You’re Next  (2011)    75/100

Rating :   75/100                                                                       94 Min        18

A decent enough slasher film that becomes a really good, fun thriller. A couple celebrating their thirty fifth wedding anniversary invite all their children, together with their relative partners, out to their mansion in the woods to celebrate with them. Unfortunately, someone decides this same group would make excellent target practice for their crossbow. At least, that is all the family have to go on for motive when they suddenly find themselves under attack in their own home and must do whatever they can to survive.

Sharni Vinson does a fantastic job of playing central character Erin, the sexy Australian girlfriend of one of the brothers who turns out to be hard as, ahem, nails, and the rest of the cast do a good job of both creating the right atmosphere and suspense, whilst simultaneously managing the difficult task of getting the audience to laugh with a horror film rather than at it. For fans of the genre this is to be highly recommended.

Pain & Gain  (2013)    74/100

Rating :   74/100                                                                     129 Min        15

Michael Bay brings his adrenaline fuelled style of filmmaking to somewhat new and uncharted territory for the director, with this ‘based on a true story’ (published in 1999 as a series of articles in the ‘Miami New Times’) crime drama. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie are all weight lifters working in the Sun Gym in California who decide, largely at the instigation of Wahlberg’s ringleader Daniel Lugo, to kidnap a local entrepreneur and try to extort all of his money and belongings from him. The three are each the very epitome of the term ‘meathead’ and what ensues is a classic crime caper, with the three leads delivering entirely believable and often amusing performances. Bay still hasn’t quite mastered the craft of truncating his movies so that they run at a reasonable length, but this was still a lot of fun from start to finish, and marks another great turn by Johnson, ranking alongside his appearance in ‘Southland Tales’ (06) and as the lead in ‘Faster’ (10). The characters have been made a lot more palatable than their real life counterparts, and in reality the gang was a lot bigger than just three people, but the story in general follows real life events.

Hobo with a Shotgun  (2011)    79/100

Rating :   79/100                                                                       86 Min        18

What a great ‘splatterhouse’ film. This, like ‘Machete’ (10), began as a trailer for a movie that didn’t exist, shown during the ‘Grindhouse’ (07) double bill of Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Planet Terror’ and Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’ (filmmakers Jason Eisener, John Davies, and Rob Cotterill, based in Canada, won an international competition to secure their trailer in the slot) . Rutger Hauer brings the titular Hobo to life, traveling into a town where all notions of law and order have been torn to shreds, and life is effectively dictated by the whims of the ruling drug lord’s family, which, naturally, our (anti) hero will take exception to. A film whose entire premise is encapsulated by the title, and at the same time we can’t wait for the Hobo to pick up his shotgun and start kicking some ass – and really, who better to do it than Hauer?

This is a bloody, bloody film, but it is highly enjoyable. Some of the scenes have been heavily colourised, to the extent that they are effectively completely blue or orangey yellow – it’s terrible, and yet it somehow works for this film! Directed by Jason Eisener, it offers an interesting perspective on the raging debate over the portrayal of violence in film, as watching this not long after ‘Elysium’ I found a scene here where a school bus full of children is deliberately torched much less disturbing than the one in ‘Elysium’ that simply has a young girl being verbally threatened. The reason of course is entirely down to the way each is filmed (we only really see an exterior shot of the bus in flames, whereas in the latter it is very obvious there is a real young girl in the room), with Eisener having a much better idea of what he was making, and the fact that here the violence has an unreal tongue in cheek manner to it laced with dark humour.

With a perfect retro soundtrack in accompaniment, this is one irreverent action film to fall in love with.


“I can promise you, when I get out of here, I’m gonna bite your face off!”   Rutger Hauer/Hobo

“You want to know if I’m homeless? So you can kill me! Some people, got a bed to sleep on. Where they can crawl under the covers and have a good night’s rest. But other people, they don’t got beds at all. Instead they got to find a alleyway, or a park bench, where some fuckers not going to stab them. Just because they don’t got beds doesn’t mean they’re homeless! Cos guess what? They got the biggest home of any of us. It’s called the streets! And right now, we’re all standing in their home! So maybe, we should show them some God damn respect! If this is their home, they got a right to keep it clean don’t they? Sometimes, on the streets, a broom just ain’t gonna fuckin’ cut it! That’s when you gotta get a shotgun! So if you wanna kill me, go ahead. But I’ll warn ya, from where I’m standing, things are looking real fuckin’ filthy!”   Molly Dunsworth/Abby

Primal  (2010)    70/100

Rating :   70/100                                                                       80 Min        18

Aussie horror flick that sees a group of young teenagers head into to the outback to look at some ancient rock paintings. Alas, they unwittingly awaken a primal force in the adjacent caves which attempts to use them for its own purpose, seeping a genetic toxin into the nearby water, but who will be the first one of them to go for a nice dip and suffer its effects?

