0-9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A Bridge too far (1977)
Starring: James Caan, Dick Bogarde, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Olivier.
Director: Richard Attenborough.
Synopsis: An adaptation of the Market Garden campaign of the second world war.
Dean's comments: This is an epic war film in the truest sense of the word; there is an epic cast, an epic scope and epic set pieces. The film is generally true to history in its portrayal of the Market Garden campaign; this is good to see in a modern war film, far too often the producers go for dramatic exposition above telling the history as it was. In my opinion, the history of the Second World War is rich enough that no embellishment is needed. The writers also do a good job with the German forces, all too often in war films the enemy are faceless targets against which the all-American hero can show off his prowess with his rifle. Here the Germans are people with desires, fears and frailties about the war and the Allied assault into Holland. Having said this, the film does fall in several areas. The first is a problem that many 'epics' face, running time. The thing is basically too long and one begins to tire after seeing set-piece after set-piece. The second is a problem that big war films often face, which is that the set-piece battles often look just like that, they lack the horror and confusion that first-hand accounts of war always tell of. The river crossing by US forces is a classic example of this, the portrayal of the British airborne at Arnhem is much truer to accounts though, even down to the "We can't accept your surrender..." line. Overall then 'A bridge too far' is a genuine epic, but people who aren't aficionados of WW2 history may find themselves waning towards the end.
Rating: 6/10.

A Few Good Men (1992)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Pollack, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland.
Director: Rob Reiner.
Synopsis: A young talented lawyer decides to defend a pair of marines who have been accused of murder, he is convinced of a conspiracy at the highest levels of the marine leadership.
Dean's comments: An excellent film that starts off as a coming-of-age / good versus evil tale, has some great performances and contains a series of extended courtroom scenes that rival the intensity and power of Oliver Stone's JFK. The film is exceptionally well-paced, the main action (the trial) takes over an hour to come but a viewer shouldn't at any point feel bored; the reason for this is twofold, and excellent cast and some dammed sharp dialogue. The best and worst of Aaron Sorkin's vision of America (now familiar to viewers via The West Wing) come through in 'A Few Good Men', the message is very clear: justice and liberty over all else. Sorkin's problem is that he often lapses into near-cringe worthy pro-US state gestures so as to not alienate too much of his potential audience. The film's ending is, although not unnecessarily post-scripty, a little two convenient and cuddly for my stomach; although we should remember that it isn't all 'happily every after' for the two marines. Occasionally the dialogue lapses into moments of surrealism (just like in The West Wing, it seems impossible that anyone could say those lines in a normal conversation), but such moments are few and far between. That courtroom scene, plus Jack Nicholson's now all-too parodied performance on the witness stand, is more than enough to make the film a worthwhile watch. Look out for Tom Cruise's impression of Nicholson too, genius.
Rating: 7/10.

About Schmidt (2002)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates, Hope Davis.
Director: Alexander Payne.
Synopsis: A lonely man looses his wife and then struggles to make it through his daughter's marriage to a looser.
Dean's comments: 'About Schmidt' works for one very important reason, that Jack Nicholson is a great actor, bringing everything to the role in this film. The premise is quite simple and in lesser hands could probably have become rather cheesy and tame; an old man who has relied on his wife all his life finally has to live by himself, failing in this he turns to his estranged daughter and her strange family-by-marriage. It all sounds rather clichéd doesn't it? Well it is; Nicholson pulls it all together, making a coherent and rather touching film. There are one or two rather unfortunate scenes in the film, the worst being a scene where Nicholson's character spies a shooting star which all too obviously represents the spirit of his dead wife. These testing moments are balanced with lots of good stuff, such as how the viewer can't tell which way Schmidt's decision on what to do at his daughter's wedding will go, and plenty of comedy based on American hicks being thick (always something that I adore).
Rating: 6/10.

Adaptation (2002)
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep.
Director: Spike Jonze.
Synopsis: A frustrated screenwriter struggles to avoid cliché in his work, while his overly successful twin brother embraces it with gusto.
Dean's comments: Sometimes funny, sometimes unbelievable and occasionally too weird for its own good, 'Adaptation' spends over an hour pontificating about the crass nature of Hollywood films before descending into that genre by the end. The shoot out, the car chase, the hostage, the morality tale ending, they're all there by the end; I had a lot of difficulty trying to work out if Kaufman was being ironic or if the film is actually rubbish. The evidence that we are looking at a joke comes from the scene where Cage's screenwriter character talks about writing a film about a film about a film etc... The evidence that 'Adaptation' isn't that good is the fact that 'Adaptation' isn't that good. Go and see 'Being John Malkovich' instead.
Rating: 4/10.

Agitator (2001)
Starring: Mickey Curtis, Yoshiyuki Daichi.
Director: Takaski Miike.
Synopsis: A power struggle at the head of a Yakusa crime syndicate causes those at the bottom to question their loyalties.
Dean's comments: A frustrating film that plods along for a very long 150 minutes about the honour and 'code' of being in the Yakusa gangs. The film could easily have been 45 minutes shorter and given a much richer impression of the lives of the characters (because you wouldn't get bored). There are no female characters at all (unless you count a woman being raped in a bar as a character) and new characters seem to spring up from nowhere in the middle of the film. If it wasn't for the extreme violence there would be no redeeming factors in this film, but the gore goes up to a pretty high level and so that just about keeps it going.
Rating: 3/10.

