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Source Code

"Spare a though for poor, old Sean"
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train; a beautiful woman sits opposite him telling him she has taken his advice, but Colter does not know her. He rushes into the bathroom to throw some cold water on his face and when he sees his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he doesn't recognise the face staring back at him. Within a few minutes, the train explodes and everyone on board is killed, except for Colter Stevens. Stevens then finds himself trapped in what looks to be a crashed military plane. A woman in an Air Force officer's uniform speaks to him through a console, asking him if he remembers who he is, and more importantly, if he remembers his mission.

"This is not time travel. This is time re-assignment." (Dr. Rutledge, Jeffrey Wright)

Colter is reliving the last 8 minutes of Sean Fentress' life. Sean was killed with everyone else on a Chicago train that morning. These people are dead. This has happened and according to Colter's supervisors, cannot be changed. Colter Stevens cannot save these people.

"Any soldier I've ever served with would say that one death is service enough." (Colter Stevens)

A terrorist was responsible for the bomb and has threatened to set off another dirty bomb in a highly populated area of Chicago. Colter must relive the last 8 minutes of Sean's life, again and again, until he finds the bomber so that the second explosion can be stopped. In short, Colter must change the past to save the future.

Is it just me, or whenever you see a train in a suspenseful movie, do you think Hitchcock? The movie begins with a sweeping aerial shot of Chicago and some very Hitch-style music in the background. The director may get a bit of a criticism for this. It seems these days, everyone borrows from Hitchcock. I think if you are going to be influenced by someone, why not be influenced by the great auteur? Especially if you are given a script where a lot of the action takes place on a train. As a filmmaker, you must be practically compelled to give a nod to Hitchcock. See it not as rip–off but as a homage.

"It's the same train but different." (Colter Stevens)

When you have repeat scenarios in a movie, they can seem dull and repetitive, and it is very hard to show the same set-up over and over again while managing to make it fresh and interesting. However, Source Code Director, Duncan Jones, and writer, Ben Ripley, have used humour and character to make the film seem fresh and interesting, and have also kept the running time to just over 90 minutes, so that the repeat scenario is not too laboured

In a quirky aside, Duncan Jones, the director, must really love Chesney Hawkes. In Moon, Duncan Jones' directorial debut, he used the One and Only, - Chesney Hawkes one-hit-wonder- as the alarm music, and in this film, he uses the song as Christina Warren's (Michelle Monaghan) ring-tone for an ex-boyfriend. You would think the son of David Bowie would have more high-brow musical tastes. However, this song does fit on both occasions and hammers home what the director is trying to say – if the song makes it into his third film, this might just be his trademark. Also, near the beginning of the movie, I noticed that Jake Gyllenhaal looks in the mirror and sees another face staring back at him. This screams Quantum Leap. So, it was nice to see the director acknowledging this by giving Scott Bakula a brief, but important, cameo. I like directors making little personal touches like this, it gives something for us movie geeks to talk about and it suggests to me that a director is not just making a film for a paycheck but it is more a labour of love.

The cast are all superb: Michelle Monaghan gives warmth and a personality to a character that is basically incidental; Jeffrey Wright is suitably callous as an "end justifies the means" villain; and Vera Farmiga plays Colleen Goodwin, with just the right amount of stoic pathos to make you like her. But above all, Jake Gyllenhaal shines in this movie. He is beginning to garner a reputation as an actor whose movies are a cut above the rest of the usual tripe that floods the cinemas. Prince of Persia is, of course, the exception that proves the rule.

Throughout the movie a sense of doom hangs over Colter Stevens and everyone else on the train. However, the movie does not end as you would expect, and after it is over, you will either love the ending or hate it. Some people will think it is too complicated and others will blast it for being a bit of a cop-out. It is an ending that will pique your interest and give you a chance to develop your own theory as to what actually happened. It is not Inception complicated, as some people are claiming. You may need a second watch to really grasp what was going on, but that would be about it.

"Everything's gonna' be okay." Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan)

If you like a bit of J.J. Abrams Fringe, you will like Source Code. If you have a doctorate in physics, you may scoff at the idea of it, but as far as I am concerned, Source Code ticks all the boxes as Sci-Fi actioners go. It doesn't take itself too seriously. It has wit, personality, breath-taking action sequences and an ending that you will probably want to chat to your friends about. What more do you want? Grab yourself some popcorn, suspend your disbelief, then sit back, relax and enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

"All was well."
I love Harry Potter and I'm not ashamed to admit it. From Platform 9 ¾ to Quidditch to that trusty old Invisibility Cloak, I love it all. In fact, I think I'm still struggling to get over the non-delivery of my own Hogwarts letter. But they say that all good things must come to an end, and so I regrettably find myself here – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 - the final installment in the Harry Potter franchise, a movie that I was both beyond excited about and dreading all at the same time.

Last time we saw Harry and Co. things weren't looking too hot – The Ministry had fallen, the search for the Horcruxes wasn't going exactly to plan, and You-Know-Who had finally gotten his grubby hands on the all-powerful Elder Wand. Part 2 follows on perfectly from where the first installment of The Deathly Hallows left off, whereas the first half was all about building up the tension, this half is all action all the time.

All the main characters we've come to know and love (or hate in some cases) return for the final farewell. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson play Harry, Ron and Hermione to perfection, as they all come into their own during this last part of the tale – through bravery, love, grief and fate we watch as their characters become the people we knew they were always destined to be. Radcliffe has always done a great job of portraying The Chosen One, but in his final outing he is particularly brilliant. Helen McCrory is great as Draco Malfoy's mother, Narcissa, who manages to endear herself to the audience as, when it matters most, she finally seems to do the right thing. Helena Bonham Carter remains flawless as the excellently evil Bellatrix, especially in the scene where she is actually playing Hermione impersonating herself. However, it was Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom who gave my favourite performance of them all, he's definitely come a long way from that bumbling kid swinging from the ceiling in The Chamber of Secrets.

