D: Luis Valdez
Columbia/New Visions (Taylor Hackford & Bill Borden)
US 1987
108 mins


W: Luis Valdez
DP: Adam Greenberg
Ed: Sheldon Kahn & Don Brochu
Mus: Carlos Santana

Lou Diamond Phillips (Ritchie Valens), Esai Morales (Roberto Morales), Rosana DeSoto (Connie Valenzuela), Elizabeth Peña (Rosie Morales), Marshall Crenshaw (Buddy Holly)

Lou Diamond Phillips delivers a decent performance in this easy-going biopic of 1950's rock & roll singer Ritchie Valens whose life and career was cut short in the same plane crash which killed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper.
Though enjoyable, like real life this film plays second fiddle to similar films about the life and career of Buddy Holly (notably The Buddy Holly Story (qv)), and doesn't really bring anything new to the table.

"Everything is suspect. Everyone is for sale. And nothing is what it seems."
"Everything is suspect. Everyone is for sale. And nothing is what it seems."
D: Curtis Hanson
Warner Bros./Regency (Arnon Milchan, Curtis Hanson & Michael Nathanson)
US 1997
138 mins


W: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson [based on the novel by James Ellroy]
DP: Dante Spinotti
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
Pd: Jeannine Oppewall
Cos: Ruth Myers

Guy Pearce (Ed Exley), Kevin Spacey (Jack Vincennes), Russell Crowe (Wendell 'Bud' White), James Cromwell (Dudley Smith), David Strathairn (Pierce Patchett), Kim Basinger (Lynn Bracken), Danny DeVito (Sid Hudgens)

A film noir for the 1990's, brilliantly adapted from James Ellroy's novel, which in itself is a fantastic read.
In 1950's Los Angeles, amongst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, a by-the-book, industrious detective uncovers corruption with his department and enlists the help of a suave vice detective and a brutish cop to investigate.  
L.A. Confidential is amongst the best films of the decade, with a rich accolade of characters and a labyrinthine narrative which always keeps you second guessing. It won two Oscars for Screenplay & Supporting Actress (Basinger). In any other year, it would most likely have swept the board (Some may even argue this was a much more worthy winner than Titanic).  

D: Federico Fellini
Riama/Pathé/Gray (Giuseppe Amato & Angelo Rizzoli)
Italy 1960
180 mins


W: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli & Brunello Rondi
DP: Otello Martelli
Ed: Leo Catozzo
Mus: Nino Rota
PD: Piero Gherardi
Cos: Piero Gherardi

Marcello Mastroianni (Marcello Rubini), Anita Ekberg (Sylvia), Anouk Aimee (Maddalena), Yvonne Furneaux (Emma), Magali Noel (Fanny), Alain Cuny (Steiner)

Marcello Mastroianni is the epitome of Italian cool in Federico Fellini's spotlight on the world of glitz and glamour in the high society of 1960's Rome.
Paparazzi journalist Marcello Rubini begins to live his life as a celebrity when he mixes with other people of status, equally bewitched and repulsed by the lifestyle. 
One tiny criticism is that the film is a mite overlong at three hours, but an important and iconic piece of world cinema and arguably Federico Fellini's finest film of a hugely successful career.

"For the fools who dream."
"For the fools who dream."


D: Damien Chazelle

Lionsgate/Summit/Black Label (Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert & Marc Platt)

US 2016

128 mins


W: Damien Chazelle

DP: Linus Sandgren

Ed: Tom Cross

Mus: Justin Hurwitz; Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

PD: David Wasco

Cos: Mary Zophres

Ryan Gosling (Sebastian Wilder), Emma Stone (Mia Dolan), John Legend (Keith), Rosemarie Dewitt (Laura Wilder), J.K. Simmons (Bill)

I'll start this review by confessing that I'm really not a fan of the musical genre, bar a handful of the classics and a very small minority of modern musicals. The same goes for romance films, which I just can't buy into unless I make some form of connection with the characters. Considering La La Land  fuses both genres, it's not a film I'd be rushing to see if it weren't for the Oscar hype.

The background of the film itself is quite interesting. It's the film that Damien Chazelle wanted to kick his career off with, but no producers were willing to trust him with the necessary budget to make it work so he initially cut his teeth with the critically-acclaimed Whiplash, which I have to admit was my favourite film of 2014. Since it struck a chord with many people, the producers gained trust in the young director and made it possible for La La Land to go into production.

The film is split into the four seasons of the year, beginning with Winter and the opening scene is a song and dance which brings life to the mundanity of traffic gridlock on the freeway. In all honesty, I wasn't particularly impressed and despite the choreography working like clockwork, I felt the worst for the next two hours.

In fact, the first act to me just felt like a contrived attempt to lure in Oscar votes, working like a checklist to score points for production design, costumes, cinematography and editing. 

However, my opinion began to sway when the two lead characters meet at a pool party in the Spring, when aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) gets a bit of revenge for struggling jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) acting like a jerk at their very first meeting. The reason for my change of mind was simply due to the performances of the two actors, particularly Emma Stone, whose magnetism and pizzazz can't help but raise a smile. 

As their relationship and careers blossom, the visuals throw in a wink and a nod to Hollywood, the dream of fame and as many references to golden age movies as you can handle, and considering how Hollywood loves to congratulate itself, it's little surprise  that the Academy Awards lavished the film with a record-equalling 14 Oscar nominations.

However, the film is very clever with its back-patting, offering a different way to find appreciation for the genres we don't like (in the film's instance, Jazz music) and offers a modern twist to it.

It's fair to say, and I'll probably lose some street cred for this, but I was absolutely loving La La Land by the time the halfway point of the film came, and this continued until the very end. 

It's a film for lovers of music, romance, movies in general and though it is very self-effacing, it has a deep message that we have two lives, the one we live and the one we dream, and there's really nothing wrong with losing yourself in pure escapism.

The winner of a record 7 Golden Globes is truly worth every single accolade and more. This really is a mesmerising movie event which has to be caught on the big screen.


"Something funny is happening in L.A."
"Something funny is happening in L.A."
L.A. STORY (12)
D: Mick Jackson
Guild/Rastar (Daniel Melnick & Michael Rachmil)
US 1991
95 mins
W: Steve Martin
DP: Andrew Dunn
Ed: Richard A. Harris
Mus: Peter Melnick
Steve Martin (Harris K. Telemacher), Victoria Tennant (Sara McDowel), Richard E. Grant (Roland Mackey), Marilu Henner (Trudi), Sarah Jessica Parker (SanDeE)
Steve Martin began to lose his appeal at the beginning of the 1990's, but L.A. Story is still rather enjoyable.
He plays a wacky TV weatherman who, after breaking down on a freeway, receives instructions from a roadside traffic sign of actions he needs to take in his own life. Following these, he meets and falls in love with an English journalist and also has an affair with a hip, younger woman who goes by the name of SanDeE (sic).
This light-hearted Capra-esque caper doesn't quite know what kind of comedy to go along with, traipsing between whimsical fable, slapstick and satire, so the humour isn't quite consistent throughout the whole film. Martin's vivaciousness still makes it entertaining, although the film's main love affair is with Los Angeles itself.


D: Federico Fellini

Trans Lux (Carlo Ponti & Dino de Laurentiis)

Italy 1954

94 mins


W: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano & Tullio Pinelli

DP: Otello Martelli

Ed: Leo Cattozo

Mus: Nino Rota

Giulietta Masina (Gelsomina), Anthony Quinn (Zampano), Richard Basehart (Il Matto), Aldo Silvani (Signor Giraffa), Marcella Rovere (La Vedova)

Literally translating as The Road, La Strada is an Italian arthouse drama which made Federico Fellini a renowned filmmaker in world cinema.

Anthony Quinn plays brutish strongman Zampano, who takes the timid Gelsomina on his travels where he earns a trade as a street performer, herself playing the part of a clown and his assistant.

The pair later find themselves within the company of a travelling circus, but Zampano's jealousy gets the better of him when Gelsomina becomes friends with the troupe's fool.

Fellini's film is crammed with mythological references and is considered by many filmmakers to be hugely influential to their own careers. Though the plot is thin, its given a huge canvas by Fellini's style and the brilliant performances, especially Giulietta Masina who says more with her facial expressions than in her handful of dialogue.


D: Jim Henson
Tristar/Lucasfilm (Eric Rattray & George Lucas)
US 1986
101 mins


W: Terry Jones [based on a story by Jim Henson & Dennis Less]
DP: Alex Thomson
Ed: John Grover
Mus: Trevor Jones; David Bowie
PD: Elliot Scott

David Bowie (Jareth, the Goblin King), Jennifer Connelly (Sarah Williams), Toby Froud (Toby Williams), Shelley Thompson (Irene)

Monty Python meets the Muppets, with original member of the comedy troupe Terry Jones scripting, the wacky style of humour is very apparent.
It's a fantasy-musical about teenage girl Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), who, upset that she has to babysit her infant brother, wishes for the Goblin King (David Bowie) to kidnap him.
Regretting her wish, the Goblin King challenges her to navigate his labyrinth to his castle where she can win him back.
There's also, supposedly, a subtle subplot about date rape (at least according to a large section of the fanbase), but it will easily fly over the heads of young, innocent minds who'll be perfectly entertained by the memorable musical interludes, magical creatures, artistic production design and a wonderfully campy performance from the thin white duke. An 80's classic which, despite some rudimentary visual effects and puppetry, has dated incredibly well, becoming a huge favourite for anyone who watched it in their younger years.


D: Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi & Wilfred Jackson
Disney (Walt Disney)
US 1955
75 mins
W: Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ralph Wright & Don DaGradi [based on the book "Happy Dan, The Whistling Dog" by Ward Greene]
Mus: Oliver Wallace; Peggy Lee & Sonny Burke
voices of: Barbara Luddy (Lady), Larry Roberts (Tramp), Bill Thompson (Jock / Joe / Bulldog / Dachsie / Policeman), Peggy Lee (Darling / Si / Am / Peg)
The magic of Disney strikes again with this cartoon romance between a pedigree spaniel and a street-wise mongrel.
The songs aren't quite as memorable as other Disney movies, but there's some memorable scenes, particularly the back-alley dinner. Good, pleasant fun for kids and kids-at-heart.


D: Greta Gerwig

Focus Features/A24 (Scott Rudin, Eli Bush & Evelyn O'Neill)

US 2017

93 mins


W: Greta Gerwig

DP: Sam Levy

Ed: Nick Huoy

Mus: Jon Brion 

Saoirse Ronan (Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson), Laurie Metcalf (Marion McPherson), Tracy Letts (Larry McPherson), Lucas Hedges (Danny O'Neill), Timothee Chalamet (Kyle Scheible), Beanie Feldstein (Julianne 'Julie' Steffans), Lois Smith (Sister Sarah Joan)

Greta Gerwig's coming of age comedy-drama is a very solid directorial debut, starring Saoirse Ronan as an entitled, belligerent teenager who demands to be called Lady Bird, as she completed her final year at a catholic high school, with her sights solely focused on getting in East Coast universities without really having to work for it, whilst simultaneously harming her chances further by indulging in usual teenage mischief and falling in with the wrong crowd.

Saoirse Ronan does an excellent job making a rather unlikeable character sympathetic as the story dissects the fractured relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, as her family fall on financial hardship.

At first glance, it would feel like this was a semi-biographical account of Gerwig's own childhood, but she has since admitted that this isn't the case. Nevertheless, it's incredibly well written and brilliantly directed, making some witty and touching observations on growing up without being puerile. 

Laurie Metcalf steals the show as the mother, and the relationship between the two characters is probably the most touching mother-daughter relationship since 2003's Thirteen.

It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but those who do enjoy it will agree with its nomination for a Best Picture Oscar.



D: Nicholas Hytner

Sony/Tristar/BBC (Nicholas Hytner, Damian Jones & Kevin Loader)

UK/US 2015

104 mins


W: Alan Bennett [based on his play]

DP: Andrew Dunn

Ed: Tariq Anwar

Mus: George Fenton

Maggie Smith (Miss Mary Shepherd / Margaret Fairchild), Alex Jennings (Alan Bennett), Roger Allam (Rufus), Deborah Findlay (Pauline), Jim Broadbent (Underwood)

A rather pedestrian adaptation of a stage play, based on events from its writer Alan Bennett's life, when he allowed an elderly woman to live in her dilapidated van on his driveway outside his London home.

Maggie Smith's cantankerous performance carries the film, which misses a trick by failing to capture any humour in the scenes where the main male character, based on the writer Alan Bennett himself, has imaginary conversations with his conscience.

Not a bad film, but not worth going out of your way for. It just doesn't motor along the way a stage play of the same material would.


D: Sidney J. Furie
Paramount/Motown (Jay Weston & James S. White)
US 1972
144 mins


W: Terence McCloy, Chris Clark & Suzanne de Passe
DP: John Alonzo 
Ed: Argyle Nelson
Mus: Michel Legrand; Gil Askey
PD: Carl Anderson
Cos: Bob Mackie, Ray Aghayan & Norma Koch

Diana Ross (Billie Holliday), Billy Dee Williams (Louis McKay), Richard Pryor (Piano Man), James Callahan (Reg Hanley), Sid Melton (Jerry)

Diana Ross shines in her film debut as Billie Holiday in this warts-and-all biopic of the jazz & blues singer, whose promising career diminished following her descent into drug abuse, alcoholism and a disastrous private life.
The film perfectly captures the era with good attention to period detail, but the real reason to watch is for the dazzling performance from Diana Ross. 

D: Alfred Hitchcock
Gaumont (Edward Black)
UK 1938
97 mins


W: Sidney Gilliat & Frank Launder [based on the novel "The Wheel Spins" by Ethel Lina White]
DP: Jack Cox
Ed: Alfred Roome & R. E. Dearing
Mus: Louis Levy

Margaret Lockwood (Iris Henderson), Michael Redgrave (Gilbert Redman), Dame May Whitty (Miss Froy), Paul Lukas (Dr. Egon Hartz), Basil Radford (Charters)

Classic Hitchcock suspense which, as well as his previous film (The 39 Steps) saw the great director make in-roads to direct films in America.
On a train journey through a politically charged Europe, an elderly British nanny is abducted, and the woman who shared a compartment with her finds that everybody else on the train doubts her very existence.
The first 30 minutes of the film seems like something completely different however, set in an overbooked hotel and adopting the style of a screwball comedy and feeling incredibly outdated. In fact, if one were to skip though the opening act and straight to the scenes aboard the train, it would make little difference to the overall film.
Still, it remains amongst Hitchcock's greatest films, despite being very early on in the famous director's career.


