"They were the perfect couple buying the perfect house. Until a perfect stranger moved into their lives."
"They were the perfect couple buying the perfect house. Until a perfect stranger moved into their lives."


D: John Schlesinger
20th Century Fox/Morgan Creek (Scott Rudin & William Sackheim)
US 1990
104 mins
W: Daniel Pyne
DP: Amir Mokri
Ed: Mark Warner & Steven Ramirez
Mus: Hans Zimmer
Melanie Griffith (Patty Palmer), Matthew Modine (Drake Goodman), Michael Keaton (Carter Hayes/James Danforth), Mako (Toshio Watanabe), Nobu McCarthy (Mira Watanabe), Laurie Metcalf (Stephanie McDonald), Carl Lumbly (Lou Baker), Tippi Hedren (Florence Peters)

One of the first entries in a thriller sub-genre which seemed to saturate the early 1990's. It works reasonably well due to Michael Keaton's subtly chilling performance as a nightmare tenant who makes a young couples life hell when he moves into the spare room of their luxurious three-storey semi, using every trick in the book to withhold paying any rent before his true psychopathic tendencies come to the forefront.

The finale descends into cliched and formulaic melodrama which the build up didn't deserve, harming what could have been a very good psychological thriller, despite some very good performances from its cast throughout.



D: Guillermo del Toro
Warner Bros./Legendary (Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Guillermo del Toro & Mary Parent)
US 2013
132 mins
Science Fiction/Action/Adventure
W: Guillermo del Toro & Travis Beacham
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: John Gilroy & Peter Amundsen
Mus: Ramin Djawadi 
Charlie Hunnam (Raleigh Becket), Idris Elba (Stacker Pentecost), Rinko Kikuchi (Mako Mori), Charlie Day (Dr. Newton Geiszler), Robert Kazinsky (Chuck Hansen), Max Martini (Herc Hansen), Ron Perlman (Hannibal Chau)
It's basically Transformers vs Godzilla, but even with that low-brow plot, the lack of any real depth to the story is very disappointing considering director Guillermo del Toro's previous work (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.), this science fiction adventure is all about scale, as robots fight monsters on the Pacific coast.
Good acting and realistic dialogue take a back seat as this movie is all about action scenes and blowing shit up. Some of the set pieces are decent, but setting them in near darkness do no justice to the otherwise good CGI.
All in all, this is really not much better than the average man-in-a-rubber-suit Japanese monster movies from the 1950's & 60's, making it a rather pointless venture. The original Gojira (Godzilla) movies were frequently dubbed "so bad, they're good" and while Pacific Rim tries to make good from those bad roots by adding glossy visual effects, pyrotechnics and tweaking the decibel level.  It was appreciated a lot more by a lot of people though, it just didn't do anything for me personally and felt a little like an overinflated episode of TV's Power Rangers.
"Rise Up"
"Rise Up"


D: Steven S. DeKnight

Universal/Legendary (Mary Parent, Cale Boyter, Guillermo del Toro, John Boyega, Femi Oguns, Thomas Tull & Jon Jashni)

US 2018

111 mins

Science Fiction/Action/Adventure

W: Steven S. DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder & T.S. Nowlin [based on characters created by Travis Beacham]

DP: Dan Mindel

Ed: Zach Staenberg, Dylan Highsmith & Josh Schaeffer

Mus: Lorne Balfe

John Boyega (Jake Pentecost), Scott Eastwood (Nate Lambert), Cailee Spaeny (Amara Namani), Jing Tian (Liwen Shao)

I wasn't a huge fan of the first Pacific Rim, but the general consensus seemed to enjoy it - which is fine, I can't speak for everyone, I can only speak for myself. With that in mind, it was unlikely I was going to enjoy this sequel... and I didn't. It was everything I didn't like about the first film, except it was much, much worse.

Following on from the robots vs monsters war in the first film, John Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Idris Elba's character in the original movie, a scavenger who harvests robot technology and sells them on the black market. Arrested for his illegal activity, he is forced back into the military robot unit as a new war rages between human controlled robots and other units which are controlled by the enemy.

Even for a movie where robots fight other robots for practically the entire duration, this is pretty dull, seemingly gravitating more to a Transformers fanbase rather than being its own thing. I honestly think, if you want to see robots fighting each other, watch Real Steel (qv), easily the best film of this type.


D: Paul King
Studio Canal/Heyday (David Heyman)
UK/France 2014
95 mins


W: Paul King & Hamish McColl [based on the character "Paddington Bear" created by Michael Bond]
DP: Erik Wilson
Ed: Mark Everson
Mus: Nick Urata

Sally Hawkins (Mary Brown), Hugh Bonneville (Henry Brown), Julie Walters (Mrs. Bird), Jim Broadbent (Samuel Gruber), Peter Capaldi (Mr. Curry), Nicole Kidman (Millicent Clyde), Ben Whishaw (voice of Paddington Bear)

Paddington is a brilliant example of the perfect children's film. In fact, it's probably too good for kids, bringing a beloved character to life with a good sense of comedy, as well as a stylish sense of direction from Paul King, who also co-wrote the screenplay.
A Peruvian bear stows away to London to find the explorer who discovered his species, but left stranded at Paddington station, he is taken in by the Brown family until he can find a new home.
Mrs. Brown instantly finds a place in her heart for the loveable bear, but her husband and kids are more reluctant to allow the accident-prone, marmalade-loving critter into their home.
Nicole Kidman plays a villainess much akin to Cruella de Vil, who plans to have Paddington stuffed on display at the Natural History Museum, and the Brown family band together to save him.
Despite being of Peruvian origin, Paddington Bear has always been a quintessential part of Great British culture and though the visual effects aren't as sharp as bigger budget features, they still manage to bring Paddington to life convincingly with a unique personality, helped by Ben Whishaw as the perfect choice for the bear's voice.
A minor irritant is the casting of Nicole Kidman, who brings nothing to the role that a British actress could have done, but everyone else in the cast is perfect. 
A brilliantly crafted piece of magic and huge fun for the whole family.


D: Paul King

Studio Canal/Heyday (David Heyman)

UK/France 2017

103 mins


W: Paul King & Simon Farnaby [based on characters created by Michael Bond]

DP: Erik Wilson

Ed: Mark Everson & Jonathan Amos

Mus: Dario Marianelli

Hugh Bonneville (Henry Brown), Sally Hawkins (Mary Brown), Hugh Grant (Phoenix Buchanan), Brendan Gleeson (Knuckles McGinty), Julie Walters (Mrs. Bird), Jim Broadbent (Samuel Gruber), Ben Whishaw (voice of Paddington Bear)

The first Paddington movie was a pleasant surprise when it was released in 2014, well received by audiences and critics alike.

This 2017 sequel doesn't match the original for story or humour, but is still great, clean family entertainment.

Now settled with the Brown family in England, Paddington attempts to get a job so he can buy a birthday present for his Aunt in Peru, and after a bad experience working in a barber shop, he finds success as a window cleaner. Trouble strikes when he witnesses a robbery of Gruber's Antiques Shop, but it's Paddington who is arrested and sentenced for the crime. The Brown family attempt to clear his name on the outside by finding the real culprit, while Paddington struggles with his life behind bars.

All the cast are just fine, especially Ben Whishaw, who is the perfect voice actor to portray Paddington, bringing much humanity to the CGI bear. It's not the type of film which will be queuing up for little gold men come awards season, but it's a perfect film for a family to snuggle around on a cold, wintry weekend.


"Every legend has a beginning."
"Every legend has a beginning."
D: Joe Wright
Warner Bros/Ratpac-Dune (Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter & Paul Webster)
US 2015
111 mins


W: Jason Fuchs [based on characters created by J.M. Barrie]
DP: Seamus McGarvey & John Mathieson
Ed: Paul Tothill
Mus: John Powell
PD: Aline Bonetto

Levi Miller (Peter Pan), Hugh Jackman (Blackbeard), Garrett Hedlund (James Hook), Rooney Mara (Tiger Lily), Amanda Seyfried (Mary)

In 1991, Steven Spielberg tackled a sequel to Peter Pan with Hook (qv), and for family entertainment, it was perfectly decent. This film is a prequel, and the results are nowhere near as good.
During the outbreak of World War II, Peter Pan is abducted from his orphanage and whisked away to a Neverland of flying pirate ships, where he and Captain Hook join forces to defeat the villainous Blackbeard. 
The story here is weak and it certainly isn't helped by Joe Wright's extravagant direction and atrociously miscast performances. 
For children who are too young to know any better, this may pass the time, for everyone else, it completely lacks the necessary magic. One of 2015's biggest disappointments.
"Fear what happens next."
"Fear what happens next."
D: Christian Alvart
Icon/Constantin/Impact (Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt & Paul W. S. Anderson)
UK/Germany 2009
108 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: Travis Milloy & Christian Alvart
DP: Wedigo Von Schultzendorff
Ed: Philipp Stahl & Yvonne Valdez
Mus: Michl Britsch

Dennis Quaid (Lt. Payton), Ben Foster (Cpl. Bower), Cam Gigandet (Young Cpl. Gallo), Antje Traue (Nadia), Cung Le (Manh), Eddie Rouse (Leland)

Paul W. S. Anderson's involvement in this prevents it from being a credible movie. He's easily one of the worst directors working today, carving a career out of making terrible film adaptations of video games.
He didn't actually direct this, but served as producer- still, it's apparent that he had some influence in the direction, the movie looks like it's trying to be a video game. 
The bare bones of the story have a lot of potential. Two astronauts wake up from hyper-sleep in a seemingly derelict spacecraft only to discover they are not alone and the crew are being hunted by zombie-like, cannibalistic creatures.
In the hands of better filmmakers this could have been a decent science fiction horror in the style of Event Horizon (qv), unfortunately the potential is torn to shreds by terrible direction and editing which make it nothing but complete and utter nonsense.
D: Guillermo del Toro
Optimum/Telecinco (Bertha Navarro, Alfonso Cuarón, Frida Torresblanco & Alvaro Augustin)
Spain/Mexico 2006
120 mins
W: Guillermo del Toro
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Bernat Vilaplana
Mus: Javier Navarrete
PD: Eugenio Caballero
Cos: Lala Huete
Ivana Baquero (Ofelia / Princess Moanna), Sergi Lopez (Capt. Vidal), Maribel Verdu (Mercedes), Alex Angulo (Dr. Ferreiro), Doug Jones (The Faun / The Pale Man), Ariadna Gil (Carmen / Queen of the Underworld)
Guillermo del Toro brings to the big screen one of the most stylish and intelligent modern fantasy films with this Spanish-language gem.
Set during the Spanish civil war, the imaginative stepdaughter of a cruel fascist captain takes refuge in a magical world, where a mystical faun sets her various tasks for her to prove her worth and become a princess to the underworld.
All aspects of the production are wildly imaginative, Guillermo del Toro delivering a breathtaking work of art with practically every single frame of film. The performances are also fantastic, especially from juvenile actress Ivana Bacquero, whose imagination transports us from the horrors of war into the world of her own creations.
"It was supposed to be the safest room in the house."
"It was supposed to be the safest room in the house."


D: David Fincher
Columbia Tristar/Indelible (Gavin Palone, Judy Hofflund, David Koepp & Ceán Chaffin)
US 2002
112 mins
W: David Koepp
DP: Conrad W. Hall & Darius Khondji
Ed: James Haygood & Angus Wall
Mus: Howard Shore
PD: Arthur Max 
Jodie Foster (Meg Altman), Forest Whitaker (Burnham), Dwight Yoakam (Raoul), Jared Leto (Junior), Kristen Stewart (Sarah Altman)

Jodie Foster & a young Kristen Stewart star as the mother and daughter who hide in a bunker-like safe room when a group of robbers break into their opulent house.

A decent low-key thriller from director David Fincher, whose use of clever camerawork and editing intensify the action set mostly in a single principal location.

It's not quite as good as the filmmaker's best work (Se7en, Fight Club), but the story is all the better for him behind the lens.



D: James Bridges
20th Century Fox (Robert C. Thompson & Rodrick Paul)
US 1973
111 mins
W: James Bridges [based on the novel by John Jay Osborn, Jr.]
DP: Gordon Willis
Mus: John Williams
Timothy Bottoms (James T. Hart), Lindsay Wagner (Susan Fields), John Houseman (Charles W. Kingsfield, Jr.), Graham Beckel (Franklin Ford III)

A Harvard law student falls in love with the divorced daughter of his crotchety, peevish professor.

This is a good example of one great performance making a movie, with John Houseman stealing it away from every other cast member.  Aside from this performance, the film isn't particularly special and certainly wouldn't be as memorable.

A television series followed, running for four seasons.

"As P. T. Barnum put it; There's a sucker born every minute."
"As P. T. Barnum put it; There's a sucker born every minute."


