Friday, 27 February 2015

The Lovely Bones
Dir: Peter Jackson
2009
*
The Lovely Bones is an amazing book. The Lovely Bones film however, is a diabolical adaptation that is nothing but a money spinner due to it's big name director. The rights were practically stolen from Lynne Ramsay who would undoubtedly have made a brilliant film. I just don't understand why you would change so much if you were really that into the book, this is another example of the Hollywood machine undermining the audience with nothing but dollar signs in their eyes. I expected more from Jackson though I have to say, his visions of purgatory were so cliched and unimaginative, annoying as he still seemed to have time to add products (Lord of the Rings book in book shop window) as little nods to his previous work. Apart from the young actors who all gave good performances, the older actors should be ashamed of their acting. It seems all you need is a dodgy wig, fake mustache and a set of comedy joke shop teeth to get an Oscar nomination these days. Hopefully this wonderful book will be adapted more faithfully in a few years time. Do yourselves a favour, read the book and forget this film ever existed! One star for the young actors but that is all!


Bunny and the Bull
Dir: Paul King
2008
****
Bunny and the Bull is ace. It's very much a 'Mighty Boosh' production but I'm glad Fielding and Barratt weren't the lead characters, although Hogg and Farnaby aren't as likable, they lend themselves better in cameo roles. Richard Ayoade's cameo is particularly funny. You can compere Paul King's style to many other directors and artists, I'm sure he's been influenced by Gondry, Jonze, Svankmajer etc, but the brilliant writing, the original ideas, creativity and comedy are all very much his own. Seek out this film and check out 'The Mighty Boosh' while you're at it if you haven't already, you won't be disappointed. Surreal silliness at its most creative.

Zeitgeist: The Movie
Dir: Peter Joseph
2007
*****
This film seems to have upset a lot of people. I'm not sure how it can be accused of being biased/unbalanced though. It is challenging what many believe as truth but it points out exactly what the reasoning's are behind every statement it makes, not that it actually makes that many statements, as it generally and quite fairly encourages the audience to research and make up it's own mind. Many will and many won't, but this is the first time I've ever seen a documentary that comes with a comprehensive companion guide. The truths can be harsh, reality often is though, to shy away from it is to neglect ourselves and our fellow man. This film was preaching to the converted as far as I was concerned in some respects - question everything - but it did so better than Loose Change did regarding 9/11 and consolidated what I've read from the likes of Richard Dawkins etc pretty conclusively. For anything it misses out my only answer is that being a film, there is always going to be limited time, hence the companion guide and sequels. It does annoy me though the way people use the term 'Conspiracy Theory' in a negative way. By definition, the plot supposedly orchestrated by Osama bin Laden is a conspiracy theory, I challenge anyone to say the have absolute evidence to say he was responsible. Manipulation is a scary thing. Maybe the world has gone beyond that point of reasoning or self-though, maybe the governments or the powers that be have already won, if someone (anyone) can get away with 9/11 maybe you can get away with anything, maybe the public just don't want to know but for me (and hopefully others) the words of Howard Beale ring true 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore'. Seriously though, do you 100% believe everything the American Government and the world media tell you? Peter Joseph gives plenty of evidence as to why we shouldn't. Comparing this film to other 'conspiracy theorists' who talk of Alien landings and Elvis sightings are only showing their own ignorance. Question everything, question your president, question your prime minister, question your teachers, parents, governments, authors and friends, question me and get in touch, debate is what separates us from the animals. I've argued with people regarding this subject a fair bit, before you accuse people who agree with and might have had their opinions changed by this film of being weak minded or gullible, we're not the ones who believe in virgin birth/resurrection/the fact that 4 airplanes can be hijacked with nail scissors/anything that W. Bush says/everything the Media says/buildings that were never hit falling down anyway, among many other issues. Maybe if we were given believable answers (or any answers at all at some point) we'd be complacent and would go away. Anyway, rant over - at least give this film a try, for what it's worth I think it's a compelling and credible argument, stranger things have happened.



