Denis Podalydès and Léa Seydoux

The last of the Great American Novelists of the 20th century, Philip Roth died in 2018, leaving behind a substantial body of work. Deception (Tromperie in the original French) adapts yet another of his novels for the screen, becoming yet another brave attempt at making a movie out of something that doesn’t really want to go there. In episodic instalments the plot tracks the on-off relationship between a smart, ageing but horny American novelist called Philip and a much younger English woman, called simply the English Lover. He’s played by Denis Podalydès, who makes Philip a confection of suaveté and savoir-faire plus a crucial dollop of self-doubt (otherwise too smug). She is played … Read more

Where’s Poppa

Gordon and his mother

Running on the same fuel as the UK comedy Steptoe and Son (or the US version of it Sanford and Son), Where’s Poppa is the story of a would-be suave, would-be lothario constantly being thwarted by his aged parent. George Segal plays the New York guy keen to spread his wild oats. Ruth Gordon is the insufferable mother he shares an apartment with, a woman who’s gone senile, or is maybe just making out she’s senile the better to thwart any chance of happiness for her son. It’s a loose-cannon story tracking the efforts of Gordon (Segal) to introduce a new nurse, Louise (Trish Van Devere) into the household, his mother having chased … Read more

Petrov’s Flu

Petrov in the van with the men transporting the coffin

Kirill Serebrennikov, the director of Petrov’s Flu (Petrov v grippe), wasn’t at Cannes in 2021 to see his film screened, as he hadn’t been at Cannes to see his previous film, LETO, screened in 2018. He was under house arrest back home in Russia, having been accused of embezzling funds from the Seventh Studio, one of several cultural institutions he was connected to. The charges were widely seen as trumped up, part of Vladimir Putin’s ongoing fight against liberal elements in Russia – Serebrennikov is a vocal supporter of LGBT causes. Given all that background, you might expect Petrov’s Flu, a fictional work but one set in the post-Soviet era, when society had … Read more


Willy Fritsch as agent 326

Metropolis, now seen as a classic, didn’t do many favours for director Fritz Lang short term. And it nearly bankrupted Ufa, the studio that made it. For Lang’s follow-up, Spies (Spione), Ufa clipped his wings and forced him to shoot on a reduced budget. Hey ho, another classic, and also, just incidentally, the template for almost all of the spy thrillers of the future. In a brilliant, lightning-fast opening montage, Lang lays out his stall – stolen documents, a murder, a public furore stoked by incendiary newspaper headlines (“public officials asleep on the job”), – another murder, followed by a man who might as well be named M calling a spy who might … Read more

The Black Phone

The Grabber in a mask

The Black Phone is the movie Scott Derrickson went off to direct after leaving Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness due to “creative differences”. He’d directed the first Dr Strange, a massive financial success, so you’d have thought the Marvel guys would cut him a bit more slack than they ultimately were prepared to. Anyway, on to the next project, a strange (pun intended) genre-crash horror movie that’s not that frightening, nor does it seem intended to be. Someone is kidnapping kids. Even big tough kids are disappearing into the van of some weird guy who leaves behind telltale black balloons. The kids are never seen again. Enter our milquetoast hero, Finney … Read more

Kiss the Blood Off My Hands

Burt Lancaster and Joan Fontaine

The title of the movie Kiss the Blood Off My Hands makes a promise that can’t be fulfilled. An attention grabber, even before it had debuted there was talk of changing it, to Blood on My Hands (which is how the film is listed on the IMDb). In some parts of the USA it went out as the even more timid The Unafraid. Dramatic though the original title is, it’s all wrong for a story about an accidental killer and his gal and is more suited to a lurid 1960s shocker or a 1980s video nasty than a 1948 melodrama. It’s the first in a long string of fascinating movies made by Burt … Read more

House of Darkness

Hap and Mina sitting together

Neil LaBute made his name first as a playwright then as a film-maker interested in exploring the codes of masculinity, some suddenly toxic, some still holding up OK(ish), in a culture that seemed to have moved on faster than some men were able to. In the Company of Men (1997) and Your Friends & Neighbours (1997) were his first two movies and are still sources of high-octane neat LaBute, if that’s what you’re after. He’s broadened his range and taken on gun-for-hire jobs in the interim but again and again returns to this same question of the male in trouble. Which brings us to House of Darkness, a tale of beta-male overreach enabled … Read more

Woman on the Run

Eleanor and newspaperman Dan Leggett

Originally titled Man on the Run, Woman on the Run has two claims to specialness. First is the choice role it hands to Ann Sheridan, the film’s star. The second is the extensive use of locations out on the streets of San Francisco, where much of it was shot. It opens as a classic film noir – a nighttime cityscape and a lone male out walking. With his dog. This is strange. Film noir males don’t have pets. They’re loners. A bottle is more likely to be their special friend. And this is 1950 – peak noir. Curb Your Dog, reads the sign Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) pauses besides at the start of … Read more

Three Thousand Years of Longing

The Djinn and Alithea

The bomb of 2022 is what industry somebodies are calling Three Thousand Years of Longing. True, it didn’t do very good box office. It did terrible box office in fact. But streaming will probably claw back some of the deficit, where it’ll almost certainly be watched several times by quite a number of people. It’s that sort of film. It’s a compendium affair, always a tough sell, with no explicit throughline, the story of a narratologist (a person who studies stories to reveal truths about humanity) who finds a bottle in a bazaar while at an academic conference in Istanbul and discovers that it contains a genie, or djinn as they now tend … Read more

All the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Ranked

The Avengers

The good, the bad and the ugly, from the very first one to the most recent, here’s the what and the why of Marvel’s web-spinning, hammer-throwing, shield-tossing, Groot-uttering heroes and superheroes in one handy chunk Who’d have thought, when Iron Man gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2008, that more than two decades on it would still be flying and still pulling in enthusiastic audiences? Even Kevin Feige, who has produced every single one of them, cannot have expected a run of so many successful films – pushing $30 billion at the box office and counting. As I write, in September 2022, Marvel are planning releases as far as ten years … Read more