D: Peter Bogdanovich
Paramount/Saticoy (Peter Bogdanovich)
US 1973
103 mins
W: Alvin Sargent [based on the novel "Addie Pray" by Joe David Brown]
DP: Laszlo Kovacs
Ed: Verna Fields
Ryan O'Neal (Moses Pray), Tatum O'Neal (Addie Loggins), Madeline Kahn (Trixie Delight), John Hillerman (Sheriff Hardin)

During the Great Depression in mid-west America, a shady bible salesman and a young girl (who may or may not be his daughter) make a great team of confidence tricksters, travelling through Kansas on the grift and making a small fortune with small-time hustles before they ultimately bite off more than they can chew.

The film works best by using the real-life father & daughter partnership of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, with the latter upstaging her dad in virtually every scene.  It's probably Oscar fraud that 10-year-old Tatum was nominated as a supporting actress for a lead performance, but it's something which happens frequently to guarantee a win, which the juvenile performance certainly deserved.

Director Peter Bogdanovich utilises black and white photography to great effect, not only to capture the period to convincing effect, but in his own words to accentuate the brilliant performances. Tatum O'Neal definitely steals the show.

D: Franklin J. Schaffner 
Corona/General Production (Robert Dorfmann & Franklin J. Schaffner)
US 1973
150 mins


W: Dalton Trumbo & Lorenzo Semple, Jr. [based on the book by Henri Charrìere]
DP: Fred Koenecamp
Ed: Robert Swink
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Steve McQueen (Henri 'Papillon' Charrière), Dustin Hoffman (Louis Dega), Victor Jory (Indian Chief), Don Gordon (Julot), Anthony Zerbe (Toussaint)

From the French word for "Butterfly" and the book by Henri Charìerre, this prison drama is on lengthy side and the pacing does come to the screen rather slowly, the reasoning behind which is so the audience can better engage and empathise with the prisoners' incarceration on a dismal, austere and desolate penal colony.

Steve McQueen & Dustin Hoffman play two prisoners incarcerated on the notoriously inescapable Devil's Island, they strike up an unlikely friendship and plot to fly from the roost.

The two main performances are faultless and though a little of the slow-building narrative could have been curtailed, the film still holds up as a classic over four decades later.


"What happens when you sleep?"
"What happens when you sleep?"
D: Oren Peli
Paramount/Blumhouse/Sorana (Oren Peli & Jason Blum)
US 2007 (Released 2009)
88 mins (unrated cut: 99 mins)
W: Oren Peli
DP: Oren Peli
Ed: Oren Peli 
Katie Featherstone (Katie), Micah Sloat (Micah)
A horror movie given a documentary-style feel but doesn't feel as real as Cloverfield, Rec and other movies of the same theme. 
The limited plot merely concerns a young married couple who film paranormal events during the night as they sleep.
This is generally about as scary as one of those YouTube videos where it shows a room and you have to "look for the ghost" only for an image of something scary to flash onto the screen accompanied by a loud scream. The difference is those YouTube videos are short, Paranormal Activity is over 85 minutes longer.
For some reason, the film had huge commercial success and an endless string of sequels with exactly the same plot followed. Yawn.
"It's all fun & games until someone raises the dead."
"It's all fun & games until someone raises the dead."
D: Sam Fell & Chris Butler
Universal/Focus Features (Travis Knight & Arianne Sutner)
US 2012
92 mins
W: Chris Butler, Arianne Sutner & Stephen Stone
Mus: Jon Brion
voices of: Kobi Smit-McPhee (Norman Babcock), Tucker Albrizzi (Neil Downe), Anna Kendrick (Courtney Babcock), Casey Affleck (Mitch Downe), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Alvin), Leslie Mann (Sandra Babcock)
A very well animated movie, utilising the same techniques employed in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
This may be a little scary for young children though- the story concerns a young boy who can communicate with ghosts and becomes an outcast at school and ignored by his parents. However, he may well be the towns only hope when they come under attack from zombies.
It's unfortunate that this movie falls in-between two stools of being too kiddy for adults and too adult for kiddies.
D: David Swift
Disney (George Golitzen)
US 1961
129 mins


W: David Swift [based on the novel "Das Doppelte Lottchen" by Erich Kästner]
DP: Lucien Ballard
Ed: Philip W. Anderson
Mus: Paul Smith

Hayley Mills (Sharon McKendrick / Susan Evers), Maureen O'Hara (Maggie McKendrick), Brian Keith (Mitch Evers), Charles Ruggles (Charles McKendrick), Una Merkel (Verbena), Leo G. Carroll (Rev. Mosby), Joanna Barnes (Vicky Robinson), Cathleen Nesbitt (Louise McKendrick), Ruth McDevitt (Miss Abbey Inch)

Using a bit of movie magic, clever photography and seamless editing techniques the audience gets two Hayley Mills performances for the price of one.

The juvenile actress plays both roles of a pair of twins, separated following their parents split, but reunited at a summer camp. They then switch places in a ploy to reunite their family.

It's typical of the clean family fun you'd expect from Disney during the 1960's, and though certain elements, like the fashion of the time, are now quite dated, the performance of its lead star maintain its watchability, especially for a rainy Bank Holiday afternoon.


D: Nancy Meyers 
Disney (Charles Shyer)
US 1998
127 mins


W: David Swift, Nancy Meyers & Charles Shyer [based on the novel "Das Doppelte Lottchen" by Erich Kästner]
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Stephen A. Rotter
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Lindsay Lohan (Annie James / Hallie Parker), Dennis Quaid (Nick Parker), Natasha Richardson (Liz James), Elaine Hendrix (Meredith Blake), Lisa Ann Walter (Chessy), Simon Kunz (Martin), Polly Holliday (Marva Kulp), Maggie Wheeler (Marva Kulp, Jr.)

Remake of the above with Lindsay Lohan stepping into the shoes of the dual role played originally by Hayley Mills.

The fashion, jokes, decor and even the characters' names get a rejig for a 1990's audience, yet it still feels like a "been there, done that" venture. Those who haven't seen the original (or simply don't remember it) will enjoy it more.

It's a fairly enjoyable remake, but the 1961 version seems to encapsulate more of the 'Disney magic'.



D: Ron Howard
UIP/Imagine (Brian Grazer)
US 1989
99 mins
W: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
DP: Donald McAlpine
Ed: Michael Hill & Daniel Hanley
Mus: Randy Newman 
Steve Martin (Gil Buckman), Tom Hulce (Larry Buckman), Rick Moranis (Nathan Huffner), Martha Plimpton (Julie Buckman), Keanu Reeves (Tod Higgins), Jason Robards (Frank Buckman), Mary Steenburgen (Karen Buckman), Dianne Wiest (Helen Buckman), Leaf Phoenix (Garry Buckman-Lampkin), Harley Jane Kozak (Susan Huffner)

The members of the incredibly dysfunctional Buckman family have various issues with their children, grandchildren, siblings, pregnancies and even their own parents. 

The stories in this ensemble piece and various comedy styles clash quite badly, with the whole being much less than the sum of all its parts. The most interesting story concerns Dianne Wiest disapproving of her daughter's slacker boyfriend (Keanu Reeves) whilst she's also having problems with her rebellious teenage son (Phoenix).

Fans of Steve Martin get a chance to see him doing some of his usual wackiness, but it really doesn't fit in this movie, as he and his wife Mary Steenburgen have problems with their own troubled son.

The performances can't be faulted and everyone gets a good chance to flex some acting muscles, some just come off much better than others.

A short-lived television series inspired by the film emerged in the early 1990's, followed by another in 2010 which ran for several seasons.



D: Wim Wenders

Road Movies/Argos (Anatole Dauman & Don Guest)

West Germany/France 1984

147 mins


W: Sam Shepard & L.M. Kit Carson [based on a story by Sam Shepard]

DP: Robby Müller

Ed: Peter Przygodda

Mus: Ry Cooder

Harry Dean Stanton (Travis Henderson), Dean Stockwell (Walt Henderson), Aurore Clement (Anne Henderson), Nastassja Kinski (Jane Henderson)

Wim Wenders brings his own visual style of poetry to the screen for Paris, Texas, which is practically a shaggy dog story in which an amnesiac attempts to reconnect with his life.

The film opens with Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) wandering around the desert near the town where he was born and subsequently reunites with his brother and later embarks on a journey to find his missing wife, now working in a sex trade.

The film doesn't have a conventional narrative like others, but instead draws on visual themes and mis-en-scene to allow the story to unfold. It's an acquired taste, but enough people enjoyed it enough to bestow it with the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival.

The visual style, cinematography and Ry Cooder's music are excellent, and the final act does provide some fine dialogue.


"Good. Evil. Fun."
"Good. Evil. Fun."


D: Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato
Strand/Killer Films (Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Jon Marcus, Bradford Simpson, Christine Vachon) 
US/Netherlands 2003
99 mins
W: Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato [based on the book "Disco Bloodbath" by James St. James]
DP: Teodoro Maniaci
Ed: Jeremy Simmons
Mus: Jimmy Harry
Macauley Culkin (Michael Alig), Seth Green (James Clark), Chloë Sevigny (Gitsie), Diana Scarwid (Elke), Dylan McDermott (Peter Gatian)

Weird biopic of party organiser Michael Alig, whose reputation and career spiralled downwards as he became involved in drug-use and murder.

This film seemed far more intent on relaunching the flagging career of former child star Macauley Culkin rather than telling a gripping story. In the end, it does neither.

Apparently, the book is far more interesting, but that doesn't excuse why the film is so poor.

D: David Lean
EMI/HBO (John Brabourne & Richard Goodwin)
UK 1984
163 mins


W: David Lean [based on the novel by E. M. Forster]
DP: Ernest Day
Ed: David Lean
Mus: Maurice Jarre
PD: John Box
Cos: Judy Moorcroft

Judy Davis (Adela Quested), Alec Guinness (Prof. Narayan Godbole), Victor Banerjee (Dr. Aziz Ahmed), Peggy Ashcroft (Mrs. Moore), James Fox (Richard Fielding), Nigel Havers (Ronny Heaslop)

David Lean's final film, though you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a Merchant-Ivory production, the great director makes a labour of love from his adaptation of E. M. Forster's novel, getting involved in all aspects of the production through to the editing room.

Set in British colonial India at the turn of the 20th century, a British woman accuses an Indian doctor of sexually molesting her during a caving expedition.

It's well documented that E. M. Forster's original novel made the point very clear of the author's hatred of British presence in the country during this time, though these politics are mostly brushed aside for the powerful acting performances to tell the story instead. This won't be a winner for everyone, particularly those who don't especially care for period dramas, but it proved a winner at 1984's awards festivals, particularly the Oscars, who named it amongst their nominees for the Best Picture of the year.



D: Kevin Hooks
Warner Bros. (Lee Rich, Dan Paulson & Dylan Sellers)
US 1992
84 mins
W: David Loughery, Dan Gordon & Stewart Raffill
DP: Mark Irwin
Ed: Richard Nord
Mus: Stanley Clarke
Wesley Snipes (John Cutter), Bruce Payne (Charles Rane), Tom Sizemore (Sly Delvecchio), Alex Datcher (Marti Slayton), Bruce Greenwood (Stuart Ramsey), Robert Hooks (Dwight Henderson), Elizabeth Hurley (Sabrina Ritchie)

Die Hard on an aeroplane, starring Wesley Snipes as an ass-kicking sky marshal who happens to be sat in seat 57 when a psychopath takes control of the flight in order to escape custodial sentence.

All the usual Hollywood blockbuster clichés are present, from cheesy one-liners ("always bet on black") during the action scenes to a tacked-on love interest in the form of a feisty flight attendant. Even the main villain puts on an unconvincing British accent so even sight-impaired viewers can be clear that it's a Hollywood action movie. 

The ridiculous ending abandons the idea of a mid-air frenzy in favour of a shootout at a fairground. It's just one of those brainless movies, folks. 

Personally, I think the title would have worked better if the maniac was the passenger in seat 57 and Wesley Snipes was in a totally different movie.



D: Morten Tyldum

Columbia/Village Roadshow/Start (Stephen Hamel, Michael Maher, Neal H. Moritz & Ori Marmur)

US 2016

116 mins 

Science Fiction/Adventure/Romance

W: Jon Spaihts

DP: Rodrigo Prieto

Ed: Maryann Brandon

Mus: Thomas Newman

PD: Guy Hendrix Dyas

Chris Pratt (Jim Preston), Jennifer Lawrence (Aurora Lane), Michael Sheen (Arthur), Laurence Fishburne (Chief Gus Mancuso)

Passengers is far more enjoyable the less you think about it, without pulling apart any morality lessons it fails to address.

Jon Spaihts screenplay had been sitting dormant for several years waiting for a studio to pick it up, and it's quite obvious that there was studio involvement in the plot, but as mentioned above, the less you allow certain things to bother, the more entertaining the film will be.

Set aboard a long-distance spacecraft, an engineer, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), is awoken from his hyper-sleep chamber 90 years early due to a malfunction. Realising he is doomed to die alone on the ship with nobody for company but an android bartender, he ponders waking another passenger up, knowing fully well that they will face the same fate of never reaching the ultimate destination.

