"The ultimate in terror!"
"The ultimate in terror!"
D: Tobe Hooper
Warner Bros./Serendipity (Richard Kobritz)
US 1979
112 mins (TV version: 200 mins)


W: Paul Monash [based on the novel by Stephen King]
DP: Jules Brenner
Ed: Carol Sax & Tom Pryor
Mus: Harry Sukman

David Soul (Ben Mears), James Mason (Richard Straker), Lance Kerwin (Mark Petrie), Bonnie Bedelia (Susan Norton), Lew Ayres (Jason Burke), Julie Cobb (Bonnie Sawyer), Ed Flanders (Bill Norton)

A writer returns to his hometown (Jerusalem's Lot) where he discovers it has become populated with bloodthirsty vampires.
Cut down from a 200-minute TV mini series into a more digestible-sized version, the production values can't be faulted due to its lower budget origins, nor can the performances, but the narrative feels far too choppy in this version as far too much had been omitted to the cutting room floor. The full length TV mini-series is recommended over this abridged version, but only if you have a spare 3-and-a-half hours.

"Who is Salt?"
"Who is Salt?"
SALT (15)
D: Phillip Noyce
Columbia/Wintergreen (Lorenzo di Bonaventura & Sunil Perkash) 
US 2010
104 mins


W: Kurt Wimmer
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: Stuart Baird & John Gilroy
Mus: James Newton Howard

Angelina Jolie (Evelyn Salt), Liev Schreiber (Ted Winter), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Peabody), Daniel Olbrychski (Vasily Orlov), August Diehl (Mike Krause)

Salt is a mix between the Bourne films and The Manchurian Candidate with a female in the lead.
Personally, I prefer Angelina Jolie in dramatic performances like Changeling, instead of these action woman roles, because she's grotesquely miscast!
The film fluctuates between predictable and ludicrous as Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is suspected as being a Russian spy deep in the CIA's ranks and then embarks upon the kind of behaviour you could only expect in a Hollywood movie, leaving gaping plotholes along with each and every explosion.
Even a couple of hours after watching this it leaves lasting impression in the memory. Perhaps it's a sequel to Gone In 60 Seconds.

"You have the right to remain silent. Dead silent."
"You have the right to remain silent. Dead silent."


D: Amir Shervan

Hollywood Royal Pictures (Orlando Corradi & Amir Shervan)

US 1991

96 mins


W: Amir Shervan

DP: Peter Balian

Ed: Ruben Zadurian & Amir Shervan

Mus: Alan DerMarderosian

Matt Hannon (Joe Marshall), Robert Z'Dar (Yamashita), Mark Frazer (Frank Washington), Cranston Komuro (Fuj Fujiyama), Janis Farley (Jennifer)

Samurai Cop is a 1991 direct to video action movie which many people would consider "so bad, it's good."

Matt Hannon plays the title character, although he's just a standard cop, the only reference to samurai in this movie is the fact that the bad guys are Japanese. 

The film is so poorly made that it will provoke laughter rather than thrills and spills. The performances are all atrocious, especially Matt Hannon, who wears a pathetically unconvincing wig in several scenes due to reshoots.

It is bad, but nowhere near the 'So Bad It's Good' reputations of Troll 2 or The Room (qv). Still, it has gained a huge cult following due to its general awfulness and even generated a sequel, 24 years later.


D: Brad Peyton
Warner Bros/New Line/Village Roadshow (Beau Flynn, Hiram Garcia & Tripp Vinson)
US 2015
114 mins


W: Carlton Cuse
DP: Steve Yedlin
Ed: Bob Ducsay
Mus: Andrew Lockington

Dwayne Johnson (Chief Raymond Gaines), Carla Gugino (Emma Gaines), Alexandra Daddario (Blake Gaines), Ioan Gruffudd (Daniel Riddick), Paul Giamatti (Dr. Lawrence Hayes), Hugh Johnstone-Burt (Ben Taylor), Art Parkinson (Ollie Taylor)

2012 meets Cliffhanger for this big budget disaster flick set in big, dumb America. 
In the clutches of a powerful earthquake which devastates California, helicopter pilot Dwayne Johnson sets out to rescue his ex-wife and daughter with his chopper.
The special effects on showcase are of the highest merit, though there's nothing that really deviates from Roland Emmerich's similarly-themed film mentioned above. 
Aside from the effects, this is a rather mundane effort, with subplots and characters that go nowhere, particularly Paul Giamatti, who seems to be in the mix to explain the science, but doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know. It's a powerful earthquake, people will die. Unfortunately it's hard to make any emotional connection to the characters when they're so boringly written.

D: Robert Wise
20th Century Fox/Argyle/Solar (Robert Wise)
US 1966
182 mins


W: Robert Anderson [based on the novel by Richard McKenna]
DP: Joseph MacDonald
Ed: William Reynolds
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Steve McQueen (Jake Holman), Richard Attenborough (Frenchy Burgoyne), Richard Crenna (Lt. Collins), Candice Bergen (Shirley Eckert), Mako (Po-Han)

Steve McQueen received the only Oscar nomination of his career for his performance in Robert Wise's war film, playing a crew member of an American gunship which patrols the Yangtze River during the communist regime in China, invoking the wrath of Chinese warlords.
Robert Wise's film has obvious Vietnam parallels and is a very well produced piece of work, utilising excellent cinematography, production design and some well edited action sequences, but it really does suffer from being an hour too long.
Steve McQueen deserved the acknowledgment from the Academy Awards, but it's not quite his best acting performance. The film received 8 Oscar nominations in total, but failed to win any.

D: Barry Mahon & R. Winer
R & S Film Enterprises (Barry Mahon)
US 1972
95 mins


W: Barry Mahon & R. Winer
DP: R. Winer & William Tobin
Ed: R. Winer & Steve Cuiffo
Mus: Ralph Falco & George Linsenmann

Jay Ripley (Santa), Shay Garner (Thumbelina), Pat Morrell (Mrs. Mole), Bob O'Connell (Mr. Mole), Ruth McMahon (Mother)

It seems that it is only possible to watch this movie on YouTube, which is a good thing, because it is a hate crime against all children - Everywhere!  Santa & The Ice Cream Bunny breaks the Worst Movie Of All Time Record at lightspeed pace and proves that some people should go nowhere near a movie camera, let alone use one, especially directors whose only previous credits are 1970's porn films. Ugh!
Though this movie may be the only Festive movie to feature a scene where vultures eat roadkill, this is not a facet to be proud of.
The bare bones of the plot were clearly thrown together over a weekend's binge drink and filmed on the Monday after a visit to a local Fancy Dress store.
The movie opens with a group of elves (or 8-year-olds in green outfits) singing tunelessly about the whereabouts of Santa as they make toys out of plywood on a set made of MDF. Cue some stock footage of Reindeer somewhere in the great outdoors then a fade to reveal that Santa is castaway somewhere on a beach in Florida because his sleigh is trapped beneath half an inch of sand. This is no usual Santa though, it's a really thin bloke with a pathetic stick-on beard, dressed in a bargain bucket costume covered in sweat patches which possibly reek of Captain Morgan rum.
Santa then bursts into a tuneless song about how his "predicament lacks it's usual cheer" as he waves his hand to-and-fro to the banal kazoo music. Using magic telepathy powers, he enlists help of some local kids (and Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn for some bizarre reason, who seem to find Florida pretty darn quickly from the Mississippi River). All the kids don't seem too thrilled to be in the presence of this obscenely drunk & possibly drugged Santa, most probably because he smelt of his own piss, but nevertheless they listen to his plight and wander off to find an indigenous animal to tie to the sled, including some random guy in a Gorilla costume, a dog and increasingly smaller animals, because these kids are stupid.
Santa helps out by sitting motionless in his sled and acting absolutely hammered.
Dejected by their failure to free Santa's sleigh from a few grains of sand, they gather around to listen to the pisshead tell a story. The "story" is, in fact, a previously filmed pantomime of Thumbelina, wedged into the movie to increase it's running time by 30 minutes.
The production values of Thumbelina aren't too pretty either, with a twentysomething girl warbling songs around sets made of balsa wood and looking like it was filmed in the prison of a Communist Regime. All the other characters in this story are in random animal costumes, including Thumbelina's mother, who is a mole for some arbitrary reason. The result is actually quite creepy, but it has the expected fairytale ending when a bird whisks Thumbelina to a world of flower children where she is crowned queen.          
She sings another ear-splitting ditty and then joins her boyfriend in Pirate World, a Florida theme-park which was abundantly in need of some product placement in a 1970's flop movie.
We return to Santa, who has been abandoned by half the number of children, either because they thought the Thumbelina story was shit or because they were hideously nauseous by the stink of body odour & gin.  Creepy Santa then thanks the children who did stay by removing several layers of clothing accompanied by sickening grunts, in a bid to cool down in the sweltering heat.
Cue The Ice Cream Bunny, another extra in an ill-fitting fancy dress costume, who comes to save the day in an antique fire engine which is clearly being pushed from behind by a Production Assistant.  The Ice Cream Bunny is likewise accompanied by several Florida kids who obviously had nothing to do during their holidays except sing about Santa's "predicament lacking it's usual cheer" as the fire engine makes it's way through Pirate World, and past all the wonderful rides in Pirate World, and past all the wonderful stalls in Pirate World and down another road, through another part of Pirate World, round in a circle past more delightful rides until 5 minutes later it is leaving Pirate World via a dirt track which may lead to drunk Santa.
Yes, that's right. The journey takes a full five minutes, which may not seem a lot to read, but it was an age to watch. Five minutes of product placement for a theme park which, ironically, shut down less than a year after the film's release (it's unknown if these two events are related).
The silent, soulless and creepy guy in the rabbit costume finally makes it to his drunken Santa pal, they mumble incoherently to each other for a few minutes before they use magic powers to make them both disappear, leaving a dozen kids stranded in the fetid Florida wasteland! What a couple of genuine arseholes!!
The movie ends without answering who the Ice Cream Bunny was, why he didn't have any ice cream or why no reference to ice cream was made. The questions have died with Pirate World, kids. You'll just have to go to Disneyland instead.
There, I've reviewed this pathetic excuse of a movie in loquacious style so you don't have to watch it. Or, watch it on YouTube if you dare! But be warned, you will feel sick, for this is no ordinary Christmas turkey. It is a Christmas Turkey which comes alive as you're about to carve it and shits all over your dining table as your family is gathered around to eat, obliterating the Festive Spirit for what could be an eternity.

"Seeing is believing. The legend comes to life."
"Seeing is believing. The legend comes to life."
D: Jeannot Szwarc
Salkind (Ilya Salkind & Pierre Spengler)
UK 1985
112 mins


W: David Newman
DP: Arthur Ibbetson
Ed: Peter Hollywood
Mus: Henry Mancini
PD: Anthony Pratt

David Huddleston (Santa Claus), Dudley Moore (Patch), John Lithgow (B.Z.), Judy Cornwell (Anya Claus), Christian Fitzpatrick (Joe), Carrie Kei Heim (Cornelia), Burgess Meredith (The Ancient One)

A young, homeless boy stands famished outside a McDonald's restaurant, as those inside feast their lips upon the bill of fare. Big, juicy Big Macs, succulent Chicken McNuggets, refreshing milkshakes, etc. This goes on for several minutes.
Either side of this blatant advert is quite a humdrum fantasy story about Santa and an attack on commercialism and greed (ha ha!) when one of Mr. Claus' elves quits the North Pole to work for an avaricious, unscrupulous toy manufacturer (played with great glee by a scene-stealing John Lithgow)
Young children will enjoy it, but the obvious, ubiquitous product placement will make most adults absolutely sick. The production itself is also quite ropey, with some unconvincing special effects, terrible production design (Santa's workshop just seems to be a huge warehouse for plywood) and some of the cheesiest editing you'll ever see.  Still, it's understandable that people will feel nostalgic about this film, probably from watching it on Christmas morning while opening their presents, but that didn't count for anything in 1985 when the film was a huge box office flop, costing the studio millions and causing the rights to Superman to be sold to Cannon Films.
That's right, kids. Santa Claus caused the death of Superman. How's that Christmassy feeling now?
D: John Pasquin
Disney (Brian Reilly, Jeffrey Silver & Robert Newmyer)
US 1994
95 mins


W: Leonard Benvenuti & Steve Rudnick
DP: Walt Lloyd
Ed: Larry Bock 
Mus: Michael Convertino

Tim Allen (Scott Calvin / Santa Claus), Eric Lloyd (Charlie Calvin), Wendy Crewson (Laura Miller), Judge Reinhold (Dr. Neil Miller)

When Santa Claus falls off his roof while delivering presents, an advertising executive dons the red suit to finish the job, unwittingly aware that, by doing so, he's become the permanent replacement.
For kids, this is a near perfect Christmas film, with the perfect balance of comedy, fantasy and charm. Though, for adults, the comedy is far too reliant on fat jokes, but it's unlikely that any high-brow humour is going to come from a children's film, so this can be quite easily forgiven.
A couple of inferior sequels followed. 


D: Karel Reisz

Bryanston/Woodfall (Tony Richardson & Harry Saltzman)

UK 1960

89 mins


W: Alan Sillitoe [based on his play]

DP: Freddie Francis

Ed: Seth Holt

Mus: Johnny Dankworth

Albert Finney (Arthur Seaton), Shirley Anne Field (Doreen Gretton), Rachel Roberts (Brenda), Bryan Pringle (Jack), Norman Rossington (Bert), Hylda Baker (Aunt Ada)

Among the first of the Angry Young Man melodramas from Great Britain at the beginning of the 1960's, setting of the UK's own new wave of filmmaking to rival the French.

Albert Finney stars as Arthur Seaton, a Nottingham factory worker whose love life gets him in hot water as he embarks on an affair with a married woman, while also dating a younger local girl. 

Very much a product of its time, but the excellent performances of Albert Finney and Rachel Roberts still hold up strong.


D: John Badham 
Paramount (Robert Stigwood)
US 1977
119 mins


W: Norman Wexler 
DP: Ralf D. Bode
Ed: David Rawlins
Mus: David Shire; Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb & Maurice Gibb

John Travolta (Tony Manero), Karen Lynn Gorney (Stephanie Mangano), Barry Miller (Bobby C), Joseph Cali (Joey), Paul Pipe (Double J), Donna Pescow (Annette)

The darker side of disco, but with a killer soundtrack and star-making performance from John Travolta, whose exceptional dancing and iconic strut is perhaps overshadows the excellent acting performance.
As carefree Brooklyn teenager Tony Manero, he lives only for the weekend, where he can be the king of the dancefloor for the night. A stark contrast to his weekday life, where he works a dead-end job in a hardware store and has a toxic relationship with his parents. As king of the dance floor, he sets his ambitions on winning a dancing competition at his seedy neighbourhood's discotheque.
The rather bleak story is brought to life by the strength of Travolta's performance and dance choreography as well as the iconic Bee Gees-penned songs. 
Saturday Night Fever is a landmark film in many respects, one which was sold on the power of its music and stands the test of time because of this.
"Trapped between unnatural love and inhuman desire."
"Trapped between unnatural love and inhuman desire."
SATURN 3 (15)
D: Stanley Donen
ITC/Transcontinental (Stanley Donen)
UK 1980
87 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: Martin Amis
DP: Billy Williams
Ed: Richard Marden
Mus: Elmer Bernstein
PD: Stuart Craig

Kirk Douglas (Adam), Farrah Fawcett (Alex), Harvey Keitel (Benson), Ed Bishop (Harding)

A man & woman working on one of Saturn's moons have their work interrupted by an interloper and his murderous 8-foot tall robot.
A huge mess of a film, put into production with an inexperienced director who left the project halfway through filming. What remains is a shambles, clearly filmed in a department store, with poorly executed visual effects and laughably unconvincing ADR sound dubbing, which was used to replace Harvey Keitel's Brooklyn accent with that of British actor Roy Dotrice.
Clearly greenlit to cash in on the previous year's Alien (qv), perhaps the tagline for this should have been "in space, no one can hear you snore."
"Get your fill."
"Get your fill."
D: Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan
Columbia/Annapurna/Point Grey (Megan Ellison, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & Conrad Vernon)
US 2016
88 mins


W: Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & Jonah Hill
Mus: Christopher Lennertz & Alan Menken

voices of: Seth Rogen (Frank), Kristen Wiig (Brenda), Michael Cera (Barry), Jonah Hill (Carl), Nick Kroll (Douche), David Krumholtz (Kareem Abdul Lavash), Edward Norton (Sammy Bagel, Jr.), Salma Hayek (Teresa del Taco), Bill Hader (Firewater)

This R-rated animated spoof of Pixar movies is set in the supermarket world, where the anthropomorphic grocery items await being chosen by the customers, who they worship as gods and taken to 'the great beyond' where a hot dog sausage and his bun companion eagerly anticipate the consummation of their relationship. 
The idyllic existence of the consumables soon takes a dark twist when an item of food makes a return to the supermarket and tells the truth about what their fate is to become, leading to a skirmish where the sausage and bun escape from their packets and need to find their way back to their aisle with a bickering lavash bread and bagel, while a rogue douche wants revenge for not being able to fulfil his destiny. En route, Frank the sausage discovers the truth about the great beyond and makes an attempt for the food population of the store to rebel against their human overlords.
Though the humour in the film is puerile, vulgar and completely subjective, the story does touch on some clever themes, satirising religious beliefs and political differences. In fact, it's more intelligent than you'd really expect it to be.
There's an insinuation at several points that taking drugs will allow you to see the truth, which feels a little irresponsible and the food orgy finale is just bizarre, but overall this an animated film for an adult market which isn't afraid to be controversial and there are many moments which will raise a laugh or two.

