Friday, September 26, 2008

Death of a President

(Great Britain/USA, 2006, 96 minutes)

A documentary about the investigation of the 2007 assassination of US president George W. Bush. Controversial almost by default of its sensational premise, this little-seen piece of political fiction that cleverly inserts real archival footage into a fictional framework is a rather thoughtful meditation on contemporary media manipulation, though it's a shame that towards the end it devolves into a rather ordinary political thriller.

Filmfour presents a Borough Films production in association with World Productions; developed with the assistance of Blast Films. Starring Hend Ayoub, Becky Ann Baker, Brian Boland, Michael Reilly Burke, Patricia Buckley, Seena Jon, Robert Mangiardi, M. Neko Parham, Jay Patterson, Chavez Ravine, Christian Stolte, James Urbaniak, Jay Whittaker. Directed by Gabriel Range; produced by Gabriel Range, Simon Finch, Ed Guiney, Robin Gutch; written by Gabriel Range with Simon Finch; music by Richard Harvey; director of photography (Astro), Graham Smith; production designer, Gary Baugh; costume supervisor, Eileen McCaskill; film editor, Brand Thumim.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mirrors

(USA/Germany, 2008, 109 minutes)

A suspended detective takes a job as night security guard in a fire-ravaged department store, and begins to sense a mysterious, evil presence in the mirrors in the building. Smart haunted house thriller whose precise, atmospheric handling and intense lead helps make up for a clever script that sags precisely when it shouldn't. 

A Twentieth Century-Fox release. Regency Enterprises presents a New Regency production; in association with Luna Pictures and ASAF Geschäftigungs. Starring Kiefer Sutherland; Paula Patton, Amy Smart, Mary Beth Peil, Jason Flemyng. Directed by Alexandre Aja; produced by Alexandra Milchan, Marc Sternberg, Grégory Levasseur; screenplay by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, based on the film Into the Mirror, written and directed by Kim Song-Ho; music by Javier Navarrete; director of photography (Kodak Cinelabs, DeLuxe prints, Arri widescreen), Maxime Alexandre; production designer, Joseph Nemec III; costume designers, Ellen Mirojnick, Michael Dennison; film editor, Baxter; special make-up effects, Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tropic Thunder

(USA/Germany, 2008, 106 minutes)

A bunch of Hollywood stars shooting a war movie on location are left in the jungle on their own and find themselves up against a drug-dealing operation, but think that it's part of the filming schedule. Noisy and generally not very funny all-star satire of modern Hollywood that has the premise and the cast down pat but fails to develop script and characters beyond the limp joke.

Dreamworks Pictures presents a Red Hour production; in association with Goldcrest Pictures; in association with International Film Production Stella-del-Sud Second. Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr.; Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Brandon T. Jackson, Bill Hader; introducing Brandon Soo Hoo; Reggie Lee, Trieu Tran; with Matthew McConaughey; and Tom Cruise as Les Grossman. Directed by Ben Stiller; produced by Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller, Eric McLeod; screenplay by Justin Theroux, Ben Stiller and Etan Cohen, based on a story by Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux; music by Theodore Shapiro; director of photography (DeLuxe prints, Panavision), John Toll; production designer, Jeff Mann; costume designer, Marlene Stewart; film editor, Greg Hayden; visual effects supervisor, Michael Fink.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gomorra

(Italy, 2008, 137 minutes)

The daily life of small-time members of Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia, in the Scampia projects in Naples. Gritty, realist ensemble epic of mob life inspired by a best-selling journalistic exposé, eschewing crime story romanticism in favour of a disenchanted, suffocating approach.

A 01 Distribution release. Domenico Procacci presents a Fandango production in association with RAI Cinema; in collaboration with Sky. Starring Toni Servillo, Gianfelice Imparato, Maria Nazionale, Salvatore Cantalupo, Gigio Morra, Salvatore Abruzzese, Marco Macor, Ciro Petrone, Carmine Paternoster. Directed by Matteo Garrone; produced by Domenico Procacci; screenplay by Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni di Gregorio, Matteo Garrone, Massimo Gaudioso, Roberto Saviano, based on a story by Roberto Saviano and on the book Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Marco Onorato; production designer, Paolo Bonfini; costume designer, Alessandra Cardoni; film editor, Marco Spoletini. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis

(France, 2008, 104 minutes)

A post office head is so desperate to be transferred to the South of France that he ends up being posted to the remote North and must face his own prejudices when the locals aren't as rustic as he'd thought. Classic fish-out-of-water comedy whose genial performances and warm humour somewhat improbably turned it into a box-office record-breaker in its native France; though unlikely to repeat the performance elsewhere, it's an amiable, entertaining enterprise.

