Laws of Attraction (2004)

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Lawyers are scum.  Divorce lawyers are the fungus growing beneath scum.  So declaims Daniel Rafferty (Pierce Brosnan), the apparently hapless blow-in to the Manhattan Bar Association who has beaten fellow divorce pitbull Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore) in court. And he has never lost a case anywhere he’s ever worked. They appear to be at daggers drawn but really they like each other straight off. She’s a redheaded neurotic addicted to sugar and advice from her well-connected Mom (Frances Fisher) who can get anyone on Page Six. He seems to be shambolic until Audrey realises he’s written a book called For Better For Worse and it’s going down a storm.  When Audrey tries to soften him up in his grimy office above a Chinese supermarket and he’s not there she looks around it for information to use against him and he plays the surveillance footage in the courtroom. Then he gets her drunk on goat’s balls and she wakes up in his bed after their one-night stand … This really isn’t about opposites at all despite their living accommodation – they both play down and dirty when they can and it’s when they take opposing sides in the divorce of a wretched designer (Parker Posey) and her witless rocker hubby (Michael Sheen) and have to tackle their custody battle over a castle in rural Ireland that their own true feelings get expressed maritally. Moore and Brosnan are terrific in a comedy that is extremely well played but not as barbed as it ought to be. When he meets his mother in law for the first time he asks, Are you really 56? And she replies, Parts of me are. We needed more lines like that. The Irish scenes are typically an echo of John Ford (a donnybrook in the pub, almost) with a fake wedding at the village festival after Daniel drinks way too much poteen but the usual paddywackery is thankfully not as lethal as in Leap Year, that Amy Adams effort. In fact there’s depth to both principal characterisations, with the only weird note struck by Sheen – until you check yourself and remember this was the era of The Strokes and The Libertines and you realise his choices are probably spot on:  rock stars are really that awful. Meanwhile information lying about the marital home comes in useful in the mother of all celebrity divorces and Nora Dunn is fantastic as the judge adjudicating the legal duels. Almost a winner, with Brosnan exhibiting exactly why he should still be James Bond (in a film he executive produced). Am I wrong?! He and Moore could have been like Tracy and Hepburn  in this story of professional one-upmanship if it had been handled better but they really spark anyhow. Somewhat casually written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Robert Harling and Karey Kirkpatrick and directed by Peter Howitt.

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Barry Lyndon (1975)

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It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled;  good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now. An Irish lad on the make in eighteenth century English society. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s everything. Adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Luck of Barry Lyndon, this is Stanley Kubrick’s most sumptuous production and my own favourite among his films (that poster dominates my dining room) and close to being my all-time favourite movie. Rarely appreciated, Ryan O’Neal is just perfect and wholly sympathetic in the role of the impoverished and ambitious social-climbing soldier who romances a wealthy widow. The candlelit interiors, the narration, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the performances – with so many striking cameos – all combine to create an incredible sensory achievement. Much misunderstood over the years, this was re-released to the big screen over the past year to fresh appreciation. It is stunning and enriching, in ways you have to see to believe.

Another Shore (1948)

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Ealing whimsy could fall between two stools – and tragicomedy is the acknowledged text of this outing, set in dear old dirty Dublin, a begrimed metropolis one year before the Republic was declared. Gulliver Shields (Robert Beatty) is a bored customs clerk who throws in his job for a ruse witnessing traffic accidents opposite Trinity College, much to the annoyance of the usual hoi polloi who hang around in the porticoes of the Bank of Ireland. His aim is to get enough cash to go to the South Seas paradise of Raratonga. Nice girl Jennifer (Moira Lister) drinks nearby in the Buttery (hi Matt!) and takes a fancy to him, ultimately causing a disruption to his plans which might yet see the light of day after he falls in with (or in front of) wealthy Alastair (Stanley Holloway), who made his money in Tahiti… Beatty probably wasn’t the man for this unconvincing adaptation of the book by Kenneth Reddin (who was to become a judge), handled perhaps as well as the material allowed by Walter Meade, who also wrote that lovely film Brandy for the Parson as well as Scott of the Antarctic. There’s an interesting score by Georges Auric but Charles Crichton would do a lot better in the director’s chair. However the post-war setting is worth seeing – in a country where WW2 was called The Emergency, a state which has yet to be officially lifted.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)

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Here at Mondo Movies we like nothing better than a national holiday. And our favourite is St Patrick’s Day. So after a breakfast of boiled bacon and cabbage and a green shamrock slushie picked up at our local yellow-arched emporium, this is the film that goes on the player, The Greatest Oirish Fillum Ever Made. Disney’s wonderful interpretation of H.T. Kavanagh’s stories benefits from great design, wonderful colour and a deep understanding of the sly brutalising mendacity of the locals and the hypocrisy of Catholic priests. There are incredible special effects that work almost as well on me now as when first I saw this on TV aged 6, and Sean Connery singing with Janet Munro. What’s not to love? Classic! Directed by Disney stalwart Robert Stevenson with a screenplay by Lawrence Edward (Treasure Island) Watkin. Happy St Patrick’s Day! Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! Jump around!

Finian’s Rainbow (1968)

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This adaptation by a young Francis Ford Coppola of the Broadway musical works mainly because of the songs. Why wouldn’t we all want to uproot from Glocca Morra like Finian and Sharon and Look to the Rainbow in Missitucky USA? Underrated and a lot of fun, especially if you like leprechauns. Definitely the end of an era.