March 3, 2012


DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick

A classic that still inspires filmmakers today, as well as debate…

This is a beautiful film, spectacular to look at, let alone here, but its pacing turns into a work of art, rather than a movie. It is divided into four distinct chapters: The Dawn of Man, Le voyage dans la Lune, The ACTUAL story, and the psychedelic final 25 minutes. The Apes are cool and this opening sequence presents the monoliths as something creeping and desperately important. The voyage to the moon, which clocks up 40 minutes is elegant and innovative though slow and bar some minor plot development, filled with small talk.

The Discovery story begins at minute 50, finally introducing the main cast who are played and directed clinically, but again, continue to show what life may well be like in the future or eleven years ago now. But the final act is where this becomes something which many people have found hard to swallow. Having sat through 110 minutes of apes, space flight and meals through straws, our hero as you might call him, enters the Monolith in orbit of Jupiter, and spends the next 25 minutes becoming a star child.

All in all, this is one of the best Sci Fi films that I have ever seen, and SEEN is very much the word. This is a delight to look at and listen too, designed for big screens and even bigger sound systems, but there’s nothing to offer in the way of plot. The characters are handled in typical Kubrick fashion, as clinical devices to drive the paper-thin narrative, with HAL, the on board computer, managing to be the heart of the entire film.

In fact, it starts down the road of becoming a little heartbreaking when the moment to comes to shut down this paranoid killing machine, and in many ways, that could be the genius of this film. This is many things, but not least it is an existentialist exploration of our place in the universe, but it’s also only half a story. Every door is opened but not a one is entered or explored. What has happened to HAL? What possessed Dave Bowman to fly into the Monolith? What the hell was going on?

The point is to discover this for yourself, to read what you want into it and derive your own conclusions, but in the end, it comes across as a film so self-indulgent that it simply doesn’t care how it tells it story, just how it looks on the screen. This is truly and work of art and in may ways, belongs in that genre, but it is also one a hell of a good-looking movie, but in the end, to me, it fails to be all that it could have been.

2010: The Year We Make Contact is in many ways a better FILM, with a well-rounded plot and method, and manages to fill in most of the blanks from the first. It is very underrated because you cannot be better that one of Hollywood’s sacred cows, but as good as this is, it literally lost the plot somewhere in its production.

This is still an inspiration to filmmakers everywhere as so it should be. A masterpiece of modern cinema. Most defiantly…

N.B. There are may ways to interpreted 2001: A Space Odyssey, some see it as a religious allegory, others as man with his tools, evolving as he goes. But there are some pretty radical views of the film, fuelled by Kubrick’s deliberate failure to justify his own film. For more on this subject, take a look at INTERPRETATIONS OF 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY on Wikipedia. Very interesting read, though many world argue that you shouldn’t need to read volumes just to understand what you’ve seen on film.


March 2, 2012


DIRECTOR: Steve Pink

Gross ain’t the word for this high concept time travel caper, starring John Cusack. Three middle-aged men and Cusack’s nerdy nephew, are pining for the good old days when there lives still had hope and end up in the eponymous hot tub. Sent back to the 1986 in their younger bodies, they are told by the mysterious Chevy Chase, not to change their behaviour and do as they did in past until they can travel back to the present.

This lasts for about 15 minutes then the gloves are off. They go through motions of male bonding, learning more about themselves and having sex, but all in all this fails to live up to the film’s brilliant title. I must admit that I laughed throughout but I felt that I was laughing at it rather that with it as I was just grossed out more than amused.

I didn’t really like the characters, though I don’t hate them either. There was very little going on here, apart from some savvy references to other time travel films and the 1980′s. I think that it wanted to be geek-sheik but ends up being a mish-mash of ideas, jokes and concepts and though it may amuse and gross you out in equal measure, there’s not too much left to take home with you afterwards. A missed opportunity if ever there was one.


March 2, 2012


DIRECTOR: Adrienne Shelly

This indie chick flick has a lot more offer than may first appear. A simple story of a waitress, Keri Russell, who is intent on leaving her oppressive hick husband, even though she has just discovered that she is carrying his baby. Things are further complicated by her new doctor, Nathan Fillion, who she begins to have an affair with, though he too being married.

