Tag Archive: london


You won’t find many female directors among the big blockbuster films or many among mainstream films in general really. If you ask someone to name a female film director everybody could probably name one, some may even name two, but to name three or four would present a challenge to the majority of cinema audiences. I have put together this list of who I believe to be the best 5 female directors working today.

5. Andrea Arnold

Andrea Arnold made her debut with the twenty six minute long short film Wasp, which won her the Oscar for Best Short Film back in 2005. Her films have continued to create a great sense of poverty in Britain and she has gone on to direct Michael Fassbender in one of my favourite films of all time: Fish Tank.

Arnold’s previous 3 films: Red Road (2006); Fish Tank (2009); Wuthering Heights (2011)

4. Deepa Mehta

Mehta is an Indio-Canadian director who is most famous for her Elements trilogy which contained the films Fire, Earth and Water. These films tackled strong political issues in India and due to Mehta making Water from an outsiders point of view (looking back at India from her Canadian home) a lot of controversy was caused in the filming of the climax to her trilogy, involving riots and violence forcing the filming to move to Sri Lanka, rather than India.

Mehta’s previous 3 films: Water (2005); Heaven on Earth (2008); Midnight’s Children (2012)

3. Sofia Coppola

Daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has carved out a very different path from the The Godfather director. She won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay after writing Lost in Translation, which was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. She continues to write and direct her own films with her latest, The Bling Ring, out this year.

Coppola’s previous 3 films: Marie Antoinette (2006); Somewhere (2010); The Bling Ring (2013)

2. Susanne Bier

Bier never seems to miss the mark with any of her pictures. Despite never being nominated for an Oscar in her career I can’t help but think that she should have been. Bier studied in Jerusalem and London before retuning to Denmark to attend film school. The majority of her films have been made in Scandinavia but she has dabbled in American cinema with Things We Lost in the Fire.

Bier’s previous 3 films: In A Better World (2010); Love Is All You Need (2012); Serena (2013)

1. Kathryn Bigelow

Could it be anyone else? Over the last couple of years Bigelow has become the major figurehead for female film makers. The Hurt Locker defied expectations to take home the Best Picture Oscar when up against Avatar and won Bigelow the Best Director Oscar over James Cameron. She was the first to take on the Osama Bin Laden manhunt with Zero Dark Thirty, which was also nominated for Best Picture. Her next project is unknown at the minute but the Bigelow name seems to be a sure signifier of quality in modern cinema.

Bigelow’s previous 3 films: K-19: The Widwomaker (2002); The Hurt Locker (2008); Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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With the introduction of Dwayne Johnson in Fast Five, this franchise cemented its place as a must see film among the summer blockbusters; something for die hard action fans. After the commercial and critical success of the fifth installment it left fans wondering just how Fast & Furious 6 would top it? The solution: add a tank, add an aeroplane, bring back Michelle Rodriguez and just generally up the stakes. So what of the result?

“Give them a reason to stay.”

Fast & Furious 6 struggles to find its feet for a while, it’s as if the franchise isn’t quite sure how to better itself or what direction to take. Is it supposed to up the ante with the action sequences or focus on the family side of things and Brian O’Conner’s (Paul Walker) newborn baby. As a result the two strands of action and emotion are ruthlessly combined and don’t quite pack the punch expected, leaving Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and, most surprising of all, Tyrese Gibson to help the film pull through and come out well on the other side.

Enter Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). As Hobbs (the retuning Johnson) reliably informs us, he has been chasing Shaw and his crew across 12 countries stretching over four continents. Right from the off these are set up as some big time criminals, meaning that Hobbs has to put a team together capable of catching criminals like these. And the only team good enough is led by Dom Turetto (Diesel). When Roman (Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot) return there is no time for reacquaintance as they are introduced to their target and the real reason Dom has agreed to play for the law this time round: Letty (Rodriguez) is still alive.

“I can reach out and break you whenever I want”

Soon enough the slow emotional parts of the film are eased out and instead of being told “we’re a family”, “you’re a family” over and over again, the real action begins. The team find themselves in London, racing through the streets of the English capital (although how anyone manages to elicit an illegal street race through the center of London is anyone’s guess) and the fights fly. The pick of the bunch early on is seeing Rodriguez go toe to toe with new addition Gina Carano.

