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

Taxi Driver (1976).
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Cybil Shepard, Jodie Foster.
Director: Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: A veteran of the Vietnam conflict drives a taxi in a big city, he becomes consumed by the evil and degradation of the street life.
Dean's comments: Robert DeNiro took another step on the road to becoming one of the legends of American cinema when he took on the role of the forgotten hero struggling to make sense of the social detritus he was supposed to have left behind in South East Asia.. 'Taxi Driver' details the descent of its main character's life into pain, horror and fear, but ultimately ends on a positive note as he emerges the lesser of two 'bad' forces. Cybil Shepard plays the woman who our eponymous hero attempts to woo, he has a difficult time doing so. DeNiro's character is so out of tune with social graces and the working of 'normal' society that he takes her to a porn cinema on a date and becomes obsessed with protecting Jodie Foster's child prostitute. Foster looks like an accomplished actress in this film, and although one might expect her role to be a difficult one to play, she looks totally in command of her part. 'Taxi Driver' is, in terms of a depiction of the realities of 'undesirable' America, a classic. Scorsese picks away at the layers of U.S. society and forces us to all look at what a war policy lasting over a decade had done to a generation of young and middle aged men.
Rating: 9/10.

Team America: World Police (2004).
Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone.
Director: Trey Parker.
Synopsis: An international elite police force take on the evils of world terrorism by blowing up everything in sight.
Dean's comments: For anyone who is sick and tired of the endless debates being thrown about by international political commentators and who has long grown tired of Michael Moore and Ann Coulter telling us all that each other is the devil, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have provided an antidote. 'Team America: World Police' exists in the best traditions of the comedy style that has made the Simpsons such a deserving international hit, that being the fact that nothing is sacred; no religion, ethic, belief, science or creed is out of bounds of the realms of parody and satire. Let's not pretend that this is entirely an intellectual exercise in parodying political extremes, there is a lot of toilet humour including a speech about how there are only "dicks, pussies and ass-holes in this world…" and the fact that the leader of Team America is a Mr 'Spotswoode' who insists on judging people's loyalty on whether they'll give him fellatio. The film is funny all the way through, cleverly using the obvious lameness of string operated puppets, in the same way that the producers milked the crappy animation of 'South Park', to make one of the characters throw up for several minutes and produce the first ever on-screen puppet hard core sex scene. Essentially the film succeeds in all areas, it is a clever parody of contemporary world politics while at the same time being a great comedy.
Rating: 7/10.

Tell No One (2006).
Starring: François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze.
Director: Guillaume Canet.
Synopsis: A man becomes that convinced that his wife - killed 8 years previously - is still alive.
Dean's comments: Despite being a simple and effective thriller which has an interesting mystery and plenty of 'hmmm' moments, there was something about the execution in this film which made me feeling totally unmoved. Perhaps the middle class-ness of the main characters was simply too annoying for me to possibly have any affinity with them. Maybe the lead male character was simply too sappy for me to care at all. By the end of the film I wasn't really too interested in seeing the resolution or finding out "what really happened", this is a shame since the story had a lot of promise when it started out.
Rating: 5/10.

The Terminal (2004).
Starring: Tom Hanks, Catherine Zeta Jones.
Director: Steven Spielberg.
Synopsis: A man is stuck in the international lounge of a New York airport after his country ceases to exist while he is in the air.
Dean's comments: If you're looking for a happy-go-lucky cheesy film with lots of caricatured individuals, one-dimensional characters and obvious moralities then look no further than 'The Terminal'. The film plays out like a Disney film, there is the 'bad' chief of the airport, the simpleton main character who is overwhelmed by the lights of the big city but whose simple charming ways teach the cynical inhabitants something about life and a whole host of background characters who act like Hank's fairy god parents or angels and devils on his shoulders. The premise of the film is based on a true story, a man (here from a made-up Russian country) has his passport and travel documents invalidated in flight as a result of his home country undergoing a revolution. The plot then revolves around his life in the airport lounge, the people he meets and the relationships he forms with them. Spielberg gives the film a grandiose sheen through his use of big sweeping tracking shots and expansive angles. Ultimately the film is hollow and his little or no subtleties in its plot, add in the saccharine sweet ending and you've got a film which is watchable in its simplicity yet slightly cringe worthy at the same time.
Rating: 5/10.

