My reviews
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This sequence, and some others, are shown just before each movie.


Last revised 5th July 2009 at 22:46 CET

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FilmFour is channel 315 on SkyDigital, with a one-hour delay version as channel 316.
FreeSat viewers will find FilmFour on 300 and 301 for the +1 version.

For those using FTA receivers - tune to 10.713 H 22000 5/6,
Video PID=2355, Audio PID=2356, PCR PID=2311.
Film4+1 is at 10.713 H 22000 5/6,
Video PID=2361, Audio PID=2362, PCR PID=2312.

For those not watching on satellite, you will find FilmFour on
NTL/Telewest/Virgin (cable) channel 444, and/or FreeView (DTT) channel 15.
Film4+1 is on cable as channel 445, but it is not available on FreeView.


This is not a sponsored link, it is something I believe in.
NSPCC - please take a moment to consider some who aren't as well off as you today. Click to visit the NSPCC website.

Picture edited by Rick (the digitiser clipped off the bottom), and lightly sepia-toned to look better...
Please take a moment to consider some
who aren't as well off as you today...


162 reviews (43 favourites), with 79 screenshots.


28 Days LaterA Clockwork OrangeA Life Less OrdinaryA Tale Of Two SistersAlong Came A SpiderAmélieAmerica's SweetheartsAustin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged MeAzumiBad GirlsBattle RoyaleBattle Royale II - RequiemBilly MadisonBirthday GirlBlack RainBoundBrewster's MillionsBrickBring It OnBroken ArrowBrotherBugsy MaloneBulletproof MonkCarnival Of SoulsCarrieCatch That KidChanging LanesCheaper By The DozenCherry FallsCluelessCoach CarterCollateralCreepCruel IntentionsDancer In The DarkDawn Of The DeadDazed And ConfusedDeath NoteDeath Note 2: The Last NameDeath WatchDiary Of The DeadDodgeballDogmaDumplingsEDTVElectra Glide in BlueElektraEquilibriumEvolutionExplorersFantastic FourFast Times At Ridgemont HighFerris Bueller's Day OffFrailtyGet Over ItGirl, InterruptedGozuGraveyard of FirefliesHappy GilmoreHeartbreakersHeroHighly DangerousHome Alone 3I Heart HuckabeesI Still Know What You Did Last SummerI, RobotIdiocracyIn AmericaIn Her ShoesIndependence DayInnocenceJack & SarahJackass: The MovieJason vs FreddyJason XJeepers Creepers IIJingle All The WayJohnny MnemonicJu-On: The GrudgeJu-On: The Grudge 2Judge DreddKiki's Delivery ServiceKung Fu HustleLate Night ShoppingLock, Stock and Two Smoking BarrelsMallratsManicMean GirlsMicrocosmosMostly MarthaMr & Mrs SmithMy Cousin VinnyMy First MisterNapoleon DynamiteNausicaä of the Valley of The WindsNightWatchNurse BettyOne Missed CallP'Tang, Yang, Kipperbang!Pan's LabyrinthPersonaPhone BoothPrimal FearPrincess MononokeRenaissanceResident EvilRita, Sue,and Bob tooRomeo + JulietRomy & Michelle's High School ReunionRules Of AttractionRun, Lola, RunS1M0NESave The Last DanceSchool Of RockSecretarySerial MomShaolin SoccerSherrybabySleepy HollowSnakes On A PlaneSpeedSuspiriaSwitchblade RomanceTaxi DriverThe Blair Witch ProjectThe Brady BunchThe Cat ReturnsThe CoreThe Day After TomorrowThe DescentThe Devil Wears PradaThe DreamersThe EdukatorsThe EyeThe FirmThe Good GirlThe HoleThe League of Extraordinary GentlemenThe Long Kiss GoodnightThe NutcrackerThe Opposite Of SexThe Passion Of The ChristThe PlayerThe Sum Of All FearsThe TransporterThe Transporter 2The Truth About Cats And DogsThe Wolves Of Willoughby ChaseTimelineTony TakitaniTwistedUnder SeigeUnderworldUrban LegendVanilla SkyVitalVolcanoWarGamesWhisper Of The HeartWhite NoiseWitnessWrong Turn


Here are the non-English titles presented in the localised (non-Latin) alphabet.
I welcome corrections, and also the Unicode sequences to use for the Chinese and Korean films.

あずみ (Azumi)バトル ロワイアル (Batoru Rowaiaru)バトル ロワイアル 2 ちこか (Batoru rowaiaru II Chinkonka)ごくど こふ だいげきよ (Gokudō kyōfu dai-gekijō)ゆお (Ju-on)ゆお 2 (Ju-on 2)まよ の たくび (Majo no takkyūbin)かぜ の たに の なうしか (Kaze no tani no Naushika)Лочноы дозор (Nochnoy Dozor)ねこ の おがえし (Neko no ongaeshi)とに たきたに (Tony Takitani)ヴイタル (Vital)みみ を すませば (Mimi wo sumaseba)






And now for the reviews...



28 Days Later (7/10)

Following a botched animal liberation to free tortured monkeys, Britain is plagued with an illness that kills most (like 99% of the population) and turns many of the rest into zombies. This wouldn't be BSE would it? Whatever... we follow a man who wakes up lying naked on a bed in a hospital O.R., only to find out the the hospital is deserted. As is London. Many lovely shots of famous parts of London totally deserted - not a traffic jam in sight, it must have been a wet dream for Ken Livingstone! The man meets the zombies, and is rescued by an explosion-happy pair. After tracking down the man's parents (who committed suicide, with a poignant letter left behind), one of the explosion-happy pair dies (killed by the other as he became 'infected' - it takes about ten seconds), and the two survivors meet a policeman and his streetwise daughter.
Having to leave (no water), they hear a radio message appealing for people to travel up to Manchester (M602, 27 miles NE of Manchester), where they will find the army and a cure for the infection...

There are some comic moments, like a romp around Budgens, however this film is more concerned with playing it straight (as opposed to "Shaun Of The Dead" which fell face down into the 'ZomCom' category).
The cast do well with the material (the young girl should have had a bigger part), and it was certainly a surprise to the the flappy-eared ex-Doctor (Christopher Ecclestone) turn up along the way.

An enjoyable film.

So why only 7? This would have scored 7½, maybe 7¾ if it wasn't for the peculiar, pointless, and essentially idiotic "What if..." closure. You'll see what I mean. PS: It follows the brief end credits, so don't leave as soon as the names roll up the screen...

[back to film list]


A Clockwork Orange (8½/10)

The very first scene starts like this, and pulls out to...

...something like this - quite simply a masterpiece!

Perhaps the only movie in history that the creator himself pulled shortly after release, fearing copycat acts of violence.
It's a futuristic story set in a very late-sixties-looking world. Chances are you already know about this movie. A friend of mine said recently that he has seen enough clips to put together the entire movie. The story itself (the capture and rehabilitation of a violent adolescent) almost takes a back seat in comparison to the visual style of this movie, and once you've watched it (and not just seen the assorted clips!), you'll suddenly realise that it has influenced loads of movies since...
The story may not be to everybody's taste, but just looking at it you'll know that you are watching the work of a genius. It is deservedly in FilmFour's list of "films to see before you die".

There are plenty of unusual angles...
(this is my second viewing, I watched with subtitles) it is never mundane.
(it's a shame the Digibox subtitles are so boring)

[back to film list]


A Life Less Ordinary (6½/10)

Ewan McGregor in America. Has a job, gets fired by the boss from hell. He goes to plead for his job back, and before he knows it he has kidnapped the boss's daughter - delightfully played by Cameron Diaz.
It doesn't end there for poor Ewan. Cameron plays a determined woman who is going to make the best out of her kidnap ordeal - leaving her kidnapper hopelessly confused as she takes control.
But no, it doesn't even end there for poor Ewan. Oh no, he also has to deal with two bounty-hunters who are actually angels trying to get him and his captee to fall in love. Brilliantly played by Samuel L Jackson and Holly Hunter.

Now reading this, the story may seem too bizarre to bother to watch. But trust me, it actually works surprisingly well.

[back to film list]


A Tale Of Two Sisters (7½/10) [in Korean, subtitled]

One of the sisters.

This is a lovely shot.

In a spectacular twist of fate, FilmFour started showing a season of films from South Korea at about the same time as the short bloke with glasses up North decided to try comparing the size of his penis.

I can tell you two things about Korea from this film. The language is somewhat yucky-sounding, akin to all the "umms" and "errs" from another Asian language rolled into one new language, with the held syllables, it is also fairly distinctive. Secondly, the Korean alphabet (called "Hangul" script), was devised around 1443, and it is the only true alphabet native to the Far East. Remember that Chinese (traditional, simplified, mandarin, etc) as well as Japanese (Hiragana, Katakana, and the ideogramatic Kanji) are not alphabets. They are descriptions. Ideas. Concepts. We, English speakers, would write 's', 'u', 'n', to name that glowing thing in the sky. French people would write "soleil". Italians would write "sole", which when spoken isn't all that different to the French word. In Chinese? It'd be some sort of squiggle that means "that glowing thing in the sky". For all I know, it could be a circle with a dot in it (actually, I believe in Japanese and Chinese, the pictogram for 'sun' it is an upright rectangle with a horizontal line across the middle, like this: ).

You may well wonder why I am talking about language instead of the film. This is because FilmFour is offering a much greater way for you to broaden your horizons than by simply watching a spooky film from another country. This film was made by people of an entirely different culture than that to which FilmFour broadcasts. Simply observing little things here and there, it can be very interesting, bordering on enlightening

So to the film. Two girls - late teens? - arrive home from a time being institutionalised. Not only do they have to deal with that shift in their reality, but they also have to deal with the step-mother. Now, the step-mother is an interesting character. She plays at being nice and homely, but there's just... sort of like a dark aura around her. If I was in that house, I'd be damn sure I knew where she was at every moment.
I cannot continue much more into the story without letting slip a few fundamental things, but trust me, when these things are revealed and the movie undergoes a massive paradigm shift in the wake of the revelations, it is an unsettling experience. This is especially heightened by the fact that it appears as if the rule of the dialogue is "less is more"; so some of the character interaction is a look, a gesture, an emotion. It takes good actors to pull of this sort of thing convincingly (that's probably why so many of our 'Western' movies have characters that never shut up!), and the players here do an outstanding job. This is aided by some inventive camera angles. My favourite unusual angle of the entire movie is right at the beginning when the girls are on the jetty and the camera is looking directly down on them (picture above right). It seems so simple, so obvious, but I bet many directors wouldn't have thought of that.

I'll warn you though, this film may not seem to make a lot of sense once it has finished. A second (and possibly a third) viewing is recommended.

The inspiration of this movie is from a well-known (in Korea!) folk tale called "Janghwa Heungryeonjeon". The Korean language title, "Janghwa, Hongryeon" means Rose Flower and Red Lotus. The two girls in the movie are called Su-mi (Rose) and Su-yeon (Lotus).

Called "Janghwa, Hongryeon" in Korean. In Korean with subtitles.

The sister, again.

The evil step-mother.

[back to film list]


Along Came A Spider (7½/10)

A teacher kills another teacher and kidnaps a girl at an exclusive school. From this small act spins out a story of deception with many layers and a good twist at the end, with Morgan Freeman holding the film together expertly (as if it'd be anything else).
[back to film list]


America's Sweethearts (6/10)

A load of famous people (including Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, John Cusack, and Catherine Zeta-Jones) in a movie about two film stars (Cusack and Zeta-Jones) who hate each other but must be reunited for a press 'do' about a new film. Lots of funny moments in this pleasant comedy, including a role for Christopher Walken where he doesn't bump off anybody.
[back to film list]


Amélie (9¾/10) [in French, subtitled]

Amélie is a delightful piece of whimsy, that really shows up the difference
between pretentious Hollywood 'vehicles' and European classics.
(picture from DVD, UK release)

Amélie is a mischievous, cheeky girl who thinks life is so simple and wants to help everybody have a touch of love in their lives. Things, however, are not so simple when it comes time for Amélie to reflect upon her own life.

Those who know of Jean-Pierre Junet's work will quickly spot the surrealistic bits in this movie (such as a painfully beautiful Paris free from all the doggie poop), but this bright vision is a far cry from the imaginary world of "The City Of Lost Children" (which I hope FilmFour will show sometime). What has remained is the inventive use of the camera. But, like numerous Scorsese sequences, you aren't really aware of what the camera is doing until something in your head clicks and you think "did it just...?". Yes, it probably did!

This film is blessed with loads of tiny touches that make up the sensitive and highly quirky personality of Amélie. And, through the film, it is all of those subtle little things that really make this movie.

The worst news I've heard, in a long time, is that the Hollywood machinery are intending to remake this film. They just about got away with it with "Nikita" becoming "The Assassin", mostly thanks to Bridget Fonda's powerful performance. But so many films were simply lost in translation. I specifically point to "My Father The Hero" ("Mon Père, Ce Héros") because the same person (Gerard Depardieu) was the lead in both. Mon Père was watchable and carried that French sense of the quirky, while My Father tried hard but was still definitely second-rate. And this is all I can hope for if there is an American remake of Amélie.
Let's face it, can you seriously imagine Working Title (of all of those seriously British movies - "Notting Hill", "4 Weddings", "Bridget Jones") being able to turn out a film like this? Can you seriously imagine Dreamworks or Amblin or Touchstone turning out an Amélie? Do we need to see a remake starring a few reality TV 'starlets'? I can't put my finger on it, but there is definitely something uniquely French about this movie, that I don't think it would have been the same had it been made anywhere else on the planet. It was just a perfect match between a young actress that was just so Amélie, and a director who could pull it off.

I absolutely loathe pop music that ruins a classic song by adding a heavy drum sequence, and possibly a fake Rasta in the chorus. For something you might see today (on ClassicFM TV, #359), compare "Now We Are Free" by Lisa Gerrard (the so-called "Maximus Mix") with the beautiful version performed by Triniti. That, above all else, explains what is wrong with upping the tempo and tossing in unwanted percussion.
I view remakes as much the same thing. Amélie just misses out on a 10/10 due to a number of small technical issues (that, ironically, Jean-Pierre himself goes to trouble to point out and moan about in the director's commentary on the DVD). In all other senses, Amélie is perfection itself. Why remake it? If the target audience (no doubt the uniquely stupid American audiences that most second-rate remakes seem aimed for, the sort that thought "Animal House" was a serious depiction of campus life) is too lazy, stupid, or ADHD-afflicated to put up with the subtitles... well, their loss.
Just to point out - I live in France, yes, but my French is not (yet) good enough to fully enjoy this movie. I still have to rely on the subtitles, so I'm not speaking with a superior "I know what it's all about" sort of position.

Called "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain" in the French release. In French with subtitles.

[back to film list]


Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me (6½/10)

If your idea of a good spy film involves either Michael Caine or Gene Hackman, don't watch this film ever.
The Mike Myers spoof of the James Bond genre of films returns. It is essentially the same sort of thing as the previous film - Austin loses his "mojo" and has to travel back to the 1969 to get it back. Where did it go? That's easy - Dr. Evil took it. Yes, awfully formulaic, but then so is James Bond when you get down to it.

As usual, the visual gags, the parodies, and the cultural references come thick and fast. And if you can't hack the idea of Myers in multiple roles, not to mention "Mini Me", or if you are too young to get all those references, well then there is always the lovely Heather Graham (who is so better all round than Liz Hurley) to look at.

[back to film list]


Azumi (9/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

Azumi atop the mountain (I added the あずみ title).

Azumi in the robe she wears throughout the movie.

A pretty young woman (played by Aya Ueto) is raised, along with nine others, to be the ultimate assassins, in order to carry out a special mission to restore peace to the country by taking out the rebel warlords.

This action-laden visual treat hits the ground running. After a training session and some deep mumbling about honour, the ten candidates line up and pick a partner. Whom they must now kill. This is supposedly to teach them that, as assassins, they cannot choose who to kill or how to feel about it. But, here we see the beginnings of a fragmentation in the group that is left. Some cling to the Master's every wish (remember, this is Japan - they have big respect for honour), others are starting to question why. What is going on? What is the purpose of all this violence?
This is especially hard in the following bloodshed in which they must stand by and watch as the Master dictates that they are not to become involved in 'trifles' that are not their big mission. We can see this more and more through the eyes of Azumi who seems to suffer internally for everything she sees, and doubly so if it is a killing of her own.
In a way, this makes the violence that would otherwise seem shocking in its gratuity all the worse, for it now carries emotional baggage.

There is a continuation of this review below, but it has been hidden as a 'spoiler' as it goes deeper into the plot.

If I had to level any criticisms at this movie, they would mostly be with something that seems almost de-facto in ninja/samurai movies, namely:

Called あずみ (a-zu-mi) in Japanese. In Japanese with subtitles.

The enemy, not a pair you'd like to meet on a dark night...

More 'posing' with the sword...

Additional commentary:
Around the middle, after the introduction of a weird samurai master who dresses like a woman (wearing white - which is the traditional colour of death in Japan (as opposed to our 'black')), the movie seems to veer onto an alternative course - mostly following Azumi trying to leave the bloodshed behind, but it will always find her - as in Azumi looking to leave and go to the home of the travelling player, only to be accosted by some rebels.
The various story arcs come back together for a spectacular fight in a little village. This fight involves many many people, effects, all sorts of things - and some pretty eye-popping footage. Picked up on-line are two useful little pieces of trivia that may enhance your appreciation of the film upon your next viewing:
[back to film list]


あずみ [is listed as "Azumi"]


Bad Girls (5½/10)

Awesome! A Western about for tough, independent, spirited woman. Yup, that's the surprise factor here - these gunslingers are honeys.

Andie McDowell, radiant as always looking like she's just stepped over from Four Weddings And A Funeral, Madeleine Stowe (the love interest in Stakeout), Drew Barrymore (you only need me to list her films if you were visiting another planet), and Mary Stuart Masterson (who was perfect in Fried Green Tomatoes (mom's favourite film) and sublimely kooky in Benny & Joon (one of my favourites - how about it FilmFour?)).

With such a strong cast and an interesting storyline, what could go wrong?
Well, a lot evidently. I think somebody at the studio bottled it and decided this would be better a failed flop then a movie that worked, for the assembled talent are given the most generic B-movie Western clichés imaginable, along with some flimsy feminist statements so us men can swagger around and remark that these four are no match for Clint Eastwood.

Perhaps one day the Western genre will be given the feminine touch in all sincerity (look what Ripley did for space sci-fi; and no, we don't count The Quick And The Dead) and females in a Western will be something other than a gimmick. Perhaps...

[back to film list]


Batoru Rowaiaru [is listed as "Battle Royale"]


バトル ロワイアル [is listed as "Battle Royale"]


Batoru rowaiaru II Chinkonka [is listed as "Battle Royale II - Requiem"]


バトル ロワイアル 2 ちこか [is listed as "Battle Royale II - Requiem"]


Battle Royale (12/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

About forty students, and just over an hour in which to kill them. The bodies pile up rapidly, and graphically, and disturbingly.

The nice kids (that didn't refuse to play and commit suicide) have to grab a gun and shoot... though sometimes they're not even sure who or what they are shooting at.

In the not-so-distant future, schoolchildren are out of control. Fearing them, the adults have set up a big game - the Battle Royale. Every year a class 'wins' the opportunity to compete. The rules, announced by an amazingly perky woman on a video, are really simple. The kids are assigned a backpack at random. It contains rations, and a weapon (which may or may not be useful). They are all wearing electronic tags around their neck to allow the game organisers to keep watch. Every so often there are announcements including "danger zones" which the kids must move off of (to prevent them simply hiding away). The game will last exactly 72 hours, after which there must be only one survivor. If there are more survivors the neck straps will trigger and explode - something which is demonstrated in the beginning of the film.
To add an extra layer, one of the kids is somebody who signed up for the adrenaline rush of wasting other kids with a machine gun, something he does with a big grin.

If you can imagine "Lord Of The Flies" written by somebody who must have been on his eighth caffeine hit since ten minutes ago, who probably got rat-assed and stayed up all night, and grew up addicted to Wolfenstein and "Takeshi's Castle", you might have an inkling of what this film is like. If you can stomach the gore, you might appreciate this film for widening your horizons considerably. It has some lovely touches designed to unsettle you even more - like a running score of who's just bought it and how many kids are to go. The suicides are plentiful and graphic, the murders moreso. This film is just completely raw, and in it's own sick way, completely amazing.

One of the strengths of this film is that, like most good "totalitarian" sci-fi stories (such as "A Handmaiden's Tale"), the goings on are far enough away from reality to be unthinkable today, but close enough to perhaps be real tomorrow...

You can take it as a gore-fest with a very full-on attitude, or if you are a deeper person you can ruminate on the message that this movie is giving and its commentary on the social condition in which we live. Of course, the sort of things portrayed in this film will never be possible, right? Well, if you think about it it isn't as far-fetched as we'd like. Perhaps this is why it makes uncomfortable viewing.
Another thing of interest is that the Japanese attitude to this sort of thing is rather different to the west. I cannot imagine Hollywood ever releasing a film like this one, and certainly not with actual children playing the parts - it would be the usual line-up of post-teen (20-30 year old) 'starlets' pretending to be kids.

Apparently an American remake of Battle Royale is forthcoming. Say it with me - "why God, why!?". No, I don't think they'd have the balls to pull off a film like this.

Called "Batoru Rowaiaru" in Japanese. In Japanese with subtitles.

LATER: You might have thought I was a bit of a sicko pervert for suggesting that such brutal violence could be willingly administered to children; two people emailed me to complain about that opinion.
Well, I wish to present you with the text of a news article copied verbatim from ITV Teletext news headlines (article on p311) at 22:44 UK time on the 22nd of October 2006:
Britons 'fear teenagers'
Britain is in danger of becoming a nation fearful of its young people, research by the Institute of Public Policy Research shows.
A survey found British adults are less likely than Europeans to intervene to stop teenagers' anti-social behaviour.
A Barnardo's spokeswoman said children had been wrongly "demonised" by the media and politicians, creating myths and increasing fear amongst adults.

A storm in a teacup, or the tiny beginnings of the prophecy of Battle Royale?

[back to film list]


Battle Royale II - Requiem (5½/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

The fundamental problem with making a sequel is that a "standard" has been set. Something to better. Something to excel. And in this respect, BR2 simply doesn't come close. Not even maybe.
Again we have a group of kids on a bus, drugged and taken to the military camp. Again they wake up to find that they are wearing electronic neck collars. This time, the game has had a few alterations. The collars are in pairs. If one person is more than fifty metres from the other, bang to both. And if one person dies, the other collar explodes.
The kids lose their school uniforms quickly and end up wearing camouflage outfits. In a way this "militarised" the children, somehow them wearing their school uniforms (in the first film) made it all the more poignant.
And this time, Shuya Nanahara, the surviving boy from the previous film is decked out in rebel-style rags, just like some sort of wannabe Che Guevara. He is now a "terrorist" set on avenging the adults, mainly by blowing up buildings.
The kids in BR2 have a simple mission. The "BR Act" has been revised. Why? How? Who cares. The kids have the requisite three days in which to locate the terrorist leader and kill him. Then they win.

The original film was packed full of brutal violence. This film sees a more stylised approach, the fast shutter speeds capturing every drop of water and somehow disconnecting us from reality. There are many "Saving Private Ryan" moments, but somehow it seems a little too slick.
The previous teacher (played par excellence by Beat Takeshi) was great. With his dismissive mannerisms and sarcastic comments, you felt he was a lonely old adult simply in it to mentor the kids into his own personal revenge, both against the children and against his own disaster of a home life. He had a personality.
The teacher this time, Riki Takeuchi (played by...Riki Takeuchi!), is simply unhinged. Acting so over the top that he almost becomes a comic relief part.
This story is also loaded down with politics and Zen-like comments. Everybody that dies (after the first lot are wiped out wholesale) has a meaningful statement to make. And whatever action was going on just stops long enough for us to take pause to consider the meaning of these statements. In a way it feels as if half of it is some sort of apology for the brutality of the first film.

As for plot... well, there is a plot but it has so many holes I think they've already been at it with their AK-47s.
This film might have stood up much better if it didn't base itself upon Battle Royale, and simply ripped off ideas instead. This isn't to say it is a bad film, there is plenty of energy and gunplay to help you through the night. However if you were expecting more of the same, don't.

