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

Cabin Fever (2002)
Starring: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Giuseppe Andrews.
Director: Eli Roth.
Synopsis: A bunch of kids go into the woods and encounter a flesh-eating virus.
Dean's comments: This is classic horror stuff. The trouble with being 'classic' is that we've seen it all before in the form of 'The Evil Dead' and 'Scream'. There's nothing wrong with bringing a tried and tested formula into a new age, American teens to into the woods for a weekend of drinking and shagging and find 'something evil'; wait a minute, this is exactly the same as 'The Evil Dead'! If this were the case then it would be a shameless re-make, 'Cabin Fever' brings a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek comedy to the genre in the form of the deputy played by Giuseppe Andrews. This goes all the way to the finish of the film with the final, excellent, "I made it!" scene and the shopkeeper who we all assumed was some kind of paid-up KKK member high-fiving the black kids. In a nutshell then, 'Cabin Fever' is a relatively unimaginative film in terms of plot, but it has enough entertainment to keep it running smoothly.
Rating: 6/10.

Capote (2005)
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener.
Director: Bennett Miller.
Synopsis: True drama about an author who exploits the pain of a man on death row in order to write a new book.
Dean's comments: Although Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a deservedly award-winning performance as this film’s eponymous writer, I find it difficult to connect with this film – one which is about a man I have no knowledge of and whose world I do not understand. Truman Capote appears to have been a talented writer who cared little for the people he wrote about or the consequences of his work, his only concern was for his reputation and standing the correct social circles. A number of times in the film we see Capote hanging out with the self-appointed literati of America, they talk about themselves in false self-deprecating terms and exchange banal anecdotes while smoking cigars and drinking shorts, it’s a recipe which would quickly turn me off. Despite all this, the film is interesting and certainly worth seeing if only to learn a little about the history of American journalism in the twentieth centaury. And did Truman Capote really talk like that?
Rating: 6/10.

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
Starring: Arnold Friedman, Elaine Friedman, David Friedman, Seth Friedman, Jesse Friedman.
Director: Andrew Jarecki.
Synopsis: A documentary that shines a light on the media hysteria surrounding paedophillia.
Dean's comments: This is a really good documentary that manages to present the facts without any spin or attempt to editorialise. The film-makers seem interested in showing the disfunctionalities of the Friedman family just as much as they are interested in highlighting the insanity of the media coverage and police investigation into the events. Equal amounts of time are given to the consideration of the accusations against Arnold Friedman and the case for his defence. David Friedman seems to be given an enormous amount of time to orate his views, even going so far as to accuse his own Mother of committing all sorts of terrible acts against his Dad. People who come down fiercely on one side of this debate will probably be appalled by the films lack of pontification on the subject, people with an open mind will be pleased to see an open and neutral presentation of facts and opinions.
Rating: 8/10.

Carrie (1976)
Starring: Sissy Spacek.
Director: Andrew Jarecki.
Synopsis: A young girl with psychic powers turns against her oppressors at school and home.
Dean's comments: This is a really good horror film. The main character, Carrie, is abused verbally and physically by all around her until on prom night they push their luck a little too far. The film is great in that it works through the story of Carrie's life and pain very meticulously, only hinting at the power that she might have until the final sequence. It's clearly a metaphor for teen angst and suffering, everyone when they were a teen dreams of being able become powerful and make a statement about their individuality as Carrie manages to do. Carrie becomes powerful and stops everyone from taking advantage of her anymore, and she's pretty scary in the process.
Rating: 6/10.

Casablanca (1942)
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried, Claude Rains.
Director: Michael Curtiz.
Synopsis: An unsympathetic bar-owner in Casablanca is re-united with a pre-war sweetheart and is forced to make some difficult decisions about his life.
Dean's comments: Could Casablanca be the best film of all time? Well if it isn't then I'd like to see the challengers because they're going to be great. Casablanca has so many great and quotable lines that watching it almost turns into an exercise in spotting classic Hollywood moments. Humphrey Bogart does what he always seems to do; be the fast-talking smooth American guy with a line for everyone and a response for everything. The greatest thing about Casablanca is the unpredictability of the plot, the characters are so realistic that one can't attempt to apply any Hollywood cliché to them, the plot is so solid that you can't say if Rick is going to get on the plane or not until the final scene. Claude Rains' character fits into these parameters too, always looking out for himself, occasionally hinting at a higher purpose beyond simply surviving under Nazi rule, you can't tell what he is going to do until the final scenes. One of the greatest scenes in the film is when the band in Rick's bar play the French national anthem over the singing of the German officers. To me that's a statement of opposition to totalitarianism in the purest sense; 'the people have spoken'. In these days of American Neo-cons claiming that democracy can be imposed by external military intervention, that scene says that true freedom is about ordinary people taking matters on to their own shoulders and opposing terror from within. Casablanca is quite superb, without doubt this is cinema of the highest quality.
Rating: 10/10.

