Writer director Drew Goddard usually tends to specialise in high concept (Lost and The Good Place on TV, writing CLOVERFIELD or adapting WORLD WAR Z and THE MARTIAN for the big screen, and his directorial debut was CABIN IN THE WOODS), so it’s something of surprise to see him deviate into relatively more grounded territory with this labyrinthine pulp thriller.

It’s 1969, and the titular hotel – a novelty establishment that bestrides the states of California and Nevada – has seen better days. Not so long ago it was the hottest, jumping-est spot in the Pacific time zone, accommodating and entertaining the biggest A-list stars and dignitaries. Split by a bright red line running literally right through its centre, guests enjoyed the gimmick of being able to choose in which side of the venue they would stay. It was also, according to a prologue, the scene of its share of shady dealings. Then, for some mysterious reason the renewal of the El Royale’s gaming license was denied. Now it’s all but deserted, except for sole employee Miles (Lewis Pullman) – and the four strangers who turn up at almost exactly the same time, each with their own reasons and secrets.

There’s the elderly and forgetful Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), struggling singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Sullivan (Jon Hamm), and terse loner Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson).  We have a pretty good idea that most of these people are not who they say they are, but their real identities and intentions? That, as the genre dictates, is anyone’s guess

Much mention has already been made of Goddard’s invoking Quentin Tarantino’s trademarks – the chapter headings, the overlapping points of view, the verboseness of the characters, jukebox worship – but that’s little unfair. It’s more the case that Goddard and Tarantino are drawing from the same sources, and both are doing it well.

It’s a beautifully stylish film thanks to both Seamus McGarvey’s (ATONEMENT, THE AVENGERS) lush, neon-soaked cinematography, and the art and productions teams: Martin Whist, Michael Diner, Lisa Van Velden and Hamish Purdy pouring glorious, swingin’ period detail into every scene, while the sets themselves cleverly come to represent the themes (ethical boundaries, lines being crossed, silent witness vs intervention) of Goddard’s knotted story. Oh, a let’s give another shout out to that gorgeous jukebox

But while the first two acts of Goddard's story are all grimy atmospherics and tense fun, when the storm arrives in the form of Chris Hemsworth’s malevolent charmer Billy Lee, things begin to unravel. We’re given a denouement which, for reasons that shall here remain unnamed (but here's a clue: it's to do with a commonality within his previous body of work), isn’t entirely satisfying. Sure, it’s only one bum note, but it’s the high note, and while that's not the end of the world it’s just a bit of a pity when the rest has been so much grubby fun.

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE is released October 11 in Australia, and October 12 in the US and UK.

Review: MANDY


To call MANDY strange is obviously understatement - it's been a major selling point since its rather magnificently oblique trailer was released. And true, it is one of those cinematic mood pieces that is difficult to describe without spoiling – but you should know that despite the giddy fan reaction, at its heart Panos Cosmatos' heart of darkness exploitationer is really rather reactionary. It's very much a film of two halves, the first of which is masterful. But while Cosmatos may yet end up with a place among the greats of sensory strangeness - Lynch, Jodorowsky, Argento - MANDY doesn't really deserve to be the film that puts him there.

That first half is careful in its construction, spectacular in its imagination and so confident in its execution that you feel in very safe hands. It’s 1983, and in the Pacific Northwest United States, lumberjack Red (Nicolas Cage) and his artist girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) are living a quiet, simple life in the woods. Beautiful, slow burning scenes establish some pain below the surface of each character, until a sinister hippie cult arrives, led by Jeremiah (Linus Roache), who from the moment he sees Mandy immediately wants to own her. Items with names like “The Horn of Abraxos” are sounded. HELLRAISER Cenobite-like bikers are summoned. Bad folk rock albums are played, all of which ends in tragedy and harrowing trauma for the hero couple.

