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

Back to the Future (1985)
Starring: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd.
Director: Robert Zemekis.
Synopsis: A teenager travels back in time to save his parent's marriage.
Dean's comments: When I was young I was quite the geek, I was fascinated by all that time travel stuff and so 'Back to the Future' was my perfect film. All that stuff about changing the past and photos of things changing as the future was altered and 'traveling in the fourth dimension' lit my brain up. Even now when I look back I can see the charm of the film. There are a couple of slight problems with the whole time travel premise (as there always is with such storylines) but that's all forgivable in the interests of telling a story. The things that irritate me now are how obviously not a teenager Michael J Fox is and how completely immersed in American suburbia the film is. Note also that the film is heavily steeped in 80's paraphinalia and as such has dated quite a lot. All in all then, a slightly above-average film that's really good for the kids.
Rating: 6/10.

Back to the Future 2 (1989)
Starring: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F Wilson.
Director: Robert Zemekis.
Synopsis: Marty McFly continues his adventures, now travelling forwards in time, once more to rescue his family from disaster.
Dean's comments: Many of the comments for the original film apply again to the second part, perhaps with even more emphasis on Michael J Fox's age. The film weaves an even deeper web of time travelling antics as now the heroes go forward and then backwards in time, all the time interfering with their own futures and pasts. If the McFly family is so stupid that individuals are egged into commiting crimes when someone calls them 'chicken' then they deserve no help! Why is Doc Brown so obsessed with helping them?
Rating: 5/10.

Back to the Future 3 (1990)
Starring: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F Wilson, Mary Steenburgen.
Director: Robert Zemekis.
Synopsis: Marty travels back to the old west to save Doc Brown.
Dean's comments: I remember being really excited about this one when I went to the cinema aged 12, watching it again doesn't really have the same kick as the original Back to the Future film. The idea of setting the thing in the wild west really is the definition of running out of plot ideas and just giving the thing a whole new setting in order to wring as much out of the franchise as possible. Doing all the same gags as the first and the second one in yet another version of the town doesn't work, they should have come up with something new or not bothered.
Rating: 3/10.

Bad Education (La mala educación) (2004)
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Fele Martinez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar.
Synopsis: A transvestite searches for justice against the priest who abused him as a boy.
Dean's comments: Right form the start, you think that this is going to be a really good film because it has Gael Garcia Bernal in it. This is the kid who was in Amor es Perros, he's a right good actor. The film is pretty good for the first half as Bernal plays the tranvestite in what we think are flashbacks to his past. Now I don't want to give anything away... but there are some twists in the film that let it all down. These twists take some thinking about, and so in the middle of the film it's easy to miss that the characters seem to have no motivation at all to be doing what they're doing. This takes the shine off what could have been a really good film, after all, the dialogue is really funny even in the exposition-heavy opening and Bernal is great.
Rating: 6/10.

Bad Santa (2003)
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham.
Director: Terry Zwigoff.
Synopsis: A crime duo dress up as Santa and his elves in order to rob supermarkets.
Dean's comments: There was a lot of hype leading up to the release of this film (not least the fact that we had to wait an entire year in Britain after the Americans had it) and as such I was rather hoping for a comedy classic anti-christmas film. The film is certainly against the usual christmas trappings in its portrayal of a foul-mouthed drunk as Father Christmas, but it relies too heavily on crude language and shock tactics where it should be more subtle. A scene where Santa pisses himself is totally unneeded while there is only so much comedy that a team of writers, regardless of how good they mighy be, can wring out of the fact that Santa is swearing. On the good side, Thornton's character (Willie) interacts fabulously with the Kid and when he finally finds the christmas spirit (he has to doesn't he?) by the end of the film it isn't silly and works in the context of the film and the characters. Overall the film is entertaining but not quite the antithesis to christmas that we were hoping for.
Rating: 5/10.

Baise Moi (2000)
Starring: Karen Lancuame, Raffeala Anderson.
Director: Virginie Despentes.
Synopsis: A duo of wronged women go on a murderous rampage accross France.
Dean's comments: Right, the only reason I watched 'Baise Moi' was because it was reccomended to me by Mark Kermode on Radio 5 live's film reviews. I think I must have mis-heard him or something because 'Baise Moi' is nothing more than a border-line porn film dressed up as art-house. The fact that the whole thing is only 70 minutes long should have been a bit of warning sign. The Q and A session with the writers and directors on the DVD that I rented was a strange affair. They had to answer several questions about their use of real sex as opposed to simulated sex. Their responses were to peddle a line about women being just as rude, crude and stupid as men and the film being a watershed for censorship. They're certainly right, never before had such a film been passed '18' rated by the censors. But is it all worth it? I for one struggle do find any redeeming features in the film at all, the characters are pretty despicable. Going on a mad murder-ridden tour around the country is hardly a way to endear them to the audience. If the objective really was that which the director insisted, then she's done a good job, these women are terrible people. I don't think that they're saying anything new though, women have been heriones and baddies and stupid and clever for a long time now in films. This is just an exercise in how much you can get away with without being banned.
Rating: 2/10.

