D: Lasse Hallström 
Stage 6 Films/Inferno (Richard Gere, Bill Johnson & Vicki Shigekuni Wong)
US/UK 2009
93 mins


W: Stephen P. Lindsey [based on the screenplay 'Hachi-ko' by Kaneto Shindo]
DP: Ron Fortunato
Ed: Kristina Boden
Mus: Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

Richard Gere (Parker Wilson), Joan Allen (Cate Wilson), Sarah Rohmer (Andy Wilson), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Ken Fujiyoshi), Jason Alexander (Carl Boilins), Chico / Layla / Forrest (Hachi)

Hachi: A Dog's Tale is a heartwarming family movie based on a 1987 Japanese movie, which in turn is based on a true story which occurred in Tokyo in the early 20th century.
A music professor finds an abandoned Akira puppy at his local train station, and after a fruitless search to locate its real owner, take it in himself, beginning a beautiful bond between man and his best friend. 
When tragedy strikes, the bond is tested, making the dog a legend in the picturesque social community.
Though some moments of the film are quite predictable, the delivery never feels contrived or manipulative. 
It's clear to see that this was a pet project (forgive the pun) for Richard Gere, who also produced, but the true star are the animal actors who portrayed Hachi.
If you're an animal lover, particularly dogs, this is a film which will tug on the heartstrings throughout.

"One of the greatest heroes in American history never fired a bullet."
"One of the greatest heroes in American history never fired a bullet."


D: Mel Gibson

Summit/Icon/Cross Creek (Bill Mechanic & David Permut)

US/Australia 2016

139 mins


W: Robert Schenkkan & Andrew Knight [based on the 2004 documentary "The Conscientious Objector"]

DP: Simon Duggan

Ed: John Gilbert

Mus: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Andrew Garfield (Desmond Doss), Vince Vaughn (Sgt. Howell), Sam Worthington (Capt. Jack Glover), Hugo Weaving (Tom Doss), Teresa Palmer (Dorothy Schutte), Luke Bracey (Smitty Ryker)

Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector who became a hero of World War II without even firing a single weapon.

The biographical picture starts before Doss' army days, growing up in rural Middle America and wooing a childhood sweetheart, while the middle act focuses on Doss' training for combat before the last third of the film thrusts the man into the heat of battle in Japan.  It's quite obvious that the film sheds a bit of the true story in favour of some Hollywood gloss, but the story still details a remarkable achievement.

The film provided a comeback platform for Mel Gibson's directorial career, and Andrew Garfield is deserved of the praise he received in the lead role. Both men would be honoured with Oscar nominations for their work, while the film itself was nominated as one of the best of 2016. It probably deserves a spot in or around the Top 10, but not much higher.


D: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Universal/Working Title (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner)
US/UK 2016
106 mins


W: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Roderick Jaynes
Mus: Carter Burwell
PD: Jess Gonchor
Cos: Mary Zophres

Josh Brolin (Eddie Mannix), George Clooney (Baird Whitlock), Alden Ehrenreich (Hobie Doyle), Ralph Fiennes (Laurence Laurentz), Scarlett Johansson (DeeAnna Moran), Frances McDormand (C.C. Calhoun), Channing Tatum (Burt Gurney), Tilda Swinton (Thora Thacker / Thessaly Thacker)

The Coen Brothers satire on 1950's Hollywood has occasional moments of amusement, as well as some cleverly staged scenes and witty dialogue, but altogether it is a bit of a mess.
Studio fixer Eddie Mannix is the sought after man in Hollywood when it comes to keeping celebrity scandals on the hush-hush, and he has his work cut out when the lead star of a multi-million dollar biblical epic is kidnapped by a group of communists, especially with tabloid gossip twins Thora & Thessaly Thacker doing a fair bit of snooping around the studio backlots.
To make matters worse, unwanted producer involvement recasts a Laurence Olivier style drama with the studios biggest cowboy star, leading to a clash of style between the actor and director.
The Coens' capture the essence of 1950's Hollywood, with an all star cast playing the notable types from the Golden Age. The trouble is that the film crams in too much information and the plot just doesn't marry together in a logical way, but it's still nice to look at due to the cinematography of Roger Deakins, costumes and production design which do justice to the period.
This is a film for fans of the Coen brothers only, and even then, it's more Burn After Reading than it is Fargo.

LA HAINE (aka HATE) (18)
D: Mathieu Kassovitz
Metro Tartan/Lazennec/Canal (Christopher Rossignon)
France 1995
97 mins
W: Mathieu Kassovitz
DP: Pierre Aïm
Ed: Mathieu Kassovitz & Scott Stevenson
Vincent Cassel (Vinz), Hubert Kounde (Hubert), Saïd Taghmaoui (Saïd)
A bleak but captivating and powerful world cinema utilising a documentary style to present a day in the life of three yobs following a riot in their housing estate in a downtrodden Paris suburb.
Three good performances carry this movie, especially Vincent Cassel as the most vengeful of the trio. It's a very stark film, but incredibly realistic and very well directed, though it may not be the most entertaining advert for world cinema.

D: Ryan Fleck
Axiom (Jamie Patricof, Alex Orlovsky, Lynette Howell, Anna Bodem & Rosanne Korenberg)
US 2006
106 mins


W: Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden
DP: Andrij Parekh
Ed: Anna Boden

Ryan Gosling (Dan Dunne), Shareeka Epps (Drey), Anthony Mackie (Frank)

Ryan Gosling delivers an exceptional performance as a drug-addicted teacher who becomes an important role model in a young black student's life. 
Aside from the good performances, the movie is rather maudlin and manipulative.  He's a druggie who can't kick his habit, and doesn't seem to want to either, but it's okay because he's teaching civil rights to a class of black students.
It's just not Stand & Deliver.

"The night he came home."
"The night he came home."
D: John Carpenter
Falcon (Debra Hill)
US 1978
93 mins
W: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Tommy Lee Wallace
Mus: John Carpenter
Donald Pleasance (Dr. Sam Loomis), Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Nick Castle (Michael Myers), Nancy Loomis (Annie Brackett), P.J. Soles (Lynda van der Klok), Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Leigh Brackett)
Neither the first "slasher" movie, nor the most original, but John Carpenter's iconic scary movie was the first to tap into a the mainstream market, creating a lasting legacy and countless copycats.
The plot is simple and single-minded; a psychopath escapes from an asylum and spends the evening of October 31st killing teenagers and babysitters.
Style is very much over substance, with John Carpenter's eerie electronic score enough to send shivers down the spine alone, while the emotionless "face" of villain Michael Myers has also become part of horror folklore.


D: David Gordon Green

Universal/Miramax/Blumhouse (Malek Akkad, Jason Blum & Bill Block)

US 2018

106 mins


W: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride & David Gordon Green [based on characters created by John Carpenter & Debra Hill]

DP: Michael Simmonds

Ed: Tim Alverson

Mus: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter & Daniel Davies

Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Judy Greer (Karen Nelson), Andi Matichak (Allyson Nelson), Will Patton (Frank Hawkins), Haluk Bilginer (Dr. Ranbir Sartain), James Jude Courtney (Michael Myers)

Although it shares the same title, 2018's Halloween is actually a sequel, rather than a remake, to 1978's Halloween and although it's the 11th film in the long-running horror series, its storyline retcons all previous sequels... including 1981's Halloween II (which wasn't actually too bad).

40 years on from the events in the first movie, Laurie Strode lives with the trauma from her ordeal as Michael Myers spends his days incarcerated in a high security prison for the mentally unsound.

Dr. Loomis is no longer alive, but Michael's case is studied by Loomis' 2018 counterpart, Ranbir Sartain, who introduces a pair of obnoxious journalists to the psychopath in the film's pre-credit sequence.

The meat of the story follows Laurie's granddaughter, a high school teenager who wants to party with her friends on Halloween, but the night takes a turn for the worst when Michael Myers escapes a prisoner transfer van and goes on a killing spree in his old neighbourhood (again) and Laurie comes out of hiding to protect her family and hunt down the killer responsible for causing her years of torment.

Though this film seems proud to retcon all previous sequels and claims it isn't a remake, it's the same old shit again and again. There's no originality here, and it even recycles elements from the 1978 classic, using mirrors in the scene set up as if to say "we've flipped it, aren't we clever". Unfortunately, it isn't clever. It's just jump scare after jump scare and a little atmosphere in-between, and though some scenes are reasonably well executed, it's a far cry from John Carpenter's seminal slasher classic.

The first film was genre-defining. This is just Hollywood cash-grab xeroxing at its most cynical. 


"The nightmare isn't over."
"The nightmare isn't over."
D: Rick Rosenthal
Dino de Laurentiis (Debra Hill & John Carpenter)
US 1981
92 mins
W: John Carpenter & Debra Hill
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Skip Schoolnik
Mus: John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
Donald Pleasance (Dr. Sam Loomis), Jamie Lee Curtis (Laurie Strode), Charles Cyphers (Leigh Brackett), Lance Guest (Jimmy Lloyd)
Virtual retread of the first movie, immediately following the events from the 1978 film, and mostly set inside the hospital where Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is recovering from the traumatic events.
The film wastes no time with any real development as it practically opened with the masked maniac Michael Myers killing random people indiscriminately and without real reason.
Jamie Lee Curtis & Donald Pleasance do a good job reprising their roles from the original film, but it does miss the directorial guidance of John Carpenter, even if he did stay on production as both producer and co-writer. A decent sequel, even if it does lie on top of the original film's blueprint. The Halloween series contained two years later, although the next sequel did not feature the same villain.

D: Tommy Lee Wallace
Dino de Laurentiis (Debra Hill & John Carpenter)
US 1983
98 mins
W: Tommy Lee Wallace [based on a screenplay by Nigel Kneale]
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Millie Moore 
Mus: John Carpenter & Alan Howarth
Tom Atkins (Dr. Daniel Challis), Stacey Nelkin (Ellie Grimbridge), Dan O'Herlihy (Conal Cochran), Ralph Strait (Buddy Kupfer), Michael Currie (Rafferty), Jadeen Barbor (Betty Kupfer)
The title is a complete misnomer, since this has nothing to do with the two previous films and only makes reference to them in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene. 
The film itself is decent enough to stand on its own merits; a macabre scary movie about a satan-worshipping toy manufacturer who intends to restore Halloween to its witch-cult origins through masks which turn the wearer's insides into creepy-crawlies and goo.
An effective chiller, though original screenwriter wasn't impressed with the tampering of the evil toymaker character, originally inspired by Celtic myths and tradition, only to be reduced to a mad scientist.
Closer to Invasion Of The Body Snatchers than any other horror franchise and while effective, it does seem a little cheapened by TV movie production quality.

"Ten years ago he changed the face of Halloween. Tonight, he's back!"
"Ten years ago he changed the face of Halloween. Tonight, he's back!"
D: Dwight H. Little
Trancas International (Paul Freeman)
US 1988
88 mins
W: Alan B. McElroy [based on characters created by John Carpenter & Debra Hill]
DP: Peter Lyons Collister
Ed: Curtiss Clayton
Mus: Alan Howarth
Donald Pleasance (Dr. Sam Loomis), Ellie Cornell (Rachel Carruthers), Danielle Harris (Jamie Lloyd), Michael Pataki (Dr. Hoffman), Beau Starr (Sheriff Ben Meeker)
As the title suggests, the psychopathic maniac is back after 7 years (Michael Myers as the main villain was absent from the third movie), rising from a coma to continue his killing spree in the old neighbourhood of Haddonfield, Illinois.
Released 10 years after the original film, it's all rather formulaic and cliche-driven, and ends up being a step down from the first sequel with both plot and execution. Donald Pleasance reprises his role as Dr. Sam Loomis, but even he looks bored in this.
It's worth noting that this film marked John Carpenter abandoning the series and selling the rights to Moustapha Akkad & his production company, who wasted no time churning out Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers a year later, taking full advantage of the slasher craze which dominated horror movies of the 1980's.

"War at its worst. Men at their best."
"War at its worst. Men at their best."
D: John Irvin
RKO (Marcia Nasatir)
US 1987
110 mins
W: Jim Carabatsos
DP: Peter MacDonald
Ed: Peter Tanner
Mus: Philip Glass
Tegan West (Terry Eden), Steven Weber (Dennis Worcester), Dylan McDermott (Adam Frantz), Don James (Elliott McDaniel), Courtney B. Vance (Abraham 'Doc' Johnson), Don Cheadle (David Washburn)
Conventional war movie about a rookie platoon on duty in Vietnam, charged with the mission of taking the hill of the title.
A rather run-of-the-mill plot is set aside from mundanity by good direction from John Irvin, making the film a metaphor for pointless obsession in the name of duty rather than just another standard routine flagwaver.

D: Peter Berg
Columbia/Relativity Media/Overbrook (Akiva Goldsman, Michael Mann, James Lassiter & Will Smith)
US 2008
92 mins
W: Vy Vincent Ngo & Vince Gilligan
DP: Tobias Schliessler
Ed: Paul Rubell & Colby Parker, Jr.
Mus: John Powell
Will Smith (John Hancock), Charlize Theron (Mary Embrey), Jason Bateman (Ray Embrey), Eddie Marsan (Kenneth 'Red' Parker)
The first half of the movie was a very interesting premise about lonely, alcoholic superhero, John Hancock, whose crime-fighting and life-saving exploits often cause more damage and harm than the good intentions deserve, leaving him unappreciated by the residents of Los Angeles until they realise they do need him. Unfortunately, it all falls apart after an unexpected twist, which though unpredictable, makes little to no sense and makes the film a load of mumbo-jumbo, stuck in-between genres and without a real identity of what kind of film it wants to be. There was a promising idea here, it's a shame the weak third act was such a huge let down.

D: Curtis Hanson
Interscope/Hollywood (David Madden)
US 1992
110 mins
W: Amanda Silver
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: John F. Link
Mus: Graeme Revell
Annabella Sciorra (Claire Bartel), Rebecca DeMornay (Peyton Mott), Matt McCoy (Michael Bartel), Ernie Hudson (Solomon), Julianne Moore (Marlene Craven)
The early 90's saw a huge surge in [person]-from-hell films, mostly due to the huge success of Fatal Attraction (qv) amongst others.
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle is the nanny-from-hell contribution to the sub-genre, and is mostly an improvement on many of its cousins due to an intensely creepy performance from Rebecca DeMornay, a seemingly perfect au pair for a picket fence family, secretly harbouring a dark past and intending to tear the family apart.
The film becomes rather formulaic and clichéd in the final third, but still remains an entertaining thriller, though perhaps it could have been a lot more powerful if the truth and mystery surrounding DeMornay's character was left towards the end as a plot reveal rather than given away in the first act.

