Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Jamie has fallen off his delivery bike

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 bike he cycles as part of his job as a delivery … Read more

Barbie

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

Obsession

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

Biosphere

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

The Big Knife

Ida Lupino and Jack Palance

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

Wifelike

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

Fidelity

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

Meg 2: the Trench

The meg takes on Jason Statham

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

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

Mafia Mamma

Toni Collette as Kristin

Two thirds good, one third bad, as George Orwell almost said, Mafia Mamma is a comedy about a timid, emotionally giving American mother who becomes a mafia don, a donna in fact, after her grandfather in the old country dies in gang-related circumstances and she takes over the firm. Not that Kristin (Toni Collette) understands any of that. As far as she’s concerned the old guy was a winemaker and at the point where she is heading off to Italy to attend his funeral, it’s as much to get some “Eat. Pray. Fuck.” as to pay her respects. The fact that she’s just caught her husband banging her son’s counsellor in the kitchen … Read more