D: Peter Jackson
Warner Bros./New Line/MGM/Wingnut (Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Fran Walsh & Zane Weiner)
US/New Zealand 2012
169 mins


W: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens & Guillermo del Toro [based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien]
DP: Andrew Lesnie
Ed: Jabez Olsson
Mus: Howard Shore
PD: Grant Major

Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Ken Stott (Balin), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Andy Serkis (Gollum)

Clearly, Peter Jackson is a huge fan of the fantasy novels of J. R. R. Tolkien and done the author's work a huge justice when he previously brought The Lord Of The Rings trilogy to the big screen.
The drawn out final part to that trilogy proved that Jackson didn't want to leave Middle Earth and it was only a matter of time when he returned- which he did with this prequel trilogy focusing on the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit) in his younger days. The first film of which ties in events from The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and while it does such a great job depicting the fictional land of Middle Earth with such meticulous detail, this segment to The Hobbit trilogy seems strung out and elongated beyond it's story and takes an absolute age to get going and build any kind of momentum. Perhaps it would have been more interesting to see the originally intended director (Guillermo Del Toro) do a fresh take on the source material. Nevertheless, Jackson's love letter to Tolkien & the New Zealand tourist board goes on, and it is a very lovingly crafted piece of work, especially in terms of locations and the characters.
Ian McKellen, reprising his role as Gandalf the Grey, was always the perfect choice for the great wizard and Martin Freeman does quite well as a young Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm portrayed the character in Lord Of The Rings). Even Andy Serkis is back as Gollum, albeit for a brief cameo, in a scene which neatly ties into events from Lord Of The Rings.
All the visual effects are as good as ever and the recreation of Middle Earth really is perfect. It's just a huge shame that the narrative drags on, building up a story which just ends with not much happening, only to be continued in the next segment of the trilogy.
Clearly the novel was split into three parts to make as much money as possible from the franchise, but it's easily forgivable to give this film a skip and move straight onto the next, which was a vast improvement.

D: Peter Jackson
Warner Bros./New Line/MGM/Wingnut (Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Fran Walsh & Zane Weiner)
US/New Zealand 2013
161 mins


W: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens & Guillermo del Toro [based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien]
DP: Andrew Lesnie
Ed: Jabez Olsson
Mus: Howard Shore
PD: Grant Major

Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Luke Evans (Bard), Ken Stott (Balin), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug)

What was Peter Jackson thinking when he subjected us to the first film, which was practically two & a half hours of character building and the odd tribute to The Lord Of The Rings. The only scene of note was when Bilbo Baggins discovers Gollum & the 'ring', which we already knew by watching the LOTR trilogy anyway.
In honesty, you could skip the first movie and be justly rewarded. You'd miss out on a bit of back story but you could easily pick it up and enjoy some brilliant scenes of action and adventure.
Bilbo, Gandalf & the dwarves are continuing their quest across Middle Earth from the first film and face peril at every step, across an enchanted forest, a kingdom of surly wood elves (including Legolas - Orlando Bloom) and a floating village, before they eventually penetrate the dragon's (Smaug's) lair.
As in the previous film and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, meticulous effort and sweeping photography transports you to the mythical Middle Earth convincingly and the visual effects, makeup, costumes and production design are as good as they can get, although it's a shame that CGI has replaced makeup when bringing some orcs to the screen. The CGI animation to bring Smaug to life, however, is absolutely top notch and Benedict Cumberbatch was a very good casting decision for the dragon's powerful, creepy voice.
The ending sets up the third film nicely, although it's a shame about the insipid Ed Sheeran song ('I See Fire') which plays over the end credits.

"The defining chapter."
"The defining chapter."
D: Peter Jackson
Warner/New Line/MGM/Wingnut (Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh & Peter Jackson)
US/New Zealand 2014
144 mins 
W: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro [based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien]
DP: Andrew Lesnie
Ed: Jabez Olsson
Mus: Howard Shore
PD: Grant Major
Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), Evangeline Lilly (Tauriel), Lee Pace (Thranduil), Luke Evans (Bard), Ken Stott (Balin), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Ian Holm (Old Bilbo), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), Benedict Cumberbatch (voice of Smaug)
Though it served The Lord Of The Rings well to be split into a trilogy, it felt unnecessary to do it with J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Whilst some may say it's so the film is as faithful adaptation as possible from the book, this is debunked by the decision to cast Orlando Bloom, reprising his role as Legolas. The real reason was, more cynically, to coax people into paying for the same film three times. The first segment of the trilogy is completely redundant, setting up characters and a story which never materialises until the second film, in which the wheels are really set in motion. This third film culminates in the battle described in the subtitle, before closing with a reference to the events which can be seen in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
In fairness, it delivers what it promises, but having to sit through two previous films to get here may test the patience of even the most ardent fan, especially since the films were released a year apart and didn't quite have the memorable weight to bridge the gaps between.
With the dragon Smaug defeated and the people of Laketown suffering the loss of their homes, the survivors head to the Lonely Mountain, where Bilbo and the dwarves prepare for battle. Complications arise when Thorin, the  leader of the dwarves is struck with "dragon sickness" while searching for the fabled Arkenstone, though he regains his sanity just in time for the big showdown.
As with the previous films, the visual effects and creation of Middle Earth are done impeccably, utilising imaginative production design, costumes, makeup and cinematography to make the fictional world look as though it were a real location. The same can also be said of the mythical creatures who dwell within and this is where Peter Jackson excels in his vision. Where he falters is by eking out the story over three films, whereby two would have been perfectly sufficient.

D: Rick Sloane
American Cinema Marketing (Rick Sloane)
US 1988
92 mins
W: Rick Sloane
DP: Rick Sloane
Ed: Rick Sloane
Mus: Alan DerMarderosian
Tom Bartlett (Kevin), Paige Sullivan (Amy), Steven Boggs (Kyle), Kelley Palmer (Daphne), Billy Frank (Nick)
Following Gremlins, we were treated to Critters, which, sequels aside, wasn't too bad. This was followed with this monstrosity of a horror-comedy about tiny killer creatures.
The pathetic story is about the world's most incompetent night watchman who, despite warning, allows a group of diminutive, furry aliens to escape from a vault of an empty building & it's up to a security guard trainee to kill the creatures before the sun rises. Yawn.
The only thing lamer than the awful puppetry is the quality of the performances, every male actor plays a dickhead and every female plays a slut. It's also clearly obvious that a great deal of the movies consists of stock footage.
It's horrifying to watch, but not in the way you'd like from a horror movie.
D: Kenny Ortega
Disney (David Kirschner & Steven Haft)
US 1993
96 mins
W: Mick Garris & Neil Cuthbert
DP: Hiro Narita
Ed: Peter E. Berger
Mus: John Debney
PD: William Sandell
Bette Midler (Winnie Sanderson), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah Sanderson), Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Omri Katz (Max Dennison), Thora Birch (Dani Dennison)
Disneyfied Halloween pantomime tailored exclusively for the performances of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker & Kathy Najimy as three witches inadvertently brought back to existence by a group of kids.
The characters and musical performances are equally as irritating as they are entertaining, although young kids and kids-at-heart will most likely enjoy it. Still, it's far from the studio's best works, but a reasonably easy watch which fits in well with the occasion.

HOFFA (15)
D: Danny DeVito
20th Century Fox/Jersey Films (Edward R. Pressman, Danny DeVito & Caldecot Chubb)
US 1992
140 mins


W: David Mamet
DP: Stephen H. Burum
Ed: Lynzee Klingman & Ronald Roose
Mus: David Newman
PD: Ida Random

Jack Nicholson (Jimmy Hoffa), Danny DeVito (Robert Ciaro), Armand Assante (Carol D'Allesandro), J.T. Walsh (Frank Fitzsimmons), John C. Reilly (Peter Connelly), Kevin Anderson (Robert F. Kennedy)

Dull biopic of Union Leader Jimmy Hoffa, whose disappearance under mysterious circumstances is still unsolved and the subject of much speculation.
David Mamet's screenplay provides one theory for his possible abduction, but the film is very boringly directed by Danny DeVito and the performances aren't the best, although Jack Nicholson is transformed into the real-life character by some clever makeup.
Everything in the film would be better presented as either a documentary or a book. As a feature film, there was simply too much left wanting.

D: Nick Hamm
Pathé/UK Film Council/Canal+ (Lisa Bryer, Jeremy Bolt & Pippa Cross)
UK/France 2001
102 mins


W: Ben Court & Caroline Ip [based on the novel "After The Hole" by Guy Burt]
DP: Denis Crossan
Ed: Niven Howie
Mus: Clint Mansell
PD: Eve Stewart

Thora Birch (Liz Dunne), Desmond Harrington (Mike Steel), Keira Knightley (Frankie Almond Smith), Daniel Brocklebank (Martyn Taylor), Laurence Fox (Geoff Bingham), Embeth Davidtz (Dr. Philippa Horwood)

British horror movie which cast an American in the lead role, delivering possibly the worst English accent since Mary Poppins.
Four teenagers get trapped in a military bunker near their school which nobody knows about. Only one of them finally escapes- but were they a psycho or a victim?
The script is full of holes, the direction is flat, the performances are nothing special and it's a rather boring film.

"What are you so afraid of?"
"What are you so afraid of?"
THE HOLE (aka THE HOLE IN 3D) (12)
D: Joe Dante
Big Air/Bold (Claudio Fäh, Michel Litvak, Vicki Sotheran & David Lancaster)
US 2009
92 mins
W: Mark L. Smith
DP: Theo Van De Sande
Ed: Marshall Harvey
Mus: Javier Navarette

Chris Massoglia (Dane Thompson), Haley Bennett (Julie Campbell), Nathan Gamble (Lucas Thompson), Teri Polo (Susan Thompson), Bruce Dern (Creepy Carl)
Joe Dante returns to his regular horror formula of a rather juvenile story aimed at an older audience (Gremlins, etc.) and it proves a fine return to form for the director, whose career seemed to have been stuck in limbo for the best part of a decade.
The film is actually rather good, the story concerning two brothers who move with their mother to a new house where they discover a padlocked trapdoor in the basement, curiosity gets the better of them and they break it open to discover a bottomless pit beneath, a pit which unleashes an evil which effects them both differently, manifesting itself as something they individually find scary.
While nowhere near as fun as Gremlins, The Hole is still an effectively creepy family horror which may just be a little too scary for very young children.

