What makes a movie get 5 out of 5?

movie viewingThis is something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while.  What makes a movie, at least for me score the full 5 /5 points on this blog?  It’s for one thing not about perfection.  Even the greatest movies you could pick issues with, no … to score such a score, a movie I think needs to first and foremost entertain, and then also surprise.  I sometimes go into a movie not expecting much and then can be pleasantly surprised when I enjoy it, or I can be hyped about a movie, love it and then discover it manages to throw something in I couldn’t have predicted – sometimes that’s an emotional feeling like a sad or heart-wrenching scene, or a feel good uplifting scene … or in the case of say a horror movie, managing to genuinely scare me when I’m a totally jaded horror fan (The Conjuring).

To score full marks a movie can be flawed, it can have some issues, but those issues must not annoy or distract from the overall experience.  I have so far given just one movie this year 5 /5 which had only been moderately hyped; Straight Outta Compton.  But it surprised me, had an effect on me I didn’t expect and entertained massively; doing it’s job well without throwing in anything that took away from the intended experience.  I love cinema, movies and the art of movie making so a movie that is both well acted and well made on a technical level scores a lot of points with me (Bird Man).

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Yet giving this score is something I don’t do easily and often ruminate over whether that movie really deserves it.  I’ve been tempted to knock a movie down to a 4 in the past for exactly that reason, but then again I don’t think a 5 /5 is something to only be given to a tiny few.  It should be an award for a movie doing not just what it set out to do, but doing it well enough that it creates an experience that is both memorable and leaves the viewer feeling satisfied.  All the movies I have granted this score to have done that for me …. not all will necessarily hold up to that experience over repeated viewings, but … this blog is about first impressions, on seeing a movie for the very first time mostly, so I have to go with my initial reaction, even if that movie is either better or worse on a second viewing.  It can happen, and movies I’ve marked down improve when seen a second time.  But I also am a great believer in that a movie should do it’s job first time around, and if it needs to be seen multiple times to fully appreciate it, then there is something fundamentally wrong.  There are exceptions to this such as movies like The Usual Suspects or Mulholland Drive which are so intricate in their storytelling they’re actually difficult to get one’s head around first time.

movie viewing 3So a little advise for anyone just starting out in review writing, something I would never say I am an expert at but have been doing it as a hobby for many years enough to know what I like when I see it … Your enjoyment comes into the final score, Your taste can effect the final score, but always take into account what the movie is attempting to achieve – does it do this?  Does it do it well?  And most importantly if you are going to give it full marks – does it make you feel, think or experience anything you hadn’t initially expected it to?  If all of the above is a yes and your expectations were met, then that’s top marks, depending of course on your scoring system.

Above all else, enjoy movies, cinema and the whole experience.  Movies for me, are there to entertain and effect the viewer, to mean something or do a particular job.  If they fail to do any of those then I’ll score them appropriately based on their merits and what the movie was trying to achieve.  Happy movie watching everyone!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Viewed – 09 January 2015  DVD

I remember being quite heavily into these characters when I was a kid.  I especially liked the comics and the animated TV series.  However I don’t recall being that fussed by the movie and don’t even think I saw them all (were there three in total?).  Yet a friend recently recommended this reboot and so I thought I’d give it a go.


Transformers’ Megan Fox plays plucky reporter April O’Neil who is hungry for a story that will further her career.  One night she stumbles upon the latest criminal activities of The Foot Clan just as they are stopped in their tracks by a mysterious vigilante.  Thinking this may be her chance April decides to track down the vigilante for herself in hopes of impressing her boss Whoopie Goldberg.

Coming from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes this feels and looks very much like Transformers, and that’s good or bad depending on your liking of that franchise (think garish high contrast cinematography and lots of things going boom).  Personally I loved the first one and this origin tale is perfectly entertaining and packed with well executed action and heaps of style.  The Turtles themselves are brilliantly realised, full of personality and although entirely CGI, it’s good CGI so that’s ok.  Fox also proves a little bit more than just eye candy even if her comedy sidekick / potential love interest pervs over her more than is strictly necessary.  Alas, the movie’s villains are very basic and not really all that interesting or particularly explored – they’re just evil and power hungry and their big plan is nothing even remotely new.  It’s also very predictable, in way too much of a rush to get to it’s conclusion and at times rather silly.

