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)


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Stone of Destiny (2008)

This is the true story of the daring robbery by 4 Scottish students, in 1950, to return the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey in London, to Scotland.  The Stone of Destiny is a big hunk of stone that was used for hundreds of years in the ceremonies when kings were anointed in Scotland.   It was stolen by the English in 1296 and built into a chair that has been used ever since in coronations of English Queens and Kings, with the last time it was used for the current Queen of Britain, Queen Mary in 1953.

The Stone has been long held as a symbolic token of the hold the English have had over the Scottish.  So when nationalist pride raises its head, the Stone is often cited as unfinished business.   In the late 1940′s early 1950′s Scotland was going through an anti-English period (these happen frequently) and after a raising speech by John MacCormick (Robert Carlyle) a student,

Ian Hamilton,   decides enough is enough and he can go down to London and steal the Stone from the English and return it to Scottish soil.

Along the way he persuades 3 other students, including Kay Matheson (played by

Kate Mara from the Martian) to help him out.   There is a number of smaller incidents that happen along the way but let us not spoil the story here.

The movie is well written, but done in a more humorous way than serious drama.  Due to that, you get the feeling that the story isn’t true.  Such an iconic symbol of Scottish history wouldn’t be boosted by 4 students surely?

But it is true, with the odd artistic license here and there granted, the story stands largely to the truth.

The movie is filmed around Paisley and Glasgow, including a few streets where yours truly had his flat during university.  It was fun to see those streets transformed to the 1950′s look.

The movie is fun and interesting enough to hold your interest for the time, but fails to really detail the significance of the Stone to the viewer.  There are also some sub-plots that don’t make a lot of sense and get in the way.

Overall, not too bad.

#92 in the series


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 18th November 2015 (Richmond)


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Pride and Glory (2008)

First off, this movie demands your attention, both physically and emotionally.  For 2 hours and 10 minutes you are entering a very dramatic world of police corruption centered around a single multi-generational family.  The story on the face of it, doesn’t deserve this amount of time, but it does whip by at an alarming pace.

So what is the setup?

Well, we have 2 brothers, a brother in-law married to the aforementioned brothers sister and of course the father who no one dares cross.   To be honest, it wasn’t terribly clear they weren’t all blood brothers at first, but as the movie gain paced it became clear, otherwise we had a serious case of incest going on which wouldn’t have added anything to the story!

Colin Farrell plays Jimmy (the brother in-law) who does what needs to be done to get the job done.  This isn’t a case of stepping up to the line, or even occasionally stepping over it. No, the line is so far behind him, it is merely a distance memory.

Noah Emmerich plays the oldest brother, Francis, who interestingly enough is also the precinct commander to which Jimmy belongs.  Francis knows not everything is necessary by-the-book, but since Jimmy is getting the results, there is no need to ask too many questions.

Then we have, little brother Ray, played by Edward Norton.  Ray has had a previous operation go bad, literally wearing the scar of that one on his face, but upholds the ethical and moral code that they all swore to.

Jon Voight plays the uncorruptible patriarch, the elder statesman who has been all his life in the police force, has risen to be the top management.  As he said, the only money he ever took in his life was the cheque cut by the state for his salary.

So that is the setup.  All is fine until 4 cops in Francis’s precinct are gunned down.  The father suspects something at play and asks, nay pleads, with Ray to do the investigation to see what is going on.

I am not going to spoil any of the plot, because this movie should not be ruined, but you will see one of the best performances each of these great actors have to offer.

Farrell, while Irish to his core, puts on one of the most convincing Boston accents I have heard, announcing certain words to really hit home his character.  Norton, is top notch as usual.   The real stand out actor for me, is Jon Voight.  He commands the screen as the authoritative figure that is unapproachable with his dedication and faith to the police.   He is conflicted.  He wants his boys to fix this while maintaining the good name of the family, but is ashamed his boys are even involved in this corruption.

Keep an eye out for a particularly harrowing scene with a baby and an iron – Farrell at his best as the psycho officer trying to put right before it all blows up around them all.

The movie isn’t without its problems though.  There is a rather cliche scene when Ray and Jimmy confront one another and of course have to have a bare knuckled fight in a bar.  Jimmy’s wife, the boys sister, is as stereotypical a police wife as you can have.

The movie has had a long road getting to the silver screen. Writer and director, 

Gavin O’Connor, whose father was a NYPD officer wrote this story as a homage to him.  The story was ready and it was scheduled for shooting in February 2002, with Hugh Jackman and Mark Wahlberg.  Then 9/11 hit and it was felt a movie about corrupt NYPD officers wasn’t going to play terribly well in the public conscious.   It then sat for a long time, and was finally made in 2006 with the current cast.

However, the movie sat again for 2 years after completion, before being released with no real reason.  There was a rumor that because of Norton’s Incredible Hulk, and Farrell’s In Bruges releases, that it wasn’t the right time.

