Tuesday Top Ten – My Favourite Bruce Willis Films

This Sunday just gone, it was Bruce Willis’ birthday, so what better time for me to take a look back on some of my favourite films of his? It was tough narrowing this list down if I’m honest – I’ve seen a few too many Bruce Willis films in the last few years. Trimming the shortlist from 25 to 10 was hard, but I got there eventually.
10. Split


Fair enough, this maybe wouldn’t be considered a Willis film by most, but the way I see it is he appeared in it, so it counts. So far this year, this has probably been my favourite mainstream film to come out, however because it’s not really a Willis film, I couldn’t put it any higher.

9. The Jackal


This film is a guilty pleasure of mine, and it is one of my favourites by Brucie. For me, there’s a few plus points with The Jackal, not least Richard Gere’s god-awful Irish accent – I think he would have given Brad Pitt a run for his money in Snatch. I find it to be a fun watch, even if it is considered to be rather terrible my a lot of people.

8. Over The Hedge


This Dreamworks animation is one I always enjoy watching. Willis plays RJ, and isn’t exactly a good guy, but isn’t quite a supervillain either. While they’re never equal to the quality of Pixar’s early years, I do like Dreamworks films for the fact that they push their innuendos and disguised adult humour a bit further than most kids’ films.

7. Twelve Monkeys


This was a film that I really enjoyed for the first half, maybe even the first three quarters of it’s runtime, however it was after this point that it lost me entirely. Willis may have been the lead in the film, but it was Brad Pitt who was terrific here, and he was the reason I stuck with the whole thing to the end.

6. Die Hard With A Vengeance


This third instalment in the franchise is my favourite after the original. I loved the partnership between Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, which is a pairing that will feature more than once on this list. There are a number of scenes in this film that really make me laugh, but also there was plenty of action to go with them.

5. Lucky Number Slevin


I liked this film, but it was nothing special. I watched Tarantino-esque Lucky Number Slevin a few years ago and just thought it tried a bit too hard to be something it wasn’t. Nonetheless, it was a bit of fun and I’m glad I watched it.

4. Sin City


Sin City was a film that I also watched a few years ago and enjoyed, although to this day I’m still not entirely sure what actually went on throughout the story. Willis played a key character here in the form of Hartigan and was his usual wonderful self as a grizzled law enforcer. The man knows what he’s good at, and he’s reasonably good at sticking to it.

3. Unbreakable


I remember when I first watched Unbreakable, I don’t think I was overly impressed by it – I enjoyed it, but was singing from the rooftops about it. Looking back however, I can appreciate it far more. It is a brilliant film that I am planning to revisit very soon, and was also part of the reason why I enjoyed Split so much.

2. Pulp Fiction


Of course Tarantino’s best known film had to feature here somewhere. Willis’ role as Butch Coolidge here was brilliant, and in a line up of some really great characters, he completely held his own.

1. Die Hard


It would have been sacrilege to not put Die Hard at number one in a list of my favourite Bruce Willis films. This will always be known as the film that made him into a huge action star, and also the film that raised the bar for the action genre. 

So that’s all ten of my favourite Bruce Willis films. I enjoyed each and every one of them for different reasons, as I also did with many of the films that didn’t make the list. What would you include that I didn’t? Let me know via the comments below.  

Opinion Battles Round 5 Favourite Video Game Adaptation

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Favourite Video Game Adaptation

Over the past 25 odd years videos games have become a new stream of entertainment, so naturally Hollywood has decided to jump on the bandwagon and turn these lengthy stories into one of films, a lot get highly criticised but for the fans of film that never played the games we get certain stories that work on film. With the final chapter of the Resident Evil franchise coming to the cinema it is now time for us to pick our favourite video game adaptations.

If you want to take part in the next round of Opinion Battles we will be picking our Favourite Film from 1987, email your choices to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.ukby 19h March 2017.

Darren ā€“ Movie Reviews 101

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When Silent Hill first hit the cinema I want to see the film, I never played the game as Iā€¦

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There’s a reason Moonlight (eventually) won Best Picture

*Please bare in mind I wrote this review before last night’s Oscars


A film chronicling the minefield of adolescence for a young boy struggling to find who he is.
A young man with a difficult home life comes of age in Miami during America’s ‘War On Drugs’ era. The tale of his adolescence is told through three chapters which detail every element of teenage years and young adulthood, and highlight his struggle in trying to discover who he really is.

