Lawrence of Arabia * * * * *
Cert PG, 228 mins
There are no superlatives which can adequately describe the sheer unadulterated joy of watching David Lean's 1962 classic on the silver screen.
I've waited all my life for this moment, never wanting to watch the longest best picture Oscar winner on a comparatively tiny box in the corner of my living room.
Cineworld Broad Street had two screenings on Tuesday and this digitally-restored 50th anniversary re-release of Lean's own extended 1988 directors' cut supported by the likes of Spielberg and Scorsese is playing the Giant Screen Cinema at Millennium Point daily at 4pm from tomorrow until November 29.
Were it new, this World War One study would be the film of the year - and it almost certainly will be regardless.
Shot over a period of 18 months, Freddie Young's cinematography is peerless, the extraordinary cast, from Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle and Claude Rains to uncredited driver Bryan Pringle, flawless.
Some of the jaw-dropping scenes, including horses collectively jumping from a train, probably wouldn't even be attempted today.
Winning the first of eight somehow unfulfilled best actor Oscar nominations, Peter O'Toole is masterful in the sexually-ambiguous title role of T E Lawrence, an officer who becomes a hero and then seeks anonymity under an assumed name.
Lawrence of Arabia is a film about history, geography, warfare, treaties and agreements as well as bravery, intelligence, diplomacy, honour, respect, personal responsibility and, still relevant, how the media covers conflicts of this terrifying nature.
With geographical references including Damascus, Gaza and Jerusalem, the 2008 winner of the American Film Institute's 'greatest epic of all time' is also a profoundly-disturbing and ultra-topical illustration of why many more innocent lives will probably be lost in the future to this kind of 'tribal rivalry' in the Middle East.
Stuff the length. I can't wait to see it all over again, accompanied by the Oscar-winning score played by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by both composer Maurice Jarre and former City of Birmingham Orchestra musical director Adrian Boult. GY
Silver Linings Playbook * * * * *
Cert 15, 121 mins
Bradley Cooper reminds me a lot of George Clooney, and not just because they're both impossibly handsome.
They both found TV fame - in ER and Alias - before making big budget, entertaining but shallow movies like Ocean's Eleven and The A-Team.
Clooney would like to forget about Batman and Robin and Return of the Killer Tomatoes! while Cooper won a Razzie for the terrible All About Steve.
It took quite a while before Clooney was accepted as a serious, intelligent and talented actor and more than just a pretty face.
That's really only happened in the last decade, since he turned 40. And now the same thing is beginning to happen to Cooper, who turns 38 in January.
This film could well be the pivotal production for the actor best known so far for playing the groom's drunken friend in The Hangover (parts one and two).
In Silver Linings Playbook, he proves he can really act, bringing an impressive range and subtlety to the role.
It helps that he has a great script and direction from David O Russell, who also brought us Three Kings and The Fighter, and superb co-stars in Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.
Cooper plays history teacher Pat Solitano, whose wife cheated on him with another man. That's very hard to believe, until we're told he was fat then and suffering from an undiagnosed bi-polar disorder which resulted in terrible mood swings.
When he discovered the infidelity, Pat nearly beat his rival to death and was then locked away in a psychiatric institution.
We meet him as he's discharged into the care of his parents, played by De Niro and Jacki Weaver.
He doesn't seem exactly stable but insists "I'm remaking myself" and vows to win his wife back, even though she's taken out a restraining order on him.
Quirky, emotional and outspoken, Pat is still prone to violent outbursts. But things begin to look up when he meets Tiffany (Lawrence), who has her own mental health problems since the death of her husband.
"I tell the truth but you're mean," Pat tells her, but a friendship gradually develops between the damaged pair, especially when she asks him to partner her in a dance competition. Their brilliant finale dance just has to be seen to be believed.
Silver Linings Playbook is always interesting and full of humanity in all its shades. It has plenty of black humour and it's superbly acted.
Lawrence is excellent, playing older than her 22 years for a change. I didn't even mind comedian Chris Tucker as a psychiatric patient who keeps trying to escape.
Perhaps the ending is obvious, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable. I'd be amazed if it didn't pick up at least one Oscar next year. RL
Gambit * *
Cert 12A, 89 mins
A film featuring Colin, Cameron and the Coen brothers - what could possibly go wrong?
