Saturday, September 30, 2006

Invisible Waves

(Thailand/Netherlands/South Korea/Hong Kong, 2005, 118 minutes)

A killer finds out his employer has no wish to keep him alive after killing his wife. Moody, muted, phantasmagorical melodrama that has quite a way with handling but, despite an intriguing first half, ends up not really going anywhere.

A Fortissimo Films presentation/production in co-production with Dedicate, Focus Films, CJ Entertainment and Fapuk Alatan. Starring Tadanobu Asano, Gang Hye-Jung, Ken Mitsuishi, Maria Cordero, Eric Tsang. Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang; produced by Michael J. Werner and Wouter Barandrecht; written by Prabda Yoon; music by Hualampong Riddim; director of photography, Christopher Doyle; production designer, Saksiri Chantarangsri; costume designers, Visa Kongka and Takeo Kikuchi; film editor, Patamanadda Yukol.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

(USA/Germany, 2006, 105 minutes)

A crate of poisonous snakes is unleashed in a flight bound to Los Angeles to eliminate a witness to a murder being escorted back to the US by a FBI agent. B-grade star thriller that started gathering a huge internet buzz months before its release simply thanks to its bewilderingly silly (but extremely accurate) title (at one point the producers changed it to Pacific Air Flight 121 only to change it back once they realized its brilliant silliness). It’s actually an anonymously handled combination of horror comic and disaster movie that is never as trashy as the title would have you think, nor as serious as it should be to have a shot at proper entertainment, but is a fun time-passer nevertheless.

New Line Cinema presents a Mutual Film Company production, in association with Meradine Zweite Produktions. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Bobby Cannavale, Flex Alexander, Todd Louiso, Sunny Mabrey, Kenan Thompson. Directed by David R. Ellis; produced by Gary Levinsohn, Don Granger and Craig Berenson; screenplay by John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez, based upon a story by Heffernan and David Dallesandro; music by Trevor Rabin; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; production designer, Jaymes Hinkle; costume designer, Karen Matthews; film editor, Howard E. Smith; visual effects supervisor, Erik Henry.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Lady in the Water

(USA, 2006, 108 minutes)

The janitor of an apartment building finds out the person taking baths in the swimming pool after hours is a princess from a parallel universe stranded on our world. Storybook fantasy for adults that wastes its stylish handling and an excellent lead performance in fumbling scripting.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents in association with Legendary Pictures a Blinding Edge Pictures production. Starring Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright, Sarita Choudhury, M. Night Shyamalan, Cindy Cheung, Freddy Rodriguez, Bill Irwin, Jared Harris, Mary Beth Hurt. Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan; produced by M. Night Shyamalan and Sam Mercer; music by James Newton Howard; director of photography, Christopher Doyle; production designer, Martin Childs; costume designer, Betsy Heimann; film editor, Barbara Tulliver; creatures designed by Crash McCreery.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Les Temps qui changent

Changing Times

(France, 2004, 101 minutes)

An engineer decides to win back the one and only love of his life, although they haven’t seen in 30 years and she has moved on with her life. Subtle melodrama of love and loss that carries all the usual hallmarks of its author, with excellent performances and attentive handling making up for a somewhat unfinished script.

A Gemini Films release. Paulo Branco presents a Gemini Films/France 2 Cinéma production, with the participation of Centre Nationale de la Cinématographie, Canal Plus and TPS Star, with the support of Banque Populaire Images 5 and Sofica Soficinéma. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, Gilbert Melki, Malik Zidi, Lubna Azabal, Tanya Lopert. Directed by André Téchiné; produced by Paulo Branco; screenplay by André Téchiné, Laurent Guyot and Pascal Bonitzer; music by Juliette Garrigues; director of photography, Julien Hirsch; production designer, Zé Branco; costume designer, Christian Gasc; costume designer for Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Leterrier; film editor, Martine Giordano.

