Friday 4 November 2016


Probably the best month's viewing since I started this blog, certainly the busiest.

Two TV mini series viewed and completed, 15 full length films watched and an hour's worth of the Steve McQueen classic Bullitt.....I still haven't had a satisfactory explanation why my TV recording box thingy has a tendency to shut off some recording after an hours and 12 minutes, when there is plenty of space left on the device.

Bullitt (1968)

Steve McQueen
from the late 60s. I was really enjoying this until it shut off. Steve's a cop charged with protecting a witness. Inevitably the witness gets murdered. Robert Vaughn is the suitably oily and smarmy politician, who may or may not be behind it. A young good looking Vaughn might be my man-crush. I'll have to track down a copy of the DVD because I don't want to leave this one unfinished
Bullitt is a 1968 American dramatic thriller film directed by Peter Yates and produced by Philip D'Antoni. It stars Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, and Jacqueline Bisset. The screenplay by Alan R. Trustman and Harry Kleiner was based on the 1963 novel, Mute Witness, by Robert L. Fish, writing under the pseudonym Robert L. Pike. Lalo Schifrin wrote the original jazz-inspired score, arranged for brass and percussion. Robert Duvall has a small part as a cab driver who provides information to McQueen.

The Fighter (2010)

Confession, I do like boxing films - Stallone and Rocky and more recently Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood. This one is excellent and is true. It's a bio-pic of boxer Micky Ward and his half-brother Dicky Eklund. I really enjoyed this one and am turning into a massive fan of Mark Wahlberg who is excellent. Christian Bale and Amy Adams are very good also.

For Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), boxing is a family affair. His tough-as-nails mother is his manager. His half-brother, Dicky (Christian Bale), once a promising boxer himself, is his very unreliable trainer. Despite Micky's hard work, he is losing and, when the latest fight nearly kills him, he follows his girlfriend's advice and splits from the family. Then Micky becomes a contender for the world title and he -- and his family -- earns a shot at redemption.

Winter's Bone (2010)

I watched this one at the cinema back when it came out a few year's book, so was happy to watch it again when it showed up on TV. Really enjoyable second time around, though it didn't quite have the same impact as the first time I watched it. Jennifer Lawrence is excellent. It's based on a book of the same name from Daniel Woodrell, something I still haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Faced with an unresponsive mother and a criminal father, Ozark teenager Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) does what she can to manage the household and take care of her two younger siblings. Informed by the sheriff (Garret Dillahunt) that their father put their home up for bond and then disappeared, Ree sets out on a dangerous quest to find him. Her entire family's fate now in her hands, Ree challenges her outlaw kin's code of silence and risks her life to learn her father's fate.

Contraband (2012)

BOOM! My mate Mark Wahlberg again. Wahlberg's a former smuggler who has gone straight for the sake of his family. His idiot brother-in-law drags him down and he's forced back to crime to carry out one more job. A bit of a cliched story line, but hey I really liked it.
 Ex-smuggler Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) gave up his criminal ways long ago. But, he's forced back into the game after his brother-in-law, Andy (Caleb Landry Jones), botches a drug deal for a crime lord (Giovanni Ribisi), leaving Chris to settle the debt. With the help of his best friend (Ben Foster), Chris assembles a team to run to Panama to retrieve a fortune in counterfeit bills. When things go awry, Chris must call on his rusty skills to complete the task before his family pays the price.

Stranger Things (2016 TV series)
Series one completed and totally absorbing. I think we watched five or six episodes over two days to see it through to the end. Loved the characters especially the sheriff, David Harbour. Winona Ryder is excellent as were pretty much everyone else. Loved the children. A weird mash up off all things 70/80s - The Goonies, ET, and loads more.

This thrilling Netflix-original drama stars award-winning actress Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, who lives in a small Indiana town in 1983 -- inspired by a time when tales of science fiction captivated audiences. When Joyce's 12-year-old son, Will, goes missing, she launches a terrifying investigation into his disappearance with local authorities. As they search for answers, they unravel a series of extraordinary mysteries involving secret government experiments, unnerving supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl.