"Some secrets are too big to keep hidden."
"Some secrets are too big to keep hidden."
D: Andrew Davis
Buena Vista/Disney (Mike Medavoy, Teresa Tucker-Davies & Lowell Blank)
US 2003
117 mins
W: Louis Sachar [based on his novel]
DP: Stephen St. John
Ed: Tom Nordberg & Jeffrey Wolf
Mus: Joel McNeely
PD: Maher Ahmad
Shia LaBeouf (Stanley Yelnats), Sigourney Weaver (Warden Louise Walker), Jon Voight (Mr. Sir), Patricia Arquette (Kate Barlow), Tim Blake Nelson (Dr. Kiowa Pendanski), Dule Hill (Sam the Onion Man), Henry Winkler (Stanley Yelnats III)
Shia LaBeouf made a very early screen performance in this 2003 Disney family film and doesn't actually do a bad job, at the very least he's far less annoying than the odious character he plays in the Transformer movies.
Found guilty of stealing a pair of shoes, he is sentenced to a juvenile prison camp in the middle of the desert where the other young inmates spend their days digging endless holes. What they don't know is that prison warden Sigourney Weaver is using them to hunt for a long lost treasure which has been missing for generations.
The back story is told with a rather cheesy, poorly directed flashback, but the rest of the film is decent. Jon Voight delivers a rather hammy performance, but it's not the sort of film where acting is scrutinised too much. A good rainy day film that doesn't require too much attention for all the family to easily enjoy.

"Think you're alone? Think again."
"Think you're alone? Think again."
D: Paul Verhoeven
Columbia (Douglas Wick & Alan Marshall)
US 2000
114 mins
Science Fiction/Horror
W: Andrew W. Marlowe & Gary Scott Thompson
DP: Jost Vacano
Ed: Mark Goldblatt
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
PD: Allan Cameron
Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Caine), Elisabeth Shue (Linda McKay), Josh Brolin (Matt Kensington), Greg Grunberg (Carter Abbey), Mary Jo Randle (Janice Walton), Kim Dickens (Sarah Kennedy)
Gruesome update of The Invisible Man with some incredibly good visual effects. Kevin Bacon plays a power mad scientist who insists on being the guinea pig in an invisibility experiment. The experiment is a success, but the reversal is a failure. Detained in an underground lab, his behaviour becomes increasingly psychotic and he takes out the rest of his team, the only people who know about his condition.
The film takes certain liberties with the laws of physics, which can easily be ignored for the sake of entertainment, but unfortunately the thriller falls flat in the last few scenes. The filmmakers definitely missed a trick by opting for a formulaic Hollywood ending, especially when a more ambiguous one could have spelt potential for further sequels.

"Living in Hollywood can make you famous. Dying in Hollywood can make you a legend."
"Living in Hollywood can make you famous. Dying in Hollywood can make you a legend."


D: Allen Coulter

Miramax/Focus Features/Back Lot (Glenn Williamson)

US 2006

127 mins


W: Paul Bernbaum

DP: Jonathan Freeman

Ed: Michael Berenbaum

Mus: Marcelo Zavros

PD: Leslie McDonald

Cos: Julie Weiss

Adrien Brody (Louis Zimo), Ben Affleck (George Reeves), Diane Lane (Toni Mannix), Bob Hoskins (Eddie Mannix), Robin Tunney (Leonore Lemmon)

Hollywoodland blends fact and fiction as an unscrupulous private investigator, Louis Zimo (Adrien Brody) takes on a case to look closer into the apparent suicide of the actor who played TV's Superman, George Reeves. 

Ben Affleck gives one of his finest acting performances as George Reeves, who dreamt of Hollywood stardom following his film debut in Gone With The Wind, only to find himself typecast after stepping into the Man Of Steel's costume for the incredibly popular serial. Even an affair with a studio head's wife doesn't help his career and his life eventually descends into depression.

The circumstances of the mysterious death are left ambiguous, as the film parallels both storylines as a parable for chasing an unobtainable dream.


They don't have a clue
They don't have a clue


D: Etan Cohen

Sony/Columbia/Mosaic Media (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Jimmy Miller & Clayton Townsend)

USA 🇺🇸 2018

90 mins


W: Etan Cohen [based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle]

DP: Oliver Wood

Ed: Dean Zimmerman

Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh

Will Ferrell (Sherlock Holmes), John C. Reilly (John Watson), Rebecca Hall (Dr. Grace Hart), Rob Brydon (Inspector Lestrade), Ralph Fiennes (Prof. Moriarty), Kelly MacDonald (Rose)

This lowbrow spoof stars comedy partners Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly as the title characters, so loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle's literary characters it's actually a bit of insult that they're called Holmes & Watson.

The jokes are barrel-scrapingly bad, from the opening scene until you care to pay attention (I stopped after 30 minutes).

Considering the cast involved, there's no excuse for this being such a terrible, woefully unfunny comedy and it's all due to a flawed screenplay which should never have been greenlit, but then you have to consider Sony's movie production history and their nonchalant attitude to quality control. They don't give s shit, as long as it makes money... perhaps they might start caring now, since this deservedly landed in cinemas with a thud over the 2018 Christmas holidays.



D: Tom Tykwer

Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions/Saban (Stefan Arndt, Gary Goetzman, Arcadiy Golubovich, Tom Hanks, Uwe Schott & Tim O'Hair)

US/Germany/Mexico 2016

97 mins


W: Tom Tykwer [based on the novel by Dave Eggars]

DP: Frank Griebe

Ed: Alexander Berner

Mus: Johnny Klimek & Tom Tykwer

Tom Hanks (Alan Clay), Alexander Black (Yousef), Sarita Choudhury (Zahra), Sidse Babett Knudsen (Hanne), Ben Whishaw (Dave)

Tom Hanks' most disappointing film in over three decades, especially in terms of box office receipts.

He plays a corporate businessman involved in a Saudi Arabian sales project which he aims to propose to the king, who always happens to be undertaking duties in other cities or countries. That's pretty much the crux of the joke to this fish-out-of-water culture clash comedy which moves with as much energy as jetlag.

It's no Lost In Translation, and if you think the title doesn't sound particularly interesting, the performances aren't much more immersive either.


"A family comedy without the family."
"A family comedy without the family."
D: Chris Columbus
20th Century Fox (John Hughes)
US 1990
98 mins
W: John Hughes
DP: Julio Macat
Ed: Raja Gosnell
Mus: John Williams
PD: John Muto
Macauley Culkin (Kevin McCallister), Joe Pesci (Harry Lime), Daniel Stern (Marv Merchants), John Heard (Peter McCallister), Catherine O'Hara (Kate McCallister), Roberts Blossom (Old Man Marley)
The most successful family comedy of 1990 may get less and less funny with each repeat viewing, but on it's original release it was a real hoot.
When his family oversleep and have to hastily get to the airport for a Christmas vacation, they accidentally leave 10-year-old Kevin alone in the upstairs bedroomc, not realising their mistake until their plane lands in Paris. 
Kevin himself has the time of his life with no adults to spoil his fun. He raids his brother's bedroom, eats all the junk food he wants, watches inappropriate movies and gets up to all kinds of mischief, but when a pair of incompetent robbers try to break in, it's up to Kevin to foil their plans himself.
Writer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus do a great job rejuvenating slapstick comedy for a new era, and while the film does have it's flaws, it has to be regarded as a landmark film of the 1990's as well as a perennial Christmas classic.

"He's up past his bedtime in the city that never sleeps."
"He's up past his bedtime in the city that never sleeps."
D: Chris Columbus
20th Century Fox (John Hughes)
US 1992
120 mins
W: John Hughes
DP: Julio Macat
Ed: Raja Gosnell
Mus: John Williams
PD: John Muto
Macauley Culkin (Kevin McCallister), Joe Pesci (Harry Lime), Daniel Stern (Marv Merchants), John Heard (Peter McCallister), Catherine O'Hara (Kate McCallister), Brenda Fricker (The Pigeon Lady), Tim Curry (Mr. Hector)
Practically a remake of the original movie, except Macauley Culkin's precocious performance isn't quite as cute this time around.
Instead of being left home alone, this time young Kevin is separated from his family at the airport and gets on the wrong flight, ending up in New York City. Someone call social services!
With the aid of his father's credit card, he checks into a fancy hotel and runs up huge amounts on room service, before the pretentious manager gets suspicious and throws him out on the street where, lo and behold, Kevin bumps into the incompetent criminals from the first film.
Everything is pretty much a carbon copy from the first film except it's bigger, louder and more, and though a few of the slapstick moments evoke a chuckle of two, it's easy to feel cheated that you've paid to watch the same film twice.

"There's a new kid in the block."
"There's a new kid in the block."
D: Raja Gosnell
20th Century Fox (John Hughes & Hilton Green)
US 1997
102 mins
W: John Hughes
DP: Julio Macat
Ed: Bruce Green, Malcolm Campbell & David Rennie
Mus: Nick Glennie-Smith
PD: Henry Bumstead
Alex D. Linz (Alex Pruitt), Olek Krupa (Petr Beaupre), Rya Kilhstedt (Alice Ribbons), Lenny Von Dohlen (Burton Jernighan), David Thornton (Earl Unger)
The characters from the first two films are cast aside and the plot barely follows the same formula, therefore it can be easily argued that the film shouldn't contain the words 'Home' and 'Alone' in the title at all, despite being penned once more by John Hughes.
All that has remained is a kid outwitting dumbass criminals, this time they're trying to break into his house to steal some microchips while his mum's at work  and it's up to him to devise a plan to outsmart them.
It's very much one film too far and it's no surprise that it didn't even do a fraction of the business which the first two movies did at the box office.

