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
Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult to understand why. Loosely based on a true story, it's a lively romp set on the edge of Europe during World War II. But after nearly 70 years the material called for a much fresher approach than this rather dull farce. At least the cast is likeable, even if they can't inject much spark into the story.
It's set on the island of Todday, off the west coast of Scotland, where the locals are horrified that their rationed quantity of whisky has run dry. Annoyed that they now have only tea to drink, they get on with their lives. Postmaster Macroon (Gregor Fisher) is preoccupied with the romances his two daughters are carrying on: Catriona (Elle Kendrick) is in love with skittish schoolteacher George (Kevin Guthrie), while Peggy (Naomi Battrick) has just reunited with her returned soldier boyfriend Odd (Sean Biggerstaff). Then a ship runs aground off the shore, and word has it that its cargo hold contains a massive whisky shipment. So the villagers devise a plan to sneak around local military officer Wagget (Eddie Izzard) to salvage the hooch.
All of this plays out as a rather tepid adventure, never cranking up any suspense at all as Wagget is easily outwitted by everyone else on the island. The dual romances play out without even a whiff of lusty zing or dramatic tension. And there's also a political thriller thread involving a stash of important documents, which the script sidelines completely. Instead we get more of the whisky-chugging local minister (James Cosmo) who participates in the hijinks but forbids heist activities on the sabbath. Director MacKinnon stages everything in slapstick style, accompanied by a ludicrously insistent comedy score by Patrick Doyle. But it's never very funny.
Continue reading: Whisky Galore! Review
In 1980, a group of six armed terrorists storm the Iranian embassy in London, taking no less than 26 innocent people hostage. What none of them could foresee is that this would turn into an almost week-long battle between the gunmen and a team of SAS soldiers, as the latter try to navigate the 6 floor, 30 room fortress in a bid to take down the attackers who are demanding the release of prisoners in the Khuzestan Province. It's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's chance to publicly show her country how she deals with terrorist attacks and so a BBC news crew documents the entire debacle from the streets outside. Tragically, soldiers were not able to secure the safe release of all the hostages and two of them perished, along with five of the six terrorists.
Continue: 6 Days Trailer
Tim Pigott-Smith on the film set of 'King Charles III'. The new BBC movie is an onscreen version of Mike Bartlett's stage production. - Beverley, United Kingdom - Wednesday 16th November 2016
Jupiter Jones has an unfortunate life, barely scraping by with her job cleaning toilets as a janitor. She wouldn't have thought that her life would ever be anything meaningful, but she couldn't be more wrong. One day she is captured and an attempt is made on her life, but she finds herself spectacularly rescued by a charming, if unusual-looking, warrior; a half-man, half-human hybrid who has been genetically modified for the interplanetary military. It's he who leads her to the truth about herself and her destiny. Having been born under a night sky where the stars aligned to form her extraordinary future, Jupiter is the foretold forthcoming Queen of the Universe who has been prophesised to usurp the power of the current King and Queen. Living in fear of their imminent fall from power, the rulers order her to be disposed of as soon as possible. Will Jupiter succeed in her rise to power, or will she be praying to return to her uneventful life on earth?
Continue: Jupiter Ascending Trailer
Jupiter Jones is an impoverished janitor who dreams of a life with much more purpose than she is living. She is convinced that her life will always be one of the many in the world that is simply unimportant, but there are others out there who think differently. Jupiter was born under a night sky whose stars traced a very definite and critical destiny for her. Little does she know that the Earth is a tiny speck in a much larger cosmos ruled over by Queen of the Universe, but also that her genetic make-up makes her the one and only threat to the Queen as she is biologically destined to usurp her title. When an attempt is made on her life, she is rescued by former military hunter Caine; a genetically modified hybrid with human and wolf DNA. Will Jupiter find the strength to fulfil her destiny? Or is it something she could simply do without?
Continue: Jupiter Ascending - Teaser Trailer
It's a compelling idea, with handheld digital cameras swooping around the actors as the Derry citizens prepare for the march. It has the lived-in quality of any rally you've ever been to, with stressed-out volunteers trying to coordinate the herd. The performances are naturalistic and unshowy, with a committed performance by James Nesbitt as Protestant activist Ivan Cooper (whose everyman mug and receding hairline make him a believably workaday hero). There's a surprising lack of self-righteousness in the proceedings, for the most part fairly handling the British officers and soldiers caught up in gung-ho tension and resentment for being there in the first place. And the Irish aren't given a halo, with IRA thugs working their way through the crowd and stupid kid hooligans throwing stones during the "peaceful" march.
Continue reading: Bloody Sunday Review
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