11th March 2006
The White Countess
12:00 AM — The death of producer Ismail Merchant in May last year marked the end of an era for British film-making. As one half of the Merchant Ivory team, the "Ivory" being director James Ivory, his name has become synonymous with the kind of lavish costume drama which typified British films for much of the latter half of the 20th Century, teaming up on more than 40 film projects, including the much-loved adaptations A Room With A View (1985), Howards End (1992) and The Remains of the Day (1993). The White Countess is the last product of this partnership, which has brought more intelligent and lavish versions of literary classics to the big screen than any other.
10th February 2006
Good Night, And Good Luck
12:00 AM — Considering that George Clooney's career started off with a pile of awful nonsense like Return to Horror High and Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and that his return to the big screen after finally getting famous with TV hospital drama ER was blighted by the disastrous campness of Batman and Robin and tedious nonsense of The Peacemaker, his successes of the last few years are nothing short of amazing.Not content with reviving both his own and director Steven Soderbergh's careers with a wonderfully charming performance in 1998's rom/com crime caper Out of Sight, he has gone on to turn in some genuinely great performances in a succession of modern classics.
Aeon Flux 1
12:00 AM — In 1991 MTV introduced a new adult-themed cartoon to its Liquid Television series, a dialogue-free short packed with stylishly frenetic action and centred around a girl in a leather bikini who got killed every episode on some kind of impossible mission. By 1995, this short cartoon had been expanded into a series of half-hour shows, now with dialogue and with the fetish gear-clad heroine actually managing to survive.
12:00 AM — In 1980, writer/director John Carpenter scared the bejeezus out of everyone with his zombie ghost story The Fog - where a coastal town is terrorised by a strange mist and the loping masses of long-dead, cursed sailors. Its simplicity was a large part of its charm - it had no pretences to be anything other than a zombie horror B-movie, yet, by the standards of the time, its pacing and atmosphere were perfectly accomplished.
12:00 AM — Fresh from a much-lauded and award-nominated turn as a rugged and secretly gay cowboy coming to terms with his love for another man in Brokeback Mountain, Heath Ledger here returns to more familiar territory, proving both his rampant heterosexuality and his great comic timing. After all, how better to demonstrate that just because you've played a gay cowboy doesn't mean you're gay than by taking on the role of the most infamous seducer of women in history?
26th January 2006
Fun With Dick And Jane
12:00 AM — There seems to have been a spate of comedy remakes of TV shows and films from the 60s and 70s recently, be it Bewitched or Starsky and Hutch, The Producers or The Longest Yard. Some have been more successful than others.With this updating of the 1977 husband and wife robbers caper, originally starring George Segal and Jane Fonda as the down-on-their-luck middle class types forced into a life of crime, director Dean Parisot has cunningly picked a film now largely forgotten in the hope of having less to live up to.
The Matador 1
12:00 AM — Fresh from being booted out of his most famous role as James Bond, Pierce Brosnan hits the big screen once again in a role that seems to have given him an immense amount of fun.In fact, those who know Brosnan primarily from his Bond turns - or perhaps as Remmington Steele in the 1980s TV show of the same name through which he first found fame - may not really have noticed that he's got a wonderful comic ability.
12:00 AM — Having become the darling of the Jewish world with his masterly portrayal of the sheer horror of the Holocaust in 1993's Schindler's List, Hollywood's biggest director has now risked being denounced by those who formerly praised him for highlighting some of the less savoury policies of the state of Israel, in a highly topical action thriller based on real events from more than 30 years ago.Considering the sheer levels of vitriol involved in the Israel/Palestine conflict, where to show any indication of criticising Israeli policy can lead to accusations of anti-Semitism, for a non-Jewish director to try and dramatise an aspect of the long-running and bloody dispute would have simply been begging for widespread condemnation.
Zathura: A Space Adventure
12:00 AM — In 1995, the still relatively new movie technology of computer-generated effects was employed to good effect in the Robin Williams-starring Jumanji, a children's adventure flick based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg in which a board game, the titular Jumanji, could magically affect real life.A decade on, we get another children's adventure based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg in which a board game, the titular Zathura, magically affects real life.