Casino (1995)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone.
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: Organised crime in Las Vegas.
Dean's comments: I know that it's rather too obvious to say this, but I really do see this as an inferior re-make of 'Goodfellas'. This does make the film bad though, 'Goodfellas' is a really good film after all. 'Casino' seems to be much more violent than 'Goodfellas', there are far more horrific murders and torture (head in a vice anyone?) scenes in this film than Scorsese's other Mafia-styled offerings. The problem with the film is that De Niro's character just seems to end up back where he started at the end of the film, he doesn't seem to end up anywhere in terms of his relationship with the Mafia, unlike Ray Liota in 'Goodfellas'. The great things about the film are the actors and the direction, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci seem to gel together and the De Niro / Scorsese partnership is as wondrous as ever. I especially love the early scene where we are directed through the casino and shown all the employees watching other employees to stop them thieving. You'll like this if you're a fan of Scorsese / De Niro films.
Rating: 7/10.

Casino Royale (2006)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green.
Director: Martin Campbell.
Synopsis: On his first mission as a '00' agent, Bond must infiltrate a high-stakes card game at the exclusive Casino Royale.
Dean's comments: With the Bond franchise in terminal decline after years of self-parody, raised eyebrows and stupid gadgets, it would take a miracle to turn the tired old clichés around and produce a film worthy of its 1960s heyday. Rather than attempt to recreate the campness of the Roger Moore era or the sophistication of the Connery days, the producers of ‘Casino Royale’ have turned the franchise on its head and started from scratch, producing a new style of Bond film which is dangerous, exciting and – most of all – interesting to watch. Danger is the watchword here, when Daniel Craig – as Bond – gets into a fight there are no judo-chops and raised eyebrows, only mercilessly vicious punches and blooded fists. When the bad guy wants information out of Bond he doesn’t devise a stupid contraption to do it, he wallops his balls with a knotted rope. This is the essence of the new Bond style, but it was not only this which has rejuvenated the franchise – ‘Casino Royale’ tells the tale of Bond’s first mission, therefore great liberties are taken with the format. We find out how Bond created his Vodka Martini drink, why his relationships with women never get beyond the first few flings between the sheets and why he is as ruthless a killer as he is. In addition to this, the plot is simple and well-executed. There are no ludicrous super-villains trying to take over the world with scientifically impossible ray guns, just a nasty terrorist trying to get money and the British government trying to stop him. Even the poker game in the eponymous casino is directed with surprising verve, it always feels integral to the plot – which of course it is. Long may this new kind of Bond film last, the days of trying to recreate past glories are over – the 60s are gone and the type of storytelling that worked then doesn’t work anymore. Bring on the next in the franchise – it’s a long time since I said that about a Bond film.
Rating: 9/10.

Central Station (1989)
Starring: Fernanda Montenegro, Vinícius de Oliveira, Marília Pêra.
Director: Walter Sales.
Synopsis: An ex-teacher tries to help a boy who loses his mother while waiting for a train.
Dean's comments: A delightfully simple film about how a woman and a boy save each other (him physically, her spiritually) after a chance encounter after his mother is killed. She has given up any joy in life, but his presence rekindles it after they have to escape to the countryside and begin to see a simpler existence free from the bustle of Rio's central station. If it sounds mawkish then please don't let me put you off; the story is written and acted with a simplicity which prevents it turning into a morality tale.
Rating: 7/10.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Starring: Malcolm McDowell.
Director: Stanley Kubrik.
Synopsis: In a nightmare future, the governement takes drastic measures to 'protect' society from dangerous teenagers.
Dean's comments: I'm sure that back in the early 70s this film had a lot of shock value, upon its re-release in the late 90s (when I first saw it) it had become a rather tame affair in terms of the violence depicted. The story itself is still as powerful as ever in its portrayal of a government behaving no better than the youths it is trying to control. The use of classical music over scenes of rape and extreme violence is a contrast that I find interesting, many people seem appalled by the idea that such beautiful music should be used in such a circumstance. I think that challenging people's preconceptions about music in this way is a great idea. Anthony Burgess' book does this same thing just as well though, I recommend you read that instead.
Rating: 5/10.

