Decades Blogathon – Death At A Funeral (2007)

Decades 17

Welcome to Day 1 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and Tom from the brilliant blog Thomas J! The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and for today I’m very pleased to welcome Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews, who is covering 2007’s British black comedy Death At A Funeral.

After a tip off from a good friend and blogger I heard the Decades Blogathon was looking for posts for its yearly extravaganza. Being late to joining last year, with my review of About Last Night (1986), I was keen to join this year’s fun. I requested to do this movie, a dark British comedy with a favourite TV actress Keeley Hawes from Ashes To Ashes (2008-10). I envied Hawes for her ‘will they wont they’ romance with Gene Hunt in the show and played to full manly manliness with the lovely Philip Glenister. He had me at his sheer masterful presence and Manchester accent. Anyway, so happy to have been selected by the guys to join this year’s blogathon and onto my review…

Deaf At A Funeral Poster

Part farce, mostly black comedy, I’d spotted this film in the Netflix list for British comedy films and had made a mental note to watch it. All I knew that it starred the lovely Keeley Hawes, who played Alex Drake in my time travel TV series favourite with Philip Glenister, Ashes To Ashes (2008-10). In what could possibly be described as a Richard Curtis dream cast, Hawes acts alongside what seems like a zillion British cast members including Hawes’ real life husband, actor Matthew MacFadyen. Support also comes from Ewen Bremner, Kris Marshall and Rupert Graves. And that’s just some of the Brits. Add two Americans Peter Dinklage and Alan Tudyk – leading to the first surprising revelation of this film as Tudyk adopts a perfectly convincing English accent – and that’s just a fraction of this ensemble.

Death At A Funeral (2007) tells about mild-mannered Daniel Howells, who is organising his father’s funeral in his nice, ancestral, family country home. You can tell this film is going to be seriously dark from the outset, as the wrong coffin is brought to the Howells’ ancestral home. After Daniel doesn’t recognise the body, the coffin is hastily replaced with the right one. Daniel and his apparently oft nagging wife Jane (Hawes) are planning on moving out, and have made plans to get an apartment of their own, leaving his widowed mother for a space of their own. They are awaiting money to put towards this venture from Robert, Daniel’s famous writer brother who is flying over for the funeral from the States. We meet the other family members as they drive to the funeral.

Death At A Funeral

In no particular order, there is Daniel’s renowned, successful writer brother Robert, a long-haired (on first impressions it’s a case of really what were you thinking?) Rupert Graves. We are introduced to the brothers’ cousins on first appearances, loud but loyal, Martha (Daisy Donovan) and pharmaceutical student Troy (Kris Marshall); and Martha’s sensible boyfriend, Simon (Alan Tudyk) and old Uncle Alfie played by Peter Vaughan. Still with me? Also, we meet another cousin, Howard (Andy Nyman) and his friend Justin (Ewen Bremner). At the funeral, we meet Daniel and Robert’s mother Sandra, (Jane Asher) and the father to Martha and Troy, Uncle Victor (Peter Egan). And that covers almost everybody that you need to know about right now.

Now I’ll move on… but please use the last paragraph if you are easily confused. So en route to the funeral, Martha and Simon pick up Troy. Troy’s just been talking with a friend about a wonder drug he’s invented which can result in hallucinations… pharmaceutical student, really? Anyway Troy hastily puts some in an empty bottle labelled Diazepam – an anxiety reliever – which leads us to the most crucial part of this storyline. See where I’m heading? Simon is desperately nervous about meeting their father as the couple are wanting to impress him. So Martha gives Simon what she thinks is Diazepam. Oblivious to this, Troy puts the tablet bottle in his pocket before the three head to the funeral.

Death At A Funeral

Howard, meanwhile, is revealed to be a bit of a hypochondriac with Justin pestering him with twenty questions centering around Martha, an apparent object of his affections. They pick up cantankerous Uncle Alfie in his wheelchair. Meanwhile at the funeral, Daniel is unsure about his eulogy, leading to an ongoing gag where all of the attendees ask him hopefully if his talented writer brother will be providing this. Including his mother. And the country vicar. Which doesn’t do his morale much good as he’s a struggling writer. His brother, meanwhile, has confessed he’s broke, using the last of his money on a first class plane fare over. Simon starts feeling the effects of this drug on the way seeing everything in a vivid green and hallucinating at the most inappropriate times. Martha tells Troy, who confesses all her, finding he’s dropped the pill bottle. Also at the funeral, we meet Peter (Peter Dinklage), a mysterious attendee who has a secret which he reveals to Daniel. Peter claims Daniel’s father wasn’t the happily married family man he appeared to be; and after showing Daniel evidence around this, he asks for money from Daniel to ensure his silence.

As you will find from watching more of this witty, farcical movie, our first impressions of this apparently normal British family aren’t true. Each has their own little eccentricities and backstory too. With every revelation or confession, each family encounter and full-blown disaster, it becomes more and more darkly fun to watch. Many of the family’s foibles and tales are linked together, with more complications added as the film progresses than your average episode of your favourite soap with just as many characters. So if you must go for a pee, press pause!