The Barbarian Invasions (2003)
Starring: Rémy Girard.
Director: Denys Arcand.
Synopsis: A man on his deathbed is visited by old friends.
Dean's comments: I'm not really sure why the Oscars made such a fuss about this film. Despite being funny and cleverly-written, the film boils down to intellectual snobbery and middle class perceptions of superiority. Its all about a middle class man who thinks he can behave in a way which would shock him if a working class person did the same, all because he has friends who are intellectuals and know how to talk about wine. There are enough good jokes to make it worthwhile seeing, but don't buy into the main character's brand of champagne socialism.
Rating: 4/10.

Barton Fink (1991)
Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman.
Director: Joel Coen.
Synopsis: A fresh-faced New York playwright travels to LA to make his fortune.
Dean's comments: John Goodman excels in the roles that the Coen brothers give him, his portrayal as a chubby, likable insurance salesman who happens to chop off people's heads is fantastically set against the eponymous Fink; quiet and under-stated. Fink is a genuine intellectual, one who wants to make theatre but is drawn into a world of money where the lowest common denominator is king. This is an aspect that I can relate to, where creativity is squashed in favour of making money and 'getting on'. Some reviewers seem to be confused and / or unsettled by the Coen brothers' ambiguous messages in 'Barton Fink', I think that this use of unclear subtexts which make the viewer think is exactly what I want. What does the painting of the woman in Fink's appartment mean? Who knows; but you're free to decide for yourself.
Rating: 8/10.

Batman Begins (2005)
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer.
Director: Christopher Nolan.
Synopsis: A man, who saw his parents killed when he was young, returns to the place of his birth to fight against organised crime and corruption.
Dean's comments: What a far cry from the camp Adam West of the 60s or the oddball Tim Burton of the late 80s this version of Batman is, but at the same time - what a stunning adaptation! Christopher Nolan has succeeded in turning Batman into dark and creepy ninja who juggles the moral ambiguities of dealing with crime in a world where the criminal will kill liberally in order to steal even the smallest amount of money. Questions are posed – and thankfully no easy answers are suggested – as to whether such criminals should be treated with the same disrespect they show their victims, or whether civil society has a duty to itself to treat criminals with due process. Christian Bale is excellent as the caped crusader, he doesn’t ham up any of his lines while his chiselled appearance give the eponymous character a gritty edge that was lacking in other incarnations. Unfortunately, but hardly surprising, is the inclusion of an English character as the bad guy (Cillian Murphy does very well with the role). Michael Caine gets most of the best lines, while Liam Neeson has the air of someone who is slightly bored of his role. The cast list should be enough to make anyone want to see the film; you shouldn’t be disappointed though as ‘Batman Begins’ has a well-measured balance of comic book cliché, Hollywood blockbuster and serious artistic crime thriller.
Rating: 7/10.

Battle Royale (2000)
Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Aki Maeda, Tatsuya Fujiwara.
Director: Kinji Fakashaku.
Synopsis: In the near future, Japanese schoolchildren are sent into a battle to the death in an attempt to curb unruly behaviour.
Dean's comments: 'Battle Royale' has a rather far-fetched premise; but the truth is that the example made of the school children in the film isn't too far from what some strange right-wing people think should happen to 'the kids of today' already. The premise of the film is based around the idea that children are so unruly that the only way to keep them in line is to pit a random selection of them against each other in a battle to the death. All through the film the director expertly treads a fine line between getting into the personnal lives of the kids while giving us an over-view of the 'Battle' as a whole. Each individual death is handled in such a way as to scare us while simultaniously making us feel sympathy for those forced into action by circumstances. Should society respond to violence by violence? That's the question that the film asks us. Takeshi Kitano plays the teacher / commandant, his shifting between an angry nazi-guy to a caring father-figure is brilliantly disturbing. I would have been happier with the film's conclusion if it had followed through on its promises to let no-one off the island, so be prepared for a very sign-posted and slightly heart-warming ending. I suppose you could argue that the writer is arguing that love wins through despite the ills of society, judge for yourself though.
Rating: 7/10.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Starring: Russel Crowe, Paul Bettany, Ed Harris.
Director: Ron Howard.
Synopsis: An extraordinary mathematician encounters the setrect serivices, or so he is led to believe.
Dean's comments: Well here we are then, Russel Crowe goes down the 'get yourself an oscar by playing a disabled guy' route. 'A beautifull mind' is standard hollywood fare in my mind, with its portrayal of the 'good guy' bravely fighting his way past his problems the film breaks very few conventions. All in all though it's well made and I can't really place a finger on anything more specific than "Hollywood does disability, argh!!" as to why I was annoyed by it (apart from Russel Crowe being rich for acting like a plank of wood). One point for the good is that the film deals with maths (hooray!), just a shame that it's all too complicated to be explained to the audience.
Rating: 5/10.

