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

The Dancer Upstairs (2002).
Starring: Javier Bardem, Laura Morante, Abel Folk.
Director: John Malkovich.
Synopsis: Political thriller in which a detective investigates a series of organised terrorist incidents accross a Latin American country.
Dean's comments: This is a story about a political organisation attempting to start a coup by carrying out some outlandish acts of terrorism against the state. The best thing about the film is the way that both sides of the insurgency are shown in the same bad light, the terrorists and the state both seems equally happy to abuse and use those around them to further their causes. Only the lone detective and the dancing instructor are sympathetic characters, I suppose this means that only ordinary people are any good (although be prepared for some slight twists which reveal layers in the 'ordinary' person). The brilliant characterisation of the lead role through his relationships with his family, bosses and the 'dancer' make this film stand out from the rest. There are several fantastic scenes in this movie with some occasionally shocking violence; an incident in a theatre for example, unexpected and disturbing. I also like the way that the film is set in a random Latin American country. Why is everyone speaking English? All the signs around the street are in Spanish so why not have the dialogue in Spanish?
Rating: 7/10.

Daredevil (2003).
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell.
Director: Mark Steven Johnson.
Synopsis: A blind crime-fighter is framed in the death of his new girlfriend's father.
Dean's comments: This is completely rubbish, I can't believe I wasted 90 minutes of my life to see Ben Affleck prance around pretending to be blind and fighting crime. The film HAS NO PLOT!; a man meeting a girl and her turning out to be a super ninja type babe does not constitute a plot. Colin Farrell looks like he's having a lot of fun as a crazed throwing-stuff evil dude (what?) but there is nothing else to this film. Please avoid it.
Rating: 1/10.

Dark Blue (2002).
Starring: Kurt Russell, Scott Speedman, Ving Rhames, Branson Gleeson, Michael Michele.
Director: Ron Shelton.
Synopsis: Corruption at the top of the LA police force backfires when a detective begins to believe what he is doing is wrong and plans to take everyone down with him.
Dean's comments: This is a film that has an interesting premise, a film about police corruption set at the time of the trial of the men who beat Rodney King in Los Angeles should be able to do something interesting with the usual 'cops and robbers' format. It's a little disappointing then that the film treads over known ground and quickly returns to the solid cliché of US police dramas. The themes are not new, 'the police are corrupt', 'should we accept corruption if crime is stopped?', 'can the police be above the law?' and the portrayal of the division in race relations at a sensitive time like the Rodney King trial is hardly imaginative. Having said this, innovation isn't the be-all and end-all of film-making, and 'Dark Blue' is a reasonably entertaining and, at times, thought-provoking. The film does end neatly wrapped-up though, as all the threads of half-stories and throw-away lines from earlier in the film come back to slap Kurt Russell's character on the back (a little like a Harry Potter book). Give it a go, but don't expect to be dazzled.
Rating: 4/10.

Dark Water (2002).
Starring: Hitomo Kuroki, Rio Kanno.
Director: Hideo Nakata.
Synopsis: The spirit of a girl who died in terrible circumstances haunts a block of flats.
Dean's comments: After Hideo Nakata's 'Ring', he would do very well to follow it up with something equally as scary and atmospheric. 'Dark Water' was never going to be as good, but it's still a fairly thrilling horror film. It's moody and atmospheric; the setting, in the confines of an apartment building, feeds into that claustrophobic atmosphere. Scenes of shock take place in a lift (more claustrophobia) and the inside of a water tower (more... you know where I'm going with this now). The film does have a couple of unfortunate problems though, the main one being that it takes a very long time for anything interesting to happen. A second problem is that the main character is really annoying, she just seems to fumble around shouting after her daughter whom she seems totally unable to control.
Rating: 6/10.

Darkness Falls (2003).
Starring: Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cornie.
Director: Jonathan Leibesman.
Synopsis: An evil tooth fairy terrorises the inhabitants of a small American town.
Dean's comments: The opening background sequence to the film gave me a little hope, not much but a little. The premise is so cheesy that there was a good chance it would be silly enough to carry the film as a homage to horror. Sadly there was none of that, the 'horror' of the tooth fairy amounts to nothing more than spooky faces in the dark (the tooth fairy can't come into the light, cue 'scary' scenes where the only torch goes out!) and scenes in which people are swept off their feet at breakneck speed. There is even the introduction of incidental characters who last no more than 5 minutes before being killed (in a similar vein to red-shirted guys in Star Trek), it's almost like the film's director got bored after 15 minutes and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. He's got no complaints from me.
Rating: 2/10.

