Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Fish Tank

The life of hot-tempered teen outcast Mia (Katie Jarvis) takes an unexpected turn when her mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), brings home a handsome and mysterious boyfriend named Connor (Michael Fassbender), who pledges to bring sweeping positive changes to the household. British writer-director Andrea Arnold’s sophomore feature won Best British Film at the 2010 BAFTAs.

Rating: 8 out of 10 

Fish Tank has a wonderful correlation that runs through the entire film.  The main character, 15-year-old Mia, is troubled because her small world is changing.  She no longer has a good relationship with her mother or sister, she has no girlfriends, and anytime she leaves her home is constantly in conflict with others. 

At one point, she bumps into a rundown trailer park where she sees an old horse on its last legs.  She becomes protective of the horse and demands the owner’s take better care of the animal.  As the story progresses, the horse gets sicker and sicker and Mia’s life gets more and more complicated and confusing.  I realized that the horse was a symbol of her lost innocence.  What better way to capture the end of childhood than a sick horse ready to be put down?  All girls dream unrealistic dreams when they are young.  They want to be a princess, marry a prince, and ride away in the sunset on their pony.  So, what does a young girl do during a time when everything they knew isn’t as it seemed and the world grows darker and colder by the minute?  They hold onto a hope for something better and Mia is no different.  Her passion is for dance and the way it takes her away to a better place in her mind.  There are several wonderful scenes where she dances alone in an apartment building to her music and you can feel what it means to her.  The emotional connection I felt was largely due to the wonderful performance by Katie Jarvis in the lead.  Her scenes are never forced or overacted.  They play out eloquently and in service to the story. 

Is everything perfect here?  No.  While I really enjoyed Mia’s story, there was a sense that there could have been more character interaction.  Mia’s mother and sister are largely wasted as after thoughts when they could have been central in how Mia faces the challenges she does (I won’t spoil them here).  “Fish Tank” is wonderful at presenting confusion but does very little in resolving it.  Some viewers would call that a strength but I consider it a weakness.  Some filmmakers like to leave a lot open ended to let the viewer imagine what could or should have happened to the characters.  But, it’s not about what I think should happen to Mia.  That’s the storyteller’s job and they let me down a little near the end.  But, for those that like cerebral coming of age stories, Fish Tank is a must see.


Reclusive Londoner Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess), who bears a prominent, heart-shaped birthmark on his face yet can’t seem to find love anywhere, makes a deal with a devil-like figure to get a girl — but there’s a deadly price to pay. After his mother is murdered, the newspapers say thugs wearing devil masks committed the crime. But Jamie soon begins to suspect that they weren’t wearing masks at all.

Rating: 8 out of 10

“Love is only temporary but suffering is eternal.” -Papa B. in the film Heartless

Heartless is a very special film containing the most original visual work I have seen in a film since “Black Swan.” I love films where the camera is as much a character as the principle actors. Director Philip Ridley doesn’t just place actors on a set and have them exchange dialogue until they move onto the next scene. He paints a picture here that perfectly encapsulates the mood of each individual segment. When demons are lurking, committing atrocities, or tempting the main character, we not only feel but see the bleakness, despair, darkness, and anger. Conversely, the romantic and loving elements are obviously quite the opposite but are just as, if not more, effective. He changes the style completely to a washed out and bright world that feels like you’re touching heaven.

The story itself is a Faustian tale with its own surprises and twists along the way. I have always enjoyed when a character that has a good heart is given a chance at getting what he wants the easy way by having to commit evil deeds. Does he take the opportunity despite the steep costs? What deeds must he perform? How does it affect the other characters around him? It’s a formula that can be very good or very bad depending on the skills of the director and actors involved. Luckily, the script here works almost as well as the visual style. These characters really come alive in Ridley’s world and pulled me in. I cared what happened to them. I suppose much of the credit for that has to be given to Jim Sturgess who is brilliant in the main role. He goes through myriad changes from the beginning to the end of the film and our hearts break or are lifted up by him. Are there missteps? There’s a few. The setup is so amazing that I’m sure the final act was hard to pull off no matter what they did. I didn’t feel the same satisfaction as I did during the setup. Without giving away any spoilers, the last 10 minutes wrapped up a bit too quickly. I felt a bit more explanation was necessary considering the amount of questions that had been left open. Is it a perfect film? No, but it’s damn good and for anyone that enjoys a dark moral fable, I highly recommend it.


