Stephen Philip

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Sin City - We Don't Live Here Anymore - piracy - new Von Trier - The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael

A lot of PR fizz accompanies Sin City to these shores. Frank Miller, author of the hip noir graphic novels on which it is based, has written the screenplay and co directed the movie with Robert Rodriguez. It's the kind of slavish adaptation that gets geek kids excited but will leave the rest of us cold. Visually and technically it's a tour de force - shot in silvery greys, rich blacks and hot white that positively shimmers, with the occasional splash of colour. But where's the heart of the story?

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Consequences of Love - Mysterious Skin - A Good Woman - Toussaint biopic - Wilberforce - The Wind That Shakes the Barley

The Consequences of Love, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, is meant to signal a revival in the fortunes of Italian cinema. It's certainly a relief from that nation's recent sentiment-drenched offerings. But this stylish pared-down drama effort is still some way from the high point of politically committed 1970s Italian cinema.

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Berlin and Sundance Film Festivals become more political

Major international film festivals are reliable indicators of how the independent film community is responding to the heightened political mood around the world. Nowadays more financiers are prepared to back more realistic, challenging dramas or politically committed documentaries in the certainty there will be a decent audience for them. Ken Loach was recently questioned on Radio 4's Today programme about how we can explain the growth of interest in political films.

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The Chorus - 9 Songs - 70s American cinema

The story of an inspirational teacher who motivates 'difficult' pupils to uncover their inner creativity has a long pedigree. It can either be rousing and moving or drown us in sentimentality, which alas is the case with The Chorus (cert 12, released 11 March, Curzon Mayfair, Picture House Clapham and key cities), a hit in its native France and the country's nomination for the Oscars. It tells the story of a benign music teacher Clément Mathieu (Gérard Jugnot), a failed musician, who goes to work at a reform/prep school.

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The Sea Inside - Spanglish - British film industry

Whose life is it anyway, asks The Sea Inside? If a previously physically active man was to suffer an accident that rendered him permanently bedridden, his purview of the world limited to what he can see through the farmhouse window, reliant on family for basic support, would it be selfish of him to decide to take his own life? Is it only god who should decide when we die? These are some of the questions that come to mind when viewing this poignant and powerful drama by Alejandro Amenabar (director of The Others).

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Million Dollar Baby - Sideways - American Cinema 1967-1980 - A Very Long Engagement - Closer - Dear Frankie - Ray - Yasmin

January is traditionally a bumper month of classy studio movies released before the Oscars. Hugely impressive is Million Dollar Baby directed by Clint Eastwood. A dirt poor waitress Maggie (Hilary Swank) is desperate to make it as a female boxer. Tired and grizzled gym owner Frank (Clint Eastwood) initially refuses to train her as he doesn't work with 'girlies'. A down at heel gym flunky - played by gruff Morgan Freeman - offers Maggie some useful tips.

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The Aviator - Napoleon Dynamite - Anatomy of Hell - Nine Songs - Mondovino

It's an open secret that Orson Welles based Citizen Kane on the megalomaniac Howard Hughes, who went to extraordinary lengths to try and get the film shelved. Martin Scorsese's The Aviator is a fitfully entertaining stab at chronicling the life of the mentally flawed figure. Alas the story is more in Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker mode; Hughes (Leonardo Di Caprio) as buccaneer maverick capitalist challenging his more corrupt staid rivals.

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Radical documentaries - Iraq war on film - London Film Festival highlights

Radical documentary makers have been labouring away producing independent features as an alternative to the slavish US media for decades. Whereas before only a few hit the headlines and went beyond campus and cable television distribution the current period of fervent debate in the US has produced a new renaissance.

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Two different revenge movies - Film festivals are turning political

Two revenge movies are out this month with contrasting ambitions. Dead Man's Shoes (dir: Shane Meadows, 1 October) is a bleak tale - a brother returns from the army to wreak a terrible revenge on a bunch of lowlife druggies who mistreated his younger, simple-minded brother. The army brother (Paddy Considine) has a degree of menace and fearlessness that the gang find unnerving. Soon he sets about despatching them to 'heaven', where he says 'god will forgive them'. Undone by the corrupting effects of playing the avenging angel, he reaches a depressing climax.

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Review of 'Code 46', director Michael Winterbottom

Code 46 is a thought-provoking, resonant, sci-fi movie for those looking for an antidote to this summer's blander blockbuster efforts. A visually haunting poetic film, set in a world where genetics, global warming and immigration controls have reached new extremes, it has much to say politically - even if the romantic heart of the film may not always prove as compelling as it should.

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