L.A. Confidential (1997) Film Review


The LA Police Department is crooked – beating confessions from the criminals, setting them up, being on the take – and they’ve been getting away with it for a long time. Then along comes clean-cut, glasses wearing Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), a man who is going to do things by the book. Then there is Bud White (Russell Crowe), a thug of a cop who does what he is told, but has a depth that he only exposes to his girlfriend, high-class prostitute Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger). Several conspiracies start to come to light, exposed by or involving celebrity cop Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), tabloid reporter Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) and the big police boss Dudley Smith (James Cromwell).

Watching this twenty years ago, I didn’t get why it was so loved and so respected. It’s got a lot going on, but I just couldn’t engage. I felt that way about it this time until about half an hour from the end – and then everything seemed to click. Now, a day later, parts are still popping into my mind. I can’t say that I loved the film, but I get it. And there is a lot to like and respect about it – very clever and interesting. Definitely worth it.

L.A. Confidential won Oscars for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Kim Basinger) and Best Writing, Screenplay based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson) and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Curtis Hanson), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Music – Original Dramatic Score.



Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) Film Review


After their adventures in the previous instalment, Dale (Charlie Day), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Nick (Jason Bateman) decide to go into business for themselves with the Shower Buddy a kind of car wash for your shower. When Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz) and his son Rex (Chris Pine) cause them to become hugely in debt, they devise a ridiculous kidnapping and extortion plan which they attempt, but give up when things don’t go to plan. Unfortunately for them, Rex has decided that it is a far better plan and blackmails them into going through with it – with him as a partner. And it gets ridiculous.

I just had a look at what I thought about he first film – I felt that it wasn’t enough story for a full film, but it was ok. Perhaps that is why I liked this one more – perhaps it had more plot, or something. At any rate, I did quite enjoy this one, with all of it’s filthy humour, and it was good to get a few callback characters like Dean ‘MF’ Jones (Jamie Foxx), Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) and Dr Julia Harris, D.D.S. (Jennifer Aniston).

Horrible Bosses (2011) Film Review


Three guys are mates, and all are in jobs with bosses that are abusive and appalling. Nick’s (Jason Bateman)boss is Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), a man who is relentlessly cruel, mostly verbally. Kurt (Jason Sedeikis) loved his boss, Jack (Donald Sutherland) but when he suddenly passes away, the nightmare cocaine-addicted son, Bobby (Colin Farrell) steps in, but his plans involved prostitutes and running the company into the ground. And Dale (Charlie Day) is a strange little guy who is being sexually tormented by his dentist boss Dr Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). So, like Strangers on the Train, they decide that if they all kill each other’s boss, they can get away with it. But they are fools, so it goes wrong. But, of course, ultimately right.

It’s such a nod to The Hangover – three guys, one kind of cool, one sensible and straight-laced and the other a bit odd and irresponsible. I kind of liked it – well, I didn’t hate it. I liked bits… I did like that they had one of the bosses be a woman, and the idea of her doing the sexual harassment, and that it is clearly a power thing, which a lot of people forget in relation to sexual harassment. But, I felt that it was kind of too much story for a 98-minute film, but not quality enough for a longer film.


Pay It Forward (2000) Film Review

Pay it forward

Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) is a new teacher in a school, a terrifically facially scarred man. He sets his class the task of attempting to change the world, a task that gives young annoying child Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) the idea of paying it forward – you do a favour for someone, then they do three favours for other people, and so on. Meanwhile, he is also trying to encourage his alcoholic mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt) to change her ways. Then there is a journalist who has had someone introduce the concept of paying it forward to him and wants to discover the origin of this movement.

I avoided this film for so long. It just sounded so terrible; cheesy and awful. And it was. I really like the concept, but the script was so twee and terrible and the entire thing felt clichéd and repulsive. Just thinking about it now makes me cross. I need something good to rid my mind of this.

American Beauty (1999) Film Review


Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) tells us in the opening of the film that within a year, he will be dead. He is a loser; stuck in a disintegrating marriage with Carolyn(Annette Bening), with a grumpy teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch) who has no respect for either of her parents and a job he hates. He is deeply unhappy. Then he meets his daughter’s cheerleader friend, Angela(Mena Suvari), who he develops an infatuation with. Also, a new family moves in next door, and the strange teenage son starts selling Lester pot. Before you know it, his life is turned around and then, true to his earlier statement, he dies.

I taught this film over several years and found that each time I watched it, I enjoyed it more and more. It is such a beautiful film – every second is perfectly constructed and every shot contains a wealth of information to tell the story. The performances are beautiful, with each character’s strengths and vulnerabilities revealed.

American Beauty won Oscars for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Kevin Spacey), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and was nominated for Oscars for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Annette Bening) Best Film Editing and Best Music (Original Score)

The Shipping News – The Movie (2001) Film Review


I read The Shipping News last year and found it a dense read that I could not predict translating to film. I was extremely impressed, when I finally got around to hiring it, at how well the story was told. In just under two hours, the film captures the essence of the book; all of the characters, including the character that is the house when Quoyle and his family find themselves living.

There was a couple of immediately noticeable changes that I worried initially could be a problem; in the film, Quoyle only has one daughter and the dog is missing altogether. However, whilst both of those characters serve important roles in the book, they are not missing in the film.

It is a long and slow film, and usually, that’s what I complain about. I still think that the plot of the majority of films can be told in an hour and a half, but it’s almost as if ‘film’ has heard my complaint and is sending me all of the good long films. This film couldn’t have been a moment shorter; if anything, it could have been longer. However, there were single shots in the film that covered many pages of the book and encapsulated everything about this.