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Moving, faithful adaptation of a bestseller
22 September 2000
One had to feel sorry for Alan Parker in 1999. When he started filming ANGELA'S ASHES, it was based on a new book which was relatively unknown, and was sure to be a hit once the film came out. By the end of shooting however, the book was an international bestseller, and all eyes were on Parker and his team to come out with the official visual aide to the book. The pressure was undoubtedly huge, and fortunately this film film is in no way disappointing.

Frank McCourt's superb writing is lovingly captured in a humourous narration that runs throughout the film. The three boys playing Frankie of varying ages are all wonderful, and manage not to get the viewer so deep into pity, but creates a witty, almost ironic look at life in Limerick, which seemed to be the only way the residents at that time could hope to survive. The leads, Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle are both stunning - how Emily Watson coped with portraying so much pain is astounding. And a superbly moving, but simple score by John Williams complements the film perfectly.

One of the great hits of 1999, ANGELA'S ASHES is a must.
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Thunderball (1965)
Another great Bond adventure
22 September 2000
THUNDERBALL represents the fourth film in the Bond franchise, and although it shows to be the builder of a platform on which all other Bonds would rest, it also shows Connery getting slightly itchy (not to mention wet!) feet to do something else. However, it is the film-makers huge vision, as well as the return of director Terence Young that make THUNDERBALL an undoubted classic in the Bond franchise.

Although in this day and age of such fast moving cinema the underwater sequences might seem a little drawn out, one has to remember that it was all so new to cinema in 1965. It was even the first time that someone came into a room and threw their hat on the hatstand!
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Hook (1991)
Wonderful fantasy
12 September 2000
HOOK is a film for kids, watched by adults, and therefore criticised. It is true that it was made at a period in Spielberg's life when he really should have been growing up himself (his next two features were Jurassic Park and Schindler's List, made back to back), but take this film at face value and you find a warm, sentimental piece of American culture.

The cast all play out their roles superbly, especially Dustin Hoffman as the inimitable Captain Hook. The music is sweeping and glorious, and Spielberg has endeavoured to make the whole film appear fantastic and magical. My only criticism would be its length. Two and a quarter hours is a little long for most childrens' attention spans, and it is best viewed in two seperate installments. Other than this, HOOK is an enjoyably journey into a magical land.
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Goldfinger (1964)
Fantastic - worth the reputation
11 September 2000
If FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was the film that assured Bond of a franchise, then GOLDFINGER was the film that assured Bond of the most successful fanchise ever. Looking back on this film, now over 25 years old, it is not difficult to understand why the 007 legacy remains as strong today.

GOLDFINGER is an exceptional film in every way. In my opinion it is the best Bond of them all, with Connery at his finest, one of the most chilling villains, together with the most famous henchman sidekick. Shirley Eaton is gorgeous as the famous painted lady, and Honor Blackman smoulders on screen.

With probably the best score of all the Bonds as well, GOLDFINGER still, and will continue to remain one of the classic action pictures of all time. Amazing...
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Sleepers (1996)
Excellent, moving film
9 September 2000
Making a movie of such a controversial account that is told in the book of SLEEPERS, must have been a daunting task, especially when you fill it with A-list movie stars, some of which are not known for their sentimental sides.

However, Levinson has created a masterpiece, and a film that everyone should watch. All the actors give mindblowing performances, without one weak link. This includes the four child actors, who dominate half of the movie, but obviously don't receive as much press as their older counterparts. These four kids were outstanding in roles that must have been truly harrowing to play.

Add to this a great score from John Williams, and you will come back to this film time and time again.
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Rocky IV (1985)
Good politically incorrect fun!
9 September 2000
This was actually the first Rocky movie I had ever watched, and so remains one of my favourite. Aside from this bias though, ROCKY 4 is definitely an improvement on the other two previous sequels, which is a blessed relief. Dolph Lundgren makes the perfect mis-interpreted villain in an early, pre-Hollywood come-down role. Stallone is also excellent in the title role, and Carl Weathers bows out spectacularly.

A silly storyline and some rather close-to-the-bone references to the Cold War make this popcorn fodder rather than the moving biography of the first film, but it is to be enjoyed nonetheless.
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Not as action packed as some, but a good film
9 September 2000
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was most probably the film you can pinpoint as the foundation for the most successful franchise ever. However, it doesn't grab the attention as much as others, but is notable for the introduction of many Bond trademarks.