Before Sunrise (1995)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy.
Director: Richard Linklater.
Synopsis: An American man and French woman meet on a train in Austria and spend the evening together.
Dean's comments: This is a film which I was expecting to be entirely irritating, a film which I only watched as a housemate put it on which I was eating my dinner, yet it is a film with an odd and endearing charm. The two main characters are both young middle class westerners, the kind of people who are probably inclined to complain endlessly about the injustices of their lives while in fact enjoying some of the most privileged existences on this planet. Instead they merely discuss their lives, discuss how they have met and the choices that have led to them both being on a train in Austria at the same time. It’s an entirely unpretentious study of the carefree nature of young love, but that’s all it is, nothing more or less than what happened when two young people met, clicked and had a one-night stand in Austria. I expect this is the sort of film that teenage girls would probably appreciate.
Rating: 5/10.

Being John Malkovich (1999)
Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, John Malkovich
Director: Spike Jonze.
Synopsis: A pure fantasy tale about a group of people who find a vortex that allows them into the mind of John malkovich.
Dean's comments: So what is 'Being John Malkovich' all about then? Is it about the nature of self and the ego? Perhaps about the morality of not being responsable for your actions? Well whatever message the makers were trying to get accross, they certainly had me glued to their film. The movie is just so much fun that I'm sure there must be a moral or ethic screaming to be heard underneath all the insanity of what goes on. Can it really just be a fantasy about being able to take control of someone else's body? Well with Charlie Kaufman I genuinely think that anything is possible. Enough of this musing, 'Being John Malkovich' is a great film. It's a solid fantasy tale with plenty of psychedelia and enough weirdness to keep you going for days afterwards. There is an amazing scene when John Malkovich uses the 'warp-thing' (how else to describe it?) to get into his own body; everyone becomes John Malvovich and all they can say is 'Malkovich?'. If you like your films abstract, you'll love this.
Rating: 7/10.

Beowulf (2007)
Starring: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Angelina Jolie.
Director: Robert Zemekis.
Synopsis: The hero Beowulf arrives in a village and promises to rid the land of its demons.
Dean's comments: How is it possible that a film containing beheadings, people being eaten by trolls, flashes of hideously gruesome violence and Angelina Jolie effectively naked can have a 12 certificate? Perhaps in years to come this will become the norm, but I'm not sure that there are many 8 year olds (the 12A certificate means parents can take 8 year olds to see it) that would be able to handle this level of extreme fantasy violence. This aside, Beowulf is an absolute riot of a film which - providing you're happy to immerse yourself in the premise of this mythical version of Denmark where trolls stalk the land - demonstrated to me that this 1500 year old tale is actually a rather good story. It's almost too silly for its own good, Ray Winstone looks like a 25 year old Sean Bean and Anthony Hopkins can't sort his accent out, but the power and setting of the story lend themselves to the way it is told. Although all the action has been acted, the footage has been enhanced using the kind of rotoscoping technique that was used in 'A Scanner Darkly', therefore the film looks like a semi-nightmarish version of Narnia - and awesome as a result. The actual story of Beowulf has been analysed to death elsewhere, but I was rather moved by this simple tale of a hero who was revered yet always had to live with the knowledge that he succumbed to his male desires rather than his duty. But if I was sent to kill Angelina Jolie and instead of fighting she offered me her life for a roll in the hay, I think I'd consider that a fair deal too.
Rating: 7/10.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi.
Director: Joel Coen.
Synopsis: Jeff Lebowski (The Dude) is mistaken for a rich billionaire of the same name.
Dean's comments: This is one of the Coen brothers' best efforts. The acting pluadits must go to John Goodman for his role as a loud, obtrusive veteran of the Vietnam war, "Am I right!"; although Julianne Moore is not far behind him as the sexually profilic daughter of the rich Lebowski. In a way it's a classic Coen brothers film, a crazy tale with crazy characters and ingenious dialogue, while all the time the plot twists around. The film is packed with a lot of confused people just trying to make a quick dollar, there are no real heros or villans. Jeff Bridges is the eponymous Lebowski, mistaken for a rich billionaire he and his bowling pals get into some genuinely hilarious scrapes as they battle (mentally and psyically) with completely incompetent criminals for the loot. I think that this is a good film to show people who are new to the Coen brothers' stuff.
Rating: 8/10.

