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Mr James's classic ghost story has been much tampered with. But it's still utterly terrifying
It was a Christmas of ghosts and of the past. Shhh, what's that noise? It's Mr James, the great ghost story writer, turning in his grave at Whistle and I'll Come to You (BBC2, Christmas Eve). His terrifying short story has been much tampered with. The whistle, the one that Parkins blows, unwittingly awakening the dead, is missing mysteriously. Many other things are gone or altered. Even the shoreline is wrong; it should be the east coast: dunes, windswept. This looks like Dorset.
What survives though is the spirit of the story – a man, alone by the sea, haunted, pursued by something. It is terrifying. And John Hurt's performance as that man is mesmerising, a masterclass in how to captivate. Hurt really fills a screen.
- Sam Wollaston
The Doctor makes tasty mincemeat of Dickens as the Virgin Mary gets the soap treatment and Lucas & Walliams are grounded
Doctor Who (BBC1) | iPlayer
The Nativity (BBC1) | iPlayer
Come Fly With Me (BBC1) | iPlayer
Is it the sherry talking, or is Matt Smith looking more and more like a stretch version of Gordon Ramsay? Interestingly, for lovers of showbiz Christmas cracker trivia, both were promising young footballers forced by injury to become international TV stars. Anyway he was back (Matt, not Gordon) for yesterday's Doctor Who special, a beautifully inventive reworking of A Christmas Carol featuring Michael Gambon as Kazran Sardick, the heartless kingpin of a Dickensian otherworld refusing to help a doomed huge spaceliner full of passengers stranded in one of his clouds. Oh the humanity, Mrs Cratchit! And, lawks, wasn't that Katherine Jenkins frozen alive in an upright »
- Phil Hogan
The Observer's film critic reflects on The King's Speech – and how his own speech impediment has contributed to his life and character
From as early as I can remember until 1952, when I left home at the age of 18 to go into the army, there was an annual ritual on the afternoon of Christmas Day. Dinner, which meant turkey and all the trimmings followed by plum pudding, began around two o'clock and was carefully timed to end so that everyone could sit there beneath the paper decorations, wearing the hats that came out of the crackers, and earnestly, reverently listen to the king's Christmas message on the radio.
This hallowed national tradition, initiated by Sir John Reith in 1932, was not five years old when George V, who'd given four of them, died. His successor Edward VIII's landmark contribution to broadcasting was his 1936 abdication speech: there was no Christmas message that year. »
- Philip French
When Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843, cinema was still some 50 years away. Television, over 100. And yet it almost seems like it was written with the screen in mind — maybe because its great anti-hero, Ebenezer Scrooge, is almost like a moviegoer himself when he gazes upon images and events that he can’t directly influence. Certainly A Christmas Carol’s countless adaptations for film and television bear out its endless visual appeal. But what precise mixture of malice and humor makes a great Scrooge? Here are our picks for the finest to grace screens big and small. Who’s your favorite? »
- Christian Blauvelt
The landmark movie palace The Loews Jersey City Theatre is holding a wonderful event on Saturday December 11. There will be a holiday sing-a-long concert on the organ (played by The Master himself, Wayne Zimmerman, who recently brought down the house with his superb accompaniment on Nosferatu. This will be followed by a big screen showing of Scrooge starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. For details click here »
- email@example.com (Cinema Retro)
Poirot star David Suchet has revealed that he watched the 1974 movie version of Murder on the Orient Express before filming a new adaptation for ITV. The film starred Albert Finney as the Belgian detective and was nominated for six Academy Awards upon its release. "I watched the film... when it came out and I wanted to see it again to check the tone," Suchet told TV Choice. "I have a great admiration for Albert's performance. He played it with his neck on one side and very strangulated." However, Suchet confirmed that the main inspiration for the new ITV version was Agatha Christie's original novel. "Because [the Finney version] was a one-off film and not part of a TV series, they put a lot of Poirot's (more) »
- By Morgan Jeffery
I had a perfect introduction to Elaine’s, Elaine Kaufman’s legendary New York City restaurant: I was first brought there in what must have been the winter of 1980 by the late, great Claudia Cohen, then editor of the New York Post’s Page Six. Claudia knew everybody, from Elaine’s favorite strays, seated at what was known as the Family Table, across from the bar, to all the regular bold-face names. We got our own table, not far from one that included Claudia’s recent paramour Albert Finney, then starring as Daddy Warbucks in Annie. Plunging into the banter among the tables, »
- Cyndi Stivers
Our ongoing Afm (American Film Market) coverage continues as Steve grabbed a shot of the promo poster and synopsis for Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet. It’s hard to believe that Hoffman has never officially helmed a film until now, but it’s exciting to see what he’ll come up with. He’s also got a great cast with Maggie Smith, Albert Finney, and Tom Courtenay set to star.
