D: John Hillcoat
TWC/Dimension/Icon/2929 (Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz & Paula Mae Schwartz)
US 2009
111 mins

Drama/Science Fiction

W: Joe Penhall [based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy]
DP: Javier Aguirresarobe 
Ed: Jon Gregory
Mus: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Viggo Mortensen (Man), Charlize Theron (Woman), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Boy), Robert Duvall (Old Man), Guy Pearce (Veteran)

Though it touches on science fiction themes, this is very much a drama, set in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world where a nameless father and his son walk the wastelands and their only hope is merely survival. Their long journey is looking for a new beginning, steering clear of other survivors, who have reverted to cannibalism due to lack of crops and cattle.
Based on Cormac McCarthy's novel, the film doesn't have much story but does a very good job telling it, mostly due to atmospheric cinematography and music. Unfortunately, being a Hollywood movie, director John Hillcoat can't seem to resist the opportunity to throw in some product placement here and there, which the film really doesn't need. Viggo Mortensen delivers a very good lead performance, but the plaudits belong to Kodi Smit-McPhee as his young son.
Excellent acting and production values, cheap and cheesy product placement. At least we can all have hope that when the world goes to shit, we can still look forward to a nice, refreshing branded cola.

D: Rowdy Herrington
UIP/United Artists (Joel Silver)
US 1989
114 mins


W: David Lee Henry & Hilary Henkin
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Frank J. Urioste & John F. Link
Mus: Michael Kamen

Patrick Swayze (James Dalton), Kelly Lynch (Elizabeth Clay), Sam Elliott (Wade Garrett), Ben Gazzara (Brad Wesley), Kevin Tighe (Frank Tilghman)

A kung fu expert is hired as a head doorman of a seedy nightclub notorious for trouble and goes about keeping the wrong sort out, with violence.
Road House is a bit of an enigma, this female-targeted action movie is not a good film by any stretch, but amassed many fans, mostly amongst teenage girls, due to the appeal of main star Patrick Swayze. 
Take Patrick Swayze out of the equation and there's really nothing here except brainless entertainment and chewing gum for the eyes.
"Every father is a hero to his son."
"Every father is a hero to his son."
D: Sam Mendes
20th Century Fox/Dreamworks (Richard D. Zanuck, Dean Zanuck & Sam Mendes)
US 2002
116 mins


W: David Self [based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins & Richard Piers Rayner]
DP: Conrad L. Hall
Ed: Jill Bilcock
Mus: Thomas Newman
PD: Dennis Gassner
Cos: Albert Wolsky

Tom Hanks (Michael Sullivan), Paul Newman (John Rooney), Jude Law (Maguire), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Annie Sullivan), Stanley Tucci (Frank Nitti), Daniel Craig (Connor Rooney), Tyler Hoechlin (Michael Sullivan, Jr.)

Sam Mendes' follow-up to American Beauty (qv) didn't quite set the box office alight in the way the director or producers would have hoped, possibly due to a poor marketing campaign and confusion about it's target audience, but aside from that it's a well made and thoroughly enjoyable piece of crime cinema and amongst the very best films of 2002.
Tom Hanks stars a gangster whose son witnesses a mob hit and the two go on the road together following the murder of their other family members by their own gangland family. The father-son team seek their own revenge by targeting banks which hold illegal mob funds, all while evading a sadistically dangerous mob assassin (Jude Law).
The film recreates 1930's America wonderfully, with impeccable production design, costumes, cinematography and direction. Paul Newman and other supporting cast members deliver excellent performances, but Hanks, despite his best efforts, feels miscast as an anti-hero.
"A comedy of the heart & other organs."
"A comedy of the heart & other organs."
D: Alan Parker
J&M/Beacon/Dirty Hands (Alan Parker, Armyan Bernstein & Robert Colesberry)
US 1994
120 mins


W: Alan Parker [based on the novel by T. Coraghessen Boyle]
DP: Peter Biziou
Ed: Gerry Hambling
Mus: Rachel Portman
PD: Brian Morris

Anthony Hopkins (Dr. John Harvey Kellogg), Bridget Fonda (Eleanor Lightbody), Matthew Broderick (William Lightbody), John Cusack (Charles Ossining), Dana Carvey (George Kellogg), Michael Lerner (Goodloe Bender), Colm Meaney (Dr. Lionel Badger)

A black comedy about the eccentric inventor of cornflakes (who else?) and his crackpot health farm where the guests struggle to refrain from sex.
The comedy throughout isn't very consistent, swinging between farce and slapstick but offering very few belly laughs.
Considering the cast and crew involved, this could have been better, but perhaps the idea was simply too madcap in the first instance to create anything vaguely commercial with.
"The greatest college tradition of all."
"The greatest college tradition of all."
D: Todd Phillips
Dreamworks/Montecito (Daniel Goldberg & Joe Medjuck)
US 2000
94 mins


W: Todd Phillips & Scott Armstrong
DP: Mark Irwin 
Ed: Sheldon Kahn
Mus: Mike Sampson

Breckin Meyer (Josh Parker), Seann William Scott (E.L. Faldt), Amy Smart (Beth Wagner), Paulo Costanzo (Rubin Carver), D.J. Qualls (Kyle Edwards), Rachel Blanchard (Tiffany Henderson), Tom Green (Barry Manilow)

The huge global success of American Pie (qv) saw a resurgence of teen sex comedies in the late 1990's and early 2000's, of which Road Trip was amongst the better efforts.
This particular road trip concerns a group of college friends, who race across the country so one of them can get to his girlfriend before an inadvertently posted sex tape does. 
Like all these juvenile comedies, the humour will be appreciated by young viewers rather than those with a more serious taste.  The jokes are all rather tasteless, but it's fun for those who can take it. The film wouldn't have suffered if all the scenes with Tom Green were left on the cutting room floor.
D: Wolfgang Reitherman
Disney (Wolfgang Reitherman)
US 1973
83 mins


W: Larry Clemmons, Ken Anderson & others
Mus: George Bruns

voices of: Brian Bedford (Robin Hood), Peter Ustinov (Prince John), Terry-Thomas (Sir Hiss), Phil Harris (Little John), Andy Devine (Friar Tuck), Monica Evans (Maid Marian)

Disney's adaptation of Robin Hood folklore, with animals portraying the legendary human characters for reasons only Disney's producers know. Robin Hood himself is a fox.
In comparison with other Disney animated films, the standard just isn't that good, with a rather boring treatment of the story, unmemorable songs and the animation itself well below Disney's usual high standards. Young kids will still love it, but the studio can do much better.
"The adventure. The romance. The legend."
"The adventure. The romance. The legend."
D: John Irvin 
20th Century Fox/Working Title (Sarah Radclyffe & Tim Bevan)
US/UK 1991
104 mins


W: Mark Allen Smith & John McGrath
DP: Jason Lehel
Ed: Peter Tanner
Mus: Geoffrey Burgon

Patrick Bergin (Sir Robert Hode / Robin Hood), Uma Thurman (Maid Marian), Jürgen Prochnow (Sir Miles Folcanet), Edward Fox (Prince John), Jeroen Krabbé (Baron Roger Daguerre)

The forgotten version of the familiar tale, possibly because it was a victim of poor scheduling.
Released the same year as the far more entertaining Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (qv), this pedestrian adaptation of the English folklore legend was all but ignored during its brief cinema release in the UK, and was scrapped altogether from American theatres.
Too light on adventure, with too many talking heads scenes and more of a period drama than a Robin Hood movie. The casting decisions are also uninspiring, with none of the performances able to captivate or engage. Sometimes, things can't simply be blamed on circumstance.

D: Ridley Scott
Universal/Imagine/Relativity Media/Scott Free (Ridley Scott, Brian Grazer & Russell Crowe)
US/UK 2010
140 mins


W: Brian Helgleand 
DP: John Mathieson
Ed: Pietro Scalia
Mus: Marc Streitenfeld 

Russell Crowe (Robin Longstride), Cate Blanchett (Marion Locksley), William Hurt (William Marshal), Mark Strong (Sir Godfrey), Mark Addy (Friar Tuck), Oscar Isaac (Prince John), Danny Huston (King Richard), Eileen Atkins (Eleanor of Acquitaine)

Another Hollywood rehash of the popular Robin Hood story, this time with Russell Crowe in the title character's boots and Ridley Scott behind the lens.
Doing away with the green tights in favour of a more realistic perspective of legendary events, with gritty, dark and moody cinematography and production design. Crowe's performance as Robin Hood found itself the subject of much criticism upon the time of it's release, with the actor delivering a Nottinghamshire accent which doesn't quite ring true.
Though much of the film is adequate entertainment, it leaves a question of why it was necessary to make another version, especially one which pales in comparison to the definitive version (1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood). 
"The Legend You Know. The Story You Don't."
"The Legend You Know. The Story You Don't."


