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21 Grams (2003)
An extremely powerful, dark and heavy drama - originally put together and quite brilliantly acted, 23 January 2004

21 Grams is the second film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the director behind the brilliant 2001 Mexican film, Amores Perros.

In his second feature, he keeps the same style of a fragmented narrative style and the same themes, which are mainly death, tragedy and the importance of relationships.

21 Grams is a heavy and dark drama which follows the lives of 3 characters. Paul Rivers (Sean Penn); a college Maths professor who lives with his girlfriend and suffers from a rare and serious heart condition. Christina Peck (Naomi Watts); a loving wife and caring mother of two, maturing as a young adult after a reckless youth with the help of her family. And Jack Jordan (Bencio Del Toro); an ex-con who has devoted his life to his faith, finds it hard to remain in the same job, a husband and a father of two.

These three different characters lives are entwined when a tragic and fatal car crash significantly effects each in way one or another.

21 Grams is an emotionally draining and at times depressing film and is definatley not for the faint hearted. The fragmented narrative style is at times confusing for the audience but also intriguing, always making the viewer think.

The performances from Penn, Del Toro and in particular Noami Watts are quite outstanding. We probably wont see any other film this year which offers such amazing acting by three actors in the one film.

A solid and very originally made film - 7/10

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
An original and comedic concept, yet fails to captivate the audience, 22 January 2004

Wag the Dog, a film by Barry Levinson (Bandits, Rain Man & Good Morning Vietnam), has an original concept however fails to deliver the poignant and dynamic effect it should create on the viewer.

When the President of the United States becomes involved in a sex scandal just a week before the election, a 'spin doctor' (Robert De Niro) is called in to fix the problem. He sees that the only way to divert the publics and more importantly the media's attention away from the President's scandal is to create a fake war. However creating an artificial war isn't an easy task, so De Niro's character, Conrad Brean, goes about finding a famous Hollywood movie producer, Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman).

Hoffman and De Niro are both brilliant as usual, however as the film unfolds the tail becomes more and more unrealistic while the script fails to captivate the viewer and produce the strongly compelling effect which the plot should create.

All in all Wag the Dog is an original, quirky, well acted and slightly funny film however is nothing brilliant. 6/10

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A brilliantly original piece of fictional film making, 20 January 2004

From the creators of Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (Director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman), Being John Malkovich is a splendid and incredibly original film which on top of the unique script boasts an all-star cast (John Cusak, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich).

The plot is unique and complex and centers around the life of Craig Schwartz (John Cusak), an unemployed and unsuccessful puppeteer. His simple, modest life takes an abrupt and confusing turn when he accepts a job as a file clerk on the 7th and a half floor of an office building in NYC. Here he becomes obsessed with a co-worker, Maxine (Catherine Keener) and starts to fantasize of a romance with her, despite his marriage (to wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz)).

Things become even more strange and complicated when Craig discovers a portal in his office, which, when entered, takes you into the head of famous actor, John Malkovich (playing himself). From here on in the the lives of Craig, Lotte and Maxine become entwined, complicated and very strange as they attempt to work out the best possible solution for their own problems, needs and desires.

Being John Malkovich is one of the most brilliant, original and unique films of the last decade, if not of all time. Kaufman's script combined with Jonze's directing is the perfect match and compliments each others unique way of story telling, pushing all the boundaries of fictional story telling and creating an utterly compelling and clever film.

An excellent film - 8/10!

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A terrific, feel-good British comedy/drama - 7/10, 13 January 2004

About a Boy is a great film from the writer of High Fidelity (Nick Horny) and the directors of American Pie (The Weitz bros).

Starring Hugh Grant, Toni Collete and Rachael Weisz, the story is centred around two complete opposites - Hugh Grant's character, Will, a 30-something bachelor who lives off his father's wealth and a young and slightly odd teenager, Marcus (Nicholas Hault), who's finds it difficult to fit in at school and manage his manic depressive mother (Toni Collete). When this unlikely pair find each other they form a life-changing relationship which helps both overcome the difficulties one another are experiencing.

With a terrific soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy, About a Boy is a delightful comedy/drama which mixes all the elements of good movie making to create a truly feel-good film.

Rushmore (1998)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Simply Brilliant!, 5 January 2004

Rushmore, directed by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and starring Bill Murray, is a superb, light-hearted and hilariously funny film about a boy named Max - a 15-year-old student at Rushmore college who excels and enjoys participating in all areas of the school life.

Max (Jason Schwartzman) is a bright, well spoken and extremely enthusiastic member of Rushmore who organises and runs a large number of varied co-corricular school activities, ranging from skeet shooting and bee keeping clubs to directing awesome school plays. However Max suffers from a lack of study thanks to his abundance in his extra school activities and faces expulsion from Rushmore if his grades do not improve.

Things get out of hand for Max when he falls in love with the Grade 2 English teacher (Olivia Williams) and from here on in Max has to battle his troubles with school and his personal life simultaneously.

Rushmore in my opinion is an absolute brilliant film. Wes Anderson tells this story with style and a unique craftmanship for his work, creating a querky, light-hearted and generally very fun film. It's hard to express the brilliance of Wes Anderson and his unique way of creating such a great film. He's a truly great individual and original film maker.

I would rate The Royal Tenenbaums a slightly better film - as it's a more complete film than Rushmore, but equally funny and entertaining.

I suggest watching this movie at least twice, as it only gets better the more you watch it!

A brilliant film! A must-see. 8/10

The Hole (2001)
9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Lacks depth in plot while Thora Birch's performance is dissapointing, especially after American Beauty and Ghost World..., 25 October 2003

The Hole isn't that bad a film, its just that it lacks the components which a good thriller/suspence/mystery should have.

The Hole, starring Thora Birch, is a suspence/mystery and is about a group of high-school teenagers who become stuck in an old, World War 2 tunnel, called 'the hole'. The group of four decide to camp down in the hole for a few days to wag a school geography camp and have a good time. However, all goes wrong and the four become stuck in the hole for 18 days, deprived of air, food and water.

The suspence lies in not knowing exactly how they became stuck in the hole and who's to blame for their dire situation. The plot structure is based around Lizzy's escape, while she continues to have flashbacks of the event itself. However, different flashbacks occur at different stages of the film, which leaves the viewer never really knowing the exact truth until the end.

If you've watched your fare share of suspence type mystery thrillers, then you should be able to sum this movie up pretty quickly and be able to guess basically what's going on. The plot and plot structure arn't terribly original and I never really found myself becomming attached or captivated by what was going on. The film lacks character development and you never really become attached to the characters to the point were you intensely care what's happening to them. Thora Birch's performance is dissapointing and not terribly convincing. She's good, but no where near her brilliance when you compare this performance to her roles in American Beauty and Ghost World.

The Hole is overall dissapointing and never really draws you in like a good mystery thriller will. I give it 6/10.