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Two brothers get caught up in Ireland's bid for independence in 1920.
This harrowing but rewarding 1984 drama concerns the real-life relationship between New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and his Cambodian assistant Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor), the latter left at the mercy of the Khmer Rouge after Schanberg--who chose to stay after American evacuation but was booted out--failed to get him safe passage. Filmmaker Roland Joffé, previously a documentarist, made his feature debut with this account of Dith's rocky survival in the ensuing madness of the Khmer Rouge's genocidal campaign. The script of The Killing Fields spends some time with Schanberg's feelings of guilt after the fact, but most of the movie is a shattering re-creation of hell on Earth. The late Haing S. Ngor--a real-life doctor who had never acted before and who lived through the events depicted by Joffé--is outstanding, and he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Oscars also went to cinematographer Chris Menges and editor Jim Clark. --Tom Keogh
The acclaimed 1982 BBC adaptation of Anthony Trollope's novels. The community of Barchester is shaken from its cosy complacency when a newspaper's crusade against the Church of England's practice of self-enrichment misfires. Overnight Rev. Harding (Donald Pleasence) becomes a pawn in a battle between his younger daughter's beau John Bold (David Gwillim) and his older daughter's husband. Little do they realise that the worst is yet to come until a regime change delivers Barcheste
Roman Polanski's adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth remains one of the most infamous for a number of reasons: the copious amounts of bloody gore, its expert use of location settings (filmed in North Wales) and Lady Macbeth's nude sleepwalking scene. Despite its notoriety, though, this does remain one of the more compelling film adaptations of the Scottish tragedy, if one of the more pessimistic takes on the story of Macbeth and his overreaching ambition. If you think the play is normally a bit of a downer, you haven't seen Polanski's bleak version of it, made in reaction to the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson "family". Jon Finch (Hitchcock's Frenzy) is a forceful Macbeth, bringing out the Scot's warrior instincts, and Francesca Annis is a memorable Lady Macbeth but the main thrust of the film belongs to Polanski's and noted British playwright and critic Kenneth Tynan's take on the play: extremely violent, nihilistic and visceral; this is down-in-the-dirt, no-holds-barred Shakespeare, not fussy costume drama. Pay close attention to the end, a silent coda that puts a chilling twist on all the action that has come beforehand and foreshadows more tragedy to come. --Mark Englehart
Intricately plotted and smartly paced, this gangster saga clicks as whodunit, social satire and explosive thriller. The piece is crowned by Bob Hoskins' career-making turn as a London mobster courting respectability and Helen Mirren's subtly detailed performance as his upper-crust mistress. Cockney wiseguy Harold Shand is a would-be burgher whose domination of the city's underworld stems from his shrewdness as a mediator and his skill at harnessing political and economic clout. As Easter approaches, he's poised to launch an aggressive real estate development scheme along the depressed Thames waterfront when all hell breaks loose: a trusted lieutenant is brutally murdered, Shand's mother is nearly killed in a car bombing, one of his pubs is blown apart and the visiting American don crucial to the pending deal is quickly growing wary.Barrie Keeffe's original screenplay keeps the viewer a step ahead of Shand, providing us with a telling but teasingly incomplete glimpse of the misstep by his underlings that has set chaos loose. At the same time, Keeffe underlines the bourgeois pretensions of the rough-hewn, barrel-chested Shand, how the elegant Victoria (Mirren) helps serve those ambitions and the myriad parallels between Shand's minions and the local politicians and police only too willing to join in his scheme. Tart, funny dialogue and alternately playful and pungent Eastertide imagery complete Keeffe's shrewd design--two key scenes, in a meat locker and a warehouse, invoke the Crucifixion itself. Even with lesser performances, the script and John Mackenzie's solid direction would make The Long Good Friday a keeper but Hoskins's explosive portrait of Shand and his descent toward brutal revenge elevates the film into the very front rank, earning admiring comparisons to TheGodfather, Scarface, GoodFellas and other classics of that genre. --Sam Sutherland
"The Lives Of Others" is a precise and gripping snapshot of the omni-present and much feared secret service of communist East Germany, the Stasi.
