The Ring Two

Despite having the director of the original Ring films at the helm this sequel to the 2002 remake is a lacklustre affair with only a couple of cheap shocks to recommend it.

Hollywood has an impressive track record of screwing up remakes of decent films so when The Ring came out a couple of years ago the omens were not good. The 1998 Japanese original, entitled Ringu, was highly effective and compared favourably to the flabby self regarding horror films that US studios were churning out after the success of the Scream films (does anyone remember Valentine?). Despite losing the raw power of the original, Gore Verbinki�s remake was surprisingly good and its financial success inevitably led to this sequel.



A very British attempt to emulate the success of recent animated hits, Valiant is amusing and affectionate WW2 pastiche that amuses and entertains but never quite hits the heights it aims for.

Is it me or are there more animated films about than there used to be? Last week saw Robots open at the cinemas and The Incredibles come out on DVD, whilst only a few weeks ago saw the arrival at local multiplexes of Spongebob Squarepants and The Magic Roundabout. Now we have a home-grown animated film featuring the voices of some heavyweight British talent including Ewan MacGregor, John Cleese and Ricky Gervais. Whilst some of it looks nice and some of the gags hit home it is a bit too slight to rank with some of the better animated films of recent years.


Melinda and Melinda

With an intriguing conceit and some good performances Woody Allen�s latest film is a welcome return to form despite never reaching the heights of his best work.

It is still remarkable to think that, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, a Woody Allen film comes around once a year. It has almost become a truism in recent times to say that his latest work is a disappointment and things have got so desperate that some (Hollywood Ending) couldn�t even find a British distributor. Those that did (Curse of the Jade Scorpion) came a year late and his most recent effort (Anything Else) was too slight but Melinda and Melinda marks his best work since 2000�s Sweet and Lowdown. While its not a patch on the heavyweights in Allen canon it still offers up some solid laughs for those who lost faith in his creative abilities way back in the early 90�s.


Maria Full of Grace

Containing scenes of undeniable power and an excellent central performance Maria Full of Grace is a solid but ultimately unremarkable portrayal of an individual caught up in drug trafficking.

One of the big surprises when this year�s Oscar nominations were announced was the inclusion in the Best Actress category of Catalina Sandino Moreno, an unknown Columbian actress, for her performance as the eponymous Maria in Maria Full of Grace. Despite being filmed almost entirely in Spanish it is actually the feature film debut of an American, writer-director Josh Marston and was funded by HBO (the US cable channel). On the one hand it is a bold attempt to examine the drug trade from a different perspective yet on the other it never really catches fire and suffers from the occasional lapse into clich�.


Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous

A tired and unnecessary sequel that�s as bland and clueless as the airhead beauty queens it tries to lampoon.

Last summer saw something unusual at your local multiplex � sequels that were actually very good. Spiderman 2 and The Bourne Supremacy managed to please audiences and studio chiefs by improving on the original films and still make a lot of cash. But if you thought this was the beginning of a new dawn then think again. Last week I had the misfortune to catch three sequels in two days and all of them were considerably worse than the original films. The other two will remain nameless (for now) but Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous was one of them. Given that the 2000 original was only just passable, I didn�t have much hope for this one. My pessimism was justified.



The latest pretender to the Pixar throne is beautifully designed but lacks the wit and invention of recent animated films.

Animated features used to be the kind of films that kept children happy during the school holidays, but in the last ten years they have become an entirely different proposition. In 1995 Toy Story began a trend that saw animated films migrate from hand drawn kiddie fare to computer-generated blockbusters. Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 have grossed spectacular numbers and it was only a matter of time before other big Hollywood studios got in on the act. Fox�s first forays into this market were mixed � Titan A.E. failed to find a big audience – but with Ice Age grossing nearly $400 million worldwide another big animated feature was always on the cards.