Cosmatos' weird symphony begins like an exciting night-time drive down an unlit forest back road, with only a spotlight to see both what’s ahead and what’s whizzing past, but the man at the wheel earns your trust. His brave stylistic choices – moody animated chapter headings; careful, highly saturated colour filters over dramatic, stadium concert-esque lighting; excellent, trippy performances; some wonderful set design, and most of all Jóhann Jóhannsson’s prog-epic score (sadly, his last) - mix perfectly with his set-up: Reagan’s conservative black & white morality soundbites, a world in which the good guys wear pentagram t-shirts and dwell on the fringes of society while the baddies are evangelist nutters, a deranged and byproduct/extension of that same corrupted Christian Right.

And then…? And then…

That back road suddenly intersects with a well-lit, well-worn highway back to Tropesville. Cosmatos turns onto it, riding at full speed where so many of his retro genre influences have ridden before him, and he never looks back.

The production values remain high, but the story's potential corrodes from beneath the gloss. That period setting loses all meaning and value, exposing it as just a crutch of cosmetic nostalgia.

The slow realisation that MANDY isn’t in fact going anywhere new, that what could have been an amazing update of the old male revenge fantasy is merely reverting and regressing back into one, is crushing. All that sending the Cageometer up to eleven and its accompanying mayhem – Ooh, they’re having a chainsaw fight! How batshit ker-azy is this?! – is just dressing which can’t distract from the squandered opportunity Cosmatos was so close to seizing.

There are too many fine small achievements for it to be considered bad per sae, and despite its writing flaws it is an experience deserving of the big screen (and a bigger sound system), but be ready for MANDY to end up as what it is: yet another hollow '80s nostalgia wank.

MANDY is released September 14 in the US and October 12 in the UK. It screens in Australia for one night only (September 21).


The fifth instalment of the M:I franchise was always going to be a tough act to follow. The series has consistently delivered high quality action thrills, but ROGUE NATION seemed to finally perfect the formula – lean and unpretentious, with just the right balance of outrageous spy antics and genuinely inventive, thrilling action; it knew exactly what it was, and what it was supposed to be. Somehow though, returning writer director Christopher McQuarrie and main man Tom Cruise (star, stuntman, and very much producer) have managed - more or less (which will be very much a matter of taste) to match it with this direct sequel.

You see as it turns out, despite his incarceration wily villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) still has a few tricks up his straight jacket sleeve, and before we or Ethan Hunt (Cruise) knows it, the ‘apostles’ of Lane’s ‘Syndicate’ have stolen three lumps of plutonium from under Ethan's team’s nose, which they plan to put to very naughty use unless the IMF can quickly save the day, propelling us headlong into another globe-spanning, dizzying maelstrom of skydiving, brutal nightclub bathroom brawls (special shout out to Liang Yang here), blinding car/motorbike/helicopter/foot chases and literal cliffhangers.

Most of this was achieved – astonishingly – in camera, and it’s in this regard that FALLOUT truly excels. We’ve reached an age in movies where as long as we steer clear of faces (up to and including moustaches *cough*JUSTICE LEAGUE*cough*), audiences now consciously understand that while still impressive to look at, neither a star nor their massive insurance policy is ever truly anywhere near actual peril. With Cruise, it’s different, and with this series he and Paramount have made a very cleverly marketed this as the M:I franchise’s point of difference: that is him hurtling on two wheels over the wet cobblestone streets of Paris without a helmet. That is the star piloting the helicopter. It’s not digitally placing his head over a stuntman. It shows, it makes a difference, and it certainly deserves acknowledgement and breathless applause. (Side note: the Academy don’t need to start rewarding Best Popular Film – they need to start recognising feats like this, and things like Andy Serkis’ entire body of work. But that’s a different blog post).

Meanwhile, there’s the usual distrust, bureaucratic obstruction, double-crossing and mask-revealing, and if FALLOUT has any weakness, its here. Whether it’s a plot twist too many leading to a slightly puffy middle act, or the inclusion of either a returning Alec Baldwin as IMF director Alan Hunly, or newcomers Angela Bassett as the new CIA director purple nurpling the team by the inclusion of her own enforcer August Walker (Henry Cavill), or even the mysterious White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) – a character who, for those eagle-eared and paying strict attention to the series as a whole, teases a tantalising morsel for the inevitable further instalments – something in there feels like one egg too many.

