Posts Tagged ‘Bill Nighy’

Prosperity and Indulgence

Emma

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Connor Swindells

Thank you to United International Pictures for the UIP Film Preview of Emma held on Wednesday 4th March 2020 at Suncoast CineCentre in Durban, South Africa.

Director Autumn de Wilde’s sassy interpretation of the Jane Austen novel Emma into a gloriously lavish film version is not to be missed.

Mia Goth (left) as “Harriet Smith” and Anya Taylor-Joy (right) as “Emma Woodhouse” in director Autumn de Wilde’s EMMA, a Focus Features release. Credit : Focus Features

This delightful and devilishly romantic comedy of manners set in the early part of the 19th Century in rural England before the Napoleonic wars during the crest of romanticism in English Literature features a fabulous cast of hot young American and British film stars including Anya Taylor-Joy as Emma, handsome and blonde blue-eyed British actor Johnny Flynn as George Knightley, Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness) as the impressionable Harriett Smith and Callum Turner as the dashing and incorrigible Frank Churchill who survived solely on prosperity and indulgence.

Emma ill-advises the sweet and innocent Harriett not to accept the marriage proposal of tenant farmer Mr Martin played by Connor Swindells, while into the mix of romantic intrigue is thrown the fascinating and musically accomplished Jane Fairfax played by Amber Anderson (The Riot Club) whose talents prove to rival that of our rich and clever heroine.

Anya Taylor-Joy (left) as “Emma Woodhouse” and Johnny Flynn (right) as “Mr. Knightley” in director Autumn de Wilde’s EMMA, a Focus Features release. Credit : Focus Features

Through gorgeous balls, dinners and sumptuous afternoon teas and the obligatory summer picnic, romances blossom and are duly crushed while throughout Emma Woodhouse has to re-evaluate her own feelings for the ubiquitous George Knightley who has a convivial relationship with Emma’s hypochondriac father Mr Woodhouse wonderfully played with sly comic genius by Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Bookshop).

Other superb supporting actors in Emma include Rupert Graves (A Room with a View, Death at a Funeral, Maurice,) as Mr Weston, Miranda Hart (Spy) as Miss Bates and Gemma Whelan from HBO’s hit series Games of Thrones as Mrs Weston.

Director Autumn de Wilde’s refreshingly bright and gorgeous cinematic retelling of Emma is definitely worth seeing and gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy clever romantic comedies especially inspired by the smart writings of Jane Austen naturally infused with the dry British sense of humour.

Hopefully, this version of Emma will inspire the millennials to pry their eyes away from smartphones and rediscover the witty literature of Jane Austen whose refined comedy of manners included an array of famous romantic novels including Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility.

Displaying Lolita

The Bookshop

Director: Isabel Coixet

Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Patricia Clarkson, Honor Kneafsey, James Lance, Jorge Suquet, Hunter Tremayne, Frances Barber

Elegy and Endless Night Spanish director Isabel Coixet brings to the screen Penelope Fitzgerald’s poignant novel The Bookshop set in a small East Anglian town in 1959. The story centres around a relatively young widow Florence Greene wonderfully played by British actress Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns, The Sense of an Ending, Hugo, Shutter Island) who decides to open a book shop in this remote gossip ridden environment.

While naturally stocking the classics like Thackeray, Dickens and George Eliot, Mrs Greene decides to sell more controversial literature including Ray Bradbury’s dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451 and Vladimir Nabokov’s scandalous novel Lolita.

In a genteel correspondence with a mysterious reclusive bibliophile Edmund Brundish superbly played by British screen legend Bill Nighy (Their Finest, Pride, Wrath of the Titans), Florence gradually draws Brundish out of his reclusive liar as she continually sends him fascinating literary works.

However. like in many conservative small towns, the idea of a progressive bookshop which could disseminate radical ideas soon finds opposition amongst the townsfolk headed by the snobbish and influential Violet Gamart, played with menace and sophistication by Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April).

Violet’s wicked emissary is the slippery playboy Milo North played by James Lance (Bel Ami, Marie Antoinette) who ultimately betrays Florence Greene as slowly but surely each of the town’s inhabitant’s turns against her best literary endeavors.

The Bookshop is a slow moving poignant drama about a women’s wish to fill a lifelong dream and a community who finds repulsion their best way to combat any radical innovative changes such as a well-stocked and resourceful bookshop. Director Isabel Coixet displays her art house aesthetic in The Bookshop to comment incisively on the cruelty of a small English town which is just emerging out of the post-World War II shock and horror, only to find themselves not quite ready to embrace an innovative literary aesthetic, which eventually become fashionable in the 1960’s.

This film’s theatrical release was later in other parts of the world

Spanish director Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop receives a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is a subtle portrait of narrow mindedness which will not give audiences that expected cathartic release that accompanies happy endings.

