Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield is a love letter to storytelling. The film is endearing and entertaining. 

David Copperfield tells the story of his life, from his birth to adulthood. Along the way, he meets a cast of interesting characters, as he charts his highs and his lows…

Directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci with Simon Blackwell, The Personal History of David Copperfield is very much an ode to Charles Dickens and his wonderful storytelling. Iannucci’s affection for the author is well publicised. With this film, the director pays homage to Dickens in a way that is sincere and enjoyable. 

Condensing a lengthy tome into just under two hours is quite the undertaking. Yet Iannucci is assured in tackling the adaptation, focusing on the key moments in David’s timeline. The film is bursting with memorable characters, and moves at a good pace. The device of David narrating and sometimes writing the story works well. The film balances brisk storytelling with giving the various characters enough time to shine.

The Personal History of David Copperfield blends humour with adventure in a way that feels completely natural. Iannucci highlights the humour in Dickens’ work; there is plenty to amuse in the film. The film shifts tone with ease, offering heartfelt moments amongst the laughs.

The use of colourblind casting is definitely a plus, allowing the very best actors for the roles regardless of race. Dev Patel makes a great protagonist; he is convincing and sympathetic in his performance. There is a great cast present, with memorable turns from Tilda Swinton, Huh Laurie, and Ben Whishaw.

With The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci does his literary hero justice. A warm, amusing, and enjoyable adaptation. 

The Personal History of David Copperfield is opening the BFI London Film Festival on 2nd October 2019.

Previews: The Man Who Invented Christmas Trailer, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including The Man Who Invented Christmas trailer, Phantom Thread, Daddy’s Home 2 and more…

The Man Who Invented Christmas Trailer

Here is the first The Man Who Invented Christmas trailer. The film stars Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens, and tells the story behind the classic A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri, the film also stars Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, and Miriam Margolyes. The Man Who Invented Christmas hits UK screens on 1st December 2017.

Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built Trailer

This looks suitably chilling. Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built is inspired by true events, and is about Winchester fortune heiress, who keeps construction going on her house for decades. The film stars Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke, and Sarah Snook. Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built is set for release in UK cinemas on 2nd March 2018.

Daddy’s Home 2 Clip

Here is a clip from upcoming comedy sequel Daddy’s Home 2. A follow-up to 2015’s Daddy’s Home, the film sees the return of Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s characters as they celebrate Christmas. This time, they are joined by their own dads, played by John Lithgow and Mel Gibson. Daddy’s Home 2 is out in UK cinemas on 22nd November 2017, with previews on 18th and 19th November.

Darkest Hour Poster

Here is one of the latest posters for Darkest Hour. Directed by Joe Wright (Pan, Anna Karenina), the film is about the lead up to Britain entering World War II. Gary Oldman is unrecognisable as Winston Churchill. He is joined by Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, and Ben Mendelsohn. Darkest Hour hits UK screens on 12th January 2018.

Phantom Thread Trailer

Here is the trailer for the eagerly anticipated Phantom Thread. The film is the second collaboration between writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The film is about a fashion designer who falls in love with a young woman, who becomes his  muse. The film also stars Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. Phantom Thread is out in UK cinemas on 2nd February 2018.

Journey’s End Trailer

Journey’s End is based on the play and novel of the same name. The film is about a company on the front-line trenches in France during World War I. Journey’s End stars Sam Claflin (My Cousin Rachel), Asa Butterfield, and Toby Jones. The film is set for release on 2nd February 2018.

Stuff To Look At

Plenty of cinematic treasure this week, with the new A Million Ways to Die in the West trailer, Noah, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and more…

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Warning: this A Million Ways to Die in the West trailer is red band. A Million Ways to Die in the West is the latest film from Seth MacFarlane, who also leads a cast that includes Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson. A Million Ways to Die in the West is set for release on 6th June 2014 in the UK.