The Terminator (1984).
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton.
Director: James Cameron.
Synopsis: A Human and a cyborg travel back through time to effect the outcome of a future nuclear conflict.
Dean's comments: This is the film that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger's career into the mainstream. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who seems to talk and act like a robot, so why not have him play one? His performance as the Terminator, in which he has remarkably few lines, is essentially his perfect role. The idea is that Sarah Connor is going to be the mother of the man who unites Humanity to defeat the robots in a futuristic post-apocalyptic war. Those robots, having invented time travel, decide to murder her before she can have her baby (please ignore all time-travel absurdities and paradoxes). Arnie plays that relentless and unfearing killer; his entire reason to exist is to extinguish the life of his target. Now that's a frightening opponent, one who operates without fear of law, failure or their own safety. Combining all these factors with a tapping into the 1980's fear of nuclear annihilation (although the less said about the terrible 80s fashions the better) and fear of the ever-progressing tide of technology makes for a classic of science fiction.
Rating: 7/10.

The Terminator 2 (1991).
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick.
Director: James Cameron.
Synopsis: Two cyborgs travel through time, one to protect John Connor, the other to kill him.
Dean's comments: An excellent sci-fi action film which gave the world a new level of SFX in Robert Patrick's shape shifting Terminator. This time Arnie is the hero, sent back in time to protect John Connor. This is an interesting premise as it means that this second film isn't just a remake of the first. Arnie gets to be the good guy and therefore gets a pile of good lines while Patrick is suitably fearsome and unrelenting as the new evil terminator. The film is great because of several memorable action sequences that helped to re-define the genre. Arnie on a motorcycle being chased by a truck, Sarah Connor's character being caught in a nuclear explosion and the computer-generated metallic skeletal terminator relentlessly pursuing the Connor boy through the final inferno. Once again James Cameron has shown that he's one of the best action directors around.
Rating: 6/10.

The Terminator 3 (2003).
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken, Claire Danes.
Director: Jonathan Mostow.
Synopsis: John Connor, now grown up, is attacked one final time before his part in the future war becomes clear.
Dean's comments: I once heard this film described as 'not as bad as it could have been'. I agree. Thankfully the writers for this third instalment seem to know what position in science fiction history 'the terminator' has, and they're quite happy to introduce a slice of post-modern humour in the form of nods to the audience and in-jokes. Arnie is looking a little old for the role now, but the moment where he reprises putting on his 'cool' shades from Terminator 2 with a pair of Elton John style glasses seems as fresh as anything he's done before. There are clichés aplenty in the film, but Kristanna Loken is suitably icy as the Terminatrix and the film's ending makes a lot of sense while giving you a feeling of closure for the series. Like I already said, it could have been an awful lot worse.
Rating: 5/10.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
Starring: Gunnar Hansen, Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, John Dugan, Edwin Neal.
Director: Tobe Hooper.
Synopsis: 5 chums out for a 'road-trip' stumble accross an 'abandonned' house.
Dean's comments: This is the original and best teen-slasher film. Attacked by many as being an example of all that is wrong with film making; in reality it's a classic of the horror genre, setting up clichés and visual gags that will be re-visited and re-used again and again. Put simply, the film is downright terrifying with a healthy dose of sickening barbarity in its portrayal of disturbed American family living in the wilds of the US who like to chop up and eat travellers. The film pulls no punches at all in its story-telling, which is surely better than trying to sugar-coat a story about cannibalism. The main character is 'leather face', the guy with the chainsaw. His first appearance is suitably shocking as he appears out of no-where to pounce upon an unsuspecting American teenager, before hanging another up on a meat hook (with a horribly sickening noise) and carving another up across the stomach with the chainsaw. No one ever said that the film is tame or didn't deserve its 18 rating, but if you want to be scared and if you want to see the history of the teen-horror-slasher genre in action then there can be no other film to watch than this.
Rating: 7/10.

