Frida (2002)

I like you this way – you’re easier to keep up with. Young Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) is a rambunctious teenager who lives riotously and has an active sex life with her teenage boyfriend Alejandro (Diego Luna). When a tram accident lays her up with potentially life-threatening and crippling injuries she fights back and during all the months encased in plaster discovers a talent for painting, beginning with self-portraits. When she tries to interest people in her paintings she seeks out Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina) whom she taunted as a student. Despite his womanising ways she falls for him and they begin an affair which his wife knows about. They end up living in an apartment above hers. Rivera continues to sleep with his models and Frida paints and her surrealist work attracts attention. In New York in 1934 where Diego has been commissioned to create a mural for Nelson Rockefeller (Edward Norton) his work is censored and both he and Frida have affairs with Tina Modotti (Ashley Judd) and Frida suffers a heartbreaking miscarriage. Back in Mexico her sister Cristina (Mia Maestro) becomes his assistant and Frida finds them in bed together. She returns to her parents’ home and descends into alcoholism. After meeting Diego again at a Day of the Dead celebration he introduces her to Leon Trotsky (Geoffrey Rush) who falls for her when he moves into her house when he is granted political asylum and Frida leaves for Paris when Trotksy’s wife finds out. She returns to Mexico and Diego asks for a divorce then Trotsky is murdered … I should never have put you in a room with him. Adapted by Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava & Anna Thomas (and Antonio Banderas and Edward Norton, uncredited) from the 1983 book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera, this is a beautiful, reverential and somewhat stolid biopic despite the talents, the artistry and the protagonist herself, memorably played by Hayek (who shepherded the production) especially as a teenager. However the episodic nature contrives to mitigate against momentum in this cosmopolitan tale, despite the wonderful aesthetic embellishments – with scenes melting out of Kahlo’s paintings, animations bringing still lifes to fast-moving existence and the use of costume as signifier. As is so often the case in these historical stories, it seems the people around the main character are more interesting and the circumstances more stimulating – and here it’s Diego Rivera who controls the narrative: Frida’s life and fate are basically a reaction to him and that both unbalances the characters and tilts the story in a different direction than it wants to go. It really succeeds as a portrait of a country in a kind of turmoil and exercising fascination for artists, bohemians and the international left. It’s not a failure but more a near miss that ironically really comes to life in the music scenes when Hayek is singing those mournful Mexican songs that make the hairs stand up in thrall to the passions this woman conjures. Beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto and there’s a wonderful score by Elliot Goldenthal. Directed by theatre great Julie Taymor. A communist generous enough to pay off our mortgage

Carrie (1952)

