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Allied Review

Good

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a blast of complex romance alongside some dark Hitchcockian twists. But filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) was probably the wrong man for the directing job, as he overproduces every scene to within an inch of its life. Everything is so big and slick that the story begins to be swamped by the too-perfect costumes and scenery. Which makes it difficult for the audience to engage in what should really be a scrappy, dangerous little drama.

It all kicks off in 1942 Casablanca, where Canadian pilot Max (Brad Pitt) meets French resistance agent Marianne (Cotillard), and together they pose as a couple to infiltrate a party and assassinate a high-ranking Nazi. They also fall in love, and afterwards decide to move to London together and start a family. But a year later, as they are raising their young daughter in leafy Hampstead, Max is told by British officials (Jared Harris and Simon McBurney) that Marianne may have secretly been a German spy all along. And there's now a countdown, as a trap as been laid to prove her guilt unless Max can find evidence to the contrary.

What follows is a tense series of events that are drenched in suspicion and intrigue as Max scrambles around to find the truth while trying not to let Marianne know what he's up to. It's a clever set-up that's very nicely played by Pitt and Cotillard, both of whom bring contrasting layers of emotion and subterfuge to their roles, plus plenty of swooning romantic energy. Most intriguing is that both are able to remain likeable as things progress. So whatever the outcome, it won't change how we feel about them. The adept actors in the side roles are excellent, although they're little more than more scenery around the central couple.

Continue reading: Allied Review

The Conjuring 2 Review

Very Good

Continuing on from the 2013 hit, this sequel blends fact and fiction to follow real-life ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) from the 1976 Amityville haunting to an encounter with the Enfield poltergeist in 1977 London. Filmmaker James Wan continues to deploy every cinematic gimmick he knows to freak out the audience, and the fact that it's based on a true story makes it even more unsettling. Although the cliches of the genre feel a bit tired.

The story opens in Amityville, where the Warrens are deeply disturbed by supernatural forces and decide to take some time off. But they're soon summoned to England to help a family being terrorised by a nasty spirit. Arriving in Enfield, North London, they meet Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor), a plucky single mother of four, who is worried that the ghost of an angry old man is threatening her 11-year-old daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe). Now staying with neighbours (Simon Delaney and Maria Doyle Kennedy) across the street, Peggy has also called in two experts, a true believer (Simon McBurney) and a sceptic (Franka Potente), to work with the Warrens to clear this malevolent presence from the family home.

While the script inventively intermingles the facts of the case with a generous dose of movie fiction, Wan fills the screen with all kinds of creepy goings-on, including banging noises, levitating furniture and flickering TV screens. Additional standard scares include a nerve-jangling toy and a seriously scary nun (who's about to get her own spin-off film, like the creepy doll Annabelle from the first movie). Wan also uses manipulative movie trickery from moody music to grubby production design to prowling camerawork that constantly reveals something frightening in the deep shadows. What he never does is find a new way to scare the audience: we have seen all of these tricks before, but of course they still work.

Continue reading: The Conjuring 2 Review

The Conjuring 2 Trailer


Not fazed by their previous experiences, Lorraine and Ed Warren are still successful paranormal investigators and their reputations have made them known around the world. As they hunt for new cases to investigate they decide to travel to England, Enfield just outside London to help a single mother and her children who are being haunted by a nasty spirit. 

Continue: The Conjuring 2 Trailer

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Review

Very Good

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with a constant stream of barbed humour, the film has an enjoyably knotted mystery plot and action set-pieces that feel like they're grounded in the real world. It's a terrific shift into earthy believability for a series of movies that has previously indulged in gleefully incoherent narratives and exaggerated explosive chaos.

Right from the start, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is an outsider. As he searches for a shady assassin (Sean Harris) and his mythical organisation The Syndicate, Ethan's Impossible Mission Force is being dissolved by the US government. CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) absorbs the IMF team, but tech genius Benji (Simon Pegg) secretly helps Ethan, enlisting Luther (Ving Rhames) and William (Jeremy Renner) as well. Soon, all three are gallivanting from Vienna to Morocco and back to London, as Ethan works with double or perhaps triple agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) to prove that The Syndicate exists and stop its nefarious plan.

