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

Saboteur (1942).
Starring: Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock.
Synopsis: A man is framed for causing a suspicious explosion at a wartime plane factory.
Dean's comments: A somewhat incoherent Hitchcock mystery thriller, 'Sabateur' has some exciting set-pieces which are linked together by some infuriating and rather nauseatingly twee scenes which try to make bold and unconvincing statements about the power of liberalism and freedom. The film was made during the second world war, and America's paranoia over its entry into that conflict is stamped all over the film. The plot revolves around a Nazi plot to commit varying acts of sabotage against the US homeland, be it starting a fire in a factory or trying to blow up the Hoover dam. Hitchcock seems to be trying far to hard to make several points about the evils of dictatorship and fascism; it is an argument that isn't hard to win, but Hitchcock insists on giving his characters long-winded speeches about freedom and never surrendering which bog all the film's good morals in a tiresome patriotic slush. The blind man who sees all and the circus folk who vote on taking the wanted man in are all potentially powerful devices within the narrative, but Hitchcock goes for the lowest common denominator and cranks the ham factor up to the highest setting. This being said, the set pieces are pretty exciting and the finish is certainly worth the 2 hour wait. The only problem is that the film is so unconnected that by the time you reach the end you could be forgiving for forgetting what happened at the begining.
Rating: 5/10.

Sanjuro (1962).
Starring: Toshirô Mifune.
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Synopsis: A lone samurai gives aid to a group of rebels who are being persecuted by a local warlord.
Dean's comments: Another in the long line of Akira Kurosawa's plethora of Samurai films, 'Sanjuro' differs little from the great director's usual formula.  In short, a mysterious stranger with supreme swordsmanship arrives in the middle of a local dispute between gangs and makes short work of resolving the situation by siding with one group and infiltrating the other.  There are many similarities with the far superior 'Yojimbo', but 'Sanjuro' is a superb work in its own right.  Toshiro Mifune looks like he was born to play the roles that Kurosawa gives him, here he jumps around the sets and delivers all his lines with suitable fervour.  He always has the edge over all the other characters in the film, he always knows exactly what to say to get the 'good' gang on his side and - more importantly - instantly seems able to create plans and schemes to foil his opponents.  Lone heroes are always interesting characters, but never more so than the spectacularly unexpected final scene in which Mifune's character is confronted by the man who he has considered his equal for much of the film and defeated.  Kurosawa's restraint during the preceding 100 minutes pays dividends, and Mifune's character ends up being even more mysterious.  I highly recommend this film, possibly one of Kurosawa's lesser-known efforts, but certainly worth any fan checking out.
Rating: 7/10.

Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Ed Burns, Matt Damon.
Director: Steven Spielberg.
Synopsis: Set amongst the Normandy battles of World War Two, a small squad of U.S. marines search for a single paratrooper.
Dean's comments: 'Saving Private Ryan' is a tour de force of cinema which brings war films into a new age of sophistication. All war films produced since this Spielberg classic will be compared back to it in terms of how they're able to make the audience feel a part of what is transpiring on screen. The D-day sequence has already pencilled in its place in movie history as a classic; the horror, fear and panic of the Normandy invasion is captured like none could ever have imagined. I personally felt physically ill after seeing it at the cinema with surround sound. That combined with the street battle of the final 45 minutes place the film up there with the all time greats. Tom Hanks has always been one of America's best actors, and once again here he shines through in his portrayal as a soldier who is in fact a man just doing his job (albeit very well). The film can be criticised for being overly sentimental and rather clichéd (one German soldier is all we get of the 'other side' and there are strange references to the uselessness of British soldiers) while it meanders a little too much in the middle. The film is regularly criticised for not showing the Commonwealth part in the war. Although this is true, there were separate British and American sectors in the war and so is stands to reason that there would only be American troops in the American sector. Hopefully most people will be able to put these things aside as minor points and will be able to marvel at the way that Spielberg is able to capture the sweeping enormity of the D-day landings, what they meant in the context of world history and to the people who took part.
Rating: 9/10.

Saw (2004).
Starring: Leigh Whannell, Cary Elwes, Danny Glover.
Director: James Wan.
Synopsis: A serial killer sets traps for his victims and waits for them to kill themselves trying to escape.
Dean's comments: This is a great horror film that shows there really is some life left in the genre. The whole thing looks like one gigantic sick and nasty mess that's come out of the mind of someone so depraved and sadistic that they should be sectioned. Isn't that what we want in all horror films? The film throws us straight into the drama and fear as we begin in an abandoned bathroom where two strangers are chained by the legs to the wall. All they have is a saw each and a dead body lying between them holding a tape recorder. The film uses effective cuts and flash-backs to tell us the back story of our characters and the man whom they suspect is setting them up in this depraved 'game'. There are some standard horror clichés plus a couple of novel ones (a man having to use a camera flash to navigate around a darkened room where he knows a killer is lurking...) while the various sadistic schemes concocted up by the film's 'monster' seem to invite the audience to either look away or leave the cinema entirely. There a couple of plot devices that are a little convenient and some of the plot doesn't make a lot of sense, but there are a couple of good twists and plenty to make you want to sleep with the light on. Overall, a really scary ride.
Rating: 7/10.

A Scanner Darkly (2006).
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, Winona Ryder.
Director: Richard Linklater.
Synopsis: A detective is tasked with investigating the behaviour of his own alter ego.
Dean's comments: With the outstanding performance of Robert Downey Jr, this is a film which would be nothing more than 90 minutes of spectacularly artistic visual effects. The film tells the story of the life of a man who is both drug addict and undercover policeman, the drug to which he is addicted – ‘substance D’ – has the side effect of splitting his personality, thus rendering him unable to perceive the connection between his two personas on a conscious level. The whole film is beautifully rendered with the use of rotoscoping, a technique which allows artists to use inks over film and therefore give a cartoon-like effect to live action. This artwork is enough to make the film worthwhile, even though the near-future dystopia isn’t anything new or the ‘revelation’ of the truth towards the end particularly surprising (just think to yourself – why does Reeve’s boss need to wear a camouflage suit?). That and Robert Downey Jr, his performance as the terminally paranoid hyperactive junkie rescues what might otherwise have been some rather dull moments when the brain-paralysing reality of drug taking is demonstrated by having the leads mutter ramblingly to themselves and each other. Well worth it for the graphics, but don’t expect the plot to blow your mind.
Rating: 6/10.

Scarface (1983).
Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Director: Brian De Palma.
Synopsis: A young Cuban immigrant to the US tries to make his name and money in crime.
Dean's comments: Whether this film is meant to be a warning against the excesses of capitalist greed, or simply an excuse to cram as many gruesome images on to the screen at one time, is unclear. The film opens with Pacino and Bauer, freshly escaped from Castro’s Cuba, coming to America and telling us how terrible Communism is. Pacino’s character, Tony Montana, even kills a communist ‘for fun’. By the end of the film the same people have capitulated to the extremes of hunger for money, with the inevitable consequences being death, mayhem and betrayal. The storyline has an enormous problem, at no point is it possible to feel anything but revulsion for Tony, his friends, his sister or any of the people he associates with or kills. The result of this being that the bloody ending (something which has become a classic scene in itself) is telegraphed very early on and by the time it comes the audience frankly doesn’t care. Where ‘Godfather’ contrasted violence against family, where ‘Goodfellas’ debased the ideological basis of mob violence, ‘Scarface’ is just boring. It’s a film which could easily lose 30 minutes and be better for it, a film whose soundtrack has dated horribly and which has little or no emotional connection to its own characters. Final scene apart, very disappointing.
Rating: 3/10.

Schinlder's list (1993).
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley.
Director: Steven Spielberg.
Synopsis: The tale of Oscar Schinlder, a man who ran a factory off slave labour but didn't kill people.
Dean's comments: Now in my opinion, Oscar Schindler was no saint. Simply not killing people doesn't make you the second coming. Watching this film I think that Spielberg is of the same opinion as me, Schindler is never painted as a saint, merely as a capitalist doing what capitalists do. This isn't to say that the film lacks power, indeed Spielberg does a pretty good job of presenting the contradictions, horrors and absurdities of what the Nazis did in central Europe in the 1940s. People often claim that films in black and white in the modern age of cinema are simply trying to be arty and pretentious, I hope that this isn't the case (I also hope it isn't in B/W just so they could put one girl in a red coat; not that her presence isn't poignant) and that it was done to emphasise the despair and hopelessness of everyone involved in the holocaust. I'm tempted to say that Fiennes' character is over-the-top in his sheer evil, but then historical accounts of the death camps in central and eastern Europe paint a picture not dis-similar to this character's portrayal. 'Schinlder's list' is a film that deserves the positive criticism it has received over the years; it's long and shocking to watch, but then does a film about one of the most appalling genocides the world has ever seen deserve any less?
Rating: 8/10.