According to IMDb, the filming was begun by Kinji Fukasaku, who sadly died during production. Filming was taken over by his son, Kenta Fukasaku and - well - one wonders if this movie was simply destined to be sucky, or if the son just didn't have the balls to live up to the original vision. Whatever, there's too much political content, too many 'meaningful' final sentences, and not enough connection with the characters. It has been reduced to an action war movie with kids.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about this film is the amazingly bad punk song playing with the end credits!

There is apparently a different version ("Battle Royale 2 - Revenge") which runs for a bit longer and includes extended scenes which flesh out some of the interactions between the characters. Perhaps this would be a more logical film?

Called "Batoru rowaiaru II Chinkonka" in Japanese. In Japanese with subtitles.

Additional commentary:
Where shall we begin? Let's start with some obvious things: Which leaves us to sadly ponder "why didn't they ever get as far as asking what happens when a child becomes an adult?"
[back to film list]


Billy Madison (6¼/10)

Adam Sandler plays a total dope that failed school. When his father decides to step down from his business empire, his choice of who to hand the empire to is either the sleaziest I got where I am today by stabbing people in the back employee, or his son... but, as the deal goes, only if his son can pass eighth grade. What is that in non-American terms, junior school? (age 12ish?)
As you can imagine, Adam Sandler revels in the opportunity to be a young kid and make farty noises and such. Of course, the problem comes in the form of a rather attractive teacher - and we know he won't be thinking about her in the same way as his eight-year-old classmates. So it is up to Billy to prove that he has some potential after all, while still remaining what may be the most irresponsible grown-up-kid since Michael Jackson, and dodging all the traps that Mr. Sleaze-Is-Me puts out for him to fall in to.

Additional commentary:
However, there is a more serious side to this story than fake farting, oogling the teacher, and that involuntary urination gag. You see, I do not regard Billy as the failure here. I perceive his father to be the ultimate failure. Because either Billy is a retard and simply would not have been able to make it through school, or Billy simply didn't apply himself and dossed his way through school. In any case, it is very wrong of his I'm-so-great-I-built-Omnicorp-from-a-hut-at-the-end-of-the-garden father to allow his twenty-odd year old son to pretend to be a dog when 'distinguished' guests turn up. While I'm busy maligning the father... what a bad judge of character he is to actually hire that slimy guy in the first place. The question at the end which causes him to show his true colours is not apt, rather, blatantly obvious. But, then, can this film stand up to such analysis? It is, after all, an American film - and there are plenty of examples around of how smart typical American audiences aren't (my favourite anecdote is "Enemy Mine").
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Birthday Girl (6½/10) [in English with parts in subtitled Russian]

A lonely British bank worker (Ben Chaplin) decides, perhaps out of madness, to order a Russian mail-order bride. She turns up, played amazingly by Nicole Kidman (who also speaks Russian!). Then, on the day of her birthday, her two thuggish cousins turn up and Ben's life will never be the same. But Ben is a smart cookie, once he figures out the score he decides he isn't going to take it lying down... Again, I could perfectly sum up this movie in this paragraph, but if I give away the plot you'll be less inclined to want to watch it!
And that would be a shame, for watching this and several other of her movies, I'm seeing a side to Nicole Kidman that we never got to see in her 'married-to-you-know-who' days.
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Black Rain (7/10)

Dripping with '80s style, this actioner sees Michael Douglas chasing a Yakuza crime boss from New York to Osaka and kicking ass along the way, assisted by Andy Garcia.
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Blair Witch Project, The [is listed as "The Blair Witch Project"]


Bound (6¼/10)

Depending upon your perspective, this could be a movie about ripping off the mob with some lesbian action thrown in... or it could be a lot of lesbian action with a subplot about ripping off the mob thrown in.
Good ol' Jennifer Tilly seems to be adept at choosing kooky roles (Leaving Normal, anyone?) and here she is paired with Gina Girshwin (I think that's how you spell it) who sort-of smirks through much of the movie, as if she knows not to take it too seriously.
It's a shame, actually. The movie would work equally well had the amourous scenes been removed, while various angles and juxtapositions make this quite an interesting movie to watch. Please, don't think I'm a prude, I just don't feel that Gina groping Jennifer's panties actually added anything useful to the plot. The first paragraph about says it all really...
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Brady Bunch, The [is listed as "The Brady Bunch"]


Brewster's Millions (4½/10)

Richard Pryor and John Candy in a film that could only have been made in the '80s (1985 to be exact). A nobody baseball player is set to inherit $300,000,000. That's a lot of zeros. The idea is not new, this is about the sixth film adaptation of the story, however in the '80s we have two major comedy leads and huge amounts of money, it is almost offensive in this day and age.

Why is it "almost offensive" to inherit three hundred million, an amount that is hard to imagine? Because there it a condition. Brewster has to spend $30,000,000 (loads more zeros) within thirty days - without so much as a dollar left by the end of it. The idea is to have Brewster go to such excess that when he comes to inherit the cash, he doesn't want to know. Rather like a donut bar offering free donuts to employees - it sounds awesome for about a week, then you don't want to look at another donut!

However there is really nothing compared to the dross level of this movie. We have seen Pryor and Candy do some great comedy roles, this could have been a heck of a pairing.
But it was not to be. There are four subplots in this movie. They are:

What's so bad, you might ask. There is nothing innovative. Do we see Brewster stuck in some sort of problem where throwing money around can't help him? No. [further brief discussion in the extended commentary] This film is mundane and predictable. There is no edge. There is no spirit. There is no point.

Additional commentary:
One of the most remembered things in this movie is Brewster running for Mayor (of New York) on the "None of the above" ticket. When it turns out that he may well win the Mayorship, and that it carries a salary which would be considered an asset. So given that his great uncle wants to make him responsible with money, and given that people are voting for him and support him - you might have thought that this film would have a happy ending with Brewster realising that money isn't the answer to things and that perhaps a steady job (as the Mayor) may be better than three hundred million.
Like hell. He's just a sell-out.
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Brick (6/10)

Brick is a bizarre film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's it at school (college?). His girlfriend winds up dead, so he decides to do a little bit of investigating to see if he can put the pieces together. He has an interesting style - do something that would rank as controversial and see how soon he gets beaten up. In fact, much of this movie seems to involve him getting beaten senseless... when he isn't hanging with his mole or the girl with the whole '80s Frenchie style thing going.
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Bring It On (6/10)

While many "teen" films mock the cheerleader, including the "Buffy" series where she talks about the intellectual thrill of spelling words with her arms... this paints a totally different picture of cheerleaders. Rather than wearing revealing outfits and waving pom-poms aside (American) football games, we see that it is a highly energetic sport which has its own competition level.
The story is a simple one. Well-to-do (white) kids versus (black) kids at a poorer school, battling head-to-head with who will be the best cheerleading squad in the televised national championships (and, hence, win the big cheque). The script is somewhat uneven and would have benefitted from not being quite so blatant about the poor black vs rich white; credit us with noticing for ourselves! However, as far as eye candy goes, this is certainly a visually interesting film, people flying all over the place.

Cheerleading as a competition sport is real, and is practiced in numerous countries though I would imagine it is the Americans that really go in for the whole cheerleader thing. If this is the sort of sport that appeals to you, be aware that all of the flying stunts are not permitted at "High School" level, it is too dangerous for 'children' to perform like that; you are looking at performances from adult professional cheerleaders. And there, "adult professional", two words you probably thought you'd never see pertaining to cheerleading!

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Broken Arrow (5/10)

Starring John Travolta as the smarmy bad guy and Christian Slater as the good guy, with the fetching Samantha Mathis as the Park Ranger tag-along.

It's a great ride for special effects, stuff being blown up, more stuff being blown up... The basic premise is that the two guys are USAF pilots. Travolta dumps nukes from a Stealth bomber (which then crashes, just so we can get a big bang). Travolta always beats his little brother (Slater) at everything. But this time, Slater isn't gonna let him get away with hijacking nukes. No, that's too much.

You might think, as somebody who likes a good action flick, that I'l score this a near-eight, so why a mere five?
Well, that's simple. This film is practically a masterclass in how not to make an action movie.
1. Mathis is a cute tag-along, but apart from blowing her hair out of her face and muttering "this is a really bad idea", she doesn't get to do much. I bet, had this film been on rougher terrain, her uniform, her shoes... they'd all start to fall apart while the guy wouldn't have so much as a torn seam.
2. Not only it is near impossible to believe that Slater and Travolta are brothers, there is an even bigger problem. Travolta is totally not believable as a crazed terrorist. You want me to buy it, cast Dennis Hopper. He could pull it off (but he still wouldn't look like Slater's brother!).
3. Everybody talks. Now talking is necessary in a film. It is only those bizarre Korean thrillers or art-housey types that have barely a word of dialogue. But in action flicks there is always the problem that bad guy pins down the good guy and puts a gun to his head. "Say", says the good guy, "why are you doing this anyway?". And so the bad guy takes great delight in explaining his master plan, leaving loads of time for the good guy to figure out his escape, be rescued, whatever. This was even parodied in the film "Last Action Hero". So what happens here? Talking. Talking. Lots of talking. The film couldn't speak its plot more if it had a narrator. And we need this spoken commentary to permit us to understand what the heck is going on. After all, why bother to act out the plot when you can have Mathis being extremely cute and Travolta/Slater squaring off against each other in true John Woo style while stuff blows up around them? Not that there is much of a plot to speak of, to be honest.
4. The bomb has a giant digital read-out that counts down how long it has to go until it explodes. Now I have never designed a bomb, but if I was to, I really doubt I'd put a great big count-down clock on it, complete with second-by-second beeps. The bomb is just too much. Actually it isn't really a bomb, it's a nifty way of making tension. Set it for 30 minutes. Want to up the ante? Reset it for half that. Or maybe just a couple of minutes. Through the course of the movie the bomb is set and reset numerous times.
5. As if this isn't enough, there's a little remote control. Press this one little button, the bomb disarms. Seriously? That is so ridiculous.
6. So at one point Slater is hanging out of a helicopter with a rifle pointed right at Travolta. Does he blow him away? Of course not. It is much more macho to glare at him. And for him to glare back. And thus the chance is missed, but it's okay, more macho nonsense and much narrowing of eyes will turn up later on. It might work in east Asian cinema, but it looks kinda daft seeing Westerners do it.
7... Actually I think I'll stop here before my brain explodes, unless there's a TV remote control that can disarm my brain while one of the most ridiculously cast people gets into a fist fight...

As a mindless and fun action movie, this is great. As for plot and originality, it just misses in so many ways.

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Brother (6/10) [in English with parts in subtitled Japanese]

This slow yet arty and occasionally violent film stars (and was written and directed by) "Beat" Takeshi, who you may remember as the excellent guy-in-charge in the original Battle Royale film.
He is a Yakuza who has fallen from grace, suggested that in order to remain alive he restart his life in America. This he does, quickly taking himself to a position of importance in the underworld, mainly by stomping on those in his way. Obviously this brings him to the attention of the Mafia...
This is an interesting and engaging film, the only problem is the pacing is spurts and lulls.

In English and subtitled Japanese.

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Bugsy Malone (6/10)

A '30s gangster film 'musical' with kids. Some lovely touches - splatter guns, pedal cars... Possibly best known for an early performance by an 11 year old Jodie Foster, however all of the cast pulls together to make a good gangster flick.
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Bulletproof Monk (6½/10)

A monk with a Yoda attitude (Chow-Yun Fat) and a stubborn criminal (Seann William Scott) pair up in a variety of action-laden visually attractive situations. It's some great eye candy if you like your reality a little less stupid than any number of Van Damme movies, but the entire plot is a one-liner, the ending is pretty obvious, and most of it is farcically ridiculous.
Perfect for unwinding after a serious day.
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Carnival Of Souls (7¾/10)

Old-fashioned cars racing on a wooden bridge.

Something was bound to go wrong with that idea...

This film, from 1962, sees Candace Hilligoss as the only survivor of a car crash where, during a race over a dopey wooden bridge, one of the cars tumbles into the river.
The police search for the car, but it cannot be found. After a while, Mary (Candace) seems to appear on the river's edge - dazed and having no idea how she got there.
Mary is one of those no-nonsense, always-worried-about-something, not entirely as smart as she'd like to be blondes that seems to crop up in movies such as this, which is a good reflection for other parts of the movie. She wants nothing to do with relationships and in fact seems like she'd rather be at home reading a good book, yet in other times she asks herself some rather obvious questions with the naïve charm of Audrey Hepburn in "Charade" (click here for Zone Horror review).

The only thing keeping this movie from being a favourite (scoring 8 or more) is that the end revelation was easy to guess, perhaps from the very first scenes. But don't let this put you off watching. For a low-budget film, this offers a lot of imaginative ideas. Light on effects (did they even have effects in those days? ☺), it has to concentrate on making itself look good - the black and white photography is full of stark contrast, it would not have worked so well in colour. It also has to perform a function that seems largely to exist only in Japanese horror films these days - the idea of a constant unnerving suspense.
Of course, if your idea of a great horror flick is a nubile chick enduring some variety of slayage, hackage, or chainsawage every six minutes then you'll probably not enjoy this. Which is a shame, because - as films such as "The Others" show, it is possible to make quite an effective horror film without the array of corpses.
There was a lot about this film that reminded me of "Spider Baby" (click here for Zone Horror review), in that it is a creepy film that you need to invest some time and effort in - only "Spider Baby" goes for fine comedy while this is a more serious affair.
It will be time and effort that won't be rewarded by the final payoff (you'll have guessed the end long before it happens), but which will be amply rewarded by simply watching the film...

The version of "Carnival Of Souls" shown by FilmFour runs in at 82 minutes - the 'revival' edit that has become a bit of a cult classic. The original release version of this film runs in at 91 minutes. It makes you wonder what nine minutes (which is quite a lot of time, a tenth of the entire film) was omitted, and why.

Candance Hilligoss shaken, not stirred.

Black and white adding to the menacing starkness.

Additional commentary:
There is one scene near the end, with a chase of dead people. Is it just me or does it look like the precursor to the Living Dead films by George A. Romero?
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Carrie (7¾/10)

Based upon a Stephen King novel (the 1976 horror flick, not the '50s farmgirl flick), this is the story of a sheltered girl with a nasty home life, and an equally horrible personal life - bullied at school, and at home all those gory bleeding-Christ statues and the sort of religious fanaticism that always leads to bad things (you'll also see this theme in "Frailty").
This film is primarily a character portrait of a complicated person who just happens to have telekinesis (the ability to move stuff by thinking about it), more than it is a horror film, so it doesn't play by the usual rules - for a start this film has an incredibly slow burn. The entirety is leading up to the one big payoff, and boy is it a payoff. And, rather than being a cheap gimmick to resolve the movie, we fully understand how and why what happens happens - in fact we'd probably be rooting for Carrie to do her worst... The most unsettling thing is we don't know if Carrie is using her power, or if it is using her.

I don't think I really need to go into much more detail, for the ending of this film is a part of movie history. If you're one of the few who doesn't know the climax, and goodness is it ever a climax, then make some time for this movie.

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Cat Returns, The [is listed as "The Cat Returns"]


Catch That Kid (6/10)

A young girl's father is in hospital. He is dying. They need a heap of cash to save him. Turns out they (her and father) run a go-kart track. She (Kristen Stweart) is a bit of a tom-boy and can abseil. Her friend, played by Corbin Bleu (who you may know better as the fluffy haired one in "High School Musical") is good with computers. Good in a "yeah right, like that could happen" sort of way.
Her mother has just installed a mega-high-tech security system at a bank. The system isn't due to come on-line yet, but the slimeball manager wants to throw a big 'do' because he is impatient and a total creep.
Can you see where this is going? Mom asks for a loan to cover the hospital bill, but the boss man turns her down quite rudely. So the girl decides, like you do, to pull an elaborate heist.

This is strictly for younger kids [of any age! :-)] who will enjoy the action and excitement. Those kids who are older and more mature may start to wonder about the various moral messages that will come from this movie; as some stuff is more than a touch on the dubious side.

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Changing Lanes (7½/10)

Ben Affleck is a rising Wall Street lawyer, Samuel L. Jackson is a violent recovering alcoholic fighting to stop his (ex-)wife taking his kids to the other side of the country. They're both heading to the same court house when there's a car accident, and being in a hurry Affleck leaves a blank cheque and parts with the words "better luck next time". In the court room, Affleck realises he must have dropped a very important power-of-attorney dossier and Jackson must have picked it up. Encountering Jackson later, he gives Affleck the same flippant attitude that Affleck gave him earlier, at the crash scene.
It's a long paragraph to set up a chain of events where the two try to one-up each other, a chain of events that descends further and further into that dangerous region where people shouldn't go, fuelled by Jackson's fine appreciation for creating havoc and knowing the value of that thin red dossier; and Affleck's legal mind looking for chinks in the armour of his adversary.
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Cheaper By The Dozen (7/10)

Dad trying to hold it all together...

...while mom's out of the scene.

The perfect American mom (in the movies) Bonnie Hunt is coupled with the comic antics of Steve Martin for this pleasant film about two parents trying to juggle their careers hitting the big time at the same time as their family of twelve children of assorted ages who are lovable monsters.
A gentle inoffensive movie that is cute without veering into annoying.
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Cherry Falls (8/10)

When this was on BBC 2 a year ago, I liked it and looked it up on-line. It was a film praised and hated in equal measure. As is usual, it was those we got it and those who didn't.
On the face of it, it is a sort of teen horror starring a suitably fluffy haired Brittany Murphy as the good girl next door, plus the town cop's daughter. They live in the small town of Cherry Falls where she can keep a perma-worried expresion as some real bad stuff is going down. In fact there's a killer. He is killing virgins. The response of the teens, and this is a tiny spoiler, is to organise a big party to help them lose their virgin status. They figure no longer a virgin, no longer a potential victim. I give this away as maybe suddenly the title of the film is taking on a new meaning. This is a very comical film, but it doesn't dwell on the humour. There is no time for the laugh track. There is none of that annoying "knowing" humour that was fresh in Scream but tired by the time Scream 3 rolled around. Just some funny situations played absolutely straight. Okay, the story makes sense even if the premise is a bit shaky, but you know... enjoy the ride. It is unconventional and, for being serious and comic both at the same time, it is possibly one of my favourite teens-in-peril horror films.
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Clueless (9/10)

Made in 1995, this is probably the last ever film with a Valley Girl as the lead role. This is because the whole Valley Girl thing has expired. Passé. The air-head rich-daddy girls grew up, sold out. Probably the only example around these days is Paris Hilton! This affects pop culture because in the eighties and early nineties we had the self-obsessed Valley Girl. Around the mid nineties the Valley Girl involved into the cheerleader. Much the same sentiment, only a lot bitchier (think Cordelia in Buffy) and not tied to the San Ferdinand valley. This perhaps reached its peak, and perhaps bitchiest, with the TV series Popular. The whole cheerleader thing is widespread in movies and it seems Heroes is bucking the trend by offering us Claire Bennet, a cheerleader with a personality. Or, as they say, "Save the cheerleader, save the world", one of the best taglines of this decade.

Which brings us to Clueless. Possibly one of the best Valley Girls committed to celluloid, played with delightful wide-eyed enthusiasm by Alicia Silverstone, in a movie by Amy Heckerling, who is also responsible for Fast Times At Ridgemont High (actually, that was her first film, made some 13 years earlier).

Alicia plays Cher, her friend is Dionne. They're all named after famous people, and their life exists simply to be devastatingly pretty, extremely popular, and always a step ahead of fashion (Cher could have invented the expression "so yesterday").
When, one day, farm-girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) appears on the scene, Cher simply has to work her magic and give the girl a make-over. Only, she doesn't realise that people aren't exactly puppies.
What really works with this film is that it is never mean. A few bitchy comments, and plenty of satire lurking around the incredible vernacular (those who didn't grow up with a heavy dose of SoCal programming might benefit from subtitles?). It is fun, fluffy, and kawaï.
Another thing that really works is the voice-over. We get to her Cher's thoughts. In fact, we almost get a narration to her thinking process, never mind just the thoughts. But this, in a way is great. She's going along, yack yack yack, suddenly "ooh, I wonder if they have that in my size?". Cher has stopped dead. Camera backs up a little to see her gawking at a dress. Okay, it works better on-screen, but trust me, you'll giggle when you see it.
Cher is astonishingly self-absorbed. She matters. Not much else does. There is a scene where she is robbed at gunpoint. Worried about being robbed? No. Worried about the gun? Of course not. She is worried about having to lie on the icky ground in her designer outfit. Yet through this, there's a soft sarcasm as she comes up with lines like "Why learn to park when every place you go has a valet?" (said to her driving instructor!).
Her father, a caring worried father (which puts this film way above the level of most teen films) is a scary litigator. Following in his footsteps, Cher attempts to negotiate bad grades.
This brings us to what I think may be the second best line in the movie, which I must quote as it gives you an idea of why I wrote an entire paragraph about something else first: Searching for good grades in high school is like searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.
(the best line I will leave for you to discover)

Pop culture references come thick and fast. The dialogue itself modernises and reinvents the very essence of Valley Girl, and because this film was made in 1995, we don't have those oh-so-dated '80s fashion accessories (such as roller skates and a Walkman). Or 90% of the hairstyles from the '80s. Let's not even talk about the shoulder pads...

This spawned a television series, but forget that. The real deal is here. A well deserved 9/10 and just as an aside, the 100th review that I have wriiten!

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Coach Carter (7/10)

This must be America's way of dealing with its turbulent racially segregated past, for this is a story we have seen a dozen times before... some "inspirational" teacher waltzes into a low-end school full of disadvantaged non-white kids and teaches them the value of life, humanity, how not to die of drugs and pimps on the streets, sets the world to rights. Blah blah. We saw it with "The Principal", we saw it with something seriously messed up that had a story like Michelle Pfeiffer as an ex-marine, or something equally believable (!) instilling discipline.

Here we have a towering performance by Samuel L Jackson, his performance is why you're looking at a 7/10 instead of a 5½/10. It is, also, apparently based on a true story though I wonder how much is true and how much is poetic licence.

The plot? Boys who are good at basketball and not so hot at the academic side, with a coach who cancels their plays until they pull up their GPA with lots of hard study, and the local community who can't see beyond tomorrow and what the coach is trying to do. Easy to summarise in a sentence, it's very character led as you can imagine.

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Collateral (8/10)

This is one of those films that shows why the pre-weirded Tom Cruise was one of the best actors around.
The story starts off with a fairly simple concept. A man (Cruise) picks up a taxi. He wants to make a few stops before being taken to the airport. Fair enough. All seems to be going well until a body crashes down on to the taxi. Cruise comes out, and acts oddly detached about it. Upon being accused of killing the man, he replies that he just shot him - it's the bullet and the fall that killed the person.
From here the dark, edgy story unfolds as Cruise offering a powerful and deep performance the likes of which you would expect from De Niro.

Watching this, you can't help to think how the mighty have fallen. Yes, Katie was cute in Dawson's Creek but... but...

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Core, The [is listed as "The Core"]


Creep (6½/10)

Franke Potente, the pretty tag-along in The Bourne Identity is a party girl. While getting ready to hook up with her friend and go hit on George Clooney, she realises her friend has already left. So she goes to take the tube (for non-UK readers, that's the underground railway in London) home. Knackered, and probably wooly headed from her binging, she falls asleep... find she had missed the train.
A train comes, so she takes it. A little way into the tunnel from Charing Cross the train stops. Suddenly her sort-of-not-quite boyfriend turns up and tries to rape her. Just as it gets serious, he is dragged out of the open train door and mauled.
And from here a claustrophobic horror film taking full advantage of the confines of the underground rail network, and the bizarre people that live down there. Not to mention the rats!
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Cruel Intentions (7/10)

A very un-Buffy Buffy (with dark hair to prove she isn't being Buffy!) is the perfect schoolgirl at the perfect exclusive school. Problem is, though, that somewhere along the way, Sarah Michelle Gellar's character went a little off the rails and she derives her fun from going out of her way to ruin other people's lives - sometimes with deadly consequences.

This strikes me as an interesting cross between "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Heathers".

