Lee Hall

Lee Hall

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Victoria & Abdul Review

Good

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

War Horse Review


Very Good
Spielberg takes the hit stage play (based on the Michael Morpugo novel) to the big screen with guns blazing, not only recapturing the heart-stopping urgency of war, but also cranking up the emotion exponentially.

In early 1900s Devon, teenager Albert (Irvine) lives on a farm with his impulsive-drunk father Ted (Mullan) and his tough-minded mum Rose (Watson).

When Ted overpays for the wrong horse to work the fields, Albert adopts the horse, names him Joey and teaches him the ropes. But when war breaks out in Europe, Ted sells Joey to a cavalry captain (Hiddleston). At war, Joey changes hands between British and German officers, a young soldier (Kross) and a French farmer (Arestrup). Meanwhile, Albert joins the army, heading into the trenches to search for Joey.

Continue reading: War Horse Review

Billy Elliot Review


Excellent
"Just because I like ballet, it doesn't mean I'm a poof," says 11-year-old British mamma's boy Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell). And that just about sums up the story of this oddball child prodigy. After all, when a lad from a northern British mining town forsakes his granddad's boxing gloves for a pair of satiny ballet slippers, it's more than the neighbors and townsfolk can comprehend and, therefore, inherently good cinematic drama.

Beyond the fact that the whole coal-miner's-kid-has-talent-and-big-dreams genre has been horrifically overdone from the earliest days of English-language narrative, Billy Elliot (aka Dancer) is actually a treat to watch. Maybe it's just the funny accents, but the dialog comes off fresh and surprising, even when it's just Billy's dad (played by Gary Lewis) saying some stock like, "No son of mine is going to be dancing ballet." In fact, Lewis conveys an intense fury through his role as the apparently ignorant father, while maintaining a sense of depth and dimension that is, at times, endearing.

Continue reading: Billy Elliot Review

Lee Hall

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Lee Hall Movies

Victoria & Abdul Movie Review

Victoria & Abdul Movie Review

Essentially a sequel to the 1997 hit Mrs Brown, this film returns Judi Dench to...

War Horse Movie Review

War Horse Movie Review

Spielberg takes the hit stage play (based on the Michael Morpugo novel) to the big...

Billy Elliot Movie Review

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"Just because I like ballet, it doesn't mean I'm a poof," says 11-year-old British mamma's...

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