He awakens writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and the two begin a romance beyond the stars until the truth is uncovered, leading to a conflict between the two of them, which has to be put aside when they realise that the ship is more damaged than they originally thought, and the must work together to save the lives of the other 5,000 people on board.

There is much to enjoy about Passengers, not only with its fine visual effects, production design, cinematography and acting performances, but also with Morden Tyldum's direction, which draws inspiration from many science-fiction classics such as Silent Running, Solaris and 2001, as well as having a wink at The Shining with the scenes involving Michael Sheen's android barman and the empty bar (almost mirroring The Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's classic horror).

The only real blight of this film is that it really doesn't address the moral issue it raises, and skirts around it in favour of Hollywood romance, ignoring the crime and the creepiness. At least Jennifer Lawrence may be thankful that she gets to spend the rest of her life alone with Chris Pratt, rather than, say, Chris Griffin...


"By his wounds, we were healed."
"By his wounds, we were healed."
D: Mel Gibson
Icon (Mel Gibson, Bruce Davey & Stephen McEveety)
US 2004
121 mins


W: Benedict Fitzgerald & Mel Gibson [based on excerpts from the New Testament, and "The Dolorous Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ" by Anne Catherine Emmerich]
DP: Caleb Deschanel
Ed: John Wright
Mus: John Debney
PD: Francesco Frigeri
Cos: Maurizio Millenotti

Jim Caviezel (Jesus Christ), Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalene), Maia Morgenstern (The Virgin Mary), Luca Lionello (Judas Iscariot)

Mel Gibson caused much controversy around the time of this film's release, not just due to the on-screen content of the picture, but also due to his anti-Semitic rants.

His personal comments aside, The Passion Of The Christ is a brutally powerful piece of work. The final hours of the life of Jesus Christ are brought before our eyes with a stomach-churning, visceral conviction. All the spoken dialogue is in Latin & Aramaic, though there's not much dialogue going on, rather visual horror unfolding before our eyes with the events leading up to Christ's crucifixion.

Whether or not you're a religious person shouldn't matter too much, though it would probably be best to avoid the film at all costs if you're devoutly religious, it certainly isn't Sunday viewing to be paired with TV's Songs of Praise. Claims that it's a blasphemous depiction of events are a bit harsh, but it's certainly an unforgettable experience.


"Laughter is contagious"
"Laughter is contagious"
D: Tom Shadyac 
Universal/Blue Wolf (Barry Kemp, Mike Farrell, Marvin Minoff & Charles Newirth )
US 1998
115 mins


W: Steve Oedekerk [based on the book "Gesundheit - Good Health Is A Laughing Matter" by Hunter Doherty Adams]
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Don Zimmerman
Mus: Marc Shaiman

Robin Williams (Dr. Hunter 'Patch' Adams), Daniel London (Truman Schiff), Monica Potter (Carin Fisher), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Mitch Roman), Bob Gunton (Dean Walcott), Peter Coyote (Bill Davis), Josef Sommer (Dr. Eaton), Irma P. Hall (Joletta), Frances Lee McCain (Judy)

A doctor attempts to promote his theory that "laughter is the best medicine" by setting up his own hospital where he puts this into practice, much to the chagrin of his superiors.

This mawkish "comedy" neglects the humble task of actually including any jokes, or even settling for bittersweet laughs, in favour of boastfully preaching about the positive benefits laughter has on the kidneys. The fact that it's actually based on a true story is baffling.

Even with the talented Robin Williams in the lead role, it fails miserably on all levels, though he can't be blamed for the clichéd script full of pantomime villains and cardboard support.

Perhaps it has its heart in the right place, but it's a painful watch with a twisted moral which seems to say that it's okay to laugh at suffering people.


D: Stanley Kubrick
United Artists/Bryna (James B. Harris)
US 1957
86 mins


W: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham & Jim Thompson [based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb]
DP: Georg Krause
Ed: Eva Kroll
Mus: Gerald Fried

Kirk Douglas (Col. Dax), Ralph Meeker (Cpl. Paris), Adolphe Menjou (Gen. Broulard), George Macready (Gen. Mireau), Wayne Morris (Lt. Roget), Richard Anderson (Maj. Saint-Auban), Joseph Turkel (Pvt. Arnaud), Timothy Carey (Pvt. Ferol)

One of the finest anti-war films ever made, meticulously directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Set in 1916, three French officers are court-martialled for cowardice. A crime for which they'll face death by firing squad.

This powerful melodrama begins in the battlefields & the trenches, with the most vivid scenes captured on film for its time. The final half of the film focuses on the plight of the soldiers with a subplot of incompetence & corruption amongst the more decorated officers, who would never be made culpable for the failed mission.

The performances of the cast are fantastic, with the trio who play the doomed soldiers especially gut-wrenching.  Kubrick actually broke ground by filming in real-life locations, clearly inspired by French new wave filmmaking around the same time, and though this posed problems with sound recording and lighting, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a relatively smooth shoot. The photography, set design and direction work very well poetically.

The final 5 minutes should leave a tear in the eye of even the hardest of hearts.



D: Peter Berg

Lionsgate/CBS/Bluegrass/Closest To The Hole (Scott Stuber, Dylan Clark, Christian E. Christiansen, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Hutch Parker, Dorothy Aufiero, Stephen Stapinski & Michael Radutzky)

US 2016

133 mins


W: Peter Berg, Matt Cook & Joshua Zetumer [based on the book "Boston Strong: A City's Triumph Over Tragedy" by Casey Sherman & Dave Wedge]

DP: Tobias A. Schliessler

Ed: Gabriel Fleming & Colby Parker, Jr.

Mus: Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Mark Wahlberg (Sgt. Tommy Saunders), John Goodman (Commissioner Ed Davis), J.K. Simmons (Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese), Michelle Monaghan (Carol Saunders), Kevin Bacon (Agent Richard DesLauriers), Vincent Curatola (Mayor Thomas Menino)

Patriots Day is based around the true events of the 2013 bombing during the Boston Marathon and subsequent terrorist manhunt, but with its hefty injection of Hollywood action, the script could easily have been recycled as a sequel to the Die Hard or Lethal Weapon movies.

The film spends a little time focusing on principal characters, including Tommy Saunders, a suspended police sergeant who was on the finish line when the bombs exploded, as well as a handful of the victims of the fateful day. Bafflingly, the film also dedicates time to the terrorists, who are very one-dimensionally written when the main focus of the movie really should have been on the heroes, rather than the antagonists.

It is very well produced, but the screenplay makes attempts to be humorous, which is a little tasteless considering the material.

A worthwhile watch, but a more serious approach would have gone down a lot better.


D: Franklin J. Schaffner
20th Century Fox (Frank McCarthy & Frank Caffey)
US 1970
170 mins


W: Francis Ford Coppola & Edmund H. North [based on the books "Patton: Ordeal & Triumph" by Ladislas Farago & "A Soldier's Story" by Omar N. Bradley]
DP: Fred Koenecamp
Ed: Hugh S. Fowler
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Urie McCleary & Gil Parrondo

George C. Scott (Gen. George S. Patton), Karl Malden (Gen. Omar N. Bradley), Michael Bates (Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law), Edward Binns (Maj. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith), Lawrence Dobkin (Col. Gaston Bell)

World War II General George S. Patton is perhaps best known for his aggressive nature, a stern military man who spoke his mind and even slapped a hospitalised soldier who he accused of cowardice. 
Screenwriter duo Francis Ford Coppola & Edmund H. North, drawing from many sources, portray the military leader so he can be sympathetically viewed from both sides of the left-right political divide. Though he was a complex, patriotic man, he knew what it would take to lead his troops into war successfully, and as a character study, the film excels, boosted by a towering lead performance from George C. Scott, starting with a magnanimous speech in front of a huge American flag. The running time is elongated by some spectacular war scenes, quite brilliantly directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and photographed by Fred Koenecamp.
The film won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but is probably more famous for George C. Scott being the first actor to decline his Oscar, even though he thoroughly deserved the recognition.

PAUL (15)
D: Greg Mottola
Universal/Relativity Media/Working Title (Nira Park, Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner)
US/UK 2011
104 mins

Comedy/Science Fiction

W: Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
DP: Lawrence Sher
Ed: Chris Dickens
Mus: David Arnold

Simon Pegg (Graeme Willy), Nick Frost (Clive Gollings), Jason Bateman (Agent Lorenzo Zoil), Kristen Wiig (Ruth Buggs), Seth Rogen (voice of Paul)

Not quite as enjoyable or funny as Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz, as this comedy partnership of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost seems squarely aimed at an American audience while their previous films catered mainly for an English sense of humour. 

The rather low-key story sees the two playing a pair of tourists on a road trip with a stoner alien in tow.

There's some smart in-jokes to science fiction and Spielberg movies and it was a miniature stroke of genius to cast Seth Rogen as the voice of the pot-smoking, foul-mouthed alien. 



D: Steve Carr
Columbia/Relativity Media (Adam Sandler, Kevin James & Barry Bernardi)
US 2009
91 mins
W: Kevin James & Nick Bakay
DP: Russ T. Alsobrook
Ed: Jeff Freeman
Mus: Woody Wachtel
Kevin James (Paul Blart), Jayma Mays (Amy Anderson), Keir O'Donnell (Veck Simms), Bobby Cannavale (Cmmdr. James Kent)

The TV sitcom "King of Queens" was quite enjoyable in fits & starts, and certainly easy to watch over a bowl of cereal at 7am (the time it was often screened in the UK), but for Kevin James to be rewarded with its television run with rubbish juvenile comedies like this is beyond generous.

As a bumbling security guard who wasn't good enough for the police force, he foils a robbery in his shopping precinct and pulls some dick & fart jokes on the way.

As low-brow as they come, but it was successful enough at the cinema to warrant a sequel (the reason why is beyond my logic).



D: Mimi Leder
Warner Bros./Bel Air/Tapestry (Steven Reuther, Peter Abrams & Robert Levy)
US 2000
122 mins
W: Leslie Dixon [based on the book by Catherine Ryan Hyde]
DP: Oliver Stapleton
Ed: David Rosenbloom
Mus: Thomas Newman
Kevin Spacey (Eugene Simonet), Helen Hunt (Arlene McKinney), Haley Joel Osment (Trevor McKinney), Jay Mohr (Chris Chandler), James Caviezel (Jerry), Jon Bon Jovi (Ricky McKinney), Angie Dickinson (Grace)

The Citizen Kane of "Oscar bait" movies, even told in a round-the-house non-linear narrative as a reporter is on the mysterious case of people doing nice things for complete strangers to discover what the hell is going on in 21st century America. People being nice to each other? What kind of witchcraft is this?

The source happens to be a schoolboy who invents "good deeds" as the homework assignment his teacher requested when he asked his pupils to think of ways to make the world a better place.

The story has its heart in the right place and may have the big puppy dog eyes and wag its tail incessantly, but the sheer mawkish cheesiness of it all makes it impossible to provoke a real emotional reaction. A good idea is lost here, better writing and better direction could have made a better movie.

D: Michael Bay
Touchstone (Jerry Bruckheimer & Michael Bay)
US 2001
182 mins


W: Randall Wallace
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: Chris Lebenzon, Steven Rosenblum, Mark Goldblatt & Roger Barton
Mus: Hans Zimmer 
PD: Nigel Phelps
Cos: Michael Kaplan

Ben Affleck (1st Lt. Rafe McCawley), Josh Hartnett (1st Lt. Danny Walker), Kate Beckinsale (Lt. Evelyn Johnson), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Petty Officer Dorie Miller), Tom Sizemore (Earl), Jon Voight (Franklin D. Roosevelt), Colm Feore (Adm. Husband E. Kimmel), Mako (Isoroku Yamamoto), Alec Baldwin (Maj. Jimmy Doolittle), Dan Aykroyd (Capt. Thurman)

The trite love story from Titanic (qv) is given a fresh makeover with the location transferred from the decks of the doomed ship to the naval base of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in the days leading up to the Japanese attack.

Two pilots, friends since childhood, fall for a beautiful nurse at the base and fight with each other shortly before they take to the skies and kick the ass of the Japs.

As a history lesson, this film is the worst kind of bad and as a love story it's even worse. At least there's something positive to say about the film, in the shape of convincing production design, visual effects and some beautifully picturesque photography, but it's unfortunately not enough. The screenplay is as shocking as the performances, which sees Ben Affleck doing his finest example of "smell the fart acting" and Jon Voight portraying Franklin D. Roosevelt as though it's some kind of personal insult to the former president. It's just about what you'd expect from a Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay collaboration.


"The story of a rebel and his bike."
"The story of a rebel and his bike."


D: Tim Burton
Mainline/Aspen (Robert Shapiro)
US 1985
92 mins
W: Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens & Michael Varhol
DP: Victor J. Kemper
Ed: Billy Weber
Mus: Danny Elfman
Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman), Elizabeth Daily (Dottie), Mark Holton (Francis Buxton), Diane Salinger (Simone), Judd Omen (Mickey Morelli)

America's favourite weirdo of the 1980's gets into a right pickle and experiences many high jinks while trying to relocate his stolen bicycle.

