Saturday, 24 January 2015


#11 AMERICAN SNIPER (24.1.15)

Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and Jake McDorman. Written by  Jason Hall and based on Chris Kyle's autobiography. Directed By Clint Eastwood.

134 minutes long.

Based on the autobiography of the US army's most deadly sniper, Chris Kyle who officially killed 160 enemy combatants while he himself was said to have killed over 250. The film follows him through four tours of duty during the Gulf wars, while stopping off briefly to see glimpses of his own childhood and the story of his relationship with his wife, Taya, as played by Sienna Miller.

Gotta say that normally I'm not a fan of either Cooper or Miller but this time round they both won me over, Bradley in particular was terrific, hiding his pretty boy looks behind bulk and beard, he's stars in each and every scene and effortlessly carries the movie single-handily. This is a powerful and intense experience and the combat scenes are utterly gripping. The whole thing has a horrific fascination that engrosses and engages from beginning to end. In America this opened huge and its not difficult to see why. It's solid propaganda, the film never attempts to question the intervention of the US in Iraq and it's certainly not interested in showing the enemy as anything other than murderous, barbaric and despicable, with every Johnny Foreigner shown either treacherous and evil or evil and treacherous; happy to sacrifice its own children with no qualm or quater – this is an old fashion cowboys and Indians movie in that respect and as black and white as one too. The war is a terrible thing and seems to become even more so as Kyle's four tours of duty see rest of his unit, called the Punishers – after the Marvel comic character – slowly, and horribly, taken out of action until only Kyle's left to take revenge on the two enemy combatants he holds personally responsible, the electric drill wealding Butcher and the
expert insurgent sniper, "Mustafa".

It's clear that, despite his age, Clint shows no signs of slowing and can still hack it as a director of note.

This won't be everyone's cup of tea and politically it's bound to rankle with some, but as a film this is powerful, powerful stuff and well worth seeing! Once again a solid, adult film but what a shame so many good films have been crammed into one month and not spread out across the year.



#10: MORTDECAI (24.1.15)

Turning up and taking a salary were: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGreggor and Olivia Munn. 'Special' guest star Jeff Goldblum.

Script adapted from a novel by Eric Aronson. Directed (although that's a bit of a stretch) by David Koepp.

106 minutes too long.

Who ordered the shit sandwich, with extra shit and a side order of shit on the side, don't hold the shit?

Everybody and everything about this movie, except for Paul Bettany and Jeff Godblum, is shit. Johnny Depp rips off Terry Thomas and the Fast Show and is shit. Gwyneth Paltrow, deciding on a conscious uncoupling with good acting, paints eyeballs on her closed eye lids and sleep walks through the whole thing and is shit. Ewan McGreggor thought he'd signed up for a seaside panto in Porthcawl and is shit (oh no he's not! Oh yes he bloody well is.) Olivia Munn turns up to be groped by Depp and is shit and Jeff Goldblum (who, even if he turned up and did a huge steaming shit on a desk couldn't be shit, even if he tried.) but he's only on screen for three scenes and he's gone, so that's shitty.

The script is shit, filled with some terrible jokes including one where Depp admits to having sex in a French Embassy with an underage girl, which I think makes our hero a pedophile. The sound track is shit. But the biggest pile of steaming shit in this film is the direction, which is so ball-achingly lazy, uninspired and boring that it actually intrudes and becomes noticable.

The plot involves Terry Thomas, sorry Johnny Dump's Mortdecai - a rich (but broke) upperclass, art dealer/con-artist and shit hired by MacGreggor to track down a missing Goya painting while a group of baddies run around killing people to own the painting and his wife tags along for shits and giggles.

Despite being dull, boring and, did I mention - shit. This isn't a total train wreck like Taken 3 but it's a close run thing. There are a few funny moments. However, bear in mind this is a 12a certificate film and filled with an on-screen erection, explicit jokes about sex, the forementioned underage sex gag, violence, torture and some other stuff so it might not be wholly appropriate for younger kids, like 12-year olds.

My 11 year son fell asleep during this, the first time that's ever happened and remarked when he woke up, "I didn't even care if I missed anything."


Tuesday, 20 January 2015


#9: BOYHOOD (1.19.15)
Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelei Linklater. Written and directed by Richard Linklater. 166 minutes long.

The boyhood of a boy called Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, told in moments across 12 years of his young life. The product of young divorced parents, Mason and his sister, Samatha – played by Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei – live with their mom, Olivia who yearns to return to college and finish off her education. Boyhood is the very definition of a slow burn movie, taking 14 minutes shy of three hours to meander up to the point, which is that life is just that, a series of moments strung together. And that’s it.

