"Love will get you through."
"Love will get you through."
D: John Cameron Mitchell
Lionsgate/Blossom/Oddlot (Nicole Kidman, Leslie Urdang, Gigi Pritzker, Per Saari & Dean Vanech)
US 2010
91 mins


W: David Lindsay-Abaire [based on his play]
DP: Frank G. DeMarco
Ed: Joe Klotz
Mus: Anton Sanko

Nicole Kidman (Becca Corbett), Aaron Eckhart (Howie Corbett), Dianne Wiest (Nat), Miles Teller (Jason), Tammy Blanchard (Izzy), Sandra Oh (Gabby)

Rabbit Hole is a small independent film with some big performances, especially from the two leads Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman.
They play a married couple who are struggling to cope with grief following the accidental death of their three-year-old son. Eckhart deals with the loss by attending counselling sessions and spending more and more time with a female friend, while Kidman remains stone-faced, focusing on her passion for gardening and secretly meeting with the teenager who was responsible for her child's death.
The material is best suited to the stage, from which it was adapted, but the performances here make it a very worthwhile movie. There's a few moments which are quite uncomfortable to watch, but the story never quite steps into controversial territory.

"1500 miles is a long way home."
"1500 miles is a long way home."
D: Phillip Noyce
Buena Vista/AFFC/Hanway (Phillip Noyce, Christine Olsen & John Winter)
Australia/UK 2002
94 mins


W: Christine Olsen [based on the book "Follow The Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington Garimara]
DP: Christopher Doyle
Ed: John Scott & Veronika Jenet
Mus: Peter Gabriel
PD: Roger Ford

Everlyn Sampi (Molly Craig), Tianna Sansbury (Daisy Craig Kadibill), Laura Monaghan (Gracie Fields), David Gulpilil (Moodoo), Kenneth Branagh (A.O. Neville)

Rabbit Proof Fence is the fact-based account of three aboriginal girls who escape the custody of white authorities after being kidnapped during a time of ethnic cleansing in 1930's Australia, where indigenous children were uprooted to a school which groomed them for a life of servitude to white owners.
Following their escape, the girls face a gruelling 1,500-mile journey across dangerous terrain and arid desert with only a rabbit-proof fence guiding their journey back to their family home.
This bleak and harrowing account is certain to pull on the heart strings and touch on the nerves. The performances of the three juvenile actresses are splendid, but it's arguably Kenneth Branagh's heartless bastard performance as the embodiment of barbaric politics which is more likely to be remembered.
Though the production was small compared to American pictures, Phillip Noyce directs with a breathtaking amount of scale, making the vast Australian desert even bigger and the girls' journey even the more perilous.
A special mention should also be noted for Peter Gabriel's beautifully evocative music score.
"Pray it doesn't happen to you!"
"Pray it doesn't happen to you!"

RABID (18)

D: David Cronenberg

New World Pictures/Cinepix (John Dunning)

Canada 1976 (released 1977)

91 mins


W: David Cronenberg

DP: Rene Verzier

Ed: Jean LaFleur

Marilyn Chambers (Rose), Frank Moore (Hart Read), Joe Silver (Murray Cypher), Howard Ryshpan (Dr. Dan Kyloid), Patricia Gage (Dr. Roxanne Kyloid)

This Canadian horror film launched the career of David Cronenberg, whose later films also had similar themes and visual style.

Following a motorcycle accident and subsequent life-saving surgery, a woman develops a bloodlust which infects the people of Montreal and surrounding areas.

With a pornographic film star in the lead role, Rabid doubles up as a metaphor for promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases as well as an alternative zombie flick.

It has amassed a respectable cult following since its original release and though it had obvious budgetary restraints, David Cronenberg did a great job in the director's chair. A remake is in consideration, but I personally hope it doesn't materialise.


D: Jonathan Demme
Sony Pictures Classics (Jonathan Demme, Neda Armian & Marc E. Platt)
US 2008
113 mins


W: Jenny Lumet
DP: Declan Quinn
Ed: Tim Squyres
Mus: Zafer Tawil & Donald Harrison, Jr.

Anne Hathaway (Kym Buchman), Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Buchman), Bill Irwin (Paul Buchman), Tunde Adebimpe (Sidney Williams), Debra Winger (Abby Buchman)

Anne Hathaway plays Kym, a reforming drug addict who leaves rehab for a few days to return to her family home to celebrate her sister Rachel's wedding. 
Skeletons from the past rear their ugly heads and creates a rift amongst the dysfunctional family as the try to rein in the arguments with the impending big day approaching.
Filmed with a hand-held photography style which captures the film with home video realism and the performances and screenplay accurately portrays a family desperately trying to bury it's head beneath the sand for the greater good.
The low-key style won't suit everyone's viewing tastes, but it's certainly worth watching to experience a good spot of acting, especially Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt as Rachel.

D: Damian Harris
Virgin/Initial/Longfellow (Andrew Karsch)
UK 1989
95 mins


W: Damian Harris [based on the novel by Martin Amis]
DP: Alex Thomson
Ed: David Martin
Mus: Chaz Jankel & David Storrs

Dexter Fletcher (Charles Highway), Ione Skye (Rachel Noyce), Jonathan Pryce (Norman), James Spader (DeForest), Bill Paterson (Gordon Highway), Michael Gambon (Dr. Knowd), Lesley Sharp (Jenny)

Martin Amis' comedy of manners gets a 1980's makeover for this film adaptation. Charles Highway (Dexter Fletcher) is a college student who fancies himself as a charming Casanova type, challenging himself to seduce an older woman before he sets off to Oxford University. He sets his target on Rachel, an American student with a wealthy boyfriend, and ultimately finds the chase much more fun than the catch.
This is as good an adaptation of Amis' novel as possible, an adult version of Adrian Mole's secret diary if you like, and though the lead character is far too cocksure for his own good, Dexter Fletcher brings a good deal of humour to the role with his quirky narration and knowing looks-to-camera. However, it's the role of his foul-mouthed brother-in-law, played by Jonathan Pryce, that steals the movie, whilst Ione Skye is a natural beauty as Rachel, the object of his desires. The book is a great deal better, but they often are.
D: Jack Fisk
Universal (William D. Wittliff & Burt Weissbound)
US 1981
94 mins


W: William D. Wittliff
DP: Ralf Bode
Ed: Edward Warschilka
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Sissy Spacek (Nita Longley), Eric Roberts (Teddy), Sam Shepard (Bailey), William Anderson (Calvin), R.G. Armstrong (Rigby)

Shortly following the Great Depression in a remote Texas town, a divorced switchboard operator and her two young children, all ostracised by the devoutly religious and conservative townsfolk, are protected by a mysterious drifter.
The performances of Sissy Spacek and Eric Roberts give this rural melodrama a good deal of interest, but there's little else memorable about it.
D: Martin Scorsese
United Artists (Robert Chartoff & Irwin Winkler)
US 1980
119 mins


W: Paul Schrader & Mardik Martin [based on the book by Jake LaMotta, Joseph Carter & Peter Savage]
DP: Michael Chapman
Ed: Thelma Schoonmaker

Robert DeNiro (Jake LaMotta), Joe Pesci (Joey LaMotta), Cathy Moriarty (Vickie LaMotta), Frank Vincent (Salvy), Nicholas Colasanto (Tommy Como), Theresa Saldana (Lenore), Frank Adonis (Patsy), Mario Gallo (Mario)

Without a doubt, Raging Bull is the best boxing movie ever made as well as quite possibly being the finest sports biopic in cinema history.
Robert DeNiro delivers his career-best performance as title contender Jake LaMotta, a brutal pugilist who was manipulated by the Mafia to throw his championship fight, causing his career to be brought to an abrupt end when he subsequently has his boxing licence stripped away by the official organisations.
Some scenes are a rather ugly watch, especially those uncovering the fighter's bullying family life, but it's such an amazing performance from DeNiro, who still makes you root for such an unsympathetic, unlikeable character.
Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty also deserve kudos for their performances for their roles as LaMotta's brother and wife.
Some might say this is Martin Scorsese's best film as director. It would be hard to disagree. Voted best film of the 1980's by the American Film Institute, an accolade richly deserved.
D: Gareth Evans
Sony Pictures Classics/XYZ/PT Meranteau (Ario Sagantoro)
Indonesia 2011
101 mins


W: Gareth Evans 
DP: Matt Flannery & Dimas Imam Subhono
Ed: Gareth Evans
Mus: Fajar Yuskemal & Mike Shinoda

Iko Uwais (Rama), Joe Taslim (Jaka), Donny Alamsyah (Andi), Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog), Pierre Gruno (Wahyu), Tegar Setrya (Bowo)

An elite S.W.A.T. team become trapped in a housing complex run by a ruthless criminal and his gang, finding themselves fighting for their lives to escape.
Well received by both critics and audiences, The Raid is a good slice of Western-inspired Oriental cinema with more than a nod or two to Die Hard (qv) and other similar action-thrillers.
A variation on the same plot was used in the 2012 film Dredd (qv), though the martial arts choreography on display here is a step above the usual.
"The return of the great adventure."
"The return of the great adventure."
D: Steven Spielberg
Paramount/Lucasfilm (Frank Marshall)
US 1981
115 mins


W: Lawrence Kasdan, Philip Kaufman & George Lucas
DP: Douglas Slocombe
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Norman Reynolds
Cos: Deborah Nadoolman

Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Karen Allen (Marion Ravenwood), Paul Freeman (Belloq), Ronald Lacey (Toht), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody), Alfred Molina (Satipo)

The film which introduced cinema to Indiana Jones, an archaologist and explorer who must find the fabled Ark of the Covenant, an ancient artefact of great power, before the Nazi's do, who believe that possession of the relic will make their army unstoppable.
This hugely successful collaboration between director Steven Spielberg and writer George Lucas brought the style and excitement from Saturday morning TV adventure serials from the previous generation to a brand new audience and revitalised the adventure genre in the same way Star Wars reinvigorated science fiction.
The film is generally a series of intrepid set pieces, with a bit of exposition in-between, and though it could be seen as nonsensical gibberish, the craft put into the production design, visual effects and other technical aspects of the film make the story feel incredibly convincing.
Harrison Ford is the perfect choice for the film's hero, bringing coolness and charm to the rugged physical appearance of the character. Other characters are underwritten, but when a film is this much fun, who cares?
Raiders Of The Lost Ark was amongst the most successful films of the 1980's, generating three sequels and a huge number of spinoffs and ripoffs. 
A personal favourite of mine, as it should be for anyone who grew up during the 1980's.
D: Barry Levinson
United Artists/Guber-Peters (Mark Johnson)
US 1988
128 mins


W: Ronald Bass & Barry Morrow
DP: John Seale
Ed: Stu Linder
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Ida Random
Cos: Bernie Pollack

