After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel gets an all-new movie version. Shot in beautiful northern English settings with a lively cast, there's plenty of potential for it to become a classic in its own right. But screenwriter Andrea Gibb has tinkered with the plot, adding in a spy thriller plotline. And director Philippa Lowthorpe fails to muster up the suspense needed to make that work.
It's set in the summer of 1935, as Mrs Walker (Kelly Macdonald) takes her five adventurous children on holiday to the Lake District while her husband is working at sea. Staying with friends (Harry Enfield and Jessica Hynes), the four older children (teens Dane Hughes and Orla Hill and pre-teens Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen and Bobby McCulloch) borrow the sailboat Swallow and head off to make camp on an island in the lake. There they imagine a series of high adventures involving two local girls (Hannah Jayne Thorp and Seren Hawkes), who are playing as pirates in their boat Amazon. They imagine the girls' uncle (Rafe Spall) as the villainous Captain Flint, unaware that he's actually a double agent being chased by a pair of truly villainous Russian spies (Andrew Scott and Dan Skinner).
As the film goes along, this espionage subplot takes over, which might not have been a bad thing if the writer and director had been able to generate some proper thrills. But while these scenes are nicely played by the cast, the action beats have absolutely no tension to them. They feel only partially shot and then frantically edited together, leaving key moments muddled. The more experienced actors manage to inject plenty of humour, emotion and edginess to their scenes (Spall and Scott are particularly good, as always), but the children seem to have been given very little direction, never quite nailing their characters. Although youngsters Malleson-Allen and McCulloch manage to engage the audience with their cute, plucky personalities.
Continue reading: Swallows And Amazons Review
For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison, with whom he made E.T. nearly 35 years ago. Another story of an unlikely friendship, this film is even more wondrous and earnest, and also much more reliant on effects. But it's also hugely involving, with a terrific cast and of course a delightful story with a wry sense of humour.
It's set in a timeless London, where Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) lives in an orphanage. One night she spots a stealthy giant (Mark Rylance) prowling the city streets, so he grabs her and takes her back to Giant Country so she can't reveal his secret existence. As she gets to know him, Sophie discovers that he's an outcast in his own community, half the size of the nine giants (including Jemane Clement and Bill Hader) who live around him and bully him mercilessly because he doesn't eat human beans. This has earned him the nickname Big Friendly Giant, which Sophie shortens to BFG as she accompanies him into a colourful parallel world in his job collecting dreams and nightmares. Then when the bullies' threats grow stronger, Sophie comes up with a plan to get help from the Queen (Penelope Wilton) and her staff (Rebecca Hall and Rafe Spall).
Continue reading: The BFG Review
Sophie and the other girls at Mrs. Clonkers orphanage share a big sleeping dorm and once the lights go out, the girls are expected to go straight to sleep. No talking and most certainly no getting out of bed but little Sophie isn't one for sticking to the rules. Once the rest of the girls are asleep, Sophie is busy reading her books.
When the bespectacled young girl hears strange noise coming from outside her window, she can't help but take a peek out of the pane. A vague shape starts to form in the background, Sophie's unsure what it is but knows it's gigantic. Beginning to get scared, Sophie runs back to her bed and hides under her blankets but it's too late, before Sophie knows what's happening she's snatched from her bed and taken to a far and distant world.
Initially scared for her life, Sophie thinks the giant has taken her to have as his next meal but soon she's introduced to her new home and keeper, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). The BFG doesn't want to hurt Sophie, he wants to protect her. As the pair begin having adventures together, Sophie soon learns that not all giants are as welcoming as The BFG.
Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using humour to outline the 2008 economic collapse from the inside. With characters who are based on real people, the film shows how economists made a fortune from the financial devastation inflicted on millions of families. And the movie cleverly points out that all of this happened (and people are still getting away with it) because the general public can't be bothered to pay attention.
