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
It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a strikingly original script that it grabs hold and never lets go. Based on the real-life story of actor-writer Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley) and his cowriter wife Emily Gordon, the movie is packed with engaging characters who each take their own journey through a series of unexpected events. In other words, it's a clever screenplay that's beautifully played and often very, very funny.
Playing an only slightly fictionalised version of himself, Kumail is a stand-up comic in Chicago when he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), who heckles him at one of his gigs. Their banter quickly turns to flirtation and then love. But there's a hitch in the fact that Kumail's parents (Anupan Kher and Zenobia Sfiroff) expect him to marry a nice Pakistani Muslim girl, and he doesn't want to let them down. He's even reluctant to reveal Emily to his slightly more open-minded brother (Adeel Akhtar). This strains the burgeoning romance, which takes a turn when Emily is put into an induced coma in hospital. It also forces Kumail to get to know Emily's parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano), who turn up to sit with him as they wait for her condition to improve.
It's rare for a rom-com to take such a serious turn, and this film plays the situation with a proper sense of dramatic tension while maintaining an awkwardly edgy comical sensibility. All of this allows characters to come to vivid life, each with his or her own big issues that need to be dealt with as they interact with other people. The network of relationships reflect real life better than most movies, exploring Kumail's professional life and his camaraderie with his fellow comics as well as the layered family bonds and his developing connection with Emily and her parents. It's also a refreshingly realistic depiction of multi-cultural society.
Continue reading: The Big Sick Review
Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance in its true story about an outcast who takes on the system in a leafy corner of London. While the script is too thin to make much of the premise, the film at least benefits from the likeable presence of Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson in the lead roles, plus a lively supporting cast.
Keaton plays Emily, an American widow living in the posh village on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Her late husband left her with a lot of debt, which her grown son Philip (James Norton) is helping her sort through. And her neighbour Fiona (Lesley Manville) is trying to set her up with an accountant (Jason Watkins) who has romantic inclinations. But Emily is much more intrigued by the homeless Irishman Donald (Gleeson) living in the lushly overgrown grounds of an abandoned hospital. And when she realises that developers want to build a glassy block of expensive flats there, she kicks into action with the help of a quirky young friend (Hugh Skinner).
Director Joel Hopkins keeps everything picturesque and twinkly as the story gently tips into a courtroom drama with an accompanying romance. Despite its basis in fact, there's little about this film that's remotely believable, not that it will matter to the core audience in search of some warm escapism. They'll enjoy the squeaky clean story and the stylised version of an England furnished with impeccably matching antiques and huge bouquets of flowers. And the cast makes it watchable. Keaton does her usual kooky thing, smart but clumsy, with perfect timing in her interaction with everyone around her. There may not be much chemistry with Gleeson, but he gives the tetchy Donald plenty of scruffy charm.
Continue reading: Hampstead 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
When Kumail and Emily meet, they're instantly drawn toward one another. Emily is a student and Kumail is an aspiring comedian who also works part time as an Uber driver to make money. After spending the night together, Emily awakes and decides to make an early exist only to ring an Uber and for Kumail to, obviously, be the nearest driver.
As the pair become more and more endeared to one another they spend more time together and things look like they could get more serious but for Kumail, things aren't quiet as straight forward boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and marry. Being Muslim from a Pakistani background, Kumail's parents expect him to have an arranged marriage and as he grows older his mother becomes more and more obsessed with finding the right person to share his life with.
Kumail can no longer keep his new Beau secret and confides in his brother that he's been dating a white girl and his reaction isn't exactly as positive as he might've hoped. When Emily finds out about the plans for Kumail's arranged marriage, the pair have a talk and, even though in their heart of hearts neither want to, they break their relationship up.
Continue: The Big Sick Trailer
After several high-profile grown-up movies (from Atonement to Anna Karenina), director Joe Wright aims this Peter Pan origin story squarely at children. So while it's far too manic and broad for adults, this adventure will be the most exciting movie any 8-year-old has seen in years. It's colourful and fantastical, and it thankfully doesn't indulge in reworking the beloved J.M. Barrie stories. Instead, it imagines an action-packed prequel universe.
As German bombs fall on London during the Blitz, young Peter (Levi Miller) is up to all kinds of mischief in the grim orphanage overseen by Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke), who sells bad boys to airborne pirates. Sure enough, one night Peter is taken, sailing into the sky to Neverland, where he is sent to work in the mines for the swaggering, heartless Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). In the mines Peter is befriended by the adventurer Hook (Garrett Hedlund), and when Peter discovers that he can fly they make their escape. Blackbeard chases them out into the woods, where they take refuge with Princess Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and her tribe, which is convinced that Peter is the child of a prophecy that will lead the fairy kingdom to freedom. But just when Peter learns who his parents really were, Blackbeard catches up with them.
