The title of this documentary is perfect. It’s a portrait of a person and not the superstar creation of Amy Winehouse that the press made her image into.

This is the first documentary I’ve seen that completely uses archival footage without the use of talking heads and instead uses voice over. This technique gives the film another layer because the voices become cries of what could have been done while the whole time we watch Amy’s face become more desperate for help as her years pass. To be honest I didn’t know much about Amy Winehouse, nor did I know much of her music, and like most people I was led to believe she was in lack of a better word “trash”. She was bulimic, she was a drug abuser and she was an alcoholic. What we get from this documentary is that she began to spiral because of heartbreak and fall again and again with the growing pressures of fame her music was creating for her. There is no exact way to pinpoint what it was that led to her death, be it relationships, fame or drugs, then again that’s not what this documentary is about. We do see that she was already gone in the days, weeks and maybe even years up to the day of her death, but you can be the judge of that.

Amy is more than just a frightening look into the life of Amy Winehouse, but a fantastic documentary that has you feeling more and more respondent the further it goes and the closer you know you are getting to her end.

Check out Amy and see her charismatic and shy beginnings to tragedy in this haunting documentary.

4/5 – Stars for Amy

Robert Ring


Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is last year’s unexpected blockbuster and it exploded from being unknown to being included on every movie conversation of 2014. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had an amazing track record with this tenth film in the series and it may be the most ambitious film to date.


A young Peter Quill weeping from his mother’s death is ripped from his home planet of Earth, and is raised by a band of thieves that snatch up artefacts throughout the galaxy for the highest bidders. While the years that passed for Peter were far from home, he had the company of Earth in the form of his mother’s gift of an old cassette player with a tape entitled “Awesome Mix Vol.1”. The cassette holds hits from the 70s which act as a fine storytelling device to break and create tension as well as a relationship for the audience to still feel homely in a universe so strange and different from our own. Like a favourite album you can sit and listen to on repeat the fun begins when Peter plays the cassette tape and again it ends with the cassette tape. Peter finds himself with a group of misfits getting into prison together, breaking out together and attempting to save the world together. The ensemble cast from Peter (Chris Pratt), to the green alien Gamora (Zoe Saldana), to Drax an alien brute (Dave Bautista), along with them is the racoon, Rocket (Bradley Cooper), and Groot the true voiced by Vin Diesel with the single word “Groot”. While the story lacks a bit of depth, you come for the characters and stay to see their hijinks. The director, James Gunn did a great job at making the marvel universe feel like it had a great sense of scope, and if you loved the show Firefly, you’ll love this.

I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy and name it my favourite film for 2014!

4/5 – Stars

Robert Ring


I thought this was going to be a good movie, but I had no idea it was going to be a great movie.


The film begins with what appears to be a drunken jackass of a man, who within a short amount of time is kidnapped and held prisoner within a windowless apartment. Fifteen years pass in the confinement of this apartment and the man Dae-su, played by Min-sik Choi, is released (after undergoing hypnosis) and additionally he is told that his wife and child were murdered. Dae-su seeks revenge because he had his family taken away from him, his dignity, and fifteen years of his life with no understanding of why. Woo-jin Lee, played by Ji-tae Yu, is the antagonist who had him imprisoned, and released to provoke Dae-su even further. Oldboy starts with such a compelling beginning that you are taken with everything the film throws at you, and Dae-su is so psychologically broken that he doesn’t give a damn about what he needs to do to get his revenge. This mystery has it all with some of the most gut wrenching and insane fighting scenes to boot. You won’t forget this South Korean film if you give it a chance. There’s not much more that I can say without spoiling the end, but it has one of the most shocking twists you have ever seen.

Chan-wook Park has directed a very fine film that earns it’s place within the hundred greatest films ever made, and quite rightfully sits at rank seventy-one on the top movies of IMDB.

4.5/5 – Stars

Robert Ring


Marvel brings a new genre of film to their cinematic universe and this time we get a heist film. Ant Man is a fun heist film for the family with a touch of Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

Scott Lang played by Paul Rudd is a crook that has just been released from his prison sentence and we see that he wants to become honourable in the eyes of his young daughter, which we find he has in common with Michael Douglas’s character later on. Scott’s skills for breaking into some of the most secure vaults make him the prime candidate to helm the suit for a heist and set out to steal the new suit being prepped for diabolical purposes. Paul Rudd is great and believable in the title role, but he might need another film to make you take away the star Paul Rudd from our eyes and see Ant-Man instead. Michael Douglas was the best part of the movie to me. I didn’t think an actor as talented as him would fit well into this universe, but he made himself feel right at home in it. His character, Hank Pym is the inventor of the shrinking technology and we see he was the original Ant-Man hero who infiltrated the enemy Hydra in his youth. Hank is also the reason for the antagonist Darren Cross, who was once his protege though he began to feel alienated from the truth of his suit and began working out how to create his own shrinking suit for sale in global warfare and “peacekeeping.” Evangeline Lilly is back on the big screen for this film, which is always a good thing and she brings us a strong female character to the Marvel roster.