Friday, September 22, 2006

World Trade Center

(USA/Germany, 2006, 130 minutes)

The true story of New York Port Authority police officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno, who were rescued from under the rubble of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. Inspirational true-life melodrama that is a surprising choice of material for a usually more cantankerous director; an excellent first half is slowly derailed by formulaic, melodramatic TV-movie formatting that no amount of virtuoso handling or earnest performances can undo.

Paramount Pictures presents a Michael Shamberg/Stacey Sher/Moritz Borman production in association with Kernos Filmproduktiongesellschaft. Starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maria Bello, Stephen Dorff, Jay Hernandez, Michael Shannon, Donna Murphy, Frank Whaley. Directed by Oliver Stone; produced by Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, Moritz Borman and Debra Hill; screenplay by Andrea Berloff; music by Craig Armstrong; director of photography, Seamus McGarvey; production designer, Jan Roelfs; costume designer, Michael Dennison; film editors, David Brenner and Julie Monroe; visual effects supervisor, John Scheele.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Talladega Nights — The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

(USA, 2006, 105 minutes)

The rise and fall of a NASCAR stock-car driver who has spent all his life trying to live up to his daddy’s motto: “If you’re not first, you’re last”. Smart but affectionate satire of redneck America that provides a solid ensemble cast with prime so-dumb-they’re-smart setpieces; most of it will probably fly over the heads of non-American audiences, but for those in the know the comedy is spot-on.

Columbia Pictures presents in association with Relativity Media an Apatow Company/Mosaic Media Group production. Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen, Gary Cole, Michael Clarke Duncan, Leslie Bibb, Jane Lynch, Amy Adams, Andy Richter. Directed by Adam McKay; produced by Jimmy Miller and Judd Apatow; written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay; music by Alex Wurman; director of photography, Oliver Wood; production designer, Clayton R. Hartley; costume designer, Susan Matheson; film editor, Brent White.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

98 Octanas

(Portugal, 2006, 94 minutes)

A man on the run and a woman travelling without aim meet on a highway rest area; he gives her a lift and they start an awkward relationship. Aimless, plotless road movie whose stilted dialogue and non-existant characters make it very hard to sit through, despite excellent visuals and credits.

Paulo Branco presents a Clap Filmes production in association with ICAM and RTP. Starring Rogério Samora, Carla Chambel, Márcia Breia, Fernando Heitor, Joaquim Leitão. Directed by Fernando Lopes; produced by Paulo Branco; screenplay by João Lopes and Fernando Lopes, based on the short piece "98 Octanas" by Diogo Seixas Lopes; music by Bernardo Sassetti; director of photography, Edmundo Díaz; production and costume designer, Zé Branco; film editors, Miguel Ceitil and Fernando Lopes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Water

(Canada, 2005, 116 minutes)

In 1938 India, an eight-year old widow is sent to an ashram that survives by having the most beautiful of the widows there sell her body as a prostitute. Lavishly shot melodrama that questions the validity of age-old Indian customs; while a life-affirming, worthy enterprise, the plotting is generally very stilted and the general elegance and style seem somewhat at odds with the bleak storyline. The third film in Indian writer/director Deepa Mehta's "elemental trilogy" after Fire and Earth, the film’s subject matter caused such controversy in India that the production was forced to transfer the shoot to Sri Lanka after the sets were torched and threats were made on her life.

A Celluloid Dreams presentation. Mongrel Media presents, in association with Telefilm Canada, Noble Nomad Pictures and Echo Lake Productions, a David Hamilton/Hamilton Mehta production, produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada, The Movie Network, Super Écran, Astral Media/The Harold Greenberg Fund and Canadian Television Fund, in association with Chum Television, Movie Central and Corus Entertainment. Starring Seema Biswas, Lisa Ray, John Abraham; and introducing Sarala. Directed and written by Deepa Mehta; produced by David Hamilton; music by Mychael Danna; songs composed by A. R. Rahman, with lyrics by Sukhwinder Singh; director of photography, Giles Nuttgens; production designer, Dilip Mehta; costume designer, Dolly Ahluwallia; film editor, Colin Monie.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Big White

