Sunday, 29 April 2012

Film Review: THE CONSPIRATOR (2010)

The Conspirator - poster Director: Robert Redford
Writers: James D. Solomon & Gregory Bernstein
Running time: 118 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12A

Genre: Crime/Drama/History
UK Release date: 1st July 2011

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 29th April 2011.


It wasn’t until the closing credits that I realised who had directed this film and, funnily enough, I had been thinking it had some of the hallmarks of a Redford film all the way through. I like a good courtroom drama as much as the next man and this one had the added spice of being based on historical facts. I must say, for the most part, I enjoyed it, although there were one or two things that didn’t work quite so well (for me). More of that after this brief summary.

The Conspirator - 2 Towards the end of the American Civil War President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Attempts were made on the lives of two other senior politicians which prompted a huge manhunt for the conspirators. Amongst those rounded up was Mary Surratt who owned a guesthouse at which Booth had stayed. Whilst there he had befriended her son, John, who had subsequently gone missing. All the conspirators were put on trial and it falls to a former Union soldier, Frederick Aiken, to defend Mary Surratt. What follows is a totally biased trial in which witnesses are bribed by the prosecution and the tribunal consists of Union Generals who are in the pocket of the War Minister, Edwin Stanton. So desperate is Aiken to give her a fair trial that he almost finds himself in contempt of court. I won’t tell you how it ends or the Spoiler Police will be trumping up charges against me (again).

The Conspirator Very well made with the look and feel you’d expect from a quality production. Everything from the costumes to the locations to the props was expertly done with great attention to detail. As far as performances go, well everyone was very good but nobody really stood out (for me). So honourable mentions go to; James McAvoy as Frederick Aiken, Robin Wright as Mary Surratt, Kevin Kline as Edwin Stanton, Evan Rachel Wood as Anna Surratt, Tom Wilkinson as Reverdy Johnson, Justin Long as Nicholas Baker, Danny Huston as Joseph Holt, James Badge Dale as William Hamilton and Colm Meaney as David Hunter.

The Conspirator - 5 The film has quite an exciting opening showing us the murder of President Lincoln and the aftermath. However, the middle part of the film does tend to fall a little flat. I think part of the problem is that we are never made to feel any sympathy for the accused, Mary Surratt. Yes, we can sympathise with her plight, but we are never given evidence of her innocence (or maybe it doesn’t exist). Things do pick up again towards the end and there is one particularly striking sequence that I can’t talk about without giving away spoilers (dammit!). Over all, not the most enthralling film I’ve seen on the subject, but worth a look.

My score: 7.1/10

IMDb Score: 6.9/10 (based on 11,614 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 55/100: (Based on 37 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 56/100 (based on 165 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 64/100 (based on 18,675 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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The Conspirator - 8 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
Edwin Stanton: Damn the rebels. Damn them to hell!

Frederick Aiken: It's John that you want, not Mary.
Edwin Stanton: I'll take either.

Frederick Aiken: You're my witness! Should I not expect you to tell me the truth?

Reverdy Johnson: Freddy, she's not your mother, if John Surrat won't turn himself in for her, then why should you?

The Conspirator movie image James McAvoy LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site:

Film Review: TOY STORY 3 (2010) – [2nd Re-watch]

ToyStory3_poster Director: Lee Unkrich
Writers (Story): John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
Writer (Screenplay): Michael Arndt
Running time: 103 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): U

Genre: Animation/Comedy/Drama
UK Release date: 19th July 2010

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 29th April 2011.


NOTE: What follows is my original review of the film when I first saw it in July 2010 with a few additions. It recently showed again on TV and I must love this film a lot because I felt I should see it yet again. Fortunately my opinion has not changed, hence the repeat outing for this review (with additions, oh, and I upped the score a bit too). It was good to watch it in the privacy of my own home because there was something in my eye towards the end and there was a handy box of tissues nearby… Hope you enjoy the review.