Dangerous Liasons (1988).
Starring: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer.
Director: Stephen Frears.
Synopsis: Sexual manipulation in 18th centuary France.
Dean's comments: This is a great film, full of wonderful dialogue (mainly between Close and Malkovich), clever witticisms and sexual tensions. I think the film is so good because it strikes at the nature of pre-Victorian society that the Victorians did their best to try to cover up, that being the fact that people actually did have sex. A battle of wits ensues between Molkovich and Close after he unwittingly falls for the target of their bet, this battle forms the basis for all sorts of mind games and general carry-on. The film's ending give a message which is tender without being smarmy: "Love wins".
Rating: 7/10.

Das Boot (1981).
Starring: Jurgen Prochnow, Herbert Gronemeyer, Klaus Wennemann, Hubertus Bengsch.
Director: Wolfgang Petersen.
Synopsis: A German wartime reporter joins the crew of a U-boat in order to learn about their experiences hunting in the Atlantic Ocean.
Dean's comments: When I watched 'Das Boot' I didn't realise that I was in for the full 210 minute extravaganza of a director's cut rather than the 150 minutes of film as listed in my Halliwell's film guide. It was not difficult to see which parts of the film probably hit the cutting room floor, what is difficult is to wonder why anyone would want to remove any moment of this captivating and harrowing account of the second world war. One imagines that the film tells a story that so many thousands of men would find chillingly familiar to their war experience, the experience of being on a submarine, of seeing the true face of war while others talk of glory and honour, in short, the psychological misery of armed conflict. The director makes an exceptionally good job of putting the viewer inside that U-boat, emphasising the cramped conditions and the fact that men had to virtually sleep on top of each other. There are some incredibly effective shots in which the camera rapidly follows a crewman running through the tight corridors and hatches of the ship. When the boat encounters a British destroyer and must flee in order to survive, we experience the terror and fear of the crew. When the captain sees British crew seamen left stranded in the ocean as a result of his own actions and cannot act to save them, we feel the pain and hollowness of a senseless conflict. Although the atmospherics and moralities of the film are second to none, the plot is mildly pedestrian when compared to other war films. A bunch of guys stuck in a war zone face an unseen enemy, they struggle as much against their own sanity as enemy bullets and the final message is that war is a literal hell. See 'Apocalypse Now' et al. 'Das Boot' is, however, one of the better films of its genre purely down to the atmosphere and tension that is built as the viewer lives with this crew for 3 hours. Then there is the immensely powerful ending, very effectively ramming home the message that in war, everyone loses. The classic German war movie, anyone with an interest in history or war films should see it.
Rating: 8/10.

Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Starring: Ken Foree, Scott H Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, David Emge.
Director: George Romero.
Synopsis: Four people fleeing from zombies hide out in an abandonned shopping centre.
Dean's comments: George Romero’s second zombie movie has is almost as great a film has his first. Packed full of metaphors for life in America in the 1970s, the film is about the fear of government, over-commercialisation of society and – of course – Vietnam. If there has ever been a greater metaphor for the ordinary American’s fear of the Vietnamese conflict than this film then I have yet to see it. From the relentless zombie hordes that never cease to sneak of on the survivors to the way that our American heroes clamber Viet-cong-like around the ventilation shafts of the shopping centre the film screams ‘Vietnam’. The film even ends with that most iconic image of America’s defeat in south east Asia, the evacuation by helicopter of the embassy in Saigon is parodied as the two remaining non-zombies escape from the now-overrun mall. The plot of the film carries over from ‘Night of the Living Dead’; although it is unclear how much time has passed between the films, the zombie invasion is now in full swing in the USA and society is beginning to break down. Bands of roving biker gangs prowl the countryside looking for food and fuel, rouge television stations are broadcasting hectic debates between ‘experts’ discussing what can be done to save society. The world is at a turning point and humanity has no response to the unrelenting zombie horde. The zombies are not immune to the pressures of modern commercialism and advertising, they appear to be gathering in a shopping mall for no other reason than the fact that they remember being most comfortable there when they were alive. As you would expect with a Romero zombie movie, there is plenty of downright silly gore, guts and blood flying about as the zombies consume their human meals. This might frighten some of you, those of us more au fait with horrors will be tickled by the timidity of the special effects. A great horror film, one of the classics in the genre; it is stuffed with messages about life and society but at no point does it forget its own point, to scare and sicken the audience.
Rating: 7/10.