D: Otto Bathurst

Lionsgate/Summit/Appian Way/Safehouse/Thunder Road (Jennifer Davisson & Leonard DiCaprio)

US 2018

116 mins


W: Ben Chandler & David James Kelly

DP: George Steel

Ed: Joe Hutshing & Chris Barwell

Mus: Joseph Trapanese

Taron Egerton (Robin Of Loxley), Jamie Foxx (Little John), Ben Mendelssohn (The Sheriff of Nottingham), Eve Hewson (Marian), Tim Minchin (Friar Tuck), Jamie Dornan (Will 'Scarlet' Tillman), F. Murray Abraham (The Cardinal)

Yet another cinematic incarnation of the famous English legendary character, following Errol Flynn iconically in 1938, Kevin Costner in a popcorn version in 1991, Patrick Bergin in a rather placid version the same year, Cary Elwes in a 1993 spoof, Russell Crowe in a 2010 film which split opinion, even represented as a fox in a 1973 animated version from Disney. All of these are streets ahead of Taron Egerton donning the hood for this "cor-blimey geezer" version which does for the fable what Guy Ritchie & Charlie Hunnam did for King Arthur a year earlier.

Everything about this film is bad, from the unfocused direction which can't seem to place the story in any particular timeframe to the poorly-penned screenplay which attempts to "subvert expectations" by reimagining the characters in a story we may be all too familiar with. Personally, when a film says it's a reimagination, it just means to me that it's an incompetently researched cash-grab relying on a nostalgic hook to try and pull people in.

Even the action set pieces are boring, which is quite unforgivable for a film which is marketing itself as an action-adventure. Despite having a good cast, the performances are rotten, mostly due to the abysmal direction and script, and I really can't let this review get by without mentioning the anachronistic costumes, which look as though they were picked up from an H&M outlet store on the eve before the shoot.

All this proves is that Hollywood seem to be a little too deft in stealing from the poor (cinema audiences) to give to the rich (studio executives). Don't let them have your money for this.


"The legend had it coming..."
"The legend had it coming..."
D: Mel Brooks
20th Century Fox/Brooksfilm (Mel Brooks)
US 1993
102 mins


W: Mel Brooks, J. David Shapiro & Evan Chandler
DP: Michael O'Shea
Ed: Steven E. Rivkin
Mus: Hummie Mann

Cary Elwes (Robin Hood), Richard Lewis (Prince John), Roger Rees (Sheriff of Rottingham), Amy Yasbeck (Marian), Tracey Ullman (Latrine), Mark Blankfield (Blinkin), Dave Chappelle (Ahchoo)

Spoof of all the Robin Hood films with the focus mostly on lampooning 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
In comparison to Mel Brooks' other works this is rather poorly written and some of the jokes question whether they're intentional or if the film is simply poorly made.
There's a handful of funny moments and Cary Elwes is a good choice for the lead role, but unfortunately it's a one-joke movie with a lot of filler packed around it.
D: Kevin Reynolds
Warner Bros./Morgan Creek (John Watson, Pen Densham & Richard B. Lewis)
US 1991
143 mins


W: Pen Densham & John Watson 
DP: Douglas Milsome
Ed: Peter Boyle
Mus: Michael Kamen
PD: John Graysmark
Cos: John Bloomfield

Kevin Costner (Robin of Locksley), Morgan Freeman (Azeem), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Marian Dubois), Christian Slater (Will Scarlett), Alan Rickman (Sheriff of Nottingham), Geraldine McEwan (Mortianna), Nick Brimble (Little John), Sean Connery (uncredited - King Richard)

If 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood is the definitive version of the legendary English bandit, then Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves must be considered the ultimate popcorn version of the story.
Focus is very much on entertainment value rather than historical or even geographical accuracy, but it hits the right spots on the fun-o-meter.
Returning from the crusades to discover his father murdered and his lands taken by the devilish Sheriff of Nottingham (deliciously played by Alan Rickman), Robin of Locksley becomes an outlaw and gets his revenge by robbing the rich to give to the poor.
Criticism of Kevin Costner's performance around the time of the film's release seems a little unfair. Though he keeps an American accent throughout, his charisma alone at least prevents the perfomance from being boring, although when compared to Alan Rickman's scene-stealing turn, could anyone have done justice to the main character here?
It's far from perfect, but it's great fun.
"Part man, part machine, all cop."
"Part man, part machine, all cop."
D: Paul Verhoeven
Rank/Orion (Arne L. Schmidt)
US 1987
103 mins

Action/Crime/Science Fiction

W: Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner
DP: Jost Vacano
Ed: Frank J. Urioste 
Mus: Basil Poledouris
PD: William Sandell

Peter Weller (Alex Murphy / Robocop), Nancy Allen (Anne Lewis), Ronny Cox (Dick Jones), Kurtwood Smith (Clarence Boddicker), Miguel Ferrer (Bob Morton), Dan O'Herlihy (The Old Man)

At first glance Robocop may simply look like a violent, comic book, science fiction movie, but it also doubles as an intelligent and cutting satire on the media and how it indoctrinates violence into its day-to-day programming.
Set in a future Detroit, in which crime has transformed the City into a wasteland, an honest cop, Murphy, is slain by gangsters and rebuilt as a cyborg by scientists, but with some memories of his former life still remembered, the machine vows revenge on those who killed him, uncovering deep-rooted corruption in the process.
It's a rare feat for a film of this type to feature to be so cleverly written and directed and much credit has to go to Paul Verhoeven. Some of the special effects haven't dated particularly well, but the action set pieces are still impressive and its underlying message is still very relevant today.
"Your move."
"Your move."
D: Jose Padilha
MGM/Columbia/Strike (Marc Abraham & Eric Newman)
US 2014
118 mins

Science Fiction/Crime

W: Joshua Zetumer, Ed Neumeier & Michael Miner
DP: Lula Carvalho
Ed: Daniel Rezende & Peter McNulty
Mus: Pedro Bromfman

Joel Kinnaman (Alex Murphy/Robocop), Abbie Cornish (Clara Murphy), Gary Oldman (Dr. Dennett Norton), Michael Keaton (Raymond Sellars), Samuel L. Jackson (Pat Novak), Jackie Earle Haley (Rick Mattox)

There are those who say this isn't a remake, it's a 'reboot'. Bollocks! It's a remake!! The main character has the same name, the skeleton of the main story is identical to the 1987 original and the original film's writers, Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner, are credited as screenwriters, which means they either really needed a royalties payment or they just wanted to try and sell ice back to the Eskimos.
The story for those unaware, follows Alex Murphy, a good cop in bad precinct who is mortally wounded when he turns off his car alarm (seriously, he's not even killed in action in this one) and becomes the guinea pig of robotics conglomerate OCP's new experiment to put cyborg police officers on the streets of America, though their hands are tied by government legislation which they try to repeal with the success of Robocop, but there's a more sinister plan behind the motives of the company director (played by Michael Keaton).
Though this may look like Robocop, sound like Robocop and smell like Robocop, it just isn't Robocop. It's so watered down it may as well be a cartoon!  Despite the main story of the human spirit overcoming technology as Murphy solves his own murder, this is little more than a twist on Frankenstein's monster. Gone is the menace of bad guys Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones from the original as they're replaced by smarmy Michael Keaton and Jackie Earle Haley (who acts like a dick in this for absolutely no reason). There's even a head honcho gangster who is seemingly stepping into the shoes of the Kurtwood Smith role from the original but it's only on the periphery of a grieving wife asking why her husband is now a machine even though she signed the fucking consent forms!
Everything about this film is stupid. Alienating fans of the original and appealing only to those who've not seen it (who will most likely reject this version after they do).
Even the satire which added a bit of comedy to the original film is gone in favour of Samuel L. Jackson being Samuel L. Jackson.  Officer Lewis is replaced by a token black guy as well as the movie relegates all female characters to scenery.
The only positives this film offers is better visual effects, since the animation in 1987 was all quite rudimentary compared to the techniques nowadays, but this does not justify a remake in shape or form.
I'd have been more forgiving if this took on new characters, a new story and took the franchise in a different direction, but it doesn't. It's just lazy filmmaking to capitalise on the fanbase of the original trilogy.
"He's back to protect the innocent."
"He's back to protect the innocent."
ROBOCOP 2 (18)
D: Irvin Kershner
Rank/Orion (Jon Davison)
US 1990
118 mins