The group of characters consists of a few stereotypes, but ones that operate convincingly within the story, and the evolution of that story, and indeed the force they are confronted with, proves to be engaging throughout, although it is very much a contained, classic encounter of ‘who’s going to get wasted next’? That, combined with an allusion to a certain section of Japanese animation – one which I can’t help but think, since they decided to go down that route, they could have at least taken it a bit further than they did ….

We’re the Millers  (2013)    73/100

Rating :   73/100                                                                     110 Min        15

Surprising enjoyable. As this is a light hearted comedy film we know exactly where it’s heading – its success is that we are quite happy for it to do so. Jason Sudeikis is a small time drug dealer who falls into debt with a bigger fish in his regional pond. To make amends he agrees to drive down to Mexico and collect a new shipment of Marijuana, and to facilitate the operation he decides to bring along a collection of people to pose as his family ‘The Millers’, people who are, for a variety of reasons, all at loose ends. The fake family are rounded out by Jennifer Aniston as the mom, and Emma Roberts and Will Poulter as the two kids.

Drawing quite a bit of attention from the trailers, something which they cunningly focused on, is Aniston’s character’s occupation, that of a nightclub stripper, suggesting her acting career may be continuing along the path begun with her more sexualised role in ‘Horrible Boses’ (11), and here the film lives up to expectations, with a lithe and salacious Aniston brazenly giving a show in itself more erotic than the whole of ‘Showgirls’ (95) taken together, and yet it never feels overtly gratuitous, in a sort of Megan Fox ‘Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen’ (09) kind of way, and she simultaneously maintains the spirit of most of her romcom characters as well.

The film provides a few genuine laughs, but scores highest with it’s enjoyable character dynamic, with some obvious improv and in the case of Will Poulter it features a rare cinematic moment when you are not only happy for the character, but also very much for the actor playing them too (you’ll see what I mean).

Lovelace  (2013)    74/100

Rating :   74/100                                                                       93 Min        18

A well shot and acted film that is both interesting and at times disturbing. It follows the true story of Linda Boreman, aka Linda Lovelace, who starred in one of the highest grossing and famous porn films of all time, ‘Deep Throat’ (72), and then all but disappeared from the public eye, only to publish a book many years later detailing the abuse she suffered from her then husband Chuck Traynor, whom she alleges forced her into making the film. The movie plays with different viewpoints, and is brought to life by Amanda Seyfried in the title role, Sharon Stone and Robert Partrick as her devoutly Catholic parents, Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck, and with Hank Azaria, Juno Temple and Chris Noth in support (and James Franco briefly as Hugh Hefner). It’s an uncompromising role for chick flick stalwart Seyfried who does a fantastic job and, ironically, I’d probably rather watch a couple of the scenes from this again than any from the entirety of ‘Deep Throat’ …

What Maisie Knew  (2012)    73/100

Rating :   73/100                                                                       99 Min        15

Emotional tearjerker based on the Henry James novel of the same name, focusing on the breakdown of a marriage and the effects for the young innocent girl, Maisie, caught in the middle of it. Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan play the self absorbed parents who’s priorities primarily lie with their careers, that of an ageing rock star for Moore, and a travelling arts dealer for Coogan, and although initially the mother comes off as by far the worse of the two, by the end of the film you will pretty much hate the pair of them.

Enter two young adults in the life of the child, one her regular and somewhat traditional ‘hot babysitter’ played by Scottish newcomer Joanna Vanderham, and the other a handsome male boy toy for the mother in the shape of Alexander Skarsgård, both of whom fall in love with Maisie but are also caught in the venomous crossfire of the separation. The film is well shot and well acted throughout, including by young Onata Aprile who plays Miasie, a performance accentuated by the single tear that she sheds after effectively being abandoned by everyone she loves. A great film, and one which thankfully has the kindness and affection of non family members to balance out the lack of care from those who should know better, suggesting that blood isn’t necessarily always thicker than water.