A lot, actually. On paper this heist comedy sounds great, with a cast including Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman and Tom Courtenay, and a script from Joel and Ethan Coen. But it's a great disappointment. It's all very dull and pedestrian, with very little tension or laughs.
It's a very loose remake of a 1966 film starring Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine, though Firth seems to be trying to channel Caine, not least with his glasses.
He plays art curator Harry Deane, who looks after the expensive collection of nasty media mogul Lionel Shahbandar (Rickman). Fed up of being insulted, he decides to take his revenge with an elaborate scam.
He gets Major Wingate (Courtenay) to forge a Monet painting, photographs it in the Texan trailer of rodeo rider PJ Puznowski (Diaz) and inserts the picture into an article in one of Shahbandar's magazines, hoping he'll take the bait.
PJ's grandfather served in the war and liberated Goering's hideout so could have taken the Monet home, he argues.
But the plan doesn't pan out as smoothy as Deane envisages.
There is much to dislike about Gambit. It's packed full of caricatures rather than proper characters - Firth is ridiculously posh and stiff-upper-lipped, Diaz has an OTT Texan accent, and there are lazy stereotypes of the Germans and Japanese.
The supposed humour comes from daft slapstick which is frankly beneath the cast.
The only good point might be that we get to see Firth without his trousers (though it's hardly an Austen wet shirt moment) and Diaz in her underwear. But we also get to see far too much of Rickman. His bare behind might be quite pert for a 66-year-old, but it's still not something that should be on the big screen. RL
Nativity 2 - Danger In The Manger! * * * *
Cert U, 105 mins
Birmingham-born director Debbie Isitt returns with her third improvised comedy after Confetti (2006) and Nativity! (2009) - and it's just the job for any family with young children who fancy a pre-Christmas trip to the movies.
Who cares if this hasn't got the most original script in the world? Or if hasn't had the millions spent on it which gave Chris Columbus's rather vindictive Home Alone such a big festive launchpad on December 7, 1990.
The large, mostly untrained cast of bright young things under the age of ten are the keen young people who make this a special delivery, including the return of cheeky Cannock boy Ben Wilby as Bob. It's certainly the kind of thing you won't catch the Hollywood studios trying, so three cheers for Coventry-based Debbie's bravery after losing original star Martin Freeman, soon to be seen as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.
He's replaced by former Doctor Who star David Tennant (Mr. Peterson), a nervous father-to-be who arrives at school ready to join the infectiously enthusiastic but decidedly halfwit teacher Mr Poppy (Mark Wootton) working for the head teacher Mrs Bevans, again played by Pam Ferris.
Jason Watkins also returns as scene-stealing rival private school teacher Gordon Shakespeare as their St Bernadette's and Oakmoor schools enter 'A Song for Christmas' national competition.
The journey to (beautiful north) Wales becomes ridiculously over extended en route, defying all known film logic.
But Danger in the Manger! never has its heart anywhere other than in the right place with much of the film shot locally in Stratford's Courtyard Theatre and at Warwick Castle, too.
While the finale never threatens to match the emotive might of the original film's climax in the bombed-out remains of Coventry Cathedral, it will still be good fun for The X Factor generation - none of whom it seems can write songs as catchy as those penned by Debbie and her works-from-home film editor partner, Nicky Ager. GY
End Of Watch * * *
Cert 15, 109 mins
This film is closely related to Training Day, since it has the same writer, David Ayers, who now also directs.
What is impressive about End of Watch is that its style is so markedly different to his other crime films, including the seriously underrated Kurt Russell film Dark Blue (2002), which he wrote for Field of Dreams' director Ron Shelton, and Street Kings (2008), which he directed from a screenplay co-written by LA Confidential novelist James Ellroy.
The buddy cops here are Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, played respectively by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peqa.
They interact well and there's plenty of relevant family back story,
But it stops short of becoming an all-time classic because Ayers loses sight of both the enemy and control of his digital editing.
The 'found footage' style thriller also comes with the kind of tagged on ending that feels like the cutting room floor sweeper handed over a disc of lost clips at the death. GY