I'm not giving anything away by saying there's a sort of final revelation. Most films have one. But this, in Cruel Intentions, is beautiful. There is no dialogue - none is necessary, plus a lovely choice of song to accompany it. The end is just action and reaction from the cast. And, I'll tell you what, it is extremely satisfying. It's a shame that extra thirty-odd seconds was tacked on the end, they should have just cut that and gone straight to credits, with the finalé ringing in our minds.

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Dancer In The Dark (5/10)

A (over)long arty opening to an (over)long arty film that is somewhere between a thriller, a social commentary, and a musical. Starring Björk, who sings a lot, this takes some watching as the gritty real and the very surreal often blend together. It's kinda nuts.
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Dawn Of The Dead (6½/10)

By rights this film should have a 7/10 score. It flows along at a good pace. It is, in a sentence, the seminal story of survivors of a zombie apocalypse who shack up in capitalist America's greatest edifice, The Mall. The acting is believable, even when we are talking zombies. There are some tragic moments, and some comic moments.
But the problem, and the thing I really don't get about remakes, is that this film looks and feels identical to the Romero original. In fact, so much looks alike that I have a suspicion that it would flow along the same if I played the two side by side. Hell, even half the cast seems to look alike (from memory, of course).

And this I really do not understand. I could comprehend if the film could be enhanced by modern special effects, or if some film students rewrote sections of it to be better than the original, but to remake it just like the original? Why? What is the point? Why not watch the original?

I have found my DVD, I'll watch it soon. I have a dim recollection of a helicopter and a small upstairs storage room in a shopping mall, however I'm not sure how these parts fit into Dawn Of The Dead, I may be mixing up with another one in the series? I'll need to check...

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Day After Tomorrow, The [is listed as "The Day After Tomorrow"]


Dazed And Confused (7½/10)

This film is set in the '70s, following a group of kids leaving High School. We begin in the last lesson of school and follow them through the evening and the following night.
We may be surprised at the character's enormous appetite for beer and cannabis, however there are no moral judgements here. There is none of that fuzzy sentimentalist crap that you often find in films set in the past. In fact, there is no plot. We simply join in with the lives of a group of kids in Texas, coping with their last day of school. You must pay attention, it is a very dialogue-driven movie.

It isn't all fun - it seems that there are older people (sophomores?) who seem to revel in the institutionalised bulling of younger kids (pre-freshmen) in something which is called a "hazing" ritual. This is where you are expected to either degrade yourself by having all sorts of stuff poured on you (if you're a girl) or by being mercilessly "paddled" by something that looks like a cricket bat (if you're a boy). To my mind, like the keeping of slaves, these sorts of rituals really ought to be confined as an anachronism of yesteryear. Unfortunately, as you will discover from American TV, it still goes on today.

So, you might ask - what's the point of a plotless movie? While the film American Graffiti (from the same era) covered this material with gloss and nostalgia and a plot, this film tells the other side of the story. A lot of kids who are coming to terms with the end of their High School days and thinking "is that it? now what?" while celebrating the end of school.
It is a bittersweet celebration. When I left my boarding school at the end of fifth form in the summer of 1990, I very nearly cried. Not because I was leaving school, but because something that I'd been used to for so long was now over. Because kids I'd known so well, I would probably never see again in my life. It doesn't really hit you until that final moment. You want to jump up and down and yell "I'm free! I survived!", but at the same time yell "No! Stop!". That is what this film is all about, being dazed and confused.

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Death Note (7½/10) [in English with parts in subtitled English]

A "god of death" (Shinigami, or something that sounds like that) drops a notebook. A special notebook. A notebook where a name written can cause that person to die. There is an optional extra in that you can specify a method of death and even script what will happen (if no extra info, death will be near immediate and a heart attack). The person with the death note is known as Kira. A social vigilante who metes out 'justice' on those who escape traditional justice. This has led him to have quite a following from the teen crowd, and a following of a different sort from the police.

Essentially this is a cat-and-mouse game between an overly brainy (and very bizarre) police investigator, and 'Kira'. It is strange in that it is equally shocking and expected. What Kira does (especially towards the end) is really disturbed, but then it might not work had it played any other way.

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Death Note 2: The Last Name (7/10) [in English with parts in subtitled English]

Continuing right from where the first film ended, this long (and I mean long) film keeps the cat and mouse game going between Kira and the odd-cop-boy, but ups the ante somewhat with another Death Note and another Kira.

While the film rolls along nicely - and you don't really realise how long it is until the credits roll, to the sounds of The Red Hot Chili Peppers - there is a certain amount that seems... I don't know. Contrived? Is that the word? As if you cannot quite understand how each side can perform the actions that they do without already knowing what the other side is doing. It's... strange. In addition, I'm wondering why the Japanese would allow the FBI (yes, that FBI) to walk around like that.

But still, a fun film, and as a bonus you even get some thrown-in commentary on the power of television.

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Death Watch (7/10)

A small command on the front lines in World War I captures a German bunker... somewhere. They don't know where as it all went pear-shaped after the attack.
Anyway, they think they should be worried about the Hun, but they really ought to be concerned with the haunted barbed wire. Oh, and the dead people.

A claustrophobically spooky film with loads of atmosphere, mud, and rats. Starts good, builds good, but eventually fizzles thanks to a depressingly hokey ending.

Yes, and Kris Marshall is the 'dad' in the BT "family" adverts.

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Descent, The [is listed as "The Descent"]


Devil Wears Prada, The [is listed as "The Devil Wears Prada"]


Diary Of The Dead (7/10)

One of the cool things about George A. Romero's zombie films is that they all chart the start of the zombie apocalypse. The other cool thing is that there is no explanation, it just is, deal with it.
I mean, think about it. How many other zombie films have bogged down the plot by trying to contrive something that sounds good by way of explanation for the living dead? It's always fears on our misunderstandings of technology - like a squirrel doused in Agent Orange would become the living dead, or a squirrel waved past nuclear fallout will make it undead - for the zombie is a nifty legend but a biological impossibility. Neurons firing, muscles operating, and no blood pumping? No oxygen? I will believe it when I see it.

In this installament of the zombie series, we begin amusingly with some students making a horror film (and some of this comes back amusingly later on in the film). We see the action though the lens of the cameras that the students are carrying; and there is a powerful commentary going on. Questions - is it acceptable to live behind the lens and let it unfold without feeling, without shame? How quickly, given the rise of the zombie, can you take a gun and blow out the brains of a stranger? Even a dead stranger? What if you can't cope? Or, perhaps worse, what if you can? I won't say more, but this is an extremely perceptive and socially aware film with quite an ascerbic edge. Or a gore-strewn zombie flick. Take your pick!

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Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei [is listed as "The Edukators"]


Dodgeball (6/10)

Well there's this guy. He runs his fitness centre like a Boy's Own club. He hasn't bothered to collect subscriptions in ages. The guys just go, hang out, have fun.

There's this other guy. A legend in his own mind. Owns a chain of slick fitness centres. Wants to buy his competitor to flatten it as an extended car park.

The first guy finds out he owes $50,000 in taxes or he gets the boot. How to raise that kind of cash in two weeks? A "Dodgeball" tournament with a prize of $50,000. Convenient. Only his team have never played the game, and second-guy is going to get all his best players to whoop-ass all over the first guy's efforts.

This preposterous-sounding film really is as amazingly stupid as it sounds. And not to be 'cheap' or 'tacky', it takes the approach of knowing it's a stupid concept and it revels in it. A wheelchair-bound 'mentor' lobbing spanners at you to teach you to dodge, a classic "Use the force, Luke" moment, and a perfect characterisation by the blonde woman, whose name escapes me. Oh, and a steady stream of well-known actors in quirky cameo roles (mainly as judges, though).

There's a strange coda tacked on to the end, after the credits.

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Dogma (9/10)

View Askew (of Jay & Silent Bob fame) present a light-hearted story about two fallen angels on the run who are trying to use a loophole to get their way back in to Heaven. Unfortunately God is otherwise indisposed so can't help, and his aides know that if these angels make it to Heaven then it will prove God as being fallible after all, and existence will cease to, well, you know, exist.
Along the way there are some great moral situations (I love the boardroom scene, and the whole worshipping the golden calf was not missed on me), and there are many digs at Catholicism and Christianity in general. It is nice that, finally, somebody is going to point out some of the rather obvious flaws in the belief structure...
But don't think it gets all heavy on you. This film is a riot on many levels. You can either ignore the symbolism and take it as a fun-filled chase scenario with a freaky plot device, or you can pay attention to the symbolism and enjoy all the little extras thrown in for those who aren't afraid of a bit of free thought...
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Dreamers, The [is listed as "The Dreamers"]


Dumplings (6¾/10) [in Korean, subtitled]

A 'young' female chef (Mei) is notorious for the quality of her dumplings. These are not dumplings in the Western sense, more a cross between a dumpling and a spring roll. However Mei's dumplings are special. They carry with them the secret to staying young - as Mei herself demonstrates.
I suspect some may find this film offensive when the penny drops as to what exactly it is that goes into her dumplings. I hope you don't take it too badly, as despite the obvious grossness, this is also an expert character portrait of the rampant obsession of a retired TV star (Ching Lee) who wants to regain her youth to be more appealing to her husband, despite the obvious quirk that he makes her feel annoyed and nauseous. So why does she bother? That's the crux of the story. That's her excuse. For a "stay young" concoction is, for some, for Ching Lee, a pretty big carrot to dangle. And it's a bait she'll force herself to take, little by little, whatever the cost, however awful it may be.
In Mandarin with subtitles.
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EDTV (8/10)

A television network has the idea of launching a channel, to follow some "ordinary person" around 24/7. A TV producer (Ellen DeGeneres) is lumped with the job of finding the right person.

When she finds a suitable candidate, he loves the fame and attention. But, as you can expect, it quickly becomes an irritation. But, poor fool, the nightmare has only just begun.

This film is perhaps most relevant to an English audience, as the country is the most telesurveilled in the world - with an estimated camera per 14 people (Ouest France, janvier 2007). Sadly for us, we don't know who is watching, why, and what happens with this old media. And, sadly for us, we don't have an exceedingly clever denouement such as that which Ed pulls at the end - it's a stroke of genius, you'll love it.

Thankfully, though, I live in rural France. I can watch films like this and marvel that there are still people stupid enough to blurt their garbage to the world (daily on Jeremy Kyle, etc...) and - best of all - I can actually walk through a few towns where there are no video cameras, and I can shop in a supermarket that only uses beep-barriers for security.
This isn't to say video surveillance is a bad thing per se, however why don't we simply take a moment to ponder why the cameras are there in the first place? To ponder those that think 24 hour pub opening times will encourage more responsible drinking habits (in much the same manner as a full propane cannister lobbed onto a bonfire will extinguish the flames - yeah, right!). And as if that wasn't insanity enough, there'll be a supercasino in Manchester - a place that has already appeared on TV shows following drunk ladettes painting the town blood red. Am I the only person that sees this ending in a chaotic disaster?
Well, whatever. I left. Thank God.
I left for a place where a supercasino would contain nothing but a few thousand square metres of petanque games, and the prize for the winner would be a suckling pig. I left for a place where gafitti is rare, spitting in the street is practically non-existant, and cameras only watch the bigger towns. A place where the trains are bang on time, and libraries don't have the concept of overdue fines. Downsides? Of course - the French tend to drive like maniacs, not to mention the rather blasé attitude towards bodily functions (a male urinal might be a pot on a street corner with no attempt at privacy, and apparently women don't get caught short at all, given the usual lack of public toilets), and some of the culinary delicacies are probably bio-hazards (I'd nominate the Andouille and all manner of squishy mouldy cheeses)...
But, on the whole, I think it was the right choice.
For what it is worth, the French press, when referring to Britain, often begin their articles with "Britain, the country with the most surveillance in the world, blah blah blah..." - I think there's a message here, don't you?
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Edukators, The [is listed as "The Edukators"]


Electra Glide in Blue (7½/10)

This film, from 1973 - my year of birth - is a must see. Moving somewhat lethergically at times, this story of a small Arizona motorbike policeman investigating a murder and finding rampant corruption everywhere may not seem like the most exciting film you'll ever watch. That's probably true - the Lethal Weapon series offers guns and chases galore. What you'll find in Electra Glide, is intelligence - the lead (Robert Blake) decides to use his brain to compensate for his short stature. You'll find worthy action sequences, if that's your thing. But best of all, end-to-end you'll find strong convincing characters. Nobody here is wooden. Nobody here is a cartoon cutout. The photography is first-rate, and God himself (or whoever you believe in) provided some amazing locations that can look both familiar and desolate at the same time. And as for the ending, well, goodness!
Well worth a look.
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Elektra (6¼/10)

Jennifer Garner plays the role of "Elektra", a comic-book superhero(ine!) who is like a Western take on the ninja assassin...
...only she finds herself having to protect a dad and his bratty-but-nice-really daughter.

There was material to work with, the effects are good without being all "oooh, look at me", and the daughter played her part well. I am less sure about Jennifer's acting, I think Elektra was supposed to be "emotionally distant" but it sometimes came across a bit Keanu Reeves.
The problem, and the reason I have scored this less than the 7 I think it should have, is that it comes from the comic-book style of directing. In a comic we are rarely afforded time to flesh out the backstory of the characters. Bits and pieces of history will come out, but you'll find that everything in any given episode is designed to advance the plot. Rarely will anything (even down to each drawn frame) happen that does not move the plot forward.
Elektra was like this. Everything that took place moved the plot. We didn't really pick up on the backstory (unless it moved the plot or explained what was going to happen next) and this possible explains the short running time (it seemed to be about 75 minutes?). It was a "blink and it's over" kind of deal, with a rather simplistic storyline in which most of the complications seemed to have been omitted. I liked the idea of a female assassin. It makes a welcome deviation from the Seagal school of action bull.

You want to know what I really think? I think this film runs like a double-episode pilot for a potential TV series. I could see this all taken further, the idea is good and the characters can be fleshed out a bit more so we feel we can understand them. Not over the top like those "reminiscence" episodes that seem to have plagued season two of "Bleach", but it could learn a lesson from the female assassin done correctly and with infinite style. Of course, I'm talking about Azumi!

But this film? Too short. We got lots of "how" with a lot less emphasis on the "why?".

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Equilibrium (5/10)

Oh God no! It's another one of those Utopian society after WWIII with lurking problems stories. It is a totalitarian society (there's a surprise) where the twist this time is that people are not allowed to "feel" anything because feeling has been blamed for man's evil ways. Lurking around the corner are the assorted rebels who want to bring feelings and emotions back to humanity (shades of "Demolition Man", anybody? (only without the amusing Denis Leary monologues)).
This is an action-laden epic with numerous eye-popping Matrixesque sequences, however for me the film was tainted at the very introduction. After all, we can't get people to agree on a timezone, never mind more important things such as population control, and it seems these days as if everybody becomes a raving nymphomaniac after a few pints... we are expected to believe after a big war that everybody who survives will rebuild society without emotions, without sensing, without feeling. This is especially beyond the ability to suspend reality because without those things, we cannot possibly call ourselves human... This is the inevitable realisation that our hero is going to have to figure out. I guess that is a spoiler, but I could see this coming as soon as I heard the opening narration, so it isn't so much a spoiler as 'the patently obvious'.
Watch this film for the action, a 9 out of 10 for that. But it's closer to 3 out of 10 for the plot, so a 5/10 overall.
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Evolution (8/10)

David Duchovny showing there is life beyond The X-Files, as a science professor who discovers life is more than it should be in a meteor...

The film opens with Sean William Scott trying to rescue an inflatable girl from a shed that he just sat on fire (the reason is explained later on). As he is giving her CPR, he looks up and sees a bright light in the sky...
...heading his way...
When he turns around we're all expecting him to say something like "Whoa, duuuuude!", but he doesn't.

David Duchovny and Orlando Jones are science teachers. They visit the 'meteor' and, the next day use it as a school outing. Quickly they discover that life, from the rock, is evolving a lot faster than logically possible. We're up to worms in 24 hours!
Sadly the army lock things down pretty quickly. There's a clichéd army general with a fettish for napalm, and possibly the most accident prone scientist in existence, played by Julianne Moore.

Obviously the evolution continues apace, but to write any more would give away the story, and maybe even provide more advertising for the gratuitous product placement.

There is enough plausible pseudoscience to keep critics such as myself happy, the story zips along with great characterisation, and one might even consider that it could be a 'knowing' version of a sci-fi alien invasion, only this invasion doesn't involve green men pouring out of spaceships. This film, instead, plunders some genuine threats - a lot of this stuff has a logical basis, though it has been greatly 'sexed up' for the movie. The ending, the final weapon, and how it is used, will no doubt have you in hysterics. In retrospect, a number of things in this movie are setting up other things, but it isn't done in the bleedin' obvious way. You will actually require a modicum of intelligence to put the pieces together.

And, just to finish off, one of my favourite sequences from the movie: A girl (played by Morgan Nagler (howzat for a name?)) is swiping stuff from the shop. She's in the dressing room putting on, like, four shirts. As if that isn't patently obvious to any security guard! Watch what happens next...

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Explorers (6¼/10)

The EPG describes this as a film about two kids that invent a spacecraft that can "fly through solid matter". As this was one of my favourite films when I was a teenager, I feel the need to point out that what they devised (aided by bizarre shared dreams) was a sort of energy bubble that can fly, along with containing its own gravity field and air - very convenient for putting an old, customised, fairground ride into. One thing the bubble cannot do, is pass through solid objects. Wrecking the poor geek's basement and, later, the diner, proves this. It can fly 'through' solid objects by sort of disappearing the object, like holes in the ground, the walls. You can't really say it flew 'through' the object as the object is no longer intact afterwards.

There are many interesting touches to this film. Unfortunately pointing them out would be a list of spoilers. What I will point out is the reason why it barely pushes 6/10 when it was a favourite film of mine. When I was younger, I was a little greener. Okay, a lot greener, and I found this to be a nice almost whimsical tale of three kids and their spacecraft. There were some cool parts - such as when the software takes over and begins programming itself, or when they take it outside to test the bubble and one of them gets trapped inside it while it flies around out of control. There is a whole child's sense of wonder about these things.
But this is before the whole outer space part of the film. Essentially the second half of the movie. Is it trying to lecture us on what sort of a species we are? I don't know. All I do know is that it sucked bigtime. As a kid I liked it. As an adult, it bored me. Again, there were some great scenes, but scenes against maybe half an hour of running time is not the sort of payoff that this movie promised. It would have worked a lot better if the kids stayed on planet earth and played cat and mouse with that nosy cop.
First half, genius. Great ideas, like "The Jules Verne". Very innovative.
Second half, record this film as an MPEG file and simply clip out all of the outer space stuff. Okay, leave the spider, it was cute. Get rid of the rest. ☺

It probably comes as no real surprise to anybody that's bothered to read some of the other stuff on this site that I identified most with the geek (played perfectly by the late River Phoenix, this was his début movie), and to confirm this, he controls the energy ball with an Apple II computer powered by a 6502, it is much like an American BBC Micro (only the Beeb was infinitely better!).
Oh, God, I'm so sad. Well... Whatever! ☺

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Eye, The [is listed as "The Eye"]


Fantastic Four (5½/10)

Some astronauts, assorted scientists and such, go up into space. They are hit by some sort of cosmic radiation. This gives them assorted superpowers. One can burst into flames and fly, one is a living rock, one can go invisible, one can go all stretchy, one's a creepy weirdo.
Oh, yeah, that was five. Well the Good Four (who become instant celebrities) battle the Evil One. Or something. It is based upon a Marvel comic book and it probably worked better in comic form where assorted superheroes can save the city and everybody cheers. As a film it is a bit preposterous, but hats off for the visual effects which are really something the little screen can't do justice - if only that much effort went into the script...
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Fast Times At Ridgemont High (7/10)

This film is an absolute blast for anybody who has fond memories of '80s culture, or wished they could snog a Valley Girl (God help you!). It's a story of some kids at Ridgemont High School who like just hanging out, doing stuff, and going to the mall. The mall says "Ridgemont Mall" on the wall, but anybody with a sense of Valley Girl culture will, like, totally recognise it as the infamous Sherman Oaks Galleria (which, I believe, was remodelled, then was, like, so affected by the quake in the early '90s (whoa! totally bogus!), and sort-of, like, died, rather like the Valley Girl herself who, like, grew up and, like, totally stopped being a Valley Girl, or something).

You might wonder why, then, I gave this film such a low score despite my obvious enthusiasm for the genre. Well, the film offers an outstanding cast who make an amazing film out of some rather poor material. If you look at it analytically, the film is essentially a teen sexploitation. The lovely and cute Jennifer Jason Leigh isn't only a sexually inept character, she is used and abused by a plot line that does her no justice whatsoever. Her brother (Judge Reinhold) should have done his nut when he discovered the predicament that she got herself into. But he was more worried about the increasingly stupid uniforms he was expected to wear in his jobs in fast food joints. Her best friend, one of the best movie Valley Girls ever, played by Phoebe Cates, explains sexual matters in a way that is detail overload, bordering on the gynæcological. And this is from the tamer version of the movie, not the 18 cert version!

However if you can overlook these somewhat serious flaws, you'll find a movie with loads of funny touches. Sean Penn as a stoner who dislikes the history teacher (played by Ray Walston) so much that they get into a battle of the wills - him ordering a pizza while in class and the teacher sharing it amongst other students. Vincent Schiavelli as a biology teacher with a fondness for whipping internal organs out of cadavers. Forest Whitaker as a football player. Eric Stoltz as another stoner. Nicolas Cage (under his real name), Anthony Edwards... A number of these names played their debut roles in this film, so with a better (less sexually-obsessed) script, this film could have been an absolute classic.
There are some great, well chosen, songs underlining various moments. I cracked up at the song played for the end credits which was just, like, so totally apt!

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Ferris Bueller's Day Off (8½/10)

Ferris, twisting and shouting with the German girls.

Something that has made it to the movie cliché list!

This film is a lovely comedy about a kid called Ferris (perfectly played by Matthew Broderick) who fakes being ill (much to his sister's disgust, as she knows it is fake) simply so he can skip school for a day to help his best friend find himself a little bit of self-respect. His idea of 'therapy' is to talk his friend into borrowing his father's antique Ferrari (bright red, of course) and hitting the city of Chicago big-time.
After watching this movie, you probably won't ever want to visit Chicago - there's no need, we did a whirlwind tour of every single tourist spot and landmark in town, including a stop at a German-American parade where it seems half the town put on a perfectly choreographed "Fame"-like rendition of "Twist And Shout", sung by Ferris himself.
However this is a clever film that works on many levels. We have the comedy, yes, we have Ferris running through people's gardens to beat his folks (or the Principal) to his house, only to pass some cute chicks and back up for an introduction. We have a long-running saga of what exactly happens with that red Ferrari, which his friend's father loves more than his own son. And, somewhere in between all this we have a lot of psychology in Ferris' outlook on life and his trying to make his best friend into a stronger individual.

While you watch this movie, you are bound to see how it has made an influence on other, later, films. If nothing else, there is a pop group called "Save Ferris"! ☺

One could argue that the film has issues of realism - all of the adults are weird individuals who think they know their kids but don't have a clue - this is a trend in a number of John Hughes' movies, look at The Breakfast Club for another example. The ending does not offer a tidy solution (I don't feel I am giving much of a spoiler with the picture above right as I've seen this film about ten times on other channels in my life), but it does end with plenty to think about.
This movie won't necessarily improve your life, but it might make you start to think about it, and that may be enough to get the ball rolling.
Or as Ferris himself says: "Life goes by so fast, if you don't stop and look around, you might miss it."
I still kinda think of myself as a late-teenager (17-19ish). I recently (2006/12/16) had my 33rd birthday [and as I revise these reviews, I am about a month off my 35th birthday - another two years vanishes...]. So, hell, can I ever empathise with that sentiment!

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Firm, The [is listed as "The Firm"]


Frailty (6/10)

Told mostly in retrospect, this is the disturbing story of a man's descent into madness. Convinced he has received instructions from God in the form of visions, he collects three bizarre weapons and a list of names. The names of demons. That must be killed.

The story centres around one of his two sons, who find their lives turned upside down.

This film made an interesting juxtaposition against the vicar that was gunned down just a day before thus was a leading news item - a man of God that did it correctly versus a crazed "man of God" that shows how the religious rhetoric can be subverted and perverted.

