Category Archives: Six of the Best

SIX OF THE BEST #36 – FILM UNDERDOGS!

Why the canine is considered to be the appropriate animal to represent a character who overcomes great loss and adversity is fascinating. On further digging one will find that etymological history of the term, Underdog, derives from the second half of the 19th century, where its first meaning was “the beaten dog in a fight”. Two dogs fight and the losing one is the underdog. Quite simple and obvious really. It makes sense then that the term has also been used in sporting and filmic language down the years. Here the underdog is a team or individual who faces an insurmountable opponent where defeat is most likely. To then gain victory against the odds makes the winning oh so much sweeter and glorious.

So, for my occasional Six of the Best series I’d like to explore and list some of the finest underdogs from cinema. I’d also like to consider certain conventions from within this subgenre. Clearly, I could just choose six films about sport, so I am going to work a bit harder and provide some less obvious choices too. Hope you agree.

** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS **


ROCKY (1976) – The individual underdog!

The individual underdog is synonymous with sporting films. Cinderella Man (2005), Eddie the Eagle (2015), Rudy (1993) and The Karate Kid (1984) are just some of the fine narratives which have used the individual overcoming the odds to triumph. Obviously, though the greatest of all time is Stallone’s working-class journeyman, Rocky Balboa, rising up from the gutters of Philadelphia to seeing stars and finding love in the ring. Reflected in Rocky’s incredible journey is Stallone’s own underdog story of a struggling actor, who had to sell his dog, wrote a brilliant script, determined to play the lead, earned his break and became one of the biggest film stars of a generation.


REMEMBER THE TITANS (2000) – the team underdog!

Like the individual underdog sports film, cinema is brimming with crowd pleasers about a bunch of unlikely oddballs or losers joining forces to steal victory from the jaws of defeat. Usually, the team underdogs will overcome singular divisions, while learning about themselves to find formidable communal fighting spirit. The Bad News Bears (1976), The Mighty Ducks (1990), The Longest Yard (1974/2005), Miracle (2004) and the aptly named Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004) are but a few of these excellent team films. However, Remember the Titans (2000) is one of the most powerful sporting team movies featuring Denzel Washington as T. C. Williams High School coach, Herman Boone, whose team not only overcomes sporting obstacles, but political ones including institutional racism and widespread bigotry outside and within the school system.


NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) – the villain as underdog!

Here’s a character which is incredibly difficult to write and even more problematic to define due to the paradoxical nature of their personality. If you’re doing bad things can you be considered an underdog? I mean is the underdog’s victory earned and can an audience root for the villain? I think one of the greatest underdogs and most unreliable of protagonists is Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects (1995). But he was a trickster, genius and fake underdog. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom tops Verbal for me. At the start of the film, Nightcrawler (2014), he has absolutely nothing. But his conniving, planning and preparedness to go the extra mile and expand his media business via sabotage and eventually murder are an unforgettably dark underdog journey.


CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) – the superhero underdog!

The superhero genre staple for both heroes and villains often finds a character acquiring by accident, fate or design abilities which transform them into beings of immense and fantastic power. The likes of Superman, Thor, and Wonder Woman are god-like superheroes, however, the likes of Steve Rogers, as Captain America, grew from humbler beginnings. Rogers is an admirable underdog because he doesn’t like bullies, his character never knew when he was beaten, he comes from working-class stock and he’s an anachronism as character tension comes from not fitting into the present. Rogers is not a god or scientist or billionaire, but the little guy with a big heart who becomes a hero.


ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) – the legal underdog!

It’s a sad indictment of humanity and the capitalist system that there are so many films showing the evil wrongs corporations have perpetuated against people and the environment. Dark Waters (2019), Silkwood (1983), Class Action (1991) and Erin Brockovich (2000) are but a few of such stories where individuals fight against an unjust legal system which strives to protect the rich and powerful from accepting responsibility for the heinous damage they have wreaked. Erin Brockovich is an especially positive example of an individual who, despite her lack of education in the law, was instrumental in building a case against Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) involving underground contamination. Brockovich also overcame sexist attitudes in the workplace too which placed certain judgements on the way she behaved and dressed. Brilliantly portrayed by Julia Roberts in the film, Erin Brockovich is a true underdog hero of a generation.


