Essentially a sequel to the 1997 hit Mrs Brown, this film returns Judi Dench to play Queen Victoria in another relationship that shook up the royal household. It's such a perfect role for Dench that it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing her, and this film traces Victoria's final 15 years with plenty of lively humour and some pointed drama. The story is a bit thin, and some elements are difficult to believe, but it's thoroughly engaging.
The story opens in 1887, as Abdul (Ali Fazal) is selected to travel from India to London with Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) to present Queen Victoria (Dench) with special honour. In London, Abdul and Mohammed are called "the Hindus" even though they're Muslims, and told to stay out of sight with the servants. But Abdul catches the Queen's eye, and she brings him into her household as a personal tutor in Urdu and Islam. Her staff (headed by Tim Pigott-Smith) doesn't like this at all, and conspires with both the heir to the throne (Eddie Izzard) and the prime minister (Michael Gambon) to undermine Abdul's influence. But Victoria isn't having any of it, demanding that they respect him.
This is a story that was hidden for more than a century, because after Victoria's death all references to Abdul were erased from the official history. It was only the discovery of Abdul's journals that revealed the truth, and screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) has clearly taken some artistic licence as he crafted the facts into an entertaining narrative that's packed with hilarious touches. Meanwhile, Stephen Frears (The Queen) directs in jaunty Downton Abbey style, never quite taking anything seriously.
Continue reading: Victoria & Abdul Review
Queen Victoria was one of the United Kingdom's most loved monarchs. She ruled over her country with dignity and grace though she wasn't a lady to be toyed with. After the death of her beloved husband, Albert, the queen found herself mourning her loss for the rest of her life - famously she wore black for her remaining years. She took solace in her children and continued to be a fine ruler of the country.
After the loss of Albert, few people penetrated the queen's frosty persona, most famously she developed a great friendship with a Scottish servant called John Brown and they remained good friends - some even say lovers - until his death. Once again alone, the queen was only to develop one other significant friendship outside of her close circle.
As the queen was celebrating her Golden Jubilee, she found herself surrounded by kings and queens from around the world but the one person that she genuinely struck up a friendship with was a Muslim waiter called Abul. Though it was entirely frowned upon for the royals to associate with lowly servants, Victoria was never one to follow those rules.
Continue: Victoria And Abdul Trailer
Truly enjoyable British romantic-comedies come along so rarely (Four Weddings and a Funeral was more than 20 years ago) that there's cause to celebrate this smart, likeable romp. Director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris never try to obscure the predictable plot, but they pack every scene with sharp characters, snappy dialogue and riotous set-pieces. As a result, we're laughing so much that we barely notice that we're also being reeled in emotionally.
The story centres on Nancy (Lake Bell), who is feeling particularly alone while travelling to London and a 40th anniversary party for her parents (Ken Stott and Harriet Walter). Whinging to her sister (Sharon Horgan) on the phone, she is challenged to be more spontaneous. So when she arrives at Waterloo Station and meets Jack (Simon Pegg), who mistakes her for his blind date, she decides to go along with it, assuming the identity of 24-year-old triathlete Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond). As the afternoon and evening roll out, Nancy and Jack get along surprisingly well until they run into both his bitter ex (Olivia Williams) and one of her old school friends (Kinnear), who sees this as his chance to win her over.
While there are plenty of farcical moments on this drunken night out, the filmmakers never play up the slapstick, acknowledging every over-the-top moment with an eye-roll and a pithy comment. Pegg and Bell are simply perfect for these roles: smart, witty, likeable people with questionable social skills. Both characters are a bit beaten down, but they're also open to what life throws at them, so the rather messy journey they take is thoroughly engaging. They also leave much of the crazier comedy to expert supporting players like Williams and especially Kinnear, whose character very nearly steals the movie with his goofy stalker-like antics.
Continue reading: Man Up Review
A simple train journey can have incredibly far-reaching consequences. When Nancy (Lake Bell) meets Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) on a train, she notices the book she is reading is designed to help with relationship success. Jessica tells her that the book itself is not to be leant, as she is using it to meet up with her blind date. Nancy steals the book, believing that it will work as a serious self-help guide, however she ends up running into Jack (Simon Pegg), who was Jessica's blind date. When Nancy chooses to pose as Jessica, she has the perfect date - only he doesn't know she's lying.
Continue: Man Up Trailer
Rich Cline looks back over 2014 and shares some of the biggest let downs of the year.
Most of these movies feature actors, actresses and filmmakers who really should know better...
10) Dumb And Dumber To - After 20 years we had finally forgotten the resolutely unfunny first movie. And now they're back. Sadly, they haven't learned anything about comedy in the interim. Watch the trailer for Dumb and Dumber To here.
Continue reading: Contactmusic.com's 10 Worst Films Of 2014
As it explores Hollywood's inbred underbelly, this film becomes increasingly deranged and also rather dark and creepy, but it's so fiercely entertaining that it's impossible to look away from the screen. With razor-sharp performances, a brutally witty script by Bruce Wagner and snaky direction from David Cronenberg, the film is perhaps too knowing as it explores a group of fiercely ambitious people who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Things kick off as Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in Los Angeles and is collected by chauffeur Jerome (Robert Pattinson), who is also of course an aspiring screenwriter and actor. Focussed and determined, Agatha visits the ruins of a Hollywood Hills home before using a friendship with Carrie Fisher to get a job as an assistant to acclaimed actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore). Facing middle age, Havana is desperate for a comeback role in a remake of the movie that made her mother a star. Meanwhile, 13-year-old teen pin-up Benjie (Evan Bird) has completed rehab and is ready to act again, encouraged by his manager mother (Olivia Williams) and self-help guru dad (John Cusack), who are unnerved when they hear that Agatha is back in town. Clearly everyone has a secret that can jeopardise their career paths. And they're connected in ways no one wants to acknowledge.