The film plays out like an edgy James Bond adventure, as Ethan works with a possibly dangerous woman in exotic locations in pursuit of some very shadowy baddies. McQuarrie's script is unusually lucid for this genre, piecing together the various elements expertly, building a genuine sense of tension without ever letting things tip over into overblown silliness. The chase sequences are remarkably rough and unpredictable, avoiding digital trickery to create moments that are jaw-droppingly authentic. As usual, we can tell that Cruise does his own stunts; the opening hanging-from-an-airplane scene is awesome, and a helmet-free motorbike chase looks even more perilous. With the IMF disbanded, it's never quite clear how Ethan funds his one-man operation, but he has a terrific supply of cool gadgets stashed all over Europe.

Continue reading: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Trailer


The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) have been active for years, but it's time has run out. The head of the CIA (Alec Baldwin) informs them that they are to be disbanded, but some people can't actually adjust to that sort of thing. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) can't let go, and soon discovers that the IMF is actually needed more than ever. The Syndicate - a Rouge Nation - has been steadily growing over the years, and is seen as an anti-IMF. Now, Hunt and his team must engage in their most impossible mission to date, and fight an enemy which, officially, does not exist.

Continue: Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Trailer

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Trailer


Despite their countless missions, most of which deemed impossible, the IMF is closing down. Considered an irrelevant and archaic group, the government intends to tie off any loose ends - especially Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). The problem is, Hunt is a veteran, and a tremendous agent of the IMF, and has uncovered a terrifying secret rouge nation, known as The Syndicate. Hunt plans to track down, expose and destroy The Syndicate through any means necessary. To that end, he recruits his old friends and colleges from the IMF, and plans to take the fight to them. Even if the mission is impossible. 

Continue: Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Trailer

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]

Simon McBurney and David Thewlis - A host of stars were photographed on the red carpet as they arrived at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards which were held at the Shrine auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States - Sunday 25th January 2015

Simon Mcburney and David Thewlis
Simon Mcburney and David Thewlis
Simon Mcburney and David Thewlis

The Theory Of Everything Review


Extraordinary

An unusual point of view prevents this from ever turning into the standard biopic, but it's Eddie Redmayne's staggeringly committed performance as Stephen Hawking that makes the film unmissable. Based on the book by Stephen's wife Jane Hawking, the film uses her perspective to recount the events with their relationship firmly at the centre, which adds a personal angle the audience can engage with. This diverts the attention from Hawking's scientific breakthroughs, but makes the film both energetic and emotionally riveting.

It opens in 1963 when Stephen (Redmayne) is a rising-star at Cambridge, already a genius who thinks far outside the box. But he also has a sharp sense of humour, which makes it easy to see what Jane (Felicity Jones) sees in this brainy black-hole-obsessed geek. Then just as their relationship begins to get serious, he is diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given two years to live. Instead of giving up, Jane marries him and has three kids as Stephen defies the doctor's prognosis. As his physical condition deteriorates, they get help from two people who become unexpectedly close: widowed choir director Jonathan (Charlie Cox) and medical assistant Elaine (Maxine Peake). And even as their marriage comes apart under the pressure, Jane and Stephen remain deeply connected to each other.

Anthony McCarten's script cleverly lets big ideas swirl around each scene without swamping the more human story. The central factor in Stephen and Jane's interaction centres on faith: his in science, hers in God. Stephen continues to seek a theory that will scientifically explain the nature of existence, while Jane catches him out when he takes a leap of faith himself. And the film lets all of this play out through their interaction with a variety of terrific side characters, including Stephen's tutor (David Thewlis), his colleagues (Harry Lloyd and Enzo Cilenti), his father (Simon McBurney) and Jane's mother (Emily Watson). Each performance is packed with telling nuance, while Jones gives the film a textured heart and soul.

Continue reading: The Theory Of Everything Review

Magic In The Moonlight Review


Very Good

After the high of last year's Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen is back in playful mode for this rather goofy comedy, which only works for audience members willing to abandon their cynicism and just go with the flow. A solid cast makes the most of Allen's cleverly barbed dialogue, even if the performances and filmmaking sometimes feel a bit slapdash. And Allen's deeper existential themes add a hint of depth to the silliness.