Day of the Dead (1985).
Starring: Lori Cardille, John Amplas, Joseph Pilato, Terry Alexander.
Director: George Romero.
Synopsis: A group of scientists and the soldiers protecting them have differing ideas about how to deal with the worsening zombie crisis.
Dean's comments: By far the least successful of George Romero’s zombie thrillers, Day of the Dead seems much more interested in exposing viewers to outlandish and gory special effects than the previous films. Romero’s films have always had a political underbelly, here it is the ideological struggle between words and action, between investigation and reaction. We see a scientific experiment trying to investigate the cause of and possible solution to the existence of zombies on the enormous scale now seen – apparently the zombies outnumber humans by 400,000 to 1. A small unit of military personnel in charge of the protection of these scientists, downhearted by losses and the apparent slow pace of research, eventually decide to take matters into their own hands. It’s all fair enough on the level of a standard horror, events take time to come to a head as we are introduced to the characters and the lives which they lead in the post-apocalyptic world. Romero’s major coup is the way in which he introduces a sympathetic dimension to the zombies. The lead scientist – one Dr Frankenstein – is convinced that the zombies are a kind of alter-ego to humanity, and manages to train his favourite zombie to perform tricks. This zombie – Bob – then becomes the focus of the audience’s sympathy towards the end of the film as the soldiers kill the scientists and take away the things that had stopped him from being a mindless consumer of living flesh. Bob now exacts revenge on the soldiers, an event which Romero manages to twist so that we cheer him on. Not as good as the rest, but still a fine horror.
Rating: 5/10.

Dead Man's Shoes (2004).
Starring: Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch.
Director: Shane Meadows.
Synopsis: Two brothers return to their Nottinghamshire home town intent on seeking a revenge against a past injustice.
Dean's comments: First-off, the Nottinghamshire accents in the film are great, the actors have got the East Midlands twang down to a finely tuned note. The film is about revenge, why a man needs revenge and how he is going to get it despite some of his victims having changed dramatically since he knew them before. Our main character is a thoroughly nasty piece of work, having returned from the army with his brother he sets about antagonising the local criminal element of his home town and killing them one by one. We get brief flash-backs to events that caused this man's lust for revenge, while we also see the love that he has for his brother. Thankfully the film avoids most of the clichés about the 'avenging angel' and ends on a neutral and non-judgemental scene as the truth is revealed and the need for revenge falls apart as the final target turns out to be not what we expected. 'Dead Man's Shoes' is a really good film, but don't watch it if you want to be cheered up, the bleakness of the Midlands countryside combined with the singular lust for revenge of the main character and the rather inept 'evil' of the local druggies serves for an incredibly depressing film.
Rating: 7/10.

Deathwatch (2002).
Starring: Laurence Fox, Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Hugo Speer.
Director: Michael J Bassett.
Synopsis: Something worse than the enemy lurks in a mysterious WW1 trench.
Dean's comments: This is a fairly unimaginative horror set in the trenches of WW1. The fact that the trenches of WW1 were horrific is not missed by the writers and that horror evokes a very good atmosphere, but the writers seem to have failed to evoke much more horror from the supernatural thing that is supposed to be haunting the unlucky men. I was more scared by the insanity of Andy Serkis' character wielding that massive spike club rather than the snake-like barbed wire that attacks the men.
Rating: 4/10.

The Deer Hunter (1978).
Starring: Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep.
Director: Michael Cimino.
Synopsis: A community's menfolk go off to fight the Vietnam war. When they return they have changed out of recognition.
Dean's comments: Robert De Niro may be the big name, but Christopher Walken is the real star in this overly long tale about the destruction of communities though war. It is interesting that, given the film is essentially about the Vietnam war, there is only about 20 minutes 'in the field of combat' in the entire 170 minutes of running time. The characters of Walken and De Niro are forced, after being captured by the North Vietnamese, to play Russian roulette in a POW camp. Despite managing to escape capture, Walken becomes obsessed by the deadly game and disappears on to the streets of Siagon while his comrades return to their working class roots in the midwestern USA. The message of the film is all about how the pain and horror of war is borne by the ordinary men and women who are involved in the conflict. This is a noble but well-worn point, and unfortunately 'The Deer Hunter' brings little new to the subject. The film's portrayal of the games of Russian roulette is especially disturbing and grim, this level of sharp realism sadly cannot be said of a lengthy wedding scene which takes up some 20 minutes at the start of the film. That wedding scene was far too long and should really have been chopped down to 5 minutes. This is the whole film in a nutshell, good ideas but miles too much waffle.
Rating: 5/10.

