Easy Rider

Viewed – 10 October Blu-Ray

Everyone knows the song… ‘Born To Be Wild’ by Steppenwolf – it’s probably the most famous thing about this 1969 classic road movie, and along with its cast of Hollywood rebels like Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson – the movie was destined for the history books. Yet does it deserve to be there? Fonda & Hopper play Wyatt and Billy, two bikers travelling across America to New Orleans to watch the Mardi Gras festival. Along the way they bump into hippies, smoke a lot of pot, annoy the locals and muse on life on the road.

Get your motor running…

There’s no real story here. It’s just two guys driving around, not really encountering much of significance, doing drugs and meeting folk. In fact I found it rather boring. I’ll admit some of the outback scenery is beautifully shot, the camera work is occasionally creative, the soundtrack has some memorable songs and Fonda & Hopper (who also directs) are likeable. An appearance by Jack Nicholson is a fun diversion but short lived and the ending pretty much makes everything that comes before rather pointless.

It’s frustrating as this is regarded as a classic, but there I found little evidence on screen to support that status. I’d heard it was one of a bunch of movies made outside of the ‘Hollywood system’ and is clearly all done on a shoestring budget – which I can appreciate, but when the movie looks like it barely has a script, I have to ask … why bother?

This release, from the U.K. division of The Criterion Collection boasts a decent, newly restored image quality, that whilst grainy is colourful and has depth. The movie is presented in DTS HD Master Audio in both 2.0 and 5.1 options, and there’s also an uncompressed mono soundtrack. Dialogue is generally clear and the various music cues sound great. Extras as with many Criterion releases are plentiful: two documentaries, footage from Peter Fonda & Dennis Hopper’s appearance at Cannes, as well as trailers. The cream of the crop though is two commentaries, one from Dennis Hopper, the other from Hopper, Fonda and production manager Paul Lewis. The release also comes with a fold-out booklet with a new essay from Matt Zoller Seitz. Pretty great for a movie that has a fascinating history which for me was more worthwhile looking into than the movie itself. This release is therefore a must for fans and probably still worth picking up for enthusiasts of cinema history. Yet, if you’re neither I’d give it a miss.


(the movie) Poor

(the Blu-Ray) Recommended

Ten of the best

Top Ten lists are sort of something I enjoy doing, especially at the end of each year.  But Top Ten Favourite Movies of all time?  Harder.  I used to have a list a while back of which some of the movies below used to appear on.  Yet I gave up putting them in a particular order as they are so different some of them, comparing is impossible.  So find below Ten movies I think have had the greatest effect on me, either growing up, inspiring me (writing, movie tastes) or just hitting me on an emotional level.


Fight Club

Made me a big fan of the movies of David Fincher and has arguably Edward Norton’s finest turn.  Style, effects work in a movie that didn’t need it, a great soundtrack, that twist and endlessly quotable.

Gran Torino

Emotional, heart-wrenching, funny, touching with one of Eastwood’s best performances.  The cast of newcomers surrounding him are also first-rate.

gran torino

21 Grams

Complex and twist-filled with three stunning performances (especially Naomi Watts) and a script that is quite literally genius.  Tough going but well worth the journey.


Pulp Fiction

Possibly still my all time favourite movie.  The dialogue is amazing, funny, very cool and  believable.  The sound track is stuff of legend and performances across the board are superb.



Natalie Portman’s debut.  Ice-cool, Gary Oldman’s looniest but greatest villain, Jean Reno as a lovable assassin and Luc Besson on stunning form.


Annie Hall

All of Woody Allen’s best ideas, cleverest dialogue and touching observations rolled into one perfect movie.  Diane Keaton is excellent and Allen has never been funnier.


Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron fully realising Terminator … stunning effects work, amazing action sequences, Arnie at his best, Linda Hamilton as the most bad-ass female role model since Ellen Ripley.  The ultimate sci-fi blockbuster.

terminator 2

Blue Velvet

Weird but one of David Lynch’s most coherent works, with a great cast (Hopper is just plain nuts) and haunting music and a dream-like atmosphere.  Sexy and disturbing just how Lynch should be.



The finest gangster movie ever made, fast, packed with ideas, dialogue, people getting wacked, great dialogue and great performances throughout.  Martin Scorsese at his very best.


The Shining

Stunningly filmed, creepy as hell, scary, with an amazing Jack Nicholson and a true directing auteur in the shape of the late Stanley Kubrick.  The best horror movie ever made?  Quite possibly.


