Classic Intel: V For Vendetta - Online Review

'continues to have power ten years on... unpicking the intricacies of the film's politics is no simple job'

A property that only seems to get more relevant with age, James McTeigue and The Wachowski's adaptation of V For Vendetta, Alan Moore and David Lloyd's graphic novel, continues to have power ten years on. Taking as its starting point the 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' conceit, this is a layered, considered examination of governmental power, even if it does happen to take place in a slightly unrecognisable, dictator-led Britain.

Unpicking the intricacies of the film's politics is no simple job. A liberal reading would highlight that V (Hugo Weaving) campaigns against a fascist-like dictator (John Hurt), who suppresses and influences his citizens and the news in order to maintain the power of 'the party'. Notably, it is made explicit that Adam Sutler (Hurt) is a former member of the Conservatives, emphasising the film's left-leaning politics. In reality, the situation of V For Vendetta is more complex and McTeigue knows it. V is less passive activist, or reactionary campaigner, more skilled, mass-murdering superhero. During the course of the film he blows up two buildings in the name of his cause. At best, his methods against an admittedly benevolently evil state are controversial, but of course McTeigue and all involved know that.

With that fact admitted, V For Vendetta plays extremely similarly to the more recent Four Lions. This is a 'what if' scenario, just similar enough to our own situation to make us, firstly, sit up and take notice and secondly, ask some questions of those above us that are more reasonable than announcing our arrival by blowing up the Old Bailey. On the surface V For Vendetta is violent revolution but in actuality it advocates realisation and not sleepwalking into chaos. V even tells us and the masses of the film at one point that our crime of ignorance, of enabling this situation through inaction, can be forgiven if we can now just get off our arses and do something about it. In a country where the turnout for the last General Election was just 65%, this ticks several relevance boxes.

With message established, the production is sometimes open to a level of questioning. Owen Paterson's production design is sparse at best, at worst, basic and budget-limited. The thing everyone remembers about V For Vendetta is the Matrix-esque knife fights, as bullet-time blades swing through the air towards their targets. In truth, they are hardly here. The action is severely limited: this is, remember, a political drama which happens to have a violent protagonist. It is not a beautiful film.

It is though an important and relevant contemporary one, with plenty to say to 2015's generation, as it did to 2005's. It is complex material and its creators know this. If only they could have found a little bit more polish to explore their ideas.




V For Vendetta was playing on Sky Go, Now TV and other Sky online platforms.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Classic Intel: Mission: Impossible III - Online Review

'whisper it: there is more here of value than in Ghost Protocol, than in any other film except the franchise opener, actually'

As the release of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation approaches, and Tom Cruise doing silly stunts hits the headlines again, it feels like an appropriate time to revisit Mission: Impossible III, or 'That Time J.J. Abrams Saved The Franchise'.

With the newer, shinier, numerical-less Ghost Protocol apparently quite favoured by many (or at least, IMDb voters), the third outing for the franchise feels as though it is in danger of being forgotten. Whisper it though: there is more here of value than in Ghost Protocol, than in any other film except the franchise opener, actually. Abrams single-handedly wrestles a series John Woo had nearly blown into oblivion back into relevance and does it with a plot that barely functions and never explains itself. If he can produce this level of expertise with Star Wars: Episode VII, instead of his hit and miss Star Trek execution, then there will be nothing to worry about there.

After the bananas gadgetry and face-swapping of the Woo film (which is, let's face it folks, certifiably terrible), Abrams essentially returns the series to basics. A MacGuffin - the rabbit's foot, the purpose of which is brilliantly never actually revealed - is on the loose and in the hands of terrorist Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman, who lifts his material in a way only he could). Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team must sort the whole mess out, including a personal vendetta introduced during an opening between Davian and IMF agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell).