SPARTACUS (1960) – the epic underdog!

Having recently read Kirk Douglas’ enlightening memoir, I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist, I have to say it is one of the most excellent books about filmmaking and politics I have experienced. Douglas took up the cause of underdog screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who having served prison time for refusing to name names to the Joseph McCarthy led House of Un-American Activities Committee, was blacklisted in Hollywood. Writing under a series of fake names, Trumbo scribed the screenplay to the epic Spartacus (1960), with Douglas as the eponymous hero who rises up from slave to Gladiator to leader, defeating the Romans in many battles before dying a martyr. One can see Trumbo’s underdog fight reflected in Spartacus’ epic journey and the fact that Douglas eventually placed Trumbo’s name in the credits of the film was testament to his powerful writing and unjust treatment by the nefarious American government.

SIX OF THE BEST #35 – REVENGE RECOMMENDATION FILMS!

SIX OF THE BEST #35 – REVENGE RECOMMENDATION FILMS!

In series 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David opened a coffee store out of spite. It was done because he was having a personal dispute with coffee shop owner, Mocha Joe. Obviously, it’s a negative act and Larry David’s character is rich enough to carry out this vengeful venture. Safe to say Larry David’s plans eventually backfire and the spite store went up in smoke. But the comedic concept gave birth to much hilarity.

Now, I have no money so could not do anything that grand, but I find the idea of recommending certain films to people who have upset me quite amusing. This is what I call revenge recommendations. Of course, this is done for humorous purposes and I haven’t ever done this. But I thought it fun to list six films which could fit the bill. Films which are all very brilliantly made but in some way are, due to their extreme nature or different approach to storytelling, classed as “love them or hate them” examples of cinema.

Most importantly, when making revenge recommendations it’s important to sell them as films that are brilliant, even if you don’t like the films yourself. So, concentrate on the amazing cast or director or generally positive elements of the films; even if you have to lie. Finally, just remember, it’s just a bit of petty revenge to waste their time or annoy them. Hey, who knows, the person may even end up liking the film. Indeed, I like a few of these films myself after all.

*** CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS ***



I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (2020)

One of the films on this list I actually found really absorbing. However, this psychological drama has the potential to drive many people spare. Charlie Kaufman’s vision establishes a conventional relationship between Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons but the young woman is desiring to end things. Is it her life or her relationship she wants to end? Or is it both? Starts quite conventionally but ultimately a bizarre film that’s bound to infuriate and exasperate in equal measures.


LOST HIGHWAY (1997)

David Lynch is always a director whose films polarize audiences. Lost Highway (1997) is a great revenge recommendation because the noir mystery involving Bill Pullman’s musician sent to death row is weird, but actually quite coherent for a while. However, Lynch really pissed me off when he shifts character focus half way through, leaving me utterly confused. Thus, when recommending this remember to sell the great performance from Bill Pullman and brooding style and mystery. Just don’t say that Lost Highway (1997) makes no sense at all unless you’ve been smoking too much cheese like Lynch.


MOTHER! (2017)

While Mother! (2017) is technically a bravura tour-de-force in design, composition, cinematic experimentation and delivery I was utterly bored by, what is essentially, an indulgent, pretentious and nihilistic void of a film. Darren Aronofsky’s critiques Hollywood, fame, environmental disaster, and some kind of biblical allegory stuff and I wasn’t even shocked by the horrific denouement as I could not care less about any person or anything. But DON’T say this to the person you’re recommending it to. Just say Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are amazing and they HAVE to watch this film.



THE NEST (2020)

The most recent recommendation is a film I did not review on this site, because despite some sterling performances from Jude Law and Carrie Coon, plus absorbing direction from Sean Durkin, The Nest (2020), is ALL set-up and NO punch. It has no ending or catharsis! All throughout I felt a sense of dread and anxiety believing something horrendous was about to occur to these privileged 1980’s upwardly mobile characters. However, despite being thematically strong nothing of note really happens other than some rich people are going through some beautifully filmed and acted marriage issues. You can recommend this film to the hilt too as it was critically acclaimed and appeared on many reviewers top ten films of the year, I have no idea why?!


