Friday, August 31, 2007

Vacancy

(USA, 2007, 82 minutes)

A couple on the brink of divorce get lost travelling at night and, after their car breaks down, settle down at a deserted, isolated motel; then they notice that the violent film running on television seems to have been shot in their room... Taut, moody, clever, well-made suspenser that would have made a terrific B-movie in the days when they still made B-movies.

Screen Gems presents a Hal Lieberman Company production. Starring Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale, Frank Whaley, Ethan Embry. Directed by Nimrod Antal; produced by Hal Lieberman; written by Mark L. White; music by Paul Haslinger; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Andrzej Sekula; production designer, Jon Gary Steele; costume designer, Maya Lieberman; film editor, Armen Minasian.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry

(USA, 2007, 115 minutes)

Two straight New York firefighters, a widower and a ladies’ man, pose as a gay couple for the widower’s children to benefit from their pensions, but become unlikely gay heroes when the City Hall begins to investigate them. Boisterous but sweet star comedy that plays with fire in such an amiable way that it never gets burned, more due to the scripting and acting than to the non-descript handling.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Shady Acres Entertainment/Happy Madison Productions production. Starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Jessica Biel, Ving Rhames, Nick Swardson; with Steve Buscemi; and Dan Aykroyd. Directed by Dennis Dugan; produced by Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Tom Shadyac, Michael Bostick; written by Barry Fanaro, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor; music by Rupert Gregson-Williams; director of photography (DeLuxe), Dean Semler; production designer, Perry Andelin Blake; costume designer, Ellen Lutter; film editor, Jeff Gourson.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Turistas

(USA, 2006, 93 minutes)

A group of Anglo-American tourists in deep Brazil fall prey to a organ harvest ring. Stylish but derivative shocker that runs with the Hostel premise and actually takes it further and better than the actual blueprint did, though it looks as if the (moderate) gore was an added-on afterthought.

Fox Atomic and 2929 Productions present a Stone Village Pictures/Boz Productions production. Starring Josh Duhamel, Melissa George, Olivia Wilde, Desmond Askew, Beau Garrett, Max Brown, Agles Steib, Miguel Lunardi. Directed by John Stockwell; produced by Marc Butan, John Stockwell, Steve Steindorff, Bo Zenga; written by Michael Arlen Ross; music by Paul Haslinger; director of photography (Foto-Kem, Panavision), Enrique Chediak; underwater photography, Peter Zuccarini; production designer, Marlise Storchi; costume designer, Bia Salgado; film editor, Jeff McEvoy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mysterious Skin

(USA/Netherlands, 2004, 105 minutes)

Two teenagers in a Kansas smalltown, a gay hustler and a shy, retiring geek, share a terrible secret from their Little League baseball days. Coming-of-age melodrama whose careful, tactful approach doesn’t water down at all its unflinching look into strong subject matter, but remains too aloof to properly connect with the viewer.

Fortissimo Films presents an Antidote Films/Desperate Pictures production. Starring Brady Corbet, Joseph Gordon-Levitt; also starring Michelle Trachtenberg, Jeff Licon, Bill Sage, Mary Lynn Rajskub; and Elisabeth Shue. Directed and edited by Gregg Araki; produced by Mary Jane Skalski, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Gregg Araki; screenplay by Gregg Araki, based on the novel by Scott Heim, Mysterious Skin; music by Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie; director of photography (CFI), Steve Gainer; production designer, Devorah Herbert; costume designer, Alix Hester.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Severance

(Great Britain/Germany, 2006, 95 minutes)

A group of office workers out for a “team-building” weekend in Eastern Europe take a wrong turn in the road and find themselves hunted by mysterious, bloodthirsty killers. Lively horror comic that strikes the exact balance between gory horror thriller and deadpan black comedy, with a strong arms-trading satire angle; the humour is often outrageous, but very funny, and expertly handled by a solid ensemble cast.

