Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes Man

(USA/Great Britain, 2008, 101 minutes)

A despondent, divorced loan officer is challenged by a self-help guru to say yes to every opportunity that comes his way. Endearingly eccentric star comedy whose high-concept premise is developed with the right amount of quirkiness.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, a Heyday Films/Zanuck Company production. Starring Jim Carrey; Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, John Michael Higgins, Rhys Darby, Danny Masterson, Fionnula Flanagan; and Terence Stamp. Directed by Peyton Reed; produced by Richard D. Zanuck, David Heyman; screenplay by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel, based on the book by Danny Wallace, Yes Man; music by Lyle Workman and Mark Oliver Everett; songs by Eels; director of photography (Technicolor, Panavision), Robert Yeoman; production designer, Andrew Laws; costume designer, Mark Bridges; film editor, Craig Alpert. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Australia

(USA/Australia/Great Britain, 2008, 165 minutes).

In 1939, a British aristocrat heads to her husband's Australian ranch to find him dead and the land wanted by a cattle baron. Sweeping, old-fashioned epic of the Australian outback that looks like a mash-up of half a dozen classic movies and is all the better for it; gloriously sincere, over-the-top entertainment like it is seldom done these days.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents, in association with Dune Entertainment III and Ingenious Film Partners, a Bazmark production. Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman; David Wenham, Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, David Gulpilil; introducing Brandon Walters; David Ngoombujarra, Ben Mendelsohn, Essie Davis. Directed by Baz Luhrmann; produced by Baz Luhrmann, G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman; screenplay by Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan, based on a story by Baz Luhrmann; music by David Hirschfelder; director of photography (Atlab, Panavision), Mandy Walker; production and costume designer, Catherine Martin; film editors, Dody Dorn, Michael McCusker; visual effects supervisor, Chris Godfrey.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

(USA/Great Britain, 2008, 93 minutes)

A brave little mouse sworn to the code of chivalry helps a lonely princess restore happiness to her kingdom. Sweetly charming, nicely old-fashioned animated fairytale for children, with some unusual pastel-coloured visuals inspired by medieval engravings, jarring with the all-star voice cast and the sophisticated, post-modern tone of the scripting.

Universal Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, a Larger Than Life production in association with Framestore Animation. With the voices of Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Frances Conroy, Tony Hale, Ciaran Hinds, Dustin Hoffman, Richard Jenkins, Kevin Kline, Frank Langella, Christopher Lloyd, William H. Macy, Charles Shaughnessy, Stanley Tucci, Tracey Ullman, Emma Watson; and Sigourney Weaver (the narrator). Directed by Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen; produced by Gary Ross, Allison Thomas; screenplay by Gary Ross, based on a screen story by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi, and on the children's book by Kate di Camillo, The Tale of Despereaux; music by William Ross; director of photography (Technicolor, widescreen), Brad Blackbourn; production designer, Evgeni Tomov; animation supervisor, Gabriele Zucchetti; visual effects supervisor, Barry Armour; film editor, Mark Solomon.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Son of Rambow

(Great Britain/France, 2007, 96 minutes)

In the early 1980s, a lonely schoolboy from a religious sect makes friends with the class bully and together decide to make a home movie sequel to Rambo. Charming, feel-good combination of schoolboy adventure and coming-of-age drama.

Paramount Vantage and Celluloid Dreams Productions present, in association with Good, a co-production with ARTE France Cinéma and Network Movie in association with Soficinéma 2 & 3; a Hammer & Tongs film. Starring Bill Milner, Will Poulter, and Jules Sitruk. Directed and written by Garth Jennings; produced by Nick Goldsmith; music by Joby Talbot; director of photography (Technicolor/LTC, widescreen), Jess Hall; production designer, Joel Collins; costume designer, Harriet Cawley; film editor, Dominic Leung; visual effects supervisor, Jon Hollis.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Caos Calmo

Quiet Chaos

(Italy/Great Britain, 2008, 115 minutes)

After his wife dies suddenly while he was away at the beach saving a stranger from drowning, a high-powered television executive retreats from the world to while away his days sitting on a park bench in front of his daughter's school. Subtle, fable-like melodrama of love and loss carried by its strong lead performance; more interesting when it deals with the personal than in its perfunctory office-politics sub-plot.

Domenico Procacci presents a Fandango production, in collaboration with RAI Cinema, Portobello Pictures and Phoenix Film Investment. Starring Nanni Moretti; Valeria Golino, Isabella Ferrari, Alessandro Gassman, Blu Yoshimi, Hippolyte Girardot, Kasia Smutniak, Denis Podalydès, Charles Berling; with Silvio Orlando; and the special participation of Roman Polanski. Directed by Antonello Grimaldi; produced by Domenico Procacci; screenplay by Nanni Moretti, Laura Paolucci, Francesco Piccolo, based on the novel by Sandro Veronesi, Caos Calmo; music by Paolo Buonvino; director of photography (Technicolor), Alessandro Pesci; production designer, Giada Calabria; costume designer, Alexandra Toesca; film editor, Angelo Nicolini.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Women

(USA, 2008, 114 minutes)

Four New York society friends find out the husband of one of them is having an affair with a salesgirl at a department store. Ill-advised remake of George Cukor's 1939 sparkling classic that wastes its stellar cast in flat sitcom jokes (some of which are quite funny), flat handling and some truly bewildering product placement. As timepassers go, there are worse things, but as a remake of a lovingly remembered movie it's nothing short of a disaster.

