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Cheech Marin, Robert De Niro, Jane Seymour and Christopher Walken in a huddle

The War with Grandpa

In 2016 Robert De Niro starred in Dirty Grandpa, as the titular disgusting (in lots of ways, but mostly sexually) senior giving uptight grandson Zac Efron lessons in letting it all hang out. It was a funny film, though a 5.9 rating on the imdb (as I type) suggests that not everyone loved it. I didn’t love it either, but a few good gags and a suggestion that even the oldies like to part-ay is, in these frigid times, enough for me. The War with Grandpa was made one year later and then sat on a shelf for three more, thanks to the Harvey Weinstein scandal (the Weinsteins were set to distribute it). … Read more
Jamie has fallen off his delivery bike

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

A young man tries to get his oats in Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, a British 1968 sex comedy starring Barry Evans, directed by Clive Donner and written by Hunter Davies. In many ways it’s the suburban Alfie, which was made two years earlier. Where Michael Caine had central London, Barry Evans has Stevenage New Town; where Caine’s Alfie was a confident lothario and lone wolf, Evans’s Jamie is a virginal 18-year-old schoolboy with laddish mates. Alfie charms his women into bed, Jamie just dreams about it, vividly, in youth clubs, bus shelters and while pedalling around town on the bike he cycles as part of his job as a delivery … Read more
Emily out on the moors

Emily

“How did you write it? How did you write Wuthering Heights?” Charlotte Brontë asks her sister Emily as Emily lies on her deathbed. Emily is the answer, a feverish blend of fact and fancy, part biography, part romantic extravaganza. It’s tasteful but not twee, gothic but not ridiculously so. Pulling off the impressive feat of being about the life and the work, and taking inspiration from 1940s Hollywood, Frances O’Connor’s debut movie as a writer and director tells the (not very true at all) story of the adult life and death aged 30 of author Emily Brontë. O’Connor also borrows from Jane Austen for her story of a picky young woman who meets … Read more
Doris Hare, Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry

The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 15 – The Frighteners

The 15th of 26 episodes in the first series is a story that Humphrey Bogart might recognise. A tale of a greasy heel sending his thugs around to put “the frighteners” on a society lothario who is wooing the impressionable daughter of a local business big noise, it looks and feels every inch like a film noir. It’s something director Peter Hammond clearly relishes and, on a TV budget, he does impressive things with pools of shadow, out of which loom both goodies and baddies. Two levels of baddies, what’s more – the Deacon (Willoughby Goddard) is the sweaty and corpulently effete manager of muscle, while Sir Thomas Weller (Stratford Johns) is the … Read more
Danny Kaye and Basil Rathbone

The Court Jester

A flop, amazingly, when it was first released in 1955, The Court Jester is pretty much perfect in every way. It has the looks, the jokes, the action and the stars, in particular a perfectly cast Danny Kaye doing what he does best. There are stories of Kaye holding theatre audiences spellbound just sitting on the edge of the stage and reminiscing, and his ability (or perhaps his need) to command attention suits him perfectly to the role of a carnival entertainer using his talents to save the realm. The wicked King Roderick (Cecil Parker) has usurped the rightful ruler and killed the royal family. All except the infant prince, identifiable by a … Read more
Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps

The Last Vermeer

The Last Vermeer is the true story of Han Van Meegeren, art forger extraordinaire, who knocked out old masters by the likes of Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer, among others, during the Second World War and even managed to sell a “Vermeer” to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring for a fortune. Van Meegeren was initially brought to trial in the Netherlands after the War for having sold Göring what was supposed to be a real Vermeer, as a collaborator who had facilitated the expropriation of the cultural property of the Netherlands. But when he eventually admitted that the picture was fake, those charges were dropped. However, because of the skewed logic of … Read more
Pauline Delaney as Mrs Rhodes, with ventriloquist's dummy

The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 19 – The £50,000 Breakfast

The £50,000 Breakfast is a Cathy Gale-era episode (Death of a Great Dane) originally written by Roger Marshall and then reworked here by Brian Clemens into an Emma Peel-era one. And though it’s tempting to do a compare and contrast – as if to definitively nail the differences between the two eras – that can’t quite be done because Death of a Great Dane really marked the beginning of classic-era Avengers with its mad plots, people with odd names, extras thin (ish) on the ground and a general air of unreality all-pervading. The same opener launches both – a man dies (here it’s a ventriloquist) and his stomach is found to contain a … Read more
Sam, Cassius, Malcom and Jim

One Night in Miami

What did Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X all talk about when they met to celebrate on the night of Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston in January 1964? It’s a fascinating  question that One Night in Miami asks. The answer, in reality, is nothing, since the meeting never took place. But Kemp Powers’s  play imagined that it did, and it didn’t do the box office any harm. Now Regina King’s silky and understated direction brings it to a wider audience. Ali wasn’t called Ali back then. He was still using his birth name, Cassius Clay, a fact that boomers will already know since Ali is part of their programming. For … Read more
Kelly attacks in the film's opening moments

The Naked Kiss

Tabloid journalist makes tabloid movie shock! Writer/director/producer and former newspaperman Sam Fuller demonstrates his nose for a story with The Naked Kiss, a lurid, headline-grabbing movie too sensational for a few jurisdictions when it came out in 1964. It is the whore-to-madonna tale of a prostitute who – either seeing the error of her ways or realising she’s too old for the job – gives it all up and becomes a teacher of disabled kids in a white-picket US town. But can the universe forgive her for her previous life, or will an avenging angel soon be winging its way towards her? You know it will. The film opens in spectacular fashion, with a one-two … Read more
Mike and Viktor sing together on stage

Leto aka Summer

Edited at home in Moscow by a director under house arrest, Leto is a 2018 movie about life in the Soviet era made by a director living in “democratic” Russia. Any read-across is obviously entirely accidental. Leto means Summer in Russian but this is a spring/autumn tale of a USSR rock star called Mike, his pretty partner Natasha and new kid on the block Viktor. It’s the early 1980s, the New Wave is making inroads into the tightly patrolled Soviet music scene and Mike is adapting to the new sounds/era with a nip here, a tuck there – really he’s an old school long-haired rock guy in the mould of Ian Hunter from … Read more
Alexa Vega in Sleepover

Sleepover

Alexa Vega – the girl component of Spy Kids – gets her own teenage vehicle, and it’s the sort of film it’s very easy to be snarky about, especially if you’re not the target audience. It’s the usual teen/tween fare, in fact, about girls who are obsessed with friends, boyfriends and status and focusing on Alexa and her mates who must embark on a scavenger hunt against the film’s obligatory Rich Bitches to win a treasure hunt. The hunt itself has no importance except to keep the film going but then there are a lot of films that use the flimsiest of pretexts to keep things bubbling along. In other news, Ferris Bueller’s … Read more
Edward Woodward as the doomed Ian

The Appointment

Fans of plotless movies will love The Appointment, an increasingly cultish British horror from 1982. The only feature by Lindsey C Vickers, it was regularly described as lost until the British Film Institute got themselves together and released it as part of their Flipside series of under-appreciated left-fielders. As to plot, it’s the title. There is an appointment a man (Edward Woodward) is suddenly being forced to keep for work purposes, ruining his plans to be at a key recital by his daughter, a promising violin player. The daughter (Samantha Weysom) is upset he won’t be there. His wife (Jane Merrow) looks on as he insists he’s got to go and as the … Read more

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