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Alice Terry and Rudolph Valentino

100 Years of… The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was the first of five films Rudolph Valentino made in 1921 and though it’s the film that made him a star he’s not the star of the film, which is an ensemble piece. The star is the film itself, an epic so complete and fine-tuned that it’s a reference point today whenever producers and directors are aiming to tell tender human stories against a background of raging conflict. It’s a big film too – two and a half hours long, which isn’t gargantuan compared to, say, Birth of a Nation (three and a quarter hours) or Greed (originally four and a half hours) – but surprises people who … Read more
Jean Reno and Natalie Portman in Léon

Jean Reno: The Bulletproof Star

In a long career that’s seen him starring in films good, bad and spectacularly terrible, the public’s affection for French icon Jean Reno has never wavered. How does he do it? Big guy. Woolly hat. Stubble. Shades. Round shades. Dark round shades. Doesn’t say much. Kills people. Sensitively. Ask a roomful of people to come up with a word or two about Jean Reno and that’s pretty much what you’d get. You might also get French. Likes his dinner. And cool. Very cool. But what about versatile? Best known for playing loners, hitmen, tough guys, individuals who don’t say much because they don’t have to, to most people Reno is that French guy … Read more
the original poster

Isn’t It Iconic?

La Dolce Vita might not be the best Italian film ever made. Or the cleverest, steamiest or most gripping. But it is the most iconic. Here’s why… Just a touch over 50 years ago the assembled critics at the Cannes film festival gave Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita a standing ovation. Not at the end of the film, or even at the moment when Anita Ekberg gets into the Trevi fountain, its most remembered scene. No, what got them to their feet was the film’s opening shot. It’s of a huge statue of Jesus Christ being airlifted out of Rome, the Eternal City. It doesn’t look like much now but back then this … Read more
Daniel Craig and Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale

James Bond’s Testicles

Have you ever noticed how James Bond is always getting his balls interfered with? The world’s most virile spy is bursting with so much testosterone that women want to get their hands on them and can’t help but fall into bed with him. Men, on the other hand, feel so threatened they want to crush him/them. Either that, or his heterosexual payload intimidates them so much that they come over all gay – again and again 007 is beset by the world’s elite effete, men with an exaggerated interest in long-haired cats and their own clothes, and who treat beautiful women with a casual disregard. Most notably there was the dual shape of … Read more
brigitte bardot beautiful bb 18708275 802 10241

And God Created Bardot

“I am really a cat transformed into a woman… I purr. I scratch. And sometimes I bite.” Brigitte Bardot – icon, activist, bigot and just possibly the future president of France. By Steve Morrissey In a recent poll of the Sexiest Movies Stars by the film magazine Empire, Brigitte Bardot squeaked in at number 98. Down the list maybe, but she was nestling next to Thandie Newton, one of  the undisputed knockouts of our time. And that isn’t bad for a woman who hasn’t made a film in 40 years. Which raises the question: why is she still so fondly remembered? It’s not her ageless good looks. Bardot has always refused the surgeon’s … Read more
Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman

Ten Films About Paedophiles

Paedophilia, or pedophilia if you prefer the spelling that’s probably going to win out, is not a pretty thing. In the media and in culture more widely it’s usually portrayed as a case of a rogue male preying on unknown children. In truth it’s much more likely to be about dad having sex with his little princess. For years. However, let’s not allow facts to get in the way of a decent bogeyman. Or boogeyman if you prefer the spelling that’s probably going to win out. The Woodsman (2004, dir: Nicole Kassell) Kevin Bacon plays the sex offender, fresh out of prison, whose temporary lodgings are right across the road from a school. … Read more
Lotus Flower finds the half drowned sailor

100 Years of… The Toll of the Sea

There are two good ancillary reasons for watching The Toll of the Sea, on top of the fact that it’s a touching, almost heartbreaking drama of a sort it’s almost impossible to imagine being made today. The first is that it stars Anna May Wong, Hollywood’s first Chinese American star, here only 17 years old in a role that puts her to the test in terms of subtle emoting, and finds her sailing through unscathed. The second is that it’s the oldest existing Technicolor movie left on the planet. There was an older one, The Gulf Between, made in 1917, but that went up in flames and is now permanently lost. It was … Read more
Sonny in shrunken suit being laughed at

100 Years of… Grandma’s Boy

A prime slice of Harold Lloyd, Grandma’s Boy isn’t as famous as Safety Last! (the one where he dangles from a clock), but it is just as good as an example of his skills. Like the other two members of the Big Three of silent funnymen, Lloyd, like Chaplin and Keaton, often found himself tangling with men much manlier than himself. But whereas Chaplin’s Tramp and Keaton’s Stoneface had a steely puckishness and an aggressive intelligence, Lloyd’s “Glasses” character (as he called the guy in the specs) did not. He was generally speaking more the have-a-go Ordinary Joe. In Grandma’s Boy, “Glasses” is also a weakling and a coward, a Mummy’s Boy squared, … Read more
Julian Richings in Cube

What Is an Aseptic White Room Thriller?

The simple answer to the question “what is an aseptic white room thriller” (AWRT) is Cube, Vincenzo Natali’s cult Canadian sci-fi movie from 1997. More abstractly, it’s a film that takes place on a single set, usually white though not necessarily. Lighting will be clean, clinical, fairly devoid of shadow. Soundtrack music will be scarce or absent. As for sound design, a background hum of air-conditioning is standard. Clanking, the whooshing of doors, “noises off”. It’s the plot that is most definitive. In the AWRT no one really knows what’s going on. Typically the film opens with the characters who don’t know each other waking up somewhere far from home, to find that … Read more
The Avengers

All the Marvel Cinematic Universe Movies Ranked

The good, the bad and the ugly, from the very first one to the most recent, here’s the what and the why of Marvel’s web-spinning, hammer-throwing, shield-tossing, Groot-uttering heroes and superheroes in one handy chunk Who’d have thought, when Iron Man gave birth to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in 2008, that more than two decades on it would still be flying and still pulling in enthusiastic audiences? Even Kevin Feige, who has produced every single one of them, cannot have expected a run of so many successful films – pushing $30 billion at the box office and counting. As I write, in September 2022, Marvel are planning releases as far as ten years … Read more
Pope Benedict in Brasil in his red loafers

Popes on Film

News that Pope Benedict XVI has decided to hang up the red papal slippers sets the mind a-wandering. Who are the great popes of cinema? Oddly, this is a harder question to answer than you might think. For starters, there are many films that feature a pope at the edge of the action but very very few are actually about a pope. Also, the pope, though held in contempt in some quarters, gets a rather easy ride in the movies, possibly because so many Hollywood films were made by Jewish emigres with first hand experience of what can happen when religion is dragged into the foreground. Either way, popes and knuckle-whitening drama don’t … Read more
Hostel II: how bloody do you want it?

Torture Porn, a Beginner’s Guide

Hostel II’s blood, gore and torture is generating column inches faster than a skillsaw can rip through warm flesh, but some people still don’t know what torture porn is. This is for them…   What is a splatter movie? Films like Hostel: Part II slot into the category known variously – depending on whether you’re a fan or a critic – as Shock Exploitation, Splatter, Gorno (that’s gore + porno), Torture Porn or, at the comedy end, Splatstick. They’re catagorised by lots of flesh (usually female), lots of innards (generally animal), a gleeful approach to the subject by their directors (almost always male) and an unnatural fixation with domestic power tools (drills, blowtorches etc). … Read more

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