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Alex Pettyfer in Stormbreaker

Stormbreaker

We’ve had young James Bond, courtesy of Charlie Higson, and the Spy Kids films, so there’s nothing that groundbreaking about Alex Rider, the mini-me spy and key character in Anthony Horowitz’s string of highly successful novels. 16-year-old Alex Pettyfer steps into the Rider role, his private school accent and rent boy looks making him ideal as the juvenile spy. Horowitz himself adapts his own novel. Which is a feat considering that he also writes the Power of Five series (known as The Gatekeepers in the US), has knocked out a Sherlock Holmes novel, a number of scripts for the long-running Sunday afternoon footwarmer Poirot, a whole raft of Midsomer Murders and he’s the creator … Read more
Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anison in The Break-Up

The Break-Up

What do you do when you’ve been in a high-profile relationship with Brad Pitt, only for it all to go spectacularly tits up? Jennifer Aniston went out and made a romcom about the perfect relationship and how it all went wrong. That might seem more than mere coincidence but anyone looking for coded digs at Brangelina from one half of Jett, Brenifer, or whatever the composite name for Brad and Jen was (have I just forgotten, or was the relationship doomed thanks to lack of a trash-mag moniker?) is going to have to get out the electron microscope. Yes, this is a romcom starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn as a couple who … Read more
Cillian Murphy and Pádraic Delaney in The Wind That Shakes the Barley

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

A polemic rather than a drama, about a blameless Irish lad who becomes a Republican after seeing with his own eyes what the British are up to. Cillian Murphy plays the lad, peaceable to the point of cowardice, the prospective medical student who is caught up in the struggle to get the Brits out of Ireland in the 1920s. His brother (Pádraic Delaney) meanwhile heads off in the other direction – initially bellicose but softening his stance when a political compromise (a “sell out”) is brokered. Director Ken Loach’s film is partisan to the point of ludicrousness – at one point the Brits are depicted swooshing by in cars with their heads tilted … Read more
Dreama Walker, in Compliance

19 August 2013-08-19

Out in the UK This Week Compliance (Soda, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Supposedly based on a true story, this simple drama made for buttons focuses on Becky (Dreama Walker), a pretty young employee at a fast food joint whose routine of inane chat and mild flirting with her co-worker is disturbed by a call to her boss’s office. Over the next hour or so we watch as Becky is subjected to humiliation and degradation at the hands of her employer and colleagues, all at the behest of a disembodied voice at the end of the line, claiming to be a cop, who simply asks the McJobbers to do his increasingly weird bidding. This drama … Read more
Jackie Chan in Police Story

Police Story

There are plenty of people who think of Jackie Chan as a brilliant martial artist who has squandered his gifts on silly comedy. Even they, the Chan purists, acknowledge the brilliance of Police Story, Chan’s best film. And now that we’re in 2013 and Chan is nudging 60 years old, he’s never going to trump it. From the opening scenes in which Chan hangs on to a double decker bus with an umbrella as it careens around Hong Kong, to the final sequence in a shopping mall during which he smashes through glass, hops from one escalator to another – not forgetting the most gob-smacking of all, the downhill drive through a shanty town … Read more
Silje Reinåmo as mythical creature Thale

Thale

So here we are in the middle of August 2013 and I still think that Thale is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. I must have watched it back in February. I’ve probably watched between 130 and 150 films since. So why has it stuck in my head? Because of the artistic choices of its director, Aleksander Nordaas, who I see is now preparing Thale 2. I hope that a bigger budget (and I hope he has a bigger budget, a man can’t sell everything he owns to finance his second film after he’s already sold everything to finance his first) – I really hope that won’t turn his head. What … Read more
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ving Rhames, Tom Cruise and Maggie Q – the Mission Impossible team

Mission: Impossible 3

Remember the tagline for True Lies, the Arnie Schwarzenegger actioner in which he plays a secret agent whose wife (Jamie Lee Curtis) is unaware of his job – “When he said I do, he never said what he did”? Pretty much the same thing is going in M:I3, with impossibly happy semi-retired agent Tom Cruise unable to tell his fiancée (Michelle Monaghan) that he’s off on a perilous secret mission. In something of a departure from the previous two films, Tom does actually have more of a Mission Impossible team with him this time – Ving Rhames, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Maggie Q. This is all much more in keeping with the TV original, … Read more
Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage in The Family Man

The Family Man

On with the florid jumper, down with the heavy meat-based meal and away we go for Christmas. Oh no it isn’t, I hear you shouting. See, you’re getting it. But, inexplicably, when this festive-themed movie was released in the UK on DVD, it was decided that the middle of the summer was the time to do it. Windows, that’s the reason – the scheduling slots decreed by the suits to give the cinemas time to milk the product first, before the home entertainment departments get their hands on the big cash-laden teat. It’s that sort of film too – two sets of concerns vie for a hold on the central character, played by … Read more
Snow White sings to the bluebird in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

David Hand? Look at the credits and you’ll see the name down as the director, one among quite a few, depending on where you’re looking. Such is the grip of the “director as auteur” notion on modern thinking that everyone – from the IMDB down – feels obliged to list the director first, as if theirs were always the guiding hand. Which is a long-winded way of saying that Snow White is a Walt Disney film. He might not have directed any of it but he directed the people who did. And, in the days when we’re meant to marvel at the computer-generated output of Pixar and the like, how much more amazing to … Read more
Aaron Eckhart, Ben Stiller and Jason Patric in Your Friends & Neighbors

Your Friends and Neighbors

Like writer/director LaBute’s In The Company of Men, his 1997 debut, Your Friends and Neighbors deals with a theme that’s current in cinema – that all men are rubbish. LaBute focuses on three self-obsessed friends, travelling further into their psyches as the film progresses. And the further he travels, the shallower the trio appear. Contemporary gents, LaBute appears to be saying, have benefited enormously from the liberalising cultural shift of the 1960s, but these days instead of being high, they’re more high and dry. For some people this film might be a bit preachy, a bit speechy, and it’s true that LaBute’s origins as a writer for the stage seem fairly evident. Perhaps the … Read more
Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root in Persuasion

Persuasion

Before popping up seemingly out of nowhere when he directed Notting Hill, Roger Michell had had a successful career as a theatre director, at the groundbreaking Royal Court Theatre in London with Samuel Beckett and John Osborne (where he also met Danny Boyle), before moving on to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and then switching to directing for TV. Persuasion was his second gig for the BBC, and considering that stories of difficult love (Notting Hill, The Mother, Venus) would be his future, and the theatre was his past, it is the Venn diagram overlap of the two spheres. His cast for Persuasion is theatrical through and through, Amanda Root (an RSC stalwart) … Read more
Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore

Rushmore

Hollywood in look but in tone something else, this is the odd tale of an intellectually precocious, loquacious, speccy, blazer-wearing 15-year-old (Jason Schwartzman) who falls for one of his teachers, pretty Olivia Williams (think of a non-irritating Liz Hurley with a couple of decent dinners inside her). Unfortunately, misanthropic  local steel baron Bill Murray (back on Groundhog Day form) is equally smitten. Faint heart never won fair lady and the oddly mismatched and yet similarly obsessive love rivals are soon at it hammer and tongues. Very weird and often touching romantic comedy ensues as these two strange characters are dissected, helped along by acting that’s all played straight, no one raises even so … Read more

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