Archive for June, 2010

Movie Star of the Month is now in its second month. I am still deciding on the format, here goes for now:

The Contenders who didn’t win are: Casey Affleck for proving he is one of the best young actors around in “The Killer Inside Me”.  Richard Gere for showing us why he became a movie star with a vintage performance in “Brooklyn’s Finest”.  Vanessa Redgrave for showing the kids how its done in “Letters to Juliet”.  The winner is:

For the standout performance from a talented ensemble cast in

Ophelia Lovibond


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Continuing my Batman speculation. What should Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie be called? Here are a few suggestions, some mine, others have been doing the rounds on the interweb for the past year or two.

  • Batman
  • The Batman
  • The Dark Knight Returns
  • The Dark Knight Part II
  • Return of The Dark Knight
  • Gotham City (my personal favourite)
  • Gotham Knight
  • Battle For Gotham
  • Gotham Dawn
  • The Shadow of the Bat
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantom
  • Batman 3
  • Batman 3D (please, no don’t do it!)
  • Batman: Endgame

Any other suggestions?

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Letters to Juliet

My normal film viewing has been interrupted by the world cup. When I did have a couple of hours to kill I found there actually wasn’t much to see so ended up going to see a movie I would probably normally have passed over.

Magazine fact checker and would be journalist Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her finance Victor (Gael García Bernal) take a pre wedding romantic holiday to Verona. Knowing they wouldn’t have time when Victor’s new Italian restaurant opens the holiday is in lieu of a honeymoon. Once in the beautiful and romantic city Victor takes time out from his fiancé to visit suppliers for his business, Sophie fills the time by becoming involved with a group of woman referring to themselves as “Juliet’s secretaries” who respond to letters written to Juliet Capulet.* She accidentally discovers a letter that has remained unseen for fifty years and decides to respond setting a chain of events in motion including helping Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) find the man she stood-up half a century before. The events also make Sophie question her own relationship.

Before I go on I have to point out that anyone who has read a couple or more of my reviews will know “contrived” is one of my most overused words when referring to plots. The elements that have to fall into place in this movie are so random that contrived doesn’t even begin to describe it, as such you must accept this in the same way as you suspend disbelief in a Sci-Fi movies.

In movie-land taking a pre-wedding holiday in lieu of a honeymoon is as sure to doom a relationship as having an affair with the best man so I don’t think I’m giving much away here. The cracks are evident as soon as you see Victor and Sophie together making you wonder how they got this far.

Gael García Bernal plays Victor to perfection, over acting at every opportunity. The self centred chef/restaurateur is very reminiscent of Giovanni Ribisi’s character in Lost in Translation. Amanda Seyfried does a great job and keeps the story ticking along nicely in a part she could have done in her sleep. But they are far from the best thing about the movie, that would be Vanessa Redgrave who brings a certain grandeur and gravitas to this movie they way she did with Atonement. To add to the perfection of the casting, her long lost love is played by Franco Nero who she had a relationship (and a child) with in the 60’s, separated then got back together and eventually married (in 2006). The near genius casting doesn’t extend to the character of her grandson Charlie, it is actually the biggest problem with the movie; Hollywood movies and American TV are full of British actors playing American characters or European villains. Now a British character comes along and is played by an Australian actor, Christopher Egan who both struggles with his accent and is a very week actor. To add to this he has absolutely no chemistry with Seyfried. How can you fail to have chemistry with Amanda Seyfried, just look into those big green eyes!

Also on positive point of view we are spared the poorly cast flashbacks often present in this type of movie, the stunning scenery of Verona and the surrounding countryside is very well captured. The negative, it is disposable and overly fluffy, the plot is hugely predictable and for every moment of great dialogue (there are one or two) there are several moments of pure cheese. Overall it is an inoffensive disposable movie but not one I will rush to see again.

Three Stars out of Five (but it would have been two without Vanessa Redgrave)


*a little research tells me there really is a group called Club di Giulietta (Juliet Club) who for the past 30 years have responded to letters written to Juliet.