The Bucket List

Viewed – 24 May 2011  DVD

If asked to name two of the most dependable actors currently working, then you’d find it difficult to beat seasoned veterans Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  With a career spanning several decades and with some of the most acclaimed movies ever made under their belt, they signify just what makes movies a worthwhile interest.  For me Nicholson has always been a favourite even if I haven’t seen him in anything for years, and Freeman, well, where can you go wrong?  Not with this little known gem, you can’t.

Nicholson is a corporate big-wig diagnosed with cancer who meets working class mechanic Freeman in hospital also diagnosed with the disease, with both of them given a limited life expectancy.  This at first downbeat and serious start soon turns into something very different when Freeman comes up with the idea of The Bucket List – things you would like to do before you kick the bucket.  Billionaire Nicholson takes this literally though and soon persuades Freeman to go on a trip with him to live out whatever time they have left, to the fullest.

As a new take on the Walter Mathieu / Jack Lemon odd-couple comedies, this is full of memorable moments and quality turns from its leads, with the mismatched men both lending different personalities to their adventure.  Nicholson as expected is all go-getter and brash and gets most of the best lines (don’t trust a fart!), but Freeman’s wisdom stops the movie turning into farce, and beneath the hi-jinks beats a very emotional and heart-warming heart.  Directed by Rob Reiner this perhaps lack a little ambition and the bucket list globe-trotting adventures feel cheaply realised … but thankfully with the focus of the movie being the two friends, every minute in their company is a minute well spent.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Kubrick Project: Part Five

…and finally, we come to Stanley Kubrick’s undisputed masterpiece.

The Shining  (1980)

Based (loosely I might add) on the Stephen King novel, this superbly crafted horror movie has Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence, wannabe caretaker of the Overlook Hotel who gets the rather un-enviable task of house sitting the mammoth mountain-set hotel for the winter, with just his dutiful wife Wendy (Shelly Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) for company.  Now this simple set up soon takes a turn for the menacing when we discover that young Danny has a psychic ability, and see’s ghosts of over long-dead hotel guests that haunt the hotel following a murder that happened many years previous under very similar circumstances.

In the hands of an auteur like Kubrick though, this very basic set up is just an excuse for this uber-talented director to let rip with some of the finest camera work and cinematography of his career, and with the one location to bleed for all its worth, Kubrick works wonders, helped endlessly by a heavy-weight performance by Nicholson, who’s gradual descent into madness then finally uncontrollable rage, is totally convincing and turns what could have already been an eye-catching, effective ghost-story into something truly special.  A generous nod must also go to Shelley Duvall & Danny Lloyd who add so much power to the scenes they are in, and Duvall especially should be celebrated as one of the forgotten scream-queens of the genre.  As a child actor too, Danny Lloyd is very impressive, eerie and heart-breakingly believable throughout, almost stealing the film from his adult co-stars at times.

You may also be pleased to hear (unless your a die hard gore hound) that this is one of those fright-flicks that doesn’t have to rely on big-budget make-up effects to jolt your spine, as its the atmosphere, the direction, the music and especially the performances that set this in a class of its own.  Probably the finest horror movie ever made.


The DVD housed in the newly released Stanley Kubrick box set (which is also available separately) is a 2 disk special edition with a beautifully crisp picture presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic wide screen.  The sound has been re-mastered in 5.1 Dolby Digital and is very effective, especially during the chaotic orchestral moments when the horror is cranked to the max.  Extras-wise this film is given the treatment it deserves, with 1 feature-length documentary by Vivian Kubrick showing the master at work and some brilliant on-set footage, and we also get 3 further featurettes that pick this film apart until only the carcass is left for us to chew on.  Add to this a very informative commentary for the movie itself by steady-cam inventor Garrett Brown as well as Historian John Baxter, and this makes for a stellar package.

Click to enlarge images:



Stanley Kubrick Special Editons box set

I am happy to announce that Warner Brothers are set to release digitally remastered special editions of acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick’s finest films.  This box set will include the following, complete with extra features such as archive footage / interviews and also Stanley Kubrick documentary ‘Life in Pictures’.  Either way, for fans of true cinema…this is a must!






The set is due for release on 3 March 2008

Each film is also to be made available individually, in deluxe packaging.  Also I will be offering complete reviews of each film, as well as the documentary.  These will include thumbnailed screenshots for each.  Be prepared.