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Charlie on the sofa

The Whale

The Whale did something that films these days hardly ever do. When it was released in 2022 it opened small, in “limited release” in a handful of cinemas. It had done well at Cannes and at the festivals but no one really expected a film by Darren Aronofsky and starring Brendan Fraser – neither of them hot any more – to keep on growing, week on week. But it did, opening in more and more cinemas, until it was in 1,500 theatres on its sixth week, up from six on its opening weekend. Word of mouth is what did it, and the word was that Fraser was exceptional as Charlie, a morbidly obese … Read more
Princess Asa as the mask is about to be fitted

Black Sunday

1960’s Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan aka La Mascera del Demonio) is an amazingly productive film. It put a shot in the arm of the Italian horror biz – in terms of crowd-pleasing genre movies it had been mostly swords and sandals up till then. In Mario Bava it created Italy’s pre-eminent horror maestro – and this was his debut feature as director. And it also turned Barbara Steele, a Rank contract player, into an icon of the Italian horror scene. The inspiration is Nikolai Gogol’s story Viy, about a witch who can manifest either as a crone or a virgin attempting to come back to life and being prevented from … Read more
Brendan Fehr as the best man

The Best Man

It’s 2023 and Dolph Lundgren is still knocking out the action movies. The Best Man is the latest of a long line going back to his debut in a small role in the Bond movie A View to a Kill (he was Grace Jones’s bodyguard/boyfriend at the time) and it’s a notch above the sort of thing you once found at checkouts in service stations or in revolving racks in local mini-marts. It’s Die Hard, in all but name, except Dolph gets an assist by Luke Wilson and Brendan Fehr – the three horsemen of the apocalypse who will spring (lumber in Dolph’s case – he’s 65) into action when the wedding party … Read more
Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Daddy Nostalgie

Dirk Bogarde’s final film, Daddy Nostalgie (released as Daddy Nostalgia in the UK and These Foolish Things in the US), is also, arguably, Jane Birkin’s best one and a reminder (writing this just days after she died) how good she could be away from the shadow cast by Serge Gainsbourg. It’s a small-scale, almost subterranean drama, played out on the sunny Cote d’Azur, where retiree Tony (Bogarde) is recovering from a serious operation. The op might not have worked and Tony might not have long for this world. Time to get his affairs in order, settle things with wife Miche (Odette Laure) and daughter Caroline (Birkin) before the grim reaper turns up. And … Read more
A pouting Barbi aka Viva


The IMDb plot keywords for Viva include “large breasts” and “limp penis”, a rough indicator of what’s being served up in Anna Biller’s debut, a relentlessly accurate and grim pastiche of the pornified world of the 1970s sexploitation movie, or 1970s society itself. Biller wrote, directed, produced, edited, wrote some of the songs, designed the clothes and sets, painted the paintings, did the animated sequence and even played the organ. She also plays the main character. You could say it’s her film. What a world she’s conjured. Barbi (Biller), a suburban wife who we meet in her bath, tits prominent, smoking, drinking wine and looking pretty morose as she flicks through a magazine. … Read more
Mary crawls out of the river

Carnival of Souls

Shot in three weeks by a guy on a break from his real job, 1962’s Carnival of Souls is a spooky thriller about a woman who somehow survives a fatal car accident then drifts around for the rest of the movie like a restless spirit in a too-concrete world. It’s been described as something like an extended episode of the Twilight Zone – something like the Black Mirror of its day – which is largely down to the spectral, evocative organ score by Gene Moore, as well as the gotcha reveal at the finish, which won’t gotcha anyone who’s consuming as much media product as 21st-century audiences do. Director Herk Harvey said he … Read more
Ruby in the underwater realm

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

The Ruby in the jolly and entertaining Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is, true to billing, a Kraken. Which is to say, Wikipedia definition, a giant sea monster that’s found off the coast of Norway, according to old sailor lore. Krakens don’t turn up in movies as often as vampires, zombies or even werewolves, but there are more of these folkloric creatures about than you might think – Victor Hugo and Jules Verne wrote about them, so did Alfred Lord Tennyson and Herman Melville (in Moby-Dick). John Wyndham perhaps most famously, in his novel The Kraken Wakes. But they also make an appearance in Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean. So Krakens … Read more
Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney in a car

Young and Innocent

Minor Hitchcock but a major surprise (to me at least), 1937’s Young and Innocent is terribly, terribly British and also terribly, terribly entertaining, a near-comedy that’s bright, sunny, fast, brilliantly made and very grin-inducing. Made two years after The 39 Steps it is basically the same film all over again, but with more comedy and less jeopardy and English rural locations standing in for the wilds of Scotland. Its stars don’t look too unlike Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll either. Derrick De Marney plays Robert, the square-headed decent chap accused of a murder he didn’t commit and Nova Pilbeam is Erica, the pretty blonde who helps him out. She’s not shackled to him, … Read more
Scarlett Johansson in red top and matching lipstick

Asteroid City

Welcome to Asteroid City, Wes Anderson’s companion piece to The French Despatch, another film appearing to take its inspiration from yellowing adverts in ancient back issues of Life magazine to depict a world where corporate capture by Hollywood, the military-industrial complex and Madison Avenue is rendered in Anderson’s ironic deadpan – the writing, the acting, the visuals, the soundtrack all point in the same direction. The action centres on a 1950s desert waystation where a motley group of people get trapped together after a recent atom bomb test, and then get locked down (spot the pandemic) after an alien arrives and steals the asteroid that gives the area its name. Anderson’s usual collection … Read more
Gigi Darlene in black negligee on a bed

Bad Girls Go to Hell

What great tits Gigi Darlene has. They cantilever out from her body in a way that makes the star of cult sexploitationer Bad Girls Go to Hell hard to miss and easy to appreciate, from an engineering perspective if nothing else. They are the star of this film, the agents of all the action. Gigi Darlene uses them like weapons, pointing them in the necessary direction and making sure she’s got her target located properly, then leaves her breasts to do the rest. Gigi Darlene wasn’t her real name, nor was the actor playing her screen husband called George La Rocque (they were Heli Weinreich and Charles Mazin) but they fit their screen … Read more
The Flash, in close-up

The Flash

The Flash is a superhero movie that knows exactly where it is in the scheme of these things – the end of days – and uses that as its own super power. This is a film that cuts quickly to the chase, doesn’t overdo the lore and knows that laughter is a good alternative to roughage in a superhero diet. It even understands that the obligatory “guys beating the shit out of each other” big finish is in need of an overhaul and needs freshening up a touch. We need to talk about Ezra Miller. The onetime star of a film about a teenager with serious issues grew into an adult with problems of … Read more
Johnny hiding in a dark place

Odd Man Out

The tragedy is Greek but the accents are Irish in 1947’s Odd Man Out, a day in the death of a wounded Republican man on the run in Belfast. The film turned James Mason from a British star into an international one and is often rated as director Carol Reed’s best film. Peckinpah loved it. Polanski also. Mason thought it was the best thing he ever did. An opening statement declares that this isn’t really about partisan struggle in Northern Ireland, where Republican Catholics were engaged in a long struggle against Protestant Unionists. And, true to their word, director Carol Reed and writers FL Green (he also wrote the book the film is … Read more

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