D: Oliver Stone
Universal/Relativity (Moritz Borman & Eric Copeloff)
US 2012
131 mins


W: Shane Salerno, Don Winslow & Oliver Stone [based on the book by Don Winslow]             
DP: Dan Mindel
Ed: Joe Hutshing, Stuart Levy & Alex Marquez
Mus: Adam Peters

Taylor Kitsch (Chon), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ben), Blake Lively (Ophelia Sage), John Travolta (Dennis Cain), Salma Hayek (Elena Sanchez), Benicio del Toro (Miguel Arroyo)

Perhaps thinking this movie was going to be like Steven Soderbergh's drug thriller Traffic was too high expectation, this is more like Twilight with drug dealers, but is by no means a disappointing watch.
Taylor Kitsch & Aaron Johnson play tanned surfer boys and independent drug dealers in California's gold coast who tag team with blonde beauty Blake Lively. 
To be honest, the whole love triangle theme is a drag, but the film is lifted when a Mexican drug cartel headed by Salma Hayek & Benicio del Toro want in on the action, abducting the boys love interest until they agree a partnership on their business.
The main problems with this movie is that I really didn't side with the protagonists. They're portrayed as "nice drug dealers" but for me, that simply isn't enough. Hayek is brilliant as Godmother to the Mexican cartel and Del Toro steals every scene he's in as a real bastado. 
This movie also features John Travolta's best performance for a very long time as a corrupt DA.
Perfectly enjoyable for its duration, but ultimately rather forgettable.
"Put Christ back into Christmas."
"Put Christ back into Christmas."
D: Darren Doane
Samuel Goldwyn Films (Darren Doane, Raphi Henly, Amanda Rosser & David Shannon)
US 2014
79 mins


W: Darren Doane & Cheston Harvey
DP: Andy Patch
Ed: The Postmill Factory
Mus: Brian Popkin

Kirk Cameron (Kirk), Darren Doane (Christian), Bridgette Ridenour (Kirk's Sister), David Shannon (Diondre)

Look at the poster. Doesn't this look fun?? Almost as though this was an action-comedy where the lead character is "Saving Christmas" from bad guys. Well, the marketing department fooled you, because this pathetic excuse for a movie is nothing of the sort.
This Kirk Cameron ego-project, thinly disguised as a comedy is 80 minutes of an opinionated sermon where the former child actor turned new age Christian treats us to a rant where he explains what Christmas should truly mean. So put down your carving knife and put that tree back into the loft as he educates everyone on their ignorant ways while he drinks copious amounts of cocoa.
This would have been a lot easier to ignore if it wasn't for Kirk Cameron taking to the internet to attack anyone who dared to give it a bad review.
Feel free to comment Mr. Cameron, you overopinionated, annoyingly preachy jackass.

D: John Lee Hancock
Disney/BBC (Alison Owen, Ian Collie & Philip Steuer)
US/UK/Australia 2013
125 mins


W: Kelly Marcel & Sue Smith
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: Mark Livolsi
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Michael Corenblith
Cos: Daniel Orlandi

Emma Thompson (P. L. Travers), Tom Hanks (Walt Disney), Colin Farrell (Travers Goff), Bradley Whitford (Don DaGradi), B. J. Novak (Robert Sherman), Jason Schwartzman (Richard Sherman), Paul Giamatti (Ralph), Ruth Wilson (Margaret Goff), Rachel Griffiths (Aunt Ellie), Annie Rose Buckley (Ginty)

I wanted to like this film a lot more than I actually did and it took a while to figure out why it just didn't ring true to me, then it suddenly dawned on me. The film is produced by Disney, therefore it wouldn't dare show it's Uncle Walt in a bad light, and it doesn't.  It's well documented that P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins series of books, was reluctant for her work to be adapted into a film, even after it was a successful motion picture which earned the studio (and herself) millions, she wasn't pleased with what they'd done with her work, which was incredibly personal to her.
The film portrays P. L. Travers as a neurotic, prim and proper killjoy (which maybe she was) who builds several obstacles to prevent Walt Disney from producing her work, including "no songs", "no animation", "no Dick Van Dyke" (in fairness, she had a good point on the last one), but is slowly seduced by "Feed The Birds" and "Let's Go Fly A Kite", meanwhile she reminisces on her childhood and real-life events which inspired her books. This, as far as the history books, isn't too far from the truth.
However, when it looks like the project to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen hang in development purgatory, Uncle Walt flies off to England to tell Travers stories of his own childhood, says he understands that the books are personal to her because they represent a metaphor for her own childhood and makes promises that her characters will be faithfully handled. 
The story then whisks to the world premiere where the audience are wowed by the film, including Travers who sits in the theatre choked by tears.  Although these scenes have been added for the sake of dramatic plot devices, they are nothing more than a fabrication. None of it happened. Travers only allowed the filming of her novels because she was facing financial hardship, she despised the treatment of her work so much that she refused West End producer Cameron Mackintosh rights to her work to make a stage play (which only came into fruition after her death).
The movie itself is well made from a production standpoint, with good attention paid to the detail of the early 1960's and the performances are generally decent (Tom Hanks was actually a very good choice for Disney). However, a story of the development problems of Mary Poppins didn't need lies and added doses of sentiment to make it more powerful and the scene in which Walt tours Disneyland with P. L. Travers borders criminally on grotesque product placement.
As a fan of the movie Mary Poppins, I was genuinely intrigued to see this film, but don't think it did the story, nor the 1964 film, any justice at all.
On this occasion, a spoonful of sugar does not help the medicine go down.

"The mission is a man."
"The mission is a man."
D: Steven Spielberg
Paramount/Amblin (Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, Mark Gordon & Gary Levinsohn)
US 1998
169 mins


W: Robert Rodat
DP: Janusz Kaminski
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Tom Sanders

Tom Hanks (Capt. John Miller), Edward Burns (Pvt. Reiben), Tom Sizemore (Sgt. Horvath), Jeremy Davies (Cpl. Upham), Adam Goldberg (Pvt. Mellish), Giovanni Ribisi (T-4 Medic Wade), Vin Diesel (Pvt. Caparzo), Matt Damon (Pvt. James Ryan)

Steven Spielberg's seminal war movie is made in it's opening act, featuring a recreation of the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach, so realistically and viscerally presented that you'd be forgiven for thinking that real-life footage was spliced into the celluloid.
Following it's breathtaking gambit, the story follows a small platoon sent on a special mission to rescue a soldier, the only known survivor of four brothers, trapped somewhere behind enemy lines.
Though the opening battle is a sight to behold, the rest of the film settles for a routine platoon-in-peril plot, before rewarding us with another fantastic battle in the ruins of a small French town. 
Had the film fallen into the hands of another director, the film could have been a disaster, but with Spielberg at the helm, World War II comes to life before our very eyes. There's a few criticisms which prevent it from a flawless review. The first being that the reasons for the mission are sentimentally unconvincing and the second from the mawkish bookends to the story, featuring an elderly veteran breaking down at Arlington cemetery. 
"Every piece has a puzzle."
"Every piece has a puzzle."
SAW (18)
D: James Wan
Lionsgate (Oren Koules, Mark Burg & Gregg Hoffman)
US 2004
103 mins


W: Leigh Wannell
DP: David Armstrong 
Ed: Kevin Greutert
Mus: Charlie Clouser

Cary Elwes (Dr. Lawrence Gordon); Leigh Whannell (Adam Stanheight); Danny Glover (David Tapp), Monica Potter (Alison Gordon), Tobin Bell (John Kramer)

The first of a series of films which gave birth to a new genre of "gore porn" movies, featuring sadistic, grizzly and violent deaths at the hands of a serial killer who goes by the name of the Jigsaw Killer.
This first film is a convuluted horror-thriller about two strangers who wake chained to each other in Jigsaw's lair, where they attempt to piece together clues on a tape recorder as to why they abducted and by whom.  Meanwhile, a detective tries to track down the killer before the two men become the next in a long list of victims.
The twisted sadism doesn't make this film a comfortable watch, but it's quite possibly the most inventive addition to the genre since 1995's Seven (qv), featuring a number of rather ingenious deathtraps and incredibly unpleasant situations. 
All the production values are very decent, from dingy dungeons to the visceral direction and camerawork.  Unfortunately, Cary Elwes was a very poor choice for the lead.
A number of sequels followed almost immediately, all of varying quality.
SAW II (18)
D: Darren Lynn Bousman
Lionsgate (Oren Koules, Mark Burg & Gregg Hoffman)
US/Canada 2005
93 mins


W: Leigh Wannell & Darrell Lynn Bousman
DP: David Armstrong 
Ed: Kevin Greutert
Mus: Charlie Clouser

Donnie Wahlberg (Det. Eric Matthews), Franky G (Xavier Matthews), Glenn Plummer (Jonas Singer), Erik Knudsen (Daniel Matthews), Shawnee Smith (Amanda Young), Tobin Bell (John Kramer)

The same formula of a number of people overcoming violent deathtraps to ensure their own survival is employed in the first of the Saw sequels, although this film does give it's villain more screen time than in it's predecessor, ensuring Jigsaw becomes a memorable and malevolent movie villain.
The gore porn is much the same as the first film with a little more invention thrown in for good measure, so it certainly isn't one for the squeamish.
A decent sequel which arguably should have been the only one. The films become more and more inferior and brainless after this one, merely resorting to throwing sadistic violence up on screen just for the sake of it.
SAW III (18)
D: Darren Lynn Bousman
Lionsgate (Oren Koules, Mark Burg & Gregg Hoffman)
US/Canada 2006
108 mins


W: Leigh Wannell
DP: David Armstrong 
Ed: Kevin Greutert
Mus: Charlie Clouser

Tobin Bell (John Kramer), Shawnee Smith (Amanda Young), Angus MacFadyen (Jeff Denlon), Bahar Soomekh (Lynn Denlon), Donnie Wahlberg (Det. Eric Matthews), Dina Meyer (Det. Allison Kerry)

After eluding the cops in the previous sequel, cancer-ridden serial killer Jigsaw turns a deserted warehouse on the outskirts of town into a torture chamber for a new group of victims to participate in the psychopath's twisted, sadistic games. 
The formula is pretty much the same as the first two films, featuring violent death after violent death, with some added originality of introducing a new apprentice to carry on Jigsaw's legacy, setting up opportunities for even further sequels with this unconvincing and frankly insulting twist. Obviously, this paved way for even more sequels, because the series of films proved to be very bankable for the production company.
"To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler."
"To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler."
D: Cameron Crowe
20th Century Fox (Polly Platt)
US 1989
100 mins


W: Cameron Crowe
DP: Laszlo Kovacs
Ed: Richard Marks
Mus: Richard Gibbs, Anne Dudley & Nancy Wilson

John Cusack (Lloyd Dobler), Ione Skye (Diane Court), John Mahoney (Jim Court), Lili Taylor (Corey Flood), Joan Cusack (uncredited - Constance Dobler)

A refreshing take on 1980's teenage high school comedies, leaning more towards a practical romance storyline rather than the Brat Pack movies that John Hughes brought to the screens.
John Cusack stars as Lloyd Dobler, a well-intentioned high school dropout at a crossroads in his life who woos and falls in love with the beautiful prefect graduate, Diane Court (Ione Skye), but their relationship is put to strain by her overbearing father who doesn't want to see her settling down with a man with no career prospects on the horizon.
Those expecting a more comedic presentation might feel short-changed, it really isn't that sort of film. Instead, it's a story about honest teenage love, the pain of breaking up and the joy of rekindling.
Cameron Crowe writes a screenplay free of the usual clichés, with realistic characters, a great music soundtrack and a handful of iconic scenes which are still referenced in popular culture three decades later.
"The story that seduced the world is now the most controversial film of the year."
"The story that seduced the world is now the most controversial film of the year."
D: Michael Caton-Jones
Palace/Miramax (Stephen Woolley)
UK 1989
115 mins


W: Michael Thomas 
DP: Mike Molloy
Ed: Angus Newton
Mus: Carl Davis

John Hurt (Stephen Ward), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Christine Keeler), Ian McKellen (John Profumo), Bridget Fonda (Mandy Rice-Davies), Leslie Phillips (Lord Astor), Britt Ekland (Mariella Novotny)         

Based on the true events of the Profumo Affair of 1963, when a British politician embarked on an affair with an exotic dancer.
Aside from a handful of good performances, this biopic lacks the "cinema factor" and is directed very conservatively (i.e. boring). It would probably have worked more effectively as a TV mini series.
"Their thoughts can kill."
"Their thoughts can kill."
D: David Cronenberg
Filmplan International (Claude Heroux)
Canada 1981
103 mins


W: David Cronenberg
DP: Mark Irwin
Ed: Ronald Sanders
Mus: Howard Shore

Jennifer O'Neill (Kim Obrist), Stephen Lack (Cameron Vale), Patrick McGoohan (Dr. Paul Ruth), Lawrence Dane (Braedon Keller), Michael Ironside (Darryl Revok)

Scanners are a small group of people who have evolved to develop telepathic abilities, able to lock into other people's nervous systems. One of which is tasked with finding another, who uses his sinister power to literally explode other's heads.
A dark science fiction-horror from David Cronenberg, tinted with his usual inclination towards disease and infection.
It's most violent moments are perhaps the most memorable, and though some of the special effects now seem rather dated they were deemed gruesomely glorious at the time and the film still has a huge cult following, spawning a number of sequels in the 1990's and beyond which don't quite match up to this first film.


D: Howard Hawks

United Artists/The Caddo Company (Howard Hughes & Howard Hawks)

US 1932

95 mins


W: Ben Hecht, W.R. Burnett, John Lee Mahin & Seton I. Miller [based on the novel by Armitage Trail]

DP: Lee Garmes & L.W. O'Connell

Ed: Edward Curtiss

Mus: Gus Arnheim & Adolph Tandler

Paul Muni (Tony Camonte), Ann Dvorak (Francesca Camonte), George Raft (Guino Rinaldo), Boris Karloff (Tom Gaffney), Osgood Perkins (Johnny Lovo), Karen Morley (Poppy)

Adapted from a novel which was loosely based on the rise and fall of infamous mobster Al Capone, Scarface was released during the prohibition era and was considered at the time to be both gratuitously violent and that it glorified gangsters. In fact, Capone himself was a huge fan of the movie and cast member George Raft, a childhood friend of real life gangsters Ben Siegel and Meyer Lansky, became a surrogate style consultant, due to his participation in the film.

