The Age of Adaline (2015)

Lee Toland Krieger directs Blake Lively, Harrison Ford and Michiel Huisman in this fantasy romance where a beautiful woman finds her looks and health frozen meaning she cannot age while her lovers, family and America does.

Polished but drama-lite doings. Ford is always good value, Lively looks stunning but the plot and passions are stillborn, predictable. Underwhelming, wasteful of a good premise.

4

Father of My Children (2009)

Mia Hansen-Løve directs Louis-Do De Lencquesaing, Chiara Caselli and Alice De Lencquesaing in this French drama where a producer of arthouse cinema faces bankruptcy as his life falls apart and his family grows distant.

A film of two halves. Watching our ostensible lead desperately glued to his phone as his arthouse empire is destroyed by poor financial decisions is pretty compelling. We know we are supposed to relate to his ignored family waiting in the sidelines but watching a man run across a a tightrope about to be cut is more captivating. The second half where liquidators and caretakers move in to either salvage or close down the business opens up secrets and emotions for the family, a slightly more humane ensemble emerges… Yet I enjoyed the stress headache of the one man show first half far more.

6

Our Man Flint (1966)

Daniel Mann directs James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb and Gina Golan in this Bond parody that has dated terminally.

Derek Flint is a smug, detestable hero. He glides through the diluted plot never really putting any effort in. The overriding values are callously sexist and imperialistic – there may have been satirical intent but the cake was definitely being had and eaten. Women are sexless doll slaves to be rescued – lacking none of the agency nor resistance of Fleming’s lustier, vivacious counterparts. This is now a laughless, thrill-free, pop art wannabe. Why bother with it when Austin Powers does such a better job with the same intent?

3

The Monster Squad (1987)

Fred Dekker directs Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert and Ashley Bank in this Shane Black scripted teen horror comedy, where a group of small town nerds take on the pantheon of classic movie monsters.

One of those childhood delights that you hope will live up to your adolescent adulation. This does – it proves really good fun, still snappy, showcasing brilliant live Stan Winston FX and with nice set pieces. A more definitive influence on Stranger Things than say The Goonies, this puts the kids in believable fantasy peril and plays on them working as a group of foul mouthed friends. There’s a sense of awe and wonder, there’s a surprising level of gore to it that just wouldn’t pass muster for a PG rating today. And the villains (Dracula, his brides, The Wolf Man, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Creature From the Black Lagoon) are not just well realised but updated sympathetically so they fit in with the legacy of their black and white forebears. A thrilling, juvenile romp.

7

Movie of the Week: South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut (1999)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone direct their own voices, George Clooney and Isaac Hayes in this bad taste musical comedy where the animated TV show characters go to war over some farting Canadian comedians.

Believe it or not I outgrew South Park very quickly. I don’t think I’ve chosen to watch an episode this century. The film though is delicious. Rousing musical numbers and relentless nasty behaviour. We watched this on a train this week, so had to suppress our laughter a bit. That was incredibly difficult. The refreshment trolley pusher came at an unfortunate moment. We paused to politely respond to her. She got an eye full of Kenny floating into some heavenly hand-drawn titties. Freeze framed. Brightness up. Could have been worse though… Could have been as Saddam Hussien was waving his photorealistic schlong at Satan! Crammed full of the funny.

10

Doctor Sleep (2019)

Mike Flanagan directs Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran in this horror adaptation of Stephen King‘s literary sequel to The Shining where a middle aged Danny Torrance tries to save a psychic child from a group of soul vampires.

Having read the book on release in 2013, I knew exactly what to expect. Stephen King wrote 200 pages of sheer terror, some of the best horror writing since his Eighties heyday. Each chapter was a self contained tale of terror relating to the aftermath of The Shining and a new group of ghouls – The True Knot. Then when it tries to move the action to The Overlook and tie up all the expansive threads together it became an alright mess. Guess what the film is like? There are plenty of positives. McGregor and Ferguson do attractive work… her especially! Rose The Hat is a gloriously out of sync, seductive antagonist. Flanagan, a King aficionado, lends the whole affair a glossy, prestigious air. I do think he maybe drops the ball in terms of scares but there’s plenty of creeping unease. Infrequent bursts of fear are stingily deployed; the shots of the soul suckers cycling to their death are Fangoria worthy even if everything else is a bit too respectfully well made. When bad stuff occasionally happens it still jolts or discombobulates you though. The fan service to Kubrick’s masterpiece starts well but slowly become rotten as we get to that impending Overlook showdown. As with the slightly different ending in King’s novel, the pressure relents to a sigh once we are on that accursed Indian burial ground. Nothing great happens, the film peters out, the iconography feels off and the inevitable ressurection of Jack Torrance is mishandled. If you can’t get Nicholson to show up for a day’s filming, then don’t show a chubby actor with the correct hairline’s face. We could have accepted the strange cameo from the grave if they just stuck to a mimicking voice and back of head and serving hands. In fact, who knows what grotesqueries our minds might have poured into that blank. A shame that Doctor Sleep loses itself in the final act as the bulk of it is very good, if not the Halloween carnival ride we probably all need right now.

7

Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Craig Brewer directs Eddie Murphy, Wesley Snipes and Keegan Michael-Key in this warm-hearted true story of a struggling black entertainer who risks his one shot at success making a blaxploitation film with next to no money.

A genuine crowd pleaser. You have Eddie back on foul mouth, big cheeked smile, hundred word a minute form. My God! It is like having an old friend rock up to a party unannounced. Snipes also is top value as the star / director who turns his nose up at the car crash production he has somehow gotten involved in. Now this essentially is a ghetto retread of Tim Burton’s superior Ed Wood… and one that maybe overruns by a baggy 20 minutes. In the main though it warms the cockles and jolts the funny bone with a pleasing force. Treat yourself to an all round entertainer.

8

The Little Stranger (2018)

Lenny Abrahamson directs Domnhall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson and Charlotte Rampling in this post-war period drama where a small town doctor ingratiates himself into the crumbling mansion of an unfortunate land owning family.

I get the feeling that The Little Stranger might be an experience that improves on second viewing. Not because there is any great twist that turns what you have watched on its head. More as for a long old time you are uncertain what you are watching… Is it a romance? A ghost story? A class satire? An out-of-time yuppie in peril thriller? A coded exploration of toxic masculinity? A paean to a dying way of life? It works as all but doesn’t truly settle as any. If you are a fan of Daphne du Maurier then I think you’ll find plenty to savour. It is often a coldly beautiful, quietly daring film. Yet you’ll struggle to garner an emotional connection with the characters or a baring to the mysterious narrative where you can comfortably enjoy what unfolds. Writing these reservations about the film actually makes me appreciate it a little more. I might return to this or read the Sarah Waters novel it is based on. The score below could rise.

6

Lucky (2018)

John Carroll Lynch directs Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch and Ron Livingston in this indie where an ageing eccentric faces up to dying of mere old age in a desert town.

A mood piece akin to forgotten bums hang out gems like Trees Lounge, Factotum or Two Lane Blacktop. There’s more than little of David Lynch’s The Straight Story in there too. And Paris, Texas. Hell, that’s a lot of good movies echoed. A skeletal Harry Dean Stanton looks down the barrell of death’s gun, shrugs, goes about his day, being eccentric, meeting eccentrics and getting on with it. It is a nothing movie that has significant stuff to get off its chest while it rambles over some lovely imagery of character actors sharing scenes and a dusty town bustling with energy.

7