I enjoyed myself however and it’s difficult to get too bogged down with it’s cliches or redundant plotting when it all looks good and has enough one liners, site gags and quality action (with great use of slow-mo) to leave your brain happily on auto-pilot.

Verdict:  3 /5

Top Ten 2015

Well dear readers, it’s finally here … following is a countdown of my Ten favourite movies I watched in 2015.  Do take into consideration some may be older than the past twelve months…

Drum roll…


John Wick


Keanu proved he still had it in the action movie stakes (and seemingly doesn’t age).  A tongue-in cheek script and stylish direction proved a simple revenge thriller done very well indeed was all I needed also.


The Tale of Princess Kaguya


Studio Ghibli does it again, with a beautiful water-colour art style and an enchanting Japanese fable and heart warming characters.


Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation


Cruise can still do the seemingly impossible and with chases, gadgets and Simon Pegg, this made for the best summer event flick of the year for me.




There is still room for genuine science-fiction with this thought-provoking study of artificial intelligence.  The sort of movie that would have made Stanley Kubrick proud.


American Sniper


Proving yet again he’s as good behind the camera as in front, Clint Eastwood delivers a powerful true story with a career best Bradley Cooper.


The Grand Budapest Hotel

grand-budapest-hotel feinnes

My introduction to Wes Anderson and one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a long while, and Ralph Fiennes is just sublime.




Mind-boggling it may be but Christopher Nolan’s space epic is full of wonder, awe and ideas that left me floored.


Star Wars The Force Awakens


It may deliver too much fan-service but sets up enough firm foundations of its own and captures the spirit of the movies missing since Jedi, that it’s difficult to fault.


Inside Out


Pixar bounce back, after slight stumbles and deliver a truly heart-warming, ideas-packed event of a movie that genuinely touched and surprised me.




Not that director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu needed to prove his skill, yet this wondrously inventive and yet simple movie impressed and dazzled me with it’s concept and originality with a brilliant Michael Keaton as the icing on the cake.  A movie for fans who truly love movies and movie-making.

Well that was my countdown for 2015.  What were some of your favourites?  Feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll see you all in 2016.  Bye for now…


2015 – a look back


I usually like to do a blog post looking back at the year and the highlights it’s held both for me personally and on this blog as far as entertainment is concerned.  For a good portion of the year, from about March onwards I was all excited and geared up to see my favourite band, ‘Garbage’ of which I’ve already reported on here how it went seeing them at Brixton Academy in London in November – so the lead up to that was a big focus to my year.  However I did try and distract myself from this by playing various videogames and watching plenty of movies … reaching about 60 movies in total in the last twelve months (phew).  During this time my job and various other activities have kept me busy and of course I’ve enjoyed writing this blog as well.  So I’ll take a look back now and give my thoughts over the year that was 2015.

January – March

I started off the year with the enjoyable but not amazing ‘Maleficent’, enjoying Angelina Jolie’s turn as the iconic evil sorceress.  The first high point though for me was ‘True Detective’, which I’d borrowed off a friend … season one with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson which turned out to be riveting.  For some reason however I didn’t get around to season 2.  Then we came to the very impressive ‘Ex_Machina’ … my first taste of true science fiction this year that would turn out to be a great year for the genre.  I also very much loved ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and found it a breath of fresh air and endlessly inventive.  The Oscar’s overshadowed much of February and it was good to see Eddie Redmayne picking up a statue for his turn as Stephen Hawkins in ‘The Theory of Everything’.  Also Birdman picking up best picture was it would turn out, marvellous considering it’s one of my favourite movies of the year.


I borrowed the much hyped but beyond the gorgeous visuals, disappointing ‘The Order 1886’ for the PS4 and thought it was a fun game that failed to reach it’s full potential.  Still worth it for the story and the graphics, especially if you can rent it or get it cheap …just don’t pay full price.  Then I experienced the underwhelming cash-grab that was ‘The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part One’ … which I’m hoping proves a better experience when I finally see Part Two.  A pleasant surprise however was the Sean Penn thriller ‘Gunman’, coming from the creators of Taken I was half expecting another poorly conceived rip-off of that classic movie … but no, this was hard-hitting action packed and well acted.

