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BBC Treat 'Dad's Army' Fans To Animated Lost Episode 'A Stripe For Frazer'


Toby Jones Michael Gambon

Ahead of the release of the big screen adaptation of 'Dad's Army', the BBC will unveil a special animated episode of a missing story entitled 'A Stripe for Frazer', following the discovery of an audio recording that was thought to be lost with various other 60s shows.

Dad's Army cast'Dad's Army' comes alongside original lost episode

The original episode aired one time only in 1969 but, along with a variety of other recordings, it disappeared; it was thought to have been scrapped or taped over. However, the audio recently resurfaced, with the quality so good that the BBC decided to recreate it as an animation to be made available to viewers in the BBC online store.

Continue reading: BBC Treat 'Dad's Army' Fans To Animated Lost Episode 'A Stripe For Frazer'

Tragedy, Rivalry And Mystery: JK Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' Finally Hits The Small Screen [Spoilers]


Jk Rowling Michael Gambon Rory Kinnear Keeley Hawes Simon McBurney

The BBC adaptation of Jk Rowling's first grown-up novel 'The Casual Vacancy' aired on Sunday night (February 15th 2015) following much anticipation from fans of the book, and it certainly wasn't a disappointment.

Rory Kinnear as Barry Fairbrother in 'The Casual Vacancy'
 Rory Kinnear plays friendly neighbour Barry Fairbrother in 'The Casual Vacancy'

Starring Michael Gambon and Rory Kinnear as political rivals, the first episode of the 3-part BBC miniseries saw a mixture of respectful adherence to the novel coupled with some artistic nuances that turned up the suspense tenfold. Screenwriter Sarah Phelps ('Great Expectations', 'The Crimson Field') was seamless in her translation from book to small-screen and director Jonny Campbell ('Alien Autopsy', 'Phoenix Nights') will no doubt draw in a lot more recognition with this nail-biting series.

Continue reading: Tragedy, Rivalry And Mystery: JK Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy' Finally Hits The Small Screen [Spoilers]

'Fortitude' Starts Tonight - But Is It Just 'The Killing' MK 2?


Sofie Grabol Michael Gambon Stanley Tucci

Fortitude, Sky Atlantic's big-budget crime drama  set in the Arctic Circle, begins tonight after a heavy marketing campaign playing on its key stars, Sofie Grabol, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston and Stanley Tucci. It's a rich and hugely talented line-up - but will Fortitude push the envelope or retire into the clichés seen so often in murder-investigation-in-frosty-setting.

Sofie GrabolSofie Grabol leads the cast in Sky Altantic's Fortitude

Of course Grabol is best known as Sarah Lund from The Killing - the pioneering Nordic drama that has inspired countless terrible imitations since. She plays Governor Odegard, who's busy opening an ice hotel carved out of the side of a glacier in Svalbard. However, when the crimeless community is rocked by a grisly murder, detective DCI Morton (Tucci) is flown in to restore calm and solve the mystery.

Continue reading: 'Fortitude' Starts Tonight - But Is It Just 'The Killing' MK 2?

Michael Gambon Given BIFA's 'Richard Harris Award', Which Seems Made For Harry Potter


Michael Gambon

Congratulations to Michael Gambon who, it has been announced, will be awarded with the BIFA (British Independent Film Awards) Richard Harris Award for contributions to British cinema during the course of his career, reports the Telegraph. 

Of course, Gambon more than deserves this accolade. At the age of 72, he has a career spanning 50 years, has won countless awards for his roles on stage and on screen and, most importantly, he has a track corner named after him on Top Gear. However, despite the innumerable honours that he has amassed over the years, it seems his role as Dumbledore in the final six of the eight Harry Potter movies is what has set him up for the Richard Harris Award.

Richard Harris was the original Dumbledore, and after his death in 2002, the Richard Harris Award was set up in his name. Since 2003 when the first award was given to John Hurt, 6 of the 10 recipients have been cast members in the Harry Potter films. John Hurt played wand maker Mr Ollivander, 2006's winner Jim Broadbent appeared as Horace Slughorn, in 2008 David Thewlis won who played the werewolf Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, in 2010 Bellatrix Lestrange's actress Helena Bonham Carter received the award, and last year Voldemort himself, Ralph Fiennes accepted the prize. Framing the last ten years by two Dumbledores are the award's namesake, and of course this year's winner Michael Gambon. 

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Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Review


Excellent

The eight-part saga comes to a close with an action-packed finale that neatly ties up the strands of the whole series and also manages to give its actors some meaty scenes to play with. While it's hugely satisfying, there's also a letdown as we reach the end.

With Voldemort (Fiennes) in possession of the mythical Elder Wand, and four Horcruxes still at large, Harry (Radcliffe) and pals Hermione and Ron (Watson and Grint) know that they have work to do. Breaking into a Gringotts vault is tough enough, but when they sneak back into Hogwarts, they find themselves in all-out war against Voldemort and his Death Eaters. So with the help of adults (Smith, Walters and more) and fellow students (including Lewis, Wright and Lynch), they make their final stand.

After a sort of "Previously on Harry Potter" prologue and a quietly intense opening, the film plunges into the Gringotts heist and barely pauses for breath. Director Yates adeptly juggles action and drama, keeping images razor sharp and making sure the effects work is seamlessly eye-catching (they're also the most consistently high-quality effects in the series). But of course Lord of the Rings-scale spectacle is nothing without great characters, and this film pushes everyone into new territory.

