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

21 Grams (2003)
Starring: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Synopsis: A story about the lives of three interconnected people, their relationships with each other and fears about death.
Dean's comments: This is very powerful stuff. The film uses a very non-linear style to tell the story and as a result can be quite confusing at first; I for one was unsure as to whether I was looking at flash-backs or flash-forwards until the film was about 45 minutes in. Benicio Del Toro's character is a good example of this confounding style, he plays the two ages of his character so well that one begins to think he might be playing two different people. Thankfully though, you need not fear that the story-telling in this film is swamped by its style. Scenes are shown from multiple angles and from different points of view; a scene depicting a death in a car crash is shown out-of-shot in one scene when another scene cuts short before the event. All of this adds to the power of the piece, drawing the viewer into events rather than merely presenting them in chronological order. The film's main thrust is to present a message about concepts of death, Del Toro is the preacher who rejects god, Penn is the terminally ill patient who looses his family, Watts is the drifting drug-addict who is just looking for sense in the fact that her dead husband has donated his heart to medicine. Ultimately the film comes down on the atheistic side of the debate, but don't let that put you off if you're a religious sort; all sides are given equal weight and considered with good grace.
Rating: 8/10.

24 Hour party People (2002)
Starring: Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson.
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Synopsis: Based on a true story, this is a tale about the development of the indie music scene in Manchester from the 70's all the way through to the mid 90's.
Dean's comments: This is one thoroughly post-modern film. Steve Coogan is one of the funniest people around, his portrayal of Tony Wilson and his setting up of the his record company is so irreverent that one can barely believe any of it was true. The post-modern credentials of the film even extend to Coogan giving asides to camera to point out to the audience the bits of the plot which are embellishments inserted by the script-writers and in fact didn't happen. If you were around during the 'Madchester' scene you'll probably love this; I was too young for all that stuff, but even with my rudimentary grasp of the influence that it had on British music I felt I could appreciate the film. That's the film's strength in my view, that Coogan's performance is good enough to carry the entire movie and carry everyone into it with him, regardless of their background in music.
Rating: 7/10.

The 25th Hour (2002)
Starring: Ed Norton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Director: Spike Lee
Synopsis: A small time drug dealer prepares himself for a 7 year jail term.
Dean's comments: The 25th hour is a film about acceptance (or not) of one's past misdemeanours and subsequent punishments. Ed Norton is his usual brilliant self, this comes through most importantly when his character goes into a fantastic rant against the entire world in the middle of the film. This rant is excellent in that it dispels all racial and bigoted stereotypes with one fell swoop; he blames Jews, Muslims, Bankers, the Government and everyone else that anyone has ever thought of to blame for the ills of the world. In doing this he encapsulates the message of the film, that what you do wrong is your fault, and you have to deal with the outcome. Unfortunately the film as a couple of big flaws, the main one being that Spike Lee seems to be obsessed with droning on about the World Trade Centre. He includes long lingering shots of the wreckage of those towers which don't bring anything to the plot (unless he's trying to imply that the message of the film applies to the misery that was brought down upon New York in September 2001). I get the impression that this obsession is due to this film being the first he made after the destruction of the twin towers, and that he felt the need to include something, anything, about it. This is the sort of thing that will date horribly, even now it seems tacky. Ultimately the audience have the story redeemed for them with a beautifully ambiguous ending; we are never sure whether he dutifully goes to jail or not. We are left to decide if we want the sickly sweet ending or the moral high-ground ending.
Rating: 6/10.

28 Days Later (2002)
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston, Naome Harris.
Director: Danny Boyle.
Synopsis: A man awakes from a coma to discover that civilisation has collapsed as a result of an infectious disease turning people into vicious killing machines.
Dean's comments: This is a very modern zombie thriller with a very British feel. The zombies in this film actually look like they might have a chance of catching and killing you, unlike the zombies in trash 70's horrors that can't move faster than your Nan on beta-blockers. These zombies are actually scary! I think that the film taps into a quite modern fear; that of the loss of civilisation and society. We have become so reliant on the niceties of life in the modern ages that a return to darker times is a difficult thing to contemplate. 28 Day Later is at its best in the early stages of the film, when Murphy's character is just awaking to find civilisation crumbling and finding a bunch of desperados struggling to retain a sense of Humanity. In the later stages it resorts to more standard horror genres, while the happy ending doesn't seem to fit with the despair created by the rest of the story. In the end this is a good horror film, but it doesn't really do anything to raise it above the average.
Rating: 6/10.

28 Weeks Later (2007)
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne.
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Synopsis: 28 weeks after the events of '28 days later', the American military tries to repopulate the UK.
Dean's comments: One wonders what this film might have been like if the producers had not had the Iraq war to use as a source material. I hardly need to point out the most obvious signs that '28 Weeks Later' is a commentary on that conflict (for example, the place where the people are living in safety is called the 'green zone'), the major message seems to be that the only thing more terrifying than looking over your should for flesh-eating zombies every minute is having you back watched by a team of trigger-happy US marines. The film continues the story that seemed to be rounded off at the end of '28 Days Later'; after 28 weeks all the infected are dead and London is being re-populated. Except that clearly someone is still infected and all kinds of shit hits a very big fan. This is actually a really good attempt at recapturing the horror of the destruction of civilisation that was seen in the first film, there is an emotional attachment between the characters and the infected do seem properly dangerous. The only problem I have is the strange coda to the film, it's a little negative compared to how the original finished.
Rating: 7/10.

300 (2007)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Andrew Tiernan.
Director: Zack Snyder
Synopsis: An army of 300 Spartans defend their homeland against a Persian invasion.
Dean's comments: I really want to resist the temptation to do highlight the obvious homoeroticism of ‘300’, but I’ve already said it now so I may as well labour the point. This is a film in which 300 barely-dressed, loin-cloth-attired oil-chested super hunks fight a 90 minute long engagement against a wave after wave of ashen-faced minions. The succession of ‘quick-slow’ battles is set in front of a lavishly rendered cartoon style background of reddened skies and rising peaks. You are probably thinking that this is going to be a visual extravaganza, and you’d be right – more so if mostly naked Spartan super-warriors float your boat. Unfortunately the film wants to be a treatise on the creation of western civilisation, as if somehow Sparta founded the Greek civilisation – and by extension enlightened thinking – by giving the Persians a good thrashing. Indeed the writers of the film appear to be unable to see the irony in their own plot, Spartan society is in the opening scene shown to be self-euthenising and willing to kill Spartan babies if they are ‘weak’. The Persian civilisation is then quite without irony described as a brutal and uncivilised place. ‘300’ is a visually exciting experience, but carries no depth.
Rating: 6/10.

9th Company (2005)
Starring: Fyodor Bondarchuk, Artyom Mikhalkov, Aleksei Chadov.
Director: Fyodor Bondarchuk
Synopsis: A company of RUssian soldiers are isolated and under attack at the end of the Afghan war.
Dean's comments: The only thing which is new or different about this film for me is that it is a Russian perspective on the Afghan war as it was winding down towards the end of the 1980s. The way that the story is told is reminiscent of plenty of other war films – i.e. a young group of men eager to prove themselves learn the horrors of war – and therefore is doesn't really add anything new to the genre. It even has a whole sequence at the boot camp which is so close to 'Full Metal Jacket' that I'm sure someone somewhere could sue if they wanted to. On balance it is worth watching because of the Russian perspective, but don't expect much you haven't seen already.
Rating: 5/10.

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