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Rating History

Roald Dahl's Danny, the Champion of the World
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Young Danny Smith has a life that could be described as idyllic - he lives with his father in a gypsy caravan behind his father's garage and he knows his way around a car engine.

Unfortunately, there are two flies in the ointment in his happy lifestyle. The first is that his father's garage is slap bang in the middle of local landowner Victor Hazell's land and Hazell wants it... by fair means or foul under the pretence of setting up a premium site for pheasant shooting.

The other problem for Danny is that the school term has started and the new teacher is the strict discplinarian, Captain Lancaster, who practices corporal punishment.

When Hazell ramps up his efforts to get hold of his father's garage, Danny has to come up with a plan that will stop Hazell and become the "Champion Of The World" whilst avoiding the punishments being meted out by Captain Lancaster.

As this film is based on one of Roald Dahl's children's stories, inevitably the main lead actor is a child and Danny is portrayed in a wonderfully innocent (in a not "child actor") way by Samuel Irons, son of actor Jeremy Irons who portrays Danny's father - which makes the believability of Danny and his father's relationship more concrete.

The rest of the adult cast fall into two categories that you find in a Roald Dahl novel, or an adaptation of one his films - the sympathetic adults and the villains/disciplinarian types.

I'll start with the villains and disciplinarians first. Hazell is portrayed by Robbie Coltrane and along with his sidekicks, portrayed by Jimmy Nail and William Armstrong, play their roles with pantomime villainy - bluster, hot air and underhand tricks galore - and they make a worthy set of villains to both Danny and his father.

Captain Lancaster is portrayed by Ronald Pickup - and as much as Hazell is a blustering villain, Lancaster is well portrayed as the other "villain" in Danny's life. There are chilling moments (well, chilling for a "Universal" rated film) when Lancaster "canes" Danny as punishment for lying and he is a brooding threat throughout the film.

The sympathetic adults, apart from Danny's father are varied and portrayed the cream of classic British acting talent, including Cyril Cusack as "Doc" (which you can probably guess is the local village doctor), Lionel Jeffries as Mr Snoddy the slightly tipsy school headmaster and Jean Marsh as Miss Hunter, a local council social worker.

Everything in this film - the acting, the direction, the cinematography, the set design, in fact all departments - make for a film which helps you believe that it's the "ideal" 1950's post war Britain, where English villages are quiet idylls, it's always summer, sons have innocent hi-jinks style adventures with their fathers to get one over on the local bad guy and, predictably, they are the victors.

It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this film can make for a nice diverting Sunday afternoon film - especially in this cold weather!!!

War Horse
War Horse (2011)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

A fantastic film that remains true to the spirit of Michael Morpurgo's original novel.

Whether it is a true Oscar contender remains to be seen.

Full review can be found at

Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Ethan Hunt and his team of IMF agents are back to tackle another impossible mission... Following the killing of a fellow agent, they are tasked to extract information from The Kremlin about an asset codenamed Cobalt.

However, when they are set up for the bombing of The Kremlin, the whole team is disavowed and have to work alongside analyst Brandt to stop an attack on the US.

I must admit that I lost interest in the M:I series after film two and I haven't seen film 3, basically because I was concerned that it was going to be another episode of "The Tom Cruise Show".

I'm glad to say that Ghost Protocol is smart in the idea that Hunt and the team are operating without the resources and protection of the Government. This plot device means that Cruise shares the narrative alongside his co-leads of Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton which enables them all to play the action and humour of a film like this whilst affording some element of off-screen backstory which doesn't interfere with the plot which doesn't have an element of fat in it's two hour plus running time.

Brad Bird's direction is typical action fare of running, jumping, shooting, explosions and all, but this film has a plot to back it up which is logical, well as logical as a Mission:Impossible film plot is given the fact that there's an element of cross and double-cross throughout.

If I had one quibble with the film, it's the fact that believability is stretched with the gadgets such as lasers, sticky gloves, magnetic anti-gravity devices and eyeball cameras.

Granted, a film which sees Tom Cruise dangling out of Dubai's tallest building could be stretching credulity somewhat, if it weren't for the fact that Cruise actually carried out the feat, but the gadgets are heading towards the level of Pierce Brosnan's last Bond film, Die Another Day, and if there is another entry to the M:I canon, it would be good to see more action in the style of the Bourne or Daniel Craig Bond films rather than the over-reliance on gadgets.

That said, it does the job of being a crowd pleaser and will more than likely get a further sequel as this does the job of being, in some respects, a "reboot" to the continuing franchise.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Based on the bestselling novel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo follows the story of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and researcher Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) in their attempt to solve the mystery behind a forty year murder.

Having not been aware of the plot of either Larsson's novel or the original film starring Noomi Rapace, I had the luxury to follow this English speaking version of the story with a fresh eye and I was not disappointed.

Given the film's 158 minute running time, I thought that I was going to be in for a "bum numb-er" when in fact I got a combination of fantastic scripting, an acting masterclass and an edge of your seat thriller.

The two leads of Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and Rooney Mara was pitch perfect casting with the pair being both dogged investigators and, in some respects, damaged goods - Blomkvist by dint of his reputation being damaged by virtue of a libel action which lays the groundwork of the film and Salander due to the sexual abuse, which I have to warn is graphically portrayed, that she suffers during the course of the film's first hour or so. This combination makes for strong characters which is allied by fantastic performances.

They are supported by equally pitch perfect casting from the likes of Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Steven Berkoff, Geraldine James... in fact the whole cast, which if I listed them all would probably be longer than the film's running time, was fantastic.

The taut direction by David Fincher works perfectly alongside the script by Steve Zaillian to provide a real edge of your seat thriller which doesn't stint on being an intelligent film.

For people who haven't read the books, like I haven't, you may be unprepared at the scenes of sexual assault which are unflinchingly graphic - even though the viewer is warned on the advertising.

That said, for me, this film ranks alongside Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as the two big thrillers for 2011 and I will be reading the Millennium trilogy books on the back of this film.

Scrooged (1988)
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Dickens' original Christmas Carol story gets a 1988 makeover with television executive Frank Cross getting the three Christmas Ghosts treatment to change the path of his life as somebody who lives his life dominated by Neilsen ratings to one whose life is one lived for others.

This is one take on A Christmas Carol which is both timeless and bound by the time period in which it's made.

The pursuit of money is replaced by ratings and the greed of the television age is perfectly embodied in Bill Murray's portrayal of Frank Cross. Cynical, nasty and no redeeming features - but you can accept the character changes due to his journey.

Unlike the original story, "Scrooge" Cross has a female co-star throughout the film in the form of social worked Claire (Karen Allen), who very much fulfils the role of romantic interest.

The supporting cast is of an high calibre from different areas of acting talent including the likes of John Forsyth, Robert Mitchum, Bobcat Goldthwaite and Alfre Woodard, but the ones who leave the main impact are David Johansen as the cigar smoking Ghost of Christmas Past and Carol Kane as a Ghost of Christmas Present with a mean right cross.

Richard Donner sets a suitably dark tone which is amplified by Danny Elfman's soundtrack which is very "Tim Burtonesque" in tone.

A great film to watch with some nice belly laughs.