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Cordelia and Frank in a Tube tunnel


The actor Antonia Campbell-Hughes is worth watching in anything she’s in. She’s particularly good at the externalisation of anxiety and there’s plenty of that in Cordelia, the story of a broken London woman trying to put her life back together after some terrible event. The event was the terrorist bombings of London in July 2005, though all we learn of what happened then is how it’s left Cordelia, an actor now afraid to leave the house, who hasn’t used the Underground ever since (this was made in 2019 and is set then too), and who leans heavily on her twin sister (also played by AC-H), a boozy, fun-lover who is presumably everything Cordelia … Read more
Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard


The formidably talented maverick Leos Carax hasn’t made a feature in nine years, nothing since 2012’s batshit Holy Motors, so that’s one thing to thank the new movie Annette for. Whether Annette actually is a Carax movie at all is the question though. How so, you ask. Because Annette is written by Ron (he of toothbrush moustache) and Russell (he of swooping voice) Mael, the brothers behind Sparks, the US band that bounced into the zeitgeist in 1974 with the song This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us, and has returned, comet-like, every few years since with material ear-catching and interesting enough to win new fans. Originally bracketed with the … Read more
Stefani and Zola


A nasty-ass neo-noir, Zola is based on the true story of Detroit dancer and waitress A’Ziah King, Zola to her friends. Over 148 tweets written in a clear and vivid prose style she laid out how her new stripper friend Stefani had tricked her into taking a job as a prostitute. Tweet one starts, “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out?” The tweets went viral and the story got picked up by Rolling Stone, who turned it into a feature: Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted. Movie offers followed. At what point James Franco came on board is unclear … Read more
Roxanne and Cyrano


If the tricky bit in musicals is the moment when people transition into song, what about the quasi-musical? Cyrano demonstrates that the problem isn’t doubled but squared – every time Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett or Kelvin Harrison Jr burst into song, it’s a genuine shock. The fact that the actual songs are a bit hit and miss is an added burden. In Edmond Rostand’s original story, Cyrano de Bergerac is the warrior poet with a massive nose and effortlessly spectacular language skills who falls badly for Roxanne, his ideal of femininity, but then helps a fellow soldier – handsome but dim Christian – woo her with his words, knowing that he has no … Read more
Desi licks chococlate off Lucy's face

Lucy and Desi

Amy Poehler’s debut documentary Lucy and Desi wants to tell the story, not unreasonably given its title, of both titan-of-TV-comedy Lucille Ball and her husband, business partner and co-star Desi Arnaz. Immediately there’s a problem. Lucy was a genuine star, Desi was not. Whatever his many talents behind the scenes, first as a musician then as a producer, they didn’t translate to the screen, and even a cursory glance at any one of Desi’s many appearances alongside his wife reveal a man who looks like he’s eager to get out of the bright lights. Not everyone can be a gifted comic actor, or wants to be. This asymmetrical twin focus is tough enough, … Read more
Catherine Frot and Déborah François in The Page Turner

The Page Turner

It’s often forgotten how much genre output the French make, and how well they do it. This icy thriller in a Chabrolesque mould has two brilliant performances at its centre. On the one side we have Déborah François as Mélanie, a young girl from a poor family whose ambition to become a pianist is ruined at an audition which goes so badly that she gives up playing for good. And on the other side we have Catherine Frot as the reason it went so badly, as Ariane, the famous pianist who is so blithely unaware of what the audition means for Mélanie that she signs an autograph for an adoring fan halfway through, … Read more
Gordon and his mother

Where’s Poppa

Running on the same fuel as the UK comedy Steptoe and Son (or the US version of it Sanford and Son), Where’s Poppa is the story of a would-be suave, would-be lothario constantly being thwarted by his aged parent. George Segal plays the New York guy keen to spread his wild oats. Ruth Gordon is the insufferable mother he shares an apartment with, a woman who’s gone senile, or is maybe just making out she’s senile the better to thwart any chance of happiness for her son. It’s a loose-cannon story tracking the efforts of Gordon (Segal) to introduce a new nurse, Louise (Trish Van Devere) into the household, his mother having chased … Read more
Captain Conan and Norbert argue

Captain Conan

The French writer/director Bertrand Tavernier died earlier this year (2021), like François Truffaut another of that band of movie critics who went on to prove that they could make great films as well as write about them. Captain Conan (Capitaine Conan) might not be the most shining example of Tavernier at his best, but it is a great example of what he was good at – sidestepping genre, effortless (almost invisible) technique, humane performances. It stars the effortlessly charming Philippe Torreton as the titular captain, a rough and ready officer in charge of a team of guerrilla-style fighters who specialise in quick in-and-out sorties and sabotage. They’re what we’d now call a SWAT … Read more
Captain Kronos rests against a tree

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

There’s a bat stuck “splat!” on to someone’s face at a certain point in Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, which just about sums up this film made in 1972 (released in 1974), an attempt by writer/director Brian Clemens and his crew to breathe new life into the vampire genre and the Hammer Studio’s output. Clemens was the moving spirit behind the British TV spy-fi series The Avengers, which had ceased production in 1969 after an eight-year run. Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, in the interim he’d created the comedy series My Wife Next Door, and written for TV shows The Champions and The Protectors, and also penned the screenplay … Read more
Colm sits while Pádraic broods outside at the window

The Banshees of Inisherin

The films of Martin McDonagh are full of lonely, isolated people and The Banshees of Inisherin is no exception. Like In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri before it, this is the story of missed or missing connections. This time, though, it’s particularly bleak. Billed as a comedy, The Banshees of Inisherin isn’t full of laughs, and they tend to come early on. Things get darker as the film goes on. It reinstates the In Bruges coupling of Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, here as longtime friends who live on an island off the coast of Ireland in 1923. While the civil war has been raging away just over there … Read more
James Coburn and Joan Delaney

The President’s Analyst

With Elon Musk currently trailing his Neuralink “brain machine interface” idea as the future of inter-personal communications, how about The President’s Analyst, a 1967 movie that got there first? It’s called the Cerebrum Communicator – a brain implant that will render phone calls unnecessary – and comes at the familiar point in this spytastic spoof when the evil megalomaniac mastermind is laying out his plan for total world domination (or something) to Dr Schaefer, whose role as the US president’s analyst has got him caught up in a pantomime of escalating espionage mayhem. Before we all get too carried away with an idea that arrives from nowhere and is soon despatched there too, it’s … Read more
Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage in The Family Man

The Family Man

On with the florid jumper, down with the heavy meat-based meal and away we go for Christmas. Oh no it isn’t, I hear you shouting. See, you’re getting it. But, inexplicably, when this festive-themed movie was released in the UK on DVD, it was decided that the middle of the summer was the time to do it. Windows, that’s the reason – the scheduling slots decreed by the suits to give the cinemas time to milk the product first, before the home entertainment departments get their hands on the big cash-laden teat. It’s that sort of film too – two sets of concerns vie for a hold on the central character, played by … Read more

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