Upcoming movies: The losers

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By Ray Bennett

A snapshot preview of some of the movies to be released over the holiday period and into the New Year. These are the ones that don’t work.

Incoherent Vice

Just add two letters to “Inherent Vice” and you get the picture. Lovely burnished images of 1970s L.A., a great soundtrack and a lived-in performance by Joaquin Phoenix (pictured) cannot save Paul Thomas Anderson’s pastiche. It’s faithful to the Thomas Pynchon novel, which is to say vacuous, meandering and pointless. (US, Jan. 9 / UK, Jan. 30)

Slayers of the Last Orc

Peter Jackson’s bloated Tolkien saga comes to a violent end in “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” so that Martin Freeman can return to anonymity and Richard Armitage can be ready to take over as James Bond after “Spectre”. (out now)

Mr. Turnip

Timothy Spall grunts, gropes, snorts, burps, spits and probably farts in the title role of Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner”, which boasts Dick Pope’s lovely cinematography but has no story and, unlike, say, “Amadeus”, fails to enquire how beautiful art can emerge from a self-described gargoyle. (UK, out now / US, Dec. 19)

Holy crap!

Ridley Scott piles on the CGI plagues and pestilence in “Exodus: Gods & Kings” , which has an epic score by Alberto Iglesias to match Clint Mansell’s for Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”, although the tale of the man with the ark was sillier and more fun. (US, out now / UK, Dec. 26)

Most odd

After the splendid “Margin Call” and “All is Lost”, J.C. Chandor sets his drama “A Most Violent Year” at a time when New York was at its most crime-ridden but he elects instead to focus on the struggles of a shady but boring heating-oil salesman. (US, Dec. 31 / UK, Jan. 23)


Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” tells of a rich man’s obsession with a male wrestler but Steve Carell’s egregious false proboscis and Channing Tatum’s simian impression of a gullible dope are constant distractions. (UK, Jan. 9 / US, open now)

Missing a bet

Mark Wahlberg is miscast badly as a university lecturer with a gambling problem in Rupert Wyatt’s “The Gambler”, a predictable, slow and redundant remake of James Toback’s much more interesting 1974 version starring James Caan. (US, Dec. 25 / UK, Jan. 23)


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Recalling … Frank Sinatra and why he was The Voice

Frank Sinatra microphone

There were several reasons why Frank Sinatra, who would have been 99 today, was known as The Voice. In 1992, Daily Variety gave me the chance to research just how he earned the sobriquet … Continue reading

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Keeping Bill Murray off the straight and narrow


By Ray Bennett

I had a bone to pick with Bill Murray. It was 1990, and all the rebellious early comedians on “Saturday Night Live” appeared to have lost their way. From radical satire they’d moved to mainstream comedy and sappy dramas. They were no longer subversive and they had let a generation down. Continue reading

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Recalling … when Ricardo Montalbán killed off Frito Bandito


By Ray Bennett

Chris Rock’s question “Is Hollywood Mexican enough?” in his essay about race in the current edition of The Hollywood Reporter reminded me of what the late Ricardo Montalbán told me a long time ago about the image of Mexicans on screen. Continue reading

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Heroes and psychos: two faces of war, Hollywood style

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By Ray Bennett

Upcoming Hollywood war films “American Sniper” and “Unbroken” are long and grim with a great deal of violence and suffering and they just seem … empty. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Tommy Lee Jones’s ‘The Homesman’

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By Ray Bennett

Tommy Lee Jones told me at a recent Bafta screening that he would not want to make a movie without composer Marco Beltrami and when you see his new film “The Homesman”, you can see why. Continue reading

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Recalling Larry King: his lucky heart attack and love of smoking


By Ray Bennett

Larry King turned 80 on Nov. 19 but the longtime TV interviewer almost didn’t make it to 60, he told me: “I got a lucky break. I had a heart attack.” Continue reading

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Rock Hudson and the Hollywood AIDS scare

Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson 'Giant' Cliff

Rock Hudson, who would have been 90 years-old today, had a more significant impact on Hollywood when he died than in a long acting career that included “Giant” (pictured), 1960s comedies with Doris Day and TV series “McMillan & Wife”.

Hudson died aged 59 on Oct. 2, 1985 from complications related to AIDS. On Feb. 8, 1986, I reported from Los Angeles on the impact of his death for TV Guide Canada. Here’s that story, which reflects all the fear, confusion and ignorance of that time. Continue reading

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Review: Ennio Morricone’s 75th birthday concert

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Maestro Ennio Morricone celebrated his 75th birthday with an unforgettable concert of film music at the Royal Albert Hall on Nov. 10. 2003.

By Ray Bennett

The machine-gun drum of his Oscar-nominated score for “The Untouchables” opened Ennio Morricone’s 75th birthday concert and signalled that the Italian maestro’s film music enthrals even without the pictures. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

Interstellar 3 x650

By Ray Bennett

Christopher Nolan’s entertaining sci-fi epic “Interstellar” is a swashbuckling adventure set in the far reaches of space with a mix of scientific fact and flimflam, and lots of black holes, wormholes and plot holes. Continue reading

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