The Snape Saga has been a major feature of the entire series - is he good? Is he bad? Does he possess the most dulcet tones of all time? Let's be honest, until the whole Dumbledore incident at the end of The Half Blood Prince it never seemed all that clear whose side he was really on. In Part 2 we finally find out exactly what Snape has been up too, why he said the things he said and why he did the things he did - and in a movie that is full of poignant moments, the most poignant may be when the heartbreaking truth about him is finally revealed.

Most of the film is centered around The Battle of Hogwarts, which is nothing short of a bloodbath, and, as anyone who has read the book will know, not everyone makes it out alive. At times it does make uncomfortable viewing - Hogwarts was the place that was always safe, it was always the shining beacon during even the darkest of times, and so to watch it turned to rubble isn't easy.

Of course the main crescendo of the movie is the final showdown between the artist formally known as Tom Riddle and The Boy Who Lived, as they finally finish what was started all those years before. This is what we've been waiting for from the start, this is what we knew would happen eventually and the movie does a brilliant job of reminding us that Harry's entire life had been leading to this moment. Thankfully when the moment does come it is every bit as spectacular as it needed to be.

As with all the Potter movies that have come before it, the special effects in Part 2 are great, and again they have created Harry's world perfectly. Throughout the series the adaptations have always stayed pretty true to the books and this one is no exception to that rule, and I don't think those who have read the books will be disappointed with how the finale is brought to life.

And so, it all ends … but does it really? As a very wise woman said last week, 'no story lives unless someone wants to listen … the stories we love best do live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen – Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.'

-Lauren, Spinetinglers

Bosque de sombras

Unfortunately, a bit of a confusing mess.
While holidaying in the Basque region of Spain, two couples discover a child whose hands are severely misshapen. The child has been gravely mistreated, and, as a result, cannot communicate. The two couples reluctantly decide to rescue her and report her circumstances to the authorities. However, severe weather and the denseness of the forest surrounding their holiday home make it impossible for them to make a quick getaway. Soon, the local inhabitants become aware that the girl is missing, and they rightly suspect the holiday-makers of taking her. Suspicions and paranoia begin to fester, and it isn't long before violence erupts. The villagers demand the little girl's return, and her rescuers refuse to give her up. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse ensues, making a return to normalcy impossible for everyone involved.

The premise for The Backwoods is an intriguing one. The idea of how quickly basic human instincts make situations spiral out of control, is nearly always used to good effect in movies. For any writer/director, this concept opens up a myriad of opportunities to shock, as well as to fascinate. This fact probably accounts for why this device is a much-overused set piece. Films of this genre, when well executed, are guaranteed, at the very least, cult-classic status (e.g., Deliverance and Straw Dogs). However, when poorly executed, the resultant films can resemble a confusing, farcical mess. Unfortunately, The Backwoods is an example of the latter.

The Backwoods starts off well, trying to develop the main characters, before violence eventually erupts. However, what we have learned of their character in the initial scenes gives us little insight as to why the characters react as they do to the situation they are dealt. For example, Oldman's character, Paul, is the only one of the four main characters who is thoroughly determined to save the girl. At no time does he falter, even when he could save his life by telling the villagers where the disfigured girl is. This character trait does not hold true, because, up to this point, his character has appeared arrogant and overbearing, with little or no regard for those around him. Having said this, the four leads all give solid, believable performances, and, for the most part, cover up, rather than expose, the inconsistencies in their characters' nature.

Apart from flaws in the development of central characters, this movie has other problems. First, the deformity that the little girl has seems too ludicrous to be believable. If you have ever seen Batman Returns, and you remember the misshapen hands that The Penguin had, you will get the idea. As a viewer, the fact that the little girl has "Penguin hands" makes it hard to take her plight seriously. And finally, the main reason why this movie is farcical rather than stimulating is the movie styles to which it chooses to pay homage. I can understand the stylish, 1970s-vibe it tries to recreate, and I can also appreciate the nods directed toward Peckinpah and Boorman. But, what I can't understand is why the writer and director chose to insert a Sergio Leone-style climactic scene. Up until the final scene, the movie has tried to be dark and thought-provoking. Up until the final moments it has tried to teach the audience something about the human psyche; it has failed miserably, but it has tried. And then, all of the sudden, ten minutes before the end, you have a man-on-man gunfight, reminiscent of a spaghetti western. This ultimate fight appears to be forced and is very much out of place. The only thing that links this final scene to what has preceded it, is the fact that the ultimate scene's outcome is as confusing and pointless as the rest of the movie.

In short, The Backwoods is a jumbled mess, which is full of inconsistencies in character, plot, and style. The only factor that rescues The Backwoods from being a complete disaster are the proficient performances of its lead actors. If you want to watch a film that explores basic human instincts, why not try Magnolia Pictures', The Signal. You will find that film a lot more entertaining and a lot less confusing than this shambolic piece of film-making.

In Bruges

"Maybe that's what hell is, an entire eternity spent In Bruges."
After a contract killing goes disastrously wrong, two hit men are told by their boss, the foul-mouthed Harry, to hide out in Bruges. So they head for Bruges, even though they have no idea why they have been sent there, or even where Bruges is. It's in Belgium. In Bruges, the two hit men are forced to come to terms with their own inner demons, and they are doomed to face the consequences of their actions.

It is easy to spot that Martin McDonagh, the writer and director of In Bruges, is heavily influenced by Quentin Tarantino. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is the type of movie Tarantino would have made, had he been born in Dublin and not Knoxville, Tennessee. Every Tarantino trademark, from the Mexican standoff to the retrospective storytelling, is brilliantly executed in this film. In addition, the use of piquant and pervading dialogue to build McDonagh's characters and drive the narrative is also superbly executed. Tarantino would be proud. However, this film is not just another Quentin Tarantino knockoff by a British director. Apart from the obvious nods to Tarantino, there are other elements that make this an interesting and distinctly entertaining film. The film is shot on location in Bruges, a small, picturesque town in Belgium, of which most people probably have never heard. Bruges is portrayed as a town steeped in history and religious lore. And, despite Farrell's character, Ray, saying it is a "s******e" at every possible opportunity, Bruges looks quite exquisite on the big screen. If it is to be the last place you see before you die, it is definitely a beautiful place to go.