The Bookshop is recommended viewing for those that enjoy European Art House cinema even though this literary themed film is set in Britain.

The Nancy Starling

Their Finest

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston, Richard E. Grant, Jeremy Irons, Jake Lacy, Eddie Marsan, Helen McCrory, Rachael Stirling

Danish director Lone Scherfig delivers another nuanced and unexpectedly unsettling film, Their Finest featuring a superb performance by Gemma Arterton (The Prince of Persia, Quantum of Solace) in one of her best roles yet. Director of The Riot Club, One Day and An Education, Scherfig is brilliant at capturing the peculiarities of the British social system, exemplified in The Riot Club and perfected in her latest film, Their Finest.

Set in 1940 during the Blitz, while London was being mercilessly bombed by the Germans at the beginning of World War II, Their Finest focuses on the art of propaganda about Arterton who is asked to become a scriptwriter on a film aimed to boosted the morale of the British public particularly from a woman’s perspective when most of the men were being conscripted to fight the war.

Arterton plays the feisty Welsh woman Caitrin Cole whose relationship with a struggling artist Ellis Cole played by Jack Huston (Ben-Hur, The Riot Club) is precarious at best. Caitrin’s co-writer is the cynical Tom Buckley wonderfully played by Sam Claflin (Me Before You) who keeps on advising her to trim the fat on any story which appears too verbose.

The story in question is how twin sisters managed to save some Allied soldiers off the French coast during the Dunkirk evacuation aboard their father’s fishing vessel The Nancy Starling.

The embellishment of the story and its natural progression to a morale boosting piece of cinema, aptly named The Nancy Starling is the task of Caitlyn and Tom who has to contend not only with the vested interests of the Ministry of Information represented by Roger Swain wonderfully played by Richard E. Grant but also the War Ministry represented by the Secretary of War played by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons (The Reversal of Fortune).

What elevates the grim narrative of Their Finest, a city under siege with Londoners being randomly killed off during incessant bombings is the appearance of fading film star Ambrose Hilliard acidly played with dark humour by character actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Pride).

There are some precious moments between Nighy and his new agent Sophie Smith played by Helen McCrory who takes over Hilliard’s career after her brother Sammy Smith, a brief cameo by Eddie Marsan, is unexpectedly killed in the bombings.

Based upon the novel by Lissa Evans entitled “Their Finest Hour and a Half”, Their Finest is a remarkably interesting war film about the art of propaganda, the process of scripting a film and a precarious love triangle, particularly noticeable when thwarted affections develop between Tom Buckley and Caitrin Cole.

The only criticism is that Their Finest could have been edited more efficiently as the dramatic pace of the film lags at times and this efficiency in getting the story across would have prevented the narrative from becoming slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Yet despite its imperfections, Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin are brilliant as the young creative screenwriters trying to negotiate a budding romance amidst their own artistic differences.

Audiences should look out for a particularly tart performance by Diana Rigg’s daughter Rachael Stirling as the propaganda film’s sharp tongued production secretary Phyl Moore.

Their Finest as a wartime dramatic comedy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10. This witty and poignant British film will be enjoyed by those that share the English sentiment of stoically soldiering on in the face of burdening hardships without resorting to emotional melodrama. Which is what the British did during the Blitz.

 

57th BAFTA Awards

THE  57TH BAFTA AWARDS /

THE BRITISH ACADEMY FILM AWARDS

Took place on Sunday 15th February 2004 in London

BAFTA WINNERS IN THE FILM CATEGORY:

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Best Film:  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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Best Director: Peter Weir – Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

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Best Actor: Bill Murray – Lost in Translation

Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson – Lost in Translation

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Best Supporting Actor: Bill Nighy – Love Actually

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Best Supporting Actress: Renée Zellweger – Cold Mountain

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Best British Film: Touching the Void

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Best Original Screenplay: The Station Agent – Thomas McCarthy

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Best Adapted Screenplay: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Philippa BoyensPeter Jackson, and Fran Walsh

Best Visual Effects: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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Best Foreign Language Film: In This World directed by Michael Winterbottom

57th BAFTA Awards

 

A Blissful and Marvellous Reunion

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Richard Gere, Ronald Pickup, David Strathairn, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Tamsin Greig

After the surprise success of the delightful 2012 film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it is no wonder that director John Madden decided to do a companion film and organize a more extravagant and blissful reunion of the cast of the first film with newcomers Richard Gere, no longer the Gigolo, and David Strathairn to make up the male parts for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel set in Jaipur, Mumbai and San Diego.

Whilst the original film was a sort of bitter-sweet adventure, the second film is a celebration and continuation of everything so wonderful and colourful about the possibility of spending one’s Twilight years in the exotic location of Jaipur. This is Shady Pines with colour and vibrancy, wit and humour and proves that the older generation of actors can still pull off a charming and marvellous sequel infused with the energetic Sonny wonderfully played again by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and his impending wedding to Sunaina played by Tina Desai.