Maybe I’ve left things very understated with that short synopsis of Moonlight, but then, maybe I haven’t. The film has a very basic concept, but, much like Fences, does the simple things very well. Perhaps the reason it has been so well received is that it is a film that resonates with everyone on some level. Whatever it is, it has ensured that the film has taken the world by storm.

Every single performance in this film is wonderful, but there are a couple of stand outs for me. Naomie Harris was very, very good as Paula, Chiron’s addict mother. She was a far cry from her previous performances as Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films, and I think showed her capabilities as an actress as she has had no previous experience with addiction herself. She gave a convincing performance, and the progression, or should I say downward spiral, that we see with her character is crystal clear throughout the film.

Mahershala Ali was also terrific, although I have to be honest I had expected to see more of him, especially given the fact that he received an Oscar nomination for his work. One scene in particular was what sold his whole performance to me. If one thing is for certain, regardless of how long he was on-screen for, he made a lasting impact, which is what you want with every character you see in every film, otherwise what was the point of them being there in the first place?

As I’ve already said, the entire premise of this film is so simple, but that is where it’s genius lies. For me, it shares similarities with Boyhood with its tale of adolescence, but perhaps works out slightly better than the other film as it has a runtime that comes in at about an hour less. The struggles depicted throughout the film are along the lines of what we all have to deal with during this period of our lives and is why it works so well. 

Director Barry Jenkins really has accomplished something of greatness with Moonlight. One of the film’s greatest strengths was it’s use of silence. When you sit and think about it, there is a relatively low number of conversations that take place throughout the film – the spaces where nothing is spoken verbally screams way more than what the characters actually say, especially when it comes to Chiron. I can only assume that it was Jenkins’s awareness of the effectiveness of the sound of silence that made it almost like another character throughout the film.

On the whole, I’d say Moonlight is a very good film, but I have a feeling it may not clean up at the Oscars. That is no reflection on the film, but I just think it may be up against some stiff competition and there is one film that will definitely win a few awards. As good as it is, I also cannot quite say that it is my absolute favourite of all of this year’s nominees I have seen, but that does not mean it is not worth the time spent watching it.

Jackie is made great by one special performance


During the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, America’s First Lady battles through grief and trauma in order to prevent losing herself and maintain her husband’s legacy following his death.
After her husband’s assassination, Jackie Kennedy’s (Natalie Portman) world falls apart. Grieving and traumatised, she must tell her children that their daddy isn’t coming home, leave the White House and begin to plan his funeral, whilst also trying to ensure her husband’s legacy will be remembered, and leave her own mark in the history books.

So, I decided to watch Jackie, and going into the film, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to feel about it. A lover of historical events, the subject matter wasn’t really going to be the issue. But I just didn’t really know that much about the film – there weren’t really any stars that were a huge draw for me here. I watched this film purely because of what people had said about Natalie Portman’s performance, and for what it’s worth, I’m glad I listened to them.

We’ll get down to business and start straightaway with Portman’s portrayal of Jackie. She is easily the greatest thing about this film, elevating it from something that would otherwise have been possibly average at best. She completely embodied the real Jacqueline Kennedy, making it easy to believe that that was who you were really watching. I loved how she got to show the whole range of emotions experienced by this woman on that day and in the days after it. We got to see that initial shock and hysteria, and then the strength that she had to take forwards from those moments for her family. There was terrific range displayed by Portman in this role, and deep down, I think I would love it if she won the Best Actress Oscar for her work here.

I can’t really pass comment on many of the other performances in here as it really was Portman’s film. There were a few surprise cast members however, although they had very minor roles. It actually amazed me how many stars from British TV made an appearance. The biggest shock was David Caves from Silent Witness as Clint Hill – I’ve never seen him in anything else before, and so I had to proceed to tell everyone that he had just showed up in the film I was watching. Needless to say his is a name I shall be storing in the memory banks for any future episodes of Pointless.

I really liked the way Jackie Kennedy was portrayed in the film, and I think she is a woman history should never be allowed to forget. She got bit of a rough deal when her husband was killed, and the way she was shown to deal with all of this in the film was sometimes upsetting to see, but showed all of her strength and character, and that she was her own woman, even without her husband.

Overall, I found Jackie to be a very enjoyable watch that I would recommend to people. Portman gives a masterclass in acting, and from what I’ve heard from a few of my U.S. counterparts, she absolutely nails the part she plays. She lifts the film to great heights and makes it a very compelling watch. I think it is a project that was very well made, and well worth seeing by everyone. 