Action/Crime/Science Fiction

W: Frank Miller & Walon Green
DP: Mark Irwin
Ed: William Anderson
Mus: Leonard Rosenman
PD: Peter Jamison

Peter Weller (Alex Murphy/Robocop), Nancy Allen (Anne Lewis), Dan O'Herlihy (Old Man), Belinda Bauer (Juliette Faxx), Tom Noonan (Cain), Gabriel Damon (Hob)

There's some attempt to include the satire of the original film, but this is still very much a popcorn sequel with comic book violence and a big injection of cartoonish comedy.
Peter Weller returns as Murphy, a cyborg cop fighting crime on the violent Detroit streets and meets his match when a rival cyborg is created using the brain of a sadistic drug lord.
Despite some good visual effects and action set pieces, there's far too much build up to reward the audience with too short a climax and much of the first hour seems to be played for laughs rather than developing the story at a reasonable pace. It's also quite ridiculous that the audience are asked to believe that a twelve year old boy is the kingpin of a narcotics gang, but the main bad guy, Cain (Tom Noonan), makes up for this with his threatening, if somewhat brief, appearance.
An okay sequel, but inferior when compared to the first film.
"Chaos. Corruption. Civil war."
"Chaos. Corruption. Civil war."
ROBOCOP 3 (15)
D: Fred Dekker
Orion (Patrick Crowley)
US 1993
104 mins

Action/Crime/Science Fiction

W: Frank Miller & Fred Dekker
DP: Gary R. Kibbe 
Ed: Bert Lovitt
Mus: Basil Poledouris

Robert John Burke (Alex Murphy/Robocop), Nancy Allen (Anne Lewis), Rip Torn (The CEO), Jill Hennessy (Dr. Marie Lazarus), Remy Ryan (Nikko Halloran)

Peter Weller flees the series, as does the satire which was so rich in the original film and attempted in the first sequel.
Robert John Burke becomes the title character for this standard popcorn flick, In which the cyborg police officer gets caught up in corruption and chaos between a Japanese corporation and the poor residents of the crime-ridden city.
Aimed at a more juvenile audience, the filmmakers here seemed more focused on selling tie-in merchandise rather than delivering a decent movie.
"Friendship doesn't have an off switch."
"Friendship doesn't have an off switch."
D: Jake Schreier
Stage 6/Park Pictures/White Hat/Dog Run (Lance Acord, Sam Bisbee, Jackie Kelman-Bisbee & Galt Neiderhoffer)
US 2012
89 mins

Science Fiction/Drama/Comedy

W: Christopher D. Ford
DP: Matthew J. Lloyd
Ed: Jacob Craycroft
Mus: Francis & The Lights

Frank Langella (Frank Weld), Susan Sarandon (Jennifer), Liv Tyler (Madison Weld), James Marsden (Hunter Weld), Peter Sarsgaard (voice of Robot)

Robot & Frank seems to have its heart in the right place, but the unique idea isn't quite made interesting enough with either the screenplay or execution for it to match the potential of its plot.
Set in the near future, Frank, a retired thief, refuses to believe he is suffering the early signs of dementia when his son buys him a helper robot to assist him in his day-to-day life. Initially reluctant to let the robot encroach on his life, Frank gets an idea to train the robot in criminal activities so he can carry out on final gemstone robbery.
The film doesn't quite know if it's a science fiction, comedy or bittersweet drama, instead it's more akin to something Steven Spielberg might have churned out for his contribution to The Twilight Zone Movie (qv), though coated in just a little bit more saccharine.
Frank Langella and the rest of the cast perform admirably, but the story is in need of some tweaking.

"Alcatraz. Only one man has ever broken out. Now five million lives depend on two men breaking in."
"Alcatraz. Only one man has ever broken out. Now five million lives depend on two men breaking in."
D: Michael Bay
Buena Vista/Hollywood Pictures (Jerry Bruckheimer & Don Simpson)
US 1996
136 mins


W: David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook & Mark Rosner
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce
Mus: Hans Zimmer & Nick Glennie-Smith

Sean Connery (John Mason), Nicolas Cage (Stanley Goodspeed), Ed Harris (Brig. Gen. Frank Hummel), Michael Biehn (Cmmdr. Anderson), William Forsythe (Ernest Paxton), David Morse (Maj. Tom Baxton), John Spencer (James Womack)

Though the plot may be ludicrous and Michael Bay's direction is frenetically over-the-top, The Rock is a thoroughly enjoyable action-thriller which utilises a great on-screen pairing of Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery as San Francisco's greatest hope against a biological attack.
Even the main villain in this film is a bit of an originality, shedding the usual pantomime characteristics for a man with well-intentioned and noble ends, even though the means are twisted.
A team of marine mercenaries take control of Alcatraz prison, holding tourists hostage and threatening to launch a chemical weapon on San Francisco unless the US government meets their ransom that families of fallen Iraq soldiers receive financial settlement for their loss.
Cage, as a chemical weapons expert and Connery, a former British spy unite to save the day, and though there's a ridiculous car chase before the men get to the island, once the action is committed to the prison the film becomes a pulsating, nail-biting watch.
Theorists have mused that the film is an unofficial sequel to James Bond movies, with Connery playing the spy with a different alias one final time. That one's up to the viewer's interpretation.
D: Don Bluth
Rank/Goldcrest (Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy & Robert Enrietto)
Ireland/UK/US 1991
74 mins


W: David N. Weiss
Mus: Robert Folk & T.J. Kuenster

voices of: Toby Scott Ganger (Edmond), Glen Campbell (Chanticleer), Phil Harris (Patou), Christopher Plummer (Grand Duke of Owls)

A farmboy is turned into a cat by a magic owl and must go to the city and persuade a singing rooster to return to the farm and make the sun shine again.
Make what you will from the plot. Even young children will have trouble following it. 
The standard of this animation is to Disney what mutton would proverbially be to lamb. An animated film from the early 1990's to forget.
D: Joe Johnston
Disney/Silver Screen Partners IV (Lawrence Gordon, Charles Gordon & Lloyd Levin)
US 1991
108 mins

Adventure/Science Fiction

W: Danny Bilson & Paul de Meo [based on the graphic novel by Dave Stevens]
DP: Hiro Narita
Ed: Arthur Schmidt
Mus: James Horner
PD: Jim Bissell
Cos: Marilyn Vance

Bill Campbell (Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer), Jennifer Connelly (Jenny Blake), Alan Arkin (Peabody), Timothy Dalton (Neville Sinclair), Paul Sorvino (Eddie Valentine), Terry O'Quinn (Howard Hughes), Ed Lauter (Fitch)

In 1939 Los Angeles, a young stunt pilot discovers a jet pack and uses it to foil a nazi plot for world domination.
Released over a decade before superhero movies were box office gold for Hollywood studios, this lacks the typical comic book style but has good attention to the period detail of the time.
Despite not being an A-list star, Bill Campbell does a fine job as the charismatic hero, whilst Timothy Dalton was the perfect choice as the suave villain.
One of the most underrated superhero movies of the early 1990's.
"His whole life was a million-to-one shot."
"His whole life was a million-to-one shot."
D: John G. Avildsen
United Artists (Robert Chartoff & Irwin Winkler)
US 1976
119 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone
DP: James Crabe
Ed: Richard Halsey & Scott Conrad
Mus: Bill Conti
PD: William J. Cassidy

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian Pennino), Burt Young (Paulie Pennino), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Burgess Meredith (Mickey), Joe Spinell (Tom Gazzo)

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story, especially one which sees a virtual unknown go from complete obscurity into the hearts of millions.
As for the film itself, Sylvester Stallone gives his career-defining performance as Rocky Balboa, a semi-professional boxer from Philadelphia who gets his shot in a world heavyweight title bout, set up as an exhibition fight after the original main event was cancelled. This is Rocky's big shot though, and gives his all to win over the crowd and maybe even win the match.
Stallone was a bit-part actor before Rocky made him a household name, facing financial hardship when he first put pen to paper on the shooting script. The film itself was shackled with a low budget and small shooting schedule, but went on to become the biggest box office success of 1976, as well as being named Best Picture of the year.
It's not quite the best boxing movie ever made, but certainly the most inspirational.
D: Sylvester Stallone
United Artists (Robert Chartoff & Irwin Winkler)
US 1979
119 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone
DP: Bill Butler
Ed: Stanford C. Allen & Janice Hampton
Mus: Bill Conti

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Burt Young (Paulie), Burgess Meredith (Mickey)