62094_orig The toys are back for their third outing. And as the 3D debate rages on I took the high ground and stuck to the supposedly outmoded two dimensions for this one. After all that’s exactly the number of dimensions the screen has. But enough of this I hear you say, tell me more about the film.

toy-story-3-sunnyside Andy is growing up fast and is on his way to college soon. He has not played with the toys in quite a while and, quite frankly, they’re worried. With talk of the attic, and even worse, the trash, even Woody is getting apprehensive. Andy’s mum tells him to sort out his room, things for the attic, things to go to college with him and things to go out for the trash. His sister Molly also gets a box to put toys in to donate to the Sunnyside day-care centre (yes I know I used the English spelling, I’m English, what can I say?). By some mix-up all of Andy’s toys end up in the donation box, I won’t say how because I don’t want to spoil it. All seems very pleasant when they arrive. They are greeted by a bear called Lotso who is very nice to them, but all is not what it seems at Sunnyside. I think that’s enough of the plot to whet your appetite. You wouldn’t forgive me if I gave too much away would you and those Spoiler Police (Toys Division) are really strict these days.

toy-story-3-internet-trailer-28-4-10-kc As we have come to expect from Pixar, this is an exceptionally well made film with a great plot, endearing characters, lots of adventure, comedy and one or two tear-jerking moments along the way. I also have to give a mention to Randy Newman whose songs throughout the series have been tremendous, always fitting the mood perfectly, there’s even a Spanish number this time around! Great work, as ever, from the voice talents of, Tom Hanks as Woody, Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear, Joan Cusack as Jessie, Ned Beatty as Lotso, Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head, Michael Keaton as Ken, Wallace Shawn as Rex, John Ratzenberger as Hamm, Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head, John Morris as Andy and Jodi Benson as Barbie.

toy_story_3 There are some great moments, like when Ken met Barbie for the first time, Mr. Potato Head as a tortilla and Buzz Lightyear in Spanish mode has to be seen to be believed! I really enjoyed this film, I really engaged with the characters I know so well for the previous two films and found myself quite choked at the end. All three films have been tremendous and I really hope they don’t make a fourth, finish on a high guys! Over all, highly recommended.

My score: 9.3/10

IMDb Score: 8.5/10 (based on 205,628 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 92/100: (Based on 39 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 99/100 (based on 253 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 91/100 (based on 286,431 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:

toy_story_3_54-535x300 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
[first lines]
[Mr. Potato Head, portraying One-Eyed Bart, jumps out of a train while carrying money sacks]
Mr. Potato Head: [laughs evily] Ah, ha ha ha! Money, money, money!
[Woody lassoes a rope to grab the money from Mr. Potato Head's hands, then trips him]
Woody: You've got a date with justice, One-Eyed Bart!
Mr. Potato Head: Too bad, Sheriff! I'm a married man!
[Mrs. Potato Head jumps onto the train, giving karate yells]
Woody: One-Eyed Betty?
[Mrs. Potato Head chases Woody across the train tops, then uses nunchucks to knock him off. As the Potato Heads look and laugh evily, Woody suddenly reappears, riding Bullseye with Jessie]
Jessie: I think you dropped something, mister!
Mr. Potato Head: Jessie?
Woody: Give it up, Bart! You've reached the end of the line!
Mr. Potato Head: I always wanted to go out with a bang!
[Mr. Potato Head presses a button on a remote, causing dynamite to blow up the bridge]
Jessie: Oh, no!
Woody: The orphans!
[cut to a group of Troll dolls riding the train]
Mr. Potato Head: Hate to leave early, but our ride is here!
[Three aliens drive up in a pink Barbie Corvette]
Aliens: Ooh!
Mr. Potato Head: It's me or the kiddies, Sheriff! Take your pick!
[the Potato Heads jump into the convertible and drive off]
Woody: Ride like the wind, Bullseye!

Toy-Story-3-Trailer-21 Buzz Lightyear: Hold on, this is no time to be hysterical!
Hamm the Piggy Bank: This is the perfect time to be hysterical.
Rex the Green Dinosaur: Should we be HYSTERICAL?
Slinky Dog: No!
Mr. Potato Head: Yes!
Buzz Lightyear: Maybe! But not right now!
Hamm the Piggy Bank: C'mon. Let's go see how much we're going for on eBay.

