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

Falling Down (1993).
Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Duvall, Barbara Hershey.
Director: Joel Schumacher.
Synopsis: An unemployed 'ordinary guy' has finally had enough of the social detritus that surrounds him.
Dean's comments: I really love a good anti-hero, although Hollywood often doesn't, and Michael Douglas plays a great anti-hero in this film. I feel a lot of sympathy for his character too, in several places you think "I wish I had enough guts to go and do that", like shoot up a MacDonalds, get out of your car and leave it in a traffic jam or take on a bunch of hoodlums on their 'patch'. The problem with the film is that the makers seem to remember that they're in Hollywood and by the end, they demonise Douglas' character by painting his wife as some kind of victim and putting his daughter in danger. Thus the thing ends on a rubbish note as he 'gets what is coming to him' and the police restore everyone's faith in the status quo.
Rating: 6/10.

Fantasia (1940).
Starring: Too many to mention here.
Director: Several.
Synopsis: Disney's classical music 'masterpiece'.
Dean's comments: I suppose it is that I am not really into classical music that I don't like this film. If you want to listen to classic music then buy some CDs or go to the theatre. I'm sorry but I just don't think these two genres mix.
Rating: 2/10.

Far From Heaven (2002).
Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert, Dennis Quaid.
Director: Todd Haynes.
Synopsis: A housewife facing crisis in her marriage in 1950's American suburbia begins a relationship with her black gardener.
Dean's comments: This is a simple and beautiful film, it seems to be made in the style of the time in which it is set, i.e. the colours and the style, while dealing with issues that were fairly taboo at the time. This gives the film a classic look that is rather endearing. The issues that the film deals with, on the surface, include racism and homosexuality in middle America during the 50's, i.e. before the civil rights movement. The depth of these issues goes much further though, Moore plays a woman who thinks of herself as relatively enlightened, in that she herself is not a racist. The problem is that she tolerates it of others because of the prevailing winds of society, as well as treating her maid rather as a second class citizen. I would like to think that the writers were making comments about the class divides within society as well as the racial ones. As per usual Julianne Moore is fantastic.
Rating: 7/10.

Fahrenheit 9-11 (2004).
Starring: Michael Moore, George W Bush.
Director: Michael Moore.
Synopsis: Documentary trying to debunk the presidency of George W Bush.
Dean's comments: Michael Moore's rage against George W Bush is more than welcome; his selective use of images and propaganda to debunk Bush is quite obvious but, in this modern age of Murdoch dominated news, quite tolerable. This is my repost to those who complain about bending of the truth and propaganda, yes Moore might be engaged in a level of propaganda but I think it's about time someone redressed the balance in the media away from the establishment. The scenes that show 'dubya' being totally stumped for words and finishing a policy statement with "now look at this swing..." are very very funny. The film does have one major problem though, which is that he plays to the lowest common denominator when he gets people to cry on camera. The scene at the end where the mother of a dead soldier goes to Washington and is challenged by a stranger looks horribly staged, while the sequence that depicts Iraq as a wonderful place where children play and frolic before the U.S. came along is frankly stupid. I'm hope that most people will be able to see past these flaws in the hope of taking the greater message away from the film, that Bush is a money grabber who is using his position to fatten his bank accounts and line his pockets. Moore's ultimate conclusion comes down to the fact that poor people are always being down-trodden by rich people, and in quoting George Orwell at the end of the film he proves his point quite well.
Rating: 7/10.

Fargo (1996).
Starring: Francis MacDormand, William H Macy, Steve Buscemi.
Director: Joel Coen.
Synopsis: A businessman hires a couple of hoods to kidnap his wife in order to get money off his father in law.
Dean's comments: There are several reasons why 'Fargo' is an undeniable classic of modern cinema, the best is the fact that it is such a simple tale, yet it's so deep in the characterisation of the protagonists and the empathy that it manages to build up around Francis MacDormand's role. You can tell that the Coen brothers really love the character of Marge Gunderson, the pregnant police woman who outwits the plans of local criminals and businessmen by simply being calm, cool in her manner and doing her job well. It would be easy to over-play her simplicity and charm, but each of the encounters she has with the locals, be it when she interviews the local prostitutes ("He was kinda funy-lookin'.") or has a drink with her sad old school chum, the Coens manage to engineer each scene so that it's tuned to just the right levels of empathy and comedy. William H Macy plays a hang-dog loser (again?!) who is trying to get some free cash out of his father in law, Steve Buscemi's character is basically the flip-side of the same coin. Both these characters are out for the same thing, both are criminals in their own inept ways, both get what's coming to them in the end. The ending does have a moral to it "...all just for a little bit of money..." says Margie, in an age of 'tacked-on' ethics, this moral is totally deserved by the writers. Marge and her husband win because they are simple people (although not simple in the ways of the world) getting on with their lives in peace. Adding in the usual Coen brothers' wry humour, bizarre minor characters and gruesome deaths makes 'Fargo' an absolute classic which needs to be taken seriously by all.
Rating: 10/10.