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A few of you will have read how my blog got its name, those who haven’t click here to find out. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the (criminally limited) release of the movie Fandango. A few of the people I met on my trip to Texas two years ago, and a few who couldn’t make it then are going back to do it all again in just three weeks time. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it myself but it seemed like a good time to share some images from the movie along with my own photographs from 2008.

Kevin Costner overlooking the Rio Grande in the movie. Me on the same perch 25 years later.


A publicity shot and at the Chata Ortegas location and how it looks these days.

The Groovers ’59 Cadillac and my (rented) ’08 Cadillac, they didn’t have one in blue!

Pecos Parachute School” aka Rattlesnake Air Force Base in Pyote. As seen in the movie and the remains as they were in 2008. It isn’t currently possible to get onto the base so I don’t know if this year’s groovers will make it there.  I recently found out via Jeff who is organising this year’s trip that due to safety concerns what remains of the hanger will be demolished.


The Groovers after they have “dug up dom”.  And some of the people who made the “pilgrimage” second from the left is Chuck Bush who played Dorman in the movie, second from the right is me. (Thanks to Jesper (the guy in the middle with the bottle of champagne) for helping me find the old photos used here today.

The Gas station from the movie and how is now.

The town square in San Elizario in the movie and how it is now. That’s Chuck again standing where he did for the wedding scene in the movie. The movie makes the town look like a small town in the wilds of West Texas (like many of the other sets) but is actually part of El Paso County near El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Highway) that ran from Mexico City to Santa Fe.

San Elizario Chapel or “La Capilla de San Elcear”. I couldn’t find a decent image of it from the movie but thought I would share my own photography anyway. If you watch the end of the movie the scene where Phil Hicks (Judd Nelson)and Dorman (Chuck Bush) say there farewells it is shot in front of the chapel.

We didn’t recreate this stunt but we did drink some Shiner beer.


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The third and probably final Christopher Nolan Batman Movie looks like it will be going into production soon with a summer 2012 release. Speculation has been rife ever since the success of the second movie in the series The Dark Night became the second highest grossing movie of all time (it has since been overtaken by the giant Smurf movie). During that time Nolan has refused to be drawn on plot, characters and casting, this has only served to fuel the fires of speculation with rumors presented as fact. My personal favorites that Cher has been cast as Catwoman, I have no inside knowledge on the iner workings of Christopher Nolen’s brain or the Warner boardroom, but I think I can spot that one as made up! Probably fanned by studio statements saying there isn’t even a script yet there have also been rumors that their wouldn’t be a third movie or that Nolan would not direct it. You don’t need an economics degree (fortunately as I don’t have one) to work out that the studio are going to turn down this license to print money.

As I said I know nothing about the new movie other than the odd press release that I have read so I won’t speculate on the plot and the casting. This doesn’t stop me from making suggestions of what I would do in the director or studios place given the opportunity. The sad death of Heath Ledger leaves a hole in the plot for the third movie. The good thing is that my understanding is that there was not a plot in place previously so it isn’t as if they will be rehashing an existing idea to work around the issue. I see three options:

  1. Forget the Joker, he is locked away in the depths of Arhham, move on.
  2. Replace Ledger with a different actor.
  3.  The middle ground, make a film about how the city recovers from the events of The Dark Knight where the Joker is mentioned but not seen.

I favor the third option making the whole movie about moving on, recovery and rebirth, this would be relevant for the world at the moment and the way The Dark Knight finished. It would also represent a real story arc for Bruce Wayne and the City staring with the death of his parents at the start of Begins and ending with ???

My story would be something like this: The police face a war on the streets of Gotham as Mobsters move in from other cities to take over the vacuum left at the end of the last film. At the same time street gangs are trying to take over but are at war with each other and disillusioned with the police and Batman virility groups start appearing too. The place is a mess, with other violent crime, street crime and looting driving businesses out of the city. It is like the aftermath of a war or serious natural disaster. There is even a gang who worship the joker and emulate him by painting their faces the way he did, kidnapping people and taking hostages making demands such as the Jokers release.