As for the movie itself, it may have been groundbreaking for the early 1930's, but it's incredibly tame by modern standards, and even in comparison to the 1983 remake (starring Al Pacino). For the time, it's incredibly well made, directed with some style and good performances.  Influential and groundbreaking it may have been, but it's definitely weakened by age.


"He loved the American Dream with a vengeance."
"He loved the American Dream with a vengeance."
D: Brian de Palma
Universal (Martin Bregman)
US 1983
170 mins


W: Oliver Stone [based on the screenplay by Ben Hecht, Seton I. Miller, John Lee Mahin, W. R. Burnett & Fred Pasley]
DP: John A. Alonzo
Ed: Edward Curtiss
Mus: Giorgio Moroder

Al Pacino (Tony Montana), Steven Bauer (Manny Ribera), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elvira Hancock), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Gina Montana), Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez), Paul Shenar (Alejandro Sosa)

Brutalised remake of a 1932 biopic which was clearly based on Al Capone. 
In this version, Scarface is portrayed as a Cuban émigré who rises from petty crime to become Miami's most notorious cocaine drug lord. The film utilises the standard rags-to-riches formula and blends it with not-so-subliminal political messages of a man's rise from communism to consumerism and taking it to huge excess.
Aside from a few iconic soundbites and a memorably wide-eyed, loud-mouthed performance from Al Pacino it really isn't as great as it's heralded to be. 
A 1980's classic, yes perhaps, but for all the wrong reasons. When compared to other great crime films like The Godfather trilogy, Goodfellas, Once Upon A Time In America and others, Scarface feels incredibly overrated.
This review may feel harsh to those who have it listed amongst their favourite movies. It's probably the must subjective film of the 1980's, with just as many people loathing it as those who laud it. 
Some would say a 7/10 rating is harsh, but I think it's more than fair.
D: Keenan Ivory Wayans
Dimension (Eric L. Gold & Lee R. Mayes)
US 2000
88 mins


W: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Buddy Johnson, Phil Beauman, Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer
DP: Francis Kenny
Ed: Mark Helfrich
Mus: David Kitay

Shawn Wayans (Ray Wilkins), Marlon Wayans (Shorty Meeks), Anna Faris (Cindy Campbell), Dave Sheridan (Doofy Gilmore), Jon Abrahams (Bobby Loomis), Shannon Elizabeth (Buffy Gilmore)

A spoof of horror films of the mid-to-late 1990's, primarily the Scream movies and I Know What You Did Last Summer (qv), although there is far more focus on drug culture than on the films it attempts to reference.
There's a couple of moments which raise a smile, but there really aren't enough belly laughs during the duration for a film which is meant to be a comedy, even if it is a spoof.
D: Keenan Ivory Wayans
Miramax/Dimension (Eric L. Gold)
US 2001
83 mins


W: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Alyson Fouse, Greg Grabiansky, Dave Polsky, Michael Anthony Snowden & Craig Wayans          
DP: Steven Bernstein
Ed: Peter Teschner, Tom Nordberg & Richard Pearson
Mus: Mark McGrath

Anna Faris (Cindy Campbell), Shawn Wayans (Ray Wilkins), Marlon Wayans (Shorty Meeks), Regina Hall (Brenda Meeks), Chris Masterson (Buddy Sanderson), James Woods (Father McFeely)

A boring retread of the first film, though the horror movies parodied in this are more along the lines of the classics of the genre (The Exorcist, etc), but they also throw in references to any film released around the same time (such as Cast Away, Hollow Man, etc.) and the script has even more focus on drug culture. 
The script also has more writers than it does jokes and even the co-writers Shawn & Marlon Wayans admit that they only participated due to contractual obligation. The scariest thing by far is that it created a franchise of these shit films.
D: David Zucker
Dimension (Robert K. Weiss)
US 2003
84 mins


W: Craig Mazin & Pat Proft
DP: Mark Irwin
Ed: Malcolm Campbell & Jon Poll
Mus: James L. Venable

Anna Faris (Cindy Campbell), Simon Rex (George Logan), Regina Hall (Brenda Meeks), Charlie Sheen (Tom Logan), Leslie Nielsen (President Harris), Queen Latifah (Aunt Shaneequa/The Oracle), Anthony Anderson (Mahalik Pfifer)

Not so much a spoof of scary movies, but a spoof of any and all popular films released in between the last sequel and this one, with most of the references being towards 8 Mile, Signs and The Matrix trilogy of films.
There's no plot, just a series of references to other films, none of which are particularly funny. Skip it... and the franchise in general. Terrible movies aimed at the lowest common denomination of moviegoer. Unbelievably, there were more sequels after this, which I'm not even going to bother reviewing.
"Lt. Col. Frank Slade has a very special plan for the weekend. It involves travel, women, good food, fine wine, the tango, chauffeured limousines and a loaded forty-five. And he's bringing Charlie along for the ride."
"Lt. Col. Frank Slade has a very special plan for the weekend. It involves travel, women, good food, fine wine, the tango, chauffeured limousines and a loaded forty-five. And he's bringing Charlie along for the ride."
D: Martin Brest
UIP/Universal/City Lights (Martin Brest)
US 1992
157 mins


W: Bo Goldman [based on the screenplay "Profumo di Donna" by Dino Risi & Ruggero Maccari; novel "Il Buio e il Miele" by Giovanni Arpino]
DP: Donald E. Thorin
Ed: William Steinkamp
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Angelo Graham

Al Pacino (Lt. Col. Frank Slade), Chris O'Donnell (Charlie Simms), James Rebhorn (Mr. Trask), Gabrielle Anwar (Donna), Philip S. Hoffman (George Willis, Jr.), Richard Venture (W. R. Slade)

Al Pacino won his first, elusive Oscar for his performance as Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a blind miser and war veteran, who, along with his young aide, takes a trip to New York City for one final thrill over Thanksgiving weekend before he intends to commit suicide.
This 1990's update of a 1975 French drama (Profumo di Donna) wastes a bit of time in the first act unnecessarily building up Chris O'Donnell's character, a poor scholar in a school for rich kids, facing possible expulsion unless he confesses to witnessing misconduct from other students on campus. The intentions for doing so set up a courtroom drama style ending which doesn't quite fit with the rest of the film but is nonetheless entertaining, simply due to Pacino's shutzpah. 
The running time could have been kinder and it does have it's flaws, but Al Pacino's enigmatic performance makes it eminently watchable.
"Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."
"Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."
D: Steven Spielberg
Universal/Amblin (Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen & Branko Lustig)
US 1993
185 mins


W: Steven Zaillian [based on the novel "Schindler's Ark" by Thomas Keneally]
DP: Janusz Kaminsky
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Allan Starski
Cos: Anna Biedrzycka Sheppard

Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler), Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goeth), Caroline Goodall (Emilie Schindler), Jonathan Sagalle (Poldek Pfefferberg), Embeth Davidtz (Helen Hirsch)         

Amongst the greatest war films ever made and almost certainly the most powerful. 
From the book "Schindler's Ark" by Thomas Keneally, the story presents a biographical account of Oskar Schindler, a Polish war profiteer who used persecuted Jews as cheap labour, but later bribed German officials so he could save the lives of over 1,000.
Liam Neeson gives a warts & all performance as the temperamental man, a womaniser who valued money above all else, but upon witnessing the horrors of the holocaust, developed both a guilty conscience for his actions and a duty of care for those in his employment.
The haunting and poetically strike black & white photography give a documentary feel to the drama and though some parts are fictionalised for dramatisation purposes, it's very easy to believe that everything that occurs here is the truth.
The ensemble cast are all outstanding, particularly Neeson, but also Ralph Fiennes as the detestable Amon Goeth, who runs a concentration camp with both an iron fist and a violent temper.
Steven Spielberg broke his Oscars hoodoo with this film, winning 7 awards in total including Best Picture & Best Director.
"We don't need no education."
"We don't need no education."
D: Richard Linklater
Paramount (Scott Rudin)
US 2003
108 mins


W: Mike White 
DP: Rogier Stoffers
Ed: Sandra Adair
Mus: Craig Wedren

Jack Black (Dewey Finn), Joan Cusack (Rosalie Mullins), Mike White (Ned Schneebly), Sarah Silverman (Patty Di Marco), Miranda Cosgrove (Summer Hathaway)

After being kicked out of his rock band and on the verge of being kicked out of his flat, incompetent slacker Dewey Finn impersonates his flatmate to take a job as a substitute teacher in a strict academy, where he trains his pupils in rock music appreciation and prepares them for participating at an upcoming Battle Of The Bands music competition.
Armed with a kick-ass soundtrack and an exuberant performance from Jack Black, it's easy to ignore how wanton and unethical the plot actually is. Just go with it and enjoy.

D: Robert Mandel
Paramount (Stanley Jaffe & Sherry Lansing)         
US 1992
107 mins


W: Dick Wolf & Darryl Ponsican
DP: Freddie Francis
Ed: Jerry Greenberg & Jacqueline Cambas
Mus: Maurice Jarre

Brendan Fraser (David Greene), Matt Damon (Charlie Dillon), Chris O'Donnell (Chris Reece), Randall Batinkoff (Rip van Kelt), Cole Hauser (Jack Connors), Ben Affleck (Chesty Smith)       

A reasonably entertaining melodrama with good performances, starring Brendan Fraser as a Jewish student who conceals his religion from others when he receives a scholarship to a prestigious school rife with anti-semitism during the mid 1950's.
In the hands of another director, this might have received a better box office and critical reception. As is, it's pretty much a TV movie of the week.
Enjoyable for its duration, but lacking any type of longevity. Many of the cast members went on to bigger and better things, particularly Matt Damon and Ben Affleck who had their first significant roles.
D: Raja Gosnell
Warner Bros./Mosaic Media (Charles Roven & Richard Suckle)
US 2002
86 mins


W: James Gunn [based on the characters created by William Hanna & Joseph Barbera]
DP: David Eggby
Ed: Kent Beyda
Mus: David Newman

Matthew Lillard (Shaggy Rogers), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Fred Jones), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Daphne Blake), Linda Cardellini (Velma Dinkley), Rowan Atkinson (Emile Mondavarious), Isla Fisher (Mary Jane), Miguel Nunez, Jr. (Voodoo Maestroh

Live action version of the classic cartoon series of the 1960's, reuniting the members of a crime-fighting gang who pool their wits to uncover who is responsible for brain-washing visitors at a tourist attraction called Spooky Island.
The film doesn't really do justice to the long-running series, mostly due to miscast performances, a poor choice of director, a lazily-written script and ridiculously below average visual effects.
For young kids (mostly those too young to remember the original source) it's reasonably enjoyable, but no-one else is likely to be impressed. An (even more) inferior sequel followed a few years later.
"There are no partners in crime."
"There are no partners in crime."
D: Frank Oz
Pathé/Mandalay/Horseshoe Bay (Gary Foster & Lee Rich)
US/Germany 2001
124 mins


W: Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs & Scott Marshall Smith
DP: Rob Hahn
Ed: Richard Pearson
Mus: Howard Shore 

Robert DeNiro (Nick Wells), Edward Norton (Jack Teller), Marlon Brando (Max), Angela Bassett (Diane), Gary Farmer (Burt)

A decent heist thriller with a curious choice of director in Frank Oz, who you'd associate more with Yoda & Miss Piggy rather than the crime genre.
Robert DeNiro plays an ageing cat burglar, making plans for retirement on his ill-gotten wealth, but convinced to take on one last job by a rookie to the game (Edward Norton).
The plot has been done in various forms before, with the usual twists and double crosses, but there's enough tension to make this unique in its own right.
Not the best crime caper out there by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still an awful lot better than Hudson Hawk (qv).
"An epic of epic epicness."
"An epic of epic epicness."
D: Edgar Wright
Universal/Big Talk (Marc Platt, Nira Park, Eric Gitter & Edgar Wright)
US/UK/Japan 2010
112 mins

Science Fiction/Comedy

W: Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall [based on the comic books created by Bryan Lee O'Malley]
DP: Bill Pope
Ed: Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss
Mus: Nigel Godrich

Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Ramona Flowers), Kieran Culkin (Wallace Wells), Ellen Wong (Knives Chau), Alison Pill (Kim Pine), Anna Kendrick (Stacey Pilgrim)

I just don't get it. Just like I don't get the whole pseudo-geek down-with-the-kids fashion trend in abound since The Big Bang Theory first aired on TV in 2007.
Maybe you have to be a gamer or a fan of the comic book to appreciate this but I lost interest pretty much straight away.
I find Michael Cera odious and he plays the same unlikable, wimp-faced, one-dimensional character in EVERYTHING!
In this, he plays a shallow nerd who has to fight some overly quirky, technicolor-haired tramp's evil exes to win her like an MVP trophy.
The only character I sided with was Anna Kendrick, simply because I went through the entire movie sharing her "who gives the fuck?" attitude.
I give points for the visual style, etc. but I really didn't enjoy this movie. I actually wanted Scott Pilgrim to die because I thought he was a whiny douchebag with the physical appearance of a child.
I understand there's a lot of people, mostly hipsters and gamers, who did enjoy this, but unfortunately I'm not on the same side here. It felt like I was watching a video game which someone else was playing, which isn't much fun at all.

"Don't answer the phone. Don't open the door. Don't try to escape."
"Don't answer the phone. Don't open the door. Don't try to escape."
D: Wes Craven
Miramax/Dimension (Cary Woods & Cathy Konrad)
US 1996
110 mins


W: Kevin Williamson
DP: Mark Irwin
Ed: Patrick Lussier
Mus: Marco Beltrami

Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), Skeet Ulrich (Billy Loomis), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Drew Barrymore (Casey Becker), Rose McGowan (Tatum Riley), Jamie Kennedy (Randy Meeks), Matthew Lillard (Stu Macher), Drew Barrymore (Casey Becker)

"What's your favourite scary movie?" It's the question which reinvented the slasher genre for a new generation. 
This borderline-satirical horror benefits hugely from a very well-written screenplay which pokes fun at the genre with in-jokes and clever references, setting up all the usual horror movie clichés before explaining them away in a very satisfying way.
A ghost-masked killer is murdering the movie-obsessed teenagers of a small town high school, stalking them with telephone calls and quizzing them with movie trivia before committing the crime. 
In the hands of Wes Craven, it's a stylish piece of shock cinema and there's plenty of red herrings to hold the mystery of who the killer is. 
A string of sequels and similar-themed films eked out of the woodwork in the following years, but none come close to bettering this.
"Someone has taken their love of sequels one step too far."
"Someone has taken their love of sequels one step too far."
SCREAM 2 (18)
D: Wes Craven
Miramax/Dimension (Cathy Konrad & Marianne Maddalena)
US 1997
120 mins


W: Kevin Williamson
DP: Peter Deming
Ed: Patrick Lussier
Mus: Marco Beltrami

Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cici Cooper), Jerry O'Connell (Derek Feldman), Liev Schreiber (Cotton Weary)

Disappointing sequel which practically retreads the same ground as the first film, this time referencing horror movie sequels and events from the first film, which itself became a fictitious film ("Stab") within this film.
The film begins unconvincingly and continues on a downward spiral. The performances are far weaker than in the first film and the script is nowhere near as clever, despite its pats on the back to how insightful it is to its own genre. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is and actually undoes all the work which was laid out in the first movie.
The stupid opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Ridiculous, overacted and insipid.
"The most terrifying scream is always the last."
"The most terrifying scream is always the last."
SCREAM 3 (18)
D: Wes Craven
Miramax/Dimension (Cathy Konrad, Kevin Williamson & Marianne Maddalena)
US 2000
116 mins


W: Ehren Kruger [based on characters created by Kevin Williamson]
DP: Peter Deming
Ed: Patrick Lussier
Mus: Marco Beltrami

Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox Arquette (Gale Weathers), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Patrick Dempsey (Det. Mark Kincaid), Parker Posey (Jennifer Jolie), Scott Foley (Roman Bridger)