Tuesday Top Ten – Films That Should’ve Won These Oscars, But Didn’t

We’re now two weeks away from the big night, and this week I’m looking at films that should have won an award (or awards), but didn’t. This did start off as a ‘biggest Oscar snubs’ list, but I guess a lot of these wouldn’t count as out-and-out snubs, so I’ve kind of put my own twist on things. In no particular order…
10. Interstellar – Best Director


I was quite surprised to discover Interstellar only won one of the more minor awards at the 2015 Oscars ceremony. Christopher Nolan, despite how mind-blowingly complex his film concepts can be, is a fantastic director who has been incredibly diverse with the projects he has produced. With how well received Interstellar seemed to be, I am surprised he didn’t receive more recognition for his direction on the project. That being said, I’ve not seen Birdman, so couldn’t say 100% whether Nolan should’ve won, but I have a feeling I might be right.

9. American History X – Best Actor


This was an interesting one because I’ve seen who won the award for this year, and if you’ve seen this and Life Is Beautiful, or at least know what they’re about, you too will know why this was an interesting contest. I’ll stick with my guns though. Edward Norton was terrific as Derek Vinyard, and I was gutted after watching the film to learn that his reward for the role only went as far as his nomination. The whole film has such an impact on me, but I do think this was largely because of Norton’s performance.

8. Nightcrawler – Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay


Jake Gyllenhaal was an absolute animal when it came to his performance here. The fact he didn’t even get nominated for Best Actor here does a bit more than irritate me. Nightcrawler did get a mention for Best Original Screenplay, but did not win (hence why I’m bringing it up on this list). Please tell me the last time you saw a film with a story about the video crews for news stations, because I don’t see how the writing could have been anymore original.

7. Boyz n the Hood – Best Director


Now, I guess considering this was the first year an African-American director ever got a nomination for his work, it was a bit too much to expect him to win as well. It also didn’t help that John Singleton was pitched against The Silence Of The Lambs which swept up the Big Five that year either. The odds were certainly stacked against him. It’s a shame it was up against the films it was because Boyz n the Hood is such a hard-hitting, important film that it really did deserve to win something.

6. Sicario – Best Actress, Best Director


I thought this was one of the best films of 2015, so for it to get more or less completely snubbed for an Oscar was a shock for me, and I’ve spoken before about a couple of other awards it should’ve been in contention for. I loved Emily Blunt as Kate Macer – she was such a great character, especially in such a male-dominated cast. As for director Denis Villeneuve, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed much of his other work such as Prisoners, Enemy, and now Arrival (which he has been nominated for). I do think he should have had a nomination for his work here, but once again, that is now how things worked out.

5. Selma – Best Actor, Best Director


When this film failed to receive any of the major nominations besides Best Picture in 2015, outraged was sparked. David Oyelowo was actually amazing as Martin Luther King Jr. – if you were to only be listening to some of the speeches he made in the film, you could have mistaken him for the man himself. Ava DuVernay did a wonderful job directing this film as well, and for her to get ignored for her contribution was a travesty if you ask me.

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane – Best Actor


One person I feel was hard done by this year’s nominations was John Goodman. His portrayal of Howard in this film was not your typical John Goodman role, and part of me thinks this is why the film made such an impact on me. I’m a huge advocate for the film as it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was always vouching for Goodman to gain some sort of recognition when it came to this time of year, but it seems that it just was not to be.

3. The Help – Best Actress, Best Picture


The Help is a film very close to my heart. It is an uplifting tale about what can be achieved when a group of people decide to join together and try to change things. Octavia Spencer was the only winner from this film, but Viola Davis was up for Best Actress and didn’t win, and the film lost out on Best Picture as well. It’s good that the nominations were there, but I wish it could have won. Also, a little side note on this film – I much preferred Emma Stone as Skeeter Phelan here as opposed to Mia in La La Land. For her not to be nominated for her work here and to very likely win the Oscar for Best Actress this year is a tad non-sensical to me.

2. Jackie Brown – Best Actress


Ermmmm, where was Pam Grier’s nomination for her acting in Jackie Brown? She was fabulous as the struggling air hostess/drug smuggler/police informant. I loved her performance, but the awards people didn’t apparently. She was such a good character and an icon for women in film if you think about it. What didn’t she do that Robert Forster did to earn his nomination for his work in the film?