Scream (1996).
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Rose McGowan, Drew Barrymore.
Director: Wes Craven.
Synopsis: A hooded killer is murdering teenagers in suburban America.
Dean's comments: Simple, effective and jumpy, 'Scream' is a great horror film that embraces the clichés of the genre through its post modern references rather than trying to shy away from them. Wes Craven is a man who knows how to put teenagers in danger, and knows how to make the audience feel terrified at the same time. The idea of having a kind of narrator on the screen who is constantly telling the character (audience) about the horror genre and the things that you have to do / avoid doing in order to survive is a conceptual masterstroke (sorry if this sounds a little over the top but I really do think so). The opening scene is a classic in which Drew Barrymore is killed (think 'Psycho'), the fact that such a well-known actress is be killed so early in the film is something that your average cinema goer used to Hollywood output might have trouble dealing with. The plot is standard Agatha Christie with a new context, the 'killer' is actually two people who are pretending to hate each other so that each one seems innocent individually. 'Scream' is a genuine modern horror classic.
Rating: 8/10.

Scream 2 (1997).
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Director: Wes Craven.
Synopsis: A copycat killer is re-treading the path of the killer from the first film.
Dean's comments: Not a patch on the original, the second part of this series makes similar attempts to parody the genre in a post modern way (i.e. always looking through the 'forth wall' at the audience). There's nothing desperately wrong with the film, there are the same shock moments and well set-up dramatic sequences as the first film, it's just a sense that they're going over the same ground again that disappoints.
Rating: 4/10.

Scum (1979).
Starring: Ray Winstone, Julian Firth, Mick Ford.
Director: Alan Clarke.
Synopsis: A boy with a reputation for being a hard case is sent to a new borstal.
Dean's comments: Setting out to debunk the theory of 'lock-em-up and throw away the key' and to expose the insanity of the borstal system for delinquent teenagers, 'Scum' is a powerful and often disturbing film which launched Ray Winstone into the public eye and left him forever type-cast as a Cockney gangster. Winstone plays a new kid on the block, a young man who has come with a reputation for violence and for being 'The Daddy'. He arrives at the borstal and is immediately challenged by the 'hard' kids who try to assert their authority. The film looks at the role of power in this social structure, and the relationship between the prisoners and the prison guards. The film shows how the life in the borstal only breeds two types of people, those who are frustrated by the system and those who develop a psychosis as a result of it. Mick Ford brilliantly plays an inmate who certainly has an intelligence about him, he decides to rebel subtly against the system while staying just inside the permissible rules. The film's main themes - concerning the reaction of people to power, be it their own or the power of another - are explored in various scenarios. Ford's character's attempts to talk frankly with a guard are dashed when he tries to speak some home truths; the guard, not liking what he hears, merely uses his power to silence criticism - a metaphor of the corruption of power. There is even a hint of collectivism as a response to 'fight the power', the boys never fail to produce a wall of silence in front of the guards whenever questioned about a recent fight or incident. Even a boy who has had his face smashed in with a snooker ball in a sock refuses to finger his assailant lest he break an unwritten code. Far from being a 'video-nasty', 'Scum' is a film which is equally shocking in it's use of violence as it is in the way it challenges the oft-dragged-out opinions about how to deal with young criminals. 'Scum' has a lot of intelligent and well-articulated things to say about the nature and abuse of power in modern Britain.
Rating: 8/10.

September 11 (2002).
Starring: Too many to mention.
Director: Several, go to the IMDB.
Synopsis: 11 short films on the destruction of the World Trade Centre in 2001.
Dean's comments: The 11 shorts presented in this film come from a wide range of directors with a wide range of things to say about the events of 11/09/2001. They range from a chilling 9 minutes of pitch black over which sounds of the mayhem around the world trade centre play out, to a group of Afghani schoolchildren being taught about what has just happened in New York to an odd discussion between a deceased U.S. soldier and a dead Palestinian fighter. The film opens with a brief statement saying that the point of the movie is to present opinions without censorship, that they have certainly achieved. Some of the directors appear to have a clear political objective, others are more interested in presenting the Humanity of the disaster while one Japanese director decides that an unintelligible piece about snakes is the way to go(?). Hopefully anyone watching this film (who has an interest in opening their minds to other points of view) should find something to challenge their opinions about this most monumental part of modern history.
Rating: 6/10.

Serenity (2005).
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Director: Joss Whedon.
Synopsis: A young doctor and his psychic sister are pursued by government forces while hiding on board a ship of rouges and traders.
Dean's comments: As a big fan of Joss Whedon and his television series 'Firefly', I came to this film with a certain amount of trepidation as well as obvious excitement. Thankfully I was never disappointed with Firefly's transition to the big screen, a transition in which Whedon was clearly allowed to play by his own rules and expand the mythology that he had laid down in the television series. Joss Whedon's dialogue is something entirely unique to him as a writer; that pithy and anarchic mixture of intellectualism and US teen-speak has not only survived a move into a futuristic western but flourished there. The future vision of 'Serentiy' is decidedly close to that of 'Star Wars', that future is one in which a ruling 'Alliance' presents itself as a force for good while hiding an insidious underbelly. On the fringes of this society there are worlds where the prevailing culture is like that of a frontier western, a place where an eclectic bunch of rouges, traders, fighters and ex-soldiers can earn a living by taking small jobs and asking few questions of their employers. This is the crew of 'Serenity', from the captain - masterfully portrayed by Fillion - to those who seek passage on board her, the ensemble cast of the series is effortlessly introduced in the opening credits in a wonderful tracking shot through the ship which goes on for a number of minutes. Oh what a joy it is to see actors act in this modern age of effects and quickly-cutting camerawork. The producers do a great job of bringing the uninitiated up to speed in a very short time without boring the fan-boys; in a very short time we are fully immersed in this complex yet entirely human world where English-speaking people swear in Cantonese. As for the film itself, the special effects are suitably impressive while - aside from a number of necessary conceits and unexplained MacGuffins - the plot is a largely rip-roaring affair with tonnes of cool martial arts and the occasional moral dilemma. Some might argue that Whedon is entirely obsessed by girls with super powers - and they are probably right -, but who cares? For his tenacity in persevering with a dream and refusal to give up, Joss Whedon deserves credit. For his imagination, creative writing and directorial skill in bringing this vision of the future to the screen, he deserves so much more.
Rating: 8/10.

Seven Samurai (1954).
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takeshi Shimura, Isao Kimura, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba, Daisuke Kato, Minoru Chiaki.
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Synopsis: Villagers in feudal Japan hire samurai to defend their land from attack.
Dean's comments: An epic tale of good overcoming evil and of David versus Goliath, ‘Seven Samurai’ is a classic in a wider sense than the fact that it was filmed in the 1950s. In terms of film history ‘Seven Samurai’ spawned an entire genre of cinema, the idea of a band of individuals – without necessarily a leader – come together to defeat an adversary. In terms of a stand-alone film it is a comedy, a love story, a coming of age tale, a war film and a discussion of the hardships and deceit that come with living in a poverty-stricken isolated community in any era. The fact that a director working in Japan in the 1950’s could write a script that not only mixed so many ideas and genres, but created a new one, is amazing; the fact that 50 years later the film still seems as full of ideas as anything else around is simply remarkable. The film is impeccably paced, its three hours of runtime never seem to drag even though there is no actual samurai fighting – save some very quick swordplay – until well over 100 minutes in. Instead we get intimately introduced to the lives of the villagers and the samurai who they pay to protect them; each individual samurai has a distinctive personality and brings something to the group, ultimately the samurai work as a team to defeat the bandits who threaten the village. An absolute classic of world cinema, ‘Seven Samurai’ shows Kurosawa, the master of Eastern film, at his best.
Rating: 9/10.

