For the full review, click on the picture
The Edge. (15.)
Directed by Barney Douglas
Featuring Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Andy Flower, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Paul Collingwood and Jonathan Trott. 95 mins. Selected cinemas and out on Blu-ray and DVD
This being a film about English Test cricket, it is appropriate that the opening is disappointing. It starts with Jimmy Anderson, the country's record wicket-taker running across a deserted stretch of sandy beach towards the camera. And when he reaches it, and stands there panting, you hope he's going to say "It's" and for a big foot to come down and squash him and announce Monty Panesar's Flying Circus. Instead, we have narrator Toby Jones telling us that cricket is not just a game but, “A dual between the mind and time.”
Directed by Jonah Renck.
Starring Jarred Harris, Stellan Skarsgard, Emily Watson, Paul Ritter, Jessie Buckley, Adam Nagaitis. Out on DVD July 15th, out on Blu-ray 29th.
Chernobyl just blew up out of nowhere. The first I heard of it was a billboard for Now TV featuring Emily Watson's face and the title. The next thing was that this HBO/ Sky co-production was now rated on the IMDB chart as the greatest TV programme ever, brushing aside a couple of David Attenbourghs. Its ascension was that quick and that bewildering. I just did not see how a binge-watch, box set drama could be made about the explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in 1986. But actually the solution was simple: they made a zombie film of it. Almost everybody in this recreation of the disaster and its consequences is, to varying degrees, the walking dead.
For All Mankind. (15.)
Directed by Al Reinert. 1989.
Featuring James A. Lovell Jr., Russell L. Schweickart, Eugene A. Cernan, Michael Collins, Charles P. Conrad Jr., Richard F. Gordon Jr. 80 mins. Out on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.
“You're go for the moon." Of all the permutations of words in English, of all the possible sentences, there is none that I'd rather have heard than that, said to the crew of an Apollo command module by ground control as it orbited the Earth. To be go for the moon must have been a hell of a thing, one of those great things we used to do. This feature-length documentary about the Apollo mission is full of marvellous things we don't do any more, but perhaps the appropriate emotion for a viewer is less despair at how far we have fallen but be grateful that a few people ever did them in the first place.
Dazed and Confused (15.)
Directed by Richard Linklater. 1993.
Starring Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Michelle Burke, Adam Goldberg, Matthew McConaughey, Sasha Jensen, Milla Jovovich, Marissa Ribisi, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams, Cole Hauser, Anthony Rapp and Ben Affleck. 100 mins. Out now on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
The period details in Linklater's nineties recreation of the last day of school in Texas in 1976, the Bicentennial, is so natural, so unforced, so you-are-there, that while you're watching it you'll probably be thinking, wow I never knew Affleck/ Posey/ McConaughey were that old.
My Brilliant Career. (15.)
Directed by Gillian Armstrong. 1979.
Starring Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Wendy Hughes, Robert Grubb, Max Cullen, Aileen Britton, Peter Whitford, Patricia Kennedy. 97 mins. Out on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
On an outback farm in the late 19th century, a mother despairs of her headstrong daughter, Sybylla (Davis.) While everybody else toils in the dust to get the cows milked, she lurks indoors fancying herself to be destined for an artistic life, though she has yet to decides which field she will dedicate her talents to. Any parent can sympathise but surely she was asking for trouble calling her Sybylla in the first place. That is not an outback name.
A Face In The Crowd (PG.)
Directed by Elia Kazan. 1957.
Starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau, Lee Remick, Percy Waram. Black and White. 127 mins. Released on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
Seen in 2019, Kazan and Budd Schulberg's satire on the power of TV, the corrupting force of fame and the crossover between celebrity and politics is like seeing an early documentary about the possible link between smoking and cancer. The message is so familiar, so obvious to us now that you have to constantly adjust your perception and remember that this was something of a revelation when it was first shown. The film charts the meteoric rise of a folksy raconteur Lonesome Rhodes (Griffith) from local radio personality in Arkansas to nationwide fame and political influence. As a study of American culture it is a mix of the all-too-understandable, and aspects that remain impenetrable to outsiders.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jmmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. (15.)
Directed by Robert Altman. 1982
Starring Karen Black, Sandy Dennis, Cher, Sudie Bond, Kathy Bates, Marta Heflin. 107 mins. Out now on Dual format Blu-ray and DVD as part of the Eureka! Masters of Cinema series.
