U-571 (15)
D: Jonathan Mostow
Universal/Canal+ (Dino de Laurentiis & Martha de Laurentiis)
US/France 2000
116 mins


W: Jonathan Mostow, Sam Montgomery & David Ayer
DP: Oliver Wood
Ed: Wayne Wahrman
Mus: Richard Marvin

Matthew McConaughey (Lt. Andrew Tyler), Bill Paxton (Lt. Cmmdr. Mike Dahlgren), Harvey Keitel (CGM, Henry Klough), Jon Bon Jovi (Lt. Pete Emmett), David Keith (Maj. Matthew Coonan), Thomas Kretschmann (Capt. Lt. Günther Wassner)

God bless America! This bog-standard flagwaver takes a key point of wartime history credited to the British military and re-attributes it to the Americans, starring Matthew McConaughey and the rest of an all-star cast as a naval crew who locate and steal an Enigma decoding machine and make their escape in a German U-boat. 
The film has plenty of thrilling action scenes, including one of supreme tension when the vessel has to dive beneath the onslaught of multiple depth charges, but to take credit for another nation's work is just too cheeky. Entertaining enough for its run time, but it's all lies.
U TURN (18)
D: Oliver Stone
Tristar/Phoenix/Illusion (Dan Halsted & Clayton Townsend)
US 1997
125 mins


W: John Ridley [based on his novel "Stray Dogs"]
DP: Robert Richardson 
Ed: Hank Corwin & Thomas J. Nordberg
Mus: Ennio Morricone

Sean Penn (Bobby Cooper), Nick Nolte (Jake McKenna), Jennifer Lopez (Grace McKenna), Powers Boothe (Sheriff Virgil Potter), Claire Danes (Jenny), Joaquin Phoenix (Toby Tucker), Billy Bob Thornton (Darrell), Jon Voight (Blind Indian)

Sean Penn plays a luckless drifter whose classic convertible breaks down in a remote desert town with a bagful of gambling money stashed in the boot.
During his delay while the car undergoes repairs, he meets all kind of strange people in the town's population, including a husband and wife who are scheming to murder each other.
The plot had previously been done to much better effect in 1993's Red Rock West, and while Sean Penn stands out amongst the cast, it's mostly because everyone else is so awful rather than Penn delivering anything truly spectacular.
Only director Oliver Stone knows why he shot the film stylistically as though it were a bad hangover.
"The battle of the sexes is on."
"The battle of the sexes is on."
D: Robert Luketic
Columbia/Lakeshore/Relativity Media (Karen McCullah Lutz, Tom Rosenberg & Gary Lucchesi)
US 2009
96 mins


W: Karen McCullah Lutz, Nicole Eastman & Kirsten Smith
DP: Russell Carpenter
Ed: Lisa Zeno Churgin
Mus: Aaron Zigman

Katharine Heigl (Abby Richter), Gerard Butler (Mike Chadway), Eric Winter (Colin Anderson), Bree Turner (Joy Haim), Nick Searcy (Stuart)

Standard rom-com shit starring Katharine Heigl as a talk show host and Gerard Butler as the misogynistic caveman who supposedly tells it how it is. The two of them fall for each other because this is what women really want isn't it? An arsehole, but one who can be changed.
The ugly truth is that this film is absolute tosh!


D: Philip Kaufman

Orion (Saul Zaentz, Paul Zaentz & Bertil Ohlsson)

USA 1988

171 mins


W: Philip Kaufman & Jean-Claude Carrìere [based on the novel by Milan Kundera]

DP: Sven Nykvist

Ed: Walter Murch

Mus: Mark Adler

Daniel Day-Lewis (Tomas), Juliette Binoche (Tereza), Lena Olin (Sabina), Derek de Lint (Franz)

I understand that the book this adaptation is based on was a critically-acclaimed bestseller, and perhaps one day I might read it, but this film is just a load of tits and bums, to be incredibly frank.

Set during the Prague Spring of 1968, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Tomas, a surgeon who embarks on  love affair with two women, one a bohemian free spirit with the same sexual appetites as him, and the other, a coy artist with a more conservative view of their relationship.