Top Gun (1986)

I doubt anyone over 50 in the Western World hasn't seen this one. My daughter fancied a night of cheese, so we had Top Gun followed by Cocktail. I do like Tom Cruise (doesn't he look young?) and not having seen it for 30 years it was a blast from the past. Val Kilmer is Mr Cool and steals it in my opinion.

The Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School is where the best of the best train to refine their elite flying skills. When hotshot fighter pilot Maverick (Tom Cruise) is sent to the school, his reckless attitude and cocky demeanor put him at odds with the other pilots, especially the cool and collected Iceman (Val Kilmer). But Maverick isn't only competing to be the top fighter pilot, he's also fighting for the attention of his beautiful flight instructor, Charlotte Blackwood (Kelly McGillis).

Cocktail (1988)

That was a good year -  I got married. I watched this one at the cinema first time around and it wasn't especially memorable. It wasn't much better this time either, but okay. Bryan Brown is larger than life and pretty good. Tom is Tom.

 Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) wants a high-paying marketing job, but needs a business degree first. Working as a bartender to pay for college, Flanagan is mentored by his veteran boss, Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown). Together, their showy tricks and charisma command large crowds and tip payments -- until Flanagan and the cynical Coughlin have a falling out. Flanagan moves to Jamaica to raise enough money to open his own bar, where he falls in love with artist Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue).

New Blood (2016 BBC TV Series)
Eventually finished this one off. I think there were 6 episodes total and they aired back in June/July time. 3 x 2 story line episodes. (7 actually - go figure!) A lot to like here, especially the banter and bouncing off each other between our two young leads. Coming back for a second series apparently. Yippee! Still love Mark Addy. A bit far-fetched and plenty of plot holes, but who cares.

From wiki....
New Blood is a British television drama series created by Anthony Horowitz and produced by Eleventh Hour Films for BBC One. The first three episodes of the programme were made available on BBC iPlayer on 2 June 2016, ahead of the BBC One premiere on 9 June, it received over 4 million viewers.

Stefan Kowolski and Arash Sayyad are junior investigators; both are second-generation immigrants. Initially thrown together by chance and common sporting interests, they later discover that they are working two different angles of the same case. Stefan is also attracted to Arash's sister.

Kowolski is a junior investigator with the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office, while Sayyad is a uniformed constable in London's police service, with ambitions of becoming a detective. In the first case, he secures a second posting as a Trainee Detective Constable (T/DC), having obtained poor reviews in an earlier attempt.

The Debt (2010)

An interesting film concerning 3 Israeli agents sent to Berlin in the 60s to abduct a Nazi doctor, so he can go on trial back in Israel. Things don't go to plan. Interesting back and forth timeline between today and the events in the 60s. Today - the doctor they supposedly killed in the botched operation has shown up in the Ukraine, which threatens to unravel their story and expose their true actions. Very good - tense, gripping and some excellent performances. I do like Helen Mirren.

In 1965, young Mossad agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) and two comrades (Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas) are involved in a secret mission to capture a Nazi war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christensen). The mission ends with the man's death on the streets of East Berlin. Thirty years later, a man claiming to be the doctor has appeared, and Rachel (Helen Mirren), haunted by memories of past events, must return to Eastern Europe to uncover the truth.

Parker (2013)

Hands up - who doesn't love Jason Statham? No-one that's who. Based on one of the later novels in Richard Stark/Donald Westlake's Parker series of books, I can't believe I didn't catch this one sooner.  Plenty of action, a reasonable plot, great scenes of sassy dialogue. I like the fact that Statham never seems to take himself too seriously. Gotta love the man. Jennifer Lopez delivers a strong performance too. Is it sexist to say she looks pretty amazing also?

Daring, ruthless and meticulous, Parker (Jason Statham) is one of the most successful thieves in the business. But when his latest robbery turns deadly because of a careless crew member, he declines to join crime boss Melander (Michael Chiklis) and his gang for another heist. The crooks turn on Parker and leave him for dead. Parker survives and vows vengeance, tracing the gang to Palm Beach. There, he joins forces with an unlikely ally (Jennifer Lopez) to hijack the gang's next big score.

Devil's Knot (2013)

Enjoyable is probably the wrong word, especially as this film is based on some real life events from the 90s. Gripping then. Firth and Witherspoon are good as ever.

Troubling questions spring to mind about the American judicial system and the competence of a lot of police forces. Results over justice? Kind of reminded me of Making a Murderer.

