Friday, December 28, 2007

I Am Legend

(USA, 2007, 97 minutes)

After New York has fallen prey to a deadly mutant virus that wiped out its population, an immune scientist still looking for a cure is its only daytime inhabitant. Downbeat sci-fi actioner based on a classic novel twice filmed previously as The Last Man on Earth (Sidney Salkow, 1964) and The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971); enormously helped by extraordinary trick effects and a solid lead performance, this version is unable to sustain the eerieness it achieves in its first half, but as unusually thoughtful Hollywood entertainment it's hard to beat.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Weed Road Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment production. Starring Will Smith; Alice Braga, Dash Mihok. Directed by Francis Lawrence; produced by Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, David Heyman, Neal Moritz; screenplay by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman, based on the screenplay by John William and Joyce H. Corrington, The Omega Man, and on the novel by Richard Matheson, I Am Legend; music by James Newton Howard; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Andrew Lesnie; production designer, Naomi Shohan; costume designer, Michael Kaplan; film editor, Wayne Wahrman; visual effects supervisor, Janek Sirrs; creatures designed by Patrick Tatopoulos.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Call Girl

(Portugal/Brazil, 2007, 141 minutes)

A top call girl is used as bait by a lobbyist to bring a provincial mayor to approve a controversial real estate project. Overlong, spicy political thriller that would do far better with a tighter, less soap-opera script and at much shorter length.

A Lusomundo release. Tino Navarro presents a MGN Filmes/TVI/Lagoa Cultural & Esportiva co-production, with the participation of Lusomundo, with support from ICA/MC, ANCINE and Ibermedia. Starring Soraia Chaves, Ivo Canelas, Nicolau Breyner; and Joaquim de Almeida; with José Raposo, José Eduardo, Maria João Abreu, Custódia Gallego, Ana Padrão, Virgílio Castelo, Luís Mascarenhas, Sofia Grillo, Daniella Faria; with the special participation of Raul Solnado; and Joaquim Leitão. Directed by António-Pedro Vasconcellos; produced by Tino Navarro; screenplay by Tiago R. Santos, from a story by Tiago R. Santos and António-Pedro Vasconcellos; music by Luís Cília; director of photography (Tobis), José António Loureiro; production designer, João Torres; costume designer, Filipe Faísca; film editor, Pedro Ribeiro.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2001: A Space Odyssey

(USA/Great Britain, 1968, 142 minutes)

At the edge of the 21st century, a strange black monolith is found on the Moon; months later, a manned spaceship is sent to Jupiter on a secret mission linked to that discovery, but the onboard computer behaves oddly during the trip... Breathtaking, puzzling sci-fi, considered by many to be one of the great cinema experiences of all time, combining superb trick effects with thought-provoking propositions and a deliberately enigmatic script; very typical of its perfectionist director.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents a Stanley Kubrick production. Starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter. Directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick; written by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke; music by Aram Khatchaturian, György Ligeti, Johann Strauss, Richard Wagner; director of photography (Technicolor and Metrocolor, Super Panavision), Geoffrey Unsworth; additional photography, John Alcott; production designers, Tony Masters, Harry Lange, Ernest Archer; costume designer, Hardy Amies; film editor, Ray Lovejoy; special photographic effects designed and directed by Stanley Kubrick; special photographic effects supervisors, Wally Veevers, Douglas Trumbull, Con Pederson, Tom Howard. 

Friday, December 21, 2007

Die große Stille

Into Great Silence

(Germany/Switzerland, 2005, 162 minutes)

The daily lives of the monks at the Grande Chartreuse monastery in Grenoble, France, who have made a vow of silence and devote their days to prayer and reflection. Austere but fascinating documentary that presents its subject without voiceover, comment, music soundtrack or in fact any sort of explanation, prefering to envelop the viewer in a sensory equivalent of the monks' lives; its emphasis on silence and quiet helped turn it into an unlikely worldwide success. Director Philip Gröning had first requested permission to shoot inside the Grande Chartreuse in 1984, but was refused at the time and it took 16 years for the order to invite him into the monastery to start filming.

A Bavaria Film International release. An X Verleih/Frenetic Films release of a Philip Gröning Filmproduktion/Bavaria Film/Ventura Film/Cine Plus/Bayerischer Rundfunk/ZDF—ARTE/TSI Televisione Svizzera co-production, supported by Filmstiftung NRW and FFA. Directed, written, photographed (high-definition digital video and super-8) and edited by Philip Gröning; producers, Philip Gröning, Michael Weber, Andreas Pfaffli, Elda Guidinetti; sound, Philip Gröning, Michael Busch.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

(USA, 2007, 124 minutes)

In order to clear the good name of his great-grandfather, amateur archaeologist historian Benjamin Franklin Gates goes in search of the location of a mythical “city of gold” sought after by descendants of Confederate soldiers. Further adventures of the heroes of National Treasure, in another spirited but instantly forgettable family-friendly action-adventure.

Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films present a Junction Entertainment production, in association with Saturn Films. Starring Nicolas Cage; Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood; and Helen Mirren. Directed by Jon Turteltaub; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Jon Turteltaub; screenplay by The Wibberleys, based on a story by Gregory Poirier, The Wibberleys, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and on characters created by Jim Kouf, Oren Aviv and Charles Segars; music by Trevor Rabin; directors of photography (Technicolor prints, Panavision), John Schwartzman, Amir Mokri; production designer, Dominic Watkins; costume designer, Judianna Makovsky; film editors, William Goldenberg, David Rennie.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bee Movie

(USA, 2007, 91 minutes)

A wisecracking honeybee reluctant to spend his entire life working for the hive ventures out into New York City and upon finding humans harvest and sell honey decides to sue them. Amiable animated comedy that derives its fun and games from the wry humour of recluse comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who voices the lead character, produced and wrote the movie; but despite the quality animation, the ecological message and the smart one-liners, as a family animation it's probably a bit too sophisticated for kids and not solid enough for adults.

A Paramount Pictures release. A Dreamworks Animation presentation/production in association with Columbus 81 Productions. With the voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Renée Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Patrick Warburton; and Chris Rock. Directed by Simon J. Smith, Steve Hickner; produced by Jerry Seinfeld, Christina Steinberg; written by Jerry Seinfeld, Spike Feresten, Barry Marder and Andy Robin, with additional screenplay material by Chuck Martin and Tom Papa; music by Rupert Gregson-Williams; art director and character designer, Christophe Lautrette; production designer, Alex McDowell; costume designer, Jane Poole; film editor, Nick Fletcher; visual effects supervisor, Doug Cooper.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Lions for Lambs

(USA, 2007, 92 minutes)

A weary but idealistic college professor attempts to prod a disaffected student into civic engagement as two of his former students, who joined the military, are part of a new plan for success in Afganistan that a Washington senator tries to sell to a suspicious journalist. Earnest but stodgy topical drama of American politics that is well-meaning and cleverly articulated as a theoretical debate but listless and dull as cinema, despite good production values and a couple of excellent star performances; the parts are greater than their sum.

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and United Artists present a Wildwood Enterprises/Brat Na Pont/Andell Entertainment production. Starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Peña, Andrew Garfield, Peter Berg, Kevin Dunn; and Derek Luke. Directed by Robert Redford; produced by Robert Redford, Matthew Michael Carnahan, Andrew Hauptman, Tracy Falco; written by Matthew Michael Carnahan; music by Mark Isham; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Philippe Rousselot; production designer, Jan Roelfs; costume designer, Mary Zophres; film editor, Joe Hutshing.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Golden Compass

(USA, 2007, 114 minutes)

In a parallel universe, a teenager is entrusted with the Golden Compass that has the power to uncover the truth and undergoes a series of adventures to save his friends. Dazzlingly realised family fantasy from an acclaimed series of books that may be too thoughtful and dense for younger audiences and underdeveloped for older audiences; but the visuals are magnificent and the whole enterprise has a sense of awe and wonder that is unusual these days.

New Line Cinema presents in association with Ingenious Film Partners 2 a Scholastic/Depth of Field production. Starring Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, Sam Elliott, Eva Green, Christopher Lee, Tom Courtenay, Derek Jacobi; the voices of Ian McKellen, Ian McShane, Freddie Highmore, Kathy Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas; and Daniel Craig. Directed by Chris Weitz; produced by Deborah Forte, Bill Carraro; screenplay by Chris Weitz, based on the novel by Philip Pullman, Northern Lights; music by Alexandre Desplat; director of photography (DeLuxe, widescreen), Henry Braham; production designer, Dennis Gassner; costume designer, Ruth Myers; film editors, Peter Honess, Anne V. Coates, Kevin Tent; visual effects supervisor, Michael Fink.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Fost Sau N-a Fost?

12:08 East of Bucharest

(Romania, 2006, 89 minutes)

A small town TV programme on the 16th anniversary of the fall of the totalitarian communist regime in Romania goes overboard when the pompous host clashes with his guests. Bittersweet but very funny satire on the aftermath of revolutions whose appeal is not exclusive to those who follow the world news; its achievements are more remarkable when you realise it's a first film done with a minimal budget, a very clever script and only three actors on screen for more than half its length.

A 42KM Film presentation/production. Starring Mircea Andreescu, Teo Corban, Ion Sapdaru. Directed and written by Corneliu Porumboiu; music by Grupul Rotaria; director of photography (Kodak Cinelabs), Marius Panduru; production designer, Daniel Raduta; costume designer, Monica Raduta; film editor, Roxana Szel.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lonely Hearts

(USA/Germany, 2005, 107 minutes)

In suburban New York in the late 1940s, a grimly determined police detective chases a conman couple who seduces lonely women then kills them for their money. Moody, comfortingly old-fashioned film noir inspired by a true-life case previously filmed as The Honeymoon Killers and Deep Red; this version, written and directed by the real-life detective's grandson, pays equal attention to the police procedural. The period feel is outstanding and the performances uniformly good.

A Metropolitan Films release. Millennium Films presents an Equity Pictures Medienfonds production. Starring John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Jared Leto; and Salma Hayek; Scott Caan, Alice Krige, Jason Gray-Stanford, Michael Gaston; and Laura Dern. Directed and written by Todd Robinson; produced by Boaz Davidson, Holly Wiersma; music by Mychael Danna; director of photography (Continental Film Labs, Panavision), Peter Levy; production designer, Jon Gary Steele; costume designer, Jacqueline West; film editor, Kathryn Himoff.