Zoolander 2 (2016)

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Adam, Eve and … Steve. It’s a long time since we first met Derek and tried Blue Steel and social media appears to have radically filtered our narcissistic reality in the interim but this isn’t exactly Chanel No. 5 no matter how you cut the advertising. Justin Bieber never did anything to me but a lot of people enjoyed watching him getting machine gunned to death in the first few minutes. The setting in Rome is delectable. The cast are game. It’s a supremely silly satire about fashion vanity and everyone you have ever heard of is in it. YOU are probably in it. The story is about Fashion Interpol – run by Penelope Cruz – who get Derek and Hansel to help uncover the villain behind the assassination of pop stars. Derek finds his son in an orphanage and is horrified by his obesity. Hansel has fathered a bunch of children in Malibu (presumably an in-joke). Sting meets the irrelevant pair at St Peter’s and tells them an alternative tale of models’ origins which has a vague similarity to Christianity. Mugatu is back attempting world domination. Funny, daft, utterly inane. What did you expect?! Written by John Hamburg, Nicholas Stoller, Justin Theroux and Ben Stiller, who also directed.

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Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

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This is just too cool for school. Much heralded for starring Madonna, it’s a brilliant study of female friendship and a treasure hunt and small ads and being a magician’s assistant and a bored New Jersey housewife! Susan Seidelman’s sophomore outing hit all sorts of buttons but mostly it was the trendsetting pop star’s clothing that made people sit up and take notice of this loose take on Celine and Julie Go Boating (not that the fans realised this was what it was). Writer Leora Barish (Craig Bolotin did uncredited additions) turns it into an American genre piece, with magician’s assistant Susan (Madonna) making off with some valuable Egyptian earrings from her criminal boyfriend and keeps up with her friend Jim with notices in the newspaper which alert wealthy Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) to their meeting in Battery Park. She follows the engaging kook not realising when she acquires her cool jacket from a thrift store that she is now on the hook for witnessing something she knows nothing about and the key in the pocket could literally unlock a Pandora’s box of problems and murder … Engagingly written, performed and staged, with Aidan Quinn providing love interest and Laurie Metcalf some rich quips, this tale of girl power seems like a movie from another planet nowadays. And that’s not a bad thing! Get Into The Groove! Watch out for the great comic Steven Wright, John Turturro, Richard Hell, Ann Magnuson, John Lurie and Shirley Stoler. What a cast from the NYC underground/alt scene! And what a prophetic title this is:  where has the director disappeared? Seriously, The Hot Flashes? Desperately Seeking Susan Seidelman!

Danny Collins (2015)

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Danny Collins is a promising singer-songwriter in the early Seventies. After a difficult first album he turns to schlocky romantic songs and becomes a big hit with the ladies. Forty years on his manager buys him a letter from his hero John Lennon which was written following an interview in which Collins talked about his hero. It was sent to a magazine and withheld for its sales value. He is simultaneously devastated and re-invigorated and re-evaluates life from his coke-addled perspective in a mansion in LA where he’s shacked up with a decades-younger tramp who has sex with other men. He wants to go back to Year Zero and write his own songs again and find the son a groupie had by him back in New Jersey. The wondrous Al Pacino is of course Collins, Christopher Plummer is the manager who wants him back on track for a moneymaker tour and Bobby Cannavale is the son, now married to Jennifer Garner and a father himself, of an autistic daughter. And Annette Bening is the manageress of the hotel where Danny holes up to re-examine his life:  a safe space, except when reality barges in on occasion. He freezes when it comes to playing new material and returns to his old ways. His son regrets exposing his medical problems. Danny tries to do over everything with money. It’s a pretty great premise, written and directed by Dan Fogelman and based on a true story about a Welsh singer. It’s conventional stuff but the nuanced performances raise the bar and the quasi-romance with Bening is realistically effected even within the generic framework. They somehow managed to get the rights to a whole raft of John Lennon’s life-changing songs (not that I’m prejudiced) but Al also sings some originals. He can act. That’s all I’m saying. An overlooked gem.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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It doesn’t have huge stars or an immediate sense of a masterpiece. However the influence of the Gothic and what would come to be called film noir is all over this skewed tale of Americana made in 1942, directly after the United States entered World War 2.  Hitchcock was finally in the process of settling down and buying property, and he was making a film on location in a small Californian town, the epitome of Andy Hardy-ness.  Until Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) comes to town and his namesake niece (Teresa Wright) begins to suspect that there’s a serial killer of wealthy widows in their midst … The constant sense of threat, the overwhelming fear that something bad will happen, is built into every scintilla of the film’s design.  Our sympathy for Uncle Charlie is cunningly transferred to his niece as his psychopathy is revealed.  Long thought to be the maestro’s favourite film (he demurred when asked to confirm) this was Hitchcock’s earliest sign of an interest in the double, a preoccupation that would herald Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, and the noirest noir of them all – Psycho. I have written a book about this film and you can get it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Who-Knew-Too-Much-ebook/dp/B01KTWF08U/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1476297954&sr=8-5&keywords=elaine+lennon.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much: Shadow of a Doubt (1943) by [Lennon, Elaine]