This biopic about Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne may look like the usual lushly produced British period movie, but it's far more original than expected. Avoiding pushy sentimentality, the filmmakers go for something that's surprisingly grim, and the messiness of the people and situations makes it feel almost unnervingly real. It may be set in frightfully posh society, where cut-glass accents waft through sun-dappled woodlands, but there are gritty issues swirling through every scene.
It opens in 1941, as Alan and Daphne (Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie) receive word about their son Christopher Robin, who is off fighting in the war. This triggers a flurry of flashbacks for Alan, who is still suffering from trauma after his own service in World War I. He returned from the front determined to stop writing frothy comedies for the stage and screen, and sets out to be more politically aware. After his wife gives birth to Christopher Robin, whom they call Billy, they move to the Sussex countryside. Billy is mainly raised by his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), but as a young boy (Will Tilston) he also spends time with his father in the woods, making up stories about his collection of stuffed animals. These would become the Winnie the Pooh books, and they change the family's life as the public clamours to know the "real" Christopher Robin. So as Billy grows up (now Alex Lawther), he's determined to be his own man.
Director Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) cleverly weaves the flashbacks to create a vivid sense of Alan's mindset. This of course triggers big emotions, but the filmmaker never wallows in them. Gleeson is superb in the role as a sensitive, creative man with a gentle twinkle in his eye and some very dark shadows deeper inside. In his privileged world, he's not allowed to show emotion, but the actor lets us see inside. Robbie has an even trickier role as the matter-of-fact Daphne, a good-time girl who rejects anything serious ("No blubbing!") but is clearly feeling everything very strongly.
Continue reading: Goodbye Christopher Robin Review
Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore) at the beginning of the film are a happy couple that are expecting their first child together. Soon they welcome their first child and they lives in a London flat. However this family dynamic is interrupted with the arrival of another couple Jon (David Morrissey) and Teresa (Laura Birn) who are also expecting their first child. Kate has been harbouring thoughts about not being able to love her child and be the mother that she needs to be in order to care for the baby creating a narrative that quickly escalates in to a chilling thriller.
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CIA agent Kidman isn't a guy that likes to be messed around and when he's tasked with a new mission he's unsure where to even begin. His superiors have asked Kidman to employ renowned director Stanley Kubrick to work on a top secret assignment.
Heading to Kubrick representatives office, Kidman speaks to someone he believes to be his representative and presents the intruder with a very lucrative proposal.
Unknowingly Kidman is now falling into a scam set by Brit Jonny. Jonny thinks on his feet and comes up with an idea to scam Kidman out of his suitcase of money. Soon Jonny recruits his mate Leon to get involved with the scam and he pretends to be the famous director. With Kidman's limited knowledge of Kubrick and only a faded picture, it appears Jonny and Leon's plan is going to work. Kidman passes them the money and strikes a deal.
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Strong characters help hold the attention as this overcooked drama develops, but in the end it feels so concocted that it's difficult to believe. While there's plenty of potential in the premise, the film becomes distracted by irrelevant subplots that try to stir up some tension but never quite manage it. And for a movie about food, the cuisine is simply too abstract to be mouthwatering.
At the centre is Adam (Bradley Cooper), a bad boy chef whose partying ways ended his high-flying career in Paris. After a period of penance in New Orleans, he moves to London to start again, with the goal of finally getting his elusive third Michelin star. Since he has alienated his friends, he turns to Tony (Daniel Bruhl), a guy who always had a soft spot for him and happens to be running a posh restaurant, which Adam quickly takes over. He rustles up some old colleagues (Omar Sy and Riccardo Scamarcio) and hires hot-shot Helene (Sienna Miller) as his sous chef. But his demanding perfectionism is keeping things from running very smoothly.
This set-up is ripe for both black comedy and soul-searching drama, and yet writer Steven Knight throws in irrelevant sideroads including a mandated therapist (the wonderful Emma Thompson), a bitter rival (a jagged Matthew Rhys), a couple of randomly violent loan sharks and a precocious little girl. Even though the actors do what they can to make every scene intriguing, none of these story elements add anything to the overall film. Still, Cooper holds the movie together with sheer charisma, even if his sudden transition from absolute tyrant to cuddly sweetheart isn't terribly convincing. At least he adds some surprising textures to his scenes, and indulges in sparky banter with those around him. And while Miller is solid in her thankless role, even she can't breathe life into such a thinly developed romance.
Continue reading: Burnt Review
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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Truly enjoyable British romantic-comedies come along so rarely (Four Weddings and a Funeral was more than 20 years ago) that there's cause to celebrate this smart, likeable romp. Director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris never try to obscure the predictable plot, but they pack every scene with sharp characters, snappy dialogue and riotous set-pieces. As a result, we're laughing so much that we barely notice that we're also being reeled in emotionally.
The story centres on Nancy (Lake Bell), who is feeling particularly alone while travelling to London and a 40th anniversary party for her parents (Ken Stott and Harriet Walter). Whinging to her sister (Sharon Horgan) on the phone, she is challenged to be more spontaneous. So when she arrives at Waterloo Station and meets Jack (Simon Pegg), who mistakes her for his blind date, she decides to go along with it, assuming the identity of 24-year-old triathlete Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond). As the afternoon and evening roll out, Nancy and Jack get along surprisingly well until they run into both his bitter ex (Olivia Williams) and one of her old school friends (Kinnear), who sees this as his chance to win her over.
While there are plenty of farcical moments on this drunken night out, the filmmakers never play up the slapstick, acknowledging every over-the-top moment with an eye-roll and a pithy comment. Pegg and Bell are simply perfect for these roles: smart, witty, likeable people with questionable social skills. Both characters are a bit beaten down, but they're also open to what life throws at them, so the rather messy journey they take is thoroughly engaging. They also leave much of the crazier comedy to expert supporting players like Williams and especially Kinnear, whose character very nearly steals the movie with his goofy stalker-like antics.
Continue reading: Man Up Review
A simple train journey can have incredibly far-reaching consequences. When Nancy (Lake Bell) meets Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) on a train, she notices the book she is reading is designed to help with relationship success. Jessica tells her that the book itself is not to be leant, as she is using it to meet up with her blind date. Nancy steals the book, believing that it will work as a serious self-help guide, however she ends up running into Jack (Simon Pegg), who was Jessica's blind date. When Nancy chooses to pose as Jessica, she has the perfect date - only he doesn't know she's lying.
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After a disastrous mission in Mozambique, disgraced spy Johnny English (Atkinson) joined a Himalayan monastery. But MI7 boss Pegasus (Anderson) calls him back into service, and soon he stumbles into a nefarious plan to assassinate China's prime minister. But he's also of course causing havoc. Now the lead suspect, only the agency's sexy shrink Kate (Pike) and his sidekick Tucker (Kaluuya) still have faith in him. And as the murderous plot unfurls at a mountain-top Swiss hideaway, English makes a daring attempt to save the world and clear his name.
Continue reading: Johnny English Reborn Review
After 12 years murdering men, women and children in the Crusades, Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) have a crisis of conscience and desert the army. They end up in a remote town, where they agree to escort an accused witch (Foy) to a distant monastery that has the only incantation that can destroy her and halt the Black Death. They're accompanied by a resolute priest (Moore) and his sidekick (Thomsen), then joined by an altar boy (Sheehan) determined to become a knight. Of course the journey is fraught with surprises.
Continue reading: Season Of The Witch Review
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