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

La Haine (1995).
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kundé, Saïd Taghmaoui.
Director: Mathieu Kassovitz.
Synopsis: Three youngsters in modern day France struggle against society's demonisation of their culture, be it real or percieved.
Dean's comments: A film which cleverly deals with the complex issues surrounding disaffected youths growing up in modern France, 'La Haine' is an effective film which asks many important questions without offering easy answers. The plot follows the shenanigans of three friends, each with different outlooks on life, each with their faults and problems. Saïd is a joker, happy to laugh his way through his young life and vainly think about girls and his appearance; Hubert is a boxer, an educated young man who thinks his best chance in life is to leave his roots behind and find pastures new; Vinz is full of anger, he is a man who postures about getting a gun and shooting police in order to even the score between them and his community. With this diverse set of characters, the film explores the ennui of being young a person who has little or no prospects in a society that would rather not have to think about you. The lads are challenged by police officers who have no understanding of their lives and a film crew who believe their own propaganda to such an extent that they wont leave the safety of their car in order to talk to them. They go on a trip to Paris in an attempt to collect a debt but are thwarted by their own lack of experience and high society's instant and irrational fear of anyone who looks like they've come from 'the wrong side of the tracks'. The film is shot in black and white - giving it a very gritty feel - and has a wonderfully urban styled soundtrack. Although not a film for the feint-hearted, it is a film that poses a lot of difficult questions that society will one day have to answer. As the film says; it isn't the fall that matters, it's when you hit the ground.
Rating: 8/10.

Halloween (1978).
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence.
Director: John Carpenter.
Synopsis: A deranged killer escapes from his assylum and stalks teenagers in a small US town.
Dean's comments: I can see why this is a horror classic. In the modern age of bloody teen slashers and horrific torture sequences, one can often be slightly underwhelmed by classic horror movies which deliver very little in the way of blood-curdling screams. Haloween isn't meant to be like that though, it is a film which generates terror by being restrained, by allowing the villain (Michael Myers) to stalk his eventual victims for such a long time that eventually the audience becomes somewhat complacent. We know that he's probably going to kill someone, but it's his relentless cold intelligence in pursuing his victims that terrifies us, rather than the violence when he eventually plunges the knife in. The moments of terror, when they arrive, are understated - a technique which works well to unsettle you rather than make you jump. Moments when Myers is glimpsed from a distance, out of the corner of an eye or calmly waiting behind someone are more scary than any bloodfest could ever be. The film then ends superbly, with hints at Myers' possible supernatural nature and a wonderfull demonstration of the horror genre's most staple plot device - they always come back. I'm mostly surprised that it took me so long to watch this, but I don't remember it ever being on TV. Anyone with any interest in the horror genre should check it out.
Rating: 8/10.

Hard Boiled (1992).
Starring: Chow Yun Fat, Tony Leung.
Director: John Woo.
Synopsis: A tough cop and an undercover detective join forces to battle an organised crime gang and their drug smuggling ring.
Dean's comments: Although not the most intellectual movie of all time, 'Hard Boiled' is undoubtedly a classic of action cinema. Chow Yun Fat just eats up the set as the hard-as-nails cop who runs, jumps, shoots and flies his way around Hong Kong with a seemingly endless supply of ammo and an unquenchable desire to get the bad guy. The film opens brilliantly, with a shootout that probably gets through more bullets than the entirely of some US action movies, Fat's partner is killed and he resolves to destroy the criminal gang regardless of what his police chief boss might say. This, you may say, is horribly cliched; but that's not the point. The point is that John Woo gives all these cliches a fresh look and makes them cool again; there's a great sequence when Chow Yun Fat's character destroys three motorbikes in a row with single shotgun shots as they come at him, each one leaping over the last in a succession of larger balls of flame. The final 45 minutes of the film consists of a 'Die Hard' style seige in a hospital, with several gun battles that are so cool they probably shouldn't be allowed to be parodied, there is some great steadycam work as the director follows the two cops around the corridors of the hospital without cuts, allowing the viewer to be in the thick of the action. Just ignore the major plot holes (major characters don't die when they get shot, they just become more determined to get the baddies) and enjoy the action.
Rating: 7/10.

