100 Word Review – Porco Rosso (1992)

In classic Hayao Miyazaki (Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke) style, this Japanese anime perfectly captures the spirit of adventure and freedom that permeates throughout it.

Set in the skies above a 1930s Italian coast, a WWI veteran pilot makes a living in his sea plane as a bounty hunter, taking down air pirates. His name is Marco Rosso and he was cursed to look like a pig.

Definitely family friendly, but with hidden depths that might have made me cry. There’s humour, there’s romance, there’s a sense of history and the dubbed version even has the voice of Michael Keaton.

100 Word Review – The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012)

After 9/11, you could choose your side. I had my side chosen for me.

– Changez

Adapted from the extraordinary novel by Mohsin Hamid and directed by the wonderful Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair), this film should be compulsory viewing for everyone living in the 21st Century.

A journalist (Liev Schreiber) interviews a suspected terrorist (Riz Ahmed) about how his life, his family and his current situation.

Co-starring Kiefer Sutherland and Kate Hudson, this film is exciting, dramatic and hauntingly understandable.

Ahmed is spectacular in his role as Changez, brilliantly capturing all the dimensions of a truly complex and intriguing character.


100 Word Review – Starship Troopers (1997)

This is glorious in both its satire and its exploding giant bug aliens.

Set in a militaristic dystopian future, Earth is at war with a race of bug aliens. A group of friends work their way through the ranks in the hopes of destroying the alien threat.

Adapted from Robert A Heinlein’s novel by Edward Neumeier (Robocop) and directed by Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Robocop), upon its initial release the satire was missed by many who criticised it as a glorification of war.

It achieves the perfect balance between violence and politics, showing one up by use of the other.

100 Word Review – Full Metal Jacket (1987)

In my opinion this is an example of Stanley Kubrick at his finest.

Based on the novel The Short Timers by Gustav Hasford which he wrote while serving in Vietnam about his own experiences, this is a searing look at the U.S.-Vietnam war, through the eyes of the pragmatic Private Joker (Matthew Modine).

Vincent D’Onofrio gives a truly memorable performance as Pyle, and Firefly fans may spot Adam Baldwin among the leads.

Starting in the training camps, this film is nothing if not brutal from beginning to end. It is a story brilliantly told, but visceral and harrowing to see.

100 Word Review – The Wind Rises (2013)

Another truly beautiful animation from the creators of Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro. This is the sort of biopic that could only come from the mind of the breathtakingly talented Hayao Miyazaki.

Based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi fighter planes that were used by the Japanese during World War II. In true Miyazaki style, it follows not only the facts of Horikoshi’s life but also his dreams, where he has conversations with Giovanni Battista Caproni, the famed Italian aeronautical engineer.

It combines the historical and the fantastical with moments of romance and tragedy.

100 Word Review – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

This is not a light film, you have been warned.

Set in 1940s Spain, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) escapes from the horrors closing in on her into creepy, captivating fantasy world based on the fairy tales she loves so much. Led by a faun (Doug Jones), Ofelia completes quests to prove herself.

Another fairytale that is Grimm in every sense, it deconstructs the psyche of a child trapped in an impossible situation.

Written and directed by the hugely talented Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Cronos), unsurprisingly it won three Oscars including make-up and cinematography and is currently the 126th on IMDb’s Top 250.

100 Word Review – Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Well aware that I sound like a sports commentator, this really is a film of two halves.

Set in Italy in the build-up to WWII, a Jewish man falls in love, starts a family and uses his imagination in an attempt to shield them from the harsh realities.

Roberto Benigni co-wrote, directed and starred in this moving and emotionally draining portrayal of world events on a personal scale. It is at moments hilarious, the first half is full of Chaplin-esque humour. The second half is…

Just watch it. You will laugh, and you will cry.

Here’s Benigni receiving his Oscar:

100 Word Review – A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Peter’s (Daid Niven) bomber is going down over the Channel. He makes radio contact with June (Kim Hunter), and American service woman and passes on his dying words.

But when his designated angelic guide gets lost in the fog, he wakes up near June’s house. So he finds himself caught up in a celestial legal battle for his life, literally.

Niven and Hunter are utterly compelling and completely heartbreaking in this classic Powell and Pressburger feature. Full of theological debate and logic, every detail has been clearly thought-through to create a film that is … heavenly.

More than your average romance.