Chaos (1999)
Starring: Ken Mitsuisha, Miki Nakatani, Jun Kunimura, Masato Hagiwara.
Director: Hideo Nakata.
Synopsis: A wealthy woman pays a criminal to stage her kidnapping.
Dean's comments: In this psychological drama there are enough twists and turns to keep any fan of thrillers going. The main plot revolves around a woman paying to be kidnapped for purposes that remain clouded in secrecy for a large part of the film. Her true identity is quite a mystery, as is the identity of a dead body that may or may not be her. The film has a non-linear style (something that had to happen in order for there to be any suspense at all) and several great set pieces. One scene that stands out is one that goes on for some 10 minutes and revolves around the ‘wife’ being tied up by her ‘kidnapper’. He tells her that they need to be as realistic as possible in order to fool the police after she is found; what follows as about as close to an S&M porno that you’re likely to get in a film without X’s printed all over the cover. In terms of the film’s plot, there appear to be a lot of holes. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that none of the characters are telling the truth about whom they are or their real intentions, but some of the final revelations stretch any dramatic license that the film may have been given at the start to a breaking point. The ‘reason’ why the ‘wife’ had herself kidnapped is bizarrely convoluted. Given this criticism, I have come to expect mildly incomprehensible plot-lines from Asian cinema, and so would probably feel cheated if ‘Chaos’ wasn’t quite as twisted and odd. I recommend this film to the reader, but I warn that the final ‘truth’ may annoy you.
Rating: 6/10.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly.
Director: Tim Burton.
Synopsis: A reclusive chocolate factory owner opens up the secrets of his magical world to five lucky children .
Dean's comments: The world of Willy Wonka and his psychedelic chocolate factory was surely the perfect setting for another of Tim Burton's bizarrely dark yet colourful imaginative outpourings. Burton lets fly with the full force of his outlandish creative mind in re-designing the world of Dahl's book to fill out the silver screen, from the over-stylised extravaganza of Wonka's factory to the pomposity of the 'golden ticket winners' to the sheer madness of the Oompa Loompa back-story, there never was a director with a better vision for what Dahl's imaginary world would have looked like. And then there is Johnny Depp, a man so charged with energy and life for his role that comparisons to Gene Wilder's 1970s version of Wonka are almost impossible. But then comparisons will be made, and the 2005 version of Dahl's classic is - although much closer to the text of the book - a lot less dark than the 1970s take. The film suffers for this lack of darkness, a deficiency that cannot be recaptured by creating a back-story for Willy Wonka as a child menaced by his over-zealous dentist father (you would be disturbed too if your father was Christopher Lee in full-on Dracula mode). The 1970s film was criticised for deviating from the book and making Charlie fallible like the other children; purists will be pleased to discover that Tim Burton's film retains Charlie as a paragon of good and light. But I think that this insistence on holding Charlie up as some kind of heroic warrior for the poor and honest was always a problem with Dahl's book, something that the Gene Wilder film - heresy? - got right in changing. Ultimately though, despite the fact that the Oompa Loompa songs are sometimes inaudible over the music, the film is an achievement because of the work that ever-reliable double team, Depp and Burton, in creating a fantasy vision that is truly unique. Depp's use of facial contortions and a deeply disturbing Wisconsin-esque accent as well as Wonka flitting between sanity, terrifying flashbacks and manic one-liners "STOP MUMBLING!" combine seamlessly with Burton's lavish backgrounds and mind-bending camera angles to produce a wonderfully bizarre and enticing film. Yes, the ending is sickly and sweet, but it's what happens in the book. Roald Dahl probably would have approved, personally I preferred the film of 30 years previous.
Rating: 7/10.

Charlie's Angels (2000)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray.
Director: McG.
Synopsis: A remake of a classic (read 'rubbish') 70's action series.
Dean's comments: This is genuine rubbish. The only attraction in this film is the 3 main protagonists. They've all been in better films though so I recommend that if you want to see them, watch something else.
Rating: 1/10.

Chicago (2002)
Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, John C Reilly.
Director: Rob Marshall.
Synopsis: Two dancers in 1920's Chicago battle for stardom.
Dean's comments: Chicago seems to me to be a film in the 'old school' sense of Hollywood, it's an all-singing all-dancing extravaganza. The musical set-pieces are visually superb and the songs aren't that bad either. I have a major problem with this film though, which is that the characters are all appalling people. The 2 main characters are just in it for the money, the message of the film seems to be (given the glamour of the final scene) that regardless of how many people you have to back-stab or betray to get to the top, it's still worth it. This is a rather disappointing ending, I was hoping that they would finally be consumed by their greed or be found out for the thieves that they are. It's not just the main characters that are nasty pieces of work, the men in their lives are either interested in nothing but money or so lame that they allow themselves to be pushed around while the media in the city seem to be so overcome with the glitz and glamour of the women that they'll gladly ignore any and all wrong-doing. Essentially the film is very entertaining, but the messages and characters are so annoying that the thing never deserved an Oscar.
Rating: 6/10.

Children of Men (2006)
Starring: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón.
Synopsis: In the near future, humanity is on its last legs after women cease being able to have babies.
Dean's comments: One of the best-directed films I have seen in a long time, 'Children of Men' is so much more than a dark vision of the near future in which civilisation has collapsed and humanity is waiting to die off. While the rich surround themselves in riches and pretend that nothing is happening, the poor have turned to self-destruction and the British government persecutes minorities in order to maintain the peace. Such is the way of a world in which humanity is unable to have children and the youngest person alive is 18 years old. Although the film deals with concepts that are not new in the world of science fiction, the genius is in the telling of the story. Alfonso Cuaron deserved an Oscar for his development of the art of direction in this film, 3 sequences stand out from everything in a film littered with incredible directional gems. The opening scene sets the film up perfectly – Clive Owen walks out of a cafe and into a dilapidated London street before a bomb explodes in the shop behind his – while the 5 minute long scene set inside a car is impeccably acted and timed to perfection. Finally the film closes on a 10 minute long sequence of scenes (with cuts that are imperceptible) detailing an urban battle inside a refugee camp, the camera follows Clive Owen's character as he stumbles around trying to find the mother and her miracle child – all the time the horror, confusion and panic of civilians caught up in a dreadful war is detailed as well as I have seen in any war film. The film's climax comes towards the end of this scene, there is a moment of such tear-jerking significance and beauty that I refuse to spoil it for anyone by describing it here. Safe to say though that through the terror and panic of the decline of humanity, hope is glimpsed briefly and the human spirit lives on. Yes, I did feel a tear towards the end of the film – I hope you do to.
Rating: 9/10.

