This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based on a Stephen Fry novel, the snappy wit in the dialogue zings with his specific brand of intelligent humour. This keeps the audience entertained as the story plays lightly with ideas of social privilege and deep-seated faith. The film is overcrowded, and the themes are all over the place, but it's often quite funny.
The story is told through the eyes inebriated curmudgeonly writer Ted (Roger Allam), a former poet who has just been sacked as a theatre critic. Thankfully, he has a distraction when he's asked to look into the rumours that his 16-year-old godson David (Tommy Knight) has some sort of mystical healing powers. So he heads to the manor house where David lives with his parents (Matthew Modine and Fiona Shaw) and older brother Simon (Dean Ridge). As Ted tries to get to the bottom of things, he speaks with a local playwright (Tim McInnerny) and his old flame Rebecca (Geraldine Somerville). But it's not easy to keep focussed on his task when he's drinking so much.
The film is very loosely directed by John Jencks (The Fold), which means that the tone is all over the place. Some scenes are played for slapstick value, while others are darkly pointed or intensely emotional. There are also so many characters that it's tricky to work out the connections between them, especially as their constant bickering reveals a labyrinth of past issues, and Ted never stops talking in the voiceover narration. All of this is amusing but noisily chaotic. So it's up to the actors to hold our interest. Allam is reliably entertaining as the likeably smug Ted, and his interaction with each of the others is energetic and sometimes funny. Amid the shameless scene-chompers in the cast, it's Knight who emerges as the most sympathetic figure even though, like everyone else, he's just using other people to get what he wants.
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Miss Shepherd is a highly educated elderly woman living off barely anything in a small dilapidated van. She asks for nothing from her community, other than to be allowed her peace and to have a place to park her van. Constantly being moved by authorities, she finds herself taking up residence on Alan Bennett's road, much to the displeasure of his house proud neighbours. Despite her prickly disposition and shameless boldness, Bennett - a man of more timid and awkward nature - takes an immediate shine to Miss Shepherd, offering her his driveway to park her vehicle on a temporary basis. Soon, though, just a few weeks turns into fifteen long years as this impoverished musical scholar and this lowly gentleman of humble background become unlikely yet inseparable friends - a friendship rocked by Miss Shepherd's eventual ill health which soon strikes a sadness in the heart of the whole town.
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Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of a mystery may disappoint die-hard fans, but as an astute drama it's more than worth a look because Ian McKellen is simply terrific in the title role. This is a much more complex character than he has been able to play recently either in movies (like the X-men and Lord of the Rings franchises) or television (the nutty sitcom Vicious). The film also reunites him with Bill Condon, who directed him to an Oscar nomination in Gods and Monsters 17 years ago.
It's 1947, and Sherlock is 93 years old when we meet him, living on the Sussex coast where he keeps bees and has befriended Roger (Milo Parker), the curious son of his tough-minded housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney). As Sherlock teaches Roger about both beekeeping and sleuthing, he is also trying to work out his final case some 30 years ago, which his mind simply refuses to recall. As he relives it in his mind, rather than through Watson's embellished account, all he can remember is a worried husband (Patrick Kennedy) asking him to follow his wife (Hattie Morahan). In addition, Sherlock is also still thinking about the things he discovered while recently in post-war Japan at the invitation of a fan (Hiroyuki Sanada).
The main story and the two flashback sequences are intriguingly intertwined in Sherlock's mind, offering parallel discoveries that help him piece together events that unfold in all three. It's a clever approach that allows McKellen to dig deep into the character as a man discovering that his mind is fading, perhaps into senility. His take on Sherlock is simply fascinating, a witty detective who has always resisted the fictional depiction of him in Watson's stories. And he's also an ageing man who hasn't lost his childlike curiosity, which makes his friendship with the young Roger surprisingly tender and engaging.
Continue reading: Mr. Holmes Review
Although it takes a breezy, sometimes silly approach to a fragment of a true story, this British period film has enough charm to keep audiences entertained, thanks to its lively cast and ambitious recreation of historical events. Director Julian Jarrold (Kinky Boots) may be largely fictionalising what happened to real people on VE Day 70 years ago, but he certainly knows how to have some fun at the same time. And the film has some intriguing things to say about how the world has changed since then.
Victory in Europe was declared on May 8th 1945, and the streets of London filled with disorderly celebrations. Watching all of this from within Buckingham Palace, the teen princesses Elizabeth and Margaret (Sarah Gadon and Bel Powley) are desperate to get out there and mingle with the crowd. Their parents, King George VI and Queen Elzabeth (Rupert Everett and Emily Watson), reluctantly agree to let them leave with two military escorts (Jack Laskey and Jack Gordon). But they soon lose their chaperones in the party atmosphere in The Ritz. The ditzy Margaret heads off into the night visiting a string of parties, while Elizabeth tries to track her down, assisted by a helpful stranger, airman Jack (Jack Reynor), an anti-royalist who has no idea who this young woman actually is.
