John Woo's 1992 cop thriller was his last Hong Kong movie, and it's a self-conscious career peak. Chow Yun-Fat packs an arsenal that would shame the Pentagon as a cop called Tequila; Tony Leung rehearses for Infernal Affairs as his undercover mob contact. The original HK title translates as"Hot-Handed God Of Cops", which is about right.
Robust, insightful doc by Startup.com director Jehane Noujaim examining the role of Arabic news channel Al Jazeera during the recent Gulf War. Despite being damned by Donald Rumsfeld as the mouthpiece of Al-Qaeda, Al Jazeera emerges as the only honest voice, struggling to be heard above the clamour of misinformation, manipulation and deceit (most of it, ironically, from the US networks). A real David and Goliath story, expertly told.
Another memorable yakuza thriller from the Takeshi Miike production line, this gets off to a cracking start with a hilarious dog gag, then swerves into Lynchian weirdville with the introduction of a soothsayer, a transvestite or two, a lactating innkeeper and a minotaur. Just when the movie begins to sink into a surrealist stupor, Miike lets loose with a climax outrageous even by his own prodigious standards.
William H Macy and Oscar-nominated Alec Baldwin are exceptional in this downbeat Vegas-set drama from first-time writer-director Wayne Kramer. Hardly anyone does pent-up malice better than Baldwin, and he's particularly combustible here as an old-school casino boss under pressure to modernise his operation, who turns somewhat unreasonable when Macy tries to walk out on him.
Muddled, witless look at the notorious 1981 murders on LA's Wonderland Avenue, with an unconvincing Val Kilmer as faded porn star John Holmes, in over his coke-addled head in drug scams and violence. A pale cousin of Boogie Nights, its attempted narrative/ editing tricks flop badly. Kate Bosworth and Lisa Kudrow weep, and there's a scorching soundtrack (lggy, Patti, T.Rex). But kindness to the living exacerbates the mess.
The issue of Basque separatism simmers unresolved in Spain, where Julio Medem's documentary has aroused controversy for its alleged one-sidedness. The director's technique is unsubtle. He's rounded up countless talking heads, sat them in chairs in front of attractive Basque scenery, and got them to talk to camera about the complicated political, historical and social issues involved. The result is somewhat tedious and confusing.
Veteran Japanese director Yoji Yamada's 77th film recasts the Samurai epic with a fin-de-siècle cynicism reminiscent of the revisionist westerns of the '60s and '70s. In the dying days of 19th-century Japan's Edo period, a reluctant Samurai (Hiroyuki Sanada) fulfils his duties while dreaming of settling down. A beautiful, moving deconstruction of national folk myths.
San Francisco, 1969: do enough acid and anything is possible. A gaggle of (mostly) gay freaks and flower children (and latterly, disco diva-to-be Sylvester) become the Cockettes, a utopian, ragged-arsed theatre troupe who wow the West Coast but flop in NY. This funny, moving doc eventually unravels in a roll call of deaths, both drug and AIDS-related. They were stardust, but all too briefly.
Bizarre documentary atmospherically recreating strange events that took place in a small Wisconsin town in the 1890s. Economic depression and an epidemic spark off a succession of murders and suicides, and insanity is rife—most memorably in the form of the cocaine-fuelled Mary Sweeney, who travelled the whole state killing windows. Compelling.
The idea of Ralph Fiennes' sibling shooting a doc about God and guns in South Central LA is inherently tiresome. But, in fact, Sophie F manages to get inside the soul of this torn community. Grace Jones' pastor brother Noel is as fake as any pulpit rhetorician, but his Hoover Street church is a revival of hope.