Hard Candy (2006).
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Ellen Page.
Director: David Slade.
Synopsis: A young girl meets the person she has been chatting to on line, only to discover that he is a 30-year-old man.
Dean's comments: Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page star in this disturbing psychological drama in which the tables are turned on the normal horror slasher genre. Wilson plays Jeff, a guy who may or may not be a paedophile trawling the internet for young girls; Page plays Hayley, the 13-year-old girl who appears to be deceptively about Jeff’s intentions. The unfolding drama is an unsettling as any horror genre flick as Jeff and Hayley play out a verbal dance in which both characters slowly reveal dark secrets about themselves. The cinema was a very uncomfortable place for the audience when I was watching the film, many people didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The final revelation is a little bit contrived, but it’s a twist that’s worthy of the 90 minutes of investment in the lives of the characters. Not a film for the faint-hearted, if this doesn’t make you cringe you might need to see your therapist.
Rating: 7/10.

A Hard Day's Night (1964).
Starring: The Beatles, Wilfred Bramble.
Director: Richard Lester.
Synopsis: The origional 'pop video'.
Dean's comments: Every time you see a promotional video, or a pop video or anything designed to advertise a band, realise that almost every trick of the trade was invented in 'A Hard Day's Night'. Before the age of TV and MTV, producers of bands needed some other way to promote their stars, film was the natural way to go. There are classic scenes of the band 'messing around', oh how fun and boyish they are(!), and flirting with all the girls. This is the sort of stuff that's taken for granted in a modern pop video. Let's not forget that the songs they sing are all Beatles classics, that's what actually makes this entertaining to watch rather than simple an exercise in marketing history.
Rating: 5/10.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001).
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Richard Griffiths.
Director: Chris Columbus.
Synopsis: A young boy discovers his magical destiny.
Dean's comments: This isn't a very good film. The books isn't that good so I don't see why the film should be much different. The big problem is that the producers of the film don't seem to think they need to do anything to entertain the audience other than say "It's a Harry Potter film kids!". Worse still is the fact that kids and parents fall for it. The writers and director seem to be relying on the fact that people will have read the book to understand the characters and plot, the film itself just looks like an attempt to make money. In that sense it was a success, not by any other yardstick though.
Rating: 2/10.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002).
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Rupert Grint.
Director: Chris Columbus.
Synopsis: Harry Potter struggles to solve the mystery of the chamber of secrets at Hogwarts school.
Dean's comments: This is a slight improvement on the original film, mainly because the actors playing the children have grown up by a year or two and are thus slightly better at acting. The whole thing still feels like a special effects party designed to lure parents into parting with their hard-earned cash, but there is a little more substance than before. In this sense I suppose it is a little like the book. The running time, something like 2 and a half hours I think, is miles too long for a film aimed at 5 year olds.
Rating: 3/10.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Gary Oldman, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane.
Director: Alfonso Curon.
Synopsis: Sirius Black escapes from Azkaban prison and the seeks out Harry Potter.
Dean's comments: The third part in the Harrry Potter saga is a vast improvement on previous efforts. The change of director and introduction of Gary Oldman gave the franchise a kick up the arse and breathed new life into it. The third Harry Potter book is the best in the series, and so it is hardly a surprise that this film is the best too. The 'Dementors' are actually scary, and the film has a much darker feel overall. The director as clearly insisted upon going with a much greyer and darker set of colours than the first two films. These factors give the story a serious and deadly overtone than was washed out in the 'camp' of the other films. Another welcome factor is a reduction in the use of Rupert Grint's character, he is so annoying, and the writers not feeling that they have to include all the 'Potter' mythology in the screenplay. They rightly decided that if someone was interested in reading all about the 'ministry of magic' or all the other paraphernalia then they can read it in the novels. This is a film that kids and parents should all be able to enjoy.
Rating: 6/10.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon.
Director: Mike Newell.
Synopsis: Harry becomes a teenager and finds himself competing in the 'tri-wizards' tounament.
Dean's comments: Perhaps the most surprising thing about this film is that it is a Hollywood-endorsed 'event movie' that actually really good. I hope people wont disagree too violently if I suggest that this trimmed-down version is much better than the book of the same name. Gone are 200 pages of 'Quiddich' - the worst 'team sport' ever invented - to be replaced by an emphasis on the teenage troubles of our protagonists, plenty of CGI dragons, boarding school urban myths and Ralph Feinnes in a mask. This is 'Potter' as it should be; exploring the trials, doubts and confusion that are implicit with being a teenager in a world that expects you to conform to certain norms while all you want to do is find a date for the dance. Essentially it is fantasy in its purest form; as metaphor a for life but without so many of the quaint 'devote a whole chapter to Hermione scolding Ron' Rowling-esque touches that seem to impress the Potter fanboys of the world. There is a lot of CGI in the film and the occasional box-office-pleasing Americanism does irritate, but the crux of the film revolves around characters, character development, friendship, love and loss. Indeed there is so much time devoted to the ball (a good thing) that it feels much more like the film's centrepiece rather than the 'Triwizard tournament' Harry finds himself competing in. No surprise then that the director is Mike Newell, famous - of course - for 'Four weddings and a funeral'. This is why the film succeeds; it is an entirely British story about multi-dimensional characters with whom the audience emotionally connects. One slight plot hole though; if the entire objective of the Triwizard tournament is to get Harry to touch the cup and therefore be teleported to Voldemort, why not just make the teleportation device into a stone and lob it at Harry - "Here; catch!"?
Rating: 7/10.