Exactly the same film as the first, except with a Hollywood ending. 
The film takes off where the first one ended, where Rocky and Apollo Creed, moments after declaring that neither are interested in a rematch, get into the changing rooms after their bout, do some dick measuring and decide that a rematch will be on the cards because how else will a franchise of movies happen?
Despite its recycled story, it's a great deal better than the comic book nonsense which followed.
D: Sylvester Stallone
United Artists (Robert Chartoff & Irwin Winkler)
US 1982
99 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone
DP: Bill Butler
Ed: Don Zimmerman & Mark Warner
Mus: Bill Conti

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian Balboa), Burt Young (Paulie Pennino), Burgess Meredith (Mickey Goldmill), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Mr. T (Clubber Lang), Terry 'Hulk' Hogan (Thunderlips)

Rocky loses his heavyweight title against a thuggish brawler and rebuilds his reputation, with the help of a former rival, in the days leading up to a rematch.
Bits and pieces from the first two films are reconstructed into this third film of the series, with far more Hollywood gloss than the first outing. The film benefitted hugely from the worldwide success of its fantastic, immortally famous theme song ("Eye of the Tiger").
D: Sylvester Stallone
MGM/United Artists (Robert Chartoff & Irwin Winkler)
US 1985
91 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone
DP: Bill Butler
Ed: Don Zimmerman & John W. Wheeler
Mus: Bill Conti & Vince DiCola

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed), Talia Shire (Adrian Balboa), Burt Young (Paulie Pennino), Brigette Nielsen (Ludmilla Vobet Drago)

An attempt on allegory, especially during a time when the Cold War was still on-going, with world champion Rocky Balboa taking on a technologically-advanced Russian fighter. The scenes in which Rocky works out by chopping logs and running in snow intercut with Ivan Drago's thoroughly rehearsed training regime are unintentionally hilarious.
It's ridiculous, but audiences didn't care, generating a huge box office return to make the film amongst the biggest hits of 1985.
D: John G. Avildsen
MGM/United Artists (Robert Chartoff & Irwin Winkler)
US 1990
104 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone
DP: Steven Poster
Ed: John G. Avildsen & Michael Knue 
Mus: Bill Conti

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Talia Shire (Adrian Balboa), Burt Young (Paulie Pennino), Sage Stallone (Robert Balboa, Jr.), Tommy Morrison (Tommy Gunn)

Rocky, getting far too old for these shenanigans, is double-crossed by a young apprentice who he trains to become the next heavyweight title contender.
By far the worst of the series, despite regaining the services of the original director. 
"It ain't over 'til it's over."
"It ain't over 'til it's over."
D: Sylvester Stallone
MGM/United Artists (Charles Winkler, Billy Chartoff, David Winkler & Kevin King)
US 2006
102 mins


W: Sylvester Stallone
DP: Clark Mathis
Ed: Sean Albertson
Mus: Bill Conti

Sylvester Stallone (Rocky Balboa), Burt Young (Paulie Pennino), Antonio Tarver (Mason Dixon), Milo Ventimiglia (Robert Balboa, Jr.), Geraldine Hughes (Marie), Tony Burton (Tony 'Duke' Evers)

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the original Rocky film, this sixth film of the series muses on the comparison between the current boxing world champion and the former, using video game technology to generate a virtual fight, in which the latter wins.
A real bout is then manipulated by the current champion, whose feelings were hurt by such fiction.
Elements from the previous films are thrown together in this nonsensical attempt to revitalise the franchise, but Stallone is far too old to make this convincing. For die hard fans of the series, it's moderately enjoyable, but in comparison to the first film, this is purely in guilty pleasure territory.         
"Give yourself over absolute pleasure."
"Give yourself over absolute pleasure."
D: Jim Sharman
20th Century Fox (Michael White)
UK 1975
100 mins


W: Richard O'Brien & Jim Sharman [based on the play "The Rocky Horror Show" by Richard O'Brien]
DP: Peter Suschitzky 
Ed: Graeme Clifford
Mus: Richard O'Brien
PD: Brian Thomson
Cos: Sue Blane, Richard Pointing & Gillian Dods

Tim Curry (Dr. Frank N. Furter), Susan Sarandon (Janet Weiss), Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors), Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Nell Campbell (Columbia), Jonathan Adams (Dr. Everett Scott), Meatloaf (Eddie)

Campy cult classic, from the spoof horror musical, which gathers popularity with each passing year.
A couple, whose car breaks down, take refuge from a storm in an old, decripit mansion where a crazy scientist is trying to create the perfect man.
This landmark piece of gay & lesbian cinema has become an iconic piece of filmmaking since it's 1975 release, mostly due to Tim Curry's breakthrough performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the transvestite transsexual from Transylvania. 
A unique piece of filmmaking which truly epitomises the term "cult cinema".
D: Gareth Edwards
Disney/Lucasfilm (Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur & Simon Emanuel)
US 2016
133 mins

Science Fiction

W: Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy [based on characters created by George Lucas]
DP: Greig Fraser
Ed: John Gilroy, Colin Goudie & Jabez Olsson
Mus: Michael Giacchino (& John Williams)
PD: Doug Chiang & Neil Lamont
Cos: David Crossman & Glyn Dillon

Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Mads Mikkleson (Galen Erso), Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera)

Rogue One begs a question; why were the prequel trilogy nowhere near similar quality. The answer is because this film is aimed at the vast legion of Star Wars fans, whereas the prequel trilogy was aimed solely at children.
As fans would know, this film takes place immediately prior to the first Star Wars film and the details of the plot are explained in the first episodes opening crawl: a group of rebels undertake the suicidal task of infiltrating blueprints for the planet-destroying Death Star, allowing the rebellion to destroy the galactic empire's biggest threat to them and their people.
The dark tone of Rogue One emulates The Empire Strikes Back, as it rightly should, taking place in the very middle of intergalactic civil war and before Luke Skywalker had even set eyes on a lightsaber.
The film introduces a cadre of new characters, as well as recycling old ones through the use of some impressive visual effects, and though the focus is on action rather than characterisation, they are all reasonably well written and the performances are decent.
The plot will be obvious to Star Wars fans, but despite this, the story does feel quite original, mostly due to the conceptual elements of the production design and visual effects. One tiny criticism is that it does miss John Williams' original music, but Michael Giacchino doesn't do too bad a job in adapting them with his own twist.
The unsurprising success of the film guarantees that there will be unlimited potential to tap into secondary adventures which take place in-between existing episodes and though this will be a financial cash cow for Disney films, there's a chance that the franchise may exhaust itself too early. After all, you can only have so much of a good thing, can't you?
Considering the amount of copycats that Star Wars has inspired over the past 40 years, it's welcoming to have an official spinoff, and though it's a great deal better than the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack Of The Clones, Revenge Of The Sith), it doesn't quite match the grandeur of the original trilogy, especially considering the first films were made at a time when CGI effects were still in experimental stages. 
Still, this adventure should retcon Episodes I-III, for those, like me, who found them incredibly poor instalments to the saga.

"He'll risk everything to beat the system!"
"He'll risk everything to beat the system!"
D: James Dearden
Pathé/Granada/Newmarket (James Dearden, Paul Raphael & Janette Day)
UK/US 1998
101 mins


W: James Dearden [based on the book "Rogue Trader: How I Bought Down Barings Bank & Shook The Financial World" by Nicholas Leeson & Edward Whitley]
DP: Jean-François Robin
Ed: Catherine Creed
Mus: Richard Hartley

Ewan McGregor (Nick Leeson), Anna Friel (Lisa Leeson), Tim McInnerney (Tony Hawes), Nigel Lindsay (Ron Baker), John Standing (Peter Baring)

Biopic of Nicholas Leeson, a merchant trader based in Singapore, whose incompetence and fraudulent practices forced one of the world's oldest and most venerable banks into closure.
A pedestrian yuppie drama, with decent performances from Ewan McGregor and Anna Friel, but one wonders why such an unscrupulous and unlikeable person should be the subject of a film.
D: David Wain
Universal/Relativity Media/New Regency (Luke Greenfield, Mary Parent & Scott Stuber)
US 2008
99 mins


W: David Wain, Timothy Dowling, Paul Rudd & Ken Marino
DP: Russ T. Alsobrook
Ed: Eric Kissack
Mus: Craig Wedren

Paul Rudd (Danny), Seann William Scott (Wheeler), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Augie), Bobb'e J. Thompson (Ronnie), Elizabeth Banks (Beth), Jane Lynch (Gayle), Ken Jeong (King Argetron)

Another comedy from the Judd Apatow production line with many of the same actors he's worked with before, the story is by far weaker than The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, et al, but the film is still quite enjoyable and easy to watch, with the usual ad-libbed comedic performances.
Paul Rudd & Seann William Scott are given a community service punishment where they participate in a programme where they become guardians to two young kids. Rudd is put in care of a medieval role-playing nerd, while Scott is in charge of looking after a foul-mouthed black boy. They start off hating the punishment and try to cut corners as much as they can, but by the end of the movie they discover the meaning of responsibility and redeem themselves.
The medieval role-playing game subplot is quite embarrassing and it's difficult to understand what kind of people would find this a fun way of life, but different strokes for different folks I guess.
As a guilty pleasure movie this is entertaining but I wouldn't recommend it if you looking for something of a little more depth.

