Spooks: The Greater Good (2015)

Spooks was a very successful BBC drama series that ran for a number of years and was the jumping off ground for one or two big movie stars – BBC dramas have a good habit of that (see Idris Elba in Luther).   Though while the BBC make world beating dramas, they rarely make the leap into the silver screen.  In fact, I am struggling to recall they have ever done the leap into the silver screen.  Though I do recall a rather failed Doctor Who outing with Paul McGann, but the sooner we can forget that misstep the better.

Spooks is a slang term for spy, and the spies in this instance, follows the exploits of Britain’s spy agency MI-5.  The series was a usual setup, each episode stood on their own two feet, but with an over arching story that ran over them all.  The stories were very good and in that great British understated way, was not outlandish or too far away from what could have been the truth.   In other words, the series stood very well on its own two feet.

This is the problem with the movie.  What we have here, is basically, an extended TV episode.  Now don’t get me wrong, it is a very good extended TV episode, but an episode nonetheless.

We have the usual TV cast in this outing, which doesn’t help in the TV-movie translation.  We do have, however, the addition of 

Kit Harington (he from Games of Throne fame) who brings a little big-screen kudos.  Though he doesn’t quite fit in this role playing.   Doesn’t help they have built up a whole cliche story line around him, with the classic living in his fathers shadow angle.

If you are a fan of the TV series, then this will feel natural and you will get all the back stories that they continue to bleed through to this rendition.  TV to movies rarely work (X-Files for example was a poor outing, while Star Trek was excellent) and this sadly doesn’t do anything to bulk that trend.

If you have not seen the TV series, then you will be a little lost on some of the references and it will all feel very hicky.  Best to leave it alone.

I was a TV fan, so I did get something out of the story, but I do appreciate this won’t have mass appeal.

#79 in the series


Viewing Date
Thursday, 5th November 2015 (Richmond)


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The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Bruce Willis after 2 Die Hard movies takes on another over-the-top action movie but this time as down and out detective, Joe, working in LA.  He is hired to look after a stripper the girlfriend of ex LA football player, Jimmy Dix, played by Damon Wayans.   She gets murdered and Jimmy and Joe team up in an unlikely pairing to track down the culprit only to uncover a world of corruption in the football scene.

Younger brother of Ridley Scott, Tony Scott takes on the directorship of this action hero that manages to squeeze in every action movie cliche possible.  We have the classic hard drinking ‘good guy’ who has just had a bad run of luck (ex-wife, daughter off the rails, once model cop) teams up with a classic fish-out-of-water partner.

The Last Boy Scout isn’t without its physic defying stunts (see cars running down a mountain, yet everyone gets out without injury) or its arch villain with a strange penchant for correct manners.  There is one scene where a young

Kim Coates (him from

Sons of Anarchy), having captured Joe, gives him a smoke, but smacks him around a little too much, with Joe responding Touch me one more time I will kill you.  Of course you know what is going to happen here.   Let us not spoil it.

Joe’s daughter comes to rescue them out of a tricky situation, but the poor young girl should be traumatized after witnessing multiple up-close killings.  Yet she bounces along without any emotional scaring at all.

This could have been a Die Hard movie without any effort whatsoever.  Interestingly enough, the tower block used for the Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard appears in this movie in the background too.

But it isn’t Die Hard and falls far short because of that.  If you are in the mood for mindless action in the text-book sense, then you can’t go wrong here.


Viewing Date
Sunday, 25th October 2015 (San Francisco Marriott)


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School for Scoundrels (1960)

I am a sucker for old British black and white comedies.  They reigned supreme from around 1945 to 1965 and gave us some classic actors such as Alec Guinness, Alistair Sim, Terry Thomas and Norman Wisdom.  The story lines where woefully simple and one dimensional and served as a perfect remedy for a young boy, who is off school sick, lying on the couch and being forced to watch whatever daytime TV had to throw at him.