Thank You For Smoking (2005).
Starring: Aaron Ekhart, William H Macy, Maria Bello.
Director: Jason Reitman.
Synopsis: A spin doctor in a tabacco corporation muses his life.
Dean's comments: With dark humour, a great cast and a wonderful antihero for a lead role, ‘Thank You for Smoking’ is a biting satire about American life, especially is unnecessarily litigious social structures. Aaron Ekhart plays Nick Naylor, a tobacco industry spin-doctor who has the morally-ambiguous job of convincing the American public that smoking isn’t really all that bad. In our modern age of smoking bans and interventions against smokers, it’s a remarkable character to have in a mainstream movie – indeed this point is made in a roundabout way when Naylor brainstorms ideas for getting cigarettes back into the hands of Hollywood movie stars. Naylor is a family man who spends time with his son, works hard and provides for his divorced wife; Naylor’s nemesis – a US senator played by William H Macy – is a nervous and irritating man who wants to airbrush cigarettes out of history and generally does a bad job of making the case for banning them. So rather than making a film in which the good guy fights the good cause, Jason Reitman’s script makes the case against smoking by getting inside the head of the guy who defends it ‘just to pay the mortgage’. The film effectively dismisses ‘personal choice’ arguments and argues for a ban by showing how the industry embraces the half-way-house in order to advance its own position. In addition to all the anti-smoking stuff, the film is an absolute riot of a laugh. If there’s something Americans do well, it’s one-liners, this film is stuffed full of them.
Rating: 6/10.

The Thin Red Line (1998).
Starring: Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack.
Director: Terrence Malick.
Synopsis: American soldiers at the battle of Guadalcanal.
Dean's comments: This is the most boring, repetitive, unrealistic, dull, overly-pretentious, long-winded, monotonous, pompous and dreary film I have ever seen. No redeeming features at all; if you want to tell a story about the ordinary soldier and expect us to believe it then DON'T CAST HOLYWOOD SUPERSTARS as ordinary G.I.s. That's just pseudo-artistic superficial film-making. None of the battle sequences make any sense nor does Sean Penn's 'going native'. Can someone round up all the people who think this is a classic a give them a collective slap?
Rating: 1/10.

The Third Man (1939).
Starring: Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Alida Valli.
Director: Carol Reed.
Synopsis: A man travels to Vienna to meet his friend Harry Lime, only to discover that he has apparently been killed.
Dean's comments: A film which can be seen as a love story just as much as it is a spy thriller, ‘The Third Man’ is particularly memorable for Orson Welles’ stunning, if short, performance as the eponymous mystery black-marketer. Welles’ first appearance in the film is classic stuff; a cat that was known to like his character is seen milling around the feet of a mysterious stranger, then the flash of a car headlight reveals his face. Welles’ character is not exactly a likeable man, but he has some thought-provoking dialogue, asking whether a friend would accept payment to murder without knowledge of who he killed or possibility of capture, he also says that poverty and destitution are the bedrock in which great art and culture develop and grow. The story itself is set in post-WW1 Austria, a land in which everyone is simply trying to survive. The three main characters in the film all have to make decisions they don’t want to, Harry Lime chooses to be a black-marketer who sells poorly made drugs, Martins is forced to turn Lime – his dear friend - over to the authorities while Schmidt declines the opportunity for love out of a sense of loyalty to Lime, a proven swindler and murderer of sick children. ‘The Third Man’ has a wonderful wit to it, as well as a spectacular sound track (which may or may not consist of only one tune), a ‘must see’ for fans of the spy genre and Alfred Hitchcock.
Rating: 7/10.