As all this is going on, in the background news reports describing how tests are underway to discover the true identity of the Joker and decide if he is fit to stand trial. This would include interviews with his doctor, Dr. Harleen Quinzel (she may go through a transformation following her involvement with the Joker), and his lawyer who claims the joker is innocent and was framed by Batman. Eventually we reach a point where public support tips and the people of Gotham want Batman’s help before it’s too late.

This is a rough outline rather than a coherent plot that is something for the director and writers to decided and the first decision they have to make is how will it end? Without knowing where he is going he isn’t going to be able to write a coherent story of how he gets there. If we are to believe that it is the last of the Christopher Nolan Batman Movies and that he wants an “appropriate conclusion” and not a stepping stone to further movies.

  • Bruce Wayne dies.
  • Bruce Wayne is arrested and convicted.
  • Bruce Wayne stops being Batman as his job is done.
  • Bruce Wayne gives up being Batman as he doesn’t think he can make a difference any more.
  • Bruce Wayne hands the Batman persona to someone else to continue his work.
  • Batman continues to fight crime because the world is imperfect and Gotham still needs him.

Although the last of these options would normally be the most likely one I have a sneeking suspicion that Christopher Nolan will tie up the trilogy in such a way to prevent someone else from following it. The next Batman movie after this one will have to be a reboot, and we won’t have to suffer a Joel Schumacher like catastrophe the way we did in the 90’s. For all this to work we need a main antagonist to be pulling the strings and have the classic good vs evil toe to toe fight at the end. Predictable and formulaic I know but it has to be done. So who is that villain? The first thing I would say is that I expect the movie to be plot driven and the villian will be made to fit the plot rather than picking a villain then trying to devise a plot for him. Having said that, especially if this is going to be Nolan’s last movie in the Batman universe it needs a memorable villain. My options are:

  • The Riddler: Edward Nigma: Criminal mastermind and all round loon, he likes to riddles and puzzles at scenes as clues. A regular in the 60’s TV show and played by Jim Carrey in Batman Forever (1995), a film so bad the only good thing I can say about it is that it was better than Batman Forever. The latest gossip/rumours have Joseph Gordon Levitt playing him in the new movie.
  • Black Mask: Roman Sionis: A former business executive/cult leader/mob boss and general criminal who hates Bruce Wayne. See more about him here. He has appeared on Tv in the aminated series but never in a real life version.
  • The Penguin: Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot: Usually dressed in top hat and tails and carrying an umbrella he fancies himself a gentleman of crime. He was played by Danny DeVito in Batman Returns (2002). Christopher Nolan is said to have dismissed him as too unrealistic for his universe. As portrayed previously he would be but I think there is some room to manoeuvre here. He could simply be a tuxedo wearing nightclub owner with mob connections and a fast growing crime empire.
  • The Mad Hatter: Jervis Tetch: A scientist with an obsession with Lewis Carroll, his appearance is based on the character of the same name from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. An old-school villain from the 40’s and 50’s he appeared in the 60’s TV show and the animated series but has not been used in the Burton or Nolan Batman universes.

As part of the rebirth process Bruce Wayne needs a new love interest, it has to be someone who is in some way dangerous or inappropriate, the ideal choices would be Harleen Quinzel, Talia al Ghul or for me the only real choice would be Selina Kyle. As this is potentially a last movie and there isn’t time to play with characters there is no point in introducing Harleen Quinzel if she isn’t going to become Harley Quinn and there is no point in introducing Selina Kyle if she isn’t going to become Catwoman!

Given the first two movies whatever he decides to do with it I’m in. He certainly hasn’t let us down so far! And where does Batman go from here? This would still be my first choice.

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Japanese director Ryûhei Kitamura made his feature début ten years ago with Versus. He has always had a taste for the bizarre and a flair for style. As he has slowly moved towards the mainstream and western cinema I hope that is something that doesn’t change.

