The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little attempt to do anything clever with it aside from A-list casting. There are some terrific gags in Hamish McColl's script, but director Oliver Parker (Johnny English Reborn) fails to find the comical potential in the material. So the film feels clumsy and muted, which is certainly not going to attract a new generation of fans to the premise.
It's 1944 in the small village of Walmington on the southern English coast, where the men who were unfit to serve in the regular army have volunteered for the Home Guard when they're not working their normal jobs. The platoon's captain is bank manager Mainwaring (Toby Jones), who leads a ragtag group of retirees (Tom Courtenay, Michael Gambon and Bill Paterson) and younger army rejects (Daniel Mays and Blake Harrison) through a series of exercises along the seaside cliffs. They've been tipped off that there's a Nazi spy in the area, but they're all so smitten by the curvy visiting journalist Rose (Catherine Zeta-Jones) that they fail to notice that she's up to something nefarious.
The material is ripe for political-edged comedy, which the script touches on in between the relentless double entendre. And the cast is definitely up for it, delivering solid performances that bring out character details while playing up the goofy interaction between them. But Parker leaves them looking adrift on-screen, never cranking up either a sense of pace or a spark of life. Each set-piece falls utterly flat, starting with the movie's opening scene in which the gang is chased around afield by a supposedly angry bull. And everything that follows feels half-hearted, which means that the Carry On-style innuendo, physical slapstick and nutty action all fall flat.
Continue reading: Dad's Army Review
Everybody's favourite British regiment is back in the new version of Dad's Army. Director Oliver Parker has recruited the much loved classic British TV Show with the help of some of the UK's best known actors. Like the TV show, the movie is set in 1944 and World War II is almost at its peak. The Home Guard is patrolling the streets of Walmington-on-Sea and their spirits are rather dampened by the thought of the imminent invasion. Their only light relief comes from a visit from a beautiful journalist going by the name of Rose Winters. Rose soon has all the men on their best behaviour and all the ladies of the town attempting to up their game. However it's soon 'back to work' for the men when they find out there's a spy living amidst the residents in their small seaside town.
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Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a quiet conversation than any number of death-defying stunts and explosions can muster. Not only does it offer some of the finest performances ever from treasured actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, but it also cements Andrew Haigh's reputation as an unusually perceptive writer-director after his surprise hit Weekend (2011) and his groundbreaking but misunderstood TV series Looking.
Rampling and Courtenay play Kate and Geoff, a childless couple living happily in rural England. A week before their 45th wedding anniversary party, Geoff is informed that the body of an old girlfriend has been discovered in a Swiss glacier more than 50 years after she accidentally fell to her death. Kate is startled that she never knew about Geoff's earlier love, and as she looks into his past she begins to suspect that maybe she was his consolation prize. Meanwhile, Geoff is also taken back to his earlier life, wondering about twists of fate and the choices he made. In other words, after a wonderful life together, Kate and Geoff are suddenly seeing fractures in the foundation of their marriage. And they're not sure what to do about it.
This is a movie that exists in silences, so audiences that prefer dramatic fireworks should probably look elsewhere. Rampling and Courtenay can pack more into a flickering glance than a long speech, so the thoroughly English way their characters approach this situation is utterly riveting. These are complex, fascinating people with full inner lives, still fiery and curious and open to what life has in store. And this new information forces them to redefine their world in ways they never expected. Haigh's sensitive, unflashy direction captures every telling detail perfectly, building subtle yet powerful suspense over the course of the week.
Continue reading: 45 Years Review
And they're back! The hilarious band of men that put their lives on the line for their country return in an all new adventure on the big screen. World War II is at its very peak during the 1940s and the Home Guard at Walmington-on-Sea are about to have an unusually eventful episode. Hours of patrolling the army base at Dover - trying to keep spirits up on the eve of the soldiers' impending journey to France to take on the Germans - are over for now, because UK intelligence have just uncovered a mysterious secret signal over the radio - apparently someone has been sending messages from Walmington to Berlin, and now nobody can be trusted. The Home Guard aid the mission to uncover the spy - though nobody dares put too much faith in this bumbling lot.
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It doesn't matter how long or how happy a marriage is, all of them have the potential to be flaked with bitter feelings of jealousy and heartbreak. Kate and Geoff Mercer are about to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary, and on the outside it seems they couldn't be happier as a couple. However, just days before their big celebration, Geoff receives a letter explaining how the body of his missing first love has finally been found, preserved in the glaciers of the Swiss Alps. He is forced to face feelings he had buried deep for so many years, while Kate finds herself inexorably consumed in a desperate competition with a dead woman, torn between feelings of sympathy for her husband, fear for her marriage and guilty for her feelings of resentment. The experience throws into question their romantic future, as they realise they must both shine a light on the dark shadow that has always stayed with them.