Airplane (1980)
Starring: Robert Hays, Julie Haggerty, Leslie Nielson, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack.
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker.
Synopsis: A passenger airplane is put in danger when its crew come down with food poisoning. Only an ex-air force pilot can save the day.
Dean's comments: 'Airplane' is a masterpiece of parody; a work of high comedy that I think has yet to be bettered by anyone entering into the genre. All the cast are fabulous, but special credit needs to go to the writers for their genre-breaking compilation of visual and verbal gags that seem to be just as fresh as the first time, regardless of how many times one might watch the film. Many of the comedy moments in 'Airplane' have entered the collective mind of film-goers, my personal favourites include the captain's near-paedophilic conversations with 'Jimmy', the woman who can 'speak jive' and Captain Striker striding out of his mirror just before he leaves his house. There is very little that lets the film down, a couple of gags are specific to the US audience but we can forgive that; even the token camp guy is so over-the-top that his character looks like a parody of camp characters in lesser films rather than a rubbish token camp character. In one word; hilarious.
Rating: 9/10.

Alexander (2004)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie.
Director: Oliver Stone.
Synopsis: The life and battles of Alexander the Great.
Dean's comments: ‘Alexander’ is a thoroughly uninspiring piece that no amount of typical Oliver Stone slow-motion sequences can save. There are a lot of things wrong with this film, the slightly non-linear revelation of Alexander's past does nothing for the plot, the portrayal of Alexander as a uniter of races rather than a conqueror is at best a naive modern interpretation of history clouded in myth and legend. Nothing compares to the utter insanity of the film's producers deciding that it would be OK to do a kind of pic'n'mix with the main characters' accents. Can Colin Farrell not speak in a non-Irish accent? I would like to have been present at his audition for the part, Farrell: "I see Alexander the Great as more of a Dubliner than a Macedonian..." This just goes to show the Hollywood obsession with stardom, the idea that Colin Farrell simply had to be the lead even if he was deeply unsuitable for the part. They try to compensate of course by having lots of characters talk with Irish accents, which totally undercuts the idea that the film is set in ancient Greece. Angelina Jolie's accent doesn't help either; the only player who even attempts to sound middle-Easter, she ends up sounding more like a Russian Bond girl from the 1960s. The film is far too long and - although the battle scenes are suitably epic and spectacular - the scenes of opulence in which Alexander lives are strung out to the nth degree without making any real difference to the plot or characters. Essentially Stone seems to have used all the budget and time available to him simply because it was there, not because this was the kind of film he wanted to make. Personally I was disappointed, after being pleasantly surprised by Hollywood’s take on the siege of Troy I was hoping for much more.
Rating: 4/10.

Alfie (1966)
Starring: Michael Caine, Vivien Merchant.
Director: Lewis Gilbert.
Synopsis: A rather chauvinist sixties swinger gets a lesson in life.
Dean's comments: I can see that this might have gone down as a rather raunchy film back in the sixties, but the whole thing is rather lost on someone like me in the modern audience. In terms of entertainment, 'Alfie' is a perfectly fine film. Michael Caine's character is certainly forced to grow up, for that we can be grateful to the writers. In most areas it's all a little too old-fashioned. Long gone are the days when intelligent men treating women like that were taken for granted. Anyone still treating women like that in the modern age is likely so far beyond redemption that the sight of a foetus in the toilet would hardly phase them. All in all; fun with good morals, but it belongs in a different era.
Rating: 4/10.

Ali (2001)
Starring: Will Smith, Jamie Foxx.
Director: Michael Mann.
Synopsis: Drama based on the life of Mohammed Ali.
Dean's comments: Well here we are then, Will Smith finally gets a 'proper' role to play after spending so much time reprising the 'Fresh Prince'. You know what; he doesn't make too bad a job of it. I was pleasantly surprised by Smith's role as the legendary American boxer who made such a name for himself in the 1960's by rising to international stardom and then protesting the Vietnam draft. For me, Mohammed Ali is a bit of a hero; I feel that it took a lot of guts for someone in his position to stand up for his beliefs. "I'm not going to go half way around the world to kill other poor people!", now that's a powerful statement. Ali's politics have a lot in common with mine, although his staunch Islam doesn't really merge with my brand of atheism. The film should be great, but a film about boxing has to do an awful lot to keep my attention, mainly because I'm not much of a fan of boxing. 'Ali' relies a lot on long lingering shots of Smith's face, trying with all his might to act like Ali himself. This isn't really enough for me, especially when the film clocks in at around 2h30m.
Rating: 5/10.