"Some guys just can't handle Vegas."
"Some guys just can't handle Vegas."
D: Todd Phillips
Warner Bros./Legendary (Todd Phillips & Dan Goldberg)
US 2009
96 mins
W: Jon Lucas & Scott Moore
DP: Lawrence Sher
Ed: Debra Neil-Fisher
Mus: Christophe Beck
PD: Bill Brzeski
Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Dr. Stuart Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Heather Graham (Jade), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Jeffrey Tambor (Sidney Garner), Ken Jeong (Leslie Chow)
A group of friends head to Vegas for a bachelor party the weekend before a big wedding and wake up worse for wear after an ill-advised mix of alcohol and drugs.  The groom-to-be has done a disappearing act, though their trashed hotel room has gained the company of a young infant, Mike Tyson's tiger and a random chicken.
In their dazed state, three of the friends try to piece the events of the night together and discover the wereabouts of their missing pal, whilst returning the infant back to it's mother and the jungle cat back to the irascible boxer, but they find themselves in even more chaos when it unfolds that they've got themselves involved with a crazy Chinese gang member.
Some of the comedy is rather puerile, but it's the right side of funny as it emerges that the shenanigans of the night are so over the top, it can only be classed as the binge to end all binges.
There's a clever homage to Rain Man thrown in, and while the comedy isn't 100% original, it is incredibly funny.
The movie was a huge box office success and went on to produce a couple of sequels, which weren't particularly necessary and didn't match up to the hilarity of the first film.
How the group of friends came to be in possession of a chicken still remains a mystery.

"The wolfpack is back!"
"The wolfpack is back!"
D: Todd Phillips
Warner Bros./Legendary (Todd Phillips & Dan Goldberg)
US 2011
102 mins
W: Scott Armstrong, Craig Mazin & Todd Phillips [based on characters created by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore]
DP: Lawrence Sher
Ed: Debra Neil-Fisher & Mike Sale
Mus: Christophe Beck
Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Dr. Stuart Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Ken Jeong (Leslie Chow)
The first film was reasonably original, thoroughly enjoyable and very funny. This sequel isn't particularly original, following exactly the same formula as the first film but relocating it from Vegas to Thailand and exchanging Mike Tyson's tiger for a chain-smoking monkey. Its lack of originality also means it isn't particularly enjoyable either, nor is it very funny.
It's the exactly the same film as the first, except LOUDER.
A much better idea would surely have been to just revisit the original film once again just to explain where the damn chicken came from!

D: Todd Phillips
Warner Bros./Legendary (Todd Phillips & Dan Goldberg)
US 2013
100 mins
W: Craig Mazin & Todd Phillips [based on characters created by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore]
DP: Lawrence Sher
Ed: Debra Neil-Fisher & Jeff Georg
Mus: Christophe Beck
Bradley Cooper (Phil Wenneck), Ed Helms (Dr. Stuart Price), Zach Galifianakis (Alan Garner), Justin Bartha (Doug Billings), Ken Jeong (Leslie Chow), John Goodman (Marshall), Heather Graham (Jade)
So, how many ways can you skin a cat?
The first film was a hilarious stag party gone wrong in Vegas, with the three principal characters trying to find the groom-to-be after a rather heavy night. The second film was pretty much the same plot, set in Bangkok, with the volume turned up high, minus the hilarity. 
This third film doesn't even feature a hangover, it just references an event from the first film and builds on that, with the three main characters hunting for a gangster's treasure (seriously). 
The unfunniest character from the first two films (played by Ken Jeong) returns and has a rather major part, although it mostly involves acting like a complete arsehole throughout the entire running time of the film. 
Zach Galifianakis and his man-child act simply isn't funny anymore and the rest of the cast just seem tired.
Waking up after a night of heavy drinking with Mike Tyson's tiger and a random chicken in your hotel room is funny. This isn't. In fact, a real hangover would be much more fun.
There's a scene about 30 minutes into the movie when Bradley Cooper's character says 'What the fuck am I watching?' 
I'm with you Bradley.

"Young. Sweet. Innocent. Deadly."
"Young. Sweet. Innocent. Deadly."

HANNA (15)

D: Joe Wright

Sony/Focus Features/Babelsberg (Leslie Holleran, Marty Adelstein & Scott Nemes)

UK/US/Germany/Finland 2011

111 mins


W: Seth Lochhead & David Farr

DP: Alwin H. Küchler

Ed: Paul Tothill

Mus: Tom Rowlands & Ed Simons (The Chemical Brothers)

Saoirse Ronan (Hanna Heller), Eric Bana (Erik Heller), Cate Blanchett (Marissa Wiegler), Jessica Barden (Sophie), Tom Hollander (Isaacs), Olivia Williams (Rachel)

Saoirse Ronan plays the title character, a sixteen year old assassin raised by her father in the woods of Finland to be a strong, effective killer. She is subsequently dispatched on a mission across Europe and becomes tracked by intelligence operatives headed by a ruthless lead agent.

The film starts very promisingly, but does become less and less feasible as it continues. The acting performances are good, and there are a handful of decent action set pieces, but it's not as good as it could have been. The music from electronic duo The Chemical Brothers is probably the film's biggest highlight.


D: Woody Allen
Orion (Robert Greenhut)
US 1986
106 mins
W: Woody Allen
DP: Carlo di Palma
Ed: Susan E. Morse
PD: Stuart Wurtzel
Cos: Jeffrey Kurland
Woody Allen (Mickey), Mia Farrow (Hannah), Michael Caine (Elliot), Carrie Fisher (April), Barbara Hershey (Lee), Dianne Wiest (Holly), Max Von Sydow (Frederick)
A wife discovers of her husbands infidelity, while her sisters are having relationship issues of their own.
This is often hailed as one of Woody Allen's better works, though I actually thought this wasn't anything particularly special at all. In             fact, it was rather boring.
Littered with pretentious, upper East Side New Yorkers, pseudo-intellectual dialogue and no real point to any of the stories or failing to resolve any of issues of infidelity that it raises, leaving a rather loose moral that "it's okay to fuck your wife's sister (or even your adopted daughter, perhaps)".
Strictly for Allen fans or those who yearn a bohemian lifestyle.

D: Ridley Scott
Universal/Scott Free (Dino de Laurentiis, Martha de Laurentiis & Ridley Scott)
US 2001
131 mins


W: David Mamet & Steven Zaillian [based on the novel by Thomas Harris]
DP: John Mathieson
Ed: Pietro Scalia
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal Lecter), Julianne Moore (Clarice Starling), Ray Liotta (Paul Krendler), Frankie R. Faison (Barney), Giancarlo Giannini (Pazzi), Francesca Neri (Allegra Pazzi), Zeljko Ivanek (Dr. Cordell Doemling), Gary Oldman (Mason Verger)

Weak, disappointing sequel to The Silence Of The Lambs with Anthony Hopkins reprising his role as the titular character, although without the menace which brought his performance an Oscar in the predecessing film. Jodie Foster thought better than to return as FBI agent Starling, replaced by a miscast Julianne Moore. The story is very much revenge-based, seeing the evil Dr. Lecter outwitting an old adversary for his personal vengeance following his escape from a high security detention centre.
Some may find the scenes squeamish, others will just find it laughable. I sided with the latter.

D: Tommy Wirkola
Paramount/MGM/MTV (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick & Beau Flynn)
US/Germany 2012
88 mins


W: Tommy Wirkola [based on the fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm]
DP: Michael Bonvillain
Ed: Jim Page
Mus: Atli Örvarsson

Jeremy Renner (Hansel), Gemma Arterton (Gretel), Famke Janssen (Muriel), Peter Stormare (Berringer), Thomas Mann (Ben)

Yet another re-imagination of a fairytale on the Hollywood production line following Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Red Riding Hood and two Snow White movies released in 2012.
Produced by MTV films, this movie is clearly aimed at the "young adult" demographic (Or Twilight fans), it's far too violent for young kids and too fairytale-lite for grown ups, making it fall into a very niche groove.
Personally, I thought this was better than Alice In Wonderland but not by much. Gemma Arterton is decent as Gretel, but Jeremy Renner is very much miscast as Hansel. I made an assumption that Orlando Bloom must have been busy down the jobcentre. The story isn't too bad in comparison to the original fairytale, with some well-paced action scenes in a build up to a very badly edited climax with some questionably CGI effects. The F-word is also used quite a few times, incredibly unnecessarily in a film which would've done better if aimed at a younger audience.                 

D: M. Night Shyamalan
Fox Searchlight/UTV (Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer & M. Night Shyamalan)
US/India 2008
91 mins
W: M. Night Shyamalan
DP: Tak Fujimoto
Ed: Conrad Buff
Mus: James Newton Howard
Mark Wahlberg (Elliot Moore), Zooey Deschanel (Alma Moore), John Leguizamo (Julian), Ashlyn Sanchez (Jess), Betty Buckley (Mrs. Jones)
Following a spectacular debut with The Sixth Sense (qv), M. Night Shyamalan's directorial & writing career has been on a downward spiral ever since, making him the butt of many Hollywood jokes. With The Happening, he doesn't seem likely to buck that trend either.
Credit has to go to the editors of the publicity trailer, who made the film look quite intriguing when it is anything but. In a nutshell, trees are angry with the human race and begin to release a toxin which provokes people to commit suicide in a variety of ways. Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel & a girl who doesn't talk are just three from a group of the survivors who avert disaster by outrunning the wind. Seriously, I wish that plot device was made up, but it's true. There's even a scene which shows a close up of Mark Wahlberg's face as he's having, what can only be described as, an 'excruciating think'.
A ridiculous concept to a movie with preposterous dialogue, pathetic direction and truly abysmal performances.
Shyamalan may think he's made an ecological masterpiece but he'd be the only one, and truly deserves all the harsh criticism he and this travesty receive.
D: Todd Solondz
October/Good Machine/Killer Films (Ted Hope & Christine Vachon)
US 1998
134 mins
W: Todd Solondz
DP: Maryse Alberti
Ed: Alan Oxman
Mus: Robbie Kondor
Jane Adams (Joy Jordan), Dylan Baker (Bill Maplewood), Lara Flynn Boyle (Helen Jordan), Ben Gazzara (Lenny Jordan), Jared Harris (Vlad), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Allen), Jon Lovitz (Andy Kornbluth)
It's a rather disturbing indictment that critics absolutely adored this film- a black comedy about sexual deviants, perverts and paedophiles lurking behind the facade of the perfect American family.
It isn't particularly funny or quirky and it's difficult to understand why these sort of shady characters would make a good basis for a film. It's all a little too offbeat and misanthropic for more conventional tastes, but certainly impossible to forget.

"Get up. Live your day. Get killed. Again."
"Get up. Live your day. Get killed. Again."


D: Christopher Landon

Universal/Blumhouse (Jason Blum)

US 2017

96 mins


W: Scott Lobdell

DP: Toby Oliver

Ed: Gregory Plotkin

Mus: Bear McCreary

Jessica Rothe (Tree Gelbman), Israel Broussard (Carter Davis), Ruby Modine (Lori Spengler), Rachel Matthews (Danielle Bouseman), Charles Aitken (Gregory Butler), Rob Mello (John Tombs)

The premise of Groundhog Day is reimagined for a teen slasher genre, starring Jessica Rothe as Tree, an ignorant and bitchy sorority girl who is murdered on her birthday and has a chance to relive the day over and over again until she discovers her own murderer.

The horror film is not without its faults, of which there are plenty, the biggest being that it's very difficult to care about such an unpleasant lead character, even when her character does arc, it appears disingenuously false.

Another problem is that is simply isn't scary, with only a handful of jump scares that you can predict a mile off. The true identity of the killer won't be much of a surprise either.

The premise could have worked with a little more work, but this is aimed solely at a teenage audience, who probably won't care too much for more than a dumb, colour-by-numbers horror flick.


D: George Miller
Warner Bros. (Doug Mitchell, George Miller & Bill Miller)
US/Australia 2006
108 mins
W: George Miller, John Collee, Judy Morris & Warren Coleman
Mus: John Powell
voices of: Elijah Wood (Mumble), Robin Williams (Ramon), Hugh Jackman (Memphis), Nicole Kidman (Norma Jean), Hugo Weaving (Noah the Elder)
A misfit Emperor penguin develops a love for tap-dancing (especially to Stevie Wonder music), while the rest of his flock are quite bemused.
It's very well animated and is all quite cute, but penguin cuteness and good animation alone don't justify a feature length piece of animation. Kids will love it, but adults may lose interest within the first half hour.
"He doesn't play golf. He destroys it."
"He doesn't play golf. He destroys it."
D: Dennis Dugan
Universal (Robert Simonds)
US 1996
92 mins
W: Adam Sandler & Tim Herlihy
DP: Arthur Albert
Ed: Jeff Gourson
Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh
Adam Sandler (Happy Gilmore), Christopher McDonald (Shooter McGavin), Julie Bowen (Virginia Venet), Frances Bay (Grandma Gilmore), Carl Weathers (Chubbs Peterson)
Sandler plays a bad-tempered hockey star, who, in need of some quick cash for his grandma, turns his talents to the world of golf.
Fans of Adam Sandler might appreciate this piece of his early work, a mix of crude slapstick and Looney Tunes-style visual gags. Those who aren't a fan of Sandler will find it about as funny as a kick in the bollocks.

D: Mike Leigh
Momentum (Simon Channing-Williams)                              
UK/US 2008
118 mins
W: Mike Leigh
DP: Dick Pope
Ed: Jim Clark
Mus: Gary Yershon
Sally Hawkins (Poppy Cross), Eddie Marsan (Scott), Alexis Zegerman (Zoe), Andrea Riseborough (Dawn)
Sally Hawkins eternally positive and kooky performance might not be to everyone's taste, and her character can be as irritating as it is endearing, but she's the best thing about this movie.  Eddie Marsden a close second as her bigoted and misanthropic driving teacher.
Other than that it's typical Mike Leigh fare, heavy on improvised dialogue and complex, nuanced characters.  
What makes Happy-Go-Lucky not as good as his other works is that it doesn't tie up all it's loose ends.  There's three or four plotlines which develop during the course of the movie and they're all left hanging. It's a shame to take all the gloss off an otherwise good movie with a naff ending, but it's still a worthy watch and generates a number of feel-good moments.

"No Sesame. All Street."
"No Sesame. All Street."


