Archive for the ‘Film Reviews’ Category


If ever there was a director who polarised audiences, it’s Quentin Tarantino. Some people love his gratuitous swearing and gore, while others detest it. I fall in the former camp – I’ve never seen a Tarantino film I didn’t like, and I think it’s because whatever you think of the visceral way he tell his stories, they are brilliant stories, which I always find myself getting drawn into.

This particular film is set just after the American Civil War. Racist attitudes are rife, crime is high, and life is tough out in the wild West where most of the characters come from. But don’t be fooled – after the opening scenes, showing the journey of some of the characters to Minnie’s Haberdashery, where they seek shelter from a particularly nasty blizzard, all of the action takes place in just one room. It’s a form of storytelling that I particularly enjoy…one location, shot in almost real time.

Anyway the story…the hateful eight of the title consist of John Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter known as the hangman who is bringing his latest quarry Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Lee) to the town of Red Rock. He is hoping to claim the $10,000 bounty which has been put on her head; After Daisy herself, there is Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L Jackson) a former Confederate Soldier who is bringing his own bounty to Red Rock for a reward, but unlike Daisy, the two men he captured are dead; Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), the racist new Sheriff of Red Rock, travelling there to start his new job on the right side of the law; Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth) a hangman at Red Rock, who informs Daisy that when she hangs for her crimes, he will be the man at the other end of the rope; Joe Gage (Michael Madsen) a loner cowboy who is heading to see his mother for Christmas; General Smiths (Bruce Dern) a older racist who has come to pay his respects to his long-lost-son; and Bob (Demian Bichir) a man who is in charge of Minnie’s Haberdashery in the owner’s absence. Trapped with them is O.B. (James Parks) who was driving the stagecoach which brought some of the characters to their refuge.

Before long, tensions rise between the characters, many of whom were on opposite sides in the Civil War, and then it becomes apparent that some of the people may be there for an ulterior motive.

I’m not going to say any more about the plot – I went in with a limited knowledge of the storyline and this helped my enjoyment massively. What I will say is that yes, the film is extremely violent and bloody – there’s a lot of swearing and offensive language as well, but it’s also incredibly well told, beautifully filmed and wonderfully acted. Standout performances for me were from Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth and the always wonderful and criminally under-recognised Walton Goggins. Jennifer Jason Leigh was also fascinatingly revolting.

So…if you are squeamish or object to foul language, this may not be the film for you. But if you have previously enjoyed Tarantino, and like dark comedy, definitely give it a try. It’s almost three hours long, but doesn’t feel like it. I loved it and will certainly be watching this again in the future.


Year of release: 2015

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Main cast: Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Birchi, James Parks


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This film opens with Leanne (Saoirse Ronan), who was kidnapped at the age of 4 and has lived with her benevolent but disturbed abductor Ben (Jason Isaacs) for 17 years, being returned to her parents, having escaped/been discovered at Ben’s home (it is never made clear how she gets away). Her mother Marcy (Cynthia Nixon) and father Glen (David Warshofsky) are delighted to have her home, but their joy soon turns to heartbreak as they realise that they don’t know their daughter – renamed Leia by Ben – at all, and not only does she not remember them, but she also identifies more with Ben, who has been her sole companion for most of her life. As the family struggle to find a way to tread this unfamiliar ground, events take a sinister turn in Marcy’s desperation to make a connection with her daughter.

I enjoyed this film a lot, despite the disturbing subject. The acting – particularly from Ronan, Nixon and Isaacs (albeit Jason Isaacs took a small role, with his character’s life with Leia being told in flashback and just one scene in the present day) was outstanding, and really made me invest in the characters.

It is a slow moving story, certainly not a film for fans of action movies, but I found that that suited the mood perfectly. The ambiguous ending also fitted the rest of the film, and I found myself thinking about this film and the characters for several days after viewing it.


Year of release: 2015

Director: Nikole Beckwith

Writer: Nikole Beckwith

Main stars: Saoirse Ronan, Cynthia Nixon, Jason Isaacs, David Warshofsky


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Set in Seattle in the grunge era of the early 1990s, Singles is a romantic comedy about a number of 20-somethings, many of whom live in the same apartment block, and their various relationships and entanglements.