THE TRIBE (2014)

The Tribe (2014) is a truly breath-taking work of Ukrainian cinema. The story is set at a boarding school for deaf students and concentrates on a teenage boy whose life is dragged into a life of robbery, drugs and prostitution. Director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy creates a grey and bleak vision of school life in the Ukraine and a succession of nihilistic set-pieces rip your guts out and stamps on them from a great height. Critically acclaimed and one of the films of the year, it is an ideal revenge recommendation because while the filmmaking is impressive, the narrative and subject matter are utterly depressing. The kicker though is that the actors are all deaf and communicate via sign language, but there are NO SUBTITLES! Expertly placing you in the same position as deaf people are situated within the hearing world, is commendable but a truly shattering experience.


TITANE (2021)

Titane (2021) starts promisingly but then soon descends early on into crazed violence. Then at the midpoint it delivers one of the most insulting plot shifts I have seen in recent years. Yes-yes it’s an arthouse film and an expression of Julie Decournau’s vision of humanity, but I DID NOT CARE!! I got the symbolism of human beings as machines and exploitation of women and that family represents death and blah-blah-blah! Yet, and I’m likely to be in the minority and Titane (2021) is one of the most narratively, emotionally and visually exhausting films I have seen in some time. Recommend in a vengeful way and ruin someone’s evening – ha-ha!

SIX OF THE BEST #34 – AMAZING FILMS I DO NOT LIKE!

SIX OF THE BEST #34 – AMAZING FILMS I DO NOT LIKE!

Are there box office hits, cinematic phenomena and damned fine films loved by critics which you DO NOT like? That isn’t to say they aren’t great films, but subjectively you just don’t enjoy them? I mean some people dislike much of Christopher Nolan’s work! What!? Okay, Interstellar (2014), was not his best, but hey that’s just my opinion. It’s all just opinions.

Now, I like to be positive on this blog and have critical balance when writing my reviews. In fact, some films I choose not to review because I don’t want to slag something off which is just not for me. I also generally avoid reviewing films I consider terrible because I prefer to avoid negativity.

Thus, this article is not about having a pop at classic films or saying they are over-rated for attention. The truth is – I AM IN THE WRONG HERE! But I think it’s interesting to examine why I don’t like these six excellent films. After all, many talented people have worked passionately on them, so in no way do I want to disrespect their craft. Which is why, I repeat, I am wrong!

*** CONTAINS SPOILERS ***



AVATAR (2009)

James Cameron is one of the greatest genre filmmakers of all time. He is also a technological innovator and genius. In Avatar (2009), he truly topped himself in regard to creating not only the beautiful world and inhabitants of Pandora, but by using never-seen-before motion-capture cinematic techniques. Moreover, the film would go on to make over $2 billion at the box office, so I’m not worthy enough to criticise Avatar (2009). But the script is incredibly flat and derivative. The lead characters are mostly unlikable and I genuinely found the amount of blue on show irritating to the eye. Worst of all is the hypocrisy that a film this expensive, and with a carbon footprint this big, is critiquing capitalist corporations who destroy the natural world.

Avatar' once again highest-grossing film of all time at the box office

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Yes, this horror film had one of the smartest and ingenious marketing campaigns of all time. Yes, I should be praising it because I love horror films and also get excited when indie filmmakers hit the big time with low budget films. But, The Blair Witch Project (1999) has no real story as it just a clever series of jump scare set-ups. More importantly, it has no characters you can root for as they are so stupid and obnoxious. Worst of all it wasn’t scary or suspenseful. That’s because I wanted the bickering trio to die. I mean, who throws away a map. They were morons! Plus, this expertly crafted movie committed the worst crime of all – bringing back the found footage film! Now, don’t get me started on THAT cinematically moribund subgenre!

