The Beast in the Jungle

John and May

Henry James on the dancefloor! La Bête dans la Jungle (aka The Beast in the Jungle) sees the old Edwardian master throwing some pretty fly shapes in this fabulous and slightly mad adaptation of a James novella from 1903. The action may have shifted from London to France but the characters and plot are largely intact. It’s 1979 when May first meets John in a Paris discotheque. In what looks like May making a clumsy move on him, she claims she and John have met before. He isn’t sure they have. She insists. He reluctantly goes along with her insistence, though quite why this nice-looking but not exceptionally attractive guy isn’t reacting more … Read more

White Heat

Close up of Cagney as a gun-wielding Cody Jarrett

1949’s White Heat features one of the most famous screen criminals, in one of the most famous gangster movies ever made. But was Arthur “Cody” Jarrett, the character James Cagney plays, sexually off the straight and narrow? A mother-loving gang leader prone to swooning headaches who can’t satisfy his wife – whatever else Cody is, he’s a strange kind of protagonist. But then this is the 1940s and Cody’s not meant to be likeable. This is the story of a smart but crazy criminal who, in the film’s opening scenes, murders four men as part of a raid on a train and then, as the law starts circling, admits to a lesser crime … Read more


Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte

Ridley Scott does not meet his Waterloo in Napoleon, his headline-hopping spectacular about the man who conquered a huge chunk of Europe under the guise of a liberator. But nor is he covered in glory. This strange film has neither blockbuster smarts, nor arthouse depth, and is little use as a historical resource. If you don’t know Napoleon’s story already, you’ll struggle to keep up with what’s going on. In what are almost a series of sketchlike snapshots, it follows Napoleon Bonaparte the outsider upstart Corsican as the tactically brilliant army officer is swiftly promoted through the ranks. Napoleon saves the French Revolution from itself then mounts a coup d’état. He crowns himself … Read more

One False Move

Bill Paxton as Dale Dixon

One False Move is the result of Carl Franklin’s realisation, aged 37, that acting wasn’t enough for him and that what he really wanted to be was a director. In 1986 he went back to college to study directing, then worked for two years knocking out pile-em-high product for Roger Corman. He got given his head with this 1991 movie. In terms of plot it’s something like a road movie. Three drugs desperadoes steal a load of money and cocaine in LA, then head to Arkansas, where at least two of them grew up. En route they kill more people, dodge cops and swap one hot car for another. On they press towards … Read more

The Retirement Plan

Nicolas Cage

It’s Nicolas Cage’s turn to have a go with the very particular set of skills, in The Retirement Plan, a gonzo action comedy that’ll be familiar if you’ve seen any of the Liam Neeson outings as an all-action seeker of payback, or any of the Keanu Reeves’s incarnations as John Wick. That, apparently, was writer/director Tim Brown’s original idea – imagine John Wick finally, eventually, retired, 20 years older and living on a sunny island and being called back into action by some untoward event. The event that does it here isn’t the killing of a pet dog but the arrival on the Cayman Islands, where Matt Robbins (Cage) has been retired for … Read more

Dougal and the Blue Cat

Dougal and Zebedee

If The Magic Roundabout is a psychedelic trip for kids, its spin-off, Dougal and the Blue Cat, is a wild ride on some pretty bad acid. Skip this paragraph if you know the backstory, but The Magic Roundabout, a mainstay of UK children’s TV in the 1960s and 1970s, was originally a French cartoon, Le Manège Enchanté, created by Serge Danot. Successful at home, it also got exported around the world, where it went under different names – in Italy La Giostra Incantata, in Germany Das Zauberkarussell and in the USA The Magic Carousel. However, in the UK, unlike most other territories, Le Manège Enchanté didn’t simply get translated into the local language, it … Read more

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Thomas hiding behind Jessie

Talking of movies that got lost down the back of the Covid sofa, how about My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, the debut feature by Jonathan Cuartas and as good a modern take on the vampire genre as you’ll see. A homeless man is picked up by a guy with a beard. Where are we going, says the vagrant. To a hostel, says the bearded guy. This isn’t a hostel, says the homeless guy when they pull up outside a family home. Next second he’s been clubbed about the head by a baseball bat he (ironically) only minutes before had been pulling out of a dumpster bin. Another few seconds … Read more

1 Chance Sur 2 aka Half a Chance

Alain Delon, Vanessa Paradis and Jean-Paul Belmondo

1 Chance Sur 2 (renamed Half a Chance for English speakers) is almost a thought experiment. When France’s biggest stars of the 1960s, Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo, were being courted by Hollywood, imagine that instead of deciding “non”, they’d accepted the offers and moved Stateside. What sort of films would they have made? Decades later, director Patrice Leconte answers the hypothetical with a big, fun, explosion-filled action movie full of flamboyant bad guys, helicopters, car chases, sexy women and “we’re getting too old for this shit” repartee. And to catch another quadrant there’s a fluffy plot driving it all, about tearaway car thief Alice (Vanessa Paradis) being pursued by the Russian mafia … Read more

About My Father

Sebastian and Salvo

So you thought that Killers of the Flower Moon signalled that Robert De Niro had maybe packed it in with all the crazy grandpa roles. About My Father is proof he hasn’t. And whatever you might think of De Niro’s comedy chops in War With Grandpa, Dirty Grandpa and an intermittent run of others going back to 2000’s Meet the Parents (he was just a crazy father back then), he’s the best thing in this comedy written by and (sort of) starring stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. Maniscalco is the son of a Sicilian hairdresser father called Salvatore and here De Niro plays a Sicilian hairdresser father called Salvo – so join the dots … Read more


Eddie Constantine in hat and trenchcoat

The French New Wave, film noir and sci-fi all collide in Alphaville, Jean-Luc Godard’s mad mash-up of all three genres. If it does nothing else it demonstrates that as long as you have imagination you don’t need any budget at all to make an impressive movie. Godard shot it all in Paris, with no sets, no gadgety props, no special effects. He didn’t even bother with a newly minted character. Instead he repurposed Lemmy Caution, a gumshoe created by British crime novelist Peter Cheyney who had already appeared in a string of French B movies by the time Alphaville came out in 1965. Then, as here, Caution is played by the American singer … Read more