D: Tommy Lee Jones
Roadside Attractions/Europacorp (Luc Besson, Peter M. Brant, Brian Kennedy & Tommy Lee Jones)
US/France 2014
122 mins


W: Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley Oliver & Tommy Lee Jones [based on the novel by Miles Hood Swarthout]
DP: Rodrigo Prieto
Ed: Roberto Silvi
Mus: Marco Beltrami

Hilary Swank (Mary Bee Cuddy), Tommy Lee Jones (George Briggs), Grace Gummer (Arabella Sours), Miranda Otto (Theoline Belknapp), Sonja Richter (Gro Svendsen), Meryl Streep (Altha Carter), John Lithgow (Rev. Dowd), James Spader (Aloysius Duffy), Hailee Steinfeld (Tabitha Hutchinson)

The Homesman is a subtle, dramatic western with some strong performances from its fine ensemble cast.
Mary Lee Cuddy (Swank), is a 31-year-old spinster who volunteers to transport three mentally unstable women, all of whom have suffered major hardships, from the American Midwest to a church community in Iowa, where adequate care for them awaits. 
En route, she saves petty conman George Briggs from a lynching on the condition that he accompanies her on the journey.
It's a slow-burning film which is made increasingly watchable by the strong performances, and the plot throws in a few surprising twists, especially towards the ending where Briggs finds redemption.
Not particularly memorable, but certainly worth a watch.

D: Joe Johnston
Disney (Penney Finkleman Cox, Brian Yuzna & Jon Landau)
US 1989
86 mins

Adventure/Science Fiction/Comedy

W: Ed Naha & Tom Schulman
DP: Hiro Narita
Ed: Michael A. Stevenson
Mus: James Horner
PD: Gregg Fonseca

Rick Moranis (Wayne Szalinski), Matt Frewer (Big Russ Thompson), Marcia Strassman (Diana Szalinski), Kristine Sutherland (Mae Thompson), Thomas Brown (Little Russ Thompson), Jared Rushton (Ron Thompson), Amy O'Neill (Amy Szalinski), Robert Oliveri (Nick Szalinski)

It feels a shame to say that this 1989 hit now feels incredibly dated, even more so to say it's dated very badly. It's such a typical, easy-to-enjoy family adventure-comedy from Disney that it almost feels cruel to give it a bad review.
In 1989, the visual effects carried much of this movie, but by today's standards, this film could well have been produced in the 1960's and wouldn't look any different. An eccentric inventor creates a shrinking ray which accidentally switches on when his and the next-door neighbour's kids are in the lab, reducing them to the size of an ant. What makes things worse is when they get swept up with the trash and put in a bin bag at the far end of the garden, looking more like the Amazon rainforest from their minuscule point of view.
They battle their way back to the house against the titans of Mother Nature and form an alliance and friendship with each other, when before the next door neighbours didn't see eye to eye. That goes for the parents too.
Despite the effects looking rather poor now, they were fantastic for it's day and the story and plot delivers what's needed- a nice family film which even young kids will be able to enjoy. Two sequels followed: "Honey, I Blew Up The Kid" and "Honey, I Shrunk Ourselves", neither of which really did the box office business of this original.

D: Andrew Bergman
Castle Rock (Mike Lobell)
US 1992
95 mins
W: Andrew Bergman
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: Barry Malkin
Mus: David Newman
PD: William A. Elliott
Nicolas Cage (Jack Singer), James Caan (Tommy Korman), Sarah Jessica Parker (Betsy / Donna), Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita (Mahi), Peter Boyle (Chief Orman), Anne Bancroft (Bea Singer), Seymour Cassel (Tony Cataracts)
Nicolas Cage is a gambler whose about to get married to Sarah Jessica Parker in Sin City, but loses her in a game of poker to shady mobster James Caan. He chases after her around town, assisted by skydiving Elvis impersonators in one particular scene, in a desperate attempt to win her back.
A similar plot was used in the following year's Indecent Proposal (qv), and while this film clearly took a more farcical approach, it's by far a much better film, despite not being fantastic. An easy-going comedy sketch.

D: Steven Spielberg
Columbia Tristar/Amblin (Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall & Gerald R. Molen)
US 1991
144 mins


W: Jim V. Hart & Malia Scotch Marmo [based on characters created by J. M. Barrie]
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Norman Garwood
Cos: Anthony Powell

Robin Williams (Peter Banning / Peter Pan), Dustin Hoffman (Capt. James Hook), Julia Roberts (Tinkerbell), Bob Hoskins (Smee), Maggie Smith (Granny Wendy Darling), Caroline Goodall (Moira Banning), Charlie Korsmo (Jack), Amber Scott (Maggie)

The "Peter Pan of Hollywood" Steven Spielberg does his own take on J. M. Barrie's immortal tale, although it's more of a sequel/re-imagination than what you'll read in the original story's prose.
Robin Williams plays Peter Pan, who is now an adult businessman, married with two kids, and all-in-all, a bit of a misery guts. He returns to England with the family and his children are kidnapped later in the night. Tinkerbell soon visits to whisk Peter Pan back to Neverland where Captain Hook laughs at the notion that his nemesis is now a cowardly adult and gives him time to shape up or risk losing his kids forever.
The film contains some important messages about the power of imagination, family and friendship, but also comes in a rather unhealthy coating of Spielberg-branded syrup. The production design, makeup, costumes and visual effects are all of extremely high quality, but the story itself could have done with a lot of tweaking, especially in the slower paced, mawkish and over-sentimental scenes. Acting performances are on the periphery of pantomime standard.

D: David Anspaugh
Orion/Hemdale (Carter DeHaven & Angelo Pizzo)
US 1986
114 mins
W: Angelo Pizzo
DP: Fred Murphy
Ed: C. Timothy O'Meara
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith
Gene Hackman (Norman Dale), Barbara Hershey (Myra Fleener), Dennis Hopper (Shooter), Sheb Wooley (Cletus), Fern Persons (Opal Fleener)
Gene Hackman plays the belligerent coach of a hick high school basketball team in the 1950's, pushing them to success in the state finals.
Typical American sports film which pushes the moral that any kind of achievement is enough to absolve your past sins. Hackman even employs town drunk Dennis Hopper as a coach to drill this point home.
Titled 'Best Shot' in the UK, where audiences didn't know what the hell Hoosiers meant. Jerry Goldsmith provides an energetic music score and the performances are good, but the film itself is nothing special.

D: John Boorman
Columbia/Goldcrest (John Boorman)
UK 1987
113 mins


W: John Boorman
DP: Philippe Rouselott
Ed: Ian Crafford
Mus: Peter Martin
PD: Anthony Pratt
Cos: Shirley Russell

Sebastian Rice-Edwards (Bill Rohan), Sarah Miles (Grace Rohan), Geraldine Muir (Sue Rohan), David Hayman (Clive Rohan), Sammi Davis (Dawn Rohan), Derrick O'Connor (Mac), Susan Wooldridge (Molly), Ian Bannen (George)

John Boorman's autobiographical war film makes for one of his career's finest films.
From a child's point of view, wartime Britain isn't such a bad thing, especially for nine-year-old Bill. His father may be on the front line, but at home the school's are being closed and the neighbourhood has become a playground of rubble where he and his scoundrel friends collect shrapnel. His older sister doesn't seem to mind the war either, using it as excuse to meet American soldiers.
The film is finely balanced between comedy and drama, presenting the period well with an air of nostalgia and haughty patriotism.

"Ever wish your boss were dead?"
"Ever wish your boss were dead?"
D: Seth Gordon
Warner Bros./New Line (Brett Ratner & Jay Stern)
US 2011
98 mins
W: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
DP: David Hennings
Ed: Peter Teschner
Mus: Christopher Lennertz
Jason Bateman (Nick Hendricks), Charlie Day (Dale Arbus), Jason Sudeikis (Kurt Buckman), Kevin Spacey (David Harken), Jennifer Aniston (Dr. Julia Harris), Colin Farrell (Bobby Pellitt), Jamie Foxx (Dean Jones)
Surprisingly enjoyable black comedy about a trio of friends who have reached the end of their tether after being mistreated one two many times by their overbearing bosses and decide to take revenge into their own hands.
The style of humour is quite similar to that in the first Hangover movie and some of the jokes are a real hoot. Jason Bateman & Jason Sudeikis are a good double act from the three friends, but Charlie Day is too whiny and annoying to really care about his plight, especially since his boss is the bitchy (and bitching) Jennifer Aniston who is absolutely brilliant with a very cast against type performance. As proven before, Kevin Spacey is great at playing arseholes, only Colin Farrell is underused as a coke-addict company owner who doesn't really have a chance to provide many comedy moments with less than 5 minutes screen time.
Something of a surprise, but not really good enough to merit a sequel.

"New crime. Same tools."
"New crime. Same tools."
D: Sean Anders
Warner Bros/New Line (Brett Ratner, Jay Stern & John Morris)
US 2014
108 mins 


W: Sean Anders & John Morris [based on characters created by Michael Markowitz]
DP: Julio Macat
Ed: Eric Massick
Mus: Christopher Lennertz

Jason Bateman (Nick Hendricks), Jason Sudeikis (Kurt Buckman), Charlie Day (Dale Arbus), Chris Pine (Rex Hanson), Christoph Waltz (Bert Hanson), Jennifer Aniston (Dr. Julia Harris), Jamie Foxx (Dean Jones), Kevin Spacey (David Harken)

The first Horrible Bosses film was enjoyable enough for a black comedy about disgruntled employees who want to get their revenge.
The main trio of luckless characters from the original film return, this time in an attempt to go into business for themselves, but when a deal turns sour, the plot rips off the story from Nine To Five (qv) and turns into a kidnapping caper.
The main problem is that there are no horrible bosses here, it's just horrible. The three moronic main characters are victims of their own naïveté and poor business acumen and deserve to get screwed over. Throwing dick and sex jokes at us doesn't change that.
With the exemption of Christoph Waltz, the entire cast are an embarrassment, including Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Aniston, who are relegated to "thanks for the pay cheque" cameos.
It's astonishing that this pathetic sequel made money.