"In the not too distant future wars will no longer exist. But there will be rollerball."
"In the not too distant future wars will no longer exist. But there will be rollerball."
D: Norman Jewison
United Artists (Norman Jewison)
UK/US 1975
129 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: William Harrison [based on his short story 'Roller Ball Murder']
DP: Douglas Slocombe
Ed: Antony Gibbs
Mus: Andre Previn
PD: John Box

James Caan (Jonathan E), John Houseman (Mr. Bartholomew), Maud Adams (Ella), John Beck (Moonpie), Moses Gunn (Cletus), Ralph Richardson (Librarian)

Cult sci-fi, though it's dated incredibly badly. 
Set in the 21st century, an ultra violent sport is used as a way of controlling the population. 
For a film made in 1975, the production design, special effects and stunts are well visualised and directed, but one huge pet hate is that the rules of the game are never explained during any point of the film. A remake, released in 2002, updated many elements of the production but didn't improve on the story. In fact, if was much, much worse.

ROMA (15)

D: Alfonso Cuarón

Netflix/Participant Media/Esperanto (Alfonso Cuarón, Gabriela Rodriguez & Nicolas Celis)

Mexico 2018

135 mins


W: Alfonso Cuarón

DP: Alfonso Cuarón

Ed: Alfonso Cuarón & Adam Gough

Yalitza Aparicio (Cleo Gutierrez), Marina de Tavira (Sofia), Fernando Grediaga (Antonio), Jorge Antonio Ferrin (Fermín), Marco Graf (Pepe), Daniela Demesa (Sofi), Diego Cortina Autrey (Toño)

Roma, for me, is solid proof that a rather unremarkable story and screenplay can be transformed into something unwaveringly engrossing and breathtakingly beautiful if the right person is in the director's chair.

I've always admired Alfonso Cuaròn as a filmmaker (Children Of Men and Gravity are just two examples of his excellent work), and his auteurism blossoms even further with this film, as he takes over cinematography duties, in addition to directing, writing and editing the project.

The story itself is rather basic, focusing on a family in the Roma district of Mexico City during the early 1970's, seen through the eyes of the servant girl who lives with them as a cleaner and nanny to the children.  Being a fan of Cuarón's previous work, it was quite obvious to me that this was a biographical story, as certain scenes in the film are from his own childhood, shaping his character and inspiring his filmmaking achievements.

Many are calling Roma a modern masterpiece, and from a filmmaking perspective it's very difficult to disagree; the cinematography is astonishing, every single performance is convincing, the direction is flawless and even the sound design deserves a mention for completely enveloping you, placing you right into the moments being depicted on screen.

A certainty for Best Picture come awards season, it only missed out as a nominee at the Golden Globes because foreign language films aren't eligible.

My only irritation is that the film is being distributed by Netflix, and was only given a very small theatrical release to make it eligible for awards, so if you've missed it, it can only now be seen on the streaming service, and not on the big screen where it absolutely deserves to be experienced.



D: Dan Gilroy

Columbia/Macro Media/Topic/Cross Creek/Image Nation/Escape Artists (Todd Black, Jennifer Fox & Denzel Washington)

US 2017

122 mins


W: Dan Gilroy

DP: Robert Elswit

Ed: John Gilroy

Mus: James Newton Howard

Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), Colin Farrell (George Pierce), Carmen Ejogo (Maya Alston), Lynda Gravatt (Vernita Wells), Hugo Armstrong (Fritz Molinar)

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a rather average film saved by a very strong performance from its lead actor. Denzel Washington plays the title character, an idealistic civil rights lawyer with a savant-like grasp of facts and figures. Following the hospitalisation of his partner, he takes on the extra workload of cases until his small practice is assimilated by a larger firm, headed by yuppie-like George Pierce (Colin Farrell). Impressed by Israel's legal knowledge, Pierce offers him a job at his offices, but the idealist clashes with others on his quest for civil unity and social justice.

Roman also develops a relationship with local activist Maya Alston and is handed a case to represent a black youth convicted of murder, but when the young man is himself murdered in the penitentiary, Israel sells out and breaks the legal code by pinpointing the real culprit, in exchange for reward money arranged by a group of mobsters.

Dan Gilroy's drama is a peculiar film, the plot neither here nor there and although the performances are fantastic, the muddled story doesn't quite know where to aim for and doesn't quite answer any of the questions that it raises. It also fails to explore Roman J. Israel as a character, hinting at autism but neither confirming nor denying this.

Washington thoroughly deserved the Oscar nomination which he received for his acting portrayal, as he gives the movie credence, but this could have been a much better courtroom drama had the story and direction been less clumsy.


D: Robert Zemeckis
20th Century Fox/El Corazon (Michael Douglas)
US 1984
106 mins


W: Diane Thomas
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Donn Cambern & Frank Morriss
Mus: Alan Silvestri
PD: Lawrence G. Paull

Michael Douglas (Jack T. Colton), Kathleen Turner (Joan Wilder), Danny DeVito (Ralph), Zack Norman (Ira), Alfonso Arau (Juan), Manuel Ojeda (Colonel Zolo), Mary Ellen Trainor (Elaine Wilder)

Partial adventure, partial comedy and partial love story with great performances from the main trio of cast members Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner & Danny DeVito. Likened to several Indiana Jones clones following the success of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, this was by far one of the better efforts with a near perfect blend of riveting action, amusing situations and dialogue and romantic chemistry between the two leads.
Kathleen Turner plays Mills & Boon-style soppy romance novelist Joan Wilder, whose sister is kidnapped in Colombia and held for ransom over a treasure map in Joan's possession. Upon her arrival in the South American country, she's tricked into taking the wrong bus which takes her deep into the jungle. Stranded, she enlists the help of bird catcher Jack T. Colton (Douglas), who agrees to help her...for a price. All the while they're pursued by inept gangster Danny DeVito and a group of corrupt Colombian soldiers.
It's typically the sort of far-fetched action-adventure you'd expect from the 1980's but is a huge amount of fun. The characters reprised their adventures in sequel Jewel Of The Nile, but unfortunately it was nowhere near as fun.
D: Franco Zeffirelli
Paramount/BHE/Verona (Anthony Havelock-Allan, John Brabourne & Richard Goodwin)
UK/Italy 1968
152 mins


W: Franco Brusati & Masolino D'Amico [based on the play by William Shakespeare]         
DP: Pasqualino de Santis
Ed: Reginald Mills
Mus: Nino Rota
PD: Lorenzo Mongiardino
Cos: Danilo Donati

Leonard Whiting (Romeo Montague), Olivia Hussey (Juliet Capulet), John McEnery (Mercutio), Michael York (Tuvalu), Pat Heywood (Nurse), Milo O'Shea (Friar Laurence)

Arguably the finest of the more traditional adaptations of William Shakespeare's tragic love story, using a younger cast than previous versions to appeal to a younger audience, fitting in with the attitudes at the time of its release.
The balletic style of the photography and direction suit the film well, with meticulous attention to period detail and costumes.
Nino Rota's love theme also gained great commercial success, becoming a hit record in many countries across the world.
D: Geoffrey Wright
Seon/AFFC (Daniel Scharf & Ian Pringle)
Australia 1992
92 mins


W: Geoffrey Wright
DP: Ron Hagen
Ed: Bill Murphy
Mus: John Clifford White

Russell Crowe (Hando), Daniel Pollock (Davey), Jacqueline McKenzie (Gabrielle), Alex Scott (Martin), Tony Lee (Tiger)

A bleak and brutal drama about a group of Australian nazi skinhead thugs and their turf war with a Thai community. 
It's a difficult watch due to it being near impossible to sympathise with the fascist group, but it does feature some great acting by a young Russell Crowe and Aussie actress Jacqueline McKenzie.
"Loyalty is bought. Betrayal is a way of life."
"Loyalty is bought. Betrayal is a way of life."
RONIN (15)
D: John Frankenheimer
United Artists (Frank Mancuso, Jr.)
US 1998
121 mins