Lotso: Ken? New toys!
Ken: Far out! Down in a jiff, Lotso.
[goes down the elevator]
Ken: So, who's ready for Ken's dream tour?
Lotso: Let's show our new friends where they'll be staying!
Ken: Uh, folks, if you'll just want to step right this way...
[he sees Barbie]
Ken: Hi, I'm Ken.
Barbie: Barbie. Have we ever met?
Ken: I would have remembered.
[she laughs]
Ken: Love your leg wamers!
Barbie: Nice ascot!
Lotso: Come on, Ken, recess don't last forever.
Ken: Right on, Lotso. This way everybody.
Lotso: Got a lot to look forward to, folks. The little ones love new toys.
Buzz Lightyear: What a nice bear!
Rex the Green Dinosaur: And he smells like strawberries.
Woody: Ugh.

[last lines]
Woody: So long... partner.

toy-story-3-trailer LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site (US):
Official Site (UK):

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Captain America - The First Avenger - poster Director: Joe Johnston
Writers (Screenplay): Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Writers (Comic Books): Joe Simon, Jack Kirby
Running time: 120 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12

Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi
UK Release date: 29th July 2011

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 28th April 2012.


I deliberately avoided this film when it came out last year because it didn’t really interest me. I don’t mind anyone using mythology or fictitious events as a background to their stories, but when they start playing with events that are still within human memory then I begin to feel uncomfortable. I guess it’s because the fiction can so easily be confused with the facts and a new version of events becomes accepted. However, I put my prejudices aside and decided to give it a look anyway and I must say it’s not all that bad a film; certainly better than I was expecting. But more of my thoughts after this brief summary.

Captain America: The First Avenger Steve Rogers is a weakling, he has many medical problems but he more than makes up for that in spirit. When America joins the Second World War he is one of the first in line to enlist but he is turned down at every attempt. His best friend, James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes has got in and is about to deploy. They go out for one final night where Steve meets Dr. Abraham Erskine who enlists him into a special unit led by Colonel Chester Phillips. The training is conducted by British officer, Peggy Carter, and she takes a special interest in Steve. Meanwhile, in Europe, a rogue scientist, Johann Schmidt (aka the Red Skull) and his assistant, Dr. Arnim Zola, are drawing up their own plans having successfully retrieved a very powerful artefact. With training completed, Steve is chosen to be the first of the recruits to be ‘enhanced’ using Dr. Erskine’s procedure. It’s a success but one of the Red Skull’s agents, Heinz Kruger, destroys the equipment before Steve chases him half way across the city in an effort to capture him. He is seen as a hero and a Senator asks him to go on the road to promote war bonds. He becomes very well known for his costume and his new title, ‘Captain America’. But when his friend is captured by the Red Skull, he decides to go into action for real. I won’t say any more or the Spoiler Police will be performing a ‘procedure’ on me… not a pleasant one either.

Captain America - The First Avenger - 1 As with all of these films the effects are first rate, I particularly like the way the character of Steve was made to look really weak and scrawny in the early scenes. All the performances were pretty good; Chris Evans did a decent job as Captain America/Steve Rogers, as did Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter. I really enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips, Stanley Tucci as Dr. Abraham Erskine and Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola. I’m afraid I was a little disappointed by Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, but I think that had more to do with the character than his performance. Also worthy of note were; Sebastian Stan as James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark (doing a great impression of Howard Hughes by the way), Richard Armitage as Heinz Kruger and last but not least, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Captain America - The First Avenger - 6 Although I did enjoy this film up to a point, I did find the focus on America a little off-putting. Yes I know they did try to make it look a little international by drawing in a team made up from other nations that were also involved in WWII, but that didn’t quite cut it for me. The bad guy didn’t work either I’m afraid; he didn’t offer enough threat and so turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Now I know this is just another stepping stone towards the ‘Avengers’ movie, but I expected a lot better.

My Score: 6.7/10

IMDb Score: 6.8/10 (based on 131,716 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 66/100: (Based on 36 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 79/100 (based on 216 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 75/100 (based on 126,843 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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Captain America - The First Avenger - 4 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
[a body is discovered in the Arctic]
Search Team Leader: Get me the Colonel! I don't care what time it is! This one's waited long enough...

Abraham Erskine: Do you want to kill Nazis?
Steve Rogers: I don't want to kill anybody. I don't like bullies; I don't care where they're from.

