Last night I visited the cinema to watch two perfect movies; Nerve and The Shallows.  When I say perfect, you may think they were instant classic movies that will contend all the awards and will rank amongst the greatest ever made.  Sadly this is not true, they are flawed movies that are average at best.  However, they are exactly what they are supposed to be,  they are disposable fun B movies.Nerve and The Shallows

The B movie started life in the early days of cinema using sets and stages from major pictures to make cheep films in an effort to maximise studios return on investment.  They were also a useful way of breaking new contract players into movie making.  The major studios were full of potential leading men and ladies, ingénue’s straight of the bus, a small number of whom would become stars.

Many of the B pictures became series, or followed a formula that would make you think they were a series.  Away from the eight major studios, the so called Poverty Row studios made nothing but B movies.  In the last days of the silent era and the early days of the talkies into the Golden Age of Hollywood, the B movie evolved into second features.  Throughout the 30’s and 40’s B movies were often genre pictures and usually clocked in at between 60 and 70 minutes for the poverty row studios and up to 90 minutes for the majors. As antitrust rules killed off second features, B movies evolved.  They continued to focus of genres; monsters, gangsters and cowboys were joined by the post war explosion in Sci-Fi.  The 60’s saw the birth of Exploitation movies.  Many of the directors credited as visionaries of American New Wave got their break in 60’s exploitation and B movies.

So back to last night’s double feature: Nerve is a teen (although most actors haven’t been teens this decade) satire on social media dressed up as an adventure thriller.  The plot isn’t as good as the concept and loses its way as it develops but is helped by engaging performances from Emma Roberts and Dave Franco.Nerve

The Shallows is an effective horror thriller about a young surfer who is stranded on rocks 200 yards from shore by a killer shark.  The surf scenes are well shot and Blake Lively manages to hold the viewers interest in a largely solo performance.  The plot is full of clichés and goofs but does feature a main character who doesn’t make the stupid decisions you usually associate with the genre.the shallows

So what is so good about the movies? They are 106 and 96 minutes long respectively.  If Scorsese or Nolan want to make a three hour masterpiece, great, they have proved they can do it, but do popcorn B pictures need to be two plus hours long? Simply NO!  Many two hour movies could be dramatically improved by being trimmed down to sub 100 minutes.  A perfect example of this:King Kong

If you watch the original, and still the best version of King Kong (1933) staring Fay Wray and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both uncredited) and run it alongside Peter Jackson’s 2005 version, you may be surprised at what happens.  The older film runs for around 96 minutes, and is ending at about the same time as Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody arrive at Skull Island.  In fact, you could watch the old film twice in the time it takes to watch the new one once.  Did beauty kill the beast, or was it boredom?

I have been to see six movies in July, twice as many as June, half as many as May.  I have not been distracted from the cinema, there just hasn’t been much to see.  The contenders for movie of the month are:

Now You See Me 2: Now you see me came out of nowhere.  I saw it as a secret screening not knowing anything about it before going in.  It was fun thanks to a sharp script and a charismatic ensemble.  Now You See Me 2 is an unnecessary sequel that falls into every sequel trap trying to bigger and better, it is bloated and confused with is story that is overly contrived and unbelievable even within the films fictional setting.Now You See Me 2

The Neon Demon: Nicolas Winding Refn films always divide opinion, this one more than any other.  Existing in an almost dream like trance for most of its running time, it never feels real.  As a viewer you never feel like a voyeur looking in on the characters lives, it always feels one step removed, like a dream, or a nightmare.  The film oozes with influences of other directors, possibly: Lynch, Jordon, Mann, Schrader and Carpenter.  More a work of art than a movie, I can see why many people hate it, I loved it.The Neon Demon

Ghostbusters: There has been so much said about this film, mostly before it came out, that it has become nearly impossible to criticise it without being accused of misogyny.  In truth, the Ghostbusters being played by woman is irrelevant as they are largely good in their roles.  The problem is with the script, it just isn’t funny enough.  All the best moments involve nods to the original film (including cameos) or improvisation that stands out from the.  An okay but disappointing film that people who didn’t grow up with the original will probably enjoy more than those who did.  Worth seeing for Kate McKinnon who has dived opinion but stole the whole movie for me.ghostbusters

The Legend of Tarzan: Not well reviewed by critics but people I have spoken to who have seen it seem to have enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it, more than Ghostbusters.  Shot largely on green-screen, the setting looks stunning, but the animals aren’t as effective as in The Jungle Book.   Alexander Skarsgård makes a good hero but is totally overshadowed by the brilliant Margot Robbie.  Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson play Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, this is never a bad thing, no one eats or has a pleasant conversation with menace like Waltz!  It doesn’t offer anything new to the well told story but is a fun way to spend a couple of hours, and that is significant, it resists the temptation to outstay its welcome with a two hour plus runtime.The Legend of Tarzan

Star Trek Beyond:  Star Trek Into Darkness was a solid film that everyone seemed to like when it came out but rapidly fell out of love with it.  The main problem was twofold, a lack of fun and interaction between the main characters.  Like the best of the original films The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, Beyond brings back the fun and the banter.  The final act is a little Marvel in its execution but it does earn it with what goes before.Star Trek Beyond

Jason Bourne: Nine years after the trilogy seemed to be wrapped up nicely Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon decided it was time to bring him back. As with the earlier films the story is topical and reflects the time.  As you would expect from Greengrass the action and fight scenes are fantastically staged.  The only criticism, it doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen in the earlier films.    Jason Bourne

Movie of the month is:neon-demon poster

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”fight club

When people learn about my love of movies they always ask the inevitable question “what’s your favourite film?”. The truth, I love films too much to narrow it down to one or even a few, but that isn’t good enough.  People want to know what I love in order to agree and justify their own favourites, or disagree the way we all ridicule sporting pundits on TV.  So what do I do?  I give people two or three of my favourites; usually a few classics like Some Like it Hot and Casablanca coupled with something more recent, Fight Club.  More recently I have added Oldboy and Pans Labyrinth to the rotation but the film I want to talk about is Fight Club.