Film Review] The Blair Witch Project (1999) — Ghouls Magazine

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)

What’s not to like about an award winning, box office smash directed by arguably the most brilliant director of a generation? Furthermore, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) also contains some of the most breath-taking and ground-breaking special effects. So, with the Oscar winning cinematography and majestic score, why don’t I enjoy this Steven Spielberg sci-fi masterpiece? In short, I cannot stand the choices Richard Dreyfus’ character makes. I did not believe his journey. Why would you want to go to space and connect with aliens? Why would you abandon your family and head off on some frantic search for something from the sky? Eat the mash potato! Don’t make mini-mountains out of it. I get that there is pseudo-religious metaphors going on, but why were we meant to care? Amazing spectacle, but devoid of emotional connection and an ending that didn’t make much logical sense to me.

Film Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – Kieran's Thoughts,  Previews & Reviews

THE MASTER (2012)

I really love films and documentaries about cults. Especially where religion is used to control human beings and make them do crazy things. What possesses another person to want to control others? They are often extremely charismatic and talented people too, so always fascinating to explore. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012), and while this has been denied, he studies the relationship between a lost soul drawn to a movement that may or may not be a reflection of Scientology. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a World War II veteran is pulled toward Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a leader of a cult known as “The Cause”. But not much happens other than Quell having a series of breakdowns amidst post-traumatic stress and alcoholism. Anderson is one of the great humanist and existential filmmakers working today, but The Master (2012) was too impenetrable and alienating for me.

The Master (2012) | MUBI

MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

I am a massive fan of David Lynch’s oeuvre. He is one of the most incredibly idiosyncratic and original voices is cinema. Lynch is visually, aurally and cinematically able to deliver both coherent and surreal narratives that blow your mind and heart out. After bamboozling audiences with Lost Highway (1997) he delivered an emotionally moving road movie in The Straight Story (1999). After that I’m not sure what was in his damn fine coffee when Mulholland Drive (2001) was devised. My understanding was it was a rejected filmed pilot which transmuted into a feature film. Crossing many genres including thriller, detective, horror and romance, the narrative splinters via many characters in Hollywood, notably Naomi Watts portraying an actress experiencing a career and identity crisis. That’s just the tip of an extremely enigmatic iceberg and the bottom line was I just didn’t care. Critics love Mulholland Drive (2001) and it often tops best film lists. I have absolutely no idea why.

David Lynch's 'Mulholland Drive' Explained


THE WITCH (2015)

My filmmaking and screenwriting career is more a hobbling hobby these days. Other than not getting on the right career train, or getting lost in the smoke of an overcrowded creative platform, one main reason I may not have succeeded is because I arguably don’t have an original vision. Maybe I am just too generic. One cannot say that about Robert Eggers. This is one truly talented filmmaker. His debut film The Witch (2015) was a low budget folk horror masterpiece which became a sleeper hit at the box office. Set in 1630s New England, it is an authentically designed and brilliantly acted period drama with Anya Taylor Joy standing out. But aside from the historical accuracy of the language, locations and costumes the story was SO slow. I realise The Witch (2015) is an arthouse classic, but I just did not connect with the characters and was bored all the way through. There are some occasional scares, but it’s more a film which draws horror from underlying dread and enigma rather than the classic horror style I prefer.

The Witch — Linda Muir

SIX OF THE BEST #33 – MEMORABLE FILM DEATHS! ***Contains spoilers and graphic violence***

SIX OF THE BEST #33 – MEMORABLE FILM DEATHS!

Who doesn’t like a great movie death? Well, people who abhor violence and gore on the screen. But I am not one of those people. Thus, if done right in terms of combining emotional context and cinematic imagination, there’s nothing I like more than revelling or lamenting a character’s end in fine bloody fashion. Lastly, I hear you ask why no Zahler, Scorsese, Cronenberg, Miike, Peckinpah, Jackson, Fulci, Roth, Romero, Argento etc. on this list? So much death and only six make it, so please suggest any of the thousands I have missed off in the comments.