Another key ingredient of this exemplary film is the tour de force performances by the three leads and supporting cast. Colin Farrell, in my opinion, has never really lived up to his early promise. Farrell has had more misses than hits, but his performance in In Bruges shows that he has impeccable comic timing and can also deliver a performance that is, at the same time, both subtle and poignant. Gleason is superb, as usual, as the older and wiser hit-man, who cannot bring himself to punish Farrell's character for his gruesome mistake. And, finally, Ralph Fiennes drops the repressed upper-class-Englishman guise that he usually adopts and plays the frenetic, foul-mouthed gangster with gusto.

In Bruges does get very dark at times, for a film that is billed as a comedy; thus, some viewers will be put off. But, I believe its propensity to shock you one minute and make you laugh the next is one of the film's strongest qualities. Although the writer-director was born in London, it is obvious that there are many strong Irish influences in his life. And, these Irish influences are very evident in his writing.

In Bruges, is a darkly comic film, with lashings of Catholic guilt throughout. Its strength lies in its outstanding characterisations and its ultra-sharp dialogue. In Bruges is an example of screen writing at its finest and the film is destined to become a classic. Even better still, it is a first-rate advertisement for the city of Bruges. And, after watching the film, I know I want to go there!

Letters from Iwo Jima

Do not expect to return home alive.
General Kuribayashi is sent to Iwo Jima to lead Japanese troops against an American invasion. The General soon realises that this is a futile task, but he wants to ensure that his men do their utmost to defend the island without a needless waste of life.

Recently, I experience a certain amount of trepidation when watching a Clint Eastwood film. I admit that Eastwood has made some great movies; however, I get really annoyed when movies like his Million Dollar Baby are mistaken for great cinema. Movies whose sole purpose is to show how cruel life can be and that let their characters wallow in self- pity from one devastating event to the next are depressing, mediocre cinema… and, I might add, blatant Oscar hunting! But now I will get down off my soap box and consider his latest effort, Letters from Iwo Jima, without prejudice.

Letters from Iwo Jima is great cinema: it provides an unflinching depiction of war, does not glorify one side or the other, and implies there are no heroes, just soldiers. In fact, at times it portrays the Americans as cruel invaders with no regard for the rules of war. This movie also hammers home what an unnecessary waste of life war actually is, and how absurd it seems that, after thousands of years of human evolution, governments are still settling their differences with violence.

Apart from its moral message, there is much more to be admired in this film. The images of Iwo Jima are stark and colourless, which helps depict the bleak atmosphere that surrounds the soldiers. The use of colour does not stop there: when the soldiers are remembering happier times in their lives, the colours are vibrant and enriching. This technique has been used many times before, but not always with such great affect. The performances are also tremendous. Ken Watanabe is outstanding as the tormented and forward-thinking General, and Kazunari Ninomiya is sublime as the baker whom fate and circumstance made a soldier.

Letters from Iwo Jima will no doubt come to be considered a classic war film, and deservedly so.

Hot Fuzz

Ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, 'Aaaaaaah?
Nicholas Angel is the metropolitan polices best and most commended officer. In fact he is so good that the whole of the met wants rid of him as he is showing everyone else up. The solution is that he is transferred to a quiet colloquial village. However, once there, Angel gets a bit than he bargained for as he discovers that this village has a very high number of freak accidents. Are these gruesome deaths just mere coincidence or is there something more sinister afoot.

Hot Fuzz is the much anticipated follow up to Shaun of the Dead. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright collaborate again to bring us a movie that is entertaining and wickedly funny. Hot Fuzz is full of the abstract and dark humour that we have come to expect from this pairing and unlike other British teams who have had a major hit Stateside it is not peopled with big US box office draws. It's success is due to a witty script and good performances (although it does have it share of stars - the cast list reads like a who's who in British Comedy). The only minor criticisms I would have would be that at times the humour unlike Shaun of the dead the taken to it's basest level and the running time is little bit overlong (comedies should just not be much more than 90 mins – it gets a bit dull after awhile).

All in all Hot Fuzz is a laugh out loud comedy gem with another brilliantly oafish performance by Nick Frost.

Good Will Hunting

I'm pumped! Let the healing begin!
A math genius, Will, grows up in the back streets of Boston. Will has never sought any formal education and frequently gets in trouble with the law. He gets a job as a janitor at Harvard University. Between sweeping floors and cleaning toilets, he finds the time to solve extremely complicated math equations. A professor at Harvard attempts to take him under his wing and to save him from his latest prison sentence. The professor guarantees the court that Will will seek psychotherapy. After a number of therapists refuse to work with him, the professor asks an old friend to counsel Will. Enter Sean, Robin Williams, a man who also grew up in the back streets of Boston. Sean is able to relate to the troubled Will, and thus the healing begins… I adored this film when it first opened. It had a fresh, funny, emotionally-charged script. The script was written by two young writers, who had lots of potential to become the most celebrated writers in Hollywood. Instead of sticking to the writing, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon chose the easier path. They became "action" movie stars on the back of Good Will Hunting and left their writing behind. I always thought that this was a shame, that they didn't stick with writing screenplays. Because of this, I think the film lost some of its initial impact. Don't get me wrong. It is still a notable work. When most audiences watch it, they find themselves cheering Will on, as he "cuts" elitist college students down to size. The most hardened and cynical viewers will find it hard not to shed a tear, as Will confronts his past. But what really makes this film masterful is that we are not just told that Will is a Genius. He proves it in every scene. Whether you are listening to his piquant repartee with other characters or his philosophy on life, you are struck by the intelligence of his remarks. The dialogue throughout the film is exceptional. It is earthy and natural (to stay true to the background of Will's character), but it is also adept and sometimes quite, profound.