A Hanway Films release. Qwerty Films and UK Film Council present, in association with Isle of Man Film, an N1 European Film Produktions/Dan Films production. Starring Danny Dyer, Laura Harris, Tim McInnerny, Toby Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Babou Ceesay. Directed by Christopher Smith; produced by Jason Newmark; screenplay by James Moran and Christopher Smith, based on a story by James Moran; music by Christian Henson; director of photography (Soho Images; digital video transferred to 35mm), Ed Wild; production designer, John Frankish; costume designer, Steven Noble; make-up designer, Jan Sewell; film editor, Stuart Gazzard.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hostel Part II

(USA, 2007, 91 minutes)

Three art students in Rome go to Slovakia for the weekend and fall prey to a deadly underground ring of wealthy sadistic killers. More of the same as the 2005 original, with a victim gender switch (girls instead of boys) and added irony and exploitation-movie smarts making it a more tolerable (but no less unpleasant) experience.

A Lionsgate/Screen Gems release. Quentin Tarantino presents a Next Entertainment/Raw Nerve production. Starring Lauren German, Roger Bart, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Richard Burgi, Jordan Ladd; and Edwige Fenech. Directed and written by Eli Roth; produced by Mike Fleiss, Eli Roth, Chris Briggs; music by Nathan Barr; director of photography (Barrandov Laboratories, widescreen), Milan Chadima; production designer, Robb Wilson King; costume designer, Susanna Puisto; film editor, George Folsey Jr.; special make-up effects designed and created by Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Georgia Rule

(USA, 2007, 112 minutes)

A Californian problem teenager is sent by her mother to spend the summer at her strict grandmother’s in Idaho. Formulaic, messy comedy-drama of family relationships whose only interest lies in the earnest, solid performances.

A Universal Pictures release. A Morgan Creek/James G. Robinson presentation/production. Starring Jane Fonda, Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman, Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Garrett Hedlund. Directed by Garry Marshall; produced by James G. Robinson, David Robinson; written by Mark Andrus; music by John Debney; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Karl Walter Lindenlaub; production designer, Albert Brenner; costume designer, Gary Jones; film editors, Bruce Green and Tara Timpone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ratatouille

(USA, 2007, 111 minutes)

A rat who dreams of becoming a chef gets his opportunity when chance brings him to a decaying three-star restaurant in Paris. Dazzlingly inventive animated comedy that maintains the Pixar standard of technical excellence and narrative ingenuity.

A Buena Vista Pictures Distribution release. Walt Disney Pictures presents a Pixar Animated Studios film. With the voices of Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, Julius Callahan, James Remar, John Ratzenberger, Teddy Newton, Tony Fucile, Jake Steinfeld, Brad Bird. Directed by Brad Bird; co-directed by Jan Pinkava; produced by Brad Lewis; screenplay by Brad Bird, from a story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird; music by Michael Giacchino; directors of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Sharon Calahan (lighting), Robert Anderson (camera); supervising animators, Dylan Brown, Mark Walsh; production designer, Harley Jessup; film editor, Darren Holmes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Becket

(Great Britain/USA, 1964, 148 minutes)

King Henry II installs his trusted confidant and best friend, Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury to make sure the Church of England will follow him blindly, but is shocked when Becket sides with the Church against all-out royal power. Run-of-the-mill screen adaptation of a successful Broadway play hinging essentially on two strong star performances effectively milking the clever, wittily worded dialogue for all it’s worth, but other than the performances and the technical credits there really isn’t much more to recommend it.

Paramount Pictures presents a Hal Wallis production; a Paramount Film Service/Keep Films co-production. Starring Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole; with John Gielgud, Gino Cervi, Paolo Stoppa; and Donald Wolfit. Directed by Peter Glenville; produced by Hal Wallis; screenplay by Edward Anhalt, based on the play by Jean Anouilh, Becket; music by Laurence Rosenthal; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Geoffrey Unsworth; production designer, John Bryan; costume designer, Margaret Furse; film editor, Anne V. Coates.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bobby

(USA, 2006, 112 minutes)

The lives of a number of people intertwine at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968 — the day presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was murdered at its pantry. Amiable but flawed all-star mosaic melodrama whose elegy for a fallen politician never meshes with the Grand Hotel-styled soap opera at its heart; the cast, most of them not given enough to do but still game, end up making it seem a better film than it actually is.