Everybody’s a stranger until you meet ’em. Beautiful young Carrie Meeber (Jennifer Jones) travels from her small hometown to live with her married sister Minnie (Jacqueline de Witt) in Chicago in the 1890s, On the train she meets well-off travelling salesman Charles Drouet (Eddie Albert). When she loses her job in a sweatshop, she reconnects with the charming and smitten Drouet because she needs a new job to pay $5 board to her Swedish brother-in-law Sven (Robert Foulk – uncredited) but she becomes Drouet’s mistress and is now a kept woman. When Drouet’s friend middle-aged restaurant manager George Hurstwood (Laurence Olivier) falls in love with her, complications ensue. He hasn’t told her he’s married albeit unhappily to a controlling social-climbing wife Julie (Miriam Hopkins) and to escape his marriage (and two children making their way in society) he has to commit grand larceny in his office. As he and Carrie make a life together in New York his circumstances worsen and she is none the wiser as to why he cannot work. Then she tells him she’s pregnant and their financial problems threaten to overwhelm them when he reads in the newspaper that his newly married son is arriving from his honeymoon and Carrie sees an opportunity to improve their situation leaving him to his own devices while she blags her way to an acting career … You’ve got to pay the fiddler in this world. Theodore Dreiser’s realist novel Sister Carrie is adapted by Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz for the screen and becomes a typically beautiful William Wyler production – grave, melancholy and immensely moving. Not least because Olivier gives a truly magnificent performance as a man undone by desire and love, brought low by a woman so much younger and more naive. When he declares, This much happiness I’m going to have, you know his sacrifice will bring him down. He is enormously sympathetic, his acting horns drawn right in, probably because with Wyler he was never going to be able to indulge the grand theatrics of old: they had already worked together on Wuthering Heights and the mannered actor in him had been brought to book then by a director who knew just how much he needed from him, and how much storytelling he could do with the camera. And here the camerawork by Victor Milner is supreme, framing every emotional beat with just the right amount of distance and shot size, emphasising different perspectives and roles, juxtaposing possibility with imminent disaster, not least in those wonderful train scenes. Jones’s lack of technique somehow works to the advantage of the story: as her professional acumen improves, so does her control of the narrative: when she sees her ill and bedraggled husband again, and asks, Did I do this? it is simply heartbreaking. Their mismatched yet overwhelming love for one another contrives to make this one of the great unsung melodramas. The casting of Hopkins, who had also worked with Wyler (These Three), and Albert, is perfect, their character notes bringing solidity to an otherwise unbearable tragedy. It’s a sad story but I’ll keep it strictly commercial

The Rainmaker (1956)

I need a name that’s as whole as the sky with the power of a man. During the Great Depression, a drought is wreaking havoc on a small, destitute Kansas town. Bill Starbuck (Burt Lancaster) a slick con artist arrives in town, promising he can make it rain in exchange for $100. His offer is accepted by H. C. Curry (Cameron Prudhomme), a rancher whose middle-aged spinster daughter Lizzie (Katharine Hepburn) is desperate for a suitor. Her brothers Noah (Lloyd Bridges) and Jim (Earl Holliman) are more concerned about her marital status than the state of their thirsty cattle. Lizzie finally finds confidence when Starbuck, ever the smooth talker, convinces her she’s beautiful but the Deputy Sheriff J.S. File (Wendell Corey) for whom she has an unrequited love discovers Starbuck’s true identity and purpose and arrives at the ranch to put him away … You don’t know what’s plain and what’s beautiful. A stagy adaptation by N. Richard Nash of his own play that really struggles to breathe until the last third when Hepburn comes into her own and blossoms under the gaze of antagonist Lancaster, who gives his barnstorming character a touch of magic. It would have been better if Bridges’ role had been bigger as the meaner, more pragmatic brother but Holliman is really fun as the younger supportive one. It’s a studio-bound production which doesn’t even attempt realism but the photography by Charles Lang is rather lovely and the twist ending gives it a nice sendoff. Worth seeing purely for the starry performances. Directed by Joseph Anthony. Is it me? Is it really me?

Capricorn One (1978)

A funny thing happened on the way to Mars. Three astronauts Charles Brubaker (James Brolin), Peter Willis (Sam Waterston) and John Walker (O.J. Simpson) are about to launch into space on the first mission to Mars. But when a mechanical failure surfaces that would kill the three men, NASA chief Dr James Kelloway (Hal Holbrook) removes them from the Capricorn One capsule otherwise their funding will be pulled by Washington. To prevent a public outcry, NASA secretly launches the capsule unmanned and requires the astronauts to film fake mission footage in a studio in the middle of the desert. They do so under fear of their families being killed on a plane bringing them back home. However, the plan is compromised when ambitious TV journalist Robert Caulfield (Elliott Gould) starts reading deeply into a message Brubaker has broadcast to his wife Kay (Brenda Vaccaro) after his friend at NASA Elliot Whitter (Robert Walden) suddenly disappears when he detected the TV signals ahead of the capsule transmissions. When Caulfield’s brakes are tampered with he visits Mrs Brubaker at home to watch some innocuous home movies which confirm his suspicions that the mission is faked then finds the FBI in his apartment framing him for drug possession … With that kind of technology you can convince people of almost anything. Conspiracy theories ahoy! Director Peter Hyams’ screenplay exploits the story that won’t go away about the televised Apollo moon landing and extrapolates a juicy suspenser with an amiable cast. Not in the same league as the major paranoid thrillers of the era, it’s still bright and breezy and pretty plausible given the deniability factors and the political mood. Of cult value for the (non-)performance of Simpson with Karen Black along to help the wonderfully ironic Gould (whose dialogue is superior to the rest of the cast’s) get his man. And then there’s a crop dusting scene that of course recalls North by Northwest – in reverse! With Kojak at the helm! Godalmighty this is a lot of fun but there’s one horrifying scene in the noonday sun that will make you weep. It’ll keep something alive that shouldn’t die