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Gaau Ji [is listed as "Dumplings"]


Get Over It (8/10)

Part film, part musical, can we get over this?

A high school student loses his girlfriend and then sets about trying to win her back from the loser idiot she's picked instead. Only, you know, love just ain't that easy.

Starting with an amusing single-take "pop video" routine, this film seems to be any number of funny skits (such as the chinese restaurant) loosely held together by the story, which involves plenty of hammy theatrical performances in the name of putting together the school musical. But don't think this is anything like "High School Musical", it is just a coincidence.
Some good performances, some good scenarios, and Kirsten Dunst pulls it off in style.

The end credits are also set to a dance routine, though somewhat more conventional than the brilliant starter. Did the director cut his teeth on music vids? Was this an MTV Networks production under a different guise?

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Girl, Interrupted (7½/10)

"Based on a true story", this is a film about a girl who is a little bit kooky and weird who is more or less pushed into an asylum by her parents. It's a bittersweet tale, as Winona Ryder makes friends, and enemies, in and around.

This is one of those films that picks up in somebody's life, runs with them awhile, and then leaves for the credits to roll. The plot is not a by-the-dots (i.e. "girl in trouble, guy saves girl, girl falls in love with guy, ahhhh"), but rather a recounting of some of the things that took place. Some of the highs and lows of life with people who see the world a little differently. And, along the way, some character development - or maybe just baked chicken.
You would be best to watch this without disturbances, for the story is a rich one with a lot going on, and several subtexts in and around the main theme.

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Gokudō kyōfu dai-gekijō [is listed as "Gozu"]


ごくど こふ だいげきよ [is listed as "Gozu"]


Good Girl, The [is listed as "The Good Girl"]


Gozu (6½/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

FilmFour's description in the EPG draws a parallel between this film and Twin Peaks. There is no mistaking it either. This film moves along at a deliberate pace. Stuff happens. We aren't quite sure what, or why. And, in common with Twin Peaks, it would have been easy to snip out half an hour of running time without affecting the storyline.
But, as the very first title sequence for Twin Peaks runs to over five minutes, this film takes the same casual attitude to time. This isn't actually a bad thing, per se, as the film is not targetted to the MTV generation that need a dead body every eight minutes in order to keep their attention.

The plot? We begin at a Yakuza meeting (they are the Japanese version of the Mafia). Designer shades and leather trench coats are the order or the day. One of the hard men (Brother Ozaki) spots a "Yakuza Dog" (a dog that kills Yakuza) and decides to kill it before it kills them. We watch through a window as he beats a poodle to death. So a younger member (Minami) is instructed to take Ozaki to the 'disposal' site, only Ozaki freaks seeing a "Yakuza Car" (a car that kills Yakuza). A freak accident later and Ozaki dies. Probably just as well, before we encounter something really peculiar like "Highly Disrespectful Yakuza Condom" (yeah, a condom that kills Yakuza - sounds like something from a Woody Allen film...).
Stopping for a meal in a strange town, Minami discovers that Ozaki, dead, left in the car, has vanished.
That is as far as the logical side of the plot goes. And if that didn't sound very logical to you, you'll blow your mind on the following illogical part!

Now we meet an array of bizarre characters - including a woman who is quite happy to stand by the sauna and squirt milk from her breast into the towel wrapped around her, it eventually running down her legs. If you think that sounds disgusting, I ought to warn you that her breast milk is a bit of a recurring theme. There's some stuff that is even yuckier.
And an ending that has to be seen to be believed. It is really so left-of-centre it is... Well, let's just say it will probably linger in your mind for quite a while afterwards.

This film will not appeal if you like lots of quick action. And, to be honest, this film is best experienced with, or after, a beer or two. At any rate you'll need to switch off the analytical side of your brain as I don't think any number of repeat viewings will bring sense to some of the stuff in this film. Instead, just lay back and soak up the atmosphere and revel in the utter utter weirdness.
I feel that this film easily manages to out-weird David Lynch, something that I didn't think was possible!
Perhaps after enough beer it'll start to make sense? I dunno, I rather like it this way. Weird, freaky, illogical. I like that some people will make a bizarre film simply because, and not looking for a big ratings puller.

Called "Gokudō kyōfu dai-gekijō" in Japan. In Japanese with subtitles.

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Graveyard of Fireflies (0/10) [animé in Japanese, subtitled]

While Studio Ghibli often feature environmental issues and strong lone female leads, this early feature (which actually predates the well-known Ghibli logo) is deeply moving, perhaps even harrowing.
Telling the story of a teenager and his young sister who are living in Kobe in the final days of the Second World War, and it pulls no punches in depicting how the war and the bombing raids affected the ordinary Japanese citizens. This is rather like an animated version of Japan's take on "Hope And Glory" (the Boorman film), only everything is not an adventure, more a lurking terror, but really the film title ought to have given you a clue to the ambience.

For all those who think the (mostly) American action in Iraq, and other armed conflicts, are good things - there are three films that are essential viewing: "Apocalypse Now", "Fahrenheit 9/11", and this. For these films depict the reality of an armed conflict. Real people get hurt, real people die. And for what, exactly?

This may be listed in schedules are "Grave of the Fireflies".

In Japanese with subtitles.

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Happy Gilmore (8/10)

Happy, trying out his dating technique...

Adam Sandler plays Happy Gilmore, a violent-but-untalented ice hockey player who discovers that he has a heck of a talent with golf. He brings his idea of hockey violence to the gentle they-dress-like-twits world of golf, so he can raise money to buy back his mother's house (that the IRS just repossessed). A female reporter undertakes to tame him and clean him up.

I am slightly ashamed to admit that this film is silly, idiotic, and a total riot. There are many laugh-out-loud moments that are very funny at the time, but slightly embarrassing to think about later (like when Happy decides to wrestle a crocodile).
However, if you are looking for a bit of cheering up, then chill out with Happy Gilmore...

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Haute Tension [is listed as "Switchblade Romance"]


Heartbreakers (8/10)

Sigourney Weaver marries rich men likely to be less than faithful, while her daughter Jennifer Love Hewitt leads them to be unfaithful. Sigourney returns, sees enough, and the next thing we know there's a big divorce settlement. Jennifer, meanwhile, is falling for somebody and her manipulative mother is getting annoyed that it might interfere with their scams.
A witty and amusing comedy that somehow touches a nerve in the way those Christian Slater movies did in the late '80s, especially with all the mini-scams they pull along the way... not to mention a star performance from Gene Hackman, who plays a one-man pro-tobacco lobby!

Not a bad English accent from Jennifer Love Hewitt. Usually, with the other notable exception of Renée Zellweger in "Bridget Jones", Americans are so terrible at British accents... rather like most Brits who are trying to sound American!

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Hero (8/10) [in Mandarin, subtitled]

Hero, starring Jet Li, is nothing short of epic.
It is, essentially, a story about a skilled warrior who wishes to help, or kill, the king. As you can expect, there is plenty of skillful swordplay and the obligatory refusal to obey gravitational force, however this film takes the whole genre to a new level. For those for whom swordplay isn't really their "thing", this film actually relies more on psychology and honour than who happens to be a better fighter... but then, we in the West often don't quite understand the Asian "honour" thing (or perhaps we just don't quite understand the "honour" thing).

In any case, the effects and cinematography are outstanding. I urge you to watch Hero once just for the experience...

In Chinese (Mandarin?) with subtitles.

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Highly Dangerous (7½/10)

Margaret Lockwood stars in this black and white spy 'comedy' from 1951. Essentially she is a scientist working for the ministry of defence, only she wishes there was a touch more excitement in her life. So she is offered the chance to go abroad to find out the truth about some bugs, which are possibly being bred by a corrupt (semi-communist) government for nafarious purposes. This film is well paced, and - given its era - extremely well shot. It has a good sense of location.

I put the word 'comedy' in the description in single quotes because this is not a comedy in today's sense of the word. I did want to describe it as a comedy in more the Bond tradition, but after reflecting on Bond girls such as Plenty and Pussy Galore, I think this film has an even higher level of sophistication than that. This is perhaps a gentle spy thriller for the sort of person that would rather watch QI than Never Mind The Buzzcocks; it is that sort of abstraction from 'comedy'. Everything is very understated and, remember, this is an era when, thankfully, the crude sexual gags stayed in Carry On films...

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Hole, The [is listed as "The Hole"]


Home Alone 3 (4/10)

Alex (played by Alex!), the hero of the story.

Scarlett blink-and-you'll-miss-her Johanssen.

My friend tells me that there are six "American Pie" movies, however the latter three were straight-to-video releases. Why? Because the original team had the sense not to be involved. And when the original team gives up, you gotta figure the idea has burned out.

There is no Culkin in this movie either, just a slightly annoying boy filling his place with the aid of a pet rat and a talking parrot.

You want the story? Here goes. Some internationally-wanted criminals (hah! this lot!?!?) have stolen a super-special control chip (looks like two old Pentium chips stuck to an old network card. The old lady across the road picks up the wrong bag at the air port. Finding a toy car, she gives it to the kid as a reward for shovelling the lawn.
Staying at home from school, because he has chicken pox, the boy spots some odd people around the neighbourhood. He calls the police and they have a go at him for making prank calls. So, you know, a boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do...

The problem is the idea has been done perfectly well already. So why this remake? And to make this film rise above the level of the predecessors, it needs to raise the bar. How? By inflicting ridiculous levels of damage on the criminals.

Spray-painted in the eyes. Dumbells falling directly onto somebody's head from high above. A woman passing out (after being hit on the head by a plant pot falling from roof level) face down in a muddy quagmire. A man hit on the head by a full-throttle petrol lawnmower rolling itself and falling from the level above. The woman falling down the entire height of the dumb waiter passage, butt first. These things are beyond absurd, these criminals should be dead... several times over.

The kid is precotiously smart. The parents aren't. And you wonder how the criminals can be so teched up when they don't seem smart enough to have passed Kindergarten, never mind fledged as actual real adults.

Alice (Rya Kihlstedt), the smartest of the bunch...

...unlike this guy.

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I Heart Huckabees (8½/10)

Dustin Hoffman, with grey hair, dispensing existential advice.

Isabelle Huppert demonstrates why French girls are sexier...

Wow! A impressive (and impressively varied) cast pull together to bring one heck of a movie.

An environmentalist who feels he is losing grip on his life decides it could be sorted by hiring an existential detective agency to help solve his co-incidences.

A deep, heavy, and remarkably funny film - well worth a look, if you're sure your brain can hack it!

If you are wondering about the odd title, it is correctly "I ♥ Huckabees" (as also pictured to the right), however the Digibox cannot display the 'heart' character, and neither can the Comic Sans font used for the movie titles...

I would also like to take this moment to point out a tiny continuity error that I noticed. I have included the video time position (time from the end of the tape) to show that this follows on:

Right hand to the side of the dossier, left hand under. Both hands to the sides of the dossier.

He is so against the combustion engine, he cycles to the fire!

Yup, even she makes a cameo appearance.

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I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (8/10)

While the Scream films were more a comedy than a horror, the "Last Summer" offerings starring Jennifer Love Hewitt are played as sophisticated teen slashers. The formula is not exactly new: ghosts of the previous film, people not who they appear to be, running around a deserted holiday camp on an isolated island (beats the "cabin in the woods" cliché), bad guy with a hook for a hand... however the script and the acting (especially Jennifer, mmmmm) raise this from the ho-hum into something watchable, indeed there are a few creepy moments (I've spent half my life watching horror flicks so some of you may find this film is actually scary, it isn't for me, but we're all different...).
There are some nice little reprisals to mirror actions that took place in the original film, and thankfully this is nowhere near as smug as the Scream films which offered a running self-analysis of the genre.
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I, Robot (8¾/10)

My good friend Ewen Cathcart tells me the Spanish title of this film is "Yo, Robot". I say this as it is an amusing introduction to the star - Will Smith. It sounds like a line of dialogue...
This is an unsettling film, and the sort that I like. Way in the future, Will Smith is a cop trying to solve a murder. A murder that has been committed, evidently, by a robot.
"Oh, that's impossible", everybody says. For the worker robots are our friends and helpers. The suspect is easy to round up, and instantly he gives a bizarre vibe. Perhaps a little too human.
Meanwhile, the omnicorp company USR (I would imagine as in US Robotics!) is unveiling an upgrade. A newer, better, self-updateable robot. Trade in, this one leaves the others standing. Only suspect #1 has left some unsettling images in Will's mind. It may be that these new robots have a hidden agenda.

One of my favourite topics is covered from several directions - the question of what it means to be human, and if a machine can attain this, and how would we judge it? Sadly, I think in reality we'd probably kill it, either through fear of no longer being special or some concocted religious excuse. Either way, this film raises some deep questions in amidst the action. Well, what did you expect? It is from an Asimov story!

As if it needs clarification, Will Smith may soon be the golden boy of Hollywood now that Tom Cruise has his head firmly up...... <cough> anyway, with films such as this, it is easy to see why.

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Idiocracy (5/10)

A none-too-bright military underling and a hooker are purloined for an experiment in cryogenic freezing. The project doesn't work, the whole shabang abandoned, and the cyro stuff forgotten.
Up tight people are putting off having kids, while trailer trash are breeding like bunnies. Hence the population is getting stupider...

Fast forward hundreds of years. Our two wake up. The smartest people on the planet. It's an amusing enough idea that is woefully let down by some glaring inconsistencies. These people are supposed to be so stupid they tie crumbling tower blocks with giant ropes yet they can maintain and run television broadcasting? They are so stupid they can't spell uhmerikah but they can spell electrolyte?

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In America (7¾/10)

The emotional magical trials and tribulations of an Irish family who up sticks and move (not entirely legally) to New York (to an apartment in a less than cosy neighbourhood) after the death of the youngest child... the story being told through the eyes of the older (11 year old) daughter.
All of the cast are outstanding, but the two children deserve special merit for being even more outstanding than the adults.
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In Her Shoes (9/10)

This is the sweet story of a lazy good-for-nothing woman (delightfully played by Cameron Diaz) and her hard-working obsessive sister, and an event that changes both of their lives forever, and in ways you might not expect. I'm not going to say any more, except please do make two hours in your life for this film. It'll be worth it.
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Independence Day (7½/10)

A bored geeky TV engineer (Jeff Goldblum) notices that there are aliens on the move. Obviously nobody takes him seriously... until the armada arrives and starts to lay waste to well-known American landmarks. There is chaos, panic, and out of the mess comes Will Smith - perfectly cast as a wisecracking Air Force pilot out to kick some serious alien ass.
There are loads of references, from the subtle to the blatant, to keep clued up viewers happy. An Area 51 tech is Brent Spiner (better known as 'Data' in ST:TNG). And now we all know that Wozniak really is God - for the aliens use Apple Macs, right? Of course!
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Innocence (6¾/10) [in French, subtitled]

A strange new place...

...with strange new rules.

This French film is an interesting one indeed.

It's a girls school. An exclusive sort, where the girls dress in white as a sort of uniform. They discover a coffin in their 'house', and a girl opens it. Inside is a young girl. How did she get there?

The girls now swap ribbons. The ribbons in their hair denote their age. Or maybe their class, with red being the youngest and purple being the eldest. The eldest, Bianca (played by Bérangère Haubruge), who we can see in the picture above left, is fair and just and thoughtful. It is her place to explain to the new girl Iris (Zoé Auclair) that this house is their home now. The outside world, essentially, no longer exists. There are some bizarre rules, like the elderly women serving the girls must obey them or be punished... meanwhile most things are forbidden. The campus is a group of five houses and a schoolhouse in a wooded park surrounded by a high wall. To cross the wall is forbidden. To try to escape by way of the lake is forbidden. To follow Bianca at night is forbidden. In fact, there are lots of things that are forbidden. No explanation is given, it just is. This is rather like a parent saying "because I said so".
The whole set-up is, as I mentioned, five houses. We presume the five houses contain five lots of girls in much the same manner as the ones we follow. The other girls appear once in a while, however we mostly follow Bianca's house.
As for the school, there are only two teachers - Mademoiselle Eva (Marion Cotillard) and Mademoiselle Edith (Hélène de Fougerolles). The only other member of staff is the Principal who appears once a year to claim a blue-ribbon as her own. What for? Slave? Toy? Replacement daughter? As with the "forbidden" things, this is another thing that happens. Acceptance is an important feature in the lives of these girls.

This is a film of contrasts. It is beautifully shot, some of the sequences (especially that one of the girls playing in the woods) are sublime. But, yet, there are a number of shots of the children playing around that verge on the pornographic. It is an interesting reminder - recalling that advert that was pulled because "the girl looked too young" - of the difference between cultures and the perceptions of things such as this. I noticed, but it didn't bother me much - in fact for the girls to behave in that way seemed natural given their surroundings... but I can imagine some would find it uncomfortable.

And so the story progresses. A number of things are explained, but sadly if you are looking for neat and tidy endings you should look elsewhere. There are, overall, probably twice as many questions than answers.
Don't let this put you off the film. As a work of art it is impressive. The young cast also do well in their roles. Overall, it's a bizarre story. Once, no doubt, that will have you mulling over an assortment of questions for days to follow.
In French with subtitles.

Is the new girl alive? Note the different coloured hair ribbons.

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Jack & Sarah (8½/10)

From the classics of contemporary British cinema comes this star-laden story featuring Richard E. Grant and Samantha Mathis.
Odd pairing, no? Well it comes about like this. Richard, and his pretty English wife (played by Imogen Stubbs), are preparing for a baby. Only, as she asks to be taken to the hospital he loses his wits and trips down the stairs. It is him that ends up needing the ambulance. When he comes to, the pregnancy is over. It's a beautiful baby girl, but one whose mother will never see. Complications during childbirth, perhaps, it isn't dwelled upon.
Richard goes on a bit of a binge and freak out. Until his parents (Dame Judi Dench and David Swift), and the baby's grandmother (Eileen Atkins) decide it was time for him to get his act together and look after the baby. As part of the arrangement, he needs a nanny, and who better than the nice American girl that used to work in the cafe?
This is a film about relationships. About coping, or not, with loss. About life and death. And about surviving.
If you are used to the likes of Love Actually or Four Weddings And A Funeral, you will probably like this film - however be aware that it is not a comedy. There is a lot of sadness around the comic touches.

The story itself is somewhat formulaic, however the inspired casting Richard E. Grant (who acts well as amazingly self-centred and quite rude) raises a standard story into something more. This isn't a film in which to go all gooey and eat vast quantities of Häagen-Dazs; but perhaps once it is over you'll feel kinda gooey and certainly will find comfort in a tub of ice cream...

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Jackass: The Movie (6/10)

Jackass montage

The big problem with Jackass as a movie is that it is not that much more than a triple-bill of the series. This is, essentially, Johnny Knoxville and friends proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that life is too short to be a jackass. The difference here? They can swear. And maybe try a few more disgusting gags, but given that I first saw Jackass on German MTV just before an uncensored episode of The Osbournes, and that some of the more memorable 'gags' were "let's see how much milk we can drink before we puke" or "let's make an omlette, puking up the ingredients" or "let's swim in effluent and then puke all over our motel room". In case you hadn't guessed, you have to puke a lot to be a Jackass... though perhaps fearing for the wrath of cinema owners and patrons across the country, the puke quota here is lower than I expected.
Instead, we are treated to the gang doing an array of really idiotic things.

Ever wondered what it is like to try to crawl, practically naked, across a room loaded with mousetraps? Ever wondered what it is like to be shot in the gut with a riot bullet? Ever wondered what it would be like to hold a roller disco in the back of a truck swerving all over a car park? They say "enquiring minds want to know", but I'd rather know how they come up with this stuff! I mean, imagine being at the pitch meeting - "hey guys, today one of us will throw ourselves down an aqua-slide closely followed by half a dozen cannonballs". And, being Jackasses, they'll all agree that it's a hell of a good idea.

As you may have guessed from the montage photo, there are a lot of oriental faces. You could perhaps also describe this film as "Knoxville conquers Japan". They send us manga and scary horror films, and in return we in the West send them Kelly Osbourne and Johnny Knoxville. I think we got the better end of that bargain...

So, left to right in the montage...

Then there are the reliable old skating patfalls, or perhaps skating prat falls?

If the Jackass crew want to be real Jackasses, show their manliness, and take on Japan the Japanese way, perhaps a sequel should be them participating in the game "Endurance". That'll deflate their egos somewhat!

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Janghwa, Hongryeon [is listed as "A Tale Of Two Sisters"]


Jason vs Freddy (5/10)

There is a disurbing trend in recent Hollywood scary movies. Completely devoid of decent ideas, and already in the process of "remaking" all the good Japanese horrors, they are stuck for what to do to keep audiences entertained. Then somebody had the bright spark of "if Hello Kitty took on Pikatsu, who would win?". We saw this a while back with the Alien creep versus the Predator creep.

As much as the lead actress is cute (and looks a bit like Brittany Murphy, but isn't), I'm afraid I cannot bring myself to score this anything over a 5. The "Nightmare On Elm Street" movies were interesting on their concept of the sleeping nightmare (in dreamland), while Jason's slashfest was, well, a pretty generic slashfest.
But to base an entire film around pulling Freddy Kreuger out of his dream world so that Jason Voerhees can kick seven shades of .... out of him? That is bordering on insulting, and this is being written by somebody who has willingly (and knowingly) watched Troma Team movies.

Please, producers, can we not have "who can take who" movies? Where will it end? Resident Evil vs The Grudge? Azumi vs Bulletproof Monk? Kiki vs Nausicaä?
Think up some original ideas. For horror films, zombies are usually a safe bet - Romero has a career and half a dozen to his name. There is something cheesy, genuinely creepy, and hysterically funny about the walking dead.

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Jason X (6¾/10)

Defrosted-girl meets robot-girl.

Jason, in all his masked glory.

Yup, it is Jason Voerhees, or however you spell it. The hockey-mask-wearing psycho killer from the long running Friday the 13th franchise.

This time the story is suprisingly watchable despite a totally naff premise. You ready? Some female police woman (or the like?) realises that Jason can't die. So she sets him up to be cryogenically frozen. It all goes wrong, people die, and as Jason is about to bust his way out she hits the big switch freezing him and herself.
Fast forward around four hundred years. Some sort of intergalactic salvage vessel (captained by a slimy money-grabbing creep and staffed by assorted overly attractive students and some army rejects) finds them and they decide it might be a good idea to defrost the pair. Absolutely no prizes for guessing what happens next.

You can pick loads of flaws in the movie (here's a BIG one, semi-spoiler: if the regeneration machine can do that to Jason, how come the army guys died when they died?) but this is one of those movies where the best idea is to just go with the flow. Keep your eye on the female robot girlfriend, she puts in a star turn in the final third. You'll know what I mean!

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Jeepers Creepers II (7/10)

This is an above-average "teen horror" where, essentially, a group of football jocks, assorted cheerleaders, and ancillary people are stranded in a school bus on a deserted road at night. They are trying to escape some sort of winged demon who comes every 23 years to eat people over the course of 23 days (doesn't the number 23 feature in a new (Feb 2007) Jim Carrey film?). The staff (driver, coach, etc) are quickly removed from the picture, so it is the kids on their own. This is a very character-driven film, we actually see less of the demon than might be expected as we get emotionally involved with the kids - some of who believe in sticking together, others who only look to saving their own ass. All the while, not knowing exactly what they are up against.
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Jingle All The Way (4/10)

Arnie will move heaven and earth to get his son that must-have action figure for Christmas, only it is sold out as he left it too late. This could have been an interesting and comic take on our overly consumeristic society and how people are quite willing to sell their souls to get some piece of crap for their kids who absolutely must have it (else their name will be mud within their peer group), only for the 'thing' to be discarded weeks later. I know of this con and I'm not even a parent - I'm sure many a parent would identify with Swarzteneggar's plight. But no. It rapidly becomes an idiotic comedy that even the kids are likely to think is stupid. The ending is difficult to watch - you might want to keep a bucket handy in case you find a sudden need to hork, and as you spew your last twenty meals, don't say I didn't warn you.

Arnie has a good line in self-deprecating humour, exercised with comic abandon in films such as "Last Action Hero" and "True Lies". Oh, goodness, what sold him on the idea that this moronic mess would be funny?