Death At A Funeral

The parts are delightfully played and special mention has to go to MacFadyen who convinced me as the man forever in the shadow of his more successful brother. I could feel his frustration, and felt for him with his later outbursts to a well-meaning – not nagging – wife, Jane. Hawes played her supportive wife role so well, as her apparently nagging scenes at the start with her on-off-screen husband took a new meaning. Looking into her eyes you could see her love, concern and well-meaning. Graves, as the caddish brother suited this part well, with his foppish hair now adding to his roguish charm, in the sort of role you’d expect a post-Daniel Cleaver Hugh Grant to play. But to me, Graves will always be Freddy – Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch’s kid brother – in A Room With A View (1985) and 80s crush. Kris Marshall played the hapless, hopeless role he’s loved for which was probably the least surprise in this movie (unless you’ve never seen Love Actually (2003) or My Family (2000-11)). As for Dinklage, he was so fantastic in his wee role that his part was rewritten specifically for him after his successful audition. In fact, he even returned to the part in the remake, released a mere three years later in the same role but under a different name. The remake, also named Death At A Funeral (2010) boasts an all-American cast including Zoe Saldana, Chris Rock and Danny Glover.

All in all this was a watchable film, despite its macabre type setting and gags. It reminded me of The Big Chill (1983), a film with another fantastic ensemble cast – which included Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, William Hurt and Jeff Goldblum – also centering around a funeral.  Where The Big Chill had more one liners, this film has more farcical moments to it. The Big Chill has many of my favourite lines in movies, provided by Kline and the cast and a full review may come soon. Kline has a bizarre connection to the British Death Of A Funeral film, he starred in a film In & Out (1997) which shared the same director as this film, Frank Oz. Oz also starred in The Muppet Show (1976-81) and is more renowned as the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars films. So, as my final recommendation, to paraphrase Yoda “Do watch, or do watch not, there is no try” and to paraphrase two of his more famous lines: “May the Force humour be with you”  as “The Dark Side humour I sense in you”.

Decades Blogathon – Still Time To Be Part Of Something Great!

Decades 17

Thank you to everyone who has jumped on board for this year’s Decades Blogathon, hosted by myself and Tom from the never-less-than-excellent Thomas J.

We still have a few slots left, so this is your final call ladies and gentlemen to get involved in the film blogging event of the year (possibly…)!

Here’s a recap of what you need to know:

  • Pick a film from any decade with the year ending in ‘7’. There are a lot of great movies to choose from, whether it’s Star Wars from ’77 (can’t believe that one hasn’t been taken yet), Boogie Nights from ’97, or The Graduate from ’67.
  • Postings will go up on a first-come, first-served basis (no time wasters please!). We’ll put up the entries that come in first and there will be one posted every day on this site and Thomas J, with each entry having a corresponding re-blog on the other site.
  • Like last year, we’ll be capping the number of posts to 20 – as of writing this, we have a total of 12. Please only send in one piece so we can maximise the number of contributors (Tom and I will also be included in that count, with our reviews coming at the end).
  • If you want to become involved, send an email to either myself (threerowsback@gmail.comor Tom ( with your suggestion. If no one else has already claimed your selection then you’re on board! We’ll then ask you to send us your post (with accompanying images) to the same email addresses as soon as possible. We ask that you send us an original piece (i.e. not one you’ve already run on your site) and you don’t run it on your site until after we’ve posted.
  • Please let us know ASAP if you’d like to be involved and supply us you contribution as soon as you are able. We’ll be starting the blogathon shortly thereafter.

There will be one review posted each day either on this site or on Thomas J, and whichever site it doesn’t go up on first, it will be re-blogged there on that day.

Don’t miss out!

The Decades Blogathon Is Back!

Decades 17

With our big screens about to be overcome (even more) with a cavalcade of cinematic cash cows, it’s reassuring that in the world of film blogging there is an alternative.

And that alternative is the Decades Blogathon – the third annual extravaganza hosted by yours truly and Tom from the inimitable Thomas J wherein we invite bloggers to review films from different decades.

The previous two blogathons have been a whole heap of fun and the contributions we’ve received have been never less than insightful and fascinating. Well, the time is upon us for another celebration of all things film and we are once again inviting you guys to join us!

As a reminder, the blogathon works like this:

  • Pick a film from any decade with the year ending in ‘7’. And by any film we mean any film – you decide. There’s a lot of movies to choose from so it’s time to put your thinking caps on.
  • Postings will go up on a first-come, first-serve basis (no time wasters please!). We’ll put up the entries that come in first and there will be one posted every day on this site and Thomas J, with each entry having a corresponding re-blog on the other site.
  • Like last year, we’ll be capping the number of posts to 20. This means the blogathon will run for 10 days or so to keep things manageable. Please only send in one piece so we can maximise the number of contributors (Tom and I will also be included in that count, with our reviews coming at the end*).
  • If you want to become involved, send an email to either myself (threerowsback@gmail.comor Tom ( with your suggestion. If no one else has already claimed your selection then you’re on board! We’ll then ask you to send us your post (with accompanying images) to the same email addresses as soon as possible. We ask that you send us an original piece (i.e. not one you’ve already run on your site) and you don’t run it on your site until after we’ve posted.
  • We’re aiming to start the blogathon in the next few weeks. Please let us know by Monday 8 May if you’d like to be involved and then provide us your article by the following week.