Dustin Hoffman (Raymond Babbitt), Tom Cruise (Charlie Babbitt), Valeria Golino (Susanna), Jerry Molen (Dr. Bruner), Jack Murdock (John Mooney), Michael Roberts (Vern), Ralph Seymour (Lenny), Lucinda Jenney (Iris), Bonnie Hunt (Sally Dibbs)

Possibly the most well-known Hollywood mainstream picture to deal with the subject of autism and it does a fantastic job with it's source material.
The film was the biggest box office success of 1988, went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture and is amongst the biggest films of the decade. It all works particularly well due to the performances and partnership of Tom Cruise and (especially) Dustin Hoffman. Credit also belongs to director Barry Levinson, who never allows the pace of the film to drag or become overly sentimental or unconvincing. 
Tom Cruise plays arrogant, egotistical and avaricious car salesman Charlie Babbitt, who, upon hearing of his father's death, becomes incensed that he's been left a pittance of the inheritance while the majority goes to an unnamed heir who Charlie soon discovers is his autistic brother who he has little to no memory of.
Charlie abducts his brother and the two journey on a road trip from Baltimore to California where the animosity and resentment between them transforms into patience, understanding and brotherly love and the two develop a deep emotional bond and close-knit relationship against the odds, even sweeping up on the Black Jack tables in a stopover in Vegas due to Raymond's mathematical genius and eidetic memory.
A must-watch movie, not only for educational enrichment, but also for its dramatic narrative focusing on the growing relationship between two long-lost family members.
D: Joel Coen
20th Century Fox/Circle Films (Ethan Coen & Mark Silverman)
US 1987
94 mins


W: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
DP: Barry Sonnenfeld
Ed: Michael R. Miller
Mus: Carter Burwell

Nicolas Cage (H.I. McDonnough), Holly Hunter (Edwina), Trey Wilson (Nathan Arizona, Sr.), John Goodman (Gale), William Forsythe (Evelle), Sam McMurray (Glen), Frances McDormand (Dot), Randall 'Tex' Cobb (Leonard Smalls)

The films of the Coen Brothers are very much an acquired taste, but those who appreciate their style will most certainly enjoy Raising Arizona and list it amongst the best from the filmmaking partnership.
This black comedy stars Nicolas Cage as an ex-convict and Holly Hunter as his wife, who is also a law enforcement official.
Unable to have children of their own, they kidnap the baby of a millionaire who sends a biker bounty hunter in pursuit. 
Meanwhile, two jailbreakers hole up with them and cause a new kind of hell themselves.
The Coen's crazy screwball style really works here with some hilarious dialogue and memorable characters. A great slice of cult cinema.
"No man, no law, no war can stop him."
"No man, no law, no war can stop him."
D: George Pan Cosmatos
Anabasis Investments (Buzz Feitshans)
US 1985
92 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone & James Cameron
DP: Jack Cardiff
Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Mark Helfrich
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo), Richard Crenna (Sam Troutman) Charles Napier (Murdock), Julia Nickson (Co-Bao), Steven Berkoff (Podovsky)

Mindless rock-'em sock-'em sequel to First Blood, though this story has so little to do with the original story that it wouldn't really be fair to tie it up to it, there's no real plot or character development, it's just an excuse to blow shit up.
Sylvester Stallone returns as mentally-scarred Vietnam vet John Rambo, released from doing "hard-time" by his colonel friend, who has a new mission for him. He must return to the Vietnamese jungle where he was a POW to capture photographs of those who are still prisoner, but since he doesn't have a clue how a camera works he just starts shooting people instead and becomes the victim of a set-up by his own army. Not to worry though, as he defeats the bad guys merely by pretending to be asleep.
Despite being a completely brainless action flick, the film did remarkably well at the box office in 1985. A year when Coca-Cola and McDonald's were also incredibly popular, but this still doesn't make for a good diet.
The biggest surprise is that James Cameron co-wrote this drivel.

"God would have mercy... John Rambo won't."
"God would have mercy... John Rambo won't."


D: Peter MacDonald

Tristar/Carolco (Buzz Feitshans)

US 1988

101 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone & Sheldon Lettich

DP: John Stanier

Ed: James Symons, Andrew London, O. Nicholas Brown & Edward Warschilka

Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo), Richard Crenna (Col. Sam Trautman), Kurtwood Smith (Robert Griggs), Marc de Jonge (Col. Alexei Zaysen)

At the time of its completion, Rambo III was the most expensive film production of all time. It's just a shame that throwing money at a problem doesn't make the screenplay or acting any better.

Following the stencil of the second film rather than the first, this is more rock-em-sock-em action gibberish, throwing Stallone's titular character into conflict in Afghanistan, where he has to rescue a friend from Soviet bad guys by means of violence.

Explosions galore is on the bill of fare here, that's all there is to see.

The biggest regret with the Rambo sequels is that the first movie was actually good. This is just mindless nonsense and all that the money paid for was a terrible movie.


"The Fight Continues"
"The Fight Continues"


D: Sylvester Stallone

Lionsgate/TWC/Millennium/Nu Image (Avi Lerner, Kevin King Templeton & John Thompson)

US 2008

91 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone & Art Monterastelli

DP: Glen MacPherson

Ed: Sean Albertson

Mus: Brian Tyler

Sylvester Stallone (John Rambo), Julie Benz (Sarah Miller), Paul Schulze (Michael Burnett), Matthew Marsden (School Boy), Graham McTavish (Lewis), Reynaldo Gallegos (Diaz), Tim Kang (En-Joo)

Better than the other sequels, but still not a shade on the original movie (First Blood), John Rambo is back... 20 years after his last big screen outing. The rights to the character had been bouncing about Hollywood for a while, and it wasn't until the success of 2006's Rocky Balboa (qv) that The Weinstein Company decided to revive the films with Stallone once again back in the title role.

The plot isn't too dissimilar to the other sequels, although set in Myanmar where Rambo ferries a group of humanitarians up a hostile river to they can get medicine to needy, but when they are kidnapped by a terrorist regime, Rambo joins a group of soldiers on a mission to save them.  In fairness, there was no reason to attach this to the other Rambo films. It feels as though it was written as a standalone film but producers had little faith in the project and tagged it onto the franchise, tailoring it as needs must.

Gung Ho Action it still is, but it's not as brainless as the other sequels. Stallone is definitely getting too old for this shit though.


"Big Meets Bigger."
"Big Meets Bigger."


D: Brad Peyton

Warner Bros/New Line/Seven Bucks (Brad Peyton, Beau Flynn, John Rickard & Hiram Garcia)

US 2018

107 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: Ryan Engle, Carlton Cuse, Ryan J. Condal & Adam Sztykiel [based on the video game by Midway Games]

DP: Jaron Presant

Ed: Jim May & Bob Ducsay

Mus: Andrew Lockington

Dwayne Johnson (Davis Okoye), Naomie Harris (Dr. Kate Caldwell), Malin Åkerman (Claire Wyden), Jake Lacy (Brett Wyden), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Harvey Russell), Joe Manganiello (Burke)

Man vs giant animals were a big Hollywood trend of the 1970's, with films like Night Of The Lepus, Food Of The Gods and the '76 King Kong remake all released during the decade, films which featured quite ridiculous concepts and rather shoddy effects. 

Rampage takes its plot from a video game, and though there is an improvement on visual effects, the story is still as ludicrous as the films of the '70's.

When a genetic experiment on an orbiting space station goes wrong, debris rains down across America and affects a trio of animals, one of which is a albino gorilla under the care of San Diego primatologist Davis Okoye (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson).

The company behind the genetic experiment have their own nefarious purposes, and summon the three animals (the others being a huge flying wolf and a giant crocodile) to Chicago, where they unleash carnage.

It's another brainless action vehicle which Dwayne Johnson has built his entire film career on, and, despite the ridiculousness of the plot, is reasonably entertaining for the duration. The script is cheesy, the performances unconvincing and even Jeffrey Dean Morgan pops up, playing the exact same character he does in TV's The Walking Dead.

The giant ape effects are quite spectacular, but the other two animals are quite poorly rendered. It's obvious where the budget went.


"His district. His rules."
"His district. His rules."
D: Oren Moverman
Millennium/Amalgam (Michael DeFranco, Ben Foster, Lawrence Inglee, Ken Kao & Clark Peterson)
US 2011
108 mins


W: Oren Moverman & James Ellroy [based on a story by James Ellroy]
DP: Bobby Bukowski
Ed: Jay Rabinowitz
Mus: Dickon Hinchcliffe

Woody Harrelson (Dave Brown), Ice Cube (Kyle Timkins), Ned Beatty (Hartshorn), Anne Heche (Catherine), Steve Buscemi (Bill Blago), Sigourney Weaver (Joan Confrey)

An absolutely fantastic performance by Woody Harrelson but on the whole, this movie is quite disappointing.
Harrelson plays bad boy cop Dave "Date Rape" Brown, who acquired his ominous nickname for killing a date rapist in cold blood.  When his superiors investigate him for using extreme police brutality, Dave becomes more involved in addiction to drugs and alcohol as he descends into self-pity as his dysfunctional family turn their back on him.
Unfortunately, one great performance can't put a positive spin on depressing material and the final moments leave the story open, leaving you wanting much needed closure. 
D: Gore Verbinski
Paramount/Nickelodeon (Gore Verbinski, Graham King & John B. Carls)
US 2011
107 mins


W: John Logan, Gore Verbinski & James Ward Byrkit
Mus: Hans Zimmer

voices of: Johnny Depp (Rango), Isla Fisher (Beans), Abigail Breslin (Priscilla), Ned Beatty (Tortoise John), Alfred Molina (Roadkill), Bill Nighy (Rattlesnake John), Stephen Root (Doc), Harry Dean Stanton (Balthazar), Ray Winstone (Bad Bill)

Rango seemed to be more appreciated by the critics than it was cinema audiences which is a pity, since it's very enjoyable, the CGI animation is excellent and the story gives a unique twist on the western genre. Its only shortfall, is that it's an animated film which doesn't target children as its principal audience.

Johnny Depp voices the character of Rango, a pet chameleon who winds up in a small desert town called Dirt, where he finds himself becoming sheriff.

Clearly a homage to Western films of the 1950's and 1960's with a nod to a few classic film noirs.

Though it might not be aimed at kids, this is one for the big kid in all of us.


