Friday, 31 October 2014

This Means War
Dir: McG
2012
*
I've never been taken by either Chris Pine or Reese Witherspoon but Tom Hardy should have known better than to put his name to and waste his time with this utter drivel. The film is part action, part spy film, part romance and part comedy and it fails at being any of them. Even if you just want to switch off and watch mindless action it's a disappointment and it is as romantic and funny as being punched in the face. The big conclusion is that men are complete bastards and women are completely pathetic. The script is shockingly bad, especially in the scenes staring Chelsea Handler. Everyone should be ashamed and McG needs to stop. Now!


Heli
Dir: Amat Escalante
2013
****
Heli is brutality and beauty fed by anger and passion. Amat Escalante wants the viewer to take notice, understand and share the anger. Protest songs are few and far between these days, film is the modern and most effective medium and this is the perfect example why. It's very hard to watch at times but the violence always serves a purpose and is never gratuitous. The finger is pointed in both directions though as Amat Escalante highlights the dangers of naivety as well as corruption. The visuals are impeccable which only go to highlight the films important but shocking scenes. A brave and bold message that deserves to be seen and duly applauded.
Her
Dir: Spike Jonze
2013
*****
Her is a brilliant example of cross-genre done well. Spike Jonze is the king of escapism but as out there as Her is, it's very much the opposite. Her explores the death of poetry in an 'Apple-like' version of the future. Everything looks good and everything seems like a good idea but creativity has reached its peak at the expense of what really matters. This film isn't about life's imperfections either, it's about the simple pleasures that one can forget with the onset of a technological revolution. It's also a serious drama, a satire that you can really laugh to and a heartbreakingly tender romance. Joaquin Phoenix carries all those emotions off effortlessly, and the film absorbs its viewer within seconds. This is a film to get lost in. The visuals are stunning and suit the story perfectly. The conclusion regarding intelligent life and what it would do if it really did exist is brilliant, a simple idea with a huge impact, the sign of a truly great film.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Il Divo
Dir: Paolo Sorrentino
2008
*****
What an astonishing biopic. Only in Italy, with their rather dubious politics could a film like this be made but Paolo Sorrentino has got some front to openly accuse the former-prime minister and powerful figurehead of some horrendous crimes. This is a good thing though, we need more directors like Sorrentino. Italy is rich with confident filmmakers though, Matteo Garrone took just as many risks directing Gomorrah as Roberto Saviano did writing it. Could they be the next Pier Paolo Pasolini & Federico Fellini? My answer is yes, because not only did they simplify a complicated storey, they also filmed them beautifully. IL Divo is dripping with Italian style, every frame has been planed meticulously and everyone looks like they're in an Edward Hopper painting. The story and visuals slow down slightly in the second half but that is when Toni Servillo's Giulio Andreotti really comes alive, the slightest expression creating suspense, intrigue an genuine excitement. This is an awesome film, Phyllida Lloyd should have taken note with her film about the life and career of Margaret Thatcher.


