D: James McTeague
20th Century Fox/Virtual (Joel Silver, Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski & Grant Hill)
UK/US/Germany 2006
132 mins

Science Fiction/Thriller

W: Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachoswki [based on the comic book by David Lloyd & Alan Moore]
DP: Adrian Biddle
Ed: Martin Walsh
Mus: Dario Marianelli
PD: Owen Paterson
Cos: Sammy Sheldon

Natalie Portman (Evey Hammond), Hugo Weaving (V), Stephen Fry (Eric Finch), John Hurt (High Chancellor Adam Sutler), Stephen Rea (Gordon Dietrich)

Based on the graphic novel by David Lloyd and Alan Moore, V For Vendetta depicts an Orwellian future of Great Britain in 2020, a fascist dictatorship in which the government are the baddies and the hero comes in the form of a resistance fighter named V, whose features are constantly hidden by a Guy Fawkes mask.
As a slice of science fiction, this is perfectly enjoyable, though left-wing politics are wedged into the story as though this is all an indictment of Thatcher-era Britain. 
It's a Nineteen-Eighty-Four for a new generation which seemed to inspire rich left-wing students to dress up as Guy Fawkes every November and participate in a match on Parliament to campaign against consumerism. All captured on their iPhones, of course.
A good film, but a hugely subjective political message to influence the impressionable youth with.

"Many saw evil. They dared to stop it."
"Many saw evil. They dared to stop it."


D: Bryan Singer

20th Century Fox/MGM/United Artists/Bad Hat Harry (Bryan Singer, Christopher McQuarrie & Gilbert Adler)

US/Germany 2008

124 mins


W: Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander 

DP: Newton Thomas Sigel

Ed: John Ottman

Mus: John Ottman

Tom Cruise (Col. Claus Von Stauffenberg), Kenneth Branagh (Maj. Gen. Henning Von Tresckow), Bill Nighy (Gen. Friedrich Olbricht), Terence Stamp (Col. Gen. Ludwig Beck), Tom Wilkinson (Col. Gen. Friedrich Fromm), Carice Van Houten (Nina Von Stauffenberg)

It's a surprise that a film like Valkyrie did not get put into production in the 1960's, to cash in on classic war films like The Dirty Dozen and others of the same cloth. It would have seemed the perfect film for John Wayne to find himself grossly miscast in. Instead, we have Tom Cruise woefully miscast, but aside from this casting faux pas, Valkyrie is not such a bad film.

Historical liberties have clearly been taken in this biographical story about high ranking members of the Third Reich, who plan a mutinous assassination of Adolf Hitler. 

It's all quite obvious how it's going to end, but the film does still manage to have a good amount of thrills. It's just a shame it goes for the Hollywood blockbuster angle instead of going for something more substantial. 


"Love hate dreams life work play friendship sex"
"Love hate dreams life work play friendship sex"
D: Cameron Crowe
Paramount (Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner & Cameron Crowe)
US 2001
134 mins

Thriller/Science Fiction

W: Cameron Crowe [based on the screenplay "Abre Los Ojos" by Alejandro Amenábar & Matteo Gil]
DP: John Toll
Ed: Joe Hutshing & Mark Livolsi
Mus: Nancy Wilson
PD: Catherine Hardwicke
Cos: Betsy Heimann

Tom Cruise (David Aames), Penelope Cruz (Sofia Serrano), Cameron Diaz (Julie Gianni), Jason Lee (Brian Shelby), Kurt Russell (Dr. Curtis McCabe), Noah Taylor (Edmund Ventura)

A millionaire playboy's life unravels after he is involved in a car accident.
American remake of Abre Los Ojos (qv) which makes the story more bitesize for an audience who don't like watching foreign language films. 
There's plenty of remakes like this, where they're faithful enough to the original source without deviating much from what was previously done. The only real change is the spoken language.
The performances on show here are far weaker from the original Spanish film, curiously in the case of Penelope Cruz, reprising her role from the original. Cameron Crowe puts his own stamp on it, with a nod to his background in music journalism, but the film itself is completely unnecessary. Treat yourself to the 1997 film instead.
D: George Sluizer
Metro/Golden Egg Film/Ingrid/MGS (Anne Lordo & George Sluizer)
The Netherlands/France 1988
106 mins


W: Tim Krabbé [based on his novel "The Golden Egg"]
DP: Toni Kuhn
Ed: George Sluizer & Lin Friedman
Mus: Henry Vrienten

Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu (Raymond Lemorne), Gene Bervoets (Rex Hofman), Johanna Ter Steege (Saskia Wagter), Gwen Eckhaus (Lieneke)