Their relationship is affected by a Soviet invasion, bringing about it the Warsaw Pact and communist oppression, which, quite disappointingly happens in the background, without really offering any knowledge for anyone who isn't read up on it.

Personally, I'd rather watch something on the same subject with more political mechanics, and if I wanted to watch three people fucking, I can always visit some adult websites... it's all quite pretty, and probably did as good a job it could with adapting a novel with such adult themes, but it glosses over the important stuff and still feels an hour too long.


D: M. Night Shyamalan
Buena Vista/Touchstone/Blinding Edge (M. Night Shyamalan, Barry Mendel & Sam Mercer)
US 2000
107 mins


W: M. Night Shyamalan
DP: Eduardo Serra
Ed: Dylan Tichenor
Mus: James Newton Howard

Bruce Willis (David Dunn), Samuel L. Jackson (Elijah Price), Robin Wright Penn (Audrey Dunn), Spencer Treat Clark (Joseph Dunn), Charlayne Woodard (Mrs. Price)

***Spoiler Warning***
Arguably M. Night Shyamalan's best follow up to The Sixth Sense was the one which immediately preceded it.
Unbreakable stars Bruce Willis as a man who is not only the sole survivor of a devastating train crash, but he managed to survive without a scratch on him. 
A passionate comic book collector claims to have the answers...
This is fundamentally a very brave attempt for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan to make a superhero movie more appealing to an audience who crave more "serious" work, and for the most part, it works. 
It does seem to fall between two stool though, with fans of the superhero genre not having any clue from the marketing trailer that this is a film for them, while those who aren't fans simply won't understand the references which are given a wink and a nod.
References to this film were made in the 2017 film Split (qv) before plans for a sequel to be released in early 2019.
"Survival. Resilience. Redemption."
"Survival. Resilience. Redemption."
D: Angelina Jolie
Universal/Legendary (Angelina Jolie, Matthew Baer, Erwin Stoff & Clayton Townsend)
US 2014
137 mins


W: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese & William Nicholson [based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand]
DP: Roger Deakins
Ed: Tim Squyres & William Goldenberg
Mus: Alexandre Desplat

Jack O'Connell (Louis Zamperini), Takahasa 'Miyavi' Ishihara (Mutsuhiro Watanabe), Domhnall Gleeson (Russell Phillips), Garrett Hedlund (LCDR John Fitzgerald), Finn Wittrock (Francis McNamara)

Unbroken is an amazing story that the film doesn't quite match the potential towards, perhaps due to its over-bloated length and some rather colour-by-numbers direction.
Angelina Jolie, with her second directorial effort, presents the story of Louis Zampereni, an Olympic athlete whose physical endurance, stamina and spirit was put to the ultimate limits in a Japanese POW camp during the Second World War.
The film opens with an unnecessarily non-linear narrative, in which an air battle during Zampereni's time in service is edited with his efforts in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. After the first act, the film develops a more standard linear narrative as the main character and his crew crash land in the Pacific Ocean & face near death as they spend 45 days drifting in a dinghy before eventually being captured by the enemy.
The remainder of the film follows a traditional linear path in which the captured men are starved, beaten and forced into a life of slave labour, all at the amusement of a sadistic Japanese officer (Takamasa Ishihara - the film's best performance).
Though Jack O'Connell gives a decent performance as a very passive character, he doesn't quite have enough charisma to do anything particularly memorable with the lead character. 
All the other aspects of the production values are good, particularly the cinematography, but there's something about it that seemed like it was released as potential Oscar-bait rather than bringing its sombre & poignant story to the big screen.

D: John Hughes
UIP/Universal (John Hughes & Tom Jacobson)
US 1989
100 mins


W: John Hughes
DP: Ralf D. Bode
Ed: Lou Lombardo, Tom Lombardo & Peck Prior
Mus: Ira Newborn

John Candy (Buck Russell), Jean Louisa Kelly (Tia Russell), Gaby Hoffman (Maizy Russell), Macauley Culkin (Miles Russell), Amy Madigan (Chanice Kobolowski), Laurie Metcalf (Marcie Dahlgren-Frost)

