Sep 05
2020

The story of an ex-bus driver and cabbie from Newcastle upon Tyne who was accused of executing one of the most infamous heists in British history has been given a starring role at this year’s Venice film festival. “The Duke”, which stars Jim Broadbent as the unlikely art “thief” Kempton Bunton and Helen Mirren as his wife, premiered on the Lido on Friday (Helen did not attend the festival) and has received some wonderful positive reviews from the world press. Here’s a selection:

The Telegraph, Robbie Collin (September 04, 20209)
The Duke is that rarest of things: a comedy that knows a twinkle in the eye and a fire in the belly needn’t be mutually exclusive. Although the England it depicts disappeared half a century ago, it speaks mindfully and movingly to our own divided times – asking how institutions should best serve the public that funds them, and speaking up for those who find themselves excluded by class, geography or birth. However long the 2021 Baftas and Oscars end up being postponed – the current plan is April – this wise and wry film should be a non-negotiable presence at both. So too, in person, should be Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, who give two of the finest performances of their careers here as Kempton and Dorothy, his wife. The pair are soulmates in many ways and opposites in others, but both clearly learned long ago how to rub along together in curmudgeonly accord. (You can see every year of their marriage in Broadbent and Mirren’s interplay on screen.)

The Guardian, Xan Brooks (September 04, 20209)
All rise for The Duke, a scrappy underdog yarn that makes a powerful case for the rackety English amateur, the common man who survives by his wits with the odds stacked against him. Kempton Bunton of Byker, for instance, is about as far removed from the Duke of Wellington as a frog is from a prince. What a lovely, rousing, finally moving film this is. The Duke is unashamedly sentimental and resolutely old-fashioned in the best sense of the term: a design classic built along the same lines as That Sinking Feeling, A Private Function or 50s Ealing comedies.

Screen Interantional, Fionnuala Halligan (September 05, 20209)
As a film, The Duke sits manifestly in its own genre as well; there’s no doffing the cap to any newfangled modernity here. Michell’s film is as defiantly traditional as the ghastly wallpaper which decorates the Bunton’s house. There’s a suspicion, as Kenton speechifies in the dock about how we all need to help each other in order to get out of the situation we’re stuck in, that this is some sort of Brexit rallying cry, Spirit of the Blitz etc. But perhaps that’s just the sort of remoaner nonsense that can be fixed by a fish and chip supper and a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. Broadbent’s considerable charisma as a prototype social justice warrior is just about enough to pull the rag-and-bone cart home on a film which becomes more defiantly contrived as it goes on. This type of silver-pound caper plays consistently well in the UK, though, and The Duke should follow suit (if, perhaps, a little more hastily onto the small screen, given the times and the target demographic).

The Hollywood Reporter, Deborah Young (September 04, 20209)
A funny-moving story enjoyably retold with classic British understatement and just the right twist at the end, The Duke is the account of an incredible true event from 1961, when a man from the working-class north of England climbed through a bathroom window into London’s National Gallery one night and stole a valuable painting of the Duke of Wellington by Francisco Goya. Mirren gives the sharp-tongued, resentful Dorothy interest and depth, but she’s not the focus of the story. Understatement and off-handedness remain the key to the film and even if the trial leaves one a little choked up and teary, there is still a great gag to come: the scene from Dr. No in which James Bond is startled to see a certain painting in the antagonist’s living room. Now we know why he looks so surprised.

Variety, Guy Lodge (September 04, 20209)
If the filmmaking is occasionally a tad too cute, Broadbent and Mirren – two fine actors who can, under the wrong direction, lean into fussiness — do well to keep things restrained. Together, they convincingly play an unspoken, stiff-upper-lipped distance in their characters’ marriage that fills in some of the script’s gaps. Broadbent gives Bunton’s scrappy, upbeat spirit the right undertow of sorrow and been-to-the-brink desperation, and if a few too many of Mirren’s scenes simply require her to find fresh ways of tut-tutting, her gradual thaw to her husband’s cause is finely delineated and moving. “The Duke” is a romp first and foremost: Michell’s merry direction makes sure of that. But its stars put a small, dignified lump in its throat.

Aug 20
2020

Hele Mirren has been busy these last days promoting the limited theatrical and streaming premiere of Disney’s “The One and Only Ivan” on August 21. She was joined by her film’s colleagues Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie, Sam Rockwell, Danny DeVito, Chaka Khan, Phillipa Soo, Brooklynn Prince, Arianna Greenblatt, Ramon Rodriguez, Ron Funches, Mike White and director Thea Sharrock. A complete list of last added videos can be found below the film’s synopsis.