D: Brian Henson

STX/Black Bear/Henson Alternative/Huayi Brothers (Brian Henson, Jeff Hayes, Jason Lust, Ben Falcone & Melissa McCarthy)

US 2018

91 mins


W: Todd Berger & Dee Austin Robertson

DP: Mitchell Amundsen

Ed: Brian Scott Olds

Mus: Christopher Lennertz

Bill Barretta (voice of Phil Philips), Melissa McCarthy (Connie Edwards), Maya Rudolph (Bubbles), Joel McHale (Agent Campbell), Elizabeth Banks (Jenny), Dorien Davies (voice of Sandra White)

If you're the sort of person who finds the idea of watching Kermit The Frog getting wanked off by Miss Piggy hilarious, then you'll probably enjoy The Happytime Murders. If however, you go into this film expecting L.A. Confidential with a Who Framed Roger Rabbit twist, then you're certain to be disappointed.

Set in a Los Angeles where sentient puppets and human beings co-exist, puppet P.I. Phil Philips takes on a blackmailing case from a femme fatale, a case which has links with a string of murders targeting the cast of The Happytime Gang, a successful television show in the vein of Sesame Street.

This film had the potential of having allegorical parallels with racism, or merely being a Sam Spade-esque detective mystery with puppets, but instead it goes for the low-hanging fruit of vulgar humour at every opportunity, with puerile sex joke after puerile sex joke ejaculating over the screen like a constant stream of silly string (this actually happens).

There's a reference to Basic Instinct which does raise a smile, and the puppet work is quite well executed, despite the puppets being incredibly ugly.

Peter Jackson did this before, in Meet The Feebles, and the detective angle had already been covered with The Great Muppet Caper. This could have been a hugely entertaining subverted version of a medium which is usually for kids, but it's nothing but a tawdry mess.

A razzie for Fozzie wouldn't be a huge surprise.


D: David Slade
Lions Gate (Michael Caldwell, David W. Higgins & Richard Hutton)
US 2005
104 mins
W: Brian Nelson
DP: Jo Willems
Ed: Art Jones
Mus: Harry Escott & Molly Nyman
Patrick Wilson (Jeff Kohvler), Ellen Page (Hayley Stark), Sandra Oh (Judy Tokuda)
A bullshit morality tale wrapped as a psychological thriller in which Ellen Page plays an unlikeable, smug, precocious teenager who holds a photographer hostage in his own home on the suspicions that he is a paedophile, before subjecting him to vigilante justice by way of castration.
The concept of the movie is much better than the finished product. Had the filmmakers used the rather formulaic route of presenting Page's character as a victim of abuse or underage rape, I'd have had much more sympathy for her character, instead she embodies the personification of every underage girl who has been the victim of such abuse. However, her dialogue is so glib and smart-ass, I wanted her to be the loser in this battle, especially since the guilt of her victim is left incredibly ambiguous.
Obviously, this is a very tricky subject to get correct and I really should have been on the side of the vigilante seeking justice for all the wrongdoing, but I wasn't, because her character was detestably loathsome.
The fact that this film made me feel sympathy for a suspected paedophile misses the point completely, even though I find tacits of his behaviour questionable and morally repulsive.
The 2005 film The Woodsman and a Japanese movie called Audition took on similar themes much better and more tastefully. This was far too smug and up its own arse.


D: Richard Lester

United Artist (Walter Shenson)

UK 1964

85 mins


W: Alun Owen

DP: Gilbert Taylor

Ed: John Jympson

Mus: The Beatles & George Martin

John Lennon (himself), Paul McCartney (himself), George Harrison (himself), Ringo Starr (himself), Wilfrid Brambell (Grandfather)

A day in the life of The Beatles, as they journey from Liverpool to London in this comic fantasia filmed at the height of Beatlemania.

Though the plot simply has the Fab Four playing themselves, they don't dumb down their on-screen counterparts in a way we've seen in other promotional films for pop bands (Spiceworld, a fine example). In fact, the screenplay has several funny moments, and was even good enough to be nominated for an Oscar. 

It helps to like their music, but even if you don't, this makes for a fine piece of classic British cinema. The album isn't too shabby either.


"Don't hunt what you can't kill"
"Don't hunt what you can't kill"
D: John Woo
UIP/Alphaville/Renaissance (James Jacks & Sean Daniel)
US 1993
97 mins
W: Chuck Pfarrer
DP: Russell Carpenter
Ed: Bob Murawski
Mus: Graeme Revell
Jean Claude Van Damme (Chance Boudreaux), Lance Henriksen (Emil Fouchon), Yancy Butler (Nat Binder), Arnold Vosloo (Pik Van Cleef), Kasi Lemmons (May Mitchell)
Standard action nonsense from the early 1990's. Sporting long hair and a Cajun accent, Van Damme plays drifter Chance Boudreaux, who assists a woman looking for her missing father who turns up dead, the prey of a vicious bloodsport arranged by a local man of wealth, who has chosen Boudreaux as his next target.
It's a rather unremarkable spin on an idea used in The Most Dangerous Game, And Then There Were None and countless others, moderately entertaining though with an unintentionally hilarious ending where bad guy Henriksen finally gets his comeuppance.
This provided Hong Kong's influential director John Woo's Hollywood debut and while it gave him a chance to cut his teeth, it's not amongst his best work. 

"He's L.A. detective Mason Storm. Three hired assassins left him for dead. He's waited seven years to even the score."
"He's L.A. detective Mason Storm. Three hired assassins left him for dead. He's waited seven years to even the score."
D: Bruce Malmuth
Warner Bros. (Gary Adelson, Joel Simon & Bill Todman, Jr.)
US 1990
96 mins
W: Steve McKay
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: John F. Link
Mus: David Michael Frank
Steven Seagal (Mason Storm), Kelly LeBrock (Andy Stewart), William Sadler (Senator Vernon Trent), Frederick Coffin (Lt. Kevin O'Malley)
L.A. cop Mason Storm (Seagal) revives from a seven-year coma and seeks revenge on the corrupt politician, crooked cops and hoodlums who killed his wife and son and left him in the comatose state. He wastes no time about it either, kicking ass and getting back to martial arts training almost immediately after achieving consciousness, just like in real life (sarcasm).
Plenty of action with a high body count, the only thing it's missing is brains.

D: Hal Ashby
Paramount (Colin Higgins & Charles B. Mulvehill)
US 1971
90 mins


W: Colin Higgins
DP: John A. Alonzo
Ed: William A. Sawyer & Edward Warschilka 
Mus: Cat Stevens

Bud Cort (Harold Chasen), Ruth Gordon (Maude), Vivian Pickles (Mrs. Chasen), Charles Tyner (Uncle Victor), Ellen Geer (Sunshine)

Harold, a young man from a wealthy family, obsessed with death and fruitlessly faking his own suicide to gain attention from his mother, meets Maude, a free-spirited 79-year-old woman at a funeral, and together they form a friendship, which, after a series of wacky adventures, develops into a romance, much to the alarm of Harold's mother.
In 1971, the film wasn't much of a hit, but a cult following on college campuses during the later half of the 1970's has made the film a modern classic.
Harold & Maude may be the epitome of bad taste, but don't let that put you off, this cult film is undoubtedly an audience divider, but those who can take it will find it quite life-affirming.

D: William Dear
Universal/Amblin (Richard Vane & William Dear)
US 1987
110 mins


W: William Dear, William E. Martin & Ezra D. Rappaport
DP: Allen Davieu
Ed: Donn Cambern
Mus: Bruce Broughton

John Lithgow (George Henderson), Melinda Dillon (Nancy Henderson), David Suchet (Jacques LaFleur), Don Ameche (Dr. Wallace Wrightwood), Margaret Landrick (Sarah Henderson), Joshua Rudoy (Ernie Henderson), Kevin Peter Hall (Harry)

You'd be forgiven for thinking that director William Dear was actually a pseudonym for Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin company produced this family comedy, which is quite conveniently summed up as E.T. in the woods.
A family on a camping trip accidentally drive into the legendary Sasquatch, and believing the creature to be dead, take him to their Seattle home where he wreaks all kinds of havoc while unscrupulous authorities search his true wereabouts.
The humour is sitcom standard and it's all rather cloying, with occasional moments of comedy. Fantastic makeup from Rick Baker is the star of the show.

D: Paul Mazursky
20th Century Fox (Paul Mazursky)
US 1974
115 mins


W: Paul Mazursky & Josh Greenfield
DP: Michael Butler
Ed: Richard Halsey
Mus: Bill Conti

Art Carney (Harry Coombes), Tonto (Tonto), Ellen Burstyn (Shirley Mallard), Chief Dan George (Sam Two Feathers), Geraldine Fitzgerald (Jessie Stone), Larry Hagman (Eddie Coombes)         

An old man and his cat travel across America following his eviction from his New York apartment.
An amiable character study from director-writer Paul Mazursky, like a charming mix between a Federico Fellini-Woody Allen film.
Art Carney caused a huge surprise by winning the 1974 Best Actor Oscar, though his passive character is more interesting than the performance itself.

"Every man has a breaking point."
"Every man has a breaking point."
D: Daniel Barber
Lions Gate/Marv Partners/UK Film Council (Kris Thykier, Matthew Vaughn, Matthew Brown & Keith Bell)
US 2009
99 mins


W: Gary Young
DP: Martin Ruhe
Ed: Joe Walker
Mus: Martin Phipps & Ruth Barrett

Michael Caine (Harry Brown), Emily Mortimer (D.I. Alice Frampton), Charlie Creed Miles (Sgt. Terry Hicock), David Bradley (Len Attwell), Sean Harris (Stretch), Ben Drew (Noel Winters), Jack O'Connell (Marky), Liam Cunningham (Sid Rourke)

Michael Caine is Harry Brown, a pensioner who wants to use the subway near his local council estate but can't because feral yobs are up to no good, so he decides to get Gran Torino/Death Wish/Straw Dogs/Taxi Driver on their asses.
While Michael Caine is excellent in his portrayal of a OAP-vigilante, the other characters in this film are just one-dimensional without being properly fleshed out. The yobs are complete and utter deplorable scum while the rest of the characters may as well be part of the furniture (in fact, a female heroin addict pretty much is).
Overall, Harry Brown is a typically average thriller funded by the UK Film Council, written by a middle-class liberal who doesn't have a clue about life on a housing estate paired with a debutante director who knows even less and if it weren't for Michael Caine's performance it would be no more or less enjoyable than a TV movie-of-the-week.

"Journey beyond your imagination."
"Journey beyond your imagination."
D: Chris Columbus
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman)         
US/UK 2001
152 mins


W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: John Seale
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce
Mus: John Williams
PD: Stuart Craig
Cos: Judianna Makovsky

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley), Ian Hart (Professor Quirrell), John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Julie Walters (Mrs. Weasley), John Cleese (Nearly Headless Nick)

It's not a pre-requisite to have read J. K. Rowling's series of books, but it helps, especially if you're a big fan of them.
The Harry Potter series of books had already sold millions of copies before the first film went into production, so there was always going to be a fanbase for these movies, and by that token it leaves them rather criticproof.
As someone who hasn't read the books (and has no particular interest in doing so) the general premise of Harry Potter and his universe seems to be picked from other, different works of literature (Jill Murphy's The Worst Witch series of books a prime example), ergo the Harry Potter stories aren't particularly original.
As for the film itself, it's a good introduction to the schoolboy wizard and his adventures, opening with Harry mistreated by his foster parents, living under a staircase while they spoil their legitimate son rotten. An invitation is then received for Harry to join Hogwarts, a fabled school for young wizards and witches which can only be reached by a magical train departing from Kings Cross station's platform 9 & 3/4.
During his first term at Hogwarts, Harry learns the basics of spell casting as well as the truth of his parents' death, before he goes on a quest with his friends Ron Weasley & Hermoine Granger to find the magical philosopher's stone.
It's a fine fantasy film for young kids, with some brilliant aspects to the production, especially in the set design, costumes and most of the visual effects (although the troll and Minotaur CGI effects are absolutely terrible for such a huge blockbuster). 
Personally, I have a minor gripe with the lack of originality in the Potter stories, but they also encouraged an entire generation of kids to read more, which is always a good thing. One of the more original aspects in the stories is the game of Quidditch, which the film dedicates quite an amount of time on. Though, to be harshly frank, it seems like the stupidest game ever devised. Perhaps it sounded more interesting in the books, but in the film it's just farcical. Honestly, if catching a 'golden snitch' wins the game, why all the other scoring methods?
The story may be mostly plagiarised, but it has so many fans I really can't be too harsh on it, especially since much of it was very enjoyable.

"Something evil has returned to Hogwarts!"
"Something evil has returned to Hogwarts!"
D: Chris Columbus
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman)         
US/UK 2002
161 mins
W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Roger Pratt
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: John Williams
PD: Stuart Craig
Cos: Judianna Makovsky
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Richard Harris (Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Richard Griffiths (Vernon Dursley)
Harry Potter's second term at Hogwarts makes for a much longer movie (almost suicidally long at 161 minutes) and much more plaigarism from other works of literature, most notably Lord Of The Rings, as the character of Dobby (Gollum), the incredibly British house elf, is introduced. Liberties are also taken with timeless fantasy folklore so little Harry doesn't turn to stone when he slays a basilisk, just as well too as there's several more adventures to come.
Aside from an opening sequence involving a flying car and a handful of decent performances (Julian Glover & Kenneth Branagh particularly) this suffered from a ridulously overindulgent length and is quite possibly the weakest of the series. Fans might not agree, as the adaptation crams in as much of the book as possible, but I make this point a lot when reviewing adaptations of literary works: not everything needs to be included, film and book are two completely separate mediums, and sometimes there needs to be sacrifices for the purpose of pacing.
It still made a bucket load of cash and would be more appreciated by Harry Potter fans than those who've not read the books.         

D: Alfonso Cuaron
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman, Chris Columbus & Mark Radcliffe)
US/UK 2004
141 mins


W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Michael Seresin
Ed: Steven Weisberg
Mus: John Williams
PD: Stuart Craig

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermoine Granger), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), David Thewlis (Professor Lupin), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Alan Rickman (Professor Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Professor McGonagall), Emma Thompson (Professor Sybil Trelawney), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew)

A switch of director makes a great deal of difference as Alfonso Cuaron takes over the duties from Chris Columbus, presenting a much more gothic vision of Rowling's books with some much sharper visual effects, cinematography and production design.
Many comparisons are still made between Harry Potter & Lord Of The Rings with the Whooping Willow a substitute for Treebeard (as well as The Dementors/Nazgul, Hippogriff/Giant Eagles, Arogog/Shelob) but it's not much of a surprise anymore since it was clear from the first book/film that J. K. Rowling is the biggest magpie in the history of literature.
The performances from the main trio of young actors were the weakest performances in the previous films, and while there's some improvement as the series goes on, they're still the weakest link as far as acting is concerned but, in all fairness, they are acting beside legends of the screen like Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, et al.
This is arguably the best of the Potter films though because of it's stronger, more adult and less predictable storyline, as well as some cutting edge visual effects (aside from the ghastly CGI werewolf. Ugh!)

