Best Sellers

Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza in bed

At the Raindance film festival, London, UK, 27 October–6 November 2021 Formula written, if you’re feeling grouchy, inspired by Hollywood’s golden era, if you’re not, Best Sellers has two great performers at its centre – Michael Caine, still pumping out the charisma and deadly comic timing at 88, and Aubrey Plaza, who ups her ante to stay in the game with a wily old master and puts a soft edge on her usual smart sexy sarcasm. Here’s the formula. He’s an aged writer who wrote a best seller 50 years ago but has done nothing since. She’s the poor little rich girl who’s inherited a publishing house and is now watching it collapse … Read more

Twist

Raff Law, Michael Caine and Rita Ora

Updating Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, as Twist does, is a bold move. Usually the lure of the dressing-up box and the chance to lay on the foggy London atmospherics prove irresistible. Film-makers tend to stick with its original Victorian setting. Looking through the many, many adaptations, Twisted stands out. It’s a 1996 update set in in New York’s gay subculture. But for the most part Oliver Twist tends to be set in world of street urchins, top hats, horse-drawn carriages and much dropping of aitches. Watching the opening moments of Twist, a question arises: when in the early production process did someone suggest bringing Oliver Twist into the Britpop era? And was this … Read more

The Prestige

Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige

    After Insomnia and Batman Begins, big Hollywood numbers taken on to show studio willing – or so it seemed – Christopher Nolan is back to being master of his own destiny, writing with his brother Jonathan and also producing this lavish smoke and mirrors cat-and-mouser. Clearly an attempt to “do another Memento”, it’s about a pair of Victorian magicians in a “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us” London, who once were bosom buddies but fell out after a trick went wrong and the wife of one of them died. And since that day they have gone on to different sorts of glory, but as deadly rivals, each trying … Read more

The Italian Job

Michael Caine and Noel Coward in The Italian Job

  A movie for every day of the year – a good one     21 January     Benny Hill born, 1924 On this day in 1924, Alfred Hawthorn Hill was born in Southampton, UK. One of those children who “always wanted to be in showbusiness”, Alfred had managed to become an assistant stage manager in a touring company before joining up to serve in the Second World War, aged 18. He changed his first name to Benny as a tribute to his hero, Jack Benny, though in fact it was the British music hall that really provided the inspiration for Benny Hill’s act. Earlier to understand that music hall’s days were … Read more

Miss Congeniality

Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality

    Call it nominative determinism but the Kirk Douglas-dimpled Sandra Bullock is often the most bullish person in the movies she’s in. This is presumably why somebody thought she’d be ideal playing a tough cop who makes an ugly-duckling transformation in order to go undercover at a beauty pageant. It’s completely unbelievable, of course – Bullock never for a second looks less than a Hollywood A list star, even when made up to look like a dog. But who wants believable when there’s fun to be had? And so we yield to Bullock’s brilliant comic interplay with Michael Caine, as her camp coach in feminine poise (see what I mean by unbelievable), … Read more

Batman: The Dark Knight

dark knight 2jpg

  Not having enjoyed the first Nolan/Bale Batman film (yes, he was traumatised by bats. I get it!) I wasn’t looking forward to the second. But, having been told how great it was, how awesome Heath Ledger was, how dark it all was, I was prepared to put prejudice to one side and settle back to watch it with an open mind. And I hated it. But no one else seems to feel this way. Why? My own lack of soul to one side, it’s possibly something to do with the death of Ledger, a good actor who generally did more than was necessary in whatever role he took on, was happy to … Read more