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Johnny Mnemonic (5½/10)

The problem with William Gibson's "cyberpunk" story is that it is mentally descriptive but it does not translate very well to screen. This was the same problem that afflicated "Hackers", in that breaking into a computer is not a great array of cool 3D imagery, but rather something as simple as the character used as the command prompt. Hardly riveting TV!
Here, Keanu Reeves is a courier who loads data into his brain for transporting from one place to another.
The story is set up as follows: The data uploaded into his brain is confidential and some others want it and in the process of trying to get it, they kill everybody (except the courier, who escapes) and the encryption sequence (three pictures) is separated. On the other hand, he exceeded his capacity, which is starting to mess with his brain and if it isn't extracted within 24 hours, it will kill him.
The courier's only hope? An assortment of oddballs and misfits and an armour-plated dolphin.
Having read the original story, it works well as a story and your mind can get right into the plot. This transition to film is somewhat less impressing.
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Ju-on [is listed as "Ju-On: The Grudge"]


ゆお [is listed as "Ju-On: The Grudge"]


Ju-on 2 [is listed as "Ju-On: The Grudge 2"]


ゆお 2 [is listed as "Ju-On: The Grudge 2"]


Ju-On: The Grudge (7½/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

The care worker, Rika, not knowing what she's getting into.

Hitomi, receiving a spooky phone call.

This complex movie may take several viewings. Ostensibly, it is a "haunted house". There is some sort of spirit, a long-dark-haired ghost-white Japanese girl that looks like Japan's idea of a rock chick. Basically, anybody who enters the house is destined to be haunted and bumped off in some way or another. Haunted by a small boy, a weird clicking noise, Dave Lee Travis' beard, whatever.

The problem arises when it seems that all of this is taking place at the same time! Yes, there are links between the stories. I'll give you an example. When the reluctant replacement home-help carer (Rika) is tidying up the house, she overhears a woman leaving a message on the answering machine.
Later on in the film, we see that the woman is the rather attractive Hitomi. Shortly after leaving the house, at night, she stops in the lobby of her building to phone the house and leave that exact same call.
Then there are the schoolgirls, and the ex-policeman, and... I think for the first viewing you should watch it purely for the ambience. Only then, back up the tape and watch it again to try to figure it all out.

It is certainly a complex movie, but not without its merits - for later that year Hollywood remade it, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and using the same director. It wasn't a bad retelling of the story, shifting it to a view of Japan as seen through Western eyes ... love the bit where the woman (Clea Duvall?) goes into a minimart and pokes holes in noodle-cup packs to sniff and see if it is something she recognises!

I am inclined to prefer this version of the film purely because of the seemingly illogical and the creep factor is a lot higher (the Western remake is tamer).
I view it that either it is completely a fruitcake film, or it is a logical film but I've not figured out the link yet. In either case, a horror film that makes me think is a rare thing indeed and well worth the concentration.

In Japanese with subtitles.

Hitomi in the lift, she's passed the creepy kid on three floors so far...

Azumi, another in a long line of people that had a connection with that house....

Additional commentary:
One of the main things to keep in mind is that this film does not occur in chronological order. For example, we begin and end the film with Rika, while hearing of her being found dead on a radio announcement in the middle of the film. This also explains how the little Azumi (the girl with the drawing in the sand) suddenly turns into a teenaged schoolgirl. While the "grudge" is more a curse upon a person than an actual "ghost", it is hard to get out of the mindset of ghosts - especially given that you would then have to asked who or what is the long-haired Japanese girl that decends upon the old woman, and is also seen by Hitomi in the toilets, not to mention snuggling up to a terrified Hitomi while she was hiding in her bed! I am inclined to wonder if this may be a ghost-form of Rika, which could lead on to the possibility that it may have been Rika all along? There are many potential flaws with this idea, but there are just as many with the other ideas I've come up with (and rejected). I suppose it is a hindrance not having seen the first movie, which might explain things, or only cause even more confusion!

Is the spooky ghost-like girl (centre) actually Rika (left/right) in spirit form?

Remember, also, that I am not basing this on a complete version of the film. I have asked a friend (with decent reception) if he can record it for me, so hopefully I'll be able to watch it (for, like, a fifth time!) and perhaps I'll be able to piece it together more clearly. Whatever, this is certainly a deep and complex production.
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Ju-On: The Grudge 2 (6½/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

In a sequel to the original The Grudge film, we follow the adventures of a television crew we decide to enter the house to dispel the myth that the house is cursed. A sort of "Most Haunted" gone terribly wrong.

As with the original, the story follows a person at a time, as opposed to a linear time-line. The problem is that this story, although fairly creepy, isn't a patch on the original. It doesn't have the same menacing atmosphere. It lacks the conundrum of the original, leaving this basically a story where we see a bunch of people who we know will die (everybody that comes into contact with the house do) and all we're waiting for is to see how.
There are the expected creepy portents, and the slight oddity of a character seemingly dying twice, as if the time-lines get a bit muddled up. But in short, I think the problem with this film is that it didn't offer any astonishing surprises (save the event of the final minute, possibly there to link to a part three?). It was, dare I say it, an itty-bit predictable.

Admit it though, we all secretly hope something like this happens to the "Ghosthunting with..." people, especially if some obnoxious boy band is involved...

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Judge Dredd (6/10)

Sylvester Stallone is a "judge" in some future not-exactly-Utopian future (it is based upon a comic strip). He goes around on a daft looking motorbike judging people, dispensing justice. Only something's a little rotten and he becomes the fall guy for some bad stuff going down. Well, look, it's the Rambo guy. The plot is pretty by-the-numbers, but it's an enjoyable ride. Not quite a cool as "Demolition Man", but not bad for a live-action film based on a comic.
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Kaze no tani no Naushika [is listed as "Nausicaä of the Valley of The Winds"]


かぜ の たに の なうしか [is listed as "Nausicaä of the Valley of The Winds"]


Kiki's Delivery Service (9/10) [Japanese animé, dubbed into English]

Even young witches wear Bridget Jones style "scary pants"!

I have no idea where the idea of riding a broomstick came from ... but wouldn't it be cool?

An outstanding studio Ghibli animation that provides a good and hopeful message, unlike many animations made for children (consider the message behind the Road Runner, or Tom & Jerry). A young witch leaves her home for a year, as is expected, to seek out a life in a new place to learn to become a good witch. Only fitting in with a strange culture and finding her place isn't as easy as it seems.
Of the Ghibli animé that I've seen, this is my second favourite (Whisper Of The Heart is my favourite).

Called "Majo no takkyūbin" in Japanese.

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Kung Fu Hustle (8¾/10) [in Mandarin, subtitled]

The caption says it all...

You may see people using the phrase "stylised action". You may even think a movie or two offers such sequences.
Compare them with "Kung Fu Hustle" and you'll probably come to the conclusion that most 'stylised' sequences simply pale, wither, and die... This film is the very definition of the phrase. And, deservedly, one of FilmFour's pick of "Films To See Before You Die".

So what's it about? It's about the inhabitants of a poor district called Pig Sty Alley who are looked after by a mean landlady. In the middle of this comes a clan. A group. A sort-of Yakuza bunch with a whole Blues Brother thing and a fettish for axes.
Not that the inhabitants of Pig Sty Alley are going to take this sitting down. Oh no, their landlady is a far scarier proposition than three versus fifty.

Just do yourself a favour. Don't eat when you watch this. You'll be laughing too much, and it isn't pleasant scraping ejected pizza topping off of the CRT and damn-near impossible to remove it from one of those LCD contraptions.

The French magazine Marie Claire (Juin 2005, #634) had this to say about "Kung Fu Hustle" (click picture for translation):

Kung Fu Hustle review, in French.

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Late Night Shopping (6½/10)

Four friends meet regularly in a café in a city. I think the city is Glasgow, but it's a "generic" city really. Anyway, they meet practically in the middle of the night, for they are shift workers. Shelf stackers. Essentially lazy layabouts who spend a lot of time moaning about how much their life sucks while not having the balls to go anything about it.
The curious girl with the shortish hair is a bit of an enigma. What does she do as a job? I don't think we ever find out. And the others don't seem to know either. That's the odd thing. They know of each other, but they don't really know each other. Yet they'll share all sorts of highly intimate sexual details, all oddly (even more oddly) held together by the shortish-haired girl who is a bit of a font of knowledge. Especially those sticky relationship moment things.
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Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain [is listed as "Amélie"]


League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The [is listed as "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"]


Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (7½/10)

Clever gangster comedy set in London where... Let's see... A guy owes a kingpin some cash, so he plays a high-stakes poker game and loses to the tune of half a million.
Meanwhile a black guy with really freaky hair wants a load of cannabis and the kingpin wants two old shotguns. Through a set of co-incidences, everybody and everything gets all mixed up together.
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Long Kiss Goodnight, The [is listed as "The Long Kiss Goodnight"]


Majo no takkyūbin [is listed as "Kiki's Delivery Service"]


まよ の たくび [is listed as "Kiki's Delivery Service"]


Mallrats (6/10)

I think it says something that Kevin Smith, the creative force and also the "Silent Bob" character, once publically apologised for this movie.

In "Clerks", we kinda hung out with some guys. Got a perspective on life. This is much the same sort of premise, only it takes place in a mall and it is saddled down with a dopey story about trying to get back with their respective girlfriends, and also sabotage a television show being filmed in the mall by girlfriend's evil father. I find this detracts from what could have been an interesting film. We're not so "character driven" as "raging-hormone driven". And, you know, if the guy loves his Sega and his comic books and the girl wants more out of life, it isn't going to work unless somebody changes. Can we believe these guys could change? No! There are various subplots, some of which are rather complicated, and you can see the occasional gem... But not enough to keep the film going.

I am not sure that a public apology is warranted. It is not a good film, but it isn't bad enough to call for an apology unless you are way too self-critical. I like to consider the View Askew time-line roughly as follows: 1. "Clerks", opening an independent outfit to the world and showing that Hollywood's not where it's at, again; 2. "Mallrats", an almost-turkey to show them the error of their ways; 3. "Chasing Amy" to tackle subjects that mainstream cinema don't have the guts to, and reaffirm their indie status; 4. "Dogma" - a sublime film, all else was the road leading up to this, View Askew's finest hour.
Yeah, okay, I guess I should mention the one with the daft title like "Jay & Silent Bob Ride Again" or whatever. There is actually a really smart movie lurking underneath all that stupidity. Shame the stupid gags got in the way of the intelligence...

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Manic (8/10)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (I think that's correct) is perhaps most commonly known for his part in "Third Rock From The Sun", the youngest boy in the group.

Here, he could not have put in a more different performance. As a violent teenager, he finds himself checked into a rehabilitation centre with other troubled kids - and he provides a powerful performance as a deeply troubled brooding teenager on the verge of violent insanity.

There is a notable performance from Zooey Deschannel in this engaging film. In fact, the only criticism I'd throw at this film is the annoying over-abuse of the cinéma vérité "wobblycam" style of filming.

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Mean Girls (7½/10)

When you look in those "What the stars are doing" magazines, and you see what Lindsay Lohan is getting up to, it is difficult to watch this film and think that it's the same girl. For she brings a depth and intelligence to the role that belies her party girl persona.

Essentially this film is an examination of the (stereo)typical American high school. However to make it work, we need to experience it through the point of view of an outsider. For this, Lindsay's character is new. Not only to the high school, but to high schools in general. Previously living with her parents in Africa, and being home schooled, the whole experience is extremely different to what she has been used to.
Fairly soon we discover the usual group of cliques, and an outsider ropes her into becoming a "plastic" (think self-obsessed girls with wishes for augmentation surgery) to infiltrate and dish the dirt. The problem is that everybody seems to have it in for everybody else, and she's suddenly in the middle of a whole mess.
This is an often amusing high school genre movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, yet - thankfully - doesn't lower itself to deliberate gags, except for one Ally McBealism.
The ending is lovely. If only some of the generic high school airheads though of this. But hey, if high school wasn't a battleground, we'd never have had My So-Called Life.

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Microcosmos (7½/10)

While David Attenborough is showing us the majesty of our world, and all the things we know, Microcosmos concentrates on the little things in life. The tiny little bugs, exquisitly filmed to look like giants.
This is a wonderful examination of a diverse world that passes us by.
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Mimi wo sumaseba [is listed as "Whisper Of The Heart"]


みみ を すませば [is listed as "Whisper Of The Heart"]


Mostly Martha (9/10) [in German, subtitled]

Germans... They have a reputation for a whole beach-towel-on-deck-chair thing. That isn't the entire story. I was looking out of the car window in a car park, and a woman was putting the shopping into her car. Tucked into the lining of the boot was a place for the warning triangle. A place for the spare bulb kit. A place for something else (medical kit?). I thought to myself, that car has to be German. Sure enough, it was a Volkswagon. Many years ago, I was taking some stuff from a German friend's place. I asked if she had a box I could put it in. Big mistake! Sabrine basically took her place apart looking for a box. But it had to be the right sized box for the things I wanted to carry. Any old box simply would not do.

Those are two examples of a character trait that I have observed in a number of German people. Where 'good enough' is not good enough. And this is a trait that is very evident in Mostly Martha. The movie is beautiful to look at. It has a pleasing soundtrack (mainly piano/saxaphone), and you can just tell that an awful lot of care and attention went into making this film. In that respect, it has a feel not unlike Amélie, only being German there is a lot of precision to it.

The story itself is gentle. Almost slight, because its subtleties are astonishing. Much is understated, it is almost more about what isn't being said.

This is mostly a character study of Martha (it is German, so say "marta") who is brilliantly portrayed by Martina Gedeck. She has a cosy comfortable life. She is a good chef in a restaurant in Hamburg. She is overly obsessive about her art, so much so that she regularly cooks for her therapist, and anybody else. She genuinely has no idea why her boss has told her that she must see the therapist regularly in order to keep her job. Yes, she's a bit of a fruitcake, but she's nice with it... unless you insult her cooking. Then she makes a bit of a scene.
The next thing she knows, her sister is killed in a car accident and she is given charge of her niece - while trying to find a person in Italy called Joseph (not spelled like that) who should be the girl's biological father.
As you might be able to imagine, she has no idea what to do with this young girl who doesn't want to sleep, doesn't want to eat, and is perhaps more headstrong and stubborn that Martha realises. This, unfortunately for her, is only half of what is about to turn her cosy ordered life into complete disarray.

Through all of it, there are touches of comedy. It isn't a 'heavy' film. Her reaction in the scene where she walks into her kitchen after the meal without plates (Martha: without plates? without plates?!?) is priceless.

It is a shame FilmFour showed this film late at night (once it was on around 11pm, I watched the 1am-3am showing). This film deserves a showing sometime in the 9pm slot. And if FilmFour ever show it at a more accessible time, please do watch it!

In German with subtitles.

REMAKE ALERT! A movie released on Friday 31st August 2007 carried the following description on BBCi: No Reservations Catherine Zeta-Jones stars as a successful chef whose whole life changes when she becomes the guardian to her neice (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin). Sound familiar? I know it is always wrong to prejudge a film (I've not seen it yet), however I'm not sure that CZJ can pull off the delightful quirkiness that made Mostly Martha so much fun...

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Mr & Mrs Smith (6/10)

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are married. Only he is a secret agent and she doesn't know about it... oh, and she is a secret agent and he doesn't know about it. It gets worse, they are secret agents for the same organisation.

Well, they get to find out the truth about each other and realise their married life has been a bit of a lie. There is a lot of sharp dialogue, perhaps preparing the pair for real married life with its ups and downs... but the situations and interactions are so bogus.

There is a final showdown, not surprisingly, and it is beyond belief. The action is well choreographed but there is a serious lack of reality.

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My Cousin Vinny (7/10)

A newly qualified lawyer (Joe Pesci) is defending his cousin on a count of murder in the state of Alabama. Joe exercises perhaps the second most peculiar style of legal defence seen on the television (the winner is Ally McBeal's Richard Fish).

Unfortunately for Pesci, there is a person that regularly steals the scene - and pretty much every scene she's in. This is the character Mona Lisa played by Marissa Tomerie.

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My First Mister (8½/10)

Riding on the darker side of life.

Leelee Sobieieski (I often think she could pass as Helen Hunt's little sister when with her normally blonde hair) is a bit "goth". The whole 'black' outfit (picture above), hates her life, hates her family, passes her time writing her eulogies. Her own eulogies.
One day she meets a salesman, asks for a job and gets laughed at (you know, the whole "silverware all over her face" thing would scare the customers). She gives him a mouthful and stomps off outside. The next thing you know she is being offered a job on the condition that she cleans herself up, looks a little more human, dresses "like a Republican" (tartan pinafore dress, sort of ultra-conservative, picture below).
And, you know, this terribly "anal dude", she starts to fall for him. Maybe a little bit in love, maybe a little bit like the father she never had.
Sounds nice, right?

Sadly for her, this lovely film from Christine Lahti (yeah, the tall blonde smart one from "Chicago Hope") carries us along on a giggly high and then throws down a heck of an obstacle. For it is foolish of us to think that life is that simple, unless we're watching a Disney film, but we aren't...

The always-impressive, if oddly-named, Leelee plays the part perfectly. Just the right side of tragedy and comedy as required. It's a role that is funny, heartbreaking, comic, and tragic. And she does it well, without straying into slushy melodrama and cheapening the whole deal.

Be warned, the 'f' word is used to almost comic excess. But if you are the sort that really does dress "like a Republican", then you might not like the language. Shame, for you'd be missing a great story.

The whole "republican" deal.
Her response to it is quite amusing.

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Napoleon Dynamite (5/10)

The head nerd from a family of weirdos is supposed to find some respect when he helps his friend win the class election. That's what the EPG says.

Thing is, this film not only drags in the middle, but the head nerd (played by Jon Heder) is so far from the norm it is alienating in itself. I mean, I've known nerds at school - I was one. Okay, not the American High School scene... but this guy seems like a freak even to me, only Jon way overplays the nerd card.
I think there is a good idea lurking in this film, and some interesting characters, but it doesn't quite come together. If it's a comedy, why wasn't I laughing?

Hang around for the shortish credits, 'cos there's another few minutes of this film.

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Nausicaä of the Valley of The Winds (7½/10) [animé in Japanese, subtitled]

Nausicaä taking a moment in the deadly forest.
This is actually quite cleverly done to provide a sufficient amount of background info to follow the story.

A giant Ohmu on the rampage. In the foreground is a man riding an ostrich-like creature, towing another one; and Nausicaä on a glider. As you can see, the Ohmu isn't a mere woodlouse!

Princess Nausicaä (say like nah-oosh-ka) is a teenage girl living in a peaceful valley. It is the future - post-apocalyptic. There is a big poisonous forest (Fokai?) spreading through the world to avenge the destruction already created by man, along with giant insects called Ohmu which - creepily - change the colour of their eyes to reflect their moods.
Nausicaä is a warrior and a hunter, and often ventures into the deadly forest to look for things that may be of use. But things are not that simple when a big plane crashes in their valley, and suddenly a warlike nation moves in and takes over with violence. Something the surrounding nature is not so keen on.
It's up to Nausicaä to try to fix the mess...

Called "Kaze no tani no Naushika" in Japanese. In Japanese with subtitles.

Nausicaä meets a little creature.
I think this is one of the best scenes in the entire film.
The wonky colour is my digitiser's fault.

Nausicaä introducing herself.
(to be honest, this pretty much speaks for itself)
((via subtitles!))

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Neko no ongaeshi [is listed as "The Cat Returns"]


ねこ の おがえし [is listed as "The Cat Returns"]


NightWatch (9/10) [in Russian, subtitled]

Extreme driving, Russian style.

You need a mirror to see vampires and
demons when they go into the Gloom.

Well... I sent an email to FilmFour asking for more movies from other parts of the world, and the very next day they showed this. Of course it is just a coincidence, but a very happy one.

How to describe this film? If you can imagine "The Matrix" with vampires instead of geeks, as it would have been directed by Sam Raimi, and starring - obviously - Bruce Campbell, only in Russian... If you can imagine that, then you'll have an idea of what to expect from NightWatch.

Essentially it is the eternal good ('lightwatch') vs evil ('nightwatch') scenario. Into it comes a curse that will not only destroy Moscow, but our very existence. There is also a story of a special chosen one who must make the decision between being good or being evil. It doesn't sound like anything so out of the unusual. What lifts this film above the crowd (and into a 9/10 rating) is the raw energy coupled with some pretty impressive CGI.

That's one of the really interesting ideas in this film...
...even the subtitles are a part of things, and do more
than just provide the expected running translation.
But, as always, no amount of energy and fancy digital trickery can make a bad plot into a good story. This story adds its own little peculiarities to the things you would expect from the genre, and brings together some disparate ideas from related genres. Let's face it - there are certain rules you are expected to abide by if you have 'vampires' (note also the now-obligatory Buffy reference!). There is also a lot of politics taking place in this film (such as the good guys can do certain things that the bad guys cannot). Thanks to this, the ending of the film is not only 'correct' (damn! you don't hear me say that very often), but it would have been very bad had it ended in any other way.

Absolutely a thumbs up! Called "Nochnoy Dozor" in Russian, unless you are of the Padonki persuasion where you might refer to it as "Nochnoj Pozor" (Night Shame) because of a perception that it is too Westernised with the CGI and Hollywood filming style - something I suspect is more political than critical.
Mostly in Russian with subtitles.

Sequel alert! The sequel to NightWatch, called DayWatch, was scheduled (BBCi) for release 2007/10/05. Based, again, on Sergei Luyanenko's horror trilogy, this promises to continue the battle between good and evil against the backdrop of contemporary Moscow. I wonder what part three would be called? AfternoonWatch? DuskWatch? Don'tWatch? ☺

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Nochnoy Dozor [is listed as "NightWatch"]


Лочноы дозор [is listed as "NightWatch"]


Nurse Betty (8/10)

This is, actually, one of my favourite films, containing a lovely performance by Renée Zellweger who is playing an American rather than a constipated Brit.
Basically she's a waitress who is obsessed with a really cheesy daytime hospital drama. After witnessing the rather gruesome demise of her ass-wipe of a husband, she takes off to find her beloved doctor as, well, that reality is a lot better than real reality right now. It is not that simple, i never is. The two hit-men who did her hubby are now chasing her across the country. One of them is Chris Rock, who seems only there to lower the tone somewhat.
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Nutcracker, The [is listed as "The Nutcracker"]


One Missed Call (7/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

It's an intriguing idea for a film... you receive, on your mobile phone, a voice message left by yourself at the moment of your (imminent) death. By ways that are explained in the film, this "curse" is able to hop from phone to phone.

As is fairly typical in Japanese horror films, there's a sort of gleeful enthusiasm for the various 'death' scenes. There's a ghostly long-haired woman with broken bones (must be some sort of Japanese legend, that ghost turns up a lot). And, well, don't expect a neat resolution where all the questions are answered. But you can count on lots of ambience, lots of bulging eyes, and probably an eventual Hollywood remake...

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Opposite Of Sex, The [is listed as "The Opposite Of Sex"]


P'Tang, Yang, Kipperbang! (6½/10)

A heart-warming coming-of-age drama about a British schoolboy in the post-war era (1948, to be exact) who is not certain what he wants more - for England to win The Ashes (the big cricket prize), or to kiss the nice girl in his class (played by Abigail Cruttenden - how's that for a good old English name?).

There are numerous nice touches in this film, such as the 'cricket commentary' providing a narration to the boy's actions. My favourite scene in the film is somewhere in the middle when it all goes wrong for him, and he walks home smacking himself across the head with his satchel. Been there, done that! (but not for the same reasons)

As for the bizarre name of the film, it is apparently something that the boys said to each other. One would say, in a deep voice, "P'tang, yang, kipperbang, uh!" and the others were supposed to return likewise. He that didn't was probably "class twit" for the day. We did things like that at school, but I don't remember what our phrases were - they changed frequently to see how 'in' you were - because using an outdated response was sometimes worse than not knowing the response. I tended to make up my own, but hey, I was never ever going to be "the cool kid".
Some of the dialogue is interesting also, such as the girl asking "May I have bags of hush, please?". I didn't think people said stuff like that except in Enid Blyton books, though I must admit the quaint late-40s version is a heck of an improvement over the "Shut the .... up!" you'd be likely to hear today.

