Friday, June 30, 2006

The Secret Life of Words

(Spain, 2005, 114 minutes)

A deaf nurse who is a Balkan refugee is taken to an oil rig off the coast of Ireland to look over a worker severely burned in an accident, and both bond over their untold secrets. Intriguing but ultimately unsatisfactory melodrama whose steady handling, solid performances and enveloping mood are thrown away by the unwise decision to reveal too much of the characters' back stories. Still worth a look, though.

Focus Features and Agustín and Pedro Almodóvar present a El Deseo/Mediapro production in association with TVE, Canal Plus España and Televisió de Catalunya. Starring Sarah Polley, Tim Robbins, Javier Cámara, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Steven Mackintosh, Eddie Marsan; and Julie Christie. Directed and written by Isabel Coixet; produced by Esther García; director of photography, Jean-Claude Larrieu; production designer, Pierre-François Limbosch; costume designer, Tatiana Hernández; film editor, Irene Blecua.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cars

(USA, 2006, 117 minutes)

A brash, ambitious race car on his way to an important cup race finds himself stuck in the small backwater town of Radiator Springs. Although the plot isn’t as inspired as previous Pixar productions, this laid-back, easy-going computer-animated comedy keeps up the company’s standard of rich characterisations and stunning animation. And, as always, it’s a lot of fun to sit through.

Walt Disney Pictures presents a Pixar Animation Studios film. With the voice talent of Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub, Guido Quaroni, Jenifer Lewis, Paul Dooley, Michael Wallis, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, John Ratzenberger, Joe Ranft, Michael Keaton, Richard Petty, Jeremy Piven, Bob Costas, Darrell Waltrip, Richard Kind, Edie McClurg, Humpy Wheeler, Tom Magliozzi, Ray Magliozzi, Lynda Petty, Andrew Stanton, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Michael Schumacher, Jay Leno, Mario Andretti, Sarah Clark, Mike Nelson, Jonas Rivera, Lou Romano, Adrian Ochoa, E. J. Holowicki, Elissa Knight, Lindsey Collins, Larry Benton, Douglas “Mater” Keever. Directed by John Lasseter; co-directed by Joe Ranft; produced by Darla K. Anderson; screenplay by Dan Fogelman, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Kiel Murray, Phil Lorin and Jorgen Klubien, based on a story by Lasseter, Ranft and Klubien; music by Randy Newman; directors of photography, Jeremy Lasky and Jean-Claude Kalache; production designers, William Cone and Bob Pauley; film editor, Ken Schretzmann.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Matrimonio all'Italiana

Marriage Italian Style

(Italy/France, 1964, 101 minutes)

After WWII ends, a wealthy Neapolitan merchant takes on a big-hearted prostitute as his kept woman, without ever meaning to marry her — until she takes matters in her hands. Lively, if predictable, comedy-melodrama reuniting the stars and director of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, with a tour-de-force performance for its female lead.

Carlo Ponti presents a Compagnia Cinematografica Champion/Les Films Concordia co-production. Starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni; with Aldo Puglisi, Tecla Scarano, Marilu' Tolo. Directed by Vittorio de Sica; produced by Carlo Ponti; screenplay by Renato Castellani, Tonino Guerra, Leo Benvenuti and Piero de Bernardi, based on the play Filumena Marturano by Eduardo de Filippo; music by Armando Trovajoli; director of photography, Roberto Girardi; production designer, Carlo Egidi; costumes for Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni by Piero Tosi; wardrobe, Vera Marzot; film editor, Adriana Novelli.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Asylum

(Great Britain/Ireland, 2005, 100 minutes)

In late 1950s England, the lonely wife of a psychiatrist working in a mental asylum strikes up a passionate affair with one of the inmates — a convicted murderer. Intriguing but ultimately overwrought Gothic melodrama whose elegant visuals and uniformly excellent performances fail to raise it above excessive theatricality.