Chinatown (1974)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway.
Director: Roman Polanski.
Synopsis: A private detective uncovers a corporate plot to control Los Angeles' dwindling water supplies.
Dean's comments: One of the finest mystery thrillers in the history of American cinema, ‘Chinatown’ follows the twisting investigations of private eye Jake Gittes – played par excellence by Jack Nicholson – into the rapidly drying-up water supplies in the farm lands around Los Angeles. This simple premise belies a winding and engrossing tale of capitalism, greed, vested interests and treachery in which the family ties of the protagonists are severely tested. Nicholson’s performance reminds me of that of Humphrey Bogart in ‘The Malese Falcon’; he follows in a tradition of American P.I. characters who are the fast-talking rouges of the American legal system. On the surface they will investigate crimes for those who are prepared to pay for it, In the realm of literature and film such characters are always willing to fight a cause when they see an exciting mystery. Therein lies the genius; it’s a simple premise, but often the brilliance of a story can lie in its simplicity. Simple ideas, great acting and dialogue most people could never write; it’s these factors that construe to make ‘Chinatown’ a classic.
Rating: 8/10.

Chopper (2000)
Starring: Eric Bana.
Director: Andrew Dominik.
Synopsis: The biography of a self-styled Australian serial killer.
Dean's comments: Apparently the central character of this film, one Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, has become some sort of a cult hero in Australia. I think that this fact says so much more about that country than any opening ceremony at the Olympic Games ever could. Mr Read seems like a rather unsavoury character, a man who claims to have killed 17 people yet never served time for any of them, a man who revels in his slaughter of other criminals, yet he is a man whose antics are surprisingly engrossing. I guess that the Australian fascination with ‘Chopper’ has some similarities to the way that English people see the Kray twins; the attitude that says ‘they only do it to their own’ is meant to legitimise what they do in the name of making money for themselves. Eric Bana does an excellent job of playing this character, one who is clearly deranged yet whose antics somehow captured the heart of a nation always trying to find its identity after years of oppressing its native population. The film itself is actually quite entertaining; Chopper’s eccentric and often downright dangerous behaviour being the central focus as well as the source of the film’s comedy. An entertaining ride and a look at the somewhat disturbing culture of a nation; ‘Chopper’ is not a great film, but Bana gives an amazing performance.
Rating: 6/10.

The Chronicles of Narnia (2005)
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes.
Director: Andrew Adamson.
Synopsis: Four children find their way into a mysterious fantasy world through a wardrobe.
Dean's comments: I never read the Narnia books as a kid, this probably doesn't help me appreciate the film then. I was fairly bemused by everything that went on in this misplaced fantasy movie; don't get me wrong, the effects are very much spectacular - Aslan the lion and the huge battle in particular - but there didn't seem to be any semblance of an explanation of what was going on, nor does the film ever stop and rest for a moment to let everyone take in what is happening. After an intriguing start, in which the impossibly cute Lucy discovers a mysterious world through the wardrobe in an old house, the plot moves along way too fast and too many things happen at once. I suspect that the screenplay writers were desperate to include every last detail of the book lest they incur the wrath of the fanboys; all of a sudden the kids are running through the forest, then the snow, then they are given weapons by santa and are being crowned kings and queens. What? It's all too 'fantasy' for its own good without any development of why this war is happening or what motivates each side. It's clear after all that Aslan and the White Witch are old enemies, tell us a little about their history why don't you?! Give us a bit of background! Instead we get a very laboured Judeo-Christian metaphor for sacrifice (which hardly counts as a sacrifice as Aslan knew he was going to come back). At least there is Tilda Swinton; her performance as the evil White Witch is magnificent, she brings a captivating air of authority and deadly callousness to the role that I doubt many others could have matched. Fans of the book will certainly appreciate this adaptation more than I did.
Rating: 5/10.

Cinema Paradiso (1989)
Starring: Philippe Noiret, Marco Leonardi.
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore.
Synopsis: A young boy in a small Italian village is captivated by the local cinema and the work of its projectionist.
Dean's comments: A film that is charming in its simplicity, 'Cinema Paradiso' was clearly made by people who hark for a time when film was part of the community rather than something to be ruthlessly exploited by multimedia corporations and multiplex theatres. The film tells the story of how a small Italian town is effected by the local cinema, its projectionist and the films that he shows there. The projectionist is a master of his craft, it is no surprise that the young boy is captivated by him much in the same way that many boys idolise fighter pilots and astronauts. This idea of simple times in tightly knit communities is appealing. The darker side is also shown though, the controlling influence of the catholic church even going as far as censorship of kisses in films. A film about love and innocence in a rapidly-changing world, 'Cinema Paradiso' may seem slightly naive, but it is simply a delightful tale about how the life of anyone can be changed by watching films.
Rating: 7/10.