Alien (1979)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm.
Director: Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: The rough-shod crew of a cargo ship are forced to explore a supposedly abandoned world. All hell breaks loose when an alien life-form get on board their ship.
Dean's comments: Well let's get the cards on the table right away; this is probably the best science fiction film I've ever seen, it's also the best horror film I've ever seen at the same time. Do you understand what I'm saying yet? From the understatedly chilling opening titles to the terror of the alien's now legendary first appearance to the suspense that Scott so expertly builds up about the true nature of what's going on, everything about this film is perfection. Even the tag-line to the film is the best there's ever been. All the elements that pull together for a great sci-fi yarn are here, the dystopian future, the mysterious and omni-powerful 'company', the conspiracy, the Scooby-do moment; the thing that brings the whole thing together though is that the audience is there with the characters. We all have similar insecurities and fears to them, fear of losing our jobs, fear of the unknown, fear of pregnancy(?). Sigourney Weaver is amazing as one of the silver screen's first all-action heroines, while Ian Holm is delightfully nasty as the back-stabbing company snitch. The film's best scenes are it's most jumpy, I'm thinking of the blip on the motion detector closing in, or the infamous chest-bursting scene. But one could never class Alien as simply a 'thrill-a-minute' film, the suspenseful scenes on the barren planet and the 'chumminess' of the crew before the shit hits the fans are all so damn pretty. Once again then, this is the best science fiction film that as ever been made! What are you waiting for? Go and watch it.
Rating: 10/10.

Aliens (1986)
Starring: Sigourney Weavor, Carrie Henn.
Director: James Cameron.
Synopsis: A team of marines is sent to investigate the mysterious silence of a Human outpost. Alien activity is suspected, and so Ripley goes along for the ride.
Dean's comments: This is really great stuff. 'Aliens' lacks the beauty and sheer thrill of the original, but it does add a dose of much needed action. Everything that 'Alien' avoids to its credit (I'm talking about guns and action cliché here), 'Aliens' does with style. I love the way that the futuristic band of soldiers aren't so different from the soldiers of today, yet the gothic feel of the equipment and vehicles they use makes it so very different at the same time. I'm a bloke, I like films with explosions and guns and characters who shout 'Game over man!'; so if you want a film that actually does these things with a bit of style you can't really get better than 'Aliens'. It's not as good as 'Alien', but not many things are.
Rating: 8/10.

Alien 3 (1992)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Paul McGann, Charles S Dutton, Brian Glover.
Director: David Fincher.
Synopsis: After the events of the previous film, Ripley finds herself marooned on a prison planet.
Dean's comments: As a fan of the first two Alien films I know what I'm supposed to say about 'Alien 3'. I have to disappoint the sci-fi world by declaring that I rather like this film. I accept that it's no-where near as good as the first two, but neither can it be dismissed as just another reason to make money, that honour goes to the next one. I enjoyed 'Alien 3' because it avoids cliché and avoids attempts to make everything bigger and better than before. Instead it goes for simplicity and plays on more basic Human emotions and fears. Putting Ripley in an area where there are no guns and where the people around you are just as likely to be your enemy than the alien was the best thing they could have done; given that they were going to make another instalment. Giving the alien and Ripley some kind of platonic attachment wasn't what we needed though, and on that basis the film is docked points.
Rating: 6/10.

Alien resurrection (1997)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Pearlman.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Synopsis: Ripley is cloned as part of an experiment to bring the aliens back to life.
Dean's comments: This is the pits. You can only take a good thing so far, this is well beyond the limit. There's no sign of the tension of the previous films, none of the iconic artwork of the first, none of the gothic feel of the second and none of the primitive emotion of the third. To put it into perspective; this film has nothing endearing about it at all. If it weren't attached to the 'Alien' trilogy it might be rated slightly higher, but in contrast to what has come before it deserves all the shit that anyone can find to sling at it.
Rating: 2/10.

Alien versus Predator (2004)
Starring: Sanaa LAthan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henricksen, Ewen Bremner.
Director: Paul W S Anderson.
Synopsis: The alien and the Predator battle to the death in a mysterious pyramid under the Antarctic.
Dean's comments: Well this is one of the most rubbish attempts to make money out of a great idea that I think anyone has come up with. The film opens up with a bunch of scientists about to leave for a trip to Antarctica where they hope to uncover a great pyramid. This part of the film is laden with sickeningly annoying attempted character development that is so cheesy that I was hoping the predator would just turn up and slaughter the lot of them there and then. Unfortunately the film drags on and the main character even teams up with the Predator by the end to take out the Alien queen(?). The only reason that the film doesn't get 1 out of 10 is that it is only 90-odd minutes long, at least the producers had the decency to keep it short and sweet.
Rating: 2/10.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Starring: Lew Ayres, John Wray, Louis Wolheim.
Director: Lewis Milestone.
Synopsis: Several young Germans sign up for war with dreams of glory, but their lives are destroyed by the inhumanity of the conflict.
Dean's comments: What a pleasure it is to watch a slice of cinematic history like ‘All Quiet on the western front’, the film’s influence on the entire history of war cinema – simple things like battlefield cuts and special effects – is clear to see. The real power of the film lies in the story; Erich Maria Remarque’s timeless novel about a nation’s youth destroyed by the imperialistic dreams of the thinking classes remains the benchmark of all anti-war polemics. The story eloquently demonstrates the power of propaganda and state-sponsored patriotism at a time of war – and all this years before the Nazis got started. The film’s central themes ring as true today as they did in the 1920s, whenever war is on the horizon the usual armchair generals dust off their military history books and discuss the need to give the other side a bloody nose – and another generation of people are destroyed by violence. These ideas are explored through the eyes of several young friends who have just graduated from their high school and join up into the German army with high hopes of glory on French battlefields, their dreams and lives are slowly destroyed in an agonising 2 hours of emotional trauma and betrayal. The most astounding thing about the film is how little it has aged over the years, although that’s partly due to the resounding power of the themes, it’s mostly due to the fact that it was years ahead of its time.
Rating: 9/10.