*** CONTAINS SPOILERS ***


ALIEN (1979) – “Do these eggs taste off?”

I think it may have been something Kane (John Hurt) ate or maybe something that ate him? Anyway, one of the most spectacularly surprising scenes ever still holds amazing power to this very day.


THE FURY (1978) – Separated at death!

This under-rated tele-kinetic thriller is a spiritual sequel to Carrie (1976). Adding a spy conspiracy plot to Amy Irving’s rites of passage character arc, it has a whip-cracking-pace and classic DePalma set-pieces. None more so than the explosive end of the baddie-in-black.


PSYCHO (1960) – Take a bath next time!

What more can be written about one of the most shockingly original scenes in cinema history? Not only did Hitchcock break all narrative rules killing off the main protagonist halfway through, he did it with one of the most ingenious uses of montage, music and murder ever.


PULP FICTION (1994) – The original “face-off!”

Marvin never saw it coming. But let’s face it – none of us did!


ROBOCOP (1987) – Toxic Wasted!

Whoever designed this action scene, no doubt Paul Verhoeven had much to say, delivered one of the most excessive demises in 1980’s cinema. The vehicle crash, the toxic waste, the melting bad guy, the steam coming off his body and the final disintegration are just cinematic perfection.


WILD AT HEART (1990) – Bobby Peru loses his mind!

David Lynch’s vibrant adaptation of Barry Gifford’s romantic thriller contains many colourful characters. Willem Dafoe’s Bobby Peru is a particularly nasty piece of work and he gets his comeuppance in an incredibly visceral and disturbing way!

SIX OF THE BEST #32 – CINEMATIC STATEMENTS OF INTENT!

SIX OF THE BEST #32 – CINEMATIC STATEMENTS OF INTENT!

This is a dive into the world of punchy dialogue that sums up a film or character or a relationship in a few key words. Because sometimes you just don’t want to think and sometimes you don’t want subtle hints to a character’s intentions. On occasions you want the whole plot and cinematic situation summed up succinctly and in an emotionally impactful way. I like ambiguous or complex characters, but from time to time I just gots to know, in a few words, what the character wants or their plans or capabilities. How do they do that? Well, through a good old-fashioned statement of intent.

I would categorise a statement of intent as generally involving the words “I” or “me” and has a character telling another character or group, plus the audience, what they intend to do or how they feel about a particular moment in their life. Or indeed their life as a whole. There is no ambiguity, but rather a direct proclamation of where the character stands and what he or she wants. Actually, I should say this is an extremely masculine list, but la-di-da, it is what is and so it goes. Thus, here are six of the best, of what I call statements of intent from film.


*** CONTAINS SPOILERS ***


QUINT – JAWS (1975)

“I’ll catch this bird for yer – but it ain’t gonna be easy. . . bad fish!”

One of the great character introductions of all time and an incredible statement of intent too. In a way Quint did catch the “bird”, but that big bird caught up with Quint too! What a speech! What a film!


HOWARD BEALE – NETWORK (1976)

“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Acclaimed playwright Paddy Chayefsky arguably wrote one of the greatest cinema speeches of all time with Peter Finch’s newscaster, Howard Beale, reaching the end of his tether with society and life! The saddest thing about this statement of intent is that NOTHING has changed – the world is still nuts and it gets crazier by the day!


T101 / T800 – THE TERMINATOR (1984)

“I’ll be back!”

Sometimes three simple words can say more than a lengthy monologue, as James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger combined to amazing impact in this classic sci-fi action film! Arnie lived up to his promise too, coming back again and again in a series of sequels and prequels and, aside from Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1992), rarely equalled follow-up films.


MARTIN RIGGS – LETHAL WEAPON (1987)

“Do you really wanna jump… Well, that’s fine by me!”

Amidst all the mullets, bullets and B-movie baddies of Shane Black’s over-the-top 1980’s script, there is in fact a moving buddy relationship in here too. There is also a compelling character arc of a suicidal man finding a reason to live through an adopted family. Mel Gibson’s Riggs has so many great scenes to demonstrate his wild-man acting style and the “jumper” scene is probably the best of them.


