Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt)
The Devil’s Whore (Lionsgate, cert 15)
Having played Mrs Thatcher, Angela Riseborough is once more an iron lady in a proto-feminist TV series set during the English Civil War and laced with death and lashings of bodice-ripping and packed with a great cast (John Simm, Dominic West, Maxine Peak, Peter Capaldi).
How To Lose Friends and Alienate People (Paramount, cert 15)
Another gold star for Shaun Pegg, as a gauche, arrogant, bumbling Brit git in New York journalism in a version of Toby Young’s comic autobiography heavy on the slapstick, easy on the barbs and probably truer to Young’s real nature than he’d like to let on.
W. (Lionsgate, cert 15)
Josh Brolin is good ol’ boy George W. Bush in a headline-hopping biopic saved by great performances. From Oliver Stone, who shoots a lot of it in a deliberately Coors beer commercial style, it’s an oddly sympathetic portrait given the JFK director’s political sensibilities.
W. – at Amazon
Elegy (EV, cert 15)
Randy but ageing (and hating it) prof Ben Kingsley falls for sexy student Penelope Cruz in a spare, lusty adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal. It’s missing Roth’s authorial voice but the picture it paints of a lifelong libertine realising his days of swinging his dick are over is poignant.
War, Inc. (Lionsgate, cert 15)
John Cusack co-wrote/stars as a political hitman in a Strangelove satire on US foreign policy in “Turaqistan” full of good things but so fearful that we might not get the joke that it labours the satire. Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei and John’s sister, Joan (a standout) co-star.
The Duchess (Pathe, cert 12)
The sort of British prestige drama Gainsborough Studios used to crank out in the 1930s, now born again via Keira Knightley, as the feisty duchess locked in a loveless threeway marriage. Pretty but pretty vacant too, and Gainsborough seemed a lot less worried about frightening the horses.
Strawberry and Chocolate (Mr Bongo, cert 18)
From Cuba’s great Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and co-director Juan Carlos Tabío, a slight if popular (and Oscar-nominated) 1993 drama about a gay liberal man and his Educating Rita friendship with a straight communist.
Space Buddies (Disney, cert U)
Five cute golden labrador pups go into space in Disney’s latest instalment of the Air Bud series. Squeaky scrapes, street-smart dialogue (referring to each other as “dog”) and the revelation that in space no one can hear you fart. Fun for the inner bedwetter.
After… (Optimum, cert 15)
Thrill-seeking urban explorers in the Moscow subways get more extreme thrills than they bargained for. A promising high concept, and the soundtrack is by electonic heroes The Crystal Method but it’s a relatively character-free trudge through horror cliche.
Smother (Optimum, cert 15)
Nowadays only playing annoying old harpies, Diane Keaton is the titular (S)mother, squatting with son Dax Shepard and wife Liv Tyler in a feature-length variation on the mother-in-law joke. A comedy, apparently, with no one coming out of the experience well (characters and actors).
88 Minutes (Warner, cert 15)
Huffing as he goes, Al Pacino plays the forensic psychiatrist given just 88 minutes to live by a grudge-wielding con. A generous amount of time by any measure, though Pacino’s ludicrous performance does, at least, give us something to watch. Thanks, Al.
Easy Virtue (Pathe, cert PG)
Giddy with its own cleverness, Noel Coward’s play about a flappy American (Jessica Biel) being bullied by ghastly Brit toffs is the latest clinker from the new Ealing Studios. Frightfully frightful in almost every way, with Biel particularly badly served and looking terrible in 1920s clothes (so it is possible). Kristin Scott Thomas excellent as a flinty old battleaxe.
Easy Virtue – at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2009