Posts Tagged ‘John Sessions’

Reinventing Sandra

Finding Your Feet

Director: Richard Loncraine

Cast: Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley, John Sessions, David Hayman, Phoebe Nicholls

Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) plays Sandra in the British comedy Finding your Feet directed by Richard III and Wimbledon director Richard Loncraine.

Sandra discovers during her husband’s retirement party that he has been having an affair for five years which sends her on a journey of self-discovery as she gradually shrugs off the snobbery of her former life and moves in with her hippie older sister Bif played by Celia Imrie (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Cure for Wellness).

Bif leads a completely unconventional life with the help of her friend Charlie played by British star Timothy Spall (Mr Turner) and soon the pair introduce the uptight Sandra to dance classes and a flash mob dance contest in Piccadilly Circus to create awareness for the aged.

With the able assistance of Bif’s hilarious friend Jackie wonderfully played by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley, Sandra soon takes up dancing and discovers an entirely different world made all the more charming by the blossoming courtship with Charlie as they wonder down Oxford Street to see the Christmas Lights.

Finding your Feet is a truly delightful British comedy set mainly in London and also in Rome, which adds to the glamour of the film, held together by superb performances by Imelda Staunton and Celia Imrie who play sisters rediscovering their sibling relationship after years of estrangement.

Highly recommended for audiences that enjoyed such films as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Tea with Mussolini and Four Weddings and a Funeral, Finding Your Feet proves that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and discover romance again.

Finding your Feet gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is a charming British comedy with a sufficient dash of poignancy to satisfy the tastes of more mature audiences.

 

Heroic Heiress

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Christian McKay, John Sessions

No actress plays a diva quite like Oscar winner Meryl Streep. First it was her brilliant portrayal of the Fashion Editor Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada. Now in the capable hands of The Queen director Stephen Frears, Streep plays the delusional American heiress Florence Foster Jenkins opposite British star Hugh Grant.

For once Grant holds his own opposite Streep and as a rather stylish couple in Florence Foster Jenkins set in lavish New York musical circles in 1944 as the Second World War is drawing to a close.

Jenkins who unfortunately had an awful singing voice but believed that she could sing beautifully, enlists the help of accompanying pianist Cosme McMoon wonderfully played by Simon Helberg from the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory. Helberg acts with his eyes and his expressive disapproval of Jenkin’s awful voice is soon transformed into a fondness for the eccentric heiress who genuinely thinks her voice is superb.

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Naturally her singing ambition is encouraged by her husband St Clair Bayfield fabulously played by Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility). In a complicated arrangement Bayfield enjoys his conjugal activities with the gorgeous Kathleen, played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) who isn’t impressed with Jenkins rise in popularity.

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Three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady) nails her interpretation of Florence Foster Jenkins as a lonely American heiress who due to an unfortunate illness, namely syphilis, is never able to have children so she sets her sights on conquering the fickle and snobbish world of classical music and in turn believes she has the makings of a star.

Her crowning achievement came during the infamous concert at Carnegie Hall where to bolster audience numbers she gave free tickets to inebriated American soldiers about to embark on a foreign war. Remember this is the golden age of radio and Jenkins exploited this medium to its fullest, soon becoming a favourite for her willpower rather than any inherent lyrical traits.

Assisted with a witty script by Nicholas Martin, Frears approaches the tale of Florence Foster Jenkins in a high camp fashion, making the film a poignant and hilarious tale of the diva whose fabulous costumes and awful singing made her the heroic heiress of New York.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful film and will sure to garner some recognition for the sumptuous production design and brilliant costumes in the approaching awards seasons.

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Simon Helberg is particularly superb as McMoon who is mesmerized and scandalized by the life force that was the flamboyant Florence Foster Jenkins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Foster_Jenkins.

This film is highly recommended viewing, a wonderfully acted tale of an heiress who certainly made the most of her fifteen minutes of fame despite popular opinion.

Several Tricks of the Mind

Mr Holmes

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Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Frances de la Tour, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam, Patrick Kennedy, Hattie Morahan, Hermione Corfield

Director Bill Condon’s work has included such Oscar winners as Dreamgirls, Kinsey and Gods & Monsters. His nuanced and subtle cinematic adaptation of Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind featuring Oscar nominee Sir Ian McKellan as the elderly and doddery Mr Holmes is a pleasure to watch if audiences can get through the first half an hour.

McKellan (Gods and Monsters, The Da Vinci Code, Richard III) is brilliant as the aging Mr Holmes who has to grapple not only with old age but all the ghosts of his pasts, primarily two unsolved cases, one involving a Japanese man whose father mysteriously never returned from England during World War II and another involving a husband trying to discover what his wife is involved in.