Black Jack
Dir: Ken Loach
1979
****
One of Ken Loach's first period pieces, Black Jack's real pull is its realism. Nothing is tarted up for the screen, it feels like you have a very real window into the past in front of you, complete with regional dialect and a very natural sounding script. However, this realism never takes away the feeling of adventure and fantasy that the story has. The cast of mainly non-actors is great too, with young Stephen Hirst and Andrew Bennett stealing the show in my opinion. Based on Leon Garfield's novel and an inspiration to Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, Black Jack is quite the unsung gem.
Hanover Street
Dir: Peter Hyams
1979
***
Hanover Street was quite an ambitious film for Peter Hyams and while it's not perfect, it certainly deserves more love than it initially received. The performances are pretty good, as is the script. It's scale is big and impressive for the most part (the Blitz scene standing out) with only an over use of a soft focus lens and a few dodgy set pieces (I'm referring to the hard to miss Nazi mannequins in the over turned jeep towards the end of the film) marring the overall production. I can't quite put my finger on what isn't quite right about it, maybe it wasn't big enough and promised more than it delivered but I can't say I was ever not entertained. Like I said, the performances were pretty good and the story, pace and overall feel of the film suited it perfectly. Its only criticism is that it has been done better in other films that had better publicity and bigger budgets.
Cockneys VS Zombies
Dir: Matthias Hoene
2012
**
Where exactly is East London in Cockneys VS Zombies? How old is Alan Ford supposed to be, because if he was fighting the Nazis in the War as a twenty year old he'd be pushing 100 years old in 2012 and not in his late seventies. Why isn't anyone a real Cockney? It's not important, Cockneys VS Zombies is not a film to take seriously. So then, it's a shame that the film does take itself seriously when it really shouldn't. The concept is fine, stereotype and horror fan favorite make for a great new addition to the 'versus' world but a few tricks are missed. The idea of bank robbers getting mixed up in a zombie apocalypse is great (although a bit close to From Dusk Till Dawn 2) and the idea of a retirement home full of pensioners holding their own against an army of the undead is brilliant but neither are executed that well. Each idea could have been its own film. The film is essentially a couple of good ideas and great sketches (the scene where the late great Richard Briers, aided with a zimmer frame, is chased by a zombie at a snails pace is gold) glued together with lots of filler and pointless sub-plots. The finished article is likable but annoying at the same time as the dialogue is horrible, the acting is worse and it just feels like a rushed and wasted opportunity. After such a brilliant intro too, such a shame.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Future ShockThe Story of 2000 AD
Dir: Paul Goodwin
2014
*****
My Wife has been quite stressed out at work recently so I thought I'd surprise her by telling her that I had two ticket to an exciting film Premiere at London's BFI cinema. Her excitement lasted until I told her that it was a documentary about my favourite comic growing up, 2000AD. She trusts me though and luckily for me, she wasn't disappointed and nor was I for that matter. Far from it in fact. I've known 2000AD has had a huge effect on me since my first encounter with it back in 1987 (or there about) but I didn't know quite how far it has been in my conscious until now. I'm not alone it seems. 2000AD isn't just a comic, it is a cultural phenomenon, and that's no exaggeration. Green, 4 foot mohicans aren't punk, 2000AD is. People think Johnny Rotten was at the forefront of punk attitude but 2000AD said so much more in the guise of a simple sci-fi comic book for kids. The Sex Pistols had one album, 2000AD was weekly. Writers, artists, musicians...so many examples of influence can be traced back to 2000AD and one or other of its characters. Judge Dredd is probably the most famous character from the magazine but most people wont realise that he was actually based on Margaret Thatcher. Seriously. Every character and every story (up until the early 90s - an era that we don't like to talk about) was representative of a social situation, with shock and anger the catalyst for creativity. Pretty much every popular comic or graphic novel today has been influenced by its initial tenacity and no other comic (including DC and Marvel) has had quite the revolutionary impact that it has had, in fact, without 2000AD DC and Marvel would be the success they are today as they successfully headhunted all the main writers and artists back in the 80s. The documentary is as thorough as it can be for a 90 minute film and is worthy of the comic's history. My wife knew nothing about the comic but thoroughly enjoyed the film and added that she now feels she knows me (or understands me) just that little bit more because of it. The Q&A session afterwards was an added bonus, it was clear that everyone in the audience was impressed and the high expectations were met. A great little documentary worth seeking out, it's so much more than you might think it is (plus the music and animated sequences are brilliant too).




Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Marvellous
Dir: Julian Farino
2014
*****
Marvellous sums up this film perfectly. Every country has its unsung heroes, the little people that make life colourful. In England, many of these people are eccentric, modest, peculiar, everything in-between and all the better for it. Neil Baldwin is that kind of hero. He's one of those people that can do anything because no one ever told him that he couldn't, or maybe because everyone told him he couldn't, either way he achieved a lot thanks to all the wonderful little things that make him him. I'm a huge Toby Jones fan so it was great to see him in such a great role and of course doing it justice. Julian Farino is a director I've liked since he made a great little unseen gem in 1999 called The Last Yellow. A great story, a great performance and a great director makes this film fan a very happy chap. It's brilliant.



The Missing Picture
Dir: Rithy Panh
2013
*****
Director Rithy Panh begins the film by explaining that between 1975 and 1979, no pictures that can prove mass murder emerged from Cambodia during the rule of the Khmer Rouge and that while one picture can never prove mass murder, it can go some way in raising questions. His The Missing Picture is the reconstruction, the film footage, the missing picture that never was, using stop animation as his median of choice. Each model is hand carved by himself and must have been a painstaking task. His narration explaining his experience and the questions he asked than and has done since is nothing short of astonishing. This is the missing document, the missing picture from the history book and what the gap in the archives should contain. It's a history lesson worth listening to and a creative experiment to be congratulated.
Mistaken for Strangers
Dir: Tom Berninger
2013
***
Mistaken for Strangers is directed by Tom Berninger. Tom Berninger is the brother of Matt Berninger, the lead singer of popular music group, The National. Matt asks his younger, less successful (to put it nicely) brother to go on tour with him and work as a roadie. Tom decides to film his experiences. This is the end result. There are ups and downs, different views and lots of music. Matt and Tom are very different and both struggle with the success gap between them. Or so we are meant to think. It would be a lovely idea if it wasn't set up from the start (promotional posters that were taken at key points of the film back up this theory). I liked Tom's narration and thought the idea and the story was nice, and pretty unique, I just don't buy it that it wasn't at all planned that way. Watch it but not as a documentary and it is enjoyable. Take it seriously at your own peril.

Alien Hunter
Dir: Ron Krauss
2003
**
Alien Hunter obviously had a low budget. This is more than made up for by the relatively intelligent introduction and first half of the film. The characters, situation and science all seem legitimate (for a sci-fi film) and the acting and script are both pretty good. The idea is solid all the way through to be honest, with little bits of horror, sci-fi and thriller all mixed together to build genuine intrigue and suspense. Then everything goes to pot. Okay, so it is all very familiar to other sci-fi/Alien films but the structure is sound, it's just when the film descends into people running around for no good reason territory does it all get tiresome. I quite liked the conclusion too but it looked horrible, lack of budget is no excuse. A shame, it's was all going quite well...
Pride
Dir: Sunu Gonera
2007
****
Sunu Gonera takes his time with Pride, he builds the film and the characters and tells the big story when it's ready. Some cliches are present (in the form of Tom Arnold's character) but for most of the film the story and characters are fresh and serve a purpose. The meaning of the word Pride is explored sensibly too, which I think is one of the films biggest assets. The other is Terrance Howard, who is still woefully underrated. His performance here is as good as any Oscar nomination I've seen in the last few years, long may his career continue. The films other secret weapon is the wonderful and sorely missed Bernie Mac. This was his last great film and and good film to remember him by.
112 Weddings
Dir: Doug Block
2014
**
Doug Block's 112 Weddings is a documentary based on some of his past clients who he has made wedding videos for over the last 19 years (he has recorded 112 so far, hence the title). It's a collection of several (not all 112 thankfully) what happened next stories, carefully selected I would expect, to show the happy, not so happy and the not so sane. Half the interviews make for uncomfortable viewing due to the fact that happily ever after didn't quite happen, whether this is because of mental health issues or Child illness or whatever. The other half of the interviews make for uncomfortable viewing because who wants to watch old people get gooey together in public. The film isn't really about Weddings or love, it's just about these select people. People who are quite happy to air their dirty laundry in public, like the sound of their own voices and declare everything that they think and have experienced to be true of everyone else. Uncomfortable, annoying and a tad bit repetitive I'm afraid.