Fear and Loathing in las Vegas (1998).
Starring: Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Torro.
Director: Terry Gilliam.
Synopsis: A reporter and his attorney go on a drug-fuelled hedonistic tour of Las Vegas.
Dean's comments: Terry Gilliam brings his anarchic film making to this classic of American literature and does a fine job. He uses crazy camera angles and strange colours to try to bring the atmosphere of the original book to the screen. Benicio Del Toro does a good job of being a paranoid as possible but Johnny Depp is the real star of the show, stealing every scene. The film doesn't get rated higher as it doesn't manage to fully capture the sheer extravagance and paranoia of the book.
Rating: 6/10.

Fear dot-com (2002).
Starring: Natasha McElhone, Stephen Dorff.
Director: William Malone.
Synopsis: Something sinister is killing people through the internet.
Dean's comments: A total lack of empathy for the characters or believable dialogue makes this horror shocker (which owes a lot to 'Ring' and 'My Little Eye') one to miss.
Rating: 2/10.

The Fifth Element (1997).
Starring: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Mila Jolovich.
Director: Luc Besson.
Synopsis: A strange alien woman holds the key to a terrible weapon.
Dean's comments: This is an unconventional film that paints an intriguing picture of the future. It does have a big problem in that it sort-of descends into 'Die Hard' on a space station at the end, I'm sure Bruce Willis must have had enough of being the ordinary guy who randomly becomes a super hero by now. There are some good comic moments in the film, basically anything and everything that Gary Oldman does is worthy of an award for comic excess. I was especially tickled by the mental gun that has an almost infinite number of special functions and bullets; even though Oldman is working mostly with special effects he still manages to bring his unique 'insane-bad-guy' look to the screen. Funny too is the alien behaviour of Mila Jolovich, especially her reaction to food and the way she talks as if she really were from another planet. Essentially there is a lot of comedy in this film, but the sci-fi stuff isn't really breaking any new grounds.
Rating: 6/10.

Final Destination (2000).
Starring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Sean William Scott, Tony Todd.
Director: James Wong.
Synopsis: Survivers of a plane crash are pursued by a mysterious force.
Dean's comments: A great premise - that 'death' is a force and has a plan which it will ruthlessly pursue - which is let down in that the SFX are so unconvincing that you can always tell when one of the characters is about to get killed. The SFX has that relatively primative tendancy to require a specific blue-screen shot when , for example, Sean William Scott's character has his head chopped off by a train and when another teen girl is run over by a truck (a sequence that would be really shocking if it were not for the obvious blue-screeniness (p.s. is this a word?) of the final shot). The film also has a really silly 'they always come back' ending that seens forced into the plot, but then again I think that I like that in a horror film, and relies heavily on quick camera rushes to generate a feeling of terror as the characters are killed in mysterious ways. Anyway, despite all this I was entertained by the film, the cheese is so cheesy that it becomes funny. Fans of bad horror or American teen slashers should love this.
Rating: 4/10.