The main character of Pee-Wee Herman, a grown man who acts like a 6-year-old, will most likely strike anyone over the age of 10 as simply irritating and though this vehicle gave its star and director a breakthrough into cinema, it's very much a product of its time and hasn't dated well at all.

D: Michael Powell
Anglo Amalgamated (Michael Powell)
UK 1960
109 mins


W: Leo Marks
DP: Otto Heller
Ed: Noreen Ackland
Mus: Brian Easdale

Karl Boehm (Mark Lewis), Anne Massey (Helen Stephens), Moira Shearer (Vivian), Maxine Audley (Mrs. Stephens), Esmond Knight (Arthur Baden)

1960's audiences really weren't ready for this disturbing thriller, especially considering filmmaker Michael Powell's previous films were more conservative, family-friendly romantic fantasies, colourful dance movies and patriotic war pictures.
Dubbed British cinema's first slasher, the plot follows a cameraman at a film studio, moonlighting as a pornography photographer, who also murders women and films their terrified expressions as they die.
Karl Boehm, a German actor with a tinge of his native accent, is the perfect choice for the lead character, with a voice having an air of creepiness without being obviously sinister.
Though the film refrains from showing explicit gore and focuses more on the psychological side of a serial killer as well as being a study of the way an audience views a film (Peeping Tom was the first film to put the audience in the killer's POV).
Stuffy British film critics at the time of release completely missed the point of the film and found it totally repugnant. Sadly, Michael Powell's career never recovered from the negative press before his passing away. The film found favour in the late 1970's, when Martin Scorsese, a huge fan of the film, restored it for a re-release.

D: Francis Ford Coppola
Tristar/Rastar (Paul R. Gurian)
US 1986
104 mins


W: Jerry Leichtling & Arlene Sarnee
DP: Jordan Cronenweth
Ed: Barry Malkin
Mus: John Barry
PD: Dean Tavoularis
Cos: Theodora Van Runkle 

Kathleen Turner (Peggy Sue Bodell), Nicolas Cage (Charlie Bodell), Barry Miller (Richard Norvik), Catherine Hicks (Carol Heath), Joan Allen (Maddy Nagle), Kevin J. O'Connor (Michael Fitzsimmons), Jim Carrey (Walter Getz)

Back To The Future's more serious cousin, released a year after the blockbuster hit, plays out like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone.

Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) attends her 25th high school reunion and finds herself whisked back to the early 1960's, where she relives her school days.

The film is a strange choice for director Francis Ford Coppola, whose studio was still reeling from a string of box office bombs, but the director has a good eye for nostalgia, helped by production design, costumes and photography which perfectly capture the period.

The time travel element of this fantasy will suffer if compared to the previous year's hugely successful Back To The Future (qv), it's a completely different spin on a similar story. 

Kathleen Turner is just perfect as the lead character, revisiting her past life and reunited with her family and old friends. The only duff performance is from Nicolas Cage, who bizarrely delivers all his lines with a ridiculously squeaky voice.


"An investigative journalist wants her story. Everyone else wants her dead."
"An investigative journalist wants her story. Everyone else wants her dead."


D: Alan J. Pakula
Warner Bros. (Alan J. Pakula & Pieter Jan Brugge)
US 1993
141 mins
W: Alan J. Pakula [based on the novel by John Grisham]
DP: Stephen Goldblatt
Ed: Tom Rolf & Trudy Ship
Mus: James Horner
Julia Roberts (Darby Shaw), Denzel Washington (Gray Grantham), Sam Shepard (Thomas Callahan), John Heard (Gavin Verheek), Tony Goldwyn (Fletcher Coal), James B. Sikking (F. Denton Voyles), William Atherton (Bob Gminski), Robert Kulp (The President)

The 1990's saw many of John Grisham's novels adapted into blockbuster thrillers, of which The Pelican Brief was the first to get the Hollywood makeover.

Unlike the rest of the authors work, this is more political than courtroom-orientated, which might be a little disappointing if you were expecting judges and juries.

Julia Roberts plays a law student whose thesis speculates upon the motives behind the recent assassinations of two leading magistrates. Cages are rattled and she finds her own life in the crosshairs, whilst an investigative journalist presses for her story so he can uncover those responsible.

If US politics isn't your bag, this film will hold little to no interest, as action, thrills and tension takes a back seat for a more conversational-driven stance. The A-list cast ensured box office success, but in all honesty, it's a very disappointing and average piece of work, mundanely directed with none of the performances from the ensemble cast pushing any boundaries.

D: Wes Craven
UIP/Universal/Alive (Marianne Maddalena & Stuart M. Besser)
US 1991
102 mins
W: Wes Craven
DP: Sandi Sissel
Ed: James Coblenz & Tom Walls
Mus: Don Peake 
Brandon Adams (Fool Williams), Everett McGill (Eldon Robeson), Wendy Robie (Mrs. Robeson), A.J. Langer (Alice Robeson), Ving Rhames (Leroy), Kelly Jo Minter (Ruby)
Amongst horror director Wes Craven's better offerings, the story follows a juvenile hoodlum who breaks into the creepy house in his neighbourhood to commit petty theft and discovers secret passages, a mistreated young girl and the dark secret that the brother & sister who own it have a group of "children" trapped in their basement.
Relying more on unpleasantries than bloodshed and cheap scares, it is creepily effective and atmospherically filmed.

D: Milos Forman
Columbia Tristar/Ixtlan/Phoenix (Oliver Stone, Janet Yang & Michael Hausman)
US 1996
130 mins
W: Scott Alexander & Larry Karazewski
DP: Philippe Rousselot
Ed: Christopher Tellefsen
Mus: Thomas Newman
Woody Harrelson (Larry Flynt), Courtney Love (Althea Leasure), Edward Norton (Alan Isaacman), James Cromwell (Charles Keating), Crispin Glover (Arlo)
A controversial biopic of the outspokenly outrageous publisher of the pornographic magazine Hustler, who became a campaigner for the right to exercise free speech during the late 70's to mid-80's.
Woody Harrelson is a great actor, often underrated, but he really sinks his teeth into this performance and has a lot of fun with the character, but the real revelation here is Courtney Love, with an outstanding performance as Flynt's drug-addicted wife.                 
D: James Bridges
Columbia/Delphi (James Bridges)
US 1985
115 mins


W: James Bridges & Aaron Latham [based on an article by Aaron Latham]
DP: Gordon Willis
Ed: Jeff Gourson
Mus: Ralph Burns & Narada Michael Walden

John Travolta (Adam Lawrence), Jamie Lee Curtis (Jessie Wilson), Anne de Salvo (Frankie), Marilu Henner (Sally), Laraine Newman (Linda)

The massive popularity of Jane Fonda's workout videos in the early 1980's almost made it inevitable that a Hollywood movie would tackle the subject of aerobics. Unfortunately, the result is a bit of a mess which doesn't know if it's a drama, comedy, romance or even a thriller. 
John Travolta plays a journalist for Rolling Stone who does a side story on health clubs being the new singles bars, with promiscuous types joining to get more than a thorough workout. During his insight into a popular gym in Los Angeles, he meets and falls in love with a feisty aerobics instructor played by Jamie Lee Curtis, who has her own reasons for not wanting to be part of the article.
Far from perfect, James Bridges' film isn't quite as poor as its reputation would suggest, but it certainly isn't a good film. Jamie Lee Curtis' performance gives the film some credibility, but everyone else is quite embarrassing, especially John Travolta in the scene where he performs aerobics in his y-pants.
The film failed to find an audience, becoming one of the biggest flops of 1985 and Travolta took a four year break from acting as a result.

D: Wolfgang Petersen
Warner Bros./Baltimore/Spring Creek/Radiant (Paula Weinstein, Wolfgang Petersen & Gail Katz)
US 2000
129 mins


W: Bill Wittliff [based on the book by Sebastian Junger]
DP: John Seale
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce
Mus: James Horner

George Clooney (Frank William Tyne, Jr.), Mark Wahlberg (Bobby Shatford), John C. Reilly (Dale Murphy), Diane Lane (Christina Cotter), William Fichtner (David Sullivan), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Linda Greenlaw), Michael Ironside (Bob Brown)

Despite some strong visuals, The Perfect Storm is a rather boring film which could easily have been trimmed to 90 minutes or less.
The crew of a small commercial fishing boat, each with their own personal life crisis, are caught unaware by a series of violent storms in the North Atlantic Ocean.
The visual effects are particularly impressive, especially when the small boat attempts to climb a giant wave, but the story is anchored down with the personal dramas which are just left in limbo at the film's climax.
D: Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./Malpaso (Mark Johnson & David Valdes)
US 1993
138 mins
W: John Lee Hancock
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Joel Cox & Ron Spang
Mus: Lennie Niehaus
Kevin Costner (Robert Haynes), Clint Eastwood (Chief Red Garnett), Laura Dern (Sally Gerber), T.J. Lowther (Philip Perry), Keith Szarabajka (Terry Pugh)
Released in the years when Kevin Costner was still a huge box office draw, A Perfect World is essentially a mix of buddy-buddy and chase movies, all against the setting of America's seemingly never-ending highways.
Costner plays an escaped convict who strikes up an unlikely father-son relationship with a seven-year-old boy he takes hostage, whilst veteran lawman Clint Eastwood hunts them down.
There's no denying that the film has its occasional moments of beauty and power, but it lacks the longevity or memorability that could have made it one of Eastwood's more classic pieces of work. A decent, but forgotten film from 1993.
D: Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg
Warner Bros/Goodtimes (Donald Cammell & Sandord Lieberson)
UK 1970
105 mins


W: Donald Cammell
DP: Nicolas Roeg
Ed: Antony Gibbs & Brian Smedley-Aston
Mus: Jack Nitzsche & Randy Newman

James Fox (Chas Devlin), Mick Jagger (Turner), Anita Pallenberg (Pherber), Michele Breton (Lucy)

London's swinging sixties is perfectly captured in this collaborative drama from directorial debutants Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg.
A vicious gangster, on the run from his superiors after performing a hit on a rival gang member, goes into hiding at a house where a rock star lives a bohemian life with his lover.
Filmed in 1968, the film undertook a lengthy editorial process and was finally unveiled to much criticism due to issues of nudity, drug addiction and violence. The story is very Pinteresque with its depiction of people and their alter-egos and there's an awful lot of devil in the details. 
Unappreciated in its day, it has gone on to be rewarded with appreciation from a cult audience.

"We are infinite."
"We are infinite."
D: Stephen Chbowsky
Summit (Lianne Halfon, Russell Smith & John Malkovich)
US 2012
103 mins


W: Stephen Chbowsky [based on his novel] 
DP: Andrew Dunn
Ed: Mary Jo Markey
Mus: Michael Brook

Logan Lerman (Charlie Kelmeckis), Ezra Miller (Patrick), Emma Watson (Sam), Mae Whitman (Mary Elizabeth)

The hipsters high school movie, starring Logan Lerman as an introverted freshman who is taken under the wing of two younger students who help him come out of his shell and appreciate life.
It's quite refreshing for an author of a work to take full control of its film adaptation, both screenwriting and directing, and it's clear to see this is a personal work for Stephen Chbowsky.
It wasn't such a personal work for me however, and I just saw this as another run-of-the-mill coming of age tale, albeit with a soundtrack full of some great 80's songs. It was a little too smug for its own good though.
There'll be many others who this movie will speak to more though, it just didn't reflect on any of my own life experiences.

D: Wilfred Jackson, Clyde Geronimi & Hamilton Luske
Disney (Walt Disney)
US 1953
76 mins
W: Ted Sears, Bill Peet, Joe Rinaldi, Erdman Penner, Winston Hibbler, Milt Banta & Ralph Wright [based on the play by James M. Barrie]
Mus: Oliver Wallace & Edward Plumb
voices of: Bobby Driscoll (Peter Pan), Kathryn Beaumont (Wendy Darling), Hans Conreid (Captain Hook), Bill Thompson (Mr. Smee) 
J. M. Barrie's timeless fairytale gets the Disney treatment, magically whisking the audience away to Neverland where eternal boy Peter Pan battles with the evil Captain Hook in order to save Wendy Darling and her brothers.
The film holds up amongst the studio's finest works, with superb animation that, at the time, couldn't be bettered. 
The film lacks any memorable songs like other Disney classics from the era, but is still thoroughly enjoyable for those 'forever young' amongst the audience.
"Rascal Rebel Rabbit"
"Rascal Rebel Rabbit"


D: Will Gluck

Sony/Columbia/Olive Bridge/Animal Logic/Screen Australia (Will Gluck & Zareh Nalbandian)

US/Australia 2018

95 mins


W: Rob Lieber & Will Gluck [based on characters created by Beatrix Potter]

DP: Peter Menzies, Jr.