Fortunately the rest of the film is so damned entertaining that, on first viewing at least, any minor shortcomings are very difficult to notice and even harder to dwell on. McQuarrie & Cruise have steered their cast & crew to another barnstorming episode in a series that despite celebrating its 22nd(!) cinematic birthday, is still firing very much on all cylinders, and shows no signs of slowing.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT is released July 25 in the UK, July 27 in the US, and August 2 in Australia and NZ.


Ten years and 18 films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe has all been leading up to this: the second most anticipated movie of the 21st Century (and if you’ve forgotten the fever pitch for THE FORCE AWAKENS, you have a very short memory.)

Thanos (Josh Brolin), who has been signalling his imminent arrival since THE AVENGERS in 2012, is finally here. If you’ll remember his purpose for having Loki invade Earth (starting at New York) with an army of monsters in that point was to find a single Infinity Stone which had found its way on our planet. There are six of these gems, each containing immense power over an aspect of the universe’s existence, and Thanos wants to collect them all to put in his special Infinity Gauntlet and have power of life or death over every known thing. And while that first stone was taken off-world by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the end of THE AVENGERS, two more have since been revealed on our world – one sits around Dr Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) neck the other is embedded in the bonce of Vision (Paul Bettany). Everybody got that? Good, because it’s just the tip of the iceberg. AVENGERS | INFINITY WAR clocks in at 149 minutes, and brings together the casts of nearly all previous MCU movies (and name checks the remaining few). Understandably then, it moves at a break-neck pace - it has to, and it barely pauses to see who’s remembered the important details from all earlier adventures across the nine realms and dozens of worlds.

You have to hand it to directors Anthony & Joe Russo – the task in front of them was monumental, but they and their team have handled it exceptionally well. The film’s greatest achievement isn’t necessarily to deliver the greatest story ever told (though it is wonderfully epic, wholly deserving of the biggest screen you can find), but to deliver the most entertaining movie they possibly could relative to the constraints in front of them. Think of the sheer logistics in bringing together not only the plots and disparate characters of ALL previous Marvel movies (many of whom haven’t met each other yet), but also the stylistic choices and design idiosyncrasies of each separate story, and having to merge them all into a smooth, coherent, entertaining-without-being-too-self-indulgent whole. Well, that’s what has been achieved here. Obviously Marvel has been putting a LOT of care and thought into this from the get-go, and they've enjoyed such monumental success so far you could try and argue that all they had to do was not get it wrong. But in filmmaking a huge step between planning and execution, and this could all so easily have gone screamingly tits-up; hats off to all involved for that simply not being the case, but major props for making it so bloody good.

As with all of these, it’s probably going to be easy to sit in future viewings and pic at plot threads, moments of rushed exposition and whatnot, but in the moment, INFINITY WAR works. Bouncing back and forth between three or more locations at any given time, it’s two and a half hours of breathless action. To say it never lets up would be a lie – I think it lets up once or twice. For about a minute. Then we’re back into the action, often unfolding in several places at once.

My greatest concern going into INFINITY WAR had always been Thanos himself. Marvel has notched some good wins recently thanks to interesting villains with a fair point of view (Michael Keaton’s Vulture in SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING, and Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger in BLACK PANTHER being the two standouts), but their purple, scrotum-chinned big bad had always seemed a bit too disconcertingly vague. He’s brought quickly and sharply into focus here though: a lesson in economy of storytelling. How much do we really need to know about him? Not as much as you might think, it turns out.