Finding Nemo (2003).
Starring: Alexander Gould, Albert Brooks, Willem Defoe.
Director: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich.
Synopsis: Animated adventure in which a single father (fish) struggles to find his son (also a fish).
Dean's comments: This animation from Pixar is beautifully done with plenty of scenes that look like photos as well as almost unbelievable oceanic shots. The thing that impresses me the most about these new cartoons is the way that they manage to do hair and fur. Obviously there is less fur in a film about fish but the seagulls have feathers and the Human characters have hair, all of which are done beautifully. The film is mostly aimed at children, Nemo as a character is unbearably annoying for one such as myself but kids seem to love him. There are plenty of adult gags and references to Hitchcock / Kubrick to keep people of all ages entertained though. Out of the other characters in the film, the father is quite a lonely fellow after the loss of his wife (surprisingly emotional for a cartoon) while the seagulls and sharks win hands down for best comedy. Thankfully they didn't feel the need to give the sharks cockney accents either, hooray!
Rating: 6/10.

Five Easy Pieces (1970).
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black.
Director: Bob Rafelson.
Synopsis: A man who was once a child genius is forced to revisit his past when a family member is taken ill.
Dean's comments: When ‘Five Easy Pieces’ opens we see Jack Nicholson playing an ordinary working class guy struggling to make a living in America’s wastelands while enjoying simple pleasures with his meagre earnings. The plot opens slowly, but we soon realise that this man is not a product of a white-trash trailer park upbringing, rather he has decided to live the life he does after being brought up in an affluent middle class neighbourhood and rejecting a promising careers in music. A film which could have been a rather dry analysis of the class structure in the USA then turns into a wonderful character study of a man who deliberately shuns the banality of the middle class’ social safety net in order to live the way he wants to. Jack Nicholson is the kind of actor who can carry this character with style and – most importantly – believability; where a lesser film may have descended into sentimental slush; Nicholson’s dry delivery conveys the bedraggled mentality of post 1960s America. The film’s final scenes are particularly chilling in their denouncement of social norms and rejection of traditional values; fearing that his girlfriend is being too successful in her efforts to defend him against his family, Nicholson’s character cuts his gains and hitchhikes a ride on a truck into the open country. It is this final act that cements both the hopelessness and the joy in the film; while the film glorifies in Nicholson’s character’s defiant freedom, we realise that his very freedom that means he will never be happy.
Rating: 8/10.

Flags of our Fathers (2006).
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach.
Director: Clint Eastwood.
Synopsis: The story of the famous photograph of American Marines raising the stars and stripes over the island of Iwo Jima.
Dean's comments: The first of Clint Eastwood's films about the US invasion of Iwo Jima in world war 2 is either trying to be two films or trying to cleverly tell two interlinked stories by cutting between events at Iwo Jima and events some years later. Neither of these approaches appears to have worked. The crux of Eastwood's tale is that the men who came back from Iwo Jima are treated like celebrities, but only so far as that suits the needs of the US government's war effort. At the same time he notes that the same men are treated just as badly by their government during the actual invasion of the island. So far so good. Eastwood then seems to twist the story around though, so that we end up believing that the men were actually better off fighting on Iwo Jima than back in America where they no longer have their 'buddies' to be chummy with and have some good old-fashioned harmless male banter (but not in a gay way of course). The film seeks to expose the falsehood behind the label of 'hero'; each of the flag-raisers is distinctly unheroic in their own way, be it that they lie to the parents of deceased comrades or are an alcoholic or whatever else. This is hardly new stuff though, nor is the way that the battle sequences are directed. There's simply nothing particularly new here, perhaps 20 years ago it might have been something exciting and new.
Rating: 5/10.

Flightplan (2005).
Starring: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean.
Director: Robert Shwentke.
Synopsis: A woman on a trans-atlantic flight loses her daughter.
Dean's comments: Reasonably exciting in the first half, tepid in the second before becoming downright awkward and irritating by the finish, ‘Flightplan’ is a film in which Jodie Foster does a pretty good job with the character she is given, but in which ultimately no one really cares what happens to her. The premise is that Foster is a plane engineer whose daughter goes missing on a plane journey. Being a rather nervous sort, Foster’s character immediately goes mental and insists that the plane be turned upside-down in order to look for her. This promises to be an interesting psychological thriller; unfortunately the whole thing descends into the most nondescript of hijack films when the ‘twist’ finally arrives. It is disappointing to sit through a whole film only to discover that the big revelation is in fact the most boring of all possible plot developments. The film is clearly trying to play into post-9-11 fears, in this aspect it finds some success. There are far too many holes in the plot for it to be an enjoyable film though.
Rating: 3/10.