Amor es perros (2000)
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Goya Toledo, Emilio Echevarria.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Synopsis: Three separate, but subtly connected, stories about love and life.
Dean's comments: This film is simply gorgeous, it has everything and it does it all brilliantly. There's drama, love, twists, a clever plot and a great cast. The use of the dogs as a series of metaphors for the experiences that the characters are going through is a masterstroke. All the main characters seem very devoted to their pets, even more so than they are to the people around them. I see this as a bit of a metaphor for people not appreciating the good things in their lives until it's too late. The homeless guy takes one more dog in, it kills his other dogs. The guys that run the dog-pit love their animals, but only as far as they can make money. The model takes her looks for granted until she no-longer has them. Each of the main characters experiences loss in this way, and the film does it all without appearing smug or superior about them. The audience feels for the characters in their loss, but at the same time recognises their failings that have led them to it. In this way we explore the Human condition; to err is to be Human.
Rating: 8/10.

Amelie (2001)
Starring: Audrey Tautou.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet .
Synopsis: A young girl finds fulfilment in helping other people in their love lives.
Dean's comments: I don't know if films get any more beautiful than this. The casting of Tautou as the simple French girl trying to find meaning in the world around her is perfect. The combination of strange minor comic characters brings a kind of charm to the film that I challenge anyone not to be touched by. I simply don't see how anyone can resist the lightness of this film; it's simple message is somewhere between 'all you need is love' and 'you only reap what you sow'. In lesser hands such a message could become annoyingly pretentious, but not here. The film's allure lies in its simplicity, and the fact that Amelie finally finds love for herself even thought she spends almost none of her time worrying about her own predicament. Her love for all the people around her and their lives seems enough for her. Because of this 'Amelie' earns its happy ending, and good luck to it.
Rating: 9/10.

American Beauty (1999)
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Benning, Thora Birch.
Director: Sam Mendes.
Synopsis: The tale of an ordinary American family man in an ordinary American city. His experiences in the drudgery of life reveal the contradictions of modern urban Americana.
Dean's comments: 'American Beauty' is a modern classic; it's probably the best look that Hollywood has ever taken into the American dream in the suburbs of American cities. Here's the weirdness though: the director's British. Maybe that fact shows that the things this film tells us about modern suburbia don't simply apply to the U.S., rather that they are universal across the Western world. The title must refer to Kevin Spacey's character; the man who re-discovers the joy of living despite all the barriers that a life in the working classes of the western world puts against him. His job, ungrateful daughter, oppressive neighbours and distant wife all serve to depress him as the film opens. By the end of the movie he seems to draw strength from rebelling against those same things. Is the end a happy or a sad one? Well despite his death, Spacey's character is managing to do a voice-over, so perhaps this is some allusion to an afterlife? Spacey's character certainly has a smile on his face as he lies on the kitchen table, (although we could have done without Wes Bently's character smiling along with him just in case we didn't spot it, that's Hollywood for you.) perhaps he's just reached a peak of contentment in his life, free from his wife and having just found a new daughter figure in Mena Suvari who appreciates him. My favourite bit of the film has to be when he attempts to bribe his boss for money after getting the sack. 'American Beauty' is for anyone who has ever felt that they've been down-trodden by the 'system', revelling in Lester Burnham's rebellions against that system will bring a smile to anyone's face.
Rating: 9/10.

American History X (1998)
Starring: Ed Norton, Edward Furlong.
Director: Tony Kaye.
Synopsis: A Nazi reforms his ways after spending time in prison.
Dean's comments: This is pretty powerful stuff. The film contains a sequence that literally made me wince and look away from the TV (I'm talking about Norton's character stamping in the guys head on the street here), now that's pretty rare for someone who watches 'video-nasties'. The synopsis of the film is quite off-putting when you think about it, either it's going to be to simplistic or it's going to rationalise and personify racism. Thankfully the film avoids both of these pitfalls but cannot paper up several cracks, namely the excessive violence. The producers may argue that this is necessary to show how neo-nazis behave, but we've all seen the footage of the Holocaust and nothing a film maker can show us now is ever going to top that. When it comes down to it though, Ed Norton is rather impressive in his role and the film does what it sets out to do.
Rating: 6/10.

American Pie (1999)
Starring: Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy, Alyson Hannigan.
Director: Paul Weitz.
Synopsis: 4 American teens reach the end of high school and decide they have to lose their virginity.
Dean's comments: Now I'm the first person to decry the deluge of appalling American culture which besieges the British shores, I'm the first person to be put off by the 'not another teen movie' tag-line and there surely can be nothing worse than American teens being crude. Now with that out of the way I feel I can admit to the fact that 'American Pie' made me laugh. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not claiming that this is some kind of benchmark for all the dross American-teen-gross-out that followed and therefore needs to be recognised as a kind of 'original and best', just that it made me laugh. Don't treat this film as anything other than a big pile of crude jokes (a bit like a stand-up with Alexi Sayle) and you might find yourself chuckling.
Rating: 5/10.