Thirteen (2003).
Starring: Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed, Evan Rachel Wood.
Director: Catherine Hardwicke.
Synopsis: An ordinary girl finds a new friend and goes on a 'coming of age' journey of discovery.
Dean's comments: An interesting if rather un-engaging film about the perils of growing up in the wrong crowd. Although the film is well made and the acting all fair enough, there's nothing in the plot that hasn't been visited by several other film-makers and story-tellers a dozen times before. The film also has a 'grainy' look and is full of unnecessarily shaky camera work, this is almost certainly because of its 'MTV' backing and the director trying miles to hard to give the film a 'youth' feel.
Rating: 3/10.

Three Colours Blue (1993).
Starring: Juliet Binoche, Benoit Regent, Charlotte Very, Florence Pernel.
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Synopsis: A classical composer loses her husband and daughter in a car crash.
Dean's comments: This, the first in Krzysztof Kieslowski's trilogy about the ideals of the French revolution in the modern world, contains the most easily accessible metaphors for Brotherhood, Freedom and Equality of the three films. Binoche plays a woman who has lost that which had defined her, her family. After she fails in a suicide attempt she begins to rebuild and find herself in her work. The film concentrates almost solely on her, and as such is a testament to the strength of Binoche's acting skill that she can pull it off. Her character is trying to live the ideals of the French revolution in modern France, she wants equality in her work and intellectual freedom to complete the music that she had begun with her husband. There are several traumatic twists for her character as she uncovers unwanted secrets about her husband's previous life and struggles to isolate herself from the world around her in order to strive for that elusive 'freedom'. The film feels like a very pro-feminist film in this sense, and it should be applauded for dealing with what is at times very difficult material.
Rating: 7/10.

Three Colours White (1994).
Starring: Zbigniew Zamachowski, Julie Delpy, Janusz Gajos, Jerzy Stuhr.
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Synopsis: A Polish immigrant to France returns to his homeland after his wife rejects him. There he begins his life again, trying to rebuild himself and his business.
Dean's comments: 'White' probably has the best self-contained plot of the 'colours' trilogy. It's a story of redemption and of the power of Humanity to overcome all odds set against it. Our hero begins the film at a nadir in his life as he loses his wife and is forced to escape to Poland trapped in a suitcase. After escaping murderous criminals he tries to re-establish himself in his old town, he encounters prejudices but struggles on to re-build his life and business until he is in a position to command the ear of his estranged wife once more. Kieslowski makes the most of the film's 'white' title; setting the film in Poland allows him to use that country's unblemished snow-covered landscapes to great effect, occasionally as metaphor for an unknown 'carte blanche' future, at other times simply as a beautiful background. I was a little confused by the film's ending though, the final exchange between Karol and Dominique being rather cryptic.
Rating: 7/10.

Three Colours Red (1994).
Starring: Irene Jacob, Jean-Luios Trintignant.
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski.
Synopsis: A glamour model discovers that an ex-judge spies on his neighbours.
Dean's comments: The final part is the best in the series, probably because it is only now that you realise why the three stories are connected. The final sequence (which I wont reveal) is one of those things that is done so well that I got a tingly feeling inside me, let's just say that the bill-board poster of the model takes on a double meaning by the end of the film (just what is that expression on her face saying anyway?). The themes here are of hidden secrets and hidden truths. The unlikely combination of the model and the judge allows the writers to look at a very strange relationship, one which revolves around spying on the lives of others from a distance while tip-toeing around their own lives. The main characters also have a relationship with the people that the judge spies on, involving them unknowingly in their lives. Once again Kieslowski is trying to deal with some huge metaphysical concepts. Luckily for us he carries this off in this most composed and compassionate of films. A genuinely great piece of work.
Rating: 8/10.