"Someone is going to pay."
"Someone is going to pay."
D: Ron Howard
Touchstone (Brian Grazer, Scott Rudin & B. Kipling Hagopian)
US 1996
120 mins


W: Richard Price [based on a screenplay by Cyril Hume & Richard Maibaum]
DP: Piotr Sobocinski
Ed: Dan Hanley & Michael Hill
Mus: James Horner

Mel Gibson (Tom Mullen), Rene Russo (Kate Mullen), Gary Sinise (Det. Jimmy Shaker), Delroy Lindo (Agent Lonnie Hawkins), Lili Taylor (Maris Conner), Liev Schreiber (Clark Barnes), Brawley Nolte (Sean Mullen)

Remake of a 1955 thriller with a good dose of Hollywood formula added in.
Mel Gibson gives a very strong performance as a millionaire tycoon who turns the tables on his son's kidnappers by offering the ransom money as a reward for those that capture the criminals.
For two-thirds of the film, the suspense is tight and the performances believable. However, the unconvincing final third, where the plot descends into formulaic nonsense make for a clichéd ending of car chases and shootouts. Enjoyable for the most part, but ultimately flawed.
D: Akira Kurosawa
Daiei (Jingo Minoura)
Japan 1950
90 mins


W: Shinobu Hashimoto & Akira Kurosawa [based on the novel by Ryunosuke Akutagawa]
DP: Kazuo Miyagawa
Ed: Akira Kurosawa
Mus: Fumio Hayasaka
PD: Matsuyama H. Motsumoto

Toshiro Mifune (Tajômaru), Machiko Kyo (Masago), Masayuki Mori (Takehiro), Takeshi Shimura (Firewood Dealer), Minoru Chiaki (Priest), Kichijiro Ueda (Commoner)

 Rashomon is the film which introduced western audiences to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's work and still remains amongst his greatest films.
In the medieval ruins of a temple, a group of strangers each tell the story of a heinous crime that they witnessed- a rape and a murder committed by a notorious bandit, but each of the men have a differing point of view.
The film is full of rich cinematography, amazing production design and uses editing processes years ahead of its time (screen wipes, etc). The lead performance of Toshiro Mifune is completely magnetic and it's easy to see why he was cast frequently in Kurosawa's subsequent work. 

D: Jerry Zucker
Paramount/Fireworks/Alphaville (Jerry Zucker, Janet Zucker & Sean Daniel)
US 2001 
112 mins


W: Andy Breckman
DP: Thomas Ackerman
Ed: Tom Lewis
Mus: John Powell

Rowan Atkinson (Enrico Pollini), John Cleese (Donald P. Sinclair), Whoopi Goldberg (Vera Baker), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Owen Templeton), Seth Green (Duane Cody), Jon Lovitz (Randy Pear), Breckin Meyer (Nick Schaffer), Kathy Najimy (Bev Pear), Amy Smart (Tracy Faucet)

A group of misfit Las Vegas gamblers participate in a race to find $2m hidden in New Mexico, unaware that other gamblers are betting on the outcome of the race.
In the vein of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and other such capers, the comedy centres on cheap slapstick rather than character-developed comedy or quirky dialogue.
Considering the talent involved, there's no excuse for the lack of humour and generally poor performances on display here.
"A comedy with great taste."
"A comedy with great taste."
D: Brad Bird
Disney/Pixar (Brad Lewis)
US 2007
111 mins


W: Brad Bird
Mus: Michael Giacchino

voices of: Patton Oswalt (Remy), Ian Holm (Skinner), Lou Romano (Alfredo Linguini), Brian Dennehy (Django), Peter O'Toole (Anton Ego)

Remy, a Parisian rat with dreams of becoming a gourmet chef, makes an unlikely alliance with a young cook in a five-star restaurant and controls him like a puppet in order to make some creative dishes and win the approval of a stern restaurant critic.
Like all Pixar's output, the animation is brilliantly well done, but the story isn't quite as immersive as the studio's other films (Toy Story, etc). Nevertheless, kids of all ages will find it suits their tastes perfectly.
"The system gave him a raw deal. Nobody gives him a raw deal."
"The system gave him a raw deal. Nobody gives him a raw deal."
D: John Irvin
20th Century Fox/DeLaurentiis (Martha Schumacher)
US 1986
106 mins


W: Gary M. DeVore & Norman Wexler
DP: Alex Thomson
Ed: Anne V. Coates
Mus: Tom Bähler, Chris Boardman & Albhy Galuten

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mark Kaminsky / Joseph P. Brenner), Kathryn Harrold (Monique), Sam Wanamaker (Luigi Patrovita), Paul Shenar (Paulo Rocca)

The mid 1980's saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in his element. Films like The Terminator, Predator and The Running Man appeasing both his fans, and to a lesser degree, the critics.
Raw Deal is one of the films which did neither and perhaps wouldn't have been noticed at all had the action star not had A-list status at the time of it's release.
Arnie plays an ex-CIA agent turned small town sheriff who is recruited to infiltrate the Chicago mob and later takes revenge when the chief's son is murdered by them.
It's standard action hokum with a brainless script and a handful of action set pieces to occasionally engage.
The whole film is practically encapsulated with the promotional trailer.
RAY (12)
D: Taylor Hackford
Universal/Bristol Bay/Anvil (Taylor Hackford, Howard Baldwin, Karen Elise Baldwin & Stuart Benjamin)
US 2004
152 mins


W: James L. White & Taylor Hackford
DP: Pawel Edelman
Ed: Paul Hirsch
Mus: Craig Armstrong; Ray Charles
PD: Stephen Altman
Cos: Sharen Davis

Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles), Kerry Washington (Della Bea Robinson), Regina King (Margie Hendricks), Clifton Powell (Jeff Brown), Aunjanue Ellis (Mary Ann Fisher), Harry Lennix (Joe Adams), Terrence Howard (Gossie McKee), Larenz Tate (Quincy Jones)

Jamie Foxx doesn't only portray Ray Charles, he practically embodies him in this stellar biopic of the music legend, put together with some finesse by auteur Taylor Hackford.
The film chronicles the struggles of the jazz pianist and singer from an early age, as he struggles to cope not only with the disability of blindness, but also racial issues, heroin addiction and domestic problems over the course of his blossoming career.  The film does hint at pinning his struggles to one major event in his life, the accidental death of his brother,  which feels a bit clumsy, but the attention given to his musical journey and subsequent addiction to narcotics is where the biopic really comes to life, especially given Jamie Foxx's astonishing performance.
The film only takes Ray Charles' story up to a certain point in his life, concluding with a caption that he kicked drugs and became a national treasure, this is due to the director and screenwriter feeling that the musician had no more struggles to overcome once he gave up his addiction. Though concise, it fails to address whether Charles' addictions gave him licence to be more creative with his flair for music, but perhaps this is a story for a different movie.
Jamie Foxx deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar and the film was rightfully nominated as one of the best of 2004.

"It will scare you to pieces."
"It will scare you to pieces."
D: Stuart Gordon
Empire International (Brian Yuzna)
US 1985
86 mins


W: Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris & Stuart Gordon [based on the story "Herbert West - Re-animator" by H. P. Lovecraft]
DP: Mac Ahlberg & Stephen Sealy
Ed: Lee Percy
Mus: Richard Band

Jeffrey Combs (Herbert West), Bruce Abbott (Dan Cain), Barbara Crampton (Megan Halsey), David Gale (Dr. Carl Hill)

Crazy scientist Herbert West brings the dead back to life and they become violent.
Perhaps this tongue-in-cheek schlock owes a huge debt to Frankenstein with its story, but it's a huge amount of tacky fun, especially to those who enjoy the horror output of the 1980's. It won't really appeal to anyone outside the intended audience.
A series of sequels materialised, but they were more disgusting than they were enjoyable.
D: Stephen Daldry
The Weinstein Company/Mirage (Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Donna Gigliotti & Redmond Morris)
US/Germany 2008
118 mins


W: David Hare [based on the novel by Bernhard Schlink]
DP: Chris Menges & Roger Deakins
Ed: Claire Simpson
Mus: Nico Muhly
PD: Brigette Broch
Cos: Ann Roth

Kate Winslet (Hanna Schmitz), Ralph Fiennes (Michael Berg - Older), David Kross (Michael Berg - Younger), Lena Olin (Rose Mather), Bruno Ganz (Prof. Rohl)

What begins as a German version of "Summer Of '42" abruptly changes to a courtroom drama akin to the Nuremberg Trials.
The Reader is by no means an easy watch, its controversial story is both shocking and touching, with the central character being an S.S. Officer at Auschwitz, an unsympathetic woman who you begin to feel compassion for as the film progresses.
Kate Winslet and David Kross are excellent in their respective roles, but Ralph Fiennes is wasted in a very brief role (obviously cast because of his perfect German accent), also Kate's aging makeup looks a little ropey as the years go by. However, I'd still recommend the movie as one of the best of 2008. Excellently scripted, directed, photographed and produced.


D: Steven Spielberg

Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Amblin (Steven Spielberg, Donald De Line, Dan Farah & Kristie Macosko Krieger)

US 2018

140 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Zak Penn & Ernest Cline [based on the novel by Ernest Cline]

DP: Janusz Kaminsky

Ed: Michael Kahn & Sarah Broshar

Mus: Alan Silvestri 

PD: Adam Stockhausen

Tye Sheridan (Wade Watts / Parzival), Olivia Cooke (Samantha Cook / Art3mis), Ben Mendelsohn (Nolan Sorrento), Lena Waithe (Helen / Aech), T.J. Miller (I-R0k), Simon Pegg (Ogden Murrow), Mark Rylance (James Halliday)

Ready Player One is a cornucopia of pop culture, brimful with references to movies of the 1980's, science fiction films and classic video games. 

Set in 2045, where the city of Columbus, Ohio has become overpopulated, people escape from the mundanity of life in The Oasis, a virtual reality environment in which they can be anyone and do anything, bound only by how many credits they can accumulate, often playing riskier games at the risk of 'zeroing out' and starting over.

On the Oasis creator's death, a treasure hunt is announced which gives the victor who finds the Easter Egg hidden within full creative control of the virtual reality world, sparking a contest between Gunters (Egg Hunters) and members of IOI, a corporate conglomerate who plan to use the Oasis as an advertising platform and to keep its users in never-ending debt.

The film is chockablock with references, both visual and narratively (the concept itself is a modern spin on Charlie & The Chocolate Factory), but it's mostly aesthetically where most people will get memories of the movies they watched during their childhood.

Some fans of the book have been disappointed with the adaptation, stating that it doesn't adhere to the source material as faithfully as they would like, but I don't think that's a problem. Film and books are two completely different mediums and it should never be a prerequisite to read the book before watching a movie. The differences are there so both can be enjoyed separately.

There are a few plot holes which may bother you if you let them (it's never explained why people are so obsessed with movies and characters from films which would be over 60 years old at the time of the film's setting), the main villain is written a little too one-dimensionally and Tye Sheridan's performance as Wade Watts (not Partizan, his online avatar) is a little wooden, but these are only small blights on an otherwise fantastic cinema experience.

Finally, it has to be mentioned that this film is best appreciated in 3D, especially in IMAX format where all the iconic images pour out of the screen. A must watch for anyone who grew up during the 1980's, or are a massive fan of films from that period.