Radcliffe takes on the challenge extremely well, bringing Harry's self-doubt and crippling guilt together with a potent sense of destiny and sacrifice. Of the supporting cast, Rickman, Smith and Gambon get the weightiest scenes, while Lewis and Walters finally have superb moments in the spotlight. And Bonham Carter clearly has a ball with a terrific scene as a shape-shifted Hermione.
Meanwhile, that outrageously starry ensemble fills out each scene, including many who barely utter a word.

As the story propels to the climactic moments, there are a few fits and starts while events recoil and wait to burst forth again. Even though this is the shortest of all eight movies, it feels a little long due to its intensely focussed plot. This means every moment on screen is vitally important, and most are given the chance to play out without feeling rushed. But it also means that, as the ending (and epilogue) get closer, we simply don't want it to end.

Michael Colgan and Michael Gambon - Michael Colgan, Sir Michael Gambon Dublin, Ireland - Sir Michael Gambon is presented with the Gold Medal for Honorary Patronage at Trinity College Wednesday 23rd February 2011

Michael Colgan and Michael Gambon
Michael Colgan and Michael Gambon

The King's Speech Review


Extraordinary

Momentous historical events add a remarkable kick to this fascinating personal drama, which is based on journal entries and firsthand accounts. besides being hugely entertaining, the film also gives Colin Firth yet another meaty role to dive into.

In 1925, Bertie (Firth), the Duke of York, is paralysed with fear when required to speak in public. After unsuccessful treatment for his stammer, his wife Elizabeth (Bonham Carter) locates unorthodox speech therapist Lionel Logue (Rush), an Australian who insists on familiarity even with the royals. But as Bertie begins to make progress, his life takes a dramatic turn when his brother Edward VIII (Pearce) abdicates the throne, leaving Bertie in place as George VI just as war breaks out with Germany. Now the nation really needs to hear his voice.

The sharp, often very witty script has the ring of truth to it, refusing to overplay big events or to create some miracle cinematic cure that sees Bertie rising to inspiring orator status. Even though it's still extremely crowd-pleasing, it's a much more complex story centring on the man behind the stutter, exploring the intimate, difficult journey Bertie must have taken before he was so suddenly thrust into the limelight.

As with last year's A Single Man, Firth invests the role with layered subtext that gives Bertie a fully fledged inner life far beyond the astute screenplay.
It's a beautiful performance that tells us as much with a quiet sigh as it does with a razor-sharp line of dialog. His banter with the excellent Rush is also full of substance, while Bonham Carter not only uncannily captures the Queen Mother's physical presence but also the strength of the woman who, together with her husband, would so bravely lead Britain through the Blitz.

Visually, the film transcends the usual costume-drama approach, with expert direction from Hooper that beautifully plays with perspectives and textures.
Also notable is the way the camera quietly captures expansive backdrops that continually remind us (and Bertie) that there's a whole nation out there waiting for his next word. And along the way, we strongly identify with Bertie, which makes his journey takes both stirring and thrillingly inspiring.

The Book Of Eli Review


OK
Although it feels like a parallel story taking place at the same time as The Road, this post-apocalyptic thriller has the opposite effect, actually getting less complex and interesting as it goes along. At least it starts out well.

Eli (Washington) is a loner walking through a decimated American landscape some 30 years after "the war" brought about "the flash". His most precious possession is an old book, and he's willing to fight to the death to protect it as he heads west. Then he stumbles into a roughneck town run by the greedy Carnegie (Oldman), who's searching for the legendary book with his brutal henchman (Stevenson). And when the daughter (Kunis) of Carnegie's blind girlfriend (Beals) runs off after Eli, things get messy.

Continue reading: The Book Of Eli Review

Fantastic Mr Fox Review


Very Good
This is much more of a Wes Anderson film than the Roald Dahl classic on which it's based. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it could cause problems with fans of the book. The central themes are still there, but this is essentially a quirky dysfunctional family romp.

Mr Fox (voiced by Clooney) has a pretty fantastic life as a newspaper columnist living in his den with his wife (Streep), surly teen son Ash (Schwartzman) and visiting nephew Kristofferson (Anderson). After Fox convinces his wife to move aboveground to a tree, he becomes tempted to go back to his bird-stealing ways.

And with his possum pal Kylie (Wolodarsky), he goes on a spree that enrages the local farmers, led by the furious Bean (Gambon), who vows revenge. But this puts the entire local animal population in danger.

Continue reading: Fantastic Mr Fox Review

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince Review


Very Good
Darker and a whole lot drearier, this sixth Harry Potter adventure centres on a slow-developing mystery, and the filmmakers clearly struggle to give it much pace. It's well-made and watchable, but feels like an intake of breath before the frantic finale.

After the horrific conclusion of their fifth year at Hogwarts, Harry (Radcliffe) has a solitary summer before being drafted by headmaster Dumbledore (Gambon) into the ongoing war between the wizarding forces of light and darkness. And as year six starts, Dumbledore assigns Harry to get some important information from new potions professor Slughorn (Broadbent) about the Dark Lord's background. He of course does this with the help of pals Ron and Hermione (Grint and Watson), who with Harry are also caught up in conflict more typical for 17-year-olds: raging hormones.