And it was through this BBC 2 movie diet that I was introduced to a number of these.  It has been nearly 30 years since dipping back into some of these, even at the time, they were over 20 years when I first watched them.  I think some of this nostalgic feelings is further compounded by the memory of your mother/father dropping in to check on you and force feed you the customary Heinz’s tomato soup (known to cure all ills) and sitting with you for a while as they are reintroduced to a movie they crew up on.

The first one in this movie journey I am on, is the classic

Alastair Sim

 ‘School for Scoundrels’.  He plays a professor of what is basically a mans finishing school for men that are always on the wrong end of winning in social settings.   

Ian Carmichael is our man who enrolls for help on how to win in every social setting.  He struggles to win the girl, gets screwed when buying a new car, and gets pushed around by his employees.  

His complete opposite, the man that everything seems to go right for, doing no wrong, is played by the delightful Terry-Thomas.  Thomas I love, recently Johnny Depp channeled his mannerisms in the Mortdecai movie, is the perfect fit for this role.

So the first half of the movie is seeing all the things that go wrong for Carmichael and how is continually trumped by Thomas.  Then as he learns more from the classes of the school run by Sim, he is ready to put everything into practice.  But we have the joy of having Sim come along for the ride as he out does Thomas.

Sim was the Sir Ian McKellan of his generation, able to do serious and comedy with no problems.   He breaks the fourth wall, talking to the audience at the end of the movie which was rather sweet and again, revolutionary at the time.

There are so many things you can find fault with this one.  The ages of everyone is completely out of whack with reality particularly as they vie for the attention of the beautiful lady played by

Janette Scott.

While colour was available, it was expensive but for these style of movies, I believe the black’n’white format adds a huge amount of charm to these.  It masks over blemishes and makes everyone look great (some of us are destined to only peak at the absence of colour!).

If you start into this period of British cinema you will bump into the same characters time and time again as Elstree studios churned out many a classic and this one deserves to be up there with the rest of them.

I watched this movie on my tablet and I wonder how the actors of this generation would think about their creation still being enjoyed nearly 60 years later on these wafer thin devices.

Good movie, and you don’t need to be holed up on the couch, ill, to enjoy it.


Viewing Date
Thursday, 22nd October 2015


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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Centering around a hit man, who models his life and philosophy around the ancient Japanese Samurai warrior living and operating in New Jersey, sees himself the target of the local mafia who take hum bridge for a hit that left a loose end.

Forest Whitaker plays the self titled, Ghost Dog, who lives on a roof top caring for his homing (or as they call them in the USA ‘passenger’) pigeons.   It is through these pigeons that he signals his master, or handler who hands him out the various jobs he has to do.  He works off a retainer, paid annually, to keep the paperwork to a minimum I imagine.

The movie is full of long lingering thought provoking scenes which sets the tone of the main character.  This man who has decided to live in the shadows and follow a moral code that highlights just how unjust the world is.  He witnesses many incidents as he dredges through his days.  This would be great, if it wasn’t for the Key Stone cops mafia that are pitted against him as his foe.

I mean they are just comical but unintentionally so.  Every single American-Italian cliche you can think of, its here.   The godfather figure (Henry Silva), who says very little, but looks intensely before giving his orders, to the old cripple side kick, who shouts racist and obscene rants that everyone must tolerate.   For some reason, these lot always meet in a Chinese kitchen with the owner demanding rent from them!   Add in the running theme of them all being addicted to old cartoons on the TV.   It is just stupid.

Stupid, because it detracts from the excellent and intense performance from Whitaker.  He does his role perfectly, but deserves a much better gang to go up against.  There are some questionable scenes that you wonder, what the hell was that for.  The one that comes to mind is when he bumps into two hunters who are struggling to load a shot bear into the back of their pickup truck.  Adds nothing to the overall narrative.

How does one sum up this movie?  Could have been excellent but fails to deliver because of the supporting cast.   Was hoping for far more for my 60th movie in this series.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 17th October 2015


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The Rock (1996)

Can you believe this movie is nearly 20 years old?  This was one of

Sean Connery’s last major movies before retiring.  Though, even as a 66 year old he looked like he could have gone another 10 years yet, considering how much output the likes of Arnold and Stallone are pumping out in their mid 60′s.

