Red State (2011) Film Review


It’s small town America, the type of place where the funeral of a gay boy horrifically killed is picketed by a group of fundamentalist Christians. Travis (Michael Andarano) is your typical horny high school buddy who goes along with his mate Randy (Ronnie Connell) and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun) for a sex-romp set up on a Tinder-like app. Only on the way, they sideswipe a parked vehicle and this marks them for police attention. But, the sex-romp isn’t the exciting three-way that they had hoped – instead, they are drugged and taken to the church of those aforementioned fundamentalists where they are tagged to be killed for their sins. However, their damaged car has claimed the attention of the police and before you know it, the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) is involved and there is a whole heap of shooting and killing.

This is certainly a dark film – there are some serious deaths, often of characters that you did not expect to die, and a fabulous ending. And what is scary is that it doesn’t seem to be too far off what potentially could be happening over there – and what could be getting covered up. Brrr, shivers down my spine. And great to see Kevin Smith moving from his usual comedy into real dark comedy.


The Monuments Men (2014) Film Review

the monuments men

A group of art historians are brought into the army to save artwork that Hitler has had collected and plans to destroy if he loses power.

That is an interesting story in itself. Yet, watching the trailers, it looked terrible to me. It seemed very lighthearted and possibly too funny. IT didn’t matter that there is an excellent cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban. Or that it was directed by Clooney. It just looked average. But I went.

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a total hard-hitting war film. The humour was good and not too much of it, and it was nicely balanced with some heart wrenching moments. I believe it is not true to the original story, but it is not a documentary. I’m happy to forgive that. I’m happy to have just enjoyed it for what it was.

ParaNorman (2012) Film Review


Norman is an odd boy. He sees the dead everywhere he goes (not just people, dead animals too) and can interact with them. His family wants him to be normal and kids at school tease him relentlessly. Then his uncle, Mr Prenderghast, passes away, and passes on the responsibility of reading from a book to please a dead witch and ensure that the dead don’t rise again. But it’s not that easy.

This is a great kids film. Probably a bit scary for little kids, but heaps of fun. The characters are well created on the whole (although, as with most kids films, there really is not much in the way of female role models… a put-upon mother, a stupid and a bit slutty teenage sister, a nerd with thick glasses and braces, a stupid cop and that’s just about it) and the story flows well. I love it when I’m watching a film like this and it turns things on its head – when the zombies hit town, the townsfolk have seen enough films to know what to do to killer zombies. Only these guys aren’t killers. It’s great.

ParaNorman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and a BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

The Big Lebowski (1998) Film Review


No matter how many times I see this film, I can watch it more. It’s funny, tragic, quirky and ridiculous, and is one of my favourites ever.

So, there’s a guy called Lebowski who is better known as The Dude (Jeff Bridges). He’s an old hippy who potters around, getting through life somehow until one day his house is broken into by thugs who threaten him and urinate on his rug. When realising it is a case of mistaken identity, his best mates and bowling buddies Donnie (Steve Buscemi) and  Walter(John Goodman) advise him on how to resolve this issue. And along the way are nihilists, artists, acid flashbacks, kidnappings, beating up cars and a lot of swearing.

If you’ve not seen the film, you may well not like it. Because if you have friends who like the film, they’ve probably forced it on you. If you didn’t like it, you may no longer have those friends – it’s one of those films that people get crazy passionate about. Use this as a test: watch this clip that shows the entrance of Jesus (John Turturro). If you don’t think this is the most magnificent introduction of a character in cinematic history, you may not like the film. And I’ll chuck it out there: what other character entrances are magnificent? (My second would be Ray Winston in the opening of Sexy Beast. Find that one yourself – I couldn’t find it on youtube. You need the full version with Peaches by The Stranglers)


Monsters University (2013) Film Review


So how did Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) become such a successful team? This takes some of our favourite characters from Monsters Inc back to their past at university –  with Sully as an arrogant jock, Mike a mega-swot desperate to become a scarer and Randy (Steve Buscemi), the future bad guy, as a geek and a nice guy.

I liked it. It was fun, the characters were as strong as in the earlier film, and it had the great sense of humour of so many of the Pixar flicks. It is a tricky task – to take characters that people love and put them in a different scenario. Especially as, for some parts of the film, the audience really doesn’t like Sully. I’ve heard many criticise that it was too similar to Monsters Inc and I reckon that is a stupid argument. Remember, this is still a film aimed at kids; if you expect something totally different, watch something totally different. Grumble over.