It would sound a little mean and rather unfair to say that John Candy is very well suited to the roles that require him to be slovenly, but the simple fact is that any other statement couldn't be farther from the truth.
Uncle Buck is a perfect example of one of these roles, a layabout slob who is reluctantly asked by his brother-in-law to babysit his kids so he and his wife can attend her hospitalised father in Indiana.
Like the majority of John Hughes films, this is aimed towards a younger audience, but there's still plenty of humour here for adults to enjoy, even though it does veer into rather forced sentimentality towards the end.
A short-lived television series aired a year later, also starring John Candy, but only ran for a season and wasn't particularly memorable.
D: Andrew Davis
Warner Bros. (Arnon Milchan, Steven Seagal & Steven Reuther)
US 1992
102 mins


W: J.F. Lawton
DP: Frank Tidy
Ed: Robert A. Ferretti
Mus: Gary Chang

Steven Seagal (Casey Ryback), Tommy Lee Jones (Bill Strannix), Gary Busey (Krill), Erika Eleniak (Jordan Tate), Colm Meaney (Daumer), Patrick O'Neal (Capt. Adams)

Probably the first action film to utilise the Die Hard formula of one man against an army of bad guys to good effect, taking place on an American battleship where Navy SEAL-turned-cook Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) takes on a team of terrorists who threaten to unleash the payload of weaponry unless they get their own way.
Of course, it's all far fetched nonsense with some rather wooden performances (Seagal and Eleniak mostly), but there's enough thrills and spills to keep it ticking over, while the energetic performances of the two bad guys (Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones) more than make up for the ropier performances.
D: Geoff Murphy
Warner Bros./Regency (Arnon Milchan, Steven Seagal & Steve Perry)
US 1995
99 mins


W: Richard Hatem & Matt Reeves
DP: Robbie Greenberg, Alexander Witt & Rick Bota
Ed: Michael Tronick
Mus: Basil Poledouris

Steven Seagal (Casey Ryback), Eric Bogosian (Travis Dane), Everett McGill (Marcus Penn), Katherine Heigl (Sarah Ryback), Morris Chestnut (Bobby Zachs)

1992's Under Siege was good fun, but not quite good enough to warrant a sequel. In fact, this isn't one, it just features the same character (although he's just a chef in this, having left the navy) in another fight against terrorists utilising the Die Hard formula which has since become incredibly stale. 
The location here is a high speed train, which the bad guys plan to use as a mobile military platform. It also throws in a niece character for some reason (Katharine Heigl), though she's given barely anything to do except sit down and look scared.
A lacklustre sequel which deserved to go completely under the radar.
D: Carine Adler
BFI/Channel 4/Strange Dog (Kate Ogborn)
UK 1997
82 mins


W: Carine Adler
DP: Barry Ackroyd
Ed: Ewa J. Lind
Mus: Ilona Sekacz

Samantha Morton (Iris Kelly), Claire Rushbrook (Rose Kelly), Rita Tushingham (Mum), Mark Womack (Frank), Matthew Delamere (Gary)

Samantha Morton, make her feature film debut at the age of 20, delivers an excellent performance in this small British independent film. 
Two sisters in Liverpool, both devastated following their mother's death from a brain rumour, react to the grief in very different ways. 
Rose, with silence and dignity, whilst Iris, the younger of the two, seeks comfort through promiscuous, casual sex.
Filmed on a minuscule budget with a cast of lesser-known British acting talent, Under The Skin is a bleak but powerful drama of grief, loss and the importance of family.

D: Jonathan Glazer
Studio Canal/BFI/Film 4 (James Wilson & Nick Wechsler)
UK/US/Switzerland 2013 (released 2014)
108 mins

Science Fiction/Horror

W: Walter Campbell & Jonathan Glazer [based on the novel by Michel Faber]
DP: Daniel Landin
Ed: Paul Watts
Mus: Mica Levi

Scarlett Johansson (The Female), Jeremy McWilliams (The Bad Man), Adam Pearson (The Deformed Man), Paul Brannigan (Andrew), Kryštof Hàdek (The Swimmer)