The Scream franchise goes to Hollywood, as the cast of horror film "Stab 3", based on events from the first two Scream films, are killed off one-by-one by a maniac in a ghost-face mask on the sets in-between breaks in filming.
While the first two films got away with referencing other titles throughout, this third film of the series is so self-referential and up its own backside, those who haven't seen the previous two movies won't have any idea what's going on, while those who have wouldn't be much the wiser either.
Jay & Silent Bob (Jason Mewes & Kevin Smith) pop up for a meaningless cameo and it probably would have been more convincing if the killer in this was an ape (as it was spoofed in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back). The worst of the trilogy (Scream 4 managed to be even worse).
"New decade. New rules."
"New decade. New rules."
SCREAM 4 (SCRE4M) (18)
D: Wes Craven
Dimension (Wes Craven, Iya Labunka & Kevin Williamson)
US 2011
111 mins


W: Kevin Williamson
DP: Peter Deming
Ed: Peter McNulty
Mus: Marco Beltrami

Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers), David Arquette (Dewey Riley), Emma Roberts (Jill Roberts), Hayden Panettiere (Kirby Reed)

Each passing sequel dilutes the intelligence and wit of the original film, which, in 1996, was a breath of fresh air to the genre by referencing the many cliches of horror films and turning them on their head.
Scream 4 is practically a remake of the first film and tries to justify itself by referencing the clichés associated with remakes. It doesn't work though because it's stupid, even with original scribe Kevin Williamson penning the script again after skipping duties on the third film.
Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette look far too old (and bored) for these shenanigans. One can only assume that they really needed the money.
Cool poster. Poor film.
"Bill Murray is back among the ghosts. Only this time, it's three against one."
"Bill Murray is back among the ghosts. Only this time, it's three against one."
D: Richard Donner
Paramount/Mirage (Richard Donner & Art Linson)
US 1988
101 mins


W: Mitch Glazer & Michael O'Donoghue [based on the story "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens]
DP: Michael Chapman
Ed: Fredric Steinkamp & William Steinkamp
Mus: Danny Elfman
PD: J. Michael Riva

Bill Murray (Frank Cross), Karen Allen (Claire Phillips), John Forsythe (Lew Hayward), John Glover (Brice Cummings), Alfre Woodard (Grace Cooley), Bobcat Goldthwait (Eliot Loudermilk), Robert Mitchum (Preston Rhinelander)

This contemporary update of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol actually does a very good job recreating the story for the 20th century, starring Bill Murray, wonderfully despicable as a miserly TV executive visited by four ghosts who scare up some Christmas spirit in him and convince him to change his ways.
The ghostly makeup effects in this film are absolutely fantastic and had it not been for Beetlejuice, released the same year, it's almost certain this would have won the Academy Award for that category.
It's hectic, rambunctious fun with a wee dash of Yuletide sentimentality at the end, but the main reason it works is due to Bill Murray's deadpan comedy style. The perfect choice for a Scrooge for modern times.
"In Borstal, survival rules."
"In Borstal, survival rules."
SCUM (18)
D: Alan Clarke
GTO/Berwick Street (Clive Parsons & Davina Belling)
UK 1979
97 mins


W: Roy Minton [based on his television play]
DP: Phil Meheux
Ed: Mike Bradsell

Ray Winstone (Carlin), Mick Ford (Archer), Julian Firth (Davis), John Blundell (Banks)

Originally written and filmed for BBC television, the material was subsequently banned due to the controversial violence. Writer Roy Minton adapted the same story for cinematic release, and the final result ended up being even more violent, with graphic scenes depicting rape, racism and suicide, as well as industrial strength language. I guess censorship simply doesn't work.
Scum is the story of life inside a Borstal boy's prison and the injustices within, culminating in a riot between the inmates and the guards.
Though the material is unashamedly violent, the performances, especially from the younger cast members, are excellent. It's not a pleasant watch, and there's not much point to the story, but it's very understandable to see how it has become a cult classic.

S. DARKO (15)
D: Chris Fisher
20th Century Fox/Silver Nitrate (Adam Fields & Ash R. Shah)
US 2009
103 mins

Science Fiction

W: Nathan Atkins [based on characters created by Richard Kelly]
DP: Marvin V. Rush
Ed: Kent Beyda
Mus: Ed Harcourt

Daveigh Chase (Samantha Darko), Briana Evigan (Corey Corn), Ed Westwick (Randy Holt), James Lafferty (Justin Sparrow)

The S stands for shit.
This 'sequel' to 2001 cult favourite Donnie Darko (qv) borrows some of the same plotlines from the original film and chucks in some religious parables before it just becomes a load of garbled nonsense.
In all honesty, this is a film which should never have been made, but it does answer the question from the first film of how exactly one can suck a fuck.

"Deception is dangerous. Desire is deadly."
"Deception is dangerous. Desire is deadly."
D: Harold Becker
Universal (Martin Bregman & Louis A. Stroller)
US 1989
112 mins


W: Richard Price
DP: Ronnie Taylor
Ed: David Bretherton
Mus: Trevor Jones

Al Pacino (Det. Frank Keller), Ellen Barkin (Helen Cruger), John Goodman (Det. Sherman Touhey), William Hickey (Frank Keller, Sr.), Michael Rooker (Terry Cruger), Richard Jenkins (Gruber)

Al Pacino made some poor choices during the 1980's but finished the decade by reviving his flagging movie career with this tense crime-thriller.
He plays a disillusioned, embittered detective who falls for a main suspect in a murder case (Ellen Barkin) against the better advise of his investigation partner (John Goodman).
All three performances are amongst their very best in this modern noir, which throws in plenty of red herrings which keep you guessing until all is uncovered.
"The true story of a long shot who became a legend."
"The true story of a long shot who became a legend."
D: Gary Ross
Universal (Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Gary Ross & Jane Sindell)
US 2003
141 mins


W: Gary Ross [based on the novel by Laura Hillenbrand]
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: William Goldenberg
Mus: Randy Newman
PD: Jeannine Oppewall
Cos: Judianna Makovsky

Tobey Maguire (Red Pollard), Jeff Bridges (Charles S. Howard), Chris Cooper (Tom Smith), Elizabeth Banks (Marcela Zabala-Howard), Gary Stevens (George Woolf), William H. Macy ('Tick-Tock' McLaughlin)

Eked-out biopic of the Depression Era racehorse who rose from underdog to champion, winning the hearts of millions on it's way to fame and glory.
Though the horse itself is the main star of the picture, the story also focuses on the human characters of Seabiscuit's owner, trainer and the partially-blind jockey who rode him to victory, stretching out the story as much as possible.
It could have fared better had it been half-an-hour shorter, but the production values and sweeping photography make it a beauty to watch, particularly during the exciting race sequences.
A must watch for fans of horse racing.
D: John Ford
Warner Bros. (Merian C. Cooper & C.V. Whitney)
US 1956
119 mins


W: Frank S. Nugent [based on the novel by Alan LeMay]
DP: Winton C. Hoch
Ed: Jack Murray
Mus: Max Steiner

John Wayne (Ethan Edwards), Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Pawley), Vera Miles (Laurie Jorgensen), Ward Bond (Rev. Samuel Clayton), Natalie Wood (Debbie Edwards), John Qualen (Lars Jorgensen), Olive Carey (Mrs. Jorgensen)

Though this 1956 John Wayne classic has proved to be a highly influential film and amongst the favourite movies of several filmmakers (Steven Spielberg included), it isn't necessarily a classic of the western genre and isn't a particularly enjoyable film to watch.
John Ford's film is more a character study against a western setting, with the Duke performing his most multi-layered role as a civil war soldier, returning home to his brother carrying a huge prejudice against the Cherokee tribes. When his brother's family is murdered and niece captured by one of these tribes, he swears revenge and goes in search for those responsible for the abduction.
On the face of it, it's a rather basic Cowboys and Indians revenge tale, but it's only when you scratch beneath the surface that you truly appreciate it for what it truly is. Even the reasons behind John Wayne's characters hatred is explained in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it piece of mis-en-scene. 
It's a film you certainly need to be in the mood for, but has to be categorised as one of the best films of the 1950's, if not all time.

"Every journey begins with a single move."
"Every journey begins with a single move."
D: Steven Zaillian
Paramount/Mirage (Scott Rudin & William Horberg)
US 1993
110 mins


W: Steven Zaillian [based on the novel by Fred Waitzkin]
DP: Conrad L. Hall
Ed: Wayne Wahrman
Mus: James Horner

Joe Mantegna (Fred Waitzkin), Max Pomeranc (Josh Waitzkin), Ben Kingsley (Bruce Pandolfini), Joan Allen (Bonnie Waitzkin), Laurence Fishburne (Vinnie)

A father discovers that his seven-year-old son is a chess prodigy.
Steven Zaillian's film debut as director is a rarity. Focusing on an offbeat subject like chess and making it exciting, even for those not too familiar with the game, while drawing off the drama between the relationship of a father and his son.
All the performances are good, particularly Max Pomeranc as the young boy, but Laurence Fishburne is possibly the biggest standout.
"Ever wonder what your pets do when you're not at home?"
"Ever wonder what your pets do when you're not at home?"
D: Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney
Universal/Illumination (Chris Meledandri & Janet Healy)
US 2016
87 mins


W: Brian Lynch, Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Mus: Alexandre Desplat

voices of: Louis C.K. (Max), Eric Stonestreet (Duke), Kevin Hart (Snowball), Jenny Slate (Gidget), Ellie Kemper (Katie), Albert Brooks (Tiberius)

This animated film's trailer advertises the story as "what your pets get up to when you're not at home", but this representation is breezed over with a selection of pets watching TV and raiding the fridge. The main focus of the story is a carbon copy of Toy Story, except with a pair of dogs instead of Woody and Buzz Lightyear.
A pair of feuding dogs get lost on the streets of New York and try to find their way home while a group of their friends attempt to help.
This is an animated film aimed squarely at young children, and in that respect it's perfectly fine. For adults, however, this has very little in the way of entertainment.

D: Ben Stiller
20th Century Fox/New Line/Red Hour (Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., John Goldwyn, Stuart Cornfeld & Ben Stiller)
US/Canada/UK/Australia 2013
114 mins


W: Steve Conrad [based on a story by James Thurber]
DP: Stuart Dryburgh
Ed: Greg Hayden
Mus: Theodore Shapiro

Ben Stiller (Walter Mitty), Kristen Wiig (Cheryl Melhoff), Shirley MacLaine (Edna Mitty), Adam Scott (Ted Hendricks), Kathryn Hahn (Odessa Mitty), Sean Penn (Sean O'Connell)

Despite this being Ben Stiller's most mature work as director/star, the film isn't really that special.
The film is a remake of a 1947 film starring Danny Kaye, but in this version Stiller plays the title character, a photo archivist at a magazine publisher who escapes from his own mundane existence by daydreaming on a frequent basis, when the negative for the upcoming final issue of the magazine goes missing, Mitty goes on a worldwide quest to relocate it, taking him to Greenland, Iceland and the Himalayas, meeting an array of characters while he pines for the woman of his dreams (Kristen Wiig). The main problem I had with this film was not knowing whether what I was seeing was real or merely a figment of Mitty's imagination and even by the end I was left completely undecided.      
The performances are fine, the photography is excellent and there's some great visuals, but it's not really a great film.
Overall, it felt like an ego trip for Ben Stiller to go sightseeing and hiking up mountains.     
D: Herbert Ross
Universal/Rastar (Herbert Ross)
US 1987
110 mins


W: Jim Cash, Jack Epps & A. J. Carothers
DP: Carlo DiPalma
Ed: Paul Hirsch
Mus: David Foster

Michael J. Fox (Brantley Foster/Carlton Whitfield), Helen Slater (Christy Wills), Richard Jordan (Howard Prescott), Margaret Whitton (Vera Prescott)

One of the more successful yuppie comedies of the mid-1980's, making the most of Michael J. Fox's popularity at the time. 
Fox plays the young man with big dreams in the city, from a humble background in Kansas he sees an opportunity to be an executive at a blue chip company, even from the lowly status of a mailroom boy.
Things get even more complicated however when he gets himself involved with the wife of the boss.
Michael J. Fox's charismatic appeal ensures enjoyment of this comedy, and though yuppie culture was very much a fad of the 1980's, the film still upholds a nostalgic quality.
"Right before your eyes and beyond your wildest dreams".
"Right before your eyes and beyond your wildest dreams".
D: Don Bluth
Aurora (Don Bluth)
US 1982
82 mins


W: Don Bluth, John Pomeroy, Gary Foldman & Will Finn [based on the novel "Mrs. Frisby & The Rats Of Nimh" by Robert C. O'Brien]
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

voices of: Elizabeth Hartman (Mrs. Brisby), Derek Jacobi (Nicodemus), Dom DeLuise (Jeremy the Crow), John Carradine (The Great Owl)

With Disney studios focusing away from animated films towards the late 1970's and early 1980's, some of their most talented animators sought an opportunity to start their own production factory, spearheaded by Don Bluth. 
Their first feature was this fantasy fable about a widowed mouse who seeks the help from Nicomedus, the king of a group of rats, to help her reclaim her stolen land.
Though the animation itself is the kind of standard you'd expect from Disney artists, the narrative is less friendly, especially for young children. 
D: David Koepp
Columbia/Pariah (Gavin Palone)
US 2004
92 mins


W: David Koepp [based on the novel "Secret Window, Secret Garden" by Stephen King]
DP: Fred Murphy
Ed: Jill Savitt
Mus: Philip Glass & Geoff Zanelli

Johnny Depp (Mort Rainey), John Turturro (John Shooter), Maria Bello (Amy Rainey), Charles S. Dutton (Ken Karsch), Timothy Hutton (Ted Milner)

A reclusive writer is stalked by a mysterious stranger adamant that his work has been plaigarised.
The plot alone makes it obvious that this is based on works by Stephen King, and though it isn't amongst the horror scribes best works, this cinematic adaptation is still enjoyable, mostly due to the good performances of the ever reliable Johnny Depp in the lead and an insidiously creepy John Turturro.
Screenwriter David Koepp stretches his trade into directing and presents some rather unique visuals which make up for the transparency of the predictable narrative. Still, he wins kudos for delivering a psychological thriller without a tacked-on Hollywood ending.
"Assume the position."
"Assume the position."


D: Steven Shainberg

Lions Gate/Twopoundbag/Double A (Steven Shainberg, Andrew Fierberg & Amy Hobby)

US 2002

104 mins


W: Erin Cressida Warren [based on the short story 'Bad Behavior' by Mary Gaitskill]

DP: Steven Fierberg

Ed: Pam Wise

Mus: Angelo Badalamenti

James Spader (E. Edward Grey), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Lee Holloway), Jeremy Davies (Peter), Lesley Ann Warren (Joan Holloway), Patrick Bauchau (Dr. Twardon)

This erotically-charged black comedy studies the kinky relationship between a sexually dominant lawyer and his submissive secretary.

Socially awkward, emotionally sensitive and youngest of a hugely dysfunctional family, bookish secretary Lee Holloway starts a new job for perfectionist lawyer E. Edward Grey, whose sexual urges are stirred by her obedience and his disciplinary methods (which would be unlikely to carry him favour at an employment tribunal). 

However, Lee feels empowered by the treatment, gains confidence and desists from self-harming, which would be her usual way of coping with stress.

The film was hugely controversial at the time of release, with criticisms of sexism, but considering the subject material, it's actually very tastefully handled, with an excellent lead performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal, who brings humanity and sexuality to a very challenging role.

It's almost ironic that just over a decade later, a similar theme of sado-masochism would be used in the Fifty Shades Of Grey series of books and be considered romance. At least the relationship presented here is a two-way street, with both consenting adults approving of their mutual desires.