This is about a woman and her desire to break free from her social restraints, with her only ally being determination. It plays out well, without being too clichéd, though that’s not to say that it doesn’t fit nicely into the indie genre and ends nicely in keeping with the tone of the narrative. But it is also quite a comfortable watch, with a gentle story that just washes over you, never offending nor boring.

The witty script is a fitting tribute to the late writer/director Adrienne Shelly and is well treated by the cast, lead by Keri Russell.


February 29, 2012


DIRECTOR: Werner Herzog


I sat down on my 33rd birthday last year and watched, what I had on good authority, was to be both Nicholas Cage on top form and a classy and brilliant film from Werner Herzog. Well, the former was correct, but as for the ‘brilliant’ film… I think not. It was okay and in parts it was good, but scenes include a coked up Cage pulling a hooker and her ‘John’ over, stealing their drugs and effectively raping the girl for all intents at purposes.

This scene, by the way was excellently directed and Cage put in a career high performance for change, but it still give you some idea as what’s going on here. He’s a bent cop living on the edge, in love with a prostitute and in debt to the wrong people, with semi horrific/comical effects.

And all this is interspersed with a handheld camera shot of a singing iguana, seemingly reflecting the warped psyche of Cage. Well performed and weirdly put together but this was just too off the all for me, but for David Lynch fans out there, this is defiantly for you.


February 29, 2012


DIRECTOR: Edward Neumeier


Will we be adding this to our collection? NO

May Contain Spoilers!

Back in 1998, I LOVED Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers; The savvy Sci-Fi metaphor about fascism and an excuse to have loads of gross out bug action and slaughter. But as the its sequels were straight to DVD efforts, I wasn’t keen to have the greatness of the original tarnished.

So I caught this on TV earlier this week, and I was happier with this one in principle that I expected, because at least it returned Casper Van Dien to the leading role spot, though I’m not a fan of him in particular, it was just nice to have some of the original cast back. They needn’t have bothered. He is a TOTAL waste of time as an actor. But, this was a poor sequel as well.

It played out more like a bog standard Sci-Fi channel movie, with sledgehammer metaphors and no fun or epic scale, compared to the original. The bugs didn’t do or appear half as much as they should and Star Trek: Enterprise’s, Jolene Blalock also proves her lack of range, playing a caricatured female soldier, whilst several if the key characters sing hymns in an effort to show how religion taking over the fascist Federation.

This reminded me much more of the 1952 classic Quo Vadis, which is in a complete different league to this! The idea I suppose is to tie the federation to the Roman Empire, which was critically effected by the growth of Christianity, with eventual transformation into the Rome which all know today.

Al in all, this was nothing more than a disposable Sci-Fi trifle, who’s only redeeming feature is its consistency in effects and the look of the graphics, such as the Fed Net, though even that was light and vacuous compared, again the original.

Please, PLEASE! No more!


February 28, 2012

Sunday night was dominated by the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood and whist many films, performances and talents were snubbed of overlooked, the one which I hoped against hope for was Gary Oldman to win Best Actor for his role as George Smily in the recent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Now, I must admit that I haven’t seen this film yet, though  I will be soon enough and though I have seen clips and trailers and Oldman leaps off the screen with his understated performances, so do many of the ensemble of British talent also involved.

But I’m not prepared to judge his performance in a film which I haven’t seen as the context is missing. So, it’s unfair for me to say that he was head and shoulders above the competition, and though having not seen much more of the other leading films, nor The Artist or its leading man and winner of the category, Jean Dujardin. Though I did find all fairness that Dujardin was a just winner as acting in a silent film in 2012 is a whole new art form and one which so far, looks to have been performed excellently.

My point is leaning towards the 2007 ceremony, when Martin Scorsese won for The Departed, a film which I liked, though many critics felt that it was far from his greatest work. Scorsese won for Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, just decades too late. He was rewarded for a career of unprecedented work and The Departed was the excuse to award him after years of being snubbed.

But Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is not The Departed in critic’s circles, nor is Oldman’s performances which has been almost universally heralded. But when I call for Gary Oldman to win the top award, I’m calling for him to be rewarded for being one of cinema greatest actors, whom, no matter how prestigious or low brow the project, he will always deliver a top-notch performance.

Sometimes, it’s camp, others downplayed or straightforward but there’s little doubt that this is a charismatic actor who can put his money where his mouth is without fail. Below are what I believe to be five reasons as to why Gary Oldman should have already bagged an Oscar or at least a nomination and why…



Possibly, Oldman’s campest and most bizarre performance to date. Playing Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in Luc Besson’s Sci-Fi oddity, He certainly made an impression,with this often being refered to when thinking Oldman. He was not afraid to overplay him, giving a fully formed and fleshed out performance of a character which most actors would have camped up even more! The key here is that he took the role seriously and that is at the heart of great comedy.


JFK (1991)

As Lee Harvey Osward, Oldman’s early performance as one of American’s most despised men, he was never going to be playing this as a likeable bloke. But even though he was depicted wholly in disjointed flashbacks, Osward’s still managed to come across as a sympathetic character, even though his innocence is still open left open to interpretation.



The film, was in many ways a rubbish Sci-Fi adaptation of a rubbish TV show. But as an adaptation, it’s quite well conceived and though the effects are as crass as the wooden acting, this can still be entertaining if you let it. But there’s no doubt that the shining light in the film was Gary’s take on Johnathan Harris’s Doctor Smith.

He sounds and acts like the weaselly villain from the original series but manages to play him a bit darker. But this was the most enjoyable part of this average film.



I must admit that I haven’t seen this film in a while, but the image of the corrupt cop, Stansfeild strolling into the blood spattered and bullet riddled apartment of  young Natalie Portman’s family will stick with me. Real presence…



This was far cry from Bela Legosi’s inaugural performance in 1931. Francis Ford Coppola began his version with Vlad The Impaler, which humanised Oldman’s Dracula, for a brief time anyway.

He conveyed the melodramatic pain of the demonic creature who heart was enslaved to the image of his deceased wife, who was  seeming incarnate in the form of Winona Rider. He held this film together but that’s not to discount a series of good turns, especially from Anthony Hopkins. Though the less said about Keanu Reeves’ accent, the better…

Whist these five choices, all from the 1990′s by the way, but that’s just a coincidence, are my top five examples of Oldman exercising his acting skills at his best, that’s not to say that that’s it. Oldman’s contribution to Harry Potter helped make The Prisoner Of Azkaban with an understated but solid performance as Potter’s Uncle, Sirius Black, and he delivers the same in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins & The Dark Knight as Jim Gordon. In both cases he plays a reliable character, earning the trust of the heroes and the audience alike, with a performance which whilst not extravagant, it is absolutely true to the characters.

The same can be said for his turn as a white drug dealer who likes to think of himself to black in Tony Scott’s, True Romance, where he simply plays him as black. It’s bizarre but once you get it, it works. But besides his stellar film work, his TV appearances are also something to note. I must admit, that I’ve not seen  some of his earlier work, particularly his early British projects, but his role in series 8 of  Friends, “The One With Monica & Chander’s Wedding Parts 1 & 2, where he plays a legendary British actor working with Joey on an epic war film was just perfect, and proof that as in The Fifth Element for example, that if you play comedy with same vigour in which you play a drama, the results can be hilarious for all the right reasons.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and hope that the film lives up to its reputation and that the performance of Oldman as Smiley, lives up to the clips and trailers which I have seen. And I stand by my view that Oldman is defiantly due an Oscar, but at least, finally he has garnered a nomination.


February 27, 2012

Derided by critics and self-righteous film buffs alike, Michael Bay, the man who continually rakes in the money for Hollywood during the Summer Blockbuster Season, does not get the recognitions that he deserves. He has been called many things by many people and critics such a Mark Kermode have begun to orchestrate campaigns against his work on the basis, and granted a well argued one, that he produces crass and cynical projects, drawing from his experiences in commercials and his indisputable chauvinistic attitudes towards women.

