The Jungle Book (2016) – 7/10 adventure movie review

The Jungle Book (2016)

When Shere Khan learns of the prescence of mancub Mowgli – who has been brought up by wolves after being discovered in the jungle – he vows to kill him as soon as the current drought-enforced peace treaty ends. When the waters return, so does Khan with a terrible fury.

7/10

Slightly subdued but otherwise very nicely executed adaptation of both Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 book and Walt Disney’s 1967 film The Jungle Book. Neel Sethi is great as Mowgli while the animal cast is uncharismatic (especially when compared to the 1967 film) but fine. The two songs are integrated well but performed without much life or energy. The main talking point is how wonderful the visual effects achievement is; while not perfect (Kaa is not up to the standard of the furry animals, every animal’s but especially Shere Khan’s face looks too big and his entrance has some slightly wrong animation of him dropping down ledges), it instantly suspends disbelief, the flora and fauna are completely convincing and the furry animals (especially the wolf Raksha) look stunning most of the time. I also very much liked the opening multi-plane-esque hand-drawn animated Walt Disney logo. A highly worthwhile remake which may become a touchstone for a new audience.

Content Summary

This movie contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Cast / crew

Director and Producer: Jon Favreau
Screenplay Writer: Justin Marks
Book Writer: Rudyard Kipling
Mowgli: Neel Sethi
Baloo: Bill Murray
Bagheera: Ben Kingsley
Shere Khan: Idris Elba
King Louie: Christopher Walken

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – 5/10 adventure romance movie review

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Cast / crew
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.
Producer: John Goldwyn
Actor and Producer Greenland Air Passenger: Stuart Cornfeld
Kristen Wiig: Cheryl Melhoff
Shirley MacLaine: Edna Mitty
Adam Scott: Ted Hendricks
Kathryn Hahn: Odessa Mitty
Patton Oswalt: Todd Maher
Adrian Martinez: Hernando
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson: Helicopter Pilot
Sean Penn: Sean O’Connell
Actor, Director and Producer: Ben Stiller
Walter Mitty: Ben Stiller
Screen Story and Screenplay Writer: Steven Conrad
Short Story Writer: James Thurber

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Walter Mitty is prone to zoning out and imagining a more exciting life for himself and his romantic crush, coworker Cheryl Melhoff. When he needs to find a lost photo negative for the cover of Life magazine, instead of looking in the most obvious place, he embarks on a crazy real-life adventure.

5/10

It feels mean to give a virtually non-violent, positive, good-natured movie an average score but it never really engages the viewer beyond the most perfunctory level. Mitty’s flights of fantasy are somewhat bewildering and the real adventure has no impact; it looks less impressive than it should given the scenarios and locations and feels flat. Additionally, the plot and most of the events feel very unconvincing; whether this is by design or not (i.e., if the majority of the movie is a flight of fantasy) isn’t really the point as it is still important to suspend the audience’s disbelief. The best flight of fantasy, and probably strongest moment, is one where Kristen Wiig appears and sings a song and Ben Stiller gets on a real helicopter; no special effects, no explosions, no frenetic action editing.

This movie contains bad language, strong violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Mirror Mirror (2012) – 7/10 fantasy action comedy movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Tarsem Singh Dhandwar
Screenplay Writer: Marc Klein
Screenplay Writer: Jason Keller
Screen Story Writer: Melisa Wallack
Producer: Bernie Goldmann
Producer: Ryan Kavanaugh
Producer: Brett Ratner
Julia Roberts: The Queen
Snow White: Lily Collins
Armie Hammer: Prince Alcott
Nathan Lane: Brighton
Mare Winningham: Baker Margaret
Michael Lerner: Baron
Sean Bean: King

Mirror Mirror (2012)

A wicked Queen has usurped the throne in the absence of the King and nothing stands in her way, except a lack of cash. However, when a handsome prince pays a visit to her kingdom, the Queen senses an opportunity but there’s just one slight problem: he’s fallen in love with her stepdaughter, the beautiful Snow White.

7/10

In the end, I really enjoyed this full throttle burst of inverted fairy tale but for a while it looked like it wasn’t, and perhaps doesn’t, fulfil the fun promise of some of the early moments. For me, it finally settled down and became consistently fun once Snow White and the seven dwarves teamed up (with a gleefully unexpected training montage). The dwarves are great; I might not remember their names (Wolf, Grimm, Half Pint?, er) but they were lively and charismatic and engaging in the movie. Lily Collins looks adorable, especially during the costume try-outs in the training montage, but doesn’t always nail her character’s growing confidence. Julia Roberts is okay as the wicked queen but the flash of her famous smile on her way to her wedding is a reminder of how legendary and irresistible she is as an on-screen good girl; therefore, I don’t think the casting worked out. The most unexpected moment is, unquestionably, the closing credits and I loved it. A perfect, energetic, light-hearted, fun climax for a really fun, light-hearted movie.

This movie contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Le Havre (2011) – 7/10 refreshingly pleasant movie review

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Cast / crew
André Wilms: Marcel Marx
Kati Outinen: Arletty
Jean-Pierre Darroussin: Monet
Blondin Miguel: Idrissa
Elina Salo: Claire
Evelyne Didi: Yvette
Quoc-Dung Nquyen: Chang
Laika:
Director, Producer and Writer: Aki Kaurismäki

Le Havre (2011)

Marcel Marx has a happy existence as a shoe shiner thanks to good relationships with his neighbours, pub mates and beloved wife, Arletty. One day, a young African refugee, Idrissa, comes into his life and Marcel responds with kindness and generosity despite his meagre means.