Hawk the Slayer (1980).
Starring: John Terry, Jack Palance.
Director: Terry Marcel.
Synopsis: Hawk goes on a quest to defeat the evil Voltan, his brother.
Dean's comments: This is about as bad as films get, from the awful acting to the non-existent plot there are no redeeming features in this dreadful attempt to bring a Tolkeinesque fantasy world to the silver screen. Especially bad is a 'special effect' where the 'elf' character fires lots of arrows in a row, to show this they just replay the same footage 5 times in quick succession. There isn't even a knowing tongue-in-cheek aspect to the film's tackiness, just awful, avoid like the plague.
Rating: 1/10.

Hellboy (2004).
Starring: Ron Pearlman, Selma Blair, John Hurt, Rupert Evans.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro.
Synopsis: Hellboy, a creature from hell who has been raised by Humans and fights against evil, battles against the remnants of a Nazi experiment designed to raise hell on Earth.
Dean's comments: As with most films that derive characters from comic book heros, this film has very little plot. This is because the producers want to appeal to fans of the comics, therefore they don't want to mess around with the mythology, while at the same time appealing to filmgoers, so they have to give the characters some arc. Thus the writers end up going for a middle of the road plot that isn't interesting. There is one thing that holds the film together though, that is Ron Pearlman's performance as Hellboy. He looks like he's having a great deal of fun playing the urban surfer dude with the red skin and sawn-off horns who struts around the streets of the city with his half smoked cigar cleaning up the mess left behind by a rather odd breed of killer dog. There isn't a lot more after this, the writers go to a lot of effort to try to build up a relationship between Hellboy and the fire-starter 'Liz' but I thought it was all too forced.
Rating: 4/10.

Henry: The Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986).
Starring: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold.
Director: John McNaughton.
Synopsis: The life of an ordinary guy who happens to kill for pleasure.
Dean's comments: There are a lot of gruesome images in this film that may not be to everyone's tastes, but if you feel you can endure such things (one image for example is of a dead woman with half a bottle sticking out of her face) then 'Henry...' is a landmark horror / thriller that poses a lot of questions to the audience about the nature of violence. The film contains an excellent scene where Henry and his insane chum are watching a video that they shot of a rape / murder they carried out recently, the scene initially begins with their TV full screen and slowly pans out. The effect is that we, the audience, are put in the same position as the murderers, i.e. voyeuristically watching the torture and death of another. Makes you wonder why you're watching the film yet at the same time feeling such revilement towards the main characters for watching the same thing. The film was recently given a certificate after being banned for a long time, it is a peice of cinematic history and in that sense I recommend a viewing.
Rating: 7/10.

