Latest Posts

Samantha Morton and Billy Crudup in Jesus' Son

Jesus’ Son

The son in question is played by Billy Crudup, a near schizo drug user on a no-brain road to nowhere. But never mind Crudup, wait till you see the performance by Samantha Morton. When she was cast in Sweet And Lowdown, Woody Allen’s uncharacteristically misogynist film, Allen had her playing a mute. Even so, she stole the film from under Sean Penn’s chiselled cheeks. Here it’s brave Crudup who’s standing too close to the flame. She plays the girlfriend, a hopeless smack-happy, grinning, winsome and overwhelmingly simpatico partner to FH (Crudup, who at the time seemed to be on the brink of something big). Together they bounce from balls-up to self-inflicted distress, shooting … Read more
Jason Statham and Brad Pitt in Snatch

Snatch

Two years after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie returned with a film that looked, felt and almost smelt the same. Except this time around the story is about bare-knuckle fighting and diamond heists, and Brad Pitt (for the ladies) is playing an Irish tinker, just one of a number of silly ethnic stereotypes, which include Russian gangsters, Jewish jewellers and  a Turkish boxing promoter called Turkish (played by Jason Statham, one minute before he launched his action hero career). Lock Stock traded in the same currency, you’ll remember. As well as Pitt, Snatch is studded with other non-British actors, such as Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farina. Nevertheless it often feels … Read more
Antonio Banderas

The 13th Warrior

A real proper old-fashioned Sunday afternoon film – epic in intention, ludicrous in execution. Considered to be unwatchable when it was test-screened, it was partially recast, rescored and reshot – by Michael Crichton, writer of the original book, who took over from John McTiernan, his Die Hard and Predator experience counting, apparently, for nothing. Crichton’s intervention doesn’t save it. Perhaps nothing could. Perhaps it was jinxed by the presence of Omar Sharif, an adornment of so many terrible films of a similar sort in days of yore. Or by his Nineties successor, Antonio Banderas. It’s an adaptation of the Old English epic poem Beowulf and Banderas plays Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, a Muslim banished to the … Read more
Geoffrey Rush in House on Haunted Hill

House on Haunted Hill

When you buy a Bentley – as you do – you’re not looking for a holographic dashboard, an in-car virtual chauffeur, or an ejector seat. You want walnut and leather everywhere. The same is true of some horror movies. House on Haunted Hill was originally directed in 1958 by William Castle, the man who fitted cinemas seats with buzzers, had skeletons drop from the ceiling. Castle was – in the best sense of the word, a horrible man. In 1958 wonderful Vincent Price was the star. In 1999 for this remake it’s the magnificent Geoffrey Rush – as a crazy millionaire called Price – complete with pencil moustache, cravat and lop-sided leer. The … Read more
Cary Grant in Charade

Charade

It’s the early Sixties, and the high artifice of the Hollywood studio system is suddenly being challenged by the supposedly more believable movie-making styles of a younger, hipper generation, among them the French Nouvelle Vague. Does Stanley Donen, an arch exponent of pure Hollywood artifice (he directed Singin’ in the Rain, for proof), take this sort of thing lying down? He does not. Instead he heads right into the heart of enemy territory, Paris, and makes a romantic suspense film that is stylistically and thematically all about artifice. The plot is, or appears to be, about the hunt for stolen money. Audrey Hepburn may or may not be a doe-eyed grieving widow. Cary Grant, who … Read more
Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel in Holy Smoke

Holy Smoke

A maker of thoughtful films, some hugely successful (The Piano), some not (In the Cut), Jane Campion here takes a small film – about a cultbuster (Harvey Keitel) and his intensely focused efforts to deprogram a naive Oz girl (Winslet) who’s been got at in India – and produces a sly, dry comedy of trans-Pacific manners. Being set in Australia really helps it, those highly personal, dialogue-heavy interchanges between the two main players being balanced against huge backdrops (does it come any bigger than the Outback?). Keitel is a presence it’s hard to miss too, of course, but he’s offset by deliberately ripe caricatures by some of Oz’s finest, the meat in the … Read more
Gwyneth Paltrow in drag in Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love