D: Anthony Page
Rank/Hammer (Michael Carreras & Tom Sachs)
UK 1979
97 mins
W: George Axelrod [based on the novel "The Wheel Spins" by Ethel Lina White]
DP: Douglas Slocombe
Mus: Richard Hartley
PD: Wilfred Shingleton
Cybill Shepherd (Amanda Kelly), Elliott Gould (Robert Condon), Angela Lansbury (Miss Froy), Herbert Lom (Dr. Hartz), Arthur Lowe (Charters)
Remake of the above with miscast performances and an incline towards a more comedic style of filmmaking, which doesn't work particularly well in the context of a mystery/thriller.
Catch the original instead. It may feel more dated, but at least the performances aren't odious and smug.
"A comedy with balls."
"A comedy with balls."


D: Sidney J. Furie
Warner Bros./Morgan Creek (Albert S. Ruddy & Andre E. Morgan)
US 1992
90 mins
W: Curtis Burch
DP: Dan Burstall
Ed: Timothy Board & John W. Wheeler
Mus: Richard Gibbs
Rodney Dangerfield (Chester Lee), Jackée (Julie Benson), Jonathan Brandis (Matthew / Martha), Ilene Graff (Bess), Vinessa Shaw (Kimberly)
Unpleasant and sexist, not just Rodney Dangerfield, but the actual plot of the movie too.
Dangerfield is the wisecracking coach of a soccer team for teenage girls and the only hope they have to win their league is for a young lad to don tube-tops & a wig to score their goals for them.
Though it may be a comedy, it isn't at all funny and comes across as an insult to young girls who have perfectly capable athletic ability.
"A magical mystical adventure."
"A magical mystical adventure."
D: Richard Donner
Warner Bros. (Richard Donner & Lauren Shuler)
US 1985
121 mins


W: Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas & Tom Mankiewicz
DP: Vittorio Storaro
Ed: Stuart Baird
Mus: Andrew Powell
PD: Wolf Kroeger

Matthew Broderick (Philippe Gaston), Rutger Hauer (Capt. Etienne of Navarre), Michelle Pfeiffer (Isabeau of Anjou), Leo McKern (Imperius), John Wood (Bishop of Aquila), Ken Hutchison (Marquet), Alfred Molina (Cezar)

A rather unique fantasy adventure from the mid 1980's and the director of Superman & the Lethal Weapon movies.
Rutger Hauer & Michelle Pfeiffer play two lovers separated by a tragic curse which make her a hawk by day and him a wolf by night. Though inseparable, they can never be together as their true selves.
With the help of a petty thief (Matthew Broderick) they try to get the curse lifted.
The film itself is enjoyable, but not particularly memorable, but considering that during the 1980's there was a deluge of fantasy movies which scaled from iconically cheesy to damned awful, this wasn't a bad effort, although the electronic music score from Andrew Powell feels badly out of place.


D: Alexander Mackendrick
Ealing (Michael Balcon)
UK 1955
97 mins
W: William Rose
DP: Otto Heller
Ed: Jack Harris
Mus: Tristram Cary
Alec Guinness (Professor Marcus), Katie Johnson (Mrs. Wilburforce), Peter Sellers (Mr. Robinson), Cecil Parker (Maj. Courtney), Herbert Lom (Mr. Harvey) Danny Green (Mr. Lawson)
In this classic Ealing comedy, sinister-looking music professor Alec Guinness rents a room in sweet old lady Katie Johnson's house, informing her that some of his musician buddies may stop by from time to time. His real intentions are as sinister as his appearance however, as it emerges he and his friends can't play a note of music, and are using the sweet old lady unwittingly in a heist, and then plan to do away with her when she becomes a witness, which is easier said than done.
When they say "They don't make 'em like they used to", Ealing Comedies always spring to mind. Brilliantly written, directed and performed crime capers with an underlying message that "crime doesn't pay". The Ladykillers is amongst the London studio's very best.
"The greatest criminal minds of all time have finally met their match."
"The greatest criminal minds of all time have finally met their match."
D: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Touchstone (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Tom Jacobson & Barry Sonnenfeld)
US 2004
104 mins


W: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen [based on the screenplay by William Rose]
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Roderick Jaynes
Mus: Carter Burwell
PD: Dennis Gassner

Tom Hanks (Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr), Irma P. Hall (Marva Munson), Marlon Wayans (Gawain MacSam), J.K. Simmons (Garth Pancake), Tzi Ma (The General)

A rare off day at the office from the Coen Brothers, as they attempt and fail to remake an absolute classic.
The story varies slightly from the original Ealing comedy, updated for modern times and changing the way the crooks plan to carry out their crimes.
The performances aren't terrible but Tom Hanks simply can't match Alec Guinness' cunning brilliance in the 1950's version. 
Irma P. Hall steals the film as the old lady whose house is used for criminal means, but the film is pretty much a failure in all departments.


D: Don Bluth
UIP/Universal/Amblin (Don Bluth, Gary Goldman & John Pomeroy)
US/Ireland 1988
69 mins
W: Stu Krieger [based on a story by Judy Freudberg & Tony Geiss]
Mus: James Horner
voices of: Gabriel Damon (Littlefoot), Helen Shaver (Littlefoot's Mother), Candice Houston (Cera), Judith Barsi (Ducky)
With Disney animated films lying dormant during the 1980's, Don Bluth jumped in with some standard stories with some rather rudimentary animation.
This dinosaur adventure is amongst the better works from the director and his studio and generate an absolute shedload of direct-to-video sequels, but they simply can't measure up to Disney's multi-million dollar projects.
Okay for kids, quite boring for adults.
D: Brad Silberling
Universal/Relativity Media (Sid Krofft, Marty Krofft & Jimmy Miller)
US 2009
102 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure/Comedy

W: Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas [based on the television series created by Sid Krofft, Marty Krofft, Allan Foshko & David Gerrold]
DP: Dion Beebe
Ed: Peter Teschner
Mus: Michael Giacchino

Will Ferrell (Dr. Rick Marshall), Anna Friel (Holly Cantrell), Danny McBride (Will Stanton), Jorma Taccone (Cha-Ka)

The TV show was a little before my time, so cannot say I've ever watched an episode. However, I could tell that this movie doesn't do any justice to the cult series and it was easier to see why it was a huge flop. It could have worked as a great kids movie or a brainless adventure flick, but the gross-out comedy in this do it no favours at all. Will Ferrell is completely unfunny and the supporting characters are annoying. Anna Friel does her best in her first big budget American film, but with a script so poor she may consider sticking to projects on her home soil.

D: Simon West
Paramount/Mutual/Eidos (Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin & Colin Wilson)
US 2001
100 mins


W: Patrick Massett, John Zinman & Simon West [based on the video game]
DP: Peter Menzies, Jr.
Ed: Dallas S. Puett & Glen Scantlebury 
Mus: Graeme Revell
PD: Kirk M. Petrucelli

Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft), Jon Voight (Lord Richard Croft), Noah Taylor (Bryce), Iain Glen (Manfred Powell), Daniel Craig (Alex West)

Based on a very popular and hugely enjoyable video game franchise, the film adaptation fails to capture the thrills and adventure which come with playing the game and instead takes the easy route of being an Indiana Jones clone with a female protagonist. Angelina Jolie is completely miscast as the artefact-seeking heroine and is given very little do except pout, scowl and walk around in tight fitting T-shirts. Her English accent is far from perfect, but at least it's better than Daniel Craig's laughable attempt at an American one. What's even more unconvincing is the atrocious CGI effects which are even worse than the early 2000's graphics in the computer game.
A sequel followed, but that was even worse than this.

D: Craig Gillespie
MGM (Sidney Kimmel, John Cameron & Sarah Aubrey)
US 2007
106 mins
W: Nancy Oliver
DP: Adam Kimmel
Ed: Tatiana S. Riegel
Mus: David Torn
Ryan Gosling (Lars Lindstrom), Emily Mortimer (Karin Lindstrom), Paul Schneider (Gus Lindstrom), Kelli Garner (Margo), Patricia Clarkson (Dagmar Berman)
An offbeat and bittersweet tale of a reclusive man who suffers from deep-rooted, withdrawn emotional problems and orders an "adult doll" on the Internet as a female companion and has delusions that she's real.
Misunderstood by his brother and his wife, they take him to a psychologist where he starts to make progression from a withdrawn, lonely man into a more social, 'normal' person. 
In a way, it's a strange movie, but it's also clever how the inanimate Bianca grows as a character so she almost seems like a real person and the other characters in the movie develop more humanity as the film goes along, making the whole story a bit of an allegory about maturing into adulthood.              
Ryan Gosling and the supporting cast are all excellent and the screenplay is very clever and has some genuine sweet, intelligent and funny moments.

"Billy was a kid who got pushed around... Then he found the power."
"Billy was a kid who got pushed around... Then he found the power."


D: Michael Rae
Irwin Yablans (Charles Band)
US 1978
80 mins

Science Fiction

W: Frank Ray Pirelli & Franne Schacht
DP: Terry Bowen
Ed: Jodie Copelan
Mus: Richard Band & Joel Goldsmith

Kim Milford (Billy Duncan), Cheryl Smith (Kathy Farley), Gianni Russo (Tony Craig), Roddy McDowell (Dr. Mellon), Keenan Wynn (Col. Farley)

Pathetically bad B-movie dross about a teenager who discovers a space age laser weapon in the desert and goes on a killing spree.
So poorly made, it's almost impossible to watch due to cheap film stock and laughably bad special effects.
This is one sci-fi which the producers should have left in a black hole.

D: John McTiernan
Columbia Tristar (Steve Roth & John McTiernan)
US 1993
131 mins


W: Shane Black & David Arnott
DP: Dean Semler
Ed: John Wright
Mus: Michael Kamen
PD: Eugenio Zanetti

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Jack Slater / himself), Austin O'Brien (Danny Madigan), F. Murray Abraham (John Practice), Charles Dance (Benedict), Art Carney (Frank Slater), Bridgette Wilson (Whitney Slater / Meredith Caprice), Frank McRae (Lt. Dekker), Tom Noonan (The Ripper / himself), Mercedes Ruehl (Irene Madigan)

The Last Action Hero appears to be a movie in-joke which nobody else beyond the cast & crew seem to be in on. 
A teenage boy acquires a magic movie ticket when he goes to see the latest film from his action movie idol and, quite literally, gets blown into the action and the film becomes a reality. Things turn upside down when the movie bad guy goes the other way and hides out in the real world.
Even with the A-list star Schwarzenegger above the title, the film was a massive flop in 1993 and is still much derided. 
There's one or two moments which raise a smile, but aside from that, it has little else going for it.

D: M. Night Shyamalan
Paramount/Nickelodeon/Blinding Edge (M. Night Shyamalan, Sam Mercer & Frank Marshall)
US 2010
103 mins


W: M. Night Shyamalan [based on the  animated TV series "Avatar: The Last Airbender" created by Michael Dante DiMartino & Bryan Konietzko]
DP: Andrew Lesnie
Ed: Conrad Buff
Mus: James Newton Howard

Noah Ringer (Aang), Nicola Peltz (Katara), Jackson Rathbone (Sokka), Dev Patel (Prince Zuko), Shaun Toub (Uncle Iroh), Aasif Mandvi (Cmmdr. Zhao), Cliff Curtis (Fire Lord Ozai)

I've not seen the original cartoon series and if this film is anything to go by I'm glad I missed out.
Set in the future (I guess????), the people have been divided into those who can control elements (earth people, wind people, fire people, etc) who are all at war with one another, but with director/writer M. Night Shyamalan at the helm it's woodenly scripted, shoddily acted drivel with the occasional sermon about how we should respect the classical elements or some bollocks.
The Golden Raspberry 'win' for Worst Film Of The Year was justified.

"Everyone had counted them out, but they're about to get back in the game."
"Everyone had counted them out, but they're about to get back in the game."


D: Tony Scott
Warner Bros./Geffen (Joel Silver & Michael Levy)
US 1991
105 mins
W: Shane Black
DP: Ward Russell
Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Mark Helfrich
Mus: Michael Kamen
Bruce Willis (Joe Hallenbeck), Damon Wayans (Jimmy Dix), Chelsea Field (Sarah Hallenbeck), Noble Willingham (Sheldon Marcone), Taylor Negron (Milo), Danielle Harris (Darian Hallenbeck), Halle Berry (Cory)

Action-scribe Shane Black received a huge sum of cash (reportedly $1.75m) for this screenplay, which practically utilises the same formula from his Lethal Weapon script of having mismatched partners, this time involving a detective and an ex-professional football player, embroiled in a plot involving sports gambling and corruption. 
Bruce Willis, in one of his very best action performances, is given a library of witty retorts, quips and one-liners which sets this apart from your regular shoot-'em-up action nonsense. Damon Wayans as the sidekick does okay, but it's difficult to elicit sympathy for his jealous, drug-abusing character during the early exchanges between the duo, although he does redeem himself further into the movie. Keep an eye out for Halle Berry in a very early role.


D: Stefan Avalos & Lance Weiler
Metrodome/FFM (Stefan Avalos & Lance Weiler)
US 1998
86 mins
W: Stefan Avalos & Lance Weiler
Mus: Stefan Avalos & A.D. Roso 
David Beard (David), Jim Seward (Jim), Lance Weiler (Locus), Stefan Avalos (Steven), Rein Clabbers (Rein), Michele Pulaski (Michelle)
Pre-dating The Blair Witch Project, this "found footage" documentary style mystery has a much better, more solid storyline than its more successful doppelgänger, with a lone filmmaker attempting to piece together the "Jersey Devil" crimes, an unsolved murder of another film crew attempting to make contact with supernatural beings deep in remote woods. 
Only the ending, which seems to belong to a different film altogether, disappoints.
"Sometimes justice is a crime."
"Sometimes justice is a crime."


D: Bruce Beresford
Touchstone/Buena Vista (Steven Haft)
US 1996
103 mins


W: Ron Koslow
DP: Peter James
Ed: John Bloom
Mus: Mark Isham

Sharon Stone (Cindy Liggett), Rob Morrow (Rick Hayes), Randy Quaid (Sam Burns), Peter Gallagher (John Hayes), Jack Thompson (The Governer)

Weak attempt at a prison melodrama, in which an idealistic young lawyer attempts to save a woman who has already been incarcerated for 12 years on death row.
One may think that, for this premise, a Hollywood executive saw the film within a film from The Player (qv) and thought it would be a good project to greenlight before they even realised that it was a pisstake of Hollywood's output. Shelve this and watch Dead Man Walking (qv) instead.