Severance (2006).
Starring: Tim McInnerry, Danny Dyer, Laura Harris.
Director: Christopher Smith.
Synopsis: A corporate team-builing event in Hungary goes very wrong.
Dean's comments: The British horror comedy genre was totally revitalised by the release of ‘Shawn of the Dead’ in 2004, ‘Severance’ is a film which lives off this vitality and appears entirely confident in its material and ability to shock the audience while making us laugh. Kind of like ‘The Office’ set in the world of the X-Files’ ‘monster of the week’, this film pits a group of western pen-pushers against a gang of psychotic ex-Russian army mental patients who have a surprising array of weaponry at their disposal. The usual tricks of the horror trade are on display as actors are tracked by unnecessarily close cameras and back into unexplored rooms which discordant cymbals clash on the soundtrack. Like any good genre film, there is an interesting subtext in the fact that the victims are defence industry employees who are being terrorised by people upon whom their inventions have been tested. Does this mean that somehow the suffering which is inflicted upon them is a form of poetic justice and therefore deserved? Although it may well be too harsh to feed defence industry employees to the lions, it poses an interesting question about their responsibilities for the excess of deadly violence so pervasive in the modern world.
Rating: 6/10.

Sexy Beast (2000).
Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman.
Director: Jonathan Glazer.
Synopsis: A 'retired' Cockney gangster is made an offer he can't refuse.
Dean's comments: A Cockney gangster film with a difference, the difference being that the accents are good and didn't at any point become annoying or silly. Ben Kingsley totally steals the show as the hard-as-nails fast talking wide-boy who comes to Spain to sell his idea for a 'job' to Ray Winstone's character. He is one of the all time acting greats and he shines through the rest of the film in his role (note that he is much better at playing a nasty Cockney scum-bag than Vinnie Jones, and Jones actually is a nasty Cockney scumbag). The idea is that Winstone's character made a fortune in some unspecified criminal activity in Britain from which his associates were left less than well-off but were happy to let him leave the country. Kingsley's character feels he is owed a debt and insists that they team up for 'one more job'. The motivations of the characters being quite difficult to determine at times, I consider this a good thing though as it makes you think about the plot. People who enjoyed Guy Richie's London gangster films should enjoy this, but I suspect that the lack of a 'cool' backing track and the fact that the protagonists are all in their 40s or 50s may unfortunately turn many away.
Rating: 7/10.

Shallow Grave (1994).
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor, Kerry Fox, Keith Allen.
Director: Danny Boyle.
Synopsis: 3 flat mates discover that their newest member is dead and that he has left a pile of cash in their house.
Dean's comments: A really good thriller with lots of twists and some exciting 'decent into madness' scenes (especially when Eccleston's) character locks himself in the attic of their house. The first three actors listed above play a groups of housemates who seem to be straight out of the 'This Life' generation (and of course they are) who appear to exist in their own little clique oblivious to the rest of the world, the rest of the world intruding upon their lives shatters their world beyond repair. The three housemates make a pact to take the money and hide the body of their new housemate-for-a-day but make a couple of not-too-obvious mistakes in their plan which soon turns into a downward spiral into insanity. 'Shallow Grave' is a film which is quintessentially part of the 90s in its style.
Rating: 7/10.

Shaolin Soccer (2001).
Starring: Stephen Chow, Vicki Zhao, Man Tat Ng.
Director: Stephen Chow.
Synopsis: A washed-up football coach helps 5 brothers (who happen to be kung-fu masters) win a major footballing tournament.
Dean's comments: This has to be one of the silliest films that has ever been made, the version that I saw had bad dubbing and I think this added to the quirkiness of the film. The main plot revolves around a football coach who was once a great player but who fell on hard times after he broke his leg, his previous boss is the manager of 'Team Evil', the bestest and baddest team in the land. Somewhat unsurprisingly the manager of team evil isn't the fairest man in the world, he sacks our hero and leaves him for destitute. In walks Stephen Chow playing the ridiculously upbeat and chirpy 'Sing', the youngest of a team of Shaolin kung-fu brothers who will learn to play football to save the aged coach. Soon Sing is practising his football by blasting balls at a wall from several 100 yards away while his brothers use their special powers (iron head, big stomach, flying power) to help him out in the game. It is in the games of football themselves where the film is great, the big final match consists of a series of shots on goal in which each team runs around together kicking the ball so hard that at one point it turns into a burning leaping cougar. In addition to this we have Sing's female interest, Mui, a kun-fu bun-maker (?!) who desperately tries to make herself someone in Sing's life by fixing his shoes and then doing some hilariously over-the-top power dressing. It should be no shock to find out that the Shaolin Soccer team beat Team Evil in the end; but the film is completely unashamed in its silliness, and in this it is a total success
Rating: 7/10.

Shattered Glass (2003).
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Chloe Sevigny.
Director: Billy Ray.
Synopsis: A reporter is caught making up his stories.
Dean's comments: This is not a great film, but it prove (after the Star Wars stuff) that Hayden Christensen can indeed act. The whole point of the film, that a news reporter would make up a story, is rather lost on me because as far as I can tell reporters make up their stories all the time. You only need to look at the Sun and the Daily Mail with their hate campaigns to see how the news media is quite happy to print stories that have no factual basis, since when is it such a scandal that someone makes up a story? On the plus side, Christensen plays his part very well and the man he plays clearly had a rather good imagination (the film is apparently based on a true story); he should turn his hand to writing fiction professionally.
Rating: 6/10.

Shawn of the Dead (2004).
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy.
Director: Edgar Wright.
Synopsis: There is an attack of killer zombies in contemporary London, but Shawn is more worried about getting his girlfriend back.
Dean's comments: Quite simply a great comedy which treads in the same footsteps as 'Spaced' while keeping true to a parody of the horror / zombie genre. Simon Pegg plays the eponymous Shaun, a man whose life is passing him by and who is stuck in a rubbish middle management job with teenagers. The film makes a good job of mixing up the metaphors for Shaun's life with scenes of contemporary Britain and British life. The use of real British television presenters and a traditional British pub add to the atmosphere. Some of the film's funniest moments lie in the interaction of Pegg's and Frost's characters, such as when they discover a zombie in their garden but assume that she must just be really drunk. After they kill her they simply retreat to the house for a cup of tea to watch the news, such a typically English thing to do, can you imagine John Wayne doing that? The idea that a lot of what people do in their everyday lives could be described as quite zombifying is taken to a literal extreme here, what with the opening sequence and then the end of the film as zombies are integrated into society to perform mundane tasks. 'Shaun' is a film that everyone will love, but it will always have a special place in the heart of people who followed 'Spaced'.
Rating: 8/10.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994).
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton.
Director: Frank Darabont.
Synopsis: A man is accused of murder and must adjust to his new life in prison.
Dean's comments: First thing's first; I don't see how the film's ending is a 'twist' (don't worry I wont say anything) surely it's pretty obvious what's going to happen? Anyway apart from the fact that the ending is rather obvious, it is at the same time rather beautiful. Morgan Freeman is given some absolutely wonderful lines at the end about "...some birds are just too beautiful to be caged..." and describing his parole as a "...bullshit phrase so that someone can have a job..." and that "...frankly I don't give a shit..." that make you want to watch it all over again just to see the characters develop one more time. The premise for the film is not one that would spell out 'instant hit', everything happens inside a prison, all the characters are male, we never get to find out if Robbins' character killed his wife or not and there is the matter of the nutty Christian type who successfully annoys the hell out of everyone. The film is great because of great writing and acting coupled with the fact that it delivers a message of hope and freedom without being tacky or preachy. The film appears to be rather anti-religious in its pro-hope stance, instead the plot seems to say that being a clever guy need not be a bad thing in a world of superstition and fear. One of the greatest films of all time it is not, but I'll say that it was certainly one of the best films to come out of America in the 1990s.
Rating: 9/10.

Shrek (2001).
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz.
Director: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson.
Synopsis: A gruff and lonely ogre goes on a quest to save a princess on order to secure his home.
Dean's comments: The best thing about Shrek is that fact that children and parents will all love it. As with all the best kids films there are plenty of jokes aimed at the adults that will sail over the kids' heads, but there must be more in this film for it to have received such plaudits? Thankfully there is in the form of a plethora of film and TV references, gags about the history of fairy tales in book and screen form and fart jokes (this is Mike Myers after all). The story drags the rug out under the feet of traditional fairy tales by making the evil king 2 foot tall, the princess an arse-kicking uber-babe and the happy ending involves her becoming a troll. The best single element in the film is Eddie Murphy's performance as the wise-cracking magical talking donkey who is just about the most annoying-in-a-good-way character there has ever been. At only 80 minutes long, the film is packed full of great gags and visual effects; something for everyone.
Rating: 7/10.