Judi Dench won an Oscar for an eight-minute on-screen performance, which in her acceptance speech even she admitted was slightly pushing it, but her Elizabeth R was the icing on a very lavish cake that reminded a lot of people that there were other ways to do romantic comedy than the prevailing models – ie Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan doing it the adult Nora Ephron way or Freddie Prinze Jr/Julia Stiles doing the high school equivalent. On second viewing the richness is even more apparent, yet what’s also clear is that the romantic element is handled with a featherlight touch, as “blocked” Bill Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) gets all Romeo and Juliet with a heavily … Read more
Kristen Cloke, Devon Sawa and Kerr Smith in Final Destination

Final Destination

Remember The House of Wax or The Abominable Dr Phibes and the highly elaborate ways Vincent Price would off his victims? Films in the decades that followed had budgets running into squillions, yet the victims always seemed to die the same way: sharp knife, sharp billhook, sharp what-have-you. How dull. Then, for people desiring more elaborate, designer-label death, Final Destination turned up right on time. In terms of plot all you need to know is that it’s about a gang of hot guys and gals who “cheat death” when they get off a plane just before it explodes. But what if that plane had their number on it? Our clean-limbed posse of grave … Read more
Liv Tylerin Onegin

Onegin

The world has grown wary of the costume drama since the heyday of Room with a View. To put bums of seats these days Stan Lee has to be involved at some level. Put a girl in a crinoline and a universal “meh” goes up. Even back in 1999 audiences weren’t flocking so readily. Which is a great pity because Onegin is an opulent delight. Directed by Martha Fiennes and featuring swathes of Fiennes siblings and in-laws in one capacity or another, it is worth a look because of its beautiful cinematography alone, and its obsessive attention to period detail. Most commendable of all, though, is its plot, based on a Pushkin poem, … Read more
Poor Photoshop skills add a little extra to the lie-detector scene from Meet the Parents

Meet The Parents

The notion of “upstaging” someone comes from the theatre. If you as an actor walk upstage, away from the auditorium, you force the person you’re addressing to turn their back on the audience. The audience can’t see the actor’s face, it can’t hear him/her that well either. It drives actors crazy. It’s a harder thing to nail down on film, but it’s something Robert De Niro is great at, especially when a comedian is involved. In Meet the Parents the funnyman in question is Ben Stiller, playing the poor sap back to “meet the parents” of his intended (Teri Polo). De Niro plays Jack Byrnes, the mutha of a father, subjecting Stiller’s character, … Read more
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook

1 April 2013-04-01

 Out in the UK this week Silver Linings Playbook (EV, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Almost entirely brilliant from first breath to last gasp, David O Russell’s beautifully made, perfectly acted adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel follows bipolar Bradley Cooper and his faltering relationship with fellow psychiatric case Jennifer Lawrence. If you’ve ever doubted Lawrence’s epic ability, watch this. In fact she’s so good – essentially mainlining Juliette Lewis – that she forces a good performance out of Robert De Niro, who is just one nugget of brilliance in a cast including Jacki Weaver (if you haven’t seen her in Animal Kingdom you have missed out) and Chris Tucker (entirely forgiven for those Rush Hour films … Read more
Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton of Cream

Cream: Farewell Concert

You don’t see films about popular music stars of the 21st century on the big screen too often. Recently Katy Perry and Justin Bieber have managed it, and a few years back there was Dig! – about the rivalry between the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols – which almost qualifies. But the back end of the 1960s saw the beginning of a run of them, from 1969’s Monterey Pop film, then on to the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter and Woodstock in 1970, before everyone – Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin – got in on the act. Director Tony Palmer got in early and used his record of rock supergroup Cream’s … Read more

Popular Posts