Curl up and enjoy one of these brilliant films.
If you thought Ghostbusters was Bill Murray's finest hour you are in for a shock as Lost In Translation is a subtle affair, all about melancholy and mood. Cultures collide in this movie. Old meets young. East meets west. The rushing world outside threatens to intrude on inner thoughts. And the loneliness of Murray?s middle-aged actor, awkward but at ease with Scarlett Johansson as a listless teen wife, makes for a tale that is at times painful, but always poignant in spades.
Lost In Translation
Lost In Translation
O Brother Where Art Thou
There are so many things that impress in O Brother Where Art Thou? Theres George Clooney check. A stellar cast including Holly Hunter, Charles Durning and John Turturro check. Theres a swampy blue grass soundtrack, which got a Grammy for its troubles. And there are the Midas-like skills of cinemas favourite brothers, Ethan and Joel Coen.
O Brother Where Art Thou is a re-telling of Homers Odyssey (bet you wouldnt have guessed that). Set in the depression-era southern states, it is a Stooge-like stagger through bad times and mad times of three escaped convicts who unwittingly embark on an unlikely musical career. Charming, funny and unique, and as good as the Coen Bros get.
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Its clear from the outset that Kevin Spaceys character, Lester Burnham, is about to meet a sticky end, and before the movie is over we discover how it is going to happen. Is it something to do with his wifes (Annette Benning) affair? Or his daughters Lolita-esque friend (Mena Suvari)? This is an understated tale of inner despair in suburbia. Beware the killer hook at the end.
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Go back in time with this Oscar-winning adventure, set in second-century Rome. Gladiator made stars of Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix (not just down to the fetching chainmail), and added the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture to director Ridley Scotts trophy room. Famed for its sword-splicing greatness as well as battle scenes that demand sharp intakes of breath, its an emotionally involving epic on an old Hollywood scale.
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We all know the story: eleven year old Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) lives in the manly north where real lads go boxing and only sissy boys dance. Billys talent for ballet is indulged, on the quiet, by teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters). Defying Billys macho dad (Gary Lewis) and brother (Jamie Draven), she pushes her protégé to a Royal Ballet School audition, and a chance to succeed.
Billys oppressive world is painted in expert strokes by director Stephen Daldry, who allows his young star to shine in the euphoric ending. This is the perfect film to add a life-affirming glow to winters Sunday afternoons.
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Once seen, never forgotten: Memento is a tightly drawn, suspenseful thriller, which keeps viewers guessing until its shocking end.
Guy Pearce stars as Leonard Shelby, whose polished exterior hides chaos within. Shelby is on a quest to discover who killed his wife, and, consumed with a desire with vengeance, he edges closer and closer to the edge. Someone knows the truth, and who knows? Perhaps its him his memory is, after all, shattered into a thousand broken pieces. Nothing is as it seems in blink-and-youll-miss-it Memento: dont take your eyes off the screen.
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If you can stomach the bone-crushing brutality of Amores Perros, youll be rewarded with a raw but oh-so-rich insight into the folk whose stories it tells. Instead of a conventional beginning-middle-end narrative, the story comprises a threesome of vignette tales.
Here we meet a businessman, about to run off with his teenage mistress; theres a revolutionary assassin, whose life will change forever, and theres Cofi the dog and his owner (Gael Garcia Bernal). Hes about to learn that vengeance is not always sweet.
After that, theres the crash.
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Welcome to Amélie's enchanted planet.
Tiptoeing her way along Parisian pavements is Amélie (Audrey Tautou); a cartoon-book heroine for a light-as-a-feather, wish-whispered tale. Amélie, you see, isnt like other girls. Shielded from the world by eccentric parents, she is now grown up but ageless, and free to follow her kind-hearted, if oddly imagined, schemes. Of course they land her in all sorts of hot water.
Our heroine is, perhaps, more of a mood than a character. Shes effervescent but calming. Quirky but clever. And shes at the centre of one of decades best fairy tales. This is a cinematic world to experience and savour, rather than a narrative to rationalise and understand.
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A Beautiful Mind
There is, they say, a fine line between genius and madness, and it is there for all to see in the Ron Howard biopic of maths prodigy Robert Forbes Nash.
Nash was a talented but socially awkward mathematician who struggled with schizophrenia throughout his life. The films genuine believability hinges, almost single-handedly, on the instinctive and impressive portrayal of Nash by Russell Crowe. The last third of the film can be tough going it aims to mimic the fractional world Nash grew to live in. However, no-one said the subject matter was easy, and the courage of Nash as he struggles to get his life back on track is heroic. Crowe excels in this impressive role.