A featureless extra-terrestrial being, disguised as a beautiful woman, roams Scotland's streets on the prowl for men, luring them to their doom in the form of an oily endless abyss which assimilates them.
Jonathan Glazer's arthouse science fiction-horror can best be described as an experimental film, and though the visual style is both original and quite striking, the film is occasionally quite difficult to watch, dragging in places and the narrative seems a little disjointed towards the end of the second act.
Some of the documentary-style approach, featuring Scarlet Johansson driving the streets of Glasgow and picking up men who have no idea they're being filmed, is an interesting angle of filmmaking, and some of the surreal visuals make their mark, but ultimately, the story doesn't really go anywhere, ending on a bleak note.
It won't be appreciated by everyone, but worth watching for both Scarlet Johansson's performance and Scarlet Johansson's naked body. Mica Levi also deserves a mention for the fantastic music score which runs throughout.
Not to be confused with the 1997 film of the same name, which is something different entirely.

D: Adrian Lyne
20th Century Fox/Fox 2000/Regency (Adrian Lyne & G. Mac Brown)
US 2002
124 mins


W: Alvin Sargent & William Broyles, Jr. [based on the screenplay "La Femme Infidéle" by Claude Chabrol]
DP: Peter Biziou
Ed: Anne V. Coates
Mus: Jan A. P. Kaczmarek

Richard Gere (Edward Sumner), Diane Lane (Connie Summer), Olivier Martinez (Paul Martel), Erik Per Sullivan (Charlie Sumner), Zeljko Ivanek (Detective Dean), Dominic Chianese (Frank Wilson)

Unfaithful is a rather ordinary remake which features one excellent performance.
Based on La Femme Infidéle (The Unfaithful Wife), a French film by Claude Chabrol, this American update stars Diane Lane as the adulterous suburban housewife that the title alludes to, risking her marriage to a bookish businessman when she embarks upon a sexual affair with a visiting Frenchman.
Though Adrian Lyne directs with a good sense of style, the characters all seem underwritten here, with only Diane Lane acting above par. Effective enough, but rather unmemorable.
D: Clint Eastwood
Warner Bros./Malpaso (Clint Eastwood)
US 1992
131 mins


W: David Webb Peoples
DP: Jack N. Green
Ed: Joel Cox
Mus: Lennie Niehaus
PD: Henry Bumstead

Clint Eastwood (William Munny), Gene Hackman ("Little Bill" Daggett), Morgan Freeman (Ned Logan), Richard Harris(English Bob), Jaimz Woolvett (The Schofield Kid), Saul Rubinek (W. W. Beauchamp), Frances Fisher (Strawberry Alice), Anna Thomson (Delilah Fitzgerald)

It was a brave decision for Clint Eastwood to film this largely anti-violent western, particularly at a time when the genre was considered dormant,
Eastwood also plays the lead, William Munny, a former gunslinger turned pig-farmer who is approached by a young would-be gunfighter wanting to recruit him for a vengeance killing. The reward is offered by a group of prostitutes in the small town Big Whiskey, where the stern but reasonably pacifistic sheriff is reluctant to do any more than offer horses as condolence when a young prostitute has her looks disfigured by a drunk customer. 
Munny himself is also reluctant to take on the job, but with his children starving and his farm failing, has little choice, and so enlists the help of his former partner as they go on a manhunt for the guilty cowboy and his posse.
Though the story is mostly a sermon on the virtues of mercy, when the violence does come, it delivers in spades, particularly in its Mexican standoff climax.
The film was hugely successful, both critically and financially, as it shrugged off the clichés of the old style Western to take the genre in a brand new direction, stripping away the usual conventions seen in films past to show a harsher reality in polar opposite to some of the westerns from the genre's golden age (pre-1970).
It also won Best Picture at the Oscars, a double for Clint Eastwood as he also landed the Best Director award, as well as gongs for Gene Hackman (Best Supporting Actor) and Best Film Editing.
You probably do have to be a fan of the western genre to truly appreciate it, but even still, it's a spectacular viewing experience which will stay with you after the end credits roll.
"On September 11th, one of the darkest days in our history, 40 ordinary people sat down as strangers and stood up as one."
"On September 11th, one of the darkest days in our history, 40 ordinary people sat down as strangers and stood up as one."
UNITED 93 (15)
D: Paul Greengrass
Universal/Studio Canal/Working Title (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lloyd Levin & Paul Greengrass)
US/UK 2006
111 mins