Hero (2002).
Starring: Jet Li, Tony Leung, Ziyi Zhang, Maggy Cheung.
Director: Yimou Zhang.
Synopsis: A powerful baron in medieval China is hunter by a series of assassins.
Dean's comments: I don’t understand why so many people rate ‘Hero’ so highly. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘Crouching Tiger’ style of high wire martial arts, I much prefer action which is real and shows off the skills of the actors involved. ‘Hero’ reminds me of bad sword and sorcery, of stories in which worthy-sounding ‘leaders’ of men bleat about honour and nobility in order to hide their own craving for power. In ‘Hero’ the story revolves around a Chinese warlord who wants to unite the kingdom but is so afraid of assassination that he will not let anyone within 100 paces of him. The plot that unfolds is breathtakingly obvious and filled with 1-dimensional warriors; no amount of spectacular cinematography and wonderfully choreographed swordfights can cover up how hollow the core of this film is.
Rating: 3/10.

Hidden (2005).
Starring: Daniel Autueil, Juliette Binoche.
Director: Michael Haneke.
Synopsis: A man - whose family is terrorised by the arrival of videos of his house - seeks to find out who is haunting him.
Dean's comments: The disappointment I felt at not finding out the ‘truth’ at the end of ‘Hidden’ was easily drowned out by the pleasure I felt in realising that I had just watched a truly novel genre-breaking film. ‘Hidden’ is a mystery film with a twist, the twist being that rather than being a mystery, the story is about mysteries. Although all mysteries are compelling and require an answer, in real life we do not always find out the solution and people’s roles are usually ill-defined and shrouded in conflicting motives. The character of Georges Laurent is a case in point, as a man who is being sent anonymous films of his everyday life, he rightly feels terrorised in his home. After he confronts the man who he suspects has been sending the tapes – with no evidence at all – he becomes the terroriser. The film is therefore a study of this man, his family, life and past rather than a typical thriller in which a mystery is presented to the audience before being solved. So who is sending the tapes to Georges? The point is that it doesn’t really matter, and that it is everyone’s reactions to the tapes that is the central driving force for the film’s narrative.
Rating: 8/10.

Hidden Fortress (1958).
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Misa Uehara, Minoru Chiaki, Kamatari Fujiwara.
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Synopsis: Two peasants are lured into helping a general and his princess by the lure of gold.
Dean's comments: Imagine an epic tale of princes and kings, of heroes and villains, all told from the point of view of a couple of peasants - that's 'Hidden Fortress'. The films opens in the aftermath of a battle, two peasant soldiers have abandoned weapons and armour and are desperate to return home. Along the way they meet a crazed warrior, a princess on the run and various other 'noble' characters who have 'bigger' things on their minds than merely escaping the aftermath of a defeat and getting a little bit of gold. Of course the peasants have little idea that the people they have met are so important; besides all they really want is the gold and the general exploits their weaknesses to the full. Ultimately the film is about human fallacy and failing - as is quite a lot of Kurosawa's stuff - but with a comic twist and no small amount of slapstick. The film is immensely entertaining as a result of this, not least scenes in which the peasants insist upon carrying more gold than is physically possible. Even the slapstick is entertaining; their attempts to scramble up a rocky slope should tickle the sides of even a modern cynical film viewer.
Rating: 6/10.