Continue reading: Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince Review

Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Ziegfeld Theatre Thursday 9th July 2009 New York Premiere of 'Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince' at the Ziegfeld Theatre New York City, USA

Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Ziegfeld Theatre
Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Ziegfeld Theatre
Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Ziegfeld Theatre

Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Empire Leicester Square Tuesday 7th July 2009 World Premiere of Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince at the Empire Leicester Square cinema - arrivals London, England

Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Empire Leicester Square
Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Empire Leicester Square
Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Empire Leicester Square
Michael Gambon, Harry Potter and Empire Leicester Square

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Trailer & Featurette


Watch the trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Michael Gambon Monday 6th July 2009 smoking a cigarette outside Claridge's London, England

Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon
Michael Gambon

Brideshead Revisited Review


Excellent
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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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Trailer


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Trailer

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The Good Shepherd Review


Excellent
Starting in the hot mess of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, reaching back to the 1930s and then hopscotching back and forth between those dates whenever the mood strikes it, the pleasingly complex espionage epic The Good Shepherd tries to tell the story of the birth, rise, and (in a sense) death of the Central Intelligence Agency through the fictional composite character Edward Wilson (Matt Damon). It's a monumental piece of history to bite off, but Eric Roth's ambitious, multilayered script certainly makes a good attempt at digesting it for us.

While the CIA's roots in the WWII-era OSS (Office of Strategic Services) are well established, very few films have rooted the American spy service as firmly as this one does in its starched, prim and proper WASP world. Wilson, played by Damon as a tight-lipped, practically invisible cipher, comes from one of that world's better families, and so is a shoo-in for Yale's secret Skull & Bones society once he does a little snooping for the FBI on his pro-Nazi poetry professor (Michael Gambon). Smart and stoic, Wilson shoots up the OSS ranks and soon is masterminding the CIA's global subterfuge against the Soviets.

Continue reading: The Good Shepherd Review

The Omen (2006) Review


Very Good
My favorite character in John Moore's remake of The Omen is the Pope. I am not entirely sure which Pope it is, and it is more of a cameo role really, but every time the pontiff graced the screen, I knew why I liked this film so much. He first features in a brief conference scene. His cardinals (I presume) are concerned that a recent meteor shower is the final sign of the birth of the Anti-Christ, as predicted by the book of Revelations. These concerns are presented to the Pope in a multimedia display, with numerous screens airing a student film depicting scenes from the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia to September 11. In his second appearance, after hearing some disturbing news, the Pope drops his glass of red on the floor, while still in bed. I have never been to Vatican City, but I doubt this is how things go down. Yet, the film's disconnectedness from the laws of reality, personified here by its treatment of the leader of the Catholic Church, got me. Richard Donner's original Omen was a pig in a cocktail dress, a silly story treated with undeserving earnestness. Here, John Moore tells it like it should be told.Turns out the cardinals were on to something and the Anti-Christ is born. The unfortunate Anti-Joseph and Anti-Mary are Robert and Katherine Thorn (Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles), the deputy to the U.S. ambassador to Italy and his young wife. When Katherine gives birth to a boy who dies just outside the hospital room, Robert accepts the offer of a priest at the hospital, taking in the child's place a baby boy whose mother died during labor and letting Katherine believe it is theirs. They name him Damien (cue choirs). After a bizarre explosion (so massive in scale it proves the devil doesn't pay for petrol) in which the U.S. ambassador dies, Robert takes the position and a promotion to the U.K. The family lives in British manor house bliss until, at a very public birthday for Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), his nanny hangs herself, shrieking, "It's all for you!" From that moment forward the dangers of raising the Anti-Christ begin to become obvious. The black dogs begin to bark, monkeys screech, priests prophesize and a very un-Doubtfire-like nanny, Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow), shows up to keep an eye on things.Moore doesn't stray widely from the path of the original's narrative and most changes made are welcome. I liked seeing a bit of determination in Damien's face. I liked that Katherine was young and seemed to be suffering post-partum depression. A lot of the dialogue is admittedly laughable, and Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon as over-caffeinated priests add to a sense of the ludicrous. However, this only compounds its The Omen's minor brilliance. Everything is overdone: Damien sleeps on red silk sheets; people at the party start running and knocking over tables when the nanny kills herself; an interview with an old crippled man is conducted outside in the snow. The horror scenes are equally flamboyant; Marco Beltrami's score may lack the original's Latinized theme, but it kicks in to stunning and loud effect practically every time the lights go out.Schreiber is good as the politician and after a shaky start Stiles communicates her anguish very well. But it is Farrow (next to the Pope, of course) who steals the show. Her Mary Poppins performance oozes subtle menace in every sweet grin and glittery eye. When she unleashes eventually, it provides for the film's most exciting sequence - if you have dreamed for the day Rosemary would take on the Manchurian Candidate, dream no more. Though some critics might begrudge the film its directness, its loudness, perhaps its lack of class or cinematic restraint, I reveled in it. The story of Damien has always seemed a little stupid to me, and here Moore has matched the story with its telling. The result is fun, in a scary/jokey kind of way. I am not sure if John Moore is in on the joke he's telling in his remake of The Omen, but he tells it very well.If only she could do one pull-up.

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire Review


Excellent

For the uninitiated, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was the book where author J.K. Rowling finally went off her rocker, turning out a 734-page monster of a book (vs. 309 pages for #1) that made everyone wonder if any child could possibly have that kind of attention span.

Turns out they did: Book four is also where Rowling went from Big Hit to Mega Worldwide Sensation, and the Harry Potter series became a cultural touchstone. (This is also about the time that ultra-right wing groups started denouncing the series as demonic.)

And so, everything that is past is prologue: The first three films now feel like nothing more than window dressing for this one, a rich movie with expert plotting, clever humor, and a sophistication lacking in the earlier pictures. At the same time, it's fine for (older) kids, who'll root for Harry and Co. through his many scrapes in this edition.