D: Bernardo Bertolucci
Columbia (Jeremy Thomas)
UK/Italy/China 1987
160 mins


W: Mark Peploe & Bernado Bertolucci [based on the autobiography "From Emperor To Citizen" by Pu Yi]
DP: Vittorio Storaro
Ed: Gabriella Cristiani
Mus: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Cong Su & David Byrne
PD: Fernando Scarfiotti
Cos: James Acheson

John Lone (Puyi), Joan Chen (Wanrong), Peter O'Toole (Reginald Johnston), Victor Wong (Chen Baochen)

Bernardo Bertolucci's picturesque biopic of Pu Yi, the last emperor of a historical Chinese dynasty, is a visual treat, full of meticulous detail and beautiful photography, but at 160 minutes long, it weighs quite heavy. 
Following the young emperor from his birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City. As a child, he was the object of worship by half a billion people, followed by his abdication, exploitation by invading Japanese forces and closing with his obscure existence as a peasant worker in the People's Republic of China, now a communist regime.
Bertolucci's work is historically accurate, but the dramatic pacing of the film often lags. Nevertheless, it was a critical darling, winning all 9 of the Oscars for which it was nominated.


D: Wes Craven

Hallmark/The Night Co. (Sean S. Cunningham)

US 1972

91 mins


W: Wes Craven [based on "The Virgin Spring" by Ingmar Bergman]

DP: Victor Hurwitz

Ed: Wes Craven

Mus: David A. Hess

Sandra Peabody (Mari Collingwood), Lucy Grantham (Phyllis Stone), David A. Hess (Krug Stillo), Fred Lincoln (Fred 'Weasel' Podowski), Jeramie Rain (Sadie), Marc Sheffler (Junior Stillo), Gaylord St. James (Dr. John Collingwood), Cynthia Carr (Estelle Collingwood)

Wes Craven's directorial debut came with this 1972 exploitation horror movie, partly inspired by the Swedish folk tale "Töres Döttrar I Wänge", which was adapted for Ingmar Bergman's 1960 film, The Virgin Spring.

The plot revolves around a pair of teenage girls, on their way to a music concert when they are abducted and tortured by a gang of murderous thugs.

Initially effective with gruesome and tense scenes, the film does lose its way slightly in the final act, when it merely becomes about revenge.  There are also some comic scenes featuring a bumbling sheriff which seem incredibly out of place.

Still, Craven sets up his career with this classic of the genre, which features an excellent folky soundtrack penned by head villain actor David A. Hess.

A remake was released in 2009.


D: Kevin MacDonald
Fox Searchlight/DNA/Film4 (Andrea Calderwood, Lisa Bryer & Charles Steel)
US/UK 2006
117 mins


W: Peter Morgan & Jeremy Brock [based on the novel by Giles Foden]
DP: Anthony Dod Mantle
Ed: Justine Wright
Mus: Alex Heffes
PD: Michael Carlin

Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin), James McAvoy (Nicholas Garrigan), Kerry Washington (Kay Amin), Simon McBurney (Stone), Gillian Anderson (Sarah Merrit)

Forest Whitaker provides one of the best performances in recent memory with his portrayal of evil Idi Amin, which deservedly won him, amongst other awards, the Best Actor Oscar. 
As the brutal Ugandan dictator, he seduces an impressionable but naïve Scottish doctor (played by James McAvoy) who is so blinded by the friendly facade of the ruler that he fails to notice his corruption of the country.
Kevin McDonald's direction remains gripping throughout and he delivers one of the best British pictures of the decade.

D: Michael Mann
Warner Bros./Morgan Creek (Michael Mann & Hunt Lowry)
US 1992
122 mins


W: Michael Mann & Christopher Crowe [based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper]
DP: Dante Spinotti
Ed: Dov Hoenig & Arthur Schmidt
Mus: Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman
PD: Wolf Kroeger

Daniel Day-Lewis (Hawkeye), Madeleine Stowe (Cora Munro), Russell Means (Chingachgook), Eric Schweig (Uncas), Jodhi May (Alice Munro), Steve Waddington (Maj. Duncan Heyward), Wes Studi (Magua)

Technically brilliant and ambitiously directed, this adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's literary classic leans more to the romance side of the story over the adventure and war, as Hawkeye, the white, adopted son of a Native American Indian rescues the two daughters of a British officer and falls in love with one of them.
Though there's a severely lack of characterisation which makes the love affair rather unconvincing, director Michael Mann counteracts this with some breathtaking photography, occasional moments of heart-pounding action and a stirring music score which is amongst the best movie themes of all time.

"Anarena, Texas, 1951. Nothing much has changed..."
"Anarena, Texas, 1951. Nothing much has changed..."


D: Peter Bogdanovich
Columbia/BBS (Stephen Friedman)
US 1971
118 mins
W: Larry McMurtry & Peter Bogdanovich [based on the novel by Larry McMurtry]
DP: Robert Surtees
Ed: Donn Cambern
PD: Polly Platt
Timothy Bottoms (Sonny Crawford), Jeff Bridges (Duane Jackson), Cybill Shepherd (Jacey Farrow), Ben Johnson (Sam The Lion), Cloris Leachman (Ruth Popper), Ellen Burstyn (Lois Farrow), Eileen Brennan (Genevieve)
Director & co-writer Peter Bogdanovich delivers an excellent coming-of-age tale, playing out like a Dawson's Creek of the 1950's, except the dialogue and acting is much better.
Set in an austere, desolate Texan town over the course of a year it weaves an intricate web of the growth and deterioration of friendships, relationships, community and commerce over the period. All the performances are great, but Ben Johnson & Cloris Leachman steal the show, winning awards for Best Supporting Actor & Supporting Actress, respectively.
D: Edward Zwick
Warner Bros. (Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, Tom Cruise & Paula Wagner)
US 2003
154 mins


W: John Logan, Marshall Herskovitz & Edward Zwick
DP: John Toll
Ed: Steven Rosenblum & Victor du Bois
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Lilly Kilvert
Cos: Ngila Dickson

Tom Cruise (Capt. Nathan Algren), Ken Watanabe (Lord Moritsugu Katsumoto), Timothy Spall (Simon Graham), Tony Goldwyn (Col. Bagley), Hiroyuki Sanada (Ujio)

If you've seen Dances With Wolves (or even Avatar) then the plot development won't come as any surprise at all. Cruise stars as Captain Nathan Algren, a decorated civil war soldier who is hired by the Japanese as a military advisor and to train their soldiers in the impending war against the samurai. He is then kidnapped by them and soon grows admiration for their culture and traditional ways, switching allegiances before a final battle against the men who originally hired him.
Edward Zwick is a bit of a magpie with his direction here, picking bits and pieces from other films of the similar mould (even borrowing a scene from his own 1989 film Glory), but meticulous production and costume design make this a beautiful film to look at. Tom Cruise seems very miscast, but doesn't deliver a bad performance, although he is completely upstaged by Ken Watanabe, as the elder of the samurai.
A decent film, but a 1980 two-part TV series called Shogun did a much better job.     


D: John Dahl
ITC/Oakwood (Jonathan Shestack)
US 1994
110 mins
W: Steve Barancik
DP: Jeffrey Jur
Ed: Eric L. Beason
Mus: Joseph Vitarelli
Linda Fiorentino (Bridget Gregory), Peter Berg (Mike Swale), J.T. Walsh (Frank Griffith), Bill Nunn (Harlan), Bill Pullman (Clay Gregory)
It is absolute robbery that Linda Fiorentino was denied an Oscar nomination for best actress for what is amongst the best femme fatale performances of all time. As a cynical seductress who sneers her dialogue with vehement she manipulates her way into a young man's life and gets him to do all her dirty work, all while on the run from her ex-lover, a drug dealer, with a large wad of cash in tow.
Making its debut on cable channels before a brief run in cinemas was enough to see it breach rules for Academy Award consideration. A huge shame, since this was amongst the best films of 1994.
"Retirement is for sissies."
"Retirement is for sissies."
D: Kim Jee-woon
Lions Gate (Lorenzo di Bonaventura)
US 2013
107 mins
W: Andrew Knauer
DP: Kim Ji-Yong
Ed: Steven Kemper
Mus: Mowg
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Sheriff Ray Owens), Forest Whitaker (Agent John Bannister), Johnny Knoxville (Lewis Dinkum), Jaimie Alexander (Deputy Sarah Torrance), Luis Guzman (Deputy Mike Figuerola), Eduardo Noriega (Gabriel Cortez)
This movie should either have been made 20 years ago or had a different star in the lead.
That being said, it wasn't an awful film, it was only Schwarzenegger who was woefully miscast- he's simply too old for these shenanigans.
He plays the sheriff of a small town on the Arizona-Texas border who just so happened to be a former LAPD narcotics detective (with an Austrian accent). When a drug lord escapes FBI custody, Arnie and his rookie deputies have to prevent the criminal from crossing the border into Mexican territory.
It's all pretty cliched and formulaic, but there's some decent action set pieces and Forest Whitaker gives it a bit of class as the FBI director of operations.
It's just sad to see Arnie panting and wheezing through fight scenes when this part was pretty much tailor made for Clint Eastwood. Johnny Knoxville from Jackass also provides some comic relief as a gun nut.
Overall, it has some style and is a very well directed action film, but the whole is less than the sum of all its parts.
Go back to politics Arnie! Don't let your career end on a whimper.


D: Nick Castle
Universal/Lorimar (Gary Adelson & Edward O. Denault)
US 1984
101 mins
Science Fiction/Adventure
W: Jonathan Betuel
DP: King Baggot
Ed: C. Timothy O'Meara
Mus: Craig Safan
Lance Guest (Alex Rogan), Robert Preston (Centauri), Dan O'Herlihy (Grig), Catherine Mary Stewart (Maggie Gordon) Barbara Bosson (Jane Rogan), Norman Snow (Xur)
The success of Star Wars in 1977 saw a glut of pretenders to the throne come into production, most of which were cheaply financed, tacky rubbish. The Last Starfighter can't be counted amongst them, as its storyline, for the time, is rather genius.
A teenage video game expert is abducted by a race of aliens and recruited into their intergalactic war, becoming an ace starship pilot to thwart their enemies.
Though the technological aspects of the movie are dated and video game arcades are very much a thing of the 1980's, the story for this film still works, and not just through nostalgic eyes. Far more entertaining than the similar themed Tron (qv).
D: Bernardo Bertolucci
United Artists/PEA/Les Artistes Associés (Alberto Grimaldi)
France/Italy 1972 (released 1973)
129 mins


W: Bernardo Bertolucci, Franco Arcalli & Agnes Varda
DP: Vittorio Storaro
Ed: Franco Arcalli
Mus: Gato Barbieri
PD: Fernando Scarfiotti

Marlon Brando (Paul), Maria Schneider (Jeanne), Jean-Pierre Léaud (Thomas), Massimo Girotti (Marcel)

Marlon Brando reinvents usage for butter in this pretentious sex melodrama about a doomed love affair between a middle-aged man and a young Parisian girl.
The film is mostly noted for his controversy at the time of its original release, of which it is rather tame by modern day standards, director Bertolucci choosing to tell the more risqué moments by suggestion, rather than using nudity or material bordering pornography.
Brando was nominated for an Oscar for daring to look fat & old.

D: Martin Scorsese
Universal/Cineplex Odeon (Barbara de Fina)
US/Canada 1988
164 mins


W: Paul Schrader [based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis]
DP: Michael Ballhaus
Ed: Thelma Schoonmaker
Mus: Peter Gabriel
PD: John Beard

Willem Dafoe (Jesus Christ), Harvey Keitel (Judas Iscariot), Barbara Hershey (Mary Magdalene), Harry Dean Stanton (Saul), David Bowie (Pontius Pilate), Verna Bloom (Mary)

Considered blasphemous on its original release by religious groups, Martin Scorcese's biblical fiction presents a good, albeit controversial view of what may have happened had the religious figure survived his crucifixion and lived on to marry.
Willem Dafoe's performance as Jesus Christ is very good, but other performances are quite weak, especially (and surprisingly) Harvey Keitel. 
Clearly, this won't be a film for everyone, and has to be viewed with a very open mind. Martin Scorsese's direction is meticulous and Peter Gabriel's music score is excellent.

"Live forever, hunt forever."
"Live forever, hunt forever."
D: Breck Eisner
Lionsgate/Summit (Neil Canton, Vin Diesel & Bernie Goldmann)
US 2015
106 mins


W: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless
DP: Dean Semler
Ed: Chris Lebenzon & Dean Zimmerman
Mus: Steve Jablonsky

Vin Diesel (Kaulder), Rose Leslie (Chloe), Elijah Wood (Dolan 37), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Baltasar Ketola), Michael Caine (Dolan 36)

Considering the title and the fact that Vin Diesel plays the lead, you almost know what to expect immediately. The Last Witch Hunter is practically the same plot as Blade (qv) with witches substituted for vampires. Expecting characterisation and Oscar-worthy acting? You won't find it here, even with Michael Caine in the cast, he's clearly only in it for the paycheck.
It's all standard fantasy hokum with lazily rendered special effects and production values, but Vin Diesel or his fans won't care.

D: Otto Preminger
20th Century Fox (Otto Preminger)
US 1944
88 mins


W: Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein & Betty Reinhardt [based on the novel by Vera Caspary]
DP: Joseph LaSchelle
Ed: Louis Loeffler
Mus: David Raksin
PD: Lyle Wheeler & Leland Fuller

Dana Andrews (Mark McPherson), Gene Tierney (Laura Hunt), Clifton Webb (Waldo Lydecker), Vincent Price (Shelby Carpenter), Judith Anderson (Ann Treadwell), Dorothy Adams (Bessie Clary), James Flavin (McAvity), Clyde Fillmore (Bullitt), Ralph Dunn (Fred Callahan)

A beautiful woman is murdered (or is she?) and a cynical detective investigates, becoming infatuated with her through a portrait of her on the wall of her apartment.
Otto Preminger's film follows all of the golden rules which made film noir such a stylish genre. Atmospheric photography, an eerie music score, a genius screenplay and, above all, a collection of fine performances. The film heralded a more grown up approach to mysteries rather than the cloak-and-dagger, in the shadows tales which preceded it. A true movie classic.