W: J. D. Zeik & Richard Weisz (David Mamet)
DP: Robert Fraisse
Ed: Tony Gibbs
Mus: Elia Cmiral

Robert DeNiro (Sam), Jean Reno (Vincent), Natasha McElhone (Deirdre), Sean Bean (Spence), Stellan Skarsgard (Gregor), Jonathan Pryce (Seamus)

A group of undercover agents double-cross one another during a mission to steal a briefcase from a group of Irish revolutionaries.
Aside from a gripping car chase midway through the running time, there's very little memorable about this run-of-the-mill crime thriller, even with a great actor like Robert DeNiro in the lead role.
"He took a new kid and made a hero out of him."
"He took a new kid and made a hero out of him."
D: Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./Malpaso (Howard Kazanjian, Steven Siebert & David Valdes)         
US 1990
121 mins


W: Boaz Yakin & Scott Spiegel
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Joel Cox
Mus: Lennie Niehaus

Clint Eastwood (Nick Pulovski), Charlie Sheen (David Ackerman), Raul Julia (Strom), Sonia Braga (Liesl), Tom Skerritt (Eugene Ackerman), Lara Flynn Boyle (Sarah)

An ageing cop teaches his young new partner how to be tougher in the job.
By-the-numbers crime thriller which feels like an attempt to pass the "Dirty Harry" gauntlet down to up-and-coming star Charlie Sheen.  Unfortunately, the plot is dreary, riddled with cliches and not particularly original. There are some impressive stunts and practical special effects, but these things alone aren't enough to save the film.
"It's never too late to believe in your dreams."
"It's never too late to believe in your dreams."
D: John Lee Hancock
Disney/Gran Via (Gordon Gray, Mark Ciardi & Mark Johnson)
US 2002
127 mins


W: Mike Rich
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: Eric L. Beason
Mus: Carter Burwell

Dennis Quaid (Jim Morris), Rachel Griffiths (Lorri Morris), Jay Hernandez (Joaquin 'Wack' Campos), Beth Grant (Ollie), Angus T. Jones (Hunter Morris), Brian Cox (Jim Morris, Sr.)

Despite the film being laced in typical Disney sentimentality, Dennis Quaid delivers one of his career-best performances as an ageing baseball coach who tries out for the major leagues. The film is partly based on the real life story of Jim Morris, who had a brief career spell in Major League Baseball in the late 20th Century.
This well-intentioned family drama would be better appreciated on American shores, but provides reasonable entertainment for everyone else, mostly due to Quaid's empathic performance.
ROOM (15)
D: Lenny Abrahamson
A24/Telefilm Canada/Filmnation (Ed Guiney)
Canada/UK/Ireland 2015
118 mins


W: Emma Donoghue [based on her novel]
DP: Danny Cohen
Ed: Nathan Nugent
Mus: Stephen Rennicks

Brie Larson (Joy Newsome), Jacob Tremblay (Jack Newsome), Sean Bridgers (Old Nick) Joan Allen (Nancy Newsome), William H. Macy (Robert Newsome)

On the face of it, Room is a kidnapping drama, but beneath the surface, the story tells of the powerful bond between a mother and her child.
A victim of an abduction, Joy has spent seven years of her life trapped in a claustrophobic room with only a small skylight as her only window to the outside world. Her five-year-old son, Jack, has spent his whole life there, both held by a kidnapper who is referred to as "Old Nick".  
For Jack, everything inside the room is normality to him, with no knowledge of the world beyond the walls, and when the mother and son finally do escape, they both have difficulties in coping with life, both for different reasons.
Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, the story draws parallels with similar real-life crimes such as Josef Fritzl, though this is a completely original piece of writing.
Brie Larson's performance is nothing short of brilliant, resulting in an Oscar win for Best Actress. Jacob Tremblay is also excellent as her son, delivering one of the most memorable juvenile performances since Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense.
It's not pleasant viewing, but it is powerful, and a very deserving nominee for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Do not confuse with The Room (qv)

D: Tommy Wiseau
Wiseau Films (Tommy Wiseau)
US 2003
99 mins


W: Tommy Wiseau
DP: Todd Barron
Ed: Eric Chase
Mus: Mladen Milicevic

Tommy Wiseau (Johnny), Juliette Danielle (Lisa), Greg Sestero (Mark), Philip Haldiman (Denny), Carolyn Minnott (Claudette), Robyn Paris (Michelle), Scott Holmes (Mike), Dan Janjigian (Chris R)

The Citizen Kane of bad movies, so ineptly scripted, directed and acted that it's actually hilarious.

The paper-thin plot concerns a banker who discovers that his best friend and his girlfriend are having an affair, but bereft with suicidal pacing and subplots that go absolutely nowhere, coupled with the atrociously bad acting performances, the material stretches to a running time of 99 minutes.

Writer-director-producer and star Tommy Wiseau almost seems proud of his film's notorious "achievement" of being heralded as one of the worst ever made, and as such a cult following has amassed to celebrate the film's badness.

It's not actual possible to grade this film on a one-to-ten scale due to it being simultaneously awful and compelling, therefore it's exempt from a rating. From a filmmaking perspective, including all aspects of writing, direction, acting, cinematography, editing, etc. it barely registers a one, but for sheer entertainment value it's right up there with the classics, just because it's so damn terrible.


D: James Ivory
Goldcrest/Merchant Ivory (Ismail Merchant)         
UK 1985 (released 1986)
115 mins


W: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala [based on the novel by E. M. Forster]
DP: Tony Pierce-Roberts
Ed: Humphrey Dixon
Mus: Richard Robbins
PD: Gianna Quaranta & Brian Ackland-Snow
Cos: Jenny Beavan & John Bright

Helena Bonham-Carter (Lucy Honeychurch), Julian Sands (George Emerson), Denholm Elliott (Mr. Emerson), Maggie Smith (Charlotte Bartlett), Daniel Day-Lewis (Cecil Vyse), Simon Callow (Rev. Beebe), Rosemary Leach (Mrs. Honeychurch), Judi Dench (Eleanor Lavish)

Set in early 1900's Florence, where a young, chaste Edwardian girl, Lucy Honeychurch, discovers romance during a family holiday and must choose between the carefree and charming George Emerson or her fiancé back in England, the rich and conservative Cecil Vyse.
Quite possibly the standout film from the Merchant-Ivory collaboration, complete with a great ensemble cast and handsome sets & costumes. It's the supporting performances which standout most, particularly from the ever dependable Maggie Smith.
D: Alfred Hitchcock
Transatlantic (Sidney Bernstein & Alfred Hitchcock)
US 1948
80 mins


W: Arthur Laurents [based on the play by Patrick Hamilton]
DP: Joseph Valentine & William V. Small
Ed: William Ziegler
Mus: David Buttolph

James Stewart (Rupert Cadell), John Dall (Brandon Shaw), Farley Granger (Philip Morgan), Joan Chandler (Janet Walker), Cedric Hardwicke (Henry Kentley), Constance Collier (Anita Atwater)

An experimental effort from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, who utilises editing and photography techniques to make the project look as though it were all filmed in one shot. 
The plot itself is quite thin, but sinisterly macabre and loosely based on true events. A pair of high society homosexuals murder a friend simply to see if they can get away with it, concealing the dead body in a trunk before commencing a dinner party with guests including a police investigator.
Though the director's efforts can be admired, the film doesn't quite work and the story probably would have been best suited to the stage. Worth watching for historical interest, but little else.
D: Roman Polanski
Paramount (William Castle)
US 1968
136 mins


W: Roman Polanski [based on the novel by Ira Levin]
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: Sam O'Steen & Bob Wyman
Mus: Christopher Komeda
PD: Richard Sylbert
Cos: Anthea Sylbert

Mia Farrow (Rosemary Woodhouse), John Cassavetes (Guy Woodhouse), Ruth Gordon (Minnie Castevet), Sidney Blackmer (Roman Castevet), Maurice Evans (Hutch), Ralph Bellamy (Dr. Sapirstein), Victoria Vetri (Terry Gionoffrio)

Rosemary's Baby is a genuine rarity of the horror genre, in which it manages to be menacing and foreboding without an abundance of grizzly death scenes, or even scary moments.
The film was Roman Polanski's first adaptation of a novel, and rather than improvising his own dialogue or scenes, he took Ira Levin's work completely in verbatim for something truly faithful to its source material.
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse are the new residents in a New York apartment block, where their elderly next door neighbours begin to impose on their lives with an occult motive.
Rosemary becomes pregnant on the same night she dreams of being raped by a demon, and her doctor encourages her to bypass traditional medicines for herbal concoctions provided by her sinister neighbours.
It won't come as a shock that Rosemary is actually carrying the child of Satan and is living in the control of a coven of witches, but the way the mystery unravels is nothing short of gripping, even though the subject matter is supernatural, it's still tackled in a very feasible manner, a testament to both Polanski's direction and Ira Levin's original story.
Mia Farrow gives her career best performance in this movie, but the plaudits were stolen from her by the scene-stealing Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet, a meek, elderly woman who simply carries an aura of something far more sinister.
It's probably not a good choice of film to watch if you are expecting, but it's certainly a near-faultless classic of the horror genre.