Cocoon: The Return
Dir: Daniel Petrie
1988
***
Ron Howard's original 1985 Cocoon was quite lovely and a sequel was quite unnecessary. Indeed, there is no story here, nothing new is explored and nothing new is gained. However, it's really nice to see the elderly cast from the original film back on screen together one last time. The acting isn't all that great, the effects are laughable (but lovable) and the sentimentality is quite sickening but they're the last of a generation that I for one, greatly miss. Pointless and of low quality, but a film I can't help but love.

Monday, 27 October 2014


I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle
Dir: Dirk Campbell
1990
***
I bought a Vampire Motorcycle is the only low budget British b-movie/horror/comedy/Bikesploitation film I can think of from the early 90s and therefore is my all time favourite low budget 90s British b-movie/horror/comedy/Bikesploitation film of all time. Seriously though, it's good fun and gets even better once Anthony Daniels turns up. Not sure about the talking poo scene though...

Has to be seen to be believed.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Bridge on the River Kwai
Dir: David Lean
1957
**
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a tough one for me to review. The reason I've never watched it before is because of my Grandfather. He was a POW and worked on the Burma-Siam railway which included bridges which would have crossed the River Kwai. He took my father and Uncle to see this film when it was released. My father told me the story that he was very insistent that they see the film so that they could see what he went through - having never spoken of the war since his return. After seeing the film he was so outraged, disappointed and ultimately let down, he never spoke of the war again until the day he died, which after years of torture, over-work and starvation, was at a very young age. My grandfather took umbrage to the mixture of fact and fiction. Made only 15 years after the actual events and seeing how twisted and false he, his fellow prisoners and officers were represented was an insult to him. Years ago I decided to look into my family history and I researched him, his regiment and all I could regarding his time as a POW. A lot of what I found I didn't even pass onto my father, needless to say the info I found was not of a pleasant time. Why then they decided to use real people's names but in different circumstances is beyond me. Fiction is fiction and fact is fact, mixing the two is a very dangerous thing, judging by many of the reviews I read, many don't realise this film is fiction and did not happen. The film is well acted and looks beautiful but ultimately is an insult to the memory of the men on both sides, that were there. I don't care if it's Mel Gibson, Disney or the great David Lean, it's not right and I don't like it. Change the men's names and tweak it here and there and I would have liked this film just as much as everyone else but as it is I find it immoral and disrespectful and historically dangerous in its neglect of the truth. Does it really matter? Yes, in this circumstance it most certainly does! Why change a perfectly interesting part of history anyway, the madness, the madness indeed. One star for the acting and one star for the aesthetics, that's all I can give.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Japon
Dir: Carlos Reygadas
2003
***
Japon's visual style is stunning and apt for the mood of the story. The story is strong and well conceived but as a tribute to Tarkovsky, it doesn't quite work. Imagine if Harold and Maude wasn't a comedy, imagine how grim that sounds and times by a hundred. Okay, so 'that scene' aside, there is a lot to relish here, the near suicide scene and the last 10 minutes of the film are absolutely breathtaking and redeem it somewhat, but the reference to it being a film (the scene with the builders/demolishers) was a step in the wrong direction as far as I'm concerned and after watching an interview with Magdalena Flores, I'm starting to wonder if she was actually tricked into the role which doesn't sit well with me either. Still, like Lars Von Trier once said, "a film should be like a stone in your shoe" - and this is a particularly sharp one. I'm being as generous as I feel I can be.
The Woman in Black
Dir: James Watkins
2012
***
The Woman in Black is directed beautifully by James Watkins who I have to say has done really well considering this is only his second feature film. The cinematography, set, props, costume etc are fantastic and really make the film. The acting is not so great though, Roger Allam and Janet McTeer are good in their supporting roles but I'm afraid this film only backs up my opinions regarding Daniel Radcliffe's acting skills - he hasn't got any. Shame really, as this film obviously used his big name and his 'What's he going to do after Potter' status to its advantage but it would have been so much better if another actor had played the part in my opinion. The big problem I have is that the scares got a bit cheap and a bit too frequent to really play on the suspense which I thought it lacked. It's only really big scare was stolen from the far scarier, superior and far more suspenseful Gin gwai (The Eye).