Along the way, we watch Mason grow up and turn from cute to lumpy, to cute again, to teenage to lumpy and finally into gangly, pouting, wannabe teenage-model complete with ear piercing and designer scruffy hair as his mother, Patricia Arquette grows old gracefully, putting on weight like all middle aged people and wearing her age with pride while his father, Ethan Hawke defies the aging process entirely and instead opts to wear a variety of moustaches and facial hair to denote the passing of time. The film, like real life, is filled with moments of sweetness, sadness and humour as life lessons are learned and relationships breakdown, and all the while Mason drifts through it all aimlessly in a sort of unspoken quest for answers as he searches for his ‘thing’. The film is littered with funny moments that will resonate with parents everywhere, but it’s Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei who is perhaps the funniest character in the film, bringing as she does a sardonic, dry wit and sass with a capital sass!

It’s strangely engaging watching the young cast grow up and change before your eyes and while the film is never anything other than engrossing you’re left wondering what happened to the characters that got lost along the way, left behind in their wake, Mason’s step brother and sister for example and his abusive step fathers? But perhaps that’s not the point, this film is all about Mason and how he sees the world and for him, as it is with most children it seems to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

With naturalist acting, a charming soundtrack that seems to name-check perfectly just the right song for the moment, an unobtrusive camera and direction and not a single explosion, gun battle, robot or car chase in sight, Boyhood is a truly impressive achievement rightly lauded by nearly every film critic and film festivals around the world.

Slow, languid but never boring. Boyhood is a glorious experience and if you like movies about nothing, this is most certainly one for you!


Monday, 19 January 2015


#8: WHIPLASH (17-1-15)

Starring Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle.

107 minutes all too brief.

Miles Teller plays Andrew - a drum prodigy with dreams of being the next drumming legend, like his hero, Buddy Rich. His every waking moment is filled with his passion, his magnificent obsession, and when he's not practicing he's listening to drumming, analysing every aspect of a drum solo and practicing again 'till his hands bleed.

When Andrew learns that maverick music tutor, Terence Fletcher (played by the soon to be Oscar winner, JK Simmons) is looking for a new drummer, Andrew goes out of his way to catch the ear of the notoriously difficult Fletcher, but comes to learn, first hand the old adage, 'be careful what you wish for.' was never truer than it is at the hands of the brutal, bullish and driven teacher. Forced to absolute breaking point, Andrew's begins to remove all distractions in his life, in his pursuit of drumming perfection, and his relationship with his father and girlfriend are the first to suffer.

But Fletcher's ever increasing psychological and physical bullying begins to take its toil on the young drummer leading to an absolutely stunning showdown, of which the less spoken of the better, that really does elevate this film to something very special, nay extraordinary.

JK Simmons utterly dominates the role of Fletcher but the film isn't entirely his, high praise must be given to Whiplash's young star, Miles Teller who brings a tangible reality to the role of Andrew that makes him seem real and all to believable and never cliched. The score, pure jazz is perfect for the film and never becomes intrusive or distracting.

Gripping, intense and never anything other than utterly engrossing, there are times when this film feels almost like a fly-on-the-wall documentary rather than a drama so realistic does it feel.

Simply one of the best films I've seen in ages and definitely one of my top ten films of the year.



#7: GONE GIRL (15-1-15)

Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens and Tyler Perry.

Written by Gillian Flynn and directed by David Fincher. 145 mintues long.

A tricky film to talk about too much without spoiling it and although this is a film that doesn't have a twist ending, saying too much will spoil this film for anyone who hasn't read the book. On the morning of his 5th wedding anniversary, Affleck's Nick Dunne comes home to discover his wife, Amy Dunne is missing - seemingly the victim of an abduction. He calls in the police and soon becomes a person of interest when evidence surfaces that seems to implicate the husband in his wife's violent abduction and possible death. The film flashes back and forth from the present to five years earlier, through Amy's journal, and the start of the Dunne's relationship. And where as the present is told through Nick's eyes, the past belongs to Amy's. But is everything as it seems or is someone hiding something?

A thoroughly dark, involving, engrossing and intriguing film with spot-on performances from, not only, the two leads but also the supporting cast too. Never short-changing the audience this is a fascinating and chilling film that is an absolute delight from beginning to end, although it's the end that costs this film a perfect 10/10, lacking as it does a satisfying ending. I wanted a solid full-stop but all I got was an

Directed with precision and skill by David Fincher this is a film that is never less than utterly engrossing and it no doubt helps that the screen writer is also the writer of the novel on which this film is based.

