"A comedy about truth, justice and other special effects."
"A comedy about truth, justice and other special effects."
D: Barry Levinson
New Line/Tribeca/Baltimore/Punch (Jane Rosenthal, Robert DeNiro & Barry Levinson)
US 1997
97 mins


W: Hilary Henkin & David Mamet [based on the novel "American Hero" by Larry Beinhart]
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Stu Linder
Mus: Mark Knopfler

Dustin Hoffman (Stanley Motss), Robert DeNiro (Conrad Brean), Anne Heche (Winifred Ames), Woody Harrelson, Denis Leary, Willie Nelson, Andrea Martin, Kirsten Dunst, William H. Macy

With a presidential election looming, a White House spin doctor enlists the help of a Hollywood director to fabricate a war and deflect attention away from a sexual scandal involving the president.
This intelligent satire on politics never delves deep enough to lose its audience but instead captivating them with a scene-stealing performance from Dustin a Hoffman and a genius screenplay from David Mamet and Hilary Henken, which any other year would have won an Oscar (it lost out to L.A. Confidential).
A must watch for conspiracy theorists.
D: Henri Georges-Clouzot
Filmsonor/CICC/Vera  (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
France/Italy 1953
140 mins


W: Henri-Georges Clouzot [based on the novel by George Arnaud]
DP: Armand Thirard
Ed: Henri Rust, Madeliene Gug & Etienette Muse
Mus: Georges Auric

Yves Montand (Mario), Charles Vanel (Jo), Vera Clouzot (Linda), Folco Lucci (Luigi), Peter Van Eyck (Bimba), William Tubbs (Bill O'Brien), Dario Moreno (Hernandez), Jo Dest (Smerloff)

Classic multilingual adventure with most of the dialogue in Spanish, French & Italian, with the odd sentence or two in English.

The first hour drags a little, building character and suspense for what lies ahead.

The story concerns a group of Europeans in a small South American village, unemployed after building works ceased. With no money to return home, they accept a job transporting a cargo of nitroglycerin across a trecherous mountain route where hazards impede their progress at every turn, with some genuine, nail-biting moments of tension.

Director Henri-Georges Clouzet has often been referred to as the French Alfred Hitchcock. I've only seen two of his movies (this and Les Diaboliques) but on that evidence alone I can understand why.

Remade in 1977 as Sorceror, the remake isn't anywhere near as powerful as this masterpiece of world cinema.

D: Terence Young
Warner/Seven Arts (Mel Ferrer)
US 1967
108 mins


W: Robert Howard-Carrington & Jane Howard-Carrington [based on the play by Frederick Knott]
DP: Charles Lang
Ed: Gene Milford
Mus: Henry Mancini

Audrey Hepburn (Susy Hendrix), Alan Arkin (Harry Roat), Richard Crenna (Mike Talman), Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Sam Hendrix), Jack Weston (Carlino)

Audrey Hepburn delivers yet another fantastic acting performance as a blind wife whose house is broken into by a trio of thieves in search for a doll filled with smuggled narcotics.
Based on a stage play, it does partially show, in the respect that the vast majority of the story taking place in a sole location in which the tension, suspense and claustrophobia builds and builds. A hugely effective cat-and-mouse thriller with a great cast of performances.
D: Richard Linklater
20th Century Fox/IFC/Thousand Words/Line Research/Detour (Anne Walker-McBay, Tommy Pallotta, Palmer a West & Jonah Smith)
US 2001
100 mins


W: Richard Linklater
Mus: Glover Hill & Tosca Tango

Wiley Wiggins, Trevor Jack Brooks, Lorelei Linklater, Glover Gill, Lara Hicks, Ames Asbell, Leigh Mahoney, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Weird animated feature which uses rotoscope techniques and is pretty much a host of characters having philosophical discussions about what dreams are.

It's either going to be your thing or it isn't. I personally found it all rather pretentious.

"Every dream begins with a single step."
"Every dream begins with a single step."
D: Robert Zemeckis
Tristar (Steve Starkey, Tom Rothman, Jack Rapke & Robert Zemeckis)
US 2015
123 mins


W: Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne [based on the book "To Reach The Clouds" by Philippe Petit]
DP: Dariusz Wolski
Ed: Jeremiah O'Driscoll
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Philippe Petit), Charlotte Le Bon (Annie Allix), James Badge Dale (Jean-Pierre), Clément Sibony (Jean-Louis), Ben Kingsley (Papa Rudy)

The story of Philippe Petit's daring (and illegal) tightrope walk between the North and South Tower's of the World Trade Centre was tackled previously in the 2008 documentary Man On Wire (qv). This is a dramatisation of the same events.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the French daredevil, narrating his story from his perch atop the Statue of Liberty as the Twin Towers fill the backdrop. 
From a struggling street entertainer in Paris, Petit becomes inspired to perform the stunt when he sees the article of the world's (then) tallest building in a newspaper. 
The film focuses on his preparation, both in the skills of tightrope walking and assembling a team who help him make the illegal set-up a possibility.
There's a lot of filler before the film reaches its potential, and the scenes involving the walk itself are full of gripping drama, even though it's clear that this nerves-of-steel feat has a happy ending.
Probably not a good film to watch if you suffer from vertigo, as the swirling camerawork and visual effects do make it feel as though you're perched on top of the world.
A curious choice for director Robert Zemeckis, but he does a splendid job with the recreation, even though the majority of the film does feel like a love letter to a famous landmark which sadly doesn't exist anymore, while the biggest gripe is that the French accents of the American cast sound like something more suited to Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

"People are afraid of all the wrong things."
"People are afraid of all the wrong things."
D: Scott Frank
Universal/Cross Creek/Exclusive Media/Endgame/Jersey Films (Michael Shamberg, Danny DeVito, Stacey Sher, Brian Oliver & Tobin Armbrust)
US 2014
114 mins


W: Scott Frank [based on the novel by Lawrence Block]
DP: Mihai Malamaire, Jr.
Ed: Jill Savitt
Mus: Carlos Rafael Rivera

Liam Neeson (Matthew Scudder), Dan Stevens (Kenny Kristo), Boyd Holbrook (Peter Kristo), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Jonas Loogan)

Based on the novel by Lawrence Block, this modern noir stars Liam Neeson as a former policeman with a dark past. Now a private investigator, he takes on a case to discover the whereabouts of a drug dealer's wife and uncovers a series of kidnappings masterminded by an array of dangerous characters.
Liam Neeson pretty much plays the same character which he did in Taken (qv), which isn't a blight on his skills as an actor, but it would be refreshing to see him play a different role for a chance. The casting of the other actors is questionable, particularly Dan Stevens, who seems very miscast as a drug dealer.
The style of the film is very dark in tone, with good photography, atmospheric music and good editing, it's just a shame that the plot wasn't more original, or even more memorable. A good watch, but far too easily forgettable.

"Love is a burning thing."
"Love is a burning thing."
D: James Mangold
20th Century Fox (Cathy Konrad & James Keach)
US/Germany 2005
136 mins


W: Gill Dennis & James Mangold
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Michael McCusker
Mus: T-Bone Burnett
PD: David J. Bomba
Cos: Arianne Phillips

Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash), Reese Witherspoon (June Carter), Ginnifer Goodwin (Vivian Cash), Robert Patrick (Ray Cash), Dallas Roberts (Sam Phillips), Dan John Miller (Luther Perkins), Tyler Hilton (Elvis Presley), Waylon Malloy Payne (Jerry Lee Lewis)

Reese Witherspoon won a Best Actress Oscar and any other year, Joaquin Phoenix may well her joined her as the Best Actor winner for this biopic on Johnny Cash, following his early career and their tumultuous love affair.

Like most Hollywood biopics, it waters down the life of a mercurial character and seems to miss a great deal out, but it manages to capture a good bulk of the real life events, beginning with his fractured relationship with his father and his failings as the lead of a gospel band to his breakthrough and legendary gig at Folsom Prison, while the performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter make it riveting viewing with a practical masterclass in on-screen chemistry. The singing is pretty great too.

D: Andrew Stanton
Disney/Pixar (Jim Morris)
US 2008
95 mins


W: Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon
Mus: Thomas Newman

voices of: Ben Burtt (WALL-E), Elissa Knight (EVE), Jeff Garlin (Capt. McCrea), Fred Willard (Shelby Forthright), John Ratzenberger (John), Kathy Najimy (Mary), Sigourney Weaver (Axiom)

The last surviving robot craves companionship following the abandonment of Earth a couple of centuries earlier. He finally meets his match when a botanical android named Eve comes to investigate the remains of the planet.
A very sweet animated movie from animation giant Pixar, with a neat homage to ET, Short Circuit & 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's unsure whether the message is meant to be take care of your planet or take care of your body, but a nice family movie nevertheless which manages to come across particularly well in the scenes with very little dialogue.
Amongst Pixar's very best.
"Every dream has a price."
"Every dream has a price."
D: Oliver Stone
20th Century Fox/American Entertainment (Edward R. Pressman & A. Kitman Ho)
US 1987
124 mins


W: Stanley Weiser & Oliver Stone
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: Claire Simpson
Mus: Stewart Copeland

Michael Douglas (Gordon Gekko), Charlie Sheen (Bud Fox), Martin Sheen (Carl Fox), Daryl Hannah (Darien Taylor), Terence Stamp (Sir Larry Wildman), Sean Young (Kate Gekko)

An ambitious financial broker is torn between family and money after he becomes the young protégé of a successful, but morally abhorrent Wall Street banker.

One of the better Yuppie-culture films of the late 80's. Michael Douglas delivers the performance of his career as ruthless arbiter Gordon Gecko (think of an evil Jerry Maguire). Charlie Sheen is also very good, but Daryl Hannah's performance is rather poor. 

Director Oliver Stone doesn't shirk with his documentary-esque portrayal of life in the big city, though, aside from Michael Douglas' iconic performance, the film itself isn't quite memorable enough to be considered amongst the filmmaker's best works.

D: Oliver Stone
20th Century Fox (Edward R. Pressman & Eric Kopeloff)
US 2010
133 mins


W: Allan Loeb & Stephen Schiff [based on characters created by Stanley Weiser & Oliver Stone]
DP: Rodrigo Prieto
Ed: David Brenner & Julie Monroe
Mus: Craig Armstrong

Shia LaBeouf (Jake Moore), Michael Douglas (Gordon Gekko), Josh Brolin (Bretton James), Carey Mulligan (Winnie Gekko), Susan Sarandon (Sylvia Moore)

Less a sequel, more a remake, with Michael Douglas one again reprising the role of corrupt Wall Street banker, Gordon Gekko and Shia LaBeouf steps into the shoes vacated by Charlie Sheen. The only other difference is the volume of currency, adjusted by inflation. Like the first film, Douglas' enigmatically calculating performance makes it watchable, but there's little else to write home about.

D: Steve Box & Nick Park
UIP/Aardman (David Sproxton, Carla Shelley, Nick Park, Peter Lord & Claire Jennings)
UK/US 2005
85 mins


W: Nick Park, Bob Baker, Steve Box & Mike Burton
Mus: Julian Nott

voices of: Peter Sallis (Wallace), Ralph Fiennes (Lord Victor Quartermaine), Helena Bonham-Carter (Lady Campanula Tottington), Peter Kay (PC Albert Mackintosh), Nicholas Smith (Rev. Clement Hedges)

Wallace & Gromit get their first feature length outing, where the hapless inventor and his dog attempt to create a machine to protect their allotments from rabbits, but inadvertently create a monstrous, mechanical mega-bunny with an unstoppable appetite.
Technically, this is every bit as good as what creator Nick Park achieved with his short films, but the story feels fit for only 30 minutes and eked out to 85. Still, this isn't particularly bothersome and the final result is a good family film with plenty of good jokes and telling references. The voice actors are all cast to perfection.
D: Timur Bekmambetov 
Universal (Marc Platt, Jim Lemley, Jason Netter & Iain Smith)
US 2008
110 mins


W: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas & Chris Morgan
DP: Mitchell Amundsen
Ed: David Brenner
Mus: Danny Elfman

James McAvoy (Wesley Gibson), Angelina Jolie (Fox), Morgan Freeman (Sloan), Terence Stamp (Pekwarsky), Thomas Kretschmann (Cross), Common (Earl Spellman)

Surely summer blockbusters haven't become so bad that this excuse for action entertainment passes for one? If so, Hollywood needs to stop counting their pennies and really start putting some effort in, rather than regurgitating and recycling stuff from other movies with an added dash of nonsense...  This Matrix-meets-Fight Club clone sees a white collar bureaucrat with a meaningless and pointless life on a quest for the truth of his existence, the truth being that he is destined to be a member of a secret fraternity of assassins that has existed since the dawn of mankind... James McAvoy annoyingly screams through the first 45 minutes while Angelina Jolie struts around like a whore...  The action scenes expect us to completely ignore the rules of physics.  Even disengaging the brain it's all a little bit insulting, the biggest caketake of all being that the fraternity's chosen targets are deciphered from a 'loom of fate', after initial hesitancy our 'hero' actually starts to enjoy killing people simply because a mystical sewing machine needs to keep the universe in perfect balance, regardless of the questionable innocence or guilt of those who need to be offed in order to keep the scales in tick...

This movie rather unashamedly and irresponsibly glamourises gun violence! It's little wonder gun crime has rocketed on the world's street when youthful, impressionable teens have this for entertainment to inspire them.  Even attempts at comedy seemed like they were missing a sitcom style laughter track, particularly during a scene where an ATM calls our hero an asshole!  If the Hollywood barrel has to steal jokes from Stephen King's awful 'Maximum Overdrive', we really are in a dire state of affairs.

Two requests: #1. Mr Morgan Freeman, please fire your agent post haste! #2. Timur Bekmambetov, please do not direct another film as long as you live!

"Hustling their way to the American dream."
"Hustling their way to the American dream."


D: Todd Phillips

Warner Bros/Joint Effort (Mark Gordon, Todd Phillips & Bradley Cooper)

US 2016

114 mins


W: Stephen Chin, Jason Smilovic & Todd Phillips [based on the article "Arms & The Dudes" by Guy Lawson]

DP: Lawrence Sher

Ed: Jeff Groth

Mus: Cliff Martinez

Miles Teller (David Packouz), Jonah Hill (Efraim Diveroli), Bradley Cooper (Henry Girard), Kevin Pollak (Ralph Slutzky), Ana de Armas (Liz), Shaun Toub (Marlboro)

The Wolf Of Wall Street meets Lord Of War for this fact-based satire following the story of two young entrepreneurs who tried to turn a profit selling weapons to the US armed forces stationed in Iraq, cutting corners, exploiting loopholes and even bending the law to their own means in their quest for more dollars.

