Tonight we were in movie mode as there's been a lot of travelling recently and we wanted, um, a movie. We've an arthouse and a multiplex within spitting distance and we'd seen the lot. Well, not the lot, but the ones we wanted to see, so I realised it was time for the Nationwide Movie Guide again. The one where you get to find out the truth.
Right, first off we haven't seen "The Golden Compass" because I don't like Nicole Kidman at all and I like Daniel Craig too much in his new role as Bond to be put off by this tosh so... End of. Second, "Elizabeth the Golden Age" has been seen by everyone I know and they all said basically the same thing - endless court scenes and then some CGI ships. Sorry, have I spoiled it for you? Won't happen again. Promise.
Now, "Into The Wild" is where a best friend who knows a thing or two walked out after 20 minutes and said it was bollocks. It's not, but you have to stick with it. Trust me. It's worth it.
Sean Penn, a bit of a hero in the acting department, directs the story of a guy who frankly is not very nice (that's why people walk out) but it is possible to make a very good movie about someone who's not very nice. Honest.
"American Gangster". Well, it's got Denzel Washington in it and have you ever seen him do anything bad? Like, ever? He plays a storm here, totally dominates the screen and I'd go see this movie just for him because he's utterly brilliant. Which is just as well because Russell Crowe mumbles his way through in a half New York half New Zealand accent and Ridley Scott is a fine director of great importance whose work we all love (including Blackhawk Down, btw, a great movie) but he ain't Martin Scorsese, is he? No soul you see.
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" is a very long title but nowhere near as long as the movie. Two and three quarter hours last time I looked. Brad Pitt, one of the finest actors of his generation. He's in it. He's also a producer (grew up in Missouri, get's to play Missouri's most famous son, JJ). And the producers are Hollywood A-List. Ridley Scott, Brad Grey, etc. Casey Affleck, who I ain't seen before, is stunningly good looking, thanks to some brilliant cinematography by Roger Deakins and the music's good too. By Nick Cave, who even puts in a small performance. Looks good, sounds good, Brad Pitt. What could go wrong?
Well you could hand the whole thing over to a writer/director who is so obsessed with the mythology of westerns that he imagines the rest of the world will share his dream of cowboy movies being played out as Greek tragedy.
"Lions for Lambs". This is nowhere near as bad as they say. It's directed by Robert Redford, who is also in it and - shock horror - Tom Cruise is blindingly good and - shock horror - Meryl Streep isn't. It's three separate stories which meld into one and is basically a liberal critique of the war on terror. Like Michael Moore, if he wasn't already there you'd have to invent him.
Except it shouldn't be called Lions for Lambs. It should be called Lions for Donkeys. D'oh!
"Ratatouille" isn't just for kids, because it's got really really great animation. But it should be.
And then there is "The Darjeeling Ltd" an absolute joy. On a grey, wet winter's day there can be no better film, a technicolour confection that is light, airy, warm and breezy, beautifully acted and directed, and you don't even need to know what it's about. If you do, towards the end, there's a little scene, less than a minute with no words, just music, that tells you everything you need to know. About the film. And life. I officially love Wes Anderson.
Top NW tip for later, based on PR puffery, hype, a hunch, and the Coen Brothers' track record. "No Country For Old Men". Looks good.