Continue: 45 Years Trailer
When a Latin professor, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), sees a young Portuguese woman in a red coat about to throw herself from a bridge, he is compelled to save her. She wrestles her way out of the coat and runs off into the rain, leaving the bemused and mystified professor pondering what it all means. When he discovers a small book in the pocket of her coat, he begins to embark on an odyssey to find her, yet very soon he becomes more interested in the novel's author, Amadeu do Prado (Jack Huston). After discovering tickets for a train to Lisbon stuffed inside the book, Gregorius hastily boards the train himself, throwing caution to the wind, along with his normal, boring life.
Continue: Night Train To Lisbon Trailer
After the holiday season, the movie world is slowly cranking up to speed. Although the really big news doesn't start until next week, with the announcement of the Oscar and Bafta nominations.
This week's biggest nominee announcement came from the Producers Guild of America, seen as a taste of the Best Picture Oscar race. The PGA's 10 feature film nominees are: Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty.
For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors who are working from an intelligent script. So even if it's essentially a rather flimsy little drama that never really stretches the talented cast, there's plenty to like along the way. And Hoffman makes sure that we enjoy ourselves, inserting some sparky humour and a bit of romantic comedy to keep us smiling.
It takes place in a stately home for retired British musicians, which is planning its annual fundraising gala. Then iconic soprano Joan (Smith) arrives, and the gala's diva-like director (Gambon) decides to reunite the quartet known for a famed performance of Verdi's Rigoletto. The other three have long been residents: womanising Wilf (Connolly) and ditzy Cissy (Collins) are up for it, but Reggie (Courtenay) has never recovered after his marriage to Jean failed decades ago. Of course, everyone connives to get Jean and Reggie to talk to each other, but getting Jean to come out of retirement to sing again is an even more daunting task.
Aside from the central theme of second chances, there isn't much to this film beyond watching a group of superb veteran actors have a lot of fun on screen together. As the swishy ringleader, Gambon camps it up hilariously, even as everyone else ignores him. Connolly gleefully chomps on Wilf's innuendo-filled dialogue, and Collins radiates warmth. While Sheridan Smith surprises with a strong turn as the doctor in residence. This leaves Smith and Courtenay with the script's only meaty scenes, and they make finding the raw honesty in these wounded people look easy.
Continue reading: Quartet Review
Remade from a 1966 romp starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, this con artist action-comedy is enjoyably silly but never much more than that. Part of the problem is a lack of chemistry between stars Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz, and the film focuses on goofy slapstick instead of a coherent plot. So we may chuckle along the way, but it's hard to be interested in anything that happens.
Firth is at the centre as Harry, a London art expert who has a score to settle with his arrogant billionaire boss Lionel (Rickman). So he sets up an elaborate scam involving a fake Monet painted by his talented pal Wingate (Courtenay). But they need the help of a sassy Texan, PJ (Diaz), to make it work, and she doesn't play along as Harry imagines she will. Soon she's flirting shamelessly with Lionel while Harry sneaks around in the background setting up the con and struggling to pay for her extravagant stay in the Savoy. Meanwhile, Lionel is trying to make a deal with a group of hard-bargaining Japanese businessmen.
While the Coen brothers' script bursts with absurd wit, Hoffman directs the film as a mindless farce, missing every chance for black comedy. From the animated Pink Panther-style titles, the tone is light and frothy, the characters are paper thin and the plot's convolutions never seem to amount to anything. Most of the big set-pieces are irrelevant asides, such as a half-hearted scene involving the lion that's featured far too prominently on the movie poster. Or a long sequence in which Firth cavorts around the Savoy without his trousers. It certainly doesn't help that Firth and Diaz never generate even a spark of attraction between them.
Continue reading: Gambit Review
The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...
Everybody's favourite British regiment is back in the new version of Dad's Army. Director Oliver...
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
When a Latin professor, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), sees a young Portuguese woman in a...
For his directing debut, Dustin Hoffman takes no chances, filling the screen with gifted actors...
Remade from a 1966 romp starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, this con artist action-comedy...
Harry Deane is a pretty hopeless British art curator who has suffered years of condescension...
Poor Charles Dickens. He has the good fortune to be remembered by the entire...