Delicatessen (1991).
Starring: Dominique Pinnon, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Marie-Laure Dougnac.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world where there is no meat, people in a small town have become canibals of outsiders and live in constant fear of the anarchic vegetarians 'The Troglodytes'.
Dean's comments: Perhaps the oddest film premise I have ever come across, Delicatessen is a film that positively revels in its own anarchy. The denizens of a small community in a post-apocalyptic world, desperate for meat, butcher anyone new to the town and anyone who dies. But when a new man in the town draws the attention of the butcher's daughter, he is reluctant to kill him for his flesh. What follows is 90 minutes of eccentric and undoubtedly French absurdity in which militant underground vegetarian troglodytes struggle to rescue our hero while the rest of the town is desperate to see prime cuts of him on sale. The weird mix of the familiar and surreal adds to the atmosphere, it's a familiar setting in an unsettling world. A world that might not be too far away if ever civilisation was to come tumbling down. In terms of its dystopian subject matter, the film could be classified as science fiction; I think that in reality it's a pure fantasy, closer to the bureaucratic insanity of Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil' than the capitalist nightmare of 'Blade Runner'. Fans of Gilliam's work will most likely enjoy 'Delicatessen'
Rating: 6/10.

Deliverance (1972).
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox.
Director: John Boorman.
Synopsis: Four friends go for a weekend in the hills and become paranoid after encountering the locals.
Dean's comments: Deliverance is a film which is shocking in several places and for several different reasons. It is part thriller and part horror, but mostly it is an examination of interaction with and between disparate social groups. The premise is simple, a group of middle class city dwellers go into the countryside for a weekend adventure and encounter the local inbred population. Blinded by their fairly racist and stereotypical views about how the locals look and behave, they treat them with a fair amount of disdain. This is then compounded later on when one of their number is tortured by a local, their reaction is to tar all the locals with the same brush and descend into a primitive us versus them view of the world. Although the major themes of the plot are established early on, some of the subtleties are hinted at and only become apparent after a little bit of thought. The film's outstanding and most famous scene - in which a local boy performs the battling banjos with one of the city trippers - shows how through music the apparent barriers between these two cultures are found to be non-existent. It is a film which demonstrates that there is hope for humanity even though many people's instant reactions to things they don't understand is to lash out. On the surface this may not be apparent, especially given the way it ends, but that's what makes it such a good film - the fact that you need to consider what you've seen in order to get the most out of it. I've already mentioned the battling banjos scene, it's worth watching Deliverance just to see the speed with which these guys play. It's awesome.
Rating: 7/10.

Demolition Man (1993).
Starring: Sylvestor Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock.
Director: Marco Brambilla.
Synopsis: A rediculously pacifistic future society struggles to deal with an 'old-school' criminal.
Dean's comments: This is totally rubbish. If ever a film could be described as a 'shoot-em-up' then this is it. How can any film in which the hero shows a bunch of pacifists the error of their ways by re-introducing them to extreme violence be taken seriously? Utter tosh.
Rating: 1/10.

The Departed (2006).
Starring: Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone.
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: Two informers, one in the police and one in a criminal syndicate, are given the task of unmasking each other.
Dean's comments: Martin Scorsese’s best film in years is not only a grim tale of deception in the Boston police and criminal fraternities but also an improvement on the Hong Kong original upon which it is based. Matt Damon plays a criminal prodigy who has infiltrated the police force and is tasked with uncovering a police mole within his own organisation. Leonardo DiCaprio plays that mole, a man whose past ensures that he can never be accepted into the police force proper, but whose talents as a loner are recognised as being ideally suited to the role of deception. Thus each mole is set the task of uncovering the other, cue a series of superbly scripted and acted set-pieces (all lifted from the original) in which each side comes tantalisingly close to revealing the deadly truth. The film is aided by fielding an awesome cast in which Jack Nicholson is just about as evil as it is possible to be while Mark Wahlberg revels in the utter contemptibility of the man he is playing. One major drawback of the film is Ray Winstone’s accent; I have never been to Boston but they can’t possibly talk like that.
Rating: 8/10.

The Descent (2005).
Starring: Natalie Jackson Mendoza, Molly Kayll, Shauna Macdonald, Saskia Mulder, Nora-Jane Noone, Alex Reid, Craig Conway.
Director: Neil Marshall.
Synopsis: Six friends go potholing in an unexplored cave.
Dean's comments: Easily the best British horror film in years (yes, even better than '28 days later') 'The Descent' bucks - and occasionally re-invents - all the horror movie clichés while doing a brilliant job of scaring the hell out of the audience. All of this is done in a variety of ways. Which is scarier, being stuck in an unexplored pothole with little light no way out or being chased by a flesh-eating sub-human? Or perhaps the blood-curdling crunch of breaking a bone and the sight of it tearing through your skin is worse? This film has it all, and filmed in tight claustrophobic conditions with flickering lights and eerie noises you can't really asks for a better combination nature versus animal versus humanity. And to think I haven't even mentioned yet that the entire cast is female. The only male character (apart from several of the subhuman creatures) is killed in the first 5 minutes, this leaves the 6 female potholers to fulfil all the traditional roles of a classic 'Seven Samurai'-styled team; the slightly disturbed one, the reckless one, the leader, the clever one, the slightly mystical one, the hard case. The film effortlessly builds tension as the women overcome a series of obstacles, starting with scrambles through tiny holes progressing though a climb over an endless drop and dealing with a broken leg before having to fight monsters, the audience is transfixed with fear before we even see our first underground-dwelling subhuman creature. The film builds to a wonderful crescendo as several of the women are picked off in a variety of ways while several more fight against the creatures with ferocious energy and gritty determination. A series of incredibly visceral hand-to-hand combats take place in which two of the women emerge as contemporary equivalents of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley after brutally taking down their inhuman assailants. One of then - in a scene which had me grinning uncontrollably - emerges from a pool of blood covered head to toe in red gore with a determined and primitive stare in her eyes, like a neo feminist version of Carrie at the prom. Simple and brilliant, 'The Descent' does exactly says what it says on the poster with the kind of sublime timing and flair that has rarely been seen in a British horror film.
Rating: 8/10.