Monsters, Inc (2001) Film Review

Monsters Inc

There’s a monster world where energy is created by collecting energy from the screams of children when monsters visit them at night. It’s an industry. The stars are Sulley (John Goodman) and his sidekick Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), but things are changing and there are bad guys who want to change everything.

This is a fantastic kids film. Pixar have done a lot of good stuff. This is one of the best. If you need to, borrow some kids so you can watch this.

Monsters Inc won an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song (Randy Newman) and was Nominated for Oscars for Best Music, Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Animated Feature

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011) Film Review


This review originally appeared on in March 2012.

Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favourite authors. His two fictions Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are two of my favourite ever books. I love the humour and absurdity and heart of his writing. At the cinema recently, I saw the trailer for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  and my heart sank. It looked awful. The problem is the marketing.

This is not a film about September 11.

But this is how it is being marketed, and I think that’s really wrong. Yes, (spoiler alert) the father died in one of the towers. This film is not about that – it’s about his son and how he deals (and cannot deal) with his grief. This is why I cried for two hours watching it.

At first, I was not happy with the choice of Thomas Horn as Oskar – he just wasn’t my Oskar, my little, nervous, weird, precocious Oskar. Plus he seems more like eleven or twelve than nine. As the film went on, he grew on me, and apart from a couple of overly schmaltzy, emotional moments, he was great. Especially the way he wields that tambourine! The casting of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock was a mistake, I reckon. I mean, they are both so recognisable that it is hard to see them as anything other than who they are, and I found it hard to separate that. Mind you, they both made me cry, so I guess they had their acting chops on.

I wonder if the reviewers who are hating this film have read the book.

I wonder if it is my absolute love of this book that has lead me to love the film – I don’t need to try to understand it. I’ve been through all the disbelief and incredulousness as I read (how can anyone let a nine-year-old wander around New York on his own like that?) and was able to just enjoy the ride. This is a clear example of when a trailer ruins a film; don’t watch the trailer. And when you see this film, take lots of tissues.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Max Von Sydow)

Flight (2012) Film Review

When Denzel Washington acts, he plays the characters with such extreme intensity it is difficult not to get taken deep into their world. I’ve not always enjoyed the films, but generally I have enjoyed his performances. Although there tends to be little variety between performances.

Flight tells the story of pilot Whip Whitaker who manages to land a commercial airliner in extremely difficult circumstances. However, the investigations afterwards reveal that he has a problem with substance abuse.

What is very interesting is the way that, despite being a fairly deplorable character who treats those around him poorly, the audience is on the side of Whitaker throughout. Is this just because it is Denzel? Perhaps.

Even if you’re not a fan of Denzel, the film is worth seeing just for the system malfunction and miraculous landing alone. Far too exciting.

Denzel Washington was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.

John Gatins was nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

Argo (2012) Film Review


It’s 1979 and Iran hates the US. So much so that the embassy is raided and all of the staff are held hostage. Six diplomats escape and are hidden in the home of the  Canadian Ambassador. Back in the US, plans are being put together to extract them, including the absurd idea of getting them onto bikes and cycling 300 miles in the middle of winter to the Turkish border. Tony Mendez comes up with audacious plan of creating a false movie, Argo, and convincing Iranian authorities that these six US citizens are, in fact, Canadians, and are part of a location scouting group for the film. This is all true. And amazing.

Of course, the film is dramatized. There is no way that it could have happened exactly as in the film, but isn’t that why audiences need to suspend their disbelief? For me, I went to Wikipedia and had a look at the historical inaccuracies. It doesn’t stop this from being an awesome film; it just makes the story a bit less Hollywood.

I was extremely impressed with this film. It is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. There was tension, action and the fact that I knew that the plan succeeded did not stop me from feeling the tension of every moment the whole way through.

Argo won the Golden Globe for Best Feature Film – Drama and Best Director, and I say thank goodness. I really like it when I feel that the awards get it right. On ya, Ben Affleck.

William Goldenberg has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Film Editing and a BAFTA for Editing

Alexandre Desplat has been nominated for an Oscar for Music (Original Score), a Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture and a BAFTA for Original Music.

Argo has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, a BAFTA for Best Film

Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn have been nominated for an Oscar for Sound Editing

John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia have been nominated for an Oscar for Sound Mixing

Chris Terrio has been nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Adapted Screenplay), aGolden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture and a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Argo Won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Drama)

Alan Arkin was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and a BAFTA for Supporting Actor

Ben Alfeck won the Golden Globe for Best Director of a Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Director. He was nominated for a BAFTA for Leading Actor.