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)

Rating: 88%

‘The Lady in the Lake’ by Raymond Chandler

To some critics, The Lady in the Lake, with it’s cleverly twisting plotlines and character development, is seen as Raymond Chandler’s masterpiece, a Philip Marlowe investigation into the disappearance of Crystal Kingsley, the vanishing wife of his latest client.

On being called to Kingsley’s office, Marlowe is hired to find Crystal. Kingsley claims to have received a telegram stating she was divorcing him and, heading off to Mexico, planned to marry the younger Chris Lavery. But on a follow-up, boy-around-town Lavery was found to be still in LA and had no idea where she was. Things become a little more complicated when Lavery is found dead – as is the neighbour, Muriel Chess, of the Kingsleys in their lakeside getaway home in nearby Bay City.

Expect lots of plot twists and whipsmart laconic Marlowe humour as the dots are joined in a case that’s more than simply a missing person. It’s a snappy, fast-paced narrative as the private detective inches his way closer to the truth – and not without upsetting a few important people along the way and being arrested himself for murder.

Chandler is something of an American crime noir icon but one downside for any Marlowe fiction is, irony among ironies, Humphrey Bogart. Although the legend only played Marlowe once on screen (The Big Sleep), he will be forever synonymous with the character. Try reading The Lady in the Lake without Bogart in your mind and without seeing everything in black and white – just how film noir should be seen!

‘The People We Hate at the Wedding’

A divided family, a philandering ex-husband and a continent and money separating the siblings – a wedding is just what is needed to bring everyone together. Or not.

The last thing self-absorbed siblings Alice (Kristen Bell – Bad Moms, Veronica Mars) and Paul (Ben Platt – Pitch Perfect, Dear Evan Hansen) want to do is travel to London to attend the wedding of their estranged half-sister, Eloise (Cynthia Addai-Robinson – The Accountant, TV’s Shooter). Alice is too busy in LA having an affair with her married boss whilst Philadelphia-based Paul is steadfastly ignoring their mom (Allison Janny – I Tonya, Lou). But travel they all do and with them go their issues and problems where, at the rehearsal dinner, they become the people we hate at the wedding.

Poor taste and unfunny scenarios underscore director Claire Scanlon’s (Set It Up, TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine) family comedy as Alice is confronted by the wife, Paul splits up with domineering boyfriend Dominic (Karan Soni) and Eloise has a meltdown. There’s more but in its attempt to be the champagne of ‘feel-good’ rom coms, The People… instead goes straight to the immobilising next day hangover.

Rating: 30%

‘This Is Us’ (all 6 seasons)

Six seasons, 106 episodes covering some five decades – life with the Pearson family demands considerable commitment in terms of time and emotions.

Non-linear storytelling sees the episodes swooping between time frames – from the courtship of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) to Rebecca’s death some 60 years later, surrounded by her children and their children. In between, the viewer is taken through an emotional wringer as we share the joys and tragedies of the various family members. Overshadowing all the narratives of This Is Us is the single tragedy of the death of Jack when his kids are just 17.

It’s an extraordinary series enscapsulating many of the social issues of the last decades. But it’s no overtly politicised rant. Instead, we experience issues as experienced by family members. Rebecca gave birth to triplets – Kate, Kevin and the still born Kyle – in 1980 in Pittsburgh. A decision is made to adopt an abandoned African-American baby, Randall, born that same day. The Pearson family unit is complete. Over 106 episodes, their stories, individually and together, are revealed.

The three children grow up to be three very different people in the current day –
Randall (superbly played as an adult by Sterling K. Brown), brilliant minded but deadly serious and dealing with anxiety and abandonment issues. Married to Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson), they have two daughters of their own and later adopt a third.
Pretty boy Kevin (Justin Hartley) is a disastisfied actor who fights alcohol addiction and wrecks an early marriage to Sophie, his childhood sweetheart. Throughout the series Kevin is referred to as the ‘man child’.
Haunted twin, Kate (Chrissy Metz), believes there’s a connection between the emotional trauma suffered as a teen and her serious weight problems. She finds her soulmate in husband Toby (Chris Sullivan).

Throw in the mix Vietnamese veteran Jack’s own problem upbringing (an alcoholic, wife-beating father), Rebecca marrying Jack’s best friend, Miguel (Jon Huertas) many years later, Randall searching for his birth father (Ron Cephas Jones) and the blight of Alzheimer’s along with ‘everyday’ family issues over decades and there you have This Is Us.

An overwrought, emotional cathartic family melodrama that grabs you by the throat. Characters and situations galore to invest (personal favourite – Beth and the near perfect Jack: favourite sibling – Randall) as it sweeps backwards and forwards through the decades (indicated by Jack notching up all 106 episodes, the three siblings at 17 are attributed to more than 80).

Admittedly, season six falls away and edges closer to bittersweet saccharine melodramatic finale with some very odd and unlikely narrative subplots that tie up virtually every loose end too neatly. Even Miguel – way too late – gets his moment. But too much time has ben invested in the Pearsons not to see it through to the bitter end.

Rating: 72%

‘Your Place or Mine’

Templated rom com as two best friends of 20 years discover the one night stand when they first met had more importance than they both realised.

