Cert 15 Stars 2

When people say they want a female James Bond, presumably this flat and action-light espionage revenge thriller, produced by Bond supremos, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson on a considerably lower budget than 007 enjoys.

Out has gone the gloss, glamour, gadgets and humour, with the globetrotting reduced to Western Europe, New York and Morocco, with buses being the principal form of transport.

As a drug addict prostitute turned assassin, US star Blake Lively is denied the opportunity to play to her strengths, who cleans up to kill the people responsible for the deaths of her family in a terrorist bombing.

She previously demonstrated her authority, charisma and physical prowess in thrillers The Shallows, and, A Simple Favour, but she’s never given the opportunity to be glamorous, and is possibly hampered by having to adopt a pretty decent British accent.

A random choice of classic rock tunes are dropped in by an editor desperate to pep up the somber mood. I suspect the producers don’t expect any great box office, and the film’s delayed release forms part of the marketing strategy for April’s upcoming 007 adventure, No Time To Die.

Cafe Society

Director: Woody Allen (2016) BBFC cert: 12A

In his latest comedy drama, writer/director Woody Allen serves up his hallmark witty lines and jazz soundtrack with a sumptuous 1930’s glamour.

Flitting between LA and the Big Apple, the plot turns on a love letter written by legendary Hollywood lover, Rudolph Valentino.

A multitude of deftly sketched characters breeze through a revolving door of family dinners, weekend brunches, pool parties and nightclub cocktails.

Between the name dropping, back stabbing and infidelity, several murders occur and there’s an entertaining encounter with a prostitute.

Kristen Stewart stars as Veronica, a down to earth secretary involved in a love triangle with her boss and his young gopher. Steve Carell plays Phil, a powerful Hollywood agent while Jesse Eisenberg is his neurotic New York nephew, Bobby.

The latter essays the role Allen would once have played himself. Wisely the veteran filmmaker remains behind the camera and engineers a nice turn of mood from breezy romance to poignant longing.

Cafe Society is a pleasant place to while away a quiet afternoon but it’s extreme familiarity may not encourage you to return in a hurry.



The Shallows

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra (2016) BBFC cert: 15

A personal crisis turns becomes a fight for survival in this exhilarating thriller.

Attacked by a shark while surfing from a secluded Mexican beach, Texan tourist Nancy is stranded on a rock as the deadly killer circles her.

As her hopes ebb and flow, the resourceful med student also has to contend with sunstroke, dehydration, exhaustion and a serious wound.

Hindering her escape attempts are aggressive seagulls, stinging coral, crabs, jelly fish, riptides and razor edged rocks.

A far better surfer than I am, Blake Lively anchors the storming action. She gives a terrific, fiercely physical performance with a deep emotional undercurrent.

Best known as the star of TV’s Gossip Girl, this should put her firmly on the Hollywood map.

The streamlined script keep us hanging on by our fingertips and the tremendous cinematography captures the dangerous energy of the surf. And the shark is awesome.



The Age Of Adaline

Director: Lee Toland Krieger (2015)

A woman who never grows old falls for a much younger man in this weird fantasy romance.

Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) lives alone, is kind to her dog, speaks in a breathy register and laughs at her own jokes.

Although really 107 years old, a mysterious event when she was 29 has prevented her from ageing.

Ever since the FBI tried to arrest her for being a suspected threat to the US, she’s been dodging the authorities and running away from love and commitment.

She changes addresses and identities every ten years, allowing the Costume and Make-up deptartments (Angus Strathie, Monica Huppert) to make Lively look lovely in all the major fashions of the twentieth century.

Plus it usefully acts as a visual shorthand for whatever decade we find ourselves in during one of the many flashbacks.

Her only friend is piano player Regan (Lynda Boyd) which suggests Adaline has been seeking out blind people to hang with as they don’t recognise her lack of ageing.

At a New Year’s Eve party she meets the hunky, needy, pushy yet altruistic internet millionaire Ellis (Michiel Huisman).

He’s not as endearing as the film imagines him to be and Adaline tries to reject his advances due to their secret age difference.

There are several dates, shooting stars, snow storms, two car accidents and a drive-in movie.

Despite Adaline’s reservations she agrees to visit Ellis’s parents where someone kindly explains the rules of Trivial Pursuit for those watching who haven’t played it.

It leads to a big surprise for his dad Bill (Harrison Ford) on the eve of his fortieth wedding anniversary to Kathy (Kathy Baker).

Ford seems energised for the first time in years and is allowed a door-smashing moment. Perhaps being back home on the Falcon is therapeutic.

However it’s at this point the heavy air of sentimental nostalgia curdles and becomes creepily uncomfortable.

A gravelly voice over by Hugh Ross offers the only grit available as well as the illusion of a patina of science.

San Francisco looks fabulous and the true romance on show is between the city and cinematographer David Lanzenberg.

Scriptwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz are also enamoured of the city, highlighting it’s history as a leader of technological innovation.

Somebody ought to point out to the writers gifting first editions of famous novels only counts as romantic if there is a financial, emotional or other cost to the donor.

A millionaire dishing out rare works to relative strangers they wish to bed smacks not of romance but thoughtless opportunism.

The Age Of Adaline suggests grey hair and wrinkles are the gateway to true love; a sly commentary on women who can’t accept growing old and resort to going under the knife.

But if you want to send this sort of message then it’s important to create an effective and engaging delivery system first.