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Reviews

Oliver Twist
(1933)

Average film of a good story
A woman makes her way to a workhouse and dies after giving birth to a boy, who is named Oliver Twist by the workhouse authorities. When he is 9 years old, and apprenticed to an undertaker, he runs away to London where he meets a pickpocket named The Artful Dodger, who takes him to his boss, Fagin.

Based on the novel by Charles Dickens, this is the first talking version of the story but sadly it does not do it justice. Much of the acting is quite stiff and falls short of expectations, other than the performance of the credible young Dickie Moore in the title role. Watch it only if you are a fan of the book.

Lone Survivor
(2013)

Action packed war drama
In 2005, Afghanistan, Taliban leader Ahmad Shah is responsible for killing US Marines. In response, a SEALs unit conducts a mission to locate Shah but is accidentally discovered by goat herders. After they are released, the herders alert the Taliban putting the lives of the SEALs at risk.

Based on a real life incident, this is an exciting and realistic war drama which is fast paced and so keeps the viewer watching right to the end. It is a story which shows the other side to the Afghan people and the difficulties they faced in their relationship with the US forces. Stars Mark Wahlberg.

Solo: A Star Wars Story
(2018)

Entertaining Star Wars film
Young Han Solo joins forces with a gang of smugglers and a Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, they devise a plan to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the owner of the perfect vessel, the Millennium Falcon.

A Star Wars film, directed by Ron Howard and a prequel to Episode IV - A New Hope, this is an entertaining addition to the series and of particular interest to fans of the series. The role of the young Solo is brought to life by Alden Ehrenreich with Harrison Ford firmly in mind. Oscar nominated for Visual Effects.

Dial M for Murder
(1954)

Fine crime drama
Retired English tennis champion Tony Wendell is married to a wealthy socialite Margot who he secretly discovers has had an affair with an American crime writer Mark Halliday. Planning to murder her in revenge and to get his hands on her money, he blackmails an old university colleague to carry out the deed.

Based on a play, this is another Hitchcock classic with an excellent story and twists in the plot which will keep the viewer glued to the end. Enjoyable watch with Ray Milland, Grace Kelly and Robert Cummings starring but the police detective played by John Williams is the unsung character and key to the plot.

Where's That Fire?
(1939)

Call the fire brigade
Incompetent Fire Captain Benjamin Viking and his men get lost when trying to find a large fire and then fail to prevent the town hall burning down. He is ordered to put out a fire successfully or face the sack. They sharpen up their act but more problems follow.

Whilst a big star in his own right, Will Hay was arguably always better and funnier with his sidekicks Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt. As usual the three interact extremely well and, whilst the humour is not consistent, there are some classic scenes to laugh at.

Ball of Fire
(1941)

Familiar theme with comedy
A group of 8 professors, bachelors except for a widower, live in a New York City residence, compiling an encyclopedia. The youngest, Professor Bertram Potts, is researching slang and comes across a nightclub performer who, needing a place to stay, moves in which is the start of complications for all concerned.

Screwball comedy written by Billy Wilder and directed by Howard Hawks. Based on the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this is no Disney production but has a great script and performances to match, especially from the professors. With Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in the leads, you know it is a gem.

The Martian
(2015)

Life on Mars
In 2035 a mission to Mars is exploring on the planet when a severe dust storm forces them to evacuate, leaving behind astronaut Mark Watney who they believe to have been killed. However, he survives and needs to use all his resources and ingenuity to live on the planet in the hope a rescue mission will be launched.

Directed with style by Ridley Scott, this is the first serious film to be set on Mars and a study of man's ability to survive even in the most inhospitable of places. Excellent camera work and scenes and perhaps the main complaint could be that the film is slightly overlong. Stars Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain.

Oh, Mr. Porter!
(1937)

Enjoyable comedy
William Porter, an inept railway worker, is given the job of stationmaster at a remote Northern Ireland railway station, Buggleskelly, situated on the border with Ireland. To try to drum up business he runs an excursion but does not realise that he has actually hired the train to a gang of gun runners.

Whilst Will Hay was a star in his own right, it is fair to say that his best film work was with his fellow screen collaborators, Moore Marriott and Graham Moffatt, in a series of comedies of which this is the best of all. Full of laughs and great interplay between the three main characters, this is a masterpiece.