Things were so booming in the first years of this century that it was easy for the media to divert the attention of Americans away from the dark underbelly of the financial world, creating big scandals out of nothing, spurring rampant buying sprees and making stars of non-entities like the Kardashians. Meanwhile in 2005, investment expert Michael Burry (Christian Bale) noticed that America's mortgage market was turning toxic. So he offered to "short" it, betting against this always-stable market by purchasing credit default swaps. The banks thought they would make a fortune from him, carrying on their dangerous practices. But other experts saw Burry's point, including the nerdy genius Mark Baum (Steve Carell), the shark-like Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and a pair of newbies (Finn Wittrock and John Magaro) who tip off their reclusive mentor Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). When the economy imploded, these men became billionaires.
Director-cowriter Adam McKay is better known for silly movies like Anchorman, so he packs this film with raucous cutaways to pop culture references of the period, as well as hilariously absurd explanations of economic issues from, for example, Margot Robbie in a bubble bath or Selena Gomez playing blackjack. This approach actually heightens the horror of what's going on as fraudulent bankers and corrupt government officials conspire to undermine the foundations of the economy. Although the explanations still feel like gibberish to mere mortals, it's at least presented in a way that's entertaining.
Continue reading: The Big Short Review
When Dr. Michael Burry discovered that the housing market in the US relied upon a series of bad loans in 2005, he knew there was profit to be had. He even went as far as moving on from his multi-million dollar Scion Capital LLC hedge fund in a bid to short the market and take advantage of the vulnerable housing deals. But he wasn't the only one with plans to accrue wealth off the back of financial disaster; Steve Eisman was a hedge fund manager who had a lot to say against the greedy banks, as did Cornwall Capital partner Ben Hockett and Deutsche Bank trader Greg Lippmann. These are financial outsiders that are about to show the banks a serious lesson when they use their economic skills to bring them down with a brave move in the credit default swap market.
Continue: The Big Short Trailer
Rafe Spall and Elize du Toit - A variety of stars were snapped as they arrived at the BBC Films 25th Anniversary Reception which was held at BBC Broadcasting House in London, United Kingdom - Wednesday 25th March 2015
With a gentle current of comedy, this relaxed British drama finds some cleverly involving ways of approaching the concept of grief, specifically how various people need to deal with their inner pain in their own ways. It's a strikingly observant film that's also thoroughly engaging thanks to a terrific cast of actors who are given the space to develop their characters in organic ways we can easily identify with.
As a young boy, Nathan (Edward Baker-Close) folds into himself when his father (Martin McCann) is killed in a car crash. His optimistic mother Julie (Sally Hawkins) doesn't quite know how to deal with either his natural mathematical ability or his autistic inability to relate to people, but she does the best she can. And it's when he hits his teen years (now Asa Butterfield) that he begins to open up to his bristly tutor Humphreys (Rafe Spall), who encourages Nathan to travel to Taiwan to train with the British team for the International Mathematical Olympiad. In Taipei, Nathan has even more challenges as he learns to work with both the team coach Richard (Eddie Marsan) and his local study partner Mei (Jo Yang). And as Nathan begins to understand who he is, Julie also discovers that maybe she can cope after all.
Director Morgan Matthews and screenwriter James Graham have a remarkably light touch with the plot, allowing events to unfold naturally while never pushing the sentiment. They also thankfully figure out an inventive way to make a movie packed with mathematical formulae that actually feel meaningful to even the most maths-phobic member of the audience. Impressively, this lets the film get into Nathan's perspective to reveal how he sees the world and interacts with the people around him. And Butterfield plays the role with raw honesty that completely wins us over.
Continue reading: X + Y Review
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
Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is different. He has an amazing way with numbers - something which will one day lead him to huge success. But for now, Nathan is unable to talk to anyone other than his father, but after he is tragically killed in a car accident, Nathan feels alone. Fast forward a few years, Nathan can relate to no one and spends all his time working on maths equations. With help from his tutor, the lovable Humphreys (Rafe Spall) and his mother Julie (Sally Hawkins), Nathan gets into the prestigious International Mathematics Olympiad and takes a trip to Taiwan to train and hone his abilities. With a steadily growing relationship with Zhang Mei (Jo Yang), a fellow contestant, Nathan could be ready to learn to love.
