Thursday, August 31, 2006

Monster House

(USA, 2006, 88 minutes)

Two teenage boys discover that the sinister-looking house across the street is not only haunted, it is itself a live monster. Entertaining computer-animated Gothic horror comic for family audiences, in the spirit of executive producer Steven Spielberg’s mid-1980s productions.

Columbia Pictures presents in association with Relativity Media an Imagemovers/Amblin Entertainment production. With the voices of Steve Buscemi, Nick Cannon, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jon Heder, Kevin James, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, Kathleen Turner, Fred Willard, Mitchel Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke. Directed by Gil Kenan; produced by Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke; screenplay by Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Pamela Pettler, based on a story by Harmon and Schrab; music by Douglas Pipes; director of photography, Xavier Pérez Grobet; production designer, Ed Verreaux; costume designer, Ruth Myers; film editors, Adam P. Scott and Fabienne Rowley; visual effects supervisor, Jay Redd.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Garfield 2

(US, 2006, 75 minutes)

When his owner Jon flies to London to propose to girlfriend Liz, Garfield stows away in the luggage but, once there, is mistaken for a similar tabby who has gone missing after inheriting a vast country castle. A vast improvement over the first Garfield movie, with a more structured plot borrowed from The Prince and the Pauper and some decent gags; that the action is mostly concentrated on the animals helps enormously, and as in the first film the combination of live-action and animation is technically excellent.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents a Davis Entertainment Company production, produced in association with Dune Entertainment, Major Studio Partners and Ingenious Film Partners. Starring Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Billy Connolly, Ian Abercrombie, Lucy Davis, Roger Rees; and Bill Murray as the voice of Garfield. Directed by Tim Hill; produced by John Davis; screenplay by Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow, based upon the comic-strip character created by Jim Davis; music by Christophe Beck; director of photography, Peter Lyons Collister; production designer, Tony Burrough; costume designer, Francine Jamison-Tanchuck; film editor, Peter S. Elliot; animation supervisor, Chris Bailey; visual effects supervisor, Betsy Paterson.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Brutti, Sporchi e Cattivi

Ugly, Dirty and Bad

(Italy, 1976, 116 minutes)

The drunken patriarch of a sprawling clan living in penury in a Roman shantytown refuses to share with them the million lire he received after losing his eye. Savage, desperate (if often very funny) satire of greed that is brilliantly written and handled and, contradictorily, features an excellent performance from a lead who simply isn’t old enough to look the part and is covered in most unconvincing make-up.

A Surf Film release. Carlo Ponti presents a Compagnia Cinematografica Champion production. Starring Nino Manfredi; with Francesco Anniballi, Maria Bosco, Giselda Castrini, Alfredo d'Ippolito, Giancarlo Fanelli, Marina Fasoli, Ettore Garofolo, Marco Marsili, Franco Merli, Linda Moretti, Luciano Pagliuca, Giuseppe Paravati, Silvana Priori, Giovanni Rovini, Adriana Russo, Maria Luisa Santella, Mario Santella. Directed by Ettore Scola; produced by Carlo Ponti; written by Ruggero Maccari and Ettore Scola; music by Armando Trovaioli; director of photography, Dario di Palma; production designers, Luciano Ricceri and Franco Velchi; costume designer, Danda Ortona; film editor, Raimondo Crociani.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Genesis

(France/Italy, 2004, 80 minutes)

An African storyteller tells of the birth of the universe, the world and all living things. Earnest but rather banal not-quite-documentary that uses run-of-the-mill nature photography to illustrate an overly fanciful, somewhat hippyish retelling of the origin of life on Earth.

A Bac Films/Studio Canal release. Alain Sarde presents a Les Films Alain Sarde/Les Films de la Vérande/RTI production, with the participation of Canal Plus. Starring Sotigui Kouyaté. Directed and written by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou; produced by Alain Sarde; music by Bruno Coulais; camera, Claude Nuridsany, Marie Pérennou, Patrice Aubertel, William Lubtchansky and Cyril Tricot; film editors, Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte and Pauline Casalis.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Ant Bully

(USA, 2006, 86 minutes)