The Netherlands' finest export of 1988. 
The story is about the obsessions of two men. One who wishes to commit the perfect murder and another who becomes obsessed with the disappearance of his girlfriend during a road trip. After a year of searching to no avail, he is contacted by her abductor on the anniversary of her vanishing without trace. He is offered a chance to solve the mystery, but only if he follows in the path which she took.
The Vanishing is a bleak, but nail-bitingly thrilling horror film with no redemption and a particularly sadistic villain. The ending is terrifyingly downbeat but this is what makes the film impossible to forget. 
Avoid the 1993 American version and give this a watch instead. Guaranteed to give you nightmares.

D: George Sluizer
20th Century Fox (Larry Brezner & Paul Schiff)
US 1993
110 mins


W: Todd Graff [based on the novel "The Golden Egg" by Tim Krabbé]
DP: Peter Suschitzky 
Ed: Bruce Green
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Jeff Bridges (Barney Cousins), Kiefer Sutherland (Jeff Harriman), Nancy Travis (Rita Baker), Sandra Bullock (Diane Shaver), Lisa Eichhorn (Helene Cousins)
Based on a 1988 Dutch thriller of the same name by the same director, this remake is in stark contrast to the original movie which was both disturbing, scary and sadistically realistic, this takes the original concept of a man possessed on finding the wearabouts of his missing girlfriend and just makes it laughable.
Jeff Bridges is a great actor, but his performance in this is absolutely terrible. Kiefer Sutherland & Sandra Bullock do okay, but Nancy Travis is also terrible and there was no real need for her character to exist at all, except to provide an out of place love interest that didn't exist in the original film.
One negative thing about Hollywood horror movies is that they always need to tack on a happy ending - completely unnecessary in this film and only serves to dilute the entire point of the original film.
If you want a good freak out, watch Spoorloos (The Vanishing) and allow this pathetic remake to disappear without trace.                         

"The World Has Enough Superheroes"
"The World Has Enough Superheroes"

VENOM (15)

D: Ruben Fleischer

Sony/Columbia/Marvel/Tencent (Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach & Amy Pascal)

US 2018

112 mins

Action/Adventure/Science Fiction

W: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg & Kelly Marcel [based on characters created by David Michelinie & Todd MacFarlane]

DP: Matthew Libatique

Ed: Maryann Brandon & Alan Baumgarten

Mus: Ludwig Göransson

Tom Hardy (Eddie Brock / Venom), Michelle Williams (Anne Weyling), Riz Ahmed (Carlton Drake / Riot), Scott Haze (Roland Treece), Reid Scott (Dr. Dan Lewis), Jenny Slate (Dr. Dora Skirth)

Box Office Poison it may not be, but a poor opening weekend will be hugely disappointing to the executives at Sony, who were probably expecting a big cocaine bonus before moving on to fucking over another franchise. As far as I'm concerned, it serves them right, since they don't really have any respect for the movies and only see it as a get rich quick scheme, demonstrated in the way they've remade movies which didn't need to be remade and their insistence on holding onto some rights to comic book characters just so Marvel can't have them.

For those unfamiliar with the Venom character, he appeared in 2007's Spider-Man 3 as an evil opposite to Peter Parker's superhero. In short, it's a symbiotic alien lifeform which integrates with its host and possesses superpowers such as strength, speed and biting people's heads off.

This origin story stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter with a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way, and when he asks the "wrong questions" to the unscrupulous head of a shady science company he is subsequently fired and dumped by his fiancé. Broke, desperate and alone, he investigates further and is attacked by the parasitic life-form and becomes the antihero of the title.

Though Tom Hardy does a good job with what he's given, Venom has many problems. The first being that the pacing of first half of the movie is so boring and dull by the time it gets to the good stuff you may be beyond caring. The script is nowhere near as dark as it could have been, and with films like Deadpool and Logan in comparison, it feels as though Sony were worried that this film would get an R-rating and therefore lose its ideal demographic audience. It also wastes so much time setting up a showdown with a bad guy at the expense of a potential twist which could have been a startling surprise in an otherwise film that plays it safe with all the usual comic book tropes and cliches.

The worst thing by far about the film however, are the CGI effects, which would have looked passable in 1997 but for a big budget movie with a 2018 release, you'll be forgiven for asking where all the money went... the answer is likely to be up Sony executives' nostrils.

For a film about a parasitic life form, it's more than fair to say that Venom needs Tom Hardy an awful lot more than Tom Hardy needs Venom.


