The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965, Michelangelo Biopic) – 9 /10 movie review

Cast / crew
Charlton Heston: Michelangelo
Rex Harrison: Pope Julius II
Producer: Carol Reed
Director: Carol Reed
Writer (Original Novel): Irving Stone
Diane Cilento: Contessina de’Medici
Tomas Milian: Raphael
Writer (Screen Story and Screenplay: Philip Dunne

Agony and the Ecstasy, Irving Stone’s The (1965)

Pope Julius II commissions Michelangelo to paint frescos of the twelve apostles along the roof line of the Sistine Chapel but the artist has trouble combating the ordinariness of it all. Seeking inspiration he destroys his already-started work and leaves. When he returns, he embarks on one of the greatest works of art of all time, no matter the cost.


This is a terrific movie which offers what feels like a real insight into the remarkable work of Michelangelo and specifically the creation of his masterpiece The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It contains an all-time classic cinematic scene (the inspiration in the clouds) and a great dialogue scene (discussing the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) but is consistently interesting, entertaining and illuminating. Heston’s Michelangelo is good but Rex Harrison’s Pope Julius II is awesome. Harrison has a strange ability to make whatever character he played seemed completely spontaneous as if he were just speaking naturally. This is despite his crisp, unwavering English accent, seemingly unemotional performances, and frequently challenging period or statesman dialogue.

This movie contains mild adult dialogue and mild unpleasant war scenes and nudity in paintings and sculptures.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

The Matrix (1999) – 9/10 science fiction existential action movie review

AmazonBuy The Matrix at Amazon

Cast / crew
Director, Executive Producer and Writer: Andy Wachowski
Director, Executive Producer and Writer: Lana Wachowski | Larry Wachowski
Producer: Joel Silver
Neo: Keanu Reeves
Morpheus: Laurence Fishburne
Trinity: Carrie-Anne Moss
Agent Smith: Hugo Weaving
Oracle: Gloria Foster
Cypher: Joe Pantoliano

The Matrix (1999)

Nobody can be told what The Matrix is, Morpheus informs “Neo”, computer hacker supreme. Everyday, however, “Neo” is mild-mannered computer programmer Thomas A. Anderson who is plagued by the recurring thought that he needs to know what The Matrix is. One day, following the guidance of an apparent dream, Neo eventually meets Morpheus, the man who holds the key to his spiritual unease.


Science-fiction film presented in an astonishing manner. It would be easy to sniff and list all the places where the story concepts and visual effects had all been seen before but it doesn’t matter. The Matrix captures the attention and presents interesting, thought-provoking ideas with spectacular, extremely satisfying visuals. Frequently, concept art for a movie looks much better than the finished product but here, the movie looks exactly like the concept art. Producer Joel Silver allowed the Wachowski brothers to bring their vision precisely to the big screen and they gave him a definite classic and probably the most influential Hollywood movie since Star Wars. Watch and discuss.

This movie contains mild swear words, sexual swear words in end credits song, extreme and graphic gun, knife and melee violence, extremely unpleasant scenes

Classified 15 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over.


Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, Disney Musical Fantasy) – 9/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Director: Henry Selick
Producer: Tim Burton
Producer: Denise Di Novi
Music Composer: Danny Elfman
Composer (Lyrics): Danny Elfman
Writer (Original Story): Tim Burton
Writer (Original Characters): Tim Burton
Writer (Adaptation): Michael McDowell
Writer (Screenplay): Caroline Thompson
Animation Supervisor: Eric Leighton
Associate Producer: Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman: [voice of] Jack Skellington (singing)
Chris Sarandon: [voice of] Jack (speaking)

Nightmare Before Christmas, The (1993)

Halloween Town’s pumpkin king Jack Skellington stumbles across Christmas Town and decides to cheer himself up by handling the Christmas duties himself. Will his attempt be a success or will it be The Nightmare Before Christmas?


Brilliant musical fantasy which marries stunning technical achievements to breath-taking visual artistry, a charismatic score and several terrific songs with unforgettable consequences. This is, after Edward Scissorhands, Danny Elfman and Tim Burton’s second masterpiece; a near-flawless collaboration of Burton’s ability to produce absolutely striking visuals and new ‘fairy tales’ that feel like they’ve been around forever and Elfman’s ability to hook completely into the tone of Burton’s vision. Director Henry Selick was the last key to this particular production as he marshals everything into brilliantly animated life.

This movie contains unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Continue reading “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993, Disney Musical Fantasy) – 9/10 movie review”

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, Science Fiction Classic) – 9/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Michael Rennie: Klaatu
Patricia Neal: Helen Benson
Writer (Screenplay): Edmund H. North
Writer (Original Stories): Harry Bates
Music Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Producer: Julian Blaustein
Director: Robert Wise

Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951)

A mysterious spaceship from an unknown planet approaches Earth carrying an intelligent humanoid called Klaatu and a giant robot. They have come to warn the world that it will have no future if it persists with nuclear testing.


Truly superb science fiction movie which is thoughtfully constructed and presents a common idea in a thought-provoking manner – that we are not alone and that should make a difference to us. The direction is perfect, the design iconic and the music is brilliant.

This movie contains mild unpleasant scenes.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.