When Edgar Wright, one of my favourite directors and writers had left the project I was doubtful in Marvel achieving a great film without him, and to a degree I was right. While we didn’t get an Edgar Wright film in Ant-Man we did get a Marvel film. Edgar Wright’s films are stylistic and when you look at Marvel’s films the directors are relatively invisable so hopefully we get a new one from him soon with his energies put towards something he can continue to make his own.

Ant-Man is easily one of my favourite Marvel standalone films and almost as much fun as Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel’s stamp is all through the film and it has a lot of sneaky easter eggs to keep fans of the marvel cinematic universe smirking. There are also two scenes to wait for after the credits start rolling so stay seated and enjoy.

3.5/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

In the end memories are all we have, they are the justification of a life lived.

Joel Barish played by Jim Carrey, goes to work and comes home. Thats him, he doesn’t lead an interesting life. Joel decides to skip work one morning, it may seem like any ordinary morning, it’s not. He catches a train and goes for a walk along a snowy beach. Returning to the train station he meets Clementine Kruczynski played by Kate Winslet. She’s eccentric right down to her hair colour, the colour is ‘blue ruin’ if you were wondering. Like magnets, opposites attract. Wait! This isn’t the first time they’ve met. No, we quickly learn they were together for years before this. After endless fighting with Joel, Clementine had Joel’s memories erased from her mind. Joel unbeknownst to him goes to make up with her after seeing her at the bookshop she works at, but she is kissing an apparent new boyfriend. Heartbroken, Joel consults his friends who feel bad and tell him she had him erased. Joel even more devastated undertakes the procedure himself. Things get interesting while Joel lays in his bed, under sedation, as two goofy technicians spend the night erasing his memories. Joel walks through his memories of Clementine as he lets her go. He goes from the most recent to the beginning, very quickly he remembers how the memories made him feel, nothing was ever better. Those memories are special and sacred to him. He doesn’t want this anymore. He can’t even wake himself up to tell the technicians so he tries to hide Clementine in memories she doesn’t belong in. It’s no secret that Joel eventually ends up losing all his memories of Clementine. It’s the start of this review, and the start of the movie we see. The morning Joel woke up was the night after his Clementine erasure. Is it fate that these two people should end up together again? Being at the same place at the same time. Could things work out better for them this time around? The director Michel Gondry, known for making almost 80 music videos, brings a unique style to the film. This is especially seen as Joel’s memories progress. The deeper the erasers get, the more intense we see his memories peel away. He really has the characters play off each other very well. I thought the movie was just okay when I first saw the film a few years ago. Watching it again I see how beautifully woven the story is. I understand why Joel and even Clementine can come to use extreme methods of getting over their relationship with each other. Anybody that has suffered through a breakup can understand the nature of wanting to forget immediately after.

This is a different sort of love story, one that begs to embrace what was once the time of your life and not how bitter it ended. Luckily for these characters, fate dances the two together once again.

4/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

Risky Business

Risky Business is an 80’s teen film about capitalism and taking chances.

Joel Goodson played by Tom Cruise, in his first leading role, is a teen struggling with the pressures of making the grade. His parents are wealthy enough to own a Porsche and a lovely, sizable house. They leave Joel for a holiday and they tell him that they trust him, but remind him that there are still rules. To Joel his idea of rebelling is to drink his father’s rum while eating one of many frozen dinners left by his mum. Joel’s life is flown into high gear after his best friend Miles gives him advice. Miles basically tells Joel to occasionally take a chance, unbeknownst to him that Joel should take him too literally. Joel lacks confidence with woman, even in his dreams so he phones up a call girl named Lana, played by Rebecca De Mornay. Even while talking over the phone he is scared of what he is doing and he proceeds by cautiously talking to her through a hockey mask. She ends up staying at his house for days, hiding away from her pimp. Everything starts to go wrong for Joel. He starts to become a different man, one in which his new persona wears black sunglasses. He needs money to make up for his escalating mistakes, so for one night he becomes a capitalist. With the help of Lana’s prostitute friends, Joel’s house becomes a whorehouse, to his friends and whoever else he could sell sex to in his neighbourhood.