The Fog of War (2003).
Starring: Robert McNamara.
Director: Errol Morris.
Synopsis: Ex-US secretary of defence Robert McNamara discusses his life, history and war.
Dean's comments: I was totally taken back by this excellent documentary in which Bob Mcnamara lists his 11 things that people have to learn if we're ever going to avoid conflict and destruction in the future. Mcnamara has an almost unfeasably impressive c.v., he was US secretary of defense during the Cuban missile crisis (I.e. he prevented a niuclear holocaust) and the Vietnam war (under Kenedy and Johnson, Mcnamara was in favour of a US withdrawral from Vietnam), in charge of US bombing raids over Tokyo during WW2 (he describes his actions during this period as war crimes), president of the Ford motor company and president of the World Bank. This is a guy who has learned a couple of things about the way the world works and it's enlightening to hear what he has to say about the current state of world politcs. I was excited that someone would go to the trouble of getting Mcnamara's memoirs on film for general consumption, what a good job they did; this is about the most gripping 100 minutes of documentary I have ever seen.
Rating: 8/10.

For Your Consideration (1993).
Starring: Catherine O'Hara.
Director: Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy, Ed Begley Jr..
Synopsis: Holywood buzz convinces a group of relatively unknown actors that they are being considered for Oscars.
Dean's comments: A mildly entertaining swipe at the obsession which Holywood places on Oscar ceremonies, 'For Your Consideration' has plenty of decent gags. This is kind of what you would expect given that it has almost the entire cast of 'A Mighty Wind' starring. It is no where near as good as that film though.
Rating: 5/10.

For Your Eyes Only (1981).
Starring: Roger Moore.
Director: John Glen.
Synopsis: Bond tries to find a decription machine.
Dean's comments: This is totally rubbish. I'm a big fan of the Bond series and I'm often prepared to put up with its various clichés and inconsistencies in favour of clever one-liners and cool action sequences. This is totally unforgivable, easily the worst of the series. I don't want to have to tell you why, if you ever have the misfortune to see it you'll find out.
Rating: 1/10.

The Forgotten (2004).
Starring: Julianne Moore, Gary Sinise, Anthony Edwards, Dominic West.
Director: Joseph Ruben.
Synopsis: A woman is shocked to discover that people are forgetting her dead son.
Dean's comments: This is pseudo-sci-fi, a throw back to the paranoia of the 90s without any of the mystery and imagination of its predecessors. Julianne Moore is a mother who had lost her son, she seems slightly too willing to turn to the possibilty that aliens have kidnapped him, the idea appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the film. The film signposts all of its twists and the 'shock' moments are rather too obvious (You know how sometimes they have to use an unnatural camera angle to get a special effect in? Well there's lots of that here.) the final kick in the teeth is the stomach-churningly cheesey and happy ending in which the son is returned and everything is perfect; apart from the plot making no sense and several loose ends being left to dangle as if they don't matter because the mother is happy again. If only it were possible to interpret the plot in such a way that makes Moore's character a genuine psychotic who imagined the whole thing. Sadly not.
Rating: 2/10.

The French Connection (1971).
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider.
Director: William Friedkin.
Synopsis: Two streetwise New York cops uncover an international drug deal.
Dean's comments: 'The French Connection' is recognised as one of the most influential police / chase / heist movies ever in that its style and direction forever changed the way that 'cops and robbers' films were produced. Gene Hackman is by far the best thing about this film, and he rightly deserved the oscar for best actor. He plays the grisled cop Doyle, a man who sees criminals as scum and treats them accordingly, a man whose total disregard for any rules and regulations puts him at constant odds with his superiors. He discovers a possible plot involving the Mafia and rich French criminals to smuggle tonnes of drugs into America in a custom built car, he becomes obsessed with solving the case. Several scenes stand out, most notable is a chase scene in which Hackman races after a runaway train in his car, the elevated railways of New York make this possible. The sequence was filmed at break-neck pace, often without extras lining the streets, the reactions of passers by are often of genuine shock and terror. The plot pulls no punches either, being intricate and requiring work on the part of the viewer in order to follow and appreciate, various strands are set up at points throughout the film, the connecitons only becomming clear later on. Never, though, does one get the feeling that the plot is being forced into place by a Macguffin. The film's ending is totally suited to what has come before, it's an ending I shant give away, and one that some viewers might find unsatisfying. I loved it. This is a film that any fan of crime thrillers should watch, a film that fans of Gene Hackman should cherish.
Rating: 7/10.