Paramount Classics and Seven Arts present a Seven Arts/Samson Films production in association with Mace Neufeld Productions. Starring Natasha Richardson, Ian McKellen, Marton Csokas, Hugh Bonneville, Judy Parfitt; and Joss Ackland. Directed by David Mackenzie; produced by Lawrence Borg, David E. Allen and Mace Neufeld; screenplay by Patrick Marber and Chrysanthy Balis, from the novel by Patrick McGrath; music by Mark Mancina; director of photography, Giles Nuttgens; production designer, Laurence Dorman; costume designer, Consolata Boyle; film editors, Colin Monie and Steven Weisberg.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Tideland

(Canada/Great Britain, 2005, 121 minutes)

Left to her own devices in her derelict family farm after both her junkie parents die, a young orphan creates her own fantasy world. Dark, American Gothic fairytale that tries bravely to navigate the story’s ambiguous overtones, but fails to find the correct tone it would require to look like more than a misfire.

Jeremy Thomas presents a Recorded Picture Company/Capri Films production, in association with Hanway Films, Telefilm Canada, Foresight Film, Astral Media, The Harold Greenberg Fund and The Movie Network, supported by The Canadian Government Tax Fund, Movie Central and the UK Film Council. Starring Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Janet McTeer; with Jennifer Tilly; and Jeff Bridges. Directed by Terry Gilliam; produced by Jeremy Thomas and Gabriella Martinelli; screenplay by Tony Grisoni and Terry Gilliam, based upon the novel Tideland by Mitch Cullin; music by Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna; director of photography, Nicola Pecorini; production designer, Jasna Stefanovic; costume designers, Mario Davignon and Delphine White; film editor, Lesley Walker.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Klimt

(Austria/Germany/Great Britain/France, 2005; director's cut, 132 minutes; producer's cut, 96 minutes)

On his deathbed in Vienna in 1918, artist Gustav Klimt revisits his life and his infatuation with women. Diffuse, opaque fantasy on a real-life character that is most definitely not a biographical study, but more of an abstruse meditation on memory and inspiration; for fans of its director only. At the producers' request, Ruiz prepared a shorter cut of the film.

An Epo-Film/Film-Line/Lunar Films/Gemini Films production, in association with Andreas Schmid. Starring John Malkovich, Veronica Ferres, Stephen Dillane, Saffron Burrows, Sandra Ceccarelli, Nikolai Kinski. Directed and written by Raúl Ruiz, based on an idea by Dieter Pochlatko and Herbert Vesely; produced by Dieter Pochlatko, Arno Ortmair, Matthew Justice and Andreas Schmid; English screenplay adaptation by Gilbert Adair; music by Jorge Arriagada; director of photography, Ricardo Aronovich; production designers, Rudi Czettel and Katharina Wöppermann; costume designer, Birgit Hutter; film editor, Valeria Sarmiento.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

(USA/Germany, 2006, 105 minutes)

A street-racing teenager who keeps getting into trouble is shipped off to live with his military father in Tokyo, but falls under the spell of “drift” racing and gets unwittingly involved with a shady gang of racers. Disposable but enjoyable exploitation actioner whose no-nonsense focus on fast cars and teenage thrills successfully reignites a franchise a laboured first sequel had pretty much left for dead. Technical credits as pro as they come.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Neal H. Moritz production. Starring Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley, Brian Tee, Sung Kang, Leonardo Nam, Brian Goodman, J. J. Sonny Chiba. Directed by Justin Lin; produced by Neal H. Moritz; written by Chris Morgan; music by Brian Tyler; director of photography, Stephen F. Windon; production designer, Ida Random; film editors, Fred Raskin and Kelly Matsumoto; visual effects supervisor, Michael J. Wassel.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Le Petit Lieutenant

(France, 2005, 115 minutes)

A freshman just out of police academy is assigned to detective work in a Paris crime squad. Low-key but gripping police procedural, sensitively handled and featuring excellent performances from a solid ensemble cast.

Why Not Productions presents a Why Not Productions/Studiocanal/France 2 Cinéma production with the participation of Canal Plus and TPS Star, supported by Procirep and Angoa-Angicoa. Starring Nathalie Baye, Jalil Lespert, Roschdy Zem, Antoine Chappey; with the participation of Jacques Perrin. Directed by Xavier Beauvois; produced by Why Not Productions; screenplay by Xavier Beauvois, Guillaume Bréaud and Jean-Éric Troubat, with Cédric Anger; adaptation and dialogues by Xavier Beauvois and Guillaume Bréaud; director of photography, Caroline Champetier; production designer, Alain Tchillinguirian; wardrobe, Marielle Robaut; film editor, Martine Giordano.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Squid and the Whale

(USA, 2005, 80 minutes)

Two Brooklyn teenagers learn to live with their parents’ divorce and subsequent joint custody. Bittersweet New York comedy drama of modern divorce, featuring a number of autobiographical elements of its writer/director, carried by insightful writing and excellent performances. Nominated for the 2005 Academy Award for best original screenplay.