Gandhi is a great subject, but is Gandhi a great film? Undoubtedly it is, not least because it is one of the last old-school epics ever made, a glorious visual treat featuring tens of thousands of extras (real people, not digital effects) and sumptuous Panavision cinematography. But a true epic is about more than just widescreen photography, it concerns itself with noble subjects too, and the life story of Mahatma Gandhi is one of the noblest of all. Both the man and the film have profound things to say about the meaning of freedom and racial harmony, as well as how to achieve them. Ben Kingsley, in his first major screen role, bears the heavy responsibility of the central performance and carries it off magnificently; without his magnetic and utterly convincing portrayal the film would founder in the very first scene. Sir Richard Attenborough surrounds his main character with a cast of distinguished thespians (Trevor Howard, John Mills, John Gielgud and Martin Sheen, to name but four), none of whom do anything but provide the most sympathetic support. John Briley's literate screenplay achieves the almost impossible task of distilling the bewildering complexities of Anglo-Indian politics. Attenborough's treatment is openly reverential, but, given the saint-like character of his subject, it's hard to see how it could have been anything else. He doesn't flinch from the implication that the Mahatma was naïve to expect a unified India, for example, but instead lets Gandhi's actions speak for themselves. The outstanding achievement of this labour of love is that it tells the story of an avowed pacifist who never raised a hand in anger, of a man who never held high office, of a man who shied away from publicity, and turns it into three hours of utterly mesmerising cinema.On the DVD: The anamorphic (16:9) picture of the original 2.35:1 image has a certain softness to it that may reflect the age of the print, but somehow seems entirely in keeping with the subject . Sound is Dolby 5.1. The extras are fairly brief, but worthwhile: original newsreel footage of Gandhi includes an astonishingly patronising British news account of his visit to England; in a recent interview, Ben Kinglsey chats enthusiastically about the film and the difficulties he experienced bringing the character to life. The dull "making-of" feature is simply a montage of stills. --Mark Walker
World War II Morocco springs to life in Michael Curtiz's classic love story. Colourful characters abound in "Casablanca", a waiting room for Europeans trying to escape Hitler's war-torn Europe.
The years have endowed Saturday Night Fever with a powerful, elegiac quality since its explosive release in 1977. It was the must-see movie for a whole generation of adolescents, sparking controversy for rough language and clumsily realistic sex scenes which took teen cinema irrevocably into a new age. And of course, it revived the career of the Bee Gees to stratospheric heights, thanks to a justifiably legendary soundtrack which now embodies the disco age. But Saturday Night Fever was always more than a disco movie. Tony Manero is an Italian youth from Brooklyn straining at the leash to escape a life defined by his family, blue collar job and his gang. Disco provides the medium for him to break free. It was the snake-hipped dance routines which made John Travolta an immediate sex symbol. But seen today, his performance as Tony is compelling: rough-hewn, certainly, but complex and true, anticipating the fine screen actor he would be recognised as 20 years later. Scenes of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge, representing Tony's route to a bigger world, now have an added poignancy, adding to Saturday Night Fever's evocative power. It's a bittersweet classic. On the DVD: Saturday Night Fever is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, both of which help to recapture the unique atmosphere of the late 1970s. The main extra is a director's commentary from John Badham, with detailed descriptions of casting and the improvisation behind many of the scenes, plus the unsavoury reality behind Travolta's iconic white disco suit. --Piers Ford
Only Joel and Ethan Coen, masters of quirky and ultra-stylish genre subversion, would dare nick the plotline of Homer's Odyssey for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, their comic picaresque saga about three cons on the run in 1930s Mississippi. Our wandering hero in this case is one Ulysses Everett McGill, a slick-tongued wise guy with a thing for hair pomade (George Clooney, blithely sending up his own dapper image) who talks his chain-gang buddies (Coen-movie regular John Turturro and newcomer Tim Blake Nelson) to light out after some buried loot he claims to know of. En route they come up against a prophetic blind man on a railroad truck, a burly one-eyed baddie (the ever-magnificent John Goodman), a trio of sexy singing ladies, a blues guitarist who's sold his soul to the devil, a brace of crooked politicos on the stump, a manic-depressive bank robber, and--well, you get the idea. Into this, their most relaxed film yet, the Coens have tossed a beguiling ragbag of inconsequential situations, a wealth of looping, left-field dialogue and a whole stash of gags both verbal and visual. O Brother (the title's lifted from Preston Sturges' classic 1941 comedy Sullivan's Travels) is furthermore graced with glowing, burnished photography from Roger Deakins and a masterly soundtrack from T-Bone Burnett that pays loving homage to American 30s folk-styles: blues, gospel, bluegrass, jazz and more. And just to prove that the brothers haven't lost their knack for bad-taste humour, we get a Ku Klux Klan rally choreographed like something between a Nuremberg rally and a Busby Berkeley musical. --Philip KempOn the DVD: This two-disc set duplicates the original single-disc release of the film which included a handful of cast and crew interviews, and adds an additional disc with more interviews, two brief behind-the-scenes featurettes about the production design and the post-production digital colouring of the film, a couple of storyboard-to-scene comparisons and a music video of "Man of Constant Sorrow". There's also a 16-minute documentary to promote the companion Down from the Mountain concert. Frankly there's not a lot here to justify spreading it across two discs: a more pleasing not to say generous offering would have been to cram all these extras onto Disc 1 and give us Down from the Mountain as the second disc. --Mark Walker
Adapted from Andrea Levy's best-selling award-winning novel and shown on BBC One this two-part drama Small Island is an epic love story about the determined pursuit of dreams in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers. Set against the backdrop of the Second World War in a time when landlords would put up signs that read No Irish no coloureds no dogs Small Island follows the interlocking lives of Londoner Queenie (Ruth Wilson) the young Jamaican couple who become her lodgers Gilbert and Hortense (David Oyelowo and Naomie Harris) Queenie's husband Bernard (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the mysterious and handsome Michael (Ashley Walters). From the heat and hustle of life in Forties Jamaica through to the devastation of London in the Blitz Small Island is an ambitious yet personal tale which deftly touches on the weighty themes of empire prejudice and war with a gentle touch and a warm uplifting generosity of spirit.