Goblet of Fire finds Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) back for his fourth year at Hogwarts Academy. Things are getting heavier for the lad: He's having vivid dreams about Lord Voldemort being revived in the flesh. On top of that, the school is hosting the legendary Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which three aspiring magicians will compete to win a fancy blue cup (plus bragging rights), which brings two foreign schools -- one a collection of brutish Russian guys, another a group of breathless French fairy queens -- into Hogwarts for the term. While the tournament is meant for older kids, naturally the undersized Potter will find his way into the mix. On top of that, Harry's got some raging hormones, which has him swooning for fellow student Cho (Katie Leung), while Ron (Rupert Grint) tries in vain to suppress his budding love for Hermione (Emma Watson). This comes to a head of sorts during a formal dance, one of the film's most memorable scenes. And all the while, Voldemort inches closer to Harry.

Overall, the story is obviously and dramatically pared down from the book. Even I, a non-reader, could tell that there were huge gaps in the plot. Strangely, it doesn't really matter. All but the bare essentials have been stripped away, and even though it tops 2 1/2 hours, Goblet is a lean, mean, storytelling machine. There's rarely a dull moment (a stark contrast to some of the overblown earlier installments in the series), and it's amazingly easy to follow the serpentine plot. Partly this is because we've had three movies to get up to speed on the myriad characters of Potter, and even though Goblet introduces a good number of new faces, keeping track of them is a snap. The downside of this is that, aside from a little romance for the main three characters, there's not much time to develop our heroes further. But really, it isn't needed. They're fleshy enough as it is, and the film does give them a bit more structure to set up #5.

Speculation has been rampant about how director Mike Newell -- of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame -- would work out as the helmer of an action-oriented kid flick. Turns out, he's better than those who came before him. Not only does Newell have a good handle over the film's action showpieces, he knows how to deal with awkward romances and growing pains of the teen years. Maybe it's because he's the first British director to try his hand at this very British series?

Speaking of the action: The special effects in this installment are hands-down better than ever. There's probably not a single scene in Goblet of Fire that isn't manipulated with CGI in some way -- but you'll never notice. The effects are so good and so seamless that you seriously can't tell the difference (reality-wise) between Radcliffe and the giant, fire-breathing dragon staring him down.

And speaking of dragons: The film is scary, more so than the other three. As a case in point, the woman sitting in front of me, with two kids aged about six to eight, had to leave the theater after the first two minutes because the little ones were so frightened.

Altogether the film is just about right for what a Harry Potter movie ought to be. The story is consistently interesting but not too confusing, the dialogue is spot-on, and the film blends action and quiet moments perfectly. (Frankly, the film should win an Oscar for editing.)

But overall Goblet of Fire has succeeded in doing one big thing that the first three movies completely failed at: For the first time, I'm actually looking forward to the next in the series.

A little magic ought to fix that arm right up, no?

The Browning Version (1994) Review


Excellent
Smitten with the original Browning Version, and rightly so, Mike Figgis remade the lovely little film in 1994. It's quite a faithful remake, updating it to the present day but leaving virtually all of the story and much of the dialogue intact. In many ways it's unneccesary as a remake -- the original still stands up well -- though Albert Finney is perfectly cast in the role of a hated prep school teacher on his last day on the job... and how that might change, however slightly, before the day is out. Watch both versions together if you can to catch the little nuances that Figgis tweaks and fiddles with, though for God's sake watch a comedy after the double feature is over.

Being Julia Review


Very Good
When you have a performance as fresh and audacious as this one from a movie star who doesn't average a film a year, it makes you wonder why we see so little of her. But here she is, Annette Bening (Open Range, The Grifters), wowing us with her patented delicious verve in the form of stage naughtiness -- a portrayal that should go on more than one Best Actress list for the year 2004.

As the great Julia Lambert, the toast of the London stage in the early '30s, she's struck by a premonition of fading vitality at the grand age of forty. Worries of it bring her close to a breakdown as she begins to desperately search for other stimuli to give her life meaning. She carries on a dialogue with her muse, Jimmy Langton (Michael Gambon), her dead drama coach that she summons up as an imagined presence to tell her when she's going well or going astray.

Continue reading: Being Julia Review

Charlotte Gray Review


Very Good
Ever go to a movie solely for the stars? It may not be anything particularly inventive, but watching some of your favorites onscreen can be worth the price of admission. Charlotte Gray, unfortunately following in the plotline footsteps of this year's Divided We Fall, holds this kind of talent appeal through stars Cate Blanchett and Billy Crudup.

Charlotte Gray (Blanchett), a Londoner, joins the French Resistance after her pilot boyfriend gets shot down over France. When a fellow female spy is caught on her first drop-off assignment, Charlotte stays with local rebellion leader Julien (Crudup) and takes care of two Jewish boys whose parents have been captured. Meanwhile, she continues to meet with her contact to find ambush points for Julien.

Continue reading: Charlotte Gray Review

Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow Review


Extraordinary
Good science fiction is so hard to come by. Usually reserved for big Memorial Day and Independence Day releases, what are the odds that a film snuck into the middle of September is going to be a great one? Pretty good, as it turns out: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow isn't just the best sci-fi flick since Minority Report, it's also one of the best films of the year, making wannabe event movies like Spider-Man 2 look like chump change.