Six years after aliens invaded Earth, a security force maintains tenuous control in the Infected Zone straddling the U.S.-Mexican border. Andrew (Scoot McNairy), a photographer, is documenting this war-torn area when he’s interrupted by an unexpected rescue mission. Samantha (Whitney Able), daughter of a media mogul who just happens to be his boss, needs an escort home, and Andrew reluctantly takes on the job.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Perhaps it’s a bit unfair, but I’m grading “Monsters” on a curve. This film was made by two people on a budget of $15,000, and it’s truly incredible how they pulled it off.

The story is solid, and the acting is quite good. The characters are developed in an interesting world where aliens that are very destructive have taken over a large chunk of Mexico. A man is tasked with getting a woman to safety, and along the way the adventure and horror unfold.

With a digital camera and plenty of computer savvy, director Gareth Edwards created a realistic movie that was very well shot and made. It’s got the feel of a gritty world. You don’t doubt it for a second. That’s what makes this film click. It’s not all CGI and scary sounds. But the CGI in the film, which Edwards also did, was excellent. Again, I’m grading this on a curve, but it’s a solid little monster movie.

For more on how “Monsters” was made, click here.

Wild Target

When veteran hit man Victor Maynard (Bill Nighy) finds himself unable to kill his latest target, Rose (Emily Blunt), he winds up with an unexpected sidekick, Tony (Rupert Grint), who thinks Victor is a detective in this action-packed comedy from Britain. Now, with Rose and Tony tagging along, Victor tries to deal with the dual forces of his overbearing mother (Eileen Atkins) and a very angry client (Rupert Everett) who wants Rose dead.

6 out of 10

As with many straight-to-DVD comedies on the shelves at Blockbuster, I grabbed it wondering if it was worth my time. When I put it in, though, and started to watch, I found myself more entertained than I thought I would.
Bill Nighy plays a professional assassin hired to kill a thief, played by Emily Blunt. This woman is stunning beyond the realm of my comprehension. My eyes were glued to her throughout the entire film. She could just wear a carpet as a dress with holes cut out for her arms and make it look sexy. As for Bill Nighy, he was great as the mother-respected assassin. I can’t really say anything good or bad about Rupert Grint’s performance. A lot of his character reminded me a bit of Ron in the Potter films, as Ron always provides the dimwitted comic relief, not so much now in the franchise. Hopefully this is a good transitional film for him. I’m not quite sure where his potential stands.

All in all, I thought this was a pretty decent flick. It had the typical reconciliation ending, but it was appropriate. The funny assassin films seem to be coming about more now, however, this doesn’t really compare to the others. This would be a good film to pop in with your boyfriend or girlfriend if you don’t feel like going out.

The Red Shoes

Fledgling ballerina Victoria (Moira Shearer) falls in love with brilliant composer Julian (Marius Goring) while they collaborate on a ballet that makes her a star. But overbearing company owner Boris (Anton Walbrook), jealous of their love, fires Julian and forbids Victoria from performing. Julian and Victoria wed, and his career takes off, but she longs for an opportunity to dance. When Boris makes an offer, she faces a heart wrenching choice.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Roger Ebert tweeted that “The Red Shoes” was going to be on Turner Classic Movies and everyone must see it. So, if I must, I must. I DVRed it and every few days would look at the two-and-a-half-hour run time and think … tomorrow. Finally tomorrow came and I realized it wasn’t really two and a half hours, there were bumpers by Robert Osborne that ate up at least a half hour. Plus, as soon as it started I was hooked.

