NAKED (18)
D: Mike Leigh
First Independent/Thin Man/Film Four (Simon Channing-Williams)
UK 1993
131 mins


W: Mike Leigh
DP: Dick Pope
Ed: Jon Gregory
Mus: Andrew Dickson

David Thewlis (Johnny), Lesley Sharp (Louise Clancy), Katrin Cartlidge (Sophie), Greg Cruttwell (Jeremy G. Smart), Claire Skinner (Sandra), Peter Wright (Brian), Ewen Bremner (Archie), Susan Vidler (Maggie)

Mike Leigh's downbeat drama lays bare the subject of misogyny and sexual obsession. The story simultaneously follows the lives of two men, the first of which is the loquaciously upfront Johnny, who flees South from Manchester to escape a beating following his rape of a woman. Upon arrival in London, he visits an ex-girlfriend and plans to squat, before his life seems to spiral out of control. 
The second man is a sexually-obsessed yuppie who lies, threatens and blackmails his way into the pants of his conquests.
The two lives clash at the denouement, but there is no resolution to the issues here, as writer-director Mike Leigh seems to make a statement that some people are simply beyond redemption.
A depressing but riveting watch, made all the more interesting by the conviction of David Thewlis' performance. Where was his Oscar nomination?

"There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them."
"There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them."


D: Jules Dassin
Universal (Mark Hellinger)
US 1948
96 mins


W: Malvin Wald & Albert Maltz
DP: William Daniels
Ed: Paul Weatherwax
Mus: Frank Skinner & Miklos Rozsa

Barry Fitzgerald (Lt. Dan Muldoon), Don Taylor (Jimmy Halloran), Howard Duff (Frank Niles), Dorothy Hart (Ruth Morrison), Ted de Corsia (Garzah), Adelaide Klein (Mrs. Batory)

Old hat now, but for 1948, this thriller filmed on location in New York City was a rarity for presenting its story off of the Hollywood sets and soundstages.
The story itself is quite run-of-the-mill when compared to others in the mystery-thriller genre; New York detectives investigate the murder of a woman found in a bath, taking to the hustle-and-bustle of NYC in their chase.
Highly influential, especially with the closing lines of dialogue, but modern audiences probably won't be as appreciative as those watching in the late 1940's.

D: David Zucker
UIP/Paramount (Robert K. Weiss)
US 1988
85 mins
W: Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Pat Proft
DP: Robert Stevens
Ed: Michael Jablow
Mus: Ira Newborn
PD: John Lloyd
Leslie Nielsen (Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), Ricardo Montalban         (Vincent Ludwig), George Kennedy (Capt. Ed Hocken), O. J. Simpson (Det. Nordberg), Nancy Marchand (Mayor Barkley), Jeannette Charles (Queen Elizabeth II)

A clumsy detective uncovers a plot to assassinate the Queen of England.

The film doesn't pretend to be big or clever, it's slapstick of the most basic kind and it does what it does well.  It's incredibly funny and gives Leslie Nielsen a role which he will forever be remembered for.

D: David Zucker
UIP/Paramount (Robert K. Weiss)
US 1991
85 mins
W: David Zucker & Pat Proft
DP: Robert Stevens
Ed: James Symons & Chris Greenbury
Mus: Ira Newborn
PD: John Lloyd
Leslie Nielsen (Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), George Kennedy (Capt. Ed Hocken), O. J. Simpson (Det. Nordberg), Robert Goulet (Quentin Hapsburg), Richard Griffiths (Dr. Albert Meinheimer/Earl Hacker)

Hapless cop Frank Drebin returns in a rather feeble sequel with pretty much the same formula from the first film. This time, it's a devious play to kidnap the US president's energy expert and replace him with a lookalike.

It's all quite innocent goofball fun, but it simply doesn't compare to the original in terms of laughs.



D:  Peter Segal
Paramount (Robert K. Weiss & David Zucker) 
US 1994
82 mins
W: David Zucker, Pat Proft & Robert LoCash
DP: Robert Stevens
Ed: Jim Symons
Mus: Ira Newborn
PD: Lawrence G. Paull
Leslie Nielsen (Lt. Frank Drebin), Priscilla Presley (Jane Spencer), George Kennedy (Capt. Ed Hocken), O. J. Simpson (Det. Nordberg), Fred Ward (Rocco Dillon), Kathleen Freeman (Muriel Dillon), Anna Nicole Smith (Tanya Peters)

The third and final Naked Gun movie pits clueless cop Lt. Drebin (now retired) against a crazed bomber who plans a terrorist attack at an Oscar ceremony.

It's slightly better than the second movie, but once again follows the same formula of silliness from the first movie without really adding anything.  Nevertheless, Leslie Nielsen is a comedy genius in this role but it must be said that Anna Nicole Smith is an absolutely diabolical actress.

"Exterminate all rational thought."
"Exterminate all rational thought."
D: David Cronenberg
Recorded Picture Co. (Jeremy Thomas)
Canada/UK 1991
115 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: David Cronenberg [based on the novel by William S. Burroughs]
DP: Peter Suschitzky
Ed: Ronald Sanders
Mus: Howard Shore & Ornette Coleman
PD: Carol Spier

Peter Weller (William Lee), Judy Davis (Joan Lee/Joan Frost), Ian Holm (Tom Frost), Julian Sands (Yves Cloquet), Roy Scheider (Dr. Benway), Monique Mercure (Fadela), Nicholas Campbell (Hank)

David Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burroughs surreal novel, once deemed "unfilmable" only takes a small percentage of the written text into its big screen translation, omitting all the homosexual undertones from the source novel.
Set during the 1950's, a pest controller becomes addicted to the narcotics used to kill the creepy-crawlies, murders his wife and flees to an exotic fantasia to become a writer. That's pretty much the crux of the plot.
In spite of narrative cohesion, the film is visually amazing, arguably with style very much over substance.
David Cronenberg's films fall into the same category as David Lynch's. You'll either love them or just won't 'get' them, but even his most ardent fans will agree that this one is wonderfully weird.
"Even men of God can trade with the Devil."
"Even men of God can trade with the Devil."
D: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Neue Constantin/Cristaldifilm/Ariane (Bernd Eichinger)
US 1986
130 mins


W: Andrew Birkin, Gerard Brach, Howard Franklin & Alain Godard [based on the novel by Umberto Eco]
DP: Tonino Delli Colli
Ed: Jane Seitz
Mus: James Horner
PD: Dante Ferretti
Cos: Gabriella Pescucci

Sean Connery (William of Baskerville), F. Murray Abraham (Bernardo Gui), Christian Slater (Adso of Melk), Elya Baskin (Severinus Von St. Emmeram), Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. (Jorge de Burgos), William Hickey (Ubertino de Casale), Ron Perlman (Salvatore), Michael Lonsdale (The Abbot), Valentina Vargas (The Girl)