Devil's Knot is a 2013 American biographical crime film directed by Atom Egoyan. The film is based on a true story as told in Mara Leveritt's 2002 book of the same name, concerning three teenagers known as the West Memphis Three, who were convicted of killing three young boys during the Satanic ritual abuse panic. They were subsequently sentenced to death (Echols) and life imprisonment (Baldwin and Misskelley). Produced by Elizabeth Fowler, Richard Saperstein, Clark Peterson, Christopher Woodrow, and Paul Harris Boardman, the film stars Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Kevin Durand, Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Moyer, Elias Koteas, Amy Ryan, and Alessandro Nivola.

Hanna (2011)

A bit of a weird one here. It seemed to go on for a bit. Girl raised by ex-agent father in the wilderness having gone off the grid. When he resurfaces, his old handler comes looking. I do like Eric Bana. Seen a lot better, suffered through a lot worse.

Raised by her father (Eric Bana) in the Finnish wilderness, teenage Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has trained all her life to be the perfect assassin. Her father sends her on a mission, and she stealthily makes her way across Europe while evading agents sent after her by a ruthless operative named Marissa (Cate Blanchett), who once worked with Hanna's father. As she draws closer to her target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and begins to question her humanity.

Locke (2013)

Pretty amazing, especially as the whole film takes place with Locke in his car on a journey, conducting a series of frantic phone - wife, kids, work - underling, boss, hospital - medical staff and a woman he got pregnant in a one-night stand. He also has a few angry one-way conversations with his absent father - an absence Locke still has major issues with. Watch his life and career unravel. Tom Hardy is superb.

Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.

Duel (1971)

I can remember watching this in my youth, probably sometime in the 80s and I've always remembered it (or after re-watching mis-remembered it). Still quite powerful and disturbing, especially when our motorist Dennis Weaver is checking out the guys at the counter in the roadside, talking heads, chewing mouths, boots, glances over the shoulder, muttered conversations, boots. Happy it showed up again on TV.
Duel is a 1971 television (and later full-length theatrical) thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg in his full-length film directing debut and written by Richard Matheson, based on Matheson's short story of the same name. It stars Dennis Weaver as a terrified motorist stalked on a remote and lonely road by the mostly unseen driver of a mysterious tanker truck.

Never Go Back (2016)

I wasn't planning on watching this until it showed up on TV in a couple of years time, but I was away for a break with my wife and we thought - cinema - why not? Options being some kind of comic book thing with Benjamin Lumberhead, The Girl on the Train or this. Having liked the first Reacher film - an easy choice. Best film ever? No but we liked it, and felt it was worth the cost of the admission. Plenty of fights and a reasonable plot.
Investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) springs into action after the arrest of Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), an Army major accused of treason. Suspecting foul play, Jack embarks on a mission to prove that the head of his old unit is innocent. After crossing paths with the law, Reacher must now go on the lam to uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy that involves the death of U.S. soldiers.

Killing Them Softly (2012)

Another interesting and enjoyable film which I caught on TV in the month. Decent cast and my kind of film. I quite like Brad Pitt but don't rush to catch all his films. Ray Liotta always has a presence on screen. A card game gets robbed, for the second time and a hitman is despatched to town to right the wrong. Really enjoyable and only when I read the credits did I realise it was based on a book by George V. Higgins - Cogan's Trade. A book I have but haven't yet read.
When rival crook Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola) hatches a plan to rob a card game run by mob lackey Markie (Ray Liotta), he picks a low-rent thug named Frankie (Scoot McNairy) to do the job. Frankie picks a less-than-ideal partner (Ben Mendelsohn) to help him, but despite their combined incompetence, they manage to make off with the mob's money. In retaliation, Markie's bosses hire Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a mob enforcer, to eradicate those responsible.

The Devil's Rejects (2005)

Probably more horror than crime. Bloody, brutal, gruesome and sadistic which made for some uncomfortable viewing in places. Wouldn't rush to see anything else Rob Zombie has churned out if I'm honest. It did have its moments. Old Pa when he's made up with his clown's face looks positively demented and in the end the cop pursuing the deranged family was just as bad as them. Our family of nut-jobs seemed a bit too much like a Charles Manson tribute act. 
After a raid on the rural home of the psychopathic Firefly family, two members of the clan, Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), manage to flee the scene. Heading to a remote desert motel, the killers reunite with Baby's father, Capt. Spaulding (Sid Haig), who is equally demented and intent on maintaining their murder spree. While the trio continues to torment and kill various victims, the vengeful Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) slowly closes in on them.

