Thale

Silje Reinåmo as mythical creature Thale

 

 

So here we are in the middle of August and I still think that Thale is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. I must have watched it back in February. I’ve probably watched between 130 and 150 films since.

So why has it stuck in my head? Because of the artistic choices of its director, Aleksander Nordaas, who I see is now preparing Thale 2. I hope that a bigger budget (and I hope he has a bigger budget, a man can’t sell everything he owns to finance his second film after he’s already sold everything to finance his first) – I really hope that won’t turn his head. What Nordaas does in Thale, sometimes out of budget necessity but often not, is what makes his film so distinctive, urgent, gripping.

First a bit of plot. We’re embedded with a Scandinavian clean-up team, the guys who go in after the police have found something grisly and done their work. On job number two they discover something in a shack out in the woods, something that appears to have been left behind by an old guy. What is it? We’re not sure. Though Nordaas has primed us to think that the old guy has possibly been in the kidnap and torture game and that there might be a young woman involved.

What builds out from this set of assumptions is a remarkable story of horror, fantasy and most of all gripping tension, as Nordaas leads us up one garden path after another. We learn, for example, that there is a young lady in a hidden tank full of some gunky liquid, that she has a tube right down her throat, to help her breathe, that maybe she is not the simple kidnap victim we at first thought.

It turns out she isn’t a woman at all, though she certainly has all the functioning appurtenances, she’s some sort of mythical woodland creature, a huldra, if you know your Norwegian folklore.

I’m not going to go any further than that – the way Nordaas sets up and then confounds expectation, wringing new plot turns out of a hoary cabin-in-the-woods premise, is one of the real joys of a film which consists of a third of this sort of tease and reveal, a third of sheer tension-building, a third of release.

Other joys include the really skilful use of the camera. I don’t know what digital rig this was shot on but there is no way celluloid could have wrought images so sharp, so deep of focus, so beautiful (not on this budget, anyway). Though it’s Nordaas’s eye for an image that stands out. The soundtrack is similarly spare, evocative and right – a single cello quite often, the mournful instrument, with subsonic rumbles to indicate something off in the distance, something you possibly don’t want to come any closer.

Atmospherics and storytelling craft are what this film is about. The performances are good enough but they’re immaterial. The CGI is cheapjack stuff but they also don’t matter. It is the way that Nordaas works his material, frequently showing us something and then letting us sweat it out – early on we see cassette tape wheels spinning and hear a woman’s scream, later there’s a shot of our huldra cowering under a bed while one of the clean-up guys gets down on the floor and starts humming to her. In the first of these instances we fill in the blanks (unimaginable torture), in the second we anticipate what’s about to happen (she’s going to jump him?).

Thale is not perfect – the ending takes a lurch into Hollywood excess, swaps noisy for spooky, and is out of keeping with the rest of the film. The CGI lets it down a touch too, and it starts to become, as the PR blurb somewhere called it, “this year’s Troll Hunter”. Whoever wrote that line was obviously trying to sell a subtitled movie – no easy feat – but also possibly thought that they were offering Nordaas a compliment. But however you look at it, Thale is a much, much better film than that. A talent has landed.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Thale – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

The Best Films I Saw in 2013

The cast of You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
Updated 2013-12-30

 

Here they are, the best films I saw in 2013. It’s a Top Ten job with the best in no particular order, followed by a list of films that made the top ten at some point in the year, then got bounced. This is not a Best of 2013, let me quickly point out, just the best films I’ve seen this year. So a film everyone else has seen but I haven’t won’t be here (I’ve not seen American Hustle yet, f’rinstance). And there might be stragglers from 2012 in here which caught up with late. It really is “the best films I have seen this year”. If you’re wondering what to do with that Amazon voucher and your tastes generally aren’t multiplex, this might be a useful place to start.

 

1. You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (2012, dir: Alain Resnais)

Alain Resnais, now in his nineties, proves there’s life in the new wave dog yet with an amazingly convoluted meta-drama based on two Anouilh plays, thick with formal experiment and managing to weld classical theatre to 21st century techniques. Amazing, and you can bet it made both Lars Von Trier and Todd Solondz chuckle too.