7/10

Uncommonly warm-hearted drama that sees the usual backbone of the genre, conflict, replaced entirely with generosity. This positivity is something that I’ve only really experienced from master animator Hayao Miyazaki and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie. Now, Le Havre is quite captivating and paced nicely but despite the ending, there’s no magic; the movie never becomes special and it never touched me. Miyazaki and Amelie consistently engender joy, wonder and delight at their best while Le Havre just happens. That said, it is absolutely worth watching and a refreshingly pleasant experience.

This movie contains bad language

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Mars Needs Moms (2011) – 5/10 unsettlingly animated science-fiction action adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Screenplay Writer: Simon Wells
Screenplay Writer: Wendy Wells
Writer (Original Book): Berkeley Breathed
Producer: Robert Zemeckis
Producer: Jack Rapke
Producer: Steve Starkey
Producer: Steven Boyd
Seth Green: Milo
Dan Fogler: Gribble
Elisabeth Harnois: Ki
Mindy Sterling: Supervisor
Kevin Cahoon: Wingnut
Joan Cusack: Mom
Seth Dusky: Milo’s Voice

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Milo’s Mom is kidnapped by Martians. Fortunately, he wound on board their spaceship but when he gets to Mars, help comes from an unexpected source.

5/10

Image Mover Digital’s performance capture technology is again wasted (by themselves) under ugly and unnerving design choices, a cripplingly unconvincing story with the promise of interspecies sex aka bestiality, – what is this, a DreamWorks animation? – an unearned emotional climax, problems solved by violent revolution, an ‘I didn’t learn anything’ sting, and spectacular racism (the idiot men Martians look like every cliché of South American, Native American and African and everyone who doesn’t speak English is a bad guy or treated like an idiot). While there are a number of poor design decisions, the most glaring was making Milo, a child, look and move like Seth Green, an adult. It’s wrong on a subconscious level that coupled with the ugly and off-putting almost but not-at-all photo-realistic human character design puts you right off proceedings from the start. Fortunately, it looks like this movie signaled the death of ImageMovers’ unsettling creative disasters.

This movie contains freaky adult face on a child, violence, distressing scene

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Columbo s01e07 Blueprint for Murder (1972) – 6/10 crime detective TV review

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Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Patrick O’Neal: Elliiot Markham
Janis Paige: Goldie Williamson
Pamela Austin: Jennifer Williamson
John Fiedler: Doctor Moss
Forrest Tucker: Bo Williamson
Actor and Director: Peter Falk
Screenplay Writer: Steven Bochco
Story Writer: William Kelley
Producer and Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Producer and Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s01e07 Blueprint for Murder (1972)

Columbo investigates a reported death of a Texas tycoon but there’s no body and the last man to see him, architect Elliot Markham, presumes that he has gone off on an international trip. Sure enough, the police find the tycoon’s car at the airport but while the tape player and glovebox is stuffed with country and western music, the radio is tuned to a classical station. That’s enough to make Columbo think that something sinister may be going on.

6/10

Memorable but empty episode. Columbo’s surprise appearance in a woman’s bedroom is probably worth the price of admission and the plan for disposing of the body is clever. The skyscraper construction site is an unusual, interesting and convincing location. The episode is paced surprisingly well given the lack of developments but director Peter Falk doesn’t quite get the end gambit (the digging up of the pile / eventual arrest) quite right.

This Columbo episode contains very mild gory scene

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Rise of the Guardians (2012) – 6/10 animated fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor and Director Burgess Pedestrian #2: Peter Ramsey
Producer: Christina Steinberg
Producer: Nancy Bernstein
Executive Producer, Original Book Series Writer and Original Short Film Director Book series “Guardians of Childhood” and Reel FX short film “The Man in the Moon”: William Joyce
Screenplay Writer Based on “Guardians of Childhood” the Book Series by William Joyce and “The Man in the Moon” A Reel FX short film Directed by William Joyce: David Lindsay-Abaire
Jack Frost: Chris Pine
Alec Baldwin: North
Jude Law: Pitch
Isla Fisher: Tooth
Hugh Jackman: Bunny
Animation Supervisor: Antony Gray
Animation Supervisor: Steven “Shaggy” Hornby
Animation Supervisor: Philippe Le Brun
Animation Supervisor: David Pate
Animation Supervisor: Pierre Perifel

Rise of The Guardians (2012)

North, Tooth, Sandy and Bunny are Guardians of children’s dreams; that’s a job now. Nevertheless, they are surprised when the Man in the Moon (keep up) announces that a new Guardian is to be appointed, Jack Frost, but Jack is less than thrilled at the honour and more interested in having endless fun just as he has been for the last *double-checks* three-hundred years.

6/10

This is an expertly crafted movie with good voice work and animation and it is frequently engrossing through pure movie-making technique. The problem comes from the concept which sounds cool (and a similar idea certainly worked in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) but never quite gels. I suspect that if this had foregone the Hollywood tradition of having a bad guy and made the story work with apathy, commercialism and indifference providing the reason for children not believing in Santa – excuse me, North – et al, we would have had a more convincing and interesting movie. Bafflingly, the movie ends with a technically superb scene (the editing, staging and music are all top-notch) with what might be the stupidest piece of advice ever given by one human being to another: "When the moon tells you something, believe it." Huh?

