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Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor in Factotum

Movies About Charles Bukowski

    The news that James Franco is directing a film about gravel-voiced, pock-faced author Charles Bukowski, the go-to man for closet writers, bedroom tough guys and incipient alcoholics, reminds us that there have been several shots on goal before. Franco has a double obstacle – films about writing are inherently uncinematic, and films that rely on an authorial voice that’s ironic but utterly deadpan are also in choppy water. So Franco is concentrating on how Bukowski’s early years – abused at home, disfigured by acne – affected his later life. Perhaps Franco is buoyed up by the success of his portrayal of another writer, Allen Ginsberg. Or perhaps not. This is not … 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
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The Olsen It’s Cool to Like

Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of those squeaky Olsen twins, is going into the family business. Is the business ready for her? Is our interviewer?     One of the hazards of this journalism game, particularly if you’re a middle aged man, is meeting attractive young female actors in the interview situation. They’re likely to look at you intently, laugh at your feeble stabs at humour, lean towards you confidentially, look interested. And of course they’re in the acting game, so being plausible is a large part of what they do. It’s unbelievably easy to believe these bundles of talent and hotness fancy you. It’s a frequent occurrence to leave the interview completely smitten. … Read more
Lady Marian and Robin Hood

100 Years of… Robin Hood

Accept no substitute. This is the original Robin Hood, or Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (as the registered title insists), the one that Errol Flynn’s 1938 version modelled itself on, the one that gets all the Merry Men, Maid Marian, good King Richard and bad King John, Sir Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham into forms so recognisable that even at 100 years old, it’s instantly obvious who is who. This wasn’t the first screen outing for the mythical character, in fact there had already been five before (if we include 1919’s My Lady Robin Hood), so Robin Hood as a movie character was at least fairly well known, though of … Read more
Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

The Best Films of 2014

  Of the 350+ films I saw this year, these are the best ones. Some of them were released last year and I’ve been a bit slow getting round to them. Some of them were released even longer ago. The criteria are – I watched them in 2014 and I liked them. That’s it.       The Best   Computer Chess (2013, dir: Andrew Bujalski) Andrew Bujalski, inventor of mumblecore, proved there’s life in the old beast yet with this retro-verité drama about geeks meeting in the 1980s to pit their programs against a chess-playing computer. Shooting on original video cameras in fuzzy-edged boxellated black and white, Bujalski catches the moment when the … Read more
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The Brooding Intensity of Michael Fassbender

Passion, power and emotional ferocity are all hallmarks of aMichael Fassbender performance. But is he just a kitten in real life? Here’s a funny thing. I’m in the audience at the New York Film Festival. On stage director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender are answering questions about the disturbing, brilliant film that’s just been shown. Shame, McQueen and Fassbender’s follow-up collaboration to the gruelling Hunger has Fassbender delivering a volcanic performance as a sex addict who’s either dialling rent-a-hooker, beating off at work or devouring porn at home. Intense, dark stuff. Someone from the floor asks Fassbender a question about the relationship between the two damaged lead characters, a brother and sister … Read more
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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 … Read more
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Build Your Own Bond

Tired of waiting for the next 007 movie to open? Here’s a solution that even Q would find fiendishly ingenious His name might be Bond, James Bond but at the beginning of 2011 the studio responsible for the most successful franchise in spy movie history found itself in dire straits. It was broke, dead broke. It looked like the mighty roar of the MGM lion was about to be silenced forever. In the event last minute refinancing bailed the studio out and, to the joy of fans everywhere, Bond 23 returned from an enforced layover and went back into production. But for diehards who’d been expecting Daniel Craig back in 2011, the news … Read more
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Ryan Reynolds and the Death of the Real Man

All aboard Ryan Reynolds, prime example of Hollywood’s new breed of depilated, exfoliated, irrigated masculine star. Whatever happened to real men? From out of the low, strong sun, three figures ride towards the camera, tall in the saddle, squinting into the wind. As they hit medium shot, John Wayne turns to the compadre on his left and parts the lips on his line-free face to reveal two rows of snowy white teeth. Meanwhile the man he is about to address, Clint Eastwood, has thrown aside his poncho to reveal a shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his tan, hairless chest cresting sensually towards what might or might not be a nipple ring. And on … Read more
Andrea Riseborough as young Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley

Five Films about Margaret Thatcher

    Margaret Thatcher, Mrs T, The Iron Lady, is dead. 31 years ago she was the most unpopular UK Prime Minister in history. Then, after winning the Falklands War she was re-elected in 1983. She was elected again in 1987 before being defenestrated by her party in 1990, a defeat she never quite came to terms with. Politically she was deeply divisive but on one point everyone is agreed – she recast British politics, and to a certain extent global politics, with her doctrine of open markets, privatisation, financial deregulation and tax cuts. Thatcher made the world we live in now. To some she was the greatest prime minister who ever lived, … Read more
Tyrone Power as Zorro

Zorro: Who Is That Masked Man?

The Mexicans like their heroes the way they like their tacos – with cheese. Enter Zorro. Cue mask, cape and ludicrous pencil moustache Next time you’re in London, try the Robin Hood Zorro restaurant in Hammersmith. This oddly conceived English/Mexican hybrid serves an equally odd drink called the Robin Hood Meets Zorro cocktail. A mouthful to order and a hell of a thing to drink, it contains tequila, gin and beer. The menu doesn’t say it’s served with a bucket, but it probably should be. What is it about Zorro that seems to bring out the naffness in … well, everything? It was not always thus. Dial back to the mists of the … 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 … Read more

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