American Pie 2 (2001)
Starring: Jason Biggs, Shannon Elizabeth, Chris Klein.
Director: James B Rogers.
Synopsis: The gang from the first film are all at university, they meet up for a great big party, cue crudeness.
Dean's comments: After having seen the first, and laughed, I think that we could all have done without this second part. It's just the same jokes with the same characters. Without the comedy of the first all you've got left is a pile of American college teens being loud and crude. I can't really think of anything worse than that.
Rating: 3/10.

The American President (1995)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening.
Director: Rob Reiner.
Synopsis: A batchelor president falls for a young political up-start.
Dean's comments: Having achieved so much with the landbreaking television series 'The West Wing' it is interesting to look back at Aaron Sorkin's earlier work and peice the conception of the series together. Sorkin's legendary ability to write fast and engaging dialogue was showcased in 'A few good men', his famously left wing stance (for the american politcal scene of course) on political issues is much more apparent here. Interesting then that 'the American President' is, for the most part, a romantic comedy in the style of a traditional boy-meets-girl-in-lower-social-circle tale, cue lessons in life and love. In lesser hands this may have degenerated into the kind of soppy chick-flick that no-one likes to watch - I'm convinced that not even the archetypal 'chick' enjoys such films, it's all about peer pressure - but thankfully, aside from a soap-box final scene, the influence of Mr Sorkin makes it more than just bareable. Fans of 'The West Wing' may also be intruiged to see Martin Sheen playing the part of 'Leo' rather than President Bartlett.
Rating: 6/10.

American Psycho (2000)
Starring: Christian Bale.
Director: Mary Harron .
Synopsis: A look at the modern American serial killer.
Dean's comments: This film just annoyed me, maybe it was the way that being a serial killer is portrayed as some kind of lifestyle choice in the modern USA or maybe it was just that the violence was all gratuitous, none of it seemed to have any point. Avoid this film!
Rating: 3/10.

American Splendour (2003)
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Harvey Pekar.
Director: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini.
Synopsis: The life of a cartoon artist who draws on people around him for ideas.
Dean's comments: When you watch a film that has a strange opening as 'American Splendour', you start to wonder whether the producers are going to get it all wrong and make a film that's far too weird for anyone to get. Thankfully the makers of this film had their collective head screwed on tight when they brought a hefty dose of bizarreness to the cinema. I, personally, have never heard of the comics to which the film refers, but they sound brilliant. Having a simple working class guy as the hero, written by a simple working class guy about his mate, this is the slice of America that we in England rarely get to see. Usually it's the middle class intelligentsia and their affluent friends worrying about why they're not yet super-rich; what a breath of fresh air it is to see real people. What a breath of fresh air it is also to see an innovative way of telling a story, the film could be confusing but it isn't, it could get silly when they bring the real people in but it doesn't, the film could get over-tearful when it talks about his cancer, thankfully it treads the fine line between reality and sentimentality with get care. I suppose I should go and read these comics now.
Rating: 8/10.

Anchorman; the legend of Ron Bergundy (2004)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate.
Director: Adam McKay.
Synopsis: A local news anchorman encounters a new rival when a woman starts at his news corporation.
Dean's comments: A film that is always desperately trying to be funny - and in places it succeeds - 'Anchorman' pokes fun at the casual sexism of the 1970s and the tackiness of local news reporting of the modern age. The film delivers enough of a comic punch to be worthwhile viewing, I laughed out loud 4 or 5 times, and its lack of multi-dimensional characters is veiled by its short running time. Will Ferrel has a style that reminds my of Eddie Izzard in places; that slightly stunted delivery that gives an impression that the comedian is just as confused by his gag as the audience. His alter-ego 'Ron Bergundy' is kind of a David Brent without the social skills, although most of the laugh come from straight gags rather than any kind of mocking observational stuff. Look out for some short appearances by other well-known Hollywood comedy actors as rival television presenters when they have a school-yard fight over TV bragging rights.
Rating: 5/10.

Anita and Me (2002)
Starring: Chandeep Uppal, Sanjeev Bashkar, Ayesha Dharker.
Director: Metin Huseyin.
Synopsis: The coming-of-age story of a girl growing up in an Indian family in a West Midlands suburb during the early 1970s.
Dean's comments: Well isn't this all sweet and lovely then? Well perhaps it's a little too sweet and lovely for my tastes, a little too heart-warming if you will. But let's not allow that to get in the way of praising what is a really rather good coming-of-age story which also serves as a great denunciation of racism without being at all preachy. All the characters seem to be played by people who dominate contemporary comedy on the BBC, that's great because they're all really good actors. 'Anita and Me' is a film that you should certainly watch if you were a teenager in the 70's, my Mum was and she really seemed to empathise with the characters. Everyone will still like it, just don't be surprised if it's a little too cuddly.
Rating: 6/10.