Oscars 2005 – The Winners

Best Film: Million Dollar Baby

Best Director: Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx – Ray

Best Actress: Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett – The Aviator

Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby

Best Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside – Spain

Best Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor – Sideways

Best Music (song): Al Otro Lado Del Rio – The Motorcycle Diaries

Best Music (score): Jan A.P. Kaczmarek – Finding Neverland

Best Documentary (Short Subject): Mighty Times: The Children’s March

Sound Editing: The Incredibles

Best Sound Mixing: Ray

Best Cinematography: The Aviator

Best Animated Short Film: Ryan

Best Short Film: Wasp

Best Visual Effects: Spider-Man 2

Best Documentary Feature: Born into Brothels

Film Editing: The Aviator

Best Costume Design: The Aviator

Best Make-up: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Best Animated Feature Film: The Incredibles

Best Art Direction: The Aviator

Lifetime Achievement Award: Sidney Lumet

The full and official list of nominees and winners can be found here.


The Oscars – Live

Million Dollar Baby wins Best Picture. All the technical awards for The Aviator didn’t in the end lead to a cleansweep and the lower key drama of Eastwood’s film triumphs. As usual the best film in the five nominated (Sideways) didn’t win, although it has got a lot of valuable and unexpected exposure from the awards season.

As for Million Dollar Baby I think it is a fine piece of work but in a year that saw such films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunset and Vera Drake miss out on Best Picture and marginalised to only a few nominations, well, something has to be clearly wrong. Ray and Finding Neverland were good but certainly not Best Picture material in my view.

Well, that’s it for another year. Not a great one to be perfectly honest as the two main contenders were not outstanding. The highlight was probably the two screenwriting awards. Charlie Kaufman winning Best Original Screenplay for the dazzling Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor winning Best Adapted Screenplay for Sideways.

That’s it from me. Good night.


The Oscars – Live

Clint Eastwood wins his second Best Director Oscar and Scorcese is snubbed again!

Clint remarks that he’s just a kid compared to Sidney Lumet which provokes some laughter but Scorcese looks very sad. I have mixed feelings. Clearly Scorcese is one of the great American directors but I think The Aviator is an average film. I’d rather he won for a film that was really good than win because of a sympathy vote. That said you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Maybe a smaller budget and more restrained film (like, say, Million Dollar Baby) would bag him the Oscar he covets.


The Oscars – Live

Now it’s time for the big guns. Sean Penn starts off the nominations with a babrbed defence of Jude Law after Chris Rock made a joke about the British actor. True to my prediction Swank wins for Million Dollar Baby. Only 30 years old and she has two Oscars. Remarkable if you think about the kind of films she has done since Boy’s Don’t Cry (e.g. The Core, The Affair of the Necklace etc). But she is a deserving winner although personally I would have gone for Kate Winslet.

Gwyneth Paltrow seems incredibly chuffed as she presents Best Foreign Film to Alejandro Amenebar for The Sea Inside.

Best Actor goes to (suprise, surprise) Jamie Foxx for Ray. I can’t think of a bigger favourite for the award in recent years and it proves the unofficial Oscar acting rule which is “characters with disabilities win”. See Dustin Hoffman for Rain Man, Daniel Day Lewis for My Left Foot, Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump – the list could go on and on. That’s not to say they were undeserving winners but it seems to be a factor in many past Oscar wins. Having said all that, Jamie Fox did give the best performance of those nominated.

Best Director next and I fear Martin Scorcese will be snubbed again. We shall see…

Wins so far:

– Best animated short film: Ryan
– Best Actress: Hilary Swank for Boys Don�t Cry
– Best Foreign Film: The Sea Inside
– Best Actor: Jamie Fox for Ray


The Oscars – Live

At last Sideways wins an award. In truth Best Adapted Screenplay was probably its best shot. The Aviator seems to be on a roll and if it keeps picking up technical awards then I think it might clinch Best Film. But I still think Million Dollar Baby will win Best Picture & Best Director. More winners: – Best Documentary: Born Into Brothels – Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett – Costume Design: The Aviator – Film Editing: The Aviator – Visual Effects: Spider-Man 2 – Adapted Screenplay: Sideways At the moment Beyonce is performing a song from Phantom of the Opera. That looked like it could be an early contender back in November but it’s heartening that lower key fare such as Sideways and Million Dollar Baby got more recognition. Al Pacino just presented Sidney Lumet with an honoury Oscar – about time too. As I write this the winner of Best Short Film (Live Action) has said that it the award is "the dog’s bollocks". I wonder if the American audience got that particular reference…