Based on an article published in Rolling Stones magazine, the film does seem tailored especially for its leading double act of Miles Tiller and Jonah Hill, both of whom deliver good performances. 

A good watch, but it lacks any real fireworks.



D: Matt Reeves

20th Century Fox/TSG (Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver)

US 2017

140 mins

Science Fiction/Action

W: Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves [based on characters created by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver]

DP: Michael Seresin

Ed: William Hoy & Stan Salfas

Mus: Michael Giacchino

Andy Serkis (Caesar), Woody Harrelson (The Colonel), Steve Zahn (Bad Ape), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), Ty Olsson (Red), Amiah Miller (Nova)

The third film of Planet Of The Apes prequel series, following Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes ties events even closer to the original 1968 movie (or the 2001 remake, if you wish).

War between ape and man has raged on for years, and the last human survivors hunt for Caesar, the leader of his tribe, who would much rather have peace, but not at the expense of his species. 

Woody Harrelson plays a psychotic army Colonel who locates the tribe and imprisons them in a concentration camp, where their slave labour assists with the building of a huge wall which is planned to keep out a human contingent which the Colonel fears are against him and his plans.

The plot has rather unsubtle parallels with real events from the Second World War which don't work as well as they could, but the film does manage to stay both entertaining and enjoyable, helped with amazing visual effects which are even better than the two preceding films. 

Though it's a motion capture performance, Andy Serkis truly does a brilliant job in the lead performance, and you'd be forgiven in thinking that it was a real chimpanzee delivering such realistic work.


D: John Badham
MGM-United Artists/Sherwood (Harold Schneider)
US 1983
113 mins


W: Lawrence Lasker & Walter F. Parkes
DP: William A. Fraker
Ed: Tom Rolf
Mus: Arthur P. Rubinstein
PD: Angelo Graham

Matthew Broderick (David Lightman), Ally Sheedy (Jennifer Mack), Dabney Coleman (John McKittrick), John Wood (Dr. Stephen Falken), Barry Corbin (Gen. Jack Beringer)

Computer technology has come a long way in the last 30 years so many aspects of this film are terribly dated, though the threat of nuclear war still remains incredibly real and that's where this movie excels as a cyber-thriller.
Matthew Broderick made his breakthrough performance as geeky high school student David Lightman, who hacks into what he believes is a games company so he can investigate their new range. Completely unaware he has actually hacked into the US government's military programme, he begins a virtual game of Global Thermonuclear War which is treated as a very realistic threat from the (then) USSR.
Released when Cold War paranoia was very much still a chilling subject War Games was the first film to deal with computer hacking and the first to introduce jargon which we've since become very familiar with (modem, etc).
It's a huge shame that this film has suffered through age, it's still quite enjoyable despite its archaic software, though may now be considered a Commodore 64 or Spectrum 48k in an age of Apple Mac's and Smartphones. 
"The game isn't over."
"The game isn't over."
D: Stuart Gillard
MGM (Irene Litinsky)
US 2007
95 mins


W: Randall Badat
DP: Bruce Chun
Ed: Robin Russell
Mus: John Van Tongeren

Matt Lanter (Will Farmer), Amanda Walsh (Annie D'Mateo), Nicholas Wright (Dennis Nichols), Colm Feore (T. Kenneth Hassert)

A teenager completes a virtually impossible computer game and becomes a target for government assassination.

A rather pointless sequel to a film which didn't need one. Filmed mostly in Canada with a next-to-nothing budget and snatching plotlines from the Stargate: Universe pilot & Bourne movies. Still, it could have been much worse... With any bigger a budget the casting of the lead role could have gone to Ashton Kutcher!

Definitely one to ignore.

"Separated by war. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship."
"Separated by war. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship."
D: Steven Spielberg 
Touchstone/Dreamworks/Amblin (Steven Spielberg & Kathleen Kennedy)
US 2011
146 mins


W: Lee Hall & Richard Curtis [based on the play by Nick Stafford; novel by Michael Morpurgo]
DP: Janusz Kaminski
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Rick Carter

Jeremy Irvine (Albert Narracott), Emily Watson (Rose Narracott), Tom Hiddlestone (Capt. James Nicholls) Benedict Cumberbatch (Maj. Jamie Stewart), David Thewlis (Lyons), Peter Mullan (Ted Narracott)

A young man follows his beloved stallion into the battlegrounds and trenches of the First World War, where it becomes an inspiration to Allied soldiers.
The meticulous amount of craft involved in adapting this stage play to the bud screen makes it a wonder to behold, but vast parts of this 146-minute drama are far too meandering. Technically excellent, but perhaps one has to see the stage play to enjoy the film more.

"Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie."
"Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie."
D: Danny DeVito
20th Century Fox/Gracie Films (James L. Brooks & Arnon Milchan)
US 1989
116 mins


W: Michael Leeson [based on the novel by Warren Adler]
DP: Stephen H. Burum
Ed: Lynzee Klingman 
Mus: David Newman

Michael Douglas (Oliver Rose), Kathleen Turner (Barbara Rose), Danny DeVito (Gavin D'Amato), Marianne Sagebrecht (Susan), Sean Astin (Josh Rose)

Raucous black comedy starring Michael Douglas & Kathleen Turner as a bitter married couple who practically fight to the death over who keeps the house in their impending divorce.
The two lead stars are both excellent, and several moments are absolutely hilarious, but you'd really need to be in the mood for its general mean-spiritedness. 
"The original invasion!"
"The original invasion!"
D: Byron Haskin
Paramount (George Pal)
US 1953
85 mins

Science Fiction

W: Barre Lyndon [based on the novel by H. G. Wells]
DP: George Barnes
Ed: Everett Douglas
Mus: Leith Stevens

Gene Barry (Dr. Clayton Forrester), Ann Robinson (Sylvia van Buren), Les Tremayne (Gen. Mann), Robert Cornthwaite (Dr. Pryor), Sandro Giglio (Dr. Bilderbeck), Cedric Hardwicke (narrator)

Fifteen years after Orson Welles terrorised the airwaves with his narration of H. G. Wells' prose, the classic science fiction novel earned its first big screen appearance. 
It's quite a low-key approach to the material, focusing solely on a Martian invasion of the American mid-west. Alas, it's all a budget could afford at the time of release. Technically dated now, the film has the feel of an old-style 1950's B-movie, with a build up of tension better than most.
"They're already here."
"They're already here."
D: Steven Spielberg
Paramount/Dreamworks (Kathleen Kennedy & Colin Wilson)
US 2005
116 mins

Science Fiction

W: Josh Friedman & David Koepp [based on the novel by H. G. Wells]
DP: Janusz Kaminski 
Ed: Michael Kahn
Mus: John Williams
PD: Rick Carter

Tom Cruise (Ray Ferrier), Dakota Fanning (Rachel Ferrier), Miranda Otto (Mary Ann Ferrier), Justin Chatwin (Robbie Ferrier), Tim Robbins (Harlan Ogilvy), Morgan Freeman (narrator)

Technically advanced, but narratively inferior remake of H. G. Wells' classic, particularly in the final third where the plotholes are simply too big to ignore.
Tom Cruise, miscast as an everyday man, stops at nothing to protect his children when a Martian attack sees huge tripods rise from beneath the surface of the Earth, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake and causing a wave of public panic just as hazardous.
The first half of the film actually does an excellent job in building up tension, helped with state of the art visual effects and an excellent use of sound editing. Unfortunately this all falls apart shortly after the hour mark, when our main protagonist and his young daughter seek refuge in an abandoned house where another survivor (Tim Robbins) has gone stir crazy. Mankind's "victory" over the invaders also seems like a copout, but nothing is more insulting than some characters seeming to rise from the dead. 
Considering this is a Steven Spielberg film, it really ought to have been better.
D: Duncan Jones
Universal/Legendary/Atlas (Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Alex Gartner & Stuart Fenegen)
US 2016
123 mins


W: Charles Leavitt & Duncan Jones [based on the Warcraft video game series created by Blizzard Entertainment]
DP: Simon Duggan
Ed: Paul Hirsch
Mus: Ramin Djawadi

Travis Fimmel (Anduin Lothar), Paula Patton (Garona Halforcen), Ben Foster (Medivh), Dominic Cooper (King Llane Wrynn), Toby Kebbell (Durotan), Ben Schnetzer (Khadgar)

A war rages between humans and orcs in this fantasy adventure hokum based on an immensely popular video game.
Unfortunately, from the film's point of view, if you don't play the game or have any real knowledge of it, the film is practically impossible to keep track of due to the excessive amount of characters and a lack of narrative coherence.
The visual effects and production design looked good, but not good enough to justify the running time.
I'm sure fans of the video game will appreciate it, but it just wasn't for me. 

"He's come from the past to destroy the future."
"He's come from the past to destroy the future."
D: Steve Miner
Medusa/New World (Steve Miner)
US 1989
102 mins


W: David Twohy
DP: David Eggby
Ed: David Finfer
Mus: Jerry Goldsmith

Julian Sands (Warlock), Richard E. Grant (Giles Redferne), Lori Singer (Kassandra), Kevin O'Brien (Chas), Mary Woronov (Channeler)

Cheesy 80's nonsense starring Julian Sands as a 17th century warlock who timetravels to the 20th century leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. Richard E. Grant also stars as a witch hunter who must put his mischief to a stop.
It's one of those films which worked well in the 1980's but has dated very poorly. It's not terrible, it isn't particularly good either, but the performances keep it fun. It's just the story that lacks magic.
A sequel was released straight to video in 1993.

"There's nothing hotter than a girl with brains."
"There's nothing hotter than a girl with brains."
D: Jonathan Levine
Lions Gate/Summit (David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman & Bruna Papandrea)
US 2013
97 mins


W: Jonathan Levine [based on the novel by Isaac Marion]
DP: Javier Aguirresarobe 
Ed: Nancy Richardson
Mus: Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders

Nicholas Hoult (R), Teresa Palmer (Julie Grigio), Rob Corddry (M), Dave Franco (Perry Kelvin), Analeigh Tipton (Nora), Cory Hardrict (Kevin), John Malkovich (Col. Grigio)

A unique twist on the zombie genre which recently has become rather stale with most movies simply opting to copy the formula George Romero laid down with his Night Of The Living Dead movies.

This movie is told from a zombie point of view and instead of depicting people turning into zombies, it had zombies turning into people.  Nicholas Hoult plays one of the undead who still has emotions and thoughts he struggles to express, he can't even remember his own name, only that it begins with an R, and all he craves is companionship.  On a routine flesh hunt, he kidnaps Julie and takes her back to his home (an aeroplane filled with clutter) where he begins to feel again and starts to remember what it's like to be human.

The movie completely tears up the rule book on what a zombie actually is, but I can forgive this transgression because it works very well. There's many references to Romeo & Juliet as well which are clever in parts but a little TOO obvious in others.

Nicholas Hoult does a good job as R but more inpressive is Teresa Palmer as Julie, a role which could easily have gone to zombie Kristen Stewart, which would have made this movie truly ghastly.

"Family is worth fighting for."
"Family is worth fighting for."
D: Gavin O'Connor
Lions Gate/Mimran Schur (Gavin O'Connor & Greg O'Connor)
US 2011
134 mins


W: Gavin O'Connor, Anthony Tambakis & Cliff Dorfman
DP: Masanobu Takayanagi
Ed: John Gilroy, Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse & Aaron Marshall
Mus: Mark Isham

Tom Hardy (Tommy Riordan), Joel Edgerton (Brendan Conlon), Jennifer Morrison (Tess Conlon), Frank Grillo (Frank Campana), Nick Nolte (Paddy Conlon), Kevin Dunn (Joe Zito)

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a sport which has increased hugely in popularity over the decade building up to 2011, and Warrior does a fantastic job in capturing why the sport has become so popular.

Meatier than recent great fighting films like The Wrestler & The Fighter, it showcases brains, brawn and heart as well as tremendous performances, especially from Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton & Nick Nolte. 

The story is a rather simple one, with two men from different sides of the tracks participating in a ultimate fighting tournament, both for very different reasons. One is a brute of a man, whose key strategy is to simply beat all and sundry, whilst the other has a more technical approach, utilising skills from a variety of martial art styles.

Tom Hardy's is easily the most interesting character in the film, a storm of rage with a rock-hard shell, though morally good on the very inside. It's a strange performance, as it's quite difficult to sympathise with his character during the film's opening act, but he made a good ying to Joel Edgerton's yang, and as the climax approaches, it's virtually impossible to choose a side. 

This isn't a black mark against the film though, it's a fantastic sports drama which wrestles every single emotion into submission. 

"These are the armies of the night."
"These are the armies of the night."
D: Walter Hill
Paramount (Lawrence Gordon)
US 1979
94 mins


W: David Shaber & Walter Hill [based on the novel by Sol Yurick]
DP: Andrew Laszlo
Ed: David Holden, Freeman Davies, Billy Weber & Susan Morse
Mus: Barry de Vorzon
Cos: Bobbie Mannix

Michael Beck (Swan), James Remar (Ajax), Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Mercy), Brian Tyler (Snow), David Harris (Cochise), Tom McKitterick (Cowboy)

Stylish and seminal cult favourite exploitation film. Opening with an iconic credit sequence accompanied by a guitar-shredding music theme from Barry de Vorzon.
Adapted from Sol Yurick's novel, the story sees various groups of gangs from New York City and bordering areas rally, where one of the gang leader's is hoping for unity, but is murdered during his address.
A gang from Coney Island, nicknamed The Warriors, find themselves blamed for the murder and try to find their way back across the city to their solace by the sea.
A gangland version of American Graffiti, with each separate gang wearing a costume that has its own bit of personality. Hugely theatrical, with occasional moments of crime and violence, but the principal focus is on style rather than bloodshed.
Director Walter Hill's next film was Southern Comfort (qv), a variation on the same idea, relocated to the swamps of Louisiana.

"Got protection?"
"Got protection?"
D: Akiva Schaffer
20th Century Fox/21 Laps (Shawn Levy)
US 2012
102 mins


W: Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen & Jaded Stern
DP: Barry Peterson
Ed: Dean Zimmerman
Mus: Christophe Beck

Ben Stiller (Evan Trautwig), Vince Vaughn (Bob McAllister), Jonah Hill (Franklin), Richard Ayoade (Jamarcus), Rosemarie DeWitt (Abby Trautwig)

Hollywood tries to do a buddy-buddy vehicle in the style of Shaun Of The Dead / Hot Fuzz, unfortunately it isn't that good.
Ben Stiller & Vince Vaughn play their usual characters, who form a neighbourhood watch unit and discover their town is overrun with aliens.
It's all puerile and lowbrow dick and fart jokes, but it's still better than Attack The Block.