This is another one I will confess, I will put in the ‘okay

Nicolas Cage was quite good in this’ category as the wise cracking, field-novice, bio-chemical expert FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed.

Now while the movie has some wonderful witty dialogue, this movie is one of

Michael Bay’s classic outings.  All the usual Bay trademarks are here; slow lingering close up shots, slow silhouette walking through smoke, short to wide sweeping shots .. all the usual ingredients are here.

Carla: [after telling Stanley she’s pregnant] You didn’t mean what you just said, did you?
Goodspeed: When?
Carla: Just right now, when you were talking about bringing a child into the world, and having it be an act of cruelty.
Goodspeed: I meant it at the time.
Carla: Stanley, “at the time”? You said it seven and a half seconds ago!
Goodspeed: Well… gosh, kind of a lot’s happened since then.

The story has

Ed Harris as a military General who is sick and tired of the lies his government partakes in to not recognize the fallen soldiers in covert operations.  He and his merry band of men, steal a highly secretive chemical weapon (that are basically green christmas tree balls) setup some rockets pointing at San Francisco from Alcatraz, holding the government to ransom for the sum of $100M.  With this money he wants to pay the families of the fallen soldiers and then take $13M for him and his men to high tail it off to a country they can live their life out without fear of US extradition.

How does one break into the Rock?  Well, how about you ask for the help of the only person to have known to have escaped from the place?  Enter, ex-British SAS covert operative, who has been held in a USA jail without trial for 30 years – our dear friend Mr Connery.

Though, today’s news is somewhat interesting, considering there seems to be proof that 2 people did indeed successfully escape and were living in Brazil in 1975.

We then have rookie and ex-disgruntled operative going in with a seal team to liberate the island.  Of course, the seal team gets eliminated after a skirmish leaving our two heroes to save the day.

The movie is completely riddled with plot holes but don’t let that get in the way of the corny setups and subsequent dialogue (keep an eye out for the Elton John reference that you should be able to write precisely what is about to be said).

Enjoyable romp, from a stellar top shelf class (Cage not withstanding). 


Viewing Date
Tuesday, 13th October 2015


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Pixels (2015)

This movie has all the ingredients to make this a complete and utter waste of time and money.  

Adam Sandler staring should be everything you need to know.  But it gets better, an alien race, takes on the form of the arcade games from the early 1980′s to invade the planet using pixelated boxes of energy.   Oh, and did I mention we have 

Kevin James as the POTUS?   Watch the trailer and you will see for yourself the absurdity.  A complete waste of time yes?

Well, hang fire there for a minute, as much as I am in complete disbelief that I am even typing this, but a stinker, it is not.  In fact, I would even go as far to saying it was mildly enjoyable, even, dare I say, funny.  I know I know, what is going on, an Adam Sandler movie worth seeing?

You see the trailer does this movie absolutely no favours whatsoever.  Yes the story is absurd but in the context of the world it inhabits, it very nearly works.

The movie is filled to the brim with 1980′s references, and for anyone that grew up in this block world of computer games (holds hand up) then you will get very nostalgic for a simpler time.  They actually work in the fact the computer games of those days were predictable if you could spot the pattern into the story line very well.

There is some beautiful moments, where Tetris is used to destroy skyscrapers and a PaperBoy cycling around throwing out deadly energized papers.  The special effects are done very well, and even Sandler has some funny lines.  He is looking old and worn mind you, so you wonder just how many more years he can play this single-man act for.

There are some big name cameos in this one, including the father of Pac Man himself, Toru Iwatani as an arcade repair man.  We also have 

Serena Williams   making an appearance as the fantasy threesome that 

Peter Dinklage wants for helping save the world.   Though I will note, that when Dinklage is giving his list of demands (never pay tax again, night in the Lincoln room) from the President, he pretty much rattles off everything they did in 

Armageddon.  Can’t decide if it is a rip-off or a homage.

Is this a movie you should rush out and actually spend money on?  No.  But if you find it popping up on Netflix, or even as an in-flight movie choice, then you could spend a worse 100 or so minutes.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 10th October 2015


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