"The men who broke the bank - and lost the cargo!"
"The men who broke the bank - and lost the cargo!"
D: Charles Crichton
Ealing (Michael Balcon)
UK 1951
82 mins


W: T. E. B. Clarke 
DP: Douglas Slocombe
Ed: Seth Holt
Mus: Georges Auric

Alec Guinness (Henry Holland), Stanley Holloway (Pendlebury), Sidney James (Lackery), Alfie Bass (Shorty), Marjorie Fielding (Mrs. Chalk), John Gregson (Farrow), Edie Martin (Miss Evesham)

Arguably the finest of all the Ealing comedies. A meek bank clerk sets up a ragtag group of criminals to rob a security van, and hopes to get away with stealing the gold bullion by having it crafted into miniature models of the Eiffel Tower, which he can smuggle across borders without arousing suspicion.
The scheme, of course, is easier said than done, and following the "crime doesn't pay" morals of the Ealing Comedy way sees the plan go from bad to worse as a schoolgirl happens to buy one of the souvenirs from a bungling salesman, leading to a climactic caper of police chases.
Alec Guinness is absolutely splendid as the mastermind behind the crime and the screenwriting genius cannot be faulted.

"Justice at any cost."
"Justice at any cost."
D: F. Gary Gray
Momentum/The Film Department/Warp (Lucas Foster, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Mark Gill, Kurt Wimmer & Robert Katz)
US 2009
104 mins


W: Kurt Wimmer
DP: Jonathan Sela
Ed: Tariq Anwar
Mus: Brian Tyler

Gerard Butler (Clyde Alexander Shelton), Jamie Foxx (Nick Rice), Bruce McGill (Jonas Cantrell), Colm Meaney (Det. Dunnigan), Leslie Bibb (Sarah Lowell), Michael Irby (Det. Garza), Regina Hall (Kelly Rice)

I've never been too much of a fan of Gerard Butler because I think he looks like a slob, but I must admit he does a better job in this than in the majority of his other roles.
In a nutshell, the movie plays out like Straw Dogs meets Prison Break. 
The movie opens with family man Butler attacked in his own home by two thugs who murder his wife & daughter. A loophole in the legal system allows one of the men to walk free and the other to death row.
Fast forward 10 years later and Butler has established an intricate plan for revenge against the criminals, he is caught and arrested before making a stand on the justice system from behind his prison bars.
The first half of the movie is an excellent revenge thriller with some genuine moments of tension and shock. There's a point however where the movie descends into implausibility and the whole message the film tries to convey in the first half gets lost before the ending takes a big dunk in the same old Hollywood formula.
Jamie Foxx is good as the slimy lawyer and there's a few other decent supporting performances. Overall, it's a good watch but I was particularly disappointed by the sell-out ending.

D: John Hillcoat
The Weinstein Company/Film Nation/Red Wagon/Annapurna/Revolt (Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick, Megan Ellison & Michael Benaroya)
US 2012
115 mins


W: Nick Cave [based on the book "The Wettest County In The World" by Matt Bondurant]
DP: Benoit Delhomme
Ed: Dylan Tichenor
Mus: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Tom Hardy (Forrest Bondurant), Shia LaBeouf (Jack Bondurant), Jessica Chastain (Maggie Beauford) Guy Pearce (Deputy Charley Rakes), Gary Oldman (Floyd Banner), Mia Wasikowska (Bertha Minnix), Jason Clarke (Howard Bondurant)

I was quite disappointed with this. Supposedly based on a true story of a family of bootleggers in a small Hicksville community, but it's clearly legend. The outlaws are heroes, the cops are the bad guys and it's unclear who exactly we're supposed to root for.
Tom Hardy does little except grunt, mumble and smoke cigars before delivering one poignant, insightful line of dialogue before he goes back to grunting & mumbling (he seems to quit smoking in the second half of the movie).  Shia LaBeouf is not quite annoying as usual, but I still don't like him and I have no idea how the hell Mia Wasikowska managed to get so much work. She can't even drink from a bottle convincingly.
Of the good points; the Nick Cave penned songs are good, the movie caught the period right (though it's a shame about all the Coca-Cola product placement) and Gary Oldman & Guy Pearce both deliver superb portrayals of lazily-written characters.  
I wanted to like this more, but an above average movie at best, its only purpose is glorifying gangster culture during the great depression.

"God made him simple, science made him a God."
"God made him simple, science made him a God."
D: Brett Leonard
Allied Vision/Lane Pringle/Fuji Eight (Gimel Everett)
US/UK 1992
108 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: Brett Leonard & Gimel Everett [based on a story by Stephen King]
DP: Russell Carpenter
Ed: Alan Baumgarten
Mus: Dan Wyman
PD: Alex McDowell

Jeff Fahey (Jobe Smith), Pierce Brosnan (Dr. Lawrence Angelo), Jenny Wright (Marnie Burke), Geoffrey Lewis (Terry McKeen), Jeremy Slate (Father McKeen), Austin O'Brien (Peter Parkette), Dean Norris (The Director)

Potentially a good idea, this was the first film to utilise the concept of "virtual reality" in both its story and visual effects.
Based on a story by horror author Stephen King (who later wished for his name to be omitted from the credits), a mentally retarded gardener is experimented on by a scientist who believes that a software programme will make him smarter, but unforeseen consequences make the once-simple man too powerful, achieving the ability of telekinesis which drive him to murder before becoming power crazed.
The film is actually much better than it's given credit for, with a dark ending which goes against the rather clichéd and predictable build up. The computer animated visual effects were much talked about at the time of release, but look incredibly dated and unimpressive following the growth of CGI and technological advancements in the many years since.

D: David Lean
Columbia/Horizon (Sam Spiegel)
UK 1962
221 mins


W: Robert Bolt & Michael Wilson [based on "The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom" by T. E. Lawrence]
DP: Frederick A. Young
Ed: Anne V. Coates
Mus: Maurice Jarre
PD: John Box
Cos: Phyllis Dalton

Peter O'Toole (T. E. Lawrence), Alec Guinness (Prince Feisal), Anthony Quinn (Auda Abu Tayi), Jack Hawkins (General Allenby), Jose Ferrer (Turkish Bey), Anthony Quayle (Col. Harry Brighton), Claude Rains (Mr. Dryden), Arthur Kennedy (Jackson Bentley), Omar Sharif (Sherif Ali Ibn El Kharish)

Sweeping epics don't come much grander than this, as David Lean dedicates three & a half hours to the adventures of T.E. Lawrence, a British soldier who experienced living amongst Arabs during British occupation in the Middle East. 
The story is told in flashback, following Lawrence's death by motorcycle accident in the 1930's and a memorial service at St. Paul's Cathedral where those present bicker about the man's character.
Lean's presentation is so full of action and adventure, it's easy to forgive any oversight in getting beneath the skin and unveiling the complexities of such a mysterious character with such historical significance, and this helped greatly by Peter O'Toole's majestic performance, especially considering it was the actor's cinematic debut.
The rest of the supporting cast are equally excellent, particularly Omar Sharif, one of few who didn't require makeup to achieve a more convincing skin tone.
The sweeping photography, grandiose music score and impressive production design are all candy for the eye, and though the length of the film may put off many viewers, this is a film classic which must be watched, if only for the one time.

D: Matthew Vaughn
Columbia/Sony Pictures Classics (Adam Bohling, David Reid & Matthew Vaughn)
UK/US 2004
105 mins


W: J.J. Connolly [based on his novel]
DP: Ben Davis
Ed: Jon Harris
Mus: Lisa Gerrard

Daniel Craig (XXXX), Sienna Miller (Tammy), Colm Meaney (Gene), Michael Gambon (Eddie), Tom Hardy (Clarkie), Tamer Hassan (Terry), Dexter Fletcher (Cody), Ben Whishaw (Sidney)

Some British gangster films become classics, others can easily be ignored and the rest simply fade into obscurity. Layer Cake doesn't fit into any of these moulds, as it's less a gangster film and more a showreel for casting agents to push Daniel Craig as a suitable choice for the next James Bond (and it worked).
There isn't much story here and what is there is all quite forgettable. It's all style over substance and just another Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels clone.

D: Stephen Norrington
20th Century Fox (Trevor Albert, Rick Benattar, Mark Gordon, Don Murphy, Michael Nelson & Sean Connery)
US/UK/Germany 2003
110 mins

Action/Adventure/Science Fiction

W: James Dale Robinson [based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill]
DP: Dan Laustsen
Ed: Paul Rubell
Mus: Trevor Jones

Sean Connery (Allan Quatermain), Naseeruddin Shah (Captain Nemo), Peta Wilson (Mina Harker), Tony Curran (Rodney Skinner / The Invisible Man), Stuart Townsend (Dorian Gray), Shane West (Tom Sawyer), Jason Flemyng (Dr. Henry Jekyll / Edward Hyde), Richard Roxburgh (Prof. James Moriarty)

A mess of a movie, taking place in an alternative Victorian age and pooling a group of literary characters of the time (Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll, The Invisible Man, etc.) as a superhero elite to take on a bad guy who goes by the name of The Fantom.
This may have worked as a series of graphic novels, but as a film it really doesn't. The anachronisms don't feel right, the story is boring and the dialogue is littered with pubs which will fly over the heads of the intended target audience.
There are some good visual effects, mostly the miniature work, but there's also lots of bad CGI, particularly those that attempt to bring Jekyll's alter ego, Mr. Hyde, to the screen. Much of the other poor effects take place in too dark a composition to make out what's really going on.  This is often a common problem when the director of a special effects blockbuster has himself graduated from a background in special effects production rather than stepping up from cinematography or screenwriting.
The production itself was allegedly a nightmare shoot. So much so that director and its main star announced their retirements from their respective fields shortly after the premiere. Says it all really. This is the film responsible for Sean Connery quitting showbiz.

"Once in a lifetime you get a chance to do something different."
"Once in a lifetime you get a chance to do something different."


D: Penny Marshall
Columbia/Parkway (Robert Greenhut & Elliott Abbott)
US 1992
128 mins
W: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel [based on a story by Kim Wilson & Kelly Candaele] 
DP: Miroslav Ondricek
Ed: George Bowers
Mus: Hans Zimmer
Geena Davis (Dottie Hinson), Tom Hanks (Jimmy Dugan), Lori Petty (Kit Keller), Madonna (Mae Mordabito), Rosie O'Donnell (Doris Murphy), Jon Lovitz (Ernie Capadino), David Strathairn (Ira Lowenstein), Bill Pullman (Bob Hinson)
This film markets itself as a comedy, but it isn't, it's a drama, and an overly sentimental one at that, saved by Geena Davis' leading performance (and to a lesser extent, Tom Hanks portrayal as the boozy coach).
Set during the WWII years, when the men's American baseball league was put on ice and it was down to women to hit home runs and steal second base.
The film proves its point that women are just as capable as athletic activity as their male counterparts, but it all feels irrelevant since women's baseball never caught on in post-war times.
It also could have been a little better if someone else was cast in the Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna roles.
D: Mike Figgis
Lumiere (Lila Cazes & Annie Stewart)
US 1995
112 mins


W: Mike Figgis [based on the novel by John O'Brien]
DP: Declan Quinn
Ed: John Smith
Mus: Mike Figgis

Nicolas Cage (Ben Sanderson), Elisabeth Shue (Sera), Julian Sands (Yuri)

Mike Figgis' downbeat drama of loss and desperation against the dizzying neon jungle of Las Vegas is not a cheerful watch, in fact, you'd be forgiven for calling it downright depressing, but due to the power of the excellent leading performances, the British writer/director delivers a heart-achingly bittersweet love story.
Losing his job due to alcoholism, Ben (Nicolas Cage) drives from the glamour of Hollywood to a sordid motel in Las Vegas to go on one final binge session and drink himself into oblivion. What he doesn't bank on is meeting hooker with a heart of gold, Sera (Elisabeth Shue), who is suffering her own occupational and personal troubles.
The two lost souls embark on a love affair which they both know is doomed, but cannot prevent themselves from the bond growing between them.
Filmed on grainy 16mm to give it a raw look, this low budget independent was named Best Film of 1995 by both the New York & Los Angeles Film Critics Awards, winning an Oscar for its leading man, who despite his reputation for wild-eyed overacting, remains solemn, subtle and understated for an accurate portrayal of a man whose life has fallen apart due to alcoholism. 

"The end begins."
"The end begins."
D: Vic Armstrong
Freestyle/Entertainment One (Michael Walker & Paul LaLonde)
US 2014
110 mins
Thriller/Science Fiction/Religious
W: Paul LaLonde & John Patus [based on the book by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins]
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Vic Armstrong
Mus: Jack Lenz
Nicolas Cage (Rayford Steele), Cassi Thompson (Chloe Steele), Chad Michael Murray (Cameron Williams), Nicky Whelan (Hattie Durham), Jordin Sparks (Shasta Carvell), Lea Thompson (Irene Steele)
Most apocalyptic disaster films are a little insulting on the intelligence, but Left Behind is in a league all of its own. 
Nicolas Cage plays an adulterous airline pilot who needs to avert crisis when a huge percentage of passengers and crew disappear mid-flight. Meanwhile, his daughter roams the riot hit cities and secluded suburbs searching for answers and discovers that it is the rapture, a biblical event where only those without sin are saved from the apocalypse.
Incompetently directed, lazily performed and scripted more like a church sermon than anything profound or meaningful, this pathetic excuse for cinema is akin to having a bible shoved down your throat.
Even without the New Age Christian mumbo-jumbo, it's simply a film about a man trying to land a plane.
One of the worst films ever made. Hopefully plans for a sequel are also left behind.

"Boldly going where no blonde has gone."
"Boldly going where no blonde has gone."


D: Robert Luketic
20th Century Fox/MGM (Marc Platt & Ric Kidney)
US 2001
96 mins
W: Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith [based on the novel by Amanda Brown]
DP: Anthony B. Richmond 
Ed: Anita Brandt Burgoyne & Garth Craven
Mus: Rolfe Kent
Reese Witherspoon (Elle Woods), Luke Wilson (Emmett Richmond), Selma Blair (Vivian Kensington), Matthew Davis (Warner Huntington), Victor Garber (Prof. Callahan), Jennifer Coolidge (Paulette Bonafonte), Holland Taylor (Prof. Stromwell), Ali Larter (Brooke Taylor-Windham)
Dumb fun for the young and young at heart. Ditzy blonde Reese Witherspoon fears her boyfriend will lose interest in her when he enrols at a prestigious law school, so she follows suit and finds this courtroom malarkey an absolute doddle.
The screenplay is perfectly tailored for its star, who has great fun with the role and makes it thoroughly enjoyable, really playing on the misnomer that all blondes are brainless bimbos.
A disappointing sequel followed.
"There may never be another dawn."
"There may never be another dawn."