The Birds (1963)
Starring: Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock.
Synopsis: A small west coast fishing village in America cames under attack from birds.
Dean's comments: Hitchcock really is a master of thrilling cinema; 'The Birds' is a classic example of being able to induce an aura of fear without using any shock tactics until well over an hour into the piece. Hitchcock is able to give us a rounded introduction to the main character before thrusting us into the horror of the avian assualt in the fishing village. It is the fact that we are in this woman's life that is half of the reason why the film is so scary, we actually care what happens to her. Never being one to cop-out in a film, Hitchcock delivers an ending as disturbing as the whole film, with the birds' behaviour unexplained and the Humans being allowed to leave as if part of some armistace. My favourite scenes in the film include the unexpectedly gruesome man with no eyes on a toilet and the birds gathering slowly on the climbing frame. The use of two different styles to build up tension in these scenes is classic, in the first scene the camera uses a sequence of quick zooms to give us the briefest of glimpses of the guy's eye-sockets, the second scene cuts between several angles, each one showing more and more birds gathering. 'The Birds' is an utter classic, one of Hitchcock's simplest and best thrillers.
Rating: 7/10.

A Bittersweet Life (2005)
Starring: Byung-hun Lee.
Director: Ji-Woon Kim.
Synopsis: A hitman falls for his boss' daughter and becomes a renegade .
Dean's comments: Excellent actions sequences and beautifully-choreographed fight scenes combine to give ‘A Bittersweet Life’ – another in the long line of organised crime films coming out of South Korea – immense energy and more than a little bit of that Eastern zing that makes action films special. The story is about a man who is betrayed by his friends and enemies after being given the unenviable task of spying on the actions of his boss’s daughter. In the classic Hitchcockian style, the only way he can unentangle himself from the mire is by foraging deep into the mystery and coming out the other side. Along the way there are all kinds of fist-fights and gun battles that the action connoisseur will enjoy.
Rating: 6/10.

Black Hawk Down (2001)
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana.
Director: Ridley Scott.
Synopsis: War story set in the short-live U.S. invasion of Somalia.
Dean's comments: This is a rather one-sided war film now isn't it? The director's over-emphasis on the sadness of the American deaths as opposed to the Somali ones is even more annoying here than in equivalent pictures. Not a single Somali life seems to matter at all, Ridley Scott falls into the trap that many pro-imperialist ideologues have done through the ages, they can't understand why the natives aren't pleased to see a foreign force 'liberate' them from peril. If you need me to explain it (I will if you insist) then there isn't much hope for you. On the (very limited) up-side, the special effects and direction of action sequences isn't really fallible.
Rating: 3/10.

Bladerunner (1982)
Starring: John Turturro, John Goodman.
Director: Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer.
Synopsis: In a distopean vision of the future, a bounty hunter tracks down rouge 'replicants' that have captured a spaceship and intend to return to Earth.
Dean's comments: 'Bladerunner' is proper science-fiction. The nihilistic vision of a distopian future, the literal depiction of layers of society with the rich on top of the poor, the troubled and distrusted anti-hero fighting not because he's a crazed Jean-Paul Vandamme style gun-monster but because it's a job that someone's got to do; this is a true masterpeice of cinema. Be prepared to watch a version that someone else hasn't watched though, and also be prepared to vehemently stick to an argument about whether Decard is or isn't a replicant (which ever way your choice falls you must be prepared to defend your position, there is no right answer). As well as being a masterpeice in its own right, 'Bladerunner' is almost unsurpassed in its influence over future sci-fi films (only 'Star Wars' and 'The Matrix' get anywhere close in terms of influence), from it's dank city streets to the stylings of it's troubled hero, the thing has hitherto left its mark on everything to come under the umbrella of the sci-f genre.
Rating: 8/10.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Starring: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C WIlliams.
Director: Eduardo Sanchez, Daniel Myrick.
Synopsis: 3 American teenagers travel out into the woods to investigate the myth of the 'Blair Witch'.
Dean's comments: Yes, I was scared out of my wits by 'The Blair Witch Project' when I saw it at the cinema. It was quite strange how I left the cinema feeling quite noraml, but when I went to bed and went to turn the light off, I couldn't do it. I had to sit up for a couple of hours reading before I felt sufficiently safe in my house (which is very much in the built-up city). The crux of why it's so scary is that it plays into a base Human instinct, that of being isolated and unable to find food or shelter, being exposed to the elements. Despite all our technology and society there might still be some forces left in the world untamed and inherently untamable. In that sense this is a much smaller budget version of 'Jurassic Park'. There aren't any specific scenes that stand out as being more frightening than the rest, it's the aura and 'feel' of the movie that churns my stomach. One major off-putting factor, the rediculous hype that the film recieved on the internet. We are going to watch your film, you don't have to pretend it's real!
Rating: 7/10.

Blazing Saddles (1974)
Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder.
Director: Mel Brooks.
Synopsis: A decietfull politician tries to force villagers out of their wild west town by imposing a black sheriff upon them.
Dean's comments: I'm not really a great fan of Westerns, but this is easily the best I've seen. The fact that it's a spoof of a genre which is often very silly makes it very funny and quite post modern in a way that pre-dates the 'spoofery' of Airplane and Police Squad! The fact that one could spoof the racism of the wild west (which was still remarkably common amognst many Americans in the 70s) back in the age of the civil rights movement and Vietnam protests in the USA shows the rather visionary thinking in the film's producers and director. This fresh look at racism disarms the racists by making them look silly rather than portraying them as dangerous 'little Hitlers'. 'Balzing Saddles' also includes one of the funniest things I have ever seen on film, the scene where the local 'heavy' (I can't remember the name of the character) punches a horse and knocks it out. Quite why this is so funny I'm not really sure, something about the unexpectedness of it I think. Fans of 'spoof' will love this.
Rating: 7/10.