Col. Chester Phillips: General Patton has said that wars are fought with weapons but are won by men. Our goal is to create the greatest army in history. But every army begins with one man. He will be the first in a new breed of super-soldier. We are going to win this war because we have the best men. And they, personally, will escort Adolf Hitler to the gates of Hell.

Captain America - The First Avenger - 7 Timothy 'Dum Dum' Dugan: Are you sure you know what you're doing?
Steve Rogers: Yeah. I punched out Adolf Hitler 200 times.

Howard Stark: Once you think you have figured out a dame, you sir are... boned.

Peggy Carter: Wait!
[she kisses Steve]
Peggy Carter: Go get him.
[surprised by the kiss, Steve looks at Colonel Phillips]
Col. Chester Phillips: I'm not kissing you.

Captain America - The First Avenger - 5 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site:

Film Review: WINGS OF DESIRE (1987)

Wings of Desire - poster [Original Title: DER HIMMEL ÜBER BERLIN]

Director: Wim Wenders
Writers: Wim Wenders, Peter Handke and Richard Reitinger (screenplay)
Running time: 128 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG

Genre: Fantasy/Drama/Romance
USA Release date: 6th May 1988

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 28th April 2012.


This is another of those films that came up in conversation and I must admit I was intrigued by its premise. Two angels that walk unseen amongst the residents of Berlin listening to their thoughts, hopes, fears and occasionally lending a helping hand. My only concern was that the narrative may be a little weak, well; I’ll let you know my thoughts on that (and more) after this brief summary.

Wings of Desire - 5 When Damiel and Cassiel come to Berlin, they go about their work as normal, occasionally reporting back to compare notes on what they’ve experienced. During one of these meetings Damiel hints that he’d like to become human and experience mortal life for himself. Nothing more is said about it for quite some time, the pair continues and we begin to focus in on three characters (amongst others); the actor Peter Falk; a trapeze artist, Marion and Homer, an aged poet. Damiel is most taken by Marion, her thoughts intrigue him. The actor has a very important role to play in this as well, but I had better not say how here. The poet has much to say about the past and the human condition. I guess I really cannot say any more without giving too much away and so I’ll stop now before the Spoiler Police strip me of my wings and make me mortal (again).

Wings of Desire - 7 Beautifully shot in both colour and black & white, predominantly black & white it should be noted, but this makes the use of colour all the more prominent. The use of language was also quite striking, although mostly in German; I found that the use of both French and English throughout made for an interesting mix. All the performances were very good and so I’ll give honourable mentions to; Bruno Ganz as Damiel, Solveig Dommartin as Marion, Otto Sander as Cassiel, Curt Bois as Homer and Peter Falk as Der Filmstar.

Wings of Desire - 1 I know this film may not be for everyone, it’s quite stark and the performances are quite downbeat, however, I did find it quite enthralling. There is a delightful twist near the end that I never would have guessed and it left me with a pretty good feeling. I can see why the critics liked it so much, it is very different to almost everything else I’ve seen and it certainly made for a refreshing change. As far as the narrative goes, well I need not have worried, it was a little slow, but it all tied up neatly in the end. Over all, if you’re a fan of art-house cinema then this is a must-see, if not, then I’d probably give it a miss, but over all, for me… Recommended.

My Score: 7.9/10

IMDb Score: 8.0/10 (based on 26,206 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 79/100: (Based on 9 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 98/100 (based on 42 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 81/100 ‘want to see’ (based on 31,328 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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Wings of Desire - 4 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
Damiel: It's great to live by the spirit, to testify day by day for eternity, only what's spiritual in people's minds. But sometimes I'm fed up with my spiritual existence. Instead of forever hovering above I'd like to feel a weight grow in me to end the infinity and to tie me to earth. I'd like, at each step, each gust of wind, to be able to say "Now." Now and now" and no longer "forever" and "for eternity." To sit at an empty place at a card table and be greeted, even by a nod. Every time we participated, it was a pretence. Wrestling with one, allowing a hip to be put out in pretence, catching a fish in pretence, in pretence sitting at tables, drinking and eating in pretence. Having lambs roasted and wine served in the tents out there in the desert, only in pretence. No, I don't have to beget a child or plant a tree but it would be rather nice coming home after a long day to feed the cat, like Philip Marlowe, to have a fever and blackended fingers from the newspaper, to be excited not only by the mind but, at last, by a meal, by the line of a neck by an ear. To lie! Through one's teeth. As you're walking, to feel your bones moving along. At last to guess, instead of always knowing. To be able to say "ah" and "oh" and "hey" instead of "yea" and "amen."
Cassiel: Yeah, to be able, once in a while, to enthuse for evil. To draw all the demons of the earth from passers-by and to chase them out into the world. To be a savage.
Damiel: Or at last to feel how it is to take off shoes under a table and wriggle your toes barefoot, like that.
Cassiel: Stay alone! Let things happen! Keep serious! We can only be savages in as much as we keep serious. Do no more than look! Assemble, testify, preserve! Remain spirit! Keep your distance. Keep your word.

