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Magic Mike and his shirtless crew

Magic Mike’s Last Dance

And so the franchise built around Channing Tatum’s early career as a male stripper comes to an end, with one bang and, doubtless, several whimpers. Magic Mike’s Last Dance sees Steven Soderbergh return as director, director of photography and editor, writing credit goes again to Reid Carolin and Tatum makes it three in a row as he dry-humps a role that’s been good to him. The “bang” refers to Salma Hayek’s character, the immensely rich Maxandra Mendoza, who hooks up with down-on-his-luck Mike Lane (Tatum) early on, then whisks him away to the UK after he demonstrates his Magic in a raunchy private routine that leads to the “happy finish” Mendoza expressly said … Read more
Rade Šerbedžija as Aleksander

Before the Rain

One of the great feature debuts, Milcho Manchevski’s 1994 drama Before the Rain announced the arrival of new talent and went straight onto the New York Times Best 1,000 Movies list. Manchevski has been busy ever since, making rap videos, directing episodes of TV shows like The Wire and cranking out films set in the Old West and modern New York. But in between all that he’s regularly returned to Macedonia to make highly distinctive dramas, often with an episodic structure, as here, and often drawing parallels between one story and another. In Before the Rain’s first story a monk (Grégoire Colin) who has taken a vow of silence one day finds a … Read more
Diane Kruger and Liam Neeson


Warmed-over Raymond Chandler isn’t quite the same as hard-boiled Raymond Chandler, but that’s what’s on offer in Marlowe, a strange misfire that looks like it wanted to make a high-concept colourised simulacrum of a darkly noirish 1940s-style thriller and then settled instead for bloodless pastiche. It’s second order stuff all the way, from Xavi Gimenéz’s deliberately un-cinematic, almost Hallmark TV cinematography, to screenplay writer William Monahan’s flat adaptation of John Banville’s novel, itself a simulacrum of Raymond Chandler’s style. David Holmes’s non-committal (bewildered?) soundtrack kind of says it all. It’s all set in 1939, where ex-cop-now-gumshoe Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is visited by a rich, breathy, libidinous blonde (Diane Kruger) who wants him to … Read more
Klaus Kinski as Aguirre

Aguirre, Wrath of God

As madly vainglorious as the expedition it tracks, Aguirre, Wrath of God follows a raggle-taggle band of 16th-century conquistadors into uncharted South America, where they hope to find incalculable riches in the fabled city of El Dorado. It was the first of five uneasy collaborations director Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski made together. Herzog opens on a richly extravagant shot of the conquistadors, the accompanying nobles, plus native bearers and a priest in single file descending through the jungle down towards the Amazon. Money has been spent, the shot shouts. This is a magician’s deflection. Most of the “action” in this movie takes place either on a riverbank or on board a raft … Read more
Donka out in the fields


Three stories, two periods, one issue – children – in Willow, a spiky North Macedonian drama which first shows us “the old ways”, then reminds us that they exert a pull even on modern-day lives. The first story gives it to us neat. We’re in pre-modern, possibly medieval times, where childless Donka and her husband have been trying and failing to conceive for five years. They visit a crone and tell her of their predicament. They have tried all the old wives’ methods, they say, and now they have come to a proper old wife as a last ditch. She, cackling and stirring a pot like something from the Grimm brothers, tells them she … Read more
Sylvia Sidney and George Raft

You and Me

What’s the best Fritz Lang film? The argument could go on all night, and there are so many to choose from – contenders include M, Fury, You Only Live Once, The Woman in the Window, or While the City Sleeps. Or how about Rancho Notorious, Metropolis, The Big Heat or Man Hunt? So how about the worst one? 1938’s You and Me is a prime candidate. It’s still an interesting if largely unsuccessful film. Lang himself considered it to be his worst, a “lousy picture”, he said in his autobiography, in which styles argue with each other while a miscast lead does his best to make sense of a character. George Raft is … Read more
Tom Hanks as Otto

A Man Called Otto

Gently coaxing boomers away from the culture-wars trenches, Otto is the sweet story of a sour man, a Christmas movie with no snow or jumpers (or Christmas, just for the avoidance of doubt). Otto is Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, or George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, the guy failing to see that heaven is a place on earth, if you want it to be. See also Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood as the grouch copping redemption). And St Vincent (Bill Murray ditto). It’s an adaptation of a Swedish novel, En man som heter Ove (A Man Called Ove), a bestseller in many markets, and it’s already been spun off once, into … Read more
Victoria Guerra as Lena


The bare bones of ace provocateur Andrzej Zulawski’s final film, 2015’s Cosmos, are easy to lay out. A writer called Witold goes to Portugal to write a book. He is staying in a French-speaking private house, the sort of place where everyone eats dinner together in the evening. While there he strikes up a friendship with fellow holidaymaker Fuchs, a designer who’s just chucked in his job with a big French fashion house. Also there are Madame Woytis, who rules the roost, along with her second husband, Léon. Plus her daughter, Lena, and Lena’s new husband, Lucien, the pair of them so good-looking it hurts. In the evenings, while Madame twitters and Léon … Read more
Frank Grillo as Ferruccio Lamborghini

Lamborghini: the Man behind the Legend

Frank Grillo is the best thing about Lamborghini: the Man behind the Legend, putting force and subtlety into his portrayal of Ferruccio Lamborghini, the farmer’s son who wanted to make tractors, later the tractor manufacturer who became a producer of high-end sports cars. Choose your metaphor – a vehicle that never quite gets going, a gear change fumbled, an engine running on the wrong fuel – this a strange film relying on prior knowledge, and lots of it, to fill in the gaps. Back from the Second World War, young Ferruccio (played here by Romano Reggiani) disappoints his farmer father by proclaiming that he’ll not be taking on the farm when his time … Read more
Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor

The Narrow Margin

Dangers on a train? If it’s jeopardy on board a speedling locomotive you want, The Narrow Margin is the way to go. Made for buttons, shot in 13 days and with no big tentpole stars, it made the name of director Richard Fleischer, a B-movie guy bumped straight up to the big time once it eventually debuted. “Eventually” because RKO’s owner Howard Hughes sat on it for two years. There are many theories as to why – one prime candidate is that he was going to reshoot bits of it with bigger names to capitalise on its obvious qualities. Another that the film got caught up in Hughes’s machinations as he tried to … Read more
Young Siegfried in his room


Terence Davies struggled to raise the finance for Benediction, as he does so often with his films. There’s no multiplex demand for Emily Dickinson (subject of his last feature, 2016’s A Quiet Passion) or Edith Wharton (2000’s The House of Mirth), he’s told, and in any case the uncompromising Davies isn’t the sort of writer/director to meet audiences halfway with explication-heavy dialogue. Producers and money men take fright. And yet, every time a new Davies movie does finally make it to the screen, it turns out that there is an audience for it, the people who have some idea who this modernist poet was, or that infamous writer, or want to know more. … Read more
Jeff Bridges as Richard Bone

Cutter’s Way

When it’s remembered at all, 1981’s Cutter’s Way is often lumped in with All the President’s Men, The Parallax View and other 1970s conspiracy dramas, but it’s much more at home in the company of 1970s noirish murder thrillers, like Chinatown, or, most obviously, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. Apart from mis-categorisation its other big problem is its title. It was originally Cutter and Bone, after the two men at its centre, drunk, angry firecracker Alex Cutter (John Heard), who lost an eye, an arm and a leg in a war we assume to be Vietnam. And slinky, college-educated golden boy Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges), whose given and family names both hint at … Read more

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