Richard Gere plays an enrollee at a Naval officers candidate school and Debra Winger is the woman who wants him.That's pretty much it, story-wise, in this romantic drama, which is more effective in a moment-to-moment, scene-by-scene way, where the two stars and Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr.--as Gere's tough-as-nails drill instructor--are fun to watch. Sexy, syrupy, with occasional pitches of high drama (Gere having a near-breakdown during training is pretty strong), An Officer and a Gentleman proves to be a no-brainer date movie. --Tom Keogh
Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family... This is the story of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his so-called friends - a bunch of losers liars psychos thieves and junkies. Hilarious but harrowing the film charts the disintegration of their friendship as they proceed seemingly towards self-destruction. Mark alone has the insight and opportunity to escape his fate - but then again does he really want to ""choose life""?
From director Steven Spielberg comes War Horse, an epic adventure for audiences of all ages. Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows Joeys the extraordinary journey as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets British cavalry, German soldiers and a French farmer and his granddaughter before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Mans Land. The First World War is experienced through the journey of this horse an odyssey of joy and sorrow, passionate friendship and high adventure. War Horse is one of the great stories of friendship and war a best-selling book by author Michael Morpurgo, it was turned into an award-winning stage production and now comes to screen in an epic adaptation by one of the great directors in film history.
The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.
From the producers of The Fault in Our Stars comes the relatable and heartfelt coming-of-age film LOVE, SIMON. Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon, it's a bit complicated. The gay teenager hasn't come out yet, and doesn't know the identity of the anonymous classmate he's fallen for online. Resolving both issues will be a hilarious, scary, life-changing adventure.
The year is 52 B.C. Four hundred years after the founding of the Republic Rome is the wealthiest city in the world a cosmopolitan metropolis of one million people; epicenter of a sprawling empire. The Republic was founded on principles of shared power and fierce personal competition never allowing one man to seize absolute control. But now those foundations are crumbling eaten away by corruption and excess. A serialized drama of love and betrayal masters and slaves husbands and wives Rome chronicles a turbulent era that saw the death of a republic and the birth of an empire.
An epic saga stretching from 1964 to 1995, Our Friends in the North follows the lives of four young people in North-East England. Nicky Hutchinson (Christopher Eccleston) is initially courting Mary Soulsby (Gina McKee) but the relationship cools when it takes second place to his campaigning for Harold Wilson's Labour Party. She weds Tory Tosker Cox instead, but their marriage is a miserable one, living in a rot-infested high rise block built following a dubious new housing scheme. Meanwhile, "Geordie" Peacock, finally tiring of his drunken, abusive father, headbutts him and hitches down to London, where he ends up working for a surrogate "family" led by Malcolm McDowell's flash Soho sex club baron. Over the years, the paths of these characters intertwine, diverge then cross again, albeit occasionally stretching the bounds of plausible coincidence. The drama takes place against the backdrop of local authority and police corruption in the 60s, the radical far-left militancy of the early 70s, Thatcher's election, the 1984 miner's strike and the subsequent "murder" of Northern communities. What's brilliant about Our Friends is its melding of the personal and the political, with the soap opera of family estrangement played out against a backdrop of social decline. Peter Vaughn, playing Nicky's Dad as a former Jarrow marcher stricken by Alzheimer's, is especially poignant. If you didn't see this the first time, do so now. On the DVD: Our Friends in the North has a bonus disc featuring a discussion with writer Peter Flannery and the producers and directors in which the making of the programme is revealed to have been as epic and protracted a saga as the drama itself. There are interviews also with stars Christopher Eccleston and Gina McKee. --David Stubbs
In seventeenth-century France, a promiscuous and divisive local priest, Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), uses his powers to protect the city of Loudon from destruction at the hands of the establishment. Soon, he stands accused of the demonic possession of Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), whose erotic obsession with him fuels the hysterical fervour that sweeps through the convent. With its bold and brilliant direction by Ken Russell, magnificent performances by Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, exquisite Derek Jarman sets and sublimely dissonant score by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, The Devils stands as a profound and sincere commentary on religious hysteria, political persecution and the corrupt marriage of church and state.
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