Archive for the ‘Kenneth Branagh’ Category

75th BAFTA Awards / The British Academy Film Awards

The 75th British Academy Film Awards, also known as the BAFAs, were held on 13 March 2022 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, honouring the best national and foreign films of 2021.

Best Film: The Power of the Dog

Best Director: Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog

Best Actor: Will Smith – King Richard

Best Actress: Joanna Scanlan – After Love

Best Supporting Actor: Troy Kotsur – CODA

Best Supporting Actress: Ariana de Bose – West Side Story

Best British Film: Belfast directed by Kenneth Branagh

Best Original Screenplay: Licorice Pizza – Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Adapted Screenplay: CODA

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Best Costume Design: Jenny Beavan – Cruella

Best Foreign Language Film: Drive My Car directed by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi

Rising Star Award: Lashana Lynch

To All Those That Left

Belfast

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Jude Hill, Lewis McAskie

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

Running Time: 1 hour and 38 minutes

Director Kenneth Branagh delivers a stunning film, a cinematic ode to his childhood in Belfast in the film Belfast featuring an excellent cast including Jamie Dornan (The 9th Life of Louis Drax), Caitriona Balfe (Ford v Ferrari) Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) and Ciaran Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hamlet).

Set in August 1969, when the troubles began in Belfast, the entire film is viewed through the eyes of 9 year old boy Buddy brilliantly played by Jude Hill in his first ever cinematic role.

Shot mostly in Black and White, Belfast is an excellent film held together by superb supporting performances particularly from Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds as Buddy’s grandparents who are ultimately the ones that he will leave behind.

As buddy’s parents’ battle with the political and economic instability of Belfast at the end of the 1960’s the lure of safer work opportunities in England, Buddy has to contend with his parents making this momentous decision to emigrate and leave for a more secure future.

As emigration and exodus affects families and communities around the world even more pertinently today from the Ukraine to South Africa, Belfast is an extremely relevant story, an ode to a city that was torn apart by sectarian violence and looting. Belfast could be a stand in for any city in the world that has experienced such devastation when the root of all communities is pulled out. That root is the family.

What makes Belfast as mesmerizing as a film is director Kenneth Branagh’s unique perspective on an extremely difficult topic: a family’s decision to emigrate from their home country amidst increasing political instability.

Peppered with shots from old films and trips to the theatre, Belfast is a brilliantly poignant film, expertly captured and shot by director Kenneth Branagh and beautifully acted by the entire cast from Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe as Buddy’s parents to the sad acceptance and subtle strength of Buddy’s grandparents who soon realize that their son and his family and their grandchildren will be leaving them forever.

With a mixture of mischief and innocence, the superb performance of Jude Hill as Buddy is the emotional centre of the entire story of Belfast.

Both Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds are phenomenal as Buddy’s caring but stoic grandparents and deserve all the acting accolades already heaped upon them.

Belfast gets a film rating of 9 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing, a fitting and beautiful tribute to a city torn apart by strife but then slowly re-emerging as the stable and flourishing capital of contemporary Northern Ireland.

An Egyptian Honeymoon

Death on the Nile

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Letitia Wright, Russell Brand, Sophie Okonedo, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Armie Hammer, Gal Gadot, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Ali Fazal

Running time: 2 hours and 7 minutes

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

The much anticipated remake of Death on the Nile is finally in cinemas and it is worth seeing. Agatha Christie’s who dunnit set on a riverboat steamer on the Nile in Egypt is one of her most famous murder mystery novels first published in November 1937.

The original film was made in 1978 and featured a fantastic cast including Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow, Jane Birkin, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury.

The 2022 remake features an equally fabulous and diverse cast including multiple Oscar nominee Annette Bening (American Beauty, The Grifters, Being Julia), Tom Bateman, Letitia Wright (Black Panther), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) and unrecognizable Russell Brand.

With lavish costumes and an equally exotic setting in Egypt, the 21st century version of Death on the Nile is entertaining but not awe inspiring.

Fortunately writer and director Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as the infamous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and this time he gives the character some backstory fighting in World War 1 in Belgium and the origins of that unbelievably outlandish moustache which was the talking point of his first remake Murder on the Orient Express back in 2017.