April – June

One of my major highlights for the year as far as games was concerned was the indie title ‘Ori and the Blind Forest’ …a superb, fiendish old school puzzle-platformer that was really addictive, had a beautiful Studio Ghibli-like art style and a large world to explore and get lost in.  I also enjoyed the comedy road movie ‘Identity Thief’, discovering the entertaining Melissa McCarthy for the first time.

Around this time I noticed I had reached a milestone, that of writing this blog for 8 years…wow.  I wrote a post reflecting on this and how I was feeling at the time.  I went through various observations of my life, work, dealing with depression that comes and goes to this day, and of the satisfaction this blog and my hobbies have given me when times haven’t been ideal.  I do venting and such from time to time as readers on here will be aware and hope you can excuse some of the more negative ponderings in between the movie reviews and gaming impressions.  Anyway on with the show…

john wick

‘John Wick’ turned out to be nearly everything I could want in a John Woo inspired action thriller and Keanu Reeves was back on blistering form.  Kevin Costner’s thriller ‘3 Days To Kill’ turned out rather poor and finally getting around to seeing ‘Donnie Brasco’, mob drama with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp was equally underwhelming.  Garbage’s new single and collaboration with singer Brian Aubert ‘The Chemicals’ left me with mixed feelings for a long while, and although I don’t consider the track amongst the band’s best work – it’s really grown on me over the last few months.  Nicholas Cage vehicle ‘Joe’ proved very interesting however and was one of his better recent performances, and Tim Burton’s subdued ‘Big Eyes’ proved decent if fairly lightweight for that particular director.

Also during April I was gifted with finally seeing the remarkable ‘Birdman’, from the increasingly impressive director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, The Revenant) and also proved a unique return for Michael Keaton.  On the gaming front I got my teeth into the PS4 version of ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ and the much hyped ‘The Witcher 3’ on Xbox One …er, two games I still haven’t finished.  TV offered up the Breaking Bad spin-off ‘Better Call Saul’ which proved highly entertaining and I can’t wait for season 2.  The biggest disappointment around this time however was the news that ‘The Following’, one of my favourite shows was to be cancelled after the current season ended.  I was gutted but at least the final season 3 turned out to be excellent.

The summer blockbuster season kicked off in fine form in June with the exhilarating ‘Mad Max Fury Road’ which despite me not loving as much as some of my friends, I still got a kick out of.  E3 also dominated the gaming calendar around this time with plenty of exciting announcements for both the PS4 and the Xbox One.  Brit spy-spoof ‘Kingsmen: The Secret Service’ had it’s moments but didn’t impress me all that much … and Project Almanac was a fun yet forgettable time travel drama.

July – September

‘Terminator Genisys’ was one of the most purely ‘fun’ movies of the year and ticked many of my Terminator fan-boy boxes.  I don’t really care what others think of that movie.  ‘The Babadook’ also proved a refreshing horror movie that dealt with psychological trauma and the stresses of being a single mother with intelligence.  Around that time I also checked out ‘It Follows’ which was probably one of my horror movie highlights of the year.  Studio Ghibli animation ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ also proved heart warming, magical and captivating just how a Studio Ghibli movie should be … and ‘Chappie’ was a highly enjoyable sci-fi actioner that once again made me a big fan of director Neil Blomkamp.   ‘Still Alice’ was a powerful story of one woman’s battle with Alzheimer’s and Julianne Moore rightly deserved her Oscar nod.


As I rolled into August I got around to seeing some very good movies such as ‘American Sniper’ which proved very powerful, and ‘Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation’ which was again another very exciting entry in the franchise.  Then we came to another great sci-fi drama in the name of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’ which although at times confusing was full of wonder and amazing ideas backed up by amazing visuals.  ‘The Gift’ also turned out to be a surprising and very well acted psychological drama with a brilliantly complex Jason Bateman, whilst Iranian vampire drama ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’ proved visually striking but lacking in pretty much everything else.  Liam Neeson vehicle  ‘Run All Night’ also sadly showed that this gifted actor had found himself stuck in a rut of forgettable thrillers.