D: Juan Jose Campanella
Sony Pictures Classics/Tornasol (Juan Jose Campanella, Gerardo Herrero & Mariela Besuievski)
Argentina 2009
129 mins


W: Eduardo Sacheri & Juan Jose Campanella [based on the novel "El Pregunta de Sus Ojos" by Eduardo Sacheri]
DP: Felix Monti
Ed: Juan Jose Campanella
Mus: Federico Jusid & Emilio Kauderer

Ricardo Darin (Benjamin Esposito), Soledad Villamil (Irene Menendez Hastings), Guillermo Francella (Pablo Sandoval), Pablo Rago (Ricardo Morales)

A retired lawyer writes a novel of his experiences, hoping to find closure of one of his previous unsolved murder cases. He also reflects upon an affair with a woman who didn't reciprocate his feelings. Two events of his life which still haunt him decades later.
This Argentinian crime thriller was very well reviewed by critics, is amongst the highest rated films on IMDB and won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010, therefore it should be better received here. Unfortunately, the subject matter didn't hold my interest, which is made even worse when it's coupled with the 129 minute length.
There were some amazingly directed shots (an aerial shot of a football match zooms into the crowd to pick out one of the characters was especially impressive) but the story simply didn't immerse me and I found it quite boring.
In all fairness, it probably deserves a re-watch, and I may have to reassess.
D: Mike Leigh
CiBy 2000/Thin Man (Simon Channing-Williams)
UK 1996
142 mins


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

Timothy Spall (Maurice), Brenda Blethyn (Cynthia), Phyllis Logan (Monica), Claire Rushbrook (Roxanne), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Hortense), Elizabeth Berrington (Jane)

An incredibly well-acted soap opera of a British working class family. A successful black woman hopes to find her biological mother, and discovers that she is meek, unmarried white factory worker. Meanwhile, other members of the family have their own skeletons in the closet.
The strengths of this film lie in the fine work of the ensemble cast, particularly Brenda Blethyn. Mike Leigh's filmmaking style isn't the most audience friendly, but this is easily the finest of his works.

D: Michele Saovi
Penta/ADC (Mario Cecchi Gori, Vittorio Cecchi Gori & Dario Argento)
Italy 1991
115 mins


W: Dario Argento, Giovanni Romali & Michele Saovi
DP: Raffaele Mertes
Ed: Franco Fraticelli
Mus: Pino Donaggio

Kelly Curtis (Miriam Kriesl), Herbert Lom (Moebius Kelly), Mariangela Giordiano (Kathryn), Carla Cassola (Dr. Pernath)

Also known as The Devil's Daughter, this English language Italian horror movie was produced and written by Dario Argento, but the directorial reins were handled by Michele Soavi.
The plot concerns a schoolteacher who becomes involved with a group of devil-worshippers who practise human sacrifices.
The film strikes similar themes with some of the Argento's previous works in terms of suspense and atmosphere, but it's no Suspiria (qv).
D: Arthur Hiller
Columbia Tristar (Marvin Worth)
US 1989
102 mins


W: Earl Barret, Arne Sultan, Eliot Ward, Andrew Kurtzman & Gene Wilder
DP: Victor J. Kemper
Ed: Robert C. Jones
Mus: Stewart Copeland

Richard Pryor (Wally Karew), Gene Wilder (Dave Lyons), Joan Severance (Eve), Kevin Spacey (Kirgo), Alan North (Emile Braddock), Anthony Zerbe (Sutherland)

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor reunite once again for this late 1980's comedy favourite. They play a pair of luckless shop workers who witness a murder, the catch is Gene Wilder's character Dave is deaf and Richard Pryor's character Wally is blind. After detectives suspect the pair of the crime, they become fugitives and go on the run in an attempt to root out the real killers.
Gene Wilder & Richard Pryor do make a great double act and with other actors in the leads, this wouldn't have been such an enjoyable film. The script has some moments of incredulity and gets weaker as the film progresses, especially the final act, but Wilder and Pryor are great throughout.
D: Lorene Scafaria
Focus Features/Mandate/Indian Paintbrush (Steve Golin, Joy Gorman, Mark Roybal & Steven M. Rales)
US 2012
101 mins


W: Lorene Scafaria
DP: Tim Orr
Ed: Zene Baker
Mus: Jonathan Sadoff & Rob Simonsen     

Steve Carell (Dodge Petersen), Keira Knightley (Penny Lockhart), Adam Brody (Owen), Melanie Lynsky (Karen), Derek Luke (Alan), William Petersen (Glenn)

A comedy about the apocalypse which could have been decent if A, it was funny, B, it wasn't as boring as watching a banana taking a nap and C, something, anything, happened.
The movie starts quite promisingly, with some satirical dialogue and situations (Steve Carell plays an insurance salesman and there's a glut of people phoning up for Armageddon insurance) and it had me thinking that the theme of this could work for a black comedy. Then, Keira Knightley turns up and the movie takes a downward spiral into absolute bollocks.
She accompanies Carell as he tries to find his long lost love in the final 14 days of the planets existence, but you're wondering why he doesn't just do away with her and her annoyingly chirpy attitude. She has an English accent in this, so she's basically playing herself but her character is absolutely loathsome. 
The movie just becomes absolutely ridiculous and lacks all credibility when these two get together, despite having no chemistry whatsoever and being the most unlikely couple since Brad Pitt & Tom Cruise.
The movie then ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

D: Jay Sandrich
Columbia (Ray Stark)
US 1980
102 mins


W: Neil Simon
DP: David M. Walsh
Ed: Michael A. Stevenson
Mus: Marvin Hamlisch

Goldie Hawn (Glenda Parks), Chevy Chase (Nick Gardenia), Charles Grodin (Ira Parks), Robert Guillaume (Fred), Harold Gould (Judge John Channings), George Grizzard (Stanley)

Bank robber Nick takes refuge from the law with his ex-wife Glenda, a lawyer married to a district attorney who happens to despise him. 
Typical Odd-Couple-esque formula from screenwriter Neil Simon, though the performances aren't quite convincing enough to make this particularly funny and Jay Sandrich's television style direction doesn't make the movie particularly engaging.
It has a couple of moments which raise a smile, but considering the talent involved, it really ought to have been better.
"One dream can change the world."
"One dream can change the world."
SELMA (15)
D: Ava DuVernay
Paramount/Pathé/Plan B/Cloud Eight/Harpo (Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner)
US 2014
128 mins


W: Paul Webb
DP: Bradford Young
Ed: Spencer Averick
Mus: Jason Moran

David Oyelowo (Martin Luther King), Tom Wilkinson (Lyndon B. Johnson), Carmen Ejogo (Coretta Scott King), Tim Roth (Gov. George Wallace), Giovanni Ribisi (Lee C. White), Oprah Winfrey (Annie Lee Cooper)

First off, I'm going to state that David Oyelowo is excellent in this with his portrayal of Martin Luther King, Jr., and probably should received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
There's no "I have a dream" speech and this is not a biopic, rather it's a dramatic recreation of the 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital of Montgomery in favour of the right for voting equality in America, met with violent opposition by Klansmen in the racially-oppressed state.
This ensemble piece also sees fine performances from Tom Wilkinson as then-president Lyndon B. Johnson, juggling the contentious tasks of keeping the peace and the civil rights issues, as well as Carmen Ejogo, who does a very good job with the underwritten role as King's wife.
For those who know the story of American segregation, this story won't tell you anything you don't already know, and is presented as a schoolbook history rather than an in-depth study of the actual events. 
Released very soon after 12 Years A Slave, the drama dipped under the radar somewhat, but was still recognised as one of the best films of the year by the Academy Awards, who shortlisted it as a Best Picture nominee.

"Lose your heart and come to your senses."
"Lose your heart and come to your senses."
D: Ang Lee
Columbia/Mirage (Lindsay Doran)
US/UK 1995
136 mins


W: Emma Thompson [based on the novel by Jane Austen]
DP: Michael Coulter
Ed: Tim Squyres
Mus: Patrick Doyle
PD: Luciana Arrighi
Cos: Jenny Beavan & John Bright

Emma Thompson (Elinor Dashwood), Kate Winslet (Marianne Dashwood), Alan Rickman (Colonel Brandon), Hugh Grant (Edward Ferrars), James Fleet (John Dashwood), Harriet Walter (Fanny Dashwood), Elizabeth Spriggs (Mrs. Jennings), Hugh Laurie (Mr. Palmer), Imelda Staunton (Charlotte Palmer), Imogen Stubbs (Lucy Steele)

The secret of a good period drama is that it should be able to appeal to those who don't necessarily enjoy costume dramas. However, Emma Thompson cast this logic aside when she adapted Jane Austen's literary classic, doubling the age of the main character, Elinor Dashwood, so she could take on the role herself, and it's in that respect, where she succeeds. As a matter of fact, all the performances are excellent, particularly Kate Winslet as younger, more reckless sister Marianne. It's the story itself which is a little too twee and not appealing to those who aren't aficionados of costume drama.
The three Dashwood sisters are left poor by the rules of inheritance following their father's death, and hope to find rich, noble suitors to make matches with and save themselves from poverty.
Relatively conflict-free, there's many cups of tea, tinkling of the piano keys and virtuous, meaningless dialogue.
Harsh, but costume dramas are something you either connect to or don't. I can't deny that it's a fine production of a classic story, but with all the horses and silly hats, I thought I'd tuned in to Royal Ascot.

D: Asghar Farhadi
Sony/Film Iran (Asghar Farhadi)
Iran 2011
123 mins


W: Asghar Farhadi
DP: Mahmoud Kalari
Ed: Hayedeh Safiyari
Mus: Sattar Oraki 

Peyman Moaadi (Nader), Leila Hatami (Simin), Shahab Hosseini (Hodjat), Sareh Bayat (Razieh)

Iran's first winner of the Foreign Language Film Oscar presents a story of a wife attempting to divorce her husband in the devoutly religious country. It's far more an educational film as it is entertainment, but it's a difficult film to enjoy in any respect because of the characters.
Simin wishes to leave the country in light of political events, but her husband, Nadir, refuses to leave with her as he feels obliged to care for his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Issues also arise regarding the custody of their daughter and other family-related business. 
While I admire Farhadi for presenting people as people, and having both likeable and unlikeable qualities, the story doesn't really have a good guy.
If the cultural contrast is of interest to the audience, it will be appreciated, but if you're ambivalent towards Middle Eastern culture then this film will likely be a slog.

"Destiny with a sense of humour."
"Destiny with a sense of humour."
D: Peter Chelsom
Miramax/Tapestry (Simon Fields, Peter Abrams & Robert L. Levy)
US 2001
90 mins


W: Marc Klein
DP: John de Borman
Ed: Christopher Greenbury
Mus: Alan Silvestri

John Cusack (Jonathan Trager), Kate Beckinsale (Sara Thomas), Molly Shannon (Eve), Jeremy Piven (Dean), John Corbett (Lars), Bridget Moynahan (Halley)

On a snowy New York night during the hustle-and-bustle of Christmas shopping, charming gentleman John Cusack coincidentally meets and falls in love with the beautiful and superstitious Kate Beckinsale. They part ways, but years later, as their respective marriages loom, they try to find each other again based on clues they left about each other's identity the night they met.
A romantic comedy which plays the random chance angle to absolute death. Those who believe in the flights of fancy that it presents will find it enjoyable, while the remainder of the audience will just be left frustrated that they didn't just exchange telephone numbers.
"They aim to misbehave."
"They aim to misbehave."
D: Joss Whedon 
Universal (Barry Mendel)
US 2005
119 mins

Science Fiction

W: Joss Whedon [based on the TV series "Firefly"]
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Lisa Lassek
Mus: David Newman
PD: Barry Chusid

Nathan Fillion (Capt. Mal Reynolds), Alan Tudyk (Hoban Washburne), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Summer Glau (River Tam), Gina Torres (Zoe Washburne), Chiwetel Ejiofor (The Operative)

Joss Whedon's TV series Firefly, despite amassing a huge fan base, was cancelled after just one season. Alas, the Phoenix which rose from the flames was this underrated science fiction feature.
The scavengers of spaceship Serenity try to outrun a dangerous assassin, who is trying to capture a telepathic member of their crew, who, unbeknownst to them, is a secret weapon.
This is as fine a TV-cinema crossover as you'll ever see, appealing to both fans of the original source as well as to those who missed it. The visual effects and production design aren't quite as polished as bigger budget productions, but the story more than makes up for it. 
D: John Waters
Guild/Savoy/Polar (John Fiedler & Mark Tarlov)
US 1994
89 mins


W: John Waters
DP: Robert M. Stevens
Ed: Janice Hampton & Erica Huggins
Mus: Basil Poledouris 

Kathleen Turner (Beverly Sutphin), Sam Waterston (Eugene Sutphin), Ricki Lake (Misty Sutphin), Matthew Lillard (Chip Sutphin)

King of camp, writer-director John Waters delivers one of his more accessible films to a wider audience with this 1994 black comedy.
Kathleen Turner stars as a devoted housewife and mother who turns out to be a serial killer.
It's Turner's performance which makes this both entertaining and funny. It's unfortunate that it failed to capture an audience during its cinema release and was subsequently a box office bomb. It's an awful lot better than some of the films which were hits that year.
"Real people in real danger."
"Real people in real danger."
D: Daniel Minahan
Film4/Blowup/Killer (Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Christine Vachon & Katie Roumel)
US 2000
87 mins


W: Daniel Minahan
DP: Randy Drummond
Ed: Malcolm Jamieson
Mus: Girls Against Boys

Brooke Smith (Dawn Lagarto), Glenn Fitzgerald (Jeffrey Norman), Mary-Louise Burke (Connie Trabucco), Richard Venture (Franklin James), Michael Kaycheck (Anthony Reilly), Merritt Weaver (Lindsey Berns)        

An intelligent and unashamedly smug satire on reality TV, in which six strangers participate in a television show in which the winner is the last person standing.
Presented as a mix between documentary and black comedy, it's an interesting film which works very well for the most part, but then fades towards the end. 
The cast is made up of lesser known actors, which almost make it feel more realistic, despite its far-fetched premise.
D: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Focus Features/Studio Canal/Relativity Media/Working Title (Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
US 2009
101 mins


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

Michael Stuhlbarg (Larry Gopnik), Richard Kind (Arthur Gopnik), Fred Melamed (Sy Ableman), Sari Lennick (Judith Gopnik), Amy Landecker (Vivienne Samsky)

The Coen Brothers' take on The Meaning Of Life, which means it doesn't explain itself very much, and, like many of their other movies, is practically a shaggy dog story.
Michael Stuhlbarg stars in the lead role as the man of title, a high school teacher who tries to cling on to his sanity while his life falls apart all around him. 
The Coens' quite unashamedly end the film without any real resolution to leave the viewers scratching their heads as to what it was all about. Perhaps this one is strictly for the fans, as it's highly likely to infuriate everybody else.
"Many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive - an honest cop."
"Many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive - an honest cop."
D: Sidney Lumet
Paramount/Artists Entertainment (Martin Bregman)
US 1973
130 mins


W: Waldo Salt & Norman Wexler [based on the book by Peter Maas]
DP: Arthur J. Ornitz
Ed: Dede Allen
Mus: Mikis Theodorakis

Al Pacino (Frank Serpico), John Randolph (Chief Sidney Green), Jack Kehoe (Tom Keough), Biff McGuire (McClain)

Al Pacino gives one of his career-best performances as Frank Serpico, an honest cop in corrupt precinct who is forced to leave the country after he becomes a whistleblower.
Alarmingly based on a true story, director Sidney Lumet presents a gloomy and violent vision of police corruption.
A must-watch for all Al Pacino fans. This is the movie he should have won an Oscar for (he eventually won in 1992 for Scent Of A Woman).
D: F. Gary Gray
New Line/Peak (Dale Pollock & Oren Koules)
US 1996
122 mins


W: Kate Lanier & Takashi Bufford
DP: Marc Reshovsky
Ed: John Carter
Mus: Christopher Young

Jada Pinkett (Lida 'Stony' Newsom), Queen Latifah (Cleo Sims), Viveca A. Fox (Frankie Sutton), Kimberly Elise (T.T. Williams), John C. McGinley (Det. Strode), Blair Underwood (Keith Weston)

Four Los Angeles women with different financial troubles become bank robbers.
A unique spin on the cops & robbers theme, with a throwback to blaxploitation films of the 1970's.
The acting of the four female stars are all good, and it's Jada Pinkett's finest screen performance by a mile, but Queen Latifah's performance as an unabashed lesbian stands out from the quartet. Personally, I feel she deserved an Oscar nomination for her portrayal.
"Seven deadly sins. Seven ways to die."
"Seven deadly sins. Seven ways to die."
SEVEN (aka SE7EN) (18)
D: David Fincher
New Line (Arnold Kopelson & Phyllis Carlyle)
US 1995
127 mins


W: Andrew Kevin Walker
DP: Darius Khondji
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce
Mus: Howard Shore
PD: Arthur Max

Brad Pitt (Detective David Mills), Morgan Freeman (Detective William Somerset), Richard Roundtree (Talbot), R. Lee Ermey (Captain), Gwyneth Paltrow (Tracy), Kevin Spacey (John Doe)

Seven is without a doubt amongst the best horror movies / psychological thrillers ever made. Trading cheap jump scares for a plot and premise which will haunt you long after the end credits roll.
A homicide detective nearing retirement is partnered with a rookie for his final investigation: a serial killer inspired by the seven deadly sins.
David Fincher's seminal thriller is a work of near genius, helped by an intelligent screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker, dark photography, gripping editing and an ensemble of fantastic performances.
Arguably the best film of it's kind and amongst the finest films of the 1990's.
"They won't take any Shih Tzu."
"They won't take any Shih Tzu."
D: Martin McDonagh
Momentum/CBS/Blueprint/Film4 (Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin & Martin McDonagh)
UK/US 2012
110 mins


W: Martin McDonagh
DP: Ben Davis
Ed: Lisa Gunning
Mus: Carter Burwell

Colin Farrell (Marty Faranan), Sam Rockwell (Billy Bickle), Christopher Walken (Hans Kieslowski), Woody Harrelson (Charlie Costello), Tom Waits (Zachariah Rigby), Abbie Cornish (Kaya), Olga Kurylenko (Angela)

A Tarantino-inspired black comedy & anti-Hollywood gangster movie from the writer-director of In Bruges.  It's much alike the wave of films which emerged following the popularity of Pulp Fiction in the mid 90's, with a great ensemble cast of seasoned actors. Christopher Walken steals this movie as an ageing psychopath who makes a living stealing dogs in order to claim the reward.
This movie was very badly reviewed at the time of it's release. I think it was quite underrated. It's not as good or funny as In Bruges, but still it's a good watch with many in-jokes and self references.