 

2. Aurora (2010, dir: Cristi Puiu)

The Romanian Cristi Puiu made The Death of Mr Lazarescu and also stars in what might be considered a follow-up, a film that tells a story while also running an audit on the current state of the homeland. The story: a very odd one, following what must the dourest hitman (Puiu) through concrete-coloured Bucharest as he goes about his often incredibly mundane business. Shot in long takes, in blue light, in the most unprepossessing of locations, with many shots half through doorways and focusing on the main character and him alone, it’s unique, remarkable and often quite baffling.

 

3. The Heat (2013, dir: Paul Feig)

Because no one is funnier than Melissa McCarthy right now, a buddy-cop comedy in which Sandra Bullock plays the uptight FBI agent reluctantly partnering a wildcat local cop (McCarthy). The plot is slender, but is just enough for Bridesmaids director Paul Feig to hang a few funny set pieces off. Better than that it gives a chance for the two actors to riff rude, with McCarthy inevitably getting the better of Bullock when it comes to being the swearier and more prepared to make herself look a fool. Fancy Bullock being in the best comedy of the year and its most popular sci-fi (which is not on my list because I haven’t seen it yet, for shame).

 

4. Angel & Tony (2010, dir: Alix Delaporte)

Big aah, a simple, short love story about a troubled beautiful young woman and the shy, fat middle-aged fisherman she rather unexpectedly hooks up with. Rather simply, this one’s all about the transformative power of love and is about as bloody lovely as films get.

 

5. I Wish  (2011, dir: Hirokazu Koreeda)

Hirokazu Koreeda’s drama is ostensibly about a kid who wants to make a wish, and believes that by making it at the exact point where two bullet trains’ paths cross, it is sure to come true. In fact he’s just the starting point for a whole series of lightly interconnected transgenerational stories, which the writer/director joins and rejoins. Everything about this film shouts genius – the placing of the camera, the casting, the acting, the editing. It’s also one of the sweetest films, so full of hope and life, I’ve ever seen.

 

6. The Kings of Summer (2013, Jordan Vogt-Roberts)

A coming-of-ager that has the raucous “fuck you” comic edge of Superbad and the elemental undertow of Stand By Me, The Kings of Summer is about a group of boys who head off to the woods one summer, mostly to escape their obnoxious, bullying, clever-clever parents, but partly just to do a bit of growing up. There they trap animals (or make out that they do), grow facial hair, invite girls over and get their hearts broken. It’s strange to find a film that intercuts comedy and heartache so well, that catches that great feeling of freedom that total irresponsibility allows, and which punctuates these switches between the two ends of the dramatic spectrum with contemplative “Ozu shots” of prairies and water and flowers, set to a soundtrack that manages to be both familiar and leftfield.

 

 7. She Monkeys (2011, dir: Lisa Aschan)

A Swedish drama that’s all about girls, power, sex and equestrian vaulting. Expect no fluffy bunnies in this one – in one of its twin-track stories we have a five-year-old girl sexually grooming her older babysitting cousin; in the other a butter-wouldn’t-melt blonde making a sumo-style All About Eve assault on a rival. Cool, unusual, brilliant.

 

8. Sightseers (2012, dir: Ben Wheatley)

A pair of incredibly dim British caravan enthusiasts set off on a tour of esoteric sites of special interest – museums dedicated to pencils or trams etc – and indulge in increasingly psychotic episodes of murder for light relief. A deadpan Natural Born Killers that will have you snorting liquid down your nose.

 

9. The Gatekeepers (2012, dir: Dror Moreh)

The best documentary I saw this year comes from director Dror Moreh, who somehow managed to get all the surviving former heads of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet to talk to him. What he have is little more than a series of talking heads explaining to Moreh how Shin Bet operates. But it is the way that Moreh structures the entirely stereotype-busting revelations dropping from these guys’ mouths – and they each look like a Bond villain of one sort or another – that makes this “jaw to the floor” viewing.

 

10. Silver Linings Playbook (2012, dir: David O Russell)

David O Russell’s sweet but never cute drama about a guy fresh from the funny farm (Bradley Cooper) and his burgeoning relationship with brassy fellow medicatee (Jennifer Lawrence). Underneath the warty carapace this is perfect Hollywood – everyone gets what they deserve, big lessons are learned, there’s silver linings all round, in fact. Or you could just watch it for the performances – Lawrence so good that she forces Robert De Niro to act. Even Chris Tucker puts in a great performance.