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Bridget Jones's Diary
It may have been a modern-day take on the Pride and Prejudice story, but the film adaptation of Helen Fieldings best-selling book defined a generation of women smug marrieds and singletons alike.
Yes, the casting of Rene Zellwegger caused outrage as the film went into pre-production but once the Texans girl-about-town portrayal hit the big screen it was hard to imagine her being played by anyone else. With the fabulously caddish Hugh Grant and stoically glum Colin Firth providing the love interest, theres a lot to love about Bridget. Just as she is.
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The Officers' Ward
Based on the original novel by Marc Dugain, The Officers Ward is a painful and rewarding watch. Set in the first world war, it follows young engineer Adrien (Eric Caravaca) as he prepares to set off to fight.
After a short spell on the front line he is injured and transported to a ward for soldiers with facial disfigurements. Despite the care of a kind nurse, Anaïs, (Sabine Azema) Adrien is dismayed to realise his true love Clemence may never look at him the same way again. Tender and tragic, the Officers Ward is a timely reminder of the horrors of war and the struggle of those wounded. Moving performances, and compassionate and artistic script.
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Spirited Away is an animated flick that will fill all but the most hardened souls with joyous wonder. Japanese creator Hayao Miyazaki has melded the most traditional Miyazaki storytelling values the epic battle between good and evil with a lightness of touch rarely seen in traditional Disney picks.
As cartoon heroine Chihero moves to a new town she somehow steps into an enchanted magical spirit realm (Isnt it always the way)? With echoes of The Wizard Of Oz and Alice In Wonderland, this is the biggest grossing Japanese film in box office history.
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Adrien Brody won an Oscar for his role in The Pianist. He takes the lead in Roman Polanskis adaptation of the memoirs of Polish Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, a musician who managed to escape the Nazi death camps as his Warsaw ghetto neighbours perished around him.
The Pianist is stark and the story is heartbreakingly simple. Szpilmans quest to survive as the Nazis draw closer is laced with a terrifying tension. He is close to starvation, and his on-going mental struggle to cope would churn the most steadfast of stomachs.
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Bend It Like Beckham
Bend It Like Beckham launched the careers of Keira Knightley and Parminder Nagra- and it didnt do Jonathan Rhys Meyers any harm either.
The story is this: Jess (Nagra) and Jules (Knightley) join the local womens football team, spurred on by their mutual love of a certain Mr David Beckham. Unfortunately Beckham isnt the only crush they share, and a rivalry develops for the affections of their team coach Joe (Rhys Meyers).
None of this sits well with Jesss Indian parents, who would prefer her to have more traditional aspirations. This is a gentle comedy tale about a clash of modern cultures and one girls struggle to find happiness while juggling lifes different demands.
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Talk To Her
Talk To Her is arguably Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's most accessible - and finest movie. The story centres on the relationship between two men: the antisocial but chaming Benigno (Javier Camara) and a more sensitive soul, Marco (Dario Grandinetti). Both find they have a lot in common when, after traumatic accidents, the women the love lie in hospital, trapped in comatose states.
Well, so far, not your average love story. Brought together by circumstance, the mens casual friendship becomes a needy bond, and, through flashbacks, we learn that, below the surface, all is not as it seems. A sad sexual twist of an end could make you reach for the hankies, but these are characters who will stay with you for years.
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This New Zealand-made gem is wonderful childrens tale. Dubbed a Maori Karate Kid, it pits the traditional values of community chief Koro against the ambition of his eleven-year-old granddaughter Pai as the pair clash over who should be the tribes next leader. The whale rider in the title is the mythical figure who founded the tribe and when the impressive creatures begin to congregate in a neighbourhood bay, it seems that they will again play their part in the tribes destiny.
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This Jim Sheridan-led film sees Irish immigrant parents Johnny and Sarah (Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton) arrive in modern day Manhattan with nought but their dreams to support them. The city is seem through the wide-open eyes of their daughters, Naomi and Kirsten, as they negotiate a Hells Kitchen world filled mostly with transvestites and junkies, but also with a new artist friend, Mateo.
There is one family member missing from the move young son Frankie, whose death has shattered his fathers faith. Someone in their new circle can restore that faith but a terrible price must be paid.
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Its probably physically impossible to sit though Finding Nemo without ending up with a great big, goon-like, grin on your face. Disneys aquatic adventure is aimed at children but loved by adults, following desperate clown fish dad Marlin as he searches for his little lost son in a vast underwater space. The characters he encounters provide panic and terror as well as lessons and laughter, and you will really like, really - care about the fate of the finned ones by the end. Youll never look at fish fingers in the same way again.