This movie contains scary scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Men in Black 3 (2012) – 4/10 science fiction action comedy movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor and Director Husband Watching Launch: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer Based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham: Etan Cohen
Writer (Original Comic): Lowell Cunningham
Producer: Walter F. Parkes
Producer: Laurie MacDonald
Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg
Will Smith: Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones: Agent K
Josh Brolin: Young Agent K
Jemaine Clement: Boris The Animal
Michael Stuhlbarg: Griffin
Alice Eve: Young Agent O
Bill Hader: Andy Warhol
David Rasche: Agent X
Emma Thompson: Agent O

Men in Black 3 (2012)

MIB Agent J is flummoxed when he goes to pick up K from his home only to find a mother and child. No K but they did have some delicious chocolate milk, so that was handy. When he gets to work, K is not just nowhere to be seen… he’s been dead for forty years.

4/10

While it is reasonably entertaining, avoids the bloat common to many belated sequels and boasts a nearly film-rescuing performance from Josh Brolin entertainingly capturing the mannerisms of Tommy Lee Jones, this is still a poor movie. The peril, villain and story are impactless (and don’t fit with the first movie) but the elements that could make up some of that shortfall, inventiveness and fun, are consistently weak; not bad exactly, just underwhelming. While there’s no compelling invention, there is some fun, but it is only occasionally effective. Notably, Will Smith is not on top form here; he doesn’t have much to work with but doesn’t seem to be able to project as much energy onscreen as he has in the past and his natural charisma is slightly muted as a result. Tommy Lee Jones is fine but has almost nothing to do while Josh Brolin nearly makes up the shortfall of the two franchise stars. For some inexplicable reason, seeing him say stuff  like Tommy Lee Jones is endlessly joyful.

This movie contains bad language, extreme fantasy violence, extremely unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Surf’s Up (2007) – 6/10 animated sports movie review

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Cast / crew
Actor, Director and Screenplay Writer Filmmaker: Ash Brannon
Actor, Director and Screenplay Writer Filmmaker: Chris Buck
Producer and Screenplay and Story Writer: Christopher Jenkins
Screenplay Writer: Don Rhymer
Story Writer: Christian Darren
Shia LaBeouf: Cody Maverick
Jeff Bridges: Big Z / Geek
Zooey Deschanel: Lani Aliikai
Jon Heder: Chicken Joe
James Woods: Reggie
Diedrich Bader: Tank Evans

Surf’s Up (2007)

Cody Maverick dreams of being a surf champion like his idol Big Z. A film crew follow him as he tries to realise his dream.

6/10

Fun and nicely presented (using a talking head documentary style) but the story and characters are boringly off-the-shelf. Shia LaBeouf is perfect for centre-of-attention Cody but cannot escape the character being selfish until the script says otherwise, as opposed to until his character learns and grows. While it’s a common problem in movies, it isn’t disguised at all here. Jeff Bridges is also perfect as his laidback mentor-with-a-past. The surfing and wave animations are outstanding and compensate for the budget feeling of the remainder of the production design.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993) – 7/10 period crime detective mystery drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Short Story): Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Writer (Dramatisation): Anthony Horowitz
Karl Johnson: Saunders
Elizabeth Rider: Grace
Simon Shepherd: Andrew Hall
Hermione Norris: Celestine
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Ken Grieve

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)

Poirot is sent to the coast for a holiday after the doctor, rather disappointingly, diagnoses him as "run down" rather than heroically enduring a life-ending malaise. While he’s there, a $300,000 pearl necklace is stolen from a locked box in a drawer in a room guarded by two people.

7/10

A lot of fun but the ingenious mystery and nature of the crime is not communicated quite well enough and feels like a lot of details have been left out. It is, in fact, the reverse. The writers have added story and details that weaken the central mystery instead of adding to it. The rest of the additions to the episode are a joy, however. Japp gets a magnificent gag with a teddy bear ("That’s for your boy?" Pregnant pause. "Yes."). Poirot gets his wonderful "am I going to die" face on for the doctor at the beginning and is a little put out to discover he’s only "run down" and he gets spectacularly miffed when he keeps getting people running up to him while on holiday saying "You’re Lucky Len and I claim my ten guineas!" This climaxes in a great scene where he finally meets Lucky Len.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Frozen (2013) – 8/10 fantasy Disney animated movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Story Writer Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen: Chris Buck
Director and Screenplay and Story Writer Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen: Jennifer Lee
Producer: Peter Del Vecho
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Writer “The Snow Queen”: Hans Christian Andersen
Story Writer Inspired by “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen: Shane Morris
Songs Composer: Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Songs Composer: Robert Lopez
Head of Story: Paul Briggs
Head of Animation: Lino DiSalvo
Kristen Bell: Anna
Idina Menzel: Elsa
Jonathan Groff: Kristoff
Josh Gad: Olaf
Santino Fontana: Hans
Stephen John Anderson: Kai

Frozen (2013)

After a childhood accident nearly kills her younger sister, Princess Elsa has to hide to fact that she can produce ice by magic and isolates herself while trying to wrestle control over her immense power. As the time for her coronation approaches and a public appearance is unavoidable, the last thing she needs is any more stress. That’ll be when her sister tells her she’s marrying this dude she only met that day. Gaah!

