Winter kills

    It used to be that cowboys were the quintessential American movie heroes. Now it’s superheroes, with Batman, Superman, Spiderman, the X Men and Iron Man all vying for our attention. Marvel’s superheroes, in particular, has enjoyed a strong run in our popcorn palaces in recent years with Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man, Chris…

There was something about Mary (and Gary)…

    It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights.  It’s time to meet the Muppets in another film tonight. Yes, the Muppets are back after their successful 2011 reboot. Three years ago, the Muppets found a new family audience with the help of a smart, witty script by Jason Segel…

Space Oddity

    About 38 years ago, director Nic Roeg cast David Bowie in a film that would become a science fiction cult classic. In ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, Bowie played an alien who lands in New Mexico in search of water for his drought afflicted planet. Going under the pseudonym of Newton on…

Do The Hustle

    The comedian George Burns once observed: “All acting is about honesty. “If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” That quote pretty much sums up the brilliance of David O Russell’s ‘American Hustle’ – a dazzling film worthy of its Oscar contender status, packed with believable performances from Hollywood actors very much…

The Emperor’s New Clothes

    As the 2014 Oscars race enters its final week, critics have been falling over themselves to praise ‘The Great Beauty’ (‘La Grande Bellezza’) – Italy’s frontrunner for Best Foreign Language Film. Last autumn, the Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin gushed that it was a “shimmering coup de cinema that would make your heart burst,…

Bang to Rights

    From ‘That Was the Week That Was’ to ‘Yes Minister’ and ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’ right through to ‘The Thick of It’, British television has a long and proud tradition of biting satire. So there was understandable excitement last year when it was announced that the creators of ‘Peep Show’, Jesse Armstrong and…

Breaking the chains

    In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln argued in a letter to Albert G Hodges, a newspaper editor in Kentucky: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” But if Lincoln provided the moral and political compass that helped America eventually abandon slavery, literature played its part too. Connecticut schoolteacher Harriet Beacher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom’s…

Let the battle commence

    The battle lines have been drawn. Steve McQueen’s ’12 Years A Slave’, David O Russell’s ‘American Hustle’, Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ and Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ will duke it out for the major honours at this year’s Oscars. And Alexander Payne will join them in the races for Best Director and…

White Collar Crime

    I’m going to end last year with a review of a white collar crime movie. No, it doesn’t star Leonardo Di Caprio. Nor does it feature Jonah Hill. So that rules out Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. The white collar crime I am writing about is instead perpetrated by the British…

Can we talk? (Film Review of 2013)

2013 was the year when cinema went into an existential crisis. Hollywood studios bombarded audiences with noisy, overblown blockbusters, so-so animations and a succession of lame comedies. But some of cinema’s most respected actors and directors began to openly question whether the studio system was broken. Some even started to migrate to the small screen in…

Enter the Dragon

    Peter Jackson doesn’t really do low budget movies and he doesn’t tend to do 90 minute films. Having delivered a 169 minute ‘Hobbit’ movie last year, the second film in the trilogy is still a hefty 161 minutes and its budget stands at $200 million. Each movie in his acclaimed ‘Lord of the…

An Awfully Big Adventure

    This review is one year too late. But it makes sense to write it now because you can’t properly assess the second ‘Hobbit’ movie in cinemas this week without having reviewed the first. Last year, I reluctantly had to forego an opportunity to attend a preview screening of ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’…

Reach for the stars

    In 1986, the American film historian Tom Gunning coined a phrase which perfectly captured the sense of wonder felt by audiences during the pioneering days of silent cinema. Audiences, Gunning argued, were at first drawn to a “Cinema of Attractions” by the sheer novelty of the moving image. They initially marvelled at Auguste…

Ice to see you

    Okay. Let’s not rake too much over old ground. Suffice it to say that going to family movies this year with our children has been a lacklustre experience. With the exception of ‘Wreck It Ralph’, Disney-Pixar, Dreamworks and Sony Animation have come up with lame feature length cartoons full of lazy storylines, overblown…