Second time round for this one, it came back as part of Cineworld's Take 2 program. So, did it hold up as well as it did the first time I saw it back in October.

A big, fat yes. The things that were great the first time round remain so, Affleck has never been better, ditto for Pike. The story and direction is tight and the film retains its power to surprise.

The only down side is the sound track, whenever the film flashes back to the beginning of Pike and Affleck's character's relationship, the dialogue is almost drowned out by the soundtrack and you find yourself straining to hear what's being said. But it's a minor quibble and doesn't effect the score.


Sunday, 11 January 2015


#6: FOXCATCHER (11-1-15)

Starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatnum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller.

Written by Dan Futterman, E. Max Frye and directed by Bennett Miller.

134 minutes long.

Based on the true story of the John Du Pont's murder of the wrestling coach and Olympic champion, Dave Schultz. Foxcatcher is an extraordinarily intense portrait of three men, John DuPont - Steve Carrel in a career defining roll, Channing Tatnum as the nice but dim, Olympic and World Champion - Mark Schultz and his brother, US Wrestling Coach as played by Mark Ruffalo. All three deserve great kudos and awards galore.

Together they give superb performances, each seemingly encouraging the other two to match and then raise the bar without ever over-egging the pudding instead, they create a fantastically compelling world, that keeps you utterly engrossed and enthralled right up to its terrible conclusion.

This is a seriously powerful film, deep, dark and brooding, a film that builds slowly, taking its time to introduce the characters and construct its story. Perhaps half of the appeal of the film is that it's based on a true story, which makes the characters seem all that more real – you find yourself caring for them, of trying to identify the tipping point, of wanting to, somehow, stop the dreadful inevitability from happening and yet there's also a strange voyeuristic desire to see that terrible fate claim the life of one of these 'real' people.

An intense, dramatic and amazing. Don't miss it.


Saturday, 10 January 2015


#5 INTO THE WOODS  (10-1-15)

Starring Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Cordon, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.

Adapted by James Lapine (from his and Stephen Sondheim script), directed by Rob Marshall.

124 minutes long.

What if...

What if the worlds of Cinderella, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood collided in a new fairy tale, that sees a baker and his wife sent on a quest by a witch to find four items – a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure of gold that when combined will lift a curse that has left the couple childless and the witch ugly, crooked and ancient. That's the premise of Into The Woods, or at least the first half of the movie. The second half deals with that age old fairy tale meme,  'what happens after our multiple heroes and heroines all get their happily ever afters?'

Into The Woods is a fairly entertaining movie with a good cast, some funny moments, clever lyrics and enjoyable music, although you won't be humming any of the songs, of which the best is an extremely funny duet between the two Princes as they try to out sing each other on a waterfall.

This is Rob Marshall's third cinematic musical after Nine and Chicago and it's clear that his background as a choreographer and as a director of Broadway musicals easily makes him capable of controlling this massive and rambling story. The first half, or the bit up to "They all lived happily ever after." is the most entertaining and was certainly enough for me, I was happily reaching for my coat when it occurred to me that there was more to come, much, much more to come! And sadly I sort of lost interest, I just didn't think the film really needed it, from then on the story is wholly new as the characters from the first five stories must overcome a new threat with revenge on her giant mind, which will also lead to a happy ending but not in the way you might imagine.

I can't say I'm a huge fan of musicals, there's a few i love, Singing in the Rain,  Moulin Rouge! and Chicago but the recent musicals have left me deeply unmoved and I truly hated the awful Lesile Miserable so this one came as a pleasant surprise by not being as remotely hateful or dreadful as that later one nor, sadly, as memorable as the formers.


Thursday, 8 January 2015

#4: TAKEN 3

#4: TAKEN 3  (8-1-15)

Starring Liam Nesson, Forrest Whittaker.

Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen.

Directed by Olivier Megaton

112 minutes way too long.

"Pop Quiz, hot shot." to borrow a phrase from a vastly superior action film.

Question 1. You return home to find the body of your ex-wife lying dead on your bed, her throat has been cut from ear to ear. How much blood is there?

Question 2. You've captured a gang leader and are holding a gun to his head to interrogate him. Rather than answer your questions he forces your gun into his own mouth and pulls your trigger, blowing his head off. How much blood is there?