Drawing from pulp, noir, and classic comics for his inspiration, director Kerry Conran - in his film debut - creates an entire new universe for us to soak up, based right here on earth. Ostensibly set in an alternate version of the late 1930s/early 1940s (and notably pre-WWII), the film is filled with the technological promises of many a World's Fair. Planes can turn into submarines. Entire cities can float in the sky. Robots 100 feet tall can parade through the streets. And everyone wears a hat. (As an aside, Conran really wants to disorient you with the setting; look closely at the newspaper in the beginning and you'll see it's clearly dated sometime in the 2000s.)

Continue reading: Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow Review

The Last September Review


Weak
I really wanted to like The Last September. Sunday afternoon, really in the mood for a period piece, I sat down with the promising flick... and got a tired old romantic triangle flick set in 1920s Ireland that plodded along with little regard for the audience. The setting here is elusive: The title refers obliquely to Ireland's last September before its revolution, but the backdrop of war barely registers above the genteel performances and sleepy script.

Open Range Review


Weak
During a summer in which TV remakes, romantic comedies, sequels, and comic book movies overcrowd at the multiplexes, Open Range is the only Western scheduled for release. While I give kudos to Dances with Wolves auteur Kevin Costner -- who directs, produces, and acts in the film -- for broadening the range of this season's genres, I only wish that I could welcome the film's drastic change of pace. Frankly, I'd rather watch another stupid superhero flick.

It's 1882, and best friends Charley (Costner) and Boss (Robert Duvall) are cowboys who have lived on the open range for ten years, driving cattle in a world where nature makes the only laws. Roaming the West with them are rambunctious young cowboys Button (Diego Luna), Mose (Abraham Benrubi), and Charley's faithful dog. When a rainstorm strands their wagon, Charley and Boss send Mose to the nearest frontier town to gather additional supplies. When he doesn't return, they decide to take a visit to the town -- with their revolvers at hand -- to search for him.

Continue reading: Open Range Review

Two Deaths Review


OK
Think of it as My Dinner Party with Andre. Two Deaths actually wants to be a perverse take on Death and the Maiden, telling a story of obsession and twisted perversion set against the backdrop of the Romanian revolution. Occasionally fascinating but often cryptic beyond comprehension, the metaphors run thick in the movie to the point of incomprehensibility. Michael Gambon's antihero is something to shudder at, and the moments of brilliance in the film make it easily worth a peek if you have the time and patience.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Review


Very Good
In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, one sees other actors besides Bill Murray - quite a lot of them, actually - but there are really no other performances to speak of. This is his movie, and everyone else, no matter how large a role they have, is really just a walk-on. Now, to your average filmgoer, this sounds like a fine thing, after all, one doesn't often say, "I would have liked that movie more if there'd been less Bill Murray." (Except Garfield.) Oddly enough, this film-long tribute to Murray, with a script lovingly crafted for his deadpan delivery by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and Noah Baumbach (filmcritic.com favorite Kicking And Screaming), is replete with stabs of comedic genius but never quite takes off.

Murray ambles through his performance as oceanographer Steve Zissou, whose longtime partner was just eaten by a rare species of shark ("which may or may not exist") and is determined to set off on an expedition to find the shark and kill it. When asked what scientific purpose this would satisfy, Zissou gives an almost imperceptible shrug and says, "revenge." Much in the same way that Luke Wilson's Richie in The Royal Tenenbaums had long outlived his brief fame as tennis pro by the time the film started, in Life Aquatic, Zissou's best days are already behind him, and the film is littered with the detritus of his past glory, many of them '70s-style nostalgia items like a special edition tennis shoe or a pinball machine featuring his bearded visage. The funding for Zissou's increasingly poorly-received films is drying up, it looks like his wife is about to leave him, and there's a reporter nosing around asking painful questions. So Zissou's expedition - a half-assed, barely-planned affair - is much less a research trip than a has-been's last hurrah, a perpetually stoned Ahab hunting his white whale (or jaguar shark, in this case).

Continue reading: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Review

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover Review


Excellent
Helen Mirren's had enough of boorish husband/restaurateur Michael Gambon in this creepy and foul yet eminently watchable melodrama -- in fact, it remains Peter Greenaway's one and only great film. To be honest, it's his only good film at all, a shock considering its no more grotesque than some of his other work. The film's simple story has Mirren having an affair with a regular (Alan Howard) at hubby's restaurant -- at least until he catches wind of it (which is inevitable, since they never leave the restaurant to do the deed). I won't spoil what happens after that point, but the getting there (in which Greenaway concocts a color- and symbolism-feuled fantasy where costumes change as actors walk between rooms) is just as much fun.

Gosford Park Review


Good
If Robert Altman had been given The Remains of the Day, the end product might have looked something like this.

Gosford Park is the name of an English country estate, where, in 1932, a gaggle of royals and wannabes -- including a horde of locals plus a popular British actor and a Charlie Chan-obsessed Hollywood movie producer -- gather to attend a weekend hunting party. Upstairs, it's the usual hoity-toity, drawing room chitter-chatter, while downstairs an army of servants does little but gossip about the visitors above.

Continue reading: Gosford Park Review

Dancing At Lughnasa Review


Weak
Meryl Streep has made some dull movies in her life, but -- whew! -- none so limp as this. In Dancing at Lughnasa, five downtrodden sisters in 1930s Ireland cope with the arrival of a dying/crazy brother as well as the father of one of thier sons. They may be sad sacks, but play a little ditty and these girls get up off their feet and hit the dance floor -- er, the dance dirt, seeing as there's not much floor to hit. Confused, random, and awfully self-important, this film should never have been made.

A Man Of No Importance Review


Very Good
Long-awaited and highly-acclaimed, A Man of No Importance has crawled into town for a limited run. In the film, Albert Finney plays Alfie Byrne, a 1960 Dublin bus director who is obsessed with Oscar Wilde and directs an annual staging of one of his plays with a cast composed of his bus's passengers.

