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Alicia Vikander as Fragancia

The Crown Jewels aka Kronjuvelerna

If this is the age of helicopter parenting and the Young Adult (YA) genre is its cultural manifestation, then 2011’s The Crown Jewels (Kronjuvelerna in the original Swedish) is as good an Exhibit A as you’ll find in any case for the prosecution. Life is full, absolutely full, of bear traps and kids need to know about them. People can be horrible. Open water can kill. Boyfriends can turn out gay. Mums can die. Dads can lose their legs. Rape can happen any time. Insanity lurks. Make sure you turn the gas off. The story is told in flashback, from a Swedish police interrogation room where a kindly inspector (Tomas von Brömssen) wants … Read more
Ilya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo

The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The death of David McCallum a few days ago prompted a return to the show that made his name in the 1960s. Well, not the show itself, but a 1983 TV movie “return”, which looks as if it was intended to relight the fire under the series itself. It was not to be and so this remains the final hurrah for McCallum and co-star Robert Vaughn as Ilya Kuryakin and Napoleon Solo, the spy-fi buddies working for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. The show had been part-devised by Ian Fleming as a response to the surge of interest in all things spy after the success of James Bond and ran … Read more
Simon Pegg as Nandor Fodor

Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose

The who? The what? Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose is a title asking two questions and, without further ado, here come the answers. Nandor Fodor was a real man, a Hungarian-born parapsychologist (1895-1964) and former associate of Sigmund Freud who became a leading paranormal investigator. His preferred MO was to explain poltergeists and other spiritual apparitions as having a rational (psychological) explanation. People, he generally thought, believe this stuff into existence, they’re not being deceptive. As to the Talking Mongoose, that was a famous case lofted into the public consciousness by the British tabloid newspapers, of an animal on the Isle of Man (which sits in the Irish Sea between the UK … Read more
Jamie has fallen off his delivery bike

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

A young man tries to get his oats in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, a British 1968 sex comedy starring Barry Evans, directed by Clive Donner and written by Hunter Davies. In many ways it’s the suburban Alfie, which was made two years earlier. Where Michael Caine had central London, Barry Evans has Stevenage New Town; where Caine’s Alfie was a confident lothario and lone wolf, Evans’s Jamie is a virginal 18-year-old schoolboy with laddish mates. Alfie charms his women into bed, Jamie just dreams about it, vividly, in youth clubs, bus shelters and while pedalling around town on the delivery bike he cycles as part of his job as a … Read more
Barbie and Ken in her car


And so Barbie is born, as a live-action presence, I mean. She’s been in utero one way or another for nearly 40 years, going all the way back to the 1980s and the Cannon Group’s plans to put her on the big screen (shudder). Between there and here there have been many possible outcomes – a possible Amy Schumer Barbie, a possible screenplay by Diablo Cody, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins in charge. All of them sound interesting, but in the event it turns out to be Margot Robbie as Barbie and Greta Gerwig directing, with Noah Baumbach in the backroom as co-writer with Gerwig. The stories about a movie’s gestation are often ones … Read more
Giovanna and Gino get it on


Luchino Visconti’s first film, 1943’s Ossessione (aka Obsession) ran into trouble from the moment it was made. Too raunchy for Catholic Italy, and an abomination in the eyes of the Fascists, it hit further obstacles once James M Cain found out that Visconti had adapted his The Postman Always Rings Twice without crediting him. And once MGM released their own adaptation of the novel in 1946, even more legal obstructions were put in its way. But it did get seen, was well received and launched Visconti on his way. Superficially it’s very close to the Cain original, and MGM’s movie. A vagrant blows into an out-of-the-way roadside eatery/bar/filling station, immediately catches the eye … Read more
Ray and Billy in a moment of crisis


According to Charles Darwin and every credible evolutionary scientist since, individuals do not mutate, species do. But it suits the makers of Biosphere to imagine that that’s how evolution works – the survival of the fittest obviously being the fittest individual. Let’s just say it again – it does not work that way. OK, so, parking that objection and instead accepting “individual mutation” as a metaphor being used to challenge the “a man is a man and a woman is a woman” crowd, let’s dive into this strange two-hander set in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone apart from two men are dead. Billy and Ray. Two dudes. Bro’s. We meet them jogging around … Read more
Ida Lupino and Jack Palance

The Big Knife

1955’s The Big Knife is where a lot of people turn when they fancy another wallow in the filth and corruption of showbiz and have already done In a Lonely Place or The Sweet Smell of Success. The line-up looks promising. It’s based on a play by Clifford Odetts, who co-wrote the screenplay for In a Lonely Place with Ernest Lehman. It’s directed by Robert Aldrich, who liked to hang around in dark corners (Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane) and the director of photography is Ernest Laszlo, a master of dramatic lighting (Stalag 17, While the City Sleeps, Inherit the Wind). The cast is promising too. What you need … Read more
Agent Bradwell


Wifelike is a sci-fi mishmash starring Elena Kampouris as a robowoman and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the cop overjoyed to have taken delivery of a lookie-likie replacement for his dead wife. It’s a mishmash and a half, in fact, a little Stepford Wives, more than a touch Humans, a bit of Ex Machina, and towards the end a chunk of Total Recall, with Meyers playing a guy who hunts down rogue wifebots when their programming goes wrong or they make a run for it – see Blade Runner for more on that. There is, the Humans bit, in the background a resistance organisation called Sentient Citizens for AI Rights, a team of badass … Read more
Sophie Marceau as Clélia


Fidelity (La Fidélité in the original French) is the story of a beautiful young photographer who falls madly for a decent guy, a publisher of children’s books, marries him, then falls madly for another guy, a street-punk photographer. It might also be, in code, the story of its star and her relationship with its writer/director Andrzej Zulawski. Sophie Marceau plays the sequentially amorous Clélia, a strong woman in control of her own life who turns the head of every man she encounters. At the time Fidelity was made, Marceau was in a long-term relationship with Zulawski. They had a son together. Shortly after finishing this film, the two of them split up and … Read more
The meg takes on Jason Statham

Meg 2: the Trench

Meg 2: The Trench, in which a studio tries to turn a good fun one-off into a franchise and winds up on the beach face down, gasping for air and with gravel in its shorts. Quick recap: a massive prehistoric shark, a Megalodon, escapes the depths where it generally operates and starts menacing the upper reaches and beaches of our planet. Enter Jason Statham. Surely one man cannot be a match for something this big? That was The Meg. In Meg 2: the Trench, the monster shark is back, and so is Statham. And if we’d been served up Meg 1 all over again, I doubt anyone would have complained too loudly. It … Read more
Fantômas in blue make up


Though the character of Fantômas – ruthless arch-criminal and master of disguise – had been around in book form since the early 1900s, and there’d been regular film adaptations through the 20th century, the modern Fantômas, blue of face and black of glove, starts with this 1964 movie simply named after the man himself, which re-introduced the character to French audiences and exported him to the rest of the world. The original Fantômas of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre was something of a response to another successful French character of the time, Arsène Lupin. Both operated in similar fashion as lords of misrule disrupting the boring everyday with mad feats of fantastical excess, … Read more

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