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Joyful Noise (with UltraViolet)
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The only noise you are likely to emit while watching this cornball musical is stifled groans at the endless run of cliches it throws at you in what it calls a plot. Broadly played, it sets Latifah and Parton up against each other as squabbling members of a Georgia gospel choir while spouting lots of homilies about how music can bring people together. Some of the music is quite rousing but you have to wade through so much treacle to get to it, it is not worth the effort. Parton looks genuinely frightening in close-up.
Marley (With UltraViolet)
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A rather lengthy attempt to get under the skin of the Jamaican reggae superstar Bob Marley who died far too young from cancer at the age of 36 in 1981. While this documentary may largely be composed of a series of talking heads, the interviewees all knew Marley well and are able to contribute a well-rounded depiction of an often conflicted man. And of course his remarkable music legacy is not too much of a hindrance either.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
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For some reason, the Ang Lee adaptation of the Hulk was deemed to be too cerebral and therefore a failure. In reality, it flirted with some deep Shakespearean themes. So it is back to comic book territory for its much lither and trimmer sequel with Norton now taking over the mantle as Bruce Banner, the scientist with anger problems. In the hands of French director Leterrier, this is a very pacy action vehicle, and a pretty good one, with some strong work from its high calibre cast and a belter of a smackdown climax between the Hulk and the Abomination.
The 39 Steps (Hitchcock)
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The film that really set the Hitchcock stall out to the film-going public, a bracing, economical and very entertaining man-on-the-run story with murder suspect Donat fleeing to the Scottish highlands to find out what the 39 Steps might actually be. Running at a brisk 86 minutes, Hitchcock packs it full with some great chases, witty asides, a poignant encounter with a lonely housewife and, best of all, the manacling of his hero to his heroine. It may be a tad creaky but it still works like a charm.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
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Second installment finds the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo largely sidelined for most of the action as her journalist pal Nyqvist investigates a sex trafficking ring. This automatically makes it less interesting than the previous film as Lisbeth Salander is such a fascinating character who does not totally seem herself here; she even cracks a smile at several points. If you like your convoluted mysteries, then this has its appeal but its flirtation with James Bond caricatures (ie, a villain who feels no pain) seems ill-placed.
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A cleanskin is a rogue terrorist element that has passed undetected by the security services. And while it is laudable that this makes a serious attempt to understand what causes a young British Islam man to go down the radicalized route, the overfamiliarity of some of the scenarios and the tired performance from Sean Bean as the secret service agent tracking down the terrorist mean that it is unnecessarily hard going.
The Matchmaker (1958)
Essentially a theatrical experience, this is a rather unimaginative interpretation of a play that has not worn too well. We are more used to seeing this story (a matchmaker sets her hat at one of her clients) in its musical incarnation of Hello Dolly!, it is actually a little disconcerting not to have everyone burst into song at intervals. Still, the cast is capable (Maclaine and Perkins are particularly appealing) and help to put this rather stiff adaptation over with gusto.
The Passenger (1975)
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In which Antonioni takes an intriguing thriller concept (reporter in a God-forsaken African country assumes the identity of the dead man in the hotel room next door, only to find that he was a gun-runner) and turns it into something essentially boring. Being Antonioni there is always something of visual interest and the dedication of Jack Nicholson to the part is involving but the film is unnecessarily obtuse and the part played by Maria Schneider as the girl is underwritten and underserved. Still, stay for the rightly famous last 7 minutes though which is one superbly executed seamless tracking shot.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
One of the all-time classic BAD movies, always near the top of the list of one of the worst ever made. And justifiably so. This tale of Martians kidnapping Santa because their kids are jealous of earth children at Christmas is amateur night across the board and toe-curlingly embarrassing.
Red Sundown (Spain Release)
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Standard low-budget oater does not have much in the way of ambition but does its job efficiently. Rory Calhoun is pretty stiff in the lead as a sharpshooter who decides to go straight and become a sheriff, only to find that his shady past has a habit of catching up with him. But he is ably backed up by a good cast, including a showy role for Grant Williams, one year away from becoming the Incredible Shrinking Man.