Divorcee Debbie (Reese Witherspoon – Wild, Walk the Line) lives with her 10 year-old son Jack (Wesley Kimmel – TV’s Wanda Vision, The Book of Boba Fett) in suburban Los Angeles. She talks to New York-based Peter (Ashton Kutcher – No Strings Attached, Jobs), an in-demand marketing executive, virtually every day. When the possibility to pursue a long-held dream comes Debbie’s way and with it a week in New York, its the ideal occasion for the two to catch up. But plans go awry leaving Debbie in New York and Peter in LA with Jack. Lives change in unexpected ways as each impact on the other’s lifestyle in that single week.

Written and directed by Aline Brosh McKenna (writer of The Devil Wears Prada), it’s a breezy template of a feature that has its moments but one that would have likely worked more effectively with the rom com toned down and the drama ramped up.

Rating: 48%


A dark, brooding LA crime drama from writer/director Michael Mann (Manhunter, Ali) as, like a dog with a bone, dedicated lawman Lt Vincent Hanna hunts down the highly organised crime unit headed by Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro – Mean Streets, Joker).

With a dedication that is wrecking his third marriage, Hanna (Al Pacino – The Irishman, House of Gucci) has respect for McCauley but will stop at nothing to bring him in. As heists leave dead bodies behind, even the crime boss admits the rogue Waingro (Kevin Gage – Con Air, Blow) needs to be dealt with – if they can find him.

As typical of its genre, an almost three-hour Heat is adrenalin-packed with machismo, shoot outs, suspense and violence. It’s slick, controlled and, with its plots and subplots, utterly engaging. And, whilst the depth of the cast is uniformally intense, there’s Pacino and De Niro sparring off and against each other…

Rating: 78%


Honest if singularly paced, Cake sees a personal tragedy having left the sardonic Claire Bennett suffering from chronic pain. Through her support group, she becomes obsessed with the reasons behind the suicide of a younger woman in her group.

Scared physically and psychologically, addicted to painkillers, Bennett (Jennifer Aniston – Dumplin‘, We’re the Millers) is hard work for those around her, particularly for devoted if taken-for-granted housekeeper, Silvana (Adriana Barraza – Babel, Thor). But an obsession with the death of Nina Collins (Anna Kendrick – Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect) leads Bennett on a path of acceptance to her grief.

Directed by Daniel Barnz (Won’t Back Down, Beastly), a disarming sense of humour underlies this congenial if overly controlled tale with the sparky relationship between Claire and Silvana a highlight.

Rating: 59%


Unconvincing and predictable, a high gloss, high octane thriller with a duplicitous police detective looking for some form of personal revenge fails to convince.

When successful LA sports agent Derrick Tyler (Michael Ealy – About Last Night, Barbershop) visits Vegas and finds himself in a one-night stand, what he does not expect is to see the woman again. Attacked in his own home, the detective assigned to the case is Val Quinlan (Hilary Swank – The Homesman, Million Dollar Baby). What follows is a confusion of violent and messy plotlines unravelling with Quinlan’s motivation not always apparent.

Directed by Deon Taylor (Black and Blue, Meet the Blacks), Fatale is chock full of generally unlikeable characters, leaving little interest in their fate.

Rating: 34%

‘Hotel Artemis’

A dystopian, riot torn Los Angeles a few years hence. Run by the agoraphobic Nurse, the Hotel Artemis is a discrete members-only medical emergency facility. But clientele is restricted to those avoiding questions about their gunshot wounds.

Claustrophobic and shot in an autumnal palette, it’s a busy night for Nurse (Jodie Foster – Taxi Driver, Panic Room). Tensions are high as the Artemis boss, Niagara (Jeff Goldblum – Thor: Ragnarok, The Fly) finds himself a patient in his own facility – and with a possible contract on him. Nurse needs more than her medical skills to keep the peace.

Stylishly gritty, written and directed by Drew Pearce, snappy dialogue abounds as Nurse spars with the likes of patients Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown – The Rhythm Section, TV’s This Is Us) and Nice (Sofia Boutella – Kingsman: The Secret Service, Atomic Blonde). But it’s all a little underwhelming and unfocused – the sheer number of subplots result in a staccato narrative of short stories rather than the cohesive flow of a novel.

Rating: 58%


For all its over-the-top absurdities with a reckless and excessive police vehicle chase through the streets of LA in pursuit of a bank heist gone badly wrong, Ambulance is an unexpected entertainment from director Michael Bay (Armageddon, 13 Hours).

A psychotic Danny Sharp (Jake Gyllenhaal – Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler) ropes in family man and best buddy Will (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – The Trial of the Chicago 7, Us) as the driver in the $32 million heist. Everything that can go wrong does so with the two survivors resorting to the hijacking of the ambulance carrying shot cop, Officer Zach (Jackson White – TV’s Tell Me Lies, Mrs Fletcher) and paramedic Cam Thompson (Eiza González – Baby Driver, I Care a Lot). The chase is on…

It’s showy, it’s exhausting, it’s all pretty stupid muscular testosterone. But with time spent on character development in the confines of the ambulance and subplots out on the streets, Ambulance, against your better judgement, draws you in.

An English-language remake of the 2005 Danish film, Ambulancen.

Rating: 62%