25 November 2016

The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van 2015
  • Director: Nicholas Hytner
  • Based on book by Alan Bennett
  • Cast: Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Alex Jennings, Deborah Findley, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, David Calder
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Maggie Smith – My Old Lady, Hotel Marigold 1 and 2, Downton Abbey, the Harry Potter films, The Quartet, Becoming Jane, Keeping Mum, Ladies in Lavender, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Gosford Park, David Copperfield, Tea with Mussolini, The First Wives’ Club, Richard III, Sister Acts 1 and 2, A Room with a View, Quartet (1981), Oh What a Lovely War, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
    • Jim Broadbent – Filth, the Harry Potter films, Another Year, The Young Victoria, Vera Drake, Gangs of New York, Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Topsy-Turvy, Little Voice, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Richard III, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Life Is Sweet, Black Adder, Brazil
    • Alex Jennings – Cranford, The Queen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    • Deborah Findley – Cranford, Jane Eyre
    • Roger Allam – The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, Endeavour, The Tempest (on stage and DVD), The Book Thief, The Woman in Black, Shakespeare and the Brits, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, Henry IV Parts One and Two, The Queen, V for Vendetta
    • Frances de la Tour – Vicious, Hugo, Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, The Book of Eli, Cold Lazarus
    • David Calder – many TV series, The World Is not Enough
  • Why? Maggie Smith
  • Seen: 12 November, 2016 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film group      

       Miss Shepherd is a mad, fanatically Catholic, extremely smelly, extremely demanding and nasty old woman who lives in a van. Alan Bennett is a thoroughly kind playwright. She exploits him, and everyone, ruthlessly. She ends up parked in his driveway, outside his house in Camden Town.
       Alan Bennett himself adapted his small gem of a book into this film. There are more characters, more stories, more details, more depth of character and background.
       It’s very funny, very sad, very British and one asks oneself, ‘What would I do?’ I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be as kind as Alan Bennett, though he himself sees his relationship with Miss Shepherd as a failure, a weakness, timidity. The years pass, her exploitation continues relentlessly. He loses patience at times but there she remains.
       The film raises difficult questions about what we as individuals and as a society do with people like Miss Shepherd who make it so difficult to be kind. It’s a credit to us humans that there are so many who are kind anyway.
       Maggie Smith is, as always, magnificent. Alex Jennings is excellent as Alan Bennett. The whole cast is good.

5 * of 5   

The Boat that Rocked

The Boat that Rocked 2009
  • Director: Richard Curtis
  • Based on book: no
  • Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Sturridge, Bill Nighy, Tom Brooke, Rhys Darby, Nick Frost, Katherine Parkinson, Chris O’Dowd, Ike Hamilton, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wisdom, Jack Davenport, Ralph Brown, Rhys Ifans, Talulah Riley, January Jones, Emma Thompson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Hunger Games 1-4, The Invention of Lying, Cold Mountain, Punch-Drunk Love, Almost Famous, State and Main, Flawless, Happiness, The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights, Scent of a Woman
    • Tom Sturridge – Henry VI (The Hollow Crown), Far from the Madding Crowd, Being Julia
    • Bill Nighy – The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold 1 and 2, Harry Potter, Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Girl in the Café, The Boat that Rocked, Shaun of the Dead, The Constant Gardener, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Auf Wiedersehn Pet, Kiss Me Kate, Longitude, Fairy Tale a True Story
    • Tom Brooke – Henry V (The Hollow Crown), Young Victoria, Hustle,
    • Rhys Darby – Flight of the Concords
    • Nick Frost – The World’s End, The Huntsman’s Winter War, Hot Fuzz, Kinky Boots, Shaun of the Dead
    • Katherine Parkinson – Humans, Extras
    • Chris O’Dowd – Vera Drake
    • Kenneth Branagh – Wallander, My Week with Marilyn, Valkyria, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Shackleton, How to Kill Your Neighbour’s Dog, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Wild Wild West, Hamlet, Othello, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Much Ado About Nothing, Swing Kids, Dead Again, Henry V, The Fortunes of War
    • Jack Davenport – Pirates of the Caribbean, The Libertine
    • Rhys Ifans – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I, Elizabeth the Golden Age, Shipping News, Human Nature, Notting Hill
    • Talulah Riley – Inception, Doctor Who
    • January Jones – Mad Men, Love Actually
    • Emma Thompson – Beautiful Creatures, Harry Potter, An Education, Last Chance Harvey, Brideshead Revisited, Stranger than Fiction, Nanny McPhee, Angels in America, Love Actually, Wit, The Winter Guest, Sense and Sensibility, The Remains of the Day, Much Ado About Nothing, Peter’s Friends, Howards End, Dead Again, Impromptu, Henry V, The Fortunes of War, Tutti Frutti
  • Why? Kenneth Branagh
  • Seen: Once before. Now 4 November 2016      

