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Steed pours vodka on his bowler

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 32 – Get-A-Way!

The penultimate Avengers episode actually goes right back to the early days of this series’ production run. There was over a year between the completion of Get-A-Way! in February 1968 and its transmission in May 1969. It’s one of the ones produced (or started, at any rate) by John Bryce, whose short-lived attempt to take The Avengers back to some version of realism never really had enough time to gain traction before the old team of Clemens and Fennell were reinstated. Invisibility (realism?) is what Get-A-Way! is all about. Invisibility at a high-security prison for enemy agents, run as if it were a monastery – the warders wear habits (again, realism?) – where … Read more
Hank on the sofa

After Midnight

A few years ago Jeremy Gardner wrote, directed and co-starred in The Battery, a criminally underrated zombie movie that just had two guys in it… and a horde of zombies. It examined a relationship that had gone on too long – two guys who’d played together in a baseball team and who were then thrown into too-close proximity by an apocalypse – and watched as its final stages played out… with a horde of zombies. Gardner, now co-directing with The Battery’s producer and cinematographer Christian Stella, pulls off something similar with After Midnight. No zombies this time, just a mystery monster lurking outside and a relationship going wrong inside. Gardner is again in a lead … Read more
Clément, daughter Linn and Sandra lean over a gate

One Fine Morning aka Un Beau Matin

The latest report on Mia Hansen-Løve’s mission to keep alive a style of intimate, undemonstrative French cinema, One Fine Morning (Un Beau Matin) stars a highly impressive Léa Seydoux in a role that’s a world away from 007 glamour. Hansen-Løve is the daughter of philosophy professors and so in Seydoux’s Sandra Kienzler there’s every temptation to read-across from reality to fiction, particularly if you know that a) Hansen-Løve often draws from her own life, and b) she wrote the screenplay while her father was dying from Benson’s syndrome, a degenerative disease, which is exactly what Sandra’s father, a philosophy professor, is suffering from here. The film opens with Sandra (a shorn, dressed-down Seydoux) … Read more
Karl Urban in Pathfinder


A Viking orphan is raised by American Indians in Newfoundland, circa 1000AD, only to be confronted with the mother of all identity crises when the warlike Norsemen return years later, and set about raping and pillaging their way through the villages of his adoptive nation. Which call is he going to obey – blood or upbringing? Offering the viewer the supposed delights of the clash of two of the world’s ur-peoples – the Viking and the Native American – Marcus Nispel’s follow-up to his fairly pointless remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre proves he’s still more at home with pop promos for Janet Jackson and Billy Joel than as a big screen director. … Read more
Michelle Yeoh in kung fu action

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Starting with its title and ending at infinity, Everything Everywhere All at Once is a “more is more” kind of movie that looks as if it was designed to be the last word in multiverse sci-fi. The plot is Matrix-shaped – nobody becomes somebody – but instead of a young dumb male as its protagonist, it’s a middle aged smart female, in the shape of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a drudge of a wife, mother, carer for her elderly father who’s just been served with divorce papers by her fairly useless husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). And instead of being hunted by a sleek, black-clad, sunglasses-wearing Agent Smith, Evelyn and family are being … Read more
Josh Hartnett, Bérénice Marlohe and Keir Dullea

Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods. What the hell was that? At around an hour in, Lech Majewski’s film starts to look like it’s developing a plot. But until then it’s been a series of scenes/scenarios/situations that don’t seem to be very connected at all. In one we meet John (Josh Hartnett), a would-be writer trying to hash something out in the desert where the spirit of the Navajo are said to roam. In another a mute beggar on the street called Wes Tauros (John Malkovich), that rare thing – a beggar with a butler (Keir Dullea). Tauros is in fact not a beggar but the richest man in the world. In another a man … Read more
Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows is a monster classic of the French New Wave with a meaningless title, a literal translation of the original French Les 400 cents coups. “Raising hell” would be a more idiomatic way of putting it and the original US subtitler even suggested Wild Oats. But the distributor preferred to stick with the literal and more enigmatic (in English anyway) translation. The Wild Oats sown, the Hell being raised, the 400 Blows being struck are by the central character, Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud) modelled on director/writer Françoise Truffaut himself, a kid kicking against the pricks at home, at school, getting into trouble with the law, playing hooky to go to the cinema, … Read more
Mark Duplass and Kathryn Aselton in The Puffy Chair

The Puffy Chair

Here’s a simple story about Josh (Mark Duplass), his needy girlfriend (Kathryn Aselton), Josh’s hippie-dip brother (Rhett Wilkins) and their cross-country journey to take collection of an overstuffed couch-potato chair they just bought on ebay, and take it to the guys’ dad (played by Duplass’s dad, Larry Duplass). Shot for $10,000 by first-timers, this is one of the handful of films first to be called “mumblecore” – Wikipedia tells me that the term was first applied at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2005 to a trio of films – this one, Joe Swanberg’s Kissing on the Mouth, and Mutual Appreciation by Andrew Bujalski (often called “the father of mumblecore”) But how … Read more
Mrs Gale and Tony Heuston

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 20 – Trojan Horse

At one point almost every episode of The Avengers started with a death before the opening credits. Trojan Horse plays with that idea, showing us a punter who won’t pay his betting debts being killed by some heavies. After his killers have left the scene, the dead man gets up and walks away. It’s a ruse, a scam initiated by master bookmaker Tony Heuston (TP McKenna) who wants rich toff Lucien ffordsham (Geoffrey Whitehead) to believe he’s implicated in a murder, and to use that leverage against him. Steed and Gale are in the neighbourhood because they’re protecting Sebastian, a valuable racehorse belonging to a Middle Eastern potentate, who is in the UK … Read more
Sam Lee as Moon

Made in Hong Kong

Finished in time for the handover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese in 1997, restored in 2017 as yet more waves of protest against that regime convulsed its streets, Made in Hong Kong is as much a celebration of the city’s energy as it is the guts-or-glory story of one of its residents. Director Fruit Chan builds out from its hero and in from its frequent cityscapes, the total effect being a portrait in the round of a time and a place. The human focus is Sam Lee, as a gangster called Mid Autumn Moon who is so low-level that his whole gangster status is moot. With his wiry physique … Read more
Mrs Peel at gunpoint

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 4 – Death at Bargain Prices

Charles Crichton directed one of the best Ealing comedies, 1951’s Lavender Hill Mob, and the highest grossing British comedy of the 1980s, 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda – both crime capers – so is just the man for an episode of The Avengers. And the first shot of the first of five episodes he’d direct announces that “a director” is in the house – it’s a looming, upward-looking shot of a building at dusk, in near-silhouette, ominous as you like. But Crichton wasn’t lauded for his visual style – though he had plenty. What got him the plaudits was his economy (famously praised by Wanda writer/star John Cleese), his ability to say in … Read more
Ava and Jamie

An Unquiet Grave

An Unquiet Grave is a remarkably simple but remarkably effective horror film. Two people, one camera, a handful of sets, kicking off with a scene at a graveside where grieving husband Jamie (Jacob Ware) meets Ava (Christine Nyland), the twin sister of his dead wife, Julia, and together they set off to resurrect the dead woman. What Ava doesn’t know is that the procedure is going to cost her a lot more than it’s going to cost him, which raises all sorts of questions about male privilege on the way. None of those questions are raised in the English folk song on which the film is based. The Unquiet Grave goes back to … Read more

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