A 14th-century Franciscan monk and his young apprentice investigate a series of murders at an Italian abbey. 
An austere twist on standard murder mysteries due to its period and setting. The attention to detail and acting performances are very good, especially from Sean Connery, but the pacing is often far too slow. It had garnered a small cult following shortly upon its release, but has since become one of the forgotten films of the 1980's despite having a rather memorable sex scene between a young Christian Slater & Chilean debutante Valentina Vargas.
D: Jared Hess
Paramount/Fox Searchlight/MTV (Jeremy Coon, Chris Wyatt & Sean Covel)
US 2004
91 mins
W: Jared Hess & Jerusha Hess
DP: Munn Powell
Ed: Jeremy Coon
Mus: John Swihart
Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Jon Gries (Rico Dynamite), Aaron Ruell (Kip Dynamite), Efren Ramirez (Pedro Sanchez), Tina Majorino (Deb Bradshaw), Haylie Duff (Summer Wheatley)
Anyone who went to high school would have known a character like Napoleon Dynamite, an oddball nerd who wears his idiosyncrasies on his sleeve like a badge of honour.
This teen comedy also trades itself on its own kookiness rather than a traditional narrative or storyline. The limited story sees the title character attempt to get his misfit Mexican chum elected as school president in the upcoming election, as well as vying to get a date for the prom as well as trying to escape embarrassment from the hand of his obnoxious uncle or equally nerdy brother.
It's a film which will certainly divide audiences, but the intended demographic should find it explosive.
D: Richard Fleischer
RKO (Stanley Rubin)
US 1952
70 mins
W: Earl Fenton
DP: George E. Diskant
Ed: Robert E. Swink
Charles MacGraw (Det. Sgt. Walter Brown), Marie Windsor (Mrs. Frankie Neall), Jacqueline White (Ann Sinclair), Queenie Leonard (Mrs. Troll)
Government officials try to guard a prosecution witness for an important trial on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles, but the bad guys have other ideas.
This nifty little thriller only saw cinema screens as a "second feature" (something which has now become redundant), but found itself every bit as credible as the main feature during its brief theatrical run.
A 1990 remake saw it get a feature-length presentation that the story deserved.
D: Peter Hyams
Guild/Carolco (Jonathan A. Zimbert)
US 1990
97 mins
W: Peter Hyams [based on a screenplay by Earl Fenton]
DP: Peter Hyams
Ed: James Mitchell
Mus: Bruce Broughton
Gene Hackman (Robert Caulfield), Anne Archer (Carol Hunnicut), James B. Sikking (Nelson), J.T. Walsh (Michael Tarlow), M. Emmet Walsh (Sgt. Dominick Benti)
Feature length remake of a 1952 B-movie, starring Gene Hackman as a district attorney who escorts a key trial witness on a train whilst gangsters are in hot pursuit. 
The original film ran for only 70 minutes and cost a mere $230,000 to make whereas this remake runs 27 minutes longer and cost upwards of $20 million.
On balance, the original is the better, more suspenseful film, but the remake had the feature film status that the original story rightly deserved. It's worth checking both movies out.
D: Robert Altman
Paramount/ABC (Robert Altman)
US 1975
161 mins


W: Joan Tewkesbury
DP: Paul Lohmann
Ed: Sidney Levin & Dennis M. Hill

Ronee Blakely (Barbara Jean), Timothy Brown (Tommy Brown), Geraldine Chaplin (Opal), David Arkin (Norman), Barbara Baxley (Lady Pearl), Ned Beatty (Delbert Reese), Karen Black (Connie White), Keith Carradine (Tom Frank), Shelley Duvall (Martha), Allen Garfield (Barnett), Henry Gibson (Haven Hamilton), Scott Glenn (Pfc. Kelly), Barbara Harris (Winifred), David Hayward (Kenny Frasier), Michael Murphy (John Triplette), Lily Tomlin (Linnea Reese), Gwen Welles (Sueleen Gay), Keenan Wynn (Mr. Green)

A massive slice of the American heartland in Robert Altman's usual style of multi-layered story strands.
In the build-up to a presidential election, a politician organises a huge musical concert in Nashville, the home of country, folk and gospel music.
This kaleidoscopic compendium brings together over 20 different characters and their stories, some of which are more interesting than others, while a handful of incidental characters brings the entire piece together.
Nashville presents some great songs and some brilliant performances, most notably from Keith Carradine, Henry Gibson, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Welles and Ronee Blakely.
It's a film which will either be seen as pretentious borefest or a magnificent mosaic, depending not only on your taste but also on your mood, but those who do enjoy it will feel the necessity to watch it again and look for the clues which unfold towards the downbeat ending.
It's probably best viewed as an allegory for America of the 20th century, released at a time when the American people needed it most, following defeat in the Vietnam War and the political distrust amid the Watergate scandal. 

D: Michael Verhoeven
Mainline/Sentana/ZDF (Michael Senftleben)         
West Germany 1990
92 mins
W: Michael Verhoeven
DP: Axel de Roche
Ed: Barbara Hennings
Mus: Mike Hertung, Elmar Schloter, Billy Gorlt & Lydie Auvray
Lene Stolze (Sonja), Monika Baumgartner (Sonja's Mother), Michael Gahr (Paul Rosenberger), Hans-Reinhard Müller (Juckenack)
Loosely based on the true story of Anna Rosmus, this German arthouse film follows a young woman as she investigates her Bavarian village and its people's involvement during the Second World War only for the townsfolk turn on her to protect their transgressions.
It's a little too arty for my personal taste, as it would be for many others, but it does make for a rather unique viewing experience, albeit probably not one for repeat viewings. 1990's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film.
D: John Landis
Universal (Matty Simmons & Ivan Reitman)
US 1978
109 mins
W: Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney & Chris Miller
DP: Charles Correll
Mus: Elmer Bernstein
John Belushi (John 'Bluto' Blutarsky), Tim Matheson (Eric 'Otter' Stratton), John Vernon (Dean Vernon Wormer), Donald Sutherland (Prof. Jennings), Verna Bloom (Marion Wormer), Mary Louise Weller (Mandy Pepperidge), Karen Allen (Katy), Kevin Bacon (Chip Diller)
The ultimate college gross-out comedy, long before the production line output which came following American Pie (qv).
Starring Saturday Night Live stalwart John Belushi as a slobby lager lout member of a group of slobby campus fraternity who spend the majority of their university days taking a very lacsidacal approach to their education, throwing parties and trying to usurp the elegant elite in the homecoming parade.
This first film in a long line of the "National Lampoon's" collection may not fit everyone's comedy tastes, but was immensely popular at its time of release and should be revisited by anyone who's currently living their college days. 
"Yule crack up!"
"Yule crack up!"
D: Jeremiah Chechik
Warner Bros. (John Hughes & Tom Jacobson)
US 1989
97 mins
W: John Hughes
DP: Thomas Ackerman
Ed: Jerry Greenberg
Mus: Angelo Badalamenti
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswold), Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie), Diane Ladd (Nora), E.G. Marshall (Art), Doris Roberts (Frances), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Margo Chester), Johnny Galecki (Rusty Griswold), Juliette Lewis (Audrey Griswold), William Hickey (Lewis)

Not so much a vacation for the Griswold Family this time around as Clark (Chevy Chase) is dead set on having a good old-fashioned Christmas with his wife, kids, the in-laws and other family members. Things don't go as planned however as mishap after mishap conspires to ruin their Yuletide celebrations.
Much like John Hughes' other comedies, it has some scenes which provide huge belly laughs despite not having much in the way of an original story. 
This really should have been the finale to the Griswold family's National Lampoon's adventures, but as always, there was more money to be had...
D: Amy Heckerling
Warner Bros. (Marty Simmons)
US 1985
94 mins
W: John Hughes & Robert Klane
DP: Bob Paynter
Ed: Paul Herring
Mus: Charles Fox
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswald), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswald), Jason Lively (Rusty Griswald), Dana Hill (Audrey Griswald), John Astin (Kent Winkdale)
The Griswald (sic) Family win an all expenses paid trip around Europe courtesy of winning the main prize on a TV show and journey around England, France, Germany and Italy leaving a trail of chaos in their wake.
There are many funny moments, but they're mixed in with a lot of silliness and many pointless cameo appearances as well as some rather unfair racial stereotypes which make it a rather hit-and-miss affair. 
"See it before they make the sequel."
"See it before they make the sequel."
D: Gene Quintano
New Line (Suzanne Todd & David Willis)
US 1993
83 mins
W: Don Holley & Gene Quintano
DP: Peter Deming 
Ed: Christopher Greenbury
Mus: Robert Folk
Emilio Estevez (Sgt. Jack Colt), Samuel L. Jackson (Sgt. Wes Luger), Kathy Ireland (Destiny Demeanor), Jon Lovitz (Rick Becker), Tim Curry (Mr. Jigsaw), Frank McRae (Capt. Doyle), William Shatner (Gen. Curtis Mortars), F. Murray Abraham (Dr. Harold Leacher)
Silly spoof of Lethal Weapon from the Saturday Night Live production team with some references to other popular films of the time chucked in for good measure (Basic Instinct, Die Hard, The Silence Of The Lambs, etc).
There's one or two moments which raise a smile as it pokes fun at the mismatched cop duo, but plot is very silly, the comedy is rather immature and many of the supporting performances and cameos are incredibly annoying.
D: Harold Ramis
Warner Bros. (Matt Simmons)
US 1983
98 mins
W: John Hughes
DP: Victor J. Kemper
Ed: Paul Herring
Mus: Ralph Burns
Chevy Chase (Clark Griswold), Beverly D'Angelo (Ellen Griswold), Imogene Coca (Aunt Edna), Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie), Anthony Michael Hall (Rusty Griswold), Dana Barron (Audrey Griswold), Eddie Bracken (Roy Walley), John Candy (Russ Lasky)
The first of the Griswold Family's SNL inspired comedies sees the calamitous family journey on a road trip from their Chicago home to a Californian theme park, but things go from bad to worse as they head towards the west coast.
More notable as one of John Hughes' early scripts than anything which happens during its running time. It does have a few funny moments, but it's a rather cruel, black humour rather than the slapstick variety that came in the later films.
D: Jon Turtletaub
Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)
US 2004
131 mins
W: Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley
DP: Caleb Deschanel
Ed: William Goldenberg
Mus: Trevor Rabin
PD: Norris Spencer
Nicolas Cage (Benjamin Franklin Gates), Diane Krüger (Abigail Chase), Justin Bartha (Riley Poole), Sean Bean (Ian Howe), Jon Voight (Patrick Gates), Harvey Keitel (Agent Sadusky), Christopher Plummer (John Adams Gates)
Disney's take on The DaVinci Code is dumb but fun, starring Nicolas Cage as an intripid historian who has spent his life looking for a secret hidden treasure and makes the discovery that the map to finding it is encrypted on the Declaration of Independence. 
He puts in place a plan to steal the historic artefact before a group of criminals led by Sean Bean. 
It's all very far fetched, but hugely enjoyable, so long as you leave rational thought aside while watching it.
D: Jon Turtletaub
Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)
US 2007
124 mins