Ryûhei Kitamura’s first feature, Versus (2000):A quite bizarre film that combines the Zombie and Gangster genres with a few sword fights thrown in for good measure. The Forest of Resurrection is the “444th portal to the other side” one of 666! An escaped convict, a woman and a group of gangsters all find their way there. As people are killed and buried they come back to life as zombie type creatures accompanied by the evil spirit that resurrected them. Although clearly low budget the film is full of imaginarily executed action sequences and some fantastic fight scenes. A sequel has long been rumoured as the film has little narrative closure. There has been no sequel yet but in 2004 The Ultimate Versus was a 3 disc DVD that can be described as the ultimate directors cut. The film features completely new footage shot with the original cast and crew. There has also been talk of an American based sequel/remake that would be set at the same time as the original film but using one of the other portals. All I can say is don’t do it, they will never be able to recreate the raw simple bizarre original.

Having finished his work early as one of nine directors on a short film Project called Jam Films Ryûhei Kitamura and another director Yukihiko Tsutsumi were given the opportunity by produced Shinya Kawai. The two directors proposed to make a film in one week featuring two actors battling in one setting. The two films had the collective name of Duel Project; Ryûhei Kitamura’s film was called Aragami (2003). A simple story of a god and a samurai fighting in series of battles in an isolated temple. He did break the rules a little bringing in a few other actors to play smaller parts to help the narrative. An interesting film project that is well worth a look.

His next film was possibly his best to date, Azumi (2003) is the story of an orphaned girl who is raised along with nine other children by a master Samurai. After years of training they have to face one final test before going on their first mission. The test is nothing short of brutal. Their mission is to kill three warlords preventing a civil war that will be devastating for the country. The main reason the film works is the lead character Azumi (played by the impossibly cute Aya Ueto) as proved by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill and Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, you can’t go far wrong when you give a beautiful woman a sword and drop her into the middle of the male dominated action genre.

Sky High (2003)returns the director to a more supernatural setting after the almost real world of Azumi. It is based on a Manga comic of the same name and ties in to a TV series of the same name. A serial killer is killing people and taking their hearts. Detective Kanzaki who is on the case believes along with the rest of the police that the killings are random. However it is revealed that the victims are guardians of the gateway to the afterlife. The next victim is Mina, Kanzaki’s fiancée on the day they are due to be married. The killers Kudo and Rei are actual after six hearts they need to summon demons from the Gate of Rage who will grant their every desire. The unfortunate side effect is that doing this will open the gate of rage sending the world into darkness. In the afterlife Mina meats the guardian of the gate and is presented with three options and twelve days to make an impossible decision.

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004): (original title: Gojira Fainaru uôzu) Unlike the other movies on the list I actually haven’t seen this one but as a fan of Gojira movies I had to include it. In the 50th Anniversary Godzilla’s movie Gojira (Godzilla) travels around the globe to fight his foes old and new.

Based on a short story by Clive Barker The Midnight Meat Train (2008) is Ryuhei Kitamura’s first English language film. Looking for inspiration for his art photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper – pre The Hangover so he was still best known as a TV actor at the time) descends into the subway at night. He saves a young girl from a group of attackers only to find out the next day that she has disappeared. With the police unwilling to help he starts to investigate himself. In a Blow Up style scene he studies his photographs and discovers a mysterious man, Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), a butcher by trade is killing people on the late night train, but how long has he been doing it for and why? In an interesting plot device we get to see a little more of what Mahogany is doing after each killing until finally through Leon we get to see his clinical process. The visual style is great with use of slow motion and time lapse as well as excellent use of light. Although bloody, gory and violent it is actually quite tame in comparison to the directors Japanese films. In the final half hour the film begins to play with the audiences perception of what is going on before the final reveal. Someone had clearly seen Vinnie Jones in Gone In Sixty Seconds and realised it would be best to keep his lines to an absolute minimum, I think they succeeded!

