WC Fields and Mae West

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Fairuza Balk and Robert Forster in American Perfekt

American Perfekt

It’s a good rule of thumb that road movies set out in any American desert and made on a low budget have a knack of turning out OK. There’s often something fairly oddball going on too. Made in 1997, the same year that its star would appear in Tarantino’s career-boosting Jackie Brown, American Perfekt sees Robert Forster playing a psychiatrist driving through the empty desert who stops to pick up a female hitchhiker (Amanda Plummer). She is clearly deranged but no matter how mad she apparently seems, he’s even madder – it’s only thanks to a coin toss that he’s giving her a ride, rather than killing her. Half an hour or so … Read more
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The Adventures of Robin Hood

“Only the rainbow can duplicate its brilliance” ran the tagline to the swashbuckler from 1938 which took a young Tasmanian and gave him a movie role that would define him for ever. Errol Flynn may have become a fat roué in later life but here, as Robin Hood, he is every inch the handsome, athletic, cocky, light-hearted and brave hero. The film too is full of that brio, telling a story of good v bad, true love v convenience, rich v poor, idealism v cynicism. That “brilliance”, by the way, comes from the costly and technically demanding Technicolor three-strip process, which produces colours more saturated than any subsequent process has managed. Everything – … Read more
Daryl Sabara, Carla Gugino, Alexa Vega and Antonio Banderas in Spy Kids

Spy Kids

Ever since he’d arrived in 1992 with his made-for-nothing El Mariachi, director Robert Rodriguez had been readying himself for Hollywood primetime. His 1996 grindhouse vampire comedy From Dusk till Dawn had allowed him to play with a big name cast (Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Salma Hayek and a new-to-movies George Clooney) and special effects, and boasted a script by Quentin Tarantino. Following on from that The Faculty gave him a sexy gang of newcomers (Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster), a smart script by Kevin Williamson and a bucket of attitude. Both films were, by Hollywood standards, fairly low rent. With Spy Kids he finally got what he wanted – lots of cash, nearly all … Read more
Anita O'Day in Jazz on a Summer's Day

Jazz On A Summer’s Day

Back when cats wore hats, stills photographer Bert Stern, fresh from his famous shoot with Marilyn Monroe in the buff, went off to the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival and made a film about Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, George Shearing, Dinah Washington, Anita O’Day, Mahalia Jackson, Jack Teagarden, Gerry Mulligan, and even Chuck Berry, as they displayed their formidable talents and charismas for the moneyed and honeyed of Rhode Island. It is the only film Stern ever made and the result is a colourful impressionistic blur – the musicians are at their relaxed best, and the audience is no less entertaining, decked out in what looks now like the finest retro-chic hip, all digging … Read more
still of al pacino in dog day afternoon large picture

Dog Day Afternoon

Look at all those 1960s heist movies – gents with David Niven accents in cat-burglar outfits effortlessly walking out of Monte Carlo with a heist of diamonds. How different the 1970s heist movie. In the decade when it became apparent that, economically, everything was falling apart, director Sidney Lumet caught the mood perfectly in a bank job movie set in a city crumbling faster than most others, New York. And there’s Al Pacino as our hero. Not a normal bank robber, but a slightly rubbish one, married but gay, cackhandedly stealing money so his boyfriend can have a gender reassignment operation – sexual orientation being another one of those little things that seemed … Read more
review kissmedeadly poster

Kiss Me Deadly

Critics continue to argue over whether this is the best film noir ever made but all seem united on one point – Kiss Me Deadly is the best adaptation of one of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels. Now 50 years old, the film opens with a scene that still packs a punch – cynical private eye Mike Hammer picks up a girl hitchhiker who is wearing only a mac. Within minutes his car has been run off the road and a brutal gang is torturing the girl before killing her. The stage is set for Hammer, one of cinema’s great anti-heroes, to become avenging angel, visiting bad men in places high and low … Read more
Robert Downey Jr, Michael Douglas and Tobey Maguire

Wonder Boys

Michael Douglas plays the college prof with one book under his belt and a smart-ass student (Tobey Maguire) about to steal his thunder with his debut novel, which is going to be glorious, headline-grabbing, sexy, everything Douglas once was but now just isn’t. However, this fading wonder boy does still have enough residual kudos to make him a honeypot for a girl (Katie Holmes) who’s attractive dark-haired and far too young for him (and what a nudge nudge that was at the time). He’s also having an affair with his boss (Frances McDormand). And, on the weekend of frenzy that we catch up with him, he’s being pursued by his drug-monster editor, played … Read more
Cameron Diaz has her disco moment in Charlie's Angels

Charlie’s Angels

Good god this film got some bad negative publicity when it came out. I’m really not sure why. Of course it’s not Ingmar Bergman, but it’s not trying to be. What it is trying to be is a light and frothy, giddy and bubbly pastiche of the Seventies adventure series – which was the TV equivalent of that poster of the tennis woman scratching her bum. Perhaps naysayers were all still carrying a torch for Farrah Fawcett, the star of the original who left after one season to parlay her TV fame into a cinematic career. That didn’t work too well for her. Taking the Farrah role in McG’s film (perhaps the naysayers … Read more
Tom Green suckles from a cow's teat

Freddy Got Fingered

The ancient Hebrews used to send out a goat into the wilderness, hoping it would take all their sins off with it. Modern Hollywood continues the practice every year with the Razzies, awards handed out to films which supposedly stink but which are in fact often not significantly more terrible than many others. In fact Razzies are often awarded to films which tried hard and failed, rather than to films which cynically set out to be terrible, in the hope of turning a buck, so maybe there’s some honour in getting one. In 2012, was Kristen Stewart really deserving of hers, for Snow White and the Huntsman and the last of the Twilight … Read more
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Before Sunset

This 2004 follow-up to Richard Linlater’s 1995 Before Sunrise is a first-date movie for people who fancy themselves as having more going on upstairs. But grey matter to one side, do you need to have seen the first film to enjoy the second? Probably not, though it helps to know that in Before Sunrise Ethan Hawke had fulfilled every heterosexual male InterRailer’s wildest fantasy – by meeting the stomach-churningly beautiful, witty and, very important, French Julie Delpy on a train and having a night of flirtatious intellectual chat and wild adventure with her. By the end of Before Sunrise both parties are agreed – it’s love and they are absolutely definitely going to … Read more
Peter O'Toole as Jeffrey Bernard

Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell

A night at the theatre in London’s West End is not always an evening of total entertainment: the ticket price, the discomfort of the seats, the warm G&T at the interval. But here’s an easy way to experience a play that was murder to get a ticket for when it was playing at the Old Vic. An affectionate tribute to professional drunk Jeffrey Bernard, it is the ultimate “stagey” film – as in we are literally watching the performance on the stage of the Apollo (where the play had its London debut), with a live audience, boomy acoustics, the lot. It’s perfect for fans of high-grade thespianism, louche yarns, ridiculous japes and, of … Read more
Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

How the mighty M Night Shyamalan has fallen since this, possibly the most barnstorming debut in the past 25 years. I’d have said “except Reservoir Dogs” except that Tarantino’s film wasn’t his debut (the barely seen My Best Friend’s Birthday, the final reel of which got burnt up in a lab fire, has that honour). But then a lot of people don’t know that The Sixth Sense wasn’t Shyamalan’s debut film either; it was his third. Those hugely digressive factoids to one side, Shyamalan’s certainly most famous film to date gave us Haley Joel Osment as a young boy being pestered by unquiet spirits. The boy doesn’t like it and so ends up … Read more

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