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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Can the sewer-dwelling Mutant Ninja Turtles dudes named after renaissance painters really still be teenagers? Just one of the many questions raised by the latest animated iteration of the once popular franchise that can trace its origins back to a comicbook spoof of the early 1980s. Foremost of those questions must be “Why?” Feeling a lot longer than its 87 minutes, TMNT is a franchise reboot that follows the familiar pattern – hence the “getting the gang back together” element which needs to be got out of the way before the real plot (a tech-industrial magnate, voiced by silky Patrick Stewart, wants to destroy the world) can be embarked on. The look is … Read more
Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, Tim Allen and William H Macy

Wild Hogs

Four suburban guys, all losers in different ways, go on a cross country trip on their Hogs – that’s Harley Davidsons to the uninitiated. The guys are John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy. En route to wherever they get mistaken for gays, find themselves on the wrong side of a group of real, hairy assed bikers (led by Ray Liotta) and one of them even finds love with a waitress (Marisa Tomei in a cheerleader-ish succession of “I’m hot” poses). Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence as buddies? Yes, it’s a stretch, but no more than imagining William H Macy and John Travolta cracking open a couple of beers after … Read more
Slavoj Zizek: the philosopher at work


The media’s love-in with “the wild man of theory”, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, continues with this documentary about the bear/clown himself. Starting with Zizek’s rhetorical question, “What would be my spontaneous attitude towards the Universe”, Astra Taylor’s film continues in a playful vein through a US lecture tour and ends up back in Zizek’s Ljubljana home, where he waxes philosophical from the bedroom, the kitchen, even the bathroom on whatever pops into his wildly fermenting head – Hitchcock, plastic water bottles, the state of toilets in the US. This sort of photogenic posturing explains why Zizek has become the pin-up philosopher of our time – he’s not only the most media-friendly thinker, … Read more
Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

Reno 911!: Miami

A feature length version of the Comedy Central TV show. And, obeying a law that stretches back at least to the dawn of TV comedy, the format goes on holiday. To Miami, as the title suggests, where Reno’s precinct of variously useless cops suddenly find themselves the only police in town with a drug lord to contain called Ethan the Drug Lord (played by Paul Rudd) and day-to-day policing duties to carry out. Obeying another law, there’s the odd guest cameo – Danny DeVito in this case (his Jersey Films outfit are bankrolling the movie so it makes sense). But who cares about guests or the plot – no one involved seems to – … Read more
Unicron – as voiced by Orson Welles – in The Transformers: The Movie

The Transformers: The Movie

As a new multi-squillion-dollar Transformers movie directed by Michael (Pearl Harbor) Bay comes down the pipe, someone obviously thought a quick cash-in was in order. So here’s the old Transformers from 1986. On the upside: the voice talent is of the “well I never” variety. In what other film would you get Robert Stack, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles all working together? On the other hand, just what the hell is going on? The plot is pretty much unfathomable – Welles described it as being about “a big toy who attacks a bunch of smaller toys”. The title music helpfully tells us the movie is about “Robots in disguise”, fighting Stunticons, Aerialbots … Read more
Dressed to kill: Divine in Pink Flamingos

Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

Or how six films screened in graveyard slots between 1970 and 1977 changed the way movies are watched and made. The six are: El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mad freakish spaghetti western, the Man with No Name drops acid. Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s splattersome zombie motherlode which even now Romero is rubbing his hands about. Pink Flamingos – John Waters broke through with this excursion into camp sleaze, and how happy Waters is with the idea that almost single-handedly he dragged Hollywood along with him into the world of bad taste. The Harder They Come, the reggae film by Perry Henzell that filled a need created by Bob Marley for Jamaican … Read more
Meet Wilbur and Lewis from Meet the Robinsons

Meet the Robinsons

Disney remind us of their legacy as animation innovators with this busy busy busy story about a young inventor genius and orphan (big aah) called Lewis who is zipped into the future by his new pal Wilbur Robinson. There Wilbur hopes Lewis will help him defeat a snarling, moustachioed villain called Bowler Hat Guy (who’s not a thousand light years removed from Dick Dastardly) and Lewis hopes Wilbur will help him recover his latest whizzy gadget, the Memory Scanner, from Bowler Hat Guy’s felonious grasp. This will enable Lewis to probe his own mind, in a desperate attempt to remember who his mother was (even bigger aah). On the way Lewis meets Wilbur’s … Read more
Mean, moody and probably rather cold – Lee Jung-Jae in Typhoon


A Korean thriller about a modern-day pirate planning a nuclear attack on the motherland. It’s the biggest production in Korean movie history, apparently, and has swishy looks, bombastic tone and frequent dips into gooey sentimentality. In other words Typhoon has half an eye on Hollywood, though its story is firmly set around the 38th parallel – two blameless kids, one grows up good (in the freedom-loving south), the other bad (damn those Commies). Getting himself caught between two stools, director Kwak Kyung-Taek isn’t sure whether to concentrate on the back story (the kids) or the front story (a dastardly plan to let loose balloons filled with nuclear waste). But his message is as … Read more
Freda Dowie in Distant Voices, Still Lives

Distant Voices, Still Lives

A re-release from one of the most distinctive cineastes in British film. Terence Davies’s 1988 maundering autobiographical film (“It all happened… I had to tone down the violence of my dad”, Davies told The Guardian) is set in the Liverpool of his youth and is more an impressionistic montage of vibrant tableaux vivants than a drama with a traditional structure. It’s a two part affair, the first half concentrating on the brutish, violent dad (Pete Postlethwaite), long suffering, sad-eyed mum (Freda Dowie) and their three kids – as wartime austerity starts to crack and the good times of the late 1950s start to make their presence felt, which is the theme of the second … Read more
Smadar Sayar and Neama Shendar in Close to Home

Close to Home

An unusual “buddy movie” focusing on two young women conscripted into the Israeli army, where they spend their time either checking bags for bombs or asking anyone suspicious – Arabs, let’s be honest – for their ID. Shot on handheld cameras on the streets of Jerusalem, Close to Home is in most other respects firmly within the tradition of the buddy movie. In other words the girls don’t initially get on – fiery Smadar (Smadar Sayar) would rather get her hair done and ogle boys than bother decent people who are just trying to get to work. The quieter Mirit (Neama Shendar) on the other hand is a stickler for protocol. Vardit Bilu and … Read more
Paris, dawn, August, in the long hot summer of 1976

C’était un Rendezvous

The story goes that after wrapping on a film starring Catherine Deneuve, having come in under budget and with a day of shooting time left, as he often managed, director Claude Lelouch decided to do something mad and foolish, make a guerrilla short. All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl, is how Lelouch’s New Wave colleague Jean-Luc Godard had put it. Lelouch set out to show you didn’t need even that, just a fast car and a camera strapped on the front. And that’s what C’était un Rendezvous is, a single shot from a slow-slung camera, as the car it’s attached to (a Ferrari?) hurtles through the … Read more
Keanu the interviewer in Side by Side

13 May 2013-05-13

Out in the UK this week Side by Side (Axiom, cert 15, DVD) A documentary about the digital revolution in movie making that runs through the whole process – first the workings of the old photochemical technology which was king for more than 100 years and then on to how digital has changed everything, from cameras and acting, to editing and effects, the print and the projector. His Matrix experience apart, Keanu Reeves initially seems an unlikely guide to the whole thing. But he’s not just a voiceover, he’s the interviewer and producer of the documentary and it’s probably thanks to his clout that it gets access to pretty much anyone it wants. … Read more

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