As a motion picture it remains a masterpiece, but it has become something else.  Where it could have become dated and irrelevant, but it has become something different, it has a marker point in history.  It isn’t a social realist statement, it isn’t a historical document, it is more a satirical look at the lost and disillusioned feeling as the century drew to a close.  The hope and dreams of the mid 90’s Britpop era was losing its lustre.  It wasn’t like the Watergate, Altamont, Manson Family end to the 60’s.  It was a time when the bubble of superficiality was about to burst.  A time without direction or meaning.tyler durden

But then things changed.  Tyler Durden tells us that “we are the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place” he bemoans the lack of a great war or great depression.  But two years later the event that defined our generation happened, the terrorist attacks and the wars that followed will forever overshadow the our generation.  But the question lingers, has the unthinkable become so commonplace that it is the new norm? The once highly anticipated and Chilcot Inquiry seems to have been forgotten or at least overshadowed in the mess of Brexit and the leadership struggles within our main political parties.  But then Fight Club wasn’t foreseeing the terrorist atrocities or the wars that will follow, it wasn’t even a call to arms to the disillusioned, it was just a mirror on society telling us that there was something wrong and something had to give.  The financial crash/crisis of 2008 was the inevitable outcome of the generation described “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

So what followed? what are the movies that have defined the era that Fight Club? Kathryn Bigelow is responsible for the two most obvious films of the era, The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012).  The best depictions of the financial crisis came from J. C. Chandor, Margin Call (2012) and Adam McKay, The Big Short (2015).  But there is more to it than war and recession.  Alfonso Cuarn asked us to explore what it is to be human in Children of Men (2006), Joel & Ethan Coen did something very similar but in a very different way in No Country for Old Men (2007).  Park Chan-wook taught us about vengeance in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005).  Christopher Nolan explored the despair of the time in The Dark Knight (2008) while Richard Linklater gave us hope in Before Sunset (2004) and Boyhood (2014), Sofia Coppola gave us both despair and hope with Lost in Translation (2003). As a body of work Clint Eastwood, despite a few missteps (Hereafter (2010), J. Edgar (2011), Jersey Boys 2014)) probably offers the best overview of the era with: Letters from Iwo Jima &  Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Mystic River (2003), Changeling (2008), Gran Torino (2008) and American Sniper  (2014).fight club

So where does this leave Fight Club?  If we are not already there, we will soon be at a place where we can enjoy David Fincher’s masterpiece as just a film without the weight or shadow of history to distract or detract.  If you haven’t seen it recently take a look and remind yourself just how great it is.

breakfast at tiffany's

1960:  Swedish actress Anita Ekberg plays the glamorous Sylvia in the fountain scene from 'La Dolce Vita', directed by Federico Fellini.  (Photo via John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

1 million years bc



After a busy May, I only saw three movies in June for a number of reasons: A holiday (that also included me performing best man duties at a wedding), European football championships, lots of Films I couldn’t be bothered to see and few Films I would have liked to have seen that were not being shown at my local cinema.  The three I did see are:

Race: The story of legendry athlete Jesse Owens culminating in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Beautifully shot and well directed but limited by an unimagantive anf by the numbers script and structure.   Stephan James is excellent as Owens.  An interesting side point, Leni Riefenstahl (played by Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones) appears as a character in the story, she is more sympathetically treated than in other films and documentaries about the era.Race

The conjuring 2: Worthy sequel that is only really let down by its lack of originality.  There are tense moments a scares aplenty, but it does nothing we didn’t see in the first film.  Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmigaare excellent, Franka Potente is wasted in a small part.The conjuring 2

Independence Day: Resurgence:  Surprisingly enjoyable sequel hits all the same notes as the original.  Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are as great as you would expect.  Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monroe are the standouts of the new cast.  Enough fun most of the time to forget the absence of Will Smith.Independence Day Resurgence

Not much to choose between them, all three had good and bad points, the movie of the month is:The conjuring 2 poster

I share Paul’s disappointment at England not winning the game and with it the group. Paul seems relatively happy that he will be heading back to the south of France. It works out for me too, I will performing best man duties at a wedding, so am pleased to be playing Monday. Every cloud!


The day of the game and England can decide where they finish in this group and travel to for the knock out phase. Win and it’s a Saturday afternoon game in Paris. The best option for all concerned. Of course though this is England and we don’t do things the easy way. A chilled out morning getting ready, dinner in the apartment and a tootle on the bus into town to meet some of the other England boys. Enough time to grab a few beers before heading via a short tram ride to the stadium a few KM north of the city centre.

The centre of town was now buzzing pretty much taken over by the English spilling out into the streets all singing and in good spirits. I’m guessing most have been on it all day. The tram was rammed and was turned into a rocking singing carriage the…

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The day before the game. It’s Sunday and what to do. Figure out the transport system and thankfully that was simple enough. Saint-Étienne seems to be the most forward and planned city to host the Euros so far. They have really got into the spirit with bunting and signs everywhere. They have produced maps and guide books and have a transport app that you can download that allows you to buy tickets at a special euro2016 price on your phone. €3 a day for full travel on the bus and tram network. This city is a winner already.

We ventured out to the west of the city to Firminy home to Site Le Corbusier a famous architect who was given the space of an old mining town and allowed to produce his largest urban complex. And boy did he like concrete. It reminds me of our once beloved central Birmingham…

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