This is an old-school kids' movie, packed with larger-than-life characters and outrageously imaginative action sequences that make the most of the 3D cinematography. Yes, there's so much digital trickery going on that the movie is essentially a cartoon, but it's so vividly explosive that it's a lot of fun to watch. And many of the big set-pieces are genuinely thrilling. There's also quite a lot of fun to be had in the way the story twists the familiar characters around. Obviously, Hook couldn't have always been a bad guy; here he's one of the heroes, and he still has both hands, which hints that further prequel adventures may be on the cards.
Continue reading: Pan Review
With an ingenious concept, this fairly simple film becomes one of the most gripping thrillers of the year even though it rarely leaves a wood-panelled conference room. Since the 1960s, British officials have met to role-play various scenarios about how a global nuclear war might play out, with their findings going into the eponymous War Book. Watching this group go through a fictional scenario is riveting, because it offers striking insight into our precarious political system.
The film takes place during three 30-minute meetings over three days in 2014, as eight relatively low-level officials and one hapless Member of Parliament (Nicholas Burns) gather in a London boardroom. Philippa (Sophie Okonedo) chairs the meeting in the role of the home secretary, as her assistant (Phoebe Fox) reads a chilling brief about a nuclear bomb that Pakistan detonates in Mumbai. Playing the Prime Minister, Gary (Ben Chaplin) takes over, holding emergency votes on diplomacy, humanitarian aid and whether the UK should be quarantined to keep radiation sickness out. And as the situation deteriorates, differences of opinion begin to emerge around the table, most notably about the repercussions of joining with Britain's allies to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike.
For a movie that consists almost entirely of people sitting in a room talking, this is remarkably visual, never looking like a claustrophobic stage play. Director Tom Harper sends the camera prowling around the room, occasionally glimpsing normal life continuing outside the window. And in between the meetings, the people also have their regular jobs to deal with. Meanwhile, their dialogue is packed with biting humour, power plays, rivalries and some startlingly vivid emotions. While some interaction hinges on short, sharp verbal gymnastics, other segments require much closer attention as the conversations wander through lengthy discussions and anecdotes. The only scene that feels out of place is a pre-meeting encounter between Chaplin and Phoebe Fox that touches on the connection between power and sex.
Continue reading: War Book Review
Nine people from different walks of life who all work for the government are enlisted to take part in a 'scenario' based on decision-making in the event of a nuclear assault. They are given the notice that a nuclear warhead has been detonated in Mumbai, with deaths entering hundreds of thousands, and asked to make a decision on what to do next. It doesn't take long for Gary the 'Prime Minister' to plan a course of action and have his cabinet members vote for it, and when some of the group question whether or not they should be rushing decisions that could affect the lives of millions, it becomes clear that this task is one that some people are happy to take on with a pinch of salt. However, two people in the group understand that this isn't really a fake scenerio at all; it's very, very real and they have to put their social differences aside in order to come to the best course of action.
Continue: War Book Trailer
Peter was but a small boy when he was left at an orphanage by his mother, with no belongings other than a small metal pan around his neck. For some years, he grew up with no knowledge of why he his mother left him, but things become clear when he discovers the mystical world of Neverland. 'Pan' takes us back to the very beginning of Peter Pan's story, from his unlikely friendship with James Hook to when Blackbeard was his arch nemesis, fighting in a land above the clouds, where ships sail the air and giant crocodiles lurk beneath the mermaids' lagoon. Soon Peter learns that he was prophecised to return to the land and defeat Blackbeard, with his ability to fly and his unwavering bravery being his only tools. This is a boy who never wants to grow up, but he's about to realise that sometimes maturity and responsibility falls on you without choice.
Continue: Pan - International Trailer
Peter was sent to an orphanage as a young boy with nothing but a small metal pan pendant left to him by his mother, who predicted great things for her son. Indeed, he goes on to experience the most exciting childhood anyone could dream to have, flying around on airborne ships from the mystical world of Neverland. And while it may be an enjoyable time, there are still great dangers that lie before him; the most feared pirate in all the land, Blackbeard, is out to bring the land under his tyrannous rule and Peter finds himself a target. Meanwhile, he meets James Hook, a fellow traveller who becomes his friend and protector, and it isn't long before he then bumps into a vibrant tribe led by the formidable Tiger Lily, who reveals to him that his arrival marks the end of the pirates' terror. But Peter is just a boy, and however brave he might be, does he really stand a chance against these merciless villains?
Continue: Pan Trailer
Essentially a sequel to the 1997 hit Mrs Brown, this film returns Judi Dench to...
Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...
Queen Victoria was one of the United Kingdom's most loved monarchs. She ruled over her...
When Kumail and Emily meet, they're instantly drawn toward one another. Emily is a student...
After several high-profile grown-up movies (from Atonement to Anna Karenina), director Joe Wright aims this...
With an ingenious concept, this fairly simple film becomes one of the most gripping thrillers...
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