Posts Tagged ‘Emma Thompson’

The Royal Courts of Justice

The Children Act

Director: Richard Eyre

Cast: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Ben Chaplin

Notes on a Scandal director Richard Eyre adapts an Ian McEwan novel The Children Act featuring another Oscar worthy performance by Emma Thompson who plays a British judge Fiona Maye who has to decide the complex case of Jehovah Witness teenager who has leukaemia and whose parents are refusing to allow the hospital to give him a blood transfusion which is against their religious beliefs.

Dunkirk star Fionn Whitehead plays the young seventeen year old boy Adam Henry who takes a shine to the supposedly impartial judge Maye after she visits him in hospital to determine how critical his medical condition really is.

The Children Act is masterfully directed by Richard Eyre and ably supported by an articulate screenplay by Ian McEwan who adapted it from his novel.

At the centre of The Children Act is a superb performance by Emma Thompson who is not only having to deal with legally and morally complex court cases but has to grapple with the failure of her marriage to English lecturer Jack Maye wonderfully played against type by American actor Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada).

Thompson who cut her teeth in some early Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespeare film adaptations including King Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, has come into her own as a respected British actress.

She later blossomed under the artful direction of now Oscar winner James Ivory, who at age 88 adapted the screenplay for the superb 2017 film Call Me by Your Name. Emma Thompson starred in two major Merchant Ivory productions Howards End and Remains of The Day both opposite Anthony Hopkins. She won an Oscar in 1992 for Best Actress for portraying Margaret Schlegel in Howards End.

In later years, Thompson has not really featured in many complex roles but her turn as Fiona Maye in The Children Act has redeemed her star quality which peaked in Ang Lee’s handsome film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility opposite Kate Winslet, for which she picked up another Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Children Act is a sophisticated British legal drama about the moral boundaries of the law and the psychological impact such judgements can make on those suffering from terminal diseases. An intelligent handling of a complex and deeply polarizing subject matter, held together by a flawless performance by Emma Thompson.

The Children Act gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 is highly recommended viewing for those that prefer substantial British dramas which are not easily weighed down by melancholy or prejudice.

 

 

 

Vanity and Virtue

Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Hattie Morahan, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack

When Disney does a live action version of a classic animated film, audiences know they are going to do it brilliantly. Beauty and the Beast is absolutely superb and extremely enjoyable viewing.

If audiences are going to pay for one cinema ticket this year, buy a ticket for Beauty and the Beast.

Originally based on the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, Beauty and the Beast is an extraordinary visual feast.

The first aspect Disney got right was the crucial casting of Beauty and the Beast. With a mostly British cast, Belle is played by Emma Watson (The Bling Ring) and the Beast played by Dan Stevens who rose to fame in Julian Fellowes BBC hit series Downton Abbey. For the real villain of the piece, Welsh actor Luke Evans (Dracula Untold) is cast as the arrogant Gaston and Josh Gad stars as his sidekick Lefou.

Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish called Wanda) plays Belle’s hapless father Maurice who during a journey to the market is side tracked by vicious wolves and lands up as an unwitting guest of the Beast in his cavernous castle with only talking furniture for company.

The flamboyant candelabra Lumiere is played by Ewan McGregor (Our Kind of Traitor) and the mantel piece clock Cogsworth is wonderfully played by Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters, Mr Holmes) while the teapot Mrs Potts is voiced by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Howard’s End). Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) plays Plumette and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada) voices the maestro Cadenza.

What really makes Beauty and the Beast so lovely is the music, the music and the music. From the director of Dreamgirls and Gods and Monsters Bill Condon delivers a fantastic film retaining the story’s authentic fairy tale which deftly combines romance with action and music. Beauty and the Beast has gorgeous costumes designed by Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran (Anna Karenina) accompanying the film’s exceptional production design by Sarah Greenwood.

Both the headstrong Belle and the grumpy Beast form an unlikely romance overcoming vanity and retaining virtue while they have to compete against the duplicitous Gaston and break the immortal spell cast on the Beast and his lively accompaniments.

Highly recommended viewing for all age groups, Beauty and the Beast gets a film rating of 9 out of 10.

Although running at over two hours this Disney fantasy musical is worth watching and audiences should stay seated to watch the spectacular end credits.

 

Overdue but worth the wait

Bridget Jones’ Baby

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Director: Sharon Maguire

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Joanna Scanlan, Sarah Solemani, Celia Imrie

Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain) after a six year screen absence reprises her role of Bridget Jones in the third instalment of the hit film franchise, simply entitled Bridget Jones’ Baby. The first two films were based on the bestselling novels by Helen Fielding. Zellweger tackles her role of Bridget Jones with familiar vigour and she is joined onscreen for continuity purposes by Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as uptight London lawyer Mark Darcy and new comer Patrick Dempsey as dating expert Jack Qwaint.

Zellweger and Firth have matured as actors which is evident onscreen, for the best scenes in Bridget Jones’ Baby is shared between them.

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Bridget Jones finds herself at 43, working as a TV assistant producer for a zany London talk show which is being threatened by a group millennials. She begins to question whether she will ever have a baby, because let’s face it her biological clock is ticking. Never fear!

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With the help of her new best friend the naughty TV host Miranda, wonderfully played by Sarah Solemani, Bridget Jones soon lands up having amorous relationships first with Jack at a music festival which strongly resembles Glastonbury, shorty followed by a similar sexy scene where Jones and Darcy rekindle their much repressed love for each other at a Christening of a mutual friends baby.

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As per the film’s title, Bridget Jones soon finds herself knocked up but not quite sure who the father is. Enter a delightful cameo by Emma Thompson as her droll doctor who plays along for the sake of decency.

Bridget Jones also has to break the news of her pregnancy to her parents. Her mother who is running for some minor political office is superbly played by Gemma Jones and her father once again played by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) is naturally supportive of his daughter carrying their first grandchild despite her not quite knowing who the father is.

I would be lying if Bridget Jones’ Baby is not aimed at a female audience, as the primary narrative in the film is about the main characters pregnancy and her impending birth, as well as trying to survive the pregnancy with the help of two potential fathers who naturally see themselves as rivals. There is a hilarious scene when Bridget Jones has to be rushed to the hospital only to eventually be carried by both of them, Mark Darcy and Jack Qwaint.

With the help of a delightfully witty script, director Sharon Maguire does justice to the Bridget Jones franchise even leaving the possibility open for a fourth film since Jones’ other main suitor the devilishly handsome Daniel Cleaver who was played by Hugh Grant in the first two films is feared dead, but body yet to be recovered…

Whilst the first half of Bridget Jones’ Baby is fun and quirky, with lots of hilarious moments, the second half does drag a bit, which was done intentionally so that the audiences could appreciate the baby when he finally arrives. Essentially, Bridget Jones’ Baby is highly recommended viewing, and should be a hit with the gang of book club ladies both young and old who seemed to pack the cinemas, shifting the film to number one at the box office.

Demons in the Kitchen

Burnt

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Director: John Wells
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Matthew Rhys, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lily James, Sam Keeley

Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) gives a sterling and frenetic performance as Michelin star chef Adam Jones in the film Burnt, who returns to London from New Orleans, to redeem himself, his reputation and make amendments with the colleagues he upset during his stint in Paris.

Assembling an eclectic cast including Uma Thurman as a Food Critic, Emma Thompson as a Nurse/Social Worker and Daniel Bruhl as the maitre’d Tony. Burnt is a brilliant examination of one man’s attempt to regain his former culinary glory and even surpass it, with a brittle script by Steven Knight.

The film of course is assisted by the two central and brilliant performances by the blue-eyed Bradley Cooper who really excels in the role of the temperamental and arrogant chef Adam Jones who not only is a demon in the kitchen but has to face his own inner demons. Sienna Miller (American Sniper, Foxcatcher) makes up the second superb performance and is fortunately given much more screen time than she had in both her previous films.

Miller plays aspiring Chef Helene who has to juggle bringing up a little girl and working in a hectic kitchen where it’s not only the male egos that threaten her livelihood but their intense competitiveness. Miller is literally surrounded by demons in the kitchen as she has to stand in for Jones after he is beaten up by some nefarious French gangsters for an outstanding drug debt. The scenes between Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper are riveting too watch, clearly signifying an onscreen chemistry which is both comfortable and electric.

August: Osage County director John Wells’s new film Burnt is certainly primed for Oscar season and it’s especially Cooper and Miller which deserve some thespian recognition. Audiences, while not salivating over the nouvelle cuisine served up at London’s posh Langham Hotel in the West End, should look out for Matthew Rhys as rival chef Reece who also turns in a superb performance opposite Cooper. Then again Rhys has really proven himself as an actor after roles on the hit show Brothers and Sisters and the excellent espionage series The Americans.

As culinary dramas go, Burnt is a top notch film, held together by a riveting performance by Bradley Cooper as the prima donna chef who not only throws pots and pans, but also his reputation to chance, in a concerted effort to redeem himself in one of the world’s toughest capital cities, London.

At times Steven Knight’s script leaves more questions than answers, however Burnt is redeemed in the acting department with both Miller and Cooper turning in fiery and intense performances ably assisted by a European supporting cast including Alicia Vikander (Man from Uncle), Lilly James (Cinderella), Omar Sy (Jurassic World, Good People) and of course the Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl whose screen presence has certainly been raised after his superb performance as Nikki Lauder in Rush.

For all the foodies out there, Burnt is a must see film and will positively find an international audience with the proliferation of MasterChef programs gripping TV screens around the globe.