He makes films that try to appeal to the basest instincts of the audience, with as much humour, explosive action and women as possible within his running times. It is also often stated that appealing to the mass audience is sacrificing the artist integrity of the projects. Transformers and namely its two sequels are the most criticised at the moment, in fact I would say universally slammed by critics, but the Box Office, as we’ll see below, tells a different story.

I’m obviously a massive film fan and I will say loud and clear that Michael Bay is one of my favourite directors and the criticisms that Bay is filling his films with explosions, women and clichés with the aim of making money is primarily WHY he is a brilliant film maker. He’s putting bums on seats and you can only do that if the audience LIKES what you’re doing.

Granted, he isn’t Shakespeare, nor some high brow art house movie maker. He’s not breaking the mold in the way that Spielberg or Nolan have done, but he gives us adrenalin filled action and a fun rollercoaster ride for two plus hours and whether the critics like it or not, kids certainly do. Families certainly do. Anyone whose idea of watching a films for escapism certainly do.

Fun is as much about cinema as any meaningful film is. Star Wars may be filed with metaphors and references to other films but this is hailed by critics, not derided in the way that Bay’s films are. But he has shot himself in the foot with films such as Pearl Harbor, which though I do like it as a popcorn flick, it really is a travesty that he was allowed to do it in the first place! Bay is a first-rate action director and in his element blowing up cars, which is why, when I heard that he was to direct Transformers, a movie about cars and robots battering each other, I could think of no-one more suited.

There are only two films at this point with I haven’t seen of Bay’s, and they are the Bad Boys pictures. I have seen a bit of the first but I plan to catch up with them soon and complete the Michael Bay back catalogue. But I will now take a quick look at the rest of his films and see what kind of  impact Bay’s films have had on me.

BAD BOYS (1995)

Worldwide Gross: $141,407,024

Bay’s first film, simple and effective as a 90′s action thriller. Funny, well played and the action was more tempered than his later work, though the elements are all there…

THE ROCK (1996)

Worldwide Gross: $335,062,302

This was the first Bay film that I saw back in 1997 and what a treat it was. Featuring an all-star cast and telling an outlandish story of terrorists taking over Alcatraz Island in order to hold San Fransisco to ransom, it knits together a much more complex story of car chases, rocket attacks, brutal combat and snazzy zingers to create a seeming intelligent rollercoaster ride.

From the opening frame this tips its hand, with action from the get go up until the final scene with a wry sense of humour. This was also the Don Simpson’s final film.


Worldwide Gross: $553,709,788

In the year of TWO asteroid movies, Deep Impact should have been the one, but it wasn’t on par with Bay’s masterpiece of action cinema. Whilst Deep Impact was  exploring the real issues of an impending global disaster, Armageddon just ran with it and was only interested in exploring explosions, the Mid West, love and comedy. This should have been a crass, pointless popcorn disaster, but instead is has to be the popcorn epic of the decade!

Fun, exiting and enthralling, so much so, that you forget to ask the important questions or really care either way! Memorable for the rendition of “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, the laughable final message between Bruce Willis and LivTyler, Aerosmith and the annihilation of Paris, this will always be a benchmark for 90′s action.


Worldwide Gross: $449,220,945

This was Bay’s first major miss-step. Back in 1999, it was revealed that this and Enemy At The Gates were both going to be vying to be 2001′s Titanic, both were war films featuring love triangles, I remember doubting their success even then, but Pearl Harbor was the weakest of two.

The problem with this is that Bay was the WRONG director for such a sensitive subject. He might think of himself as a salt of the earth American and maybe he is, but Spielberg had raised the bar of the genre back in 1998 with Saving Private Ryan and this gung-ho war actioner, dealing with such a subject was misjudged.

He should have stuck to blowing up cars and whilst his dog fights and action sequences were fantastic, the heart of the film was squarely rooted in the action but its classic 1940′s feel was effective if not the best tone following Ryan.