There’s Janet (Bridget Fonda), a coffee stop Barista, who is in love with Cliff (Matt Dillon), lead singer of a grunge band which is far bigger in his mind than in reality. Then there’s Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who meets Steve (Campbell Scott), who has just sworn off relationships to concentrate on his career.

This film is now a shocking 24 years old! However, it still feels totally watchable and the characters are completely relatable. Most viewers will be familiar with the different games people wittingly or unwittingly play when they meet someone new, and the heartache of discovering that someone is not who you thought they were. Linda for example tells her best friend how happy she is to have met someone who isn’t playing any kind of angle, at precisely the same time as Steve is asking his friends exactly how he should play things with Linda!

There’s more than comedy here though – a completely unexpected development in Steve and Linda’s relationship hits them hard, only for a sudden and unforeseeable event to happen while they are coming to terms with their situation (fear of giving away spoilers prevents me from giving more details).

The acting is great – Kyra Sedgwick and (in particular) Bridget Fonda are believable and likeable. Matt Dillon provides a fair amount of comedy as the deluded wannabe rock star, and Campbell Scott is perfectly cast as Steve – he strikes the perfect note between completely ‘normal’ for want of a better word, and being charismatic enough to attract Linda.

Overall, this is a little gem of a movie – perfect if you want something entertaining, relatable and undemanding.


Year of release: 1992

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda


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Richard Gere heads up the cast in this thriller – he plays Robert Miller, a successful hedge fund magnate. Miller is desperate to try and sell his company before his dodgy financial dealings come to light, but is soon faced with an even bigger problem on a more personal scale. Desperate to cover up his involvement in a young lady’s death, he tries to out manoeuvre the tenacious Detectiver Bryer (Tim Roth), who knows Miller’s guilt (no spoilers here) and is prepared to go to any lengths to prove it. Throughout all of this, Miller’s family life with wife Ellen and daughter Brooke (Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling respectively) starts to crumble. Can Miller outrun the truth – and how long will his power and influence be able to protect him?

This was another film which exceeded my expectations. I watched it because of Tim Roth and from the description was not sure that it would be something that I would really enjoy. However, it held my attention from the moment it started and I thoroughly liked the whole story. The cast were excellent – Richard Gere was great as the powerful businessman who could feel everything he had achieved slipping through his fingers. He moved seamlessly from a loving father to a ruthless businessman and although I did not really like the character (and I don’t think we were meant to like him) I still found him interesting. Tim Roth was – of course – excellent in the type of role that he plays so well; determined and persistent. Although his character was essentially on the side of the good, Bryer’s own morals were somewhat ambiguous. I do feel that Susan Sarandon was somewhat underused, appearing in only really a handful of scenes, although there was one very relevant one towards the end – I won’t say more about that because the ending was excellent and I don’t think anyone watching this film should have it spoiled for them.

Also brilliant was Nate Parker as Jimmy Grant – a young man with a criminal past, who is  now trying to rebuild his life, but whose connections with Miller and a favour which he does for Miller threaten to ruin his future.

Overall, an enjoyable and absorbing thriller, which is well worth a watch.


Year of release: 2012

Director: Nicholas Jarecki

Writer: Nicholas Jarecki

Main cast: Richard Gere, Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling


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It may be easy to forget nowadays, but Liza Minnelli could stun an audience with her loveliness and her incredible dancing and singing. This film is proof of that.

Minnelli is Mavis Turner, a former Broadway dancer, who has moved to New York State and teaches a tap dancing class, made up of a group of very different women (Julie Walters, Jane Krakowski, Sheila McCarthy, Andrea Martin, Carol Woods, Ellen Green, Robyn Stevan) and including one man, Geoffrey (Bill Irwin). Shelley Winters is the stern pianist Mrs Fraser.

The class allows the group to bond and find confidence in themselves and each other, and when they are given a chance to star in a large stage show, they have to pull together to make sure that they put on a terrific performance, despite being convinced that they are not capable of doing it.

Meanwhile, each of them have their own personal problems to deal with and overcome.