Abrams' genius (and that of co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) in the first instance is to make the personal important and the plot anonymous, rather than the other way round. He knows that we don't ultimately care about the rabbit's foot, whatever it may be, but, three films in and in the capable hands of Cruise, we do care about the Ethan character and, by extension, Farris and Hunt's new wife-to-be Julia (Michelle Monaghan). Conversations between Hunt and series' stalwart Luther (Ving Rhames) about whether IMF agents can have personal lives aren't here by accident and they lift this above the stupid spying of the second film. The level of nonchalance towards the plot does reach dangerous levels (the ultimate villain has absolutely no concrete motivations whatsoever) but it almost doesn't matter: this is a Drama about where Ethan's life has got to: explosions and spying, now optional.

There are strange moments and decision here too. The opening party is horrendously cheesy and new agents Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers don't have much staying power (and were consequently and correctly dropped for Ghost Protocol). But, let's not forget, this was Abrams' first feature as director and during the almost-perfectly pitched two hours, he shows he has more grasp for this sort of thing than experienced veteran Woo ever had. Essentially now a figurehead of three major franchises, at one point or another, Abrams is an easy target to take a swipe at. Don't forget though: he gave us arguably the best Mission: Impossible film, at a time when the series couldn't have been in a worse position.




Mission: Impossible III was playing on Sky Go, Now TV and Sky's other online platforms.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and looking back at Jackson's second trilogy

'Jackson has nothing new and that fact alone is reason to cut this down from three films.'

There is little doubt in my mind now that Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy is a failure at adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit novel. These films may be a lot of things, some of them successes, but on that count the verdict is unequivocal; as adaptations, these films were broken at the point studio greed took over and three productions emerged instead of two or even, perish the thought, one. The Hobbit, as conceived by Tolkien, is a complete story with a beginning and an end. During the course of this trilogy Jackson attempts to manufacture another two starts and another two ends and largely fails. At least the subtitle includes a definite article, suggesting that there is unlikely to be a 'Reprise Of The Five Armies', though even at this point you would be a brave person to rule it out.

Emphasising the point, The Battle Of The Five Armies starts where the last film left off, which is barely a cliffhanger. Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) gets to do some more desolating and then, twelve minutes in, the opening title appears. Was that really worth waiting for? Could that twelve minutes not have been included in the previous film, or one whole film? I refer you to the previous point on adaptations, and the successes thereof.

Once over that sleight there are two things to be aware of. Firstly, where the first film in this saga was largely a lifeless Drama, this is all Action. Battle after battle unfolds, sometimes with clear participants, other times not. There are, of course, highlights and new things to see (Legolas (Orlando Bloom) gets several and Thorin's (Richard Armitage) eventual battle with Azog (Manu Bennett) is subtly excellent), but that doesn't escape the fact that, as a stand alone film, this is all conclusion, and a one-dimensional one at that. There is still a titanic problem with the fact that at least half of the dwarves are anonymous and by this point, the director isn't even attempting to rectify the situation. Billy Connolly, who shows up as yet another dwarf, gets more characterisation in his five minutes or so than some of the 'stars' do across three films.

Secondly, it should surprise no-one that everything we have already seen that was good in the previous five films is both still good and here again. There is little doubt that a sweeping helicopter pan of some people walking up rugged New Zealand countryside looks good, but I did not need to see this again to know it to be true. Jackson has nothing new and that fact alone is reason to cut this down from three films.

Ultimately, despite all of that griping, it is fine; all of the trilogy are. I cannot bring myself to say that films of this scale and visual artistry are bad (though an hour in to this one, I was ready to) and they do entertain. Even adaptations this bad cannot stop Tolkien's narrative from doing that. But this is also now recycled film-making, from people we know know better, placed in front of us for no other reason than to double or triple the profits. On that level, if not completely true on an artistic front, this feels soulless and that is something you can rarely level at the source text, nor the original author.


The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies


The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies and The Hobbit trilogy as a whole were released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 20th March 2015.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Midnight Run - Blu-ray Review

'De Niro's turn here is a far cry from the pantomimic style of his nineties and noughties comedies, and is all the better for it'.