The Oscars – Live

So the fist big prediction of the evening is wrong. I think my heart ruled my head in going for Thomas Hayden Church over Morgan Freeman. I still hope Sideways wins something – it is clearly the best film at these awards and is one of the films that would benefit from an Oscar win.

As for the show itself, it seems surprisingly free of the dance numbers and usual opening show rubbish. So far, so good.

The winners so far:

– Art Direction: The Aviator
– Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman for Million Dollar Baby
– Animated Feature: The Incredibles
– Makeup: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Chris Rock is actually doing a fine job as presenter (there’s still time for him to offend people). The current sketch has him going to a local movie theatre in LA to prove Hollywood is not out of touch. He asks them their favourite movie of last year and the replies ranged from Alien vs Predator, The Chronicles of Riddick and White Chicks. I’m pretty sure it was staged but it was still very funny. Why not have a laugh at the worst films of last year and the goons who are constantly moaning about liberal Hollywood?


The Oscars – Live

Welcome to FILMdetail’s live coverage of the 77th Academy Awards. Here are my predictions for the main categories.

The Aviator
Million Dollar Baby
Finding Neverland

Who will win: Million Dollar Baby
Who should win: Sideways

Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
Jamie Foxx – Ray
Don Cheadle – Hotel Rwanda
Johnny Depp – Finding Neverland
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Aviator

Who will win: Jamie Foxx
Who should win: Jamie Fox

Hilary Swank – Million Dollar Baby
Imelda Staunton – Vera Drake
Kate Winslet – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Annette Bening – Being Julia
Catalina Sandino Moreno – Maria Full of Grace

Who will win: Hilary Swank
Who should win: Imelda Staunton

Martin Scorsese – The Aviator
Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
Alexander Payne – Sideways
Taylor Hackford – Ray
Mike Leigh – Vera Drake

Who will win: Clint Eastwood
Who should win: Alexander Payne

Alan Alda – The Aviator
Clive Owen – Closer
Jamie Foxx – Collateral
Thomas Haden Church – Sideways
Morgan Freeman – Million Dollar Baby

Who will win: Thomas Haden Church
Who should win: Thomas Haden Church

Cate Blanchett – The Aviator
Virginia Madsen – Sideways
Laura Linney – Kinsey
Sophie Okonedo – Hotel Rwanda
Natalie Portman – Closer

Who will win: Cate Blanchett – The Aviator
Who should win: Virginia Madsen – Sideways

Updates and commentary will follow throughout the evening. Let’s hope they don’t open the show with a stupid self congratulatory dance number.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.

News Reviews

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 Mann�s 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 year�s funniest moments on film.

Fahrenheit 9/11: The hype and carefully constructed publicity campaign overshadowed the final film, yet despite it�s 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 year�s best soundtracks and contained some wonderful touches in it�s 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 Webber�s take on Tracy Chevalier�s best seller contained a satisfying degree of passion in telling the story of Vermeer and his mysterious muse. Eduardo Serra�s cinematography more than did justice to the Dutch artist�s use of colour and light.

House of Flying Daggers: Zhang Yimou�s 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 Yimou�s 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 Scott�s visual style and the sound editing made it an engrossing experience.


The First Post

So this is it – the first post of FILMdetail. What is it? Basically it�s a blog about all things related to film – reviews, news and links. You get the general idea. I’ll post a FAQ soon addressing such questions as to how the site got its name, who is behind it and other trivia but until then we�ll just get on with things. I�m sure the look and feel of the site will evolve and any feedback is always welcome in the Comment sections or by email: filmdetail at gmail dot com.