Elysium  (2013)    16/100

Rating :   16/100                                                                     109 Min        15

Horrible, horrible action film. The title relates to ‘a paradise’, traditionally the place in Greek Mythology that all heroes went to after death, here an Earth orbiting haven for the super rich, wherein everyone lives like kings with all manner of technology that can cure essentially all known disease and even rebuild flesh. It’s the year 2154, and whilst the human elite are drinking champagne and playing croquet in space, everyone still on the surface of Earth exists in extreme poverty, which is where we find our hero, Max (Matt Damon), who had always dreamed of going into utopian orbit himself, but usually finds himself on the wrong side of the law, and is currently desperately sucking up a menial labour intensive job.

It’s from director Neill Blomkamp, and follows on from his successful ‘District 9’ (09) and as there the special effects look tremendous, albeit a little similar to his previous film. The similarities don’t end there though, indeed one could almost extrapolate the basic story from one and insert it into the other with precious little difference between them, and just as ‘District 9’ started off with an interesting concept and then degenerated into a plodding excuse for pointless action, so too does history repeat itself, only with a far less convincing story and acting, as although Damon is fine in the role, the rest of the supporting cast far from have their finest moments.

Except for Sharlto Copley, who plays the central villain and hired goon of the military defence of Elysium and clearly had a lot of fun in the role, but his character is simply too grotesque. One scene sees him threaten a very young girl and her mother and it is not especially justified by the narrative, rather it’s an excuse to bring the childhood sweetheart of Max into the fray, which is not only horrifically lame but the scene is actually pretty disturbing to watch. Combine this with excessive violence, bloodshed, and the continued peril of the mother and daughter via a very basic, contrived, ‘been done a thousand times before’ storyline that is predictable, nonsensical, and features ‘Gladiator’ esque music with flashbacks of Max and the woman of his dreams as children (together with images of tattoos of their names ‘4 ever’), and it not only becomes direly cheesy, but you’re left thinking why? Why make this? The only point seems to be, once again, to blow things up, but it has been done in a depressingly tiresome, and at times disturbing, way.

The Mortal Instruments : City of Bones  (2013)    51/100

Rating :   51/100                                                                     130 Min        12A

Fantasy fare with vampires, werewolves, demons and pretty girls – I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like this on some level, but it manages to be derivative of pretty much every other popular fantasy universe out there, and the fact that the author of the teenage fantasy book it’s based on, Cassandra Clare, began by writing fan fiction for Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings comes as no surprise at all. The effects are good, but the story and dialogue leave a lot to be desired, especially when it comes to central character Clarissa Fray (Lily Collins mmm) who is more than hopeless as she discovers her ancestry and its place within the fraternity of ‘shadowhunters’ that stalk and kill demons lurking amongst mortals. It starts off well, with Lena Headey (double mmm) playing Clarissa’s mother and guardian, but it’s mostly downhill from there, with too much emphasis on a particularly limp love triangle which apes the Twilight trend of young girls leading multiple men on and causing general carnage around them, and lots of just silly moments, like managing to freeze a bunch of demons and then waiting until they unfroze to kill them, possible just to show off the CGI. Daft. Envisioned as the first in a franchise, also with Jamie Campbell Bower and Robert Sheehan as the male love interests, together with Jared Harris and Jonathan Rhys Meyers in support.

Mad Money  (2008)    70/100

Rating :   70/100                                                                     104 Min        12

This film has been critically annihilated by just about every journalistic source I’ve seen it mentioned in, but I really don’t think the poor reviews are merited, it’s just a nice, easy to watch film. Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes star in a crime caper about three women working in menial jobs at the federal reserve, who decide (largely at the instigation of debt ridden Keaton, whose husband Ted Danson has been forced out of work) they could really do with some of the money they see being moved around every day, surely no one would miss it …It’s based on an earlier British film, ‘Hot Money’ (01), which in turn loosely depicted real life events (no details here in the interests of avoiding spoilers). The film is directed by Callie Khouri, winner of the best original screenplay Oscar for ‘Thelma and Louise’ (91), and this was her second feature film behind the camera.

It opens with the three women frantically trying to dispose of their ill gotten gains with the feds waiting outside their homes, so we know it goes pear shaped eventually, but it still manages to be interesting, and the three leads are fun to watch. The Red Dragon had a splitting headache after eating something that disagreed with him (a couple of Tory campaigners) and this, together with a cup of tea, was a perfect remedy, requiring little brain power and yet I didn’t want to leave the room for too long during the break for fear of missing some of the dialogue (always the sign of a good film). It’s the sort of light hearted film your mother would enjoy, but to be honest, I quite liked it too.