       1966. BBC plays less than 45 minutes of rock and pop music a day. Intolerable! Long live Pirate Radio in the Atlantic! Without it Britain would surely not have survived.
       This is the saga of one of the pirate ships, Radio Rock. A boat populated by characters each more misfit than the next. All played by lots of good British (and a couple of American) actors.
       Enter the evil Sir Alister – a smug, tyrannical right-wing politician played by Branagh – who is going to shut them down.
       In fact, I love the BBC, warts and all, and I’m not overly fond of commercial radio. This film has too many silly and often sexist jokes, and the story is basically thin.
       But it is often funny, the characters are generally likeable or enjoyably unlikeable, the actors are great and the music is, well, 60’s music. The 60’s are highly overrated but they did have good music.

3 * of 5   

Shallow Grave

Shallow Grave
  • Director: Danny Boyle
  • Based on novel: by no
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Ken Stott, Keith Allen, Colin McCredie, Gary Lewis
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction
    • Ewan NcGregor – Mortdecai, The Impossible, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Ghost Writer, Stay, Star Wars I-III, Big Fish, Young Adam, Moulin Rouge, Little Voice, Velvet Goldmine, A Life Less Ordinary, Brassed Off, Trainspotting
    • Christopher Eccleston – Fortitude, Doctor Who, 28 Days Later, The Others, eXistenZ, Elizabeth
    • Kerry Fox – Mental, Bright Star, An Angel at My Table
    • Ken Stott – The Hobbit films, The Girl in the Café, Fever Pitch, For Queen and Country, King Lear
    • Keith Allen – Case Histories, 24 Hour Party People, The Others, Train Spotting, Kafka
    • Gary Lewis – Billy Elliot, Case Histories, Merlin, Filth, Gangs of New York, East Is East, My Name Is Joe, Carla’s Song
  • Why? cast and director
  • Seen: once before. Now 28 October 2016 

One of the stranger movies we’ve seen it has nevertheless stayed with me and I’ve been wanting to watch it again for some time. Having just watched Eccleston in his Doctor Who role and thinking it wasn’t right for him (Doctor Who is and always will be David Tennant to me) I’m looking forward to seeing him in a role suited to his admirable acting skills. And I always want to see Ewan McGregor.
Three friends share a flat in Glasgow (and what a flat!) and are looking for a fourth roommate.  They grill their prospective lodger with bizarre and cruel interrogations and reject them all. Until Hugo. They accept him, he moves in and promptly commits suicide. They find him in his room with a suitcase packed with cash.
Juliet (Fox) is a laid-back but professionally cool doctor. David (Eccleston) is a straight-laced trustworthy accountant. Alex (McGregor) is half-mental journalist who talks them into keeping the money.
But they must get rid of the body. Alex insists they should chop it up. In a series of macabre and funny scenes they manage this and life goes on. And then falls apart.
It’s weird, surrealistic, suspenseful and at times scary. It’s a compelling film with compelling performances, especially by the starring trio. The visual effects are suggestive, stark, frantic at times, colourful and dark. It’s a psychological thrill way beyond the ordinary.

