Veteran British actress Jean Alexander is "out of danger" following a terrifying health scare. The former star of U.K. soap opera Coronation Street sparked fears among fans on Monday (23Jun14) when she fell ill and was admitted to a hospital in Southport, England.
Her brother, Kenneth Hodgkinson, has now confirmed the 88 year old is out of hospital and is recovering in a rehabilitation centre.
He says, "We don't think it is serious, she is getting on very well. She has left the hospital now and is in rehabilitation, a home, just for a week or so. I can't give a definite medical statement because I haven't got it... It looks as if she won't be kept for long under medical supervision. I've heard from the people there, in the home, that she is quite cheerful and she feels alright. So whatever it is it would appear that she has passed through it reasonably well. She seems reasonably chirpy and not in danger."
Hodgkinson goes on to reveal his sister asked him to thank fans for their well wishes, adding, "She is very grateful for all the interest shown by the public in her... She realises people may want to send cards, but she would be glad if she is not flooded with flowers or chocolates or things like that."
British thespian Kenneth Branagh is the new darling of the New York theatre scene after winning rave reviews for his "epic" and "breathtaking" stage debut in the Big Apple. The actor/director took his production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth across the Atlantic after launching it in Manchester, England last summer (13), and the curtain went up at the Park Avenue Armory's Drill Hall on Thursday night (05Jun14).
Branagh, who co-directed the show with Rob Ashford and stars alongside Alex Kingston, has won rave reviews for his turn as the tragic Scottish king and for the immersive production. Peter Marks of the Washington Post calls the show "epic", adding, "Forget the pesky glasses. You want a movielike experience in 3D? Feast your eyes on Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford's breathtakingly visual new staging of Macbeth."
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney praises the "sensational" stage set and describes the production as a "medieval, mystical blockbuster that combines superlative, fuss-free classical theatre acting with muscular storytelling, visceral physicality and propulsive rollercoaster pacing. Oh, and lots of mud."
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News gave the show five stars out of five, writing, "Any Macbeth rises or falls on the actor in the title role. Silver-tongued, sexy and deft with a sword, Branagh oozes charisma and carnality as his Macbeth murders his way to the throne - and his undoing. It's about time Branagh graced New York audiences with a flesh-and-blood Shakespeare star turn. It was worth the wait."
The New York Times' Ben Brantley writes, "This is the summer blockbuster that we wait for every year and too seldom find at the multiplexes, one of those action-packed, spectacle-drenched shows that sweep you right into their fraught, churning worlds and refuse to release you until the lights come up - and maybe not even then."
Northern Irish actor Jimmy Ellis has died at the age of 82. The TV star suffered a stroke early on Saturday (08Mar14) at Lincoln Hospital in England.
Ellis was best known for his role as Bert Lynch in police TV drama Z-Cars, which ran from 1962 until 1978, but also starred alongside acting veteran Sir Kenneth Branagh in BBC Northern Ireland's Billy series of plays.
Paying tribute to his former co-star, Branagh tells the BBC, "I was blessed to begin my career working with him, and I will never forget his generosity to me. He was a highly intelligent, funny, and kind man, and a tremendous actor."
Ellis joined the Ulster Group Theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1952 and went on to become the theatre's director of productions, but he resigned from the role in 1960 to stage and direct Sam Thompson's play Over The Bridge, which had been deemed too controversial by the theatre's bosses.
He also had roles in British TV classics such as Dr Who, Only Fool and Horses, and Ballykissangel.
In 2008, he was presented with an honorary doctorate from Queen's University in Belfast for services to the performing arts.
Sir Kenneth Branagh has won another stage award for his acclaimed production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. The star, who staged the tragedy in an old church in Manchester, England, has claimed the Best Actor prize for his royal role at the Manchester Theatre Awards.
The play was named Best production, while Branagh's sidekick Ray Fearon picked up a Best Supporting Actor trophy at a ceremony on Friday (07Mar14).
Branagh did not attend the show but sent a personal message, which read: "In Manchester, from the moment we pelted our dear patrons with rain, mud and blood, we felt their complete (and literal) immersion in the experience.
"They were not only good sports, they were the other half of the evening, and for their concentration, their support, and their reluctance to send us laundry bills, I thank them most sincerely."
Paramount via Everett Collection
A quarter of the way into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's far-too-long runtime, the titular hero takes note of a war-time portait in his adversary Viktor Cherevin's office. "Napoleon," Ryan says, proudly identifying the subject of the painting. "Ah," the nefarious Cherevin smiles. "I see you know your history." You'd think we'd get a bit more academic sophistication in a film directed by Kenneth Branagh... hell, in a line delivered by Kenneth Branagh. But this is par for the course in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's script. And even more problematic, it's the thing that sticks with me most only a few days after seeing the movie. Well, that and the fact that Chris Pine and Keira Knightley make for the most compatibly attractive onscreen couple I have ever seen. Aside from these standout elements, the film dissolves into a 105-minute (jeez, it feels twice that) blur of running, driving, choking, shooting, and the like.