A Pathé release. Claude Berri and Jérôme Seydoux present a Hirsch/Pathé/TF1 Films Production/Les Productions du Ch'timi / CRRAV Nord-Pas-de-Calais production, with the participation of Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Canal Plus and Centre National de la Cinématographie, with the support of Cinécinéma and Banque Populaire Images 8. Starring Kad Merad, Dany Boon, Zoe Felix, Anne Marivin, Philippe Duquesne, Guy Lecluyse, Patrick Bosso; with the participation of Michel Galabru, Stéphane Freiss; with the special participation of Zinedine Soualem; and with Line Renaud. Directed by Dany Boon; screenplay by Dany Boon, Franck Magnier, Alexandre Charlot, based on a story by Dany Boon, with the collaboration of Yaël Boon; music by Philippe Rombi; director of photography (Eclair, Panavision), Pierre Aïm; production designer, Alain Vassier; costume designer, Florence Sadaune; film editors, Luc Barnier, Julie Delord. 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

La Soledad

(Spain, 2007, 123 minutes)

The daily lives of a young single mother who just moved to Madrid from her native village and a widowed mother of three grown-up daughters. Surprisingly affecting melodrama of modern loneliness, whose highly stylized handling and lack of narrative actually bring out naturalistic performances and a strongly unexpected emotional charge. 

A Fresdeval Films/Wanda Vision/In Vitro Films production, with the participation of TVE and Televisió de Catalunya, with financing from Instituto de Crédito Oficial, with the support of Ministerio de Cultura/ICAA, Institut Català de les Industries Culturals and MEDIA Programme. Starring Sonia Almarcha, Petra Martinez, Miriam Correa, Nuria Mencia, Maria Bazan, Jesus Cracio, Lluis Villanueva, Jose Luis Torrijo, Juan Margallo, Luis Bermejo, Adrian Garcia, Eric Garcia, Carmen Gutierrez, Pep Sais. Directed by Jaime Rosales; produced by Jaime Rosales, José María Morales, Ricard Figueras; written by Jaime Rosales, Enric Rufas; director of photography (Image Laboratories/Fotofilm Deluxe, widescreen), Oscar Duran; art director, Ion Arretxe; costume designers, Eva Arretxe, Asun Arretxe; film editor, Nino Martinez.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

(USA, 2007, 117 minutes)

A real estate accountant deeply in debt convinces his equally downbeat brother to rob their parents' suburban jewellery store, but the heist is botched and brings a whole new set of problems. Dark family melodrama under the guise of a thriller, notable for its uniformly excellent performances, attentive handling and fragmented time signature rather than for its cookie-cutter script.

An Entertainment Film Distributors release. Capitol Films and Funky Buddha Group present a Unity Productions/Linsefilm production. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei; and Albert Finney; also starring Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Brían F. O'Byrne, Rosemary Harris. Directed by Sidney Lumet; produced by Michael Cerenzie, Brian Linse, Paul Parmar, William S. Gilmore; written by Kelly Masterson; music by Carter Burwell; director of photography (Technicolor), Ron Fortunato; production designer, Christopher Nowak; costume designer, Tina Nigro; film editor, Tom Swartwout. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Air I Breathe

(USA, 2007, 95 minutes)

The destiny of four strangers interconnect in mysterious ways. Bleak, portentous melodrama whose handsome visuals, confident handling and strong performances are unable to redeem a ponderous, overcooked, half-baked script. 

Nala Films presents a Nala Films/Paul Schiff production, in association with Inferno Distribution. Starring Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clark Gregg, Emile Hirsch, Forest Whitaker. Directed by Jieho Lee; produced by Paul Schiff, Emilio Diez Barroso, Darlene Caamaño Loquet; written by Jieho Lee and Bob de Rosa; music by Marcelo Zarvos; director of photography (Modern Videofilm, Panavision), Walt Lloyd; production designer, Bernardo Trujillo; costume designer, Michele Michel; film editor, Robert Hofmann.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

(USA, 2008, 112 minutes)

An Israeli super-spy fakes his own death so he can start a new life in New York — as a hairdresser. So-so star comedy that doesn't draw as much mileage as one would like from its inspired premise and would require a firmer directing hand (and some quality control) to pull it off successfully; but the sheer outrageousness of the concept and the glee with which the cast throws himself into it go some way to making it tolerable.

Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Happy Madison production. Starring Adam Sandler; John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, Kevin Nealon, Lainie Kazan, Ido Mosseri; and Rob Schneider. Directed by Dennis Dugan; produced by Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo; written by Adam Sandler, Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow; music by Rupert Gregson-Williams; director of photography, Michael Barrett; production designer, Perry Andelin Blake; costume designer, Ellen Lutter; film editor, Tom Costain.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Der Verlorene

The Lost One

(Germany, 1951, 97 minutes)

During WWII, a German researcher is nudged into collaboration with the Nazis and, wracked by guilt, becomes a cold-blooded killer. Oblique, dream-like little-known crime melodrama that remains its acclaimed star's only film as a director and is quite an achievement given the context in which it was produced; its reliance on suggestion rather than explanation in dealing with Germany's then-recent war past doomed it at the time but, while allowing for some powerful film-making, is a strong drawback in trying to make sense of the plot's later developments.

An Arnold Pressburger production. Starring Peter Lorre, Karl John, Helmut Rudolph, Johanna Hofer, Renate Mannhardt, Eva-Ingeborg Scholz, Lotte Rausch, Gisela Trowe, Hansi Wendler, Kurt Meister, Alexander Hunzinger. Directed by Peter Lorre; written by Peter Lorre, Benno Vigny, Axel Eggebrecht; music by Willi Schmidt-Gentner; director of photography (b&w), Vaclav Vich; art director, Franz Schroedter; film editor, C. O. Bartning.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mamma Mia!

(USA/Great Britain/Germany, 2008, 108 minutes)

A young bride invites to her wedding the three former boyfriends of her mother, one of whom is the father she's never known. Giddy, airheaded musical extravaganza based on a long-running stage musical entirely built around songs by mid-seventies Swedish megastars Abba, transposed directly from the stage by the very people who created it in the first place but with an added star cast; the narrative is a mere hole-riddled clothesline to hang a sterling set of hit songs and the handling is perfunctory rather than efficient, but the fun had by the cast does shine through and the whole thing turns out to be harmless, cheerful fun.

Universal Pictures presents a Littlestar/Playtone production; in association with Internationale Filmproduktion Richter. Starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Dominic Cooper, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd; produced by Judy Craymer, Gary Goetzman; screenplay by Catherine Johnson, based on the stage musical Mamma Mia!, book by Catherine Johnson from an idea by Judy Craymer inspired by the songs of Abba, music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus with Stig Andersson; original score by Benny Andersson; songs, music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with Stig Andersson on some songs; musical director, Martin Lowe; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Haris Zambarloukos; production designer, Maria Djurkovic; costume designer, Ann Roth; film editor, Lesley Walker; choreography, Anthony van Laast. 

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Meet Dave

(USA, 2008, 89 minutes)

A mysterious man that makes his appearance in the life of a New York widow and her bullied son is in effect a robotic spaceship from planet Nil piloted by a miniature crew, on Earth to find a way to save their home world. Amiable sci-fi comedy that works a lot better than one would expect and allows its star a more sober performance than usual.

Twentieth Century-Fox and Regency Enterprises present a Friendly Films/Guy Walks Into a Bar production; made in association with Dune Entertainment. Starring Eddie Murphy; Elizabeth Banks, Gabrielle Union, Scott Caan, Ed Helms, Kevin Hart. Directed by Brian Robbins; produced by Jon Berg, Todd Komarnicki, David T. Friendly; written by Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett; music by John Debney; director of photography (DeLuxe prints), Clark Mathis; production designer, Clay A. Griffith; costume designer, Ruth Carter; film editor, Ned Bastille; visual effects supervisor, Mark Stetson.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

(USA, 2008, 94 minutes)

Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker grumbingly takes on an apprentice and dashes off to the planet Teth to rescue Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped son, with a view to signing a treaty that will give the Republic access to several space routes — but it is the Sith who are behind the kidnap. Baffling but not entirely unpleasant animated space opera that returns to the Star Wars universe in between the narratives of Episodes II and III, purportedly to give fans some more of what they want but in fact to launch off an animated television series; while the storyline isn't half bad, the characters itself are haltingly realised and the whole enterprise looks more geared towards television and aimed at younger viewers. 

A Warner Bros. Pictures release. A Lucasfilm presentation of a Lucasfilm Animation production. With the voices of Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, John Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane, Nika Futterman, Ian Abercrombie, Corey Burton, Catherine Taber, Matthew Wood, Kevin Michael Richardson, David Acord; with Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels; and Christopher Lee. Directed by Dave Filoni; animation directors, Jesse Yeh, Kevin Jong; produced by Catherine Winder; written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, Scott Murphy; music by Kevin Kiner, from original themes by John Williams; film editor, Jason W. A. Tucker.