Behind the camera, the work is second to none. The budget here is obviously much larger than the ‘individual adventure’ Marvel movies, and it shows in the finesse of the visuals – most easily noted in the improvement of the compositing of the Wakanda backgrounds*. I can’t think of a single shot that jars the eye (against for example that semi-trailer being flown out of shot in AGE OF ULTRON, which stuck out like dog's balls). The film also represents a wonderful amalgam of design styles – the Guardians, the Asgardians, the Wakandans, the world of Dr. Strange – everything merges smoothly, while of course the Iron Man and Spider-Man suits continue to evolve.

If you really want to get niggley, I’d say I can see the wheels turning just a fraction with the need for comic relief to diffuse the weight of the drama. The fallback to a funny line at the end of every heavy scene exposes itself as a device, and the Russo brothers (who have always seemed more comfortable with the darker tones of action storytelling) aren’t as deft as a Joss Whedon in making these joins invisible – or maybe it’s just unavoidable when every other character is a wise-cracking loose cannon? This is not to suggest the comedy doesn’t work: about 95% of it does, but I’m trying not to gush here.

INFINITY WAR may just be Marvel’s finest 2.5 hours to date; their GODFATHER PT.2, their EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, their DARK KNIGHT. Fans may believe the hype: it really is that good - and if you're not a fan by now, you really shouldn't be watching. This is a movie that achieves almost everything it sets out to, and make no mistake: that is a LOT.

*on a second viewing, I did notice some of the compositing in the Wakanda sequences (particularly the closer shots). I wonder why something so seemingly straightforward is an ongoing problem? If there's any techies out there who know, do feel free to explain in the comments section.

AVENGERS | INFINITY WAR is released April 25 in Australia and NZ, April 26 in the UK and April 27 in the US.


I have no idea how John Krasinski’s A QUIET PLACE actually came about, but in my head it’s by way of apology from 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI director and Platinum Dunes boss Michael Bay to Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt for that year Krasinski had to spend super pumped up – a body shape she apparently loathed - to play a soldier in Bay’s film. It probably had nothing to do with the fact that Krasinski and his co-writers (Scott Beck and Ryan Woods) had crafted an excellent, simple-yet-novel genre tale encased in an attractively affordable production budget. It’s all about Blunt’s ability to throw frightening shade at parties. Probably.

With just his second feature as director, Krasinski - who also stars (and is still best known as Jim from the US version of The Office) – delivers a punchy, carefully measured and economical film. Opening just a few months after mysterious creatures have appeared and decimated the rest of Earth’s animal population, we only ever know as much as Krasinski and Blunt’s five-strong Abbott family (their three children played by Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward) – most importantly that the monsters hunt by sound. They have adapted to life in silence quicker than most, though – the eldest child, Regan, is deaf.

The value of sound as a cinematic device is ingeniously played with time and again, but the novelty never feels labored. Likewise, jump scares are present, but they rarely feel cheap or unearned (one of my pet hates in horror), and in that regard A QUIET PLACE may be my favourite since 28 DAYS LATER. It's a film with heart, but never loses sight that this is a genre that lives and dies by its set pieces. And what set pieces they are - Chekhov's gun may well be given a run for its money after this.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s luscious cinematography works in complete synch with Jeffrey Beecroft’s production design, and together they provide one of the film’s key hidden strengths: an immersive and always clear and quietly believable sense of geography of the family farm, where nearly all of the story takes place.

Then of course, the performances: Krasinski and Blunt are typically strong as the everycouple, while the kids are wonderfully real and rounded.

It’s not perfect. Krasinski and his co-writers fall prone to having characters make some (literally) unbelievably selfish choices for the sake of drama (and those set pieces), and similarly he's made some strange choices regarding chronology - there are moments where you can almost feel those behind the camera praying that the audience doesn’t solve in the film’s blessedly lean 90 minutes what it seems to be taking the characters years to figure out. Ordinarily the accusation would be that these choices are unearned, but here Krasinski & co. actually make up ground and have you forgiving them after the fact – a rare achievement.