D: Tom Stoppard
Hobo/Brandenburg (Michael Brandman & Emanuel Azenburg)
US 1990
118 mins


W: Tom Stoppard [based on his play]
DP: Peter Biziou
Ed: Nicolas Gaster
Mus: Stanley Myers

Gary Oldman (Rosencrantz), Tim Roth (Guildenstern), Richard Dreyfuss (The Lead Player), Iain Glen (Hamlet), Ian Richardson (Polonius)

Tom Stoppard's absurdist, surrealist comedy won't be for everyone, and a lot of the humour will be lost on those who've not read Hamlet (or at least seen an adaptation).
The story follows two minor characters from William Shakespeare's play, as they journey to the castle of Elsinore unaware that they can't deviate from their destiny and ponder upon the meaning of their own existence. 
The story is a lot cleverer than it sounds, with some amusing dialogue and a memorable scene where the two leads joust with word tennis, but it's a humour that will be lost on many. Overall, the adaptation translates awkwardly to the screen and the material would work better as a stage play, but it's certainly worth a watch for fans of Shakespeare, or those who just fancy something a little different.

"In the game of life... Play the cards you're dealt."
"In the game of life... Play the cards you're dealt."
D: John Dahl
Buena Vista/Miramax/Spanky (Joel Stillerman & Ted Demme)
US 1998
121 mins


W: David Levien & Brian Koppelman
DP: Jean-Yves Escoffier
Ed: Scott Chestnut
Mus: Christopher Young

Matt Damon (Mike McDermott), Edward Norton (Lester 'Worm' Murphy), John Turturro (Joey Knish), Famke Janssen (Petra), Gretchen Mol (Jo), John Malkovich (Teddy KGB)

A reformed gambler returns to high stakes poker games to help his best friend pay off his debts against a notorious group of Russian gangsters.
Simple-minded, poorly-scripted and formulaic Hollywood bunkum which fails to make use of a very talented cast. In fact, it's quite embarrassing for some members, especially John Malkovich, who easily delivers the worst performance of his highly respectable career.
"Roxanne dreamed of a handsome, intelligent, romantic man. C. D. Bales is two out of three... But looks aren't everything."
"Roxanne dreamed of a handsome, intelligent, romantic man. C. D. Bales is two out of three... But looks aren't everything."
D: Fred Schepsi
Columbia (Michael Rachmil & Daniel Melnick)
US 1987
107 mins


W: Steve Martin [based on "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand]
DP: Ian Baker
Ed: John Scott
Mus: Bruce Smeaton

Steve Martin (C.D. Bales), Daryl Hannah (Roxanne Kowalski), Rick Rossavich (Chris), Shelley Duvall (Dixie), John Kapelos (Chuck), Fred Willard (Mayor Deebs), Michael J. Pollard (Andy)

A great example of Steve Martin's finest works, penned by the actor himself, adapting Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac to modern day British Columbia.
Large-nosed small town fire chief C. D. Bales falls for the new girl in town, who herself takes a shine to Chris, his new deputy. With Bales playing the part of matchmaker, the twist is that it's his own poetic mind, intelligence and sense of humour which she falls for and only attracted to Chris for his looks.
Martin's zany sense of humour really suits the film, and though some scenes drag in the latter half of the film, there's enough funny moments in the entirety to make this a worthwhile watch, as well as an easier-to-digest version of a piece of classic literature.
"Family isn't a word. It's a sentence."
"Family isn't a word. It's a sentence."
D: Wes Anderson
Touchstone/American Empirical (Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel & Scott Rudin)
US 2001
123 mins


W: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson
DP: Robert Yeoman
Ed: Dylan Tichenor
Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh 
PD: David Wasco
Cos: Karen Patch

Gene Hackman (Royal Tenenbaum), Anjelica Huston (Etheline Tenenbaum), Ben Stiller (Chas Tenenbaum), Gwyneth Paltrow (Margot Tenenbaum), Luke Wilson (Richie Tenenbaum), Owen Wilson (Eli Cash), Danny Glover (Henry Sherman), Bill Murray (Raleigh St. Clair)

Wes Anderson's movies really are a genre onto themselves, with the director's writing and visual style bound to divide audiences. Quirky to the point of frustration or idiosyncratic to the point of genius, there's not really much middle ground.
Proverbially, the devil is in the details with this comedy, with emphasis on unique production design, precociously profound characters and subtle visual gags.
Gene Hackman plays Royal Tenenbaun, the disgraced patriarch of a family of child geniuses. Now broke and facing homelessness, he lies about suffering from cancer to manipulate his way back into their lives and break up the relationship between his ex-wife and her new fiancé.
The dark subject of the story is ingenuously countered by the filmmaking style, balancing precariously between black comedy and slapstick farce.
As mentioned above, it won't be appreciated by all, but most will find a fine ensemble cast in their element, particularly Hackman & Gwyneth Paltrow, whilst Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson & Luke Wilson deliver some of their own best work.
"Terror has evolved."
"Terror has evolved."
D: Carter Smith
Paramount (Stuart Cornfeld, Jeremy Kramer & Chris Bender)
US/Australia 2008
90 mins


W: Scott B. Smith [based on his novel]
DP: Darius Khondji
Ed: Jeff Betancourt
Mus: Graeme Revell

Jonathan Tucker (Jeff), Jena Malone (Amy), Shawn Ashmore (Eric), Laura Ramsay (Stacy), Joe Anderson (Mathias)

A group of teenage American students vacationing in Mexico find themselves trapped in an ancient Mayan temple with man-eating plants.
Day Of The Triffids-style B-movie horror flick, full of thick, unlikeable characters who deserve everything they get.
D: David Schwimmer
New Line/Picturehouse (Robert Jones & Sarah Curtis)
UK/US 2007
100 mins


W: Michael Ian Black & Simon Pegg
DP: Richard Greatrex
Ed: Michael Parker
Mus: Alex Wurman

Simon Pegg (Dennis Doyle), Thandie Newton (Libby Odell), Hank Azaria (Whit Bloom), Dylan Moran (Gordon), Harish Patel (Mr. Ghoshdastidar), Matthew Fenton (Jake)

In an attempt to win back an old flame and mother of his son, a slobby layabout trains up to participate in the London Marathon partly in rivalry against her new love interest, a suave American.
Easy-to-watch comedy, partially suffering from a formulaic, predictable plot and some colour-by-numbers direction, but no fault can lie with the likeable performance from writer-star Simon Pegg. 
D: Ray Cooney
Ballpark Film Distributors (Graham Fowler & James Simpson)
UK 2011 (released 2012)
94 mins


W: Ray Cooney [based on his stage play]
DP: Graham Fowler
Ed: John Pegg
Mus: Walter Mair

Danny Dyer (John Smith), Denise Van Outen (Michelle Smith), Sarah Harding (Stephanie Smith), Neil Morrissey (Gary)

Danny Dire (sic), in a pathetic attempt to rebrand himself away from roles in terrible gangster films, starred in this atrocious comedy about a bigamous taxi driver whose life gets turned upside down when his wives become aware of each other.
Lower than sitcom standard, the jokes range from sitting on cakes, standing on rakes and a clutch of theatrical luvvies in embarrassing cameo roles.
The fact that this pathetic excuse for a film failed to even make £1,000 during its opening weekend tells you all you need to know. Some critics have even called it the worst British film ever made. I make a case for Sex Lives Of The Potato Men (qv), but I'm not going to make too much noise.