I Am Ali
Dir: Clare Lewins
2014
****
There are quite a few documentaries about the great Muhammad Ali and a very credible biopic. How much is there to really know about the guy? Well Clare Lewins's film; I Am Ali is about Ali the man rather than the boxing, like George Foreman puts it "..he's more than a Boxer, Boxing is just something he did". I didn't know the extent of his political ventures, some are discussed but there are things such as his visit to see Saddam Hussein before the Gulf War that aren't mentioned for instance. The big pull of the film is the recording he made of himself taking to his children throughout his career. His compassion behind the showman is what is explored and it is most prominent. The style Lewins has told this story is refreshingly different to your typical documentary, the creative flare used in the editing is most effective. There isn't much more for fans to learn but Ali is one of the most watchable, most photographic and biggest of characters, it's just a joy to see new footage and hear fresh discussion. The only thing I didn't like was that everyone, apart from his Daughter, spoke about him in the past tense. A bit sad given that at the time of filming in 2014 he is very much still alive.


Thursday, 26 February 2015


Griff the Invisible
Dir: Leon Ford
2010
***
Like the tag line says: "The world can make us invisible. Courage can make us incredible. Love can make us invincible". This film should have been called Metaphor Man. Don't expect a Kick-Ass type of film or even Defendor, Griff the Invisible is as good as both aforementioned films but wins for originality. Not easy in this now popular sub-genre. It is a little hard to get into at first but it is worth sticking with, once you have 'got it' it becomes a much more enjoyable film. It might sound funny but I wonder whether it could have been improved with a smaller budget as this sometimes pushes film makers to be that little more visual and use tricks (think Evil Dead). While Leon Ford told the story well, I can't help but think a more visually creative director would have been a better choice.




11'09"1 September 11
Dir: Samira Makhmalbaf, Claude Lelouch, Youssef Chahine, Danis Tanovic, Idrissa Ouedraogo, Ken Loach, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Amos Gitai, Mira Nair, Sean Penn, Shohei Imamura
2002
****
11'09''01 is a collection of short films by 11 selected directors from around the world. Each one was given complete freedom to react to the events that happened in New York that day and the results were varied. The collection is of a high standard generally, with some standing out over others, as a collection it is of extreme historical value, is importance seems even more relevant today over a decade later. 

Samira Makhmazbaf - Samira Makhmalbaf highlights the innocents of the children who are most likely to be effected by the results of 9/11 as the village concentrate on building bomb shelters made of bricks, a teacher struggles to educate her class. Poignant, especially as we now know the fate of those children. 

Claude Lelouch - Lelouch uses deafness as a metaphor to show the vulnerability of many that day and also of the unheard voices of that day. He also shows the unexpectedness of the events and the regret we have. 

Youssef Chahine - A misguided and confusing short, if I was in charge it wouldn't have made the cut. I couldn't tell you what the underline meaning was but then I bet Chahine wouldn't be able to give a coherent answer either. A weak submission. 

Danis Tanovic - Tanovic's short shows a group of women, who although shocked and disgusted like the rest of the world, decide to continue with there ongoing protest to the death of their loved ones in war torn Bosnia. 

Idrissa Ouedraogo - This is a more light-hearted short, with a group of kids who think they have found Bin-Laden and try to capture him for reward money. This could be seen as an attack on those who capitalised on the events of 9/11 but in this case, the boys want to spend the money on good, to pay for the medical treatment for one of the boy's mother. 

Ken Loach - Loach takes a different approach to the other directors by taking a real person, 
Vladimir Vega, a Chilean whom took part in protests during the fateful murder of Allende in the 70's, who compares the similarities between the two events and empathises with the people involved through writing a letter to them. 

Alejandro González Iñárritu - Alejandro González Iñárritu's short film is mainly just audio recorded in New York on 9/11. Here and there we see flash imagery of the towers burning and the people falling. This adds nothing to the collection, is completely uncreative and is completely pointless not to mention distasteful. The weakest submission by far. Moore did it much better in Fahrenheit 9/11 and in a much more dignified fashion. 

