Death at a Funeral (2007)

This is as near perfect as you can get for a quirky British comedy.  It is all the right ingredients, a very believable setup, ordinary characters in an extraordinary situation, wit, and sarcasm.

Dean Craig who wrote this wonderful little hit, proves if he sets his mind to it he can produce comedic gold.  However when he lets slip, what we end up, is something completely at the other end of the scale, with A Few Best Men.  /shudders/

So the setup here is wonderfully simple. We have a funeral, of a beloved father, at the family home.  It gets kicked off on the wrong foot when the under takers bring the wrong body.   Once that gets resolved, we follow the stories of a number of interwoven characters and their problems.

Alan Tudyk plays the husband-to-be to the daughter, who accidentally takes a cocktail of acid thinking it was Valium to calm his nerves as he prepares to meet his father-in-law to be.   His acting for this role alone should have won him a series of awards.  It is absolutely brilliant.

Then we have

Peter Dinklage popping up, as the secret gay lover of the deceased.  He is attempting to extort a little money or some photos get shown to the widow.   So the males of the family attempt to quell this up rising, with much comedic results. 

This movie never fails to raise a smile and always puts me in a good mood.  This one falls under the watch-at-least-once-a-year bucket.   

Though .. why Martin Lawrence felt he had to remake a year later it with an all-black cast for the American audience I have no idea.  A lot got lost in translation with the remake. 

#98 in the series


Viewing Date
Tuesday, 24th November 2015 (Richmond)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

A Few Good Men (1992)

Aaron Sorkin proves his wordsmith skill with this excellent US Navy court room drama, starting a very height weight cast, including 

Tom Cruise

Demi Moore

Kiefer Sutherland

Kevin Bacon and of course the one and only

Jack Nicholson.

The premise of the movie is whether or not a ‘code red’, an unofficial disciplinary action, was authorized by the highest ranked officer on the base, in this case Nicholson playing

Col. Jessup.   Cruise, Kaffee, is a young recently graduated Naval lawyer, who to date, has never seen a court room, as he manages to plea bargain all his successful cases, ensuring they never see public record.

When a young marine is killed after a code red, Kaffee is given the case to make sure it never sees a court room.  However, Demi Moore has other plans and basically co-hearses Kaffee into doing the job he was trained to do.

Once they start down this path, they soon realize that the only officer that really matters in all of this is the one at the top, the wise ass, strong armed Nicholson.   The second of the movie focuses on this dynamic with the usual court room climax. 

Col. Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to.
Col. Jessep: *You want answers?*
Kaffee: *I want the truth!*
Col. Jessep: *You can’t handle the truth!*

The movie simply works without any fuss.  The dialogue is fast and snappy, with Cruise delivering each one effortlessly.  The supporting characters are equally believable in their roles giving this story a depth that could easily have been lost in the hands of a lesser cast.

There is a lot of wit in this movie, a Sorkin signature move, accompanied by a lot of the techniques he would reuse when coming at the hugely successful West Wing TV series.  The technical details of the law, or the Navy, doesn’t get in the way of the viewer by intimidating them with lots of jargon. 

The movie closes with what is now a classic courtroom spar off, ending in Nicholson going down.  It doesn’t matter how many times you watch this movie, this scene never gets old.  Still gives goosebumps on the run up.

A Few Good Men, should be any serious movie fan’s yearly rotation never failing to satisfy.

#85 in the series 


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 11th November 2015 (Richmond)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

Calvary (2014)

I am such a huge fan of Brendan Gleeson and for that reason I keep an eye on his output.  A lot of his movies don’t make the mainstream press and this one was no different, hopping in and out of the cinema fairly quickly.  Usually the ones that don’t make mass appeal are the one set in Ireland with a very Irish lilt to it.  The Guard for example falls into this bucket as do many others that will pop up in this review series later on.

The setup for the movie is established in the first scene.  Gleeson plays a local preacher who is receiving confession from someone who states he is going to be murdered in a few days to atone for the sins of the church.   Gleeson is a good natured priest who tends to his parish as best as possible while they all deal with their sins.

He isn’t as stressed about this information as you may think, with him maybe taking solace that this may be a higher powers will and he is being tested.  So he travels around his parish, helping his parishioners through their sins while trying to determine which one of them has issued the threat to kill him.

As with The Guard, the humor in this movie is black.  In other words, guilty laughter is willed throughout the story.

Gleeson’s son (Domhnall Gleeson of About Time fame) pops up as one of those he visits.  Must have been strange as well as an honor to act as well as they both did off one another, father and son.

This movie I think is a little better than the The Guard, but it is a close call.  Gleeson plays that worn out, pragmatic priest to perfection and given some great lines that are delivered in that dead pan, mater of fact manner.

Father James Lavelle: I’ve always felt there’s something inherently psychopathic about joining the army in peace time, as far as I’m concerned people join the army to find out what its like to kill someone. I hardly think that’s an inclination that should be encouraged in modern society, do you?

Calvary is a great movie that wouldn’t have worked without the cast chosen.  It is a movie that has a wonderful repeat-ability with you gaining a little more from each viewing.  Take it for a spin, and if you all in love with it, then check out the The Guard.

#76 in the series


Viewing Date
Monday, 2nd November 2015 (Richmond)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

Michael Jackson: One (2013)

Okay, while strictly not a movie, this was a show that was taken in while visiting that oasis in the desert they call Las Vegas.   This was my first ever Cirque Du Soleil show and I wasn’t disappointed.   I am a Michael Jackson fan and with such an iconic catalog of music, the very least was I going to be entertained.   I had no idea what I was in for, and even as we took our seats (with embedded speakers), there was no clue as to the audio-visual experience that was about to hit us.