Tuesday, 21 October 2014



Life In A Day
Dir: Kevin Macdonald, Natalia Andreadis, Joseph Michael
2011
*****
Life in a day is Koyaanisqatsi for the YouTube generation. The main difference between Life in a day and the qatsi trilogy though is that Life in a day is more groundbreaking. All the footage featured took place in one day, so everything you see is more or less taking place simultaneously around the world. That is an awesome concept. The other thing that holds Life in a day higher than the qatsi trilogy and other films of its ilk, is that it is more human. There is human involvement, this is where the YouTube element comes in and is probably the best way I have seen the Internet used in a very long time. Life in a day is funny, touching, infuriating at times, tragic and real. It also feels unifying and quite humbling at times. It deserves to be seen on the big screen too, as some of the footage is quite amazing. This isn't just a groundbreaking film though, this is an important historical document that I believe will be talked about for years to come. I know I'll be watching it again, maybe at decade-long intervals and maybe one day my children and then my grandchildren will watch it in the class-room. I kid you not, it's that important and that inspirational. Joe Walker should give himself a big pat on the back for the monumental task of editing tens of thousands of hours of footage into just 90 mins, he kept out all the show offs and unfunny entries too thankfully, the only thing I was really worried about. An amazing film, highly recommended!
Jerry Springer: The Opera
Dir: Peter Orton
2005
***
Jerry Springer: The Opera is a little Edinburgh fringe play that did very well for itself. Written by one of my favourite comedians Stewart Lee and featuring many memorable moments such as Jerry Springer going to hell, A gay Jesus and tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan members, what more could you want. When the BBC decided to broadcast it there was outrage, Church-goers, Daily Mail readers and BNP members joined forces and camped outside the Broadcasting centre and demanded that they banned such filth. It featured songs like; "Chick With a D**k", "Diaper Man" and "Mama Gimmee Smack on the A**hole" and was all singing and all dancing, David Soul was also rather convincing as Mr. Springer too. Great yeah? Well no, unfortunately it's just not very funny. Great on paper and I'm sure it was a laugh when it was a little production but on the big stage it just didn't do it for me. It's funny for about 5 minutes, then the joke wears a little thin. I also think it would have been a little better if it were Jerry Spinger: The Musical, at least then the songs would have sounded a bit different form each other. Avenue Q suffered from the same shortsightedness - sure if you still find the work 'f**k' funny the hundredth time you hear it, give it a go but otherwise see it just for the fact that so many ignorant bigots don't want you too. Read up about it on 'That famous website full of information beginning with the letter W', it makes for interesting reading. I give it three stars, purely for pissing off all the right people.




The Cabin in the Woods
Dir: Drew Goddard
2011
*****
In my opinion The Cabin in the Woods has changed the horror genre forever. For the better I might add. It really does have something for every type of horror fan, whether it's gore, slasher, comedy or whatever, it's all there. It's clever too, nothing is cliched, in fact, this is the anti-cliche horror film. A satirical horror film to silence every horror fan/blogger, long time coming and done brilliantly. I loved the characters, the monsters, the story line and I loved the outcome. There is absolutely nothing I disliked about it, I thought it was brilliant. It felt underground, yet mainstream but is probably best filed under cult. Most importantly, it will hopefully make everyone else raise their game, enough remaking, think outside the box. And to think The Innkeepers was touted as the best horror of 2011, The Cabin in the Woods is one of the greatest horror films of all time!

