Film

Bullets and Ballet

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Review of 'Matrix Reloaded', directors Larry and Andy Wachowski

The 'Matrix' films take place in two parallel worlds. In the real world, machines rule. Most humans are kept in tanks to be farmed by the machines to provide their fuel. The few that remain free live in the last surviving city, Zion, deep within the earth's crust. Our world is the world of the Matrix - a computer simulation designed to keep the bulk of humanity pacified while the machines feed. The 'Matrix' trilogy chronicles the struggle against the machines, which takes place in both the real world and the illusory world of the Matrix.

It's a Marvel

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Review of 'X-Men 2', director Bryan Singer

It's safe to assume that Bryan Singer's superhero sequel will not only dominate the multiplexes for the next couple of months. This $100 million-plus blockbuster also comes with the full array of merchandise tie-ins--figurines, magazines and no doubt promotions at a fast food chain near you soon. But is there anything of artistic merit to be gleaned from a comic book adaptation about mutant superheroes (and villains) with such implausible names as Cyclops, Magneto and Lady Deathstrike?

Oh Ye of Little Faith

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Review of 'Trembling Before G-d', director Sandi Simcha DuBowski

This beautiful, moving, perplexing documentary describes the lives of Orthodox Jews who are lesbian or gay. Orthodox Jews, a minority among Jewish people, live deeply conservative lives centred on the Bible and the family. Their attitude to homosexuality starts from the biblical judgement that sex between men is an abomination. Members of the Orthodox establishment have opposed any mention in America's Holocaust Museum of the fact that gays died in Nazi concentration camps.

Man about the House

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Review of 'Pure', director Gillies Mackinnon

Gillies Mackinnon's new film 'Pure' opens with a ten year old boy, Paul, preparing a fix of heroin. He puts it on a tray with flowers and cigarettes, and takes it upstairs to his mother as 'breakfast in bed'. Paul thinks that all he is doing is helping his mum with her 'medicine'. She is sick--so sick she has forgotten it is his birthday. This scene sets the tone for the rest of the film, in which Paul's mother Mel's drug addiction is seen through his eyes.

What the Tourists' Eyes Don't See

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Review of 'Life and Debt', director Stephanie Black

Get a taste of anti-capitalism Caribbean style. 'No money, no job. Borrowing money to lend. Too much foreign debt'--these are the words of the Jamaican reggae artist Mutabarka in the powerful documentary 'Life and Debt'.

This film exposes the harm capitalism inflicts on a nation and its people by looking at Jamaica, where the IMF has had its claws into the country for over 25 years.

Hitting the Right Notes

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Review of 'Werckmeister Harmonies', director Bela Tarr

This film is directed by an acclaimed Hungarian film-maker, Bela Tarr, whose work was recently celebrated with a retrospective at the National Film Theatre in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A more appropriate title would be the name of the novel it is based on, 'The Melancholy of Resistance' by Laszlo Krasaznahorkai, as that is what the film is about.

Shot for a Purpose

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A history of American war films

Darryl F Zanuck's 'The Longest Day' was very much a Nato film. It was made during the 1961 Berlin Wall crisis and reflected the US's need of its European allies in the Cold War with Russia. The film went out of its way to show the British, French, German and American experience of the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944. The Allies were shown working together and those 'decent' Germans who had fought bravely and were not Nazi fanatics were rehabilitated. There was, of course, no mention of the Russian contribution to the defeat of the Nazis.

Beautiful Picture

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Review of 'Frida', director Julie Taymor

Frida Kahlo was an extraordinarily colourful character--in her own right as a popular and unconventional painter, but also as the wife of one of the greatest modern painters, Diego Rivera, and sometime lover of one of the greatest Russian revolutionaries, Leon Trotsky. It is therefore no accident that her life has been celebrated in many books and plays. This rendering, 'Frida', directed by Julie Taymor with Salma Hayek as Frida, is a very worthy addition to the list.

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