Grant and McGann

As the dark winter months are softened by our own seasonal excess, it seems only right to raise a glass to Bruce Robinson's boozy tale of two down-and-out actors struggling with poverty, existential angst and an ill-judged country break in the rain-lashed Cumbrian hills. With Richard E Grant and Paul McGann heading up a very capable cast, Withnail and I continues to be a firm favourite more than three decades since its first release.

As the swinging sixties draw to a close, our anti-heroes begin to wonder if there's more to life than booze, drugs and waiting for the next acting job, so they flee London's drizzling grime in search of a simpler, more wholesome slice of life. Alas, what they find is perpetual rain, unfriendly locals and Withnail's upper crust Uncle Monty lurking in the shadows, hell bent on indulging his own sexual desires far from London society's prying eyes.

With hugely entertaining characters and a scintillating script, Withnail and I is easily one of the most memorable, hilarious, strangely profound and oddly poignant British films ever made. The mere mention of this movie (especially in a pub) releases a barrage of unsolicited quotes, quips and comebacks that can keep a large group laughing long past closing time.

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From the pen of the late, great Anthony Shaffer comes one of the most chilling, iconic and original films in all of movie history. Set on the fictitious Scottish island of Summerisle, the Wicker Man features superb performances by Edward Woodward as police Sergeant Howie and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. Woodward has said that Howie was the best part he ever played, while Lee maintained that the Wicker Man was his finest film.

Supported by a deep bench of quirky and accomplished character actors, director Robin Hardy follows the increasingly labyrinthine twists and turns of Sergeant Howie's investigation into the apparent disappearance of a young girl. Every step Howie takes into that remote community's strange rites and customs brings him closer to his own carefully planned and agonisingly awful demise.

Hardy skilfully exploits Shaffer's slow but relentless ratchet-turning writing to build a richly detailed, absorbing and thoroughly grounded society in which the hapless Howie quickly becomes lost, flounders and is ultimately destroyed. With a memorable music score and some excellent cinematography typical of the era, the Wicker Man is one of many films that disprove the idea that only a big budget production with aggressive marketing can stand the test of time.

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Ultra-violence, drugs, sex, crime, punishment and the human capacity for evil are just a few of the subjects covered by one of the most talked about releases in all of movie history.

With its outlandish characters, outrageous costumes and memorable direction, Stanley Kubrick's outrageous dystopian pantomime creates a world which is both totally unrealistic and yet unsettlingly familiar. Nothing in this retro-futuristic fantasy looks or sounds quite like the world we know, which helps to keep the viewer off-balance during the whole cinematic experience. Like a blurry photocopy, the costumed facsimile of Alex and his droogs kind of resembles something from our everyday experience, even though it's a misshapen and fuzzy representation of the reality we all share.

As we follow Alex on his journey from joyously psychotic gang leader, to reluctant prisoner, through willing guinea pig and political patsy, we know we're watching a psychodrama set in an imagined world, yet that does nothing to quell a strange yet poorly defined feeling of unease this movie often conjures in its audience.

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Starring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, this sleek and stylish reimagining of the British crime thriller is filled with more twists and turns than a mountain goat track as we follow an anonymous cocaine dealer who finds himself sucked further and further into a criminal underworld he's long been planning to escape.

Charged with the relatively simple task of finding the missing daughter of a crime boss, our "hero" soon finds himself caught in the crosshairs of an elite underworld assassin tracking down a stolen drugs shipment. With events fast spiralling out of his control, the always smooth and clean-cut cocaine supplier is finally forced to step in and get his own hands dirty in order to save first his liberty and then his life.

Despite repeatedly claiming not to be a gangster, our cocaine supplier soon realises that he faces a stark choice between an un...marked grave and scrambling to the top of the bloodied underworld pyramid. The clear lesson is that you're either in the underworld of you're not. Our protagonist's own words come back to haunt him as he learns how dabblers and wannabes inevitably inhabit a world of pain, grief and regret…but only if they're lucky.

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Starring Richard E Grant as the archetypal 80s yuppie, this hilarious and metaphorical study of a burned-out executive's midlife crisis paints a familiar human face on the zeitgeist of our modern consumer age.

Although seemingly successful on the outside, hotshot advertising executive Denis Dimbleby Bagley hits a brick wall when he's asked to come up with a catchy advertising campaign for yet another new acne treatment. It should be easy for a man of his talents, but instead he comes up empty as all of his personal doubts, demons and neuroses congeal into a psychological poison which has been festering inside him for years.

Sliding rapidly into a nervous breakdown, Bagley's deteriorating mental health manifests physically as a boil on his shoulder, which continues to grow despite various attempts at treatment. Eventually it develops its own voice as Bagley's inner conflict breaks out into open warfare. As he constantly fights with himself, those around him and society at large, Bagley struggles with the universal yet intensely personal question of whether he is really a good man, who's led a worthy life. However, as this movie so clearly demonstrates, the answer to that fundamental question is not always "yes".

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Almost forgotten now, this tense and relentless prison drama stars a young Sean Connery as busted Sergeant Joe Roberts trying to survive a notorious Middle Eastern prison camp during the bloody campaigns of World War II.

Ably abetted by an excellent supporting cast including Ossie Davis and a surprisingly serious turn by Roy Kinnear, The Hill is a searing and bleak study of dehumanising bureaucracy, psychological torture and overt institutional cruelty. Brilliantly shot and superbly scripted, this simple premise follows the incarceration and steady deterioration of five very different characters as each one is hammered relentlessly by the incessant malice of a vengeful staff establishment.

As Roberts and his cell-mates are pushed to their physical and psychological limits, each one disintegrates under the stress to reveal both their own and the system's shortcomings. The death of one prisoner finally pushes mutinous mutterings into outright rebellion as the rule of law rapidly breaks down, with the men turning on both their captors and one another. After a tense stand-off between prisoners and staff, order is finally restored when the inflexible camp commander at last shows some leadership, having been relentlessly undermined by one of his over-zealous underlings.

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