Set mostly on the stage and mostly in London it is perfect. A young composer and a young ballerina, both looking for stardom, work their way up to the top in a famous, driven ballet producer’s company.

When they perform “The Red Shoes” for the first time I was thinking how the special effects, although dated now, must have been amazing in 1948. The red ballet slippers appear on the ballerinas feet instantly, I know! amazing.

Although the dancing is beautiful it’s not really until the two young stars fall in love and the producer tries to put an end to it that the movie gets great. But it does get great. Thanks Roger.

Five Movies to Snuggle Up to on Valentine’s Day


This is not my list of the best romantic films of all times. This is simply a list of some great romantic movies for you and a loved one to snuggle up to with a big bowl of buttery popcorn and watch on a chilly Saint Valentine’s Day evening. Here’s hoping you have a romantic day full of love!

Say Anything: This is one of the best teen movies from the 80s, and it’s just a heart-warming, romantic story of the lovable loser who falls for the perfect girl — a valedictorian. Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school goody-goody Diane Court (Ione Skye) are threatened when Diane’s overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy. Writer-director Cameron Crowe steers this 1980s teen flick into instant-classic territory. I highly recommend!

Amélie:This is one of the most darling films I have ever seen. If you don’t mind subtitles — as I’m sure many of you don’t — then this is a movie you may want to grab. It’s visually stunning with a truly unique director in Jean-Pierre Jeunet ( A Very Long Engagement), a fantastic romance story that unfolds in unusual and gripping ways, and it’s just pure fun. Definitely a winner.

A Very Long Engagement: This is another Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. What can I say? The guy makes great romantic films. Audrey Tautou stars as Mathilde, a young Frenchwoman who vows to find out what happened to her missing fiancé (Gaspard Ulliel) during World War I. He appears to have died after a court-martial, but she needs to know for sure. As she looks for the truth, she discovers unexpected things about herself and the people she meets along the way. It has some heart ache along the way, but what great love doesn’t?

Forest Gump: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Most certainly in the top 25. It has everything you could want in a romantic film — a love that’s sparked from childhood that drives a character in everything he does through some of the most incredible experiences any man could have. There is nothing wrong with this movie. It’s simply flawless, and Forest’s innocence and love of someone who, on the surface, is beyond broken after so much tragedy befalls her, is touching. We all could learn to love like he does. It’s a wonderful movie, and a great choice for Valentine’s Day.

Slumdog Millionaire: I hadn’t seen this film when it won best picture. I’m always skeptical of films that become critic’s darlings and run away with all the trophies. This is not one of the best films I’ve ever seen, but it’s a fantastic date movie. It’s got a nice romantic plot with another character who endures incredibly terrible things all the while trying to find a long-lost love. I think it’s true that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Love isn’t worth having if it’s not worth fighting for.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Plague Dogs

Making a compelling case for animal rights, this disturbing animated feature chronicles the plight of two dogs who become the focus of an intense manhunt after escaping from a research lab where they were subjected to cruel and pointless tests. To keep citizens from capturing or sheltering the canines, authorities lie to the newspapers, claiming that the dogs may be carrying bubonic plague. Celebrity voices include John Hurt and Nigel Hawthorne.

Rating: 8 out of 10

This is one of the hardest movies I’ve watched in a long time. It’s unrelenting in its darkness from the very first scene to the last. This is NOT a film for children, at all. Don’t let the animation fool you.

There are many hard scenes to watch, from animal testing in the lab to seeing two dogs endure brutal weather and conditions as they are hunted down. It’s a simple story of two dogs who escape an animal testing lab and try to survive. But it is brutally honest in the treatment of animals and what dogs would have to go through to survive.