Connery is as suave and comfortable in the role as he ever is, and add with that beautiful women, dastardly baddies, and the original Bond director Terence Young, and this movie (despite its production problems) was never going to fail.

The plot is somewhat confusing (mostly unnecessarily), but it will hold the attention. I wouldn't rate it as well as Dr No, however, although I know this does not comply with overall public opinion!
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Jaws (1975)
The original monster movie, and the best
6 September 2000
JAWS is simply an awesome movie to watch. Forget all the intellectual claims that it reinvented the Hollywood blockbuster, and invented the summer smash - it's a damn good movie. Spielberg, against all odds, persisted in his quest to make a monster movie that satisfies every angle of viewing. We are perfectly in touch with the characters and their motives, and his ability to make a rubber shark 25 years ago that still scares you is simply amazing.

However Spielberg has often said that JAWS would not have been half the success it was if it wasn't for the score, and he is absolutely right. John Williams had his finest moment to date when he sat down at the piano and decided to make a main theme from 3 notes. Although it would be a crime to dismiss the score as variations on a 3-note theme. The action cues are amazing, and the recently released soundtrack is a must for every film-music buff.
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Pretty dreary stuff I'm afraid
31 August 2000
Not maybe as bad as some of IMDB's reviewers have made it out to be, but a pretty dull film nonetheless. It's major fault is that it tries to be something it clearly isn't - an intelligent social drama of a comedy. This is nothing more than an excuse for TV-star Schwimmer to pull as many confused/hurt/rejected faces as possible. If it just concentrated in providing the viewer with 90 minutes' trashy escapism it could have got away with its many flaws. However the film lingers far too much on everyday events, portraying them as though this is groundbreaking cinema. Paltrow is as wooden as an old garden shed, and the supporting cast were...sorry, don't recall a single one having any impact whatsoever.

A potential popcorn piece is sadly a misguided miserable mess.
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A warm, well-performed film that must be seen
26 August 2000
I always somehow shy away from films that clean up at Oscar ceremonies - they rarely live up to their hype. However SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is a wonderful testament to a long-gone, but still very relevant era.

Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow make a fantastic duo as the leads in this movie, and there are many small cameos from some excellent British actors. Martin Clunes especially plays a wonderful role here. The larger supporting roles are equally well performed, in particular by Colin Firth and the ever-wonderful Judi Dench.

The story will definitely renew interest in Shakespeare, and should be seen as an education (albeit fictional) in English literature.
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Twin Town (1997)
Not bad, but could have been a lot better
25 August 2000
Danny Boyle is in many ways the British answer to Quentin Tarantino. Despite Boyle not having complete authority over TWIN TOWN, his trademarks are definitely present, and many parts of this film are truly excellent. However, the film as a whole seems to lack true continuity, as it seems to be a loose, simple plot formed by sporadic situations that the writers feel are funny (in many ways they are). Which brings me on to the Tarantino connection - one has to only watch 20 minutes of his films to realise the man is in love with situations - whether they be from circumstance or dialogue. However Quentin is the true master of this kind of film-making. A lesser creator will provide interesting and funny scenes, but with a taste of incompletion left in the mouth.

That said, TWIN TOWN is acted wonderfully, and the Swansea setting makes for some interesting and novel humour. Whereas some of the violence seems a little contrived, it is refreshing to see new kinds of film-making, and moreso to see it grow from the mind of Brits!
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Sirens (1994)
Very funny, but cannot escape from the soft-porn section
23 August 2000
SIRENS is actually a very good film, despite the likes of dithering Hugh Grant, wooden Sam Neill and a bunch of models who had never acted before. The idea is a wonderful one, and amidst all the nudity and profligacy lies a child-like innocence that one can easily relate too.

There is a sweeping score from English Rachel Portman that carries the viewer to a far off land where miracles do happen (3 of them to be exact - or is that 6?), and the direction and photography are both beautifully done.

