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Chris and Bud screaming

Bad Trip

Bad Trip is Borat revisited. Same basic idea – pranks being foisted on real people, with a bit of scripted dramatic infill (a story) connecting the gotchas together. The pranks are all standalones, one-offs, which explains that no matter how short this sort of film is (the two Borat movies and Bad Trip all come in at a sober 90 minutes-ish), they always feel a bit too long. But is Bad Trip funny is surely the only important question? The answer is that, yes, it is. I went into laugh-out-loud vocalising at about 15 minutes in and erupted frequently right up to the final moments. The plot is a string of spider silk caught … Read more
Window cleaners in white bowler hats and overalls

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 3 – Super Secret Cypher Snatch

As mentioned briefly in the previous post (and explained much more fully on the Avengers Forever website), there was a brief interregnum in the final series of The Avengers, when John Bryce took over as producer, only for Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell to return to save the day after Bryce got hopelessly bogged down. So in this series we’ve got a bunch of Bryce episodes and a whole lot more with Clemens as showrunner. Easiest way to distinguish is Tara King’s hair – if it’s blond, it’s Bryce. Super Secret Cypher Snatch is not one of those blond episodes. In fact Clemens and Fennell made quite sure that it was “their” Tara … Read more
The Daughters for Aryan Unity meet

Soft & Quiet

How to discuss Soft & Quiet without saying too much about Soft & Quiet? There is one left-field blindsiding moment early on that changes the entire complexion of the film and which goes on to drive everything that happens in the increasingly fraught and, dare I say it, hysterical second half. Much screaming, much very bad behaviour. And it all starts so nicely. With Emily (Stefanie Estes), a kindergarten teacher of butter-wouldn’t-melt blandness who has organised a meeting of fellow concerned women in the white-picket US town where she lives. At this inaugural meeting, Emily writes the club name, the Daughters for Aryan Unity, up on the whiteboard, before adding underneath, “Feminine not … Read more
Alicia Keys in Smokin' Aces

Smokin’ Aces

For anyone who gets confused between Ben Affleck and Ryan Reynolds, Joe (Narc) Carnahan’s latest feast of bang-bang macho will be very bewildering indeed, since they’re both in it. But then bewilderment seems to be what Smokin’ Aces is about. The hip-feast is built around Jeremy Piven, playing Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Las Vegas showman and stool pigeon whose decision to turn state’s evidence has signed his death warrant. Enter just about everybody else – either part of his close-knit retinue, part of the FBI team trying to protect him, one of the mob out to get him, or one of the other guys who also, confusingly, seem out to get him. Girls too, … Read more
Bill Paterson and Tilda Swinton

Friendship’s Death

There’s been a slight revival of interest in Peter Wollen’s Friendship’s Death since the London Film Festival chose it as one of the items they wanted to pluck from obscurity by showcasing it in their 2020 Treasures section, alongside films such as The Cheaters, an Australian silent thriller from 1929, and Chess of the Wind (aka Shatranj-e Baad), a 1976 film shining a light on pre-revolutionary Iran. Besides which Friendship’s Death – British, from 1987 and starring very known quantities Bill Paterson and Tilda Swinton – seems a bit of a damp squib, even if it was one of film theorist Wollen’s few directorial credits. A loose description isn’t likely to cause priapic … Read more
Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Casino Royale

You only live twice, or so they say. Casino Royale is the old Bond song incarnate. Because we have been here before. Not titularly – though we have, in the 1967 spoof made by a gaggle of writers and directors (John Huston, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and Joseph Heller among them) who must have been high. Tonally, I mean. After A View to a Kill, Roger Moore’s last Bond and a bad performer at the box office, moves were made to zhuzh up the increasingly tired formula. In came Timothy Dalton, out went the eyebrow, and for a couple of films, which in retrospect, look better and better, there was a return to … Read more
Meinhard Neumann as Meinhard


Western isn’t set out West but out East, in Bulgaria, where a gang of Germans have just arrived to build a hydro-electric system close to a remote village near the Greek border which could probably do with the infrastructure upgrade. Beware, Indians! There have been Germans here before, one of the locals tells the new arrivals, back in the War. Nice, respectful, orderly types, he reminisces. Though this guy is maybe 70 and can only have vestigial memory of the Second World War if any at all. The Germans build a camp, hoist a flag, get on with their work and, in their spare time go swimming in the river. There, the boss, … Read more
Steed throttles a clown

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 23 – Conspiracy of Silence

Tight direction is the saving of Conspiracy of Silence, episode 23 of the second series of The Avengers, a mix of the confusing and the humdrum. Why, for example, is Steed being targeted by a killer while he’s out walking his dog? The imdb brief description tells us it’s because he interrupted a drug-trafficking op run by the Mafia. So, assuming you are the Mafia, why not just kill him in one of the more usual ways, rather than deploy an innocent, Carlo (Robert Rietty), transformed into an automaton killer by a trigger phrase in a redundant mind-control subplot? Perhaps The Avengers were just warming up the idea for future episodes – mind control … Read more
Nela, Julija and Ante


Martin Scorsese must be asked to lend his name to films by unknowns all the time. Murina obviously impressed him – he’s on board as an executive producer. It also won the Caméra d’Or, the gong handed out at Cannes to the best film by a debut director. Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic is that director and her film is a brilliant, tightly wound study of a family falling apart. It would be ugly if it weren’t set on the coast of Croatia, an idyll where grouchy Ante (Leon Lucev), his pretty wife Nela (Danica Curcic) and their lithe, sporty daughter Julija (Gracija Filipovic) live a simple life, catching fish to eat to supplement their … Read more
Adolphe Menjou and Dick Powell (centre of pic)

The Tall Target

A director on his way up meets a star on his way down in The Tall Target, a 1951 B movie about a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in 1861, the year the American Civil War broke out. Anthony Mann directs, one year on from his breakthrough into the big time with the western Winchester ’73, and Dick Powell stars as the New York cop who’s uncovered the plot and is finding the world reluctant to hear him out. Bizarrely, the cop is called John Kennedy, and the plot consists of shooting the president from an upstairs window using a rifle with a telescopic sight. Work that into one of the many … Read more
Steed and One-Ten

The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 13 – Death Dispatch

John Steed and Cathy Gale’s party trick, a duet working variations on the theme of the invincibility of the British upper class, really comes into its own in Death Dispatch, the 13th broadcast episode of series two. We’re off in the sort of colonial landscape described by Graham Greene – of swarthy thugs, Freudian dictators and minor functionaries of the Empire, a place where life is cheap and death is pitiless, as we see in the opening shots of this story where a low-level envoy newly in from Washington is quickly despatched in his hotel room in Jamaica. Cut to Steed, ogling women from his Caribbean sun lounger and meeting his control, One-Ten … Read more
Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Anison in The Break-Up

The Break-Up

What do you do when you’ve been in a high-profile relationship with Brad Pitt, only for it all to go spectacularly tits up? Jennifer Aniston went out and made a romcom about the perfect relationship and how it all went wrong. That might seem more than mere coincidence but anyone looking for coded digs at Brangelina from one half of Jett, Brenifer, or whatever the composite name for Brad and Jen was (have I just forgotten, or was the relationship doomed thanks to lack of a trash-mag moniker?) is going to have to get out the electron microscope. Yes, this is a romcom starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn as a couple who … Read more

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