Noah

This is the Superbowl TV spot for Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. It is an intriguing prospect; a director like Aronofsky doing a large-scale biblical epic. The story of Noah does not seem meaty enough for a feature film, so it plot must be fleshed out somehow. The mystery of the unicorns perhaps. Noah is released in UK cinemas on 4th April 2014.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Black Widow

This new character poster for Captain America: The Winter Soldier suggests Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow has a prominent role to play in this Marvel sequel. Given her somewhat ambiguous nature in previous appearances, it will be interesting to see what director’s Anthony and Joe Russo do with her here. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is hits UK screens on 26th March 2014.

The LEGO Movie

I used to love Lego so I find The LEGO Movie appealing. From the above featurette, the film smartly does not seem to take itself seriously. With a host of star names and featuring Batman, I am hoping the film will be an amusing adventure. The LEGO Movie is released in cinemas on 14th February 2014.

A Long Way Down

An adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel, A Long Way Down offers a rather macabre premise made humorous. Starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette and Aaron Paul, A Long Way Down is out in UK cinemas on 21st March 2014.

Starred Up

Starred Up posterStarred Up is a new British drama starring Jack O’Connell and Rupert Friend. The film is about Eric, a troubled teenager transitioning from young offenders’ institute to prison. You can watch the trailer here. Starred Up is released on 21st March 2014.

Maleficent

This new trailer for Maleficent was released earlier this week, with Lana Del Ray’s rendition of ‘Once Upon a Dream’. Angelina Jolie was looks like she was made for the title role, in physical appearance at least. Maleficent looks like it will be quite dark, going back to its fairy tale roots. Maleficent hits UK cinemas on 30 May 2014.

The Invisible Woman

Here is a TV spot for the upcoming film The Invisible Woman. The story of Charles Dickens and his young lover Nelly, the film stars Ralph Fiennes (who also directs) and Felicity Jones. You can read my review here. The Invisible Woman is released nationwide in the UK on 21st February 2014.

God Bless Us, Everyone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Instead of doing a traditional ‘best Christmas movies’ list, I thought I would put a slight spin on it. Below are my top three Christmas films, my top three films set at Christmas (where the main plot revolves around something other than Christmas) and my top three films screened at this time of year (but that have nothing to do with Christmas).

Traditional Christmas Films

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

What is Christmas without The Muppet Christmas Carol? A surprising faithful adaptation of Dickens’ perennial classic (albeit with Muppets and songs), Brian Henson’s 1992 film is heart warming. Tiny Tim is one of the most endearing characters in film history, while the songs and humour make The Muppet Christmas Carol a festive essential.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas

With beautiful imagery, a great score by Danny Elfman and a charming plot, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a Christmas staple. Jack Skellington does what we all secretly want to do; take over Christmas. Kidnapping the Sandy Claws is not the standard Christmas fare, however it is an awful lot of fun.

3. Scrooged

Another version of A Christmas Carol makes my top three, but for good reason. Yes, the very ending of the film descends into a reservoir of schmaltz. However up to this point, Scrooged is most amusing in its rendition of the Dickens tale by way of a television executive in late 1980s New York. It also features the cutest human Tiny Tim in the form of Calvin.

Films Set At Christmas

1. Batman Returns

‘Come what may, Merry Christmas Mr Wayne’. Batman Returns, set against the backdrop of the festive season, is rather a tragedy. But a fine comic book film, with the festive season rearing its head again and again. Gotham’s own Santa Claus turns about to be not as charitable as you would hope.

2. Gremlins

Subversion is the order of the day in Joe Dante’s Gremlins. The Bedford Falls-esque town is terrorised by small malevolent creatures in this black, Christmas-set comedy. Gizmo is one of the hottest characters ever committed to the silver screen, who wouldn’t want him as a Christmas present?

3. Die Hard

The ultimate Christmas-set action movie, Die Hard is nothing short of iconic. The office Christmas party goes awry, and only one man can save the day. No matter how bad your Christmas Eve may be, it’s a certainty that John McClane’s is worse.

