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Staff & contributors
The fate of one’s financial, interpersonal, and physical desires are intertwined through marriage, and because of these sometimes conflicting needs, most people are willing to go past what they would like to acknowledge to win the affections of the person they believe would fulfill them. Henry James’ 1902 novel The Wings of the Dove is centered on this idea, but the 1997 film adaptation softens the leads, with the striking dynamic between Helena Bonham Carter, Alison Elliott, and Linus Roache feel like it was bound with some genuine affection, mixed alongside the self-centered desires present in the novel. Readers of the original book might not appreciate this change, but overall The Wings of the Dove paints an interesting interpretation to the classic novel, and does so with all the flair standard in British period romance dramas.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Jennings, Alison Elliott, Ben Miles, Charlotte Rampling, Diana Kent, Elizabeth McGovern, Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Michael Gambon, Philip Wright

Director: Iain Softley

Rating: R

Far from feeling like English literature homework, this version of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of errors fizzes with vitality and wit. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in his own sumptuous adaptation, which also features a banquet of dashing talent in their prime, including Emma Thompson and a winning Denzel Washington.

Even amongst the film’s superlative ensemble (which also features a melodramatically villainous Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton as a farcically inept policeman), Thompson stands out for her instinctive grasp of Shakespeare’s genius and easy ability to lift it off the page and give it sparkling life. As Beatrice, she deals out wry cut-downs of Branagh’s vain Benedick, all while trying to suppress the roiling romantic tension that nevertheless persists between them. It might not be set to the music of ABBA, but with Patrick Doyle’s radiant score, an intoxicatingly beautiful Tuscan setting, and an infectious, non-stop party vibe, the joyous Much Ado About Nothing feels more akin to Mamma Mia than any of cinema’s other Shakespeare adaptations.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Lowe, Andy Hockley, Ben Elton, Brian Blessed, Chris Barnes, Conrad Nelson, Denzel Washington, Edward Jewesbury, Emma Thompson, Gerard Horan, Imelda Staunton, Jimmy Yuill, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Keaton, Patrick Doyle, Phyllida Law, Richard Briers, Richard Clifford, Robert Sean Leonard

Director: Kenneth Branagh

At first glance, The Madness of King George seemed like a history lesson about King George III. Like plenty of British royalty dramas, the film has all the opulent trappings in its sets and costumes, as well as some of the best actors from the British isles. However, unlike other depictions of the monarchy, the film depicts the king not as a benevolent ruler or oppressive tyrant– instead, King George III is terribly human, with his memory failing, being unsettled by loss, and concern over his health, which involves having to look at his urine. But the historical satire, based on the 1991 stage play, still manages to have the same mockery towards the opportunistic court, while still retaining sympathy for the very nobility it mocks, through original playwright Alan Bennett’s adept writing, as well as the excellent performance of the stacked ensemble cast.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Bennett, Amanda Donohoe, Anthony Calf, Barry Stanton, Caroline Harker, Charlotte Curley, Clive Brunt, Colin McPhillamy, Cyril Shaps, David Leon, Dermot Keaney, Geoffrey Palmer, Helen Mirren, Iain Mitchell, Ian Holm, Janine Duvitski, Jeremy Child, Jim Carter, Joanna Hall, John Wood, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Julian Wadham, Michael Grandage, Nicholas Irons, Nicholas Selby, Nick Sampson, Nigel Hawthorne, Paul Corrigan, Peter Woodthorpe, Robert Swann, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Roger Hammond, Rupert Everett, Rupert Graves, Selina Cadell, Struan Rodger

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Rating: PG-13