In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny has big plans for expansion and hopes to acquire another rambling hotel in Jaipur to extend his collection of gorgeous establishments for the aged and semi-retired. The scenes between Patel and veteran actress Maggie Smith are crackling with wit and exuberance especially as they approach a major hotel chain based in San Diego for some much needed venture capital to expand their business enterprise.

Back in India, director John Madden expands his palette from the first film and each shot of The Second Best Marigold Hotel is a simulacrum of all the great films made about that subcontinent from David Lean’s A Passage to India and Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding making for a positively blissful and gorgeous cinematic reunion.

Subtly directed and beautifully acted, although the story is at times whimsical, each of the British actors from Celia Imrie and Diana Hardcastle to Ronald Pickup and Bill Nighy have more scope and depth in this companion piece which will surely delight all audiences who so enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Silver haired Richard Gere’s role as an enigmatic guest Guy Chambers and seducer of Sonny’s mom add to the romance of the Jaipur establishment. The structure of the film is centred around the marriage of Sonny and Sunaina from the lavish engagement party to the actual flamboyant and vibrant wedding. Intertwined with the portrait of young love, is the growing affection between Evelyn and Douglas played with the usual quirkiness by Bill Nighy.

The scenes between Dench and Smith are poignant and nuanced, both Oscar winning accomplished actresses as they give viewers a sense that their imminent cinematic retirement is drawing near, yet their stardom will last forever. Oscar winners Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have had amazing stage and screen careers and it is encouraging to see them still commanding the big screen in an age of the digital blockbuster.

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Whilst The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not as brilliant or as unique as the first film, it still stands on its own as a delightfully fine companion piece. Judging how packed the cinema was, there is a huge market out there for these gorgeous films aimed at retired viewers who are not always willing to sit through some of the Hollywood commercial cinema which makes up the bulk of the studio releases.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the first film, and similar movies like Enchanted April, Tea with Mussolini and Ladies in Lavender.

 

 

Recalling Visual Clues

Total Recall

Farrell losing a sense of reality

The 21st century version of the sci-fi action thriller Total Recall is another cinematic retelling of a Philip K. Dick story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, following on from Blade Runner (1982), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), Next (2007) and  The Adjustment Bureau (2011) and this time features Colin Farrell in the lead role of Douglas Quaid aka Cole Hauser a role first made famous by Arnold Schwarzeneggar in the original Paul Verhoeven garish version of a Mars set Total Recall released in 1990 featuring the voluptuous Sharon Stone as Lori and Rachel Ticotin as Melina.

Arnie's version

In this version of Total Recall, directed by Len Wiseman, the earth is mostly uninhabitable through devastating chemical warfare leaving only the United Federation of Britain (sections of the former UK) and The Colony (known now as Australia). Workers from the Colony are transported via a rapid underground train, a revolutionized Eurostar to the UFB an overpopulated simulacrum of late 21st century London where they work on production lines producing Synthetics.

On the journey the hero Douglas Quaid is reading Ian Fleming’s novel The Spy Who Loved Me, a visual clue to how the rest of the film turns out. As is happens Douglas’s charming yet lethal wife Lori played by the sexy Kate Beckinsale is not who she appears to be and through an adventure which ignites when Douglas decides to give Rekall a try to break out of his industrial existence. Rekall is a drug induced manufactured memory enhancer whereby memories can be implanted into a person’s frontal lobe and people can cherish memories based on fabricated experiences.

Total Recall for the first 45 minutes is absolutely thrilling with lots of action and stunning production values with Wiseman clearly influenced by the iconic Blade Runner and similar sci-fi films with large awe-inspiring sets channeling a gritty version of I, Robot and of course Minority Report. The best scene is the chase sequence in the UFB with Farrell and Jessica Biel as Melina a fellow Colony freedom fighter who handles a fantastic uber-hovercraft on a high-tech multi-layered speedway which makes the M25 look like Noddy’s picnic. Bryan Cranston appears as the villain Cohaagen and Bill Nighy as the mysterious post-nuclear freedom fighter Matthias.

Where this version of Total Recall fails is the lack of character development and backstory which is made up for by the endless action sequences which detract from making Total Recall as brilliant and thought provoking as Blade Runner was 30 years ago. The film appears forced in places and action takes precedence over plot in a version of reality which could have done with more measured virtual clues and less bullets. See Total Recall if you are a hardcore Sci-Fi fan and don’t compare it to Paul Verhoeven’s garish and sensational 1990 version especially if viewers are dedicated fans of Philip K. Dick’s cinematized tales dealing with altered reality, memory and virtual personalities.

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