W: Paul Greengrass
DP: Barry Ackroyd
Ed: Clare Douglas & Christopher Rouse
Mus: John Powell

Christian Clemenson (Tom Burnett), Cheyenne Jackson (Mark Bingham), David Alan Basche (Todd Bearner), Peter Hermann (Jeremy Glick), Daniel Sauli (Richard Guadagno)

United 93 is amongst the first films to deal with the subject of 9/11, but rather than focus on the act of terrorism, instead it honours the heroes of one of the darkest days in modern history.
Directed by Paul Greengrass in a semi-documentary style, using lesser-known actors as though not to detract from the actual events and done in a tasteful, unexploitative fashion, the film focuses on the passengers of Flight 93, a hijacked American Airlines commercial flight who unite together to overcome the four terrorists who have seized control.
Though the events on the plane are marginally fictionalised for dramatic purposes, the events on the ground are meticulously faithful to real events. 
It's a film which isn't designed for entertainment, but is hugely powerful all the same, but would still probably be best avoided by those who were truly affected by the real events and sneering YouTube conspiracy theorists.
"The future has a bad attitude."
"The future has a bad attitude."
D: Roland Emmerich
Guild/Carolco (Allen Shapiro, Craig Baumgarten & Joel B. Michaels)
US 1992
103 mins

Action/Science Fiction

W: Richard Rothstein, Christopher Leitch & Dean Devlin
DP: Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Ed: Michael J. Duthie
Mus: Christopher Franke

Jean Claude Van Damme (Luc Deveraux / GR44), Dolph Lundgren (Andrew Scott / GR13), Ally Walker (Veronica Roberts), Ed O'Ross (Col. Perry), Jerry Orbach (Dr. Christopher Gregor)

Two feuding soldiers who killed each other during the Vietnam War are resurrected as androids in the future, but they resurrect their rivalry when one of them malfunctions and his memory triggers his past memories and a killing spree ensues.
Reasonably successful at the time, mostly due to Jean Claude Van Damme's appeal during the early 1990's and the pairing of him with another big action man of the time, Dolph Lundgren. Watching nowadays, it fails to trigger any memories of nostalgia, but is reasonably entertaining as a bit of knockabout nonsense.
A glut of sequels followed, all much worse than this offering.
"Take back your life."
"Take back your life."
D: Jaume Collet-Serra
Studio Canal/Dark Castle/Panda/TFI (Joel Silver, Leonard Goldberg & Andrew Rona)                      
US/UK/France/Germany 2011
108 mins


W: Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwell [based on the novel "Out Of My Head" by Didier van Cauwelaert]
DP: Flavio Labiano
Ed: Tim Alverson
Mus: John Ottman & Alexander Rudd

Liam Neeson (Dr. Martin Harris), Diane Kruger (Gina), January Jones (Liz Harris), Aidan Quinn (Martin), Frank Langella (Prof. Rodney Cole), Bruno Ganz (Ernst Jürgen)


What starts as an intriguing and mysterious Hitchcock-esque thriller nosedives into Clichéville soon after the hour mark. Unknown advertised itself on The Bourne Identity meets Taken, as Liam Neeson's character awakens from a coma to discover that his identity has been taken by another man and his wife appears to be part of the conspiracy.  He forms an alliance with the cab driver (Diane Kruger) who was also involved in the car accident which put him into the coma.

It's actually a decent, nail-biting movie until 'the twist' when it emerges that Liam Neeson is actually a super assassin and that his entire identity was a lie and he develops a heart of gold, saves the day and gets the girl.

In short, this isn't too dissimilar from Total Recall, except without Mars, aliens and replacing an air McGuffin with some rubbish about harvesting corn.

Massively flawed, but worth watching for the performances of Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger and ex-Stasi private eye Bruno Ganz.

It must also be said that January Jones' performance is pathetically limp.