His next movie Black Friday 3D is rumoured to be in production. Hearsay and conjecture suggest it will be a slasher and or serial killer movie and it is set to star Lindsay Lohan. Little is known about the movie, the plot description on IMDB says: “A couple is viciously assaulted while vacationing over the Fourth of July weekend; authorities find Diane in the throws of death and evacuate her to the hospital. The local authorities proceed with an in depth search that holds no evidence of the attacker. Diane’s older brother Kevin enlists the help of four college friends to seek out the elusive masked murderer. As their search progresses the youths come across a remote lodge that holds pure hellish terror and the friends soon find themselves face to face with the infamous serial killer Tyler Hillburg!”

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Brooklyn’s Finest

Antoine Fuqua has produced movies of varying quality over the past dozen years, the highlight being Training Day (2001). His new movie Brooklyn’s Finest is a reunion with both the subject matter and one of his stars Ethan Hawke. Three New York cops are working through there personal and professional issues:

Eddie (Richard Gere) only has seven days left on the job, he probably has a drinking problem and he has clearly been going through the motions for a long time, maybe for his entire career. He just wants to get the week out of the way so he can move on with his life but the powers that be have other ideas forcing him baby-sit the departments newbie’s.

Tango (Don Cheadle) has been undercover for so long the edges are beginning to blur and he isn’t sure which way is up. He is desperate to get out but he has one last job to do. He is forced to assess his values when he has to set up a person who saved his life.

Sal (Ethan Hawke) is filled with catholic guilt, he also has to deal with his sick and pregnant wife and money problems. It isn’t a question of weather or not he will cross the line, it is how many lines is he is prepared to cross.

The three stories are all compelling and could have made a movie in their own right. As it is, the movie’s structure feels fragmented and sometimes distracting. The thing that saves the movie from descending into mediocrity is great performances from the three leads Hawke, Cheadle and particularly Gere. Richard Gere is somewhat limited in his acting ability but given the right script and character he can be brilliant, this is one of those occasions. The weakest story is the one surrounding Ethan Hawke’s character but his performance and support from Lili Taylor in a small part as his wife and Brian F. O’Byrne as a colleague.  There is also a small but significant part for Wesley Snipes in what is unfortunately these days a rare glimpse of the onetime star in a theatrically released movie

The film starts slowly and sometimes struggles to keep itself on track. The film also lacks any decent female characters giving it a something of a dated feel at times. As it gains momentum it also begins to hold the viewers interest before working itself to a tense and satisfying conclusion. My one underlying feeling is that I have seen the Ethan Hawk and Don Cheadle stories before but Richard Gere’s journeyman cop could have made a great movie on its own.

Three Stars out of Five

Parts of the movie deserve four but as a whole three is fair!

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Did Their Love Last?

Before Sunrise (1995) saw Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) going their separate ways with plans to meet again in six months, but did they? Nine years later we found out what happened in Before Sunset (2004) but what would happen if the couples from 80’s movie had a sequel ten or more years later, would they still be together?

Blade Runner (1982): Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) falls in love with Rachael (Sean Young), one problem, she is a replicant, a biologically engineered humanoid with a predetermined lifespan, but how long is that lifespan, to add to this Deckard himself may be a replicant, how long will their lives last, how long will their love last, can they love?

Commando (1985): There is nothing like kidnapping for the basis of a lasting relationship, that what first brings John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong) together. The movie ends with them flying off into the sunset but what happened next?

Fandango (1985): At the end of Fandango Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) marries Debbie aka “The Girl” (Suzy Amis) his best friend’s ex. That has to be a bad start!

The Breakfast Club (1985): They say opposites attract but John Bender (Judd Nelson) and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) really were a mismatched couple, but would they last?

Back to the Future (1985): Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells & Elisabeth Shue in the sequels) have seen their future but will that help or hinder their relationship?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986): Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) has all the angles covered including the perfect girlfriend Sloane Peterson ( Mia Sara) but have they peaked too soon?