Peter Falk: To smoke, and have coffee - and if you do it together, it's fantastic.

Wings of Desire - 6 Homer, the aged poet: Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman. With time, those who listened to me became my readers. They no longer sit in a circle, bur rather sit apart. And one doesn't know anything about the other. I'm an old man with a broken voice, but the tale still rises from the depths, and the mouth, slightly opened, repeats it as clearly, as powerfully. A liturgy for which no one needs to be initiated to the meaning of words and sentences.

Damiel: [as Falk is led away] Wait! I want to know everything.
Peter Falk: You need to figure that out for yourself. That's the fun of it.

Marion: Now it's serious. At last it's becoming serious. So I've grown older. Was I the only one who wasn't serious? Is it our times that are not serious? I was never lonely neither when I was alone, nor with others. But I would have liked to be alone at last. Loneliness means I'm finally whole. Now I can say it as tonight, I'm at last alone. I must put an end to coincidence. The new moon of decision. I don't know if there's destiny but there's a decision. Decide! We are now the times. Not only the whole town - the whole world is taking part in our decision. We two are now more than us two. We incarnate something. We're representing the people now. And the whole place is full of those who are dreaming the same dream. We are deciding everyone's game. I am ready. Now it's your turn. You hold the game in your hand. Now or never. You need me. You will need me. There's no greater story than ours, that of man and woman. It will be a story of giants... invisible... transposable... a story of new ancestors. Look. My eyes. They are the picture of necessity, of the future of everyone in the place. Last night I dreamt of a stranger... of my man. Only with him could I be alone, open up to him, wholly open, wholly for him. Welcome him wholly into me. Surround him with the labyrinth of shared happiness. I know... it's you.

Wings of Desire - 3 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Film Review: IP MAN 2 (2010)

[Original Title: YIP MAN 2]

Director: Wilson Yip
Writer (screenplay): Edmond Wong
Running time: 108 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Action/Biography/Drama/Martial Arts
UK Release date: 28th January 2011

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 22nd April 2012.


This is the sequel to the 2008 film ‘Ip Man’ which I reviewed back in July last year (you’ll find my thoughts on it here if you want to refresh your memory). I must admit I do enjoy these films although I do find the plots more than a little contrived. But then again I guess the way the story is told is probably a cultural thing. Anyway, here’s a brief summary before I give you my thoughts.

Ip Man 2 - 3 Following on from the first film, Ip Man, his wife and son find themselves in Hong Kong and it’s the 1950’s. Ip Man decides to open up a Martial Arts School to teach his particular branch of Kung Fu, Wing Chun. This proves more difficult than he first anticipated and the film takes us through all the trials and tribulations he has to go through in order to get it off the ground. Not only does he have to contend with local gangs and other martial arts masters, but the Hong Kong police don’t make it any easier either. A boxing match where an arrogant English champion takes on one of the masters ends in disaster and it’s up to Ip Man to restore honour to the Chinese and also put his style of Kung Fu firmly on the map. I won’t say any more or the Spoiler Police will have me sparring with the master at dawn (again).

Ip Man 2 - 6 Really well made with some truly excellent fight scenes. The bad guys were particularly bad in this one which always helps! Decent performances all round; Donnie Yen reprised his role as Ip Man, the man who taught Bruce Lee, and did an excellent job again. Lynn Hung played Zhang Yong Cheng and Simon Yam played Zhou Qing Quan.