 

 

The “Nearly” List

The Sapphires (2012, dir: Wayne Blair)

We keep being told about the revival of the musical (clinkers like Chicago usually), so how come this one about a girl group of aborigine soul singers on a tour of 1960s Vietnam isn’t better known? It’s got songs, jokes, a bit of love and a standout Chris O’Dowd in the lead role. And it’s a true story.

 

Thale (2012, dir: Aleksander Nordaas)

Made for nothing yet looking like it cost millions, this Norwegian horror fantasy about a couple of police clean-up guys who find a mythical creature out in the cellar of a shack in the woods has plot, characters, looks, tension and, a few seconds of ropey CGI apart, is almost perfect.

 

Elena (2011, dir: Andrey Svyagintsev)

Andrey Svyagintsev’s throttled-back thriller about a woman in Russia, her boorish rich husband to whom she’s little more than a nurse, and her Soviet-throwback son and his family, a bunch of layabouts living out in the tower blocks.

 

Mama (2013, dir: Andrés Muschietti)

One of the seven thousand films Jessica Chastain made in the last year or so, Mama is a superior horror film that welds together the haunted house and malevolent-child genres and then throws a lot of switched sympathies into the mix. Watchable as an exercise in genre manipulation alone, or as an out-and-out horror movie, or as a bravura exercise in visual effects, this is one of the best mainstream horror films in years.

 

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2012, dir: Alex Gibney)

Close to The Gatekeepers for “well stap my vitals” revelations is Alex Gibney’s remarkable documentary about paedophilia in the Roman Catholic church, how the organisation has been aware for at least 1,700 years that the vows of celibacy and chastity tend either to attract weirdos or make people weird. And that the Church has, by virtue of its institutional power, been able to subvert secular legal systems. This is a gobsmacking documentary of the old-fashioned pavement-pounding sort whose conclusions are that, lovely Pope Francis or no, in terms of moral authority the Catholic church is a busted flush.

 

Shell (2012, dir: Scott Graham)

A star is born, in the shape (the face, mostly) of Chloe Pirrie, the focus of this lugubrious drama about a girl who works in an out-of-the-way petrol station owned by her father. Shell is the girl’s name, it’s the name of a petrol company too, a passing customer jokily quips to the girl, who responds with a deep lack of engagement. Which is what the film is about  – is she going to engage? With Adam, a guy in a hot hatch? With a passing travelling salesman? Possibly with her own father? God forbid. But on this slender “who?” and “when?” director Scott Graham hangs a powerful film as austere and dour as a low church chapel.

 

In the House (2012, dir: François Ozon)

François Ozon doesn’t make dumb films, and in In the House he’s made a film that on one level is about a superbright, sexually precocious, unsettlingly androgynous schoolboy (Ernst Umhauer) who starts writing increasingly personal stories for his teacher (the brilliantly disconcerted Fabrice Luchini). Before long the teacher is hooked, the boy has become a cuckoo in the nest, the wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) is discombobulated, and Ozon has crafted a drama of the sort you can imagine Jacques Derrida and fellow post-structuralists enjoying with beer and a pizza.

 

Byzantium (2012, dir: Neil Jordan)

Neil Jordan does something excellent with the vampire movie in Byzantium. He manages to weld the lush overheated velvet of the Hammer horror, all heaving bosoms and the male gaze, to the austere IKEA ambience of Let the Right One In. As two (possible) sisters of competing vampiric sensibilities we have Gemma Arterton (the busty, Hammer lust-bucket) and Saoirse Ronan (self-assembly vampiric waiflet). Add an abandoned seaside hotel in off season, a few luckless male victims, a couple of bounders and rotters who arrive from the girls’ past to help deliver a rousing Hollywood ending, and you’ve got a film that grips by the throat, teases, entertains and beguiles.

 

8 ½ (1963, dir: Federico Fellini)

This restoration of one of Fellini’s most famous films reminds us what a clever man he was, as well as a consummate film-maker. Taking as its starting point the non-starting Fellini after he had finished La Dolce Vita, it tells the story of a blocked director who hasn’t got the faintest idea what to do next. Which all sounds very indulgent and unnecessarily arthouse, until you actually watch as Fellini slowly starts to spin his on-screen phalanx of actors, make-up people, producers, the director’s diversions, dreams and fantasies into something elaborate, fantastical and even at times funny. Marcello Mastroianni is the Fellini stand-in, and the film is really helped by the presence of Claudia Cardinale and Anouk Aimée, about the hottest women on the planet back in 1963.

