22 July


Viewed – 06 August 2019. Netflix

We live in scary times. Terrorism has scarred and seemingly shaped the modern world and one such atrocity occurred in 2011 in Norway that I still find hard to comprehend. When a group of students go to an isolated island for a summer camp getaway, unbeknownst to them a right-wing extremist, Anders Breivik sets off a bomb by the Prime Minister’s building, before disguising himself as a Police officer to get onto the island and proceed to gun down the students.

The movie hits the ground running with that horrific attack, and later focuses on three figures, firstly a student as he goes through rehabilitation after receiving horrific injuries, then the lawyer tasked with defending a monster … and finally Breivik himself as he awaits trial. Director Paul Greengrass’s movie is a tough watch and decidedly harrowing but very well done with authentic casting that whilst not always delivering the best performances, still aid the realism. Breivik is especially well cast and made this viewer angry at his arrogance and smug attitude.

I’d have preferred more backstory on Breivik as his motives are only shown in a very one-sided way considering his complex issues with the Norwegian government which are not elaborated upon. However as a portrayal of such an atrocious event, Greengrass delivers an effective yet respectful drama that’s very much worth seeing.

Verdict: 4 /5

American Sniper


Viewed – 01 August 2015  Online rental

Certainly one of the most talked about movies in recent memory that garnered a lot of attention around awards season, even though it was largely snubbed.  A shame as this true story of elite Navy Seal Sniper ‘Chris Kyle’ is powerful and very well acted, and a career best I’d say for actor Bradley Cooper.

American Sniper

During several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kyle and his band of brothers face battles and atrocities as they attempt to track down various targets and get back home in one piece.  A rather unrecognisable Sienna Miller plays Kyle’s wife who is fighting her own battles raising two children whilst worrying about their father, as he becomes more and more traumatised by the horrors he witnesses.  This is a totally engrossing and authentic experience that pulls few punches when showing just how terrible war can get, and with the setting of a present day conflict, the back drop of 9/11 and real-world terrorism, I found this educational and heart breaking.  Cooper is excellent, considerably beefed up and probably more earnest and believable than I’ve ever seen him – he really went for it here, and it pays off.  If I was to nit-pick, I could say some of the other characters, such as Kyle’s brother and the other marines were under developed.  Also Iraqi locales are all portrayed rather one-dimensionally. Yet with a very strong central performance and some well directed action and battle scenes with plenty of tension – this was still a pretty formidable experience, that left me rather shaken.

Clint Eastwood once again proves he’s as much a presence behind the camera as he is in front, and has delivered a very well made, respectful and thought-provoking study of the harrowing effects of war and that of a true American hero.  Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5

A Good Day To Die Hard


Viewed – 26 November 2013  Blu-ray

Back in 1987 Bruce Willis shocked audiences world wide by transforming his wise cracking, comedy image from popular TV series Moonlighting into credible action-hero machismo with the first in this franchise … arguably one of the finest action thrillers ever made.  Naturally such a well crafted movie would spawn sequels, and generally in my opinion, Die Hard has always delivered – but any good run had to come to an end, and yes, all the rumours you may have heard about this ill advised continuation of John McClane’s adventures are true.

A-Good-Day-to-Die-Hard

Willis travels to Moscow to track down his estranged son (Jai Courtney) who seems to have got himself in a heap of trouble with some Russian terrorists.  But before long father and son are reunited against a common enemy, and attempt to bond between the bullets flying and the bodies piling up.  Directed by relative-unknown John Moore, this frantic, moodily shot attempt at an action movie from the get-go fails on almost every level.  Firstly this isn’t just Willis playing McClane as a fish out of water New York cop (that would have been fun – but it’s not explored) he genuinely looks lost – not necessarily over the hill, but just in the wrong movie.  His wise-cracks are delivered awkwardly like Willis himself is bored with the character, and the setting and the plot just failed to resonate.  Add to this rapidly edited, confusing action that is mostly too fast and too chaotic to follow or enjoy, and well … I began to almost want to remove this from my PlayStation 3 and throw the original Die Hard in for the umpteenth time.

A plot twist towards the end was borderline interesting, but especially bad for this franchise, the villain was just a cliché, and his evil scheme nothing that clever.  I wouldn’t normally be so against a movie, but for a franchise I previously adored – this was an embarrassment.  Oh, and that cool free fall through a building and into water showcased in the trailer – that’s the best bit of the movie.

Verdict:  1 /5

Red State


Viewed – 23 January 2012  Pay-per-view

When most people think of the name Kevin Smith, they immediately conjure up images of slacker comedies like Mallrats and Clerks and characters like Silent Bob.  Yet he has also turned his hand to somewhat deeper themes in the likes of Dogma and Chasing Amy.  With that being said, he has never really been known for horror or thrillers – until now.

This follows the story of three friends who answer an add-on website to hook up with a woman for sex.  These hormonal guys think it’s their ticket to getting laid, and are soon setting off to meet the woman at her current residence – a trailer.  Yet all is not as it seems, and before long the guys have been drugged and become the hostages of a local, notorious religious cult, lead by unhinged preacher Abin Cooper (the brilliant Michael Parks).  At the same time, a Sheriff being blackmailed by the preacher due to some questionable nocturnal activities, calls in a local special agent (John Goodman) to lay siege to the cult.

This movie borrows heavily from real life cult situations like that of The Manson Family and Waco, and for me was totally gripping.  The three teens may not have a personality between them, and their plight is somewhat self-inflicted, but the cult and their beliefs was believably scary and unpredictable – meaning I was always wondering what was going to happen next.  Several times the movie surprised me, and some deaths really knocked me back in my seat.  For the subject, I don’t think Kevin Smith offered any new insights, and just why the cult did what they did wasn’t very clear.    Smith has previously explored controversial subject matter, and like his earlier Dogma, this touches on subjects that some may find questionable.  Sadly there isn’t the depth to really get to the point on any of it, turning more into an action movie half way through, despite a promising opening.  Yet with a powerful, creepy performance from Michael Parks, who also stood out in movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill, and a great turn from Goodman, who is always a joy – this was still entertaining.  Also, with some interesting nods to 9/11 and how America has changed in the wake of terrorism, I was also left with plenty to think about.

Verdict:  3 /5