Showing posts with label maggie smith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maggie smith. Show all posts

1 May 2013

Quartet DVD Review

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Quartet is a film which requires little effort, either on the part of the cast or the viewer.  That’s not intended disparagingly, indeed quite the opposite, as everything about Hollywood icon Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, starring Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins, is sheer bliss - you just sit back, relax and let it wash over you.

Fading opera stars, Wilf (Connolly), Reginald (Courtenay) and Cissy (Collins), live in the rural splendor of a country retirement home, where they wile away the days reminiscing about their past triumphs.  Each year they celebrate the birthday of the composer Verdi with a concert, and in the process raise funds for the upkeep of the home.  This year however things don’t quite go to plan after the arrival of new resident.  The presence of Jean (Smith), an opera diva with thoughts above her station, not only resurrects painful memories for the trio, but doesn’t exactly prove conducive to harmony amongst the other residents either.

What a relief that Hoffman, unlike so many actors who try their hand at directing, was not tempted into a cameo appearance in Quartet.  Instead he remains, like all good directors should, out-of-sight, though not out of mind, as his touch is crystal clear on screen.  Everything, from the ensemble cast to the pastoral settings, meld seamlessly under the expert guidance of a man who is so much a part of modern cinema in front of the camera, that looking at the action from the other side will probably have felt like second nature.

The wider cast hit all the right notes as the group of aging operatic and musical stars, unwilling to accept that, for the most, their moment in the limelight is long past.  Indeed the only aspect of the film which appears slightly off-key is watching Connolly and Smith vie for prime spot.  When they appear these two old troupers banish everyone else to the wings, no mean feat when you consider the calibre of the those they’re working with.  However they’re such a delight to watch that you feel more than happy to indulge their quirks and idiosyncrasies.

This is really is the only quibble though in an otherwise perfect blend of dry wit and acid sharp timing which makes for a delightful cocktail of lasting friendships and the acceptance of the passing of time.

Quartet provides a marvelously feel good way with which to see in the new year.  Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait too long for Hoffman to flex his directorial muscle again.  Oh, and wait until the end as there is a marvelous treat during the final credits which is guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye.

★★★★

Cleaver Patterson


Rating: 12
DVD/BD Release Date: 6th May 2013 (UK)
DirectorDustin Hoffman
CastMaggie SmithMichael GambonBilly ConnollyTom CourtenayPauline CollinsSheridan Smith

Buy Quartet: DVD / Blu-ray


11 January 2013

'Nowhere to Go' DVD Review

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Classic British film studio Ealing has been seeing a great retrospective this season, with screenings of its classic movies and the release of some of its less renowned pieces to DVD for the first time. The latest in this release schedule is Nowhere to Go, the 1959 excursion into Brit-Noir directed by Seth Holt (Hammer films The Nanny and Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb) and scripted by Holt and film critic Ken Tynan. For classic British cinema fans it’s an absolute treat, and something not to be missed out on.

            The film follows the exploits of Paul Gregory (George Nader) a conman and thief as he escapes prison and goes straight back into the game. As Gregory quickly slips into a mess of thievery and betrayal, the outcome seems bleak and his only hope may lie with socialite Bridget Howard (the sensational Maggie Smith) and an audacious escape from London.

            The opening break-in at a prison after dark, a mysterious figure at a decrepit train station, long shadows, and a stellar kick-off from Dizzy Reece’s Jazz score all set the film up wonderfully. The script is perfectly constructed to show a world of old-school thieves and con artists who know all the tricks in the book, Nader’s strongest scenes are those where he watches a situation then deducts his way in; darting eyes, brief moments of apprehension before it all fizzles away and his persona has reconstructed to go with the flow. Gregory’s mind is, in the first half particularly, a joy to watch at work, we see the steps leading up to something then the penny drops and the audience catch up. The silent brooding reasoning of a conman has surely never been so coolly executed. Bernard Lee (M from the old Bond movies) pops up as a conman acquaintance who is just as adept as Gregory, and Maggie Smith controls the screen as a dubious and possibly dangerous ally, the role was Smith’s feature film debut and got her nominated for the Most Promising Newcomer BAFTA.

            There’s not exactly a complex plot at work here, and the film doesn’t flaunt a hive of activity, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring or simple, though there are definitely moments where attention can wander. Here beats the heart of an old fashioned kind of thriller, something that stands the test of time and really makes you realise how dispensable most modern films, of the ilk, are. This film doesn’t need special effects or rampant gun totting because it has its eyes on a gritty sort of realism, and realism associated purely with mid-century British crime.
            The camera work and set-up of shots directly looks at that grittiness, the predominantly dark feel of the film, the environments, and the beautifully executed shots that can almost be taken as intimate stand-alone frames. Pick what you like; it’s all easy on the eye. In particular the film reaches a great climax which sees Gregory hounded to Wales after the criminal fraternity turn their back on him. Here he is in as much danger as he was in London and here the film reaches a poignant dramatic conclusion which puts the whole film into context as the trials and tribulations of a man caught in a trap of his own misguided actions.