"Choose to believe. Choose to fight. Choose to love."
"Choose to believe. Choose to fight. Choose to love."
D: Andrew Niccol
Universal/Open Road/Chockstone (Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, Paula May Schwartz & Stephenie Meyer)
US 2013
125 mins
Science Fiction/Romance
W: Andrew Niccol [based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer]
DP: Roberto Schaefer
Ed: Thomas J. Nordberg 
Mus: Antonio Pinto
Saoirse Ronan (Melanie Stryder), Max Irons (Jared Howe), Jake Abel (Ian O'Shea), Frances Fisher (Magnolia Stryder), Chandler Canterbury (Jamie Stryder), Diane Kruger (The Seeker), William Hurt (Jebediah Stryder)
How did Stephanie Meyer get published?? If this and the Twilight saga are the stories to go by, 13 year old girls are easily pleased and undemanding by their choices in literature.
I'd rather not spend too long reviewing this film. The story and central plot was tedious at best and the central premise was straight up lifted from Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (it seems Stephanie Meyer is incapable of developing an original idea). 
Practically every human being on earth is now controlled by extra-terrestrial souls, except for Saorsie Ronan who's human conscience is wrestling with being controlled, her acting performance to present this is nothing short of hilarious.
The rest of the film is long, arduous torture where NOTHING of any interest happened until Arsenal beat Sunderland 4-1 (I may have switched over to Match Of The Day for a split-second), another stupid love triangle is thrust in, but if you aren't a teenage girl then the relationships between the characters provide no chemistry or romance whatsoever. 
The only parts of this film which did hold attention were unintentionally laughable with a teenage brat of a lead character and amateurish acting from everyone else (what were Diane Kruger & William Hurt thinking? Fire your agents at once!)

D: Eli Roth
Lions Gate/Screen Gems/Raw Nerve (Mike Fleiss, Eli Roth, Chris Briggs & Quentin Tarantino)
US/Czech Republic 2005
93 mins
W: Eli Roth
DP: Milan Chardma
Ed: George Folsey, Jr.
Mus: Nate Barr
Jay Hernandez (Paxton), Derek Richardson (Josh), Eythor Gudjonssen (Oli), Barbara Nedeljáková (Natalya), Jana Kaderabková (Svetlana)
Gore porn horror following the same template from the Saw films.
American backpackers are lured to a Slovakian torture factory where other tourists pay handsomely for the opportunity to slice people up with flesh-ripping power tools.
Director Eli Roth could almost have got away with this being a satirically-gilded horror movie about crass, xenophobic Americans with no respect for another country's culture getting their just desserts, but unfortunately he opened his mouth and said it's just an excuse to see big tits and lots of bloody violence. What a douchebag!         


D: Scott Cooper

Entertainment Studios/Waypoint/Le Grisbi/Bloom Media (Scott Cooper, Ken Lao & John Lesher)

US 2017

133 mins


W: Scott Cooper & Donald E. Stewart

DP: Masanobu Takayanagi

Ed: Tom Cross

Mus: Max Richter

Christian Bale (Capt. Joseph J. Blocker), Rosamund Pike (Rosalee Quaid), Wes Studi (Chief Yellow Hawk), Jesse Plemons (Lt. Rudi Kidder), Adam Beach (Black Hawk)

Scott Cooper's moody western stars Christian Bale as a decorated army captain who reluctantly accept a military order to escort a Cheyenne chief from a New Mexico fort to his ancestral home in Montana, a route that takes them through hostile territory. On the journey, they meet a woman whose family were murdered by a vicious tribe of Comanches, who are still on the warpath and thirsty for blood.

Though the opening scene to this western adventure has you immediately on the edge of your seat, the rest of the opening and middle act are quite slow & a lot of the scenes become bogged down with expositional dialogue. However, the performances are all excellent and the conclusion is quite rewarding. The fine cinematography and music also deserve to be mentioned.


"Big cops. Small town. Moderate violence."
"Big cops. Small town. Moderate violence."
D: Edgar Wright
Universal/Studio Canal/Working Title/Big Talk (Nira Park, Tim Bevan & Eric Fellner)
UK 2007
116 mins
W: Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg
DP: Jess Hall
Ed: Chris Dickens
Mus: David Arnold
PD: Marcus Rowland
Simon Pegg (Sgt. Nicholas Angel), Nick Frost (PC Danny Butterman), Jim Broadbent (Insp. Frank Butterman), Timothy Dalton (Simon Skinner), Olivia Colman (PC Doris Thatcher), Paddy Considine (DS Andy Wainwright)
Since this film is the second of the so-called "Cornetto Trilogy" (following Shaun Of The Dead (qv)) it's easier to get drawn into it, despite it being complete and utter nonsense.
Perfectionist police officer Nick Angel is exiled to an idyllic, lackadaisical West Country village where virtually no crimes happen aside from rogue swans terrorising front gardens and a small problem of underage drinking. The rest of the small village's police force mock Angel's arrival, except for Nick Frost's overzealous officer who looks up to him as a big city hero, obsessed with generic cops and robbers movies (Bad Boys, etc), he expects the real duties of an English bobby to include the action-packed thrills of their Hollywood counterparts.
The two officers soon discover that the town and its people aren't nearly as peaceful as they've previously been led to believe, culminating in a high octane, frenetically edited shootout at the local supermarket.
The film lacks satire and doesn't send up other genres and movies the way Shaun Of The Dead does, but is still reasonably entertaining, despite the fact that it's absolutely ridiculous.
"There's something funny in the air."
"There's something funny in the air."
D: Jim Abrahams
20th Century Fox/Treadwell (Bill Badalato)
US 1991
84 mins
W: Pat Proft & Jim Abrahams
DP: Bill Butler
Ed: Jane Kurson & Eric Sears
Mus: Sylvester Levay
Charlie Sheen (Topper Harley), Cary Elwes (Kent Gregory), Valeria Golino (Ramada Thompson), Lloyd Bridges (Admiral Tug Benson), Kevin Dunn (Lt. Cmdr. James Block)
From two of the writers of 1980's Airplane (qv) comes Hot Shots, a hit-and-miss spoof of Top Gun, with parodies of Gone With The Wind, Superman and various other blockbuster movies thrown in for good measure.
There's a couple of funny moments, but not enough to justify an 85 minute film. It might have possibly worked better as a SNL sketch.
A sequel followed, featuring more of the same.

D: Jim Abrahams
20th Century Fox/Treadwell (Bill Badalato)
US 1993
88 mins


W: Pat Proft & Jim Abrahams
DP: John R. Leonetti
Ed: Malcolm Campbell
Mus: Basil Poledouris

Charlie Sheen (Topper Harley), Valeria Golino (Ramada Rodham Hayman), Lloyd Bridges (President Tug Benson), Richard Crenna (Col. Denton Walters)

A special force unit is sent to the Middle East to rescue a special force unit whose mission was to rescue hostages.
The second Hot Shots films turns its attentions to spoofing Rambo films, which are too far beyond parody to work particularly well. It's no better or worse than the first film, with an identical sense of humour.

D: Steve Pink
MGM/United Artists/New Crime (John Cusack, Grace Loh, John Morris & Matt Moore)
US 2010
99 mins


W: Josh Heald, Sean Anders & John Morris         
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: George Folsey, Jr. & James Thomas
Mus: Christophe Beck

John Cusack (Adam Yates), Rob Corddry (Lou Dorchen), Craig Robinson (Nick Webber-Agnew), Clark Duke (Jacob Yates), Crispin Glover (Phil Wedmaier), Lizzy Caplan (April Drennan), Chevy Chase (The Repairman)

Put The Hangover, Back To The Future & Groundhog Day in a hot tub and this movie is the result. There's no rhyme or reason for the time travel, as a group of friends revisit a ski resort from their youth and wake up after a night of binge drinking in 1985. This is a movie in love with the 80's, with countless references to movies, music, fashion and trends of the time.  Chevy Chase appears as a mystical repair man who attempts to explain the unexplainable, but it's best explained by Craig Robinson's character when he deadpans into the camera "It must be some kind of hot tub time machine."
Sometimes a film doesn't have to make total sense to be enjoyable and this is a good example. A nostalgic guilty pleasure or sheer lunacy, it's still great entertainment, with some brilliantly hilarious moments.

"When the world closed its eyes, he opened his arms."
"When the world closed its eyes, he opened his arms."
D: Terry George
MGM (Terry George & A. Kitman Ho)
UK/US/South Africa/Italy 2004
121 mins


W: Terry George & Keir Pearson
DP: Robert Fraisse
Ed: Naomi Geraghty
Mus: Andrea Guerra & Rupert Gregson-Williams
PD: Tony Burrough

Don Cheadle (Paul Rusesabagina), Sophie Okonedo (Tatiana Rusesabagina), Nick Nolte (Colonel Oliver), Joaquin Phoenix (Jack Dalglish), Cara Seymour (Pat Archer)

During a period of civil unrest in Rwanda, a Kigali hotel owner opens the doors as a refuge to the imperilled people, keeping them in relative safety by bribing the soldiers who are carrying out the mass genocide.
This heartbreaking drama works best as a focus on one man's bravery in the same way that Schindler's List (qv) focuses on the holocaust in WWII Poland. There's not a particular amount of focus in the political aspects or origin of the crisis, so it would help to do a little investigation into the events which unfold.
Still, it's a powerful portrait of a man who does right to protect his own family, as well as thousands of innocent people targeted simply for ethnic cleansing. 
Don Cheadle was deservedly nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, handling the emotions that the role demanded superbly.

"Horror has found a new home."
"Horror has found a new home."
HOUSE (18)
D: Steve Miner
New World (Sean S. Cunningham)        
US 1986
93 mins
W: Ethan Wiley
DP: Mac Ahlberg
Ed: Michael N. Knue
Mus: Harry Manfredini
PD: Gregg Fonseca
William Katt (Roger Cobb), George Wendt (Harold Gorton), Richard Moll (Big Ben), Kay Lenz (Sandy Sinclair), Mary Stavin (Tanya), Michael Ensign (Chet Parker)
War veteran William Katt needs some solitude to finish his Vietnam novel, so he does the sensible thing and moves into a creepy haunted house where an elderly woman recently hung herself.
There's bumps in the night as he is visited on a regular basis by ghastly ghouls and nosey next door neighbour George Wendt (Norm from 'Cheers'), as well as having the odd hallucination about his dead war buddy.
The film eventually settles on cheap scare tactics (like the clichéd cat in the cupboard making things creak only to jump out suddenly when the noises are investigated) and the final scenes are a mess of special effects and gooey makeup before the film ends with a 'how's your father smile' screen capture from Katt. Pure cheese.