Die Another Day (2002).
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry.
Director: Lee Tamahori.
Synopsis: Bond investigates North Korean terrorists.
Dean's comments: The 20th Bond film isn't very good. The scientific content (not that I'm used to impeccable in science in Bond films) is utterly appalling, an invisible car is ridiculous! The audience literally groaned when that piece of equipment was revealed. The plot is very patchy and the Bond girl is crap, Halle Berry does nothing interesting and just gets a load of tacky and pointless dialogue. She even has to be rescued at the end, so much for the 'Bond meets his match' girl. On the good side; fun car chases, good opening few sequences. But that's it.
Rating: 2/10.

Die Hard (1988).
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman.
Director: John McTiernan.
Synopsis: An ex-cop is trapped in a building where his family are being held hostage by super-villains.
Dean's comments: 'Die Hard' is a solid action thriller which was the first in a long line of action genre films. The format in 'Die Hard' has been repeated again and again in many films through the 90s, take 'Under Seige' and 'Speed' as classic examples. The reason so many have attempted to copy it is that it's such a simple formula, yet it serves up a lot of action. The idea that a lone hero is trapped inside a confined area and has to take on a group of hardened super criminals with only what he can find around him isn't particularly novel but it always has the audience engaged on several levels. Firstly because the main character is an ordinary guy that we sympathise with, secondly because we want to see what ordinary object he's going to use next in an extra-ordinary way. All of these things wouldn't get above the level of an average action thriller if it were not for the addition of one man; Alan Rickman. This man is a great actor, the extra level of smarm and evil genius he bring to his role of a German super-villain makes this film a cut above the others in terms of pure action.
Rating: 6/10.

Die hard 2 (1990).
Starring: Bruce Willis.
Director: Renny Harlin.
Synopsis: Criminals have hijacked an airport radar station and are re-directing flights to their doom.
Dean's comments: Not as good as the first, not as dramatic, no Alan Rickman. This time our hero, once again played by Bruce Willis, has to fight super-baddies around an airport. The action isn't quite as good as he isn't quite the lone-hero anymore. This time it isn't personal, last time it was.
Rating: 4/10.

Dig (2004).
Starring: Anton Newcombe, Courtney Taylor.
Director: Ondi Timoner.
Synopsis: A documentary following the differing fortunes of two Californian bands in the late 1990s.
Dean's comments: In this documentary about underground music in American during the 1990s we get to see two sides of the music scene which appear to be different yet intrinsically linked. One the one hand there are the 'Dandy Warhols', the band that rose from humble roots to achieve success across America and into Europe; on the other hand there is 'The Brian Johnstown Massacre', whose front man (Adam Newcombe) refused the trappings of fame and fortune for fear of turning against his roots. I'm not really a big fan of the kind of music these bands played, but it is clear that there is a sizable fan base out there that would latch on to their music; i.e. the fame and fortune is there for those who are willing to take it. Various commentators on the film describe Newcombe as a flawed genius, they compare him to Lennon and talk about how he saw popularity as being directly opposed to credibility as an artist. As far as I could tell, the guy is a nutcase who deliberately and systematically ruined his chances of success every time a record producer got anywhere near signing a deal. I guess that this is the paradox of any artistic endeavor; you can't claim to be independent and challenging to the status quo once you are part of it. Such is the price of success. In terms of a film 'Dig' is quite enjoyable if only for Adam Newsome's near-legendary ability to ignite every situation, indeed it is worth watching just to hear the stories of drug taking and debauchery that were rife in his band's studio. An interesting snippet of modern musical history.
Rating: 5/10.