D: Zack Snyder
Paramount/Warner Bros/Legendary (Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin & Deborah Snyder)
US 2009
162 mins (extended version: 186 mins)


W: David Hayter & Alex Tse [based on the graphic novels by Dave Gibbons & Alan Moore]
DP: Larry Fong
Ed: William Hoy
Mus: Tyler Bates

Malin Åkerman (Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II), Billy Crudup (Jon Osterman / Dr. Manhattan), Matthew Goode (Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias), Carla Gugino (Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre), Jackie Earle Haley (Walter Kovacs / Rorschach), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Edward Blake / The Comedian), Patrick Wilson (Daniel Dreiberg / Nite Owl II)

The majority of comic book movies manage to appeal to a wide audience demographic whether they've read the original source or not. Watchmen goes against the grain, so it's almost imperative to have read, or at least be familiar with, the original graphic novels before watching, since the narrative is much heavier than others which share the sub-genre.
Set in an alternative 1985, the days of superheroes is over, and a masked vigilante named Rorschach investigates the murder of a former colleague, uncovering a deep-rooted scandal that could even spell destruction of the superhero and the rest of his kind.
Though the visuals are faithful to the original source, this is very much style over substance, with a meandering, convoluted narrative with too many characters to possibly keep track of if you're not savvy.
It will have its legion of fans, who'll hold it dearly as the best of all the comic book adaptations, but for everyone else this will be far from satisfying.
The theatrical cut, at 162 minutes, may make a few people balk at its running time, which is perfectly sufficient. The extended version of 186 minutes is best left for the fans. A 215 minute version (the ultimate cut) of the same movie is simply ridiculous.

D: Neal Jimenez & Michael Steinberg
Goldwyn/No Frills (Gale Anne Hurd)
US 1992
107 mins


W: Neal Jimenez
DP: Mark Plummer
Ed: Jeff Freeman
Mus: Michael Convertino

Eric Stoltz (Joel Garcia), Wesley Snipes (Raymond Hill), William Forsythe (Bloss), Helen Hunt (Anna)

Three paraplegics come to terms with their conditions and their hostilities towards each other while rehabilitating in a hospital.         
A gentle drama which focuses on the strength of friendship during a period of adjustment, well acted by the ensemble and it's handled tastefully by director-writer Neal Jimenez.
Similar themes were tackled much better in 1978's Coming Home (qv), which also made criticism of the Vietnam War and its effects, although this works just fine for the early 1990's.
D: Martin Rosen
Nepenthe (Martin Rosen)
UK 1978
92 mins


W: Martin Rosen [based on the novel by Richard Adams]
Mus: Angela Morley

voices of: John Hurt (Hazel), Richard Briers (Fiver), Ralph Richardson (Chief Rabbit), Zero Mostel (Kehaar), Roy Kinnear (Pipkin), Denholm Elliott (Cowslip), John Bennett (Holly)

Richard Adams fabled novel gets a rather flat animated treatment here, one in which the songs featuring on the soundtrack are far more memorable than the film itself. 
The story follows a group of rabbits searching for a new home after their previous habitat is destroyed, a parable for the apocalypse rejigged as an animal kingdom adventure.
The film slightly falls between two stools of being too much for young children to grasp understanding of, whilst the rudimentary animation just doesn't quite cut it for adults. Good enough for its time, but dated incredibly poorly.
"Beyond the horizon lies a secret to a new beginning."
"Beyond the horizon lies a secret to a new beginning."
D: Kevin Reynolds
UIP/Universal (Charles Gordon, John Davis & Kevin Costner)
US 1995
135 mins

Action/Adventure/Science Fiction

W: Peter Rader & David Twohy
DP: Dean Semler
Ed: Peter Boyle 
Mus: James Newton Howard
PD: Dennis Gassner

Kevin Costner (The Mariner), Dennis Hopper (The Deacon), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Helen), Tina Majorino (Enola), Michael Jeter (Old Gregor)

A.K.A. Fishtar. 
At the time of release, Waterworld was the most expensive film ever produced and for the most part, it shows, especially in the production design. 
Hampered by a difficult shoot which delayed it's release, this movie built suspense and promise which it simply didn't deliver. 
The story wasn't atrociously bad as an eco-friendly sci-fi adventure. A similar theme used in movies like Cocoon & Star Trek IV, but Waterworld falls apart and just seems like an exercise in profligacy. It's the performances which are terrible, from Kevin Costner's moody fishman, Dennis Hopper's OTT pirate villain to a horrible juvenile performance from Tina Majorino. Jeanne Tripplehorn appears as the love interest, but has no character or chemistry whatsoever.
This movie isn't quite the flop that it's often heralded as, it did in fact make it's budget back at the box office. However, I still think it's a huge waste of money on something which really wasn't very good.

"Stop on by and give afterlife a try."
"Stop on by and give afterlife a try."
D: Anthony Hickox
Vestron/Palla/Filmrullen (Staffen Ahrenberg)             
US 1988
96 mins


W: Anthony Hickox
DP: Gerry Lively
Ed: Christopher Cibelli
Mus: Roger Bellon
PD: Gianni Quaranta

Zach Galligan, Deborah Freeman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Miles O'Keeffe, Charles McCaughan, J. Kenneth Campbell, John Rhys-Davies, Patrick Macnee, David Warner

A group of students visit a waxworks exhibit inside a creepy old house, where the exhibitions seem to come to life.

Cheesy 1980's remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum. It's more a camp homage to monster movies than anything else. It's crap, but fun, and better than 2005's House Of Wax, at least in a cheesy 80's way. 

A much poorer sequel followed in 1991 (Waxwork II: Lost In Time).



D: James W. Horne

MGM/Hal Roach (Stan Laurel)

US 1937

66 mins


W: Jack Jevne, Charles Rogers, James Parrott & Felix Adler

DP: Art Lloyd & Walter Lundin

Ed: Bert Jordan

Mus: Marvin Hatley

Stan Laurel (Stan), Oliver Hardy (Oliver), James Finlayson (Mickey Finn), Sharon Lynne (Lola Marcel), Rosina Lawrence (Mary Roberts)

Quite possibly Laurel & Hardy's most well known feature, starring the hapless duo as their usual selves, travelling to the small town of Brushwood Gulch to deliver a gold mine deed to a young woman, only to fall foul of an unscrupulous bar owner and his gold digging wife.

The film features two of Laurel & Hardy's better known musical routines and the slapstick humour is brilliantly timed.

Worth watching, even if you're not a huge fan of the comedy partners.


"The escape was just the beginning."
"The escape was just the beginning."


D: Peter Weir

Newmarket/National Geographic/Spitfire/Imagenation Abu Dhabi (Peter Weir, Joni Levin, Duncan Henderson, Nigel Sinclair & Scott Rudin)

US/Poland/UAE 2010

133 mins


W: Peter Weir & Keith Clarke [based on the book "The Long Walk" by Sławomir Rawicz]

DP: Russell Boyd

Ed: Lee Smith

Mus: Burkhard Dallwitz

Jim Sturgess (Janusz Wieszczek), Ed Harris (Mr. Smith), Colin Farrell (Valka), Saoirse Ronan (Irena Zielinska), Dragos Bucur (Zoran)

The Way Back is a breathtaking survivalist tale, inspired by the true events detailed in Slawomir Rawicz's book 'The Long Walk', where a group of Polish and Russian refugees escaped from a Siberian POW camp and embarked on a 4,000 mile walk to freedom in India.

Some of the story has been given the Hollywood treatment, but it is mostly kept low-key and brutally realistic by Peter Weir's direction.

One tiny gripe is that the film opens with captions stating that the film details the true story of three men who survived the journey, which takes away some of the tension as their plight becomes more and more desperate.

The film received a sole Oscar nomination (for makeup), and arguably deserved a lot more recognition.

Not to be confused with "The Way Way Back" (see below)


D: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Fox Searchlight/Oddlot (Tom Rice & Kevin J. Walsh)
US 2013
103 mins


W: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
DP: John Bailey
Ed: Tatiana S. Riegel
Mus: Rob Simonsen

Liam James (Duncan), Steve Carell (Trent), Toni Collette (Pam), Allison Janney (Betty), Sam Rockwell (Owen), Maya Rudolph (Caitlin), Rob Corddry (Kipp), Amanda Peet (Joan)

This is quite easily the feelgood movie of 2013.

Duncan, a shy teenage boy, goes on summer holiday with his mother (Toni Colette) and her complete dick of a boyfriend (Steve Carell).  

In the small summer town, there isn't much to do and Duncan gets a job at the local water park, unbeknownst to his mum, and strikes up a rewarding friendship with the park's extroverted manager (a scene-stealing Sam Rockwell).

Originally, the movie was intended to be set in the 1980's, but budgetary constraints forced the filmmakers to change it to present day.  The story still has a nostalgic force behind it, with reminiscing memories of a favourite holiday, a first crush and a job you loved doing.

All the performances are fantastic, especially Sam Rockwell, who delivers a vibrant, zesty performance as Owen, possibly my favourite supporting character of 2013.  Those expecting the Steve Carell from Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, et al, may be disappointed with his performance in this. He's a complete tool.

The title refers to the (hidden) seat at the rear of the car, where Duncan often finds himself during journeys.

Do yourself a favour and give this movie a watch on a day when you're feeling down.

"You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl."
"You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll hurl."
D: Penelope Spheeris
Paramount/NBC (Lorne Michaels)
US 1992
95 mins


W: Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner & Terry Turner
DP: Theo van de Sande 
Ed: Malcolm Campbell
Mus: J. Peter Robinson

Mike Myers (Wayne Campbell), Dana Carvey (Garth Algar), Rob Lowe (Benjamin Oliver), Tia Carrere (Cassandra Wong), Lara Flynn Boyle (Stacy)

Based on characters developed for a Saturday Night Live sketch about two slackers who run a ramshackle cable TV show from their basement. 
The film was a massive hit in 1992, shortly after Bill & Ted films made their bow.  The appeal is really quite limited to an MTV audience and possibly Generation X-ers.
Despite Mike Myers career taking off as a result of the success of this movie it hasn't dated very well, simply because it's very much a product of its time.
D: Stephen Surjik
Paramount/NBC (Lorne Michaels)
US 1993
95 mins


W: Mike Myers, Bonnie Turner & Terry Turner
DP: Francis Kenny
Ed: Malcolm Campbell
Mus: Carter Burwell

Mike Myers (Wayne Campbell), Dana Carvey (Garth Algar), Christopher Walken (Bobby Cahn), Tia Carrere (Cassandra Wong), Ralph Brown (Del Preston), Kim Basinger (Honey Hornée)

A sequel which has surprisingly dated much better than the original film. The formula is much the same, but the success of the first film allowed a greater pull of guest stars, meaning for better jokes and cameos.
In a dream, a cable TV show host is convinced by Jim Morrison (of The Doors) to organise an ultimate rock concert called Waynestock, thus raising money to save his failing TV programme.
The story is quite basic and a few a jokes are rather immature and puerile, but it's still a slight improvement on the first film. Mike Myers went on to have a successful career, unfortunately Dana Carvey didn't share the same fate.


D: Lynne Ramsay

BBC/UK Film Council (Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg & Bob Salerno)

UK/US 2011

112 mins


W: Lynne Ramsay & Rory Stewart Kinnear [based on the novel by Lionel Shriver]

DP: Seamus McGarvey

Ed: Joe Bini

Mus: Jonny Greenwood

Tilda Swinton (Eva Khatchadourian), John C. Reilly (Franklin Plaskett), Ezra Miller (Kevin Khatchadourian), Ashley Gerasimovich (Celia Khatchadourian)

Lynne Ramsay employs a non-linear approach to this domestic psychological thriller, adapted from Lionel Shriver's novel about a mother's relationship with her son, whose behaviour becomes more and more unusual until he commits a crime which literally tear the family apart.

Tilda Swinton is excellent in the principal role as the mother Eva Khatchadourian, whilst Ezra Miller has a brilliantly malevolent presence as the troubled title character.

The filmmaking style won't be for everyone's palate, but it's still a worthwhile watch for those who like something a little different from the norm.


"Bring an umbrella."
"Bring an umbrella."
D: Gore Verbinski
Paramount/Escape Artists (Todd Black, Steve Tisch & Jason Blumenthal)
US/Germany 2005
101 mins


W: Steven Conrad
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Craig Wood
Mus: Hans Zimmer

Nicolas Cage (Dave Spritz(el)), Michael Caine (Robert Spritzel) Hope Davis (Noreen Spritzel), Gil Bellows (Don Bowden), Gemmenne de la Pena (Shelly Spritzel), Nicholas Hoult (Mike Spritzel)

Like the weather itself, The Weather Man can't seem to make up it's mind what it wants to be. Comedy? Drama? Black Comedy? A mix of all three?... Perhaps it's the wrong choice of director that leaves this film without a true identity.
Nicolas Cage plays a depression-angst weather man whose personal life has fallen apart, his ex-wife is remarrying, his teenage son has a drug problem and his young daughter is overweight. Even the relationship he has with his father is in peril after the latter discovers he has lymphoma.             

The most enjoyable moments come in the scenes Cage shares with Michael Caine, but aside from this it's all a bit of a mess. Cage tries to balance his role between morose and self-effacing, but his character is hugely pathetic for much of the running time. Overall, the forecast is rather gloomy.

"Trapped in a prison of the future. Betrayed by a woman of his past. Frank Warren is wired to explode."
"Trapped in a prison of the future. Betrayed by a woman of his past. Frank Warren is wired to explode."
D: Lewis Teague
Spectacor (Branko Lustig)
US 1991
98 mins

Action/Crime/Science Fiction

W: Broderick Miller
DP: Dietrich Lohmann
Ed: Carl Kress
Mus: Richard Gibbs

Rutger Hauer (Frank Warren), Mimi Rogers (Tracy Riggs), Joan Chen (Noelle), James Remar (Sam)

Borrowing a heavy piece of plotting from 1987's The Running Man, Rutger Hauer stars as a convict who is paired with another in a high-tech prison where the incarcerated wear neck collars which will explode if the two are separated by more than 100 years. After discovering his partner, they go on the run so he can locate the loot he buried before his arrest.
This futuristic spin on The Defiant Ones (qv) is reasonably entertaining for a meagre budget TV movie, making good use of a plot device which was rather underused in a previous film. The underlying moral that 'it's okay to steal as long as you can get away with it' could have used a bit of tuning.

