Monday, February 25, 2008

The Astronaut Farmer

(USA, 2006, 104 minutes)

A Texas rancher builds a rocket in his barn to travel to outer space, against the better judgment of everyone around him. Charming, quirky Capraesque fable whose earnest performances and breathtaking visuals go a long way to adressing some of its plot weaknesses.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Spring Creek Pictures/Polish Brothers Constructio production. Starring Billy Bob Thornton; Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, J. K. Simmons, Tim Blake Nelson, Max Thieriot (and, uncredited, Bruce Willis). Directed by Michael Polish; produced by Mark Polish, Paula Weinstein, Len Amato, Michael Polish; written by Mark Polish and Michael Polish; music by Stuart Matthewman; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), M. David Mullen; production designer, Clark Hunter; costume designer, Danny Glicker; film editor, James Haygood; visual effects supervisor, Jason Picciono. 

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Warrior

(Great Britain/Germany/France, 2001, 86 minutes)

In feudal India, a mercenary warrior repents after a mystical vision but finds it's not that easy to leave warrior ways behind. Strikingly photographed and handled but rather thinly-scripted legend; gorgeous to look at, not much of a plot to carry it.

Filmfour presents in association with Senator Film, with the participation of British Screen, developed by Lazennec, a production from The Bureau, developed with the assistance of Équinoxe. Starring Irfan Khan; Puru Chhibber, Sheikh Annuddin, Manoj Mishra, Nanhe Khan, Chander Singh, Hemant Maahor, Mandakini Goswami, Sunita Sharma, Shaukat Baig, Anupam Shyam, Gauri Shankar, Prabhu Ram, Waga Ram, Madhu,  Ajai Rohilla, Noor Mani, Sitaram Panchal, Chander Prakash Vyas, Sanjay, Amit Kumar, Damayanti Marfatia, Trilok Singh, Pushpa Negi, Karuna Sarah Davis, Rakesh Mehra. Directed by Asif Kapadia; produced by Bertrand Faivre; written by Asif Kapadia and Tim Miller; music by Dario Marianelli; director of photography (Deluxe, Panavision), Roman Osin; production designer, Adrian Smith; costume designer, Louise Sterjnsward; film editor, Ewa J. Lind. 


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Persepolis

(France/USA, 2007, 94 minutes)

The coming of age of a young Teheran girl, from her childhood under the Shah through the ayatollah regime and the Iran-Irak war through to her self-appointed exile to France. An acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel reaches the big screen as a poignant, melancholy animated comedy whose stunning, delicate visuals perfectly capture the comic's spare, striking style.

A Diaphana Distribution release. A 2.4.7 Films presentation/production, in co-production with France 3 Cinéma, The Kennedy-Marshall Company and Franche Connection Animations, in association with Diaphana Films, Celluloid Dreams and Sony Pictures Classics; with the participation of Sofica Europacorp and Soficinéma; with the support of Fondation Groupama Gan pour le Cinéma, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Région Île-de-France. With the voices of Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes. Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud; produced by Marc-Antoine Robert and Xavier Rigault; screenplay by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, Persépolis; music by Olivier Bernet; art director, Marc Jousset; film editor, Christophe Roche.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

There Will Be Blood

(USA, 2007, 157 minutes)

The rise of an oil prospector in early 20th century California. Dark, baroque epic of American greed that may have bitten more than it could chew in the process, but that is carried by its director's extraordinary flair for rhythm and visuals.

Miramax Films and Paramount Vantage present a Joanne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company production. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Kevin J. O'Connor, Ciarán Hinds; and Dillon Freasier. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; produced by Joanne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi; screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson, based on the novel Oil! by Upton Sinclair; music by Jonny Greenwood; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Robert Elswit; production designer, Jack Fisk; costume designer, Mark Bridges; film editor, Dylan Tichenor. 

Friday, February 08, 2008

John Rambo

(USA/Germany, 2007, 90 minutes)

Now settled in Thailand, Vietnam veteran John Rambo is forced to return to action when a humanitarian party he helped get to Burma is taken prisoner by the local military tyrants. Failed attempt to "resurrect" 1980s action hero Rambo like Rocky Balboa did for Rocky; the interesting premise is wasted on laughable scripting and extremely bloody extended action sequences.