D: Jonathan Kaplan
20th Century Fox/Largo/JVC (Charles Gordon)
US 1992
111 mins


W: Lewis Colick [story by George D. Putnam, John Katchmer & Lewis Colick]
DP: Jamie Anderson
Ed: Curtiss Clayton
Mus: James Horner

Kurt Russell (Michael Carr), Ray Liotta (Pete Davis), Madeliene Stowe (Karen Carr), Roger E. Mosley (Roy Cole), Ken Lerner (Roger Graham), Deborah Offner (Penny)

One of several fill-in-the-black from hell thrillers which flooded the early 1990's. This time it's a psychopathic Los Angeles policeman who responds to a routine burglary at a suburban couple, overstaying his welcome when he develops lustful feelings for the wife.
Ray Liotta gives a menacing performance as the villain, while Kurt Russell also gives a good portrayal of a regular husband whose life comes apart at the seams. Unfortunately, Madeleine Stowe is given very little to do in her damsel-in-distress role except treat us all to a nude scene we really could have done without. 
The title makes it sound far more sinister than it actually is.
"Is She or Isn't She?"
"Is She or Isn't She?"


D: Steven Soderbergh

20th Century Fox/Bleeker Street/Regency (Joseph Malloch)

US 2018

98 mins


W: Jonathan Bernstein & James Greer

DP: Peter Andrews

Ed: Mary Ann Bernard

Mus: David Wilder Savage

Claire Foy (Sawyer Valentini), Joshua Leonard (David Strine), Jay Pharoah (Nate Hoffman), Juno Temple (Violet), Aimee Mullins (Ashley Brighterhouse), Amy Irving (Angela Valentini)

This psychological thriller from Steven Soderbergh is not without its flaws, but considering this was wholly filmed in 10 days using an iPhone app, it's a noble experimental effort from a very talented director.

Claire Foy plays Sawyer, a young woman who is convinced that she is still being stalked by a man who forced her to move to a different city. Following an appointment with a psychiatrist, Sawyer is involuntarily committed to a mental institution where a bigger nightmare unfolds.

Although the final act does descend into typical horror movie tropes and clichés, the build up is reasonably well done, toying with a conspiracy involving insurance which it doesn't quite follow up with and disappointed drops halfway through the proceedings.

Claire Foy is excellent in the main role, especially in the build up, where her sanity is convincingly ambiguous. 


"1,000,000 tons. 100,000 lives. 100 minutes."
"1,000,000 tons. 100,000 lives. 100 minutes."
D: Tony Scott
20th Century Fox/Dune/Scott Free/Prospect Park/Millbrook Farm (Tony Scott, Julie Yorn, Mimi Rogers, Eric McLeod & Alex Young)
US 2010
98 mins


W: Mark Bomback
DP: Ben Seresin
Ed: Chris Lebenzon & Robert Duffy
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams

Denzel Washington (Frank Barnes), Chris Pine (Will Colson), Rosario Dawson (Connie Hooper), Ethan Suplee (Dewey), Kevin Dunn (Oscar)

In the mid-80's, Jon Voight & Eric Roberts starred in a similar movie, simply called Runaway Train, which was a marginally better movie despite not being based on a true story.
The plot for Unstoppable could easily have quashed into an episode for a tv series or even a movie-of-the-week. They may not have got Denzel though, easily the best thing about this movie. It's all quite ridiculous and almost unbelievably that these events are based on a true story, but this is a world where stranger things have happened.
The moral of the story seems to be that; If you don't do your job properly on the railroad, you'll wind up working for McDonald's. 
Was it also necessary for the pathetically inappropriate Missy Elliott song (called "Work") in the closing credits?
The film may be unstoppable, but it certainly isn't unforgettable.

D: Tony Bill
MGM (Tony Bill & Helen Buck Bartlett)
US 1993
102 mins


W: Tom Siercho
DP: Jost Vacano
Ed: Mia Goldman
Mus: Cliff Eidelman

Christian Slater (Adam), Marisa Tomei (Caroline), Rosie Perez (Cindy), Kyle Secor (Howard), Willie Carson (Patsy)

A restaurant busboy with a terminal heart condition falls in love with a waitress in this mawkish love story, which is given a little weight by some credible performances.
Despite the good performances from its central couple, this is way too sentimental, portraying an idealistic relationship which simply doesn't happen in the real world. It will appeal to those who wish it did, and will make the rest of the audience sick, especially in its manipulative ending, which is about as subtle as poking your tear ducts with a very big stick.
D: Brian DePalma
Paramount (Art Linson)
US 1987
119 mins


