Stuart Wood
Former Contributor

WRITTEN BY Stuart Wood

The Boat That Rocked (UK release)

Living in a world dominated by over-engineered, cynically manufactured disposable pop it's easy to forget that the more pure origins of modern music are barely half a century old. Back in the 60s, rock & roll simultaneously shocked and breathed new life in to a stuffy post war populace. The Boat That Rocked is a gleeful love letter to a time when pop music first exploded and became the soundtrack to a new generation.

The Mutant Chronicles

The first rule of filmmaking is to live within your means. If all you have is a man, a bike and a road, make a movie about a man on the road with his bike, not a gang battling mutants on a post-apocalyptic world, no matter how much more appealing the second option may be to your sensibilities. Mutant Chronicles suffers from this exact problem. While it's hard to fault director Simon Hunter for his ambition...

RocknRolla

Having reviewed (read: suffered) his last movie, Revolver, for this site last year, I was convinced the Guy Ritchie had lost his mind. So the fact I found his new movie RocknRolla entertaining was more than a pleasant surprise. Ritchie ditches all the pretentious nonsense that bogged down his previous effort and goes back to doing what he does best; cheeky British gangster caper movies. However it's something that turns out to be the movie's greatest strength and it's biggest failing.

The Duchess

The Duchess is a sobering look at the darker side of pre-Victorian life, the side that the Austens and Brontes of the world would have you believe never existed. While those endless adaptations of their work might make you think that eighteenth century England was all merry dances, flouncy dresses and chasing after brooding alpha-male types; the truth about the way of life at that time was far less fanciful.

Son of Rambow

Written and directed by Garth Jennings (Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy), his sophomore project Son of Rambow is a much smaller, more restrained effort. Without an obsessive fanbase and massive expectation weighing down on him, Jennings finds his stride using the hilarious and sweet personal story of two boys with one seemingly simple mission.

Revolver

Revolver pretty much confirms what I have long suspected: that Guy Ritchie is an overrated one-trick pony. While Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch may have been snappy, cheeky gangster capers, Revolver is an overlong, self-indulgent, boring mess which may or may not, depending on how much you want to read in to it, have worrying undertones of Mrs Madonna Ritchie’s Kabbalistic cult noodlings shoe-horned in.

Atonement

This year has been rife with cash-in sequels and inferior remakes. Sure, Transformers was fun. Okay, so Shoot ‘Em Up made me bounce up and down like a giddy child with it’s over the top absurdity. But occasionally you feel that, even though these big dumb action movies are fun, after the hundredth movie where the plot exists solely to provide a link from set-piece A to set-piece B, you start to wonder if the art and the storytelling of cinema has gone down the pan.

Run, Fat Boy, Run

Dennis Doyle (Pegg) is a security guard in a woman’s clothes shop and it’s been five years since he left his pregnant bride Libby (Newton) at the alter. Don’t judge him too harshly as Dennis isn’t really a bad man, it’s just that he like many modern men has a massive fear of commitment. In Dennis's case, his affliction is so chronic it keeps him from being able to see almost any task through successfully without screwing it up.

Somersault

Somersault is a slow, boring, unrealistic, self-important mess with nothing interesting to say and no patience to take the time to say what it does want to say. Ironically, much like the two main characters it portrays, it may look nice but is undone by its complete inability to articulate anything. The truth is that this feels like a feature length film school project made for spare film school tutors to grade; it's an overlong exercise rather than a true movie. For all its awards, Somersault fails to make the grade.

Lucky Number Slevin

The real problem with Lucky Number Slevin however, is that it never seems to fully establish a consistent tone. Is it a seriously gritty thriller? Is it a quirky noir-ish black comedy? It tries to be both and more. The unflinchingly brutal violence, the often glib humor, and the quirky idiosyncratic characters never really gel together into a cohesive movie. While some other writer/directors like David Lynch can marry the disturbing, the quirky, the absurd, and the dark into something workable...

Pride & Prejudice

Jane. Austen. Two words which when taken together strike fear and apprehension into the hearts of men everywhere. Possibly the most inaccessible author to the male species, conversely Austen’s work is celebrated and revered to an almost religious degree by ladies the world over.

Night Watch

The world of Night Watch is portrayed in a bizarre but not unfamiliar mixture of Blade and The Matrix. Modern day Moscow is pictured as a dark, cold, unfriendly place; free of the many clichés you might expect an American production to throw in to let you know where you are. Lots of Matrix comparisons will be drawn simply due to the cinematography and costume design, but it’s all superficial stuff that’s now expected in any movie portraying a dark, dank reality.

War of the Worlds (1953)

There is no doubt that War of the Worlds still stands as one of the best and strongest of the science-fiction movies of it’s day. While it might lack punch when sitting next to it’s visually impressive successors like Independence Day and the Spielberg version, there is no doubt that without this version to influence them, they would have both turned out very different.

House of Wax

In 1953, Warner’s opened the original House of Wax starring creaky old horror veteran Vincent Price. In 2005, demographs don’t allow such interesting casting choices and so instead studios must cast whatever young people are currently popular in TV land. So instead we get Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray and the devil incarnate herself, Paris Hilton.

Layer Cake

I’ll be honest, the whole British gangster movie thing is starting to bore me. Like the foppish British rom-com of the mid 90s it’s becoming an over-used premise for the industry. Though I can’t really criticize when Hollywood churns out remake after remake, in a national industry so small and in dire need of revitalization there are far too few Danny Boyles and far too many Guy Ritchies at the moment.

Creep

British horror underwent a bit of a renaissance in the last couple of years. Danny Boyle’s visceral 28 Days Later beat Michael Mann to the DV punch and gave us a serious and brutal horror movie. While on the lighter side, affectionate zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead proved British humour is still the best. So in true British style, just when we start to get something right someone comes along and puts us back to square one. Today, that someone is debutant writer/director Christopher Smith.

Saw

Saw is not for everyone. It can be gruesome and brutal, if that’s your thing, but that makes up a very small part of what it otherwise an interesting psychological thriller. It’s not perfect; with a little less hamming from some of the leads and a little script tweaking it could have been an excellent movie. But in a season full of unashamedly awful R-rated movies clearly aimed at 13 year olds (like Resident Evil: Apocalypse), Saw is a refreshingly grim and cynical film for adults only.

A Tale Of Two Sisters

I’m starting to doubt that Asian cinema consists of anything more than suited men shooting guns in slow motion, mystic helium-sucking ninja warriors in Crayola colored pyjamas and spooky slow-burning ghost stories. Thankfully, A Tale Of Two Sisters is refreshingly a little different than the likes of Ringu, Ju-On or The Eye, leaning far more towards it’s psychological sensibilities than the horror angle.

Ju-On: The Grudge

Like previous Asian horror movies Ringu and The Eye if there’s one thing that defines Ju-On it’s the unsettling atmosphere it manages to create. The score is minimal, the pacing slow and everything is painfully quiet. The kind of quiet where, if you’re in your house alone at night, you’re never quite comfortable. It also plays on more modern superstition, especially one of my worst strange childhood fears, that one of the TV image that develops a disturbing and distressing life of it’s own that you can’t control.

Trainspotting

Trainspotting oozes its own sense of gritty low-budget style, something all the lens filters and CGI in the world couldn’t do for MTV alumni hacks like McG. Danny Boyle perfectly captures the grimy look and feel of inner city Edinburgh of the 80s but gives it a vibrant and slightly surreal edge that perfectly reflects the surreal and detached world of drug addicts.

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