His Girl Friday (1940).
Starring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell.
Director: Howard Hawkes.
Synopsis: A newspaper reporter tries to convince his ex-wife that she wants to re-marry him while fending off all other suiters.
Dean's comments: Although I have long since stopped being surprised by how good ‘golden oldie’ films can be to a modern viewer such as myself, ‘His Girl Friday’ is remarkably fresh in the twenty-first centaury. I can’t imagine how audiences in the 1940s would have reacted to the appearance on screen of Rosalind Russell’s thoroughly modern go-getting city girl, Hildy Johnson. It’s rather a cliché to say it, but the screen chemistry between her and Cary Grant really does sparkle – it is difficult to imaging anyone being able to deliver the lines that they do with the rapid-fire precision that they do, but somehow they just do. I have read that this film is the fastest-talking in the history of cinema, that speed of dialogue gives its protagonists an intense energy which enlivens their characters and ensures that the audience is engrossed even if they can’t catch all the words they’re saying. The film is ultimately a love story in which its two main characters play out a game of pretending that they hate each other while everyone knows that they’ll never ever be happy apart. At heart it’s a simple story with top dialogue, top acting and really good jokes. What’s not to enjoy?
Rating: 7/10.

The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy (2005).
Starring: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Stephen Fry, Bill Nighy.
Director: Garth Jenkins.
Synopsis: Arthur Dent is whisked away to safety by his friend Ford Prefect when the Earth is destroyed to make way for an interstellar highway.
Dean's comments: Lambasted by many of the more devoted fans of the well-known books, ‘Hitchhiker’s guide’ is a wonderfully irreverent and quirky film which embodies the insanity of Douglas Adams’ original vision. In my opinion the fans of the books have missed the point, they were expecting to see a word-for-word reconstruction of their favourite novel, whereas what we have is an entertaining slice of quintessentially English comedy based on one of the best science fiction stories of all time. The fact that the plots of the film and the book diverge is irrelevant, both are funny. The standout performances come from Sam Rockwell and Stephen Fry (although only Fry’s voice is heard), Rockwell seems to totally understand the drunken parody of a world leader that is Zaphod Beeblebrox and plays the character with a certain panache. Good all round fun with a typically English streak.
Rating: 6/10.

A History of Violence (2005).
Starring: Viggo Mortgenssen, Ed Harris, Maria Bello.
Director: David Cronenberg.
Synopsis: A man's dark past is revealed when he kills two men holding up his cafe in a small US town.
Dean's comments: The trouble with any story which is based upon a mysterious premise is that answers are going to have to be provided sooner or later, the trick is to keep the narrative moving and keep the audience interested as the mystery shifts perspective. ‘A History of Violence’ is a textbook example of how to achieve this; although the original premise of the film – what is the real identity of the man who calmly kills two armed robbers in the café in which he works – has largely been resolved by 45 minutes in, the story becomes deeper and forces the characters to deal emotionally with events. Where a lesser film may have shied away from the psychological ramifications of the shocking events that take place in the small American town, ‘A History of Violence’ embraces it and makes it the central theme. Despite all the violence in the film, it is the final scene – one which merely shows Tom Stall sitting down to dinner with his family – which is the most shocking, they deliberately ignore the obvious violence in his past in order that they can continue living their idyllic lives. This willingness to turn a blind eye to violence in your name as long as you can have the comforting trappings of a lower middle class lifestyle is something of a disease in the war-appeasing right wing of the western world. ‘A History of Violence’ exposes this malaise and in doing so re-affirms Orwell’s nightmare vision of our present; for the Stall family, ignorance really is strength.
Rating: 7/10.

The Hole (2001).
Starring: Thora Birch, Keira Knightley, Daniel Brocklebank.
Director: Nick Hamm.
Synopsis: A group of kids go for an adventure in an old bunker, but when it goes wrong they start to die.
Dean's comments: This rather unimaginative and turgid ‘thriller’ seems rather inspired by ‘The Blair Witch Project’. The producers have merely replaced a bunch of naïve Americans with a bunch of rich Brits (and one American) and stuck them in a WW2 bunker instead of in a forest. Crucially there is nothing supernatural going on, but also there is nothing ‘super’ about the plot. You should be able to guess the ending after about 30 minutes, after that point it’s just a matter of time before all the characters are bumped off. Fans of Keira Knightly may also be interested in the fact that there is some ‘revealage’ too.
Rating: 2/10.

