18th January 2008
No Country For Old Men
12:20 AM — Everyone loves the Coen Brothers, surely? Over the last two decades, the oddball pair have produced some of the weirdest and most wonderful movies ever to have come out of America - quirky yet accessible, and always with a streak of deliciously black humour running throughout.The Coens have given us that modern icon, Jeff Bridges' White Russian-supping bowling layabout The Dude in their biggest hit, The Big Lebowski.
In the Valley of Elah
12:20 AM — Films about the psychological aftermath of war have a long and generally speaking highly distinguished history. Yet, when the war in Vietnam - similarly unpopular to those in Iraq and Afghanistan - was still raging, Hollywood seemed to have cold feet about tackling the actual blood and guts of the conflict. Apocalypse Now has gone beyond mere classic status to become a defining movie in the history of cinema, but it was also the first film to go into production about the Vietnam War itself. Yet, it was only released in 1979; four years after the war had ignominiously come to an end.
Sweeney Todd 1
12:20 AM — Love him for his quirky visual style or hate him for his apparently deliberate appeal to that subsection of the teenage market that dresses in black all the time, mostly while writing dire poetry about death and unrequited love, Tim Burton is undoubtedly one of the more interesting and individual of mainstream Hollywood directors. Somehow always able to create films that look like no others - even with his occasional misses, like the ill-judged "reimagining" of Planet of the Apes - Burton's movies have a style all their own, and that should always be cause for celebration.
26th October 2007
Lions for Lambs 1
5:10 PM — Say what you like about Tom Cruise, he certainly knows how to pick his films. He may well have had a falling out with Paramount after his bizarre, Scientology and love-inspired behaviour in the run-up to his wedding last year, but love him or loathe him he's one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood - and you don't get to that level of fame by appearing in bad films. Unless, of course, they're bad films that are likely to make a huge amount of money - like Days of Thunder, Legend or the last couple of Mission: Impossible movies.
5:10 PM — In the wake of the massive success of The Lord of the Rings, little wonder that Hollywood's been scrabbling around for other fantasy epics to bring to the big screen, now that the technology is finally good enough to create the kind of strange creatures with which such legendary settings abound. 2005's adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - and its forthcoming sequel Prince Caspian - was an obvious choice, so similar are the two books, thanks to their authors' friendship.
American Gangster 1
5:10 PM — OK, so the last team-up between director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, last year's film adaptation of A Year in Provence that was A Good Year, may have been critically panned and largely ignored by cinemagoers.Yes, Scott's outing before that, 2005's historical epic Kingdom of Heaven, was likewise slated and shunned. And yes, his film before that, the Nic Cage-starring Matchstick Men, made little real impact.
5:10 PM — What is it with doing remakes of classic Michael Caine films? Haven't they learned by now? We've had the glossy but utterly facile Jude Law-starring remake of Alfie, which singularly managed to remove any of the easy cool and charm from that wonderfully misogynistic character, and ripped out the deep sense of melancholy at the heart of the original film in the process. We've had the truly abysmal, almost sacrilegious remake of the glorious Get Carter, with Sylvester Stallone making Caine's cold-heartedly distraught mob killer on a revenge trip into an overweight and pathetically mumbling joke.
The Darjeeling Limited
5:10 PM — The fifth film by oddball director Wes Anderson - he of The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic fame - was always going to be much anticipated.Anderson's films have a wonderful tendency to be both decidedly quirky and gloriously affecting comic character studies quite unlike anything being churned out by anyone else in the Hollywood mainstream.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
5:10 PM — One of the most anticipated films of the autumn, The Assassination of Jesse James has nonetheless been a long time in coming - nearly as long as its title, in fact.Originally set for a 2006 release, with filming completed more than two years ago, despite rave reviews from test screenings for the central performances of Brad Pitt (as James) and Ben's little brother Casey Affleck (as Ford), the fact that the film is a Western seems to have given the studio a number of concerns.
