At The Movies

Thursday 23 July 2015, with Simon Morris

At the Movies: Ant-Man, Learning To Drive + Sir Ben Kingsley interview

Learning to Drive

Simon Morris looks at the new Marvel Comics movie, Ant-Man. He also talks to former Marvel villain, Sir Ben Kingsley - aka The Mandarin - about his new film Learning To Drive, and a career that has spanned Mahatma Gandhi, Ringo Starr and the Olsen Twins!


The big picture with Simon Morris

The comic book world is dominated by two companies – Marvel and DC. DC’s Superman and Batman films tend to be dark, ultra-serious and borderline Fascist. Marvel is far more on the side of the underdog. Even their superheroes are plagued with self-doubt.

Possibly the most subversive Marvel movie was provided by Hollywood iconoclast Shane Black. His Iron Man 3 not only found a new angle to Robert Downey Junior’s title character, but he came up with the genre’s most interesting villain - the too-bad-to-be-true Mandarin, played to the hilt by Sir Ben Kingsley.

But even the best comic-book films can’t escape the fact that they’re… comic book films. No matter how cunningly devised and well acted they are, they stand and fall on three little words: Bam!  Splat! And Kapow!

But though we may roll our eyes at these technicolour mastodons, and cry out for something more nourishing, the trouble is that comic-book films, and their animated cousins, make grown-up films look a bit tame and old-fashioned.

Like Sir Ben Kingsley’s own new film, Learning to Drive - about a tightly-wound New York book critic, played by the always reliable Patricia Clarkson, who belatedly finds she needs to drive herself when her husband leaves her. Her instructor is a dignified Sikh refugee, played by Ben Kingsley.

The film is everything you want from a grownup film – that is, a film about adults, a little slight, maybe, but beautifully written and acted.  

Later I talk with the equally dignified Sir Ben Kingsley, who’s rather more fun than I was expecting – particularly when the conversation turns to the Beatles, the Olsen Twins and dressing in drag.

But the big movie this week was the debut of Marvel Comics’ smallest super-hero, Ant-Man.

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Ant-Man - film review

Simon Morris looks at the new Marvel Comics movie, Ant-Man, starring Paul Rudd playing a reformed burglar.


Ant-Man starts with quite a few strikes against it. First of all, Ant-Man?  Really?  A hero as small as an ant is an unpromising hero to talk up, you’d think. But the biggest problem for me is I’ve seen so many of these films now.  Ant-Man is simply one tight-fitting suit too far.

In fairness, my neighbours at the Ant-Man screening were three young chaps - average age about 11 - who had the time of their lives, whooping and hollering at every size-changing action stunt.

Unlike many Marvel movies, Ant-Man isn’t complicated by too many villains. Instead it throws in some father-daughter issues. 

But once the action gets under way, Ant-Man is basically a traditional heist movie, with added trick photography. The stunts and the comedy were the attractions for my 11-year-old neighbours. The rest of us get the likable Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, and the fact that micro-battles are frankly hilarious when the camera pulls out.  

Ant-Man is entertaining enough, if you’re not good and sick of comic-book films now. My neighbours enjoyed every moment of it, and why shouldn’t they? It was made for them.

But after nearly ten years trapped in the comic-book store, I’m looking for the exit.

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Learning to Drive - interview with Sir Ben Kingsley

Learning to Drive stars two people who know what they're doing - Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley… and it turns out the versatile Sir Ben hasn't quite played everything yet… Simon Morris talks to the actor.


When Sir Ben Kingsley made his extraordinary film debut in, and as, Mahatma Gandhi - two Golden Globes, two Baftas and one Academy Award - everyone in Hollywood who knew anything predicted that it would be too hard an act to follow.

But of course nobody in Hollywood knows anything. Sir Ben's career has been as extensive as it's been astonishing in range - from Schindler's List to Sexy Beast, from House of Sand and Fog to Hugo, where he played French film pioneer Georges Melies.  I have very fond memories of him upending expectations in Iron Man 3, blending horrific menace and knockabout comedy in one role.

This week, Sir Ben Kingsley returns in a sweet little film called Learning To Drive, playing a Sikh taxi-driver opposite old friend Patricia Clarkson.

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Learning to Drive - interview with Sir Ben Kingsley

Learning to Drive stars two people who know what they're doing - Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley… and it turns out the versatile Sir Ben hasn't quite played everything yet… Simon Morris talks to the extraordinary actor.


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