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Ruth Ramos as Alejandra

The Untamed

Genre collision is the dish of the day in The Untamed (La Région Salvaje) as the most down-to-earth drama, the soap, meets the most out there – sci-fi. The result probably shouldn’t work but it really does, thanks to writer director Amat Escalante’s decision to keep the sci-fi stuff in the background for most of the film. After an opening shot of a black meteorite in space, followed by one of a pretty young woman apparently pleasuring herself, or being pleasured by, a giant pink tentacle, we’re off into an entirely different realm until, in the film’s last section, the tentacle, and the creature it’s attached to, return for some very out-there cross … Read more
Elgar arrives at his new block in his white VW Beetle

The Landlord

The Landlord is a remarkable film dealing in an unusually nuanced way with entitlement, white-saviour complex, gentrification, poverty tourism and cultural appropriation decades before the rest of the pack got there. It was made in 1970 by Hal Ashby in his first film as a director, but it’s Bill Gunn’s flexing, unflinching screenplay that makes it what it is. It also happens to be one of the best films ever to star Beau Bridges, who is really remarkably good as the very rich white boy who decides to buy a brownstone block in “the ghetto”, with the idea of turning it into one of those new-fangled loft spaces that all the “beautiful people” … Read more
Godzilla on the rampage

Godzilla Minus One

A country basks in the reflected glow of a single man’s redemption in Godzilla Minus One, the 33rd outing for Toho Studios’ big bellowing beast/god and a contender for best of the bunch. Writer director Takashi Yamazaki wants to tell a story of shame and salvation rather than wang on about a big lumbering beast destroying things, though that happens as well, and narrows his focus onto a Japanese kamikaze pilot in the Second World War who chokes when it comes to his big day and then struggles to come to terms with his actions, or lack of them. Godzilla is effectively that pilot’s shame incarnate – the creature arrives on the scene … Read more
Marinka and Maté on the merry-go-round

Merry-Go-Round

“The pinnacle of Hungarian cinema,” is how István Szabó described Merry-Go-Round (Körhinta), and since he directed Mephisto and Colonel Redl, he’s worth listening to. But what of Zoltán Fábri, director of Merry-Go-Round, two of whose later films were Oscar nominated, which is quite a feat considering the deterrent effect of the Iron Curtain when he was at his creative peak. Not having seen any of his other films, I can only speak for this outing from 1956, which tells a familiar love story, adds just enough politics to keep the commissars happy (and allows for all manner of readings) and overlays everything with a heady wash of poetic realism, just like the French … Read more
Art and Patrick kissing Tashi

Challengers

Structured like a game of tennis, pinging back and forth over a chronological net, Challengers tells the story of three people locked together in an unsavoury menage. A big, panting melodrama of the sort Douglas Sirk would recognise, it’s thrillingly conceived, ingeniously constructed and plays out impressively but overstays its welcome like a tie break that will not deliver a victor. And that’s your lot for tennis metaphors. It starts at the end, where once-friends and now-rivals Art Donaldson (the solid plugger) and Patrick Zweig (the naturally talented bad boy) are at a tournament playing the game of their lives, though how important that game is won’t become apparent until the film reaches … Read more
Eriq Ebouaney as Patrice Lumumba

Lumumba

Lumumba tells in grimly appropriate bullet points the story of the rise and fall of Patrice Lumumba, the prime minister of Congo-Léopoldville from its moment of independence in 1960 to Lumumba’s ousting and killing in a coup less than three months later. If you don’t know anything about Lumumba, Raoul Peck’s film will tell you just enough of what you need to know. How a charismatic and politically engaged young man went from being a successful beer salesman to the country’s first prime minister by espousing national and pan-African ideals. How this stirred resentment from rivals more wedded to a tribal and regional politics. And how they caballed with the ousted rulers of … Read more
Author and activist Michael Pollan

Food, Inc. 2

Food, Inc. 2, it won’t surprise anyone to hear, is the follow-up to Food, Inc., the 2008 documentary which usefully summarised what you might call the anti-Big Food position. Bad, in a word. Food, Inc. 2 doesn’t have much that’s positive to say in this update, not at first anyway. It also starts with an opening premise that seems to be contradicted by facts – that the production of food is in so few hands that the supply chain isn’t secure. It then points to the Covid pandemic when… er… I don’t remember hearing stories of food running out. Panic buying, yes. Kinks in the supply chain, yes. More than that – not so … Read more
Donald Sutherland in Klute

Klute

Donald Sutherland died the day before yesterday, so I thought I’d rummage around and see what I had of his. Turns out I have Klute in Criterion’s 4K restoration. And, having now watched it, I can report that it delivers on many levels, not least Sutherland’s performance, which is a thing of minimalist wonder. It was made in 1971 so we’re at Peak Donald – Mash, his breakthrough, and Kelly’s Heroes had both come the year before. Don’t Look Now would come two years later. Then came 1900 and Fellini’s Casanova, probably the best of the bunch of around 18 movies Sutherland made in that hot streak from 1970-77. Klute is actually Jane … Read more
Ryan Gosling in shades

The Fall Guy

For a while you couldn’t escape Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt banging the drum for The Fall Guy. They were everywhere, doing Herculean amounts of publicity, usually a sign that a big-bucks movie isn’t quite as good as everyone expected. Which turns out to be true. But The Fall Guy is not bad. It is entertaining enough, with diverting performances, cool action, stunts and so on. But it’s not a Tom Cruise movie, pleasing though Gosling is as the stunt guy who comes back from serious injury to save the day, get the girl and defeat the bad guy. We all know, don’t we, that it’s based on the successful TV show starring … Read more
Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell

Basic Instinct

Everyone involved was having a bit of a moment when Basic Instinct was being made in 1991. Sharon Stone had just had her breakthrough in Total Recall. Michael Douglas was peaking as the go-to guy for reptilian charm – Fatal Attraction, Wall Street and The War of the Roses were in his recent past, Falling Down would follow shortly. Director Paul Verhoeven’s two most recent films were RoboCop and Total Recall, Showgirls was in the works. And Joe Eszterhas at this point was known as the man who’d written Flashdance and Jagged Edge. Basic Instinct‘s reputation precedes it, thanks to the bit where Sharon Stone in an interrogation room full of male cops … Read more
Aza leans her head on Daisy's shoulder

Turtles All the Way Down

Can you have a boyfriend if even the thought of kissing someone distresses you? Turtles All the Way Down is the film equivalent of a Billie Eilish song, a tale of teenage angst written by John Green, who also did The Fault in Our Stars. And, as the Amazon algorithm puts it, if you liked that you’ll probably like this. Aza (Isabella Merced) has OCD, which manifests as an extreme aversion to germs. Microbes, bacteria and c.diff in particular are what Aza thinks about all day long. Which means dating boys – all that saliva and oral glop – is right out. But that’s fine. Aza has her bestie by her. A chatty … Read more
A smiling James Coburn

Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round

James Coburn’s time as an A list star lasted only… how long? A year? Three? 1966’s Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round is emblematic of the films that took Coburn to the top rung and then pulled him off it again. Key exhibit here is Our Man Flint, also from 1966 – a bona fide hit giving him a star vehicle after having been eye-catching in other people’s hits, like The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and Charade. Dead Heat was not a hit but it didn’t stop Coburn returning to the Flint teat again and again, milking it dry with successive films – In Like Flint, Waterhole Three, The President’s Analyst, Duffy, Candy – comedy … Read more

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