(Canada/Germany, 2004, 105 minutes)

In an Alaska small town, a bankrupt travel agent hits upon the idea of passing a dead body he found in the dumpster for his long-disappeared brother in order to collect on his insurance policy and get treatment for his deranged wife, but things do not run according to plan. Manic all-star black comedy whose underdeveloped script looks too close for comfort to Fargo. The cast looks like it had a grand time doing it, but it doesn’t carry through to the viewer.

Ascendant Pictures presents in association with Capitol Films a Film & Entertainment VIP Medienfonds 2/Ascendant Filmproduktion production in association with Rising Star. Starring Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, Woody Harrelson, Tim Blake Nelson, W. Earl Brown; and Alison Lohman. Directed by Mark Mylod; produced by Christopher Eberts, David Faigenblum and Chris Roberts; written by Collin Friesen; music by Mark Mothersbaugh; director of photography, James Glennon; production designer, Jon Billington; costume designer, Darena Snowe; film editor, Julie Monroe.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Quelques Jours en Septembre

A Few Days in September

(France/Italy, 2006, 115 minutes)

A retired spy is asked by a former colleague to pick up his two children so he can meet them, but she finds other people are searching for him as well. Highly literate, elegantly restrained combination of existentialist spy thriller à la John Le Carré and family melodrama, marred by a needless conspiracy thriller aspect, some perfunctory plotting and a ridiculously off-kilter villain.

Paulo Branco presents a Gemini Films/Les Films du Rat/France 2 Cinéma/Production Group production, with the support of Centre National de la Cinématographie and the participation of Canal Plus and TPS Star. Starring Juliette Binoche, John Turturro, Sara Forestier, Tom Riley; with Nick Nolte as Elliot; also starring Mathieu Demy, Saïd Amadis. Directed and written by Santiago Amigorena; produced by Paulo Branco; music by Laurent Martin; director of photography, Christophe Beaucarne; production designer, Emmanuelle Duplay; costume designer, Isabelle Baudry; film editor, Sarah Turoche.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dumplings

(Hong Kong, 2004, 89 minutes)

A former star actress seeking to regain her youth and reconquer her straying husband tries a secret recipe for dumplings cooked by a mysterious woman. Expansion of one of the episodes in the excellent Three... Extremes horror compendium into a stylish, striking full-length feature; essentially brooding social satire posing as adult, mature horror, impeccably presented, but lacking some of the economy of the shorter version.

A Fortissimo Films presentation of an Applause Pictures production. Starring Miriam Yeung, Bai Ling; special appearance by Tony Ka-Fai Leung. Directed by Fruit Chan; produced by Peter Ho-Sun Chan; written by Lilian Lee; music by Chan Kwong-Wing; director of photography, Christopher Doyle; production designer, Yee Chung-Man; costume designer, Dora Ng; film editors, Tin Sam Fat and Chan Ki-Hop.

Friday, September 15, 2006

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

(USA, 2006, 96 minutes)

An architect finds out the neurotic, jealous gallerist he’s been seeing is in fact super-heroine G-Girl; when he realises he doesn’t love her and dumps her, she vows revenge. Amiable romantic comedy that, despite the cast’s best efforts, is simply neither funny nor smartly handled enough to do justice to its premise.

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Regency Enterprises presents a New Regency/Pariah production. Starring Uma Thurman, Luke Wilson, Anna Faris, Eddie Izzard, Rainn Wilson; and Wanda Sykes. Directed by Ivan Reitman; produced by Gavin Polone and Arnon Milchan; written by Don Payne; music by Teddy Castellucci; director of photography, Don Burgess; production designer, Jane Musky; costume designer, Laura Jean Shannon; film editors, Sheldon Kahn and Wendy Greene Bricmont; visual effects supervisor, Erik Nash.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

(USA, 2006, 96 minutes)

A documentary on former US vice-president and presidential candidate Al Gore’s lecture on global warming. Essentially a sympathetic if pretty straight-forward record of Gore’s activist roadshow intercut with some personal facts, this rises or falls on the strength of its “star”, who has become so good at making these points on environmental issues that it makes for compelling viewing, but this is not much of a film experience.