D: Akira Kurosawa
Toho (Shojiro Motoki)
Japan 1954
200 mins


W: Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni & Akira Kurosawa
DP: Asakazu Nakai
Ed: Akira Kurosawa
Mus: Fumio Hayasaka
PD: Takashi Matsuyama
Cos: Kohei Ezaki

Takashi Shimura (Kambei Shimada), Toshiro Mifune (Kikuchiyo), Yoshio Inaba (Gorōbei Katayama), Seiji Miyaguchi (Kyūzo), Minoru Chiaki (Heihachi Hayashida), Daisuke Kato (Shichirōji), Isao Kimura (Katsushiro Okamoto)

No oriental filmmaker has been more influential to Hollywood than Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa and The Seven Samurai is without doubt his finest work and arguably the best film export ever to come from the shores of Japan. Kurosawa's follow-up film (The Hidden Fortress) provided much inspiration for Star Wars, whilst this film was remade as the western, The Magnificent Seven (and also spoofed in ¡Three Amigos!).
The story tells of a poor village who hire the seven warriors to protect them and their crops from a mob of bandits who frequently ransack their land, ending in an epic battle between the bandits and the noble samurai.
It may not sound anything special and the running time may seem rather drawn out, but this could possibly be credited as the first ever action movie and it's still as good as it ever was over 60 years later.
All the performances are fantastic, but the scene-stealing turn from Toshiro Mifune as a samurai imposter is easily the most memorable.
A foreign language classic that deserves to be on everybody's 'must watch list'.


D: Billy Wilder

20th Century Fox (Charles K. Feldman & Billy Wilder)

US 1955

105 mins


W: George Axelrod & Billy Wilder [based on the play by George Axelrod]

DP: Milton Krasner

Ed: Hugh S. Fowler

Mus: Alfred Newman

PD: Lyle Wheeler & George W. Davis 

Cos: Travilla & Charles LeMaire

Marilyn Monroe (The Girl), Tom Ewell (Richard Sherman), Evelyn Keyes (Helen Sherman), Sonny Tutts (Tom McKenzie), Oscar Homolka (Dr. Brubaker)

Although this film features one of Marilyn Monroe's most iconic moments on the silver screen, it has not dated well at all. A rarity for a Billy Wilder film.

Tom Ewell may not get top billing but he plays the lead role of Richard Sherman, a publisher whose wife and son have gone on holiday for the summer, while he stays at their Manhattan apartment where a beautiful tenant (known only as 'The Girl') subletting the room upstairs becomes the object of his infatuation and a series of imaginary moments transpire between the two. 

Though the film captures the culture and mannerisms of the 1950's, it's far too twee by modern standards and just doesn't dare to be brave enough. 


'71 (15)
D: Yann Demange
Studio Canal/Crab Apple/Film4/Warp Films (Angus Lamont & Robin Gutch)
UK 2014
99 mins


W: Gregory Burke
DP: Tat Radcliffe
Ed: Chris Wyatt
Mus: David Holmes

Jack O'Connell (Gary Hook), Richard Dormer (Eamon), Charlie Murphy (Brigid), David Wilmot (Boyle), Sean Harris (Capt. Sandy Browning)

'71 is a solid debut feature from director Yann Demange, who shoots his film with documentary-style realism as it dramatises real life events.
Set during the Northern Ireland riots of 1971, a British soldier is separated from his unit during civil disturbances and finds himself in a fight for survival while the political unrest continues.
All the performances in the film are good, especially Jack O'Connell in the lead, but, sadly, many of the supporting characters are underwritten. 

D: Michael Patrick King
New Line/HBO (Darren Star, John Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker & Michael Patrick King)
US/Germany 2008
145 mins


W: Michael Patrick King [based on the television show by Darren Star; novel by Candace Bushnell]
DP: John Thomas
Ed: Michael Berenbaum
Mus: Aaron Zigman

Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones), Kristin Davis (Charlotte York Goldenblatt), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes)

From the long-running TV series featuring the same actresses and same characters- three prostitutes and their mum, according to Family Guy. I have no idea, I didn't watch the programme and had absolutely no interest in it.
The big screen treatment sees a New York journalist jilted at the altar by the man she had settled with at the show's conclusion and she must find love again with the help of her sexually liberal girlfriends... so it's basically a feature-length version of the television programme, I guess.
For fans of the show only. I certainly didn't like it.
SEX & THE CITY 2 (15)
D: Michael Patrick King
Warner Bros./New Line/HBO (Darren Star, John Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker & Michael Patrick King)
US 2010
146 mins


W: Michael Patrick King [based on the television show by Darren Star; novel by Candace Bushnell]
DP: John Thomas
Ed: Michael Berenbaum
Mus: Aaron Zigman

Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones), Kristin Davis (Charlotte York Goldenblatt), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes)

Three prostitutes and their mum act like promiscuous tramps in a Middle Eastern country, disrespecting the country and its culture on their sexual quest to find their perfect man. 
Like the first film, this will only be appreciated by those who enjoyed the TV show. Even so, this sequel is pushing the boundaries of what can be classed as entertainment... and not in a good way.
D: Steven Soderbergh
Virgin/Outlaw (Robert Newmyer & John Hardy)
US 1989
100 mins


W: Steven Soderbergh
DP: Walt Lloyd
Ed: Steven Soderbergh
Mus: Cliff Martinez

James Spader (Graham Dalton), Andie MacDowell (Ann Bishop Mullany), Peter Gallagher (John Mullany), Laura San Giacomo (Cynthia Patrice Bishop)     

Steven Soderbergh's debut is still amongst his best films, proving his skills as both an all-round filmmaker as he takes on the duties as screenwriter, director and film editor.
James Spader delivers one of his best performances, portraying an especially difficult character who may have seemed sordid and perverse considering the subject matter if it were entrusted to a different actor.
Spader plays a peculiar man who likes to interview women about their sexual history for his own pleasure and education. He visits his old college friend whose marriage is in turmoil and causes an even further rift in the already untrustworthy relationship.
Some might argue that this conversation piece would work better as a stage play, but that didn't bother the jury at Cannes Film Festival, who bestowed it with the Palme d'Or for Best Film.
It's a lot better than it sounds.
D: Gough Lewis
Metrodome/Coffee House/Omni/Greycat (Hugh F. Curry, Dave Whitten & Gough Lewis)
US/Canada 1999
87 mins


DP: Jim Michaels, Kelly Morris, Gough Lewis & Tony Monroe
Ed: Kelly Morris

Grace Quek (Annabel Chong)

An equally depressing and engrossing documentary focusing on Grace Quek, a pornographic actress who, under the name Annabel Chong, performed in a film in which she set a new record by having sex with 251 men.
It's not so much the content of the documentary that's disturbing, but more the attitude of its star, who believes her actions will empower her, but ultimately leave her self-deluded, especially after another porn actress beat the record a short time after.
"Sometimes it's hard to say no."
"Sometimes it's hard to say no."
D: Jonathan Glazer
Fox Searchlight/Film Four/Recorded (Jeremy Thomas)
UK/Spain/US 2000 [released 2001]
88 mins


W: Louis Mellis & David Scinto
DP: Ivan Bird
Ed: John Scott & Sam Sneade
Mus: Roque Baños

Ray Winstone (Gary Dove), Ben Kingsley (Don Logan), Ian McShane (Teddy Bass), Amanda Redman (Deedee Dove), James Fox (Harry)

A cockney thief who has retired with his wife on the Costa del Sol is forced into doing one last job by an overbearing & vicious gangster.
Enjoyable twist on an old chestnut, featuring a scene-stealing performance from Ben Kingsley which must be ranked amongst the finest portrayals of a villain in cinema history. It's especially impressive considering this is the same actor who played Gandhi.
D: Jonathan Lynn
Universal/Imagine (Brian Grazer)
US 1996
94 mins


W: Andy Breckman [based on the television show created by Nat Hiken]
DP: Peter Soya
Ed: Tony Lombardo
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Steve Martin (Sgt. Ernest Bilko), Dan Aykroyd (Col. John T. Hall), Phil Hartman (Maj. Colin Thorn), Glenne Headly (Rita Robbins), John Marshall Jones (Sgt. Henshaw)

Based on characters & sketches from The Phil Silvers Show (1955-59), this miscast update for cinema puts Steve Martin in the title characters shoes, who must outsmart an old rival army major and put his new recruits through training.
It's quite lazily written, with old-fashioned humour and obvious jokes. 
D: Alfred Hitchcock
Universal (Jack H. Skirball)
US 1943
108 mins


W: Thornton Wilder, Sally Benson & Alma Reville [based on a story by Gordon McDonell]
DP: Joe Valentine
Ed: Milton Carruth
Mus: Dimitri Tiomkin

Joseph Cotten (Charlie Oakley), Teresa Wright (Charlotte 'Charlie' Newton), Hume Cronyn (Herbie Hawkins), Macdonald Carey (Det. Jack Graham), Patricia Collinge (Emma Newton), Henry Travers (Joseph Newton)

Classic Hitchcock suspense with a fantastically creepy leading performance from Joseph Cotten.  He plays the mysterious "Uncle Charlie" who boards a train to stay with his sister and her family in a small Californian town, meanwhile detectives are snooping, trying to get information on him as they try to solve the mystery of the "Merry Widow Strangler".
The movie mainly concentrates on Uncle Charlie and his adoring niece (a great performance from Teresa Wright) and their deteriorating relationship as she discovers unsavoury truths about him.
Hitchcock once admitted this was his favourite of his films. Personally, I prefer Vertigo, Psycho & North By Northwest, but it's still a great example of the legendary directors work.
D: E. Elias Merhige
Lions Gate/Metrodome/Saturn/Long Shot/BBC (Nicolas Cage & Jeff Levine)
US/UK/Luxembourg 2000
93 mins


W: Steven Katz
DP: Lou Bogue
Ed: Chris Wyatt
Mus: Dan Jones
PD: Assheton Gorton
Cos: Caroline de Vivaise

John Malkovich (F.W. Murnau), Willem Dafoe (Max Schreck), Cary Elwes (Fritz Arno Wagner), John Aden Gillet (Henrik Galeen), Eddie Izzard (Gustav von Wangenheim), Udo Kier (Albin Grau)

An interesting and original spin on horror, which was appreciated far more on the art house circuit than it was by a more conventional audience.
John Malkovich plays F. W. Murnau, the German director of 1922's Nosferatu, who muses on hiring a real vampire for his masterpiece of horror filmmaking and discovers the ethereal Max Shreck, brilliantly portrayed by Willem Dafoe.
It's very much a film buff's film, with an idea which is better in theory than it is on film. Nevertheless, it utilises some excellent production values to tell its story which has a satirical moral that it was the director who was the true monster of the classic horror.
"Love is the only inspiration."
"Love is the only inspiration."
D: John Madden
UIP/Miramax/Universal/Bedford Falls (David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick & Mark Norman)
UK/US 1998
113 mins


W: Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard
DP: Richard Greatrex
Ed: David Gamble
Mus: Stephen Warbeck
PD: Martin Childs
Cos: Sandy Powell

Joseph Fiennes (William Shakespeare), Gwyneth Paltrow (Viola de Lesseps), Geoffrey Rush (Philip Henslowe), Colin Firth (Lord Wessex), Ben Affleck (Ned Alleyn), Judi Dench (Queen Elizabeth I), Simon Callow (Edmund Tilney)

Suffering from writer's block while writing what is to become Romeo & Juliet, a young and broke William Shakespeare falls in love with a heiress who inspires him to complete his iconic work, whilst she resorts to cross-dressing in order to appear in it.
Though the work is original fiction, Tom Stoppard & Marc Norman's witty screenplay draws on other Shakespearean references, various theatrical conventions and modern day English culture, but is practically a rejig of the plot of Romeo & Juliet.
It's a film in love with love, but also in love with the power of theatre, with solid performances from its cast and a period design that transports the audience directly into the heart of 16th Century Elizabethan London.
All the performances are good, though Gwyneth Paltrow is more convincing at playing highborn Viola de Lessops rather than the boy Thomas Kent and the film is practically stolen away by Judi Dench, despite only having a few minutes on-screen as Queen Elizabeth I. 
"What's a little murder between friends?"
"What's a little murder between friends?"
D: Danny Boyle
Gramercy/Polygram/Channel 4 (Andrew MacDonald)
UK 1994
92 mins


W: John Hodge
DP: Brian Tufano
Ed: Masahiro Hirakubo
Mus: Simon Boswell

Kerry Fox (Juliet Miller), Christopher Ecclestone (David Stevens), Ewan McGregor (Alex Law), Ken Stott (McCall), Keith Allen (Hugo)

A stylish suspense thriller which created a new wave of British movies and saw actor Ewan McGregor & director Danny Boyle make their debuts.
In Glasgow, a group of friends make the alarming discovery that their new tenant has died, leaving a large suitcase of money, but rather than inform the police, they decide to dispose of the body and keep the cash.
The energetic style and atmospheric suspense overshadow some of the films less finer moments, such as unconvincing character developments (Christopher Ecclestone's descent into paranoia happens far too quickly). Still, it's an iconic piece of 1990's British cinema and opened floodgates to a new host of filmmaking talent.
"The biggest love story ever told."
"The biggest love story ever told."
D: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly
20th Century Fox/Conundrum (Bradley Thomas, Charles B. Wessler, Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly)
US 2001
114 mins


W: Sean Moynihan, Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly
DP: Russell Carpenter
Ed: Christopher Greenbury
Mus: William Goodrum & Ivy

Jack Black (Hal Larson), Gwyneth Paltrow (Rosemary Shanahan), Jason Alexander (Mauricio Wilson), Joe Viterelli (Steve Shanahan), Bruce McGill (Rev. Larson), Susan Ward (Jill)

Jack Black, on a high following his breakthrough performance in High Fidelity (qv), is cast in the lead role in this bad taste comedy. He plays a chauvinistic womaniser who is hypnotised to recognise the inner beauty of the opposite sex and falls in love with a 300lb woman whom he sees as slender.
Considering this is a Farrelly Brothers' film, it's bound to offend someone and takes oversize people as its prey with no apologies. The moral of the film makes up for a little of the bad taste humour, but it still feels a little like bullying.
SHAME (18)
D: Steve McQueen
Momentum/See-Saw/Film4/Alliance (Iain Canning & Emile Sherman)
UK 2011
101 mins


W: Steve McQueen & Abi Morgan
DP: Sean Bobbitt
Ed: Joe Walker
Mus: Harry Escott

Michael Fassbender (Brandon Sullivan), Carey Mulligan (Sissy Sullivan), James Badge Dale (David), Nicole Beharie (Marianne)

Sex is an addiction, shown here the way alcoholism was displayed in Leaving Las Vegas (qv) and drug addiction was in Requiem For A Dream (qv), without boundries, warts & all.
Michael Fassbender is excellent as Brandon, a philanderous man whose existence consists of walking around his apartment naked, cold showers, internet pornography and casual sex with numerous (& multiple) partners. His entire being is thrown into chaos when his sister (played by the always-excellent Carey Mulligan) has to stay with him following her own troubles in her life.
It's a compelling, captivating watch exceptionally directed by Steve McQueen (no not that one).
It is beyond me why Michael Fassbender's performance didn't garner him a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars.
Definitely the most provocative movie of recent years.