As if that weren't enough, Alfie, stricken by "the love that dare not speak its name," is constantly at war with his emotions and his sexuality, and he is painfully infatuated with the bus's driver, Robbie (Rufus Sewell). As the annual play draws near, a new rider, Adele (well-played by Tara Fitzgerald) shows up, and Alfie decides to cast her as the virginal lead in Wilde's controversial Salome.

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The Gambler (1997) Review


Bad
The Gambler isn't quite based on Doestoeyevsky's novel of the same name. Rather, it's based on the events surrounding the writing of the novel, intercut with scenes ripped from the book.

The result is two films slapped together. Neither of them are very good on their own, and combined they make little to no sense at all, since the stories bear no resemblance to one another at all.

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High Heels And Low Lifes Review


OK
If you're at all intrigued by the idea of High Heels and Low Lifes, I recommend seeing it as soon as possible, because this little movie will be gone from theaters in two weeks -- at most -- and that means you'll have to wait at least 90 days before it hits video.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Two crazy girls overhear a crime going down, then decide to turn the tables on the criminals by extorting some cash for themselves. Hilarity ensues! Oh, you have heard it... well this time it's different -- you see, one girl is British and one is American.

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Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban Review


OK

Well folks, it's another year at Hogwarts Academy (two years in real life), and our rapidly maturing stars are back for another round of magical high jinks and mass merchandising in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry's been absent since the fall of 2002, and even casual viewers will notice that a lot has changed over the last two years. Director Chris Columbus (who did the first two films) is out, replaced with the controversial Alfonso Cuarón, who last hit the scene with the teen sex romp Y Tu Mamá También.

You'll notice Cuarón's touch right away. He likes to pick up the camera and get right in his actor's faces, moving all the while, a stark contrast to Columbus's traditionalism. Gone as well are the rich Technicolor tones of the Columbus movies; Cuarón prefers washed-out, yellowish shading that connotes decay and decrepitude. This is old-school wizardry, not kids stuff. In one fell swoop, Cuarón has reinvented the movies into an arthouse series that's as un-kid friendly as it gets.

How you feel about all of that depends on whether you're old enough to vote. I can't speak for the kids, but I heard more than one crying jag erupt during Azkaban's 150-minute running time. Will young kids relate to this iteration of Potter? Here's the story, you be the judge:

Once again, Harry's living with his cruel aunt and uncle, anxious to return to school. That happens soon enough, and quickly he discovers he's the target of the titular Prisoner of Azkaban, a wizard named Sirius Black who was convicted for killing dozens of people, most notably Harry's parents. Now he's escaped and is making his way toward Hogwarts, ready to snuff young Potter. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), now a troubled 13-year-old, doesn't seem overly fazed at first. He's up to his usual school antics; taking classes, sneaking out to go to town, dodging Draco. It isn't until Black arrives on the scene for real (well past the midpoint of the movie) that any of this starts to gel into a plot.

And I use that term loosely. I think of myself as an astute follower of stories, but Azkaban can be baffling if you haven't read the book or don't have someone nearby to explain who's who. For those going into this blind, there are soul-sucking dementors (not especially terrifying here), shapeshifting wizards, old friends reunited, and a time travel subplot all coming together into one of the least satisfying dénouements in fantasy movie history. While it's riddled with plot holes (which I won't reveal since they'd spoil the ending), there's no doubt Harry's going to come out of it okay: The last half hour of the movie is rehashed from another angle as we run through the time travel bit, reliving the scenes from another angle.

Azkaban the novel gets mixed reviews from Potter maniacs -- some say it's their favorite book; others say it's the worst. However, if my research is correct, it is the worst-selling of the five books to date, and it will probably go down in history as the worst of the movies, too. (But I've been wrong before, of course.) In any case, by all accounts, the books really get good starting at #4 (due out in movie form next year), while Azkaban is a slim volume where comparably little happens. Ultimately Harry is in virtually no peril compared to that in the first two stories and those that follow. Heck, Voldemort doesn't even show up in this round.

The other notable problem is how radically older the cast has gotten since 2002's Chamber of Secrets. Radcliffe is valiantly fighting off puberty, but Emma Watson (Hermione) is looking her age; she's tarted up in jeans and a rainbow belt for most of the film, and sports a more stylish haircut to boot. Now 15, Rupert Grint (Ron) looks like he ought to be starring in the next American Pie movie as a wacky foreign exchange student. And Tom Felton, who plays Draco, is now 17 years old and ought to be playing rugby in college. He probably is. I couldn't believe it was the same actor.

Speaking of actors, Richard Harris is sorely missed as Dumbledore. I love Michael Gambon, but he doesn't do the kindly old wizard too well. He's got a Robert Mitchum-esque undercoating of villainy that he just can't shake. David Thewlis and Gary Oldman are fine as the new blood, but it's Emma Thompson that steals the show as a doddering divination professor.

The rest of the series remains intact. Twittering ghosts and pictures are as we remember them (Dawn French steals a scene as a portrait of a vain fat lady), the Quidditch match is an abbreviated bust, and Snape (Alan Rickman) is as menacing as ever. But nothing much happens - certainly nothing to enhance any of the characters aside from the tenuous hand-holding of Ron and Hermione - and Azkaban generates very little energy along the way.

I have high hopes that Mike Newell will reinvigorate the series with next year's Goblet of Fire (how it will clock in at less than 8 hours I have no idea), but I can't recommend Azkaban for anyone but die-hard Potter heads.

