Archive | December, 2011


31 Dec

Director: Asif Kapadia

Writer: Manish Pandey

Stars: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Frank Williams

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 106 minutes



Senna is the first official documentary about the late Formula 1 racing driver Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian superstar of the racing circuit died in his car in 1994 at the San Marino grand prix. This film covers his F1 odyssey from his first races in 1984 through the multiple championship wins and to the tragic events at Imola.

This is a stunning documentary. It is both tragic and life-affirming. There is an enormous amount of previously unseen footage that’s included and the result is a truly insightful look into the finer details of F1 as it became a highly valuable and global sport. For Senna the emergence of Formula 1 as a commercial behemoth was tinged with regret and sadness; he decries the politics and corruption of the sport on a number of occasions. Some of those outbursts are directed at the F1 supremo at the time (Balestre) and some at the leading driver during the mid 1980’s (Prost) and Senna’s sparring with them both is a central theme.

Senna was a superstar of his sport and for all of the right reasons; he was incredibly fast, he pushed himself and his car to the limits in every race, and he became a champion whilst retaining a huge amount of humility and grace. Brazilians adored him during a period of extreme internal upheaval and Senna went on to do a lot for his people. He was a sporting great and this amazing documentary honours him well. And the thrilling on car footage of Senna driving in the city circuit of Monaco in 1988 is unlike anything I have ever seen in any form of racing.

Julia’s Eyes

31 Dec

Director: Guillem Morales

Writers: Guillem Morales (screenplay), Oriol Paulo (screenplay)

Stars: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar and Pablo Derqui

UK Rating: 15

Runtime: 112 minutes



This is a Spanish subtitled film that was produced by Guillermo del Toro and ‘the team that brought you The Orphanage’. As such it is another scary thriller and it features the same lead actress in Belen Rueda. In this instance she plays a woman with a degenerative eye disorder trying to resolve her twin sister’s unconvincing suicide whilst losing her eyesight (and some of her marbles).

With a film such as this you expect lots of interiors, close ups and a sense of claustrophobia, but they are elevated with the worsening eyesight of the protagonist. Her world is actually closing in on her whilst the sleuthing that she undertakes provokes a range of sinister encounters. There is also an elevated sense of colour, score and language in this film that reminds me a bit of Almodovar. As with that Spanish master this film veers to the melodramatic at times.

So this movie is a little too long and too over-the-top at times, but at its heart it is a solid thriller with some nice scary moments and another good turn from Belen Rueda. My nerves were not completely shredded, and The Orphanage packed a bigger punch in that regard, but they were set on edge and the central theme of losing one’s sight is rather disturbing.

Cowboys and Aliens

30 Dec

Director: Jon Favreau

Writers: Roberto Orci (screenplay), Alex Kurtzman (screenplay), and 7 more credits

Stars: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 119 minutes



As with those mash-up songs on Glee the pairing of cowboys and aliens on film is neither subtle nor smart. It’s all very calculated and smacks of laziness on the part of the relevant studio executive. And at least one of those execs saw the error of their ways as a stream of off message quotes came from the studio as well as some of the actors on the film’s release. I can see why.

The film starts out with a decent enough storyline and the very early and relatively punchy violence grabs attention. That violence is perpetrated by Daniel Craig and he’s reasonable throughout although never fully convincing. What is worse is that the plot soon gets holed by clichéd characters and general ridiculousness whilst Harrison Ford gets introduced and his character is all over the place! I have no idea what Ford saw in this film and his role, but the first 30 minutes of him in it are painful. And then the alien attacks and mother ship cattle prod experiments start up.

This is not as bad as Wild Wild West with Will Smith (is anything?), but it’s really not good. The supporting cast, including Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown and Keith Carradine, are hardly stretched and the lead females all look too clean and too cute to be anywhere near Arizona in 1873. It’s all just very lazy and not engaging.

