Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971 USA)

Roald Dahl’s Grimm-like book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” gets a careful, pointed musical treatment here, involving five Golden Ticket-winning children who get to tour a mysterious chocolate factory–at their own expense. Turns out the journey is a test of their personalities and upbringings, and while the film is a little presumptuous to suggest that the poorest child may be the most noble and honest (as if all rich kids are rotten). This must be in the top 10 of the most entertaining films of the last 100 years. Few people haven’t seen this. [Read more…]

Maigret Sets A Trap (2016 Britain)

So much effort was expended on getting the atmosphere of the whole thing right that tension and a plausible story went by the board. Another old serial killer plot? It may have been bold and edgy in 1955 when Georges Simenon penned the novel, but the subject has been explored endlessly from every possible angle these past few  generations that its hard not to stifle a yawn. The film looks authentic enough even if it was filmed in Budapest. But it gives us a Paris that is about as quiet as a sleepy village in Provence. The viewer never gets to see any bustle in this city, but I guess when you saddle yourself with a 1950’s setting, the correct vehicles are not that easy to come by, and it has that shot-on-an-early Sunday morning look. [Read more…]

Revenge Of The Manitou (Graham Masterton)

The 71 year old Edinburgh-born author has an unusual pedigree. He used to write sex books like How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – 3 million copies of that one sold. He was also heavily involved as an editor for porn mags like Mayfair and Penthouse too. Then he became a prolifically successful horror novel writer. Interesting…anyway, this follow up to his earlier The Manitou is much more entertaining. At first I was leery as the book opened with the focus on an eight-year old protagonist, but I quickly warmed-up to Toby and the Fenner clan.  [Read more…]

Carry On Henry (1971 Britain)

A curiously neglected entry, perhaps as it was made in a period when the series had generally started to go into decline, but in my view it’s one of the best of all, certainly in the top three. The historical outings were usually among the team’s funniest, and Talbot Rothwell provides perhaps his most audacious script with a real plot, told in his trademark puns and double entendres, but with a real abundance of panache and wit, attaining an almost poetic quality. Here the great tyrant, Henry VIII, is kinky haired Sid James – a pint-sized, dirty old man with a mug only a mother could love – chasing tavern wenches and princesses alike. [Read more…]

A Cry In The Night (Mary Higgins Clark)

This is classic MH Clark. She takes the reader to the edge of anticipation, excitement, and makes you feel like you are hiding in a closet/wardrobe/cupboard – take your pick,  peeking in on what’s happening. I like all her older novels but none of the ones she’s written in the last 20 years. If you don’t mind having an unorthodox protagonist then this novel (first published in 1982) is fantastic and eerie–not every book has to have a strong leading character. Our heroine is pretty passive by modern western standards, virtually helpless, and this may upset the feminists and others who are used to women being more pro-active these days. [Read more…]

The Killers (1964 USA)

Hugely influential classic re-telling of Ernest Hemingway’s short story. This flick has inspired many a wannabe. Not really Film Noir as it was made after the genre had passed and is in colour and features no detectives or private eyes. And not even a “film” as it was originally intended as the very first made-for-television movie. With this version also featuring a murder-by-sniper scene, the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy by sniper ensured The Killers was temporarily on unsafe ground. With Ronald Reagan making his last appearance on film before moving into politics, the ’64 version of The Killers has a bit of history. [Read more…]

The Mind Parasites (Colin Wilson)

“The Mind Parasites” came about when Wilson criticized a bloke named H P Lovecraft in one of his works. August Derleth, Lovecraft’s posthumous publisher and apologist, made a challenge to Wilson – saying, essentially “If you think Lovecraft was such a lousy writer, why don’t you do better yourself?” Wilson relished the challenge and set out to do just that. This book is the result. In fact, it can’t really be regarded as part of the Lovecraftian cycle – it takes too many liberties with the canon for that – but in its own right it’s an amazing work. We are not the top of the food chain; we have an energy predator which is feeding off of us and also restructuring the world in its image — this is the new world order. [Read more…]

Slayground (Richard Stark)

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark’s (the writer’s real name Was Donald E Westlake) excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it’s the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have preferred, but it’s the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it’s Parker who will now have to pay the price. [Read more…]

After The Sunset (USA 2004)

Max (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek) are eating at a restaurant with an American couple and are discussing their business activities. Wendell: “My family’s been in manure for three generations.” Max: “No shit.” Having pulled off yet another amazing and cunning diamond robbery and left FBI Agent Lloyd with yet more egg on his face, Max and Lola retire to the Caribbean and get on easy street. After a while though the lobsters start to lose their luxury, the sun seems normal and the days are boring more than they are relaxing. [Read more…]

Wonder Woman (2017 USA)

Mainstream films get dumber, louder and tackier all the time, and they substitute mawkishness for real emotion and character development. Banned in Lebanon, but to really do it justice this pile of crap should be banned everywhere! WW is really the same as every other cartoonish, overblown comic-book action flick, except with a female protagonist. Actually, this is worse than the average comic book movie, because it preaches to the audience about pacifism but then hypocritically celebrates “heroic” violence. In other words: Wonder Woman is an alleged pacifist who enjoys killing lots of  people. But wait!, all is not lost, WW delivers on three things – lots of slow mo, dodgy special effects, and painful clichés. [Read more…]

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