Shrek 2 (2004).
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz.
Director: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon.
Synopsis: Shrek meets his new parents in law.
Dean's comments: Some things in this film are better than the first, some worse. For a start, having loads and loads of cameo appearances has never entertained me, also it is possible to go over the top on film references. Thankfully the film is just as witty as the first and has many similar digs at the Hollywood fairy tale industry. Eddie Murphy is just as good as before but stealing every scene is Antonio Banderas' Puss-in-boots, with those wonderfully drawn tearful eyes that disarm the audience just as much as the bad guys in the film. The main problem with both films is that Mike Myers himself is underused, with all the best lines going to the support cast. Essentially this second film is more of the same, and just about as good.
Rating: 7/10.

Shiri (1999).
Starring: Yoon-Jin Kim, Suk-Kyu Han, Min-Sik Choi.
Director: Je-gyu Kang.
Synopsis: A North Korean super-assassin creates havoc in South Korea and is pursued by two detectives.
Dean's comments: The Koreans learn how to make Hollywood blockbusters! With a hard-nosed cop duo fighting a super chick assassin in front of glamorous Eastern locations, the Korean film industry has finally worked out how to excite the mainstream audiences. Unfortunately in doing this they have somewhat left behind the refreshing mystique of so many Eastern modern action films; by drifting into Hollywood cliché they may succeed in wooing the American mainstream, but those of us who are tired of such films might end up being disappointed. The plot of ‘Shiri’ is one that attempted to bring North and South Korea together; by pitting a North Korean agent against the South Korean police force they created a film which crossed the political boundaries and hopefully one day will be seen in the North of that historically torn nation. It’s all fairly standard stuff; the police track an enemy agent who could be anyone and anywhere across the capital as she commits varying acts of sabotage and terrorism. Who can they trust? Who can she trust? Who knows? I’m not sure anyone watching it really cares, it’s all about the action.
Rating: 6/10.

Sideways (2005).
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh.
Director: Alexander Payne.
Synopsis: Two old university rooom-mates go on a week-long wine-drinking tour of California in celebration of a forthcoming marriage.
Dean's comments: This is obsolutely brilliant stuff with wonderful scenery and loads of humour to go along with the message that you're never too old to do what you want to do. Anyone wanting to write a story with a consistant and engaging arc for its characters should look long and hard at 'Sideways', the two main protagonists, Miles (Giamatti) and Jack (Church), start and end the movie in very different emotional places. Miles begins as the washed-up loner, the man who has lost all hope for happiness in his life, Jack is the opposite, his coming marriage giving him the imposus to 'go and get laid' one last time. By the end of the film the journey through Californian vinyards has almost completely inverted these personalities, the movie ending on a crossroads in Miles' life. The film is a study of the lives of these two characters, who represent extremes of personality traits that everyone has inside them. The discussions of wine and wine tasting are constantly hillarious, with Miles' hatred of Merlot and ludicrously over-the-top descriptions ("Quaffable but hardly transcendental" is a good example) constrasting well with Jack's desire to simply drink as much wine as possible and say "That was nice" while chatting up the bar staff. Paul Giamatti's performance is one of the best I have seen, he was great in 'American Splendour' and has the down-trodden loser charcater down to a fine art. Funny, witty, clever and engaging, 'Sideways' is a brilliant film which will speak volumes to anyone who has ever felt blue.
Rating: 9/10.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins.
Director: Jonathan Demme.
Synopsis: A young FBI agent turns to the help of an incarcerated serial killer to solve a murder.
Dean's comments: This is a great film which works mainly as a result of the chemistry between the lead actors and their individual performances. Anthony Hopkins seems to re-invent the concept of an evil genius in his portrayal of Hannibal Lector; his mannerisms and calm cool logic married to outbursts of terrible violence have helped his performance to go down in cinema history. Jodie Foster too, as the green FBI recruit whose outward vulnerability hides an inner strength, plays a character who film watchers will remember for a long time to come. The film has several layers to its plot, but it is the major set pieces that stick in the memory. When agent Starling first meets Lector in the prison there is an electric tension on the screen, so too when Lector escapes from captivity by murdering his guards. 'The Silence of the lambs' is not only a crime film, but a mystery and a thriller. I recommend the film to anyone who enjoys a bit of psychological manipulation (plus some gore) above the usual 'cop and robbers' stuff.
Rating: 8/10.

The Simpsons Movie (2007).
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria.
Director: David Silverman.
Synopsis: Homer Simpson is tasked with saving Springfield after his littering causes it to be sealed off by the American government.
Dean's comments: As a huge fan of the Simpsons I entered the cinema to watch this movie adaptation with immense trepidation. Since the TV series' 8th season the general quality of the Simpsons has been in a near steady state of decline. At its hight the series was a bitting political and social satire of the highest order. Each 22 minute show was tightly packed with jokes which both kids and adults could laugh at; but the greatest achievement of the series was that no social group was beyond parody. From politicians, to parents, to religious leaders, to old people, to scientists; you name it, the Simpsons has had a pop at them. And that's why they get away with it of course, by getting on everyone's back they cover themselves against any accusations of racism, favouritism or lack of understanding. Sadly however, this film falls distinctly into the category of late Simpsons output. Full of slapstick comedy and dumb jokes, moments of genuine satire are few and far between. The problem is that the Simpsons has ceased to be cutting edge, it's characters have all done everything they could possibly have done – there are no more interesting stories to tell about them. This is a film that really needed to be made a decade before it was, back in a time when the original series writers were still with the show and they still had fresh ideas. Everything in the film has been done before in the show, Homer's love of a pig is reminiscent of his attachment to a lobster from before, Springfield's chronic inability to care for its environment was dealt with in a show which ended with the citizens moving the town several miles down the road to avoid the pollution. I did laugh during the film, but I suspect I was wanting much much more. Whatever the reason, this is a reasonably good comedy film – but it's hardly worthy to be called 'The Simpons'.
Rating: 4/10.

Sin City (2005).
Starring: Bruce Willis, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Madson, Elijah Wood, Rutger Hauer.
Director: Robert Rodriguez.
Synopsis: A series of stories based on Frank Miller's comic book series of the same name.
Dean's comments: Who ever said that style over substance was a bad thing? ‘Sin City’ is a film that sets out to prove that if you’ve got enough stylish backdrops, sexy outfits, outlandish stunts and cool one-liners then you can produce a series of set-pieces involving one-dimensional comic book caricatures that’s utterly brilliant. The film succeeds in everything it sets out to do; there is no discussion of the moral and ethical issues at hand, merely the presentation of a society gone wrong and the misfits who live in it. These misfits are played by a genuine ensemble cast and are each involved in their own – barely connected – stories set in Sin City itself. The thing that connects these stories is the style in which they are told; each story is shot in black and white using a mixture of real footage and comic book influenced special effects. Often set in driving rain with a terse voice-over, this combination of techniques and influences creates a new stylistic feel which has never been seen in cinema before. Despite these heaped praises it is probably easy to dislike the film, with its shoot-first-ask-questions-later women-as-sex-objects storylines. The thing you have to remember is that the things that happen are almost incidental to the way in which they happen. As I already said, ‘Sin City’ is a blueprint for how to make a good film that’s all style over substance.
Rating: 8/10.

The Sixth Day (2000).
Starring: Arnold Schwartzennegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Robert Duvall.
Director: Roger Spottiswoode.
Synopsis: A man encounters his own clone and goes on a mission to find out what has happened.
Dean's comments: Once again Hollywood does a foreboding science fiction tale about the dangers of letting science get out of control; except that once again it fails to see its own point. Arnie was never the best actor, and he hams up every single line while Robert Duvall should be concentrating his efforts on projects worth his talent. The movie's premise is that Arnie wakes up to find that a clone is living his life, he goes on a one-man crusade to blow up the corporation (there's always an evil corporation) that did this to him and return his life to normal. The film is sign-posted at every possible moment to tell you exactly what's coming (such as the big twist that the version of Arnie we thought was the real Arnie is actually the clone, something which is so obvious to anyone who has read any science fiction literature) even down to the introduction of some fast racing type plane thingies for Arnie to fly around in. The film doesn't quite deserve 1 out of 10 though as it contains one great cheesy line. Arnie suggests that the boss of the corporation only designed the cloning equipment so that he can "...go fuck yourself...", delivered in Arnie-speak it's quite funny.
Rating: 2/10.