Top Gun (1986): The end of Top Gun saw Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) back at Top Gun where Charlie (Kelly McGillis) tracked him down to a bar containing a Righteous Brothers friendly jukebox. Did it last or did the homoerotic undercurrent break through and Maverick give in to his true feelings for Iceman (Val Kilmer)

The Lost Boys (1987): Michael (Jason Patric) chases Star (Jami Gertz) only to discover she is a vampire but it all works out in the end when he saves her from the vampires and restores her humanity, will her gratitude help or hinder their future relationship?

Near Dark (1987): A little like in Michael & Star in The Lost Boys Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is so taken with vampire Mae (Jenny Wright) he risks everything to save her life and restore her humanity. What happened next?

Say Anything (1989): Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) got his dream girl Diane Court (Ione Skye), the last time we saw them they were flying off to England but where did they go from there?

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I was listening to Ross McD talk about the new Michael Winterbottom movie The Killer Inside Me. I was surprised to hear that it was the first Winterbottom movie Ross had seen, I was even more surprised when I looked him up and realised how prolific a director he is and how many of his movies I have seen including a couple I had forgotten were his movies. Michael Winterbottom movies have a certain style and tend to be inexplicably beautiful with a dream like quality, they also tend to feature Great acting and music, but most notably they are controversial. So here is the Groovers Guide to Michael Winterbottom:

Cracker (1993) (TV): Robbie Coltrane played the Fritz, a hard drinking, heavy smoking gambling forensic psychologist who was seminal in 90’s British TV. Created by Jimmy McGovern, the first two episodes were directed by Michael Winterbottom.

Butterfly Kiss (1995): A serial killer thriller, a British road movie and a lesbian drama all these things are true of Butterfly Kiss but none of the sum it up. Amanda Plummer at her mesmerising best as a psychopathic woman in search of her former lover.

Jude (1996): Thomas Hardy’s, Jude The Obscure was a grim and bleak piece of literature and actually turned out to be his final novel. The tragic story of a stonemason who is looking for a better life find his plans thwarted by a doomed relationship with his cousin. The movie is as bleak and grim as the novel it is based on but is made watchable by fantastic performances especially from a young Kate Winslet.  Well worth watching but don’t expect it to cheer you up!

Welcome to Sarajevo (1997): For a group of war correspondents Sarajevo is just the next in a long list of conflicts but for Michael Henderson (based on real life ITN journalist Michael Nicholson) things take a new turn when he gets emotionally involved with an orphanage. He smuggles a ten year old girl who he ultimately adopts to the UK. A thoughtful and powerful movie that is superbly acted.

Wonderland (1999):Not to be confused with the bio-pic of porn star John Holmes starring Val Kilmer (2003) with the same name, Wonderland combines elements of Italian neorealist and Cinéma vérité combined with a cleverly constructed story that inter-weaves four plotlines about three sisters. One of the sisters is played by the hugely underrated Gina McKee who is nothing short of sensational. As is so often the case with Michael Winterbottom’s movies it is it has an inexplicable beauty that is enhanced by the Michael Nyman’s score.

The Claim (2000): When I first saw There Will Be Blood I thought of The Claim, it is a stark and cold tale of pioneers and prospectors in 1840s California. A young prospector swaps his wife and baby daughter for a gold claim. Twenty years on he is the wealthy mayor of the town but the town is dying and needs the railway to come through the town to rejuvenate it. The visit of a surveyor from the railroad company coincides with the return to town of the mayor’s wife and now grown up daughter.  A grim, realistic and stripped down view of the old west as well as for a fantastic performance from Sarah Polley and a haunting musical score by Michael Nyman.

24 Hour Party People (2002): The Manchester music scene from the mid seventies to the early 90’s told from the point of view of Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan). It’s not the most historically accurate movie but it doesn’t pretend to be and it really catches the vibe of the era of Factory Records, Joy Division/New Order, The Happy Mondays, The Hacienda and the birth of the UK rave scene. It is also often very funny.

Code 46 (2003): Blending film noir with dystopian sci-fi in the near future results in a superior thriller with a dream like quality a little like Gattaca. And that dream like quality is the crux of the movie, it could easily overshadow the plot and the characters if not for the charismatic and talented leads Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. The film is too low-key to be truly memorable.