Dirty Pretty Things (2002).
Starring: Chitwetel Ejiofor, Audrey Tautou, Sergi Lopez.
Director: Stephen Frears.
Synopsis: Several illegal immigrant struggle to make ends meet and live their lives in contemporary London.
Dean's comments: Brilliantly simple and wonderfully engaging, this film manages to introduce us to a group of characters with whom we can immediately sympathise and feel for. Issues of immigration, work and relationships are all effortlessly explored without resorting to obvious subtexts or annoying moralising. Filmmakers should take note of the movie's style while the anti-immigration intelligentsia should take note of the Human side of the story.
Rating: 8/10.

Dogville (2003).
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany.
Director: Lars Von Trier.
Synopsis: A lost woman is taken in by the inhabitants of a small American village.
Dean's comments: This is a brilliant film which doesn't seem like it lasts anywhere near its three hours running time as you get further absorbed into the depth of storytelling and acting on display. The style which Von Trier has used to tell the story is like nothing else in cinema history; looking more like a theatre production than the set of a movie, the scarcity of props and simplicity of scenery allow the viewer to get into the faces of the actors and enjoy their performances with a new level of appreciation. Instead of houses we have lines drawn on the floor, instead of a flower bed we have 'flower bed' written on the floor, the one time Nicole Kidman leaves the small village we see only the inside of a small truck. This Spartan look helps the atmosphere of the film, essentially a depressing one as the inhabitants of the town decide that Kidman can stay for the small price of having to work for them, as it becomes clear that she is on the run from something they work here harder until she literally becomes a slave. I presume that this is either a metaphor for the Human condition or an allegory about U.S. parochialism in its treatment of the outside world. It's also possible that there are Christian overtones to the finale (Death and destruction (fires of hell) brought to the ungrateful villagers (man) by Kidman (Jesus) and her father (God)...) which the author and director weren't intending. That's the great thing about the film though, so many layers and such a depth of acting skill that you'll be thinking about it for many weeks after you saw it. A possible future classic.
Rating: 9/10.

Dr No (1962).
Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress.
Director: Terence Young.
Synopsis: James Bond travels to Jamaica on the trail of the infamous Dr No.
Dean's comments: The original and best (well not quite) Bond film. The reason that the films from the sixties work while the modern ones don't is that the times have changed, things that made sense back then that wont work in the modern age (such as a super-criminal being able to build a massive base in the Caribbean. These days an American satellite would detect it in an instant and a whole pile of cruise missiles would be knocking on the door). I'm not forgetting that Sean Connery absolutely excels in his role as the British super-agent, he seems to take to the role with such smoothness and confidence that it is clear why so many aficionados of the films rate him as the best actor to take on the part (this author is included in that number). The classic scenes are all there; Connery's first introduction for example, playing cards in a casino, his name is asked by a beautiful woman, the 'Bond' theme kicks in, the angle cuts to his face... "Bond; James Bond." A scene that will be repeated over and over again but never with the same class. Ursula Andress emerging from the Caribbean in that bikini, she was about as feisty as a woman was allowed to be back in the 60's.
Rating: 8/10.

Dr Strangelove (1964).
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C Scott.
Director: Stanley Kubrik.
Synopsis: A general goes mad during the cold war and sends a fleet of bombers out to destroy Russia, it is soon discovered that Russia has a doomsday weapon that will destroy the world in retaliation for such an attack.
Dean's comments: This is an absolute genius of comedy which simultaneously details the insanity of M.A.D. policies of the cold war while allowing Sellars to expose ludicrous political thinking on both sides. Peter Sellars' portrayal of three characters is akin to a work of fine art, with the eponymous Strangelove the boldest and best of all. This is the benchmark satirical political comedy, without 'Dr Strangelove' then we may never have seen such groundbreaking work as 'Spitting Image' and the like. General Ripper talking about the "international Communist conspiracy to sap and impuritise all of our precious bodily fluids" is disturbingly on the button of modern international politics when one hears the rubbish and obvious lying that sometimes comes out of Washington and London (think of Colin Powel talking about '...this much anthrax could kill...' at the UN as if he didn't even have to prove Iraq had any anthrax, he only had to scare us about it). Beside all this is the comedy, the best bits surely being when Major Kong rides the nuclear bomb out the hold after giving a series of absurdly patriotic speeches and the drunkenness of the ineffectual Russian premier. It is Dr Stangelove himself that encapsulates the message when he says of the doomsday machine that "my conclusion was that this idea was not a practical deterrent for reasons which at this moment must be all too obvious", and then the American general's reaction; "Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines". Stand up and take a bow Peter Sellars (if only you weren't dead), this is the greatest political film of all time.
Rating: 10/10.