The DVD is just the thing for those Potterphiles, including two discs of extras, such as bonus footage, cast interviews, and games for the kids.

Wand by Hogwarts. Jeans by Guess.

Layer Cake Review


Good
A stylish, dynamic thicket of thorny underworld twistsand deceptions, "Layer Cake" stars Daniel Craig ("Roadto Perdition," "EnduringLove") in a charismatically dodgy performanceas "a businessman whose commodity happens to be cocaine."

Beginning with a voice-over that provides cheeky insightinto the savvy it takes to stay ahead in Britain's organized-crime drugtrade, he sets the stage for a story full of unexpected sharp edges thatmake it increasingly unlikely his character will ever reach his statedgoal of early retirement.

"You know why people like you can't leave this business?You make too much money for people like me," says Craig's boss (KennethCranham), an uncouth kingpin who puts on country-club airs as he intimidatesour anonymous hero (whose name is never mentioned) into a job way out ofhis depth -- hunting down an associate's sexy, strung-out missing daughter.

But the girl is barely a jumping-off point for the stimulatinglybyzantine plot of "Layer Cake," in which one stupid mistake byan irresponsibly flashy small-time associate who calls himself "TheDuke" (Jamie Foreman) begins a domino effect of revelations, double-crosses,paybacks and bursts of violence -- all of which come tumbling down on Craig'shead.

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Gosford Park Review


Very Good

You may need a program to keep track of the two dozen-plus characters in Robert Altman's soap opera, murder mystery, chamber comedy-of-manners "Gosford Park."

Carpeted with dry wit and filled to the rafters with salacious secrets and unspoken animosity, the film takes place at an English country estate in 1932 and unfolds from two points of view -- above stairs, where a multitude of aristocrats size each other up in subtle sociological war games, and below stairs, where their gossipy maids and valets fall into a strict pecking order based upon whom they serve.

The estate is the home of the aloof upper-crusters Sir William and Lady Sylvia McCordle (Michael Gambon and Kristin Scott Thomas) and it's gathering place for their many coattail-riding relatives, including Aunt Constance (the wonderful, quizzically austere Maggie Smith) who habitually puts on airs as if she's not living off an allowance from the McCordles.

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Sleepy Hollow Review


OK

Who better to revamp Washington Irving's classic spook tale of the Headless Horseman than Tim Burton, the modern maestro of movie macabre?

A little tweaking here (a conspiracy plot), a little re-writing there (Ichabod Crane is now a nervous police detective instead of a nervous school teacher) and -- ta-da! -- it's "Sleepy Hollow," a sumptuously stylized, oddly traditional, darkly comical, and unmistakably Burton-esque take on this uniquely American fairy tale.

Taking place in 1799, this inventive reinterpretation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" -- written by "Fight Club" scripter Andrew Kevin Walker and polished by "Shakespeare In Love" scribe Tom Stoppard -- features Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane, an ungainly, outcast, New York City constable come to the upstate hamlet of Sleepy Hollow to investigate a spate of beheadings that local legend has pinned on the noggin-less ghost of mad a Revolutionary War mercenary.

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Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow Review


Good

An imaginative spectacular of retro-futuristic adventure and mind-boggling special effects, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" so perfectly captures the silly sci-fi wonder of the 1930s serials which inspired it that watching this matinee marvel doesn't arouse a modern reaction of "wow!" or "cool!" -- it garners a genuine, awe-struck "golly!"

The film is cinematically breathtaking, with sepia-toned semi-color photography, swooping Orson-Wellesian dutch angles, top-secret floating air fortresses and pre-War propellered fighter planes battling giant robots in the skyscraper canyons of Depression-era Manhattan. But what's all the more amazing is that, except for the actors and a few props, nothing on the screen -- not the city sidewalks, not the interiors of cars the actors drive, not even the carpets in the lush, film-noir-shaded interior sets -- is real.

Beginning in college, first-time writer-director Kerry Conran spent 10 years on his Macintosh computer creating a six-minute sample of the opening sequence, in which a dirigible docks with the top of the Empire State building just as the riveted-steel six-story robots attack. When Hollywood producer Jon Avnet saw this clip, he raised $70 million and gave Conran free rein to hire himself a titular hero, played by a swashbuckling Jude Law, to come to the rescue and complete the director's groundbreaking dream -- a live-action movie set in an entirely CGI world.

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Sylvia Review


Weak

An appropriately moody, gray and madly passionate ode to misery-embracing, famously suicidal author and poetess Sylvia Plath, the biographical "Sylvia" nonetheless paints a very incomplete picture of its subject's life. In fact, it doesn't have much to offer anyone who isn't already well versed in Plath lore.

With only a few scattered, out-of-context quotes from her works (the film went ahead despite disapproval and refusals from the Plath estate), the film provides little sense of her emotionally blistering talent, instead relying on the appraisals of peers. "The wealth of imagery," one friend exalts. "Such horrors but expressed with such coolness."

With its awkward sense of time passage, the storytelling sometimes feels like Cliffs Notes. In one comprehensive segment Plath (Gwyneth Paltrow) and husband Ted Hughes (Daniel Craig) move from England to Boston (where Plath's mom is played by Paltrow's mom, Blythe Danner), then live on the coast for a summer, become frustrated by writer's block, move back to England, become college lecturers, begin struggling with marital problems, and have a baby -- all in 1960. Then suddenly it's two or three years later and she's launching a book of poems ("The Colossus") without even a mention of her revitalized inspiration or a shot of her actually writing.