In the ten years since Good Will hunting was released, Affleck and Damon have written only two other screenplays. In fact, they dropped off the writing "radar" to such a degree that rumours began to surface that William Goldman wrote the script. Goldman vehemently denies this. So it appears, for now, that Good Will Hunting may be a one-hit wonder. But I still have hope that when Affleck and Damon's action movie days are behind them, they will collaborate on one last script. And if it is half as good as Good Will Hunting, it will be a smart script with Oscar-winning potential.


Give 'em Hell, 54!
Glory tells the story of the 54th Regiment, one of the first African American regiments that Abraham Lincoln credited with turning the tide of the war. The events portrayed in the film lead up to the heroic and bloody battle at Fort Wagner in which the 54th lost nearly half of its men.

There is nothing better than watching a film that wants to tell you a tale of great heroism, and Glory is one of the best examples of its genre. It is a war film in which perhaps only fifteen minutes of its nearly two hour running time is used to recreate battle scenes. Instead of blasting its audience with carnage and bloodshed, we get to know the men who were involved in these battles and their reasons for fighting. Glory is a film of great depth and subtlety in which powerfully dramatic moments are depicted with very little dialogue. Edward Zwick, the director, obviously understands that an audience has intelligence enough to be completely moved by a sudden swell of music or by a single tear running down a man's cheek. The performances by all five of the main protagonists are astonishing, the cinematography is sublime and the score is beautifully used throughout the film.

The story of the 54th Regiment is emotive and inspiring and Glory is an emotive and inspiring film that pays tribute to all those men who died in the fight for freedom.

Forrest Gump

The American Dream meets the American Nightmare
Two people, Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran, form an unbreakable bond as children. Forrest, although lacking in the brains department, manages to witness and play his part in some of the greatest events in American history. He meets JFK, wins the Medal of Honor in Vietnam, and manages to accidentally start the Watergate investigation. Forrest lives the American dream whereas Jenny lives the American nightmare; she has an abusive father and grows up to have a string of abusive boyfriends, works as a stripper, takes narcotics and ultimately contracts AIDS. Despite the pair going in completely different directions in life, they are still drawn to each other and Forrest and Jenny's story is one that will make you smile, laugh and shed a tear.

Every once and while, you see lists of the worst films to win Best Picture Oscars, and usually Forrest Gump makes that list. I think the reason for this is that we live in quite a cynical world and the majority of people do not really warm to lead characters that are innocent and pure of heart. This should not be the case. We should adore characters that are completely honest and very insightful despite their low IQs, and Forrest Gump is one of those characters that we should love. People who watch this film should check their cynicism at the door and just enjoy a film that is about the everyman battling the world using only truth and a deep-seated sense of what he believes is right. After all, this film has a noble tradition, it follows in the footsteps of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It's A Wonderful Life. If Frank Capra were alive today, he would make films like Forrest Gump (if he could come to grips with all the CGI) and that's all I have to say about that…


Justin Timberlake is no Jake Gyllenhaal
A young ambitious reporter (Josh Pollack) discovers that an elite police squad is operating outside of the law. Josh's pursuit of the truth behind crime in Edison is fuelled initially by his own ambition to become a celebrated investigative journalist. But when Josh and his girlfriend are savagely attacked, the reasons behind his pursuit become slightly more noble. I have to admit, I avoided watching this movie for a long time. I was tempted - every time I saw it staring at me in the DVD store I picked it up and usually set it quickly down again. The reason why I avoided it was Justin Timberlake. I really object when pop stars, teen idols, footballers, models, etc. are wedged into acting roles (wouldn't Rio Bravo have been as near to perfection as a film can be had not Ricky Nelson started to sing in the middle of it?) Therefore, if I see the likes of Paris Hilton on the cast list I usually won't bother. That being said, Edison is not a film aimed at a teenage audience; it seemed to be a serious film about Police corruption and the rest of the cast did include Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey. So after much inner turmoil, I succumbed to the temptation and settled down to watch it....I shouldn't have bothered! The mind boggles as to why Timberlake was cast as Josh Pollack. I could have understood if this was a minor role, but it is not; the entire plot is based around his character. I could even have understood if his character was the traditional young idealist doing everything he could to make the world a better place (I am sure that even Justin Timberlake could have pulled off young and pure of heart). But no, Josh Pollock is a complicated character who wants fame and a Pulitzer Prize using the minimum amount of effort. In someone else's hands, Josh Pollock could have emerged as great cinema lead. But enough of this Justin bashing, because this film has many other flaws... The plot is ludicrous at times (a police officer gets shot dead inside the District Attorney's office and nobody really seems to bat an eye). There are hardly any likable characters in the film, no one really seems to get punished for their misdeeds and the film's moral message is lost along the way. In short, Edison is a mess, which is a bit of a shame. I believe with the lead role recast and a few minor script revisions it had the potential to have been a great film.

Dolores Claiborne

Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.
Selena St George has seen better days. She was once an award winning writer, but now it looks like she may lose her job and she can't seem able to get through the day without a drink. To make matters worse, her mother, Dolores Claiborne, has just been arrested for murder. The strange thing is that it's not the first time Dolores Claiborne has been accused of killing someone. Selena is forced to return home. However, it's not for a happy family reunion because these two women have dark secrets that they both are trying to forget...

Dolores Claiborne is one of those films that men just don't get (which is ironic since the novel and the screenplay were both written by men). I can understand why men get somewhat agitated when watching Dolores as in this story they are definitely the villains. At their best, they are just guilty of adultery, but at their worst, they are violent child molesters. In fact, you almost get the impression that John C. Reilly's nice guy, Police Constable character was just thrown in to appease male viewers and remind women that not all men are violent lechers. But if you can get over what is arguably some blatant guy-bashing, you'll find yourself enjoying this film. It is wonderfully written, brilliantly acted, and you will not be able to keep yourself from cheering Dolores on, as she watches her husband fall down that pit.

You can look at this film in two ways-- as a blatant misandry or as a drama about one woman who will do anything to protect her child.