W: Cormac Wibberley & Marianne Wibberley
DP: John Schwartzman & Amir Mokri
Ed: William Goldenberg & David Rennie
Mus: Trevor Rabin
PD: Dominic Watkins

Nicolas Cage (Ben Gates), Justin Bartha (Riley Poole), Diane Krüger (Abigail Chase), Jon Voight (Patrick Gates), Helen Mirren (Emily Appleton-Gates), Ed Harris (Mitch Wilkinson), Harvey Keitel (Agent Sadusky)

Practically a remake of the first film, mostly set in and around Europe with a re-tweaked nonsense-to-fun ratio. 
It isn't offensively bad and filmed in the usual Disney-Jerry Bruckheimer gloss. The performances are certainly not up to the standard of the first film, with Cage looking like he was only on-board for a paycheck and Jon Voight turning in another embarrassing performance. Helen Mirren & Diane Kruger come out of it looking best, though neither would be chasing Oscar-glory at the year's end.
"He lived for a dream that wouldn't die."
"He lived for a dream that wouldn't die."
D: Barry Levinson
Tristar/Delphi (Mark Johnson)
US 1984
134 mins


W: Roger Towne & Phil Dusenberry [based on the novel by Bernard Malamud]
DP: Caleb Deschanel
Ed: Stu Linder
Mus: Randy Newman 
PD: Angelo Graham & Mel Bourne
Cos: Bernie Pollack & Gloria Gresham

Robert Redford (Roy Hobbs), Robert Duvall (Max Mercy), Glenn Close (Iris Gaines), Kim Basinger (Memo Paris), Wilford Brimley (Pop Fisher), Barbara Hershey (Harriet Bird), Robert Prosky (The Judge), Richard Farnsworth (Red), Joe Don Baker ('The Whammer')

Even if you're not a fan of baseball or even sports movies in general, The Natural has plenty about it to enjoy. 
Robert Redford plays an ageing player who is scouted by a struggling team who are initially reluctant to let him play due to his age, but when they subsequently let him loose on the field, he turns their season around.
The story may seem cliched and just like countless other triumph over adversity tales but it's actually a lot more clever than what you take at face value. There's plenty of references to Arthurian legend, including a homemade bat substituting for the legendary sword, Excalibur.
Set during the Great Depression, there's meticulous attention in period detail from director Barry Levinson and the rest of the production crew and Randy Newman's uplifting music must be one of the great music scores of all time (there's a good chance you've heard it even if you haven't seen the movie).
"The media made them superstars."
"The media made them superstars."
D: Oliver Stone
Warner Bros./Regency/Ixtlan (Jane Hamsher, Don Murphy & Clayton Townsend)
US 1994
120 mins
W: David Veloz, Richard Rutowski & Oliver Stone [story by Quentin Tarantino]
DP: Robert Richardson 
Ed: Hank Corwin & Brian Berdan
Mus: Trent Reznor
Woody Harrelson (Mickey Knox), Juliette Lewis (Mallory Knox), Robert Downey, Jr. (Wayne Gale), Tommy Lee Jones (Warden Dwight McClusky), Tom Sizemore (Det. Jack Scagnetti), Rodney Dangerfield (Ed Wilson)
Following his "Vietnam trilogy", Oliver Stone turned his attention to dissecting the media and its sensibilities, especially concerning the glorification of the violence serial killers leave in their wake. 
The plot concerns Mickey and Mallory Knox, a married couple who go on a killing spree, not dissimilar to the Starkweather homicides of the 1960's, and the media circus which follows them after their subsequent arrests and incarceration. 
The deliberate in-jokey style of the film might detract from the Quentin Tarantino-penned story, but it will remain one of them films which scar rather than entertain. Even if it's not enjoyed, it will be impossible to forget.
"America's top secret weapon."
"America's top secret weapon."
D: Lewis Teague
Rank/Orion (Brenda Feigen & Barnard Williams)
US 1990
114 mins
W: Chuck Pfarrer & Gary Goldman
DP: John A. Alonzo
Ed: Don Zimmerman
Mus: Sylvester Levay
Charlie Sheen (Lt. Dale Hawkins), Michael Biehn (Lt. James Curran), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Claire Varrens), Rick Rossovich (HM3 James Leary), Cyril O'Reilly (HT2 Homer Rexer), Bill Paxton (MM2 Floyd Dane), Dennis Haysbert (OSC Billy Graham)
Dumb-ass action nonsense in which a gung-ho group of marines attempt to kidnap an Arab terrorist and destroy missile silos in the Middle East.
Produced and released while the Gulf War conflict was on-going, this smacks of flag-waving propaganda and nothing more. 
Politics aside, it's ridiculously plotted with below standard performances from a good cast portraying nothing more than cardboard cut-out characters. 
"Pray for daylight."
"Pray for daylight."
D: Kathryn Bigelow
Feldman-Meeker (Steven Charles Jaffe)
US 1987
94 mins
W: Kathryn Bigelow & Eric Red
DP: Adam Greenberg
Ed: Howard Smith
Mus: Tangerine Dream
Adrian Pasdar (Caleb Colton), Jenny Wright (Mae), Lance Henriksen (Jesse Hooker), Bill Paxton (Severen), Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback), Joshua Miller (Homer), Tim Thomerson (Loy Colton)
One of two vampire movies released in 1987 (along with The Lost Boys), and whilst this one wasn't the bigger hit out of the two, many could argue this is by far the better (and certainly the more mature) of the two films.
Kathryn Bigelow's directorial debut puts a spin on both horror & western genres, the word 'vampire' is never actually used or even paid reference to during the duration, but the principal rules are still there. They live by night, require blood for sustenance and most importantly of all, cannot survive in sunlight! (Take heed Stephenie Meyer!)
The story follows young cowboy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), who is seduced and subsequently bitten by a new girl in town (Jenny Wright), before being abducted by her 'family' of serial-killing vampires (Henriksen, Goldstein, Paxton & Miller), who travel from town-to-town embarking on crime sprees.
Lance Henriksen steals thunder as the 'father' of the group & Bill Paxton delivers a manic performance as 'brother' Severin, reluctant to let Caleb into the tight unit.
There's some great dialogue, atmospheric photography and haunting music from German electronica group 'Tangerine Dream', and though it may not have been a huge hit on its initial cinema release, it went on to garner a huge cult following and quite deservedly so.
D: Alexander Payne
Paramount Vantage/Filmnation/Blue Lake Media/Bona Fide/Echo Lake (Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa)
US 2013
114 mins


W: Bob Nelson
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Kevin Tent
Mus: Mark Orton

Bruce Dern (Woody Grant), Will Forte (David Grant), June Squibb (Kate Grant), Bob Odenkirk (Ross Grant), Stacy Keach (Ed Pegram)

Shot in stark black & white photography, Nebraska is a black comedy best appreciated if you're a fan of director Alexander Payne's previous works (Sideways, About Schmidt, The Descendants).
Veteran actor Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, a reformed alcoholic in his twilight years who believes that he has won a $1 million raffle via a magazine publication and wishes to travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his (fictional) winnings.
Reluctantly, his son takes him on the road trip, which sees them visit Woody's old hometown, where rumour spreads about his change in fortunes and everyone seems to want a cut, even though there are no winnings to collect.
Despite a witty, intelligent screenplay, the performances hold the credibility of the plot together, especially those of Bruce Dern and June Squibb, as his no-nonsense wife. 
A shaggy dog tale/road trip movie which won't endear itself to everyone, but will gather fans amongst those who enjoy something a little different.