Amos Gitai - Gitai takes us back to 9/11 but to Israel, where on that morning a car bomb exploded killing several people. It was a suicide bomber. The film doesn't take anything away from New York's pain, it just reminds that this is a daily occurrence in some places around the world, also begs the question, where is the rest of the world on this war on terror? 

Mira Nair - This is probably the most touching and important short of the collection. Nair tells the true story of a Muslim family living in America whose son is killed in the attack. At first the young man is branded as one of the terrorists and the family is scrutinised and mistrusted. In the end, it is realised that the man had actually gone there to help but was killed in the process, highlighting peoples ignorance, misconceptions and the fact that the government has done very little to ease race hatred. 

Sean Penn - I seem to be one of the few that like Penn's short. It is a fairly irrelevant story but a touching one all the same. I'm a big Ernest Borgnine fan and he's brilliant in this as a sad old man, not quite getting to grips with the loss of his wife and living in the shadow of the towers. When they fall, he has a moment of joy as his apartment is filled with light for the first time in years but then it only seems to highlight that his wife isn't there. I personally think Penn took his brief and really ran with it, maybe more so than most of the other directors. 

Shohei Imamura - Certainly the strangest of the collection. This was to be his last film, and declaring that 'There is no such thing as a Holy War' through the spoken work of a snake is a hell of a way to go out.

The Guardian
Dir: Andrew Davis
2006
***
I'll give The Guardian all the credit it deserves but I do wish it had ended much sooner than it did. First of all, it's nice to see Coastguards get a bit of recognition, sure Baywatch was entertaining (ahem) but it didn't really show the lengths that these people go through and the bravery involved. The Guardian doesn't skimp on what it is to be a Coast Guard rescue swimmer or how you become one, this is the films great strength. The unfortunate truth is that the film just doesn't know where or how to end. It's structured throughout but then just gets a little muddled and messy towards the end. Don't get me started on the whole 'Fisherman of Men' idea. Ashton Kutcher is perfectly cast as a young smug arrogant, you could say he played the part effortlessly, but he does have trouble convincing during the emotional scenes. I thought Kevin Costner was great throughout the film and it works because of him. The script is cheesy as hell and all the better for it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

The Equalizer
Dir: Antoine Fuqua
2014
***
An Antoine Fuqua directed movie based on an old (and much loved) Edward Woodward TV series. Ten years ago I would have told you to hit the road and don't come back but here, in 2015, I watch The Equalizer and say good job. I'm not an Antoine Fuqua fan but to his credit he does improve with each film, this probably being his best to date. Denzel Washington is no Edward Woodward but then I'm glad they didn't try to get someone like Mr. Woodward, Denzel Washington was perfect in the role. They also got the origins of The Equalizer right too, if we really needed origins, but now that we do I hope to see more. It was appropriately violent when it needed to be, very stylish and quite slick in its direction. The bad guys were really horrible too, Marton Csokas almost stealing the show, he must be in the running for 'Bad Guy of the year'. My only problem with The Equalizer was the showdown scene. Filmed in a Home & Garden centre it got a tad tiresome, especially as all the weapons and fighting scenarios revolved around Drills, spades and sacks of concrete. It went on a bit too, with the wrong characters making appearances and the bad guy looking a little less bad then he did before. A sad ending but overall a pretty good film.


The 39 Steps
Dir: Alfred Hitchcock
1935
****
The 39 Steps acts like a blue print, a hint of the greatness that was to come from Hitchcock and the foundations of an amazing body of work. It's where he truly found an audience, although I'm going to have to be unpopular and honest here, it's not his best but it has a certain charm to it unlike any of his other films. In all honesty it's not a great film overall, it has moments of greatness, it's just that certain aspects spoil it somewhat but it is of a time that I adore to watch, with acting styles long gone but still enjoyed. It's easy to mock The 39 Steps (the brilliant London West end show does with great respect) but at the time it was cutting edge stuff, but as dated as it now is, it's so very easy to watch and I believe it will remain so for many years to come.