"Frank Galvin has one last chance to do something right."
"Frank Galvin has one last chance to do something right."
D: Sidney Lumet
20th Century Fox (Richard D. Zanuck & David Brown)
US 1982
128 mins


W: David Mamet [based on the novel by Barry Reed]
DP: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Ed: Peter C. Frank
Mus: Johnny Mandel

Paul Newman (Frank Galvin), Charlotte Rampling (Laura Fischer), James Mason (Ed Concannon), Jack Warden (Mickey Morrissey), Milo O'Shea (Judge Hoyle), Lindsay Crouse (Kaitlin Costello Price)

Paul Newman delivers yet another great performance as an alcoholic, down-on-his-luck lawyer who takes on a medical malpractice case which he has little-to-no chance of winning, but feels he must to redeem his career. James Mason is equally great as the smarmy, cocksure defending lawyer in the impending lawsuit. 
This drama is more powerful in its scenes outside the courtroom rather than within, but none of the scenes disappoint, helped by an intelligent screenplay by David Mamet and handled diligently by director Sidney Lumet.

D: Alfred Hitchcock
Paramount (Alfred Hitchcock)
US 1958
128 mins


W: Alec Coppel & Samuel Taylor [based on the novel "D'entre les Morts" by Pierre Boileau & Thomas Narcejac]
DP: Robert Burks
Ed: George Tomasini
Mus: Bernard Herrmann
PD: Hal Pereira & Henry Bumstead
Cos: Edith Head

James Stewart (John Ferguson), Kim Novak (Madeleine Elster / Judy Barton), Barbara Bel Geddes (Midge), Tom Helmore (Gavin Elster)

Vertigo is a lot easier to watch than it is to explain, or indeed review, as it's certainly Alfred Hitchcock's most personal film, one in which the director conveys his desires and obsessions to his audience using the artistic medium of cinema. 
James Stewart stars as John "Scottie" Ferguson, a former San Francisco policeman who suffers from acrophobia. He accepts a job in which he follows a millionaire's wife, Madeleine (Novak) who he becomes increasingly obsessed with. This obsession completely encapsulates him, and he himself becomes lost in a labyrinthine plot of which there is no escape. 
That's all that can be said without giving away spoilers. Even so, it's a twisted suspense thriller which is best seen than read about. The film is rated incredibly highly amongst critics, especially the American Film Institute who praise it so highly that it has now usurped Citizen Kane as the Greatest American Film ever made. A bold claim which you really need to judge this for yourself. Still, it can't be denied that Alfred Hitchcock set a precedent with this film, just as he did with so many other works, utilising new cinematography techniques to create a new wave of suspense. 
"Killer eyes. Killer legs. Killer instincts."
"Killer eyes. Killer legs. Killer instincts."
D: Jeff Kanew
Warner Bros./Hollywood/Silver Screen Partners IV/Chestnut Hill (Jeffrey Lurie)
US 1991
89 mins


W: Edward Taylor, David Aaron Cohen & Nick Thiel [based on the novel "Indemnity Only" by Sara Peretsky]
DP: Jan Kiesser
Ed: C. Timothy O'Meara & Debra Neil
Mus: Randy Edelman

Kathleen Turner (V.I. Warshawski), Jay O. Sanders (Murray Ryerson), Charles Durning (Lt. Bobby Mallory), Angela Goethals (Kat Grafalk), Nancy Paul (Paige Grafalk)

A female private eye is hired to investigate the mysterious death of a businessman.
It brings a bit of novelty to have a female as the detective in this crime thriller, and Kathleen Turner does a good job in the lead. Unfortunately, the plot is as dull as dishwater. It probably would have come off better had it been broadcast as a 90-minute TV movie, as there's nothing particularly cinematic about it.
D: Brian Gilbert
Columbia (Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais)
US 1988
98 mins


W: Dick Clement & Ian LaFrenais [based on the novel "Vice Versa: A Lesson To Fathers" by F. Anstey]
DP: King Baggot
Ed: David Garfield
Mus: David Shire

Judge Reinhold (Marshall Seymour / Charlie Seymour), Fred Savage (Charlie Seymour / Marshall Seymour), Corinne Bohrer (Sam), Swoosie Kurtz (Lillian Brookmeyer), Jane Kaczmarek (Robyn Seymour)