D: Scott Waugh
Dreamworks/Touchstone/Reliance/EA (Patrick O'Brien, Mark Sourian & John Gatins)
US 2014
130 mins


W: George Gatins & John Gatins [based on the interactive game by Electronic Arts]
DP: Shane Hurlbut
Ed: Paul Rubell & Scott Waugh
Mus: Nathan Furst

Aaron Paul (Tobey Marshall), Dominic Cooper (Dino Brewster), Scott Mescudi (Sgt. Benny Jackson), Imogen Poots (Julia Madden), Ramon Rodriguez (Joe Peck), Michael Keaton (Monarch)

Aaron Paul, best known for his award-winning role as Jesse Pinkman in TV's Breaking Bad, gets a big screen outing as the lead in this video game adaptation/carbon copy of The Fast & The Furious.
Framed for a crime he didn't commit, he figures the best chance of revenge is to win a drag race over his fiercest rival and even has a bit of time to romance some posh British totty, Imogen Poots.
If the plot sounds like it was written on the back of a postage stamp, that's because it probably was. The dialogue isn't much better and the cardboard characters are all throwaway.
The main target audience won't mind these flaws since the film is what it is, fast car porn and chewing gum for the eyes. I personally want a bit more bang for my buck, and though he didn't impress in this, there is a breakthrough role waiting for the wings for Aaron Paul.
As for Imogen Poots, she seems completely unconvincing as an English woman, despite the fact that she's actually English.

"Buy now. Pay later."
"Buy now. Pay later."


D: Fraser C. Heston

Columbia/New Line/Castle Rock (Jack Cummins)

US 1993

120 mins


W: W.D. Richter [based on the novel by Stephen King]

DP: Tony Westman

Ed: Rob Kobrin

Mus: Patrick Doyle

Max Von Sydow (Leland Gaunt), Ed Harris (Sheriff Alan Pangborn), Bonnie Bedelia (Polly Chalmers), Amanda Plummer (Nettie Cobb), J.T. Walsh (Danforth 'Buster' Keeton)

Mediocre adaptation of a Stephen King novel, set in the small New England town of Castle Rock (a regular location of King's works), where their relatively peaceful community is disturbed when a mysterious stranger, Leland Gaunt, becomes a resident, using his house as an antique shop which sells anything the townsfolk desire... at a very hefty price.

The plot is interesting, but the film has many flaws, the biggest being that it is neither scary, suspenseful or tense, not helped by the TV movie standard of direction (by Charlton Heston's son) and the editing which completely nullifies scenes which attempt to build tension. Max Von Sydow seems to take huge enjoyment in the role he plays, and is the film's only saving grace. Ed Harris & Bonnie Bedelia really needed more interesting characters to play.

A longer version exists, but only for television broadcast. I doubt that it would provide an improvement on this theatrical edit.


"He frees hostages for a living. Now he's taking hostages to survive."
"He frees hostages for a living. Now he's taking hostages to survive."
D: F. Gary Gray
Warner Bros./Regency/Mandeville (David Hoberman & Arnon Milchan)
US 1998
138 mins
W: James DeMonaco & Kevin Fox
DP: Russell Carpenter
Ed: Christian Wagner
Mus: Graeme Revell
Samuel L. Jackson (Lt. Danny Roman), Kevin Spacey (Lt. Chris Sabian), David Morse (Cmmdr. Adam Beck), Ron Rifkin (Cmmdr. Grant Frost), John Spencer (Chief Al Travis), J.T. Walsh (Insp. Terence Niebaum)
A police negotiator, suspended from duty and facing arrest after he is set up by his corrupt colleagues, turns the tables and takes hostages amongst his own unit in order to clear his name and a top dog negotiator is brought into the fold to diffuse the situation.
A slick thriller, low on action but high on tension, with good performances from both Samuel L. Jackson & Kevin Spacey.
A tad overlong at 138 minutes, but there's not a boring moment.
"Television will never be the same."
"Television will never be the same."
D: Sidney Lumet
MGM/United Artists (Howard Gottfried)
US 1976
120 mins
W: Paddy Chayefsky
DP: Owen Roizman
Ed: Alan Heim
Mus: Elliot Lawrence
Peter Finch (Howard Beale), William Holden (Max Schumacher), Faye Dunaway (Diana Christiansen), Robert Duvall (Frank Hackett), Wesley Addy (Nelson Chaney), Ned Beatty (Arthur Jensen), Beatrice Straight (Mrs. Schumacher)
A highly intelligent, thought-provoking satire about the media and world of broadcasting, with fantastic performances from its ensemble cast. Peter Finch plays a news reader who has a mental breakdown while on air and becomes exploited by his television network and its executives (Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, etc). 
A classic of 1970's cinema with a sharp, brilliant Oscar-winning screenplay by veteran writer Paddy Chayefsky. Peter Finch also won an Oscar for Best Actor, becoming the first performer to do so posthumously. 
D: Mark Romanek
Fox Searchlight/DNA/Film4 (Andrew MacDonald & Allon Reich)
UK/US 2010
103 mins
Drama/Romance/Science Fiction
W: Alex Garland [based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro]
DP: Adam Kimmel
Ed: Barney Pilling
Mus: Rachel Portman
Carey Mulligan (Kathy H), Andrew Garfield (Tommy D), Keira Knightley (Ruth C), Charlotte Rampling (Miss Emily), Sally Hawkins (Miss Lucy)
I started reading the novel this is based on about a year ago, but gave up after the first chapter which seemed to be all about cricket!
In all honesty, perhaps I should have stuck with it, it's a very intelligent and interesting story and demonstrates proof that you don't always need starships or lasers for unique science fiction.
The story is ever so slightly similar to the 2005 Michael Bay film, The Island (which probably ripped off Kazuo Ishiguro's novel), it's the story of two girls and a boy who grow up in a boarding school where they are raised to be perfect specimens. They form a friendship which becomes a love triangle, even though their lives are to be short - the twist is that they only exist so that their organs can be donated to their benefactors.
The film features good performances from Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield & Carey Mulligan (who I've yet to see in a bad film) and the film utilises good photography and a bittersweet music score.
D: Irvin Kershner
Warner Bros./Woodcote/Taliafilm (Jack Schwartzman)
UK 1983
134 mins
W: Lorenzo Semple, Jr. [based on characters created by Ian Fleming]
DP: Douglas Slocombe
Ed: Ian Crafford 
Mus: Michel Legrand
Sean Connery (James Bond), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Maximilian Largo), Max Von Sydow (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Barbara Carrera (Fatima Blush), Kim Basinger (Domino Petachi), Edward Fox (M)
To say that this is Sean Connery's return to playing James Bond is a bit of a cheat, it's not an official Bond movie, produced by Warner Bros rather than MGM and Eon, as well as practically being a remake of Thunderball (qv).
Arguably, Connery will always be the best Bond, but he's far too old for the role here, explained by the in-jokey opening act. Distinctly average, but still better than a couple of the official entries to the James Bond collection.
D: Wolfgang Petersen
Warner Bros./Bavaria/WDR (Bernd Eichinger & Dieter Geissler)
West Germany 1984
94 mins