However this film will never be seen as more than a chance to exploit the human form, although its intention seems to be to glorify it. And if the former is your reason for watching, you will not be disappointed!
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Well made, but we've seen it all before
23 August 2000
THE RIVER WILD holds no surprises as to its content. The cast work well together (although I found Bacon unusually wooden), but the entire movie sets itself up in a matter of minutes. With very little of the film actually involving white-water rapids, I couldn't help but feel a little cheated. Also we were given no background to the killers motives, so it was very hard to really get involved with the situation. One for TV only.
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Stuart Little (1999)
Fantastic effects but that's about it!
22 August 2000
A common problem lies with all big-budget movies that feature 'break-through' special effects. Sometimes these effects are so good, that once the viewer has accepted them as real, they don't seem as impressive. A great example of this is THE LOST WORLD - dinos had been done, we believed them to be real characters, so we naturally start looking at other, more traditional aspects of film - and they were not so good. STUART LITTLE suffers the same fate. The big cheese is realistic fur, and the mouse is superb throughout, however look past the amazing work they have done, and this is simply a rehashed film from 100s made in the past.

The cast work well together - I would question the likelihood of Laurie and Davis ever marrying, but I suppose that in a world where talking mice are the norm, anything could happen! Michael J Fox is excellently cast as Stuart (although wouldn't a younger voice be more endearing for the kids?). My only real complaint was the cats - although hilariously voiced, the CG-cats were sometimes embarrassingly plastic. But all in all, the 300 children sitting around me loved every minute, so who am I to moan???
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Snake Eyes (1998)
Excellent nail-biting action
22 August 2000
SNAKE EYES had the the making of a very bad film in my opinion - don't ask me why I just didn't think I as going to like it. But how wrong could I have been. Nicholas Cage is explosive, as is Gary Sinise. The female lead is exquisite and the direction impeccable. The camera work throughout these famously long takes is astounding, and really adds to the excitement.

Brian de Palma has had a few near misses recently, but SNAKE EYES represents what he does best. An excellent movie all round.
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Sliding Doors (1998)
Nice idea but ultimately unsatisfying
12 August 2000
SLIDING DOORS must have started out with a big party in some big film office somewhere, as the idea behind the film is genius, never done before, and very topical in its thinking. The film starts very well as we are introduced to our heroine, our villain, our mistress, our knight in shining armour and the neat twist that runs this plot. However from that moment on the film starts to fall rapidly downhill. Paltrow proves bland and unappealing in both scenarios, and Hannah (strange choice..?) does his best to inject some chemistry into a formula that was never going to react!

The problem is that SLIDING DOORS relies completely on it's idea, and for a 90-minute film the viewer needs more. The ending is deeply unsatisfying and gives no point to the differing scenarios, almost dismissing its own theory as pointless after all.

Enjoyable for Gwyneth fans only I'm afraid.
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The slowest of starts turns into an amazing display
5 August 2000
By the time THE PERFECT STORM had ended, I was only thinking about how much I had loved it. The effects were amazing, they were accompanied by a sweeping score from James Horner, and more people had visited the toilet than any other film I know (lots of water I guess!). However if I'd had to leave the film halfway through, I would have dismissed it as the most boring pointless movie ever.

Ever have that annoying experience of suddenly deciding you want to see a film then discovering that every single one has been on for half an hour? Well it is a problem no more - nothing happens in this film for at least 45 minutes. The acting is embarrassing over the developement of characters we really don't care about one bit. But thankfully the effects-laden 2nd half more than makes up for it. Beautifully executed sequences are presented seamlessly, and whereas the ending seems surprisingly abrupt, it will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
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Fight Club (1999)
A blockbusting powerhouse of a movie
3 August 2000
The first thing I saw when I came to IMDB's entry for FIGHT CLUB was the words "Don't come much better than this". This simple statement sums up this amazing, breakthrough movie.

The sheer size of imagination required to create a film like this beggars belief. This truly is a movie like no other, and although shocking in content, is strangely alluring in its ways. David Fincher deserves an Oscar for his immaculate direction, and the performances of leads Norton, Pitt and Bonham-Carter are flawless. Much like THE SIXTH SENSE, the movie benefits greatly from a second viewing (you will be surprised!), and a third, a fourth, etc etc.

You get the idea - stop reading this drivel - WATCH IT!!!!!!!
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Jerry Maguire (1996)
A moving, well-crafted film
3 August 2000
What a relief it is to find a major A-list blockbuster star that can actually carry an acting-based film without the aid of trick photography, doubles, stunts and explosions. As a big Cruise fan I was eagerly awaiting his portrayal of a sports agent, and I wasn't disappointed.