From Russia with Love (1963).
Starring: Sean Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Lotte Lenya, Bernard Lee.
Director: Terrence Young.
Synopsis: Bond travels to Turkey to recover an coding device that is dangerously close to Russian hands.
Dean's comments: 60s Bond is supreme in my eyes, this is one of the best, and you don't need to be looking back with rose-tinted glasses in order to see it that way. The scene where Connery outsmarts a helicopter is very very good, it beats the arse off the modern action films where the main character has a full load of special effects and amazing super weapons to beat the baddies. The film also begins the tradition of ludicrous baddies with silly special powers, what was going through the writers' minds when they came up with a Russian general with a shoe-dagger? A shoe-dagger? This sort of thing looks endearing in a 60s setting, in an era of spys and Hungarian diplomats being killed by poisoned umbrellas and Fidel Castro being attacked with an itchy beard, while in the modern age it doesn't work. They need to stop making Bond films.
Rating: 8/10.

The Fugitive (1993).
Starring: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones.
Director: Andrew Davis.
Synopsis: A doctor is convicted of murdering his wife, but when he escapes custody he turns his mind to proving his innocence while remaining on the run.
Dean's comments: Much of the action and suspense of 'The Fugitive' was tempered by the fact that I never saw it until 2006 and as such was familiar with many of its iconic moments. Such is the way of the modern world, where everything is parodied to such an extent that one feels one is familiar with a film before one has even seen it. 'The Fugitive' seems to follow in the American tradition of iconic lone heroes; both Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford fill that role in the film. Harrison is the wronged party, fighting to clear his name and find his wife's killer; but Jones is not the bad guy, rather he is an ashen-faced tough-guy who is doing his job - a job that only a rough and ready loner could possibly hope to survive in. Herein lies the cleverness of 'The Fugitive', it has two characters with conflicting goals, neither of whom are the most likeable people on the planet; yet somehow the audience is simultaneously on the side of both characters. We like Jones' no-nonsense approach to policing as much as we want to see Harrison solve the mystery; we want them both to win. In terms of the action sequences, I don't think there's anything mind-blowingly spectacular about what happens in that department. Even Harrison's much-parodied leap from the top of a dam lacks a certain tension as it happens so early in the film. I did enjoy the way that the film's back-story is told in an extended sequence of flashbacks while the credits roll - the whole thing takes some 15 minutes. A good action thriller that ticks all the necessary boxes in order to be a hit, 'The Fugitive' wont fail to deliver on what it promises.
Rating: 6/10.

Full Metal Jacket (1987).
Starring: Matthew Modine, Lee Ermey, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Baldwin.
Director: Stanley Kubrick.
Synopsis: The story of the recruitment and brainwashing of soldiers during the Vietnam war and their subsequent entry into battle.
Dean's comments: The drill sergeant at the boot camp at the start of the film is surely the best character in cinema history. Some of the lines that he is given and the deliverance of them are perfect. His brainwashing of the recruits into the U.S. marines shows the contradictions of the American intervention into Vietnam, that they claim to be bringing democracy to south-east Asia while at the same time destroying their own youth. We see the results of this initiation into the army in this boot camp, first in Private Pile's terminal retributions on the final day of their training (...you only reap what you sow...) and then through the behaviour of the marines out in Vietnam in their distaste and mistreatment of Human life. The final insanity of the film, the fact that the sniper is a youthful girl, brings home the ridiculous nature of war. Note that the scenes in the Vietnam city were actually filmed in Beckton, East London. There's a Showcase cinema there now.
Rating: 8/10.

The Full Monty (1997).
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy.
Director: Peter Cattaneo.
Synopsis: A group of redundant steel workers in Sheffield put on a strip show to earn some cash.
Dean's comments: I did like this film, but I also thought that the hype it got wasn't justified. Some people seemed to go ape about the fact that there was an actor from 'Coronation Street' in it. It's hardly a shock that an actor is in a film is it now? It was good to see a film that is set in working class England, about working class people that was pretty funny at the same time.
Rating: 6/10.

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