Where There's a Will
(1936)

Crime comedy with some laughs
Penniless solicitor Benjamin Stubbins takes on a job from a group of Americans who say that they want to track down their ancestors from Scotland. In reality they want to rob the bank below his office but soon Stubbins realises his mistake and tries to thwart their getaway.

A vehicle for Will Hay in which, typically, he plays a bungling character. The humour is patchy, and the best scenes are those early on in the interplay with his office boy, played by Graham Moffat, but there's enough laughs to make it worthwhile. Hay fans will enjoy.

The Ghoul
(1933)

One for Karloff fans
Professor Henry Morlant, an Egyptologist, is convinced that the Eternal Light, an ancient jewel, will give him powers of rejuvenation. However, when he dies the jewel is stolen by his servant. Others in turn try to recover the jewel but the professor returns from the dead to take revenge on those who betrayed him.

A dark, atmospheric film which was suited to being filmed in black and white. Although the story is of interest, the film only really comes to life when its star, Boris Karloff, is on screen and the periods between his scenes lack the ability to hold the viewer's attention. One for fans of Mr. Karloff and horror films.

The Big Heat
(1953)

The corrupt must face justice
Honest and fearless police detective Dave Bannion hates the gang, headed by Mike Laguna and his right hand man Vince Stone, who have control of politics in the city. When Bannion's wife is killed by a car bomb meant for him and he upsets his boss who fires him from the police department, he is even more determined to end the corruption.

Any film directed by Fritz Lang is generally one to watch and this classic film noir is no exception to the rule. Notorious for the scene in which Stone, played by Lee Marvin, scalds the face of his girl, played by Gloria Grahame, this has a good storyline and keeps you glued until the end, thanks to the relentless efforts of Bannion, played by Glenn Ford.

3 Godfathers
(1948)

Even the bad can be good
Three rustlers ride into Welcome, Arizona and rob a bank but lose the proceeds when one of them is wounded. Fleeing on two horses into the desert and pursued by the sheriff and his posse, they are desperate for water. Finding a lone, ill, expectant mother in a wagon, they help deliver her baby and before she dies they promise to look after the child.

Said to be a Western take on the Three Wise Men, this story has been filmed on a number of occasions, even once before by its director John Ford, but this is the most memorable of all. A story with a moral, excellent casting of John Wayne, Pedro Armemdariz and Harry Carey Jr., and great scenery makes this more than just a western and is one to watch.

True Grit
(2010)

Better than the original
14-year-old girl Mattie Ross hires Rooster Cogburn, a hard-drinking lawman, to pursue an outlaw called Tom Chaney who murdered her father. The pair are joined on the trail by a Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, who himself has been tracking Chaney for killing a Senator. Each of them us tested on their dangerous adventure.

Remakes of classics are rarely superior but many will agree that this Coen Brothers effort has succeeded. Jeff Bridges has the task of following in the footsteps of John Wayne as Cogburn and does so with style. With fine support from Hailee Steinfeld and Matt Damon and a great score and you have a winner.

Singin' in the Rain
(1952)

All time classic musical
In the late 1920s Hollywood is on the point of changing from silent films to sound. When the studio decides that the latest film of their two silent stars, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, will be a musical, problems arise as Lina's voice is not suitable for sound and she needs to be dubbed.

Classic, inspirational musical which captures the difficulties which arose from the advent of sound but does so in a most entertaining way. With great songs, dancing and performances, this film is one you should not miss. Stars Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen and Donald O'Connor.

Under Suspicion
(1991)

Surprises but disappointing
It is 1959 when British divorce laws could only be overcome by manufacturing evidence. In Brighton, a private detective, with the help of his wife, provides photographs for divorce cases. However, he becomes a prime suspect when his wife and a client are murdered.

Neo noir crime thriller which has ambitions but ultimately fails to live up to them and is therefore slightly disappointing. There are a few turns along the way and a surprise twist or two before the end. Stars Liam Neeson, Laura San Giacomo and Kenneth Cranham.

Sudden Fear
(1952)

Love is not all it seems
Myra Hudson, a Broadway playwright, rejects a younger actor Lester Blaine as the lead in her new play. By chance she meets him on a train bound for San Francisco, falls for him and they soon get married. However, she discovers that he is planning to kill her so she comes up with her own plan. Things start to unravel.

Stylish thriller set quite effectively against the backdrop of San Francisco and which builds the pace gradually, leading up to an exciting climax. Joan Crawford was Oscar nominated for a top notch performance as Myra and Jack Palance is suitably sinister as Lester. Support comes from the underrated Gloria Grahame.