In Death on the Nile a wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway beautifully played by Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) is found murdered on her honeymoon cruise up the Nile. All the suspects are on board and danger lurks in every cabin. The action takes place between London and Egypt in 1937. The costumes and the music perfectly match the ambience of the setting.

Fussy Belgian Hercule Poirot is on board to make the necessary deductions as the bodies start piling up, soon to be entombed like Egyptian mummies similar to the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings.

Glossy, lavish and extremely beautiful to watch, Death on the Nile is an exciting murder mystery set on one of the world’s most exotic countries: Egypt. Director Kenneth Branagh makes full use of all the ancient symbolism of the Pyramids and the exterior shots of the Nile River are gorgeous.

Without revealing any more details beyond the odd green scarf and crimson pigment disappearing mysteriously, everybody is a suspect and they are all armed and ready to defend themselves.

Death on the Nile gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is really entertaining and it is comforting to collectively watch a murder mystery in a cinema that was full again.

Now all director Kenneth Branagh has to do is tackle Evil Under the Sun…

A Tangle of Strangers

Murder on the Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Leslie Odom Jr. Tom Bateman

Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn) both stars as the infamous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot  and directs another remake of the classic Agatha Christie novel Murder on the Orient Express featuring a stunning cast including Oscar nominees Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys), Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and Oscar winners Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love).

Sporting a profoundly massive mustache, Branagh takes Hercule Poirot to new extremes in this 21st century remake which is glossy and possesses sumptuous production design but like all extremely long train journeys is boring in the middle, despite the spectacular scenery.

Murder on the Orient Express is set in 1934 and starts off promisingly with a fantastic opening, attention grabbing scene at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and then moves on to the Orient Express, a luxury train service which travels from the chaotic train station in Istanbul right across Europe to Paris.

As the gangster Edward Ratchett is found murdered in his compartment, stabbed multiple times everybody becomes a suspect on the Orient Express and soon Poirot has to interview all the cast as the train is stuck in an icy tunnel somewhere over Yugoslavia. A tangle of strangers confined to a luxury train which has gone off the rails.

Everybody is not what they seems, which is natural considering this is an Agatha Christie novel and while the cast does an admirable job, it is really Michelle Pfeiffer who wows audiences with her demure yet slightly vicious portrayal of globetrotting husband seeker Caroline Hubbard who stands out among a fairly impressive ensemble cast. Pfeiffer really acts.

Dame Judi Dench’s turn as Princess Dragomiroff is hardly noticeable, while the best scenes in the film are between Pfeiffer and Branagh.

It is refreshing to see Michelle Pfeiffer making such a glorious big screen come back as she truly is a brilliant actress, not to mention singer – for she also sang the film’s original song at the end.

Without revealing who the killer is, needless to say Kenneth Branagh will be returning with another big screen adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, Death on the Nile. Should be fascinating if only he would curb that mustache.

Audiences that enjoyed the original seventies film adaptations of the Agatha Christie novels, will enjoy this ambitious if slightly flawed remake. Think Evil Under the Sun.

Recommended viewing but whether the film will dazzle at the box-office in an increasingly cluttered 21st century CGI film line-up remains to be seen. Murder on the Orient Express gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

 

 

 

When the Glass Slipper Fits…

Cinderella

cinderella_ver2

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgaard, Derek Jacobi, Holliday Grainger, Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell

Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh (Thor, King Henry V) vividly recreates the famous tale of Cinderella in a live action film which despite its sumptuous production design does not match up to other recent onscreen fairy tales most notably the brilliant Snow White and the Huntsman and the equally impressive Maleficent.

Downton Abbey’s Lily James takes on the title role of Cinderella and although she is gorgeous to watch onscreen, the famous narrative arc of her tale is not given any particular depth or subliminal meaning. But then again this is a Disney film and the age restriction is parental guidance, with the target audience being young little girls. Judging by the packed cinema on a Saturday afternoon that target market was spot on.

Branagh’s Cinderella is lush, gorgeous and beautiful to watch with a spectacular production design by Dante Ferreti and fabulous costumes by Sandy Powell, Oscar winner for her costumes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.