D: Hal Ashby

Columbia (Warren Beatty)

US 1975

109 mins


W: Robert Towne & Warren Beatty

DP: László Kovacs

Ed: Robert C. Jones

Mus: Paul Simon

PD: Richard Sylbert

Warren Beatty (George Roundy), Julie Christie (Jackie Shawn), Goldie Hawn (Jill), Lee Grant (Felicia Carr), Jack Warden (Lester Carr), Carrie Fisher (Lorna Carr)

Casual sex in Beverly Hills, starring Warren Beatty as a lethario hairdresser who uses his skills to seduce his more glamorous clients. 

The seedy story attempts to be more high class by setting its events on the eve of the 1968 political election, but it's really just a sex farce with Warren Beatty doing his usual act.

Lee Grant delivers the film's best performance as the wife of a politician, and the script features some good dialogue, but it hasn't dated particularly well. Soapy stuff.


D: George Stevens
Paramount (George Stevens)
US 1953
118 mins


W: A. B. Guthrie, Jr. [based on the novel by Jack Schaefer]
DP: Loyal Griggs
Mus: Victor Young

Alan Ladd (Shane), Jean Arthur (Marian Starrett), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Jack Palance (Jack Wilson), Brandon de Wilde (Joey Starrett), Ben Johnson (Chris Calloway)

Archetypal, classic Hollywood Western, starring Alan Ladd in the iconic title role as a mysterious stranger who protects a ranch family from a group of bandits, headed by Jack Palance with a chiseled hard man performance (which he went on to parody in 1991's City Slickers).
There have been many imitations on the same story, but none come better than the original. A deserved nominee for the Best Picture Oscar for 1953.


D: Guillermo del Toro

Fox Searchlight/TSG/Double Dare You (Guillermo del Toro & J. Miles Dale)

US 2017

123 mins


W: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor

DP: Dan Laustsen

Ed: Sidney Wolinsky

Mus: Alexandre Desplat

PD: Paul D. Austerberry

Cos: Luis Sequera

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito), Michael Shannon (Col. Richard Strickland), Richard Jenkins (Giles), Octavia Spencer (Zelda Fuller), Michael Stuhlbarg (Dr. Robert Hoffstetler), Doug Jones (The Amphibian Man)

Guillermo del Toro may owe a debt of gratitude to other filmmakers and their visions, particularly French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but this 2017 fantasy romance does have enough originality of its own to escape any allegations of plagiarism. 

Sally Hawkins really shines in the lead role of Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner at a government laboratory in 1960's Baltimore, where the new asset is an aquatic creature which the military plan to experiment on to give them an edge in the race for space.

Initially hostile, the amphibian man soon becomes able to communicate with Elisa and a unique romance develops between the two, threatened by the monstrous army colonel in charge of the operation, but Elisa also finds assistance in the form of her gay next door neighbour and her co-worker who provides a voice for her.

The direction, cast, music and technical achievements are all excellent and the visuals are a marvel to behold. The amphibian man is basically the Creature From The Black Lagoon with a better physique, but it's refreshing that the creation was mostly done with practical effects rather than CGI. 

Certainly one of the best films of 2017, reflected by its deserved haul of 13 Academy Award nominations.


D: Anthony C. Ferrante
Asylum (David Michael Latt)
US 2013
86 mins


W: Thunder Levin
DP: Ben Demaree
Ed: William Boodell
Mus: Ramin Kousha

Tara Reid (April Wexler), Ian Ziering (Fin Shepard), John Heard (George), Cassie Scerbo (Nova Clarke)

This is one of the worst things ever.
Some drugged up movie executive must have watched The Perfect Storm & Jaws and thought "Hmmm... These two movies would be great if they were spliced together"
No! Just no!! Even for TV movie purposes, this is terrible.
I can understand Tara Reid needing work so bad that she'd star in trash like this, but John Heard???? That guy's slumming. Maybe he took this on because he lost a bet.
It angers me that crap like this get past the green light stage when there are perfectly good screenplays that are currently sitting on slush piles around the world, not to mention the conveyor belt of sequels which hastily followed (none of which deserve a review).
Cult movie or not, it's beyond me how people consider this entertainment.
"Read between the lies."
"Read between the lies."
D: Billy Ray
Lions Gate/Forest Park (Craig Baumgarten, Adam Merims, Gaye Hirsch & Tove Christensen)
US 2003
90 mins


W: Billy Ray [based on the article by H.G.  Bissinger]
DP: Mandy Walker
Ed: Jeffrey Ford
Mus: Mychael Danna

Hayden Christensen (Stephen Glass), Peter Sarsgaard (Charles Lane), Chloë Sevigny (Caitlin Avey), Rosario Dawson (Andy Fox), Melanie Lynskey (Amy Brand), Hank Azaria (Michael Kelly), Steve Zahn (Adam Penenberg)

An interesting drama based on real life events. What's more interesting is that Hayden Christensen's best screen performance is that of a devious, conniving liar. That being said, there are still occasions when he's wooden, but this movie succeeds in spite of his one-dimensional performance as Stephen Glass, an ambitious journalist for a reputable magazine who will do anything for a story that sells, even fabricating the sensationalist events completely.
Kudos have to go to the sharply written screenplay and the supporting cast of Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny, Hank Azaria & Steve Zahn.
An insightful window into the world of print media & the desperation of journalists who work within.
"Ever felt like you were surrounded by zombies?"
"Ever felt like you were surrounded by zombies?"
D: Edgar Wright
Universal/Working Title (Nira Park)
UK/US/France 2004
99 mins


W: Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright
DP: David Dunlap
Ed: Chris Dickens
Mus: Daniel Mudford & Pete Woodhead

Simon Pegg (Shaun), Nick Frost (Ed), Kate Ashfield (Liz), Lucy Davis (Dianne), Dylan Moran (David), Penelope Wilson (Barbara), Bill Nighy (Philip), Jessica Stevenson (Yvonne)

Good spirited parody of zombie movies with a vein of quintessential British humour which managed to be appreciated on both sides of the Atlantic.
Loveable slacker shop assistant Shaun hatches a plan to survive the zombie apocalypse, merely involving taking refuge with his friends and family in a North London pub.
Introducing cinema audiences to a fresh comedy partnership of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, the comedy was the first in a series of films which later became known as the "Cornetto Trilogy" (with Hot Fuzz & The World's End).
It's a simple story for fanboys of the genre, but just so happened to reach out to a wider audience and became immensily well-received and enjoyed.
"Catch them if ewe can."
"Catch them if ewe can."
D: Mark Burton & Richard Starzak
StudioCanal/Aardman (Paul Kewley & Julie Lockhart)
UK 2015
85 mins


W: Mark Burton & Richard Starzak [based on characters created by Nick Park]
Mus: Ilan Eshkeri

voices of: Justin Fletcher (Shaun), John Sparkes (Bitzer), Omid Djalili (Trumper)

Though this may be based on a TV show which is aimed at children, adults can enjoy this just as much, if not more so, especially those who are fans of other Aardman animated films like Wallace & Gromit or Chicken Run.
The rather simple story sees Shaun and his family of sheep need to rescue their amnesiac farmer from the big city after their mischief to get out of a sheering goes wrong.
It doesn't matter if you're unfamiliar with the happenings on the TV show, the plot here is completely standalone and though there's no dialogue aside from onomatopoeic sounds, there's still plenty to enjoy simply because of the imaginative animation techniques.
It's very understandable why this was honoured with an Oscar nomination in the Best Animated Feature category.

"Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free."
"Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free."
D: Frank Darabont
Columbia/Castle Rock (Niki Marvin)
US 1994
142 mins


W: Frank Darabont [based on the novella "Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King]
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Terence Marsh
Cos: Elizabeth McBride

Tim Robbins (Andy Dufresne), Morgan Freeman (Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding), Bob Gunton (Warden Norton), William Sadler (Heywood), Clancy Brown (Captain Hadley), Gil Bellows (Tommy), James Whitmore (Brooks Hatlen)

If a film could ever be described as "cinema heaven", The Shawshank Redemption would find that accolade fitting.
Faithfully adapted from Stephen King's short story, this prison drama charts the friendship of two men serving life sentences, one a banker, serving two back-to-back for the crime of killing his adulterous wife & her lover, which he claims he didn't commit.
The friendship between the two men acclimatises them to life in the brutal Shawshank prison, where the warden and guards are equally corrupt, using the banker's tax knowledge to defraud. 
The story has a wonderful gift of taking the audience through a variety of emotions before settling with a joyous fade out which is one of the only deviations from the book.         
The Shawshank Redemption has become a bit of a curiousity with its interesting life, failing to make any waves at the box office on its original release, but still being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It found its real audience on VHS and TV, and has since been voted the best film of all time by many sources, including IMDB, where it has held the #1 position for several years.
There might be some who find the bromance between the two main characters schmaltzy and unrealistic, but one can only summise that these are the people who simply don't believe in the true magic of the movies.
"Revenge is sweet... and low."
"Revenge is sweet... and low."
D: Susan Siedelman
Rank/Orion (Jonathan Brett & Susan Siedelman)
US 1989
99 mins


W: Barry Strugatz & Mark R. Burns [based on the novel "The Life & Loves Of A She-Devil" by Fay Weldon]
DP: Oliver Stapleton
Ed: Craig McKay
Mus: Howard Shore

Rosanne Barr (Ruth Patchett), Meryl Streep (Mary Fisher), Ed Begley, Jr. (Bob Patchett), Sylvia Miles (Mrs. Fisher), Linda Hunt (Hooper)

Unpleasantly mean-spirited black comedy in which ugly housewife Roseanne Barr plans a strategically measured revenge plot against her adulterous husband and the romance novelist he cheated with.
There's no protagonist here. Both Roseanne Barr & Meryl Streep's characters are both unpleasant as each other, while Ed Begley, Jr's weak character can only best be described as weaselly. 
For women's lib and equality it attempts to make a statement, but the sour comedy perhaps works best as a novel.
"Holmes for the holidays."
"Holmes for the holidays."
D: Guy Ritchie
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow (Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Dan Lin & Susan Downey)
UK/US 2009
128 mins


W: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham & Simon Kinberg [based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle]
DP: Philippe Rouselott
Ed: James Herbert
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler), Mark Strong (Lord Henry Blackwood), Eddie Marsan (Lestrade), Kelly Reilly (Mary Morstan)

Enthusiasts of the original Arthur Conan Doyle novels perhaps won't be as fond of this umpteenth take on cinema's most portrayed character, in which Sherlock is a slovenly, bare-knuckle fighting drunkard, to which Robert Downey, Jr. fits the part incredibly well. His performance, in fact, cannot be faulted, it's the boringly plotted screenplay and poor direction where the film's weaknesses lie.
The novel approach is squarely for the popcorn market, and though the performances, production design and costumes are pleasing, the geographical errors in continuity are something which cannot be forgiven, especially from a "true cockney" like Guy Ritchie in the director's chair.
D: Guy Ritchie
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow (Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Dan Lin & Susan Downey)
UK/US 2011
129 mins


W: Michelle Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney [based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle]
DP: Philippe Rouselott
Ed: James Herbert
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes), Jude Law (Dr. John Watson), Noomi Rapace (Madame Simza Heron), Jared Harris (Prof. James Moriarty), Paul Anderson (Sebastian Moran), Stephen Fry (Mycroft Holmes)

Perhaps the title "Sherlock Holmes: Dead Man's Chest" would have been a more apt title since this is closer in style and substance to the Pirates Of The Caribbean films rather than anything Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would write. All that's missing are Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom & Keira Knightley from the cast.
Ironically, the story is an improvement on the first film, but it's still Guy Ritchie's flashy direction which is the shortest straw. Robert Downey, Jr.'s scene-stealing performance deserved a better film really.
D: Robert Iscove
Miramax/Tapestry/Film Colony (Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy & Richard Gladstein)
US 1999
96 mins


W: R. Lee Fleming, Jr. [based on the play "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw]
DP: Francis Kenny
Ed: Casey O. Rohrs
Mus: Stewart Copeland

Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Zack Siler), Rachael Leigh Cook (Laney Boggs), Matthew Lillard (Brock Hudson), Paul Walker (Dean Sampson), Jodi Lynn O'Keefe (Taylor Vaughan), Kevin Pollak (Wayne Boggs), Anna Paquin (Mac Siler)

A contemporary update on George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" for the 90's kids. 
The high school jock takes on a bet to turn the geekiest girl at school into one of the cool kids and away from a life of nerdism and poetry, which are the only attributes of ugly people (apparently).
Moderately entertaining for an MTV audience. Its biggest flaw is that she really isn't all that, and neither is he.
D: Stan Dragoti
Columbia Tristar/Weintraub (Stephen Deutsch)
US 1989
95 mins


W: Seth Winston & Michael J. Nathanson
DP: Donald Peterman
Ed: Dov Hoenig
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Tony Danza (Doug Simpson), Ami Dolenz (Katie Simpson), Laura Mooney (Bonnie Simpson), Catherine Hicks (Janet Pearson), Wallace Shawn (Dr. Fishbinder)

Tony Danza takes his persona from TV's Who's The Boss? for this 1989 vehicle, tailor made for him.
A doting father's biggest fears come real when his daughter is old enough to start dating.
Sitcom material which hasn't dated well and wasn't particularly memorable on its original release. One for the guilty pleasure library.
SHINE (15)
D: Scott Hicks
Miramax/AFFC/Momentum (Jane Scott) 
Australia/UK 1996
105 mins


W: Jan Sardi
DP: Geoffrey Simpson 
Ed: Pip Karmel
Mus: David Hirschfelder

Geoffrey Rush (David Helfgott - adult), Armin Mueller-Stahl (Peter Helfgott), Noah Taylor (David - young man), Lynn Redgrave (Gillian), Googie Withers (Katharine Susannah Prichard)

Geoffrey Rush deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of David Helfgott in this excellent biopic of the mentally-fractured pianist.
The story focuses on two stages of the musician's life, initially as an aspiring young man, when his talents are pushed too far by his holocaust-survivor father. Following a mental breakdown and many years in a care home, David makes his comeback with his piano-tinkling excellence.
Though the film pussyfoots around the subject of mental instability, the drama is still prevalent in the many other key scenes. The acting of the ensemble as a whole is excellent, but it's very easy to see why Geoffrey Rush's performance earned all the plaudits.