Downhill (2020)

It wasn’t nothing – at all. It was something. Pete Stanton (Will Ferrell) and his lawyer wife Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) are holidaying in Ischgl, Austria with their young sons Finn (Julian Grey) and Emerson (Ammon Jacob Ford) when a close call with an avalanche brings all the pre-existing tensions in their relationship to the fore after Pete runs with his mobile phone instead of ensuring his family’s safety. Publicly, Billie says it’s because Pete is mourning his father, dead eight months earlier. Their sexually forthright tour guide Lady Bobo (Miranda Otto) makes them uncomfortable but Billie starts to feel the seven year itch. Pete is in contact with his colleague Zach (Zach Woods) who’s on a whistlestop, country-a-day trip to Europe with girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao) and he invites them both to visit without informing Billie who promptly tells them about how he left the family in the lurch when he thought the avalanche was going to kill them. Then she has an assignation with a very forward ski instructor … Dad ran away. The American remake of Swedish filmmaker’s Ruben Ostlund’s fantastic 2014 black comedy Force Majeure is that rare thing – it works of itself, it’s subtle, funny, striking and just the right duration. If its sketchiness occasionally lacks the dark dynamism of the original and doesn’t capitalise on Ferrell in particular, it replaces it with some obvious sexual jokes but never loses the central conceit – the total failure of communications between two grown ups who cannot face the truth of their relationship. We’re in a stock image right now. Louis-Dreyfus’ outburst in front of Zach and Rosie is astonishing – and using the kids to back her up is a step even she eventually concedes is a bit de trop. Ferrell’s riposte – going apeshit in a nightclub off his head – doesn’t play the same but he’s a simpler, selfish beast. This is real battle of the sexes territory. The conclusion – when Billie tries to make Pete look good in front of their sons – suggests that this icy marriage might not even last to the end of the credits. Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who co-wrote the screenplay with Jesse Armstrong. Every day is all we have

Happiest Season (2020)