The Dirty Dozen
Dir: Robert Aldrich
1967
****
1967's The Dirty Dozen is a classic blokes film. It's brash, clunky and hasn't washed behind the ears. It's pretty far from being the best WW2 film though, yes it's set during WW2 and they're WW2 soldiers but somehow, it just isn't a WW2 film. It's about killing Nazis sure but there is no history here, just an idea set in a time period, so calling it one of the greatest war films doesn't sit too well with me. I can help but think films like this influenced many a exploitation film in many ways, it certainly gave birth to the likes of Inglorious bastards (the original). It's a great film though, not really my cup of tea but I can see why everyone likes it. The cast is fantastic and the main reason for watching, Marvin and Bronson are ace but for me Cassavetes steals the show - he was as good an actor as he was a director in my opinion.
Friday the 13th
Dir: Marcus Nispel
2009
**
At first I was quite pleased with what was an unnecessary but not necessarily unwelcome horror remake, as Marcus Nispel seemed to get rid of all the expected cliches within the first twenty minutes, leading me to wonder if this truly would be something new. Alas, this wasn't the case and the remake remained unnecessary, not to mention predictable, gratuitous and dullNispel can't seem to get The Texas Chainsaw Massacre out of his system as Jason seems a little too much like Leatherface for my liking and everything else is basically all the greatest hits from all the previous Jason films (of which there are few). Making the gore more realistic (rather than fun) and more in your face is not an improvement and nor is it a welcome revamp. As subtle as a fork in the eye but a little less entertaining. If Marcus Nispel was asked to make a romantic film it would probably be the most graphic hard-core porn film of all time and not in the least bit sexy. Enough with the remakes Mr Nispel, time to find a new career me thinks. Have you thought about going into advertising?
Man with the Screaming Brain
Dir: Bruce Campbell
2005
***
Being a big Bruce Campbell fan I may be a bit biased in giving this film such a high rating. The story is fantastic, as is the acting, but it just seems like years of Bruce and co trying to get the film made, seeking financial backing and finally getting it from the Sci-fi channel, has come at too much of a compromise. Shot in Bulgaria back to back with Alien Apocalypse to save money really changed the original script and story and Bruce and Co did really well to work around that. I do feel that their baby was not as great as it could have been thanks to the shortsightedness of the producers and I don't blame them for finally giving in. All that said though, they did a fantastic job as this film is a Cinematographer and a higher budget short of being the most classic of cult films ever. Shame, but still very much worth a watch - unlike Alien Apocalypse. The accompanying comic is also rather good.

The Upside of Anger
Dir: Mike Binder
2005
*
The only upside to this film is the twist ending that is only welcome because you end up hating the characters so much (I won't spoil the ending but I also wouldn't recommend this film). To be fair though, I thought Kevin Costner was pretty good in this and I liked his character. Joan Allen is good at what she does but what she does best is play really hateful people and sometimes (most of the time) they are not necessarily the kind of characters I enjoy. Erika Christensen, Keri Russell and Alicia Witt play hateful daughters of a hateful mother really well too because I now hate them and don't wish to see any other films that they are in. Evan Rachel Wood is forgiven and has more than made up for it since. Basically I found this film in the bargain bin and it had 'Incredibly funny' written on the sleeve. It's not 'Incredibly funny' but it does however belong in the bargain bin.