The Host (2006).
Starring: Hae-il Park, Du-na Bae, Kang-ho Song, Ah-sung Ko, Hie-bong Byeon.
Director: Joon-ho Bong.
Synopsis: A sea monster attacks downtown Souel.
Dean's comments: A wonderfully entertaining monster film which entirely fails to take itself seriously is somewhat refreshing in an age of post-modern and self-referential horror films. With its brand of just-about-acceptable special effects, 'The Host' achieves a pleasing balance between horror, dark humour and anti-establishment conspiracy theories. It draws a lot of influence from the outstanding 'Shawn of the Dead' and fans of that film will likely find themselves laughing here.
Rating: 6/10.

Hot Fuzz (2007).
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost.
Director: Edgar Wright.
Synopsis: A young and ambitious police officer is transfered to a sleepy English village, where secrets lie waiting to be uncovered.
Dean's comments: It must be brilliant to be Simon Pegg. I can only imagine his thought processes when he decided to create Hot Fuzz, he probably thought “I wish I was in a cop buddy genre spoof film. Maybe I'll write one...” Such is the life of a man who has created immense success through generating a new brand of subtle British humour which mixes styles and pays homage to so many cult genres while always remaining homegrown. 'Hot Fuzz' is the latest example of the man's work, a lovingly crafted spoof of American cop films set in front of the backdrop of a sleepy English town. It's such a perfect idea that one wonders why no one had attempted to do it before, by merging the shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude of the Holywood police genre with the tweeness of England the comedy almost writes itself. This is not to say that the production team had an easy time, by getting the correct balance of dark humour, slapstick and one-liners they are able to get away with killing off well-known British comedy actors, beat up old grannies and shoot up a supermarket with automatic weaponry – and all of it played for laughs. It's not perfect by any means – and it's not as good as 'Shaun of the Dead' – though, it could do with losing 20 minutes of run time and it feels incredibly self-indulgent when Pegg and Frost start flying through the air firing guns 'gangster style' just like their characters fantasied about earlier in the film. At no point though does any of this become boring though, so it's just minor nit-picking really. It's sure to become yet another Pegg/Frost/Wright comedy classic in years to come, I suggest you watch it now.
Rating: 8/10.

Hotel Rwanda (2004).
Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo.
Director: Terry George.
Synopsis: During the civil war in Rwanda, a hotel owner shelters members of the opressed Tutsi minority.
Dean's comments: A great film for several reasons, the main one for me being the fact that it opened my eyes to a period of history which I am ashamed to say that I know very little about. It is clear though that the director and writers did not only have this in mind when making 'Hotel Rwanda', as the story is stacked with emotion and captures the horror of events and helplessness of people who want to make a difference but are constrained by international rules. Don Cheadle excels in the film's lead role as Paul Rusesabagina, a film which is very critical of the international community and the policies of the old European imperial powers (France, Belgium, Britain) which have torn Africa apart in the past and now refuse to provide any meaningful help. The film explores the differences between the Hutu and Tutsi populations of Rwanda (completely artificial and invented by Belgian colonists aparently) and the way that even these ludicrous divisions can be twisted so easily and used to deflect the real blame for a nation's problems; a Hutu militia use radio broadcasts to demonise the Tutsi before the uprising begins. The film exposes one of the unfortunate contradictions of Africa's problems in the modern age, although it is clear that the violence and carnage perpetrated by the Hutu militias derives from the presence of Belgian colonials, the bastion of calm amognst the storm (the eponymous hotel run by Cheadle's character) is also a remnant of that imperialist past. Indeed it is only Paul's connections to powerful people in Europe that prevent a deadly attack against the hotel. Aside from the film's politics, Cheadle does a wonderful job of wringing every last drop of emotion out of his performance. This is a film which is genuinely touching as well as being a much-needed history lesson for the western world.
Rating: 8/10.

