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Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

      He (Chow Yun-Fat) loves her (Michelle Yeoh); she loves him, but they cannot be together until the fabled jade sword has been returned to its rightful owner. This they seek to do, hindered by an assassin and a mystery figure whose martial arts abilities rival their own. All that plot business is entirely secondary to the working of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon though. It has just enough connective tissue to lead from one breathtaking display of martial arts magic to the next. It was the film of 2000, taking the most autistically male of movie genres, the martial arts epic, and broadening its appeal by adding a balletic twist. By … Read more
Sean Connery in Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester

    A young ghetto kid (Rob Brown) breaks into the local recluse’s house only to discover it’s his literary hero, an author whose one novel has been followed by nothing except a mysterious silence for 40 years. The gruff old codger doesn’t bark at the kid and send him on his way. Nor does he shoot him with the gun he keeps on his bedside table. He doesn’t do either of these things because we’re in master-and-protégé territory, a fact which director Gus Van Sant cunningly seems to have made us fully aware of before the film has announced that that’s what it is. And he’s done that maybe to dial down … Read more
Jason Statham and Brad Pitt in Snatch

Snatch

    Two years after Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie returned with a film that looked, felt and almost smelt the same. Except this time around the story is about bare-knuckle fighting and diamond heists, and Brad Pitt (for the ladies) is playing an Irish tinker, just one of a number of silly ethnic stereotypes, which include Russian gangsters, Jewish jewellers and  a Turkish boxing promoter called Turkish (played by Jason Statham, one minute before he launched his action hero career). Lock Stock traded in the same currency, you’ll remember. As well as Pitt, Snatch is studded with other non-British actors, such as Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farina. Nevertheless it … Read more
in the mood for love

In the Mood for Love

    Escape the tyranny of the huge flatscreen TV for an evening and surrender to a slow-moving visual feast best seen on the big screen in a darkened room with lots of people barely breathing. They’re holding their breath for a variety of reasons. The gorgeousness of Christopher Doyle’s cinematography for one, depicting 1960s Hong Kong as a kaleidoscope of butterfly blues, resinous ambers and neon reds. The unusual focus of the plot for another – on the man and woman realising that their other halves are having an affair with each other. On the losers not the winners in the game of love, in other words. And on the awful, stomach-clenching … Read more
Kristen Cloke, Devon Sawa and Kerr Smith in Final Destination

Final Destination

    Remember The House of Wax or The Abominable Dr Phibes and the highly elaborate ways Vincent Price would off his victims? Films in the decades that followed had budgets running into squillions, yet the victims always seemed to die the same way: sharp knife, sharp billhook, sharp what-have-you. How dull. Then, for people desiring more elaborate, designer-label death, Final Destination turned up right on time. In terms of plot all you need to know is that it’s about a gang of hot guys and gals who “cheat death” when they get off a plane just before it explodes. But what if that plane had their number on it? Our clean-limbed posse … Read more
Tom Green suckles from a cow's teat

Freddy Got Fingered

    The ancient Hebrews used to send out a goat into the wilderness, hoping it would take all their sins off with it. Modern Hollywood continues the practice every year with the Razzies, awards handed out to films which supposedly stink but which are in fact often not significantly more terrible than many others.   In fact Razzies are often awarded to films which tried hard and failed, rather than to films which cynically set out to be terrible, in the hope of turning a buck, so maybe there’s some honour in getting one. In 2012, was Kristen Stewart really deserving of hers, for Snow White and the Huntsman and the last … Read more
Nick Nolte in The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line

    In the mid-1990s it was more or less universally accepted that Terrence Malick had given up making films. He’d made Badlands in 1973 and Days of Heaven in 1978, both of them the sort of films that have critics coining new superlatives, but that was that. Then, 20 years after Days of Heaven, he came back as if from nowhere with his version of The Thin Red Line – there’d already been an adaptation of James Jones’s novel in 1964. And like Badlands and Days of Heaven it took a familiar genre – the war film in this case – and gave it a typically reserved Malickian treatment. Malick’s WWII actioner … Read more
Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

        How the mighty M Night Shyamalan has fallen since this, possibly the most barnstorming debut in the past 25 years. I’d have said “except Reservoir Dogs” except that Tarantino’s film wasn’t his debut (the barely seen My Best Friend’s Birthday, the final reel of which got burnt up in a lab fire, has that honour). But then a lot of people don’t know that The Sixth Sense wasn’t Shyamalan’s debut film either; it was his third. Those hugely digressive factoids to one side, Shyamalan’s certainly most famous film to date gave us Haley Joel Osment as a young boy being pestered by unquiet spirits. The boy doesn’t like it … Read more
Björk and Catherine Deneuve in Dancer in the Dark

Dancer in the Dark

      Is it “Unique” (CNN), “Heartbreaking” (The Independent), “Riveting” (Radio Times)? Or, perhaps, “Ludicrous” (Daily Mail), “Numbing” (Salon.com) or “Grim” (TV Guide)? Lars Von Trier’s low-rent, grainy tale of the Czech immigrant in the USA who is losing her sight, made according to the minimalist Dogme manifesto, won the Palme D’Or at the 2000 Cannes film festival. And even there fighting almost broke out in the audience. What got everyone’s goat was Von Trier’s decision to couple his muddy shakeycam style to the most velour of Hollywood genres – the musical – and to cast the coolest of Euro sophisticats, Catherine Deneuve, as a factory worker. Adding to this deliberate provocation … Read more
Orson Welles in Confidential Report aka Mr Arkadin

Confidential Report

The prevailing wisdom on Orson Welles has changed in recent years. It used to be: “Poor Orson, his masterpieces (such as The Magnificent Ambersons, It’s All True, The Lady from Shanghai ) butchered by the studios”. Now it’s: “Lazy Orson, got most of the way through a film and then lost interest”. Certainly Welles subscribed to the former view, and broadcast it widely wherever he went in Europe during his exile (or extended flake-out, take your pick). Confidential Report fuels the debate. A shadow of both his masterpiece, Citizen Kane, and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (in which Welles played the similarly gnomic Harry Lime), the film jumps around the world excavating the … Read more
Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted

    Girl, Interrupted tells the real-life story of Susanna Kaysen, who wrote the original memoir about her enforced stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. She was banged up after a pills overdose for what was termed a “borderline personality disorder” but the suspicion remains that she was being incarcerated at least partly because she was young, rebellious and pissing off her parents. Director James Mangold’s film version turns the whole experience slightly into One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest redone as a 1960s Mean Girls drama. Instead of shock therapy there’s the withdrawal of TV privileges, straitjackets have largely been replaced by attentive, pleasant carers. And as for debilitating doses … Read more
Richard Gere in Dr T and the Women

Dr T and the Women

If, as the old joke has it, gynaecologists are always up to their elbows in work, how much more taxing would that job be if you were Richard Gere? That’s the proposition that Robert Altman lays before us in a film that’s often dismissed, his last of a line of flops that lay between Short Cuts (1993) and Gosford Park (2001). But Dr T is really worth a second look because of what Altman is doing, possibly unbeknown to his cast. Scouring Hollywood, he’s found a handful of irritating, self-obsessed and unhinged actresses and cast them just as they are – or is it more the sort of type they very often play? … Read more

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