D: Mike Newell
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman)         
US/UK 2005
157 mins


W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Roger Pratt
Ed: Mick Audsley
Mus: Patrick Doyle
PD: Stuart Craig
Cos: Jany Temime

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Alastor Moody), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew)

Harry Potter's fourth term at Hogwarts includes his competing in The Goblet Of Fire tournament (kind of like sports day to us muggles) and an impending school prom (which is more America-centric than in previous stories).
Like The Chamber Of Secrets, The Goblet Of Fire is mere filler in-between two more superior installments. 
Everything that made Prisoner Of Azkaban so enjoyable is lacking here, possibly because of another switch of directors, despite Alfonso Cuaron doing such a great job with the previous film.
The shortcomings can't all be pinned on the new director though, as the writing reverts back to the same predictable formula like an episode of Scooby Doo.
It's overlong, unbelievably dull and the sexual innuendos were both irrelevant and completely unnecessary. Just stick to the magic and adventure instead of bringing teen angst and puberty into the mix. The cheesy Jarvis Cocker songs should've been left out too.
Of course, fans of the books and the previous movies will love this, but in my opinion, J. K. Rowling had serious pound signs in her eyes when she wrote this one.
On the plus side, it sets up the fifth film quite nicely.

D: David Yates
Warner Bros./Heyday/1492 (David Heyman & David Barron)
US/UK 2007
138 mins
W: Michael Goldenberg [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Slawomir Idziak
Ed: Mark Day
Mus: Nicholas Hooper
PD: Stuart Craig
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Helena Bonham-Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Gary Oldman (Sirius Black), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Maggie Smith (Minerva McGonagall), Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge), David Thewlis (Remus Lupin), Emma Thompson (Sybill Trelawny)
I do try to enjoy the Harry Potter films, but I just don't take to them the way fans of the books do.  This is an improvement on The Goblet Of Fire with an almost 1984-style theme to it and introduces the character of Hyacinth Bucket, I mean Dolores Umbridge, a right odious bitch who takes Hogwart's school under her stifling control.  I really wanted her to meet with a sticky end but had to remind myself that this is a children's film and it was highly unlikely.
The tone of the Harry Potter films get darker with each progressive film but unfortunately that doesn't always make the special effects look any better. Some of the CGI looked rough, unfinished and quite unprofessional and many scenes were hard to make out since director David Yates seemed obsessed with taking the dark material literally and the majority of the film takes place in dark corners, halls and shadows. I also had a bit of a beef with some of the better characters being limited to cameo appearances, but I suppose the nature of adaptation meant most of the book was cut out to keep pace.  I'd have prefered if Alfonso Cuaron stayed on as director after Prisoner Of Azkaban, my personal favourite of the series.

D: David Yates
Warner Bros./Heyday (David Heyman & David Barron)
US/UK 2009
153 mins
W: Steve Kloves [based on the novel by J. K. Rowling]
DP: Bruno Delbonnel
Ed: Mark Day
Mus: Nicholas Hooper
PD: Stuart Craig
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), Emma Watson (Hermione Granger), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore), Alan Rickman (Severus Snape), Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort)
The schoolboy wizard, whose wand gets bigger in each progressing film (filth!), and his group of friends, now fully into their teenage years, begin to hatch a plan to thwart the evil Lord Voldemort. 
My personal interest in the Harry Potter universe wanes with each and every film, I'm simply not a fan. I really did enjoy the first film & The  Prisoner Of Azkaban though, the others I just don't see what the appeal is, perhaps it's merely an age or generational thing.
That being said, these movies are completely critic proof. If you're a fan of the books or simply the other Harry Potter films, then you will most probably enjoy it. It's very well made from a production standpoint and is a good example of how British cinema has grown over the past 20 years, it's also immensely popular amongst the vast fanbase, despite the books being written by the biggest magpie in the history of literature (harsh, but fair).

D: Henry Koster
Universal (John Beck)
US 1950
104 mins


W: Mary Chase & Oscar Brodney [based on the play by Mary Chase]
DP: William Daniels
Ed: Ralph Dawson
Mus: Frank Skinner

James Stewart (Elwood P. Dowd), Josephine Hull (Veta Louise Simmons), Peggy Dow (Miss Kelly), Charles Drake (Dr. Sanderson), Cecil Kellaway (Dr. Chumley)

James Stewart is perfectly charming as Elwood P. Dowd, an amiable gentleman with a six-foot tall rabbit as an imaginary friend and a sister who attempts to have him committed to a psychiatric ward, but ends up being committed herself.
The story is a lighthearted look at mental health and possible ties to alcoholism, with subtle comedy and excellent performances, particularly from James Stewart in one of his much beloved roles and Josephine Hull, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing his social-climbing sister, even the performance of the invisible title character is memorable, though this is attributable to the efforts of the rest of the ensemble.
One minor gripe is that of the sound recording, which sounds a little too tinny throughout, but perhaps this was on purpose to give the film a more dreamlike quality. Everything else is fantastic.


D: George Tillman, Jr.

20th Century Fox/Temple Hill/State Street (Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Robert Teitel & George Tillman, Jr.)

US 2018

133 mins


W: Audrey Wells [based on the novel by Angie Thomas]

DP: Mihai Mãlaimare, Jr.

Ed: Alex Blatt & Craig Hayes

Mus: Dustin O'Halloran

Amandla Stenberg (Starr Carter), Regina Hall (Lisa Carter), Russell Hornsby (Maverick Carter), K.J. Apa (Chris), Algee Smith (Khalil Harris), Lamar Johnson (Seven Carter), Common (Uncle Carlos), Anthony Mackie (King)

Are you woke? If you don't know what I mean by that phrase, it's how social media phrase the awareness of racial or cultural issues and the disparity between people based on this. Personally, I think it's a bullshit buzzword for people to score points and make themselves feel better.

The Hate U Give is a woke drama, based on a young-adult novel by Angie Thomas and taking its title from lyrics of a 2pac song ("The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody"). The story focuses on Starr Carter, a teenage girl from a black neighbourhood who goes to a school for privileged wypipo and parties in the 'hood, where she socialises with Khalil, a young drug dealer (but a nice one because he likes Harry Potter). When driving home with Starr, Khalil is shot dead by a policeman because he misunderstands "keep your hands on top of the vehicle" as "reach in through the car window for an item which may or may not be a weapon". 

The police officer is suspended for his actions, and the community rallies behind Starr to give evidence at a legal hearing, but she's reluctant because of Khalil's ties to King, the neighbourhood drug dealer.

Despite an excellent lead performance from Amandla Stenberg and great supporting performances from Regina Hall and Russell Hornsby, I found this film to be a pretentious dirge, laced with social justice propaganda and the main reason is because the characters (aside from members of the Carter family) are so poorly written and some of the dialogue is deliberately contrived to bait.

In 2016, when her husband Will Smith wasn't nominated for an Oscar, actress Jada Pinkett released an outraged video where Hollywood needs to address its "unconscious racism" and "more films for us" need to be produced - is this honestly what she was alluding to??

I'm absolutely fine with films which highlight social issues, but when will there be a film which focuses on disparity between the rich and poor (& why is Jada Pinkett not outraged on YouTube about that). 

The questions which this film raises aren't solved, they're not even looked at in any microscopic detail and it only exists to pour fuel on a fire, rather than educate. Watch a documentary instead (or Boyz N The Hood, Crash, Do The Right Thing, Fruitvale Station, Selma, 12 Years A Slave... even District 9). If you read (or write) Buzzfeed or Huffington Post articles, you'll probably like it a lot more than I did.


D: Quentin Tarantino
The Weinstein Company (Richard N. Gladstein, Stacey Sher & Shannon McIntosh)
US 2015
167 mins (uncut version: 187 mins)


W: Quentin Tarantino
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Fred Raksin
Mus: Ennio Morricone

Kurt Russell (John Ruth), Samuel L. Jackson (Maj. Marquis Warren), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Daisy Domergue), Walton Goggins (Chris Mannix), Demián Bichir (Bob), Tim Roth (Oswaldo Mobray), Michael Madsen (Joe Gage), Bruce Dern (Gen. Sanford Smithers), Channing Tatum (Jody Domergue)

The simplest way to describe Quentin Tarantino's eighth film is as a remake of John Carpenter's The Thing, re-imagined as a Western but with a similar bleak setting. This may not be 100% literal, but there's plenty of references to the sci-fi/horror classic, from the snowbound locale to its casting choices, even Ennio Morricone's moody score seems like a nod.
Kurt Russell's tough-as-nails bounty hunter, John Ruth, is transporting a dangerous villainess, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) across snowy Wyoming terrain when a blizzard strikes. He picks up a former soldier turned bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) and a stricken sheriff (Walton Goggins) en route but the weather becomes too much, so they and their carriage driver take refuge in a remote cabin, where four others take shelter. Ruth becomes increasingly suspicious that one or more of these strangers is plotting to rob him of his prisoner and claim the reward themselves, but tensions soon run high when some of the members realise they have prior history with each other, eventually leading to blood being spilled in a complex plot for revenge.
Like most Tarantino films, the film is very dialogue heavy, with the build up characters taking up the first half of the film. In fairness, the opening half-hour is quite throwaway and it wouldn't affect the viewing experience too much if you were to simply skip it to the point all the characters arrive at the cabin.
As always with Q.T. scripts, the dialogue is crisp and sounds genuine, but the N-word is bandied about far too frequently, to the point where it becomes ridiculously gratuitous. None of the performances from the ensemble disappoint, with Jennifer Jason Leigh the clear standout with her comeback role. A deserved nominee for Best Supporting Actress at the 2016 Oscars.

"You may not believe in ghosts, but you can't deny terror."
"You may not believe in ghosts, but you can't deny terror."
D: Robert Wise
MGM/Argyle (Robert Wise)
US/UK 1963
112 mins
W: Nelson Gidding [based on the novel "The Haunting Of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson]
DP: Davis Boulton
Ed: Ernest Walter
Mus: Humphrey Searle
PD: Elliot Scott
Julie Harris (Eleanor Vance), Claire Bloom (Theodora), Richard Johnson (Dr. John Markway), Russ Tamblyn (Luke Sanderson), Lois Maxwell (Grace Markway), Fay Compton (Mrs. Sanderson), Valentine Dyall (Mr. Dudley)
A group of scientists experience eerie occurrences when they spend a weekend in a haunted mansion.
Far from the most original horror movie ever brought to screen but a fantastic example that atmosphere is more effective than visual effects trickery and grotesque makeup in a scary movie. A shame that the 1999 remake didn't follow the same suit.

D: Jan de Bont
Dreamworks (Susan Arnold, Donna Arkoff Roth & Colin Wilson)
US 1999
113 mins


W: David Self [based on the novel "The Haunting Of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson]
DP: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Dean Tavoularis

Liam Neeson (Dr. David Marrow), Lili Taylor (Eleanor Vance), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Theodora), Owen Wilson (Luke Sanderson), Bruce Dern (Mr. Dudley)             

Remake of the 1963 film which seems more focused on expensive (and rather ropey) visual effects than on a story & screenplay which makes any sense.
A perfect example of the contrast between the two films comes in a scene where, in the original film, two female characters are having a conversation while holding hands with each other for comfort in the dark creepy house, only for it to be revealed that the two women are the distance of an entire room apart, Julie Harris uttering the creepy dialogue "But... You were holding my hand." In this remake, this scene is replaced by Lili Taylor being launched across the room by an unseen, supernatural force, only to repeat the same line of dialogue. Awful!
The script, direction and all performances are atrocious, with a pathetic insinuation thrown in that Catherine Zeta-Jones' character is a lesbian, for no reason whatsoever. 
A serious contender for one of the worst remakes ever made.

D: Alexandre Aja
Lions Gate/Europacorp (Alexandre Arcady & Robert Benmussa)
France 2003
91 mins


W: Alexandre Aja & Grégory Levasseur
DP: Maxime Alexandre
Ed: Baxter
Mus: François-Eudes Chanfrault 

Cécile de France (Marie), Maïwenn (Alex), Philippe Nahon (The Killer)

Violent, bloody, unpleasant but effectively creepy French slasher movie with a maniac in a yellow jumpsuit murdering his way through the countryside in pursuit of a pair of teenage girls.
It's not particularly original until a plot twist develops which doesn't actually make too much sense, but is still a more entertaining horror movie than the majority of dross spewed out by Hollywood over the same decade.

"Two brothers locked in deadly combat till the end of time."
"Two brothers locked in deadly combat till the end of time."
D: Terry Marcel
ITC/Chips (Harry Robertson)
UK 1980
93 mins
W: Terry Marcel & Harry Robertson
DP: Paul Beeson
Ed: Eric Boyd-Perkins
Mus: Harry Robertson
John Terry (Hawk), Jack Palance (Voltan), Bernard Bresslaw (Gort), Ray Charleson (Crow)
Ropey British-made sword & sorcery yarn with about as much fantasy or adventure as a documentary about fungus. 
The hero of the piece, Hawk, does happen to wield an awesome looking sword though, featuring a fist clutching an emerald on pommel of the hilt, and uses it to fight bad guy Jack Palance. Aside from that, it's all rather forgettable, with some truly awful special effects and a ghastly music score.

D: Ken Kwapis & Marisa Silver
Paramount (Frank Mancuso, Jr.)
US 1991
115 mins


W: Brian Hohlfeld
DP: Stephen H. Burum
Ed: Sidney Levin
Mus: Miles Goodman

Kevin Bacon (Dan Hanson), Elizabeth Perkins (Lorie Bryer), Nathan Lane (Wally Thurman), Anthony LaPaglia (Mark), Sharon Stone (Linda)

Romantic comedy from the two different points of view of a pair of news anchors in a relationship with each other.
Not particularly original, funny or memorable, with a handful of adequate performances. Truly average, I'm sure both men and women would agree.

"He seemed like such a nice guy... He pretty much kept to himself..."
"He seemed like such a nice guy... He pretty much kept to himself..."
D: Frank A. Cappello
High Fliers (Frank A. Cappello & Michael Leahy)
US 2007
95 mins
W: Frank A. Cappello
DP: Brandon Trost
Ed: Kirk Morri
Mus: Jeff Beal
Christian Slater (Bob Maconel), Elisha Cuthbert (Vanessa), William H. Navy (Gene Shelby), Sascha Knopf (Paula), Jamison Jones (Scott Harper)
This film ducked right under the radar the year it was released and I have to be honest, had I not seen the trailer and found it intriguing, I'd have completely let it pass me by and I'd have missed out on a real gem.
Clearly influenced by Brett Easton Ellis' controversial novel American Psycho, this is far better than that adaptation, following a similar path and plot whilst maintaining a current of hilarious black comedy throughout.
Christian Slater (bald and moustached beyond recognition) plays lonely office worker Bob Maconel, who spends his days doing mundane clerical duties and fantasising about murdering his co-workers.
On the day he reaches breaking point and finally does load up his revolver, a colleague beats him to it and Bob ends up shooting them.
Hailed as a hero, promoted and everyone's sudden best friend leaves Bob in a dilemma and he forms a relationship with Vanessa, a victim of the shooting left paralysed from her wounds, who wants Bob to euthanise her.
The humour isn't all apparent and works more as a satire on commerce and business but some of the lines of dialogue are golden ('You don't need that briefcase now Bob, you're an executive') and the performances are absolutely fantastic. This is easily Christian Slater's best performance of his career, just when I was about to file him amongst the 'where are they now' pile, but the real revelation is Elisha Cuthbert as Vanessa. I remember seeing her in some tacky horror film and thought she was an atrocious actress, but she really does herself proud in this.
It's a shame this movie hasn't gathered a cult following or any degree of real recognition, it certainly deserves it.

D: Morten Tyldum
Nordisk/Friland/Yellow Bird (Marianne Gray & Asle Vatn)
Norway 2011 (released 2012)
100 mins


W: Lars Gudmestad & Ulf Ryberg [based on the novel by Jo Nesbø]
DP: John Andreas Andersen 
Ed: Vidar Flatauken
Mus: Trond Bjerknas & Jeppe Kaas

Aksel Hennie (Roger Brown), Synnøve Macody Lund (Diana Brown), Nikolai Coster-Waldau (Clas Greve), Eivind Sander (Ove), Julie Ølgaard (Lotte)

The fact that this is Norway's highest grossing film of all time should say quite a lot about it's quality.
Aksel Hennie plays a corporate recruiter who funds his lavish lifestyle by living a double life as an art thief. His latest target, played by Nicolai Coster-Waldau, is not a man to be trifled with, and the film develops into a deadly game of cat & mouse. 
Headhunters is a film which is best enjoyed if you know less about it, due to its plot twists and elements of surprise. Simply put, this is the best foreign language feature of the year it was released. A must-see movie.

"The story of four souls who needed a body and a guy who needed some soul."
"The story of four souls who needed a body and a guy who needed some soul."
D: Ron Underwood
Universal/Alphaville/Stampede (Nancy Roberts & Sean Daniel)
US 1993
104 mins
W: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson, Gregory Hansen & Erik Hansen
DP: Michael Watkins
Ed: O. Nicholas Brown
Mus: Marc Shaiman
Robert Downey, Jr. (Thomas Reilly), Charles Grodin (Harrison Winslow), Alfre Woodard (Penny Washington), Kyra Sedgwick (Julia), Tom Sizemore (Milo Peck), Elisabeth Shue (Anne), David Palmer (Hal)
A very early comedy performance from Robert Downey, Jr. as a businessman visited by the spirits of 4 people who died the very moment he was born and now need his help to right the wrongs in their lives before they can pass on into the afterlife.
It's a really sweet, feelgood comic fantasy which didn't quite get the attention it duly deserved on its original release.

"A tough cop. A dead lawyer. Every partnership has it's problems"
"A tough cop. A dead lawyer. Every partnership has it's problems"
D: James D. Parriott
New Line (Steve Tisch)
US 1990
95 mins
W: James D. Parriott 
DP: Arthur Albert
Ed: David Finfer
Mus: Patrick Leonard
Bob Hoskins (Jack Moony), Denzel Washington (Napoleon Stone), Chloe Webb (Crystal Gerrity), Lisa Stahl (Annie)
A bigoted police detective undergoes a heart transplant and is haunted by the organ's donor, a suave black lawyer, who encourages him to change his slobby ways.
The comedy partnership between the two lead actors works well overall, but the screenplay only has one real joke to run with and doesn't bring anything else to the table. Average, inoffensive and bland. Not nearly enough to get the blood pumping.

D: David Mirkin
MGM/Icon/Winchester (John Davis & Irving Ong)
US 2001
124 mins
W: Robert Dean, Paul Guay & Stephen Mazur
DP: Dean Semler 
Ed: William Steinkamp
Mus: Danny Elfman
PD: Lilly Kilvert
Sigourney Weaver (Max Conners), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Page Conners), Gene Hackman (William B. Tensy), Jason Lee (Jack Withrowe), Ray Liotta (Dean Cumanno), Anne Bancroft (Gloria Vogal)
Sigourney Weaver & Jennifer Love Hewitt play mother-and-daughter confidence tricksters who seduce rich men into a quick marriage while the other seduces them for a quick divorce settlement, but they meet their final intended job turns out harder than expected when one of them falls in love.
The comedy style isn't very consistent throughout the film and Sigourney Weaver saves Jennifer Love Hewitt's performance, although neither can do a very convincing foreign accent. Gene Hackman almost steals the show as the intended target, an elderly, chain-smoking tobacco tycoon with his healthier days far behind him. Enjoyable more as a guilty pleasure movie than as anything more substantial.

HEAT (15)
D: Michael Mann
Warner Bros./Forward Pass/New Regency (Art Linson & Michael Mann)
US 1995
160 mins


W: Michael Mann [based on his television show 'L. A. Takedown']
DP: Dante Spinotti
Ed: Dov Hoenig, Pasquale Buba, William Goldenberg & Tom Rolf
Mus: Elliott Goldenthal
PD: Neil Spisak

Al Pacino (Vincent Hanna), Robert DeNiro (Neil McCauley), Val Kilmer (Chris Shiherlis), Jon Voight (Nate), Tom Sizemore (Michael Cheritto), Diane Venora (Justine), Amy Brenneman (Eady), Ashley Judd (Charlene)

Al Pacino & Robert DeNiro, two of the finest actors of their generation, both appeared in 1974's The Godfather part II, but never shared any scenes together since their characters existed in different periods of time, they finally got to act opposite each other in Heat, Michael Mann's remake of his own 1989 TV movie L. A. Takedown.
The lengthy crime saga is meticulously focused on the theory that the lives of both cops & robbers are on similar paths, facing the same personal issues and relationship matters, their fates are only divided by the law.
While some scenes delve slightly into soap opera territory, the majority of the pacing builds the tension brilliantly towards a cool and calm coffee shop encounter between the two men, followed almost immediately by an action-packed bank heist in which one of the two men will ultimately meet his end.
Both actors portray their characters well and director Mann focuses on real-life issues rather than gunfire & car chases. 
Worth watching simply for the iconic meeting between the two screen legends.

D: Michael Lehmann
New World/Cinemarque (Denise di Novi)
US 1989
102 mins
W: Daniel Waters
DP: Francis Kenny
Ed: Norman Hollyn
Mus: David Newman
PD: Jon Hutman
Winona Ryder (Veronica Sawyer), Christian Slater (J.D.), Shannon Doherty (Heather Duke), Lisanne Falk (Heather McNamara), Kim Walker (Heather Chandler)
Christian Slater gives a deliciously wicked Jack Nicholson impression as a high school bad boy who hooks up with Winona Ryder as they grease the popular kids and break up all the power-hungry cliques.
This offbeat black comedy gained a cult reputation and made big stars out of the two leads, but hasn't really dated very well. Teenagers watching now probably won't appreciate it as much as teens in the late 80's and those who enjoyed it in their youth will most likely struggle to remember what was so good about it.

D: Oliver Stone
Warner Bros./Regency/Canal/Alcor (Oliver Stone, Arnon Milchan, Robert Kline & A. Kitman Ho)
US 1993
140 mins


W: Oliver Stone [based on the books 'When Heaven & Earth Changed Place' & 'Child Of War, Woman Of Peace' by Le Ly Hayslip, Jay Wurts & James Hayslip]
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: David Brenner & Sally Menke
Mus: Kitaro
PD: Victor Kempster

Tommy Lee Jones (Steve Butler), Joan Chen (Mama), Haing S. Ngor (Papa), Hiep Thi Le (Le Ly), Debbie Reynolds (Eugenia)

The third film of Oliver Stone's "Vietnam Trilogy", following Platoon & Born On The Fourth Of July, stars Tommy Lee Jones as a soldier who takes his Vietnamese bride Joan Chen back to America following the conflict, but she struggles to settle into her new country however as Jones himself returns to his homeland a very changed man.
Good acting and cinematography make this drama worth watching, but the film is a slight disappointment following Stone's previous films based on the same subjects.         

D: Warren Beatty & Buck Henry
Paramount (Warren Beatty)
US 1977
101 mins


W: Warren Beatty & Elaine May [based on the play by Harry Segall]
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: Robert C. Jones & Don Zimmermann
Mus: David Grusin
PD: Paul Sylbert
Cos: Theadora Van Runkle & Richard Bruno         

Warren Beatty (Joe Pendleton), Julie Christie (Betty Logan), James Mason (Mr. Jordan), Dyan Cannon (Julia Farnsworth), Charles Grodin (Tony Abbott), Jack Warden (Max Corkle), Buck Henry (The Escort)

This remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan (qv) saw Warren Beatty ape Orson Welles' achievement of being Oscar nominated for producing, directing, co-writing and starring in a motion picture.
Beatty's performance as Joe Pendleton is quite wooden, but the direction and writing of this remake is pretty good. Some minor changes are made, with boxing from the original film being replaced by American Football as Beatty plays a quarterback whose soul is whisked from his body by a premature guardian angel following an automobile accident. On his entry into heaven, Joe discovers it wasn't yet his time to die, but cannot return to his previous body, only to one which hasn't been discovered dead- so he steps into the shoes of a billionaire businessman, who was recently assassinated by his wife and her lover.
Once in his new body, he tries to live the life he previously lived, though not even his dearest friends recognise him in his new form, while he also vies for the affections of an environmentalist who voices discontent with the tycoons business practices.
While the fantasy was far more engaging in the original version, Heaven Can Wait generally does a good job updating the story for the 1970's. Good, old-fashioned Hollywood escapism.

"The only thing greater than their passion for America was their passion for each other."
"The only thing greater than their passion for America was their passion for each other."


D: Michael Cimino

United Artists (Joann Carelli)

US 1980 (released 1981)

216 mins (325 mins - original version / 219 mins - theatrical version / 149 mins - edited version)


W: Michael Cimino 

DP: Vilmos Zsigmond

Ed: William Reynolds, Lisa Fruchtman, Gerald Greenberg & Tom Rolf

Mus: David Mansfield

PD: Tambi Larsen

Kris Kristofferson (James Averill), Christopher Walken (Nathan D. Champion), John Hurt (William C. Irvine), Sam Waterston (Frank Canton), Brad Dourif (Mr. Eggleston), Isabella Huppert (Ella Watson), Jeff Bridges (John L. Bridges), Joseph Cotten (The Reverend Doctor)

Notoriously known as the film which nearly bankrupted United Artists, the production of Heaven's Gate has since become a cautionary tale of Hollywood folklore when it comes to studio profligacy and writer-director ego projects.

I've only viewed the 216 minute version, it was as it comes on the DVD release and I really don't think I could take the longer edits, but it has to be said that this film is an incoherent mess. This western opus centres around a small town in 1890's Wyoming, where tensions build between land barons and European immigrants.

In truth, the story behind the making of the film is more interesting than the film itself, plagued by expensive reshoots, animal cruelty, cast member unrest and Michael Cimino's dictatorial stranglehold on all aspects of the production, including the order that an entire set be demolished and rebuilt.

Aesthetically beautiful it may be, but the storyline is ridiculously boring. It's little wonder that Heaven's Gate has become one of Hollywood's biggest jokes.


D: Peter Jackson
Wingnut/Fontana (Jim Booth)
New Zealand 1994
98 mins


W: Peter Jackson & Frances Walsh
DP: Alun Bollinger
Ed: Jamie Selkirk
Mus: Peter Dasent
PD: Grant Major

Kate Winslet (Juliet Hulme), Melanie Lynskey (Pauline Parker), Sarah Peirse (Honora Parker), Diana Kent (Hilda Hulme), Clive Merrison (Henry Hulme)

Peter Jackson takes on a more adult theme and filmmaking style following his previous schlock-horror movies (Bad Taste, Braindead), with this mature fantasy based on a real-life murder case which took place in 1950's New Zealand, involving a schoolgirl, who, with the help of her lesbian lover, killed her own mother.
Jackson puts his own spin on the narrative, with artistic fantasy-like dream sequences depicting the girls' flights of fancy taking up huge segments of the film, making it more than a standard reconstruction of a criminal event.
Far from his best work (which was still yet to come when this was released in 1994) but Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey's performances are both acted with conviction and the climactic act of violence is particularly cold and grotesque.


D: Gerald Potterton

Columbia (Ivan Reitman)

Canada/US 1981

90 mins


W: Daniel Goldberg & Len Blum [based on original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O'Bannon, Thomas Warkentin & Bernie Wrightson]

Mus: Elmer Bernstein

voices of: Richard Romanus (Harry Canyon), John Candy (Dan / Den), Don Francks (Grimaldi), August Schellenberg (Norl / Taarak), Rodger Bumpass (Captain Sternn)

An experimental animated film featuring alumni from Saturday Night Live and inspired by the conceptual artwork from Heavy Metal magazine.

The choppy plot surrounds a mysterious orb with an unspeakable power and is set across various eras, from a past involving barbarians and warriors to a futuristic and squalid New York City. The film also has various animation styles, from a rotoscoped opening sequence to an anime style for the majority of the running time.

In lieu of a comprehensible plot, it does have a soundtrack jammed packed with rock songs of the late 1970's and early 1980's. Due to this, and being released at the dawn of MTV, it has collected a cult fanbase, though it goes without saying that it's a very acquired taste.


D: Allan Dwan
20th Century Fox (Raymond Griffith)
US 1937
88 mins
W: Walter Ferris & Julian Josephson [based on the novel by Johanna Spyri]
DP: Arthur Miller
Ed: Allen McNeil
Mus: Louis Silvers
Shirley Temple (Heidi), Jean Hersholt (Adolph Kramer), Arthur Treacher (Andrews), Marcia Mae Jones (Klara Sesemann), Sidney Blackmer (Herr Sesemann)
If ever a role were perfect for young Shirley Temple, it was that of Johanna Spyri's alpine juvenile Heidi, a young orphan girl sent to live her crotchety old grandfather in the Swiss alps.
It's a typically old-fashioned Hollywood film from the golden age which isn't exactly a timeless classic, but you couldn't imagine a different lead than the dimpled child actress. Even the hardest of hearts will crack a smile or even shed a tear watching this.
There have been several remakes, but none match up to this version.

D: R. J. Kizer & Donald G. Jackson
New World (Donald G. Jackson & Randall Frakes)
US 1987
82 mins
Science Fiction/Comedy
W: Donald G. Jackson & Randall Frakes
DP: Donald G. Jackson & Enrico Picard
Ed: R.J. Kizer & James Matheny
Mus: David Shapiro 
Roddy Piper (Sam Hell), Sandahl Bergman (Spangle), William Smith (Captain Devlin / Count Sodom), Rory Calhoun (Looney Tunes)
Following a nuclear apocalypse which leaves a species of frog-people populating the Earth's derelict cities, it is down to a drifter to repopulate the planet with humans.
Ridiculously cheesy low budget 80's cult B-movie starring professional wrestler Roddy Piper in the lead role.
As the title and the plot would suggest, it's unbelievably silly, but thoroughly enjoyable for what it's worth, with some surprisingly decent makeup effects for a trashy low budget flick.
It's unlikely to find an audience nowadays and would be best enjoyed by those who liked it as a kid, or even fans of the John Carpenter movies released around the same time (They Live, Big Trouble In Little China, etc.)

"Justice isn't a crime."
"Justice isn't a crime."
D: David Mackenzie
CBS/Lionsgate/OddLot/Film 44/LBI (Sidney Kimmell, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn, Gigi Pritzker & Rachel Shane)
US 2016
102 mins


W: Taylor Sheridan
DP: Giles Nuttgens
Ed: Jake Roberts
Mus: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Chris Pine (Toby Howard), Ben Foster (Tanner Howard), Jeff Bridges (Marcus Hamilton), Gil Birmingham (Alberto Parker), Marin Ireland (Debbie Howard), Katy Mixon (Jenny Ann)

Hell Or High Water is a neo-western crime thriller much in the vein of No Country For Old Men and Fargo, with a twist on fraternal twist on Bonnie & Clyde folklore
Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as two Texas brothers who embark on a chain of bank robbery around the state, using the money to pay off the mortgage on their family ranch to the very same chain of banks they're stealing from. Investigating their trail is ageing, politically incorrect Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton and his Mexican partner, who aim to get to the next targeted bank before the two brothers strike it.
The film does a great job exploring the relationship of the two brothers, who are polar opposites to one another. Toby (Chris Pine) is the calmer, more intelligent of the two while Tanner (Ben Foster) is a loose cannon who acts mostly on impulse.
Both actors do a fine job with their portrayals, but both are upstaged by wily veteran Jeff Bridges, who nails a role which would have perfectly seemed suited to The Duke himself, the late John Wayne.
One of the great surprises of 2016.

D: Guillermo del Toro
Columbia/Revolution/Dark Horse (Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson & Lloyd Levin)
US 2004
122 mins


W: Guillermo del Toro [based on characters created by Mike Mignola]
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Peter Amundson
Mus: Marco Beltrami
PD: Stephen Scott
Cos: Wendy Partridge

Ron Perlman (Hellboy), John Hurt (Trevor Bruttenholm), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Rupert Evans (John Thaddeus Myers), Karel Roden (Grigori Rasputin), Jeffrey Tambor (Tom Manning)

Guillermo del Toro is the perfect choice of director for this dark comic-book fantasy, bringing his own gothic imagination into the fold with the help of impressive and exuberant production design, costume design and makeup.
Hellboy is a demon, conjured from a Nazi experiment with black magic at the end of World War II, rescued and raised by the American government to fight the forces of evil.
Ron Perlman brings a good bit of personality and fun to the red-skinned brute with blunted horns and the special effects throughout are generally decent, particularly the excellent makeup effects.
A sequel followed in 2008.

"Believe it or not, he's the good guy."
"Believe it or not, he's the good guy."
D: Guillermo del Toro
Universal/Relativity Media/Dark Horse (Lawrence Gordon, Mike Richardson & Lloyd Levin)
US 2008
120 mins


W: Guillermo del Toro & Mike Mignola [based on characters created by Mike Mignola]
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Bernat Vilaplana
Mus: Danny Elfman

Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Selma Blair (Liz Sherman), Doug Jones (Abe Saipen), Luke Goss (Prince Nuada Silverlance), John Hurt (Trevor Bruttenholm)

The cigar smoking, candy bar chomping, demonic superhero returns in this sequel, as he, his pyro-kinetic girlfriend and his aquatic mutant ally take on an underground race who plan on taking over the world with the aid of an almost indestructible army.
The story here is a little weaker than the original film, and there's a slight lack of comic relief, but this is made up for with an abundance of action scenes and excellent visual effects, particularly in the field of makeup, for which it received an Oscar nomination.

"We have such sights to show you."
"We have such sights to show you."
D: Clive Barker
New World/Cannon/Film Futures (Christopher Figg)
UK 1987
90 mins
W: Clive Barker [based on his novel "The Hellbound Heart"]
DP: Robin Vidgeon
Ed: Richard Marden
Mus: Christopher Young
Andrew Robinson (Larry Cotton), Clare Higgins (Julia Cotton), Ashley Laurence (Kirsty Swanson), Sean Chapman (Frank Cotton), Doug Bradley (Pinhead)
A woman discovers a puzzle box which opens up a portal into hell, allowing an army of cenobites (guardians of the underworld) to come into the world.
The first and easily best of the Hellraiser films was also one of the best and most iconic films of the 1980's, introducing the sadistically grotesque character Pinhead, the so-called Pope of Hell.
The makeup effects still look decent nearly three decades later, while the visual style is particularly dark and moody. Many sequels followed, far too many to be perfectly honest.

D: Tony Randel
New World/Premier/Film Futures (Christopher Figg)
UK 1988
93 mins
W: Peter Atkins [based on a story by Clive Barker]
DP: Robin Vidgeon
Ed: Richard Marden
Mus: Christopher Young
Clive Higgins (Julia Cotton), Ashley Laurence (Kirsty Cotton), Kenneth Cranham (Dr. Channard), Imogen Boorman (Tiffany), Doug Bradley (Pinhead)
The first sequel to the Hellraiser movies is a huge mess, with a confusing narrative which serves to introduce a whole new horde of hellish beasties.
Very much style over substance.

"What started in hell will end on earth."
"What started in hell will end on earth."
D: Anthony Hickox
Arrow/Nostradamus (Lawrence Mortorff)
US 1992
93 mins
W: Peter Atkins & Tony Randel
DP: Gerry Lively
Ed: Christopher Cibelli & James D. R. Hickox
Mus: Randy Miller & Christopher Young
Terry Farrell (Joey Summerskill), Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Paula Marshall (Terri), Kevin Bernhardt (J.P. Monroe), Ken Carpenter (Doc Fisher)
The franchise is taken Stateside for this third installment to the Hellraiser movies, with the action taking place at a seedy S & M club to allow for the gory makeup effects to be cranked up another notch.
The narrative is no better or worse than the second film and only a handful of the death scenes offer something in the way of originality. Each sequel pales in comparison to the first film and even more followed, all of inferior standards.

"Change begins with a whisper."
"Change begins with a whisper."
D: Tate Taylor
Dreamworks/Reliance/Participant Media/Image Nation (Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan & Brunson Green)
US 2011
146 mins


W: Tate Taylor [based on the book by Kathryn Stockett]
DP: Stephen Goldblatt
Ed: Hughes Winborne
Mus: Thomas Newman

Viola Davis (Aibileen Clark), Emma Stone (Eugenia Phelan), Octavia Spencer (Minny Jackson), Jessica Chastain (Celia Rae Foote), Bryce Dallas Howard (Hilly Walters Holbrook), Alison Janney (Charlotte Phelan)

The Help is a film where I felt compelled to like it even more than I actually did, I have my reasons why too.
Based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, Emma Stone plays an aspiring writer who plans to write a book about black women working as hired help during the civil rights movement.
The film has some powerful scenes and strong acting performances, but seems diluted by the fact that these voices wouldn't have been heard if it weren't for the efforts of a white woman, which, to me, undermines the entire point of the message.
Like 12 Years A Slave, it's an important film to watch, but not necessarily an entertaining one.

D: John McNaughton
Electric/Maljack (John McNaughton, Lisa Desmond & Steven A. Jones)
US 1986 (released 1989)
83 mins
W: Richard Fire & John McNaughton
DP: Charlie Lieberman
Ed: Elena Maganini
Michael Rooker (Henry), Tom Towles (Otis), Tracy Arnold (Becky)
An unpleasant film about unpleasant people yet it's still profoundly gripping despite its disturbing story and characters.
Partly based on the confessions of a real life serial killer, it begins with a creepy montage of dead bodies, victims of the psychopathic Henry (Michael Rooker), a drifter who lives with Otis, a drug-dealing rapist who he met in prison and Becky, Otis' sister, who has recently moved to Chicago to find a job. 
Henry has no preferred method of pattern to the murders he commits, seemingly to do them completely at random and soon introduces Otis into the act of killing, the two of them videotaping every gory detail.  However, when Otis starts getting on Henry's nerves the two turn on each other and Henry leaves town with Becky.
The movie was originally made in 1986 and did nearly 4 years on the festival circuits before getting a worldwide release. It's a stunning debut from it's director John McNaughton, creating a thrilling horror movie where there is no good whatsoever to counterbalance the evil and presenting a world too sickeningly disturbing to truly exist and too viscerally realistic to be denied.
This makes the Saw movies seem like a Disney cartoon.


D: Kenneth Branagh

Renaissance/BBC/Curzon (Bruce Sharman)

UK 1989

138 mins


W: Kenneth Branagh [based on the play by William Shakespeare]

DP: Kenneth MacMillan

Ed: Michael Bradsell

Mus: Patrick Doyle

PD: Tim Harvey

Cos: Phyllis Dalton

Kenneth Branagh (Henry V), Derek Jacobi (Chorus), ), Brian Blessed (Duke of Exeter), Paul Scofield (Charles VI of France), Emma Thompson (Princess Katherine)

Laurence Olivier got there first to show Hollywood that Shakespeare could be translated to the screen successfully, and though Kenneth Branagh's version came 45 years later, he takes the Bard's prose in a completely different direction, blending stage with screen and though the BBC had a big hand in the production it does feel a little too profligate for a television serial.

Emulating Olivier, Branagh takes on the title role himself, a playboy king who must come of age quickly as he prepares for war and the historically significant Battle of Agincourt. 

Branagh adopts an artistic and far more darker approach to the material, serving it as an anti-war fable rather than a story of courage, and though much of the opening act is bogged down with some tedium, the battle scenes, when they come, are visually splendid.

You don't have to be a Shakespeare fan to appreciate it fully, but it helps.


HER (15)
D: Spike Jonze
Annapurna (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze & Vincent Landay)
US 2013
126 mins

Romance/Science Fiction

W: Spike Jonze
DP: Hoyte van Hoytema
Ed: Eric Zumbrunnen & Jeff Buchanan
Mus: Will Butler & Owen Pallett
PD: K. K. Barrett
Cos: Casey Storm

Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore Twombly), Amy Adams (Amy), Rooney Mara (Catherine), Olivia Wilde (Blind Date), Chris Pratt (Paul), Matt Letscher (Charles), Portia Doubleday (Isabella), Scarlett Johansson (voice of Samantha)

Her is a truly novel and inventive take on the romance genre, set in the near future when the limits of technology are almost boundless.
Joaquin Phoenix plays loveable loner Theodore, a writer for a company which sends letters between people by proxy.  Feeling lonely in his life, he downloads a new Operating System called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), complete with an almost lifelike personality with a thirst for knowledge and sociality which begins to communicate with him as though it were a real, living, breathing person. Theodore opens up to Samantha about his feelings, especially over his impending divorce from his estranged wife, and a relationship blossoms between the real person and the artificial personality, becoming almost too real as they develop feelings of love and the complications which often come with them, from miscommunication to jealousy, infidelity to desistance.
Director Spike Jonze tackled the surreal with Being John Malkovich and satire with Adaptation, Her is a mixture of both, telling a realistic story of love with a hypnagogic twist. He also pulls off some movie magic by creating a winning character out of something which, crudely put, simply doesn't exist. A similar thing was done in the offbeat 2007 film Lars & The Real Girl, but it works slightly better here due to a brilliantly quirky script which won the director an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Joaquin Phoenix also deserves due credit for his lead performance, while the production design brilliantly captures a realistic future. The film simply wouldn't have worked however without the brilliance of Jonze's writing and the sexy, sultry voice of Scarlett Johansson.

D: Bruce Beresford
Warner Bros. (Keith Barish)
US 1989
94 mins
W: Charlie Peters
DP: Freddie Francis
Ed: Anne Goursaud
Mus: Georges Delerue
Tom Selleck (Phil Blackwood), Paulina Porzikova (Nina), William Daniels (Sam), James Farentino (Frank), Hurd Hatfield (Troppa)
Aside from Three Men & A Baby, Tom Selleck's film career never really took off following his breakthrough performance on the TV show Magnum P.I., perhaps it didn't help when he starred in films like this.
He plays a thriller writer who provides a false alibi to a beautiful woman accused of murder and finds himself doubting his actions.
It's not a terrible film, but is incredibly miscast, especially with the female lead who doesn't provide Selleck with any great dialogue, conflict or even chemistry between the two characters which the story desperately needed.

D: Arthur A. Siedelman
RAF (Audrey Wisberg)
US 1970
91 mins
W: Audrey Wisberg
DP: Leo Libowitz
Ed: Donald Finamore
Mus: John Balamos
Arnold Strong [Arnold Schwarzenegger] (Hercules), Arnold Stang (Pretzie), Deborah Loomis (Helen Camden), James Karen (Prof. Camden), Ernest Graves (Zeus)
Arnold Schwarzenegger's first ever screen performance is one to be expunged from the CV and never spoken of again.
In this dim comedy, Hercules (Schwarzenegger with a dubbed accent) visits modern day New York and becomes involved with gamblers, much to the chagrin of Zeus and the other Greek gods.
It's practically another spin on Tarzan, except it's so terrible that it's really not worth watching. Unless, of course, you really like bad movies.

D: Alexander Hall
Columbia (Everett Riskin)
US 1941
93 mins


W: Sidney Buchman & Seton I. Miller [based on the play "Heaven Can Wait" by Harry Segall]
DP: Joseph Walker
Ed: Viola Lawrence
Mus: Frederick Hollander

Robert Montgomery (Joe Pendleton), Evelyn Keyes (Bette Logan), Claude Rains (Mr. Jordan), Rita Johnson (Julia Farnsworth), Edward Everett Horton (Messenger No.7013), James Gleason (Max Corkle)

Capra-esque style fantasy from the early 1940's, starring Robert Montgomery as Joe Pendleton, a saxophone-playing prize fighter whose soul is plucked from his body prematurely by a novice guardian angel. The error is discovered too late to return Joe to his body which has since been cremated, so Joe must continue his life in another body, which he trains up for the big boxing match at the end of the movie.
Golden age Hollywood storytelling at its best, with good performances from Montgomery, James Gleason and especially Claude Rains as Mr. Jordan.
The film was later remade in 1978 as Heaven Can Wait (the original play's title) and in 2001 as Down To Earth.

D: Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./Malpaso/Amblin (Clint Eastwood, Kathleen Kennedy & Robert Lorenz)
US/France 2010
129 mins
W: Peter Morgan
DP: Tom Stern
Ed: Joel Cox & Gary Roach
Mus: Clint Eastwood
Matt Damon (George Lonegan), Cecile de France (Marie Lelay), Bryce Dallas Howard (Melanie), Jay Mohr (Billy Lonegan), Thierry Neuvic (Didier)
Hereafter follows the paths of three strangers whose lives have been touched by death in very different ways. A French journalist is a survivor of a tsunami on a South Pacific island. In London, a young man loses his twin brother in an automobile accident and is desperate to re-establish contact with him, and in San Francisco, a psychic who feels his abilities are a curse holds the key to the others finding the hopes and prayers that they desire. The three people all follow very different paths, but they all finally meet and find their own closures.
The supernatural is an unusual genre for director Clint Eastwood to take on, and it shows. Aside from a breathtaking opening scene which recreates a tsunami with outstanding visual effects, the film becomes a tad wishy-washy and daubed in pretentiousness. Far from Eastwood's best work.


D: Ari Aster

A24/Palmstar/Finch/Windy Hill (Kevin Frakes, Lars Knudsen & Buddy Patrick)

US 2018

127 mins


W: Ari Aster

DP: Pawel Pogorzelski

Ed: Jennifer Lame & Lucian Johnston

Mus: Colin Stetson

Toni Collette (Annie Graham), Gabriel Byrne (Steve Graham), Alex Wolf (Peter Graham), Milly Shapiro (Charlie Graham), Ann Dowd (Joan)

Hereditary's marketing campaign did the film a huge disservice, dubbing the movie "this generation's Exorcist". If anything, it's this year's Mother!, especially since it seemed so divisive with audiences, though this says more about the sort of people horror movies are aimed at nowadays rather than the movie itself.

Hereditary certainly does take some inspiration from some Golden Age horror classics, notably Rosemary's Baby, but the story here is completely original and executed with a unique, fresh style, playing out like a doll's house diorama reflected in the movie's production design (see below).

Following the death of her mother, dollhouse maker Annie Graham and her family mourn her loss as they go about their lives. Annie's daughter Charlie, a social outcast, appears to be struggling hardest with the loss and Annie herself senses her mother's presence around the house.

The first act builds up suspense and atmosphere before a surprise scene completely out of the blue takes the film in a completely different direction (can't explain further without major spoilers), culminating with Annie visiting a friend she met at a support group and conducting a seance which brings a malevolent spirit into her and her family's lives.

It's a complicated film to explain without giving any of the surprises away, but it's effectively done, with a brilliant performance from Toni Collette which deservedly generated some Oscar buzz. The film does have ties to other films about hauntings and demonic possession, but does its own thing with it, and although the ending is a thinker, this is exactly the kind of horror movie that I personally want to spend my time watching, rather than cheap jump scare rubbish or gratuitously violent gore porn.

If this is to go by, director-writer Ari Aster has a promising career ahead. It's not this generation's The Exorcist. Not at all. It's this generation's horror equivalent to Ordinary People.


"It's only human on the outside."
"It's only human on the outside."
D: Jack Sholder
New Line/Heron (Robert Shaye, Gerald T. Olson & Michael Meltzer)
US 1987
96 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: Bob Hunt
DP: Jacques Haitkin
Ed: Michael Knue
Mus: Michael Convertino

Michael Nouri (Tom Beck), Kyle MacLachlan (Lloyd Gallagher), Ed O'Ross (Cliff Willis), Clu Gulager (Ed Flynn), Claudia Christian (Brenda Lee), Clarence Felder (John Masterson)

An alien organism travels between human hosts to prevent being identified and caught as it goes on a crime spree, driving fast cars and listening to loud rock music. A bounty hunter and an FBI agent keep on the chase and attempt to catch it before it possesses it's next human victim.
This 1987 B-movie is much better than its plot would suggest with some very decent visual effects considering the age and budget of the production. Unfortunately, it hasn't dated particularly well, but is still quite entertaining.
"Meet the women you don't know behind the mission you do."
"Meet the women you don't know behind the mission you do."


D: Theodore Melfi

20th Century Fox/Fox 2000/Levantine/TSG (Peter Chernin, Donna Gigliotti, Theodore Melfi, Jenno Topping & Pharrell Williams)

US 2016

127 mins


W: Theodore Melfi & Allison Schroeder [based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterley]

DP: Mandy Walker

Ed: Peter Teschner

Mus: Hans Zimmer

Taraji P. Henson (Katherine Goble Johnson), Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan), Janelle Monáe (Mary Jackson), Kevin Costner (Al Harrison), Kirsten Dunst (Vivian Mitchell), Jim Parsons (Paul Stafford), Glen Powell (John Glenn), Mahershala Ali (Jim Johnson)

Hidden Figures tells the true story of the African-American women whose work for NASA in the early 1960's proved integral to the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, triumphing over the adversity of both racial segregation and attitudes towards women at the time.

The story follows the lives of three mathematician friends, Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson during their careers at NASA, with the main focus on Katherine Goble, in the big chair at NASA's top brass, but her efforts are not taken seriously simply because of her gender and skin colour, but she still proves her place amongst the elite despite not being privy to confidential information withheld from her.

As a side note, the film also follows the paths of Dorothy Vaughan, a supervisor without title for the black staff at NASA who proved her worth by studying computer programming for the missions and Mary Jackson, who battled for legal precedence to study at an all-white school and achieve her dream of being an engineer.

The film has a very important message to deliver, without getting bogged down in politics and instead focusing on the humanity behind the affected people. It probably helps if you know a little about the Mercury 7 space programme, but it's not entirely necessary. The trio of leads, played by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, all deliver fantastic performances, while Kevin Costner gives one of his finest portrayals for the best part of two decades for his role as NASA's head of operations, who sees past the colour barrier to the main goal which lies ahead.

The film's running time does teeter towards the long side, but there isn't really a moment which could be cut out, though the use of modern songs on the soundtrack does make it feel a little anachronistic and over-dramatised. Still, it has to be said that these ladies really did have the Right Stuff.


D: Akira Kurosawa
Toho (Masumi Fujomoto)
Japan 1958
123 mins


W: Ryuzo Kikushima, Hideo Oguni, Shinobu Hashimoto & Akira Kurosawa
DP: Kazuo Miyazaki
Ed: Akira Kurosawa
Mus: Masatu Sato

Toshiro Mifune (Gen. Rokurota Makabe), Minoru Chiaki (Tahei), Kamatari Fujiwara (Matashichi), Misa Uehara (Princess Yuki)

George Lucas cited The Hidden Fortress as one of the major influences and inspirations for his first Star Wars film and though there are some subtle similarities, they are both completely different stories.
Set during a time of Japanese tribal war, a pair of peasants try to exploit the conflicts for their own gain when they make a discovery of hidden gold. To travel across enemy territory, they use the help of a beautiful mute woman and her warrior companion, who, unbeknownst to the peasants are actually a princess and her general.
The Hidden Fortress has gone on to become one of Akira Kurosawa's most famous films, not just because of the Star Wars connection, but also for being a thoroughly enjoyable adventure movie which followed some of his more arthouse, serious, dramatic pictures (Throne Of Blood, etc).
It's obvious that the two peasant characters were George Lucas' inspiration for C3PO and R2D2 in the Star Wars films, and the princess and her general would go on to evolve into Princess Leia and Han Solo, but that is pretty much where the similarities end.
It's very much worth watching for fans of Star Wars movies, as it shows how George Lucas developed his ideas, but the film is best viewed as a standalone adventure from the Orient.

HIDE & SEEK (15)
D: John Polson
20th Century Fox (Barry Josephson)
US/Germany 2005
101 mins
W: Ari Schlossberg
DP: Dariusz Wolski
Ed: Jeffrey Ford
Mus: John Ottman
Robert DeNiro (Dr. David Callaway), Dakota Fanning (Emily Callaway), Famke Janssen (Dr. Katherine Carson), Elisabeth Shue (Elizabeth Young), Amy Irving (Allison Callaway)
Following the death of his wife, Robert DeNiro does what any doting father would do, take his daughter to live near the creepiest woods in America so she can mourn her mother. Low and behold, there's inevitable eerie happenings in their new home, which affect the lives of both father and daughter.
It's almost guaranteed that if you've seen a handful of horror movies then the events in this will be ridiculously predictable, even if four alternative endings were filmed (a true sign of poor screenwriting).
Dakota Fanning delivers a decent performance but everyone else ought to be embarrassed by their contributions, especially Hollywood heavyweight DeNiro, who really should no better after appearing in similarly-themed Godsend (qv) shortly prior to the release of this.

"A psycho-comedy."
"A psycho-comedy."
D: Mel Brooks
20th Century Fox/Crossbow (Mel Brooks)
US 1977
94 mins
W: Mel Brooks, Ron Clark, Rudy DeLuca & Barry Levinson
DP: Paul Lohmann
Ed: John C. Howard
Mus: John Morris
Mel Brooks (Richard Thorndyke), Madeline Kahn (Victoria Brisbane), Cloris Leachman (Nurse Diesel), Harvey Korman (Dr. Charles Montague), Ron Carey (Brophy), Howard Morris (Prof. Lilloman), Dick Van Patten (Dr. Wentworth)
Mel Brooks' parody of Alfred Hitchcock suspense films isn't quite as good as his best work, but it's far from his worst.
It probably helps if you've seen a great deal of the films it sends up (North By Northwest, Vertigo, etc.) or the majority of the jokes will go straight overhead.
Brooks does a good job in the lead, but his talents most certainly lie in scriptwriting rather than performing.

"A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favourites."
"A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favourites."
D: Stephen Frears
Touchstone/Working Title (Tim Bevan & Ruud Simmons)
US/UK 2000
113 mins


W: D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack & Scott Rosenberg [based on the novel by Nick Hornby]
DP: Seamus McGarvey
Ed: Mick Audsley
Mus: Howard Shore

John Cusack (Rob Gordon), Iben Hjejle (Laura), Todd Louiso (Dick), Jack Black(Barry), Lisa Bonet (Marie DeSalle), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Charlie), Joan Cusack (Liz), Tim Robbins (Ian), Lili Taylor (Sarah)

This screen adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel relocates the story from London to Chicago, but the transition works very well, losing very little of the good humour from the book.
Rob Gordon (Fleming in the book) runs a failing record store and is left under an even bigger raincloud when his girlfriend leaves him. He reminisces about his previous relationships in an attempt to find out the answers of how to make one a success.
John Cusack is perfectly cast as the neurotic, obsessive music lover, and while some of the better scenes from the book are tweaked or missing completely, it's a light-hearted, frank look at life's true loves. Jack Black is also fantastic as slobby rock music work colleague, Barry, who steals the entire movie away from Cusack in the closing scenes.

D: Fred Zinnemann 
United Artists (Stanley Kramer)
US 1952
85 mins


W: Carl Foreman [based on the story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham]
DP: Floyd Crosby
Ed: Elmo Williams & Harry Gerstad
Mus: Dimitri Tiomkin
PD: Rudolph Sternad

Gary Cooper (Will Kane), Grace Kelly (Amy Kane), Thomas Mitchell (Jonas Henderson), Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell), Katy Jurado (Helen Ramirez)

High Noon is a seminal western which many others have aspired to be, but don't come close to touching distance.
Gary Cooper won his second Oscar for his portrayal of town marshal Will Kane, who, on his wedding day, receives warning that a rival is on his way with revenge his mind. Too proud to leave town and against the wishes of his new wife, Kane is determined to stay and fight, but the rest of the townsfolk are reluctant to help him.
Billed as the first "adult western", the story has some complex allegorical parables with American politics of the 1950's, especially with the dawn of the Cold War and McCarthyism.
Every moment of the film is brilliantly realised, cranking up the tension as the film progresses. It's all down to top notch direction from Fred Zinnemann, believable acting performances, taut editing, engaging cinematography and a classic music theme. An absolute must-see, even for those who aren't particularly fond of Westerns.

D: Brian G. Hutton
Golden Harvest/Pan Pacific (Fred Weintraub)
US 1983
105 mins


W: Sandra Weintraub Roland & S. Lee Pogostin [based on the novel by Jon Cleary]
DP: Ronnie Taylor
Ed: John Jympson
Mus: John Barry
PD: Robert Laing

Tom Selleck (Patrick O'Malley), Bess Armstrong (Eve Tozer), Jack Weston (Struts), Wilfred Brimley (Bradley Tozer), Robert Morley (Bentik)

Tom Selleck, the original choice to play Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark (qv), had to drop out due to his commitments to the television series Magnum, P.I.
All was not lost though, and two years later he appeared as the lead in this Indiana Jones knock-off, where he plays an alcoholic pilot who assists in transporting a spoiled socialite to China so she can warn her father about a possible conspiracy to have him murdered.
Considering the other Indiana Jones ripoffs which emerged following the success of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, this is nowhere near as abysmal as some, but still has nothing to stand out in originality, story, performances and dialogue.

