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Review - Film - Brutal boys of war

Johnny mad dog

Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Starring: Carlos Badawi, Teddy Boy, Maxwell Carter

Out: Now on DVD

Cert: 15

Rating: 45

This film about child soldiers in Liberia is interesting but there are a couple of problems that prevent it from fulfilling its potential.

Although it pushes the boundaries of taste when it depicts the children's acts, I believe this is important in developing the characters of the child soldiers. Yet, except for Johnny Mad Dog, none of the children's personalities are developed and we don't see them on a deeper level than the caricatures they play.

In the early part of the film, the story of Laokole and her attempts to keep her father and brother away from the advancing soldiers is engrossing. The storyline creates personal empathy for the characters that is not achieved in other parts of the film.

The plot of the film lacks fluidity and seems to consist of a series of isolated events involving the same characters. The conclusion of the film drags on, with many possible endings being missed.

Overall, Johnny Mad Dog has a lot of potential with some interesting ideas and some good performances, but its biggest faults are the one-dimensional characters of the child soldiers and the ending.

Daniel Bramble, 15, Wallington County Grammar School, Surrey

Filmclub, a charity supported by Lovefilm, helps to set up after-school film clubs where children watch and discuss a range of films, promoting learning in an informal setting. Each week members of Filmclub will review everything from new releases to cinema classics. Join at www.filmclub.orgregister


Director: Debbie Isitt

Starring: Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen, Pam Ferris, Ricky Tomlinson

Out: Now on DVD

Certificate: PG

Rating: 45

Do you like Christmas? Mr Maddens (Martin Freeman), a teacher at St Bernadette's used to.

He is shocked when his headteacher (Pam Ferris) informs him that he is going to be responsible for the school nativity. Disaster ensues when he tells everyone that his ex-girlfriend, now a Hollywood producer, is coming to see the show with a view to turning it into a film.

As with all British-made films, Nativity! includes a plethora of home-grown talent. Mr Poppy (Marc Wootton) is introduced as Mr Maddens's learning assistant and possesses the unmistakable naivety of those who think that school life should be fun. Alan Carr and Ricky Tomlinson also feature for a short time, but they should be on screen longer.

This is a top, wintry feel-good film.

Claudia Wood, 10, St Swithun's Catholic Primary, Southsea, Hampshire


Director: Jamie Jay Johnson

Starring: Marina Baltadzi

Out: Now on DVD

Cert: PG

Rating: 35

At first glance, this film seems to be a light-hearted mickey-take of reality shows, but as it starts to get into its flow, you realise that it is actually a glamourised documentary about the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

The "popumentary" focuses on the aspiring singers and dancers that make it into the finals, and includes all the cheesy dancing and ear-splitting music you would expect to hear in any incarnation of Eurovision.

If you choose to ignore the actual performances in this movie, getting inside the minds of the featured competitors reveals a lot about their lives as minor "celebrities", how they act off stage, and more importantly how they handle being in the spotlight.

Though the film labels itself as a comedy, there are actually few moments intended to make you laugh.

Ronan Patrick, 14, Lord Williams's School, Thame, Oxfordshire


Director: John Frankenheimer

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh

Out: Now on DVD

Certificate: 15

Rating: 45

This is one of the best political thrillers ever made. It follows a troop of soldiers who are taken hostage for three days during the Korean War. As they return home, they start to suffer from recurring nightmares.

One of the soldiers, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), just happens to be the stepson of a candidate for vice-president. The question is what actually happened during those three days? And what secrets are the characters harbouring?

The film ratchets up the suspense in every scene before revealing the true nature of the plot, which is surprising and exhilarating. The lead characters are played magnificently and the last scene is breathtaking. It is an excellent climax to a film that has more twists and turns than I can count.

Muhammad Patel, 17, St Mary's College, Blackburn.

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