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Le Week-end Review


Like a 20-years-later sequel to Before Midnight, this sharply observant comedy-drama follows a couple through a soul-searching weekend in which they evaluate their relationship with real wit and emotion. And transparent performances make it something to savour, as it offers us a rare grown-up movie about real issues we can identify with.

As the title suggests, the weekend in question takes place in France, and it's a 30th anniversary treat for Nick and Meg (Broadbent and Duncan). They can't really afford a trip to Paris, especially after ditching their dodgy pre-booked hotel in lieu of something far nicer, but they figure out ways to make their time special. Meanwhile, they talk about their years together, and the hopes and regrets that are haunting their thoughts. There are some hard questions to ask about their future, even as they haven't lost that spark of sexuality. Then they run into Nick's old Cambridge pal Morgan (Goldblum), who invites them to a party where they meet academics and artists just like them. Which only makes them think even more.

The key issues for them include Nick's early retirement (for an ill-timed comment to a student) and Meg's desire to change her life completely. As they consider the options, their conversations drive the film forward forcefully, flowing through cycles of flirtation and laughter to bitterness and cruelty. The depth of their love is never in doubt, even as they wonder how secure their relationship actually is. Broadbent and Duncan play these scenes effortlessly, taking our breath away because it's all so honest, often both funny and scary at the same time.

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Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa Review


In bringing his iconic 1990s radio and TV character to the big screen, Coogan refreshingly refuses to play to American audiences: this film is purely British in its story, setting and characters. And as it gleefully redefines almost every action movie cliche imaginable, it's also one of the funniest films of the year. This is party due to the hilariously astute script, but also because Alan Partridge is both riotously embarrassing and utterly loveable.

As we meet him this time , Alan (Coogan) is trying to save his job at North Norfolk Digital when the radio station is bought by a corporation and turned in to Shape ("The way you want it to be"). In the process, Alan gets his colleague Pat (Meaney) sacked, and at the Shape launch party Pat goes postal with a shotgun, taking the staff hostage. As the police close in around the station, Alan becomes the chief negotiator, realising that this can only help boost his fame. But as he works on increasing his own publicity, Pat is menacing his on-air sidekick Simon (Key), while his offbeat security guard friend Michael (Greenall) finds a place to hide and his assistant (Montagu) has her own encounter with the media.

After all these years, Coogan is able to completely vanish into Alan's distinctive personality, saying all the wrong things at the wrong times while constantly getting distracted by irrelevant details. He only ever does the right thing by mistake. Yes, Alan is a buffoon, but he isn't stupid. Coogan plays him so perfectly that we can't help but like Alan even with his distinctive flaws. And the film actually generates a real sense of menace in this mini-Die Hard siege scenario, blending real danger with inspired physical comedy. And virtually every line of dialog has a joke in it.

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Hyde Park On Hudson Review


The breezy, entertaining tone of this historical comedy-drama kind of undermines the fact that it centres on one of the most pivotal moments in US-British history. Director Michell (Notting Hill) knows how to keep an audience engaged, and yet he indulges in both tawdry innuendo and silly cliches, never giving the real-life events a proper sense of perspective. Even so, some terrific performances make it enjoyable.

The events in question take place in 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Murray) invites Britain's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (West and Colman) to visit Hyde Park, the upstate New York residence he shares with his mother (Wilson), while his wife Eleanor (Williams) lives down the road with her "she-male" friends. Roosevelt knows that George is here to ask for help against the growing threat of Hitler's Germany, and as a result of their talks a "special relationship" develops between America and Britain. Meanwhile, the womanising Roosevelt is not-so-quietly having an affair with his distant cousin and confidant Daisy (Linney).

Essentially there are two films here fighting for our attention. Much of the story is seen through Daisy's eyes, complete with an annoyingly mousy voiceover that never tells us anything we can't see on screen. Linney underplays the character to the point where we barely notice that she's in the room, and the depiction of Daisy's romance with FDR is often squirm-inducing. By contrast, the other aspect of the plot is fascinating, with West and especially Colman shining in their roles as witty, nervous Brits trying to make the most of the first ever visit of a British monarch to America. Their steely resolve is brilliantly undermined by their brittle nerves and endless curiosity. 

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Wuthering Heights Review

Emily Bronte's novel is one of the most unsettling books you'll ever read, so it's about time a filmmaker made a darkly disturbing movie out of it. And Arnold's movie is like no other period adaptation we've ever seen: gritty, messy and thoroughly involving.