There are those who will question the validity of a PG-13 horror film, but the rating is due to an absence of gore and swearing, not atmosphere and tension. A QUIET PLACE may not trouble the terror-meter on the scale of, say, THE DESCENT, but it's got enough grunt to give even seasoned horror fans a good workout, and is bound to remain on many a 2018 favourites list.

A QUIET PLACE is released April 5 in Australian, NZ and the UK, and April 6 in the US.


UPDATE 30/03/18: ALL GONE! Thanks for your interest, everybody.

They said it would never happen. Well, I said it wouldn’t happen. Actually I probably never said it would never happen, but anyway it’s now HAPPENING: I am parting with my collection of ex-rental (and some sell-through) VHS tapes, giving them away to anyone who wants to provide any of them a good home.

Before you get too excited, I’ll be totally honest and say I’m pretty sure there’s nothing overly rare amongst this list. This is really just to make sure there's not some completist fans out there looking to fill a gap in their collection, or fans of particular covers etc. The next stop for these, heartbreakingly, is landfill.

That said, these are all being stored out of any discernible order in cardboard boxes, and I frankly can’t be arsed digging into them and taking photos of a particular cover. If you want the title, you getting it for free, paying only postage (anywhere in the world is fine).

All tapes are PAL. Any title (at the end of the list) with an asterisk comes in an old blockbuster 'take home' cover – there is no sleeve artwork with these tapes.

I can’t make any promises as to the playability of some of these, but most are in reasonable nick – and let’s face it, it’s mostly about the covers.

If you want anything on this list, leave a comment and we'll take it from there. Payment for postage will be sorted through paypal (unless you can pick up for free from the Brisbane metro area).

May your tracking never need adjusting...


12 Monkeys

2001: A Space Odyssey

Aardman Animations Vol. 1

Adventures Of Barry McKenzie, The

Adventures Of Barry McKenzie, The (sell-through)


Age Of Innocence, The

Age Of Innocence, The


Alexei Sayle’s Stuff

Aliens (Special Edition)

Allied Bombers

American Gigolo

American Me

An Audience With Mel Brooks

An Awfully Big Adventure


Apostle, The


Barton Fink

Beavis & Butthead Do America

Beavis & Butthead: Too Dumb For TV

Bedrooms & Hallways

Ben Elton: A Fartie’s Guide To The Man From Auntie

Best Bits Of The Late Show Vol. 2

Best Of The Big Gig

Big Night

Big Steal, The

Biloxi Blues

Bob Roberts

Boys, The


Breaking Away

Breathless (1960, A Bout De Souffle)

Bringing Up Baby!

Broken Highway

Browning Version, The (1994)

Bull Durham

Carlito’s Way

Carry On Columbus

Catch 22

Chasing Amy

Children Of The Revolution

Chungking Express

Cinema Paradiso

Clean And Sober


Club, The

Commitments, The

Coogan’s Run The First Lap/The Final Hurdle



Crucible, The

Dame Edna: Back With A Vengeance

Dangerous Liaisons

Day Of The Jackal, The

Day The Earth Stood Still (195

Days Of Thunder

Dazed And Confused

Dead Again

Dead Man

Dead Man Walking

Dead Man Walking

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

Dead Presidents

Dead, The


Deep Cover

Dirty Harry

Don’t Look Now

Doom Generation, The

Dr. Who: More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS

Dr. Who: Shada

Dracula (1992)

Drowning By Numbers

Ed Wood

Edge Of Darkness Pt 2

Eight Men Out

Elephant Man, The

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Fear Of A Black Hat


Female Perversions

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Filthy, Rich & Catflap Vol.1 & 2

Fish Called Wanda, A

Fisher King, The

Five Easy Pieces

Flesh And Bone

Four Rooms


French & Saunders Series 3 Pt. 2

Funny Bones

Funny Bones

Funny: The Comic Strip Presents


Get Shorty

Getaway, The (1994)

