Mockingjay: Part 1

Turns a political struggle into something thrillingly personal.

The Beat Beneath My Feet

A toe-tapping indie that is, quite simply lovely.


An extraordinary true tale made disappointingly ordinary.

The Battle of the Five Armies

"Why does it hurt so much?" Because the rest of it felt so real.


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Tag:derek jacobi

Derek Jacobi, StringCaesar

"I know you’re meant to work to target audiences, but I’ve never done what you’re supposed to do. I don’t think I’m capable of it…"

That’s director Paul Schoolman explaining the ambitious, unique and really quite striking StringCaesar. Shot in Cardiff, Canada and South Africa’s prisons, it’s a film showing Julius Caesar’s rise to power, spilling blood and slitting throats – all behind bars.

Starring Derek Jacobi alongside hundreds of inmates, StringCaesar had its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival this week. I interviewed Sir Derek after the film. It went something like this:

Thank you.

[Derek smiles]

That happened while he held open the door for me in the toilet.

My brief encounter with Sir Derek over, I then spoke to Schoolman about the production. He explained how many years he’d been working on the film – since 1984. Or, as he accurately put it, “before you were born”. Stopping every few minutes to talk to a friend, colleague or granddaughter, he cuts an enthusiastic figure, satisfied that his project is now complete.

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String Caesar - Raindance

Director: Paul Schoolman
Cast: Derek Jacobi

“As I sit in my cell barred and bolted… my soul finds release like a nomad… and wanders for me in the night.”

The words are written by Tony, an inmate at Dartmoor Prison, but they could easily belong to Julius Caesar. Long before he came to power, young Jules was dismissed as a loser, a waste of space, a homosexual. He grew up in a time of conflict and bloodshed. Dictators. Thugs. War. They’re the hallmarks of 80s BC Rome, but they could easily belong to modern day Dartmoor. Or Cardiff. Or Drumheller Pentientiary in Alberta. Or Pollsmoor Prison in South Africa, where Mandela was once held.

String theory says there are many alternate realities. StringCaesar, then, sees two of them collide behind bars around the world. Citizens wear orange jumpsuits, while rulers spark riots in the corridors and order murder in the yards.

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Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn - review
Director: Simon Curtis
Cast: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Judi Dench 
Certificate: 12A

It's one thing going into a film knowing that Michelle Williams will get nominated for an Oscar. It's another thing coming out thinking that you just saw Marilyn Monroe alive and well for two hours.

Williams manages the transformation entirely, drawing in everything around her, including Laurence Olivier (Branagh). "When she gets it right, you can't take your eyes off her," Olivier sighs, struggling to directing her on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. He's right. And My Week with Marilyn is all the better for it.

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If you like swords, castles and bloody history, Jonathan English is your man. 

Following 2006's Minotaur with a romp through 13th century England, Ironclad (out this week) tells the story of how King John, three months after signing the Magna Carta in 1215, wreaked a campaign of revenge across England with a team of 5,000 mercenaries. But he faced resistance at Rochester castle, where a group of rebels, led by Baron Albany, fought back.

It's a gory and brutal siege movie, which makes the most of its grimy location and independent budget. But amassing £20 million to blow up Rochester castle while Paul Giamatti and Brian Cox look on is no easy feat.

We chat to Jonathan about the Magna Carta, war movies and killing people with really big swords. 

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Director: Jonathan English
Cast: James Purefoy, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Mackenzie Crook, Derek Jacobi, Jason Flemyng, Kate Mara
Certificate: 15

James Purefoy has a big sword. Everyone knows that, just as we know that Paul Giamatti's sword is not as big as James Purefoy's. Enter Jonathan English, whose gets both to face off against Brian Cox's frankly massive weapon - and Mackenzie Crook, whose sword is probably tiny. At first glance, Ironclad is just another in a string of period history romps. But unlike Season of the Witch, Ironclad isn't good because it's bad. Ironclad is good because it's good.

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