Walk the Line
12:00 AM — A little over a year ago, a biopic of a groundbreaking, near-legendary, recently-deceased singer-songwriter whose life had been filled with more than its fair share of tragedy and upset along with the success earned wild critical praise and numerous awards.Much was made about the accuracy of the central performance, with praise heaped upon the actor responsible for his vocal mimicry and attention to detail, as well as how the actor had got to know and gain the blessing of the person he was portraying before he died.
12:00 AM — Although Disney studios have got a great and profitable film franchise on the go with the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the animated division has not been faring so well. Depending on whose opinion you ask, either 1999's Tarzan or even as far back as 1994's The Lion King was the last genuinely good Disney cartoon.Since the arrival of the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks and the 3D computer-animated successes of films like Shrek, Toy Story and The Incredibles, Disney's position as the undisputed king of Hollywood animation has been so badly undermined that many no longer even consider it a competitor for the title.
11th January 2006
Brokeback Mountain 5
12:00 AM — In one of the most remarkable films of recent years, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play a pair of cowboys desperately and secretly in a love in rural American.Ledger plays Ennis Del Mar, a young ranch hand of few words, set side by side with chatty rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal).During a season herding sheep across the mountains, the pair become close and experience a passionate sexual relationship.
24th December 2005
Memoirs Of A Geisha
12:00 AM — Originally to have been directed by Steven Spielberg, this big screen adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name is so sprawling in its period complexity, and takes place in such an unusual setting for a Hollywood film, that an experienced hand on the tiller was always going to be necessary.Taking a story set in pre-war Japan, with an almost exclusively Japanese and Chinese cast, would have been a challenge even for the current master of American cinema.
12:00 AM — Yep, it's that time of year - the perennial excuse for film fans the world over to ask, "Has Woody Allen finally got good again?" Meanwhile, a whole slew of others rant on about how he was never any good in the first place.Whichever side of the argument you tend to lean towards, New York's very own paranoid whiner is back with his annual big screen excursion, and it is guaranteed to spark some debate.
12th December 2005
12:00 AM — Films based on books are commonplace. Films based on plays are likewise ten a penny. Films about putting on plays also have a long tradition in Hollywood, especially when, as here, the "putting on a show" idea provides an excuse for a number of song and dance numbers. On top of this, these days remakes of existing movies seem to be cropping up every month. But it is still rare - in fact well-nigh unprecedented - to get a film adaptation of a play that was itself an adaptation of a film that was about putting on a play.
7th December 2005
March of the Penguins
12:00 AM — We've been spoiled in Britain when it comes to nature documentaries. Since the 1950s, the British public has had innumerable superb expeditions into the wonderful world of wildlife beamed into their homes thanks to a combination of the BBC and the national treasure that is Sir David Attenborough, all of which have been in equal measures fascinating and expertly produced.
12:00 AM — How do you follow up on the most successful and critically acclaimed film trilogy since the original Star Wars movies? What do you do next after proving your critics wrong and pulling off a great adaptation of a book many still considered to be unfilmable? How do you move on from the longest and most complex deliberately-planned film shoot in the history of cinema?
12:00 AM — War films produced through cooperation between the combatant countries have had a fairly solid track record over the years. There's the epic re-telling of the Normandy Landings, 1962's The Longest Day, a British/German/French co-production, 1970's American/Japanese take on the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tora! Tora! Tora! and the British/Japanese prisoner of war movie Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence from 1983, all of which are superb in not only their historical accuracy but also their sensitivity.
Just Like Heaven
12:00 AM — Yet another one of those films where you can just imagine the studio execs hammering out the pitch, which can't have been anything other than, "Ghost, but with the genders reversed - and it's a comedy!"Yep, whereas 1990's Ghost featured the living Demi Moore doing the whole love thing with the ghost of Patrick Swayze, helped out by a female medium, here we get the living Mark Ruffalo falling in love with the ghost of Reece Witherspoon, helped out by a male psychiatrist. And on top of that, they've chucked in the When Harry Met Sally idea (in itself pinched from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing) that on first meeting, they hate each other