Team America: World Police

Whilst this gleeful satire on the “War on Terror” featuring marionettes instead of actors has some hilarious moments, the film as a whole doesn’t quite match the brilliance of the initial concept.

When the trailers first appeared for Team America: World Police it seemed that Matt Stone and Trey Parker (the creators of South Park) had managed to achieve the impossible. They had seemingly convinced a major Hollywood studio (Paramount) to fund a riotous satire on the foreign policy of the current US administration – with puppets. Could it be true? Given the current political climate Stateside you would think it unlikely at best. And you would be right. Well, sort of. Whilst the the film does take aim at the patriotic fervour lying at the heart of recent conflicts it also reserves plenty of venom for the liberals who have denounced such adventures.

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Million Dollar Baby

It may not be the masterpiece some US critics have suggested but Clint Eastwood’s latest film is a moving and refreshingly restrained boxing drama.

Continuing a trend in Eastwood’s recent career, Million Dollar Baby seems to be a subconscious subversion of his earlier career. In the early 90s Unforgiven re-examined the violence of the Westerns that established him as a star, whilst last year’s Mystic River was a cop drama that turned the revenge themes of the Dirty Harry movies on their head, with its focus on victims over heroes. Continuing the trend Million Dollar Baby seems to be a more serious revision of Every Which Way But Loose, the critically reviled hit that had Clint fist fight his way across America with a pet orang-utan. Instead broad comedy we have a much more serious examination of the highs and lows of boxing.

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Closer

Mike Nichols must have seemed the perfect choice to direct the film version of Patrick Marber’s play, a funny and sharp exploration of modern relationships. But despite the pedigree behind the camera and a terrific cast, the end result is cold and curiously lifeless.

The story involves two couples whose relationships intersect over a four-year period in London. When Alice (Natalie Portman), an American stripper, meets a journalist called Dan (Jude Law) they strike up a relationship. A few years on Dan meets a photographer, Anna (Julia Roberts), and decides to flirt with her. She initially rejects his advances and instead ends up going out with a dermatologist called Larry (Clive Owen). Undeterred, Dan meets up with Anna a year later at an exhibition of her work and they begin cheating on their respective lovers.

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Vera Drake

Mike Leigh’s latest film is a beautifully crafted and heartbreaking tale of a cleaner leading a secret double life as an abortionist in 1950s London.

But if you are expecting a preachy film on the issue of abortion then you will be mistaken. Instead we have an engrossing study of characters caught up in events out of their control. It’s portrayal of working class Londoners is detailed without ever being patronizing and it skilfully focuses on the emotional fallout created by the abortion laws rather than the legal question itself. Viewers are confronted with the issue but not necessarily from the angle you might expect.

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Alexander

Whilst it may not be the complete disaster US critics have suggested, Alexander is riddled with flaws and suprisingly for an Oliver Stone film curiously dull and lifeless.

With the worldwide success of Gladiator in 2000 it was only a matter of time before Hollywood turned to the story of Alexander The Great. His extraordinary life seemed perfect for the big screen and so when Oliver Stone started this film before Baz Lurhmann’s rival project it seemed a mouth-watering prospect. However the final result is a crushing disappointment. The film tries to cover the whole of Alexander’s life and his story is narrated via flashback by the older Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins). We see him as a young child learning how to tame a horse and being tutored by Aristotle. It then follows his life as he struggles with his two bickering parents Philip (Val Kilmer) and Olympias (Angelina Jolie) and leads his kingdom into a sprawling military crusade through the Ancient World.

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