Everybody’s story is different. There’s your version and my version, and everything in between.  Abby (Kristen Stewart) plans to propose to her live-in girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) while at Harper’s family home for the holiday. On the way to their annual Christmas party she discovers Harper hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents Tipper (Mary Steenburgen) and Ted (Victor Garber). Underachiever but dutiful sister Jane (Mary Holland) is Ted’s tech dogsbody while he’s running for mayor and every move the family makes has to be Instagrammed to make them look normal. Overachiever basic bitch Sloane (Alison Brie) turns up with her husband Eric (Burl Moseley) and two nauseating children who get Abby arrested for shoplifting at the mall. Abby meets Riley (Aubrey Plaza) who is Harper’s high school girlfriend and they quickly make friends as Abby tries to avoid embarrassing Harper in public. She contacts her best friend John (Dan Levy) for advice and he counsels her from a distance while she begins to crack under the pressure of not being part of Harper’s proper family, still living in their closet as Harper avoids coming out. Then John visits just as Ted is about to impress the local dignitaries at their annual party … Just because Harper isn’t ready doesn’t mean she never will be, and it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. Co-written by actress turned director Clea DuVall with Mary Holland, this is LGBTQ up the wazoo. We’re in a movie with a Mommie Dearest-type called Tipper so we’re probably nodding to the days of Parental Guidance on vinyl records. A smoothly run surprise-free but enthusiastic entertainment beautifully performed (by all but Davis, who looks very out of place in this ensemble) that was publicised as making gay inroads into festive films. But that was done years ago with the brilliant The Family Stone which is a very amusing well written equal opportunities offender, unlike this, which is really about undoing straight thinking. It’s no accident that the only person speaking common sense is Levy, the token camper; and the father who learns a lesson is gay in real life. The married sister has a black husband which is probably a far bigger issue in reality than the fact that they’re Ivy League law grads who sell hampers and live in an adulterous relationship. There’s more going on here than these family secrets in this clumsy Meet the Parents knock off. The big romcom reference structurally is My Best Friend’s Wedding but we never have the kind of release supplied by that classic although Levy is a breath of fresh air, clearly expressing the film’s true point of view. The earnest virtue-signalling screenplay never seems to explore the real elephant in the room leaving this feeling naggingly incomplete. Maybe it’s a lesbian thing. Ho ho ho hum.  I want you to break out of that closet!

The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (2020)

Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in. As Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) ages and has a place of respect in society having divested himself of his casinos, he finds that being the head of the Corleone crime family isn’t getting any easier. He wants out of the Mafia and buys his way into the Vatican Bank but NYC mob kingpin Altobello (Eli Wallach) isn’t eager to let one of the most powerful and wealthy families go legit. Making matters even worse is Michael’s nephew, Vincent (Andy Garcia) the illegitimate son of his late brother, hothead Sonny. Not only does Vincent want out from under smalltime mobster Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) who’s now got the Corleones’ New York business, he wants a piece of the Corleone family’s criminal empire, as well as Michael’s teenage daughter, Mary (Sofia Coppola) who’s crushing on him. Ex-wife Kay (Diane Keaton) appeals to Michael to allow their son Anthony (Franc D’Ambrosio) quit law school to pursue a career as an opera singer.  A trip to Sicily looms as all the threads of the Corleone family start to be pieced together after a massacre in Atlantic City and scores need to be settled … Why did they fear me so much and love you so much? Francis Ford Coppola revisited the scene of arguably his greatest triumph, The Godfather Saga, with writer Mario Puzo and yet he viewed it as a separate entity to that two-headed masterpiece. That was thirty years ago. Now he’s felt the need to re-edit it and it holds together better than the original release. The beginning is altered and it’s all the better to direct the material towards the theme of faith. Pacino is doing it all for his children and it’s his legacy he cares about more than money or respect: the symbolism writ large in the concluding sequence, a performance of Cavalleria Rusticana in which the weakness of our own central Christ figure is punished with the greatest violence – the death of close family.  This story then mutates from a pastiche of its previous triumphs to a a pastiche of an opera. The shocking and intentional contrast with the Cuban sex show in Part II couldn’t be starker yet it’s there for the comparison as Michael does penance for the death of Fredo, his dumb older brother who betrayed the family. He is physically weak from diabetes and the accompanying stroke;  his efforts to go totally legitimate have angered his Mafia rivals from whose ties he cannot fully break and they want in on the deal with the Vatican where Archbishop Gilday (Donal Donnelly) is the contact with Lucchesi (Enzo Robutti) who has a strange way of getting to everyone in the manner of old school Sicilians.  The Christ analogy is also about family sacrifice as his brother Sonny’s bastard son Vincent is nipping at his heels while sleeping with his own besotted daughter; he finds he is still in love with a remarried Kay, whom he finally introduces to Sicily when Tony is set to make his opera debut;  he is in bed with God’s own gangsters and the one good man Lamberto (Raf Vallone) is revealed as the short-lived Pope John Paul I. The references to the cinema of Luchino Visconti (and The Leopard) are rendered ever clearer while Carmine Coppola’s musical phrasing even drops in a bit of a spaghetti western music. It’s a sweeping canvas which gradually reveals itself even if the setup is awkward:  we no longer open on the windows at the Lake Tahoe house with their inlaid spider webs, instead we’re straight into the Vatican deal. It takes us out of the world of Godfather II. But we still see that sister Connie (Talia Shire) is the wicked crone behind the throne in her widow’s weeds, her flightiness long behind her but her song at the family celebration echoes her mother’s song at the wedding in the earlier film. The same acting problems remain in this cut. Like Wallach, her performance is cut from the finest prosciutto as she encourages Vincent in his ruthless ride to the top of the crime world. Mantegna isn’t a lot better as Joey Zasa. The Atlantic City massacre at the Trump Casino isn’t particularly well done – we’re reminded of a cut price Scarface. Wrapped into real life events at the Vatican in the late 70s/early 80s which give Donnelly, Raf Vallone and Helmut Berger (another nod to Visconti) some fine supporting roles, with an almost wordless John Savage as Tom Hagen’s priest son Andrew, this has the ring of truth but not quite the touch of classicism even with that marvellous cast reunited, something of a miracle in itself:  it feels like the gang’s almost all here. I cheered when I saw Richard Bright back as Al Neri! So sue me! And good grief Enzo the Baker is back too! Duvall’s salary wouldn’t be met by Paramount sadly and he is replaced by George Hamilton as consigliere. Even Martin Scorsese’s mother shows up! That’s Little Italy for ya! Pacino is filled with regret in this unspooling tragedy. And there we have it: the coda to a form of Italian American storytelling, the parallels with the earlier films expressed in flashbacks, as if to say, This was a life. Scorsese’s work is acknowledged but the narrative is forced forward to the inevitable tragedy. Life as opera – filled with crazy melodrama, betrayals, love, violence and murderous death. Garcia’s role makes far more sense in this version – we meet him quicker, his relationship clearly cultivated by Connie to ensure a passing of the guard. Yet what this cut also reinforces is that Coppola’s filmmaking wasn’t as confident, there are too many close ups – where is that surefooted widescreen composition? There are some awkward transitions and frankly bad writing. It’s long but it’s a farewell to a kind of cinema. And the death of Sofia Coppola as Mary was the price she had to pay for being her father’s daughter, non e vero? Now she’s the film world’s godmother. Gangster wrap. Finance is the gun, politics is the trigger.

