S

"Space will never be the same."
"Space will never be the same."
SPACE COWBOYS (12)
D: Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Malpaso (Clint Eastwood & Andrew Lazar)
US/Australia 2000
129 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Ken Kaufman & Howard Klausner
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Joel Cox
Mus: Lennie Niehaus
PD: Henry Bumstead

Clint Eastwood (Col. Frank Corvin), Tommy Lee Jones (Col. William Hawkins), Donald Sutherland (Capt. Jerry O'Neill), James Garner (Capt. "Tank" Sullivan), Marcia Gay Harden (Sara Holland), William Devane (Gene Davis)

As a director, Clint Eastwood has made some of the best films of his career, gripping westerns like Unforgiven and The Outlaw Josey Wales, tense thrillers like The Dead Pool and The Gauntlet. He's also made ridiculously implausible action vehicles like Firefox. Space Cowboys falls into the latter category.
As a retired astronaut, he assembles a small team of his contemporaries to go into space to repair a satellite.
This plot falls into the same level of intelligence used in 1998's sci-fi blockbuster Armageddon, where the filmmakers expect the audience to swallow the logic that only unsuitable people can do a job in space, presumably because NASA training is lazily inept.
Despite the stupidity of the plot, the film is reasonably entertaining, with good performances from the geriatric astronauts, but it's impossible to ignore how ludicrous it all is.
4/10
 
"Get ready to jam."
"Get ready to jam."
SPACE JAM (PG)
D: Joe Pytka
Warner Bros. (Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck & Daniel Goldberg)
US 1996
87 mins

Science Fiction/Sports/Animated

W: Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, Timothy Harris & Herschel Weingrod
DP: Michael Chapman
Ed: Sheldon Kahn
Mus: James Newton Howard

Michael Jordan (himself), Wayne Knight (Stan Podolak), Theresa Randle (Juanita Jordan), Bill Murray (himself), Billy West (voice of Bugs Bunny / Elmer Fudd), Danny DeVito (voice of Mr. Swackhammer)

Space Jam is one of those films which falls between two stools, mostly because it's hard to deduce what its target audience is. Is it a film for kids who likes basketball or a film for NBA fans who like cartoons?
Either way, the crossover doesn't quite work, giving Michael Jordan his debut lead performance playing himself, as the only hope for Bugs Bunny and his Looney Tunes friends, who need the talents of the basketball star so they can defeat a race of aliens in a match.
The mixed media of live action with animation has been done to much better quality in the past in films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit & The Mask, but looks incredibly cheap and unconvincing here, not too unlike Michael Jordan's performance.
Overall, It seems like a cheap gimmick film used to sell merchandise and soundtracks.
4/10
 
SPACEBALLS (15)
D: Mel Brooks
MGM/United Artists (Mel Brooks & Ezra Swerdlow)
US 1987
96 mins

Comedy/Science Fiction

W: Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan & Ronny Graham
DP: Nick McLean
Ed: Conrad Buff 
Mus: John Morris
PD: Terence Marsh
Cos: Donfeld

Mel Brooks (President Skroob / Yogurt), Bill Pullman (Lone Starr), John Candy (Barf), Rick Moranis (Dark Helmet), Daphne Zuniga (Princess Vespa), Dom DeLuise (Pizza the Hutt), Joan Rivers (voice of Dot Matrix)

Mel Brooks' spoof of science fiction films is as ludicrously zany as they come, taking a huge bite out of Star Wars for its inspiration. 
In a galaxy far, far away, space cowboy Lone Starr, along with his canine sidekick Barf, have to save Princess Vespa and her home planet, Druidia, from falling victim to the universe's meanest bad guy, Dark Helmet. To do so, Lone Starr learns the ways of the "schwartz" from an alien wizard named Yogurt.
The plot says it all really. It's a silly film with a silly script, and though it may appeal directly to fans of the Star Wars saga, some of the jokes are completely unsuitable for young children, whereas references to other films (Alien, Planet Of The Apes, etc) will go over their heads completely.
It'll be a guilty pleasure for a more mature section of the fanbase, but will have absolutely no appeal for anyone else.
6/10
 
SPACECAMP (PG)
D: Harry Winer
20th Century Fox/ABC (Patrick Bailey & Walter Coblenz)
US 1986
107 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Clifford Green, Ellen Green & Casey T. Mitchell
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: John W. Wheeler & Timothy Board
Mus: John Williams
PD: Richard MacDonald

Kate Capshaw (Andie Bergstrom), Lea Thompson (Kathryn Fairly), Tate Donovan (Kevin Donaldson), Kelly Preston (Tish Ambrose), Larry B. Scott (Rudy Tyler), Leaf (Joaquin) Phoenix (Max Graham), Tom Skerritt (Zach Bernstrom), Frank Welker (voice of Jinx)

Spacecamp is one of those silly 80's movies which only really worked at the time, funded by a television company, it does have a televisual style about it, lacking the cinematic edge to really give the story some teeth. 
The Breakfast Club in space is the general premise, as a mixed bag of kids are sent into orbit by a child's wish and a meddling robot. That and if they weren't launched out of the atmosphere, the alternative would've resulted in a launch pad explosion which NASA would have certainly been keen to avoid (negative press & all that).
It's an adventure for kids. That's all it ever intended to be and all it ever will be, though kids who watched it during the 1980's will be more appreciative of it than kids watching it nowadays. It has dated incredibly poorly, especially with visual effects which certainly aren't out of this world and a really annoying tin-can robot that looks far too cheap to have a job at NASA.
It gave Joaquin Phoenix his feature film debut (credited as Leaf Phoenix) as a Star Wars obsessed member of the team.
5/10
 
"A sixth century space adventure."
"A sixth century space adventure."
THE SPACEMAN & KING ARTHUR (aka UNIDENTIFIED FLYING ODDBALL) (PG)
D: Russ Mayberry
Disney (Ron Miller)
UK/US 1979
93 mins

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comedy

W: Don Tait [based on the novel "A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court" by Mark Twain]
DP: Paul Beeson
Ed: Peter Boita 
Mus: Ron Goodwin

Dennis Dugan (Tom Trimble / Hermes), Jim Dale (Sir Mordred), Ron Moody (Merlin), Kenneth More (King Arthur), John le Mesurier (Sir Gawain)

British-filmed Disney update on Mark Twain's classic fantasy with a science fiction twist, shot in the UK for the world famous studio (going through some financial issues) to take advantage of a tax loophole.
An astronaut and his identical robot find themselves launched back in time to the court of King Arthur, where he is initially met with conflict by the king's trusted knights and pantomime villain, Merlin.
Considering this is a Disney production, everything looks a little too cheap, set-bound and nothing has dated particularly well, not that young minds will mind too much.
Knockabout matinee stuff.
4/10

SPARTACUS (PG)
D: Stanley Kubrick (& Anthony Mann [uncredited])
United Artists/Bryna (Edward Lewis)
US 1960
196 mins

Historical

W: Dalton Trumbo [based on the novel by Howard Fast]
DP: Russell Metty (& Stanley Kubrick [uncredited])
Ed: Robert Lawrence
Mus: Alex North
PD: Alexander Golitzen
Cos: Bill Thomas & Valles

Kirk Douglas (Spartacus), Laurence Olivier (Crassus), Charles Laughton (Gracchus), Tony Curtis (Antoninus), Jean Simmons (Varinia), Peter Ustinov (Batiatus), John Gavin (Julius Caesar)

"I am Spartacus!" 
Actually, it's Kirk Douglas who is Spartacus, a slave who leads a violent revolt against the Romans in this gladiatorial epic. 
So Hollywood legend would have it, it was a production rife with complications, from its blacklisted screenwriter to its original director (Anthony Mann) being replaced halfway through the shoot by the meddlesome perfectionist Stanley Kubrick, who apparently made everyone's job difficult, especially cinematographer Russell Metty, who won an Oscar for his credit despite much of his work being reshot by Kubrick himself.
Many aspects of the film feel dated by current standards, and the running time is likely to put off many, but it remains a classic of its time. 
Thanks to the beauty of cinematic restoration, modern audiences can enjoy a scene of sexual ambiguity between Tony Curtis & Laurence Olivier's characters, cut from the original theatrical release.
It's a slight mystery that the film won the Golden Globe award for Best Film of the year, but didn't even figure in the race for Best Picture nominees at the Oscars. It's an even bigger mystery over how much of the film is Stanley Kubrick's responsibility.
8/10
 
"Born In Darkness. Sworn To Justice."
"Born In Darkness. Sworn To Justice."

SPAWN (15)

D: Mark A.Z. Dippé

New Line (Clint Goldman)

US 1997

96 mins


Fantasy/Action/Adventure


W: Alan B. McElroy & Mark A.Z. Dippé

DP: Guillermo Navarro

Ed: Rick Shaine, Michael Knue & Todd Busch

Mus: Graeme Revell


Michael Jai White (Albert Simmons / Spawn), John Leguizamo (The Violator), Martin Sheen (Jason Wynn), Theresa Randle (Wanda Blake Simmons-Fitzgerald), Nicol Williamson (Cogliostro)


A decade before Marvel changed the production of superhero movies, this 1997 comic book fantasy made its bow, unfortunately, the overall film is quite shoddy.

A mercenary is double crossed by his employer and subsequently becomes a soldier for the devil and vows revenge on those who wronged him. The plot owes heavily to both The Crow and Darkman, and although it deserves some kudos for attempting to introduce an African-American superhero, it fails due to the unimpressive story and uninspiring direction of Japanese effects man-turned-director Mark A.Z. Dippé.

Visually, the film is poorly rendered, with some terrible CGI effects which are saved only by some good makeup work. The performances are also dull, with John Leguizamo providing any enthusiasm, although he does this a little too much to the point that he becomes irritating and hugely unpleasant.

Batman & Robin may have been the worst superhero movie of 1997, but this runs it very close.

3/10


THE SPECIALIST (18)
D: Luis Llosa
Warner Bros. (Jerry Weintraub)
US 1994
110 mins

Action/Thriller

W: Alexandra Setos [based on the novels by John Shirley]
DP: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Ed: Jack Hofstra
Mus: John Barry

Sylvester Stallone (Ray Quick), Sharon Stone (May Munro), James Woods (Ned Trent), Rod Steiger (Joe Leon), Eric Roberts (Tomas Leon)

The Specialist is one of those insipid, formulaic, nonsensical action movies which would be rather enjoyable if it didn't take itself so seriously.
Sylvester Stallone plays Ray Quick, a bomb expert who doesn't take kindly to thugs who don't allow little old ladies to sit down on the bus, throwing them through the vehicles window to demonstrate his displeasure (seriously, this actually happens). Either side of this scene, there's some rubbish about him being hired by Sharon Stone (supposedly playing a 20-year-old) to carry out a revenge plot on the mafia members who murdered her family.
A sex scene between Sly & Stone is wedged into the story because 'nudity', despite the fact that there's absolutely no chemistry between the two characters.
It's a rather rotten excuse for entertainment, but the screen brightens up whenever James Woods appears, gleefully overacting as a corrupt government agent.
4/10
 
"Men can't resist her. Mankind may not survive her."
"Men can't resist her. Mankind may not survive her."
SPECIES (18)
D: Roger Donaldson 
UIP/MGM (Fred Mancuso, Jr. & Dennis Feldman)
US 1995
108 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: Dennis Feldman
DP: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Ed: Conrad Buff
Mus: Christopher Young

Natasha Henstridge (Sil), Ben Kingsley (Xavier Fitch), Michael Madsen (Preston Lennox), Alfred Molina (Dr. Stephen Arden), Forest Whitaker (Dan Smithson), Marg Helgenberger (Dr. Laura Baker)

With H.R. Giger as the creative brains in the special effects crew, it's little surprise how much this rips off his creature design for 1979's Alien, despite his specific instructions not to do so.
Natasha Henstridge plays an intergalactic beasty masquerading as a voluptuous beauty. Her plan is to be impregnated by some Earth man so her seed can eventually conquer the planet. The only thing that stands in her way is a team of scientists who allowed her to break loose in the first place.
There are some good moments of tension in this science fiction-thriller and, in parts, some good visual effects. The film falls apart in the final act however when some truly awful CGI effects take over in place of a satisfying climax.
4/10
 
"The sexiest alien in the universe is back..."
"The sexiest alien in the universe is back..."
SPECIES II (18)
D: Peter Medak
UIP/MGM (Fred Mancuso, Jr.)
US 1998
93 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: Chris Brancato
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: Richard Nord
Mus: Edward Shearmur

Michael Madsen (Preston Lennox), Natasha Henstridge (Eve), Marg Helgenberger (Dr. Laura Baker), Mykelti Williamson (Dennis Gamble), James Cromwell (Sen. Judson Ross)

Boring retread of the first film, with a few members from the original returning to go through the exact same motions. The story makes little sense in comparison to the first film and is little more than an excuse for main actress Natasha Henstridge to participate in more kit-offery.
Even the CGI is worse with these sloppy seconds, taking even more stock from the Alien movies and H.R. Giger's sexually-influenced designs.
Two more sequels followed, both released direct to the home video market.
3/10
 

SPECTRE (12)

D: Sam Mendes

MGM/Columbia (Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli)

UK/US 2015

148 mins


Action/Thriller


W: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Jez Butterworth [based on characters created by Ian Fleming]

DP: Hoyte van Hoytema

Ed: Lee Smith

Mus: Thomas Newman


Daniel Craig (James Bond), Christoph Waltz (Ernst Stavro Blofeld), Lea Seydoux (Dr. Madeleine Swann), Ben Whishaw (Q), Naomie Harris (Eve Moneypenny), Dave Bautista (Mr. Hinx), Ralph Fiennes (M), Monica Bellucci (Lucia Sciarra)


Daniel Craig's fourth outing as James Bond, following on from the events in 2012's Skyfall. 007 receives a posthumous message from Judi Dench's M to carry out a mission in Mexico to prevent a terrorist attack, but Bond's methods land him in hot water with his authorities and he faces suspension from duty. He disobeys his orders and uncovers the terrorist organisation Spectre, headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). 

Though the Daniel Craig Bond movies attempt to take the franchise in a different direction, this movie seems to have many references to the older, classic films, especially Diamonds Are Forever with its Mexico City opening. The opening sequence is quite excellent, seemingly filmed in one shot (succeeding with clever edits), whic the rest of the set pieces don't quite trump. As always, the stunts and special effects are great (achieved by a budget which make this the most expensive Bond film to produce), but it really isn't up there with the best of Bond. Despite winning an Oscar for Best Original Song, Sam Smith's "Writing's On The Wall" doesn't really fit the mood of the film at all. 

6/10


"Get ready for rush hour."
"Get ready for rush hour."
SPEED (15)
D: Jan de Bont
20th Century Fox (Mark Gordon)
US 1994
115 mins

Action/Thriller

W: Graham Yost
DP: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Ed: John Wright
Mus: Mike Mancina

Keanu Reeves (Jack Traven), Dennis Hopper (Howard Payne), Sandra Bullock (Annie Porter), Jeff Daniels (Harry Temple), Joe Morton (Lt. 'Mac' McMahon), Alan Ruck (Doug), Carlos Carrasco (Ortiz)

There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes over 50mph the bomb is armed. Once it drops below 50mph the bomb goes off. What do you do?
That's the dilemma posed by maniac Dennis Hopper for LAPD cop Keanu Reeves in this high octane action thriller dubbed "Die Hard on a Bus". 
Though it follows a familiar path of cliches, cheesy dialogue and hammy acting, there's more than enough thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat, chewing your fingernails as your eyes are glued to the screen waiting for the next big set piece.
There's not much defence for the terrible acting and atrocious dialogue, but if you want something more Shakespearian, you'd doubtlessly be watching this in the first place. It has faults, but it's still amongst the best action movies of the 1990's. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride.
8/10
 
"Rush hour hits the water."
"Rush hour hits the water."
SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL (15)
D: Jan de Bont
20th Century Fox/Blue Tulip (Jan de Bont)
US 1997
125 mins

Action/Thriller

W: Randall McCormick, Jeff Nathanson & Jan de Bont
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Alan Cody
Mus: Mike Mancina

Sandra Bullock (Annie Porter), Jason Patric (Alex Shaw), Willem Dafoe (John Geiger), Temeura Morrison (Juliano)

Keanu Reeves reportedly turned down a huge $12m payday to appear in this needless sequel and it turns out it was the best money he never spent.
From the look of it, even the bus said no, with the action switching to a luxury ocean liner which is hijacked by cackling, wild-eyed diamond thief Willem Dafoe.
Sandra Bullock reprises her role from the original film, but is given little to do with none of the sass which made her performance in the original film so appealing and she's paired with Jason Patric's police officer Alex Shaw, obviously written with Keanu Reeves in mind and tweaked when he stuck his two fingers up to the script.
Perhaps the intention was to attract some of the audience from the other boat-in-peril movie released the same year by the same studio (Titanic), but it was this one which sank at the box office.
2/10
 
SPELLBOUND (PG)
D: Alfred Hitchcock (& Salvador Dali)
Selznick/Vanguard (David O. Selznick)
US 1945
111 mins

Mystery/Thriller

W: Ben Hecht & Angus MacPhail [based on the novel "The House Of Dr. Edwardes" by Francis Beeding]
DP: George Barnes
Ed: William Ziegler & Hal C. Kern
Mus: Miklos Rozsa

Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Constance Petersen), Gregory Peck (Dr. Anthony Edwardes / John Ballantyne), Leo G. Carroll (Dr. Murchison), Michael Chekhov (Dr. Alex Brulov), Rhonda Fleming (Mary Carmichael), John Emery (Dr. Fleurot)

The new head doctor at a mental asylum is actually an imposter with a mysterious past, but his real identity is protected by a young woman who falls in love with his charm.
Ingrid Bergman is perfectly cast, but Gregory Peck doesn't quite carry the air of mystery necessary for his character, he's just far too debonair, which, in fairness, does make the romance angle of the plot seem a lot more feasible.
The first act of the film is really bogged down with psychoanalysis and psychiatry babble before the mystery and suspense finally kicks in.
To call this one of Hitchcock's most overrated films would be a little unfair, but it's certainly not as iconic as the usual output from the master of suspense. 
The famous Salvador Dali-inspired dream sequence is undoubtedly the highlight of the picture, in the only real scene which matches up to the description of the film's title.
7/10
 
SPHERE (15)
D: Barry Levinson
Warner Bros./Baltimore/Constant/Punch (Michael Crichton, Andrew Wald & Barry Levinson)
US 1998
133 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: Stephen Hauser & Paul Attanasio [based on the novel by Michael Crichton]
DP: Adam Greenberg
Ed: Stu Linder
Mus: Elliott Goldenthal
PD: Norman Reynolds 

Dustin Hoffman (Dr. Norman Goodman), Sharon Stone (Dr. Beth Halperin), Samuel L. Jackson (Dr. Harry Adams), Peter Coyote (Capt. Harold C. Barnes), Liev Schreiber (Dr. Ted Fielding), Queen Latifah (Alice 'Teeny' Fletcher)

A team of scientists are deployed deep beneath the ocean to investigate a mysterious metal orb which may or may not be of extra-terrestrial origin.
The filmmakers missed a huge trick while adapting Michael Crichton's novel, perhaps because they didn't understand it, or more likely because they were lazy and just wanted to follow the exact same formula which was used in 1989's The Abyss (qv).
The performances are all poorly miscast, including Dustin Hoffman, who actually seemed like a good fit for the character on paper, but is suffers hugely from misdirection, as did the movie itself which was amongst 1998's biggest box office failures.
Skip the film, read the book instead. All meaning and intelligence is lost here.
3/10
 
"They don't just sing!"
"They don't just sing!"
SPICEWORLD (PG)
D: Bob Spiers 
Polygram/Icon/Fragile (Uri Fruchtman & Barnaby Thompson)
UK 1998
92 mins

Musical/Comedy

W: Kim Fuller & Jamie Curtis
DP: Clive Tickner
Ed: Andrea MacArthur
Mus: Paul Hardcastle; The Spice Girls