"Frightening strikes twice."
"Frightening strikes twice."
D: Ethan Wiley
New World (Sean S. Cunningham)        
US 1987
88 mins
W: Ethan Wiley
DP: Mac Ahlberg
Mus: Harry Manfredini
PD: Gregg Fonseca
Ayre Gross (Jesse), Jonathan Stark (Charlie), Royal Dano (Gramps), Bill Maher (John), Lar Park Lincoln (Kate), John Ratzenberger (Bill)
This sequel may have retained the original film's writer (promoted to director as well), but the two stories have no other links.
It's the same haunted house scenario, this time with the resident looking for buried treasure when a ghost from the Wild West emerges from the walls.
Secret passages lead to an underworld filled with strange creatures, including some weird dog-like thing, but the whole film is more of an attempt at merging fantasy with western genres rather than a shot at conventional horror. It doesn't really work.

D: James Isaac
United Artists (Sean S. Cunningham)        
US 1989
95 mins
W: Alan Smithee (Allyn Warner) & Leslie Boehm
DP: Mac Ahlberg
Ed: Edward Anton
Mus: Harry Manfredini
Lance Henriksen (Det. Lucas McCarthy), Brion James (Max Jenke), Rita Taggart (Donna McCarthy), Dedee Pfeiffer (Bonnie McCarthy)
The first two House movies had very little in connection with each other and this third film has even less. In fact, it's more than likely that it was to be released as its alternative title, The Horror Show, but producer Sean S. Cunningham had little faith in it finding an audience unless he somehow tied it into something else that he produced.
The film doesn't even feature a haunted house, instead, the spirit of a death row cellmate gets revenge beyond the grave of the cop who sent him to the electric chair. If the plot sounds familiar, it may be because Wes Craven made an identically themed one the same year (Shocker).
You can always grade the quality of a film if the pseudonym Alan Smithee appears in the credits (a well known alias in Hollywood circles), somebody was clearly embarrassed by the final result.

"Step inside. You're frightfully welcome!"
"Step inside. You're frightfully welcome!"
D: Lewis Abernathy
Cunningham Films (Sean S. Cunningham)                 
US 1992
93 mins
W: Geoff Miller & Diedre Higgins
DP: James Mathers
Ed: Seth Gaven
Mus: Harry Manfredini
William Katt (Roger Cobb), Terri Treas (Kelly Cobb), Scott Burkholder (Burke), Melissa Clayton (Laurel Cobb)
William Katt returns in this boring made-for-TV retread of the first House movie, except this time he brings his wife and teenage daughter along for shits and giggles.
Boring, frightless, cheaply-made dross and though it is the only sequel of a series which follows on directly from the first film, it's the worst of the lot.


D: Mark Tonderai

Relativity Media/Filmnation (Aaron Ryder, Peter Block, Ryan Kavanaugh & Sonny Mallhi)

Canada/US 2010 (released 2012)

101 mins


W: David Loucka & Jonathan Mostow

DP: Miroslav Baszak

Ed: Steve Mirkovich & Karen Porter

Mus: Theo Green

Jennifer Lawrence (Elissa Cassidy), Max Thieriot (Ryan Jacobsson), Elisabeth Shue (Sarah Cassidy), Gil Bellows (Officer Bill Weaver)

Filmed in 2010, this neighbour-from-hell thriller was stuck in distribution limbo until 2012, when it could capitalise on Jennifer Lawrence's rise in fame following her 2011 Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone and subsequent casting in the hugely successful Hunger Games trilogy.

The plot follows the same formula as umpteen similar films from years before; daughter and mother move into a new home next to a house where a family was murdered and the sole survivor, a teenage boy gets romantically close to the daughter, against the mum's wishes. The final act unravels a twist which gives the story a bit of originality, but it's all old hat leading up to that point.


D: Zhang Yimou
Sony Pictures Classics/Edko (Bill Kong & Zhang Yimou)
Hong Kong/China 2004
119 mins


W: Li Feng, Zhang Yimou & Wang Bin
DP: Xiaoding Zhao
Ed: Cheng Long
Mus: Shigeru Umebayashi
PD: Tingxiao Huo
Cos: Emi Wada

Takeshi Kaneshiro (Captain Jin), Zhang Ziyi (Mei), Andy Lau (Captain Lao), Song Dandan (Yee)

Visual splendor, meticulous period design and balletic martial arts choreography are married together in this story of power struggles amidst the dynasties of 9th century China.
Comparisons will doubtlessly be made with Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon although both are completely different films, the only similarity being a slightly contrived romance subplot in the proceedings and both films being in an "arthouse martial art film" genre.
Worth watching for the beautiful cinematography alone.

"Human nature is a sucker bet."
"Human nature is a sucker bet."
D: David Mamet
Orion/Filmhaus (Michael Hausman)     
US 1987
102 mins
W: David Mamet
DP: Juan Ruiz Anchia
Ed: Trudy Ship
Mus: Alaric Jans
Lindsay Crouse (Dr. Margaret Ford), Joe Mantegna (Mike), Mike Nussbaum (Joey), Lilia Skala (Dr. Littauer), J.T. Walsh (Businessman)
David Mamet has written some great films over his career (The Untouchables, Wag The Dog, Glengarry Glen Ross) and this, his directorial debut, is no exception.
Joe Mantegna, best known for supporting characters gets a rare lead here as a con man whose allure attracts the attentions of psychiatrist/writer Lindsey Crouse and he gets her involved in one big con which lands them both in hot water.
It's a superb performance from Mantegna as he practically carries the film, whilst Mamet's direction almost makes you smell the smoke and liquor of seedy bars and gambling halls.
Lindsey Crouse's wooden acting is the only weak link.

D: Vadim Perelman
Dreamworks (Vadim Perelman & Michael London)
US 2003
126 mins


W: Vadim Perelman & Shawn Otto [based on the novel by Andre Dubus III]     
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Mus: James Horner
PD: Maia Javan

Ben Kingsley (Massoud Amir Behrani), Jennifer Connelly (Kathy Nicolo), Ron Eldard (Lester Burdon), Frances Fisher (Connie Walsh), Kim Dickens (Carol Burdon), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Nadi Behrani), Navi Rawat (Soraya Behrani)

A tragic, solemn and poignant drama buoyed with excellent performances by Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly and Shohreh Aghdashloo. The story doesn't read as interesting as the movie presents it, as Connelly's alcoholic divorcee finds her home repossessed and auctioned to Kingsley and his Iranian family and the domestic struggle between them. It's all incredibly dramatic though it would probably work a little better as a stage play.     
D: Billie August
Neue Constantin/Spring Creek (Bernd Eichinger)
Germany/Denmark 1993
138 mins
W: Billie August [based on the novel by Isabel Allende]
DP: Jörgen Persson
Ed: Janus Billeskov Jansen
Mus: Hans Zimmer
PD: Anna Asp
Jeremy Irons (Esteban Trueba), Mery Streep (Clara del Valle Trueba), Glenn Close (Ferula Trueba), Winona Ryder (Blanca Trueba), Antonio Banderas (Pedro Tercero Garcia)
Turgid, overlong, miscast period drama about a Chilean family's rise to power against a background of political upheaval and their inevitable fall from grace.
Supposedly the book it was based on was rather well received, but the film was a huge flop, and deservedly so. An embarrassment of performances from an otherwise very capable cast. Oscar-bait which fell well short of its potential.

D: Jaume Collet-Serra
Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Dark Castle (Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis & Susan Levin)
US/Australia 2005
113 mins


W: Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes [based on the play "The Wax Museum" by Charles S. Belden]
DP: Stephen Windon
Ed: Joel Negron
Mus: John Ottman
PD: Graham Walker

Elisha Cuthbert (Carly Jones), Chad Michael Murray (Nick Jones), Brian Van Holt (Bo Sinclair / Vincent Sinclair), Paris Hilton (Paige Edwards), Jared Padalecki (Wade Felton)

Remake of Mystery Of The Wax Museum for the MTV generation (a previous remake was also released in 1953) produced by Robert Zemeckis, who seemed intent on spending the best part of the early 21st century taking a handful of semi-classic horror movies from the 50's and turned them into lurid formulaic crap for a braindead audience.
While certain elements of the first of these films (The House On Haunted Hill) worked, House Of Wax is simply terrible.
A group of irritating, unpleasant teenagers (portrayed by actors who can't act, and Paris Hilton, who can't act) go through the same old motions as though they'd never seen a horror movie in their old lives, strolling around an eerie ghost town and choosing to explore the creepiest looking house of the lot. The interior of the house itself looks like a Disneyland ride and the plot amounts to no better than a Scooby Doo episode with a stupid moral that seems to be "if you live in a house made of wax, do not have a furnace in your basement."
The whole thing was promoted on the tagline "See Paris Die", but a 113 minute movie really can't be built around a 5 minute murder scene. 
House of Wank!

D: Peter Yates
Orion (Peter Yates & Robert F. Colesberry]
US 1988
100 mins


W: Walter Bernstein
DP: Michael Ballhaus
Ed: Ray Lovejoy
Mus: Georges Delerue
PD: Stuart Wurtzel

Kelly McGillis (Emily), Jeff Daniels (Cochran), Mandy Patinkin (Salwen), Jessica Tandy (Miss Venable)

Standard but reasonably effective thriller, set against a backdrop of McCarthyism politics, a journalist is forced out of her job and uncovers a right-wing conspiracy.
The film tries its best to ape the style of a Hitchcock suspense with its old-fashioned execution, but the story isn't gripping enough, though great attention to period and decent acting performances make it entertaining enough for the duration, albeit completely forgettable to have any longevity.

