Mike Nichols must have seemed the perfect choice to direct the film version of Patrick Marberís 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.


Vera Drake

Mike Leighís 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. Itís 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.



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 Lurhmannís rival project it seemed a mouth-watering prospect. However the final result is a crushing disappointment. The film tries to cover the whole of Alexanderís 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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The Best Films of 2004

Instead of picking a top 10 list this year, I’ve decided to simply select the films that have impressed me the most this year. So instead of 10 we have 12. Why exclude or include films just to get a neat 10? Also, a quick note for overseas readers – I’m based in the UK so the list refers to films that were released here in 2004.

Anyway, here are my top 12 films of 2004:


The Honourable Mentions of 2004

Here are my ‘honourable mentions’ of 2004. They are the films that impressed me but just fell short of making the final ‘films of the year’ list.

Collateral: Michael Mannís latest was slick and stylish though not quite up to the standard of his best work.

Dogville: Lars Von Trier often seems to revel in infuriating his critics and some US reviewers fell right into his trap by taking his ideas and aesthetic way too seriously. Despite a ponderous middle hour this contained some of the yearís funniest moments on film.

Fahrenheit 9/11: The hype and carefully constructed publicity campaign overshadowed the final film, yet despite itís faults it was still a breath of fresh air to see current affairs make it into the multiplexes this summer.

Garden State: This accomplished debut from writer/director and star Zach Braff featured one of the yearís best soundtracks and contained some wonderful touches in itís tale of an actor return home to his New Jersey hometown.

Girl With A Pearl Earring: Some literary adaptations can be stodgy affairs but Peter Webberís take on Tracy Chevalierís best seller contained a satisfying degree of passion in telling the story of Vermeer and his mysterious muse. Eduardo Serraís cinematography more than did justice to the Dutch artistís use of colour and light.

House of Flying Daggers: Zhang Yimouís second film out this year was not quite as good as Hero but it was still a feast for the eyes. Whilst it lacked the style and beauty of Yimouís other film it still contained some of the years best action scenes.

Man On Fire: Some US critics detested this thriller starring Denzel Washington as a bodyguard on a mission of revenge in Mexico City. Whilst the style trumps the content, I thought it was one of the more gripping and technically impressive films of the year. Despite the well worn revenge premise and some corny lines, Tony Scottís visual style and the sound editing made it an engrossing experience.