The Inbetweeners Movie

30 Dec

Director: Ben Palmer

Writers: Iain Morris, Damon Beesley

Stars: James Buckley, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas

UK Rating: 15

Runtime: 97 minutes

This film was one of the biggest grossing films at the UK box office this summer and went on to record some of the highest ever UK numbers for a comedy. It is the movie extension of the popular British show (2008 to 2010) about a group of 4 awkward, inept and generally crude teenage schoolboys. In the movie the 4 have just finished secondary school and take a cheap and cheerful holiday to Malia in Crete.

If you watched the TV series, then you know what to expect with the movie. If you missed it on TV, but can imagine what four 18 year old boys might get up to in one of Europe’s most hedonistic party resorts, then you know what to expect with the movie! And it’s all there – the lager louts, the dodgy clubs, fish bowls for cocktails, vomiting, fighting, chasing girls and waking up where you shouldn’t.

I loved the Inbetweeners TV series and I enjoyed this film. The two parts dovetail nicely as the film completes the boys’ painful ascent to some form of adulthood. However, the movie is not as successful as the 25 minute episodes were because of the wider canvas and longer runtime. There are great set pieces – Neil, Will and Simon dancing in an empty club – but there are gaps in the gags and too much time is spent on Simon’s storyline (when you really need more Neil and Jay).

Super 8

29 Dec

Director: J.J. Abrams

Writer: J.J. Abrams

Stars: Elle Fanning, Amanda Michalka and Kyle Chandler

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 112 minutes



This is the sort of film that one feels that only the big US studios can make. It has Steven Spielberg as the executive producer and Super 8 is very much a tribute to the great early work of the great man. It has kids, it has nostalgia, it has monsters and it has plenty of small town shenanigans. The director JJ Abrams (who brilliantly rebooted Star Trek in 2009) is a vocal fan of Spielberg and seeing Super 8 underlines his credentials as the man’s successor.

To be clear, I loved this film. It is fantastic. Set in 1979, it is about a group of kids during the summer and it has elements of, but improves upon, films such as The Goonies and Stand By Me. They are junior film-makers and find themselves in the middle of an alien like invasion when their super 8 camera records a huge train crash on the edge of town.

Super 8 has action, suspense, drama and a monster (so what’s not to love?) It moves quickly, but it’s not superficial and certainly not a crash, bang & wallop machine as operated by Michael Bay. The kids are believable and act very well. The film is touching at times. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Captain America

29 Dec

Director: Joe Johnston

Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay), Stephen McFeely (screenplay), and 2 more credits

Stars: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Samuel L. Jackson

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 124 minutes



This is another big Marvel comic book adaptation that was released over the summer. It is set during WWII and has Chris Evans playing the eponymous superhero who emerges from the shell of a put upon weakling. It’s simple stuff and it’s all about little guys fighting back against bullies (that in this instance is a Nazi deep science division).

Generally, it’s all a bit ridiculous. Captain America is a very politically correct superhero of the 1930’s and ‘40’s and as such he struggles for impact as the focus of a post millennial action movie. That’s harsh, and sometimes ‘old versus new’ can work (as with some of the Hellboy films), but I struggled to be engaged with this.

There are some good explosions, the film is easy to follow and there is nothing very offensive about it at all. As such it should carry some family appeal. The supporting cast (including Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci and Dominic Cooper) are also decent. It’s that type of film – decent and solid, but by no means great. And for my money I preferred Thor who was another summer superhero of 2011.

Guidelines to Small Screen Reviews

29 Dec

Hello blogosphere, here are my guidelines to my future movie reviews on SSR;

  1. I see each film for the first time at home on my TV (and usually via a DVD).
  2. I watch the film on a fairly standard TV set (it’s a 28″ widescreen Samsung).
  3. I ignore all of the hype and I write an independent review.
  4. I ignore all of the extras and just review the film.
  5. I aim to write concise, fair and honest reviews that are helpful to other film fans.


Cleophus James

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