Blood Simple (1984)
Starring: John Getz, Francis McDormand.
Director: Joel Coen.
Synopsis: A man hires a hitman to kill his wife and her lover, things soon start to go wrong as double-crossing and back-stabbing take over.
Dean's comments: The Coen brothers' first film is genuinely creepy and disturbing in its portrayal of characters seemingly without any loyalties or morals, willing to stab whomever it takes to make gains in love or money. In this sense it sets a precident for many of their film to come. I'm not being facetious here when I say that the film should have come with subtitles, I really did have trouble trying to understand some of those Texas accents! I don't feel that it's anywhere near as good as some of their later efforts (notably 'Fargo') and although the attention to detail is commendable I think it's a little too slow-moving at some key points in the plot. It's sad to say it but my attention started to wane at points during the film.
Rating: 6/10.

Blow (2001)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz.
Director: Ted Demme.
Synopsis: The story of a man who becomes the biggest drug lord in America.
Dean's comments: There are a lot of gangster films out there, I am not convinced that this is any better or worse than the vast majority. Johnny Depp is clearly a great actor, but I don't really think this role suits him too well. The plot may be based on a true story, but Goodfellas got there ages ago and should always be considered a better version of what is essentially the same story.
Rating: 4/10.

The Bone Collector (1999)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie.
Director: Phillip Noyce.
Synopsis: As an experienced investigator lies bed-ridden, his fresh-faced successor must be his eyes and ears inthe field to solve a serial murder.
Dean's comments: 'The Bone Collector' is a half decent who-dunnit. The killer is fairly obvious in my view as I recognised an actor and thought "he's quite well-known, why is he in such a minor role? Must be the killer...". The characterisation of Denzil Washington and Angelina Jolie's characters is good enough to keep you interested, but the action scenes are cliched and the nasty bits are all stolen from 'Se7en'.
Rating: 4/10.

The Boston Strangler (1968)
Starring: Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy.
Director: Richard Fleischer.
Synopsis: Women in Boston are being strangled to death in a series of seemingly unconnected murders.
Dean's comments: This murder mystery and detective film comes straight from the top drawer. The director makes use of a split-screen style to effectively build-up tension and fear as scenes are shown shockingly from several angles in one go. One scene begins with one of the split-screen shots inside a darkened roomn for nearly a minute before a door is opened in another shot to reveal the view from inside. Tony Curtis' role as the killer is excellent, the split personnality he portrays must be the kind of role that actors and actresses love to be given, it really gives him a chance to show off his abilities. The writers of the film also have an interesting take on the investigation of the murders, the detectives assume that the killer is some sexual pervert and spend the first hour of the movie question all sorts of weirdos. Only later do they realise that an ordinary guy might be responsible for these crimes. Overall the film is for the first half a great detective tale, while for the second half becoming a harrowing psychological journey through the mind of an un-knowing killer. In short, an excellent film with a great cast to match.
Rating: 7/10.

Boogie Nights (1997)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C Reilly, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman, Heather Graham, William H Macy.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson.
Synopsis: A young nobody finds fame in the porn industry.
Dean's comments: 'Boogie Nights' is great, it's basically the same premise as 'Goodfellas' set in the porn industry instead of the Mafia. Dirk Diggler is a character looking for his place in the world after the collapse of his home life as a youngster. He finds the porn industry and begins to become a star; obvious his fall from grace isn't too far away. Cross-reference this with the arc given to Henry Hill, for 'porn industry' read 'organised crime'. I feel that the juxtaposition of the career of Don Cheadle's character against that of Dirk Diggler is brilliantly handled, as Buck is recieving a rejection from the bank we feel for him as he looses his dream, when Dirk is rejected in his music career we laugh at his dream. Subsequently as the violence of an armed robbery gives Buck a new chance in life, the same gun violence nearly takes Dirk's life. All the 'sex' scenes are handled with aplomb too, nothing is dirty or gratuitous, anything in the film is there because it's about the sex industry, not out of a voyeuristic need to show porn films. The ensemble cast is truly great, Don Cheadle, Phillip Semour Hoffman, Luis Guzman, Heather Graham and William H Macy are all excellent actors of our time. Julianne Moore steals the show though (this is hardly a surprise) as the longing mother figure whose life is in turmoil as a result of her estrangement from her daughter.
Rating: 8/10.