W: Wolfgang Petersen [based on the novel by Michael Ende]
DP: Jost Vacano
Ed: Jane Seitz
Mus: Klaus Doldinger & Giorgio Moroder
PD: Rolf Zehetbauer

Barret Oliver (Bastian Bux), Noah Hathaway (Atreyu), Tami Stronach (The Childlike Empress), Sydney Bromley (Engywook), Patricia Hayes (Urgl), Gerald McRaney (Mr. Bux)

Filmed entirely in Bavaria, West Germany, The Neverending Story is amongst the greatest fantasy films in the history of cinema. Take that Hollywood!
Based on the novel by Michael Ende, the story uses an original approach to depict its tall tales of a fantastic kingdom. Bastian, a bullied schoolboy, hides out in a bookstore and discovers an old, dusty tome with a mystical insignia on it's cover. He steals the book and takes shelter in the attic of his school to read it; the magical realm of Fantasia is under threat from a mysterious force known as 'the nothing', tearing through their great lands. A young, adventurous warrior named Atreyu is given the quest to stop the force and save the princess. The twist is that 'the nothing' is fuelled by the reader of the book's lack of imagination and that the real saviour is Bastian.
Considering this movie is over 30 years old, the visual effects, makeup, set design and other technical aspects have held strong reasonably well and it's almost immortalised by Limahl's title song and Giorgio Moroder's electronic score.
Keep believing kids! And watch this movie. It's awesome!
D: George T. Miller
Warner Bros. (Dieter Geissler)
Germany 1990
89 mins
W: Karin Howard [based on the novel by Michael Ende]
DP: Dave Connell
Ed: Peter Hollywood & Chris Blunden
Mus: Robert Folk
PD: Bob Laing & Götz Weidner
Jonathan Brandis (Bastian Bux), Kenny Morrison (Atreyu), Clarissa Burt (Xayide), Alexandra Johnes (The Childlike Empress), Martin Umbach (Nimbly)
Though the first film was based upon the fantasy novel by Michael Ende, it only tackled 50% of the source material, so a sequel materialised, intending to tackle what didn't make it into the first movie.
Unfortunately, what it became was this terrible mess, assembling an inferior cast for a story which feels so far removed from the first film, it's difficult to see it as a sequel at all.
Bastian returns to Fantasia with a magical amulet which allows him to make wishes at the expense of his memories, and along with the young warrior Atreyu and a creepy talking bird has to defeat an evil queen and protect the childlike empress.
There's a strange lack of magic & fantasy, with below standard production values & visual effects. Hugely disappointing, even for huge fans of the first film.
A third film was released in 1994, but nobody cared anymore.
"The war was over and the world was falling in love again..."
"The war was over and the world was falling in love again..."
D: Martin Scorsese
United Artists (Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff)
US 1977
155 mins


W: Earl Mac Rauch & Mardik Martin
DP: Laszlo Kovacs
Ed: Irving Lerner, Marcia Lucas, Tom Rolf, Bert Lovitt & David Ramirez
Mus: Ralph Burns
PD: Boris Leven
Cos: Theodora Van Runkle

Robert DeNiro (Jimmy Doyle), Liza Minnelli (Francine Evans), Lionel Stander (Tony Harrell), Mary Kay Place (Bernice Bennett), George Memmoli (Nicky)

Martin Scorsese perfectly captures the jazz scene of 1940's New York with this attempt to recapture the magic of the big studio musical.
Robert DeNiro and Liza Minnelli play two aspiring musicians whose paths initially cross amongst the hubbub of VJ Day at the end of World War II. They subsequently audition for a nightclub spot together and become lovers, but fate conspires against them and it isn't so happily ever after.
The look of the film is excellent, with meticulous production design and costumes, and the jazzy score provides the perfect vibe for the visuals. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the brilliant actors, the story doesn't match the vibrancy of the surroundings.
It's a noble attempt to revitalise a dying genre, but it doesn't quite come off. Audiences of 1977 seemed to agree as well, since the film failed to set alight the box office.

"Best friends make the best mistakes."
"Best friends make the best mistakes."
D: John Schlesinger
Paramount/Lakeshore (Tom Rosenberg, Leslie Dixon & Linne Radmin)
US 2000
108 mins


W: Thomas Ropelewski 
DP: Elliott Davis
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: Gabriel Yared

Madonna (Abbie Reynolds), Rupert Everett (Robert Whittaker), Benjamin Bratt (Ben Cooper), Michael Vartan (Kevin Lasater), Josef Sommer (Richard Whittaker), Neil Patrick Harris (David)

The next worse thing pairs Madonna and Rupert Everett as one of the worst on-screen partnerships of modern times. 
After a one-night stand together, despite Everett's character being gay, Madonna finds that she's become pregnant, and the two decide to raise the child together.
The biggest issue here is that there's absolutely no chemistry between the two main characters, even platonically. The insult is that it all seems a big ego project for Madonna, who has the power to change someone's sexual orientation.
As a drama it's without any dramatic issues and as a comedy it's completely bereft of laughs. Inept.
D: Christopher Cain
Columbia (Jerry Weintraub)
US 1994
104 mins
W: Mark Lee [based on characters created by Robert Mark Kamen]
DP: Laszlo Kovacs
Ed: Ronald Roose
Mus: Bill Conti
Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita (Mr. Miyagi), Hilary Swank (Julie Pierce), Michael Ironside (Col. Paul Dugan), Constance Towers (Louisa Pierce), Chris Conrad (Eric McGowen)
The formula from the original trilogy gets a gender switch as Mr. Miyagi teaches a bullied schoolgirl how to be a karate ace so she can gain some self respect following the death of her parents.
Hilary Swank delivers a performance that put her on the showbiz map but Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita looks tired of playing the same character yet again.
"A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control."
"A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control."
D: Henry Hathaway
20th Century Fox (Charles Brackett)
US 1952
89 mins
W: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch & Richard Breen
DP: Joe MacDonald
Ed: Barbara McLean
Mus: Sol Kaplan
Joseph Cotten (George Loomis), Marilyn Monroe (Rose Loomis), Jean Peters (Polly Cutler), Casey Adams (Ray Cutler), Denis O'Dea (Inspector Starkey)
Whilst on his honeymoon, a man becomes convinced that his wife is having an affair.
Niagara is not the Hitchcockian thriller/film noir which the poster or synopsis alluded to, in fact, it couldn't be further from the sort, which makes it quite disappointing in that respect.
It does, however, feature a smoking Monroe performance and more than ample proof of her status as one of the great Hollywood sexpots, portraying the manipulative wife who drives her husband towards the brink of insanity while they're holidaying beside the raging Niagara Falls.
All the performances are good, but I personally expected a completely different film. Perhaps it would have been better going into this with a completely open mind.
"They're not that nice."
"They're not that nice."
D: Shane Black
Warner Bros/Waypoint/Ratpac-Dune (Joel Silver)
US 2016
116 mins


W: Shane Black & Anthony Bagarozzi
DP: Philippe Rousselot
Ed: Joel Negron
Mus: John Ottman & David Buckley

Russell Crowe (Jackson Healy), Ryan Gosling (Holland March), Angourie Rice (Holly March), Matt Bomer (John Boy), Margaret Qualley (Amelia Kutner), Kim Basinger (Judith Kutner)

This crime caper sees Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as mismatched private investigators who get drawn into a missing persons case in 1970's Hollywood.
When a pornographic actress is involved in a fatal car crash, a conspiracy unfolds involving the adult film industry and the investigative duo cross paths, while more sinister people get in their way.
The script is typically Shane Black, taking elements of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but the outcome happens to be one of the funniest films of 2016. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are great together and the film does make space for some hilarious moments.

