Shooter
4

  • Antoine Fuqua
  • 2007

Remember when Antoine Fuqua had just directed the Oscar-winning Training Day (2001) and looked to be hot property in Hollywood? Five years and two major blockbuster flops (the turgid Bruce Willis war movie Tears of the Sun in 2003 and dull historical epic King Arthur in 2004) later, he is still failing to find any kind of form to replicate that success. Shooter borrows from just about every wrongly accused man on the run story there has ever been for a Mark Wahlberg action walkthrough.

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Curse of the Golden Flower
8

  • Zhang Yimou
  • 2007

Following up Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004) was always going to be a tough prospect for director Zhang Yimou, having proved himself adept at capturing majestic martial arts fighting to go with his lush visual style and twisted personal histories. Here he focuses on the 10th Century Tang Dynasty in China as Emperor Ping (Chow Yun-Fat) returns to his palace in the Forbidden City to a plot to force his abdication.

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El Topo Trailer

A cult classic, El Topo is a psychedelic, allegorical Western set in two halves that have widely been compared to the Old and New Testaments of the bible. In the first half, Jodorowsky plays a violent, black-clad gunfighter who, accompanied by his naked son, sets off on a murderous mission to challenge four zen masters of gunfighting, and learns from each of them a Great Lesson before they die. In the second half, El Topo sets out to find personal redemption, secluding himself in a subterranean community to learn the ways of peace, but unfortunately death is never far away.

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Close To Home (Karov La Bayit)
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  • Dalia Hagar and Vidi Bilu
  • 2005

Close To Home is a very accomplished debut full-length feature from Israeli directors Dalia Hagar and Vidi Bilu. Coming out of their own experiences the pair have crafted a personal tale around the relationship two young women, however, this is not just about friendship or growing up — the film follows the women through their compulsory military service: this is a film which takes a personal route to touch on both individual and also more wider issues, though steering carefully clear of any preaching.

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Sleeping Dogs
7

  • Bobcat Goldthwait
  • 2006

“Everybody has a secret. What’s yours?” asks the tagline for the new film from Bobcat Goldthwait (best known to the world for his classic display as Zed in the Police Academy franchise), Sleeping Dogs. The film is a cheeky and slightly twisted romantic comedy, breathing new life into a much trodden and often rubbish genre.

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After The Wedding
7

  • Susanne Bier
  • 2007

After the Wedding was nominated for this year’s Best Foreign Language Academy Award but lost out, alongside the hotly-tipped Pan’s Labyrinth, to Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others. This winner was a bit of a surprise to some of us in the UK, although probably just because it was only Pan’s Labyrinth which had played here and as that was an undoubtedly impressive film it seemed a strong bet. However, the category was generally pretty strong throughout, with Deepa Mehta’s Water and the French/North African WWII drama Days of Glory also both recieving much positive press; and After the Wedding from director Susanne Bier, is accordingly a worthy nominee.

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Frostbite
5

  • Anders Banke
  • 2006

Frostbite is the first feature from Swedish director Anders Banke and pits horror against comedy within a narrative pitting a seemingly dull northern town’s folk against a band of fierce vampires. Frostbite takes place in Swedish lapland, the land of the polar night, where there’s a whole month to wait until sunrise — the perfect dwelling zone then for creatures of darkness.

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Sunshine
6

  • Danny Boyle
  • 2007

Why do so many thrillers have to build up so well only to throw in the towel at the very end and feel the need to resort to stupid plot twists? Previous outer space thrillers Red Planet (Antony Hoffman, 2000) and Mission to Mars (Brian De Palma, 2000) are prime culprits but there are countless others I don’t even want to think about. Thankfully Sunshine doesn’t suffer quite the same dire fate as those mentioned but it is a space thriller that verges on greatness before pulling the rug out on itself in search of a dramatic climax.

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TMNT
4

  • Kevin Munroe
  • 2007

The euphoria of turtlemania now just a distant memory from the early 1990s, those heroes in a half shell are back on the big screen boasting a new look and fan base. Gone are the rubber suits and real actors to be replaced by a hip CGI look that gives this series reboot a more accomplished look. Sadly the charm has also been sucked dry in what is at best an exercise in advertising for ancillary markets and surely numerous sequels.

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300
7

  • Zack Snyder
  • 2007

When 300 Spartans confronted an advancing Persian army of tens of thousands in 480BC, it became a legendary battle. Despite overwhelming odds, the few fended off the many for three days and, with their extreme strength and courage, secured their place in history. 300 captures the story as a bloody and violent conflict laced with lashings of style aided by CGI backgrounds and enough six packs for the whole of England to get drunk.

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The Science of Sleep
8

  • Michel Gondry
  • 2007

Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was one of the films of 2004, it’s surreal moments as Jim Carrey’s mind had Kate Winslet deleted from it providing startling imagery fuelled by a director’s imagination hard at work. To follow it up, Gondry has produced another uncanny and tremendously amusing story featuring spurned lovers, enabling him to enter the dreamy mind of Stephane Miroux (Gael Garcia Bernal) — a creative thinker caught between fantasy and reality.

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Ghost Rider
4

  • Mark Steven johnson
  • 2007

If riding a burning motorbike as a flaming skeleton dressed in leathers sounds cool, you can be envious of Nicolas Cage doing just that in Ghost Rider. But any envy is burnt away to despair when this un-engaging attempt at starting a franchise misfires with bland acting and non-event set pieces.

