A deglammed Sydney Sweeney as Reality Winner

A couple of FBI agents turn up at the house of a young woman called Reality Winner as she arrives home with some groceries. They have a warrant to search the property, they say. Reality’s reaction is on the range of the expected, somewhere between stunned and acquiescent. But she seems to be taking this sudden intrusion in her stride, attempting to carry on as normal though appearing unsure as to what normal looks like when the FBI has just arrived. The FBI guys ask Reality if she has any pets inside the house, whether there are guns in there, if anyone else might be in there. Reality behaves as if she has … Read more

The Big Combo

Brown (left) tortures Diamond (right) with a hearing aid

The Big Combo has a big reputation. A regular on the “best film noir” lists, it can’t quite match its rep and is more a solid crime thriller that’s been polished to a stygian gleam by excellent technicians, well chosen actors and some careful snaffles from other sources. The most obvious lift is from 1944’s Laura and its strange plot device of a cop falling in love with the image of a woman rather than the woman herself. That’s also what happens in The Big Combo, when upright and driven Lieutenant Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) becomes infatuated with a mobster’s gal, Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace), even though he’s never met her. Susan is … Read more

I Love My Dad

Patton Oswalt and James Morosini as Chuck and Franklin

When James Morosini was about 19 he and his dad got into a huge fight. James ended up blocking all connections to him – phone, email, social media, the works. A few weeks later James got a friend request from a pretty girl on Facebook. “I was thrilled,” James later said in an interview. “She was perfect. We shared the same interests, she was gorgeous… Things were looking up. Unfortunately, she was also my dad.” Fast forward about a decade after that fight and here’s I Love My Dad, a comedy about what happened when a teenager gets catfished by his own dad, with Morosini in the lightly fictionalised role of Franklin, Patton … Read more


Danny and Gilly

Having worked pretty consistently for 30 years, director Frank Borzage more or less bowed out with Moonrise in 1948. Ten years later he’d return with a couple of afterthoughts, but in the main this was it, his last picture. He’d been one of the big players of the silent era – when the Oscars were invented in 1927 he won the very first one for Best Director – and this goodbye is in a sense a farewell to all that. It’s also partly intended as a bookend to Sunrise, directed by fellow 1920s Fox director FW Murnau, a lament to a certain style of visual lyricism that disappeared with the dawn of the … Read more

John Wick: Chapter 4

Keanu Reeves as John Wick

Since the last appearance of John Wick, in 2019, Keanu Reeves has been in a Toy Story movie, a Spongebob movie, a Matrix movie and has voiced Batman in the animation Super Pets. Not bad for someone whose career at first glance alternates insane bursts of activity with lengthy snoozes. And so to the insanely grandiose John Wick: Chapter 4, another case of not much seeming to happen punctuated with frenzies of excitement. It’s the first film in the sequence not written by Derek Kolstad, who first pitched the idea of a supercool and unstoppable assassin re-entering the fray after his dog is killed in a screenplay originally titled Scorn. Keanu Reeves liked … Read more

The Awful Truth

Lucy and Jerry have a cocktail

When The Awful Truth won the best director Oscar for Leo McCarey in 1937, McCarey straight-up said it wasn’t the best directed film of the year. It wasn’t even, he said, his best directorial effort of the year – he rated Make Way for Tomorrow more highly (and so has posterity). It’s easy to see why. Make Way for Tomorrow tackles a serious issue, with subject matter that’s even more relevant now than it was then – ageing parents abandoned by adult children. But The Awful Truth can claim a stake on glory, a more frivolous though still valid one, being the first time that the full Cary Grant persona – a balletic … Read more

Evil Dead Rise

Alyssa Sutherland as a possessed Ellie

Who’s been watching The Exorcist? Writer/director Lee Cronin has, and Evil Dead Rise, the fifth instalment in the Evil Dead franchise, is thick with references to William Friedkin’s seminal 1973 horror movie. No bad thing in itself and just for fun Cronin chucks in an amusing reference to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining at one point, just to keep things lively. Comedy has been part of the mix in the Evil Dead series, going back to halfway through the second instalment when director Sam Raimi suddenly pushed the ick factor so far beyond overload that it became funny. It seemed unintentional, a misjudgement, at first. But going repeatedly too far proved Raimi meant it … Read more

Our Man in Havana

Hawthorne looks on as Wormold demonstrates a vacuum cleaner

A quick look at the list of ingredients and the people involved would probably be enough to convince most people that 1959’s Our Man in Havana was going to be a cracker – but it isn’t. It’s a cake full of good things that isn’t, in itself, a good cake. Pity. The promising components include Graham Greene’s screenplay, the presence of Carol Reed as director – these two had already given the world The Third Man and The Fallen Idol – Alec Guinness in a lead role, plus excellent support players including Noël Coward, Ralph Richardson, Burl Ives and Maureen O’Hara, with location shooting in Cuba just post the Castro revolution and cinematography … Read more

True History of the Kelly Gang

A topless George MacKay as Ned Kelly

You’d have thought that Ned Kelly would be an ideal fit with the movies – a glamorous outlaw, a rebel son of immigrants who fought the law (and the law won), a proto-superhero who had his own outfit, if you count a plate-steel suit as an outfit. And yet, of the modern versions (there are older, mostly lost-in-time versions going back as far as 1906), none quite hits the spot. The Mick Jagger one, from 1970, suffers from Mick Jagger being in it. The Heath Ledger one, from 2003, presented Kelly as a saint and so made him boring. And now True History of the Kelly Gang from 2019, a Justin Kurzel movie and … Read more

Kansas City Confidential

Joe holds a gun to the head of Tony (Lee Van Cleef)

Here’s a film about a perfectly planned heist, so perfect that it hasn’t made it into the city records, Kansas City Confidential announces as it opens, in one of those scrolling on-screen scene-setters that really should be read in an authoritative voice (but isn’t). And then, in the first of many flat illogicalities, the movie turns out to be about a heist that isn’t perfect at all. It goes wrong. Not at first, or not at first by very much. But go wrong it does. The film can take it. On its release in 1952 it was so successful that it spawned a string of other “Confidential” movies. New York. Chicago. Hong Kong. … Read more