The Hours (2002).
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep.
Director: Stephen Daldry.
Synopsis: The lives of three women in three different ages are closely intertwined.
Dean's comments: I thought that this film was a rather powerful depiction of people facing the prospect of suicide being better than carrying on living. Nicole Kidman's fake nose is a bit silly but once you get over that the film is very deep. Each of the characters is faced with difficult decisions about the future directions of their lives, Moore's character in particular, who struggles to make a 'happy' family with a man who has been to war and wants only to settle down for the rest of his life. Moore's character washes away the facade of the pastel-colours of 1950's American suburbia. All three women have problems with the men in their lives, but the film is clear that it isn't a tirade about make oppression, indeed the men are seen as innocent by-standers to the pressures of life, living and society in general. In this sense the film is a very mature piece of modern feminism.
Rating: 7/10.

The House of Flying Daggers (2004).
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang.
Director: Yimou Zhang.
Synopsis: In Feudal China, a man and a woman on opposing sides of a war fall in love.
Dean's comments: The synopsis makes the film sound like a new interpretation of Romoe and Juliet, and in some ways it is. The best thing about 'The House of Flying Daggers' is that it is visually stunning. From the wonderful colours in the brothel at the start of the film to the swordplay to the final battle raging accross a snowy landscape, the film never ceases to be an extravaganza for your eyes. It's a shame then that the plot is a little thin; at the heart it's a very simple love story about a love triangle in which none of the them could ever be happy. There are endless shots of the Chinese landscape and the soldiers or members of the 'House of Flying Daggers' riding accross the open terrain; it's clear that this is simple filler for the film, but filler that I find impossible to condemn becuase of its sheer beauty. The same goes for the brilliant effects used when one of the flying daggers is sent airborne, visually spectacular but ultimately gloss over a plot which resorts to unrealistic twists in order to remain engaging. The film is not quite a 'must see' for martial arts afficionados, but I recommend that people watch it if only to take in the picture-perfect scenery and backdrops in front of which the swordplay is realised.
Rating: 6/10.

House of Sand and Fog (2003).
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jennifer Connelly, Ron Eldard.
Director: Vadim Perelman.
Synopsis: An Arabian immigrant buys a house from which a woman has just been evicted.
Dean's comments: Ben Kingsley is imperious in his role as the Arabian noble who has been displaced from his homeland and is trying to make a new life for himself in America, he manages to bring elements of aloofness and vulnerability to his character as he struggles to raise his son with the kind of values he knows from his old life while at the same time struggling with Jennifer Connelly's character. She is a single woman who's husband has recently left her, when balifs turn up at her house to reclaim a debt she is plunged into a legal mire in which she cannot get her house back even after she has been proved innocent of owing the debt. This starts a long physical and psychological battle between the main characters, both of whom are at heart good people simply trying to do the right thing in a crazy world. The best bit about the film might be that the story is presented from a neutral point of view, like most disputes in real life (i.e. not in Holywood) there is no clear cut 'right' and 'wrong'. At its roots the film is very well-written and manages to introduce us to the depth of the characters quickly and make us care about what happens; a simple premise and a great execution.
Rating: 7/10.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994).
Starring: Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman.
Director: Joel Coen.
Synopsis: A naive young country boy turn up in the big city. He is immediately drawn into a scam by a huge corporation.
Dean's comments: In this fast-paced ironic comedy about the trappings of industrialised capitalism, the Coen brothers' usual wit and dark humour is somewhat overpowered by the hugeness of the sets and almost pantomime nature of their characters. Tim Robbins is the archetypal 'little guy' from the small town with the big idea (a circle that he claims is 'for kids'), he is made into the director of Hudsucker industries on his first day in the job as part of a corporate scam. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the archetypal fast-talking power-dressing woman in a man's world whose job it is to investigate the recent shenanigans at Hudsucker industries. Leigh's character is the highlight of the film, her high-octane dialogue and interaction with her fellow male reporters being the driving force for the plot. I was distinctly unmoved by the majority of the film; Marxist anti-alienation metaphors aside, the film lacked a heart or any cohesion. The ending is rather surreal and has been described as Capra-esque, it seems to me that this is a desperate attempt to inject some pathos into a finale which is otherwise fairly hollow. A great disappointment of a film, possibly the Coen brothers' worst.
Rating: 5/10.

Reviews Home, Home.