            Nowhere to Go picks its way through 50’s London high-life via the lowlife, Nader gives a career best performance with stellar support, and the film is beautifully shot. The only thing more criminal than Gregory’s actions is that this film hasn't made it to DVD already.

SCOTT CLARK

★★★1/2☆


Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: 14th January 2013 (UK)
Directed BySeth Holt
CastGeorge NaderMaggie Smith and Bernard Lee 
Buy Nowhere To Go



1 January 2013

Quartet Review

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Quartet (2012) is a film which requires little effort, either on the part of the cast or the viewer.  That’s not intended disparagingly, indeed quite the opposite, as everything about Hollywood icon Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, starring Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins, is sheer bliss - you just sit back, relax and let it wash over you.

Fading opera stars, Wilf (Connolly), Reginald (Courtenay) and Cissy (Collins), live in the rural splendor of a country retirement home, where they wile away the days reminiscing about their past triumphs.  Each year they celebrate the birthday of the composer Verdi with a concert, and in the process raise funds for the upkeep of the home.  This year however things don’t quite go to plan after the arrival of new resident.  The presence of Jean (Smith), an opera diva with thoughts above her station, not only resurrects painful memories for the trio, but doesn’t exactly prove conducive to harmony amongst the other residents either.

What a relief that Hoffman, unlike so many actors who try their hand at directing, was not tempted into a cameo appearance in Quartet.  Instead he remains, like all good directors should, out-of-sight, though not out of mind, as his touch is crystal clear on screen.  Everything, from the ensemble cast to the pastoral settings, meld seamlessly under the expert guidance of a man who is so much a part of modern cinema in front of the camera, that looking at the action from the other side will probably have felt like second nature.

The wider cast hit all the right notes as the group of aging operatic and musical stars, unwilling to accept that, for the most, their moment in the limelight is long past.  Indeed the only aspect of the film which appears slightly off-key is watching Connolly and Smith vie for prime spot.  When they appear these two old troupers banish everyone else to the wings, no mean feat when you consider the calibre of the those they’re working with.  However they’re such a delight to watch that you feel more than happy to indulge their quirks and idiosyncrasies.

This is really is the only quibble though in an otherwise perfect blend of dry wit and acid sharp timing which makes for a delightful cocktail of lasting friendships and the acceptance of the passing of time.

Quartet provides a marvelously feel good way with which to see in the new year.  Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait too long for Hoffman to flex his directorial muscle again.  Oh, and wait until the end as there is a marvelous treat during the final credits which is guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye.

Cleaver Patterson

★★★★


Rating: 12A
Release Date: 1st January 2013 (UK)
DirectorDustin Hoffman
CastMaggie SmithMichael GambonBilly ConnollyTom CourtenayPauline CollinsSheridan Smith

8 January 2012

DVD Review: Go To Blazes

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You know you're watching a quintessentially British comedy when the bank robber wears a three-piece suit, bowler hat and a red carnation. And that's exactly the main selling point of this Go To Blazes rerelease, it's a nostalgic trip back to the days of the Ealing and Carry On Comedies. The film originally released in 1962 follows three hopeless crooks that decide their perfect getaway vehicle after a robbery would be a fire engine, on the basis that nobody would ever stop a fire engine. However, things are never that simple, as their plan begins to show various flaws .

Go To Blazes is billed as a lost gem of British comedy and whether I'm not sure it lives up to that, it's a reasonably entertaining way to spend a short eighty minutes. The main laughs come from the dynamic between the three crooks and the bizarre situations they find themselves in - from being mistaken as real firemen roped into putting out a tree-house fires or to ending up as models at an all-female fashion show. The three leads are entertainingly played by Norman Rossington, Daniel Massey and Dave King, who establish an entertaining and fairly amusing dynamic. Unfortunately, the jokes don't work often, feeling generally predictable and lazy.

The rerelease also seems to be focussing on Maggie Smith's appearance in the film, which is little more than a minor supporting role. A young Maggie plays Channelle (before the name was hijacked by the chavs), an assistant in a high-end clothing shore, who begins to date one of the crooks. The character is quite entertaining but is never fully utilised, serving no real purpose in the film. However, those left disappointed by the lack of Maggie, may be entertained by another British thesp, Robert Morley. Morley brings his traditional theatrical camp to the role of 'The Arsonist' - a scientist obsessed with starting fires and steals the vast majority of scenes in which he appears.

If you're looking for cheeky nostalgic British comedy then you could do far worse than spending 80 minutes watching On The Blazes. However, there are far more entertaining comedies from the same period out there.

Movie Rating: 2/5


Reviewer: Andrew McArthur
DVD Release: 29/01/12
Stars: Dave King, Norman Rossington, Maggie Smith & Robert Morley
Director: Michael Truman
Rating: U (UK)