There are so many layers in this film. On the surface it’s an animal rights piece. But dig a little deeper and it’s about humanity, the lack of it, faith, friendship, devotion, and left me questioning what freedom truly is. This movie has stayed with me since I watched it. At first, I thought about giving it a 6 out of 10, but the final scene has been stuck in my head since I watched it. I loved this movie, but it’s not for everyone. After my wife and I watched it, with our new puppy curled up at our feet, my wife turned to me with teary eyes and said, “I never want to watch this movie again. Ever!” I can’t say that I blame her.

The Killing of John Lennon

Lifting dialogue directly from notorious assassin Mark David Chapman’s real-life journal, director Andrew Piddington paints a chilling portrait of the man who infamously shot John Lennon outside his New York City apartment building in 1980. The film chronicles Chapman’s trek from his home on the islands of Hawaii to Lennon’s home on the island of Manhattan, where he made history by murdering a living legend.

Rating: 6 out of 10

I was too young to remember at the time, but if you ask anyone 40 or older where they were when they heard John Lennon was shot, they all seem to remember in detail. It wasn’t just a murder by a dangerous psychopath; it was also the end of an era. It signified the end of free love with the 60’s and 70’s mentality and ushered in the 1980’s era of egotism, greed and cynicism. The teenagers of The Beatles era were now grown up and without one of their heroes.

I am personally biased when viewing this film because I love John Lennon’s music. I didn’t live through the era to truly experience what it meant to people but I certainly appreciate the power of his words and music every time I listen to his beautiful songs. So, watching a film based on the man who murdered such a beloved artist the world over was difficult. To the filmmaker’s credit, they really didn’t try to paint Chapman as Satan nor did they try to garner sympathy for him. Instead, they filmed a pseudo documentary based on the court records and Mark David Chapman’s book that he wrote after the murder. The portrait it paints is of a man deeply disturbed and filled with anger and resentment of the world around him. He can’t find his place anywhere and reads “The Catcher in the Rye” and identifies with the main protagonist and his view of a planet full of “phonies.” He then begins to obsess over John Lennon’s phoniness at the phrase “no possessions” from the song “Imagine.” He then decides he has to kill John Lennon so that the message of “phonies” can get out by inspiring people to read “Catcher in the Rye.” Still with me? Yep, that’s one crazy bastard! Personally, I think Chapman was disgusted with himself. He thought of himself as a big phony that was married and settled down and yet couldn’t stop obsessing over other people’s lives. He was a huge loser who wanted to attach himself to one of the most beloved people on the planet in a permanent way.

As far as the film goes, it’s well made and executed and features a brilliant performance by newcomer Jonas Ball. It really tries to bring you in the mind of a psychopath, viewing the world as he does. Unfortunately, I’m sane and his thought patterns repulsed and confused me. So, I’m giving this film a semi-positive review because it was well done but approach at your own risk. It pulls no punches and the outcome is just as devastating even though you know it’s coming.

The King’s Speech

Britain’s King George VI (Colin Firth) struggles with an embarrassing stutter for years until he seeks help from unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in this biographical drama, which received multiple Golden Globe nods, including Best Picture. Logue’s pioneering treatment and unlikely friendship give the royal leader a sense of confidence that serves him and his country well during the dark days of World War II.

Rating: 9 out of 10

If you follow my blog you know I love the British Royals. So, you can probably guess how excited I was to see such great actors in a movie about a royal story I knew almost nothing about.

Colin Firth plays King George VI, better known to this generation as Queen Elizabeth II’s father. I knew his brother was king first and that he abdicated to marry an American divorcee, which made George VI king and Elizabeth heir to the throne; but the stutter was news to me.

“The King’s Speech” was a perfect movie. Charming and funny, well written and acted. The story centered around the forgotten prince’s speech impediment, his strong-willed wife, and his amazing speech therapist. But in the background was the story of the struggle with his family and his duty to his country just as Hitler was taking over Germany and pulling Europe into war.

I know a lot of people don’t think they care about watching a king learn how to speak but I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t like this movie.