Finally released in October of 2008, it made $31M against a budget of $30M.  Not a runaway success financially.

The movie is a wonderful retelling of what is a well trodden road in the Hollywood world of corrupt police officers.  While the story line will be familiar, how these 3 legends step up and deliver the goods is what makes these movie stand above the others.

But give it your full attention.


Viewing Date
Friday, 4th September


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Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen brothers unite for another clever character driven comedy.  The setup is fairly simple but quickly turns into a farce.  A gym trainer who works at the local gym where many of the government agencies come to train, finds a disk of sensitive information.  He then attempts to sell it both to the USA government and the Russian embassy.

The cast of this movie is outstanding with no real star out clipping or ranking the other.  

Brad Pitt plays the clueless gym trainer who has taken all his guidance on working with the FBI/CIA from what he has learned in the movies.  

Frances McDormand plays his middle aged friend at the gym who is desperate to find a husband, while also considering plastic surgery to bump her chances up.  Between the two of them they attempt to sell this disk of secrets.


Naturally, some of the people she attempts to date are from the same world they are bumping into with the secrets.

John Malkovich plays a bitter and twisted CIA agent who was fired and has decided to write his memoirs and expose everything.  Malkovich is on top form in this movie and you can’t imagine any other actor taking on this role with the same result as he.

Naturally once the CIA realize someone is trying to sell secrets to the Russians they are swing into action and add to the whole circus of characters as they intertwine with each other lives. 

CIA Superior: What did we learn, Palmer?
CIA Officer: I don’t know, sir.
CIA Superior: I don’t fuckin’ know either. I guess we learned not to do it again.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir.
CIA Superior: I’m fucked if I know what we did.
CIA Officer: Yes, sir, it’s, uh, hard to say
CIA Superior: Jesus Fucking Christ.

George Clooney has a lot of fun in this role, including revealing a wonderful sex chair he has developed in his basement complete with a rocking vibrator.

Special nod has to go out to 

J.K. Simmons who plays the CIA Superior attempting to bring this whole mess to some sort of understanding.  He plays it like the same way he was the newspaper editor in Spiderman – but this time with a lot less words as in the CIA world, less is more when it comes to dialogue.

I could do a deep dive on the multiple story lines that are woven together but that would spoil the surprise that is little gem.   It is rumored that the Coen brothers wrote this story at the same time as No Country for Old Men, alternating days as they went between serious and comedy.

This movie follows the same formula as their previous comedies, including O’Brother Where Art Thou, Intolerable Cruelty, Gambit and of course Fargo.  If you are comfortable with that list in your library, then slip this one too and it won’t feel out of place.


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 2nd September 2015


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Bottle Shock (2008)

I stumbled upon this little gem of a comedy a number of years ago, and every so often, I will throw it on in the background.   The dialogue is top notch, the pace is just right and the soundtrack is extremely catchy.

The movie retells the story of when Californian wine broke through to the international scene in the mid 1970′s when it won against a blind tasting contest in France, arranged by British wine merchant Steven Spurrier.

Steven Spurrier, played by the excellent Alan Rickman is a wine snob, with a shop in Paris, who is on a mission to teach the world on the wonders of the fermented grape.  Next door, he has an American friend, Maurice, who runs a sight seeing taxi firm, played by Dennis Farina in a suit that can only be worn in the 1970s.  Maurice plants the idea into Spurrier’s ear that American wine is ready to break through and he could be the one that introduces it to the world.

Great wine is great art, my friend. I am, in effect, a shepherd… whose mission is to offer the public another form of great art and to guide its appreciation thereof.

No offense, but I don’t foresee the imminent cultivation of the Chicago vine.

Not convinced, he trots off to California’s Napa Valley to choose a number of wines to represent the American’s in the wine tasting contest.


There we see the story of one of the vine yards,

Chateau Montelena, run by Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his son Bo (Chris Pine).  Throw in a very sexy Australian intern, Sam (Rachael Taylor), and Gustavo a young Mexican who is living a dream of making his own wine played by

Freddy Rodríguez.

Jim Barrett is 3 loans in to the bank, a begrudged loan from his ex-wife and on the brink of losing everything.  He needs this year’s crop to work and sell.  As you would expect, doesn’t quite go to plan, but I am not going to spoil the story here by detailing what.

The term bottle shock is explained beautifully within the movie, when Spurrier attempts to fly back 26 bottles of wine.  It refers to a condition when the wine is shaken too much, it can actually change the flavour of the wine, most likely to its detriment.

Bottle Shock post dates that other excellent wine themed movie, Sideways from 2004.  Though, the difference here is that you don’t feel inundated with lots of facts about wine making that may get in the way of a great story.

The music is good, the scenery stunning, the wit and dialogue spot on.  Rickman truly steals the show with his slow English snobbery drawl.

If you want a good movie that escaped its deserved place in the mainstream then you will not go wrong taking Bottle Shock out for a run.


Viewing Date
Monday, 31st August 2015


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