"Bernie Lomax would be the perfect host except for one small thing... He's dead."
"Bernie Lomax would be the perfect host except for one small thing... He's dead."
D: Ted Kotcheff
20th Century Fox/Gladden (Victor Drai)
US 1989
99 mins


W: Robert Klane
DP: François Protat
Ed: Joan E. Chapman
Mus: Andy Summers

Andrew McCarthy (Larry Wilson), Jonathan Silverman (Richard Parker), Catherine Mary Stewart (Gwen Saunders), Terry Kiser (Bernie Lomax), Don Calfa (Paulie), Catherine Parks (Tina)

Two yuppie executives visit their bosses beach house and discover his murdered body. Fearing they will be blamed, they pretend that he is still alive and organise a party.
This stupid black farce is something which could only have been acceptable in the 1980's, with a level of Ferris Bueller-like cheese, it's moderately enjoyable and did quite well financially. This doesn't change the fact that it's still quite terrible.
"Bernie's back... And he's still dead."
"Bernie's back... And he's still dead."
D: Robert Klane
Warner Bros. (Victor Drai)
US 1993
97 mins


W: Robert Klane
DP: Edward Morey III
Ed: Peck Prior
Mus: Peter Wolf

Andrew McCarthy (Larry Wilson), Jonathan Silverman (Richard Parker), Terry Kiser (Bernie Lomax), Troy Beyer (Claudia), Barry Bostwick (Arthur Hummel)

Andrew McCarthy & Jonathan Silverman reprise their roles as two geeky executives whose boss has risen from the dead via a voodoo curse which only seems to work whenever calypso music is playing.
The first film was no classic, but made enough money for producers to think a sequel was merited, even though nobody else did. It's practically inevitable that it would be a terrible cash-in. 
"If you can't get a date, make one!"
"If you can't get a date, make one!"
D: John Hughes
Universal (Joel Silver)
US 1985
94 mins

Comedy/Science Fiction/Fantasy

W: John Hughes
DP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Ed: Mark Warner, Chris Lebenzon & Scott Wallace
Mus: Ira Newborn

Anthony Michael Hall (Gary), Ilan Mitchell-Smith (Wyatt), Kelly LeBrock (Lisa), Bill Paxton (Chet), Robert Downey, Jr. (Ian)

John Hughes films perfectly captured 1980's cheese in a non-offensive way with the majority of his films and the same goes for Weird Science, a cult favourite in which two nerdy high school students design the perfect woman on a computer and they suddenly become popular on campus.
The film has plenty of flaws if you wish to pull it apart, including some rather tacky special effects and a script that is beyond ludicrous. Still, it's hugely enjoyable for what it is, though modern audiences probably won't enjoy it the way nostalgic eyes will.
The plot became the basis for a TV sitcom which aired in the 1990's.


D: Robert Zemeckis

Universal/Dreamworks/Perfect World/Imagemovers (Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey & Jack Rapke)

USA 2018

116 mins


W: Caroline Thompson & Robert Zemeckis

DP: C. Kim Miles

Ed: Jeremiah O'Driscoll

Mus: Alan Silvestri

Steve Carell (Mark Hogancamp), Leslie Mann (Nicol), Merritt Weaver (Roberta), Diane Kruger (Deja Thoris), Janelle Monae (Julie)

Welcome To Marwen received some harsh criticism upon its release, and while it isn't a great film, it's something which I would consider as a noble failure. Mostly because it takes serious subject matter and presents it in an inventive way, and Robert Zemeckis has never been a colour-by-numbers director, frequently directing with a novel approach to material.

That being said, this is still (probably) Zemeckis' weakest film, taking its basis from a documentary called Marwencol (also called Village of the Dolls in the U.K.) and the true story of Mark Hogancamp, an artist who suffered great mental trauma following an assault, leaving him without memory and unable to continue his desired profession. However, he overcame this by creating a model village of a Belgian town during wartime, using dolls as representations of himself & people in his life, which he would photograph for exhibition.

The film juxtaposes his real-life struggles with the fantasy element which takes place in the WWII town. and from a technical point of view, the film is incredibly well made. Unfortunately, it's thematically where the film struggles. As a drama it's far too goofy, as a comedy it's too serious, as a fantasy it's too grounded, and as a wartime adventure it's too depressing... and the plot is pretty much Steve Carell playing with dolls. Still, I'm quite forgiving since it did make me think about it a while after the end credits rolled, and was quite a difficult film to review due to this.

Personally, I'd much rather see a brave attempt from a famous director and a big studio than a play-it-safe movie aimed at the lowest common denomination of moviegoer.


"This time staying awake won't save you."
"This time staying awake won't save you."
D: Wes Craven
New Line (Marianne Maddalena)
US 1994
112 mins


W: Wes Craven
DP: Mark Irwin
Ed: Patrick Lussier
Mus: J. Peter Robinson

Heather Langenkamp (herself / Nancy Thompson), Robert Englund (himself / Freddy Krueger), Miko Hughes (Dylan Porter), John Saxon (himself / Donald Thompson), Wes Craven (himself)

The worst of the Nightmare On Elm Street films, trying and failing to balance between satire and horror, with actors playing themselves, including director Wes Craven who explains that the only way to stop Freddy Krueger manifesting himself in the real world is to make yet another movie in which to kill him off for good. 
There were no more sequels to the horror series after this, so some might say that it worked.
D: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins
Mirisch/Seven Arts (Robert Wise)
US 1961
155 mins


W: Ernest Lehman [based on the play by Arthur Laurents, inspired by "Romeo & Juliet" by William Shakespeare]
DP: Daniel L. Fapp
Ed: Thomas Stanford
Mus: Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim
PD: Boris Leven
Cos: Irene Sharaff

Natalie Wood (Maria), Richard Beymer (Tony), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), Rita Moreno (Anita), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Simon Oakland (Lt. Schrank), Bill Bramley (Officer Krupke), Tucker Smith (Ice)

Amongst the all-time great big screen musicals, inspired by Romeo & Juliet and relocated to New York's Hell's Kitchen where two rival gangs, The Jets and The Sharks, are involved in a turf war. 
A tragic love story develops between Maria and Tony, but it's arguably the supporting performances that are far more interesting, particularly from George Chakiris as Bernardo and Rita Moreno as Anita.
Everything about the production is meticulously crafted by director Robert Wise, including the electrifying choreography by Jerome Robbins, who shared directorial credit.
It helps if you're a fan of musicals, but even if you aren't, there should be enough here to entertain.
"Where nothing can possibly go worng..."
"Where nothing can possibly go worng..."
D: Michael Crichton
MGM (Paul N. Lazarus)
US 1973
89 mins

Adventure/Science Fiction/Western

W: Michael Crichton
DP: Gene Polito 
Ed: David Bretherton 
Mus: Fred Karlin
PD: Herman Blumenthal

Richard Benjamin (Peter Martin), James Brolin (John Blane), Yul Brynner (The Gunslinger), Alan Oppenheimer (Chief Supervisor), Dick Van Patten (The Banker)

Written and directed by Michael Crichton and clearly a huge inspiration for his most famous work, Jurassic Park. 
Set inside a theme park where guests can recreate the past, including the Wild West, a robot cowboy malfunctions and relentlessly pursues two of the visitors.
Fine entertainment, even four decades later, with Yul Brynner delivering a brilliantly menacing performance as the out of control android. Unfortunately for Michael Crichton, he dated the story himself by taking the exact same formula and going one step further with his 1990 novel (Jurassic Park).
"Bob's a special kind of friend. The kind that drives you crazy."
"Bob's a special kind of friend. The kind that drives you crazy."
D: Frank Oz
Warner/Touchstone/Touchwood (Laura Ziskin)
US 1991
99 mins


W: Tom Schulman
DP: Michael Ballhaus
Ed: Anne V. Coates
Mus: Miles Goodman

Bill Murray (Bob Wiley), Richard Dreyfuss (Dr. Leo Marvin), Julie Hagerty (Fay Marvin), Charlie Korsmo (Siggy Marvin), Kathryn Erbe (Anna Marvin)

"There are two kinds of people in this world, those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don't."
This quote from the movie could also be used to describe the movie itself (as well as anything). If you like Bill Murray, the chances are good that you'll enjoy this film. As the Bob of the title, a paranoid, obsessive-compulsive patient of Richard Dreyfuss' conservative doctor, he requires more treatment than others- going as far as following him and disturbing his family's vacation. The family just happen to love Bob, which vexes Dreyfuss even further.
It can be argued that some of the jokes are hit-and-miss, but much of the dialogue is quite amusing and the comic performances are very good.
"After life there is more."
"After life there is more."
D: Vincent Ward
Polygram/Interscope/Metafilmics (Stephen Simon & Barnet Bain)
US 1998
113 mins


W: Ron Bass [based on the novel by Richard Matheson]
DP: Eduardo Serra
Ed: David Brenner & Maysie Hoy
Mus: Michael Kamen
PD: Eugenio Zanetti

Robin Williams (Chris Nielsen), Cuba Gooding, Jr. (Albert Lewis), Annabella Sciorra (Annie Collins-Nielsen), Max Von Sydow (The Tracker)

Arty and pretentious afterlife film, in which heaven is mostly portrayed as vast oil painting. Robin Williams, as a doctor who dies in a car accident, must rescue his wife from hell following her subsequent suicide.
Aside from some vivid production design and some unique visual effects, the film doesn't manage to capture the imagination the way it anticipates or really should, perhaps due to the dialogue which resorts mostly to psychobabble nonsense. 
"Get lucky."
"Get lucky."


D: Tom Vaughan

20th Century Fox/Regency/21 Laps/Mosaic Media/Dune/Penn Station (Michael Aguilar, Shawn Levy & Jimmy Miller)

US 2008

99 mins


W: Dana Fox

DP: Matthew F. Leonetti

Ed: Matt Friedman

Mus: Christophe Beck

Cameron Diaz (Joy McNally), Ashton Kutcher (Jack Fuller), Rob Corddry (Jeffrey Lewis), Lake Bell (Toni Saxson), Dennis Farina (Richard Banger)

Modern comedy usually means that a film has more production companies involved in its making than it does jokes. This is certainly the case with this insipid rom-com starring Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher as a pair of thoroughly unlikable characters, Jack and Joy.

During a drunken night in Las Vegas, the pair get married and instantly regret it the next day, but when Jack wins big on the slots, Joy wants a cut of the share because that's the sort of person she is, and the couple have to stay married because a judge read the script to the movie and if he annulled their union then the film would have only been half an hour long. Personally, I wouldn't have found that a problem.

The film gets its title from the phrase "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." It should have stayed there, preferably unseen in a casino vault, where it should have rotted away over time.


"He was the perfect husband until his one mistake followed them home."
"He was the perfect husband until his one mistake followed them home."
D: Robert Zemeckis
20th Century Fox/Imagemover (Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis & Jack Rapke)
US 2000
130 mins


W: Clark Gregg
DP: Don Burgess
Ed: Arthur Schmidt
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Harrison Ford (Dr. Norman Spencer), Michelle Pfeiffer (Claire Spencer), Diana Scarwid (Jody), Miranda Otto (Mary Feur), James Remar (Warren Feur), Joe Morton (Dr. Drayton)

Whilst taking a break shooting 2000's Cast Away (qv), director Robert Zemekis filmed this Hitchcockian-style thriller, and with all due respect, it feels like a bit on the side. 
Michelle Pfeiffer stars as wife to Harrison Ford's scientist, a woman plagued with visions of a ghost haunting her home. 
It's almost like an American remake of Les Diabolques (qv) but that wouldn't be a fair assessment, the American remake of Les Diaboliques was absolutely atrocious. This just feels like, what they'd call in the 1950's, a second feature. Not bad, but not particularly memorable either. Michelle Pfeiffer puts on a good show, but Harrison Ford feels very miscast here.
"Some interviews with some vampires."
"Some interviews with some vampires."
D: Jermaine Clement & Taika Waititi
Madman Entertainment/Resnick Interactive/Unison/Defender/Funny Or Die/NZFC (Taika Waititi, Chelsea Winstanley & Emanuel Michael)
New Zealand/US 2014 (released 2015)     
85 mins


W: Jermaine Clement & Taika Waititi
DP: Richard Bluck & D.J. Stipsen 
Ed: Jonathan Woodford-Robinson, Yana Gorskaya & Tom Eagles
Mus: Plan 9

Jermaine Clement (Vladislav), Taika Waititi (Viago), Jonathan Brugh (Deacon), Ben Fransham (Petyr)

Utilising the same mock documentary style which made This Is Spinal Tap (qv) a cult favourite, this independent piece from New Zealand follows a quartet of vampires as they go about their daily lives in the build-up to an annual ceremony with others of their kind.
Typical roommate arguments are mixed with more vampiric problems, such as not being able to check their appearance in the mirror, avoiding sunlight and the inability to eat junk food.
It's understandable why this has garnered a cult following, but it won't be for everyone.

"Finally... A man is listening."
"Finally... A man is listening."
D: Nancy Meyers
Paramount/Icon/Wind Dancer (Nancy Meyers, Bruce Davey, Matt Williams, Susan Cartsonis & Gina Matthews)
US 2000
126 mins


W: Josh Goldsmith & Cathy Yuspa
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Stephen A. Rotter & Thomas J. Nordberg
Mus: Alan Silvestri

Mel Gibson (Nick Marshall), Helen Hunt (Darcy McGuire), Marisa Tomei (Lola), Alan Alda (Dan Wanamaker), Lauren Holly (Gigi), Valerie Petrine (Margo)

After an accident involving a hairdryer and a bath, an advertising executive discovers that he can read womens thoughts.
The story doesn't go much further than having Mel Gibson's womaniser knowing exactly what to say and do to please the women he meets, including Helen Hunt.
If this really is what women want, they can't be particularly demanding.
"Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?"
"Sister, sister, oh so fair, why is there blood all over your hair?"
D: Robert Aldrich
Warner/Seven Arts (Robert Aldrich)
US 1962
132 mins


W: Lukas Heller [based on the novel by Henry Farrell]
DP: Ernest Haller
Ed: Michael Luciano
Mus: Frank de Vol

Bette Davis (Baby Jane), Joan Crawford (Blanche), Victor Buono (Edwin Flagg), Anna Lee (Mrs. Bates)

***spoiler warning***
Bette Davis is Baby Jane, once a spoiled rotten child star of the stage and screen, now a haggard, mentally deranged has-been, who spends her days torturing her bed-ridden sister who she's been caring for since a car accident left her unable to walk. 
Like the finest Hitchcock movies, director Robert Aldrich allows suspense and tension to provide the terror, rather than tacky effects and cheap scare tactics, while it's use of music, photography and limiting the majority of the story to a single setting also helps build up the tension. Bette Davis, caked in days-old makeup is wickedly wild-eyed and creepily sinister as the deranged Baby Jane, hoping for one last day in the limelight following her fall from grace.
The film set a trend of casting ageing actresses against type in horror films which is still continuing today, though not many produce a performance up there with the calibre that Davis' delivers here.
Still, the film's biggest surprise is left to the coda, when it turns out that Baby Jane isn't quite the monster after all.

