Mafia Mamma

Toni Collette as Kristin

Two thirds good, one third bad, as George Orwell almost said, Mafia Mamma is a comedy about a timid, emotionally giving American mother who becomes a mafia don, a donna in fact, after her grandfather in the old country dies in gang-related circumstances and she takes over the firm. Not that Kristin (Toni Collette) understands any of that. As far as she’s concerned the old guy was a winemaker and at the point where she is heading off to Italy to attend his funeral, it’s as much to get some “Eat. Pray. Fuck.” as to pay her respects. The fact that she’s just caught her husband banging her son’s counsellor in the kitchen … Read more

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken

Ruby in the underwater realm

The Ruby in the jolly and entertaining Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is, true to billing, a Kraken. Which is to say, Wikipedia definition, a giant sea monster that’s found off the coast of Norway, according to old sailor lore. Krakens don’t turn up in movies as often as vampires, zombies or even werewolves, but there are more of these folkloric creatures about than you might think – Victor Hugo and Jules Verne wrote about them, so did Alfred Lord Tennyson and Herman Melville (in Moby-Dick). John Wyndham perhaps most famously, in his novel The Kraken Wakes. But they also make an appearance in Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean. So Krakens … Read more

Nightmare Alley

Stan and Zeena

2021’s Nightmare Alley isn’t based on the 1947 film noir of the same name, so we’re told by various venerable authorities. Tell that to the judge. Even if it genuinely is a bona fide and honest reworking of the same source material, William Lindsay Gresham’s smash 1946 novel, even a quick look at the 1947 movie is enough to convince anyone that this Nightmare Alley has seen the older one, taken notes and then studied them hard. This extends to the casting choices. These start with Bradley Cooper as the grifter who starts out as a nobody in a carnival, works his way to the top of showbiz with a mentalist routine, over-reaches … Read more

The Night Listener

Robin Williams and Toni Collette

When he switches off the mouth, Robin Williams can be an incredibly effective actor. This is one of those turns, yet it’s ironically about a man who is a professional mouth, a DJ with a late-night show who uses his graveyard phone-in to tell and listen to stories. It’s another of Williams’s characteristics as an actor that he’s happy, let’s say willing, to play characters who either aren’t likeable or are downright nasty, One Hour Photo being the ultimate proof of that. Again ironically, he’s neither here, though he is playing a character despised in much of society – a gay man. There’s a dark almost Hitchcockian feel to the path that leads off … Read more