First of all, it's intriguing to remember that in 1945 people in the streets wouldn't have recognised the princesses, especially since they had essentially been locked out of view for the previous seven years. This is inconceivable now, as is the idea of revellers filling the streets celebrating victory in a war, because no generation since has had a war end on a remotely positive note. These kinds of themes add subtext to what is otherwise a frothy romp punctuated by moments of silly slapstick. Jarrold recreates the evening beautifully on-screen, with a real sense of the club-lined streets of Mayfair, the drug dens of Soho, the flag-waving crowds going wild in Trafalgar Square, and the bombed-out city returning to life.
Continue reading: A Royal Night Out Review
Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth are distinctly unworldly despite their prestigious education as young women, but when World War 2 comes to an end in 1945, even their parents King George and Queen Elizabeth can't deny them the chance to celebrate. And so it is that the girls are allowed to venture out into London, to join the men and women of the country in their parties - albeit going incognito and on the one condition that they are chaperoned by two soldiers. As it turns out, it's impossible to hide their identity for long and soon everyone knows that the future Queen of England and her sister are out fraternising with soldiers - and their royal parents are faced with worry when they are out much later than they should have been.
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The year is 1947. Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is 93 years old and living in almost total solitude in a farmhouse in Sussex. Here, he tries to keep himself to himself and tend to his bees, but is plagued by the fact that his once great mind has withered away to nothing. He remembers the final case he took, and how he was incapable of solving it. But now, with the help of his housekeeper's son, Sherlock Holmes shall once again solve a mystery.
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Time makes a fool of all of us; even the greatest minds will become blunt and lose their power as the years roll on. By the year 1947, Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has reached the age of 93, and lives in solitude in a small Sussex farmhouse, dividing his time between read through his journals and tending to his bees. But when his housekeeper and her son begin to ask questions about his final, unfinished case, Holmes is forced to battle his own deteriorating mind in order to solve a mystery that would once have posed no problem to him.
Continue: Mr Holmes - Clip
Once upon a time, a normal man lived in a normal house on a normal street. Then, something extraordinary happened. An educated woman - a scholar of both music and art - who lives in a van, takes up residence on the road. Miss Shepard (Maggie Smith) is insistent on staying in her van on the street, and the man (Alan Bennett), invites her to park her mobile home in his driveway in order to relieve his neighbours of the site. They agree she will stay for three weeks; she ends up staying for fifteen years.
Continue: Lady In The Van Trailer
While there's a strong story in here about the power of literature and the fragility of life, this movie takes a far too wistful approach, so it feels like a cheesy bedtime yarn rather than a look at horrors of Nazi Germany. As a result, it's difficult to feel the full force of either the wrenchingly emotional events or the provocative themes.
Set in 1938, the story opens as irreverent 12-year-old Leisel (Nelisse) is taken away from her mother, who is accused of being a communist. She's then adopted by the childless couple Hans and Rosa (Rush and Watson). But while the cheerful artist Hans makes her feel at home, Rosa is relentlessly harsh. Leisel also reluctantly befriends neighbour boy Rolf (Liersch) and embarks on a series of adventures, including stealing books from Nazi book-burning rallies. But the mayor's wife (Auer) doesn't mind Leisel stealing books from her library. And when Hans and Rosa take in a Jewish refugee boy (Schnetzer), he encourages Leisel to start writing her own stories.
Oddly, director Percival softens every dark element in Petroni's screenplay. The Nazis are like school playground bullies, while the Allied bombings leave buildings in rubble but dead bodies bizarrely intact and peaceful. Even the setting looks like a fairy tale, with magical snowdrifts and fanciful spires. And the strangest touch of all is the cheery voiceover narration by Death (Allam), which turns the most horrific atrocities into a kind of wry eventuality. Watching brutal murder presented as a sort of poetic justice is deeply disturbing.
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Robbie is an ex-offender and new father who is looking for a new lease on life after narrowly escaping prison for his last offence. Upon seeing his newborn son for the first time he vow that his child will never have to endure the same mistakes he has. Along with the new found friends he has made on community service they visit one of the many whiskey distilleries in his native Scotland and he soon learns that turning to drink might very well change his life.
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This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...
Maggie Smith couldn't be more perfect for the title role in this film if it...
Miss Shepherd is a highly educated elderly woman living off barely anything in a small...
Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of...
Although it takes a breezy, sometimes silly approach to a fragment of a true story,...
Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth are distinctly unworldly despite their prestigious education as young women,...
The year is 1947. Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is 93 years old and living in...
While there's a strong story in here about the power of literature and the fragility...
Robbie is an ex-offender and new father who is looking for a new lease on...
Based on both the Susan Hill novel and the hit stage play, this creepy ghost...
When Margaret Thatcher started out in politics she always aspired to do something great, though...