biography

Florence Foster Jenkins

May 6, 2016
Meryl Streep in 'Florence Foster Jenkins' (2016)

Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) entered my consciousness in the early 1990s when I first heard her rendition of the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute. This shrieking, tuneless performance of one of the most challenging pieces in the soprano’s repertoire is the stuff of high comedy. In 2003 Naxos issued an album … More


Eddie the Eagle

April 29, 2016
Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman in 'Eddie the Eagle' (2016)

Eddie the Eagle may be the year’s most shameless piece of feel-good filmmaking. Many viewers, myself included, usually feel pretty bad at the prospect of another feel-good film, but it would take a special kind of wowser to deny the entertainment value of this tale of glorious failure. What do I mean by a “feel-good” … More


The Lady in the Van

March 10, 2016
Maggie Smith in 'The Lady in the Van' (2015)

Casting Maggie Smith in anything is a reliable way of collecting a few favourable reviews and a tidy sum at the the box office. Make it an Alan Bennett script and the percentages keep improving. And so we have The Lady in the Van, a likeable film with a few fanciful touches that should elicit … More


Trumbo

February 18, 2016
Bryan Cranston in 'Trumbo' (2015)

It doesn’t require a philosopher to point out discrepancies between the law and justice. This was born out last week – as Trumbo hit the cinemas – by the convulsions over the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. By all accounts this is a game-breaker in the bitter conflict between Left and Right … More


Steve Jobs

February 12, 2016
Michael Fassbender in 'Steve Jobs' (2015)

In his documentary of last year, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, Alex Gibney analysed the worldwide outpouring of grief that followed the death of the tech guru in 2011. It seemed remarkable that so many people were in tears for a man they’d never met. “I think we were weeping for the loss … More


Spotlight

February 4, 2016
Michael Keaton in 'Spotlight' (2015)

For a brief but terrible moment this week, I thought I might have to review Dirty Grandpa as my second film. I remember saying beforehand: “Don’t worry, it won’t be like Bad Grandpa, it’s got Robert De Niro.” That much was true: Dirty Grandpa made the Jackass team’s Bad Grandpa seem like an Ernst Lubitsch … More


The Danish Girl

January 22, 2016
Eddie Redmayne in 'The Danish Girl' (2015)

When Gore Vidal’s novel, Myra Breckinridge, was made into a truly lamentable movie in 1970, transgender issues were hardly front page news. The idea that someone could feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body, or vice versa, was the stuff of ribald comedy. The wheel has turned so completely that transgenderism now occupies … More


The Big Short

January 14, 2016
Brad Pitt in 'The Big Short' (2015)

Don’t feel too bad if you fail to understand what a Collateral Debt Obligation (CDO) is, or how it works. Many thousands of investors who bought these packages in the lead-up to the American housing market crash of 2008, had no idea what they were buying. Not many of the Wall Street brokers who were … More


Suffragette

January 6, 2016
Carey Mulligan in 'Suffragette' (2015)

It’s a common tactic when making a film about an historical moment to focus on a single participant. Make that character fictional and you have more room to move, being able to channel all the important points into an Everyman – or Everywoman. In Suffragette, Carey Mulligan plays that role. She is Maude Watts, an … More


Truth

December 10, 2015
Cate Blanchett in 'Truth' (2015)

For those of us who haven’t grown up watching Dan Rather anchoring the CBS News, his portrayal in Truth is a little hard to swallow. Played by Robert Redford as a secular saint, Rather comes across a beacon of moral purity in the midst of a media swamp. Not only is he the ‘grand old … More