The Spice Girls: (Victoria Adams (Posh Spice), Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sport Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice)); Richard E. Grant (Clifford), Claire Rushbrook (Deborah), Roger Moore (The Chief)

The Spice Girls first burst into the UK music scene in 1996 with their debut single "Wannabe". The all-girl quintet, put together by pop guru Simon Fuller, appealing mostly to teenage girls became a pop phenomenon, selling albums by the truckload and headlining sellout concerts in the biggest venues. 
However, they are not actresses, and with this travesty on their résumés, it's incredibly unlikely that they ever will be.
This is a film for fans of the girl band only, it's written by the sister of the band's manager (a blatant exercise in nepotism) whilst the poor excuse for a story sees the band touring Britain in a double decker bus, singing for their fans and having the occasional cameo appearance by some of England's famous faces and pantomime luvvies, who were clearly only doing it for the money.
The soundtrack may have helped the girls dominate the pop charts for another year but the film is a complete embarrassment. 'For fans only' even feels like a misleading recommendation.
2/10
 
"With great power comes great responsibility."
"With great power comes great responsibility."
SPIDER-MAN (12)
D: Sam Raimi
Columbia Tristar/Marvel (Laura Ziskin & Ian Bryce)
US 2002
121 mins

Action/Adventure/Science Fiction

W: David Koepp [bassd on the comic book series by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko]
DP: Don Burgess
Ed: Bob Murawski & Arthur Coburn
Mus: Danny Elfman
PD: Neil Spisak
Cos: James Acheson

Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn / Green Goblin), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Cliff Robertson (Ben Parker), Rosemary Harris (May Parker), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson)

The superhero sub-genre was still overcoming the damage done by Joel Schumacher's Batman films when Sam Raimi took the reins on a trilogy of Spider-Man films. The director proved to be a good pick, as the films went on to become huge box office successes.
The story itself is a rather formulaic, but also completely critic-proof, origin story which stays true to the source material. A high school nerd is bitten by a genetically-modified spider and becomes a superhero, swinging from building to building on a quest to defeat crime, before the climactic showdown with a mad scientist's alter-ego, The Green Goblin.
The performances are all fine, even Willem Dafoe, who occasionally overdoes it as the bad guy. Like the majority of comic book movies, the main star is the visual effects which do all they can to make you believe that a man can shoot webs and leap buildings in a single bound. There's also a neat chemistry between Spider-Man and his girl, which serves as a sweet subplot in this film, but unfortunately becomes far too overexposed later on in the trilogy.
7/10
 
SPIDER-MAN 2 (12)
D: Sam Raimi
Columbia Tristar/Marvel (Laura Ziskin & Avi Arad)
US 2004
127 mins

Action/Adventure/Science Fiction

W: Alvin Sargent, Alfred Gough, Michael Chabon & Miles Millar [bassd on the comic book series by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko]
DP: Bill Pope
Ed: Bob Murawski
Mus: Danny Elfman

Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn), Alfred Molina (Dr. Octavius / Dr. Octopus), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May Parker), J. K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson)

In some ways this is a superior sequel to its predecessor, the action scenes are bigger, the villain is badder, the visual effects are finer, it's even 6 minutes longer. On the flip side, bigger, badder and longer doesn't always mean better.
The story spends far too long on the on-off relationship between Peter & Mary Jane, so much so that the entire middle act goes by almost without a single action scene. The action set pieces when they do come are incredibly rewarding but there's too much filler of a depressed superhero, shying away from the life of fighting crime and trying to hold down a job, which works okay for the opening act, but once the mad scientist is introduced, there's no reason to revisit this plotline. 
Still, it's enjoyable enough as a comic book movie and the minor faults are critic-proof enough to paper over the cracks.
6/10
 
"The greatest battle lies within."
"The greatest battle lies within."
SPIDER-MAN 3 (12)
D: Sam Raimi
Columbia Tristar/Marvel (Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad & Grant Curtis)
US 2007
138 mins

Action/Adventure/Science Fiction

W: Sam Raimi, Ivan Raimi & Alvin Sargent [bassd on the comic book series by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko]
DP: Bill Pope
Ed: Bob Murawski
Mus: Christopher Young

Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane Watson), James Franco (Harry Osborn / New Goblin), Thomas Haden Church (Flint Marko / Sandman), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock / Venom), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), Rosemary Harris (Aunt May Parker)

The weakest by far of Sam Raimi's trilogy, mostly because of forcing way too much plot and characterisation into the running time, yet it lacks the drama, thrills and, more importantly, credibility, to make all this necessary. It's fair enough that credibility doesn't exactly go hand-in-hand with comic-book movies, but there needs to be some explanation of certain things for the benefit of those who aren't as familiar with the original source material. An example of this would be the introduction of black, parasitic alien gunk which attached itself to Spider-Man's suit and imbeds a darker, more narcisstic side to Peter Parker, only to become a villain known as Venom once it is removed.
The film has three villains in total, with the reinclusion of Green Goblin from the first film, this time with Spidey's chum Harry Osborn donning the suit and going batshit crazy. The primary villain is the Sandman, an escaped convict who gains his superhuman abilities after unwittingly wandering into a science experiment involving, well, sand.
Once again, far too much time is spent on the dreary, sexless relationship of Peter and Mary Jane to the point where you might find yourself reaching out for a sickbag.
Despite setting up a finale for Spider-Man to take on three villains, it all ends with a bit of an anti-climax and a rather cheap victory for the superhero. Even so, the villains really weren't interesting enough from the offset and weren't given any favours by the general poorness of the acting, particularly James Franco, who just can't do creepy, and Topher Grace, completely miscast as a rival photographer who goes on to become venom (there's no spoiler there. It's that obvious).
Critic-proof it may be, but it's hard to deny that it's also a huge disappointment.
5/10
 

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (12)

D: Jon Watts

Sony/Columbia/Marvel (Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal)

US 2017

133 mins


Action/Adventure/Science Fiction


W: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers [based on characters created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko]

DP: Salvatore Totino

Ed: Dan Lebental & Debbie Berman

Mus: Michael Giacchino


Tom Holland (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Michael Keaton (Adrian Toomes / Vulture), Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan), Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark / Iron Man), Zendaya (Michelle 'MJ' Jones), Marisa Tomei (Aunt May Parker)


A rare dud from Marvel Cinematic Universe, although it could be argued that, with Sony still maintaining a huge slice of the production rights, this could be the result of a tug of war between two of Hollywood's major studios.

Tom Holland becomes the third person to play Spider-Man in just 14 years, following his cameo appearance in 2016's Captain America: Civil War and he dons the spider-suit again for his standalone adventure, unfortunately, with Spider-Man's iconic costume now becoming an invention of Tony Stark, this superhero instalment becomes heavily dependant on Iron Man.

The intricate web of storyline draws on other films within Marvel's Arsenal, with the titular character being taken under the wing of Tony Stark, who implores him to keep his head low and help out with local neighbourhood crime fighting, but the teenage superhero bites off more than he can chew when he attempts to stop an arms dealer who uses alien technology following the big battle at the end of the first Avengers movie. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming is far from being among the worst superhero movies of all time, but in comparison with other MCU films it is a huge disappointment. Tom Holland does a good job in the main role, but the supporting cast aren't great, especially Zendaya, who possibly gives one of most reprehensibly unlikeable character portrayals of the entire year.

Fanboys will love it, everyone else will find it decidedly average.

5/10


SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (PG)

D: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay & Rodney Rothman

Sony/Columbia/Marvel (Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller)

US 2018

117 mins


Animated 


W: Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman [based on characters created by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli)

Mus: Daniel Pemberton


voices of: Shameik Moore (Miles Morales / Spider-Man), Jake Johnson (Peter B. Parker / Spider-Man), Chris Pine (Peter Parker / Spider-Man), Hailee Steinfeld (Gwen Stacy / Spider-Woman), Mahershala Ali (Aaron Davis / Prowler), Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson Davis)


Released at a time when superhero movies are getting a little oversaturated and with no less than 6 Spider-man movies between 2002 and 2017, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse makes for a refreshing alternative to the norm, as well as being a highly entertaining animated film in its own right.

With identity politics being a hot topic in 2018, there was a fear going into this movie that it would be an agenda-pushing agitprop to appease the Buzzfeed & Huffington Post crowd, mostly due to the marketing campaign which made it feel so, but I'm glad to say I was completely wrong about that.

The story follows Miles Morales, a new boy at school who has trouble fitting in, especially with his police officer father, finding a better connection with his shady uncle. When spraying graffiti art in an abandoned subway station, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider (the same which gave Spider-Man his powers) and it soon emerges that immediately above the subway station, a group of super villains have been creating a particle accelerator with the intentions of bringing multiple alternative universes together and a whole host of spider-people along with them, including an older, dishevelled Peter Parker who becomes Miles' mentor.

What makes the film so entertaining is the witty screenplay, which does a great job introducing alternative superheroes, even for people unfamiliar with superhero comics. The characters are also very engaging and the dialogue feels incredibly natural. The film also has a unique animated style which feels like you're actually watching a comic book unfold before your eyes.

Not the best Spider-Man movie, by any means, but it's certainly better than the last few produced by Sony Pictures, although the message that "anyone can be Spider-Man" may work for this example, but it may not necessarily work for other characters (James Bond, for example), but I'm happy to judge this film on its own merits.

7/10


"With spies like these, who needs enemies?"
"With spies like these, who needs enemies?"
SPIES LIKE US (PG)
D: John Landis
Warner Bros. (Brian Grazer & George Folsey, Jr.)
US 1985
109 mins

Comedy

W: Dan Aykroyd, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
DP: Robert Paynter
Ed: Malcolm Campbell
Mus: Elmer Bernstein

Dan Aykroyd (Austin Millbarge), Chevy Chase (Emmett Fitz-Hume), Donna Dixon (Karen Boyer), Steve Forrest (Gen. Sline), Bruce Davison (Ruby), William Prince (Keyes)

Cold War comedy which didn't really outlive the 1980's. Dan Aykroyd & Chevy Chase are America's worst government agents, sent undercover into the Soviet Union as decoys. The running joke is that they think they're on a legitamate mission. Eventually, it's proved that they were the right men for the job and the superior officers who set them up as stooges are the ones who get their comeuppance.
There's a few moments which raise a smile and the Aykroyd-Chase partnership works very well, almost reminiscent of the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby double act and their "Road To..." series of films. It's biggest problem is that it became dated almost as soon as it came out. Still, there's enough one-liners that hit the spot, with cameos galore from B.B. King & Frank Oz to Bob Hope himself (his final screen appearance) and it can still be very much enjoyed as a guilty pleasure movie.
6/10
 
THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (PG)
D: Robert Siodmak
RKO (Dore Schary)
US 1945 (released 1946)
83 mins

Mystery/Thriller/Horror

W: Mel Dinelli [based on the novel "Some Must Watch" by Ethel Lina White]
DP: Nicholas Musuraca
Ed: Harry Marker & Harry Gerstad
Mus: Roy Webb
PD: Albert S. D'Agostino & Jack Okey

Dorothy McGuire (Helen), George Brent (Prof. Albert Warren), Kent Smith (Dr. Parry), Ethel Barrymore (Mrs. Warren), Rhonda Fleming (Blanche), Gordon Oliver (Steven Warren)

The Spiral Staircase could well be classed as Hollywood's first slasher, despite the fact that it's not accompanied with the blood and gore which came with the subgenre following the success of Halloween (qv) and others.
At the turn of the 20th century, a serial killer is preying on women, mostly young girls, with "handicaps". Dorothy McGuire plays a mute housemaid of a cantankerous, bed-ridden woman in a spooky mansion who suspects she may well be the next victim, and one evening the house sees many visitors who may or may not be the murderer.
As an old-fashioned horror-mystery, the film has much to recommend it, from the atmospheric direction, brilliant cinematography, creepy production design and excellent performances. If violent murders are what you want to see, watch Saw (qv), if it's a bit of suspense and intrigue, give this a go.
8/10
 
SPIRITED AWAY (PG)
D: Hayao Miyazaki
Optimum/Studio Ghibli (Toshio Suzuki)
Japan 2001 (released 2002)
125 mins

Animated 

W: Hayao Miyazaki
Mus: Joe Hisashi

voices of: Rumi Hiiragi / Daveigh Chase (Chihiro Ogino), Miyu Irino / Jason Marsden (Haku), Mari Natsuki / Suzanne Plachette (Yubaba / Zeniba), Bunta Sagawara / David Ogden Stiers (Kamaji)

Spirited Away is ample proof that Studio Ghibli's output is just as superior as Disney when it comes to animated films. 
Hugely imaginative, compellingly artistic and wildly surreal, the story sees a forlorn 10-year-old girl, while on a car journey with her parents, get spirited away to a magical land full of gods, ghosts and other mythical creatures, where she must earn her keep by working in a bathhouse owned by a cunning witch.
Though the plot sounds a little too fanciful to be taken seriously, the style of Hayao Miyazaki's animation makes the film feel like a daydream, in-between the real world and the next, full of interesting characters and poetic dialogue.
One of the finest animated films of all time, and certainly the best of the early 21st century.
9/10

SPLASH (PG)
D: Ron Howard 
Buena Vista/Touchstone (Brian Grazer)
US 1984
110 mins

Comedy/Fantasy

W: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel & Bruce Jay Friedman
DP: Don Peterman
Mus: Lee Holdridge

Tom Hanks (Allen Bauer), Daryl Hannah (Madison), John Candy (Freddie Bauer), Eugene Levy (Dr. Walter Kornbluth)

Is this the film that saved Disney? The studio was suffering hardship in the early 1980's and with no new animated output they relied heavily on re-released classics to generate revenue. In fact, the very name 'Disney' surprisingly found itself box office poison. The solution was to create production arm Touchstone, dealing with the studio's live action projects and "Splash!" was the first of many. This comedy romance went on to make big waves at the 1984 box office and launched the career of Tom Hanks, who takes the lead as a lonely bachelor seeking love and finds the perfect catch- the only problem is, she's a mermaid. The same mermaid who saved him from drowning when he was a young boy.
Funny in parts, sweet in others, it provided a springboard for both Touchstone and Tom Hanks, who obviously went on to bigger and better things. For Daryl Hannah, this was her finest hour. A role her career never bettered.
For those who've not seen it. Take the bait. Catch it now.
7/10
 
"Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. The 24th is about to be unleashed."
"Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. The 24th is about to be unleashed."

SPLIT (15)

D: M. Night Shyamalan

Universal/Blinding Edge/Blumhouse (M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blum & Marc Bienstock)

US 2016 (released 2017)

117 mins


Thriller/Horror


W: M. Night Shyamalan

DP: Mike Gioulakis

Ed: Luke Franco Ciarrochi

Mus: West Dylan Thordson


James McAvoy (Kevin Wendell Crumb), Anya Taylor-Joy (Casey), Haley Lu Richardson (Claire), Jessica Sula (Marcia), Betty Buckley (Dr. Karen Fletcher)


After a decade of flops, M. Night Shyamalan may well have revived his career with this psychological thriller, featuring a quite excellent lead performance from James McAvoy as a sufferer of a multiple personality disorder, Kevin Wendell Crumb, whose 23 separate personalities struggle to overpower a dangerously rising 24th personality.

The film begins with Kevin kidnapping 3 teenage girls, who he keeps locked in underground cells to await their fate. Meanwhile, the enormity of Kevin's condition is revealed during sessions with a counsellor, as well as each personality coming forth to the kidnapped girls at various times.

This really is a return to form for M. Night Shyamalan, who references his 2000 film Unbreakable at certain points during the duration.

A sequel is planned, titled Glass, which is also intended to draw into the plot points from Unbreakable.

Hopefully it will be more like this, and less like The Happening.

7/10


"2008. The future has never looked more dangerous."
"2008. The future has never looked more dangerous."
SPLIT SECOND (18)
D: Tony Maylam
Challenge/Muse (Laura Gregory)
UK/US 1991
90 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller/Horror

W: Gary Scott Thompson
DP: Clive Tickner
Ed: Dan Rae
Mus: Stephen Parsons & Francis Haines

Rutger Hauer (Harley Stone), Kim Cattrall (Michelle), Neil Duncan (Dick Durkin), Michael J. Pollard (The Rat Catcher), Alun Armstrong (Thrasher), Pete Postlethwaite (Paulsen), Ian Dury (Jay Jay)

In a future (2008, oops) London where flood waters have submerged most of the city, an cop hunts an alien creature on a killing spree.
Formulaic and unmemorable, though it owe a huge debt of inspiration to Predator (particularly its sequel) as the original shooting script underwent much editing during the production, so much so that the creature design team only had 3 weeks to contribute to the project, culminating in a hugely disappointing reveal.
The performances are competent, but the visual effects aren't much better than cheapo 1960's man-in-a-rubber-suit B-movies. It's also gone past its year of prophecy, which is never a good thing for a futuristic thriller.
4/10
 
"Read between the lies."
"Read between the lies."
SPOTLIGHT (15)
D: Tom McCarthy
Open Road/Participant Media/First Look/Anonymous Content (Steve Golin, Michael Sugar, Nicole Rocklin & Blye Pagon Faust)
US 2015
129 mins

Drama

W: Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer
DP: Masanobu Takayanagi 
Ed: Tom McArdle
Mus: Howard Shore

Michael Keaton (Walter Robinson), Mark Ruffalo (Michael Rezendes), Rachel McAdams (Sacha Pfeiffer), Liev Schrieber (Marty Baron), Stanley Tucci (Mitchell Garabedian), John Slattery (Ben Bradlee, Jr.), Billy Crudup (Eric MacLeish)

I had yet to see Spotlight when it was named Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars. I was almost certain that The Revenant was going to take home the big prize.
Upon watching, it's an accolade I understand, though it wouldn't have earned my vote if I were an academy member, despite it probably being the best-written film of 2015 with subject matter which would have an affect on an awful lot of people.
The story focuses on the investigative efforts of the 'Spotlight' department of The Boston Globe newspaper, as they attempt to uncover stories of sexual molestation and on over 90 children from pederast members of the clergy in devoutly religious neighbourhoods, a scandal which had been covered up for over three decades.
In many ways, it's refreshing for a film to tackle the facts without resorting to over-dramatisation to get the power of the story across, and for that reason alone, it deserves high commendation. 
It's a film of huge importance rather than something to watch for entertainment, and, despite the on-screen events taking place in 2001, it was probably released at the right time, especially following The Savile Inquiry which rocked Great Britain just a few years previous, but still during a time when rich celebrities buy media silence with injunctions and super injunctions.
It's not my best picture of the year, but still comes highly recommended, especially to those with a career or interest in top-level journalism.
8/10

"A little sun can bring out your dark side."
"A little sun can bring out your dark side."
SPRING BREAKERS (18)
D: Harmony Korine
A24/Muse/Annapurna/Radar (Chris Hanley, Jordan Gertner, David Zander & Charles-Marie Anthonioz)
US 2013
94 mins

Drama/Crime

W: Harmony Korine
DP: Benoît Debie
Ed: Douglas Crise 
Mus: Skrillex & Cliff Martinez

Vanessa Hudgens (Candy), Selena Gomez (Faith), Ashley Benson (Brit), Rachel Korine (Cotty), James Franco (Alien), Gucci Mane (Big Arch)

This title may sound like a comedy and the marketing may make it look like one, but this is NOT a comedy. It isn't even satirical.
In fact, once you realise that the director is Harmony Korine, screenwriter of 1995's controversial film Kids, you'll know that this is aiming for social commentary on the youth of today. Even that doesn't work particularly well here either.
Being English, 'Spring Break' is an Americanism which I've never experienced, but can't imagine it being too different from a "Club 18-30" holiday where youngsters get shitfaced on drink/drugs and want to fuck/fight each other.  Not really my idea of a good time, but different strokes for different folks.
The film focuses on a quartet of teenage girls who are desperate to get to spring break to let themselves go wild but they're short on cash, so three of them don masks to rob a restaurant with fake guns for the necessary funds to get away.
While on their jollies, the four girls get arrested and jailed for drug use and haven't any money for bail. Reluctant to ask their parents, a seedy gangster named 'Alien' (a nearly unrecognisable James Franco) comes to their rescue and stumps up the cash. 
One of the girls then travels back to her chaste life while the other three stay to live in the culture of their drug-lord, gun-toting gangster, whom they all develop a sexual relationship with before going on a crime spree.
The film ends with the girls succumbing to a life of crime, seemingly making either a point that it's easy to be manipulated into such culture or 'some people are just born bad'.
Personally, I think there is no message, it's just an attempt to be controversial by showing scantily clad teenage girls toting guns.
Actresses Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens clearly appeared in this film to shed their squeaky-clean bubblegum images, but in fairness, Hudgens did a better job when naked pictures of her and her moo-moo were leaked online.
James Franco delivers a good performance in this film and there's some good choices of music on the soundtrack, but aside from that it's pretentious, boring, pointless bullshit.
4/10

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (PG)
D: Lewis Gilbert
United Artists/Eon (Albert R. Broccoli)
UK 1977
125 mins

Action/Thriller

W: Christopher Wood & Richard Maibaum [based on the novel by Ian Fleming]
DP: Claude Renoir
Mus: Marvin Hamlisch
PD: Ken Adam 

Roger Moore (James Bond), Barbara Bach (Anya Amasova), Curt Jürgens (Karl Stromberg), Richard Kiel (Jaws), Caroline Munro (Naomi), Walter Gotell (Gen. Gogol), Bernard Lee (M), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny)

Bond outing number 3 for Roger Moore and the tenth film for the series in total.
There's not much to set it aside from the rest of the pack, with the usual luxuriant locations, fast car chases, gimmicky gadgets and impressive stunts. 
There are some moments of originality, as agent 007 teams up with a glamorous Russian spy to defeat a megalomaniac villain with an underwater missile base. The memorable 8-foot villain with metal teeth, nicknamed "Jaws" is also introduced, returning to a lesser degree in the next film, Moonraker.
Nowhere near as good as other films in the series, but it does feature one of the best Bond songs ("Nobody Does It Better").
6/10
 

THE SQUARE (15)

D: Ruben Östlund

TriArt/Plattform (Erik Hemmendorff & Philippe Bober)

Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark 2017

151 mins


Comedy/Drama


W: Ruben Östlund

DP: Fredrik Wenzel

Ed: Ruben Östlund & Jacob Secher Schulsinger


Claes Bang (Christian), Elisabeth Moss (Anne), Terry Notary (Oleg), Dominic West (Terry), Christopher Læssø (Michael)


2017's Palme d'Or winner is a peculiar arthouse movie, blending themes of docudrama, black comedy, social satire and parody into its narrative.