Dodgeball (2004).
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor.
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber.
Synopsis: The regulars in a small gym start a 'dodgeball' team in an attempt to save their club.
Dean's comments: The sports spoof is great in some places, but incredibly lame in others. Almost everything that the nerdy teenagers and pirate characters do are not funny at all, in fact when I think about it it's clear that everything funny in the film derives from the brilliantly over-the-top portrayal of 'keep-fit' Nazis given by Ben Stiller. The best bit is the opening scene in which we see a promotional video of the 'uber-gym'. The strange thing is that this sort of video probably exists in the real world. The whole plot is rather obviously sign-posted all the way through, the only thing that keeps it going is the spoofing of sport ("...this is more exciting than the world cup, the world series and world war 2 put together!") and especially sports commentary (The 'co-commentator' Pepper Brooks being a fantastic amalgamation of all the worst parts of commentators the world over). The stuff with Lance Armstrong is a little odd though, the guy actually did have cancer, is that really a laughing matter? I s'pose it depends on how much they paid him.
Rating: 5/10.

Dolls (2002).
Starring: Miho Kanno, Chieko Matsubura, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Kyoko Fukada, .
Director: Takeshi Kitano.
Synopsis: Three stories about love.
Dean's comments: An exquisitely crafted film with beautiful scenery and cinematography which most directors would give their front teeth for, 'Dolls' is a spectacular-looking film which disappointingly fails to follow through and deliver a half decent story. In his portrayal of three doomed relationships, Kitano is delivering a message about the pain and possible futility of love. One man is obsessed by a J-pop superstar, a woman returns to the same spot every week carrying lunch for a departed lover, a couple trudge around the countryside slowly going insane as the woman fails to regain her memory after a suicide attempt; not exactly the stuff of Hollywood feel-good romances. Simply being the antithesis of heart-warming slush is not enough to make a good film though, 'Dolls' goes too far the other way and almost loses its own message under a sea of confusing and disjointed images. Kitano seems incredibly self-indulgent too; there are some unnecessarily long shots where basically nothing happens. The scenery may be beautiful, but it needs more if it wants to be something other than a really long slide show about how pretty the Japanese countryside is in autumn. In conclusion, 'Dolls' has some interesting themes but it executed poorly as a film. The film is beautifully shot though, you could probably watch much of it on fast forward.
Rating: 5/10.

Donnie Brasco (1997).
Starring: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp.
Director: Mike Newell.
Synopsis: An undercover cop enters the Mafia and begins to sympathise for their lifestyle.
Dean's comments: I can't remember too much about this film (I think I might have been drunk while I watched it), but I remember that it wasn't as good as the other gangster films I seen. Sorry I can't think of anything else to write, it's just another mafia film.
Rating: 5/10.

Donnie Darko (2001).
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore.
Director: Richard Kelly.
Synopsis: A recluseful American teenager gets strange visions of a giant rabbit and finds out that he has 28 days to save the world.
Dean's comments: This is a film that is tinted with genius. As well as being a science fiction film, it serves as an indictment of suburban American existence and shows that post modern films are great. Donnie himself is the archetypal outcast in the plastic and artificial world of American high schools, his rebellions against the system (such as his heckling of Swayze's character) are fairly reminiscent of my own school days (although I did less heckling and more political campaigning). Donnie is not totally downtrodden in his school though, Barrymore's character represents the side of adulthood that tries to nurture youth rather than destroy it. She receives little sympathy from her peers. Lots of theories fly around about the meaning of 'Donnie Darko', after all, Donnie himself becomes some kind of saviour by the end by sacrificing his own existence for the sake of everyone else (thankfully Christian imagery was avoided by the director). Does this mean he's god? What part does the murderous rabbit play if that's the case? Can he really travel through time or is he merely delusional? Is the whole film a delusion in the mind of Donnie's Mum after Donnie's death in the plane accident? Whatever you take out of the film, the one thing you can't deny is that it's an amazing post-modern experience for fans of sci-fi, thrillers and social commentary. You need to watch this film, it's one of the few genuine cult films of the modern age.
Rating: 8/10.

Double Whammy (2001).
Starring: Denis Leary, Elizabeth Hurley, Steve Buscemi, Luis Guzman.
Director: Tom DiCillo.
Synopsis: A detective's bad back prevents him from stopping a robbery, he then struggles to regain the respect of his collegues and friends.
Dean's comments: Funny in places but never sure if it wants to be a full-on spoof or have a touching message, 'Double Whammy' manages to fail in both these areas. The only really good bits involve the pair of struggling film makers (Keith Nobbs and Donald Faison (the guy from 'Scrubs')) inventing crazy plots and using bizarre handshakes. The film is OK for a lazy night in, but don't think you're going to laugh too hard.
Rating: 3/10.