Sony Pictures Releasing International presents an Original Media/Ambush Entertainment presentation, in association with Andrew Lauren Productions, of an American Empirical/Peter Newman—InterAL production. Starring Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, William Baldwin, Halley Feiffer; and Anna Paquin. Directed and written by Noah Baumbach; produced by Wes Anderson, Peter Newman, Charlie Corwin and Clara Markowicz; music by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; production designer, Anne Ross; costume designer, Amy Westcott; film editor, Tim Streeto.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Smoking

(France/Italy/Switzerland, 1993, 145 minutes)

No Smoking

(France/Italy/Switzerland, 1993, 146 minutes)

Not one but two separate yet interlocking films, adapted from British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges, a little-seen tour de force that provided its audience with one of 16 alternative endings depending on the night they would see the production. Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui’s script whittles the original endings and divides the original play into two movies, both taking up from the exact same starting point: in the Yorkshire village of Hutton Buscel, Celia, the local headmaster’s wife, is doing her Spring cleaning and takes a small break in her garden. In Smoking, she picks up a cigarette; in No Smoking, she chooses not to, and this is where both films diverge. Smoking follows Celia and her destructive relationship with her alcoholic husband Toby, No Smoking opts instead for Toby’s best friend, Miles, who harbours a secret passion for Celia while living a miserable marriage with his unfaithful wife Rowena. If it sounds complicated, there’s more to come as each film provides seven possible endings, both feature exactly the same set of nine characters and all roles are played by the same two actors, Resnais regulars Pierre Arditi and Sabine Azéma. While you may at first wonder what is Nouvelle Vague deconstructivist Alain Resnais doing adapting an Ayckbourn comedy, as each film unfolds you realise that he has found yet another way to exercise his singular talent for experimenting with the conventions of narrative cinema; the concept manages to transcend its apparent novelty value to harbour a clever and disturbing reflection on the bitterness of human relationships and the roles chance and decision play in each person’s fate. Amazingly, Resnais chose not to hide the theatrical origin of the source material: as both actors play all the roles, there are never more than two characters on screen at any point, and the films were entirely shot on soundstages, the English countryside being superbly recreated by production designer Jacques Saulnier and photography director Renato Berta. Arditi and Azéma soar in all of their roles, which demand very different registers; Resnais couples his cutting-edge experiment in narration with a deliberately accessible, boulevard comedy tone. The only drawback is in the length: at two and a half hours, the gimmick grows a bit weary before the end, but it’s certainly worth the wait. Either film can be seen independently of the other, you don’t have to see both and you don’t have to see any one first, but it is advisable to see both for the full effect.

A Pyramide Distribution release. Bruno Pesery and Michel Seydoux present an Arena Films/Camera One/France 2 Cinéma production, supported by Canal Plus, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Procirep, in co-production with Alia Film and Vega Film. Starring Pierre Arditi and Sabine Azéma. Directed by Alain Resnais; screenplay by Jean-Pierre Bacri and Agnès Jaoui, based on the play Intimate Exchanges by Alan Ayckbourn; music by John Pattison; director of photography, Renato Berta; production designer, Jacques Saulnier; costume designer, Jackie Budin; film editor, Albert Jurgenson; illustrations by Floc'h.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thumbsucker

(USA, 2004, 96 minutes)

A 17-year old dysfunctional teenager tries to lose his habit of thumbsucking. Sweet coming-of-age comedy carried by precise performances and handling.

Bob Yari Productions presents a This Is That/Cinema-Go-Go production in association with Bull's Eye Entertainment. Starring Lou Pucci, Tilda Swinton, Vincent d'Onofrio, Keanu Reeves, Benjamin Bratt, Kelli Garner; and Vince Vaughn. Directed and written by Mike Mills, from the novel by Walter Kirn; produced by Anthony Bregman and Bob Stephenson; music by Tim de Laughter; director of photography, Joaquin Baca-Asay; production designer, Judy Becker; costume designer, April Napier; film editors, Angus Wall and Haines Hall.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Chumscrubber

(USA/Germany, 2005, 106 minutes)

The suicide of a teenager slowly lifts the cover off the secrets of a small suburban community. Intriguing though not entirely successful dark satire that reaches for more than it can grab, but remains always interesting and thoughtful.