Set in the days building up to a new art exhibit at a Stockholm gallery, presented as a simple square on the ground, where those who stand within it must treat each other equally and without prejudice.

The curator behind the installation of 'The Square' faces various personal and professional issues, including suffering theft via a confidence scam, a sexual encounter with an American journalist and backlash surrounding the publicity campaign of the new art piece.

Strange it may be, but the film will leave you thinking after the closing credits roll. The titular art piece is quite obviously a reference to the European Union, whilst the story also raise profound themes about political correctness, freedom of speech and artistic expression, the latter of which have become increasingly stifled in modern society due to the growth of the former, where people take offensive outcry over social media but seem to stay quiet when it often happens before their very eyes.

Like a lot of art, other perceptions may also be correct, but this is what I took away from director Ruben Östlund's work.

7/10


"Joint custody blows."
"Joint custody blows."
THE SQUID & THE WHALE (15)
D: Noah Baumbach
Columbia Tristar (Wes Anderson, Peter Newman, Clara Markowicz & Charlie Corwin)
US 2005
81 mins

Comedy/Drama

W: Noah Baumbach
DP: Robert Yeoman
Ed: Tim Streeto
Mus: Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips

Jeff Daniels (Bernard), Laura Linney (Joan), Jesse Eisenberg (Walt), Owen Kline (Frank), William Baldwin (Ivan), Anna Paquin (Lili), Halley Feiffer (Sophie)

The Squid & The Whale is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale which also doubles up as a separation drama as well as a slice of 1980's nostalgia.
Jeff Daniels & Laura Linney take the leads as a New York husband and wife who decide to separate and share custody of their two sons (Jesse Eisenberg & Owen Kline), who are having troubles of their own due to girlfriends, school, etc.
Noah Baumbach wrote the screenplay based on his own real-life events, but makes changes with the quirky dialogue and well-rounded characters. Producer Wes Anderson was initially slated to direct, but took a step back to allow the screenwriter to helm the reins himself. The two men do have similar filmmaking styles, so you'd be easily forgiven for thinking this wasn't the case.
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are both excellent in the lead roles, while Jesse Eisenberg makes a strong breakthrough role in support. 
7/10

STAGGERED (15)
D: Martin Clunes
Big Deal (Philippa Braithwaite)
UK 1994
95 mins

Comedy

W: Paul Alexander & Simon Braithwaite
DP: Simon Kossoff
Ed: Peter Delfgou
Mus: Peter Brewis

Martin Clunes (Neil Price), Anna Chancellor (Carmen Svennipeg), Michael Praed (Gary), Sarah Winman (Hilary), Sylvia Sims (Margaret), Virginia McKenna (Flora), Griff Rhys-Jones (Graham)

Following his stag party, the groom-to-be wakes up naked on a remote Scottish Island with no money or belongings and only three days to make it home to London in time for his wedding day.
Sporadically amusing sitcom-style comedy which attempted to launch the film career of television star Martin Clunes, who also directed.
It's enjoyable enough for something easy to watch, though it does feature some random moments of eccentricities and nonsense. A better script would have made a better movie.
4/10
 
"It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it!"
"It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it!"
STAKEOUT (15)
D: John Badham
Touchstone/Silver Screen Partners II (Jim Kouf & Cathleen Summers)
US 1987
115 mins

Comedy/Thriller

W: Jim Kouf
DP: John Seale
Ed: Tom Rolf & Michael Ripps
Mus: Arthur B. Rubinstein

Richard Dreyfuss (Det. Chris Lecce), Emilio Estevez (Det. Bill Reimers), Madeliene Stowe (Maria McGuire), Aidan Quinn (Richard 'Stick' Montgomery)

Two officers (Dreyfuss and Estevez) stakeout the home of a drug dealer and one of them falls in love with the suspects girlfriend (Stowe).
A comedy which goes here, there and everywhere, starting off with silly slapstick farce before becoming something more sitcom orientated.
The performances aren't bad, though it really needed a better double act than Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez, who don't really have much on-screen pizzazz together. It certainly didn't deserve a sequel (Another Stakeout, released in 1993).
6/10
 

STAN & OLLIE (PG)

D: Jon S. Baird

Sony/Entertainment One/BBC/Fable/Sonesta (Faye Ward)

UK/USA/Canada 2018

97 mins


Biopic/Comedy/Drama


W: Jeff Pope

DP: Laurie Rose

Ed: Úna Ni Dhonghaile & Billy Sneddon

Mus: Rolfe Kent


Steve Coogan (Stan Laurel), John C. Reilly (Oliver Hardy), Shirley Henderson (Lucille Hardy), Nina Arianda (Ida Kitaeva Laurel), Rufus Jones (Bernard Delfont), Danny Huston (Hal Roach)


I was lucky enough to have been selected to attend a test screening preview of Stan & Ollie over a year before its official release. Of course, that early cut of the film was without many post production elements, such as music, sound effects and many incomplete green screen backgrounds. Still, these cosmetic issues didn't really prevent me from enjoying the film, and it's all due to good acting performances and an engaging story.

With the aid of excellent makeup, Steve Coogan & John C. Reilly are incredibly convincing as Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, the comedy legends of a bygone era whose back catalogue of short films and movies is still as beloved by some in modern times as it was in their 1930's heyday.

This biographical film takes place during their British tour of 1953, where they stage their famous routines in front of dwindling crowds as they cling to their fame with hopes of a cinematic comeback when their tour concludes in London.

The style of the film doesn't really settle on one specific genre of drama or comedy, as it manages to be both serious and comedic, sombre and bittersweet, delightful and insightful, as it shows not only the duo as their bumbling, accident-prone on-screen counterparts, but their friendship behind the curtain, including the tetchy relationships with their wives.

The acting from the entire ensemble is excellent, and though it might not delve as much into Laurel & Hardy's slapstick as much as some would have liked, it has enough to serve a reminder of how great they were, and possibly introduce a new generation into their work.

7/10


STAND & DELIVER (PG)
D: Ramon Menendez
Warner Bros./American Playhouse (Tom Musca)
US 1988
104 mins

Drama

W: Ramon Menendez & Tom Musca
DP: Tom Richmond
Ed: Nancy Richardson 
Mus: Craig Safan

Edward James Olmos (Jaime Escalante), Lou Diamond Phillips (Angel Guzman), Rosana de Soto (Fabiola Escalante), Andy Garcia (Ramirez), Ingrid Oliu (Lupe)

Based on a true story, the film, set at a violent Los Angeles high school in a tough Hispanic neighbourhood where a school teacher inspires his stubborn pupils to learn and persuades them that education is a positive asset.
The filmmaking style is very rudimentary, almost like a TV-movie-of-the-week, but what really shines through are the strength of the performances, particularly Edward James Olmos as the inspirational teacher and Lou Diamond Phillips as his most belligerent student.
Many duplications of the same story have emerged since, even switching the gender of the teacher for 1995's Dangerous Minds, but none can quite emulate the gritty, raw and realistic feel of this film.
7/10
 
STAND BY ME (15)
D: Rob Reiner
Columbia/Act III (Arnold Scheinman, Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon)
US 1986
87 mins

Drama/Comedy

W: Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon [based on the novella "The Body" by Stephen King]
DP: Thomas Del Ruth
Ed: Robert Leighton
Mus: Jack Nitzsche
PD: J. Dennis Washington

Wil Wheaton (Gordie Lachance), River Phoenix (Chris Chambers), Corey Feldman (Teddy Duchamp), Jerry O'Connell (Vern Tessio), Kiefer Sutherland (Ace Merrill), Casey Siemaszko (Billy Tessio), Richard Dreyfuss (Narrator)

The perfect nostalgia film for anyone who grew up in the 1950's (and anyone who originally watched it growing up in the 1980's).
Following the death of his friend, a writer reminisces on their childhood together and the adventure he and his friends had in the summer of 1959, when they ventured into the woods outside their small town hoping to find the body of a missing kid.
Based on a short story by Stephen King, from the same book which also featured the source material for The Shawshank Redemption & Apt Pupil, screenwriters Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon perfectly capture the childhood friendships between the teenagers, from hurling foul-mouthed insults at each other to smoking cigarettes and discussing trivial matters. Director Rob Reiner also captures the late 1950's America perfectly. The soundtrack is also a gem, filled with classic rock & roll tracks as well as the memorable title song by Ben E. King, which had a resurgence in the music charts following the popularity of the film, reaching #1 in the UK in early 1987.
It's unlikely to capture the same feelings of nostalgia for audiences watching it in the here and now. Not that it's dated badly, but more that you had to be there at the time to truly appreciate the experience. 
9/10
 
"It's never too late to set things right."
"It's never too late to set things right."
STAND UP GUYS (15)
D: Fisher Stevens
Lionsgate/Lakeshore (Sidney Kimmel, Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi & Jim Tauber)
US 2012
95 mins

Crime/Comedy

W: Noah Haidle
DP: Michael Grady
Ed: Mark Livolsi
Mus: Lyle Workman

Al Pacino (Val), Christopher Walken (Doc), Alan Arkin (Richard Hirsch), Mark Margolis (Claphands), Julianna Margolis (Nina Hirsch)

Ageing thief Val (Al Pacino) is released from prison after 28 years and a mob boss wants his best friend, Doc (Christopher Walken) to whack him. Doc reluctantly agrees, but only in the morning, after the duo roll back the years for a night of partying, sex, drugs and alcohol.
This crime spin on The Bucket List (qv) sees Al Pacino and Christopher Walken in fine form, and the relationship between the two characters is brilliantly written. Unfortunately, not enough focus goes into the rest of the characters, who come off as unbelievable or underused.
An enjoyable 95 mins, but not really one for repeat viewings.
6/10

A STAR IS BORN (U)

D: William A. Wellman

United Artists/Selznick International (David O. Selznick)

US 1937

111 mins


Drama/Romance


W: William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell

DP: W. Howard Greene

Ed: James E. Newcom & Anson Stevenson

Mus: Max Steiner


Janet Gaynor (Esther Hoffman / Vicki Lester), Fredric March (Norman Maine), Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Niles), May Robson (Grandmother Lettie), Andy Levine (Danny McGuire), Lionel Stander (Matt Libby)


The original 1937 version of A Star Is Born was the first all-colour motion picture to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, which should tell you all you need to know about its age.

It's said that every generation has its own version of A Star Is Born, and the plot has seen a remake in the 1950's (with Judy Garland & James Mason), the 1970's (with Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson) and in 2018 (starring Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper). Of course, there was also the 1932 film What Price Hollywood?, which is a variation on the same plot, but this film is not a remake of that and was considered an Original Story when it was nominated for and won this category at the 1938 Oscars.

Though later versions were set within the music industry, the original film was a love letter to Hollywood, starring Janet Gaynor as young ingenue Esther Hoffman, who comes to Tinseltown with dreams of being a star and becomes enamoured by Norman Maine, the studio's number one star, although his addiction to alcohol and reputation for this begin to hinder his success. 

Launched onto the big screen as Vicki Lester, the young actress becomes an overnight sensation and when her stardom begins to eclipse Maine's, it puts strain on their relationship.

Though this version is now considered dated compared to later versions, the fundamental part of the plot still has a lot of gas, making it understandable why it has had so many remakes, even reworked in films like The Artist (qv). Even so, for 1937 it was a landmark movie, winning a special award at the Oscars for its technicolor cinematography, as well as using some interesting artistic flourishes with its direction and editing (one scene which comes to mind is a billboard transitioning from Maine's name in lights to Lester's).

Due to issues with copyright, it's difficult to find good quality unedited versions of the film now, but if you can catch it, it makes a worthwhile watch for film enthusiasts, although general audiences will have their own version of the film, possibly depending on which one they saw first.

7/10


A STAR IS BORN (U)

D: George Cukor

Warner Bros/Transcona (Sidney Luft)

US 1954

176 mins (original version: 182 mins / edited version: 152 mins)


Musical / Romance


W: Moss Hart [based on the 1937 screenplay by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell]

DP: Sam Leavitt

Ed: Folmar Blangsted

Mus: Ray Heindorf

PD: Gene Allen

Cos: Jean Louis & Mary Ann Nyberg


Judy Garland (Esther Blodgett / Vicki Lester), James Mason (Norman Maine), Jack Carson (Matt Libby), Charles Bickford (Oliver Niles), Tommy Noonan (Danny McGuire)


Regarded the classic version of A Star Is Born, the 1954 remake is unfortunately not possible to view as it was originally envisaged by director George Cukor.

Released in its 182 minute entirety, studio heads at Warner Bros. trimmed the running time (without Cukor's permission) by half-an-hour and destroyed the negative(!). A 176 minute version is available on DVD, with a complete soundtrack, but many scenes have been reconstructed with production stills.  Most of the scenes which have been forever lost build up the relationship between the two lead characters and so have great importance to the narrative. Obviously studio heads thought the love story element was far less important than an extra screening at cinemas per day, proving that, for some, money is more important than romance. Sigh.

As for the film itself, it certainly is an improvement on the 1937 picture, modernising the same story (an ingenue becomes the new big star while a Hollywood legend succumbs to alcoholism) for the 1950's and tailoring it specifically for the amazing talents of Judy Garland, who really does shine in this. Taking on the Fredric March character Norman Maine in this remake is James Mason, who is also excellent as his character's trajectory is on opposite paths from Garland's Esther Blodgett / Vicki Lester.

The lead performances are absolutely fantastic, especially Garland's, whose defeat at the Academy Awards (to Grace Kelly in The Country Girl) is considered one of the biggest Oscar snubs of all time. 

Whether or not this is the classic version of A Star Is Born is completely subjective (I'm actually incredibly fond of the 2018 version), but I could certainly concur that this is one of the classic musicals of all time. A tad overlong, yes, but studio heads 'fixing' that by destroying scenes should be considered an act of criminal negligence.

8/10


A STAR IS BORN (15)

D: Bradley Cooper

Warner Bros/MGM/Live Nation (Bradley Cooper, Bill Gerber, Todd Phillips & Lynette Howell Taylor)

US 2018

135 mins


Drama/Musical


W: Eric Roth, Will Fetters & Bradley Cooper [based on the 1937 screenplay by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell]

DP: Matthew Libatique

Ed: Jay Cassidy

Mus: various 


Lady Gaga (Ally Maine), Bradley Cooper (Jackson Maine), Sam Elliott (Bobby Maine), Dave Chappelle (Noodles), Andrew Dice Clay (Lorenzo), Rafi Gavron (Rez)


This is the fourth American remake of A Star Is Born, following versions in the 1930's (with Janet Gaynor), and more famously in the 1950's with Judy Garland & James Mason and 1970's with Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson.  If you include movies like What Price Hollywood?, The Artist and La La Land, it's the umpteenth remake of a similar plot thread.  Despite all this, Bradley Cooper (making his directorial debut) does an excellent job bringing an age old story into the modern era.

Cooper also stars as Jackson Maine (from Norman Maine in the original film), a rock singer at the peak of his popularity, but heavily addicted to alcohol and drugs which are beginning to affect his performances. Craving a drink following one of his gigs, he stumbles into a gay cabaret bar as Ally (Lady Gaga) is performing. Impressed by her voice, humility and attitude, he insists that she attend his next concert, where he coerces into performing her song, which becomes a sensation and gains the attention of an avaricious manager who wants to make her the next big thing.

The price of fame is that Ally loses her own image to become a generic popstar whilst Jackson's career declines due to his addictions. 

This is a remake which works. Mostly due to the incredibly effective on-screen chemistry between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and the soundtrack of original songs is easily the best you'll hear all year. From a filmmaking perspective, everything is done with the highest level of professionalism and it's clear to see that Bradley Cooper had a huge amount of devotion and dedication committed to making this his own. The cinematography, editing and sound design are all perfect, but the biggest stars are the actors themselves. Bradley Cooper channelling his talents to make a very convincing rockstar, while Lady Gaga was the only actress who could have possibly done justice to this role (unbelievable that the studio were almost insistent that Beyoncé star instead). 

Very much amongst the best movies of 2018.