Father of the Bride
Dir: Vincente Minnelli
1950
****
There is nothing quite like a Spencer Tracy film. I'm a huge fan of his and he makes every film he's in worth watching, even when it's not worth watching. Father of the Bride is somewhat overrated if I'm being completely honest, it has become so out dated that it is current again, which is all rather confusing. Change of traditions aside (although it is fascinating) it is the performances that make the film, and when I say performances I really mean performance. Joan Bennett and Elizabeth Taylor are side-lined to be honest, both give good performances but both are somewhat muted for the sake of the main star, which I think in this case is fair, the title being Father of the Bride and all. It's an average film with three or four stella scenes, my favorite being the kitchen 'drinks' scene. It would have wound me up if I'd watched it before my own Wedding but I'm sure I'll watch it again, maybe before one of my own children's weddings when I'm a cantankerous old bugger who has forgotten how bloody awful the whole wedding process really is. Light up a pipe, pour yourself a glass of Scotch and watch in your slippers for full effect.  
Vehicle 19
Dir: Mukunda Michael Dewil
2013
*
Mukunda Michael Dewil's 2013 action thriller Vehicle 19 desperately wants to be a Hitchcockian style thriller but doesn't come anywhere near close. It becomes clear that it is essentially a situation thriller, our protagonist spending pretty much every scene within the confines of a car. Now this was done soon after in Steven Knight's simple but effective film Locke, starring Tom Hardy. It was also done successfully in the very underrated Phone Booth back in 2002 (a film that was based on a Hitchcock idea). Both Locke and Phone Booth pushed the idea of and explored the possibilities of when someone is trapped and/or limited in what they can do. This doesn't come across very well at all, in fact the fact that he is always in a car could easily pass the viewer by. There is no character development and Walker brings nothing of interest in his performance. There is little suspense or intensity and absolutely no thrill. In fact from the onset, the film is woefully contrived (I'm looking at you blind man crossing the street) and devoid of substance. It's not even successful as a mindless action film.

Marvin's Room
Dir: David Petrarca
1996
**
David Petrarca's cinematic adaption of Scott McPherson's play was largely celebrated on its release and seems to still hold people's admiration. I can understand fans of Leonardo DiCaprio holding it with high regard as they gaze into his boyish blue eyes but for the rest of us I'm not sure there is that much still on offer. Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton are big performers but the script offers them very little. Robert De Nio is also criminally side-lined into an awkward and not particularly funny 'comedy' role. I'm guessing the humour worked really well in the theatre because it sure as hell doesn't in the film. I was neither sad at the emotional scenes, nor did I laugh and the comedy moments. It's terribly sad too that the late great Hume Cronyn was given such an awful role in the first film he made after the death of his wife and the last feature he ever made. I'm afraid I just didn't see the tenderness that was advertised, I could see what was intended but in my opinion this was never achieved.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

On a Clear Day
Dir: Gaby Dellal
2006
**
2006's On a Clear Day should have continued with the bleakness that it displayed in the first 5 minutes because it soon descended into a stupid comedy which, inevitably, turned it into a 'This year's Full Monty' type film, which it really wasn't. I thought the direction was very good. The mood in the first few scenes made me expect a gritty drama, it was very well handled and should have been continuous. Peter Mullan is a great actor, hugely underrated, he's one of the finest actors in the world and he carries this film till the bitter end. The supporting cast is varied. It has Ron Cook and Sean McGinley, two great actors, with no great script for them to get stuck into which really is a waste of their talents. Brenda Blethyn is okay but I'm not a huge fan of hers as I believe she hams up most of her performances and indulges in a bit of over acting. Jamie Sives heads the rest of the talent-less cast (although Wong was harmless and I quite like him) but for me, and one of the reasons I got annoyed with this film, was because of the inclusion of pointless character number one, played by Billy Boyd. He's not funny and he made a mockery of a very real subject that effects a lot of people. Why was he in this? I think it just shows that this film wasn't sure of its direction or what it's point was going to be. A real shame and a wasted opportunity. I've said it before and I'll say it again, The Full Monty has a lot to answer for, why British film tried to jump on its success in a cheap and undignified manner for so long is beyond me. Mullan and Dellal carry this film but I wouldn't bother if I were you, watch My Name is Joe instead.

Margin Call
Dir: J.C. Chandor
2011
***
Apart from Zachary Quinto's rabbit in the headlight performance and the pointless inclusion of Penn Badgley's character, this is a brilliant example of a stella cast producing stella performances. Sure it simplifies quite a complicated event (I lost count of how many times  someone said 'Tell me in English', for the sake of us simple folk) but it gets to the heart of the matter (our current financial crisis) and it does so very well. It's all too complicated for anyone to understand anyway, surely if people did understand it wouldn't have ever happened. Probably. Anyway, a very impressive debut from J.C. Chandor, and in 2011 a nice return to form for Kevin Spacey I thought. For all it's problems, it is directed smoothly throughout with a level of maturity and style.