Ed: Christian Gazal

Mus: Dominic Lewis

Domhnall Gleeson (Thomas McGregor / voice of Jeremy Fisher), Rose Byrne (Bea / voice of Jemima Puddleduck), Sam Neill (Mr. McGregor / voice of Tommy Brock)

voices of: James Corden (Peter), Daisy Ridley (Cottontail), Margot Robbie (Flopsy)

With the success of Paddington still fresh in the minds of studio executives, they thought it best to strike when the iron is hot and cashed in on Beatrix Potter's much cherished animal characters, seemingly perfect to market for the 2018 Easter holidays.

Unfortunately, the only thing this movie has in common with the original source are the names of the animals, everything else is just juvenile slapstick and lazy writing.

Voiced by the immediately irritating and ridiculously miscast James Corden, Peter Rabbit is an unruly bunny who constantly steals vegetables from the garden of the elderly Mr. McGregor, despite the warnings of his family.

When the old man dies, his young fastidious nephew, Thomas, moves in and is immediately greeted by a mess left by the pesky rabbit and his farmyard friends, starting a war between man and bunny which sees peacetime when pretty neighbour Bea becomes Thomas' love interest.

Everything about this film is a cash grab, doing away with everything beloved about Beatrix Potter's story for something that'll entertain young children, which it will, but it will leave many adults feeling shortchanged. 

Personally, I would have enjoyed it a lot more if James Corden's smug, obnoxious voice was replaced with myxomatosis.


D: Don Chaffey
Disney (Ron Miller & Jerome Courtland)
US 1977
127 mins
W: Malcolm Marmorstein, Seton I. Miller & S. S. Field
DP: Frank Phillips
Mus: Irwin Kostal; Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn
Sean Marshall (Pete), Helen Reddy (Nora), Mickey Rooney (Lampie), Jim Dale (Dr. Terminus), Red Buttons (Hoagy), Shelley Winters (Lena Gogan)
Disney studios spent the majority of the 1970's shying away from their usual output of animated features to favour live action film, some of which blended both with varied success. 1971's Bedknobs & Broomsticks was quite well received, but Pete's Dragon less so.
Taking the bare bones of the plot from 1950's Harvey, the studio put a children's spin on the fantasy by having an imaginary dragon friend for the story's hero, rather than a rabbit.
Whilst the story is perfectly adequate for young children, it's far less engaging for adults. The animation and special effects are well below the expected standard for a Disney production and the songs aren't particularly memorable. A rather average piece of work.
Slam evil!
Slam evil!


D: Simon Wincer
Paramount/Village Roadshow (Robert Evans & Alan Ladd, Jr.)
US/Australia 1996
100 mins


W: Jeffrey Boam [based on characters created by Lee Falk]
DP: David Burr
Ed: O. Nicholas Brown & Bryan H. Carroll
Mus: David Newman

Billy Zane (Kit Walker / The Phantom), Kristy Swanson (Diana Palmer), Treat Williams (Xander Drax), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Sala), James Remar (Quill)

Of all the comic book movies filmed during the course of the 1990's, The Phantom must rank amongst the most boring. It's not quite alongside Batman & Robin on the scale of general awfulness, but is not a million miles from it either.
The plot sees a masked superhero foil the plans of a pirate, who hopes to use the power of three magic skulls to become a dictatorial leader of America.
It feels more of a half-arsed Indiana Jones clone than a comic book adaptation, with far too many stale action scenes, poor dialogue, tacky costumes and all the cast look a little bit embarrassed to be part of it all, especially Billy Zane, who has to wear skintight purple spandex throughout. 


D: Arthur Lubin

Universal (George Waggner)

US 1943

92 mins


W: Erich Taylor & Samuel Hoffenstein [based on the novel by Gaston Leroux]

DP: Hal Mohr & W. Howard Greene

Ed: Russell Schoengarth

Mus: Edward Ward

PD: John B. Goodman & Alexander Golitzen

Cos: Vera West

Nelson Eddy (Anatole Garron), Susanna Foster (Christine DeBois), Claude Rains (Enrique Claudin), Edgar Barrier (Inspector Raoul de Chagny), Leo Carillo (Signor Feretti)

This elaborately expensive and luxuriantly produced version of Phantom Of The Opera is quite beautiful to look at, but doesn't capture the horror element of Gaston LaRoux's original novel, draining out the suspense, fear and mystery to its focus on music and (to a lesser extent) subtle comedy.

Still, considering the film was produced in 1943, the rich cinematography and production design has held up incredibly well over the decades.

Set at a Paris opera house, a once-successful violinist, deformed with acid and living as a phantom in the catacombs beneath the building becomes obsessed with a young soprano named Christine, and manipulates the events which occur above him to ensure her a successful career and create a romance between the two of them, but she has no knowledge of his existence.

Though the film boasts opulent sets, costumes and incredibly beautiful photography, the pacing does drag and there's no great payoff.

Universal Studios spared no expense bringing it to the screen, and though the plot would have been enough for 1940's audience, it's specifically this aspect of the film which fails to hold up to modern standards.


"Her voice become his passion. Her love became his obsession. Her refusal became his rage..."
"Her voice become his passion. Her love became his obsession. Her refusal became his rage..."
D: Joel Schumacher
Warner Bros (Andrew Lloyd-Webber)
UK/US 2004
143 mins


W: Andrew Lloyd-Webber & Joel Schumacher
DP: John Mathieson
Ed: Terry Rawlings
Mus: Andrew Lloyd-Webber & Charles Hart
PD: Anthony Pratt
Cos: Alexandra Byrne

Gerard Butler (The Phantom), Emmy Rossum (Christine Daae), Patrick Wilson (Raoul de Chagny), Miranda Richardson (Madame Giry), Minnie Driver (Carlotta), Simon Callow (Andre), Ciaran Hinds (Firmin)

Like the majority of adaptations from stage musicals, enjoyment is heavily dependent on whether or not you like the source material and/or the songs which undercut the narrative of the story.
Fans of the stage version of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's long running musical won't be disappointed with this long-awaited film version, utilising a cast of then-unknowns with a background in theatre (the only cast member who didn't provide their own singing voice was Minnie Driver, dubbed by a classical soprano).
The story takes place in a Paris opera house, where a mysterious, disfigured figure who lives in the catacombs becomes obsessed with a beautiful young singer, and manipulates events to cause havoc to a production so she can become the lead and he can perform beside her. 
The period detail of the sets and costumes are impressive, as is the cinematography, and though the supporting characters are given very little to work with, the two leads are perfectly cast, especially Emmy Rossum, who defies her true age of 16-years-old with her singing performance.


D: Paul Thomas Anderson

Focus Features/Annapurna/Perfect World (Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, JoAnne Sellar & Daniel Lupi)

US 2017

130 mins


W: Paul Thomas Anderson

DP: Paul Thomas Anderson (uncredited)

Ed: Dylan Tichenor

Mus: Jonny Greenwood

PD: Mark Tildesley

Cos: Mark Bridges

Daniel Day-Lewis (Reynolds Woodcock), Vicky Krieps (Alma Elson), Lesley Manville (Cyril Woodcock), Camilla Rutherford (Johanna), Gina McKee (Countess Henrietta Harding), Brian Gleason (Dr. Robert Hardy), Harriet Samson Harris (Barbara Rose)

It's a huge shame that Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting prior to the release of this film, before Paul Thomas Anderson had even selected a title for it.

Like Anderson's other works, it will be divisive amongst audience members half of whom will call it a masterpiece whilst the rest will label it pretentious. For me, it leans much closer to the former description.

Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a haute couture dressmaker in 1950's London, running his fashion house with his overbearing sister who tolerates his incredibly pernickety mannerisms and rather misogynistic view towards women, who he sees as muses for his fashion and nothing more.

The story mostly focuses on his romantic relationship with Alma, a French waitress with whom he becomes attracted to, but their vast differences force a wedge between them.

Paul Thomas Anderson draws on various inspirations for his vision, including many tropes from classic fairytales which you may miss on an initial viewing, as well as Freudian psychology which will be a little more apparent. The acting from the ensemble cast is spectacular, especially Daniel Day-Lewis who deservedly earned another Oscar nomination for his work, while Vicky Krieps is splendid with her breakthrough performance.

It's not for everyone, but for those who appreciate the director's other films, this will be considered amongst his very best works. Nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and deservedly so in my opinion.


D: Joe Chapelle
Miramax/Dimension (Michael Leahy, Robert Pringle & Joel Soisson)
US 1998
91 mins


W: Dean Koontz [based on his novel]
DP: Greg Littlewood & Richard Clabaugh
Ed: Randolph Bricker
Mus: David C. Williams

Peter O'Toole (Dr. Timothy Flyte), Rose McGowan (Lisa Pailey), Liev Schreiber (Deputy Stuart Wargle), Joanna Going (Jennifer Pailey), Ben Affleck (Sheriff Bryce Hammond)

Straight to video shit which only received a brief theatrical run to cash-in on Ben Affleck's name following his breakthrough appearances in Armageddon & Good Will Hunting.
In a remote Colorado town, two girls are left stranded while scientist Peter O'Toole and obnoxious sheriff Ben Affleck try to figure out who or what is killing everyone.
Based on the novel by Dean Koontz, this is the kind of material which didn't feel out of place in the bargain buckets of local video stores. Trying to pass itself off as something grander is deceitful lies.
Affleck is completely miscast here as a small town sheriff, but the biggest surprise is Peter O'Toole's involvement. He's too good an actor to take part in this sort of rubbish.

"Some things in life just can't be explained."
"Some things in life just can't be explained."
D: Jon Turtletaub
Touchstone (Barbara Boyle & Michael Taylor)
US 1996
124 mins
Science Fiction/Drama
W: Gerald DiPego
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Bruce Green
Mus: Thomas Newman
John Travolta (George Malley), Kyra Sedgwick (Lace Pennamin), Robert Duvall (Doc Brunder), Forest Whitaker (Nate Pope), Jeffrey DeMunn (Prof. John Ringold), Richard Kiley (Dr. Wellin)
Phenomenon is a film very much of two contrasting halves. Starting out as an intriguing piece of science fiction fantasy with John Travolta giving a very good performance as a man perplexed by the superhuman powers he develops after witnessing a supernatural event in the night sky. From a humble mechanic in a small town he finds his intelligence and thirst for more knowledge has increased, as well as the ability to predict natural disasters and telekenesis.
Unfortunately, the second half takes a nosedive into turgid new-age weepie territory, where it makes a complete hash of everything that came before it by dishing out a contrived explanation for it all before delivering a religious subplot preaching that we should all love each other, or whatever.
"No one would take on his case... Until one man was willing to take on the system."
"No one would take on his case... Until one man was willing to take on the system."
D: Jonathan Demme
Tristar/Clinca Estetico (Edward Saxon & Jonathan Demme)
US 1993
125 mins


W: Ron Nyswaner
DP: Tak Fujimoto
Ed: Craig McKay
Mus: Howard Shore

Tom Hanks (Andrew Beckett), Denzel Washington (Joe Miller), Jason Robards (Charles Wheeler), Mary Steenburgen (Belinda Conine), Antonio Banderas (Miguel Alvarez), Charles Napier (Judge Lucas Garnett), Joanne Woodward (Sarah Beckett)

The first mainstream Hollywood film to tackle the subjects of homosexuality, AIDS and homophobia was a hugely important film of the 1990's, winning it's star, Tom Hanks, his first of two consecutive Oscars for Best Actor.
Hanks, against his usual typecast at the time as a more comedy-inclined performer, gives an outstanding performance as Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer, fired from his prestigious firm after the board of director's discover his sexual orientation and then covering it up by framing him for negligence.
Finding difficulty taking the case to court, he recruits the help of a small-time homophobic lawyer, and they both attempt to shake up the system, despite Andrew's ailing health and his attorney's own prejudices.
The polar opposites between Hanks' and Washington's characters do the film a huge justice, giving the audience someone to side with regardless of sexual inclinations as the story takes us on a quest for justice. Some might feel that, in some scenes, the political correctness is a little too contrived, but it doesn't detract from a strong piece of cinematic work.
Entertaining, educational and emotional in equal measure.
"41 years ago, they opened a hole in time... And it stayed open."
"41 years ago, they opened a hole in time... And it stayed open."
D: Stewart Raffill
New World/Cinema Group (Joel B. Michaels & Douglas Curtis)
US 1984
101 mins
Science Fiction
W: William Gray & Michael Janover [based on the book by William I. Moore & Charles Berlitz]
DP: Dick Bush
Ed: Neil Travis & William Hoy
Mus: Ken Wannberg 
Michael Paré (David Herdeg), Nancy Allen (Allison Hayes), Eric Christmas (Dr. James Longstreet), Bobby DiCicco (Jim Parker), Louise Latham (Pamela)
Modest low-budget science fiction which sees a US naval ship, the subject of a cloaking experiment during WWII, miraculously transported 40 years into the future.
Despite obvious financial restraints, the film is generally entertaining, although its attempts at carving a love story into the plot are unnecessary and the claims that it's based on a true story are a bit too far-fetched.
D: George Cukor
MGM (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
US 1940
112 mins


