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Ares is readied for a fight

Ares

There’s a Marvel character called Ares, and a DC one, strangely enough. A Greek god also goes by the same name, as does the hero of Ares (Arès, originally), a dystopian French actioner mainly remarkable for how unremarkable it is. Reda Arèsilla (Ola Rapace), to give him his full name, lives in Paris in 2035, in a country that’s being propped up by payments from the Chinese. Millions are unemployed, neoliberalism has been taken to its conclusion and the “fuck you” dynamics of a devil-take-the-hindmost logic are triumphant. Ares, as he’s known, is one of the lucky ones. He fights for a living, in a culture that prizes its fighters. The bouts are TV … Read more
Rory Cochrane, Jason London and Sasha Jenson

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused is Richard Linklater’s 1993 film doing for 1976 what George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) did for 1962. That is, it looks back fondly at a group of teenagers on the cusp of adult life on their last day/night of high school, while also observing how long ago it now all was, and in more than plain old years. Like Lucas’s gang, Linklater’s crew are a mixed crowd of jocks and nerds, lookers and plain-Janes and Johns, sensitive souls and bozos, cool kids and the terminally awkward, kids whose best days are to come and those whose lives have already peaked. The style builds on the loose, superficially disorganised approach of … Read more
Antonio Banderas as Cuda

The Enforcer

The Enforcer. Not Clint Eastwood, or Jet Li or even Humphrey Bogart (who starred in a mostly forgotten film of the same name in 1951). Instead it’s Antonio Banderas’s name over the title of this very familiar sounding movie, which has ambitions that go not much further than getting itself onto a screen near you. The “bad guy gets a conscience” plot falls into two halves. First we get to see what sort of a bad guy we’re dealing with – the strong arm of a Miami crime boss with a wretched personal life (wife hates him, daughter wishes he’d drop dead). Then the epiphany, as Cuda (short for Barracuda) gets involved with street … 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
Médéric

Nobody’s Hero

A middle aged Frenchman in running lycra approaches a prostitute. I really fancy you, he says, or words to that effect, but on principle I don’t believe in prostitution. I wonder if you’d consider a job off the clock. Oh no, sir, she replies, faintly amused by the directness of the man’s approach, I’m married and my husband is really not OK with me seeing other men when I’m not working. And so starts Viens, Je t’emmène (Nobody’s Hero), the latest farce of everyday sexual goings-on from Alain Guiraudie, whose Stranger by the Lake (2013) remains one of the most memorable films I’ve seen in the last ten years, if only because of … Read more
Lucas Black

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Is there an actor more forgettable than Paul Walker? Don’t write in, I know he’s not in this second follow-up. Instead Lucas Black has been drafted in to show Mr Walker that he’s not the sine qua non of the franchise. And though he’s marginally less handsome than Walker, Black has the edge when it comes to charisma and he’s got a swagger that goes all the way back to The Wild One. Black is, of course, playing a hot-rodding rebel born to burn rubber in the illegal street-racing face-offs around which F&F is built. Except this time the action includes learning how to drift a car round the bends. And this time … Read more
Colin Wallace

The Man Who Knew Too Much

James Stewart? Doris Day? Alfred Hitchcock? No. Instead meet Colin Wallace, a retired real-life spook who got heavily involved in the UK government’s undercover operations in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, blew the whistle when his paymasters started asking him to start smearing democratically elected politicians, then wound up in jail on a ten-year stretch on a confected charge of manslaughter. Strangely, or perhaps it’s not strange at all, it’s a tale from recent history with an urgent contemporary relevance. Michael Oswald’s documentaries to date have all sought to pull back the veil on the hidden workings of the world. Finance was the focus in 97% Owned, Princes of the Yen and The … Read more
Agustín and Patrick sit on a hillside

Looking

2016’s Looking is also known as Looking: The Movie, for reasons that are obvious if you were a fan of the TV show that suddenly got pulled just as everyone involved was gearing up for a third season. Looking: The Movie is HBO’s sop to the fans who bombarded the company with howling letters of complaint, and a neat way for showrunner Michael Lannan and creative sidekick/writer/director Andrew Haigh to tie off various loose ends. This they do. The original idea for the series was Queer as Folk meets Tales of the City – a look at gay/queer (though “gay” is the word most used here) life as it’s lived by people who … Read more
Mrs Gale is held by Roman soldiers

The Avengers: Series 3, Episode 10 – The Grandeur That Was Rome

As prescient as a hot button shop, The Grandeur That Was Rome is also proper Avengers stuff – arcane, bonkers, camp, with implausible undercover work and mad hair. Even before the opening credits have flipped into view (and no pre-credits murder this time, thankfully) we’ve been treated to Roman senators, gladiators, toasts uttered in Latin and drunk in wine, plus a vague threat to destroy Western civilisation – just like the Romans, er, didn’t. After the credits we’re in a different milieu, another dreadful British company captained by a glib posh chap (Ian Shand) which is not doing quite as well as he says, and run by an ineffectual number two (Kenneth Kealing). … Read more
Mrs and Mr Walsh hold each other

Anything for Jackson

Horror films tend to be populated by sexy young things, but in Anything for Jackson the two protagonists are a pair of people in their 60s, played to the hilt by Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy. Actually, Anything for Jackson is more trad than it at first appears, because the couple in question aren’t actually the good guys, they’re a pair of Satanists – “Glory be to Satan” they chant at the coven where they meet their fellow devil-worshippers – who have kidnapped a heavily pregnant woman and plan to use her child as the receptacle for the spirit of their dead grandchild, Jackson. It’s a Rosemary’s Baby from the point of view … Read more
Lily and Gaston stealing from each other

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise was Ernst Lubitsch’s favourite of his own films. It’s 83 quick minutes of screwball farce, made in 1932 just as Hollywood was putting its own house in order (before the government stepped in and did it), one of the highlights of the pre-Code era. It’s more sexually risqué than later films, for sure, though that isn’t what got it into trouble when Paramount tried and failed to re-issue it in 1935. Banned for decades, it wasn’t really seen again until the 1960s It’s the story of a conman called Gaston and a thief called Lily who try to swindle/steal each other but instead fall in love. Realising they’re a crack … Read more
Barthélémy Karas, as voiced by Daniel Craig, in the Anglophone version of Renaissance

Renaissance

Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack and Jonathan Pryce? That’s quite a cast and it’s just for starters. And for a French anime-style sci-fi too, the “French” bit being the clue that the names are actually here to revoice Gallic product for Anglophone consumption. What they’re lending their voices to looks interesting though, a futuristic story about a kidnapped geneticist (Garai) who turns out to have the key to immortality. The USP of Renaissance is its look – the actors have all been motion-captured, then converted to the harshest black and white renditions of themselves. This is unusual though hardly revolutionary: as a technique it can be traced back to Walt … Read more

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