8/10


"There is no comparison."
"There is no comparison."
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (PG)     
D: Robert Wise
Paramount (Gene Roddenberry)
US 1979
132 mins

Science Fiction

W: Harold Livingstone & Alan Dean Fraser [based on the television series created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Richard H. Kline
Ed: Todd Ramsay
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Harold Michelson

William Shatner (James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForrest Kelley (Leonard McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), George Takei (Hikaru Sulu), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura)

10 years after its unceremonious cancellation from TV, Star Trek makes its cinematic bow with its first feature-length film. Even with a huge fanbase behind it, it would seem that producers had to see the business Star Wars did to give them a little more faith in the sci-fi genre and it generally shows here with the production design & visual effects.
Unfortunately, not much effort was put into the screenplay, which is possibly worse than any of the standard Star Trek episodes (bar "Spock's Brain" maybe - Series 3, Episode 1).
The story sees an alien spacecraft heading towards Earth, destroying everything in its path. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew take charge of the Enterprise to investigate. It actually sounds more fun than what it is, but falls into pseudo-intellectual territory in the final act which simply fails to satisfy. Especially for those unfamiliar with the way Star Trek do things.
It's considered that Star Trek is classical music to Star Wars' rock & roll and this is a perfect example of that parable.
For hardcore Trekkie fans, it may be enough just to see their favourite characters back on screen once more, but those wanting to see what made the TV show such a worldwide phenomenon may feel very short-changed.
5/10
 
"At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance."
"At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance."
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (PG)
D: Nicholas Meyer
Paramount (Harve Bennett)
US 1982
114 mins

Science Fiction

W: Jack B. Sowards [based on the television series created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Gayne Rescher
Ed: William Dornisch
Mus: James Horner
PD: Joseph R. Jennings

William Shatner (James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonian Singh), DeForrest Kelly (Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), Walter Koenig (Chekov), George Takei (Sulu), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura)

Arguably the best of the Star Trek films, to which you don't even have to be a Trekkie to appreciate this, but it would be beneficial to have seen the original series since the plot works as a sequel to an episode from the first season of the TV show ("Space Seed").
The first Star Trek movie didn't have an antagonistic villain, so this film makes up for that in abundance with the character of Khan, a superior being who was outcast to a planet on the far reaches of the galaxy by Kirk, Spock & co after he tried to assume control of the Starship Enterprise, and now he seeks revenge.
This movie has the perfect blend of drama, thrills & action and isn't even afraid to kill off a major character (at least until the next film).
Star Trek: Into Darkness (qv) tried to emulate this movie a little too much, and while it can be appreciated that it's for a new generation of fans and is perfectly enjoyable on it's own merits, Benedict Cumberbatch just cannot shape up to Ricardo Montalban in the bad guy department.
7/10
 
"A dying planet. A fight for life. The search for Spock.
"A dying planet. A fight for life. The search for Spock.
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (PG)
D: Leonard Nimoy
Paramount/CGV (Harve Bennett)
US 1984
105 mins

Science Fiction

W: Harve Bennett [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Charles Correll
Ed: Robert F. Shugrue 
Mus: James Horner

William Shatner (James T. Kirk), DeForrest Kelly (Leonard 'Bones' McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Christopher Lloyd (Kruge)

***Spoiler Warning***
A very decent follow up to The Wrath of Khan (arguably the best of all the Star Trek movies) and still streets ahead of the very first of the cinematic releases, which was hugely underwhelming.
Kirk and the rest of the enterprise crew find themselves in a battle against a Klingon warship whilst on a mission to discover the whereabouts of Spock (version 2.0), reborn as a Vulcan child following his demise at the end of the previous film.
There's only a handful of action scenes, but they're grippingly directed and edited with some good special effects and makeup considering the age of the film. Personally, it's my second favourite of the entire series, brilliantly helmed by Leonard Nimoy, sitting in the director's chair as his famous character is relegated to a cameo role.
7/10
 
"Star date: 1986. How on earth can they save the future?"
"Star date: 1986. How on earth can they save the future?"
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (PG)
D: Leonard Nimoy
Paramount (Harve Bennett)
US 1986
119 mins

Science Fiction

W: Harve Bennett, Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Don Peterman
Ed: Peter Berger
Mus: Leonard Rosenman
PD: Jack T. Collis

William Shatner (Adm. James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForrest Kelly (Leonard 'Bones' McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), Catherine Hicks (Dr. Gillian Taylor)

Though Kirk, Spock and the rest of the crew are all back again for this fourth feature-length adventure, it's not quite the same without the Starship Enterprise.
While they face mutiny for their exploits in the previous film, an alien force threatens the very existence of Earth. The only chance to communicate with the threat is a species of whale that has become extinct in the 23rd century. Stealing a Klingon warship capable of time-travel, the crew travel back to the world of the 1980's to transport two whales into the future and save their own timeline.
This is probably far more in line with the TV series than the other films, especially in the respect that it plays into using present-day America as its setting.
Even for non-Trekkie fans, this should prove an exciting adventure film with a strong ecological message, and though it's light on action set pieces, it still has enough about it to entertain.
6/10
 
"Adventure and imagination will meet at the final frontier."
"Adventure and imagination will meet at the final frontier."
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (PG)
D: William Shatner
Paramount (Harve Bennett)
US 1989
107 mins

Science Fiction

W: Harve Bennett, William Shatner & Dave Loughery [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Andrew Laszlo
Ed: Peter Berger
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Herman Zimmerman

William Shatner (James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForrest Kelly (Leonard McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), George Takei (Sulu), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Laurence Luckinbill (Sybok)

Easily the weakest of the Star Trek movies which is best avoided unless you're a huge fan of the franchise.
From the opening scene, where a bare-chestered James T. Kirk stunt double climbs a mountain without the aid of rope, you can simply tell that this is a William Shatner ego-trip, especially considering he chipped in with co-writing and directing this excerpt.
When the story does finally get some wheels in motion (which takes a while), the crew of the re-commissioned enterprise journey to visit a mysterious planet said to be inhabited by God.
The story is enough to test the patience of even the most ardent Trekkie, with nothing much happening and with very little pace. It's not quite as ridiculous as the infamously bad "Spock's Brain" episode from the TV series, but at least that had in its favour that it was under 60 minutes long. This is nearly 107 minutes of boredom.
4/10
 
STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (PG)
D: Nicholas Meyer
UIP/Paramount (Ralph Winter & Steven-Charles Jaffe)
US 1991
110 mins

Science Fiction

W: Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flynn [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Hiro Narita
Ed: Ronald Roose & William Hoy
Mus: Cliff Eidelman
PD: Herman Zimmerman

William Shatner (James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForrest Kelly (Leonard McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov), George Takei (Sulu), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Christopher Plummer (Chang), Kim Cattrall (Valeris)

Following 1989's incredibly disappointing Star Trek V, this is a huge improvement for the original cast to make their final big screen bow.
When a Klingon leader is assassinated during a diplomatic mission, Kirk and Bones are convicted of the crime, whilst Spock investigates who is the real guilty party. The plot is rather predictable, but this is much more in the vein of what made the TV series so great.
Star Trek: Generations followed on three years later, with the cast of The Next Generation taking over from the old guard.
6/10
 
"The future begins."
"The future begins."
STAR TREK (12)
D: J. J. Abrams
Paramount/Spyglass/Bad Robot (J. J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof)
US 2009
127 mins

Science Fiction

W: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Dan Mindel
Ed: Mary Jo Markey & Maryann Brandon
Mus: Michael Giacchino
PD: Scott Chambliss

Chris Pine (James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoë Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard McCoy), Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scott), Anton Yelchin (Pavel Chekov), Eric Bana (Nero), Bruce Greenwood (Christopher Pike), Ben Cross (Sarek), Winona Ryder (Amanda Grayson), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime)

More Star Wars than Star Trek, which may leave some of the fanbase feeling like they've been shafted by director J. J. Abrams' re-imagination of their favourite show, but for those who are too young to have experienced the original TV show, this provides a good introduction.
Technically, it's a visual spectacle, with top-notch special effects, makeup and production design, and while the story has a lot of thrilling action scenes, it misses the point of what set Star Trek aside from the rest of the sci-fi genre, settling on an origin story with a simple revenge plot made complicated with time-travelling technicalities. The characters aren't quite the same either, with a far too arrogant Kirk, a far too emotional Dr. Spock and an Uhura who is, well, just about that.
For a new generation of fans, this is perfectly entertaining, but nothing will ever usurp the original series, despite any cinematic breakthroughs in the fields of visual effects and sky-high budgets.
6/10

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (12)
D: J. J. Abrams
Paramount/Spyglass/Bad Robot (J. J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman)
US 2013
133 mins

Science Fiction

W: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Dan Mindel
Ed: Mary Jo Markey & Maryann Brandon
Mus: Michael Giacchino
PD: Scott Chambliss

Chris Pine (James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Zoë Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard McCoy), Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scott), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), John Cho (Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan), Peter Weller (Alexander Marcus), Alice Eve (Dr. Carol Marcus)

There have been many Trekkies going as far as describing this as the worst Star Trek movie. Rather harsh considering Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (qv) had a much weaker story and the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture (qv) was arse-numbingly boring. This is actually on a par with J. J. Abrams' 2009 reboot of Star Trek, and though it may not be directly aimed at the show's huge fanbase, it does a good job for a new generation of fans. Intelligence has been toned down in favour of a more action-based science fiction for the new direction, but at least the two films are entertaining.
The plot here takes a huge slice of inspiration from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the superior villain who aims to destroy Starfleet. Chris Pine still plays Kirk as a douchebag, but Zachary Quinto is a perfect replacement for Leonard Nimoy as Spock, though Zoë Saldana's take on Uhura is still trying to be too sassy and sexy for someone who is merely a background character. The performances are immaterial however, it's the visual effects, makeup and technical achievements which attracts an audience for these new Trek adventures, and in that respect it doesn't disappoint entirely.
5/10
 
STAR TREK: BEYOND (12)
D: Justin Lin
Paramount/Skydance/Alibaba/Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, Lindsey Weber & Justin Lin)
US 2016
122 mins

Science Fiction

W: Simon Pegg & Doug Jung [based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry]
DP: Stephen F. Windon
Ed: Greg D'Auria, Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto & Steven Sprung
Mus: Michael Giacchino

Chris Pine (Capt. James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Leonard 'Bones' McCoy), Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scott), Zoe Saldana (Nyoto Uhura), Idris Elba (Krall), Sofia Boutella (Jaylah)

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry probably wouldn't be too impressed to see what the Star Trek movies have now become and neither would most self-confessed Trekkies. 
The most recent Star Trek movies have emulated Star Wars rather than the original television programmes and series of movies, and though the scenes of action are very well presented, this just isn't Star Trek.
This third film of the reboot series, directed by Justin Lin after J.J. Abrams gave up the reins, sees Captain James T. Kirk and crew ambushed by a malevolent alien species which destroys the Enterprise, leaving them deserted on a foreign planet, where the wreckage of another starship lies dormant.
Penned by Simon Pegg, the plot pickpockets from Avatar, Flight Of The Phoenix, Star Wars and other inspirations, but is as far from Star Trek as Gene Roddenberry ever would have hoped.
The highlight of the film is certainly the attack which cripples the USS Enterprise, but occurring so early in the movie the remainder is completely anti-climactic.
4/10

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."
STAR WARS (U)
D: George Lucas
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm (Gary Kurtz)
US 1977
121 mins

Science Fiction

W: George Lucas
DP: Gilbert Taylor
Ed: Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas & Richard Chew
Mus: John Williams
PD: John Barry
Cos: John Mollo

Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin), Alec Guinness (Ben 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader)

Whether or not you became swept in up in the phenomenal fandom which has arisen since the original release, it simply cannot be denied that Star Wars changed cinema forever. Mostly for the better, but there have also been some negative connotations, but these are mostly due to Hollywood's business practices rather than cinematic achievements or the power of merchandising.
In 1977, it was a huge risk for 20th Century Fox to take on George Lucas' science fiction project. The genre had generally been considered kitsch and never a huge money-spinner for the studios, with very few exceptions.
George Lucas certainly broke the mould with his Space Western, a Flash Gordon inspired adventure with all the traits of a Saturday morning serial; a damsel in distress, a roguish hero, a seemingly unstoppable villain, magic, mystery, robots and aliens. 
During a time of intergalactic civil war, a princess is captured while trying to smuggle secret plans for a space station with destructive capabilities back to a rebel alliance. Her escape is subsequently aided by a young farmer, an older wizard, a space pirate, his canine-like co-pilot and two androids, setting up a nail-biting finale where a small group of fighters must battle the forces of evil before the deadly space station wipes another planet off the face of the galaxy.
The style, imagination and creativity of Lucas' writing and direction ensured that the film became something the studios couldn't foresee, the biggest box office hit of all time and still amongst the most successful films ever, collecting a new generation of fans with each passing year.
There's many reasons why Star Wars appeals to so many, but it can't be pinned down to a single factor. Firstly, it's timelessly set in a galaxy far, far away with no reference to any Earth events that could date the material, it's also a story full of conflict, not just in the good vs evil scenarios but also internally within the characters themselves. It also holds a David vs Goliath theme which carries out throughout the series as well as an "honour amongst thieves" code from the samurai films which provided much inspiration. Perhaps what makes it so loved, is that there's so many iconic characters, that it's almost impossible not to be able to connect with at least one.  From the opening frame of the movie and John William's famous score accompanying the narrative crawl-back explaining the backstory, George Lucas immerses the audience into the galaxy he created and never lets you go, even after the closing credits have finished.    
The film was so successful, that it earned a re-release 20 years after it's original theatrical run, with remixed sound, sharper visuals, new animations and even digital effects added to some unseen footage. This version is generally considered inferior to the original theatrical release and has many mooted moments, particularly Han Solo's brief interlude with Jabba The Hutt and the infamous "Greedo shooting first" scene.
Whether or not you agree with George Lucas doctoring with his original film, it still can't be denied that Star Wars is possibly the most important cinema event ever created.
10/10
 
"The Star Wars saga continues."
"The Star Wars saga continues."
STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (U)
D: Irvin Kershner
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm (Gary Kurtz)
US 1980
124 mins

Science Fiction

W: Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan [based on a story by George Lucas]
DP: Peter Suschitzky 
Ed: Paul Hirsch
Mus: John Williams
PD: Norman Reynolds
Cos: John Mollo

Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda)

Arguably the best of the Star Wars films, bringing a balance to the saga with its dark style and story.
The title isn't cryptic either, this is all about the dark side balancing things up, getting the upper hand and showing the rebels how out of their depth they are. This begins with an ambushed attack on a remote ice planet where our heroes have holed up, a battle which sees our favourite characters escape, but only by the skin of their teeth.
The main trio of characters are subsequently separated, with Luke Skywalker training to be a Jedi Knight in the steps of his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi. Han Solo, Princess Leia and the rest are merely trying to outrun the bad guys, eventually seeking refuge in a floating city where they are eventually captured. Luke abandons his training to save them, but with his skills not quite perfect, it isn't a fair fight as he also discovers a shocking revelation.
Though the film ends on a huge cliffhanger which leaves the audience needing to know what happens next, it also provides one of the biggest plot twists in film history, a scene which has become one of the most memorable in the entire saga.
In comparison to the first film, The Empire Strikes Back has a very dark tone, taking place mostly in dark and shadows as a metaphorical storm in the trilogy. 
For this sequel, George Lucas passed the directorial reins to Irvin Kerschner and enlisted screenwriter duo Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan to pen the script from his original story. The final result is so good that even Lucas' meddling for the 1997 re-release left the film virtually untouched from it's original theatrical version. The Empire Strikes Back is as perfect as sequels come, equal to the first film in quality, but the complete opposite in terms of narrative story, character development and composition.
10/10
 
STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI (U)
D: Richard Marquand
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm (Howard Kazanjian, Robert Watts & Jim Bloom)
US 1983
133 mins

Science Fiction

W: Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas [based on a story by George Lucas]
DP: Alan Hume
Ed: Sean Barton, Marcia Lucas & Duwayne Dunham
Mus: John Williams
PD: Norman Reynolds
Cos: Aggie Guerard Rodgers & Nilo Rodis-Jamero

Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda)

Of the original trilogy, Return Of The Jedi is arguably the weakest, but considering the acts it had to follow, this doesn't make it a bad film, though it's clearly the one which is most aimed at a younger audience, especially with the introduction of the Ewoks, but perhaps something more light-hearted was necessary considering the dark undertone of the previous film. The introduction of these primitive bear-like creatures also sets up a climax where even the most unlikely hero can overcome a technologically-advanced powerhouse, following on from the David vs Goliath theme which events in the first two films followed.
It has some flaws, but there's no better way to round off the original trilogy, starting with Han Solo's daring escape from Jabba The Hutt's lair and concluding with Luke Skywalker's thrilling face off with Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, as well as another space battle to destroy a new Death Star, still under construction but equally as deadly.
The original 1983 version is hugely recommended over the 1997 re-release, due to the ridiculous amount of meddling from George Lucas, who even went as far as changing many scenes into something which would fit better in a Disney movie.
8/10
 
STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE (U)
D: George Lucas
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm (Rick McCallum)
US 1999
116 mins

Science Fiction

W: George Lucas
DP: David Tattersall
Ed: Paul Martin Smith
Mus: John Williams
PD: Gavin Bocquet

Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Queen Padme Amidala), Jake Lloyd (Anakin Skywalker), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Frank Oz (Yoda), Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Hugh Quarshie (Captain Panaka), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Ray Park (Darth Maul), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass)

16 years after the conclusion of the original trilogy, George Lucas invites us back to a galaxy far, far away to witness the story of how young Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker would become the villainous Darth Vader. The first episode of this prequel trilogy was hugely underwhelming to say the very least, yet it was so massively antipicated worldwide, by both fans of the original films and a brand new generation of fans, that it renders the film completely critic-proof.
The bulk of the story concerns two Jedi Knights trying to source a part for their ship (seriously), while vast parts of the majority plays out like a broadcast from the Intergalactic House Of Commons (again, seriously). The action scenes which do occur are good, but are too few and far between. The biggest problems come mostly with casting decisions, especially Jake Lloyd who features as young Anakin Skywalker and delivers one of the most odious juvenile performances of all time. Still, his performance is adorable in comparison with that of Jar Jar Binks, the most irritating CGI creation of all time who became a widely loathed character from the entire Star Wars series. As well as the lack of action, the dialogue is absolutely atrocious, characters are introduced in depth for little reason and it also negates the entire point of the first three movies by suggesting that only a certain few can become a Jedi, rather than it be a discipline that anyone could attempt to attain.
It would be easy to argue that George Lucas only wanted this film to be released so he could exploit his stranglehold on the Star Wars merchandising rights and being out a whole new range of toys. This would at least explain why some characters are so expendable. 
3/10
 
STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES (PG)
D: George Lucas
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm (Rick McCallum)
US 2002
143 mins

Science Fiction

W: George Lucas & Jonathan Hales
DP: David Tattersall
Ed: Ben Burtt
Mus: John Williams
PD: Gavin Bocquet
Cos: Trisha Beggar

Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Natalie Portman (Padme Amidala), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda), Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Temeura Morrison (Jango Fett)

An improvement on the previous installment of this prequel trilogy, but that wasn't a particularly difficult achievement. 
Set a few years later, Anakin has grown up to be a pubescent teenager with an attitude, fighting side by side with Obi-Wan Kenobi until he is commanded to perform duties as Padme's bodyguard. 
Returning to his home planet, he discovers news of his mother's death and seeks revenge. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi receives news of a new army in the making, setting out to investigate further.
If this film represents the "clone war" which is referred to in the very first Star Wars, it's less a war and more a battle, a disappointing one at that. 
Once again, casting is proved a problem, particularly Hayden Christensen as a whiny, unpleasant choice to play Anakin Skywalker. What's worse is the lack of chemistry between him and Natalie Portman, who is equally unconvincing as Padme, while the dialogue between them borders on laughable.
If anything, the movie shows that George Lucas has lost his touch, and his originality... The opening segment looks like it was lifted straight from Blade Runner while other themes seem to have been heavily inspired by Dune, Gladiator and various other science fiction movies.
It's just not acceptable, seeing as it was Star Wars which set the trend for others to ape, rather than turning into a carbon copy of them. Still, as a Star Wars film, it was a huge success worldwide, virtually neutralising any negative critique.
5/10
 
STAR WARS: EPISODE III - REVENGE OF THE SITH (PG)
D: George Lucas
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm (Rick McCallum)
US 2005
140 mins

Science Fiction

W: George Lucas
DP: David Tattersall
Ed: Roger Burton & Ben Burtt
Mus: John Williams
PD: Gavin Bocquet
Cos: Trisha Beggar

Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Natalie Portman (Padme Amidala), Ian McDiarmid (Senator Palpatine), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda), Anthony Daniels (C3-P0), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku)

The best of the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, but this is more of a poisoned chalice than a recommendation. It wasn't necessary to show the origins of Darth Vader and all George Lucas has done is ruined the mystery of the character, particularly in the closing moments of this film when cinema's greatest ever villain is "born", coming into being with an embarrassingly monosyllabic cry: "NOOOOOOOOO!"
Though this has plenty of action and some well crafted fight scenes to hold attention, it's still a bookend to a series of stories that did damage to a great saga of films. The reasons for these are fourfold:
1. It introduces new characters who didn't need to exist, most of them created only to kill them off instantaneously, or for them to fade out into practical irrelevance. Was this just an excuse for George Lucas to sell more action figures and earn more merchandising rights?
2. The technological advancements in the prequel trilogy is vastly superior to that in original trilogy, despite being set chronologically prior. Does Lucas not understand his own moral that, no matter how big your ray gun is, the Ewoks are still gonna kick your ass?
3. They simply didn't need to be made. Enough back story was given in the 1977 film for an audience to fill in these blanks. 
We didn't need to see the births of Leia and Luke. The audiences really aren't stupid enough to believe that these characters just materialised out of thin air.
4. Insultingly ridiculous dialogue. Even if it was being spoken in a galaxy far, far away.
They may be critic proof and entertaining enough for the kids, but the new trilogy has caused untold damage to what was once considered the best film of all time. And the worst thing is that Lucas doesn't seem to care. He just wants your money.
6/10
 