"She's the only one who can break into a bank that holds $18m, but she's not doing it for the money."
"She's the only one who can break into a bank that holds $18m, but she's not doing it for the money."
D: Russell Mulcahy
Capella (Martin Bregman, Will Baer & Michael S. Bregman)
US 1993
101 mins


W: William Davies & William Osborne
DP: Denis Crossan
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: Brad Fiedel

Kim Basinger (Karen McCoy), Val Kilmer (J.T. Barker), Terence Stamp (Jack Schmidt), Gailard Sartain (Gary Buckner), Zach English (Patrick)

Expert cat burgler Karen McCoy, fresh from a jail term, hopes to settle down with her son and live a straight life, but her corrupt parole officer and a former policeman blackmail her into one final heist by using her boy as leverage.
Aside from casting a female in a lead which would usually go to a male, this crime thriller doesn't really have much else original going for it, and Kim Basinger feels incredibly miscast in a role which would have been perfect for someone like Sigourney Weaver or Linda Hamilton. There's a few moments of excitement, but they aren't particularly memorable.
"If you've got one shot. Make it real."
"If you've got one shot. Make it real."
D: Shawn Levy
Dreamworks/Reliance (Don Murphy, Susan Montford & Shawn Levy)
US 2012
122 mins

Science Fiction

W: Dan Gilroy & Jeremy Leven
DP: Mauro Fiore
Ed: Dean Zimmerman
Mus: Danny Elfman
PD: Tom Meyer

Hugh Jackman (Charlie Kenton), Dakota Goyd (Max Kenton), Evangeline Lilly (Bailey Tallet), Anthony Mackie (Finn), Kevin Durand (Ricky), Olga Fonda (Farra Lemkova)

Real Steel puts the sci-fi and sports genres in a blender and comes out with something rather refreshing, thoroughly enjoyable and everything that the Transformers movies lacked.
In a dystopian future where robot-fighting is prime time entertainment, a former professional boxer and his son find a broken down machine on a scrapheap and fix it up to be a title contender.
Though the story is rather far-fetched and follows the usual boxing movie formula, it still remains huge fun, with a dose of human drama thrown in with the relationship between the distant father and his boy. More so than that, the film also manages to make sympathetic characters out of its "robot stars", something Michael Bay failed to do with four attempts.
D: Alfred Hitchcock
Paramount (Alfred Hitchcock)
US 1954
112 mins


W: John Michael Hayes [based on the story "It Had To Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich]
DP: Robert Burks
Ed: George Tomasini
Mus: Franz Waxman 
PD: Hal Pereira & Joseph MacMillan Johnson

James Stewart (L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries), Grace Kelly (Lisa Carol Fremont), Wendell Corey (Detective Thomas Doyle), Thelma Ritter (Stella), Raymond Burr (Lars Thorwald), Judith Evelyn (Miss Lonelyhearts)

Another of Alfred Hitchcock's very best. 
James Stewart stars as a wheelchair-bound photographer who becomes increasingly suspicious of the neighbour who lives opposite his bedroom window. He believes he witnesses murder, but nobody else will believe him.
Rear Window is another perfect example of why Alfred Hitchcock was dubbed the Master of Suspense. This thriller is near faultless, with a great central performance from James Stewart and brilliant support from everyone else, especially Raymond Burr, chillingly cold as the neighbour.
Often imitated, but never bettered.
D: Alfred Hitchcock
Selznick (David O. Selznick)
US 1940
130 mins


W: Robert E. Sherwood & Joan Harrison [based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier]             
DP: George Barnes
Ed: James E. Newcom & Hal C. Kern
Mus: Franz Waxman 
PD: Lyle Wheeler

Laurence Olivier (Maxim de Winter), Joan Fontaine (Mrs. de Winter), George Sanders (Jack Favell), Judith Anderson (Mrs. Danvers), Nigel Bruce (Maj. Giles Lacy), C. Aubrey Smith (Col. Julyan), Reginald Denny (Frank Crawley), Gladys Cooper (Beatrice Lacy)

The naïve, young second wife of a rich landowner is haunted by the image of his beautiful first wife shortly after they get married.
Rebecca was Alfred Hitchcock's first American movie was his only film to win a Best Picture Oscar, yet it's still one of the greatest crimes that he never won a Best Director Oscar in his own right.
Rebecca is a great example of the legendary director's work. It's a perfectly blended romance, thriller & mystery with excellent performances from both Laurence Olivier & Joan Fontaine, plus excellent supporting performances from the rest of the ensemble.
Based on a novel by Daphne du Maurier, this movie has twists which I really didn't see coming and is beautifully captured with atmospheric black & white photography.
A bona fide classic.
D: Nicholas Ray
Warner Bros. (David Weisbart)
US 1955
111 mins


W: Stewart Stern [based on the story "The Blind Run" by Dr. Robert M. Lindner]
DP: Ernest Haller
Ed: William Ziegler
Mus: Leonard Rosenman
PD: William Wallace

James Dean (Jim Stark), Natalie Wood (Judy), Sal Mineo (Plato), Jim Backus (Mr. Stark), Ann Doran (Mrs. Stark), Corey Allen (Buzz)

The movie which introduced the world to screen idol and "America's first teenager" James Dean, Rebel Without A Cause was amongst the first Hollywood films to deal with the subject of teenage angst, along with the suggestion that juvenile delinquency isn't born and bred in the slums, but can effect almost everyone between the ages of childhood and adulthood.
The story, though rather simple, has often been imitated since- unsettled youth in a new town strikes out against authority and, despite coming from a good family, gets involved with the wrong sorts and tragedy inevitably occurs. The template has been used in countless teen-orientated films since, even 1984's contemporary musical Footloose features a huge reference to one of the most iconic scenes.
The trio of James Dean, Natalie Wood & Sal Mineo were all perfect casting choices for the troubled teenagers and it's almost perfectly filmed by director Nicholas Ray. Certain parts may feel a little dated, but it's a classic slice of iconic cinema history.
"Experience fear."
"Experience fear."
[REC] (18)
D: Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
Odeon Sky Filmworks (Julio Fernandez)
Spain 2007
85 mins


W: Luiso Berdejo, Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
DP: Pablo Rosso
Ed: David Gallart

Manila Velasco (Ángela Vidal), Ferrán Terraza (Manu), Jorge Serrano (Sergio), Pablo Rosso (Pablo), David Vert (Álex)

God bless the Spanish! Just when Hollywood has all but given up on truly scary horror movies, churning out an endless stream of formula-driven garbage, two Spanish directors collaborate to bring us something truly terrifying.
In a nutshell, it's 28 Days Later meets Cloverfield, but very much in a style of it's own with plenty of jumps, jolts, atmosphere and moments which have you second guessing.
On a routine documentary following a group of fire fighters, a small film crew find themselves quarantined inside an apartment complex where the infected attack with violent rage.
It's quite unlike the majority of zombie films and would really be appreciated by those who quite literally want the shit scared out of them.
Remade in America under the title Quarantine, but take that version out of the DVD player and press play on this instead.
[REC] 2 (18)
D: Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
Magnolia/Filmax/Castelao (Julio Fernandez & Carlos Fernandez)
Spain 2009
85 mins


W: Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza & Manu Diaz
DP: Pablo Rosso
Ed: Xavi Giminez

Manuela Velasco (Angela Vidal), Jonathan Mellor (Dr. Owen), Oscar Sanchez Zafra (Chief Fernandez), Ariel Casas (Larra), Alejandro Casaseca (Martos), Claudio Silva (Jennifer)

The first of many sequels and, sadly, not a patch on the original.
It's pretty much the same thing, except it changes the virus from the original film into something more akin to demonic possession.
It's unfortunate that the filmmakers of the first film had to resort to this cash-grab sequel, but it's still better than the piss-poor American remake of the original film.
RED (15)
D: Robert Schwentke
Summit/DMG/DC Entertainment (Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Mark Vahradian)
US 2010
111 mins


W: Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber [based on the comic book by Warren Ellis & Cully Hammer]        
DP: Florian Ballhaus 
Ed: Thom Noble
Mus: Christophe Beck

Bruce Willis (Frank Moses), Mary-Louise Parker (Sarah Ross), Morgan Freeman (Joe Matheson), John Malkovich (Marvin Boggs), Helen Mirren (Victoria Winslow), Karl Urban (William Cooper), Brian Cox (Ivan Simonov)

So much fun. Even for those who didn't read the comic book series which it's adapted from. 
A perfect blend of action, thriller, comedy and John Malkovich (who steals the entire movie).
R.E.D. stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. An acronym used for former CIA agents who find themselves subject to attempted assassinations of a government bureaucrat who needs to cover up some of their actions while they were in service.
Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren are all great fun, but it's John Malkovich's performance as a paranoid ex-assassin which gains the most laughs.
Sure, it's silly, but since it doesn't take itself too seriously it's very easy to enjoy.
"The best never rest."
"The best never rest."
RED 2 (15)
D: Dean Parisot
Lions Gate/Summit/DC Entertainment (Lorenzo di Bonaventura)
US 2013
116 mins


W: Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber [based on the comic book by Warren Ellis & Cully Hammer]        
DP: Enrique Chediak
Ed: Don Zimmerman
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Bruce Willis (Frank Moses), Mary-Louise Parker (Sarah Ross), John Malkovich (Marvin Boggs), Helen Mirren (Victoria Winslow), Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Edward Bailey), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Maj. Gen. Katja Petrokovich), Byung-Hun Lee (Han Cho Bai)

I really enjoyed the first movie, an OTT but incredibly fun action-comedy about retired (& extremely dangerous) CIA agents who are targets for assassination due to the secrets they know.  This sequel however is just formulaic straight off the Hollywood production line hokum which possesses nothing which made the original film such fun to watch. 
The story is practically the same, Frank Moses (Willis) is an assassination target because of knowledge he possesses from his days in the field and he and his allies go on the run to solve why they're targets before they end up six feet under.
The problem here is that the story is completely uninteresting and all the cast members just look like they're in it for a paycheck and little else. John Malkovich stole the first movie as a paranoid retired agent but in this he just plays a regular sidekick with nothing much about him. Mary Louise Parker was charmingly funny in the first movie as Willis' love interest, but in this she's irritating to the point that you really don't care if she lives or dies.  The worst cast member by far is Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian secret agent (seriously). I find Zeta-Jones absolutely abhorrent and watching her trying to carve out a performance in this made me hope that I was also a target for assassination.
The only person who can hold their head up high in all this mess is Helen Mirren, reprising her role as an ex-MI6 assassin. 
A very unimpressive sequel and nothing more than a cash-grab. Lazy filmmaking.
D: Walter Hill
Tristar/Carolco/Lone Wolf/Oak (Walter Hill & Gordon Carroll)
US 1988
104 mins


W: Harry Kleiner, Walter Hill & Troy Kennedy Martin
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: Freeman Davies, Carmel Davies & Donn Aron
Mus: James Horner

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Capt. Ivan Danko), James Belushi (Sgt. Art Ridzik), Peter Boyle (Cmdr. Lou Donnelly), Ed O'Ross (Viktor Rostavili), Larry Fishburne (Lt. Charlie Stobbs), Gina Gershon (Cat Manzetti)         