Any Given Sunday (1999)
Starring: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Dennis Quaid.
Director: Oliver Stone.
Synopsis: An almost washed-up American football coach is given another chance to get his team to the Super Bowl with a young rookie quarterback.
Dean's comments: This film has Oliver Stone written all over it. Stone's usual cliché of using slow motion action sequences accompanied by powerful music is applied to the NFL. My question is this; is there anything inherently artistic about fat bloaters pounding each other about that requires slow-motion? Now I'm a big fan of American football, indeed I'm glued to the NFL every year, but all those slow-motion, fan-fare, booming voice-over clips that the NFL produces every year to promote the idea that their sport is an art form are very tiring. This film wasn't really needed, the main plot (which involves the socialisation of a new talent into the league contrasted with Al Pacino's 'old school' coaching methods) is quite standard and Stone should go back to making films about subject matters that are worthy of his 'artistic' style. Having said all this, if you're a fan of the sport then this film is rather entertaining in terms of it's game-sequences. Give it a go, although if you're a little squeamish avert your gaze when the linebacker has his eye taken out.
Rating: 4/10.

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola.
Synopsis: A U.S. colonel in the Vietnam war goes 'native', a U.S. captain is sent to find him and find out what has gone wrong.
Dean's comments: Let's get one thing out of the way right from the off here, I don't understand why some people go absolutely crazy about 'Apocalypse Now'. Here's the good stuff though; Robert Duvall's character is great, the series of battle scenes when the U.S. troops are trying to surf while fighting and then the helicopters fly in playing Wagner is utter genius and worthy of such accolade. Almost everything that happens before Sheen's character arrives at his ultimate destination is a great indictment of war. Here's the problem; the whole thing falls apart when we finally get to meet the errant colonel and his band of followers. It just goes too far; if you're going to make a film where the message is 'war is crazy', then you can't spend 2 hours making a modern version of 'Catch 22' and let it collapse into psychedelia for the last half an hour. I get the impression that either Coppola had either not read 'Catch 22' at all, or he was trying too hard to copy it. The genius of that book is that it uses a bizarre style to show us that war is madness embodied. 'Apocalypse Now' tries to do the same thing, but Coppola has got it all wrong.
Rating: 6/10.

Apocalypto (2006)
Starring: Rudy Youngblood.
Director: Mel Gibson.
Synopsis: The story of a small village that is wiped out by the Mayan empire.
Dean's comments: Whenever you watch a Mel Gibson-directed movie, you always need to be on the look out for the Christian subtext. It’s normally not too hard to find it, and ‘Apocalytpo’ is no exception. For the most part, ‘Apocalypto’ should be applauded for its apparently highly accurate portrayal of the Mayan civilisation – something which I have never seen done in film before. It breaks down into 3 basic segments; at first there is a good 30 minutes of set up, kind of a getting to know you with all the characters. Secondly there is a great deal of ultra violence, including cutting people’s hearts out and an unnerving moment when the camera puts you behind the eyes of a character who has just been beheaded. Finally there is a massive chase sequence. The main character taunts his captors to chase him into the jungle, where his greater experience and knowledge of the plants and animals allow him to pick them off one by one. Not much of a pro Christian message yet you’re thinking, well just wait for the final 5 minutes when Gibson seems to be implying that the crazy ways of all these savages will soon be mitigated by the intervention of the Catholic conquistadors. I enjoyed seeing the portrayal of the Mayan civilisation, but it doesn’t seem like it knows whether it wants to give a sentimental view of that civilisation or demonstrate the harsh realities of living in that day and age. Certainly worthwhile checking out, but the 18 certificate is there for reasons of violence – so be warned.
Rating: 6/10.

The Aristocrats (2005)
Starring: Various comedians.
Director: Paul Provenza.
Synopsis: The rudest joke never told.
Dean's comments: This documentary focuses on a very old joke, told by comedians to each other, rarely told by comedians to their audiences. The secrecy surrounding the joke is entirely due to the fact that it is the crudest joke ever told. The premise of the joke is that a talent scout goes into his manager's office and describes a new act, the teller of the joke is now expected to elaborate on this act by describing the foulest thing they can imagine. The punch line is that the act call themselves 'The Aristocrats'. This is something that Americans apparently find very funny as they think aristocrats are meant to be refined, what we English realise is that there is nothing so dirty and sordid that real aristocrats wouldn't stoop so low as to do. The film is only 80 minutes long, and it is quite funny - if you like that kind of thing - to hear several well-known comedians tell their personalised version of the joke. Towards the end the film-makers attempt a discussion of the nature of rudeness and what counts as going beyond the pail in the modern day and age - racism. But ultimately the point is to hear a bunch of crude comedians being crude - something which I found funny even if 7 of the 11 people who were in the cinema at the start of the film left after 5 minutes.
Rating: 6/10.

Arlington Road (1999)
Starring: Tim Robbins, Jeff Bridges.
Director: Mark Pellington.
Synopsis: Sinister goings-on in an American suburb.
Dean's comments: This is just an annoying film; Tim Robbins is at his worse here. He looks like he's over-acting terribly in a totally unconvincing way. The entire plot is wildly over-the-top and far too contrived. I can't be bothered saying any more.
Rating: 3/10.