Throne of Blood (1957).
Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isuzu Yamada.
Director: Akira Kurosawa.
Synopsis: A mysterious spirit lures a medieval general into believing that he is predestined to become a great emperor.
Dean's comments: Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of the classic Shakespearean play MacBeth is surprisingly atmospheric for a film which was made in an era long before special effects. It says a lot about the director’s ability to work with lighting and make up, his version of the three witches – a single evil spirit – is a disturbingly malevolent presence on the screen. Toshiro Mifune does his usual hyperactively dramatic stuff as his performance as the medieval Japanese version of MacBeth – it’s all great stuff even if the number of arrows that it takes to kill him at the end is a little unrealistic.
Rating: 6/10.

Thunderball (1965).
Starring: Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi.
Director: Terrence Young.
Synopsis: Bond has to stop SPECTRE from using stolen nuclear devices.
Dean's comments: I think that this is the weakest of Sean Connery's official James Bond films ('Never say never again' was unofficial and dire). All the clever gags and gadgets are there, but the makers seem to already be settling into the clichéd stride that would cause Bond films to become so formulaic during the mid 80s. There is a really bad battle scene in the film too which is set under water. The nature of this fighting is so slow that you could go away and make a cup of tea before any discernable outcome happens. When we know that Bond isn't going to die you need to make these things more snappy or alternatively give them a bit of class and style. I bunch of blokes in diving suits firing harpoons around has neither of these.
Rating: 5/10.

Tokyo Story (1953).
Starring: Setsuko Hara, Kyôko Kagawa, Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama.
Director: Yasujiro Ozu.
Synopsis: An aged couple travel to visit their sons and daughters in far away Tokyo.
Dean's comments: Just how is it possible that a black and white film that was made over 50 years ago in a country half way around the world can be so engaging to the modern viewer – i.e. me? Despite all the things that appear to hold it back - slow dialogue, drawn out introduction, almost no plot – ‘Tokyo Story’ is an accomplished work which resonates across generations and continents because it deals with a subject that almost all of us have to deal with – family. Not just family of course, but the changing nature of relationships within families and the changing requirements and responsibilities of parents and children as they grow older and necessarily further apart. These are themes which are not confined to post-war Tokyo. This is a film which essentially has no plot beyond the simple synopsis, an old couple travel to meet their children, children who are now adults and spend much of their time trying to fob their parents off. Not that their offspring are bad people, its just that the pressures of modern city existence force them to divide their time up between work and family. Sadly the parents come off second best. After watching this film I immediately called my parents to see how they were doing, that’s the impact it had upon me. I recommend that you watch this film, whoever you are; it’s a stunning piece of cinema which is both deeply sad and moving yet strangely uplifting.
Rating: 8/10.

Touching the Void (2003).
Starring: Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, Richard Hawking.
Director: Kevin Macdonald.
Synopsis: A documenary about the extraordinary survival, for almost a week, of a mountaineer left for dead.
Dean's comments: This is a film which relies entirely on the gravitas of the story it is telling. But what a story. Two mountaineers climb the north face of a terribly hard mountain in Chile, there is an accident which results in one of them breaking his leg. They being to climb down the mountain when a storm causes the uninjured climber to believe his partner is dead, he cuts him loose and continues to return to the base camp. The injured guy survives his fall, climbs his way out of a chasm, picks his way across a glacier and climbs down the foothills of the mountain on one foot to re-unite himself with his pal after almost a whole week. There's no mystery about the outcome in 'Touching the Void', the drama is all in the fact that those involved in the incident are on screen telling their tales as we sit in wonder at the fact that all this actually happened. The real events are re-created, with some spectacular mountain vistas thrown in, to drive home the impact of what happened. In short, this is a great drama film, made even better by the first hand testimonies of the participants.
Rating: 7/10.