 

The Wall (2012, dir: Julian Pölsler)

A weird and wonderful re-imagining of Robinson Crusoe. But instead of a man, it’s a woman (Martina Gedeck). Instead of an island it’s the landlocked country of Austria, inside which a woman on a bit of a weekend break, or something, suddenly discovers that she’s locked inside her rural idyll by an invisible wall. And there she stays for years, making friends with various stray animals, writing her diaries, musing on what it is to be human, alone. A deceptively simple but wonderfully told story, which raises the question of how any of us might cope if suddenly cut off completely from civilisation. And Austria looks pretty fantastic too.

 

Broken Circle Breakdown (2012, dir: Felix Van Groeningen)

Bluegrass music in Belgium provides the sweetener for what looks for one awful moment like it’s going to be a film about a child getting a terminal disease and dying. A child does actually get a terminal disease but that isn’t really what this artfully shot, pungently written drama – about a much-tattooed beauty (Veerle Baetens) striking up a relationship with an ex-punk (Johan Heldenburgh) and becoming a singer in his bluegrass outfit – is about. And god can she sing.

 

Fireworks Wednesday (2006, dir: Asghar Farhadi)

Finally finding its way to some sort of release off the back of the Oscar success of his A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s 2006 drama patrols a similar border, the one between traditional Islam and the blandishments of the West, and doesn’t so much wag his finger as point out the areas that are going to chafe. A simple story about a naive young girl who finds herself working for a family who seem to have adultery issues – and she’s about to get married herself – it is so well written, well cast and unobtrusively shot that it feels less like watching a movie more like eavesdropping.

 

Child’s Pose (2013, dir: Calin Peter Netzer)

Romania continues to come up with brilliant films, such as this dour drama about a horrible entitled mother trying to get her horrible ungrateful son off the charge of killing a poor child by dangerous driving. As much a portrait of the haves and have-nots of Romania and how justice is entirely in the service of only one of them (guess which), it is also a remarkable drama that withholds its true intentions. Hold on for the extended final sequence, when the mother goes to visit the dead child’s grieving parents, while the son waits out in the car, and remember to keep breathing.

 

The House I Live In (2012, dir: Eugene Jarecki)

Eugene Jarecki’s documentary about the sheer mess of US drugs policy points out the government has spent $1 trillion on the “war against drugs” since President Nixon initiated it, with the result that recreational drug use has changed not a jot. A well researched doc with the right talking heads, attitudinal but never strident.

 

Small Town Murder Songs (2010, dir: Ed Gass-Donnelly)

A drama that asks us to look at the character of an upstanding cop in a Mennonite community and divine the man he used to be – and it isn’t pretty. Peter Stormare’s hangdog features and impassive thousand yard stare make this hellish unusual type of film even more enjoyable.

 

The Queen of Versailles (2012, dir: Lauren Greenfield)

The documentary that asked us to feel billionaire pain, and succeeded. Starting out simply as a film about the building of the biggest private residence in the US, the enterprise somehow became something much more incisive – a story about financial mess we’ve all been going through, seen from the most rarefied of positions. Entirely fascinating.

 

Rust and Bone (2012, dir: Jacques Audiard)

Always making a bad film (Nine, Public Enemies) bearable and a good film (Inception, Contagion) better, Marion Cotillard is on absolute white hot form in this potentially blubbery drama about a woman who loses her legs and the bouncer (equally remarkable Matthias Schoenaearts) who gives her back her taste for life.

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

25 March 2013-03-25

Writers/stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram in Sightseers. © studiocanal

DVD and Blu-ray out in the UK this week

 

Sightseers (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Serial killing never looked so deliberately dowdy as it does in Ben Wheatley’s excellently funny and very British comedy about a couple (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who also wrote) whose tour of pencil museums and the like is interspersed with grim, impassive slaughter. Think Natural Born Killers, towing a caravan in the rain.

The Hunt (Arrow, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Thomas Vinterberg’s powerful 1998 drama Festen, the first of the pared-back Dogme films, examined the skeletons that rattle around in bourgeois closets and he’s at it again in this drama about a teaching assistant (Mads Mikkelsen, a long way from Bond villainy here) accused of sexual misbehaviour by a five year old. What follows is a witch hunt in grand The Crucible tradition, though Vinterberg’s real concern is the way the middle classes use certain forms of language – think “inappropriate behaviour” – to close down rather than open up understanding.

