you a feeling of what to expect from the movie which is out now.
Continue: Brooklyn - Clips
Director John Crowley and writer Nick Hornby never even try to temper the flood of emotions that this story elicits, instead wading straight in. Thankfully, they manage to resist sentimentality at every step, although perhaps some more offhanded, edgy humour would have helped balance it better. Because as is, this film can be rather overwhelming at times, thanks to the sensitive, honest performances from the cast and a subject most people can identify with: how it feels to leave home.
It opens in 1950, as Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is reluctantly preparing to leave her home and family in rural Ireland for a new life in New York City, arranged with the help of an Irish priest, Father Flood (Jim Broadbent). As she settles into the boarding house run by Mrs Kehoe (Julie Walters), she gets a department store job and starts studying bookkeeping, all of which helps take her mind off her homesickness. She also meets the persistent, charming Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen), and they fall lustily in love. Just as life doesn't seem so bad after all, Eilis gets bad news and has to travel home to see her family. There, she meets the eligible bachelor Jim (Domhnall Gleeson). And now she will have to make a decision about where her home is.
The film's tone is open and emotive from the very start, with warmly glowing cinematography, a surging musical score and lots of over-serious conversations. The hills of Ireland have never looked so green, the bustling streets of Brooklyn never seemed quite so exciting. There are some comedic touches here and there, but the main tone here can be summed up in the word "yearning". This is a film that's easy to identify with for anyone who has ever moved away from home, especially as it explores conflicting loyalties and unexpected opportunities. These themes are much stronger than the romantic triangle that drives the film forward.
Continue reading: Brooklyn 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
Taking your first steps into adulthood is never easy, but for a young Irish woman named Eilis Lacey it's about to get more complicated than she ever could have imagined. She is encouraged to travel across the Atlantic to Brooklyn, New York by her local priest Father Flood, seeking opportunities and a promising career. Once there she settles into a job and a place of residence, but becomes overcome by homesickness when she starts to receive letters from home. Confused about whether or not she wants to continue her life in Brooklyn, the question is answered for her when she meets a handsome bachelor named Tony at a dance who is everything she could want in a partner. However, after tragedy strikes at home, she is forced to return, and she really can't be sure if she'll make it back to Brooklyn - especially when a former flame catches her eye once again.
Continue: Brooklyn Trailer
A missed opportunity, this European action romp begins with a terrific premise but never quite makes anything of it. Finnish writer-director Jalmari Helander certainly knows how to make a sharp, snappy action-comedy (see Rare Exports), but this script is badly compromised by simplistic plotting and gags that go for the easiest target every time. Which leaves the actors looking like they're standing around waiting for something interesting to happen. And it leaves the audience feeling badly let-down.
It opens as 13-year-old Oskari (Onni Tommila) is sent into the mountainous Finnish wilderness to prove his manhood by hunting down a stag all by himself. His father (Jorma Tommila) isn't hugely confident, but wishes him well. Meanwhile, preening terrorist Hazar (Mehmet Kirtulus) has just shot down Air Force One as it flew overhead. As the plane goes down, the US President (Samuel L. Jackson) boards his escape pod, and the first person he meets on the ground is a gob-smacked Oskari. Together, they set out to get to safety while escaping the tenacious thugs who are after the President. And officials at the Pentagon (including Jim Broadbent, Victor Garber and Felicity Huffman) are watching everything unfold by satellite, while the President's security chief (Ray Stevenson) leads the ground party.
The set-up is great, and offers plenty of scope for both over-the-top action sequences and Home Alone-style mayhem, but Helander never quite settles on a tone, perhaps because the 13-year-old hero demands a PG-13 sensibility that undermines any chance of proper black comedy. Yes, there's plenty of violent destruction, but it's cartoonish rather than clever, so the film feels silly rather than exhilarating. Jackson is clearly having a lot of fun as the annoyed President, adding some gravitas to his usual action-hero persona while delivering his requisite snarky one-liners. But Helander never quite finds anything new for him to do. And young Tommila looks far too serious all the way along.
Continue reading: Big Game Review
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
12 points down in the polls, the President of the United States of America (Samuel L. Jackson) is flying over Finland in Air Force One - aware of the fact that his own party is out to get him. However, when a sudden missile threat is discovered, the President is forced to evacuate by the suspicious Morris (Ray Stevenson). As the President evacuates, Morris also jumps from the plane, watching as it explodes in the air. The President finds himself on the ground with Oskari (Onni Tommila), a young boy out to prove himself as a hunter. Yet there is now far greater game to be hunted in the Finnish forests, as Morris is hunting the President himself.
Continue: Big Game Trailer
With the recent release of 'Get Santa', actor Jim Broadbent has given the holiday gift of laying out the secret to a perfect Santa Claus.
