Mamma Mia! (2008)

On paper this musical movie should not work.  It should be completely silly, cheesy and full of strained musical numbers.   However, this Abba inspired musical telling the story of young girl who is about to get married, trying to figure out which of the 3 men in her mothers brief sexual awakening in one infamous summer is her father.

The strumpet in question is 

Meryl Streep, who now runs a bed’n’breakfast on a remote Greek island.  The 3 sluts that slept with her,

Stellan Skarsgård,

Colin Firth

Pierce Brosnan all come to the wedding invitation unknown to them that they even may have a daughter.   They are all strangers to one another until they are thrown together.

Supporting Streep we have

Julie Walters and

Christine Baranski who once were back singers to Streep’s lead in a band in their younger days.

When this movie first hit the cinema it was an instant hit.  Mamma Mia was already a successful West End show, so it came to the silver screen with an in-built audience.  However, it grew even bigger than anyone expected, thanks largely to the high number of repeat visits.   They even did karoke showings, where the words of the songs where titled on the screen to allow everyone to singalong.

I never caught this wave at the time of the release and will confess to coming to this one rather late on.  But when I did, it has become a monthly viewing favourite.  I fell in love with it. 

A real feel good, toe tapping, comedic outing that doesn’t fail to raise a smile or lift a mood.  Some of the singing from some of our stars isn’t the best, but who cares, everyone is having a good time.

Love it. Watch it. Feel good. 

PS small tip .. if you own the blu-ray (and why wouldn’t you) then you can enable the karoke language pack and singalong with the whole movie.

#107 in the series


Viewing Date
Thursday, 3rd December 2015 (Richmond)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

About Time (2013)

Richard Curtis strikes gold once again with his time traveling romantic comedy.  In the same vein as Love Actually / Noting Hill / Four Weddings, About Time stands shoulder to shoulder with Curtis’s other outings.  This one however does not star Hugh Grant, though, the lead,

Domhnall Gleeson (son of Brendan) does his best Hugh Grant impression throughout, so his spirit is still there.

The time traveling aspect isn’t ironically the central theme, but instead a mechanism to let us explore some of life’s major decisions, wondering what would have happened if you made a different choice.

Tim (Gleeson) when he is 21, is told of a special gift the men of his family have from his father played by the excellent

Bill Nighy.  This gift is the ability to travel back to any point of time for a short period within their own time line.  Anything they change there will have an impact on the current timeline.

Let us be clear, the time travel rules here are not really thought out and frequently if you were to look closely they are broken.  But the point is, this is not a BackToTheFuture or DoctorWho.  The time travel device is there to help with the story.

This humor in this story is just perfect.  The supporting cast is top notch, and as always have equally as good of lines to add to the overall narrative.  However this Curtis movie differs from the other ones in the heart jerking story line.   I challenge anyone to watch this movie without shedding at least one tear.   Sure Four Weddings and a Funeral had a death (hence the funeral part) but it was sad, not tearful.

I have watched it many times and every time it gets me.   It is a movie that reminds you to be thankful for those around while you still have them, and done in a non patronizing manner.  This is a pure father and son story weaved around a typical family, with their every day problems presented in a very believable manner.

About Time is in my usual rotation and comes out every so often when the time calls for it.  A true classic that I missed in the cinema, but have made up for it since.

#87 in the series


Viewing Date
Friday, 13th November 2015 (Richmond)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

I honestly don’t know where to start with what is one of my all time favourites.  For me that means a movie I can watch many times and still get something out of it and not be bored.  The caper heist is always a wonderful genre to play with and gives a wonderful romantic view of the world of the master criminal.  Be it Pink Panther, or as far as Oceans Eleven, Kelly’s Heroes is another one that falls in perfectly where reality is suspended for a while in order not to get in the way of a great story.

Here we have a tired and worn our American platoon, after the D-Day landings in France.  They are at a loose end for a few days when they are told to relax and recuperate in a remote farm house with no booze or women!  

