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Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives

2 December 2013-12-02

Out in the UK This Week Only God Forgives (Lionsgate, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) After Bronson, Valhalla Rising and Drive (not to mention the Pusher trilogy) director Nicolas Winding Refn’s cool yet feverish look at violence and masculinity continues with a story set out in the badlands of Bangkok, where moody Ryan Gosling plays Julian, the brother expected to avenge the death of his intensely violent older brother Billy (Tom Burke). But the slightly more sensitive Julian balks, which brings into play his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), a tough old bitch as elemental as any out of Greek tragedy. It also brings into play a retired cop (Vithaya Pansingram), an automaton of remorseless brutality. … Read more
Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able in Monsters


A movie for every day of the year – a good one 1 December Military Abolition Day, Costa Rica On this day every year, the people of Costa Rica celebrate Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Military abolition day), as a reminder of the day in 1948 when President José Figueres Ferrer got rid of the country’s armed forces, in particular the standing army. Unusual in itself, this act was all the more remarkable when it is considered that Ferrer was a general who had just led an army to victory in the 44 day civil war in Costa Rica, which had been precipitated by the parliament refusing to accept that the opposition … Read more
Jennifer Garner learns about adult underwear in 13 Going On 30

13 Going On 30

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 30 November Thriller released, 1982 On this day in 1982, Michael Jackson’s album Thriller was released. As I write, it is the biggest selling album of all time. And with unified collections of music now a “take it or leave it” item displaced by technology it is likely to remain so. Thriller has sold around 60 million copies worldwide (estimate) and continues to sell. It was Jackson’s sixth solo album, his second as a mature artist in charge of his career, and because Jackson had renegotiated his royalty rate with his record company only the year before (after the success of … Read more
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln


A movie for every day of the year – a good one 29 November The Zong Massacre, 1781 On this day in 1781 the Zong massacre took place. A Liverpool slave ship called the Zong got lost on the high seas en route for Jamaica and, running low on water, decided to throw some slaves overboard. On 29 November 54 women were thrown overboard. 42 men were jettisoned on 1 December and over the next few days a further 36 slaves were thrown into the sea. A further ten slaves threw themselves overboard as a protest against the inhumane treatment of their fellows. When it arrived at Black River, Jamaica, the ship had … Read more
Massoumeh and Zahra Naderi in The Apple

The Apple

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 28 November Navy Day, Iran Today is Navy Day in Iran. It’s the day every year when Iranians remember Operation Morvarid, a tactical strike against the Iraqi Navy in 1980, which resulted in much of the Iraqi Navy being destroyed. The Iranians, using American built F-4 Phantoms and F-5 Tiger aircraft, attacked Iraqi airfields, while a task force of the Iranian navy attacked Iraqi oil terminals, and two missile boats blocked the ports of Al Faw and Umm Qasr and started heavy shelling. Careful planning, lightning deployment, plenty of back-up and the strategic defence of all units involved in the attack … Read more
One of many torture scenes from Salo, 120 Days of Sodom

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 27 November James Pratt and John Smith executed for sodomy, 1835 On this day in 1835, the last two men to be publicly executed for buggery in England were hanged outside Newgate Prison in London, where a fairly large crowd had gathered. James Pratt, aged 30, and John Smith, aged 40, had been discovered in flagrante in the room of another man, William Bonill, by Bonill’s landlord, who had become suspicious about the string of men who would visit him. By climbing into the loft of the next door building, the landlord had been able to catch sight of what Pratt … Read more
Gemma Arterton in Byzantium


A movie for every day of the year – a good one 26 November Vlad the Impaler becomes ruler of Wallachia for third time, 1476 On this day in 1476, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia became ruler of Wallachia for the third time. His father, Vlad II, had become a member of the chivalric Order of the Dragon (Drache in German, Dracul in Romanian) in 1431. As the son, Vlad III carried the patronymic Dracula, son of Dracul (he signed himself Wladislaus Dragwlya). Vlad III spent a good deal of his life asserting his claim on Wallachia. He was first installed as a ruler by the Ottomans – Vlad III had been brought … Read more
Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat

25 November 2013-11-25

Out in the UK this Week The Heat (Fox, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) There aren’t many female buddy-cop comedies. This one, directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), recalls the Lethal Weapon antics of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, and stars Sandra Bullock as the one trying to play it by the book, and Melissa McCarthy as the out and out slob prepared to take any risk because, hell, law and order is a dirty old business. Suit pants versus sweat pants, basically, with a plot that’s immaterial – it has something to do with guns and drugs, as per – but it’s just enough to bus the girls from one amusing set piece to the next, … Read more
A flashback sequence from Mishima

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 25 November Yukio Mishima commits seppuku, 1970 On this day in 1970, the Japanese writer/actor/director Yukio Mishima disembowelled himself ritualistically, after having tried and failed to persuade troops at the Ichigaya barracks to launch a coup d’état to reinstate the Emperor’s supreme power. Shortly afterwards, as pre-arranged, his assistant attempted to decapitate him. When this failed, another assistant succeeded in severing Mishima’s head, then performed the same service for the first assistant, who had by now also disembowelled himself. Mishima’s real name was Kimitake Hiraoka and his act brought to a conclusion a life that had been devoted to the idea … Read more
Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 24 November Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, 1859 On this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (to give it its full title). Building on work by Joseph Hooker, Robert Chambers and others, Darwin rushed into print a book he had been mulling over for two decades, because he knew that the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace had, quite independently, come up with theories remarkably similar to his own. Written for the layman, the book set out Darwin’s observations … Read more
Artwork for the original poster of The Raven

The Raven

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 23 November Boris Karloff born, 1887 On this day in 1887, the great horror actor Boris Karloff was born. Disappointingly, his birth name was William Henry Pratt and he wasn’t born in some Carpathian cave but in the inner suburb of Lewisham, South London. A well educated young man with a lisp and a stutter, he dropped out while training to become a functionary of the British Empire and instead took to farm labouring before becoming an actor. He took the name Boris Karloff while in travelling repertory theatre in Canada, and after arriving in Hollywood he played a number of … Read more
Takahiro Nishijima in Love Exposure

Love Exposure

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 22 November Premiere of Ravel’s Bolero, 1928 On this day in 1928, Ravel’s Bolero made its debut at the Paris Opera. Ravel was originally going to call the work Fandango but changed his mind to Bolero, keeping his original intention – which he almost apologetically in later years would describe as “orchestral tissue without music… there are no contrasts and practically no invention except the plan and the manner of execution.” Bolero is a long rhythmic crescendo, starting out with a simple rat-tatta-ta-tat-tatta-ta-tattata-tattata-tat snare drum, a sinuous melody over the top, at first with just a few members of the orchestra … Read more

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