BARRY NORMAN: FILM OF THE DAY Father of the Bride★★★★ 1.00-2.30pm BBC2
Vincente Minnelli’s film is regarded as one of America’s finest screen comedies. It’s a funny, thoughtful and enchanting tale centring on the fears and anxieties of every father – in this case Spencer Tracy – when his daughter (Elizabeth Taylor) becomes engaged and he realises she’s no longer his little girl but a woman now. From the moment this happens, Tracy’s life is turned upside down. Taylor is to marry Don Taylor (no relation), scion of a much richer family. So along with his feelings of jealousy, insecurity and devotion to his wife (Joan Bennett) and daughter, Tracy has the worry of paying for what must be a lavish wedding. Should he restrict the number of guests? Encourage the couple to elope? As he struggles with these problems, Tracy delivers a delightful, Oscar- nominated performance, which has a strong ring of truth about it. E Taylor, Bennett and the supporting cast are very good, too, and the film is much better than the 1991 remake.
The feud between rival illusionists Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale threatens to destroy them both in Christopher Nolan’s labyrinthine period mystery. The movie sees Nolan, Bale and Michael Caine working together straight after Batman Begins, though, as Bale explained, working with the director without the strictures of a blockbuster budget made it a very different experience: “it was nice to be working in a much more spontaneous manner” he said.
Published in 1934, Agatha Christie’s murder mystery was an instant success, but it took another 40 years for a screen adaptation to appear. It was worth the wait, though, and Sidney Lumet’s 1974 movie is still considered to be the best version of the author’s works. Led by Albert Finney’s Poirot, the line-up of stars is truly impressive, and the movie was rewarded with six Oscar nominations, gaining a win for Ingrid Bergman. A new dramatisation is in the works under the guiding hand of Kenneth Branagh; let’s hope it’s more successful than the 2001 TV version.
The star chemistry that kept 2010’s Red together comes in handy again for this globetrotting sequel that sees Bruce Willis and his fellow retired agents joining up to find a nuclear device that incarcerated genius Anthony Hopkins made years before. Director Dean Parisot was also the man behind 1999’s Galaxy Quest and, although he doesn’t manage the entertainment levels of that cult classic, this is a perfectly good outing for the veteran troupe – especially the gun-toting Helen Mirren.
J Blakeson’s inventive British thriller is a tense kidnap tale with a great set-up and a nice change for glamorous Gemma Arterton, who plays the spoilt daughter of a millionaire. She knocks holes in her big-budget stereotype – she made this one between Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans – playing a woman with flaws and fears and in danger, and admitted that she did it partly to test herself in a demanding role. The first section might be hard to watch, but it sets the scene for a twisting, gutsy movie.