4 * of 5

Everything You Want

Everything You Want 2005
  • Director: Ryan Little
  • Based on novel: no
  • Cast: Shiri Appleby, Nick Zano, Alexandra Holden, Orlando Seale
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Shiri Appleby – Roswell
    • Alexandra Holden – Six Feet Under, Sleepy Hollow for 10
  • Why? I have no idea
  • Seen:  21 October 2016      

       There must be a reason I bought this DVD but now I don’t remember at all. None of the names are familiar. So now I’m curious.
       Oh, yes, Liz from Roswell! I’d forgotten her name. That must be why.
       She’s an art student, Abby. There are several other young people. It’s all very American-college-y, which is usually annoying.
       As is this one. Complete with annoying parents, flaky roommate and an obnoxious guy who is no doubt going to replace Abby’s thoroughly nice British boyfriend. Oh, that’s why the boyfriend is so perfect. He doesn’t exist.
       This is an awful movie. I really do not like the obnoxious guy. At 42 minutes, we ask each other if we can endure watching the rest.
       The answer is no. We fast forward to the inevitable ending when the perfect boyfriend tearfully tells her good-bye and real life still-obnoxious guy wins Abby’s love.
       Because I liked Roswell and Liz I won’t give this the 0* this deserves.

1* of 5

17 October 2016

The Decoy Bride

The Decoy Bride 2011
  • Director: Sheree Folkson
  • Based on story by Sally Phillips
  • Cast: Kelly Macdonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve, Dylan Moran, Michael Urie, Sally Philips, Frederico Castelluccio, Maureen Beattie
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Kelly Macdonald – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, No Country for Old Men, Nanny McPhee, Tristram Shandy, The Girl in the Café, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Finding Neverland, Gosford Park, Elizabeth, Trainspotting
    • David Tennant – Doctor Who, Fright Night, Hamlet, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Bright Young Things
    • Alice Eve – Starter for 10
    • Dylan Moran – Tristram Shandy, Shaun of the Dead, Black Books, Notting Hill
    • Sally Philips – Bridget Jones’s Diary, Born Romantic, Kiss Me Kate
    • Frederico Castelluccio – The Sopranos
  • Why? David Tennant, Kelly Macdonald
  • Seen:  14 October 2016      

       Generally, I avoid any movie with the word bride in the title but with David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald I have no qualms whatsoever.
       And oh look, Black Books’ Dylan Moran as well!
       Film star Lara Tyler and best-selling author James Arber are going to get married but the paparazzi won’t leave them in peace so they decide to wed secretly in a faraway place.
       Cut to unlucky-in-love Katie throwing her engagement ring into the sea and returning to Hegg, her native island off the end of the Outer Hebrides, just in time for the wedding of her old boyfriend.
       She’s roped into writing a guidebook about Hegg because a mysterious conference is being arranged. No surprise – it’s the secret wedding and Hegg is chosen by Lara because James’s latest best-selling but not very good novel takes place there, though James had never set foot on the island, doing all his research via Google.
       Katie and James, well…it is a silly romantic comedy. But it’s funny, it’s absurd, the dialog is mostly in Scottish English, the characters are all quirky and loveable and the whole thing is quite wonderful.
       It is, after all, David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald. It has to be loved.

4 ½ * of 5


Cinderella 2015
  • Director: Kenneth Branagh
  • Based on the fairy tale and Disney film
  • Cast: Lily James, Cate Blanchet, Helena Bonham-Carter, Richard Madden, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgård, Sophia McShera, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Lily James – Downton Abbey
    • Cate Blanchett – Robin Hood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, I’m Not There, Notes on a Scandal, Babel, Little Fish, The Aviator, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Heaven, The Shipping News, The Gift, The Man Who Cried, Elizabeth, Elizabeth the Golden Age
    • Helena Bonham-Carter – Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Life’s Too Short, Harry Potter, Toast, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Absolutely Fabulous, Enid, Terminator Salvation, Sweeny Todd, Corpse Bride, Conversations with Other Women, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Fight Club, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Twelfth Night, Frankenstein, Howards End, Hamlet, A Room with a View
    • Nonzo Anozie – Brighton Rock, Happy-Go-Lucky, Atonement
    • Stellan Skarsgård – The Railway Man, River, Mamma Mia, Melancholia, Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean, King Arthur, Dogville, The Glass House, Dancer in the Dark, Amistad, Good Will Hunting, Breaking the Waves, Den enfaldige mördaren
    • Sophia McShera – Downton Abbey
    • Holliday Grainger – Jane Eyre, Merlin
    • Derek Jacobi – Vicious, Last Tango in Halifax, My Week with Marilyn, The King’s Speech, Doctor Who, Nanny McPhee, Peter Ackroyd’s London, Gosford Park, Gladiator, Hamlet, Dead Again, Henry V, Hamlet, Richard II, I Claudius
  • Why? Kenneth Branagh
  • Seen: 14 October, 2016.      