Toy Story (1995).
Starring: Tim Allen, Tom Hanks.
Director: John Lasseter.
Synopsis: A group of toys feel threatened when a new toy is introduced to the group.
Dean's comments: 'Toy Story' is a fun film; it's a traditional children's fantasy story, who didn't imagine that their toys had lives of their own when they were young?. It isn't a classic in terms of its content, but it does represent the development of a new level of computer generated graphics that changed the face of film making for ever. The film is accessible to kids and parents, something that's essential if people want to takes their children to the cinema. Hanks and Allen do a good job of bringing their character to life while the support cast bring plenty of slapstick comedy. As I said, it's technically a classic in terms of production, but the rest is average.
Rating: 6/10.

Toy Story 2 (1999).
Starring: Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, Joan Cusack.
Director: John Lasseter.
Synopsis: One of the toys is stolen, the others go on an adventure to rescue him.
Dean's comments: This is pretty much the same as the first film, just re-packaged so that a new generation of 5 year olds can get excited and demand Buzz Lightyears for Christmas. The computer generated effects are very much the same as the first film, still impressive but now being done more regularly by anyone with a powerful enough computer. I suppose this suffers a little from what happened to 'The Matrix' sequels; once you've wowed people with your SFX you need to do something else to keep their attention. 'Toy Story 2' doesn't do enough of this.
Rating: 4/10.

Traffic (2000).
Starring: Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta Jones, Don Cheadle, Luis Guzman.
Director: Steven Soderbergh.
Synopsis: Several aspects of the 'War on drugs', including a federal judge, Mexican police and a rich drug running family.
Dean's comments: An interesting film which tries to do too many things and therefore fails to engage the audience directly in any on of the tales it is trying to tell. The best of the film's three strands is the Mexican story, with Del Toro looking fully in command of his role. Guzman and Cheadle do really well as a pair of cops fighting the drug war on the American side of the border, but they get an annoyingly cheesy ending in which they get to 'win' against Zeta-Jones' drug baroness that screams "Added after screen test!". In the end then the film is interesting but, despite the efforts of the writers, fails to look at the 'drug war' from both sides of the issue. The war in Mexico is seen only really from the point of view of the police without any of the under-lying social issues that cause people to trade in such substances discussed. In this sense the film fails in its own remit to investigate the 'drug war' from all angles.
Rating: 6/10.

Training Day (2001).
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke.
Director: Antoine Fuqua.
Synopsis: A new police recruit joins a veteran for his first day on the anti-drug squad, he discovers that things are not as black and white as he had thought.
Dean's comments: Two coppers, one old and grizzled, one new and raw, can see what it is yet? A tried and tested format given an edge by Denzel Washington's excellent performance as a cop who, as well as cleaning up the streets in his own personal fashion, creams his own sizable share of illegal goods and money for his own pocket. The film should be a lot better than it actually is, the whole movie is let down by two really awful contrivances, firstly Ethan Hawke's character is not killed by a gang of drug dealers because he happened to save their leader's sister from a rapist earlier in the film (now that's a MacGuffin). The second is that the downtrodden residents of an impoverished neighbourhood inexplicably turn against Denzel Washington's character after being complicit in his crimes for the entire film. I'm not sure if these things are meant to be a statement of the strength of the Humanity of ordinary people, personally I thought it went against the grain of the entire film and rather de-based it all. None-the-less the two performances of the leads are easily enough to keep any viewer glued to the screen for the full 2 hours.
Rating: 6/10.