8/10

Frozen has that rarest and most intangible of movie qualities: magic. This is the magic of Disney’s second golden age inspired by Howard Ashman and so it features songs that are integral to the storytelling. Why should it be that animation and songs go together so well and that the form is timeless? Anyway, it has never ceased to astonish me that directors saw songs as something that were bolted on to Disney’s past great animated movies. The songs, if used, are always part, indeed, I would say they were the heart, of the movie. They always tell you something, illuminate someone, touch you somewhere inside. The movie wouldn’t work without the songs (take note The Princess and The Frog). The power of the song is in telling the story, not augmenting it. Frozen realises this and the result is magic.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – 8/10 science-fiction action adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
For: Gene Roddenberry
Director and Screenplay Writer: Nicholas Meyer
Kirk: William Shatner
Spock: Leonard Nimoy
DeForest Kelley: McCoy
James Doohan: Scotty
Walter Koenig: Chekov
Nichelle Nichols: Uhuru
George Takei: Sulu
Mark Lenard: Sarek
David Warner: Chancellor Gorkon
Kim Cattrall: Lt. Valeris
Rosana DeSoto: Azetbur
Christopher Plummer: Chang
Dedicated To and Original Series Creator STAR TREK: Gene Roddenberry
Story Writer: Lawrence Konner
Story Writer: Mark Rosenthal
Actor, Executive Producer and Story Writer: Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay Writer: Denny Martin Flinn
Producer: Ralph Winter
Producer: Steven-Charles Jaffe

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

When a disaster on Praxis, an important energy-producing moon, faces the Klingon race with the choice of military expenditure or survival as a species, they call to the Federation to arrange a peace. Three months from retirement, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent as a figurative olive branch to escort the Klingon Ambassador to Earth. After a less-than-successful diplomatic meal aboard the Enterprise, Kirk is rudely awoken by the sound of Enterprise firing on the Ambassador’s ship and his subsequent assassination. In the absence of the actual killers, Kirk and McCoy are arrested and put on trial.

8/10

"Nice to see you in action, one more time, Captain Kirk." – Captain Sulu

In what must be a unique cinematic event, the original Star Trek cast literally sign off from their motion picture series and must have been deservedly proud that it was done with this spectacular and interesting, generally well paced and smart movie. Boasting social commentary, courtroom drama, murder mystery intrigue, one of the greatest beards in movie history (Kurtwood Smith), a prison escape, a dude who doesn’t have knees where his knees are and a classic space battle resolved with intellect (and a lot of photon torpedoes, admittedly), The Undiscovered Country is a terrific movie with a lot to like. Not included in that list would be Kim Cattrall who threatens to undermine everything with her lack of acting ability. Generally, though, the movie is handled surely by Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer and is headlined by wonderful work from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. It certainly was nice to see them in action one more time.

This movie contains graphic violence, gory scenes, unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Always (1989) – 8/10 fantasy action romance Steven Spielberg movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Steven Spielberg
Screenplay Writer: Jerry Belson
Writer (Original Screenplay) “A Guy Named Joe”: Dalton Trumbo
Writer (Original Screenplay Adaptation) “A Guy Named Joe”: Frederick Hazlitt Brennan
Writer (Original Screen Story) “A Guy Named Joe”: Chandler Sprague
Writer (Original Screen Story) “A Guy Named Joe”: David Boehm
Richard Dreyfuss: Pete Sandich
Holly Hunter: Dorinda Durston
John Goodman: Al Yackey
Brad Johnson: Ted Baker
Audrey Hepburn: Hap
Producer: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Frank Marshall
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy
Music: John Williams

Always (1989)

Fire fighting pilot Pete saves best friend Al’s life by sacrificing his own. He is sent back by an angel to help influence the life of another trainee fire-fighting pilot, Ted Baker. However, a chance meeting by this trainee reintroduces Pete to his former love, Dorinda. Will he concentrate on his duty or will he make a futile attempt to rekindle his long-lost romance?

8/10

This is a forgotten Spielberg; a gem awaiting your discovery. This is an emotionally engaging fantasy romance with some good humour and outstanding action. It’s certainly not above criticism as it’s not consistently convincing and the Dreyfuss-Hunter romance for the first part of the movie feels lifted from an animated movie. However, all of the action sequences are extremely thrilling and spectacular, there are a number of lovely scenes and the climax works emotionally. Also, Always contains a mighty Hitler moustache gag that you probably won’t ever see again in a Spielberg movie.

This movie contains mild adult dialogue, mild bad language, mild unpleasant scenes and Holly Hunter in adorably chunky white socks

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e06 The Chocolate Box (1993) – 7/10 period detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Short Story): Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Writer (Dramatisation): Douglas Watkinson
Rosalie Crutchley: Madame Deroulard
Anna Chancellor: Virginie Mesnard
Director: Ken Grieve

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e06 The Chocolate Box (1993)

Poirot returns to Belgium for the first time in years to accompany Japp who is being honoured by the Belgian government. While there, Poirot is reminded of a case that didn’t go his way and he decides that the time is right to reveal the truth.

