The Damned United

  • Directors: Tom Hooper
  • Producers: Andy Harries, Grainne Marmion
  • Writers: Peter Morgan, David Peace
  • Genres: Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Colm Meaney, Timothy Spall

After failing to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, England manager Alf Ramsey is sacked and replaced by Don Revie, the highly successful manager of Leeds United. Revie is replaced at Leeds by Brian Clough, a former manager of Derby County and a fierce critic of Leeds’s style of play under Revie. Much attention is called to the fact that Clough’s longtime assistant, Peter Taylor, has not joined him at Leeds, and Clough claims in an interview to Yorkshire Television that the team cannot possibly have been happy under Revie, due to the violent and physical nature of their game.

The roots of Clough’s conflict with Revie are depicted as happening in a 1967 FA Cup match between Leeds, who were then leading the First Division (though they did not win it that season) and Derby, who were struggling near the bottom of the Second Division. Clough assumes Revie to be a similar man to himself, owing to the fact that they grew up in the same part of Middlesbrough; come the day of the match however, Revie either ignores Clough or fails to make him out in the crowd upon entering Derby’s Baseball Ground stadium. The match proves to be a tough affair, and despite their best efforts Derby lose 2–0 to Leeds.[1] Clough initially blames the brutality of the Leeds players, but he and Taylor recognise that their side simply aren’t good enough on a technical level and so remedy the problem by signing veteran Dave Mackay, along with several other young players. The club’s frugal chairman, Sam Longson is extremely anxious about the investment and more so the fact that Clough didn’t bother to consult him about signing Mackay. However, Derby win the Second Division title in 1969, and the following season once more face up to Leeds, the defending First Division champions… and promptly lose 5–0.

In the film’s epilogue, the audience is told that Don Revie proved a complete failure as an England manager, and afterwards never worked in football in his home country again, spending the rest of his career working in the Middle East. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor meanwhile reunited at Nottingham Forest, where he repeated his prior achievements with Derby by taking them up and winning the First Division, and this time bettered both Revie and his own spell at Derby by winning two European Cups in succession. The film ends by branding Clough “the best manager that the English national side never had.”

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

  • Directors: Tim Burton
  • Producers: Richard D Zanuck, John Logan, Walter F Parkes
  • Writers: Musical, Stephen Sondheim, Hugh Wheeler, Play, Christopher Bond, Screenplay, John Logan
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Musical, Thriller
  • Actors: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jamie Campbell Bower, Laura Michelle Kelly, Jayne Wisener, Ed Sanders

Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), a skilled barber, is falsely charged and sentenced to a life of hard labor in Australia by the corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman), who lusts after Barker’s wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly). Now under the assumed name “Sweeney Todd”, Barker returns to London with sailor Anthony Hope (Jamie Campbell Bower). At his old Fleet Street lodgings above Mrs. Nellie Lovett’s (Helena Bonham Carter) pie shop, he discovers that Lucy, having been raped by Turpin, has poisoned herself, and his teenage daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener) is now Turpin’s ward, and like her mother before her, is the object of his unwanted affections. Todd vows revenge, reopening his barber shop in the upstairs flat.

While roaming London, Anthony spots Johanna and falls in love with her, but is ejected from the Judge’s house by Turpin and his associate, Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall). Far from being discouraged, the sailor becomes determined that the pair will elope. Meanwhile Todd, during a visit to the marketplace, denounces a fraudulent hair tonic (describing it as a mixture of “piss and ink”) by faux-Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen), and later humiliates him in a public shaving contest. Pirelli and his boy assistant Toby (Ed Sanders) visit Todd’s barbershop; Lovett keeps Toby occupied downstairs, while in the parlor Pirelli reveals himself to be Todd’s former assistant and attempts to blackmail him. To protect the secret of his true identity, Todd murders Pirelli.

An insane beggar woman, who has been pestering Todd, Lovett, and Anthony throughout the film, now makes her way into the shop. As Todd enters, she claims that she recognizes him. Just then, Turpin’s voice is heard. Todd quickly slits the beggar woman’s throat and deposits her body through the trap door. As Turpin enters, Todd explains to him that Johanna had repented, and offers a free shave. Todd then reveals his true identity and stabs Turpin in the neck numerous times before finally slitting his throat and dropping him through the trap door. As Johanna peeks out of the trunk, Todd spots her and prepares to slit her throat as well, not recognizing her as his daughter. A scream from Lovett diverts him to the basement, where she tells him that Turpin had still been alive and tried to grab at her dress before bleeding to death. Viewing the corpses in the light of the bakehouse fire, Todd discovers that the beggar woman was his wife, Lucy, whom he had believed to be dead based on Lovett’s account of the poisoning. Todd realizes that Lovett knew Lucy was alive. Lovett points out that she never said Lucy died; and, after attempting to convince Sweeney that she misled him for his own good, she confesses she lied because she loves him and would be a better wife than Lucy ever was. Todd pretends to forgive her, waltzing maniacally with her around the bakehouse before hurling her into the open oven, where he watches her burn to death. He returns to Lucy and cradles her dead body as Toby emerges from the sewer, picks up the discarded razor, and slits Todd’s throat. The film ends with Todd bleeding over his dead wife as Toby walks away.