D: Tom Tykwer
Columbia Tristar/Bavaria (Stefan Arndt)
Germany 1998
80 mins


W: Tom Tykwer
DP: Frank Griebe
Ed: Mathilde Bonnefoy
Mus: Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil

Franka Potente (Lola), Moritz Bleibtreu (Manni), Herbert Knaup (Lola's Dad), Armin Rohde (Herr Schuster), Nina Petri (Frau Hansen)

Much more than a film which sees its lead actress doing a lot of running. Director Tom Tykwer's thriller is a genius piece of filmmaking. Told from three different perspectives, a girl has 20 minutes to save her boyfriend from death after he becomes indebted to a drug dealer. 
The experimental style pays off in abundance here, mostly due to its masterclass in film editing, interactive direction and also a strong central performance from Franka Potente.
"Trials are too important to be decided by juries."
"Trials are too important to be decided by juries."
D: Gary Fleder
20th Century Fox/Regency (Gary Fleder, Christopher Mankiewicz & Arnon Milchan)
US 2003
127 mins


W: Brian Koppleman, David Levien, Rick Cleveland & Matthew Chapman [based on the novel by John Grisham]
DP: Robert Elswit
Ed: William Steinkamp & Jeff Williams
Mus: Christopher Young

John Cusack (Nick Easter), Gene Hackman (Rankin Finch), Dustin Hoffman (Wendall Rohr), Rachel Weisz (Marlee), Jeremy Piven (Lawrence Green), Bruce McGill (Judge Harkin)

Runaway Jury isn't the best work adapted from a John Grisham novel, but it is still a very entertaining watch, complete with a very impressive ensemble cast.
Following a workplace shooting at a New Orleans brokerage firm, the widow of a victim, along with her attorney, Wendall Rohr (Hoffman) commence a trial against the weapons manufacturer that made its guns so readily available. On the opposite side of the courtroom, legal whiz Rankin Finch has manipulatively assembled a jury sympathetic to the defendant's case, unaware that the verdict is held to ransom by one of the jurors and his girlfriend working on the outside.
Though this thriller seems like there's no real good guy, everything becomes clarified as it unfolds, setting up an ending where everyone gets what they deserve.
The plot has some shades of 12 Angry Men, though inspired a little more by the Columbine tragedy.
Gene Hackman called time on his acting career shortly following the films release, and it certainly isn't a bad performance for his excellent career to end on.

D: Andrei Konchalovsky
Cannon/Northbrook (Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus)
US 1985
111 mins


W: Djordje Milicevic, Paul Zindel & Edward Bunker [based on a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa]
DP: Alan Hume
Ed: Henry Richardson
Mus: Trevor Jones

Jon Voight (Oscar 'Manny' Mannheim), Eric Roberts (Buck McGeehy), Rebecca DeMornay (Sara), Kyle T. Heffner (Frank Barstow)

The title says it all. This formulaic, cliche-ridden action potboiler is lifted above the usual tedium by a good pair of performances from Jon Voight and Eric Roberts as two escape convicts who board the out-of-control vehicle.
Considering the rest of Cannon Films output during the 1980's, this film actually ranks amongst the production groups best, but that's not saying it's a particularly good film.
D: Paul Michael Glaser
Rank/Braveworld (Tim Zimmerman & George Linder)
US 1987
101 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: Steven E. de Souza [based on the novel by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)]
DP: Thomas Del Ruth
Ed: Mark Roy Warner, Edward Warschilka & John Wright
Mus: Harold Faltermeyer
PD: Jack T. Collis

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Ben Richards), Maria Conchita Alonso (Amber Mendez), Richard Dawson (Damon Killian), Yaphet Kotto (William Laughlin), Marvin J. McIntyre (Harold Weiss), Mick Fleetwood (Mick), Jesse Ventura (Captain Freedom)

Though it may be based on a novel by Stephen King (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman), this is very much tailored to take advantage of it's star. In fact, very little remains of the original story, but this is arguably what film adaptations are for.
Set in a dystopian future where a public execution arena is staged as a game show, a disgraced cop, framed for the murder of thousands has to fight for his freedom against a group of "stalkers", this dark future's equivalent of celebrity sportsmen, with a thirst for blood and deadly arsenal of weapons.
Like the same year's Robocop (qv), The Running Man takes great mirth in satirising media and violence, which it does incredibly well. Schwarzenegger may not win many awards for his acting, but this film is perfect for him, giving him many memorable pay off lines which he practically built his filmstar career on.
Some parts of the film haven't dated particularly well, specifically some aspects of the production design, visual effects and its TV movie-of-the-week direction.
D: Sidney Lumet
Warner Bros./Lorimar/Double Play (Amy Robinson & Griffin Dunne)
US 1988
116 mins


W: Naomi Foner
DP: Gerry Fisher
Ed: Andrew Mondshein
Mus: Tony Mottola

Christine Lahti (Annie Pope), Judd Hirsch (Arthur Pope), River Phoenix (Danny Pope), Martha Plimpton (Lorna Phillips), L.M. Kit Carson (Gus Winant)

A husband and wife political activist duo and long time targets of the FBI find their family life in jeopardy and they feel the need to relocate once again, but their teenage son wants to part ways so he can focus on his own life emancipated from his runaway parents.
A critical darling of 1988 which didn't quite engage with audiences, perhaps because it's difficult to sympathise with the parents' characters. River Phoenix, however, is a revelation, delivering one of the best supporting performances of the year and deservingly rewarded with an Oscar nomination for his part.
"Two of Chicago's finest?"
"Two of Chicago's finest?"


D: Peter Hyams

MGM (David Foster & Lawrence Turman)

US 1986

106 mins


W: Gary DeVore & Jimmy Huston

DP: Peter Hyams

Ed: James Mitchell

Mus: Rod Temperton

Billy Crystal (Danny Costanzo), Gregory Hines (Ray Hughes), Steven Bauer (Det. Frank Sigliano), Darlanne Fluegel (Anna Costanzo), Joe Pantoliano (Snake), Dan Hedaya (Capt. Logan), Jimmy Smits (Julio Gonzalez)

Amongst all the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon-type buddy-buddy/mismatched cop movies of the 1980's, it would have been perfectly understandable to let Running Scared pass you by.

Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal play the accident-prone double act in this movie, who contemplate retirement to the Florida Keys whilst investigating a narcotics/homicide case.

Despite being good fun, this doesn't really bring anything new to the table besides the exuberant partnership of Hines & Crystal as well as a decent 80's soundtrack of Rod Temperton-penned songs.


RUSH (15)
D: Ron Howard
Imagine/Cross Creek/Working Title (Andrew Eaton, Eric Fellner, Brian Oliver, Peter Morgan, Brian Grazer & Ron Howard)
US 2013
122 mins


W: Peter Morgan
DP: Anthony Dod Mantle
Ed: Michael Hill & Daniel Hanley
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Chris Hemsworth (James Hunt), Daniel Brühl (Niki Lauda), Olivia Wilde (Suzy Miller), Alexandra Maria Lara (Marlene Lauda)

An incredibly good sports drama about the rivalry between Formula One's James Hunt & Niki Lauda during the early 1970's.
The film follows the men from early in their careers on semi-professional race circuits and culminates in the 1976 Formula One season, where the two men are in a constant duel to capture the World Championship.
Even if your interest in motor racing is slim-to-none, the film features enough high octane thrills and drama to justify it, with two superb performances from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl.
A return to director Ron Howard's best following a near decade of some poor filmmaking decisions.
D: Wes Anderson
Touchstone/American Empirical (Barry Mendel & Paul Schiff)
US 1998
93 mins


W: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson
DP: Robert Yeoman
Ed: David Moritz
Mus: Mark Mothersbaugh

Jason Schwartzmann (Max Fischer), Bill Murray (Murray Blume), Olivia Williams (Rosemary Cross), Seymour Cassel (Bert Fischer), Brian Cox (Dr. Nelson Guggenheim)

Wes Anderson's breakthrough film, showcasing his potential as director and screenwriter (as well as co-writer Owen Wilson's talents). It's as quirky as the rest of his work, which may come frustrating to some, but for those wanting some original characters and dialogue rather than the norm, this will be fondly appreciated.
A precocious 15-year-old competes with his friend, a wealthy businessman, for the affections of a new school teacher, and finds his academic growth in peril due to his actions.
It's a curious story of adolescent problems, but incredibly well written and performed, with standout performances from Bill Murray and Olivia Williams particularly.
D: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker
Touchstone/Silver Screen Partners II (Michael Peyser)
US 1986
93 mins


W: Dale Launer
DP: Jan DeBont
Ed: Gib Jaffe & Arthur Schmidt
Mus: Michel Colombier

Danny DeVito (Sam Stone), Bette Midler (Barbara Stone), Judge Reinhold (Ken Kessler), Helen Slater (Sandy Kessler), Bill Pullman (Earl Mott)

Quite literally the opposite of Romancing The Stone.
The troublesome wife of Sam Stone is abducted by a pair of incompetent kidnappers but he refuses to pay the ransom, choosing instead to live the party life in her absence.
This raucous comic farce is very much a product of the 1980's, generating its laughs from its perfectly cast performers rather than the quality of the script. 
Good fun for its time, but it's no classic.