Tag Archives: Thandie Newton

‘SIX OF THE BEST’ #5 – BRITISH ACTRESSES

‘SIX OF THE BEST’ #5 – BRITISH ACTRESSES!

In my occasional series called Six of the Best, I select six of something of the other which I like the best. So here goes with six of the best British actresses working today and who, of late, have put in some sterling performances which have very much impressed me.

There are some great actresses not on the list such as: Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Keeley Hawes, Rosamund Pike and Helen McCrory but while they are awesome the performers listed have stood out for me slightly more.

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

CHARLOTTE RAMPLING

Rampling has had a wonderful career which began in the sixties and had continued powerfully ever since. Some of my favourite performances of hers include the films: The Verdict (1982), Angel Heart (1987), Lemming (2005) to name but a few. For someone so beautiful she owns a fragile vulnerability which she puts to great effect. Having impressed me in the second season of TV drama Broadchurch, I found her role in bittersweet drama 45 Years (2015) to be so compelling. She just owns this story of a woman “celebrating” forty-five years of marriage, shook up by revelations from her husband’s past.

EMILY BLUNT

Has Emily Blunt ever given a bad performance? I don’t recall one! She is funny, attractive and tough when she needs to be, but I think her greatest asset though is portraying sensitive vulnerability amidst steely determination. This is borne out in roles such as Looper (2012), Sicario (2015) and the movie potboiler Girl on the Train (2016). The latter had mixed reviews yet Blunt was terrific in a complex performance which really drew you into her characters’ plight. She’s funny too as seen in her scene-stealing role in The Devil Wears Prada (2006).

IMELDA STAUNTON

Imelda Staunton gave one of the greatest acting performances I have ever seen when I witnessed her live in the stage show Gypsy.  It was a barnstorming delivery of passion, energy, singing and pathos.  Staunton has been giving her all for many years now and was, in my view, the best Harry Potter villain ever as the venal Thatcherite matriarch Dolores Umbridge. Her stage and screen CV is second-to-none and in Vera Drake (2004) she gave one of the most subtle and emotional performances ever committed to celluloid.

OLIVIA COLMAN

The Night Manager (2016), Hot Fuzz (2007), Tyrannosaur (2011), Broadchurch (2013), The Lobster (2015), Rev (2010 – 2014)), Doctor Who (2010), Peep Show (2003 – 2015)  and much more film and television work confirms Olivia Colman as a doyenne of her field. She can play funny and sad and angry which is to be expected from such a talented actress but Colman does everything in such a memorable manner. No matter who she portrays they’re always believable and played with a warmth, toughness and humanity. Her character in Tyrannosaur (2011) was so heartfelt and empathetic you wanted to reach into the screen and rescue her.

 

SHERIDAN SMITH

Having seen Sheridan Smith in the stage musical Funny Girl I was left very impressed. As Fanny Brice she had big shoes to fill in a role previously owned by the incomparable Barbara Streisand, and fill them she did with aplomb. She was indeed funny and spirited and has a fantastic vocal range; a voice which was put to great use in the not-bad Cilla Black biopic called, surprisingly enough, Cilla (2014). Yet, her acting as Charmian Biggs in TV drama Mrs Biggs was exceptional as she gave her all as the long-suffering wife of train robber Ronnie Biggs. All-round she can do comedy, drama and sing brilliantly too.

THANDIE NEWTON

Thandie Newton has been working very successfully in all manner of film and televisual work for years now. I recall her debut appearance as the object of Noah Taylor’s desire in the film Flirting (1991) and showing spark in the crime noir Young Americans (1993). Subsequently Newton has worked regularly in Hollywood and was a standout performer in ensemble drama Crash (2004). However, her recent performance in HBO’s post-modern sci-fi-Western Westworld (2016), confirms Newton as one of the most compelling actresses around. Her character work as Maeve Millay is a masterclass of rage, pathos and devious delight.