The director, Paul Brickman has such a vision for this film that it was unlike any teen film of it’s time. It deals with very adult themes while still feeling very innocent. It’s not a film where you object to the morals of characters whom freely pay for sex. It’s a satire in that way. It’s about Joel rolling the dice, taking the big risks to pay for the smaller ones. This film’s soundtrack is amazing. Tangerine Dream composed most of the soundtrack, with my favourite “Love on a Real Train”. Also hits like “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Seger, a track that is now known in conjunction with the scene as one of cinema’s most memorable, you know the one where Tom Cruise dances to it in just a shirt and socks.

Risky Business is thirty-two years old now but still remains fresh. It isn’t really weighed down with anything that can date it. You can still enjoy this film without being an 80’s film junkie like myself. Personally, Risky Business is one of my favourite films and I watch it yearly. I’ve even been meaning to buy a pair of Joel’s trademark sunglasses.

4/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

Casino Royale (2006)

007 is back.. he’s always back.

I have long since cared for James Bond films. I saw most of them as a kid, Roger Moore was my favourite. As I’ve grown older my tastes have changed, mostly in the form of action movies. Pure action just doesn’t excite me these days. So I’ve let these films pass me by. The other struggle I have with the series is that every film is a stand alone adventure. New problem, new love, new car, new villian, gadgets, exotic locations, etc. It’s the same formula every film and that’s not a bad thing neccesarilly. Bond is a fictional character, like Superman, one that the real world needs to look to. We need to see that as the world changes, espeacially for the worse, these heroes are still here to save it. Their characteristics and goals change, as the world changes.

I remember when there was so much controversy about having the blonde haired Bond, Daniel Craig. It never bothered me because I was so far removed from the series. From the get go of this film, Bond is different. This Bond has never been so different from his predocessors. He is rugged and ready to get his hands dirty, even his fashion sense is mocked twice in this movie. He is driven with obsession. And best of all, Bond has a heart. He falls hard for the Bond girl, Vesper. He makes plans to leave his job to play out his life with her. It is here that we finally see a Bond that bleeds. Still overall, I don’t feel he is Bond or that I’m watching a Bond movie. It may be for the simple fact that I have seen Daniel Craig in many films before, but it also has to do with its style. This film is very gritty and darker than the previous films in the series.

I dislike the technicalities in spy films, as they create a realm of intreague, one thats usually hard to follow. Simply put, Bond is not chasing a villian seeking world domination this time. Seriously, this is a bit of a shock. Instead the villian, Le Chiffre is trying to recoup the sum of hundreds of millions of dollars that were lost in a scheme Bond foiled in the stock market. Le Chiffre enters a high stakes poker tournament with a ten million buy in. The stakes are high for both. For Bond it’s the girl and for Le Chiffre it’s his life, the investors will have him killed without the money. By this point the film is feeling long and ready for a climax. No not yet! There is still 45 minutes left till the end. It’s a great film and a great start to Daniel Craig as Bond. I just felt the end was overkill, it was trying to do too much.

This is a good movie, better than I thought it was going to be. I truthfully watched it for the two subsequent sequels, for the directors helming each project. First there is Marc Forster, whom directed one of my favourite movie of all time, Stranger Than Fiction. Followed by Sam Mendes who directed American Beauty all the way to Revolutionary Road, which are amazing films.

3.5/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

Oz the Great and Powerful

The land of Oz has never looked so good.

I’ve been a big fan of the lesser known Oz film adaptation, Return to Oz since childhood. Of course I have seen The Wizard of Oz (1939) plenty of times before, but Return to Oz fascinated me. It was in many ways the polar opposite to The Wizard of Oz, the happy world of Oz we last saw was shattered beyond belief, leaving behind only the smallest of remnants that represented that world. Seeing Oz in this way was terrifying, this film was far from family fun fare.. it was dark, creepy, and can I say “eerie as fuck” is an appropriate definition for the feeling you had while watching it. I love every minute of it, and to date it was probably one of the most frighting films I saw as a child. Sadly, Return to Oz doesn’t hold up as well today as it’s predecessor, nevertheless it showed me how vast the land of Oz could be.

Coming into Sam Raimi’s version I was anxious, as well as reserved about how I felt about it. All the promotions before the film’s release had me convinced it would be like Disney’s recent Alice in Wonderland, which I wanted to be so much more. From the very get go I was immersed in the great initiative that was taken towards this latest adaptation of Oz, which sees the origin story of Oscar “The Wizard”, played by James Franco come into power of Emerald City. I’ve seen many reviews pan Franco’s character, but I think his performance is adequate to the tone of this film. Oscar is a con man at face value with women and in magic. Beneath the con man is a man who wants to be great, a man who wants to be a combination of Thomas Edison and Houdini. Thrown from Kansas in a raging storm that captures his hot air ballon, Oscar then comes crashing down into the land of Oz. Here he claims to be “The Wizard,” the one in the prophecy who is said to defeat the evil witch, and take the throne of Emerald City. Accompanying Oscar on his journey are two very emotionally touching CGI companions. Finley the flying monkey in a little bell hop uniform, and a little girl made of porcelain. Oscar’s journey also brings the origin story of the witches played by Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachael Weisz full circle. I’m not one to eagerly jump at 3D films, however I feel it enhanced the experience for me. I was totally immersed in the wonderful world.