9 Songs (2004): Known for its use of gratuitous graphic sex and concert footage from the Brixton Academy. To put it bluntly the sex isn’t of gratuitous, it isn’t that graphic (porn is readily available if you want it and that’s a lot more graphic and by definition gratuitous) although it is real and not simulated. Some of the dialogue is improvised making it range from very real and engrossing and real to awkward and bad but on a whole it works. The concert footage is really good and the overall film is strangle poetic and beautiful. Its not a movie you will want to see over and over again but it is worth seeing.

The Killer Inside Me (2010): See my full review here.


A hugely prolific director, I haven’t seen the following of his movies:

  • The Shock Doctrine (2009)
  • Genova (2008)
  • A Mighty Heart (2007)
  • The Road to Guantanamo (2006)
  • A Cock and Bull Story (2005)
  • In This World (2002)
  • With or Without You (1999)
  • Go Now (1995)

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You may have seen this list before. I first published it a few weeks back on Movie Mobsters in response to Heather’s “Top Ten Action Stars”. As they were all male I thought I would take a look at the women of the genre. Not a huge surprise as when you think about it, it is difficult to come up with a credible female action star. I could only think of two: Cynthia Rothrock, who lets be honest her movies are crap and Michelle Yeoh who prior to Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 had mainly made Cantonese language movies that aren’t that well known in Europe and America. If I can quote Heather on the subject. “There were only a few women I could even consider. It was kind of sad. I would love for the day when action women become just as big as our action men! Let Tarantino make more movies like Kill Bill, James Cameron loves his leading ladies tough, and if we embrace the world of Joss Whedon that may start to happen though”. With this in mind I think we need to start with Cameron, Tarantino and Whedon:

Aliens (1986): The Alien movies are all very different but are all good in their own way because they are held together by one central thing, not the aliens but Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). You could take Ripley out of the Alien movies and put her is a different scenario and the character would still be great, but take Ripley out of Alien and it wouldn’t work just look at the rubbish AVP and its even worse sequel for proof. And for those that haven’t seen it with a great script, compelling characters, perfectly choreographed action, and no Smurfs it is probably James Cameron’s best movie.

Terminator 2 (1991): Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) was a waitress until a cyborg travelled back in time to try and kill her. This would send most people mad, judging from her predicament at the start of T2 that’s what most people thought had happened to Sarah Connor, how wrong they were. Galvanised by a will to protect her son and the future of mankind in the process Sarah Connor transformed into an action heroine. Taking the part seriously Linda Hamilton is leaner and more toned than in the first movie, or any other movie she has been in for that matter. Forget Arnold Schwarzenegger this is Linda Hamilton’s movie. If you put Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley up against each other in a ring I don’t know who would win but it would go the distance and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Vol. 2 (2004): The vast majority and the best part of Kill Bill Volume One concatenates on the Showdown At The House Of Blue Leaves. With The Bride (Uma Thurman) travelling to Okinawa to obtain a sword and onto Tokyo for the House Of Blue Leaves. The Japanese parts of the movie could make an entire action movie in their own right. As we go into the second movie we get more back story and find out a little more about The Brides past as well as some more epic battles. But what elevates Kill Bill is that we aren’t just dealing with The Bride, we also get O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) and most notably Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama). There are also several female members of the Crazy 88. With Kill Bill: Vol. 3 announced for 2014 there could me more to come, more flashbacks to her time with the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad would be good.