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Oscar winner for Blue Jasmine and The Aviator Cate Blanchett is wonderful as the wicked stepmother and so is Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech, The Wings of a Dove) as Cinderella’s quirky fairy godmother who on the evening of the ball given by the crown prince of their kingdom, Cinderella’s dress, transportation and footmen are sorted for her great entrance at the Ball.

The Ballroom scene is simply amazing and is undoubtedly the high point of the film, but in a similar vein to the gorgeous reproduction of Anna Karenina, the script and acting for Cinderella suffers under the weight of its own expectation.

One almost gets the feeling that the actors were slightly bored going through this famous fairy tale with the exception of the brief scenes by Blanchett and the cameo by Helena Bonham Carter, Cinderella fails to lift audiences beyond its very light and fluffy message – which is for all young girls to find prince charming and live happily ever after.

Prince Charming in this case is played by British actor and Game of Thrones star Richard Madden, bulging codpiece and all, and his penetrating blue eyes do the acting. Director Branagh strictly keeps this traditional Cinderella aimed at the young children’s market obviously upon the instruction of parent company Disney.

Nevertheless, the costumes and the production design are superb and should garner some awards in those categories. Whilst Cinderella lacks the edgier darkness of Snow White and the Huntman and Maleficent, it is still fun to watch especially all those character actors making an appearance from Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgaard and Derek Jacobi.

Disney’s Cinderella is recommended viewing for those that loved Mirror Mirror and for all parents who need to take their daughters to see some serious glamour on the big screen. In this case the fabulous glass slipper fits too comfortably and Cinderella and her prince charming do live happily ever after.

 

Live Without Regrets

jack_ryan_shadow_recruit_ver3

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin, Costner

Royal Shakespeare actor turned director Kenneth Branagh teams up with the darling of the reboot franchises, American actor Chris Pine last seen in JJ. Abrams’s Star Trek: Into Darkness to direct and star in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a prequel to such films as Patriot Games (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994) and The Sum of all Fears (2002). Grounding the action back in London where Ryan is studying at the London School of Economics and witnesses 9/11 on British TV, he is soon thrust into mortal combat in Afghanistan in 2003.

After suffering a spinal injury from his tour in Afghanistan, Ryan is back in the States at the Walter Reed Medical Centre where he meets Dr Cathy Muller, played by Keira Knightley, initially an odd casting choice but as the film progresses it is really the chemistry between Knightley and Branagh that sizzle on screen particularly in the witty dialogue in the Moscow restaurant scene discussing living without regrets, which eclipses any plausibility of her character pairing with Pine’s energetic American spy Ryan. Knightley for once has shed her period drama image after such turns in the beautiful yet flawed Anna Karenina and the brilliant Atonement who elevates Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit into a better movie even though her mid-Atlantic accent remains indistinguishable.

Branagh last seen in My Week With Marilyn and who also directed Thor, casts himself as cruel Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin who has dodgy accounts hiding a range of funds waiting to destabilize the US economy from his swish uber-cool Moscow skyscraper activating a couple of sleeper Russian agents in the American Mid-West.

sorry_wrong_number_ver2The onscreen tension between Branagh, Pine and Knightley is hinted at earlier through clips of the 1948 thriller Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster which is about a woman who overhears a murder plot on the phone only to realize she is the intended victim.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is packed with some great action sequences both in Moscow and New York while the storyline is fairly formulaic and in no league to the 007 or Bourne Identity franchises, it is still an enjoyable slightly suave thriller, but entertaining nevertheless. Branagh is better at directing with more grandiose films like the original Thor film and naturally his earlier films with Emma Thompson were still the best including Dead Again and King Henry V.

Kevin Costner helps the film as veteran CIA agent Harper who plays mentor to the young spy. Chris Pine makes the best of his version of Ryan with his startling blue eyes, but lacks the grit and maturity that Harrison Ford brought to the character in the nineties films Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. Shadow Recruit is recommended viewing for a watchable spy thriller which does not dazzle, but just manages to engage the audience’s attention especially with the combined acting calibre of Branagh and Knightley.

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