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Pan's Labyrinth (9/10) [in Spanish, subtitled]

It's a difficult time. Spain in the Franco Fascist era. It is especially difficult to be a little girl when your stepfather is some important military bloke and your mother is buddies with the rebels, and you've been carted off to this house in the back of nowhere. Really, it is not surprising that she retreats into a fantasy world. What is surprising is how deep and complex this fantasy world is. Indeed, it is as if this world is much more real than the 'real' world.
The little girl is to be a princess, or something. Whatever, in order to show herself worthy of her inheritance, she is assigned three tasks by a creepy fawn. In fact, a lot of this movie has a dark tone to it, it sure as heck isn't "The Princess Diaries". This, I guess, isn't surprising. I've yet to see a film set in Franco's Spain that was in any way happy - The Voice Of The Beehive certainly wasn't.

I shall say no more, except that there is quite an ending. You might want to video this so you can back up the tape and watch it again. What may appear to be at first isn't necessarily what is.

In Spanish with subtitles.

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Passion Of The Christ, The [is listed as "The Passion Of The Christ"]


Persona (7/10) [in Swedish, subtitled]

Filmed in black and white, this is a long bizarrely-edited and somewhat rambling examination of the world seen through the eyes of two people. Sister Alma, who learns a lot about who she is and isn't, and the mute actress Elisabet, and lots of smoking and stark Swedish scenery - all the more stark in the harshness of grainy monochrome.

In a way, and to really understand the interaction of the two women and the denouement, this film is not unlike a live-action psychology case study; however the rampant introspection is not just within the story, it explodes into the numerous bizarre sequences within the film itself. This film could almost be described as a film within a film. Perhaps the most striking two things are the bookends, and also the incredibly sparse sets. There is little here to distract from the central troubled heart of the movie. The two women.

This certainly won't be to everybody's tastes, however I recomend that you watch it just so you can say that you have, and form your own geniune opinion of it. This is a deep work, indeed a masterpiece, from Ingmar Bergman, so be sure you can say "I know that film!" if ever it crops up in a conversation!

In Swedish with subtitles.

Additional commentary:
Elisabet is put into the care of Sister Alma, and because Elisabet is not talking - perhaps due to some sort of trauma - pretty much all of the dialogue is from Sister Alma. At first she talks the usual sort of pleasantries, but as time goes on she becomes more and more personal. Perhaps this culminates with a truly erotic sequence in when she reveals a long remembered day at the beach. There is no sex. No graphic pictures. Only dialogue, or in our case a foreign language with subtitling. Either way, it is up to our imaginations to blank out the picture and substitute our own imagery. This is, perhaps, one of the most powerful uses of the cinematic media. It isn't about knowing what to show and how much soft-porn you can get away with; but instead going for the hardcore and doing it without showing anything erotic.
But still, after all of this dialogue and all of these admissions, Elisabet is still silent. This begins to frustrate Sister Alma. In essence it is turning into a battle of wills between the two woman. There is a lot of juxtaposition between the two in the cinematography. Perhaps the most interesting revelation is the letter from Elisabet to her doctor that Sister Alma reads. It suddenly throws into question who exactly is analysing who - the medic helping her patient, or a character study by the actress, or something different yet?
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Phone Booth (7¾/10)

Phone Booth is a masterpiece of filmmaking. A phone rings, it could be anybody. But a ringing phone must be answered. And so, sleazy PR man (played by Colin Farrell) is at a payphone ringing the young girl (Katie Holmes) who he is cheating on his wife with, only he is surprised - and none too happy - about having a pizza delivered to the booth. Moments later the phone rings, and it is a creepy voice (Keifer Sutherland) who has serious issues with his issues. As the voice says, the sound of a rifle being cocked is scary. So it is done for effect, just to let the PR guy know he can't wiggle out of this one, and running away would be kinda futile. Set, for the most part, in a phone booth in some nowhere street in New York, and pretty much playing in real time, this film is not only technically impressive but should also remind us all that if a payphone is ringing - walk on by...
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Player, The [is listed as "The Player"]


Primal Fear (7/10)

Sounding like one of the Saturday Night Shocks films, this is actually a tense courtroom drama between Richard Gere as the most self-possessed arrogant "I won't be wrong" lawyer going, and Laura Linney as the state prosecution adversary. It all revolves around a young man accused of murdering a well-known priest. Into it come all the Catholic Clichés - abuse of power and money and sex. The accused swears there must have been somebody else that did the crime as he loved Father What'sHisName and anyway he blacked out. The prosecution aren't convinced. And here follows a story with quite a number of twists and turns...
It's just a shame that Gere is so good at playing such an objectionable character.
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Princess Mononoke (7¾/10) [Japanese animé, dubbed into English]

Running at over two hours, this powerful animation from Hayao Miyazaki blends Japan from around the 14th century (rural communities and Samaurai, but this isn't a history lesson) with a strong Eco message. While Nausicaä was post-apocalyptic, this time we go back in time, however there are quite a number of similarities between the two.

A young boy, a prince, is 'infected' by a demon hog. He is cast out from his community and vows to find the spirit responsible and lift the curse. His dream, a peace between the humans and the forest. Only the humans would rather kill the heart of the forest to tame it and the forest dwellers would rather kill all the humans as they think it'll make their problems go away. And this mess is what our prince walks in to.

This film, it's powerful animation, and a good dub job (including the voices of Minnie Driver and Claire Danes...) come together for an engaging film. And maybe a lesson that more of us should pay attention to, instead of our continual hunt for our own forest demons (the so-called "War On Terror", itself an oxymoron of impressive proportions).

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Renaissance (7/10)

They weren't kidding about it being black and white!

A visual tour-de-force, this 'animation' is based upon real actors and extensive computer modelling, all rendered down to black and white. Literally, that is is. Black, white, and from time to time a mid grey.
Set in a near-future Paris, we follow a detective as he investigates the kidnapping of a woman that worked for a powerful cosmetics company. Power, sleaze, tech, this is like a classic film noir detective story crossed with "Blade Runner"; but, having been stripped of colour and most of the shades of reality, it demands attention, if you are to follow it well.
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Resident Evil (7/10)

Isn't this a movie adaption of a computer game?
After a computer apparently glitches and wipes out plenty of staff members, office worker types, we see Milla Jovovich dressed in a flimsy red number and ass-kicking boots. That sounds suspect, so it isn't a surprise when moments later commandos storm the building.

It isn't really giving much away to say that the mansion is a cover for an operationg called The Hive which is a massive secret underground complex underneath Rhubarbville (not quite, but the name isn't much better). So Milla, the military types, and some other people descend into the complex to try to shut down the computer, and battle the living dead.

There are some lovely touches to this film, and it has some big-budget effects, however we can't overlook a somewhat cheesy pre-ending (the bit before the ending, you'll know the bit I mean) and the fact that zombies make me giggle. There's just something really funny about them. And, of course, we can't overlook the cliché of "small group of people enter a seemingly deserted complex", how often has that cropped up?

I can tell you this is a cut above the normal zombie movies, and several magnitudes above some zombie flicks - offering graphics and action scenes and a rock soundtrack. In fact, calling it a zombie flick might even be insulting, as the undead are only part of a wide array of sci-fi adversaries.

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Rita, Sue,and Bob too (7½/10)

From an uninitiated point of view this may be seen as a sexual romp between a bored adult and his two teenage babysitters. However, this may be really only something that can be understood by somebody who went through the eighties in England.
In fact, the opening shot pretty much sets the scene for the entire movie. A long tracking shot following a drunk man home, to some awful brick council flat, where he passes a girl in school uniform who picks up her friend in a house inhabited by messy bikers, and together they go to Bob's house. Bob has money. His house is big. But it is essentially a brick building like the ones the girls live in.
Hours later, Bob offers to drive the girls home. On the way, he explains some of the birds and the bees speech to the girls - who are interestingly streetwise and naïve at the same time. So with little more prompting, and lots of moaning, the girls get right to it. A married adult bonking the brains out of two young teenagers. It would be highly sordid and offensive if it wasn't so amusing.
That's the thing with this film. It is a scathing attack on a Thatcherite Britain, yes, but there is plenty of subtle comedy. You are expected to make your own conclusions as to the purpose and the message. The film doesn't lower itself to lecturing you.
You can't really be angry with Bob, his life is essentially pointless and isn't being helped by his bitchy frigid wife. And you can't be angry with the girls, they are sworn at and pushed around at home, they probably don't even know that there are laws against what they are doing.
Perhaps the most ironic thing is that you may, from reading this, feel that the poor girls are the victims. This isn't so. There is such a casualness to the girls being "gagging for it", and Bob being "gagging for it" along with the sheer balsiness of the girls, that we're never actually sure if the girls are using Bob or if Bob is using the girls. It is a theme that goes on and on through the course of this film.
The ending, certainly, is one of the more curious endings. It says nothing while saying everything.

Perhaps this generic northern council estate is a little be too clean. Depressing, yes. But also quite clean, perhaps too new looking? This may be part of the effect. Part of the taking the disenfranchised people and squashing them all together to be ignored. It is also interesting to notice the films depiction of "pakis", which is somewhat stereotypical yet somehow in keeping with the time, though quite unlike the England I left in 2003.
My only other criticism is that the eighties was apparently the era when girls all wore court shoes (some call them 'pumps', though I don't know why they're called that). A lot of girls walk around in this film, and there are plenty of hollow plasticky scraping noises from their shoes... either that or the foley team only had one pair of shoes to do everybody's sound effects!

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Romeo + Juliet (7¾/10)

The official title is "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet", but I refuse to write this as it is really Baz Luhrmann's take on the infamous story. I'm not sure quite what The Bard will have made of the hoodlums and the gunplay, but overall I like to think he would have approved.
It's a visually powerful treat, if you can stomach the NYPD Blue style of filming. It is emotionally raw, stylised beyond description, and the characters even deliver their dialogue in Shakspearean cadance - albeit with American accents which really sounds quite bizarre.

For those, like me, who were bored rigid at school with the pretentious crap that Shakespeare wrote (see, I'm a philistine really!), this is a good modern introduction to his work. For his stories are simple, powerful, and timeless. All Baz has done (I say, making it seem like anybody could do it!) is taken the tragic story of two doomed lovers and given it an ultra-modern setting; yet managed to remain quite faithful to the heart of the story.
I suppose the dialogue delivery is a bit of a gimmick really, but to be fair, speaking the lines like that raises this movie above the sort of B-movie tosh that might otherwise have been playing in theatre two (while everybody was watching something good in theatre one), for the basic story has been done many times over. Romeo + Juliet itself has been done many times over, though perhaps never as memorably as The Troma Team's sick offering. By retaining the delivery, pacing it all at a rather MTV-generation speed, and bringing in two class actors (Leonardo DiCapitated and Claire Danes), Baz has created something rather special.

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Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion (7/10)

Mira Sorvino (with a strange accent) and Lisa Kudrow provide a good reason why it isn't worth going to school reunions unless you've made it big... and if you are dumb enough to go, don't pretend to be a success! And most of all, don't make the mistake of expecting people to be like you remember them.
Look out, also, for a great performance from Janeane Garofalo.
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Rules Of Attraction (4/10)

The split-screen, hitting rock bottom on the left...

On the left, Winona Ryder crossed with Angelina Jolie?
On the right, a Tara Reid wannabe?

In retrospect, as I write this, having just watched this movie, I am lost for positive things to say about it...
Back in the '80s, a well known group of Brat Packers would make movies such as "The Breakfast Club", "Mystic Pizza", and perhaps even "Pump Up The Volume".
A decade later, in the '90s, a different group of well-known performers would make movies such as "Reality Bites", "Bodies, Rest & Motion", and "Dazed And Confused" (which is set back in the '70s but carries the same themes).
A decade later still, we see the teen angst genre max out. Loads of sex, drugs, and drink - it is like an 18 rated version of "American Pie", only with no jokes whatsoever.

Who the hell are these people? There is only one that I recognise - James Van Der Beek, perhaps known for being all 'deep' in "Dawson's Creek". Leading girl 1 is a cross between Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie and leading girl 2 is a Tara Reid wannabe. Somewhere along the way we see Faye Dunnaway. Seriously! I don't know what possessed her to do this.
They, along with some other people, are at a college. Introspective self-obsessed voice-overs are desperately trying to give some sort of emotional meaning to the shagging, the toking, and the widespread alcohol abuse. I'm surprised these guys know what Mid Terms are, never mind attain a decent score.
Or to put it more bluntly, if this is any sort of realistic depiction of American college life, it isn't really surprising that every so often somebody Goes Postal with a semi-automatic. Furthermore, if this lot were slain in a hail of bullets, you probably wouldn't even be surprised. You'd figure "whatever" and enjoy the subsequent adverts more than the film itself.

The EPG says "captures the American Generation X of disaffected, self-centred teens". Not quite. ☺ The proper definition of "Generation X" is the late twenty-somethings, so called because those who are disaffected and still haven't found their niche do not actually have an identity. They are the 'Generation X'. Perhaps this blurring of Xers and teens is in part due to the American obsession for casting older players as teens. It was okay me liking the High School girl called Willow in Buffy because, well... because Alyson is actually my age, not half my age. So maybe when you get a 27 year old playing a 15 year old, it becomes difficult to clearly define the Generation X. These guys aren't Generation X, they are Generation Who-Gives-A-$#!7.

There are a number of innovative touches to this film. The first backwards scene (unwinding from one character to go and follow another) is cute, but it quickly gets annoying. At least they kept with the theme and ran the credits backwards - the only thing in the entire movie that brought a smile to my face. Then there is the split-screen. A bit 24ish perhaps, it allows us to follow two actions taking place at one time. If I thought Van Der Beek getting it on with another bloke was bad enough, they really hit rock bottom with him sitting on the toilet wiping his butt, followed not too long afterwards by a close-up of him picking his nose.

I'm not a prude - I am not 'offended' by sex and drugs. It is just that this seemed to be the principle raison d'être of these characters. Take that away, they'd all drop out. Unlike, say, "Reservoir Dogs", where these things are a part of the characters and help define who the characters are.
There is, of course, a specific reason I quote a Tarantino movie. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to make the connection.

It is here that we come to the principal problem. Time and again I have said that the key to a good movie is an emotional involvement with the characters. For if there are no glossy stunts or Japanese chicks to look at, no CGI aliens, and no gravity-defying samurai action - why the hell would you watch a film where you could care less about any of the characters? The best films have solid three-dimensional characters. They are likable in "Driving Miss Daisy" and not so likable in "Misery", but in both cases you are compelled to get involved in the story. Even in the complete opposite, "Battle Royale", you wanted to follow the characters - root for your favourites and see if they make it, and if not, how far they got. So back to Rules Of Attraction... the characters were just... annoying. Always high or drunk or getting laid, often all three at once. I guess I should have known right in the beginning during what is effectively a rape (only the girl is too drunk to care) when the man vomits in her hair mid-sex, I guess I should have known to change the channel and watched "Dead Poets Society" on BBC One, again.
I'm not one of these people who is going to whinge pitifully about "losing two hours of my life" like some sad sorry folk on IMDb, after all it is taking yet more time to write this. What I hope to do, at least, is save you wasting your time watching this when there is something better on. Or maybe you'll figure watching anyway to see why I disliked it. Whatever, I won't say I told you so. Life's too short to carry on with this already overly-verbose review...

In closing I shall say only this. The director, Roger Avary, has perhaps done his best with the material. It's from a Brett Easton Ellis novel (according to the EPG), so was this a bad film or a bad story to begin with. Whatever, I don't care. But don't dismiss Avary on the basis of this one film. For a Generation X bank heist caper with people we have heard of, including the sublimely lovely Julie Delpy. Yup, it is none other than "Killing Zoe". How about it, FilmFour?

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Run, Lola, Run (6½/10) [in German, subtitled]

Franke Potente (the "Bourne Identity" girl, also recently on FilmFour in Creep), runs.
A lot.
The premise is simple. She with the violent red hair has to get a load of cash (100,000DM, no idea what that is in Euros) from one side of town to the other, in a matter of minutes.
But no way is life that simple. And no way is this film that simple. Just when something quite shocking happens, it goes all existential and starts analysing "what if I had done this instead"... and it spirals out to look at the side-effect of changes of people that aren't even really involved in the plot.

As with Mostly Martha, it is a damn shame that FilmFour seem to like putting these foreign subtitled films on when only the dead will be watching. This one was on about half one in the morning (British time; half two French time). What was I doing up that late? Pressing the "timed record" button on my VCR, that's what!

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S1M0NE (6/10)

The premise is great: When a failing director falls out with his bitchy female star, as she walks off the set he decides to create a star, digitally. A virtual star. But then she becomes a hit and attains a life of her own.
Dustin Hoffman has probably never been geekier, or crazier.
The problem? The reason for the 6/10 rating? The final reel. One could say a syrupy-sell-out ending, as, like with "Falling Down", they didn't quite have the balls to take this to its proper logical conclusion.
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Save The Last Dance (6/10)

Julia Stiles is a talented ballet dancer. After the death of her mother, she moves to an apartment in the inner city with her father. After finding her feet, she is encouraged to resume her dancing, but in a style that is a little more 'street'. We should have had a bit more of Julia dancing.
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School Of Rock (9/10)

Precotious girl "Summer".

This film rocks! I know, I know, it's a bad pun, but it is true.
Jack Black lives the rock life and believes the whole rock ethos, dreams the dream, etc... but he is in a no-hope band. He has a creative difference and they push him out. So there he is, stuck in an apartment with his brother and bitchy girlfriend. She wants him to be like his brother and get a job, so one day when the phone rings and it is a school looking for a substitute teacher, he tells a little fib by assuming his brother's identity. That way, he can do a silly job, and get paid for it.
So he takes a class of 11 year olds, and introduces them to the fight "against the man" much to the disgust of one 'perfect' little girl who wants to know if they'll be graded on that stuff, never mind whether or not they'll get merits or gold stars. When Jack discovers the kids have some musical talent, he has an idea. Form a rock band!
This is a great movie with Jack Black being a kid again, while some kids learn to rock. There is a brilliant performance by Joan Cusack as the frumpy neurotic school principal.
It might sound like I'm clipping the story just as it is starting to get interesting. That's right. To do otherwise would be a 'spoiler'. Watch the movie!
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Secretary (9/10)

Maggie Glyenhaal
Scanned from a paparazzi shot in a magazine.A disturbed young woman (played to psychotic perfection by Maggie Gyllenhaal, left) is looking for her first job. So she becomes a secretary for a power-happy man (James Spader) who is a lawyer by career and a pervy weirdo freak by nature. And, oh my God, has he ever bitten off more than he can chew with the insane dedication and equal perviness of his new secretary.

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a straight 'dark' film, or a sophisticated comedy that doesn't do us the disservice of pausing for laughs. Perhaps it is my sick sense of humour, but I giggled through this film. It was wild, it was weird, it was wicked. And there I'll stop as I think people that describe things using the word 'wicked' (unless talking about evil stepmothers) are twits, but there are only so many 'w' words I can think of at any one time.

This is definitely not one for the kids or the weak minded, what with the self-harm and what the EPG description says are "strong sexual scenes"... comic, more like! Anyway, it's an 18 cert with some heavy stuff.
The rest of us? I suspect you'll either hate it and bitch about how you lost two hours of your life, or you'll find yourself backing up the video tape to give it a deserved second viewing...

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Serial Mom (9½/10)

The daughter, "Misty", played by Ricki Lake.

The family.

Kathleen Turner is on great form here as a wholesome-beyond-apple-pie mom (moreso even than The Brady Bunch!). The clothes must match correctly, no flies in the kitchen, and recycling is a necessity. If you contravene her sense of Perfect Family Values, she'll bump you off with a smile on her face; a fact that is slowly dawning on her family (including Ricki Lake, yes as in the bouncy brunette with the really weird chatshow on ITV daytime - picture above left) and friends. This is a wonderfully subtle satire on modern family values and the media obsession with things like serial killers. This sounds a bit like Natural Born Killers, only this film verges on the comedy and a finely honed sense of taking the piddly. Here's an example - the cute girl that is the girlfriend of the son is called "Birdie" (picture lower left). In real life her name is Patricia Dunnock, and a Dunnock is a type of bird. There are many little throwaway details like this that really flesh out the movie. There is also a bizarre cast including Suzanne Somers sending herself up wonderfully, and Patricia Hearst (um, as in THAT Pattie Hearst?!?).

This film was made by Baltimorean John Waters who has made some extremely surreal and, frankly, sick films - a obsession with a "300 pound transvestite" called Divine, who in one movie she eats doggie doo in one take from dog to mouth (I defy you to watch that without feeling your stomach lurch). He started to become somewhat more mainstream with "Hairspray" (also with Ricki Lake), then a more wandery but more polished "Cry-Baby" (oh, look, Ricki Lake again!) starring Johnny Depp. Here, in "Serial Mom", Waters hits the big-time. A film that is, okay, heavy on the obscenities, but with a brilliant sense of humour that can be appreciated by anybody who doesn't buy into the whole "sweet in suburbia" routine. This is a lot less disturbing than David Lynch's creations because, down at heart, we know this probably couldn't happen. But maybe it could. And maybe it would turn out something like this. (the Lynch disturbance is we know his stuff is probably already happening)

The film broadly falls into three acts. The first, Mom goes around dishing out justice including an amusing phone conversation. The second act, mom carries on, only this time the family (and the inept cops) are starting to get a clue. The third, beautiful. I can't say more as it would let you know what is coming. Suffice to say that if I was to collect a selection of "memorable quotes" from this movie, it'd fill some sides of A4.

Above right we can see the family. Look at it. Boring car. Mom (Kathleen Turner) wearing a conventional dress and court shoes. Can't you imagine her part-timing for a "realtor"? Next is Dad (Sam Waterston). Fitted suit and tie. He would work "in the city" doing... who knows what the hell these city workers actually do. Corporate banking? Possibly. Then there are the 2.4 children beginning with Chip (Matthew Lillard). He's got the hots for Birdie, gets into horror movies, and plays at being a little bit bad, a little bit rebellious. But he isn't really. If mom said "stop", he'd stop. This leaves us with the oddly named Misty (Ricki Lake). Buckle-up shoes, flowing dress and alice-band, she is dressed rather like a girl half her age ought to be. Actually, I think she wears a hair-band of some description in every scene she's in, so I guess she is supposed to be "cute" and "fluffy". That reporter bloke certainly likes her.
So there you have the family.

My final recommendation - tape this. If you don't know why I scored it a 9.5, give it a few days then watch it again. Look for all the detail you missed first time around. For a surreal send-up of suburban life gone horribly wrong, it probably won't be possible to top this film...

"Birdie", played by Patricia Dunnock.

Scary goings-on on the streets of Baltimore.

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Shaolin Soccer (7¾/10) [in Cantonese, subtitled]

Normally I avoid football-themed movies like the plague as I, personally, think football is the most God-awful game in existance. This has much to do with political aspects - from burger chains advertising World Cup tie-ins with slogans like "for the most important five weeks of your life", all the way to that dimwit that married the ex-Spice dimwit and being paid obscene amounts of money to go stateside and show them how it's done the non-wussy way. Seriously, if I thought the World Cup was the most exciting five weeks I was ever going to see, I'd yank the lead out of the back of my computer and shove it in my mouth and drool on it until my head exploded.

(that said, won't there be another World Cup in around four years? I guess it won't be at all exciting, 'cos you've already done your most exciting five weeks, right?)

As you can guess, I'm no fan of football. Or soccer. Whatever you want to call it. I watched this film purely for seeing how it would develop. I know that Oriental action films are the first to throw the laws of physics out the window, and to pay scant regard to that irritation called gravity. And this film sure doesn't disappoint.
Actually, it reminds me a lot of those weird over-long Indian films. A little bit of everything. Singing, dancing, love, loss... only here we also have lots of football done Kung Fu style. I'll tell you what, this lot aren't going to lie on the pitch bawling their eyes out if they lose.

Loads of CGI, a slapstick sense of humour, and some of the oddest characters you'll see outside of a Coen Brothers film. Awesome!

It is perhaps unusual in that the film is in Cantonese, while it was made in Hong Kong, which I think is a Mandarin speaking area...

Called "Siu Lam Juk Kau" in Cantonese (and "Shao Lin Zu Qiu" in Mandarin). In Cantonese with subtitles.