7/10

It’s terrific to see a young Poirot skilfully brought to life by David Suchet with his normal weight and gait and a bit of running around and a bit of extra hair on the toupé. Dramatiser Douglas Watkinson does well in structuring the story and there’s plenty to like, especially with Poirot as a burgler and his constant lack of discretion. I did chuckle happily at the scene where Poirot is asked for, not by name but, "by moustache." Even though Hastings isn’t here, there’s a lovely feeling of friendship with Poirot accompanying Japp to an award ceremony in Belgium. While the setting and atmosphere are terrific, the colour blindness that is at the heart of the detective story climax doesn’t convince. Even if pink looks green and green looks pink, couldn’t you still tell whether a lid and a box were the same colour? Regardless, a good episode.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Mission: Impossible (1996) – 7/10 espionage action movie review

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Cast / crew
Ethan Hunt: Tom Cruise
Jon Voight: Jim Phelps
Emmanuelle Beart: Claire
Henry Czerny: Kittridge
Jean Reno: Krieger
Ving Rhames: Luther
Kristin Scott Thomas: Sarah Davies
Vanessa Redgrave: Max
Story Writer: David Koepp
Story Writer: Steven Zaillian
Screenplay Writer: David Koepp
Screenplay Writer: Robert Towne
Director: Brian De Palma

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Ethan Hunt is a member of an IMF, Impossible Mission Force, under the control of Jim Phelps. One night in Prague an operation goes badly wrong leaving his life in the balance. His mission, which he must accept, is to regain his pride and freedom. This plot will self-destruct in five seconds…

7/10

Action thriller that impresses, bores and excites in equal measure and boasts the impossible. Director Brian De Palma delivers three classic action sequences but the movie flags in between. He has an inate ability to make action sequences seem like ballet; his explosions and stunts look like beautifully choreographed dance sequences. He handles the wildly impossible situations with some panache and lends the film an air of authority despite the ridiculousness of some of the sequences. The opening of the movie through to the beautiful, iconic restaurant escape is essentially perfect. The second action sequence is also instantly iconic; a tense, near-silent break-in at the CIA defeating temperature, sonic and pressure sensors. The third action sequence is an astonishing visual effects masterpiece which holds up as well today nearly twenty years later as it did at the time. It, and an excellent Mission: Impossible theme remix, leaves the movie on a massive high.

This movie contains mild swear words, mild sensuality, unpleasant and gory scenes, violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – 6/10 fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Screenplay Writer Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling: Steve Kloves
Producer: David Heyman
Producer: Chris Columbus
Producer: Mark A. Radcliffe
Writer (Original Novel): J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Julie Christie: Madame Rosmerta
Rubeus Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Michael Gambon
Vernon Dursley: Richard Griffiths
Sirius Black: Gary Oldman
Professor Severus Snape: Alan Rickman
Petunia Dursley: Fiona Shaw
Professor Minverva McConagall: Maggie Smith
Peter Pettigrew: Timothy Spall
Professor Lupin: David Thewlis
Professor Sybil Trelawney: Emma Thompson

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

After finally losing his temper and using his magic outside of the school at his foster family, Harry Potter is somewhat surprised at the lack of punishment. The whole thing is just cleaned up and he is allowed to return to Hogwarts. The only thing he finds out is that Sirius Black, the first ever escapee from the feared Azkaban prison, has got all the wizard’s fearful for Potter’s safety but they are confident that Hogwarts, guarded by the horrific Dementers, is the best place for Harry.

6/10

A step backwards as this film loses the humanity of the previous instalment. The visuals are less impressive and John Williams’ off-the-peg music is conspicuously bland but the biggest problem is director Alfonso Cuarón’s completely flat handling of all the material.

This movie contains strong violence, scary scenes, strong unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets (2002) – 8/10 fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Executive Producer: Chris Columbus
Screenplay Writer Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling: Steve Kloves
Producer: David Heyman
Writer (Original Novel): J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
Kenneth Branagh: Gilderoy Lockhart
Nearly Headless Nick: John Cleese
Rubeus Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Professor Filius Flitwick: Warwick Davis
Vernon Dursley: Richard Griffiths
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Richard Harris
Lucius Malfoy: Jason Isaacs
Professor Severus Snape: Alan Rickman
Petunia Dursley: Fiona Shaw
Professor Minverva McConagall: Maggie Smith
Molly Weasley: Julie Walters

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Unhappily existing at his Muggle family anxious to return to Hogwart’s, Harry Potter is visisted by a house elf who’s mission is to stop him attending this year at all costs. Despite the elf’s best efforts, Harry manages to get to school but he might wish he hadn’t as petrified animals and students and writing in blood on the walls warn of the re-opening of the legendary Chamber of Secrets and the unleashing of the horror within.

8/10

Significantly better than the first episode with vastly improved special effects, more interesting photography and lots of ideas and good moments. Kenneth Branagh steals the show as a superstar wizard, Jason Isaacs is good value as what will hopefully be a recurring character but the two male leads, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, provide the movies’ unshakable heart and soul.

This movie contains intense scary scenes, violence, strong unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (2001) – 6/10 fantasy action movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Executive Producer: Chris Columbus
Screenplay Writer Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling: Steve Kloves
Producer: David Heyman
Writer (Original Novel): J.K. Rowling
Executive Producer: Mark A. Radcliffe
Executive Producer: Michael Barnathan
Executive Producer: Duncan Henderson
Harry Potter: Daniel Radcliffe
Ron Weasley: Rupert Grint
Hermione Granger: Emma Watson
John Cleese: Nearly Headless Nick
Rubeus Hagrid: Robbie Coltrane
Vernon Dursley: Richard Griffiths
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Richard Harris
Ian Hart: Professor Quirrell
Lord Voldemort: Ian Hart
Ollivander: John Hurt
Professor Severus Snape: Alan Rickman
Petunia Dursley: Fiona Shaw
Professor Minverva McConagall: Maggie Smith

Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

6/10

Solid start to the massively lucrative franchise that sees plenty of ideas clearly and carefully placed on the big screen by director Chris Columbus. He makes the film a little too slow and even, clumsily lumps John Williams music on and doesn’t have access to state-of-the-art visual effects (CG replacements for the actors are particularly noticeable) but doesn’t make the mistake of making a bad film. With this first year of Hogwart’s safely sorted, a foundation is laid for the remainder of the series.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Life of Pi (2012) – 7/10 existential disaster movie review

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Cast / crew
Producer: Gil Netter
Director and Producer: Ang Lee
Suraj Sharma: Pi Patel
Irrfan Khan: Adult Pi Patel
Tabu: Gita Patel
Rafe Spall: Writer
Gérard Depardieu: Cook
Visual Effects Supervisor: Bill Westenhofer
Producer: David Womack
Writer: Yann Martel
Screenplay Writer Based upon the novel by Yann Martel: David Magee

Life of Pi (2012)

Pi Patel has an amazing story to tell. It eventually comes to his emigration from India to Canada and a shipwreck and a battle for survival alongside Richard Parker. Richard Parker the tiger, that is.

7/10

You are likely to be disappointed with this film; that’s the nature of it’s message. The film also promises to tell us a story that will make us believe in God which I don’t feel it does. Gérard Depardieu is only in it for a few seconds. But is it still worth seeing? Yes. It’s interesting, thought-provoking, visually impressive and boasts a genuinely magic moment when Pi pauses underwater as the ship goes down. (SPOILERS from here.) Life of Pi gives us a fantastical, eventually clearly fictional, story versus a true story and asks us ‘which one do we prefer?’ The characters in the movie choose the fictional one and the audience likely will too. I took from that the assertion that people, even scientific people, may choose and be happy to believe in God – any God; it doesn’t matter – because it is nicer or comforting or a way of avoiding science’s dispiriting conclusion that we live, we die and there is no more and no meaning.

This movie contains unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s02e04 The Lost Mine (1990) – 6/10 period crime detective drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer: Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Writer (Dramatisation): Michael Baker
Writer (Dramatisation): David Renwick
Anthony Bate: Lord Pearson
Colin Stinton: Charles Lester
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Edward Bennett

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s02e04 The Lost Mine (1990)

Poirot’s struggles in the early running of a game of Monopoly versus Hastings is mirrored in the real world with financial problems with his bank account (he’s £60 overdrawn, much to his fury and protestations). Meanwhile, he is engaged by his bank to find the owner of a map to a lost mine who failed to arrive at a crucial business meeting.

6/10

You don’t often see Poirot get the wrong end of the stick but writers Michael Baker and David Renwick deliver a delightful scene early on when Lord Pearson arrives to ask for Poirot’s help while Poirot thinks he’s come to apologise for a mistake in his account balance. It’s also great to see characters doing something other than their principle activity; in this case, Hastings and Poirot are playing Monopoly. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the plot but it is a tremendous amount of fun and reinforces the friendship between our two heroes. Sadly, the mystery aspect of the episode is uninvolving.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains mild gory and unpleasant scenes, opium abuse

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Columbo s01e04 Suitable for Framing (1971) – 6/10 crime detective drama TV review

Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Ross Martin: Dale Kingston
Don Ameche: Frank, the lawyer
Kim Hunter: Edna
Director: Hy Averback
Writer: Jackson Gillis
Producer and Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Producer and Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s01e04 Suitable for Framing (1971)

When art critic Dale Kingston murders his uncle in order to get his hands on a valuable art collection before it is given away to charity he plans everything including a perfect, watertight alibi and a perfect stooge to blame. Lieutenant Columbo knows that nothing is perfect and presumed inheritee Kingston is quickly his prime suspect, though his efforts to prove it keep falling flat.

6/10

Despite having an annoying and charisma-free villain, Peter Falk’s typically brilliant performance as Columbo and a gleefully cunning climax make this a memorable episode. Falk delivers a best-in-class embarrassed by a naked lady, one of his better popping-up-in-unexpected-places (the suspect’s apartment as he’s returning with stolen paintings) and a brilliant attempt at a macho rant down a phone at a colleague (“CHARLIE! I sent that stuff over half-an- oh.”). Don Ameche adds a bit of class as a lawyer and makes one wish that he could have played the murderer. The bad points come from guest murderer Ross Martin who is dull, drab and distinctly aggravating as the murderer. That said, I suppose that makes it all the more sweet when Columbo nails him. The direction is also flat, lifeless and feels full of tension-deflating mistakes but there’s a lot of good Columbo and an ingenious finalé and that’s what we watch for.

This Columbo episode contains inferred violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Columbo s01e01 Murder by the Book (1971) – 6/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Jack Cassidy: Ken Franklin
Rosemary Forsyth: Jill Ferris
Martin Milner: James “Jim” Ferris
Director: Steven Spielberg
Story Editor and Writer: Steven Bochco
Producer and Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Producer and Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s01e01 Murder by the Book (1971)

When a successful book-writing partnership decides to part company, the ‘silent’ partner murders the other in order to collect the insurance payout but even their famed literary creation, Miss Melville, would have to go some to match wits with our Lt. Columbo.

6/10

A good perfect alibi plot and Peter Falk’s perfect performance as the eponymous shambling detective lift this murder mystery but an unconvincing conclusion drag things back down. Turns out the perfect alibi was just that. This episode was directed by Steven Spielberg and his sense of location creates some peculiarly indelible impressions. This was the first of the regular Columbo series (as opposed to the pilot episode) which would run for nearly thirty years and would be Spielberg’s immediately previous work to his breakthrough TV movie Duel (made the same year).