Chicken Run

  • Directors: Peter Lord, Nick Park
  • Producers: Nick Park, Peter Lord, David Sproxton
  • Writers: Peter Lord, Nick Park, Karey Kirkpatrick
  • Genres: Animation, Family, Comedy
  • Actors: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson, Benjamin Whitrow, Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Jane Horrocks, Tony Haygarth

The Tweedys run a failing chicken farm in Yorkshire, England, the chickens producing fewer eggs than previously, and Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) kills those chickens that fail to make their quota. Mrs. Tweedy decides to change the farm’s production, moving into the making of chicken pies instead of selling eggs. The chickens themselves live in a World War II POW-like fenced area, and one chicken, Ginger (Julia Sawalha), continues to try to escape the coop with the help of the other chickens and a pair of rats that help get them contraband for numerous plans, but always ends up getting caught and put into solitary confinement by Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth) who locks her in the coal shed. Ginger realizes that the only way to escape for good is to fly over the fence, something that chickens cannot do.

One day, Ginger witnesses an American rooster named Rocky Rhodes (Mel Gibson) “fly” into the chicken coop. Though the other chickens fawn over him, Ginger is able to learn that he just escaped from a nearby circus. Ginger insists he teach the rest of them how to fly, despite his wing being injured when he landed. Rocky leads the chickens on several seemingly-futile exercises to help prepare them to fly. When the pie-making machine is delivered to the farm, Ginger realizes they must escape soon, and presses Rocky to speed things up. After Mr. Tweedy finished constructing the machine, they test it out by selecting Ginger as the first chicken to be used in the machine. Rocky manages to rescue her, disabling the machine in the process.

Sometime later, they have found a wide open pasture to live in and raise their chicks, with Ginger and Rocky becoming a couple. The camera pans out to show it was a bird sanctuary, but the sign has ‘BIRD’ crossed out and replaced with ‘chikin’. The rats unwittingly engage in a philosophical ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg’ debate as they wish to start a new farm to get eggs, e.g. ‘Yeah, but ya need a chicken, to get an egg.’ ‘Well, yeah, but you need an egg to get a chicken.’ ‘Yeah, well, you need an egg, to get a chicken, to get an egg.’ The credits then roll.

The Last Samurai

  • Directors: Edward Zwick
  • Producers: Tom Cruise, Tom Engelman, Marshall Herskovitz, Scott Kroopf, Paula Wagner, Edward Zwick
  • Writers:
  • Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, War
  • Actors: Tom Cruise, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki Kato, Shin Koyamada

Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), born in United Kingdom but naturalized American, is a disenchanted Ex-United States Army captain, tortured by the guilt of his past transgressions against Native American civilians. After losing his previous job of sharing his old war experiences in public demonstrations, he is recruited by his former commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Bagley (Tony Goldwyn), whom Algren loathes and blames for his waking nightmares, on behalf of a Japanese businessman, Mr. Omura (Masato Harada). He is hired to help the new Meiji Restoration government train the new Western-style Imperial Japanese Army. With him are his old army colleague Zeb Gant (Billy Connolly) and Simon Graham, (Timothy Spall) a British translator.

Under the command of Bagley, Algren trains an army of peasants and farmers in firearm techniques, and before they are sufficiently trained, is forced to take them into battle to defend Omura’s investment in a new railway, against a group of samurai rebels led by Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). During the battle, the samurai slaughter Algren’s vulnerable soldiers, and Bagley withdraws from the field. Gant kills several samurai, but is soon killed. Algren manages to kill some samurai (including the samurai who killed Gant) with a pistol, a saber and a broken spear embroidered with a flag depicting a white tiger. Despite his best efforts he is soon overpowered. However, the flag on the spear reminds Katsumoto of a vision he had during meditation, of a white tiger fighting off his attackers. Seeing the resemblance, Katsumoto makes Algren his prisoner instead of letting his samurai kill him. In self-defense the badly wounded Algren deals a death blow to Katsumoto’s own brother-in-law, the red-masked Samurai, Hirotaro. He is taken to an isolated village, where he gradually recovers from his wounds (as well as his rampant alcoholism). He lives with the family of Hirotaro, namely his widow Taka, her two sons and Katsumoto’s son Nobutada (Shin Koyamada). Over time, Algren’s mental and emotional state improve as he learns the way of the samurai, (Bushido). He develops romantic feelings for Taka, studies swordsmanship from a skilled sword master (Ujio) and learning Japanese, converses with the local residents, gaining their respect.

