FILM REVIEW: Natalie Portman in ‘Vox Lux’

By Ray Bennett

TORONTO – Just as in ‘Jackie’ two years ago, Natalie Portman gives a scintillating performance of a driven and complicated woman in a not very successful picture. Director and screenwriter Brady Corbet’s ‘Vox Lux’, which opens today in the United Kingdom, tells of a pop superstar named Celeste who survived a mass murder as a teenager, is a bit of a mess but even though she enters the picture late, Portman is mesmerising. Continue reading

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Cheers to our Will, not sorry old George

By Ray Bennett

Today is St. George’s Day named for the patron saint of several places  such as Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal and Russia. Oh, and England. We English, of course, don’t mark April 23 in the boozy way the Irish do on St. Paddy’s Day. That would never do. It happens also to be Shakespeare’s birthday and we’d much rather honour our Will. Continue reading

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Argentina’s Daniel Tarrab takes time to tango

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Argentinian composer Daniel Tarrab, who has had a long and successful career writing film scores, has released an album of jazz-influenced tango pieces titled ‘Otra Mirada (Another Look)’ on Silva Screen Records. Continue reading

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Film Review Brief: Trevor Nunn’s ‘Red Joan’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Trevor Nunn’s slightly old-fashioned espionage drama ‘Red Joan’, which opens in the United Kingdom today, won’t set any box-office records but it is an absorbing drama.

Sophie Cookson (pictured above with Stephen Campbell Moore) is very impressive as idealistic young physicist Joan Stanley who gets involved with a group of intellectual communists at Cambridge just before World War II and ends up in a plot to share the secrets of the atom bomb with the Soviet Union. Tom Hughes and Ben Miles co-star.

The story is told in flashbacks with Judi Dench as the older Joan. Theatre legend Nunn shows he knows about film too. George Fenton’s score is typically evocative. It screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018.

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On Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Stanley Kubrick’s controversial ‘A Clockwork Orange’ starring Malcolm McDowell is re-released in the United Kingdom today. As always with Kubrick, it is a striking combination of visual power, evocative music and powerful drama. Now controversial for the right reasons, it remains disturbing but intensely watchable.

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Michael Caine: recalling a class act at the 2000 Oscars

By Ray Bennett

Spending time with Michael Caine is always a pleasure and since today is his 86th birthday, here’s one of my favourite encounters from 2000.

LOS ANGELES – It’s ironic that the word on everyone’s lips following Michael Caine’s acceptance speech at the Oscars on Sunday is ‘class’. It’s a word he’s been battling all his life.

As a Londoner from the wrong side of the tracks, dropping every ‘h’ and ‘g’ in his speech, Caine has run into Britain’s “class” system at every turn. He has observed that while in the States he is recognised as a successful and critically acclaimed star, among the nobs of the U.K. cultural establishment, he’s regarded as a ‘Cockney yobbo’. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Cruz and Bardem in ‘Everybody Knows’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Married Spanish Oscar-winners Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have become a reliable partnership onscreen and their latest feature together, ‘Everybody Knows’, is a bright addition to their canon. It opens today in the United Kingdom. Continue reading

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BAFTA 2019 Film Awards: picks and pans

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Lots of good films and performances this year but some disappointing omissions among the BAFTA Film Awards nominations … good luck to all, especially ‘Roma’ (above) and ‘Cold War’. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Adam McKay’s ‘Vice’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – American writer-director Adam McKay’s political satire ‘Vice’ does for Washington what his 2015 film ‘The Big Short’ did for Wall Street with the same mix of techniques that includes sharp humour, characters speaking to camera, flashbacks and sublime acting. Continue reading

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Russell Baker: a gift ‘for fooling around with words’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The great New York Times columnist Russell Baker, who has died aged 93, was one of my journalistic heroes and when I interviewed him in 1989 he turned out to be everything I’d hoped. He was an old-time newspaperman who never cared about scoops. Continue reading

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