This Columbo episode contains

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Columbo s01e02 Death Lends a Hand (1971) – 7/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Robert Culp: Brimmer
Patricia Crowley: Lenore Kennicut
Ray Milland: Arthur Kennicut
Director: Bernard L. Kowalski
Producer and Writer: Richard Levinson
Producer and Writer: William Link

Columbo s01e02 Death Lends a Hand (1971)

Columbo investigates the death of Lenore Kennicut – a young woman accidentally killed by a private detective, Brimmer – but then her husband hires Brimmer to find the murderer.

7/10

Reasonable little murder mystery which, unlike most subsequent episodes, does not feature a ‘perfect murder’ scenario but does feature the quality that made the show so special: the joy of Columbo stalking his prey. Guest star Robert Culp is an agreeably superior baddie and special guest star Ray Milland adds a bit of gravitas but, as usual, Peter Falk is remarkable as our eponymous hero. This time around the murder was not premeditated and the death of the victim was accidental. Columbo still tumbles to the guilty party as soon as he is introduced but only confirms how at the very end.

This Columbo episode contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Porridge: No Way Out (1975) – 9/10 classic prison comedy TV review

Cast / crew
Norman Stanley “Fletch” Fletcher: Ronnie Barker
Writer: Dick Clement
Writer: Ian La Frenais
Mr. Barrowclough: Brian Wilde
Mr. MacKay: Fulton Mackay
Leonard Arthur “Lennie” Godber: Richard Beckinsale
Harry Grout: Peter Vaughan
Graham Crowden: Prison Doctor
Director and Producer: Sydney Lotterby

Porridge No Way Out (1975)

Fletch pretends that an old knee injury has flared up in the hopes that he’ll get to spend Christmas in the prison hospital with all the comfort that implies. However, the obligatory checkup at the local civilian hospital comes to the attention of Harry Grout and Fletch is pressed upon to assist with the escape of a fellow inmate.

9/10

This 1975 Christmas Special is another classic from Clement and La Frenais with Ronnie Barker on outstanding form as Fletch consistently delivering his lines as brilliantly as is humanly possible. It all builds to one of my favourite punchlines of any comedy ever (SPOILER "they dug another tunnel and put the earth down there"). The Christmas theme is woven in perfectly (the prisoners are covering the sound of a tunnel being dug with carol singing) and it has a clever (I had to look up perspicacity?), utterly joyous ending.

This Porridge episode contains Mild adult dialogue and references to homosexuality

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Megamind (2010) – 7/10 3D animated supervillain action movie review

Cast / crew
Will Ferrell: Megamind
Tina Fey: Roxanne Ritchi
Jonah Hill: Tighten
David Cross: Minion
Brad Pitt: Metro Man
Actor and Director Lord Scott, Prison Guard: Tom McGrath
Producer: Lara Breay
Producer: Denise Nolan Cascino
Writer: Alan Schoolcraft
Writer: Brent Simons
Head Of Character Animation: Jason Schleifer
Actor and Creative Consultant Megamind’s Father: Justin Theroux
Creative Consultant: Guillermo Del Toro

Megamind (2010)

As Metro City prepares to unveil a massive monument and museum to their resident superhero, equally resident supervillain Megamind plans to do battle once more. Once he escapes from prison, of course.

7/10

In a completely different league from director Tom McGrath’s execrable Madagascar movies, this is a charming, fun super-villain movie with an abundance of nice animation and a strong plot. Even though his voice is a bit old, Will Ferrell is also top-notch as he and Megamind’s animators manage to bring heart where (giant blue) head could easily dominate. Our impressively be-caped protagonist’s insistence on presentation and persistence are entirely admirable and uncommon backbones for any movie. Commending effort is a life skill that we can all benefit from. Much, much better than the superficially similar but morally obnoxious and dreary Despicable Me.

This movie contains violence, unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) – 8/10 comedy western review

Cast / crew
James Garner: Latigo [Smith]
Suzanne Pleshette: Patience
Harry Morgan: Taylor
Jack Elam: Jug May
Producer: William Finnegan
Writer: James Edward Grant
Director and Executive Producer: Burt Kennedy

Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)

When conman Latigo Smith rolls into town escaping from the clutches of fiancée Goldie with all her money, he soon succumbs to his one weakness: the roulette table. And loses all his money, of course. However, he soon thinks up another scheme by getting local horse-holder (!) and town idiot Jug May to pose as legendary gunslinger Swifty Morgan and hiring out his services despite neither of them being able to fire a single shot in a straight line.

8/10

Terrific comedy western which may disappoint on first viewing because it is not in the same style as predecessor Support Your Local Sheriff (1968). It may go above the heads of youngsters by ditching the more slapstick elements of its predecessor Support Your Local Sheriff in favour of mind games and gags more related to human weaknesses. However, the adults in the audience will still enjoy this. Garner, Morgan and beautiful, big-eyed Pleshette are all on top form but are outshone by the wonderful Jack Elam as his trusting sidekick Jug May. There’s even three (count ’em) top-notch ‘ass’ jokes.

This movie contains adult dialogue and violence, unexpectedly and extremely unpleasant scene (just about off-screen finger-breaking, twice).