War Horse
Dir: Steven Spielberg
2011
***
I'm a huge fan of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse having read it only a few years after it was first published, it's a cherished childhood memory but I'm probably a bigger fan of the theatre production. I love the way the story is brought to life using puppetry (for want of a better word as it is a little more advanced than puppetry) and I reccomened anyone who can to go and see it. I'm not completely surprised by what Spielberg has done with his adaptation, if I'm being honest I thought it would be worse. The assembled cast is impressive, a who's who of contemporary British talent, apart from Jeremy Irvine who can't act, but everyone else does a fine job. It's pretty predictable that Spielberg went to Richard Curtis for the screenplay, seeing as he is the only British screen writer in existence (*Groans*). The story is there, it's just that it's needlessly sugarcoated to the point of sickly, it's so heavy handed it's hard to take seriously. The CGI and blue-screen are also overused, it's funny really that he seems to be taking advantage of the recent success of the theatre production but is also showing why it is superior. The bearded one is getting old and tired and really needs to come up with a good idea of his own instead of pillaging other people's.
Food, Inc.
Dir: Robert Kenner
2009
****
I'll have a green salad please.

Preaching to the converted here but still, knowing and seeing are two different things. Food, Inc shows just how horrifying, sickening and shocking the state our food preparation really is. There are many mouths to feed in the world but this isn't the way. This was a wake up call to many people though and for that it should be praised. This is important documentary film making. It never sensationalised either, it's all there and undeniable - the food companies didn't even try. People who dispute these issues really baffle me. A great documentary that should be seen by all!

Monday, 20 October 2014



Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf)
Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1974
*****
Fear Eats the Soul is Fassbinder at his most accessible and probably most important. Brigitte Mira and El Hedi ben Salem's performances are cinematic gold in a film that not only highlights racial prejudices but also that of age and culture and the hypocrisies of bigoted society. I don't understand how a film like the wonderful Harold & Maude has changed opinion of unconditional love but Fear eats the Soul hasn't. Nearly 40 years on and sadly not much has changed as far as attitude. Compare the power of the story with the simplicity of the film along with it's timelessness and what you have here is a true masterpiece of cinema.


