Category Archives: Film reviews



The Fab Four, back when they were the Fab Five

Make a Beatles biopic with absolutely no Beatles music in it. Go on, I dare you.

Getting the Fab Four to grace your movie or TV show, however big your budget, is notoriously difficult. Their manager Neal Aspinall was wary of diluting the brand, and for years Michael Jackson jealously hoarded the back catalogue (I picture him as an etiolated, racially ambiguous dragon crouching in the bowels of Neverland on a crumpled heap of sheet music, occasionally pawing a copy of Lady Madonna and hissing semi-threateningly through his nose). Since Jackson’s untimely/ timely demise (I have no clear idea how old he was, which I’m sure he would have been happy to know), a cover might occasionally slip through the net (The Black Crowes doing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds on the I Am Sam Soundtrack, a bunch of then-unknowns with an unwelcome cameo from Bono in the dull musical Across the Universe). It reportedly took $250,000 and a lot of earnest sweet talking for HBO’s Mad Men to use a snippet of the psychedelic mind bender Tomorrow Never Knows in their final series, and who knows how much for The Social Network to get Baby, You’re a Rich Man playing out over the end titles (worth it).

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The End of the Affair

EA - Happy couple.jpg

Spoiler alert: they don’t stay this happy for long

There’s not many Certificate 18 films in my collection, which I like to think is more of a reflection on my total lack of capacity for horror or violence rather than any particular prudishness. It’s actually quite difficult to get an 18 rating for sex outside of actual porn, it seems – you can have any number of fuzzily lit bedroom scenes complete with clenched jaws and bulging forehead veins without unduly bothering the censors (though it helps if they’re heterosexual, of course), and when you see a film like Danny Boyle’s Trance starring a lovingly rendered slow pan up Rosario Dawson’s naked body – entirely naked, you understand, given ladies who choose to eschew even a token tuft of pubic hair somehow manage to be an actual plot point (the Hollywood wax being particularly aptly named here) – and realise it merited only a 15, you have to wonder what it would take to get bumped up. (The answer being, of course, full frontal male nudity, which still makes the Film Certification Board come over all unnecessary in the manner of a Victorian lady in need of a fainting couch and explains why in the same film all you get of an equally naked Vincent Cassel on screen is a coy glimpse of his right calf). Continue reading

The Rocketeer

TR - poster

Demonstrably the best movie poster ever

Another massive flop! Can you spot a trend emerging?

But first a short aside. A couple of months ago I was walking home late at night through an eerily still and sodium lit London, with only the odd urban fox for company. I stepped off the curb to cross an entirely empty road and suddenly a man appeared in front of me, flying. He held an upright white disk between his feet, rim to the floor, and he snaked silently past me a foot off the ground at high speed and as our eyes met he nodded solemnly like he wasn’t a unicyclist in a suburban prequel to Tron, and then he was gone. Forget all those kids on their ersatz hoverboards hanging around outside KFC, this felt like the real deal. All the hair on the back of my neck stood up, because I suddenly realised I was in fact living in the future. Remember when we were promised jet packs?

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Stealing Beauty



Liv Tyler: just writing poetry in the bath like we all do

You may remember back when all this started (lo these not-very-many months ago), I said I avoided films by auteurs. Apparently I’m prepared to make an exception when these films bomb horribly, because even if he remains best known to philistines like myself for Marlon Brando’s ‘get the butter’ moment from Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci is definitely an auteur. And Stealing Beauty was definitely a flop.

In 1996 Liv Tyler was almost the next big thing. After a winning turn in Empire Records (Just for you – it’s Rex Manning Day!) she just needed the right vehicle to turn her stellar, and luckily, Bertolucci was in the market for his next muse. Unfortunately for both of them, whatever film they were trying to make, it wasn’t the one fans wanted to watch at the Cannes Film Festival where it was roundly booed. And – whisper it quietly – Liv Tyler never really did break out into superstardom, elf-ears notwithstanding. Continue reading

Mission: Impossible 2

Just another day at the gym's climbing wall

Just another day at the gym’s climbing wall

Look, academically I can absolutely appreciate it’s the worst one. It’s awful. The plot is a re-tread of that film with Dustin Hoffman and a monkey and, all things considered, it’s the monkey who makes it out with the most artistic integrity. It’s a shiny, soulless, cynical morass. It’s a mess of explody, car-flipping, gun toting clichés, and Tom Cruise’s ridiculously flippy hairstyle was rejected from a Pantene advert for being unconvincingly shiny. It makes MI:1 look like a cross between Shakespeare and a 1970’s BBC Play for Today in its restraint. If #1 was the dignified uncle, #3 was the serious dad and #4 was the cool older brother, then #2 is the adolescent everyone would really rather forget.

But I don’t care. It’s my favourite. Ladies and gentleman, I present my case as follows: Continue reading

Dog Soldiers

Man, your breath stinks

Breath mint?

There is absolutely no reason why I should enjoy this film, let alone own a copy. I am scared, properly unenjoyably terrified, by horror films. I dislike movies which glorify the armed forces. I hate gore, and suspense, and being made to guess in which order the whole cast are going to die and in which inventive way the next person is going to snuff it. I especially hate films which have an all-male cast running round casually toting enormous guns with a token female in a vest top thrown in as an afterthought.

So as you can imagine it’s quite a relief to find I must not be quite the Grinch-y, bitter, humourless scaredy-cat I affect to be most of the time, because I adore Dog Soldiers. At last count it’s one of only two horror films in my collection (hold out for 28 Days Later at some point), and on a rewatch I believe the reason why can be attributed to one thing alone: It’s all down to the Geordies.

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Center Stage

Ballet dancing - exactly as much fun as their expressions suggest

Ballet dancing – exactly as much fun as their expressions suggest

I do love a good dance movie. If we’re talking about sequels that are better than their predecessors, then I tend to bypass the obvious Godfather example and go straight to Step Up 2: The Streets, which despite the lack of Channing Tatum, (or Tatum Channing? I can never remember) has significantly better choreography and a central couple you can really get behind, you know? But in fact Center Stage seems to be the only dance film I actually own, which even disregarding the US spelling that my heart rebels with every beat against, doesn’t make a lot of sense. OK, Footloose is mainly tractor drag racing, Magic Mike is technically stripping, Billy Elliot makes me cry too much and if I wanted to watch someone de-skin their own finger I would be a different person entirely, Natalie Portman. But there’s Strictly Ballroom for the romance, Save the Last Dance for classic-era Julia Styles, Silver Linings Playbook for Oscar class, Singing in the Rain and Top Hat for the dancing and Dirty Dancing, ironically, for almost everything except the dancing. The fact is, Center Stage is not a good film – the script is clunky, the storyline is entirely predictable, it’s loaded with stock characters, the romance is so obvious it might as well be telegraphed with those mountain-top pyres they use in Lord of the Rings, and the majority of the cast are professional ballet dancers, and as actors… they make very good professional ballet dancers.  Continue reading