Citizen Kane (1941)
Starring: Orson Welles.
Director: Orson Welles.
Synopsis: The life and times of a rich media mogul.
Dean's comments: Lots of people seem to think that this is the best film ever made; I wont go that far, but I think it's pretty dammed fine. The best thing about it is probably that it's still relevant in the modern ages despite being over 60 years old. This is something easier to accomplish with a film about love (like 'Casablanca') but more difficult for a film that is about the media, something that has changed so much in 60 years. The message of the story is obviously something along the lines of 'Money can't buy you happiness', but the film as a whole is more than that. The character of Charles Foster Kane is one that we can sympathise with, what with his isolated upbringing and being thrust into a world of riches, how could he become a well-rounded person? That is a question that is still to be answered in the modern world in relation to modern technology and the un-going destruction of traditional social values. Citizen Kane has some absolute classic moments as well as a good moral spine, in the scene where Kane is told that he's losing 1 million dollars a year on his newspaper, he simply replies: "I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in... 60 years." Now that's brilliant dialogue.
Rating: 9/10.

City of God (2002)
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino.
Director: Katia Lund, Fernando Meirelles.
Synopsis: A boy grows up in the impoverished slums of Brazil, trying to avoid the simplicity of a life of crime while pursuing his dream to become a reporter.
Dean's comments: Wow! This is a fantastically conceived Brazilian crime thriller. 'City of God' is a powerful combination of the stylish storytelling and characters found in 'Pulp Fiction' with the gritty realism of organised crime that 'Goodfellas' gives us. Some scenes are frightfully disturbing (such as when a teenager is forced to kill a boy) to even the hardened viewer, while the ending is neat and makes a lot of sense.
Rating: 9/10.

Cloverfield (2008)
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas.
Director: Matt Reeves.
Synopsis: The story of a monster attack on New York, told from the point of view of people on the ground.
Dean's comments: It's a shame that this has been done before, otherwise JJ Abrams could have been credited with creating a little slice of cinema history. Telling a story by using faux 'real footage' is an established cinema technique. What makes 'Cloverfield' different is the way it creates fear in the audience by unashamedly latching on to the collective memory that is seeing the World Trade Centre collapse. This is an event that was seen through countless video cameras and heard through the mobile phones of people who were caught up in the event but had no idea what was going on. 'Cloverfield' is a horror film told in this way, forcing the audience to experience some of the claustraphobic terror that may have been felt by people trapped in the World Trade Centre before it collapsed. By providing the audience with only the briefest and barest glimpses of the 'monster' and offering next to no explanation for why anything is happening, the reality of being stuck in the middle of terrible world-changing events is brought into light. There are snippets of information available for the sharp-eyed and keen-eared viewer though, soldiers shout things, television reporters comment on things, even eye-witnesses out of shot tell you more than just listening to the main characters. It's a film which also ticks all the correct boxes that you need for a great horror film. They even use my current favourite horror film make-the-audience-jump technique, using an infrared camera to see stuff in the dark which you probably didn't want to see! I thought that some of the monster SFX was a little ropey, especially the small monsters that come off of the big one, but not enough to spoil my enjoyment of what was a genuinely innovative monster genre thriller. The best bit of all is that even though you have to sit through 15 minutes of idiotic American 20-somethings complaining about their lives at the start of the film - they're all dead within an hour! Yay!.
Rating: 8/10.

Cold Mountain (2003)
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Renee Zellweger, Jude Law, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ray Winstone, Brendon Gleeson, Natalie Portman, Eileen Atkins.
Director: Anthony Minghella.
Synopsis: The American civil war tears small communities and star-crossed lovers apart.
Dean's comments: 'Cold Mountain' is a film that rather admirably tries to combine the gritty realism of a modern war film with a classic Shakespearian tale of love at first sight. The film is a success on the first front, the opening scenes detail a battle during the American civil war in which one side massacred the other, the sheer terror of that battle is very powerful. The second of the film's objectives is an almost indisputable failure; the main reason being that both Kidman's and Law's characters are very boring and don't give the audience any reason to care about their short-lived liaison. The film's best character, by a very long way, is Zellweger's portrayal of a tomboy farmhand who's self-sufficiency and strength in crisis teaches Kidman's character to fend for herself and grow up. Apart from the headline performers, the film sports a very strong cast who bring the required gravitas to a film which tries to do a lot of things on a very grand scale; the less said about Ray Winstone's attempts to do a southern drawl the better though. 'Cold Mountain' is a film that will appeal to a broad range of movie-goers, but ultimately the film fails as its central plot, the love-at-first-sight between Law and Kidman, is simply boring.
Rating: 5/10.

Collateral (2004)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Fox.
Director: Michael Mann.
Synopsis: A cab driver picks up a paid assassin and ferries him around as he pursues his victims.
Dean's comments: This is a really good film which is surprisingly funny in places while being beautifully shot and rather touching in others. Jamie Fox is the taxi driver with a dream of owning his own business and a mother in hospital; he has a rather simple and disappointing life even on his own terms. He works in the streets of Los Angeles, which makes for the possibility of some amazing over-head shots of the taxi speeding through the city streets. Michael Mann has a great ability to direct an action scene, and when the beauty of the city streets turns to the brutality of the criminal underworld, Mann comes out on top. Tom Cruise keeps switching his loyalties between great roles and awful Hollywood tosh, if only his agent would tell him to stick with the former we might see his considerable talents on show more often (in 'Collateral' his portrayal of a serial assassin is great on several different levels; he's funny while at the same time retaining diabolical gloss to everything he does). Jamie Fox's cab driver works perfectly against Cruise, being the aspirational under-achiever who shows surprising strength under extreme pressure. The film's only problem is that the ending is telegraphed quite early on, and so there isn't much of a shock to the finale.
Rating: 7/10.