Misbehaviour (2020)

So this is the eye of the revolution – up close it sure is revolting. As the 1970 Miss World competition looms, divorced mother of a little daughter Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley) encounters sexism as she is interviewed for a place as a mature History student at University College London. She encounters Women’s Liberation activist Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley) painting slogans on a poster and warns her about bobbies patrolling the street. She joins her group which lives as a commune and advises them to engage with the media – they’re so shabby and disorganised and they don’t even have TV but another group in Peckham disagrees with their tactics. Meanwhile Eric Morley (Rhys Ifans) and his wife Julia (Keeley Hawes) are busy trying to secure Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear) as host of Miss World against his wife Dolores’ (Lesley Manville) wishes because when he last did it in 1961 he took the winner home. Pressured by London-based South African apartheid activist Peter Hain (Luke Thompson), Eric Morley decides to parachute in an extra contestant, black Pearl Jansen (Loreece Harrison) who along with Miss Grenada Jennifer Hosten (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is one of the few coloured contestants in the beauty contest. Then a wilder element of Libbers blows up a BBC van on the eve of the competition and the Grosvenor Road commune has to go through with a proper protest under cover of normal clothing during the live show … You think you can have the same freedoms as a man but you can’t. The screenplay by Rebecca Frayn and Gaby Chiappe from Frayn’s story is rooted in reality: this is a group biography but done as a comedy drama in the style of a heist story. It’s a conscientious and entertaining if mild intervention into the evolution of women’s rights. A touch more of zany might have helped this become a genre entry which it’s straining to do but respect for the (still living) heroines obviously hampers wilder moments. And perhaps the truth. It’s a political tale of unbelievable misogyny and inequality. The display of the beauty queens’ behinds for rating is truly shocking: how on earth did this outrageous cattle mart go on as long as it did?! However the lovely irony, that the protest (which occurs in the midst of infamous philanderer Hope’s outrageously sexist monologue) engenders a feminist movement is well played and the meeting between arrested Sally and newly-crowned winner Hosten nicely encapsulates the complex theme and issues which today’s feminists would call intersectional. Fun fact: Sally’s daughter Abigail (Maya Kelly) was the daughter from her marriage to legendary actor John Thaw. Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe. Turns out my seat at the table is actually a high chair