Picturehouse presents, in association with Inferno and Double Edge Entertainment, a Jagged Films/Inferno production with Shukovsky English Entertainment. Starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith; Carrie Fisher, Cloris Leachman, Debi Mazar; with Bette Midler; and Candice Bergen. Directed by Diane English; produced by Victoria Pearman, Mick Jagger, Bill Johnson, Diane English; screenplay by Diane English, based on the play The Women by Clare Boothe Luce and on the screenplay by Anita Loos and Jane Murfin for George Cukor's 1939 film The Women; music by Mark Isham; director of photography (DeLuxe), Anastas Michos; production designer, Jane Musky; costume designer, John Dunn; film editor, Tia Nolan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still

(USA, 2008, 103 minutes)

A visitor from an advanced alien civilization arrives in New York to warn the humans about the damage they're doing to Earth, but his military reception convinces him the planet isn't worth saving. Workmanlike update of the fondly-remembered 1951 classic, replacing Cold War atomic fears with environmental catastrophy, but retaining a surprisingly modest, B-movie-like efficiency.

Twentieth Century-Fox presents, in association with Dune Entertainment III, a 3 Arts Entertainment production. Starring Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly; Jaden Smith, John Cleese, Jon Hamm, Kyle Chandler; and Kathy Bates. Directed by Scott Derrickson; produced by Erwin Stoff, Gregory Goodman, Paul Harris Boardman; screenplay by David Scarpa, based on the screenplay by Edmund H. North, The Day the Earth Stood Still; music by Tyler Bates; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), David Tattersall; production designer, David Brisbin; costume designer, Tish Monaghan; film editor, Wayne Wahrman; visual effects supervisor, Jeffrey A. Okun.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bolt

(USA, 2008, 96 minutes)

Bolt is a German shepherd who is the star of his own TV show, but unaware that all his special powers are trick effects; then an accident ships him from Hollywood to New York and he tries to find his way back home with the help of a wise-ass cat and a hyperactive hamster. Endearingly enjoyable take on Lassie enlivened by superb, first-rate computer animation and attention to scripting and character.

Walt Disney Pictures presents a Walt Disney Animated Studios production. With the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Greg Germann. Directed by Chris Williams, Byron Howard; produced by Clark Spencer; written by Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams; music by John Powell; director of look and lighting, Adolph Lisinsky; art director, Paul Felix; film editor, Tim Mertens; animation supervisor, Doug Bennett; effects supervisor, John Murrah.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bikur Ha-Tizmoret

The Band's Visit

(Israel/USA/France, 2007, 87 minutes)

An Egyptian police band invited to perform in Israel finds itself lost in a small, God-forsaken town miles away from the actual location. Gentle, melancholy comedy of misunderstandings that never sugarcoats its message of understanding.

A July August Productions, Bleiberg Entertainment and Sophie Dulac Productions presentation/production. Starring Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Natour. Directed and written by Eran Kolirin; produced by Eilon Ratzkovsky, Ehud Bleiberg, Yossi Uzrad, Koby Gal-Raday, Guy Jacoel; music by Habib Shehadeh Hanna; director of photography (colour), Shai Goldman; production designer, Eitan Levi; costume designer, Doron Ashkenazi; film editor, Arik Lahav Leibovitz.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Un crime

A Crime

(France, 2006, 101 minutes)

A young woman desperately in love with a neighbour who is still obsessing over his wife's murder three years earlier seduces a taxi driver in order to frame him for the crime. Ingeniously plotted but half-hearted attempt at modern noir, fatally hampered by an unconvincing female lead.

Michèle and Laurent Pétin present an ARP production. Starring Harvey Keitel, Emmanuelle Béart, Norman Reedus. Directed by Manuel Pradal; produced by Michèle and Laurent Pétin; written by Tonino Benacquista and Manuel Pradal; director of photography (Duart, LTC), Yorgos Arvanitis; production designer, Stephanie Carroll; costume designer, Michael Clancy; film editor, Jennifer Augé.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Twilight

(USA, 2008, 122 minutes)

The new girl at a small town high school in the Pacific Northwest falls in love with an impossibly beautiful but mysterious classmate that turns out to be a vampire. Moody, surprisingly old-fashioned romance for teenage girls from a best-selling novel, impeccably presented and produced, resembling nothing so much as an updated “women's picture” of mid-century Hollywood.

