The Omen

Amy Huck as the nanny obeying Damien's orders in The Omen

Thirty years on, a pointless remake of the film that put quite a few bums on seats in 1976. Back then Gregory Peck was playing the American diplomat slowly realising he’s bringing up the spawn of Satan, and Lee Remick (an expert in lip-tightening panic) was the wife. This time Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles have the dubious honour. In spite of the disaster movie craze and the example of the late career of Bette Davis, it was still quite unusual in the mid-1970s for a big star like Peck to appear in a horror movie – genre was for wimps. But the studios were realising that the likes of Jaws were changing … Read more

Forty Shades of Blue

Dina Korzun in Forty Shades of Blue

An oblique drama which appears to be about a retired Memphis music producer and ends up being more about his much younger Russian, possibly cash-up-front, wife. Rip Torn plays Alan, the legend, blustering egomaniac and serial boozer whom everyone appears to idolise, on the surface at least. The remarkable Dina Korzun is Laura, the Russian import whose eyes tells us she’s dealt with far worse than Alan, but even so she wishes he’d treat her with a bit more respect. The film does little more than observe them as they go about their muted life… until Alan’s son, Michael (Darren Burrows) turns up to throw a metaphorical hand grenade into the mix. There’s … Read more

Wah-Wah

Emily Watson and Gabriel Byrne in Wah-Wah

Richard E Grant’s autobiographical book With Nails (a reference to his film debut in Withnail and I) having been something of a hit, it was probably only a matter of time before he tried his hand at directing. He’s once again in loosely autobiographical territory in this drama set in Swaziland during the late 1960s Indian summer of British colonialism. Grant dissects his cuckoo class through a “personal is political” story – the breakdown of the marriage of his own parents (played by Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson) and the arrival of a new mum (Emily Watson), an American with a clearer, brasher view of matters, a woman who says what she thinks (the … Read more

Viva Zapatero!

Sabina Guzzanti Viva Zapatero

After a slew of documentaries from the US, not least Michael Moore’s prodigous output, here’s a reminder that Europeans can make political documentaries too. Viva Zapatero! is a pop at Italian prime minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi by Sabina Guzzanti, whose politically satirical TV programme was axed by Italian state broadcaster RAI for being “political” – after legal pressure was applied by rival media outfit Mediaset (proprietor: Silvio Berlusconi). Guzzanti then goes further and accuses RAI of being stacked with Berlusconi stooges, effectively his employees. Should a public service broadcaster be headed by political (ie Berlusconi’s) appointees? Of course not. Though precious few in Italy have had the balls to say so, such … Read more

Imagine Me and You

Piper Perabo and Lena Headey in Imagine Me and You

A duvet-day rom-com in the Four Weddings mould but with a pair of lesbians doing the canoodling. As seems to be de rigueur these days, the plucky Brit babe is played by an American. And Piper Perabo makes a decent stab at an English accent, playing the newlywed falling for the girl (Lena Headey) who did the flowers for her big day. It is all terribly terribly fragrant and London looks as lovely as this part of West London generally does on a sunny day – stucco houses, canals, the odd auction house on hand to add an antique armoir or chaise longue to the picture. You get the point – this is … Read more

The Da Vinci Code

Audrey Tautou, Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code

“What, [dodges bullet] you mean Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God [jumps into speeding car] and married Mary Magdalene [hijacks armoured vehicle] who bore a child who [takes plane to an England full of half-timbered cars] established a bloodline which [evades knife-thrust of albino monk] if it were ever to become public knowledge would [accidentally shoots cardinal] undermine the power of the Catholic Church [garrottes nun]?” There’s plenty more of this sort of carry-on in director Ron Howard’s almost satisfying attempt to turn Dan Brown’s 560 pages of lecture-chase-lecture into something cinematic. And it had to be made into a movie – the sales figures of the book said so. But did … Read more

Offside

Sima Mobarak-Shahi in Offside

Iranian Jafar Panahi’s comedy is about a group of girls who are arrested for dressing up as boys and trying to get in to see the 2006 World Cup Iran/Bahrain qualifier, women not being allowed to watch football in Iran. Accessing another country’s culture through football is a neat way of curving a ball past those who “don’t do arthouse”. The anti-subtitle crowd might also be interested to learn that the film was shot on the hoof, guerrilla style at the actual game in Tehran, using non-professional actors. Painting a picture of a country that seems at first almost barbaric in its medieval world view, Panahi isn’t so western focused that he can’t … Read more

RV: Runaway Vacation

Robin Williams ready for ordeal by ordure in RV

And you thought that after being excellently sinister in Insomnia and One Hour Photo, Robin Williams had stopped making goofily sentimental comedies that stop every 20 minutes for toe-curlingly inappropriate improv from Mr W. Sadly not, as evidence there’s this woeful, slight affair in which Williams plays the family man driving his family cross country to a business convention (they think they’re going on holiday but he hasn’t told them the truth) in a recreational vee-hickle, even though they’re the sort of family who don’t do recreational vehicles, camping, communication, fun or togetherness. Cheryl Hines plays the exasperated wife and Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth are the heads of a family they meet … Read more

Ju-On: The Grudge 2

Yuya Ozeki is the creepy little boy in Ju-On: The Grudge 2

How odd. For the fourth entry in the Ju-On cycle, Takashi Shimizu, the director of the original Ju-On: The Grudge, has almost entirely ditched the muted ethos of the original in favour of a British Hammer Horror approach. “In America,” he says in the production notes, “people tend to be scared by a lot of blood and direct attacks.… In England people tend to fear evil and the source of darkness… Hollywood just doesn’t have the history of this type of expression of horror.” However you look at it, the original Ju-On The Grudge was scary as hell, and even the American remake (with Sarah Michelle Gellar) was pretty terrifying. But if you’re … Read more

Pretty Persuasion

Elisabeth Harnois and Evan Rachel Wood in Pretty Persuasion

Kimberly (Evan Rachel Wood) is a spiteful young wannabe actress and fulltime minx who accuses her teacher (Ron Livingston) of sexual harassment… partly for fun, partly to get some acting practice in, mostly for spite. And before you know it there’s a TV news crew camped out on the door, with an overeager reporter (Jane Krakowski) visibly almost aroused as she recounts the allegations. Pretty Persuasion would be a better film if it were a straighter film, or if it had gone all out for dark funnies. But there’s some real gold in this otherwise overstrained satire scraping the crud from the underside of the Bel Air idyll. Wood is remarkable as Kimberly, … Read more