The knotted mess of the plot is carefully unpicked over the course of the film, which only makes everything that much more intense and nasty. While it's blackly funny, the movie's overall tone is extremely grim, as these wealthy stars are crippled by emptiness and desperation. They're also willing to do just about anything to get ahead, from celebrating someone else's misfortune to blatantly lying about their pasts.
Continue reading: Maps To The Stars Review
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an actress struggling with her insecurities and desperate to reprise her late mother Clarice's star role in the remake of the latter's 60s film. Constantly haunted by her mother's image and feeling like a less attractive version of her, she seeks comfort from her psychotherapist Dr Stafford Weiss (John Cusack). Weiss is struggling in his own life, with his wife managing his child star son's comeback acting career after a stint in rehab - and he's only 13-years-old. His other child, daughter Agatha (Mia Wasikowska), has been discharged from a mental hospital unbeknownst to them, and lands a job as a PA for none other than Havana. Stafford starts to become suspicious when Havana talks of her unnamed PA having a scarred face from a fire and warns his wife and son that their daughter may have returned. Meanwhile, Agatha becomes close to a limo driver named Jerome who has his own Hollywood dreams.
Continue: Maps To The Stars Trailer
David Cronenberg's new film could have a strong shot at the Palme D'Or if critics are on the money.
Maps to the Stars has finally received its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and will compete in competition with nearly 20 other films for the top prize. Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson lead the way in the movie, which is a scathing satire of Beverly Hills and certain roach-like denizens.
Robert Pattinson Plays Limo Driver Jerome Fantana In 'Maps To The Stars.'
Moore plays Havana Segrand, a famous but struggling star who is battling for another shot at fame playing the lead in a movie about her legendary movie star mother's life. Wasikowska plays Agatha Weiss, a badly scarred pyromaniac whose brother is a Bieber-esque child star with a similar attitude.
Arnold Schwarzenegger gets one of his most complex roles yet in this messy, violent thriller, another trip to the dark side for filmmaker David Ayer. As in Training Day and End of Watch, Ayer is exploring that moral tipping point where the people charged with protecting society become a danger. But the formula sags badly in this sloppily written script, which relies on grotesque violence instead of a coherent plot.
Schwarzenegger plays Breacher, the head of an elite DEA squad that has just stolen $10m in drug-bust cash. But someone takes it from them, after which the team members start turning up murdered in increasingly vicious ways. So Breacher and his colleagues - hothead Monster (Sam Worthington), prickly Lizzy (Mireille Enos), beefy Grinder (Joe Manganiello), hotshot Next (Josh Holloway) and smoothie Sugar (Terrence Howard) - band together to find the killer. Meanwhile, two local Atlanta cops (Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau) are also on the case, clashing with Breacher at every turn. And shadowy goons hired by a drug cartel are lying in wait.
For about two-thirds of the running time, this is actually an intriguing whodunit, complete with clues and red herrings, suspicions and surprises. There's also a sense of urgency, as we never know who's going to get it next. Although the escalating grisliness is hard to stomach (it even reduces seasoned cops to retching wrecks), as is a hint of unnecessary romance. Then when the truth is revealed, the whole movie collapses into utter nonsense, desperately straining for moral resonance but undermining its own point with gratuitous brutality.
Continue reading: Sabotage Review
John 'Breacher' Wharton is the head of a DEA Special Operations Team, well-known by authorities for their formidable skill at hunting down gang members, confiscating drugs and using firearms. However, despite their crime-stopping work, they don't always play by the rules themselves. After arresting a drug lord and retrieving large stashes of money, meth and cocaine, they reward themselves by stealing some of the confiscated drugs for a party. Unfortunately for them, someone has also decided to make off with $10 million and now their bosses have found out. Breacher, feeling guilty about the drug theft already, is forced to plead his innocence when he is the number one person suspected; although he didn't do it, he knows that he is probably working with the person that did. When two of his agents are killed following the theft, and his wife and child are kidnapped, he becomes fiercely determined to uncover the culprit.
Continue: Sabotage - Clips
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.
Essentially a sequel to the 1997 hit Mrs Brown, this film returns Judi Dench to...
Queen Victoria was one of the United Kingdom's most loved monarchs. She ruled over her...
Truly enjoyable British romantic-comedies come along so rarely (Four Weddings and a Funeral was more...
A simple train journey can have incredibly far-reaching consequences. When Nancy (Lake Bell) meets Jessica...
As it explores Hollywood's inbred underbelly, this film becomes increasingly deranged and also rather dark...
Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an actress struggling with her insecurities and desperate to reprise...
Arnold Schwarzenegger gets one of his most complex roles yet in this messy, violent thriller,...
John 'Breacher' Wharton is the head of a DEA Special Operations Team, well-known by authorities...
John 'Breacher' Wharton is the leader of a DEA Special Operations Team who, although happen...
Justin is an average boy with big dreams living in a Kingdom where the Queen...