A Newmarket Films release. El Camino Pictures, Equity Pictures Medienfonds and Go Fish Pictures present a Lawrence Bender/Bonnie Curtis production. Starring Glenn Close, William Fichtner, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, John Heard, Lauren Holly, Jason Isaacs, Allison Janney, Carrie-Anne Moss, Rita Wilson, Jamie Bell, Camilla Belle, Justin Chatwin, Rory Culkin, Thomas Curtis, Lou Taylor Pucci. Directed by Arie Posin; produced by Lawrence Bender and Bonnie Curtis; screenplay by Zac Stanford, from a story by Arie Posin and Stanford; music by James Horner; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; production designer, Patti Podesta; costume designer, Mary Claire Hannan; film editors, William Scharf and Arthur Schmidt.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Inconscientes

(Spain/Germany/Portugal/Italy, 2004, 108 minutes)

In 1913 Barcelona, the pregnant wife of a renowned Freudian psychiatrist asks her brother-in-law to help her find out why he ran away from home, and both end up attracted to each other. Basically a standard-issue romantic comedy disguised under period trappings and sly, surreal humour; it doesn’t always work, but it’s an amiable enterprise.

An Alta Classics release of a Messidor Films/Tornasol Films/EMC Berlin/Madragoa Produção de Filmes/Classic production, in association with TVE and Canal Plus España. Starring Leonor Watling, Luis Tosar, Mercedes Sampietro, Juanjo Puigcorbé, Núria Prims, Alex Brendemühl, Ana Rayo, Cristina Solano. Directed by Joaquín Oristrell; produced by Gerardo Herrero and Mariela Besuievsky; written by Joaquín Oristrell, Teresa Pelegri and Dominic Harari; music by Sergio Moure; director of photography, Jaume Peracaula; production designer, Llorenç Miquel; costume designer, Bina Daigeler; film editor, Miguel Ángel Santamaria.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Omen

(USA, 2006, 104 minutes)

The American ambassador to England finds out his five-year old son is the Antichrist. Efficient but practically identical remake of the 1976 film that merely updates the story with a younger cast.

A Twentieth Century-Fox production. Starring Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon; and introducing Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. Directed by John Moore; produced by Glenn Williamson and John Moore; written by David Seltzer; music by Marco Beltrami; director of photography, Jonathan Sela; production designer, Patrick Lumb; costume designer, George L. Little; film editor, Dan Zimmerman.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Stoned

(Great Britain, 2005, 102 minutes)

The last months in the life of the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Brian Jones, as he retreats to his Sussex mansion, with the builder renovating the house becoming a sort of jack-of-all-trades valet. Uneasy cross between a two-hander gritty drama on class struggle in sixties England and a flashy rock biopic, with a dash of lurid “who killed Brian Jones?” sensationalism thrown in; there are interesting elements and general technical proficiency.

Intandem Films presents an Audley Films production, in association with Number 9 Films, Finola Dwyer Productions and Scala Productions. Starring Leo Gregory, Paddy Considine, David Morrissey, Tuva Novotny; and Monet Mazur. Directed by Stephen Woolley; produced by Finola Dwyer and Stephen Woolley; screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, based on and inspired by the books "Paint It Black" by Geoffrey Giuliano, "Who Killed Christopher Robin?" by Terry Rawlings and "The Murder of Brian Jones" by Anna Wohlin; music by David Arnold; director of photography, John Mathieson; production designer, John Beard; costume designer, Roger Burton; film editor, Sam Sneade.

Friday, June 02, 2006

All the Invisible Children

(Italy/USA/Brazil/Great Britain/China, 2005, 128 minutes)

Seven tales of underprivileged children around the world. Well-meaning but uneven portmanteau drama benefitting UNICEF, made up of seven short films specially commissioned from renowned directors given “carte blanche” to choose the subject as they saw fit; while not everyone manages to escape maudlin sentimentality and not all the films are equally good, the general level is better than expected.