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (12)     
D: J. J. Abrams
20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm/Bad Robot (Kathleen Kennedy, Bryan Burk & J. J. Abrams)
US 2015
135 mins

Science Fiction

W: Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams & Michael Arndt [based on characters created by George Lucas]
DP: Dan Mindel
Ed: Mary Jo Markey & Maryann Brandon
Mus: John Williams
PD: Rick Carter & Darren Gilford 

Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Carrie Fisher (Gen. Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong'o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (Gen. Hux), Gwendoline Christie (Capt. Phasma), Max Von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker)

For many, Star Wars is more than just a film, it's an event. As such, a film review really won't do justice for it. For some, Episode VII was hugely anticipated ever since George Lucas sold the rights to the Disney corporation, for others (like myself), this has been dangled in front of us like a mythical carrot for over 32 years! To say J. J. Abrams had big shoes to fill and massive expectations to manage is a huge understatement, and though his Star Trek films were successful at the box office, they also divided audiences and didn't manage to appease the massive fanbase of the series. Was he the right choice to take the reins of such a mammoth project?
For those who haven't seen the film yet, just stop reading now and go watch Star Wars. There will be spoilers.
It would seem J. J. Abrams learned his lessons here. This not only follows on from the original trilogy, it's as far apart from the prequel trilogy as it could dare to get (much to George Lucas' annoyance). From the opening note of John Williams' iconic theme and the narrative crawl explaining the backstory between episodes, this feels every bit like we've returned to a galaxy far, far away, immersing us into its fictional locations as though these were real-life places.
Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has disappeared, and the film mostly focuses on the quest to find him. The formula is much the same as the very first Star Wars film, but recycled in a way that it still feels original, with bigger effects and action sequences, but the focus is still primarily on the characters, those new to the series and those who have become beloved in the hearts of fans.
Civil War has erupted once more throughout the galaxy, and a map of Luke Skywalker's whereabouts are hidden in a droid by it's master, but when the master is abducted by a new dark lord, a rogue Stormtrooper and a female scavenger unite to return the droid to the resistance army so Skywalker can be found and balance once again can be restored.
Old faces join the new, with Han Solo and Chewbacca reuniting to fly the Millennium Falcon and deliver our two new heroes to a planet where they discover their destiny. 
The action culminates with a battle on a death-star like planet, which draws unfathomable firepower from its sun and has capabilities of destroying multiple planets simultaneously. 
Unfortunately, there comes a demise of one of the classic characters, which is quite predictable when the scene opens up, but also had to be done for the good of this new trilogy (let's be honest, he's too old and it's better to go out with a bang than to fade away). As a door closes, another opens, with a new Jedi learning of new powers she didn't even know she had.
Though some elements are predictable and the film is practically a throwback to the very first movie, J. J. Abrams has done a spectacular job here, with a film which will appeal to a brand new generation of audiences as well as satisfying fans of the original trilogy in a way that the prequel trilogy failed, particularly with its treatment of the force (less about midichlorian nonsense and everything to do with faith and confidence).
Everything about this is a testament to the power of movies, with visual effects, production values and other such elements as good as money can buy. Even the script is so much better than other films in the series, with a few moments of good humour to break up the rising tension.
As said above, Star Wars is more than just a movie, Star Wars is a global phenomenon which has to be respected for its power to appeal to such a huge market. Abrams seems, at least, to appreciate this in a way that Lucas seemed to have forgotten.
6/10

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (12)

D: Rian Johnson

Disney/Lucasfilm (Kathleen Kennedy & Ram Bergman)

US 2017

152 mins


Science Fiction


W: Rian Johnson [based on characters created by George Lucas]

DP: Steve Yedlin

Ed: Bob Ducsay

Mus: John Williams

PD: Rick Heinrichs


Daisy Ridley (Rey), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Gen. Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Domnhall Gleason (Gen. Hux), Laura Dern (Vice Adm. Holdo), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose)


The 8th episode to the Star Wars saga is, like the other films in the series, rather critic-proof. As someone who enjoyed The Force Awakens, I was expecting more of the same from The Last Jedi, but unfortunately I left the cinema quite disappointed.

It's quite obvious that, with Disney's involvement in the Star Wars movies, studio executives are calling more shots than the director, and focus is more on diverse, inclusive storytelling rather than storytelling.

At 2 & a half hours long, this is the longest Star Wars movie, but it doesn't need to be, and 45 minutes could have been trimmed with the pointless characters and plot lines dropped to the cutting room floor without affecting the pacing or plot of the adventure at all.

The story continues on from the cliffhanger at the end of The Force Awakens. Rey has located Luke Skywalker's whereabouts and is tries to convince him to join the resistance and put an end to the war once and for all. Meanwhile, the empire have discovered a way to track rebel ships through light-speed and have a fleet of spaceships trapped, including one carrying General Leia Organa. 

The story does shoot off in several directions from this point, with Poe Dameron planning a mutiny against his superiors for the sake of survival, whilst Finn and his fangirl go to the galaxy's equivalent of Monte Carlo, where they hope to find a master hacker who can break into the imperial fleet and give the rebels a chance to escape.

It's not possible to reveal any more of the plot without major spoilers, but one of the storylines has no resolution and seems only to have been introduced for the sake of new characters. Likewise with Rey's storyline, which includes new creatures called Porgs, who only exist so Disney can sell merchandise. They bring absolutely nothing to the story.

Another gripe is with the forced humour, which would feel more in place in a Marvel movie rather than Star Wars.

As for the good stuff, there are some epic lightsaber duels, some exhilarating space battles, an exciting and surprising cameo appearance from an iconic character and Kylo Ren develops into a much stronger nemesis. There's also a lot of unpredictability in the set up, making it difficult to determine if key characters will survive the episode.

It's a shame that to get to the good stuff, there's a lot of excess you have to endure.

While not as disappointing as The Phantom Menace, it is a weak episode to the Star Wars universe, and the enjoyment factor has proved to be very divisive and it all seems to depend on whether you're a Star Wars or a Disney fan.  The worst thing about all this, by far, is the attitude of director Rian Johnson, who has actually taken to insulting SW fans who criticised the film. Wanker.

4/10


THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL (TV MOVIE) (PG)
D: Steve Binder
CBS/20th Century Fox (Joe Layton, Steve Starsh, Ken Welch & Mitzie Welch)
US 1978
98 mins

Science Fiction/Comedy/Musical

W: Pat Proft, Leonard Ripps, Bruce Vilanch, Rod Warren & Mitzie Welch
Mus: John Williams (Star Wars theme), Ian Fraser, Ken Welch & Mitzie Welch

Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Bea Arthur (Ackmena), Art Carney (Saun Dann), James Earl Jones (voice of Darth Vader)

It either takes a brave soul or obsessed fan to watch The Star Wars Holiday Special, even on May the 4th.
For those unaware of it's existence, it was a variety show aired on TV in 1978, built around the success of the original Star Wars film. 
The story (ha ha) sees Han Solo & Chewbecca try to get back to Chewie's home planet to celebrate Life Day with his family. Various celebrities like Bea Arthur and Jefferson Airplane also share the joy with some terrible songs.
The overall result was so poor that it was only shown on TV once, and with George Lucas spending 38 years trying to destroy every copy, the only hope of viewing it is via a bootleg copy or on YouTube.
Harrison Ford claims to have never watched it, nor does he ever intend to. Carrie Fisher, however, gleefully admits that she shows it whenever she has a house party, but only to prompt guests into leaving.
For those who claim The Phantom Menace is the worst Star Wars film, you're wrong. The SW Holiday Special is far, far worse.
1/10

"It will take you a million light years from home."
"It will take you a million light years from home."
STARGATE (PG)
D: Roland Emmerich
Guild/Canal/Centropolis (Joel B. Michaels, Oliver Eberle & Dean Devlin)
US 1994
120 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Roland Emmerich & Dean Devlin
DP: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Ed: Michael Duthie & Derek Brechin
Mus: David Arnold
PD: Holger Gross

Kurt Russell (Col. Jack O'Neil), James Spader (Dr. Daniel Jackson), Jaye Davidson (Ra), Viveca Lindfors (Dr. Catherine Langford), Alexis Cruz (Skaara)

An American Egyptologist discovers a portal which allows travel between Earth and a distant planet where inhabitants are descendants of Ancient Egyptian slaves, ruled over by a despotic leader who holds the secret of eternal youth.
Standard sci-fi with a plot recycled from other films and stories. Some of the CGI effects work well but others are poorly animated. The film was unexpectedly popular in 1994 and spawned a successful TV series, where it seemed to work better, mostly due to a larger scope for adventure.
6/10
 
STARMAN (PG)
D: John Carpenter
Columbia/Delphi (Larry J. Franco & Michael Douglas)
US 1984
115 mins

Science Fiction

W: Bruce A. Evans & Raynold Gideon
DP: Donald Morgan
Ed: Marion Rothman
Mus: Jack Nitzsche

Jeff Bridges (Starman/Scott Hayden), Karen Allen (Jenny Hayden), Charles Martin Smith (Mark Shermin), Richard Jaeckel (George Fox)

A visiting alien takes on the human form of a widow's late husband and the two of them fall in love as she helps him return back home.
Derivative of E.T. for a more adult audience, it works reasonably well due to the realistic performances from Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, as well as the natural chemistry which materialises between their characters. A little light on any particularly memorable scenes, but still an enjoyable piece of intelligent science fiction. A short-lived television series followed.
6/10

"Mankind just became an endangered species."
"Mankind just became an endangered species."
STARSHIP TROOPERS (18)
D: Paul Verhoeven
Buena Vista/Touchstone/Tristar (Jon Davison & Alan Marshall)
US 1997
129 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: Ed Neumeier [based on the novel by Robert Heinlein]
DP: Jost Vacano
Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Caroline Ross
Mus: Basil Poledouris
PD: Allan Cameron

Caspar Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez), Jake Busey (Ace Levy), Neil Patrick Harris (Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Sgt. Zim), Michael Ironside (Lt. Rasczak)

In a future world ruled over by military hierarchy battling a species of insect-like aliens, a group of young cadets find themselves promoted through the ranks as the battle is taken to the creatures own planet.
Partially satirical, with a dark theme of totalitarianism running through it, Paul Verhoeven was probably the perfect choice for this film, bringing a comic-book style action as well as a touch of black comedy to the proceedings. Much was lost from Robert Heinlein's original novel, but much always is when film adaptations are made of noted works of literature.
Unfortunately, nobody told male lead Caspar Van Dien, or the majority of the other performers, who act it out like it's a science fiction soap opera. Despite its general cheesiness, the special effects are out of this world.
Inferior sequels followed, none of which are worth watching.
7/10

THE STATION AGENT (15)
D: Thomas McCarthy
Miramax/SenArt/Next Wednesday (Mary Jane Skalski, Robert May & Kathryn Tucker)
US 2003
90 mins

Drama/Comedy

W: Thomas McCarthy
DP: Oliver Bokelberg
Ed: Tom McArdle
Mus: Stephen Trask

Peter Dinklage (Finbar McBride), Bobby Cannavale (Joe), Patricia Clarkson (Olivia), Raven Goodwin (Cleo), Paul Benjamin (Henry Styles), Michelle Williams (Emily)

Screenwriter Thomas McCarthy's directorial debut is a gentle traipse through rural New Jersey, starring Peter Dinklage as a model train repairman who moves to a railway depot left to him in his best friend's will. A man of short stature, Dinklage's appearance makes him the butt of many jokes and the wrong sort of attention, so he quite understandably wants to be left alone, but soon develops a friendship with a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman with her own problems.
This slice of independent cinema features a host of good performances and a quaint little story, well worth a watch.
7/10

"The Knables signed up for a cable system that's out of this world."
"The Knables signed up for a cable system that's out of this world."
STAY TUNED (PG)
D: Peter Hyams
Warner Bros./Morgan Creek (James G. Robinson)
US 1992
87 mins

Comedy/Fantasy

W: Tom S. Parker & Jim Jennewein
DP: Peter Hyams
Ed: Peter E. Berger
Mus: Bruce Broughton

John Ritter (Roy Knable), Pam Dawber (Helen Knable), Jeffrey Jones (Spike), David Thom (Darryl Knable), Heather McComb (Diane Knable), Bob Dishy (Murray Seidenbaum)

Mixing comedy, satire and science fiction Stay Tuned stars John Ritter and Pam Dawber as a constantly bickering married couple who become trapped in a television network run by the devil.
Though the idea may have worked as a sitcom, it's rather poor as a film, mostly because it desperately picks targets which are beyond parody (like Wayne's World, WWF wrestling, etc). It really hasn't dated well, neither with the comedy and plot, nor the special effects or technical elements of the film. Perhaps there might have been a good idea, but it was clearly thrown into a hasty production before being explored in any depth.
4/10

STELLA DOES TRICKS (18)
D: Coky Giedroyc
BFI/Channel 4/Compulsive/Sidewalk (Adam Barker)
UK 1996
99 mins

Drama

W: A. L. Kennedy
DP: Barry Ackroyd
Ed: Budge Tremlett
Mus: Nick Bicat

Kelly MacDonald (Stella), James Bolam (Mr. Peters), Hans Matheson (Eddie), Ewan Stewart (McGuire), Andy Serkis (Fitz)

Austere British drama, following the life of a young Scottish prostitute who escapes the custody of her violent pimp in London to move back to her hometown of Glasgow where she becomes involved in a relationship with a heroin addict.
At times powerful, with a vein of bleak humour and a strong performance from lead actress Kelly MacDonald, but it's ultimately a depressing drama of an endless circle of exploitation.
5/10

THE STEPFATHER (18)
D: Joseph Ruben
New World/Vista (Jay Benson)
US 1987
88 mins

Horror/Thriller

W: Donald E. Westlake [based on a story by Brian Garfield]
DP: John Lindley
Mus: Patrick Moraz

Terry O'Quinn (Jerry Blake), Jill Schoelen (Stephanie Maine), Shelley Hack (Susan Maine), Charles Lanyer (Dr. Bondurant)

A decent thriller which became a sleeper hit in 1987.  The story is a rather standard stepfather-from-hell horror movie, but better than those from the same mould due to the menacing performance from Terry O'Quinn. He plays a man so obsessed with the archetypal American Dream family that he'll stop at nothing to get it, seeking relationships with newly-divorced women and recent widows with children only to murder them when things start to fall apart.         
It's refreshing for a slasher-style horror movie to dedicate some attention into characterisation and a believable motive. It's just a huge shame that the story descends into cliché territory in the final act.
6/10

THE STEPFORD WIVES (15)
D: Bryan Forbes
Fadsin/Palomar (Edgar J. Sherick)
US 1975
115 mins

Thriller/Science Fiction/Horror

W: William Goldman [based on the novel by Ira Levin]
DP: Owen Roizman
Ed: Timothy Gee
Mus: Michael Small
PD: Gene Callahan

Katharine Ross (Joanna Eberhart), Paula Prentiss (Bobbie Markowe), Nanette Newman (Carol van Sant), Peter Masterson (Walter Eberhart), Patrick O'Neal (Dale Coba)

In a small town outside New York, a new resident finds the behaviour of other women in the community too good to be true, and makes a startling discovery.
Ira Levin's novel works best as a book, especially with this adaptation to go by. It's unfortunate that the acting is so wooden that the twist in the tale becomes blindingly obvious. There's some good makeup effects and a little bit of style, but overall very disappointing and far too slowly paced, with very little build up of tension. A remake in 2004 was even weaker.
6/10

"The wives of Stepford have a secret."
"The wives of Stepford have a secret."
THE STEPFORD WIVES (15)
D: Frank Oz
Paramount/Dreamworks (Scott Rudin, Donald DeLine & Edgar J. Scherick)
US 2004
93 mins

Comedy/Science Fiction

W: Paul Rudnick [based on the novel by Ira Levin]
DP: Rob Hahn
Ed: Jay Rabinowitz
Mus: David Arnold

Nicole Kidman (Joanna Eberhart), Matthew Broderick (Walter Kresby), Bette Midler (Bobbie Markowitz), Glenn Close (Claire Wellington), Christopher Walken (Mike Wellington)

*Spoiler*
Inferior remake of the above (which, in itself, wasn't a spectacular film) filmed as though it were a television situation comedy rather than a mystery-thriller with a science fiction denouement.          
The acting is way below standard, particularly from Nicole Kidman, but everyone involved seems to be quite lethargic, as if they misunderstood the prose of Ira Levin's original source material.
It's recommended to read the novel instead of watching either of the cinematic adaptations, personally I feel that it's a work which doesn't translate to screen particularly well.
4/10

"Be there for the joy. Be there for the tears. Be there for each other."
"Be there for the joy. Be there for the tears. Be there for each other."
STEPMOM (12)
D: Chris Columbus
Columbia (Wendy Finerman, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe & Michael Barnathan)
US 1998
124 mins

Drama

W: Gigi Levangie, Jessie Nelson, Steven Rogers, Karen Leigh Hopkins & Ron Bass
DP: Donald M. McAlpine
Ed: Neil Travis
Mus: John Williams

Julia Roberts (Isabel Kelly), Susan Sarandon (Jackie Harrison), Ed Harris (Luke Harrison), Jena Malone (Anna Harrison), Liam Aiken (Ben Harrison), Lynn Whitfield (Dr. Sweikert)

Hollywood's terminal illness movie of 1998, so cloyingly manipulative in it's execution that it is most likely to evoke feelings of nausea rather than tears of sadness.
The story follows a newly-divorced woman with scornful feelings and selfish behaviour towards her ex-husband's new, younger girlfriend, but the two become friends when one of them is diagnosed with cancer.
The performances are okay, but talented stars like Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon & Ed Harris need a better script with more believable characters and dialogue to work from than what's been served to them here by no less than five different screenwriters. Perhaps this is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
5/10

STEPTOE & SON RIDE AGAIN (PG)
D: Peter Sykes
MGM/EMI/Associated London Films (Aida Young)
UK 1973
99 mins

Comedy

W: Ray Galton & Alan Simpson [based on the television sitcom "Steptoe & Son"]
DP: Ernie Stewart
Ed: Bernard Gribble
Mus: Ron Grainer

Harry H. Corbett (Harold Steptoe), Wilfrid Brambell (Albert Steptoe), Milo O'Shea (Dr. Popplewell), Neil McCarthy (Lennie), Diana Dors (Woman in Flat)

Based on a television sitcom that was hugely popular in the UK, but not so well liked in the US (where it was remade as Sanford & Son).
This feature length episode of the misadventures of a scruffy rag-and-bone man and his ne'erdowell son sees the pair sell their ageing horse for a greyhound which they have hopes of winning money on the track with, but it turns out that the dog won't run.
Long term fans of the TV series will enjoy this comedy, but those unfamiliar with the source material are less likely to appreciate it. 
6/10

STEVE JOBS (15)
D: Danny Boyle
Universal/Legendary (Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon, Scott Rudin & Guymon Casady)
US 2015
122 mins

Biopic/Drama

W: Aaron Sorkin [based on the biography by Walter Isaacson]
DP: Alwin H. Külcher
Ed: Elliot Graham
Mus: Daniel Pemberton

Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), Katherine Waterston (Chrisann Brennan), Michael Stuhlbarg (Andy Hertzfeld)