"A film about the love you find in the last place you look."
"A film about the love you find in the last place you look."
D: Lasse Hallström 
Paramount (Meir Teper, Bertil Ohlsson & David Matalon)
US 1993
118 mins


W: Peter Hedges [based on his novel]
DP: Sven Nykvist
Ed: Andrew Mondshein
Mus: Alan Parker

Johnny Depp (Gilbert Grape), Juliette Lewis (Becky), Leonardo DiCaprio (Arnie Grape), Mary Steenburgen (Betty Carver), Crispin Glover (Bobby McBurney), John C. Reilly (Tucker Van Dyke), Darlene Cates (Momma Grape)

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is a whimsical story set in small town America, starring Johnny Depp as the placid title character, a morose grocery clerk who supports his entire family, including his obese, stay-at-home mother and his mentally-handicapped brother. Gilbert's attitude changes though when he meets and falls in love with a new girl in town.
Depp's breakthrough performance as a serious actor is unfortunately upstaged by Leonardo DiCaprio's Oscar-nominated turn as Arnie Grape. Still, all the performances are simply perfect in this offbeat and frequently sentimental drama.
"Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?"
"Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?"
D: Brian Gibson
Buena Vista/Touchstone (Doug Chapin & Barry Krost)
US 1993
118 mins


W: Kate Lanier [based on the book "I, Tina" by Tina Turner & Kurt Loder]
DP: Jamie Anderson
Ed: Stuart Pappé 
Mus: Stanley Clarke

Angela Bassett (Tina Turner), Laurence Fishburne (Ike Turner), Jenifer Lewis (Zelma Bullock), Phyllis Yvonne Stickney (Alline Bullock), Rae'ven Kelly (Young Anna Mae)

A biopic of Tina Turner which focuses on her turbulent and violent relationship with ex-husband Ike Turner.
Following Tina's life from her teenage years as a shy, country singer, young Anna Mae Bullock joins her mother in the big city where she's noticed by Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm band at a nightclub singing contest. Ike, reshapes his band around her and they soon marry, earning fortunes off the success of songs like "River Deep, Mountain High" but their domestic life descends into chaos following Ike's addiction to drugs. 
The performances of the two leading stars are absolutely excellent, especially Angela Bassett, who glides into the shoes of one of the 20th century's most famous soul singers. Both stars earned Oscar nominations for their work, but unfortunately lost out in a hugely competitive year for acting achievements.
"Through the good times. Through the bad times."
"Through the good times. Through the bad times."
D: Luis Mandoki
Buena Vista/Touchstone (Jordan Kerner & Jon Avnet)
US 1994
124 mins


W: Ronald Bass & Al Franken
DP: Lajos Koltai
Ed: Garth Craven
Mus: Zbigniew Preisner

Andy Garcia (Michael Green), Meg Ryan (Alice Green), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Gary), Lauren Tom (Amy), Tina Majorino (Jess Green), Ellen Burstyn (Emily)

A domestic drama about a husband and wife who attempt to deal with her problems with alcoholism, which are equally bad during sobriety.
Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan deliver a good pair of performances, but the longer the film continues, the less convincing it becomes, especially in its quest for a mawkish, sappy Hollywood ending.
"Can men and women be friends or does sex always get in the way?"
"Can men and women be friends or does sex always get in the way?"
D: Rob Reiner 
Castle Rock/Nelson (Rob Reiner & Andrew Scheinman)
US 1989
95 mins


W: Nora Ephron
DP: Barry Sonnenfeld
Ed: Robert Leighton
Mus: Marc Shaiman & Harry Connick, Jr.

Billy Crystal (Harry Burns), Meg Ryan (Sally Albright), Carrie Fisher (Marie), Bruno Kirby (Jess), Steven Ford (Joe), Lisa Jane Persky (Alice), Michelle Nicastro (Amanda)

One of the best romantic comedies of the late 20th century, simply because the relationship between its two main characters is entirely believable. This is mostly due to the excellent performances of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, but also because of the intelligent, witty screenplay by Nora Ephron.
When Harry Burns and Sally Albright first meet, it's to take turns driving from their university in Chicago to New York City. Despite having a girlfriend, Harry finds Sally attractive but she finds him an insufferable, obnoxious chauvinist, especially after he muses that men and women can't be friends because sex always gets in the way.         
They meet again several years later, when Harry is married and Sally engaged, only then their friendship begins to blossom.
Sex eventually does get in the way, threatening their strictly-platonic friendship, but ultimately proving that Harry's theory may have been correct all along.
Though romantic comedies are normally aimed at women, When Harry Met Sally is very easy for men to enjoy due to it's frank dialogue which brings about some incredibly funny scenes, particularly the famous "coffee shop scene", possibly Meg Ryan's finest big screen moment. 


D: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Toho/Studio Ghibli (Yoshiaki Nishimura)

Japan 2015

103 mins


W: Masashi Andō, Keiko Niwa & Hiromasa Yonebayashi [based on the book by Joan G. Robinson]

Mus: Takatsugu Muramatsu

Sara Takatsuki / Hailee Steinfeld (Anna Sasaki), Kasumi Arimura / Kiernan Shipka (Marnie), Hans Sugisaki / Ava Acres (Sayaka), Hitomi Kuroki / Vanessa Williams (Hisako)

Studio Ghibli's first feature following the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki is this tender dramatic piece based on the book by Joan G. Robinson.

The story concerns Anna Sasaki, an introverted 12-year-old girl living with her relatives in Sapporo. She becomes more and more withdrawn from her family and begins spending more time with Marnie, a mysterious girl who she shares secrets with. The relationship between the two ultimately helps Anna learn the truth about herself and her parents.

Though an animated film, like all Studio Ghibli releases, it's best appreciated by maturer children and adults, rather than anyone below teenage years. The animation is of the usual high standard you'd expect from the studio and the music score is hauntingly evocative. The film's most powerful asset however is the story, which will come as a comfort to many viewers who sympathise and connect with Anna's character.


"To Jimmy life was just a game... Until the game became his life!"
"To Jimmy life was just a game... Until the game became his life!"
D: Maria Giese
Guild/Capitol/A Pint O'Bitter (James Daly & Christopher Lambert)
UK 1995
97 mins


W: Maria Giese & James Daly
DP: Gerry Fisher
Ed: George Akers
Mus: Anne Dudley

Sean Bean (Jimmy Muir), Emily Lloyd (Annie Doherty), Pete Postlethwaite (Ken Jackson), John McEnery (Joe Muir), Ann Bell (Sarah Muir)

Mundane sports drama about a brewery worker with aspirations of playing for Sheffield United football club, which he eventually does.
The movie plays out like an unconvincing Rocky on the football pitches, washed down with a couple of pints of Special Brew. The appeal is mostly limited to those who live in the city in which it is set, and who do not support the rival club in that city... So basically, Sheffield United fans.
D: Rudolph Maté
Paramount (George Pal)
US 1951
82 mins

Science Fiction/Adventure

W: Sydney Boehm [based on the novel by Philip Wyle & Edwin Balmer]
DP: John Seitz & W. Howard Greene
Ed: Arthur P. Schmidt
Mus: Leith Stevens 
PD: Hal Pereira & Albert Nozaki

Richard Derr (David Randall), Barbara Rush (Joyce Hendron), Larry Keating (Dr. Cole Hendron), Peter Hansen (Dr. Tony Drake), John Hoyt (Sydney Stanton)

Another planet is hurtling towards Earth and a pilot and an astronomer face a race against time to create an "ark" to transport the world's population.
The special effects, model work and matte paintings may look rudimentary by modern standards, but for the film's age they are all incredibly well done and have at least dated much better than the garbled, nonsensical dialogue.
Armageddon for the 1950's, except with a slightly more believable storyline and more convincing performances.
"There's one in all of us."
"There's one in all of us."
D: Spike Jonze
Warner/Village Roadshow/Legendary (Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, Maurice Sendak, John Carls & Vincent Landay)
US/Australia 2009
114 mins


W: Spike Jonze & Dave Eggars [based on the book by Maurice Sendak]
DP: Lance Acord
Ed: Eric Zumbrunnen & James Haygood
Mus: Carter Burwell & Karen O
PD: K.K. Barrett

Max Records (Max), Catherine Keener (Connie), Mark Ruffalo (Adrian), Lauren Ambrose (voice of K.W.), James Gandolfini (voice of Carol), Chris Cooper (voice of Douglas)

As a children's film, this isn't very likely to capture the heart and minds of the young, while for adults, it may serve as a perfect nostalgia trip to those who have read Maurice Sendak's 1963 book during their childhood.
A naughty young boy, dressed in a wolf costume, is sent to bed without dinner and is whisked away to a mysterious jungle island inhabited by large wolf-like creatures who worship him as their king.
It's a faithful adaptation by writer-director Spike Jonze, utilising visuals which are almost identical to the illustrations from the original source, it just lacks that bit of cinema magic able to make it appeal to a wider demographical range.

"A story about love at second sight."
"A story about love at second sight."
D: Jon Turtletaub
Buena Vista/Hollywood/Caravan (Joe Roth & Roger Birnbaum)
US 1995
103 mins


W: Daniel G. Sullivan & Frederic Lebow 
DP: Phedon Papamichael
Ed: Bruce Green
Mus: Randy Edelman

Sandra Bullock (Lucy Moderatz), Bill Pullman (Jack Callaghan), Peter Gallagher (Peter Callaghan), Peter Boyle (Ox Callaghan), Jack Warden (Saul Tuttle)

Insipid rom-com nonsense in which the main female protagonist could do with a visit to the head doctor. Seriously, switch sexes on this concept and it would be creepy as hell!
Sandra Bullock saves a man from getting squished by a train and falls in love with him while comatose. It's all a little bit weird.         
Bullock gives a performance that's charming enough, though perhaps it would have been better casting if it were Bill Pullman rather than Peter Gallagher as a man who spends at least half of the film asleep. 
D: Damien Chazelle
Sony Pictures/Sierra Affinity/Bold (Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, Michel Litvak & David Lancaster)
US 2014
106 mins


W: Damian Chazelle [based on his short film]
DP: Sharone Meir
Ed: Tom Cross
Mus: Justin Hurwitz

Miles Teller (Andrew Nieman), J. K. Simmons (Terence Fletcher), Paul Reiser (Jim Nieman), Melissa Benoist (Nicole)

Whiplash depicts the cutthroat, dog-eat-dog nature of the music industry, as ambitious, reclusive young drummer Andrew enrols at a prestigious music academy where brutal Professor Fletcher pushes his students to the absolute limits of their abilities through the use of physical and mental torment to the point of bullying.     
The teenager turns a blind eye to his family & social life in a bid to continue chasing his dream, whilst Fletcher justifies his practices with his theory that by pushing his students         beyond their means, he'll unlock their true potential in the hope to find the next Charlie "Bird" Parker and keep the dying genre of jazz music alive.
Based on a short film of the same name, the source material works incredibly well, mostly due to the director's claustrophobic style, bringing a unique tension to the rehearsal scenes where Andrew quite literally plays until his blisters bleed.
As good as Miles Teller's lead performance as Andrew is, the movie is stolen by J. K. Simmons as Fletcher, winning virtually every award going as 2014's Best Supporting Actor.  The film was also, quite deservedly, nominated for the Oscars' Best Picture of the year, winning awards for Sound Mixing & Editing. 
Put that Glee boxset down and put this film on instead. It may not be as fun, but it's by far more visceral and realistic.

D: Raoul Walsh
Warner Bros (Louis F. Edelman)
US 1949
114 mins


W: Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts [based on a story by Virginia Kellogg]
DP: Sid Hickox
Ed: Owen Marks
Mus: Max Steiner

James Cagney (Arthur Cody Jarrett), Virginia Mayo (Verna Jarrett), Edmond O'Brien (Hank Fallon/Vic Pardo), Margaret Wycherly (Ma Jarrett), Steve Cochran (Big Ed Somers), John Archer (Phillip Evans)

"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" - These iconic lines of dialogue are often misquoted in this classic crime drama, as is the "You dirty rat" line which James Cagney only alludes to saying.
Cagney plays a gangster kingpin with a mother complex, confessing to a petty crime so he can escape a death sentence and serve a smaller prison term, but when his mother is killed during his incarceration, he carries out an escape plan so he can serve revenge on those responsible.
Though originally released in 1949, this is a throwback to the 1930's gangster pictures which made Cagney a household name. If you weren't to know the date of production, you'd think no different. It just has that style, which dates it to a point, but it's still a hugely influential piece of film noir.

D: Roland Emmerich
Columbia/Centropolis/Mythology (Roland Emmerich, Bradley J. Fischer, Harald Kloser, James Vanderbilt, Larry J. Franco & Laeta Kalogridis)
US 2013
131 mins


W: James Vanderbilt
DP: Anna Foerster
Ed: Adam Wolfe
Mus: Harald Kloser & Thomas Wanker

Channing Tatum (John Cale), Jamie Foxx (James Sawyer), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Carol Finnerty), Jason Clarke (Emil Stenz), Richard Jenkins (Eli Raphelson), James Woods (Martin Walker)

Along with the same year's Olympus Has Fallen (qv), it's a Die Hard in the White House action movie with the US president being protected by a sole Secret Service Agent vs several bad guys.

Both movies are as bad (or good ) as each other in all honesty, but this one wins points for having a more flamboyant double act in the form of Channing Tatum & Jamie Foxx rather than Gerard Butler & Aaron Eckhart (who are both given poorly structured and underwritten characters in Olympus Has Fallen). Still, this action movie subgenre was done to death in the 1990's so, no matter the setting, it still feels incredibly stale nowadays.

There are some huge irritants in this film, especially Roland Emmerich making smug references to his previous movies and all the ridiculous product placement (Jamie Foxx's US president wearing Nike Air Jordans. Really.)

It's one of them films where it's best to remove your brain before watching (or at least have lots of beer at the ready).