This film pays homage to The Wizard of Oz in more ways than I expected, for eg. it also starts with the black and white Kansas scene. I think this is a prequel made very well. It was respectful of it’s source material and gives an interesting take to the events that occurred before it’s beloved predecessor so many years ago. Some scenes may prove frightening for small children, but overall a great family film for everyone. I really loved it. I want to see many more films like this in the land of Oz, and I know there is so much left to be told which I find exciting.

Jump into the world of Oz

4/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

Love and Mercy

There is a line from a Bon Jovi song that I listened to often that mentioned “in a Brian Wilson world” and I was always curious as to who this individual was and what a statement like that could mean. This biopic features the struggles Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame dealt with when dealing with his demons. Brian is deafened in his right ear by his father and beaten periodically at a young age. These trials only worsen as he begins to hear voices while we see him transition from his young adult self played by Paul Dano to his older self played by John Cusack. In later life he contends with abuse from Dr. Eugene Landy played by Paul Giamatti, whom he gave over his legal rights to. Dr. Eugene is always watching and controlling every aspect of Brian’s life, including his love interest to Melinda Ledbetter played by Elizabeth Banks. The story revolves around his genius, his mental deterioration and his love interest. You don’t need to know who the Beach Boys are to enjoy this film, however it will further your enjoyment of it when you hear his songs played and videos recreated. Personally, I found his life to be quite prolific and will read his biography before I see this film again.

The film is brilliant. I have seen many films in theatres this year and this one currently takes the number one spot for the best film of the year thus far for me. Love and Mercy is fantastic.

4.5/5 – Stars

Robert Ring

Batman: Under the Arkham Knight

Batman is busy these days with Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad in the pipeline for 2016 and the recent release of the critically received Batman: Arkham Knight game out now. It is unlikely that games will be mentioned much on this site, but it’s hard to pass up with the fine cinematic storytelling presented within the concluding chapter of Rocksteady’s Arkham Knight. The title of this post’s play on words is used because of the parallels towards the game and the animated film Batman: Under the Red Hood. Below is both a review of the game and the animated film.

Batman Arkham Knight 02
Batman: Arkham Knight

The game begins with the cremation of the Joker, and yes, the Joker is dead in this version of the Batman mythology. Instead, filling the shoes of the villain in this game is the Scarecrow and the mysterious villain the Arkham Knight. The Scarecrow with his fear inducing toxins unleashes chaos throughout Gotham City. Naturally Batman is exposed to the toxins which brings his greatest fear to life, the Joker. Seeing the Joker pop up and ridicule Batman from time to time is in fact is one of the most rewarding parts of the game. The Scarecrow makes each encounter filled with tension as the lines of reality become blurred. This game presents you with twist after twist and the revelation that comes with discovering the origins of the Arkham Knight is one of the best. The combat is perfect and this one allows you to take control of the Batmobile, which I found to be entirely satisfying from start to finish. Rocksteady knew this was their concluding chapter going in and they gave it everything they’ve got, so think again if you think every character is safe from death.

Batman: Arkham Knight does everything right from the scope of a cinematic film to experincing all Gotham City has to offer and story arcs that involve all your favourite villains as well.
4.5/5 – Stars

Batman Under the Red Hood
Batman: Under the Red Hood

This animated film from the beginning starts with the Joker hitting Jason Todd, the second iteration of Robin with a crowbar. Robin is beat senseless before he is blown up by a bomb killing him just as Batman approaches the scene. The start of this film alone is the darkest opening to an animated film I’ve ever seen. Five years pass and Batman is still haunted by the memory of the event. Batman is more withheld and unwilling to take on help from Nightwing because of the loss of Robin against his new foes the Red Hood and Black Mask. The Red Hood is another mysterious figure that brings to light some twists in the Batman mythology. The Red Hood is a key figure and watching this film as a companion to Batman: Arkham Knight will be a treat.

Without spoiling any more on an animated feature with a runtime of 75 minutes, Batman: Under the Red Hood is a great Batman one shot and the best DC animated film I’ve seen to date.

3.5/5 – Stars

Check out these two Batman stories while you wait for the feature films coming to theatres next year.

Robert Ring