An MK Film Productions/RAI Cinema production. Based on an idea by Chiara Tilesi; produced by Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Chiara Tilesi and Stefano Veneruso.
Tanza: starring Adama Bila, Elysee Rouamba, Rodrigue Ouettara, Ahmed Ouedraougo, Harouna Ouedraogo. Directed and written by Mehdi Charef; music by Rokia Traoré; director of photography, Philippe Brelot; art director, Rasmane Tiendrebeogo; costume designer, Martine Some; film editor, Yannick Kergoat.
Blue Gypsy: starring Uros Milovanovic, Dragan Zurovac, Vladan Milojevic, Goran R. Vracar, Mihona Vasic, Mita Belic, Dalibor Milenkovic, Miroslav Cvetkovic, Petar Simic. Directed by Emir Kusturica; written by Stribor Kusturica; music by Stribor Kusturica, Zoran Marijanovic, Dejan Sparavalo and Nenad Jankovic; director of photography, Milorad Glusica; production designer, Radovan Markovic; costume designer, Vesna Avramovic; film editor, Svetolik Mica Zajc.
Jesus Children of America: a 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks production. Starring Hannah Hodson, Andre Royo, Coati Mundi, Hazelle Goodman, Damaris Edwards, Keteya Ulmer, Ashley Evans, Lavon Malik Green, Petra Quinones, Natalia Roldan, Charles Socarides, Robin Lord Taylor, Lanette Ware, Philicia Wood, and Rosie Perez. Directed by Spike Lee; produced by Spike Lee and Mike Ellis; written by Cinqué Lee and Joie Lee; music by Terence Blanchard; director of photography, Cliff Charles; production designer, Sarah Frank; costume designer, Donna Berwick; film editor, Barry Alexander Brown.
Bilú e João: a Latitude Filmes/Gullane Films production. Starring Vera Fernandes, Francisco Anawake de Freitas. Directed by Katia Lund; produced by Kátia Lund, Caio Gullane, Débora Ivanov, Fabiano Gullane and Ricardo Aidar; written by Kátia Lund and Eduardo Tripa; music by António Pinto and Instituto; director of photography, Toca Seabra; costume designer, André Simonetti; film editor, Estevan Santos.
Jonathan: an RSA production. Starring David Thewlis, Kelly Macdonald, Jack Thompson, Jordan Clarke, Joshua Light. Directed by Jordan Scott and Ridley Scott; produced by Sookie Foster and Frances McGivern; written by Jordan Scott; music by Ramin Djawadi; director of photography, James Whitaker; production designer, Ben Scott; costume designer, Greg Fay; film editor, Dayn Williams.
Ciro: a Studio Francesco Rapa production. Starring Daniele Vicorito, Emmanuele Vicorito, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Peppe Lanzetta, Ernesto Mahieux, Giovanni Mauriello. Directed by Stefano Veneruso; screenplay by Diego de Silva and Stefano Veneruso, from a story by De Silva; music by Capote & BangtBangt; director of photography, Vittorio Storaro; set decorator, Annalisa Mucci; costume designer, Maria Pennacchio; film editor, Ugo de Rossi
Song Song and Little Cat: a Lion Rock production in association with Beijing Rosat Film & TV Productions Company and China Film Group Corporation. Starring Zhao Zicun, Qi Ruyi, Wang Bin, Jiang Wen Li, You Yong, Jiang Tong, Shen Chang, Xu Jun. Directed by John Woo; produced by Terence Chang; written by Li Qiang; music by Lin Hai; director of photography, Zeng Nianping; production designer, Tim Yip; costume designer, Liu Weifeng; film editor, Robert Ferretti.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Proposition

(Australia/Great Britain, 2005, 101 minutes)

In the Australian outback in Victorian times, a British policeman captures two of three outlaw brothers and offers a way out to one of them: he’ll spare him and the youngest brother if he goes out to hunt, find and kill the eldest. At first sight a violent Australian western in the manner of Sam Peckinpah, there is a tragic, literate streak at work in this garish melodrama but not enough of a plot to sustain it, despite well drawn characters and situations.

The UK Film Council presents a Surefire Films production of an Autonomous and Jackie O co-production, in association with Pictures in Paradise, and with the participation of the Pacific Film and Television Commission and the Film Consortium. Starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham; and Emily Watson. Directed by John Hillcoat; produced by Chris Brown, Jackie O'Sullivan, Chiara Menage and Cat Villiers; written by Nick Cave; music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis; director of photography, Benoît Delhomme; production designer, Chris Kennedy; costume designer, Margot Wilson; film editor, Jon Gregory.