"It ain't easy being this good."
"It ain't easy being this good."
D: Ron Shelton
20th Century Fox (Don Miller & David Lester)
US 1992
112 mins


W: Ron Shelton
DP: Russell Boyd
Ed: Paul Seydor
Mus: Bennie Wallace

Wesley Snipes (Sidney Deane), Woody Harrelson (Billy Hoyle), Rosie Perez (Gloria Clemente), Tyra Ferrell (Rhonda Deane), Cylk Cozart (Robert), Kadeem Hardison (Junior)

Paying no mind to the slightly racist title, Ron Shelton's follow-up to Bull Durham is a multicultural sports comedy which sees Woody Harrelson's street hustler embarrass Wesley Snipes in a one-on-one game on the Venice Beach courts. The two later pool their talents to win a tournament, but Harrelson loses his share of the winnings in an all-or-nothing challenge which also sees his Puerto Rican girlfriend (Rosie Perez) walk out on him, meaning the two men unite again so Woody can win her back.
As good as the partnership is for the two leading men, it's the sassy performance of Perez which earns the plaudits here. As for the film itself, it's entertaining enough, and received decent success simply for coming out at the right time, when the appeal of basketball was at its peak on both sides of the Atlantic, due to the popularity of players like Shaquille O'Neal and Michael Jordan.
"Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is something worth fighting for."
"Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is something worth fighting for."
D: Taylor Hackford
Columbia/New Visions/Delphi (Taylor Hackford & William S. Gilmore)
US 1985
135 mins


W: James Goldman & Eric Hughes
DP: David Watkin
Ed: Fredric Steinkamp & William Steinkamp         
Mus: Michel Colombier

Mikhail Baryshnikov (Nikolai Rodchenko), Gregory Hines (Raymond Greenwood), Isabella Rossellini (Darya Greenwood), Jerry Skolimowski (Col. Chaiko), Helen Mirren (Galina Ivanova)

Director Taylor Hackford and co-writers James Goldman & Eric Hughes had a near impossible job of moulding something entertaining with, what is essentially, a film about ballet, and do so by merging it with the thriller genre and making it an escape movie with interludes of dance scenes. A novel piece of filmmaking to say the very least.
Mikhail Baryshnikov plays an émigré ballet star whose plane must make an emergency landing in the (former) Soviet Union. He finds himself prisoner in Leningrad, where a black tap dancer and his Russian wife are forced to hold him captive so he can be unveiled in a political propaganda play. 
There's many things about White Nights which don't quite work, and the Cold War angle hasn't dated well, but the performances of Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines comes across particularly well, even though the film is merely a series of MTV-style music videos. 
"See your last breath."
"See your last breath."
D: Dominic Sena
Warner Bros/Dark Castle (Joel Silver, Susan Downey & David Gambino)
US/Canada/France 2009
101 mins


W: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes [based on characters created by Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber]
DP: Christopher Soos
Ed: Martin Hunter & Stuart Baird
Mus: John Frizzell

Kate Beckinsale (Carrie Stetko), Tom Skerritt (Dr. John Fury), Columbus Short (Delfy), Gabriel Macht (Robert Pryce)

Risible, formulaic, cliché-ridden thriller, starring Kate Beckinsale as an inept marshal who can't even do a competent job at a remote outpost in Antarctica, where she must discover the identity of a criminal before the sun sets for six months. 
Though the plot is based on a graphic novel, it feels heavily borrowed from both The Thing (qv) and Insomnia (qv).
Good performances might have made this work, instead we get Kate Beckinsale who lacks even the rudimentary acting skills necessary to make her character convincing. Still, even her lazy performance is better to watch than the lacklustre visual effects.

D: Robert Zemeckis (& Richard Williams)
Warner Bros./Touchstone/Amblin (Robert Watts & Frank Marshall)
US 1988
103 mins


W: Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman [based on the book "Who Censored Roger Rabbit?" by Gary K. Wold]
DP: Dean Cundey
Ed: Arthur Schmidt
Mus: Alan Silvestri
PD: Elliot Scott

Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant), Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom), Joanna Cassidy (Dolores), Stubby Kaye (Marvin Acme), Charles Fleischer (voice of Roger Rabbit), Kathleen Turner (voice of Jessica Rabbit), Amy Irving (singing voice of Jessica Rabbit)

Animated films weren't so much a rage during the 1980's, and aside from Disney re-releasing their golden age classic, they weren't doing the business at the box office... That is until Roger Rabbit took a bow in 1988. 
It's a unique twist on Sam Spade style detective movies of the 1940's and 50's, with "Toontown" doubling for Hollywood and animated performers doubling for the rich and famous of yesteryear.
Roger Rabbit is one of the stars of Toontown and he's framed for the murder of his studio's owner, he seeks the help of embittered, toon-hating detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to solve the crime he's innocent of.
The Oscar-winning special effects are still very impressive three decades later and it's a genuine classic of mixed-media movies.
"You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun & games."
"You are cordially invited to George and Martha's for an evening of fun & games."
D: Mike Nichols
Warner Bros (Ernest Lehman)
US 1966
131 mins


W: Ernest Lehman [based on the play by Edward Albee]
DP: Haskell Wexler
Ed: Sam O'Steen
Mus: Alex North
PD: Richard Sylbert
Cos: Irene Sharaff

Elizabeth Taylor (Martha), Richard Burton (George), George Segal (Nick), Sandy Dennis (Honey)

The marriage of Liz & Dick is brought to the screen, as the pair play off each other as an alcoholic married couple, whose vitriol towards each other culminates in an all-night argument when they invite a younger couple to their affluent house for drinks (there is obviously a more adult motive for the invitational, but this is only referenced to in a wink-wink fashion).
As an adaptation of a stage play, the entertainment value is underwhelmed by the importance of the cinematic milestone which is achieved by this work, heralding a new dawn of cinematic maturity. 
Audiences of 1966, unaccustomed to hearing a tirade of four-letter curse words being bounded about on-screen would have felt the full force of the films importance, while modern day audiences will feel rewarded by a quartet of excellent acting performances. All four credited cast members were nominated for Oscars, with Elizabeth Taylor & Sandy Dennis both winning statuettes.

"In the heart of suburbia, a hitman with heart has just moved in."
"In the heart of suburbia, a hitman with heart has just moved in."
D: Jonathan Lynn
Warner Bros./Morgan Creek/Franchise/Rational Packaging/Lansdown (David Willis & Allen Kaufman)
US 2000
101 mins


W: Mitchell Kapner
DP: David Franco
Ed: Tom Lewis
Mus: Randy Edelman

Bruce Willis (Jimmy 'The Tulip' Tudeski), Matthew Perry (Dr. Nicholas Oseransky), Rosanna Arquette (Sophie Oseransky), Michael Clarke Duncan (Frankie Figs), Natasha Henstridge (Cynthia Tudeski), Amanda Peet (Jill St. Claire), Kevin Pollak (Janni Pytor Gogolak)

Matthew Perry, best known for playing Chandler Bing in the TV sitcom Friends, bring virtually the same character to this hit-and-miss farce. He play a neurotic dentist whose new next door neighbour is a mob hitman (Bruce Willis doing his normal tough guy act). Things get dicier when Perry falls in love with a moll (Henstridge) and his wife fashions plans to have him murdered.
This comedy may have worked if all the performances worked on a level par, but Willis is simply here for a paycheck, Perry brings nothing original to the table and both Kevin Pollak and Patricia Arquette bring the most ridiculous accents ever heard into the fold. The only cast member here who provides the smiles is Amanda Peet, who steals every scene in which she appears.
An undeserved sequel (The Whole Ten Yards) followed a few years later.
"This is no bedtime story."
"This is no bedtime story."
WHORE (18)
D: Ken Russell 
Palace/Trimark/Cheap Date (Dan Ireland & Ronaldo Vasconcellos)
US 1991
85 mins


W: Ken Russell & Deborah Dalton [based on the play "Bondage" by David Hines]
DP: Amir Mokri
Ed: Brian Tagg
Mus: Michael Gibbs

Theresa Russell (Liz), Benjamin Mouton (Blake), Antonio Fargas (Rasta)             

Despiriting and depressing journal of a life in prostitution, starring Theresa Russell who recants her life on the streets as she evades her abusive pimp.
Aside from a strong central performance, the film isn't particularly memorable, and isn't a very pleasant watch.
"The ultimate drama in the human comedy."
"The ultimate drama in the human comedy."
D: John Badham
MGM (Lawrence P. Bachmann)
US 1981
118 mins


W: Brian Clark & Reginald Rose [based on the play by Brian Clark]
DP: Mario Tosi
Ed: Frank Morriss
Mus: Arthur P. Rubinstein

Richard Dreyfuss (Ken Harrison), John Cassavetes (Dr. Emerson), Christine Lahti (Dr. Scott), Bob Balaban (Carter Hill), Kenneth McMillan (Judge Wyler)

Richard Dreyfuss gives one of the very best performances of his career in one of his lesser known films. 
He plays a sculptor who emerges from a car accident totally paralyzed from the neck down and fights from his hospital bed for his right to die.
Whatever side you lie on the euthanasia debate, Dreyfuss' immense performance may well sway your opinion. Based on a static stage play, the film was a modest hit in 1981 but faded into obscurity as the decade went on. Well worth a watch, if you can manage to track down a rare copy. 
"Flesh to touch. Flesh to burn. Don't keep the wicker man waiting!"
"Flesh to touch. Flesh to burn. Don't keep the wicker man waiting!"
D: Robin Hardy
British Lion (Peter Snell)
UK 1973
102 mins


W: Anthony Shaffer
DP: Harry Waxman
Ed: Eric Boyd-Perkins
Mus: Paul Giovanni 
PD: Seamus Flannery
Cos: Sue Yelland

Edward Woodward (Sgt. Howie), Britt Ekland (Willow), Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle), Ingrid Pitt (Librarian), Diane Cilento (Miss Rose), Lindsay Kemp (Alder McGregor), Russell Waters (Harbour Master)

A curious mix of mystery, thriller, horror, and, to a certain extent, musical which works effectively well due to its macabre theme, ascetic setting and a handful of excellent performances. 
Edward Woodward plays Scottish policeman Sgt. Howie, who flies to a remote island off the mainland to investigate a missing persons case and witnesses strange happenings during his visit, including the disturbing rituals of the pagan cult who dwell there, led by Christopher Lee, who delivers his greatest ever performance in a career defined with villainous characters.
The theme of the film burns slowly, full of intrigue and mystery before the final reveal, which is simply unforgettable. Not just a classic of British filmmaking, but a true classic of horror. 
The film was remade (incredibly poorly) in 2006, though that version should be avoided at all costs.
"Be careful what you search for..."
"Be careful what you search for..."
D: Neil LaBute
Warner Bros./Alcon/Saturn/Millennium (Nicolas Cage, Norm Golightly, Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Boaz Davidson & John Thompson)
US/Germany 2006
102 mins


W: Neil LaBute [based on the screenplay by Anthony Shaffer]
DP: Paul Sarossy
Ed: Joel Plotch
Mus: Angelo Badalamenti

Nicolas Cage (Edward Malus), Kate Leahan (Willow Woodward), Ellen Burstyn (Sister Summerisle), Frances Conroy (Dr. T.H. Moss), Molly Parker (Sister Rose / Sister Thorn), Leelee Sobieski (Sister Honey)

A piss poor remake of a classic horror movie from 1973 about a devout Christian policeman investigating a disappearance of a little girl on a remote Scottish island populated with a Pagan cult. This remake relocates the action to America *sigh* with Nicolas Cage overacting at every opportunity as the same policeman, minus any religious connection. There is no Pagan cult in this remake either, instead it's an island of women, making this no more than some battle of the sexes bullshit. 
The original features one of Christopher Lee's best ever performances, in the remake he is replaced by Ellen Burstyn with her worse ever screen performance.
There are several reasons why this could be the worst remake ever made...
1. It didn't need to be remade
2. A Californian island is no substitute for a remote Scottish island
3. Swapping Pagans for women
4. Nicolas Cage's ridiculous performance as the world's worst policeman
5. It removes everything that was occult about the first movie
6. Edward Woodward about to meet his fate screaming "Pagans! Pagans!" is scary, Nicolas Cage screaming "Bitches! Bitches!" isn't.
7. Nicolas Cage dressed as a bear and drop kicking women 
8. The bees
It's not completely unfair to say this is the worst remake ever made, but also one of the worst films ever made. It really is that big an insult to celluloid.

"Left with nothing. Capable of anything."
"Left with nothing. Capable of anything."


D: Steve McQueen

20th Century Fox/Film4/Regency/See Saw (Steve McQueen, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman & Arnon Milchan)

US/UK 2018

129 mins


W: Steve McQueen & Gillian Flynn [based on the mini series and novel by Lynda La Plante]

DP: Sean Bobbitt

Ed: Joe Walker

Mus: Hans Zimmer

PD: Adam Stockhausen

Cos: Jenny Eagan

Viola Davis (Veronica Rawlins), Michelle Rodriguez (Linda Perelli), Elizabeth Debicki (Alice Gunner), Cynthia Erivo (Belle), Colin Farrell (Jack Mulligan), Brian Tyree Henry (Jamal Manning), Daniel Kaluuya (Jatemme Manning), Jacki Weaver (Agnieska), Carrie Coon (Amanda), Robert Duvall (Tom Mulligan), Liam Neeson (Harry Rawlins)

This intricately weaved heist drama was originally screened as a two-part six-episode TV mini series penned by crime writer Lynda La Plante in the mid-1980's and subsequently released as a novel.

This 2018 modernisation uproots the story from London to Chicago, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki as the recently widowed wives of three professional criminals who perish following a bungled robbery in the film's opening scenes.

Colin Farrell and Brian Tyree Henry also star as a pair of rival politicians both campaigning for an upcoming election and both equally crooked. It emerges that the robbery has directly affected both of them, especially Jamal Manning (Henry) whose campaign money was stolen in the bungled heist.

He pays a visit to Veronica Rawlins, the widow of head thief Harry, threatening violence if $2 million isn't returned to him within a month... and it soon proves that he or his brother (a brilliant Daniel Kaluuya) are not to be trifled with.

Veronica is left Harry's notebook, detailing plans for his next heist, and she enlists the help of the other two women, both suffering financial hardship, in order to pull off the robbery.

The plot is very multi-layered and is only a heist film on the very face of it. Several other themes are also explored, such as the rich-poor divide in modern society and politicians & criminals being equally dishonest. The entire ensemble cast are excellent and every single character is fully fleshed out with an interesting history. Viola Davis may lead the cast, but other performances deserve to be equally lauded, particularly Elizabeth Debicki and Daniel Kaluuya (for me, his career best performance) and it's quite brilliantly directed by Steve McQueen. On the negative side, a few loose ends are left at the end, but they aren't especially bothersome and there are a few scenes which could have been snipped down for pacing reasons, but again, considering this was adapted from a 12-part serial, the filmmakers did a sterling job.

A certain inclusion in my Top 10 Movies of 2018.