Although late to the party, I thought ‘The Conjuring’ was one of the best horrors I had seen in a long while, and Disney remake ‘Cinderella’ proved suitably enchanting whilst offering little new.  Crime thriller ‘The Drop’ seemed a suitable swansong for the late James Gondolfini (sob) whilst ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ was fun but lacked that special ‘something’ to stand out in a crowded superhero market place.

October – December

As autumn and winter rolled around, disaster flick ‘San Andreas’ turned out to be a very enjoyable CGI-packed vehicle for Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson, and on TV some of my favourite shows came back, namely ‘Homeland’, ‘The Returned’, ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘Fargo’, which have all proved excellent this season.  Dinosaur sequel ‘Jurassic World’ was a lot of fun and one of the better entries in the popular franchise, whilst Guillermo Del Toro’s gorgeous looking ‘Crimson Peak’ was one of my biggest disappointments of 2015 as I had hoped it would be another masterpiece by this talented director rather than the uninvolving style over substance it turned out as.  Thankfully Kevin Bacon thriller ‘Cop Car’ turned out quite the breath of fresh air and is well worth checking out.

Garbage 20YearsQueer (2)

November was for me, dominated by both seeing ‘Garbage’ and turning 40 (!!).  They were amazing live and I highly recommend you check them out for yourself if you get the chance.  I also visited London with my brother and pretty much that whole week will stay with me for a long time to come.  I hope to see the band again next year but don’t know if that will happen for sure yet.  Fingers crossed!  Yet I did get around to seeing a couple of movies as well, such as the intense, Oscar winning drama ‘Whiplash’ and entertaining animation ‘Minions’.  Yet one of the major highlights and probably my gaming experience of the year was finally getting my hands on ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ which was sheer gaming joy from start to finish and one of the best looking games yet on Xbox One.

So we come to December and much of this was focused on the imminent release of ‘Star Wars The Force Awakens’ which thankfully turned out a fantastic experience.  However aside from this movie I checked out comedy spy spoof ‘Spy’ with an again enjoyable Melissa McCarthy and ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ which proved enjoyable and visually impressive, but let down by a confusing plot.  I also finally managed to see Pixar animation ‘Inside Out’ which blew me away and was one of their best efforts yet.  Other than that ‘Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’ is one of the best entries in the franchise yet, with Victorian London a great setting full of atmosphere.

So there you have it, 2015 all done and dusted.  So what is left to say?  My end of Year Top Ten will be revealed on New Year’s Eve (this Thursday) and I’m already looking forward to compiling it.  There have been some amazing movies this year with some pleasant surprises.  My gaming calendar has been a bit underwhelming with only a small handful of titles truly impressing, but I am hoping 2016 fairs better.

For now though I’ll leave you waiting in anticipation for what I’ll crown my favourite movie of the year…

The Drop

Viewed – 08 September 2015  DVD

The moderate hype surrounding this relatively low key crime drama is that it was the final performance of acclaimed actor James Gandolfini, who rose to iconic status in the hit TV show The Sopranos playing charismatic mob boss Tony Soprano.  Add to this the pairing of him with current hot property Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) and this was a more than alluring prospect for an evening’s entertainment.


Hardy plays Bob, a softly spoken, likable bartender at a local establishment that is used as a ‘drop’ for mob money that’s then handed over to a local Chechnyan gang. Gandolfini is Marv, former owner of the bar and cousin to Bob. Following a hold up one night however, Bob & Marv find themselves in debt to the gangsters and must figure a way of getting the stolen money back. At the same time Bob befriends a local girl who has more than a few problems herself.

As the final role for Gandolfini, this offered up little that wasn’t seen in The Sopranos and isn’t much of a stretch for the actor, even though he clearly still had presence. His character is also a little confusing and I found it hard understanding some of his actions. Hardy fairs better and clearly it’s his film and he again brings to the table a quiet, moody character that he seems to do in every film, with that hint of underlying rage. Noomi Rapace appears as the troubled love interest and is decent also, with her friendship with Bob proving the backbone of the story. For a crime drama this was less about people getting whacked and more a character-piece, but didn’t stand out in any particular way despite a screenplay from famed author Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island).  Enjoyable at times and has a good ending, but overall a little too lightweight for it’s own good.

Verdict:  3 /5