One of several body-swap movies which burst unto cinema screens in the late 1980's. This one sees businessman Judge Reinhold and his precocious 11-year-old son switching bodies when they discover a magic skull.
The movie more or less plays out like an all-male version of Freaky Friday (qv), although the original source novel to this was written in the late 1800's and was previously made by Peter Ustinov in the 1940's.
There's a couple of decent moments and the two lead actors play their parts well, but in comparison to much better films such as Big (qv), it becomes all rather monotonous.
D: Woody Allen
MGM/Mediapro/The Weinstein Company (Letty Aronson, Gareth Wiley & Stephen Tenenbaum)
US/Spain 2008
96 mins


W: Woody Allen
DP: Javier Aguirresarobe 
Ed: Alisa Lepselter

Javier Bardem (Juan Antonio Gonzalo), Rebecca Hall (Vicky), Scarlett Johansson (Cristina), Penelope Cruz (Maria Elena), Patricia Clarkson (Judy Nash), Kevin Dunn (Mark Nash)

Javier Bardem plays El Douchebag, who wants to fuck Scarlet Johansson and Rebecca Hall at the same time (it's hard to envy him that) but the problem is that I found his character unbelievably slimy, the female characters were completely scatty & unlikeable and the story was incredibly pretentious.

Woody Allen movies can be very hit and miss with me. I enjoy the neurotic comedies (Annie Hall, Bullets Over Broadway) and don't mind some of his more self-indulgent movies (Midnight In Paris, The Purple Rose Of Cairo), but this ranks alongside his movies which I find grotesquely overrated (Hannah & Her Sisters, Mighty Aphrodite)

I know what Woody Allen is trying to say with these movies. He's trying to preach his bohemian-esque belief that it's okay to fuck whoever you want, including your adopted daughter. Creepy.

For big fans of the filmmaker only.


"History's Most Unlikely Friendship."
"History's Most Unlikely Friendship."


D: Stephen Frears

Universal/BBC/Working Title/Perfect World (Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Tracey Seaward & Beeban Kidron)

UK 2017

111 mins


W: Lee Hall [based on the book by Shrabani Basu]

DP: Danny Cohen

Ed: Melanie Ann Oliver

Mus: Thomas Newman

PD: Alan MacDonald

Cos: Consolata Boyle 

Judi Dench (Queen Victoria), Ali Fazal (Abdul Karim), Tim Piggott-Smith (Henry Ponsonby), Eddie Izzard (Bertie, Prince of Wales), Michael Gambon (Robert Gascoyne-Cecil), Olivia Williams (Jane Spencer)

Twenty years after Oscar-nominated Mrs. Brown, Judi Dench reprises her role as Queen Victoria for this historical fantasia which is pretty much the same thing.

Set during the final years of Victoria's reign and based on real events, the queen develops a relationship with Abdul Karim, a Muslim Indian servant who was initially invited to Britain only to make a presentation to her majesty. 

The film ticks so many politically correct boxes, it's not a surprise at all that it was produced by the BBC, and with much of the story being presented in a non-serious way it's difficult to assess how much was actually true. Still, the performances are superb, especially from the two leads, Dame Judi Dench didn't quite nab an Oscar nomination for the performance this time around, though the film was recognised for costumes and makeup.


"First it control your mind. Then it destroys your body."
"First it control your mind. Then it destroys your body."
D: David Cronenberg
Filmplan International (Claude Héroux)
Canada 1983
89 mins


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

James Woods (Max Renn); Sonja Smits (Bianca O'Blivion); Deborah Harry (Nicki Brand); Peter Dvorsky (Harlan); Les Carlson (Barry Convex); Jack Creley (Prof. Brian O'Bliviion)

David Cronenberg's movies often follow themes of disease, addiction and obsession and Videodrome is right up there with The Fly (qv) as examples of the director's better works. 

James Woods plays a sleazy cable TV executive whose network screens pornography, sexually perverse and controversial material. He stumbles across a pirated signal of Videodrome, a sadomasochistic snuff film channel and becomes addicted, not realising that it is brainwashing him.

Cronenberg's movie is very much a commentary on how media drives us and despite certain aspects of the movie being quite dated, the moral is still quite relevant. One thing that hasn't dated however, is Rick Baker's amazing special effects and makeup. Considering this movie is over 30 years old, the visuals are absolutely brilliant.

It's a surreal, disturbing and just plain weird sci-fi/horror, twisting fiction with reality, but it's a brilliant piece of filmmaking.