Bug
Dir: William Friedkin
2006
****
Michael Shannon is frighteningly believable and is fast becoming the go to man for intense bad guy/mentally unstable/nut jobs. He's no one trick pony though as he displays a range of roles and emotions here. I wasn't interested in Bug on its release but both Shannon and Friedkin convinced me it couldn't be too bad but only after I watched Killer Joe and realised that the great director is still great. It's the best psychological thriller I've seen in years, one of the best ever in fact. The spiral of madness doesn't seem too unbelievable either, for once the reason makes sense. Overlooked, underrated and misunderstood, it's a great theatrical piece, full of great performance and originality.
Mad Money
Dir: Callie Khouri
2008
*
There is nothing quite like a good heist film and Mad Money is nothing like a good heist film. So the moral of the story is that robbing a bank is fine if a) You want things you can't afford b) You don't see why you should work hard for your money and c) because you can, but this film isn't totally without morals you good citizens, they all pay their taxes and in doing so live happily ever after. I believe the kids call this the face-plant moment. I like that Ted Danson is in it but that is as far as a recommendation as I can give.
Xala
Dir: Ousmane Sembene
1975
****
Xala, or The Curse (in this instance, the curse of erectile dysfunction no less) is a very dry and witty film. It takes place when Senegal gained independence from France and shows how the naive, unprepared and down-right unsuitable the people who took over the country were. They are portrayed here as intelligent businessmen, neatly groomed, suited and booted, wealthy and successful but still heaped with traditions and superstitious beliefs. The contrast and how quickly the country progressed (for want of a better word) is handled brilliantly by Ousmane Sembene who heaps the satire on by the bucket-load. It's funny, quite deadpan and very intelligent. It's quite shocking really too when you see some of the ancient traditions in contrast with modern living. The end scene is quite poignant and is great satire but is a bit grim, and I have to say it turned my stomach a bit so be warned.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Dir: Sidney Lumet
2007
***
A heist film that is all about the people more than the heist itself. Personally, I like heist films when they are about the heists themselves, I like a clever crime thriller, if I want personal drama I usually look elsewhere but in Lumet we trust. The multi-layered juxtaposition and somewhat repetitious jump from one scene to the next was not easy viewing for me, I'm not sure it added anything to the film overall, but what was really good were the performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney. Not so much from Ethan Hawke though sadly, it's a miss this time for the hit & miss actor I'm afraid. My favourite thing in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead though is Marisa Tomei. I love that woman.
Eagle Eye
Dir: D. J. Caruso
2008
*
You don't have to be 'Eagle eyed' to be able to spot all of the massive plot-holes and mistakes in this action-thriller stinker. For a film where the tiny details are vitally important and integral to the story, you'd think the makers would reflect that in their own work. The overall idea is OK and could have been great in the right hands but is ultimately ruined by the fact that action took over logic - and the action isn't even all that good. Oh, and it's got Shia LaBeouf in it too, do you need anymore reason than that to hate it? I know people will say not to over think it and to enjoy it for what it is but actually the film pretended to be intelligent and requested that I treat it accordingly, thus insulting me when it turned out to be absolute dribble.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Benny's Video
Dir: Michael Haneke
1992
*****
For years the older generation have blamed TV, Horror films and comic books on youth violence and the breakdown of society - like violence has only been around the same amount of time as TV, horror films and comic books have. The human race is not perfect. What Haneke shows here is a deeply disturbing look at a very real threat to society and that is how unconnected with the world kids really are these days due to modern technology. This is handled brilliantly and is necessarily unpleasant at times. Made in 1992, this is pretty ahead of its time, these day's the Internet has taken over most kids lives; you don't learn, you google, you don't read, you watch, you don't write, you tweet. I'm not saying kids are going to start killing each other more (although they do seem to be doing exactly that) and I'm not saying that technology is the only reason but the line of fantasy and reality and the illusion and disillusion of what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable is getting more and more blurred in kids minds. I may sound like a grumpy old man but this is a serious problem, Haneke knows it and this little tale might as well be a future shock. It's nice that Haneke has remained stubborn in his brutality which is never gratuitous but is always necessary.
Jack RyanShadow Recruit
Dir: Kenneth Branagh
2014
**
There are many aspects of Jack RyanShadow Recruit, the fifth Jack Ryan film outing, that I admire. I liked the modern origins story, I liked the initial 'action light' espionage and I very much liked the way they handled the first time Jack Ryan kills. I liked Kenneth Branagh's bad guy and I enjoyed Kevin Costner's mentor role, although his screen time is too brief. I thought the direction and editing were also very good, who would have thought ten years ago that Branagh would be the go to man for action? Chris Pine was okay, he wouldn't have been my first choice and I was more convinced of his Captain Kirk imitation in this than I was in Star Trek but he wasn't terrible. What I didn't like so much was the inclusion of Keira Knightley aka Mrs Ryan. Her inclusion in the story served very little purpose in my mind and for such a big character as Jack Ryan is, it undermined his legend just that little bit. The previous three main Ryan films (not including The Hunt for Red October) shows Ryan as a spy to be reckoned with, here he is nothing special at all and comes across as a mere Bond/Bourne wannabe, which the character is not. The last half of the film gets a bit silly for my liking as the senseless action takes over and the sudden super spy qualities of Jack Ryan suddenly appear out of nowhere without any convincing explanation. It was all going so well too!
Hearts in Atlantis
Dir: Scott Hicks
2001
***
Hearts in Atlantis is a great example of the lighter Stephen King novels that deal with childhood. It is fairly unmistakable as a Stephen King story, so that is to Scott Hick's credit. Based on a short story, it does seem somewhat stretched and overlong with the conclusion coming just in time before loosing all interest. Some sub-plots aren't explained though and many of the issues raised at the beginning are never returned to, which I found overwhelmingly unsatisfying. That said, I thought that Hopkins, Yelchin and Davis were all very good and it was nice to see Stephen King adaptation favorite David Morse carry the torch as it were. It's not great, I much preferred the book but as most King adaptations go, it isn't bad at all.