Army of Darkness (Evil Dead 3) (1993)
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie.
Director: Sam Raimi.
Synopsis: Ash fights a horde of skeletal minions in the 13th centaury.
Dean's comments: The opening half hour and closing half hour of this film are great, although the middle section gets far too bogged down in a silly special-effects laden battle between Ash and his evil self in a parody of the first two films. The opening couple of sequences in which Ash battles against a pile of monsters in a well while threatening the locals with his chainsaw and shotgun is just really funny. Sam Raimi understands the comedy inherent in the horror genre to perfection, liberally handing Bruce Campbell some wonderfully cheesy lines as he taunts people "... do you want some more!?" and getting him to suit up in his crazy medieval armour telling the locals that they have "... primitive minds ...". Then of course there is the wonderful silliness of the ending ".. noooo, I've slept too long!!" with piles of rubbish from Human civilisation lying around Ash. Just a great piece of comedy, horror silliness that doesn't try to be any more than it is.
Rating: 6/10.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon (2004)
Starring: Sean Penn, Noami Watts, Don Cheadle.
Director: Niels Mueller.
Synopsis: A man, who is separated from his wife and alienated by his work, struggles to work out who is to blame for his failing life.
Dean's comments: I have seen some depressing films in my time, and Sean Penn's performance as the essentially good man who is downtrodden by the pressures of the american dream is one of the most depressing I have ever had the fortune to see. The film benefits from having a strong cast, and also gains from the fact that the writers are perpared to confront the true root causes of alienation and disenchantment head on rather than bury them in a cloud of waffly socio-economic babble. We are presented with the life of a man who has fallen through the cracks of the materialism of the western world, who sees injustice and deception all around him yet cannot excape it because he is intrinsically connected to the system he hates. The film effectively discusses the notion that sexism and racism are symptoms of society's ills rather than being responsible for it. It's a shame that Sean Penn seems to mumble a lot though, sometimes his lines are virtually inaudible. The story builds to almost an anticlimactic conclusion as Penn's character begins to blame society's leaders for its problems. The are several scenes that are reminiscent of 'Taxi Driver'. 'The assassination...' gives a different message to that De Niro classic though, one that is altogether much more nihilistic and depressing. The film will probably leave you quite numb and senseless, but there is a much deeper meaning hidden under the depression and angst. I recommend the film almost as a study of alienation in the modern world. Although I understand that this may not seem like much of a recommendation to people reading my review, it's certainly worth 90 minutes of your life to make up your mind.
Rating: 7/10.

Assault on Precinct Thirteen (1976)
Starring: Darwin Joston, Tony Burton, Austin Stoker, Laurie Zimmer.
Director: John Carpenter.
Synopsis: A police station in Los Angeles comes under seige after a local youth is killed.
Dean's comments: This cult classic of 1970s American cinema is notable for its fantastic soundtrack, a wondrous array of proto-electronica music that exudes menace and turns the film's urban surrounds into a frightening jungle from which anything can emerge. Therein lies the film's basic premise – that the urban environment is every bit as dangerous and foreboding as the wilds of nature when left untamed and forgotten behind society's wall of silence. The plot follows closely to George Romero's zombie classic 'Night of the Living Dead'; a group of people who would never have come together in ordinary life are forced to defend Precinct 13 against faceless, fearless and ruthless waves of attackers – here we presume them to be a combination of down-and-out kids from the local estates and worthless thugs bent on a revenge trip after one of their number is killed. Essentially the film encapsulates one of the most pervasive of urban middle class fears, that there is a faceless underclass somewhere out there waiting to emerge from the shadows and steal away our cosy existence. Despite there being plenty of guns and violence, the film is really about the psychology of that terror, a definite cult classic.
Rating: 7/10.

Attack of the Clones (Star Wars part 2) (2002)
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman.
Director: George Lucas.
Synopsis: The old Republic collapses as a result of an internal power struggle.
Dean's comments: The critics hated this, the fans loved it; I'm a sci-fi enthusiast but not a Star Wars fan-boy so I feel I can bring a little objectivity here. First off, this is no-where near as good as the first two Star Wars films (again), however it does show a return to the type of story telling that made the world fall in love with the Star Wars series back in 1977. We have fantastic battles, large-scale wars, light-sabres, droids and 'the dark side' corrupting all. The reason that it is not as good as it used to be is the over-reliance on special effects to tell the story, entire sequences pass without any acting at all (or even any real people in some cases). This, combined with Hayden Christiansen's inability to show any talent even when he's given a chance, makes for a rather hollow experience. I get the impression that the film would have been considered poor even by fans if it were not for Yoda's SFX light-sabre battle in the final act, that being the thing that everyone seemed to come out of the cinema remembering.
Rating: 4/10.

Audition (2000)
Starring: Eihi Shiina.
Director: Takashi Miike.
Synopsis: A businessman holds an audition to find his perfect woman, she is not all she seems though.
Dean's comments: This film that starts off like it might be a romantic comedy, it soon descends into a vile and sick thriller about a woman who is scared of loosing people to the extent that she is prepared to cut out their tongues and saw off their feet to hold on to them. This shift in emphasis makes the film more nasty than it might have been if it were a more obvious horror right from the start. Now I like horror films, but there is a subtle difference between thrilling the audience and scaring them by being as sick and dirty as possible. If you're going to go down that road then I think you have to have something else; I don't want to sound pretentious but can't the writer get a little social commentary or some comment on the Human condition in the script? There isn't anything to redeem the violence in this film and it isn't funny. Only watch this if you want to spend time hiding behind a cushion and wincing in the last 20 minutes.
Rating: 3/10.

Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery (1997)
Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley.
Director: Jay Roach.
Synopsis: A super-spy is cryogenically frozen in the 60's only to be woken when his arch-nemesis 'Doctor Evil' returns.
Dean's comments: The ultimate Bond spoof. I'm a great fan of James Bond films and Austin Powers is a fantastic spoof of that genre. The toilet humour is just about palatable in the small doses which it is delivered here, but the thing that keeps the story running is Myers' obvious love of the 60s spy genre and ability to send it up with some class. The best character is undoubtedly Dr Evil, the lines that Myers wrote for that character encapsulating the contradictions and genius of that genre. My favourite lines are when Dr Evil discusses his father and upbringing, "...he made outlandish claims, like that he invented the question-mark...". There are plenty of brilliant visual gags too, Powers attempting to pull a 3-point-turn in a narrow corridor, the entire final sequence which is lifted straight out of 'You only Live Twice' and the scene where Power's runs the guard over in the heavy roller are just some examples.
Rating: 8/10.

Austin Powers, the spy who shagged me (1999)
Starring: Mike Myers, Heather Graham.
Director: Jay Roach.
Synopsis: Austin Powers is back to battle Dr Evil once more.
Dean's comments: I just don't understand how some of my contemporaries thoughts that this second installment was better than the first. I can understand if they thought that Heather Graham was a better actress than Liz Hurley (she is by miles), but they seemed to think it was funnier. Not by a long way. With the introduction of two characters that play on crude toilet humour ('Mini-me' and 'Fast Bastard') and the liberal use of time travel to wring as much as possible out of every plot, Myer's has undermined the Bond references and spoofery that made the original Austin Power s film a classic. Even the knowing look to the audience when they bring in the time travel "...just sit back and enjoy it" isn't enough to redeem it. One thing that does work though, Dr Evil breaking out into song in the middle of the film, so unexpected and so funny because of that.
Rating: 5/10.

Austin Powers, Goldmember (2002)
Starring: Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles.
Director: Jay Roach.
Synopsis: Powers travels in time to the 70's to stop Goldmember.
Dean's comments: Oh how I was so disappointed by this third installment of the Austin Powers series. Can you believe that I didn't laugh even once in the entire film? If this is a comedy film then it has failed on even the most basic of levels, in that I didn't laugh! The things that were wrong with the second film have descended to even lower depths here, with stupid Hollywood cameos and jokes about moles and golden nobs I could hardly stand it as I was watching. I could tell Myers exactly what the problem was if he wanted to listen, his original film was a cult classic because it wasn't pretentious and it had a genuine cult following, with the subsequent films he has tried to break into the mass audience. In doing so he has lost all the charm and comedy that the original showed, I for one hope he kills this serial now.
Rating: 3/10.

Awesome: I fuckin' shot that! (2006)
Starring: The Beastie Boys and their fans.
Director: Adam Yauch.
Synopsis: A Beastie Boys concert as filmed by 100 fans with desposable cameras.
Dean's comments: This is a film which I was drawn towards because of its concept rather than its subject matter. The film was shot entirely at a Beastie Boys concert in Brooklyn (New York) in 2003, the footage was obtained by distribution cheap cameras to audience members and asking them to film whatever they could. The resulting material has since been edited into 90 minutes of documentary – i.e. this film. I was interested in the way that the film makers were trying to capture the atmosphere of the concert by allowing those who were lost in the event to capture images as they saw fit, rather than rely on a trained cameraman and director. The film is a confusing patchwork of people dancing, singing and the Beastie Boys themselves performing on stage; in this sense it captures the essential chaos of a live performance, as well as the fact that ordinary fans are often not able to see or hear everything they might want to in crystal clarity. The actual subject matter of the film was not that interesting for me; clearly several Beastie Boys tracks are classics, but I am not interested enough to want to watch an entire concert. Fans of the Beasties will doubtlessly love it, for fans of cinema the film could almost be watched on fast forward.
Rating: 4/10.

Azumi (2003)
Starring: Aya Ueto.
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura.
Synopsis: A group of dissidents in war-torn Japan set out to assassinate the nation's leaders.
Dean's comments: This is basically live action Anime. You’ve got a barely-clothed samurai maiden, an insane bad guy, overly dramatic music and lots of crazy warrior code stuff that ultimately makes no sense. The catch is this though; when you’re in the right mood all of that is great. With almost no plot, this style over substance film makes perfect sense in its own world. The heroine – Azumi – is charged with killing the evil warlords of the land, the idea being that doing this will stop all wars. This naivety isn’t really expanded on by the plot, but then who wants that? All you really want if you’re watching a film like this is plenty of swordplay, a bit of wire-work and a ludicrously sadistic evil genius who the heroine can take out in an unnecessarily extended and overblown final scene. Not for everyone then, ‘Azumi’ is a very gruesome film that fans of Japanese Anime might find themselves enjoying.
Rating: 5/10.

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