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Thandie Newton and Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible II

Mission: Impossible II

Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is back, tasked with saving the world from a dastardly villain intent on unleashing a deadly virus – cackle, preen. The “this time it’s personal” angle comes from the fact that the villain is a former Impossible-ist himself, and also the former lover of the woman Mr Hunt is now in love with. You’d have thought it a mission impossible to make a duff sequel to Brian De Palma’s all-action 1996 movie with the fine ingredients assembled here. For starters there’s the $125m budget and Cruise, still one of the biggest stars in the world (he earned $60m+ for this). Then there’s the damsel in distress, Thandie Newton, a … Read more
Mrs Peel surrounded by a halo reading a ZZ Schnerk Production

The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 11 – Epic

When writers run out of ideas, they either start cannibalising their own old ones (see the episode from two weeks’ prior – The Correct Way to Kill), they duck into comedy (no refuge for a series that already has its tongue boring a hole through its cheek) or they reach for genre parody. Epic dips its toe in the water of the third option in an episode that parodies old-school Hollywood excess. Kenneth J Warren, Isa Miranda and Peter Wyngarde are the guest actors drafted into play a trio of archetypes, arch types, even – Warren is an Erich Von Stroheim stripe of director, all monocle, bullet head and high-flown notions of the importance … Read more
Brea Grant with duct tape


And so, Lucky, a gigantically ironic title for a film about a woman being stalked night after night in her own home. It stars Brea Grant, who also wrote it, and until recently I’d not heard of her. But there she was just a few weeks back in After Midnight, Jeremy Gardner’s cute, smart, smallscale horror film about a man being stalked night after night in his own home – she played Gardner’s wife – and now here she is in what could be called a companion piece. Both films make use of the massive film-making infrastructure of the West Coast – technicians who just know how to do stuff quickly and properly … Read more
The Mangrove Nine in the dock

Small Axe: Mangrove

Small Axe: Mangrove is the first of a series of five standalone films made for the BBC by Steve McQueen. The umbrella title takes its name from the reggae song by Bob Marley (or Lee Perry, depending on who you ask) and though it was originally aimed at the big-name Jamaican music producers muscling everyone else out of the market, it translates perfectly to any underdog story. Mangrove is that story – 1968, Notting Hill in London, before it became the Notting Hill of Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts fame, was a downmarket inner-city area full of fine houses left to rot, crammed with too many tenants, many of them from the West Indies. It … Read more
Herman Mankiewicz at work in bed


Mank is the story, well known to film nerds, of the writing of Citizen Kane, for many the greatest film ever made. More exactly it’s two stories, one about writer Herman Mankiewicz dishing the dirt on press baron William Randolph Hearst (his model for press baron Charles Foster Kane) and his paramour Marion Davies, the other about director Orson Welles doing Mankiewicz out of a screen credit for his work. Inserted almost as an afterthought is yet another story – about the socialist Upton Sinclair and his campaign to become governor of California, and how his guns were spiked by the movie studios. Installed at a secluded cabin in the Mojave desert with … Read more
Christina and Nicole

Les Diaboliques

Les Diaboliques is the film that Alfred Hitchcock missed out on making after getting pipped to the post by another master of suspense, Henri-Georges Clouzot. If the story is true, Clouzot stayed up all night reading the original novel, Celle qui n’était plus, and then called writers Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac the next morning, desperate to have the rights. By the time Hitchcock rang a few hours later those rights were no longer available. Hitchcock did not walk away entirely empty handed. Boileau and Narcejac went on to write D’Entre les Morts for him, which he turned into Vertigo, currently ranked at number one in the Sight & Sound 100 Greatest Films … Read more
Shepherd with his flock of women

The Other Lamb

Omens and portents abound in The Other Lamb, action not so much. Following the story of Selah (Raffey Cassidy), it’s set in a cult headed by a man known as the Shepherd, otherwise populated exclusively by women, who are designated either as Wives or Daughters. For easy identification and to reduce individuality even more, the Wives dress in purple, the Daughters in Blue. They live in the modern world but away from it, out in the woods where they slaughter their own animals – sheep, appropriately – and butcher the meat themselves. They seem content, happy even, though little jealousies flare now and again when Shepherd chooses to lay with one wife rather … Read more
Mother and daughter cower


Settlers is a sci-fi film so far away from what people usually term sci-fi that it barely qualifies. In fact it opens looking like a western – big craggy mountains in a dusty landscape – and then plays out like a wildlife documentary. The sort of wildlife documentary where a new male lion arrives on the scene, kills the old leader of the pride and then moves in with the lionesses who were already there. It’s the law of the savannah. In this scenario the existing cubs usually get killed, a fact innately understood by young Remmy (Brooklynn Prince) after new male Jerry (Ismael Cruz Córdova) arrives at their remote settlement, displaces dad … Read more
Defence lawyer Vinay Vora with public prosecutor Nutan


Chaitanya Tamhane’s feature debut, Court, tells the story of a 65-year-old “people’s poet” who is up in court on charges of having incited the suicide of a sewer worker. Narayan Kamble is a grey-haired firebrand who sings angry songs about the state of the world and his beloved India, and how the love of money is destroying spiritual values. Apparently, he has sung a song strongly advocating that sewer workers should kill themselves. It must have been a catchy tune and/or forceful lyrically because two days later a man did just that. Was the death suicide? Was the song ever even sung? – that’s what the court case is meant to ascertain. While Tamhane … Read more
Dragon Eye Morrison

Electric Dragon 80.000 V

Eisenstein, Frankenstein and Tetsuo walk into a bar… Not quite, but Electric Dragon 80.000 V gets most of the way towards a bizarre blend of effects and styles in Gakuryû Ishii’s superhero mash-up, 55 minutes of entirely wordless stark black-and-white imagery with all the action set to a relentless punk thrash. How’s this for an origin story, dealt with in the opening minutes – young boy climbs up a pylon and receives a massive electric shock, recovers but grows up as a problem kid being given repeated doses of electro-shock therapy. Eventually, Dragon Eye Morrison, as the IMDb tells us he’s called (there are no on-screen clues), throws off his shackles, gives himself a few … Read more
Wil Wheaton and Brian Landis Folkins


Set in 1990 and influenced by the moment when direct-to-VHS schlock met cheap synthesisers, Rent-A-Pal actually takes its inspiration from a point further back in time, when The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone put high-concept sci-fi, often with a twist, on primetime TV. It’s a four-hander, with Brian Landis Folkins playing David, a 40-year-old sad sack whose life is dominated by the fact that he’s his demented mother’s carer. Since he barely leaves the house, he has no girlfriend, which is why he’s half-heartedly signed up to Video Rendezvous – you choose the woman you like from a tape full of pitches made by female lonely hearts – the sort of outfit … Read more
Borat leaving his village pursued by a mob

Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm

Sacha Baron Cohen retired his anti-semitic fake Kazakh TV journalist after the first Borat movie, 14 years ago, reasoning that when someone is that well known the joke – unsuspecting members of the public gulled into compromising situations – won’t work any more. So he either felt the time was right or he needed the money his most famous creation can raise – make benefit the Baron Cohen bank account – and out Borat is wheeled for what is essentially a re-run of the first film. That had a quest structure – Borat searching for Pamela Anderson – and so has this, except this time Borat is crossing the USA to meet Vice … Read more

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