A Man Called Otto

Tom Hanks as Otto

Gently coaxing boomers away from the culture-wars trenches, Otto is the sweet story of a sour man, a Christmas movie with no snow or jumpers (or Christmas, just for the avoidance of doubt). Otto is Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, or George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, the guy failing to see that heaven is a place on earth, if you want it to be. See also Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood as the grouch copping redemption). And St Vincent (Bill Murray ditto). It’s an adaptation of a Swedish novel, En man som heter Ove (A Man Called Ove), a bestseller in many markets, and it’s already been spun off once, into … Read more


Elvis on stage in the early years

It was Elvis’s misfortune to die in 1977, just as punk rock was coursing through mainstream culture. Old and worn out at 42, sick and fat, the King became an instant shorthand for everything that this new wave of music wanted to drive to extinction. He died on the toilet, the story went, with an impacted colon. What a metaphor – the man was literally full of shit. None of that features in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, a gaudy and joyous celebration of the man from cradle to grave, stopping off mostly at the best bits and leaving the dark stuff way off to the sides. This would be terribly problematic, if Elvis were the … Read more

The Money Pit

Tom Hanks

Barely ever really funny, The Money Pit is something of a slapstick classic all the same, a triumph of a kind of Hollywood film-making and playing that’s so precise that you have to admire it… even though you’ll probably not laugh. The scenario is lifted wholesale from the 1948 comedy Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House, which starred Cary Grant and Myrna Loy as the couple who buy a doer-upper and realise there’s more to do up than they can possibly manage. Here it’s Tom Hanks and Shelley Long as the pair who leapt before they looked. Hanks, two years after his breakthrough in Splash, is in his high comedy phase. Two years later … Read more

News of the World

Helena Zengel and Tom Hanks

British readers wondering why Tom Hanks is starring in a film about a defunct Rupert Murdoch newspaper – fondly known as The News of the Screws, because of its interest in kiss-and-tell stories – wonder no more. This western is called News of the World because that is the name of the novel it’s based on, by American writer Paulette Jiles. Simple as. The film version is immediately reassuring on three counts. First, the look of it as it opens, honeyed light spilling from kerosene lamps in what is obviously a Western setting – props to DP Dariusz Wolski, who for a long time has been doing great work on what often turn … Read more

Charlie Wilson’s War

Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 3 July President Carter agrees to topple the Afghanistan government, 1979 On this day in 1979, a US president whose reputation seems to rest on his profound desire to avoid conflict (see the Iran hostages crisis, a story told in Argo), signed a directive which would provide secret aid to opponents of the government in Kabul. The government, controlled by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was pro-Soviet and socialist, and Carter’s help consisted of funding the Peshawar Seven, one of two groups collectively known as the Mujahideen (the other, the Tehran Eight, was funded by Iran). The intention was … Read more

The Da Vinci Code

Audrey Tautou, Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code

“What, [dodges bullet] you mean Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God [jumps into speeding car] and married Mary Magdalene [hijacks armoured vehicle] who bore a child who [takes plane to an England full of half-timbered cars] established a bloodline which [evades knife-thrust of albino monk] if it were ever to become public knowledge would [accidentally shoots cardinal] undermine the power of the Catholic Church [garrottes nun]?” There’s plenty more of this sort of carry-on in director Ron Howard’s almost satisfying attempt to turn Dan Brown’s 560 pages of lecture-chase-lecture into something cinematic. And it had to be made into a movie – the sales figures of the book said so. But did … Read more