But then there is always the theatre. When you've burnt all your bridges and every door is closed to you, when you've messed up so completely nobody can see a way back for you, there's always the fearta. Because the fearta doesn't care, it takes in anyone and doesn't seem to discriminate about talent or lack thereof. Just follow the code and you'll be fine. If you can't make it there, you can't make it anywhere.
The Heiress (15.)
Directed by William Wyler. 1949
Starring Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson and Miriam Hopkins. Black and white. 112 mins. Out on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
The Heiress is a three-way act off between de Havilland, Clift and Richardson, each of them coming from a different acting traditio, fighting their corner. Clift is broadly of the method school, de Havilland the studio system and Richardson the British fearta. I came here for Monty but have to admit that my boy, who does strong work, comes out a clear third in this bout.
The Italian Job. (PG.)
Directed by Peter Collinson. 1969
Starring Michael Caine, Noel Coward, Benny Hill, Raf Vallone, Tony Beckley, Margaret Blye, Irene Handl, John Le Mesurier, Fred Emney and John Clive. 99 mins. Back in Cinemas for Father's Day, June 16th. Also available on 50th anniversary Blu-ray/ DVD from Park Circus.
To my eternal shame and embarrassment, I walked out of this film as a child. I was about 6 or 7 and had thoroughly enjoyed Monte Carlo or Bust but was finding this second part of the double bill to be a bit of a chore being full of kissing and talking and no cars. Had my mum told me that there was a car bit, a very substantial and memorable car bit, towards the end I might have stuck it out. (A few years later I'd do the exact same thing to my favourite Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, deemed an inferior double-bill companion to Live And Let Die.) Now, of course, all that talky stuff is a major reason why this is such a treasured film, a beloved British institution.
The Descent of Batman.
Batman (15.) Batman Returns (15.) Batman Forever (12A) Batman and Robin (PG) 4K restorations available individually on Ultra HD Blu-ray and Digital. A four-film box set is due out in September.
It's the 80th anniversary of Batman and to mark the event and, hey, who knows, maybe make a buck or two while they're at it, the Brothers Warner are re-releasing the four original Batman films made between 1989 and 1997, from the triumph of the first Tim Burton/ Michael Keaton instalments all the way down down down to the final Schwarzenegger/ Clooney fiasco. It's the Descent of Batman with Michael Gough, ever present as butler Alfred, the disdainful Kenneth Clark figure watching over civilisation's slide in barbarism.
The series sees perhaps the most dramatic plummet of quality ever managed over four films. Yes, of course, you can list a raft of films with four in the title that are travesties of the film that spawned them – Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, would be a good starter – but these have always been cash-in efforts, done on the cheap. The journey from Batman, or more specifically Batman Returns, to Batman and Robin is a willful and deliberate piece of philistinism, a systematic trashing of invention and creativity.
Lets start at the beginning with Batman (15.)
Directed by Terrence Malick.
Starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Alan Vint. (1973.) 94 mins. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from the Criterion Collection.
I've reviewed Terrence Malick's first film twice already: first when it got rereleased in cinemas sometime in the first half of the decade and last year when Warners released it as one of their dual play Premium edition releases, so go here for the review. Criterion's version offers a restored 4K digital transfer, approved by Malick, and a selection of extras (supplements as they prefer to term them) which throw unexpected light on its creation, both in terms of Malick's approach and the film's basis in a real-life horror.
Khrustalyov, My Car! (18.)
Directed by Aleksey German. 1998.
Starring Yuriy Tsurilo, Nina Ruslanova, Mikhail Dementyev. Black and White. 147 mins. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Academy.
Because you can never have too many too many epic black and white Russian films in your life, I was drawn towards, but apprehensive of, this rerelease. After his posthumous sci-fi epic Hard To Be A God made a bit of a splash in the sleepy backwaters of Indie cinema when it finally came out in 2017, Arrow decided to dig up director Aleksey (or Aleksei) German's previous film. It's about a military doctor getting caught up in the Doctors' Plot in the last days of Stalin and it has a fevered style all of it own. It's a form of grim slapstick that mixes the frantic mania of a Terry Gillian film with the visual severity of Bela Tarr. It's really quite something. If I had even the slightest inclining of what was going on at any time during its 147 minutes I'd probably be calling it a masterpiece.