After his partner is murdered, a Russian detective joins forces with the Chicago police department in order to locate the drug dealer responsible.
Aside from the Soviet-American alliance, this is pretty much the usual mismatched partners formula with an average narcotics plot device.
It's noted for being the first American production permitted to film around the Kremlin, but aside from that slice of trivia it's only the chalk & cheese partnership of Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Belushi that provides amusement.
"Death is $10,000 bullet."
"Death is $10,000 bullet."
D: John Dahl
Rank/Red Rock (Sigurjon Sighvatsson & Steve Golin)
US 1993
98 mins


W: John Dahl & Rick Dahl
DP: Marc Reshovsky
Ed: Scott Chestnut
Mus: William Olvis

Nicolas Cage (Michael Williams), Lara Flynn Boyle (Suzanne Brown/Ann McCord), Dennis Hopper (Lyle), J.T. Walsh (Wayne Brown/Kevin McCord)

The plot of this modern noir may feel familiar and old hat, but the originality breathed into it by solid direction, an intelligent screenplay and good performances make it feel incredibly unique and fresh.
Nicolas Cage (in one of his best performances) plays a drifter who wanders into a small town and is mistaken for a hitman hired by both a shady businessman and his gold-digging wife to kill the other.
Things get even more interesting when the real hitman (played by a scene-stealing Dennis Hopper) enters the fold.
This darkly comic thriller sailed under the radar of bigger commercial hits released the same year, but is a much more worthy watch than most.
Fans of Coen Brothers films and black comedies would most likely enjoy it more than others.
D: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
GFD/The Archers (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
UK 1948
136 mins


W: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
DP: Jack Cardiff
Ed: Reginald Mills
Mus: Brian Easdale
PD: Hein Heckroth

Moira Shearer (Vicky Page), Anton Walbrook (Boris Lermontov), Marius Goring (Julian Craster), Robert Helpmann (Ivan Boleslawsky), Albert Basserman (Sergei Ratov)

A young ballerina becomes a world-renowned star but becomes torn between love and her career.
Never has a better film been made from such an average story. Aided by vibrantly colourful cinematography, vivid production design and exciting dance choreography, made even more impressive by the fact that the film was produced in the late 1940's.
Never before has ballet seemed so much fun.

"A woman and a warrior that became a legend."
"A woman and a warrior that became a legend."
D: Richard Fleischer
MGM/United Artists/Thorn EMI (Christian Ferry)
Netherlands / US 1985
89 mins


W: Clive Exton & George MacDonald Fraser [based on characters created by Robert E. Howard]         
DP: Giuseppe Rotunno
Ed: Frank J. Urioste
Mus: Ennio Morricone
PD: Danilo Donati

Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kalidor), Sandahl Bergman (Queen Gedren), Paul Smith (Falkon), Ernie Reyes, Jr. (Prince Tam), Ronald Lacey (Ikol)

Comic-book style sword & sorcery Conan the Barbarian spinoff seeming to tap into a female audience by introducing Brigette Nielsen as the new European action hero(ine) alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. 
An evil witch steals a magical talisman which only women may touch from a convent and wreaks havoc amongst the kingdoms. Sonja, a female swordfighter, swears to avenge her sister's death at the hands of the witch and is joined by a mighty warrior, an obnoxious young prince and his obese servant in her quest.
The film hasn't dated particularly well, with some ropey special effects, unconvincing sets and atrocious sound mixing which makes the dialogue sound as though it were recorded through a pillow.
Perhaps it's true what they say. Only women may touch it.


D: Francis Lawrence

20th Century Fox/TSG (Peter Chernin, Steven Zaillian, Jenno Topping & David Ready)

US 2018

140 mins


W: Justin Haythe [based on the novel by Jason Matthews]

DP: Jo Willems

Ed: Alan Edward Bell

Mus: James Newton Howard

Jennifer Lawrence (Dominika Egorova), Joel Edgerton (Nate Nash), Matthias Schoenaerts (Ivan Egorov), Mary-Louise Parker (Stephanie Boucher), Charlotte Rampling (Matron), Jeremy Irons (Gen. Vladimir Korchnoi)

A rather grim movie to watch, which could almost be considered a female twist on 1985's White Nights (qv), or an update on Sexpionage, a TV-movie starring Linda Hamilton which was set at the height of the Cold War. However, the space of this movie is from a novel by Jason Matthews, who was a former CIA agent, though the plot of this film does seem a little fanciful...

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballet dancer who suffers an injury that cuts her career short and is subsequently blackmailed into becoming a Sparrow, a spy who uses their sexual allure to entrap targets or uncover various secrets. 

Her mission becomes getting close to Nate Nash, an American CIA agent and upon their introduction the plot unfolds...

Although Jennifer Lawrence can be admired for her bold choices of roles, her performance in this isn't particularly convincing, mostly because her attempt at the Russian accent misses the mark and the whole film seems to have been sold on the scenes where she shows a little bit more skin than you'd usually see in her movies.

The film does feel as though it came out about 30 years too late, but the biggest surprise is probably how it escaped an 18 rating due to its violent and sexual content, although you couldn't class the latter as titilating in any way.



D: Michael Dudok de Wit

Studio Ghibli/Wild Bunch/Why Not (Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, Vincent Maraval, Pascal Caucheteux, Grégoire Sorlat & Léon Perahia)

Japan/France/Belgium 2016

80 mins


W: Michael Dudok de Wit & Pascale Ferran

Mus: Laurent Perez Del Mar

voices of: Emmanuel Garijo (The Father), Tom Hudson (The Son)

Michael Dudok de Wit won an Oscar for his 2000 animated short "Father & Daughter", and when Studio Ghibli asked for the distribution rights for that film, they asked the animator if he would like to collaborate on a feature with them, and so The Red Turtle was born.

Using a minimalistic approach with no dialogue, allowing pictures to tell the story and colours to set the mood, The Red Turtle is about a man shipwrecked on a desert island, where his attempts to escape are constantly thwarted by a giant red turtle, and his life is forever changed when he discovers the animal.

The artful style of the film is in line with Studio Ghibli's back catalogue to make for a mature, heartfelt animated movie for older audiences, but it's unlikely to appeal to fans of Disney. Nevertheless, it's a moving experience.


"Fight Fire With Fire."
"Fight Fire With Fire."


D: Rob Bowman

Touchstone/Spyglass (Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck, Gary Barber & Roger Birnbaum)

US 2002

101 mins


W: Gregg Chabot, Kevin Peterka & Matt Greenberg

DP: Adrian Biddle

Ed: Thom Noble

Mus: Edward Shearmur

Christian Bale (Quinn), Matthew McConaughey (Denton Van Zan), Isabella Scorupco (Alex), Gerard Butler (Creedy)

Set in the post-apocalyptic remains of London following the awakening of dormant dragons living beneath the surface, a group of American soldiers initiate a power-play with the British survivors. 

This brainless modern B-movie is entertaining and engaging enough, despite the acting which sum up to little more than pay check performances. The visual effects are fairly impressive, but the film itself is fairly unremarkable.


"The trap is set. The game is on."
"The trap is set. The game is on."
D: John Frankenheimer
Buena Vista/Dimension (Marty Katz, Bob Weinstein & Chris Moore)
US 2000
104 mins


W: Ehren Kruger
DP: Alan Caso
Ed: Tony Gibbs & Michael Kahn
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Ben Affleck (Rudy Duncan), Charlize Theron (Ashley Mercer/Millie Bobeck), Gary Sinise (Gabriel Mercer), Dennis Farina (Jack Bangs), Danny Trejo (Jumpy), Donal Logue (Pug)

A petty thief becomes involved with a beautiful woman who manipulates him into joining a gang of thieves who plan to dress up in Santa Claus outfits to commit their next robbery.
This Yuletide thriller has a better title than it does a plot. Not exactly a bad film, but it's not particularly good either. Certainly worth a watch if you want to witness a lot of dead Santas.
"Some things are best left undiscovered."
"Some things are best left undiscovered."
D: Peter Hyams
Paramount/Cloud Nine/Pacific Western (Sam Mercer & Gale Anne Hurd)
US 1997
110 mins


W: Amy Jones, John Raffo & Rick Jaffa [based on the novel by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child]
DP: Peter Hyams
Ed: Steven Kemper
Mus: John Debney

Penelope Ann Miller (Dr. Margo Green), Tom Sizemore (Lt. Vincent D'Agosta), Linda Hunt (Dr. Ann Cuthbert), James Whitmore (Dr. Albert Frock)

Standard monster movie, set in a Chicago museum where the delivery of a new Brazilian exhibit also contained an ancient brain-eating monster.
Typical B-movie hokum, with the performances just about as average as the special effects. Not a terrible watch, but it's unlikely to become an exhibit in a museum of classic movies.
D: James Ivory
Columbia/Merchant Ivory (Ismail Merchant, Mike Nichols & John Calley)
US 1993
134 mins


W: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala [based on the novel by Kasuo Ishiguro]
DP: Tony Pierce-Roberts
Ed: Andrew Marcus
Mus: Richard Robbins
PD: Luciana Arrighi
Cos: Jenny Beavan & John Bright

Anthony Hopkins (Stevens), Emma Thompson (Miss Kenton), James Fox (Lord Darlington), Christopher Reeve (Lewis), Peter Vaughan (Father), Hugh Grant (Cardinal)

Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson and the Merchant-Ivory production crew reunite a year after 1992's Howard's End for this WWII set period drama.
A butler, whose entire life has been deducted to servitude, discovers his loyalty to his master is misplaced when a new, unorthodox head maid is hired and deep political secrets are unearthed.
Merchant-Ivory films will never be fully appreciated by a commercial cinema audience, but The Remains Of The Day is amongst the easiest to digest out of their works. The excellent performances and period detail are highly notable.
D: Guy Hamilton
Orion (Dick Clark, Larry Spiegel & Mel Bergman)
US 1985
121 mins


W: Christopher Wood [based on the "Destroyer" series of stories by Richard Sapir & Warren Murphy]
DP: Andrew Laszlo
Mus: Craig Safan
PD: Jackson de Govia

Fred Ward (Remo Williams), Joel Grey (Chiun), Wilford Brimley (Harold Smith), J.A. Preston (Conn McCleary), Charles Cioffi (George Grove)

A strange comic-book style adventure which probably worked better on paper than it does on film.
Fred Ward plays an NYPD cop enlisted by the CIA to become a martial arts expert and infiltrate the gang of an international arts dealer.
This action film is incredibly light on action, with only a few set pieces to get the pulses racing. Its finest moments come from the scene-stealing Joel Grey, virtually unrecognisable underneath heavy oriental-style makeup.
D: Penny Marshall 
Touchstone/Parkway/Cinergi (Sara Colleton, Elliott Abbott & Robert Greenhut)
US 1994
129 mins


W: Jim Burnstein
DP: Adam Greenberg
Ed: George Bowers & Battle Davis
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Danny DeVito (Bill Rago), Gregory Hines (Sgt. Cass), James Remar (Capt. Tom Murdoch), Cliff Robertson (Col. James), Stacey Dash (Pvt. Miranda Myers), Lillo Brancato, Jr. (Pvt. Donnie Benitez), Mark Wahlberg (Pvt. Tommy Lee Haywood)

An unemployed ad-man is drafted into the army to teach poetry to the dimmest recruits and give them some self-esteem.
This heavily sentimental mix of Dead Poets Society (qv) and a recruiting poster is reasonably entertaining for the most part, but is also very predictable and especially light on comedy. 