The cars get faster, the action gets better and the stunts get bigger throughout and appears to peak in the incredible tank sequence; taking out cars is one thing but when there’s a criminal mastermind manning a tank, firing a cannon down the motorway and not afraid to crush however many innocent people it takes, then it’s going to be difficult going. And just when you think the story is coming to an end it takes another turn…

“This is something we don’t do”

And you end up on what must be the longest runway in the world with Shaw attempting to flee via a plane and Toretto’s crew not having any other option than to bring it down! That’s right… taking out a flying plane with just a handful of cars and Dwayne Johnson’s muscles. The adrenaline pumping finale takes all the worries you had and politely tosses them out as you’re sucked into the exciting ending where the stakes are higher than ever!

The one thing the Fast & Furious franchise has lacked so far in its existence has been that a real defining villain has never really been seen. Shaw has all the makings of it: he’s emotionally cold, he’s as intelligent (if not more so) than our heroes and he’s physically able to hold par with anyone, as seen brilliantly in his brief fight with O’Conner. However, when you leave the screening not really knowing what the villain’s plan was all along, then something has clearly gone wrong. The potential was never reached with Shaw.

“Maybe the Letty we once knew is gone”

But if the post/mid/beginning credits teaser was anything to go by, Fast & Furious 7 will have the real villain it deserves.

My Rating: 7/10

Wild Bill (2011) Review

“What did he want?”

“Shooting.”

The best line of the film in my opinion.

The main reason I decided to sit down and watch Wild Bill is because it is the directorial debut of Dexter Fletcher. Fletcher has always provided good performances in front of the camera (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Band of Brothers, Kick-Ass) so I was interested to see how he would get on behind the camera. And any expectations I had before watching were completely blown out of the water within minutes.

Charlie Creed-Miles is “Wild” Bill Hayward, just released from prison on parole after serving eight years for numerous crimes. Bill returns home to find his two sons Dean (15) and Jimmy (11), who he hasn’t seen since he got sent down, have been abandoned by their mother who has fled to Spain. A bond between Bill and Jimmy quickly develops, and Dean gradually comes around to the idea of having his father around. However, their domestic life is short-lived, when Jimmy starts drug-dealing for some local villains.

The story is set against the backdrop of the London Olympic stadium construction site as this is where Dean has been working in order to look after his younger brother. This setting immediately allows the audience to be sucked in to the world of the film and it brings a great sense of realism to Wild Bill.  The grittiness and realism of a working class family in recession hit London really helps the film stand out, especially as it is very easy to recognise several problems that the film brings up including poverty, family breakdown and the fall of society; something we, in the UK especially, can all recognise. Credit has to go to Fletcher and Danny King, the writers of the film, to bringing up these problems for all to see.

From left to right: Fletcher, Poulter, Creed Miles, Flemyng.

As Wild Bill Charlie Creed-Miles is brilliant. The character development is there for all to see and Creed-Miles portrays two very different sides to his character; the thug/prisoner/chav that doesn’t care about anything, and then the caring father trying to make an effort with his children, even if he does get it very wrong at times. But the real star of the show is Will Poulter who plays Dean. Poulter carries a great air of maturity and it is very easy to feel for his character thanks to the emotion that he brings to the role. There are appearances from other British actors that different audiences will recognise: Liz White (Life on Mars), Iwan Rheon (Misfits) Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), Marc Warren (Hustle) and even a small appearance from Fletcher’s good friend and colleague Jason Flemyng.

Wild Bill is wonderfully acted and is a true example of brilliant character development. Their are strong themes, a strong storyline and even stronger performances. I would argue that Wild Bill is quite possibly the best British film I have ever seen.

My Rating: 10/10.

UK Release Date: 27th March 2013

Stars: Danny Boyle (director), James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Danny Sapani.

Plot: An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.

After giving the world a resoundingly brilliant opening ceremony at the London Olympics and apparently refusing a knighthood from the Queen, Danny Boyle has returned to the day job to make Trance. In my opinion, Boyle is one of the greatest directors working today and has consistently churned out fantastic British films. So I was very excited to get my first glimpse of his latest project…

…and that excitement just disappeared after I watched the trailer. Is it just me or does the plot itself seem a little bit less than straight forward? Then we get the trailer which seems to overload us with visual and audio information but giving us nothing at the same time. I just honestly don’t know what to make of it.