There is a small story that is weaved through the MJ set pieces.  The story isn’t that important because the spectable of acts that come through is simply breathtaking and edge of your seat.  Performers drop out of literally every where, walking down walls, flying from the roof, coming from within the audience and of course the stage.

The human body is a hugely flexible and strong vehicle.  I was constantly amazed at some of the moves these performers were doing.   There are some real ingenius moves and you are left wondering, both wow that it is being executed and secondly, who on earth came up with that idea in the first place.

There is a couple of real stand out set pieces.  One is when the dancers have lights detailing the edges of their body, and with the stage completely blacked out, they dance an iconic MJ sequence and with the lights strobing the effect is fantastic.    Then we have the wonderful trampolines.   They have one half way up in the air, and then there is a performer that is literally bouncing between the two like a rubber ball.

Finally we have the infamous hologram of Michael Jackson himself, dancing and interacting with the dancers.  It is spookily eerily to see him on stage like that and at a distance looks extremely realistic.

There is a video preview on YouTube (see link at the bottom) that gives you a feel for the show but doesn’t sell the sheer energy and cleverness of this 90 minute journey.

Money well spent and wouldn’t hesitate to see another Cirque Du Soleil show. 


Viewing Date
Friday, 30th October 2015 (Las Vegas, Mandalay Casino)


Show Details Preview Video

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

The date is 21st October 2015 and of course it is Back to the Future day.  The day Doc and Marty travel forward to fix his children who have managed to screw things up that a little help from our time traveling duo.   So it is very fitting that we watch this movie on this very iconic day, following on from my earlier Back to the Future outing.

So this is what we thought the future was going to be 30 years ago.  Flying cars, hover boards, power laces and rapid justice.  We can lament on how off the film makers got it in some respects, but they got it spot on in many other respects.  What is such a joy with these movies is the attention to the detail in all respects.   Keep an eye on the background and the small things the writers have put in.

While not as iconic as the first, there are so many quotable lines and beautiful scenes.  Doc and Marty travel to the future, but of course they have to go back to 1955 as they have screwed up the time line and need to recorrect.  This gives us a peek back into the first movie but seen from a completely different perspective.   It plays in the background while Marty of the second movie, interacts and ensures the Marty of the first movie completes his mission without deviation.


Jeffrey Weissman takes over the role of George McFly as 

Crispin Glover was a difficult chap to deal with both on and off set.  He demanded equal salary as Michael J Fox for example to sign on for this movie.  The movie producers naturally didn’t agree, and instead, cast a different much cheaper actor, but took the unusual step, or having Jeffery put on a Crispin face mask to make him look like the original George McFly.   Crispin wasn’t too pleased and took the studio to court.

Doc can only be played by Christopher Lloyd and is such a joy to watch on screen.  The man has captured the mad scientist just perfectly.  I love the scene near the end, when the Doc of the first movie rejoices after sending Marty from the first, back to the future after sliding down from the clock tower.  He dances in the street and when Marty from the second movie comes running in and asks him for help to do it again, the way Lloyd plays that surprise/shock/horror and wrap it up in humor is genius.

This movie was made along side the third one and to that end, they have this wonderful opportunity to give you more than just say “To be concluded” but a full trailer to the last installment.  How torturous is that?  Takes you on edge of your seat ride and then asks you to wait a year to conclude!  Rotters.  But at the time it was a revolutionary film production technique.

Think on this.  We live in a world where our time line has caught up with the Back to the Future universe and we are now further ahead in the future than we have seen Doc and Marty travel.  I don’t know about you, but that makes me a little sad, and a little excited all at the same time.

Great movie, not the best of the trilogy, that honor will always be the first one but a wonderful setup and stands on it own very well.  Hands off beautifully to the last one, which I will watch later on in this marathon series.


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 21st October 2015 (Back To The Future Day)


IMDB YouTubeTrailer

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

How does one do justice in describing this masterpiece?  We have a multi-generational retelling of how a rather grand, gooky, hotel came into the possession of someone that started off his career as a lobby boy.

Ralph Fiennes steals the show as Mr Gustav the concierge that maintains the quality and prestige of the Budapest Hotel.  In addition to this, he takes care of his lady clients with a special attention to detail, giving them the full service and companionship they so crave. 

It is due to this special service that our story originates.  One such lady, who is in love with our Gustav, dies (or was she murdered?) and leaves him her estate, much to the chagrin of her family.  The story is then set for the romp and surreal antics that we are about to witness.

M. Gustave: She was dynamite in the sack, by the way.
Zero: …She was 84, Monsieur Gustave.
M. Gustave: Mmm, I’ve had older. When you’re young, it’s all filet steak, but as the years go by, you have to move on to the cheap cuts. Which is fine with me, because I like those. More flavorful, or so they say

The dialogue is brilliant with many a witty rant that reminds me of when Fiennes played his hard man from In Bruges.  In addition to the great screenplay, the background has a lot going on.  Keep an eye out for many a cameo and there is a great KeyStoneCop moment from Harvey Keitel.

The cinematography is beautiful, very bright and distinct colours and some wonderful sets as we get a very picture book view of their world.

This movie needs to be viewed multiple times to get a fully appreciation of all its parts.  Each viewing delivers something new.  Well worth the investment. 


Viewing Date
Sunday, 11th October 2015


IMDB YouTubeTrailer