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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
Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit in Almost Famous

Almost Famous

Almost Famous follows teenage Rolling Stone wannabe William Miller (Patrick Fugit) on his trek across America as he tries to get an interview with Stillwater, a band on the verge of making it. Abba: The Movie has the same plot, but it misses out on the groupies, including “band aid” Penny Lane (the perfect Kate Hudson), the drugs (when going out to dinner was a knife, fork and stomach-pump affair), and the passive-aggressive one-upmanship of cool (“So I boned your lady. You don’t own her, maaaan” etc). Given these elements, Almost Famous could easily have been Spinal Tap, but for director Cameron Crowe’s dribbly-nosed affection for the era and its music – Yes, … Read more
Christine Tremarco and Stuart Sinclair Blyth

Hold Back The Night

One of the occasional forays behind the camera of Phil Davis, the hugely gifted actor whose face pops up in everything from a Dickens adaptation to a geezer gangster flick. Which is particularly of interest in this film because it’s neither of those. In fact it’s a genre Brits have a fairly low success rate in – the road movie. Upping the ante even further it’s a  feelgood road movie. And heaping the improbable on the unusual, it’s set in a Scotland that’s actually sunny. It stars the enormously talented Christine Tremarco, as a teenager on the run from her abusive dad. Also on the hoof is Stuart Sinclair Blyth as her tree-hugging be-dreadlocked … Read more
The Cast of 10 Things I Hate About You

10 Things I Hate About You

Apparently if you’re drunk enough when you say the title of this film, it sounds like, “The Taming Of The Shrew”. Whatever. When it came out in 1999 it tapped into two of the big trends in the cinema of the time: the high-school drama (Cruel Intentions, Election, Rushmore) and adaptations of the Bard (Elizabeth, Shakespeare In Love). It’s a teen tangle in Shakespeare country that manages to be both reasonably faithful (depending on how you define “reasonably” and “faithful”) to Shakespeare’s original, but not so heavy-handedly that the average audience member will nod off. It also managed to cast two hot properties of the time – Julia Stiles, who at one point seemed … Read more

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