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Aka WW84. Nothing good is born from lies. And greatness is not what you think. As a young girl, immortal Amazon demi-goddess and princess Diana (Lily Aspell) competes in an athletic competition on Themyscira Island against older Amazons. She falls from her horse, misses a stage, and is disqualified after trying to take a shortcut. Diana’s mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) who is general of the Amazon army lecture her on the importance of truth. In 1984 adult Diana (Gal Gadot) works as a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. She specialises in the culture of ancient Mediterranean civilisations and studies languages for fun. She continues to fight crime as Wonder Woman, albeit while trying to maintain some anonymity, rescuing people from a botched jewellery heist in a local mall. Diana meets new co-worker, gemologist Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) an insecure woman who idolises Diana and tries to befriend her. Aspiring businessman and charismatic TV huckster Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) visits the museum to try to acquire a mysterious Dreamstone which grants wishes to anyone who touches it. It is one of the artifacts found as part of the black market the jewellery store engages in and both of the women unwittingly use it for their own desires: Diana wants to be reunited with her dead WW1 pilot lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine); while Barbara wants to be like Diana. She gets a makeover at a local boutique and Lord turns up at a Smithsonian gala and manipulates her in order to retrieve the stone. Once it’s in his possession he wishes to become its embodiment and gains its power to grant wishes, while also able to take whatever he desires from others: he’s been selling shares in oil without striking it yet and in a matter of days becomes a powerful and influential global figure leaving chaos and destruction in his wake. Barbara, Diana and Steve try to investigate the Dreamstone’s power further, and discover it was created by the God of Treachery and Mischief; the stone grants a user their wish but takes their most cherished possession in return, and the only way to reverse the condition is by renouncing their wish, or destroying the stone itself. Steve realises that his existence comes at the cost of Diana’s power. Both Diana and Barbara are unwilling to renounce their wishes, and try to figure out another solution. Maxwell, upon learning from the U.S. President (Stuart Milligan) of a satellite broadcast system that can transmit signals globally, decides to use it to communicate to the entire world, offering to grant their wishes. Barbara/Cheetah joins forces with Maxwell to prevent Diana from harming him. Steve convinces Diana to let him go and renounce her wish so that she can regain her strength and save the world. She returns home and dons the armour of the legendary Amazon warrior Asteria, then heads to the broadcast station and battles Barbara, who has made another wish with Maxwell to become an apex predator, transforming her into a cheetah-woman. After defeating Barbara, Diana confronts Maxwell and uses her Lasso of Truth to communicate with the world … Does everybody parachute now? What a great welcome this film deserves: a charming, heartfelt feminist superhero sequel with a message of peace, love and understanding – but not before the world comes close to annihilation. Adapted from William Moulton Marston’s DC Comics character with a screenplay by director Patty Jenkins & Geoff Johns & Dave Callaham, this starts out very well but tellingly goes straight from a prehistoric setpiece into an Eighties mall sequence and the first half hour is fantastic. Then … there’s character development when the klutzy Barbara arrives and her transformation to Cheetah takes its sweet time while odious businessman Lord is also introduced with his own backstory. The wheels don’t come off, exactly. The scenes are fractionally overlong and the two villain stories don’t mesh precisely with excursions into politics (the Middle East and a bit of an anti-Irish scene in London) which then escalates when Lord introduces himself to the US President (Reagan himself though he’s unnamed) at the height of the Star Wars policy (and we don’t mean sci fi movies). The winged one then learns the beauty of flight from her reincarnated boyfriend; while Barbara becomes more feline and vicious, an apex predator as she puts it. And Lord gets greedy while alienating his little son. So there are three somewhat diverging narrative threads. This is a structural flaw in an otherwise rather wonderful story. An exhilarating pair of back to back introductory setpieces followed by a Superman tribute that is exceedingly pleasant but doesn’t capitalise on all the characters’ considerable potential, this is a half hour too long (like all superhero outings) with scenes that need to be cut and political commentary that doesn’t sit quite right. Some of the jokes about the Eighties (in Pine’s scenes) get a little lost (directing or editing issues?) but the costuming is on the money and given that Diana lives in the Watergate Complex it’s a little surprising more wasn’t made of this or that it wasn’t set a decade earlier. Otherwise DC is nicely established in terms of geography and obviously it’s plundered for story. There are jokes that land rather well, like the Ponzi scheme; and when Steve gets into a modern aeroplane and Diana suddenly remembers that radar exists. In effect, this is a movie about the conflict in using your powers – there is a time and a place and it’s not always appropriate to get what you want because there are consequences and making a choice implies potentially terrible consequences and sometimes loss of life. It also engages with rape culture, sexism and the dangers of TV, taking down cheap salesmen and televangelists. Witty, moralistic and humane this has everything you want in a superhero movie and it looks beautiful courtesy of cinematographer Matthew Jensen and production designer Aline Bonetto. There’s a neat coda in the end credits. And how nice is it that the late great Dawn Steel’s daughter Rebecca Steel Roven is a producer alongside her father Charles Roven? You go Gal! You’ve always had everything while people like me have had nothing. Well now it’s my turn. Get used to it