I adored this film. Truly adored it. Liza Minnelli was not only lovely as Mavis, but blew me away with her stunning solo dance halfway through the film. The rest of the cast were also wonderful, especially the incredible Bill Irwin, as the shy Geoffrey.

For fans of tap dancing such as myself, this is a real treat, and the finale is a joy to be viewed and viewed again.

Highly, highly recommended.


Year of release: 1991

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writer: Richard Harris

Main cast: Liza Minnelli, Julie Walters, Shelley Winters, Bill Irwin, Carol Woods, Jane Krakowski, Sheila McCarthy, Andrea Martin, Robyn Stevan, Ellen Green


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When their friend Cookie (Thandi Newton) overdoses after using heroin for the first time, musicians Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth) decide it’s time to kick their addiction, get into a government rehab program and finally get clean. However, it is easier said than done, as their good intentions are thwarted by bureaucracy and red tape at every turn. Not only that, but a local drug lord (Vondie Curtis-Hall) has it in for them, and staying one step ahead of him is not easy…

I watched this film purely because Tim Roth is in it, and honestly I was just expecting a fairly enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. From the outset though, this film exceeded all my expectations and I would probably now put it in my top ten films of all time.

It’s a comedy, and there were several scenes which made me laugh out loud. That said, it’s definitely not a light-hearted comedy – there’s a serious point to be made about how hard it is to get help for addiction (bearing in mind this film is nearly 20 years old, I can not be sure how realistic it is nowadays), and there is a lot of violence, albeit most of it does take place off-screen.

Although there are a lot of characters, it’s basically Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur’s film. I knew Tim Roth would be great, because…well, he ALWAYS is – and he was – but I have never seen Tupac’s acting before, and I was really surprised by how talented he was. Often when singers turn to acting, the results are less than stellar, but Tupac brought just the right about of comedy and angst to the role. He and Tim Roth bounced off each other perfectly, with Stretch (Roth) being the more wild and impulsive character, while Spoon (Shakur) was the one attempting to keep him in line.

Kudos too to Vondie Curtis-Hall as D-Reper, the drug lord who Spoon and Stretch found themselves on the wrong side of – Curtis-Hall also wrote and directed this film, so he is obviously a multi-talented man.

If you are not offended by swearing or drug references, I would definitely recommend this film. I give it a solid 10 out of 10.


Year of release: 1997

Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Writer: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Main cast: Tim Roth, Tupac Shukar, Thandie Newton, Vondie Curtis-Hall


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James Wayland (Tim Roth) is an alcoholic, epileptic, unemployed genius, from a rich and powerful family. Accused of raping and mutilating a prostitute, he is taken into a police station where Detectives Braxton and Kennesaw (Chris Penn and Michael Rooker respectively) give him a lie detector test. However, they have under-estimated their adversary, who is soon able to manipulate them with their own issues – Braxton has gambling problems, and Kennesaw is convinced his wife is cheating on him. What follows is a tense and sinister stand off between the three men, interspersed with flashbacks of events leading up to the interrogation.

I wanted to watch this film because Tim Roth is one of the main stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here, he plays a deeply unpleasant character, who may or may not have committed a particularly gruesome  murder (no spoilers here!) There are plenty of psychological mind games afoot, and the truth behind what actually happened is revealed bit by bit. However, as the flashbacks are seen from the points of view of the characters, you are never sure whether what they are remembering is accurate or not, thereby keeping the viewer in the dark along with the detectives.

Super acting from all three of the main cast makes this film a worthwhile watch. As a lot of the film takes place in a single room in a police station, the atmosphere is suitably claustrophobic and there is always a disturbing undertone.

I think my only niggle would be that some of the events that take place in the second half of the film are just not believable – they simply couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. Nonetheless, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, this shouldn’t hamper enjoyment.

Special mention for Renee Zellweger in a departure from her usual roles – she is superb as the murdered prostitute, Elizabeth.

Overall, if you are a fan of psychological thrillers, give this a watch and prepare for a few surprises.


Year of release: 1997

Directors: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Writers: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Main cast: Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Rooker, Renee Zellweger


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