The Weinstein Company and Bold Films present a Michel Litvak production. Starring Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Elijah Wood. Directed and written by Emilio Estevez; produced by Michel Litvak, Edward Bass, Holly Wiersma; music by Mark Isham; director of photography (Technicolor CFI, Panavision), Michael Barrett; production designer, Patti Podesta; costume designer, Julie Weiss; film editor, Richard Chew.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pola X

(France/Germany/Japan/Switzerland, 1999, 134 minutes)

A well-off young man abandons his fiancee and all his privileges to go and live with his new-found half-sister from Eastern Europe; but is she really his sister? Relentlessly bleak, fragmented hyper-romantic melodrama, handled with brio and flair.

A Pathé Distribution release. Arena Films presents an Arena Films/Pola Production/Théo Films/France 2 Cinéma/Pandora Filmproduktion/Euro Space/Vega Film co-production, with the participation of Canal Plus, La 7-ARTE, ARD-Degeto and Télévision Suisse Romande; with the support of Eurimages, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Filmförderungsanstalt, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Procirep, Office Fédéral de la Culture du Département Fédéral de l'Intérieur, Amuse Video, Digital Media Lab, TV Tokyo, Taiwa and Dentsu. Starring Guillaume Depardieu, Katerina Golubeva, Catherine Deneuve as Marie, Delphine Chuillot. Directed by Leos Carax; produced by Bruno Pésery; screenplay by Leos Carax, Lauren Sedofsky, Jean-Pol Fargeau, based on the novel by Herman Melville, Pierre or the Ambiguities; music by Scott Walker; director of photography (GTC colour), Éric Gautier; production designer, Laurent Allaire; costume designer, Esther Walz; film editor, Nelly Quettier.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Très bien, merci

(France, 2007, 106 minutes)

A harassed accountant is caught up in a series of over-zealous bureaucracies that throw him into a psychiatric hospital to his and his suffering wife’s disbelief. Kafkian wry comedy that builds up a fine head of deadpan absurdities but, despite solid scripting and acting, doesn’t quite know how to escape the dead end it finds itself in.

Paulo Branco presents, in association with Centre National de la Cinématographie, Cinécinéma and Canal Plus, a Gemini Films production. Starring Sandrine Kiberlain, Gilbert Melki, Olivier Cruveiller. Directed by Emmanuelle Cuau; produced by Paulo Branco; written by Emmanuelle Cuau and Agnès Caffin; director of photography (GTC), Bruno de Keyzer; production designer, Véronique Barneoud; costume designer, Dorothée Lissac; film editor, Jackie Bastide.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Evan Almighty

(USA, 2007, 95 minutes)

A former TV news anchor elected for the US Congress moves to Washington and, as he learns to navigate the political waters, suddenly finds himself coopted by God into building an ark to warn of an upcoming flood. Opportunistic sequel of sorts to Bruce Almighty that aims at Capraesque fantasy and falls flat on its face, wasting a solid cast and some clever visual gags on thoroughly predictable (and, what’s more, mostly unfunny) scripting and manipulative handling.

Universal Pictures and Spyglass Entertainment present in association with Relativity Media a Shady Acres Entertainment/Barber-Birnbaum/Original Film production. Starring Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman, John Michael Higgins, Jimmy Bennett, Wanda Sykes, Jonah Hill, Molly Shannon. Directed by Tom Shadyac; produced by Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Neal H. Moritz, Tom Shadyac, Michael Bostick; screenplay by Steve Oedekerk, based on a story by Steve Oedekerk, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow and on characters created by Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe; music by John Debney; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Ian Baker; production designer, Linda DeScenna; costume designer, Judy Ruskin Howell; film editor, Scott Hill; visual effects supervisor, Douglas Hans Smith.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gwoemul

The Host

(South Korea/Japan, 2006, 119 minutes)

A mutant beast rises from Seoul’s Han river to terrify the capital, and a dysfunctional family decides to confront it to retrieve the teenage daughter it has taken. Offbeat but refreshing monster movie whose unexpected moodswings between family melodrama and burlesque merely underline its intelligence in subverting the genre’s traditions.