One Way to Denmark (2020)

Aka Denmark. Medical reports indicate you are sick no longer. Unemployed down on his luck Welshman Herb (Rafe Spall) is broke and can’t see his son. Life in his small town is dank and miserable. He gets mugged for his rubbish phone, the neighbours are awful and he has nothing going on. After he sees a TV documentary about Danish open prisons he hits on a plan to stage a heist with a fake firearm and get himself arrested so that he’ll at least have somewhere warm to sleep and regular food. But after hitching a lift and getting smuggled in a container, when he gets there he is befriended first by a dog and then by a wonderful woman Mathilda (Simone Lykke) who brings him to her home for dinner, introduces him to her little daughter and sceptical mother and he rethinks the plan. Then he doesn’t have enough money to pay for a ticket back home … Your father was a pain in the arse tramp but you know what I think? You’ve beaten even him. The premise harks back to Ken Loach with the dole office problems, the family divisions and the general air of hopelessness – but the larkiness and the mates (including Joel Fry and Tim Woodward) enliven Spall’s performance which struggles to rise above the writing by Jeff Murphy. It feels stuck between wanting to break out as a man who potentially could stage a heist a la Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon and the tenets/constraints of social realism – when Mathilda protests Wales must be beautiful, you feel for Herb’s attempts to explain just how dreadful it really is. The juxtaposition of the ease and relative modern luxury of flat Denmark with rainy stony mountainous Wales is nicely established. There are some moments of gentle comedy and the best visual is when Herb is caught and photographed by the police – his mugshot reads ‘A. Herbert’ which raises a chuckle but generally this is as lacking in laughs and drama as the Danish scenery and the relationships don’t ring true. Directed by Adrian Shergold. Incarceration tourism – that’s a fucking new one