Continue: X + Y Trailer
With his first romantic-comedy, Daniel Radcliffe proves adept at delivering snappy dialogue and generating strong chemistry with his costars, so it's frustrating that the film is never remotely believable. Director Michael Dowse and writer Elan Mastai find some cleverly original angles on the genre, but never seem sure whether this is silly slapstick or darker black comedy. They also indulge in several appallingly corny plot points that would only happen like this if they were written by a screenwriter.
Radcliffe plays Wallace, a British guy living in Toronto. After a bad break-up he has dropped out of med school and let his life drift aimlessly, but now his best pal Allan (Adam Driver) is tired of his moping around. So he introduces Wallace to his cousin Chantry (Zoe Kazan), and the two hit it off. The problem is that Chantry has a lovely boyfriend, Ben (Rafe Spall), so just wants to be friends. Wallace is smitten but pretends that this is fine. And this causes a serious problem as they get to know each other over the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Allan has his own fast-moving relationship with Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), and he urges Wallace to make a move when Ben is transferred to Dublin for six months. The question is whether Chantry feels the same way about him.
Dowse has always been good at finding the sharper edges of humour in any scene (see Fubar or Goon), but this film has a squishy sentimental centre that threatens to undo it at every turn. There are also several goofy moments that strain credibility, such as when Wallace and Chantry are forced to share a sleeping bag naked. Meanwhile, the characters are so perky that they're somewhat exhausting. The actors seem to be trying desperately to make us like them in every scene, and sometimes this works simply because they are genuinely engaging. But the best moments are when Radcliffe hesitates awkwardly or explores the darker side of his longing, or when Kazan reveals the doubt behind her super-cute eyes.
Continue reading: What If Review
Wallace has just about giving up on finding love and relationships. He's dropped out of medical school and seems quite happy to spend all of his time at home, barely venturing out of the apartment he shares with his promiscuous roommate Allen. When he is persuaded to attend a party, however, he meets Chantry; a girl determined to be friends with Wallace. While Wallace is rather taken by her initially, he is disappointed that she has a boyfriend but willing to make their special friendship work. Everyone around them is sceptical about their platonic relationship despite their insistence that men and women can indeed be just friends. Though the more they try and insist they are not falling in love, the less convinced they are making themselves. Feeling confused and guilty, Wallace and Chantry must look deep within themselves to puzzle out the meaning of their chemistry.
'What If' was originally named ‘The F Word’ and is a rom-com based on the T.J. Dawe and Michael Rinaldi play 'Toothpaste and Cigars'. It has been directed by Michael Dowse ('Goon', 'Take Me Home Tonight', 'It's All Gone Pete Tong') and written by Elan Mastai ('Alone in the Dark', 'Fury', 'Sk8 Life'), and it has already won two awards with a further four nominations.
Date of birth
10th March, 1983
After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...
The first book in Arthur Ransome's much loved book series has been turned into a...
For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...
One of Roald Dahl's most popular children's novels The BFG is once again going to...
Sophie and the other girls at Mrs. Clonkers orphanage share a big sleeping dorm and...
Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...
When Dr. Michael Burry discovered that the housing market in the US relied upon a...
With a gentle current of comedy, this relaxed British drama finds some cleverly involving ways...
Solidly entertaining Christmas movies are so rare that when one comes along it feels like...
Nathan (Asa Butterfield) is different. He has an amazing way with numbers - something which...
'Twas nights before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring. until...
With his first romantic-comedy, Daniel Radcliffe proves adept at delivering snappy dialogue and generating strong...
Wallace has just about giving up on finding love and relationships. He's dropped out of...