Great Expectations (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

David Lean’s great 1946 adaptation can rest easy, this version of Dickens’s great novel about a young oik turned into a gentleman thanks to a mysterious financial endowment joins the long list of forgettables. David Nicholls did the rewrite, turning it in the process into something similar to his novel One Day – the story of a horrible young man who has it all, discovering along the way that there’s more to life than simply being a cock. Except, in the shape of Jeremy Irvine, our hero Pip remains a cock to the end. There is good stuff in Mike Newell’s film and the further down the cast list you go the better it gets, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Robbie Coltrane, Ewen Bremner and Olly Alexander all standing out. But the top end of this Great Expectations is a classic of miscasting and misdirection. Irvine I’ve already mentioned, then there’s Helena Bonham Carter’s Miss Havisham, simply horrible rather than deranged and as for Holliday Grainger’s Estella (remember Jean Simmons’s Estella in Lean’s version – cold as hell and consequently hot as hell?), the expression “vinegar tits” jumps to mind.

Boxing Day (Independent, cert 15, DVD)

The latest collaboration on adaptations of Tolstoy stories by director Bernard Rose and actor Danny Huston sees them tackling Master and Man, Huston playing a property speculator spending Christmas being driven from one empty house to the next by an uppity British loser (Matthew Jacobs). If it’s not as great as a previous Tolstoy adaptation by Rose/Huston, Ivansxtc, the central relationship between the two men, which swings between resentment and shut-the-fuck-up, is really something to behold.

Starbuck (Signature, cert 15, DVD)

A warm, funny, engaged and clever French Canadian comedy about a sperm donor being tracked down by the hundreds of offspring he sired single-handedly (obligatory masturbation joke). Starbuck is like a good Richard Curtis film – it’s well cast, has strong incidental characters funnier than the lead (think Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill), which leaves a nicely shambolic Patrick Huard to do the dramatic heavy lifting.

Turn Me On, Goddamit (Element, cert 15, DVD)

It’s the girls who want to get laid, not the boys, in this refreshing Norwegian comedy about a teenage girl in a nowhere town whose life consists almost entirely of school, boozing in the bus shelter and masturbating to phone sex. Made with a wide-eyed innocence that heads complaint off at the pass, this is a surprisingly gentle, very charming comedy. 

The Princess Bride (Lionsgate, cert PG, Blu-ray)

It’s 25 years since William Goldman’s fairytale comedy starring elfin Robin Wright, handsome Cary Elwes and hilarious Mandy Patinkin came out and halfway through rewatching this restoration on Blu-ray I suddenly realised that it more or less supplies the plot template and most of the characters for Shrek. I’m sure the lawyers were there before me.

Thale (Metrodome, cert 15, DVD)

This tense fantasy thriller about a Norwegian police clean-up team finding a mythical creature in a hidden cellar is this year’s Troll Hunter. Unexpected, refreshing, atmospheric and tightly plotted, it’s beautifully shot with vivid colours and unusual deep-focus photography, oh the wonders of digital. Even if you hate this sort of thing, it’s worth watching, and if you do hate this sort of thing you’ll be happy to hear it’s only a short 75 minutes or so. I found some comments from its director, Aleksander Nordaas, over on Pirate Bay underneath the magnet and torrent links to Thale, pointing out to the freebooters who are downloading his movie that he poured his heart, soul and all his money into this film. Not chiding them, not busting their balls, just asking nicely if they would also consider spending a bit of coin through the legal channels. How amazingly even-tempered he is, as well as talented. I hope some of them did – in spite of Thale’s unfathomably low IMDB rating, Nordaas really deserves to make another film.

Thale – at Amazon

 

The review for Thale first ran in the DVD/Blu-ray reviews for 4 March. The film is in fact out on 25 March. I got my dates wrong. And it is such a good film it’s worth repeating. SM

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

4 March 2013-03-04

Silje Reinåmo in Thale

DVDs/Blu-rays out in the UK this week

 

 

Thale (Metrodome, cert 15, DVD)

This tense fantasy thriller about a Norwegian police clean-up team finding a mythical creature in a hidden cellar is this year’s Troll Hunter. Unexpected, refreshing, atmospheric and tightly plotted, it’s beautifully shot with vivid colours and unusual deep-focus photography, oh the wonders of digital. Even if you hate this sort of thing, it’s worth watching, and if you do hate this sort of thing you’ll be happy to hear it’s only a short 75 minutes or so. I found some comments from its director, Aleksander Nordaas, over on Pirate Bay underneath the magnet and torrent links to Thale, pointing out to the freebooters who are downloading his movie that he poured his heart, soul and all his money into this film. Not chiding them, not busting their balls, just asking nicely if they would also consider spending a bit of coin through the legal channels. How amazingly even-tempered he is, as well as talented. I hope some of them did – in spite of Thale’s unfathomably low IMDB rating, Nordaas really deserves to make another film.