When the farmer Earnshaw (Hilton) brings a street urchin (Howson) home after a trip to Liverpool, he adopts him as a son and has him christened Heathcliff. He bonds quickly with Earnshaw's daughter Catherine (Beer), but her older brother Hindley (Shaw) continually abuses him. This only gets worse after Earnshaw's death, and when Cathy decides to marry the rich neighbour Linton (Northcote), Heathcliff runs away. Years later, he returns (now Howson) to confront Cathy (now Scodelario) about her true feelings.

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Nowhere Boy Review

This beautifully written and directed biopic has a strong ring of truth to it, mainly due to Taylor-Wood's artistic approach to filmmaking. It also features extremely complex characters and a remarkably vivid collection of events.

In 1955 Liverpool, John Lennon (Johnson) is a troubled 15-year-old, raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George (Scott Thomas and Threlfall) without knowing that his wayward mother Julia (Duff) lives just around the corner. But everything's going to change, and while he tries to balance these parental relationships he's also discovering rock 'n' roll. He teams with his pal Pete (Bolt) to form a skiffle band called The Quarrymen. And interest in the band heats up when talented musicians Paul and George (Sangster and Bell) join them.

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In The Loop Review

Frankly, it's a stroke of genius to play a tense political thriller as if it's a raucous satire. Slicing straight through any over-seriousness, this film keeps us laughing loudly as it tells a story that's probably far truer than we'd like to believe.

Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi) is the acerbic communications director for Britain's Prime Minister, and right now he has to put out a fire started by Cabinet Minister Foster (Hollander), who called war in the Middle East "unforeseeable" in a radio interview. Foster's aides (Addison and McKee) are working to keep him on the crest of a tidal wave of attention after some American politicians (Kennedy and Rasche) take an interest in him. In Washington they also meet a tough Pentagon General (Gandolfini), while unseen forces seem determined to rush to war.

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Brideshead Revisited Review

The palatial estate sits languid against the landscape, the massive family home looking as much like a museum as a manor. Within its walls are secrets kept silent for far too many years, a lineage forged in lies, deception, and an unflappable faith in God. For the Flytes, Brideshead reflects their own insular existence -- self contained, complete with its own ornate chapel and religious iconography. But for anyone outside the clan, such opulence shields wealth of a different, disturbing kind. And should one revisit the famed locale, they too will find themselves lost in its amoral allure.

When we first meet middle class student Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), he is leaving his distant father for Oxford. Instantly, he is thrust into a world of privilege, and the seedy sphere of influence surrounding fey fop Sebastian Flyte (Ben Whishaw). Over the course of the school year, they become inseparable in ways that suggest something other than simple companionship. Fate finds the pair spending the summer at Sebastian's family home, known as Brideshead. There, Charles meets two women who will figure prominently in his future -- the staunchly Catholic matriarch Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson) and Sebastian's glamorous sister Julia (Hayley Atwell). Over the next few years, everything about Brideshead, from the people to the place itself, will haunt Charles' attempt to forge an identity for himself, as well as guide what he really wants out of life.

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Venus Review

Not since Harold and Maude has there been an intergenerational love connection as intense as this. In Venus, rapidly deteriorating 75-year-old Maurice (Peter O'Toole) is infatuated by the tough-talking 19-year-old country girl Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the grand-niece of his best friend Ian (Leslie Phillips). When she arrives in London from the sticks to act as a nurse/babysitter for her uncle, she disrupts both of their dusty lives with all sorts of fascinating unintended results.Maurice and Ian are both actors of some renown, and Maurice still works, although he's been reduced mainly to playing dying men and corpses. A quick wit who enjoys a sip of whiskey as he amuses himself with the unpleasant details of his own decline, the sullen (and lovely) Jessie fascinates him. She, of course, is repulsed by both men and is mainly looking for free London lodging and a job "modelin'." She only takes interest in Maurice when he says he can get her a job.The job turns out to be modeling in the nude for an art class, but Jessie reluctantly goes along with it, convinced when Maurice takes her to the National Gallery to look at a particularly beautiful painting of a nude Venus.Though the skittish Ian remains terrified of this new disruptive presence, Maurice, who has always been a ladies man and isn't about to change now, becomes increasingly enamored of her, and she grows fonder of him, although her motives are always in question. What, exactly, Jessie is up to, becomes an important question as she begins to let Maurice kiss her shoulders (only three times) or smell her neck. She also lets him buy her gifts, including a tattoo, and Maurice, for his part, sees himself playing a Henry Higgins sort of role. Can he turn this bumpkin into a lady? A lady who might actually love him?Peter O'Toole takes this excellent opportunity to remind us what an incredible actor he is. It's been decades since he's been given a chance to shine like this, and he blows the doors off in a part that seems to have been custom-made for him. Stripped of all vanity (Maurice even submits to a prostate exam), O'Toole delivers a master class, submitting to lots of invasive close-ups that highlight those inextinguishable blue eyes. His brief scenes with his ex-wife, played by Vanessa Redgrave, should be studied by acting students. They're two geniuses at work. Equally important is Whittaker, who shows no fear as she acts with these legends.Roger Michell and Hanif Kureishi teamed up three years ago on The Mother, another interesting look at age gaps and attractions. Venus is lighter fare and rather more pleasant to watch, but most important, it gives Peter O'Toole an opportunity to do what he does best. One wonders if this may be his last truly grand performance.I'm your Venus, I'm your fire, your desire.