The movie ends and the viewer realizes that the narrator of the story is Simon Graham. Algren then returns to the samurai village where he was imprisoned earlier, and to Taka. Graham philosophically concludes Algren found a measure of peace “that we all seek, and few of us ever find.”

Enchanted

  • Directors: Kevin Lima
  • Producers: Barry Josephson, Barry Sonnenfeld
  • Writers: Bill Kelly
  • Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance
  • Actors: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, Rachel Covey, Susan Sarandon

Giselle (Amy Adams) lives in the blissful, traditional animated world of Andalasia, where animals are talkative companions and musical interludes punctuate every interaction. She dreams of her true love and as she sings about true love’s kiss to her chipmunk friend Pip (voiced by Jeff Bennett) and other forest animals, Prince Edward (James Marsden) hears her voice in the forest. After he rescues her from a troll, they decide to marry the next day. Edward’s stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), disguises herself as an old hag and pushes Giselle into a magic portal to the modern world – a world “where there are no happily ever afters” in order to keep her stepson single and thus remain queen.

Giselle emerges in the live-action world of New York City and meets Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey), a cynical, realistic divorce lawyer who is reluctant to help her find her way home. He allows her to stay at his apartment despite believing that she is crazy and worrying about the safety of his young daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). To Robert’s surprise, Giselle invites animals in the city—rats and other vermin—to help her clean his apartment, and constructs a dress using material cut from his curtains. Robert reaches the end of his patience when Giselle causes a fight between him and his soon-to-be-fiancée, Nancy (Idina Menzel) by making her think he’s unfaithful, and a scene at his office because of her naivete.

Nancy leaves with Edward to Andalasia and marries him. Robert and Giselle open up a boutique, where they are assisted by both humans and animals. Both Nathaniel and Pip become successful authors in the modern world and Andalasia respectively. The last scene shows Giselle, Robert, and Morgan playing together and living happily ever after as a family.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

  • Directors:
  • Producers: Chris Columbus, David Heyman, Mark Radcliffe
  • Writers: Screenplay, Steve Kloves, Novel, J K Rowling
  • Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Emma Thompson

Harry Potter is with Dursleys for the summer, learning to do more spells, and awaits an imminent visit from Uncle Vernon’s sister Marge. Harry loses his temper when Marge insults his family, and unintentionally causes her to inflate and float away. Harry flees, as he expects to be punished for performing magic outside of school. The Knight Bus appears and takes Harry to the Leaky Cauldron where Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge tells Harry he will not be expelled. Harry learns that Sirius Black, who is said to be a supporter of Lord Voldemort, has escaped from Azkaban and that Black will likely come after him.

Harry journeys to Hogwarts with his best friends Ron and Hermione. On the Hogwarts Express train, they share a compartment with the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Remus Lupin, who is sleeping when they enter the compartment. Abruptly, the train is stopped and a Dementor boards, searching for Black. Harry faints when the Dementor enters their compartment, but Lupin awakens and repels the Dementor after hearing a woman-like scream. At school, Albus Dumbledore informs the Hogwarts students that the Dementors have been set as a guard around the school grounds as a protection against Black. In addition to Lupin, Hagrid is announced as the new Care of Magical Creatures teacher. Lupin’s lessons prove enjoyable; he teaches useful spells and helps less confident students like Neville. However Hagrid’s class does not go to plan; on the first day, Draco Malfoy deliberately provokes the Hippogriff Buckbeak into attacking him. His father Lucius Malfoy successfully has Buckbeak sentenced to death.

Hermione reveals that she possesses a time-turner, which is how she has been taking multiple classes at once. She and Harry travel back in time three hours, watching themselves go through the night’s events. They set Buckbeak free and return to the Whomping Willow. As the Dementors are about to attack the “other” Harry and Sirius, Harry realizes that he is the person who cast the Patronus, which gives him the confidence to do so now. Harry and Hermione rescue Sirius, who escapes on Buckbeak. At the end of the year, Lupin resigns, knowing that people will not allow a werewolf to teach their children. Later, Sirius sends Harry a Firebolt, an extremely fast racing broom.