Ip Man 2 - 2 The thing that struck me was the quality of the martial arts on show; these guys really know what they’re doing and it shows. Yes the plot is more than a little contrived and the bad guys, certain members of the British contingent in this case, are particularly nasty. Even so, an enjoyable watch, but maybe not quite as good as the first film, but one I’d happily see again sometime… Recommended.

My Score: 7.4/10

IMDb Score: 7.5/10 (based on 20,634 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 67/100: (Based on 13 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 92/100 (based on 26 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 82/100 (based on 16,004 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:

Landlady: Master! Someone wants to learn Wing Chun.
Ip Man: You want to learn Wing Chun?
Wong Shun Leung: Maybe. Just checking it out. I don't know what Wing Chun is.
Ip Man: Let me give you an introduction. As a matter of fact, Wing Chun is a close combat style from the South...
Wong Shun Leung: No need to tell me all this. Let's just fight. I'll pay you the school fees if I lose.
Ip Man: Ok. I am Ip Man of Wing Chun.

Ip Man: Let's talk. Will you release my pupil first?
Cheng Wai-Kei: Release him!
Ip Man: Leung, are you all right?
Wong Shun Leung: I'm fine.
Ip Man: Why did you injure him?
Wong Shun Leung: He wanted to fight, but wasn't as good as me. I couldn't really help it, could I?
Cheng Wai-Kei: What did you say? I'm not as good as you?
Ip Man: Take it easy! You're both young men. Injuries are inevitable in friendly fights. I'll visit your master and explain to him. May I know who your master is?
Cheng Wai-Kei: Doesn't matter. He's better than you anyway. By the way, did you bring the ransom?
Ip Man: No.

Wong Shun Leung: Master, you really can fight ten men at once.

Ip Man 2 - 1 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Facebook:
Official Twitter:!/ipmanmovie
Official Site:

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Film Review: THE CEMENT GARDEN (1993)

The Cement Garden - poster Director: Andrew Birkin
Writers: Andrew Birkin, Ian McEwan (Novel)
Running Time: 105 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Drama
USA Release Date: 11th February 1994

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 21st April 2012.


It wasn’t until I started watching it that I realised I had seen this film before. My recollections of it were a little hazy and so I carried on, and I’m glad I did! This is quite an interesting film with a lot to say about coming of age, loss and even incest. These are themes that wouldn’t usually pull me towards a film but the more I watched, the more compelling it became. But I digress; I’ll give you my thoughts after this very brief summary.

The Cement Garden - 6 When a family loses its father, it’s pretty sad; but when they also lose the mother a few weeks later, it becomes a problem. Thus is what happens to Jack, Julie, Sue and Tom, both parents die within a few weeks and, not wishing to end up in care, Jack and Julie decide to bury their mother in the cellar. They try to carry on as normal, but Jack has just turned 16 and is a typical teenager, if a bit of a loner. Julie is slightly older and a bit of a flirt… particularly with Jack. Sue is always reading or writing in her diary and Tom, the youngest; well let’s just say he misses his mother. Jack is clearly attracted to Julie but as she’s his sister he tries to hide it. Things all come to a head when Julie brings back her friend, the much older Derek, who seems to be bothered by an odd smell coming from the cellar. I will leave it there or the Spoiler Police will be picking out a plot for me in my cellar (again).

The Cement Garden - 2 It is filmed with a very stark feeling to it which matches the landscape in which the family live. It appears to be the run-down edge of a town where many of the buildings have been knocked down. The young cast all did an excellent job, particularly Andrew Robertson as Jack and Charlotte Gainsbourg as Julie. Alice Coulthard as Sue and Ned Birkin as Tom were also very good. Honourable mentions go to; Sinéad Cusack as Mother, Hanns Zischler as Father and Jochen Horst as Derek.

The Cement Garden - 4 I wasn’t too sure about this one at first, but as it went on I found it more and more compelling. The sexual tension between Jack and Julie comes across really well and this really gives the film an edge. I did find it quite gritty in places and I was a bit surprised at the way the kids reacted when their mother suddenly died. It’s not perfect by any means, but even so, if the themes don’t put you off, it’s still a worthy watch… Recommended.

My Score: 7.9/10

IMDb Score: 7.1/10 (based on 2,349 votes at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 100/100 (based on 7 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 57/100 “Want to see” (based on 2,262 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

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The Cement Garden - 3 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
Julie: Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it's OK to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading. But secretly you'd love to know what it's like, wouldn't you? What it feels like for a girl?