It is refreshing to see Sir Ian McKellan return to some a more resonant subject in this role, which is ever so complex, fascinating and beautifully told after a decade acting in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and also The X-Men franchise.

Director Bill Condon, with a stroke of genius, casts Oscar nominee Laura Linney (Kinsey, The Fifth Estate) as the long suffering house keeper Mrs Munro, whose husband was abruptly killed in the Second World War and has only her young son Roger, wonderfully played by Milo Parker to keep her company. As the mother and son look after the aging and infamous Baker Street detective, Mr Holmes must search his ever failing memory to reignite the images of what made these two cases so extraordinary.

In a series of multiple flashbacks, including an entire sequence set in Japan, Hiroshima to be specific just after the atomic bomb has obliterated the city, Mr Holmes visits Tamiki Umezaki gracefully played by Hiroyuki Sanada last seen in the excellent war film, The Railway Man, who continually questions Mr Holmes about the mysterious disappearance of his father in England during the War and the possible reasons for abandoning his young son and wife back in Japan.

In the second more intricate case, the great detective whose cases have been studiously reproduced in literature and on film, a husband approaches him to find out what his wife is really up to. British actor Patrick Kennedy (Atonement) and Hattie Morahan (The Golden Compass) play the estranged Thomas and Anne Kelmot.

It is really the scenes between Laura Linney and Ian McKellan which are priceless as Mrs Munro soon realizes that her son has become attached to the eccentric Mr Holmes and insists on helping him keep an apiary at their home in the Southern coast of England.

Cinematically, Mr Holmes is not everyone’s cup of tea, but is a delicate character study of a famous man who is in the twilight of his years, whilst none of his eccentricities have been lost, despite his self-imposed exile. Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Hyde Park on Hudson and lesser known films by Merchant Ivory such as Jefferson in Paris or The Golden Bowl.

Never One to Compromise

The Iron Lady

Director: Phyllida Law

Cast: Meryl Streep, Alexandra Roach, Jim Broadbent, John Sessions, Julian Wadham, Nicholas Farell, Olivia Colman, Richard E. Grant

The first moment Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice) appears on screen as Baroness Thatcher in Phyllida Law’s The Iron Lady, the viewer knows that they will be treated to a towering portrayal of one of the most influential and controversial leaders of the Western World in the 20th century former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Iron Lady, which chronicles Baroness Thatcher grappling with her old age and the loss of her beloved husband Dennis, played by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) depicts an elderly  and at times not so iron lady looking back on a landmark and eventful political career.

Streep’s performance of the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher both as an old woman and as a ruthless and powerful Conservative politician is outstanding and is worthy of Streep being one of the few actresses to win three Oscars in an impressively brilliant and diverse career spanning from such earlier films as Kramer vs Kramer and The Deer Hunter, through to Sophie’s Choice, Ironweeds and Out of Africa to the more recent performances in Mamma Mia and The Devil Wears Prada.

The Iron Lady is as much about the making of a politician, the sculpting of a prolific and charismatic female leader as Prime Minister of Britain that Margaret Thatcher was during the tumultuous 1980s, as a testament to an aging woman who cannot deal with approaching senility and the fact that her once great career is drawing to a gradual close. Meryl Streep, helped with superb make-up by the Oscar winning team of J. Roy Helland and Mark Coulier portrays all the nuances  and strength of a unrelentingly headstrong politician, along with all the subtle  insecurities of breaking all the initial conventions of being the first female leader of Parliament in the cut-throat male dominated world of British politics while sacrificing her family life and domestic duties to achieve her political ambitions.

Whilst The Iron Lady does not sequentially follow Thatcher’s political career in the 1980s, it is portrayed through a series of perfectly crafted flashbacks showing the flashpoints in Margaret Thatcher’s political career from the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton at the 1984 Conservative Party conference to the Falklands War and also the eventual ousting of Thatcher as leader by her own party at the height of Britain’s participation in ending the Cold War.

Phyllida Law, director of Mamma Mia, shows a slightly parodic view of Margaret Thatcher beautifully portrayed by Streep as well as thematically points to the personal dilemma of all great leaders, that of having made your mark on history and now having to deal with the greatest challenge of all, old age and dealing with one’s own mortality.

Unlike Stephen Frears superbly directed film The Queen which also dealt with a living icon, the British Monarch an Oscar winning performance by Helen Mirren, focusing on a specific period of British history, the death of Lady Diana; The Iron Lady is more fluid in its narrative, depicting Baroness Thatcher in the 21st century reminiscing about her prominent political career three decades earlier, in which as Prime Minister she was never one to compromise. Whilst The Iron Lady as a film is not superb and flawed in narrative and direction, it is Meryl Streep’s unbelievably brilliant portrayal which makes up for any cinematic defects.

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