Deja Vu

He killed her four days ago! You were at the funeral, what's wrong with you?
An ATF agent, Doug Carlin, is called in to investigate a ferry explosion. During his investigation he stumbles upon the body of a murdered girl. He knows she is somehow connected to the bombing. With the help of some very high-tech, Einstein inspired, government equipment, he is able to watch the last four days of her life. As he watches her last moments, he cannot stop himself from falling in love with her and becomes determined to recover her life. Carlin needs to travel back in time, save the girl and stop the terrorist, but has to be quick for the clock is ticking.... A Tony Scott/Denzel Washington collaboration is always worth watching as they usually deliver a movie with an intricate plot, thrilling action sequences, and characters that are driven by their emotions. These are rare qualities in action movies to-day. Déjà vu is no exception for it has all these qualities and more. The supporting cast is fantastic, a sublime Adam Goldberg makes a great super intelligent and witty side kick to Washington and Jim Caviezel is unnerving as the psychopath who believes his actions are for a greater good. Be warned; if you are a Val Kilmer fan, you will be a little bit disappointed as he seems to be a bystander in most events and not a participant. I have the impression that most of his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

Like all time travel stories it will leave you with questions e.g. if this event did not take place how come Carlin knew to go back and stop it happening. Unfortunately as with all time travel tales I don't think this can be avoided but don't get too hung up about it; just let it wash over you and enjoy the film. The ending is slightly weak and leans towards the saccharin but you can forgive Déjà Vu these few flaws. This is the thinking person's action movie and after you have watched it you will probably be compelled to watch it all over again.

Live Free or Die Hard

It's always about the money
John McClane is back and he's gone digital… Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is trying to scare America. He is a virtual terrorist… or so it seems. He is actually setting up a very elaborate scheme that involves quite a lot of very expendable computer hackers just to cover up the fact that he wants to steal some cash. When this little fact becomes known, you fully realise that you are watching a Die Hard Movie.

Live Free or Die Hard is the fourth installment in arguably the best action movie franchise ever seen and Die Hard 4.0 does not disappoint. It is full of the ingredients that we have come to love about the Die Hard movies. You have very intelligent, well-dressed, charismatic bad guys, John McClane getting more beat up and dirty as the film progresses (his distinctive white muscle vest is missing this time round) and thieves posing as terrorists. All of this is fairly familiar ground for the Die Hard movies; however, at no time does it seem unoriginal or clichéd, instead making you feel a little bit nostalgic as you enjoy the watching the unbelievable stunts interlaced with the odd sarcastic comments from the man himself, John McClane and his particularly sassy daughter.

There is the odd nod to the other Die Hard movies to keep the movie geeks happy. You have a Special Agent Johnson, (no relation), a brilliant cameo from Kevin Smith, and a couple of very obvious Star Wars references.

In short, Die Hard 4.0 is funny, action packed and has moved with the times. John McClane has never let us down…

Mon oncle

Satire Has Never Been This Charming!
The Arpels live in a world filled with ultra modern appliances that are all too clever to be of any real use. However, Madame Arpel's brother, Monsieur Hulot, lives in a world where a water feature and a laser-controlled garage door have no place. Hulot's world consists of horse-drawn wagons, corner stalls, and broken-down walls. When these two worlds collide, things tend to get broken. In addition, Hulot is considered to be a complete nuisance by his brother-in-law, Monsieur Arpel. Despite this, Hulot persists to enter his sister's domain, if only to marvel at an unbreakable coffeepot or to show his nephew the wondrous universe beyond his parents' electric gate.

Mon Oncle is a remarkable example of cinema and well deserved its Oscar for best foreign language film in 1959. Even though there is not much language in this movie, the little dialogue that is here is quite clipped and inconsequential. But this does not matter, as the true genius of Mon Oncle is in its visuality. There is a rich use of colour in this film, as each scene is put together beautifully. Be it the minimalist visions enhanced by the odd flash of vibrant colour within the Arpel's technologically advanced "Maison," or the autumn colours that gloriously clutter the landscape surrounding Monsieur Hulot's home, the visuals are exquisite. Mon Oncle is very much a visual masterpiece. Yet, that is not all it has to offer, as most of the jokes use not language, but sound, to heighten the impact of the comedy. Never before or since has the loud "clickety-click" of high heels or the gong of someone inadvertently walking into a lamppost been enough to make you howl with laughter! Hulot is the creation of the movie's director and star, Jacques Tati, and Mon Oncle is not his only adventure. Each of his other films depicts a similar style. And, with this character, Tati reignites and modernises a genre of comedy that would have probably died away with the talkies.

Tati brings Hulot alive, through his attention to detail in his direction and in the delightfulness of his performance. This is a film that will enchant its audience. And, fans of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin should revere Jaques Tati, as the greatest, "almost," silent comedian.


Four Men, One Obsession: Who is the Zodiac?
On December 20th, 1968, Darlene Ferrin and Mike Mageau are shot. Darlene dies and Mike lives. Seven months later, the San Francisco Chronicle receives a letter in which the writer claims he is Darlene's killer and intends to kill again. This letter would not only terrify the public, but would start an obsession for four men. This obsession would ruin marriages and careers. For the next two decades, these four men were fixated on one question, one that would never be completely answered, a question that may, within itself, be just as dangerous as finding the answer: Who is the Zodiac? Zodiac is a superb film that is as realistic and authentic as a film based on actual events film can be. It is filled with characters who can only be inspired by actual people. The film boasts an excellent cast, with every actor contributing scintillating performances. Robert Downey, Jr., is charismatic and quirky as Paul Avery, bringing this character to life, as the audience witnesses his descent from a funny and brilliant ace reporter to a practically unemployable alcoholic. Anthony Edwards is pensive and understated as the cop who cannot handle the pressure of an unsolved case. Mark Ruffalo's Detective Dave Toschi is a determined and streetwise cop whose frustration almost consumes him, as each lead produces insufficient evidence to charge a suspect. Finally, Jake Gyllenhaal's Robert Graysmith is funny and heartwarming as the cartoonist-turned-amateur-sleuth, who comes the closest to solving the crime.

