Noodle and Wonka out walking

Wonka the origin story, with Timothée Chalamet the chocolatier of every child’s fantasy, in a movie aimed straight at those with a sweet tooth and a love of whimsy. Lacking edge, stakes, call them what you will, it’s one for lovers of the soft centre. So, right, yes, story – Wonka arrives in somewhereland (England?) in ye olden times on a boat, with a pocketful of sovereigns and A Hatful of Dreams (first of the Neil Hannon songs), loses all his money to various urchins and mountebanks, and winds up in the clutches of a Mrs Scrubitt (Olivia Colman) and right-hand man Bleacher (Tom Davis), trapped by a contract he too readily signs, … Read more

The Lair of the White Worm

Lady Sylvia with fangs

The Lair of the White Worm is a good place to start if you’ve ever wondered what happened to Ken Russell. Once upon a time he was a good film-maker who made fascinating, elegant dramas. Then the success of Women in Love turned his head and from that point on, almost without exception, his subject matter – rock music (Tommy), classical music (Lisztomania), DH Lawrence (The Rainbow) – mostly came second to Ken’s “vision”, a frotter’s orgy of corny erotica. The Boy Friend somehow escaped the Russell treatment, and in Altered States Russell was held in check by a studio mightier than Ken’s own ego. But give Russell his head, and look out. … Read more

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Edgin and crew prepare to do battle

One of the big surprises of late 2023 was Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves making it onto so many “Best of…” lists for the year. Even more surprising, it actually deserves to be there (usual caveats apply). It’s a big sword-and-sorcery quest movie, with all the stuff you’d expect – spells, elves, shapeshifters, a medieval setting, capes, subterranean realms, undead creatures and, yes, dungeons and dragons. “Wizards and shit”, as one critic once termed it (I suspect it might have been Nathan Rabin, who also gave us the Manic Pixie Dream Girl as a concept). What you might not expect is the tone. It’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the medieval … Read more