W: David Mamet [based on the television series]
DP: Stephen Burum
Ed: Jerry Greenberg & Bill Pankow
Mus: Ennio Morricone
PD: Patrizia Von Brandenstein
Cos: Marilyn Vance

Kevin Costner (Eliot Ness), Sean Connery (James Malone), Charles Martin Smith (Oscar Wallace), Andy Garcia (George Stone), Robert DeNiro (Al Capone), Richard Bradford (Mike), Jack Kehoe (Walter Payne), Brad Sullivan (George), Billy Drago (Frank Nitti)

Based on a 1950's TV serial and written by David Mamet, The Untouchables gives a fictional account of FBI agent Eliot Ness putting together a hand-picked team of incorruptible lawmen to bring down Al Capone and his criminal empire.
Though it takes liberties with facts (in real life Capone & Ness never met) it presents a dramatic and thrilling recreation of events with some great performances from it's ensemble cast. Kevin Costner gives one of his best performances as Ness (before his career was virtually ruined after a string of poor choices), while Robert DeNiro is perfectly cast as Al Capone. Andy Garcia, Charles Martin Smith and an Oscar-winning turn from Sean Connery complete the elite team, and though Connery won all the plaudits for his portrayal as Irish cop Jimmy Malone, the film's unsung heroes are the production designers who perfectly captured 1930's Chicago & composer Ennio Morricone, delivering one of his most famous movie themes.
The film also pays tribute to cinema classic Battleship Potemkin and it's iconic Odessa Steps sequence with the nail-biting shootout at a train station, a scene which has often been parodied since the film's 1987 release.
UP (U)
D: Pete Docter
Disney/Pixar (Jonas Rivera)
US 2009
96 mins


W: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Thomas McCarthy
Mus: Michael Giacchino

voices of: Ed Asner (Carl Fredrickson), Christopher Plummer (Charles F. Muntz), Jordan Nagai (Russell), Bob Peterson (Dug), Pete Docter (Kevin)

Up could easily be judged on its opening scene alone, a quaint love story with minimalistic dialogue which proves the power of music in the movies as it allows Michael Giacchino's wonderful score to tell the tale in place of words. A couple meet in childhood, marry and grow old together, unable to have children, the wife passes in old age, leaving the husband alone, miserable and determined to travel to the places he promised to take his wife when she was still alive.
On the verge of losing his home due to a building project repossessing the land, our hero of the film launches enough helium balloons to allow his house to leave its foundations and take flight. He also has an unexpected companion in the form of a young Boy Scout who comes along for the ride as they journey to the mountains of Venezuela where they encounter an evil villain, talking dogs and a rare bird named Kevin.
Like the majority of Pixar's output, Up bridges the gap between youth and adulthood and brings another film able to appeal to both. In fact, like youth, it's probably wasted on the young, particularly with its tear-jerking opening which is amongst the most beautiful love stories ever dedicated to film.
Popular not just with audiences, critics adored it too, especially during the awards season, when the Oscars deemed it a Best Picture nominee. Only the second animated film to earn such an accolade.

"The story of a man ready to make a connection."
"The story of a man ready to make a connection."
D: Jason Reitman
Paramount/Montecito/Rickshaw (Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman & Daniel Dubiecki)
US 2009
109 mins


W: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner [based on the novel by Walter Kirn]
DP: Eric Steelberg
Ed: Dana E. Glauberman
Mus: Rolfe Kent

George Clooney (Ryan Bingham), Anna Kendrick (Natalie Keener), Vera Farmiga (Alex Goran), Jason Bateman (Craig Gregory)

Ryan Bingham's life is mostly spent living out of a suitcase, travelling across America from city to city where he makes his living firing people from their corporations. His life is suddenly turned upside down however when he has to train a new recruit, which sets in motion a chain of events which being a potential love interest into his life. He also begins to understand the cold futility of his life and realises he is also just as vulnerable as those he fires by proxy.
Up In The Air is easily amongst George Clooney's finest performance, dropping the Cary Grant act he usually takes on for something far more grounded. Anna Kendrick & Vera Farmiga are also fantastic in their supporting roles. 
Amongst the best films of 2009.