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Sherrybaby (7/10)

Maggie Gyllenhaal seems to have a knack for unusual parts, and here she's an ex-con ex-dopehead who is released on parole and discovers that making up with her daughter is going to be one heck of a struggle because it seems all the world is against her. Apparently billed as a dark comedy, this film is actually agonisingly tragic. Heartbreaking, and not in the good "awwww" kind of way. If you are alone and you plan on watching this, put a rescue kit aside - a stuffed animal and tub of ice cream. You'll need it as the credits roll.
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Siu Lam Juk Kau [is listed as "Shaolin Soccer"]


Sleepy Hollow (7/10)

Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci battle the forces of darkness, evil old women, and headless horsemen at the turn of the 19th century and, from time to time, faint, in Tim Burton's creepy film... but then, Tim Burton and creepy are fairly synonymous.
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Snakes On A Plane (6½/10)

Samuel L. Jackson, always a strong performer, puts in the goods for this disaster movie that, frankly, needs little explanation. He is an FBI agent (or some sort of law enforcement) escorting a prime witness on a commercial flight. In order to take him out without being on the plane, the unmentioned 'bad guys' put a lot of highly venomous snakes into a cargo hold, along with some chemical that makes them go wild. The rest is pretty obvious - people trapped in a tiny tin can with loads of really nasty snakes on the loose...
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Speed (8/10)

As Wes Craven said in Scream 2, sequels are almost always inferior to the original film. Okay, there are exceptions, but it is generally true as a rule. Lucky for us, then, that FilmFour is showing the original.

Basically, our man Keanu Reeves is waging a fight against a crazed bomber (Dennis Hopper). The film starts with a bunch of office workers in some generic LA skyscraper trapped in a lift (sorry, "elevator"!) rigged with explosives. The bomber wants three million quid (three million? only three million?!?) or he'll blow the lot and everybody will die.
Now this on its own could be a movie. But, not here. It's only the opening explanation in Speed. For in moments Keanu and his aging partner (Jeff Daniels) have rigged the lift long enough to get everybody out of it and save the day. As you can imagine, Hopper is not a happy bunny, so he goes out with a bang, fade to black, end of film.

Well, not quite, that was just the opener. Keanu is downtown doing something mundane and boring when a rapid-transit bus explodes into a nicely overstated fireball. A nearby payphone rings. It's our bomber. He is really annoyed now, and as vengence, he has rigged another bus with a bomb that will kick in when the bus passes 50 miles per hour (80kph) and will blow if the speed drops below that.

You might think doing a steady fifty in LA is a breeze if you're used to Beach Boys vids and songs such as "I Love LA". Truth be told, it is like any other city. Even the motorways jam up, whether it be the Rennes "Rocade" périphérique or the M25 "London Orbital"; so merely keeping the bus doing 50 is an exercise in nerves, self-control, and plenty of insurance claims. Along the way, the bus driver is shot by a freaked passenger, so it is up to Sandra Bullock to drive the bus. Luckily her licence was pulled, for speeding...
It's not over yet. There's the little issue of doing something about that bomb.

The plot is, let's face it, pretty silly and way OTT. But it doesn't matter. The characters are multidimensional and not the usual action movie stereotypes. There is an intelligence, and a dark humour to the script (like when the lift bombs blow, we briefly cut to two cops in the lobby - one says to the other "Usually they fall down now"). And if the witty banter doesn't move you, you simply cannot deny the action. It rarely lets up. Even the quiet moments are building for the next big thing. Forget Die Hard and all that Segal EcoWarrior Crap, this is how to make an action movie!

Word of advice - once the whole bus thing is done with, don't get up to pee or make a pizza... there's more. Oh yes! This film doesn't let up until the credits roll and all you'll wanna do is go watch paint dry to get over it all!

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Sum Of All Fears, The [is listed as "The Sum Of All Fears"]


Suspiria (7¾/10)

Dario Argento's masterpiece is easily summarised - a young aspiring ballet dancer goes to a boarding school in Germany that just happens to be run by witches. Simple synopsis, and that is probably about all you'll get by way of plot. But the reason this film is famous is not for the plot, or the acting, or the dubbing job that is so dodgy I suspect it might be intentionally bad. No, this film is not for the discerning critic, but it is totally a film for somebody who wishes to switch off their analytical side and soak up one of the most atmospheric things committed to film. Revel in the colours, especially those deep blood reds. Oogle the girls, who are mostly a captivating blend of cute and skanky. Don't worry too much about the dialogue, half of it doesn't make much sense and the other half is drowned out by the ground-breaking soundtrack by The Goblins (you'll know what I mean after watching).
And, for your special extra bonus, see how many little influences you can spot in other films of the genre.
Sometimes a film isn't to be watched, it is to be experienced. Suspiria is a perfect example.
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Switchblade Romance (6/10) [in French, subtitled]

Two French girls go to spend a weekend at the family house of one of the girls, out in the country. From nowhere, a sick evil man drives up and begins what will turn into a relentless violent slaughter.

This starts off a sophisticated film which quickly dispatches the unwanted characters and throws the two girls into the desired situation - one in trouble and one trying to find some way to extricate them both from the mess. It could have been a great friendship movie...
But... well, that is when it all starts to fall apart and we begin to wonder what psychosis we, the viewer, have been thrown into.

Called "Haute Tension" (High Tension) in French. In French with subtitles.

Additional commentary:
One thing that I really dislike in movies is when they drop a clanger on you like the one in this movie - exactly who is the Big Bad here, and yet leave no possible explanation for the way we saw things develop up until the crunch point.
The movie plays with our minds and perception, yet totally fails to explain certain things. I think the very last scene is trying to tell us that the manky guy and the sex-obsessed girl were one and the same. Okay, so why was the girl hiding from him, under the bed? How could she be trying to bust out of the van when he was driving? How did they arrive in two separate vehicles? Who did she clobber the hell out of? I think this movie is trying to be 'sophisticated', and yet that "wow factor" just remains slightly out of reach...
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Taxi Driver (7½/10)

Robert De Nero is an honourably discharged marine who can't sleep. So he decides to work nights as a taxi driver.
Instantly we are propelled into the slimy underbelly of the city of New York, and in this environment De Niro festers like an open wound. The whores and pimps on 42nd, and the bizarre photography where it seems as if we are expected to think that rejection and lonliness are even more distrurbing to the soul than the violence, and - I think - to understand this is to start to understand why Travis Bickle (De Niro) behaves the way that he does.
This film may not be to everybody's tastes - the music score and the scenarios lead us slowly so slowly into the film, it being punctuated every so often by an assortment of crazy people. Along with the occasional narration, we just know that something is going to happen. Like, "Carrie", its a slow burn leading up to...

One of the main points of this film, and the guiding light of where we are going here is not only the pain of lonliness, but also the isolation and the rejection. It is what defines Bickle, it is what defines the film. To a degree, it defines all of us at some time or another, unless we've lived coddled lives. Some people see this as a strong vision of hell, others see this as a cold unredeeming psychopath. I would imagine it depends a lot on whether or not you 'get' that sense of isolation. Whether you feel you've been there, however briefly.
One of the most often quoted phrases is "You talkin' to me?". It makes a lot more sense than a cool quote when you see it in context, when you realise the next line is "Well I'm the only one here" and he is talking to a mirror.

Outstanding performance, not only from De Niro, but also from a young Jodie Foster.

I found it interesting that it said right at the end of the credits "An Italo-Judeo Production".

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The Blair Witch Project (6/10)

While this is not the film that pioneered the shakey-cam style (French cinéma vérité has been doing it for decades), this is undoubtably the one that took it that stage further and not only popularised the horror movie genre, but kicked the big Hollywood system for a low-budget independent film did extremely well. It has been followed by loads of rip-offs and a rather lacklustre sequel.

The plot? As if you don't already know! Okay, there are a bunch of students making a documentary film about a local legend in Burkittsville, Maryland. Pagan effigies, endless woods, and adolescents running around in a panic. You'll either love it, or hate it. But it is definitely not for those who get dizzy watching ER...

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The Brady Bunch (6½/10)

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

The Bradys probably need no introduction - it'd be like introducing The Addams Family. For those stuck in even more of a time warp than this family, there's a woman with three daughters and a man with three sons. They met, married, and had a family with 6.0 children.
Almost annoyingly, this movie has the sort of sentiments as a family-friendly film on one of the 'christian' channels - you know the sort, the 'bad boys' are good, teenage pregnancies and alcoholism are unknown concepts, nobody drives faster than 50 and they always wear seatbelts - so we can perhaps guess that Mr. and Mrs. Brady are widowers and not divorcees. Whatever.

This family is not only vomitatiously squeaky-clean, they are also stuck in a '70s time warp. Back when fashion was bad and hair worse. They find out that they need to come up with $20,000 in tax money or else they'll be kicked out of their house by greedy, slimy, land developers. So they have to think of a Very Brady solution. There have been a number of attempts to mix 'then' with 'now', usually unsuccessfully. This is where the Bradys come into their own. They aren't ripping off the styles of the '70s for effect, they are genuinely living as if the '80s and '90s never happened to these guys. Gee, and just think, Jen could have been a Valley Girl...

FilmFour have placed this into their 'guilty pleasures' category. And in a way that is what it is. A soft film that doesn't pretend to be more than it is, yet is fluffier than one of Willow's fluffy jumpers! [come on, you thought you could read this document and not see a few obligatory Buffy references?]

Perhaps my only real quibble, cheesy campness aside, is the casting of Gary Cole as Mr. Brady. He does well in the role, don't get me wrong, but... well... he's "Jack Killian". He's "Lucas Buck". He's not Mr.-flippin'-Brady!

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The Cat Returns (7/10) [animé in Japanese, subtitled]

An awkward, slightly clumsy, Japanese schoolgirl (we know she's Japanese, the sērā-fuku gives it away!) saves a cat, and finds that the cats are thankful beyond the point of pestering her with gifts (like mice in a box - what every schoolgirl needs!), no they want to take her to the Kingdom of the Cats so she can be married to their king. Her only hope is a dapper cat, the Baron, living in a lavishly-decorated box, with a crow as a friend.
The first half of this movie is amazing, and could be a 8/10 or 9/10 rating. It is sadly let down by the second half which offers rather predicable "good guys" and "bad guys". While it is essentially a children's animation, it should rise above the norms - the likes of "Kiki's Delivery Service" certainly did!
But do watch this, the characterisation of Haru (the girl) pulls it through.

Called "Neko no ongaeshi" in Japanese. This means 'Kingdom of the cats'. The bit about 'the cat returns' is because the Baron appeared in an earlier film, "Whisper Of The Heart".
"The Cat Returns" is a dopey name (in my opinion!), the literal translation is much better.

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The Core (8¼/10)

The pseudo-science that underlies this sci-fi thriller is that something has gone wrong with the Earth's core. It is stopping. This leads to all sorts of freaky nature, failed magnetic systems (like the Shuttle guidance), and also panicked birds flying into stuff as their little on-board navigation is messed up.

How to resolve the problem? A hotch-potch assortment of people are rounded up and charged with the impossible - make a craft that will bore into the Earth's core to drop a few nukes to get the core rotating again. Simple, huh?

Despite the cheesiness of the idea of the Earth's core stopping, this movie pulls itself along on three factors - sheer enthusiasm, decently fleshed out characters, and effects which do justice to the concept.

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The Day After Tomorrow (8½/10)

I love L.A.!

An expert blending of the old-fashioned disaster genre, and the relatively new ecology genre.
Unlike "An Inconvenient Truth", this film has enough logical science to make it creepy, without trying to get us all to hug trees. It is a basic story of survival told from the perspective of a climatologist and his son (Jake Gylenhaal, I assume the brother of Maggie who we saw in "Secretary"); the son is living in New York, which is soon to be no longer.
However the human side of the story is frequently lost under the vivid 'natural phenomenon'. In this film, the weather not only steals the show, but it takes centre stage and steals the show from itself. Seriously, my 14 inch TV cannot do this film justice - we'll just have to wait for FilmFour HD and a whole heap of expensive kit to make the HD worthwhile.

As far as the plot goes, essentially the climate is changing. This we know. Where the film picks up is to suggest that there will be a point when everything will spiral out of control extremely quickly - like in a week, like day after tomorrow...
This is not impossible - consider taking small stones out of a big stone wall. There are many many times you can remove a stone with little effect to the wall. But there will come a time when taking down one stone will cause the wall to collapse. And, since this is essentially a disaster movie, it stands to reason that it will be a huge environmental shift that will destroy the United States in no time. Oh, actually this is a global event but you'll find the whole film to be very USA-oriented (save for a snippet in Japan, a snippet in Scotland, and a moment of a Sky News report)...

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The Descent (9/10)

Underground is creepy? You ain't seen nothing yet!

Tense gory horror in which a female group (brilliantly set up in the first few minutes to have a traumatic backstory) go on a caving expedition. The set pieces are astonishing, the caves both beautiful and claustrophobic at the same time. The method of filming really gets you in the middle of things. Scary, cramped, and far far underground.
After a rock slide blocks any chance of a peaceful retreat, tensions mount, friendships dissolve, and their problems have only just begun.

This is a must watch, unless you are frightened of small dark places...

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The Devil Wears Prada (6½/10)

"Sterile Meep" (say it like an American - steh-rul) is the editor of some high-flying fashion magazine. You could say a bit of a bitch, and a totally self-obsessed one at that. In comes the young newbie... you can probably guess much of the rest, though there are a few unexpected twists. The lesson? How much are you willing to walk on people to get to the top, and is that any kind of happiness? Yes, there is a lesson here. It is a much softer less in-your-face fashion satire than "Prêt-a-porter", but for this it is a much more watchable film. I'm sure Robert Altman's film had fashion insiders phoning their legal guys, but for those of us like me who see from time to time the stuff that makes it to the big fashion parades and thing "what the...?", Prêt-a-porter suffered badly. The joke's not really a joke if you don't know The Player. So with this, the devil might wear Prada. It's a good film.
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The Dreamers (6/10) [in English with parts in subtitled French]

Set in Paris in the sixties and made as an Anglo-French-Italian co-production, it comes as no surprise that there is a degree of sexuality in this movie. What may be more surprising is the degree of perversion and the strength of the sexuality.

The basic plot is an American boy, in a university in Paris, spends his free time at the new cinemathèque that was created to play films - any films, and lots of films, so they never die. This leads to film buffs rioting in the streets of Paris - remember this was the time of the "new wave" and the cinéaste - and somewhere in the middle of it all the boy meets a French couple - brother and sister, and he quickly gets romantically involved with them.
The backdrop to the story is amazingly well put together - if you know of the works of Mallé and Truffaut, and their contribution to cinema, you'll appreciate the attention to detail along with numerous references to old black and white films (the likes of Greta Garbo). Because of this, the plot with the boy and the French couple is almost a let-down.

There is one outstanding scene in which the American is bonking the sister on the kitchen floor, possibly his "first", while the brother watches. He gets fed up, probably thinking it should be him there instead, so he gets up and makes an omlette, while the bonking continues.

A lot in this movie defies convention, the credits are no exception. What was interesting to see in the credits was that this is a "Carbon Neutral" production. With our destruction of the world being a hot topic (I suspect to eke more tax out of us than any actual concern for the environment), some bean-counter has figured out how much 'damage' was caused in the making of the film, and in return a sufficient number of trees have been planted to balance out this perceived damage. While environmentalists and scientists may argue over whether or not this has any actual benefit, it is a nice gesture that - if any of my scripts ever make it to a final product - I hope to replicate myself.

In English, with some dialogue in French with subtitles.

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The Edukators (7/10) [in German, subtitled]

What starts out as a cool idealism...

...soon becomes a disorganised disaster.

Two young men and a young woman think they can change the world. By breaking into houses when their owners are away and rearranging things (usually not stealing) and leaving politically biased messages (such as "Your days of plenty are numbered", which incidentally is a fairly literal translation of the German language title) intended to scare the wealthy owners... Only one time, the house owner comes back while they're in the act and they have to improvise a kidnap ploy with zero thought about what and how.

This is a full-on anti-Capitalist film, a wannabe revolution in cinematic form. A badly conceived idealism wasted on a totally lost cause. Perhaps this is why this film touches a nerve? Perhaps more and more common normal people are fed up at a system where the rich keep getting richer at the expense of, well, us. You and me. That this misplaced idealism isn't actually so bad. How cool it would be to break in to Gordon Brown's pad (aka "Number 10") and rearrange the furniture into an obscure take on modern art. Could we straddle the sofa over the fridge and call it The Angel Of The South?

Rich powerful people have the ability to make, influence, or circumvent laws so while the banks can gleefully hit us with a £50 fine for daring to go £1 overdrawn, we feel powerless to do anything about it. We could write nasty letters but they will always hold the winning hand. "Go seek alternate lenders", while notifying a credit reference agency to ensure that those potential lenders won't want to know. Or maybe just heap on a bunch more charges and then one day send the bailiffs. Why? For fun, I guess. For the Chancellor losing obscene amounts of money by selling the gold reserves at the wrong time and nobody is that bothered, while people are made backrupt daily for a sum barely into five digits. How you or I would be in hot doggy-doo-doo for a few hundred, yet the ineptitude of The City in America got itself bailed out to the tune of $700,000,000,000 (!) with astonishing figures this side of the ocean too - and guess who is going to pay for their cock-up? Will they cough up cash if/when we cock-up?
Makes you wanna find out who is in charge of the bank (not the manager, the owner) and rearange his furniture?

But we can't. For breaking in and rearranging furniture is contrary to a whole heap of laws. Like I said, they always hold the winning hand.

Enter "The Edukators". A film where we get to imagine. A film where we can transcend our stamped-upon existence. A film where we can see a spark of genius lurking amid the disorganised chaos.

Obviously, referring now to the film, the whole thing is going to spin out of control, for the kidnapping, and that little annoyance that goes by the name of "love". There is a plot to this film too, and plenty of meaningful dialogue... it isn't just about trying to open your eyes. But, you know, if it makes you think more carefully about the world around you, it has achieved something.

Called "Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei" in German, which means roughly "Your days of plenty are numbered", which are the words written on the note that we see at the start of the film.
In German with subtitles.

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The Eye (9/10) [in Cantonese, subtitled]

A montage of pictures from a trailer on the "Resurrection Of The Little Matchgirl" DVD.

Wow. This is a beautifully filmed production with an equally nice soundtrack, and - of course - a good solid story too!

This is the story of a woman from Hong Kong (called Mun) who, having lost her sight aged two, is given an operation which allows her to see again. Only, not only can she see more or less what you and I can see, she can see dead people. Dead people who want something.

This film begins with striking similarities to the Val Kilmer/Miro Sorvino film "Second Sight". Mun, having now regained her sight, finds it difficult to relate what she can see to the world of touch that she understands. While "Second Sight" makes this a primary concern, we more of less leave these problems when it starts to become clear to Mun that she can see ghosts.
You may recall an episode of "Twilight Zone" (the early '90s version) where a person who, given cataract surgury in one eye, can see spirits because the cornea acted as a 'shield' and now it has been removed.

As is to be expected with Asian horror films, this is a slow burn; which makes a refreshing change to bodies piling up as goes about his rampage.

The only thing keeping this film from achieving a full 10 is that the ending feels a little bit rushed. I can understand they needed to find a way to include that part in the film (and it doesn't pull any punches either), but it seems like several logic flaws all crash into each other.

Additional commentary:
So, the ending... It makes sense. The dead girl couldn't save her village from the cataclysm, and Mun is equally powerless to do anything in the face of an obvious catastrophe. However I have my doubts that an exploding tanker would do that - to achieve a "blevee" you need the heat around a combustible material in a sealed container. We can tell the tanker is not sealed because we see the 'waft' pass around the cars. Which leads to the second logic fault. Why that one vehicle? The others aren't electric, so why didn't they cause the problem first? Which leads to the third logic fault. Thailand isn't totally backwards, you'd have thought the police would have evacuated the area rather than simply wave cars to drive on by this little accident!
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The Firm (8/10)

Tom Cruise is an up-and-coming lawyer. Somehow he stumbles on the mother of all conspiracies, and it seems his entire firm is implicated. Before we know it, it is a messy game of cat and mouse with Tom trying to get the proof to the Feds; only who can he trust? Practically nobody, it seems.

Some say Top Gun was Tom's best film. They obviously never saw this one! It is taut, suspenseful, and had it been made a generation earlier it would have starred Gene Hackman. What more can I say?

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The Good Girl (7/10)

Jennifer Anniston puts in a great performance as a bored and frustrated housewife by nights, innocent and naïve in equal measure, who is an equally bored and frustrated checkout girl by day. The only respite to this? A younger male co-worker (Jake Gyllenhaal) who lives a little dangerous, a little wild. All of this is a great fascination and diversion.
Of course, such things are bound to fly out of control, aren't they?
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The Hole (8/10)

Thora Birch is a schoolgirl at a prestigious private school in England. She and some of her friends find and old WW2 bomb shelter and they decide to spend a weekend there. Then it all goes horribly wrong...

I won't say why so as not to give the story away, but we are treated to a number of different interpretations of what actually happened - it is a complex film, and - yet another - to show the power and range of Thora Birch.

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (5½/10)

A fine bit of period nonsense this. We begin with a (German) tank smashing into the Bank Of England. Only it is the Victorian era and tanks don't exist. This is followed up by a (British) attack on a dock of Hindenburgs using a rocket launcher. A ragtag bunch of people are called together - a guy that can't die, a female vampire, Tom Sawyer as an American agent fond of his guns, an invisible bloke... not to mention Nemo. Not the fish, the literary figure who looks like he is single-handedly keeping the Raj alive. We whizz around the place in an almost-futuristic submarine. We watch them save Venice from the most farcical destruction even inflicted on a city in celluloid history... this is all great for eye-popping visuals, but maybe one tenth of the effects budget could have gone to making a better story. One that could be expanded beyond its one-sentence description ending with "lots of improbable but cool stuff happens along the way"...
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The Long Kiss Goodnight (7¾/10)

Way over-the-top actioner sees Geena Davis as soft teacher "Samantha" in Small Town Nowheresville who discovers that her amnesia hides a disturbing past as she starts to remember things following a car crash. A past where she could have probably kicked Rambo's ass up and down town without so much as breaking a nail. She hires a private detective (Samuel L Jackson) to try to figure out who she was when she was known as "Charly". If you think it's a lot going on in this paragraph, it accounts for maybe five seconds of screen time. Okay, five minutes, which isn't long for a film clocking around two hours.

This is slick and packed with action, however it has that ring of incredulity much akin to James Bond driving a tank through a town - with much emphasis on the word 'through'.
So too with The Long Kiss Goodnight, you'd be best switching off the analytical side of your brain and going along with the ride. Certainly it will be useful not to think too much, else you'd be in danger of realising exactly how proposporous and silly the ending really is. But not thinking, just enjoying, it makes sense in its own way; but don't expect to walk away better because of this film. Exhausted is more likely.

There are some lovely scenes and impressive stuntwork. Don't be misled by the start of the film which is all 'serious' and 'heavy'. That lasts maybe ten minutes. Then we get into the heart of the film. A dark twisting mess where a lot of stuff gets blown up good and proper, the various mostly inessential short dialogue scenes designed as little more than a bit of breathing space until the next thing happens big-time.

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The Nutcracker (5½/10)

Oh my God, what is he wearing?!?

Hey, I'm the girl here, not you!

I have been to the theatre three times in my life. The first time was a school trip to Covent Garden and it was pouring and we all got completely soaked in both directions. Myself and a few friends were wringing out our uniforms over each other. Don't ask me what the production was, I have no recollection, but the slightly plump girl with the big smile who I think was called Emily was something I did remember. She was wearing her uniform (must be some daft school idea that you can't go out dressed 'normally') and she got rained on too.
The second time I went to the theatre was also with school. Dunno what it was, but the lead pair were not backwards about getting their kit off and shagging each other senseless. I guess they'd claim to be doing it for their "art". Unfortunately we had a bible basher crone of a chapeone who tutted and complained all the way back about how "shocking" it all was. I'm sure some of my classmates got good mileage from it, but then I've never been impressed by pornos. A cute girl acting promiscuously, perhaps. Maybe even I'd have some tiny degree of interest is watching lesbians do... whatever it is they do. But some random bloke porking the girl? That's just sick. Why would I want to watch somebody else having sex?
My final visit to the theatre was at the Redgrave or whatever it is called in Farnham. There was a lot of talking in an overly affected way and I think that's about all that happened. I bought myself half a dozen packs of Fruit Pastilles and started counting the different colours.