D: Shawn Levy
20th Century Fox (Shawn Levy, Chris Columbus & Michael Barnathan)
US/UK 2006
108 mins


W: Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Don Zimmerman
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Ben Stiller (Larry Daley), Carla Gugino (Rebecca Hutman), Dick Van Dyke (Cecil Fredericks), Mickey Rooney (Gus), Bill Cobbs (Reginald), Jake Cherry (Nick Daley), Ricky Gervais (Dr. McPhee), Robin Williams (Theodore Roosevelt), Steve Coogan (Octavius), Owen Wilson (Jedediah)

Larry (Ben Stiller) is the new nightwatchman at New York's Museum of Natural History, where, unknown to the outside world, the exhibits come to life after sundown. 
Larry, completely out his depth as he struggles to maintain calm, has no idea that he's been hired to be pinned as a fall guy by a trio of retiring security guards who plan to use the chaos as a smokescreen while they steal previous artefacts.
Larry, with the help of the living waxwork of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), a pocket-sized cowboy (Owen Wilson), and his miniature Roman nemesis, Octavius (Steve Coogan) all plan a way to stop the thieves and save the struggling museum.
Good fun for a family movie, where the chaos starts early on with a skeletal T-Rex chase and only gets more crazy. All the performances are outshone by the excellent visual effects, which is a good thing, since some of the acting is absolutely terrible and/or shamefully miscast (Ricky Gervais).
Some sequels followed, though not quite as good as this original film.

D: Thom Everhardt
Atlantic/Coleman-Rosenblatt (Andrew Lane & Wayne Crawford)
US 1984
98 mins
Science Fiction/Horror/Comedy
W: Thom Eberhardt
DP: Arthur Albert
Ed: Fred Stafford
Mus: David Richard Campbell
Catherine Mary Stewart (Regina Belmont), Kelli Maroney (Sam Belmont), Robert Beltran (Hector Gomez), Sharon Farrell (Doris), Mary Woronov (Audrey White)
A cheesy 80's horror/sci-fi B-movie which is actually much better than it sounds. End of the world movies meet Dawn Of The Dead as a comet which hasn't passed by Earth in 65 million years turns the majority of the population into red dust and others into flesh eating zombies.  Two people unaffected by the comet's apocalyptic powers are two Valley Girl sisters from the LA suburbs who find a male survivor hiding out at a local radio station, put out a message to find others & receive a message from scientists in a bunker who may have a darker motive for finding Earth's survivors.
It's all quite goofy & definitely owes a debt to Romero's zombie movies, but it's also a fun homage to the B-movies of the 1950's with clever references throughout. 
The acting is all rather average, the script is cheesy and the special effects and makeup are quite atrocious, but this was still a hugely entertaining movie. A perfect example of a guilty pleasure.
D: Charles Laughton
United Artists (Paul Gregory)
US 1955
93 mins


W: James Agee [based on the novel by Davis Grubb]
DP: Stanley Cortez
Ed: Robert Golden
Mus: Walter Schumann

Robert Mitchum (Preacher Harry Powell), Shelley Winters (Willa Harper), Lillian Gish (Rachel), Evelyn Varden (Icey Spoon), Peter Graves (Ben Harper), Billy Chapin (John), Sally Jane Bruce (Pearl), James Gleason (Birdie)

Robert Mitchum gives one of the most sinister performances of all time as a villainous preacher who seduces a widow so he can locate the wearabouts of a fortune hidden by her children's father.
The brooding, atmospheric photography only adds to Charles Laughton's tense direction.
One of cinema's all-time great thrillers.
"They won't stay dead!"
"They won't stay dead!"
D: George A. Romero
Image Ten (Russell Streiner & Karl Hardman)
US 1969
98 mins
W: John A. Russo
DP: George A. Romero
Ed: George A. Romero
Judith O'Dea (Barbra Blair), Duane Jones (Ben), Karl Hardman (Harry Cooper), Keith Wayne (Tom)
Despite a humble cast, a very simple story (a group of people hide from bloodthirsty zombies in an abandoned barn) and a virtually non-existent budget, writer-director George A. Romero still delivers one of the seminal, groundbreaking horror films and amongst the first to feature zombies as murderous, utilising its gloomy atmosphere to build the tension in the absence of blood and gore effects.
A bigger-budget sequel (Dawn Of The Dead (qv)) was even better.
"There is a fate worse than death."
"There is a fate worse than death."
D: Tom Savini
Columbia/21st Century (John A. Russo & Russ Steiner)
US 1990
89 mins
W: George A. Romero [based on a screenplay by John A. Russo]
DP: Frank Prinzi
Ed: Tom Dubensky
Mus: Paul McCollough
Tony Todd (Ben), Patricia Tallman (Barbara), Tom Towles (Harry Cooper), McKee Anderson (Helen Cooper), Heather Mazur (Sarah Cooper)
Bigger budget remake of George A. Romero's 1968 classic, directed by Tom Savini, a makeup artist who specialised in gore effects (as seen by his work on Dawn Of The Dead).
The austere atmosphere of the original film is lost in favour of excessive violence and gore, and though it's not a terrible remake, it doesn't come close to the shock factor of its 1960's counterpart and doesn't have many particularly memorable moments, especially not the same way the original film does.
D: Clive Barker
20th Century Fox/Morgan Creek (Gariella Martinelli)
US 1990
102 mins
W: Clive Barker [based on his novel "Cabal"]
DP: Steve Hardie & Mark Haskins
Ed: Richard Marden & Mark Goldblatt
Mus: Danny Elfman
Craig Sheffer (Aaron Boone/Cabal), Anne Bobby (Lori Winston), David Cronenberg (Dr. Philip K. Decker), Charles Haid (Capt. Eigerman), Hugh Quarshie (Det. Joyce), Hugh Ross (Narcisse), Doug Bradley (Dirk Lylesberg)
Unique horror movie in which the monsters are considered good guys and the humans are the real villains. A troubled teenager discovers Midian, an underworld kingdom of shape-shifting beasts, while a psychotic serial killer also wants to find the mythical world, so he can destroy it.
Clive Barker wrote the screenplay and directed, based on his own novel, and the film provides a refreshing change for the genre despite not having much narrative drive. 
"The closer you look, the darker it gets."
"The closer you look, the darker it gets."


D: Dan Gilroy
Bold/Open Road (Tony Gilroy, Jennifer Fox, Michel Litvak, David Lancaster & Jake Gyllenhaal)
US 2014
117 mins
W: Dan Gilroy
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: John Gilroy
Mus: James Newton Howard
Jake Gyllenhaal (Louis Bloom), Rene Russo (Nina Romina), Riz Ahmed (Rick), Bill Paxton (Joe Loder)
Jake Gyllenhaal is wickedly sinister as a misanthropic loner in this atmospheric crime thriller. He plays Louis Bloom, who embarks upon a career filming paparazzi-style  footage of crimes which he sells on to the highest bidding news channel, managed by career-driven executive Rene Russo.
He soon develops a taste for the macabre work, even going as far as manipulating the facts he shares with the police so a pair of murderers stay on the loose, so he can push his prices up even further with his exclusive footage.
The dark subject matter will certainly not be to everybody's taste and some similarities will be made with 2011's Drive (which shared some of the same producers).
Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo deliver their finest performances here, and were without doubt robbed of Oscar nominations. They easily make what could have been a very awkward watch rather mesmeric along with some excellent photography from cinematography Robert Elswit.
One of 2014's best.