Millennium Films presents a Nu Image production for Equity Pictures Medienfonds. Starring Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze, Matthew Marsden, Graham McTavish, Tim Kang, Rey Gallegos, Jake La Botz, Maung Maung Khin, Ken Howard. Directed by Sylvester Stallone; produced by Avi Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton, John Thompson; written by Art Monterastelli and Sylvester Stallone, based on the character created by David Morrell; music by Brian Tyler; director of photography (Oriental Post, DeLuxe, widescreen), Glen MacPherson; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; costume designer, Lizz Wolf; film editor, Sean Albertson; visual effects supervisor, Alex Gunn. 

Thursday, February 07, 2008

In the Valley of Elah

(USA, 2007, 121 minutes)

A retired military veteran investigates why his soldier son, newly returned from Iraq, has been cruelly murdered outside his base. Spare, effective mystery that devolves quietly into a shimmering, downbeat meditation on modern America, carried by austere handling and a stunning lead performance.

Summit Entertainment and SMC present, in association with Warner Independent Pictures and Nala Films, a Blackfriar's Bridge production. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron; James Franco, Jonathan Tucker, Frances Fisher, Josh Brolin; and Susan Sarandon. Directed by Paul Haggis; produced by Patrick Wachsberger, Steven Samuels, Darlene Caamaño Loquet, Paul Haggis, Laurence Becsey; screenplay by Paul Haggis, from a story by Mark Boal and Paul Haggis; music by Mark Isham; director of photography (Technicolor prints, widescreen), Roger Deakins; production designer, Laurence Bennett; costume designer, Lisa Jensen; film editor, Jo Francis. 

Monday, February 04, 2008

My Name Is Joe

(Great Britain/Germany/Spain, 1998, 105 minutes)

A Glaswegian reformed alcoholic on the dole coaching an amateur football team meets and falls in love with a social worker. British social realism typical of this director, apparently livelier and more optimistic than usual, with a stunning lead performance and a nice line in self-deprecating humour betrayed by a bleak, hopeless ending.

A Parallax Pictures/Road Movies Vierte production, with the support of the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund, The Glasgow Film Fund and Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen, in collaboration with Channel Four Films, WDR, ARTE, La Sept Cinéma, ARD, Degeto Film, BIM Distribuzione, Diaphana Distribution, Tornasol and Alta Films. Starring Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall; David McKay, Annemarie Kennedy, Gary Lewis, Lorraine McIntosh; and David Hayman. Directed by Ken Loach; produced by Rebecca O'Brien; written by Paul Laverty; music by George Fenton; director of photography (Metrocolor), Barry Ackroyd; production designer, Martin Johnson; costume designer, Rhona Russell; film editor, Jonathan Morris. 

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Lust, Caution

(USA/China, 2007, 158 minutes)

In 1942 Shanghai, a group of well-meaning university student actors willing to help the war effort against the Japanese make one of their own pass as the wife of a trader to gain access to a powerful collaborationist minister and dispose of him; but they fall into a heated love affair. Elegant, sophisticated, remarkably shot combination of period spy thriller and atmospheric, steamy romance that confirms its director's impeccable taste and style but still looks as if it could have used a slight trim.

A Focus Features/River Road Entertainment presentation/production, in association with Heishang Films, SIL-Metropole Organisation and Shanghai Film Group Corporation. Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, Wang Leehom. Directed by Ang Lee; produced by Bill Kong, Ang Lee, James Schamus; screenplay by Wang Hui-Ling, James Schamus, based on the short story by Eileen Chang, «Se, Jie»; music by Alexandre Desplat; director of photography (DeLuxe), Rodrigo Prieto; production and costume designer, Pan Lai; film editor, Tim Squyres.  

Friday, February 01, 2008

Into the Wild

(USA, 2007, 147 minutes)

The true story of Christopher McCandless, a 21-year old college graduate who disposed of all his earthly possessions to live on the road, with a view to settling in Alaska to live off the land, but was found dead after two years. Earnest, lyrical road movie that, like all good road movies, is not so much about the destination as the journey; some of it is too earnest or gauche to work, there are some misjudgments and overlengths, but thankfully most of it is moving and exceptionally well done.

Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment present a Square One CIH/Linson Film production. Starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Brian Dierker, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook. Directed by Sean Penn; produced by Sean Penn, Art Linson, Bill Pohlad; screenplay by Sean Penn, based on the book by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild; music by Michael Brook with Kaki King and Eddie Vedder; songs by Eddie Vedder; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Éric Gautier; production designer, Derek Hill; costume designer, Mary Claire Hannan; film editor, Jay Cassidy.