Hit the jump to check out the promo poster and synopsis.
Here’s the synopsis for Quartet:
Dirty little secrets stir up the reunion of a world-famous quartet when they get together for a one-off concert.
An eccentric diva, her first ex-husband, a lustful baritone, and the scatter-brained object of his »
- Matt Goldberg
In the ultra swanky Kings Road on Monday night, the stars came out at the Curzon Chelsea for the premiere of Burke and Hare, the new John Landis movie (his first in 12 years), starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Isla Fisher. Landis was charming and animated, Serkis very quiet, and Jessica Hynes, the epitome of 40s glamour.
While the paps froze outside, press and bloggers alike got a few moments with key players:
(on her role)…It was great fun to play Ginny, after all she’s Burke’s muse, what spurs him on to do these dreadful things. I think the film does have a moral centre though, I mean you do see »
Babies can come as quite a surprise… especially if you aren’t pregnant! In honor of Life As We Know It, which comes to theaters on Friday, we are dedicating our list to the joys of inheriting a child!
Top Ten Unexpected Child Movies
Honorable Mention: Superman The Movie
The Old Testament has inspired many works of art. Perhaps there’s none more famous than Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman. Borrowing from the story of Moses, baby Superman (known on Krypton as Kal-El) floats thru the cosmos in a spaceship instead of a basket drifting down a stream. The first scenes of Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman The Movie are set on the aforementioned planet Krypton as noted scientist Jor-El and his wife, Lara, decide to place their only child in an experimental space ship directed at the planet Earth. Marlon Brando and Suzanne York are heartbreaking as the »
- Melissa Howland
As part of the Guardian and Observer Film Season, we settled down for an afternoon matinee of John Wayne romance The Quiet Man, as voted for by you. What happened when Andrew Pulver turned on Channel 4 at 12:05pm?
11.46am: But we need your help. Let us know what you reckon to the film. Does the Duke convince? Is this one of John Ford's finest? Post a comment at the bottom of the thread, tweet @guardianfilm or email Andrew Pulver.
11.49am: Hello everyone. Never »
- Andrew Pulver
Do artists discover a personal style and develop their themes gradually or are these to be found in embryonic form in their earliest works? There's no easy answer to this dual question. Take, for example, Ken Russell's Amelia and the Angel (1957), Ridley Scott's Boy and Bicycle (1965), Stephen Frears's The Burning (1967), Gurinder Chadha's I'm British But… (1989) and Shane Meadows's Where's the Money, Ronnie? (1995). All were made on shoestring budgets and each lasts less than half an hour.
First, presented with the directors' names and the credits concealed, would you be able to match up film and film-maker? I think most moviegoers could, which suggests there is something in these first movies that we would now recognise as characteristic. Second, »
- Philip French
Tonight's TV highlights
A stirring profile of the Wellington, the aircraft that served as the Raf's principal bomber in the early years of the second world war. The story of the many Wellingtons is reduced to one, Ln 514, built from scratch in under 24 hours as part of a filmed propaganda stunt. The surviving workers from the Vickers-Armstrongs factory in Broughton are reunited to watch the film and remember what they did, and the men who flew the Wellingtons recall the plane's astonishing durability. Valuable context is provided by Max Hastings, whose book on Bomber Command should be the next stop for the curious.
Celebrity pensioners Derek Jameson, Dickie Bird, Sylvia Syms, Kenneth Kendall, Liz Smith and Lionel Blair move into a 1970s time capsule house to re-enact a scientific experiment. Can living in the past significantly improve their cognitive ability and »
- Andrew Mueller, Julia Raeside, Jonathan Wright, Will Dean, Phelim O'Neill, Ali Catterall
The 60s began in Billy Liar's Bradford – but that cultural insurgency now seems a long time ago
In a week with those Camdenites the Milibands stealing away with the Labour leadership race, Andy Burnham's plaint about "metropolitan elites" seems particularly poignant. But then poignancy is the northern tone these days. Mancunians, I found recently, still adduce the Happy Mondays when pressed to say what is distinctive about their home. That the works of this fairly ropey outfit should be taken as a cultural landmark shows what a bleak half century it's been for the north.