HAWKEYE – THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992)

“You stay alive no matter what occurs – I will find you!”

This statement of intent comes later than they usually might in a film. But, under the fall of water and with the majestic score swelling Daniel Day Lewis’ Hawkeye powerfully declares his love and intentions to Madeline Stowe’s Cora Munro in Michael Mann’s incredible romantic war drama.


BRYAN MILLS – TAKEN (2008)

“I have a particular set of skills… I will look for you. I will find you. And I will kill you!”

Despite the xenophobic undertones within Pierre Morel and Liam Neeson’s rapid-paced action thriller, it does have one of the most iconic statements of intent in recent film history. Neeson delivers it brilliantly and what’s great is he does find the kidnappers and he does kill them! Just like he said he would! Nothing I like more than a man who keeps his word!

SIX OF THE BEST #31 – FILMS INVOLVING ADMINISTRATION!

SIX OF THE BEST #31 – FILMS INVOLVING ADMINISTRATION!

Having worked in administrative roles most of my working life I thought it would be fun to consider six films which incorporate paperwork, or at least some element of office life, within their cinematic fabric. I’ve worked in industrial, corporate, retail, financial, legal, media and customer service environments. Moreover, I have also had some brilliant, some boring and some frankly awful jobs. Thus, it always pleases me when I can identify with characters and narrative elements that utilise office drudge and tasks. Thus, here are six of the best that do. If you can think of anymore please let me know.


That Moment In Brazil when Sam Lowry's air conditioning fails | by Louie  Hsiao | Medium

ARGO (2012)

The Oscar winning thriller is very exciting, even though much of the action takes place in U.S. Embassy, C.I.A. and Hollywood backlot offices. A great script and cast are wonderfully helmed by Ben Affleck, plus there are some expertly suspenseful scenes throughout. My favourite is the sequence where the Iranians piece together shredded paper to find out the identities of the Americans they are chasing. It’s painstaking work, but somehow extremely suspenseful too.


Argo – Ben Affleck's gripping CIA thriller sends reality into a tailspin |  Ben Affleck | The Guardian

DARK WATERS (2019)

Todd Haynes superior legal thriller unveils a tragic series of events relating to environmental, chemical, legal and human corruption by the DuPont corporation. Mark Ruffalo’s dogged lawyer never gives up in the face of corporate greed and community murder and a load of paperwork. When he gets delivered boxes and boxes of files from DuPont’s army of lawyers I really wanted to dive into the screen and help him!


Dark Waters review: Mark Ruffalo takes up weary arms against a malicious  multinational | Sight & Sound | BFI

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Double Indemnity was adapted from James M. Cain’s devious noir novella and found Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck plotting to kill her husband for the insurance money. As MacMurray’s desperate voiceover reveals the events of the story, we are pulled into a web of deceit and murder which shows human nature as greedy, vicious and unforgiving. Billy Wilder’s films often featured weak men in difficult situations and here I just love that the insurance industry is featured rather than the standard cops and private detectives in other film noirs.


FILM NOIR OF THE WEEK: Double Indemnity (1944) | Dostoyevsky Reimagined:  Blogs

OFFICE SPACE (1999)

Mike Judge’s under-rated black comedy is arguably the best film ever about working in an office. It features so many great scenes and loopy characters as Ron Livingston’s lowly software administrator just decides to stop trying! Rather than get sacked the management team see him as a free-thinker and he actually gets promoted. Perfectly catching the repetitious nature, absurdity and tedium of corporate life, one of the many hilarious moments involves the violent destruction of a printer by fed up workers.


17 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Office Space | Mental Floss

THE REPORT (2019)

Based on true events, the film forensically documents a period of U.S. history where Adam Driver portrays, Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer investigating the 2005 destruction of interrogation videotapes. He begins the work in 2009 and is faced with six million pages of CIA materials to work through. It soon, unsurprisingly, becomes an obsessive and ordered job for Jones and it takes him years to ultimately finish the report. Often C.I.A thrillers have car chases and shootouts, but this is an extensively researched drama set in enclosed offices, in meetings, in Senate hearings, at desks and computer screens; all with flashes of interspersing torture.



THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

Patience is a virtue they say, and Andy Dufresne shows it in spades; tiny little digging spades he uses to chip away at a tunnel over many, many years. This prison film benefits from a gem of a Stephen King story, plus Frank Darabont’s brilliant writing. Everyman Dufresne could be battered into submission by the rape, beatings, and incarceration he endures but his stubborn survival instinct pays off in a wonderful pay-off at the story’s end. I also loved how he used his skills as an accountant to get the guards on his side, utilising his bookkeeping abilities as part of his escape plan.


The Shawshank Redemption - Film | Park Circus

SIX OF THE BEST #30 – FAVOURITE FILM MONTAGES!

SIX OF THE BEST #30 – FAVOURITE FILM MONTAGES!

Who doesn’t love a film montage!? The passage of time edited and set to a memorable soundtrack is fine cinematic tradition. Not only is a montage a great way to tell a story visually, it can also give pace to a narrative, provide a perfect cinematic bridge to the final act or even supply emotional impetus at the start and middle of a film.

Here I choose six of my favourite movie montages. All have been selected due to both the style and content of the sequence, plus the music accompanying the montage. Of course, I could have chosen a more artistic aspect to montage by including examples from Eisenstein, Kubrick or the incredible editing in the The Godfather (1972), when Michael Corleone wipes out his rivals during his nephew’s baptism. That I will save for another day.


ROCKY (1976)

No film franchise has exploited the fight montage and training sequence to the max like Rocky. I could have chosen others, but the original remains the best. I love the urban locations and the Philadelphian streets are just so gritty as Stallone’s down-on-his-luck boxer gets a crack at the championship of the world! That music just soars too!

SCARFACE (1983)

With a combustible screenplay written by Oliver Stone, Scarface (1983), is a cocaine driven and incendiary viewing experience. Everything is ramped up to eleven, including: the violence, shouting, swearing, shooting, politicking, drug-taking, sex, killing, avarice, cocaine, money-making, decadence and corruption. It is an epic film with many classic scenes, but the 80’s pop-synth-driven montage here adds real pace to the brutal proceedings.


THE KARATE KID (1984)

Another fighting film and another John G. Avildsen pick! More than just a teenage Rocky rip-off, The Karate Kid (1984) is a terrific rites-of-passage drama that incorporates a love story and a boy overcoming bullies with the help of a wise mentor. Joe Esposito’s song, “You’re the Best” was originally chosen for Rocky III, but ultimately ended up here in the fantastic fighting tournament montage.


FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (1986)

John Hughes fast-paced-set-in-one-day-comedy-classic has some brilliant dialogue and is anchored superbly by Matthew Broderick’s cocky lead performance as mischievous Ferris Bueller. For all the craziness on show one of my favourite scenes is when Hughes slows the pace down at the museum. Here we get some wonderfully framed shots, sly humour and a beautiful instrumental version of The Smiths’ song, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want!”


UP (2009)

So many films struggle to establish empathy for their characters either through bad writing or poor creative choices. Pixar, however, are masterful at establishing both character identification and motivation. None more so than in this classic montage featuring the mostly blissful life of Carl and Ellie Fredericksen. With Michael Giacchino’s iconic score called “Married Life” providing energetic and poignant emotional support, this is one of the most moving four minutes in movie history.


DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

Tarantino’s epic Western runs the gamut of action, violence, comedy and drama, even throwing a buddy-buddy dynamic in there for good measure. While often known for his quotable dialogue, Tarantino’s films always feature crisp editing and a powerful visual storytelling too. I love this montage in Django Unchained (2012), with Django and King Schultz framed against the wonderful snowy vistas as Jim Croce sings his catchy tune.


SIX OF THE BEST #28 – KAFKAESQUE FILM NARRATIVES!

SIX OF THE BEST #28 – KAFKAESQUE FILM NARRATIVES!

