Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) with his bare feet on his desk

Hollywood fixes capitalism, just like it used to do in the 1980s, with Air, the story of Nike getting together with basketball ace Michael Jordan to create the Air Jordan, the most popular sneaker of all time. Like Jordan, it’s got the skills, is light on its feet and moves at pace, introducing first the era in its opening moments with the Dire Straits song Money for Nothing behind a montage of Ronald Reagan, Princess Diana, Rubik’s Cubes, The A Team, dial-up modems and Jane Fonda (workout era). Then, barely pausing for breath, it’s on to its dramatis personae – persona, really, since this story focuses hard on central character Sonny Vaccaro (Matt … Read more

The Last Duel

Jacques le Gris and Sir Jean de Carrouges face off

Talk about burying the lead. The Last Duel submerges its true story – the rape of a woman in 14th-century France – inside a story about the man who did it and her husband, his friend. We get the duel, the joust, up front, so we know from the outset where this adaptation of a true story is going, and then director Ridley Scott and writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (their first collaboration since Good Will Hunting) and Nicole Holofcener (presumably brought in to de-problematise the very problematical screenplay) wheel us back in time to what brought us to this point. We’re introduced to all the parties involved – Sir Jean Carrouges (Matt … Read more

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

Justice League group portrait

The day I sat down to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the death of Jim Steinman, songwriter for Meat Loaf, among many others, had just been announced. And it occurred to me about halfway through watching that this epic is a case of same/same: a big, loud, glorious, ever-crescendoing Bat Out of Hell of a movie. Snyder himself pops up before the action gets going, to say a big thank you to the fans who hash-tagged his version of the movie into existence with a #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign. They were disappointed with the original 2017 version, which, having fought a guerrilla campaign against the Warner Bros suits, Snyder finally abandoned after his daughter died. … Read more

Dazed and Confused

Rory Cochrane, Jason London and Sasha Jenson

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


Ben Affleck and Diane Lane in Hollywoodland

Looking on paper like something better than it actually turns out, Hollywoodland is one of those films purporting to lift the lid on Hollywood, LA Confidential style. It tells the lightly fictionalised story of George Reeves (Ben Affleck) the man who played Superman on 1950s US TV, and asks the simple question – who done him in? The answer is, at least partly, he did it to himself, this being a tale of an actor who’d appeared in Gone with the Wind and yet by the mid-50s was in a TV serial aimed at kids. The ignominy. If you need a lesson in counting your blessings rather than dwelling on what might have … Read more


John Goodman and Alan Arkin in Argo

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 17 April John McCarthy kidnapped, 1986 On this day in 1986, the British journalist John McCarthy was taken hostage in Lebanon. Like most of the hostages taken during the so-called Lebanon hostage crisis, which continued from 1982 to 1992, McCarthy was chosen not because of any particular political affiliation but because of the country he came from and because, as a journalist, he was easy to target. Aged 29 when it happened, he was working for WTN news when he was grabbed by Islamic Jihad, and spent the next five and a half years locked up. Every time the location of … Read more


Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck in Armageddon

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 7 November The Ensisheim meteorite hits Earth, 1492 On this day in 1492, a large meteorite landed in a field outside the walled town of Ensisheim, in Alsace (present-day France). The flaming passage of the meteorite through the sky was visible from over 150km away. It was one of the earliest instances of a meteorite fall on record. The stone can still be seen today in the town’s museum, though it is now nowhere near the original 127kg it weighed when it fell – the locals, having dug it up from a metre down in the soft arable land, started prising … Read more

Smokin’ Aces

Alicia Keys in Smokin' Aces

For anyone who gets confused between Ben Affleck and Ryan Reynolds, Joe (Narc) Carnahan’s latest feast of bang-bang macho will be very bewildering indeed, since they’re both in it. But then bewilderment seems to be what Smokin’ Aces is about. The hip-feast is built around Jeremy Piven, playing Buddy “Aces” Israel, a Las Vegas showman and stool pigeon whose decision to turn state’s evidence has signed his death warrant. Enter just about everybody else – either part of his close-knit retinue, part of the FBI team trying to protect him, one of the mob out to get him, or one of the other guys who also, confusingly, seem out to get him. Girls too, … Read more