I grew up thinking there was a real cachet in being northern. It's 50 years since Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, the 1960 film of Alan Sillitoe's novel, with Albert Finney as a hedonistic machinist in Nottingham. Any youngsters watching him don his suit on the eponymous night must have wished they too were from Pendleton near Salford, »
- Andrew Martin
Co-founder of the Druid theatre in Galway, he achieved soap fame as Miley Byrne
The Irish actor Mick Lally, who has died aged 64, succeeded in straddling the worlds of stage, television and film. In particular, he was a vital presence in the renaissance of Irish drama in the 1970s and 80s, while making himself a household name in Radio Telefís Éireann's soap operas Bracken and Glenroe.
The eldest of seven children on a 30-acre hill farm in Tourmakeady, County Mayo, in the Gaelic-speaking west of Ireland, Lally, through the generosity of an emigrant uncle, attended St Mary's College in Galway and University College Galway, where he read Irish and history. In extra-curricular time, he acted in the Irish-language college drama society, and won the British and Irish intervarsity boxing championship. He would later comment that acting, even in ensemble, was not unlike being alone in the ring.
From 1969 Lally taught »
Regardless of what you may think of his acting, Sean Connery has been a highly prominent figure in the celluloid landscape of the past 40 years in two particular manifestations. First, and most potently, as James Bond; second, as the embodiment of a certain kind of grizzled wisdom, of which perhaps the most notable is Indiana Jones's father. To have created two universally recognised archetypes in the course of a career is no mean feat, and one well worth investigating. Christopher Bray's book is just such an investigation, but it comes from an unexpected angle: that of unabashed adulation. Not, as Bray is at pains to point out, for the man Sean Connery, but for what his image as an actor embodies.
"I like watching Sean Connery. I like watching him move through a room. »
- Simon Callow
Billy Liar, a story of smalltown frustration, captivated a generation, pre-empted the 60s – and even inspired Oasis. As the stage play returns, Laura Barton asks Tom Courtenay and Julie Christie why it endures
'I don't think about Billy Liar very often." Tom Courtenay's voice hovers on the line. We have been discussing his upcoming holiday to the north-east coast, splashing about in the warm shallows of the present-day; at this detour into the past, he pauses, and retreats a little. "If I read it now, it would make me laugh," he concludes lightly, distantly. "But I honestly don't know why it's lasted. Who can say why some things are successful?"
It is now 50 years since Keith Waterhouse's novel transferred to the stage, casting in its title role first Albert Finney and later, Courtenay. Published in 1959, Billy Liar has, over those five decades, enjoyed a rich and varied existence, »
- Laura Barton
From My Beautiful Laundrette to The Queen and his latest, the much-praised Tamara Drewe, the director boasts a reputation for impatience as well as one of the most diverse outputs of any British film-maker. Famously interview-shy, he talks here of his dislike of agents, the glory days of the BBC, and why he is no auteur
Not liking to be interviewed probably starts with the reluctance to submit yourself to an alien, unpredictable critical gaze, but in Stephen Frears's case it has flowered into a bizarre art form. He'll answer questions in fits and starts, gnomically, in obscure one-liners or by means of silences punctuated by cigarette puffs or plaintive grunts. Always courteous and welcoming, he would just rather you didn't ask questions. "Have you got enough?" he asks at the end of a session, in the full knowledge that you haven't. So you arrange to meet him again »
- Nick Fraser
Audrey Hepburn abandoned her Givenchy comfort zone for decade-spanning dramedy Two for the Road (1967) to wear a catwalk of trendy outfits by the hottest designers of the day. And amongst those Mary Quant shifts and Courrèges sunglasses, Hepburn also wore jeans which, onscreen at least, she had seldom done before.
Denim is not a fabric traditionally associated with Audrey Hepburn, yet here she takes to the look with such confidence that all memories of Givenchy couture banish in the zip of a fly. Hepburn uses denim to not only appeal to a younger cinema-going audience, but also to align with her character Joanna Wallace’s optimistic naivety.
We see Joanna wearing denim early in the film. She is supposed to be at her youngest, dressed in high-waisted tapered leg jeans with matching canvas deck shoes, a tucked in red crew neck sweater and wide brown leather belt.
Quite a show »
- Chris Laverty
Over a career spanning five decades (and counting), Albert Finney has more than sixty film and television credits. A classmate of Peter O'Toole at the Royal Academy of Art, Finney was initially chosen over O'Toole for the lead role in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, but left the production after only four days due to creative differences. Rather than suffering a career setback, Finney stepped in to Tony Richardson's (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Look Back in Anger) adaptation of Henry Fielding's 1749 novel, Tom Jones. A raunchy (for its time), ribald satire, Tom Jones went on to win Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Musical Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Of Finney's other nominations for Best Actor, Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983), and Under the Volcano (1984), his second, playing Agatha Christie's Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, is his weakest. It's more caricature than character, »
- Mel Valentin
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