D: Alex Cox

Universal/Edge City (Peter McCarthy, Michael Nesmith, Gerald T. Olson & Jonathan Wacks)

US 1984

92 mins

Science Fiction/Comedy

W: Alex Cox

DP: Robby Müller

Ed: Dennis Dolan

Mus: Tito Larriva & Steven Hufsteter

Emilio Estevez (Otto Maddox), Harry Dean Stanton (Bud), Tracey Walter (Miller), Olivia Barash (Leila), Sy Richardson (Lite)

Emilio Estevez stars in this cult classic as a street punk who reluctantly takes a job as a repo man and becomes involved in a government conspiracy involving UFO's and a mysterious 1960's Chevy Malibu containing a dangerous cargo.

Though the film has amassed a huge cult following since its 1984 release, the plot and premise are things which you would only find in a 1980's movie and certain elements have dated quite badly. 

Enjoyable enough as a one-off watch, but it really hasn't stood the test of time.


"The devil's back. But he's never dealt with an exorcist like this."
"The devil's back. But he's never dealt with an exorcist like this."
D: Bob Logan 
Seven Arts/Carolco (Steve Wizan)
US 1990
84 mins


W: Bob Logan [based on "The Exorcist" by William Peter Blatty]
DP: Michael D. Margulies
Ed: Jeff Freeman
Mus: Charles Fox

Leslie Nielsen (Father Mayii), Linda Blair (Nancy Aglet), Ned Beatty (Ernest Weller), Anthony Starke (Father Brophy)

Juvenile parody of The Exorcist with the majority of the jokes revolving around vomit and the rest around TV evangelists. 
It's difficult to ascertain what the target audience was that the filmmakers had in mind. It's far too immature for those who would have seen The Exorcist and young children simply wouldn't understand the references.  Leslie Nielsen provides occasional moments of amusement, but even he can't save the shortcomings of such a weak, one-note screenplay.
D: Roman Polanski 
Compton/Tekli (Gene Gutowski)
UK 1965
105 mins


W: Roman Polanski & Gerard Brach
DP: Gilbert Taylor
Ed: Alistair McIntyre
Mus: Chico Hamilton

Catherine Deneuve (Carol Ledoux), Ian Hendry (Michael), John Fraser (Colin), Patrick Wymark (Landlord), Yvonne Furneaux (Helen Ledoux)

Creepy and disturbing psychological thriller starring Catherine Deneuve as a Belgian beautician in London who becomes increasingly neurotic and reclusive, locking herself in her flat to withdraw from sexual contact and eventually committing the murder of her boyfriend and landlord when they attempt to make physical contact with her.
Repulsion is certainly one of those films which worked best at the time of it's release, reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's finest works without resembling an imitation. Roman Polanski may not be the first person you'd invite to a dinner party, but as a director, he has an eye for what's dramatic, atmospheric and terrifying.
D: Darren Aronofsky 
Artisan/Thousand Words (Eric Watson & Palmer West)
US 2000
102 mins


W: Hubert Selby, Jr. [based on his novel]
DP: Matthew Libatique
Ed: Jay Rabinowitz
Mus: Clint Mansell

Ellen Burstyn (Sara Goldfarb), Jared Leto (Harry Goldfarb), Jennifer Connelly (Marion Silver), Marlon Wayans (Tyrone C. Love), Christopher McDonald (Tappy Tippons), Keith David (Little John), Louise Lasser (Ada)

Director Darren Aronofsky pulls off an extraordinary feat with Requiem For A Dream, dressing a drama about drug addiction with the atmosphere of a horror movie.
The story follows a Brooklyn mother, a victim of her ineffectual son's looting to feed his own drugs habit, while she battles her own addictions to slimming drugs and her dreams of fame on a daytime TV quiz show. 
The style and content of the film doesn't make for particularly easy or pleasant viewing, especially with the split-screen editing in many scenes, but this is a fine work of art and craft which is impossible to ignore and will stay with you long after viewing.
D: Werner Herzog
Pathé (Steve Marlton, Elton Brand & Harry Knapp)
US/Luxembourg 2006
125 mins


W: Werner Herzog
DP: Peter Zeitlinger
Ed: Joe Bini
Mus: Klaus Badelt

Christian Bale (Dieter Dengler), Steve Zahn (Duane), Jeremy Davies (Gene), Pat Healy (Norman)

Rescue Dawn tells the daring true story of Dieter Dengler, a German-American pilot who was shot down following a mission over Laos, where he is captured, imprisoned and tortured, before he and the other POWs make a daring escape. 
The story immerses us in the action straight away, with Dengler's capture and imprisonment happening early in the first act. The conviction of Christian Bale's performance is incredibly convincing, whilst Steve Zahn delivers his best body of work as another American captive, Duane. 
A curious choice for German director Werner Herzog, who does a fabulous job with, what is quite easily, his most accessible work for a mainstream audience.

"Let's go to work."
"Let's go to work."
D: Quentin Tarantino
Dog Eat Dog (Lawrence Bender)
US 1992
99 mins


W: Quentin Tarantino
DP: Andrzej Sekula
Ed: Sally Menke

Harvey Keitel (Mr. White / Larry), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange / Freddy), Michael Madsen (Mr. Blonde / Vic), Christopher Penn (Nice Guy Eddie), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Lawrence Tierney (Joe Cabot)

Where it all began for Quentin Tarantino. Reservoir Dogs focuses on the aftermath of a bungled robbery, where a group of gangsters, all with their own colourful aliases, resort to fighting amongst each other to find who informed the police of their heist gone wrong.
The film doesn't reward its audience with any plot twists, making it clear almost immediately who the whistleblower is. What makes the film so enjoyable is Tarantino's skill of writing iconic dialogue without resorting to a talking heads picture.          
There was some controversy over excessive violence around the time the film was released, but compared to some of the goreporn horror films which have been released far more recently, this feels incredibly tame in comparison.
A near perfect example of how important, influential and brilliant independent cinema can be.
D: Walter Murch
Disney/Silver Screen Partners (Paul Maslansky)
US/UK 1985
110 mins


W: Walter Murch & Gill Dennis [based on the stories by L. Frank Baum]
DP: David Watkin
Ed: Leslie Hodgson
Mus: David Shire
PD: Norman Reynolds

Fairuza Balk (Dorothy Gale), Jean Marsh (Nurse Wilson/Mombi), Nicol Williamson (Dr. Worley/Nome King), Piper Laurie (Aunt Em), Matt Clark (Uncle Henry)

An unnecessary sequel to a The Wizard Of Oz which came five decades too late and succeeds only in sucking the magic completely out of the fictional world brought to cinema in the 1939 film.
Dorothy, committed to an insane asylum following her traumatic experiences, finds herself whisked back to a nightmarish Oz bereft of munchkins and talking lions, where she must stop an evil queen's plans to make things even more depressing.
One can only wonder what Disney were thinking when they gave the green light to this project, which appeals to nobody in particular, seeming more like an easy cash-grab by exploiting a children's classic.
Even the choice of director, Walter Murch, who plied his trade as an editor & sound man prior to his debut with this, is a head scratcher.
The production design, visual effects and other technical aspects are fine, but the film offers nothing else, except to maybe provide shock treatment to naughty little children.
D: William A. Graham
Columbia Tristar/Price (William A. Graham)
US 1991
98 mins


W: Leslie Stevens [based on the novel "The Garden Of God" by Henry de Vere Stacpoole]
DP: Robert Steadman
Ed: Ronald J. Fagan
Mus: Basil Poledouris

Milla Jovovich (Lilli) Brian Krause (Richard), Lisa Pelikan (Sarah Hargrave), Courtney Barilla (Young Lilli), Garette Ratliff Henson (Young Richard)

Basically a remake of The Blue Lagoon (qv) with different characters but an identical storyline.
Two young adolescents enjoy the idylls of living together on a desert island following a shipwreck, but find their paradise faces jeopardy when others visit.
The performances are wooden, the direction is no better than an average TV movie and everything about it is all quite atrocious, including a cheesy ending which might prompt you to reach for a sick bucket.
"Blood lost. Life found."
"Blood lost. Life found."
D: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu
20th Century Fox/Regency (Arnon Milchan, Steve Golin, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, David Kanter, Mary Parent, James W. Skotchdopole & Keith Redmon)
US 2015
156 mins


W: Alejandro G. Iñarritu & Mark L. Smith [based on the novel by Michael Punke]
DP: Emmanuel Lubezki
Ed: Stephen Mirrione
Mus: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto & Bryce Dessner

Leonardo DiCaprio (Hugh Glass), Tom Hardy (John Fitzgerald), Domhnall Gleeson (Capt. Andrew Henry), Will Poulter (Jim Bridger), Forrest Goodluck (Hawk), Duane Howard (Elk Dog)

The Revenant is a breathtaking piece of work, proving that a director who adds the right ingredients of cast and crew, can make an ordinary story extraordinary with a cinematic transition. 
Inspired by true events, the plot could be best described as Dances With Wolves-meets-Deliverance, a survival epic meets revenge tale set against the backdrop of snow-covered American wilderness. 
A fur-trading expedition is ambushed by a Pawnee tribe, cutting their numbers down to ten and mutiny grows amongst the survivors, spearheaded by belligerent Texan John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who blames their head tracker Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his 'half-breed' son for their woes.
On their journey back to their fort, Glass is mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead by Fitzgerald, who also murders Glass's son. 
From the cusp of death and inspired by visions of his late wife, Glass musters up the strength to traverse the deadly winter surroundings in pursuit of revenge, all while both parties are still being hunted by the Native American tribe who are intent on reaping their own vengeance.
While the plot is reminiscent of almost any old-style western you could point a stick at, what makes The Revenant such an original piece of work is in the handling from its director and the brilliant photography from Emmanuel Lubezki, utilising a new camera system to best capture the beautiful scenery and stark conditions. The visual effects and makeup are also second to none, especially in the bear attack which you'd be forgiven for thinking that a real bear were used.
The running time is a little on the long side at 2 hours and 36 minutes, and though there's many scenes which use symbolism as a visual poetry, there's not a single frame which should be cut. One minor irritant is that looks as though some of the Native American language were dubbed in post-production, but this is only a tiny bother.
The acting here, especially by Leonardo DiCaprio, who, in a role with very little dialogue, is outstanding, but Iñarritu's direction is the overriding factor which makes The Revenant a must watch film, which is also on release in a 3D format (presumably for sadists).