A young boy who likes wreaking havoc on anthills is magically reduced to the size of an ant and forced to live inside an ant colony to realise the error of his ways. Lively animated family adventure that marries an clever, if slim, storyline with very good computer animation and excellent work from the voice cast.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Legendary Pictures a Playtone production in association with DNA Productions. With the voices of Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Zach Tyler Eisen, Regina King, Bruce Campbell; and Lily Tomlin. Directed by John A. Davis; produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman and John A. Davis; screenplay by John A. Davis, based on the book by John Nickle; music by John Debney; director of digital photography, Ken Mitchroney; production designer, Barry E. Jackson; film editor, Jon Price.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Qing Hong

Shanghai Dreams

(China, 2005, 120 minutes)

In the early 1980s in the Chinese province of Guizhou, a quiet young teenager sees her first romance thwarted by her bitter father, who moved from Shanghai years earlier at the Party’s behest. Quietly tragic melodrama of unrequited puppy love used as a metaphor for generation and social gaps, that proceeds at a glacially slow pace but with mesmerizing attention to detail and assured handling and scripting.

Stellar Megamedia Group, Debo Films and Kingwood Culture present, in association with Fortissimo Films, a Qin Hong/Yang Lin presentation of a Wang Xiaoshuai Workshop production. Starring Gao Yuanyuan, Li Bin, Yao Anlian, Wang Xueyang. Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai; produced by Pi Li; written by Lao Ni and Wang Xiaoshuai; director of photography (Kantana Animation), Wu Di; production designer, Li Huatong; costume designer, Pang Yan; film editor, Yang Hongyu.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Una Giornata Particolare

A Special Day

(Italy/Canada, 1977, 108 minutes)

In 1938, on the day Hitler visits Rome, a wife and mother of six left home alone makes the acquaintance of the handsome bachelor living across the courtyard. Quiet, subtly political melodrama; for all intents and purposes a two-hander that eschews any theatrical bent and effectively casts its stars against type.

Carlo Ponti presents a Compagnia Cinematografica Champion/Canafox co-production. Starring Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni; with John Vernon, Françoise Berd. Directed by Ettore Scola; produced by Carlo Ponti; story and screenplay by Ruggero Maccari and Ettore Scola, with the collaboration of Maurizio Costanzo; music by Armando Trovaioli; director of photography, Pasqualino de Santis; production designer, Luciano Ricceri; costume designer, Enrico Sabbatini; film editor, Raimondo Crociani.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Les Amants Réguliers

Regular Lovers

(France, 2004, 182 minutes)

Against the revolutionary backdrop of 1968 Paris, a young poet and a young sculptor become lovers. Lyrical and impressionist memoir of the late sixties, beautifully shot in black and white, that gets lost in overlength, underscripting and too many passages where nothing happens other than good-looking young people doing nothing.

An Ad Vitam release. Gilles Sandoz and Pierre Chevalier present an ARTE France/Maïa Films production. Starring Louis Garrel, Clotilde Hesme, Éric Rulliat, Julien Lucas, Nicolas Bridet, Mathieu Genet, Raïssa Mariotti, Caroline Deruas-Garrel, Rébecca Convenant, Marie Girardin, Maurice Garrel, Cécile Garcia Fogel, Marc Barbé, Nicolas Maury, Brigitte Sy, Nicolas Chupin, Martine Schambacher. Directed by Philippe Garrel; written by Philippe Garrel, Arlette Langmann and Marc Cholodenko; music by Jean-Claude Vannier; director of photography, William Lubtchansky; production designers, Nikos Meletopoulos and Mathieu Menut; costume designer, Justine Pearce; film editors, Françoise Collin and Philippe Garrel.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Bubble

(USA, 2005, 73 minutes)

A smalltown doll factory worker who has struck a friendship with one of her co-workers resents the new, younger girl who comes in as a temp. Low-budget smalltown character study that develops into a whodunit without the mystery, shot on location in high-definition video with a non-professional local cast; basically another experiment for an endlessly playful filmmaker, though one that will certainly confuse his most mainstream followers. Shot for $1.7 million as the first of six low-budget films meant for simultaneous release in theatres, on DVD and on pay-per-view cable television.