The Sixth Sense (1999).
Starring: Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osmont, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams.
Director: M Night Shyamalan.
Synopsis: A social workers helps a child who claims to be able to see ghosts.
Dean's comments: This is a film which, far from being scary in the slightest, makes you feel good and uplifted by the end. The fact that the kids can see ghosts isn't played for the horror, rather for the fact that he is able to help people who are still alive come to terms with death and avenge wrongful death that have happened. The film's 'twist' is so obvious that I don't feel inclined to hide it, but you should never give twists away even if they've really blatant so I'll keep my trap shut. So this is another M Night Shyamalan that's overblown and isn't scary at all? No surprises there then. It's probably worth watching for the fact that many films have referenced the sequences in which Osmont's character reveals his secret to Willis' character, and of course to see that famous 'twist'.
Rating: 5/10.

Sleepy Hollow (1999).
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon.
Director: Tim Burton.
Synopsis: An inspector in 18th centuary New York travels to Sleepy Hollow to investigate a mysterious murder.
Dean's comments: In this slice of gothic horror cheese, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton succeed in going way over the top and deliver a medieval mystery thriller that has enough weirdness and extravagance to keep fans of several genres happy. Depp plays a detective in post-colonial America who believes in the rigours of science and is packed off to the small village of Sleepy Hollow where a headless horseman is said to be terrorising the inhabitants. Kind of like an Agent Scully with a cape and big hat, Depp channels Sherlock Holmes and lays on his quirky facial expressions as Burton lights up the sets with delightfully insane gadgets, nasty deaths and suspicious locals. Depp's character - being a foreigner - is not accepted by the locals, a situation he is not bothered by. Only Christina Ricci's character is willing to take him in, and of course she is hiding much more than she initially has to say. Fans of Burton were right to hail this as a return to the kind of form that brought the Batman comics to the silver screen for the first time. The film is as successful a mystery as it is a dark and outlandish portrayal of not only the mentality of the Salem witch trials but of the entire gothic genre in general. An all round good film, one in which Depp and Burton shine and it probably best enjoyed as part of a lazy evening in with mates.
Rating: 7/10.

Slither (2006).
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry.
Director: James Gunn.
Synopsis: A man becomes mutated by an alien virus after a meteorite crashes into a small US village.
Dean's comments: A film which is entirely clued up about the genre it is parodying, 'Slither' is a spoof horror which embraces the conventions of 80s slash/gore fests and makes more than one knowing nod to George Romero's classic zombie thrillers. It would be too easy to simply call 'Slither' brainless and throw it on the heap of discarded horror trash; the film is in fact a very entertaining, funny and gory parody of the clichés of horror cinema. It delivers a simple and rather predictable narrative with quite a bit of energy while winking at the audience and not seeming to care a jot about the convenience of its plot contrivances. Nathon Fillion is becoming a favourite actor of mine, he chews up the scenery and SFX in equal quantities at the same time as offering up what should be awfully cheesy one-liners with a certain amount of crazed charm. One for horror fans or a lazy evening in, 'Slither' is also probably the best date movie I have seen in a long time.
Rating: 6/10.

Snatch (2000).
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Vinnie Jones, Alan Ford, Benicio Del Toro.
Director: Guy Richie.
Synopsis: A crime tale set in modern London; several groups of gangsters search for a large expensive diamond.
Dean's comments: A film which seems to rely more on style than substance but does a pretty good job and therefore deserves to be watched. Brad Pitt steals every scene he's in as the almost incomprehensible but hard-as-nails gypsy sort who gets involved in a world of underworld boxing that he either doesn't understand or is too clever for. Jason Stratham is the wheeler-dealer who convinces the local boss that his boxer (Pitt) will 'go down' in whatever round suits him the most; rather predictably Pitt's character doesn't read his own script and all sorts of wackiness ensues. As with Richie's other gangster efforts, effective use is made of slow motion and voice-overs while the accents are pretty good, there's even an American character there to tell all the English how rubbish they are, bless. Anyone who liked 'Lock Stock…' will probably get on well with his film, people who were annoyed by the lad-culture and the excessive violence should probably steer clear.
Rating: 6/10.

Solaris (2002).
Starring: George Clooney, Natasha McElhone.
Director: Steven Soderbergh.
Synopsis: A mysterious force is manifesting itself as people aboard an isolated space ship.
Dean's comments: This is a really good idea (I'll have to get around to seeing the original Russian version one of these days) which is miles too slow and dour. The idea is that some mysterious entity or force (it is never made explicitly clear) called 'Solaris' is being investigated by scientists whose mental state have deteriorated. Clooney is sent to a space station (I think) to investigate. The writers don't really do enough to get the audience to empathise with Clooney's character and so I didn't really care what the outcome of the film was one way or the other. Soderbergh does succeed in creating a feeling of isolation and fear of the unknown amongst the rest of the crew though. The main problem is that the film has no context, and even as an abstract piece on Human nature and loss I feel that they've missed the mark.
Rating: 5/10.

Some Like it Hot (1959).
Starring: Tony Curtis, Jack Lennon, Marylin Monroe.
Director: Billy Wilder.
Synopsis: Two male musicians - on the run from gangsters - disguise themselves in drag and join an all-female jazz band.
Dean's comments: Since it is often voted the greatest comedy of all time, I approached ‘Some like It Hot’ with a degree of trepidation. Whenever the superlative is used so freely in connection with any artwork, one is often expected to agree with the wisdom received from the critics. ‘Some Like it Hot’ may not have made me laugh as much as classics such as ‘Airplane’ or the Python films, but it is a very funny film with great performances from a three of America’s all-time top performers. The number of laugh-out-loud moments number in the double figures, which is a good quantity of laughs for any comedy, and the Curtis / Lemon double act is full of energy and life. The film’s plot is actually fairly dark; Curtis and Lemon are being chased by the Chicago mob and will be killed if they catch them. It’s easy to forget this though as our heroes dress up in drag and ingratiate themselves into an all-female swing band; the hilarity then ensues as Curtis falls for Monroe and desperate tries to woo her while retaining his cover as a woman. The best bits of the film revolve around Monroe falling for the fake unattainable British man who is in fact Curtis in yet another disguise; she does all but drape herself over him in an attempt to get his attention. Curtis plays his part to a tee in these scenes, maintaining his outward coolness towards Monroe while making his glee clear to the viewing audience. Is this the greatest comedy of all time? No, but it’s not far off.
Rating: 8/10.

South Park the movie (1999).
Starring: Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Issac Hayes, Mary Kay Bergman.
Director: Trey Parker.
Synopsis: A contemporary rant against censorship laws.
Dean's comments: I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about censorship laws, as such I think that the 'South Park' film is a masterful piece of commentary on the state of censorship in the Western world in the modern age. They made a film with a pile of swearing which was sure to incur the wrath of exactly the sorts of organisations parodied by the film. The musical numbers are what keep it going, a song that contains almost nothing but swearing, a song about demonising other elements of society so that you get off blameless and several really rousing ditties between the film's acts. It would be going too far to call the film a post-modern masterpiece, but it gets pretty close. Add into this the fact that the film succeeds as a musical (and the quality of the songs is fairly good) and that it pokes fun at the state of U.S. politics, religion, the standards of TV news reporting and science; overall the film is much more than simply a vehicle for the producers of South park to make more money. Rarely can one say that about a TV sin-off.
Rating: 7/10.

Soylent Green (1973).
Starring: Charlton Heston.
Director: Richard Fleischer.
Synopsis: In the near future, the human population is out of control and the need for food dominates all walks of life.
Dean's comments: A classic cult science fiction film, ‘Soylent Green’ has dated quite badly and is now known much more for its oft-quoted final line than the apocalyptic prophecies it makes about resource wars and spiralling populations. Despite this it is a really good film, especially the opening scenes which set out the nightmare future where overcrowding in cities has causes real food to become a precious luxury that only the super rich can afford. It’s a world where the possession of a pot of jam is enough to bring suspicion upon you, one where the police can be bribed with a simple steak and where euthanasia is seen as a noble way out. Charlton Heston spends the entire film huffing and puffing and charging around the various sets trying to get to the bottom of the Soylent ‘conspiracy’, when the big revelation comes (and I’ll be shocked if you don’t know what it is) it’s not a million miles away from something you could imagine happening in real life. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of classic science fiction.
Rating: 6/10.