"Six strangers have the chance to make $1,000,000 each. All they have to do is make it through the night... Alive."
"Six strangers have the chance to make $1,000,000 each. All they have to do is make it through the night... Alive."
D: William Malone
Warner Bros./Dark Castle (Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver & Gilbert Adler)
US 1999
96 mins


W: Dick Beebe [based on a screenplay by Robb White]
DP: Rick Bota
Ed: Anthony Adler
Mus: Don Davis
PD: David F. Klassen

Geoffrey Rush (Steven Price), Famke Janssen (Evelyn Stockard-Price), Taye Diggs (Eddie Baker), Peter Gallagher (Donald Blackburn), Chris Kattan (Watson Pritchett), Ali Larter (Sara Wolfe)

*Review may contain spoilers*
The late 1990's and early 2000's saw Robert Zemeckis turning producer to a handful of 1950's horror remakes, especially the works of William Castle, who utilised cheapjack gimmicks such as "ghost viewing 3D glasses" and dummy skeletons swooping from the ceilings of cinema auditoriums to keep the punters rolling in.
This remake uses no such gimmicks and is a rather standard haunted house movie with a group of strangers invited by eccentric millionaire Geoffrey Rush (who does a rather excellent Vincent Price impression).
The film is quite pointless, silly, and more unintentionally hilarious than it is creepy, but on the same token, it's very easily enjoyable, although the ending is nothing short of embarrassing, especially with Taye Diggs' final line of dialogue ("No... I was adopted!"). Cringeworthy.

"If they get caught, it's all over. If they don't, it's just the beginning!"
"If they get caught, it's all over. If they don't, it's just the beginning!"
D: Reginald Hudlin
New Line (Warrington Hudlin)
US 1990
104 mins
W: Reginald Hudlin
DP: Peter Deming
Ed: Earl Watson
Mus: Marcus Miller
Christopher Reid (Kid), Christopher Martin (Play), Robin Harris (Pop), Martin Lawrence (Bilal), Tisha Campbell (Sidney), A.J. Johnson (Sharane)
Very much a product of its time, this youth comedy introduced the characters Kid & Play (Reid & Martin), two underachieving teenagers who organise a house party while the parents are away.
The film only runs with it's one joke and hasn't dated particularly well at all. A series of cash-in sequels soon followed, but the films aren't really anything more than a multicultural spin on Bill & Ted.

D: John Ford
20th Century Fox (Darryl F. Zanuck)
US 1941
118 mins


W: Philip Dunne [based on the novel by Richard Llewellyn]
DP: Arthur Miller
Ed: James B. Clark
Mus: Alfred Newman
PD: Richard Day & Nathan Juran
Cos: Gwen Wakeling

Walter Pidgeon (Mr. Gruffydd), Maureen O'Hara (Angharad Morgan), Donald Crisp (Mr. Morgan), Anna Lee (Bronwyn), Roddy McDowall (Huw Morgan), John Loder (Ianto Morgan), Sara Allgood (Mrs. Morgan)

The film which famously won the 1941 Best Picture Oscar over Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. Whether it deserved the accolade or not is subjective. Personally, I find Orson Welles' work to be far more superior, but considering the scandal that it caused, it may have been sensible for the Academy Awards to go for the safer option.
Set in a small Welsh coal mining village at the turn of the 20th Century, the story follows the lives of the Morgan family and their relationships with each other when staff are laid off and strikes ensue.
The story vignettes are shown through the eyes of various family members, particularly young Huw Morgan (a very young Roddy McDowall).
John Ford does a splendid job bringing the work to the screen, with incredible detail involved in the scale of the village (kudos to the production designers).
It's a fantastic piece of work for 1941, but it's not quite my personal favourite of the year.

"More adventure than humanly possible."
"More adventure than humanly possible."
D: Willard Huyck
Universal (Gloria Katz & George Lucas)
US 1986
111 mins
Science Fiction/Comedy
W: Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz [based on characters created by Steve Gerber]
DP: Richard H. Kline
Ed: Michael Chandler & Sidney Wolinsky
Mus: John Barry
Lea Thompson (Beverly Switzler), Tim Robbins (Phil Blumburtt), Jeffrey Jones (Dr. Walter Jenning), Chip Zien (voice of Howard the Duck)
George Lucas, drunk on the riches he amassed through the Star Wars trilogy turned his attentions in the mid-80's to developing this comic book into a feature length movie. Featuring a duck-like alien who arrives on Earth and falls in love with a rock singer, this film is nothing short of a disaster. Everything about it completely sub-standard, poor performances, cheap-looking visual effects and a totally unconvincing duck suit. It's embarrassing considering Lucas had such huge involvement.
Perhaps it may have worked better as an animated film, but certainly not with this script, packed with attempted jokes which are completely unsuitable for a young audience. Amongst the worst movies of all time.

D: James Ivory
Film Four/Merchant Ivory (Ismail Merchant)
UK 1992
140 mins


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

Anthony Hopkins (Henry Wilcox), Emma Thompson (Margaret Schlegel), Vanessa Redgrave (Ruth Wilcox), Helena Bonham-Carter (Helen Schlegel), Sam West (Leonard Bast), Prunella Scales (Aunt Juley) 

Period dramas are an esoteric genre, you'll either love them or hate them, with very little ground in-between.
Arguably, Merchant Ivory do the best period dramas, particularly when adapting the literary works of E. M. Forster, whose novel "A Room With A View" was earlier adapted by the same production team in the mid-1980s.
Howard End is more a comedy of manners than a period drama, a study of the ruling, middle and working class in the early 20th century.
Howards End is a country house belonging to the upper class Wilcox family. Bequeathed in a will by the terminally ill Ruth Wilcox to her free-spirited friend Margaret Schlegel, Henry Wilcox conceals this and marries Margaret so to keep the real estate in his own name.
Meanwhile, Margaret's sister Helen develops a relationship with banking clerk Leonard Bast, whose fortunes are also manipulated by the Wilcox family.
Even if period pictures aren't your bag, Howards End is still worth a watch, elegantly brought to screen by the producer-director combo of Merchant-Ivory, with their stalwart screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala once again adapting the prose.

"Imagine your worst fear a reality."
"Imagine your worst fear a reality."
D: Joe Dante
Avco Embassy (Michael Finnell & Jack Conrad)
US 1981
91 mins


W: John Sayles & Terence H. Winkless [based on the novel by Gary Brandner]
DP: John Hora
Ed: Mark Goldblatt & Joe Dante
Mus: Pino Donaggio

Dee Wallace Stone (Karen White), Patrick Macnee (Dr. George Waggner), Dennis Dugan (Chris), Christopher Stone (Bill Neill), Belinda Balanski (Terry Fisher), Kevin McCarthy (Fred Francis)

The most unfortunate thing about Joe Dante's werewolf movie is that it was released in the same year as An American Werewolf In London (qv), arguably the greatest werewolf film ever produced.
The Howling itself isn't a bad film at all, albeit rather dated, the pacing is a bit slow in parts, but it has plenty of scary scenes, decent makeup effects for it's time and reasonably good performances.
A couple of sequels followed, but were mostly ignored due to the fact that they aren't very good.


D: Hayao Miyazaki

Studio Ghibli (Toshio Suzuki)

Japan 2004 [US version* released 2005]

119 mins


W: Hayao Miyazaki [based on the book by Diana Wynne Jones]

Mus: Joe Hisashi

voices of*: Emily Mortimer (Young Sophie), Jean Simmons (Grandma Sophie), Christian Bale (Howl), Lauren Bacall (Witch of the Waste), Billy Crystal (Calcifer), Josh Hutcherson (Markl)

Another of Studio Ghibli's animated films which fails to disappoint.

Set in a fictional kingdom where both magic and 20th Century technologies co-exist, a young girl is transformed into an old woman by a witch and goes into the wastelands to find the moving castle of the powerful wizard Howl so the curse can be broken, but with the kingdom on the verge of war with another, she finds love and sacrifice far more important matters.

With brilliant animation you'd come to expect from Miyazaki, the fable presents a moral that life is always worth living, as well as having some anti-war metaphors due to Miyazaki's viewpoint on the Iraq War, which was still ongoing at the time of release.


"The man with the barbed wire soul."
"The man with the barbed wire soul."
HUD (15)
D: Martin Ritt
Paramount (Martin Ritt & Irving Ravetsh)
US 1963
112 mins


W: Irving Ravetsch & Harriet Frank, Jr. [based on the novel "Horseman Pass" by Larry McMurtry]
DP: James Wong Howe
Ed: Frank Bracht
Mus: Elmer Bernstein
PD: Hal Pereira & Tambi Larsen
Cos: Edith Head

Paul Newman (Hud Bannon), Patricia Neal (Alma Brown), Melvyn Douglas (Homer Bannon), Brandon de Wilde (Lon Bannon), Whit Bissell (Burris), John Ashley (Hermy)

Paul Newman delivers one of his best ever screen performances as a rather unlikeable character in this modern western. 
The story follows life on a failing Texan ranch, the owner of which isn't helped out much by his arrogant son (Newman), a bad apple who imposes a negative influence on the entire family.
Newman lost out on the Best Actor Oscar to Sidney Poitier, but lead actress Patricia Neal and supporting actor Melvyn Douglas both took home well-deserved statuettes.
Not your conventional western, but should be appreciated by fans of the genre, not just for its solid performances, but also for its incisive, cutting character study.

D: Michael Lehmann
Columbia Tristar (Joel Silver)
US 1991
100 mins
W: Steven E. de Souza & Daniel Waters
DP: Dante Spinotti
Ed: Chris Lebenzon & Michael Tronick
Mus: Michael Kamen & Robert Kraft
PD: Jackson DeGovia
Bruce Willis (Eddie Hawkins), Danny Aiello (Tommy 'Five Tone' Messina), Andie MacDowell (Anna Baragli), James Coburn (George Kaplan), Richard E. Grant (Darwin Mayflower), Sandra Bernhard (Minerva Mayflower)
One of the biggest cinematic turkeys isn't quite as bad as its reputation makes it out to be, but it is by all rights a complete and utter mess. 
Bruce Willis stars as the title character, a cat burglar who is blackmailed into stealing works of art by Leonardo DaVinci by demented villains intent on building an alchemy machine from the artist/inventor's pieces. 
There's plenty of reasons the film got universally panned by critics. Mainly, the story is absolutely ridiculous, which isn't helped by the fact that every single character is portrayed with insanely over the top performances, literally not a single actor plays it straight, and some of the performances are simply embarrassing.
Possibly worth watching for the heist scene in which Bruce Willis & Danny Aiello burst into a rendition of "Swinging On A Star" for no apparent reason... It's about as lowbrow as you can possibly get without resorting to puerile humour.