Paramount Classics and Participant Productions present a Lawrence Bender/Laurie David production. Directed by Davis Guggenheim; produced by Laurie David, Lawrence Bender and Scott Z. Burns; music by Michael Brook; camera, Bob Richman and Davis Guggenheim; production designer, John Calkins; film editors, Jay Cassidy and Dan Swietlik.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha

(South Africa, 2004, 127 minutes)

In the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha, fiery, feisty rabblerouser Carmen seduces a police sergeant into loving her. Bizet’s classic opera is brought to contemporary South Africa and translated into the native xhosa language; this is an opened-out record of a hugely successful stage production, featuring the original local all-singing cast (with a good lead performance), but it is a dull if earnest record with serious narrative problems and non-descript handling.

A Nando's Arts initiative in association with Spier Films. A Dimpho Di Kopana production, made with the financial support of the Department of Trade and Industry, and with the assistance of the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa. Starring Pauline Malefane, Andries Mbali, Andiswa Kedama, Ruby Mthethwa, Andile Tshoni, Bulelwa Cosa, Zintle Mgolwe, Lungelwa Blou, Zamile Gantana, Zorro Sidloyi, Joel Mthethwa, Noluthando Boqwana. Directed by Mark Dornford-May; produced by Mark Dornford-May, Ross Garland and Camilla Driver; screenplay by Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama and Pauline Malafane, adapted from the original libretto by Ludovic Halevy and Henry Meilhac for the opera "Carmen" by Georges Bizet; music by Georges Bizet; musical director, Charles Hazlewood; director of photography, Giulio Biccari; set designer, Craig Smith; costume designer, Jessica Dornford-May; film editor, Ronelle Loots; choreographer, Joel Mthethwa.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Animal

(France/Portugal/Great Britain, 2005, 102 minutes)

In the near future, a genetic scientist synthesizes a compound that turns man’s primal violent urges on and off at will, and tries it on himself. Inept futuristic thriller that wastes a good premise and production values in poor scripting and inadequate acting, hoping the stylish visuals will somehow make up for it. They don’t.

Studio Légende presents a Studio Légende/Animatógrafo II/Animal Productions/TF1 Films Production/Légende production with the participation of Canal Plus. Starring Andreas Wilson, Emma Griffiths Malin, Diogo Infante, Ed Stoppard, Mark Heap, Abdul Salis; and John Standing. Directed and written by Roselyne Bosch; produced by Ilan Goldman; music by Christian Henson; director of photography, Tetsuo Nagata; production designers, Jacques Rouxel and Clara Vinhais; costume designer, Chattounne; film editor, Maryline Monthieux.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Après Vous...

(France, 2003, 110 minutes)

A busy chief waiter at a Paris restaurant saves a complete stranger from suicide over having been dumped by the love of his life, and decides to help him get back on his feet. Quirky, pleasing romantic comedy in disguise that starts off very well but eventually loses steam towards its somewhat predictable ending.

A Mars Distribution release of a Les Films Pelléas production, in co-production with France 2 Cinéma, Gimages Films, Gimages Développement, Glem Film and Tovo Films, with the participation of Centre National de la Cinématographie and Canal Plus. Starring Daniel Auteuil, José Garcia, Sandrine Kiberlain, Maryline Canto, Michelle Moretti, Garance Clavel. Directed by Pierre Salvadori; produced by Philippe Martin; screenplay by Pierre Salvadori and Benoît Graffin, with the collaboration of David Colombo, David Léotard and Marc Syrigas, based on a story by Danièle Dubroux; dialogue by Pierre Salvadori; music by Camille Bazbaz; director of photography, Gilles Henry; production designer, Yves Fournier; costume designer, Virginie Montel; film editor, Isabelle Devinck.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Volver