Whilst turn-of-the-millenium efforts Analyze This and Meet The Parents are perhaps the most likely films to be cited when discussing Robert De Niro's forays into comedy, in truth the actor's most successful comic turns can be found far earlier in his career surrounded by many of the acclaimed dramatic performances upon which he made his name. Several of De Niro's earliest screen performances were in comedy films, although 1983's The King Of Comedy is perhaps the first example of the actor returning to comedy after making it big during the second half of the 1970s. For De Niro at his comic best, however, look no further than 1988's Midnight Run.

As down-on-his-luck bounty hunter Jack Walsh, De Niro delivers a gem of a performance by playing off his past dramatic roles, successfully developing Jack from a guy who only avoids getting his head blown off by sheer dumb luck during the opening moments into someone we genuinely feel has been dealt a bum hand by life. De Niro's turn here is a far cry from the pantomimic style of his nineties and noughties comedies, and is all the better for it. Perversely, this emerges as his best comic performance precisely because De Niro doesn't play it for laughs, instead crafting Jack as a character of several shades, most of which are light, but with a few darker hues interspersed.

De Niro is only one half of Midnight Run's comedy success however. Charles Grodin's understated turn as Jack's target, neurotic mob accountant Jonathan "The Duke" Mardukas, provides a wonderful foil for De Niro to play off, the two actors delightfully fostering one of the great buddy partnerships of the eighties. Much like Jack, Jonathan also starts off as seemingly simple but becomes much more, thanks in no small part to Grodin's authentic and infectious character performance.

Whilst the pairing of De Niro and Grodin is undoubtedly at the core of Midnight Run's success, the film offers plenty to enjoy elsewhere. The threads of the somewhat complex story are swiftly introduced within the opening twenty minutes, then allowed to interweave pleasingly over the course of the film. Director Martin Brest blends road movie, crime thriller and action caper brilliantly, whilst also ensuring that the plot satisfyingly treads the fine line between multifaceted and overcomplicated. The supporting turns, whilst never as memorable as those from the lead pair, are consistently solid, particularly from Yaphet Kotto as hard-nosed FBI agent Alonzo Mosely and Dennis Farina as Jimmy Serrano, a sleazy mob boss with an impressive line in office-equipment-related threats of violence.

Midnight Run isn't perfect: at two hours it feels too long for the story it tells; and a sequence focusing on Jack's estranged wife and daughter, whilst adding further emotional depth to him, feels thinly written and adds little. For much of its running time, however, Brest's buddy movie is consistently entertaining, driven by excellent performances and delivering a film gratifyingly placed somewhere between Lethal Weapon and Planes, Trains And Automobiles.




Midnight Run is released on UK Blu-ray on Monday 20th April 2015.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Good Morning, Vietnam and Good Morning, Vietnam: Revisited: Two Depictions of One Story, One Conflict


The 30th April marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the US/Vietnam War and, partially in memory of the conflict, the BBC recently aired a radio programme entitled Good Morning, Vietnam: Revisited, during which the real life Adrian Cronauer (played in the film by Robin Williams) recounts his time in the country.

Cronauer is an interesting character. Depicted by Williams as a live-wire liberal, initially detached from the conflict but increasingly invested and disgusted by it, the real life Cronauer describes how he would not have 'got away with half of what Williams depicts'. At one point during the radio programme, Cronauer speaks of the protests against the war in the US as only muddying the waters, rather than presenting actual solutions. His Wikipedia entry claims he is 'a lifelong card-carrying Republican' who took active roles in Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign and George W. Bush's 2004 campaign. The IMDb trivia for the film goes as far as claiming he was 'a vice-chairman of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign'.