A Chungeorahm Film release. Chungeorahm Film and Showbox/Mediaplex present a Chungeorahm Film production, in association with Happinet Corporation, OCN, Knowledge & Creation Ventures Company, IBK Capital Corporation, Cineclick Asia, Cowell BiNEXT Capital, IMM Investment Corporation, SBS, M Venture Investment, Tube Pictures Company, Sego Entertainment Company, CJ Venture Investment and Boston Investment Company. Starring Song Kang-Ho, Byun Hee-Bong, Park Hae-Il, Bae Doo-Na, Ko A-Sung. Directed by Bong Joon-Ho; produced by Choi Yong-Bae; written by Bong Joon-Ho, Hah Joon-Won and Baek Chui-Hyun; music by Byeongwoo Lee; director of photography (colour), Kim Hyung-Koo; art director, Ryu Seung-Hee; costume designer, Cho Sang-Kyung; film editor, Kim Sun-Min; visual effects supervisor, Kevin Rafferty; creature design, Jang Hee-Chul.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Top Hat

(USA, 1935, 100 minutes)

An American dancer in London falls in love with the girl he unwittingly awoke in the room downstairs while practising, but she mistakes him for her best friend’s husband and stubbornly resists the attraction she feels for him as well. Second and probably the most fondly remembered of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers RKO musicals, following on the formula laid by The Gay Divorcee: a comedy of errors with added song and dance numbers, all of which remarkable, and a strong supporting cast making it a very enjoyable night out. Nominated for four Academy Awards (for best picture, best art direction, best dance direction and best original song for "Cheek to Cheek").

RKO Radio Pictures present a Pandro S. Berman production. Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers; with Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick. Directed by Mark Sandrich; produced by Pandro S. Berman; screenplay by Dwight Taylor and Allan Scott, from a story by Dwight Taylor; songs by Irving Berlin; musical director, Max Steiner; director of photography (b&w), David Abel; art director, Van Nest Polglase; gowns by Bernard Newman; film editor, William Hamilton; dance director, Hermes Pan.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Swing Time

(USA, 1936, 103 minutes)

A vaudeville dancer with a gambling problem heads to New York to raise the money he needs to return home and marry his fiancee by teaming up with a dance teacher as night club stars, but they start falling in love with each other. Third of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers RKO musicals, known to be Rogers’ favourite; there’s a slightly darker tone to it but also not much of a plot, making the time between the musical numbers seem too much of a drag. Winner of the Academy Award for best original song ("The Way You Look Tonight", by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields); Hermes Pan was also nominated for best dance direction.

RKO Radio Pictures presents a Pandro S. Berman production. Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers; with Victor Moore, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore, Betty Furness, Georges Metaxa. Directed by George Stevens; produced by Pandro S. Berman; screenplay by Howard Lindsay and Allan Scott, from the story by Erwin Gelsey, «Portrait of John Garnett»; musical director, Nathaniel Shilkret; director of photography (b&w), David Abel; art director, Van Nest Polglase; gowns by Bernard Newman; film editor, Henry Berman; dance director, Hermes Pan.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Torre Bela

(France/Portugal/Italy/Switzerland, 1978, 81 minutes)

After the Portuguese Revolution of 1974, a group of non-politically affiliated peasants takes over the local landowner’s property. Fascinating but little-seen documentary on the rise and fall of political idealism, starkly presented without any voiceover; originally premiered in a four-hour cut at Cannes in 1977, it has since been seen in wildly different lengths, from a “standard” 81m 1978 cut released on DVD to a 106m version recut by the director and released theatrically in 2007.