* Fear not, neither of us will be taking Star Wars so that one is free, while the birth of the New Hollywood – 1967 – is there for the taking! Personally, I’ll be covering Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood, while Tom will be taking on Sidney Lumet’s classic 1957 jury room drama 12 Angry Men. All other films released in a year ending ‘7’ are free to choose from, so please get involved – we’re looking forward to receiving your entry!

Decades Blogathon – Inside Man (2006)




As we wind down another great blogathon, I’d like to thank each and every one of you for your great posts. I’d also like to tip my hat to my co-host for firstly coming up with the concept last year and for helping manage it again this time around. As always, it’s a real treat. With any luck we will return again next year. I will be adding each of these pieces to my Decades sub-menu so if you ever want to go back and catch up on something you missed, feel free to visit that drop-down menu up top.

For my entry I’ve decided to go with another contemporary release, realizing this would be a great opportunity to give Spike Lee another try. So here’s my take on a film he released now ten years ago:

'Inside Man' movie poster

Release: Friday, March 24, 2006


Written by: Russell Gewirtz

Directed by: Spike Lee

Prolific filmmaker, documentarian and notable New York Knicks’ sixth man Spike Lee, taking a few pages from F. Gary Gray’s guide to properly dramatizing delicate hostage situations, directs this thrilling and surprisingly intelligent heist film involving a cunning thief, an experienced detective, a wealthy bank owner and a not-so-proverbial bank-load of hostages.

Inside Man has Clive Owen to thank for delivering big in a decidedly (and brilliantly) complex role that sees him holding up a Manhattan Trust and many of its employees and patrons, confident he has planned for every possible outcome and disaster. No offense to Denzel the detective, who exudes charisma and charm throughout situations no other person could, or really should — but this is Owen’s film. Owen plays Dalton Russell, a name he’s only going to say once so you better pay attention because he never, ever repeats himself.

The hold-up begins like any other: Dalton and his cronies sneak in as painters and promptly reveal themselves on the inside as anything but. They’re armed and they’re not messing around. Stress levels sky-rocket within seconds. Dalton’s got plans for the vault but before we learn what those are Spike cuts away and begins constructing the world that awaits anxiously outside the building. The closest in proximity are the swaths of police and detectives, including Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Willem Dafoe’s Captain John Darius.

Elsewhere, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), founder and chair of the board of directors of this particular branch, is informed of the developing situation. Even though he luxuriates in a cavernous living room, the rich mahogany of its ornate interior boasting a life brimming with accomplishment and prestige, his concern lies with a single safety deposit box in the bank’s vault. He calls in a favor from fixer Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to help him recover it, for whatever it contains could be embarrassing if it ever fell into the wrong hands.

Yeah, embarrassing. Let’s go with that.

If Owen is the standard to which all other performances must rise Foster proves to be the bare minimum you can get away with, playing a character so deeply rooted in some ethical and moral grey area you’re not sure if she’s being intentionally vague or if the actor ever believed in the part. Despite another wooden performance, she does manage to generate an aura of mystery as she slinks in and out of the shadows, her allegiance to any one group perpetually impossible to verify. (But are the mind games of her own creation, or is that Spike directing one of the most overrated actors working today?)

Spike’s direction assumes the role of surveillance cameras stationed at all corners of a building. The omniscience is really rewarding, as we see the extent to which this event has been planned and organized. In contrast, we come to realize the relative helplessness of a pair of detectives who want to end all of this as peacefully as possible, but who are coming up short on options — not merely because they’re bound by protocol and bureaucracy, either. In this world, the balance of power is almost entirely in the favor of the robbers. The shifting power dynamics make Inside Man a cut above your standard crime/heist thriller and one of Spike Lee’s better offerings.

Clive Owen in 'Inside Man'

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 6.32.10 PMRecommendation: Inside Man proves to be an involving and thoroughly surprising crime thriller featuring stellar performances from a diverse cast. Despite my qualms with Lee as a human being, his directorial talents can’t be denied. This might be my favorite of his thus far. If you can’t get enough of the bank heist thriller, I definitely would recommend this one.

Rated: R

Running Time: 129 mins.

Quoted: “Peter, think very carefully about how you answer the next question, because if you get it wrong, your headstone will read, ‘Here lies Peter Hammond, hero, who valiantly attempted to prevent a brilliant bank robbery by trying to hide his cellular phone, but wound up,’ [presses gun muzzle into Peter’s cheek] ‘getting shot in the f***ing head.’ Now, Peter Hammond, where’s your cell phone?”

All content originally published on Digital Shortbread and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits:;