W: Donald Ogden Stewart [based on the play by Philip Barry]
DP: Joseph Ruttenberg
Mus: Franz Waxman

Katharine Hepburn (Tracy Lord), Cary Grant (C.K. Haven), James Stewart (Macauley Connor), Ruth Hussey (Elizabeth Imrie), Roland Young (Uncle Willie), John Halliday (Seth Lord), Mary Nash (Margaret Lord), Virginia Weidler (Dinah Lord), John Howard (George Kittredge), Henry Daniell (Sidney Kidd)

Classic screwball comedy about high society and the possible birth of paparazzi-style journalism.
Katherine Hepburn stars as a stuffy heiress who has second thoughts as her second wedding approaches and rekindles a relationship with her first husband.
Much of the film is quite dated now, from its style of filmmaking to the kind of people it depicts, as well as the sexual politics of the time, where men were golf-playing, top hat and suit-wearing gents and a woman's place was in the kitchen or taking care of the children. Despite this, it's still amongst the best films of its time, mostly due to its snappy dialogue and highly-strung performances.
"These two unlikely companions are on a journey to find her long lost son."
"These two unlikely companions are on a journey to find her long lost son."
D: Stephen Frears
Pathé/The Weinstein Company (Steve Coogan, Tracey Seaward & Gabrielle Tana)
UK/US 2013
98 mins


W: Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope [based on the book "The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee" by Martin Sixsmith]
DP: Robbie Ryan
Ed: Valerio Bonelli
Mus: Alexandre Desplat

Judi Dench (Philomena Lee), Steve Coogan (Martin Sixsmith), Michelle Fairley (Sally Mitchell), Barbara Jefford (Sister Hildegarde), Mare Winningham (Mary)

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Judi Dench turns in a splendid performance as borderline-cantankerous, devoutly religious Irishwoman, Philomena Lee, the true shock performance here is Steve Coogan, who adds a dramatic, serious performance as a string to his bow quite naturally.
Coogan, who also served as a co-writer, adapting political journalist Martin Sixsmith's book, plays the author himself, who, following a public scandal, must repair his ailing career by taking on a human interest piece.
Although he's initially reluctant, he chooses to investigate the story of Philomena Lee (Dench), a committed Catholic who became pregnant as a teenager and was forced by the strict nuns at her boarding school to put the child up for adoption.
The investigation into the past soon turns into a search for Philomena's son, who would now be in his 50's.
Stephen Frears' tender drama of loss, redemption and forgiveness is a fantastic piece of work, aided by the brilliant performances of the two main cast members, but also exceptionally well-written and beautifully scored by Alexandre Desplat.
Amongst the best films of 2013.

"Your life is on the line."
"Your life is on the line."
D: Joel Schumacher
20th Century Fox/Fox 2000 (Gil Netter & David Zucker)
US 2002
80 mins
W: Larry Cohen
DP: Matthew Libatique
Ed: Mark Stevens
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams
Colin Farrell (Stu Shepard), Kiefer Sutherland (The Caller), Forest Whitaker (Capt. Ed Ramey), Radha Mitchell (Kelly Shepard), Katie Holmes (Pam McFadden)
Phone Booth is a decent stab at a single-location thriller, starring Colin Farrell as an amoral publicity agent stuck in a personal nightmare when he answers a call from a phone booth in a busy street and is threatened that he'll be shot by a sniper if he attempts to leave.
The concept itself works reasonably well, but the revenge plot doesn't quite convince as well as it could have, much like the performances. Okay, but nothing special.

"Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece."
"Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece."
D: Roman Polanski
Pathé/Heritage/Babelsberg (Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa & Alain Sarde)
France/Poland/Germany/UK 2002
148 mins


W: Ronald Harwood [based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman]
DP: Pawel Edelman
Ed: Hervé de Luze
Mus: Wojciech Kilar
PD: Allan Starski
Cos: Anna B. Sheppard

Adrien Brody (Wladyslaw Szpilman), Thomas Kretschmann (Capt. Wilhelm Hosenfeld), Frank Finlay (Mr. Szpilman), Maureen Lipman (Mrs. Szpilman), Emilia Fox (Dorota), Ed Stoppard (Henryk), Julia Rayner (Regina), Jessica Kate Meyer (Halina), Ruth Platt (Janina)

A bleak and emotionally distressing experience, but a marvellously crafted biopic of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist who is separated from his family during the Nazi invasion of Poland and escapes capture by hiding alone in derelict and abandoned buildings.
The vivid depiction of persecution is realistically captured by Roman Polanski, who doesn't shy away from the horrors of war for even a second of the running time. Adrien Brody delivers a strong performance with a very passive character and all the elements of the production are realistically envisioned. Few will wish to watch it again, but it's a film which needs to be seen and respected.
D: Jane Campion
Miramax/CIBY 2000 (Jan Chapman)
New Zealand/Australia/France 1993
120 mins


W: Jane Campion
DP: Stuart Dryburgh
Ed: Veronika Janet
Mus: Michael Nyman
PD: Andrew McAlpine
Cos: Janet Patterson

Holly Hunter (Ada McGrath), Sam Neill (Alisdair Stewart), Harvey Keitel (George Baines), Anna Paquin (Flora McGrath), Kerry Walker (Aunt Morag), Genevieve Lemon (Nessie), Tungla Baker (Hira)

The Piano is very much an art house film, but also very accessible for a mainstream audience.
Ava, a mute Scottish woman, is sent to a remote pacific island for an arranged marriage, accompanied by her young daughter and her beloved piano, which is left stranded on the beach where they land.          
The piano becomes the property of a new owner, a facially-tattooed farmer, whom Ava has a sexual affair with in order to win it back.
This powerful drama of lust & sexual awakening is beautifully photographed and acted, especially by Holly Hunter in the lead role, and Michael Nyman's original music suits the visuals perfectly.
There are some moments which don't take the story anywhere and make the film seem a little overlong, but it remains a powerful and haunting watch.


D: Peter Weir

AFC/British Empire (Hal McElroy & Jim McElroy)

Australia 1975

115 mins


W: Cliff Green [based on the novel by Joan Lindsay]

DP: Russell Boyd

Ed: Max Lemon

Mus: Bruce Smeaton

Rachel Roberts (Mrs. Appleyard), Anne-Louise Lambert (Miranda St. Clair), Dominic Guard (Michael Fitzhubert), Helen Morse (Mlle. de Poitiers), Jacki Weaver (Minnie)

Based on the novel by Joan Lindsay, this Australian film surrounds a mystery involving a group of Victorian schoolgirls who disappear on Valentine's Day, 1900 during an excursion to the geographical location of the title.

The mystery is never explained, but the film offers various theories from witnesses and other perspectives, as well as doubling up as a metaphor for sexual awakening and even the oppression of colonial rule.

The film served as a huge breakthrough for director Peter Weir, who went on to enormous success in Hollywood, as well as putting Australian film on the map a decade before the success of films like Crocodile Dundee.

The BAFTA awards deservedly honoured the film for its picturesque cinematography.



D: James Toback
20th Century Fox (Warren Beatty & David L. MacLeod)
US 1987


W: James Toback
DP: Gordon Willis
Ed: David Bretherton & Angelo Corrao
Mus: Georges Delerue

Molly Ringwald (Randy Jensen), Robert Downey, Jr. (Jack Jericho), Dennis Hopper (Flash Jensen), Harvey Keitel (Alonzo Scolara), Danny Aiello (Phil Harper), Mildred Dunnock (Nellie)

Molly Ringwald continues with her Pretty In Pink typecast in this rom-com of the John Hughes mould.
Robert Downey, Jr., in one of his earliest roles, plays a smug womaniser who falls for Ringwald, but while her alcoholic father is in trouble with gangsters, she doesn't have any time for love.
Enjoyable for the duration, which at 81 minutes is incredibly light, but also completely forgettable. The biggest surprise about it is that it wasn't written nor directed by John Hughes.


D: Peter Hedges

United Artists (Gary Winick)

US 2003

81 mins


W: Peter Hedges

DP: Tami Reiker

Ed: Mark Livolsi

Mus: Stephin Merritt

Katie Holmes (April Burns), Derek Luke (Bobby), Oliver Platt (Jim Burns), Patricia Clarkson (Joy Burns), Alison Pill (Beth Burns), John Gallagher, Jr. (Timmy Burns)

Katie Holmes plays April, the rebellious black sheep of the Burns family who plans for a Thanksgiving reunion as her distant parents and siblings make the long drive from suburbia to the slummy side of New York.

This low-key independent film, released in 2003, is reminiscent of similarly toned films released a decade earlier. There isn't much meat to the story, as April panics over getting her turkey cooked and there's a subplot involving April's cancer-suffering mother, but it really is a postage stamp plot. Despite that, good performances make it watchable, especially Patricia Clarkson, whilst Katie Holmes delivers her best performance in a feature film.

At a mere 81 minutes, it does tick over quite nicely.


PIMP (18)
D: Robert Cavanah
Revolver/Stealth Media (Robert Cavanah, Paul de Vos, Crispin Manson, Matthew Stardling & Royd Tolkien)
UK 2010
91 mins


W: Robert Cavanah
DP: Steve Annis
Ed: Rob Redford
Mus: Tom Hodge

Robert Cavanah (Woody), Billy Boyd (The Chief), Martin Compston (Zeb), Scarlett Alice Johnson (Lizzy), Barbara Nedeljáková (Petra), Robert Fucilla (Vincent), Danny Dyer (Stanley)

This low-budget British crime film uses a mock documentary style to uncover the seedy side of prostitution in Britain's capital in a way that Belgium focused on criminal gangs and murders in Man Bites Dog (qv). The difference is that was good and Pimp is awful, especially with its casting of Danny Dyer as a godfather-like kingpin. 
In fairness, it's an easy film to ignore, bombing at the box office, pulling in an embarrassing £205 & pulled from cinema screens after just one showing. 
It's only really worth watching so you can poke fun at Dyer's laughably pathetic performance.

"Put this in your pipe and smoke it."
"Put this in your pipe and smoke it."
D: David Gordon Green
Columbia/Relativity Media (Judd Apatow & Shauna Robertson)
US 2008
111 mins


W: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
DP: Tim Orr
Ed: Craig Alpert
Mus: Graeme Revell

Seth Rogen (Dale Denton), James Franco (Saul Silver), Gary Cole (Ted Jones), Rosie Perez (Carol Brazier), Danny McBride (Red), Kevin Corrigan (Budlofsky), Craig Robinson (Mathewson)

The title comes from a variety of marijuana which happens to be the product of choice for Seth Rogen's character.
Things get dicey when he mixes with the wrong sort and needs help from his permanently-stoned pal James Franco, culminating in a shootout at a pot-manufacturing warehouse.
This stoner-comedy is a throwback to the Cheech & Chong adventures of the 1970's, with a little bit more of a focus on the characterisation and story development. Like the practice of actually smoking weed, this film is either going to be your thing or it isn't, with very little middle ground.
One thing's for sure, you wouldn't recommend it to your grandmother.