A gorilla named Ivan (Rockwell) lives in a cage at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade with an aging elephant named Stella (Jolie) and a dog named Bob (DeVito) with no recollection of how they got there. They are owned by Mack (Cranston), the owner of the Big Top Mall. When an abused baby elephant named Ruby (Prince) shows up and is taken under Stella’s trunk, Ivan starts to care for her as well and along with the janitor’s daughter Julia (Ariana Greenblatt), they help to turn things around at the mall.


Related Media:

Video Archive – Talkshows – Lorraine (August 17, 20209
Video Archive – Career – The One and Only Ivan – Press Junket Interviews
Video Archive – Career – The One and Only Ivan – Cast Interviews
Video Archive – Career – The One and Only Ivan – On-Set Interview
Video Archive – Career – The One and Only Ivan – B-Roll
Video Archive – Career – The One and Only Ivan – Meet the Cast
Video Archive – Career – The One and Only Ivan – Trailer

Jul 28
2020

As I have been wondering if “The Duke”, a new film with Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, has been finished in time before being put on hold due to the novel coronavirus (it started filming in November 2019), the Venice Film Festival has answered this question today, as “The Duke” will be screened out of competition at this year’s festival. In 1961, Kempton Bunton, a 60 year old taxi driver, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly. What happened next became the stuff of legend. An uplifting true story about a good man who set out to change the world and managed to save his marriage. It is the latest in a long line of films and TV shows recorded in the Bradford district over the last couple of years including the Downton Abbey movie, the latest series of Peaky Blinders and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. The Venice Film Festival runs from September 2 to September 12, the full line-up can be found here. “The Duke” is scheduled to be released in the United Kingdom on 6 November 2020.

Jul 26
2020

Helen Mirren turns 75 today (congratulations :-)) and The Guardian‘s Michael Billington has written a fantastic and most in-depth article to celebrate not only her birthday but her legacy: Who is Helen Mirren? Looking back over her career, as she hits 75, it is tempting to see her as two separate people. First, there was the outspoken young classical actor who fiercely resisted objectification, whether from newspapers (“Stratford’s very own sex queen” was a notorious Sunday Times headline) or TV chatshow hosts. Then came the mature Mirren with a gift for playing monarchs (Elizabeth I on TV, Elizabeth II on screen and stage), for picking up every award going, and for being a great dame associated with excellent causes. Among many, she is an ambassador for Women International. Yet I see no great gulf between the two Mirrens. Having followed her career for 50 years, several things strike me. One is that she has always been a dedicated, highly skilled actor. Another is that she is a perennial mix of the nomadic and the majestic: you don’t get to play Cleopatra, as she did for the National Youth Theatre when she was 20, without some inbuilt imperiousness. Indeed, one of my few brief encounters with her took place around that time, when I went to a party hosted by one of her Youth Theatre contemporaries. My abiding memory is of a self-possessed young woman who made many of the men at the party feel like boys (and I, for one, was five years older). Where does that confidence come from? You could argue that it is partly genetic. It is well-known that she was born Helen Mironoff and that her paternal grandfather was a Russian aristocrat who fought in the tsar’s army and who was negotiating an arms deal in Britain when he and his family were stranded by the 1917 revolution. The complete article can be read here.

Jul 19
2020

Something I completely forgot to cover for the site, probably because public appearances have become so rare these days. On July 05, Helen Mirren was honored at the 47th Flaiano International Awards in Abruzzo, Italy. “It is a great honor for me to receive this award, in the name of a giant of the Italian Cinena, Ennio Flaiano. I can’t say how important this award is to me. It was an Italian film, “The Adventure” with Monica Vitti that made me passionate about cinema. I was 16 and worked as a maid in my aunt’s small bed and breakfast, I saw the film in an old English cinema near the sea, on a rainy day. The beauty of the Italian language and the landscape have been formative for me, the mystery and magic have captured my imagination. I fell in love with cinema and the Italian language. I am attracted to the power of Italian directors such as Fellini, Visconti, Sergio Leone, Tinto Brass and Paolo Virzì with whom I have worked. My greatest muse is Anna Magnani, the Italian spirit has captured my artist’s heart, as years later I was captured by the landscapes of Salento, where I am a farmer and I greet all my neighbors in Tiggiano”. A couple of pictures from the press conference, ceremony and photoshoot have been added to the photo gallery.


Related Media:

Photo Gallery – Public Appearances – 2020 – 47th Flaiano International Awards – Press Conference
Photo Gallery – Public Appearances – 2020 – 47th Flaiano International Awards – Ceremony
Photo Gallery – Editorial Photography – 2020 – Session 05