Telly Savalas plays Big Joe, the commander of the group who is a career army man who is there to get a job done.  

Clint Eastwood, plays Kelly, his second in command, who discovers a stray German officer who has some intelligence that may be useful to the Allie effort.

However, upon closer inspection, the German officer has 2 gold bars and after getting him drunk, Kelly discovers there is 14,000 bars sitting in a small town, 30 miles behind enemy lines relatively lightly guarded.  After a little bit of convincing, they decide to sneak behind the lines and take the gold for themselves.

But they need a little help.  Enter the excellent Oddball, played to perfection by 

Donald Sutherland.  Oddball is a tank commander of 3 Sherman tanks that have an unorthodox view of tank warfare, including shooting paint and playing loud music when they go into battle through the external speakers. 

Sutherland steals the show.  Think what Johnny Depp did for Captain Jack Sparrow and you have a hint of what Sutherland brings to the character and in turn the whole tone of the movie.  In his mannerisms, his dialogue and his interactions with his crew, there is no way this was scripted, this was Sutherland imagining this character Oddball.

The movie is not as light Oceans Eleven, as people die and war is well war.  People are being shot and killed in the pursuit of gold.  From that perspective you have to question the morality of this team.  In many respects you could liken them to the violet gang from De Niros Heat outing.  However, we the audience forgive them, because, after all, they are killing German soldiers.  So we get a pass to bypass this ethical issue.

Though while they are on a single mission, to get the gold, they do cause a bit of mayhem and as a side effect, break the fatigue on the front line and inspire the General to get moving towards Berlin.  As the tagline of the movie goes – they set out to rob a bank, and damn near won a war instead!

In addition to this, there is a great thumping soundtrack, with Mike Curb Congregation singing Burning Bridges.  A very 1960′s feel to it, even though the movie is set in the 1940′s.  It works though.

This is not your classic World War II movie by any stretch and is worthy of a watch on a Sunday afternoon when your weekend has come to an end and you want to go out with a smile.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 24th October 2015 (mid flight heading to SFO)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

Back to the Future (1985)

What more can be written about this masterpiece?  30 years old this year and this movie simply does not age.  As fresh and as thrilling as the day it was first shown.  Even the DeLorean is not aging after 30 years still looking futuristic.  

Living out in the Scottish sticks, I did not get the opportunity to see this movie on the large screen the first time around.  In fact, the first time I seen it was in 1990 when I as at university and we rented this on VHS.  I fell in love the instant Marty was blown back by the huge amplifier.

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to right a terrible wrong, and at midnight witnessed the beauty of this story on the silver screen at the local cinema here in Richmond.  Seeing this with a large group of people, whooping, shouting and cheering was an absolute joy.  My only criticism of this experience was that it made the movie feel very short.

A couple of months I finished the excellent book on the making of the trilogy, which was a wonderful insight into a lot of stuff I had never even known – and I pride myself on knowing a LOT about the adventures of Doc and Marty.


On the surface, this story of teenage incest, high school bullying and age inappropriate relationships should have us in disgust.  Yet we seem to skip past all of that and enjoy what is the ultimate (and yes flawed in places) time travelling story.

Just the thought of playing out that teenage fantasy, what were my parents like at high school? is just too juicy a concept not to explore fully.   Would you actually like them?  Would you get on with them?  Would you think them cool?

All of these concepts and more are explored in this movie (and the two subsequent movie followups).

The movie just keeps getting better on each watch.  Every time invested you will be rewarded with a new nugget of discovery.  Just keep your eyes open and watch for the subtle queues, in various background signs, posters and props.   You think you are watching the same scene again (time travel is like that) but you aren’t, there are changes.

If you haven’t seen this movie this year, then treat yourself.  You deserve it.


Viewing Date
Friday, 11th September 2015


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

Local Hero (1983)

It was a Friday, and a Friday demands a classic for the evening and this evenings classic never fails to deliver.  Local Hero, tells the story of an American coming over to Scotland to buy basically a whole town for subsequent oil exploration.