News of the World
(2020)

A good Samaritan
In 1870, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, formerly of the Confederate Army, now makes a living travelling town to town reading newspapers for the population. On his journey to the next town, he finds a young girl and is instructed by the Union army to take her across country to her relatives. Reluctantly he agrees.

Atmospheric film which captures the mood of the time, following the Civil War, and which also succeeds in entertaining its audience. This is aided by a good script and the sensitive performance by Tom Hanks as Kidd, a man with troubles of his own, and Helena Zengel as the girl. A feel good family film.

During One Night
(1960)

Surprisingly bold for its time
David, a shy young Captain in the US Air Force based in England during the Second World War, is stunned when his co-pilot commits suicide after being injured during a mission. He decides that he needs to make the most of his life before it is too late. Can Jean, a young English barmaid, be the answer?

Directed by Sidney J. Furie, this X-certificated film is very unusual for its time with its bold subject matter and even bolder scenes. Maybe the storyline is not always convincing and, at times the acting even less so, but it makes for interesting viewing. Stars Don Borisenko and Susan Hampshire as the couple.

Captain Apache
(1971)

Quirky English western
Captain Apache, a Native American Cavalry officer, needs to solve a mystery based on the last words of an old friend: "April morning". He realises an assassination is about to take place and no-one else can prevent it.

Filmed in Spain, this joins the extremely small group of English westerns and, like the others, it leaves much to be desired. Low value film compared to superior US westerns, it stars Lee Van Cleef and Carroll Baker.

Jojo Rabbit
(2019)

Comedy with serious undertones
Jojo is a keen Hitler Youth member in World War 2 until he comes across a teenage Jewish girl who is being hidden in their attic by his mother. While dealing with his imaginary friend, an alternative Adolf Hitler, he starts to question his beliefs.

Quirky comedy by Taika Waititi, who also stars as Adolf Hitler, underlining the seriousness of the situation for Jews during the war whilst largely treating the German characters as comical. Roman Griffin Davis is the innocent Jojo.

Go to Blazes
(1942)

Information with humour
When an incendiary bomb strikes a house, the father is so inept that it burns through the floor. When a second lands, his daughter has to show him how to do the job properly.

WW2 short from the Ministry of Information using humour from the English comic actor Will Hay and Thora Hird. More entertainment than information but fans of Hay will enjoy.

Table 19
(2017)

Seats at the back
Eloise McGarry attends the wedding of her oldest friend. Originally maid of honor, she quit after her ex-boyfriend, the bride's brother and the best man, broke up with her by text. At the reception she finds that she is sat at Table 19 with 5 other guests, all of whom are not really wanted there.

Good idea for a comedy with interesting and eccentric characters which should make for laughs. However, whilst it has its moments, the individuals do not make a whole because of a patchy script but it is still worth watching. Stars Anna Kendrick with support from Lisa Kudrow and Stephen Merchant.

A Matter of Life and Death
(1946)

On trial for his life
In 1945 Peter Carter, an RAF pilot, is forced to jump without a parachute from his damaged plane over the English Channel. Certain to die, his guide to the afterlife fails to collect him and he is washed up on a beach. He soon falls in love with June but his guide arrives to take him away. He faces a trial to decide whether he is allowed to stay.

Powell / Pressburger film unusually shot in both black and white as well as colour, though perhaps the fantasy scenes should have been filmed in colour thereby reversing the process. However, it is very entertaining thanks to the performances from David Niven and Kim Hunter as the couple with support from Roger Livesey.

Fahrenheit 11/9
(2018)

Never take it for granted
Documentary which looks at the 2016 US presidential election. Dealing with the surprise loss of Hillary Clinton and the presidency of Donald Trump, it also looks at a serious of other events which the director believes are connected to or inspired by Trump and gives a warning about the dangers to democracy.

Interesting and important insight by director Michael Moore on the state of US politics and a clear reminder of how fragile democracy is, with a warning never to take that democracy for granted. With several threads woven on, at times it meanders but this is an important viewing for citizens of all countries.

The Common Law
(1931)

Americans in Paris
Valerie West is a young American living with her wealthy lover in Paris. Tired of him, she moves out and models for an American artist John Neville. They soon fall in love and she moves in with him but when her past comes to light it causes problems.

Pre-code drama which was well received and a box office success. The storyline would have been controversial at the time but now seems outdated and tame, although watchable. Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea star as the troubled couple.

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