Question 3. You survive a brutal ballet of bullets and batterings in the main bad man's lair and finally fatally shot him twice in the naked torso. How much blood is there?

Answers. None what so ever! Particularly if this is Taken 3, a 12A action film.

This is a shit film, no point beating about the bush, it's just shit. It's lazy, dull and so filled with plot holes it's like the two writers responsible emptied machine guns into the script. Actually, I was surprised to discover that writers were involved in this sorry mess, I'd just assumed everybody involved just turned up and winged it, making it up as they went along.

The whole cast from Liam down to Sherod Ogletree and Erick Wofford just looks bored, mind-bogglingly bored. Liam more so than the others. The plot, is the very definition of dull. Nesson's Bryan Miles wife is killed, he's framed and a gang of Russian mobsters seem to be gunning for him. Nesson goes on the run to prove his innocent while, over-acting Whittaker (his character doesn't get a name) is the police man on his trail. What follows is lack-lustre jogging from the elderly Nesson as he gently out lops the coppers and goes 'off grid' to use his particular skill set to avenge his dead ex-wife and save his now pregnant daughter from any disaster and the baddies.

What makes this sorry sack of rancid shit even harder to stomach is how terribly piss poor the direction is. Seriously, if you thought the writing was terrible and it is, then the direction will leave your eyes bleeding, utilising both a frenzied editing style that ensures that no action gets less than 90 cuts per minute and a shaky cam boot to disguise the action, ensuring you can be safe that you'll have not the foggiest what's going on. But that's not a bad thing, it does mean you can bring your under 12s along and not fear for them seeing anything gruesome or violent because seriously, they'll not be able to work out what the fuck is going on either.

Like the truly horrific Die Hard 5, this film gives not one jot about collatoral damage and you too can marvel at the high number of civilian deaths that Miles is partly responsible for. How this demented serial killer can avoid any sanction for the sheer number deaths he causes is boggling.

And who the hell decided that making this sort of film accessed by under 12s, if accompanied by an adult, was a good idea? They need to hang their heads in shame. No self-respecting parent would allow their child to see this, it's not fantasy violence, this is violence presented in a real world. And kids just won't care about watching a man older than their grandparents stumble round supposedly killing people, but I can't be sure.

I blame Expendable 2 & 3. Seriously, what is wrong is a full-blown 18 cert action film, I'd even settle for a 15, but no more 12As please, it's ugly and feels like a cheap ploy to try and squeeze money out of the audience.

Just shit, don't bother. Just watch the first one again.


Sunday, 4 January 2015


#3: BIG HERO SIX (4/1/15)

Starring the voice talents of: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jnr., Génesis Rodríguez, James Cromwell and Maya Rudolph. The amazing animation skills of the Walt Disney animation studio, written by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson and Robert L. Baird and directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. 102 minutes long.

In the near future, two orphans – 14 year-old boy genius Hiro and his elder brother, Tadashi Hamada live with their Aunt in San Fransokyo, Hiro squanders his genius-level talents building battle bots to take part in illegal robot fights while his brother creates, Baymax - a large white inflatable robot doctor - in the genius lab of the nearby Tech University. When Hiro creates an amazing new robotic nanobot gadget of his own to secure a place at Uni with his brother and a gang of fellow genius-level nerds his future looks fantastic! However, Hiro has little time to reap the benefits of his invention before it and his brother, are destroyed in a terrible explosion and Hiro is bereaved again.

But Tadashi's creation comes to the aid of Hiro and in the best emotional section of the movie the robot helps the boy to come to terms with his grief while accidentally helping him to discover the explosion and fire was no accident and there's a mysterious masked super-villain in town using his nanobot technology for his own nefarious purposes.

Recruiting the services of gang of science nerds, Hiro transforms and equipments them into the super-hero team Big Hero Six of the title and off they head to battle the villain. From then on, it's business as usual with action, adventure and excitement galore plus the usual Disney life-lesson about forgiveness, responsibility and the benefits of working together.

Visually speaking, Big Hero Six is simply breath-taking, the street scenes, the detail, the textures, the animation, the design and in fact every aspect other than the story are pure A+, picture-perfect things of wonder. But the story is sadly all too generic, riddled with plot holes and 'what the?' moments and all rather blah-blah. It's like looking at a fantastic Lamborghini and then popping the hood to find a generic, 2 stroke engine inside, which is a great shame because when this film focuses on Hiro coming to terms with his grief thanks to Baymax or hanging out with the techno nerds it soars, but when it's bogged down in the rather complicated and padded plot it's all just becomes a little bit samey and average. And that's a sad because films like How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2 and The Incredibles  have shown that modern animated adventure films can come up with something be fresh and original in the story dept, what a shame this one didn't.