D: Alan Parker
MGM/Tin Blue/Goldcrest (Alan Marshall)
UK 1982
95 mins


W: Roger Waters [based on the rock album 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd]
DP: Peter Biziou
Ed: Gerry Hambling
Mus: Roger Waters
PD: Brian Morris

Bob Geldof (Pink), Christine Hargreaves (Pink's Mother), James Laurenson (Pink's Father), Eleanor David (Pink's Wife)

This is not a review on the Pink Floyd album, which I personally think is a marvellous piece of work, filled with some of the greatest songs of all time.
The film of the album is an incredibly bizarre piece of work, an attempt to recreate the album as a cinematic experience becomes a pretentious mess. 
There's no coherent plot, just Bob Geldof sitting in a hotel room, contemplating suicide and hallucinating weird visions whilst the TV plays scenes of varying artistic merit, of which, the animated sequences are the memorable standout.
As a fan of the band, I wanted to like this film, I really did, but its esoteric appeal limits it to no more than an average rating. Of course, there'll be many who think it's a perfect companion piece to a great album, but for regular moviegoers, this is too strange a trip.
D: Ben Sharpsteen & Hamilton Luske
Disney (Walt Disney)
US 1940
88 mins
W: Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Webb Smith, William Cottrell, Joseph Sabbo, Erdman Penner, Aurelius Battaglia [based on the story by Carlo Collodi]
Mus: Leigh Harline, Ned Washington & Paul J. Smith
voices of: Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Christian Rub (Geppetto), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Crickett), Evelyn Venable (The Blue Fairy), Walter Catlett (Honest John Worthington Foulfellow)
There are those who'd say Disney's second feature film (after Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs) is indicative of the studio's finest ever work and it would be claim difficult to argue against.
Based on the classic fairytale of a wooden puppet whose dream is to be a real boy, the animation perfectly captures the magic of the story as it presents an iconic piece of cinema.
Whether you experience the film as an adult or a child, the dusting of Disney magic makes it easy to immerse yourself in and relate to. When you wish upon a star...
D: Joe Dante
New World (Roger Corman, Jeff Schechtman & Jon Davison)
US 1978
92 mins
W: John Sayles
DP: Jamie Anderson
Ed: Joe Dante & Mark Goldblatt
Mus: Pino Donaggio
Bradford Dillman (Paul Grogan), Heather Menzies (Maggie McKeown), Kevin McCarthy (Dr. Robert Hoak), Bruce Gordon (Col. Waxman), Barbara Steele (Dr. Mengers), Keenan Wynn (Jack), Dick Miller (Buck Gardner)
A group of vicious piranhas cause havoc at a holiday resort, whilst an oceanographer and a scientist try to stop them.
Of all the late-1970's Jaws clones, Piranha has the biggest guilty-pleasure factor, but it's certainly not a great film. 
With the pairing of producer Roger Corman and director Joe Dante, it makes an enjoyable and fun B-movie homage, but the special effects are quite laughable, looking more as though someone chucked a vacuum cleaner into a swimming pool than a school of man-eating fish causing terror.
"A new breed of terror."
"A new breed of terror."
D: James Cameron
Columbia (Chako Van Leeuwew & Jeff Schechtman)
US/Italy/Netherlands 1982
94 mins


W: H. A. Milton
DP: Roberto D'Ettore Piazzoli
Ed: Roberto Silvi
Mus: Steve Powder

Tricia O'Neil (Anne Kimbrough), Steve Marachuk (Tyler Sherman), Lance Henriksen (Steve Kimbrough), Ricky G. Paull (Chris Kimbrough), Ted Richert (Raoul)

Not so much a sequel, but much more a cash-in on the spawn of aquatic horror films which emerged following the success of Jaws (qv).
A school of genetically-mutated piranha feast on their prey nearby a Caribbean resort whilst an scuba diving instructor, her biochemist boyfriend and her police chief ex-husband investigate.
Director James Cameron went on to bigger and better things later in his career, but as far as debuts go, this is one to expunge from the CV.
"Don't scream. Just swim!"
"Don't scream. Just swim!"
D: Alexandre Aja
The Weinstein Company/Dimension (Alexandre Aja, Mark Canton, Marc Toberoff & Gregory Levasseur)
US 2010
88 mins
W: Alexandre Aja, Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg & Gregory Levasseur
DP: John R. Leonetti
Ed: Baxter
Mus: Michael Wandmacher 
Elisabeth Shue (Julie Forester), Adam Scott (Novak Radzinsky), Jerry O'Connell (Derrick Jones), Ving Rhames (Deputy Fallon), Jessica Szohr (Kelly Driscoll), Steven R. McQueen (Jake Forester), Kelly Brook (Danni Arslow), Christopher Lloyd (Carl Goodman), Richard Dreyfuss (Matt Boyd)
A remake of 1978's low budget horror revived to cash-in on the revitalised 3D market. It's not an amazingly good film, but it isn't trying to be.
The original film was clearly a cash-in on the success of Jaws and, though it was reasonably entertaining, it was also very silly with some tacky special effects.
This version is every bit as silly, ticking off every horror cliché going as though it was filling out a bingo card, yet it still remains quite original with some of its special effects which range from laughably disgusting to bloodily gruesome. Its main asset is that it's just enjoyable, albeit brainless, fun, especially for teenage lads with the vast array of T & A on display.
Elisabeth Shue seems too talented an actress to appear in schlock like this, but she does a very good job in the lead, holding her own against more seasoned actors like Christopher Lloyd & Richard Dreyfuss, who spend most of their screen time hamming it up.
There's no denying that it's ridiculous, but fits right in the "so bad, it's good" market.
"No body is safe."
"No body is safe."


D: John Gulager
Dimension (Mark Canton, Marc Toberoff & Joel Soisson)
US 2012
83 mins
W: Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan & Joel Soisson [based on characters created by Peter Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg]
DP: Alexandre Lehmann
Ed: Devin C. Lussier, Martin Bernfeld & Kirk Morri
Mus: Elia Cmiral
Danielle Panabaker (Maddy), Matt Bush (Barry), David Koechner (Chet), Chris Zylka (Kyle), Katrina Bowden (Shelby), Christopher Lloyd (Carl Goodman), Gary Busey (Clayton), David Hasselhoff (himself)

While 2010's Piranha 3D can be classed as "so bad, it's good", this sequel is just plain bad. Really bad.

The formula and plot are much the same, only the location is changed, taking place at a waterside amusement park.

As for the characters, they're all so boringly repugnant that it's almost impossible to care if any of them survive.

Over-the-top and tacky special effects would be expected but there's absolutely no comedy in this like in the previous film and its attempts at jokes are in the worst possible taste, whilst casting David Hasselhoff in a cameo role as his Baywatch character just smacks of scraping the dregs of the barrel.

D: Gore Verbinski 
Buena Vista/Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)
US 2003
143 mins


W: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
DP: Dariusz Wolski
Ed: Craig Wood, Stephen Rivkin & Arthur Schmidt
Mus: Klaus Badelt
PD: Brian Morris
Cos: Penny Rose

Johnny Depp (Capt. Jack Sparrow), Geoffrey Rush (Capt. Hector Barbossa), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Jack Davenport (Commodore James Norrington), Kevin R. McNally (Joshamee Gibbs), Zoe Saldana (Anamaria), Jonathan Pryce (Gov. Weatherby Swann)

Pirates of the Caribbean is a unique novelty from Disney studios, in the respect that the story is based upon one of the Disneyland theme parks attractions rather than vice versa, although the only part of the ride which made it into the story is a scene in which a trio of pirate prisoners use a bone to coax a dog to bring them the keys, everything else is from the screenwriters' pens. In fact, portions of ride have now been changed to better reflect the film, which feels like a bit of a cheat.
The film itself is wonderfully entertaining, mostly due to the scene-stealing performance of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, mutinied from his duties on board his ship, the Black Pearl, so his former crew go on a quest for a cursed treasure.
This is all just back story though, as the film opens with Sparrow's arrest for piracy and subsequent escape when his former shipmates attack the port and abduct beautiful heiress Elizabeth Swann. 
With the help of roguish blacksmith Will Turner, Jack Sparrow escapes and the two men go on adventure to win back their respected beloved.
It's odd that the pirate sub-genre never really struck a chord with audiences, with all efforts since 1950's Treasure Island failing to register successfully at the box office, but with Hollywood behemoths Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer at the helm, this film became a mammoth hit, becoming a franchise in its own right with a trio of sequels and even further in the works.
It's a swashbuckling adventure suitable for all ages, though some scenes of mild horror might be a little frightening for very young children, while Johnny Depp's captivating performance likely to provide the entertainment for those older than the teenage years.
D: Gore Verbinski 
Buena Vista/Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)
US 2006
150 mins
W: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
DP: Dariusz Wolski
Ed: Craig Wood & Stephen Rivkin
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Rick Heinrichs
Johnny Depp (Capt. Jack Sparrow), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner), Bill Nighy (Davy Jones), Jack Davenport (James Norrington), Kevin R. McNally (Joshamee Gibbs), Jonathan Pryce (Gov. Weatherby Swann), Lee Arenberg (Pintel), Mackenzie Crook (Ragetti), Naomie Harris (Tia Dalma), Geoffrey Rush (Barbossa)
The second Pirates of the Caribbean film went into production before a script had been completed, and some parts show.
More action-orientated than it's predecessor, though the action scenes are virtually recycled throughout the film.
The main trio of characters return, this time trying to outsail both the British fleet and a ghostly ship which carries the dead, helmed by squid-faced Davy Jones, who can only be stopped by Captain Sparrow & co finding a mythical chest that contains his soul.
Like the first film, it's Johnny Depp's charismatic performance that makes it eminently watchable, and while the story isn't quite as polished as it could have been, the visual effects are absolutely fantastic.
D: Gore Verbinski 
Buena Vista/Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)
US 2007
168 mins


W: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio
DP: Dariusz Wolski
Ed: Craig Wood & Stephen Rivkin
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Rick Heinrichs

Johnny Depp (Capt. Jack Sparrow), Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann), Geoffrey Rush (Hector Barbossa), Stellan Skarsgård (Bootstrap Bill Turner), Bill Nighy (Davy Jones), Jack Davenport (James Norrington), Kevin R. McNally (Joshamee Gibbs), Jonathan Pryce (Gov. Weatherby Swann), Chow-Yun Fat (Sao Feng)

With the previous POTC film ending on a cliffhanger, this continuation of the same story is way too overlong, spending well over two-and-a-half hours trying to tie up all the loose ends which were left, then leaves one straggling anyway.
Once again, it's made watchable by brilliant special effects and Johnny Depp's charismatic, scene-stealing performance. A better screenplay would have given more to laugh at, but he's still the only actor who could do justice to the role of Captain Jack Sparrow.
As for the rest of the cast, they mostly look fed up, especially Orlando Bloom, who projects the feeling that he only tagged along due to contractual obligations.
D: Rob Marshall
Buena Vista/Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)
US 2011
137 mins


W: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio [based on the book "On Stranger Tides" by Tim Powers]
DP: Dariusz Wolski
Ed: David Brenner & Wyatt Smith
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Rick Heinrichs

Johnny Depp (Capt. Jack Sparrow), Penelope Cruz (Angelica), Ian McShane (Blackbeard), Kevin R. McNally (Joshamee Gibbs), Geoffrey Rush (Capt. Hector Barbossa)      

As long as Johnny Depp is signed up to star as Captain Jack Sparrow, the franchise will always have a bit of steam to carry it, he is easily the most entertaining factor in all the movies. His talents as an actor gloss over how ridiculously over the top the stories are and how they practically all follow the same formula.
This fourth adventure dispenses with the tedious Keira Knightley-Orlando Bloom love story as Sparrow gets a new crew and a new bit of eye candy (Penelope Cruz), as well as a new quest- one for the fountain of youth. A huge criticism would be of the dark photography, which in places make it incredibly difficult to make out what's actually going on. An improvement on part 3 (At World's End), but a big step behind the first film.
Unfortunately, the success of the films will guarantee Disney studios' desire to make more sequels at the expense of putting any actual effort into the screenplays.


D: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg

Disney (Jerry Bruckheimer)

US 2017

129 mins


W: Jeff Nathanson & Terry Rossio [based on Disney's "Pirates Of The Caribbean]

DP: Paul Cameron

Ed: Roger Barton & Leigh Folsom Boyd

Mus: Geoff Zanelli

Johnny Depp (Capt. Jack Sparrow), Javier Bardem (Capt. Salazar), Geoffrey Rush (Capt. Barbossa), Brenton Thwaites (Henry Turner), Kaya Scodelario (Carina Smyth), Kevin McNally (Joshamee Gibbs)

While most studios and producers would have called quits on this franchise after the last instalment, Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer will do their utmost to wring it completely dry and get as much money as they can from the cinema-going public.

This fifth film is, by far, the weakest of the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, reusing much of the plot from the first film in the absence of originality.

Victim of a mutiny once again from the crew of the Black Pearl, captain Jack Sparrow teams up with Henry Turner (son of Will) in the attempt to break a curse and repel the zombie-like crew of Captain Salazar.

Despite having some good visual effects, nothing else in this movie seems to have been done with any conviction, particularly the performances of a talented cast who must have been laughing all the way to the bank.

Young British actress Kaya Scodelario certainly made a mistake accepting the role in this one, following some solid work on TV and The Maze Runner series of films.

A disappointing summer blockbuster.


D: Roger Corman
AIP/Alta Vista (Roger Corman)
US 1961
85 mins


W: Richard Matheson [based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe]
DP: Floyd Crosby
Ed: Anthony Carras
Mus: Les Baxter

Vincent Price (Nicholas Medina), John Kerr (Francis Barnard), Barbara Steele (Elisabeth Barnard Medina), Luana Anders (Catherine Medina), Anthony Carbone (Dr. Charles Leon)

The second film of Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe series and amongst the best, with Vincent Price in fine form and the rest of the cast equally as good.
Set in 16th century England, a man visits a castle where he his sister has recently passed and it transpires, much to the husband's horror that it appears she was buried alive and her spirit seems to be haunting the abode.
The plot unravels to a terrifying ending where it emerged that a secret torture chamber lies in the crypt. 
Vincent Price is excellent, but the creepy production design and atmospheric music also benefit the buildup of suspense.

"There's a new reason to be afraid of the dark."
"There's a new reason to be afraid of the dark."
D: David Twohy
UIP/Gramercy/Interscope (Tom Engelman)
US 2000
108 mins
Science Fiction/Horror
W: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat & David Twohy
DP: David Eggby
Ed: Rick Shaine
Mus: Graeme Revell
Vin Diesel (Riddick), Radha Mitchell (Carolyn Fry), Cole Hauser (William J. Johns), Keith David (Abu Al-Walid), Lewis Fitzgerald (Paris Ogilvie)
A commercial crew marooned on a distant alien planet learn that it is inhabited by nocturnal creatures and a month-long eclipse is about to occur.
The basic premise owes a huge debt to Alien (qv), but also has enough originality to hold its own. It introduced cinema audiences with Vin Diesel's character, Riddick, a half-man, half-alien criminal who went onto his own franchise of films and the crew's best hope of survival in this one.         