Coma (1978)
Starring: Genevieve Bujold, Michael Douglas.
Director: Michael Crichton.
Synopsis: A doctor becomes convinced that there is a conspiracy within her hospital to deliberately put patients into a brain-dead state in order to harvest their organs.
Dean's comments: Michael Crichton is a master of thrilling mysteries, 'Coma' is not a disappointment in that department. Everything you need for a great thriller is here, from the chilling premise of doctors killing you under the knife, to the dark conspiracy of anaesthetists and surgeons. Crichton uses all the tricks in the book to build up suspense, the film is fantastically well-paced as the ordinary humdrum of Dr Wheeler's life and love is set against the slow accumulation of evidence that something terrible is happening. The use of music is also first rate, those disjointed chords that permeate the eerie white halls of the hospital give an extra level of suspense so that even when nothing untoward is happening, the mere sight of the surgeon in his gloves sends a chill up the spine. Add into this the little details, like the coroners discussing the best way to kill someone and the so-called mental hospital where one scarily unemotional doctor presides over the bodies of hundreds of comatose patients, and the result is a film which has some great chills and thrills. Fully recommended to anyone who wants to be frightened next time they go in for surgery, or who just fancies a creepy night in with a DVD.
Rating: 7/10.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts.
Director: George Clooney.
Synopsis: A TV producer is lured into the CIA as a part-time contract killer.
Dean's comments: This is great fun. I was a little unsure about this when I went to see it but I came out of the cinema smiling. Sam Rockwell's understated and at times jerky performance as the game show designer recruited as an assassin is really quite funny, the scene where he first meets Drew Barrymore's character (hiding behind a fridge door to hide his nudity) is brilliantly scripted and plays at a perfect level of uneasiness. George Clooney makes a fair job as director while playing a character that you can tell he really wanted to play. I just loved the quirkiness of the whole thing, the way that Barrymore as the girlfriend doesn't care about Rockwell's character shagging around, the way that Hollywood superstars make cameo appearances, Clooney's character being sooo over-the-top and Rockwell in general playing this rather erratic guy who happens to kill people for a living. This is probably the best film that Julia Roberts has ever been in as well, not that she's anything special in it though; so everyone should go and watch this film
Rating: 7/10.

The Constant Gardener (2005)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz.
Director: Fernando Meirelles.
Synopsis: The wife of a British diplomat is killed in Africa while protesting about the international drugs trade.
Dean's comments: Rarely have I seen a more emotive, unassuming and unpretentious political thriller than ‘The Constant Gardener’. The story follows a number of years in the lives of a minor British diplomat and the humanitarian campaigner who he marries after a brief and whirlwind affair. He is content to allow her to use his position to gain greater access to the international drugs trade than she ever could when she was unmarried and – as we find out in the film’s opening few scenes – she is eventually killed in Africa, perhaps as a result of her investigations. What follows is an analysis of the international drugs trade set along side the personal drama of one woman’s fight against an unassailable foe and her husband’s turmoil as he comes to terms with her death. The drug trade is exposed as being in league with the national interests of Western nations, the multi national corporations are accused of using poor Africans as guinea pigs for new drugs before they can be placed in markets at home. This is no conspiracy theory, merely a logical extension of capitalist economics. The film has an interesting and slightly ‘Scooby Doo’ ending, one which is therefore slightly surreal. The finale is cut between two scenes, one cannot be entirely sure whether what is happening is real or merely in the minds of the protagonists – this is thankful, as anything less might have meant the film ended up being depressingly ‘happy’. Visually stunning in its occasional documentary style and loving use of African scenery while being totally emotionally engaging – the story writer clearly cares as deeply for the characters he does their cause -, ‘The Constant Gardener’ fully deserved to be rewarded as it was at the Academy Awards.
Rating: 9/10.

Constantine (2005)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz.
Director: Francis Lawrence.
Synopsis: A man who battles against demons discovers a sinister conspiracy between the forces of good and evil.
Dean's comments: Now I am not a great fan of Keanu Reeves or comic book adaptations, but 'Constantine' is (if you're looking for a reasonably entertaining film with a healthy dose of dark humour and outlandish special effects) reasonably entertaining. The fact that Keanu Reeves is a dour and uninspiring actor is actually turned into a benefit for the plot, with his character, John Constantine, playing out like some kind of weird cross-breeding disaster involving Father Merrin and Jack Dee. Here-in lies the black humour of the film, whether Reeves is playing to his reputation as a wooden actor is unclear, but the film is probably better for it. Weisz is her usual accomplished self, nothing too outstanding as she basically lets the SFX do most of the work for her. The film moves along at a reasonable pace, not dwelling too long on pointless mythology, but has problems in that it seems to turn into a weird moral crusade against smoking (of all things), there is an over-reliance on SFX and true to Hollywood tradition the evil guys and weird scientists all have English accents. Essentially this is fun, but there are lots of holes.
Rating: 5/10.