       If this wasn’t Branagh I would never watch it. I was upset when I read that he was directing a Cinderella film. My immediate reaction: ‘Do Shakespeare!’
       And then it got quite good reviews. So here we sit, Hal reluctantly, me grudgingly. I want Shakespeare.
       I’ve always found Cinderella to be unbearably sweet and good. Branagh is too skilful to portray her so shallowly – surely?
       But no. Cinderella is dreadfully sweet and good. The evil stepmother and stepsisters are nastily evil. And the prince – anonymously handsome and bland.
       But it’s lavish and colourful and the costumes are imaginative (although her ball dress is traditional and absolutely hideous; I wouldn’t be caught dead in it). It has humour and Bellatrix Lestrange is all in white instead of black and scatter-brained and kind instead of instead of murderously villainous. She makes a fabulous fairy godmother and it’s worth watching all the saccharine just to watch her. Stellan Skarsgård is fun too and Cate Blanchett clearly enjoys vamping it up as the wicked stepmother.  Kindly Daisy of Downton Abbey as one of the stepsisters adds spice. The transformation from magic carriage etc.  back to pumpkin etc. is amusing and exciting. It actually gets quite dramatic at the end.
       So, all right, it’s worth seeing.
       But really. I mean it, Sir Ken – Shakespeare! Now!

3 * of 5.  

10 October 2016

The Hollow Crown Richard III

The Hollow Crown – Richard III 2016
  • Director: Dominic Cooke
  • Based on the plays by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Sophie Okonedo, Keeley Hawes, Judi Dench, Ben Daniels, Ivanno Jeremiah, Phoebe Fox
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Benedict Cumberbatch – August Osage County, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Small Island, Creation, The Other Boleyn Girl, Atonement, Amazing Grace, Starter for 10, To Kill a King
    • Sophie Okonedo – The Slap, Skin, Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things
    • Keeley Hawes – Upstairs Downstairs, Under the Greenwood Tree, Macbeth Retold, Tristram Shandy, Our Mutual Friend, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke
    • Judi Dench - Philomena, Spectre, Hotel Marigold 2, Vicious, Hotel Marigold, My Week with Marilyn, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, Jane Eyre, Cranford, Nine, Quantum of Silence, Notes on a Scandal, Casino Royale, Mrs Henderson Presents, Ladies in Lavender, Die Another Day, The Shipping News, Chocolat, The World is Not Enough, Tea with Mussolini, Shakespeare in Love, Tomorrow Never Dies, Mrs Brown, Hamlet, Golden Eye, Middlemarch, Henry V, A Handful of Dust, A Room with a View, Macbeth, 84 Charing Cross Road
    • Ben Daniels – Merlin
    • Ivanno Jeremiah - Humans
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 8 October 2016 
By now we’ve seen several Richard IIIs, a charming Richard, a smarmy arched-eyebrowed Richard, a chatty matey Richard, a subdued Richard who whispers, ‘A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.’
In the Hollow Crown Henry VI Part Two Benedict Cumberbatch gave signs of being a hateful crazed Richard. Here he smiles a lot, when he’s not spitting in rage.
There is a lot of dramatic music, running down wide stone stairways in flowing robes, dark and shadowy interiors and meaningful close-up facials, but the first hour goes slowly and fails to grip.
We watch Richard gradually, then more quickly, lose his sanity, but Cumberbatch rather overdoes the insanity bit.
Okonedo, Hawes, Dench and Fox are all very good as the various queens. They make it possible for Cumberbatch to do, at times, a decent Richard. Without them, sorry, he’s not a very strong Richard. But then Richard is such a magnificent character that it’s a tall order for any actor to do him justice.  Maybe it’s too much to expect any one actor to portray a charming, arched-eyebrowed, chatty, matey, subdued and whispering Richard.  It would take, say a…David Tennant. Now that I would dearly like to see.

3 ½ * of 5