Passionate, brilliant, revolutionary and stubborn. This warts-and-all biopic of the perfectionist CEO of Apple Inc isn't afraid to make the main protagonist largely unlikeable, but the strength of the screenplay and Michael Fassbender's excellent performance still evokes sympathy for the technology guru, even though his lack of manners made him a host of enemies on his journey to his fortune.
The story, from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, generally follows a three-act structure, each of which occurs before the launch of a new product; the flawed Apple Macintosh in 1984, the doomed Black Cube in 1988 and finally the hugely successful iMac in the early 1990's.
The build up to each launch sees the belligerent Jobs trade blows with a multitude of employees, friends, former lovers and aides, particularly with his equally passionate PA Joanna Hoffman (Winslet) and former friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Rogen). He also has a bitter dispute with a woman who makes paternity claims, and though Jobs initially disowns the child, their relationship develops over the course of the film.
Similarities can easily be made with 2010's The Social Network, which was also adapted by Aaron Sorkin, especially in the respect that, if you want to be a software billionaire, you also have to be an arsehole, although in the case of Steve Jobs, the film's closing moments do provide him some redemption.
8/10

THE STING (PG)
D: George Roy Hill
Universal (Tony Bill, Michael Phillips & Julia Phillips)
US 1973
129 mins

Comedy

W: David S. Ward
DP: Robert Surtees
Ed: William Reynolds
Mus: Scott Joplin (adapted by Marvin Hamlisch)
PD: Henry Bumstead
Cos: Edith Head

Paul Newman (Henry Gondorff), Robert Redford (Johnny Hooker), Robert Shaw (Doyle Lonergan), Charles Durning (Lt. William Snyder), Ray Walston (J.J. Singleton), Eileen Brennan (Billie)

Reuniting the two leading men of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid with it's director George Roy Hill, The Sting is a crime caper starring Paul Newman & Robert Redford as two confidence tricksters who plan one last hustle on the gangster who caused the death of one of their friends.
Though the eventual hustle takes an absolute age to get round to, the climax is very fulfilling, though all that comes before it can become rather tiresome. The film feels unconvincingly set bound, especially for a 1973 production, but this didn't stop it being a runaway success, proving a huge hit with cinema audiences as well as Oscar voters, who named it the Best Picture of the year.
A lesser sequel, with a second rate cast, emerged a decade later.
7/10

STIR CRAZY (15)
D: Sidney Poitier
Columbia (Hannah Weinstein)
US 1980
111 mins

Comedy

W: Bruce Jay Friedman
DP: Fred Schuler
Ed: Harry Keller
Mus: Tom Scott

Gene Wilder (Skip Donahue), Richard Pryor (Harry Monroe), Georg Stanford Brown (Rory Schutlebrand), JoBeth Williams (Meredith)

Of all the film comedies which saw the on-screen partnership of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Stir Crazy is without the doubt the silliest, which isn't to say it isn't entertaining. 
As two down on their luck New Yorkers, they become arrested for a bank robbery they didn't commit and eventually plan their escape from prison. 
Though it may tick off every prison movie cliché in the book, it also has it's fair share of amusing moments, but works best simply due to the partnership of its two main stars who have a unique ability to react off each other naturally.
6/10

"In every mind there is a door that has never been opened."
"In every mind there is a door that has never been opened."
STIR OF ECHOES (15)
D: David Koepp
20th Century Fox/Artisan (Gavin Palone & Judy Hoffland)
US 2000
99 mins

Thriller/Horror

W: David Koepp [based on the novel by Richard Matheson]
DP: Fred Murphy
Ed: Jill Savitt
Mus: James Newton Howard

Kevin Bacon (Tom Witzky), Kathryn Erbe (Maggie Witzky), Ileana Douglas (Lisa), Kevin Dunn (Frank McCarthy), Liza Weil (Debbie Kozac), Jennifer Morrison (Samantha Kozac)

After being hypnotised by his sister-in-law at a party, a repair man in Boston becomes haunted by psychic visions about a local murder.
An intense, thrilling, well scripted and acted psychological horror which balances perfectly between a murder mystery and compelling tale of obsession. Though it was reasonably well received by critics at its time of release, it didn't quite strike a chord with audiences, possibly because it marketed itself too close to The Sixth Sense (qv), released a year earlier, which it bares absolutely no resemblance to. Still, this was amongst the most underrated films of its year. 
7/10

STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT (PG)
D: Roger Spottiswoode
Universal/Northern Lights (Ivan Reitman, Joe Medjuck & Michael C. Gross)
US 1992
87 mins

Comedy 

W: Blake Snyder, William Osborne & William Davies
DP: Frank Tidy
Ed: Mark Conte & Lois Freeman-Cox
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Sylvester Stallone (Sgt. Joe Bomowski), Estelle Getty (Tutti Bomowski), JoBeth Williams (Lt. Gwen Harper), Roger Rees (Parnell), Martin Ferrero (Paulie), Gailard Sartain (Munroe)

While action star Arnold Schwarzenegger had a reasonably successful foray into family comedy, traipsing into the same genre wasn't quite the same for Sylvester Stallone, who had already seen his previous film bomb before appearing in this ridiculous vehicle which paired him with one of TV's Golden Girls, Estelle Getty.
Getty plays the overbearing mother to Stallone's LAPD police officer, assisting him with solving a murder and rekindling the relationship with his girlfriend.
Sylvester Stallone has often said that this is the worst film in which he has appeared. After that insight, nothing else can really be said.
2/10

"The world's most dangerous group."
"The world's most dangerous group."
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (18)
D: F. Gary Gray
Universal/Legendary/New Line (Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein & Dr. Dre)
US 2015
147 mins

Biopic/Drama

W: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus
DP: Matthew Libatique
Ed: Billy Fox
Mus: Joseph Trapanese

Jason Mitchell (Eric 'Eazy-E' Wright), O'Shea Jackson, Jr. (O'Shea 'Ice Cube' Jackson), Corey Hawkins (Andre 'Dr. Dre' Young), Neil Brown (Antoine 'DJ Yella' Carraby), Paul Giamatti (Jerry Heller)

I have to start this review by stating that I am not a fan of hip-hop. It's just not a genre of music which I follow, so watching a 147 minute film about the rise of NWA, one of the genre's breakthrough acts, is about appealing to me as watching a 147 minute film about the rise of NWA, one of the genre's breakthrough acts.
Straight Outta Compton follows the usual stencil for cinema biopics, from humble beginnings as youths growing up in one of Los Angeles' toughest neighbourhood, Eric 'Eazy E' Wright, Andre 'Dr. Dre' Young, Antoine 'DJ Yella' Carraby, Lorenzo 'MC Ren' Patterson and O'Shea 'Ice Cube' Jackson perform their act on stage and are approached by music manager Jerry Heller, who wants to represent them.
Controversy also follows the group, especially with their song "Fuck Tha Police", which is deemed by law enforcement authorities to provoke and encourage violence, but the band cannot be silenced with their rapping being their own stanza on free speech.
With their first album (Straight Outta Compton) selling well and their follow ups about to do likewise, there's a rift in the camp and Ice Cube parts ways.
It soon develops that Heller is embezzling from the group, which leads to his subsequent sacking and a short-lived reunion before the premature death of one of the founding members.
The film does a good job of squeezing in a decade worth of story into the running time, but there's also a lot which could have been trimmed, especially the attempted juxtaposition of the Rodney King case, which doesn't work when mirrored with Ice Cube moaning about "bitches and money" while dissing his former crew.
With Dr. Dre and Ice Cube serving as producers on this film, it doesn't feel like an impartial and truthful representation of the way things went down, and much has been tinkered with for dramatic effect. Perhaps it would have been a different film had original director John Singleton, who made his breakthrough with 1991's Boyz N The Hood, kept hold of the reins.
The direction isn't the issue here though, neither is the acting (which is especially good from O'Shea Jackson - imitating his own father to perfection), for me, the biggest issue is that it's just too damn long and seems to glorify gang culture.
The film will have its fans, especially from those who enjoyed the music, but for others, many will just wonder what the big deal is.
6/10

"An extreme taste of reality."
"An extreme taste of reality."
STRANGE DAYS (18)
D: Kathryn Bigelow
UIP/Lightstorm (James Cameron & Steven Charles Jaffe)
US 1995
145 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: James Cameron & Jay Cocks
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: Howard Smith
Mus: Graeme Revell
PD: Lilly Kilvert

Ralph Fiennes (Lenny Nero), Angela Bassett (Lornette Mason), Juliette Lewis (Faith Justin), Tom Sizemore (Max Peltier), Vincent D'Onofrio (Burton Steckler), Michael Wincott (Philo Gant), Glenn Plummer (Jeriko One)

It's quite unfortunate that Strange Days is less than the sum of all its parts. Possessing a reasonably interesting and very original plot and utilising some groundbreaking filmmaking techniques, especially in the cinematography field, it's hindered by taking place in 1999 and therefore dating itself almost immediately upon release.
Ralph Fiennes plays a former detective who now plies his trade in the dealing of a new variety of video clip, filmed using a POV recording device. Many of the clips he deals are of pornographic content, but he gets drawn into a world of police corruption when a snuff recording makes its way into his possession.
The bare bones of the story make this a entertaining near-futuristic thriller and the performances are decent, but the new world order subplot is completely wasted. 
6/10

"Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Period."
"Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Period."

STRANGER THAN FICTION (12)

D: Marc Forster

Columbia/Mandate/Three Strange Angels (Lindsay Doran)

US 2006

113 mins


Comedy/Fantasy


W: Zach Helm

DP: Roberto Schaefer

Ed: Matt Chesse

Mus: Britt Daniel & Brian Reitzell


Will Ferrell (Harold Crick), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Ana Pascal), Emma Thompson (Karen Eiffel), Dustin Hoffman (Prof. Jules Hilbert), Queen Latifah (Penny Escher)


Hands down, Will Ferrell delivers his best performance by far in this comic fantasy, in which he plays Harold Crick, a tax auditor who thinks he's losing his mind when he starts hearing his life and actions being narrated. The narrators voice is provided by Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an author who is writing Harold as a fictional character for her new novel, unbeknownst that he is a real person and her writing seriously affects the path of his life.

A good throwback to the Steve Martin style comedies of the 1980's, the film not only features Will Ferrell's career best performance, but also a great supporting turn from Emma Thompson. 

The suspension of disbelief is also handled very well by Zach Helm's script. It is what it is, just go with it and enjoy.

7/10


STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (PG)
D: Alfred Hitchcock
Warner Bros. (Alfred Hitchcock)
US 1951
101 mins

Thriller

W: Raymond Chandler & Czenzi Ormonde [based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith]
DP: Robert Burks
Mus: Dimitri Tiomkin

Farley Granger (Guy Haines), Robert Walker (Bruno Antony), Ruth Roman (Anne Morton), Leo G. Carroll (Sen. Morton), Patricia Hitchcock (Barbara Morton)

Amongst Hitchcock's most quintessential suspense thrillers, starring Robert Walker as one of the most psychotic villains in cinema history.
Quite obviously, the plot concerns two strangers who meet on a train, one of whom muses on a perfect murder plan which he then goes ahead with, leaving the other as a prime suspect.
Some elements of the movie feel dated, like certain behavorial characteristics and dialogue, but the moody photography and Hitchcock's excellent direction carry the movie well on beyond its years.
A must watch for fans of Hitchcock thrillers and a very watchable matinee for everyone else. The plot was paid tribute to in 1987's Throw Momma From The Train (qv).
9/10

STRAW DOGS (18)
D: Sam Peckinpah 
Talent Associates/Amerbroco (Daniel Melnick)
UK 1971
118 mins

Thriller

W: David Zelag Goodman & Sam Peckinpah [based on the novel "The Siege Of Trencher's Farm" by Gordon M. Williams]
DP: John Coquillon
Ed: Paul Davies, Tony Lawson & Roger Spottiswoode
Mus: Jerry Fielding

Dustin Hoffman (David Sumner), Susan George (Amy Sumner), Peter Vaughan (Tom Hedden), T.P. McKenna (Maj. John Scott), Del Henney (Charlie Venner)

Some films aren't intended to entertain, some are meant to scar. Perhaps this is why Sam Peckinpah's cult classic wasn't quite appreciated by critics when it was originally released in 1971.
A docile American university professor and his British wife move to a quaint cottage in the remote English countryside where they are repeatedly taunted by a group of feral locals, to the point where the American's pacifistic nature explodes into a violent rage.
It cannot be denied that Straw Dogs is a difficult film to watch and not particularly rewarding for doing so, but it's a jarring story which will remain embedded in your memory forever.
An inferior Hollywood remake was released in 2011.
8/10

STREET FIGHTER (12)
D: Steven E. de Souza
UIP/Capcom (Edward R. Pressman & Kenzo Tsujimoto)
US 1994
102 mins

Action/Adventure

W: Steven E. de Souza [based on characters from the video game]
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: Dov Hoenig, Anthony Redman, Robert F. Shugrue, Ed Abroms & Donn Aron
Mus: Graeme Revell

Jean Claude Van Damme (Guile), Raul Julia (Bison), Kylie Minogue (Cammy), Damian Chapa (Ken), Byron Mann (Ryu), Ming-Na Wen (Chun-Li), Roshan Seth (Dhalsim), Wes Studi (Sagat)

Probably the best example of why films based on video games are a terrible idea. 
The lack of plot, which throws together the characters from the video game to defeat a dictatorial leader.
Even for teenage boys, this is pretty bad. The performances are all miscast, the screenplay feels like it was hastily scribbled on the morning of shooting and even the fight choreography feels rushed together and uninspiring. It would be much more fun watching a friend playing the video game instead.
1/10

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (PG)
D: Elia Kazan
Warner Bros (Charles K. Feldman)
US 1951
125 mins

Drama

W: Tennessee Williams & Oscar Saul [based on the play by Tennessee Williams]
DP: Harry Stradling
Ed: David Weisbart
Mus: Alex North
PD: Richard Day
Cos: Lucinda Ballard

Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski), Vivien Leigh (Blanche DuBois), Kim Hunter (Stella Kowalski), Karl Malden (Mitch)

It's almost ironic that Marlon Brando was the only one of the four principals to miss out on Oscar glory, since it's his performance which practically steals the film, although all the performances here are perfectly on point.
Based on Tennessee Williams' most famous play, Blanche DuBois, a neurotic widow visits her sister, Stella, in New Orleans and is taunted by her husband, Stanley, a brutish hunk, whose treatment of her pushes her slowly towards insanity.
This was amongst the first pieces of work to tackle the subject of domestic violence, and though its treatment of the subject is through old-fashioned eyes, the film holds up pretty well over the test of time, mostly due to the scintillating performances of the four main actors, but also in respects of cinematography and production design, especially of the exterior shots, which really capture the seedy side of The Big Easy in the early 1950's.
8/10

STREETS OF FIRE (15)
D: Walter Hill
Universal/RKO (Lawrence Gordon & Joel Silver)
US 1984
94 mins

Action/Thriller

W: Walter Hill & Larry Gross
DP: Andrew Laszlo
Ed: Freeman Davies & Michael Ripps
Mus: Ry Cooder

Michael Paré (Tom Cody), Diane Lane (Ellen Aim), Rick Moranis (Billy Fish), Amy Madigan (McCoy), Willem Dafoe (Raven Shaddock)

A professional mercenary takes on a criminal gang to save his rock star ex-girlfriend. 
A comic-book style action movie with a unique sense of filmmaking style which wasn't quite appreciated at its time of release and possibly could have done better had it been made a decade later.
Decent soundtrack, average film.
4/10

STRICTLY BALLROOM (PG)
D: Baz Luhrmann
Miramax/M&A/AFFC (Tristam Miall)
Australia 1992
94 mins

Comedy/Romance

W: Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce [based on the play "N.I.D.A." devised by it's original cast]
DP: Steve Mason 
Ed: Jill Bilcock 
Mus: David Hirschfelder
PD: Catherine Martin
Cos: Angus Traithe

Paul Mercurio (Scott Hastings), Tara Morice (Fran), Bill Hunter (Barry Fife), Pat Thomson (Shirley Hastings), Barry Otto (Doug Hastings)

A rebellious ballroom dancer, whose routines take a more risqué approach faces disqualification from a dancing competition unless he cleans up his act.
He finds a new dancing partner, and together they find success.
An enjoyable, energetic and exuberant romance filmed with style and verve by Baz Luhrmann. It was a huge hit in its native Australia, and gathered a decent fanbase around the world.
6/10

"They shouldn't have put him in the water if they didn't want him to make waves."
"They shouldn't have put him in the water if they didn't want him to make waves."
STRIKING DISTANCE (18)
D: Rowdy Herrington
Columbia (Arnon Milchan, Tony Thomopolous & Hunt Lowry)
US 1994
102 mins

Action/Thriller

W: Rowdy Herrington & Martin Kaplan 
DP: Mac Ahlberg
Ed: Pasquale Buba & Mark Helfrich
Mus: Brad Fiedel

Bruce Willis (Tom Hardy), Sarah Jessica Parker (Jo Christman), Dennis Farina (Nick Detillo), Tom Sizemore (Danny Detillo), Brion James (Eddie Eiler), Robert Pastorelli (Jimmy Detillo)

A rather unoriginal and formulaic crime thriller starring Bruce Willis as Tom Hardy (no, not that one), a disgraced homicide detective demoted to river duty and on the case of attempting to solve a series of grizzly murders along his route.
It's all "been there, done that", replacing car chases with speedboat pursuits and not much else in the way of originality. Generally entertaining for its duration, and there are one or two witty one-liners, but it doesn't make any big waves.
5/10

"The story of a man who wanted to keep the world safe for democracy... And meet girls."
"The story of a man who wanted to keep the world safe for democracy... And meet girls."
STRIPES (15)
D: Ivan Reitman
Columbia (Ivan Reitman & Dan Goldberg)
US 1981
106 mins

Comedy

W: Len Blum, Dan Goldberg & Harold Ramis
DP: Bill Butler
Ed: Harry Keller, Michael Luciano & Eva Ruggerio
Mus: Elmer Bernstein

Bill Murray (John), Harold Ramis (Russell), Warren Oates (Sgt. Hulka), P.J. Soles (Stella), John Candy (Ox), John Larroquette (Capt. Stillman), Sean Young (Louise)

America's answer to Britain's Carry On Sergeant, albeit with a standard of humour more akin to Police Academy movies, starring Bill Murray and other Saturday Night Live alumni as a pair of misfit army volunteers.
It works mostly due to the deadpan comedy style of its main cast. Probably best for Bill Murray's legion of fans rather than mainstream audiences. I'm a huge fan of Bill Murray, so naturally I enjoyed it very much.
6/10

"Some people get into trouble... No matter what they wear."
"Some people get into trouble... No matter what they wear."
STRIPTEASE (18)
D: Andrew Bergman
Rank/Castle Rock/Turner (Mike Lobell)
US 1996
117 mins

Drama/Comedy

W: Andrew Bergman [based on the novel by Carl Hiaasen]
DP: Stephen Goldblatt
Ed: Anne V. Coates
Mus: Howard Shore

Demi Moore (Erin Grant), Burt Reynolds (David Dilbeck), Armand Assante (Lt. Al Garcia), Ving Rhames (Shad), Robert Patrick (Darrell Grant), Rumer Willis (Angela Grant)

Who remembers Demi Moore? She was female lead in one of the most successful movies of 1990 before flushing her career down the toilet by starring in this botched adaptation of a well-liked satirical novel about a single mother turned stripper who becomes involved in a murder case after a corrupt politician takes an interest in her.
I actually have no idea what genre this film is aiming for. I'm guessing it's a comedy because it's so damn hilarious. Alas, it's just another skinflick from the mid 90's with about as much credibility as a softcore film.                     
Demi Moore's acting skills are as atrociously unrealistic as her tits (or Burt Reynolds wig). As for the stripteases... Dancing to Annie Lennox songs just isn't sexy, no matter how curvaceous the surgically-enhanced body.
3/10

"Strength defines us."
"Strength defines us."