However, none of that should bother the target audience, particularly the boys who will love this film regardless of the generic story and by-the-numbers plot.


Friday, 2 January 2015


#2: DUMB & DUMBER TO  (2/1/15)

Directed by the Farrelly Brothers. Staring Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels and Kathleen Turner. Written by six people. Six. It took six of them to write this. 110 minutes long.

Seen the trailer? Did you enjoy the trailer. Did you like the bit where Lloyd fakes his 20 year catatonic state? Did you like it when the hotel room full of fireworks went off? How about the bit with the two boys talking on the phones to each other, not realising they were? Great stuff, I agree! Trouble is those are most of the high-lights, take those out and you're left with perhaps 3 or 4 other extremely funny moments sprinkled amongst the remaining 100 odd minutes. And those minutes seemed to be filled mainly with showing us all what a thoroughly unlikable character, Jim Carey's Lloyd Christmas really is. Mean-spirited, spiteful and actually unpleasant. Btw, if the trailer or the original film left you unmoved then this film is most certainly not for you.

The plot revolves round Jeff Daniels' Harry Dunne's quest to find his long-lost daughter and secure a much needed kidney. Add to that some spurious sub-plot and a long rambling road trip plot and you have this, tired and at times rather nasty mess. That said there are some occasionally laugh-out loud hilarious scenes, no seriously there are moments where tears will roll down your face, but those are sadly too few and far between, or should that be to [sic] few and far between. Chortle chortle.

Referencing several moments for the original Dumb & Dumber film made back in 1994, this at least isn't just a lazy rehash although there are several very uncomfortable jokes made at the expense of women and there's one gag involving a cork that caused an audible, collective shocked gasp among the audience. Of the lead pair, once again Jeff Daniels still pips Carey as the funniest, but that's not much of an accolade.

This 20 year in the making sequel won't be as fondly remembered as the original in 20 years time.


Thursday, 1 January 2015


#1: BIRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)  (1/1/15)

Starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts. Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Running time 119 minutes.

Will this be the second year on the trot where the best film of the year just so happens to be the first film of the year? If not, then whatever trumps it is going to be freking awesome! BIRDMAN is a strange, deeply dark comedy whose laughs come from situation and character rather than punchlines and pratfalls. Presented as a single long take, Birdman is actually a series of fantastically long, single-shot scenes that never fails to amaze and delight.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a tired, washed-up, Hollywood super-star who once played the titular character, Birdman in three blockbuster movies, but that was 20 years ago. Now Riggan's back, on Broadway and funding, writing, directing and starring in a play, based on his favourite Raymond Carver's short story 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.' But as first preview night approaches, circumstances and nerves are beginning to get the better of Riggan and he starts to have serious doubts, his co-star is seriously injured in an on-stage accident and Riggan is forced to hire Edward Norton's insanely arrogant but brilliant, Mike to replace him, but Mike threatens to steal both the play and his daughter from under Riggan's nose. But that's just the tip of his problems, he's also got an on-off, is-she,-isn't-she-pregnant actress girlfriend, an ex-wife, his - fresh out of rehab - daughter, a best friend who's also producing the play (the surprisingly good, Zach Galifianakis who proves he can actually act and act well!), a truly venomous theatre critic hellbent on killing the play and Riggan's mostly unseen alter-ego, Birdman who's whispering advice into his ear to muddy the waters even further. Told over three nights and set almost entirely inside the theatre, Birdman is an incredibly unusual tour-de-force of a movie and unlike anything you've ever seen, unless you've seen Robert Atlman's 1970 classic, Brewster McCloud, which oddly enough was also about a bird-obsessed man.

There are so many incredible scenes and moments in this film that it deserves to be seen and marveled at. Birdman is an utter delight from beginning to end, bizarre, surreal, black as coal funny with brilliant performances, none more so than Keaton who utterly owns this movie lock, stock and barrel! Seriously I bloody loved this film. How it managed to be both so surreal and strange as well as incredibly grounded and real is a testimony to Alejandro as director and the gifted writers who wrote this film. 

It most certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, and I can understand why, but I guarantee that if you go and see it, you'll be talking about for weeks, it's that sort of rare and special film that deserves to be seen, even if you hate it. For seriously, when was the last time we got a mainstream film this daring, brave or downright bat-shit crazy?