Pillow Talk (1959)

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Producer Ross Hunter thought Doris Day could be sexy and her husband Marty Melcher resurrected a script by Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene that had been loitering unmade since 1942, and with a rewrite by Stanley Shapiro and Maurice Richlin and a co-star in Rock Hudson, a new movie partnership was born. From the titles sequence to the original ending (reshot, making things legal) this romcom about an interior decorator (her) and a composer (him) sharing a party line (ie telephone!) whose lives cross, this skirts all sorts of sex and censorship issues using split screens with hilarious results. It doesn’t hurt that Tony Randall is her besotted suitor and his disgruntled friend, or that Thelma Ritter is the dipso housekeeper with rare repartee. A new era of sex comedy was born, with awards and profits flying in every direction and both Day and Hudson re-inventing their careers in the first of their screen collabs. A great looking film in every respect. Directed by Michael Gordon, who advised Hudson, Comedy is the most serious tragedy in the world. Play it that way and you can’t go wrong. If you ever think of yourself as funny, you haven’t got a chance.

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Bachelor Party (1984)

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Anyone expecting the 1957 kitchen sink realism Paddy Chayefsky mini-epic starring Don Murray is in for a surprise. This is the Eighties ‘remake’ (not really) – with a time capsule quotient of nudity, raunch, lewdness, big shoulders, bigger hair and a lot of pastels. Tom Hanks is the charming bus driver dating the gorgeous shop assistant Tawny Kitaen (remember the Whitesnake videos?!) who happens to be the daughter of a disapproving millionaire who has a much better catch in mind. This is of course all about the suspension of disbelief. I for one have never been driven to school by Hanks. Naturally the guys want a big party before Tom makes the worst mistake of his life and everything but the kitchen realist sink is thrown at making it happen and persuading him to be unfaithful – but the hookers wind up at the girls’ and perform sex acts in front of her mother. Then they go see male strippers and Mom grabs a weiner. As it were. Dad shows up at the guys’ gathering and winds up having his ass whupped by whores and being photographed for posterity and the love rival takes potshots with a bow and arrow in revenge for having his Porsche souped up. There’s a gag with a donkey on cocaine but the best of all is a funny scene at a 3D movie. It’s the little things. Hanks’ winning ways save the day, in more ways than one. And the best thing? Now I never have to watch it again! From the world of Neal Israel.

Dressed to Kill (1980)

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A film that practically embodies the term Psychosexual. Brian de Palma’s outrageous, explicit Hitchcockian homage (some might say rip off, Hitch called it fromage) still has the power to shock, with its jawdropping opening sequence – married Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) masturbating in a shower while her lover shaves in a mirror. She fesses up to her psychoanalyst Robert Elliott (Michael Caine) that she’s faking it because her lover’s not really up to it then asks him if he’s attracted to her. She does the  Vertigo shtick at the Metropolitan in Kim Novak’s off-white coat and when she drops a glove (fetish alert!) she attracts a man in shades (another warning).  He gets her off in a taxi (yes, this has to be seen to be believed) then wakes up to find a medical notice in his apartment …. and enters an elevator to leave the building when she suddenly remembers her wedding ring and presses the button to return to the scene of the extra-marital crime … You had me at hello!!! Call girl Liz (Nancy Allen) is the only witness to the murder – while the killer is a mysterious tall blonde in shades. Dickinson’s teenage inventor son Keith Gordon plays private dick, Allen becomes the woman in peril stalked by the tall blonde in shades, the shrink gets taunting messages from Bobbi, a transgender patient, and it all ends just the way you want:  blonde on blonde. Crazy, classic warning cinema – beware of shrinks and nooners! The soundtrack by Pino Donaggio is brilliant. Wild!

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)