Avatar (2009, James Cameron Science Fiction Action Adventure) – 9/10 movie review

Cast / crew
Writer: James Cameron
Director: James Cameron
Producer: James Cameron
Producer: Jon Landau
Editor: James Cameron
Senior Visual Effects Supervisor: Joe Letteri
Animation Supervisor: Richard Baneham
Animation Supervisor: Andrew R. Jones
Sam Worthington: Jake Sully
Zoë Saldana: Neytiri
Stephen Lang: Colonel Miles Quaritch
Michelle Rodriguez: Trudy Chacon
Giovanni Ribisi: Parker Selfridge
Joel David Moore: Norm Spellman
CCH Pounder: Moat
Wes Studi: Eytukan
Laz Alonso: Tsu’tey
Sigourney Weaver: Grace
Producer Weta: Eileen Moran

Avatar (2009)

Bad news: Jake Sully, your brother is dead. Good news: Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-marine, you can take his place in a remarkable program on alien planet Pandora where your mind will be used to control a fully-functioning nine-foot-tall super-athletic alien body. Your mission is to gain the trust of the natives and convince them to move out of their home so that humans can mine the valuable material buried deep underneath.


This is an impressive action adventure that has a decidedly old-fashioned feel to it while presenting totally incredible technical feats completely invisibly but whose greatness emerges because it is more than the sum of its parts. It’s old-fashioned in that it sticks to tried-and-true, or predictable, story and character beats, isn’t ‘dark,’ isn’t excessively violent and has superb action sequences which have shape and definition and in which you can tell who’s doing what to whom, why and how well it’s going. The technical accomplishment is remarkable. Cameron presents a fictitious world created out of thin air that is completely convincing. You cannot believe it isn’t real; it does not exist outside of a New Zealand PC. Ultimately, however, Avatar is a great film because it is more than the sum of its parts, i.e., despite faults, it, like Titanic before it, works emotionally.

This movie contains a single sexual swear word, mild swear words and gun violence, giant arrow violence and sexuality.

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

The Prestige (2006) – 9/10 period mystery movie review

AmazonBuy The Prestige at Amazon

Cast / crew
Director, Producer and Screenplay Writer: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay Writer: Jonathan Nolan
Writer (Original Novel): Christopher Priest
Hugh Jackman: Robert Angier
Christian Bale: Alfred Borden
Michael Caine: Cutter
Scarlett Johansson: Olivia Wenscombe
Rebecca Hall: Sarah
Andy Serkis: Alley
Piper Perabo: Julia McCullough
David Bowie: Tesla

The Prestige (2006)

Professional magicians Robert Angier, The Great Danton, and Alfred Borden, The Professor, are intense, bitter rivals whose animosity becomes heightened when Borden performs the “greatest magic trick ever” and Angier knows he must know the secret. Whatever it costs.


Employing a technique that works a billion times better in books than on-screen is a trap that many filmmakers have fallen into. Perhaps, even, it only works in books. So why is Christopher Nolan’s brilliant period mystery about feuding magicians so joyously absorbing regardless? Perhaps because there’s always more going on. For example, what appears to be the central plot point isn’t (how the trick The Transporting Man is performed). Remarkably, the movie works as a mystery with a twist that’s delightfully imaginative and macabre to those who do and do not work it out. Early on, you’re told how The Transporting Man is done, only it tells you nothing. Ultimately, it’s all wheels-within-wheels with the biggest wheel, SPOILER Tesla (wonderfully realised by David Bowie), never explained at all and you probably only genuinely realise this after the movie. It is simply, magic, and, despite Scarlett Johansson, so is this film.

This movie contains unpleasant scenes, brief but strong gun violence

Classified 12A by BBFC. Persons under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) – 9/10 Disney animated period thriller review

AmazonBuy The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Amazon

Cast / crew
Director: Gary Trousdale
Director: Kirk Wise
Producer: Don Hahn
Animation Screenplay and Story Writer: Tab Murphy
Novel Writer Notre Dame de Paris: Victor Hugo
Writer (Animation Screenplay): Irene Mecchi
Writer (Animation Screenplay): Bob Tzudiker
Writer (Animation Screenplay): Noni White
Writer (Animation Screenplay): Jonathan Roberts
Score and Songs Composer: Alan Menken
Composer (Lyrics): Stephen Schwartz
Tom Hulce: Quasimodo
Supervising Animator Quasimodo: James Baxter
Demi Moore: Esmeralda
Heidi Mollenhauer: Esmeralda
Supervising Animator Esmeralda: Tony Fucile
Tony Jay: Frollo
Supervising Animator Frollo: Kathy Zielinski
Kevin Kline: Phoebus
Supervising Animator Phoebus: Russ Edmonds

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Deformed baby Quasimodo is brought up by scheming evil government official Frollo in the Cathedral of Notre Dame and is given the task of ringing and caring for the bells. His life is reasonably happy but he would really like to leave the confines of the cathedral and find out what life is really like ‘out there’ but realising this dream means disobeying Frollo and putting the lives of himself and those he meets in great danger.


As time goes on, this unique Disney animation (it deals with entirely adult matters such as self-righteousness, sin, and the seduction of sex and power) becomes more clearly a masterpiece. The songs take a bit of getting used to but contain challenging and interesting lyrics and are better written than they seem at first. The screenplay is also outstanding as it manages to balance and present the weighty morals with clarity ("what makes a monster and what makes a man?") and, when appropriate, fun. Technically, the movie looks superb with Quasimodo’s animation an easy-to-overlook highlight (it’s very hard to draw something consistently from all angles that is deliberately distorted so special mention for supervising animator James Baxter). The movie saves it’s big animation guns for the finalé ("Sanctuary!") making it all the more impressive while the story rightly ends with the ugly guy not getting the girl which, as us ugly guy’s know, is exactly how it is.

This movie contains unpleasant scenes, disturbing scenes, supernatural scenes

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.