To attract some fantastic acting talent and the great Danny Boyle it must have been a good script. And the script was co-written by John Hodge who has worked with Boyle several times before (most notably on Trainspotting). I just hope that the end product is more endearing than the trailer.

A Study in Terror is not the type of film I would usually watch; the only time I ever really watch films from as far back as the sixties is when I go round to my grand parents’ house and my Grandad has Channel 5 on on a Sunday afternoon (which is usually a standard John Wayne film). However, this one caught my attention as it puts together two of the most intriguing characters in British history: the great detective Sherlock Holmes and the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper.

This particular drama tells the story of Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) and Dr. John Watson (Donald Houston) who’s interest is peaked in the Whitechapel prostitute murderers when they receive an intriguing package through the post. And once in Whitechapel Holmes uses those famous skills of deduction to uncover, track down and apprehend Jack the Ripper who is loose on the streets.

In my opinion, the most important thing in a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is that the relationship is portrayed correctly by the two main actors and in this sense, it really is. You get sense of the friendship, comradery and respect that the two men have for one another although the homoerotic undertones of their relationship is scrapped from A Study in Terror (something Guy Ritchie’s most recent films have had fun with). Neville and Houston speed up the pace of the film once they arrive in London and it is much needed after a slow start; their dialogue is well written and well delivered even though it seems like most of it is Watson just asking Holmes how he figured something out and then Holmes just detailing how much smarter he is than everyone else over and over again.

Their are appearances from other Arthur Conan Doyle characters which is a nice turn up with Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay) and Mycroft Holmes (Robert Morley) showing up. It is interesting to see these fiction characters mixed up in real events with a young Barbara Windsor playing Annie Chapman, a real life victim of Jack the Ripper. Although when her character gets killed off their is a little part of you that is pleased because it means you don’t have to hear her squeaky, really really annoying, mouse-like voice any more!

And speaking of the killings, those are the most intense parts of the movie. For a film that was made in the 60s the violence is awfully real and the murders by Jack the Ripper are really quite horrible, with the fight scenes also feeling rather realistic so hats off there. Unfortunately though, the period of production does show through with the over the top acting and the really melodramatic feel to it all which is a flaw to a great concept. The murder mystery element is handled averagely as well, with twists and turns coming late on but some are rather too obvious to cause any great sense of revelation and it feels as though, at times, A Study in Terror is trying to feed you clues without actually wanting to. It’s all very conflicted.

Overall, a great idea with good characters at the centre of the piece but sometimes a bit slow and dull unfortunately. Worth a watch on a rainy afternoon if there is nothing else on.

My Rating: 5/10.

Leonardo DiCaprio is undoubtedly one of the best and most versatile actors working today, if not one of the best of all time. He is one of my favourite actors which is obvious to anyone who knows me seeing as how I own almost all of his films on DVD and have watched them all numerous times. But ever since I first watched Blood Diamond it has been, not only my favourite performance by DiCaprio but also, one of my favourite films and I genuinely believe it is one of the greatest films ever made, despite not being received incredibly well by critics (perhaps due to the source material).

Blood Diamond is a story of three very different characters and how their lives and journeys merge together because of the illegal diamond smuggling industry coming out of countries like Sierra Leone (where the film is set) and being financed by a (fictional) company named Van de Kamp back in London, England. The movie is described as a political war thriller and features several political strands, the title itself is an obvious reference to the name given to the diamonds that are sourced from war torn African countries which are sold to finance the conflict. There is also the prominence of children being forced to become soldiers in these war torn countries too. Blood Diamond was set during the Sierra Leone Civil War between 1996-2001 and released in 2006, yet these problems still exist in some African countries which makes the film just as relevant today and the issues it brings to the forefront of your mind even more relevant because nothing has really changed. But despite being a politically fuelled film I don’t believe that Blood Diamond rams issues down your throat and force feeds you opinions because at the heart of it is a very convincing and very entertaining, in the most dramatic sense, trio of heroes.