Commander Hunt: There is nothing ugly, I never saw an ugly thing in my life, for let the shape of an object be as they may: light, shade and perspective will always make it beautiful.

(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)

Film Review: RED CLIFF (2008)

Red Cliff - poster [Original Title: Bi Chi]

Director: John Woo
Writers (Screenplay): John Woo, Khan Chan, Cheng Kuo, Heyu Sheng
Writer (Novel: “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”): Guanzhong Luo
Running Time: 150 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
UK Release Date: 12th June 2009

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 21st April 2012.


I watched this John Woo film on a recommendation and, for a change, the person who recommended it wasn’t too far wrong. There is much to admire, but also a few not so good things. Also, be warned, I know there are some out there that fear subtitles and they are very much in evidence throughout (after all, it is in Chinese). I will give you my thoughts after this brief summary.

Red Cliff - 2 The set-up is best expressed in the words of the opening narration (reproduced below):

Narrator: The year is 208 AD. After years of civil war, a deathly calm has fallen of northern China. One by one, the rebel warlords have met their end under the sword of Prime Minister Cao Cao. Now, even the Han Emperor bows before his power. Yet from the south, a challenge is heard. Two leaders arise against Cao Cao's tyranny, the aging Liu Bei, and the inexperienced Sun Quan. So Cao Cao petitions the Emperor to brand these men as traders, and declare a new war against the peaceful Southlands.

Although outnumbered, Sun Quan and Liu Bei from an alliance and decide to stand against Cao Cao. The majority of the action takes place at Sun Quan’s stronghold known as Red Cliff, where Cao Cao draws up his army on the opposite bank of the river. We concentrate on the actions of two men; Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang, who have a large bearing on proceedings during the war. I really don’t want to say too much more, there’s a bit of a love story going on in the background and several unexpected twists but other than that I really cannot say any more or the Spoiler Police (Chinese Historical Epic’s Division) will be denying me my human rights (again).

Red Cliff - 5 Beautifully shot with some truly epic battle scenes; John Woo really has an eye for action and it really shows here. It’s often quite hard to tell how good a performance is in a foreign language and so I will give honourable mentions to all the leading players: Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Zhou Yu, Takeshi Kaneshiro as Zhuge Liang, Fengyi Zhang as Cao Cao, Chen Chang as Sun Quan, Wei Zhao as Sun Shangxiang, Jun Hu as Zhao Yun, Shidô Nakamura as Gan Xing, Chiling Lin as Xiao Qiao and Yong You as Liu Bei.

Red Cliff - 4 On the plus side it’s beautifully shot with some great stunt work and epic battle scenes. There is also some excellent CGI work, although I did feel there was a little too much reliance on this. On the minus side, I did find it VERY long and more than a little confusing, but some of the confusion may come from my unfamiliarity with the culture. Over all though, a decent enough watch with some excellent fight scenes although it does fall a little flat in a few places and it is very… very long.

My Score: 7.0/10

IMDb Score: 7.3/10 (based on 18,315 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 73/100: (Based on 22 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 89/100 (based on 110 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 78/100 (based on 20,915 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:

Liu Bei: Truth and illusion are often disguised as each other; Cao Cao likes to play this game, both with friends and foes.

Sun Shangxiang: Here I am!
Zhou Yu: Why are you here?
Sun Shangxiang: To fight.
Zhou Yu: Fight? War is no joking matter.
Sun Shangxiang: You think I'm joking? Women have a duty to serve the Empire...
Zhou Yu: So does a horse!

Red Cliff - 8 Zhuge Liang: A clear Milky Way and snaking clouds signal fog is near. If you know how earth, sky, yin and yang change, then the sun, moon and stars, the wind, forest, mountains and fire, become soldiers at your command.

Xiao Qiao: [pouring too much tea] Your Highness. Don't you see your true self reflected in this tea? Your heart is overflowing with ambition. It's too full to let other people in. You've carried this full heart to Red Cliff. Someone here shall pour that heart onto the floor.