D: Ridley Scott
20th Century Fox/Universal (Arnon Milchan) 
UK 1985 (released 1986)
94 mins
W: William Hjortsberg
DP: Alex Thomson
Ed: Terry Rawlings
Mus: Tangerine Dream (alternate version: Jerry Goldsmith)
PD: Assheton Gorton
Tom Cruise (Jack), Mia Sara (Princess Lily), Tim Curry (Darkness), David Bennett (Honeythorn Gump), Alice Playten (Blix), Billy Barty (Screwball)
Ridley Scott's flawed fantasy has some merits, the production design and makeup effects are absolutely fantastic.
The production itself was bereft with problems, principal photography was completed in 1984, but it took another year for the film to initially be released, before director Ridley Scott decided to re-edit the material for a 1986 mainstream release.
The story had potential, but the film's assets are that it's more beautiful to look at than to listen to (especially with the awful music score in the alternate version).
Tom Cruise plays a young peasant boy who takes his beautiful young sweetheart to see the last remaining unicorns, but a satanic demon has plans for them and their magical horns, giving him the strength to turn day into night.
Tim Curry's menacing performance as the devilish "darkness" practically saves this film, which becomes quite mawkish in places with the rest of the mythical creatures and it's unlikely to appeal to young children of today's generation.
"Power. Fear. Family."
"Power. Fear. Family."
D: Brian Helgeland
Universal/Studio Canal/Working Title (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis & Brian Oliver)
UK 2015
131 mins


W: Brian Helgeland [based on the novel "The Profession Of Violence" by John Pearson]
DP: Dick Pope
Ed: Peter McNulty
Mus: Carter Burwell

Tom Hardy (Ronnie Kray / Reggie Kray), Emily Browning (Frances Shea), David Thewlis (Leslie Payne), Christopher Ecclestone (Leonard 'Nipper' Reade), Chazz Palminteri (Angelo Bruno)

The mythology surrounding the Kray Twins has become just as big a part of British culture as fish & chips, Carry On films and the FA Cup final.
Though this biopic on the lives of the East End racketeers is a little fanciful with the truth, that's partly the point.
Tom Hardy plays the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie, one a calm, calculated 'businessman' and the other a loose cannon, whose actions are just as haphazard as the words which come forth from his mouth.
Lifting their early days and relationship with their mother out of the story, this film gets stuck into their adult lives, running casinos and clubs in the City as they both live in and out of prison, while Reggie plans on settling down with his sweetheart, Frances, who he plans to marry. Much of the film is dedicated to the relationship between Reggie and Francis, while the twins' involvement with corrupt politicians is merely glossed over on the periphery.
There's a cruel humour which runs through the story and though it does glamorise the pair, what crime biopic doesn't?
Tom Hardy is the main reason the film is enjoyable, taking on the dual role of both twins with such efficiency, you'd be forgiven for thinking it were two completely different actors. It's fair to say that without Hardy, this could have been just another British gangster film.

"It was just a moment ago."
"It was just a moment ago."


D: Robert Redford
20th Century Fox/Dreamworks/Wildwood (Robert Redford, Michael Nozik & Jake Eberts)
US 2000
127 mins
W: Jeremy Leven [based on the novel by Steven Pressfield]
DP: Michael Ballhaus
Ed: Hank Corwin
Mus: Rachel Portman
PD: Stuart Craig
Matt Damon (Rannulph Januh), Will Smith (Bagger Vance), Charlize Theron (Adele Invergordon), Bruce McGill (Walter Hagen), Joel Gretsch (Bobby Jones), Lane Smith (Grantland Rice), Jack Lemmon (Old Hardy Greaves)
Robert Redford's golf fable is elegantly filmed and beautifully scored, but everything else is a bit of a mess, with no real point to the story.
A once promising golfer recruits the help of a mysterious black caddy for an upcoming tournament against some of the top players and draws inspiration from the ethereal man, winning back the heart of the woman he loves in the process.
If you're a huge fan of the sport, you might find a little more meaning in the story than mainstream cinema audiences, everyone else will just wonder what the whole point of it is.


D: Matthew Robbins
Tristar/Guber-Peters (Rob Cohen)
US 1985
96 mins
W: Mark Rosenthal & Laurence Konner
DP: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Ed: Cynthia Scheider
Mus: Craig Safan
Helen Slater (Billie Jean Davey), Keith Gordon (Lloyd Muldaur), Christian Slater (Binx Davy), Richard Bradford (Mr. Pyatt), Peter Coyote (Lt. Larry Ringwald)
A tomboyish teenage girl and her brother become outlaws.
Perhaps Helen Slater was trying to shed her squeaky clean image or put the disappointment of Supergirl's lack of success behind her, either way, it wasn't the best career move as she, like this film, practically disappeared without trace.
"Human. Nature."
"Human. Nature."


D: David Yates

Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Ratpac-Dune (Jerry Weintraub, David Barron, Alan Riche & Tony Ludwig)

US 2016

110 mins


W: Adam Cozad & Craig Brewer [based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs]

DP: Henry Braham

Ed: Mark Day

Mus: Rupert Gregson-Williams

Alexander Skarsgård (Lord Greystoke, John Clayton III / Tarzan), Samuel L. Jackson (George Washington Williams), Christophe Waltz (Captain Leon Rom), Margot Robbie (Jane Porter Clayton), Djimon Hounsou (Chief Mbonga)

A confused action-adventure which can't make up its mind whether it's a sequel, remake or straight-up ripoff of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan stories.

Ten years after Tarzan left the jungle to settle in Victorian England with his now-wife Jane, the vine-swinging ape man is tricked into returning by a corrupt Belgian captain who is heading a diamond smuggling expedition on behalf of the Belgian king.

Honestly, the story is a complete mess which fails to engage and might have you catching zeds before the first act is over.

Alexander Skarsgård looks the part as Tarzan, but the dialogue is so ropey that he never really convinces. Margot Robbie is grossly miscast as Jane, and Samuel L. Jackson, Christophe Waltz and Djimon Hounsou are just in it for the paycheck. 

There is time for some adventure during the 110 minutes, but not much. Not so legendary after all.


"The adventure never ends."
"The adventure never ends."
D: Will Finn & Dan St. Pierre
Clarius/Summertime/Prana (Roland Carroll, Ryan Carroll & Bonne Radford)
US/India 2013 (released 2014)
88 mins


W: Adam Balsam & Randi Barnes [based on the book "Dorothy Of Oz" by Roger Stanton Baum]
Mus: Toby Chu

voices of: Lea Michele (Dorothy Gale), Dan Aykroyd (Scarecrow), Jim Belushi (Lion), Kelsey Grammer (Tin Man)

A good animated film should be able to appeal to adults just as much as young children. This is not one of the films, especially if you consider the rudimentary animation and unenthusiastic vocal performances.
A very loose sequel to The Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy returns to the magical kingdom to prevent an evil jester's reign.
Children under 8-years-old will enjoy this most, but only if they've seen the original 1939 film. Box office losses of over $50m says it all really.

"After the fall from innocence, the legend begins."
"After the fall from innocence, the legend begins."
D: Edward Zwick
Tristar/Bedford Falls (Edward Zwick, Bill Wittliff & Marshall Herskovitz)
US 1994
133 mins


W: Susan Shilliday & Bill Wittliff [based on the novel by Jim Harrison]
DP: John Toll
Ed: Steven Rosenblum
Mus: James Horner
PD: Lilly Kilvert
Cos: Deborah L. Scott

Brad Pitt (Tristan Ludlow), Anthony Hopkins (Col. William Ludlow), Aidan Quinn (Alfred Ludlow), Julia Ormond (Susannah Finncannon), Henry Thomas (Samuel Ludlow), Karina Lombard (Isabel Two), Tantoo Cardinal (Pet), Gordon Tootoosis (One Stab), Paul Desmond (Decker)

Legends Of The Fall is a peculiar blend of western, drama, war, adventure and soap opera, which, for the most part, works quite well, but is occasionally hindered by the odd ropey line of dialogue, hammy performances and few cheesy moments.
Based on the novel by Jim Harrison, it stars Brad Pitt, Aidan Quinn & Henry Thomas as the Ludlow brothers, raised by their war general father (Hopkins) on a picturesque Montana ranch. Division splits the family when Samuel, the youngest brother, brings his bride-to-be home to make the older brothers acquaintance before they all head off to fight on the fields of France in the First World War.
Tristan, raised on Native American folklore, returns from battle an untamed spirit, whilst his conservative brother Alfred runs for political office. Not only are the brothers fighting for the love of a woman, but also over illegal bootlegging activity which Tristan gets involved with.
Though the film does switch genres on a number of occasions and feels about 20 minutes too long, its period detail and sweeping Montana panoramas make it aesthetically beautiful to behold, whilst James Horner's tender and stirring music has power alone to tug on the heart strings. 

"The story of a nobody who saved everybody."
"The story of a nobody who saved everybody."


D: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Dune (Dan Lin & Roy Lee)
US/Australia/Denmark 2014
100 mins
W: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman
Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh
voices of: Chris Pratt (Emmett Brickowski), Will Arnett (Bruce Wayne / Batman), Will Ferrell (Lord Business), Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle / Lucy), Nick Offerman (Metal Beard), Alison Brie (Princess Unikitty), Liam Neeson (Good Cop / Bad Cop)
Ordinarily, a film which relies on product placement would be committing a cardinal sin of filmmaking. When we go to the movies, the audience wants to see a movie, not a series of advertisements brainwashing us into product superiority (unfortunately a lot of films nowadays, especially Hollywood blockbusters, are guilty of this, mostly because of the financial help which comes along with it).
While The Lego Movie is fundamentally a feature-length advert for their product, it has to be an exception to the rule since it presents itself in such an inventive way. Lego doesn't really need to advertise either, it's made a fortune from its merchandise over the decades and will continue to do so ad infinitum, and while the film takes place in a universe created from the product, the brand is never actually mentioned- not once, during the running time.
The story itself perfectly reflects the entire point of the instruction vs creation argument of the product and could be easily described as The Matrix meets Toy Story, with a satirical anti-consumerism touch.
Set in the Lego universe where an evil president demands perfection, Emmet, an everyday 'yes man' construction worker goes about his by-the-book existence, adhering strictly to the instruction manual as he chirps through the toy-brick metropolis, along with everyone else, dancing merrily to the only song (generic, but very catchy) their world seems to know.  With the presidents diabolical plans to achieve perfection coming into affect, Emmet discovers "the piece of resistance", the only thing that can thwart the bad guy's "Kragle" machine, which will permanently freeze everyone in the Lego universe as how the instruction book would intend.
Emmet is then taken throughout other world's in the Lego universe by rebellious bike chick, Wyldstyle, wizard-like Vitruvius, and Batman as they try to make Emmet discover his potential as the only one who can save their world, which he can only do after he discovers the truth about their reality.
The film draws on many other genres and influences, featuring many in-jokes to other franchises, cinematic and literary, as it takes us on it's adventure, providing an ingenious twist towards the end which, while obvious, is very cleverly done and really makes you realise what a wonderfully versatile product Lego is, for both children and adults.
It's easy to see how this was such a huge success when it hit cinemas, and there will doubtlessly be a run of successful sequels. Good family fun which adults will enjoy just as much as the young ones, although the dastardly catchy theme song will likely be stuck in your head for hours afterwards. Everything is awesome.


D: Chris McKay

Warner Bros/DC/Ratpac-Dune (Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Roy Lee)

US/Australia/Denmark 2017

104 mins


W: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Whittington [based on characters from DC comics]

Mus: Lorne Balfe

voices of: Will Arnett (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), Michael Cera (Dick Grayson / Robin), Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon / Batgirl), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred Pennyworth), Channing Tatum (Superman)

The huge success of the first Lego Movie and the massive popularity of the brand itself made it absolutely inevitable that various spin-offs were going to happen, the first of which focuses on one of the characters who helped make the first film so much fun. 

Bringing all of the characters from Batman's DC adventures into Lego form, the plot involves the Joker manipulating his way into the Phantom Zone, which holds all the worst villains from film and literature folklore, so he can escape and wreak havoc on Gotham City, all so he can prove that he is Batman's biggest nemesis.

Though the film is basically one big product placement for Lego merchandise, it still manages to be huge fun, drawing inspiration from all the Batman adventures over the decades. It's not just for kids.


"We're very concerned."
"We're very concerned."
D: Brad Silberling
Paramount/Dreamworks/Nickelodeon  (Jim Van Wyck, Walter F. Parkes & Laurie MacDonald)
US/Germany 2004
108 mins


W: Robert Gordon [based on the books "The Bad Beginning", "The Reptile Room" & "The Wide Window" by Lemony Snicket]
DP: Emmanuel Lubezki
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Rick Heinrichs
Cos: Colleen Atwood

Jim Carrey (Count Olaf), Liam Aiken (Klaus Baudelaire), Emily Browning (Violet Baudelaire), Kara Hoffman / Shelby Hoffman (Sunny Baudelaire), Timothy Spall (Mr. Poe), Catherine O'Hara (Justice Strauss), Billy Connolly (Dr. Montgomery Montgomery), Meryl Streep (Josephine Anwhistle), Jude Law (Lemony Snicket)

Any average viewer would be forgiven for thinking Tim Burton was the director of this project. It looks like his work, plays like his work, and if it were to give off odour, would probably smell like his work too.
This gothic fantasy, narrated by Jude Law as the author who penned a series of macabre books for young adolescents, pits a trio of children against a wicked master of disguise who plans to cheat them out of their inheritance.      
The tall tales of rich imagination are brilliantly brought to screen with some impressive production design as well as excellent costumes, makeup and visual effects. Jim Carrey does his usual clowning about, but for the most part, it works quite well in this film.

LENNY (18)

D: Bob Fosse
United Artists (Marvin Worth)
US 1974
111 mins
W: Julian Barry [based on his play]
DP: Bruce Surtees
Ed: Alan Heim
Mus: Ralph Burns
Dustin Hoffman (Lenny Bruce), Valerie Perrine (Honey Bruce), Jan Miner (Sally Marr), Shirley Beck (Artie Silver), Gary Morton (Sherman Hart), Rashel Novikoff (Aunt Mema), Guy Rennie (Jack Goldstein)
Dustin Hoffman delivers a fantastic performance as controversial comedian, Lenny Bruce, whose acts, which concentrated more on social commentary than actual comedy, frequently found himself on the wrong side of legality for the times.
Bob Fosse's film comes with the director's usual style of juxtaposing show business with more dramatic moments, presenting a faithful biopic of one of the key figures of the late 1950's, whose work contributed to the freedom of speech act as well as civil rights issues.
"He moves without sound, kills without emotion, disappears without trace."
"He moves without sound, kills without emotion, disappears without trace."


D: Luc Besson
Gaumont/Dauphin (Luc Besson)
France 1994
110 mins
W: Luc Besson
DP: Thierry Arbogast
Ed: Sylvie Landra
Mus: Eric Serra
Jean Reno (Leon Montana), Gary Oldman (Norman Stansfield), Natalie Portman (Mathilda Lando), Danny Aiello (Tony)
1994's cult hit, Leon (aka The Professional) saw a star-making lead performance from Jean Reno, whose career unfortunately never quite took off the way his supporting lady's did.
After her parents are brutally murdered by corrupt police officers, Mathilda (Natalie Portman) takes refuge at her neighbours, who happens to be a professional assassin.
The two develop a deep friendship, he teaching her the art of the kill, while she teaches him how to be more human.
The two central performances are outstanding and Luc Besson's focused direction is excellent. Gary Oldman wildly overacts as the villainous police chief, but some may say it's his performance which steals the movie.
"Fight. Dream. Hope. Love."
"Fight. Dream. Hope. Love."
D: Tom Hooper
Universal/Relativity Media/Working Title (Cameron Mackintosh, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner & Debra Hayward)
UK 2012
158 mins


W: William Nicholson [based on the musical play by Claude-Michel Schönberg & Alain Boubill; from the novel by Victor Hugo]
DP: Danny Cohen
Ed: Chris Dickens & Melanie Ann Oliver                  
Mus: Claude-Michel Schönberg
PD: Eve Stewart
Cos: Paco Delgado

Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Eddie Redmayne (Marius Pontmercy), Samantha Banks (Eponine), Helena Bonham-Carter (Madame Thenardier), Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier)

From a personal standpoint, I have to admit that I'm really not a fan of musicals. For me, it's an archaic film genre which faded in the late 1960's. Having said that, stage musicals will always have an audience and, every now and then, a film adaptation arises.
This epic re-telling of the famous musical, based on the original novel by Victor Hugo, is probably best appreciated by those who have either seen the play, or those who like the genre, as the narrative doesn't fully explain the history of the French Revolution for those unfamiliar with it.
There is also no natural dialogue, the story instead allowing the lyrics of the songs to underpin the narrative, which it does quite masterfully. 
It still has to be admitted that director Tom Hooper recreates the period impeccably for this ambitious big screen version with particular attention devoted to the set design, costumes and makeup, while Hugh Jackman & Anne Hathaway are absolutely superb in their roles, note perfect on every song and giving their all.
Hathaway, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Fantine, possibly steals the entire show with her delivery of the song "I Dreamed A Dream", although hardly any accolades went to newcomer Samantha Barks as Éponine, who also delivers one of the big musical numbers (On My Own).
With all the songs recorded on set (rather than recorded in post-production), Russell Crowe's booming voice seems out of place amongst the rest of the ensemble, but his singing can't be described as tuneless.
The material is arguably best suited to the stage, but there aren't many faults which can be appointed to this cinematic version. Easily one of the best big screen musicals since the golden age of the genre.

D: Tomas Alfredson
Sandrew Metronome (Carl Molinder & John Nordling)
Sweden 2008
114 mins
W: John Ajvide Lindqvist [based on his novel]
DP: Hoyte van Hoytema
Ed: Tomas Alfredson & Daniel Jonsäter
Mus: Johan Söderqvist
Kåre Hedebrant (Oskar), Lina Leandersson (Eli), Per Ragnar (Håkan), Henrik Dahl (Erik)
This Swedish art house horror flick could easily be described as "Twilight for adults", although that description wouldn't be a fair reflection on the film.
A bullied school boy develops a friendship with a young girl around the same age. The twist- she's a vampire.
Although there are moments containing violence and death, the main focus is on the relationship and development of trust between the two main characters rather than horror and gore.
Hollywood just couldn't resist a remake, changing the title from an original one with a hidden meaning to something more brainlessly formulaic ("Let Me In").


D: Richard Donner
Warner Bros. (Richard Donner & Joel Silver) 
US 1987
110 mins
W: Shane Black
DP: Stephen Goldblatt
Ed: Stuart Baird
Mus: Michael Kamen & Eric Clapton
Mel Gibson (Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Roger Murtaugh), Gary Busey (Joshua), Mitchell Ryan (The General), Tom Atkins (Michael Hunsacker), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Jackie Swanson (Amanda Hunsacker)
The mismatched police partner sub-genre has been done to death now, but the original Lethal Weapon movie remains a good example of how entertaining, action-packed and thrilling they could be.
Mel Gibson made himself both a household name and movie heartthrob with his portrayal of Martin Riggs, a narcotics detective with suicidal tendencies following the death of his wife, he's partnered with Roger Murtaugh, a seasoned veteran counting down the days to his retirement. Together they investigate and uncover a drug smuggling cartel with former CIA agents at the helm.
This first film, for the most part, plays it straight, while the later sequels diluted the action and put more focus on comedy.
"The magic is back."
"The magic is back."


D: Richard Donner
Warner Bros. (Richard Donner & Joel Silver) 
US 1989
111 mins
W: Jeffrey Boam [based on a story by Shane Black & Warren Murphy; characters created by Shane Black]
DP: Stephen Goldblatt
Ed: Stuart Baird
Mus: Michael Kamen & Eric Clapton
Mel Gibson (Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Roger Murtaugh), Joe Pesci (Leo Getz), Joss Ackland (Arjen Rudd), Derrick O'Connor (Pieter Vorstedt), Patsy Kensit (Rika van den Haas)
The first sequel to Lethal Weapon puts comedy more in the driving seat as the mismatched cop duo investigate a money laudering South African diplomat.
The character of Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) is introduced and the majority of laughs come from his (quite literal) shortcomings.
There's still the odd action scene to get the blood pumping and overall, it's a pretty decent sequel.
"The magic is back again."
"The magic is back again."


D: Richard Donner
Warner Bros. (Richard Donner & Joel Silver) 
US 1992
118 mins
W: Jeffrey Boam & Robert Mark Kamen [based on characters created by Shane Black]
DP: Jan de Bont
Ed: Robert Brown & Battle Davis
Mus: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton & David Sanborn
Mel Gibson (Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Roger Murtaugh), Joe Pesci (Leo Getz), Rene Russo (Lorna Cole), Stuart Wilson (Jack Travis)
The third film of the franchise veers even more towards comedy as the (not so) mismatched partners investigate an arms dealing syndicate headed by a corrupt cop.  
Joe Pesci reprises his role as comic relief Leo Getz (a real estate agent this time for some peculiar reason), whilst Mel Gibson's character gets a love interest in the shape of Rene Russo.
There's enough action & excitement to entertain, but it's not as good as the previous two films.
"The gang's all here."
"The gang's all here."


D: Richard Donner
Warner Bros. (Richard Donner & Joel Silver) 
US 1998
127 mins
W: Channing Gibson [based on characters created by Shane Black]
DP: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Ed: Frank J. Urioste
Mus: Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton & David Sanborn
Mel Gibson (Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Roger Murtaugh), Joe Pesci (Leo Getz), Rene Russo (Lorna Cole), Chris Rock (Lee Butters), Jet Li (Wah Sing Ku)
With the basic mismatched cops formula all but gone, what's left is a clichéd action thriller in which Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs picks on the little guy (Joe Pesci) a lot, whilst Danny Glover's Roger Murtaugh isn't happy with his daughter's new choice of boyfriend (sarcastic cop Chris Rock).
The detectives still have time to piss off a gang of triads, although it's hardly surprising due to some of the casual racism, as well as reckless endangerment. You'd really expect better from two officers of the law, but since this is a 'comedy', let's turn a blind eye to that.
Thankfully, the final part of a franchise which ran out of steam with the third film.
"All of them wondered, while one of them wandered."
"All of them wondered, while one of them wandered."


D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

20th Century Fox (Sol C. Siegel)

US 1949

103 mins


W: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (& Vera Caspary) [based on the novel "A Letter To Five Wives" by John Klempner]

DP: Arthur C. Miller

Ed: J. Watson Webb

Mus: Alfred Newman

Jeannie Crain (Deborah Bishop), Linda Darnell (Lora Mae Hollingsway), Ann Sothern (Rita Phipps), Jeffrey Lynn (Brad Bishop), Paul Douglas (Paul Hollingsway), Kirk Douglas (George Phipps)

Things may have moved on somewhat since the 1940's but I guess there will always be infidelity.

Adapted from a 1945 novel which was initially published in Cosmopolitan magazine, the plot loses two wives in its transition to the big screen and focuses on three principal leading ladies. During an outing, the trio receive a letter from their best friend, Addie Ross (voiced by Celeste Holm - uncredited), informing them that she has left town with one of their husbands, but doesn't state which one. The three wives then spend the rest of     afternoon reminiscing about their unhappy marriages, as events shown in flashback offer clues as to which husband has been unfaithful.

Quite a lot of the mannerisms and attitudes seen seem dated by modern standards - a fine example being Kirk Douglas' husband being unhappy because his wife earns more money than him, but Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script and direction does push the boundaries for the time, sneaking double entendres into the dialogue as revenge for not being able to use some of the more risqué dialogue from the original source.

The ensemble cast are all excellent, despite nobody really standing out and the picture having three principal leads. Celeste Holm's uncredited vocal performance as Addie Ross was kept secret for quite some time, since the marketing for the film built on the mystery of this. Mankiewicz won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Oscars, and even repeated the same feat a year later with All About Eve. 

A made for TV remake aired in 1985


D: Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./Dreamworks/Malpaso (Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg & Robert Lorenz)
US 2006
140 mins


W: Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis [based on "Picture Letters From Commander In Chief" by Tadamichi Kuribayashi]
DP: Tom Stern
Ed: Joel Cox & Gary D. Roach
Mus: Kyle Eastwood & Michael Stevens

Ken Watanabe (Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi), Kazunari Ninomiya (Pvt. Saigo), Tsuyoshi Ihara (Col. Takeichi Nishi), Ryo Kase (Pvt. Shimizu), Shido Nakamura (Lt. Ido)

Clint Eastwood's companion piece to Flags Of Our Fathers (qv), shows stories and images from the same war, but from a Japanese perspective and is by far the more superior film. 
The Oscars seemed to agree also, nominating the film for 4 awards including Best Film (Flags Of Our Fathers received a sole nomination, for Sound Editing).

D: George Pan Cosmatos
20th Century Fox/Gordon/Filmauro (Luigi de Laurentiis & Aurelio de Laurentiis)
US/Italy 1989
98 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: David Peoples & Jeb Stuart
DP: Alex Thomson
Ed: Roberto Silvi & John F. Burnett
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Ron Cobb

Peter Weller (Steven Beck), Richard Crenna (Dr. Glen Thompson), Amanda Pays (Elizabeth Williams), Daniel Stern (Buzz 'Sixpack' Parrish), Ernie Hudson (Justin Jones)

1989 saw three "Alien under the sea" horror/sci-fi pictures of which Leviathan was, by far, the worst (the other two were big budget The Abyss and B-movie Deepstar Six).
This bargain bucket thriller utilises the exact same plot as Ridley Scott's 1979 classic, with inferior performances, tacky visual effects and cheap, predictable death scenes.

LIAR (aka DECEIVER) (18)

D: Jonás Pate & Joshua Pate
MDP (Peter Glatzer)
US 1997
102 mins
W: Jonás Pate & Joshua Pate
DP: Bill Butler
Ed: Dan Lebental
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams
Tim Roth (James Walter Wayland), Michael Rooker (Det. Edward Kennesaw), Chris Penn (Det. Philip Braxton), Renee Zellweger (Elizabeth)
Cops Michael Rooker & Chris Penn interview Tim Roth to discover whether or not he murdered prostitute Renee Zellweger.
The twisty plot plays on being elaborate and the performances are on par, but what truly makes this a worthwhile watch is Bill Butler's dizzying camerawork.
A decent debut from a pair of filmmaking brothers.
The film is also known by the title Deceiver, to differentiate it from the Jim Carrey film Liar, Liar (qv) also released in 1997.
D: Tom Shadyac
Universal/Imagine (Brian Grazer)
US 1997
87 mins


W: Paul Guay & Stephen Mazur
DP: Russell Boyd
Ed: Don Zimmermann
Mus: John Debney 

Jim Carrey (Fletcher Reede), Maura Tierney (Audrey Reede), Justin Cooper (Max Reede), Jennifer Tilly (Samantha Cole), Amanda Donohoe (Miranda), Cary Elwes (Jerry)

Jim Carrey is fully in his element with his rubberface act in this knockabout slapstick comedy. He plays an unscrupulous lawyer whose young son makes a birthday wish that he can't tell a lie for 24 hours, leading to near chaos as he presides over a divorce trial.
The jokes may weaken as the film progresses towards an ending of typical Hollywood schmaltz, but Carrey's boisterous performance is more than enough to entertain throughout the film's duration.

"We were better off alone."
"We were better off alone."

LIFE (15)

D: Daniel Espinosa

Columbia/Skydance (David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Bonnie Curtis & Julie Lynn)

US 2017

104 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

DP: Seamus McGarvey

Ed: Frances Parker & Mary Jo Markey

Mus: Jon Ekstrand

Jake Gyllenhaal (David Jordan), Rebecca Ferguson (Miranda North), Ryan Reynolds (Rory Adams), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sho Murakami), Olga Dihovichnaya (Ekaterina Golovkina), Ariyon Bakare (Hugh Derry)

Since Alien hit the screens in 1979, there have been plenty of copycats, of which Life is just another in a long run. The comparisons are obvious, but Life isn't a bad movie by any stretch, despite playing fast and loose with the laws of physics.

The story takes place aboard a space station, where a team of scientists have just discovered life on Mars, and experiment with the jellyfish-like creature, which quickly becomes hostile and picks off the crew members one-by-one.

Although it is one big ripoff of arguably the best science fiction-horror movies of all time, this film does have enough plot twists to provide an element of surprise. 


D: Stephen Hopkins
HBO (Simon Bosanquet)
US/UK 2004
122 mins


W: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely [based on the book by Roger Lewis]
DP: Peter Levy
Ed: John Smith
Mus: Richard Hartley

Geoffrey Rush (Peter Sellers), Charlize Theron (Britt Ekland), Emily Watson (Anne Sellers), John Lithgow (Blake Edwards), Miriam Margolyes (Peg Sellers), Peter Vaughan (Bill Sellers), Sonia Aquino (Sophia Loren), Stanley Tucci (Stanley Kubrick)

A made-for-TV biopic which received a limited release in selected theatres.
Though lead actor Geoffrey Rush does a great impression of the legendary comedian and scenes from Dr. Strangelove and Casino Royale are reasonably well re-created, this doesn't really do justice to the life & career of Peter Sellers, telling very little about the inner workings of the comedy genius.
A well-intentioned homage to a great actor, but nothing more.

D: Wes Anderson
Touchstone/American Empirical (Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel & Scott Rudin)     
US 2004
114 mins


W: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach
DP: Robert Yeoman
Ed: David Moritz
Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh
PD: Mark Friedberg
Cos: Milena Canonero

Bill Murray (Steve Zuspiel), Owen Wilson (Ned Plimpton / Kingsley Zissou), Cate Blanchett (Jane Winslett-Richardson), Anjelica Huston (Eleanor Zissou), Willem Dafoe (Klaus Daimler), Jeff Goldblum (Alistair Hennessey)

An oceanic documentarian goes on a search for a mythical creature that killed his friend with a group of offbeat crew members, including his long-lost son.
Wes Anderson's style is a very eccentric mix between Woody Allen, The Coen Brothers & Mel Brooks (when he was funny).  This gets it's brilliance from quirky characters and dialogue and subtle comic performances, especially from Bill Murray, who can do no wrong in my eyes. 
Probably not for everyone's comedy tastes, but highly enjoyable for those who like Anderson's other movies.

D: Roberto Benigni
Melampo (Elda Ferri & Gianluigi Braschi)
Italy 1998
122 mins
W: Roberto Benigni & Vincenzo Cerami                                      
DP: Tonino Delli Colli
Ed: Simona Paggi
Mus: Nicola Piovani
PD: Danilo Donati
Roberto Benigni (Guido Orefice), Nicoletta Braschi (Dora Orefice), Giustino Durano (Giosue Orefice), Sergio Brustic (Ferruccio), Marisa Paredes (Dora's Mother), Horst Buchholz (Dr. Lessing)
La Vita E Bella! What a beautiful film it is too. What begins as a Chaplinesque love story turns into a war drama as Italian Jew, Guido Orifice (Roberto Benigni) and his son, Joshua, are taken to a concentration camp, where Guido, protecting his son from the horrors there, convinces him that it's all a game.
I put off watching this movie for so long due to some critics labelling it overly sentimental or stating that it made light of serious subject matter, but I thought it was a joy to watch, all due to the flamboyant & charismatic performance of Benigni.
It's a heartwarming, heartbreaking and heart-string pulling fable of fantasia which left a few tears welling in my eyes. Life is beautiful and so is this movie.
D: Ang Lee
20th Century Fox/Fox 2000 (Ang Lee, Gil Netter & David Womark)
US 2012
127 mins


W: David Magee [based on the novel by Yann Martel]
DP: Claudio Miranda
Ed: Tim Squyres
Mus: Mychael Danna
PD: David Gropman

Suraj Sharma (Pi Patel - aged 16), Irrfan Khan (Pi Patel - adult), Tabu (Gita Patel), Adil Hussain (Santosh Patel). Rafe Spall (Yann Martel), Gerard Depardieu (The Cook)

An Indian man recalls an event from his childhood, when he lost his family in a shipwreck and drifted to shore on a lifeboat shared with a collection of wild animals.
There's no denying that some of the visuals were stunning and the tiger effects were meticulously crafted, but the story almost had me catching zeds. Not that it was boring, it just didn't stir me the way I thought it would and just seemed like a shaggy dog fable about faith, religious beliefs and spiritual mumbo-jumbo. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but will certainly be appreciated more by those with a similar outlook rather than those who don't.
Whole thing's considered: if I'm ever shipwrecked, I'd rather have a volleyball called Wilson as a companion than a tiger named Richard Parker.

D: Mel Brooks
20th Century Fox/Brooksfilms/Studio Canal (Mel Brooks)
US 1991
95 mins


W: Mel Brooks, Rudy de Luca & Steve Haberman
DP: Steven Poster
Ed: David Rawlins
Mus: John Morris
PD: Peter Larkin

Mel Brooks (Goddard Bolt), Lesley Ann Warren (Molly), Jeffrey Tambor (Vance Cresswell), Stuart Pankin (Pritchard)

Mel Brooks first came to prominence following the success of 1968 comedy The Producers and saw a flurry of hits during the 1970's (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein).
By the time the 90's had come around the writer-director-actor had lost a lot of his comedy zing, turning away from spoof  in favour of a more slapstick style approach. This Capra-esque style farce, in which he plays a billionaire who takes a wager that he can't "live poor" for a month, isn't amongst his best works, but it doesn't stink either.


D: Alfred Hitchcock 

20th Century Fox (Kenneth MacGowan)

US 1944

96 mins


W: Jo Swerling & John Steinbeck

DP: Glen MacWilliams

Ed: Dorothy Spencer

Mus: Hugo Friedhofer

Tallulah Bankhead (Constance Porter), William Bendix (Gus), Walter Slezak (The German), Mary Anderson (Alice), John Hodiak (Kovak), Henry Hull (Rittenhouse), Hume Cronyn (Stanley Garrett), Heather Angel (Mrs. Higgins)

One of Alfred Hitchcock's lesser works, although on craft alone it deserves to be held in the same regard as his finest works.

In the midst of World War II, the survivors of a torpedoed passenger ship amass on a cramped lifeboat as they drift amongst the flotsam. 

The survivors include a vast range of characters, from a fashionable socialite to the U-boat commander responsible for their plight.

Based on a story by John Steinbeck, the film and its director do an excellent job bringing tension to a single location, helped no end by the performance of the ensemble cast.

The film has since been considered a propaganda gimmick, which is completely unfair. It's a wonderfully crafted film, with excellent production values for its age.


"In the blink of an eye, the terror begins."
"In the blink of an eye, the terror begins."
D: Tobe Wilson
Cannon (Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus)
US/UK 1985
101 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: Dan O'Bannon & Don Jakoby [based on the novel "Space Vampires" by Colin Wilson]
DP: Alan Hume
Ed: John Grover
Mus: Henry Mancini
PD: John Graysmark

Steve Railsback (Col. Tom Carlsen), Peter Firth (Col. Colin Caine), Frank Finlay (Dr. Hans Fallada), Patrick Stewart (Dr. Armstrong), Mathilda May (Space Girl)

Cannon Films were best known throughout the 1980's for their conveyor belt of cheap-looking, low budget blockbusters. However, 1985's Lifeforce, went against the grain, almost breaking the bank for the studio. It's unfortunate that the film proved to be a massive flop as it isn't actually that bad, and the visual effects, even by today's standards are incredibly impressive.
An Anglo-American mission to investigate Halley's Comet uncovers a group of naked beings sleeping inside the floating rock, one of which, the form of a beautiful woman. Upon their return to Earth she awakens on a thirst for the lifeforce of the living, going on a killing spree for sustenance.
Based on Colin Wilson's novel "Space Vampires" the sci-fi/horror flick went on to have cult success and remains one of the studio's better piece of output, despite not having the box office receipts to prove it.

"A comedy about two outlaws who just wanted to be wanted."
"A comedy about two outlaws who just wanted to be wanted."


D: Simon Wincer
Buena Vista/Village Roadshow (Paul Hogan, Greg Coote & Simon Wincer)
Australia 1994
93 mins
W: Paul Hogan
DP: David Eggby
Ed: O. Nicholas Brown
Mus: Bruce Rowland
PD: Bernard Hides
Paul Hogan (Lightning Jack Kane), Cuba Gooding, Jr., (Ben Doyle), Beverly D'Angelo (Lana Castel), Pat Hingle (US Marshal Dan Kurtz), L.Q. Jones (Sheriff)
Eight years after the initial success of Crocodile Dundee, Australian comedy actor Paul Hogan attempted to rejuvenate his career as Lightning Jack, an illiterate gunslinging outlaw, partnered with a mute black sidekick (Cuba Gooding, Jr.)
It has a handful of funny moments, but is indistinctly average overall. Still, it's an improvement on the third Crocodile Dundee outing


D: Chris Sanders & Dean Dubois
Disney (Clark Spencer)
US 2002
85 mins
W: Chris Sanders & Dean Dubois
Mus: Alan Silvestri
voices of: Daveigh Chase (Lilo Pelekai), Christopher Michael Sanders (Stitch), Tia Carrere (Nani Pelekai), David Ogden Stiers (Dr. Jumba Jookiba)
Utilising traditional cel animation, Lilo & Stitch is a throwback to nostalgic Disney classics and is sweetly enjoyable, presenting the story of a young Hawaiian girl and her "pet" alien.
It lacks the usual Disney mush, original songs and the ilk, but inspired an animated TV series which young children seemed to appreciate.


D: Charles Chaplin

United Artists (Charles Chaplin)

US 1952

144 mins


W: Charles Chaplin

DP: Karl Strauss

Ed: Joe Inge

Mus: Charles Chaplin, Raymond Rasch & Larry Russell

Charles Chaplin (Calvero), Claire Bloom (Thereza Ambrose), Nigel Bruce (Postant), Buster Keaton (Calvero's Partner), Sydney Earl Chaplin (Ernest Neville), Norman Lloyd (Bodalink), Marjorie Bennett (Mrs. Alsop)

Though produced and funded in the United States, Limelight was met with blackout when it was originally slated for release in 1952, mostly due to Chaplin's political stance on communism. It was finally given widespread US release in 1972, thus becoming eligible for the 45th Academy Awards, where it won Chaplin his only competitive Oscar in the Best Original Score category.

The film itself is quite obviously biographical, set in London's East End, where a washed up music hall comedian saves the life of a young ballerina and the two form a relationship which gives them both hope of realising their dreams of fame.

Chaplin very much plays an older version of the usual character for which he became famous, and Claire Bloom is excellent as the young ingenue. 

It's not quite the best work of Charlie Chaplin's illustrious career, but it's a film which certainly sums it up, as he gracefully hands the spotlight to a younger generation.


"Everything is possible... When you open your mind."
"Everything is possible... When you open your mind."
D: Neil Burger
Relativity Media/Virgin/Rogue/Many Rivers (Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh & Scott Kroopf)
US 2011
104 mins
W: Leslie Dixon [based on the book "The Dark Fields" by Alan Glynn]
DP: Jo Willems
Ed: Tracy Adams & Naomi Geraghty
Mus: Paul Leonard Morgan
Bradley Cooper (Eddie Morra), Abbie Cornish (Lindy), Robert DeNiro (Carl Van Lion), Anna Friel (Melissa Gant), Johnny Whitworth (Vernon Gant)
Limitless has a great concept but there was definitely something missing from this. In the hands of Philip K. Dick it could have been a great science fiction concept, as is, it's a decent thriller which could have been much better. 
Bradley Cooper plays a prospective writer whose life is stuck in financial and publishing limbo. He meets up with a successful colleague who attributes his fortunes to an experimental drug which expanded his intelligence. Cooper becomes hooked on the drug, completing his book and becoming a millionaire by studying the stock market. Unfortunately for him, the drug comes with side effects, including a horde of Eastern European gangsters who want the product.
The problems are that it's a little too predictable for something claiming to be intelligent, Bradley Cooper is far too smarmy to evoke any sympathy for his lead character and the last 15 minutes lack any moral conviction, seemingly pushing forth the idea that it's okay to take drugs if you can get away with it.
D: Steven Spielberg
Dreamworks/Touchstone/Amblin (Kathleen Kennedy & Steven Spielberg)
US 2012
150 mins


W: Tony Kushner [based on the book "Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin]
DP: Janusz Kaminsky
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Rick Carter
Cos: Joanna Johnston

Daniel Day-Lewis (Abraham Lincoln), Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens), Sally Field (Mary Todd Lincoln), James Spader (W. N. Bilbo), Hal Holbrook (Preston Blair), David Strathairn (William H. Seward), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Robert Todd Lincoln)

Fantastic performances from Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field & Tommy Lee Jones carry this movie.
Having a British education, I don't know too much about Lincoln's presidency aside from the Gettysburg address and that his administration proved key in the abolishment of slavery.  
This movie delivers a little bit more on the arguments regarding the abolishment and how the civil war was affecting America but it's very much a schoolbook history movie, trying to cram in as much as possible into its running time, without really saying too much.
Entertainment-wise, it's a long slog of a movie and isn't much more entertaining than watching a live political broadcast from the house of commons.
Steven Spielberg captures the period well with excellent photography, set design, costumes, etc. but, unfortunately, this is never much more than a stolid biopic of a hugely important historical figure.

D: Brad Furman
Lionsgate/Lakeshore/Stone Village (Sidney Kimmell, Tony Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Richard Wright & Scott Steindorff)
US 2011
118 mins


W: John Romano [based on the novel by Michael Connelly]
DP: Lukas Ettlin
Ed: Jeff McEvoy
Mus: Cliff Martinez

Matthew McConaughey (Mickey Haller); Marisa Tomei (Margaret McPherson); Ryan Philippe (Louis Ross Roulet); Josh Lucas (Ted Minton); John Leguizamo (Val Venezeula); Michael Peña (Jesus Martinez); Bob Gunton (Cecil Dobbs); Frances Fisher (Mary Windsor); Bryan Cranston (Detective Lankford)

With The Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey began to take steps away from rom-com vehicles which had served his career for the best part of a decade and began to move into more serious, mature roles (leading to his winning of an Oscar for 2013's Dallas Buyers Club).
He plays Mickey Haller, a high-priced, reputable defence lawyer who conducts his business from the back seat of a limousine, rather than a plush office. He is hired by a wealthy woman to represent her son, who has been arrested on assault charges. 
Haller learns early on that his client is guilty, and the flesh of the story concerns the attorney in a battle with his own conscience on whether he can allow a guilty man walk free. 
The courtroom scenes are rather run-of-the-mill, but the film is worth watching simply for McConaughey's performance, which is excellent. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ryan Philippe's acting skills, which are truly abysmal.

"The true story of a life lost and found."
"The true story of a life lost and found."


D: Garth Davis

The Weinstein Company/Screen Australia/See-Saw (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman & Angie Fielder)

UK/Australia 2016

118 mins


W: Luke Davies [based on the book "A Long Way Home" by Saroo Brierley & Larry Buttrose]

DP: Greig Fraser

Ed: Alexandre de Franceschi

Mus: Dustin O'Halloran & Hauschka

Dev Patel (Saroo Brierley), Rooney Mara (Lucy), Nicole Kidman (Lucy Brierley), David Wenham (John Brierley), Sunny Pawar (Young Saroo)

Lion is the true biographical story of Saroo Brierley, a lost five year old boy on the streets of Calcutta, a thousand miles from his small village on the other side of India. Unable to speak the local Bengali dialect or even pronounce his mother's name or home village properly, he is taken into an orphanage and subsequently adopted by an Australian couple, who take him back to Hobart, Tasmania.