(Spain, 2005, 120 minutes)

Just as a country housewife living in Madrid is trying to make ends meet, her long-deceased mother comes back from the dead and sets up at her sister's house. Warm, engaging melodrama that is of a piece with its author’s brand of garish, over-the-top melodramas but is elegantly toned down from his usual style; extraordinary performances and effortlessly classy handling hold up a more pensive, thoughtful script.

A Focus Features release of an El Deseo production with the participation of TVE and Canal Plus España. Starring Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo; and Chus Lampreave. Directed and written by Pedro Almodóvar; produced by Esther García; music by Alberto Iglesias; director of photography, José Luis Alcaine; art director, Salvador Parra; costume designer, Bina Daigeler; film editor, José Salcedo.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

You, Me and Dupree

(USA/Germany, 2006, 108 minutes)

A newlywed couple takes in his evicted best friend, an irresponsible but generous layabout who can’t hold a job, and start almost immediately regretting it. Enjoyable star comedy that wisely decides not to overdo its central premise, but never really takes off into the promised hilarity, despite being a cut above the competition.

Universal Pictures presents in association with MMCB Film Produktion 2004 a Stuber-Parent/Avis-Davis production. Starring Owen Wilson, Kate Hudson, Matt Dillon, Seth Rogen, Amanda Detmer, Todd Stashwick; and Michael Douglas. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo; produced by Scott Stuber, Mary Parent and Owen Wilson; written by Michael Le Sieur; music by Theodore Shapiro; director of photography, Charles Minsky; production designer, Barry Robison; costume designer, Karen Patch; film editor, Peter B. Ellis and Debra Neil-Fisher.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Passenger

Professione: Reporter

(Italy/France/Spain, 1975, 125 minutes)

A burned out reporter on assignment in Africa switches identities with the dead man he accidentally finds in the hotel room next door. Dazzling, obliquely character-driven existentialist melodrama; coolly received at the time of its release, it has gained in stature throughout the years (and the director himself considered it one of his favourite works). The original US release ran 115 minutes, a 125-minute cut preferred by Antonioni having been released in European countries only; it was the 125-minute version that saw a 2005 30th anniversary theatrical re-release.

A Sony Pictures Classics release. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents a Carlo Ponti production of a Compagnia Cinematografica Champion/Les Films Concordia/CIPI Cinematografica co-production. Starring Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider; with Jenny Runacre; and Ian Hendry. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni; produced by Carlo Ponti; screenplay by Mark Peploe, Peter Wollen and Michelangelo Antonioni, from a story by Mark Peploe; director of photography, Luciano Tovoli; art director, Piero Poletto; costume designer, Louise Stjensward; film editors, Franco Arcalli and Michelangelo Antonioni.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Paradise Now

(Palestine/Netherlands/Israel/Germany/France, 2005, 92 minutes)

The last 48 hours in the life of two Palestinian suicide bombers assigned to a Telaviv bombing. Challenging melodrama drawn from contemporary headlines that refuses to choose sides and is suffused with a black, absurd humour that lightens its dramatic approach.

An Augustus Film/Lama Films/Razor Film/Lumen Films/Hazazah Film/ARTE France Cinéma production, with the support of Nederlands Fonds voor de Film, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Eurimages, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and World Cinema Fund. Starring Lubna Azabal, Kais Nashef, Ali Suliman, Amer Hlehel, Hiam Abbass, Ashraf Barhoum. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad; produced by Hengameh Panahi, Amir Harel, Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul and Bero Beyer; written by Hany Abu-Assad and Bero Beyer; director of photography, Antoine Heberlé; production designer, Olivier Meidinger; costume designer, Walid Ma'wed; film editor, Sander Vos.