"Game on."
"Game on."
D: Chris Columbus
Columbia/Happy Madison/1492 (Adam Sandler, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe & Allen Covert)
US 2015
106 mins

Comedy/Science Fiction

W: Tim Herlihy & Timothy Dowling [based on the short film by Patrick Jean]
DP: Amir Mokri
Ed: Hughes Winborne
Mus: Henry Jackman

Adam Sandler (Sam Brenner), Kevin James (President Will Cooper), Michelle Monaghan (Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten), Josh Gad (Ludlow Lamonsoff), Peter Dinklage (Eddie Plant), Brian Cox (Adm. James Porter), Sean Bean (Cpl. Hill)

Pixels has one running joke and even manages to get that wrong. The title should be Voxels.
An alien species misinterprets footage of a 1982 video game competition as a declaration of war and attacks the planet with a series of 8-bit creations, including Space Invaders and Pac-Man.  The Earth's fate is in the hands of tech guy Adam Sandler and his geek posse, who participated in the 1982 arcade tournament and the only people on the planet who know the gameplay patterns.
If that sounds far-fetched, this movie also presents a world where Kevin James is US president.
Based on a short film of the same name, this slice of ridiculousness isn't completely without amusement, especially in the scene where the gang take on an evil Pac-Man, but the sheer lunacy of it all, paired with bad stereotypes, jokes which go nowhere, a flawed nostalgia throwback and some truly irritating performances completely counterbalance the entertainment factor.
The biggest enigma is who this actually appeals to. It's likely to be appreciated most by 12 year olds who played 8-bit computer games during the 1980's.

D: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Wade Williams Productions (Edward D. Wood, Jr.)
US 1959
79 mins
Science Fiction
W: Edward D. Wood, Jr.        
DP: William C. Thompson
Ed: Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Mus: Gordon Zahler
Bela Lugosi (The Old Man), Tor Johnson (Insp. Daniel Clay), Gregory Walcott (Jeff Trent), Mona McKinnon (Paula Trent), Duke Moore (Lt. John Harper), Tom Keene (Col. Tom Edwards), John Breckinridge (The Ruler)
The so-called "worst movie ever made" is every bit as awful as its reputation would suggest. Poorly acted, directed and scripted with a nonsensical plot of an alien species bringing the dead back from the grave.
Wrapped around 4-year-old footage of Bela Lugosi (who died prior to actual filming), a much taller body double stands in for the rest of the horror legend's scenes, whilst obvious paper plates stand in for UFO's. Hastily-edited stock footage is crammed into several scenes whilst lazily decorated sets are unconvincing in others to say the least (two chairs and a curtain are used to simulate an aeroplane cockpit).
Despite the film's faults, of which there are plenty, it's absolutely hilarious to the point where it becomes incredibly entertaining.
Sometimes they really are so bad that they're good.
D: John Hughes
UIP/Paramount (John Hughes)
US 1987
93 mins
W: John Hughes
DP: Don Peterman
Ed: Paul Hirsch
Mus: Ira Newborn
Steve Martin (Neal Page), John Candy (Del Griffith), Laila Robins (Susan Page), Michael McKean (State Trooper), Kevin Bacon (Taxi Racer), Dylan Baker (Owen)

The very best of Steve Martin. He plays a stuffy businessman travelling home from New York City to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family, but when his flight is rerouted to Kansas due to bad weather, he and his odious travelling companion John Candy encounter many difficulties with their alternative methods of travel.
The film veers into holiday spirit sentimentality towards the end, but there's more than enough hilarious moments before that point to make this film highly enjoyable, with co-stars Steve Martin and John Candy both delivering what is quite possibly their best ever comedy performances. It's arguably John Hughes' finest hour as writer and director too.
"Somewhere in the universe, there must be something better than man."
"Somewhere in the universe, there must be something better than man."
D: Franklin J. Schaffner
20th Century Fox/APJAC (Arthur P. Jacobs)         
US 1968
119 mins

Science Fiction

W: Michael Wilson & Rod Serling [based on the novel 'Monkey Planet' by Pierre Boulle]
DP: Leon Shamroy
Ed: Hugh S. Fowler
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: William Creber & Jack Martin Smith
Cos: Morton Haack

Charlton Heston (George Taylor), Roddy McDowall (Cornelius), Kim Hunter (Zira), Maurice Evans (Dr. Zaius), James Whitmore (President of the Assembly), Linda Harrison (Nova)

The original and arguably still the best of the Planet Of The Apes films. The makeup, special effects, costumes and peoduction design will feel dated by modern standards, but when it's considered that the film was made in 1968 it's easy to admire its craft and imagination.
A small crew of astronauts who crash land on a desolate, barren planet find themselves captured by a society of intelligent apes who wish to destroy them and keep their civilisation free of mankind.
The enjoyment factor of the film is heavily dependent on if you can take the dated production values, but well worth sitting through for the story's genius plot twist - unless it's already been ruined by constant references to it in popular culture.
"Rule the planet."
"Rule the planet."
D: Tim Burton
20th Century Fox (Richard D. Zanuck)
US 2001
120 mins

Science Fiction

W: William Broyles, Jr., Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal [based on the novel 'Monkey Planet' by Pierre Boulle]
DP: Philippe Rousselot
Ed: Chris Lebenzon
Mus: Danny Elfman
PD: Rick Heinrichs
Cos: Colleen Atwood

Mark Wahlberg (Capt. Leo Davidson), Tim Roth (Gen, Thade), Helena Bonham-Carter (Ari), Michael Clarke Duncan (Col. Attar), Paul Giamatti (Limbo), Estella Warren (Daena)

Remake of the 1968 film in which a crew of astronauts crash land on a planet inhabited by an intelligent and fierce race of apes who want them dead.
Director Tim Burton insisted that this version was a "re-imagination" rather than a remake. This only proves that Tim Burton can't have much of one.
The visual effects and makeup are more convincing, but the acting and dialogue are atrocious, whilst the "twist" ending is just laughable.
D: Robert Rodriguez
Dimension (Robert Rodiguez, Elizabeth Avellan & Quentin Tarantino)
US 2007
105 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: Robert Rodriguez
DP: Robert Rodriguez
Ed: Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
Mus: Graeme Revell

Rose McGowan (Cherry Darling), Freddy Rodriguez (El Wray), Josh Brolin (Dr. William Block), Marley Shelton (Dr. Dakota Block), Jeff Fahey (J.T. Hague), Bruce Willis (Lt. Muldoon)

The second part of the 'Grindhouse' double bill, following Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.
For those not in the know, Grindhouse is movie slang for a run-down, fleapit cinema which was best known for showing cheap schlock, exploitation and splatter movies during the 1970's and 1980's, defunct since the birth of VHS tapes.
As far as tributes go, the two films hit the spot. They're both a load of nonsense but that's precisely the point.          
Robert Rodriguez' contribution to the double bill concerns a virus which turns its victims into zombie-like creatures, complete with bursting bloody pores and all other things ghastly.
It's cheap, disgusting fun but isn't anywhere near as entertaining as Death Proof, which certainly had a better story. Planet Terror starts very well but soon descends into complete and utter lunacy. Perhaps this was intended considering the genre of film that it's attributed to, but it's a much weaker second part to the double bill.

"The first casualty of war is innocence."
"The first casualty of war is innocence."
D: Oliver Stone
Orion/Hemdale (Arnold Kopelson)
US 1986
120 mins


W: Oliver Stone
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Claire Simpson
Mus: Georges Delerue

Charlie Sheen (Pvt. First Class Chris Taylor), Tom Berenger (Sgt. Barnes), Willem Dafoe (Sgt. Elias), Forest Whitaker (Big Harold), Francesco Quinn (Ramucci), John C. McGinley (Sgt. O'Neill), Kevin Dillon (Bunny), Johnny Depp (Lerner)

Oliver Stone's Vietnam war classic is a brutally difficult film to watch, presenting the horrors of war and all the atrocities that come with it with a vivid realism and highly emotional scenes.
The story follows a small unit of soldiers on their tour of duty which sees them forced to follow unscrupulous & inhumane orders in the name of national service.
It's possibly the most honest war film ever brought to screen, depicting soldiers as confused, scared and inexperienced individuals forced into battles they had no right to fight and biting off far more than they could possibly chew.
All aspects of the production are commendable, whilst the acting from the ensemble is excellent, especially Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger & Willem Dafoe. A young Johnny Depp also crops up in one of his earliest screen performances.
"The scream you hear may be your own!"
"The scream you hear may be your own!"
D: Clint Eastwood
Universal/Malpaso (Robert Daley)
US 1972
102 mins
W: Jo Heims & Dean Riesner
DP: Bruce Surtees
Ed: Carl Pingitore
Mus: Dee Barton
Clint Eastwood (Dave Garver), Jessica Walter (Evelyn Draper), Donna Mills (Tobie Williams), John Larch (Sgt. McCallum)
A radio disc jockey is stalked by a female admirer who turns out to be homicidal.
Decent melodramatic thriller from the earlier days of Clint Eastwood's career. The formula has been done to death now though, most famously in 1987's Fatal Attraction (qv), so this effort merely blends in with the crowd.
The performances are good, without being totally mesmerising.
"The Best Movie Ever Made!" - Griffin Mill
"The Best Movie Ever Made!" - Griffin Mill
D: Robert Altman
Guild/Avenue (David Brown, Michael Tolkin & Nick Wechsler)
US 1992
124 mins
W: Michael Tolkin [based on his novel]
DP: Jean Lepine
Ed: Geraldine Peroni
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Stephen Altman
Tim Robbins (Griffin Mill), Greta Scacchi (June Gudmondsdottir), Fred Ward (Walter Stuckel), Whoopi Goldberg (Avery), Peter Gallagher (Larry Levy), Brion James (Joel Levinson), Cynthia Stevenson (Bonnie Sherow), Vincent D'Onofrio (David Kahane), Dean Stockwell (Andy Civelia), Richard E. Grant (Tom Oakley)
A belligerent studio executive receives death threats from a screenwriter whose script he rejected, but finds it difficult to determine which one.
For a film buff, this is the ultimate black comedy, filled to the brim with wily Hollywood in-jokes, celebrity cameos and even a film within a film. It might not be appreciated by a more mainstream crowd, but those who understand filmmaking will thoroughly enjoy it, especially the ending which is a stroke of screenwriting and filmmaking genius.
"Nothing is as simple as black & white."
"Nothing is as simple as black & white."
D: Gary Ross
New Line (Gary Ross, Jon Kilik, Robert J. Degus & Steven Soderbergh)
US 1998
124 mins


W: Gary Ross
DP: John Lindley
Ed: William Goldenberg
Mus: Randy Newman
PD: Jeannine Oppewall
Cos: Judianna Makovsky

Tobey Maguire (David/Bud), Jeff Daniels (Bill Johnson), Joan Allen (Betty Parker), William H. Macy (George Parker), J.T. Walsh (Big Bob), Reese Witherspoon (Jennifer/Mary Sue)

A controversial opinion perhaps, but Pleasantville isn't as pleasant as it likes to think it is, or as clever. For me, this is liberal propaganda dressed up as a family film. 
This allegorical fantasy sees a pair of 90's suburban teenagers, a brother & sister, magically transported into the world of 1950's TV show in which they gradually bring colour into the black & white universe of the fictional town.
The film suffers by not deciding whether it's a comedy or drama and tries to balance between both, which doesn't really work towards the end of the film. It also doesn't have much plot for its premise and instead decides to ram its obvious message of racial desegregation and social justice values right down the viewer's throat. 
There's a couple of clever moments, but it lacks any true magic and opts for incidental moments without any real answers. 
D: René Clement
Paris/Panitalia/Titanus (Robert Hakim & Raymond Hakim)
France/Italy 1960
115 mins


W: René Clement & Paul Gégauff [based on the novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley" by Patricia Highsmith]
DP: Henri Decae
Ed: Françoise Javet
Mus: Nino Rota

Alain Delon (Tom Ripley), Marie Laforêt (Marge Duval), Maurice Ronet (Philippe Greanleaf), Elvire Popesco (Madame Popova), Erno Crisa (Insp. Riccordi), Frank Latimore (O'Brien), Bill Kearns (Freddy Miles)

The first adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Talented Mr. Ripley omits the majority of the story, focusing mainly on the first half of the book where a mysterious stranger pretends to be the friend of a aristocrat, so he can imitate his characteristics and traits before committing his murder.
Atmospherically directed and well acted, though a much better version of the book was directed by Anthony Minghella in 1999 (see The Talented Mr. Ripley).