Richard PryorHere and Now
Dir: Richard Pryor
1983
***
I love Richard Pryor and I love his other famous stand up routines but for me, the crowd and the heckling really spoiled Here and Now for me. There weren't even any good heckles, people just shouted out really stupid things and it was hard to ignore. I'm not sure being handed a Crab for no reason is a heckle but come on, let the man do his thing. I wonder how Pryor thought it went on reflection, anyone know?

Star Wars: Holiday Special
Dir: Steve Binder, David Acomba
1978
*
I've been wanting to know what all the fuss was about regarding this 1978 Christmas special and finally, after spending a day at a particularly geeky Star Wars convention in 2011 where I met R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), Darth Vader (David Prowse) and Greedo (a very friendly Paul Blake who confirmed for me that Han did indeed shoot first) I found a Star Wars stall that sold bootleg copies. Finally, for only £5, I had a copy of Star Wars: The Holiday Special. I was sure I'd probably bought a dodgy copy that wouldn't work, surely this TV program is long lost and is only now folk-law? Well no, the DVD worked just fine and......it is as truly bad as everyone says it is. Like really bad. Not good bad, but bad bad, as in 'What the hell were you thinking?' bad. It supposedly takes place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back  although it doesn't really go into much detail. Han Solo and Chewbacca are on their way back to Chewie's home planet for 'Life Day', 'Life Day' being an obvious metaphor for Christmas but seeing as this is a work of fiction and set in a Galaxy Far far away, attaching Christian festivals wouldn't really make any sense. The idea that there is a planet full of seven foot hairy creatures who watch cooking channels is far more believable and makes much more sense. Actually it does, but I digress. Han and Chewie run into some pesky Star Destroyers and have to take a detour through hyperspace to escape. Mrs Chewie, the beautiful Malla, is understandably worried and calls Luke Skywalker to see if he's seen his mates and if he knows if they're on their way. Luke hasn't, he's been fixing his leaky X-Wing with R2-D2. Suddenly word is out and everyone gets worried. What if they don't make it in time for Christmas? I mean 'Life Day'. Meanwhile, a couple of Stromtroopers turn up at Chewie's house to look for him which begs the question; why chase him if you know where he lives anyway? Malla tries to distract the Stormtroopers with Jefferson Starship's latest video but when they soon loose interest (they were never as good as when they were Jefferson Airplane to be fair) Malla and son Lumpy decide to watch a cartoon. The cartoon features Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie in a strange tale involving a planet covered in water and an ancient talisman that sends people to sleep. The cartoon features fan favorite Boba Fett in his Star Wars debut, which makes even less sense than anything else in this bizarre mess. Star Wars: Holiday Special is what happens when unimaginative executives are given a popular brand and are told to flash 'something Christmassy' out quick with only a small budget - all of which was spent on cocaine. Carrie Fisher does have a great pair of lungs on her to be fair, her heartfelt carol is as lovely as it is puzzling. There was a quote on the DVDs sleeve that said said 'If I had a hammer and the time, I'd smash every bootleg copy in existence' - George Lucas. I believe him, I'd feel the same way if it were me (and this is coming from the man who invented Jar-Jar Binks). That said, David Acomba (Lumpy) has said that Lucas was sent dailies for approval after each day of filming, even though he said he had little to do with it. You didn't need a Millennium Falcon in order to be a space cadet in the 70's. You have to see it to believe it. I have a copy if you're interested. £20?