Girl 6


Grapes Of Wrath, The

Great Outdoors, The

Green Keeping

Grifters, The

Grosse Pointe Blank

Groundhog Day


Hand-picked by Billy

Happy Gilmore

Harry Enfield’s Television Programme: Series 2 Pt. 2

Hear My Song

Henry & June

Henry & June

Henry V (1989)

Henry V (1989)

High Noon

High Noon

Higher Learning

Hoop Dreams

Hudsucker Proxy, The

Human Animal, The

I Was Monty’s Double


Idiot Box

In The Soup

Independence Day

Interview, The

Italian Job, The (1969)

Jackie Brown

January Man, The

Jennifer 8

Journey To The Center Of The Earth (1959)

Jungle Fever

Jurassic Park


Kids In The Hall, Vol. 2

Killer (LaPaglia)

Killing Dad

King Of New York, The


Kiss Me Deadly (NTSC)

Last Exit To Brooklyn

Last Man Standing

Last Of The Mohicans, The

Leading Man, The

League Of Gentlemen, The: Series 1

Leaving Las Vegas

Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The

Life Is Cheap, But Toilet Paper Is Expensive

Little Caesar

Living In Oblivion

Lost In Yonkers

Love Serenade

Mad Dog And Glory

Man Bites Dog

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Meaning Of Life, The

Mighty Aphrodite

Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack

Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Tape #2)

Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Tape #3)

Mountains Of The Moon

Mr. Saturday Night

Much Ado About Nothing

Mute Witness

My Blue Heaven


Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult

Naked Gun, The

New York Stories

Omega Man, The

Once Upon A Time In The West

One False Move

Out Of Sight

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid


Perfect World, A

Pink Floyd: The Wall

Poor Cow

Prayer For The Dying, A

Professional, The


Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (Collector Edition)

Quick And The Dead, The

Rambling Rose

Razor’s Edge, The

Red Dragon: The Curse Of Hannibal Lecter

Reluctant Hitman, The (Cold Blooded)

Reservoir Dogs

Revenge Of The Nerds III: The Next Generation

Richard III (Loncraine)

Rio Bravo

Robin Williams Live

Robocop 2

Rocky Horror Picture Show, The

Rowan Atkinson Live


Saturday Night Fever (PG cut)

Say Anything


Scent Of A Woman

Schindler’s List

School Daze

Searchers, The

Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, The

Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, The



Shakes The Clown

Shawshank Redemption, The


Silence Of The Lambs (no cover)

Six Degrees Of Separation

Smith & Jones

SNL: The Best Of John Belushi

SNL: The Best Of Steve Martin

So, I Married An Axe Murdferer


Spanish Prisoner, The

Spike Milligan: One Man And His Ideas


Stand And Deliver

Steve Coogan Live ‘n’ Lewd

Steve Martin Live (Wild & Crazy Guy)

Straw Dogs (Peckinpah)

Sum Of Us, The


Swimming With Sharks

Tall Guy, The

Terms Of Endearment

John Belushi, The Best Of (WB release)

Q, The Best Of

Castle, The

Comic Strip Presents, The: The Bullshitters / The Yob

Comic Strip Presents, The: Bad News / More Bad News

Day Today, The: Vol 1 & 2

Ice Storm, The

Thin Blue Line, The (1988)

Usual Suspects, The

The Van / The Money (set)

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead

This Is Spinal Tap

Three Colours: White

Time Bandits

Treasure Of The Sierra Madre

Truth About Cats And Dogs, The

Twin Peaks: Episodes 27-29

Twin Town


Under Siege

Underneath, The

Unknown Marx Brothers, The

Very Brady Sequel, A

Violent Cop

War Of The Worlds, The (1953)

We’re No Angels

West Side Story

White Heat

Whoops! Apocalypse

Wild At Heart

Wild Bunch, The

Wim Wenders: Wings Of Desire / Faraway, So Close!