D: Tony Scott
Columbia/New World/Raster (Hunt Lowry & Stanley Rubin)
US 1989
124 mins


W: Jim Harrison & Jeffrey Fiskin [based on the novel by Jim Harrison]
DP: Jeffrey Kimball
Ed: Chris Lebenzon & Michael Tronick
Mus: Jack Nitzsche

Kevin Costner (Michael J. Cochran), Madeleine Stowe (Miryea Mendez), Anthony Quinn (Tiburon Mendez), Tomas Milian (Cesar)

Even when Kevin Costner's name on the credits generally meant some box office success this aptly-titled revenge thriller failed to make any waves.
Costner plays a pilot who falls in love with a married woman and seeks retribution following her (and his dog's) murder by her jealous husband.
The story is far too shallow for the film to be particularly memorable. The performances aren't bad, but nothing here really stands out.
"They've been laughed at, picked on and put down. But now it's time for the odd to get even."
"They've been laughed at, picked on and put down. But now it's time for the odd to get even."
D: Jeff Kanew
20th Century Fox/Interscope (Ted Field & Peter Samuelson)
US 1984
90 mins


W: Steve Zacharias, Jeff Buhai, Tim Metcalfe & Miguel Tejada-Flores
DP: King Baggot
Ed: Alan Balsam
Mus: Thomas Newman

Robert Carradine (Lewis), Anthony Edwards (Gilbert), Timothy Busfield (Poindexter), Julie Montgomery (Betty Childs), John Goodman (Coach Harris)

Like Porky's, this is one of the better college sex comedies of the early 1980's, following the success of National Lampoon's Animal House (qv).
The story is juvenile simplicity at its most low key, a group of misfit freshman get ousted from their fraternity dorm by the football team and plan their own brand of revenge at the college homecoming festival.
The humour is on a par with the Police Academy movies, but there's several jokes that raise a smile. Geeky fun.
D: Barbet Schroeder
Warner Bros (Oliver Stone & Edward R. Pressman)
US 1990
111 mins


W: Nicholas Kazan [based on the book by Alan Derschowitz]
DP: Luciano Tovoli
Ed: Lee Percy
Mus: Mark Isham

Jeremy Irons (Claus Von Bülow), Glenn Close (Sunny Von Bülow), Ron Silver (Professor Alan Derschowitz), Annabella Sciorra (Sarah), Uta Hagen (Maria)

Did Claus Von Bülow get away with murder? Though the case has been well-documented in the Alan Derschowitz book upon which this film is based, director Barbet Schroeder leaves the ending mischieviously ambiguous.
Jeremy Irons is deliciously unpleasant with his performance of the European aristocrat, convicted of the attempted murder of his wife, who never recovered from a coma. He hires Jewish-American lawyer, Deschowitz, to handle his appeal which provokes a moral dilemma for the professor. Can he in good conscience represent a man when he's certain of his guilt? Or does everyone deserve a fair, unbiased courtroom trial?
The debate is left for another day. This film focuses on the facts, and does a magnificent job in its delivery.

D: Hugh Hudson
Warner Bros/Goldcrest/Viking (Irwin Winkler)
US 1985
125 mins


W: Robert Dillon
DP: Bernard Lutic
Ed: Stuart Baird
Mus: John Corigliano

Al Pacino (Tom Dobb), Donald Sutherland (Sgt. Maj. Peasy), Nastassja Kinski (Daisy McConnahay), Dexter Fletcher (Ned Dobb), Joan Plowright (Mrs. McConnahay), Dave King (Mr. McConnahay), Steven Berkoff (Sgt. Jones)

Stilted, boring American Revolutionary War flagwaver featuring a rare poor performance from Al Pacino (using a baffling accent which wavers between Boston Irish and West Country English).
There's no real narrative thread, instead it just stumbles incoherently from set piece to set piece, hampered by some unintentionally hilarious dialogue.
Amongst the worst films of 1985 and a big enough flop to cause a four-year hiatus away from movies for lead star Al Pacino.

"This is one case that's going to be settled out of court."
"This is one case that's going to be settled out of court."
D: Russell Mulcahy
Warner Bros/HBO (Joel Silver & Michael Levy)
US 1991
102 mins


W: Steven E. de Souza, Fred Dekker & Menno Meyjes
DP: Peter Levy
Ed: Peter Honess
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Denzel Washington (Nick Styles), John Lithgow (Earl Talbot Blake), Ice T (Odessa), Kevin Pollak (Larry Doyle), Lindsay Wagner (Priscilla Brimleigh), Mary Ellen Trainor (Gail Wallens)

Denzel Washington stars as a hero policeman, promoted to an assistant district attorney following the arrest of a psychopathic murderer. But when the murderer escapes from custody and vows revenge, the lawman finds himself on the run, in more ways than one, and needs help from the other side of the tracks to catch the bad guy once again.
The plot is a standard revenge pot-boiler, lifted above mediocrity by the sadistically enjoyable performance of John Lithgow, who seems to be having the time of his life playing the dastardly villain. Everyone else just seems to be in it for a paycheck, especially Ice T, who seems to rap all of his dialogue for some unbeknownst reason.
D: Jules Dassin
Indus/Pathé/Prima (Rene G. Vuattoux)
France 1955
117 mins


W: Jules Dassin, Rene Wheeler & Auguste LeBreton [based on the novel by Auguste LeBreton]
DP: Philippe Agostini
Ed: Roger Dwyre
Mus: Georges Auric

Jean Servais (Tony LeStephanois), Carl Mohner (Jo Le Suedois), Robert Manuel (Mario), Jules Dassin (Cesar), Magali Noel (Viviane)

A much-imitated crime caper which provided clear inspiration for many other filmmakers (especially Quentin Tarantino), as well as being instrumental in the dawn of French New Wave film.
A group of criminals plan an elaborate heist on a jewellery store, and once they make their getaway, they begin to stab each other in the back so there is only one beneficiary to the robbery.
The heist scene is a masterclass of tension, using a lack of sound to make the audience feel complicit in the theft. 
The pacing of the film might not be to everyone's satisfaction, nor will the abrupt ending, but this is still an excellent piece of 1950's French cinema and it's clear to see why other filmmakers cherish it so dearly.

"How the future began."
"How the future began."
D: Philip Kaufman
Warner Bros./Ladd (Irwin Winkler & Robert Chartoff)
US 1983
192 mins


W: Philip Kaufman [based on the book by Tom Wolfe]
DP: Caleb Deschanel
Ed: Glenn Farr, Lisa Fruchtman, Stephen A. Rotter, Tom Rolf & Douglas Stewart
Mus: Bill Conti
PD: Geoffrey Kirkland

Sam Shepard (Chuck Yaeger), Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard), Ed Harris (John Glenn), Dennis Quaid (Gordon Cooper), Fred Ward (Virgil "Gus" Grissom), Barbara Hershey (Glennis Yeager), Kim Stanley (Bancho Barnes), Veronica Cartwright (Betty Grissom), Pamela Reed (Trudy Cooper), Scott Paulin (Deke Slayton)

The subject matter of this aviation biopic is incredibly esoteric, so regarding on which side of the fence the audience sits it will either mesmerise or bore them, there isn't really much middle ground.
Charting the United States "race for space" against Russia, the film begins with the day of test pilots and their quest to break the sound barrier, before introducing the Mercury Seven, who became the first Americans sent into orbit.
For the most part, the film is faithful to fact at the expense of quick pacing, but the performances of the ensemble create some iconic moments, particularly the attempts at oneupmanship during the astronauts' training.
Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Fred Ward and Sam Shepard are standouts of the cast, playing Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom and Chuck Yaeger, respectively.
The film struggled to set the box office alight, possibly due to a lack of promotion or coming to screen a little too late after the actual events, but the critics developed a fondness for the film, especially the Oscars, for which it won 4 awards and was also nominated for Best Film of the Year. A category it may even have won had it not been for poor box office business. Either way, it's a film which will be more noted for its educational value and meticulous recreation of historical events, rather than for entertainment.
"Before you die, you see the ring."
"Before you die, you see the ring."
D: Gore Verbinski
Dreamworks (Walter F. Parkes & Laurie MacDonald)
US 2002
115 mins


W: Ehren Kruger [based on the novel "Ringu" by Koji Suzuki]
DP: Bojan Bazelli
Ed: Craig Wood
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Naomi Watts (Rachel Keller), Martin Henderson (Noah Clay), Daveigh Chase (Samara), David Dorfman (Aidan Keller), Brian Cox (Richard Morgan), Jane Alexander (Dr. Krasnik)

As far as American remakes of Oriental horror films go, The Ring is a decent attempt and as such, can't be too harshly criticised.
In comparison to the 1998 Japanese original, it does lack much of the sinister atmosphere and wedges in some unnecessary filler, but still sticks close enough to the story of a reporter who investigates a mysterious videotape which curses all that watch it.
Naomi Watts is the standout of the cast, delivering a reasonably believable and convincing performance, though this could simply be amplified considering the performances of everyone else.
The original is by far a better film, but this will do for those with an aversion to subtitled movies.
RINGU (aka RING) (15)
D: Hideo Nakata
Kadokawa/Pony Canyon/Imagica (Shinya Kawai, Takashige Ichise & Takenori Sento)
Japan 1998
98 mins


W: Hiroshi Takahashi [based on the novel by Koji Suzuki]
DP: Junichiro Hayashi
Ed: Nobuyuki Takahashi
Mus: Kinji Kawai

Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa), Miki Nakatani (Mai Takano), Hiroyuki Sanada (Ryūji Takayama), Yuko Takeuchi (Tomoko Ōishi), Hitomi Sato (Masami Kurahashi), Yoichi Numata (Takashi Yakamura), Yutaka Natsushige (Yoshino), Rie Īno (Sadako Yakamura)

Japanese cinema is well renowned for producing effective and riveting ghost stories and Ringu (The Ring) provides a unique twist on the more traditional tales.
A television reporter investigates the death of a schoolgirl, who died in mysterious circumstances after watching a videotape with a fabled curse. The reporter also watches the video and appears to be on course for the same fate.
Director Hideo Nakata relies on building the atmosphere and cranking up the tension rather than flashy visual effects or cheap scares. The ending, for those who have watched it, is simply unforgettable.
Hollywood remade it, but this version is much, much better.
RINGU 2 (aka RING 2) (15)
D: Hideo Nakata
Kadokawa/Shoten (Masato Hara)
Japan 1999
92 mins


W: Hiroshi Takahashi [based on the novel by Koji Suzuki]
DP: Hideo Yamamoto
Ed: Nobuyuki Takahashi
Mus: Kinji Kawai

Miki Nakatani (Mai Takano), Rikiya Otaka (Yoichi Asakawa), Nanako Matsushima (Reiko Asakawa), Rie Īno (Sadako Yamamura), Kyoko Fukada (Kanae Sawaguchi)

A sequel that is confusing, even to those who have watched the original (and far superior) movie. 
The plot continues on from events in the first film, following on an investigation into a mysterious videotape which causes the grotesque death of all who watch it.
Though the story serves to tidy things up from what is previously told, it succeeds only in causing confusion and setting up a third film (a prequel) as a cash-grab opportunity.
D: Howard Hawks
Armada (Howard Hawks)
US 1959
141 mins


W: Jules Furthman & Leigh Brackett
DP: Russell Harlan
Ed: Folmar Blangsted
Mus: Dimitri Tiomkin

John Wayne (John T. Chance), Dean Martin (Dude), Ricky Nelson (Colorado Ryan), Angie Dickinson (Feathers), Walter Brennan (Stumpy), Ward Bond (Pat Wheeler), John Russell (Nathan Burdette)

Howard Hawks' response to High Noon stars John Wayne as a sheriff who enlists the help of his a drunk deputy, a young gunslinger and a cripple to hold the town against a group of outlaws who aim to release one of their own from the jailhouse.
Slightly overlong, this wonderfully produced western ranks amongst John Wayne's best performances, though it's Dean Martin's performance which steals the show. 
The film was remade, more or less, as El Dorado in 1966.