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With Bridget Jones back in our lives like it was 2001 all over again, surely it was time for those other old drunk birds Patsy and Edina to re-enter the fray, this time on the big screen. The Four Js are back and it’s much as before – a small idea stretched too far but with enough funny moments to make you realise you missed them. Edina (writer/creator Jennifer Saunders) is no longer a hot London PR – she’s only got Lulu, Baby Spice and a boutique vodka to her name and her memoirs are rubbished by a prospective editor. Patsy  (Joanna Lumley) hears from her editor Magda (Kathy Burke) that Kate Moss needs new representation so Edina uses her half-African wealthy granddaughter Lola (Indeyarna Donaldson-Holmes) as bait. Unfortunately it goes wrong and Edina ends up pushing the world’s most famous model into the Thames. Threatened with prison for manslaughter and the pariah of the whole world and not just the world of PR/fashion, she and Patsy decide to go on the run to the South of France (bien sur) where Mother (June Whitfield) is partying, with Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and her boyfriend DI Nick (Robert Webb) on their tails as they come up with an ingenious idea for a profitable marriage and a whole new life of luxe involving a drag act … Aside from the usually silent and Garboesque La Belle Moss, there are as many slebs here as you’ll find in Vivienne Westwood’s diaries:  models, designers, actors (with a couple of great cameos) as well as the usual suspects and a brilliant opportunity (not used enough IMHO) to see the inside of Pierre Cardin’s fabulous bubble (a propos…!) house in Saint Tropez. It’s as rackety as the series always was, Joanna Lumley the whole show with her deathray stare – but weirdly (given the plot) no reference to a famous episode when she admitted to a sex change in Morocco back in the day. For cult TV afficionados Wanda Ventham (Sherlock’s mum) makes a welcome appearance and for the yoof there’s Glee’s Chris Colfer and the cool factor is supplied by Jon Hamm reliving his de-virginizing at Patsy’s hands:  he’s stunned she’s still alive. There’s not much new here and the story is as coke-thin as a supermodel, nor is it well directed by TV veteran Mandie Fletcher, making just her second film, paired once again with Jane Horrocks (Bubble) from Deadly Advice two decades ago.At its essence this is a movie about two women who are best friends lumbered with people who don’t want to have fun any more. However in a year of few good films this fashion flick is like water in a desert. And I gasped at the Botox injection scene (yikes!) Welcome back, ladies. God I miss the Nineties!

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008)

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Or, how British journo Toby Young baited Graydon Carter into employing him at Vanity Fair by parodying him on the cover of Modern Review, back in the day. Sort of. This adaptation of Young’s book  never really hits the scorching masochistic depths of our hero’s desperate quest to get beyond his nose pressing the window of celebland. This is the very inverse of Dale Carnegie, dontcha know. Called ‘Sidney’ here, Young is introduced by nemesis Danny Huston as ‘our very own idiot savant. Without the savant.’ Simon Pegg is the right side of gormless but never truly vicious as our hero so we’re not in John Niven territory here despite the plethora of opportunities he avails of to humiliate himself as publicly as possible. Peter Straughan’s screenplay varies the tale somewhat from the memoir and Robert Weide (an expert in embarrassment from Curb Your Enthusiasm – bliss itself!) handles the material well and it’s fitfully amusing rather than laugh out loud bellyaches all round since the satirical edges have been dulled. The trailer for a Mother Teresa biopic starring Megan Fox is good though. We’re in the male version of The Devil Wears Prada rather than the magazine version of Kill Your Friends. It will come as no surprise to learn that the real Toby Young was banned from the set, so predictably annoying was he to all concerned. (He played himself in a stage adaptation.) Spot all the homages to The Big Lebowski! And dig the pig. And, hey, The Modern Review really was fantastic.

The Danish Girl (2015)

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I’ll admit to not being predisposed to liking this:  Tom Hooper’s direction is dreadful. His wonky angles ruined the TV series John Adams; he set The King’s Speech in a dilapidated stage set; and nobody told him that there are microphones now so that he really didn’t have to shoot up the actors’ nostrils when they were singing in Les Miserables. Then there’s the subject matter: transsexualism is very ‘now’ but even I had to feel awful for porn-perv Kardashian momager Kris at the wretched treatment she received from macho athlete hubby Bruce Jenner when he decided that what he really wanted was a vagina, stripper heels and long hair. Brutal: we must conclude that Caitlyn Jenner is a thundering bitch, m’lud. So here we have the true-life story of artist Einar whose wife made the mistake of cross-dressing him up to sit for her paintings only to find that he didn’t want to be male any longer. The loathsome Ben Whishaw hits on him; he decides to have groundbreaking surgery and transforms into Lili Elbe; and Putin-alike Matthew Schoenaerts arrives to inject some testosterone into proceedings. Too late, I fear. Alicia Vikander, shot to look like a racial mutant, pouts, Eddie Redmayne preens insufferably like the fey fairy of your nightmares and it all takes place in the same dilapidated shabby set of The King’s Speech with everyone wearing the worst wigs this side of Liberace’s trashcan. Excruciating!