Merry Christmas to all. It's probably the case that everyone has had to dress up as Santa Claus at least once in their life; stomping around the house, 'Ho Ho Ho'-ing and eating mince pies next to the fireplace, ready to vanish back to bed before you wake the household. But you don't have to be a trained actor to perfect the role of Father Christmas, as actor Jim Broadbent explained - it's all in the costume.
Jim Broadbent stars alongside Warick Davis in 'Get Santa'
"As soon as I got it all on I thought, 'Oh, this is good - it does all my acting for me!'" said Broadbent, who plays St. Nicholas in the recent Christmas hit 'Get Santa'. But for someone with such a storied and impressive career as Broadbent - who has worked on the 'Harry Potter' series and 'Cloud Atlas' amongst many others - just what draws someone to working on a Christmas film?
Continue reading: Jim Broadbent: How To Play Santa Claus
When a slasher-movie director takes on a family-friendly Christmas movie, then the casting of Santa Clause can really make or break the film.
Dopey Christmas movies are such a staple this time of year that it's actually rather shocking when one comes along that isn't stupid. Even if some critics struggle with the holiday-crime movie mashup, 'Get Santa' has been receiving glowing reviews for its witty script and sharp characters, played with energy and knowing humour by a strong cast.
Much of the credit has to go to writer-director Christopher Smith, not the most obvious choice to make a heart-warming family movie. His previous films are the London Underground horror 'Creep', the team-building weekend slasher movie 'Severance', the plague-era gross-out 'Black Death' and the seafaring gorefest 'Triangle'. But all of Smith's films have a sharp undercurrent of black comedy to them, and he proves adept at concentrating on this in the context of a U-certificate action comedy (even Paddington earned a PG).
Continue reading: Jim Broadbent Proves Genius Casting For 'Get Santa'
Solidly entertaining Christmas movies are so rare that when one comes along it feels like the best gift ever. Perhaps more horror filmmakers should turn their hand to family-friendly action comedies. This one is written and directed by Christopher Smith, the British filmmaker behind freak-outs like Severance and Triangle. But this movie is a pure joy, deploying a warped sense of humour that will have adults laughing a bit more than the kids, who will be caught up in a terrific wish-fulfilment adventure of their own.
In London, Steve (Rafe Spall) has just been released after two years in prison, and his first priority is to see his 10-year-old son Tom (Kit Connor), who lives with Steve's ex Alison (Jodie Whittaker) and her new husband. That same night, Tom finds a beardy man (Jim Broadbent) in the garage who claims to be Santa Claus and needs Steve's help. Steve is more than a little skeptical, but wants to spend time with Tom so heads off on a rescue mission that gets increasingly complicated with every passing moment. Mainly because Santa gets himself arrested while trying to liberate his reindeer after they were caught roaming around the city streets. Coincidentally housed in Steve's old prison, he gets some help from Steve's former fellow inmates (including Stephen Graham, Warwick Davis and Nonso Anozie), while Steve discovers that maybe something magical is going on after all
This may be one of those "find your childhood love of Christmas" movies, but Smith never pushes the sentimentality. Instead, he keeps the story moving with brisk momentum, piling on some hilariously deranged gags along with madcap action set-pieces that include chases, dress-up silliness and, yes, a prison break. The script is tight and funny, including the requisite poo and fart jokes, as well as some more sophisticated movie sight-gags and clever character detail. These people may be faintly ridiculous, but the actors dive in headlong and bring us with them.
Continue reading: Get Santa Review
It's difficult not to go into a movie like this with a sense of dread, as the beloved children's book becomes a live-action movie with a digitally animated, eerily realistic-looking bear. Thankfully, the task of filmmaking was given to the inventive Paul King (of Mighty Boosh fame), who made the charmingly surreal 2009 comedy Bunny and the Bull and brings a refreshingly unexpected comical sensibility to liven up this film's family-friendly formula.
It starts in darkest Peru, where a young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has been raised by his aunt and uncle (Imelda Staunton and Michael Gambon), who learned about London from a British explorer. Now in need of a new home, the youngster heads across the sea and takes the name of Paddington Station when he meets the Brown family: over-cautious dad (Hugh Bonneville), over-curious mum (Sally Hawkins), sulking teen Judy (Madeleine Harris), inventive pre-teen Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and feisty relative Mrs Bird (Julie Walters). As they help him find the explorer, he has a series of adventures, unaware that the taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman) is on his trail, determined to add him to the species on exhibition at the Natural History Museum.
This Cruella De Vil-style subplot would be seriously annoying if King ever let it take over the movie, but it always remains secondary to Paddington's mayhem-causing behaviour and his bonding with the Browns. It also provides some genuine tension in a climactic action sequence in the museum. But most of the film is dedicated to Paddington's comically ridiculous antics, and Whishaw voices him with just the right mixture of curiosity and hapless mischief to make him irresistible.
Continue reading: Paddington Review