Species (1995).
Starring: Natasha Henstridge, Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker.
Director: Roger Donaldson.
Synopsis: An alien goes on a rampage.
Dean's comments: This is pseudo-sci-fi. It's just an excuse to get Natasha Henstridge naked (if that's what you want then you should probably go on line, don't bother wasting your time watching this film) and contains no redeeming features at all. Terrible acting, terrible action sequences, just plain terrible.
Rating: 1/10.

Spellbound (2002).
Starring: The young nerds of America.
Director: Jeffrey Blitz.
Synopsis: Documentary about a national spelling competition in Washington in America.
Dean's comments: This is an oddly compelling film. Certainly the premise is a little off-putting, after all a film about spelling tests sounds rather dull. The director does a great job of letting the audience into the tension of the national spelling competition in America while at the same time presenting the insanity of the parents' drive to live through their kids; you'll be surprised at how much apprehension is built up in the competition. 10 really nerdy kids (with a wide variation in ages, some a really quite young while others are nearly finishing school) are followed in their preparation for the contest and their subsequent battles for the prize. There is no other way to describe these kids than genuine nerds. Thankfully (for the film's producers) one of the named kids wins the national final (which was broadcast on ESPN!) and so all is happy in the end.
Rating: 6/10.

Spiderman (2002).
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willen Dafoe.
Director: Sam Raimi.
Synopsis: The story behind the genesis of the superhero 'Spiderman'.
Dean's comments: I've never been a fan of all that 'Marvel Comics' stuff, and even Sam Raimi can't inject his special brand of cheesy action direction to help this film. All the film's plot devices are sign-posted from the start while the 'flying through the streets' sequences aren't actually that convincing given all the money that was thrown at them. The bad guy (a 'Green Goblin') is a model of the sort of over-the-top cheese which isn't silly enough to be a parody and therefore doesn't come out of the other end of 'bad' to look good. But then I wasn't expecting anything from this film so I can't be too disappointed.
Rating: 3/10.

Spiderman 2 (2004).
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina.
Director: Sam Raimi.
Synopsis: Spiderman questions the validity of what he does as his friends are put in danger. A scientist creates a machine capable of creating a small sun.
Dean's comments: This is a vast improvement on the first film, once again directed by the genius that is Sam Raimi, this time he manages to keep his tongue in his cheek for the entire film and produce a rather entertaining comic caper that has a delicate balance between fantasy and serious material. The film explores the powers that Peter Parker (Spiderman) possesses rather than simply building a bunch of unconvincing SFX around them. In this sense the film is intelligent on a subtle level (although the horrendous abuse of science is still there, you can't put out a self-sustaining nuclear reaction by throwing water on it!) in it's discussion of power and the care which those with power must take in its use. Purists of the comic genre may not enjoy this film quite as much, but for someone who was expecting absolutely nothing after the first film it came as a pleasant surprise.
Rating: 6/10.

Spinal Tap (1984).
Starring: Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer.
Director: Rob Reiner.
Synopsis: Spoof documentary following the eponymous heavy metal band as they tour America.
Dean's comments: This is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The idea is that there is a band called Spinal Tap who are on tour in America and are having a camera crew follow them around recording the behind-the-scenes events. The band consists of a couple of aging guitarists, a bassist with one of the best moustaches ever and a long line of expendable drummers who seems to mysteriously die. The genius of the film lies the way it has its finger on the pulse of rock music and the history of rock music. The band, Spinal Tap, is a patchwork of clichés and in jokes that draw on a variety of real bands and real events in music lore throughout the 60s 70s and 80s. Anyone who has followed rock music through those times will love the band itself, while even those with limit knowledge of such music should still find plenty to laugh about (not least the ridiculousness of the lyrics). Some of the best bits of the film lie in the pretentiousness of the band's members despite their obvious lack of appreciation of anything approaching art; the way that they wont let the film maker touch the instruments or get excited about an amp that 'goes up to 11' encapsulate the way that pop and rock stars believe their own hype and actually believe that they're gods of music. 'Spinal Tap' should, in this sense, be timeless stuff. There will always be pretentious recording artists, there will always be people spoofing them.
Rating: 9/10.

Spirited Away (2001).
Starring: It's a dubbed cartoon!
Director: Hayao Miyazaki.
Synopsis: A small girl looses her family and gets trapped in a psychedelic world of mysterious creatures and strange happenings.
Dean's comments: This is an animated adventure which is very strange. In fact the use of the word 'strange' does nothing to explain just how odd this cartoon is. The main character is a small girl who is whisked off to a mystical magical land where bizarrely shaped creatures seem to come to some kind of indoor theme park to be cleaned and entertained, she gets trapped into working in this place which she tries to find a way back home. It has been suggested that this premise is an allegory for brothels and more specifically the use of children in the far east in the sex trade, it seems likely that it's also a tale about the problems of commercialisation and materialism destroying the spirit (the parents turn into all-consuming monsters that eat their way through everything). The whole thing is very beautiful with lots of pretty colours and very imaginative ideas coming through, the problem is that it's far too abstract and it's rare that something makes sense. There's only so many times I can accept a random new character appearing from no where or something suddenly turning into a monster before I get tired of it.
Rating: 6/10.

Stalingrad (1993).
Starring: Dominic Horwitz, Thomas Kretschmann, Jochen Nickel.
Director: Joseph Vilsmaier.
Synopsis: German boys go into the battle of Stalingrad.
Dean's comments: A deeply powerful film told from the German point of view of the siege of Stalingrad during the winter of 1942 / 43 in the Second World War. The film is strongly against the false optimism and jingoism of war, following the lives of several German friends from their leave in Italy to the Eastern font in Russia, the hopes and aspirations are shattered in a series of encounters with the enemy. These engagements begin as terrifying experiences, but soon become harrowingly pointless as the fruitlessness of the war begins to sink in and destroy the propaganda that they have been exposed to at home. The battles soon descends into utter chaos as the Germans are totally over-run by Russian attacks, the friends soon decide to desert, abandoning their army and country they take to the Russian winter and put their lives into their own hands. ‘Stalingrad’ is a deeply saddening and nihilistic film, but then what else can be said of a film that deals with such horrendous subject matter as the siege of Stalingrad. Certainly a magnificent piece of work then, I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this period in history. It isn’t for the faint hearted though.
Rating: 8/10.

Star Trek, the motion picture (1979).
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan.
Director: Robert Wise.
Synopsis: An alien probe threatens the continued existence of Earth.
Dean's comments: This is rubbish, obviously just an over-reaction to the Star Wars phenomenon. The thing is miles too slow while the direction abysmal in that it fails to build any tension at all while the ship approaches and travels inside the 'alien' ship; the finale should have much more tension or at least a smattering of action. I think that Shatner didn't want to be there, I don't blame him.
Rating: 2/10.

Star Trek 2, the wrath of Khan (1982).
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, Walter Koenig, Ricardo Montalban.
Director: Nicholas Meyer.
Synopsis: A geneticly engineered soldier attempts to get his revenge against Humanity.
Dean's comments: This is a great science fiction film. As with all the Trek films it draws heavily on the Star Trek mythology, but it is accessible to everyone because it doesn't rely on it. There's lots of good action and a massive final battle of wits and skill between Kirk and Khan. The final 20 minutes revolve around Spock's sacrifice to save the Enterprise, this is certainly a moment for the fans who have become so attached to Leonard Nimoy's character over the years. None-the-less; it is obvious, even without the sign-posting (Kirk: "No body's really dead as long as we remember them…" BIG close up shot of Bones.), that this isn't the end of Spock's story (besides, how is Spock's 'coffin' perfectly intact on the surface of the Genesis planet and not buried in a crater?). The film would have been better off with a more final ending.
Rating: 6/10.

Star Trek 3, the search for Spock (1984).
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly.
Director: Leonard Nimoy.
Synopsis: After Spock's death, Kirk and the Enterprise crew search for his body.
Dean's comments: Sorry to have to say it again but this is just boring. The film takes far too long to get to the point that we want to see, Spock back. Even the addition of Christopher Lloyd as a really nasty Klingon commander isn't enough to raise the standard.
Rating: 3/10.

Star Trek 4, the voyage home (1986).
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly.
Director: Leonard Nimoy.
Synopsis: A probe threatens Earth and the Enterprise must travel back in time to find some whales.
Dean's comments: This is the least geeky of all the Trek films, quite blatantly because it's set in 1980s Earth and Kirk gets to be a sort of Private Investigator rather than a starship captain. It's the film that people who don't like Star Trek are probably most likely to take to. The action follows immediately on from the previous film, and as such the writers have great fun making Spock even more alien than usual as he is still in a state of disorientation from his re-birth. The banter between Kirk and Spock is what carries the film along for the most part, with the rest of the Trek crew providing comic support.
Rating: 6/10.