"He's an American. She's a ghost. Vacation romances are always a hassle."
"He's an American. She's a ghost. Vacation romances are always a hassle."
D: Neil Jordan
Palace/Vision (Stephen Woolley & David Saunders)
UK/Ireland/US 1988
96 mins
W: Neil Jordan
DP: Alex Thomson
Ed: Michael Bradsell
Mus: George Fenton
PD: Alex Furst
Peter O'Toole (Peter Plunkett), Steve Guttenberg (Jack), Daryl Hannah (Mary Plunkett Brogan), Beverly D'Angelo (Sharon), Donal McCann (Eamon), Liz Smith (Mrs. Plunkett), Peter Gallagher (Brother Tony), Jennifer Tilly (Miranda), Liam Neeson (Martin Brogan), Ray McAnally (Plunkett, Sr.)
Following a promising, quite funny opening 30 minutes, the film descends into complete and utter chaos.
Peter O'Toole plays an Irish owner of a decripit castle who decides the best way to attract tourists is by staging hauntings and ghostly goings on. However, when the castle's hotel rooms are fully booked by gawping American tourists, real spirits emerge from the walls.
Veteran actor O'Toole tries his best, and gets all the best lines in the script, but unfortunately he can't save the supernatural romance which the film becomes in the final act, with not a single tinge of comedy. Steve Guttenberg plays himself and Daryl Hannah delivers an atrocious attempt at an Irish accent.
With the first act to the movie showing genuine promise, director-writer Neil Jordan could perhaps have made this into a much better comedy/farce, but the finale makes it completely forgettable. It hasn't dated particularly well either.

"There can be only one."
"There can be only one."
D: Russell Mulcany
EMI (Peter S. Davis & William N. Panzer)
UK/US 1986
111 mins


W: Gregory Widden, Peter Bellwood & Larry Ferguson
DP: Gerry Fisher
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: Michael Kamen; Queen
PD: Allan Cameron
Cos: James Acheson

Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Rodriguez), Roxanne Hart (Brenda Wyatt), Clancy Brown (The Kurgan)

Narratively, the film is a bit of a mess (as are the different accents), nevertheless this cult favourite is highly entertaining and has amassed a huge following over the years.
Frenchman Christopher Lambert plays Scottish Highlander Connor MacLeod, suspected of being involved in witchcraft and thrown out of his tribe after he returns from a battle alive after suffering wounds which would have certainly killed the average man. He is visited and mentored by a Spanish swordsman (played by Scotsman Connery), who tells him that he is one of a group of immortal warriors, who must battle to the death until only one remains (The only way they can die is by beheading). 
The narrative doesn't do itself any favours by bouncing between the Middle Ages and modern day New York, with an occasional scene from other significant historical events thrown in every now and then, before a showdown with the last immortal in a derelict factory.
The visual effects have dated rather badly and the performances aren't very spectacular either, but the sword fights & action scenes are quite well executed while the soundtrack of songs written and performed by the rock band Queen is as immortal as the characters within the film.
Far from perfect, but reasonably good entertainment.

D: Russell Mulcany
Lamb Bear (Peter S. Davis & William N. Panzer)
US 1991
100 mins
W: Peter Bellwood
DP: Phil Meheux
Ed: Hubert C. de la Bouillerie
Mus: Stewart Copeland
PD: Roger Hall
Christopher Lambert (Connor MacLeod), Sean Connery (Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez), Virginia Madsen (Louise Marcus), Michael Ironside (General Katana), Allan Rich (Allan Neyman), John C. McGinley (David Blake)
The narrative in this inconsequential sequel is even more incoherent than the original film, starting with a expositional prologue which explains that MacLeod and all the other immortals are alien beings exiled onto Earth to battle one another to the death as a form of punishment. Connery's character Ramirez miraculously makes a return (one of the worst examples of deus ex machina in cinema history) and joins forces again with Lambert's Connor MacLeod, as they battle to save the planet from a dictatorial leader from their home planet, as well as saving Earth from ecological disaster with some dogshit about the Ozone layer shoehorned in for no particular reason (other than that it was topical in 1991).
The story is a complete mess whether or not it's viewed as a sequel to the original film (which it isn't) or completely standalone on its own merits (or lack of).  The Queen-performed soundtrack which gave the original film a bigger fanbase of appeal is complete gone making this quite easily one of the worst sequels ever produced. 
Various versions have filtered onto DVD and Bluray releases, cutting out all references to an alien planet, but this somehow makes even less sense to the plot. More slipshod sequels followed, not quite as bad as this, but they weren't very good either.
The truth at last?
The truth at last?
D: Robert Wise
Universal (Robert Wise)
US 1975
125 mins
W: Nelson Gidding [based on the novel by Michael M. Mooney]
DP: Robert Surtees
Ed: Donn Cambern
Mus: David Shire
PD: Edward Carfango
George C. Scott (Col. Franz Ritter), Anne Bancroft (Ursula), Burgess Meredith (Emilio Pajetta), William Atherton (Boerth), Roy Thinnes (Martin Vogel), Gig Young (Edward Douglas), Charles Durning (Capt. Pruss)
Typical 1970's disaster stuff which builds its story around the unproven theory that the 1937 Hindenburg airship disaster was brought about by sabotage.
The dialogue and performances aren't particularly good, but all the other elements of the production are fine, although the visual effects are quite dated by modern standards. There's also a curious choice to film the finale in grainy black-and-white to enable the incorporation of newsreel footage.
Not a bad film, but far weaker than other disaster flicks released around the same time (The Towering Inferno, etc.)

D: Howard Hawks
Columbia (Howard Hawks)
US 1940
92 mins
W: Charles Lederer [based on the screenplay "The Front Page" by Charles MacArthur & Ben Hecht]
DP: Joseph Walker
Ed: Gene Havlick
Mus: Morris Stoloff
Rosalind Russell (Hildy Johnson), Cary Grant (Walter Burns), Ralph Bellamy (Bruce Baldwin), Gene Lockhart (Sheriff Hartwell), Porter Hall (Murphy), Ernest Truex (Bensinger), Cliff Edwards (Endicott), Clarence Kolb (Mayor)
His Girl Friday is a classic screwball comedy and possibly the fastest-talking movie ever filmed, with zingers from all the cast involved.
Reportedly the style of dialogue became an inspiration to Quentin Tarantino's style of writing, describing "His Girl Friday style back-and-forth dialogue" in the opening scene to Pulp Fiction.
The Front Page has seen many remakes, including a well-known 1974 version with Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau, however, His Girl Friday is most possibly the best of the lot, with the character "Hildy Johnson" getting a gender switch and being portrayed by the excellent Rosalind Russell. 
The story, set in the world of journalism, features a cunning newspaper editor (Cary Grant) who wants to prevent his best reporter from getting married by giving her one final story to cover, a court case concerning the murder of a policeman. However, the real reason he doesn't want her to quit and settled down is because he wants her himself.
A lot of screwball comedies from the same period haven't dated too well, but this film isn't one of them. As good now as it ever was, with a great twist on the story it was originally based on.

"History. It's just one thing after another."
"History. It's just one thing after another."
D: Nicholas Hytner
20th Century Fox/BBC2/DNA (Kevin Loader, Nicholas Hytner & Damian Jones)
UK/US 2006
109 mins


W: Alan Bennett [based on his play]
DP: Andrew Dunn
Ed: John Wilson
Mus: George Fenton

Richard Griffiths (Hector), Frances de la Tour (Dorothy Lintott), Stephen Campbell Moore (Irwin), Samuel Barnett (Posner), Dominic Cooper (Dakin), James Corden (Timms), Jamie Parker (Scripps), Russell Tovey (Rudge)

The History Boys may have been a very good stage play, but this transition to the big screen is awkward, clunky, laboured and, regrettably, boring.
The majority of the actors reprise their theatrical roles as the story follows two teachers with clashing styles as they ready a group of schoolboys for a place at Oxbridge. 
Set mostly within the classroom, this doesn't evoke the same sort passion for it's subjects which came with Dead Poets Society and is, for the most part, talking heads prattling off about history, poetry and classical music.
Richard Griffiths is the standout performances here, followed closely by Frances de la Tour, while everyone is merely average.
It comes as no surprise that the BBC had some involvement in the production of this film, it's the kind of pretentious, elitist hodgepodge they seem to insist on spending money on.

"Everyone has something to hide."
"Everyone has something to hide."
D: David Cronenberg
New Line (Chris Bender & J. C. Spink)
US/Germany 2005
96 mins
W: Josh Olson [based on the graphic novel by John Wagner & Vince Locke]
DP: Peter Suschitzky
Ed: Ronald Sanders
Mus: Howard Shore
Viggo Mortensen (Tom Stall), Maria Bello (Edie Stall), Ed Harris (Carl Fogarty), William Hurt (Richie Cusack), Ashton Holmes (Jack Stall), Heidi Hayes (Sarah Stall), Peter MacNeill (Sheriff Sam Carney)
After preventing an armed robbery at his small town coffee shop, a family man finds himself constantly hounded by mafia henchmen, convinced that he is their mob bosses long-lost and disgraced brother.
A subtle thriller, which builds the tension slowly before a rather unsatisfying ending. All the performances are fantastic, Maria Bello & William Hurt standouts, although the latter's acting could also be criticised for being ridiculously over the top as a mobster kingpin. A fine return to form for Canadian director David Cronenberg.

HITCH (15)
D: Andy Tennant
Columbia/Overbrook (James Lassiter, Will Smith & Teddy Zee)
US 2005
118 mins
W: Kevin Bisch
DP: Andrew Dunn
Ed: Troy Takaki & Tracy Wadmore-Smith
Mus: George Fenton
Will Smith (Alex Hitchens), Eva Mendes (Sara Melas), Kevin James (Albert Brennaman), Amber Valletta (Allegra Cole), Michael Rapaport (Ben)
Typical sitcom stuff starring Will Smith as a Manhattan "date doctor" who teaches slobby goofball Kevin James that even he can get a woman.
It's all very suave, polished Hollywood bullshit without being particularly funny or memorable. Smith performs one of his own songs over the credits as per usual but this isn't really a film he should be proud of, from the years in-between Ali & The Pursuit Of Happyness, when he spent his time doing anything for a paycheck.

"Behind every psycho is a great woman"
"Behind every psycho is a great woman"
D: Sacha Gervasi
Fox Searchlight/Montecito/Cold Spring (Ivan Reitman, Tom Pollock, Joe Medjuck, Tom Thayer & Alan Barnette)
US 2012
98 mins


W: John J. McLaughlin [based on the book "Alfred Hitchcock & The Making Of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello]
DP: Jeff Cronenweth
Ed: Pamela Martin
Mus: Danny Elfman

Anthony Hopkins (Alfred Hitchcock), Helen Mirren (Alma Reville), Scarlett Johansson (Janet Leigh), Toni Collette (Peggy Robertson), Danny Huston (Whitfield Cook), Jessica Biel (Vera Miles), James D'Arcy (Anthony Perkins), Michael Wincott (Ed Gein)

As a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies, the overriding opinion of this biopic was that it most definitely missed a trick. 
Instead of focusing on the entire career of the noted director, it focuses solely on the shoot of Psycho, funded entirely by Hitchcock himself due to the studio's concerns.  Hitchcock's fantasy obsessions with his leading ladies is touched upon, but not in any great depths and if you're not too savvy with the directors reputation then it doesn't really provide much of a study into his character.
Nevertheless, Anthony Hopkins & Helen Mirren deliver great performances and the makeup really transforms Hopkins into the Master of Suspense, but overall, the film was massively disappointing.
A documentary on the making of any of his more famous films would provide a much more informative insight.

D: Robert Harmon
Columbia/EMI/Warner Bros./HBO (David Bombyk & Kip Ohman)
US 1986
97 mins


W: Eric Red
DP: John Seale
Ed: Frank J. Urioste
Mus: Mark Isham
PD: Dennis Gassner

Rutger Hauer (John Ryder), C. Thomas Howell (Jim Halsey), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Nash), Jeffrey DeMunn (Capt. Esteridge)

On a deserted Texas highway, a naïve teenager picks up a hitchhiker, unaware that he is a maniacal, psychopathic killer who plans to implicate the young boy in his crimes.
Rutger Hauer is deliciously evil in this road movie thriller, which occasionally suffers through being formulaic and has the odd scene which defies reasonable belief, but isn't a bad low-budget thriller from the mid-1980's. A remake was released in 2006, starring Sean Bean as the bad guy.

"Don't leave Earth without it."
"Don't leave Earth without it."
D: Garth Jennings
Touchstone/Spyglass/Hammer & Tongs (Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Nick Goldsmith, Jay Roach & Jonathan Glickman)
US/UK 2005
109 mins

Science Fiction/Comedy

W: Douglas Adams & Karey Kirkpatrick [based on the novel by Douglas Adams]
DP: Ivor Jadue-Lillo
Ed: Niven Howie
Mus: Joby Talbot
PD: Joel Collins

Martin Freeman (Arthur Dent), Mos Def (Ford Prefect), Sam Rockwell (Zaphod Beeblebrox), Zooey Deschanel (Trillian), Warwick Davies (Marvin), Alan Rickman (voice of Marvin), John Malkovich (Humma Kavula), Bill Night (Slartibartfast)

Unless you've read the book, chances are the events in this film will sail right over your head. I've not read the book, always intended to, but unfortunately this adaptation has provided a huge disservice to Douglas Adams' cult classic prose, and now I no longer want to.
Previously adapted for radio, the narrative possibly works better for that medium. 
The story begins on Earth, where Arthur Dent's house and indeed the entire planet are scheduled for demolition. Fortunately for Arthur, his best friend is Ford Prefect, an alien who aids his escape. The rest of the story is a manic journey through the imagination of Douglas Adams, including bureaucratic aliens, planet construction factories and a two-headed space pirate.
John Carpenter's 1974 cult movie Dark Star was equally as zany but infinitely more enjoyable. 
Read the book, listen to the original radio broadcast or watch one of the TV adaptations instead and cast this film aside to the far reaches of the universe.

D: Xavier Gens
20th Century Fox (Charles Gordon & Adrian Askariah)
US/France 2007
93 mins
W: Skip Woods [based on the video game created by IO Interactive]
DP: Laurent Bares
Ed: Carlo Rizzo & Antoine Vareille
Mus: Geoff Zanelli
Timothy Olyphant (Agent 47), Dougray Scott (Mike Whittier), Olga Kurlyenko (Nika Borinina), Robert Knepper (Yuri Marklov)
Based on a video game, and it shows.
Timothy Olyphant looks the part as the titular hitman, a genetically manufactured, emotionless assassin who becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving a Russian politician.
Unfortunately, the script gives the actor nothing really to do except go from scene-to-scene with the same expressionless look on his face, before culminating in a multiple-gun stand off, which is probably the only part of the film worth watching.
The game is much more fun.