Films Screened At Christmas

1. Labyrinth

I first saw Labyrinth on 24th December 1989. I am not sure if Labyrinth is one of my favourite films because I saw it on Christmas Eve, or if Christmas Eve is my favourite day because that was when I first saw Labyrinth. Whichever way, Labyrinth is a glorious 1980s fantasy musical.

2. The Wizard of Oz

I first saw The Wizard of Oz as a toddler around Christmastime. Needless to say, I was terrified by the Wicked Witch, and confused as to why mother was letting me watch a horror movie at such a young age. Wizard of Oz became a classic because of its constant scheduling in the Christmas period, something that still holds true today.

3. Singin’ in the Rain

My first viewing of Singin’ in the Rain was on Christmas Day. It is another film which has nothing to do with Christmas but is frequently screened in the holiday period. It is easy to see why; memorable tunes, some great comedy and the beguiling talent of Gene Kelly.

Film Review: Great Expectations

Director Mike Newall offers a faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic with Great Expectations.

Orphan Pip lives with his sister and her blacksmith husband. Pip’s humble upbringing is altered irrevocably when a mysterious benefactor wants to make him a gentlemen…

 Mike Newall’s version of Great Expectations is a traditional period drama. The film remains faithful to Dickens’ classic. All the main aspects of the novel are included in this film adaptation. Some minor elements are omitted, presumably because of time constraints and pacing. However, this does not alter the overall narrative. It is a lot more faithful than the recent BBC television adaptation of Dickens’ novel.

There are quite a few characters and strands in Great Expectations. Screenwriter David Nicholls manages to balance these out, without omitting important elements or making the film feel weighed down. Despite a running time of over two hours, Great Expectations never feels overlong, or slacking in its pace.

Newall’s film is beautifully shot. Great Expectations is visually sumptuous, making the most of its locations and sets. Similarly, costumes in the film are excellent. The film is styled very much like a traditional period piece; there is a lavishness to the look of Great Expectations.

Casting in this adaptation is spot on. Ralph Fiennes makes a fine Magwitch, while Jason Flemyng’s Joe tallies with the novel. Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger offer good performances as the adult Pip and Estella. Helena Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as Miss Havisham. Bonham Carter encapsulates the character with an entirely believable performance.

Great Expectations is escapist drama for the winter season. Traditional and sumptuous.

Thoughts on David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I have come to the conclusion that Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy must be literary dynamite. The first novel must combine the descriptive prowess of Charles Dickens, the wit of Oscar Wilde and Agatha Christie’s flair for mystery. For what else could explain the success of a book that has spawned two mediocre film adaptations?

When I first heard about an English-language cinematic adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I really could not see the point given how recently the Swedish film had been released. I was much more enthused when news of David Fincher and Trent Reznor’s attachment to the project was announced. Fincher would be the man, I thought, to fix the numerous flaws present in Niels Arden Oplev’s cinematic version of the book. The narrative would be tidied, the pacing would be rectified, and the film would sound fantastic to boot.

Unfortunately only one of these three is true of Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is pretty tough going when the best thing about a film is the title sequence. It is worse when that film is almost two and a half hours long. The title sequence is amazing, the combination of the visuals and the version of ‘Immigrant Song’ by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Karen O works sublimely. However, the rest of the film is a let down. Although it is more stylish than its predecessor, the flaws are all too apparent.

This leads me to believe that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not a very good story. The murder mystery premise is intriguing enough. However, it is poorly executed; the climax of the action arrives prematurely. This poor pacing means that the ending feels as if it lasts for an age. Moreover, if this mystery is secondary to the two protagonists’ journeys, than the characters should be more interesting. Neither Lisbeth nor Mikael are particularly fascinating characters; they offer nothing that really engages the viewer. Without a good narrative or absorbing characters, David Fincher’s film simply offers decent visuals and a great soundtrack.

In summary, no more film versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should ever be made. David Fincher should be more picky about his projects. So should Trent Reznor, who should return to contributing to film projects of the same calibre as David Lynch’s Lost Highway.