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Hooper (1978) – 5/10 action comedy movie review

Cast / crew
Actor and Producer Sonny Hooper: Burt Reynolds
Executive Producer: Lawrence Gordon
Jan-Michael Vincent: Ski
Sally Field: Gwen
Brian Keith: Jocko
John Marley: Max Berns
Robert Klein: Roger Deal
Writer (Screenplay): Thomas Rickman
Writer (Screenplay): Bill Kerby
Writer (Story): Walt Green
Writer (Story): Walter S. Herndon
Producer: Hank Moonjean
Director: Hal Needham

Hooper (1978)

Ageing stuntman Hooper is enticed to end his career with one last huge stunt, a 328 foot jump over an exploded bridge in a rocket car. Not only will this stunt end his career but he is very real danger of it ending his life.

5/10

Hooper is a bizarrely unconvincing tale of a stuntman realising retirement is looming and wanting to go out on one last big stunt. It’s reasonable enough fun and was popular at the time but the stuntwork is poorly filmed with some atrocious stunt double work, no consideration given to the suspenseful and interesting preparation and no indication that stunts are filmed a tiny piece at a time and their production is no less dramatic for it. Instead, we get a final stunt sequence where a million stunts are all strung together impactlessly and the finalé rocket car stunt looks like a model. This flat incompetence is a trademark of stunt coordinator turned director Hal Needham. There is but a single stunt that is impressively filmed – our hero car driving under a collapsing chimney stack – the danger and skill is captured perfectly but it’s the only time it happens.

This movie contains bad language, strong adult dialogue and violence.

Shadow of a Doubt (1942) – 8/10 Hitchcock crime suspense drama movie review

Cast / crew
Teresa Wright: Young Charlie
Joseph Cotten: Uncle Charlie
Writer (Screenplay): Thornton Wilder
Writer (Screenplay): Sally Benson
Writer (Screenplay): Alma Reville
Writer (Story): Gordon McDonell
Producer: Jack H. Skirball
Acknowledgment: Thornton Wilder
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Shadow of a Doubt (1942)

When Uncle Charlie arrives in the small Californian town of Santa Rosa, he is welcomed with open arms by his family, especially his niece, also named Charlie. However, she soon begins to harbour doubts about her favourite uncle.

8/10

"We’re not talking about killing people. Herb’s talking about killing me and I’m talking about killing him." – Joseph Newton

Something clearly evident here is the sense of glee that Hitchcock, and no one else, brought to the subject of murder and was a critical element in making his films so entertaining. Even though he usually made crime thrillers, Hitchcock also consistently made his films will-he-get-away-with-it’s not who-dun-it’s. He then backs that up by making it a very real possibility that the villain (a successfully cast-against-type Joseph Cotten) will, if not succeed at his malevolence, get away with it. Hitchcock’s repeated success at balancing these two elements (among others) is why he is a genius.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) – 7/10 Hitchcock wrong man thriller movie review

Cast / crew
Priscilla Lane: Pat
Robert Cummings: Barry
Director and Producer: Alfred Hitchcock
Otto Kruger: Tobin
Alan Baxter: Freeman
Clem Bevans: Neilson
Norman Lloyd: Fry
Alma Kruger: Mrs. Sutton
Writer (Screenplay): Peter Viertel
Writer (Screenplay): Joan Harrison
Writer (Screenplay): Dorothy Parker

Saboteur, Alfred Hitchcock’s (1942)

An aircraft factory worker is suspected of sabotage when his friend dies and the factory burns down but flees the police with the address of the man responsible.

7/10

Quality Hitchcock which delivers excitement, suspense, romance and humour with apparently no effort whatsoever.  Some of the speechifying grinds things to a halt and is clearly present for propaganda effect (the film was made in 1942, halfway through World War II). The two leads are pleasant enough without being particularly memorable (though Hitchcock’s use of Priscilla Lane means that her character being a model is not a negative point; imagine if a movie were made today where a model is the heroine, grief!) but when Hitchcock is doing what he does best, the set piece, the film is near faultless. The most famous set piece is the Statue of Liberty finalé which is superbly constructed and benefits from perfect special effects though the absence of music does seem an odd choice. There are many other superb set piece sequences including a shootout at a cinema, an inescapable charity ball, a fight inside a van, the opening aircraft factory sabotage sequence and more suspenseful scenes involving a blind man and a circus troupe. Hitchcock also uses a baby as a bullet-shield for the hero and I wonder just how many movie heroes did that!

This movie contains adult dialogue and violence, gory and unpleasant scenes.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Inkheart (2008) – 6/10 fantasy adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
Director and Producer: Iain Softley
Screenplay Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Writer (Original Book) and Producer: Cornelia Funke
Producer: Diana Pokorny
Brendan Fraser: Mo
Paul Bettany: Dustfinger
Helen Mirren: Elinor
Jim Broadbent: Fenoglio
Andy Serkis: Capricorn
Sienna Guillory: Resa
Eliza Hope Bennett: Meggie
Rafi Gavron: Farid

Inkheart (2008)

Nine years after his wife left, antique book restorer Mo travels the world with 12-year-old daughter Meggie looking for a particular rare book, Inkheart. When, at last, he finds a copy, he is confronted in the street by Dustfinger – a man who can conjure fire in his hands – and Meggie is about to learn the truth about her mother and father.

6/10

This is an unfulfilling, unflamboyant movie that takes a great-sounding idea then plods towards an entirely unwonderful climax constantly undermining itself with pop-up villains and a lack of involvement (despite good work from Brendan Fraser and the cast). However, it’s one of those films that may inspire you to write-the-wrongs, to take the good – the Silvertongue concept – and do something better with it. Also, do parents really read stories with undisguisedly sadistic villains and giant shadow monsters from hell to three-year-olds?

This movie contains mild violence, unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.