1. Every Quentin Tarantino film ever (besides The Hateful Eight) – Best Director


I’ll keep this one short and sweet – Quentin Tarantino, much like Christopher Nolan, should’ve won a Best Director gong long before now. How it hasn’t happened yet is beyond me. I’ve always loved his films, and can think of at least two films were he definitely should have won the award. Keep on going Quentin, your day will come eventually!

There you have it, and with just one more week until the Oscar winners are announces, there is just one more of these Oscars-themed lists to go. Next week, I’m going to be looking at actors and actresses who have never won an Oscar – could be another interesting one!

I’ll lose no sleep after watching Nocturnal Animals


An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a sadistic revenge tail.
This story within a story follows art curator Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) as she works her way through a book written and sent to her by her ex-husband. The story follows Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he and his family set off on a road trip, but have their journey cut short by a bunch of psychotic rednecks who capture his wife and daughter. Tony escapes and spends a night in the desert before making his way to a police station. With Sheriff Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), Tony makes a grisly discovery, and between them the two get to work on bringing down the gang that hijacked his journey. As she works her way through the novel, Susan finds herself recalling her first marriage, and confronting some of her most deeply bruised demons.

After missing out on Nocturnal Animals in the cinema (don’t you just love limited release films?), I’ve only just gotten round to reviewing the film. Although it required a lot of thinking on my behalf, I did enjoy the film, and it wasn’t just the lead actor who swung it for me. There was handful of great performances to deliver the story to us, and director Tom Ford completely pulled off the ambitious narrative style the film opts for.

Amy Adams made her second major appearance of the last year with her performance as Susan. Straightaway, I will say that for me personally, she wasn’t as strong here as I thought she was in Arrival. For the most part of her time as Susan, Adams gave a brooding performance as her character reflected back on a former life. She was good, just not as good as I thought she was in her other film from 2016.

Jake Gyllenhaal was great as Tony Hastings, although let’s face it, I am slightly biased on this point. he played a desperate man and was really riveting to watch as he teamed up with Michael Shannon’s Bobby Andes to try to bring his wife and daughter’s killers to justice.

That brings me onto the two supporting performances nicely. Shannon was terrific as the sheriff. He practically stole every scene he was in, and I would say that he is fully deserving of the Oscar nomination he received for his work. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was also brilliant as Ray Marcus, but I don’t think he was quite the psychopath a lot of people made him out to be.

At a first glance, it is quite difficult to see where the two different elements of this film fit together. However, after thinking about it for a while, there are so many ways the two halves can be joined up. The whole film is very open to individual interpretation, and I have no doubt that if I were to watch the film again and again, each time I would find a different way to pick everything apart.

Director Tom Ford has done a wonderful job with this film. I’ve not seen A Single Man, but from what I’ve heard, it would seem that this second film was a fine second project. His fashion designer influence was evident with so many of the shots throughout the film. I may have to sit down and watch his first film after seeing this.

On the whole, Nocturnal Animals is a magnificently dark thriller that I think deserved more recognition than it has received. Due to the nature of it’s non-linear narrative, you do need to watch it with an open mind, but if you do this, I’m pretty certain you will enjoy it.

Tuesday Top Ten – Best Oscar Winning Performances Of The 00’s

Last week, we received the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, and I think it’s fair to say there were some shocks and surprises hidden amongst them. However, I also thought that the release of the nominees up for Oscars in 2017 has created the perfect opportunity for me to have my own little awards season celebrations. To start off, I’ve compiled a collection of my favourite Oscar winning performances of the noughties. I’ve chickened out a bit as they’re in no particular order, but these are ten of the most memorable performances of the most recent decade.
10. Hilary Swank (Maggie Fitzgerald, Million Dollar Baby)


Million Dollar Baby did so well at the Oscars in the year 2000 by winning four awards including Best Picture, but I think what makes this film so memorable for me two years after first watching it is Hilary Swank’s performance as the lead character, Maggie Fitzgerald – a young woman who dreams of becoming a boxer despite the many hardships she’s faced in life. It was such a moving performance in a film that certainly isn’t one you’d watch if you needed your mood lifting, but the fact that I can remember so many different parts of her performance after all this time says something, hence why I’ve included her here.

9. Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin, The Last King Of Scotland)


To watch Forest Whitaker become this Ugandan dictator, you wouldn’t believe that he was portraying a real person. Idi Amin was a very charismatic leader that hid his agenda behind charm and magnetism, and Whitaker captured these characteristics wonderfully with this Oscar-winning performance. It was chilling to watch his transformation from the start of the film right to the end. It showed just what this Whitaker’s capabilities are as an actor, and is, again, a performance that hasn’t completely left me behind just yet.

8. Russell Crowe (Maximus, Gladiator) 


I may have chosen this performance purely because I loved the film so much, but it cannot be denied that Russell Crowe was on form as Maximus in this epic tale of revenge in Ancient Rome. It is yet another performance that I haven’t seen in some time so it is a bit fuzzy, but I do remember revelling in every moment of the film, and every second of Crowe’s performance. It is absolutely appropriate to say that this is a creation of epic proportions, with terrific contributions from everyone involved.

7. Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund, The Fighter)


I have to be honest, this list is dredging up some right blasts from the past. I think it was 2013 when I saw The Fighter, the story of Micky Ward and his rise through the ranks with the help of his brother, Dicky Eklund, played by the ever-brilliant Christian Bale. Bale finally got the recognition for his skill set that he had been deserving for at last five years before that with his Oscar win for the role. It was another performance that saw Bale undergo a significant physical transformation, although his acting alone would have been enough here.

6. Sean Penn (Harvey Milk, Milk)


When I was working through the contenders for this list, two performances from Sean Penn were in contention – his turn as Jimmy Markum in Mystic River, and this performance as Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay politician. I loved this very insightful biopic about Harvey’s political career, and so much of this was down to Penn’s unbelievably moving performance as the title character. I have told so many people about this film since seeing it last year as I think it is a story that more need to know about, and Penn makes the telling of it so much more impactful as well.

5. Denzel Washington (Alfonso Harris, Training Day)


It would be wrong of me not to include Denzel Washington in this list. He was another charismatic character as the dodgy detective, and what I think is so great about his performance is that you never really know what side of the law this guy is really on. Despite this though, the way Washington portrayed Harris made it hard for me to dislike him. Was he an anti-hero? Or was he the real villain? I’m not entirely sure, and I keep going back to the each time hoping to find answers to those questions, but because of how Washington plays it, I’m never quite sure.

4. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Erin Brockovich)


My favourite performance by Julia Roberts was her turn as Erin Brockovich. I was forced to see the film by my mum who is a hardcore fan of the actress, and I’m so glad she made me see it. She showed every bit of determination that seeped out of every part of the real Erin Brockovich’s being and really was a joy to watch as she took on the water companies and won. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, I would highly recommend it – it is a fascinating watch made all the more so by Roberts’ tour-de-force performance.

3. Christoph Waltz (Hans Landa, Inglorious Basterds)


A character that many have argued to be the best ever created by Quentin Tarantino is Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds. Christoph Waltz is someone I will always happily watch purely because of his performances in both the Tarantino films he has starred in, although I couldn’t pick Django Unchained over this as it was made in 2012. This was a performance with which you could just soak up every ounce of evil that radiated from the character, and I doubt many other people could tell me an actor who could have played it better.

2. Daniel Day-Lewis (Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood)


The final two films on this list went head to head in the same year. Winning Best Actor in 2008 was Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of greedy oil prospector Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Day-Lewis is always memorable no matter what role he takes on. It is in epics like this film that I believe he is often at his best. The story that unfolded surrounding Plainview’s life would not have been anywhere near as riveting if it wasn’t for the show put on by Day-Lewis – it is a film that I think is elevated so far solely because of his work.

1. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country For Old Men)


Quite possibly one of my favourite performances ever in one of my all-time favourite films was given to us by Javier Bardem – one of my favourite actors (as you can see, he made bit of an impact here). No Country For Old Men won a number of Oscars in 2008, and was often pitted against the previous film I spoke about. As Anton Chigurh, super villain extraordinaire, Bardem was spectacular. His performance was talked about for months after in my house, and is still referenced at some points now. It was an award that Bardem deserved every part of, and if I had to name my number one favourite Oscar-winning performance from the noughties, this would be it.

It’s fair to say that sometimes in the past, the Academy have gotten it wrong, and I’m sure they will continue to have some outrageous slip-ups in future. I hope you will agree with me, however, that they got things right with this lot. As always, let me know what your thoughts are, and stay tuned for another Oscars run-down next Tuesday!