 

WESTWORLD (2016) SEASON 1 – TV REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

WESTWORLD (2016) SEASON 1 – TV REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

HBO’s Westworld was presented, previewed and marketed, like the fantastical flagbearer Game of Thrones before it, as the premium, high-end, star-studded television event of the year. Indeed, in my honest opinion it lived up to the hype and certainly turned out to be one of the shows of the year!

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Everything about Westworld screamed cinematic quality! Of course it’s origins spring from Michael Crichton’s classic sci-fi film Westworld (1973) where the robot hosts started killing the rich guests on holiday at an ‘A:I’ driven amusement park. The formula would then be amped up in Jurassic Park (1993) and its sequels, where instead of sentient androids, we had dinosaur clones attacking the staff and guests. This televisual delight developed – by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy – twists and turns that simple, yet ingenious premise, into a whole new machine; utilising the influences of Crichton, Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, Rod Serling, Harlan Ellison etc. as well as incorporating a number of their own concepts too.

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HBO have pumped $100 million dollars into ten sumptuous looking episodes and the filmmakers took the brilliant decision to shoot on 35mm film. This creative choice gives us exquisite cinematographic vistas of the West while at the same time enhancing the inner sheen of the hi-spec-steam-punk engineering on show underneath the actual “amusement” park itself. Allied to this we get a whole host of A-grade movie and character actors who bring a depth and gravitas to the proceedings.

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Leading the stellar cast is Anthony Hopkins as the established overlord Dr Robert Ford. His presence is felt throughout the park and initially staff and hosts seem to answer to him. Hopkins is terrifically understated in his performance but underneath the iceberg surface is an incredibly complex character who, while a technical genius, responds to human beings coldly. He sees them as obstacles to his grand narrative which seems to be written and re-written from episode to episode. While oddly unsympathetic his enigma drives the show, with his character attempting to control the hosts, staff and his environment while writing and rewriting the past and present.

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Working for Ford are an army of techs and security personnel responsible for guests and hosts alike. The most honest, it would appear, and one we root for is Bernard portrayed with subtle distinction by Geoffrey Wright. His velvety voice alone is enough to project emotion and meaning within every syllable uttered. Representing the corporate personnel are a fine supporting cast, notably, Sidse Babett Knudsen and Luke Hemsworth.

Similarly, the simulacrum hosts are expertly cast with: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Rodrigo Santoro and Clifton Collins Jnr etc. bringing a glamour, edge and depth of performance to the paranoid androids. Obviously there are visitors to the park and these roles are dominated by the magisterial Ed Harris and younger bucks Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes.


Overall, I found the show an incredible science fiction experience. The opening theme is a haunting gift to the ears, while the incredible imagery of the opening credits are a feast for the eyes.  Visually and aurally the series was crammed with wondrous sounds and vistas and the soundtrack was fabulous too including dark naked tunes by the likes of: The Cure, Radiohead and Soundgarden.  Violence, action, nudity and sexuality are freely on show but this is just skin for the rich narrative and themes which power the twisting story. Indeed, the themes ask us to question everything, like: who is human and who is a host? Should we, the audience, care about a character when they’re a robot?  And most importantly: when are the robots going to start killing the guests?


Halfway through though I must admit I was close to discontinuing and shutting down as I was struggling to connect emotionally with the characters. However, I realised this was a cerebral challenge; a puzzle or maze, which – much like Jonathan Nolan and his brother Christopher’s other work including: The Prestige (2006), Memento (2000) and Inception (2010) – I’ll try and solve. I’ll be honest not all of it hung together satisfactorily on first watch, however, on further views each episode’s timelines, narratives, flashbacks, flash-forwards, memories and dreams combined brilliantly, and I soon realised all the pieces were there to successfully put the puzzle together.

With its state-of-the-art effects, incredible design, brilliant actors, brutal violence, complex plots and classic Western genre setting, this postmodern masterpiece transcends genre and the storytelling process itself. Because at its core processing Westworld is about: the nature of narrative and controlling your story: past, present and future. Oh, that and lots of killer robots. So, overall, Westworld is a place I will certainly be coming back to time and time and time again.  Some might say the whole Westworld experience was a-MAZE-ing!