D: Stanley Kubrick
Warner Bros. (Stanley Kubrick)
UK 1980
146 mins


W: Stanley Kubrick & Diane Johnson [based on the novel by Stephen King]
DP: John Alcott
Ed: Ray Lovejoy
Mus: Bela Bartok & Wendy Carlos
PD: Roy Walker
Cos: Milena Canonero

Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrance), Danny Lloyd (Danny Torrance), Scatman Crothers (Halloran), Barry Nelson (Ullman), Philip Stone (Grady), Joseph Turkel (Lloyd)

Stanley Kubrick's ambiguous interpretation of Stephen King's classic novel is itself very much open to interpretation from the audience, failing to explain itself and leaving many questions unanswered. Still, this only adds to atmospheric creepiness and mystery of the film, and though it wasn't quite appreciated when it was first released, its reputation has seen named amongst the finest horror films of all time.
Writer Jack Torrance (Nicholson) takes a caretaker job at an off-season hotel with his wife and young, psychic son, but the secluded location affects his mental stability and he begins to witness strange occurrances, including ghostly figures, who only add to his deranged state and convince him to murder his family.
Kubrick's obsessively-compulsive directorial style is well documented, as is his gruelling shoot on this film, but it's his vision, so he can make the film however he wants and it's his style of filmmaking which makes up for the fact that only a small portion of the events in the book were used in this adaptation.
There are many internet theories that the film is an allegory for Kubrick filming the Apollo 11 moon landings, which itself is completely open to interpretation.
Stephen King is also known to have been disappointed with this adaptation, calling it a "luxury car with no engine", to which he may have a point, but there's no escaping the fact that the movie has a huge iconic status, and still referenced in popular culture over 30 years later.
D: Stanley Kramer
Columbia (Stanley Kramer)
US 1965
148 mins


W: Abby Mann [based on the novel by Katherine Anne Porter]
DP: Ernest Laszlo
Ed: Robert C. Jones
Mus: Ernest Gold
PD: Robert Clatworthy
Cos: Bill Thomas & Jean Louis

Vivien Leigh (Mary Treadwell), Simone Signoret (La Condesa), Jose Ferrer (Rieber), Lee Marvin (Tenny), Oskar Werner (Dr. Schumann), Elizabeth Ashley (Jenny), George Segal (David), Michael Dunn (Glocken)

A melodramatic soap opera set at sea, where a ship sailing from Mexico to Germany in 1933 has a rich complement of characters, each with their own story, status and prejudices. 
There's a few stories which director Stanley Kramer has to keep afloat, and though the source material would probably work better as a book, this adaptation is probably as good as what could have been made at the time, without the use of clichéd narration.
The ship's company sees a German, a Jew, a coquette heiress, an expatriate countess, a terminally ill doctor, a racist cowboy, a passionless newlywed couple, a dwarf, a prostitute and a large horde of Cuban peasants, all with their own story which unfolds during the voyage.
The film tackles a lot of subjects, with just as many metaphors, the chief one being the rise of fascism in the prelude to the Second World War. 

D: Wes Craven
Carolco/Alive (Marianne Maddalena & Barin Kumar)
US 1989
110 mins


W: Wes Craven
DP: Jacques Haitkin
Ed: Andy Blumenthal
Mus: William Goldstein

Michael Murphy (Lt. Don Parker), Peter Berg (Jonathan Parker), Camille Cooper (Alison Clemens), Mitch Pileggi (Horace Pinker)

An unoriginal and routine horror, quite obviously modelled on the same director's Nightmare On Elm Street (qv) in both story and style.
A psychopathic serial killer's spirit lives on following his execution by electric chair and he wreaks vengeance on those responsible for his death sentence.
The same year saw the release of House III (qv) which utilised exactly the same plot.  
All in all, it's not totally unfair to say that this is Wes Craven's shocker. He's capable of much, much better.
"Just another family man making a living."
"Just another family man making a living."
D: Michael Davis 
Alliance (Susan Mountford, Don Murphy & Rick Benattar)
US 2007
86 mins


W: Michael Davis
DP: Peter Pau
Ed: Peter Amundson
Mus: Paul Haslinger

Clive Owen (Smith), Monica Bellucci (Donna Quintano), Paul Giamatti (Hertz), Stephen McHattie (Hammerson)   

A ridiculously over-the-top homage to both Hong Kong action cinema and shoot-em-up video games with a higher body count than actual lines of dialogue.
A mysterious carrot-chomping vigilante (Clive Owen) rescues a pregnant woman from an assassination, delivers the baby, and cares for it after she passes away as the bad guys continue their pursuit.
It's the kind of over-the-top action which you'd expect from a videogame, complete with a cackling villain, beautiful prostitutes and cartoonish violence, all of which make it practically impossible to not enjoy. It knows that it's nonsense, just remove brain, crack open some beers and enjoy.
D: Don Siegel
Paramount/DEG (M.J. Frankovich & William Self)
US 1976
100 mins


W: Miles Hood Swarthout & Scott Hale [based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout] 
DP: Bruce Surtees
Ed: Douglas Stewart
Mus: Elmer Bernstein
PD: Robert Boyle

John Wayne (J.B. Brooks), Lauren Bacall (Bond Rogers), Ron Howard (Gillom Rogers), James Stewart (Dr. Hostetler), Richard Boone (Sweeney)

John Wayne's final film is a fitting tribute to the career of the iconic movie star, as well as being a solid attempt to revive a genre which was slowly going dormant at the tail end of the 1970's.
The Duke plays ageing gunfighter John Bernard Brooks, who, upon learning that he has a terminal cancer, decides to live out his final days in peace, but when he tries to settle down at a halfway house on the outskirts of Carson City, his notorious reputation catches up with him and he has little choice but to go out in a blaze of glory. 
John Wayne delivers one of the finest performances of his entire career in this swan song, and Lauren Bacall & Ron Howard are also very good in support.
Despite receiving excellent reviews from critics at the time of its release, the underwhelming performance at the box office sadly struck another nail in the coffin of the dying western genre.

"Number Five is alive!"
"Number Five is alive!"
D: John Badham
Tristar/PSO (David Foster & Lawrence Turman)
US 1986
98 mins

Science Fiction/Comedy

W: S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock
DP: Nick McLean
Ed: Frank Morriss
Mus: David Shire

Steve Guttenberg (Newton Crosby), Ally Sheedy (Stephanie Speck), Fisher Stevens (Ben Jabituya), Austin Pendleton (Dr. Howard Marner), G.W. Bailey (Capt. Skroeder), Tim Blaney (voice of Number Five)

Short Circuit is definitely a movie which gets away with the ridiculousness of its plot and execution simply for being released in the right decade. The 1980's saw a huge rise in films focusing on robotics and techology, and this one brought about one of the more iconic screen robots of the decade.
A military robot, built for warface, gets struck by lightning during a demonstration of its capabilitys and develops a conscience and personality of its own. It escapes the military base and embarks on a quest for "input", finding its way to the home of Stephanie Speck, who reluctantly develops a friendship with "Number Five".
It's pretty much a variation on E.T. (qv) which works quite well for the most part, but has too many predictable moments and a little too much cheese. Kids at the time enjoyed it, but it hasn't dated as well as Steven Spielberg's sci-fi classic.
"Keep your wires crossed."
"Keep your wires crossed."
D: Kenneth Johnson
Columbia Tristar (David Foster, Gary Foster & Lawrence Turman)
US 1988
110 mins

Comedy/Science Fiction

W: S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock
DP: John McPherson
Ed: Conrad Buff
Mus: Charles Fox

Tim Blaney (voice of Johnny Five), Fisher Stevens (Ben Jahveri), Michael McKean (Fred Ritter), Cynthia Gibb (Sandy Banatoni), Jack Weston (Oscar Baldwin)

A sequel in name only, dropping Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy from the cast in favour of promoting a supporting character with a fake, stereotypical Indian accent into the lead (although the character has a completely different surname in this movie, for an unknown reason). That being said, the robot with human sensibilities is the real star, helping his buddy in defeating a mob of jewel thieves in the big city.
Not a patch on the original, with some amusing moments, though its attempts as a culture clash/fish out of water tale don't work so well. It does have some pleasant moments, especially within a subplot in which Johnny Five plays matchmaker, but the heist motives at the centre of the plot are rather silly.
Like the first movie, it's far more likely to be enjoyed by children than by adults.
D: Robert Altman
Artificial Eye/Spelling/Fine Line/Avenue (Cary Brokaw)
US 1993
188 mins


W: Robert Altman & Frank Barhydt [based on characters created by Raymond Carver]
DP: Walt Lloyd
Ed: Geraldine Peroni
Mus: Mark Isham

Andie MacDowell (Ann Finnegan), Bruce Davison (Howard Finnegan), Julianne Moore (Marian Wyman), Matthew Modine (Dr. Ralph Wyman), Anne Archer (Claire Kane), Fred Ward (Stuart Kane), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Lois Kaiser), Robert Downey, Jr. (Bill Bush), Tim Robbins (Gene Shepard), Madeleine Stowe (Sherri Shepard)

An adult soap opera based on a series of stories and poems by author Raymond Carver. This warts & all melodrama focuses on the dysfunctional lives of a collection of dysfunctional families in the Los Angeles suburbs and how their actions intertwine. 
Short Cuts was amongst the first of a long series of movies which feature interlinking stories to various effect.
The quality of the collection of tales is better in this than most, but suffers due only to it's almost insubordinate length. Tim Robbins is the standout cast member as a sadistic cop in one of the most interesting stories on display in this suburban kaleidoscope.
SHORT TERM 12 (15)
D: Destin Daniel Cretton
Cinedigm/Demarest/Animal Kingdom (Maren Olson, Asher Goldstein, Joshua Astrachan & Ron Najor)
US 2013
96 mins


W: Destin Daniel Cretton [based on his short film]
DP: Brett Pawlak
Ed: Nat Sanders
Mus: Joel P. West

Brie Larson (Grace Howard), John Gallagher (Mason), Kaitlyn Dever (Jayden Cole), Rami Malek (Nate), Lakeith Stansfield (Marcus), Kevin Hernandez (Luis), Melora Walters (Dr. Hendler)

Brie Larson may have won an Oscar for her performance in 2015's Room, but she really should have been nominated for her work in this small independent film.
She plays Grace, a supervisory mentor in a care home which deals with emotionally traumatised and troubled teenagers. Haunted by her own past and met with news that she herself is pregnant, she feels compelled to help a new resident to the facility, a young girl named Jayden with a history of self harm and domestic abuse from the hand of her father.
The final act does descend into melodramatic territory, but considering this feature was produced with a budget less than $1 million, it's a fantastic piece of work.

"Leave your inhibitions at the door."
"Leave your inhibitions at the door."
D: Paul Verhoeven
United Artists/Carolco/Chargeurs (Alan Marshall & Charles Evans)
US/France 1995
131 mins


W: Joe Eszterhas
DP: Jost Vacano
Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Mark Helfrich
Mus: David A. Stewart

Elizabeth Berkley (Nomi Malone / Polly Ann Costello), Kyle MacLachlan (Zack Carey), Gina Gershon (Cristal Connors), Glenn Plummer (James Smith), Robert Davi (Al Torres), Alan Rachins (Tony Moss), Gina Ravera (Molly Abrams), Lin Tucci (Henrietta 'Mama' Bazoom)

Showgirls is a bad movie, a notoriously bad movie. In fact, it's so over-the-top bad, that perhaps the audience are missing the point and Paul Verhoeven's film is so flooded with satirical observations that it quite literally disappears inside itself.
The story follows a young woman with dreams of stardom, but her name in lights only goes as far as headlining a strip show in Las Vegas, sleeping with the boss and screwing over her buddies on the way to the top.
The characters are so unconvicingly unpleasant here that it's nigh impossible to side with anyone, the dialogue is ridiculously banal and the sex scenes are unintentionally hilarious.
Perhaps Paul Verhoeven knew better the film he was making, but the audience certainly weren't on the same wavelength. The film has since emerged to be a cult favourite, albeit for the wrong reasons.
"The greatest fairy tale never told."
"The greatest fairy tale never told."
D: Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson
Dreamworks (Aron Warner, John H. Williams & Jeffrey Katzenberg)
US 2001
89 mins


W: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman & Roger S. H. Schulman [based on the book by William Steig]
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams & John Powell

voices of: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad), Vincent Cassel (Monsieur Robin Hood)

The first film to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, when the category was given its inception in 2001, Shrek is a unique mishmash of fairytales in which a grotesque ogre is our hero and the princess he saves is far from a sleeping beauty.
When his swamp is overrun with exiled magical characters, Shrek the ogre, along with a talking donkey, agrees to save a princess from a dragon in order to reclaim his land from an evil lord.
As much for adults as it is for kids, Shrek was a breath of life into the animation genre, utilising state of the art computer graphics as well as an intelligent screenplay and iconic vocal performances, especially Eddie Murphy, who perhaps delivers his best ever work as the talking Donkey. 
There further films followed, of varying quality.
D: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury & Conrad Vernon
Dreamworks (Aron Warner, John H. Williams, David Lipman & Jeffrey Katzenberg)
US 2004
93 mins


W: J. David Stern, Joe Stillman & David N. Weiss [based on characters created by William Steig]
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams

voices of: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), Antonio Banderas (Puss In Boots), Julie Andrews (Queen Lillian), John Cleese (King Harold), Jennifer Saunders (Fairy Godmother), Rupert Everett (Prince Charming)

Shrek and Princess Fiona, now married, find their relationship in peril when they visit her parents, manipulated by her (not-so) Fairy Godmother and the nefarious Prince Charming.
Though not quite as fresh as the original, it's the vibrant vocal performances which bring the fairytale to life, while the introduction of Puss In Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) as a swashbuckling cat brings many of the laughs.
"He's in for the royal treatment."
"He's in for the royal treatment."
D: Chris Miller
Dreamworks (Aron Warner)
US 2007
93 mins


W: Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman [based on characters created by William Steig]
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams

voices of: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), Antonio Banderas (Puss In Boots), Julie Andrews (Queen Lillian), John Cleese (King Harold), Eric Idle (Merlin), Justin Timberlake (Arthur Pendragon)

The weakest of the Shrek movies, with recycled jokes from other films as Arthurian Legend is crammed into Shrek's universe. Young children may not notice that the plot is borrowed from Monty Python & The Holy Grail, but parents certainly might.
Either way, the Shrek formula is getting pretty tired now, even the animation not looking as polished as in previous films, giving off the impression that this is simply an easy cash-grab for the studio after two massive hits. The weakest by far of all the Shrek movies.
D: Mike Mitchell
Dreamworks (Gina Shay & Teresa Chang)
US 2010
93 mins


W: Josh Klausner & Darren Lemke [based on the book by William Steig]
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams

voices of: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), Antonio Banderas (Puss In Boots), Walt Dohrn (Rumpelstiltskin)

An improvement on the third film, but still a far cry from the quality of the first two.
Shrek makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin which sees him lose his family, and, with the help of some old friends, attempts to win them back.
The market appeal is clearly more for kids than the earlier films in the series. It's probably a good story to end the franchise on, although you'll never quite know if a fifth film were to materialise.
"Someone is missing."
"Someone is missing."
D: Martin Scorsese
Paramount/Phoenix/Sikella (Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer & Martin Scorsese)
US 2010
132 mins


W: Laeta Kalogridis [based on the novel by Dennis Lehane]
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Thelma Schoonmaker
PD: Dante Ferretti
Cos: Sandy Powell

Leonardo DiCaprio (Teddy Daniels), Mark Ruffalo (Chuck Aule), Ben Kingsley (Dr. John Cawley), Michelle Williams (Dolores Chanal), Emily Mortimer (Rachel Solando), Patricia Clarkson (Dr. Solando), Max Von Sydow (Dr. Jeremiah Naering)

Shutter Island is a film which is best enjoyed if you know as little about it as possible, so if you've yet to watch, discontinue reading this review.
Based on Dennis Lehane's novel, the story presents a complex, dark mystery which deals with insanity and dual personalities on a remote island populated only by an asylum, it's staff and patients.
Leonardo di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo's government agents also become guests of the island, investigating a missing persons case which becomes increasingly labyrinthine, culminating in a final twist which was out of the top drawer of sleight-of-hand movie magic.
Martin Scorsese can simply do no wrong, the direction is of his usual high standard, building atmosphere and tension towards it's thrilling denouement in a way only a true master of moviemaking can provide. The cast are also fantastic, not just DiCaprio & Ruffalo, but also Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Ted Levine and Max Von Sydow.
One of the year's best.