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Dr Dre and Ice T in Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap

12 October 2012-10-12

Out in the UK This Week Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (Kaleidoscope, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Given how often rappers are being deliberately awkward, or cool, and how often an over-attachment to mind-altering substances can make speech too street even for the street, a documentary about rap sets alarm bells ringing in advance. Nothing could be further from the truth with Ice T’s overview, which kicks off with a declaration – “this film isn’t about the money, the cars, the jewellery, the girls… this film is about the craft”. And then it delivers. T’s strength is the access he gets, to everyone from Melle Mel and Big Daddy Kane, to Kanye West, … Read more
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James Bond: The Omega Man

007 first strapped on an Omega watch in 1997. Since then the once-ailing franchise has gone from strength to strength. Coincidence? Every human being on the planet, even those in Bhutan, or out in the rainforest distilling poison from tree frogs, knows who James Bond is. So ubiquitous is he that even people who haven’t yet been born have a favourite James Bond actor, a favourite Bond girl, a favourite Bond movie, Bond song, car or baddie. In fact even as I write these words images of Louis Armstrong, Daniel Craig, an Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaws and Denise Richards (wrong, I know) are flashing across my cerebral cortex. But, now that Adele has belted … Read more
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Roll Out The Barrel: Pubs Never Looked So Good

A collection of documentary shorts on the British pub paints a warm, comforting picture of one of the country’s most cherished institutions. But is it a true one? “There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man,” intones a voice theatrically, “by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” The quote is from Samuel Johnson and it kicks off The Story of English Inns, the first of 20 collected documentary shorts from the archive released in June 2012 by the British Film Institute. Alas, anyone who’s ever been to a British pub will tell you that this adage conveys only half the truth. For every charming hostelry … Read more
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The Smell of Napalm, Now in Glorious Technicolor

A brilliant restoration of Apocalypse Now means another fresh ride for Technicolor, the process behind some of cinema’s greatest artistic triumphs Great news. Apocalypse Now has been restored and is back in cinemas and in pin-sharp Blu-ray, later in 2011. Yes, the “best Vietnam film, one of the greatest of all films” – according the revered Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times – is back. And it’s back in Technicolor. So now a new generation can marvel as choppers swoop to the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie, thrill at Robert Duvall’s “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and stare in slack-jawed amazement at the sheer size of Marlon … 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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I Became a Ukrainian Vodka Baron

Meet Dan Edelstyn. He’s made a film, he’s resurrected a vodka brand and he’s reviving the fortunes of a faraway Ukrainian village Halfway through making a documentary about his grandmother, director Dan Edelstyn realised he was going to have to start all over again. The film he’d been shooting since 2005 – working title From Bolshevism to Belfast – had been a great story. It told of his Jewish grandmother’s sudden exit from Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. How privileged, pretty Maroussia Zorokovich had wound up in Belfast, where her husband, Dan’s grandfather, had promptly gone native and become more staunchly Orange than the Paisley family. It was the story of … 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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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
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
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The Film that Broke the King of Cool

In 1969, when Steve McQueen suggested a film about the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race, everyone thought it couldn’t fail. Everyone was wrong At the end of the 1960s Steve McQueen had it all. Though it was an era of longhaired peaceniks, this shorthaired toughie had become acknowledged as the King of Cool. He was one of the highest paid actors in the world and his string of box office smashes already included three total classics – The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and Bullitt. On top of that he’d been Oscar-nominated for The Sand Pebbles and, in 1970, had just made The Reivers, a gentle period drama that proved McQueen … Read more
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Isn’t It Iconic?

La Dolce Vita might not be the best Italian film ever made. Or the cleverest, steamiest or most gripping. But it is the most iconic. Here’s why… Just a touch over 50 years ago the assembled critics at the Cannes film festival gave Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita a standing ovation. Not at the end of the film, or even at the moment when Anita Ekberg gets into the Trevi fountain, its most remembered scene. No, what got them to their feet was the film’s opening shot. It’s of a huge statue of Jesus Christ being airlifted out of Rome, the Eternal City. It doesn’t look like much now but back then this … 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

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