Summit Entertainment presents a Temple Hill production in association with Maverick Films/Imprint Entertainment; in association with Goldcrest Film Finance and Aura Films. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Cam Gigandet, Ashley Greene, Anna Kendrick, Nikki Reed, Taylor Lautner, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Michael Welch, Gil Birmingham, Justin Chon, Christian Serratos, Jose Zuniga, Rachelle Lefevre, Edi Gathegi, Sarah Clarke. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke; produced by Greg Mooradian, Mark Morgan, Wyck Godfrey; screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg, based on the novel Twilight by Stephenie Meyer; music by Carter Burwell; director of photography (DeLuxe, Panavision), Elliot Davis; art directors, Christopher L. Brown, Ian Phillips; costume designer, Wendy Chuck; film editor, Nancy Richardson.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hunger

(Great Britain/Ireland, 2008, 96 minutes)

In the Maze prison in Northern Ireland in 1981, IRA prisoner Bobby Sands enters a hunger strike that will eventually kill him after two months. Extraordinary accomplished debut feature by an acclaimed fine artist that is neither an apologia nor a biopic but an atmospheric, non-linear meditation on humanity, violence and religion, closer in tone and construction to an art installation than to classic narrative cinema.

An Icon release. Film4 presents, in association with Northern Ireland Screen, Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Wales Creative IP Fund, a Blast! Films production. Starring Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Stuart Graham. Directed by Steve McQueen; produced by Laura Hastings-Smith, Robin Gutch; written by Enda Walsh and Steve McQueen; music by David Holmes with Leo Abrahams; director of photography (Todd AO/DeLuxe, widescreen), Sean Bobbitt; production designer, Tom McCullagh; costume designer, Anushia Nieradzik; film editor, Joe Walker. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Amália - O Filme

(Portugal, 2008, 122 minutes)

The life of Portuguese star singer Amália Rodrigues, whose successful international career was marred by a series of romantic mishaps. Dull, fanciful biopic that resolves itself in a series of unconnected episodes and never rises above the level of a perfunctory TV movie of the week. 

A VC Filmes presentation/production, in co-production with RTP and with the investment of FICA. Starring Sandra Barata Belo; Carla Chambel, Ricardo Carriço, António Pedro Cerdeira, Ricardo Pereira; special participation by António Montez. Directed by Carlos Coelho da Silva; produced by Manuel S. Fonseca; written by Pedro Marta Santos, João Tordo; music by Nuno Maló; director of photography (Light Film/Tóbis/Deluxe), Carlos Santana; art director, Augusto Mayer; costume designer, Sílvia Meireles; film editors, Ricardo Mesquita, Pedro Santana.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Shin Du Bei Dao

The New One-Armed Swordsman
Triple Irons

(Hong Kong, 1971, 98 minutes)

A young, arrogant swordsman is tricked into cutting off his arm by an older, jealous master, and, humiliated, retreats from martial arts until his talents are required to avenge a slain friend. Third in the One-Armed Swordsman series is essentially a restart of the franchise with a new actor playing a new character in a new story along the lines of the original movie, with added production values and more accomplished handling.

Celestial Pictures presents a Shaw Brothers Studio presentation/production. Starring Li Ching, Ti Lung; David Chiang. Directed by Chang Cheh; produced by Runme Shaw; written by I Kuang; music by Chen Yung Yu; director of photography (colour, Shawscope), Kung Mu Tu; art director, Johnson Tsao; costume designer, Li Chi; film editor, Kuo Ting Hung; action sequences choreographed by Tang Chia, Liu Chia Liung.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Du Bei Dao Wang

Return of the One-Armed Swordsman

(Hong Kong, 1969, 104 minutes)

Fang Gang, the One-Armed Swordsman, decides to help as the eight evil Sword Kings move to subjugate the region. A direct sequel of 1967's One-Armed Swordsman, this martial arts melodrama is a much better movie in terms of scripting and production, featuring more lively action setpieces and a surprisingly thoughtful, downbeat ending.

Celestial Pictures presents a Shaw Brothers Studio presentation/production. Starring Wang Yu; co-starring Lina Chiao, Essie Lin Chia; Tien Feng, Cheng Lei, Ku Feng. Directed and written by Chang Cheuh; produced by Runme Shaw; music by Wang Fu Ling; director of photography (colour, Shawscope), Kung Mu To; art director, Chen Chi Jui; costume designer, Li Chi; film editor, Chiang Hsing Loong; action scenes choreographed by Tang Chia, Liu Chia Liang.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dubei dao

One-Armed Swordsman

(Hong Kong, 1967, 111 minutes)

A proud martial arts student accidentally loses an arm to his master's daughter, but becomes the last best hope to save his school after a competing master schemes to bring it down. Martial arts melodrama that is basically a western in disguise, with a stronger script than usual for the genre; looks quite tame these days but was groundbreaking, and a huge commercial success, at its time.

Celestial Pictures presents a Shaw Brothers Studio presentation/production. Starring Wang Yu, Chiao Chiao, Pan Yin-Tze; guest starring Huang Chung-Shun. Directed by Chang Cheh; produced by Runme Shaw; written by Chang Cheh, Ni Kuang; music by Wang Foo-Ling; director of photography (color, Shawscope), Yuan Chen San; art director, Chen Ching-Shen; film editor, Chiang Hsing-Loong; action sequences choreographed by Liu Chia-Liang, Tang Chia.