Viewed – 05 November 2013  Blu-ray

When one thinks of director Robert Zemeckis, movies like Back To The Future and Forest Gump spring to mind – not meaningful drama’s about alcoholism … but this is exactly what the celebrated director has delivered.  Breaking away from a foray into animation with the (for me at least) underwhelming A Christmas Carol, this stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who saves the passengers of a jet after an incident, and is heralded a hero by the public and press.  However he hides the secret that he’s actually an alcoholic, who was drinking on the day of the flight – was he responsible for the incident, or should he allow his lawyers to cover things up?


Washington has always been a dependable actor, but for me he’s fallen a little out of favour with a few too many similar performances, where he always seemed to be the arrogant shouty-type who thinks he knows it all.  This however was his chance to showcase more depth with a damaged, emotional role, which thankfully has him back on form.  Co-starring Don Cheadle and a stand-out John Goodman, I found this gripping and powerful.  Washington’s character isn’t very likable, but as with alcoholics, it’s never as simple as right and wrong – and I found myself sympathising with him regardless of his often reckless actions.  Also, an on-off relationship with a heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) had echoes of Nicholas Cage drama Leaving Las Vegas, even this never quite sinks to that movie’s harrowing depths.

Zemeckis has crafted an often thought-provoking and surprising drama, very different to the feel-good movies he’s been known for, but shows he remains one of the best around.  And although subtle and not as lively as some of his other performances, Washington nailed this perfectly.  Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Brooklyn’s Finest

Viewed – 04 December 2011  Blu-ray

Ensemble character pieces like this can be very rewarding; multiple plot threads that effect one another, leading to a powerful conclusion.  Movies like Pulp Fiction and the multi-oscar winning Crash are fine examples of this, and so the question here is – can this entry offer up the same?

Richard Gere is a patrol cop nearing retirement, whose career has all been about avoiding danger, leaving him more of an empty shell than that of a Cop with something to be proud of.  Don Cheadle is an undercover cop questioning his loyalties to his gangster friend and his duties as a Police Officer, whilst Ethan Hawke is a desperate detective with money problems, who finds himself turning to increasingly dangerous methods in order to move house and help his asthmatic, pregnant wife.

As the movie progressed, I found myself initially absorbed by both Don Cheadle’s situation and that of Gere, but Ethan Hawk’s actions just puzzled me, considering his situation wasn’t exactly life and death.  It blighted what is otherwise a well acted and mildly-gripping thriller, with a particularly strong turn from Cheadle, who I have always enjoyed.  Even the washed up has-been Gere was good, if a touch difficult to sympathise with.

Director Antoine Fuqua’s well-shot and stylish movie seems to have aspirations to be the next Oscar-magnet, but with characters that are mostly unlikable,  a smattering of clichés and a message than clearly isn’t saying much more than ‘its a dangerous job being a cop’, this really doesn’t offer up anything we haven’t seen done a lot better elsewhere.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Iron Man 2

Viewed – 29 October 2010  Blu-ray

Back in a packed summer season, Iron Man #1 stood out as the surprise superhero gem despite tough competition from The Dark Knight and Hellboy 2.  I loved it, mainly down to the perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr but also some superb action scenes and a tongue-in-cheek rule breaking attitude that kept it fresh and exciting.  Naturally I was hyped for the sequel, but sadly missed it at the cinema.  So it was high time I made up for that on Blu-ray.

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Boogie Nights

Viewed – 27 February 2010 Blu-ray

This came out when the industry was still buzzing about Quentin Tarantino as the new hotshot wonder kid of Hollywood, and I admit to originally sitting down to this expecting another Pulp Fiction. Although the two movies have similarities, this is the more complex and rewarding of the two, even if on a personal taste level I still consider Pulp my all time favourite.

Mark Wahlberg, at the time still best known for his brief rap career and Calvin Cline ads, plays a kid frustrated with his own life, working in the kitchen of a local club, where he gets discovered by porn mogul Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), having heard rumours of Mark’s oversized ‘appendage’. Before long he is whisked away from a dull life living with his parents, shouted at by his mother and admiring Bruce Lee to become Dirk Diggler, the new big name of the adult film industry. There he meets a colourful band of characters, all with their own problems, from Amber Waves’ failed mother turned porn actress to school girl Rollergirl (Heather Graham), who hides her adult film career behind a mask of school exams and cute innocence.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s second movie (loosely inspired by the life of porn actor John Holmes) is a revelation and a stunning showcase for his talent that would go on to win him much acclaim with Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. Here though we see someone delivering a boyhood fantasy of a movie, yet leaving behind much of the movie-geek self indulgence that has blighted Tarantino’s career after Pulp. With an obvious affection for his characters, we are treated to a movie that is about a lot more than the porn industry of the seventies / eighties as we explore these very complex people, with special mention for Julianne Moore as Amber Waves who’s tragic, uneasy performance balancing her life in a seedy world with that of the desire to be a mother to her estranged son, is heart breaking – considering that normally this actress bores me. There’s also an incredible comeback from Burt Reynolds as Jack Horner, the mentor / father figure to Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler, which garnered him plenty of recognition, even if it will probably be his swansong. Wahlberg I must say is also brilliant, playing naive and inexperienced whilst also being someone you can’t help but like. He’s also uncomfortably funny, a tone this movie excels at throughout as you watch, cringing as each character goes through humiliation after humiliation, whilst at the same time blissfully ignorant. Add to this probably the most memorable soundtrack I have ever heard in a movie, and well, what more can I say?

I can count on the fingers of one hand movies that work on pretty much every level, and this is one of them. 

The Blu-ray from Newline is very pleasing, the picture looks like it was shot only recently not 13 years ago, and to complement an impressive visual performance, the DTS HD Master Audio fills the room, the iconic music grabbing you immediately. Extras-wise we have a very listenable commentary by the director, and another from most of the cast and the director again. Other than that we have a bunch of deleted scenes, a trailer and a couple of music videos. Not too shabby.

Verdict: 5 /5