Animal Farm
Dir: Joy Batchelor, John Halas
1954
***
Joy Batchelor and John Halas's 1954 animated version of George Orwell's classic tale, Animal Farm has been celebrated for all the wrong reasons. Often and incorrectly reported as the first British animated feature, Joy Batchelor and John Halas's adaptation is actually the second British full length animated feature. Unfortunately it's also a pretty basic adaptation of what is one of the greatest books of all time. The animation itself is rather good although sometimes it does in fact detract the message from the story. It doesn't come close to doing it justice but it's easy to watch all the same, just as long as people realise it is no substitute for the book.
Bubble
Dir: Steven Soderbergh
2006
*
Steven Soderbergh has quite a large group of devout followers by who he can do no wrong but I really can't see what makes him so special. By 2006 'A Steven Soderbergh Experience' was becoming more of a warning than a selling point. I understand why you'd want to make a social piece with non-actors, film it on a Mini DV and just release it without fanfare, sure, if you've got the money then I'm all for the 'Point and shoot' philosophy. It's just that you have to have a firm message, good angle or open discussion to make it interesting. Life is hard in middle America, I get it, and? There is nothing knew or particularly interesting going on here. The budget was $1,600,000 and it made $145,382. It's not all about the money (except it is), but Bubble is a film with a flawed message that failed to make a fraction of what it cost to make. Revolutionary film making it is not. On a personal note, and no one is to take offense at this, but there is nothing worse than American films trying to be European, other than perhaps European films trying to be American. By 2006 Steven Soderbergh had made 2 really good films, 4 extremely over-hyped films and 1 of the two worst films he's ever made (interestingly, his 2 worst films come straight before and straight after Bubble, making Bubble a filler in the worst film sandwich of all time). He also made 3 of my favorite films of resent years after Bubble, so I like him more these days but I still don't get the cult following by 2006 but once again I seem to be the minority.

PunisherWar Zone
Dir: Lexi Alexander
2008
***
Wait a minute, the original Punisher was a cheesy 80's action film that had little to do with the comics and the remake had a big name cast but a terrible story and again, had little to do with the comic. Punisher:War Zone, the sequel to the remake should be worst of all right? Well, it's not. Not at all in fact. It's got the story right, it's got the feel right. Ray Stevenson is a believable Frank Castle. Wayne Knight looks just like Microchip! (It's also great to see him in film again). Dash Mihok is Martin Soap, Doug Hutchison is great as Loony Bin Jim but it is Dominic West who steals the show as Jigsaw. He relishes the opportunity and the freedom that wearing a mask can give you. The film is action packed and quite violent and gory, just like the comics. It's a pretty good adaptation and I'm sure hard core fans must be happy. I thought it ticked all the boxes for what it is and then some. More please.
The Punisher
Dir: Jonathan Hensleigh
2004
**
The Punisher isn't all that bad but it isn't great. As an avid comic fan I have to say Punisher is one of my least favourite characters, so changes in character bothered me very little. The cast are pretty good here but ultimately wasted, it was a pleasure to see Roy Scheider as Daddy Punisher but I'm just not sure it was worth the five seconds he was in it for. The story is based on the original story of how Frank Castle became the Punisher but it is full of holes, there are hints of great ideas (Harry Heck was ace but again, only in it for 5 seconds) but there are just too many awful ideas. Why was so much time spent with his stupid neighbours? They bring nothing to the story and detract from the main character. Should have been a lot better but it could have been worse. I'm not too bothered though as I said, I was never a big fan in the first place and it was entertaining enough for a bit of silly action.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Poetry (Shi)
Dir: Lee Chang-dong
2010
*****
Poetry's greatest achievement is that is raises many questions but avoids answering them, the downfall for many a film but perfectly handled here. The disorder of life and of modern society in comparison to the old ways that aren't that much better, and vice versa, are studied so delicately and so subtly, the film is almost like Poetry itself. Everything good that happens and everything bad that happens is, to a degree, a matter of opinion but how we view the world and each other is key in this masterful tale by director Lee Chang-dong. Jeong-hie Yun's performance is tender and understated and is probably my favourite performance of 2010, and maybe even one of the best of all time.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Dir: Mike Newll
2010
**
They're going to release a film based on a breakfast cereal next, you mark my words. Apart from a bit of parkour I couldn't really see the link with the classic computer game, although it was slightly more fun as I remember the game being quite dull and only for the single player bedroom gamer. It's a bit like the Mummy, a bit like Indiana Jones and a bit like Wrath of the Titans although I don't think it is as good as any of them. It's just a little bit too predictable and formulaic and I thought it was poorly cast, many of the actors (Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina) were cast as cliched characters. It's Pirates of the Caribbean without Johnny Depp. Not my cup of tea but the effects were really good and it's a good film for the kids.

