Cert 15 Stars 2

Celebrity, activism, FBI dirty tricks, and a mental breakdown are wasted in this sympathetic if timid and low key and dull dramatisation of the tragic downfall of actress, Jean Seberg.

It’s easy to see why Kristen Stewart was drawn to playing Seberg as her career has similarly moved between blockbusters to prestigious French dramas, and the Twilight star is again excellent.

This begins in 1968 and covers a three year period when Seberg was hounded out of Hollywood by the media after being fed stories by the FBI.

They had Seberg under constant surveillance as they considered her association with revolutionary group The Black Panthers to be a threat to national security, and wanted to ‘neutralize’ her influence on her young fans.

It’s suggested Seberg became mentally ill as a result, which eventually her death aged forty, having had her Hollywood career deliberately destroyed almost a decade earlier.

Though starring in a mega flop musical western alongside Clint Eastwood as a singing gold prospector can’t have helped.


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.



American Ultra

Director: Nima Nourizadeh (2015)

Slackers, spies and sleeper agents get their brains fried in this darkly comic stoner thriller.

Though it takes a while to find a groove, once the story sparks up and the thrills kick in, the entertainment escalates and acheives a riotous velocity.

Sweet-natured slackers Mike and Phoebe share a drug dependancy and matching tattoos. Unfortunately Mike has a tendency to keep making a hash of their romance.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart give the couple a sweetly combustible chemistry.

Unknown to himself, Mike’s a lethal sleeper agent, a guinea pig in the CIA’s Ultra programme designed to turn criminals into expert killing machines.

However the scheme is judged a failure and Topher Grace’s spy boss decides to shut down the programme by terminating the assets.

What the chief lacks in menace he makes up with obnoxious energy.

Connie Britton plays a rival spook who tries to give her one-time charge a fighting chance. She uses a safe word to unlock the training buried deep in Mike’s psyche.

She’s played by Victoria Lasseter on far better form than in the poor Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015).

When two agents arrive to kill his buzz and end his life, Mike freaks himself out with the lethal ferocity of his response.

Together with a surprisingly resourceful Phoebe, they face a desperate mission to survive, leaving burnt out buildings and dead bodies in their wake.

The sneaky soundtrack lulls with soft Hawaiian sounds before launching an ear-shattering assault to complement the bloody and bone crunching violence.

A truckful of assassins, drone strikes and a big box of fireworks all fan the flames of the smouldering fun.

Mike’s a stoned version of Jason Bourne and Eisenberg’s performance squeezes the concept for some decent laughs.

Matt Damon was 32 when he first played Robert Ludlum’s all action anti-hero, Eisenberg is 31.

Stewart is full of fierce defiance and equally good, despite being lumbered with the role of  girlfriend in peril. She slyly sports Franka Potente’s red hair from The Bourne Identity (2002).

As fun as Eisenberg is, it’s a shame he and Stewart didn’t swap roles. A hell bent Phoebe would have added to this year’s joyously bumper crop of kick ass cinematic heroines.

With an hawaiian-shirted hero on the run with a girl in a world of drugs, guns and comic books, American Ultra is clearly influenced by True Romance (1993).

Though it similarly includes a cloud of falling feathers it lacks Tony Scott’s visual lyricism and Quentin Tarantino’s dynamite dialogue.

Made on a reasonable budget of $30M, American Ultra is armed with a keen sense of the ridiculous, offers plenty of juiced up action, some laughs and a couple of recognisable faces.

So it’s surprising it hasn’t found more of an audience in the US where it’s only scored for $11M after ten days on release.

If the US poster ads are as terribly unrepresentative of the movie as the UK ones are, then I’d be tempted to place the blame of lack of interest at the publicists.

While it’s not an outstanding movie it is a worthwhile entertainment, hopefully one which will gain traction on other platforms and find the audience it deserves.


Clouds Of Sils Maria

Director: Olivier Assayas (2015)

Three fine talents are wasted in this indulgent and exasperating mediation on age, acting and art.

Actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) appeared in the play Maloja Snake, kickstarting her career and making her famous. From the dialogue we hear the play sounds unbearable.

Maria’s role was a young intern called Sigrid who is involved in an exploitative relationship with her boss Helena. Now years later, Maria is invited to take part in a new production but this time taking the part of Helena.

Her personal assistant Valentine (Kristen Stewart) acts as a driver, confident and drinking buddy who helps Maria prepare for the role.

Pitched to be the new Sigrid is Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz), a gun-toting, rehabbing, paparazzi-magnet who is an amalgam of the worst headlines of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears. She brings much needed spite and bile to the self-satisfied proceedings.

Maria is an irritating combination of affectations; a needy, attention-seeking, pill-popping alcoholic who flirts with anyone offering work. Everyone is duplicitous and solicitous and every expression of feeling is a calculation.

This may an accurate reflection of the life of an actress but it’s far from an original one and gives us little reason to warm to Maria. Susan Sarandon sent up the self-obsessive nature of actors far more entertainingly as a guest star in TV’s Friends.

When the directionally-challenged Maria and Valentine struggle up a mountain brandishing a map, it’s impossible not to be reminded of the similarly themed and equally dull and indulgent Maps To The Stars (2014).

There are frequent mountain walks, a little drunk-driving, some skinny dipping, endless rehearsals and too many discussions of age changing perspective. It’s high-handedly critical of celebrity culture, the internet and Hollywood films.

Riffing on the film’s exploration of age-defined femininity, Binoche embraces nudity and Stewart doesn’t.

This is a theatre acting class masquerading as cinema but I’m not sure I’m sufficiently communicating the extreme turpitude of the viewing experience.

The Swiss scenery is beautiful and shot with crisp veneration by cinematographer Yorick Le Saux.

The Clouds Of Sils Maria is an example of aiming to make art and failing to create anything as humble as an entertainment.