"A comedy of invention."
"A comedy of invention."
D: Joel Coen
Warner Bros./Polygram/Working Title/Silver Pictures (Ethan Coen)
US 1994
115 mins
W: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen & Sam Raimi
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Thom Noble
Mus: Carter Burwell
PD: Dennis Gassner
Cos: Richard Hornung
Tim Robbins (Norville Barnes), Paul Newman (Sidney J. Mussburger), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Amy Archer), Charles Durning (Waring Hudsucker), John Mahoney (Chief), Jim True (Buzz), Bruce Campbell (Smitty)
The Coens' take on screwball comedies of the 1940's isn't nearly as good as their best works (Fargo, Raising Arizona, No Country For Old Men) but is much easier to watch than some of their other works.
Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) moves to the big city from a hayseed Indiana town and takes a position in the stockroom at the very moment the company chairman takes his own life. Barnes is almost immediately promoted to the newly vacant position, a hiring plotted by vice chairman Sidney Mussburger (Paul Newman), whose thinking is that with an idiot pawn in charge, the stock will plummet and he himself can take over.
Mussburger can't take into account two factors however; the first being hard-bitten, fast-talking reporter Amy Archer (Leigh) smelling a rat and going undercover as Norville's secretary; and the other being that Norville's idiocy actually gives birth to a hugely successful invention.
Perhaps it's too quirky for some, but the film is incredibly funny, very well executed and has some great performances (Jennifer Jason Leigh possibly steals the entire film), as well as great cinematography and production design.

D: Martin Scorsese
Paramount (Graham King, Martin Scorsese, Timothy Headington & Johnny Depp)
US 2011
126 mins


W: John Logan [based on the book "The Invention Of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznick]
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Thelma Schoonmaker
Mus: Howard Shore
PD: Dante Ferretti
Cos: Sandy Powell

Asa Butterfield (Hugo Cabret), Ben Kingsley (Georges Méliès), Sacha Baron Cohen (Inspector Gustave Dasté), Chloë Grace Moretz (Isabelle), Emily Mortimer (Lisette), Jude Law (Mr. Cabret)

A curious choice for director Martin Scorsese, a 3D children's movie set mostly inside a Parisian train station where a young homeless boy scuttles behind clock faces and along the gangways to remain unseen, forming a friendship with a young girl and trying to get his father's timepiece back from a grumpy watchmaker.
Whilst the film is visually amazing and a genuine work of cinematic craft, it takes a long time to get where it's going and ends up becoming a tribute to early filmmaker and photographic effects pioneer Georgés Melies.
Supposedly based on a children's book, the content seems a little too adult for youngsters who will hardly care who Melies was and what he did for the advancement of cinema. In fact, most adults will barely care and it's not as though they'll seek out a copy of "La Voyage Dan La Lune" or any of Melies' other works after watching.
Still, it's a very beautifully made film and captures the essence of early filmmaking as well as encapsulating the feel of a movie which the entire family will snuggle up to watch around Christmastime.
It's nowhere near the best work which Scorsese has brought to screen and the fact that this won 5 Oscars seemed incredibly generous.
Very well made, but certainly more appreciated by critics rather than audiences, proved by a disappointing return on box office receipts.

HULK (12)
D: Ang Lee
Universal/Marvel (Avi Arad, Larry J. Franco, Gale Anne Hurd & James Schamus)
US 2003
138 mins


W: John Turman, Michael France & James Schamus [based on the comic book series "The Incredible Hulk"]
DP: Frederick Elmes
Ed: Tim Squyres
Mus: Danny Elfman
PD: Rick Heinrichs

Eric Bana (Dr. Bruce Banner / Hulk), Jennifer Connelly (Betty Ross), Sam Elliott (Gen. Thunderbolt Ross), Josh Lucas (Maj. Glenn Talbot), Nick Nolte (Dr. David Banner)

A superhero movie with barely a whiff of its superhero. Ang Lee was the worst possible choice of director, almost turning this into an arthouse picture, although he probably wasn't helped with such a poor screenplay.         
This is not a film about the Incredible Hulk... Instead, we're treated to a squelchy story about the distance and loss of love between a father and his son, and when the Hulk finally does show up, he resembles a massive green bogey who throws a couple of tanks about.
Some films are often described as "so bad, they're good." This on the other hand, seems to be so good that it's bad.
This film actually made me angry. You won't like me when I'm angry!
D: Tom Six
Bounty Films (Tom Six & Ilona Six)
The Netherlands 2009
92 mins
W: Tom Six
DP: Goof de Koning
Ed: Nigel de Hound
Mus: Patrick Savage & Holeg Spies
Dieter Laser (Dr. Josef Heiter), Ashley C. Williams (Lindsay), Ashlynn Yennie (Jenny), Akihiro Kitamura (Katsuro)
When the doors of gore-porn horror were opened with the Saw and Hostel movies, it was only a matter of time before something truly sick hit the screens, and here it is...
Two thick-as-shit female American tourists get lost in the woods while looking for a nightclub (go figure) and instead of attempting to change the blown out tyre on their car, they delve deeper into the woods and end up knocking on the door of a German doctor who drugs them. They later wake up as the crazy surgeon unveils his plans to make a human centipede out of them and another kidnapped Japanese tourist because, well, why the fuck not?
The film just gets more and more stupid as it crawls (literally) to a wholly unsatisfying ending. It's not scary, and lacks the necessary atmosphere to achieve anything truly frightening, it's simply unpleasant. Weirdos might like it though.
D: Tom Six 
Bounty Films (Tom Six & Ilona Six)
The Netherlands/UK/US 2011
88 mins


W: Tom Six
DP: David Meadows
Ed: Nigel de Hond
Mus: James Edward Barker

Laurence R. Harvey (Martin Lomax), Ashlynn Yennie (herself), Maddi Black (Candy), Kandace Caine (Karrie)

A mentally-depraved car park security guard is obsessed with the first Human Centipede film and is inspired to carry out the depicted experiment on a group of people who he abducts, including an actress from the first film who he leads to his torture dungeon under the pretences of an audition.
For all intents and purposes, this film should not exist. There's nothing on display here except disturbing violence and disgusting gore for the sake of disturbing violence and disgusting gore.
The producers couldn't have picked a creepier looking fellow for the lead, but the unlikeable character is so depraved that it's impossible to consider this "acting", while everyone else is just a prop for the sick ass-to-mouth plot device.
There are horror films, and there are films which are just simply horrible. It's easy to judge which this one is.

100% politically incorrect
100% politically incorrect
D: Tom Six
IFC Midnight (Tom Six & Ilona Six)
The Netherlands 2015
102 mins


W: Tom Six
DP: David Meadows
Ed: Nigel de Hond
Mus: Misha Segal

Dieter Laser (Bill Boss), Laurence R. Harvey (Dwight Butler), Eric Roberts (Governer Hughes), Bree Olson (Daisy), Tom Six (himself)

Inspired by the first two films of this self-referential horror series, a sadistic warden and his prison staff undertake an experiment to make a human centipede from the prisoners under their care.
If, like most of the world, you thought the first two films were sick, exploitative trash, this is much of the same with the volume cranked even louder and the visuals even more disgusting. If you enjoyed the first two films, you probably need psychiatric help.

D: George B. Lewis (Aldo Lado)
Columbia (Giorgio Venturini)
Italy 1979
100 mins

Science Fiction

W: Aldo Lado & Adriano Bolzoni
DP: Silvano Ippoliti
Ed: Mario Mora
Mus: Ennio Morricone

Richard Kiel (Golob), Corinne Cléry (Barbara Gibson), Leonard Mann (Nick), Barbara Bach (Lady Agatha), Arthur Kennedy (Dr. Kraspin), Ivan Rassimov (Lord Graal)

The huge success of 1977's Star Wars gave birth to hundreds of copycat science fiction ventures, including this, Italy's own effort, as low budget as they come with a seemingly flagrant disregard to where it gets its inspiration.
A Darth Vader like baddie creates a Frankenstein's monster out of a spaceship pilot, who goes on a quest to find beautiful women who are to be killed in a bloodsucking machine which will make an evil queen more beautiful, but the might of beauty is, of course, simply too powerful.
The sets resemble a shopping centre and the spaceships look like they've come out of a cereal packet. Everything else is just straight up ripped from Star Wars, although it can't be said that juveniles are the intended market for the film. One scene in particular, involving the machine of syringes mentioned above, would leave most adults feeling squeamish. 

D: Lasse Hallström
Dreamworks/Reliance/Image Nation/Participant Media/Amblin/Harpo (Juliet Blake, Steven Spielberg & Oprah Winfrey)
US 2014
122 mins


W: Steven Knight [based on the novel by Richard C. Morais]
DP: Linus Sandgren
Ed: Andrew Mondshein
Mus: A.R. Rahman

Helen Mirren (Madame Mallory), Om Puri (Papa Kadam), Manish Dayal (Hassan Kadam), Charlotte LeBon (Marguerite)

This whimsical feel-good comedy blends Indian and French culture for a truly unique flavour.
Seeking refuge in Europe after political upheaval in their home country, the Kadam family settle in a small French village where they plan to open a restaurant opposite a Michelin-star bistro run by the belligerent Madame Mallory. After a brief Cold War between the two restaurants, a friendship forms between the family and Madame Mallory, who sees promise in Hassan, the young Indian chef of the family, and offers him a job at her restaurant, where he brings a new style of flavours which win over even more food critics.
The pacing of the film does take a while to gather speed, but is helped by a blossoming relationship between Hassan and Marguerite, a young French sous chef at Madame Mallory's.
Helen Mirren is excellent in the role, while the rest of the cast do a good job. The photography, particularly on the food, may feeling a little famished when the end credits roll.

