An epic melodrama whereby a newly married woman returns to the London home where, 10 years earlier, her aunt had been murdered.
On the death of her beloved aunt, a distraught Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman – Casablanca, Stromboli) leaves for Italy vowing never to return. But in training to be an opera singer she falls in love with her coach, the charming Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer – Algeirs, Conquest). Keen to take advantage of the empty property, Anton persuades his wife to return to London. But as paintings disappear and footsteps disturb the peace of the night, Paula begins to question her sanity in the claustrophobia of the oppressive house full of memories.
Adapted from the stage play by Patrick Hamilton and directed by George Cukor (Adam’s Rib, My Fair Lady), Gaslight is an intense, occasionally overwrought, psychological manipulation of a story as Anton attempts to control, deceive and ultimately benefit from the madness of his wife.
Nominated for 7 Oscars in 1945 including best film, actor, supporting actress (Angela Lansbury in her screen debut), won 2 for best actress, set direction (black & white).
Retired, highly feared assassin John Wick comes out of retirement following a home invasion in which his dog is killed and prized car stolen.
Having retired from the high risk world of assassins and violence at the request of his wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan – I, Robot, The Sum of All Fears), John Wick (Keanu Reeves – The Matrix, Speed) is grieving for her recent death from cancer. A parting gift was a female Beagle puppy. When Wick’s home is broken into by cocksure Russian gangster, Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen – Jojo Rabbit, TV’s Game of Thrones) and his flunkies in search of the keys for Wick’s Mustang, the puppy is brutally killed. The assassin is back, blind with fury and out for revenge – with mob boss Tarasov senior (Michael Nyqvist – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Misson Impossible: Ghost Protocol) caught between the two men.
A violent, visceral action feature (the killing of the puppy is devastating) from directors David Leitch (Bullet Train, Atomic Blonde) and first-timer Chad Stahelski.
Number three in the Ant-Man stand alone features – and sadly much of the irreverence and humour is lost in a dull, unengaging adventure narrative.
Turns out Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer – Hairspray, Dangerous Liaisons) wasn’t completely forthcoming in her time in the Quantum Realm. A whole convoluted universe (think Star Wars) exists where power struggles are fought – and Janet was a key member of the rebel forces against Kang (Jonathan Majors – Da 5 Bloods, Creed III). Dragged back into the realm, Scott (Paul Rudd – Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Fundamentals of Caring)and now-teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton – Ben Is Back, TV’s Big Little Lies) find themselves separated from the Van Dynes. They need to find a way to come together and prevent Kang escaping the Quantum Realm into their real world.
Derivative storytelling and visuals, the third Ant-Man from director Peyton Reed is sadly lacking in any sense of excitement or urgency. Moving from scenario to scenario, there’s little in the way of connection between the combined saviours of the world. Dull.
An intimate documentary on the life of legendary Tina Turner from her early years with Ike Turner through to happiness and 30 years of marriage living in Zurich, Switzerland.
As an icon of a woman redefining herself in her late 40s having escaped a violent and abusive marriage, Tina Turner has few equals. As the first woman to sell out concerts in huge football stadiums (including 180,000 in Rio, a then world-record attendance), Tina Turner has no equal. She is also one of the best-selling recording artists of all time (approximately 150 million records). All was achieved after a rancorous split from Ike Turner.
Tina is an up close and personal exploration divided into chapters. Inevitably, time is spent on those early years but the majority of the documentary as directed by Daniel Lindsay & TJ Martin (Undefeated, LA92) focuses on her phoenix-like emergence from Las Vegas cabaret to rock superstardom. With archive footage and interviews with the likes of husband Erwin Bach, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Bassett, music critics alongside Tina herself, Tina may avoid recent health problems and some of the more personal controversies with the schism between her and four sons, but it remains a fascinating crowd pleaser of triumph over adversity.
Hired to follow high-profile chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, a tough talking private detective finds himself in deep water as corruption and murder bubble to the surface.
A straightforward cheating husband case seems easy money for J.J.Gittes (Jack Nicholson – Easy Rider, The Departed) as the wife of Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling – Grease, And Justice For All) hires the private detective. But things become more complicated when the real Mrs Mulwray (Faye Dunaway – Bonnie & Clyde, Network) appears at his office – and Mulwray turns up dead.
Blackmail, corruption and murder unspool in Gittes’ so-called easy money case as 1930s LA struggles through a drought in director Roman Polanski’s (The Pianist, Knife in the Water) sublime detective thriller full of brooding suspense.
Nominated for 11 Oscars in 1975 including best film, director, actor, actress, cinematography – won 1 for best original screenplay (Robert Towne)
Raw and honest yet suffused with humour, Still is a moving portrayal of actor Michael J. Fox’s personal battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Diagnosed with the incurable ‘old person’s disease’ at the height of his fame and months shy of his 30th birthday, Michael J. Fox went public a decade later in 2000 and, in founding the Michael J. Fox Foundation, has raised more than $2 billion for research. But Still, as directed by Davis Guggenheim (He Named Me Malala, Waiting For Superman) is the story of the more personal battle as Fox, along with wife Tracy Pollan and their (now adult) kids, come to terms with the progressively debilitating effects of the disease.