BAD BOYS II (2003)

Worldwide Gross: $273,339,556

Possibly my least favourite of his catalogue, but the action was still great to watch, even though the rest of film failed to live up to Bay’s usual standards.


Worldwide Gross: $162,949,164

I must admit, I do somewhat accept Bay’s argument that The Island’s failure at the box has something to do with the hackneyed marketing campaign, which did not do the actual plot justice. But even though the film has grown on me since, I do remember feeling very strongly at the time that the film need more action and that more cars needed pulverizing. But that’s not to say the film didn’t have much to say or give us his usual brand of stylised action.

But after seeing this, I said that he should just stick to blowing up cars and leave it at that… Then Transformers was announced…



Worldwide Gross: $709,709,780

As a child of the 1980′s, Transformers were a big part of my life, though I never really did like the animated series as much as others of my age did. But after seeing some leaps forward in special effects and the idea of Bay doing exactly what he does best in blowing up cars and having robots battering each other, though granted the robot thing was as of yet untested, I was looking forward to this.

It was amazing. A truly thrilling rollercoaster and Bay’s best film to date, with a perfect blend of action, humour and visual spectacle. But this was the beginning of the Bay backlash, as he would accused of vulgar action over art, with no integrity what so ever. But his integrity was in his commitment to the action genre and the audience lapped it up! And Ironically, he teamed up with Spielberg for this franchise and he gets of Scott free!


Worldwide Gross: $836,303,693

This would be his second sequel, with Bad Boys II being his first. Though the effects were still first-rate, the film tried too hard to out do its predecessor and confused the context a bit. Still entertaining though and many people, especially children seem to like it better. Critics, on the other hand, felt that it was a cardinal sin to film.


Worldwide Gross: $1,123,746,996

The third in the ongoing saga, clearly a huge money-maker and an improvement on number two. This was the first 3D Transformers film and I felt one of the best examples of 3D in the blockbuster genre, as the film looks just a good without it and worked well with the added dimension but equally as well as a 2D film to match the first two. But I feel that it should end here as the narrative has worn thin and there’s nowhere to go without inventing a whole host of new elements.


But in conclusion, how much money does a film have to make before it can be considered successful or good? How do films make their money? Customers, word of mouth and delivering a product which is liked and appreciated and surly the two WORST Bay films, both of which have grossed between 800 million and 1.2 BILLION dollars should be given the credit for pleasing a hell of  a lot of people.

SE7EN (aka SEVEN) 300th REVIEW!

February 26, 2012


DIRECTOR: David Fincher

300th REVIEW!

Contains Spoilers!

Late one night in 1996, a friend of mine rang me up after a trip to cinema with his girlfriend to tell me about a film that he had just seen called Seven. I had seen the trailers for it, with a rising star, Brad Pitt and the more established Morgan Freeman, in the days before he became the king of narrationhunting for a serial killer who was choosing his victims in line with his belief that they had each committed one of the seven deadly sins.

Suffices to say, that my friend, who was in his mid twenties whilst I was just 17, was somewhat disturbed by what he had seen. The ending was described to me in some detail as were several major plot points but this did not deter me from getting the video the following year. I was expecting to be terrified or equally as disturbed but there was nothing. I hated it! The sting and shock had been taken out by my friend’s spoilers and I wrote the film off completely.

But, not one to give up entirely at the first hurdle, I tried it again soon after. This time, without any expectations or fear, I loved it, mainly because I got it. This was not a horror film, this was clinical procedural piece, as much about the investigation and the killer as it was about the investigators themselves. This was a character piece disguised as a grungy neo-noir crime horror film. Freeman as Detective Somerset was a worldly intellectual, who had the ability to get into the head of the insane killer without losing himself in the process and Pitt as Detective Mills, was the hot head driven by aggression but not in a bad way. By the end it could be reasoned that he was the flip side of the John Doe, the killer’s coin.

As for the identity of Doe or the last twenty minutes full stop, I will say no more. If you seen it, you already know and if you haven’t then spoiling this conclusion will do nothing for you. But it’s not about ‘The Package’, nor the identity of ‘Wrath’ as many talk about with this film. To me it the building tension from moment that Mills pulls his gun in the police station till Doe’s masterpiece is completed.

Sorry for the code but this is one of the best ending to a film that I’ve seen, up there with Planet Of The Apes and The Sixth Sense to name but a couple, and I feel that it needs protecting.

The performances in this film are fantastic, as is Andrew Kevin Walkers screenplay and Fincher’s expert direction though at this point he was just breaking into mainstream cinema. This is a bleak film, told over seven days, most of which are wet, and we are all subjected to some of the cinemas most horrific scenes, featuring torture that in some cases, goes beyond much that we had seen up to this point in a mainstream thriller.

The framework of the narrative is very cleverly shifted in the last act as so far we have been moving though a straight forward investigative format, with Freeman and Pitt following to evidence and discovering terrible scenes of violence and torture but then this changes and the finale is set. But it is this shift that makes this film. An early draft had a pretty straight forward shoot out ending, which reads like any other thriller of this sort.

A chase after Doe through the sewers and a deadly shoot-out in a burning church, with Mills forfeiting his life and Sommerset making a much clearer statement that he will be still be working with police past his retirement. Thank god this ending never saw the light of day! The finale chosen, whilst not favoured as much by the studio, was the way to go and it is said that Freeman and Pitt but applied pressure for Fincher’s original ending to stand, and thankfully, they won.

This was not horror porn of the likes of Saw or Hostel, which would rear their ugly heads in the 2000′s, this was a frightening portrayal of the horrors of the human psyche, as summed up by the entry in Doe’s Journal were he describes being so offended by a fellow subway passenger’s small talk that he threw up on him. The idea that men or women could be around us everyday capable of such atrocities is where the real horror lies, again summed up nicely by Sommerset’s closing monologue quoting Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls: “‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”

There aren’t many film’s of this genre which I would rate so highly but as a film which when trailed back in 1995, looked to be nothing more than a simple serial killer hunting thriller, it has proven to be true classic and the beginning of David Fincher’s mainstream career as a true directorial visionary, who has since gone on to direct films are the story dictates, such as the true stories, well based upon, Zodiac, The Social Network and the more recent novel adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. But one thing is for sure, after Se7en, he was forgiven by many for Alien 3…


February 21, 2012


DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher

80′s to the extreme, down to Demi Moore’s decidedly pink apartment, another, that looks like a photography studio. But it just struck me that things that you could get away with in the 1980′s that now would just be literally criminal. Andrew McCarthy photographing his secret love, Ally Sheedy behind her back, let alone the ridiculous level of stalking by Emilio Estevez and both come across a loveable characters, as does the coke snorting Moore!

Let alone the cool Rob Lowe who cheats left, right and centre and ends up leaving his ex-wife and child, making the decision that it would not be good for his baby for him to in its life… WHAT!!!!

But these disturbing social changes aside, this was a straight forward coming of age drama, with some quintessential 80′s faces, most of which have now disappeared from view, as it follows a group of seven friends who by the end seem to agree that friendship is te most import thing… Awwwww


February 20, 2012


DIRECTOR: Ben Palmer


Will we be adding it to our collection? NO

Didn’t expect much; Better that I thought: I’ve seen the hit show but the target audience is obviously aimed at teenage boys, even though it is rated at 18, but that never stops any determined teenagers, does it. But smut and gross out humour aside, it did remind me of my own teenage years, were everything is sex, obsession and failure.

This is the end of The Inbetweeners and a good ending it was as the boys move on to pastures new after their lads holiday in the sun and each of them in their own small way have grown up [A bit]. I do think though that this may well lead to a reunion movie in years to come, not dissimilar to the up coming American Pie film and I would certainly put money on seeing this in the  next 10 to 12 years.

But considering that I’m not a fan on the series, I must give it its due credit. It was good enough to hold my interest for 90 minutes and my 15-year-old stepson can’t get enough of it!


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