Red Cliff - 7 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site (US):

Monday, 16 April 2012

Film Review: THE LAST EXORCISM (2010)

The Last Exorcism - poster Director: Daniel Stamm
Writers: Huck Botko, Andrew Gurland
Running Time: 87 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 15

Genre: Drama/Horror/Thriller
UK Release Date: 3rd September 2010

Watched on Sky+ Monday 16th April 2012.


I remember when this came out there was a lot of talk about it… I didn’t particularly listen to it as it was a film that wasn’t particularly high on my ‘to see’ list at the time. Well, time passes and this one eventually came up on TV so I thought I’d give it a look anyway. I have a very open mind when it comes to horror, particularly horror that relies on religious beliefs for its fear-factor. This faux-documentary is a case in point and I’ll tell you what I thought after this very brief summary.

The Last Exorcism - 3 Cotton Marcus is a minister who performs ‘exorcisms’; what I mean is he pretends to perform exorcisms. He sees it as delivering a service to people who are in need of some reassurance that god’s on their side. Having decided to give up this ‘work’ he brings in a documentary team to film his last exorcism and expose the tricks he’s used over the years. They pick a letter at random and they’re off to find the Sweetzer farm in a remote part of the countryside. Marcus is more than convincing and the ‘possessed’ teenage daughter, Nell, is more than willing to have her demon exorcised. Unfortunately that’s not the end of the story; could it be that she’s really possessed… or is she just another teenage girl with problems? Well I’ll leave it there or the Spoiler Police (Scary Movies Division) will be taking away my ‘exorcism’ license.

The Last Exorcism - 2 Pretty well made, although the ‘shakey-cam’ demons are in the works and I happen to know this does put people off this style of film. Despite this, all the performances were pretty good, particularly Patrick Fabian as Cotton Marcus and Ashley Bell as Nell Sweetzer. I must also give honourable mentions to; Iris Bahr as Iris Reisen, Louis Herthum as Louis Sweetzer, Caleb Landry Jones as Caleb Sweetzer and Tony Bentley as Pastor Manley.

The Last Exorcism - 6 Although it’s pretty well made and well acted I did find it hard to be convinced by the whole thing. It does get a little compelling towards the end but then it goes and blows it at the death I’m afraid. It’s a shame because so much work went into giving us well-rounded characters and setting up a potentially decent ending. I guess if you buy into the whole possession and exorcism thing then it might appeal, if you don’t, well, I’d watch it, but turn off five minutes before the end… Trust me, it blows it big time!... NOT Recommended.

My Score: 4.8/10

IMDb Score: 5.7/10 (based on 19,739 votes at the time of going to press).

MetaScore: 63/100: (Based on 31 critic reviews provided by at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 73/100 (based on 144 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 32/100 (based on 68,124 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).

If you’re crazy enough… You can find me on Facebook at:

The Last Exorcism - 8 FAVOURITE QUOTES:
Shanna Marcus: Cotton is quite a character. He's what you would call a performer, a showman... He's a natural creative. For example, we have a local theater here, and Cotton writes plays, and he's making these little mini movies now. He's built props for them, special effects. Oh my goodness. I mean, he entertains like nobody's business. And, you know, it starts here with us, but of course it carries on into his professional life.

Cotton Marcus: I do not believe in actual demons, no. No. But when I was doing exorcisms, you know, I acted like I did. It's not like I saw any demons come out of anybody.
Iris Reisen: So for the last something-odd years, you've just been a fraud?
Cotton Marcus: That's your word, not mine. I wouldn't say that. I would say that for the last couple of years, what I've been doing is doing what I've always been doing, which is delivering a service for a person who needs it in a way that they need it. I'm not saying I'm a doctor, but I am saying that I helped people from what ailed them. And what ailed them sometimes was the thought in their brain that they were possessed by a devil, and if I helped make that thought go away and they felt better, so be it.

The Last Exorcism - 4 Cotton Marcus: The Sweetzer farm, please.
Caleb Sweetzer: Right. Well, you're going the wrong direction. You want to make a U-turn, actually.
Cotton Marcus: Okay.
Caleb Sweetzer: You want to take this road and go straight. You'll see things you've already seen before. Keep on going. You're gonna hit the highway. Okay? And then I want you to go back where you came from.

Nell Sweetzer: Reverend, how about a blowing job?

The Last Exorcism - 1 LINKS:
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site: