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Bryan Greenberg and Uma Thurman in Prime

Prime

Uma Thurman’s had a strange career. In between wondrous hits like Baron Munchausen, Dangerous Liaisons, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill there have been total duds like… where do we start?… The Truth About Cats and Dogs, The Avengers and Be Cool, to pick just three from many. Prime falls definitely into the latter camp. It’s a toyboy rom-com with Uma Thurman (37) falling for Bryan Greenberg (23) and confiding all the bedroom secrets (“his penis is so beautiful, I just want to knit it a hat”) to her therapist, who unbeknown to Uma is the younger man’s mother. Writer/director is Ben Younger who was responsible for the intense money-man drama Boiler Room and … Read more
Catwoman and Batman

The Batman

The Batman. Let’s get the plot out of the way first, since it’s the most straightforward aspect of the latest bulletin from Gotham City. A caped crusader, a trio of villains in the shape of Paul Dano’s Riddler, Colin Farrell’s Penguin and John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone, a campaign of murder being waged against city officials. The mayor dies first, in the opening moments of the film, forcing Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to call in Batman – he rates the mysterious vigilante but no one else does. Along the way Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) becomes involved, a good girl in this version, and a crimefighting sidekick, should Batman want one, which he doesn’t seem to. … Read more
Charles Dobbs on the phone

The Deadly Affair

1966’s The Deadly Affair repeats the formula of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold – John Le Carré story, top British and European cast, London locations, great US director, ace British cinematographer, soundtrack by a big name – and if it isn’t quite up there with the 1965 film, it’s still one of the very best Le Carré adaptations. It takes Le Carré’s first novel, A Call for the Dead, slaps a less sombre, more bums-on-seats title on it and also renames Le Carré’s masterspy George Smiley, as Charles Dobbs (Paramount, who had made The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, “owned” the Smiley name). Though in all important respects this is … Read more
Aida with Colonel Karremans

Quo Vadis, Aida?

Jasmila Zbanic’s powerful drama Quo Vadis, Aida?, about the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, starts with a sad irony. As the production company idents come up, and various “with the support of” and “in collaboration with” credits list all the European and international organisations involved, remember that when the events in this flm were playing out in real life actual international collaboration seemed to consist of a collective looking the other way. Ask most people, most Europeans even, what the last war in Europe was and they’ll likely refer you to Adolf Hitler. That’s to forget the Bosnian war in the aftermath of the fragmentation of Yugoslavia – familiar as a holiday destination to so … Read more
Caprice stands over a lying Tenser

Crimes of the Future

David Cronenberg likes the title Crimes of the Future. He’s used it once before, for a film he made in 1970. He’s using it again here, 52 years later, but there’s no other connection between the two, at least on the surface. The 1970 is comedy sci-fi about a world without women, the 2022 recycling is good old-fashioned Cronenbergian body horror like he used to make. FYI, eXistenZ (1999), his last go at the genre he dominated in the 1980s and 90s, also had the working title Crimes of the Future. This Crimes of the Future’s origins go back to four years after eXistenZ, when Cronenberg was trying to put together a film … Read more
John Steed pecks Mrs Peel on the cheek

The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 7 – The Living Dead

The zombie movie was sleeping fitfully in its crypt – George Romero would wake it in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead – when The Avengers episode The Living Dead first aired in February 1967. Steed and Peel, it seems, are now ghosthunters as well as murder investigators, industrial-decline consultants and everyday spies, and are called in after stage drunk Kermit (Jack Woolgar), stumbling home one night espies the lid of a tomb opening and a man in white ascending from it. “The Duke!” Kermit exclaims. Was it the first duke, of 17th century vintage? Or one only recently deceased – “a real man”, according to one local – who died in … Read more
An army officer in front of a burning building

I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians

In I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (originally Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari), Romanian auteur Radu Jude takes on the his country’s treatment of the Jews in the Second World War, as part of Hitler’s Final Solution. The title comes from a speech made by Romanian leader Ion Antonescu in 1941, which effectively initiated the campaign of mass murder on the Eastern Front. Romania was allied with the Nazis at the time. Ioana Iacob stars as a stand-in for Jude, playing Mariana, a Romanian director attempting to put on a show about Romanian wartime atrocities and getting pushback at every turn. Researching … Read more
Isabelle Huppert as Frankie

Frankie

Having made films with more than a hint of the French about them – character driven, focused on metropolitan angst, loose, semi-improvised acting style, unafraid to let nothing happen – Ira Sachs finally gets almost all of the way there with Frankie, a drama set in Portugal but with plenty of French speakers in his cast. Patrice Chéreau’s 1998 drama Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (Ceux Qui M’aiment Prendront le Train) is a close analogue, though here the central figure around which everything spins is still alive. She’s played by Isabelle Huppert as Françoise (aka Frankie), a famous actress who has called all her family together in Sintra, Portugal, for … Read more
(l-r) Gerald Jones III, Jaden Michael and Gregory Diaz IV

Vampires vs. the Bronx

Cockneys vs Zombies given a wipe-down and relocated to the US, maybe? But Vampires vs. the Bronx isn’t a reworking of the 2012 British film even though it’s also about the denizens of a run-down part of a world city taking on a mythical horror foe. Are the vampires even the foe, or is it gentrification? This film gets caught up in its cape over that one but survives largely on likability (it’s certainly not scary) and that’s down to the casting of the three youngsters at the centre of it – Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III and Gregory Diaz IV as three 14-year-olds, softies in a hard world, though one of them … Read more
Dana Andrews, Sally Forrest, Thomas Mitchell and Ida Lupino sitting at a bar

While the City Sleeps

While the City Sleeps is one of the great noir titles. Which is not the same as saying it’s one of the great noir movies. In fact it’s barely noir at all. Though it does start off looking like it might be. A lurid murder before the opening credits, then titles that come blaring at us in gigantic white letters, while Herschel Burke Gilbert’s title music of clarion brass and shrill strings suggests a great noirish feast is about to be served up. The director’s name – Fritz Lang – also promises the same. He’d done Scarlet Street and The Big Heat, after all, noir lodestones. There’s been a murder and the murderer … Read more
Judy Parfitt

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 15 – The White Elephant

For the first episode of 1964, broadcast on 4 January, the day that Auburn University in Alabama accepted Harold A Franklin as its first black student (accompanied by three US marshals and 100 state police to keep the mob at bay), John Steed and Mrs Gale are on the case of a missing albino elephant in an episode unsurprisingly titled The White Elephant. The beast has been stolen from a private zoo which supplies mainstream zoos, run by upper-class English chap Noah Marshall (Godfrey Quigley) – modelled on John Aspinall (gambler, zoo-owner, anti-Semite and the man who allegedly facilitated murderer Lord Lucan’s escape from the UK). Why this is of interest to more … Read more
Joe playing jazz

Soul

We’re so used to the phrase Pixar Movie that it’s often easy to forget that they are in fact directed by actual human beings, not rendering algorithms. Soul is co-directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers, says the imdb, but the end credits of the film itself tell us that it’s “Directed by Pete Docter” and “Co-directed by Kemp Powers”, not “Co-directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers”. Kemp was heavily involved in the film, particularly at the conceptual and writing stages, but even so it still feels like a Docter film. His last one was Inside Out, the story of a little girl’s personality in crisis. And before that Up and Monsters, … Read more

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