As always, the above reveals the truth is stranger than the fiction. There is little doubt raised in either Good Morning, Vietnam however, nor the radio production, that Cronauer was appalled by elements of the war. This does not change the fact that both productions fail to dig deeper into his political background. His comments on the protest movement in the US during the 1960s are glossed over as briefly as possible. In the film, there's little doubt that Cronauer is an active rebel, willing to risk his job for his opinion.

This is, of course, to be expected. Cronauer quite rightly points out that the film is a fiction of an actual event, which took his popular show and turned it into a symbol of resistance. As such, director Barry Levinson and writer Mitch Markowitz need an alternative villain to the Viet Cong. It arrives in officious US Lieutenant Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and his superior Dickerson (J.T. Walsh), constantly at odds with Cronauer's ill-discipline and left-leaning views. The problem for the film is that Good Morning, Vietnam is very much a production from the US point of view, which means that the Viet Cong are still the enemy. Hauk might be a bit of a prick, but it is not he who blows up Jimmy Wah's bar. Levinson gets himself into a muddle here, and offers no closure to the story of Cronauer's relationship with Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana) or her Viet Cong brother Tuan (Tung Thanh Tran). Once the latter has been outed, the film ends and Cronauer leaves, aping the changing US policy in the region.

Though loved by some, I have always struggled a little bit with Good Morning, Vietnam's Comedy. The BBC programme makes the reason for this clear: Williams is performing radio improv, not screen improv. In audio-only mode, his falsetto voices are more distinct, dialogue clearer, jokes funnier. On screen, it just looks as though Levinson has given him licence to continue with what is only a vaguely humorous skit. The best moments appear scripted. 'What does three up, three down mean to you?', Dickerson asks him, referring to his stripes and his rank. 'End of an innings?', Cronauer replies. There is nothing as well timed or considered in the improvised sections.

Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing and Good Morning, Vietnam remains as a worthy monument to liberal attempts during the eighties to try to understand the war and sympathise with the Vietnamese. It's imperfection is merely a reflection of the fact that these attempts were themselves imperfect, mainly because their viewpoint was, and to a point continues to be, an attempt to understand the US side of the conflict. Paired with an internally uncertain personal subject, bravely liberated by Williams, it is little wonder that Good Morning, Vietnam is contextually fascinating, but muddily conceived and occasionally uncertain. In that way, perhaps it is, in fact, a reflection of its wider concerns.


Good Morning, Vietnam was playing on iTunes. Good Morning, Vietnam Revisited is available on BBC iPlayer Radio until Wednesday 13th May 2015.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Classic Intel: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies - DVD Review

'That these three talents went from this to their subtle awards darling The Artist is roughly as predictable as Keith Chegwin directing a BAFTA winner.'

Before Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo made Oscar-winning The Artist, they made this: a slightly bawdy Spy Caper/parody, one part Naked Gun, one part Scary Movie. OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies is occasionally broad, bawdy stuff, with jokes on a level only just above the gutter, partnered with some clever observation and snappy dialogue. That these three talents went from this to their subtle awards darling is roughly as predictable as Keith Chegwin directing a BAFTA winner.

At its best, Nest Of Spies relies on the dialogue of Jean-François Halin and Hazanavicius' script and the not inconsiderable charm of Dujardin. The latter can flash a smile with the best of classic Hollywood, which explains why he was suited to his The Artist role. Here, as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (alias: OSS 117), he excels as a handsome simpleton who understands neither spying, people or cultural politics and yet has to engage in all three of them. 'Buy shoes for your kids', he tells foreman Slimane (Abdellah Moundy), 'it'll be difficult', comes the reply, 'they're in New York at University'. There are moments when de La Bath reminds you of Frank Drebin, and it has been a long time since any parody has genuinely been able to claim that.

There are other moments though that remind you just how good The Naked Gun films, Police Squad and other Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker productions are and how tone deaf the modern parody can seem by comparison. There are far too many jokes that rely on a lot of ogling of either Bejo's Larmina or Princesse Al Tarouk (Aure Atika) and it's no surprise when the final scene manages to manufacture a situation where both of them end up in their underwear. Is it in-keeping with the targets of this film, Bond and the like? Yes, but it's handled with all the subtlety of a fist full of Walther PPKs.