Downfall (2005).
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Ulrich Matthes, Corinna Harfouch
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel.
Synopsis: In the final 10 days of the Nazi regime, a young secretary to Adolf Hitler struggles to survive.
Dean's comments: A triumph of cinema as art, ‘Downfall’ succeeds in portraying Adolf Hilter for what he truly was, not a monster or a manifestation of the devil, but a mere man. Hitler was a human being, and humanity has to come to terms with the fact that such a man, without any supernatural powers, persuaded a nation to wage war on its neighbours and slaughter so many innocents. Bruno Ganz gives an infallible performance as the German dictator; Hitler is a historical figure who has been parodied so many times in cinema and TV, it is difficult these days to portray Hitler in anything other than a comic or demonic sense. This film totally succeeds, and Ganz gives monologues and speeches that those old movie reels of Hitler show him doing; one moment he is a kind uncle, the next moment he is telling his generals that the German people deserve to have their throats cut. The material in this film is inherently depressing, but thankfully most of the story is shown through the eyes of Hitler’s secretary, Traudl Junge (the real Junge talks quite movingly about her part in the second world war at the start and the end of the film), who struggles between the contradictions of being a young woman and surviving in Berlin in April 1945. Seeing this film, which could almost have been a documentary or an educational piece, through the eyes of an ordinary German really makes you feel for what it must have been like to actually be caught up in the insanity of central Europe during world war two. One of the most historically accurate and touching war films ever made, ‘Downfall’ is surely a masterpiece.
Rating: 9/10.

Dragnet (1987).
Starring: Dan Akroyd, Tom Hanks.
Director: Tom Mankiewicz.
Synopsis: A veteran 'old-school' cop and a fresh-faced newbie team up to defeat an institutionalised crime ring in 80's Los Angeles.
Dean's comments: Now I know that there are plenty of spoofs which are miles better than this, and lots of people have trashed this film for being an unimaginative crime caper lost in the mire of 80's nihilism. I think that 'Dragnet' is really funny. Perhaps it only works because its two main characters are played by two of the best actors of the time, Dan Akroyd never ceases to make me laugh while Tom Hanks is one of the biggest-paid actors in America. Yes it's silly, yes the gags aren't original and yes it looks a little dated, but it's still really funny.
Rating: 5/10.

Drunken Angel (1948).
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura.
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Synopsis: A young criminal is taken under the wing of an alcoholic doctor.
Dean's comments: Akira Kurosawa’s first film with legendary actor Toshiro Mifune may be on the surface about a washed up gangster who is helped by a friendy doctor, but I suspect that the subtext is Kurosawa’s fears for the future in post-war Japan. It is difficult to remember now – given Japan’s affluence and culture – that shortly after World War 2 it was a land of strife and starvation that had just been humiliated on a world stage. In making this film Kurosawa is screaming out his fears for the future, fears that Japan will be torn apart much in the way that Germany was after world war one. Mifune represents ordinary Japan’s desire to reign in the hawks and get on with life, while Shimura’s character represents the country’s confusion at where to go next. Does Japan retreat into its own borders or engage the world, does Japan lash out at it’s conquerors or try to rebuild within. Questions faced by both Japan as a nation and Shimura’s character as an individual.
Rating: 6/10.

Dune (1984).
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Jurgen Prochnow, Francesca Annis.
Director: David Lynch.
Synopsis: The heir to a powerful family is believed to be the saviour of an entire planet, a planet where water is a precious commodity.
Dean's comments: A film which utterly fails to engage on any emotional level, 'Dune' is more of an exercise in special effects than a story. The Lynchian influence is there for all to see in this tale of a young boy destined to become 'Muad-Dib', saviour of the native people of an entire planet. Now you might think that this should be a tale of salvation, of coming-of-age and of great warriors fighting great battles - it isn't. Lynch sticks so closely to the rhythm of the book - even so far as giving several characters unnecessary internal monologues that drain mystery from the storyline - that he never pauses for breath, never gives the audience a change to take in what is happening and never manages to convey the enormity of what is meant to be happening on screen. The film is therefore very badly-paced; add to this a number of strangely hammy performances by normally reliable actors in bad spandex and the conclusion is that David Lynch should try to stay out of the mainstream. Lynch's obvious inclination to use metaphorical imagery - something which I enjoy, see my review of 'Mulholland Drive' - has clearly been tempered by whatever more mainstream force was behind the production of 'Dune'. The result is an unsatisfying worst of both worlds which both fails to be mysterious or coherent, in the end what we get is fairly disjointed and not really in keeping with Frank Herbert's original - a novel that was full of mysticism and magic-meets-technology drama.
Rating: 4/10.

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