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Mr Smith has Mrs Smith in a headlock

Mr & Mrs Smith

Here’s a strange thing – a screwball comedy by Alfred Hitchcock. Mr and Mrs Smith is the only one he made, and it’s not very good. A “comedy of remarriage”, it’s not a thousand miles away in plot from The Philadelphia Story, about a husband and wife discovering that a legal technicality means their three-year marriage is void. If they want to be husband and wife for real, they’ll have to “remarry”. But, now they’ve got the chance, will they? As a bit of a preamble to all this, some vital character furniture is put in place in an opening scene telling us in broad strokes that David (Robert Montgomery) and Ann (Carole Lombard) … Read more
Sonia and the Duke

Arsène Lupin

1932’s Arsène Lupin wasn’t the first movie about the gentleman thief by a long stretch but it is one of the best, thanks to canny casting and a pace that never slackens. The canny casting comes in the shape of the Barrymore brothers, Lionel and John, on screen together in starring roles for the first time – the publicity machine made much of it. Older sibling Lionel gets the best of it as the huffing, irascible cop Guerchard, while John (aka “The Great Profile”) does more matinee idol stuff as the Duke of Charmerace, womanising noble lord by day, thief by night, and a thief, what’s more, who likes to announce to the … Read more
Emilia Jones as Ruby

CODA

CODA is the acronym for Children of Deaf Adults and the name of a movie whose subject matter might make many people pause before watching. Too worthy maybe. Sign language all over the place. Triumph over adversity mawkishness. Though it won an Oscar for Best Picture, this can be not so much a gong, more a warning bell – see Crash, Driving Miss Daisy and Around the World in 80 Days. So it’s a surprise to find what a sweet, straightforward film it is. An underdog movie that piles it on with an earth mover, it stars Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi, the teenage fully-hearing daughter of two deaf parents, sister to a … Read more
Myrna Loy and William Powell

I Love You Again

I Love You Again is a knockabout Hollywood farce, a cock-eyed “comedy of remarriage” – The Philadelphia Story is the king of the genre – done in rat-a-rat style by the crack team of director WS Van Dyke and his stars, William Powell and Myrna Loy. Van Dyke was known as One Take Woody, for reasons that don’t need explaining, and at this point had worked together with Powell and Loy on three Thin Man films, which had done all three of them a lot of favours. If you’re not familiar with the Thin Man films (there would eventually be six; the first three are the best), they all feature Powell and Loy as … Read more
Clara lying down in the forest

Clara Sola

Capsule plot summaries can be misleading. The one for Clara Sola might say – a woman around 40 in a Costa Rica village has a sexual awakening. It’s more or less what the one on the IMDb says. And it’s not wrong, that is what happens. But the story, that’s a different thing altogether. And in fact the whole point of this debut by Nathalie Álvarez Mesén is in what isn’t being said rather than what is. The plot is straightforward but story lies scattered between the cracks, just slightly out of reach. It’s ambiguous, entirely, in almost every respect. Clara is a pretty woman and might, at her age, expect to be … Read more
Warren Beatty head shot

The Parallax View

One of three 1970s thrillers Alan Pakula directed in quick succession, The Parallax View is sandwiched between two better films, Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976), the second leg of what’s now known as his “paranoia trilogy”. Posterity is in the process of polishing The Parallax View’s reputation, with the focus usually on two aspects: the cinematography of Gordon Willis and the conspiracy at the centre of it, which is not, for once, all a big government put-on. Instead it’s a big bad company, the Parallax Corporation, that’s pulling the strings by seeking out unstable individuals and then grooming them for political assassinations. Don’t tell Ayn Rand. Loren Singer’s original novel … Read more
Kate and Blond

True Things

True Things is only the second feature from Harry Wootliff, a writer-director fascinated with relationships. And after the slow-burning torture of Only You, she follows up with another rocky road leading to who knows where. Again it’s a two-hander, again the performances are sensational. In Only You Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor were the couple negotiating parenthood (adulthood, actually). Here, it’s Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke at a much earlier stage of a relationship. That’s if this is a relationship at all, which is kind of what the film is about. Wilson plays Kate Perkin, a young woman with a shaky work situation, not much in the way of a social life, a … Read more
Paul Renard in church

Broken Lullaby

Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby was originally called The Man I Killed, like the Maurice Rostand play it was based on (L’homme que j’ai tué). It turned out to be a title too hard-hitting for the box office and so it was decided to change it. To The Fifth Commandment. Until some bright spark pointed out that “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t always in the number five position in the Commandments. If you’re Jewish or Orthodox, it’s number six, for example. And so, bizarrely, Broken Lullaby is what the movie ended up being called. Both the play and the film are the story of a French soldier who kills a German soldier … Read more
The Mighty Thor and Thor

Thor: Love and Thunder

Though the Asgardian deity has appeared in other Avengers movies in the interim,Thor: Love and Thunder is the first outing for Chris Hemsworth’s caped godhead since the last standalone Thor movie, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Time has moved on and we’re now in a different phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one determined to bolt a “meta” onto the usual stew of tall tales, quips, dressing up, special effects and heroics. Some things have changed, but some remain the same. In textbook Thor fashion, we first meet the villain. Christian Bale plays Gorr, a grieving father driven into a frenzy when he discovers that Rapu, his liege lord/godhead, doesn’t give a stuff about his … Read more
Treeshaker

Son of the White Mare

Psychedelia came late to the Soviet Bloc. Marcell Jankovics’s Son of the White Mare (aka Fehérlófia) didn’t come out till 1981, at which point in the West long hair was out and short hair was in, weed had been traded for speed and nothing seemed quite as old hat as self-indulgent, soft-edged hippie-infused visuals. Way out east, however, the Communist regime remained steadfastly against anything that was soft, western, bourgeois, non-practical, non-utilitarian or non-propagandistic. With its decorative, non-logical looks, psychedelia’s message was in itself dissident and political and its counter-cultural impact was strong. On the other hand the regime did like folk art. Pop art bad, folk art good ran the mantra of … Read more
Frank Kitchen before gender re-assignment

The Assignment

Hardboiled graphic-novel pastiche is the big idea behind The Assignment, which stars Michelle Rodriguez as Frank Kitchen, a hitman who becomes a hitwoman after his enemies perform some non-elective gender re-assignment (Re-Assignment was a working title, as was Tomboy) on him/her. As you might expect, revenge is served hot and cold, warm and wet. Walter Hill directs. Yes, the same Walter Hill of 1980s hits like Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs and Brewster’s Millions, still in the game, still knocking out remarkably varied movies, still happy to get down and slum it, as he’s doing here – the film was made for very little money and Hill was well into his 70s when it … Read more
Group shot of the cast of Jurassic World Dominion

Jurassic World Dominion

Going into production, the makers of Jurassic World Dominion knew they had to deal with a raft of problems that most franchises don’t have to deal with. They couldn’t change the villain – one of the key ways that long-running franchises refresh their offering. In Jurassic Park movies the bad guy remains the dinosaur no matter how many crazed megalomaniac human are injected into the mix. They also couldn’t really change the location. This isn’t a story of a world taken over by dinosaurs but of a theme park (essentially) going wrong. James Bond gets sent to Bermuda, or Brazil, or Baluchistan, or into space orbit or beneath the waves to ring the … Read more

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