Star Trek 5, the final frontier (1989).
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly.
Director: William Shatner.
Synopsis: A nutter thinks he's god, clearly it's up to Kirk to sort him out.
Dean's comments: I suppose I have to rate and review this film for a sense of completeness but I really don't want to . It is totally rubbish and I really don't want to spend any more time on this terribly-written excuse for making money out of a loyal fan-base.
Rating: 2/10.

Star Trek 6, the undiscovered country (1991).
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly.
Director: Nicholas Meyer.
Synopsis: The assassination of a Klingon dignitary threatens the unstable peace between that empire and the Federation.
Dean's comments: Can Nicholas Meyer please be brought in to direct all the Star Trek films? Star Trek 6 comes as a welcome return to form for a series that has always struggled to re-kindle the magic that had so many people hooked back in the late 60s. Perhaps the re-kindling of interest in the series off the back of the success of Star Trek TNG gave the writers a reason to take care in producing this sixth film, because I think it's their best effort. Star Trek 6 is funny in places and suitably dramatic in others; the portrayal of the Klingon court has a lot of perfect neat touches, the best being the presence of translators (something regularly ignored by 'Trek' writers) that actually add to the drama. The film is also great because it allows Spock to be the leader in his own right rather than being a foil to Kirk; then, of course, the film does actually have a coherent plot with some interesting and realistic (within the Star Trek universe) twists and turns. Best of all it finally gets to grip with Kirk's blatant racism towards Klingons which the writers have never really touched upon throughout the entire Trek franchise. Essentially the film is well-written and acted, it draws on the Trek mythology in an intelligent way to produce an interesting plot which can probably be enjoyed equally by the fan or the casual cinema-goer. The best Trek film yet.
Rating: 7/10.

Star Trek 7, Generations (1994).
Starring: William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Malcolm McDowell.
Director: David Carson.
Synopsis: A nutter is trying to mince up the galaxy to further his own megalomaniac tendencies.
Dean's comments: There isn't anything drastically wrong with this film, it's just that the whole thing of so dull. I know that the writers felt the need to do this 'transferring of the baton' between the old and the new generation, but they didn't really need to do it, we're intelligent enough to understand what's going on without some ridiculously extended 'meaning of life' scene between Shatner and Stewart.
Rating: 3/10.

Star Trek 8, first contact (1996).
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Alice Krieg.
Director: Jonathan Frakes.
Synopsis: The Enterprise crew are sent back in time and must prevent a pre-emptive Borg assault on Earth.
Dean's comments: Ah, the first good 'next gen' film. Why is it good? Well it has a simple plot, decent action scenes, a smattering of comedy and a good balance between Trekkie-pleasing elements (references to the Star Trek mythology) and stuff that anyone can enjoy without an encyclopaedic knowledge of the TV series. The idea is that the Borg (all-consuming cyborgs from another part of the galaxy) attack Earth and travel back in time to prevent Humans making 'first contact' with aliens (the Vulcans). This is great because firstly it fills in a lot of the gaps in the Trek 'history' and secondly it gives all the characters from the 'next gen' something cool to do without marginalising some of them in favour of awkward nods to the original series. Fans of the series should love this, while your average cinema goer shouldn't be too bored.
Rating: 6/10.

Star Trek 9, Insurrection (1998).
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes.
Director: Jonathan Frakes.
Synopsis: A planet which contains an 'elixir of life' becomes a battle ground for several opposing forces trying to control it.
Dean's comments: The worst Star Trek film by a very long way, 'Insurrection' looks like nothing more than a 45 minutes show that's been stretched into a film by the inclusion of some very flimsy character development. Appalling.
Rating: 1/10.

Star Trek 10, Nemesis (2002).
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes.
Director: Stuart Baird.
Synopsis: The Enterprise comes into direct conflict with the Romulan empire after a terrorist attack on their government.
Dean's comments: I was very disappointed with 'Nemesis'. The writers came up with a great idea (bring the Romulans back into the series) and managed to ruin it by failing to use them intelligently and concentrating on an annoying 'personal war' between Picard and the Romulan leader. This is the first even numbered Star Trek film that I didn't enjoy.
Rating: 2/10.

Star Wars (1977).
Starring: Alec Guiness, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher.
Director: George Lucas.
Synopsis: A young farm boy discovers his destiny.
Dean's comments: 'Star Wars' has done more than almost anything else to bring science fiction into the main stream. With spin-offs in the form of sequels, prequels, merchandise, books and anything else, 'Star Wars' is one of the most successfull cinematic enterprises of all time. Thankfully I'm able to report that the film is a great work of space opera and is deserving of its status as a classic. 'Star Wars' works because at its heart it is a story of good versus evil, a coming of age story about destiny and of heroes and villains battling over fantastic backgrounds. Even the opening legend that one is confronted by in watching the film ("Long ago in a galaxy far far away...") sends your mind into the possibility of accepting a fantastic world of imagination and wonder. Essentially it's the stuff that we all love to see, a simple tale without any over-the-top moralising played out by a collection of characters that range from the righteously good to the dastardly evil and the maverickly neutral. This is probably the best thing that George Lucas ever did, and it's a shame to see him ruin his reputation by continuing to produce inferior facsimiles in the name of making a little more cash. Treasure 'Star Wars', because there may never again be a film that opens your eyes to such a world of possibilities with such child-like wonder.
Rating: 9/10.

Starship Troopers (1997).
Starring: Denise Richards, Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer.
Director: Paul Verhoeven.
Synopsis: Humanity is at war with a relentless alien species of insectoids.
Dean's comments: How can a film with such a silly premise be so good? The simple answer is that the producers and director have clearly watched a pile of 50s B-movies and understand how to use camp science fiction to entertain. The idea is that in the near future the entire world is some kind of U.S. protectorate (the characters apparently come from Buenos Aires, a place that seems indistinguishable from any modern U.S. town), and that space faring Humans have started a colonial war with alien insects (metaphors with Earth's imperialist past perhaps). The subsequent over-the-top action, heavily-leaden cheesy lines and absurdly pro-U.S. attitude of the protagonists is in no way annoying because of their presentation as a joke. If 'Independence Day' tried to bring the alien invasion genre into the 1990s, then 'Starship Troopers' took the piss. Every 20 minutes or so we are presented with a pro-Earth piece of propaganda which is a looks nothing less than an ungodly concoction of Josef Goebels and Bill O'Reilly; this keeps us firmly in the pro-military pseudo-totalitarian world of the future. Anyone should enjoy this film, just remember that it's supposed to be a joke.
Rating: 6/10.

Stigmata (1999).
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce.
Director: Rupert Wainwright.
Synopsis: Several people begin to experience stigmata, i.e. bleeding from the hands.
Dean's comments: An interesting if well-worn premise (Christian mythology is real and the modern Catholic church are doing their best to cover it all up) that lacks in the execution and spends too long on Arquette's character's descent into turmoil. The problem is that the idea is hardly original and even the best efforts of Jonathan Pryce fail to raise the standard. My advice is not to bother watching this, Catholics will be annoyed by the portrayal of their church while those outside the religion will be annoyed that the film-makers don't do enough to condemn the inconsistencies of that faith.
Rating: 3/10.

The Straight Story (1999).
Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek.
Director: David Lynch.
Synopsis: A man travels across America on his lawnmower to visit his dying brother.
Dean's comments: An odd film which promises little but turns out to be utterly compelling. In a bizarre turn of form, David Lynch has produced a film which not only has a linear plot, but has characters than don’t see people dancing in radiators or have backwards dreams with dwarves. ‘The Straight Story’ is a more conventional look at the weirdness that pervades the normality of our world; in his lawnmower trip across the northern USA, Alvin Straight encounters a girl running from her family, a woman who keeps running deer over, hundreds of cyclists and a group of friendly townspeople who help him with his journey. In a brilliantly emotional scene we see Alvin Straight discussing the Second world war with another veteran, they exchange some very moving stories about incidents they were involved in. The film is all about the characters, the people that Alvin Straight knows and the people he meets on his journey. This is pure story-telling at its finest, fans of Lynch’s usual output might be concerned that this film isn’t as outlandishly post-modern and abstract as his other material; they shouldn’t be put off though as the film is totally gripping.
Rating: 7/10.