D: Henry Selick
Buena Vista/Touchstone (Tim Burton & Denise di Novi)
US 1993
75 mins
W: Caroline Thompson & Michael McDowell
DP: Pete Kozachik
Ed: Stan Webb
Mus: Danny Elfman
voices of: Chris Sarandon / Danny Elfman (Jack Skellington), Catherine O'Hara (Sally), William Hickey (Dr. Finklestein), Glenn Shadix (Mayor of Halloween Town), Paul Reubens (Lock), Ed Ivory (Santa Claus)
A unique, imaginative and brilliantly executed animated fantasia from the mind of Tim Burton (serving as producer), although the credit should really go to the animation department who perfected stop-motion photography techniques necessary for making this the seasonal classic it has become.
The story is a macabre twist on How The Grinch Stole Christmas, given a real burst of originality by Danny Elfman's songs.
Maybe not for really young children, but a festive treat for the family (whether it be for Halloween or Christmas).
"If Nancy doesn't wake up screaming, she won't wake up at all."
"If Nancy doesn't wake up screaming, she won't wake up at all."
D: Wes Craven
New Line/Media/Smart Egg (Robert Shaye)
US 1984
91 mins
W: Wes Craven
DP: Jacques Haitkin
Ed: Rick Shaine
Mus: Charles Bernstein
Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson), John Saxon (Lt. Don Thompson), Ronee Blakely (Marge Thompson), Amanda Wyss (Tina Gray), Nick Corri (Rod Lane), Johnny Depp (Glen Lantz), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger)
Wes Craven reinvented the slasher genre with A Nightmare On Elm Street, which made enough money to save its production company from going bust and inspired a long series of films (as well as a remake).
Freddy Krueger, the villain of the series, is a razor-gloved, burned-faced boogeyman who stalks the dreams of suburban teenagers to avenge for their parent's crime of killing him when he was a real life child murderer.
Craven's style obeys the golden rule of horror by not showing all its cards until the final moments, but also uses much gore and spatter for the more unpleasant moments.
Its legacy of sequels can only be admired though many would argue this is the best of the lot and the only one really worth watching. The only real disappointment is the tacky ending, which was only shot once with substandard special effects.
"Welcome to your new nightmare."
"Welcome to your new nightmare."
D: Samuel Bayer
Warner Bros./New Line (Michael Bay, Andrew Form & Brad Fuller)
US 2010
94 mins
W: Wesley Strick & Eric Heisserer [based on characters created by Wes Craven]
DP: Jeff Cutter
Ed: Glen Scantlebury
Mus: Steve Jablonsky
Rooney Mara (Nancy Holbrook), Jackie Earle Haley (Freddy Krueger), Kyle Gallner (Quentin Smith), Katie Cassidy (Kris Fowles), Thomas Dekker (Jesse), Kellan Lutz (Dean Russell)
I really hate the new phrase "re-imagination" coined by Hollywood's Yes Men so they can retread familiar footsteps. A remake is a remake. Stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes!
I should have known this was going to be terrible because Michael Bay is credited as producer and that man is a fucking disease!
The original NOES saga ran out of steam over its 7 movies and 1994's New Nightmare was the worst of the bunch, this is slightly better than that film, but it really didn't need to be made. It replaces all the humour and cheesy effects for gore and a more sinister Freddy Krueger, who may as well have "paedophile" written across his face instead of the crap makeup (which actually looks more like CGI). Jackie Earle Haley doesn't actually do a bad job as the villain, but he's simply no Robert Englund.
Rooney Mara delivered a reasonably good performance, especially considering the script gave her so little to work with.
Still, it's very ironic that a movie about characters trying to stay awake nearly sent me to sleep.
"The man of your dreams is back."
"The man of your dreams is back."
D: Jack Sholder 
New Line/Heron/Smart Egg (Robert Shaye)
US 1985
84 mins
W: David Chaskin [based on characters created by Wes Craven]
DP: Jacques Haitkin
Ed: Bob Brady 
Mus: Christopher Young
Mark Patton (Jesse Walsh), Kim Myers (Lisa Webber), Hope Lange (Cheryl Walsh), Clu Gulager (Ken Walsh), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger)
This first sequel of the Nightmare On Elm Street series deviates from the plot from the rest of the films, so much as it's not much about a boogeyman stalking the dreams of his prey in favour of a storyline about possession.
The narrative is quite weak, but has a rather clever homoerotic subplot beneath it which much of the audience didn't give it enough credit for.
Nevertheless, it's not particularly memorable and doesn't really have any connection to the first film.
"If you think you're ready for Freddy, think again."
"If you think you're ready for Freddy, think again."
D: Chuck Russell
New Line/Heron/Smart Egg (Robert Shaye)
US 1987
96 mins
W: Wes Craven & Bruce Wagner [based on characters created by Wes Craven]
DP: Roy H. Wagner
Ed: Terry Stokes
Mus: Angelo Badalamenti
Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson), Patricia Arquette (Kristen Parker), Craig Wasson (Dr. Neil Gordon), Larry Fishburne (Max Daniels), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger)
The first true sequel to A Nightmare On Elm Street, following on from events in the first film with returning cast member Heather Langenkamp as haunted protagonist Nancy, this time helping other suburban teenagers in mental care after suffering vivid nightmares in which they're pursued by the razor-gloved villain Freddy Krueger. The misfits then form an alliance and give strengths to their dream-selves in order to defeat the bad guy.
Many consider this the best of the Elm Street series and it's difficult to argue with that honour. At least from a technical perspective, this film in the series has the best visual effects and makeup.
Unfortunately, all the sequels which followed this were progressively worse.
"Terror beyond your wildest dreams."
"Terror beyond your wildest dreams."
D: Renny Harlin
New Line/Heron/Smart Egg (Robert Shaye & Rachel Talalay)
US 1988
93 mins


W: Brian Helgeland & Scott Pierce [based on characters created by Wes Craven]
DP: Steven Fierberg
Ed: Michael N. Knue, Chuck Weiss, Jack Tucker & Charley Coleman
Mus: Craig Safan

Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Lisa Wilcox (Alice Johnson), Danny Hassel (Dan Jordan), Andras Jones (Rick Johnson), Tuesday Knight (Kristen Parker), Ken Sagoes (Ronald Kincaid)

The fourth Elm Street horror is a mishmash of violence and grotesque humour as Freddy Krueger goes on his usual dreamworld killing spree.
This was the first film which have Robert Englund star billing as the infamous villain and rightly so, it's his performance which steals the film while everyone else gives a rather wooden effort, particularly Lisa Wilcox with a pathetic excuse for an acting performance. 
Unfortunately, the story is formulaic and distinctly average compared to earlier films in the series, but that didn't prevent this from becoming the highest-grossing film in the franchise.
If you were to miss out on this one, you wouldn't lose any sleep over it.
"Freddy delivers."
"Freddy delivers."
D: Stephen Hopkins
New Line/Heron/Smart Egg (Robert Shaye & Rupert Harvey)
US 1989
89 mins
W: Leslie Boehm [based on characters created by Wes Craven]
DP: Peter Levy
Ed: Chuck Weiss & Brent Schoenfeld
Mus: Jay Ferguson 
Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Lisa Wilcox (Alice Johnson), Kelly Jo Minter (Yvonne Miller), Danny Hassel (Dan Jordan), Erika Anderson (Greta Gibson)
Nightmarish boogeyman Freddy Krueger returns once again to possess the unborn child of one his former victims.
This fifth installment of the series is complete nonsense, casting the rules from the previous movies aside in order to blend the real-life world with the vivid nightmares together, which makes for a confusing narrative held together only by the unpleasant and cartoonish death scenes (thrown together with some rather terrible visual effects and makeup).
Only Englund's grotesque performance makes it a worthwhile viewing experience, but he doesn't feature in this one nearly as much as the previous instalments, so we're mostly left with Lisa Wilcox's pathetically wooden acting to carry the film. It would actually be quite possible to sleep through this one.
The next sequel was "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare" (qv), released in 1991.
D: Ole Bornedal
Miramax/Dimension (Michael Obel)
US 1998
101 mins


W: Steven Soderbergh & Ole Bornedal [based on the screenplay "Nattevagten" by Ole Bornedal]
DP: Dan Lausten
Ed: Sally Menke
Mus: Joachim Holbeck

Ewan McGregor (Martin Bells), Nick Nolte (Insp. Thomas Cray), Josh Brolin (James Gallman), Patricia Arquette (Catherine), Alix Koromzay (Joyce)

A law student takes a job working a night shift at a city morgue and is suspected of being a serial killer.
A remake of a Danish 1994 thriller which retains its original director but appears to have lost all sense of foreboding atmosphere, despite the screenplay being co-written by the hugely talented Steven Soderbergh.
Only Nick Nolte's sinister performance rings true. Everyone else just seems to be there for a paycheck.
D: Luc Besson
Palace/Gaumont/Cecci (Jerome Chalou)
France 1990
117 mins