"May the odds be ever in your favor."
"May the odds be ever in your favor."
D: Gary Ross
Lions Gate/Color Force (Nina Jacobson & Jon Kilik)
US 2012
142 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Gary Ross, Billy Ray & Suzanne Collins [based on the novel by Suzanne Collins]
DP: Tom Stern
Ed: Stephen Mirrione & Juliette Welfling     
Mus: James Newton Howard
PD: Philip Messina
Cos: Judianna Makovsky 

Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), Donald Sutherland (President Coriolanus Snow)

A futuristic planet is split into districts. Every year, two juvenile members are picked from each district to enter a battle to the death. The participants are paraded as though they're celebrities, with the eventually winners guaranteed a life of luxury.
I've not read the book this is based on but 60 million kids have. I probably won't read the book because the whole storyline is a pastiche of other, better films and books. It's 1984, Lord Of The Flies, The Running Man & Battle Royale with a Twilightesque romance chucked in. 
Saying that, the movie itself isn't bad- it has a lot of Terry Gilliam style visuals of a dystopian future, the acting & production values are good and it's reasonably paced (a little slow in places). 
Perhaps this is film which you need to read the book for first, it just seemed a lot was missing or not completely explained, but Jennifer Lawrence delivers a good performance with a screenplay which doesn't particularly help her and the ending just seemed to be lacking something. 
On the whole, it was enjoyable, but not fantastic- I'd be more likely to recommend Battle Royale instead (but not for kids, that would just be mean).
"Remember who the enemy is."
"Remember who the enemy is."
D: Francis Lawrence
Lions Gate/Color Force (Nina Jacobson & Jon Kilik)
US 2013
146 mins
Science Fiction/Adventure
W: Simon Beaufoy & Michael de Bruyn [based on the novel by Suzanne Collins]
DP: Jo Willems
Ed: Alan Edward Bell
Mus: James Newton Howard
Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Elizabeth Banks (Effie Trinket), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch Heavensbee), Jeffrey Wright (Beetee Latier), Lenny Kravitz (Cinna), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Donald Sutherland (President Coriolanus Snow)
Even if you're not in the target demographic, the first film was surprisingly enjoyable, unfortunately this second installment just doesn't have the same impact. Sorry fans, just the way I see it.
The pacing is much slower than the first film and the rules of combat have been changed, as winners from previous "games" are set to return for an anniversary. This time, they're allowed to choose allies from other districts, which seems to defeat the entire point of "The Hunger Games".
The love triangle which was a subplot on the periphery of the first film is thrust right in our faces for this one and it's little more than a futuristic soap opera with some moments of action and adventure, though scenes of the kind are few and far between before a closing scene which serves as a hook to get audiences back for the third part.
Perhaps you really do need to be an avid reader of Suzanne Collins' books for this one.

"The lie is spreading."
"The lie is spreading."
D: Thomas Vinterberg
Nordisk/Zentropa (Sisse Graum Jørgensen & Morten Kaufmann)
Denmark 2012 (released 2013)
110 mins


W: Thomas Vinterberg & Tobias Lindholm
DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Ed: Anne Østerud & Janus Billeskov Jansen
Mus: Nikolaj Egelund

Mads Mikkelsen (Lucas), Thomas Bo Larsen (Theo), Annika Wedderkopp (Klara), Lasse Fogelstrøm (Marcus), Susse Wold (Grethe), Anne Louise Hassing (Agnes), Lars Ranthe (Bruun), Alexandra Rapaport (Nadja)

The Hunt is a very uncomfortable watch, but it still remains dramatically gripping throughout.
In a small Danish community, Lucas, a nursery teacher fighting for custody of his son, has his life thrown into turmoil when a young girl accuses him of exposing himself to her. Despite being completely innocent, he finds himself shunned by the townsfolk, having a severe impact on his relationship with his girlfriend, son, ex-wife and best friends.
Despite the subject matter, the film is handled tastefully without resorting to controversy or exploitation, with excellent performances from the entire cast.
Mars Mikkelsen won the Best Actor award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, but the film surprisingly didn't receive a wide release until nearly a year later.
A highly recommended piece of world cinema.

"Deadly. Silent. Stolen."
"Deadly. Silent. Stolen."
D: John McTiernan
Paramount (Mace Neufeld)
US 1990
135 mins
W: Larry Ferguson & Donald Stewart [based on the novel by Tom Clancy]
DP: Jan de Bont
Ed: Dennis Virkler & John Wright
Mus: Basil Poledouris
Sean Connery (Capt. Marko Ramius), Alec Baldwin (Jack Ryan), Scott Glenn (Capt. Bart Mancuso), Sam Neill (Capt. Vastly Borodin), James Earl Jones (Adm. James Greer), Joss Ackland (Andrei Lysenko) 
The first of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels to be adapted for the big screen stars Sean Connery as a Soviet commander of a top secret nuclear submarine who plans to deflect to the West in the vessel, causing friction between of Cold War proportions between two world powers. Alec Baldwin as CIA agent Jack Ryan attempts to cool things down.
It will help a great deal if you know everything about the inner workings of a nuclear sub as the story is far more concerned with hardware and technology than human interest, and doesn't dumb down to pander to the lowest common denominator in the audience, which sometimes is a good thing, but here it's just confusing. It also has a fair share of thrills and spills, but there's lots and lots of boring dialogue in-between.
D: Norman Jewison
Touchstone/Buena Vista/Beacon (Armyan Bernstein, John Ketcham & Norman Jewison)
US 1999
140 mins


W: Armyan Bernstein & Dan Gordon [based on the books "The 16th Round" by Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter & "Lazarus & The Hurricane" by Sam Chaton & Terry Swinton]
DP: Roger Deakins 
Ed: Stephen Rivkin
Mus: Christopher Young
PD: Philip Rosenberg
Cos: Aggie Guerard-Rodgers

Denzel Washington (Rubin "Hurricane" Carter), Vicellous Reon Shannon (Lesra), Deborah Kara Unger (Lisa), Liev Schreiber (Sam), John Hannah (Terry), Dan Hedaya (Della Pesca), Clancy Brown (Lt. Jimmy Williams)

Denzel Washington delivers arguably his finest ever performance as Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter in this true story of an up-and-coming boxer falsely arrested for murder by a bigoted detective and consequently sentenced to three life sentences.
The film is very short on the boxer's sporting achievements, diving straight into his struggles in prison and the fight to clear his name. 
The film would have been much better if it focused exclusively on the man and his struggles, but half the film is dedicated to a young black boy who is inspired by reading Carter's autobiography and joining the campaign to have the boxer freed from prison.
Denzel Washington truly carries the entire film, with a performance as fitting a tribute as Bob Dylan's eponymous song from the 1970's.

D: Kathryn Bigelow
Lions Gate/Voltage/First Light (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier & Greg Shapiro)
US 2009
126 mins


W: Mark Boal
DP: Barry Ackroyd
Ed: Bob Murawski & Chris Innis
Mus: Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders
PD: Karl Júliusson
Cos: George Little

Jeremy Renner (Sgt. First Class William James), Anthony Mackie (Sgt. JT Sanborn), Brian Geraghty (Specialist Owen Eldridge), Christian Camargo (Col. John Cambridge), Evangeline Lilly (Connie James), Ralph Fiennes (Contractor Team Leader), David Morse (Colonel Reed), Guy Pearce (Staff Sgt. Matt Thompson)

Dramatic, gripping, harrowing and realistic. There's plenty of superlatives which could be bestowed upon this Gulf War thriller but it can easily be summed up in one sentence: a filmmaking masterclass in tension.
A small group of bomb disposal experts are on their tour of duty in wartorn Iraq, the leader of whom has a penchant for being reckless, but is nevertheless outstanding at his job, but he's failing to win the trust of his small team.
It's refreshing to watch a war movie where a characters gung-ho approach is justified and he faces obstacles from his own men with his attitude towards the task at hand, the script avoids cliched dialogue and unrealistic scenarios, taking a documentary style approach to the conflict. Even the Iraqi people are portrayed realistically, with as many tolerant, peaceful people as there are militant rebels and crazed bombers.
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty breathe life and bring soul to the believable characters, whilst the documentary style photography and editing drag you into the action and fractious atmosphere.
Winner of the Best Picture Oscar for 2009 and also winning Kathryn Bigelow the Best Director Oscar, the first female to receive the accolade and one which was incredibly well deserved.


D: Robert Aldrich

20th Century Fox (Robert Aldrich)

US 1964

133 mins


W: Henry Farrell & Lukas Heller

DP: Joseph Biroc

Ed: Michael Luciano

Mus: Frank de Vol

PD: William Glasgow

Bette Davis (Charlotte Hollis), Olivia de Havilland (Miriam Deering), Joseph Cotten (Dr. Drew Bayliss), Agnes Moorehead (Velma Cruther), Cecil Kellaway (Harry Willis), Mary Astor (Jewel Mayhew), Victor Buono (Big Sam Hollis)

Following on from Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (qv) two years earlier and owing a debt of gratitude to 1955's Les Diabolique (qv), Robert Aldrich teams up with Bette Davis again for this psychological thriller involving a reclusive woman, Olivia de Havilland playing the second part to the double act in lieu of Joan Crawford.

Southern belle Charlotte Hollis hasn't left her house for 17 years, still haunted by the murder of her fiancé in all that time and she becomes more mentally unhinged when her cousin Miriam visits to assist Charlotte during an impending threat to tear down the family home in order to build parts of a freeway.

Although the acting of the two principals is excellent, as is the supporting performance of Agnes Moorehead, the film suffers from being far too similar to other, better films, as well as being at least 30 minutes too long. There are many good elements which make this watchable and thrilling, but the acting definitely deserves the plaudits.


D: Robert Rossen
20th Century Fox (Robert Rossen)
US 1961
134 mins


W: Sidney Carroll & Robert Rossen [based on the novel by Walter Tevis]
DP: Eugene Schuftan
Ed: Dede Allen
Mus: Kenyon Hopkins
PD: Harry Horner
Cos: Ruth Morley

Paul Newman ('Fast' Eddie Felson), Jackie Gleason (Minnesota Fats), Piper Laurie (Sarah Packard), George C. Scott (Bert Gordon), Myron McCormick (Charlie Burns), Murray Hamilton (Findlay)

Paul Newman is the king of cool in this 1960's classic, as much a drama about alcoholism and addiction as it is a sports movie.
Newman plays "Fast" Eddie Felson, a pool room con artist who goes from smoky pool hall to smoky pool hall, winning money off his opponents before they even realise they've been hustled, but Felson falls into problems himself when he falls in love with an alcoholic. 
Paul Newman has rarely been better and though he didn't win an Oscar for this film, playing the same character eventually won him Best Actor for the sequel, The Color Of Money (qv), released 25 years later.