Borat (2006)
Starring: Sacha Boran Cohen, Ken Davitian.
Director: Larry Charles.
Synopsis: Kazakh television presenter Borat travels to America to make a documentary.
Dean's comments: I consider myself rather a fan of cutting-edge contemporary comedy - Chris Morris’ various television productions are particular favourites of mine. Exactly what is meant to be new and cutting about Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest character entirely escapes me. Cohen plays a Kazakhstani television presenter, a man who is racist, sexist and hails from a village which has a town rapist. It is with this conceit that my problems with the film begin. Although one can argue that the Borat character allows Cohen to explore the underlying racist and sexist tendencies of unsuspecting Americans, what does he gain by carrying that pretence through to the audience? When Cohen’s ‘Ali G’ character first appeared in ‘The 11 o’clock show’ the audience were always in on the joke; by asking his audience to buy into his xenophobic vision of Kazakhstan (do we believe that the people of Kazakhstan have an engagement ritual that involves ‘bagging’ a bride), Cohen is playing a dangerous game that borders on racism. It occurs to me that perhaps Cohen is playing the same game with his audience that he is with the unsuspecting Americans, while we laugh at them applauding his support for their ‘War of Terror’ we also laugh at Borat wrestling his naked producer – as if that’s the kind of thing central Europeans do all the time. Perhaps by making this film he is not only poking fun at those who he interviewed, but those who watch the film – it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true, since Cohen is a very clever guy. However, the most crucial element of any comedy is that it makes you laugh. I laughed exactly once in this film, at the point that Borat’s film producer says “Let’s go back to New York, at least there aren’t any Jews there.”
Rating: 3/10.

The Bourne Identity (2002)
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper.
Director: Doug Liman.
Synopsis: An amnesiac discovers his past life as an assassin.
Dean's comments: 'The Bourne Identity' is an entertaining action film which (as usual) requires you to switch off your brain and forget several plot inconsistancies and absurdities. The main problem is that I don't understand why Jason Bourne would have a laser device embedded in his leg that told him to go to a Swiss bank; it seems like rather a liability in the event that he was killed or captured, his enemies could get his bank number and steal all that lovely cash. Thankfully all the action is set in Europe (a much better place to have car chases than America as the streets are windier and more tight) and the mystery is revealed slowly as the plot unfolds. The story is well-paced and pitched at a good balance between people who like spy thrillers and those who like a full-on action romp.
Rating: 6/10.

Bound (1996)
Starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano.
Director: Andy & Larry Wachowski.
Synopsis: A woman meets makes a new friend and agrees join up to steal from her mobster husband.
Dean's comments: This story of a gangster's wife who discovers her gay side and resolves to defraud her husband of his money could so easily have descended into either a kind of male 'hot lesbian' fantasy or become another 'Thelma and Louise'. 'Bound' avoids most of those clichés and manages to develop a solid relationship through its two leads while never portraying its male characters are any more loathsome than you might expect your average gangster to be. In fact it is the heroines who are the 'bad people' - after all - they're thieving someone else's money and at no point is there any suggestion that *'s character is abused by her husband, merely that she's bored with their relationship. It's a solid thriller with good performances, well worth watching.
Rating: 6/10.

Bowling for Columbine (2002)
Starring: Micheal Moore.
Director: Michael Moore.
Synopsis: Documentary investigating America's love of guns.
Dean's comments: Michael Moore's documentary on the insanity of American gun culture is a masterpiece of liberal oration. There are several amazing sequences of footage which even the most hardened member of the NRA would be hard-pressed to ignore. The best amongst these being the cartoon that tells the history of the American people and doesn't quite go so far as to accuse the KKK as being the same organisation as the NRA, this is followed very closely by the montage of footage documenting when the U.S. has propped up dictatorships and destroyed democracy around the world since the second world war ending with the destruction of the World Trade Centre. Moore's presentation of the facts has been shown to be unquestionable, sometimes his use of cuts and selective quotes gets dangerously close to propaganda but thankfully he steers clear of that minefield for the most part. I'm not so keen on his playing to the lowest common denominator when he tries to pull on the heartstrings of the audience by getting the teacher of a murdered school girl to cry on camera, a presentation of fact and interviews is more effective I think. I'm also less impressed by his attempts to pursue celebraties such as Charlton Heston for their views. Overall though, the film makes a powerful case for greater gun control in the U.S., and forms a warning signal for those in other countries that seem to think the American model of society is the one to follow.
Rating: 8/10.