All of that history about my trips to the theatre are an introduction to this stage performance of a sort of ballet for the Christmas story of The Nutcracker.
Once you get over the bizarre sight of Macauley Culkin (aka that brat from "Home Alone") dressed as a masculinised girl, complete with pumps, then you can sit back and enjoy a rather lavish production.
Kudos also to Culkin for taking on a radically different role to that which we were used to, it's all rather reminiscent of Daniel Whats-his-name's foray into theatre with "Equus". I guess making movies is "okaaaay", but you're a proper actor when you do theatre. Whatever, I'll stick with movies. But as far as stuffy tedious boring theatre productions go, this one is actually quite good...
...once you've gotten over his outfit, that is.

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The Opposite Of Sex (8/10)

Featuring a sublimely bitchy Lisa Kudrow who is so unlike Phoebe-in-Friends it is unreal, and an amazingly twisted Christina Ricci - this film begins as a lost sister who moves in with her gay brother and sets about seducing his boyfriend. That's about as much as the EPG tells you, and that's about the first ten minutes of the film, with Lisa always ready to say "I told you so!".
There are many twists and turns along the way, and in case we are in any doubt as to what is going on, we get to hear a narration of Ricci's character's perspective on life. This is one of the few films I've seen where a narration works really well.
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The Passion Of The Christ (7½/10)

Having now seen the film, I can understand why some people wanted it banned. For it is a gory, violent, and bloodthirsty account of man torturing and finally killing the supposed Son Of God. It does not sit very well with the puritan morals when you consider the ironic truth behind the "Buddy Jesus" featured in "Dogma", and then compare the "Jesus is our friend" symbolism and the empty rhetoric of "he died for our sins" against the reality of what would have happened.
Sure, the bible lays out an account of the story... and, perhaps with about as much poetic licence as the bible itself takes, The Passion Of The Christ would appear to be a fairly accurate telling of the story.
According to the Compuworks Desktop Bible; Matthew chapter 27:
27: Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28: And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29: And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30: And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31: And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
32: And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
33: And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull,
34: They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink.
35: And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
36: And sitting down they watched him there;
37: And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38: Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.
39: And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40: And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41: Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42: He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
43: He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.
44: The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
45: Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.
46: And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
47: Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.
48: And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.
49: The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.
50: Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
51: And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
52: And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53: And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
54: Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
The problem, and what has probably upset many people, is that a story in verses repeated ad infinitum in a monotone by a boring git who doesn't look as if he wants to be there any more than you do... it is easy to lose a sense of what this means. Consider, if you will that the verses of the bible are rather light on the visuals and the crucifiction itself is explained simply by the words "And they crucified him", a roughly similar account in two books (Matthew 27 and Mark 15).
All rather a far cry from the film, which not so much lays it out as hits you across the head with it. The Christ may have had passion, but his persecutors did not, and the film pulls no punches in depicting exactly what this meant.

And, while I'm at it, has anybody actually stopped to consider what exactly the message is? If you believe the Christian myth: Jesus was allowed to be killed by his own omnipotent father in place of a punishment for the sins of mankind. So let's see if we can get this straight...
We can all sin like hell, as some super-omnipotent being will send his son to Earth and then let us sin more by killing him too, as some sort of bizarre atonement.
Or, in other words, it doesn't matter what we do, somebody else will take the heat.
How can we believe in God as being a loving God when one of Jesus' last statements was "El(o)i, El(o)i, lama sabachthani?" (father, father, why have you forsaken me?) [Matthew 27:46 as "Eli"; and Mark 15:34 as "Eloi"]?

In Aramaic and Latin with subtitles.

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The Player (7/10)

This film, some might say one of Robert Altman's finest, is a deeply indulgent slice of Hollywood satire beginning with a crane shot that runs to something like eight minutes.
In a nutshell, Tim Robbins plays a studio exec. A person who has no real function in life, but yet wields a power. The power of No. For he cannot green-light a movie project, but he can toss away the ones he doesn't rate. So his job? Well? He gets to listen to loads of movie pitches. Then one day he gets a message on a postcard. Somebody isn't happy.
I won't go on, you may already know what happens next, but I don't want to spoil it if you don't. One thing is for certain, there is a mass of talkiness in this film. Don't let that put you off, for the dialogue and the things referenced are part of the fun.
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The Sum Of All Fears (8/10)

Being based upon a Tom Clancy novel, you'd expect the usual military power-play garbage that so many of his stories contain. And, indeed there is plenty of that in this movie, however what lifts this movie into a 'favourite' category is the story not only makes sense, and is well put together (with only a minor flaw), and is convincingly played by an outstanding cast led by Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.

For many, many years American 'spy' movies treaded the old fears about them against the "commies", such films look horribly dated in this post-Cold War era.
Tom Clancy cleverly revisits this once-familiar territory. Basically, a new leader is declared in Russia, and his first move is to slaughter Chechnians with chemical weapons. Actually, it wasn't the new leader, it was some rebel faction. But the new leader would rather say it was him than admit weakness.
This plays right into the hands of a neo-Nazi group, who figure the easiest way to destroy America is not to fight America, but instead to set Russia and America on the warpath. And for that, they need to get a nuclear weapon into America and get the Americans to believe Russia did it. Falling all too easily onto fears and distrust that lasted over half a century, it isn't hard for the two old adversaries to go back to those dark days. Their only hope is not a wise president (no, Morgan Freeman doesn't play the president), instead their only hope is a fairly junior CIA operative (Affleck) putting the pieces of this jigsaw together before the whole thing erupts into World War III.

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The Transporter (7½/10)

Let's face it. The plot is lacking... The action scenes are essentially stupid... There are enough continuity errors to keep a film buff up all night... and as if that is not enough, there are these dreadful GCI bullets that make it look like everybody is using laser cannons.

However none of this matters. We begin the film with a way-over-the-top car chase sequence that introduces our Transporter, played by Jason Statham, who is dripping cool in a way that even Pierce Brosnan (the best Bond to date, IMHO) is not capable of managing. And unlike Bond, Frank Martin isn't weighed down with a need to save the world. In fact, he'll swing on the other side of the law and take any package anywhere for the right price, according to three simple rules: 1. When an arrangement is made, that arrangment sticks and is never altered; 2. No names, no information, the only thing of importance is the location of the drop; and 3. Never open the package.

It is clear from the outset that this is not so much a film requiring you to suspend belief as it is a film demanding that you take your belief completely offline and revel in the attitude. The fights that Van Damme would lose, the stunts that only Jackie Chan could match, and all with an underlying sense of humour.

Qi Shu (credited as Shu Qi) makes a suitably interesting tag-along (she did a Banderas and learned her lines phonetically); and it will be no surprise to know that an over-blown action film set in France... yup, Besson Luc (oops, I mean Luc Besson ☺) was behind this one.

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The Transporter 2 (6/10)

The slick cool that made The Transporter so cool is sadly less evident, and the car stunts - while so far over the top it makes the original film seem totally believable - are also less evident.
This film focuses more on the kidnapped kid and his parents, leading on to a plot line that is comically predictable.

There is room for a "The Transporter 3", and if it is commissioned, I'd like to see a vibe more in line with "The Bourne Identity".

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The Truth About Cats And Dogs (9/10)

Abby, the radio vet (in Santa Monica).

Abby losing her nerve and getting Noelle to pretend to be her.

This warm-hearted film is full of cuteness and clever comedy, with many throwaway lines that are really quite perceptive and funny.
The central story is that the radio vet Abby (Janeane Garofalo) who takes calls about the sort of things that radio vets will encounter - such as depressed fish. And, then, she helps a photographer Brian (Ben Chaplin) who has to deal with a dog wearing rollerskates. It is surreal to watch this dog skating, and better than I can. As Abby tells him how to deal with the dog, Brian falls for her based upon her voice, its warmth and intelligence. He asks her to meet him. When we learn more about her social life (ha, what social life), we understand why she wants to meet Brian... but she isn't brave enough. She describes her neighbour, a sort of stereotypical dense blonde bombshell (played enthusiastically by Uma Thurman). The thing is, Noelle is exactly what the stereotype suggests, somewhat lacking in cerebral material. So there is a great difference between the dim-wit that goes out with Brian, and the lovely intelligent person that talks to him all night long on the phone.
Essentially, this story is a variation on the theme of Cyrano de Bergerac, but it transcends that to become something a whole lot better. There is a great interestion between all three characters and their situation. I won't say any more, it is up to you to watch the film to see how the social mess resolves itself and who ends up with who.

If I had to level one criticism at this movie, I would say that the main presumption is that Uma Thurman is gorgeous and Janeane Garofalo is not. This is not helped by some of the roles that Janeane has played - where she often comes across as blunt almost to the point of being abusive. However thankfully we can see a warmth, intelligence, and perception in her character in this film. It is just a great shame that we are supposed to believe Janeane isn't so pretty; certainly to the point where she'd be expected to feel that her 'self' comes wrapped in a package that isn't sexy or good looking.
Put it like this, if I won some sort of competition and got to have a date with Janeane Garofalo or Uma Thurman, I'd pick Janeane - no question. Uma has a lot going for her, as a person (and she looks good with a big-ass sword!), but I think Janeane has the edge.

Noelle (Uma Thurman) and Abby (Janeane Garofalo).

Tell me she isn't pretty, funny, smart, and all-round nice!

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The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase (6/10)

I first saw this film when I was at boarding school, perhaps 1989? In my mind I mix this up with a number of other films of the genre. I'll tell you why. It is set back in the Victorian era. Two sisters, a younger clueless one and an older smarter one who looks out for her sibling. They have a good life in a big mansion. Suddenly they find themselves in an orphanage which is a wash-house overseen by an evil crank of a woman.
As you can see, it has lifted ideas from "Annie", "101 Dalmations", "Oliver", "The Secret Garden", etc etc and made a film out of all of the bits.
This is a film for children...
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Timeline (5½/10) [in English with parts in subtitled French]

A group of students are doing an archaelogical dig at a medieval site in France when their professor vanishes. The clever cute girl pieces together the relics and evidence to determine that their professor went back in time.

So, ever intrepid, the students find out who they know with a time machine and set out to go back and bring him back to the modern day.

There are plenty of innovative touches in this film, and it is all enthusiastically acted, but there is simply no getting around the time travel machine is like Stargate with the sort of budget that Doctor Who had in the eighties. It is laughable. In fact, a "magical stone" would probably have been a more believable premise.

In English, with some dialogue in French with subtitles.

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Tony Takitani (6/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

A lonely graphics artist falls in love with, and marries, a pretty woman fifteen years his junior. After purchasing many clothes, she dies in a car crash. The man, Tony, can't quite handle this so he searches out a look-alike to take her place, but somehow it's just not the same. Well, duh!
A slow, deliberate film weighed down by the introspective self-analysis. The girls are quite cute, but I don't think that's why we are supposed to be watching. ☺

In Japanese, with subtitles.

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とに たきたに [is listed as "Tony Takitani"]


Transporter 2, The [is listed as "The Transporter 2"]


Transporter, The [is listed as "The Transporter"]


Truth About Cats And Dogs, The [is listed as "The Truth About Cats And Dogs"]


Twisted (7½/10)

A suspenseful thriller where Ashley Judd, a detective with plenty of inner demons, is on the trail of a serial killer where her number one suspect is herself.
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Under Seige (7½/10)

Steven Seagal is a "cook" on board the Missouri. The ship's last run at sea before being decomissioned. So it is up to the XO (Gary Busey) and a wannabe rocker (Tommy Lee Jones) to assemble a crew for the captains birthday, a good excuse to take the ship and steal the 'newkyewler' weapons - good ol' Tomahawk missiles. Only this "cook" is as handy with a knife as with a whisk.

There are few generally-watchable Seagal movies. Most fall into the heavily choreographed martial-arts category. We won't even discuss that one where he goes all EcoFriendly with the eskimos, then has an oil refinery blow up (bet THAT wasn't Carbon Neutral).
Here? Well, there is a degree of martial arts but not so much. He actually uses a gun like any normal person-who-saves-the-day. And the martial arts stuff that is in the film... well, how do I put this? There's a lot of arm flapping. It's like two grown men trying to bitch-slap each other.
In this film Seagal plays a sympathetic part. He's all business and gets to the point, but he looks out for the girl, he looks out for his own. And he's not a dummy. So we don't hate him on sight. He is also paired with a good double-act in Jones and Busey. Busey being determined to get what he wants, and Jones likewise but fifty-one cards short...

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Underworld (6/10)

Kate Beckinsale, looking pretty good I might add (not that you can exactly believe the part she is playing), stars in this tale of some rather elitist vampires fighting a billion-year-old battle with their enemies - werewolves. And each other, it seems. Then that Kate's character falls for a newly turned sort-of-werewolf, it's all a bit of a mess in the wasted decayed metropolis, and that's something of the problem with this movie, it's a bit of a mess, plotwise...
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Urban Legend (7½/10)

It is essentially a teen slasher movie in the "Scream" genre, however what lifts it above the norm is a good cast (the likes of Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, and Rebecca Gayheart), and also the killings are done according to a variety of "urban legends".
There are the obligatory references to other movies of this type, and perhaps the biggest nod in that direction is the casting of Wes Craven as a teacher of... what was his subject exactly? Urban Legends 101?
Basically, if you're looking for "Scream" with a clue, try Urban Legend...
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Vanilla Sky (6¼/10)

This is a bizarre and slightly overlong offering starring Tom Cruise in the days when Katie Holmes was the cute sensitive one in "Dawson's Creek", and they didn't have a baby called Suki... Suri... Surimi... Sushi... oh, who cares...

He is in a car crash. The girl who was in the car with him died. It's up to him to figure out what really happened (with the assistance of Penélope Cruz) as he's about to go down for a murder he felt he didn't commit.

Sound's interesting, doesn't it? So why only 6¼? It's a beautifully surreal film where what's real and what isn't changes a lot, but I think the end - when you finally get to it - is something of a cop-out. Okay, it makes perfect sense and explains everything, but... it just felt too damn cheesy. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it is bordering on awful. I cannot explain exactly why, it just felt wrong. As if we, the viewer, invested all this time and effort in watching the movie and, well, that was it? That was how it ended? Like that?
The final three seconds really really really should have been cut from the film.

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Vital (7½/10) [in Japanese, subtitled]

This freaky little film follows a brooding long-haired Japanese man who lost his girlfriend in a bad car crash. Sadly for him, he also lost his memory. He was going to drop out of Med. school, however after his memory loss he rediscovers his potential medical career without the realisation of his desire to leave.
After a short stint in the classrooms, the medical students go down into a bright fluorescent-lit room where bodies are laid out. The students will learn the body by 'dissecting' a body. Layer by layer, a form of human resonance by detailed examination.
Along the way, he meets a female student and they become entangled - in more ways than one. When the EPG warns of scenes of "dangerous sexual practice", they are referring to these two getting it on by strangling each other.
While the photography and editing were good, kudos must surely go to the sound. For during the dissection there are an array of delicious slurping noises that brings the film alive.

There is a scene of making up a coffin. Not unexpected, after seeing a group dissecting a number of bodies left "for medical science". There are a number of differences between my understanding of burials, and the Japanese. For example, they are dressed in white and given little slippers to wear. Fair enough. Next, a flower - looks like a lilac but I'm no botanist - is placed on the body. We, in the West, do stuff like that too. Perhaps the thing I'd most like to ask a Japanese person about is a little wooden crutch is placed into the coffin. What's the significance of that?
As I've said a number of times in this document, one of the most interesting things about foreign films is the ability to look at other cultures. Other beliefs. Other ways of doing things.

Appears to be called "Vital" in Japanese! Perhaps something like "Waitaru"? In Japanese with subtitles.

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ヴイタル [is listed as "Vital"]


Volcano (6½/10)

With Anne Heche looking remarkably fetching as a put-upon scientist, and Tommy Lee Jones looking... well, like he usually does, this is perhaps one of the most improbable disaster movies since "Godzilla". Ready for it? People die, toxic fumes and heat. The tar pits bubble more than normal. Why, of course, Los Angeles is about to experience the power of nature as a bloody big volcano erupts in the middle of town and spews burning lava all over the place. Oh, and let's not forget the "little girl in peril".
But don't worry about the plot (which is suprisingly good given its daftness), for this is mostly a chance to watch some famous and not so famous places get trashed with tongue firmly in cheek.
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WarGames (7½/10)

So Matthew Broderick, in his "Ferris Bueller" days, is a teenage computer geek. He looks long and hard at ways to 'hack' into the computer systems of games companies to 'test-drive' the new games before they are publically released. He sets his computer to simply dial every phone number in a given area code, looking for other computers - a teachnique known as 'wardialling', possibly named after this film.
He finds a computer. With interesting games. Like Global Thermonuclear War. So he plays, decides to be the Russians and nuke a few major American cities...
...miles away, inside a mountain, the military control room to end all military control rooms flashes up alerts and warnings on the array of screens. Our little hacker may have just started world war three...

Though there are a multitude of plot holes in this film, it is influential for being one of the first to show the workings inside the mind of a geek. To attempt to explain why sitting for hours staring at a machine can be seen as a fun thing to do. To portray, possibly for the only time in cinematic history, a fairly accurate bit of phone phreaking (instead of some cool-sounding garbage the scriptwriter came up with). And, to show all us geeks that there is hope - we have a young Ally Sheedy in fine form as the girlfriend. Yes, you read that right - an arcade-game-addicted geek who tells his computer (check out those 8-inch floppies!) to dial every number in an area code... has a girlfriend. Whoa!

I have tried to give it a fair review. I, personally, found it to be an influential film. While I had already taken the lid off of the school's BBC micro when I saw this film, it was reassuring to me that I wasn't a crackpot - that other people wanted to get deeper into things. It also introduced me to the concept of computer-to-computer communications (though it would have to wait a further eight years before I could afford a modem of my own). I feel, in a fair review, this film deserves seven and a half. For myself, and mostly for reasons of nostalgia, I'd have been tempted to award it a nine.

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Whisper Of The Heart (9/10) [animé in Japanese, subtitled]

Singing "Country Roads" in Japanese, and look, it even rhymes in English

The embedded cultural references are always interesting: Here, Japanese schoolgirls sit out and eat their packed-lunch with chopsticks.

A lovely animé from Studio Ghibli blends a rather nice Japanese rendition of the John Denver classic Country Roads with a gentle story about falling in love. It's a bright and carefree schoolgirl (who is translating the song featured into Japanese) who falls for a boy who makes violins and wants to visit Italy. Or not. Or maybe. They're not entirely sure, but love's like that, apparently (ha, like I'd know!).
Because the girl is still young, there's even an element of fantasy, provided by a special statue of a cat.
Forget all the soppy Hollywood rubbish, if you're looking for a perfect feel-good movie, look no further than Whisper Of The Heart.

Eagle-eyed viewers may spot a few trends in this movie - there's a thing about cats (indeed the Studio Ghibli logo has one), and there's an airship too. We can't exactly have a regular schoolgirl flying - we have to wait for Kiki or Princess Nausicaä for that, but flying and airships seem to crop up a lot in the various Studio Ghibli films... as do cats. The fat mostly-white cat, and the Baron statue will be seen again, in a later film, The Cat Returns, though you can get an idea of it in the girl's dream sequences with the Baron...

As always, the animation is outstanding. Just after the image below right, a car drives by. This serves no real purpose to the plot, yet the illumination of the car's headlights (and the odd firefly) serve to illistrate the depth and quality of the animation.

I had previously suggested the change in colour of the school uniforms may have been an oddity in the film. After a brief bit of research about Japanese girl's school uniforms on Google (erm, and skipping loads of pervy stuff!), it seems that Japanese schoolgirls have two uniforms which are often different colours. One for the winter half of the year, and one for the summer half. This film takes place around the summer holiday, so it makes sense that we'd see her in one uniform at the beginning of the movie, and in a different one at the end (you can see in the upper right picture it is blue, and yellow in the lower pictures). The "sailor outfit" is slowly losing popularity as it is sometimes thought of as being too militarised. It was originally introduced in 1921, and based upon the British naval uniforms of the time. It is called "sērā-fuku" (セーラー服).
Very very eagle-eyed viewers may see "Porco Rosso" on a clock face, as the name of the clock manufacturer. Actually, it (the "pink? pig") is an earlier Studio Ghibli film.

Called "Mimi wo sumaseba" in Japanese, which actually means "If you listen closely", the English language title (created by Ghibli) is more lyrical than literal. In Japanese with subtitles.

On the right is the statue of the Baron.

Aww, c'mon! It's a love story after all!

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White Noise (5½/10)

The epitaph for this movie should read "Here lies a great idea for a film". A man loses his wife and, while in a state of grief, he is met by somebody who could communicate with the dead. And so they meet and true enough, you can communicate with dead people. Just stare at an untuned television for long enough, you'll see them... This is perhaps one of the greatest flaws of the movie. It is even more ridiculous than some of the stuff that turned up in the BBC series "Bugs" - for they use televisions and radios, not specialist equipment, so spirits apparently understand how to do frequency modulation and represent themselves in NTSC. Yeah, right.

There are quirks. Evil spirits. Predictions. Other stuff, but essentially this movie is horribly confused, like there is an idea that didn't know how to express itself, and a cluttered ending that just feels tacked on because nobody could think of anything better. Such a missed opportunity.

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Witness (9¾/10)

Rachel (Kelly McGillis).

Perhaps Harrison Ford's finest movie, and maybe one of the finest movies of the '80s (asides, perhaps, from "Blade Runner" (also starring Ford)).

It's a quiet tale. A young Amish boy witnesses a murder. Ford is the policeman who enters into the Amish family and way of life to try to protect them from the revenge of those who know what happened, and also to gently try to extract the story of what happened from the boy (if you have trouble with the culture clash, Wiki for Amish). Along the way Ford has to come to understand the Amish, try not to fall in love with one of them as she nurses him back to health, while also not corrupting her to the modern world.

Great characterisation, great story, one of the best movie depictions of the Amish put on celuloid (let's pretend we never heard of that Kirstie Alley/Tim Allen one). You will also note with specific glee that the people in this movie are not one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. There are no "teens in danger". The scenes are not clichés pulled from a thriller-romance identikit.
And furthermore you can bask in the sumptuousness of the scenery, and the almost-mystical feel that this film offers. It is no surprise that the director, Peter Weir, is the man responsible for bringing "Picnic At Hanging Rock" into being.

A beautiful film. Don't miss!

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Wolves Of Willoughby Chase, The [is listed as "The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase"]


Wrong Turn (6½/10)

Co-starring Eliza Dushku ('Faith' in Buffy, among other roles), this is a modern take on "Deliverance".
I might be tempted to describe this film as slightly formulaic because the "inbred Virginian weirdos that like killing outsiders" genre has been done, and done, and done, and done, and done, and done, and done. Yada, yada, yada...
Thankfully, however, this film includes enough innovation and inspiration to lift it out of the mire lurking between those watchful hills and make it something watchable.
I think what this film suffers from is that it is playing with a genre that has been done so often - rather like one of those horror films that sticks a bunch of teens in a cabin in the woods. I'm not sure this has the bite to have been "Deliverance", but it tries to bring something new to something predictable. Credit, at least, for that.
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This document was originally written by hand using Metapad v3.51 (a better 'Notepad').
Now this document is automatically generated using custom software.
Older images captured using an HCCS Vision digitiser on an Acorn RiscPC700,
converted to JPEG using ChangeFSI, and processed on my PC (an Acer
TravelMate 512TXV; Win98SE in 64Mb/2.5MbVRAM) using ULead's PhotoImpact 5.
Newer images captures using a mìroMedia PCTV capture card on a generic looking (MSI) 450MHz
Pentium III PC (WinXP in 128Mb/64MbVRAM), and loaded via TWAIN directly into PhotoImpact 5.
DVD screenshots directly extracted from DVD VOBs using MPEG2 Viewer.
Printed material from various sources. Scanned using a CanoScan FB630U.

Many thanks to FilmFour for making this possible in the first place!
Contact me at heyrick1973 -at- yahoo -dot- co -dot- uk



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