The Conversation (1974)
Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola.
Synopsis: An expert eavsedropper becomes obsessed by the contents of a single conversation.
Dean's comments: Gene Hackman is one of the great actors of his generation; any role which allows him to fully express his range is going to result in a great film. ‘The Conversation’ is such a film, the character that Hackman plays is a reclusive master of spying and tapping into conversations. He is a man who is renowned as an expert in his film, a man who pays the price for his success by refusing to allow any personal contact with other people in his life. His life has become his work. Be it his assistant – played by John Cazale – or a female acquaintance he makes at a party, all other people are seen as an extension of his work, anything which is seen to compromise his secrecy and reputation for being the best is to be actively discouraged. Throughout the whole of the film the camera spends an incredible amount of time right up in Hackman’s face; the DVD extras that I saw showed how much time Hackman spend preparing his character by acting out extra scenes and talking with Coppola about his motivations. This is genuine method acting, and it shows in the power that Hackman’s character has on screen. The actual conversation referred to in the film’s title is one in which a man and a woman discuss a death. The plot revolves first around the discovery of what is going on, then Hackman’s character involving himself in the mystery and trying to solve what is happening before it climaxes in a shocking scene as the truth of what the couple were referring to in their whispered conversation is revealed. A classic Hollywood film with a classic director and classic leading man, ‘The Conversation’ is a gem.
Rating: 8/10.

The Cooler (2003)
Starring: William H Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin.
Director: Katia Lund, Fernando Meirelles.
Synopsis: A 'cooler' in Vegas has a change of luck.
Dean's comments: This is really dull; William H Macy plays the same character he has always played in almost every film he's ever been in, the 'hang-dog' loser. I could have lived without seeing his arse either so I think the directors have something to answer for there. The story could have been quite good, it's a bog standard plot in some ways; "One-time loser has a change of luck, gets a new girl and struggles to change his life", but Alec Baldwin is a really good actor and if he hadn't been under-used the film could have sparked into life. The movie does suffer form an almost intolerable soundtrack, the same terrible 80's styled soap-opera sax music plays over and over again as Macy traipses around the casinos of Las Vegas. It was like being in a really bad episode of Dallas; that music conveyed the idea that Las Vegas is a soulless place a little too well, I became convinced that the entire film was soulless.
Rating: 4/10.

Copland (1997)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvery Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro.
Director: James Mangold.
Synopsis: Corruption in a small town is investigated by its deaf sheriff.
Dean's comments: On the face of things, this looks like it could be a really good film. Sylvester Stallone does all in his power to wreak the thing by being totally unable to act and succeeds. On the other hand though, any film with Robert De Niro should be given a chance, maybe you'll not be as annoyed by Stallone as I was. Personally I can't stand the guy.
Rating: 3/10.

Corpse Bride (2005)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Paul Whitehouse.
Director: Tim Burton.
Synopsis: A bridegroom-to-be is transported to the underworld when he accidentaly proposes to a corpse.
Dean's comments: Tim Burton’s self-indulgent gothic fantasy is steeped in the horror genre but has a lot in common with classic west end musicals. From the opening overture to the closing credits, the film’s music almost does more than the spectacular stop-go animation to breathe life into the characters. Note that I said almost, as the animation used in ‘Corpse Bride’ is some of the most spectacular and beautiful that I have ever had the privilege to see. Each character is wonderfully detailed and individual, each voice spectacularly animated by the tireless work of the stop-go production team and – something which could have been so crucially missed amongst all the special effects – the story is a powerfully emotional one. It’s a story about sacrifices and hard choices, a story which warns against love being simple and which twangs exactly the right heart strings in all the right places. Simply delightful to watch, and only 80 minutes in length, ‘Corpse Bride’ showcases a huge amount of great British talent and is one of the finest animations of modern times.
Rating: 7/10.

Crash (2004)
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Ludacris, Jennifer Esposito et al.
Director: Paul Haggis.
Synopsis: Several tales connected by racism in Los Angeles.
Dean's comments: Crash is a film that has recieved a lot of wholely undeserved criticism from some very snooty critics. The reason for this criticism is not very clear to me, perhaps this is the latest manifestation of the uneducated liberal intelligensia's way of dealing with racism in society; try to ignore it and it might go away. 'Crash' tackles the problems of attitudes to racism, racists and non-racists head-on; the film plunges us into the streets of Los Angeles, a city where life can be cheap and the police fight a daily struggle against their own apathy as well as the criminal underclass. We see characters who deal with many aspects of racism in their own work and lives, a police officer whose casual racism offends his green partner, the wife of a lawyer who's anger is expressed in outragous tirades of racial abuse, a handyman who suffers the predujices of others as a result of his skin colour, a young criminal who complains of racial stereotyping while at the same time living up to that same image and several more. The plot plods along with mixed success in pursuing its various stories 'Magnolia' style, as each thread comes to a head the message begins to formalise itself - racism is a product of fear and loathing; it is a blight on modern society rather than an innevitable product of 'multi-cultural' living. The racist white police officer instinctively saves the life of the black woman who he half-molested the previous night. The frustration of a Persian shop owner who is dispised by society brings out an angry racist tirade as he seeks to direct his ire somewhere. The young police officer is spurred on by fear of the unknown to become what he has hated the most. At the end, the patchwork of tales knit together into a satisfying conclusion. The makers of the film are to be appluaded for approaching such a touchy and contemporarily dangerous subject with such aplomb and skill. At no point in 'Crash' do we feel like we are being preached at, it's a very intelligent discussion about how fear and anger cause racism rather than being a result of it.
Rating: 7/10.

