October 2018
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Kenneth Branagh

Dunkirk (2017)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Jack Lowden, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan


With Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan has switched gears into a genre he’s never explored before, the war film, with a docudrama depiction of the Dunkirk evacuation (named after the French town where it took place), where 300,000 British soldiers with their backs against the sea were rescued by an armada of civilian volunteers, including fishing boats and private yachts, in what became known as “the miracle of Dunkirk” (despite being a retreat, the mass rescue was so unlikely that Winston Churchill himself cautioned the celebratory mood by stating that “wars are not won by evacuations”).   Perhaps partly because it focuses on an Allied retreat, perhaps partly because no Americans were involved (Dunkirk took place over a year before the United States entered the war), the Dunkirk evacuation hasn’t gotten much Hollywood attention; the only high-profile film I can recall even touching on it is Atonement, and that only in one sequence.  For the venerable writer-director, Dunkirk showcases his often-cited greatest strengths and weaknesses perhaps more starkly than ever before; a technically virtuoso filmmaking accomplishment but emotionally cold.  Dunkirk may strongly appeal to WWII buffs, but its appeal to mainstream audiences is in doubt. Continue reading

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

CD10002_JackRyan_ShadowRecruit.jpgDIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

CAST: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh


Has any film character, apart from the continually recast James Bond, been rebooted as many times as Jack Ryan?  Originating in Tom Clancy’s Cold War international espionage novels and then played onscreen first by Alec Baldwin, then Harrison Ford, the CIA operative was rebooted as a fledgling new recruit—and transported into the present day—with 2002’s The Sum of All Fears, where he was played by Ben Affleck, and now he’s been rebooted all over again, with Shadow Recruit doing what Casino Royale did for James Bond and starting the character completely fresh with no connection to the previous films.  Clearly Kenneth Branagh and the studio is hoping for Shadow Recruit to be more successful at kickstarting a new Jack Ryan franchise than the previous attempt at a reboot, The Sum of All Fears, which spawned no sequels, but only time will tell.  Clancy fans might grumble about Ryan being removed from his Cold War origins, but taken on its own terms, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a smoothly diverting action thriller that represents a worthy fresh start for the long-running character. Continue reading

My Week With Marilyn (2011)

DIRECTOR: Simon Curtis

CAST: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Zoe Wanamaker, Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Dougray Scott, Julia Ormond, Derek Jacobi


My Week With Marilyn is based on the memoir of Colin Clark, a production assistant on set of 1956’s The Prince and the Showgirl.  It wasn’t until the 1990s that Clark, who passed away in 2002, published his account of his brief period of time spent with Marilyn Monroe.  Adrian Hodges’ screenplay is a mostly faithful adaptation of Clark’s reminiscences and provides a window into both the making of a film, and his observations of a beloved but troubled starlet. Continue reading

Thor (2011)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh


Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Jaime Alexander, Josh Dallas, Tadanobu Asano, Clark Gregg, Rene Russo, Colm Feore


Like 2008’s Iron Man and 2010’s Iron Man 2, along with this summer’s upcoming Captain America, Thor is one of various comic book movie installments introducing the individual Marvel superheroes who will be finally united onscreen in 2012’s The Avengers, but as Jon Favreau did with Iron Man, Kenneth Branagh is able to make Thor stand on his own as a superhero rather than letting his intro feel like a two hours Avengers preview. Continue reading

Valkyrie (2008)

valkyrie-cast-cruiseDIRECTOR: Bryan Singer


Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Kevin McNally, David Schofield, Eddie Izzard, Jamie Parker, Thomas Kretschmann, Christian Berkel, Tom Hollander, David Bamber


During his twelve-year reign, Adolf Hitler survived over forty known assassination attempts, at least fifteen of which were made by Germans. But the most hated man of the 20th century was also one of the most extraordinarily lucky. Something always managed to go wrong; Hitler would cut speeches or conferences short, avoiding timed bomb blasts, the explosives themselves would fail to detonate, and the forces arrayed against him often proved to be unfortunately uncoordinated and indecisive. The final, most famous, and most nearly successful attempt on Hitler’s life came on July 20, 1944, orchestrated by a group of rebel German military officers and politicians spearheaded by decorated injured war hero Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg. Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus


Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Sir Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Miriam Margoyles, Richard Griffiths, Warwick Davis, Fiona Shaw, John Cleese, Christian Coulson, Toby Jones (voice of Dobby), Julian Glover (voice of Eragog)


It’s easy to see how Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets might be an enthralling fantasy adventure for kids- there is comedy, danger, magic, some nice special effects, and a few legitimately exciting scenes- but like its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone , what it has to offer for adults is a mixed bag, and the movie doesn’t work as well as it could have. Continue reading

Conspiracy (2001)

DIRECTOR: Frank Pierson

CAST: Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth, Ian McNeice, Kevin McNally, David Threlfall, Ewan Stewart, Brian Pettifer, Nicholas Woodeson, Jonathan Coy, Brendan Coyle, Ben Daniels, Barnaby Kay, Owen Teale, Peter Sullivan


This Made-For-TV HBO original movie, based on the sole surviving copy of the transcript of the infamous Wannsee Conference, will likely be found “boring” by those without an interest in the historical subject matter—after all, at least on the surface, it consists of nothing but fifteen men sitting around a table talking—but for those with an interest, Conspiracy is a disturbing docudrama that embodies the phrase “the banality of evil”. Continue reading

Hamlet (1996)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh


Kenneth Branagh, Sir Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Farrell, Michael Maloney, Richard Briers, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Brian Blessed, Jack Lemmon, Rosemary Harris, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Reece Dinsdale, Gerard Depardieu, Sir John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Sir Richard Attenborough


WARNING: This review mentions specific details of the plot

In the world of Shakespearean film, few figures loom larger than Kenneth Branagh. William Shakespeare is something of an obsession for Branagh, who directed Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, co-starred in Othello, and here wears three hats as writer, director, and star of this lavish, star-studded adaptation of Hamlet, the only version to include every single line from the play intact and as such running approximately four hours. Continue reading