The director, David Fincher, is masterful at bringing the dark and macabre to the screen and he does not disappoint with Zodiac. The attacks are not as dark or elaborate as those seen in his previous film, Se7en, yet the director still manages to portray each murder as cold, callous, and shocking. The story is brilliantly told in chronological order, starting with the first victims. We see what starts off as a routine murder investigation grow out of control, as two detectives and two reporters become consumed by the hunt for the Zodiac murderer. These four stories are presented in a way that seems believable and genuine. Their obsession seems to leap off the screen and touch its audience. As the film progresses, the viewer also becomes obsessed with the pursuit of the killer. However, this pursuit is not going to end with Harry Callahan shooting the killer dead. There is no neat Hollywood ending to this film; it will not answer all of your questions. In fact, you will find yourself asking that same question – Who is the Zodiac? The DVD extras contain the usual mix of trailers, but it also contains a "featurette" on the making of the movie. Fincher fans will love this. If you are not convinced that Fincher strived to create a film that was both authentic and unbiased, you will be after watching this insight into his process. The Zodiac DVD is available for purchase on September 24th.


The dead should stay dead - didn't you see Pet Sematary?
After witnessing the death of their mother by paranormal means, (she was sucked up into the ceiling and then burst into flames) two brothers, Sam and Dean, travel all over America to avenge her death. They hunt demons, ghosts and whatever else they can find in the hope that they will eventually capture and kill the demon responsible for their mother's demise.

Supernatural is one of the shows that is destined to follow in the footsteps of Buffy and X files, becoming a truly great dark fiction series. Season Two opens following the explosive Season One Finale. The Winchesters (Sam, Dean and their father John) are all in hospital recovering from a violent car crash. Sam and John are recovering well; however, Dean awakens only to find that he is having an out of body experience and is likely to die. Never fear, Dad comes to the rescue and makes a deal with someone that you should never make deals with (did the story of Faust teach us nothing).

John Winchester exchanges his life for Dean's and with his last breath whispers into Dean's ear that someday he may have to kill his brother because Sam has a destiny that definitely will be tainted with darkness. As the two brothers try to figure out what will happen to Sam and if they can stop it, they embark on a series of scary, humorous and entertaining adventures. Armed with shotguns filled with rock salt they encounter everything from Psycho Carnies in Clown Suits to Dead chicks that can run.

In the first part of Season Two we meet a few new characters, the best of which is Ash, a redneck MIT dropout who is all business up front and a party in the back. I hope that he will become a series regular, as he is a witty and welcome addition to the cast. We also learn a bit more about Sam's destiny as the first part of Season Two is full of intriguing hints about revelations to come.

The first Season of Supernatural was a great watch and the first part of Season Two does not disappoint. Therefore, if you love programmes that are filled with movie references and story lines that are steeped in myth and legend, you will love Supernatural.

Smallville: Vengeance Chronicles

Zod is Coming…
Clark Kent is back; armed with only super powers and flannel shirts, can he save the world from Zod…? In season 5 of Smallville, Lana Lang and Clark Kent finally get it together. Clark, who has temporarily lost his powers, feels he can finally be honest with Lana. However, their happiness is be short-lived as Clark's powers are restored, and he is forced into lying to her again. Needless to say, their on/off relationship is now off, again. But don't worry too much about Lana - Lex is there to console her… Clark, however, has other things to worry him, such as Milton Fine, a liquid-metal shape shifter (T1000 anyone?) who is putting into play a villainous scheme to bring back Zod, Krypton's version of a genocidal maniac.

Season 5, in my opinion, has tried to be to be a little bit different from other seasons of Smallville, and not necessarily to its detriment. Quite a few of the episodes are movie pastiches; the most blatant would be Mercy, which is an obvious pastiche of the Saw movies. There are many other movie tributes this season; for example, Carrie and Stir of Echoes are touched upon, to name but a few. I love movie references, personally: recognising them is the only time that I, as a total movie geek, can feel superior to others, and it is also the only time when I know that all those hours watching low-budget horror flicks has not been wasted!?! But the homage does not stop at the movies for this season. One episode has a vampire called Buffy Saunders, who Lana just has to slay, and there's a reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet in another – very highbrow for what is quintessentially a teenage drama.

For those among you who aren't distracted by allusions to other forms of popular culture, there is plenty to entertain in this season's Smallville. Lex is as shady and charismatic as usual, Chloe and Clark kiss, and Lois is her angst-filled, no- nonsense self.

Like all the other seasons of Smallville, this show owes more to programmes like X Files than it does to the original Superman comics, with the supernatural rather than the extraterrestrial element penetrating every episode. But don't lose heart, Sci-Fi fans: Zod is coming; therefore, I can only imagine that season 6 will be steeped in Superman mythology.


Father Bobby would have made a good "hit-man." It's a shame we lost him to the other side.
A journalist and a lawyer conspire together to get two brutal assassins acquitted of their most recent murder. What the world does not know is that their latest victim, Sean Nokes, tortured and raped these four men as boys. When Nokes was killed, these men were exacting their revenge for years of torment. When this movie was first released, there was a lot of controversy over whether it was a true story or not. No one really knows how much of the story is true, if any of it. I tend to step back from this argument, as I believe that it doesn't really matter. If it is true, it's a great story; and if it isn't, it still is a terrific marketing device and a great story. Sleepers is an excellent film. The plot is beautifully knitted together by a clever narrative. The events depicted on screen are, at times, hard to watch, but are brilliantly woven into a fascinating and complicated plot. The dialogue in this movie is tremendous, and the men and women of Hell's Kitchen come gloriously to life through witty turns of phrase and poignant drama. The performances are sublime. Robert De Niro makes one of the "coolest" priests I have ever seen on screen, and Brad Pitt portrays a greatly disheartened and troubled lawyer. (This proves once again my own personal theory that Pitt is fantastic when he is not the lead.) Sleepers is a movie full of anguish, remorse, and bloody, cleverly-plotted revenge. Sleepers will make you shed a tear; it will make you wince at its brutality; and, it will make you cheer on the most violent and brutal of assassins, as they are acquitted of a murder they did commit.

