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Review: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Reclusive and extremely secretive confectionary maker Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) hides five golden tickets in his chocolate bars sent out across the world that allow those lucky consumers to take part in a personal tour of his chocolate factory. Will poor, good-hearted Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum) be one of the lucky winners? Jack Albertson plays Charlie’s Grandpa Joe, Julie Dawn Cole is the tantrum-throwing spoiled brat Veruca Salt, Denise Nickerson plays greedy motor-mouth Violet, and Gunter Meissner plays the nasty Mr. Slugworth, hoping to steal Wonka’s secrets.


I hate musicals as is well-established by now, but this 1971 Mel Stuart (mostly a documentarian, with films such as the enjoyable concert movie “Wattstax”) film is one of the greatest films of all-time. Anyone who says the Tim Burton remake is more true to the Roald Dahl book, meanwhile, hasn’t read it in years. It’s Dahl’s most innocuous and lightweight novel, just about and Stuart gets it pretty damn perfect. I also love …

Review: Free Fire

Set in Boston in the late 70s, the film concerns a bunch of undesirable characters meeting in a warehouse for an arms deal. Cillian Murphy is an IRA man, Michael Smiley is his right-hand man, and Sharlto Copley is the highly irritable South African arms dealer Vernon, who comes along with associates played by Jack Reynor and Babou Ceesay. Sam Riley is Smiley’s junkie nephew who may just fuck the whole thing up because of a bad connection with Reynor, having met the night before when Riley apparently smashed a bottle over the noggin of Reynor’s cousin’s head. Reynor socked Riley in the face, but it still pissed about the whole thing. Also on hand at the warehouse are Americans Brie Larson and the immaculately tailored Armie Hammer, who are basically the middle-men in the deal. The situation is already tense enough between Reynor and Riley, and Copley was born irritating, and it’s not long before guns are fired. Things get even worse when both sides of the arms deal are targeted by unse…

Review: Kill ‘em All

A massacre has occurred at a soon-to-be closed down hospital where only the Emergency Room is currently still active. Nurse Autumn Reeser has been brought into FBI headquarters for questioning over the bloody affair by agents Peter Stormare (!) and Maria Cochita Alonso (!!). They’re particularly interested in anything she can tell about the man who saved her life (Jean-Claude Van Damme) by taking down a slew of hired killers (including Daniel Bernhardt, Kris Van Damme, and Paul Sampson).


During what I like to refer to as their ‘post-career phase’, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s output seems to be a lot better and more consistent than his 80s-90s cinematic action hero (turned fellow DVD action hero) counterpart Steven Seagal. So it’s with surprise and somewhat of a heavy heart that I report that this 2017 action-drama from debut director Peter Malota (a fight and stunt co-ordinator who worked on several JCVD films including the first “Universal Soldier”) is easily JCVD’s worst film since 2002…

Review: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

Yet another retcon as this film pretends none of the previous films in the ‘Millennium Series’ even exist (The next film in the series does continue on from this one, however). Godzilla attacks Japan for the first time in some 40 odd years after its first attack in the 1950s, with other monsters like Mothra having ravaged the city over the years. The recovery of bones from the ocean suggest that this Godzilla is not the same Godzilla from 1954 (that one died), however but a younger version. Yumiko Shaku is a soldier who is the only one of her platoon to survive an attack. Three years later and a team of scientists come together to try to prevent further attacks, including science teacher Shin Takuma, an expert of creating mechanical beasts out of the DNA/bones of living organisms. The end result is the hulking robot Mechagodzilla, built from material that includes the bones of the 1954 Godzilla. ‘Coz that sure is a good idea that won’t embarrassingly backfire when Mechagodzilla starts…

Review: Die Hard 2: Die Harder

It’s Christmas Eve, and John McClane (Bruce Willis) is at an airport in Washington DC to meet wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) so they and the kids can spend Christmas together. First he needs to deal with an arsehole cop (Robert Costanzo, in perhaps his best-remembered role) towing his car. Anyway, when he enters the airport he bumps into a not terribly friendly Col. Stewart (William Sadler), and before long he notices some suspicious activities that lead to him suspecting a terrorist plan is in the works. Indeed that is so, with Col. Stewart gaining access and control of the airport runways and control tower, who uses planes such as the one Holly is currently in, as leverage for a series of demands, including the release of a big-time drug lord (Franco Nero, of all people), about to go on trial in the U.S. McClane takes it upon himself to once again play hero and save his wife and everyone else, even that arsehole reporter from the previous film (William Atherton) also on board Holly’s p…

Review: Saving Private Ryan

After a visceral depiction of the D-Day invasion of Normandy during WWII, we are given the story of a small platoon (played by Ed Burns, Tom Sizemore, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel) and their leader Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) who are tasked with finding the soldier of the title, whose brothers have all been killed. They need to bring Pvt. James Ryan back home to his mother, a crazy ‘needle in a haystack’ mission.


Steven Spielberg (“Jaws”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Minority Report”, “War of the Worlds”) gives us one of the more memorable war films of the modern era with this 1998 revisit to WWII. Scripted by Robert Rodat (“Thor: The Dark World”, of all things), it’s one of Spielberg’s more personal films, and also one of his most mature. On his day, I believe him to be capable of being the best living director, and he had a damn good day here. The director of “E.T.” gives us a pretty unflinching, gritty, realistic war film that would greatly in…

Review: Running With Scissors

Joseph Cross plays Augusten Burroughs, a 14 year-old aspiring writer in the counterculture 70s who must contend with an alcoholic and distant father (Alec Baldwin, making lemonade out of lemons) who walks out after years of being constantly beaten down by his overbearing, self-absorbed, and emotionally unstable wife Annette Bening, a poet of questionable talent. Bening’s deteriorating mental health results in her taking some time out from her life and her son, and placing him in the care of her shrink Brian Cox and his family. But Cox is no ordinary shrink (he’s seemingly obsessed with masturbation and his own faecal matter), and his family are even screwier than he is. They include near-catatonic wife Jill Clayburgh, religious nut Gwyneth Paltrow, and two almost normal-seeming people Augusten somewhat befriends; an unrecognisable (and surprisingly OK) Joseph Fiennes as the ex-communicated gay son and Evan Rachel Wood’s rebellious teen. Kristen Chenoweth plays the same dopey, unbeliev…