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Rosario Dawson

5 August 2013-08-05

Out in the UK This Week   Trance (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Danny Boyle’s attempt to retake the crown as Britain’s most commercially savvy yet critically hailed director – current holder Christopher Nolan – sees him heading up Inception avenue with a crime thriller. Trance takes a basic heist plot, throws hypnosis and multiple levels of reality into the mix, then lays on the group dynamic of Shallow Grave. Which means that auction-house gopher James McAvoy, hypnotherapist Rosario Dawson and gangster Vincent Cassel are playing a threesome not exactly at ease in each other’s company. There’s much to enjoy here, particularly Boyle’s sense of pace, Cassel’s cool Mr Nasty turn and Dawson’s sheer … Read more
Max Adrian as Frederick Delius in Song of Summer

Song of Summer: Frederick Delius

  Any follower of British arts programmes on TV, from the South Bank Show backwards, will be aware of the bleating of Ken Russell and his ilk that no one really makes ’em like they did in the Sixties, when clever chaps freshly down from Oxbridge would be sent out with a curmudgeonly working-class crew and instructed to make films on anything that took their white-shirted fancy. Well, I have to report that Russell’s 1968 B/W film on Delius does back him up. Detailing the strange five-year relationship between Eric Fenby, the young amanuensis who helped blind dying syphilitic Frederick Delius complete some of his most noted works, it is very good indeed. Russell … Read more
Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen in A Perfect Murder

A Perfect Murder

        Andrew Davis has made something of a specialty of directing thrillers. He made Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege, and Chuck Norris’s best film too, Code of Silence. He’s also responsible for the breathless chase of The Fugitive and for this remake of Frederick Knott’s play Dial M for Murder, on which Hitchcock based his 1954 movie. The “perfect murder”, beloved of films of a certain vintage, now seems almost as dated a concept as that of the criminal mind. However Davis and adapter Patrick Smith Kelly squeeze a little more mileage out of it by playing up what you might call the Gordon Gecko aspects – cash and … Read more
Milla Jovovich in Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet

      Now I like a film in which an attractive young woman gets into skimpy clothes to kick butt as much as the next man. But if you’ve seen the tragic mess that was Aeon Flux, I’m afraid that Ultraviolet is more of the same, and no amount of Milla Jovovich in stomach-revealing, futuristic outfits can help it. Speaking her handful of lines in the now standard Clint Eastwood growl, Jovovich plays the genetically modified super-athlete, part-vampire cross – a Hemophage – who is attempting to protect a young child who knows the secret of the whereabouts of the Holy Grail / can prevent the creation of Skynet, or something similarly … Read more
Fabrice Luchini between blow-up dollies of Stalin and Mao in In the House

22 July 2013-07-22

Out in the UK This Week       In The House (Momentum, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) François Ozon’s thriller/farce is as clever as you’d expect from a man who gave us the relationship-in-reverse drama 5X2. Here he’s again examining the nature of storytelling with a film about a teacher who becomes infatuated with his star pupil’s stories, each of which ends with a “to be continued”. And in the continuation the story – and the teenager writing them – becomes more and more involved in the older man’s life. There’s post-structuralism in there, if you’re feeling smart. But the whole thing works just as well as a dark farce played to the hilt … Read more
Anita O'Day in Jazz on a Summer's Day

Jazz On A Summer’s Day

    Back when cats wore hats, stills photographer Bert Stern, fresh from his famous shoot with Marilyn Monroe in the buff, went off to the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and made a film about Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, Jack Teagarden, Gerry Mulligan, and even Chuck Berry, as they displayed their formidable talents and charismas for the moneyed and honeyed of Rhode Island. It is the only film Stern ever made and the result is a colourful impressionistic blur – the musicians are at their relaxed best, and the audience is no less entertaining, decked out in what looks now like the finest retro-chic hip, … Read more
Rebecca Pidgeon and Philip Seymour Hoffman in State and Main

State and Main

    An intelligent and acidic if somewhat stagey comedy about a film production descending on a small New England town and the effect that each has on the other. It’s written and directed by David Mamet, not known for out and out comedy, but clearly feeling flighty at the moment, flighty enough to turn out the sort of farce you might expect from the French, or from Michael Frayn. And Mamet has the cast to perform it – Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julia Stiles and a surprisingly good Alec Baldwin, all of them upping their game in homage to a master of the blunt misanthropic object who has spent enough … Read more
Julianne Moore and Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal

Hannibal

This may not be the best film out this week, but it is the one that is shouting loudest. Who doesn’t want to see Anthony Hopkins return to the role of Hannibal the Cannibal after several years of haggling over his fee, which includes an agreement to make one more film featuring everyone’s favourite cultured cannibal? Hannibal’s plot sees Hopkins’s Dr Lecter returning to the USA, having been lured back from Italy by an elaborate hoax cooked up by Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), a former victim of Lecter’s, who has survived a fiendish munching and is now using Agent Clarice Starling as bait to get payback. The plot is familiar cat v mouse … Read more
Frank Langella and Robot

15 July 2013-07-15

Out in the UK this week Robot & Frank (Entertainment One, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) Telling the story of an old guy who is losing his marbles and his will to live, this smallscale film drops us into the action at just about the point when his family have had enough of him and have sourced him a helper robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). It’s the future, it seems, though it’s not a future that dissimilar to our own. The old guy, played with all the colours in the palette by Frank Langella, turns out to have been a career criminal, a bad dad, a poor husband. Where his mind is at is where … Read more
Vin Diesel in Pitch Black

Pitch Black

    A sci-fi shocker high on SFX, low on survivors and set on a planet where the self-serving and rather motley crew of an interplanetary cruiser are forced to pitch down after some unforeseen space ructions. It turns out that they are not alone on the planet. In fact this alien world is populated by some very unpleasant flying creatures who only come out in the dark. And – guess what – there’s a ginormous eclipse of the planet’s three suns on the way. Luckily, one of the spaceship’s number is gifted with uncanny nightsight. Unluckily, he is a vicious murderer locked in the ship’s brig. So there’s an awful lot of … Read more
Max Schreck as Nosferatu

Nosferatu

Murnau’s 1922 silent expressionist classic is one of defining moments in movie-making. It borrowed its story wholesale from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, gave it the lightest of resprays and hoped no one would notice the theft. Bram Stoker’s widow noticed and sued for breach of copyright, won the case and had all the prints of Nosferatu destroyed. But the film refused to die, and rose from the undead. Its star, who plays Count Orlok (aka Nosferatu), is one Max Schreck, “Schreck” being the German word for terror. Maximum Terror – and you thought modern Hollywood had a lock on this sort of thing. Adding to that in terms of myth-making, it was always rumoured that … Read more
William H Macy in A Slight Case of Murder

A Slight Case of Murder

  One of those feelgood made-for-TV films that’s somehow managed to net a great cast as they were commuting between better paying jobs. I suspect that that’s because William H Macy is involved, David Mamet’s favourite actor being the star and the adapter of Donald Westlake’s novel about a film critic who kills his girlfriend by accident and then uses his film buffery to cover up the crime. It’s a neat conceit obviously designed to appeal to film lovers, who get double helpings when the cop on the accidental killer’s tail (Adam Arkin) also turns out to be a film buff himself. Comic noir is the prevailing tone, once the film’s initial skittishness … Read more

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