Body of Lies
Dir: Ridley Scott
2008
***
I wouldn't say Body of Lies is a return to form for Ridley Scott but along with American Gangster, it's certainly making up for a spell of bad films. It's the best I've seen Leonardo DiCaprio I have to say, I'm not usually a fan but I thought he did a great job here. I also liked Russell Crowe, although I still haven't quite forgiven either he or Ridley Scott for Another Year just yet. The contrast and ongoing relationship between the man in the field and the man making the decisions at home is what gives this film the edge. The acting is good, the action thrilling but tasteful and the story is pretty good too. I didn't care much for the love interest story line, it didn't seem in keeping with character but it was a good film overall.

The Darkest Hour
Dir: Chris Gorak
2011
***
The idea is great, having the whole thing happen in a country other than America was also refreshing. Alien invasion films need to be original in order to impress these days and this Sci-fi channel style film should be congratulated in this sense. However, why the hell cast kids in adult roles? Honestly, the acting was diabolical and the characters unbelievable. Better actors would have saved the film (and the aliens looked better when they were invisible). The tension and the special effects are great but it soon descends into stupidity when the surviving kids are somehow put in charge of navigational duties on a nuclear submarine. Chris Gorak has good ideas, he just doesn't know how to execute them. Maybe he should stick to what he's good at (art direction). A very generous three stars for the fantastic visuals.
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
Dir: Lone Scherfig
2003
****
There is something very disjointed about Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself. It almost feels as if it is in a timeless no mans land, void of any distractions or indeed the outside world. Maybe that's why it works so well. The Danes don't half make some great films, Lone Scherfig ticks all the boxes a director should as far as I'm concerned, always giving us something new but never breaking free from the confinements of reality. The acting is good, particularly from Adrian Rawlins who really plays his part as the 'glue' of the story well. I'm always a bit weary of sensationalist titles but don't let it put you off, this is a great little film.


Philomena
Dir: Stephen Frears
2013
****
I winced ever so slightly when I heard that Stephen Frears was going to direct this true story of a lost child of the infamous Sean Ross Abbey, an Irish monastery that took in young pregnant Girls and sold their babies to wealthy American couples while punishing them for their sins. Not because he's not a good director, but because the subject needed to be handed right and I've felt some of his earlier films to have been too heavy handed. Peter Mullan made the fantastic The Magdalene Sisters back in 2002 and I wasn't sure the story could be beaten. I also had huge reservations about Steve Coogan playing Martin Sixsmith of all people. I'm happy to say that the balance was right, both director and actor were spot on the money and the lovely Judi Dench was as great as ever. The story is compelling and down-right strange at times. It feels like it's been made up, it's the most unlikely true story I've ever heard and so much more. It probably angered me more than anything but this is were Stephen Frears's real talent comes in, as he keeps it balanced and perfectly timed. The story is too important not to be told correctly and Frears and co do so admirably.