Peter Riegert plays Mac, the American, more use to the hustle’n’bustle of oil dealing Houston than some highland community where everyone knows everyone and they have all multiple jobs.

Denis Lawson (uncle of Ewan McGregor and an X-Wing pilot in the first Star Wars) plays Urquhart the local solicitor, hotelier, taxi man and bar man.  He is representing the whole community as he negotiates with Mac as they dance around one another feeling out just how much money could be on the table.

The comedy is subtle and sneaks up on you. 

Peter Capaldi (the latest Dr Who) plays Oldsen, the handler that has been assigned to Mac to help acclimatize him to the Scottish ways.   However, while being Scottish himself, it is clear Oldsen is as much out of his depth as Mac is because his Edinburgh street wise knowledge doesn’t translate to a small fishing community in the highlands.

The whole village of course knows why Mac is there but no one ever talks to him about it directly.   Instead they are found always helping him, making sure he is well catered for (repainting the local public phone box for him, which is the only method for the international calls back to Houston).   There is a great moment when one of the older fisherman has renamed his boat, Silver Dollar, and a fellow villager looks over his shoulder while he is painting it and asks “you sure there is two L’s in dollar?” with the reply “is there two G’s in bugger off?”.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a great story if everyone was on board to be selling to the American’s.  There is one old boy, Ben (played by Fulton Mackay) who lives down on the neighboring beach and he refuses to sell because he can’t see a need for money and doesn’t need for anything more than what the sea washes up on his beach for him.

An interesting tidbit here, while the beach is depicted in the movie to be at the end of the village, in reality, it was on the opposite side of Scotland from the village where they filmed it.

Any review of this movie cannot let the excellent movie score, penned by Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits fame), go unmentioned.  The haunting tune, Going Home, appears at regular intervals, different instruments and different pace.  In a strange twist of irony, Knopfler had more success with the movie soundtrack than the actual movie itself initially. 

Local Hero is a beautifully simple story, with rich characters playing off one another as they come to the realization their dreams may be realized if this all goes to plan.   The story here was retold with a twist in the later 1998 classic Waking Ned Devine.

Bill Forsyth wrote and directed this movie, and it is still one of his stand out movies from an excellent pedigree including Comfort and Joy and Gregory’s Girl.

You simply can’t go wrong with this one and when (not if) you fall in love with it too, check out the BBC documentary on the making of it, currently on YouTube.

Viewing Date
Friday, 28th August 2015


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

Apollo 13 (1995)

One of my all time favorite movies that never fails to deliver on one of the most dramatic incidents in the Apollo space missions.  Tom Hanks proves he is one of our generations greatest actors as he slips into the character of Jim Lovell, who was also a technical adviser on the movie.

James Horner provides us with a breathtaking score, which can be best witnessed when Ed Harris (playing Gene Kranz), counts down the take off and the camera then pans to the Saturn rocket lifting off from the tour.  Gives you that wonderful uplifting feeling.

I can’t believe this movie is 20 years old this year, which if you think about it, at the time of them making the movie, the actual incident was only 25 years previous.

This movie stands up beautifully to the test of time and while there was some artistic license taken (for example Ken Mattingly was not watching the launch from a remote field by his car, but was in launch control manning a station) the overall essence of what really happened in those fateful few days is reproduced faithfully.

It is rumored that Buzz Aldrin contacted Ron Howard to ask him where he got the footage of the launch because it was so realistic Buzz actually thought it was authentic and previously unreleased.

Gemini/Mercury/Apollo were truly the glory days of NASA and when one watches this movie you are reminded just how much innovation had to happen to get man on the moon.   When the capsule blows, it is difficult to comprehend just how little technology and low-tech things where, yet, they were still able to co-ordinate things from the ground and bring back the 3 men.

Apollo 13 is a movie that generations will continue to come back to.


Viewing Date
Friday, 21st August 2015


Memorable line
We’ve never lost an American in space, we’re sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option.