Braveheart (1995)
Starring: Mel Gibson.
Director: Mel Gibson, Patrick McGoohan, Sophie Marceau.
Synopsis: 'Historical' account of William Wallace's battle to free Scotland from English domination at the end of the 13th centuary.
Dean's comments: Well here we are then, Mel Gibson directs himself to Oscar fame and once again tells a story that invloves evil English people ruthelessly oppressing the poor people of the world. Now we know that Edward the first was a tyrant, but then all kings were tyrants back in the Dark Ages. Gibson fails to make enough of the fact that the Scottish Kings only want to be free to oppress the Scottish people without the interference of London. Granted Wallace does go after his enemies amognst the Scots as ruthlessly as amognst the English, but they are portrayed as misguided individuals while the English have an intelligence in their menage which somehow makes them worse. On the up-side, the battle sequences are very very impressive and well staged. They certainly encompass the atmosphere of the kind of frantic battle that was fought at the time. This has been a problem of many war films, that they have been unable to capture the fear and disorganisation of a war, 'Braveheart' has no such problems. This film would probably be above average if it weren't for Gibson's massive self-aggrandisement, the rediculously long execution scene at the end with its messianic connotations being an outstanding example. This diminishes the impact of the film.
Rating: 4/10.

Brazil (1985)
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond.
Director: Terry Gilliam.
Synopsis: A modern re-working of 1984.
Dean's comments: 'Brazil' is a re-working of '1984' in the sense of it's protrayal of a nightmare future, where democracy has been watered down to the point of non-existence, where bureaucracy is king, where everyone is reduced to a number and people are happy being 'comfortably numb' (as Pink Floyd once said). All of this sounds rather depressing doesn't it, well it probably would be if we didn't have Terry Gilliam bringing his dark humour and Jonathan Pryce bringing his demeanour to the screen. The best moment is when the repair guys come to Pryce's appartment and insist that they have to fix something or else it'll be their heads on the block. I was also tickled by the advertising boards alongside the motorway, no countryside visible, only adverts. How long before that's a reality in our world? See this film if you're a fan of '1984' or any distopian future scenarios.
Rating: 8/10.

Brick (2005)
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Director: Rian Johnson.
Synopsis: A teenager investigates the disappearence of his girlfriend.
Dean's comments: A film noir set in a contemporary US high school – what a great idea! Teenagers feel as if the world revolves around their lives, they fantasise about being places they’re not, speak in a language which often seems incomprehensible and generally behave in very confusing ways. These are all the necessary ingredients for a great film noir in which the lead character is a man of incomparable charisma and wisdom in a world of delinquents, drug-dealers, wannabe hard-men and tricky shysters. Our hero – Brendan – sets out to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend by taking an often dangerous journey through the local seedy underworld. The film then pans out a kind of a cross between a Hitchcock mystery and Bugsy Malone, I make no excuses for saying that I was entirely surprised by the quality. The dialogue takes a bit of time to get used to, but it has a rather exciting flow to it which reminded me a little of ‘Clockwork Orange’. More proof that independent American cinema has a lot to offer.
Rating: 8/10.

Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Starring: Alec Guiness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, William Holden.
Director: David Lean.
Synopsis: An English prisoner of war's inisitance on abiding by the rules of war breaks the moral of his Japanese commandant.
Dean's comments: This is an absolute classic of 50's cinema, possibly the best war film ever made. The mind games played out between the British officer and the Japanese commandant are sublimely subtle and beautifully scripted. The slow growing in confidence of Guiness' character as Hayakawa's character stumbles over his own words and struggles to believe that he is allowing his prisoner to get away with this is funny and revealing about the differences and similarities between Imperialistic Britain and Japan of that age. Throwing in the Americans puts a cherry on the top of that cake, Britain and Japan were very alike at that time, valuing honour and their word and strictly obeying the rules, the Yanks are the unknown rouge element that cares only about winning and not about playing fair. When all the cards are laid on the table, I recon that the graetness of this film probably comes down to Guiness' performance; infallible.
Rating: 9/10.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams.
Director: Ang Lee.
Synopsis: Two farmhands working in Wyoming in the 1960s share a sexual experience that stays with them long after they part company.
Dean's comments: Although not the masterpiece it was made out to be by so many critics, 'Brokeback Mountain' is a brilliant film about unrequited love and the constant human struggle between what you want to do and what you know you should do. If 'Brokeback Mountain' does nothing else, it will make you want to go to Wyoming in the US of A and look at the spectacular scenery. The film is set in 3 decades and traces the lives of two men who share a sexual experience while working on Brokeback during the mid 1960s. Despite subsequently marrying and having lives of varying degrees of success, the men continue to see each other through the years. Their wives seem somewhat accepting of their need to have an outlet outside their marriage, but the rest of society is less forgiving. The man who employed them on Brokeback refuses to speak to employ them again, although there is little in the way of outright hatred towards the two men. The script avoids all the clichés of gay men, Gyllenhall's character is seen as being a strong family man who stands up to his father in law, Ledger's character is a reclusive type who is unable to discuss or emote his feelings. Both men know that they have responsibilities to their families and commitments to their livelihoods, but each man is also afflicted by the knowledge that they have already found true love in a form that can never see the light of day. The film breaks taboos and stereotypes at the same time as being an incredibly depressing yet moving tale of a love that will never have a happy ending. That's right, this is a very depressing film without a happy ending, not one that you'll want to watch if your in the mood for a light romantic drama. The material in this film is rightly heavy on the heart. Not a classic, the film is more a sign of the evolution of the Hollywood mainstream.
Rating: 7/10.