Leonardo DiCaprio is absolutely phenomenal as Danny Archer, a former mercenary turned diamond smuggler, and upon release of Blood Diamond he received a huge amount of praise for his authentic South African accent. Archer is the anti-hero, yes he helps Solomon find his family but only because of his own motives to retrieve the huge pink diamond Solomon found, steal it, sell it and get away from the conflict to live a very rich and extensive lifestyle elsewhere. DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor for the film. His co-star, Djimon Hounsou who plays Solomon Vandy, a fisherman captured by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and forced to work to find diamonds while his family go on the run, his son later being captured and forced to become a deadly warrior. Hounsou got the nod at the Oscars for Best Supporting Actor but I would argue that here Vandy is the main character and it is not DiCaprio’s Archer because it is Vandy we get to know first and it is his story that we care about. Hounsou’s emotionally fuelled performance is one of the best I’ve seen and he really was terrific! Finally Jennifer Connelly completes the trio and she plays Maddy Bowen, a journalist who is trying to expose the illegal conflict diamond trade and change things. Her crush on Danny Archer is mutual and they help each other out a lot throughout the film. Bowen actually helps the character development of Danny Archer; their romantic subplot does not seem forced and thankfully there isn’t a ridiculously placed kiss before Archer leaves just to keep Hollywood happy. The development that Archer goes through over the course of Blood Diamond is a really brilliant arc: in the beginning he is a man out for himself just wanting to make money, but as the film goes on he eventually turns into the guy willing to sacrifice himself so that his new friend (Vandy) can escape with his son and change his life as well as many others too. The relationship between Archer and Vandy is really interesting to watch and grabs your attention right form their first meeting.

The action is fantastic and David Harewood is brilliant as the warlord Captain Poison. For a man who spent most of his career working on British television series’ including Casualty, The Bill, Doctor Who and Hustle it really is quite an exceptional role that he got and a performance that matches those of DiCaprio and Hounsou. But the highlight of the film for me is when Solomon Vandy is reunited with his son Dia. What should be an incredibly happy and joyous moment is taken in a completely different direction by Blood Diamond and it was fantastic to watch. You’re wondering what is going to happen since Dia has been brainwashed into a cold hearted killer but the moment they reunite is beautifully written and is a masterpiece of acting.

Blood Diamond may not have been the most well received film but it is definitely one of my favourites and no doubt always will be. The storyline, the characters, the acting is perfect. I cannot recommend Blood Diamond highly enough!

For years and years Danny Boyle has been my favourite director. With so many great and bigger names in the directing world at the minute (Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, Martin Scorsese etc. etc…) Boyle does seem to fly under the radar because of his low profile and because of the fact that, despite being critically acclaimed and having won numerous awards, he continues to work and remain in his homeland of British film. For the past few months Boyle has been kept busy with his latest project; this time it is not a film though. In just under two weeks the whole world will be watching as the Olympic games kick off in London and the opening ceremony has been put together and directed by Danny Boyle himself, no pressure. It’s been a long but very worthwhile journey for the lad from Lancashire.

Before getting into the film world Boyle began directing theatre projects; he directed plays for both the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company so right from the very beginning he was clearly ready to take on big projects. After that Boyle got into television and directed a few episodes of various television series such as Inspector Morse and Mr. Wroe’s Virgins. Then he finally got his big break in the world of movies with Shallow Grave, a crime thriller starring Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor.

In 1996 Danny Boyle was responsible for directing one of the greatest films ever without a shadow of a doubt; Trainspotting. Again he teamed up with Ewan McGregor who this time took on the lead role and helped to make Trainspotting what it is, often voted the best British film of all time. Trainspotting received one Oscar nomination for it’s scriptwriting and Boyle was unjustly left out of the Best Director nominations. It was always going to be difficult to carry on the wave of success that Trainspotting brought him and his next couple of films were pretty far from that standard; first was A Life Less Ordinary (again starring Ewan McGregor) and The Beach. Originally Ewan McGregor was cast in the lead role for The Beach but rumour has it that Hollywood executives wanted to push through Leonardo DiCaprio as he was the current Hollywood pretty boy and hot property so DiCaprio got the role and, to this day, Ewan McGregor still hasn’t worked with Boyle since that dispute.

Anyway, Boyle returned to his best with horror film 28 Days Later… and followed that up with Millions. Since these two projects Boyle has continued to direct to the very highest standard. It took three years after Millions for another Danny Boyle film to be released but it was well worth the wait. Sunshine is a sci-fi film about a team of astronauts who are trying to reignite a dying sun to save the planet and it is absolutely brilliant! It was also named as one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films of recent years, pretty high praise indeed!