Haute Cuisine

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the superb French film Haute Cuisine and Hundred Foot Journey.

 

Decline of the English Aristocracy.

Brideshead Revisited

The period between the World Wars in the Twentieth century has always been a fascinating time in Western History. The 1920’s and 1930’s saw a huge resurgence in creative energy in Europe, notably the Bohemian decadence of Parisian artistic circles and the radical Modernist aspirations of the Bloomsbury Group. Those two decades with all its turbulent European events marked the eventual decline of the Victorian formalities that restricted the 19th century, something that Oscar Wilde predicted would eventually falter.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous big screen adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s complex examination of the erosion of the ideals that held the English aristocracy in so much high regard, from their religious and moral superiority to the many temptations that members of that class succumbed to, from adultery, to forbidden sexuality and substance abuse, to the many foreign attractions of marrying outside that closed world in order to insure their own survival. Remnants of that particular aristocracy have obviously evolved fifty years on and still dwell in secluded regions of England and Europe.

However it was really during the 1930’s with the devastating effects of the 1929 Wall Street Crash and the ensuing economic depression that engulfed much of the Western World and the inevitable outbreak of World War II that marked the demise of the seemingly immovable landed gentry in Europe. Sound Familiar? Fortunately we don’t have any World Wars looming in this century, but the future can never entirely be predictable.

The wealth is in the title...

The wealth is in the title…

Historical observations aside, Brideshead Revisited is a complex and brilliant film, directed with a fluid and delicate eye for detail by Julian Jarrolds who rose to fame with Becoming Jane about the life of Jane Austen and Waugh’s novel, a magnum opus which is superbly crafted into an epic narrative by Jeremy Brook, screenwriter for such classic films as Mrs Brown and The Last King of Scotland, no easy accomplishment considering that in the 1980’s Brideshead Revisited was an extremely successful BBC mini-series mainly because of the scope of Waugh’s detailed analysis of the decline of British Aristocracy between the Wars.

With BBC backing and between director Jarrolds, and the success of Jeremy Brook as a screenwriter, I was assured that this epic masterpiece would be given all the respect it deserves. Brideshead Revisited is like a tour-de-force of some of the best films on similar themes from the beautiful Merchant Ivory film, The Remains of the Day to the more recent critically acclaimed Atonement and of course the spectacular Wings of the Dove, all these films based on acclaimed novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Henry James respectively.

What sets Brideshead Revisited apart from these comparable screen masterpieces, is its particular emphasis on the religious aspect of this aristocratic families decline, their staunch attachment to Catholic principles despite a life rather decadently lived. For as long as the characters receive absolution for their sins before death, then their place in the afterlife was secured, as we are so rightly told by Brideshead Matriarch, Lady Marchmain a brilliant performance by Emma Thompson.

From the gay and carefree days of Oxford in the late 1920’s to sumptuous Venetian palazzo’s complete with a cameo by White Mischief star Greta Scacchi, the camp and flamboyantly destructive Lord Sebastian Flyte, played by Ben Whishaw lives a self-indulgent and decadent existence, luring an unsuspecting artist Charles Ryder into this unscrupulous and almost fiercely protected yet infinitely opulent world.

Ryder played with subtle dexterity by Match point star Matthew Goode is soon embroiled in the intrigues of an aristocratic family whose powerful religious convictions are as strong as their indulgences and desires are deceptive. As the characters develop and destroy each other aspirations, it really is the property of Brideshead itself, which takes centre stage, an imposing stately mansion filled with Roman Catholic art, fountains and sculptured gardens.

Like the palatial homes seen in The Remains of the Day, A Handful of Dust and now in Brideshead Revisited, it was ultimately the ownership of such lavish estates that fell into jeopardy and were often auctioned off or decommissioned for military purposes once the full effects of World War II had embraced Europe, changing and scattering that aristocracy forever, since without property ownership, all claims of wealth are an illusion.

Brideshead Revisited is a sumptuous cinematic feast, the kind of epic film that has seemingly long gone out of fashion to be replaced with the slick computerized world of American paranoia that Hollywood so duly produces. Of course it is essentially British, and any viewer who has a deep appreciation of literary films and especially of historical epochs will surely be grateful to see such attention given from the gorgeous costumes to the magnificent scenery from Venice to Marrakech lavished on a well-deserved and extremely pertinent period film about the fluid and almost traceable decline of a world long gone. With intelligent insights into such complex themes as religious superiority, addiction and forbidden desires, it is obvious that the strengths of Brideshead Revisited will be recognizable in the 21st century while such issues still remain as relevant in today’s society, as they were seventy years ago.

Don’t miss such a superb classic as Brideshead Revisited, as the story demonstrates that no matter how powerful a society is, that power can quickly be eroded by historical events and economic insecurities, not to mention all the accompanying desires that so often plague the human race.

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