But it's not a painful jaunt all the while, and this is thanks almost entirely to Pine. An actor who we remember popping up in early Lindsay Lohan movies and thinking little of, Pine has earned his place at the center of franchises like Star Trek and, this weekend's box office intake permitting, Jack Ryan. He maintains character and personality in the movie's heightened scenes of "the first kill" and pulling the long con on Cherevin. With a better, smarter script, Pine could thrive in an action hero role like Ryan, but here he's only left to occasionally cut through a staunch layer of boredom.
Paramount via Everett Collection
The other winning factor of Jack Ryan is in its female lead: Knightley and her character Dr. Cathy Mullins. Another pervasive charmer, Knightley manages to inject a wealth of vitality into the movie at the points most desperate for some flavor — so much so that we're not simply thrilled, but relieved when she shows up unexpectedly to tag along with boyfriend Jack on his mission to... to... well, it's something to do with stopping terrorism. Trust me, you'll forget the specifics as soon as you leave the theater, if not sooner. But the most impressive part is that Shadow Recruit actually gives Knightley something to do as Mullins. She doesn't just wait around and lament the life choices of her danger-prone boyfriend, she gets in on the action. And we're glad for it. Without her, it'd just be Pine. And as much as we like him, he needs somebody else with a personality to play off (sorry, Kevin Costner, but you're not exactly playing your A Game here).
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In short, there's almost nothing to say about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which in itself says a lot — it's dull, it's slow, and it's got two stars who deserve a lot better than the material they're dealt. Aw hell, maybe the sequel (yeah, we've come out of denial... it's gonna happen) will up the ante on the script, and not mistake knowing who Napoleon is for being a history expert.
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British actress Lily James has narrowly escaped injury after her lavish costume caught fire on the set of new movie Cinderella. The Downton Abbey star, who plays the title role in Kenneth Branagh's new big screen adaptation of the fairytale, was taking a break during filming at Pinewood Studios in England when her ballgown was ignited by a portable heater in her dressing room.
The fire was put out and James, 24, escaped without injury.
Costume designer Sandy Powell tells Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "It had turned really cold and someone had put a three-bar heater a bit too close to where Lily was going to sit on a stool. Luckily, just a segment of the silk dress got burnt. Thank God Lily wasn't harmed."
James adds, "I wore this wedding dress for about 20 seconds before I walked past the heater and burned some of it... I was fine. I wasn't hurt, just a bit shocked for a little while."
British actor Ricky Tomlinson submitted a petition at the offices of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday (16Dec13) as part of an ongoing battle to clear his name over a 1970s conviction. The Mike Bassett: England Manager star was sentenced to two years in prison in 1973 on a charge of conspiracy to intimidate for his part in a building workers' dispute in Shrewsbury, England.
He was hoping to overturn his conviction using documents relating to the case which were due to be made public last January (13), but former U.K. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke extended the embargo, prompting Tomlinson and a group of activists to launch a campaign.
The Shrewsbury 24 drive garnered a petition of more than 100,000 signatures, which was handed in at Downing Street on Monday.
The achievement means the issue will now be debated in parliament.
The Great Gatsby star Carey Mulligan was so unprepared for her April (13) meeting with the Queen of England, she needed to borrow an emergency safety pin to keep the hem of her dress up. The actress attended the British Film Industry Reception at the royal's Windsor Castle home, but had no idea she'd actually get to meet Elizabeth II.
She explains, "I thought I would see the Queen from a mile away and take a photo on my phone or something, and then I arrived at Windsor Castle and someone said, 'Ms. Mulligan, would you follow us...' and I went into this room and there were just five people in there. And they said, 'You're all going to meet the Queen on your own'.
"I did my own hair... I just completely freaked out. And then this guy came up to me and he said, 'Ms, Mulligan, I just wanted to let you know the hem of your dress has fallen down. Would you like a safety pin?' And I was like, 'Yes, I need a safety pin!'
"If I met the Queen without a hem on my dress... my mother would behead me.
"He ran off and he got the safety pin and came back and he got down on the floor... and I was like, 'I need alcohol...'"
The booze failed to calm her nerves and she turned to actor/director Kenneth Branagh, who was also a castle guest, and asked him for a last-minute etiquette lesson.
She adds, "He's, like, practically related to them (royal family) and I said, 'Kenneth Branagh, what do I do?' and Kenneth Branagh taught me how to curtsy. It was a very brief lesson but he made me feel very comfortable."
Marginalized communities throughout history have had ways of communicating that are proof of clanship. But did you know the street slang used by queens the world over is at least two centuries old, and that you already know a few words of it?
There is disagreement about the exact origins of the gay ghetto slang known as Polari, but it rose in popularity during the 19th century in London's East End, and shares words with other street vernaculars like Cockney rhyming slang and Yiddsh. The language was common in professions that employed traveling male tradesmen, like the merchant marines and the theater. Gay men adopted it as a way to have sexual conversations safely and in secret.
If you feel ignorant, don't. You're already speaking Polari when you use words like butch, camp, and drag — and if you're paying attention, chicken, cottaging and zhoosh. Theater slang that is part of the lexicon, such as referring to dancers as "hoofers," also comes from Polari.
But if you hear someone say, "Vada the eek on that naff omi-palone," ask your local queen for a translation. And pray they aren't talking about you.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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