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Open Range Review


Good

I know what you're thinking because I thought it too: Does the world really need another Kevin Costner epic Western? But while I don't pretend to go into movies without any preconceived notions, I'm always willing to be pleasantly surprised (read: wrong), and "Open Range" is more than just good -- it's a proud, powerfully acted paradigm of cinema Americana.

From its gorgeous photography of the wide-open prairie -- across which actor-director Costner and Robert Duvall drive cattle as some of the last "freegrazers" of the cowboy era -- to their brutal, wide-ranging, Peckinpah-worthy climactic shootout in a dusty town run by an iron-fisted rancher (Michael Gambon), this is some of Costner's best work in front of or behind the camera.

More like "Unforgiven" than "Dances With Wolves" (and thankfully nothing at all like "The Postman," which was something of a futuristic Western), "Open Range" takes its time (an authentic Western shouldn't have a modern Hollywood pace) telling an unpretentious story of rugged but peaceful men surrendering to the enticement of revenge after the rancher's henchmen attack the freegrazers' camp, killing one of their young apprentices and leaving another at death's door because "No freegrazer's gonna take the food out my cattle's mouths!"

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Charlotte Gray Review


Weak

Director Gillian Armstrong has a talent for visual imagery, and she makes a powerful impression with the opening shot of "Charlotte Gray" -- a field full of bright purple flowers, blurring past the window of a train car. All by itself this image evokes an emotional reaction that primes the senses for what should be a powerful melodrama about war and love.

But the story that follows -- about a Scottish woman who becomes a World War II espionage courier in the hopes of finding a pilot boyfriend shot down over France -- is so prosaic and tainted with narrative missteps that it feels black-and-white compared to that almost magical title sequence.

The always-captivating Cate Blanchett stars in the title role, reuniting with Armstrong, who directed her breakthrough performance in the vibrant, unconventional period romantic tragedy "Oscar and Lucinda" in 1997. But lightning doesn't strike twice, and for the first time in her career Blanchett's potency seems watered down in a role that goes through the paces of being intense and passionate without actually inspiring any feelings.

Continue reading: Charlotte Gray Review

High Heels & Low Lifes Review


Weak

I have two things I need to get off my chest right off the bat about "High Heels and Low Lifes." The first is, I'm dumbfounded that nobody at Hollywood Pictures was bright enough to catch and correct the grammatically erroneous title. Call it a pet peeve, but "Lowlifes" is one word, for cryin' out loud.

The second is, despite the fact that I'm about to rip into this picture for its non-stop, intelligence-insulting assault of idiotic clichés, plot holes, predictability and common sense chasms, "High Heels" has such an infectious, lively spirit that I wish it could have been better.

Minnie Driver and Mary McCormack play ditzy post-feminist pals living in London, who inadvertently overhear the coordination of a overnight bank heist on surveillance equipment belonging to Driver's lousy live-in boyfriend. (He's a wannabe avant-garde artist working on an "urban noise symphony" that includes snippets of intercepted cell phone calls.)

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The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou Review


Good

Steve Zissou is a washed-up Jacques Cousteau type suffering from an Ahab complex and middle-age ennui. His long-time first mate has just been eaten by the mysterious (and fictional) jaguar shark, and although his undersea documentaries haven't turned a profit in years, he's setting sail on one last low-budget oceanography adventure to make one last, rather out-of-character nature film -- about hunting down that shark if it's the last thing he does.

Another eccentric, buoyantly melancholy ensemble piece from wonderfully weird writer-director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums"), "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" is thick with the curious comedy of crew conflicts, researcher rivalries, laid-back shootouts with kidnapper pirates, and an outlandish underwater world teeming with colorfully imaginary stop-motion creatures created by Henry Selick ("The Nightmare Before Christmas").

But the movie's driving force is Anderson's signature sense of humor. The underlying (and unspoken) joke of this oddball farce is that it is transparently fake. Besides inventing an ocean full of fantastical life, the film is full of mischievous impossibilities, nonsense science, and cinematography designed to make it amusingly clear that the scenes onboard Zissou's run-down, retrofitted, World-War-II surplus sub-hunter ship are shot on a cut-away soundstage set.

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Michael Gambon Movies

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

Victoria And Abdul Trailer

Victoria And Abdul Trailer

Queen Victoria was one of the United Kingdom's most loved monarchs. She ruled over her...

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Trailer

Kingsman: The Golden Circle Trailer

For those who knew him, Gary Unwin (better known as Eggsy to his friends), was...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

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Viceroy's House Trailer

Viceroy's House Trailer

'Viceroy's House' follows the life of the last Viceroy of India who was the figurehead...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Dad's Army Trailer

Dad's Army Trailer

Everybody's favourite British regiment is back in the new version of Dad's Army. Director Oliver...

Dad's Army Trailer

Dad's Army Trailer

And they're back! The hilarious band of men that put their lives on the line...

Paddington Movie Review

Paddington Movie Review

It's difficult not to go into a movie like this with a sense of dread,...

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Quartet Movie Review

Quartet Movie Review

For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Movie Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Movie Review

The eight-part saga comes to a close with an action-packed finale that neatly ties up...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Trailer

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 Trailer

Harry Potter and his friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, continue their search for Voldemort's...

The King's Speech Movie Review

The King's Speech Movie Review

Momentous historical events add a remarkable kick to this fascinating personal drama, which is based...

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Trailer

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Trailer

The final instalment of the Harry Potter series is almost upon us! Harry Potter and...

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