It opens in 1928 Berlin, as the magician Stanley (Colin Firth) is convinced by his friend Howard (Simon McBurney) to travel to the South of France to debunk a young American mystic named Sophie (Emma Stone), who has a wealthy family in her thrall. Not only has Sophie convinced the matriarch (Jacki Weaver) that she can communicate with her dead husband, but she has also attracted the puppy-dog devotion of Brice (Hamish Linklater), the sweetly dim heir to the family fortune. But no matter how hard Stanley tries, he can't prove that Sophie is a fraud, and accepting her supernatural powers completely upends his relentlessly pessimistic view of humanity. Although it's even trickier to convince himself that he might be falling for Sophie.

Allen sets all of this up in a very simple way, prodding Firth to a hilariously ridiculous performance as a repressed Englishman for whom life has to be completely rational. Facing him off against Stone's young, free-flowing American is a bit obvious, but the script makes sure that their barbed banter overflows with witty repartee. This includes astute commentary on Allen's favourite theme: exploring the meaning of life through the contradictory blending of science, religion and human emotion. So even if the performances are rather oddly matched, Firth and Stone find some superb chemistry along the way. Although the snappiest role belongs to Eileen Atkins, as Stanley's beloved aunt, who has a wonderfully dry way of speaking the truth.

Continue reading: Magic In The Moonlight Review

The Theory Of Everything Trailer


Coming from a privileged upbringing, cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking naturally had a first-rate education - though no-one could expect the kind of genius and revolutionary theories that he would eventually come up with. While wowing his university professors with his baffling discoveries, he was fighting a personal battle with his rapidly deteriorating health. Whilst still studying, he began to lose the ability to walk as well as the ability to speak before being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and given a two-year expect survival rate. As to be expected from one of the world's most accomplished scientists, he defied the odds and embarked on a long and fulfilling life that lasts to this day - with just a little help from the love of his youth Jane Wilde, who encouraged him to carry on speaking with the help of his trademark speech generating device.

Continue: The Theory Of Everything Trailer

Simon McBurney - Simon McBurney, Tuesday 13th September 2011 at the premiere of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' at BFI Southbank.

Simon Mcburney

Simon McBurney Thursday 16th October 2008 Opening Night After Party for 'All My Sons' held at E-Space. New York City, USA

Simon Mcburney
Simon Mcburney

Simon McBurney Thursday 16th October 2008 Opening Night in 'All My Sons' at the Schoenfeld Theatre New York City, USA

Simon Mcburney
Simon Mcburney
Simon Mcburney

Simon Mcburney Quick Links

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Simon McBurney Movies

Allied Movie Review

Allied Movie Review

There's a terrific script at the heart of this World War II thriller, with a...

The Conjuring 2 Movie Review

The Conjuring 2 Movie Review

Continuing on from the 2013 hit, this sequel blends fact and fiction to follow real-life...

The Conjuring 2 Trailer

The Conjuring 2 Trailer

Not fazed by their previous experiences, Lorraine and Ed Warren are still successful paranormal investigators...

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Trailer

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Trailer

The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) have been active for years, but it's time has run...

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Trailer

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation Trailer

Despite their countless missions, most of which deemed impossible, the IMF is closing down. Considered...

The Theory of Everything Movie Review

The Theory of Everything Movie Review

An unusual point of view prevents this from ever turning into the standard biopic, but...

Advertisement
Magic in the Moonlight Movie Review

Magic in the Moonlight Movie Review

After the high of last year's Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen is back in playful mode...

The Theory Of Everything Trailer

The Theory Of Everything Trailer

Coming from a privileged upbringing, cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking naturally had a first-rate...

Magic In The Moonlight Trailer

Magic In The Moonlight Trailer

Stanley is a talented magician who goes by the name of Wei Ling Soo professionally,...

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Review

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Movie Review

It's rare to see a film in which writers, director and cast all respect the...

Jane Eyre Movie Review

Jane Eyre Movie Review

This umpteenth film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's enduring classic perfectly captures the experience of reading...

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Trailer

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Trailer

In the 1970's, former spy George Smiley (who is in forced retirement), is called in...

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...

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