Transamerica (2005).
Starring: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers.
Director: Duncan Tucker.
Synopsis: A transexual man discovers that she has a son, and travels across America to find him.
Dean's comments: Funny and brilliantly acted, ‘Transamerica’ makes a lot of interesting points about the changing nature of relationships while at the same time being a very funny road-trip film. Felicity Huffman plays a transsexual man who is dressing and living as a woman without having actually had the operation to become a woman. Almost all of the film’s charm lies in Huffman’s performance, one that at times leaves you struggling to remember that she is a woman at all – such is her ability to talk, move and behave like a man desperate to be something he is not. There is a great deal of comedy in the film, but not all of it the kind of thing you might expect. There are no silly camp jokes about transsexuality, most of the gags arise from Huffman’s character’s clear and rather touching embarrassment of his penis or the relationship between him and his son. When the story becomes a road movie, we see the evolving relationship between Huffman’s character and her son, this relationship goes from mutual suspicion to a strange attraction and from horror at the revelation of Huffman’s true gender to ultimate acceptance. The film tries to tell us that people and the relationships they have should be based on the people themselves, everyone is an individual and it is wrong to assume certain things about them as a result of the choices they make about their lives. ‘Transamerica’ does this with aplomb, it is a funny, touching, well-acted and entertaining film which I recommend heartily to the reader.
Rating: 7/10.

Tremors (1990).
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward.
Director: Ron Underwood.
Synopsis: Ancient tunnelling creatures threaten to wipe out a small American village.
Dean's comments: Despite the silly premise, this film is really funny and rather tense in places. I think the film is made infinitely better by the inclusion of a couple of proper Yankee gun-totin' red neck hicks prepared to shoot at everything before they even look to see what it is. Ron Underwood certainly has the right idea of what to do if your film is low budget, keep your monster underground where no one can tell you SFX are lousy.
Rating: 6/10.

Troy (2004).
Starring: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Brian Cox, Diane Kruger, Orlando Bloom.
Director: Wolfgang Peterson.
Synopsis: An adaptation of the classic ancient Greek myth.
Dean's comments: A surprisingly engaging action film in which one doesn't really need to know anything about Greek mythology. Large scale battle scenes are contrasted well against one-on-one combat, while the dialogue (which often in epics can sound forced or downright silly) makes sense. I like the idea that a battle could be solved by single combat between two armies' best soldiers, maybe they should do that these days with the armies' best snipers stalking each other out in a big forest. Although the film is quite long it doesn't feel it, with a decent balance between story telling and fighting. Scholars seem divided on what really happened at Troy, and indeed if it's even a true story, do it doesn't make any sense to ask if the film is historically accurate. In terms of the cast, Brad Pitt is teetering on the edge of looking too old for the part while Orlando Bloom looks like a girl and Eric Bana is definitely the coolest guy on the screen. The best bit about the film is the way the managed to avoid painting one side or the other as the 'goodies' or the 'baddies', the war is portrayed as simply an insane clash of ideologies and powerful men fighting over silly things (most wars in history could probably be characterised as such). I can just imagine Hollywood hacks having to be forcibly restrained as they desperately tried to re-script the plot to make Pitt the hero.
Rating: 7/10.

True Romance (1993).
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Christian Slater, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, James Gandolfini.
Director: Tony Scott.
Synopsis: A young couple insantly fall in love and accidently steal money from a gang of hardened Mafiosos.
Dean's comments: Through all the blood, guts, bullets and mayhem; ‘True Romance’ is really only about one thing – love. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette play a couple who met on a chance and instantly fell in love; they then proceed to outwit drug dealers, pimps, mafia dons, the Holywood intelligentsia and the police on their way to selling a whole pile of drugs and starting a new life in the sun. It’s almost as if there’s nothing but their unswerving adoration of each other helping them stay alive and dodge the bullets. Well maybe that and the apparitions of Elvis Presley which appear to Slater’s character and urge him on when his resolve is low. If I’m giving the impression that ‘True Romance’ is a slightly odd film, then I’m getting the message across well, it’s a film that works as a precursor to Tarantino’s self-directed films in that it appears to exist in a world of semi reality just beyond our own world. It’s a world where hitmen are over-drawn kings of cool and ordinary people can film themselves in a world of dastardly intrigue as easily as fall in love with a random call girl in a kung fu cinema. And as if that wasn’t enough already, the film boasts an awesome cast and a number of very memorable moments – perhaps most notable Denis Hopper’s goading monologue to Christopher Walken’s mafia hitman about the racial ‘impurity’ of the Sicilian race. It’s unrealistic, full of comic asides and film references as well as being incredibly violent to boot. In short – it’s a typical Tarantino film, fans of his more well-known work would do well to check it out.
Rating: 7/10.