Rush Hour 3

Try to Avoid This Rush Hour
Lee and Carter are no Riggs and Murtaugh! An attempt on the Chinese Ambassador's life is made just as he is about to reveal the names of the Triad leaders. While the ambassador is lying in the hospital, Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) and Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) promise his daughter that they will catch the man who attempted to assassinate her father. Lee and Carter travel to Paris to save the girl, solve the crime and catch the bad guy.

The story goes that this film was not released in China because they only can release a certain number of Western films per year and they had reached their quota. Also, the other reason they gave for not releasing a film in which China's biggest star appears was that the Chinese censors found Chris Tucker's character offensive. When I heard this, I thought it was just another case of political correctness gone mad and it couldn't possibly be that bad. After seeing the movie, however, I have to agree. I wish it had not been released here either.

The movie only runs just under 90 minutes (thankfully). The stunts are nothing spectacular and the comedy set pieces are below average. In fact, the funniest part of the movie is the blooper reel at the end, which would lead me to believe that it is not the fault of the leads that the movie is not really that funny or engaging. The blame should lie firmly at the feet of the writers.

With my saying all of this, I am sure fans of the series will turn out to see it in droves; yet, I can't help but think that most will find this the weakest in the series. But don't worry, Rush Hour 4 is on its way. I am sure it will be better – well, let's face it, it couldn't be any worse.


Glorious Filth!
Revenge, treacherous intrigues, incest, betrayals, bloody violence, corrupting power, and explicit sex all contribute to the glory of Rome. Rome delights viewers by giving them a delicious taste of the villainous history of the Roman Empire, between 52 B.C. and 31 B.C.. We see the rise and bloody fall of Julius Caesar and also the political machinations that followed, between Mark Antony and Gaius Octavian Caesar (Augustus Caesar). The stories of these characters are well-known to most of us, with writers such as William Shakespeare and Robert Graves offering us detailed character portraits. However, this is where Rome strives and succeeds to be different. Rome throws out all of these noble, heroic, and clichéd images and starts afresh. Antony, for example, is portrayed as the ultimate lad, his thirst for excess and vice unrelenting, and he just loves a good barbarous battle. Whereas Octavian is an intelligent and often cruel political strategist, who prefers to sit in his tent as the battle commences. Yet, this rehashing of characters is not all that Rome has to offer, for its genius lies in other quarters. Rome brings to life creatures that are only briefly mentioned by historians, such as Vorenus and Pollo, two soldiers whose exploits are at centre-stage of all the action. And, according to Rome, both men have a profound, if often accidental, influence on Roman history. Vorenus is unintentionally responsible for Julius Caesar's death, and Pollo is responsible for Cleopatra's claim on the Roman Empire. If there are any heroes in Rome, Vorenus and Pollo are the most likely candidates. Vorenus is an honourable soldier, whose dedication to doing the right thing often leads him to ruin and unhappiness. However, Pollo is an entirely different sort of creature. He is just such a lovable, "big-bear," who the viewer can easily forgive the odd, homicidal rampage. Both men are fiercely loyal to each other, even after an argument, and they save each other's lives on numerous occasions. But Rome's "piece de resistance" is without a doubt the character of Atia of the Julii, played by Polly Walker. She is scheming, vengeful, cruel, and, at times, foul-mouthed; you cannot help but adore her. She perceives life to be a series of trivialities sent by the God's to vex her. Only when she realises that she has lost Antony and that her son has become a cold, callous opportunist, just like his mother, do we see a solemn side to Atia's nature. Of course, some will argue that Rome takes considerable liberties with history, but what writer worth their salt would ever let history get in the way of a good story? Rome informs us of the salacious and villainous exploits of Roman nobility, yet it does not forget the Plebs and the Foot Soldiers, who constitute the life-blood of any empire. This epic saga is tantamount to glorious filth, and you will love every violently lecherous minute of it.

In short, Rome is a sumptuous production that sports a superb cast and outstanding writers, and is, quite simply, sublime.

Rest Stop

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Meets Wolf Creek
A young couple decides to runaway to sunny California. They never reach their destination as they decide to pull over at the Rest Stop.

After a fight with her boyfriend, Nicole Carrow insists on pulling in to a rest stop. When she is ready to leave, she exits the bathroom to find her boyfriend has disappeared with their car, leaving her trapped on the back roads of Texas with only an abandoned camper van to keep her company.

Rest Stop is one of those cheap and tacky horror movies that could become a cult classic. Will Rest Stop become a cult classic you may ask? Well the three elements that you need to become a cult classic are gore, sex and artistic merit. Rest stop has bucket loads of gore, and while I do not want to give too much away, it contains oodles of blood-soaked nastiness. This movie has everything from the bad guy running over a cop's legs with his car several times to him making use of a pneumatic drill on a girl's leg. At times, it can be about as bloody as a film can get. It also has a gratuitous and yet somehow quite intimate love scene in the opening minutes of the film. Therefore, the sex is covered. Now the hard one – does it have any artistic merit? You never get to see the bad guy's face – you see glimpses, profiles, shadowy silhouettes. He is a faceless, relentless, monster, which alone scores highly on the artistic merit scale. The movie has very few characters in it apart from the main protagonist – Nicole Carrow (Jaimie Alexander). Since she spends a large part of the film on her own, she cannot reveal her thoughts in the course of a conversation, but must speak them aloud so that we, the audience, know what she is thinking. At times, this can be slightly irritating; however, it is a brave step by the writer (John Shiban) and it does work for the majority of the film. As an audience knows, being completely alone and isolated from civilisation is frightening enough even when you are not being chased by psychotic killers.