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, to describe a book or film or life situation as Kafkaesque relates to:

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) – a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka’s work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening.”

Moreover, it especially relates to characters and events which could be described as:

“. . . relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings, especially having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.”

Such narratives are abundant throughout cinema history and in this occasional strand I would like to suggest six of the best films which could be described as ‘Kafkaesque.’ Interestingly, I have not selected the purer surrealist work of say David Lynch or Luis Bunuel, but concentrated on films dominated by characters utterly lost to a nightmarish fate, bureaucracy or a scenario entirely not of their making. I guess one could draw parallels with the world’s current situation in regard to COVID-19, as many of us have found ourselves powerless and at the mercy of bureaucracy, sickness and unknown external forces. However, I am not going to dwell on that; just keep going and hope we all get through safely to the other side of it.



AFTER HOURS (1985)


THE HUNT (2012)


I, DANIEL BLAKE (2016)


NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)


THE TENANT (1976)


THE TRIAL (1962)

SIX OF THE BEST #27 – GREAT FILM ENDINGS!

SIX OF THE BEST #27 – GREAT FILM ENDINGS!

What makes a great film ending? Well, it helps to have an amazing cinematic story before it, building to an incredible twist, memorable shock or emotionally cathartic moment. In the latest effort in my occasional series Six of the Best, I have chosen six films with unbelievably brilliant endings. If you have your own suggestions, please feel free to comment.

*** CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS ***


CASABLANCA (1942)

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”


INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

“You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.”


PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

“They blew it up! God, damn you! Damn you all to hell!!!”


THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”


THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that… he’s gone!”

WITHNAIL AND I (1986)

“I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth…”

SIX OF THE BEST #26 – ENNIO MORRICONE (R.I.P 1928-2020)

SIX OF THE BEST #26 – ENNIO MORRICONE – (R.I.P – 1928-2020)

“If you scroll through all the movies I’ve worked on, you can understand how I was a specialist in westerns, love stories, political movies, action thrillers, horror movies, and so on. So, in other words, I’m no specialist, because I’ve done everything. I’m a specialist in music.” Ennio Morricone


As if 2020 couldn’t get any more dramatic, one of the greatest musical composers and dramatists ever known has passed away. Ennio Morricone, rather incredibly, wrote the scores for over four hundred films and television works. He also managed to write well over one hundred classical pieces. To say Ennio Morricone was a prolific genius is somewhat of an understatement.

Morricone won six BAFTAs, eleven Nastro d’Argento, three Grammy Awards, three Golden Globes, six BAFTAs, ten David di Donatello, two European Film Awards, the Golden Lion Honorary Award and the Polar Music Prize. In 2007, he received the Academy Honorary Award for his outstanding commitment to cinema. Moreover, he was also nominated for a further six Oscars. Lastly, Morricone had to wait until 2016 to receive his only competitive Academy Award for the haunting score to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (2016). For Morricone to receive only one Oscar for musical composition is astounding and proves once again there is no justice in the world.

A meagre blog piece from a London-based hack will never be enough of a tribute to a composer who worked in every cinematic genre and with an incredible array of famous and infamous filmmakers. Notables include: Sergio Leone, Oliver Stone, Warren Beatty, John Carpenter, Quentin Tarantino, Sergio Corbucci, Dario Argento, Duccio Tessari, Sergio Sollima, Henri Verneuil, Bernardo Bertolucci, Mauro Bolognini, Giuliano Montaldo, Roland Joffé, Don Siegel, Mike Nichols, Brian De Palma, Barry Levinson and many more companies including advertisers, singers, recording artists and fashion designers. Morricone even found time to compose the 1978 World Cup theme song.

Thus, as a tribute to one of the greatest cinematic artists I have selected six of Morricone’s best film orchestrations. Although given his brilliance and spectacular output, one could certainly pick many more; even sixty of the best!! Riposa in pace, Ennio, il maestro!




THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966)



THE GREAT SILENCE (1968)



ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968)



ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA (1984)



THE MISSION (1986)



THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2016)