STRONGER (15)

D: David Gordon Green

Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Bold/Mandeville/Nine Stories (Jake Gyllenhaal, Michel Litvak, Scott Silver, David Lieberman & Scott Hoberman)

US 2017

119 mins


Biopic/Drama


W: John Pollono [based on the memoir by Jeff Bauman & Bret Witter]

DP: Sean Bobbitt

Ed: Dylan Tichenor

Mus: Michael Brook


Jake Gyllenhaal (Jeff Bauman), Tatiana Maslany (Erin Hurley), Miranda Richardson (Patty Bauman), Clancy Brown (Jeff Bauman, Sr.), Richard Lane, Jr. (Sully)


Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a solid performance as Jeff Bauman, a blue collar Boston resident who lost both his legs in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack in 2013, having to adjust to life accordingly but trying the patience of his family and girlfriend, who was a participant in the marathon on the fateful day, all while becoming something of a heroic figure in his hometown.

The film is tackled in a low-key way, almost of TV movie standard by director David Gordon Green, but the main performances of both Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany make this a very good watch.

It's unfortunate that the film was a box office failure, only grossing about half of its shooting budget. 

6/10


"The Little Family Just Got Bigger."
"The Little Family Just Got Bigger."
STUART LITTLE (U)
D: Rob Minkoff
Columbia/Franklin/Waterman (Douglas Wick)
US 1999
92 mins

Comedy

W: M. Night Shyamalan & Greg Brooker [based on the book by E. B. White]
DP: Guillermo Navarro
Ed: Tom Finan
Mus: Alan Silvestri
PD: Bill Brzeski

Geena Davis (Eleanor Little), Hugh Laurie (Frederick Little), Jonathan Lipnicki (George Little), Michael J. Fox (voice of Stuart Little), Nathan Lane (voice of Snowbell)

Charmingly adapted from the book by E. B. White, a New York couple adopt a talking mouse for their son, but it incurs the wrath of the family cat.
Wittily written and directed, Stuart Little seamlessly marries computer animation with live action to make a perfectly enjoyable children's film for the whole family to appreciate.
A sequel was released in 2002, but wasn't as immersive.
6/10

THE STUFF (15)
D: Larry Cohen
New World (Paul Kurta)
US 1985
93 mins

Horror/Comedy

W: Larry Cohen
DP: Paul Glickman
Ed: Armand Lebowitz
Mus: Anthony Guefen

Michael Moriarty (David 'Mo' Rutherford), Andrea Marcovicci (Nicole), Garrett Morris (Charlie Hobbs), Paul Sorvino (Col. Spears), Scott Bloom (Jason), Danny Aiello (Mr. Vickers)

Larry Cohen made quite a career for himself in the 1980's making low budget schlock, but it has to be said that his movies are a lot better than they have any right to be.
This satirical horror sees the population of the world becoming addicted to a mysterious and monstrous goo-like substance, branded as The Stuff, which becomes mass produced for human consumption.
As a horror film, The Stuff is incredibly silly, but as a satire on consumerism, addiction and obsession it's a guilty pleasure. It doesn't benefit from much plot line, the visual effects are tacky and the performances are ridiculously hammy, but it still has enough of the right stuff for an enjoyable B-movie.
5/10

THE STUNT MAN (15)
D: Richard Rush
20th Century Fox (Richard Rush)
US 1980
128 mins

Comedy/Drama

W: Lawrence B. Marcus & Richard Rush [based on the novel by Paul Brodeur]
DP: Mario Tosi
Ed: Caroline Biggerstaff & Jack Hofstra
Mus: Dominic Frontiere

Peter O'Toole (Eli Cross), Steve Railsback (Cameron), Barbara Hershey (Nina Franklin), Allen Goorwitz (Sam), Alex Rocco (Jake), Sharon Farrell (Denise)

The title alone may leave you expecting an action movie rather than a black comedy about filmmaking, and that's what this...
The story sees an unscrupulous director (played with relish by Peter O'Toole) who exploits a runaway fugitive by hiring him as a stuntman in his movie following the death of the original one during a tumultuous production. 
The film, which is aimed at those who work or even have an interest in the biz, enigmatically treads a line between make-believe and reality without having too much story to drive it. A small cult following grew around the film and it was very well received by Oscar voters, who nominated it for Best Director, Screenplay and a well-deserved nod for Peter O'Toole.
7/10

"No home should be without one."
"No home should be without one."
SUBURBAN COMMANDO (PG)
D: Burt Kennedy
New Line (Howard Gottfried)
US 1991
90 mins

Comedy/Action/Science Fiction

W: Frank Capello
DP: Patrick J. Swovelin
Ed: Sonny Baskin
Mus: David Michael Frank

Hulk Hogan (Shep Ramsay), Christopher Lloyd (Charlie Wilcox), Shelley Duvall (Jenny Wilcox), Larry Miller (Adrian Beltz), Laura Mooney (Theresa Wilcox)

A reasonably successful attempt to launch wrestling star Hulk Hogan as an action movie star. He plays an intergalactic bounty hunter who needs to crash-land on Earth and is forced to live with a suburban family until he can repair his ship.
It's a standard fish-out-of-water comedy with a science fiction twist. Though the production values look cheap and Hogan's acting skills are shown up by even the juveniles in the cast, it's enjoyable enough for those who aren't particularly demanding. Hulk Hogan went on to appear in a few more films, all of which were way below the modest standard on show here.
4/10

"Welcome to the neighborhood."
"Welcome to the neighborhood."

SUBURBICON (15)

D: George Clooney

Paramount/Black Bear/Smokehouse (George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Joel Silver & Teddy Schwarzman)

US 2017

105 mins


Crime/Thriller/Comedy


W: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney & Grant Heslov

DP: Robert Elswit

Ed: Stephen Mirrione

Mus: Alexandre Desplat

PD: James D. Bissell


Matt Damon (Gardner Lodge), Julianne Moore (Rose / Margaret), Oscar Isaac (Bud Cooper), Noah Jupe (Nicky Lodge), Gary Basaraba (Uncle Mitch)


A Coen Brothers script directed by George Clooney, although the contrast of styles and additional material penned in takes the plot in directions that might baffle or frustrate regular cinemagoers, and the marketing trailer doesn't really portray the film accurately, and those expecting a crime thriller akin to Fargo are definitely going to be disappointed.

The genre is very much black comedy, with a huge dollop of social commentary thrown in. The film takes place in the mid-1950's in the small town of Suburbicon, an idyllic post-war picket fence community, where all seems crisp, clean and perfect. The natives grow restless when an African-American family move to the small town, where they are met with racism that stirs into mob-mentality violence. 

Running concurrently with this story is a tale of murder which takes place in a neighbouring house, where a clean-cut American family have their lives disrupted by a break in, which results in the murder of the mother, which becomes more and more sinister as the plot unravels.

The moral is very much shoved in our faces that 1950's America was so unashamedly racist that it turned an eye to obvious crimes in its pursuit of the "American dream", and though the film is quite heavy-handed, there are a lot of good things about it.

The performances of Matt Damon and Julianne Moore (in a dual role) are darkly comic, the production design and cinematography are great and though the undertones of the film are quite messy, it's nowhere near as bad as other reviews may suggest.

6/10


THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (PG)
D: Steven Spielberg
Universal (Richard D. Zanuck & David Brown)
US 1974
110 mins

Crime/Adventure

W: Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins & Steven Spielberg
DP: Vilmos Zsigmond
Ed: Edward Abroms & Verna Fields
Mus: John Williams

Goldie Hawn (Lou Jean Poplin), William Atherton (Clovis Michael Poplin), Ben Johnson (Capt. Harlin Tanner), Michael Sacks (Maxwell Slide)

The Sugarland Express is the first film Steven Spielberg directed specifically for cinema release, and it demonstrates some fine traits which the director became accustomed to, particularly with its framing of action sequences and the broken family theme, which became more prevalent with Spielberg's subsequent movies.
Goldie Hawn plays Lou Jean Poplin, a convict's wife who persuades her husband to escape prison and go on the run to prevent their baby from being adopted. The law is on the chase, but the rest of the country supports the couples race against authority.
Stylishly handled, with an unusually downbeat ending. It's not amongst Spielberg's finest work, but it's a good sign of things to come.
6/10

"Worst. Heroes. Ever."
"Worst. Heroes. Ever."
SUICIDE SQUAD (12)
D: David Ayer
Warner Bros/DC Entertainment/Ratpac-Dune/Atlas (Charles Roven & Richard Suckle)
US 2016
123 mins

Science Fiction/Fantasy

W: David Ayer [based on characters from DC comics]
DP: Roman Vasyunov
Ed: John Gilroy
Mus: Steven Price

Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Jared Leto (The Joker), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jay Hernandez (EL Diablo), Jai Courteney (Captain Boomerang), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc), Cara Delevingne (June Moone / Enchantress), Karen Fukuhara (Katana)

DC's Suicide Squad is the polar opposite to Marvel's The Avengers, not just because their origins are from rival franchises, nor is it because the latter are an elite of superheroes and this film is about a squad of super villains. The reason is because The Avengers was a well-written and executed action-adventure movie and this is a disappointing mess.
Those who have seen the equally disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice will understand the necessity for an ambitious government official to put a unit of such individuals together, but when one of them, a malevolent spirit goes rogue, they are prematurely put into practice.
Although a comic book movie should be allowed licence to be far-fetched, this shouldn't mean abandoning all logic and unfortunately that's how the story for Suicide Squad unfolds, cramming in an opening act for reasons of exposition and then settling for poorly-handled action scenes, explosions and a choppily edited chronology that wedges in moments of comic relief because the studio thought additional moments of comedy were necessary.
The biggest disappointment is Jared Leto's cameo as The Joker, who brings nothing to the movie and is portrayed merely as a wannabe gangster for his ridiculously short screen time.
Fault can't lie wholly with the performances. It's the screenplay and direction that are weak.
Margot Robbie's memorable portrayal as The Joker's psychotic love interest Harley Quinn brings moments of enjoyment, but even she can't save the crummy script.
The only real suicide here is most likely that of DC's movie franchise, left trailing in the wake of Marvel's superiority.
3/10

"The untold story behind the miracle on the Hudson."
"The untold story behind the miracle on the Hudson."

SULLY: MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON (12)

D: Clint Eastwood

Warner Bros/Malpaso/Village Roadshow (Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Tim Moore & Allyn Stewart)

US 2016

96 mins


Biopic/Drama


W: Todd Komarnicki [based on the biographical book "Highest Duty" by Chesley Sullenberger & Jeffrey Zaslow]

DP: Tom Stern

Ed: Blu Murray

Mus: Christian Jacob


Tom Hanks (Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger), Aaron Eckhart (Jeff Skiles), Laura Linney (Lorraine Sullenberger), Anna Gunn (Dr. Elizabeth Davis)


Clint Eastwood & Tom Hanks' first collaboration does make incredibly interesting viewing, tackling the true story of a miracle crash landing on the Hudson River by veteran commercial pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger.

The film focuses on the event itself, as well as the investigative hearing following the near-disaster, where it is challenged whether or not Sully's course of action was the correct one to spare the lives of all the passengers on board.

The film has a modest running time of only 96 minutes, which it's all the better for as it doesn't have the need for plodding exposition or subplots which go nowhere. The performances of Tom Hanks & Aaron Eckhart are both excellent, and the visual recreation of the event itself is incredibly well reconstructed, with brilliant use of sound & visual effects.

8/10


"NYC '77. Disco in the clubs. Panic in the streets."
"NYC '77. Disco in the clubs. Panic in the streets."
SUMMER OF SAM (18)
D: Spike Lee
Touchstone/Downtown/40 Acres & A Mule (Jon Kilik & Spike Lee)
US 1999
142 mins

Crime/Drama

W: Victor Colicchio, Michael Imperioli & Spike Lee
DP: Ellen Kuras
Ed: Barry Alexander Brown
Mus: Terence Blanchard

John Leguizamo (Vinny), Adrien Brody (Ritchie), Mira Sorvino (Dionna), Jennifer Esposito (Ruby), Michael Rispoli (Joey T), Bebe Neuwirth (Gloria), Ben Gazzara (Luigi)

Spike Lee tackles the story of the "Son of Sam", a real life serial killer who murdered several people during the summer of 1977.
This ensemble piece seems to have very little roots in fact and even less plot, aimlessly following a small group of Italian-American's in a vignette style as they carry out their lives during this time. 
As with all Spike Lee films, there needs to be a political message of racial motivation, which comes with a line of dialogue in which a black woman says that had the serial killer been a black man, there would have been more public outcry for his capture. This message may have been more powerful if the rest of the characters weren't made up of racial stereotypes.
There's a handful of good performances, but nobody really stands out, and some of the anachronisms fail to make the period convincing, even if it was only a few decades ago.
5/10

SUNSET (PG)
D: Blake Edwards
Columbia/Tristar/Delphi (Tony Adams)
US 1988
107 mins

Comedy/Western

W: Blake Edwards
DP: Anthony Richmond
Ed: Robert Pergament
Mus: Henry Mancini

Bruce Willis (Tom Mix), James Garner (Wyatt Earp), Malcolm McDowell (Alfie Alperin), Mariel Hemingway (Cheryl King), Kathleen Quinlan (Nancy Shoemaker)

On a Hollywood film set where a biopic is being made about his life, Wyatt Earp teams up with movie star cowboy Tom Mix to solve a murder.
This whodunit comedy misfires aplenty, mostly due to a poor script, lazy direction and a couple of poor performances. It captures the period of the early 20th century quite well, but isn't really worth watching with that alone to recommend it.
4/10

"A Hollywood story."
"A Hollywood story."
SUNSET BOULEVARD (PG)
D: Billy Wilder
Paramount (Charles Brackett)
US 1950
110 mins

Drama

W: Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett & D. M. Marshman, Jr.
DP: John Seitz
Ed: Doane Harrison & Arthur Schmidt
Mus: Franz Waxman 
PD: Hans Dreier & John Meehan
Cos: Edith Head

William Holden (Joe Gillis), Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond), Erich Von Stroheim (Max Von Mayerling), Fred Clark (Sheldrake), Nancy Olson (Betty Schaefer), Lloyd Gough (Morino), Jack Webb (Artie Green), Cecil B. DeMille (himself)

Any true film buff would list this amongst their favourite movies of all time and any filmmaker worth their salt would cite this as one of their biggest influences. This incisive melodrama is the very definition of the Hollywood "Golden Age", structured with one of the best screenplays ever written as well as iconic performances and one of the most famous closing lines in the history of cinema.
William Holden plays luckless movie screenwriter Joe Gillis, who seeks refuge in a luxuriant mansion owned by former screen starlet Norma Desmond, whose refusal to see her stardom fade culminates in blackmail and subsequent murder.
Billy Wilder's style utilises gloomy photography, atmospheric production design and the excellent performances to tell the dark side of Hollywood. Its influence is still felt today, especially since the film became a hugely successful stage play which is still watched in its millions worldwide.
10/10

SUNSHINE (15)
D: Danny Boyle 
20th Century Fox/Figment/DNA (Andrew MacDonald)
UK 2007
107 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: Alex Garland
DP: Alwin Kuchler
Ed: Chris Gill
Mus: John Murphy & Underworld
PD: Mark Tildesley

Cillian Murphy (Robert Capa), Michelle Yeoh (Corazon), Rose Byrne (Cassie), Chris Evans (James Mace), Cliff Curtis (Searle), Benedict Wong (Trey)

In the year 2057, a team of astronauts are on a mission to detonate a nuclear device inside the dying sun, thus saving the world from a devestating solar winter. A first mission had failed several years previous, when contact with the crew was lost en route, but when the crew of the second mission pass Mercury, they re-establish contact with it...
A more intelligent sci-fi offering from the writer-director collaboration of Alex Garland and Danny Boyle, with clear inspiration from 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien and Solaris, though not quite of the same calibre. The final act is a little too difficult to watch, with dizzying camerawork and frenetic editing making it unclear to see what's actually happening. A shame, since all that came before makes this one of the better science fiction films of the early 21st century, helped by decent performances, impressive visual effects and imaginative production design.
6/10

"For the price of a movie, you'll feel like a million."
"For the price of a movie, you'll feel like a million."
THE SUNSHINE BOYS (PG)
D: Herbert Ross
MGM/Rastar (Ray Stark)
US 1975
111 mins

Comedy

W: Neil Simon [based on his play]
DP: David M. Walsh
Ed: John F. Burnett
Mus: Harry V. Lojewski

Walter Matthau (Willy Clark), George Burns (Al Lewis), Richard Benjamin (Ben Clark), Carol Arthur (Doris Green)

The Odd Couple formula gets a re-jig, starring Walter Matthau and George Burns, both in top form, as a pair of feuding comedians who are reunited for a TV show and ultimately ruin it.
It's all a one-joke sketch stretched to fill a feature length running time, but works simply due to the Matthau-Burns double act, the former as the deadpan act whilst the latter steals the movie with all the very best one-liners.
7/10

"Shut up, crime!"
"Shut up, crime!"
SUPER (18)
D: James Gunn
IFC/Hanway/Ambush (Ted Hope & Miranda Bailey)
US 2010
96 mins

Crime/Comedy/Drama

W: James Gunn
DP: Steve Gainer
Ed: Cara Silverman
Mus: Tyler Bates

Rainn Wilson (Frank Darbo / The Crimson Bolt), Ellen Page (Libby / Boltie), Liv Tyler (Sarah Helgeland), Kevin Bacon (Jacques), Michael Rooker (Abe), Nathan Fillion (The Holy Avenger)

Super is not too dissimilar to Kick-Ass (qv), in the respect that it's about an ordinary chap who becomes fed up with his own meagre life and dons a costume & mask to fight crime, he's rather useless at doing so at first, but improves after enlisting the help of a feisty sidekick. That's where the similarities end. In Super, our hero is influenced to do so after his wife embarks on affair with a drug dealer.
Considering the director is best known for Troma productions, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the film has some very unpleasant moments to go hand-in-hand with its adult humour, but its biggest downfalls are that the lead character doesn't have enough charisma and isn't likeable enough to have you root for him and the justice he dispenses. It's also incredibly depressing, which a comedy should never be.
4/10

"The best way to punish a slumlord is to make him a tenant."
"The best way to punish a slumlord is to make him a tenant."
THE SUPER (PG)
D: Rod Daniel 
Largo/JVC (Charles Gordon)
US 1991
85 mins

Comedy

W: Sam Simon
DP: Bruce Surtees
Ed: Jack Hofstra
Mus: Miles Goodman

Joe Pesci (Louie Kritski), Vincent Gardenia (Big Lou), Madolyn Smith-Osborne (Naomi), Ruben Blades (Marlon), Stacey Travis (Heather)

It's quite strange that, despite winning an Oscar for playing a gangster, Joe Pesci spent the next few years of his career appearing in comedy vehicles, all of varying quality.
In this one, he plays an unscrupulous superintendent who is forced by a judge to live in one of his shabby New York slum properties.
It's another misfiring Trading Places-style story, which attempts to be sentimental too much of the time and there's not enough funny moments to lift it out of the squalor.
4/10

SUPER 8 (12)
D: J.J. Abrams
Paramount/Amblin/Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk & Steven Spielberg)
US 2011
112 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: J.J. Abrams
DP: Larry Fong
Ed: Mary Jo Markey & Maryann Brandon
Mus: Michael Giacchino

Joel Courtney (Joe Lamb), Elle Fanning (Alice Dainard), Kyle Chandler (Jackson Lamb), Riley Griffiths (Charles Kaznyk), Ryan Lee (Cary McCarthy), Gabriel Basso (Martin Read)

The Goonies meets Cloverfield, apeing Spielberg in a way only a Hollywood homage can, filmed by J.J. Abrams in the style of a big budget summer blockbuster from the early 1980's.
A group of kids filming a home movie (on super 8 videotape) witness a train crash which sees an alien creature escape and wreak havoc on their small home town. 
For youngsters, this is as close an experience to what those who grew up during the 1980's would enjoy. While, for those who grew up watching the films of Spielberg, Lucas, etc., the film serves reasonably well as a throwback. 
The visual effects are the film's biggest asset, particularly in the scene involving the breathtaking train crash, but unfortunately they also serve up a disappointing monster in the finale. 
6/10