W: Luc Besson
DP: Thierry Arbogast
Ed: Olivier Mauffroy
Mus: Eric Serra

Anne Parillaud (Nikita), Jean-Hughes Anglade (Marco), Tcheky Karyo (Bob), Jeanne Moreau (Amande), Jean Reno (Victor)

La Femme Nikita (or simply Nikita) is a stylish French thriller from writer/director Luc Besson in which a female criminal becomes an assassin for the government.
Despite its plot being rather implausible, it contains a very convincing performance from lead actress Anne Parillaud and inspired a successful television series (La Femme Nikita) as well as an American remake (The Assassin). Besson would go on to make the similarly-themed Leon (qv). 
D: Gary Oldman
20th Century Fox/SEB (Luc Besson, Douglas Urbanski & Gary Oldman)
UK 1997
128 mins


W: Gary Oldman
DP: Ron Fortunato
Ed: Brad Fuller 
Mus: Eric Clapton 

Ray Winstone (Raymond), Kathy Burke (Valerie), Charlie Creed-Miles (Billy), Laila Morse (Janet), Edna Doré (Kath), Chrissie Cotterill (Paula), Jon Morrison (Angus), Jamie Forman (Mark)

This is what Eastenders would really be like if the BBC had a pair of bollocks.
Marking Gary Oldman's directorial debut, it's clearly a partly autobiographical story about a middle class family on a Saaaath Laaaandon haaaasing estaaaate, Ray Winstone is the alcoholic, abusive and violent father, Kathy Burke his timid wife and Leila Morse as Kathy Burke's mum. Ray & Kathy also have a junkie son. There's not much story as such, just a lot of faaaaacking swear words (especially the C-word), but it's still an intense, gritty and challenging drama.
Personally, I think a better job was done in the New Zealand film Once Were Warriors (qv), which has a very similar theme, but this is a fine British equivalent. 
D: Adrian Lyne
MGM/United Artists/PSO (Anthony Rufus Isaacs & Zalman King)
US 1986
113 mins


W: Patricia Knop, Zalman King & Sarah Kernochan [based on the novel by Elizabeth McNeill]
DP: Peter Biziou
Ed: Caroline Biggerstaff, Ed Hansen, Tom Rolf & Mark Winitsky
Mus: Jack Nitzsche

Mickey Rourke (John Gray), Kim Basinger (Elizabeth McGraw), Margaret Whitton (Molly), David Margulies (Harvey), Christine Baranski (Thea)

Steamy soft-core romance nonsense in which a Wall Street banker and an art gallery owner embark on a steamy affair, have lots of sex and waste all the food in their refrigerator.
In the hands of another director, this would be just another skin flick, but Adrian Lyne takes an artful approach to the subject matter, which in turn makes it even more painful a watch, possibly because Mickey Rourke & Kim Basinger have no on-screen chemistry whatsoever.
This may have passed for romance in the kitsch-80's, but modern audiences will find it simply laughable, especially the intended erotic scenes where Mickey Rourke empties the contents of his fridge over Kim Basinger's expectant face. It would've been far more entertaining to watch them tidy up all the mess.
"His life just got put on paws."
"His life just got put on paws."


D: Barry Sonnenfeld

EuropaCorp/Fundamental Films (Lisa Ellzey)

France/China 2016

87 mins


W: Gwyn Lurie, Matt R. Allen, Caleb Wilson, Daniel Antoniazzi & Ben Shiffrin

DP: Karl Walter Lindenlaub

Ed: Don Zimmerman & David Zimmerman

Mus: Evgueni Galperine & Sacha Galperine

Kevin Spacey (Tom Brand), Jennifer Garner (Lara Brand), Robbie Amell (David Brand), Malina Weissman (Rebecca Brand), Christopher Walken (Felix Perkins)

Before I settled down to watch this English-language, French-produced comedy, my expectations were really, really, really low. The concept alone didn't fill me with confidence and neither did the line-up of the cast. I think Kevin Spacey is a great actor, but is this really a fitting role for him? The answer is no. 

That being said, Nine Lives wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it still isn't very good. It's just an average, bland, inoffensive family flick.

Kevin Spacey plays Tom (get it?) Brand, a workaholic who spends most of his life in board meetings and shunning his family. Following a disagreement with a shady executive at his company, he finds himself trapped inside the cat he had just bought his young daughter for her birthday, the workings of a mystical pet shop owner (played by Christopher Walken). 

It's an It's A Wonderful Life variant with a cat, except there isn't any real character arc for the main character. Throw that in with some incredibly poor visual effects and a lazy voice performance by Kevin Spacey and it's much closer to Look Who's Talking Now rather than Frank Capra.

I can't blame Spacey for taking the role. A job is a job. But he's really above this, and so is director Barry Sonnenfeld.

Like a cat in real life, it probably won't matter if you don't pay it much attention.


"Getting even is a full time job."
"Getting even is a full time job."
NINE TO FIVE (9 TO 5) (15)
D: Colin Higgins 
20th Century Fox/IPC (Bruce Gilbert)
US 1980
110 mins
W: Colin Higgins & Patricia Resnick
DP: Reynaldo Villalobos 
Ed: Pembroke J. Herring 
Mus: Charles Fox
Jane Fonda (Judy Bernly), Lily Tomlin (Violet Newstead), Dolly Parton (Doralee Rhodes), Dabney Coleman (Franklin M. Hart, Jr.), Sterling Hayden (Russell Tinsworthy)
Over a decade before The Spice Girls dished out their version of "Girl Power", Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin & Dolly Parton got there first in this battle-of-the-sexes comedy, in which they play three disgruntled secretaries who plot to kidnap their chauvinistic boss.
Highly enjoyable with solid performances and an ample amount of laughs, but probably made even more memorable by Dolly Parton's catchy title song.
"Big Brother is watching."
"Big Brother is watching."
1984 (15)
D: Michael Radford
Virgin/Umbrella/Rosenblum (Simon Perry)
US 1984
110 mins

Science Fiction

W: Michael Radford [based on the novel by George Orwell]
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Tom Priestley
Mus: Dominic Muldowney
PD: Allan Cameron

John Hurt (Winston Smith), Richard Burton (O'Brien), Suzanna Hamilton (Julia), Cyril Cusack (Mr. Charrington), Gregor Fisher (Parsons), James Walker (Syme)

It's about as good a cinematic dramatisation you could get from George Orwell's classic novel.  Many people consider the work dated or this filmed version pointless, purely because the year of its prophecy had been and gone, but Orwell's prose is still an important piece of 20th century literature.
John Hurt is brilliant as Winston Smith and Richard Burton also gives a creepy, insidious performance. 
A lot is missing from the novel, but it does include the majority of the important things and the dystopian future is very well realised by director Mike Radford. 
Recommended to fans of the book and general science fiction, it's just a shame that it dated itself upon the year of its release.
99 HOMES (15)
D: Ramin Bahrani
Broad Green/Hyde Park/Image Nation (Ashok Amritaj, Ramin Bahrani, Justin Nappi, Kevin Turen & Andrew Garfield)
US 2015
112 mins


W: Ramin Bahrani & Amir Naderi
DP: Bobby Bukowski
Ed: Ramin Bahrani
Mus: Antony Partos & Matteo Zingales

Andrew Garfield (Dennis Nash), Michael Shannon (Rick Carver), Laura Dern (Lynn Nash), Noah Lomax (Connor Nash)

99 Homes is an unpleasant viewing experience, focusing on the 2008 housing market crash and the misery of people who lost their homes as a result.
Michael Shannon plays an unscrupulous real estate broker who manipulates eviction proceedings for his own capital gain. One of his victims is recently unemployed father Andrew Garfield, who is told by a court judge that he has 30 days to appeal an eviction, only to be turfed out of his home with his mother and son the very next day.
What follows is an updated spin on Wall Street, with the real estate man taking the young protégé under his wing, so he too can profit from other people's misery. But, of course, power and greed is a corruptive force and money can't buy true happiness.
This is one of them films where the trailer is better than the actual movie, which is rife with unrealistic characters and only held together by one great performance, that of Michael Shannon.
This was one of two 2015 films which dealt with the same subject, the other being The Big Short, which received much more attention than this depressing journal of frustration, distress and desperation.