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Hot Fuzz
9

  • Edgar Wright
  • 2007

After the incredible success of 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright had audiences and critics waiting with bated breath and high expectations. And so arrives Hot Fuzz, with the team this time turning their attention to the action genre and, unsurprisingly bearing in mind the closeness of the Pegg/Frost friendship, the buddy-cop film. As with the previous effort though this is not just a parody and there’s no straight piss-taking, instead it’s a carefully crafted homage, celebrating as well as hamming up the conventions of films obviously held dearly, though with at least a vaguely wry smile, by the filmmakers.

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School for Scoundrels
2

  • Todd Phillips
  • 2007

Jon Heder, eh? The Napoleon Dynamite (2004) star has been lumbered in uninspiring copycat roles since his breakout success and here’s another one. Despite co-starring Billy Bob Thornton and having Todd ‘Old School’ Phillips at the helm, there was barely even one memorable moment.

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The Oscar Results vs. The zap! bang! Predictions

Martin Scorsese can finally smile as The Departed swept up at the Oscars and he finally got that Best Director award. A disappointing tally of 10 out of 19 right for Mike this year — down on last year’s 13. He reflects on the night’s results.

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Satan (Sheitan)
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  • Kim Chapiron
  • 2006

Kim Chapiron’s debut feature is an engaging one, no mean feat when considering that the premise is of city folks going to the country only to encounter some unnatural types and situations on the weird and nasty side of normal — a story which has oft been trodden out and, in works like Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972), The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven, 1977) and Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah, 1971), hit some impressive highs. Chapiron’s tale is obviously influenced by these and the similar yet crafts a modern feature with some distinctive characteristics and impressive twists.

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Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition

This 7 DVD box set has been created by The National Film Board of Canada and is released in the UK by Soda Pictures. It brings together experimental animator Norman McLaren’s entire film collection, alongside unfinished films, tests and fifteen documentaries on the man, his films and techniques and also on the process of restoration which the material underwent in order to meet the standard that this box-set presents it in. McLaren is one of the biggest names in animation and created a large and multi-award-winning body of work over a period of 50 years.

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The Oscars 2007 - zap! bang! Predicts

Yes, it’s Oscar time this weekend and it could be the year Martin Scorsese wins (how many times have we said that?), Helen Mirren is crowned Hollywood’s queen and Forest Whitaker makes amends for taking part in Battlefield Earth. Well, maybe the latter is impossible, but we’ll all be waiting to hear who the winners are on Sunday night. Mike Barnard looks into his blood diamond to predict the notable winners, and accepts he’s probably lining himself up for a fall when the envelopes are finally opened…read on!

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Epic Movie
2

  • Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer
  • 2007

If someone out there has written a thesis or considers themselves an expert in ‘epic movies’, I ask on behalf of film fans everywhere: explain to Friedberg and Seltzer what an ‘epic movie’ really is, because they have no idea. A more accurate title for this would be something like Blockbuster Movie to describe the majority of the spoofs here, or Epicly Bad Movie to describe its (lack of) quality.

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Blood Diamond
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  • Edward Zwick
  • 2006

A blockbuster action film with a political message, Blood Diamond is the kind of popcorn movie that wants to make you think not just on your way back to the car but also when you visit a jewellers. Its incisive commentary on the African conflict diamond trade blended with fast-paced chases, shoot-outs and a high level of mistrust ensure you are entertained as well as educated.

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Babel
6

  • Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
  • 2006

Are barriers of language and nationality forcing us all apart and making us disconnected from others? Acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu believes we are with Babel, inspired by the Biblical tale of the Tower of Babel which was built by mankind seeking to reach unto Heaven. Angering God, he destroyed the tower and forced us to speak different languages — ultimately scattering us across the planet. Inarritu wants us to see the confusion caused the lack of cross-cultural understanding and does so in a heartbreaking yet frustrating fusion of four narratives.

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Old Joy
8

  • Kelly Reichardt
  • 2007

Kelly Reichardt’s award winner and festival favourite Old Joy is a triumph of minimalism, a near sublime amble into a relationship between two old friends via the gorgeous surroundings of Oregon’s Cascade mountain range. Its bare narrative is presented softly and smoothly, in fact the film is almost an essay on subtlety.

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The Fountain
9

  • Darren Aronofsky
  • 2006

I’m sure you’ve all heard the critics slate The Fountain, suggesting it is writer/director Darren Aronofky’s folly and booing it at the Venice Film Festival world premiere. Harsh reviews may have done irreparable damage to its reputation, yet a more accurate indication to its quality is the 10-minute standing ovation that met it at the close of the public performance at the Venice festival. The Fountain is an exceptional piece of cinema aiming to be true to a vision rather than pander to those unwilling to engage with it on every level.

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The Illusionist
7

  • Neil Burger
  • 2006

Neil Burger’s first project since his interesting debut Interview With The Assassin back in 2002 is a artistically directed piece of intrigue and romanticism, bringing, after The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) magic once agin to the fore of our cinema screens. Based on Stephen Millhauser’s short story, the film is a period piece shot through a period lens — the story taking place in Vienna at the turn of the century and being made to look like that through various filters and effects — soft focuses, sepia tones and irises — sometimes giving a similar feel to John Huston’s literally artistic portrayal of Toulouse Lautrec in turn of the century Paris — Moulin Rouge (1952).

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The Pursuit of Happyness
8

  • Gabriele Muccino
  • 2006

Writing this post-Oscar nominations, you will probably be aware that star Will Smith has scored his second nomination for Best Actor. He first was for an impressive portrait of Muhammad Ali in Michael Mann’s Ali (2001) and is again in line for one of those golden statuettes with The Pursuit of Happyness, a depressing yet uplifting true tale of one man’s bid to break free of a life going nowhere fast and see out a seemingly impossible dream.

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