Compared to its US and UK counterparts though, this does get the sub-genre more so than any recent efforts. A solid gag about a spy following OSS 117 and reporting to an unseen master is good for at least three laughs and there are others that populate the moments of tone deafness. The plot is predictably silly, but it is near-constantly perked by stand-alone elements such as the above, and OSS 117's fascination with the fact that every time he turns the light on in his cover business, his flock of chickens start squawking. Like the film, it's hardly a revolutionary gag, but that doesn't mean it won't make you laugh.





By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Masters Of Cinema #105 - Wooden Crosses (Les Croix de Bois) - Blu-ray Review

'A captivating portrayal of warfare on screen by any standard, made all the more remarkable considering the film is now well over eighty years old'.

Originally released two years before his 300-minute epic film adaptation of Les Misérables (which is numerically, if not chronologically, the succeeding release in the Masters Of Cinema series) Raymond Bernard's Wooden Crosses clearly holds aesthetic similarities to the director's later film. It also feels like a work Bernard may have learned some lessons from as he went into Les Misérables, as there are aspects that the director handles much more successfully in that film than he does here.

Where Wooden Crosses can rarely be faulted is in its authentic representation of World War One. The work of cinematographer Jules Kruger is superb throughout, vividly recreating on screen everything from living conditions in the trenches to conflict in No Man's Land. There are numerous occasions where, such is the attention to detail from Kruger, what he puts on screen could easily be mistaken for photographs from the actual war.

Bernard's direction regularly complements the work of Kruger, with several stand-out sequences to be found throughout Wooden Crosses two-hour running time. A scene depicting soldier Gilbert (Pierre Blanchar) bringing a tardily delivered letter to the grave of a fallen comrade is particularly moving, as is a sequence at the film's centre depicting a church simultaneously being used for a religious service and as a front line hospital. The director's use of sound throughout Wooden Crosses is also impressive, at times incessantly bombarding us with the cacophony of shell blasts and machine gun fire, at others allowing scenes to starkly play out in complete silence.

Bernard's greatest achievement here, however, is a twenty-minute sequence near the commencement of Wooden Crosses' second hour, depicting an unforgiving battle to capture a village barely recognisable due to its artillery-ravaged state. It's a captivating portrayal of warfare on screen by any standard, made all the more remarkable considering the film is now well over eighty years old.

Whilst Wooden Crosses is frequently an excellent historical recreation of World War One, as a narrative piece of cinema however it unfortunately feels less impressive. Bernard drifts in and out of telling an actual story, at times presenting Gilbert as the film's primary focus but at others simply allowing events to play out as a series of loosely connected vignettes. Whilst this allows him to show a broad spectrum of the lives of front line soldiers during the war, it does give Wooden Crosses a frustratingly unfocused feel at times. Neither Gilbert nor any other member of his unit are ever given any true depth, limited to scraps of information about their lives before the war at best.

Bernard's pacing is also an issue at times. The film's first hour is undeniably plodding, at times to the point of exasperation. A segment in which the soldiers discover the enemy tunnelling under their trench in particular lacks any sort of urgency, infecting the film with a torpidity which only subsides when we reach the aforementioned village battle sequence. It's telling that, whilst Wooden Crosses is under half the length of Bernard's Les Misérables, its lack of dynamism at times makes it the more laborious of the two films to get through.

Wooden Crosses therefore ends up as the sum of its positive and negative elements. It is undeniably worth watching for its authentic and engaging depictions of conflict, particularly for war film fans and historical enthusiasts. Taken as a whole however, it falls short of greatness due to Bernard's relative problems with story and pace, something which the director thankfully improved upon for his subsequent film.





Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Wooden Crosses was released in the UK on Monday 30th March 2015


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.