In 2009 Danny Boyle finally won an Oscar for his direction on Slumdog Millionaire which pretty much cleaned up at the 2009 Oscars; as well as Boyle’s directing Oscar it also won for it’s cinematography, film editing, original score, original song, sound mixing, adapted screenplay and it won the big one, Best Motion Picture of the Year. This time round as well, Boyle was able to follow the success of Slumdog Millionaire with another one of my favourite films, 127 Hours which got nominated for six Oscars (including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film).

After the Olympics Boyle will return to the big screen with Trance, a crime thriller starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson. He is also working on a follow up to 28 Weeks Later… which he has stated that it should be called 28 Months Later… in theory. Boyle has also expressed in interviews his desire to work with Ewan McGregor again on his next feature film. I hope that he does but I really hope that he continues to make prominent British films and remains to make them of the highest quality!

Chris Evans is probably one of my favourite actors at the minute, not necessarily because he is a brilliant actor because he is far from the best, but he brings with him to every role a huge amount of enthusiasm and fun which helps the audience no end. I have never seen him put in a bad performance in a film and he is fast becoming one of the go to guys for an action film in Hollywood.

Evans made his action debut in 2000 and has since gone on to appear in over twenty films to date. After making his film debut in The Newcomers, Chris Evans was given a starring role on television series Opposite Sex, alongside Milo Ventimiglia. The show ran for just one series.

After the series ended Evans appeared in comedy Not Another Teen Movie. Once he was finished filming that he began to work on a couple more films: The Perfect Score and Cellular, both of which were released in 2004. Cellular, in my opinion, was a great action film, it was fast paced, it had a great cast pitching Chris Evans against action heavyweight Jason Statham. This is one of my favourite performances from Evans as he manages to combine humour and action greatly!

Evans 'flames on' for Fantastic Four.

In 2005, Evans starred in two independent films. The first being Fierce People and the second being London, which saw Evans reunite with Statham. It was also in 2005 when Chris Evans received mainstream attention. It could have come in a better film but anyway, Evans starred as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four film. Yes, the film was awful, yes, the characters were ruined, all except for Evans’ Johnny Storm who was the highlight of the film for fans of the comic book and the movies alike. Evans showed once again that he is charming, witty and a great pick for an action film with his performance.

The Human Torch was a role he took up again in the sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (a movie that managed to be even worse than the train wreck of the original film). 2007 was also the year that Evans made his debut in voice acting providing the voice of Casey Jones in the CGI film TMNT. The Nanny Diaries and Battle for Terra, Evans providing the voice once more in the latter, also came out this year, but it was his other film of 2007 that really caught my attention.

Evans plays level-headed engineer Mace in Sunshine.

Sunshine. Danny Boyle’s sci-fi film about a group of astronauts sent to re-ignite the dying sun taking place fifty years in the future. Chris Evans starred alongside Danny Boyle favourite Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne and Mark Strong. Sunshine was not a commercial success but it was critically and rightly so; this is one of the best sci-fi films I have probably ever seen, I really enjoyed it and Chris Evans’ character, Mace, was in fact really good.

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond followed before Evans returned to the action genre once more for Street Kings; a film that had a lot of noteworthy names in its cast (Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie for example) but really failed to deliver on all fronts. Then Evans went on to Push, another sci-fi/action film where he had superpowers.

Chris Evans took up comic book movie roles twice more when he appeared in The Losers and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. With the latter, despite only having a small part Evans put in a humorous performance and served the film well. Recently he starred in rom-com What’s Your Number? alongside Anna Faris before taking on his biggest project to date.

Chris Evans as the iconic hero Captain America.

Chris Evans became Captain America for Marvel’s The First Avenger. He played the part of Steve Rogers and at first people had their doubts because he had been in a Marvel film before or he wasn’t big enough to play the super soldier. But Evans soon put those doubts to rest as he showed off his new bulked up figure in the war/superhero film and proved to be a success.

The role of Captain America is one that Evans will of course be reprising in this summer’s sure fire hit, The Avengers and the release date for Captain America 2 has been confirmed. Evans really became Steve Rogers, he played the character superbly and brought to the role the same commitment and enthusiasm that he has brought to every role in his career.

Chris Evans is a fine actor and in interviews he always comes across as the nice guy. He definitely deserves more attention in movies as he has shown his versatility, starring in action, sci-fi, dramas, comedies and rom-coms. Sure, he has some bad films in his past but there are some real gems in there too. What a guy.