The History Boys Review

Plays do not always make the transition well from stage to screen - they can come off too talky or stagnant, mannerisms that work well on a far-off stage sometimes appearing stilted on a big screen.

Fortunately, thanks to the rambunctiously energetic performances and Nicholas Hynter's equally jaunty direction, The History Boys looks right at home on screen; what poses a larger problem is whether it will translate as fluidly from Britain to America.

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The Mother Review

I feel as if I've seen The Mother at least five times since 2001. A woman, ranging in age from 40 to 70, discovers that her life, for lack of a better word, sucks. Through some event ranging from the random (meeting a stranger on a street) to the life-altering (husband dies), our heroine gains her independence and finds bottomless passion, even love.

Watching The Mother, it's obvious that director Roger Michell and writer Hanif Kureishi, spent a little too much time watching Unfaithful or Bread and Tulips. They offer few original points in their own movie, and express autumnal passion at the expense of common sense. Really, The Mother is as exploitative and flashy as any big-budget summer blockbuster. The only difference is that this movie probably isn't part of a Happy Meal deal.

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Enduring Love Review

Picnicking in a brilliantly green field on the outskirts of London, a couple's afternoon meal is interrupted by the surreal sight of a hot air balloon crashing nearby. The man, a professor and author named Joe (Daniel Craig) who lectures university students about the meaninglessness of love (which, he argues, is merely a biological impulse), rushes to the balloon's aid while his quiet girlfriend, a sculptor named Claire (Samantha Morton), watches in horror. Aided by a collection of passersby, Joe attempts to prevent the balloon - which still contains a young boy in its carriage- from once again taking flight, but a giant gust of wind suddenly sends the vehicle, and those grasping its side, airborne. Joe, a man averse to commitment and lacking in genuine courage, lets go of the balloon while it's still low, as do most of the other would-be rescuers. One man, in a fatal mistake, does not, and the boy dies, unseen, minutes later in a crash.

In Roger Michell's Enduring Love - its title a reference not only to everlasting adoration, but also to physically and emotionally surviving love - this tragedy is the catalyst for Joe's uncomfortable encounter with Jed (Rhys Ifans), another unsuccessful hero from that fateful day who develops an unhealthy interest in the mild-mannered teacher. With disheveled blond hair drooping over his brow and clothes which look like they've been slept in, Jed is a creepy sort of chap, and it doesn't take long before his friendly entreaties to Joe transform into disturbing, obsessive pleas for love. Jed is from the Glenn Close school of affection, and Michell's adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel - after its entrancingly dreamlike opening passage - reveals itself to be a gay-themed Fatal Attraction in which homosexuality and deranged lunacy are treated as identical sides of the same coin. According to the film's distressingly antiquated morality, heterosexual commitment and parenting are good, adultery and stalking are bad, and when it comes to same-sex relations, the only tolerable reason for a man to kiss another man is as a clever ploy to murder him.

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin Review

Captain Corelli's Mandolin is one of those films that most people can't in good conscience say they hate. In the tradition of films like Waking Ned Devine and Cinema Paradiso, it's a sweet but flawed wartime romance with enough gorgeous scenery and quaint villagers to choke a horse. It innocuously celebrates the triumph of true love, exalts the rise of an everyman hero, toasts art's ability to eclipse the horrors of life, and at times is even a visual feast (Miramax should charge the Greek tourist board royalties).

Adapted from the best-selling novel by Louis de Bernieres, the story begins in 1941. Dr. Iannis (John Hurt) and his lovely daughter Pelagia (Penélope Cruz) live on the idyllic Greek isle of Cephallonia, where Pelagia is betrothed to fisherman Mandras (Christian Bale) who's eager to prove his mettle in the growing war in Europe. He goes off to fight for Greece against the Italians; in the meantime, the Italians invade his home island. But these Italians aren't scary, Mussolini types; they're jolly, good-natured and even kind. According to them, Italians are best at "eating, singing, and making love," which the filmmakers set out to prove to no end in this movie. Let's put it this way: Puccini gets some serious screen time.

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