WILD (15)
D: Jean-Marc Vallée 
Fox Searchlight/River Road/Pacific Standard (Reese Witherspoon, Bruno Papandrea & Bill Pohlad)
US 2014
115 mins


W: Nick Hornby [based on the autobiographical book "Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail" by Cheryl Strayed]
DP: Yves Belanger
Ed: John Mac McMurphy & Martin Pensa

Reese Witherspoon (Cheryl Strayed), Laura Dern (Bobbi Grey), Thomas Sadoski (Paul), Michiel Huisman (Jonathan), Gaby Hoffman (Aimee)

Wild is the autobiographical story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman from Minnesota who spent 94 days hiking a 1,100 mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to Canada. Along the journey, she reminisces on the events which led her to the challenge, the key factors being her mother's terminal illness and subsequent death, which led to Cheryl's descent into heroin addiction, promiscuous sex with strangers and the breakdown of her marriage. 
Reese Witherspoon delivers an excellent performance as the woman on a journey of self-discovery, with Laura Dern also providing a strong supporting role in moments of flashback. The non-linear narrative style needs to paid attention to, as this is far from a standard Hollywood adventure film.

D: David Lynch
Palace/Polygram/Propaganda (Monty Montgomery, Steve Golin & Joni Sighvatsson)
US 1990
127 mins


W: David Lynch [based on the novel by Barry Gifford]
DP: Frederick Elmes
Ed: Duwayne Dunham
Mus: Angelo Badalamenti

Nicolas Cage (Sailor Ripley), Laura Dern (Lula Pace Fortune), Diane Ladd (Marietta Fortune), Willem Dafoe (Bobby Peru), Isabella Rossellini (Perdita Durango), Harry Dean Stanton (Johnnie Farragut), Crispin Glover (Dell)

David Lynch takes us on another surreal journey with Wild At Heart, starring Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern as Sailor and Lula, two lovers who go on the run, much to the dislike of Lula's mother who hires an array of strange characters to hunt down and kill Sailor.
Like Lynch's other works, you probably need to be a fan of his works to truly appreciate it, and even if you are it's something you need to really be in the mood for.
The soundtrack alone is worth a listen to.
D: Sam Peckinpah 
Warner Bros./Seven Arts (Phil Feldman)
US 1969
145 mins


W: Walon Green & Sam Peckinpah
DP: Lucien Ballard
Ed: Lou Lombardo
Mus: Jerry Fielding
PD: Edward Carrere

William Holden (Pike Bishop), Ernest Borgnine (Dutch Engstrom), Robert Ryan (Deke Thornton), Edmond O'Brien (Freddie Sykes), Warren Oates (Lyle Gorch), Jaime Sanchez (Angel), Ben Johnson (Tector Gorch), L.Q. Jones (T.C.)

The Wild Bunch is possibly Sam Peckinpah's finest hour as director, the last classic western of the genre's golden age which appears to be reflected in the story itself.
A group of bank robbers outlaws team up for one last big score in the traditional old west, which itself is dying around them, culminating in a violent shootout in the director's finest style. 
Perhaps Peckinpah knowingly made this as a prophetic swansong to a dying genre which has become rather dormant since the 1960's, or perhaps it's because not many westerns since have been much better. Either way, it's a prime example of life imitating art.
D: Zalman King
Triumph/Vision (Mark Damon & Tony Anthony)
US 1990
111 mins


W: Patricia Louisianna Knop & Zalman King         
DP: Gale Tattersall
Ed: Marc Grossman & Glenn A. Morgan
Mus: Geoff MacCormack & Simon Goldenberg

Mickey Rourke (James Wheeler), Carré Otis (Emily Reed), Jacqueline Bisset (Claudia Dennis), Bruce Greenwood (Jerome)

Softcore porn trash dressed up as romance, introducing Carré Otis as a lawyer who meets billionaire Mickey Rourke while on holiday in Rio de Janeiro and eventually gets the fuck of her life.
It's frequently rumoured that the steamy sex scenes between Rourke and Otis, a real-life couple at the time of shooting, weren't faked, although this rumour wouldn't explain why the performances are so unconvincing, especially from Carré Otis, very beautiful to look at but a complete embarrassment to watch attempting to act.
D: Damian Szifron
Warner Bros/Corner/El Deseo (Hugo Sigman, Pedro Almodóvar & Agustin Almodóvar)
Argentina 2014
122 mins


W: Damian Szifron
DP: Javier Julia
Ed: Damian Szifron & Pablo Barbieri Carrera 
Mus: Gustavo Santaolalla

Ricardo Darin (Simón), Oscar Martinez (Mauricio), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Diego), Erica Rivas (Romina), Rita Cortese (Cocinera), Julieta Zylberberg (Moza)

Wild Things is an anthology of short stories, all between 10-30 minutes long which have revenge as their thematic inspiration and a lace of black comedy which runs through each segment.
The quality and humour of the stories varies from chapter to chapter, with arguably the best saved for last, when a bride gets her own back on her cheating husband during their wedding reception.
Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of 2014, it's actually a bit of a dishonour that it didn't emerge victorious.     

"They're dying to play with you."
"They're dying to play with you."
D: John McNaughton
Columbia/Mandalay (Rodney Liber & Steven A. Jones)
US 1998
108 mins


W: Stephen Peters
DP: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Ed: Elena Maganini
Mus: George S. Clinton

Matt Dillon (Sam Lombardo), Neve Campbell (Suzie Toller), Denise Richards (Kelly Van Ryan), Kevin Bacon (Sgt. Ray Duquette), Theresa Russell (Sandra Van Ryan), Bill Murray (Kenneth Bowden)

***Spoiler Warning***
Almost everything about Wild Things smacks of a cheesy, tacky softcore skin flick. The publicity poster, the marketing trailer, even the title itself.
The film itself is a huge surprise contrary to its marketing, with direction and screenwriting that provides an effective thriller, albeit with some sex scenes. Still, it's best that you know very little about the film prior to watching, so if you've yet to see it, stop reading now.
Matt Dillon plays a school guidance counsellor accused of rape by one of his students (Denise Richards), a posh girl whose accusations hold no weight until a second accuser, trailer trash Neve Campbell collaborates with the story.
It turns out the accusations are fabricated, but with his career in tatters Dillon's counter-lawsuit earns him a nice little windfall. All this occurs in the first 30-45 minutes, setting up a second half full of double-crossing, back-stabbing, even a ménage a trois, while a corrupt police detective (Kevin Bacon) aims to get to the bottom of it all.
It could be easily describe as Double Indemnity for an MTV audience, but it's a little smarter than that, full of twists which continue to surprise even as the end credits begin to roll. 
Its only pitfalls are that, by explaining everything, it leaves nothing to the imagination.
Three straight-to-DVD sequels followed.
"It's a whole new west."
"It's a whole new west."
D: Barry Sonnenfeld
Warner Bros. (Jon Peters & Barry Sonnenfeld)
US 1999
106 mins


W: S. S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman [based on the television series]
DP: Michael Ballhaus
Ed: Jim Miller
Mus: Elmer Bernstein

Will Smith (Jim West), Kevin Kline (Artemus Gordon / Ulysses S. Grant), Salma Hayek (Rita Escobar), Kenneth Branagh (Arliss Loveless), Ted Levine (Gen. 'Bloodbath' McGrath), M. Emmet Walsh (Coleman)
A mess of a movie, mixing genres which don't blend well together. 
Director Barry Sonnenfeld was trying to emulate his previous hit, Men In Black, and relocating it to  post-civil war America. The story is quite simple: Two government agents have to stop a mad scientist who's working on a machine with which he means to take rule of the United States.
The dialogue is absolutely atrocious with not a single line worthy of comedy. The chemistry between Kevin Kline & Will Smith is hampered by this dialogue while the supporting characters don't fare much better.
Kenneth Branagh hams it up as the mad scientist and delivers probably the best performance of a bad bunch. Salma Hayek is merely in this to squeeze her body into corsets and look pretty.
The special effects range from average to terrible (for a big budget blockbuster it's quite unforgivable) and the theme song, despite being popular at the time, is absolutely horrendous (seriously, listen to the lyrics).
This might have been good as a Saturday morning cartoon, but as a summer blockbuster it falls way short of expectations.

D: Baz Luhrmann
20th Century Fox/Bazmark (Gabriella Martinelli & Baz Luhrmann)
US 1996
120 mins


W: Craig Pearce & Baz Luhrmann [based on the play by William Shakespeare]
DP: Donald McAlpine
Ed: Jill Bilcock
Mus: Nellee Cooper, Craig Armstrong & Marius de Vries
PD: Catherine Martin

Leonardo DiCaprio (Romeo Montague), Claire Danes (Juliet Capulet), Brian Dennehy (Ted Montague), John Leguizamo (Tybalt Capulet), Pete Postlethwaite (Father Laurence), Paul Sorvino (Fulgencio Capulet), Diane Venora (Gloria Capulet)

William Shakespeare's name needs to be dropped from the title post haste, this isn't Shakespeare, this is Baz Luhrmann's Romeo plus Juliet, set in the wastelands of post apocalyptic future where rival gangs duel with guns, except they're still called swords as the characters have creative licence the Bard's lingo.
The production designers take the credit here for their vision of an alternative present day Earth, while the pretentious director pats himself on the back over how original he is, except he isn't very original at all.
This is a GCSE production of West Side Story, minus the Sondheim music and lyrics and replaced with a more modern soundtrack.
The teen appeal is strong with this version, especially amongst art students, but it really isn't any hipper than Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film, which stuck to the more traditional, classic approach to Shakespeare's immortal text.
D: Ron Howard
MGM/Lucasfilm/Imagine (Nigel Wooll)
US 1988
126 mins


W: Bob Dolman [story by George Lucas]
DP: Adrian Biddle
Ed: Daniel Hanley & Michael Hill
Mus: James Horner
PD: Allan Cameron

Warwick Davies (Willow Ufgood), Val Kilmer (Madmartigan), Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (Sorsha), Jean Marsh (Queen Bavmorda), Patricia Hayes (Fin Raziel), Billy Barty (The High Aldwin)

George Lucas recycles his Star Wars plot for this Lord Of The Rings-meets-The Wizard Of Oz interpretation. 
A newborn baby is the prophecy which spells the end for the reign of a wicked witch and a peace-loving dwarf must transport the innocent child to a good witch so evil can be vanquished once and for all. Along the way, Willow Usgood (the dwarf) enlists the help of a roguish warrior and a pair of pocket-sized sprites to aid his journey.
The theme borrows heavily from other, better fantasy stories and doesn't really do anything different to improve upon them. Warwick Davies, whose tiny size ensures he's always had work as tiny characters does a good job in the lead and Val Kilmer makes a good scoundrel. Many of the other performances are irritating or excessively hammy. Despite featuring some good visual effects, the film merely lacks the magic it takes to make it truly memorable.
Perhaps it came too late for George Lucas (or too early for director Ron Howard).
D: Mel Stuart
Paramount (David L. Wolper & Stan Margulies)
UK/US 1971
100 mins


W: Roald Dahl [based on his novel "Charlie & The Chocolate Factory"]
DP: Arthur Ibbetson
Ed: David Saxon
Mus: Walter Scharf; Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley
PD: Harper Goff

Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka), Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket), Jack Albertson (Grandpa Bucket), Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt), Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop)

Surprisingly, this original film of the classic children's book is tailored more for adults than youngsters due to its frequent dark tone, moments of black comedy and occasional scenes of trippy psychedelia which say quite a lot about the era in which it was made. Still, it has the morals in the right place for youngsters, particularly when it comes to the excesses of greed, gluttony, selfishness and other such bad characteristics.
Adapted by Roald Dahl himself from his own book, a group of children all win a golden ticket inside their favourite chocolate bars to visit the secret factory of the eccentric confectioner Willy Wonka, but the spoiled brats all get their comeuppance when they eat to excess, accompanied by the Oompa Loompa songs about their poor manners and behaviour. 
The film hasn't dated badly, but the appeal has palled since Tim Burton directed a more child-friendly version in 2005 (Charlie & The Chocolate Factory). It's still reasonably memorable due to Gene Wilder's wild-eyed performance, the colourful set design and costumes, the iconic songs and a handful of juvenile performances.  
"Nothing is harder to track than the truth."
"Nothing is harder to track than the truth."


D: Taylor Sheridan

TWC/Acacia/Film 44/Thunder Road/Savvy Media Holdings (Matthew George, Basil Iwanyk, Peter Berg & Wayne L. Rogers)

US 2017

111 mins


W: Taylor Sheridan

DP: Ben Richardson

Ed: Gary D. Roach

Mus: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis

Jeremy Renner (Cory Lambert), Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Banner), Gil Birmingham (Martin Hansen), Jon Bernthal (Matt Rayburn), Julia Jones (Wilma), Graham Greene (Ben), Kelsey Chow (Natalie Hansen)

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, whose writing credits include the excellent Sicario and Hell Or High Water, makes his directorial debut with this impressive thriller set in the bleak, wintry state of Wyoming.

The story takes place on an Native American reservation, where Wildlife Service Agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) discovers a corpse of a woman, who appears to have been raped and murdered. Rookie FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) investigates the crime, but her hands are tied since it falls under the jurisdiction of tribal police, and without absolute proof that a murder took place, she is unable to take authority. She enlists Lambert's help, and he volunteers his services freely since it gives him a chance to redeem himself following the death of his daughter, who died under similar circumstances. 

The film does start rather slowly, but following the static opening it settles into a flowing pace, helped by excellent performances by the two leads, particularly Elizabeth Olsen, and some wonderful photography of the great outdoors by cinematographer Ben Richardson. 

Sheridan's films where he took writing credit didn't fail to impress, and neither does his solid directorial debut. 

This is quite easily one of my favourite films of 2017.