A Magnolia Pictures/2929 Entertainment/HDNet Films release. HDNet Films presents in association with 2929 Entertainment an Extension 765 production. Starring Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin Ashley, Misty Wilkins, Decker Moody, K. Smith. Directed by Steven Soderbergh; produced by Gregory Jacobs; written by Coleman Hough; music by Robert Pollard; director of photography, Peter Andrews (Steven Soderbergh); costume supervisor, Garet Reilly; film editor, Mary Ann Bernard (Steven Soderbergh).

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ask the Dust

(USA/Germany/South Africa, 2005, 117 minutes)

In 1930s Los Angeles, a struggling, penniless writer attempting the Great American Novel becomes fascinated by the Mexican waitress working at the diner down the road. Good-looking but rather pointless addition to the impossible-romance-period-melodrama canon, unable to shake the story’s literary origin despite good technical credits and period feel.

Paramount Classics presents in association with Capitol Films a Cruise-Wagner/Film & Entertainment VIP Medienfonds 3/Ascendant Filmproduktion/Alexander Films production. Starring Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland, Eileen Atkins, Idina Menzel, Justin Kirk. Directed by Robert Towne; produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Don Granger and Jonas McCord; screenplay by Robert Towne, based on the novel by John Fante; music by Ramin Djawadi and Heitor Pereira; director of photography, Caleb Deschanel; production designer, Dennis Gassner; costume designer, Albert Wolsky; film editor, Robert K. Lambert.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Superman Returns

(USA, 2006, 148 minutes)

After a five-year absence, Superman returns to Metropolis to find Lois Lane has a fiance and a child, while his nemesis Lex Luthor has discovered the whereabouts of the Fortress of Solitude and plans to use its secrets to take him down. The long-awaited return to the big screen of the legendary comic-book superhero after a 20-year absence is a handsome and thoughtful (but probably too much so) adventure with an uncomfortably excessive use of serious symbolism and too many plotlines vying for attention without any being given enough screen time; production credits excellent.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Legendary Pictures and DC Comics, a Jon Peters Entertainment production in association with Bad Hat Harry Productions. Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, Sam Huntington; and Kevin Spacey. Directed by Bryan Singer; produced by Jon Peters, Bryan Singer and Gilbert Adler; screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, based upon a story by Bryan Singer, Dougherty and Harris, and upon the comic-strip character created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; music by John Ottman; Superman theme by John Williams; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; production designer, Guy Hendrix Dyas; costume designer, Louise Mingenbach; film editors, John Ottman and Elliot Graham; visual effects supervisor, Mark Stetson.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Miami Vice

(USA, 2006, 133 minutes)

Two undercover vice squad detectives in Miami find themselves dragged into a federal operation aiming to capture a mysterious drug trafficker working somewhere from Latin America. Dark, kinetic, adult thriller that retains the characters and basic premise but (thankfully) little else of a popular TV series of the 1980s; the rather schematic plot never detracts from the film’s nervous, urgent style. Writer/director Michael Mann was executive producer on the original TV series.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Motion Picture ETA Filmproduktion, a Forward Pass production. Starring Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux, Barry Shabaka Henley, Luis Tosar, John Ortiz. Directed by Michael Mann; produced by Michael Mann and Pieter Jan Brugge; screenplay by Michael Mann, based upon the TV series "Miami Vice" created by Anthony Yerkovich; music by John Murphy; director of photography, Dion Beebe; production designer, Victor Kempster; costume designers, Janty Yates and Michael Kaplan; film editors, William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Romance and Cigarettes

(USA, 2005, 104 minutes)

A blue-collar New Yorker is split between an impetuous red-headed lover and a resentful wife who is not happy to learn of her husband’s infidelity. Bewildering musical melodrama that could easily be defined as Dennis Potter in Queens, but never really works despite a committed all-star cast because it is all over the place: it hasn’t much of a plot to start with, falls too easily into foulmouthed humour, most characters have no obvious reason to be there and descends into weepie territory in the last half-hour.

United Artists and Joel and Ethan Coen present, in association with Icon Entertainment International, a Greene Street Films/Janus Films production. Starring James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro; and Christopher Walken. Directed and written by John Turturro; produced by John Penotti and Turturro; music supervisor, Chris Robertson; original music by Paul Chihara; director of photography, Tom Stern; production and costume designer, Donna Zakowska; film editor, Ray Hubley; choreographer, Trixie Brouk, with additional choreography by Margie Gillis.