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

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 



The Hollow Crown Henry VI Part Two

The Hollow Crown – Henry VI Part Two 2016
  • Director: Dominic Cooke
  • Based on the plays by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Tom Sturridge, Sophie Okonedo, Anton Lester, Adrian Dunbar, Stanley Townsend, Ben Miles, Mariah Gale, Keeley Hawes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kyle Soller
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Tom Sturridge – Far from the Madding Crowd, The Boat that Rocked, Being Julia
    • Sophie Okonedo – The Slap, Skin, Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things
    • Anton Lesser – Endeavour, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, The Girl in the Café, Twelfth Night, King Lear,
    • Adrian Dunbar – Richard III, The Crying Game, Morse, My Left Foot
    • Stanley Townsend – Quirke, Happy-Go-Lucky, Flawless, Hustle, Inside I’m Dancing, The Libertine, Moll Flanders
    • Ben Miles – V for Vendetta, Hustle, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
    • Mariah Gale – Hamlet (with David Tennant)
    • Keeley Hawes – Upstairs Downstairs, Under the Greenwood Tree, Macbeth Retold, Tristram Shandy, Our Mutual Friend, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke
    • 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
    • Kyle Soller - Poldark
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 7 October 2016

The War of the Roses has broken out in earnest. Militant Queen Margaret leads the forces of the pious pacifist King Henry, when she’s not smooching with Somerset (until he’s beheaded).
There are a lot of heads rolling, a lot of clashing swords as one after another of the nobles of the houses of York and Lancaster are slaughtered. The spirit of revenge thrives. Truces are broken, betrayals abound. Family strife alternates with fierce family loyalty. And then strife again.
Much is changed from the plays which leads to a thin beginning but then it picks up. The confrontation between Henry and Richard of York in the parliament chamber is very dramatic. Again Okonedo and Sturridge are very strong and Cumberbatch shows promise as the traumatised young Richard (III to be, next play).
It moves more quickly and more coherently than Part One. Well done.

4* of 5



3 October 2016

84 Charing Cross Road

84 Charing Cross Road 1987
  • Director: David Jones
  • Based on book by Helene Hanff
  • Cast: Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench, Ian McNeice, Connie Booth
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Anne Bancroft – The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone, To Be or Not to Be, The Elephant Man, The Graduate, The Miracle Worker
    • Anthony Hopkins – Thor, Bobby, Proof, The Human Stain, Titus, Meet Joe Black, Surviving Picasso, The Remains of the Day, Howards End, The Silence of the Lambs, Othello, The Elephant Man, The Lion in Winter
    • 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,
    • Ian McNeice – Valkyria, From Hell, Longitude, David Copperfield, A Life Less Ordinary, Nicholas Nickleby
    • Connie Booth – Monty Python, Fawlty Towers
  • Why? Like the book
  • Seen: Two or three times previously. Now: 1 October, 2016 with Hal, YW and KW in the read-book-watch-movie group      

       A must for book lovers, letter writers and Anglophiles. I won’t tell you the story. If you don’t know it, look it up. But I will tell you it’s about a bookshop known for out-of-print rare books in London and a NW writer who loves rare books. It’s a true story, though sadly the bookshop no longer exists.
       The book is a gem. The film gives a fair attempt at living up to it. Hopkins and Bancroft are perfect choices. Dench plays quite a small role and in the beginning she’s almost unrecognisable but she already has the Dench voice.
       One complaint. There are unnecessary additions in the film. I wish they hadn’t done that. It seems they felt they had to pad the story but they could have done that by developing what’s already there in the book.
       At times though it touches the essence of the book and thereby the heartstrings. It too is a small gem in its way. Less than perfect but a great pleasure to watch.

3 ½ * of 5.  






The Hollow Crown Henry VI Part 1

The Hollow Crown – Henry VI Part One
  • Director: Dominic Cooke
  • Based on the plays by William Shakespeare
  • Cast: Max Bennett, Hugh Bonneville, Adrian Dunbar, Michael Gambon, Philip Glennister, Sally Hawkins, Anton Lester, Laura Morgan, Sophie Okonedo, Tom Sturridge, Stanley Townsend, Ben Miles, Samuel West
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Max Bennett – Endeavour
    • Hugh Bonneville – Downton Abbey, Lost in Austen, Bonekickers, Daniel Deronda, Notting Hill, Tomorrow Never Dies, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
    • Anton Lesser – Endeavour, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides, The Girl in the Café, Twelfth Night, King Lear,
    • Adrian Dunbar – Richard III, The Crying Game, Morse, My Left Foot
    • Michael Gambon – Fortitude, Quirke, The Quartet, Harry Potter 3-8, The King’s Speech, The Book of Eli, Brideshead Revisited, Cranford, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Being Julia, Angels in America, Gosford Park, Longitude, Sleepy Hollow, Mary Reilly, A Dry White Season
    • Philip Glennister – Cranford, Kingdom of Heaven, Island at War, The Calendar Girls, The Other Boleyn Girl,
    • Sally Hawkins – Jane Eyre, Never Let Me Go, An Education, Happy-Go-Lucky, Little Britain, Twenty Thousand Streets under the Sky, Vera Drake, All or Nothing
    • Sophie Okonedo – The Slap, Skin, Hotel Rwanda, Dirty Pretty Things
    • Tom Sturridge – Far from the Madding Crowd, The Boat that Rocked, Being Julia
    • Stanley Townsend – Quirke, Happy-Go-Lucky, Flawless, Hustle, Inside I’m Dancing, The Libertine, Moll Flanders
    • Ben Miles – V for Vendetta, Hustle, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
    • Samuel West – Longitude, Notting Hill, Howards End
  • Why? Shakespeare
  • Seen: 30 September 2016 

It’s a pity these films hadn’t been released yet when we read the history plays recently but now they’re here and we’re certainly not going to wait until we’ve read the plays next time around. That will be a couple of years at least. So regard this as part of the history plays suite.
The heroic (and warmongering) Henry V has died young leaving the child Henry VI at the mercy of rivalling lords and the loss of all the French territories conquered by his father. Shakespeare condenses Henry’s long life and reign into three plays. The Hollow Crown squashes them into two films. It was a confusing and bloody time. Shakespeare’s plays are confusing and bloody. So too is this film.
Shakespeare’s blustery and comical portrayal of English military leader Talbot is scaled down to a simple noble ill-fated soldier here and Shakespeare’s wonderfully cheeky and tragic Joan of Arc is reduced to a rather boring fanatic. A pity. She’s one of my favourite Shakespeare characters. [1]

Sophie Okonedo shines as the strong-willed Margaret (though here too the direction makes her more nasty than politically astute), beloved by Henry, hated by his court for being French and not only not bringing a dowry but costing even more loss of French territories. [2] Tom Sturridge is very good as the foolish, weak, pious young king. The whole cast, chosen from England’s theatrical elite, makes this mess of a play almost understandable and the characters come alive. Especially commended are Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins as the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
The production shows explicitly several things that are only hinted at in Shakespeare – usually a mistake, here as well – and several important complexities are compacted into incomprehensibility.
In short, this is a flawed production and not as good as the first Hollow Crown series. But still, it’s worth seeing.  


3 ½  * of 5 




[2] Margaret is fantastic character. One of Shakespeare’s best portrayals. See my text pages 25-32 in Shakespeare Calling – the book (links above)