So, will Rest Stop become a cult classic? It probably will because along the gore, sex and arguable artistic merit, it also has plenty of chills, an interesting and inventive plot and gives rise to a lot of shouting at the screen as the main character does plenty of things you should definitely not do when running from a psychotic killer. (What fun are horror movies if you cannot complain about the stupidity of the victims?)

El laberinto del fauno

A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world…
Pan's Labyrinth is a wonderful allegorical tale filled with monsters of all kinds.

A young girl, Ofelia, travels with her pregnant mother to meet her Stepfather. Her Stepfather is a General in Franco's army and Ofelia soon learns that he is a violent and uncaring man. To escape the horror of her life, she steps into another world in which she is a Princess and monsters can be defeated.

There has been a lot of hype about Pan's Labyrinth (it was nominated for six Oscars and won three – practically unheard of for a foreign language film). Usually, when a film is getting this much good press, it's a letdown when you finally get round to watching it. This is not the case with Pan's Labyrinth. It is a bewitching tale that will keep you enthralled throughout.

Pan's Labyrinth is not a fantasy adventure filled with bright colours and cute and cuddly mythical creatures (it is more Jim Henson than Disney). The world of Pan's Labyrinth is dark and cruel, and at times the violence is relentless and startling. Despite this, it is a film filled with beauty, the kind of beauty that can only be seen in Gothic art or on a stormy winter's night.

Whether you believe that Ofelia has created a world from her imagination or whether the visions she experiences are reality, you will be fascinated by her world and all that she encounters.

Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia

What I do not give, you must never take by force.
Emperor Ping returns to his palace just before the Chong Young Festival. The Empress Phoenix, his wife, is far from happy to see his return. Ping has ordered his imperial doctor to slowly poison the empress. And, in retaliation, the Empress conspires to overthrow her husband. As hatreds fester and secret passions come to light, no one will remain untouched by the Curse of the Golden Flower.

The Director Yimou Zhang follows up House of Flying Daggers and Hero with his most lavish epic yet. Curse of the Golden Flower is an extraordinary film. It is a big-budget extravaganza that is reminiscent of some of the Hollywood epics of the fifties and sixties. As with all Zhang's western exports, his use of colour is incredible. The palace of Emperor Ping is brought to the screen in a blaze of arresting colour. Every costume and set create a world of sumptuous majesty a world that you will be immediately drawn into.

Of course, like all Asian Cinema, this film has the usual martial arts set pieces throughout, but it does not seem to rely on them to keep the audience interested. Instead, the film uses a complex plot involving the power struggle between the two leads. Chow Yun Fat, as Ping, presents a character who is ruthless and dogmatic, and Gong Li's Empress Phoenix is vulnerable and defiant. Both stars' performances are beyond reproach, and all of these qualities come together to create a gloriously opulent saga.

The Curse of the Golden Flower is an epic filled with intrigue and breathtakingly-bloody battle scenes, all set against a backdrop of radiantly decadent colour. If you liked Flying Daggers and Hero, you will adore the Curse of the Golden Flower.

The Crucible

Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
After being caught dancing naked in the woods, Abigail Williams hatches a plan with the other girls in the village. Abigail claims that she has been fighting to save her own soul, as she is surrounded by people who worship the devil. Instead of dismissing these claims as foolish ramblings of a young girl, the town elders encourage her hysteria. Accusations fuelled by provincial politics, greed, spite, paranoia, and fear become commonplace. Many people are forced to make the ultimate sacrifice rather than tarnish their good name. Arthur Miller was a prodigious American writer and I am sure, when making a movie of one of his plays, there is a certain amount of trepidation on the part of the Director and the actors to do a reputable job. After all, Mr Miller is not going to be blamed if they make a lousy film. Thankfully, Miller was available to write the screenplay. With a cast that included Daniel Day Lewis, Joan Allen, and Wynona Ryder in her heyday, not much can go wrong and it doesn't. The Crucible is a superb film, filled with frightening insights into mob mentality. It also shows how situations can get completely out of control when rational thought is replaced by foolishness and cruel intolerance. You may argue that The Crucible has lost some of its original impact. It was first shown to American audiences in the 1950s, during McCarthy Era. However, the subtext is still very relevant today because, unfortunately, intolerance, injustice, and mass hysteria are still problems that people face the world over. The Crucible is a compelling film with a formidable cast that looks and sounds authentic. You can't get much better than that!


It was the time of Gods and Immortals. It was the time of Kings and Warriors. It was the time of King Leonidas and his 300.

It is 480 B.C., and the Persian Army sends emissaries to Sparta to ask them to surrender peacefully to Persian rule. Insulted by the Persians contempt for the strength of the Spartan Army, the Spartan King Leonidas refuses to kneel before Xerxes - the King of Persia and self proclaimed God. King Leonidas chooses 300 Spartan Warriors to stop the entire Persian Empire from invading Greece. The Spartans assemble at the entrance to a narrow passage in an attempt to stop the Persian Army's advances. 300 Spartans stand fast, holding off hundreds of thousands of Persian Warriors known as the Immortals. Only when the Spartans are betrayed do the finally succumb to the Persian army. Word of their bravery and strength spreads throughout the Hellenic Empire and their story becomes a legend.

300 is a modern classic, a violent and beautiful tale of men who refuse to surrender to a totalitarian regime. It is a war movie with a surreal feel, it is a story that is steeped in mythos, and every chapter of this tale is lavishly brought to the screen in a movie that is as visually stunning as it is compelling.

In movies such as 300, which rely strongly on visual effects to "wow" the audience, the acting and characters usually suffer. This is not the case with 300. Gerard Butler is bold, butch and brilliant as Leonidas; Dominic West is deliciously villainous, and Lena Headey is strong, elegant and regal as Leonidas' Queen. In addition, David Wehham's narration superbly knits together epic battles, traitors and political corruption.

In short, 300 is a visually stunning classic that is filled with brains and brawn. It is a must see for anyone who likes tales filled with heroism, glory, loincloths and six packs.

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