Charles Dickens might be one of the most legendary authors in history, but it wasn't always plain sailing for him. In fact, ahead of the release of his 1843 novella 'A Christmas Carol', his career was already suffering. Dan Stevens plays the author in 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'; a tale all about how he went from failing writer to a festive miracle.
It's the early 1840s and London author Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) is suffering a bad case of writer's block. His last three books have been total flops, and the pressure to write a magical new story to grip the public has never been so high.
Before long, however, his new tale begins to develop in his head; a Christmas story about a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge (personified by Christopher Plummer) who is challenged by a series of mysterious apparitions. The characters develop beautifully, but before long he starts to hit another roadblock when he can't work out how to finish it.
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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.
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In the late 80s, Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) was the most famous police detective on television, but fast-forward to the present day and he's balding, ungroomed and trying to convince himself that he is exactly where he needs to be in life with desperate daily positive affirmations. Fate does have one more adventure in store for the actor, however. A suspected serial killer named Paul Melly (Russell Tovey) has escaped from a secure unit at Darkmoor Hospital and is now taunting Isle of Man police that more will die unless he can speak to Detective Mindhorn. The police are well aware that Mindhorn is just a TV character, but they try their luck and enlist the help of the actor who plays him nonetheless. Unfortunately, Thorncroft turns out to be much less efficient than his onscreen persona, as much as he'd like to believe otherwise.
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It's been one year since Emily's husband Charles passed away, but she has very mixed feelings towards his memory. There are good things in her life too; a loving grown-up son named Philip and a lovely home in Hampstead Heath, but her life is far more complicated than that. After one date with a fiddle-player named James Smythe, she struggles to shake him off. She'd love to find love again but she's desperate not to settle for anyone. One day though, she espies a bearded old man washing in the ponds across from her house. Curiosity gets the better of her and she follows him home to a quaint but run-down old shack in the middle of the woods. Charmed by his wit and his amusingly grumpy temperament, she decides to help him save his home when he is given an eviction notice by land owners who wish to build on his property. His unshakeable pride works against his cause, but Emily refuses to give up saving the man she's falling deeply in love with.
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Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore the events surrounding the 1947 independence and partition of India. The real history is far more complex and violent than any film could adequately capture, so Chadha relies on two parallel plots that touch on varied experiences. In the end, the film is lively and enjoyable, with a strong sense of humour and some romantic surges that help the story resonate.
As Britain plans to leave India after three centuries of colonial rule, Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) arrives in Delhi as the last viceroy, accompanied by his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson), who takes particular interest in the process, and their daughter Pamela (Lily Travers). Unlike previous rulers, they take a real interest in the local culture, so they know how difficult it will be to avoid bloodshed between clashing Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities. Meanwhile in their house, Hindu guard Jeet (Manish Dayal) is in love with Muslim maid Aalia (Huma Qureshi), wondering if they can to have a life together in a divided nation.
The romantic storyline is a nice counterbalance to the larger political machinations and violent cultural struggles. The way it highlights the issues is rather heavy-handed, but Dayal and Qureshi are charming enough to hold the audience's attention, and where they go isn't as obvious as it seems. Alongside them, Bonneville and Anderson sparkle with wit, stirring some comic relief into even the most intense negotiations. They also nicely play their characters as people of compassion and empathy, a nice contrast to the callous self-interested British diplomats who don't care who gets hurt in the fallout. Somewhere in between are well-meaning roles for acting icons Michael Gambon (as the chief of staff) and Simon Callow (as the man responsible for drawing the line between India and Pakistan).
Continue reading: Viceroy's House Review
The film traces his life from childhood to becoming a fixture on the swinging London art scene in the late 1960s, with lively present-day interviews narrating a fabulous collection of photographs and old footage, some of which was shot by Derek Jarman, who won Logan's 1975 Alternative Miss World.
Meanwhile, Logan and his team are setting up the 2009 edition of his riotously lurid Alternative Miss World in North London.
Continue reading: The British Guide To Showing Off Review
After his wife dies, rising-star chef Rob (Scott) lets his career slide. His celebrity friend Gordon Ramsay urges him to get back in the game, as does his preteen daughter (Gibbs). So he buys the country pub his wife had her eye on and sets out to turn it into a home for honest British cuisine, including his signature trifle. The disgruntled village is also home to snooty-sexy American food critic Kate (Forlani), whose wannabe suitor, swishy landowner James (Hepworth), sets out to sabotage the pub. And then drunken TV critic Guy (Callow) pays a visit.
Continue reading: Love's Kitchen Review
And, there's not a bottle of Windex anywhere to be found.
Continue reading: Four Weddings And A Funeral Review
Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals are garish, puerile melodramas with all the elegance and sincerity of a Super Bowl halftime show -- and his brash, brassy songs have the depth and nuance of action-movie explosions.
When this pair teamed up to bring Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" to the big screen, it was a match made in hell.
Continue reading: Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera Review
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