Wind In The Willows: Masquerade

Wind In The Willows: Spring Follies

Wind In The Willows: Winter Tales

Wind In The Willows: Winter Tales

Witches Of Eastwick, The

Withnail And I

Yellow Earth

Young Americans, The

Zed And Two Noughts, A

Zulu (photocopied cover)

The following have only blockbuster 'take home' covers:

*Before Sunrise

*Brady Bunch, The

*Coming Home

*Flirting With Disaster

*Hard Target


*Little Big Man

*Lorenzo’s Oil

*MacBeth (1979, Ian McKellan)

*My Left Foot

*Naked Gun 2 ½, The

*Naked Lunch, The


*Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

*Saturday Night Fever (PG cut)

*Scent Of A Woman

*Secrets And Lies

*Short Cuts


*Third Man, The



The latest Liam Neeson On A [insert mode of transport here] With A Phone* And Sometimes A Gun movie arrives courtesy of the same director as the last (2014’s NON-STOP, from Jaume Collet-Serra), and there’s really no closer yardstick by which to measure THE COMMUTER; it’s the same discordant mix of Hitchcockian wrong man thriller jarring with splashes of daft action.

This time Neeson is stuck-in-a-rut life insurance salesman Michael MacCauley, who gets caught in a bizarre and dangerous game of ‘guess who’ after a not-so-simple conversation with a stranger (Vera Farmiga) on his multi-hour commute home (this time it’s a train).

To his credit, Neeson – always a magnetic presence – does his damndest to play down any superhuman ability, keeping MacCauley interesting as long as he can with flaws and mistakes, but he’s fighting a losing battle, and by the time the story expands and explodes into ridiculousness (and predictability), much of his efforts are left unthanked and unrewarded.

Behind the camera too, it feels like this is ‘just a gig’ for many of the crew. There’s little in the design or look of the film, in the fight choreography, and certainly not in the second half of the script that conveys any real passion or artistry.

It's a grim irony that THE COMMUTER's biggest screen share is likely to be iPads providing distraction on long journeys; it’s just good enough to pass the time - not down there with TAKEN 3, but it’s no WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES either. Although that said, it might be genuinely interesting if the next one of these was set on one of those ‘floating city’ cruise liners: plenty of variations in sets, international cast, isolation of the open seas, etc. Fingers crossed for third time lucky...

*Can somebody please run the numbers on how many talking minutes Neeson has racked up on screen across his career? If some mobile provider or other hasn’t offered him a large sum to be the face of their company, their marketing people aren’t doing their jobs properly.

THE COMMUTER is released January 18 in Australia, NZ and the US, and January 19 in the UK.


In 1973, number one women’s tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) led a rebel tour of the US over a pay dispute, which – at least according to this dramatisation from LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE creators Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton – gave former men’s champion / relentless self-promoter and exhibitionist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) the brainwave of orchestrating a televised “challenge” event, exploiting the ‘battle of the sexes’ mood that was changing western culture at the time. For Riggs it was an opportunity to make money and grab attention, but for the then still closeted King, there was much, much more on the line.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES might be one of the most straightforward films you see this year – it’s The Hero(ine)’s Journey painted in simple, strong colours – but surprisingly, it’s no less enjoyable for it; there's something amusing in that lack of complexity cutting directly through to the righteousness of the argument – or at least, it making screamingly obvious the stupidity of the antagonists and theirs. It could have come off as smug and twee, but Faris & Dayton manage to avoid it. Are there problems? Sure: both Bill Pullman’s tennis boss Jack Kramer and Jessica McNamee’s Margaret Court aren’t always given enough depth to convince (although Court’s recent appearances on Australian television trumpeting her homophobia would suggest she really is one dimensional after all), and the directors could have made more of King’s own mistakes, however honest or unavoidable. Was turning Alan Cumming into a fairy godmother a good idea? Your mileage may vary. These flaws are more than made up for though, by a solid turn from Stone, and a magnificent one from Carell (one which may yet land him Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), clearly revelling in the demons and contradictions of Riggs private persona, while never making the larger than life public one too much of a caricature, nor an easy target.