JERRY MAGUIRE is wonderful in every way. Cruise is magnificent, as is the beautiful Zellwegger. A cuthroat world in showbiz sport is realistically exposed by fantastic writing and direction. A well-deserved thumbs-up for all involved.
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Jack (1996)
Quite charming, but Coppola????????
27 July 2000
This could have been an absolutely wonderful film, but due to a one big criticism it remains a nice film, in all the bog-standard sense of the word.

Robin Williams plays the part of a 10-year old trapped in a 40-year old's body, but the big problem is that we can't help but see Robin Williams himself. Anyone that has seen his stand-up comedy will know that Williams is exactly that (10 years old trapped in a body 30 years senior). Whilst his performance would have been quite believable, the film would have worked much better with a lesser-known actor (even one not known for comedy) in the role. I still cannot believe that the great FFC directed this film - it defies all movie sense. However he has done a fine job, and the cast work well together. Miss Lopez makes a very appealing schoolteacher (only in Hollywood!!), and the child actors work hard.

Good fun, but you may find yourself frustrated.
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Tango & Cash (1989)
Usual rubbish for the end of a dodgy decade
26 July 2000
TANGO & CASH is everything you would expect from a cop-buddies movie from the late 80s, and sadly that isn't very good. Stallone is watchable in a surprisingly intelligent role, but Kurt Russell delivers the kind of performance that will make you pleased that we no longer live in that millennium, let alone decade!

There is one great performance here, delivered by Jack Palance, the archetypal 80s bad guy. An early performance from Teri Hatcher is cringe-worthy though, and the chemistry between her and Russell is embarassingly non-existant!

Watch it if you really have nothing else to do!
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Dante's Peak (1997)
Enjoyable, but poorer cousin of VOLCANO
22 July 2000
It's a pity that DANTE'S PEAK was released with VOLCANO, as it really is a better movie. However VOLCANO had the bigger star, the bigger effects and the bigger budget. But I have to confess I enjoyed Brosnan's effort a lot more.

The plot is as simple as it is spelled out. All the Hollywood trademarks are here, a damsel in distress, mouthy but ultimately cute kids, and a 'deep respect' for the forces of Mother Nature. There is sadly a complete lack of chemistry between the leads (Brosnan and Linda Hamilton), and one can't get the image of her tough-girl TERMINATOR role out of one's head. And why is she running a coffee-shop at the same time as running a town???

The effects are disappointingly sparse, and the big scene (Brosnan+truck v Molten lava) is highly improbable to the point of spoiling. Nevertheless you cannot fail to be swept along by this cheery molten yarn.
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Engaging, moving drama
22 July 2000
CIRCLE OF FRIENDS marks my first step towards appreciating the talents of Minnie Driver. I'm not a great fan, but she and co-star Chris O'Donnell have headlined this emotional story with definite conviction.

The story is simple - 3 childhood friends growing up through life, with their sexual developement testing the strengths of their friendship. The film is captivating through O'Donnell and Driver's performances, and there is a great supporting effort from the ever-reliable Alan Cumming. This is a moving film that will be identified by all who watch it.
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L.A. Story (1991)
Fascinatingly weird, but ultimately enjoyable
22 July 2000
LA STORY is one of those films that leaves you feeling like maybe you shouldn't have enjoyed the movie as much as you did. Looking back on the film, the plot is absolutely preposterous, the characters are entirely one-dimensional and the acting questionable. Yet I don't think there is anyone out there that wouldn't ultimately enjoy this fantasy.

Steve Martin is in top form (maybe the last decent film he did before BOWFINGER), and the wacky charm throughout makes the comedy fresh and exciting. Tremendous cameo support from the likes of Chevy Chase, Rick Moranis and Woody Harrellson add to make LA STORY a fresh comedy with lots of appeal.
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Exactly what I expected
22 July 2000
Thank god the 80s are gone - movies may not seem like the deepest arts medium at the moment, but gone are the days where a single star could walk his way around a movie so badly flung together, and think it clever.

THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE is neither entertaining nor awful - it is the film equivalent of dry bread - boring but not entirely unpleasant. Tom Hanks shows little of what he was going to be capable of, and the supporting cast (including a dreadful turn by Carrie Fisher) look lost and uninterested. Say no to non-films - buy some jam!!
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