Strangers on a train (1951).
Starring: Robert Walker, Farley Granger, Ruth Roman.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock.
Synopsis: Two men meet on a train and discuss the possibility of carrying out 'each others' murder.
Dean's comments: The most disappointing Hitchcock film I have seen, Strangers on a train has an excellent premise, but no more than that. The idea is that two total strangers meet on a train and discuss the idea of each killing a person whom the other would like to see dead, the point being that there will be no trace of evidence leading to each killer. One of the ‘strangers’ dismisses the conversation out of hand while the other takes it with deadly seriousness. Unfortunately there is very little development beyond what one might expect to happen next, the film is very linear and there are none of the twists or clever moments of suspense that Hitchcock is renowned for providing. Late in the film there is a scene in which one of the 'strangers' has to finish his tennis match in order to arrive at a particular location on time. How this total flop of a scene got through the script-writing stage of the film's production is a total mystery. This a film that I heartily recommend you avoid, I never thought I would ever say that about a Hitchcock.
Rating: 3/10.

Sweet Sixteen (2002).
Starring: Martin Compston.
Director: Ken Loach.
Synopsis: A youn boy tries to help his jailed mother out by driving a wedge between her and her abusing boyfriend.
Dean's comments: ‘Sweet Sixteen’ is a gritty tale about growing up in an aspiration-less environment where the characters have self-defeating motives and almost incomprehensible accents; all well and good, but it somehow feels like I’ve seen it all before. The film is essentially ‘Kes’ set in Scotland, although with enough funny moments to make it entirely worth the effort of sitting through. It’s not that there’s anything desperately wrong with this film – indeed Ken Loach’s dramas paint a breathtaking picture of the social problems inherent in the lower echelons of British society - my problem is that it feels lazy storytelling. There is no point in the film where you even think that the story might turn out happily, and the only question is which terrible incident will befall our lead character in order to destroy his life. ‘Sweet Sixteen’ is well worth a watch but ultimately it’s been done better elsewhere.
Rating: 5/10.

Super Size Me (2004).
Starring: Morgan Spurlock.
Director: Morgan Spurlock.
Synopsis: A documentary in which a man conducts an experiment on eating fast food.
Dean's comments: Spurlock decides to eat MacDonalds for every meal every day for a month in order to see what kind of effect this consumption will have on his body, he also decides that he will reduce his level of exersise in an attempt to be more like the avergae American. The point is to look at the impact of easily available and cheap, salty, fatty, sugary food on American society and the health of the average person. The outcome appears to be that eating MacDonalds everyday for a month is very bad for your health, the doctors looking after Morgan implore him to give up his experiment after 3 weeks telling him that he might die otherwise. He is told that his liver is likely to give up and that his mental health is deteriorating as a result of becoming addicted to fatty foods. Spurlock keeps going on his experiment to the end though, and thankfully survived in order to cut the footage together for the screen. The film contains many asides from Spurlock's experiment, one in which it becomes clear that children in America find Ronald MacDonald more recognisable than the US president or images of Jesus. We also look at Americans who are having their stomachs reduced in size in order to curb their hunger, the most scary of these people being a couple who drink gallons of fizzy drink every day. This is a great piece of documentary film-making in which Spurlock presents an interesting case against the culture of quick, high calorie food. Indeed the success of the film is seen in the way that MacDonalds has changed its menus in the light of the evidence presented. If only I still ate at MacDonalds I could give it up.
Rating: 8/10.

Superman Returns (2006).
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey.
Director: Bryan Singer.
Synopsis: Superman Returns from his home planey just as Lex Luthor is about to unleash his latest 'conquer the world' scheme.
Dean's comments: When someone writes a story, be it a film, novel or spoken tale, the most crucial element is that there is a plot, something that happens. Apparently no one on the editing team for ‘Superman Returns’ were aware of this simple truism, since this is a film which has no direction or plot until at least half way in. The film opens with Superman returning from a 5 year long absence, he then saves some people and has some awkward emotional moments with the now-married Lois Lane while his nemesis Lex Luthor farts around the world finding ancient crystals. Aside from an admittedly spectacular sequence in which Superman saves a falling Boeing 777 aircraft from certain destruction by landing it perfectly in a baseball field, one could simply walk in half way through the film and not be the least bit worse off for having missed it. Even when the plot finally emerges, it turns out to be some laughably ridiculous plot to ‘grow’ a new continent off the US east coast and somehow sell the land to the highest bidder. Then the plot contrivances and contradictions begin to be liberally sprinkled over the film, for example Superman is initially repulsed by Kryptonite in the new continent but later seems able to deal with it. As if these annoyances weren’t enough, we then have to factor in the Judeo-Christian imagery that is heaped all over the screen. Superman is talked about as being Huminity’s saviour, there is a voice-over in which Superman’s father talks about giving his son to save mankind and when Superman flies up to find strength from the energy of the sun he opens his arms in the style of Christ on the cross. Despite such irritations there are a number of fun moments in the film, not least references to comic book history (there is a moment where three people say “Is it a bird?” “Is it a plane?” “No, look, it’s S...”), which make it an entertaining piece of brainless Hollywood puff which is best enjoyed with you disbelief left at the door.
Rating: 4/10.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005).
Starring: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi.
Director: Park Chan Wook.
Synopsis: A woman - who went to prison for a murder she did not commit - seeks revenge on the man who sent her there.
Dean's comments: Stylish and slick with lots of interesting imagery and camera angles, ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ is the third in Park Chan Wook’s vengeance trilogy. The film may be beautiful to look at and contain a thought-provoking message about the nature of vengeance – this time Park asks if physical retribution can ever settle the ghosts of a troubled past – but it is far too long and drags out its central scenes for no real gain. The film’s central character is a woman who was blackmailed into accepting responsibility for a kidnapping, serves 13 years in jail and emerges with a desire to exact revenge on the man who was responsible. We follow her as she tries to work out what she really wants from her revenge, solace for her actions or justice for his crimes. This is certainly no ‘Oldboy’, it lack’s that film’s fresh directorial touch and has much more in common with the first of the trilogy.
Rating: 5/10.

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002).
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin.
Director: Park Chan Wook.
Synopsis: A man attempts to extort his boss after his attempts to find a transplant on the black market go terribly wrong.
Dean's comments: This is a fairly bleak outlook on life.  Everyone in the film is either trying to get something they don't deserve, stealing something precious or in such despair that they can't carry on living.  So what are we to take from a film which contains - on the surfaces - a spectacularly low level of morals and opinion of humanity?  When Ryu is wronged by a criminal gang, he is so easily persuaded to dip into the world of crime to get what he wants.  Ultimately this leads only to vengeance and even more pain.  It seems that the point is to realise that everyone in the film would be better off if only they stayed within the law and learned to cut their losses when they have the chance rather than staying on a course of revenge.  It isn't too much of a stretch to realise that this is a metaphor for humanity - wouldn't we all just be better off if we all got along?  Morality aside, this is a extremely violent film which is beautifully shot - fans of the Asia extreme genre should be at home with it.
Rating: 5/10.

Syriana (2005).
Starring: George Clooney, Jeffrey Wright, Matt Damon, Alexander Siddig.
Director: Stephen Gaghan.
Synopsis: Several people from all walks of life and all parts of the world have their lives altered by big business and the oil industry.
Dean's comments: An intensely confusing film which seems to introduce a new set of characters and locations in each of its first 20 scenes, 'Syriana' is more of an essay on the depersonalising nature of modern politics rather than a film in the traditional sense. The point appears to be that none of the characters has any ability to influence events going on around them; from a Pakistani immigrant to the future king of an oil-rich land, each is driven steadily towards their destruction by the unseen hand of big business, the US government and the vested interests of the corporation. This makes a lot of sense but doesn't really make for an engaging film. Most of the time the plot - if it could be said to have a plot - meanders around without having any focus while the audience struggles just as much as the characters to understand the dark forces that are driving their mostly-insignificant lives. And of course this is the point of the film, to de-personalise the events of the film so that the characters - and by extension - the audience feel isolated from what is going on. If you're already on the anti-oil corporations-are-bad bandwagon then you're likely to finish the film and say "Well I knew that already", if you care little for global politics then you're likely to fall asleep in the middle. I don't understand why the Oscars went anywhere near this film.
Rating: 5/10.

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