The look of the film, from the spot-on set design to shooting on 35mm celluloid, works wonders in enveloping the audience in the period – as does, in between needle drops, Nicholas Britell’s near subliminal score. Even a parade of “hey it’s that guy” comic actors turning up in non-laugh bit parts which perhaps ought to serve as a distraction, doesn't - such is the film’s charm. Faris and Dayton have delivered a beguiling sports flick which, for Australian audiences especially, couldn’t be more timely.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES is released September 22nd in the US, September 28 in Australia and NZ, and November 24 in the UK.

Review: TERMINATOR 2: 3D


James Cameron’s gargantuan sequel blazed so many trails and set so many records on its release, it still requires virtually no introduction 26 years(!) later. Little surprise then that it’s been tuned up and turned out for the 3D treatment.

As with virtually everything Cameron puts his stamp on though, this is no mere gimmick. Anyone who remembers the film in any detail would consider that between its shooting style and the VFX technology of its time, T2 lends itself very kindly to stereoscope: looking through the hole in the head of Robert Patrick’s T-1000 at the characters who put the hole there; the truck crashing towards us through a bridge barrier, down into a storm drain; the T-1000 walking through a set of iron bars.

What’s surprising is the gentleness of the effect overall. As with TITANIC’s similar treatment a few years back, this is a very subtle remix – the objective (like the wise application of all visual effects) seems to be if not complete invisibility, at least to remain mostly unnoticed.

Elsewhere, there’s a few touch ups to the film itself – a hitherto notoriously visible stunt-double has been surrendered to CG mapping of Schwarzenegger’s face (although now I think of it, was this done for the IMAX re-release a few years back?), and doubtless the eagle-eyed will find some others upon future viewings. The print, despite now being a digital release, retains its pleasing celluloid grain, and the soundtrack (played at thunderous volume in my session) keeps a trebly ‘90s mix.

The film’s original tiny irritations will forever remain (Cameron’s tin-ear for anything but the hammiest of dialogue, poor Edward Furlong’s maddeningly breaking voice), but they’re really not worth mentioning against the generation-defining achievement that is EVERYTHING ELSE about the film. If you’ve never seen T2 on the big screen before, now’s your chance. And if you have, you know you're going again.

T2: 3D is released August 24 in Australia (seven day limited run), from August 25 in the US and August 29 in the UK.


Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon return (again) to playing loose versions of themselves, and continue to attempt to out-joke, out-impression and generally needle each other at every opportunity, while eating a lot of lovely food in interesting restaurants.

For once again the story is built around a gastronomical tour - this time (as the title would suggest) in the land of Cervantes, who is referenced throughout. With that very much in mind, the idea of the double act looms large and the inevitable comparisons (Quixotic Coogan, Sancho Brydon) work a treat.

For the most part, this third installment plays the hits – and for fans of the series, that would be plenty; dueling impressions (Caine, Brando, Pacino, Moore, Hopkins and other favourites all get another run, while Hurt, Bowie and Jagger are added to the repertoire), the “Guess The Bill” game, and of course the relentless banter and jousting for attention amongst cultural relics.  If you’re in the pair’s groove (and by third go around, you really ought to be), this is some of the best comedy you’ll see all year - not only to laugh at, but to examine in constructive terms, see: Brydon going from funny, through cringe, and back into funny with an excruciatingly prolonged, hilarious Roger Moore bit.

On this occasion however, there’s an attempt to push the narrative further than before – and it’s not that it doesn’t work structurally, but it’s perhaps a bridge too far; for the first time the plot begins to feel like an obvious device. Maybe this deviation from formula will pay off for the series in the long run, but it leaves the pair’s latest expedition on a somewhat jarring, curious, note. But while it’s undoubtedly a snare, overall it can’t derail an otherwise lusciously shot, delightfully ambling, and hilarious third outing.

THE TRIP TO SPAIN is released August 3 in Australia, August 11 in the US and August 17 in NZ.