5:10 PM — One of the major benefits of the spread of the internet and the boom in movie piracy has been that the big American studios have finally begun to release their films world-wide at approximately the same time. Whereas in the bad old days us poor consumers from the UK market would end up getting Christmas movies in February or March, the studios following their old pattern of staggering European releases until a good three months after the American box office had had its fill, or even have to wait until the following Christmas, those nasty pirates have forced the studios' hands.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
5:10 PM — 1997's Elizabeth, dealing with the early years of Queen Elizabeth I and her difficult passage to the throne, was a glorious example of the most lavish kind of period drama. Plush sets, a big-name cast, incredible costumes, and a central performance from a then-nearly unknown Cate Blanchett, who was robbed of an Oscar - Best Actress that year instead went to Gwyneth Paltrow for her turn in the so-so Elizabethan romantic comedy Shakespeare in Love, prompting a memorable bout of acceptance speech hysterics.
29th September 2007
9:30 AM — Thanks to the generally pro-Britain approach of the United States in the early years of the Second World War, Hollywood began producing movies about the war long before America even entered the conflict - all staunchly pro-Allies.It wasn't until the mid 1960s that any Second World War films began to emerge that were even vaguely critical of any Allied soldiers, or that dared to suggest that, well, maybe it wasn't quite as simple as "all Germans and Japanese are evil" as the movies seemed to make out.
The Heartbreak Kid
9:30 AM — In the late 1990s, it looked as if the Farrelly brothers were the next big thing in Hollywood comedy. First came the bizarrely braindead Dumb and Dumber then the more intelligent yet equally weird Kingpin, both of which made decent amounts of money and built up keen fanbases that adore them to this day.But the real clincher was 1998's There's Something About Mary - one of the most influential comedies of the decade.
9:30 AM — In today's world of increasing paranoia over the creeping powers of state surveillance, where parallels to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and the Red Scares of the 1950s are made in the West's liberal press on an almost daily basis, it seems a fairly obvious choice to look to old Cold War parables for sources to rework for the present day.But in hunting them out, it seems rather bizarre to opt for one of those that helped add to the paranoia, rather than point out the insanity of the situation.
9:30 AM — Despite the vast majority of modern computer-animated children's films revolving around talking animals being derivative and uninspired, with even the latest Shrek movie having lost much of the lustre that made its predecessors so much fun, every now and then the genre still throws up the odd gem.With the behind-the-scenes talent involved in this latest outing from animation giants Disney and Pixar - notably writer and co-director Brad Bird, the chap behind the entertaining The Incredibles and superb The Iron Giant - the signs were always good.
9:30 AM — The second directorial effort from British producer Matthew Vaughan, who prior to his debut with Layer Cake in 2004 was best known variously as the best mate of director Guy Ritchie or the husband of supermodel Claudia Schiffer, is a surprising change of direction.After all, Vaughan started out closely associated with the late-1990s revival of the British gangster movie after successfully shepherding Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels to worldwide success.
9:30 AM — After the high-octane actioner The Kingdom earlier this month, now we get the more subdued, darker side of the war on terror with Rendition.Picking up on one of the most disgraceful aspects of America's current counter-terrorism strategy, it is an overdue high-profile bit of publicity for an aspect of the current war that has received far too little attention from both press and public alike.
9:30 AM — Michael Moore's stock has fluctuated wildly over the last six or so years. Where in the late 1990s he held a modest reputation as a documentary filmmaker, in the UK he was barely known.After all, his breakthrough documentary Roger Me - a 1989 investigation into the impact of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries in his hometown of Flint, Michigan - seemed to be looking at problems far less serious than those facing people in post-Miners' Strike Britain on the eve of the Poll Tax Riots.
9:30 AM — The directorial debut of screenwriter Scott Frank, unsurprisingly also the writer of this intriguing thriller, is something that fans of intelligently constructed films should be anticipating with relish.Best known in Hollywood as a script doctor, working on films as diverse as Minority Report and The Interpreter, it is for two solo screenplays based on Elmore Leonard novels for which film buffs should thank him.
1st July 2007
Run, Fat Boy, Run 1
5:10 PM — Americans seem to have had a long, special kind of reverence for the British sense of humour. Be it the slapstick Vaudeville antics of London boy Charlie Chaplin, the surreal sketches of Monty Python, or the more recent Stateside superstardom of Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais, when America takes to British humour, it takes to it big time.Little wonder, then, that after the insane successes of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg is now considered a hot comedy property with serious potential to make it big in the US.