Argo (Warner, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Ben Affleck’s tense, polished and accomplished entertainment about a CIA man co-opting Tinseltown into the rescue of hostages in Iran is, most remarkably, based on a true story. There are many reasons why Hollywood gave it the Best Picture Oscar, not least because it proclaims a) the superiority of American democracy over Iranian ayatollahs b) it harks back to a time when the US was still undoubtedly number one c) it turns a defeat (the loss of Iran to the mullahs, the US’s man, the Shah, being kicked out) into a victory and d) it also harks back to when Hollywood was still number one. It’s a Clooney-esque film (he produced) – political, slick, wise, adult and entertaining, and director Affleck shows his mettle particularly as the tension racks up towards the end, wheeling out barriers to escape of every conceivable sort, until it became almost funny. Though for me the best bit was watching Alan Arkin, as one of those gimlet-eyed, cigar-chomping, old Hollywood producers shouting “Argo fuck yourself”. A line everyone is so pleased with they use it again and again. Great stuff.

The Sapphires (Entertainment One, cert PG, DVD)

The audience for this sort of film has probably dried up and blown away. Which is a pity because it’s got romance, music and emotion – it’s a toe-tapping feelgood musical, in other words, with a story arc that’s straight out of The Commitments, and featuring a charismatic performance by Chris O’Dowd, playing the shambling boozer in 1960s Australia who becomes the manager of an aborigine girl group, next stop Vietnam. It’s a true story too.

Battle of Warsaw (Metrodome, cert 15, DVD)

Poland’s first 3D movie is an intensely patriotic affair set in the aftermath of the First World War when the newly formed Soviet Union thought it would gobble up its next-door neighbour. Directed by Jerzy Hoffman, a veteran who brings so much 1960s flavour that you’d swear Julie Christie was about to turn up, it’s a bloody, gutsy film with a familiar twin-track plot – a love story set against the backdrop of bloodshed – and has a pair of proper starry leads in Borys Szyc and Natasza Urbanska. And as soon as it starts we know it’s only a matter of time before she abandons her life as a Weimar-style cabaret singer, signs up as a nurse and heads for a battlefront finale where… no spoilers here. No one seems to particularly like this film, but I did – yes, it’s film-making almost as an exercise in semaphore, but it has touches of the brutal absurdity of The Good Soldier Schwejk and has a lot of time for the working of sheer dumb luck. The 3D? Well, it’s unnecessary but it’s only used in the battle scenes, which come at roughly ten minute intervals.

Hope Springs (Momentum, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD)

I doubt you’ve ever wanted to see Meryl Streep rubbing Tommy Lee Jones’s groin (over his trousers, please) or maybe I’m wrong and you also fantasise about Meryl pleasuring herself under the bed covers in the night. In which case this wholly uncool but undoubtedly well done comedy about an old married couple (no, not old old, this being Hollywood) putting the spark back into their marriage – thanks to relationship/sex counselling from a dialled-down Steve Carell – is for you. If not, there’s always Pornhub.

Gambit (Momentum, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD)

Having made a lash-up of remaking The Ladykillers, the Coen brothers (they write but don’t direct) do similar injury to a 1960s caper movie that wasn’t very good first time round. Then it starred Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine. Now it stars Cameron Diaz, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and poor Tom Courtenay. It’s a relentlessly unfunny misconception about the selling of a phoney Monet painting which takes things that were just about still funny in the 1960s – the sound of a man’s trousers ripping, or a chambermaid burping – no, they weren’t funny then either, you’re right, and adds some Pink Panther-style physical comedy. Which would probably be OK if Firth weren’t doing it. But he’s no worse than Diaz’s Texas accent. In fact only Alan Rickman gets out alive. But then he always does. My gambit – avoid.

 

 

 © Steve Morrissey 2013