Creep (2004)
Starring: Franka Potente, Vas Blackwood, Paul Rattray, Kelly Scott.
Director: Christopher Smith.
Synopsis: A mutated killer is stalking the London underground.
Dean's comments: A film that beaks little or no convention, 'Creep' is a by-the-numbers horror flick that puts the blonde heroine (Potente) in danger and makes her run around fleeing and fighting for her life. Like I said, this is horror by numbers. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with that, the director does a good job of wringing every last drop of tension out of the plot and hinting at a back story which could be plausible and is nasty. There are some genuinely horrific moments, not least a scene in which the mutant/monster/killer guy cuts his victim open from the groin with a massive knife (off camera), and some out-of-your-seat jumping moments (bonus points for good use of pitch-black darkness). 'Creep' is a scary yet hollow horror film, you might jump, you might not want to turn your light off when you go to bed, but it's not a classic by any means.
Rating: 5/10.

Crimson Tide (1995)
Starring: Gene Hackman, Denzel Washington.
Director: Tony Scott.
Synopsis: Political intrigue on board an American nuclear submarine when a garbled communication is recieved ordering an attack on Russia.
Dean's comments: I was rather pleasantly surprised by 'Crimson Tide'. I was expecting a full-on macho thriller that I would hate, what I got was a full-on macho thriller that's actually quite thrilling. The total lack of any female characters of any consequence is the only real problem that the film has, apart from that it's really good. The plot revolves around the captain of a submarine interpreting his orders one way while his second-in-command sees things in a different light. The ensuing power struggle, set as it is in the metallic confines of the ship, is claustrophobic and tense with lots of politics about the idea of having independent submarines carrying nuclear missiles slinking around the world. I'm interested in wondering if anything like what happens in the film has ever happened in real life; with all these weapons of mass destruction pointing at the world's major cities I would be surprised to find if there has never been a narrowly-averted incident as depicted here.
Rating: 6/10.

Crimewave (1985)
Starring: Reed Birney, Bruce Campbell, Sheree J Wilson.
Director: Sam Raimi.
Synopsis: A simple romantic accidently gets caught up in a comically murderous scheme concocted by one partner in an alarm company.
Dean's comments: ‘Crimewave’ is a film which expertly teeters on the line between cheese, parody and serious comedy without – for the most part – falling over. It’s basically a Hitchcock film where the dramatic timing and the James Stewart-played inquisitive lead are replaced by some very silly jokes and an unsociable nerd who can’t work out what’s happening to him. Reed Birney plays Vic Ajax, a small and rather sad man upon whom a murder is pinned after everyone involved dies in extraordinary circumstances. The gag is that he is too stupid to realise that he is being used by everyone he meets, and even if he did realise you suspect that he wouldn’t know what to do about it. The film oozes with a feeling of unreality, from the design to the dialogue to the sets, Sam Raimi’s fingerprints are all over it. As if this wasn’t enough to persuade you that you want to see this film, there is the small matter of it being written by the Coen brothers while they were still very much in their Indie phase. One small criticism is that the film occasionally strays too far into the realm of Airplane-esque unreal comedy – the Coen brothers have definitely written better material over the years. Oh and Bruce Campbell’s in it too - and he steals the show.
Rating: 6/10.

Cruel Intentions (1999)
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, Reese Witherspoon.
Director: Roger Kumble.
Synopsis: A retelling of a classic tale, step-siblings bet upon the outcome of sexual intrigue.
Dean's comments: Hmm, why are you watching this when you could be watching 'Dangerous Liaisons'? The only good bit about the film is the soundtrack which contains, amongst other things, Blur and The Verve (although the prospect of seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar involved in a lesbian kiss can't be sniffed at). Like I said already, watch 'Dangerous Liaisons'.
Rating: 3/10.

Cypher (2002)
Starring: Jeremy Northam, Lucy Liu.
Director: Vincenzo Natali.
Synopsis: In a dark vision of a corporate nightmare future, one man becomes embroiled in industrial espionage.
Dean's comments: 'Cypher' is a decent science fiction tale, firmly in the 'cyber-punk' genre it weaves a plot that takes in industrial espionage, changing identities and misplaced loyalties to produce a well-rounded thriller. Northam is quite understated in his role, but that feeds into the atmosphere of an oppressive corporate machinery that treads down independence in it's employees. Lucy Liu performs a very secondary role to Northam and the special effects, and it is perhaps here that the film fails. It looks like the director is more interested in showing off the effects at times, all this allows Liu the chance to do is stand in the background and glower at the camera. I don't want to be too harsh though, as the plot and twists are all really good. Anything that pokes fun at corporate businesses and derides the notion that employees are happy members of 'one big family' gets my vote.
Rating: 5/10.

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