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Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Fancy a great big dose of swashbuckling adventure? That, and a pirate based on a ravaged Keith Richards, the Rolling Stone? Look no further than Pirates of The Caribbean, The Curse of The Black Pearl. With lovable villain Johnny Depp leading the action as Captain Jack Sparrow, Orlando Bloom wearing the breeches and Keira Knightley striking a cannonball blow for the liberation of womenkind (albeit the liberation is mostly from corsets) - this is a witty and wonderful theme park-style ride.
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Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers
If you love little Hobbity things youre in for a treat in this, the second instalment of the Middle Earth trilogy. Peter Jackson directs the now familiar cast, with Elijah Wood as Frodo, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Orlando Bloom as Legolas and featuring, of course, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan as the assorted band of the hairy-toed.
Jacksons great feat is in weaving J.R.R. Tolkeins complex tale together, shoehorning epic battles and action adventures into the screen time, This flick is an eye-popping spectacle. Enjoy getting lost in this fantasy world.
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Dirty Pretty Things
If Amélie made you look at Audrey Tautou in a certain way, then Dirty Pretty Things will change that view altogether. Here, director Stephen Fears faces the dangerous world of illegal immigration. In the darkest corners of London, Tautou stars as asylum seeker Senay, whos hiding from government officials. Elsewhere, hopeful Nigerian Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) stumbles upon a dangerous hotel room secret, while his boss (Sergi Lopéz) knows how to exploit his deepest fears. By the way, this is the film that christened the band.
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Million Dollar Baby
This highly praised and atmospheric flick won the Academy Award for Best Film in its year of release as well as top honours for director Clint Eastwood and stars Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman.
Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, a down-at-heel boxing promoter, who reluctantly agrees to train a wrong-side-of-the-tracks waitress Maggie (Swank) as she attempts to go for boxing gold. Dunn is aided throughout by his old mucker, Scrap (Freeman), and both men see something special in their new charge. While Maggies skill is undisputed she requires Frankies help to hone her talent, and as Scrap sees a father-daughter bond develop between the two, he hopes it will heal some of the scars from Frankies past.
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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This is a weird one. No, really, its weird. And complicated. But if you concentrate, and invest your time and attention, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind will reward you with an abstract and innovative take on love.
If you anything about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, youll know to expect the unexpected. Here we see Joel (Jim Carrey) undergo a medical procedure to delete the disturbing memories of his ex girlfriend (Kate Winslet). We probably all wish we could do that. However, as the procedure takes place, Joels mind whizzes though a series of snapshot scenes, leaving us to piece together facets of his disappearing life. Memorable - and a great soundtrack too.
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Preston, Idado - and small town life is proving pretty tough for high school loser Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder). Cast out by the in-crowd and out-crowd alike, he seeks refuge in lonesome pursuits and thinking out loud. But his gauche existence is perfectly drawn by first-time director Jared Hesse, who, in good indie tradition, thought up the film with his wife. The result is a quirky, toe-curling comedy, perfectly balanced to capture the awkward alienation as well as aching funny events in its heros teen life. Put yourself in his moonboots and see what life is like.
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He does only tell one side of the story, but wow - Michael Moore tells that story awfully well. Hot on the heels of the eye-opening Bowling For Columbine, documentary filmmaker Moore has got his big guns out for former American President George W Bush. Did his arms sales to Saudi programme and personal friendships with the Bin Laden family have anything to do with 9/11? Moore thinks it does and he has a compelling way of putting his argument across.
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Shaun of The Dead
We dont want to be the ones to break the news to you but the undead are on the streets of London. You never know the minute, eh? Lifes loser Shaun (Simon Pegg), must morph from suburb dweller to Zombie killer in an instant, bringing his flatmate Ed (Nick Frost) and ex-girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashby) along for the ride.
Mixed with the hoards of the dead-souled, bloodshot-eyed things is a deep respect of the horror flick genre, and a script that excels in the comedy stakes.
American horrors just seems so unlikely. This is a handy cinematic reference guide detailing how to dispense with marauding ghouls who might, at any moment, surround your favourite boozer in Zone Three.
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Its well named, this one. Exploding in your face and intended to blow away audience preconceptions, this Paul Haggis-directed Best Picture-winning slice of all-life-is-here action is provocative and unflinching.
What happens it this: Los Angelinos are going about their business. Theres a good-guy black cop, and dishonest white one. Theres a Persian shopkeeper, a car-jacked couple, and a middle class husband and wife who get drawn into something bad. The crash comes when worlds smash together, scattering the repercussions of prejudice and crime.
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