D: John Glen
MGM-United Artists/Eon (Albert R. Broccoli)
UK 1985
121 mins


W: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson [based on the story "From A View To A Kill" by Ian Fleming]
DP: Alan Hume
Ed: Peter Davies
Mus: John Barry

Roger Moore (James Bond), Christopher Walken (Max Zorin), Grace Jones (May Day), Tanya Roberts (Stacey Sutton), Patrick Macnee (Sir Godfrey Tibbett), David Yip (Chuck Lee), Fiona Fullerton (Pola Ivanova)

Aside from (probably) the best ever Bond theme (by Duran Duran), everything else about A View To A Kill is rather bland and unmemorable. 
It's the usual formula of car chases, expensive stunts and visual effects as 007 takes on a ruthless international businessman, this time in the form of Christopher Walken, before a big action finale atop the Golden Gate Bridge.
It saw Roger Moore's final performance as the British agent, before the character was passed to Timothy Dalton for the next film (The Living Daylights).

D: Richard Fleischer
United Artists/KD (Jerry Bresler)
US 1958
116 mins


W: Calder Willingham & Dale Wasserman [based on the novel "The Viking" by Edison Marshall]
DP: Jack Cardiff
Ed: Elmo Williams
Mus: Mario Nascimbene
PD: Harper Goff

Kirk Douglas (Einar), Tony Curtis (Eric), Ernest Borgnine (Ragnar Lodbrok), Janet Leigh (Morgana), Alexander Knox (Father Godwin), Orson Welles (narrator)

Though released in 1958, The Vikings is at least a decade ahead of its time in respect of style, cinematography, location shooting and all-round production values.
Kirk Douglas plays a Viking prince and Tony Curtis a slave, both of whom fight for the love of a beautiful woman as well as the throne.
A timeless sword and sandals adventure that should rightly fit into any public holiday viewing schedule.

"Earth is in for a shock."
"Earth is in for a shock."
VIRUS (18)
D: John Bruno
Universal/Mutual/Dark Horse/Valhalla (Gale Anne Hurd)
US 1999
100 mins

Science Fiction

W: Chuck Pfarrer & Dennis Feldman
DP: David Eggby
Ed: Scott Smith
Mus: Joel McNeely

Jamie Lee Curtis (Kit Foster), William Baldwin (Steve Baker), Donald Sutherland (Capt. Robert Everton), Joanna Pacula (Nadia Vinogradova), Marshall Bell (J.W. Woods, Jr.)

Derivative, cliche-ridden, formula-driven, simple-minded sci-fi dross, all at sea, where the crew of a salvage ship intercept an extra-terrestrial signal which considers the human race a virus which needs to be eradicated.
It's about what you'd expect from a director whose previous film experience is as a visual effect supervisor. There's nothing original or surprising here. It would probably be more fun to actually download malware to your home computer.

"The coast is toast."
"The coast is toast."
D: Mick Jackson
20th Century Fox (Neal H. Moritz & Andrew Z. Davis)
US 1997
102 mins


W: Jerome Armstrong & Billy Ray
DP: Theo van de Sande
Ed: Michael Tronick & Don Brochu
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Tommy Lee Jones (Mike Roark), Anne Heche (Amy Barnes), Gaby Hoffman (Kelly Roark), Don Cheadle (Emmit Reese), Jacqueline Kim (Jaye Calder), Keith David (Lt. Ed Fox)

A tunnel excavation beneath Los Angeles awakens a dormant volcano to erupt, causing the destruction of the city.
Released the same year as Dante's Peak (qv), this is the doppelgänger movie which is rock 'n' roll to its twin's classical music.
The laws of physics are of course thrown aside in order for special effects to tell the story, and there's an unintentionally laughable moment when a fireman throws a member of the public to safety as he melts into a sea of lava. 
A brainless disaster.
"Why did 600 Allied prisoners hate the man they called Von Ryan more than they hated Hitler?"
"Why did 600 Allied prisoners hate the man they called Von Ryan more than they hated Hitler?"
D: Mark Robson
20th Century Fox (Saul David)
US 1965
117 mins


W: Wendell Mayes & Joseph Landon [based on the novel by Davis Westheimer]
DP: William H. Daniels & Harold Lipstein
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Frank Sinatra (Col. Joseph Ryan), Trevor Howard (Maj. Eric Fincham), Sergio Fantoni (Capt. Oriani), Brad Dexter (Sgt. Bostick), John Leyton (Lt. Orde), James Brolin (Pvt. Ames)

***spoiler warning***
During World War II, an unpopular American captain leads English prisoners from an Italian POW camp and making a daring escape via a train.
Not quite a classic of The Great Escape (qv) proportions, but entertaining enough. The slow build-up is forgiven when the exhilarating, nail-biting finale kicks in, though the depressing final moment feels like a real kick in the teeth.