The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Starring: Matt Damon, Heather Ledger, Jonothan Pryce.
Director: Terry Gilliam.
Synopsis: A group of 18th centuary shysters con villagers into thinking that they are plagued by monsters.
Dean's comments: A film which never seems to know if it is a cheesy take on fantasy, a spoof or a serious fantasy genre movie, 'Brothers Grimm' is a film which lacks a certain something in the execution. Despite a commendable set of ideas (The brothers Grimm were Napoleonic shysters who conned villagers out of their money by staging invasions by fairy tale monsters + evil Frenchies) but unfortunately Terry Gilliam doesn't seem to know what is going on in his own film. The plot lurches around from place to place and from story to story without much coherency, the characters are badly drawn and actors aren't allowed to play to their strengths. Why are an American and an Australian playing the English-accented Grimm brothers? What is that awful Italian accent all about? Why does Jonathan Pryce not get to do anything more than sound like a bad Allo Allo extra and strut about 'evily'? There are too many bits of the film that make no sense, too many questions that need answering. Not everything can be explained away by "...it's a story...", the appearance of the ginger bread boy is irritating and holds the plot up just so that the SFX team can show off their latest software. Gilliam is a genius, his Monty Python Animations gave that series a look which is unmistakable even now. This film is a bit of a flop though, whether this is Gilliam's fault or not is not clear. The film was in production for so long that many other hands will have had the chance to have an adverse affect on it.
Rating: 4/10.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davies.
Director: Don Coscarelli.
Synopsis: An old-people's home is attacked by the hicksville incarnation of an Egyptian mummy.
Dean's comments: Perhaps the most unashamedly 'fantasy' film I have ever seen, 'Buba Ho Tep' is the tale of how a man - who is either Elvis or an Elvis look-a-like - takes on a re-animated Egyptian soul-sucking monster that is hiding out in an old-people's home. The monster has no goals or objectives, its entire existence revolving around sucking souls out of the arses of old people in order to live. This is just the start of the insanity though; our hero's sidekick is an old man who thinks he is President Kennedy - the fact that he is black doesn't put him off - and all number of weird creatures, events and visitors come to the retirement home in the film's modest 85 minutes of run time. Leaving your disbelief at the entrance to the cinema will probably help. The thing that makes everything work is Bruce Campbell's face, comic timing and his wonderful ability to get Elvis' southern drool down to a tee. The endless farcically comic dialogue helps too, with nothing considered too silly or out-of-this-world. 'President Kennedy's' description of the Egyptian monster sucking souls and taking a dump of soul shit is particularly memorable in that the almost rambling nature of the dialogue drags you in until you realise that you're sitting, jaw open, staring at the screen as you mind slowing turns into mud. The film draws on a huge number of influences, from traditional horror cliché-ridden films like 'Jeepers Creepers' to the anarchic camerawork and intense action of the film that turned Campbell into a cult legend, 'The Evil Dead'. A very funny film for people who are looking for a pure fantasy, fans of 'Evil Dead' will love it.
Rating: 7/10.

Buffalo Soldiers (2001)
Starring: Joaquin Pheonix, Ed Harris, Anna Pacquin.
Director: Gregor Jordan.
Synopsis: The bordem of soldiers stationed in Germany just before the end of the cold war manifests itself in the form of ludicrous criminal endeavours.
Dean's comments: What an enjoyable film, made even better by the fact that the original release was delayed due to people being worried about the image of the American military that was portrayed. In truth though the fact that it is the American military is not relevent, it could be any armed force with nothing to do in peacetime. There is a lot of black comedy in this film, the accidental deaths caused by stoned soldier crashing a tank into a petrol station for example. I love a good black comedy, things that in other films would be sad moments are turned into dark humour. Joaquin Pheonix's character seems to follow in a long line of American wideboys in the army, from Sgt Bilko through the guys at M.A.S.H. to Milo Minderbener in 'Catch 22', there's always someone willing to apply the American dream inside the armed forces. And why not? If capitalism is taken to it's logical conclusion then everything is a valid market, even military hardware.
Rating: 6/10.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2002)
Starring: Kirsty Swansen, Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry, Rutger Hauer.
Director: Fran Rubel Kazui.
Synopsis: An American teen discovers her vampire-fighting destiny.
Dean's comments: This is a very poor film. I'm glad I only saw it after having watched the excellent television series of the same name, if I had seen this first I may have been put off watching BtVS the series. The problems are almost endless here and I can't be bothered to go into them all; for a start Kirsty Swanson doesn't seem to understand her own character, secondly Donald Sutherland needs to be in it all the way to the end to give it some gravitas, thirdly Luke Perry is so annoying. Fans of BtVS on TV shouldn't feel they need to see this in order to appreciate the series; just ignore it, that's what Joss Whedon has done anyway.
Rating: 2/10.

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