The Magdalene Sisters (2003)

Another uncomfortable film turning a necessary spotlight on one of the most shameful episodes in Ireland's history - the Magdalene laundries. Director Peter Mullan puts the Catholic church to the sword with his withering portrayal of the abuse these "fallen" women and children suffered at the hands of a sadistic cabal of nuns. The God they served and how they served him, is not one I care to recognise.  The number of abused victims runs into the tens of thousands over a 70 year period. Who spoke for these victims? No-one. How many powerful figures of authority were complicit in this systematic abuse?  Absolutely shameful.  

Read more about them here Magdalene Laundries in Ireland - including details of a mass grave uncovered in 1993 with 133 bodies. Pol Pot would be proud.
In 1964, three teenage Irish girls are sent to a Magdalene asylum, an archaic home for "fallen women," though their crimes aren't criminal. Rose (Dorothy Duffy) is pregnant out of wedlock, Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) has been caught flirting with a boy at school, and Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) is sentenced for having been raped by a family member. There, the girls perform hard labor supervised by cruel nuns, led by the sneering Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan) -- and dream of escape.


  1. Interesting choices, Col. Glad you liked Winter's Bone, and I do recommend the novel when you get the chance. And I'd totally forgotten about Bullitt< until you mentioned it. That's quite a 'blast from the past.' Nice range of films and TV there.

    1. I've enjoyed some of Daniel Woodrell's books in the past and need to get back to him. Still searching for the elusive BULLITT DVD - how does it play out? I need to know!

  2. Col, "Bullitt" is one of my absolute favorites (just ask Tracy). In addition to the famous car chase, there is a cracker jack finale at the San Francisco airport. For an older Robert Vaughn, I recommend the British TV show "Hustle."

    1. Glen, I was liking it a lot until it inexplicably ended. I taped another film in the month McVicar where the same thing happened. I'll definitely seek it out. I caught the odd episode of Hustle, but never really followed it - something I regret now.

  3. Still haven't watched Winter's Bone but did enjoy the book. Stranger Things was good with a heavy hand on 80's nostalgia. Enjoyed it as well. Good viewing month like you said. -K.

    1. Keishon, Winter's Bone - I'll read you can watch - and we'll compare notes! Looking forward to a second series of Stranger Things when it happens.

  4. Glen does like Bullitt, and so do I. You watched a lot of movies that sound interesting and good. Interesting about Killing Them Softly being based on a George V. Higgins book. I have never seen Top Gun, and I am definitely over 50. I do like Tom Cruise but in his later roles.

    1. Tracy, I knew there would be someone who would be the exception re Top Gun. I like Cruise more as he's gotten older. He doesn't seem to come across as Mr Earnest chasing the elusive Oscar any more. He seems more relaxed in his roles and is having fun. I'm tempted to dig out a George v. Higgins book shortly (I'm sure that fleeting thought will pass.)

  5. Still have to catch up with STRANGER THINGS. WINTER’S BONE is a very good film and I am a fan of Daniel Woodrell. He knows life in the Ozarks, which is similar to life in the Appalachians, and a lot of other poor rural areas in America. You must finish BULLITT. It is required viewing. Somewhere, I have the paperback of the novel it is based on, but never read it because I have seen the movie so many times.

    1. I have read a few of Woodrell's books and enjoyed most of them, I think the exception being one set during the American Civil War. I've not read him for a few years though. I never knew BULLITT was based on a novel. I might have tried to track it down, but won't be doing so now!

  6. Col, The Debt, Locke, Killing Them Softly, and The Magdalene Sisters go on my watch-list, while Bullitt is up for a re-watch. I haven't met anyone of my generation who hasn't seen Top Gun.

    1. All worth a look in my opinion, Prashant.

  7. Devil's Knot was a heart-wrencher wasn't it? I found it very depressing, no happy ending, and the fact that it was true made it worse...