The Truman Show (1998).
Starring: Jim Carey, Natasha McElhone, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich.
Director: Peter Weir.
Synopsis: In the ultimate reality TV show, a man is born and raised in an artificial land, watched by the entire world on TV.
Dean's comments: This films needs to be re-evaluated in the modern world of reality television. Rather than being a clever piece of semi-prophetic film about the dangers of giving too much power to the media, 'The Truman Show' has almost become a chilling piece of reality TV in itself, discussing a frightening modern trend towards broadcasting the lives of 'celebrities' for mass consumption. The cleverness of the film lies in the detail, we see small groups of people around America whose lives revolve around nothing but watching the TV and peering into Truman's life, the film ends on one of these people absent-mindedly asking 'what else is on?' Jim Carey gives an amazing performance that confirms him as a genuine talent, Truman is a true hero as he battles against the oppressive system around him, struggling to find freedom against the current of media invasion and the stripping away of privacy. The film's final sequences are surprisingly tear-jerking, Truman is challenged by a disembodied voice as he is about to leave his island home forever, a metaphor for the garden of Eden story if ever I saw one. He is told that he will be happy in his home and never have to worry, that he is cared for and will be safe. Truman cares not for these things, and just like Adam and Eve decides he'll be better off in the real world, ready to face the challenges it throws at him while at the same time being liberated to enjoy its beauty, literature and culture. The metaphor of Truman's life works on several levels, this film should be seen for what it is, and in years to come could be a recognised masterpiece.
Rating: 9/10.

Twelve Monkeys (1995).
Starring: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe.
Director: Terry Gilliam.
Synopsis: Time travel thriller in which a criminal is sent back to avert a disaster.
Dean's comments: A lot of friends are mine, those who are inclined to be obsessed by science fiction, think that this is something of a masterpiece of storytelling. This is because they think that the 'time-travel' plot has absolutely no holes and holds together better than any other time-travel plot in the movies. The trouble is that this is very much a mis-guided way of thinking, and that like all time travel stories it has several logical holes which you just have to suspend disbelief of in favour of enjoying the plot. The film contains lots of disturbing sequences and classically Gilliam-esque direction; the mental asylum for example is really nasty. I always enjoy dyspotian future scenarios where militaristic corporations run the world with an iron heel (take 'Brazil' and 'Alien' as classic examples), this film isn't as good as either of those as I don't think it fully knows what it wants to be. Is it a sci-fi spoof? Is it a warning about un-controlled development of technology in corporations? Is it trying to be a serious modern time travel epic? I certainly couldn't work it out and so the film left me with a rather confused feeling. I would say that this is a film for sci-fi devotees only.
Rating: 5/10.

Twin Town (1997).
Starring: Dougray Scott, Rhys Ifans, Llyr Ifans.
Director: Kevin Allen.
Synopsis: When the father of two tear-away twins is injured and his boss refuses compensation, the boys embark upon a journey of revenge that spirals out of control.
Dean's comments: This is a really simple and funny film in which a misfit family of pikies gets revenge on people who look down upon them despite being no better. There’s a little bit of un-in-depth social commentary here, but not much beyond the usual stuff about inner cities being populated not by bad people but by people turned bad by their circumstances. Perhaps those who long for the halcyon days of Welsh slate mines and male choirs may find a tear coming to their eyes as the harsh realities of modern city life force the traditional way off life into the history books. The main draw of the film is the comedy, which I’ll admit is often nothing cleverer than listening to the Welsh accent, which gives the occasional laugh-out-loud moment.
Rating: 5/10.

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