SUPER MARIO BROTHERS (PG)
D: Rocky Morton & Annabel Jankel
Lightmotive/Allied/Cinergi (Jake Eberts & Roland Joffé)
US 1993
104 mins

Fantasy/Adventure

W: Parker Bennett, Terry Runté & Ed Solomon [based on characters created by Shigeru Miyamoto & Takashi Tezuka]
DP: Dean Semler
Ed: Caroline Ross
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Bob Hoskins (Mario), John Leguizamo (Luigi), Dennis Hopper (King Koopa), Samantha Mathis (Daisy), Fisher Stevens (Iggy), Richard Edson (Spike), Fiona Shaw (Lena)

Amongst the first films to attempt to transfer the characters from a popular video game series onto the big screen. It really doesn't work.
The film sees Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as the Mario Brothers, two plumbers who must save a princess from another dimension ruled by reptilian creatures who have descended from dinosaurs. 
Everything about the film is below standard, from the casting decisions to the atrocious screenplay, the makeup and visual effects to the production design. 
Despite all its shortcomings, it managed to do some modest business at the worldwide box office and also began a short-lived spate for many other video games to get the big screen treatment.
Skip the movie and play the games instead.
2/10

SUPER SIZE ME (15)
D: Morgan Spurlock
Tartan (Morgan Spurlock)
US 2004
100 mins

Documentary

W: Morgan Spurlock
DP: Scott Ambrozy
Ed: Stella Gueorguieva & Julie 'Bob' Lombardi

Morgan Spurlock (himself)

Documentarian Morgan Spurlock spends a month on a fast food diet, eating items which can only be purchased from McDonald's for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He sees his health, lifestyle and mental wellbeing deteriorate as a result.
An insightful documentary which studies the dangers of eating junk food to access with the subject wilfully playing guinea pig to his own experiment. Interesting though it is, it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know, but it still caused enough damage to McDonald's reputation that they discontinued the option to "super size" their meals.
7/10
 
"Meet the new generation of superheroes."
"Meet the new generation of superheroes."
SUPERBABIES: BABY GENIUSES 2 (PG)
D: Bob Clark
Crystal Sky/Triumph (Steven Paul)
US 2004
89 mins

Comedy

W: Gregory Poppen & Steven Paul
DP: Maher Maleh
Ed: Stan Cole
Mus: Paul Zaza & Helmut Zerlett

Scott Baio (Stan Bobbins), Vanessa Angel (Jean Bobbins), Jon Voight (Bill Biscane), Skyler Shaye (Kylie)

Jon Voight, Oscar winner for Coming Home, nominee for Midnight Cowboy & box office star of the 1970's in popular movies like The Champ. Now he's either known as being Angelina Jolie's dad or simply for being embarrassing. Aside from a good supporting performance in Ali, his career has been in steep decline since the mid-90's, embarrassing as President Roosevelt in Pearl Harbor, baffling as a Mexican snake hunter in Anaconda, but his performance in this takes the biscuit. He plays a Hitler-like media mogul with an array of rather unconvincing wigs and a very unconvincing accent. His plan is to use television broadcasting to brainwash people, but his plan is to be thwarted by super smart babies.
A sequel to a movie which wasn't successful (or good) in the first instance and was pretty much responsible for the career deaths of Kathleen Turner & Christopher Lloyd. 
An embarrassing, tepid, brain-mushing experience which must be avoided at all costs.
0/10

SUPERBAD (15)
D: Greg Mottola
Columbia (Judd Apatow & Shauna Robertson)
US 2007
108 mins

Comedy

W: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
DP: Russ Alsobrook
Ed: William Kerr
Mus: Lyle Workman

Michael Cera (Evan), Jonah Hill (Seth), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogell (McLovin)), Emma Stone (Jules), Martha Macisaac (Becca), Seth Rogen (Officer Michaels), Bill Hader (Officer Slater)

Superbad is probably a good way to describe the taste of humour on show here, from the Judd Apatow school of filmmaking which previously produced the movie's The 40-Year-Old Virgin & Knocked Up.
Evan, Seth and Fogell (Cera, Hill & Mintz-Plasse, respectively) are a trio of foul-mouthed high school teenagers who plan one last booze-fuelled weekend before graduation. With the help of Fogell's fake Hawaiian driving licence on which his name is McLovin', they hope to buy alcohol for a classmate's house party, but their plans go awry when they are separated and "McLovin'" is taken in by a pair of incompetent police officers.
It's a fair assessment of the behaviour of teenage boys no matter the generation without going too much over the top. The filmmaking style allows for a lot of ad-libbing which is where the majority of memorable one-liners materialise. It won't be found funny by everyone and will be most appreciated by the male side of the audience, and most certainly by those around the same age as the main group of characters. 
6/10

SUPERGIRL (PG)
D: Jeannot Szwarc
Cantharus/Salkind (Timothy Burrill)
UK 1984
124 mins

Science Fiction

W: David Odell
DP: Alan Hume
Ed: Malcolm Cooke
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Richard MacDonald

Helen Slater (Kara Zor-El / Linda Lee), Faye Dunaway (Selena), Peter O'Toole (Zaltar), Mia Farrow (Alura), Brenda Vaccaro (Bianca), Peter Cook (Nigel), Hart Bochner (Ethan), Simon Ward (Zor-El)

Following the success of the three previous Superman films (not including Superman IV), the producers jumped at the chance to expand the universe, introducing Superman's cousin from another planet who comes to Earth to retrieve a magical orb which is now in the possession of a witch whose use of it has made her own black magic more powerful. 
The film has some major flaws, especially in a weak story full of plot holes and characters behaving ridiculously, including Supergirl herself whose first port of call on Earth is to enrol in an all-girl's school. Helen Slater was a perfect choice for the part, while Peter Cook provides some good comic relief. The poorer casting decisions come in the form of Faye Dunaway, who shamelessly vamps through every scene, and Peter O'Toole, who is clearly just participating for the money.
Though it has since become a camp cult favourite, it didn't garner any favour with audiences or critics upon its original release, becoming one of 1984's biggest box office flops. 
5/10

"You'll believe a man can fly."
"You'll believe a man can fly."
SUPERMAN (PG)
D: Richard Donner
Warner/Salkind (Pierre Spengler)
US/UK 1978
142 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Robert Benton & Leslie Newman [based on the comic book created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster]
DP: Geoffrey Unsworth
Ed: Stuart Baird
Mus: John Williams
PD: John Barry
Cos: Yvonne Blake

Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Jeff East (Young Clark Kent), Glenn Ford (Pa Kent)

You will believe a man can fly in this adaptation of the long-running comic book adventures, filmed on a vast, epic scale by director Richard Donner. 
Beginning with the destruction of his home planet of Krypton, an alien child is placed in a portal which hurtles him towards Earth. The child is taken in by an old couple who live on a small Kansas farm and raise him as their own. As an older teenager, he discovers the truth about his origins and becomes Superman, a seemingly indestructible superhuman who fights crime and cleans up Metropolis (presented here as NYC) while his alter-ego, Clark Kent, works as a journalist for the Daily Planet and vies for the attentions of his love interest, Lois Lane.
The film also sees the introduction of Superman's most popular villain, Lex Luthor, an unscrupulous real estate magnate who plans to destroy California so his land in the Mojave desert becomes a priceless commodity.
At 142 minutes, the length pushes at the boundaries and some of the visual effects appear a little dated by modern standards, Superman became a milestone of cinematic achievement, not only in the field of optical effects, but also paving the way for a subgenre which hadn't been taken in any seriousness in comic book film adaptations in years prior. Before this film set down the marker, superhero and comic book vehicles were done on the cheap, usually rather campy and tacky in the vein of the 1960's Batman television series. 
The casting choices are perfect, especially Christopher Reeve, who unfortunately couldn't again escape from the typecast, despite being a fine actor in his own right. Margot Kidder is also excellent as the spunky love interest, Lois Lane, giving the character more than just one dimension of a regular damsel in distress.
Much was scrutinised in the casting choice of Marlon Brando, who received a massive $3m payout and top billing for a mere ten minute performance. He doesn't really do anything any other actor could do, but with his name atop the credits, it was a statement that this was a film to be taken seriously.
For me, this is the father of all superhero movies. The credit sequence alone is the stuff of legend, bursting to life with John Williams energetic, iconic score.
8/10

SUPERMAN II (PG)
D: Richard Lester 
Warner/Salkind (Pierre Spengler)
US/UK 1980
127 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Mario Puzo, David Newman & Leslie Newman [based on the comic book created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster]
DP: Geoffrey Unsworth & Robert Paynter
Ed: John Victor-Smith
Mus: Ken Thorne
PD: John Barry & Peter Murton
Cos: Yvonne Blake & Sue Yelland

Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Jack O'Halloran (Non), Sarah Douglas (Ursa), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher), Ned Beatty (Otis), Susannah York (Lara)

Considered by some to be a sequel which betters the original film, it shouldn't come as a surprise that principal photography was subsequently filmed back-to-back, but when producer's needed a scapegoat for the expensive casting of Marlon Brando in what was ultimately a cameo role, Richard Donner was replaced by Richard Lester, who refilmed some scenes and added some extras (more about this is analysed for Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut).
Following on from events in the first film, Superman is busy fighting crime and acts of terrorism, but can't help but yearn the life of a normal man and settle down with Lois Lane. He finds a way to lose his superhuman strength, but his timing couldn't have come at a worse time, as the planet is taken siege by a trio of exiled Kryptonians who share the same phenomenal powers. 
While the first film spent a good amount of time on setting up characters and their origins, this dives straight into the action and even utilises snippets from the first film in the opening credits to serve as a reminder. The visual effects, production values and performances are every bit as good as the first film, if not better, especially considering the brilliant casting of Terence Stamp as the malevolent General Zod.
Unfortunately, the series took a steep downward trajectory for the following sequels.
7/10

SUPERMAN II - THE RICHARD DONNER CUT (PG)
D: Richard Donner 
Warner/Salkind (Pierre Spengler)
US/UK 1980 [released 2006]
116 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Mario Puzo, David Newman & Leslie Newman [based on the comic book created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster]
DP: Robert Paynter (& Geoffrey Unsworth)
Ed: John Victor-Smith, Stuart Baird & Michael Thau
Mus: John Williams

Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Marlon Brando (Jor-El), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Terence Stamp (General Zod), Ned Beatty (Otis), Jackie Cooper (Perry White), Sarah Douglas (Ursa), Jack O'Halloran (Non), Valerie Perrine (Eve Teschmacher)

For those not in the know, the first two Superman movies were filmed back-to-back in an epic style similar to the Lord Of The Rings films, but over halfway through the production, shortly after the 1978 premiere of the first film and with over 70% of the sequel filmed, producers panicked due to a budget spiralling out of control and a Marlon Brando lawsuit which was costing them even more money.
Subsequently, original director Richard Donner was the fall guy and he was sacked and replaced with Richard Lester, best known for directing The Beatles' 1964 movie A Hard Day's Night, who didn't really understand the source material, was not a fan of comics and filled a lot of scenes with out of place slapstick (this is obvious for all to see in Superman III).
Using the footage filmed by Donner, including some screen test footage and scenes featuring Brando which were replaced with Susannah York in the theatrical version, this is the version of the movie which was originally envisioned by Richard Donner.
It's a brand new experience of the movie, with a completely different beginning, Lois discovering Clark Kent's true identity in a completely different fashion and a full explanation of how Superman gets his powers back.
Narratively, it's no better or worse than the original theatrical version, but gone is the bomb in Paris opening, the ridiculous polythene 'S' which Superman throws at Non and all the stupid slapstick gags when General Zod & his cohorts are destroying Metropolis (i.e. the couple coming out of Kentucky Fried Chicken and getting blown away).  The ending even left it open for a possibility of General Zod, Ursa & Non to return.
Of course, some scenes aren't as polished as what they would have been had filming been completed by Donner, but it leaves you thinking what could have been had the producers not pushed the panic button.
7/10

SUPERMAN III (PG)
D: Richard Lester
Dovermead/Cantharus (Pierre Spengler)
UK 1983
125 mins

Science Fiction/Comedy

W: David Newman & Leslie Newman [based on the comic book created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster]
DP: Robert Paynter
Ed: John Victor-Smith
Mus: Ken Thorne

Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Richard Pryor (Gus Gorman), Robert Vaughn (Ross Webster), Annie Ross (Vera Webster), Pamela Stephenson (Lorelei Ambrosia), Annette O'Toole (Lana Lang), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane)

Richard Lester may have got away with it for Superman II, which was virtually completed when he took the reins over, but his inexperience in the genre is highlighted here as he takes a slapstick approach to the superhero series.
A megalomaniac entrepreneur hires a luckless computer programmer to create a supercomputer so he can control the world's commerce and a synthetic substitute for Kryptonite so he can destroy Superman, but the bodge job uses tobacco instead of an unknown element, turning Superman into a villain.
The film has some good moments, particularly when good Superman and bad Superman fight each other in a junk yard and the special effects laden finale, but there's a lot of mess to sift through, especially in the moments including Richard Pryor, the blatant product placement for Kentucky Fried Chicken and the shameless dropping of Lois Lane as the apple of Superman's eye (this was due to Margot Kidder's annoyance at the treatment of previous director Richard Donner).
5/10

SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (PG)
D: Sidney J. Furie
Cannon (Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus)
UK 1987
89 mins

Science Fiction

W: Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal [based on the comic book created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster]
DP: Robert Paynter
Ed: John Victor-Smith
Mus: Ken Thorne

Christopher Reeve (Clark Kent / Superman), Gene Hackman (Lex Luthor), Mariel Hemingway (Lacy Warfield), Jon Cryer (Lenny Luthor), Mark Pillow (Nuclear Man), Margot Kidder (Lois Lane), Sam Wanamaker (David Warfield)

It's a huge shame that Christopher Reeve's last appearance in the role which launched his career would be such a travesty. The movie rights for this third sequel were passed to Cannon Pictures, a film company synonymous with cheap production values, tacky special effects and corners cut at every turn, hence the movie was off to a losing start before filming even commenced.
The threadbare plot concerns Superman ridding the entire world of nuclear arms, rounding them all up and hurtling them into the sun. Lex Luthor and his nephew Duckie (for some reason) have their own dastardly plan and create Nuclear Man, an evil doppelgänger, to be an unstoppable nemesis.
This plot actually makes the movie sound more fun than it actually is, but with such poor filmmaking standards it becomes an insult to the intelligence of even small children. The basic laws of physics are ignored to a ludicrous degree, even going as far as having human characters floating in space with the capability of speech and the moon being able to turn on its own axis.  London Underground stations stand in for a Metropolis (New York) subway station, while a building in Milton Keynes is selected as a rather unconvincing choice to represent the UN Headquarters.
During the poorly structured fight scenes, wires are clearly visible and there's just no defending the general shoddiness of the visual effects, even with the same process shot being used over and over. For some reason, Superman also develops a new ability where he can rebuild The Great Wall of China with his eyes.
Easily one of the worst superhero movies of all time.
1/10

SUPERMAN RETURNS (12)
D: Bryan Singer
Warner Bros./Legendary/Bad Hat Harry (Jon Peters, Bryan Singer & Gilbert Adler)
US 2006
147 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris [based on the comic book created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster]
DP: Newton Thomas Sigel
Ed: John Ottman & Elliott Graham
Mus: John Ottman (& John Williams)
PD: Guy Hendrix Dyas

Brandon Routh (Clark Kent / Superman), Kevin Spacey (Lux Luthor), Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane), James Marsden (Richard White), Frank Langella (Perry White), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent), Parker Posey (Kitty Kowalski)

***Spoilers***
Less a continuation of the story and more an homage to the first two Superman movies. Ignoring the events in Superman III & Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (a wise decision), the story sees Superman's return to Earth following a long hiatus. He soon discovers the Lois Lane has moved on, married with a son, but the planet is still as crime-ridden as it ever was, despite Lois winning a literary prize for penning an article called "Why The World Doesn't Need Superman".
Superman's arch nemesis, Lex Luthor, also returns, hatching a plan to build an island made of kryptonite off the East Coast of the United States while Metropolis (or New York) perishes into the sea.
There's plenty to enjoy about Superman Returns, from the John Williams opening theme music to unused footage of Marlon Brando as Superman's father Jor-El. The casting of Brendan Routh is also a spitting image for the late Christopher Reeve. The rest of the casting isn't as inspired, with Kevin Spacey gleefully hamming it up as Luthor and Kate Bosworth incredibly wooden as Lois Lane. Also, the thought of Superman fathering Lois' child is ridiculous when you think about it in depth.
Better than the third & fourth in the series, but it's less a film and more a love letter to Richard Donner.
5/10

THE SURE THING (15)
D: Rob Reiner
Monument/Embassy (Roger Birnbaum)
US 1985
94 mins

Comedy

W: Steven L. Bloom & Jonathan Roberts
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: Robert Leighton
Mus: Tom Scott

John Cusack (Walter Gibson), Daphne Zuniga (Alison Bradbury), Anthony Edwards (Lance), Boyd Gaines (Jason), Tim Robbins (Gary Cooper), Lisa Jane Persky (Mary Ann Webster)

Walter & Alison, a pair of college students who dislike each other, carpool across America with another couple so Alison can go to college and Walter can hook up with a "sure thing" on the sandy shores of California. Despite their initial differences, they growing fond of each other and eventually end up falling in love.
Kind of a teen-orientated 1980's version of It Happened One Night (qv), with good performances from John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga as the unlikely odd couple. The plot also partially foreshadows one of the same director's next films (When Harry Met Sally).
6/10

"Share the warmth."
"Share the warmth."
SURVIVING CHRISTMAS (12)
D: Mike Mitchell
Dreamworks/Liveplanet (Jenno Topping & Betty Thomas)
US 2004
91 mins

Comedy

W: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont, Jeffrey Ventimiglia & Joshua Sternin
DP: Peter Collister & Tom Priestley, Jr.
Ed: Craig McKay
Mus: Randy Edelman

Ben Affleck (Drew Latham), James Gandolfini (Tom Valco), Catherine O'Hara (Christine Valco), Christina Applegate (Alicia Valco), Josh Zuckerman (Brian Valco)

Douchebag millionaire Ben Affleck gets lonely around the Christmas holidays, so he pays a family to allow him to stay at their house as a guest over the festive period.
The obnoxious playboy then makes the life of the dysfunctional family a living hell as he selfishly does whatever he wants for his own entertainment. Things soften when he and the daughter fall in love, but that's just Hollywood bullshit. 
Ben Affleck delivers one of the most annoyingly smug comedy performances of all time here, so irritating in fact, that if you even get as far as the blossoming romance, you've done very well.
The biggest surprise is the casting of James Gandolfini and Catherine O'Hara in turgid trash like this.
Even for Christmas cheese, this pretty rotten.
3/10

SUSPICION (PG)
D: Alfred Hitchcock
RKO (Alfred Hitchcock)
US 1941
99 mins

Mystery/Thriller

W: Samson Raphaelson, Alma Reville & Joan Harrison [based on the novel "Before The Fact" by Francis Iles]
DP: Harry Stradling
Ed: William Hamilton
Mus: Franz Waxman

Joan Fontaine (Lina McLaidlaw Aysgarth), Cary Grant (Johnny Aysgarth), Nigel Bruce (Gordon Cochrane Thwaite), Cedric Hardwicke (General McLaidlaw), May Whitty (Martha McLaidlaw)

Plodding Hitchcock thriller from 1941 with gentlemen smoking cigars, drinking brandy and fox-hunting, while a woman's place was to take her instructions (in other words, incredibly old-fashioned and ridiculously dated).
Cary Grant schmoozes into Joan Fontaine's life to cynically romance her, all the while she's wondering whether or not he's guilty of murdering his previous wife.
Fontaine won an Oscar for her performance, but this was more than likely a sympathy vote after her shocking snub the previous year for Rebecca (also a Hitchcock film).
The film can be viewed in either a colour or B&W version, but the colour version is far too headache inducing, so it's best to stick to the original black & white print. 
It's not quite as good as Hitchcock's usual output and the typically Hollywood ending is hugely disappointing.
6/10