D: Wim Wenders
Road Movies/Argus (Wim Wenders & Anatole Dauman)
West Germany 1987
127 mins


W: Wim Wenders & Peter Handke
DP: Henri Alekan
Ed: Peter Przygodda
Mus: Jürgen Knieper

Bruno Ganz (Damiel), Solveig Dommartin (Marion), Otto Sandler (Cassiel), Curt Bois (Homer), Peter Falk (Peter)

It's unfortunate that the insipid Hollywood remake (City Of Angels) will be better known than Wim Wender's original film, which is a beautifully filmed visual poem about the afterlife.
The story sees a pair of angels roam around Berlin, shot with picturesque black and white photography, and one of them decides he wants to be human after he falls in love with a circus entertainer. 
Perhaps it's because it isn't in the English language, or perhaps it's because it's an art house film, but one thing's for sure, Wings Of Desire is amongst the most underappreciated films of the 1980's as far as audiences are concerned.
At least the critics lavished it with the praise that's fully deserved.
D: Iain Softley
Miramax/Renaissance Dove (David Parfitt & Stephen Evans)
UK/US 1997
101 mins


W: Hossein Amini [based on the novel by Henry James]
DP: Eduardo Serra
Ed: Tariq Anwar
Mus: Edward Shearmur
PD: John Beard
Cos: Sandy Powell

Helena Bonham-Carter (Kate Croy), Linus Roache (Merton Densher), Alison Elliott (Milly Theale), Elizabeth McGovern (Susan Stringham), Charlotte Rampling (Aunt Maude), Michael Gambon (Lionel Croy)

High society period drama, based on the novel by Henry James.
At the turn of the 20th century, a young woman (Bonham-Carter) embarks on an affair with a penniless journalist, but when her mother forbids their tryst, they face two options to continue their relationship. The first is to lose everything and live their lives hand-to-mouth, while the other, more sinister option is to get him to seduce a dying American heiress, so that he can be named a beneficiary, but things become even more complicated when he develops serious affection for the ailing woman.
Though the story would work better as a book, this film adaptation does a fine job, capturing the period well as well as being beautifully photographed. The performances are all excellent, especially from Helena Bonham-Carter and Alison Elliott.

D: Debra Granik
Roadside Attractions (Anne Rosselini & Alix Madigan)
US 2010
100 mins


W: Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini [based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell]
DP: Michael McDonagh
Ed: Affonso Gonçalves
Mus: Dickon Hinchliffe

Jennifer Lawrence (Ree Dolly), John Hawkes (Teardrop Dolly), Lauren Sweetser (Gail), Garret Dillahunt (Sheriff Baskin), Dale Dickey (Merab), Shelley Waggener (Sonya)

Before her career went stratospheric with her casting in The Hunger Games movies and Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence made her breakthrough in this small independent movie released in 2010.
She plays Dee Rolly, whose father goes missing shortly after putting their house up for sale to finance his bail bond. Facing a cold winter homeless in the woods, Dee searches for her father in a journey that sees her uncover some ugly truths.
Excellent performances by Jennifer Lawrence & John Hawkes carry this movie. It's a bleak, often depressing watch but very reminiscent of something the Coen brothers would do (minus the twist of their unique humour). It caused a little surprise when it was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, though nods for Lawrence and Hawkes were very deserved.
"Be careful what you wish for."
"Be careful what you wish for."
D: Robert Kurtzman
First Independent/Live/Mediaworks (Pierre David, Clark Peterson & Noël Zanitsch)
US 1997
90 mins


W: Peter Atkins
DP: Jacques Haitkin
Ed: Dorian Vernaccio
Mus: Harry Manfredini

Tammy Lauren (Alexandra Amberson), Andrew Divoff (The Djinn / Nathaniel Demerest), Robert Englund (Raymond Beaumont), Tony Todd (Johnny Valentine), Wendy Benson (Shannon Amberson), Chris Lemmon (Nick Merritt)

Not directed by Wes Craven, but it feels like it is. This attempt to set up a new franchise in horror sees a demonic djinn released after 800 years in modern day Los Angeles, where he grants wishes with an unpleasant twist. 
It carries a wickedly macabre sense of humour which served the Nightmare On Elm Street movies quite well, but it feels forced here, mostly due to poor, formulaic screenwriting. The ending is also a complete cop out. It has a wink to other series in the genre with the casting of Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Kane Hodder, but there's nothing original or memorable here.
"A New England Folktale."
"A New England Folktale."


D: Robert Eggers

A24/Parts & Labor/RT/Rooks Nest/Maiden Voyage/Mott Street/Code Red/Scythia/Pulse/Special Projects (Rodrigo Teixeira, Daniel Bekerman, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond & Jay Van Hoy)

US/Canada 2015

93 mins


W: Robert Eggers

DP: Jarin Blaschke

Ed: Louise Ford

Mus: Mark Korven

Anya Taylor-Joy (Thomasin), Ralph Ineson (William), Kate Dickie (Katherine), Harvey Scrimshaw (Caleb), Ellie Grainger (Mercy), Lucas Dawson (Jonas)

I believe that the golden rule for horror movies is that "less is more". Unfortunately, most modern horror films tend to ignore this rule in favour of jump scare/gore porn rubbish.

The Witch bucks the current trend in favour of an approach to its material that focuses on mystery, intrigue and suggestion.

Set in 17th Century New England, a family are exiled from their community over a religious dispute and subsequently build a farm on the edge of a secluded forest. One of the family's children is abducted by the unknown and Thomasin, the eldest daughter, is blamed for the disappearance. 

The family attempt to come to terms with their loss as they struggle to thrive away from their community as the young twins accuse Thomasin of witchcraft when an illness strikes Caleb, the eldest son of the family.

Writer-director Robert Eggers crafts his movie impressively with an air of arthouse in his approach to the material, helped by good performances from the cast.

It's unfortunate that it probably won't be appreciated by the mainstream, since it's a horror movie you don't have to disengage your brain for.


D: Nicolas Roeg
Warner Bros./Lorimar (Mark Shivas)
UK/US 1990
91 mins


W: Allan Scott [based on the novel by Roald Dahl]
DP: Harvey Harrison 
Ed: Tony Lawson
Mus: Stanley Myers

Anjelica Huston (Miss Ernst / Grand High Witch), Mai Zetterling (Helga Eveshim), Jasen Fisher (Luke Eveshim), Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Stringer), Jane Horrocks (Susan Irvine), Charlie Potter (Bruno Jenkins)

This adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book is probably as good as what could be made at the time and though certain aspects haven't dated well, this still makes a good children's film which is more likely to appeal to older children and young adults due to its dark fantasy element.
A small boy, on a seaside holiday with his grandmother, is transformed into a mouse by the leader of a witches' council and must foil their plot to poison all the children in Britain.
It's fair to say that it's probably scarier than it needs to be, and some bits may be a little too much for younger children or those with a nervous disposition, but this is still a very good adaptation of a classic book (which was a good scare in its own right) by one of Britain's most beloved and iconic authors. 
It's unfortunate that Dahl was unsatisfied with the film, and it performed quite poorly during its cinema run.
D: George Miller
Warner Bros. (Neil Canton, Peter Guber & Jon Peters)
US 1987
118 mins


W: Michael Crisofer [based on the novel by John Updike]
DP: Vilmos Zsigmond
Ed: Richard Francis-Bruce & Hubert de la Bouillerie
Mus: John Williams
PD: Polly Platt

Cher (Alexandra Medford), Susan Sarandon (Jane Spofford), Michelle Pfeiffer (Sukie Ridgemont), Jack Nicholson (Daryl Van Horne), Veronica Cartwright (Felicia Alden), Richard Jenkins (Clyde Alden)

Who would be a more perfect choice to play the devil than a wickedly in-form Jack Nicholson, who uses the opportunity to have lots of fun in this big screen adaptation of John Updike's black comedy-fantasy.  
As the personification of evil, he seduced three divorcee friends (Cher, Pfeiffer, Sarandon) who wish him into being and bears the brunt of the religiously staid New England town.
The three women soon realise their mistake of inviting him into their lives, but find him quite difficult to get rid of.
Nicholson steals the show with a delightfully OTT performance and the three lead actresses do well to hold their own. The final act descends into a flurry of visual effects and the addition of one of John Williams' best music scores makes this a mini-classic of the 1980's. Be warned though... This film may well put you off cherries!
D: Bruce Robinson
Handmade Films (Paul M. Heller)
UK 1987
108 mins


W: Bruce Robinson [based on his play]
DP: Peter Hannan
Ed: Alan Strachan
Mus: David Dundas

Richard E. Grant (Withnail), Paul McGann (Marwood), Richard Griffiths (Uncle Monty), Ralph Brown (Danny), Michael Elphick (Jake)

A 1980's cult favourite, especially amongst students who formed a drinking game out of it.
The story is a semi-autobiographical account from director-screenwriter Bruce Robinson about two unemployed actors in the late 1960's who spend the majority of their time getting as drunk as possible.
One of them asks for the loan of his uncle's country house and they both head up north to Cumbria where they continue their boozy ways but are completely out of their comfort zone in the quaint rural village of Penrith, especially amongst the rogue bulls, irascible farmers and not having a clue how to cook a (live) chicken.
One of Britain's best movies of the late 1980's. Hilarious in parts, touchingly poetic in others, but a great watch all the same.

D: Thom Eberhardt
Rank/ITC (Marc Stirdivant)
US 1988
107 mins


W: Gary Murphy & Larry Swarther [based on characters created by Arthur Conan Doyle]
DP: Alan Hume
Ed: Peter Tanner
Mus: Henry Mancini

Michael Caine (Sherlock Holmes / Reginald Kincaid), Ben Kingsley (Dr. John Watson), Jeffrey Jones (Insp. George Lestrade), Lysette Anthony (Leslie Giles), Paul Freeman (Prof. James Moriarty)

Spoof of Sherlock Holmes starring Michael Caine as the famous literary detective. The twist here is that Holmes is actually a stage actor named Reginald Kincaid, invented as a front to keep the true genius crime-solver, Dr. Watson (played by Ben Kingsley), a secret.
As a concept, this is a rather interesting and clever spin on the usual homages to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works, but the biggest mystery is why a more interesting crime wasn't set up to match the inventiveness of the set-up. 
Enjoyable in fits and starts, but definitely a missed opportunity.

D: Steven Brill
Paramount (Donald DeLine)
US 2004
99 mins


W: Jay Leggett & Mitch Rouse
DP: Jonathan Brown
Ed: Debra Neil-Fisher & Peck Prior
Mus: Christophe Beck

Seth Green (Dan), Matthew Lillard (Jerry), Dax Shepard (Tom), Ethan Suplee (Elwood), Burt Reynolds (Del Knox)

Parody of Deliverance for the MTV kids. 
The jokes miss more than they hit, settling mostly for bad taste humour. Burt Reynolds pops up to spoof his role in the 1972 classic, but it's more embarrassing than it is funny.
Good enough for 99 minutes of brainless entertainment, but if you're looking for something a little more high-brow, this will pretty much leave you up shit creek.

"A big city cop who knows too much. His only witness- a small boy who's seen too much."
"A big city cop who knows too much. His only witness- a small boy who's seen too much."
D: Peter Weir
Paramount (Edward S. Feldman)
US 1985
112 mins


W: Earl W. Wallace & William Kelley
DP: John Seale
Ed: Thom Noble
Mus: Maurice Jarre
PD: Stan Jolley

Harrison Ford (John Book), Kelly McGillis (Rachel Lapp), Josef Sommer (Schaeffer), Lukas Haas (Samuel Lapp), Jan Rubes (Eli Lapp), Alexander Godunov (Daniel Hochleitner), Patti LuPone (Elaine), Danny Glover (McFee)

Witness is one of the best thrillers of the 1980's, featuring one of Harrison Ford's finest performance, which secured his only nomination (to date) for a Best Actor Oscar.         
A young Amish boy witnesses a murder at a train station restroom. The case is investigated by homicide detective John Book (Ford), but when it emerges that the crime was carried out by a fellow officer and there's a cover up within his department, he goes into hiding with the boy and his mother with an Amish community in Pennsylvania where he must respect their humble ways.
The clever screenplay provides a unique twist on both standard crime thrillers as well as a fish-out-of-water tale. Another factor which aids the film is the direction of Peter Weir, who presents the devout lifestyle with a genuine respect for the people. A winner of two Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay.

D: Billy Wilder
United Artists (Arthur Hornblow, Jr.)
US 1957
114 mins


W: Billy Wilder, Harry Kurnitz & Larry Marcus [based on the stage play by Agatha Christie]
DP: Russell Harlan
Ed: Daniel Mandell
Mus: Matty Melneck

Charles Laughton (Sir Wilfrid Robarts), Tyrone Power (Leonard Vole); Marlene Dietrich (Christine Vole), Elsa Lanchester (Miss Plimsoll), John Williams (Brogan Moore)

Agatha Christie's stage play is brought to the screen with some style and panache by director and co-writer Billy Wilder, who puts the main focus on the trio of main characters rather than the courtroom scenes, which only come in the latter half of the movie.
Charles Laughton plays ageing, sickly barrister Wilfrid Robarts, who is approached by Leonard Vole, a desperate man who is facing a murder charge following the death of a wealthy heiress who he embarked on a romantic tryst with.
His guilt looks even more likely when it emerges he is the beneficiary of the woman's estate, but upon interviewing Vole's German wife and finding her untrustworthy, agrees to take on the case.
Marlene Dietrich steals this movie with her shady portrayal, setting up an unexpected twist as the proceedings unfold, while Charles Laughton is also fantastic as the haughty lawyer.
Billy Wilder has shades of Alfred Hitchcock with the delivery of this film, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in a particularly strong year.
It's not quite as good as many other courtroom drama pictures, but is still certainly worth a watch for fans of the genre.

D: Victor Fleming
MGM (Mervyn LeRoy)
US 1939
102 mins


W: Noël Langley, Florence Ryerson & Edgar Allan Woolf [based on the stories by L. Frank Baum]
DP: Harold Rosson
Ed: Blanche Sewell
Mus: Herbert Stothart
PD: Cedric Gibbons
Cos: Adrian 

Judy Garland (Dorothy Gale), Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow/Hunk), Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion/Zeke), Jack Haley (The Tin Woodsman/Hickory), Billie Burke (Glinda), Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked Witch), Clara Blandick (Auntie Em), Frank Morgan (Prof. Marvel/The Wizard)

The Wizard Of Oz is the perfect example of a timeless classic. Released in 1939, it still has the power to captivate a new generation of audience, as well as holding nostalgic value for those who loved it during their own childhood. 
The film starts in black and white, with Kansas farm girl Dorothy yearning for a world somewhere over the rainbow. A tornado whisks her to the magical world of Oz, where she quickly makes enemies with a wicked witch, but with the aid of a scarecrow, a tin man, a cowardly lion, her dog and a pair of ruby slippers, they follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City so the Wizard can help Dorothy get back home.
There's so many memorable things about the Wizard Of Oz that it's easy to captivate the imaginations of so many people. The production values are, of course, synonymous with films produced during the 1930's, yet the inventiveness of the design ensures that it hasn't dated a bit, quite like a cinematic version of a pantomime, but it's far better than that.
The most surprising thing of all is that the film wasn't a huge success upon its original release, but has become a perennial classic since, mostly due to it being a staple during Christmas television schedules. 
You don't need to be friend of Dorothy to appreciate how wonderful this film is. Movie perfection in every respect.