Twenty years later, with the aid of Google Earth, he discovers the location of his village and embarks on a journey to be reunited with his biological family.

The plot does share some similarities with Slumdog Millionaire, especially in the first act, but this is much more than Oscar bait. Dev Patel is excellent as an adult Saroo Brierley and Nicole Kidman also deserves praise for her performance as his adoptive mother. Another star of the movie is the beautifully haunting music, composed by Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka. 

Certainly amongst the top ten best films of 2016.



D: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff
Disney (Don Hahn)
US 1994
88 mins
W: Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts & Linda Woolverton
Mus: Hans ZimmerElton John & Tim Rice
voices of: Matthew Broderick (Simba), James Earl Jones (Mufasa), Jeremy Irons (Scar), Moira Kelly (Nala), Rowan Atkinson (Zazu), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (Young Simba)
Arguably the last of the traditional Disney classics. Following the death (murder) of his father, heir to the throne Simba goes into hiding while his evil Uncle Scar serves as king.
Simba returns as an adult to overcome the authoritarian and reclaim what is rightfully his.
Making a mint at the 1994 box office, The Lion King is widely regarded as the last traditional cel animated classic from the Goliath Hollywood studio, with songs penned by Elton John & Tim Rice which are as timeless as the film itself. A stage musical followed and has become hugely successful in its own right.


D: John Huston
Universal (Edward Lewis)
US 1963
98 mins
W: Anthony Veiller [based on the novel by Philip MacDonald]
DP: Joe McDonald
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
Kirk Douglas (George Brougham / various characters), George C. Scott (Anthony Gethrin), Clive Brook (Marquois of Gleneyre), Dana Wynter (Lady Jocelyn Bruttenholm), Robert Mitchum (Slattery), Frank Sinatra (Gypsy), Tony Curtis (Organ Grinder)

A good old-fashioned Holmes vs Moriarty style murder mystery with George C. Scott as the detective and Kirk Douglas as a makeup-laden serial killer.
The narrative tends to be quite slow in places, but makes up for it with a climax in which many cameo stars appear in heavy makeup. 
For its time, the makeup effects are very well crafted and the gimmick works effectively well. Hitchcock would have made a masterpiece of this.
D: Arthur Penn
National General (Stuart Millar)
US 1970
147 mins


W: Calder Willingham [based on the novel by Thomas Berger]
DP: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Ed: Dede Allen
Mus: John Hammond
PD: Dean Tavoularis
Cos: Dorothy Jeakins

Dustin Hoffman (Jack Crabb), Faye Dunaway (Mrs. Pendrake), Martin Balsam (Allardyce T. Merriweather), Richard Mulligan (Gen. George Custer), Chief Dan George (Old Lodge Skins), Jeff Corey (Wild Bill Hickok)

A 120-year-old man recounts over his life's adventures, being raised by Native American Indians and fighting with General Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn.
Though far from Hoffman's best performance and vast amount of the film feeling throwaway, this western drama has some good moments, especially in the scenes involving Chief Dan George, easily the best performance on show.


D: Todd Field

New Line/Bona Fide/Standard (Todd Field, Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa)

US 2006

137 mins


W: Todd Field & Tom Perrotta [based on the novel by Tom Perrotta]

DP: Antonio Calvache

Ed: Leo Trombetta

Mus: Thomas Newman

Kate Winslet (Sarah Pierce), Patrick Wilson (Brad Adamson), Jennifer Connelly (Kathy Adamson), Jackie Earle Haley (Ronnie McGorvey), Noah Emmerich (Larry Hedges)

Figuratively speaking, Little Children is a modernisation of Flaubert's literary classic Madame Bovary, relocated from 18th Century France to the leafy, picket fence suburbs of modern day Boston, Massachusetts.

Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson star as two adulterous parents, unhappy in their respective marriages, who embark on an affair. Meanwhile, their idyllic small town is rattled when it emerges that paedophile lives amongst them, himself trying to put his murky past behind him and move on with his life, but a disgraced ex-cop doesn't want to let sleeping dogs lie.

This intricate drama uncovers the deep layers which a small suburban community might have in a more tasteful and easier to watch way than the way David Lynch may have approached similar material (Blue Velvet, for example) and I found it to have a little influence from Robert Altman's Short Cuts with its execution.

The performances of the ensemble cast are all excellent, particularly Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley (both of whom received Oscar nominations), but the film itself wasn't as good as it could have been, and was definitely hampered by an awful Desperate Housewives-esque narration by Will Lyman which I found to be more intrusive than it was informative.


"Kids bring everyone closer, right?"
"Kids bring everyone closer, right?"
D: Paul Weitz
Universal/Paramount/Relativity Media/Tribeca (Jane Rosenthal, Robert de Niro, Jay Roach & John Hamburg)
US 2010
98 mins


W: John Hamburg & Larry Stuckey
DP: Remi Adefarasin 
Ed: Leslie Jones, Greg Hayden & Myron I. Kerstein
Mus: Stephen Trask

Ben Stiller (Greg Focker), Robert de Niro (Jack Byrnes), Owen Wilson (Kevin Rawley), Blythe Danner (Dina Byrnes), Teri Polo (Pamela Martha Focker), Dustin Hoffman (Bernie Focker), Barbra Streisand (Roz Focker), Jessica Alba (Andi Garcia)

Enough already! The first Meet The Parents was a decent movie but to spawn two focking sequels with the same focking jokes is just scraping the focking barrel.
There's only so many jokes that can be made out of a surname before it becomes boring and bringing a new generation into the story doesn't make it any funnier.
This is nothing but a lazy cash-in. No more focking sequels!!


D: Jodie Foster
Columbia Tristar/Orion (Scott Rudin & Peggy Rajski)
US 1991
99 mins
W: Scott Frank
DP: Mike Southon
Ed: Lynzee Klingmann 
Mus: Mark Isham
Jodie Foster (Dede Tate), Dianne Wiest (Jane Grierson), Adam Hann-Byrd (Fred Tate), Harry Connick, Jr. (Eddie), David Hyde Pierce (Garth Emmerick)
A passionate single mother finds herself in a custody battle with a school director over the best interests of her son, a child genius. 
There's a collection of decent performances in Jodie Foster's directorial debut, and you can tell that the source material is incredibly personal to the actress by the way she approaches this piece of work. Unfortunately, it lacks the cinematic oomph to make it any better than a TV-movie-of-the-week, seemingly released by Orion at the latter end of 1991 to promote Foster's Oscar chances for the studio's other release (The Silence Of The Lambs).
"Everyone pretend to be normal."
"Everyone pretend to be normal."


D: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
20th Century Fox (Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly & Peter Saraf)
US 2006
102 mins
W: Michael Arndt
DP: Tim Suhrstedt
Ed: Pamela Martin
Mus: Mychael Danna
Greg Kinnear (Richard Hoover), Toni Collette (Sheryl Hoover), Steve Carell (Frank), Paul Dano (Dwayne), Abigail Breslin (Olive), Alan Arkin (Grandpa Hoover)
A brilliant black comedy about a dysfunctional family's road trip from Albuquerque to California so their young daughter can participate in a beauty pageant. The humour is delightfully un-PC without crossing the border into the gratuitously offensive or puerile. Alan Arkin & Abigail Breslin are standout performers, but the entire ensemble deserves credit for their contributions.


D: George Roy Hill
Warner Bros./Orion (Patrick Kelley)
US 1979
108 mins
W: Allan Burns [based on the novel "E=MC2 Mon Amour" by Patrick Cauvin]
DP: Pierre William Glenn
Ed: William Reynolds
Mus: Georges Delerue
Diane Lane (Lauren King), Thelonious Bernard (Daniel Michon), Laurence Olivier (Julius Edmund Santorin)
A sweet juvenile love story about a teenage girl living in Paris with her father who runs away with a French teenager so their stern parents don't put skids on the relationship. Laurence Olivier pops up in a supporting role with a delightfully hammy performance which steals the limelight from the two young stars.
Enjoyable, albeit rather forgettable, but still a better love story than most.


D: Frank Oz
Warner Bros. (David Geffen)
US 1986
88 mins
W: Howard Ashman [based on his play]
DP: Robert Paynter
Ed: John Jympson, Derek Trigg & Bob Gavin
Mus: Miles Goodman; Alan Menken & Howard Ashman
PD: Roy Walker
Rick Moranis (Seymour Krelboin), Ellen Greene (Audrey), Vincent Gardenia (Mushnik), Steve Martin (Orin Scrivello), John Candy (Wink Wilkinson)
Considering the musical genre was very much out of favour during the mid-1980's, Little Shop Of Horrors did a good job to both find an audience and return a healthy profit on it's release.
Based on a stage musical reworked from Roger Corman's 1960 low-budget horror it stars Rick Moranis as a timid florist who discovers an alien plant which needs to feed off human blood in order to survive, but as the plant begins to grow, so does it's thirst.
Some of the musical numbers are throwbacks to the 1930's Broadway style with a unique comedy twist and the special effects are absolutely fantastic.
D: Gillian Armstrong
Columbia Tristar (Denise di Novi)
US 1994
115 mins


W: Robin Swicord [based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott]
DP: Geoffrey Simpson
Ed: Nicholas Beauman
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Jan Roelfs
Cos: Colleen Atwood

Winona Ryder (Jo March), Susan Sarandon (Marmee March), Gabriel Byrne (Prof. Friedrich Baer), Eric Stoltz (John Brooke), Samantha Mathis (Amy), Trini Alvarado (Meg), Kirsten Dunst (Amy - 12 years old), Claire Danes (Beth), Christian Bale (Laurie)

Louisa May Alcott's literary classic about the relationships between the March sisters is remade again for the 1990's generation, true to its literary roots, but starring a host of names who would have been notably famous around the time of production.
The production values and performances are generally good, but it doesn't do enough to change the consensus that the 1933 film version is considered the classic adaptation of the work.

D: Guy Hamilton
United Artists/Eon (Harry Saltzman)
UK 1973
121 mins


W: Tom Mankiewicz [based on the novel by Ian Fleming]
DP: Ted Moore
Mus: George Martin; Paul McCartney

Roger Moore (James Bond), Yaphet Kotto (Dr. Kanaga / Mr. Big), Jane Seymour (Solitaire), Julius Harris (Tee Hee Johnson)

Roger Moore steps into the role of James Bond following Sean Connery's exodus from the role and the emphasis turns to witty one-liners and high profile stunts rather than spy espionage.
The plot is nonsensically entertaining enough, with 007 visiting the Caribbean to put the skids on a heroin-dealing cartel headed by a fortune-telling witch doctor.
Some may feel that the film's finest asset is its theme song, written & performed by Paul and Linda McCartney.

"Joe was once a good man."
"Joe was once a good man."


D: Ben Affleck

Warner Bros/Ratpac-Dune/Appian Way/Pearl Street (Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson & Jennifer Todd)

US 2016

129 mins


W: Ben Affleck [based on the novel by Dennis Lehane]

DP: Robert Richardson

Ed: William Goldenberg

Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams

PD: Jess Gonchor

Cos: Jacqueline West

Ben Affleck (Joe Coughlin), Elle Fanning (Loretta Figgis), Brendan Gleeson (Thomas Coughlin), Remo Girone (Maso Pescatore), Sienna Miller (Emma Gould), Zoe Saldana (Graciela Corrales), Chris Messina (Dion Bartolo)

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, whose previous titles Mystic River and Shutter Island were turned into successful movies by Clint Eastwood & Martin Scorsese.

Unfortunately, Ben Affleck doesn't have the same magic touch, and the plot doesn't add up to much more than a revenge gangster story set against a prohibition-era backdrop. 

Ben Affleck in the lead does little more than his charming man act, but at least his performance is better than Sienna Miller, who constantly looks like she's sucking a lemon as she delivers her Oirish accent. 

Live By Night is aesthetically pleasing, however, with close attention paid to period design and costume, but this alone isn't worth the price of a ticket.

The film bombed at the box office, and though it's not totally awful, you can understand why it lacked appeal with cinema audiences.


D: Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck
Lions Gate/Bayerischer Rundfunk (Quirin Berg & Max Weidemann)
Germany 2006 (released 2007)
132 mins


W: Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck
DP: Hagen Bogdanski
Ed: Patricia Rommel
Mus: Gabriel Yared & Stephane Moucha
PD: Tom Sternitzke

Ulrich Mühe (Gerd Wiesler), Martina Gedeck (Christa-Maria Sieland), Sebastian Koch (Georg Dreyman), Ulrich Tukur (Anton Grubitz) 

Reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 classic, The Conversation (qv), only the story is relocated to the German Democratic Republic still under communist political rule and state security (Stasi) undergo surveillance of a writer and his actress girlfriend whom they suspect of espionage.
Wiesler, the Stasi captain assigned to the case gradually realises the futility of his profession and develops a conscience surrounding his own life and action.
The Lives Of Others is an outstanding thriller which keeps the viewer gripped throughout and incredibly poignant considering this was Ulrich Mühe's final performance before his untimely death. Even more so due to the final line of dialogue.
A deserved winner of a Foreign Language Film Oscar, the only irritant is that Juno's falsely-hip script won the Original Screenplay award that year, when this absolute masterpiece of cinema didn't even secure a nomination.

D: John Glen
MGM/United Artists/Eon (Albert R. Broccoli & Michael G. Wilson)
UK 1987
130 mins


W: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson [based on the characters created by Ian Fleming]
DP: Alec Mills
Mus: John Barry
PD: Peter Lamont

Timothy Dalton (James Bond), Maryam D'Abo (Kara Milovy), Jeroen Krabbe (Gen. Georgi Koskov), Joe Don Baker (Brad Whitaker), John Rhys-Davies (Gen. Leonid Pushkin), Art Malik (Kamran Shah)

Timothy Dalton becomes the fourth actor to portray James Bond for the Eon-produced franchise, taking over the role from Roger Moore (who many feel was a poor choice for the suave British spy).
Dalton brings charm to the role, however, his delivery is always rather wooden, therefore the film relies heavily on special effects, stunt work and adventure, of which it has plenty, but it's not amongst the best of the 007 films, and is quite unmemorable for the most part, especially in its Cold War inspired plot.
Dalton reprised the role for Licence To Kill, but thereafter, the franchise was put on skids for 6 years until Pierce Brosnan more winningly stepped into the shoes of the lead character.