Serenity (2005): Anyone who has seen the TV show Firefly will know that Zoë (Gina Torres) is a seriously tough character, while Nathan Fillion’s Mal has been described as a space cowboy Zoë is every inch an intergalactic Amazon but the real action heroine of this movie is River Tam (Summer Glau). With two great fight scenes where she takes on multiple adversaries and kicks their asses.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): Having seen and been a big fan of Ang Lee’s previous movies I really didn’t see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon coming. An epic martial arts movie that to date is the only martial arts movie to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Although Chow Yun-Fat gets top billing as Master Li Mu Bai the real stars of the movie are Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang. By the time the film was made Michelle Yeoh was probably the biggest female action star in the world, in her late thirties she had already made more than a dozen martial arts movies over a decade and a half and had even diversified by becoming a Bond girl. Ziyi Zhang on the other hand was only twenty and appearing in just her third movie, amazingly it was a her first action movie. The two share some pretty amazing sword fight scenes that helped bring Wushu to a wider western audience


The Matrix (1999): In 1999 Carrie-Anne Moss was already thirty-two years old and I had never heard of her. In a youth obsessed industry her chances of becoming a star beyond the age of thirty where slim at best but then came the part of Trinity in The Matrix. With “Bullet Time” crane kick, the scorpion kick, running around the walls and most of all her PVC catsuit nobody was about to forget Carrie-Anne Moss or the character of Trinity. And that’s all in the first few minutes of the movie we still have the rescue of Morpheus with that consists of a gunfight that reinvented action movies. Then came two (rubbish) sequels where Trinity also had some great action scenes most memorably the freeway chase from Reloaded (the only thing worth watching in the movie).

Coffy (1973)/ Foxy Brown (1974): Okay so I’m cheating by picking two films but Coffy and Foxy Brown (both movie and character) are interchangeable and virtually indistinguishable. The movies are dated, clichéd and not especially well made or well acted but like their star Pam Grier they have a certain charisma and are always watchable. These are movies made at a time when a typical bond girl was the somewhat drippy Solitaire from Live and Let Die. Within the history of cinema it is hard to call these movies classics but they are classic examples of the Blaxploitation sub genre and as such an important part of cinema history. And where would Tarantino be without their influence? Pam Grier and the characters she played

Azumi (2003): I could have picked any number of Japanese movies from recent years but Azumi stands out for me. At just eighteen years old Japanese TV star Aya Ueto was cast against type as teenage assassin Azumi. Based on the manga series of the same name created by Yu Koyama, Azumi was directed by maverick filmmaker Ryûhei Kitamura. Azumi is an orphan who along with other orphans is trained to be an assassin from an early age. As they reach maturity the group faces a devastating final test before beginning their first mission. The fight scenes especially the sword fights are really well choreographed and the action kinetic. Like Summer Glau in Serenity the greatest appeal of Aya Ueto is that she does not look capable of the action/violence the movie has to offer.

Underworld (2003): Not a brilliant film but the an enjoyable one none the less mainly because character Selene (Kate Beckinsale) really does kick ass and she looks pretty incredible doing it. It is easy to dismiss a genre piece like this by saying the female character isn’t human therefore the regular rules don’t apply but Selene doesn’t take on weaker humans she goes after werewolves and other vampires. It isn’t just about physical ability, it is a moral question too, she goes against the hierarchy to do the right thing and did I mention incredible she looks whilst doing it!

Nikita (1990): There isn’t actually much action in Nikita but the action that is there is excellent as is Anne Parillaud in the title role. Forget the crap American remake The Assassin (aka Point of No Return) and go for the French original. Parillaud’s complex and often vulnerable character has become the blueprint for similar characters for twenty years. Through the character of Nikita the film also explores some interesting ideas surrounding morality and redemption but you can forget all that and just enjoy the movie as a visual treat.

How do you define an female action star? Its such varied subjective and personal thing, anyone who is wondering at the absence of the Tomb Raider movies, I left them off the list on account of it being crap! That brings me onto an addition to the list since it first appeared on Movie Mobsters:  When I first approached heather to publish on her blog in response to her article I only had nine women and couldn’t decide on the tenth. Heather suggested Rhona Mitra, I dismissed her as I didn’t think any of her movies were that good then I re-watched Doomsday and enjoyed it even more the second (and third time) around. Its dumb, but it is such good fun dumb that I can’t help loving it and Mitra really kicks ass as Eden Sinclair a sort of female Snake Plissken,see my full review here. And so my top ten becomes eleven!

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