D: Jamie Blanks
Tristar/Phoenix/Original Film (Neal H. Moritz, Gina Matthews & Michael McDonnell)
US 1998
100 mins


W: Silvio Horta
DP: James Chressanthis
Ed: Jay Cassidy
Mus: Christopher Young

Jared Leto (Paul Gardner), Alicia Witt (Natalie Simon), Rebecca Gayheart (Brenda Bates), Joshua Jackson (Damon Brooks), Tara Reid (Sasha Thomas), Robert Englund (Prof. Wexler), John Neville (Dean Adams)

Urban Legend: a funny of frightening story or trinket of information passed from person-to-person as though true, usually purporting to involve someone vaguely known to the story-teller.
The Scream formula is virtually recycled for this slasher horror, which dissects urban legends rather than horror classics for its plot device.
It features some inventive death scenes, all with a wink and a nod to urban myths, but there's also some moments which are absolutely ridiculous along with some hugely unconvincing performances, some of which will most than likely make you roll your eyes back into your head and yawn. A sequel followed (Urban Legends: Final Cut).         


D: Mario Van Peebles

Saban/Hannibal (Michael Mendelsohn & Richard Riondo del Castro)

US 2016

128 mins


W: Cam Cannon & Richard Riondo del Castro

DP: Andrzej Sekula 

Ed: Robert A. Ferretti

Mus: Laurent Eyquem

Nicolas Cage (Capt. Charles Butler McVay), Tom Sizemore (Chief Petty Officer McWhorter), Thomas Jane (Lt. Wilbur 'Chuck' Gwinn), James Remar (Admiral Parnell)

Based on the true story of the USS Indianapolis, a cruiser tasked with the secret mission of delivering the atomic bomb which would be dropped on Hiroshima, only to be torpedoed by the Japanese, leaving the crew stranded in shark-infested waters.

This disaster film had potential, but filmed on a low budget and without any great flair, the overall result is nothing more than a TV movie of the week.

Director Mario Van Peebles fails to capture the period convincingly, the CGI is poor, the characters are lazily written and Nicolas Cage doesn't even try anymore.

The worst part is; for a film which involves both sharks and warfare, it fails to maintain any tension. Not quite as bad as Sharknado, but it would be easily forgivable to skip over it completely.


"Five criminals. One line up. No coincidence."
"Five criminals. One line up. No coincidence."
D: Bryan Singer
Gramercy/Polygram/Spelling/Blue Parrot/Bad Hat Harry (Bryan Singer & Michael McDonnell)
US 1995
96 mins


W: Christopher McQuarrie
DP: Newton Thomas Sigel
Ed: John Ottman
Mus: John Ottman

Gabriel Byrne (Dean Keaton), Kevin Spacey (Roger 'Verbal' Kint), Chazz Palminteri (Dave Kujan), Stephen Baldwin (Michael McManus), Benicio del Toro (Fred Fenster), Kevin Pollak (Todd Hockney), Pete Postlethwaite (Kobayashi), Suzy Amis (Edie Finneran), Dan Hedaya (Sgt. Rabin)

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

One of the more intelligent thrillers of contemporary cinema, Bryan Singer's crime masterpiece puts a unique spin on the whodunit genre thanks to the excellence of Christopher McQuarrie's Oscar-winning screenplay.
The movie opens with the interrogation of Roger 'Verbal' Kint (Kevin Spacey), telling detectives of how a simple identity lineup was arranged so five criminals could meet and participate in a series of crimes masterminded by notorious gangster Keyzer Soze. But who is Keyser Soze?
Once you've seen the movie once, it begs to be asked again, as the pieces of the puzzle fit in place, but if you've yet to watch it, don't read any more of this review.         
The cast ensemble are excellent and it's a real labour of love for debuting director Bryan Singer, every frame of action laced with stylish mystery. The true star is Kevin Spacey, with arguably his career best performance as the handicapped criminal who puts all the pieces of the puzzle together and ultimately delivers the final twist. 
Amongst the best films of the 1990's.