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Kristen Stewart in The Messengers

The Messengers

      Something weird is going on in the scary house out in the fields of North Dakota, where mom and dad have moved to make one last go of it, growing sunflowers. The kids can see it but the adults can’t. And so on. The Messengers is a bog standard American haunted-house movie with a twist. The twist is not the casting of a long-legged, tight breasted young Kristen Stewart as a heroine, nor the use of a genuine plank (Dylan McDermott) to play her dad. It’s the decision by producer Sam Raimi to get Hong Kong marvels the Pang brothers to direct. Oxide and Danny Pang struck sparks off the … Read more
Sacha Tarter and Trevor Sather in The Gigolos

The Gigolos

      The first feature by TV director Richard Bracewell lifts the stone on male gigolos in Money London, avoiding cliché to deliver a jagged yet humorous portrait of male/male rather than male/female relations.   In seemingly aimless, freeform style we follow Sacha and Trevor, as they drop into one pre-arranged hook-up after another. Sacha is the gigolo, Trevor his aide.   The cast is interesting and for two different reasons. For starters we have Sacha and Trevor, who are played by Sacha Tarter and Trevor Sather, the guys who wrote the film along with Bracewell, though much if not all of their dialogue is improvised. Next to these relative unknowns are … Read more
Jean-Paul Chenu and Marie-Cecile Chenu

Beyond Hatred

    Olivier Meyrou’s cool and dispassionate documentary focuses on the trial of the three French skinheads who beat a young gay man to a bloody pulp in Rheims, France, and then drowned him, seemingly on something of a whim. At first the film seems to labour at a distinct disadvantage, since neither the accused nor the victim are depicted. But in this absence something more universal flowers. Both the aggressors and the victim achieve a totemic status, François Chenu standing in for every homosexual or ethnically different soul who ever found him/herself on the wrong side of an intolerant group – the killers were actually looking for an Arab to practice their … Read more
Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

      He (Chow Yun-Fat) loves her (Michelle Yeoh); she loves him, but they cannot be together until the fabled jade sword has been returned to its rightful owner. This they seek to do, hindered by an assassin and a mystery figure whose martial arts abilities rival their own. All that plot business is entirely secondary to the working of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon though. It has just enough connective tissue to lead from one breathtaking display of martial arts magic to the next. It was the film of 2000, taking the most autistically male of movie genres, the martial arts epic, and broadening its appeal by adding a balletic twist. By … Read more
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
Nick Nolte in The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line

    In the mid-1990s it was more or less universally accepted that Terrence Malick had given up making films. He’d made Badlands in 1973 and Days of Heaven in 1978, both of them the sort of films that have critics coining new superlatives, but that was that. Then, 20 years after Days of Heaven, he came back as if from nowhere with his version of The Thin Red Line – there’d already been an adaptation of James Jones’s novel in 1964. And like Badlands and Days of Heaven it took a familiar genre – the war film in this case – and gave it a typically reserved Malickian treatment. Malick’s WWII actioner … Read more
Robert De Niro as Max Cady in Cape Fear

Cape Fear

It’s compare and contrast time. Max Cady, a psychopath recently out of stir after a long stretch for rape, sets out to terrorise lawyer Sam Bowden who he believes withheld information about his case at the trial which resulted in him going down. The original, directed by cult British director J. Lee Thompson in 1962, starred Robert Mitchum as the avenging psycho (a role he’d perfected in 1955’s Night Of The Hunter) and Gregory Peck as the apparently decent lawyer. Both turn up again in cameos in Martin Scorsese’s remake, in which things aren’t quite so clear cut. This time around Bowden (now played by Nick Nolte) is a lousy lawyer, and a … Read more
Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher

22 April 2013-04-22

Available in the UK this week   Jack Reacher (Paramount, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) In this adaptation of the Lee Child novel One Shot, vigilante investigator Jack Reacher is called in to clear the name of a guy even he thinks is guilty of shooting a whole load of innocent folks. Coming across as a little bit Batman and a little bit more Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Tom Cruise’s Reacher is in fact mostly Stacy Keach-era Mike Hammer. Because this is an exercise in cornball noir, the sort of film where people still use quaint terms like “patsy”, where relations between men and women are chivalrous – that’s Rosamund Pike in what … Read more
Jack O'Connell and Tim Roth in The Liability

The Liability

    Starting great but ending merely good, this British thriller full of deadpan laughs is sexy, nasty and features two great actors, Tim Roth and Peter Mullan. It even boasts a starmaking performance by Jack O’Connell as The Liability.   The genre is announced before the opening credits, as a man in a car parked somewhere bleak but lit with the rainbow palette of an acolyte of Christopher Doyle is gruesomely garrotted from the rear passenger seat by someone we never see.   Except it isn’t. The genre we thought it was, I mean. Cut to Adam (Jack O’Connell) a total dipstick who has borrowed his mum’s boyfriend’s C Class Mercedes and … Read more
Christopher Walken surveys his kingdom in King of New York

King of New York

      I used to work at a magazine and would get a lot of DVDs in for review purposes. King of New York was the one that really got all my co-workers misty eyed. They started quoting lines from the script, remembering the best bit of the film, asking me if I could have the disc after I’d finished with it. No wonder. It’s a hugely influential piece of work and you can see its impact on almost every mob drama since. It was made when Christopher Walken was in his pomp, here he plays the self-styled King, a classically ruthless gang boss with a strangely benevolent streak, a man who … Read more
Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel

The Blue Angel

    This is the film that made Marlene Dietrich a household scandal back in 1930. It’s the story of how a pompous but respectable schoolteacher is lured on to the rocks by Lola-Lola, the nightclub singer in a Weimar-era club who can’t help “Falling in Love Again” (which Dietrich sings here). Poor Emil Jannings, who played the professor, thought he was the star of the film – as well he might since he’d won the Best Actor Oscar the year before, at the very first Academy Awards. He resisted director Von Sternberg’s choice of Dietrich, then a nobody, as the temptress. Von Sternberg had discovered her acting in a stage play quite … Read more
Sean Connery in Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester

    A young ghetto kid (Rob Brown) breaks into the local recluse’s house only to discover it’s his literary hero, an author whose one novel has been followed by nothing except a mysterious silence for 40 years. The gruff old codger doesn’t bark at the kid and send him on his way. Nor does he shoot him with the gun he keeps on his bedside table. He doesn’t do either of these things because we’re in master-and-protégé territory, a fact which director Gus Van Sant cunningly seems to have made us fully aware of before the film has announced that that’s what it is. And he’s done that maybe to dial down … Read more

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