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Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Rachel Korine in Spring Breakers

15 August 2013-08-15

Out in the UK This Week The Gatekeepers (Metrodome, cert 15, DVD) What sort of people would you expect the former heads of Israel’s counter terrorism agency, Shin Bet, to be? This documentary takes prejudices (mine, anyway) and turns them on their head. Sure, collectively they look like they’re auditioning to be the next Bond villain – when they talk about killing, they smile, they chuckle – but they’re a lot more pragmatic than you’d expect. And their opinions on the illegal settlements, the religious zealots who drive policy in so many areas, and the occupied territories are just not what you’d expect. That director Dror Moreh got any of the surviving former heads, … Read more
Richard Burton in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

Based on the breakthrough novel by former spy John Le Carré, shot in black and white to suggest that espionage is unglamorous, dirty work and starring a hollowed out Richard Burton, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is as far from James Bond as it’s possible to get – further, even than Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer of the Ipcress File. Telling the story of a jaded spy who is busted to a desk job in London and then recruited by East German intelligence – or that’s what they think – it’s a bleak marvel, as redolent of the drab side of the 1960s as the smell of a wet duffel coat. Martin … Read more
Elvis in rehearsal in That's the Way It Is

Elvis: That’s the Way It Is Special Edition

Here’s Elvis trying on the cape, the batwings and the wide belts in Las Vegas in 1970. There must have been a lot of material in that original white outfit because it was certainly let out a lot as the Seventies progressed. But not here, this is Elvis at his sleekest, only two years after his famous 1968 comeback special, when he proved he was one of the few people in the world who could wear top-to-toe black leather and not look like a gimp. This “special edition” is a recut of the original film, there’s a lot more goofing about, more pre-show rehearsal with the band (watch James Burton on guitar and … Read more
Greer Goodman, Donal Logue and Nina Jaroslaw in The Tao of Steve

The Tao of Steve

“Men and women both want to have sex, but women want to have sex 15 minutes after us, so if you hold out for 20, she’ll be chasing you for five.” Everyone knows a shlubby, none-too-handsome guy in a low-status job who seems to do OK with the ladies. The Tao of Steve analyses that phenomenon, and casts the incredibly likeable Donal Logue as Dex, its hero. His quest – to get laid as often as possible. This he does with ease since he follows “The Tao of  Steve” a babe-magnet philosophy borrowed from all the chilled Steves of the world (McQueen, McGarrett, Austin – his list, not mine). Dex may be overweight, he may … Read more
Rosario Dawson

5 August 2013-08-05

Out in the UK This Week         Trance (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Danny Boyle’s attempt to retake the crown as Britain’s most commercially savvy yet critically hailed director – current holder Christopher Nolan – sees him heading up Inception avenue with a crime thriller. Trance takes a basic heist plot, throws hypnosis and multiple levels of reality into the mix, then lays on the group dynamic of Shallow Grave. Which means that auction-house gopher James McAvoy, hypnotherapist Rosario Dawson and gangster Vincent Cassel are playing a threesome not exactly at ease in each other’s company. There’s much to enjoy here, particularly Boyle’s sense of pace, Cassel’s cool Mr Nasty turn … Read more
Max Adrian as Frederick Delius in Song of Summer

Song of Summer: Frederick Delius

Any follower of British arts programmes on TV, from the South Bank Show backwards, will be aware of the bleating of Ken Russell and his ilk that no one really makes ’em like they did in the Sixties, when clever chaps freshly down from Oxbridge would be sent out with a curmudgeonly working-class crew and instructed to make films on anything that took their white-shirted fancy. Well, I have to report that Russell’s 1968 B/W film on Delius does back him up. Detailing the strange five-year relationship between Eric Fenby, the young amanuensis who helped blind dying syphilitic Frederick Delius complete some of his most noted works, it is very good indeed. Russell wasn’t … Read more
Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen in A Perfect Murder

A Perfect Murder

Andrew Davis has made something of a specialty of directing thrillers. He made Steven Seagal’s best film, Under Siege, and Chuck Norris’s best film too, Code of Silence. He’s also responsible for the breathless chase of The Fugitive and for this remake of Frederick Knott’s play Dial M for Murder, on which Hitchcock based his 1954 movie. The “perfect murder”, beloved of films of a certain vintage, now seems almost as dated a concept as that of the criminal mind. However Davis and adapter Patrick Smith Kelly squeeze a little more mileage out of it by playing up what you might call the Gordon Gecko aspects – cash and deceit. Which brings us … Read more
Milla Jovovich in Ultraviolet

Ultraviolet

Now I like a film in which an attractive young woman gets into skimpy clothes to kick butt as much as the next man. But, still shaking my head over the tragic mess that was Aeon Flux, here’s Ultraviolet delivering more of the same, and no amount of Milla Jovovich in stomach-revealing, futuristic outfits can help it. Speaking her handful of lines in the now standard Clint Eastwood growl, Jovovich plays the genetically modified super-athlete, part-vampire cross – a Hemophage – who is attempting to protect a young child who knows the secret of the whereabouts of the Holy Grail / can prevent the creation of Skynet, or something similarly important. It really … Read more
Fabrice Luchini between blow-up dollies of Stalin and Mao in In the House

22 July 2013-07-22

Out in the UK This Week In The House (Momentum, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) François Ozon’s thriller/farce is as clever as you’d expect from a man who gave us the relationship-in-reverse drama 5X2. Here he’s again examining the nature of storytelling with a film about a teacher who becomes infatuated with his star pupil’s stories, each of which ends with a “to be continued”. And in the continuation the story – and the teenager writing them – becomes more and more involved in the older man’s life. There’s post-structuralism in there, if you’re feeling smart. But the whole thing works just as well as a dark farce played to the hilt by a brilliant … Read more
Anita O'Day in Jazz on a Summer's Day

Jazz On A Summer’s Day

Back when cats wore hats, stills photographer Bert Stern, fresh from his famous shoot with Marilyn Monroe in the buff, went off to the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and made a film about Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, Jack Teagarden, Gerry Mulligan, and even Chuck Berry, as they displayed their formidable talents and charismas for the moneyed and honeyed of Rhode Island. It is the only film Stern ever made and the result is a colourful impressionistic blur – the musicians are at their relaxed best, and the audience is no less entertaining, decked out in what looks now like the finest retro-chic hip, all digging … Read more
Rebecca Pidgeon and Philip Seymour Hoffman in State and Main

State and Main

An intelligent and acidic if somewhat stagey comedy about a film production descending on a small New England town and the effect that each has on the other. It’s written and directed by David Mamet, not known for out and out comedy, but clearly feeling flighty at the moment, flighty enough to turn out the sort of farce you might expect from the French, or from Michael Frayn. And Mamet has the cast to perform it – Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julia Stiles and a surprisingly good Alec Baldwin, all of them upping their game in homage to a master of the blunt misanthropic object who has spent enough time writing … Read more
Julianne Moore and Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal

Hannibal

This may not be the best film out this week, but it is the one that is shouting loudest. Who doesn’t want to see Anthony Hopkins return to the role of Hannibal the Cannibal after several years of haggling over his fee, which includes an agreement to make one more film featuring everyone’s favourite cultured cannibal? Hannibal’s plot sees Hopkins’s Dr Lecter returning to the USA, having been lured back from Italy by an elaborate hoax cooked up by Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), a former victim of Lecter’s, who has survived a fiendish munching and is now using Agent Clarice Starling as bait to get payback. The plot is familiar cat v mouse … Read more

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