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The Guardians ready for actions

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 wraps up the grungey offshoot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with grace and style, as well as big bangs and some good jokes. There’s a touch of cinematic pathos in there too, as if GOTG3 is also to some extent saying goodbye to the big superhero movie as a cultural meme. The MCU, after all, is running out of puff. It’s the film that nearly didn’t get made in its current form. Writer/director James Gunn, very much the presiding mind in all the GOTG movies, got fired early on in the production process – some old Tweets came back to bite him – but ended up being … Read more
Tora Teje as Irene

Erotikon

What else did the director Mauritz Stiller do, apart from discover Greta Garbo and take her to America? Erotikon is one answer, a cult silent movie remarkably triumphing in a genre that usually needs dialogue to succeed. It’s a farce and Stiller gets it up and running in two opening scenes sketching his two main characters. In one corner Leo Charpentier, a professor of entomology who can wax lyrical about the sexual proclivities of the male beetle – how it likes to put it about a bit, in short – without ever realising that the same might apply to a) the female beetle, b) a human subject and c) most pertinently, his wife. We … Read more
Deco with fangs, Matt behind him

Let the Wrong One In

Comedy horror – no surprise there, surely – Let the Wrong One In takes the vampire movie and does a Shaun of the Dead number on it. Which is to say: arcane lore is exposed to the withering light of everyday life. Result: funny, and another contender for the Ireland’s Comic Horror Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Shrooms and Grabbers. Conor McMahon gets his film going with lurid gothic titles and a bit of a Hammer horror parody. We’re in Transylvania where Sheila (Mary Murray) and her gal pals are on a hen weekend, getting drunk, carrying around giant inflatable penises and the like, when Mary is suddenly approached by a … Read more
Maria full face portrait

The Marriage of Maria Braun

The first of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “BRD Trilogy”, The Marriage of Maria Braun (aka Die Ehe der Maria Braun) is a canonical part of the New German Cinema era of the 1970s and in its key figure, Maria (Hanna Schygulla), gives us post-War Germany’s spectacular economic rebirth (die Wirtschaftswunder) distilled down into a single person. Fassbinder starts us off in the dog days of the Second World War. The first image on the screen is a portrait of Hitler, seconds later dislodged by the shock wave from a falling bomb to reveal a man and woman in the process of getting married while the world literally explodes around them. Maria and Hermann. Cut … Read more
Thien feeds a baby bird

Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell

Because it’s set in Vietnam, it’s easy if a bit crass to see Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell as a metaphysical Apocalypse Now, one man’s journey upriver in search of spiritual enlightenment. Well, that’s most of the readers gone. For those who remain, this remarkable debut by Pham Thiên Ân is pretty much as already described, with the “Yellow Cocoon Shell”, according to Pham, standing for human attachment to baubles, trinkets and stuff in general. We are inside the Shell and the task life sets us is to break free. It sounds Buddhist but in fact the vibe in this film is largely Catholic, which is how Pham was raised. There is a … Read more
Miklo, Cruz and Paco in front of an old station wagon

Blood In, Blood Out

Clearly intending to do for Chicanos what Scorsese and Coppola did for Italian Americans, 1993’s Blood In, Blood Out cannot be accused of a lack of ambition. A big, long, zeitgeist-tasting tale of life in and around the gangs inside and outside prison, it follows three East Los Angeles guys on a journey from callow youth to some sort of maturity, each winding up in a place he might not have expected. Miklo, Cruz and Paco are three streetwise Chicanos. Spanish peppers their streetspeak as they swagger around their rough neighbourhood in cartoon exaggerations of masculinity. Cruz is a street artist with ambitions to be something more. Half-brother Paco is a cock of … Read more
Claire looking frightened in a corridor

Double Blind

Irish horror movies have a tendency to be inventive, ingenious and out there, and Double Blind ticks all those boxes. I told a mate I was watching an Irish horror movie and he wondered what categorised a horror movie as Irish. “Is it,” he ventured, “killer potatoes?” No, Mark, no. Like 2012’s massively underrated Stitches, or The Canal, or (for the more comedically inclined) Grabbers, this is a horror movie made in Ireland, written and directed by Irish talent, with a few Irish actors in the cast, though the lead role in this case (as in Stitches and The Canal) goes to a Brit, Millie Brady, who plays a young woman called Claire … Read more
The condemned man has a last cigarette

Happy End

If you’ve never heard of Oldrich Lipský before, here’s your chance to get to know him. Second Run, purveyors of overlooked European movies, are re-releasing Happy End, Lipský’s 1967 comedy. Compared to the titles of other Lipský films – The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians, I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen and Adele Has Not Had Her Supper Yet – Happy End sounds almost commonplace. Do not be taken in. Lipský lived from 1924 to 1986 in Czechoslovakia (now Czechia or the Czech Republic) and made comedies suffused with Dada, the surreal and magical realism, the sort of weird stuff that’s often the refuge of the scoundrel. But like fellow Czech (though ten years younger) Jan … Read more
Ludvig stands on a blazing heath

The Promised Land

Mads Mikkelsen is a reassuring presence in any movie and is the making of The Promised Land (Bastarden in the original Danish), a movie that promises much and eventually delivers too much, but stylishly, always stylishly. He plays Ludvig Kahlen, an 18th-century ex-soldier who petitions the Danish king to allow him to cultivate the Jutland Heath, a vast expanse of the country on which nothing, a preamble tells us, will grow. His petition is accepted by the courtiers who act as an intermediary between the Kahlen and the monarch. It’s one of the drunken king’s crazy schemes, this turning of the wilderness into farmland, and the courtiers reason that by agreeing to Kahlen’s … Read more
A sweaty, brainwashed Raymond Shaw

The Manchurian Candidate

Thrillers generally work backwards, towards who done it or why. The Manchurian Candidate doesn’t do it that way at all. We know that something’s wrong from the opening scenes of John Frankenheimer’s superbly chilly Cold War thriller, but we’ve no idea where everything is headed. And Frankenheimer keeps it that way until the film’s dying (literally) moments. The Day of the Jackal borrowed quite a bit of The Manchurian Candidate’s cold deliberate approach, but we always knew that the hitman in that movie was aiming to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle. Here we know next to nothing, though early scenes make clear that a platoon of US soldiers in Korea has been … Read more
Marmalade in a car

Marmalade

A clever one-two of a movie, Marmalade starts out looking like one thing, then turns into something else, but saves its best moves for the finale, when revelations come tumbling out at a rate of knots. What it looks like is one of those dweeby, comic coming-of-agers of the early 2000s, movies like Elizabethtown or Garden State, in which uptight milquetoast guys are given an injection of va-va-voom by a force-of-nature free-spirit female. The creation of the passive, sex-starved male writer, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl – one dimensional, a catalyst in someone else’s story rather than a hero in her own and just incidentally as hot as lava – was so ubiquitous … Read more
A skeleton lies in a hospital bed

Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America

I’m not sure why there aren’t more movies like Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies under America. To make one all you need is some found footge – real found footage, not stuff you faked – an edit suite and a voiceover. Plus ideas. This strange movie from 1992 is a collage of bits and pieces that writer/director Craig Baldwin got his hands on when, according to Wikipedia, lots of film works were being “discarded by institutions changing to VHS” (who would discard film for VHS, makes no sense at all). Baldwin snapped up bits of pieces of celluloid heading for the dumpster and headed off to make his film with them, picking up Sean Kilkoyne … Read more

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