R.I.P.D. (12)
D: Robert Schwentke
Universal/Relativity Media/Dark Horse (Neal H. Moritz, Mike Richardson, David Dobkin & Peter M. Lenkov)
US 2013
96 mins

Science Fiction/Action/Comedy

W: Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi [based on characters created by Peter M. Lenkov]     
DP: Alwin Küchler
Ed: Mark Helfrich
Mus: Christophe Beck

Jeff Bridges (Roycephus Pulsipher), Ryan Reynolds (Nick Walker), Kevin Bacon (Bobby Hayes), Mary-Louise Parker (Mildred Proctor), Stephanie Szostak (Julia Walker)

Ryan Reynolds must be blackmailing someone to still have a career in movies.  I've seen him in a few things now and personally, the atrocious adaptation of Green Lantern should've sounded the death knell on his 'acting' career. The man simply cannot carry a movie. His acting skills are limited, his elocution is non-existent and he has zero charisma! (It should be noted that this review was written before 2016's Deadpool)
In this film, he relies heavily on Jeff Bridges, but even so the film is terrible. In a nutshell, it's Men In Black (qv), with dead people substituting for aliens, with recently deceased rookie Ryan Reynolds partner to veteran Bridges, as they Marshall the afterlife, rounding up absconders.
Living people see them as an old Chinese fellow and a hot blonde while they carry out their duties, but the film is simply an incredibly boring, unfunny watch.
The jokes fall flat, the story is predictable, ridiculous nonsense and the visual effects are cheaper looking than some of the recent no-budget movies (Birdemic, Sharknado, etc.)
Watch Men In Black instead. It's by far more entertaining and at least half the jokes will make you chuckle.

D: Rupert Wyatt
20th Century Fox (Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver)
US 2011
100 mins

Science Fiction

W: Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver [based on the "Planet Of The Apes" series]
DP: Andrew Lesnie
Ed: Conrad Buff & Mark Goldblatt
Mus: Patrick Doyle

James Franco (Dr. Will Rodman), Freida Pinto (Dr. Caroline Aranha), John Lithgow (Charles Rodman), Brian Cox (John Landon), Tom Felton (Dodge Landon), David Oyelowo (Steven Jacobs), Andy Serkis (Caesar)

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Tim Burton's 2001 "re-imagination" of the original Planet Of The Apes killed off the series for good, but this well scripted and brilliantly executed prequel injected some momentum into the dormant franchise.
The story ambiguously references both the 1968 and 2001 version of Planet Of The Apes, depending on which one its intended audience had previously seen, but can also be viewed as a standalone experience. A very rare feat.
A scientist with noble means experiments on chimpanzees to discover a cure for Alzheimer's, but when unexpected side effects put the project on the back foot he smuggles the last surviving chimp out of the lab and take him home, where he makes the discoveries of a high intellect in the primate.
The pet chimp, named Caesar, soon becomes impounded and starts a rebellion among his other apes, resulting in them breaking free from their prison and not letting any man, even the armed forces stand in their way.
It really is the stuff of sci-fi, given integrity and feasibility by excellent writing and direction. The performances aren't too shabby either, with good acting from James Franco, John Lithgow and Frieda Pinto, but the standout star without a doubt is Andy Serkis and the collaborating visual effects aces, who outdo themselves bringing Caesar and the other apes to life.
A breath of fresh air from a major Hollywood studio, creating a prequel which not only matches, but nearly betters the original film.
"A collision of East & West..."
"A collision of East & West..."
D: Philip Kaufman
20th Century Fox (Peter Kaufman)
US 1993
129 mins


W: Philip Kaufman, Michael Crichton & Michael Backes [based on the novel by Michael Crichton]
DP: Michael Chapman
Ed: Stephen A. Rotter & William Scharf
Mus: Toru Takemitsu & Richard Marriott

Sean Connery (Capt. John Connor), Wesley Snipes (Lt. Web Smith), Harvey Keitel (Lt. Tom Graham), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Eddie Sakamura), Kevin Anderson (Bob Richmond), Mako (Yoshida San), Ray Wise (Senator John Morton), Tia Carrere (Jingo Asakuma), Steve Buscemi (Willy Wilhelm)

Michael Crichton's works were hot property in the 1990's, especially following the success of Jurassic Park, and most of his novels got the big screen treatment. Rising Sun, however, was one of the most disappointing, feeling more like a formulaic, clichéd cousin to the Lethal Weapon movies.
Two cops, Sean Connery & Wesley Snipes, investigate the murder of a prostitute in the boardroom of a Japanese  corporation headquarters and uncover corruption.
The film relies heavily on dialogue rather than action set pieces, but there's nothing particularly engaging beyond the opening act. The performances aren't bad, but there's nothing particularly memorable about this clash-of-cultures thriller.
D: Paul Brickman
Warner/Geffen (Steve Tisch & Jon Avnet)
US 1983
99 mins


W: Paul Brickman
DP: Bruce Surtees
Ed: Richard Chew
Mus: Tangerine Dream

Tom Cruise (Joel Goodson), Rebecca de Mornay (Lana), Joe Pantoliano (Guido), Richard Masur (Rutherford), Bronson Pinchot (Barry), Curtis Armstrong (Miles Dalby), Nicholas Pryor (Mr. Goodson), Janet Carroll (Mrs. Goodson)

While his parents are away on business, rebellious adolescent Joel indulges himself with all the things his parents have made taboo. He messes with the graphic equaliser to listen to rock music at full volume, he drives around in his father's beloved Porsche, he drinks copious amongst of alcohol, has sex with a prostitute and turns his folks' house into a brothel so he can make a mint off his high school mates.
This seminal teen comedy of the 1980's did absolute wonders for the profile of it's main star, inspiring a cluster of similar films, as well as an advert for business directory Yellow Pages (you'd have to have been about during the 1980's to remember that one).
D: Mark Rydell
Universal (Edward Lewis)
US 1984
122 mins


W: Robert Dillon & Julian Barry
DP: Vilmos Zsigmond
Ed: Sidney Levin
Mus: John Williams
PD: Charles Rosen

Mel Gibson (Tom Garvey), Sissy Spacek (Mae Garvey), Shane Bailey (Lewis Garvey), Becky Jo Lynch (Beth Garvey), Scott Glenn (Joe Wade), Billy Green Bush (Harve Stanley)

Old-fashioned rural drama about a family battling flood waters to save their farm. 
It's very well made, with excellent cinematography, production design, convincing direction and strong performances, but it's the type of story you'd expect from 1948 rather than 1984.
As good as it's production values are, it doesn't quite engage as much as it could have.
D: Robert Redford
Columbia/Allied (Robert Redford & Patrick Markey)
US 1992
123 mins


W: Richard Friedenberg [based on the story by Norman Maclean]
DP: Philippe Rousselot
Ed: Lynzee Klingman & Robert Estrin
Mus: Mark Isham
PD: Jon Hutman

Craig Sheffer (Norman MacLean), Brad Pitt (Paul MacLean), Tom Skerritt (Rev. MacLean), Brenda Blethyn (Mrs. MacLean), Emily Lloyd (Jesse Burns)

Robert Redford steps behind the camera lens for this nostalgic drama about two brothers, their preacher father and their equal love of fly-fishing.
There's some dramatic moments of love, loss and family feuding in-between the poetically filmed scenes of the pastime, but not really enough to justify it's two-hour length.
The acting is generally fine and Brad Pitt made his breakthrough role with the film's most memorable performance, but the big question is whether or not audiences will care as much for the peaceful nature of fishing the way that Robert Redford does.
"The vacation is over."
"The vacation is over."
D: Curtis Hanson
UIP (David Foster & Lawrence Turman)
US 1994
111 mins


W: Denis O'Neill
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: Joe Hutshing & David Brenner
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Bill Kenney

Meryl Streep (Gail Hartman), Kevin Bacon (Wade), David Strathairn (Tom Hartman), Joseph Mazzello (Roarke Hartman), John C. Reilly (Terry)

A family have their white water rafting expedition hijacked by a pair of criminals on the run from the law.
The natural setting makes a difference from the usual formula-driven thrillers of the same ilk, but the story is something that's been done various times before.
The performances give this a lift, particularly the curious casting of Meryl Streep, who got the chance to add adventure-thrillers to her already impressive résumé.
D: Tim Hunter
Palace/Hemdale (Sarah Pillsbury & Midge Sanford)
US 1986
99 mins


W: Neal Jimenez
DP: Frederick Elmes
Ed: Howard Smith & Sonya Sones
Mus: Jurgen Knieper

Crispin Glover (Layne), Keanu Reeves (Matt), Ione Skye (Clarissa), Daniel Roebuck (Samson 'John' Tollette), Joshua Miller (Tim), Dennis Hopper (Feck)

A unique indie from the mid-1980's in stark contrast to the John Hughes style teen movies which were popular at the time.
The peculiar storyline follows a high school delinquent who brazenly murders his girlfriend and informs his stoner pals who all act apathetic to the situation.
Keanu Reeves demonstrates why he was such a good choice for the Bill & Ted movies, Crispin Glover is completely OTT as a paranoid slacker, Dennis Hopper is great as an ex-biker turned local drug dealer and Ione Skye is quite resplendent as one of the few female characters represented in the film. She's also the standout performer in the film and it's a huge shame that her career never really took off following her fine work in this. She did go on to star in films like Say Anything and The Rachel Papers, but rarely got the chance to play characters with the depth which she does here. Still, she's an underrated talent.