An Atalanta Filmes release. Luisa Orioli, Alexander Duly and Anna Devoto present a Anna Devoto—Paulo Branco/Era Nova/Società Cinematografica Italiana di Torre Bela/Lichtbild co-production. Directed by Thomas Harlan, in collaboration with Luisa Orioli, Anna Devoto, Jacques d'Arthuys, Luc Mohler; camera (Telecolor), Russell Parker, assisted by Gernot Kühler and José Reynes; sound, Norbert Chayer; film editor, Roberto Perpignani, in collaboration with Claudio Cutry, Giorgio de Vicenzo.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Jindabyne

(Australia, 2006, 124 minutes)

A weekend fishing party finds a woman’s dead body in the river, but only report it when they return home at the end of the weekend, and the revelation shatters not only the smalltown where they live but their own personal lives. Moody, melancholy ensemble melodrama whose carefully constructed plot, handling and performances are let down by a sagging final third; but there is a lot to admire and recommend here. The film expands a Raymond Carver short story previously adapted on Robert Altman’s 1993 Short Cuts.

A Celluloid Dreams release. April Films with Film Finance Corporation Australia presents, in association with Redchair Films and Babcock & Brown Asset Holdings, an April Films production; developed with the assistance of the New South Wales Film & Television Office and RGM Films. Starring Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Deborra-Lee Furness, John Howard, Leah Purcell, Stelios Yiakmios, Alice Garner, Simon Stone, Betty Lucas, Chris Haywood, Max Cullen, Charles "Bud" Tingwell, Tatea Reilly, Eva Lazzaro, Sean Rees-Wemyss. Directed by Ray Lawrence; produced by Catherine Jarman; screenplay by Beatrix Christian, based on the short story by Raymond Carver, "So Much Water So Close to Home"; music by Paul Kelly and Dan Luscombe with Soteria Bell; director of photography (Atlab, Panavision), David Williamson; production and costume designer, Margot Wilson; film editor, Karl Sodersten.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Vitus

(Switzerland/Germany, 2006, 122 minutes)

A 12-year-old piano-playing prodigy realises that his gifts are more of a curse than they seem. Amiable but shapeless comedy-melodrama that would make an ideal kids’ movie if it weren’t so dullishly handled and haphazardly plotted, with as many as three different plot strands crowding each other out.

FMM and Hugofilm present a Vitusfilm production, in association with SRG SSR Idée Suisse, Schweizer Fernsehen, ARTE and Teleclub. Starring Teo Gherghiu, Fabrizio Borsani, Julika Jenkins, Urs Jucker, Bruno Ganz. Directed by Fredi M. Murer; produced by Christian Davi, Christof Neracher, Fredi M. Murer; written by Peter Luisi, Fredi M. Murer, Lukas R. Suter; music by Mario Beretta; director of photography (Schwarz Film colour), Pio Corradi; production designer, Susanne Jauch; costume designer, Sabine Murer; film editor, Myriam Flury.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Surf's Up

(USA, 2007, 83 minutes)

A young penguin from Shiverpool, Antarctica, dreams of competing in the World Penguin Surfing Championships but finds ambition isn’t the secret to get there. Charming, amiable animated comedy that makes up for its by-the-book plot with good characterisation and scripting well conveyed by a great voice cast; the animation itself is beyond reproach.

Columbia Pictures presents a Sony Pictures Animation film. With the voices of Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods. Directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck; produced by Christopher Jenkins; screenplay by Don Rhymer, Ash Brannon, Chris Buck and Christopher Jenkins, from a story by Christopher Jenkins and Christopher Darren; music by Mychael Danna; character designer and art director, Sylvain Deboissy; production designer, Paul Lasaine; film editor, Ivan Bilancio; visual effects supervisor, Rob Bredow; senior animation supervisor, David Schaub.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Disturbia

(USA, 2007, 104 minutes)

A suburban teenager forced to spend three months under house detention whiles away the time snooping on his neighbours and starts suspecting one of them to be a serial killer. Rear Window in all but name, updated for the internet age; not badly done, but why do it?

Dreamworks Pictures presents in association with Coldspring Pictures a Montecito Picture Company production. Starring Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, Sarah Roemer; and Carrie-Anne Moss. Directed by D. J. Caruso; produced by Joe Medjuck, E. Bennett Walsh, Jackie Marcus; screenplay by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth, based on a story by Christopher Landon; music by Geoff Zanelli; director of photography (DeLuxe prints), Rogier Stoffers; production designer, Tom Southwell; costume designer, Marie-Sylvie Deveau; film editor, Jim Page.