The charm of Still is Fox himself. He matter-of-fact talks of pain management and the black eyes and broken limbs during the making of the documentary, the result of falling over in domestic places such as the kitchen. Through interviews and the interweaving of archival footage from early television and film hits with playing more recent television characters openly suffering from Parkinson’s, Still creates an unexpectedly warm tale of a quite and quietly extraordinary person.
An English country manor with the interwoven comings and goings of the upstairs gentry and downstairs staff. Sound familiar? An earlier (2001) script by a decade from Julian Fellowes predates the behemoth that was to become Downton Abbey.
Only there’s few of the niceties of the later series evident in Robert Altman’s (Nashville, M*A*S*H) delight of a feature. It’s a strained shooting weekend upstairs that’s reflected downstairs as the emnity between imperious housekeeper Mrs Wilson (Helen Mirren – The Queen, Hitchcock) and cook Mrs Croft (Eileen Atkins – Cold Mountain, TV’s Doc Martin) adds to the atmosphere. It’s all somewhat tense at Gosford Park. And to make matters worse, half way through the film, someone bumps off the wealthy, irascible host, William McCordle (Michael Gambon – Harry Potter, Judy).
Guests and staff come under suspicion. What had started as a series of related and unrelated storylines lay the foundation for a whodunnit as the earlier desperate financial manouverings of at least three of the family members come under scrutiny. But things are never that simple or that obvious.
It being an Altman film, the cast reads like a who’s who virtuoso ensemble piece with a sublime script from Fellowes that expertly provides drama, pathos, comedy and social commentary in its 137 minute running time.
Nominated for 7 Oscars in 2002 including best film, director, supporting actress (Helen Mirren), supporting actress (Maggie Smith), art direction – won 1 for original script.
Engaging, straight forward telling of the rise of Nike in the making of basketball shoes through the securing of Michael Jordan as the name tied to the brand.
In the 1980s, the basketball division of Nike is struggling, accounting for only 17% of sales – a distant third to Converse and the German Adidas company. Basketball talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon – The Martian, The Last Duel) is appointed to find a new spokesperson. His argument is to put everything on one player rather than spreading money thinly over three or four players. CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck – Argo, The Town) is reluctant but Vaccaro and Marketing VP Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman – Horrible Bosses, Juno) convince him they need to secure Michael Jordan.
Perseverance and determination win out as Vaccaro’s infectious energy ensures Nike gets their man – but not without an equally determined Deloris Jordan (a magnificent Viola Davis who defines ‘supporting actress’ in her role as the athlete’s mother) ensuring that respect and financial recompense are forthcoming.
As director, Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Baby Gone) has ensured that a story so worth telling is told well and packed with strong performances throughout.
Fifty years ago, the worst prison riot in American history – a five day standoff that gripped the nation – resulted in the deaths of 29 prisoners and 10 hostages.
Interviews with former inmates, family members of guards, newsmen, lawyers and official observers along with archive footage provide an insight into the unfolding chaos that took place over those five days. With the sense of frustration and anger from prisoners – 70% Black and Latino – in one of the toughest prisons in the system with its 100% white guards and administration, Attica was a tinderbox. On 9 September 1971, tensions boiled over as more than 1,000 prisoners seized 39 guards as hostages.
It’s a harrowing piece of filmmaking which highlights, by today’s standards, mostly perfectly reasonable demands. But authorities were not having a bar of it, particularly after the death of one of the guards. In spite of extended ongoing negotiations, the Home Guard was being mobilised and behind-the-scenes discussions reached not only the Governor’s office but went all the way to the White House and Richard Nixon. The retelling of the storming of the prison – and horrific, inhumane reprisals against inmates – highlights how little has changed in this tense and chilling (albeit occasionally repititive) documentary from Traci Curry and Stanley Nelson (Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, Freedom Riders).
Nominated for 2022 best documentary Oscar.
Bombastic yet appealling telling of a true story as, with the fall of Ghadafi, Libya freefalls into civil war – and American political and military personnel in Benghazi are targeted by various militia groups.
Jack Silva (John Krasinski – A Quiet Place, Aloha) is the final member of the ex-military contractors at an ‘unmarked’ CIA compound to arrive in Libya – just as tensions and anti-American sentiment reach boiling point. Ther’s no love lost between head of mission, Bob (David Costabile – Lincoln, TV’s Billions) and the team, adding to the tensions in the compound. When US Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher – Her, TV’s The Flash) visits, all hell breaks loose as they are attacked by hordes of heavily armed locals. The security team of six need to somehow hold out until help is despatched.
Director Michael Bay (Ambulance, Transformers) typically pumps up the action and takes poetic licence with the unfolding drama but by his standards, 13 Hours is remarkably restrained. The humour and depth of friendship of the security team members help the balance of a harrowing film that could have so easily simply degenerated into gun battle after gun battle (which, in part, it inevitably is).
Nominated for 1 Oscar in 2017 – best sound mixing.